Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!
Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!
We’re almost in month four of 2015 now (where has the time gone?!) and I thought it’d be a good time to see how I’m getting on with my New Year’s Resolutions. I don’t usually make them, but I decided this was the year to make some commitments and stick to them (for once).
So, here we go…
1. Start a blog
Well obviously I have done that (and technically had done when I made the resolution) but part of that was to keep going with it, which I have done really well (if I do say so myself!) I’ve managed to post regularly with reviews and other posts, and I’ve enjoyed the effect it’s had on my life. I’ve made a lot of online friends, even met some of them at the wonderful UKYA Extravaganza event. I’ve done my first author interview and have another coming up soon, and I’ve widened my reading and read some amazing books as a result.
2. Complete the British Books Challenge
It’s month three of the challenge and 21 of the books I’ve read this year have been by British authors, which I think is pretty good going. I want to make it to the end of the year and read at least 5 books by British authors each month.
3. Finish my second draft
After finishing the first draft of my first novel last year, I wanted to finish polishing it off this year. Have to say I’m stood still a little on this one at the moment. But I have taken a first step: my partner is now reading it (and is about half way through) which is a big step for me and massively scary, but also great to be able to share it with someone and discuss it (as if it’s a real book!) But while the editing isn’t happening at the moment, I am over half way through the sequel, which is progressing nicely.
4. Get fit
The classic New Year’s Resolution which I imagine a ton of people make every year. I’m not sure how to measure this one, but one of the main goals was to complete the NHS Couch to 5K running challenge, which I successfully completed this week. It did take me a little longer than the 9 weeks it should have, due to illness and other things (like going away for a few weeks and not taking trainers with me), but I can now run for at least 30 minutes without dying, which I think is pretty good work. I just need to try and keep it up now the programme is over!
So those are my resolutions, which I think are all progressing quite nicely. It does feel good to have some long term goals for the year, and I think writing them down and sharing them has made want to stick to them even more!
I hope anyone else who made resolutions is managing to stick to/make progress with them 🙂
I went into this book with both high expectations and a worry that it wouldn’t live up to those expectations. I needn’t have worried, Ness is a master story teller and I was sucked into this world almost as much as I was in The Knife of Never Letting Go.
The book has a mystery element to it that I really enjoyed: you’re constantly wondering where he is, what’s happened, what’s the deal with Owen, what’s real and what’s not? And, the thing that I found most interesting (and weirdly satisfying) is that not all of them are answered. This may annoy some people and the ending might not feel satisfying, but I felt that it would have been spoiled if everything was wrapped up and explained nicely. I enjoyed the open-ended-ness.
The theory I enjoyed most was that Seth had made everything up: some things happened that seemed too convenient to him, and he begins to suspect that he’s actually controlling events around him, as though he’s in a story. It made me question coincidences in other stories and think about patterns of events that seem to convenient. But, even when he think he’s in control, nothing goes to plan. There are so many surprises and twists – in true Patrick Ness style – that makes it almost hard to keep up.
The emotional storyline is tense and honest and oh so painful. I really felt for the way Seth had grown up with the secret of his choice weighing heavily on him, while his parents could barely look at him. Whether that was from their own pain or underlying anger at him, it doesn’t matter, it’s still terrible to grow up with that burden.
Seth really grows throughout the book, and, aided by Tomasz and Regine, the friends he makes (who he may or may not have made up) he becomes less self-centred. My one problem with him was the way/reason he died. Compared to Tomasz and Regine, his reasons seem poor. I understand there’s different kinds of pain and that he felt lost, but it angered me that he gave up for something that I didn’t see as a good enough reason. Either that’s me being harsh, or I just didn’t connect well enough with relationships…
Ness once again proves that YA novels are about substance and can be as thought provoking and important as any adult novel. He creates characters that are so real you can feel their pain, and he delivers a story that will make you question everything long after you’ve finished reading. I can’t wait to read more from him.
Release Date: July 3rd 2014
Summary (From Goodreads):
frieda and isabel have been best friends their whole lives.
Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to remain perfect becomes almost unbearable. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril.
And then, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.
frieda must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known..
I have literally just finished this book and am reeling from it, so this will probably be less review and more a splurge of my feelings on a page.
Last night Only Ever Yours won the first YA Book Prize (very much deserved) and so I bumped it straight to the top of my TBR, after finishing Say Her Name which was also shortlisted.
There’s so much to love about this book I just don’t know where to start. I think what really captivated me was the little details that helped to bring the world to life: the fact that all the eve’s names weren’t capitalised (freida, isabel) but the boy’s names are, as well as the Father having all the His and Hes capitalised. The grammar nazi inside me was irritated at first, but then so was the feminist in me. I think it’s a great example of how the book gets its message across. Even the way it’s printed tells you how women are inferior.
The idea of perfection is constantly shoved down your throat – in a good way! – and it felt like such a reflection of real life, just a little more exaggerated. I’m sick of magazines that point out some women who are too fat and others who are too thin, who tell you to be an independent women and then give you fifty tips on how to ‘please your man’. That’s real life and it’s ridiculous, so the ideas in this book really didn’t feel too far fetched to me.
The behaviour of the boys – the Inheritants – really disgusted me in their attitudes. I found myself excusing them because they’ve been raised to believe women are there to pleasure them and give them sons, but I still hated them and couldn’t forgive them for not questioning it, or having more respect. The relationship that developed with Darwin felt organic – no insta-love here, and no pesky love triangles either – and the way things turned out (trying not to do spoilers!) really packed a punch.
To criticise – difficult because I loved it – I’d say it could be a little triggering. There’s a lot of focus on weight and being too fat, restrictive diets and use of laxatives and ipecac, and for people who may have struggled with weight issues in the past, it does tread a little close to the line.
freida makes a very good narrator with refreshing honesty and flaws – maybe not as many flaws as she thinks she has (especially the physical ones) but it’s always great to have a protagonist who isn’t perfect. freida gets jealous and has nasty thoughts about the other eves, but it all seems so natural as that’s the way they have been designed and brought up. The idea of constant competition and comparison was exhausting: there’s always someone who’s better than you in something, and it felt like playing a game nobody could win.
I liked that frieda was the focus of the story rather than isabel: it could easily have followed isabel instead as the ‘special’ one, but instead we see her story from the sideline and focus on a normal eve, which, in such a strange new world, is probably even more interesting.
The ending definitely surprised me. I didn’t know where it was going at all and I raced through to get to the end. It might not be a satisfying ending for some: it’s definitely not a happy one, and not really even a bitter-sweet, which is normally what I enjoy. I felt a little deflated afterwards, but in the best way, because any happily ever after would have felt out of place.
This book hit me like a tight fist and totally took my breath away. It’s a genuine must-read for anyone and will likely convert a lot of nay-sayers to YA fiction. It’s dark, disturbing and powerful and I want to read it all over again already.
Check out my soundtrack for Only Ever Yours here.
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: June 5th 2014
Summary (From Goodreads):
Roberta ‘Bobbie’ Rowe is not the kind of person who believes in ghosts. A Halloween dare at her ridiculously spooky boarding school is no big deal, especially when her best friend Naya and cute local boy Caine agree to join in too. They are ordered to summon the legendary ghost of ‘Bloody Mary’: say her name five times in front of a candlelit mirror, and she shall appear… But, surprise surprise, nothing happens. Or does it?
Next morning, Bobbie finds a message on her bathroom mirror… five days… but what does it mean? And who left it there? Things get increasingly weird and more terrifying for Bobbie and Naya, until it becomes all too clear that Bloody Mary was indeed called from the afterlife that night, and she is definitely not a friendly ghost. Bobbie, Naya and Caine are now in a race against time before their five days are up and Mary comes for them, as she has come for countless others before… A truly spine-chilling yet witty horror from shortlisted ‘Queen of Teen’ author James Dawson.
