Best Books 2014: May/June [EDITED]

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Another relatively good couple of reading months for me! Here are my best reads!

The Lunar Chronicles #0.5, #0.6 and #1, by Marissa Meyer. (The novellas are accessible for free on Wattpad. They don’t really spoil book #1, but I read them after I read #1 and I felt better for it. I would recommend you read Cinder first. The novellas are more enjoyable when you already have a feel for the world and the characters.)

The Disgrace of Kitty Grey by Mary Hooper. If you like historical fiction and YA, you will love this. It gets kind of harrowing in parts though. Mary Hooper does not sugarcoat the terrible circumstances people were in back in the Georgian ages.

A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent, by Marie Brennan. A fiction novel set in a fantasy world reminiscent of the Victorian ages. It reads like a classic explorer’s adventure novel, but it’s a fantasy about dragons! It is beautifully written and does require patience, but it is so worth it. It’s the first in a trilogy. I highly recommend this.

Blindsided by Natalie Whipple. 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.

I wasn’t thrilled with this when I finished it, but it grew on me and grew on me and now I’m obsessed with it.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I need more Karou in my life. *reaches for the sequel*

The Sea Sisters (aka Swimming At Night) by Lucy Clarke.

The Forbidden Library by Django Wexler. (My review is here.)

A Heart Bent Out of Shape by Emylia Hall [American title: The Swiss Affair]

What are the best books you’ve read this May/June?

Review: Boy21 by Matthew Quick

“It’s never been easy for Finley, particularly at home. But two things keep him going: his place on the basketball team and his girlfriend, Erin – the light in even the darkest of his days.

Then Russ arrives. He answers only to Boy21, claims to be from outer space, and also has a past he wants to escape. He’s one of the best high school basketball players in the country and threatens to steal Finley’s starting position.

Against all the odds, Russ and Finley become friends. Russ could change everything for Finley, both for better and for worse. But sometimes the person you least expect can give you the courage to face what’s gone before …and work out where you’re going next.”

Goodreads Description

(I know I don’t normally feature two covers for the same book, but I just love the black cover and wanted to share it with you. Headline published the yellow one  and the other one is Little, Brown’s version. The Goodreads link and synopsis are from Headline’s version. For the Little, Brown version, click here.)

That said, thanks to BookBridgr and Headline for the copy of Boy21! 🙂

The first thing I will say about this is: don’t be put off because it’s about basketball. I’m not into any sport, at all, but I enjoyed this book. It sucked me in from the first few chapters. I couldn’t put it down and I ended up finishing it within 12 hours of starting it.

Boy21 is a subtly beautiful novel about loss, change and emotional wellbeing in a “rough” community.

The characters are well fleshed out and likeable. The bond between Erin and Finley is gorgeous. Erin was my favourite character, although I had a soft spot for both Boy21 and Finley. These characters are growing up together in a part of the world that seemed incredibly unpleasant. Boy21 is about their journey out of that place; physically and metaphorically.

There was something sad and haunting about the entire novel, but especially the ending. (I won’t say more than that, but just know that this book won’t leave you after you put it down.)

If you do happen to like basketball, you will probably like this book; but it certainly isn’t just for basketball fans. It’s for everyone. The characters are basketball players and it’s a big part of their lives, but the basketball aspect feels like more of a backdrop to the real story. The real story is about human emotions.

This is a brilliant piece of literature and deserves a place on high school reading lists.

My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Review: Carnelian [Chalcedony Chronicles #1] by B. Kristin McMichael

“Everyone has a past, but for most it isn’t so far in the past as Seth Sangre. His past is literally from thousands of years ago. Seth’s past led him to the present seeking something that might help him save his country from destruction. He has been in the present for over three years now, and he just found exactly what he has been looking for. Mari had dreams of college being a fresh start, one where she would start over and not fall for the good looking player like high school. Unfortunately for her, that’s exactly what ends up falling into her lap on the first day she moves into the dorms. Now she has to hold to her promise to herself not fall for the handsome Seth Sangre. But he doesn’t plan to make it easy for her. Seth has already marked her as his next conquest. 

As the semester progresses, Mari learns that Seth might just have a past of his own that’s literally in the past. Suddenly, Mari finds her future along with her past put into question. She’s connected to Seth far more than she ever wanted to be, and maybe he isn’t the player who she thought he was. If Mari can trust her heart enough to follow him, Seth will lead Mari on an adventure of a lifetime-and reveal family secrets she never knew existed.”

Goodreads Description

Thanks to Netgalley and Lexia Press for the review copy! 🙂

Carnelian was a great book! I enjoyed the characters, I had great images in my head, and I was absorbed in the world. I wanted to go back and read more, to see what happened next, to spend more time with Mari, Sim, Seth and the others.

