Monday, 15 December 2014

Cinder - Marissa Meyer

Title: Cinder 
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1 
Author: Marissa Meyer 
Publication date: January 2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends 
Pages: 390
Rating: four 

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

*Synopsis from Goodreads

I've seen this book all over review blogs and Goodreads and I have wanted it sooo bad. The cover is so gorgeous and I just love, love, love fairytale retellings, and I've never read one quite like this before. 

This is basically a dystopian, steam-punk re-imagining of Cinderella, set in a technological and highly urbanised New Beijing: where overpopulation aids the spread of a deadly plague. Cinder though seems to be immune, and that's where it all kicks off. 

The technological spin on this was probably my favourite aspect of the story, Cinder being a cyborg was the best thing ever and the Cyborg draft is really believable.  Don't get me started on the robots, Iko was adorable in all aspects. 

If you know the original Cinderella, which let's face it you probably do, you know that her home life isn't great. Adri, Cinder's guardian, is as horrible as she was in the original (though there is more to her in this re-telling), but Peony one of the 'ugly stepsisters' is actually lovely, if not living in a proverbial bubble. I loved that Cinder and her got along. 

The plague is obviously a horrendous part of the story, and Marissa Meyer doesn't shy away from it at all. It has devastating consequences and makes the whole world desperate for a cure. And of course Cyborgs, as 'second class citizens' are the agreed forced guinea pigs of a creepy research team, with the guardians of Cyborgs being able to literally sell them to the cause. Dr Erland, the head researcher, is definitely a bit morally ambiguous: knowingly leading cyborgs to their death but also being a bit of a good guy in the end. 

Queen Levana definitely fits into the scary witch-queen role most fairytales have. She's a fearsome creature, swathed in mystery and magic. She's credited with controlling her own people and killing her own family members, those that rival her right to the crown. And now it seems she wants to do the same with Earth, or else wage a war that Earth is doomed to lose. 

And where does Prince Kai fit into all of this? Well to quote Iko: "Prince Kai! Check my fan, I think I'm overheating." 

I was really interested in how they were going to do the whole 'getting to the ball' thing in the story, and I was pleasantly surprised, though I'm going to give nothing away!

Overall I really enjoyed this book, it was a fantastic retelling of Cinderella and I'm for sure going to read the next books. 

Favourite quote: "I'm sure I'll feel much more grateful when I find a guy who thinks complex wiring in a girl is a turn-on." 

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The Fall - Bethany Griffin

Title: The Fall
Author: Bethany Griffin
Published: October 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books
Pages: 420
Bought: Waterstones £12.99
Rating: four and a half stars
She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.
Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.
In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? 
*Synopsis from Goodreads*

This book had exactly the kind of vibe I like, I thought it was pretty damn good. Bethany Griffin was brilliant at creating that creepy, I'm-feeling-slightly-uneasy tone that continued right until the end. And it's a decent length, as well, so kudos.

If you're reading this book expecting some sort of happy resolution you'll get neither happy nor resolution. But you will get a very strong image of the terrifying Usher house and all its creepy, sentient glory. A house where nothing is new long and everything dies young. A house that has chosen Madeline Usher as its heir, and also tries to kill her a few times. 

It was pretty haunting, I mean Madeline is very alone and apart from the rest of humanity. Her one saving grace, her brother Roderick, doesn't believe her at all despite some very blatant evidence. And let's face it, the whole dog thing had me in tears. There should be a rule about using animals in books. 

Basically all family relations and otherwise are twisted as hell. I have got to say, Dr. Winston sufficiently weirded me out, he was quite simply vile. Madeline doesn't really ever catch a break, and some of the themes are pretty horrific and disturbing. No wonder I found this in the horror section, not the YA secion

But then again she's not a conventional YA heroine. She's really dark at times, and I thought that she had good character development, because you could tell that the house, her Usher lineage, was warping her over time. Luckily, she had determination on her side, and she was only naive to the extent that someone in her position would be. I also liked the variation created between the chapters in Madeline's age and the background story of Lisbeth. 

The story does leave bits and parts unexplained, and up to the reader (the whole mad-man in the attic thing -though I could have a pretty good guess at that one- and her father's disappearance). I kind of liked it, it didn't feel like it was trying too hard to make everything suddenly fall into place,  I don't think that would've suited the story's atmosphere at all. 

My one niggling thing is that sometimes I felt like the story wasn't really getting anywhere. Sure the description and detail invested in the house kept me running on tension, but it all really only kicked off at the end. We were led on trails and then abruptly swerved off them again, especially with the whole goblet thing (how did Madeline know it had nothing to do with that anyway? - she got the resolution out of thin air, I swear). 

But, overall I really, really enjoyed this book. The writing style was very attractive to me and the concept very creepy. I've never read Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher, the book this is based off of, but I think I will now just to see how it ties in with this story. 

Quote: "Sitting here I can feel the majesty of the house. It is so old. Looming over and around me. How can I stand up to it all alone?" 

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

"Waiting on" Wednesday: Beastkeeper - Cat Hellisen!

Meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 

Publication date: 3rd February 2015
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Sarah has always been on the move. Her mother hates the cold, so every few months her parents pack their bags and drag her off after the sun. She’s grown up lonely and longing for magic. She doesn’t know that it’s magic her parents are running from. 

When Sarah’s mother walks out on their family, all the strange old magic they have tried to hide from comes rising into their mundane world. Her father begins to change into something wild and beastly, but before his transformation is complete, he takes Sarah to her grandparents—people she has never met, didn’t even know were still alive. 

Deep in the forest, in a crumbling ruin of a castle, Sarah begins to untangle the layers of curses affecting her family bloodlines, until she discovers that the curse has carried over to her, too. The day she falls in love for the first time, Sarah will transform into a beast . . . unless she can figure out a way to break the curse forever. 

It's definitely the cover that's attracted me to this one, but the story sounds creepy and fairytale-esque (which I love, love, love). Got a feeling this'll be one to wait for. :)

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll!

I love second-hand books, especially pretty second-hand, hardback books. This one was just what I needed to beat me out of my mid-term blues. 

So I thought I'd show you this one, because it's b-e-a-utiful. I got it from Oxfam for only £1.99, which is awesome, savvy spending. 

I think it was fate, because recently everything is Alice in Wonderland, and by everything I mean the Fenwick's shop window and Chatsworth House. Unfortunately couldn't get a picture of the shop window, it was swarming with people that are probably more appropriately aged for Alice in Wonderland than me. 

Ah well, though, it's an enchanting book that came with some lovely pictures, and I have a young heart. 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Invisibility - Andrea Cremer & David Levithan

Title: Invisibility 
Author: Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
Published: May 2013
Publisher: Philomel
Pages: 358
Rating three and a half stars
Bought from Waterstones for £7.99

Stephen has been invisible for practically his whole life — because of a curse his grandfather, a powerful cursecaster, bestowed on Stephen’s mother before Stephen was born. So when Elizabeth moves to Stephen’s NYC apartment building from Minnesota, no one is more surprised than he is that she can see him. A budding romance ensues, and when Stephen confides in Elizabeth about his predicament, the two of them decide to dive headfirst into the secret world of cursecasters and spellseekers to figure out a way to break the curse. But things don’t go as planned, especially when Stephen’s grandfather arrives in town, taking his anger out on everyone he sees. In the end, Elizabeth and Stephen must decide how big of a sacrifice they’re willing to make for Stephen to become visible — because the answer could mean the difference between life and death. At least for Elizabeth. 
*Synopsis from Goodreads*
So it's been a while since I read a book for the sake of a bit of romance, but I was in love with the synopsis. I mean someone born invisible? - Yes please. 
I got off to a definite good start with this book, the characters were gorgeously written. Stephen was such a good character, I could tell how much the strain of his curse and the loss of his mum was eating at him, but how resilient, if not at a bit of a stand still, he was. The fact he hadn't changed anything in apartment since his mum really got to me. 
Elizabeth was a great character, and the meeting between Stephen and her was so good. She was insecure yet capable. She was understandably defensive and I liked her strength, of character and will. I felt like I really knew her backstory, which you sometimes don't get in books. Plus her brother Laurie was a top class character, who's own story touched upon something very real in today's society: homophobia and bullying. Forget curses and spells. 
The writing style was well up my street, with minor differences between the characters, obviously. It still all blended together. It was simple, easy to read, but down right inspiring in its imagery and meaning. Of course at points it's funny. 
And the romance, the whole reason I picked up the novel, was good. It wasn't THE most amazing romantic piece of work I've ever read but, but, BUT there was a something about it that I did like a lot. There wasn't any sort of, dare I say it, bullshit about this relationship. They both accepted that they liked each other after spending a lot of time together, they weren't meaninglessly oblivious to that very obvious fact. They worked together well, they acted like a real life couple, if not a little quick to the 'hopelessly in love' stage - but I guess new found witch powers and an invisible boyfriend will do that for you. 
My one little meh of the book unfortunately had quite a big impact on my rating. I pinpointed the moment I became unenthusiastic about the plot. Firstly, I was enjoying the mystery surrounding Stephen's condition and I was preparing myself for some thing a-maz-ing to be the answer to this problem. I was disappointed, as soon as they met Millie. It just seemed all very cliché  to me. I felt like we'd skipped what I wanted to be the problem and was on the way to a happy ending straight away. 
I wasn't shocked, surprised, or amazed by the 'spellseeker' and 'cursecaster' thing. But that's just my personal opinion. I wasn't overwhelmed by Millie, and Elizabeth got a little annoying at some points. It did pick up towards the end, Maxwell was a very good villain and his curses on New York were pretty interesting to read: a touch of real horror to the novel. I loved the ending, some of it quite unexpected but appreciated. It resolved the novel without resolving everything. 
Favourite quote: "I want one person to see me. Out of these hundreds. Out of these thousands."

Friday, 17 October 2014

Belzhar - Meg Wolitzer

Title: Belzhar 
Author: Meg Wolitzer 
Published: September 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile 
Pages: 264 
Bought: £7.99 Waterstones
Rating: four stars

A group of emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers gather at a therapeutic boarding school where they are mysteriously picked for 'Special Topics in English'. Here, they are tasked with studying Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar and keeping a journal.

