Cinnamon and Gunpowder | Eli Brown

I have a habit of reading my favorite books of the year come September-December – something I cannot shake. But I’m fine with that, because Cinnamon and Gunpowder was the right novel at the right time. My heart was large after reading it, I cried literal tears – that is a feat for me! And all I want to do is pick it up again, only to linger with the characters a tad longer.

The novel is a mixture of things I love: historical fiction, food, pirates, romance, witty banter and an awesome, kickass woman.

So what is it about again? Ahem, the euphoria is thick, my friends.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder is set in 1819, about a renowned Chef called Owen Wedgwood who has been kidnapped by the ruthless pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot. To survive, every Sunday he must serve a spectacular meal to her.

There is a lot more I can add, but I feel that it is best to go into the deep end with only that in mind. Yet it is a novel full of complexities, of oddities, of beauty and love and it is wonderful. However I don’t think I would have loved it as much I do if not for the characters. From the grumpy protagonist, with interesting food philosophies, Mabbot and her wit and charm, Mr Apples and his aptitude for knitting to the determined Laroche, and idealist Brass Fox – it’s a myriad of interesting characters. By the end I was so connected to the characters, that I felt I was there with them feeling their pain and joy. And that is the markings of a great novel.

The writing was also slick and charming, and the voice of the protagonist stuck out clearly in my mind. The pacing worked and worked, time again. It never really had a dull moment – and I hungered each and every time for more dinner dates between Owen and Mabbot. They were wonderfully philosophical, charming, intimate moments that I wish I could replay in my mind over and over again. Every scene in the novel felt like character development for at least one of the characters, and I loved it.

And the action worked too, it was heavy and gritty but never deterred from the novel’s tone.

I feel like I could talk about this novel all night and day, but I think that is a sign for me to shush and let you wonder whether to read this novel. Hopefully I’ve done my job right as a new fan to encourage you, force you?

For me this is the best read in months, I give Cinnamon and Gunpowder 5/5*

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The Sleeper and the Spindle | Neil Gaiman

Whenever I think of excellent wordsmiths, Neil Gaiman gleefully comes to mind. There is something beautiful about his prose, how it lingers and create shivers down your spine. The Sleeper and the Spindle is no different – plus it comes with some awesome illustrations!

The Sleeper and the Spindle is sort of a fairytale retelling, accessible to many ages, about a Queen on a quest to break a 100 year old sleeping curse. We are led to believe this is a mash up of two popular fairy tales, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

But what I really enjoyed about this story was how it played with the fairytale genre. Key elements are still there; the sleeping curse, magic, a princess, a quest and a kiss. But it’s not about true love and all that jazz, but rather I think, about understanding what you want and is the path you are down now – the one you truly want to be on? An important theme to explore, I believe.

And also a woman saving another woman?! How cool is that!

The illustrations also add another great dimension, they are somewhat comical yet harrowing at the same time and it really fits the tone of the story.

And although I haven’t read many of Neil Gaiman’s works, only Neverwhere, The Ocean at the End of the Lane and this – this is a story I would recommend to those who want a good starting point. It’s a story I can read to my younger cousins whilst enjoying the experience at the same time. A win, if I must say so.

This is a story for Neil Gaiman lovers, for fairytale aficionados, for children and adults and all those who want something light, introspective and charming.

I give The Sleeper and the Spindle 3.5/5*

My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time | Liz Jensen

My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time feels slightly reminiscent of a mixture between Jane Eyre and the Discworld books, except with time travel, avocado condoms and a little girl who loves spiderman. It’s witty, unapologetic and downright charming – and totally not in the same vein of other time travel novels I’ve encountered. I mean, the time traveller is a cunning Danish prostitute from the late 1800s with a lazy, sometimes unintelligible mother figure as a sidekick.

So to expand on what the novel is about, I’ll add in the blurb as my mind is still buzzing after finishing the last page. I just put the book down five minutes ago!

