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I've always been a big reader - it runs in the family. I read pretty much every genre, but my particular favourites are sci-fi and fantasy, with the occasional thriller, historical fiction or YA novel thrown in.

Currently reading

Dear Fatty
Dawn French
Progress: 37/368 pages
Throne of Glass II
Sarah J. Maas
Progress: 233/432 pages

Review: Fire (Graceling #2) by Kristin Cashore

Fire  - Kristin Cashore

Whilst it's listed as the second book in the Graceling series, Fireis in fact a prequel, drawing in a couple of characters from the first book, and set at least thirty or forty years before the events of Graceling. And whilst it is a fun read, it's nowhere near the enthralling story that Graceling was.

The story is set in the Dells, separated from the other kingdoms featured in the series by a mountain range. The people of the Dells have not heard of Gracelings. Instead, their country is full of monsters - normal animals, distinguishable by their appearance and manner. Coming in a variety of colours and with a much more aggressive temperament as well as powers of mind reading and influence, the Dells are full of dangers. And once in a while, a human monster is born: that's where Fire comes in.

A beautiful young lady, with a head of flaming red hair, Fire is strong like Katsa (the Graceling protagonist). And like Katsa, she has an unusual power that a male relative wants to use to his advantage. Cansrel, Fire's father, is a monster like her, and tries to train her in his ways. But again, like Katsa, Fire resists becoming the monster that she is portrayed as and sets out to prove herself.

I really think Kristin Cashore has a talent for character development. Even those that we do not see often have a clear and strong presence, with many a character withholding a secret ready to be revealed at the perfect moment. The connection between the characters also feels believable - the clear case of brotherly love between Nash and Brigan, the sweet, lifelong friendship between Fire and Archer.

What I like about Cashore's books is her unabashed way of approaching sex and relationships in young adult fiction. Fire has a casual relationship with her lifelong friend Archer, who is turn is a bit of a womaniser. Sex is not used as a weapon. It is used as it should be: to make someone feel good, as a tool of pleasure, and as an act of expressing love. Neither sex nor relationships are ever portrayed in an unhealthy manner by Cashore, making these characters in a fantasy world feel a whole lot more realistic than many of their 'real world' counterparts from contemporary young adult fiction. And as I wrote in my review of Graceling, the relationships are believable because they grow over time, rather than being a result of insta-love. And that, my friends, is how romance should work.

However, the story just wasn't as gripping as that of Graceling. There just wasn't enough going on for me in comparison and the plot wasn't as clear set - but I've awarded it a solid four-star rating as I very much enjoyed it, and to tell the truth my expectations were high in comparison to the first book. I can't wait to move on to Bitterblue, which will reunited me with some more familiar characters.

Also, Cansrel was Fenris this time. Why do I keep linking Fenris (from Dragon Age II) to this series?!

