Thursday 31 March 2016

March Wrap-Up.

For most of this month, I thought I wasn't going to do too well this month but I've had a bit of a spurt in the latter part of the month. I managed six of the seven chosen reads again (I didn't get to my bonus read unfortunately) so I'm well ahead of my target for the year! In terms of actual ratings, it's a mixed bunch (ending my amazing streak of constantly good reads) but I've liked the variety!

  1. 'Golden Son'; Pierce Brown. I have slightly mixed feelings about this series, though I always end up giving the books good ratings in the end. Brown is a master at world-building (or should I say Universe building) and he's really put a lot of thought into how the economic & political system and social/historical context works. Characters and plot pacing were also impressive but for some reason I'm just not a fan of Brown's actual writing style. There's too much dramatic rambling and I don't enjoy the use of short sentences. 3/5 Stars.
  2. 'Seven Ways We Lie'; Riley Redgate. This book was just phenomenal. Redgate writes from seven viewpoints, a mammoth enough task, but she then proceeds to give each such a distinct, unique voice that I fell in love with each one. There is so much diversity in this book too in terms of the characters' ethnicity, sexuality and mental health. It gave a really realistic, clear picture of the lives of teens. 5/5 Stars.
  3. 'Read Me Like A Book'; Liz Kessler. My second YA Contemporary this month was a less successful read for me. The subject matter of discovering sexuality I liked, but sadly I don't think it was handled well. The characters were in no way relateable, especially the selfish, horribly naive main character. The world-building had a few errors too and in the end, I didn't particularly like Kessler's writing. This was a real shame as she's a critically-acclaimed author whom I thought I would enjoy. 2/5 Stars.
  4. 'Siege & Storm'; Leigh Bardugo. I have so many regrets about the fact that it took me so long to read this book. It's the second in the series but it's a really great installment in what promises to be an amazing Fantasy set of books. I'm so excited to read 'Ruin & Rising' and the introduction of great characters like Sturmhond makes me think that 'The Six Of Crows' is going to be a great read! I'm still not keen on Mal, but he's not my least favourite love interest of all time. 4/5 Stars.
  5. 'The Invasion Of The Tearling'; Erika Johansen. Despite a decent-ish review for 'The Queen Of The Tearling' I wasn't sure whether to continue this series because I didn't love it. There were a couple of issues in Book One that really became a problem in this book: the fixation on beauty and the setting. The flashbacks to Lily Mayhew were unnecessary and something I would have liked to read separate from the story, and Kelsea turned into a character that I intensely disliked. And of course she had to transform into society's expectations of beauty because heroines can never be overweight or have an oddly shaped nose now, can they? 2/5 Stars.
  6. 'The Tropic Of Serpents'; Marie Brennan. Thank goodness for this book. As soon as I started reading, I felt like I was visiting an old friend in the older, wiser Isabella Trent. Her spirit and curiousity are infectious and I love her sense of humour as well as the comments on her stubborn, flawed younger self. The world-building for this series is excellent and for anyone who likes adventures, consider reading this series. 4.5/5 Stars.
This month I have read three books for Pretty Deadly Review's Backlist Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to ten. This month's reads were:

- 'Golden Son' by Pierce Brown
- 'Siege & Storm' by Leigh Bardugo
- 'The Tropic Of Serpents' by Marie Brennan

This month I have read three books for Falling For YA's Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge bringing my yearly total so far to six. This month's reads were:

- 'Seven Ways We Lie' by Riley Redgate
- 'Read Me Like A Book' by Liz Kessler
- 'The Invasion Of The Tearling' by Erika Johansen

This month I have gained eight points for Novel Heartbeat and Writer Grrl Reads' Prequel & Sequel Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to twenty two. This month's points were as thus:

- +2 for 'Golden Son' by Pierce Brown
- +2 for 'Siege & Storm' by Leigh Bardugo
- +2 for 'The Invasion Of The Tearling' by Erika Johansen
- +2 for 'The Tropic Of Serpents' by Marie Brennan

This month I have read one book for [un]Conventional Reviews' New Releases Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to four. This month's read was:

- 'Seven Ways We Lie' by Riley Redgate

This month I have read zero books for Daily Prophecy's Retelling Challenge, bringing my yearly total to two.

And here's my updated Bookish Bingo card and finished Story Sprites board!