In Copenhagen, part-time prostitute Charlotte and her lumpen sidekick, Fru Schleswig, haven taken on jobs as cleaning ladies of dubious talent to tide them over the harsh winter of 1897. But the home of their neurotic new employer, the widow Krak, soon reveals itself to be riddled with dark secrets – including the existence of a demonic machine rumoured to swallow people alive. Rudely catapulted into twenty-first century London, the hapless duo discover a whole new world of glass, labour-saving devices and hectic, impossible romance.

Now with that out of the way, it’s time to focus my mind on summarising the hectic feelings this novel has pushed on me.

Firstly:

  • I loved the character of Charlotte, she was this awesome bull-busting person who got things done. But she was also inclined towards melodrama and exaggeration, and was unapologetic about who she was and what she did for a living. I appreciated that. The novel also relied on her narration, and oh boy was it fun and playful. I don’t think the novel would have worked as well, if not for that narration.
  •  The novel feels like a romp, a light hearted romp with adventure, action and dazzle. It was a nice step from the darkness of the last novel I read.
  • The other characters were interesting and eccentric – much to my liking!

I also enjoyed the romance, it was sweet and lovely – however the development was slightly too quick for me. It did fit the tone of the book. And although the science side (time travel) rushed over my head a bit, it wasn’t necessary to understand it to enjoy the novel.

Overall this was a nice quick read, wonderful with a cup of jasmine tea.

I give My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time 3.5/5*

The Mid Year Book Tag

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I thought since this is a rather new blog and it being already mid way through the year, readers might be interested in what I have read already. I tend to read a mixture between historical fiction and fantasy, but will delve into other genres too. I love bright ideas, interesting and complex characters and wonderful world building. And I have read (looking at my goodreads count) 85 books so far this year. So let’s do a sort-of recap with the Mid Year Book Tag, a tag I noticed on Sundays and Ink.

Best Book You’ve Read All Year?
I’ve been struggling with this question all year. I’ve read some wonderful novels and some really terrible ones – but they tend to sludge together. However if I had to say one, it would probably be The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson. I loved the world building, the characters, the magic system. It was fun, dramatic, sad and I’m glad that I finally read it.

Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far.
Easy Peasy. I have it for you: Honor’s Knight (Paradox #2) by Rachel Bach. This is a fun space opera dripping with sweat, romance, alien action and a cool female protagonist. This is a series about a space mercenary called Devi who takes a job on one of the most dangerous ships in the galaxy – only to be embroiled in an interesting mystery. I loved the series, but the second book takes the cake.

New Release You Haven’t Read But Want To?
I’ve really keen to read The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milan. Dinosaurs in 14th Century Europe? Byzantine politics? Knights on dinosaurs? Sign me up! I’m just awaiting on a copy from the library now.

Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half of 2015?
I think most of the books I’ve hyped myself up to read this year have already been released, bar The Tower by Thorns (Blackthorn & Grimm #2) by Juliet Marillier. It’s an interesting fantasy, mystery series set in medieval Ireland. And I’ve been a devout Juliet Marillier fan for years now starting with the Six Swans fairy tale retelling Daughter of the Forest.

Biggest Disappointment?
The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve been meaning to read his books for years, based on others spouting him as the next saint. But the novel felt like a mess. It started out wonderfully mysterious, and beautifully poetic – but then the gears changed and the genre switched something more fantastical and Monty Python esque. That isn’t to say I do not like those kind of things, I love fantasy and Monty Python…But it didn’t fit with the tone that the novel started with, much to my disappointment.

Biggest Surprise?
I wasn’t sure how much I was going to enjoy The Vagrants by Yiyun Li, mainly because it had been ages since I had read this kind of novel. But I loved the examination of the political and cultural climate of China during the 1970s. The characters were lovely, and flawed and poetic – somewhat. The writing was beautiful and it’s definitely a novel I would like to read again.

Book To Movie Adaptation?
I think the only book to movie adaptations I’ve watched this year are Love, Rosie, Serena and Mortdecai. And I haven’t read either source material. Mortdecai was…dreadful. Serena had beautiful cinematography but the movie was slow burning, and the characters felt weak. Love, Rosie was cute and sweet but not something I would watch again.