Source: http://www.rinnreads.co.uk/2013/09/review-fire-graceling-2-by-kristin.html
Throne of Glass - Sarah J. Maas Also posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.Firstly I need to thank my Goodreads and book blogger friends for their excellent taste: I saw this book on many a book blog, the majority of the time with glowing five-star reviews. Well mine is going to be no different, as this is a wonderfully crafted and enthralling tale.You know you're going to like a character when she absolutely adores books:"The library." The two words were like a shot of lightning."The..." She looked at the claw-shaped iron handles. "Can we-- may we go in?" The Captain of the Guard opened the doors reluctantly, the strong muscles of his back shifting as he pushed hard against the worn oak... She'd entered a city made entirely of leather and paper. Celaena put a hand against her heart. Escape routes be damned. "I've never seen-- how many volumes are there?" --- (page 54)What stood out to me the most about Celaena was how tough she is. That might be obvious, given her occupation, but romance plays a part in this story and in YA fiction that often means the female protagonist turning into some sort of nervous, blubbering wreck. Celaena, however, doesn't seem to feel even a tiny bit guilty about having an interest in both Prince Dorian and Chaol, the captain - and why should she? In so many books these days, the female characters are attracted to men that they know aren't right for them and they tear themselves up about it. Celaena knows that Dorian has a reputation as a womaniser and that nothing could ever become of a relationship between herself and the Crown Prince. But does she worry about the consequences of her flirting and teasing? No, she does not. It's so wonderfully refreshing to have a female character in charge of her own feelings who does what she wants, when she wants, and throws all reason out of the window. She doesn't once chastise herself for finding Dorian or Chaol attractive.Aside from the romance, Celaena is tough, as well as quite cheeky and sarcastic (I have a tendency to love such characters and Maas certainly succeeded there). She teases, she flirts - despite the danger she is in, despite the fact that if she fails the Tests she will most likely go to her death in Endovier - she lives her life, even though it is highly restricted, unlike many a YA protagonist. And when this character is overcome by a matronly handmaid with no time for her attitude, well it's just funny. It was also lovely to see a female main character with a female best friend who wasn't just there to gossip about the boys. Nehemia was a brilliant supporting character with some surprises of her own up her sleeve.But talking of the boys... well I liked them both, in their own ways. Dorian, the Crown Prince, was at first appearances a smooth womaniser, and reminded me a little of Ser Percy Blakeney from [b:The Scarlet Pimpernel|136116|The Scarlet Pimpernel|Emmuska Orczy|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1172075548s/136116.jpg|750426] - a soft, foppish exterior combined with a brave, sensitive heart. He essentially plays the fool to most people, appearing more interested in the finer sides of court life than politics. Chaol, on the other hand, shows more of his real self - tough, concerned with politics and war, a rather stoic presence - but keeps his true feelings hidden inside, which we see in the occasional chapter from his point of view.To me, the mark of a good book is when I'm completely and utterly invested in the lives and emotions of fictional characters - and Throne of Glass definitely hit the spot. Certain moments had me gasping and cheering internally, and the duel towards the end is so tense and well-executed that I had to read it at double-time to reach the conclusion more quickly. Sarah J. Maas' writing style is wonderful: it flows smoothly and she has built a wonderful world in which Celaena, Chaol and Dorian dwell. Even though the entire novel, apart from the very beginning, is set in the grounds of the castle and inside the castle itself, I got the impression of a huge and beautiful land, filled with all types of people. Despite Celaena being an assassin, there is no room in this novel for assassinations. So if that's what you're hoping to read, you'll be disappointed. However what you will find is a magical novel, about a young girl given a second chance at her freedom, and friendships blossoming in unlikely places. I loved absolutely everything about this book - the characters, the setting, the writing, the plot, and I was completely enchanted by it. Definitely one of my favourite reads of the year, I can't wait to pick up the sequel - which is waiting on my bookshelf - and meet Sarah in October at Cheltenham Literature Festival!

Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire Series #1)

