Crown of Midnight – Sarah J Maas

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Synopsis

A line that should never be crossed is about to be breached.

It puts this entire castle in jeopardy—and the life of your friend.

From the throne of glass rules a king with a fist of iron and a soul as black as pitch. Assassin Celaena Sardothien won a brutal contest to become his Champion. Yet Celaena is far from loyal to the crown. She hides her secret vigilantly; she knows that the man she serves is bent on evil.

Keeping up the deadly charade becomes increasingly difficult when Celaena realizes she is not the only one seeking justice. As she tries to untangle the mysteries buried deep within the glass castle, her closest relationships suffer. It seems no one is above questioning her allegiances—not the Crown Prince Dorian; not Chaol, the Captain of the Guard; not even her best friend, Nehemia, a foreign princess with a rebel heart.

Then one terrible night, the secrets they have all been keeping lead to an unspeakable tragedy. As Celaena’s world shatters, she will be forced to give up the very thing most precious to her and decide once and for all where her true loyalties lie… and whom she is ultimately willing to fight for.

My review

What a sequel! I felt like I was on the edge of my seat watching an action packed movie. Following on from Throne of Glass, Crown of Midnight took me on a ride to Adarlan, where the secrets within the palace walls are rife and the magic is dark. Celaena, as the King of Adarlan’s assassin, is to kill whomever the King commands. Her reluctance to kill for him influences her decision to fake the deaths of those on the King’s hit list.

I love that this book gave further details of the characters’ backstories and each character is becoming stronger. There were new and interesting characters introduced, wjo have information that will change the course of the novel completely. Yellowlegs is by far the creepiest character, yet sends Celaena down a path she will no doubt follow in the future novels.

The love triangle continues, yet I found myself becoming slightly annoyed by it. Although, the romance at the beginning of the novel is strong and I found myself hoping for a happily ever after moment where Celaena would ride off into the sunset with her love.

The twists and turns in this novel were unexpected and there were many emotionally charged moments. I felt the sadness and despair, as Calaena’s world was again turned upside down. I am excited to read the next book!

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying – Marie Kondo

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Synopsis

Despite constant efforts to declutter your home, do papers still accumulate like snowdrifts and clothes pile up like a tangled mess of noodles?

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international best seller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home – and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.
My review

Hello Marie Kondo, Goodbye mess!!

After watching an episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo on Netflix I fell in love with her methods and wanted to start the process myself. So, I went to the store, purchased a copy of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and read until I reached the end of the clothing section so that I could start discarding, sorting and folding, whilst being armed with these invaluable skills. I did just that! My drawers are tidier than they have ever been and I have given away six bags of clothes. I enjoy folding now, which I didn’t ever think I would say. I love that I can see every item of clothing in my drawers.

When I originally picked up Marie’s book last year, I questioned why I would need to read a book about tidying, when it is just something that has to be done… I hadn’t known how to tidy in a way that suited me and when I tidied everything would be a mess again in no time. This book gave me tips on storing items in a logical, easy to maintain and cost free manner. Marie has a beautiful approach overall, in particular her approach to discarding items. ‘Does it spark joy?’ I would ask myself over and over again as I held each piece of clothing. It is a wonderful way to sort through what should be in my house – items that I love and provide a sense of joy. I also love that Marie draws inspiration from Feng Shui and Shintoism.

The book is well structured and follows the Kon-Mari tidying process. Within each chapter, Marie provides answers to many problems and I found her writing to be delightful, as she is very gentle. Her stories of clients and her own experiences make situations relatable and I felt the confidence to follow most of her advice. Often mess and an untidy home can have a negative impact upon relationships with ourselves and our family, due to arguments about who is to clean what or why things have been left in random places. Marie encourages the reader to concentrate on your own items to discard and other family members are likely to be inspired. To enhance understanding for readers, I would have liked to see a list of the items in the process, as per the TV show, possibly a tick a box at the end of the book and diagrams of her folding, as the TV show gives more insight into this. Watching the show and reading the book in conjunction is worthwhile.

