Thursday 30 June 2016

June Wrap-Up.

I had a really bad start to this month, mostly down to the fact that I was on holiday (at least for a few days)! I've also been really busy this month so it wasn't until about halfway through that I'd even read my first reading choice. That considered, I've had a really good month, having read 6 of my 7 chosen reads!

  1. 'Salt To The Sea' by Ruta Sepetys. This read took me an absolute age to get through at the beginning of the month because I had so much to do! I managed it though and for the most part it was an enjoyable read. Sepetys really knew her stuff and world-building is absolutely key in Historical Fiction, so that was a huge plus point for me. The characters were also pretty likeable too, though the first third of the book is a little confusing and the ending didn't offer as much closure as I'd hoped. 3.5/5 Stars.
  2. 'Crow Moon' by Anna McKerrow. I finally got round to this series that is highly advocated, particularly by Lucy Powrie at Queen Of Contemporary. I enjoyed it a lot and felt that the plot was both original and had great direction. McKerrow's writing style was okay too, though I'd prefer if she showed me important plot points and character traits rather than telling me about them because it resulted in a lack of continuity. Once again, great world-building and I'm eager for book two! 3.5/5 Stars.
  3. 'The Girl On The Train' by Paula Hawkins. I've said before that psychological thrillers and most things that involve crime are not really my kind of read. I do dip into them now and again though, and occasionally stumble across a really great one such as this. Hawkins is a very talented writer who chose three very different, unique female POVs. They aren't there to be liked, just listened to and that finale was fantastic. Bravo to Hawkins for keeping me on the edge of my seat from start to finish! 4/5 Stars.
  4. 'Notes On Being Teenage' by Rosalind Jana. This is my second non-fiction read for this blog and I'm pretty impressed with Jana's creativity. The opinions expressed in this book are mostly in accordance with my own so it was nice to see a book that is accessible to young people talking freely about issues such as mental health, sexuality, feminism and fitting in. I also adored the handy resources that Jana included for more information/inspiration. That being said, I would definitely have appreciated reading this book in my teens more than I did reading it now. 4/5 Stars.
  5. 'Thin Air' by Michelle Paver. Changing things up a bit with a ghost story, I found this to be my favourite read of the month. A mountain setting is an unusual idea for a haunted location (there's only so many spooky old houses or abandoned hospitals that avid horror fans can sit through) and I thought the characters were well-written, the time period well-portrayed and the balance between atmosphere and supernatural events was a real winner. 4.5/5 Stars.
  6. 'All The Bright Places' by Jennifer Niven. I managed to squeeze this one in right at the end of the month and I'm so glad because it was amazing. It took me a while to get into the story, but once I had I was impressed by Niven's handling of some really sensitive subjects (mental health, suicide, bereavement, abuse etc.) and the complex characters that she wrote. Some people are angry at the adults in this book and I can't blame them because they are pretty frustrating. But what this book does also provide is a heart-breakingly beautiful story that will probably make most of it's readers bawl their eyes out. 4/5 Stars.

This month I have read three books for Pretty Deadly Review's Backlist Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to twenty three. This month's reads were:

- 'Crow Moon' by Anna McKerrow
- 'The Girl On The Train' by Paula Hawkins
- 'All The Bright Places' by Jennifer Niven

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

- 'Salt To The Sea' by Ruta Sepetys
- 'Notes On Being Teenage' by Rosalind Jana
- 'Thin Air' by Michelle Paver 

This month I have gained zero points for Novel Heartbeat and Writer Grrl Reads' Prequel & Sequel Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to thirty eight

This month I have read three books for [un]Conventional Reviews' New Releases Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to nine. This month's reads were:

- 'Salt To The Sea' by Ruta Sepetys
- 'Notes On Being Teenage' by Rosalind Jana
- 'Thin Air' by Michelle Paver

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

And here is my updated Bookish Bingo card and completed Story Sprites board!

Magic: Crow Moon; Anna McKerrow.
Historical Setting 1900s - 1950s: Salt To The Sea; Ruta Sepetys.
June, July or August Release: Notes On Being Teenage; Rosalind Jana.
Freebie: The Girl On The Train; Paula Hawkins.
Mental Health: All The Bright Places; Jennifer Niven.
Outdoors: Thin Air; Michelle Paver.

Alternative History: The Passenger; Alexandra Bracken.
Non-Fiction Biography: Reasons To Stay Alive; Matt Haig.
Mental Illness/Disorder: The Girl On The Train; Paula Hawkins.
Book With Virtual Reality: Allegiant; Veronica Roth.
Book With A Sarcastic Character: The Sign Of The Four; Arthur Conan Doyle.
Setting During WWII: Salt To The Sea; Ruta Sepetys.
Female Role Model: Thorn; Intisar Khanani.
Epic Battle Scene In Book: Truthwitch; Susan Dennard.
Story With A Strong Family Bond: Thief With No Shadow; Emily Gee.
Competition Among Characters: The Selection; Kiera Cass.
Non-Fiction - Based On A True Story: Notes On Being Teenage; Rosalind Jana.
Setting - Dystopian: World After; Susan Ee.
Climate - Winter/Snowy: Thin Air; Michelle Paver.
Theme - Revenge: Beauty's Beast; Amanda Ashley.
Book With Diversity: All The Bright Places; Jennifer Niven.
Character With Undecided/Unknown Sexuality: Pantomime; Laura Lam.
Book With Pop Culture References: Crow Moon; Anna McKerrow.
Tight Male/Male Friendship: A Court Of Thorns & Roses; Sarah J. Maas.

