A Birthday (and a Giveaway)

yellow-flowersHi! :)

Thanks for stopping by today. It’s my 28th birthday!

Since it’s not a very important number, we’re not doing anything special – just going out for a nice dinner while the kiddo is fawned over by his grandma.

I think it’s interesting that while my friends and family know full well that I read a lot, they almost never get me books as presents, because they say I already buy a ton of them for myself. But this means that I never know what I’m getting, which is awesome because I love (good) surprises! And I love presents.

I think my favourite birthday present was a batch of horse-riding lessons I received from my husband three years ago. It was so cool because we were watching Game of Thrones earlier that day and there was a scene where Catelyn Stark had an argument with someone on horseback and then she rode away in a huff and I said: “I wish I could ride away from an argument like that, wow, so dramatic!” and A. just smiled enigmatically. Anyway, I had my lessons, I loved them, I fully intend to have more at one point or another but I never learned to gallop anywhere! :)

I want to know: What do you usually do for your birthday? What was the best birthday present you ever received?

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I’m happy to say my birthday almost coincides with my blog’s first anniversary, which is on May 5 (more on that when the time comes).

To celebrate these two important dates, I’ve decided to host a little giveaway (because as I said, I love presents and I want to give you one, too. I’d give each and every one of you lovely readers a present if I could.). The rules are as follows:

  • One winner will win one (paperback) novel from the list of favourites that I’ve reviewed on my blog this year. You can see the titles here and you can choose from books that have received a 4/5 or higher rating.
  • If you want a first book in a series and I’ve reviewed a third, for example, you can most certainly have it (I won’t make you start the series in the middle, don’t worry).
  • Open internationally, as long as The Book Depository ships to you for free.
  • The winner will be contacted by e-mail and will have 48 hours to respond. If they don’t, another will be chosen.
  • I’ll be checking the winner’s entries… and Twitter accounts used only for giveaways don’t count.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The best of luck to you! :)

Tough Travels: The Ace

tough travelsSo I’m participating in this week’s Tough Travels meme again – hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn, this is one great way to explore Fantasyland and create lists, YAY! Don’t forget to go and check out what other participating bloggers have put on their lists – my tbr expands every week because of them! :)

This week, we’re searching for THE ACE: Some people are just ridiculously good at everything. Be it magic, swordplay, or all of the above. The Ace has no equal. So what we’re really looking for are douchebags of the magical variety? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll see. I marked my choices with a (+) if I like the (wo)man, and a (-) if (s)he gets on my nerves.

Soundtrack (not really related but the topic reminded me of this and I don’t need an excuse to have you listen to Iron Maiden so there).

throne-of-glass(+) Celaena Sardothien from Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.  SPOILERS FOR ALL BOOKS!! She’s a kick-ass assassin (haha she said ass), she wins a tournament in which all of the other participants are men (murderers, mercenaries, thieves, and other unsavoury characters), is a long-lost heir to the kingdom, can manipulate fire, is half-fae and is gorgeous in addition to all that. So yeah, she qualifies, but although it took me two books to warm up to her, I really liked her by the end of Heir of Fire. (review + review)

(-) Atticus O’Sullivan from Hounded by Kevin Hearne. Ahh, Atticus. He can suck power from the earth to heal himself, has a big, big, manly sword, is a favourite of the ladies, can kill Fae warriors, and even takes on a god. (review)

(-) Kelsier from Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Well, he’s really gifted, can jump across roofs, has a saviour complex, and is really adept at manipulating others. He also escaped from slavery (or something) and is beloved by all. Ugh. 

(+/-) Harry Dresden from Storm Front by Jim Butcher. Harry… I’m still on the fence about him. We have Book 2 already bought so I’ll probably give him another shot. He has a solution to every problem, fancies himself to be a ladies’ man, and has both a blasting rod and a wizard’s staff. Can we stop with the phallic imagery now, please? Really. (review)

(+) Legolas from The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien. I know, I know, not a conventional choice. But think about it! He’s a prince, immortal, very pretty, amazing with a bow, can run for miles and miles, and still has pretty hair in the end!!

divergent-veronica-roth(+/-) Tris Prior from Divergent by Veronica Roth. Well, she’s not technically magical in any way but she’s Divergent, meaning she doesn’t fit into any of the factions (I just found out why because I’m currently reading Allegiant and it’s… GAH it’s underwhelming and I want to smack Tobias in the face ALL THE TIME.), she’s so brave and fast and badass and selfless and hot and likeable and everythingallatonce! The jury is still out on this one.