As I write this Say Her Name is being considered for the YA Book Prize (massive good luck to James and all at #TeamSayHerName) and it’s easy to see why.
According to the Acknowledgements, Dawson wrote Say Her Name after being challenged to write the scariest contemporary YA horror and I think he’s been successful. Say Her Name takes the well known legend of Bloody Mary and uses it as the basis for a very creepy, fast paced horror story.
I’ve done it myself before: way back in primary school a friend and I stood in the lower years bathroom and nervously giggled our way through three ‘Bloody Mary’s before leaving scared. If I’d only know it was supposed to be said five times, things may have turned out differently…
The boarding school setting was suitable creepy, but it was Mary herself who caused the most scares, and rightly so. The drip drip drip that indicated her presence immediately set me on edge, and that soon turned to a claustrophobic feeling as Mary began to manifest in mirrors and other reflective surfaces. The best ghosts are the ones that you can’t escape.
The dreams that haunted Bobbie and Caine were very creepy but I was glad when Naya got her fair share of the awfulness – I’d started to feel she was getting off lightly, but I think she got the worst of it in the end!
The mystery pieced together very nicely and wasn’t so obvious that you could guess it, or so far-fetched you couldn’t believe it. I did begin to feel a little annoyed with all the ‘we must help Mary, she’s just a troubled lost soul stuff’ but the ending more than made up for that – I don’t want to give anything away but there was a satisfying twist at the end, just as I’ve come to expect from modern horror.
If I were to criticise, I’d say the plot reminded me a little too much of The Ring film: the wet ghost, the time limit and investigation and such. But I still raced through it and, as this is my first James Dawson book, I’m looking forward to reading more from him.
If you enjoyed this, you might also like The Haunting of Sunshine Girl (Paige McKenzie)
I’ve always vaguely known James’ story but I don’t think it’s one I’ve actually read before; my knowledge was probably based on the film (which is amazing and I have such a craving to watch it now I’ve read the book).
The book is quite different to the film, which meant it was a refreshing read for me. It starts off quite similarly, with poor James’ parents being eaten by a rhino and him being sent to live with awful Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge. I enjoyed their fate in the book a lot more than I did in the film: a lot more satisfying and a lot more ‘Dahl’.
I read this book when I was feeling a bit down and it certainly cheered me up. Dahl’s books are charming, even when they’re dark and dangerous, and they never fail to make me smile. This book had a few pages that lost me a little: a whole page paragraph describing the peach rolling away was a bit much for me, but otherwise the story moves fast and is captivating and even makes giant insects seem charming rather than scary.
I’ve been on a bit of a fairytale rampage lately and this was more than satisfying. I’d heard a lot about it and was certainly not disappointed.
This books takes a lot of familiar fairytale creatures and myths and places them in the modern world, where humans live alongside the Folk, albeit not always happily. It’s amazing to see the juxtaposition of the modern and Folk worlds: the image of the Prince sleeping in his coffin made of tears while teenagers get drunk and make out around him just sang to me. It was great to see the way the two worlds blended and how the strange creatures and happenings weren’t just explained away, but (mostly) accepted as magical.
The characterisation in this book was brilliant. From the first chapter I identified so much with Hazel and was more than happy to follow her story along. It was easy to see how the secrets grew between her and her brother Ben, even though I kept yelling at them to ‘fess up and get it over with. But we all know how hard it can be to tell the truth after lying for so long…
One of the things that drew me to the book was the diversity I’d heard talked about: in the beginning, both Hazel and Ben are in love with the sleeping Prince. I loved their different relationships with the Prince but most of all I loved how normal it was: it wasn’t a big deal that a boy loved another boy, it was just there and it was normal and that’s how it should be! (Labouring the point there but I love diverse books that aren’t solely about being diverse).
This is my first venture into Holly Black’s writing and I’m already lining up more of her books to read. This is a magical read with action, romance and plenty of shocks and surprises littered throughout. A definite one to read this year.
If you enjoyed this, you might enjoy A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness