Top Five… Books from 2014

Not so long ago I voted in the Bookish Peeps Book of 2014 and as I did so I realised I’d read very few of the books published then. I have since made up for that a little, and have decided to post my personal Top Five here.
5

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Clariel
Garth Nix
This is the only one on the list that I actually read in 2014. It’s not been reviewed yet, as I didn’t have my blog then, but I know at some point I’ll do a reread of all the Old Kingdome series. I loved having another adventure with the Abhorsens and this one really intrigued me. It’s interesting to see the back story of a character who’s a villain in a later book, and I loved it when I realised who Clariel was.
4

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Lou Morgan
One of the books in the wonderful Red Eye series, Sleepless is a story that blurs the lines between dreams and reality and makes for a confusing and scary read. Some gruesome touches made it a perfect horror story, and I’d recommend this and all the books in the Red Eye series for anyone who loves horror or wants to try something new.
3


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Clare Furniss
This placed high in the Bookish Peeps vote, and it’s easy to see why. Pearl’s grief is really ugly and sometimes hard to understand, and I think that’s the perfect representation of grief. Her story is painful and her actions don’t always make sense, but it’s relatable and gritty and it just makes you feel.


2


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James Dawson
I love horror and this book just totally did it for me. It’s based on an urban legend that I grew up with – I remember standing in front of the mirror in primary school and saying her name – and always wondered what would happen if it were true. Dawson brings that to life and fleshes it out into a creepy little story that I’d recommend to anyone.
1

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Louise O’Neill
This is by far the best book of 2014 for me. It’s one of those ones I can’t begin to articulate how much I adore. I’ve passed it on to my sister to read because I think she could learn a lot about feminism and attitudes to women in it. I think my favourite thing was the ending as, like the rest of the book, it felt brutal and true to real life – no fairy tale endings here!

Are there any books from 2014 that I should bump up the TBR pile?


Book Review: End Game (Alan Gibbons)

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Details:

Publisher: Orion Children’s Books
Pages: 208
Release Date: 9th April 2015
 
Blurb:

‘He was here again last night, the man with the dead eyes. He was in my room and in my head.’
There are not many things Nick Mallory knows for sure.
He knows there was a car crash. He knows he is in hospital. And he knows he feels furious with his father. What he doesn’t know is why.
As his memories start to return, Nick finds himself caught in a net of secrets and lies – where truth and perception collide and heroes and villains are not easy to tell apart.  

Review:

I haven’t read an Alan Gibbons book in about 10 years (my sister had Shadow of the Minotaur and I loved it) but after hearing him to speak at the UKYA Extravaganza this year, I wanted to read some of his more recent works. So I was happy when I won End Game in a Twitter competition (Thank you to Books with Bite!)

End Game is really interesting as it’s told from the perspective of Nick, who is lying immobile in a hospital bed. Although he can think and see, he is unable to communicate or move, and he loses himself in dreams and memories about how he got to be there. It was great to see a mystery revealed this way: it had the same kind of dribs and drabs of information leaked that you’d expect in a mystery story, but had to be a bit more creative about the way it happened.

Sometimes though, that didn’t work for me. There were times when characters said things which sounded purely expositional, as if they were there to lead Nick into another flashback. The way some of the scenes were described over dialogue sometimes felt a bit clumsy too: I couldn’t imagine anyone actually speaking like that.

The issues in End Game are quite sensitive and it’s one of those books where it’s hard to point out the good guy and the bad guy, hard to tell if an action was pure evil or a simple mistake. I could see the point of view of both Nick and his father and felt sorry for both of them. It really was a tricky one.

I really enjoyed Nick as both character and narrator, which is a good job, as we spend a lot of time stuck in his head with him. There were several times when he made me laugh out loud, and I could really see his conflicts with his father and his relationship with his family and girlfriend. He felt very real.

The ending took me by surprise and had me racing to finish and see what happened. I don’t want to spoil it but there was a moment of “Oh no! Not after everything that’s happened!” (Nice and cryptic for you)

For me, this was a great re-introduction to Alan Gibbons, and I am going to make an efffort to read more of his books from now. I recommend you all do the same 😉

My Verdict:

Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

If you enjoyed this you might like Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire

Soundtrack Saturday: All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven)

Soundtrack Saturday is a weekly meme created and run by Erin at The Hardcover Lover. This is my second attempt, as I really enjoyed my last one. Last week I chose to make a soundtrack for Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

This week I decided to do one for All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. It’s my first five star review in a while and there were a few times when reading it that I felt my music really lined up to it. I may have been a little heavy with the water imagery though… 

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So Long – Jenny Owen Youngs 
(the Beginning Song)

Hoping against a hope,
It’s rail thin. 
All that you know from now:
You’d be waitin’. 
So long. 
So long. 

So you walk the path through the sea of sleepers
And keep your eyes ahead. 
Cos you know that light is finders keepers,
But what you found instead

Is no one was made for this,
To be lonely. 
Keep it against your chest,
This is only
So long. 

Everything Reminds Me of You – Emmy the Great 
(Song to Eleanor)

Everything reminds me of you,
Somewhere out roaming tonight,
You fought the bottle, and I
Came out behind.
Now everything reminds me of you,
Tonight,
Oh but the fire,
Will carry less higher,

In time. 
Young in America – Danielle Bradbury 
(Travelling Song)

Ready set go, gotta get out of this small town
The open road, air to breath, the sun is shining down
It’s you and me in a land of the free, so baby let’s run
While we’re young in America

 Young Love – Coby Grant 
(Violet and Finch’s Song)

In the start, in the dark I didn’t know

What you felt like on the inside, but the outside view was quite nice

Then we spent days in bed and time went slow

We started out adventure as we ventured out together

Knowing only  

That our love was growing

Shimmy Shimmy Quarter Turn – Hellogoodbye
(Finch – Staying Awake)
I’m serious as a heart attack
I’m looking in my almanac
I’ve gotta find out all the things
Find out where she got her wings

Shimmy shimmy quarter turn

I feel like I will never learn
How can I check lost and found
When I’m too busy getting down?


Nothing but the Water – Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
(Finch’s Song)

I have fallen so many times
For the devil’s sweet, cunning rhymes
And this old world
Has brought me pain
But there’s hope
For me again

Well, won’t you take me down to the levy, take me down to the stream, take my down to the water,
we’re gonna wash our souls clean

Goodnight and Go – Imogen Heap
(Violet’s Song to Finch)

Skipping beats, blushing cheeks I am struggling
Daydreaming, bed scenes in the corner café
And then I’m left in bits recovering tectonic tremblings
You get me every time

Why d’ya have to be so cute?
It’s impossible to ignore you
Must you make me laugh so much
It’s bad enough we get along so well
Say goodnight and go

Ain’t Gonna Drown – Elle King 

(the Ending Song) 

Train’s coming but I’m stuck on this road
Moon’s rising and my blood is growing cold
Preacher man can’t save a soul like mine
Miracles are just too damn hard to find

Ain’t gonna drown in the water…


Book Review: The 100: Homecoming (Kass Morgan)

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Details:

Publisher: Little Brown
Pages: 340
Release Date: 26th February 2015
 
Blurb:

Weeks after crash-landing onto a rugged, nearly unpopulated planet Earth, the Hundred have managed to create a sense of order amidst their wild, chaotic surroundings. They work together to feed, shelter, and protect one another from countless dangers, including attacks by violent Earthborns. But their delicate balance comes crashing down with the arrival of new dropships from home–dropships carrying Glass and Luke, as well as the Vice Chancellor and his armed guards.

Suddenly, Bellamy must flee transgressions he thought he had left behind in space, as Wells struggles to maintain his authority on Earth. And while Clark searches for clues about her parent’s whereabouts, she finds herself torn between finding them and helping the injured new arrivals in camp. Lives hang in the balance, as the Colonists find themselves fighting not just attackers from the outside, but also enemies from within. 

Review:


Argh I’m finding these books so frustrating. I’ve marked this one lower than the others, but it’s not necessarily worse, I’m just tired of the series disappointing me (I know, I should stop reading, but I hate leaving a series half done!)

This book picks up where the last left off, with the Colonists hurtling to Earth, ready to disturb the life the hundred have worked to build. Drama does, of course ensure, along with a battle for peace between the hundred, the Colonists and the different factions of the Earthborns.

But none of that matters, because all of our protagonists are too busy moaning abour their love lives.

Seriously. I know I’m not exactly the champion of romances (they often annoy me) but I can get onboard with a good coupling or two. But this book is just obssessed with the petty dramas of their relationships when there’s so much bigger stuff going on.