Favorite New Author?
I think it’ll have to be Jo Walton, I really enjoyed Among Others and loved The Just City. She has a talent for genre blurring, and her books are beautiful and thought provoking and I cannot wait to read more from her. Tooth and Claw is next, I think.

Newest Fictional Crush?
I’m not exactly the one for developing fictional crushes, or perhaps it’s the books I read? But if I had to pick one, it would have to be Rupert from the Paradox series by Rachel Bach. He was pretty flawed, yes. But the space man exuded sexiness, and was just as capable as the protagonist. So yes…I’ll pick him.

Newest Favorite Character?
Socrates from The Just City by Jo Walton. I love the old wise, fun-cracking man cliche. For e.g Jolee Bindo from Knights of the Old Republic (you will always be in my heart). Socrates was fun, his thought process was interesting concerning the development of the just city. I loved his philosophies and he was just awesome.

Book That Made You Cry?
I’m very much a visual person, so books rarely make me literally cry. Video games can, for e.g The Last of Us and Life is Strange. Movies can, for e.g Wolf Children and Mrs Doubtfire. But some reason, the closest I’ve come to crying with a book was when I felt all tense inside and wanted to curl up into a cocoon. Funnily enough, from my scant memory – Felicia Day’s memoir You’re Never Weird on The Internet (almost) did. Not literal sobbing, I assure you but there was section on depression that I could really relate to. And I felt really sad in that moment.

Beautiful Book?
I think my favorite book I’ve bought this year, mainly for the cover was the Puffin in Bloom edition of Heidi by Johanna Spyri. It’s so beautiful I can almost weep. I have a thing for illustrated covers.

Books You Need To Read By The End of The Year.
The to do list is: S. by JJ Abrams, The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan, Egg & Spoon by Gregory Maguire and The Garden of Evening Mists by Twan Eng Tan. I can definitely read those books by the end of this year, right?

Horns | Joe Hill

Horns was not what I expected. Going into this, I prepared myself for all matters of scariness – from jumpscares to gore. Because that is what horror is, right? I think you can tell now that I’m not exactly a horror aficionado, I haven’t seen any of Wes Craven’s films for example.

But what Horns is – is this deep, beautiful chaotic mess that deals with the case of losing the person who you love the most in this dredge of a world. And it’s in this love story, this examination of Ig, the man who lost his girlfriend – that the novel shines.

Horns is about a man called Ig Perrish, who is devastated after the loss of his beloved Merrin who was raped and murdered – but not by him. And yet, despite no evidence to show that he was the murderer – public opinion still holds him accountable. So, when one day he wakes up with horns on his head and the ability to know everyone’s deepest, darkest secrets, he uses this as an opportunity to find the person who killed Merrin.

Ig was a fascinating character, this person who for all his life tried to be noble and do everything right – finds that this only creates more pain – and uses his new powers to exact revenge…On everyone.

Although somewhat disturbed by some of the things he did to exact revenge, a little piece of me hungered for more. It was fun, devilish and exciting. And I was intrigued by the use of Christian elements to explore this new side of Ig: devils, snakes, horrible confessions etc etc.

But as I mentioned before, the highlight of the novel was the love story and how that affected Ig. I felt for him, hoped he got his dues as the novel explored Merrin and Ig’s relationship. Their relationship wasn’t perfect, it had flaws – but it was the crux of the story and it was absolutely beautiful. So much, that I nearly had tears in my eyes by the end of the novel.

I also enjoyed the interactions with the murderer, which were some of the creepiest moments in the novel.

However, was I scared/frightened/wetting my pants as an reaction to this novel? No, but that’s fine. I was definitely creeped out, and the suspense was exhilarating. And I really enjoyed it – and that’s what counts in the end.

So thank you Joe Hill for introducing me to the reading world of horror, it was a pleasant introduction.

I give Horns 4/5*