Tuesday 30 June 2015

June Wrap-Up.

I can't believe that we are already halfway through the year, it's gone so quickly! Luckily, to celebrate, I've had myself a fantastic reading month. I've read so many good books! These are always my favourite kinds of months, as they make me feel so productive! I'm quite pleased too, as right at the last minute I managed to pull off a few good reads in a short space of time. This meant I read 6 of my 7 planned reads this month!

  1. 'Skin'; Ilka Tampke. I was actually invited to read this one by Hodder & Stoughton via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I was also invited to the Publishing Party for it, so I'm really glad that I enjoyed it! Historical Fiction is a genre I really love, and I didn't realise that Celtic Britain would prove to be an area of History that I would fall in love with. There was a huge amount of fantastic world-building in this one, as well as a likeable heroine and an intriguing plot. 4/5 Stars.
  2. 'The Sleeper & The Spindle'; Neil Gaiman. I couldn't believe how quickly I got through this one, it was a mere 70 pages long and comprised of a fair few illustrations. Needless to say, the artwork was gorgeous and I can forgive it's short length because Fairy Tales are seldom long. The tale itself was slightly macabre and chilling at times, with huge doses of female empowerment to keep me happy! 4/5 Stars.
  3. 'Mockingjay'; Suzanne Collins. Finally! I've waited far too many months to read the final instalment of this series, but I got to it at last. Despite a pretty slow start which involved a lot of reflection and bitterness on Katniss' part, the second half of the book was too good to ignore. It was action-packed, horrifying at times, and completely broke my heart. In the end, it was enough to push my rating up. 4/5 Stars.
  4. 'A Natural History Of Dragons'; Marie Brennan. I finished this book on the Sunday just gone, and have to say that I knew it would get a high rating from the beginning. I adored the heroine, Isabella (she is in fact the strongest female lead I have read about this year) because of her passion, ferocity and wonderful sense of humour. Her relationship with Jacob was a joy to read, and learning all about Dragons somehow gave this book an extra edge above other fantasies. 5/5 Stars.
  5. 'The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry'; Gabrielle Zevin. This was definitely my favourite read this month, if not of the year so far. It felt very original, contained a colourful cast of wonderful characters and had a fascinating plot that contained many expletive-inducing twists, had me doubled over laughing, and made me cry too many tears to count. You have to read it to understand what I'm talking about! 5/5 Stars.
  6. 'How To Fly With Broken Wings'; Jane Elson. This was a rather disappointing end to a very productive reading month, especially as the blurb had looked so promising and the cover so beautiful. In the end, there wasn't a whole lot of character development or plot pacing, and the writing style was a big turn-off. It did have a lovely message with a few heart-warming moments though. 1/5 Stars.
This month I have read two physical reads:

- 'Mockingjay'
- 'A Natural History Of Dragons'

This month I have read three Netgalley/Edelweiss reads:

- 'Skin'
- 'The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry'
- 'How To Fly With Broken Wings'

I am now halfway through the year too, so I probably ought to update you on the rest of my challenges! Here goes!

I managed to gain another 14 points for the Prequel/Sequel challenge, bringing my total to 32 points:

- 'A Storm Of Swords: Blood & Gold' +2 (April)
- 'Mockingjay' +12 (June)

I read three more entries for the Book To Movie Challenge, bringing my total to six:

- 'A Storm Of Swords: Blood & Gold' (April)
- 'Child 44' (April)
- 'Mockingjay' (June)

And here is my updated Bookish Bingo card!

Murder Mystery: Child 44; Tom Rob Smith. REVIEW.
Forgotten Fridays Pick: Going Bovine; Libba Bray. REVIEW.
Aussie Author: The Rosie Project; Graeme Simsion. REVIEW.
Yellow Cover: The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry; Gabrielle Zevin. REVIEW.
April, May, June Release: Fractured Dream; K.M. Randall. REVIEW.
Rain Or Storm In Title: A Storm Of Swords: Blood & Gold; George R.R. Martin. REVIEW.
Parental Relationships: The Winner's Curse; Marie Rutkoski. REVIEW.
Bullying: How To Fly With Broken Wings; Jane Elson. REVIEW.
Freebie: Midnight Crossroad; Charlaine Harris. REVIEW.
Thieves, Assassins, Pirates: Moonlands; Steven Savile. REVIEW.
Parallel Universes: Between The Lives; Jessica Shirvington. REVIEW.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Good Kings, Bad Kings; Susan Nussbaum. REVIEW.
Illustrated Cover: The Sleeper & The Spindle; Neil Gaiman. REVIEW.
Part Of A Trilogy: Mockingjay; Suzanne Collins. REVIEW.
Nonfiction Or Memoir: A Natural History Of Dragons; Marie Brennan. REVIEW.
Historical: Skin; Ilka Tampke. REVIEW.