Second Chance: The Invasion Of The Tearling; Erika Johansen.
Book Towards Another Challenge: Golden Son; Pierce Brown.
Freebie: Siege & Storm; Leigh Bardugo.
MC Shares Your 1st Initial: Seven Ways We Lie; Riley Redgate.
Written Under A Pen Name: The Tropic Of Serpents; Marie Brennan.
Stand-Alone: Read Me Like A Book; Liz Kessler.

Book With A Gay/Lesbian Romance: Read Me Like A Book; Liz Kessler.
>500 Page Book: The Invasion Of The Tearling; Erika Johansen.
YA Sci-Fi: Golden Son; Pierce Brown.
Clairvoyance/Sixth Sense: The Lovely Bones; Alice Sebold.
Dragons!: The Tropic Of Serpents; Marie Brennan.
Single Word Title: Dot; Araminta Hall.
First Book In A Series: Wolf By Wolf; Ryan Graudin.
Novel With A Rebellion: Winter; Marissa Meyer.
Characters With A Code Name: Seven Ways We Lie; Riley Redgate.
Book-To-Movie Adaptation: A Study In Scarlet; Arthur Conan Doyle.
Enchanted Forest: The Fox & The Star; Coralie Bickford-Smith.
Purple-Themed Cover: Love Letters To The Dead; Ava Delleira.
Prince Or Princess: Siege & Storm; Leigh Bardugo.
Scandinavian-Born Character: Let The Right One In; John Ajvide Lindqvist.
Novel With A Map: Red Queen; Victoria Aveyard.
Strong Female Friendship: Beautiful Broken Things; Sara Barnard.
Supernatural Feud: The Dark Days Club; Alison Goodman.
Last Book In A Series: Under The Light; Laura Whitcomb.

Book Review: The Tropic Of Serpents; Marie Brennan.

There are very few series that, when I return to them, make me smile so much. Within a few pages of this Book, I realised just how much I'd been looking forward to it!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Tropic Of Serpents
AUTHOR: Marie Brennan
SERIES: Memoir By Lady Trent (#2)
PAGES: 332
GENRE: Fantasy, Adventure, Alternate History

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

Three years after her fateful journeys through the forbidding mountains of Vystrana, Mrs. Camherst defies family and convention to embark on an expedition to the war-torn continent of Eriga, home of such exotic draconian species as the grass-dwelling snakes of the savannah, arboreal tree snakes, and, most elusive of all, the legendary swamp-wyrms of the tropics.

The expedition is not an easy one. Accompanied by both an old associate and a runaway heiress, Isabella must brave oppressive heat, merciless fevers, palace intrigues, gossip, and other hazards in order to satisfy her boundless fascination with all things draconian, even if it means venturing deep into the forbidden jungle known as the Green Hell...where her courage, resourcefulness, and scientific curiosity will be tested as never before.

What I Liked:
  • It didn't take me too long to remember why I loved Isabella, the main character of the story. The novel is written in the format of a memoir, which I've never really seen in other books and Brennan did a really great job of making the format feel fresh and original. Isabella's sense of humour and use of hindsight is probably the best part of the book. I think Brennan's writing is the thing I really love about this series most because it's very reminiscent of a Victorian style of novel, but blends beautifully with a made-up world.
  • The world-building in this book is just phenomenal. Brennan takes cultures that we know and love, and manages to adapt it into something a little bit different, creating something brand new. She also really made great use of imagery to convey all the sights and sounds that Isabella was experiencing and it really helped me to picture it all. The dragons are probably the cleverest part of Brennan's world-building, she's really thought them through and understands everything from their anatomy to the hunting and breeding habits of each species.
What I Disliked:
  • I didn't really dislike anything but I did feel like the ending was a little rushed and that made me knock off the half star. Everything just seemed to happen so quickly, after a reasonably paced build-up throughout the book and it could have done with an extra chapter or two to go into more detail.
Overall Conclusion:
This book made me so happy. Thanks to the interesting way that Brennan has decided to style these books, I can tell that there will be no 'filler' books in this series and I don't think I'll ever get bored of Isabella's adventures with Dragons. Brennan writes great characters (I thoroughly missed Jacob in this one, but I loved how Brennan dealt with his absence), gorgeous lands and brilliant stories with a lot of twists. It's a comfortable series to read too, one that made me smile from start to finish and can definitely be read in one sitting.