Book Review: All The Bright Places; Jennifer Niven.

I bought this book quite a while back and recently my two flat mates read it and told me I needed to. I finally got round to it at the very end of the month (I just about squeezed it in) and I have to say that I'm very glad I did!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: All The Bright Places
AUTHOR: Jennifer Niven
PAGES: 388
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

What I Liked:
  • Let's start with the obvious: it's focus on mental health. I always advocate for books, especially YA, that deal with tough issues and 'All The Bright Places' certainly did that. To begin with I thought that it would be about depression, but Finch's manic states of 'awake' followed by a very dark 'sleep' are much more reminiscent of Bipolar Disorder (his counsellor agrees though he's never officially diagnosed). Alongside mental health, Niven discusses grief and suicide which are written about in a thoughtful, well-educated way. I really liked that Niven talked about these topics sensitively, but imagined them from a teenage perspective.
  • The characters are the biggest draw in this book. Particular MCs Violet Markey and Theodore Finch. I really liked Finch from the beginning, his outrageously eccentric personality and refusal to melt into the crowd made for some hilarious moments. I liked that while they were both dealing with some very horrible issues, they didn't 'become their problems'. They had interests and personality. They surround themselves with some interesting side-characters too which made for a really well-rounded reading experience.
  • That ending. Yes, it made me absolutely bawl my eyes but from about two thirds of the way through the book, I could not put it down. The pace and urgency really picked up and while it was heart-breakingly inevitable, it was also the right sort of ending for a book like this. Reality can really hurt sometimes, but it delivered it's message: things that seem small to some people can be really big to others. I finished the book in tears, but satisfied that Niven had chosen such a great snippet of teenage complexities to focus on.
What I Disliked:
  • There are some real complaints against the adults in the book, and I too felt really frustrated with them, as well as Finch's friends. After all, why weren't they doing something? Didn't they care? But despite the fact that they weren't my favourite characters, their reactions actually felt very real: parents and teachers and even counsellors can be very oblivious and while they might be doing what they think is right, it isn't always. That's why it's important that society stops treating Mental Health as a taboo subject! We need to be talking about this stuff!
  • On another note, this book took me a while to get into, and that's probably my biggest 'dislike'. It throws you right into some action then immediately draws back into one of the longest build-ups I've ever read. While in some ways it was good to see a slow romance development (I despise insta-love with a passion) it did make 'All The Bright Places' feel like a long read.
Overall Conclusion:
A witty, achingly beautiful story with well-rounded characters and a good representation of issues surrounding mental health and suicide. I enjoyed the diverse cast list, I liked the last third or so of the story because I could feel that long build-up reaching it's peak, and I found both Finch and Markey relateable narrators in so many ways. I haven't really talked much about Violet's character but while it took me a while to like her POV chapters, once I did I really liked them. Her grief was well-portrayed and I loved watching how much her and Theodore came to rely upon each other. If you're after a book as heartbreaking as 'The Fault In Our Stars' then look no further!

Tuesday 28 June 2016

Book Review: Thin Air; Michelle Paver.

I was really excited to read this book, mostly because I don't get to read ghost stories very often. I'm glad I got round to this one now, because it was great

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Thin Air
AUTHOR: Michelle Paver
PAGES: 288
GENRE: Horror, Ghost Story, Historical Fiction, Mystery

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

In 1935, young medic Stephen Pearce travels to India to join an expedition with his brother, Kits. The elite team of five will climb Kangchenjunga, the world's third highest mountain and one of mountaineering's biggest killers. No one has scaled it before, and they are, quite literally, following in the footsteps of one of the most famous mountain disasters of all time - the 1907 Lyell Expedition.

Five men lost their lives back then, overcome by the atrocious weather, misfortune and 'mountain sickness' at such high altitudes. Lyell became a classic British hero when he published his memoir, Bloody, But Unbowed, which regaled his heroism in the face of extreme odds. It is this book that will guide this new group to get to the very top.

As the team prepare for the epic climb, Pearce's unease about the expedition deepens. The only other survivor of the 1907 expedition, Charles Tennant, warns him off. He hints of dark things ahead and tells Pearce that, while five men lost their lives on the mountain, only four were laid to rest.

But Pearce is determined to go ahead and complete something that he has dreamed of his entire life. As they get higher and higher, and the oxygen levels drop, he starts to see dark things out of the corners of his eyes. As macabre mementoes of the earlier climbers turn up on the trail, Stephen starts to suspect that Charles Lyell's account of the tragedy was perhaps not the full story...

