Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Best read of 2013 - Happy New Years!!

We have arrived at the last day of 2013. It has been a mixed year with some truly joyful moments and I am looking forward to seeing what 2014 brings. This year has been full of reading. I managed to surpass my goal of reading 60 books and read 70 which I was super chuffed with. The majority of these were young adult fiction and I have enjoyed them all to varying degrees. I hope to read 80 books next year and have set myself a goal of half of them being new authors! I noticed after looking over my books of this year that I have got very stuck in which authors I am reading and I want to branch out a bit further. Having said that I have a lot of final installments to read of several series so I will be reading a few familiar ones as well.

It was really hard to pick which book I had enjoyed the most this year. I have discovered some really superb stories and authors in my reading journey. So after much thought I decided that my most enjoyed read of this year was...

Gone by Michael Grant

I loved this book so much. I was hooked from the very first chapter due to the superb plot construction, characters and pace. I have also enjoyed reading the rest of the series and am really excited to read the final book Light next year. I loved this series so much that I have bought copies so that I can re-read it at another point and also lend it to my friends and family (I am desperately trying to convince my hubby to give it a go). I reviewed this book earlier in the year and to my utmost joy the author himself commented on it which was a real blogging highlight. 

Wishing you all a happy new year!

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Book Review: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

With the release of the film this year I jumped on the bandwagon and opened up City of Bones. I haven't actually seen the film so I do not know how accurate it is to the story but I can imagine this was an exciting book to film translation if it has been done properly.

I was pretty surprised with how much I got into this story. I really liked the quick pace it started with and managed to maintain throughout the book.  I really loved the character of Clary even if it took me to hear a colleague say her name for me to be sure I was pronouncing it correctly. She reacts exactly how I would expect someone to react when their entire world is revealed to be a lie and you discover that supernatural beings really do exits.

For a teen fiction story I think this has a more mature theme and is definitely for your older readers, although some more grown up elements of the story may be missed by younger readers. I was particularly absorbed with the themes Clare address, some which you rarely see in teen fiction let alone in young adult fiction. Unfortunately it would be a bit of spoiler to say what those themes are but if you read it you will know what I am on about.

I also felt that this story redeemed the vampire! I am a traditional Bram Stoker based Vampire kind of girl. I think Vampires should really scare you and should not be treated as frivolously as I think some vampire teen fiction has done. I mean they drink human blood that shouldn't be glossed over with glitter. I found the scene with Raphael pretty creepy and I was biting my nails wondering what would happen. I also like the introduction of other supernatural beings not just werewolves and vampires. It includes some overlooked creatures plus a few Clare brilliantly creates.

I am literally on tenterhooks waiting to find out what on earth is going to happen. The story revolves around Clary whose mother is kidnapped and in one fell swoop Clary's understanding of the world changes. She discovers that she is part Shadowhunter which introduces her to a world of demon hunting and Downworlders. Furthermore, she discover family she never knew she had and the direction this leads her is enthralling. She must, with Jace, Alec, Isabella and Simon, seek out the Mortal Cup before the traitorously charismatic Valentine gains it and in doing so gains control of the demonic races. All the while she must resolve her mixed up feelings and cope with the disappearance of her mother. She is a strong female lead and the story is just carried by her feisty nature. I have already powered through the second story and I am about to start City of Glass.

A must read for supernatural fiction fans!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2013

I am back on the blog this week after an unexpected hiatus due to my job unfortunately being made redundant. I thought I would reappear with a familiar friend in the form of a Top Ten Tuesday!

I love this one as I have had the luxury of reading a few new others this year and hope I can read some more books by them in 2014. It was quite an eye opener to how many new authors I have encountered this year but also showed me how much I have stuck to familiar authors this year so I think as part of my reading goal for 2014 I might try challenge myself to read some more new authors.

1. Michael Grant - Gone Series

I am still making my way through the Gone series (2 to go) and I have been thoroughly impressed with the 4 I have read so far. Each one amps up the tension and keeps you guessing. I am still trying to work out what is going to happen and I really hope Fear and Light tie up all the loose ends. Michael Grant has also released a new series called Bzrk series which I think I might give a whirl.

2. Cassandra Clare

I have officially jumped on the bandwagon of the Mortal Instruments series. I raced through City of Bones and City of Ashes and have recently got my hands on City of Glass and I am really looking forward to what happens. I think this series does a great job of repairing the damage to vampire reputations. No sparkly vampires here but some genuinely chilling supernatural beings. Another unique series and worth a read for fans of vampire/supernatural fiction. Cassandra Clare has written a prequel and sequel trilogy for this series and I am debating getting my hands on these.

3. Veronica Roth

Another series here but I am hooked on the Divergent trilogy and I am eagerly waiting to read the final instalment when I finally manage to get a copy.  I was so impressed with the first two that I bought my sister in law copies for her birthday as I just knew she would enjoy them. I reviewed Divergent early on the blog. Roth has written some additional books from the point of view of Four and I think i need to give them a read next year.