Would I recommend The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying? Absolutely! Is it a life-changing read? Yes! Does the book itself spark joy in my life? Yes! My drawers are tidy and quite beautiful, I am enthusiastic about putting my clothes away and actually enjoy folding… it reminds me of origami. I plan to complete my entire home following the Kon-Mari method (apart from my books, which I will be keeping many more than the suggested collection). My house and I have a long way to go. What an inspiring read! Thanks to Marie Kondo I am motivated to live surrounded by items that I love whilst enjoying a clutter-free life.

 

⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

The Secret – Rhonda Byrne

Synopsis
Fragments of a Great Secret have been found in the oral traditions, in literature, in religions and philosophies throughout the centuries. For the first time, all the pieces of ‘the secret’ come together in an incredible revelation that will be life-transforming for all who experience it.

In this book, you’ll learn how to use ‘the secret’ in every aspect of your life – money, health, relationships, happiness, and in every interaction you have in the world. You’ll begin to understand the hidden, untapped power that’s within you, and this revelation can bring joy to every aspect of your life.

The Secret contains wisdom from modern-day teachers – men and women who have used it to achieve health, wealth, and happiness. By applying the knowledge of ‘the secret’, they bring to light compelling stories of eradicating disease, acquiring massive wealth, overcoming obstacles, and achieving what many would regard as impossible.

My review

The Secret is a motivational book that appreciates a variety of spiritual texts. I was so lucky to be given this book by one of my best friends as a birthday gift. I have gained a lot from The Secret and am very grateful!

Without giving away ‘the secret’, the book focuses on positive thinking and after reading it, I realised I was using the teachings in everyday life. I also have started to make a concentrated effort to challenge my thought patterns. The Secret is a beautiful refresher course to what we all need, reminding us to think about the good things in life and how to be happy. The main focus, in the beginning, is the power of the mind and that we all have the ability to change our circumstances, with the right tools. This spoke to me.

The quotes from famous people were inspirational and I felt very inspired reading the first half of the book, as it brought to mind a variety of teachings. The author appreciates many sources and acknowledges that many religions speak of having the life we want with faith in ourselves and God. I love that it is quite condensed and discusses important topics, including the mind’s potential, mindfulness, positive thoughts, meditation, love and gratitude. All topics that I believe to be the answer to a happy life.

I became a little cynical near the end of the book, as the focus seemed to change to gaining whatever we desire rather than the importance of love and cherishing others. The contradiction between things happening when the universe aligns and the power our minds hold had me questioning the overall message of The Secret.

I would recommend The Secret, as I enjoyed learning more about ‘the secret’ and it did speak to me. Any book that suggests we can do something to increase our happiness via the power of the mind speaks to me. The Secret does this and provides the tools to do so.

⭐⭐⭐

 

 

Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas

Synopsis

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.

Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for four years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilarating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her … but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.

Then one of the other contestants turns up dead … quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

My review

What a book to start off the year with! Throne of Glass was an absolute page turner! An epic fantasy romance with the perfect blend of magic, romance and action.

Celaena is an 18 year old assassin serving time in the Salt Mines of Endovier, where she must undergo the toughest conditions in order to survive. When she is given a chance of freedom she must take it… She is lead into a world of royals and socialites, as she stays in the palace of the King of Adarlan. One moment she is being dressed by her lady-in-waiting, Philippa (or should I say fairygodmother) to attend royal gatherings. In the next moment Celaena is competing in physical tests, scaling walls and the like to win the place of the King’s assassin, where she would be expected to kill on command. There is an element of a Cinderella retelling here, as assassin turned slave is introduced to a world of pretty dresses and royal balls.

In normal circumstances I wouldn’t state that an assassin is a likeable character, however, Celaena is. Her character learns about life, friendship, magical realms, love and trust in herself and others. I especially loved her appreciation for books in a world where many have been destroyed. She often retreats to the library where she finds answers to questions of magic and enjoys various literature. ‘Libraries were full of ideas – perhaps the most powerful and dangerous of all weapons.’ This quote made me love Throne of Glass even more!

