Best Books of 2016

It’s been a busy year for me outside of the blog but I’ve still found time to read, which I’m really pleased about. Although I did end up cutting my Goodreads challenge down from 120 books to 100, I do think the initial target was a bit ambitious considering all that’s gone on! Still, I beat that target and am ending the year on 106 books, which is pretty awesome.

For the end of this rollercoaster of a year, I’m picking my favourite book from each month, which is a pretty tough call! So tough, in fact, that I’ve added a couple of books that deserve an honourable mention each month. These are books that I have read this year but not necessarily been released in 2016.

January

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The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

This is easily one of my favourite modern YA fantasy stories. After winning a copy of the first book in a competition in 2015, I was hooked, and was super excited to be part of the blog tour for this book and to get to read it early. I can’t wait for The Scarecrow Queen to come out next year.

Honourable Mentions: Front Lines by Michael Grant, The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl by Melissa Keil

February

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Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

This was an incredible debut with one of my favourite protagonists and a setting that really differed to most of the books I’ve read. I loved the Arabian Nights feel to it and I can’t wait to read the sequel next year.

Honourable Mentions: Forbidden by Tabitha Sazuma, Red Witch by Anna McKerrow

March

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Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

The thing that carried this book was the characters. It’s so rare to see a boy-girl platonic friendship in YA and it was really refreshing to read. It’s also great not to read the same straight, white characters too: this book was really beautiful in its diversity.

Honourable Mentions: A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge

April 

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Saga by Brian K. Vaughan  Fiona Staples

Easily the best graphic novel I’ve read all year, possibly ever. The Deluxe Edition is beautiful although I hate that I have to wait so long for the next edition. The story, characters and art all weave perfectly together and I just loved this book.

Honouable Mentions: Flawed by Cecelia Ahern

May

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Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

This was brutal book that hurt to read but somehow filled me with hope too. I’ll admit, part of me wished it was a Seed sequel but if I can’t have that then this is the next best thing from Lisa Heathfield!

Honourable Mentions: In the Dark, In the Woods by Eliza Waas

June

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Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

I’d seen this book around a lot and had it sat on the shelf for a while before I read it. I regret leaving it so long: it said so many things that I was thinking about femnism and mental health and is a book I really wish had been around when I was a teenager.

Honourable Mentions: Blame by Simon Mayo

July

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The Deviants by C. J. Skuse

This is one of those books that just punches you in the gut and leaves you breathless. As a group of friends reconnect, secrets from their past won’t stay buried and will end in tragedy. The ending hurt me. I’d really recommend it.

Honourable Mentions: The Castle of Inside Out by David Henry Wilson, Faceless by Alyssa Sheinmel

August

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What’s a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne

After reading the first two books in the Spinster Trilogy earlier this year, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this one. As soon as I read the synopsis I knew it was going to be awesome. Lottie’s challenge to call out sexism was inspiring to read and got me thinking about sexism I see every day too.

Honourable Mentions: I’ll Be Home for Christmas by lots of awesome UKYA authors

September

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More of Me by Kathryn Evans

After struggling with reading for a bit, this book got me absolutely hooked. I read it at every opportunity and genuinely struggled to put it down. Unlike anything I’ve read before, I’ve been recommending this to everyone.

Honourable Mentions: Eidolon by Sofi Croft, Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery

October 

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

No review for this one as I’ll be publishing it next year, closer to publication. This was a book I heard tons of praise for before I read it, and it certainly delivered. Magical and beautiful and twisting and turning. I loved that I could never tell what was the game and what was real.

Honourable Mentions: The Hypnotist by Laurence Anholt, The Ruins by Scott B. Smith

November

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i love this part by Tillie Walden

November was a bit of a quiet reading month for me so while there wasn’t a lot to choose from, this was an easy pick. It’s different to a lot of things I’ve read: not quite graphic novel or short story, more like an art book with a beautifully sad narrative.

