Sunday 31 July 2016

July Wrap-Up.

I once again felt sure that I would be totally behind after this month, and then was proved wrong at the last moment because I read three books in one week. Therefore, I managed 6 of my 7 reads altogether, which I'm really pleased about!

  1. 'The Jungle Books'; Rudyard Kipling. I got more than I bargained for with this book, because it ended up being both the first and second Jungle Book combined! Still, I liked it a lot: the stories were entertaining and I was surprised by how different it ended up being to my expectations of it. Some of my favourite stories actually ended up being the ones that didn't feature Mowgli, possibly because he's not nearly as loveable on the books as he is on screen. Still, Kipling really knew his stuff when it came to the animals and culture of India, and it was an enlightening read. 3.5/5 stars.
  2. 'Angels & Demons'; Dan Brown. I wasn't sure how much I would enjoy this read when I first went into it because Dan Brown's 'version' of history has received so many complaints about it's inaccuracy and misleading information. I could see why people were so annoyed as I read the book, but when moving beyond that, 'Angels & Demons' isn't a bad book. Brown's writing is in no way eloquent, but is fast-paced and gripping. It's filled with twists and turns (though the dramatic 'cliff-hangers' at the end of each chapter are...cringe-worthy). I can't understand why Brown would choose to write a YA version of books in this series either, it doesn't seem to be aimed at adults to begin with. 3/5 Stars.
  3. 'The Rosie Effect'; Graeme Simsion. I absolutely adored 'The Rosie Project' when I first read it a year or so ago, so reading 'The Rosie Effect' has been on my list for a while now. The only thing that put me off was my worry that it wouldn't be as good as the first book. While that ended up being true, I still enjoyed this book a lot. Simsion's writing was still witty and clever, and Don was every inch the loveable narrator I remembered. Simsion decided to take a slightly more serious route with this one (there were rather a lot of heavy conversations about parental suitability, nature vs. nurture and mental health) which meant that it wasn't as charming as it's predecessor. But I still rooted for Don & Rosie all the way through, and liked the ending. 4/5 Stars.
  4. 'The Girl Of Ink & Stars'; Kiran Millwood Hargrave. Hands down my favourite read of the month, I adored this book! First, the cover and book design are stunning and while the cartography doesn't play as big a role as I'd hoped it still added something to the story. I loved the plot, the mythical, magical world-building was fantastic, and I thought the characters and writing were impressive for a Middle Grade book. I wish that Hargrave had dug a little deeper into the past of some characters such as the Governor or Isabella's mother. Nevertheless, a stunning debut. 4/5 Stars.
  5. 'Sisters Red'; Jackson Pearce. The only Fairy Tale retelling of the month and based on the story of Little Red Riding Hood, I had high hopes for this one. In the end, I liked it but wan't blown away. A gripping plot, badass heroine with one eye, and an alternating viewpoint that showcased an interesting relationship between two sisters made this book special in it's own way. However, said badass heroine was too bitter and angry and I would have liked to have seen more vulnerability from her character. I also thought that the villain could have done with a more prominent leader to 'hate' as the group of Fenris were a bit vague. 2/5 Stars.
  6. 'The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes'; Arthur Conan Doyle. More classic short stories? Of course! This time, they focused on my favourite Detective duo: Sherlock Holmes & John Watson. The shorter stories definitely suited these characters better and I found the plots a whole lot more interesting for a majority of them. A couple didn't end very well and I would have liked more of a conclusion, but generally this is my favourite installment in the series so far. 5/5 Stars.

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

- 'The Jungle Books' by Rudyard Kipling
- 'Angels & Demons' by Dan Brown
- 'The Rosie Effect' by Graeme Simsion
- 'Sisters Red' by Jackson Pearce
- 'The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes' by Arthur Conan Doyle.

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

- 'The Rosie Effect' by Graeme Simsion

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

- 'The Jungle Books' by Rudyard Kipling (+2)
- 'The Rosie Effect' by Graeme Simsion (+2)
- 'The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes' by Arthur Conan Doyle (+2)

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

- 'The Girl Of Ink & Stars' by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

This month I have read one book for Daily Prophecy's Retelling Challenge, bringing my yearly total to six

- 'Sisters Red' by Jackson Pearce

I've also updated my Bookish Bingo card and Story Sprites board!