It wasn’t predictable – I didn’t  spot anything too much earlier than when it was revealed, which is nice. I’ve been going through a phase of reading things I find too predictable lately, so Carnelian was a welcome break from that!

The one thing that I would complain about with Carnelian is the grammar and spelling. I can’t help it; I’m qualified as an editor – these things bug me. I still enjoyed the book though, and if you’re like me and are easily irritated by that kind of thing, read it anyway! The story is good and the characters are vivid and real.

Carnelian was a fun read. There was enough to keep me interested and I was invested in the characters. It was light-hearted and didn’t bruise my feels. I do normally prefer books that poke me in the heart a bit, but it’s sometimes nice to pick up something lighter. It would be a good book to read on holiday by the pool.

Also, THAT COVER! All the pretty colours! *strokes inner magpie*

Those of you who don’t like cliffhanger endings will like Carnelian; but don’t read the extract from book 2! Major cliffhanger! I made that mistake and now have to stalk Amazon for the release of Chrysophase. 🙂 There is also an extract from another of the author’s trilogies: The Legend of the Blue Eyes. That has me hooked as well! B. Kristin McMichael is definitely a writer to watch.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars – My guilty pleasure; when is the next one out?

A – Z Bookish Tag

I first stumbled across this on YouTube in vlog format, uploaded by Emily from Oh Magic Hour.  It was originally created by Jamie from the Perpetual Page Turner in blog format. She updated it recently with this vlog. The blog post gives instructions on how to use Goodreads to find which author you’ve read the most from (under A) and the longest book you’ve read (under L).

Author you’ve read the most books from:

I didn’t need to use Goodreads for this, but I double-checked anyway – Terry Pratchett 🙂

Best Sequel Ever:

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers by J. R.R . Tolkien – this is my favourite of the LOTR books.

Currently Reading:

The Vampire’s Wolf by Jenna Kernan

and

Pure by Julianna Baggott

Drink of Choice While Reading:

If it’s hot weather, fruit juice (my favourite is cranberry and raspberry), iced tea (peach!), water, or something fizzy (I like Sprite, 7up and Dr Pepper, but my favourite is Pepsi).

If it’s cold weather, black coffee is my favourite hot drink, but I also like sweet tea (with milk, but strong), and hot chocolate (the Wispa one!).

E-reader or Physical Book:

I will always, always, ALWAYS prefer a physical book (preference for paperback), but I am the proud owner of a Kindle now (I’ve had it for a fortnight, maybe less), and I like that too. I haven’t wanted an e-reader before now. But I caved, and yes, I like my Kindle. 🙂

Fictional Character You Probably Would Have Actually Dated In High School:

I hadn’t worked out my sexuality then and dated boys. I was at the bottom of the pile in the social pecking order and so were the boys I dated. Except they were usually in the year above, so I probably would have done a Ginny and dated:

Neville Longbottom.

Glad You Gave This Book A Chance:

 

Hidden Gem Book:

 

Important Moment in your Reading Life:

Reading this book:

This is the book that got me into the contemporary YA stuff. The heart-wrenching “feels” type of books. It opened the door to so much for me. This book will always matter to me.

Just Finished:

My review will be up on Friday.

Kinds of Books You Won’t Read:

Horror; most crime (I’m partial to the Agatha Raisin series though); adult “romance”; romance in general; most thrillers; most non-fiction; most sci-fi; psychological thrillers/horror…

Longest Book You’ve Read:

It would be one of the Harry Potters, so to be more interesting, after my Harry fix, the longest book I’ve read is this one:

I gave it 5 stars and added it to my Favourites shelf (on Goodreads).

Major book hangover because of:

This grew on me so much after I’d finished it. I can’t stop thinking about it and I read it a month ago.

Number of Bookcases You Own:

Two tall, thin ones. Some of my big reference books are on a different unit though and I have a stool for my library books.

One Book You Have Read Multiple Times:

I don’t have this exact book – I have a hardback containing three Wishing Chair books and a hardback containing three Faraway Tree books, plus the fourth Faraway Tree, which is a rare illustrated paperback. It’s the hardback Faraway Tree I’m going to give as my answer to this. Again, I’m skipping the Harry Potters and The Hobbit here, because they’re obvious choices for me.

Preferred Place To Read:

On my settee, or in bed. If my dreams came true I’d read in the garden on nice days, or even better by the sea or a lake.

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels from a book you’ve read:

From: greenquotes.tumblr.com

Reading Regret:

My biggest reading regret is that I will NEVER be able to read even 10% of all the things I want to read, or haven’t heard of yet that are totally me, or that haven’t been written yet that are totally me.