Even so, I could accept all that – I’ve been a teenager, I’ve been in love, I know how all-consuming it can be (though I’m not convinced it takes priority in this situation) – but I just don’t believe in any of these couples. I realised part way through that they were all interchangeable. I could be reading about Glass and Luke, Bellamy and Clarke or Wells and Sasha and not know the difference: they all have the same burning passion for each other, they all see their men as brave and loyal and they all see their women looking more beautiful than ever in the sunlight. There was no discernible differences between them.

Aside from that, I felt like messages and character traits were really shoved down your throat. A lot of the start of the book was spent reminding you what happened in the first one, and who everyone was. And I felt I was constantly being told how people were feeling and what they wanted rather than being shown it.

Overall, this series has disappointed me. I really loved the idea and just wish that the plot and writing style could have lived up to my expectations.

My Verdict:

 Take it or leave it

#RandomReads – May Announcement

Hello and welcome back to #RandomReads with Stacie and Maia. If this is your first time joining us, this is where we randomly pick a theme each month and nominate a book for the other to read. We review the books and then have a bit of a discussion about them as well – feel free to join in with us by commenting/posting your own reviews in the comments and using #RandomReads on Twitter.
If you saw last month’s #RandomReads then welcome again and thanks for sticking with us!
And now, without further ado, the theme for May is…
(drum roll)
Fantasy


Argh it’s such a hard one! Fantasy is a genre I love a lot and since we got this theme I’ve been flipflopping between books trying to decide what to choose for Stacie. It’s been a tough one but I finally settled on…
(another drum roll)
Song Quest by Katherine Roberts

This is the first book in The Echorium Sequence and one that has been mentioned on my blog a few times, but not reviewed yet. It’s one from my childhood and a real love of mine. I read it obsessively when I was younger, and made two out of three of my sisters read it as well, so they could enjoy it and I could talk about it with them. And now I’m doing the same to Stacie… (God I hope she enjoys it!)
I’ll be posting my reviews over the next two Thursdays, then having my discussion post on the last Thursday of the month. As I said, feel free to join in with us (I’d love to chat with other people who have read this book!) and follow along with #RandomReads.

If you’d like to see what Stacie has nominated me to read then hop on over to see her post – and while you’re there, check out her swanky new blog, which has been done up and looks amazing!

See you next week for the first review!

Book Review: All the Bright Places (Jennifer Niven)

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Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 388
Release Date: January 8th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):


Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. 

Review:
This is another of those heart breaking books á la The Fault in Our Stars and The Last Leaves Falling where the subject matter is tragic but a beautiful love story comes out of it. 

What I loved about this book more than anything were the characters. They really just sang to me, and I felt really connected to both Finch and Violet equally. While I tend to lean towards female charcters (being female myself) there was something about Finch that was just infectious.

This book deals with a lot of heavy issues and is not for the faint hearted. Violet’s survivors guilt after her sister’s death was a real driving force in the story and it was uplifting to see her slowly come to terms with it and learn to start coping, however painfully it might be, without her sister.

Finch, on the other hand, goes the opposite way, and gradually gets worse throughout the book. Even though I kind of knew where it was going, it didn’t make it any less painful. I wanted to shout at him to get help and sort things out, but it’s not always easy for people to do that (and definitely not easy for Finch). I loved his quirkiness and the fact that it was all weirdly rational, rather than just being another quirky YA hero who’s there to save the female from herself.

That said, I wasn’t sure about that aspect of their relationship sometimes. I loved the way it grew and how it seemed so natural for them to become friends (at Finch’s insistance) and then slowly more. But I don’t like the idea that it just took a good man to help Violet find herself again and start living after her sister’s death. I’m simplifying a bit there but there seems to be a bit of a trend towards that these days and it irritates me.

When all is said and done though, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. When it came to the climax and I found myself speeding up reading because I was desperate to know what happened, and when it hit me what did I was left with such complicated emotions, I dwelled on them all day. It’s always so good to see mental health issues discussed in an honest way in books for young adults, and this is one of the better ones.

My Verdict:


OMG GEE WHIZZ How have you not read this yet?!