Tuesday 29 March 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'My Most Recent Five Star Reads'.

While preparing for this post I learnt that I don't actually give five stars out easily, and so some of these books are from last year. Nevertheless, these are some of my favourite books and continuing on from last week's topic, I'm happy to re-advertise their awesomeness!

1) 'Seven Ways We Lie' by Riley Redgate.

This was my most recent five star read, and one that I don't think I can praise enough. Contemporary reads can be a little hit and miss with me, mostly because I think real, present-day life can actually be quite hard to emulate at times. For me, Redgate's seven teenage voices were spot on which in itself earned the book five stars because that many voices can not have been easy to write authentically. I really loved both the diversity and complexity found within each of their personalities: they were more than their 'sin'. Isn't that the definition of being a teenager, becoming more than your label?

2) 'Wolf By Wolf' by Ryan Graudin.

Read at the start of the year, I adored this read sent to me by Illumicrate! Having already read 'The Walled City' by the same author, I already had this book on the list but I was glad to get the chance to read it much sooner. Alternate historical fiction is a really interesting genre to me, and I loved this one's focus: what if Hitler had lived? Of course there were a couple of sci-fi elements that may not have happened had Hitler's reign of terror continued, but I think the general tone of the story was spot on and I loved the inclusion of a win or die trying style race! This is a fast-paced thriller with plenty of action and plot twists to keep readers hungry for more.

3) 'Winter' by Marissa Meyer.

Of course this book is perfection to me. Fairy Tales are the stories that mean the most to me, and I always look forward to reading retellings with a twist. Meyer's series finished with a bang in this 800 page fest of handsome princes, evil queens, commendable heroines and futuristic, sci-fi action! It was such a great conclusion to a series that I rated five star for every single book and contains some of the most shippable romances I've ever read. Not to mention that Meyer is great at diversity. Whether you're after mixed ethnicities or physically/mentally disabled heroines then look no further because this is the kind of inclusion that every author should aspire to have in their books.

4) 'The Dark Days Club' by Alison Goodman.

Yet more love for alternate history love from me, this time for a book set in the early 19th century with a slight twist: demons. Not only does this book contain one of the most likeable heroines in fiction, it's stirringly wonderful re-imagining of a classic that has left many ladies swooning in the past: Jane Austen's 'Pride & Prejudice'. The connections are clear in this one but felt like a fresh new plot that gave me a very special kind of feels. I actually won this book in a prize box from Walker Books and Maximum Pop! so special thanks to them for allowing me to read an ARC of such a great book!

5) 'A Thousand Nights' by E.K. Johnston.

Now we're delving into reads from very late 2015, but this was definitely one of the top from the entire year. Another retelling: this time of the framing story of 'One Thousand & One Nights' which, for those that don't know, is a very old and famous collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories concerning their local legends and folklore. We all know that sort of thing is sight up my street, but I was stunned by just how much Johnston's narrative lit up my imagination, and how deeply I fell in love with not just the plot, but the message behind it. This is a story just as concerned with female empowerment as it is with magic and alongside gorgeous imagery and an interesting writing style, it earned it's place in this list.

6) 'Vengeance Road' by Erin Bowman.

This. This was my favourite read of 2015. I had no idea that YA Western would become my favourite genre just by reading one book, but it has and it's all thanks to Erin Bowman. Seeking vengeance for her Father's death, Kate was one of the most kick-ass heroines I've ever had the pleasure of reading from and if you were worried that it being a book aimed at Young Adults would detract from the cowboy style then don't be. This book has all of the tropes: showdowns beneath the blazing sun, dramatic bar fights ensuing after a dramatic pause in the piano playing, handsome cowboys and of course plenty of horse-riding! I loved the romance in this book too: it didn't overpower the deeply engrossing plot-line but boy was it sizzling.

7) 'Station Eleven' by Emily St. John Mandel.

I've read a fair few Dystopians and apocalypse-focused stories but I've never read one like this. Compiled together from the viewpoints of five loosely linked humans I saw a story of the end of the world that I've never seen before. I loved the focus on many different time points: directly before the breakout of disease, the weeks afterwards, and years later after humanity has become no more than small civilisations occasionally meeting up. It closely analysed relationships as well as what makes us human and I loved the feeling of hope that it ended on. I cannot wait to read more of Mandel's work because I have no doubt I'll love it.

