Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (13)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Books of 2014

I might technically be a week late with this one, but personally I think all these "best of" lists come a couple weeks early in the month. I mean, do no good books get read in December? Sure, in my case, pretty much everything I read in December is a book I've read before because I'm allowed to buy books in December, what with Christmas coming at the end of it and...and I think I've forgotten my point. So, let's just get on with the list. Starting with 10...





10. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
9. Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
8. Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis


7. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
6. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart
5. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
4. Pivot Point by Kasie West


3. The List by Siobhan Vivian
2. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo
1. If Your Find Me by Emily Murdoch.

Okay, so, for the record, to make this list a book had to be read by me this year, obviously, but not necessarily released this year, though. I think only three of these were released this year (feel free to correct, it's nearly Christmas and I'm too lazy to Google right now). It also had to be read this year for the first time, re-reads don't count, otherwise you'd be looking at the whole Grisha trilogy, the first three books of the Uglies series, Neil Gaiman's Stardust, Kathryn Stockett's The Help and If You Find Me. It wouldn't still take the top spot, but it would definitely make the top ten!



Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (12)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Books I'm Looking Forward to in 2015

So, I've been hiding in the writing cave for a month now and I have emerged to tell you all about the books I'm looking forward to getting my hands on next year!



All the Rage by Courtney Summers (April)
I adore Courtney Summers, I do. I am so excited for this book and luckily I have the sequel to This is Not a Test to tide me over until this arrives in April.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (May)
I have basically become a HUGE Sarah J. Maas fan this year. Last year, I liked her work but after meeting her this summer and reading Heir of Fire, I am a fully paid up member of the fan club. And now we'll be getting two books a year instead of one! Could not be more excited.

The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski (March)
I really liked The Winner's Curse, despite the patchy war-bit that lost me for a while in the middle and I'm keen to see where the sequel goes. Probably more war stuff, probably I won't actually like this book, but I am totally going to take a chance on it!

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (October)
Leigh Bardugo. Enough said. Want. Now. Please.

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson (February)
I feel like I have been waiting for this book for my ENTIRE life. And I will finally get to read it in a little under three months. Think I might be due a re-read of the first two to prepare. I can't wait.

Tonight the Streets are Ours by Leila Sales (September)
I loved This Song Will Save Your Life. I took a chance by reading it, I picked it up on a whim after hearing a few people chat about it and I loved it. It was such a surprise and I'm looking forward to reading something else by Leila Sales.

Liars, Inc by Paula Stokes (March)
I know very little about this book except that I want it. It's a very Lesley book.

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (March)
How pretty is that cover? (I realise I could have said this about almost every book on that list, and that is no way indicative of how I choose which books to read.) I liked the other two books of hers I've read and I hope I'll like this one, too.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard (February)
Again, look at that cover. I don't know much about this book either, but it was described as being like X-Men, and how could that be a bad thing? Seriously, how? (Unless it's like Days of Future Past, I cannot even talk about that movie.)

Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge (May)
I have to admit, I didn't really like Cruel Beauty, despite its AMAZING cover. I'm hoping I like this one a little more. I think going in with slightly lower expectations will help!



Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (11)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Sequels I Can't Wait to Get

So, it would appear I'm really not that into series at the moment. Or sequels. Or perhaps nobody is writing sequels to the books I want sequels for. Or perhaps all my favourite series recently ended and I'm waiting for Leigh Bardugo's people to hurry up and put Six of Crows in my hands already. Basically, this is my long-winded way of saying I couldn't think of ten sequels I was excited for. So here are six.



The blank gap represents the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, which doesn't have a cover yet. Or a title. Or a plot. Or any kind of details whatsoever because it's not coming out for a ridiculously long time. But I still want it.



Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (10)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Books on my Fall To-Be-Read List












Are there any books you're particularly looking forward to this autumn? Let me know in the comments - I'm always keen to hear about new releases!



