Wednesday, 28 September 2011

I won my first blog giveaway!

Early in August, I entered a 1000 follower giveaway from Gripped into Books. The great thing about giveaways is bloggers also get the chance to recruit more readers. Gripped into Books now has nearly 1500 followers... unless it has grown more since a few minutes ago. I absolutely love the blog and it is great to see it doing so well.

I was very excited to receive my prize in the mail today. A funky little swag pack. I can't wait to run my own giveaway and reward all my awesome followers. So if you want the chance to win some awesome prizes, help me get to 50 followers + and I promise to run one! I am a hugeee fan of over the top crazy freebies, so you wont be disapointed!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Pottermore

I have been waiting a long time to get my Pottermore email that lets me know I can finally log in, and low and behold, it arrived today!
I love the Harry Potter franchise; the books, movies, toys, music... everything! The day that Pottemore was announced I was extremely excited!

If you are one of the lucky people to be on Pottermore, feel free to add me. My user name is AshHallow84. If not, do not fret, it will be open for everyone very soon.

For those of you on Pottermore, what do you think? Do you love having the experience of feeling you are Harry Potter? I am about to get my wand and am still excited about what else could happen.
I would love to hear what you think about it all and if you have any tips for me or any others starting out today.

Below are screenshots from Pottermore... from my homescreen to purchasing my first wand at Ollivander's.



Friday, 23 September 2011

Exclusive Hush Hush Saga sneak peek

Late this afternoon I received an email from Simon and Schuster newsletter with a great new exclusive! Silence, the third book in the Hush, Hush saga will be out October 4th. You can see the great little countdown on the left side of my blog.
Some of the features from this include an exclusive excerpt, a photo upload of you with Patch... and the best bit... create your own story!! This i s a great chance to get involved with the book.

To be a part of it, visit the website.

Friday's Five

With my little brother returning to university next week, I thought I would allow my brother to take over the blog and write his top five for the week. Plus, it wouldnt hurt to have a guys perspective on books.

Just a quick bio on my brother so that you understand his choices. He is a university student studying Automotive Engineering. He loves science, history, classics, myths, documentaries and video games, so expect books completely different to the ones I choose. He is very passionate about knowledge and discoveries.

If you would like to join in on Friday's Five, head over to Steph's Stacks.

1. Lord of the Flies by William Golding

This book portrays an Island as a microcosm of our world and if it were to be ruled by children. I love it because it makes you think of childhood and the outdoors, how your imagination would create something out of the ordinary.





2. Medea by Euripides

This is THE classic tale of a woman scorned. It is the original source of where that saying comes from. It is ingenious how she plots her revenge by using the people that are closest to her husband. I highly recommend it.





3. The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

The Divine Comedy is about a mans adventures through heaven, hell and purgatory. It is such a classic that many things from today are based off this book, such as games eg. Devil May Cry and Dante's Inferno. There are also countless references to it in movies and other books.





4. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking

If you have ever questioned the beginning of time, if it could ever run backwards or possibly even slow down, if the universe is really infinite or if you have ever wanted to know what a black hole is, this book will cover all that and more. This book isn't just for the scientifically inclined, it's for everybody with a hunger for knowledge.




5. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

It's a beautiful story, with ups and down, sadness and happiness. It is about two friends; one who is mentally challenged and one who takes care of him. It is a true tale of friendship. If you are not one for sad stories, this may not be for you.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Upcoming Reviews

Just a quick post to let you all know what reviews are on the way.... I thought It would be interesting to do something different for a change. All of these besides The Vampire Diaries are ebooks that I was sent, so it will be fun trying something new that I didnt pick up from the store myself.

If you have reviewed any of the following books, I would love to have a link to your review to add at the end of each post. It would be great to compare reviews. So do comment below or shoot me an email if you are interested.

Fangs for Nothing by Adrianne Ambrose

Goodreads Summary:

Grab some garlic and start sharpening your mother's wooden spoons because there are vampires living in the most unlikely of places.

I’ve always wanted to meet a vampire. Not to stake some poor bloodsucker as he sleeps in his coffin or have some sexy vampiress bite me on the neck, but just to see a creature so rare and infamous. What can I say? Some people want to sail to Easter Island, others want to fling themselves out of an airplane, I want to shake hands with a vampire. Well, maybe I should prioritize getting a girlfriend first, but a vampire sighting is pretty high up on the list. Trust me, a lot of kids my age dream about it. Like my two best friends, Rini and Xander. We spent half the summer searching the most notorious cities in the United States for the undead, but so far, no luck.

That’s why it came as a total shock to discover a living, breathing vampire in our hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. (Okay, so he’s more undead and not breathing, but you get the picture.) At first we were kind of excited, but then pretty freaked because it turns out our new fanged friend has a hold on the city's teenage population and a specific thirst for their blood. Which, in a word—bites.


Perception (The Tiger's Eye Trilogy, Book 1) by Heather Cashman

Goodreads Summary:

Your perception will sharpen once you see through a tiger's eyes.
More than five hundred years after the apocalypse, the survivors of off-grid genetic experimentation have refined their mixed DNA to the point that humans and their animal counterparts share physical and mental links. Varying species have divided into districts, living in a tenuous peace under the President of Calem.


Ardana and her tiger ingenium Rijan leave their life of exile and abuse in the Outskirts, setting out with their twin brothers to redeem themselves and become citizens of the Center. But shedding their past isn't as easy as they had hoped. When the system that shunned them becomes embroiled in political conflict and treachery, their unique abilities and experiences from the Outskirts make them invaluable to every faction. The runaways become pawns to friends as well as enemies, and with every step it becomes more difficult to tell which is which


Vampire Diaries - The Return: Midnight by L.J.Smith

Goodreads Summary:

The devil you know . . .

With the help of charming and devious Damon, Elena rescued her vampire love, Stefan, from the depths of the Dark Dimension. But neither brother returned unscathed.
Stefan is weak from his long imprisonment and needs more blood than Elena alone can give him, while a strange magic has turned Damon into a human. Savage and desperate, Damon will do anything to become a vampire again, even travel back to hell. But what will happen when he accidentally takes Bonnie with him?

Stefan and Elena hurry to rescue their innocent friend from the Dark Dimension, leaving Matt and Meredith to save their hometown from the dangerous spirits that have taken hold of Fell's Church. One by one, children are succumbing to demonic designs. But Matt and Meredith soon discover that the source of the evil is darker and closer than they ever could have imagined. . .


Chocolicious by Geraldine Solon

Goodreads Summary:

A week after Blair Nightingale’s husband, Larry, dies, she learns she’s about to lose everything she owns due to a foolish mistake Larry made. In an instant, Blair’s life is transformed from rich, Silicon Valley trophy wife to poor, widowed single mom. Her only goal now is to provide for her daughter. As Blair begins to pick up the pieces, George—Larry’s best friend and the man she truly resents—seems to always be around. When Blair is overwhelmed by all the challenges she faces, she seeks comfort in baking rich, filled, three-layered cupcakes that her grandmother once taught her, and soon Blair's life is changed forever.

Vampire Diaries Series

For those familiar with the Vampire Diaries on television, you should have heard that it comes from a book series by L.J.Smith. The tv series doesn't follow the books word for word, in fact the characters are different and most of the events that occur are not the same. If you are fond of the tv series, there is a good chance you will like the books, however the books are a bit more out there than what you see on tv. I know I have found myself questioning the book at times as there is more magic than my mind can handle and some aspects just don't make sense. However it still is a great read and if you thought the triangle relationship between Damon, Elena and Stefan was bad, it is off the charts in the books.

At this point I have read all the Vampire Diaries books to date, all of which I will review in time. The first will be up tomorrow. For reference of books, these include:
- The Awakening
- The Struggle
- The Fury
- Dark Reunion
- The Return: Nightfall
- The Return: Shadow Souls
- The Return: Midnight
- The Hunters: Phanton (October 2011)
- The Hunters: Moonsong (March 2012)

It really is an exciting series and I look forward to its return on UK television. For now, only the lucky US fans will be able to watch on tv. In the US, viewers are getting ready for the second episode tonight, which looks amazing. I managed to catch the first episode and it is safe to say it will be one action packed season. I am a big fan of Damon and am happy I will be able to see more of him this season with Stefan on a terror rampage with vampire-werewolf hybrid Klaus.

The promotional posters seem to explain the season in one look...





What do you think of the series (book or tv)?
Are you looking forward to The Hunters?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review: How Football Explains The World

A bit of an odd book to add to the mix, but I thought it would be fun to add something for the football fans. For those of you in Aus or the US, I am talking about Soccer. I have loved the sport since I could walk and found this book fascinating.

How Football Explains The World is a non-fiction book written by American journalist Franklin Foer. I picked this book up in Singapore several years ago as I was intrigued by the title. The book is exactly as I expected; tales and opinions on how Football explains different cultures, society and behaviour.
Franklin Foer takes us around the world, introducing us to fans and clubs, discussing different aspects of the game and the culture surrounding it. It is interesting to see how fan clubs emerge. Some fans are backed by love for the game where as others support a team for political reasons and associate the club with freedom and patriotism.

What I love about this book is that it is written from an American's perspective, where american football and baseball are the national sport and soccer falls behind. I thought he may be blinded by his background, but he does his research well and is able to give an honest look into the sport without being subjective. One thing that does come up is that Foer wasn't raised breathing and dreaming about the sport, therefore I find his opinion may not always be equally met by readers who have a passionate love for the game. I have heard from some readers that his views are quite arrogant as he is an outsider, but I will leave that to you to judge for yourself.

To football fans, this is not a book about your favourite club or players, this is all about the love of the game and the effect it has on the world. Foer goes deep into the sport, talking about rivalries, hooliganism, migration, corruption and nationalism.

Cover:
There is nothing too spectacular about this cover. It is predominantly text with a small photo of two children playing with a ball. One thing I am glad about is that there is no giant picture of the world made to look like a football, that would have been worse. I do however prefer the US cover - It makes much more sense.


Final Comments:
This was a great read! If you hate football, it would probably be boring for you and I would suggest you dont bother. However, if you love to learn about cultures or love the sport, you will like this. This book does not explain how football explains the entire world, it only explains how football has shaped cultures and behaviours that are associated with it. It is not a boring history lesson on the world.






Release Date: March 2002
Publisher: Arrow (Cornerstone)
Author: Franklin Foer

Friday, 16 September 2011

Friday's Five!

Last week, I took part in Friday's Five, a weekly list of five of my favourites, which has been started by the wonderful Steph at Steph's Stacks.

1. Emma by Jane Austen

Emma is one of my all time favourites. Emma Woodhouse is a smart and beautiful girl that comes from money. Her life has never been difficult as she is spoiled by her father and those around her. She takes joy in matchmaking, however for the first time in her life she realises people arent as simple as she imagined. Sometime what you need is in front of you, even if it could take you years to realise. Like in other Austen novels, there is a handsome and rich gentleman who can win a girls heart... Mr Knightley!



I approached this book with strong hesitation as I dont typically read science fiction novels. That was a mistake on my part as this was a rather fascinating read. It is the second book in a five book series by Doris Lessing who has a Nobel Prize in Literature. The great thing about this book is you can read it without having to go through the entire series.
For those who are unfamiliar with the story, it isn't a simple one. It tells a story of marriages, love, struggles and differences between men and women. Each zone is different; from militaristic, matriarchal to barbaric. Doris Lessing really is an amazing writer, creating a superb feministic novel.

3. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Yes I am a twihard and proud of it. For a teen book, this took the world by storm. Bella and Edward are this generations Romeo and Juliet. I think what works is that most teenage girls see themselves in Bella and can relate to her. The bonus is that there is a handsome teen looking vampire ready to devote his life to her..




I read this book as it came in a set with another book I wanted. I was pleasantly surprised. It is a great read if you want to get away from vampires and go back to witches. If you watched The Secret Circle last night, the book isnt exactly the same. Some of the story has changed. In fact, the story between Cassie and Adam is more complex and goes beyond the time she moved to live with her grandma. Her mother is also alive in the book. So if you loved the new tv series, I recommend you give this book a go.

5. How Football Explains The World by Franklin Foer

When I say football, I mean soccer, as in the round ball you kick. I picked up this book in Singapore when I was heading for a non stop 19 hour flight to Newark. This book is a bit of fresh air from what I usually read. It is written by an American Journalist and football fan. It gives you an insight into how one of the worlds most popular sports shapes behaviour around the world. If you love football/soccer I highly recommend this book as you will learn new strange and interesting things about fans and the sport.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

New book series on tv: The Secret Circle

Tonight in the US, along with the Vampire Diaries returning to tv, the new series The Secret Circle, also by L.J.Smith will see its debut.
For those who are unfamiliar with The Secret Circle, its like a teen version of Charmed meets The Craft. Witches galore! I have read the series and loved it. You will be able to find a review for the books on my blog before its debut on UK tv.

The Secret Circle is about a young girl named Cassie who moves back to the town of her ancestors after her mother's death and discovers she comes from a line of witches. Here she is inducted into a circle of young witches, one of which she is instantly attracted to. The story follows Cassie as she discovers the truth behind her family's history.

I am not entirely sure how close the series will be to the book, but I am sure it will be great to watch and put some faces to names. I know my favourite character shouldnt be evil, but I can't help that the actor they cast for the role of Charles Meade is one of my faves. If you are watching it in the US tonight, or online, do share your opinions on the series... I would love to hear what you think.
For those who are new to the series, take a peak at the show tonight and if you love it, I highly recommend reading the books.






Review: Stefan's Diaries v.3: The Craving (The Vampire Diaries)

With the return of the Vampire Diaries tonight in the US, I thought I would review the most recent book of the series I have read.

Stefan's Diaires: The Craving, by L.J. Smith is the third book in Stefan's Diaries, part of the Vampire Diaries series. Stefan's Diaries is told in first person by Stefan, following his journey when he meets Katherine, is turned into a vampire and the following months when he tries to cope with his new life and his brother Damon.

In The Craving, Stefan is beginning to handle his life as a vampire, controlling his need for blood. This is the turning point for Stefan where he no longer needs to kill humans to survive. He has left the drama and events behind him and moved on to New York City where he thinks he will be able to live a normal life... that is until Damon returns. With Damon in town, you can expect the quiet life wont last long. Damon is bent on making Stefan's life a living hell and turns it into a game. Unfortunately for Damon, his plans get a little complicated and we are introduced to more evil than Damon and Stefan had imagined.

Cover:
The cover art for this series is pretty basic, each book with a face of the main characters, first Stefan, second Damon and third Elena. While I like the simplicity in this design, my only issue is that Elena is not mentioned in Stefan's Diaries, yet she is on the cover for this book.

Final Comments:
The great thing about the Stefan's Diaries series is that we get an insight into Stefan's thoughts and learn more about his past and how he came to be what he is. If however you have not had the chance the read the series, I recommend you read the first two books, which I will post reviews soon. While I love The Vampire Diaries, this book was a bit quick and just made Stefan look like a wimp.








Release Date: May 2011
Author: L.J.Smith

Friday, 9 September 2011

Friday's Five

I am very excited to be involved in my first weekly meme. Friday's Five is a weekly list of five of my favourites, which has been started by the wonderful Steph at Steph's Stacks.


This is one of my all time favourites, which I actually reviewed in August. It is not often that you pick up a travel book and are dying to know what happens next. It is a fascinating non-fiction novel that combines crime with travel - you get a true story and learn about Savannah at the same time. The fact it spent 216 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list says alot. 
There was alot of talk around this book, which provided the quiet town of Savannah with a sudden burst of tourists. If you visit Savannah today, you will see that the presence of this book everywhere. Its power is similar to that of Twilight and the town of Forks and Harry Potter and England.



As a huge fan of the Harry Potter series, I loved the first book. It introduced us to Hogwarts and the world of magic. Harry, Ron and Hermione are so young and it is the first book readers relate to as we, just like Harry didnt know anything about the magical world.... after all we are just muggles. Without hesitation I can admit that J.K Rowling is also an amazing writer. I am sure I could read anything she writes.


3. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 

Now this has nothing to do with the movie that has come out, I have always had a soft spot for this book. It is one of those that you never forget. What I admire in this novel is that it was written by a woman in a period where a story such as this was considered feminist; all because it explored a female characters thoughts and feelings.
The plot is exciting and not at all predictable and I love its gothic qualities. Most importantly, any girl can fall for Edward Rochester without trying.


4. Three Sisters by Anton Chekhov

Three Sisters is a great play that I had the pleasure not only to read but performed on stage in London. Watching it in the theatre is probably a hundred times better than on film. It is said that the story is partially inspired by the situation of the Bronte sisters, however there seems to be a list of multiple inspirations, so we might never know.
For those of you who have never heard of it before, it is a play about the upper class in Russia, following the lives and dreams of three sisters, Olga, Masha, Irina and their brother Andrei.
Unfortunately for the characters, dreams are just that... dreams. Even if you are part of the upper class society, life can be a struggle and the sisters get to realise this the hard way.

5. Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella

Also known as The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic is the first in a series of books about Becky Bloomwood and her adventures in life and shopping. Sophie Kinsella, who also writes under her real name Madeleine Wickham describes what the majority of women today want - a great husband and lots and lots of shoes, clothes and handbags! The thing that makes this series entertaining is Becky is all over the place and her shopping antics get her in trouble wherever she goes.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

New rating system

In addition to my new button, I have also changed the way I will be rating books. Instead of 1 to 5, I will be using acorns. The more acorns the better! When I find a book is beyond amazing, I will be awarding it the golden acorn!

New Blog Button!

After my fantastic welcome into the blogging world, I had bloggers giving me tips from every angle. I have never "met" a more amazing group of friendly people. After improvements to my blog, I decided it was time to create a button. With my blog mascot being my famous nutcracker who sits on my bookshelf guarding my books, I decided to give him some representation in my button. After an afternoon of tedious work in Illustrator and staring at my nutcracker soldier, I have finally finished! Introducing my official button!
Special thanks to Steph at Steph's Stacks for helping me turn my creation into a proper html button!
If you would like my button, you can grab a copy on the left side of the page.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Review: Breaking Dawn (Twilight Saga)

While reading the books in my collection, I decided to read Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer again in preparation for part 1 of the movie coming out in November.

Out of all the Twilight books, I have to admit this is my favourite. Putting aside the extremely insane turn of events, this book gave me a sigh of relief when I realised Bella can be a normal person after all. I spent three books waiting for her to grow up, stop complaining and doing stupid things. While the other books exploded with team Jacob and team Edward drama, Breaking Dawn finally brought an end to the struggle.

Breaking Dawn is a great end to the saga as we see Bella finally settle down with Edward and begin to think of others for once. The book starts with an exciting event... the wedding! At the wedding, we meet all the people involved in Bella's life - past, present and future; humans, werewolves and vampires. Obviously with such a mixed group of people, you can tell this book will have its drama... and you will not be disappointed. It is a bit like Eclipse but more intense. The only thing that may disappoint is the lack of action scenes like in Eclipse... but then again teenage girls probably dont want to see their favourite characters killed.

Cover:
Like the entire saga, the covers are consistent with the colour and design. I love them for their simplicity and they definately stand out on my bookshelf. In regards to meaning, I simply assumed the white queen represented the new Bella... strong and unstopable... a vampire. That was my assumption before even opening the book.
There is also a clear explanation on Stephenie Meyers website:

"Breaking Dawn's cover is a metaphor for Bella's progression throughout the entire saga. She began as the weakest (at least physically, when compared to vampires and werewolves) player on the board: the pawn. She ended as the strongest: the queen. In the end, it's Bella that brings about the win for the Cullens".

Final Comments:
It is difficult to go further with insights on this book without ruining it for the odd few who havent read it yet, especially with the movie trailer having already spoiled it. This book has everything the twilight series is famous for - romance, drama, conflict, action and heartbreak. Definately the best in the saga in my opinion. I have enjoyed reading each book and will miss all my favourite characters, including Carslisle and Aro! Two of the strongest and honest characters in the book that made reading more enjoyable.

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: August 2008
Publisher: Atom (Little, Brown Book Group)
Author: Stephenie Meyer


What do you think of the book?
Do you think the saga has been represented well on film or do you prefer to stick to the books?

If you are a fan of the films, below is the teaser trailer for the movie

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Review: The friendly guide to Mythology

The friendly guide to Mythology is a book of mythology written by Nancy Hathaway.

I have found throughout the years, people tend to reference mythology in many situations. This can happen in a movie, tv show, in a book or a random discussion with friends. It can get rather annoying when you don't know anything about the tale.

I was originally given this book to read at University in the US for a course in World Mythology. It is not only a fascinating reference book about myths, but it is laid out in a way that encourages reading and feels like a story telling book of myths around the world.

Whether you want to know how the world was created, how someone became a hero, why the gods eat their children, why you shouldnt fly too close to the sun... this book can answer all the questions you may have.
You will see myths of gods, monsters, mortals and creation from Europe, Asia, Australia, America and Africa.
The reason I say it is more like a story book is because the book also contains photos and illustrations, which makes it easier to remember stories.

Cover:
I love the cover art on this book, it is very right and colourful and gives readers the feeling that it is a light read and not a heavy and boring book of myths.
Can you guess who is on the front?

Final Comments:
If you want a enjoyable book of myths to go, then this is it. There is an A to Z list of the popular gods... the only ones you really need to know. If like me, you get confused by a story or aren't sure what it means, there are also interpretations that make life easy. All in all, this is an extremely fascinating book that I like to read from time to time as it inspires my imagination!

Rating: 5/5
Release Date: August 2003
Publisher: Penguin
Author: Nancy Hathaway