8) 'Neverland' by Shari Arnold.

In creeps another Fairy Tale retelling, this time one of the well-known children's classic: 'Peter Pan & Wendy' by J.M. Barrie. I've never the original book, though thanks to the hundreds of takes on it in the media, I know the story. I always found it interesting that there was a slightly sinister side to the idea of a young boy stealing children from their bedrooms and taking them to a place free of adults. Especially as I read somewhere that Barrie originally intended for Pan to be the villain of the story. Arnold's version put a very modern spin on the classic tale, alongside huge doses of emotion and heartbreak. She uses all the well-known characters of Neverland to draw up a tale that deals directly with the often tough to talk about subject of grief, especially when the recently deceased is a child. Anyone who wants to tackle this one ought to have some tissues at the ready.

9) 'Valiant' by Holly Black.

Holly Black has impressed me over and over with her huge imagination, but until this book I could never quite get to grips with her writing style. 'Valiant' is actually the second in a series and many people say that it is so loosely connected to books one and three that it can easily be read as a standalone. Nevertheless, this is probably my favourite Holly Black read of all time because she got everything so right. It worked as a very grungy, urban retelling of 'Beauty & The Beast' (a personal favourite of mine) and I loved the world of city Faeries that Black had drawn up. Fans of 'A Court Of Thorns & Roses' or even 'Winterspell' will love this book.

10) 'Sunbolt' by Intisar Khanani.

I'm pretty sure that this is probably the shortest book I've awarded a five star rating too, purely because novellas don't usually work for me (unless paired with an established series). That being said, I didn't even notice how quickly I flew through this because it felt like such a well-written, thought-out book! It's Fantasy with an ethnically diverse MC (something that instantly captured my attention) but it also served as a nice introduction to what I hope will be a wonderful, successful series. I loved the fresh take on vampire lore as well as the introduction of a new creature I din't really recognise. The magic system intrigued me and I think that if I had to recommend it to any particular readers, it would be those that loved Leigh Bardugo's 'The Grisha' series because this is on par in terms of writing quality.

Monday 28 March 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (21st March - 27th March)...

Despite the fact that this week was Easter week (a time of great worship for chocolate lovers such as I) my week has actually been pretty boring for the most part. Other than work I haven't done a whole lot! It left a lot of time for reading I suppose, and I did manage to get a lot more TV watching done! Mat and I have been watching Gotham Season 2 (we're pretty hyped about the latest episode) and Daredevil Season 2 (which we are super loving right now...the Punisher is awesome!) and I even squeezed a little bit of Once Upon A Time in for fun! I've just finished Season 5 Episode 6, and I'm excited to see where the next episodes take me.

What made the week even less entertaining for me was the pretty rubbish end. I was sent home from work on Saturday because I was so ill, and I'm still in the recovery process as I write this post (feeling better but not cured) so it meant my Easter Sunday included no chocolate because I couldn't stomach it. Can you believe that of all the days my immune system could have been lazy, it chose that day? I'm outraged! Mat had the day off too because where he works is closed on Easter Sunday, so he spent the day looking after me with soup, blankets, cuddles and films (namely Kiki's Delivery Service and Shrek: The Musical).

I Read:

I Received:

- 'Ship Of Magic' by Robin Hobb: Bought from Amazon (24/03)
- 'A Darker Shade Of Magic' by V.E. Scwab: Bought from Amazon (24/03)


Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love But Haven't Talked About In A While

Saturday 26 March 2016

Book Review: The Invasion Of The Tearling; Erika Johansen.

This book is the second installment of a book that seems to be one of those 'marmite' series. People either adore it or can't get their head around it at all, and I'm sad to say I'm quickly falling into the latter of the two categories. I feel like there are so many flaws with this book that I can't fully understand why it has garnered that many positive reviews.

SOURCE: Edelweiss
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Invasion Of The Tearling
AUTHOR: Erika Johansen
SERIES: The Queen Of The Tearling (#2)
PUBLISHER: Transworld Digital
PAGES: 525
GENRE: Fantasy, Adult, Dystopia

RATING: 2/5 Stars

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighbouring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling – and that of Kelsea’s own soul – may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out.