Check out my soundtrack for All the Bright Places here

If you enjoyed this, you might like It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

Top Five… Princesses and Queens

Last week I read two of the Selection series books (The Selection and The Elite) and in honour of those reads, this week’s Top Five is Princesses and Queens! Unfortunately America doesn’t make this list as she’s not a princess or queen (yet…where I am in the books anyway!) And I guess this can also honour the newborn real life princess as well….
5

Redd Heart 
The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor)
Redd Heart is one of my favourite evil queens. She’s got that perfect balance of power, crazy and pure evil that makes her so entertaining to read. I love seeing what she turns Wonderland into when she finally gets to rule. Though I don’t think she’d be too happy to see who’s number one on my list…
4

Princess Cleopatra
Cleo (Lucy Coats)
Everyone knows what an amazing Pharaoh (Queen, basically) Cleopatra becomes, but in Coats’ novel we see her as a princess, struggling against two powerful/evil sisters, being the Chosen One of Isis and generally being awesome. You can read a bit more about Cleo’s story in this interview with Lucy Coats
3

Jadis/The Queen of Narnia
The Chronicles of Narnia (C. S. Lewis)
Jardis could easily have made it into last week’s Top Five Witches, but she’s slipped in here under her unofficial title of Queen of Narnia. She’s one of the characters who terrified me as a kid but I also couldn’t wait to read more of her. She also made me very suspicious of turkish delight…



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Daenerys Targaryen
A Song of Ice and Fire series 
(George R. R. Martin)
She has a dozen different titles saying she’s Queen of This and Princess of That and (most importantly) Mother of Dragons. Daenerys has always been a favourite of mine in the books as she grows so well into her role as a leader, and remains strong despite the men around who try to crush her. I hope she lives to the end!
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Princess Alyss Heart
The Looking Glass Wars (Frank Beddor)
It’s Alice in Wonderland, but as a real princess (then later queen) of Wonderland. As a young princess Alyss is mischievious and fun, but after seeing her parents murdered by evil Aunt Redd she grows up pretty fast (in our world, no less). She becomes the ultimate warrior queen and I could read her story forever.

I actually found this pretty hard, I need more princess/queen story suggestions!

Book Review: The Elite (Kiera Cass)

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

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Publisher: HarperTeen
Pages: 336
Release Date: April 23rd 2013
Summary (From Goodreads):


The Selection began with thirty-five girls.

Now with the group narrowed down to the six Elite, the competition to win Prince Maxon’s heart is fiercer than ever—and America is still struggling to decide where her heart truly lies. Is it with Maxon, who could make her life a fairy tale? Or with her first love, Aspen?
America is desperate for more time. But the rest of the Elite know exactly what they want—and America’s chance to choose is about to slip away.

Review:

Having enjoyed The Selection (the first book in the series) I went straight on to this book without taking a break in between, so they kind of blended into one book for me. However, there was a marked difference in The Elite for me and that was that…. SO MUCH MORE HAPPENED!

This is why my review of The Selection was a little muted. I had really enjoyed it, but after going straight into The Elite, I couldn’t help but think not a lot happened in the first book, comparatively. While the focus was still very much on the love story, I felt in this book there was more to keep me interested.

The main thing that I loved was Marlee’s storyline. I won’t spoil it here, but it seemed to come out of nowhere and really shocked me. It was the kind of thing I’d expected more of in the first book: the brutal reality of life in the palace, where harsh decisions have to made and punishments need to be dished out. This was by far my favourite part of the book.

America’s indecision and constant swinging between Maxon and Aspen did get on my nerves a little, but that’s mostly because I don’t see the appeal of Aspen very much. I just don’t see the connection there, and when America is with him she can be a bit simpering and annoying, whereas she seems much more herself (and likeable) with Maxon.

While I still feel I know very much where the story is going, there were a lot more plot twists and surprises in this book, and it’s really made me want to read on (I’m awaiting approval from Netgalley for The One, fingers crossed!)

If you enjoyed The Selection then I think you’ll definitely enjoy this book, and if The Selection left you wanting more then I think you might just find it here.

My Verdict:



Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Book Review: The Selection (Kiera Cass)

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 336

Release Date: April 24th 2012

Summary (From Goodreads):

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself–and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Review:

I made a mistake after reading this book, and that was to read the sequel straight after it (seriously, I devoured it in a day, there was no stopping me). Because of that, I think I’m marking this book a little lower than I would have if I’d read it on its own. Perhaps a little unfair, but what’s done is done!

I was curious going into this book because I’d heard pretty mixed reviews and it didn’t really sound like something I’d enjoy. But I was wrong.