Each time the students write in their diaries they are transported to a miraculous other world called Belzhar. Here, they are no longer haunted by their trauma and grief - each begin to tell their own story. 
*Synopsis from back of book*

So, I can't lie when I started this book I was a bit mislead by the first line: "I was sent here because of a boy." I thought to myself 'ah hell, this book is going to be appallingly cliché'. (And I did manage to guess the love interest 30 pages in.) It all sounded a bit typical, and at some points it definitely was.

But I was enjoying it, because all the main characters had a little something extra to them. The Special Topics English class was rich with well-rounded characters I could feel for. Sierra especially, I just wanted to fall into the book and talk with her. Jam was vividly put to page, I didn't always like her, with her love-dumbness in the beginning, and that something was concealed from us for so long was almost too much. At the same time she weaned herself into my emotions even before I could understand her. She's so perceptive of other people and I don't think I was perceptive enough of her. 

By the end it all made sense. I'd forgotten that this was a school for the "emotionally fragile", especially because the image of the school itself didn't come across very clearly to me. The fact that she'd created this perfect imaginary scenario out of a very different reality really stood out for me. And in the end, though not fully recovered she's positive about her future, she's positive about life outside of the school - which made me feel good. 

I was left feeling, like the English student I am, that the magic notebooks were all just some huge metaphor for their recovery, for realising what went wrong and how to deal with it. Or as Jam puts it, how to find their voice. 

"Words matter. All semester, we were looking for the words to say what we needed to say. We were all looking for our voice."

I've got to give it to the author, she can say some beautiful things. But the road did seem a little bumpy, because she can also say some cliché and slightly forced in things that didn't make me think that it actually was the mind of a teenager. 

So overall I liked the twistiness of this novel and the romance was sweet without being too overpowering. It was a story of recovery and of finding a voice, and in the end I did enjoy it. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Top Ten Places Books Have Made Us Want To Visit

1) The Nevernever
Julie Kagawa made it sound so mysterious and awesome, and yeah I'd probably die in a second flat but looks cool.

2) Middle Earth
This is more based on the film considering I've only just started reading the book, but still I think it'd be beautiful and, as with the Nevernever, pretty deadly.

3) The world Todd lives on in The Knife of Never Letting Go
I don't know why but I think it'd be fascinating!

4) New York
I thought Cassandra Clare was really good at setting up an image of the city in my mind, and I've always wanted to go anyway.

5) Japan
I love Japan, like a lot and I've been studying the culture for a while, but Memoirs of a Geisha was a kicker for me.

6) London
I actually live in England so this one is feasible, and I have been once before, but I'd like to go again. There's been a lot of recent books (and old ones) set in London and they make it seem more charming than I remember is being, so I think I better give it another go, eh?

7) The alternative universe (as I like to think) from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
I just seem to be picking places that will kill me...but this sounds so awesome.

8) Can I just say America? I know that's pretty vague but...
All the books seem to be set in America and it might be nice to understand some of the references without googling them,

Because America is such a vague/massive one I might just let it fill in 9 & 10. ;) (i.e. I can't think of any more.)

Friday, 10 October 2014

Reread and Review: Darke Academy - Gabriella Poole

Book: Secret Lives, Blood Ties, Divided Souls
Series: Darke Academy
Author: Gabriella Poole
Published: August 2009
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 
Pages: 288 - 320
Rating: 3/5 stars

 You'll be dying to join the chosen Few... 

The Darke Academy is a school like no other. An élite establishment that moves to an exotic new city every term, its students are impossibly beautiful, sophisticated and rich. And the more new scholarship girl Cassie Bell learns about the Academy, the more curious she becomes. 

What sinister secrets are guarded by the Few — the select group of students who keep outsiders away? Who is the dark stranger prowling the corridors at night? And what really happened a year earlier, when the last scholarship girl died in mysterious circumstances? 

One thing Cassie will discover is that a little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but knowing too much can be deadly...
*Synopsis from Goodreads*

So I decided to go through my books and find a story that I haven't read in ages to see how my opinion of it has changed. I picked The Darke Academy series, from my Vampire book phase, because I remember really enjoying them but going off vampire books before the fourth was released.  I want to know whether I should continue it now.

The story is really original and I find Cassie a super gutsy and likeable character. The images of the school and cities are really good, and the writing style is simple and easy to read. It helps that these aren't particularly long books.

Poole is really good at building characters and giving them their own identity, even if they weren't front and centre stage . I remember wanting Isabella to be my best friend and having a book-character-crush on Richard and Ranjit. In fact Richard is probably my favourite character out of the whole series because he's a dastardly charming English gent but also two-faced and sneaky (I'm not 100% convinced it's just because of he Few spirit either).

The plot in the first two books really made it for me. I loved the idea of this not-so-secret, yet totally mysterious, clique ruling over a school filled with privileged kids and that it takes scholarship student Cassie to shake things up a bit. The Few spirits were a chilling take of vampires as well, and the way they fed really freaked me out.