Name In Title: The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes; Arthur Conan Doyle.
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.
Red Cover: Sisters Red; Jackson Pearce.
Freebie: The Girl On The Train; Paula Hawkins.
POC MC: The Jungle Books; Rudyard Kipling.
Over 500 Pages: Angels & Demons; Dan Brown.
Mental Health: All The Bright Places; Jennifer Niven.
Outdoors: Thin Air; Michelle Paver.
Food In Title Or Cover: The Rosie Effect; Graeme Simsion.
Monsters: The Girl Of Ink & Stars; Kiran Millwood Hargrave

2016 Fantasy: The Girl Of Ink & Stars; Kiran Millwood Hargrave.
Setting - 19th Century: The Jungle Books; Rudyard Kipling.
Book By Deceased Author: The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes; Arthur Conan Doyle.
Character With Physical Deformity: Sisters Red; Jackson Pearce.

Book Review: The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes; Arthur Conan Doyle.

My second book read of the day! I loved this set of stories so much and was totally hooked from start to finish while reading them all. Definitely my favourite of the series so far!

SOURCE: Borrowed
TYPE: Hardcover

TITLE: The Complete Sherlock Holmes (The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes)
AUTHOR: Arthur Conan Doyle
SERIES: Sherlock Holmes (#3)
PUBLISHER: Barnes & Noble Classics
PAGES: 166
GENRE: Mystery, Classics, Historical Fiction

RATING: 5/5 Stars

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the series of short stories that made the fortunes of the Strand magazine, in which they were first published, and won immense popularity for Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. The detective is at the height of his powers and the volume is full of famous cases, including 'The Red-Headed League', 'The Blue Carbuncle', and 'The Speckled Band'. Although Holmes gained a reputation for infallibility, Conan Doyle showed his own realism and feminism by having the great detective defeated by Irene Adler - the woman - in the very first story, 'A Scandal in Bohemia'.

What I Liked:
  • There were some really great stories in here, and my favourites for sure were the interesting ones that had great twists in them. These included: 'The Red Speckled Band' (my favourite of them all), 'The Copper Beeches', 'The Red-Headed League' and 'The Man With The Twisted Lip'. Until this point I didn't really think the previous stories were interesting in the way that I had expected. These ones were definitely interesting.
  • I also liked 'A Scandal In Bohemia' because it introduced Irene Adler. I'm told it's the only story that she appears in, but I always thought she was an interesting character in the various media adaptations I've seen her in. This story really did her justice and I like the idea of Sherlock really admiring him because she 'beat' him. It's the closest thing we'll see to a crush in Sherlock Holmes.
What I Disliked:
  • There were a couple of stories that felt unfinished or weren't wrapped up very well, which was a little disappointing. Especially as they had the premise of such great stories! 'A Case Of Identity' and 'The Five Orange Pips' were the biggest examples of these. Sherlock solved the cases to an extent, but then Doyle's chose ending just didn't satisfy me in any way. I'm glad this was only the case for one or two of the stories, and not all of them!
Overall Conclusion:
This third installment to the 'Sherlock Holmes' series is by far the best in my eyes, and I liked very much the short story style he chose to adopt, preferring it to the longer individual stories. Most of the stories were so interesting and felt a little different to the kind of Detective stories I'm used to. There were a few stories that I felt could have had better endings, but for the most part Sherlock and Watson remain my favourite Detective duo and I look forward to reading more from them in the future.

Book Review: Sisters Red; Jackson Pearce.

I really didn't think I would manage it but considering the amount of reads I had to get through, I'm so glad I managed two reads in one day! This was the first of them and a story that I definitely appreciated given my own love for 'Little Red Riding Hood' as a Fairy Tale. It gave the story a unique twist and I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Sisters Red
AUTHOR: Jackson Pearce
SERIES: Fairy Retellings (#1)
PUBLISHER: Little Brown Books For Young Readers
PAGES: 338
GENRE: Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

RATING: 2/5 Stars

Scarlett March lives to hunt the Fenris-- the werewolves that took her eye when she was defending her sister Rosie from a brutal attack. Armed with a razor-sharp hatchet and blood-red cloak, Scarlett is an expert at luring and slaying the wolves. She's determined to protect other young girls from a grisly death, and her raging heart will not rest until every single wolf is dead.