Sure, the book had its flaws. My main gripe was that it was quite predictable, but at the same time I thought that was a little unfair: without it’s predictableness (America getting picked for the Selection, Maxon falling for her etc) then there wouldn’t really be a story. There was also something quite simple about it: the characters were sometimes a bit stereotypical and the world felt a bit underdeveloped. That said, I still enjoyed it.

The pace felt really gentle: nothing overly dramatic happened, everything just kind of sauntered along but, for some reason I can’t explain, I really enjoyed it. America was very likeable, not too perfect to be annoying yet pretty and talented enough to be in the Selection. Her main flaw for me was Aspen: I didn’t believe in the relationship for some reason, so her longing for him while faced with someone as lovely as Maxon was unfathomable.

I felt I’d like to know more about the world they lived in: about the castes, how they began, and more importantly, about the rebels. While we saw a couple of attacks and heard vague bits of information about them, I really wanted to know who they were and what they wanted. They were so nameless I didn’t really feel the threat from them.

I felt some of the other girls were a little bland: I forgot names of a lot of them very quickly, but I guess that was because they were doomed not to last too long. Marlee was obviously a favourite, being so sweet and friendly, but I did like Celeste and her massive bitchiness. I expected more characters like her to be honest.

This was a really great start to what looks to be an interesting series. I love that the concept isn’t really too far away from things that happen these days (I remember a certain show about girls wanting to marry ‘Prince Harry’). I’ve already eaten up the second book and can’t wait to read the next ones.

My Verdict:

3

Soundtrack Saturday: Only Ever Yours (Louise O’Neill)

Soundtrack Saturday is a weekly meme created and run by Erin at The Hardcover Lover. I’ve been meaning to do join in and do a soundtrack for a while now, and (finally) here it is. 

This week I’ve chosen to make a soundtrack for Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill, which I read a few weeks back and adored. 

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Losing Sleep – Charlotte Sometimes 
(the Beginning Song)

I’m awake and I’ve been losing sleep
I’ve been fighting all my demons
I’ve been getting weak
Cause I’ve been trying, trying, trying 
To be anything other than me

Ever Since the Chocolate – Rachel Sermani 
(Comparison Studies)

They clawed about my dress and now I’m naked
Tore holes in my soul about my neck.
The doctor says I have to wear a jacket
But as darkness falls I see this light, it’s burning at the fog and
I’ve followed ever since.

 Two Steps Forward – Emmy the Great 
(frieda and Darwin’s Song)

but
I knew you best back when love was just a feeling that ran out between my legs onto the, back of my dress
onto the clothes that i was wearing

Help I’m Alive – Metric 
(the eves Song)

I tremble
They’re gonna eat me alive
If I stumble
They’re gonna eat me alive
Can you hear my heart
Beating like a hammer

 Masterpiece – Meg and Dia 
(the eves Song)

Done by the hands of a broken artist.
You painted black where my naked heart is.
I finally know what wrong is.
Now I finally know what wrong is.
Carved like a stone with your hands still shaking.
On display through a soul still breaking.
Aren’t you proud you’re the one that made me?
Aren’t you proud you’re the one that made me?

Furniture – Amy Studt
(Meeting the Inheritants)

                                                             I am only flesh and bones,

Splintered glass and tattered clothes,

behind the skin, my fragility,
behind the skin, a skeletal impracticality,
I am only pieces of you,
held together with paper glue,
behind the skin, my divinity

behind the skin, my only sanctuary 

Pay Us No Mind – The Staves 
(frieda’s Song)

Easy come, easy go,
Tell me things I want to know.
Drink until your lips are black,
You’ve given things you’ll never get back,
Oh you silly thing

Cold sheets of linen,
Doomed from the beginning.
Do what you will,
Leave the worry to the women;
That’s our game to play

Bittersweet – Archis 
(isabel’s Song)

I could show you now but you’re never gonna see
Cause you’re watching me go up in smoke
I could shut it down, when I lose, you’re gonna leave
But you know that I’ll fall out alone
There’s secrets that you know
And secrets that I hold

Bath is Black – Marika Hackman 

(the Ending Song) 

Even though you think

To push me from the bath into the sink
I can still get clean
From everything obscene

So just pass me the soap
And I will scrub so hard to have the hope
That one day I’ll be free
And flies won’t follow me

But if the bath is black
And the soap is old
You’re turning the hot tap but the water is cold
Try as you might
Everything you’ve done has been washed out