And…I didn’t Quite Make It Again!

In 2016, i again attempted the Goodreads Reading Challenge. My goal was only 12 books, which works out at a book a month. I really, really thought i could achieve it this time and i was quite disappointed that i didn’t reach my goal and only managed to read 10 of the 12 books by the end of the year! However with an active toddler to look after, unfortunately there is not a lot of time for reading.

I have decided to attempt the challenge again this year, and have given myself the same goal of 12 books. I think i can achieve this as Kel and i have started a new year’s resolution of no screen time before bed and reading instead. Hopefully this year i will achieve my goal for once!

I’d love to be your friend on Goodreads so add me if you haven’t already 🙂

2016 In Review

Here are some books that i read in 2016 that i didn’t review. I definitely recommend reading them, especially the first book – it’s amazing! I wish I’d read it before having a baby because it would have taken a lot of the pressure off and helped me to trust myself a lot more.

Your Cherished Baby by Dr Howard Chilton

24330690Blurb

‘This book lays out the nuts and bolts of the first two years of your child’s life. What your baby learns now about love, relationships and their value in the world will last them a lifetime.’

According to Dr Howard Chilton, one of Australia’s most respected baby doctors, you cannot give your baby too much love. Drawing on his 35 years as a baby physician, Dr Chilton explains the science that proves what many of us instinctively know: the way we feed, hold, play with and settle our babies is what determines the kind of adults they will become. Dr Chilton challenges the current fashions of strict routines and controlled crying, and offers instead practical and caring methods that keep babies and their mothers calm and connected. With clarity and wisdom he outlines:

* the neurological processes of both baby and mother in the early bonding periods
* the reasons and solutions for colic and other excessive crying
* humane alternatives to controlled crying as a method for getting your baby to sleep
* why you need to care for yourself so as to best care for your baby, and what fathers can do to help
a feeding approach that will develop your child’s palate and guard against obesity later in life
* simple discipline techniques to help your toddler learn how to negotiate his or her world.

Accessible, authoritative and compassionate, Your Cherished Baby is the essential guide to giving your child the best possible start in life.

The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook

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Blurb

Alice B. Toklas was Gertrude Stein’s life partner. This is Toklas’s rich mixture of menus and memories of meals shared with such famous friends as Wilder, Picasso, and Hemingway.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

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Blurb

Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawford’s arrive in the neighborhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation. Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen’s first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound.

My Perspective

I’m pretty proud to say that I’ve now read all of Jane Austen’s major novels, Mansfield Park being the last one. I’m a pretty huge Jane Austen fan so i think it’s only proper that i am acquainted with all of her works!

Mansfield Park follows the early life of Fanny Price, who at a young age is sent to live at Mansfield Park with her wealthy uncle, aunt and cousins, as an act of charity towards her larger, poorer family. Fanny is extremely shy and quiet however she soon adapts with the support of her elder cousin, Edmund. However with the arrival of the Crawford’s into the neighbourhood, much drama and scandal ensues with Fanny’s heart caught in the middle.

The story is well written with plenty of rich descriptions and character development. It is slower paced with a definite slow build up of tension and climax.

I’m not sure what i thought of Fanny. In some ways i really liked her, however her frail temperament really irritated me. I appreciated how reserved and thoughtful she was, especially in comparison with the other female characters. Most of the other characters annoyed me or i was indifferent towards. I really wanted to love Edmund however i could only just like him (and half the time i thought he was an idiot for being so blind). To be honest i was a little disappointed in the characters. It wasn’t that they weren’t well written – i just couldn’t grab hold of them and endear them like the characters in most of Jane’s other novels.

I also found the story ended very quickly and a bit oddly – it was wrapped up like an epilogue. I found this surprising because the novel itself was quite slow paced and nothing happened quickly.

Overall it was still a great novel, the intricacies of English society well explored. I would probably say it’s my least favourite Jane Austen novel though so if you’re going to start reading Jane Austen, maybe don’t start with this one.

 

 

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon

15946109Blurb

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey tells the story behind Highclere Castle, the real-life inspiration and setting for Julian Fellowes’ award-winning drama, and the life of one of its most famous inhabitants, Lady Almina, the 5th Countess of Carnarvon.

Almina expected a life of sumptuous banquets and expensive dresses when she married the Earl of Carnarvon at 19. But when the First World War broke out, life at Highclere changed forever and Almina and her staff were forced to draw on their deepest reserves of courage.

Drawing on a rich store of materials from the archives at Highclere, the current Lady Carnarvon has written a remarkable and transporting tale of a lost time.

My Perspective

This is the seventeenth book I read from my post Credit Where Credit’s Due. I read about  Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by The Countess of Carnarvon from Cely at Running Off The Reese’s. Unfortunately you can’t read her thoughts on the book anymore as her blog was hacked and her posts deleted 😦

The book follows the true story of Almina Carnarvon nee Wombell from when she became the Countess of Carnarvon by marriage to the 5th Earl of Carnarvon, to his death in May 1923. It is written by the current Countess of Carnarvon from diaries and letters held in the archives of Highclere.