What I Liked:
  • With book one I had a few nice things to say, and while I've found that harder this time round I can't really fault the plot-line itself. It has got some action and really focuses on the nitty-gritty of politics. It's handling of playing 'the ruling game' is something I've only seen mastered in George R.R. Martin's 'A Song Of Ice & Fire' series but I think Johansen made a pretty decent attempt at it. There was at least some complexity to the decision-making process.
What I Disliked:
  • One of my major dislikes in 'The Queen Of The Tearling' was the confusion surrounding the setting. It clearly referenced our present as it's past multiple times and yet society seemed to have regressed to a Medieval-like world with very little explanation. Book two did make a very direct attempt to explain that, but I found that the way in which it did this (through Lily Mayhew's flashbacks) didn't really fit in with the rest of the story or appeal to me. This kind of information would have done better in a prequel story as rather than complimenting Queen Kelsea's own situation or contributing to the plot at all, Lily just got in the way.
  • Kelsea's focus on her desire to be 'more beautiful' annoyed me in book one but I still appreciated her characterisation at that point. I hoped that in book two she would see her other merits, and find that it's okay to be slightly overweight with an oddly-shaped nose. In this book, I no longer liked Kelsea. She was spoilt, selfish and immature, and continued to whine and moan about how undesirable she was, so much so that her magical jewels actually transformed her into a slender woman with a flawless face. What?! This served no plot purpose whatsoever other than to let Kelsea fit into society's expectations of her as a woman: to maintain appearances. I wanted to bash my head against a wall while reading, especially as it was more frequently talked about than the actual threat of the Mort invasion.
  • This is more of a minor quibble, especially as it's partly my fault. I read the first book just under two years ago and so much of my memory of it had diminished. However, without any kind of character list (and Johansen has a sizeable cast in this book so really ought to have one) I was pretty much left to stumble my way through this one. Johansen offered no real reminders plot-wise throughout the story so my advice to anyone wanting to read this series is not to leave the books too far apart, lest you should become confused.
Overall Conclusion:
Sadly, this book only raised my disappointment in this series further, rather than restoring my faith in it. In the back of my mind I feel like Johansen is trying to make this book's message deep and meaningful, but actually in my eyes she is achieving the opposite. Her characters are annoying and don't really intrigue me (save for the Red Queen, who didn't have an awful lot of page space in this book), her setting doesn't quite wash with me as it has far too many uncertainties, and though the plot isn't bad, it feels cluttered and chaotic at times. The writing itself is rich at some points and frustratingly skimmable at others. There's not an awful lot of consistency. Part of me feels I should give book three a try, seeing as it's the last one anyway. It might take me a long time though, if I decide to bother with it.

Tuesday 22 March 2016

Book Review: Siege & Storm; Leigh Bardugo.

Sometimes I look at how long it takes me to get through series and I realise that I need some serious help. This is one of those times. It has been almost two years since I read and enjoyed 'Shadow & Bone' yet I, for some strange reason, only managed to get to Book Two now. What have I been doing? Still it's done now: I promise Book Three will not take me this long...

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Siege & Storm
AUTHOR: Leigh Bardugo
SERIES: The Grisha (#2)
PAGES: 386
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Romance, Adventure

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Darkness never dies. Alina and Mal are on the run. Hunted and haunted, but together at last, they can't outrun Alina's past or her destiny forever. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and he needs Alina to realise his dangerous plan. There are others who would like to use Alina's gift too. And as her power grows, somehow, she must choose between her country, her power, and her love - or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