What I Liked:
  • Horror stories are pretty hard to get right. They have to have a really great balance between atmosphere and supernatural events. If the ghost pops up on every page, it isn't scary, but if the atmosphere is too much then the climax will never be satisfying. Paver achieved this on a level that I haven't really seen before (the last best example of this that I read was Susan Hill's 'The Woman In Black'). The unusual choice of location, Mount Kangchenjunga, added to this for sure as it introduced so many new elements to consider: local superstition, the mountain's overwhelming presence and of course the physical difficulties of climbing a mountain in the freezing cold.
  • Paver really impressed me in a number of ways, not only in the way that she wrote, but what the setting and characters that she worked with. She knew her time period and mountaineering facts well, weaving everything from language use to food choice in order to give a real sense of the mid 1930s. The characters too were complex and interesting, taking up an impressive amount of the story and watching the drama that went on in camp was just as interesting as waiting out the next paranormal appearance.
What I Disliked:
  • How tricky! I have to say, there's a lot of casual racism in this book and while I understand it to be a sign of the times and British arrogance, it still didn't sit well with me. The characters, while complex, were nauseatingly self-involved and certainly didn't illicit a whole lot of sympathy on my part as the story continued. In a way this helped the book though. I find it much more fun to read horrors where I'm not constantly fearing for the lives of the 'doomed'.
Overall Conclusion:
What a wonderful read! I think I really needed this book right now, as I haven't read anything like this in a long time. A creepy, atmospheric, well-balanced tale that paced itself and then exploded with a heart-pounding conclusion. Despite some very minor flaws, I loved the ghost, the plot, the mystery and even the soap-like drama that went on in camp. If ghost stories are your thing, then this certainly isn't one to miss!

Top Ten Tuesday (Freebie): My picks for 'Series That I STILL Need To Catch Up On'.

Sometimes it can be hard to think of ten books for a Top Ten Tuesday list, but seeing as it's freebie week, I thought I'd pick a topic that I couldn't possibly fail at: books I still need to read. Or, more specifically, sequels that I'm amazed I haven't got round to yet. For most of these picks, the series will have been out for a while. In some cases I only have one book left to go, in some I have even more.

1) The 'Inheritance Trilogy' series by Christopher Paolini.

Books Read: 'Eragon', 'Eldest', 'Brisingr'...

I'm picking this one because it's probably the one I'm most annoyed about. I read 'Eragon', 'Eldest' and 'Brisingr' as soon as they came out, but upon receiving 'Inheritance', I never got round to it! It is still sitting on my shelf just waiting to be read. Whatsmore, in order to fully appreciate it now, I'm definitely going to have to reread the others. Why didn't I read it all those years ago?

2) 'The Kingkiller Chronicle' series by Patrick Rothfuss.

Books Read: 'The Name Of The Wind'...

My second choice is a similar story, though Patrick Rothfuss hasn't actually finished writing this series yet so at least 'catching up' is feasible! I loved 'The Name Of The Wind' and then never got round to 'The Wise Man's Fear' or 'The Slow Regard Of Silent Things'. I want to read them both, and though I may have to reread book one again in order to do so, it will be so worth it!

3) The 'Modern Faerie Tales' series by Holly Black.

Books Read: 'Tithe', 'Valiant'...

The last book of this series, 'Ironside', still continues to evade me.  really enjoyed book one and absolutely adored book two, so I'll be interested to see how the two come together. I also really miss some of the characters that I met in 'Tithe' ('Valiant' focused on a completely different story-line) which I know will be appearing in this one! Besides, it's about time I got back to reading Holly Black's books. I love her imagination so much! 

4) The 'Afterlife' series by Terri Bruce.

Books Read: 'Hereafter', 'Thereafter'...

I find it really hard to believe how much I have got into this series sometimes. Especially as to begin with, I really wasn't convinced. This was mostly due to annoying, frustrating MC and the ever-so-slightly repetitive plot. Book two, 'Thereafter', really hooked me however. It's safe to say that I'm desperate to read 'Whereafter' but haven't found the time yet.

5) The 'Waterfire Saga' by Jennifer Donnelly.

Books Read: 'Deep Blue', 'Rogue Wave'...

The covers alone would draw anyone into reading this series, especially if they're a fantasy fan. Despite the fact that the first book excessively info-dumped, I was soon hooked by the premise of a YA (verging on middle-grade) that focuses on friendship and overcoming differences. And of course, the mermaids helped (mermaids are surprisingly difficult to come by in books). I'm two books behind now, so I'd better catch up soon!

6) 'The Grisha' series by Leigh Bardugo.

Books Read: 'Shadow & Bone', 'Siege & Storm'...

I gave the first book in the series a really good rating and then, over time, began to wonder if I'd been too generous. It took me almost two years to get onto book two after that, but I adored it and plan to read 'Ruin & Rising' ASAP. Especially as it means I can then start Bardugo's other series, 'Six Of Crows', absolutely guilt-free! I'm falling so far behind with Bardugo's books, so I need to do something about it soon!

7) 'The Malediction Trilogy' by Danielle L. Jensen.

Books Read: 'Stolen Songbird'...