Prince of Thorns (The Broken Empire #1) - Mark  Lawrence Dragons & Jetpacks Fantasy Book of the Month, October 2013
I am Venus: A Novel - Bárbara Mujica Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me with a PDF of this book. This review is also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads.Narrated by the woman who posed for his portrait of Venus, this semi-biographical novel of Diego Velázquez is a wonderful piece of historical fiction. Mujica's writing flows very smoothy, apart from the occasional untranslated Spanish word which may cause the reader to falter. I loved the tone of the book, it was both easy to read and informative.I can't fault Mujica's descriptive writing. She creates some wonderfully vivid images of seventeenth century Spain, causing the reader to experience the smells and sights of Madrid. She also clearly sets out current events at the time, meaning that any reader who does not know too much about seventeenth century European history should be able to follow the story with few issues. As I studied this period of history in school, it was really fun to see familiar names and figures brought to life. The one thing that may confuse the reader at some points however, are the similar names and rather wide cast of characters. Whilst this is obviously not the fault of the author, the characters having been real people four hundred years ago, it would have perhaps been nice to have a list of characters in the book somewhere.The major issue I had with the book is that the point of view was often confusing. I understand that the author wanted the identity of Venus to be a mystery (she is unknown to this day) whilst also having her narrate the book. This lead to some odd narratives, often switching between first and third person and in fact making the book feel like it had several narrators. I think the idea behind it was good, but it perhaps was not pulled off correctly.I wouldn't so much refer to this book as a 'story of scandal' - especially when in the context of history that makes me think of things like the corruption of the Borgias or the supposedly inbred Hapsburgs - and the book doesn't actually focus too much on what is going on in the wide world, but more on domestic and smaller issues relating to Velázquez. And whilst the book is about Velázquez, he is often absent for many chapters - as he was often absent from the lives of his loved ones - so it is more a story about the people in his life.I particularly enjoyed this one because most historical fiction that I read is either ancient history, or based in medieval or Tudor England. So this was a nice change, and is definitely a recommended read for anyone with an interest in seventeenth century European art or history, or the Baroque period.
The Daylight War (Demon Cycle, #3) - Peter V. Brett Thank you to Edelweiss for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for a review. Also posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.I devoured the first two books in this series, so when I saw the ARC of The Daylight War on Edelweiss I immediately requested it. And reading this ARC has shown me just how badly I get on with the Kindle.This is a book I'd been anticipating since I finished The Desert Spear. One that I couldn't wait to start - but even then I didn't pick it up until June, despite getting a copy of the ARC at the beginning of the year. And I didn't finish it until a couple of days ago, in early September.But I'm not actually sure if it was just the fault of the Kindle.Whilst I can't fault Peter V. Brett's wonderful writing style and vivid imagination, there was just something about this book that just didn't match up to the other two. We spent a vast majority of it in the past, with Inevera - which whilst explaining her behaviour and perhaps justifying (some of) her actions, really made me feel like there was far too much background. In fact the book barely advanced time wise, because so much of it was spent in the past.I also got irritated by Arlen and Renna, eventually. Their relationship was sweet at first, and it was nice to see the real Arlen Bales that I knew from the first book, rather than the Warded Man, but their way of talking to each other started to bug me. This volume of the series certainly tends to focus a lot more on relationships, with even Rojer getting some action. He lost my respect though - although he may have been embracing Krasian culture, it felt kind of... creepy.However, Leesha was her usual headstrong self, and has some problems she will have to face in the next book. As well as this, we will see the conclusion of the cliffhanger - and I can't decide if that frustrates me or gets me excited for the next book!Sorry this review is so short. I didn't take very comprehensive notes because of the time it took me to read it, plus I read a large majority on a long train ride home so didn't manage to make any notes during that time. I just want to express that The Daylight War keeps up the wonderful world-building of the first two books, whilst lacking most of the excitement. There was just far too much of the past, and not enough of the present, where the demon threat is. Although some of the developments (Rojer's talent in particular) were exciting, it fell flat compared to the action of the first book in particular.However, there's absolutely nothing wrong with a four star rating. Keep writing, Mr. Brett.
Article 5  - Kristen Simmons Review to come in November as part of Sci-fi Month.
The Stolen Throne - David Gaider Muuuuuch better than I thought it would be, having read some of Bioware's Mass Effect books. A little slow in places but eh, it was nice to get a good background story on some of the characters. The only thing is, I'm now conflicted over how I feel about Loghain Mac Tir. Meeting this determined, decent young man after meeting the older version in-game, I'm all:And seeing as I let Alistair behead him at the end of Dragon Age: Origins, I now feel very... strange. He had so much potential!(And Maric... oh Maric. You ruined all the feels.)