Book Review: How To Fly With Broken Wings; Jane Elson.

I have to say I'm a little bit gutted that I didn't enjoy this read. The cover is beautiful and the blurb sounded so good, but the content just wasn't there for me I'm afraid. Still, it is my only disappointing read for the entire month, so that's something!

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: How To Fly With Broken Wings
AUTHOR: Jane Elson
PUBLISHER: Hodder Children's Books
PAGES: 191
GENRE: Contemporary, Middle Grade, Fiction
RATING: 1/5 Stars

Twelve-year-old Willem has Aspergers Syndrome and two main aims in life: to fly and to make at least two friends of his own age. But all the other boys from the Beckham Estate do is make him jump off things. First his desk - and now the wall. As his toes teeter on the edge, Sasha Barton gives him a tiny little wink. Might she become his friend?

Bullied by Finn and his gang the Beckham Estate Boyz, Willem has no choice but to jump. As he flies through the air he flaps his arms, wishing he could fly and escape into the clouds. Instead he comes crashing down and breaks his ankle.

Sasha, angry with herself for not stopping Finn and his Boyz, is determined to put things right. And soon, while the gangs riot on their estate, Willem and Sasha form an unlikely friendship. Because they share a secret. Sasha longs to fly too.

And when Magic Man Archie arrives with stories of war-flying spitfires, he will change the lives of the kids on the Beckham Estate for ever. And perhaps find a way for Willem and Sasha to fly...

What I Liked:
  • The message that this book conveyed was actually quite a nice one. It's not often you see books that are solely based on friendship, and in this simplicity it did connect with me ever so slightly. For example, Finn's letter at the end was actually very touching. I could see what this book was trying to achieve, and I think that it would suit a younger reader who is at the age where learning not to judge other people is important.
What I Disliked:
  • My problems with this book stemmed mostly from the fact that Elson's writing style was very basic, a little boring, and rather jumbled in it's nature. It felt unedited in the sense that a lot of rookie mistakes were made and could so easily have been sorted. Elson was also a fan of making sure the reader understood that her character's were shouting by using capital letters, even when she then went on to describe them as only mouthing the sentence. This did not sit well with me and if anything, did characters like Sasha no justice as she often came across as a loud-mouthed, petulant child who screamed at people a lot.
  • The story-line too frustrated me. The beginning felt far too rushed, as if Elson wanted to skip the build-up of two characters forming a friendship, and just basically make them friends from the start. How am I supposed to believe in Sasha's promise to become a 'better person' when I have never witnessed a single act of pure cruelty from her? Elson tried to fit far too much into this book (mental illness, bullying, gang warfare, violence, death, domestic violence, etc.) and in doing so, hardly touched upon any of these themes.
  • The characters felt a little one-dimensional: there was hardly any development. I've already mentioned my problems with Sasha, and I frequently got annoyed at her changeable attitude. Willem, who has Asperger's Syndrome ought to have been an interesting, delightful character. Instead I found him a little bland. Elson did a better job with Finn at least, and he was one of the more likeable characters in the book despite being a bully. Archie, Gracie, Auntie Lou, Fox, and the rest of the adults just had little to no personality at all and I really wanted to spend a bit more time getting to know them all.
Overall Conclusion:
I really did want to like this book, but I simply couldn't. Too many capital letters, plot points and too little structure and dimension made for a very poor reading experience. A younger audience may appreciate this more, as there is a very clear and sweet message behind the story that I'm glad that Elson promotes. I just wish that it had been done wit better writing, plot pacing and character development.

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Favourite Books I've Read So Far In 2015'.

I mentioned last week that I enjoyed recommending books, or listing my favourites that I have read so far. This topic came at a good time for me, especially as I've just read two fantastic, 5 star novels in a row! Without further ado, I'll give you all my choices!

1) 'The Shock Of The Fall'; Nathan Filer.

It's been a while since I actually read this book (I can't believe how quickly this half year has gone) but I remember it to be a deeply touching and poignant read. It's informed outlook on the subject of Mental Illness made it completely fascinating and I loved the inclusion of supporting documents, letters and typewritten diary entries that added to the unique way in which the story is told. Matt was a great narrator too, I adored the way he organised the story in his head as he told it. 

2) 'Cress'; Marissa Meyer.

I have loved every single one of the Lunar Chronicles series, and this third instalment was no different. In fact it was probably my favourite, they just keep getting better! The characters are fantastic, the world-building better and better, and my favourite aspect is the unique spin that Meyer gives well-known Fairy Tale characters and stories. Where else would you find a half robot Cinderella, a gun wielding Red Riding Hood or a hacker who has spent her whole life in a satellite with unusually long hair? 