The male characters surrounding Celaena are just a bit dreamy. Prince Dorian has different views to his father and he is intrigued by Celaena’s spark and intelligence, as they share their love of books. Nox, a thief and ally is the only competitor who will give Celaena the respect she deserves as a competitor. Captain Westfall is her guard and challenges her the most, as he trains her to stay balanced rather than flying off the handle when she is provoked and he saves her time and time again. He is Stoic, yet always dependable. Will Celaena’s heart be swayed by any of these men?

This book could easily be made into a movie and I think it would be a hit at the box office. I am looking forward to reading the rest of this series. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves fantasy. I would also recommend it to anyone willing to step into the fantasy genre.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Woman in the Green Dress – Tea Cooper

Synopsis

For readers who loved Remarkable Creatures, The Naturalist’s Daughter and The Birdman’s Wife comes The Woman in the Green Dress… 1853 Mogo Creek, NSW

Della Atterton, bereft at the loss of her parents, is holed up in the place she loves best: the beautiful Hawkesbury in New South Wales. Happiest following the trade her father taught her, taxidermy, Della has no wish to return to Sydney. But the unexpected arrival of Captain Stefan von Richter on a quest to retrieve what could be Australia’s first opal, precipitates Della’s return to Sydney and her Curio Shop of Wonders, where she discovers her enigmatic aunt, Cordelia, is selling more than curiosities to collectors. Strange things are afoot and Della, a fly in a spider’s web, is caught up in events with unimaginable consequences…

1919 Sydney, NSW

When London teashop waitress Fleur Richards inherits land and wealth in Australia from her husband, Hugh, killed in the war, she wants nothing to do with it. After all, accepting it will mean Hugh really is dead. But Hugh’s lawyer is insistent, and so she finds herself ensconced in the Berkeley Hotel on Bent St, Sydney, the reluctant owner of a Hawkesbury property and an old curio shop, now desolate and boarded up.

As the real story of her inheritance unravels, Fleur finds herself in the company of a damaged returned soldier Kip, holding a thread that takes her deep into the past, a thread that could unravel a mystery surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress; a green that is the colour of envy, the colour buried deep within an opal, the colour of poison…

My review

The Woman in the Green Dress was a breathtakingly beautiful novel that I didn’t want to put down.

It was well written and cleverly structured, as the story follows two strong female protagonists, Della from Mogo Creek, NSW 1853 and Fleur who travels to Sydney, NSW in 1919 after being told that her husband has died serving his country. As they both unravel secrets of the past, the women naturally learn to live their lives in harmony with the world around them. I loved the intertwining and portrayal of all of the characters in the novel.

I particularly enjoyed the atmospheric descriptions of the Australian settings, especially since I have driven through some of these towns. I loved the descriptions of the Australian bush, including the scent of eucalyptus in the air. For me, this is home. It was also interesting to read the summary of the historical connections at the end. This book was well researched and a great balance of fact and fiction.

This was the first Tea Cooper novel I have read. Why haven’t I picked one of her novels up before? I hope to read many more of her novels. The Woman in the Green Dress was my last read in 2018 and one of my favourites. If you want an enjoyable read for the holidays, I highly recommend this book. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

The Deal of a Lifetime – Fredrik Backman

Synopsis

In this short story enhanced with beautiful illustrations, the bestselling author of A Man Called Ove and Beartown delivers an insightful and poignant tale about finding out what is truly important in life.

A father and a son are seeing each other for the first time in years. The father has a story to share before it’s too late. He tells his son about a courageous little girl lying in a hospital bed a few miles away. She’s a smart kid—smart enough to know that she won’t beat cancer by drawing with crayons all day, but it seems to make the adults happy, so she keeps doing it.

As he talks about this plucky little girl, the father also reveals more about himself: his triumphs in business, his failures as a parent, his past regrets, his hopes for the future.

Now, on a cold winter’s night, the father has been given an unexpected chance to do something remarkable that could change the destiny of a little girl he hardly knows. But before he can make the deal of a lifetime, he must find out what his own life has actually been worth, and only his son can reveal that answer.