All Our Yesterdays - Cristin Terrill Also posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.From a non-linear, non-subjective view point, time is not simple. No, in fact it's more...Thank you, Doctor*. Bearing that in mind, books about time travel are never going to be simple. It is something that has fascinated humans for a long time, the possibilities it would bring but also the potential troubles it would cause. And when I heard that this book, so loved by many a YA fan, was about time travel, I was quite surprised.That was, until I read it myself.Because it's not simply a story about time travel. Whilst that is the main essence of the story, the focus of the plot, it's so much more. It's also a story of young love, of heartbreak, friendships, power, intelligence. The story is so well-structured; the flitting between past, present and future works so well and builds up to the final events perfectly. From the very first chapter, I knew I had to find out what was really going on, and soon. As if that wasn't enough, a couple of chapters in one little word had me reeling, needing to know more. The plot is exciting, the action fast-paced and exhilarating and there are several little twists thrown in to catch you off guard. Although I guessed one important element of the story early on, it was revealed shortly afterwards and is a crucial plot point from thereon out.The time travel in this book is explained early on, conveyed through exposition, and best of all it's not unnecessarily complicated. I'm not particularly scientifically-minded, so I don't know how it would sound to someone who is, but it made sense to me - at least in the context of the story and its universe. With well fleshed out characters and relationships, built up more effectively by 'flashes' - moments where a character blacks out and relives a past moment, caused by the time travel - Cristin Terrill cleverly makes you both like and dislike the same character through the use of different points of view. And that's what makes this such a tense read, because you're at once both aching for someone to get their comeuppance and simultaneously be saved. It also meant that I wasn't always rooting for Em and Finn's success in their mission, and at other times I was.Marina, one of the main female protagonists, was snobby and rather selfish, as well as being a bit of a spoilt rich kid. But I couldn't dislike her completely, I felt that her lack of parental contact redeemed her from that a little, and she had a certain naivety to her that couldn't be ignored. There was a great contrast during the first third or so of the book, between Marina's normal life, where her biggest worry was confessing her feelings to James, and that of Em, imprisoned, tortured and with a secretive and tangled past. Em is tough and hardened, mysterious and brave.And as for the guys... it was nice that they weren't too different, which is how it often seems to be. Often they have opposite colourings, interests, body types, personalities... but both boys are intelligent and ultimately well-meaning. James is so brilliant and full of good potential but... it's hard to write much about the characters of this book without getting a bit spoilerific.Take it from someone who knows all about spoilers.It's not often a book has me totally torn between characters and events. It is powerful, drawing you in and making you unsure of the conclusion you wish for. The ending was heart-breaking but with a sequel on the way, things might not be as they seem... and I'm fine with that.I like GIFs now. GIFs are cool.*Disclaimer: I am not sorry in the slightest for the Doctor Who references.
Graceling - Kristin Cashore Oh Graceling. What a total and unexpected joy you were. From the very first page, with a thrilling opening scene, I loved this book so much more than I thought I would. We learn that in this world some people are born with Graces - great skills that vary from person to person, some rather useless and some incredibly useful. These people stand out from others by their different coloured eyes, and are actually shunned, or rather feared, for their abilities. The main protagonist, Katsa, has a Grace for killing. Or so it would seem.And how I loved Katsa! Grumpy and anti-social, she is a character after my own heart. It's not often you see a character who is so vehemently against social interaction, though here it is partly because of her Grace and the way she is treated for it. Although working for her uncle, being used to torture or injure those whom he dislikes, she begins to rebel against him. Katsa proves herself to be very resourceful and strong-willed, she sticks to her ground and doesn't change her opinions or plans based on others. The best thing of all? She doesn't feel the need to change herself or her future plans for a relationship.Po, whose name unfortunately conjures up images of a certain panda, was also a great character. Although it was obvious what would happen from the moment he was introduced in the story, the interaction between the two characters only served to make me want it to happen, rather than make me sigh in exasperation over any cliched events. Another independently minded character, he matches up to Katsa perfectly and the course of events surrounding him were at times quite surprising. For some reason, despite the description of him as being dark-haired, I still pictured him as looking rather like Fenris from Dragon Age II...Just pop some earrings in and he's all set. (image source)And I mustn't forget Raffin, Katsa's intelligent cousin, or Bitterblue, princess of Monsea. Bitterblue goes through a brilliant transformation in the few months she spends with Katsa and Po: from a shy and terrified to determined and brave, as well