3) 'The Sunken'; S.C. Green.

I was completely taken by surprise with this book, I'll be honest. I've never been much of a Steampunk reader, but this was a fantastic start to my introduction to the genre. It took the well known Industrial age that we all know from history textbooks and put a whole new spin on that world. Here we'll find churches devoted to the great Gods of steam power, a mad, blood-craving King, and four friends sucked into a world of intrigue, politics and Dragons. It sounds slightly crazy, but it's a whole lot of fun and I want to read the sequel soon!

4) 'A Storm Of Swords: Blood & Gold'; George R.R. Martin.

Most people, even if they haven't read the books will have at least heard of them by now. This is actually the second half of the third book, and is by far my favourite of them all so far. It had the most amount of action to be sure, but it truly left my mind reeling after some of the horrific events that take place in this book. Not to mention that Martin's usual flare for detailed politics, mystery, plot twists and description work were very much present and as impressive as ever.

5) 'Child 44'; Tom Rob Smith.

This was recommended to me by my Flat Mate and I really loved it! Murder mysteries are not usually my genre, but with the added Historical Fiction this is certainly a wonderful beginning to a series I do not want to miss! I didn't know a whole lot about Stalin's Russia, but now I feel very much more informed on the matter. It actually makes for a fantastic book setting, and Smith manages to create the perfect blend of suspense, action and thrills while also managing a very good element of mystery that kept me gripped throughout.

6) 'The Rosie Project'; Graeme Simsion.

I read this while on holiday and managed to finish it in just a few short days because I loved it so much. I'm not normally a huge fan of romance as a whole, I'll be honest. But the light-hearted, fun approach to the subject of Mental Illness that Simsion took really made it endearing and interesting and gave it an extra element that I had not expected to encounter. There is a sequel that I am really looking forward to reading!

7) 'A Natural History Of Dragons'; Marie Brennan.

I only actually finished this book on Sunday, but it was one of the best Fantasies I have read in a while. I loved that it took such a detailed approach to the scientific side of Dragons. How do they fly? What are their hunting habits? What are the components of their extraordinary breath? The narrative structure really intrigued me too. It was told in the style of a memoir, which made it a very enjoyable read indeed. 

8) 'The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry'; Gabrielle Zevin.

I began and ended this book on the sofa, sitting in exactly the same spot all afternoon, my eyes glued to the page. By far this is my favourite book that I have read this month, possibly even his year, because it had all the components a book should have. Unique characters with interesting and relatable stories, a fascinating plot that makes the reader laugh, cry, and exclaim in horror and a wonderful writing style that grips from start to finish.

9) 'Dracula'; Bram Stoker.

I read this a little while back under the suggestion of my boyfriend Mat, who read it for his University course. I honestly loved it for a great deal of reasons, the biggest being Stoker's descriptive work. His account of the views found in Transylvania were totally stunning and I was in awe of how vividly I could picture it. I also liked the different viewpoints that I received as I read the story, and how much I understood and got into the plot itself. I can see why this book is a Classic!

10) 'Between The Lives'; Jessica Shirvington.

This was a tough one to pick because there were a few contenders for the last spot on my list. But in the end, it won out because like 'The Sunken' it took me by surprise. I didn't expect to enjoy the book as much as I did! But it had such an original plot concept, which Shirvington handled masterfully, and in the end it actually did make me cry. I am known for being quite sensitive but it really is hard to provoke tears from a reader, and there are some really good plot twists in this book.

Monday 29 June 2015

Book Review: The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry; Gabrielle Zevin.

Consider me completely blown away! The last time I finished a book in one day was when I read 'The Sleeper & The Spindle' which was down to the fact that it was a mere 70 pages long even though I did really enjoy it. I talk a lot about not being able to put books down, but this was a literal problem. I could not put the book down. Hence, I finished it in just a few short hours.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry
AUTHOR: Gabrielle Zevin
PAGES: 319
GENRE: Contemporary, Adult, Literary Fiction

RATING: 5/5 Stars

A.J. Fikry, the grumpy owner of Island Books, is going through a hard time: his bookshop is failing, he has lost his beloved wife, and a prized rare first edition has been stolen.

But one day A.J. finds two-year-old Maya sitting on the bookshop floor, with a note attached to her asking the owner to look after her. His life - and Maya's - is changed forever.