Rosie March once felt her bond with her sister was unbreakable. Owing Scarlett her life, Rosie hunts fiercely alongside her. Now Rosie dreams of a life beyond the wolves and finds herself drawn to Silas, a young woodsman who is deadly with an axe -- but loving him means betraying her sister and has the potential to destroy all they've worked for.

Twenty-five-year-old Jackson Pearce delivers a dark, taut fairy tale with heart-pounding action, fierce sisterly love, and a romance that will leave readers breathless.

What I Liked:
  • Jackson Pearce writes a really gripping plot, I found it hard to actually put the book down at times. In a way it was a little simple and didn't blow me away with it's fairly obvious twists, but I really liked the pacing of it. Jackson made a good decision when he chose alternating POVs to come from the two sisters, Rosie and Scarlett, because a dual narrative worked really well in this story.
  • I think the most interesting thing about Pearce's book was the character-work, and I loved the relationships between characters. If you're a fan of books that explore sibling relationships then this is definitely one to consider! I loved the idea that Rosie felt indebted to Scarlett because of something that happened so long ago and the two very different POVs on responsibility was very interesting to read. I also liked reading chapters with Rosie because of her relationship with Silas. The romance was fun but didn't take over the plot, which was nice.
What I Disliked:
  • While this book was good, it didn't blow me away for a number of reasons. It wasn't just the basic plot (which I've already mentioned) but at times I had problems with the characters too. Especially Scarlett. Firstly, I loved that Pearce chose such a badass heroine with a missing eye because far too much YA is unrealistic in that it's main heroines are too pretty and don't have any physical or mental blemishes. Scarlett was 'damaged' and it made her an interesting character. However, she was cold. I got frustrated with her constant bitterness and anger, and her conversation felt like a stuck record at times as she proclaimed the same thing over and over again. I wish Pearce had given her more vulnerability and a little bit of deeper thinking beyond her love for hunting.
Overall Conclusion:
This was a great book that I enjoyed very much. It had plot, pacing, interesting characters and a pretty good idea when it came to the world-building. However, it just didn't blow me away because none of those things were amazing. I liked them, but didn't love them. I'm glad that Pearce didn't go down the romanticising the werewolf route which is common in books like this because it made things feel a bit different, but at the same time I'm disappointed that the Fenris weren't a more thought out enemy with a proper leader to despise, not an Alpha we meet halfway through the book who doesn't really do all that much.

Saturday 30 July 2016

YALC (Saturday) Round-Up Post!

So as most of the Book Blogging community that resides in England probably knows, this weekend is YALC weekend. For those that don't know, YALC stands for the Young Adult Literature Convention and this is it's third year being held in London! This is in fact the first time I've attended, for varying reasons I couldn't make it the last two times it was on. It's part of LFCC (London Film & Comic Con) so I managed to enjoy aspects of both conventions!

I started the day by visiting the Freebies stand (we managed to get in approaching 10 o Clock) before joining the rest of the audience at the 'Resistance & Rebellion in YA' panel, hosted by Anna James and joined by Alwyn Hamilton, Julie Mayhew, Simon Mayo and Kass Morgan. All authors were really insightful and managed to tie their own books into the theme well. I loved Julie Mayhew's idea that if a character changed their mind about something fundamental, then that is in it's own way a type of rebellion. Alwyn Hamilton spoke about writing Fantasy because she could make up her own rules, history and context. I'm really looking forward to reading her book, 'Rebel Of The Sands'. Simon Mayo's book, 'Blame' focused on heritage crime and sounded like a really interesting plot to read. All in all, a thoughtful panel.

Not long after came the second panel of the day: 'Friendship In YA' (once again hosted by Anna James). I had been really looking forward to this panel, largely because of Sara Barnard's presence, whose debut 'Beautiful Broken Things' I really enjoyed. I was also really excited to see that she was joined by Sarra Manning and Holly Bourne! Their discussion was certainly one of the most insightful of the three I listened to that day. So many interesting points raised about the lack of friendship in YA compared to romance, and that it's unrealistic to expect friends never to fall out. After the panel, I hurried to the signing table to get my new copy of 'Beautiful Broken Things' signed by Sara Barnard before buying a bulk load of books (more on that later).