I found Cassie's resemblance to Jess a little...strange. Also, that apart from knowing she comes from a care home we never find much out about Cassie's past. But apart from that and Cassie's ability to kill without any apparent remorse, I loved the mystery and scandal that arose with her appearance. The first book ultimately deals with Cassie becoming a member of the few...illegally, and the second book about dealing with some of the fall out of the first book, including one rich, homicidal maniac.

But the third book...meh. It was like the ideas had run a little dry. All of a sudden Ranjit is crazy as hell and there's some chase for some weird-ass relics. It all goes a bit cliché, and the fall out between Cassie and Isabella seems flimsy at best. It disappointed me because I so enjoyed the first two. Once again Cassie demonstrates her ability to have no morality whatsoever by:
a) letting Ranjit escape, when she could have stopped him
b) not caring about Richard's role in Jess's death, no matter how innocent his intentions seemed
c) almost completely disregarding Jake and Isabella in the last chapter in order to have some witty banter with Richard

Originally, I thought her fling with Richard was a blessing, because I thought they'd be a really interesting dynamic. But no, Cassie is all "I'm still so in love with my serial killing, unreliable ex-boyfriend, I have to be with him". This made me sad.

Anyway, I don't know whether I'm going to get the fourth book. I might just to satiate the slight tingle of curiosity that I have but. 3/5 stars for the last book making me sad but the first two being really good.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Currently reading - October

I thought the best way to get back into the swing of things was probably to tell you what I'm reading at the moment!

1# Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer
Published: September 2014
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Pages: 266

I was attracted to this because the plot sounded super interesting. When I started reading I didn't know if I was going to get along with it, though. Anything that starts with "I was sent here because of a boy" would strike me as sort of edgy, to be honest. I'm on the second chapter and fortunately it seems to be keeping my attention really well. I do hope I haven't guessed the love interest already though, because if I have that's just too cliché. 

2# Invisibility by Andrea Cremer and David Levithan 
Published: May 2013
Publisher: Philomel 
Pages: 358 

So this one is one that I just saw in the bookstore and was instantly intrigued by. It's not a new book but right now I'm fancying a bit of a romance novel and this looks like it's going to satiate that want! I actually haven't read anything by Andrea Cremer and only Will Grayson, Will Grayson by David Levithan and John Green. So really excited to get into this one!

On a slightly different note, for my course I'm currently reading The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler, which I'm surprisingly not hating like I thought I would!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Oh my goodness, finally have time to breathe. I haven't been able to post anything because this year I decided to do Freshers Crew for Freshers Week at my university and it has been none stop. I have been soooo busy.

Moved into the house I'm renting with my friends though, and it's great. Put together a little bookshelf in a somewhat ramshackle way and am slowly enjoying filling it to bursting point. Choosing books to bring with me was HARD (I only allowed myself five none course related books).

Because of my course I've been reading a lot of classics, I'm talking Tess of the d'Urbervilles, North and South, The Way of All Flesh etc. Plus got a free book from my uni that looks interesting: The Garden of Evening Mists by Twang Eng Tan. Looking forward to having a read of that! Last year I got The Accidental by Ali Smith.  

Hopefully going to be back into the swing of things after this week at least. Feeling a little run down due to acquiring freshers flu and on top of that I have a job interview this Wednesday. When did my life get this hectic?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

"Waiting on" Wednesday: The Fall - Bethany Griffin

Meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 

Publication date: 7th October 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow Books

Synopsis from Goodreads:
She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.
Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.
In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down?The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.

Admittedly, it was the cover that originally attracted me to this book, it looks like the story sounds from what I've read: intense, chilling, yet beautiful.

I know quite a few people have been reviewing this already, and that the reviews make it sound like it's going to be right up my street! I automatically thought that it's got the same intense look as Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, in a strange kind of way! 

The whole concept looks amazing, and although I haven't read the work this book is based on (Edgar Allan Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher) I cannot wait to get my hands on this book!

Monday, 8 September 2014

We Were Liars - E. Lockhart

Title: We Were Liars
Author: E. Lockhart
Publication date: May 2014
Purchased: ASDA - £3.85
Rating: three stars

We are liars
We are beautiful and privileged
We are cracked and broken
A tale of love and romance
A tale of tragedy

Which are lies?
Which is truth? 
You decide 
*synopsis from back of book*

Honestly, I think I was expecting a little more from this book than I actually got. But whilst it was a good contemporary novel with a powerful story, it just wasn't one hundred per cent for me.

I thought that Lockhart created a fantastic setting, I really could see the island and the houses. She was really good at capturing each scene in the novel perfectly. The only drawback was that I felt like the protagonist Cadence had no personality. I never really got a grasp of who she was and couldn't really get involved with how she felt. She kept using these extreme metaphors to describe how she felt, but, to be honest, I didn't like them. But everyone else I got a real strong sense of personality, made especially by the writing style. Example a: "Mirren, she is sugar, curiosity, and rain" - I love how simplistic yet impacting these little descriptions can be. I thought it was beautiful.

It dealt with some real issues, especially surrounding family. Cadence's parents divorce and her complicated relationship with her mum, and the three sister's relationship with their father was of a lot of interest to me. I'm not a tall, blonde beauty born into a millionaire family with a budding financial problem, but I could believe what I was reading (mostly). The children being cleaved between the pressures of living up to expectations and just wanting it all to end is probably something a lot of people can emphasise with, and it was depicted well enough that I could sympathise.