What I Liked:
  • I'll start with the characters because they are what really made this book stand out. The story is told from many POVs but most of the characters are really into books. It was really nice to have a different way of relating to characters. I adored the constant quotes and references to other works of literature, and Fikry's mini book reviews at the beginning of each chapter were among my favourite moments. Fikry himself was every bit the cynical, grumpy but strangely loveable bookshop owner I wanted him to be. Maya was the most adorable baby and grew into a likeable, inquisitive child whose influence on Fikry's life was wonderful to watch. The other characters were really wonderful too, each unique with their own back-story.
  • The second thing which I adored about this book was Zevin's writing. She certainly has a real knack for it! She wrote in third person and present tense which was a little odd but in the end I loved it! As well as that, I loved the plot-line. There were a fair few plot twists that left me swearing profanities in disbelief, moments that made me laugh out loud, and times that I could hear my heart cracking as I read. What more do you need from a book?
What I Disliked:
  • I guess at times Zevin jumped around in time a bit without a whole host of warning. Flashbacks were hard to discern at first and it threw me off ever so slightly. This only really happened in the beginning of the book however, and ended soon after Maya's arrival. It really was a very minor thing in comparison to how much I loved this book!
Overall Conclusion:
Did I already mention how much I loved this book? I honestly thought that my last read would be the best this month, but this one really impressed me and I am totally going to look into more of Zevin's work! Her style impressed me a lot, the plot was so gripping that I literally did not move from the sofa until I had read this book from start to finish, and the characters were some of the most unique I've read in a while. If anything, you need to read it just for the hilarious dialogue that comes from Officer Lambiase. Yet there is a tragic feel to a lot of the lives of these characters that genuinely touched me, and it was nice watching them each try to form their own sense of a happy ending.

Last Week's Shenanigans (22nd June - 28th June)...

I've been really looking forward to telling you guys all about this, but I thought I would wait until my 'Last Week' post before I did. On Monday, I attended my first ever Publication Party! It was for Ilka Tampke's 'Skin' which most of you might recognise as my first read of the month: a book which I really enjoyed. It was a completely new experience for me, but a thoroughly enjoyable one. A whole host of effort had been made too: themed drinks and nibbles, relabelled beer, a video from Ilka herself who sadly couldn't make it as she was in Australia and speeches from the lovely editor whose passion for the book was totally inspiring. I met so many lovely people too: booksellers, publishers and Bloggers alike! We talked about 'Skin' of course, as well as a whole host of other topics. It reminded me why I love doing what I do, and gave me new cause to try a bit harder with this Blog in order to get invited to fun events like that again! Thank you so much to Emma and Emily in particular, alongside the rest of the Hodder team for inviting me!

I was most pleased with the Goody bags that were provided too: they contained mead, tribal tattoos, a signed copy of the book (though I managed to pick up the one that hadn't been signed), bookmarks, and cards that wrote about all of the different Skin Totems found in the book. I really hope that one day I become a writer that gets to partake in all of these fun events from a totally different perspective.

The rest of my week was a little less action packed being filled mostly with work. However, I still managed to find time to get some reading done (progress has been pretty slow on that front this month) and finish what has certainly been the most enjoyable book this month. Sunday was a really relaxing day for Mat and I because we both had a really tiring Saturday (long, busy hours make for one tired Sales Assistant).

I Read:


Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite 'Top Ten Tuesday Topics' I Have Done.

Sunday 28 June 2015

Book Review: A Natural History Of Dragons; Marie Brennan.

My goodness, I can't believe how successful my reading month has been so far! I have not had a single negative reading experience, and it has been amazing getting to read some truly great works by some fantastic authors. This book has by far been my favourite in June, and I gave it an instant 5 star rating when I was merely three chapters in, deciding that if something went horrendously wrong I would lower my rating. Of course, nothing did and so here is my review!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: A Natural History Of Dragons
AUTHOR: Marie Brennan
SERIES: Memoir By Lady Trent (#1)
PAGES: 334
GENRE: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Adventure, Memoir

RATING: 5/5 Stars

"You, dear reader, continue at your own risk. It is not for the faint of heart--no more so than the study of dragons itself. But such study offers rewards beyond compare: to stand in a dragon's presence, even for the briefest of moments--even at the risk of one's life--is a delight that, once experienced, can never be forgotten. . . ."

All the world, from Scirland to the farthest reaches of Eriga, know Isabella, Lady Trent, to be the world's pre-eminent dragon naturalist. She is the remarkable woman who brought the study of dragons out of the misty shadows of myth and misunderstanding into the clear light of modern science. But before she became the illustrious figure we know today, there was a bookish young woman whose passion for learning, natural history, and, yes, dragons defied the stifling conventions of her day.

Here at last, in her own words, is the true story of a pioneering spirit who risked her reputation, her prospects, and her fragile flesh and bone to satisfy her scientific curiosity; of how she sought true love and happiness despite her lamentable eccentricities; and of her thrilling expedition to the perilous mountains of Vystrana, where she made the first of many historic discoveries that would change the world forever.