What I Liked:
  • Oh Bardugo, I am so sorry for taking so long to get back into your wonderful series. Book Two is always a tricky one in Trilogies because often it ends up becoming a filler story. This actually felt much more developed than that and I was pleased to get plenty of action and drama to keep me interested, as well as the introduction of new characters and places too! I love world-building so much, so I was pleased to see a bunch of add-ons to what I recall as an already well-developed world. I particularly enjoyed the references to Russian culture!
  • In terms of the characters, I am so lucky when it comes to Bardugo because despite a long gap between books I remembered who everyone was and their circumstances/motivations (thanks to a few handy reminders). Even better though, is a brand new face that I adored: Nikolai. He made this book so much funnier and he was so charming too! I loved when he showed a vulnerable side and though I can already guess that Alina is probably not going to choose him, I kind of want her to all the same. I also liked that the Darkling didn't make too much of an appearance in this book. I know he's a fan favourite so that was probably disappointing to a lot of people, but I liked him more as an ever-present threat just lurking in the shadows and at the forefront of Alina's mind. It worked really well that way!
What I Disliked:
  • I'll start off by saying that though I really did not like Mal in book one, he grew on me a little here. I don't hate him any more, though I'm certainly still not a fan because I find his petty jealousy irritating and this thing with Zoya is getting ridiculous. I feel as if his constant arguments with Alina in this book made up a little too much of the plot-line. Alina became mopey and distracted and constantly looking for him and it made me roll my eyes just a tiny bit. There was a vulnerable, out-of-place, lonely side to Mal too which I wanted to see more of but when he turned to drinking and fighting to overcome his problems I ended up in a huff with him again. He needs some serious improvements in book three or I'm not going to be happy if these two end up together.
Overall Conclusion:
Once again, just like 'Shadow & Bone' I really loved this book and this is a series that is going to stay with me for a while. I don't know why I took so long to get round to this but I can't stop thinking about it, so I'm thinking that book three will be a much quicker read this time. Plot, world-building and characters remained amazing and I loved the new additions to these elements. Mal and Alina? Not so much, purely because I don't enjoy Mal's character. Apparently he's supposed to be liked by everybody but I just can't see why. He's too protective, petty and jealousy. I have to say though, Bardugo could make a serious turn-around with his character (which I hope that she does). I predict that Alina will probably choose him in the end so I would really like to be happy for them (personally I'm veering towards Nikolai as a better suitor). I can't wait to read 'Ruin & Rising', and the Sturmhond story-line has really got me interested in reading 'Six Of Crows' because who doesn't love criminals and piracy and such? Especially from Ravka!

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books I Love But Haven't Talked About In A While'.

This might actually be a fairly hard topic because thanks to Memes like Top Ten Tuesday, I actually end up pushing books that I love a lot, even stories that I read ages ago. I do have a few ideas though, and I can't wait to revisit some of my older favourites. Anything that I've read in 2016 will not be appearing on this list and I probably won't include too many books that already receive huge amounts of hype!

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

This is the first book I read for this blog, and so holds a very special place in my heart. Not only that, but it made five stars because I just found everything about it so captivating. It is a Historical Fiction written in the style of some of my favourite Gothic Horrors and mixed with just a dash of Fantasy to make it unique. The plot that Wolf has chosen is one-of-a-kind, written from the perspective of an 18th Century Doctor suffering from a severe Mental Illness that fills his head with delusions and a sick desire to kill, hurt and maim. Sorting through what is real and what is in Tristan's head is just part of the fun and while some of the content may be a little disturbing (as well as the horrendous number of capital letters in this book) I totally recommend it's madness to those wanting to read something different.

2) 'Pure' by Andrew Miller.

Another of my early reads and also set in a distant time period, this is another book that gripped me from start to finish and I know I have not praised enough since having read it. The cover is gorgeous and while the synopsis may not sound spellbinding I implore that lovers of Historical Fiction give this one a go. Set in the late 1700s, it focuses on a young Engineer's task to dismantle and disturb a local Graveyard which happens to be the centre of local superstition and causes him many problems. A lot happens in a book that is very vague in it's blurb and while it ends pretty abruptly, it's gorgeous imagery and flawless world-building sold it to me as a deserving winner for the Costa Book Award (2011).

3) 'The Invention Of Wings' by Sue Monk Kidd.

Fans of 'Twelve Years A Slave', 'To Kill A Mockingbird' or 'The Help' need to read this book. In my opinion, the history of POC rights is seldom talked about and should be a vital part in any school's curriculum. Books like this should be on the reading list. It tells the true story of Sarah and Angelina Grimke, activists for women's rights and the opposition of slavery, as well as speaking from the viewpoint of Hetty (or 'Handful' as she's affectionately nicknamed) one of their family's slaves. I had never heard of any of these women, all of whom existed at the turn of the Century (18th into 19th) but I fell in love with their spirit and courage. It's message is poignant and it's plot heartbreaking and I just adore everything it stands for. 