The last panel I attended was the 'Secrets & Lies' panel, hosted by Chelsey Pippin and joined by Sarah Crossan, Keren David, Sophie Kinsella and Annabel Pitcher. While I've not read a book by any of these lovely ladies, I've heard of all of them and they're most certainly on my TBR for great YA. At times it felt like I was watching a comedy panel because the panel was so funny. I'm really excited about all four books of theirs, not only are there a lot of secrets and twists but in their own way they each deal with Mental Health issues which I feel is important to address in YA. We left the panel slightly early to run across to the Chicken House book stand because Kiran Millwood Hargrave was signing books. I read 'The Girl Of Ink & Stars' earlier this week and LOVED it!

After that, Mat and I went to explore the LFCC part of the convention which was great fun. My favourite thing that I took away was of course a Vinyl Pop Figure, and this time I chose Regina from Once Upon A Time because I love that show and I love her! Mat also won himself a Tomahawk at the weapon's raffle which he's very excited about, and we even saw the infamous Iron Throne! All in all a good day!

As you can see, my haul is pretty small but I'm still extra pleased with everything I bagged! I bought a lot of books while I was there, and the Patrick Ness books were signed too! I'm totally knackered after such an exhausting day, but deliriously happy because so many great things happened!

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Book Review: The Girl Of Ink & Stars; Kiran Millwood Hargrave.

Originally, I was going to read the next in the 'Sherlock Holmes' series, but due to having to commute back to my home town, and the fact that my original choice is such a big book, I opted for Hargrave's debut instead. Originally I was only going to read a bit of it, and then come back to it after I'd finished 'The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes', but I honestly think I made the right call in finishing this one instead because it was amazing.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: The Girl Of Ink & Stars
AUTHOR: Kiran Millwood Hargrave
PUBLISHER: Chicken House
PAGES: 228
GENRE: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Adventure

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

What I Liked:
  • Hargrave's writing is captivating. From the moment that I picked this book up and opened the page, I was completely sucked in by everything: the plot was simple but fun, the pacing worked so well, her use of visual imagery and language created such a likeable story that meant I really didn't want to put the book down. The characters she created were full of personality too. I loved it! What really aided this book was it's design too: colourful maps and star charts decorate the pages, the cover is phenomenal and I love the blue and gold theme.
  • The world-building for this book was gorgeous. The place names (apart from Joya) were loosely based on various continents and countries of the world we know, but Hargrave span so much magic into them that I felt like I was reading them in an entirely new way. Joya is a very mythical place, full of ancient legends, monsters, beautiful maps and colourful places to explore. It was like reading a made-up Fairy Tale, and we all know how I feel about Fairy Tales!
What I Disliked:
  • This book was pretty short, sitting at just over 200 pages long. I feel that despite the fact that it's a wonderful book, this lack of length meant that some aspects weren't as fully explored as I would have liked. The Governor, for example, was a most intriguing villain with a mysterious past involving his Father and a tyrannical approach to ruling. Hargrave never explains him properly though: Was there a reason that he did what he did before coming to Joya? Why were there Ravens? What did the letter actually say? And was he really all that bad? If I could just somehow get more answers, I'd feel even happier!
Overall Conclusion:
This book is gorgeous, both physically and in it's writing and structure. I loved it! It's a Middle Grade book, but I really enjoyed the fact that you could almost class it as YA due to it's slightly darker themes it occasionally covers. There is death, a minuscule amount of violence/blood and occasional fantastical horror. I felt like I was reading an older book, but could very well see how it would appeal to children too! I'm very impressed with Hargrave's writing, and can't wait to read more from her in the future!

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Things That Books Have Made Me Want To Do/Learn'.

This is such a great idea for a post! So many books that I've read have filled me with a yearning to do something new or learn something! It's going to be hard to pick just ten...

1) Join the Circus!

I've read a few books that revolve around the Circus or a travelling troupe and I'm really intrigued about a life like that. The glamour, the costumes, the performance is just so fantastical and though in reality it's probably a lot of hard work I just think there are so many fun skills to be learned at the Circus I'd still love to try it!

2) Learn Archery.

I have always wanted to try out some sort of ultra cool skill and I feel like Archery would be so much fun! Whenever I play video games, the bow is normally my weapon of choice. I just love the idea! Archery is a pretty popular skill in books to so I had plenty to choose from when thinking which ones inspired this particular dream!