What I Liked:
  • I'll start with Brennan's fantastic writing style, that was really the thing that drew me into this story. I haven't encountered a huge host of stories told in the style of a memoir, but I have decided that it really is a format that I enjoy because of this book. I loved the frequent side notes added by the elderly Lady Trent on the details of her life and her naivety/stupidity at the time that the story was set. The style in which Brennan wrote was truly captivating also and very creative. It certainly made the plot-line tropes that I have seen frequently in the past feel original.
  • The heroine herself, Lady Trent (or Isabella Camherst as the book frequently refers to her) has fast become one of my favourites of all time. She was strong, courageous, passionate and witty. Not only that but I found her constant sense of adventure and spirited nature uplifting in almost every sense of the word. I didn't even mind so much when she made reckless decisions. It was nice to read from a female point of view where the lady in question, despite not liking the situation they are in, doesn't spend the entire book whining. Also, her relationship with Jacob warmed my heart so much that I couldn't not love these two as a pairing.
What I Disliked:
  • I suppose a good one to put here is the ending. Not that it wasn't well-written because actually in terms of a finale it was very well-constructed and left me wanting more. But on a whole new level, it totally broke my heart to the point that I almost cried in a public place and kept giving Mat distressed looks. It was the most action-packed part of the book but I need to recover from it.
Overall Conclusion:
I adored this book from start to finish, mostly because I am a little like Isabella and love to learn. Obviously Dragons are mythical creatures, but it was so interesting not just to see them killing/roaring/breathing fire/etc. but also to see some of the science behind how they would fly/their hunting habits/generally what makes them tick. It made for very good world-building and lore (though I would love to see more of that in Book 2). At times I did find myself skimming ever so slightly, but not enough to be concerned about.

Tuesday 23 June 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Favourite Top Ten Tuesday Topics I Have Done'.

This is such a fantastic idea for a topic! I haven't been doing this Meme for five whole years, but I've definitely done it for a year or so. There have been so many enjoyable topics to talk about too!

1) Books I'd Recommend For Particular Genres/Readers.

I always like recommending books, and there have been a few times in the past while partaking in this weekly motif that I have been allowed to do so. Don't get me wrong, I don't mean it in an arrogant way. I just get excited at the prospect of sharing my own reading experiences and favourites with other people. Looking back on these now, I have read a lot since writing these posts and have plenty more ideas. I still like reflecting on my previous choices though!

Books I'd Recommend For Those Who Haven't Read Historical Fiction / Underrated Books/Authors In The Paranormal Genre / Books For People Who Like Animals / Favourite Books In The Fantasy Genre / If You Liked This, Read That

2) Places That Books Have Made Me Want To Visit.

This is one post in particular that I am thinking of, but book worlds are such a fascinating topic for me that I had to include it on this list. Most of my choices were made-up locations of course, but there are a few places of the world that books have inspired me to visit!

Places That Books Have Made Me Want To Visit

3) Favourite Heroines From Books.

This one is another very specific post of mine, but heroines in books are very important to me. Girl power always needs to be a thing! I made sure to pick the best kinds of heroines I could think of: strong, smart and independent, yet still in touch with their humanity and compassion. After all, I want to be able to relate to them too. I've met plenty of heroines since this post, some even better than the ladies I've listed here. But these women will always have a place in my heart.

Favourite Heroines From Books

4) Reasons That I Love Blogging/Reading.

This is actually quite an old post of mine, written when my blog was still in it's infancy. These reasons still apply though, even now! I've done and achieved so much since this post was written, but at the heart of it all, I still adore doing all of these things.

Reasons That I Love Blogging/Reading

5) Books On My Seasonal TBR List.

These are actually my favourite types of posts. I love deciding what I'm going to read for the next few months and I've always found this Meme the bes way to do it! It's always interesting looking back on them and finding out how many I managed too!

Spring 2014 / Summer 2014 / Autumn 2014 / Winter 2014 / Spring 2015 / Summer 2015

6) Favourite Books I Read This Year.

Looking back is just as fun as looking forward, and reflecting on a whole year's worth of reads is so much fun! It's really nice to smile and remember all the good books you read over the course of twelve months.

Favourite Books I Read In 2014 / All Time Favourite Books From The Past 5 Years

7) My Bookish Wish-List.

I have a lot of book-related wish lists and they are quite fun to make as well! B it books themselves or book-related things then I want it, and I will wish and wish until I hopefully get what I want!

Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Bringing Me This Year (2014) / Book-Related Things On My Wishlist

8) Cover Art Trends I Like/Dislike.

These were also two of my favourite posts because I am a huge fan of cover art. I know you aren't supposed to judge a book by it's cover, but I always find myself doing it a little bit. Oops!