4.  Elizabeth Wein

As part of the Carnegie Award I read Code Name Verity and was seriously gripped and surprised by the clever twists the plot took. This was a really different book for me to read as it wasn't fantasy or science fiction. I love reading books on book award shortlists as I think it helps you discover new authors you wouldn't have read before. Wein released Rose Under Fire not long ago and I have wondered about reading this.

5. Marcus Sedgwick

Midwinterblood was also shortlisted for the Carnegie award and I really was rooting for this one to win. I was so impressed with the way Sedgwick wrote the story and found myself captivated to the point that I just couldn't put the book down. I have got a fair few copies of other books by Sedgwick to read next year. I really want to read My Sword Hand is Singing.

6. Linda Castillo

Ok so I admit that this is not a Young Adult book and I would not recommend this at all for teenagers but for those who like crime fiction Castillo was an interesting discovery.  Castillo creates realistic characters who are featured throughout the series. I have a new on to read called Her Last Breath which has recently been released.

7. Sophie McKenzie

I really enjoyed Girl, Missing by Sophie McKenzie. The storyline was particularly clever for a young adult crime story. I haven't yet read the rest of the series but I often recommend this book as a starting point for you crime/mystery fans.

8. Kiera Cass

As I have mentioned before I was not sure about reading The Selection series. I had mistakenly judged the books by the covers and assumed they would be slushy romance but I was very wrong and think this is a wonderful introduction to dystopian stories for young adults. The final in the series The One is out next year and I will definitely be reading this treat.

9. C.J Flood

I loved Infinite Sky when I read it earlier this year and apparently there is to be a second instalment in 2014 (if goodreads is to be believed). For Flood this was a debut novel and I was really impressed with the quality of the writing and again considering the genre is not normally by cup of tea it really moved me and I would happily recommend this to students.

10. Sarah Crossan

I really enjoyed Weight of Water by Sarah Crossan which I read again as part of Carnegie. I had convinced myself I had read Breathe by her as well but realised recently that although I own a copy I haven't yet read it. As this featured on the Carnegie long list for 2014 I am going to make sure I get this one read. I love the style of Weight of Water and the brilliance of a story constructed with so few words. Breathe looks right up my street so I am sure I will enjoy it.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

35 girls, one crown, the competition of a lifetime

As I have mentioned a few times in recent blogs I was not keen on this book based mostly on its cover (bad librarian) and slightly on its blurb. Convinced by other readers I gave it a try an was pleasantly surprised.

Meet America Singer (even her name put me off). A feisty character whose personality is as fiery as her hair and jumps off the page into your heart. She's flawed but this makes her likable and her determination to follow her heart is inspiring.  The society she lives in is grouped into a caste system. The higher your number the better and easier your life is. America is a five. Her family have just enough food to live which they earn from their musical performance. Fives are the artists and singers in the society and America is a skilled pianist, violinist and sings beautifully.

In Illea there is an age old tradition in which the Prince must select a bride from within the caste system and America is selected to compete with 35 other girls. America doesn't want to win the princes heart, as she already loves Aspen, a six. However convinced by Aspen to compete she enters the palace and is taken by surprise at how her relationship with the mysterious Prince Maxon develops. Everyone in the palace is more then they seem and America must decide where her heart truly lies.

I know it sounds like a romance, I know it sounds soppy but it isn't. I was hooked by the complexities of America's feelings. Her character was completely believable. The other girls competing have well developed characters and their different castes are reflected in their personalities. The two male characters are equally as strong but I found it very difficult to see what America saw in Aspen.  As the story progresses I hope to find out more about why the caste system was created and from reading The Elite I know that Cass continues to develop the dystopian aspect of the storyline.

A story with surprising grit and gumption despite its front cover!

Don't judge a book by its cover! 

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Book Review: Damselfly by Jennie Bates Bozic

She's not the only one playing for the cameras

This book was in no way what I was expecting. After reading the blurb I was not sure what the story was actually going to be about, was it dystopian, fantasy or romance? If anything it was all three and more. The phrase that best encapsulates this story for me is that it is more than meets the eye. 

The story revolves around Lina.  Lina is a six-inch tall 15 year old girl when we meet her, not to mention she also has wings.  Lina was created by the Lilliput Project to solve problems in the world. It is never really mentioned in the book what the issues in the world are, how they happened or how pint-sized human beings could solve anything, but these are not the issues dealt with in this story. 

The story deals with the fact Lina has fallen in love, the unfortunate thing is that it is with a boy (Jack)  she met online and he knows nothing about the fact she could fit in his pocket. However, these are the least of Lina's problems. Her creator, the cold and calculating Dr. Christiansen has plans for Lina to star in a reality TV show where she will meet 6 'toms' all the same size her and choose one to marry and they threaten Jack's safety if she doesn't co-operate. 

Now if you have made it this far in my summary you might think this sounds like quite a romance driven story. In fact it sounds a lot like the bachelorette for pixies. But like I said a lot more is going on here then meets the eye.  The romance element takes up a good portion of the story but what really builds and drives the story is Lina's awareness that not everything is quite as it seems and her determination to find out what is really  the motivation behind the reality TV show and why there are 6 toms and only one Thumbelina. This part of the story was thrilling and I found it really gripping in these places. I struggled a bit with some of the 'date' scenes but these picked up pace as the story developed. 