Of this list, this is probably the series that makes me feel the most disappointed in my self. I adored 'Stolen Songbird' so much, especially as it contained Trolls which are creatures rarely focused upon in Fantasy. Normally they resemble a Tolkien-esque lumbering giant or small creatures as found in 'Frozen'. The trolls in this series are very different and I can't believe I've still only read the first book in this series. Both 'Hidden Huntress' and 'Warrior Witch' are out now so I really need to get back into these books.

8) The 'Peter Grant' series by Ben Aaronovitch.

Books Read: 'Rivers Of London', 'Moon Over Soho'...

Phew, there are so many of these books out now and I am very behind with them. I've only read two of the six books that have been released so far and I have plans to get round to 'Whispers Underground' soon. Aaronovitch has some really original, fun ideas with the paranormal stuff in this book. I'm excited to find out what he'll do next! Hopefully it will involve the Tube in some way because then the book will be an intense read while I'm travelling too and from work!

9) The 'Penryn & The End Of Days' series by Susan Ee.

Books Read: 'Angelfall', 'World After'...

I know I'm behind with this series not only because having recommended it to a work colleague of mine she's now read the whole thing, but also because 'End Of Days' has been out so long! I read 'World After' pretty recently actually and threaten to be very disappointed in myself if I wait another lengthy period of time before reading the last in a great trilogy.

10) The 'Between' series by April Genevieve Tucholke.

Books Read: 'Between The Devil & The Deep Blue Sea'...

I read this book quite a while back, after hearing mixed but generally very positive reviews on it. I wanted to read it because it looked creepy and I haven't really read much in the way of Southern Gothic fantasy. While the place names (and character names) bordered on ridiculous it charmed me into wanting to read the second of the duology. Yet I still haven't. 

Monday 27 June 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (20th June - 26th June)...

As some of you may have figured out, Mondays are actually my day off and they'e usually pretty quiet. Last Monday however, I actually ended up doing quite a lot. The morning started off with a house viewing (there were meant to be two but one cancelled last minute) and then in the afternoon I went to see a friend of mine at her Art Exhibition in Brick Lane. It was really nice to catch up, and the art of her and her fellow artists was really good. When I returned home, I did a little bit of sorting before Mat's friend George arrived (having spent a year away in America) to visit us for the first time in ages! He stayed for the next couple of days and they played a lot of Xbox but of course I was still working.

Nothing else really happened until Sunday: my Godson's Christening! A month or two ago, my cousin asked me to be the Godmother to the newest addition to the family. I agreed and it really was a lovely ceremony. Afterwards, we went to a nearby pub for a bite to eat (they had laid out a wonderful buffet) and drinks. It was nice to see so many members of my family that I hadn't seen for a long time, and get to talk to them about how they've all been doing. It was a really lovely day, and my close family and I returned home to spend the rest of the afternoon/evening playing games and relaxing.

I Read:

I Received:

- 'Nevernight' by Jay Kristoff: Approved by Netgalley (21/06)


Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite Books I've Read So Far This Year

Sunday 26 June 2016

Book Review: Notes On Being Teenage; Rosalind Jana.

As my second non-fiction read for this blog, it stands to reason that I've been looking forward to writing this review. I'm trying really hard to appreciate and read more in the way of non-fiction works because there are so many great ones to peruse!

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Notes On Being Teenage
AUTHOR: Rosalind Jana
PAGES: 260
GENRE: Non-Fiction, Young Adult, Autobiography, Self Help

RATING: 4/5 Stars

How would you describe yourself? Do you like to stand out, or fit in? Are you an Instagram junkie, or is Snapchat more your thing? Are you watching Zoella on YouTube, or reading Rookie on your phone? We're all different, and no-one's teenage years are the same. But we do all have one thing in common - being a teenager is about discovering who we are, and who we want to be.

It can be tricky, building and forming your own identity and sense of self, and sometimes, advice from someone who has been there and done it in the not-too-distant past can come in useful. Enter Rosalind Jana, who's crammed more into her 20-odd years than most (including winning the Vogue Talent Contest for Young Writers AND 'Well Dressed' at the Observer Ethical Awards, but don't tell her we told you that...). Notes on Being Teenage covers all aspects of teenhood, from the serious (mental health issues, bullying, staying safe online), to the slightly-less-so (dating, style, fashion, starting a blog) and everything in between. Rooted in her own experiences as a blogger, part-time model and eco-fashion-expert, but also as a teen who struggled with scoliosis, bullying and her dad's depression, Rosalind is well-placed to offer advice and guidance to anyone navigating their teenage years.

She's also spoken to loads of teens about their experiences, too, and their stories, problems, advice and wisdom are gathered here as well, along with interviews with inspirational and interesting people like Louise O'Neill, Juno Dawson and Rosianne Halse-Rojas. All this combines to form a warm, witty, wise book not just on how to survive but how to thrive as a teen. Essential reading for smart girls of any age.