Cover Art Trends I Like/Dislike / Book Covers I'd Frame As Pieces Of Art

9) Bookish Goals/Resolutions.

Goals and resolutions are always fun to make, and even more interesting to look back on. I've definitely got better at some of these things, and have yet to do others. I can't wait to achieve them all!

Goals/Resolutions For 2015

10) Characters I Want On A Desert Island With Me.

There were a few different posts with this sort of theme. Choosing characters that I would like to be my friend or would choose to be by my side in a certain situation. The desert Island was definitely my favourite, it made me think a whole lot more.

Characters I Would Want On A Desert Island With Me / Characters That Would Be My Best Friend / Characters That Would Sit At My Lunch Table

Monday 22 June 2015

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

Despite not actually having anything to do all day, Monday ended up being quite a dramatic day for me. For anyone who watches 'Game Of Thrones', you'll know why! It was the Season finale! I won't give any spoilers away, but you should all know that I will probably never be the same after watching it. That is all. I worked on both Tuesday,Wednesday and Thursday, despite having a pretty bad cough. On Wednesday, I went with Mat and one of my flat mates, Megan, to see 'Jurassic World'. For anyone who is considering watching this film I thoroughly recommend it! It had me terrified and laughing out loud all in one!

For the rest of the week my cough turned into something much worse and so I didn't work. Instead I did a heck of a lot of resting up because I've been getting ill a lot recently and I would like to try and find a way of being healthier because it's really starting to frustrate me. I slept a lot. On Sunday, here in the UK, it was Father's Day. I went back to my home town to see my Dad, spending the day with my Family. We had a curry and a lovely catch-up which was a lot of fun.

I Read:


Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My TBR For Summer 2015

Friday 19 June 2015

Book Review: Mockingjay; Suzanne Collins.

I'm giving myself a great big pat on the back for finishing this series, because it took me far too long (though this is a recurring theme for a lot of series that I read). Ahead of the up and coming film release for the second film based on this book alone, I decided I wanted to be ahead of the game and read the conclusion before I watched it.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Mockingjay
AUTHOR: Suzanne Collins
SERIES: The Hunger Games (#3)
PUBLISHER: Scholastic
PAGES: 438
GENRE: Dystopian, Young Adult, Action, Romance

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But she's still not safe. A revolution is unfolding, and everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans - everyone except Katniss.

And yet she must play the most vital part in the final battle. Katniss must become their Mockingjay - the symbol of rebellion - no matter what the personal cost.

What I Liked:
  • The second half of this book absolutely blew me away. It was action-packed, gripping and at times gasp-out-loud horrifying. There were a fair few plot-twists that I wasn't expecting either which really added to the drama and shock of it all. I wasn't really expecting them to happen, so when the did, I felt completely taken aback and very overly-emotional.
  • I felt like Collins really showed off her writing skills in this one. It definitely had a much more mature feel to it, and I loved reading into some of the political symbolism and commentary on human behaviour that she subtly threw in to keep things interesting. This final instalment really impressed me because it felt like much more of a look at the bigger picture, not just Katniss' story. Panem felt like a much bigger place, and I loved the way that she wrote District 13. Military, organized and yet with small echoes of similarity to the Capitol in it's need for control on all aspects of the Residents lives.
What I Disliked:
  • Despite a spectacular finish, the first half of the book really did it no favours. It didn't really feel like anything was actually happening, just a lot of decision-making and negotiating. Katniss did a fair amount of thinking during this portion of the story, and I felt that while she needed some time to reflect on her situation, her constant re-evaluation of it all got a bit tedious. In fact, she became a little whiny. On top of that, I found it hard to connect with or like the other characters surrounding her (Coin, Plutarch, etc.) and her tempestuous relationship with Gale frustrated me.
Overall Conclusion:
Though there was never a point that I could say I was outright bored with the story, the pace for the first half was excruciatingly slowly. There were a few minor twists to keep things moving but I didn't like the characters (bar Prim, who's massively grown up and showed a lot of development) and I found Katniss' thoughts and actions a little repetitive and predictable. The second half of the book really got to me on a level that I didn't expect, and more than made up for the lacklustre start with a heart-pounding, emotional ending. I can see why there are so many mixed responses to this book but in the end, the writing was consistently good throughout and the slow plot sped up into such a great finale that I couldn't not give it a high rating.

Tuesday 16 June 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books On My TBR For Summer 2015'.

The TBR Lists are always my favourite, because they get me excited for all the books I have yet to come. The thing is, I tend not to plan more than a month ahead because I find I don't stick to my plans very well, but I have a few lined up that I'm really excited about, so I can only hope I get round to reading them.

1) 'A Natural History Of Dragons'; Marie Brennan.

