Best Books of 2017

January

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The Call by Peadar O’Guilin

I started off reading a lot this year and January was an incredible month for books. The Call stood out above the others though as a book I couldn’t put down. It creeped me out but had me hungry for more and I’ve been recommending it all year.

Honourable Mentions: Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff and The Yellow Room by Jess Valance

February

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Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy

This was a really raw and powerful book which I, appropriately, read during Eating Disorder Awareness Week. It was difficult to read at times, but in a good way, and the writing and characters were excellent.

Honourable Mentions: Silver Stars by Michael Grant

March

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Naondel by Maria Turtschaninoff

This prequel just blew me away. While I loved Maresi, this one sucked me completely into the world and characters and they felt so real to me: their pain was my pain. It’s not the nicest of stories but it’s powerful and there’s hope there too.

Honourable Mentions: Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

April 

Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill

This was a fun read and I think I really connected with it from my drama days. I can’t wait to read both the sequels next year.

Honouable Mentions: Girlhood by Cat Clarke

May

The Fallen Children by David Owen

I loved this take on The Cuckoos of Midwich -this is one of those books I wish I’d written and I’ve been recommending it to everyone.

Honourable Mentions: Release by Patrick Ness

June

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

This was one of the most hyped books of this year, and with good reason. It was the cutest little romance and I couldn’t help but love Dimple and Rishi.

liHonourable Mentions: Flight of a Starling by Lisa Heathfiled

July

 

And I Darken by Kiersten White

I completely fell in love with this retelling of Vlad the Impaler as a woman. Lada is now one of my favourite anti-heroes and I can’t wait to see how her story ends.

Honourable Mentions: Where Am I Now? True Stories of Girlhood and Accidental Fame by Mara Wilson

August

Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Frozen Charlotte is one of my favourite horrors and I was super excited to read this prequel. It was creepy and atmospheric and didn’t disappoint at all.

Honourable Mentions: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

September

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

I raced through this book and loved every second of it. Space, loneliest, distant love – what’s not to like? It’s made me crave more sci-fi YA, especially ones set in space.

Honourable Mentions: No Shame by Anne Cassidy

October 

Monster by Michael Grant

Despite hacing not read the Gone series, I really loved this continuation of that world. Grnat’s writing can be brutal and I love that – will be checking out the Gone series next year for sure!

Honourable Mentions: Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick

November

Wild Fire  by Anna McKerrow

This was the thrilling end to an amazingly different series. I love the world that it’s set in and loved learning about the different goddesses – and seeing Melz get a happy ending!

Honourable Mentions: Ottoline and the Purple Fox by Chris Riddell

December

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

Frances Hardinge’s writing makes me marvel and despair: I love reading her books but it makes me feel useless in comparison. She’s just magical with words and I loved this book

Honourable Mentions:  Newt’s Emerald by Garth Nix

I’ve read some amazing things this year, and am looking forward to doing the same in 2018. I feel like blogging has taken a backseat towards the end of this year as I’ve been focussing on family and writing. While this will probably carry on into next year, I will be making an effort to have at least one post per week.

Happy New Year everyone, I hope 2018 is wonderful for you all!

Book Review: The Yellow Room (Jess Valance)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 263

Release Date: July 28th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Anna receives a letter from her father’s girlfriend telling her he has died and asking to meet. Anna is drawn to Edie: her warmth, her character, her ability to rustle up delicious meals, all of which her own mother is seemingly incapable of… and the way she can tell Edie the secret that is buried inside her.

A tautly told, compelling tale about mothers and daughters and the lengths that some will go to, to make their dreams come true.

Review:

I didn’t know much about this book going into it, but I really enjoyed Vallance’s twisted friendship tale Birdy last year, so I had high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed.

Anna gets a letter from her estranged Dad’s girlfriend telling her he’s dead and asking her to meet. Anna has her reservations but agrees to meet Edie and the two strike up an odd friendship, despite the misgivings of her friends. Edie is the opposite of Anna’s own mother: warm, funny, and actually wants to spend time with her. But as Anna spills some of her darkest secrets to Edie, she soon finds Edie has her own hidden too.

This books has pretty short chapters, often with a cliffhanger or revelation at the end of each, which made it really hard to put down. Each time I told myself ‘just one more chapter’ until I’d read half the book in one sitting and accidentally taken a long lunch break at work. But it was so worth it.

It was easy to see why Anna was drawn to Edie: she was fun, caring and yes, a bit weird. She felt like one of Anna’s friends rather than a grown woman a lot of the time, and there was a childlike innocence that also made you feel protective towards her.

The best part of this book was also kind of the worst – Leon. He’s the biggest fictional creep I’ve read, and written so well I could envision him perfectly. I think I’ve met a few ‘Leon’s at university, though none of them were quite as bad as him. He’s smarmy, up himself and wholly believes he is the best thing to happen to you since birth. I cringed whenever he was on the page and wanted to slap the stupid grin off his face.

