Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Book Review: The Girl With All The Gifts; M.R. Carey.

There are some books that I only have to look at the cover and synopsis, and I get the instinctual feeling that it will be a five star read that will blow me away. This was one of those books and I was completely right, because it did! I'm also entering this into the 'Monthly Motif' challenge, because books about zombies are not my usual jam.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Girl With All The Gifts
AUTHOR: M.R. Carey
PAGES: 435
GENRE: Adult, Horror, Thriller, Dystopian

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her "our little genius." 

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

What I Liked:
  • Where to begin? Well I think the setting and book's focus was the most interesting part, so I'll start there. Set during a 'zombie' apocalypse (they're called 'hungries' in the book), Carey really gave very careful thought as to exactly what caused the fungal infection that overpowered humanity to such a degree, and how the world would function afterwards (especially for the survivors). I thought that the hungries themselves were pretty terrifying too in their behaviour and how they came about. But of course, the book wasn't really about them, and that's what I really loved about it. It's focus was morality and ethics when it comes to ensuring the survival of the human race, and what really makes us 'human'.
  • The small cast in this book really made it special because every POV was interesting. I loved Melanie, the main character, whose innocence was matched only by her observational skills and it was wonderful to watch her develop, if a little sad. Miss Justineau was a great heroine to root for also, though what was really interesting about the way that Carey styled the story is that the obvious villains and heroes blurred as the plot proceeded. While reading, I began to understand the motivations of characters who had seemed cold and heartless previously, and understood why those characters didn't get along with people like Miss Justineau.
  • Carey's writing was just glorious. Her style just really resonated with me as a reader, and there were so many quotable passages that I re-read a few times smiling before moving on. In terms of the plot, it was easy to follow and never even got slightly boring for me. Carey paced herself really nicely, making sure that something was always happening and keeping the thrills coming thick and fast, without overwhelming me. While reading, I was hooked, and when I wasn't reading I was desperate to get back to it!
What I Disliked:
  • I think the biggest problem with this book, for me, was the ending. It wasn't really a bad one, but it was very ambiguous and left me with a lot of questions (as well as a slightly broken heart). I'm not a fan of endings that are vague and mysterious, I prefer things to be wrapped up well and not to be left wondering. It wasn't really a happy ending either (I feel like only one of the characters was really very happy with it) so I wish it had been different and I could have left the book feeling happier with the result.
Overall Conclusion:
This book was a real treat to encounter, and I'm relieved I got round to it at last! I adored reading it from start to finish and could list so many great qualities that it has. Even though the ended disappointed me in some ways, I can see why coming up with a clearer or happier ending could be tough considering the story's build-up. I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it. It's down to personal preference rather than any lack of skill and while reading I was distinctly reminded of Emily St. John Mandel's 'Station Eleven', another post-apocalyptic book that I adored and took a unique stance on a setting that in today's book market feels a little overdone. I'll definitely be checking out more of Carey's work in the future!

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books That Have Been On My TBR Since I Started Blogging'.

Oh man, I could definitely fill this topic with a lot more than ten books. I'll only include ten though because I'd probably die of shame if I included them all...

1) 'The Wise Man's Fear' by Patrick Rothfuss.

Wow, I've definitely talked about my constant failure with starting this book before. I adored 'The Name Of The Wind'. I mean really loved it. It's one of the few books I've actually reread and at this rate, I'm definitely going to have to reread it again! I bought book two a long time ago and just never got to it. Life got in the way, and now I'm at the stage where I'm putting it off more and more, despite the fact that Rothfuss has also released 'The Slow Regard Of Silent Things' at this point. I really want to get back into this series!

2) 'Inheritance' by Christopher Paolini.

Honestly, this series is my biggest shame for the same reason as Rothfuss'. I pre-ordered and bought 'Eldest' and 'Brisingr' after reading 'Eragon' because they were all so good, and I definitely read them straight away. When it came to the last book however (which I also pre-ordered) I bought it and on the shelf it stayed, waiting for that moment I would finally get round to reading it. Sadly, I aven't yet and I'm definitely going to have to reread the first three books in order to appreciate it properly. That's probably why it's taking me so long...