I really liked the character of Lina.  The story is written from her perspective and I really enjoyed the fact it remained that way the whole time. Considering she is such a tiny person her personality is really dominating and strong throughout the story and I really liked her.  The toms are interesting but you only really get to know a bit about two of them and the rest remain quite shrouded in mystery, as I think this is a series starter I imagine the next story might develop these characters more. 

This is a super original story and I think its a very impressive concept and should make a strong series. I personally think this is a great read for younger fantasy/dytsopian fans or even to get avid romance readers to try another genre. 

I enjoyed this book and younger fans will love it!

I was provided with a copy of this book for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Covers I Wish I could Re-design.

I love this week's Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. As an avid reader and as a school librarian I am fascinated by the effect a book cover can have on whether you read a book. Not only that but I am always intrigued when publishers redo covers whilst the series is still being written. I struggled to come up with 10 I would change, so 5 are ones I would alter and 5 are ones I love!

Covers I would change

1. The Selection by Kiera Cass

Having finally got around to reading this the other week I have to say I think the cover design is all wrong. I completely dismissed this book as romance and let it sit on my to read pile for a few months because it looked like it would be inevitably full of romantic slush. How wrong I was, yes it is romance but its well written, un-slushy and has a dystopian element that is very clever. I wish the front cover made the main character America look less like a beauty queen and more like the stubborn, fiery redheaded woman she is.

2. The Singer from the Sea

I loved this story by Sheri .S. Tepper it was one of my first really fantasy reads. I just find the cover a bit wishy washy. I feel it needs to be some darker colours in it just for impact as the lady really fades into the background.

3. Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

I read my mother's copies of these from when she was a child and the cover is so insipid and dreary. I get why they used the green but the girl portraying on Anne in no way reflects who she is in the story, I wish the front cover was something less idyllic and peaceful and more true to the character. There have been many different covers for this series but I still haven't found one that portrays Anne how I imagine her.

4. Magyk by Angie Sage

Oh dear! This introduction to fantasy series has recently undergone a new cover design and both version just don't work. The original idea to have the books look like spell books worked well but they made really squat and fat by the dimensions and it puts of reluctant readers. The new covers are thankfully thinner and more reflected of the length of the stories but the covers are now far to grown up so people assume they will be hard. Its a young fantasy book desperately trying to pretend its for older kids!

5. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

This cover confused me to now end. Maybe it was my overactive imagination but I found the cover made me think it was a horror story. I get way that cover was chosen in relation to the story line but I think they could have done a less creepy front cover. On a side note this is a truly spectacular read!

Covers I would keep 

6. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

I would do nothing to the first published covers of Harry Potter. I would keep the young Dumbledore on the back that is on my copy and I would not have bothered to changed them at all. I understand why publishers re-jacket books regularly but I think the original covers of Harry Potter are by far the best.

7. Gone Series by Michael Grant

I am completely in love with the front covers for this series. They are so dramatic but with minimal effort. I was not a huge fan when the added the colour to the edges of the pages but they still pack a punch. I only don't like colour on  pages is that the colour runs when it gets wet and working in a school library its just makes the books look tatty really fast even if just a dot of water gets on them.

8. Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

The first edition cover of this book was just breathtaking. The illustrations by Chris made for an intriguing and  unique design that reflects the story inside perfectly. I don't mind the new covers so much but they are not as good.

9. Matilda by Roald Dahl

I personally think if you have Quentin Blake as your illustrator the covers of your books are going to be amazing. So really this should have all Roald Dahl books in it. However, the best for me by far is Matilda. I don't know if its just because I love the image of her surrounded by all those books but I think the cover is understated elegance.

10. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

The Twilight Series has a brilliant cover design. For a story that can be pretty insipid at times and with rather vacuous characters the front cover is really powerful. The read on black images were very unique when the stories were first released. I don't think many of my students would need the title to identify which one is which in this series, just the cover images would do it.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Something for the weekend: Dystopian Disney

This weekend I will be making my way through The Elite by Kiera Cass. I finished The Selection on Thursday and was so intrigued I decided to keep going with the series. On my Top Ten Tuesday post a while back I mentioned I was not sure that The Selection would be my cup of tea but I actually really enjoyed it, so I am hoping to enjoy The Elite.

The Elite starts up back where The Selection left off. I am on tenterhooks hoping that America chooses the better man. I have never ever found a romance I have enjoyed this much but as my colleague said its 'dystopian Disney' and I am loving it so far!

I would advise anyone who has been put off by this very girly looking front cover to give them a go all the same. What I have loved so much so far about this series it its got no 'love at first sight' and for me it just makes the characters for more believable.

What are you reading this weekend?

Friday, 8 November 2013

Book Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth

She turns to face the future in a world that's falling apart

It has been a long time since I blogged again due to having some time off for my tonsillectomy. Thankfully I have made it through to the other side and am now pretty much recovered. During my recovery I actually struggled to concentrate quite enough to read a lot but the Saturday before my surgery (a very lazy day) I feverishly read Veronica Roth’s dystopian novel Divergent.