What I Liked:
  • This book was impressive in the vast array of topics that Jana chooses to cover. She really did cover pretty much everything that a teenage might have to consider during that turbulent time in their life: mental health, body image, sex, relationships, fashion, bullying, etc. You name it, Jana has probably written about it somewhere in this book. It was nice to read Jana's opinion on all of these matters, especially as it mostly coincided with my own and it gives me hope that young teens will end up reading this book and learning from it.
  • Jana is a very talented writer. She wrote in a way that connected with her intended age group, but intelligently too. She promoted acceptance and positivity throughout each chapter, and I really loved the way she styled her book, filling it not only with her own thoughts on each matter, but a bunch of interviews with 'experts' (prominent figures in the YA community among others), quotes from teens that she has spoken to and a huge list of resources for each subject should the reader want to better educate themselves or receive more advice on any given subject.
What I Disliked:
  • While I can't really call this a 'dislike', Jana's book is very much intended for teens and sadly, I'm a little older now. Her opinions, though well formed, are quite vague and require a lot of further reading if a teen or someone older wished to look more deeply into the subjects she chose to discuss (hence why I was pleased to see the extra resources). I would have appreciated reading this book a lot more when I was younger and more vulnerable. It would certainly have reassured me about many things that I struggled with or worried about, which still makes it a great tool for teens to use right now.
Overall Conclusion:
Despite not connecting with this book due to it's intended audience being a little younger, I really do like this book a lot. When I was a teen, I had so many questions but my own anxieties and fear of not fitting in prevented me from asking them. Jana's words would really have put my mind at ease, and I love the message of acceptance that she promotes in every chapter. It's okay to have a different body, okay to dress differently, okay to think differently and okay to be unsure. Many people overlook how difficult being a teenager is and I am so happy that people like Jana are writing on the subject in order to raise awareness on some of the issues that teens nowadays are facing.

Thursday 23 June 2016

Book Review: The Girl On The Train; Paula Hawkins.

Whew! What a roller-coaster! This was a really interesting read for me because I'm not a huge fan of this kind of genre. Thrillers aren't normally my thing. But despite that, I really enjoyed this book and I'll get into why in this review! I'm also entering it into the 'Monthly Motif' challenge!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Girl On The Train
AUTHOR: Paula Hawkins
PUBLISHER: Doubleday
PAGES: 400
GENRE: Adult, Mystery, Thriller, Crime

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She’s even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. ‘Jess and Jason’, she calls them. Their life – as she sees it – is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy.

Until Today.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough.

Now everything’s changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she’s only watched from afar.

Now they’ll see; she’s much more than just the girl on the train…

What I Liked:
  • Hawkins displays a really good writing talent here. As I said I don't normally get into Crime and Thriller books unless they are something really special, and this one definitely made that category. There were so many fantastic plot twists in this story, and it was fast-paced with some great, heart-pounding action to boot. The murder mystery aspect was so much fun too and actually the conclusion was pretty surprising!
  • That ending. It was the best part of the book and was shocking in that I didn't figure out what was happening until right before it happened. In a large portion of these books, they can be pretty easy to figure out in terms of 'whodunnit' and what the story is behind that. This was not easy to figure out. I also really loved the build-up to that ending too, Hawkins did a great job with pacing and writing out the dramatic, adrenaline pumping finale.
  • I wrote on Goodreads that the characters in this book were the best and worst aspect of it. I'll write why they were so good to begin with, and it's actually pretty simple: they were human. They came with flaws. The book was written from three female POVs, and in some ways they wee each very strong, while in others they were prone to vices and weakness. While I normally like to root for my characters (I wasn't really rooting for these ladies) it was refreshing that they weren't all 'perfect. Hawkins did a pretty good job of studying human nature here and it was interesting to see how the three women viewed each other as well as themselves.
What I Disliked:
  • The characters also fall under this category I'm afraid, mostly because I'm used to a much more 'flawless' POV. Rachel, the titular viewpoint was an alcoholic. But beyond that, she was bland, whiny and full of self-loathing that made her chapters frustrating to get through. The two other POVs consisted of a cheating, damaged woman who refused to admit that her husband was a little controlling, and a home-wrecking former estate agent whose paranoia and bitchy attitude wore on my nerves. These are in no way role model characters, but they were real.
Overall Conclusion:
Despite the fact that in some ways this book should have made it to five stars, I chose four because in the end, it's down to reading preference. Hawkins was very clever throughout this book in everything: plot, characters, world development, and certainly the ending. But due to me being me and not enjoying viewpoints where the characters are so self-involved, I couldn't give this such a high rating. There were other minor quibbles: at times the plot slowed and I felt like I was asking more questions than getting answers. This is still a fantastic example of it's genre however and I thoroughly recommend it to everyone, especially those that would like to get into this sort of genre.

Tuesday 21 June 2016

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

Here's the thing. While I've managed to read more new releases this year than I normally do, I still haven't read nearly enough to base this category solely on books published in 2016. Especially as a few of those that I have read were not as enjoyable as I'd hoped! I've changed the category to books that I have read generally and I will definitely be including a couple of new releases in this list, but hopefully I'll have better luck over the rest of the year.

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

I read this book right at the beginning of the year, but seeing it on this list really put a smile on my face. I loved this book. It is actually a new release, and I received an ARC in a 'Maximum Pop!' prize box around Christmas time, much to my amazement! Based on the well-loved Jane Austen classic 'Pride & Prejudice' this gripping story is set in the heart of an alternate Regency Period where Demons roam the streets posing as humans, and people are born with special powers in order to stop them. I loved the slow-build romance in this, it gave me such Elizabeth and Darcy feels! The plot and characterisation was really nice too.