So this is actually my next read, and I am so excited! I have been waiting to read this book for a very long time, and now it's finally on my up and coming list! I hope it's as good as I imagine it to be, I think it will be fun to read something set in an era that is known to me, but with the added twist of Dragons. 

2) 'The Hobbit'; J.R.R. Tolkien.

Speaking of Dragons, it's about time I read this! I've seen all of the films and loved them, so I can't believe that I still haven't read anything by this man yet. I seriously need to get into all of his books set in Middle Earth, and this seems like a good place to start.

3) 'Hidden Huntress'; Danielle L. Jensen.

I am absolutely gutted that I missed requesting this one from Netgalley. Still, I will be purchasing it now that it's out, and I look forward to finally getting to read the sequel to 'Stolen Songbird'. I really enjoyed the first book, and it left me on a massive cliffhanger in terms of the relationship between Cecile and Tristan. I hope I get to see more of them in Book 2!

4) 'High-Rise'; J.G. Ballard.

I don't actually have this book yet, but the film is coming out pretty soon (starring Tom Hiddleston, one of my favourite actors) and it looks like a really intriguing plot concept. It's been a while since I've read Literary Fiction and I'm intrigued by the strange genres it has received on Goodreads. It seems that people don't really know how to define this book which makes it all the more intriguing!

5) 'If I Fall, If I Die'; Michael Christie.

I have quite a lot of Fantasy on this list. Let's go for something contemporary shall we? In truth, this book looks like it's going to be a little bit heart-wrenching and emotional. But then, who doesn't want to read that from time to time? I received it from Netgalley so hopefully it will be a good one.

6) 'More Than This'; Patrick Ness.

Happy Birthday to me, I'm so glad that I was given this book! Patrick Ness has been on my list of Authors that I need to read for a very long time, and I plan to hit the first book of his that I own ASAP. Summer feels like a good month to read something with such a yellow cover too. I love the plot synopsis, so fingers crossed the book matches up to it's high reviews.

7) 'The Sin Eater's Daughter'; Melinda Salisbury.

Yet another Birthday present, I am equally as excited about this read. I mean just look at that beautiful cover! The synopsis looks really good too, and I'm intrigued by the name of the book itself. What would being a Sin Eater entail I wonder? There is only one way to find out!

8) 'The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry'; Gabrielle Zevin.

This is another book on my list of reads for this month, and I am honestly really excited about it. The cover is so gorgeous and I really like the sound of the story too. Not t mention the fact that a lot of people have recommended it to me as a very good Summer read! It would certainly cross one off of the ever-growing list of Netgalley reads!

9) 'The Winner's Crime'; Marie Rutkoski.

I know that my review for the first book in this series was a little bit so-so, but I really am interested to see if the second book is better. I feel like there is room for the plot to go in a direction that will increase my enjoyment of the series, and the cliffhanger at the end of the last book was enough for me to want to keep reading, despite my disappointment with some of the other areas of 'The Winner's Curse'. 

10) 'Insurgent'; Veronica Roth.

It really is about time that I finished this series. I read ad adored 'Divergent' so long ago, and then never moved on with the rest of the series. I was probably a little scared off by my sister's disappointment with the third book, and a lot of the reviews I read on-line, but I think I owe it to myself to make my own decision.

Monday 15 June 2015

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

I started off my week still at Mat's parents for the last day of our visit. We did a lot of catching up with TV, including watching Episode 9 of 'Game Of Thrones', Season 5, and the first couple of episodes of the new series of 'Vicious'. After a couple of fairly busy days it was nice to relax and catch up properly. We went home later that evening, and retired to bed shortly after. 

I went to work as normal on Tuesday, but on Wednesday I actually took some holiday. We went to the Theatre in the evening, to see 'The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time', which was fantastic! I've seen the show before and loved it, and I could see some changes from the original which made it even better. It was so good to see the show's development from my previous viewing, and it's well deserving of it's recent Tony Award wins. For the rest of the week I worked as usual, then spent Sunday on my own doing plenty of chores and playing 'Tamriel Unlimited' which is a fantastic game by the way!

I Read:


Top Ten Tuesday: The Most Anticipated Releases For The Rest Of 2015

Thursday 11 June 2015

Book Review: 'The Sleeper & The Spindle'; Neil Gaiman.