Thursday, 11 September 2014

Summer Snapshots

I haven't been blogging much over the summer - okay, I haven't been blogging at all - but I have a whole long list of excuses. I've been writing a lot and there's been so much going on at work, not to mention some fun excursions I've been on recently. So I'm hoping to get back into blogging again soon, now that things have settled down a little, but I thought I'd share some of the things I've been doing over the past few months. Mostly because I met Leigh Bardugo and try to brag about this at every opportunity I get!


- Leigh Bardugo - The Millenium Bridge in Newcastle - Sarah J Maas -
- Cocktails - My Current Project - More Cocktails - 
- The Crucible at the Old Vic - Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson - Thorpe Park - 




Thursday, 14 August 2014

ON THE FENCE

On the Fence by Kasie West

For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn't know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she's spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game.

To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can't solve Charlie's biggest problem: she's falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.
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Oh, this was not a good reading experience. And I thought Kasie West could do no wrong. Literally, no wrong. I loved Pivot Point and The Distance Between Us, and I'm sure I'll love Split Second when it finally arrives in paperback form. So I figured I would love this. And that was probably part of the problem - my expectations were high. Like, basketball hoop high.

There's little plot here, which I expected, except for a strange "twist" that smacks you over the head even though you saw it coming a mile off. It was just so unnecessary and shoe-horned in, it made me cringe. And then there's the lazy characterisation. Charlie has three brothers, but only one of them has any sort of personality, and even then it's slight. The other two...well, my suspicion is that she was given three brothers to explain her being a tomboy. Um, why does she need any brothers to be a tomboy? Some girls just are. Even if we're going with this, she really only needed the one brother, and maybe then Gage could have been a little bit more developed (I can't even remember the names of the other two and I literally finished this book yesterday.)

Charlie herself fares a little better in the characterisation game, though her love interest Braden is about as interesting as the fence she talks to him through. Maybe I would have liked Charlie a bit more if she'd decided she wanted to be more girly, rather than feeling like she had to. I get that this book is all about the message be yourself and I can respect that, but honestly, it wasn't really that interesting to read. And the dialogue isn't up to much either. It's so stilted, in a lot of places, which strikes me as very strange because West's other books didn't suffer from this. I don't have my copy to hand or I'd quote a few, but I vividly remember cringing every few pages at the cardboard teenagers and their equally flat dialouge.

My favourite bit was Caymen's cameo appearance, which probably says an awful lot about this book. It just wasn't as good as its predecessors, and, honestly, it might even have soured my opinion of them a little bit. I don't know what happened, but this book most definitely did not work for me.




Wednesday, 13 August 2014

LOLA AND THE BOY NEXT DOOR

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Lola Nolan is a budding costume designer, and for her, the more outrageous, sparkly, and fun the outfit, the better. And everything is pretty perfect in her life (right down to her hot rocker boyfriend) until the Bell twins, Calliope and Cricket, return to the negihborhood. When Cricket, a gifted inventor, steps out from his twin sister's shadow and back into Lola's life, she must finally reconcile a lifetime of feelings for the boy next door.
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I'm not a big reader of contemporary romance and I've basically read nothing but fantasy for the last couple of months (it's been distracting me from writing my manuscript, so I'm switching to contemporary until I can get my hands on SJ Maas's Heir of Fire), but I saw a lot of people getting excited about the third book in this series and thought it was about time I checked out the second instalment, since I surprised myself by enjoying the first (though looking back at my review of it suggests I'm remembering it differently to how I felt at the time!)

The weird thing is, I see other readers gushing over St. Clair and Cricket all the time, but I don't really have much interest in either of them. I prefer Cricket to St. Clair, but neither of them really does anything for me. I do, however, like the female characters in the books. Both of them are smart and no-nonsense, but at the same time flawed and vulnerable. They're human. Completely relatable, even if I never thought I'd have a single thing in common with someone who could be described as "outrageous, sparkly and fun," as I am none of those things. And I totally kept picturing Lola as a young Garcia (from Criminal Minds, who I love anyway).