Series You Started And Need To Finish(where all books are out in the series):

1. Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

2. Fated by Alyson Noel

3. Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

4. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

5. The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

6. Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy by Laini Taylor

7. Divergent by Veronica Roth

Three of your All-Time Favorite Books:

I think you’ve noticed by now… The Hobbit, Harry Potter and Ketchup Clouds. #sooriginal

If you want my top three recent reads off the top of my head: The Hunger Games, Cinder and The Fault In Our Stars. Again with the oh-so-original answers, Melanie!

Slightly more original answers… Transparent by Natalie Whipple, Looking for Alaska, and The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke. (It’s more commonly known as Swimming at Night).

Unapologetic Fangirl For:

 

Very Excited For This Release More Than All The Others:

Worst Bookish Habit:

Stuffing books in my handbag to take to the laundrette with me? Does that count? I crack spines but only because I can’t read the book comfortably without doing that. (I try especially hard not to crack spines of borrowed books.)  I’m also guilty of taking the covers off library books while I read them. Either for general comfort or because I want to see the cover art on a hardback. And sometimes because the library’s plastic stuff has been ripped or cracked and it’s cutting into my hand.

X Marks The Spot: Start at the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book:

Your latest book purchase:

I haven’t bought a book in a very long time. (I’d like to, but can’t). Hence… FREE KINDLE BOOKS WIN! And this is the last one of those I nabbed.

ZZZ-snatcher book (last book that kept you up WAY too late):

I wanted to read this in one go as it is set over the course of one night and I wanted to go on this journey with Clay in the same time frame as he did.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tag and that it has given you some insight into my reading habits! I tag… YOU! (Leave me links, please) 🙂

Review: Hild by Nicola Griffith

 

“Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods’ priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief.

Hild is the king’s youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world—of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next—that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king’s seer. And she is indispensable—until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future.

Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early medieval age—all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith’s luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset’s KristinLavransdatter, Hild brings a beautiful, brutal world—and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby—to vivid, absorbing life.”

Goodreads Description

Thanks to Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for the review copy! 🙂

Hild is first and foremost a beautiful piece of prose. It’s beautifully written, the settings and the characters have depth and solidity and the historical detail is amazing. If you like heavily detailed writing, you will love this. (History fans will love this book too.)

I will say this though, it isn’t an easy read. There are A LOT of characters and it gets difficult to keep track of them all. There is a lot of political manipulation and it was hard to remember who was against who and why. I’m told that Game of Thrones is like this too though: political intrigue and tons of characters. If you like Game of Thrones, you will probably like Hild then. There is a glossary and a family tree to help. (I very much needed the glossary!)

For me personally? No. I  just didn’t get on with it. The characters really got under my skin; they repulsed me. Except for Hild herself, who just popped off the page. Until Chapter Eight, in which I was hideously disappointed with her. After that she got worse and became as bad as the rest. For me to really enjoy a book, I need at least one character I like. I have to root for someone. I didn’t get this with Hild.

I’m finding it difficult to review Hild actually. The book is clearly beautifully written and painstakingly researched, but it just wasn’t for me. My rating is as high as a 3 out of 5 simply because of the writing itself, not the story. I didn’t enjoy reading Hild, but not because it was a bad book. If I was rating on writing alone it would be a 4 (one star deducted for the way the descriptions of adult scenes and gory things were written. The words chosen just really didn’t work for me.) If I was rating on my enjoyment of the book alone it would be a 1. (If it wasn’t a review book, I would have DNF’d it after a couple of chapters.) I based my rating on the writing and my enjoyment of it, hence the 3.

I think Hild would appeal to a specific reader – either one who is intensely interesting in the time period, or one who adores political intrigue and a heavy, detailed style of prose. It isn’t a quick read, nor a light one. There are numerous adult references and a fair bit of bad language. There are also some gory things described in ways I found unpleasant, personally.

Hild is the first in a planned trilogy. It is already out in the UK and the USA. I think the paperback is launching in July.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars – not for me personally, but it is a very well-written book

Making Up For Monday: Five Books On The Reading List If You Were The Teacher

 

 

“This week’s question: If you were a high school English teacher, what five books would you put on your reading list?”

Ooooh, this is a brilliant topic! I don’t know that I can restrain myself to just five!

I would want people to read for pleasure, primarily, and I don’t like how the education system forces books on people and makes them hate reading. The classics that are read in schools are definitely not for everyone. A lot of young adults would probably find them dull and boring, and associate them with schoolwork. And then associate all of those things with reading. 😦 So inspiring a love of books and showing that they have  the freedom to choose and explore their own reading tastes and identities would be my approach to this one. I hope the books I would suggest as places to start, would achieve this, as well as other things.