4) 'Aristotle & Dante Discover The Secrets Of The Universe' by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

I remember reading a few great reviews for this book just before I read it, but honestly I don't think it actually quite got the love that it deserved which is why I'm sticking it on this list. As far as YA LGBT fiction goes, this is one of the best in my opinion. It focuses on the friendship of two young teenage boys, and their developing feelings for each other as they grow older as well as the difficulties they face within their own communities. I loved the diverse characters found within the story, the way that Sáenz chose to lay it out from Ari's point of view and they are definitely one of my favourite OTPs of all time!

5) 'The Miniaturist' by Jessie Burton.

Yet more Historical Fiction I know, but this was a find from Waterstones that really caught my eye. It was signed so I snapped it up quickly and read it shortly after. Burton's writing quickly captured both my attention and my imagination and I really liked the mystery surrounding the whole plot. Set in the late 17th century, Nella Oortman enters into a marriage of convenience in order to escape the confines of family life and looks forward to the prospect of running her own household. What she finds instead is a house of secrets, the feeling of isolation and not-belonging and what's more, a mysterious doll-house that is identical to and reflective of her new residence in an almost supernatural way. This is a story with many twists and turns and I can't recommend it enough for those that love good research and an intriguing story.

6) 'The Bees' by Laline Paull.

This book, though a little bizarre to read at times, ended up being a firm favourite of mine that I feel I ought to give more attention. How on Earth did Paull manage to write a book from the perspective of bees and get it so right? I don't pretend to be an expert on this particular insect, but my limited knowledge of them makes me think that Paull must have been studying bees for a long time and in a way it read much like a classic Dystopian such as 'The Handmaid's Tale'. Anthropomorphic stories such as this should be written more often, and not just in children's stories. 

7) 'No Lasting Burial'; Stant Litore.

I read this book such a long time ago but I can't believe how little I've actually talked about it. It's a pretty interesting concept actually, taking stories from the Bible and, in essence, adding the undead. While the concept of a Zombie attack in AD 60 Jerusalem sounds like a laughable, ridiculous one, I was impressed by the interpretation of the Gospel Of Luke. It's not just a Zombie-insertion fiction. It's a story about suffering, desperation, hope and forgiveness. It carries a message without preaching. And there is certainly no disrespect towards Christianity in any way, shape or form. This is actually Book 4 of the series so I would recommend maybe starting with the first and going from there though in my experience they can be read as stand-alones.

8) 'If You Find Me' by Emily Murdoch.

Emily Murdoch wrote a book on a topic that at that point, I had only read in Jacqueline Wilson's books (and even those don't cover it in the same way): parental neglect. Some of the things that happen to the two girls in this book are unthinkable. It is hard to believe that any parent could do this but it was the complexity of emotions and situations found within these pages that I loved. Most of all, reading the healing process for each character, as well as the bonds they form was a joy and I would love to read more books like this.

9) 'Thereafter' by Terri Bruce.

This is actually the second book in a series that I think I don't give enough credit. I mention this book in particular because while the first book didn't grab me in the way that I wanted too, the second made Bruce's aim much clearer and reeled me in. Though it's a series with flaws, it's one I keep researching to find out when the third book is coming because I really am enjoying it in a way that I didn't expect to. It has some really interesting ideas about the afterlife too so if you like to read about those kind of theories, then grab 'Hereafter', the first book in the series, and jump in!

10) 'Skin' by Ilka Tampke.

This book popped into my life when I was invited to an event by Hodder & Stoughton. I read it and adored it. I love YA Historical Fiction, but I've seldom read anything set so long ago and certainly never in Celtic Britain. AD 43, on the cusp of war with Rome, is where we find the main heroine of this book and it was filled to the brim with tribes, totems, magic and the supernatural as well as a well-researched historical basis. I loved the vibes that this book gave me and I'm eager for the next one in the series to be released though I'm not sure when that will be.

Monday 21 March 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (14th March - 20th March)...

This week has actually ended up not being too busy, which I'm quite grateful for because I've been super tired! As usual, I've been working all week and so haven't had much time to do a lot else, but I did manage to go out on Wednesday with Mat to the Theatre! We haven't been in quite a while so it was nice to go and see our chosen show: The Woman In Black. I've actually seen it twice before and loved it both times. I think it's an extremely clever, chilling production and makes use of so many ingenious theatre tricks in order to build a great atmosphere. Mat had never seen it before but loved it too, so all in all it was a successful trip

I Read:

I Received:



Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My Spring TBR List

Tuesday 15 March 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books On My Spring TBR List'.