as caring. Even the very minor characters gave a strong sense of their personalities through actions or small back stories.If you read my blog often, you probably know I am not one for romance. I don't like it at all as a genre by itself, and it has to be written in a certain way for me to enjoy it as part of another genre. Basically, it has to be natural. No insta-love, no undying declarations after a matter of days. Well I can tell you, the romance in Graceling was perfect: it developed over time, it was caring but not consuming, it was realistic. You know a relationship is well written when you're rooting for the characters, and I really was.Kristin Cashore's writing style, like her character development, is wonderful - easy to read without being over-simplified, beautifully painted landscapes and images, enough background information without piling too much on the reader at once. That's the trouble with writing a fantasy, trying to achieve the correct balance between explaining enough about a new world, and giving away too much at once. Although I would have liked to have known exactly why the Gracelings are feared (I don't think it is ever really fully explained), there was nothing else I felt short of. The plot was well-paced, giving the reader enough time to understand the state of the world, who ruled where, before moving on. There were enough exciting events and slower moments to keep it balanced, and I didn't crave for any extra action.To finish it off: Graceling was an absolutely brilliant read. A proper fantasy tale, with some adventure and a little bit of romance thrown in, I think it would appeal to many - particularly if you've enjoyed the works of authors such as Tamora Pierce, Leigh Bardugo or Maggie Stiefvater. If you've been thinking about reading it: do it!Now I have to wait for Fire, the sequel, to arrive at my library... it's going to be too long a wait!
The Returned - Jason Mott Also posted on my blog, Rinn Reads, as part of a blog tour hosted by TLC Book Tours.If someone that you had known and loved, long since passed away, suddenly turned up on your doorstep, how would you react? This is what the Hargreaves, and others around the world in The Returned, have to deal with.The book raises a lot of interesting questions, and demonstrates many of the possible responses through the actions of different countries throughout the world. It is something that would divide people, and certainly does in the little Southern town of Arcadia. After years and years, family and friends will have moved on and accepted the death of a loved one. So how would they feel when that person, who has been missing from their life for so long, suddenly appears as if nothing ever happened?Like the Hargreaves, many people are terrified of the idea - until it affects them personally. Lucille refers to the Returned as 'devils', and Harold doesn't show any strong opinion. That is, until their son suddenly appears, fifty years after his death and eight years old once again, looking exactly as he did on the day that he drowned. By this point Harold and Lucille are in their seventies, past the age and energy level of being able to look after a young, hyperactive child, but he is their son - or is he? Is he really their son, who died fifty years ago, or is he an apparition, a clone, anything but? The Returned have the memories and habits of the people that they once were, and the book never really addresses whether they are anything other than those people - it's pretty much left open to the reader. The book also points out a few other problems with these 'miracles'. What do you do when a spouse, partner, boyfriend or girlfriend who died all those years ago suddenly reappears and wants to be with you? What if you had someone else, a new family? How about people who were murdered - could they name their killer?So many questions! It really is a thought provoking book.The Hargreaves are a sweet old couple, Harold grumpy but with a soft spot for his wife, and Lucille a lot tougher than she originally seems. Both characters develop at a good pace over the course of the book, recent events causing them to question their own beliefs and morals.It was nice to have various interludes all over the world of the Returned appearing, but I think a bit more of that would have been better. As it was, it felt a little like it was only affecting the town of Arcadia, rather than being a worldwide occurrence. Apparently there are some shorts covering other characters and places, but I really wouldn't have minded that in the main storyline. There were also no stories of any Returned being upset or confused by the time skip, or age differences with loved ones - in fact they barely seem to bat an eye at their parents or lovers suddenly being fifty years older.Jason Mott chooses to ignore writing any explanation for the Returned, and it isn't really questioned by many of the characters. Instead he delves straight into how people would react or feel, he plays brilliantly on emotion and character development. I think this was the right choice; by leaving out any reasoning behind the sudden appearance of the deceased he leaves it very much open to the reader to decide how and why, whilst probably also widening the target audience for the book.Overall, this was a very enjoyable read. Slow-paced to start with, it picks up and ends with a shock. It had me really thinking about the situations within the story and how I would react if I were part of them, and it's always great when a book gets you to interact that way.
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern Dragons & Jetpacks Book of the Month, August 2013.
Wayland - Tony Mitton, John Lawrence Lovely verse and stunning illustrations tell the tale of Wayland the Smith, a folk tale brought to England by Vikings.Promo post/mini review on my blog, Rinn Reads.