1.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder is the most surprising book I’ve read in a long time. I didn’t think I would like it; didn’t think it was my thing. I tried it and was completely blown away. It’s now a favourite of mine and I still can’t believe how much I liked it. I would hope this book would show students that trying new things can and does pay off. Also that books can surprise you and are worth the effort.

2.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

I’d suggest this one because it shows you that it’s ok to be broken. It also demonstrates how strong a person is capable of being. It shows you that books can have tears, laughter, friendship and love, as well as action and danger. It shows you that you are capable of fighting for what you believe in and not letting people walk all over you.

3.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Looking for Alaska explores the idea that people are not always what you expect. Everyone is fighting a war; some of those wars have a bigger impact on the person they’re held within than others. Someone with a smile on their face might be broken inside. It teaches you to be careful, kind and considerate. You just never know what someone is going through and what effect on them you might have. People are fragile; be gentle.

4.

The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

So if I had to pick one book that was my number one favourite it would be this one. (Although I’d try by any means necessary to get out of choosing just one favourite!) I’d suggest The Hobbit to a student in the hope of inspiring a love of epic fantasy, but I would also hope that they learn something from this one too. The Hobbit, to me, is a story of the underdog. The guy who doesn’t plan on making a big splash, but is thrown in at the deep end anyway and finds that he fits there perfectly. It’s a story of the “little guy” realising that he is just as valuable and just as capable as the “big guys”.

5.

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

This one, I would suggest because it is haunting and beautiful. I would want this book to show students that books can be art; that books can be heart-wrenching. Ultimately, books can be powerful; books can change you. Books are worth reading.

So as you can see, a mix of genres, purposefully – I would encourage exploration and the art of trying a little bit of everything until you find you. How do you know if you like contemporary fiction if you don’t read a bit of it? How do you know epic fantasy bores you if you’ve never read it? I’ve surprised myself with what I like and dislike over the last year or so. I’ve explored all kinds of genres, authors, series’… In trying lots of things and seeing what I think and feel about it, I’m finding pieces of myself.

Which books would you recommend to high school students? How do you feel about what’s currently offered to them at school? Which books did you have to read? Did you like them?

Sequel Spring Challenge: The End

It’s all over! Sequel Spring is over. Spring is over too. #sad face It was a challenge hosted by Ren and Isa at Words in A Teacup (link to their home page is the text “Words In A Teacup under the image), where the aim was to read as many sequels as possible. This could include anything from the series as long as it wasn’t the first book. So prequels published later on and novellas also counted. Reviews were optional but could be linked into Ren and Isa’s Linky tool.

I kicked off the challenge here, and then ran updates here and here.

The sequels I was planning to read (strikethrough indicates that I read it):

(There are no Goodreads links as some of the blurbs for later books may spoil the first book/s for you if you haven’t read them yet.)

1. Alex Rider #3

2. Alex Rider #4

3. Alex Rider #5

4. Alex Rider #6

5. Alex Rider #7

6. Alex Rider #8

7. Alex Rider #9

8. Alex Rider #10

9. Mortal Instruments #5

10. Mortal Instruments #6

11. Gallagher Girls #2

12. Gallagher Girls #3

13. Gallagher Girls #4

14. Gallagher Girls #5

15. Gallagher Girls #6

16. Ruan #2

17. Confessions Of A… #2

18. Confessions of A … #3

19. 13 Treasures #2

20. 13 Treasures #3

21. Inheritance #3

22. Inheritance #4

23. Heist Society #3

24. Gallagher Girls #5.5 / Heist Society #2.5

 

Other sequels I read unplanned (I read all these):

1. Alex Rider: The Gadgets

2. Realms of the Elderlings #0.5

3. Agatha Raisin #2

4. Agatha Raisin #3

5. Agatha Raisin #4

6. Agatha Raisin #6

7. Skylar Hoyt #??

8. Gallagher Girls #6.5

9. Lunar Chronicles #0.5

10. Lunar Chronicles #0.6

11. Grisha #0.5

12. Grisha #1.5

13. W.A.R.P #2

14. Transparent #2

15. Bloodlines #0.5

16. Agatha Raisin # short story

17. Agatha Raisin # short story

Reviews Posted:

1. Gallagher Girls #5.5 / Heist Society #2.5 and Skylar Hoyt #??

2. W.A.R.P #2

Total Sequels Read: 38

Thank you for following my progress over the course of this challenge! I hope Ren and Isa do this again next year! Thanks for hosting it 🙂