However, in terms of plot Cadence's illness seemed pretty sketchy to me at some points. I know that there was a big old twist that had for the story's sake to be kept hush, but when it did come out (and no I didn't expect it) it made the story a little meh for me. I honestly don't know enough about what she suffered to prove it was unrealistic, but I felt like she would've know more than she did until the end of her weeks on the island. I really do, but I could be wrong. Like I said before, I didn't expect the twist, maybe that was silly of me not to, but I definitely thought it was the best bit of the book, I shed a little tear.

Overall it was a story with a great plotline, but at times I found it a bit puzzling and I couldn't really get involved with Cadence as a character as I would have liked to. Maybe I'm missing something, but it was just my impression.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Solitaire - Alice Oseman

Title: Solitaire 
Author: Alice Oseman
Published: 31st July 2014
Rating: four stars
Bought from ASDA for £3.95

"I don't remember not being serious. As far as I'm concerned, I came out of the womb spouting cynicism and wishing for rain."
My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that's all over now. 
Now there's Solitaire. And Michael Holden. 
I don't know what Solitaire are trying to do. And I don't care about Michael Holden. I really don't. 
*Synopsis from back of book* 

So when I first started reading this book I had an immediate problem, I didn't think I was going to like Tori much at all. When I read the synopsis I thought I'd be able to associate with her as a character because she was a blogger and seemed like a bit of introvert, but nuh-uh. I felt like she was judgemental of other people and that she never made an effort, yet acted like the world was against her. And I didn't like it. She didn't get involved with conversation nor did she make any effort to keep the bonds she had with her friends. 

But, big but, she wasn't oblivious to this fact and she seemed to develop over the course of the book, whilst still remaining herself. In the end, it was Tori's development in the story that made the book for me, instead of the plot. I could completely understand why she felt the way she did, the world has a horrible way of sitting on shoulders, even if I did want to make her realise that the world isn't a hundred per cent badness. 

The plot itself was very interesting and the story dealt and handled a lot of issues really nicely. Psychological disorders, depression, justice, lack of care (on an almost Less Than Zero level), as well as friendship. Solitaire was an interesting mystery and it was nice to see their actions resonate bigger than just complimenting Tori's life, but rather they highlighted the dangerous cultural norm that is placing others on a pedestal and mistaking their violence for excitement and justice. 

The romance in this novel was inevitable, but it was still good. I loved Michael and I loved him with Tori. The ice skating scene is probably the cutest romantic scene I have ever read. In a lot of ways, these two compliment each other perfectly, without either of them being perfect.

If there was one thing I would have liked a bit more of it would be that I wanted to hear a bit more about Tori's family. The story had quite a lot of interaction between Charlie and Tori, but I felt that the parents were there because they had to be there. They had no real input into the story. 

Overall it was a good read, which I read really quickly. I thoroughly enjoyed Tori as a character and I thought it was written really well, especially because I've never read a book that's similar. Ultimate kudos to Alice Oseman.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Little English Bookshops - Minster Gate Bookshop

Yesterday I went on a day-trip to York in England, which is a gorgeous old city with streets that remind me very strongly of Diagon Alley in Harry Potter. I just had to drag my mum to possibly the most lovely book store: Minster Gate Bookshop (situated a stones throw from the cathedral). 

York Cathedral! 
It boasts an impressive four floors of bookish delight, including the bottom level 'bargain basement', where I found Tess of the D'Urbervilles for a pocket friendly £2. The cashier is situated in a room on the ground floor filled to the brim with rare and expensive copies of books.I am the proud owner of one such copy: the 1967 edition of K.M. Briggs The Fairies in Tradition and Literature - which I got for my eighteenth birthday. All the other floors cover a wide, wide range of topics, including an international/foreign section!

All the rooms, even the stairways, are filled to the brim with beautiful books in all shapes and sizes including a beautiful edition of Peter Pan that I almost splurged on.

The building is super quiet despite being bang-smack in the middle of a busy street and I could have got lost in there for hours! It's like stepping into a real life fairytale itself because it's in this obviously ancient building equipped with narrow stairways and creaky floors - filled to the brim with that old book smell!

Whoever owns it obviously loves it passionately and has put in a lot of effort to make it perfect. It's a booklovers dream, so if you ever get the chance, you should step in because it's so worth it!

Look at all the books!

Shop front!

Over excited by the calligraphy writing.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

"Waiting on" Wednesday: I Was Here - Gayle Forman

Meme hosted by Breaking the Spine 

Synopsis from Goodreads
When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

So this looks like it's going to be absolutely heartbreaking, but at the same time I get the feeling it's going to be one of those amazing books that will make me question all sorts of things. I'm super pumped for this book mainly because I haven't ever really read anything that sounds similar, and I'm all for branching out. Totally hoping this doesn't disappoint! 

Also, I've never read anything by Gayle Forman, so hopefully she's as amazing a writer as the synopsis makes me feel she probably is. 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Monsters of Men - Patrick Ness: Chaos Walking #3

Title: Monsters of Men
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking
Publication date: September 2010
Rating: Four stars!