(+) Kvothe the Bloodless from The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Ha. BUT HE DOESN’T FIT, you’ll say – and he doesn’t, not really, but his 16-year-old self would like to think he does. As a highly unreliable narrator, we see Kvothe as the youngest, possibly the most tallented student at the University, a brave young man, a fantastic musician, and a great storyteller. I’m listing him because he so desperately wants to be all that but we’ll see what really happened in the last book.

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This is all from me today, so tell me: which jack-of-all-trades did I miss? Who belongs on this list?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Things I Love About Reading

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Today, I want to talk about the little things that I love about reading books. I did a similar post here, but this one is more general and not about the story/characters/setting as much as about the act of reading itself, it that makes sense. These are the things I appreciate, the things that will always make me pick up a book and read in search of another great story. It’s a small list of current favourites.

I love 

  • a book that makes me laugh. I rarely go for the straight-up humor (Janet Evanovich’s books are one notable exception) but I particularly like finding unexpected jokes in books that are otherwise of a more somber nature.
  • that gut-clenching moment when I feel a character’s heart breaking. This may sound sadistic but it’s such an integral part of romance (not just the romance genre but any romance in any book. It also isn’t limited to romantic love!). It’s the feeling that – if the writer does a good enough job – twists my insides and makes me ache for the poor character.
  • that wonderful moment when happily ever after finally happens. I’m a big fan of happy endings. I dislike sappy stories but a well-done romance is something I’m constantly craving.
  • a book that is so compelling I want to read one more page even if I’m almost falling asleep. This sometimes results in my having to re-read a few pages the next day because I can’t remember what’s happened right before I finally stopped reading, but I love a book that just sucks you in.
  • the moment when I realize that I’m the last person awake and my husband has fallen asleep while I was reading. This happens very rarely because I usually fall asleep quickly but sometimes a book will keep me up (Half the World was one of them).
  • characters that feel like friends. I think this is the reason why I love reading series so much – I get to meet the same cool people again and again.
  • a book that I still think about weeks, even months after I finished it. I have terrible book amnesia, mostly because I read a lot, but some books stick with me (The Handmaid’s Tale is one I’ve been recommending to everyone I know – it’s not as well-known in Slovenia as it is in the English-speaking world).

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Why do you love reading? 

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Want more? Try this post on un-recommending books.

Half the World by Joe Abercrombie

half-the-world-abercrombieHalf the World (Shattered Sea #2) by Joe Abercrombie, published in February 2015 by Del Rey.

Goodreads. Author. Twitter.

Source: purchased by husband (hardback).

Genre: epic YA fantasy.

Sometimes a girl is touched by Mother War. Thorn is such a girl. Desperate to avenge her dead father, she lives to fight. But she has been named a murderer by the very man who trained her to kill.

Sometimes a woman becomes a warrior. She finds herself caught up in the schemes of Father Yarvi, Gettland’s deeply cunning minister. Crossing half the world to find allies against the ruthless High King, she learns harsh lessons of blood and deceit. 

Sometimes a warrior becomes a weapon. Beside her on the journey is Brand, a young warrior who hates to kill, a failure in his eyes and hers, but with one chance at redemption. 

And weapons are made for one purpose. Will Thorn forever be a pawn in the hands of the powerful, or can she carve her own path? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 5/5.

As seems to be the trend with me these days, it took me several weeks to get my act together and finally write this review (I’m not making any promises about it being coherent or anything, mind you). Warning: this is a second book in the series so there will be some unavoidable spoilers for Half a King. You can read my review of the first part here.

I really, really liked this book. I nearly didn’t give this series a chance because I wasn’t too impressed by The First Law trilogy, but I’ve never been more happy to be wrong about an author.

The story picks up soon(-ish) after the events of Half a King. Prince Yarvi is Father Yarvi now and is an important man whose job it is to keep the peace in his country. The story doesn’t revolve around his adventures only – in fact, the main characters are Thorn and Brand, two teenagers from Yarvi’s hometown.

They’re both training to become soldiers – but Thorn is a girl, and girl soldiers are generally frowned upon there, and Brand’s moral compass is too accurate to follow orders of dubious intent. Father Yarvi, who seems to have a soft spot for discarded people, collects both of them and makes them a part of his crew. They set off on a mission to win more allies against the High King and his evil (or just too-powerful) Minister, Grandmother Wexen.

And that’s all you need to know of the plot! While I know much of the focus is on the crew’s adventures and travels, I felt like the most important part of the book was the development of Torn and Brand. And I don’t just mean Thorn’t combat training, but personal stuff, too. They both have to learn their limits and generally grow up on this trip. Thorn, whose personality greatly resembles her nickname, was an instant favourite. I know we’re not meant to like her from the start because she’s really a brat, but I did. And I always had a thing for the quiet type guys so Brand wasn’t hard to like, either.

