Tuesday, 29 April 2014

April Round-Up

I know I've been basically MIA this month, but I have an excellent excuse - I've been participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and working on a new manuscript. The first draft's almost finished, hopefully I'll have it completed in the next couple of days because I'd really like to have a whole draft written in thirty days! So, yes, I haven't been reviewing books because I've been busy writing 70,000 words. I think that's a fair excuse. But anyway, I have still been reading, so I thought I'd do a little round up post of the books I read this month and haven't had time to write full reviews of.







What about you? Have you read any good books this month? Let me know in the comments - I'm looking for books to add to my May reading list (or maybe June, since I need to find time to reread a couple series in May before the next instalment comes out! Why, yes, I am talking about Ruin and Rising. When am I not?



Wednesday, 9 April 2014

THE ASSASSIN'S BLADE

The Assassin's Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan's most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin's Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas - together in one edition for the first time - Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn's orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? 
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This is the bind-up of the prequel novellas for Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series. I don't have very much to say about it, since I figure anyone who likes the series will want to read them, and anyone who doesn't like it won't be interested one bit. 

There are five stories - one of which has apparently never been released before, and I can see why - and are all connected. They're also in chronological order, which brings me to my first point. What is the difference between a series of novellas and a poorly-constructed novel? (Don't strain yourself too hard, I don't think there is a difference). Maybe I'm being harsh. Maybe that's what a bundle of novellas is supposed to be, I don't know. This is my first. 

I disliked the first three in the book, really liked the fourth, and was a little less enthusiastic about the final one. The fourth, The Assassin and the Underworld was really good until the ending, which was atrocious. 

Really, what I want to say about this book, is that it made me realise what I don't like about the actual series - the magic. There's no magic in these novellas, and very few references to it, which highlighted to me the fact that I don't enjoy the magical elements in the main books. I do wonder if this is because I read Throne of Glass shortly after Shadow and Bone, a book that I adore and which I think did the magic very well. I've long been disdainful of books about magic, I've always thought that Harry Potter wrote the book on it and I wasn't interested in anyone else's take on it, but Shadow and Bone convinced me that there's still lots of ways to keep magic interesting. I think Throne of Glass, a book I didn't dislike by the way, I just didn't love it, came along at the wrong time for me. I'm planning to reread it this summer, before the third instalment is released, and I'll be interested to see if my opinion has changed. Sadly, I'll be rereading it a couple of months after rereading Shadow and Bone in anticipation of its third instalment, so perhaps I'll have the same problem as before.



Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (5)

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 Most Unique Books


A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Every chapter in this book is different, it's almost like reading a group of interrelated short stories instead of a novel, but it's definitely a novel rather than a group of short stories (something that was argued about at length during the class the book was set for!) I mean, sure, lots of books have chapters with different styles, different narrators, different voices, but this book takes it to a whole other level. There is a chapter told entirely through Powerpoint presentation slides. And yet it still totally works as a narrative.

Rant by Chuck Palahniuk
This book is unique for two reasons - first of all its fascinating take on time-travel which I won't talk about too much here for fear of spoilers, and secondly its style. The synopsis describes it as an oral history. Essentially, it's a bunch of different people giving their versions of what happened, in my head it was like they were being interviewed for a TV show. It's mad, but it works. I loved it, the style more than the story here if I'm honest, so much so that I've been toying with the idea of doing something similar for years, I just haven't come up with a suitable plot yet!

Invisible Monsters by Chuck Palahniuk
If I'm honest, I could probably fill this entire list with Palahniuk's books, but I've restrained myself to just these two. This is actually my favourite of his, and it's utter madness. Seriously, I don't even have words to discuss it. Suffice it to say, nothing happens in the right order and you can't trust anything that you see or hear. Just don't read the last chapter. You absolutely do not need it. Seriously. Rip it out of the book before you start (that's how much I hate the last chapter - I am condoning book destruction)

Speechless by Hannah Harrington
How many main characters do you come across that can't speak? Chelsea's lack of speech is self-imposed, she decides not to say another word after sharing a piece of gossip that almost got someone killed, and she gets around it by writing things down for people, but it was still a really interesting read. 