These are always my favourite Top Ten Tuesday posts because I love looking ahead to what I'm going to read in the next few months. There was no topic for the Winter just gone either, which disappointed me. So glad I get to do this one for the next few months!

1) 'Reasons To Stay Alive' by Matt Haig.

This was a book that I borrowed from my sister very recently after she read it in one day and swears that it's one of the most enlightening reads she's ever got through. I live with a lot of anxiety, and at times, very unpredictable mood swings so I think this will be a really great book to relate to as it talks a lot about Mental Health and looking after ourselves. Not only that, but I'm desperate to start reading more Memoirs and Non-Fiction and this will hopefully be the first of many.

2) 'Thief With No Shadow' by Emily Gee.

This has been on the Fantasy list for some time, just waiting for me to read it. To be honest, my friend actually bought it for me ages ago and she's normally a very good judge of books. I wish that I hadn't taken so long to get into it, but at least I'm finally getting round to the books that have been on my shelf for goodness knows how long! The reviews for this one are...interesting to say the least so I'll just have to see how I get on with it!

3) 'The Loneliness Of Distant Beings' by Kate Ling.

I was approved to read this book by Netgalley and I'm so excited by that prospect because it looks so good! Also, it's set in Space! I haven't read an awful lot of Sci-Fi, but it's a genre that I generally enjoy when I do so I can't wait to get into some more of it. I have to say that the cover looks absolutely stunning too so let's just hope that the story lives up to that. I know that I certainly have high hopes.

4) 'Stargirl' by Jerry Spinelli.

This book is being hailed as a YA Contemporary Classic, but until I saw it on Netgalley, I had never even heard of it. I've looked into it since I was approved and think it sounds fantastic! Perhaps it will suffer from a case of Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl-itus but that's not necessarily a bad thing if it's done right. I'm a little surprised at how short it is, but still I think this is going to be a great book and another one to add to the YA Contemporary checklist.

5) 'World After' by Susan Ee.

As you all know, I'm trying hard to get through some of the series that I started a while back and have yet to finish. This is one of those series. I read and adored 'Angelfall', recommending it to a number of my friends along the way. Now I want to read Book Two, 'World After', which I bought a few months back and have patiently waiting for me in my newly sorted book collection! Penryn and Raffe were awesome, and I can't wait to see more of them in this next installment of the series!

6) 'Truthwitch' by Susan Dennard.

Three cheers for Illumicrate, as they provided me with a beautiful hard-cover copy of this book! I cannot express how excited I am at the prospect of reading it! I've heard so many great things: great characters, a focus on friendship, and an interesting magic system! Fantasy is my favourite genre and I'm excited by this latest addition to the genre.

7) 'Burial Rites' by Hannah Kent.

Another very good friend of mine leant me this book ages ago and it really is about time that I read it and got it back to her! Especially as when I saw that she had it and she told me I could borrow it, I was so excited. She and I have very similar tastes in genre so if she liked it (which she did) then I've no doubt that I will! I'm looking forward to this read, though apparently I may need to bring tissues as it's end is very moving.

8) 'Allegiant' by Veronica Roth.

I'm so close with this series, and with this being the season that it's film is coming out (not that I've actually watched Insurgent yet) I feel like Spring is the time to do so. It will be another series that I can check complete with and tough I'm pretty nervous that I won't like it, at least I'll have got it over and done with. I've heard mixed reviews for the last book in Roth's series but everyone that I know, even those that didn't like it, has said that I really ought to read it.

9) 'Ironside' by Holly Black.

While I'm on the subject of series I would really like to finish, how about Holly Black's awesome Modern Faerie Tales series. I liked 'Tithe' and loved 'Valiant' so I'm hoping that this will be the cherry on top! Black writes Faeries really well. They're not just humans with wings and a few magic powers. They are totally different creatures that think and feel in a very unique way. Black's imagination never ceases to impress me and I hope that tis book gives me the same big smile that 'Valiant' did!

10) 'Sign Of The Four' by Arthur Conan Doyle.

I read 'A Study In Scarlet' at the beginning of the year because I desperately want to read the Sherlock Holmes series. I've been a fan for a while, loving the various TV and Film adaptations but never having actually sat down and read the books before. The second book, 'Sign Of The Four' is next on the list and I really want to get through another Sherlock Holmes story, as I loved the first one so much!