This book was so packed with action that I'm not even sure where to begin. It quite graphically presents the real terror and contradiction of war. The fight for peace is rendered obsolete whilst both the Mayor and Mistress Coyle fight for their own personal cause. Which ties perfectly into the phrase repeated numerous times throughout the story: don't make war personal.

Of course this is difficult when Todd and Viola are constantly faced with saving each other or ending the war. This does lead to some moments that made me facepalm a little, because I felt like they constantly got sidetracked in a way that was a little whiny and irresponsible. But also very human. I thought the development of their relationship in this book was more gratifying, because despite all the mistrust and trouble that brews between them they both still see the love the other has for them, which I thought was really sweet.

I loved the input of the Spackle voice, in fact it was probably my favourite thing in the entire trilogy. Their lives are so complex and alien, but made understandable as 1017/The Return tries to make sense of himself and his feelings of loneliness despite being surrounded by his own kind.

There were so many moments in this book where I though "yay it's all going to end well" only for shit to hit the fan AGAIN, but I think,despite slowing the whole thing down for me during the middle section of the book, the ending was really worth while. The bonus story I got in my edition of the book though really, really cleared something that would have killed me not to know up. So overall, I have thoroughly enjoyed this trilogy and Patrick Ness is now one of my favourite authors. His characters shone through so vividly for me, even the bad ones, that it has really been an emotional roller coaster.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The Ask and The Answer- Patrick Ness

Title: The Ask and The Answer
Author: Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking trilogy
Publication date: May 2009
Rating: Four and a half stars.

*Synopsis from back of book*
"Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd and Viola once again face their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.
Immediately imprisoned and separated from Viola, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order.
And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode... "

The action starts straight away, sensible considering the MASSIVE cliffhanger of the last book. This one has some truly cracking moments. Bombs, rebellion, more bombs...

I felt so conflicted when Todd and Viola got sucked up into the grizzly worlds of The Ask and The Answer...separately. Plus with the impending arrival of Viola's ship it's all super tense. I didn't think there were any lengthy boring gaps where I thought it was drab because a hell of a lot goes on, especially because it's told from Todd and Viola's viewpoint - and different things are happening with them both. New Prentisstown becomes a town of war and terror under the influence of two opposing sides, and is completely victimised as both aim for victory.

Todd is transformed by so much in this story, and I feel sorry and simultaneously pissed off at him a lot of the time. He has to deal with his feelings for the spackle and their's for him, the pressure of the Mayor's influence, and spending everyday with Davy Prentiss. Viola practically shines in this book, her true strength of character blossoms as she battles through loss and mistrust. Their relationship also blossoms, it's just lovely. It's not overly romantic but it's quite clear that they centre around each other a lot despite all that fights against them and apparent betrayal.

There are so many fantastic characters in this books, fantastic in terms of their presence and totalitarian personalities. And it's really hard hitting, but I thought this was a great second instalment and I wasn't disappointed, though it was nothing like I thought it was going to be. I really hope that in the next book we hear more about  Lee, because I felt like he was more of a plot tool than someone relevant, but I really want to hear how it turns out for him.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Top ten books I'd recommend to people who haven't tried dystopian novels

1.) Brave New World - Aldous Huxley. Actually the first one that I ever read, so it holds a special place in my heart and gets top spot!

2.) More Than This - Patrick Ness. I loved everything about this book. Definitely recommend for a twisty and chilling plot-line!

3.) Blood Red Road - Moira Young. Feisty heroine, brilliant setting, and brutal plot - what more can I say.

4.) 1984 - George Orwell. Why not throw a classic in there? I know they aren't YA but they are fantastic and make you really glad you live in today's society.

5.) The Chaos Walking trilogy - Patrick Ness. It's got a fantastic story and characters you fall in love with, but also runs the risk of tears and suspense induced bitten down finger nails - read with caution.

6.) A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess. Freaky as shit. I love it.

7.) The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins. Of course - it's GREAT if you're just starting to read novels with a dystopian setting.

8.) Angel. - L.A. Weatherly. Don't know if you can technically class this as dystopian, but it definitely involves a society I WOULD NOT want to live in when it all goes to hell.

9.) Dark Inside - Jeyn Roberts. Nitty, gritty, and sure as hell not pretty.

10.) Divergent - Veronica Roth. Okay, I'm going to choose this one because it's so popular. The first book is immense, but I've been put-off reading the 2nd and 3rd because of all the negativity I've heard about it. BUT I think the first book was perfect, so there.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Top ten (well, eight) characters I'd want on a deserted island with me

Meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish :) 

1) Jem Carstairs from The Infernal Devices because I could stare at him all day, and he could play a violin crafted from the wood of a coconut tree or something, to pass the time of course. We could have deep philosophical talks. Plus, you know, he's a shadowhunter so he's pretty practical at the whole surviving thing.

2) Katniss from The Hunger Games because duh. She's probably on everyone's list and if she can survive The Hunger Games she can survive an island - plus she's pretty loyal so I wouldn't have to worry about her disappearing on a one person raft without me.