Honourable Mentions: The King of Rats by Melinda Salisbury, Horns by Joe Hill

December

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Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Review coming next year, closer to publication date. I love anything to do with Alice in Wonderland and this really hit the spot. An origin of the Queen of Hearts, it somehow fleshes out this insane, angry character into someone you can actually sympathise with.

Honourable Mentions: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr, …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne (no review for either of these yet, check back next year!)

So there you have it. These are some of my favourite books of the year, but they’re only a selection of all the marvelous things I;ve read this year. I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings to me in books! Happy New Year everyone. Hope you all have a wonderful one x

Book Review: The Last Beginning (Lauren James)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 352

Release Date: October 6th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove’s investigation?

For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.

Review:

I was super excited to receive a review copy of this book, and then with everything going on the last month or so it got a bit forgotten. So sorry to the lovely people at Walker books for that! I’m glad I’ve got round to reading it though because it was really fab.

I really enjoyed The Next Together but somehow this book just did it more for me. While I sometimes found Kate irritating as a protagonist, I really loved Clove. She had some of Kate’s impulsiveness and some of Matthew’s thoughtfulness and a whole load more personality of her own. I loved that she knitted to relax/let off some steam, although it used to have the opposite effect on me!

It was great to read about a gay character in a time travel book, where the focus isn’t on being gay/coming out. Clove and Ella’s relationship was sweet: confusing and frustrating at times maybe, but what relationship isn’t?! It took a while to get my head round some bits of it but that’s time travel for you. Special shout out again to James’ version of the future and the little ways she drops things in about it: it’s all subtle and works perfectly to build a picture of the world you’re in.

It was great to have some of the mysteries of the first book resolved and finally learn why Kate and Matt keep coming together at different points in history. It wasn’t the answer I was expecting either. Some bits of the plot had a ring of familiarity to them – changing things in the past and then actions making you start to disappear in the future, etc – but it was all well written and enjoyable so I’m not complaining. There were also parts that made me want to read The Next Together again, real ‘OMG that’s clever’ moments. You can tell the books were really well planned out.

This was a fab ending to the duology, although if she wanted to add another book in with more of Clove’s adventures, I wouldn’t be complaining. It’s probably not going to happen so I’ll just have to wait for her next book, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which sounds awesome just from the title alone!

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Book Review: Horns (Joe Hill)

Publisher: Gollancz

Pages: 437

Release Date: June 2nd 2011

Summary (from Goodreads):

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with one hell of a hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned American musician, and the younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, Ig had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more – he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone – raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances – with Ig the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, Ig was and always would be guilty.

Now Ig is possessed with a terrible new power – with just a touch he can see peoples’ darkest desires – to go with his terrible new look, and he means to use it to find the man who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge; it’s time the devil had his due.

Review:

I originally wanted to read this book as part of my Horroctober reads, but I’ve had a slow time reading lately and ended up starting it at the beginning of November, and taking most of the month to read it. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it, I’ve just struggled to read while doing NaNoWriMo, going back to work and having a poorly baby.

I wanted to read this because I watched the film, although I usually prefer to do things the other way round. But we watched it on Netflix and I really enjoyed it and knew the book would probably be even better – and I was right.

The book really captured me right away as Ig wakes up hung over and with horns growing from his head. When other people see the horns they start spilling their deepest, darkest secrets to him, and don’t remember what they’ve said or seeing the horns afterwards. I loved these interactions with people, seeing what would normally be passing characters suddenly blossom into real people with dark secrets.

What’s worse is when Ig sees close friends and family members and learns what they really think of him. Although he wasn’t tried for his girlfriend Merrin’s rape and murder, everyone believes he did it. He thinks that at least his parents believe him, but even they can’t stand the sight of him. It’s a horrible situation to be in and I felt nervous every time he met a new person ready to say what they really thought of him.