I'm running out of things to say, mostly because I quite liked this book. I didn't love it, I didn't hate it. And as Anna says to Lola on page 62:

"It's easy to talk about things we hate, 
but sometimes it's hard to explain exactly why we like something."

From which I can only assume that Stephanie Perkins is inside my head. I've been saying this, or some variation of it, for years now. I rarely know what it is I like about a book - or a movie or a TV show or a real live person - but I can reel off its flaws without a second thought. Whatever the reason I don't have anything much to say about this book, I have to admit I'm kind of looking forward to the third one, Isla and the Happily Ever After.



Tuesday, 29 July 2014

TOP TEN TUESDAY (9)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.


Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From

I just knew that one day keeping an Excel spreadsheet of all the books I own would come in handy. Making up this list was a breeze, if slightly embarrassing in places. Some of the books on it, I don't even like, I just can't get rid of anything. I'm such a hoarder when it comes to books.











How about you? Which authors feature most on your bookshelves?



Friday, 13 June 2014

BEFORE I FALL

Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—"Cupid Day"—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.
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Oliver's set herself up with something really quite tricky to pull off here. From the blurb, the reader knows that the main character, Sam, is going to die at the end of the first day. So they're waiting for that to happen. They also know that she's going to live that last day seven times over, meaning they're going to read about the same day, the same people and events, seven times. Now, I'm not a big fan of repetition. I don't like it if the same word appears a couple of times within a page or so. I'm not talking words like she, or the, or said. Or or, for that matter. I don't remember what I was reading, but recently I came across a chapter that had the word purple mentioned in it four times. The first time I didn't bat an eyelid. The next three, it was incredibly jarring. So I went into this book warily.

I think I was right to be wary. If I'd had high expectations, I'm sure I would have come away disappointed. As it was, prepared to be bored/irritated/infuriated, I got along with this book fairly well. Yes, there were parts that I got bored of reading over and over - like Sam's conversations with her friends on the way to school, which varied very little - and that first day was a bit of a slog to get through, since I knew what was going to happen, but I wasn't anywhere near as frustrated as I expected to be.

Sadly, though, I didn't really like or connect with any of the characters. I don't necessarily need to like a character to enjoy reading about them, they don't have to be good people, people I'd want to be friends with, but there was just something kind of...flat about these characters. Maybe that's because I read about their lives over and over again, but I don't think so. Sam is basically a blank page, a Bella-Swan-type, but her best friend is a stereotypical popular girl in high school, and their other friends carbon copies of her. Bleh, boring. There's no depth to them, they were difficult to keep separate in my head because they aren't even distinct from each other.

Perhaps I just don't get along with Lauren Oliver's style of writing. I mean, I read Delirium last year and basically hated it. Like, seriously, hated it. I wanted to try something else of hers and the premise of this story called to me, but maybe I just have to accept that her books just aren't for me.



Wednesday, 11 June 2014

TEASE

Tease by Amanda Maciel

Emma Putnam is dead, and it's all Sara Wharton's fault.

At least, that's what everyone seems to think when Sara, along with her best friend and three other classmates, has been criminally charged for the bullying and harassment that led to Emma's shocking suicide. But Sara is sure she hasn't done anything wrong, because Emma brought it on herself. Sara is adamant that she was the victim - not Emma.

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Okay, I read this several weeks ago and just didn't have a chance to review it until now, so you'll have to forgive me for being a little vague - I really don't remember it very well. And that probably says a lot about the book itself, it didn't really stand out to me.

The topic really interested me, it's the reason I bought the book without having read a single review of it. (By the way, reading reviews probably wouldn't have helped - the ones I've read since have all been positive.) Sara and her friends are accused of bullying Emma until she commits suicide. They're being prosecuted for that. The thing is, I don't really understand how someone can be prosecuted for that. I mean, what exactly are they being charged with? As the core of the story, I expected to know the answer to that question by the end of the book. I did not.

