Gorgeous Autumn Days

DSC_0054In the beginning of October, we made our first longer day trip since the baby was born. My mum had recently broken her hip (a total freak accident) and spent some time in a rehabilitation center an hour’s drive away from Ljubljana. We went for a leisurely stroll that suited both my mum and the kid (who slept through the entire thing).

DSC_0065Otočec (I have no idea how to explain the pronunciation of this to English speakers, so just make something up in your mind) has a castle on a small island on the river Krka. It’s not particularly well-fortified and I don’t think it ever served as a military outpost, but it’s been there since before the 13th century (that’s when it was first mentioned), so it’s an important piece of cultural heritage. It’s the only “water castle” in Slovenia.

DSC_0108It has been renovated and now houses a very fancy restaurant and hotel. More info here and here.

DSC_0070The river Krka is really beautiful and people often swim in it during the summer – it’s also great for boating. There was a very stoic fisherman sitting on one bank and I swear he didn’t move a muscle in the two hours we spent on the island.

DSC_0077The island surrounding the castle is actually a park which was particularly beautiful in the golden afternoon light (I don’t know these two but they make for a nice picture, no?).

DSC_0098We’ve been having such beautiful days this September and October and I’m really glad – it means I can take a stroll with the baby every day and don’t have to worry (too much) about him getting a cold.

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Are you enjoying autumn as well?

What are your favourite activities for this time of year?

The Prince Who Loved Me by Karen Hawkins

the-prince-who-loved-meThe Prince Who Loved Me (The Oxenburg Princes #1) by Karen Hawkins, published in September 2014 by Pocket Books.

Author. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Sourcepurchased.

Genrehistorical romance.

Prince Alexsey Romanovin enjoys his carefree life, flirting—and more—with every lovely lady who crosses his path. But when the interfering Grand Duchess Natasha decides it’s time for her grandson to wed, Alexsey finds himself in Scotland, determined to foil her plans. Brainy, bookish, and bespectacled, Bronwyn Murdoch seems the perfect answer—she isn’t at all to the duchess’ taste. 

Living at the beck and call of her ambitious stepmother and social butterfly stepsisters, Bronwyn has little time for a handsome flirt—no matter how intoxicating his kisses are. After all, no spoiled, arrogant prince would be seriously interested in a firm-minded female like herself. So . . . wouldn’t it be fun to turn his “game” upside down and prove that an ordinary woman can bring a prince to his knees? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 3.5/5.

I will probably always auto-buy Karen Hawkins’ books. They are my favourite kind of historical romance – light and fluffly with enough substance and humour to make for a very, very entertaining read. That said, this one was good, but not my favourite. I’ve done a mini review of one that embodies all that I love about her writing, The Taming of a Scottish Princess, so if you’re looking for a place to start, I’d go with this Hurst amulet series, not The Oxenburg Princes.

So what made me rate this one a bit lower despite the fact that Hawkins’ writing is still spot-on?

I didn’t particularly care for the hero. And since reading romance is all about falling for the hero (isn’t it?), that’s where my main problem lies. Alexsey is a prince and is used to getting what he wants – and is a bit of a douche because of it. It doesn’t help that Bron (the heroine) is wildly attracted to the man; resisting him is really out of the question and this just supports the very good opinion he has of himself. I missed some flaws to his character or… I don’t know, something more.

Other than that, I also missed some drama. Ugh, I know, I just said that I like my romances light and fluffy, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be some conflict! There was some usual tension and indecision on both sides, but there was never really any doubt as to the protagonists’ final decision. I mean, I know that in romance, the final decision is “happily ever after” in some 95 % of cases, but still. I like to see some indecision, internal struggles and such.

But I really liked the spin on the Cinderella theme – I haven’t seen one quite like this before and I think it’s actually very forward for a genre where tropes are a must and innovation is usually frowned upon. I can’t really say much more than this without giving away too much, sorry.