I had been waiting to read this story for quite a while having had both students and adults rave about it to me. This story is another one to add to your list if you are a fan of the dystopian worlds. In this society people are born into factions and when they get to 16 they must take a test. This test determines what faction suits them best based on their character traits.  There are five factions you can be part of these are, Candor: honesty, Abnegation: selflessness, Dauntless: bravery, Amity: peacefulness and Erudite: intelligence. Beatrice is the female lead and initially we see her as part of the Abnegation faction where she was born and raised. However Beatrice gets inconclusive test results meaning that she is Divergent. This is something she is warned never to reveal and on the day of her choosing she makes a choice that will change her life for ever. Reinventing herself as Tris she takes to her new life with ferocious energy and a thirst to prove herself.

This story is breathtaking in its construction. I am going to try not to gush about every aspect of this book but I was hooked from the first chapter and I literally couldn't put it down! This book is the start of a trilogy but it doesn't feel like that. Roth wastes no time over explaining the society she has created. Instead the story is much more character driven and we learn about the world from Beatrice’s perspective.  I have read a few reviews that criticise the implausibility of Roth’s society, personally I cannot think of one YA dystopian story I have read so far where the society is actually likely to become a reality so I don’t think this is a valid criticism. Furthermore, the story is so well written that I didn't find myself questioning whether the society was possible.

The character of Tris is written with fierce adrenalin and most of her scenes are full of the action that I often find is missing in the other dystopian novels I have read. Roth does spend a lot of time creating climatic scenes that leave you biting your nails off but these scenes are more character shaping then story shaping. The actual main story doesn't start to over a third of the way in where we discover that a faction is hell-bent on starting a war with the other factions to change the way the society is ruled. However, even though it is late getting to this part of the story the pace of the high octane scenes with Tris and her fellow cohorts is so punchy and enjoyable to read it’s worth the wait. My only personal niggle is Roth kills two quite lovable characters towards the end of the book and for me Tris just doesn't react to it, she’s complete void of emotion in these scenes and I found that a bit too cold for the character. That said I still found myself rooting for her all the same.  

For me personally I would highly recommend this book. I am very much looking forward to reading the rest of the series now they have all been released. 

Couldn't put it down!

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Book Review: Oksa Pollock: The Last Hope by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

A new heroine, an old evil. An unforgettable adventure.

Oksa Pollock: The Last Hope was hailed as the French answer to Harry Potter when it was translated into English and published here in June. As a Harry Potter enthusiast I wanted to read it but also as a big fan of fantasy fiction for young adults.

The story is about a young thirteen year old girl called Oksa who discovers she has an array of different magical abilities. As she develops her ability to control these new found powers she discovers a secret that changes her whole life. Her family are originally from the magical world Edefia. They fled Edefia in fear of their lives over 50 years before. Now based in London the ‘runaways’ of Edefia gather around Oksa because she is their Queen and their last hope of returning to Edefia which the all long to do.

Initially I raced through the first chapters of this book. I really liked the character of Oksa and her friend Gus who are both well written and have wonderful engaging personalities. The story builds at a really good pace and is well written. We see Oksa learn who she is and explore her abilities exactly how you imagine a thirteen year old girl would be in learning she can shoot fire from her hands or fly. Her family are equally as well developed with a little bit of mystery surrounding key characters such as Leomido. You are intrigued enough that you want to finish the story but the plot does get a tad complicated.

I am a self-confessed fantasy fan and I love all things magical and mysterious. However, if I dare to say it this book had TOO much magic, TOO many different things introduced so fast that it was very complicated to completely grasp the storyline in certain places. I found myself getting quite bogged down in the different magical powers each character could possess especially as some were introduced so briefly. I am however hoping that this sudden deluge of different powers, creatures and what not is just because this is the first book in a series of 6. Fingers crossed that the second in the series does not introduce too much more as otherwise I think a reader will just be completely overrun with different things to keep track of. If it was not for the books website I don’t actually think I would have understood what hair the creatures look like so that was particularly helpful.

Having said this it is worth a read not just for fantasy fans but for those who like a good dose of action in their books. Although it got a bit chaotic in places the actual plot was well thought out and ended with a good cliff-hanger for the next installment.  

Worth a read.

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Book Review: The Killables by Gemma Malley

Evil must be identified

Long ago on this blog I promised a review of the new series by Gemma Malley. I was fortunate enough to win a copy of this story for the library I was working at through Twitter. I was really excited to read it as it was another dystopian story akin to The Hunger Games. I have already reviewed Malley's other series The Declaration which I thought was fantastic.

The Killables is a very unique story. You can only live in The City once you have had the evil part of your brain removed. Everyone in the City is given labels according to how well behaved and good they are. Nobody knows really what happens to those labelled K's they go to the outside barren world and are constant threat to the safety of those living inside the city. 