The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks
This book is insane. Seriously. I can't even. It continues to give me nightmares. Not very often, true, not like the first couple of years after I read it when I would have nightmares several times a week and also think about certain parts every time I closed my eyes, but still. It's stayed with me. And it's insane. I don't know what else I can say about it, frankly. It's just the strangest thing I've ever read.

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt
This is an excellent book that not enough people have heard of. There's just something very special about it, which I didn't expect. Hell, I didn't expect to like it, I have no idea why I bought it. It's a Western, something I've never read, and it made me care about a horse. Seriously. I hate animals, horses terrify me, and I cried my eyes out over poor Tub. My eyes are watering just thinking about it now.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
I have read a lot of vampire books. A lot. Like, more than is probably healthy. This one had the most interesting take on them, it looks at what we consider vampirism as a parasite, people infected are parasite positives or peeps. Not only is it a fresh take on vampires, it also has a distinct format - the book alternates chapters between the story and some hideous informative pieces about parasites. Which I loved.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
This is the only book about time travel that's ever made me cry, but that's not why I've picked it. It's just such an interesting take on the idea of time travel - that it's something genetic, something that can't be controlled, something that is both a blessing and a curse. Okay, perhaps that last one isn't the most original idea, but all together they make up one of the most heartbreaking and original books I've ever read.

Pivot Point by Kasie West
Addie can see into her future - when faced with a choice, she can search both outcomes before making her decision. Her parents are splitting up and she has to decide whether she'll stay with her mother in their special compound or move with her father to the normal world. The book jumps between the two potential realities and is essentially two stories in one, but they overlap cleverly and - perhaps most impressive - neither one is boring. I genuinely didn't have a preferred one. I'd get to the end of a chapter and be annoyed that we were switching back to the other story, regardless of which one I was on at the time. I know that probably sounds mad, but damn does Kasie West know how to end a chapter!

All My Friends are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John
Yeeeeah, so I was struggling to fill this last slot. I genuinely thought of nine books really quickly and then couldn't come up with a tenth. So I was browsing through the books I've read on Goodreads and spotted this one. It's essentially a picture book for grown-ups - though I guess it might appeal to kids, too - and that's not something I've seen very often. Also, it's awesome and you deserve a copy.


So, that's my list. What are the most unique books you've ever read? What makes a book unique to you?




Monday, 7 April 2014

THE LIST

The List by Siobhan Vivian

An intense look at the rules of high school attraction -- and the price that's paid for them.

It happens every year before homecoming -- the list is posted all over school. Two girls are picked from each grade. One is named the prettiest, one the ugliest. The girls who aren't picked are quickly forgotten. The girls who are become the center of attention, and each reacts differently to the experience.
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I waited a very long time to get my hands on this book, and I was not disappointed when I did. It was a really interesting and enjoyable read, I stayed up very late a couple of nights because I didn't want to stop reading it. 

The story focuses on eight girls, which is a little confusing at first. I had to keep flicking back to the front page, where the list is written, to remind myself who is who. Although this sounds like a criticism, and is to a certain extent, I really don't see how it could have been avoided. You can't introduce these girls gradually, that would defeat the object, but it does take some time to get to know them. And, naturally, every reader will have favourites. I particularly liked Danielle, the freshman who is named ugliest, because she's not very feminine. I also found Sarah very relatable, the ugliest sophomore, who decides to give everyone what they want and become truly ugly. She writes the word across her forehead in permanent marker, and stops washing and changing her clothes to make a point. I just wanted to hug her, shower or not.

Of course, there are also going to be girls and storylines that don't resonate as strongly with reader, though I'm sure everyone will pick out different ones. I found Candace and Margot's stories and characters very similar, and was a bit disappointed by that. I also thought that the eating disorder wasn't handled very well. It was supposed to be subtle, I'm sure, to keep this from being The Book about the Eating Disorder - a book I would not have read because I'm not a fan of issues books - but I still don't think it was handled very well. I'd almost go as far as to call it irresponsible.