2) 'Winter' by Marissa Meyer.

Uhh...duh! I had been waiting for a chance to read this book as soon as I possibly could and while 'Cress' remains my favourite, it still warranted 5 Stars along with the rest of the series. Meyer is great at diversity and badass heroines, her ability to introduce memorable new characters constantly is outstanding and it was the conclusion I'd hoped for regarding the four most shippable couples in YA. Seriously. I really miss this series so am eagerly anticipating more books from this wonderful, talented author!

3) 'Wolf By Wolf' by Ryan Graudin.

My first Illumicrate read, I adored this book. I am a great fan of alternate historical fiction and this book did a great job at WWII! What if Hitler had won the war? How would the world be shaped differently? That mixed with a thrilling race (I do love a good Dystopian competition) and a dash of sci-fi and it's the perfect read. Graudin did such a good job at nailing the characters and their motivation, and I loved uncovering bits of backstory as time went on.I can't wait for the second book and I hope it's as full of suspense and blood-pumping action as book one!

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

A contemporary YA really has to be something special to hold my interest, especially as I have some pretty mixed experiences with them. 'Seven Ways We Lie' was released this year and I didn't expect it to blow me away like it did. These teenage characters are the kind that more young people need to be reading about right now: they perfectly sum up what it's like to be at school. The characters were relateable; each of them was supposed to be a 'sin', but they were so much more than that. People are complex, not stereotypes. Also she included a very diverse cast of POVs including a guy who openly identifies as Pansexual. More of this please!

5) 'Thorn' by Intisar Khanani.

I read 'Sunbolt' by this author quite a while back, and while I anxiously awaited book two I thought I'd check out her other work. As soon as I saw that this book was a retelling of 'The Goose Girl' I knew I needed to read it ASAP. Khanani is so fantastic at writing strong female characters and fast-paced, action-filled plots. I like that this one didn't focus on the 'romance' aspect of the tale. Much like 'One Thousand Nights' by E.K. Johnston, this book had a bigger message behind it and that is the purpose of a true Fairy Tale. To learn from it.

6) 'Pantomime' by Laura Lam.

This is a really recent read of mine, from when I went on holiday to Italy and I'm so glad that I chose it for my travels! I'd seen some really mixed reviews of it on Goodreads so I didn't know what to expect, but the Intersex protagonist, from the very beginning, sold it to me. Micah/Gene was such a complicated character, especially as she refused to be defined into a gender or category. I love that Lam built the idea of being androgynous into the story's Fantasy setting and yet, it didn't quite feel like the main focus of the plot either (which was a bonus). A magical, exciting world and fantastic characterisation all round made for wonderful book!

7) 'Beautiful Broken Things' by Sara Barnard.

It's so hard to find books about friendship only nowadays. YA especially is filled to the brim of romance and love, but teenagers go through much more than crushing on the cute boy in class. Luckily, this year's gorgeous release set in Brighton didn't need any of that. Instead, it focused on jealousy of new friends, how destructive friendship can be, and also how much it can change you. Barnard's debut is written beautifully with well-built characters and relateable situations. Abuse and mental illness are also heavily involved in this book which is always good to read and learn about.

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

This is a little outside of my usual read, but seeing as I loved the Swedish film adaptation and the play based on this book, I figured I'd give it a try. If horror (especially regarding vampires) is your thing, then definitely give this book a go! It maintains a spine-chilling tension throughout, and you're never quite sure what will happen next, but also builds a strangely likeable romance despite the sinister undertones it implies. The darker, dirtier side of Sweden that he provides a glimpse into is also fascinating. 

9) 'The Tropic Of Serpents' by Marie Brennan.

It took me a while but I finally got round to the second book in this enjoyable series and loved it. It reminded me why I'd given the first one such a high rating. People who want fire-breathing, treasure hoarding, constant dragon activity might be disappointed. But learning about these creatures: their bone structures, hunting habits and different varieties is totally fascinating, and Lady Isabella is a feisty, spirited heroine to boot. The mystery behind the plot is always fun to solve and I eagerly await the opportunity to read book three!

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

I chose this as my last book in this category because it's something a bit different: non-fiction. Since starting this blog I haven't really read any and I'd like to expand my horizons and do so. Focusing on Anxiety and Depression, I thought it was the perfect first choice as I myself suffer quite severely with the former. Haig explained himself well, drawing on examples from his own experiences, conversations and quotes from others. It's a quick read for anyone that suffers with these mental illnesses and certainly for those that want to learn more!

Monday 20 June 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (13th June - 19th June)...