The story is told from the perspective of Evie. Evie is a likeable character she is a bit robotic initially but I think that was the author's intention to make you understand how far the City has gone to 'brainwash' people. The other characters have much more complicated and dark back stories and personally they were alot more captivating then Evie herself whose own backstory is not as richly developed. As with The Declaration series the momentum of the story is based on the idea of those with labels realising that they live in an oppressive society and then trying to escape. Although a different idea behind the labels in this story it is slightly similar to the the label  of Surplus in the Declaration. Unlike her previous series however, Malley plays slightly less on the 'love' element initially in this story.Similarly the story follows a lead girl with her love interest although this book throws in a love triangle which differs from The Declaration.

The story builds well but you can tell it is the first in a series as it sets the scene very clearly for the next book. I am planning to read The Disappearances as the story has intrigued me enough that I would like to know where it will go.  I think this is brilliant read for budding Dystopian fans.

A good book worth reading 

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite character names:

These have all ended up being girls names but I was racking my brain for ages for the boys names I like I didn't think I could do that list justice. So what follows is a list of my favorite female character names!

1.   Auraya  - Light (Age of Five by Trudi Canavan)

 I am pretty sure I mentioned in my review of this series how much I loved this name. I think it is so beautiful and suits the character so well.

2.   Eowyn – Joy (The Two Tower by J.R.R.Tolkien

 I love the character of Eowyn in Lord of the Rings. I think she is such a strong role model as she is so fiery and determined. A very strong name for a strong woman.

3.   Luna – Moon (Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoneix by J.K Rowling)

I love the character of Luna Lovegood in Harry Potter and I think her name suits her so well. Its got the airy fairy quality she posses right there in her name.

4.   Jubilee – Celebration (X-Men Comics by Stan Lee)

 Jubilee was always my favourite character in the X-men cartoon I watched as a kid and when I got some comics with my dad I loved reading about her. I also love the meaning of the name it’s so good!

5.   Arya – Truthful (Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini)

This character suits her name so well especially once I found out the meaning. I love that Paolini managed to write sucha  complex woman and didn’t make her weak or unassuming but made her a powerhouse as well as beautiful!

6.   Matilda –Strength (Matlida by Roald Dahl)

What a lovely story with a beautiful name. I love the story of Matilda and her journey throughout the book. I love that she is a bookworm and that the story ends with her getting the love she deserves. I think her name meaning is very apt.

7.   Meggie – Pearl (Inkheart by Cornelia Funke)

I really like these stories and the character of Meggie is so cool and feisty. I like the normalcy of her name in this fantasy series. In can be easy in fantasy fiction to think the weirder the better so it’s nice to have such a normal name.

8.   Marillia – Small Brook (Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery)

I am a huge fan of the Anne for Green Gables series that my mum encouraged me to read and I love the character of Marillia Cuthbert. I love the warmth she has under her layers of severity and I love the way she loves Anne. I think the name meaning is sweet considering where they lived and I also think it suits the character to a T.

9.   Ariel – Lioness of God (Disney’s The Little Mermaid)

In Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tale of The Little Mermaid the character is unnamed (her fate is also much worse that Disney portray) But I love the name Ariel. I love the way it is pronounced in the film by Triton and I think that it’s a pretty powerful name meaning.  

10.  Lydia – Maiden (Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen)

 I couldn’t really make this list and not mention the vivacious Lydia that graces the pages of Pride and Prejudice. Not only do I love the fact my name appears in a Jane Austen book but I also love that is spelt the correct way! I on the other hand must stress I am not so flighty as the Lydia of Austen’s world however, I am most certainly similar to her with my chatty nature.  

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Something for the weekend

I finished Oksa Pollock this week and so started reading Divergent on Friday. I chose Divergent as I have wanted to read it for a long time as students and fellow librarians have told me it is super gripping. As I am having my tonsils removed on Monday I thought it be good to have a really riveting read to get my through the recovery. However, having started the book on Friday afternoon I am already a good way through it. It is a truly enthralling read. I love Roth's writing style it really is breathtaking in its construction. Needless to say I am devouring it at such top speed that I may have to select another book for post surgery days. Thankfully I have created a rather substantial pile of books to keep me entertained!

 I featured this story on my Top Ten Tuesday of reads this season so its good to be able to tick another one off, especially one I know I am going to enjoy so much!

What are you reading this weekend?


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Book Review: The Cousin's War by Philippa Gregory

Three powerful women, three powerful stories.

I have so far read three of this series. After catching a glimpse of the TV series White Queen I decided that I would much rather read the books. I started with the prequel of the series The Lady of the Rivers. Personally this is my favourite of the 3 I have read. The prequel tells the story of Jacquetta Woodville, the mother of Elizabeth Woodville, the lead female in the next book The White Queen. Personally I preferred this book as Jacquetta was actually a likeable character whereas I have struggled to like Elizabeth or Margaret Beaufort from the Red Queen.

The first book follows the timeline whilst Henry VI is ill and how his queen Margaret of Anjou fights for the Lancaster throne as the York rivals seek to take it for their own. Jacquetta is involved along with her family in the fight to keep the Lancaster line on the throne. Though I love reading about strong women it is a shame that you do not get to read about many of the battles except from the point of view of a wife waiting for her husband.

The end of the book leads seamlessly into The White Queen. Here Jacquetta’s eldest daughter marries the new York King Edward and becomes the Queen of England and a Yorkist one at that. The time line follows on from the previous book and we read as Edward continues to fight for his throne against his own kin as well as keeping the persistent threat of the Lancastrian dynasty at bay.