The story is basically a biography of the life of Lady Almina while she was Countess of Carnarvon. She was a force of nature and I really admire and respect her drive, especially during the war and the effort she went to with her hospitals.

I found it really interesting and I actually came away with a lot more respect for the upper classes of English society in those days. Not only their hard work during the war however the way that even though they were privileged and spent excessive amounts of money – nothing was wasted! I loved reading about the surrounding village people lining up to collect the drippings from one of the extravagant parties Lady Alimna held.

It was also interesting to read about the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb. I had no idea about the story behind it.

Reading about the servants and the way it all worked “downstairs” was super fascinating and gave a lot of insight to the culture of the large houses and estates back then.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book if you like historical novels, both fiction and non fiction.

Prodigy of Rainbow Tower (Legends of Windemere Book 2) by Charles E. Yallowitz

Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

Blurb

Luke Callindor and his friends are about to learn that the life of an adventurer can be brutally unforgiving.

Hungering for another adventure, Luke agrees to escort the heir of Serab along the L’dandrin River and into the safety of Gods’ Voice. A deadly gauntlet of cunning traps and savage creatures lay before the young warrior and his companions. Lacking the powerful magic needed to combat his enemies, Luke’s survival and victory may be in the hands of his newest ally. That’s if the temperamental Nyx doesn’t set him on fire first.

Luke will bravely face everything that is thrown at him, but how can he defend himself when he’s ignorant of the truth behind his mission?

My Perspective

I’ve been meaning to read this book pretty much straight after I read the first book in the series, Beginning Of A Hero (Legends of Windemere Book 1) by Charles E. Yallowitz. I bought it ages ago however I don’t have a Kindle so I have to read it on the computer, which I find annoying. Anyway a few months ago I was lying in bed holding my sick, (then) eight month old son who was only sleeping if he was in my arms, and all that was in reach was my phone. I’d already been through heaps of emails and it was doing my head in, I’m really quite sick of social media at the moment, what I felt like was digging into a really great fantasy book. Aha! I thought to myself. I will download the Kindle app onto my iPhone.

I usually wouldn’t be interested in reading on my phone because it’s small and I’m not a fan of reading on a backlit screen however it was the best choice I had! So I go to download the Kindle app and lo and behold, my iPhone 4 is too old to support the latest version. Bugger. I researched how I could get around it however it requires your computer (you download the app through iTunes and then when you go to download it on your iPhone as you’ve already “bought” it, it asks if you want to download an older version that is compatible with your iPhone. Very sneaky). Anyway after he woke up, I got onto the computer and worked my magic and soon I had the Kindle app on my iPhone with this book ready to read in preparation for his next sleep.

Prodigy of Rainbow Tower follows Luke and his new friends; Nimby, Fritz, Aedyn and Fizzle as they make their way to the city of Gaia to collect the apprentice of Rainbow Tower and board the River Scout to protect Kellia, heir of Duke Solomon on her journey home to Gods’ Voice. However now Luke has major enemies – not just the Lich but his demon servant, the Hellfire Elf who has sworn revenge. Although Luke and his friends expect trouble on their journey, little do they realise just how much trouble they will get – and that those two aren’t the only enemies that they are up against.

As it has been two years since I read Beginning Of A Hero, I really should have read it again to refresh my memory as I vaguely remember some details but it’s very hazy and I was a little bit lost with some things. Surprisingly the author doesn’t waste any time doing the “big recap” that so many books do where they basically give a summary of the previous book at the beginning of the next book. I found this both good and bad. It’s great because if you’ve just read the previous book, it really is a waste of time and it’s almost like it’s bringing up to speed any readers who haven’t read the previous book (which unless it’s by accident, why wouldn’t you start at the beginning?) however it’s also bad because if it’s been a bit of time between books, it’s nice to have a bit of recapping to help jog your memory. However in my case, it’s been long enough that I really should have reread Beginning Of A Hero.

Again, I really loved the characters. Luke continues to grow and mature and although he can be stubborn and reckless, he’s definitely not as annoying as the first book. It was interesting to read and learn more about Nimby, Fritz and Aedyn. Without spoiling anything, I was surprised at who I started to like more and the flaws that appeared in some of the others. Fizzle was as adorable as ever and I really enjoyed getting to know the new characters.

There were a lot of action scenes and sequences throughout this book involving both sword play and casting of spells. I really enjoyed reading how the characters interacted with one another while fighting and using their strengths together to help defeat their enemies.

There were quite a few twists throughout and I really didn’t see any of them coming! It was quite refreshing to be able to read a book and really go along for the ride without knowing what was coming next.