3) Magnus Bane from The Mortal Instruments because he could probably just zap us out of there efficiently. Unless it was a deserted island in hell or something. This holds true for a myriad of other magical folk, as well.

4) Cas from Anna Dressed in Blood because he's pretty badass and I feel like we'd get along. He could talk to me about the woes of loving a dead, vengeful spirit etc. Plus if any demons just randomly showed up...

5) Jacon Portman from Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children because hopefully there's a loop on the island that we can disappear into, and of course I discover that I too am in fact peculiar.

6) Katsa from Graceling because she's one kick-ass female character and I feel like she could teach me to defend myself. We could all work together to build a raft and get off the island.

7) Fred and George from Harry Potter because if I'm going to be stuck on a island it may as well be hilarious. Plus, you know, the whole wizard thing might be helpful.

8) Viola from The Chaos Walking because she's one of my favourite YA female characters and she survived crash landing on a scary new planet, so I'm pretty sure we could survive on a measly island.

And I've run out of other people I'd want there, knowing me I'll probably think of a couple later. :)

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Currently reading!

These babies finally arrived; can't wait to get stuck in! 

If You Find Me - Emily Murdoch

Title: If You Find Me 
Author: Emily Murdoch
Published: March 2013
Publisher: Indigo
Length: 312
Rating: 4 and a half stars

"Happiness is free, Mama says, as sure as the blinkin' star, the withered arms of the tree thrown down for our fires, the waterproofin' on our skin and the tongues of wind curlin' the walnut leaves before slidin' down our ears." p.3

Okay, so before I launch into the review, I have to say I've been on a pretty good streak regarding the standard of books I've been reading over the summer. Can't say I've come across one yet that I haven't been impressed with.

I was especially impressed with this one, it has to be one of the most powerful books I've read in a while, possibly ever. The way that Emily Murdoch writes just hit me right in the gut, she's astoundingly good at weaving her way through words and images - I was in love.

The story itself was brilliant, it hit off right at the get-go and I learnt to love Carey as a character so much. She was strong willed, intelligent, and dead set on protecting her little sister, Nessa. She develops so much throughout the novel, into a strong young adult, despite all odds.

Both Carey and Nessa grow so much once they are deposited into the hustle and bustle of normal urban life, away from the stand-still of the woods. They have to deal with the truth about their Mama, a new family, and learning to 'fit in'. The novel for me was about family, love, protection, and truth - with a smidgen of romance thrown in halfway through.

The story plays host to a great variety of characters and Carey's often mixed feelings regarding them. This is especially highlighted in Delaney's role - sometimes I thought she was a bitch and the next I was thinking about all she's had to deal with and how the impact of one thing ripples.

The novel tackles and grapples with some sensitive topics, which left me a bit teary eyed to be honest. Drugs, rape, kidnapping are just a few of the most obvious ones throughout the novel, but I felt like the were talked about honestly and maturely. This was a story of accepting the past, though not necessarily forgiving it, and embracing a brighter future.

If there were any points that kind of put a damper on it for me, it was perhaps the fact that Carey is 'the most beautiful girl anyone has ever seen ever' because of course she was gonna be a hidden bombshell. This didn't bother me overly much though. Also, some of the apparent teenage slang used by Delaney - hey, though maybe those words are used by American teenagers, I don't know.

Anyway, one of my favourite reads of this year, I'm very glad I read it and shall probably be picking it up for a re-read at some point.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon

Author: Mark Haddon 
Published: May 2003 
Rating: ****

Just another quick read plus I picked this up for a bargain! Although this post will be less of a review than just a discussion considering it's an internationally acclaimed, best-selling novel/stage production - it hardly needs any more positive reviews

I decided to pick up this book after reading Wonder and though definitely a different novel about different things it still had the same feel to me, in that it deals with potentially difficult situations and themes. 

I really did enjoy this book, I felt like Christopher was fantastically portrayed and though he does things that some may find strange or disconcerting, the fact that it's a first person narrative really helps to put the reader into his mindset. His interaction with other people is also really enlightening because I could see them through his eyes: those that understand and know Christopher against those that don't know how to act around him or completely misunderstand him.

I found the story itself interesting, it unravelled itself quite gracefully. My heart-ached for Christopher when he found out the truth of the dog case, but  not only for him exclusively. I couldn't help be sympathetic of his mum as well as his dad, neither are perfect and they do screw up pretty spectacularly but I do sympathise. This doesn't excuse any wrongdoings but it's not a two toned world with only good and bad actions. 

I found the story on a whole really realistic as well as the narrative being straightforward (excluding the maths equations) and refreshing. Plus there were pictures! I rated this book four stars because whilst I found it overall an enjoyable read, it's not been my favourite read this year. Still a nice addition to my book shelf, though.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Wonder - R. J. Palacio

Title: Wonder 
Author: R. J. Palacio
Publication date: February 2012

Books like this don't usually catch my attention, so when this one did I don't know what I expected.

Firstly, I knew it wasn't aimed at my age range, but this did not hinder the impact this book had on me. It was thoughtful and thought provoking; it made me question the way that maybe I had viewed difference in the past. It's wonderfully written, with just enough humour and liveliness to make it perfect for younger readers.