Overall, it was entertaining as hell and actually really made me think, which I didn't expect. Honestly, I was kind of expecting something light and fluffy, and I was pleasantly surprised. I came to really care about some of these girls and actually think about the standards of beauty that exist in the world, something that isn't banged on about. I would highly recommend this book, despite the presence of the evil sentence - Danielle lets out a breath she didn't know she was holding - at the top of page 178, a particular shame given that Danielle was my favourite character. But still, a great book.



Sunday, 6 April 2014

TAKEN

Taken by Erin Bowman

There are no men in Claysoot. There are boys—but every one of them vanishes at midnight on his eighteenth birthday. The ground shakes, the wind howls, a blinding light descends…and he’s gone.

They call it the Heist.

Gray Weathersby’s eighteenth birthday is mere months away, and he’s prepared to meet his fate–until he finds a strange note from his mother and starts to question everything he’s been raised to accept: the Council leaders and their obvious secrets. The Heist itself. And what lies beyond the Wall that surrounds Claysoot–a structure that no one can cross and survive.

Climbing the Wall is suicide, but what comes after the Heist could be worse. Should he sit back and wait to be taken–or risk everything on the hope of the other side?
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So, yesterday I reviewed Mindy McGinnis' Not a Drop to Drink and said it wasn't your typical dystopian novel. This, sadly, is. As a disclaimer, I'd like to say that I'm not saying it's a bad book, I'm just saying it wasn't for me. I didn't really enjoy it at all. I usually look for books that I can't predict the ending of, and though here I didn't know where we were going to end up, I also didn't care about the twists and turns.

I never warmed to any of the characters. I was interested to read a dystopian from a male perspective - I'm sure lots of them exist, I just don't think I've read one before - but it was much the same as any other book. In fact, it strongly reminded me of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, a book I didn't like with sequels that I hated. I had this feeling of similarity from the very beginning, and I'm sure that guaranteed I didn't enjoy this book. If I hadn't read that one first, maybe I would have gotten along with Taken a little better, but I still don't think I would have loved it.

One thing that stood out to me particularly was the use of words spelt backwords. The Laicos project, the Taem dome. The problem with that was I started looking at every word, trying to read it backwards and make it say something. Most of them did not, and it bothered me that only some of them worked. It was distracting and annoying and gave me a headache.

There's not a lot else for me to say about it. It wasn't a bad book and I'm sure lots of people would love it. In fact, I know of many that do love it. I'm just not one of them. 



Saturday, 5 April 2014

NOT A DROP TO DRINK

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.
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This book was just what I needed to break my reading slump. Honestly, it was pretty much fantastic. It more than lived up to that beautiful cover, which was definitely not the only reason I bought it in the first place. Absolutely not.

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect from this book, I thought it was just going to be your typical dystopian, but it's so stripped back, with just a few characters, that it ended up being really stark and powerful. Lynn and her mother have been alone for a long time, working hard to survive and protect their pond. In this world, there is no water. People in cities have to pay a phenomenal amount for it, as well as abiding by many strict laws - such as only being allowed to have one child - and so some decide to brave the wilds and look for water of their own. These are the people that Lynn has to kill. It's easy to forget that Lynn's a teenager, but it comes back in certain moments, which makes those moments all the more moving. 

I liked that we didn't see the city, though I would have liked to know more about how the world ended up in its waterless state. I read it a little while ago (and forgot to review it until now because I kind of thought I already had)  but I think it was just put down to overpopulation. As believable as that is, I think it unlikely that more wasn't done to preserve what little was left, and I would have liked to explore that a little bit, perhaps.

My only other criticism of this book is the ending. It changes pace significantly, which isn't in itself a bad thing, but the direction it took didn't wholly work for me. Also, there's an epilogue. I hate epilogues. This one wouldn't have been so bad except for the fact that the book has a sequel. And the publishers can call it a companion novel all they want, but it's not. It's the same world, with the same characters, just a little bit into the future. That is not a companion, it's a sequel, and this beautiful book doesn't need one. It's an excellent standalone novel, which I think will be spoilt by an unnecessary sequel. 



Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Top Ten Tuesday (4)

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 Gateway Books
I thought long and hard about this category, but I read so much that I don't really have any gateway books. So instead, here are the ten books that I recommend to people who are strangers to YA and are interested in a particular genre. Because then it's their gateway. See? Yeah, okay, I'm bad at this.


Sci-Fi
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld
I've been recommending this book to people since I read it almost ten years ago. It was one of my favourite books as a teenager, and I still often think about Tally, Shay, David and, my favourite, Zane. The second book, Pretties, is my actual favourite, but for obvious reasons I tell people to start with this one. I also tell them to stop after the third book and pretend the fourth one doesn't exist.

Fantasy
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
This is probably the book I recommend more than any other, and people are finally starting to listen to me about it! I'm not generally a fan of high fantasy, there's something about it that always seems to put me off, even though I don't know what that is. But I am so glad I overlooked that and read this book. It's already one of my top five of all time.

Fantasy
Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
I'm not a hundred per cent sure this belongs in the fantasy section - I don't know where else I'd put it, but it feels wrong - but this is another book that surprised me. Again, I'm not totally sure what convinced me to pick it up, seeing as I've never been a Peter Pan fan, but I'm really glad I did. It's a beautiful book, so simple but heartbreaking. Recommended to anyone that likes Peter Pan and also anyone who doesn't. So, everyone, basically.

Contemporary
Burn for Burn by Jenny Han & Siobhan Vivian
I've never been a huge fan of contemporary novels, I read as a form of escapism and contemporary doesn't often fit that category for me, but I've really developed a love for them in the past year or so. This is probably the one that won me over (or the next book on the list, I don't remember which of them I read first) and I frequently recommend it to people that like the TV shows Revenge, Gossip Girl and One Tree Hill. 

Contemporary
Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers
Courtney Summers' novels should be required reading for all people, basically, and this one is my absolute favourite. I've lent my copy out so many times that I can't remember the last time it was actually in my possession for more than a week or two. Which is infuriating for two reasons - it's worth other people actually buying instead of borrowing, and I want to reread it but it's never here!

Contemporary
In Sarah's Shadow by Karen McCombie
I'm not sure anyone else in the world has read this book, which is a shame because it means so much to me. And also probably a good thing, because it means so much to me. It might be kind of terrifying if someone I know read it. Still, it hasn't stopped me from recommending it to anyone with even a passing interest in books.

Middle Grade
Pure Dead series by Debi Gliori
Sometimes people ask me for something light and fun, and I automatically go to one of my middle grade favourites, because my young adult ones tend to be neither light or fun. Again, I literally don't know anybody who has read this brilliant series - it's starting to feel like people don't actually listen to my recommendations - but you all should because it's excellent. In fact, I'm going to reread them soon, I've just decided.

Middle Grade
Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
I know people who've read this one! It's really good, but I always recommend it with a warning about the second book, which I think is dire. The series improves from there - the second book is the only weak link in the chain, except for the one that came out most recently, which I'm still not happy about. But the others are great. Unfortunately, though, for plot reasons you will have to suffer through book two. I'm sorry.

Creepy
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
I wanted to include a horror category on this list, but I don't actually read horror. Occasionally I'll be chatting about books and someone will ask if I've read any good horror recently - apparently my fondness for dark and twisted makes people assume I read horror - and I hedge and offer this book up. It's genuinely creepy, which I prefer to flat-out gore, and I have a feeling that the third instalment in the series is going to up the creep-factor even more!

Dystopian
Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
If I'm being totally honest, the dystopian I recommend most often is The Hunger Games, or Uglies but I see that as more sci-fi, but at this point who hasn't read The Hunger Games? I have a feeling this book will be one I hotly recommend.


So, that's my list. What books do you find yourself recommending over and over to people? Shout out in the comments or leave me a link to your own Top Ten - I love reading them and adding more books to my to-read list (though my wallet isn't such a fan!)