This book moves at a faster pass then the first book I found myself utterly confused at why Elizabeth Woodville acted as she did. I actually had to research her and double check if she did flee into sanctuary as opposed to face her brother in law. It made me dislike her and I felt very much the same as her daughter Elizabeth (lots of Elizabeth’s here) It seemed like Elizabeth the elder had led her family into a place they could not escape from with her suspicions. As we all know her boys (the princes in the tower) were never seen again after Richard had himself declared as King. Here Gregory uses artistic licence and her own historical opinion that Elizabeth did not send both her boys to Richard and that her youngest son escaped and was reunited with her in later life. However, personally this is a tad farfetched for me. Considering that Richard III was removed from his throne by a Lancastrian surely if there had been a York heir more fighting for the throne would have ensued especially if Elizabeth Woodville was as ambitious as Gregory suggests. The White Queen finishes with Elizabeth Woodville’s daughter betrothed to be married to Henry Tudor and a great battle begins to take place at Bosworth.

I opened the Red Queen expecting the book to follow on. Sadly however it does not. The timeline is restarted back to Margaret of Anjou being Queen of England. This isn’t a huge problem but it made the start difficult to get into as I wanted to read on from the story. In addition it makes the book incredibly repetitive. In fact you will notice bits you read from the others in the series frequently and personally that repetition makes for dull reading. When the story actually focuses on parts we did not know about from the other books it does become a more riveting read. There are a few printing errors in my edition of the book which were annoying.

As with many of Gregory’s novels the books are all quick to read. They are not greatly challenging and the style of her writing flows freely off the page. For fans of historical fiction these books are worth a read. However , if you like slightly less artistic licence being taken these books might cause you to buy historical fact books just to make sure you have your history correct! Although not marketed as a young adult book we have found this series popular with our older readers.  I will probably read the rest of the series soon as I did enjoy them.

A good series for historical fiction fans

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I was forced (persuaded) to read

I don’t feel I have ever really been forced to read anything bare one play at school. Thankfully the people at Broke and the Bookish have suggested that this can be interpreted slightly differently. Therefore my list shall be more books very enthusiastic family have made me read. As these were recommendations they are not all Young Adult reads.

1.   Earthsea Quartet

My dad convinced me at the young age of 13 to embark on reading this fantasy series by Ursula Le Guin he had read as a child. I was very reluctant on visiting my local library and I can honestly say I judged them instantly on their old looking green covers and really wasn't keen to read them. However, once I got into these books I couldn't happier to have read them. I loved the whole series and have read it many times since along with other stories by Le Guin. I must read for fantasy fans!

2.   Lord of the Rings

I think I was the driving force behind reading this popular series. My dad has read these stories many times and the ‘daddy’s girl’ I am wanted to impress him by reading them as well. When the first film arrived I started the first book and never made it further than chapter 3! By the second film I managed to start again and get as far as chapter 7! Sadly it was not third time lucky and by Return of the King I had managed to perceive to chapter 11 of the first book. Then I finally admitted defeat and put the books down for another time. Nearly 10 years late I finally picked them back up and managed to finish the whole series. I was actually pleasantly surprised by how gripping I found the series.

3.   Life of Pi

At least 3 members of my family and ‘goodreads’ told me I must read Life of Pi. As you many know from my review that I did not enjoy this book. I just found it a bit blurgh! I like lots of things to happen and I have to be honest by about ½ way through the book I just want the boy to be eaten by the Tiger!

4.   Frankenstein

My eldest sister studied English Literature at University and often sent me books to read that she felt I would like. Frankenstein was one of the first she gave me and I was gripped. I read from her study copy and very much enjoyed all the handwritten notes around words and my favorite moment was finding a post it saying ‘the monster is created’ right before I got to that part. It was a highly amusing spoiler. I really love this book. I think it such rich, dark, edgy and clever and is worth a read for those who like grit to their books.

5.   The Lovely Bones

Pass the tissues please. My darling mother has a tendency to read incredibly sad books and this recommendation was no different. I found this book a challenging read due to its content but I also found it supremely clever and a well written story dealing with quite a difficult plot.

6.   Atonement

The movie of atonement was due out when I was persuaded to open the book and give it a read. After finishes this masterpiece of a book I watched the film and was quite let down as it just didn’t keep the pace I wanted it too. The book however, was a brilliant read and I sobbed quite pathetically through most of the end. Must read!!

7.   The Kite Runner

I can’t even put into words how moved I was by this story. My dad, mum and sister all wanted me to read this and unlike Life of Pi they were spot on. This story was so brutally honest and exposed and raw that I was not only crying my eyes out but completely speechless. A devastatingly brilliant read that I am so glad I read.

8.   The Midwife’s Confession

Amazon occasionally get there recommendations for me spot on and this was one of those cases. I bought this on offer for my little Kindle and was hooked. A complex twisty plot that draws you in and you just cannot stop reading. A climatic unexpected ending that makes this a fantastic read.