I can't believe that I actually read this book in a day! I set off this morning on my Tube to work and by the time the journey had finished, I was already halfway through. I read the rest on my lunch break (I couldn't wait till later)! I'm also entering this one into the 'Key Words' challenge because it includes the word 'sleep' in the title.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Sleeper & The Spindle
AUTHOR: Neil Gaiman
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Childrens
GENRE: Fantasy, Retelling, Middle Grade, Gothic

RATING: 4/5 Stars

On the eve of her wedding, a young queen sets out to rescue a princess from an enchantment. She casts aside her fine wedding clothes, takes her chain mail and her sword and follows her brave dwarf retainers into the tunnels under the mountain towards the sleeping kingdom. This queen will decide her own future – and the princess who needs rescuing is not quite what she seems. Twisting together the familiar and the new, this perfectly delicious, captivating and darkly funny tale shows its creators at the peak of their talents.

What I Liked:
  • This is my fourth Gaiman book, and the most enjoyable of them all. It was partly because I'm a sucker for Fairy Tale Re-tellings, but also because I found Gaiman's writing delightfully engrossing. The man has talent of course, but he's got 'fairy-tale writing' down to an art. I loved his descriptive work and his ability to really set a scene, particularly as a few of the twists in this particular imagining were chilling to say the least. I was hooked from start to finish!
  • The plot itself was fantastic. There were so many good twists and turns on the classic stories of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. Gaiman put quite the feminist spin on the tales in question, and what's more, it felt different to previous stories I have read. There were a few twists and turns along the way that really took me by surprise too. In particular, the end was totally unexpected and managed to both warm and break my heart.
What I Disliked:
  • This one is a short'n. In fact, at just 72 pages long, it took me less than an hour to read it. And therein lies the problem with a lot of Gaiman's writing that I hare dead so far, particularly his children's books: I'm always left wanting more out of it! This could have been a really good 300 page Fantasy adventure if it were padded out a bit, and I think it would have definitely earned 5 stars if that were the case because the rest of the ingredients were there. I would love to read an expanded, more adult version of this book!
Overall Conclusion:
What a wonderful book, complete with a gorgeous set of illustrations. Chris Riddell, the artist, does a gorgeous job of providing richly detailed, slightly Gothic drawings to spark the imagination and bring the story to life and his work was one of my favourite aspects of the book. This alongside a well thought-out plot and fantastic writing means I am a very happy reader. I just wish that Gaiman would pad his work out a little more.

Tuesday 9 June 2015

Book Review (ARC): Skin; Ilka Tampke.

I read this book in preparation for an exciting event at the end of the month that I can say nothing about right now, but I'm very much looking forward to. Aside from that, it had been so long since I had last read Historical Fiction that I was relishing the opportunity to read a story from the past. Luckily, this did not disappoint. The author, Ilka Tampke, is actually originally from (and currently living in) Australia. This fits nicely with this month's Motif, 'Take A Trip'.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

AUTHOR: Ilka Tampke
SERIES: Song Of The Kendra (#1)
PAGES: 356
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Adult

RATING: 4/5 Stars

For the people of Caer Cad, 'skin' is their totem, their greeting, their ancestors, their land.

Ailia does not have skin. Abandoned at birth, she serves the Tribequeen of her township. Ailia is not permitted to marry, excluded from tribal ceremonies and, most devastatingly, forbidden to learn. But the Mothers, the tribal ancestors, have chosen her for another path.

Lured by the beautiful and enigmatic Taliesin, Ailia embarks on an unsanctioned journey to attain the knowledge that will protect her people from the most terrifying invaders they have ever faced.

What I Liked:
  • World-building, particularly in historical fiction, is a vital aspect of the novel and I found that Tampke did a really good job with this one. I don't have an awful lot of knowledge on Britain's tribes during the Iron Age but I feel like I learned a lot from this book, particularly concerning their beliefs and lifestyle. My favourite thing about ancient Historical Fiction is that it will often read like Fantasy, with input from folk-tales, religious beliefs and Gods/Goddesses. This book was no different, and it really added to the plot.
  • The characters were really likeable in this book. The heroine, Ailia, had a lot of spirit in her which is refreshing to read from a female perspective. Her ferocity, independence and passion kept her as a believable, relatable narrator. I liked the relationship between her and Taliesin, and even with Ruther too, because it was the kind of love triangle that wasn't there just to be a plot device. In fact, it aided the plot! Other characters impressed me too, Heka being the most enigmatic who I couldn't decide whether I pitied or hated.
What I Disliked:
  • This book did take a little while to get going, I'll be honest. I had no real idea in which direction the plot was actually going at first, and it came across as just a sequence of events that had very little structure to them. About halfway through it really picked up though, and the plot as a whole was a good one. I just wish it had taken a little less time to get to the point.
Overall Conclusion:
This book really did impress me, and I'm so glad that despite a slow start I stuck with it to the end. The world-building really gave me an in-depth look into Britain at the time and I really found it interesting. The characters too were likeable, and their interactions were really well written. The ending hinted at a sequel and I'm really hoping for one because I really need to know what happens next!