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: Naondel (Maria Turtschaninoff)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books

Pages: 480

Release Date: April 6th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

In the opulent palace of Ohaddin, women have one purpose – to obey. Some were brought here as girls, captured and enslaved; some as servants; some as wives. All of them must do what the Master tells them, for he wields a deadly and secret power. But the women have powers too. One is a healer. One can control dreams. One is a warrior. One can see everything that is coming. In their golden prison, the women wait. They plan. They write down their stories. They dream of a refuge, a safe place where girls can be free. And, finally, when the moon glows red, they will have their revenge.

Review:

This book just blew me away. I really enjoyed Maresi when I read it but this was in another league. I wasn’t sure what to expect in the prequel but this perfectly told the story of the women who founded the Red Abbey.

The book is told from the point of view of each of these women. It starts with Kabira, a young girl who is the guardian to a powerful spring called Anji. When Iskan, the son of the Vizier enters her life, he seduces her and she tells him Anji’s secrets. He uses them to gain power for himself, forces Kabira to marry him and takes control of her life. As he gains more and more power, he enslaves other women and destroys many lives.

The book weaves together the stories each of the women beautifully. Once Kabira’s first section was done I thought I’d struggle to start reading someone else’s story but I quickly became invested in each women’s tale. I loved how they connected to each other, even though their connection was Iskan and the horrible things he did to them. It helped the story cover a large time span without feeling like you were jumping too far forward or missing anything and it was interesting to see the women through each other’s eyes.

I felt most connected to Kabira, probably because she started the story off and I felt she suffered the most at Iskan’s hands. It wasn’t just the rape, but what he did to her family, her children and how he controlled and ruined her entire life. I really felt her pain and grief and sometimes when I was reading it just made me so sad. The other women were all very interesting and different: I particularly liked Estegi and Sulani’s story, especially the revelations at the end (no spoilers!) Orseola’s dreamweaving was fascinating and Iona’ story was really intriguing and sad.

Iskan was an incredible villain. I seriously hated him. He had no redeeming features in my eyes, not after what he did to all of them. He was very well written, his motivations clear and his actions all true to his character. It takes skill to write a character that you can loathe like that: he made my skin crawl whenever he was on the page.

This is a gritty read and it feels weird saying I enjoyed it when I think about all the horrible stuff that happened in it. But it was beautifully written with incredible characters, and while the main part of the book was filled with heartache and tragedy, there was also hope. If you’ve read Maresi then you know what these women go on to create and you get a glimpse of this at the end, though this book is really the story of their lives before they founded the Red Abbey. After all they go through at Iskan’s hands, it’s easy to see why they created a place where men weren’t allowed and women could be taught their worth.

I cannot recommend this book enough, whether you’ve read Maresi or not. If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale or Only Ever Yours then you’ll love this. It’s tragic and painful and hopeful and empowering and I just loved it.

Book Review: Maresi (Maria Turtschaninoff)

* I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Pushkin Children’s Books

Pages: 256

Release Date: January 5th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.

Then one day Jai tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escape terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty. And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her.

Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.

Review:

I’d heard a lot about this book on Twitter and was really excited when I was offered a copy for review.

The book has quite a slow start – I felt like not much happened in the first hundred pages or so, aside from Jai’s arrival to the Red Abbey – but I really enjoyed that, which is unusual for me. I normally need more to hold my attention, but I just enjoyed the world building. Turtschaninoff’s writing is really beautiful, the descriptions flowing and vivid and I just wanted to soak up as much of the world as possible.

The relationships in the book were really special. I love a book that doesn’t focus on romance, and this book was all about the friendships between the girls and the Sisters. Maresi forms a close friendship with Jai, helping her to settle into the Abbey and reveal some of the terrible secrets of her past. She also has a special bond with the younger novices, helping out with them even though it’s not one of her duties. I loved Maresi’s compassion and her thirst for knowledge – the fact that she calls what is basically the Abbey library a ‘treasure room’ tells me we’d definitely get on!

When the action does come in, it’s fast paced and full of tension. The men from Jai’s past follow her to the island and the women must band together to stop the threat and save Jai. I loved how this was done at first – without spoiling anything, it was very original – but when the second threat came, it felt like they were a bit defeated by the men. For a book that felt very pro feminist this seemed a bit of a switch, as the women were totally at the mercy of the men. I think I was hoping for a bit more awesome women action there, although Maresi does come in and save the day in an interesting way.

One bit that stuck out to me was an interesting comment by one of the men, about how he was trying to help them and they only had themselves to blame for what was going to happen to them. It made me think of today’s rape culture and victim blaming and felt like a real reflection of life right now.

*Possible minor spoilery bit here but it’s something I really wanted to say*

The ending came too soon for me – I really wanted to see what happened to Maresi next. I felt strangely proud of her decision to leave the island, even though it felt like the easier choice was to stay there, where she had friends and love and food and safety. But what she said was right: it’s not enough to create one small safe place for women and hoard all the knowledge there, and I admired her decision to go out and do the good she could in the world.

I really enjoyed this book, with it’s gentle beginning and action packed ending, the gorgeous world it built and the amazing female friendships it focussed on, and I can’t wait to read the sequel and learn more about the Red Abbey and it’s origins.

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