3) 'Angela Carter's Book Of Fairy Tales' by Angela Carter.

Angela Carter came heavily recommended to me throughout my A-Levels because so many people studying English A-Level got to read 'The Bloody  Chamber' and thought it was so good! I really wanted to start with something a little different however, and I fell in love with this book as soon as I saw it. I thought I'd manage to get round to it straight away, but sadly I never did. I'll hopefully get round to this one soon enough though.

4) 'Dodger' by Terry Pratchett.

I was given this book as a birthday present because of my own love for 'Oliver Twist' and Fantasy books. This is a re-working of the tale written by the late Terry Pratchett, an author whose books I remember being prominent in the literary world, even if I haven't read them myself. The Artful Dodger is my favourite character from Dicken's classic (which I've also not read, only seen...ouch I'm terrible) so I think this is a great read in the making!

5) 'Labyrinth' by Kate Mosse.

Now, I did manage to read a Kate Mosse book kind of recently so I'm not totally awful but this was the original that I owned and never read. It's part of a historical series that I think is going to need a little bit of dedication because it's pretty long. Mosse's book of short stories was an enjoyable read though a little lengthy on the descriptions so I feel like I might have to be in a certain type of mood to read this one, but I will get round to it...eventually.

6) 'The Sight' by David-Clement Davies.

I got this book ages ago, back when I was barely into my teens. So long ago in fact, that I can't even remember how I got hold of it! I think I bought it for myself! I don't know much about the book either other than the fact that it involves wolves, and they are animals that I really love to read about, especially in Fantasy settings. It looks like such a great read nevertheless, I can't wait!

7)  'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett.

This is a very famous book that I've heard a lot about, so I bought it when I first started this blog in the hopes of reading it. I still haven't managed that, though considering the fact that I've enjoyed books such as 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and 'The Invention Of Wings', I have really high hopes for this book and refuse to watch the critically-acclaimed movie until I've got through the book!

8) 'The Final Empire' by Brandon Sanderson.

I don't know how to express my disappointment in the fact that I've never read a Brandon Sanderson book in my life. It's shameful. I just know that his work is going to be exactly the kind of thing I enjoy reading, and this book was such a lovely gift for my birthday! I wish I'd made time for it before, but sadly other books have just got in the way. Also, I love the covers for this book!

9) 'Stardust' by Neil Gaiman.

I watched this film a really long time ago and absolutely adored it. It had all my favourite Fantasy elements and was my first introduction into the wacky world of Neil Gaiman. I was certain it would be my first read by the same author, but instead I read 'Coraline', 'The Ocean At The End Of The Lane', 'The Sleeper & The Spindle' and 'The Graveyard Book'. All great books but I'm still upset that I didn't get round to the one I originally wanted to read.

10) 'Temeraire' by Naomi Novik.

I actually received this book for free when I pre-ordered 'Inheritance' (see above) and I thought it looked really good! I love books with dragons in them and the Waterstones bookseller really recommended it! Unfortunately it has ended up sitting on my shelf and waiting for me to actually get to it. It still appeals to me as an interesting enough read, with a gorgeous cover!

Monday, 22 August 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (15th August - 21st August)...

This was the week that I booked most of on holiday at work, but I could hardly call it relaxing because I had so much to do! Monday was probably the busies day of all, as it was the day that Mat's friend's van bought over most of our stuff from our old flat to the new one! It involved a lot of waiting around and travelling up and down in the lift (which was a nauseating experience I have to say) but it was also so exciting to see everything that we owned move, bit by bot, into our new place! I'm going to miss the old flat of course, but I really adore the new one and it's our first home together, just us! Our friend George was also there to help though I think I mentioned before that he had fractured his wrist so there was very little that he could do.