There was a lot going on in this book, not too much that it felt too busy, just a lot that it kept you absorbed in the story and keeping up really kept you on your toes. Interestingly enough, the book is fairly medium paced so although there is a heck of a lot going on, it doesn’t feel rushed at all and isn’t too slow that it bores you.

I’d also like to point out that in my review of Beginning Of A Hero, I mentioned there were quite a few grammatical errors throughout and the book could have been edited a bit more closely. I’m happy to say that this book was not like that at all. On that note, the author has definitely improved and this book was really well written (not that the first book was terrible, however it was the author’s debut and it’s good to see improvement – it gives credit to the author and the series). I’m really looking forward to reading the next book.

Overall I would definitely recommend this book, and this series. You really need to start with the first book in the  series though, Beginning Of A Hero. Like I said in my previous review, it has all the things a great fantasy should have: strong characters, both good and evil; a quest; mythical creatures; battle scenes; and even some romance. I am really looking forward to continuing the series!

Under The Duvet by Marian Keyes

Under+The+DuvetBlurb

‘When people ask me what I do for a crust and I tell them that I’m a novelist, they immediately assume that my life is a non-stop carousel of limos, television appearances hair-dos, devoted fans, stalkers and all the glitzy paraphernalia of being a public figure. It’s time to set the record straight. I write alone, in a darkened bedroom, wearing my PJs, eating bananas, my laptop on a pillow in front of me …’

Her novels are read and adored by millions around the world – now read Marian Keyes’s collected pieces: regular bulletins from the woman under the duvet.

My Perspective

Under The Duvet is a collection of previously published as well as unpublished writings by Marian Keyes. Most of them are lighthearted and humorous however a couple are quite in depth, serious memoirs. They give a glimpse into the real life of Marian Keyes – in true Marian Keyes style.

I really enjoyed this collection. It captured Marian’s writing style perfectly. She writes so well an honest take on life’s issues – both serious and not so serious – with a mix of fun and humour. It was also really interesting to read true facts about her actual life.

I would definitely recommend this book to fans of Marian Keyes as well as those new to her writings. It won’t disappoint!

Raelia (The Medoran Chronicles #2) by Lynette Noni

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“Life is full of crossroads, Alex. Full of choices.”

Returning for a second year at Akarnae Academy with her gifted friends, Alexandra Jennings steps back through a doorway into Medora, the fantasy world that is full of impossibilities.

Despite the magical wonder of Medora, Alex’s life remains threatened by Aven Dalmarta, the banished prince from the Lost City of Meya who is out for her blood.

To protect the Medorans from Aven’s quest to reclaim his birthright, Alex and her friends seek out the Meyarin city and what remains of its ancient race.

Not sure who—or perhaps what—she is anymore, all Alex knows is that if she fails to keep Aven from reaching Meya, the lives of countless Medorans will be in danger. Can she protect them, or will all be lost?

My Perspective

Raelia sees Alex back at the Academy for another year and this time she’s got a lot more experience under her belt. However it’s no where near enough to protect herself against Aven Dalmarta, the disinherited Elven Prince of Meya. Too much trouble comes looking for Alex so with a promise to the headmaster, Alex must find The Lost City of Meya, home of the Elves, to seek their help and to warn them of Aven’s plans.

Raelia is the sequel to Akarnae and follows on about two to three months after the end of Akarnae, starting at the beginning of the new school year.

There was a lot of fill in story at the beginning to tie the two books together, which I could see was necessary to some extent however there was quite a lot of information and it was a bit of a case where the author needed to “show and not tell”. I also found it quite hard to believe that Alex’s parents would have reacted the way they did. Certainly mine wouldn’t have!

I enjoyed getting to know the familiar characters a bit more and meeting the new characters. I didn’t find Alex as likeable as before though, and the brotherly affection she seems to have with almost every single male character started to irk me a bit. Also there’s a bit more sexual tension in this book and I’m sure it would appeal to YA female readers however it made me roll my eyes.

There was more adventure in this book and it really kept you on edge with the perilous situations they found themselves in. It was lighthearted and comedic however with a dark twist, and like the previous book, isn’t an epic – albeit still very interesting and full of fantasy adventure.

I found that I didn’t enjoy Raelia as much as I did Akarnae. There were quite a few corny moments however I understand it’s aimed at YA so I will let that slide. It was more that I found I had to suspend my disbelief even more than the previous book and without spoiling it, some things were just a bit too easy.

I have to say though that it kept me interested and I couldn’t put it down! Also I totally didn’t see the ending coming (I did before it happened but not like half way through or anything). I was quite surprised. I did feel like a part of the way the ending happened was so obvious and I was cringing the entire time however I didn’t see the twist that went with it.

Again, although it’s not the best written novel, it certainly takes you captive and I’m looking forward to reading the next installment in the series. This time I have to wait a bit longer though!