3) Attend a Magical School/University!

I will be very surprised if this isn't in a lot of lists. Basically every person that I know that has read the Harry Potter series has wanted to then attend Hogwarts school! Rowling just does such a great job of bringing the world to life that she actually makes education sound fun! Of course, the Harry Potter series isn't the only one to introduce the trope. Plenty of books have made me want to join some kind of educational establishment that teaches magic!

4) Learn to play the piano.

This is an instrument that I really would love to learn someday, and while that isn't just down to books, they've certainly helped! There are a few novels I've read that involve piano playing characters and I've really appreciated the characters' love for music, which mirrors my own.

5) Spontaneous travelling.

A lot of books come into this category but most of all, John Green springs to mind when thinking about spontaneous trips to random locations. Of course plenty of books make me feel that way, especially if they tell stories of faraway places I've never visited. I love new experiences, so it's no surprise really!

6) Learn more about History.

I was always a bit of a history lover as I grew up, but sometimes I'll read a book based on a real event that will make me want to research it in more detail. Especially if I haven't heard of the event prior to reading about it in fiction. My interest in history normally falls back to what is considered 'Ancient History' so it's fun to find Historical Fiction that piques my interest in more recent historical events too!

7) Go back to school.

This is so weird because while I didn't hate school, I didn't come to appreciate until it was almost over. Now I sometimes find myself reading books that make me want to revisit those times because I miss a large number of my old school friends that I haven't seen in a long time, and characters in book remind me of those people!

8) Horse Riding!

Oh who hasn't dreamed of riding horses in their spare time? Some people of course manage to live that dream and are very lucky) but reading it in books really makes it even more exciting for me! I love horses so much and I love to imagine having one of my very own to have adventures on!

9) Meet a ghost.

This might seem like a strange one, but not all book ghosts are horrid! In fact, some are really nice and I think it would be so cool to actually see and get to know one, learning about their past and maybe solving some spooky mysteries along the way?

10) Live in a small community.

Throughout my life I've gone from living in a large town to an even larger city, and while there are aspects of that I love, I think living in a village or little community sounds fun. Especially if there's a slightly tribal or pagan element to it, with fun communal celebrations to get involved in.

Monday 25 July 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (18th July - 24th July)...

Wow, what a busy week! I can't even begin to describe how excited I am to tell you all about what I've been up to, there's a lot to take in! To start with, we were still staying with Mat's parents on Monday, though returned to London in the early afternoon. On the way, we met up with a friend who was coming to stay with us for a while. Upon arriving back to London, I spent a little time catching up on some rest (the huge amount of socialising and travelling from place to place over the weekend really exhausted me) and then doing a little blogging and reading before heading out again with Mat and his family, who at this point had arrived in London ready for Mat's graduation the next day! We had a lovely walk by the River Thames, which is actually surprisingly close to where I currently live, and even peered into Ian McKellen's famous pub 'The Grapes'.

Tuesday was definitely the busiest (and hottest) day of the week. It was the day of Mat's (and Meg's, my flat mate) graduation and I am immensely proud of both of them. We started our day at Mat's university, as the ceremony was (luckily) in the morning! Thank goodness that the main hall where it was held was so well air-conditioned! We spent a lot of time before and after the ceremony taking wonderful photos, and the Uni laid on some free food and refreshments afterwards which was wonderful. Of course, fate chose that day to give me one of the worst hay-fever attacks I can recall in a while, and the blistering heat did end up giving me sunstroke, but I had such an enjoyable day that I didn't care much. We went to a local pub nearby for a while to kill some time and catch some Pokemon (Pokemon Go! is very quickly becoming an addiction.) before heading to Tower Hill for a bite to eat and drink at Pizza Express!

On Wednesday it was the turn of my other lovely flat-mate, Tash, to graduate. Unfortunately I had to work that day so could only join them for a meal out later in the evening after my shift. We went to Las Iguanas at Westfield, Stratford this time and it was lovely! The rest of my working week was sadly very average in comparison but I think overall I've had a very social week and it was surprisingly productive too! I booked tickets for and planned YALC, bought myself a diary for work (my new role of course), played plenty of Pokemon Go! and caught up with some of the TV shows I've been missing out on. So much fun!