Having read about 1500 pages about intensely obnoxious characters in The First Law trilogy, I continue to be surprised by how much I’m liking Yarvi and his bunch of misfits. It’s not just Yarvi, Thorn and Brand – the whole cast of supporting characters is well thought out and I enjoyed seeing some of the characters from Half a King making an appearance here.

I have to mention a short quote because it’s… not really inspirational or anything, but well worth thinking about if you’re not feeling all that sparkly at the moment: compliment-abercrombie

Right? :) (I’m sure Joe would be thrilled to have his writing turned into inspirational fortune cookie quotes!)

All in all, Half a War is definitely one of my most anticipated reads. I can’t wait to see what adventures Yarvi and his crew will get themselves into and if I’ll get more of Thorn’s story, I’ll be a happy camper.

Possible spoilers in white so please only mark it if you’ve read this: I’ve been talking with my husband who’s also a fan of the series and we’ve been discussing the possibility that the Shattered Sea cultures are not set in a fantasy world per se, but rather in a futuristic version of our world. It may be that I’m merely stating the obvious, but I tried paying more attention now and I think it’s possible – not the geography, I’m not sure about that, but the elf ruins look an awful lot like steel and glass skyscrapers and Skifr’s magic weapon was a gun, right? End spoiler.

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Have you read Half the War? How about Half a King? What did you think?

How do they compare to other Abercrombie books in your opinion?

I’d love to hear from you! :)

Tough Travels: Awesome Displays of Magic

tough travelsSo I’m participating in this week’s Tough Travels meme again – hosted by Nathan of Fantasy Review Barn, this is one great way to explore Fantasyland and create lists, YAY! Don’t forget to go and check out what other participating bloggers have put on their lists – my tbr expands every week because of them! :)

This week’s going to be grand because we’re looking for AWESOME DISPLAYS OF MAGIC: Sometimes magic can be subtle but here we’re looking for things that go BANG! 

Let me just say… I’m not a huge fan of epic epicness. This goes for worldbuilding as well as action itself – not that I don’t like an action-packed story but I prefer my magic with a cost and all that. BUT! I do love a good bang sometimes and these examples are a testament to the fact that anything is possible in fantasy.

  1. harry-potter-deathly-hallowsThe Battle of Howgarts from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I think this is the most epically epic scene from HP (rivaled, perhaps, by the visit to the Hall of the Prophecies (or whatever it’s called)). It’s crucial and important and SAD and really well done. Minerva McGonagall is the best. That lady has style.
  2. The Gandalf + Balrog scene from LOTRMy memory of this is severly tainted by the movie version but I still think breaking the bridge of Khazad-dûm counts as awesome. I’d run like hell if faced with a flaming beast so kudos to Gandalf for staying put and protecting the others.
  3. That cage thingy that half-dragons make in Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman. SPOILER ALERT!! Well, the basics of this type of magic are known in the beginning of this sequel to Seraphina – when half-dragons link their minds, they can create a shield that can withstand a dragon attack. Its span depends on the strength and number of the half-dragons. The most important demonstration of this comes along right at the end of the book and nearly causes a massive disaster that would result in huge numbers of casualties on both human and dragon sides of the war.
  4. daughter-smoke-bone-laini-taylorSirithar from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor. This is a state of complete focus and clarity that Akiva sometimes achieves (I can’t go into the triggers because it would spoil everything) and it’s usually followed by devastation of some sort. It’s not something he can control and he basically knows nothing about it, but it’s pretty damn powerful.
  5. Claire’s trip to the past from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I know there were no explosions involved and that it took Claire a while to realize what had happened, but time travel is pretty darn awe-inspiring (I guess I could include any number of time-travelling books here? Or portal fantasy?).
  6. I’m relatively certain there were a number of cases where Rand from Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series did crazy things but I’m sad to say I can’t remember the specifics. There was the test in the Aiel desert, there was the shiny sword thing, and a number of others. Hell, the magic users in that series managed to break the world. That deserves a mention, though why they wanted to do that escapes me.

I know this topic is probably better suited to lovers of epic fantasy (not that I don’t like epic, I just have my doubts about epic epic fantasy – gah, I’m not making sense anymore, am I?), but I hope these suffice.

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Which amazing achievements of various witches and wizards have I forgotten to include this week? What would you add to my list?

I’d love to hear from you! :)