Serena - Ron Rash Also posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.It isn't often that I buy a book brand new these days. I'm saving up so I can afford to go and do my Masters - problematic when I have a book buying habit. So normally I get them second-hand.However, every so often, I encounter a book that just really stands out, and I have to have it now. Serena was one of those books, purely from the blurb. I mentioned briefly before that I have a thing set for books in the Southern US states, so this checked one box. Toss in a 1920s setting (currently an interest of mine due to L.A. Noire), plus a cunning and strong-willed, albeit murderous, heroine, and I'm sold. Both the reader and Serena are immediately made aware of George's infidelity, it's not some great secret that hovers throughout the book waiting to be exposed. This is a brilliant way of setting up Serena's character - instead of getting upset or angry as many women would in such a situation, she reacts in a rather stoic manner (pg. 7):"You're a lucky man then," Serena said to Harmon. "You'll not find a better sire to breed her with. The size of her belly attests to that."Serena turned her gaze and words to the daughter."But that's the only one you'll have of his. I'm here now. Any other children he has will be with me."A woman ahead of her time, Serena is not afraid to get dirty, not phased by the possibility of injury and is completely prepared for her new Southern life. She takes an active role in the running of the camp, much to the shock of the workers, she wears trousers (dear god!) and rides horses. Refusing to be put down or excluded socially, Serena has wealth, a husband, an education and power, but not the one thing she wants most in the world: a child.She is ultimately a very strong character, one that you can't help but admire - apart from that little niggling feeling at the back of your brain, the one that tells you she is cunning and capable of horrific acts, and prepared to kill an innocent child. It's difficult to decide whether to like her as a character or not, I suppose just as the workers are feeling when faced by Serena - she is a brilliant leader and boss, she knows exactly what she is doing, but she is female and that is not something they can easily overlook in that particular period of time.I was expecting something dark and claustrophobic feeling, due to the isolation of the lumber camp - but the descriptions of the surrounding woods and neighbouring village make it feel huge, despite the camp and village being hours away from civilisation. The landscapes of the book were beautifully painted, and I got a real feel for the smells, sights and sounds of the forest. Unlike in The Snow Child, which felt very closed in due to the woodland setting, Serena only feels more broad. However, the chapters told from Rachel's POV (the young girl whom George gets pregnant) seem rather more claustrophobic. She is alone, with very little help, and in danger. This really juxtaposed the difference in social status between the two characters.The jumps in time were a little confusing, sometimes months would pass and the only way to tell was the age of Jacob, George and Rachel's son. As for George, I was also unsure about how I should feel about him. The first impression the reader gets of him is that he is uncaring when it comes to Rachel, but he practically worships Serena. He is almost blinded by his love for her, unable to see what she is turning into and letting her wear the trousers (literally and figuratively) in the relationship. However, over time he starts to develop more of an interest in his young son, and also questions his previous actions and decisions, whilst slowly redeeming himself.Oh, and the shocks in this book. There are so many events you don't see coming, or don't want to see coming, and they are brilliant. Starting with the very first chapter, they build up with intensity until the end - the most shocking of them all.Definitely, definitely worth a read. You'll begin questioning whether you really support this strong-willed, independent young woman after all, especially with a lack of such figures in books these days. To have one waved under your nose and then have you wonder whether you like her at all is very effective.Serena is also going to be made into a film, starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper as Serena and George Pemberton. It is set for release at the end of October, and I will definitely be going to see it!
Rip It Up - Richard Wiseman For the giveaway, please click here.I was sent this book, plus a copy to give away to one reader, by the publisher (Pan MacMillan) in exchange for an honest review.I don't know a thing about psychology. Or rather, I didn't before reading this book. Richard Wiseman sets out to write a new type of self-help book, and although I have never read any before so have nothing to compare it against, I really did enjoy this one.The basic premise is that you read through each chapter, which sets up each task in the book, and complete various tasks as you go through. Many of the tasks involve - as the title suggests - ripping pages out of the book, writing on the book; this is something that many readers will be quite uncomfortable with.But the brilliant thing is, that's the whole point. Wiseman wants to lure people out of their comfort zones, encourage them to act in ways that they wouldn't, which in turn enforces his 'As If' method. He states that it is not the way that we think through which we can change ourselves, but the way that we act. Want to be more confident? But on a brave face and soon you will find yourself feeling a lot better for it.Whilst some of these ideas are a lot easier said than done - if it was that simple, no-one would have reason to be shy - he brings up some very interesting theories and I really believe that if you keep trying them out, there's no reason why you couldn't make yourself more confident, or