All in all, I’d still heartily recommend this novel to all lovers of Karen Hawkins and historical romance, but if you’re new to the genre, start somewhere else and work your way up to this one once you’ve fallen in love with her writing. Since this is the beginning of a series and this prince has several brothers, I think we’re looking at wonderful entertainment in the near future. I can’t wait!

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Have you read any good historical romances lately? I’d love a recomemndation! :)

Thursday Thoughts: Love Triangles

thursday-thoughts-bannerThursday Thoughts is a weekly discussion meme hosted by Ashley at Ok, Let’s Read! She has a linky on her site so even if you don’t participate, make sure you check out other bloggers’ links!

This week, we’re talking about love triangles. Do I hate them? Love them? Feel like they’re overdone? Do I think they deserve a chance if they’re done properly?

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First of all, I’d like to go on record saying that in real life, love triangles are just a bad idea. I understand feeling something for more than one person at a time but I genuinely think that it’s usually just a case of someone being to scared to admit they’re unhappy in one relationship and want out, but don’t know how to do it.

But in fiction, love triangles usually serve as a plot device. They’ve been used for centuries, the Queen of Romance (that’s not an official title, as far as I know, it just felt appropriate), Jane Austen, being one of those who excelled at them. So yes, I think love triangles can be great if they’re executed properly. See, Jane knew what she was doing – she made Wickham really appealing at first but gave him a nasty, nasty character, for example, while she made Darcy really gruff and gave him a heart of gold. So in the end, Elizabeth had no doubt she was making the right decision.

Nowadays, however, there’s an overabundance of love triangles where the heroine (let’s face it, it’s usually 1 girl + 2 boys) seems really confused about who is the right choice. Take Bella (Twilight), for example. I wanted to beat her over the head with something really heavy when she was oscillating between Edward and Jacob – I just think there’s no way a person can feel like that about two people at once. It might be my appalling lack of experience in love-related drama (I was lucky that way, I guess), but there you have it.

I dislike love triangles where the heroine leads both guys on, only to choose the obvious one in the end and leave the other broken-hearted, so someone else has to pick up the pieces. Again, Bella seems like a really good example of this – and Meyer did the creepy thing, making Jacob fall for Bella’s baby daughter instead…

But the bookish community seems to thrive on love triangles – there’s always the question of Team Jacob versus Team Edward, and I’ve even seen book bloggers feature banners which declare their allegiance. I guess I always choose sides in such a situation, as well: Team Ziri over Team Akiva (Daughter of Smoke and Bone), Team Chaol over Team Dorian (Throne of Glass), Team Jem over Team Will (Infernal Devices).

So the bottom line is: I think love triangles can be good if executed properly. But I do think that stashing one in every novel with a slight romantic twist might not be a good idea – there are other ways of building tension within a romantic relationship, after all.

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What’s your take on love triangles? Are you fed up with them?

Or do you like to choose a side and root for the guy you prefer?

I’d love to hear your thoughts! :)

Ten Places Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

top-10Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme that I sometimes participate in. It’s hosted by The Broke and the Bookish and seems to be one of the most popular memes, if you go and check out the links to other blogs on their site (which you should totally do).

This week’s topic is: ten places books have made me want to visit and they can be either real or fictional. I decided to have the best of both worlds so I picked five dream destinations from each of the categories!

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Real places

real

  1. Japan – I’ve read quite some books by Haruki Murakami (in translation, obviously), and I’ve wanted to visit Japan forever. It’ll take some time before I get there, though – airplane tickets are crazy expensive.
  2. Prague - this is due to Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I’ve been to Prague once when I was a kid, but I want to go again and see all the things Karou did. :) This is a more manageable destination for me!
  3. New Orleans – Kresley Cole’s Immortals After Dark series is responsible for this one (and also the series Originals, but I stopped watching it, so it doesn’t count). I want to tour the cemeteries and sip cocktails in the French Quarter (I know, I know, I have a hopelessly idealistic notion of New Orleans, can’t help it).
  4. The Scottish Highlands – historical romances. That’s all I’m saying.
  5. Bath – Jane Austen and historical romances. I will not apologize for my choice of reading material! :)