Anna’s secret was not what I was expecting and I loved the hints dropped towards it before you find out what actually happened. While the sensible part of me kept saying it would have been best for everyone if Anna confessed up straight away, I know things aren’t as easy as that, and I probably would have done the same in her position, even though it made things worse in the long run. I’ll say no more in case of spoilers!

I did start to wonder over half way through why it was called The Yellow Room, but it came into it eventually. The events towards the end took me by surprise and I wan’t quite sure who to believe. There’s a character who comes in at the end, which I can’t explain because spoilers, but I was glad they didn’t come save the day and make everything okay: I liked the way the relationship played out. It was good to see some steps towards resolution between Anna and her mum as well, even if things weren’t perfect at the end.

This was a fast paced addictive book with constant twists and turns that keep you hungry for more. Jess Vallance writes amazing characters and beautifully twisted plots, and I’ll be picking up anything she writes in the future.

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A Christmas Book Haul

I don’t often to book hauls, mostly because I don’t really get a lot of books in one go, but I was lucky enough to get so many wonderful books for/around Christmas that I just wanted to share them.

From Publishers

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Before Christmas I got a few exciting booking parcels in the post. One was this lovely set of It Girl books by Katy Birchall from Egmont. I loved the first two books and am excited to see what happens to Anna next. The new covers are gorgeous and I love this new design.

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I also received a copy of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, from Walker books, which I’m reading at the moment. So many people have been tweeting amazing things about this book and I feel really lucky to have a copy.

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And finally, I have The Fireman by Joe Hill, from Gollancz. When I was emailed about this I’d just finished reading Horns and the offer of another book by Joe Hill was just too tempting.

From Nathan

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The majority of my presents from Nathan were books, which is alright by me! They were a good mix of things he knew I wanted – Noughts & Crosses which I used to borrow off my sister so never had my own copy, Goldenhand because I love The Old Kingdom series, a beautiful illustrated copy of The Lie Tree – and some new things to try as well. I’ve already read Scarlet Witch and can’t wait to get stuck into the rest of them.

From the In-Laws

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Nathan’s parents really know how to do Christmas well, and I was lucky to get a lot of books from them. The one I’m most excited about is The Call by Peadar O’Guilin, which I’ve heard great things about, and The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich, as I loved The Dead House by her.

From my Mom

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And lastly, from my dear old Mom, I got The Muse by Jessie Burton. I read The Miniaturist last year and quite enjoyed it, though I’ll admit I struggled a bit as adult books aren’t really my thing. but it was still an interesting story and I’m looking forward to picking this one up.

This year I’ve decided to prioritise the books I got for Christmas, as last year some of them got lost in all the review books and new books I got throughout the year (I still haven’t read some of them…) So I have my new books in a separate pile and am going to work my way through them, alternating with review books when I have them.

I hope you all had a very bookish Christmas and that the new year holds lots of exciting things for you to read.

Book Review: Birdy (Jess Vallance)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 272

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Frances Bird has been a loner for so long that she’s given up on ever finding real friendship. But then she’s asked to show a new girl around school, and she begins to think her luck could finally be changing.

Eccentric, talkative and just a little bit posh, Alberta is not at all how Frances imagined a best friend could be. But the two girls click immediately, and it’s not long before they are inseparable. Frances could not be happier.

As the weeks go on, Frances finds out more about her new best friend – her past, her secrets, her plans for the future – and she starts to examine their friendship more closely.

Is it, perhaps, just too good to be true?

Review:

Big thanks to author Jess Valance,  who sent me a copy of this book when I had packed all mine away while moving house (this doesn’t affect my review in any way).

First off, I have to say that is one gorgeous cover! It draws you in immediately and really sums up the book for me: dark and intriguing.

The book starts great as well: it’s France recording ‘her version of events’ which sounds foreboding and makes you want to speed through quickly to find out what happened.

Frances is a really sympathetic character: a classic loner who, while not outrageously odd, just doesn’t fit in with any of your usual groups at school. So when Bert comes along and actually seems to want to be friends with her, you can’t help but feel happy for her.

While I sympathised with Frances at school, it was her home life that really made me feel for her. With no mother or father, she lives with her strict Grandmother and her Grandfather who suffers from dementia. The descriptions just left me feeling hollow inside: the idea of dreading evenings with the same rotation of meals, the long weekends with nothing to do, and the even longer holiday weeks that stretch out endlessly. Having recently lived with my Grandmother, who has dementia, I found some of the interactions with the Grandfather difficult to read as it touched really close to home.

As the friendship between Frances and Bert grows, there’s something uneasy about it. It reminded me of another book but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson, where the friendship is so all consuming it feels almost dangerous. I felt quite tense reading it, just waiting for it all to blow up.

It did blow up of course, but not in the way I expected, which I loved. It all felt very clever: Vallance sets you up with certain expectations at the beginning of the book – at first I felt a little disappointed that the book foreshadowed what was about to happen, but that was my fault for assuming I knew what was going on! I won’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil it, but the ending really sucked me in and took me by surprise and I couldn’t quite believe what was happening.

This was such a great read, I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking for a dark and twisted tale of friendship and betrayal then this is definitely for you!

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If you enjoyed this, you might like Seed by Lisa Heathfield