Tuesday I worked (I hadn't booked the whole week off sadly) and Wednesday was furniture assembling day. IKEA dropped our ordered bits round very early in the morning so that gave us the whole day to make a go of getting everything together. We managed most of it, though sadly the bookshelves had to be postponed a little (I was outraged, they're obviously far more important than anything else)! In the evening, we went to visit Tash & Meg for another Games Night, and this was a lot of fun, though ha to be cut short due to everyone having work or other commitments the next day. Their new flat is really nice though, and I enjoyed having a nose around! On Thursday my parents came up to visit, providing the means to bring those last few bits from the old flat and also to see the new place and have a lovely catch-up with us! Other than that, there wasn't a whole lot for us to do as Mat had work and so George and I just did a few smaller bits followed by a lot of catching up on sleep!

Friday was another furniture assembly day (bookshelves, yay!) followed by a lot of unpacking! I organised books, games and a few DVDs, as well as the ornaments and other miscellaneous bits and bobs while Mat sorted some of the bigger things. I'm very happy with our bookshelves and all of our books fit, so no more crates! Saturday involved a trip down to Ashford to visit Mat's family and after a trip to the town centre and a catch-up at their house, in the evening we all went out for a lovely meal at a nearby pub. The food was delicious, and it was nice to get away from moving stresses for a bit. After the meal, Mat's Mum dropped me off at my parents and I stayed the night there, ready to once again return to London the next morning. This time my sister came with us to see the new place as well, and we had a walk around the nearby area to see what was around. They left mid-afternoon and allowed Mat and I time to finish the last few bits and bobs before settling down for the evening to have our first flat 'movie night'. I chose the film, 'The Little Prince', and we both adored it! The perfect end to a hectic week!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The Star-Touched Queen' by Roshani Chokshi: Prize from Great Imaginations 'Story Sprites' Challenge (18/08/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set In Europe

I Posted...

Illumicrate Unboxing (Box 4)

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Illumicrate Unboxing! (Box 4)

Wow, is it really time for the fourth Illumicrate box already? The last few months have been so hectic that time has really flown for me, but Daphne has dropped so many wonderful hints about this box that I was really excited to open it! The Unboxing post itself is coming very late. I actually received this box on the 9th August but I've been so busy thanks to the fact that I've moved to a new flat, and my stuff has been boxed away for a long time. The time has come to finally do this month's, even if it is late.

Once again the Illumicrate box design remained the same so I won't worry about putting a picture up. It's a great design, and I'm glad Daphne stuck with it. One of the things that really added to the anticipation with this book was Daphne's big reveal that there would be two books this month! I couldn't believe my luck, and hoped with all my might that I hadn't already got hold of one of them. Luckily, I needn't have worried!

Without further ado, I'll start with the part that everyone wants to hear about first: the books! This is by far my favourite box of the four I've had so far, and the two books played a huge part towards this!

BOOK ONE: 'Nevernight' by Jay Kristoff (Hardcover). Wowee! I requested this book on Netgalley a while back and was approved, but couldn't help but feel a small pang as I desperately wanted to own a copy. Well now I do! I so wasn't expecting this pick and I was so happy to find it waiting for me inside. It's now sitting pride of place in my brand new bookshelves, and boy am I pleased! I hope to get round to this read soon enough as it's high on my TBR. This book also came with a signed Book Plate, Art Card, bookmark and a hilarious exclusive video recorded by the author himself, Jay Kristoff! 'Nevernight' is a fairly recent release actually and that tends to be the pattern I'm finding with Daphne's picks when opening these boxes, which is good because it means I'm much less likely to own a copy myself. All in all an awesome start to the unpacking that had me really excited for what Book Two could be...

BOOK TWO: 'The Graces'; Laure Eve (Paperback). Honestly, there are no words to describe the noise that I made when I saw the second book. You all know that I recently attended YALC, and Laure Eve's 'The Graces' was probably one of the books that I came out of it feeling most excited about! Mystery and intrigue are definitely going to play a big part of it and I have seen so many great reviews from other readers that loved this book! What really made me go crazy when I saw this though? Probably the fact that I now own a gorgeous copy about a month before release date. As if that's not the greatest thing ever! I hope I can get round to reading this soon, I'm so excited! There were some wonderful extras with this book too: a signed bookplate, temporary tattoos for each of the elements and a lovely letter from the author that proved a very entertaining and enlightening read.

Trio Coasters: How weird that mere days before I received this box, my lovely boyfriend and I were talking about things we'd need for the new flat (coasters being one of the things we mentioned). Then, as if by magic, these two wonderful coasters appeared and now they have pride of place on my coffee table. I love the 'then and now' style they have, showing Harry, Ron & Hermione when they were younger (Books 1-7) and also much later in honour of the new play which I'm going to see very soon, 'Harry Potter & The Cursed Child'. Taratjah Art is responsible for the wonderful designs found on these coasters, so check out her page!

'Drink Me' Strawberry Tea: Inspiring visions of the much beloved 'Alice In Wonderland', 'Drink Me' tea looks nothing short of delicious. It combines one of my favourite tales with tea and strawberries. What could possibly be better? I'm looking forward to trying this loose leaf blend out, and I'm particularly excited because it can be made into Iced Tea too, which will be delicious as the weather here gets hotter. Check out Post Tea here, their website is so enticing and the have an Etsy page too!

In Omnia Paratus Tote Bag: I've not read or watched, or even deeply researched into the Gilmore Girls, but those that are a fan would love this Tote Bag! It came in handy when we were moving homes that's for sure and I really like it's colour and message. 'Prepared For All Things'. Colourful Geekiness are responsible for this lovely design and they do a huge variety of items that relate to a lot of different Fandoms.

There were a few extra additions for this box:

Colouring Quotes, designed by Ashley Poston that are being used for a separate, Illumicrate inspired competition. They are really nice quotes and I look forward to having the time to get my pens and pencils out! Thee was also a code for 40% off of her brand new book, 'We Own The Night'.

Some beautiful 'Red Rising' posters that really blew me away with how pretty they were. For those that are fans of Pierce Brown's space-set series, this is a gorgeous addition to any bookshelf or library. I'm totally desperate to frame them!

A sampler for the book 'A Torch Against The Night' which dutifully reminded me how much I wanted to read book one of Sabaa Tahir's series, 'An Ember In The Ashes'. Also, a code for Non Pratt's new book that's being released, 'Unboxed', which I'm very excited for!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Book Review: The Book Of Lost Things; John Connolly.

Ever since I started blogging, I've had this book recommended to me multiple times. I've wanted to read it for ages and I finally got round to it (this year has been a really good year for backlist titles). I thoroughly enjoyed this book too! I'm also entering it into the Key Words challenge!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Book Of Lost Things
AUTHOR: John Connolly
PUBLISHER: Atria Books
PAGES: 310
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Horror

RATING: 4/5 Stars

High in his attic bedroom, twelve-year-old David mourns the death of his mother, with only the books on his shelf for company. But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness. Angry and alone, he takes refuge in his imagination and soon finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld. While his family falls apart around him, David is violently propelled into a world that is a strange reflection of his own -- populated by heroes and monsters and ruled by a faded king who keeps his secrets in a mysterious book, The Book of Lost Things.

What I Liked:

  • The best aspect of this book by far is the way that it re-imagines age old Fairy Tales, Myths & Legends and makes them a little darker, more twisted and less innocent. You won't find much in the way of happy endings here and I think that's refreshing in it's own right. Sometimes, the different endings, genders, etc. were funny, as was the case with Snow White & the seven dwarves. Others were very dark and horrifying (the Huntress was not a character I recognised but if you're not a fan of gore then her chapter won't be for you) but I appreciated each and every one of them. I love symbolism and hidden, deeper meanings in stories so this was perfect!
  • There were some great characters in this book, both good and bad. My favourite was actually the Crooked Man because of his unquenchable evil. I'm normally more of a fan of villains with back-story or moral ambiguity but in this case, I liked that the Crooked Man had neither of those things. It totally worked! He gave the story a 'Labyrinth' like feel (one of my favourite films) and the fact that he could not be persuaded made him all the more interesting. He was pretty funny too at times.
What I Disliked:
  • Connolly's actual writing was a little, minor disappointment in that I was expecting to be totally blown away and simply wasn't. There were of course some lovely moments, and wonderful quotes, but for the most part I felt let down by the pacing. It was as if Connolly had written the perfect beginning and ending but struggled to fill the middle.
  • David, the hero, posed mixed feelings within me too. I felt genuinely sorry for his situation and sympathised with his loneliness in his new situation, but I often found him incredibly naive, a little frustrating and too spoilt as well. When a villain like the Crooked Man comes along, I feel it's important that the hero should be the polar opposite and I didn't always get that sense with David. I appreciate that this was a Coming Of Age story too however, and found this only a minor quibble.
Overall Conclusion:
This book was a lot of fun from beginning to end and being a big fan of a lot of the things that this book represented, I loved it! Some outstanding character work that could be extended to most, the inclusion of diversity (homosexuality being one of the key twists in one well-known tale), some interesting takes on well-known stories and a few new tales that I hadn't read before, and a well-thought up Fantasy land. Fantastic! Minor issues such as obvious 'filler' stories and frustrating heroes were nothing when it came to focusing on the bigger picture for this book.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books Set In Europe'.

While I didn't go on many holidays abroad while growing up, I've managed to go to a fair few places in my later years. All of them have been in Europe! It's seriously such a wonderfully diverse continent with so many cultural experiences to offer. I have picked a few books from the UK for this list, but I've tried very hard to be as diverse as possible and include other countries! I've chosen those picks that best show off the cultural aspects of that country (varying dependant on time period) too.

1) 'The Tale Of Raw Head & Bloody Bones' by Jack Wolf.

Setting: England

Set during the Eighteenth Century, this book sets itself at some points in the countryside of Berkshire, and at others in the centre of London. Wolf is amazing with his descriptive work and while the plot itself is very dark and twisted, I thought this was a fantastic choice because I really got a feel for the setting while reading. In fact it's one of the best books for painting a gorgeous picture of Georgian England and the comparison between country and city living.

2) 'Rivers Of London' by Ben Aaronovitch.

Setting: England

I mention this book a lot I know, but it truly is the most detailed and well-researched description of modern-day London that I've ever read. While some of the paranormal aspects might be hard to find in real-life, there are some amazing references to various tourist hot-spots in the city that I live in and love, as well as some lesser known cafes, bars and places to visit. If London in particular interests a reader, I would recommend this book for sure!

3) 'Dot' by Araminta Hall.

Setting: Wales

I've only ever been to Wales twice, and some of my favourite things were found in the villages rather than the huge city of Cardiff. I haven't actually been to Druith, where 'Dot' is set, but I imagine it very clearly being like my own holiday destination of Llangollen. A village cut off, with rolling hills, unpredictable weather and very little in the way of signal. 'Dot' is a great book due to it's story too, though I feel that some people would find this book a little slow. London does also feature in this story, though only briefly.

4) 'The Book Thief' by Markus Zusak.

Setting: Germany

I had a little trouble picking a book for Germany, as I've read a few that are set there. In the end though, I went for an old favourite that is, of course, set during Hitler's regime in the mid 1900s. Set from Death's narrative, I adored every page of this book. The descriptions, pictures, and events perfectly portray the way that life was during that terrifying time. Hands down, this is my favourite book. Ever.

5) 'Child 44' by Tom Rob-Smith.

Setting: Russia

This book was recommended to me by my flat-mate a year or so ago and I adored it. I was a little clueless about Russian history, in particular the era of the Soviet Union and I found this a very distinct approach to explaining the views of Stalin's Government and why it was so difficult for the people living there. A book full of non-stop thrills, action and suspense, it gives a great view of both Moscow and rural Russia too.

6) 'The Miniaturist' by Jessie Burton.

Setting: Netherlands

I've been to Amsterdam once (this year in fact) and really liked it there! With so many interesting places to explore and visit, it's hard not to. This book gives a different perspective, as it's set in the late 1600s, but I thought it did a great job at giving a glimpse of the history of the country, as well as including an interesting story. 

7) 'Let The Right One In' by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

Setting: Sweden

Set in the poorer parts of Stockholm, I really do commend this book for being the one that really made vampires scary again. The Swedish film interpretation was very good, as was the play. It's set in the 1980s, so very recent, and it's clear when reading that life was very hard for the people living in that area. The descriptions are brutal at times, but necessary in giving a clear picture of a less beautiful and perfect Sweden than I'm used to seeing on TV.

8) 'Dracula' by Bram Stoker.

Setting: England, Romania & Budapest

As you can see, this book travels around a bit but it's fantastic at doing so! Stoker is exceptionally skilled at description and I could clearly envisage everything, from the mountainous routes to Dracula's abode, to the savagely chilling moors of Yorkshire. It's clear why this book is a classic, and it's certainly another book that will be enjoyed by fans of Vampires.

9) 'Bitter Greens' by Kate Forsyth.

Setting: France & Italy

This book is an absolutely gorgeous retelling of 'Rapunzel', and rather than presenting it in a Fantasy land, Forsyth chose real-world historical periods as her setting: the French court of Sun-King Louis XIV in Versailles and Venice in the early 1500s being the two main ones. I seriously recommend this story for an interesting adaptation of a tale that's been retold hundreds of times. Forsyth really knows her stuff world-building wise!

10) 'Daughter Of Smoke & Bone' by Laini Taylor.

Setting: Czech Republic

I've heard that Prague is an absolutely beautiful city, but Laini Taylor's urban fantasy is the only time I've read about it! No one can fault her apt, detailed descriptions of the place, and reading about it really made me want to go and see the beauty for myself. Not only that, but Taylor introduces a darker, more Gothic side to the place which I really liked. Definitely a place for the bucket list!

Monday, 15 August 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (8th August - 14th August)...

While this week wasn't as hectic a week as some of the others in August have and will be, it still felt pretty stressful. My work shifts moved around a little and thanks to my new promotion it meant that I was opening and closing shop alone for a couple of them. It all seemed to go pretty well and thank goodness I had a great team to support me! I still didn't have much time for reading either (it's taking a bit of a back-burner at the moment) but once I'm settled into the new flat properly time should be much more on my side.

At the weekend, I'd used some holiday in order to attend the wedding of two of my friends from university, which was a lot of fun also! I'd missed having them around and it was fun to catch-up with everyone! The wedding was beautiful and I must confess, I had a little cry during the actual ceremony. That took up basically all of Saturday as we arrived around 10.30am, the ceremony started at 4pm and then the reception took us till almost midnight much later! Luckily we'd booked a lovely, comfy stay at the Premier Inn nearby. Phew! The next day we had to travel back home fairly early (around mid-morning) due to the fat that it began our week of moving in to the new flat properly! A lot of unpacking and planning ensued, though the majority of the stuff was not due to come until the next day. Our friend, George, also came up to stay (complete with dislocated wrist) and so when he arrived we chilled out during the evening with some Pokemon episodes and food.

I Read...

I Received...

- 'Nevernight' by Jay Kristoff: Received From Illumicrate (09/08/16)
- 'The Graces' by Laure Eve: Received From Illumicrate (09/08/16)

Note: I received my Illumicrate Box on Tuesday also, but will have to postpone the Illumicrate Unboxing post until further notice, as all of my possessions are packed away while we move in. Once I have everything I need unpacked again, I will post about my unboxing!

- 'Harry Potter & The Cursed Child' by J.K. Rowling & Jack Thorne: Bought from Foyles (14/08/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I'd Immediately Buy If Someone Gave Me The Money
Six Degrees Of Separation: 'Unboxed' by Non Pratt