Photo credits: 12345

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Fictional places

fictional

  1. Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry – I would lie if I’d say I didn’t wish to attend this school, but I’d be glad just to visit it once, as well.
  2. London, cca 1810 – again, historical romances are the reason for this one. It’s not fictional as much as impossible to get to from our current time. I’d love to see the balls and the parties and the pretty dresses (and skip the squalor and dirt and coal smoke, please).
  3. Camorr – from Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora – this town is all I imagine a fantasy town should be, down to intrigue, murder and thieves. Quite perfect, but I’d carry a dagger in my sleeve at all times, just in case.
  4. Edoras, Rohan – from The Lord of the Rings. Horses and pretty horsemen. Just sayin’.
  5. The Wall – from The Song of Ice and Fire. I probably wouldn’t actually want to go there, what with the Night Watch being full of rapists and murderers, but it’s epic and I’d like to… umm… fly over it on a dragon? (Wrapped in several layers of soft fur, of course.)

Photo credits: 12345

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This is my choice of real and fictional places I’d love to visit.

Do books spark your wanderlust as well? I’d love to hear about it! :)

Vicious by V. E. Schwab

viciousVicious by V. E. Schwab, published in 2014 by Titan Books.

Author. Twitter. Goodreads. Amazon. Book Depository. Barnes & Noble.

Source: purchased.

Genreparanormal (?) fantasy/sci-fi (?) (I’m useless at these… I don’t know why I bother.)

Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.

Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? (Goodreads)

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My rating: 5/5.

This is a great book. Go read it now.

Ok, I just wanted to get that out of the way. Vicious easily made its way onto the list of top five books I’ve read in 2014. I’ve read and loved Schwab’s The Near Witch and The Archived (you can read my review here) and I admire her writing so, so much. Vicious just confirmed that she can write for adults as well. I have to get my hands on The Unbound and I can’t wait for A Darker Shade of Magic to be published in 2015. Did I mention she’s only 27 and is a student as well as a writer? No? Well… I’m kind of in awe. Go follow her Twitter account as well, she’s great.

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It seems to me like I’m always whining about the pacing in books – I either find the story too slow (like in Half Bad) or too fast (like in Illusions of Fate – review to come soon). But here, it was bloody well perfect. The switching between the past, the recent past and the present is done so masterfully I couldn’t help but rush forward, eager to find out more, to get more clues, to see how the tension would unfold. And I can tell you, there’s tension aplenty, and by the final third of the novel, I was practically bouncing up and down – and yet afraid to fly through the text too fast for the fear of missing a lovely piece of writing (there are plenty of those as well).

I’ve read books with a similar structure before – Scott Lynch’s The Lies of Locke Lamora (and sequels) are done in a similar manner, but Lynch’s prose is slower and more lyrical despite the story that flows beautifully. Schwab, however, attacks her story with surgical precision and has a clean, no-nonsense style that I can’t help but adore. Both are marvellous, don’t get me wrong, but totally different.

I fell in love with Victor – the villain, the hero, the undefineable, complex person that he is – from the start. I love how Schwab plays around and questions the morality of his and Eli’s choices, how their world seems black-and-white but is really a very blurry shade of grey. Other characters are lovely as well, fleshed-out but not too flashy to distract the reader from the main conflict, that of two best friends (though I find myself questioning this friend label in their case…) turned mortal enemies.

Gah. Can I get more gushy about this book? Possibly not, but let me just finish up by saying that I was terrified that the whole pressure-building technique was going to whet my appetite and that I was going to finish off the book, disappointed (as one often is) by a lackluster ending. That did not happen, people. Schwab delivers a fantastic finale and I really do recommend this book. To… to everyone, basically!

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Have you read Vicious? Or anything else by Schwab? 

I’d love to discuss her work so comment away! :)