increase your self-control, or become a more organised person. I have used this sort of technique before when talking to large groups (or even small groups, I'm quite the introvert). I often find that if I go up there thinking in a confident manner, I develop that confident manner.Don't be put off by the label of a 'self-help' book. I was actually more interested in the psychology side, something that Wiseman really provides. He wrotes about so many past experiments and theories, and there's a lot about the history of social psychology - to me, it was all so fascinating. It is also written in a way that is completely accessible to someone - like myself - who has never studied psychology in any way. His historical anecdotes go all the way from ancient Greece and Rome to modern day experiments. The history lessons also set up the experiments and tasks for the reader to complete very nicely.As for the tasks themselves, I was expecting more when I started the book - there seems to be a larger concentration in the last few sections. The variety is great, from basic surveys and pages asking you to pick out adjectives to describe yourself, to asking the reader to deface a photograph of the author's grandfather (yes, really!).The section on attraction was fascinating - I think I'm going to have to try and use it to my advantage! Another part that really amazed me was a story of a patient with Urbach-Wiethe disease, a condition that causes that part of the brain central to emotional experiences, particularly fear, to deteriorate. There was also a really interesting study on how the appearance of avatars in online games might cause people to perceive themselves (perfect for people like me!).I would have loved to have read more on how dancing can make people happier than any other exercise, as it is something I really enjoy - and actually started doing when I was going through a hard time, because it made me feel so much better. I'm also a bit skeptical about the idea for helping depression - a sort of think positively, and you'll feel positive idea - because having gone through it myself, I don't think it's that simple. The interactiveness of the book, combined with the easy to read writing style and occasional humour really makes this one a great read, whether you're looking for some 'self-help' or not. If you'd like to learn a little more about social psychology, especially if you know nothing of the subject, I would also highly recommend this book.This review is also posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.
The Book of Blood and Shadow - Robin Wasserman The blurb of this book definitely makes it sound exciting. It's what drew me to the book in the first place. But it also makes it sound like a 'typical' YA novel - it doesn't reveal what's really hidden within this book.And that just happens to be something original, exciting and very refreshing. What starts out as a Latin project develops into something much more sinister and dark, involving a group known as 'Seekers' and an object called the 'Lumen Dei'.We have our protagonist, Nora Kane, just an average looking teenage girl, not particularly popular, but not a social outcast. Checking off all the YA boxes there, but that's about where it stops. Nora is especially good at Latin, what with having a Latin professor for a father, and having had lessons since she was young. She uses the study of Latin as an escape from the memories of her older brother's death, several years earlier. It's so nice to have a protagonist who has a skill like that, and is so blasé about it. Nora's best friends, Chris and Adriane, also flesh out more as the story progresses - Chris more than Adriane, but it's nice to have so many of Nora's memories and happy moments added in. The relationships feel real. These are teenagers who've shared so much together, who've gone through hard times and fun times, who've stressed through exams and spent summers together by the lake. And you can really feel that. Nora's relationship with Max, her 'Prince Charming', was also very well done. In so many stories about teenage relationships these days, the characters seem to fall straight into love, but Nora questions several times whether she is in love or not. The attraction between her and Max is not instant, and in fact only appears with a little bit of a nudge. They don't do all these amazing things together: they act like a normal teenage couple. There are no big declarations of love, things progress slowly.And between all these relationships, there's the action. With so many twists and turns, the story takes us from Massachusetts to Paris, and from Paris to Prague. Wasserman adds in a fantastic historical twist, all to do with the medieval Latin translations that Nora, Chris and Max were working on for a professor. The letters of Elizabeth Weston slowly reveal an eerie parallel with Nora's life until it seems that she has more of a link to her than just a pure interest and talent for Latin.At times, parts of their exploration through Prague and discovery of more clues felt a little slow, but it was generally well-paced and exciting. And whilst it was interesting to have a main character with a talent for Latin, there wasn't much about Nora apart from that, the hole left by the death of her brother and her relationship with Max. It would have been nice to know what her other interests and passions were.Overall, this was much more than I was expecting. An exciting 'historical' thriller, with well fleshed out characters and relationships, and plenty of (very shocking in places!) twists and turns, it's well worth a read. What's especially exciting is that many of the historical figures in the story within the story were real - but Wasserman has just taken a creative license to some of them.Also posted on my book blog, Rinn Reads.
The Name of the Wind - Patrick Rothfuss Dragons & Jetpacks Book of the Month, July 2013