My favourite part of the book is the villain. He’s exceptionally well crafted in a way I can’t quite put into words; he’s real and believable and creepy and unlike any other villain I’ve read before. I enjoyed the different parts of the book and thought they worked better than the way it was told in the film. In the film, there were flashbacks showing  parts of the characters past which just felt jarring and kind of pointless. In the book, these sections were longer and really showed the motivations and relationships of the characters. I especially liked the bits from Lee’s point of view.

I don’t think my review really does this book justice. I’d just say read it, it’s definitely worth it. Hill’s writing is spectacular and I’ll be reading more of his books in future.

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Book Review: Another Together (Lauren James)

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 50

Release Date: June 2nd 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Winter, 1940: there is a murderer on the loose at Bletchley Park, the headquarters of Britain’s most daring codebreaking operation against the Nazis. Can two young codebreakers Kitty and Matthew catch the killer?

Review:

I’ve been struggling to find time to read lately, and after finishing The Next Together I wasn’t sure if I had time to go straight on to The Last Beginning. Then I remembered I downloaded this short story ages ago. It was the perfect little story to dip into and great to be able to carry on with Kate and Matt’s story without having to commit to a full book while I was busy last month.

It was nice to be able to read a full one of the pairs adventures without jumping between stories: while I did like this in The Next Together, it was great to read one of their stories uninterrupted, as it were. I think this period of their lives was mentioned in the first book and I’m glad James picked this one for her short story. I love this period of history and it was great to see these familiar characters in it.

As always, I loved the pair, but found Kitty slightly annoying. She’s a bit too brash and in your face for me, but you gotta love a character with flaws. I’m still a bit in love with Matthew: I love his nerves around Kitty, the way she pushes him to do things outside his comfort zone and the way he grounds her. They’re such a lovely couple and I love seeing them in different time periods.

The plot to this was fairly simple (yes, I guessed the murderer easily) but it’s only a short book and the writing was great, bar a few too many exclamation points. It was the perfect story to tide me over in a busy month and to whet my appetite for the next book.

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British Books Challenge 2017

So, I’m planning on signing up for my third British Books Challenge.

I can already tell you how it’s going to go:

I’ll be really enthusiastic the first few weeks, maybe even months. I’ll tag my reviews with ‘British Books Challenge’ and make sure I’ve linked them all up before the end of the month.

And then I’ll trail off until eventually I’m not doing it at all.

That’s how it’s gone for the last two years anyway, despite my best intentions. It’s not that I don’t want to read British books, or even that I’m not doing it, I just forget to link up and eventually give up altogether.

But I’m doing it again next year anyway, because I think it’s a great thing and I do enjoy it while I remember. This year it’s being hosted by Chelley Toy at Tales of Yesterday and it sounds like she’s got some fab things lines up.

I don’t really have a list of books I’d like to read next year, but a few do spring to mind that I’m looking forward to:

  • The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury
  • The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
  • Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
  • Chasing the Stars by Malorie Blackman

Book Review: The King of Rats (Melinda Salisbury)

Publisher: Scholastic

Pages: 48

Release Date: July 29th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Five hundred years ago, Tallith was a utopia, populated by a proud and privilged people, none more so than Crown Prince Aurek, and his twin sister Aurelia. With their golden eyes and silver hair, the twins were the jewel in the crown of the realm, light and dark, night and day. The bright future of Tallith seemed assured in their hands.

But then the rats came.

From across the seas, they summon the rat catcher, desperate to rid their people of the plague attacking the very heart of Tallith. But the rat catcher brings with him more than just his trade; a beautiful daughter who will bow to no man. And when prince Aurek decides he will have her, come what may, he sets in motion a chain of events that will reshape the world for centuries to come…

 

Review:

I love the Sin Eater series and was super jealous when I saw people coming back from YALC with The King of Rats. Luckily, for those like me who couldn’t go, it’s also available to download from the Waterstones website here.