I Read...

I Received...



Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set Outside Of The USA

Sunday 24 July 2016

Book Review: The Rosie Effect; Graeme Simsion.

As is usually the pattern with me, it took a long time for me to get round to reading Book Two of the 'Don Tillman' series. I read 'The Rosie Project' last year, around May time so I thought I would have difficulty remembering the events of book one. Surprisingly though, I didn't and I have a lot of very good thoughts on the second book of the duology. I'm entering this into the Monthly Motif challenge too.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Rosie Effect
AUTHOR: Graeme Simsion
SERIES: Don Tillman (#2)
PAGES: 420
GENRE: Romance, Adult, Contemporary, Humour

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Forty-one-year-old geneticist Don Tillman had never had a second date before he met Rosie.

Now, living in New York City, they have survived ten months and ten days of marriage, even if Don has had to sacrifice standardised meals and embrace unscheduled sex.

But then Rosie drops the mother of all bombshells. And Don must prepare for the biggest challenge of his previously ordered life - at the same time as dodging deportation, prosecution and professional disgrace.

Is Don Tillman ready to become the man he always dreamed of being? Or will he revert to his old ways and risk losing Rosie for ever?

What I Liked:
  • Simsion's writing was just as I remembered it. It flowed easily and despite the long time gap between books, I instantly recalled who everyone was and why I loved them all in Book One. Especially Don. His constant crazy antics kept me entertained throughout, and I remembered that familiar feeling of helplessness as I watched his continual social blunders unfold. Simsion did a really great job at pacing the plot, I never once got bored of the on-page action and it always felt like something was happening.
  • Simsion opted for a slightly more serious tone in Book Two and actually included quite a lot of social commentary on very serious issues. This included conversations on nature vs. nurture, same sex parenting effectiveness and the suitability of a mentally ill parental figure. While this change in seriousness might not suit everyone, I did enjoy understanding some of the complexity that was found in this book compared to it's much more light-hearted prequel.
What I Disliked:
  • In favour of a more serious tone, it did mean that Simsion abandoned some of the humour that originally made me fall in love with this series. While I pointed out that it wasn't a bad thing, I was a little disappointed that 'The Rosie Effect' didn't make me laugh as much as I would have liked it to. I missed the light-heartedness of Don's unique personality, and as I spent quite a lot of the time getting frustrated with Rosie and her ridiculous intake of alcohol during her pregnancy, I couldn't really enjoy them as a couple either until the end of the book.
Overall Conclusion:
This was a very enjoyable story with wonderful pacing and writing from Simsion, who should be congratulated on his skills in writing humour. Books don't often make me laugh as much as his do. I loved so much about this book, including the way it handles some very complex, ambiguous topics regarding mental health and childcare. I do think that it wasn't nearly as funny or light-hearted as book one and may have lost a little of it's charm, but all in all this was not a bad ending for the duology at all.

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books Set Outside Of The USA'.

I didn't really think about just how many books are set in the USA until I saw the title for this week's TTT topic! I read a lot of different genres, so I thought I'd pick some of the best from each one (though still grounded in the 'real world', no Fantasy lands or outer space), mostly because I don't read much in the way of contemporary (most of the contemporary I do read is, as I said, is set in the USA).


1) 'Beautiful Broken Things' by Sara Barnard.

Setting: Brighton, England.

This was the Contemporary read that instantly sprang to mind when this topic came to my attention. I've been to Brighton a couple of times in my life and really love it, it's a place that has so much character and is home to a lot of diversity! Most books set in England that I've read are based in or around London, so this was a really refreshing change! It's a YA book that focuses on friendship, mental health and some of the darker themes of abuse and suicide but does so in such a sensitive and meaningful way that I can't help but recommend it!

2) 'The Girl On The Train' by Paula Hawkins.

Setting: London, England.

A recent read of mine, I liked this book because usually I am the commuter staring out of the window in a daze, and despite the fact that it's a Psychological Thriller (a book genre I don't usually read) this one had me hooked from beginning to end. There's a lot of place naming in this book and I would certainly place it on the outskirts of London rather than Central London which is where a ton of English books are set. Give it a try if you're a fan of plot twists, mystery and interesting characters.

3) 'All The Birds Singing' by Evie Wyld.

Setting: Unnamed Australian Areas + Unnamed British Island.

This is a very dark, desolate book that doesn't hold back on it's violent and gory imagery. It's bleak and very ambiguous but perfect for fans of Literary Fiction because it's written beautifully. If you prefer character-driven rather than plot-driven novels this could be the one for you! I loved the contrast between the sweltering heat of the Australian outback and the strong winds and dreariness of England (or at least, an Island nearby).

Historical Fiction...

4) 'Child 44' by Tom Rob Smith.

Setting: Moscow, Russia + Voualsk, Russia.

Most of the Thrillers that I end up getting into seem to be set in Countries other than the US it seems. This book is primarily a Soviet Russian murder mystery and yet there's so much more to this book than the setting and genre. Tom Rob Smith is a masterful writer, throwing in plenty of interesting action, huge doses of suspense and tension and an easy, fast pace to get into. I was hooked from beginning to end and am grateful to my Flat Mate Tash for introducing me to this book!

5) 'The Book Thief' by Marcus Zusak.

Setting: Molching, Germany.

This is just one of my favourite books of all time, and there was no way it wasn't going to make the list. Set during Hitler's reign in Nazi Germany, the story of a young girl who finds solace in books when life becomes too much for her and her only true friend is the Jew hiding in her adoptive family's basement has captured the heart of millions and the film was a pretty popular success. My favourite thing about this book is it's interesting narrative perspective: Death is a sentient being and really knows how to tell a good story. 

6) 'The Miniaturist' by Jessie Burton.

Setting: Amsterdam, Netherlands.

Miss Burton's debut novel was so charming and an obvious pick given it's unusual location, a place that I have now visited: Amsterdam! The characters and mystery in this one are so interesting, and learning about the doll house aspect of life was very intriguing. The plot got more and more engrossing as the book went on and while the ending was not necessarily a happy one, I think it's a very enjoyable piece of Historical Fiction and I look forward to reading my ARC of Burton's next work, 'The Muse'.

A Dash Of Magic/Supernatural...

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

Setting: Prague, Czech Republic + Marrakesh, Morocco.

I would be so shocked if this book doesn't appear on an absolute ton of lists, especially as the locations are so exotic and difficult to find in accessible stories, particularly YA! Taylor describes Prague well and makes it sound like an absolutely beautiful place to visit or even live in. Marrakesh also takes up a portion of the book, an equally revered city though more on that particular setting is found in the later books of the series. I loved the magic infused in a familiar world, the inclusion of angels and bizarre creatures made up of different animals, not to mention the gripping plot!

8) 'Wolf By Wolf' by Ryan Graudin.

Setting: Alternate Germany & Alternate Japan.

As an Alternate History book with the smallest dose of Sci-Fi, I felt this deserved a place in this section of the list. One of my top reads of last year, I loved the way that Graudin re-worked Germany and if you were to skip some of the scientific 'experiments' you find yourself in a terrifying idea of what Germany could have become if Hitler had won. Europe belonging to him, Japan having conquered most of Asia, and America 'not getting involved' is a scary thought to anyone and this thrilling, fast-paced adventure has elements of a Dystopian to it thanks to the setting and a Bike Race that threatens the lives of the young and vulnerable.

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

Setting: Stockholm, Sweden.

For the Horror fans out there, this one's for you because on the surface, Lindqvist's masterpiece is a story about Vampires and love. This is what would really happen in a 'Twilight-esque' situation. Blood, gore, complex relationships and a lot of fear. There's a lot of social commentary here too and we get to see a Sweden that is rarely seen on the news: dirty, impoverished and full of morally ambiguous characters trying to 'get by'. I adored this book having watched both the Swedish film adaptation and the play in the National Theatre.

10) 'Rivers Of London' by Ben Aaronovitch.

Setting: London, England.

I couldn't not mention this book, or indeed this series. Everyone whose a fan of Urban Fantasy and likes to see large doses of the Paranormal in their reads, especially if you enjoy YA, then give this one a try. It's set in London of course, a place that I've become much more acquainted with in the last two years. Except in this series, there are ghosts, spirits, minor Gods, vampires, policemen that can perform magic and all sorts of spooky happenings in London. I'm two books in and look forward to reading the next one!