9.   The Help

Thanks mum for this book! What a beauty. What an utter spell- binding story that had me reeled in. A very poignant story. Wonderfully bittersweet expect to cry.

10.  Dracula 

Another book from my sisters English literature course (she must have been doing some gothic fiction). This is still one of my favourite books. It took me a while to get into but I persevered and was enthralled by the story of Jonathan and Wilhelmina Harker that I had never heard before. A must read for true fans of gothic fiction. 

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Something for the Weekend

I always like to make sure I have a good book for my weekend. Whether that’s one I have been reading throughout the week or the ultimate treat of a brand new read.

This week my weekend read is Oksa Pollock: The Last Hope by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf. I have wanted to read this book ever since I read the Guardian article about it being the French answer to Harry Potter.

So far this book is shaping up well. The world and magic used is very imaginative and quite different. It is sometimes a little much and I don’t think they needed quite so many different creations but then again they were obviously trying to establish a new ‘world’ and therefore I understand that a lot of work had to go into this. I found the website quite handy in understanding what some of the unusual creations actually looked like.

I am enjoying the storyline and find Oksa a really intriguing character that is a strong female lead. I can see why comparisons to Harry Potter have been drawn but on the whole I think they are quite different stories. So far there are enough fantasy elements for me as well as an unusual and gripping storyline that makes you want to keep reading. Hopefully this book keeps my interest for my weekend reading!

What are you reading this weekend?

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Book Review: GONE by Michael Grant

In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE

This book has been on my list for over a year. I have simply not got around to reading it as I felt it was a big commitment if I enjoyed it as the start of a series of 6 books. I couldn’t put it down. The pace literally zooms and pulls you along. To call this a page turner doesn’t do it justice. It is so gripping and interesting that you physically need to keep reading.

The Lord of the Flies-esque story sees the creation of the FAYZ. In this world all the adults and children over the age of fifteen have disappeared. Those that are left behind begin to see strange mutations break out amongst both the people and the animals. Something was going on in Peridido beach before the FAYZ and as a result this thrilling tale takes many twists and turns and now on the second book I am still not sure what I am going to find out.

It’s hard to pin point who the main characters in this story are. There are quite a lot of characters to keep track of but they all play an important role so they were definitely worth writing. Grant 
doesn't waste time with characters that make little impact, the rule of thumb from my point of view is if he mentions someone new with quite a bit of detail then keep your eyes on that character as they will play an important role. The story follows the journey as the kids left behind in the FAYZ adapt in order to survive. Violence ensues as young children fight for power over each other. Sam is the hero of the story, the one everyone wants to be in charge but he is reluctant to take power. Caine is against Sam and seeks to claim all the power as his own. All the while they head ever closer to their fifteenth birthday when they will simply disappear.

The use of a countdown as the chapter titles means the story moves at a very intense and fast pace and keeps you wanting to figure out what the countdown is for and what will happen when you get to 0. This countdown theme is the same for each of the books and helps to keep the pace snappy from book one to two.

I would recommend this book for any keen science fantasy readers and particularly those who like to get hooked into a book. I am sincerely hoping the rest of the series 
doesn't disappoint!

Run and get yourself a copy!

Currently Reading: Oksa Pollock by Anne Plichota and Cendrine Wolf

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best/Worst Series Endings

The Top Ten Tuesday this week looks at the top ten best/worst series endings. This wonderful meme is hosted every Tuesday by the Broke and the Bookish. I found creating a top ten of all best actually quite difficult so created one that includes a few of each. Considering I read a lot of series it was surprisingly difficult to choose for this list.

First some of my best series endings. These books were not only enjoyable but from a fans point of view the way the author concluded the series was satisfying rather than leaving that bad taste in the mouth thinking why did I read this?

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I still adore the way J.K Rowling concluded the Harry Potter series. This final story takes you on a massive concluding adventure that has you crying and laughing throughout. You start to see all the clever little things Rowling mentioned throughout the series that are now playing a key role. There is a fantastic monologue from Harry towards the end, they miss this out in the movie which is just a travesty as it’s a jaw-droopingly good speech that just makes you want to punch the air!

2. Inheritance by Christopher Paolini

Again another book then seems to be recurring on many of my top ten lists so far. I have to mention the final book in The Inheritance Cycle. I needed to read this book so unbelievably desperately that I risked missing a train to buy it immediately after I had finished Brisngr. It did not disappoint. I raced through it at lightning speed. As a reader I was extremely pleased with the way this series concluded although I actually wished he had written a fifth.

3. The Legacy by Gemma Malley

Although slightly predictable in places this series finishes strong. We finally get to understand a bit more about the resistance and about Pip and the mysteries get solved in a way you would not expect. A brilliant dystopian series for younger readers.

4. Voice of the Gods by Trudi Canavan

Yes I am mentioning this series AGAIN but I am a major fan. I loved the way it ended as well. Lots of the loose ends tied up but just enough questions left that the author could return if desired. I personally would love to see Auraya feature in another series as she is such a power house of a female lead.

5. The End by Lemony Snicket

Aptly titled The End this series conclusion was in true Snicket fashion and I loved it. It didn’t completely clear up all the unusual mysteries that Snicket had introduced throughout the story but it did answer some series question and the final twist was unexpected.