This week has been super busy, but I've really enjoyed having so much to do! To start off, I stayed round my Parents' house Sunday night into Monday and we headed back to London early in the morning for a Flat viewing with Mat before splitting off from him again to spend a day in London together. To begin with we had lunch at Westfield in Stratford, then hopped on the Tube for an afternoon at the Natural History museum! Anyone who hasn't been, I highly recommend it because there's so many interesting things to see there and it's completely free entry! After another Tube journey to Covent Garden to grab a bite to eat at Jamie's Italian, the four of us made our way to the Novello Theatre to watch 'Mamma Mia'. Normally, Jukebox musicals aren't my thing but this one is definitely a guilty pleasure of mine! The whole cast had so much energy, and Mazz Murray's performance as Tanya had me almost wetting myself with laughter. A fantastic end to a wonderful day organised for my Mum's birthday a couple of months back.

Viewing places to live is very much at the forefront of Mat and mine's priorities right now so we've had a really exciting time looking around and finding places that could potentially be our first home together. Of course we'll only be renting temporarily while we attempt to build enough money for a house of our own but it's still a fun (if slightly stressful) process. Other than that, I worked (as usual). On Saturday night I went out with a large group of my work colleagues for some food, which was a lot of fun! It rounded off a pretty nice week really well and gave me a chance to relax for a little bit (something I do surprisingly little). Sunday was Father's Day in the UK so in the morning I rang my Father to check he'd received his present, before spending the rest of the day doing chores and sorting bits and bobs out.

I Read:

I Received:

- 'The Hawkweed Prophecy' by Irena Brignull: Approved by Netgalley (19/06/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases For The Rest Of 2016

Saturday 18 June 2016

Book Review: Crow Moon; Anna McKerrow.

After raving reviews from Lucy Powrie (Queen Of Contemporary) on Twitter and he blog, and receiving a copy of 'Red Witch' to review, I really wanted to try this series out. In short, I liked it and see a lot of potential, though perhaps didn't fall for it as much as I hoped. Also, it's my Key Word challenge entry for this month!

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Crow Moon
AUTHOR: Anna McKerrow
SERIES: Crow Moon (#1)
PUBLISHER: Quercus Children's Books
PAGES: 384
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopian

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

Danny is a fun-loving 16-year-old looking for a father figure and falling in love with a different girl every day. He certainly doesn't want to follow in his mum's witchy footsteps.

Just as his community is being threatened by gangs intent on finding a lucrative power source to sell to the world, Danny discovers he is stunningly powerful. And when he falls for Saba, a gorgeous but capricious girl sorceress, he thinks maybe the witch thing might not be such a bad idea...

But what cost will Danny pay as, with his community on the brink of war, he finds that love and sorcery are more dangerous than he ever imagined?

What I Liked:
  • I was impressed by the aspect that I was most looking forward to about this book: the magic. I read Cate Tiernan's 'Sweep' series a while back and really loved the way that Wiccan/Pagan magic worked so I was happy to read another book that centres around the subject but this time set in England. McKerrow knew her stuff, I learnt a lot! The setting of Cornwall/Devon is perfect too and I think that McKerrow really built the world nicely, combining the fantastical with an almost Dystopian plot-line. It was original and fresh, like nothing I'd ever read before.
  • The plot was pretty good for this one. It was paced well and contained a multitude of twists and turns, combined with characters that were complex and morally ambiguous. I liked that they all had flaws and yet were still likeable: Danny is frustratingly awful to girls yet hilarious, Saba is intensely captivating yet selfish, Demelza is hard-working and passionate but short-tempered and tough to crack (I really connected with her especially). YA so often holds 'perfect' characters that are either wonderful or awful. I liked the in-between found here.
What I Disliked:
  • For me, there were a few flaws to be found in this book that meant I didn't fall head-over-heels like I'd hoped. To begin with, while I liked McKerrow's writing, I found that she had a very 'tell don't show' style. That means that rather than showing me her character's personalities through their actions, she would explain them instead and I was forced to believe it despite at times there being evidence to the contrary. Lowenna was the greatest example of this, described as a woman who would go to any lengths to protect her community and way of life yet when she chose to ignore Danny's visions (that she had previously stated were important) I didn't see that at all. It was frustrating because she'd argued with Zia on the subject just chapters before. I would have preferred to have Zia herself actually use old-world Cornish phrases in her speech, rather than being told that she 'always does' (she doesn't in the book...not once). 
  • One of the biggest annoyances in this book was the lack of consistency. The reader is informed that those born in the Greenworld (like Danny) know virtually nothing about the Redworld outside of their villages. However, I lost count of how many pop culture references Danny made during his narration. These are things he shouldn't have known about, especially as the witches had to teach him so much about his community which he grew up in. I just didn't quite buy his allusions to Narnia and Wee Willy Winkie, when he was so clueless about magic...especially considering his own Mother is a witch.
Overall Conclusion:
As you can see, mixed views on this one. On the one hand, I really loved the world-building and originality of the plot-line! McKerrow clearly knew what she was talking about witch-craft wise and I loved her references to Cornwall and Devon. Her writing was pretty good too, and the pacing of the plot had me fairly hooked from start to finish, especially when coupled with complicated personalities in her characters. I just wished that she'd spent less time dumping so much information on me about everything and shown it to me through the actions of her characters. The huge information overload made her character's conversations feel very forced and some of the facts presented didn't match up with what was happening as a result plot-wise.

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Most Anticipated Releases For The Rest Of 2016'.