My problem wasn't so much with the story as it was with the writing. I found it kind of slow and really not very engaging. I didn't warm to Sara - either as a person or a character - or any of the others. Not even Emma, and I always react strongly to characters being bullied. There was no life in any of them, they were like cardboard cutouts of stereotypical teenagers. And they were in an environment you wouldn't necessarily expect, courtrooms and the offices of lawyers and therapists, so there should have been something new and interesting there for me to read.

Speaking of which, I often felt that I was reading the most dull parts of the story, that there were much more interesting scenes I could be reading about. That the author was focusing on the wrong bits. I'm sure that's just a personal preference and that others won't have the same experience - because the book's not badly-written - it just wasn't right for me. The focus was off. Maybe alternating chapters with another character would have helped - hearing from Emma would have been good, I think - but honestly, I just found this read to be a long, hard slog. The courtroom scene at the end was pretty moving, though, a sign of what could have been. The potential that this book could have had. It's a shame, really.



Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (8)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year


In order of reading;

Pivot Point by Kasie West
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
The Gathering Storm by Robin Bridges
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
The List by Siobhan Vivian
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas
How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr





Saturday, 24 May 2014

HOW TO SAVE A LIFE

How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr

Jill MacSweeney just wishes everything could go back to normal. But ever since her dad died, she’s been isolating herself from her boyfriend, her best friends—everyone who wants to support her. And when her mom decides to adopt a baby, it feels like she’s somehow trying to replace a lost family member with a new one.

Mandy Kalinowski understands what it’s like to grow up unwanted—to be raised by a mother who never intended to have a child. So when Mandy becomes pregnant, one thing she’s sure of is that she wants a better life for her baby. It’s harder to be sure of herself. Will she ever find someone to care for her, too?

As their worlds change around them, Jill and Mandy must learn to both let go and hold on, and that nothing is as easy—or as difficult—as it seems.
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I apologise in advance for the fact that you'll probably have the Fray song stuck in your head for the next few days, but really I'm not that sorry. I've had it stuck in mine for about two weeks now and I'm getting pretty damn sick of it. Infuriating title aside, I really liked this book. 

Jill's grouchy and grieving. Mandy's scared and determined. The girls are very different, but I had the same reaction to both of them - sometimes I wanted to shake some sense into them, sometimes I wanted to hug them and promise that everything was going to be okay. By the end, I loved both of them. I was worried all the way through that things would end badly for one of them, purely because of the nature of the story, but I wasn't rooting for one of them more than the other. I wanted both of them to have a happy ending, and I never wish for a happy ending, so this was quite an achievement on Zarr's part.

Also an achievement by Zarr was the way she managed to pull off alternating first-person viewpoints for two girls of the same age. She made it seem almost effortless. I never had any concerns about which girl was speaking to me, and it's rare for me to be able to say that. Even in books with characters of different ages or genders, I can still get confused. Both girls have very different voices, so it was easy to tell them apart, and I never found myself enjoying one more than the other, which is the other problem I frequently find in books with multiple points of view - I'll have a favourite and always want to be getting back to it.

I have to address the ending, because it was the only thing I think let the book down in any way. While I did want a happy ending, what happens seems a little bit too convenient. It was foreshadowed, so it didn't just come out of nowhere, but at the same time it kind of did. And it was a chapter longer than it needed to be. If you're going to read it, I'd recommend just lopping off the last chapter and leaving it at that. It doesn't add anything, it's just a little bit cheesy.



Friday, 23 May 2014

WE WERE LIARS

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We are the Liars.

We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.

We are cracked and broken.

A story of love and romance.

A tale of tragedy.

Which are lies?

Which is truth?
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Oh, dear. We Were Liars was one of my most highly anticipated reads of the year. And I think that was the problem. If you haven't heard about this book then I have to assume that you don't have access to the internet, although if that's the case then how are you reading this review? But seriously, this book has been raved about online for months. Months. I've been dying to get my hands on it since the first review of it that I read, something that mentioned a twist ending and utter devastation. Now, that should have been a red flag for me, but we'll get to that in a minute.