The beauty of this book is you don’t really need to read the series to read this one. It helps: I loved reading the actual story of the myth we hear about in the books, but if you chose this as your first venture into the world, you wouldn’t be confused or disappointed.

The writing is beautiful and vivid, as always, and I love the characters Salisbury creates. Prince Aurek especially is a favourite of mine, nasty as he can be, and reading this has just made me want to read The Sleeping Prince all over again, and got me really excited for The Scarecrow Queen. It’s definitely one of my most anticipated reads for 2017.

I love the kind of Pied Piper retelling, as that’s always been a story that’s fascinated me and really captured my imagination. I want to read more about the royal twins too: the snippets we’ve heard about them in other books is not enough, and this has just whet my appetite. I love this world and I’m hoping that there will be more novellas released in future, as this is a series I just keep wanting more from.

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On Winning NaNoWriMo 2016

This year I decided to take part in NaNoWriMo for the first time.

It’s something I’ve always planned on doing but the timing has never been right and I’ve put it off. The timing wasn’t brilliant this year either but I decided just to go for it.

And hey, it worked. 50,000 words in 30 days. I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty impressed with myself. I didn’t think I’d make it.

It was a tough month to make it work because half way through, I went back to work. It’s been tough adjusting to a new routine for all of us: Little Moore is used to spending every day with me, and now he has some with me, two with Daddy, one with Nonna and one at nursery. It’s disrupted us all a bit and we’re still finding our feet.

It’s also been a bad month sleeping wise for Little Moore. After sleeping the best he ever has while on holiday at the end of October, he’s taken two steps back and is now really hard to settle and wakes up every couple of hours in the night. It was tough when he did that before and I could still nap with him the day time, but it’s even tougher now I have to go to work. We’ve just found out he has foot and mouth disease (common in children as well as sheep, apparently) so I’m hoping he’ll get better once that’s cleared up.

Anyway, sometimes, after spending a couple of hours putting him to bed after work, I’d finally sit down and not want to write at all. But I still did it. I hit my word count most days, and did some extra in the beginning while I was keen to give me some leeway for later on. I downloaded Google Docs onto my phone, which helped me to write, as I could do it anywhere rather than having to sit down with my laptop.

While I’m glad I did it, and now have the best part of my novel written, I’m not sure I would do it again. The pressure of writing like that isn’t for me: sure, I got the words out, but I don’t think a lot of them are very good, and I really hated doing it sometimes. I think I’d rather write every day with a less strict word count/schedule to stick to, and that way I’ll enjoy the writing and hopefully write better too.

Still, this is something I’m proud of and really happy I did. I’d recommend giving it a go, even if it’s just to find that it’s not for you.

Book Review: i love this part (Tillie Walden)

Publisher: Avery Hill Publishing

Pages: 68

Release Date: November 13th 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Two girls in a small town in the USA kill time together as they try to get through their days at school.

They watch videos, share earbuds as they play each other songs and exchange their stories. In the process they form a deep connection and an unexpected relationship begins to develop.

Review:

This is my first review in a long time. With NaNoWriMo last month and going back to work, I’ve not had much time for reading or blogging. But I did find a few minutes to sit and read this little gem, which Nathan picked up for me at Thought Bubble this year.

I was a little worried about writing this review, as this is one of those books where I feel there’s probably so much more to it that I haven’t got, and I’ll just sound stupid when I review it. But oh well, I’m doing it anyway!

This is a short coming of age love story between two girls in a small USA town. The sparse dialogue tells the story succinctly and also makes it kind of haunting. The art is simple and stunning and stays with you when you’ve finished reading. The two girls appear as giants at first, towering over buildings and mountains as they are consumed by their developing feelings for each other. As their relationship gets more complicated, the world shrinks around them.

This was a really quick read, but one I can see myself returning to lots. It’s amazing how heart breaking something can be in just a few pages and sentences. I look forward to reading more of Walden’s work.

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