With humor and compassion, Fredrik Backman’s The Deal of a Lifetime reminds us that life is a fleeting gift, and our legacy rests in how we share that gift with others.

My review

The Deal of a Lifetime was a perfect short story to read around Christmas time. I love Christmas. I love the joy of waking up on Christmas morning knowing that Santa has paid our house a visit, the sparkly decorations, the neverending Christmas food… most of all I love spending time with family. I think holidays are a time when we are reminded of what is really important. Our loved ones. This story reinforces that heartfelt connection between special holidays and love for others.

The Deal of a Lifetime is short, yet thought provoking. This is my first experience of Fredrik Blackman’s writing. He wrote it just before Christmas with his wife and children asleep nearby. The introduction from the author is humble and selfless, pulling at the heartstrings from the beginning.

The presentation of the book and the drawings are equally beautiful. The drawings give additional layers to the story and I found myself pondering over them as much as the writing.

The story is not the usual Christmas story. It starts ‘Hi. It’s your dad. You’ll be waking up soon, it’s Christmas Eve morning in Helsinborg, and I’ve killed a person.’ I was captivated from the first line. I loved that the father shares his deepest thoughts and feelings in order to make a life altering decision. His respect for his son increases throughout the pages and there is a realisation that his son had taught him important life lessons. This rang true for me. As a parent, my son teaches me something new everyday.

I read this novella on the drive to my father-in-law’s house before our Christmas party, which was the best timing. There I was about to enjoy time with my beautiful family and that I did. Every moment. I would recommend this story. There are life lessons and reminders that truly reinforce what we all know is important.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Rosewater and Soda Bread – Marsha Mehran

Synopsis

More than a year has passed since Marjan, Bahar, and Layla, the beautiful Iranian Aminpour sisters, sought refuge in the quaint Irish town of Ballinacroagh. Opening the beguiling Babylon Café, they charmed the locals with their warm hearts and delectable Persian cuisine, bringing a saffron-scented spice to the once-sleepy village.

But when a young woman with a dark secret literally washes up on Clew Bay Beach, the sisters’ world is once again turned upside down. With pale skin and webbed hands, the girl is otherworldly, but her wounds tell a more earthly (and graver) story–one that sends the strict Catholic town into an uproar. The Aminpours rally around the newcomer, but each sister must also contend with her own transformation–Marjan tests her feelings for love with a dashing writer, Bahar takes on a new spiritual commitment with the help of Father Mahoney, and Layla matures into a young woman when she and her boyfriend, Malachy, step up their hot and heavy relationship.

Filled with mouthwatering recipes and enchanting details of life in Ireland, Rosewater and Soda Bread is infused with a lyrical warmth that radiates from the Aminpour family and their big-hearted Italian landlady, Estelle, to the whole of Ballinacroagh–and the world beyond.

My review

I purchased Rosewater and Soda Bread at a booksale about a year ago. I was at first attracted to the cover design and reading the blurb, I was expecting a heartfelt story.

Rosewater and Soda Bread revolves around three sisters who have escaped Iran and are living in Ireland. They run a cafe that is famous for Persian cuisine. The detailed descriptions of Persian delicacies made my mouth water. I could almost taste the dishes and breathe in the scent of bergamot tea. The recipes at the end of the book are an added bonus and lovely addition to the novel. I even hope to cook some of the meals!

I enjoyed reading about the quaint Irish town of Ballincrough, the Babylon cafe and authentic food, however, I felt that I needed more insight into the characters themselves. My favourite character was the mermaid, who I found very intriguing. I did feel left wanting to know more about her and the Irish legends alluded to. For me, the characterisation was weak and I craved to know more about the Aminpour sisters too, who had experienced such turmoil prior to their arrival in Ireland. Admittedly, I have not read Pomegranate Soup, the prequel to Rosewater and Soda Bread. I wonder if this would have given me the depth I needed to further understand their background.

Overall, it was a nice, light read, but not the memorable and heartwarming story I expected.

⭐⭐⭐.5