It deals with issues that perhaps some may shy away from, but it does it in such away that emphasises the idea that these issues aren't 'taboo' - they need to be talked about. It encourages the reader to embrace difference and be understanding, because in the end difference is normal.

The focus of the novel was August, who is astoundingly mature for his age - though don't get me wrong we still understand that he's a child. He's remarkably good-natured and tells numerous jokes about himself. His situation is tough and Middle School is definitely hard, but how he overcomes this and the glorious way he brings out the best in the people around him make me love this character.

It's not just told from his perspective though, and I really felt like we got to know every character in this book, from August's friends Jack and Summer to his sister Olivia and her boyfriend. But also the adults; I kind of loved Mr. Tushman.

He's surrounded by a caring, and slightly overbearing, family, including his sister Olivia. I couldn't dislike her as a character, she has had to deal with a lot. She knows and understands her situation in school isn't necessarily as difficult as Augusts, but she still has to deal her own problems, as well as feeling like her mum doesn't care for her as much as August.

This story isn't just about August's face, it's also about children and young adults having to deal with growing up: school, friends, and family. It's a wonderful book written by someone who put a lot of care into representing the under represented in novels and life. I enjoyed it very much.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

City of Heavenly Fire - Cassandra Clare

Title: City of Heavenly Fire 
Author: Cassandra Clare
Series: The Mortal Instruments book 6
Publication date: May 2014

"You need to get a message through? There's always carrier kittens."
"You mean pigeons," said Bat. "Carrier pigeons."
Malcolm shook his head. "Carrier kittens. They're so cute, no one can deny them. Fix your mouse problems too." p.411

So, the eager wait for the finale of this series is over, and boy, did it go off with a bang...or several. In regards to how addictive is was, well, it had its moments where I was hard-pressed putting it down. But being probably Cassandra Clare's biggest book, in terms of length (geesh 725 pages plus extras) meant it wasn't a one night sitting kind of thing. For which I am glad because she had some serious wrapping up to do!

Any fervour I thought lost in the previous novels was headily regained in the finale, as might be expected of the last of a series. I have a friend that gave-up half way through the series, but I'm glad I didn't despite some tiny reservations. I just remembered how much I adored the first book and how excited I was. So, this book was some kind of a blessing. It had juicy bits, romance, and some intense fighting scenes/chapters. Sometimes all at once.

This story is action packed, but nicely spaced out by some much needed explanations and twisty-turns that make the heart race a bit, they do. I especially like the role of the faeries in this book (not just because of my obsession with them) but because it really upped the supernatural game. A lot of the downworlders in this book have some link that ties them to humanity, but how can something so removed from humanity have it, and should they be charged for sins according to humanity?

Plus, this book is ever more filled with kick-ass characters, some of which we're meeting for the first time; a pretty despicable, yet pitiful, villain, and slimy demons. Clary, Jace, Simon, Isabelle, and Alec really kick some serious demon (and non-demon) ass - which they've always done, but this time the odds are stacked very much against them.

And, I suppose, not to give too much away, the odds do over-stack a little towards the end. Which I liked, I'm not one for happy-endings and smiles, but like most of Clare's stories, this balances out. Which is actually my problem with this book. I know it's not all left resolved and new problems are ever looming on the horizon casting shadows and all that, but uncannily I get that 'it's all roses' feeling in regards to the main crew and all their lot. Not that they don't deserve them. It does avoid the rabid screaming of fans when they realise their favourite character didn't get their dreams, hopes, and desires. But personally, I like a bit more, dare I say, misery...? Maybe not the right word, I just like it when my expectations are dashed and changed, I find it invigorating.

On the other hand, the story is really put together well, with its usual sky-high level of snark and cheekiness. Do watch out for those tear jerking (ripping) moments thought, will ya? God knows there's enough of them.

So, bidding adieu to The Mortal Instruments and awaiting the birth of the next batch of shadowhunting, kick-ass, demon-slaying greatness, so I can get my fix.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Top Ten Tuesday - What I love on my covers

 Wonderfully hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Here are my ten things I love on book covers! Some of them are less trends then just individual books that grabbed my attention. :)

1) Black and white covers.

Hollow City by Ranson Riggs

 2) When the cover is relevant to the story.

(I also really like how the red stands out on this book cover.)

3) Simplicity.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell & A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

4) When it looks ethereal.

Splintered by A. G. Howard

5) Real people - when they're tastefully done.

(In all honesty, it's really rare to find one with an actual person on it that I like. I didn't like The Mortal Instruments covers, but I thought The Infernal Devices covers were really pretty. Especially this one.)

6) Moody looking book covers.

Stonewylde by Kit Berry & Ultraviolet by S. J. Anderson

7) Pretty fonts.
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs, Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce & hush, hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

8) Illustrated covers.
Sisters Red & Sweetly by Jackson Pearce 

9) When there's no advertisement on the front.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs 

(So it's not really an advertisement in this case, but it really stands out over the cover and it looks like a sticker. It annoys me.)

10) When hardbacks have a pretty cover without the dust-jacket on.

Angela Carter's Book of Fairy Tales by Angela Carter & Hollow City (again) by Ransom Riggs