I've been really looking forward to doing this category because I have so many books I'm looking forward to coming out later this year! All of these releases will be from July onward (all in 2016 of course) and I can't wait to read what everyone else is excited about too!

1) 'This Savage Song' by Victoria Schwab.

Expected Publication: July 5th 2016

Now no one shoot, but I've never actually read a book by Victoria Schwab (or V.E. Schwab as she's sometimes known). I really want to but it's simply not come up on my TBR as of yet. When I saw this book was being released, I knew straight away it would be one I would want to read. Set in a city filled with monsters that are born of violent acts, the two MCs are both heirs to a city cut in half. It sounds like a Romeo & Juliet style story but maybe without the romance, and certainly a lot darker and more dangerous than 'fair Verona'. It sounds brilliant.

2) 'The Muse' by Jessie Burton.

Expected Publication: July 26th 2016

When I saw this pop up on Edelweiss, I was so excited! I read 'The Miniaturist' by this talented lady a while back and absolutely loved it, so I've been waiting very impatiently for Miss Burton to release her next work. I'm pleased to say that I was approved to read the ARC (though I don't know if I'll be able to read it before it's released). For those that like Historical Fiction, you should definitely read Jessie Burton's work, as it's so well-researched. It seems there'll be two POVs in this one: strong women, one from the 1930s and one from the 1960s. I'm interested to see how their stories link!

3) 'Nevernight' by Jay Kristoff.

Expected Publication: August 9th 2016

I've heard a little about this Author but something about this book really caught my eye. I'm a huge fan of Fantasy involving assassins, and this one has plenty of those, because it's set in a school of them! I love the idea of competition among the students and something about the way the synopsis is written (and the cover of course) gives me some really creepy vibes so I have high hopes for this book! Hopefully it lives up to my super excited expectations!

4) 'Three Dark Crowns' by Kendare Blake.

Expected Publication: September 20th 2016

Wowee, this synopsis has me so excited! It's so original, I definitely don't feel like I've read anything like it before, and I'm looking forward to seeing how Blake weaves this story together. Three powerful triplets are destined to fight each other for the crown, but in reality only one of them truly has the powers they are supposed too, while the other two play pretend so that no one is any the wiser. Sisterly bonds are always interesting to read and I think that these ones have so much potential to be complex and interesting!

5) 'Stealing Snow' by Danielle Paige.

Expected Publication: September 20th 2016

I haven't actually got round to the 'Dorothy Must Die' series just yet, but I'm really hoping that I will soon. If not though, I may just read this ASAP because it's a Fairy Tale retelling of one that I really love: the story of 'Snow White'. Paige looks like she's put a really big spin on the well-known tale and I'm really interested to see exactly how similar it is to the original. I only know that it involves Asylums, is set in a Fantastical New York and has an absolutely gorgeous cover!

6) 'Bright Smoke, Cold Fire' by Rosamund Hodge.

Expected Publication: September 27th 2016

Just look at the cover! Look at it! Rosamund Hodge has written so many wonderful looking Fairy Tale retellings and I haven't read any of them. This is one I want to read. It's not strictly Fairy Tale, in fact it's mostly based on 'Romeo & Juliet'. That's the second one in this list, but as I'm a big fan of Shakespeare, I'll let that pass! This one is definitely one I'll be reading ASAP, perhaps before the other Rosamund Hodge books!

7) 'Strange The Dreamer' by Laini Taylor.

Expected Publication: September 29th 2016

I have a feeling this book will be on a lot of lists. Laini Taylor really touched a lot of readers with her 'Daughter Of Smoke & Bone' series and I know a great many bloggers who are extra excited for this brand new series. I've seen so many people hyped about this one and I was given a sampler in my latest Illumicrate box which really intensified the enthusiasm for 'Strange The Dreamer'.

8) 'Dead Girls Society' by Michelle Krys.

Expected Publication: November 8th 2016

The first thing that this synopsis tells me is that it's about a character suffering with Cystic Fibrosis. I have never read a book with an MC that has that illness so that instantly caught my attention. The rest sounds very intriguing too: a secret society, a potentially dangerous game and a lot of sneaking around. People have compered it to 'Pretty Little Liars' which I haven't actually read but that only serves to intrigue me more.

9) 'Heartless' by Marissa Meyer.

Expected Publication: November 8th 2016

Another one that I know will be popular, this book was my instant thought when I read this topic title. I love Marissa Meyer! Her 'Lunar Chronicles' series absolutely blew me away, so a re-imagining of 'Alice In Wonderland'? Wow! It looks to be a Queen Of Hearts origin story of sorts, with plenty of Wonderland-esque mayhem along the way to keep me entertained. The forbidden romance aspect is intriguing too, so I'm looking forward to see how Meyer plots this one!

10) 'Ever The Hunted' by Erin Summerill.

Expected Publication: December 27th 2016

Though the cover isn't totally eye-catching, the synopsis for this story really caught my attention. I like the idea of reading from another badass heroine viewpoint, one who knows how to use a dagger and a bow. Father-daughter duos are always a winner with me and I like that the whole situation seems complicated. Plenty of room for romance, betrayal and mystery-solving.