I want to point out that I don't think this was a bad book, I just didn't enjoy any of it. Like, at all. I thought the characters were boring and vapid. I thought the writing was fairly average. And the plot just didn't work for me. I know I'm a nitpicky person, there's no getting around that fact, but I strongly suspect that the hype surrounding this book killed it for me. My expectations had been built and built and built - no book was going to satisfy them. This is a problem I have so often that I almost expect it now, but it doesn't keep me from getting excited about books. Especially books with twist endings. 

I love a twist ending. I do. Except I called it halfway through the book. A random thought about how something was being written occurred to me and that was it. Boom. Ending ruined. The thing is, I wouldn't have spotted it if I hadn't been looking for the twist. I don't do it on purpose, I swear I don't set out to ruin books for myself, but if someone tells me there's a twist ending, I'll try to figure it out before it happens. My brain just works on that in the background while I'm reading. It's like if I told you not to think about elephants, you'd think about elephants (thank you, Inception.) You just can't help it. And every single review I've seen mentions the shocking twist ending. It's the first sentence on the back of the book:



It's the second sentence inside of the book:


Can it really be a twist ending if you're waiting for the twist to occur? If you're totally, one hundred per cent prepared for something shocking, can you actually be shocked? (This has happened to me before - I knew something big was coming and had a theory about what it might be. My theory was a lot more shocking than what actually happened, leaving me disappointed. And wondering if I ought to consult a psychiatrist.)



Thursday, 22 May 2014

DEAD TO YOU

Dead to You by Lisa McMann

Ethan was abducted from his front garden when he was just seven years old. Now, at sixteen, he has returned to his family. It's a miracle. At first. Then the tensions start to build, and his family starts falling apart all over again. If only Ethan could remember something, anything, about his life before, he'd be able to put the pieces back together. But there's something that's keeping his memory blocked. Something unspeakable...
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If you're a regular reader, you might have noticed a little bit of a theme recently with the books I've been reading/reviewing, and I think that affected my experience with this book. I was writing a manuscript about a girl whose sister disappeared when they were children, but was found several years later. So, naturally, I was reading a lot of books around the subject. This one had been on my list for a long time, before I even had the idea for my manuscript, before I was looking for books about missing children, so I was eager to read it.

And it was really good. Mostly. Ethan's struggling to fit back in with his family, something made especially difficult by the fact that his brother isn't buying Ethan's story. He remembers Ethan getting into a car with two strange men - why would he do that? Ethan can't come up with a satisfactory response, and Blake isn't happy about that. I really liked all the family stuff, the different ways that Ethan interacts with his siblings - fighting with Blake and coming to love Gracie, even though he sees her as the replacement child and resents her initially. Even the interactions with his parents were great, as they fluctuate between being totally sure of him and suffering from a few doubts.

I was less enamoured with Cami and the whole storyline around her. It all seemed a little bit forced and I couldn't honestly see why Ethan needed to have a love interest. She was completely unnecessary and, honestly, kind of incredibly irritating to me. I would have much rather seen Ethan building a platonic friendship with someone, of either sex, than hear him talk about how hot Cami is all the time.

That aside, my only real problem with this book was the ending. I do not buy it. I was not on board with it one bit, not one single bit. I liked the way it was built up to but nope. Not impressed. Not happy at all. I can't discuss it much here for fear of spoiling it for people, but I had something quite specific in mind for the ending (which was probably the problem!) There was another outcome I could have accepted, and I even liked the way in which certain things were...discovered, shall we say? But the things that were discovered...no, thank you.



Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (7)

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created/hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. You can find out all the important stuff here.

Top Ten Books About Friendship

Can I just say that I found putting this one together really difficult? A lot more difficult than I probably should have done. There must be hundreds of great books out there about friendship, but I was kind of scraping around to come up with ten. So hit me up in the comments with your suggestions!