Now on to a few books that were sadly just let downs for me personally.

6. The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest by Steig Larsson

Obviously this is not a young adult book and I would strongly advise that those of a squeamish nature avoid this series as its graphic and brutal. Having said that I enjoyed the suspense of the first two books however, the third one did not keep the same pace. I personally feel that Larsson was actually planning to write more stories featuring Lisbeth and this could be why the story didn’t seem to finish.

7. Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

I am sorry if you love this one but I was bitterly disappointed by the ending of The Hunger Games series. I felt Mockingjay was just a lot of rambling and didn’t pack the punch that the other two books had. It was a bit of a namby pamby finish to such a strong and fiery first two books. Plus like many others I feel she picked the wrong man!

8. Fyre by Angie Sage

I wanted to love this series so much. I wanted it to captivate me and be an amazing undiscovered fantasy series. The first one was good and age appropriate for younger fantasy fans. Sadly the rest of the series wasn’t. It was good but it wasn’t great and considering this seventh book was the conclusion to such a long series it was very dull and packed none of the punch you would expect from a fantasy series.

Finally these two books are on my list to read, one when it is released. I really hope they live up to my expectations and are as brilliant as I think they will be.

9. Light by Michael Grant.

When I finally get round to reading the next few in the series I really hope Light is just as fantastic as the first two have been and finishes by answering all the questions I am bound to have!

10. The Doors of Stone by Patrick Rothfuss

The Doors of Stone (or so I am led to believe) is the title of the final instalment of this epic fantasy series. I have some seriously high hopes for this book and I really hope it lives up to my expectations. I expect not to be able to put it down.


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Book Turn-Offs

Another Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and the Bookish each week. This the top ten is a bit different for me as I have previously only done ones which look at listing books not aspects of books so it is good to do something different this week.
Ever been reading a book and you get that sinking feeling when a pet peeve happens and it really does you head in or even worse makes you hate the book you are reading so much you either have to stop or you are thrilled when it is finally over. I have a few things that really put me of a story and can ruin a book for me.

1. I think I love you even though I don’t know you at all!

This has to be the worst thing for me. I find it very implausible when characters have known another one for all of 2 seconds and they are already in ‘love’. It is very common I find in young adult stories and for me is a big no no!

2. I know where you are going with this so why should I keep reading

It really annoys me when I writer reveals to much too soon that you know the ending before you have read much of the beginning but they continue to write the story as if you do not know what is happening.

3. Help... I’ve have written myself into a corner!

I have come across this quite a bit. Possibly because I read such a lot of fantasy and the plots can be very complex so much so that the writer doesn’t know how to get themselves out of the corner they have written themselves into and then WHAM they make up some entirely new, you have not come across it for more than half the story it’s never mentioned again but at that moment its gets them out of the sticky situation they wrote themselves into. It frustrates me so much!

4. Fifty shades of green and I still haven’t finished describing the grass yet.

Man oh man if I have to wade through reams and reams of descriptive writing about the scenery I complete shut off. I don’t mind the occasional paragraph but if I have to read from more than 2 whole pages about the jagged rocks and rolling hills I will not finish that book fast all!

5. Have I made myself clear?

That awful moment when you are more than half way through a book and you still do not know what is happening. That even worse moment when you finish a book and you are still not sure what has happened. I have had a few experiences with this that just left me utterly confused.

6. Hi my name is....

Minor characters that are just not worth mentioning because they have no bearing or relevance to the story they just waste paper. I don’t need a story to have loads and loads of surplus characters that appear and then disappear almost immediately.

7. The war that was never then.

I haven’t read masses of historical fiction as I find it means I have to go research into the era to double check the facts but one of my pet peeves is one an author as completely disregarded the time a factual event took place and moves it a few years either way to suit their own purposes. I understand artistic licence but if you are writing historical fiction I think the basic things such as dates and locations should be consistent with the historical fact.

8. Are you feeling sick yet?

Slush! I hate the stuff. We get it your characters are in love, lust and infatuated with each other but I don’t need to read about it in such sickening detail. Lay of the slushy stuff!

9. Beautifully boring

I don’t get why female leads in book can be so badly written some times. I do not want to read about a shockingly beautiful girl who has as much depth as a thimble. I want a heroine I can empathise and respect not an insipid, vacuous, wet wipe of a girl that I just want to punch!

10. Cry me a river

I love a good tear-jerker as much as the next person but I am not a fan where the plot has been written on purpose to make you sob your heart out. I am not a fan of these new stories falling into the miserable I will make you wish you hadn’t read me category. I read to enjoy myself not to depress myself.

What things put you off books?

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Book Review: Infinite Sky by C.J Flood

“Is it possible to keep loving somebody when they kill someone you love”

On the advice of a student I decided to read Infinite Sky by C.J Flood. I was warned it was sad and that I might cry. Well cry I did, in fact I sobbed. This is a beautifully written poignant story which did not go as I had predicted from the blurb.

Iris's mother has left for Tunisia and with that she has let a gaping hole in the family dynamic. Her father has begun to drink heavily and her brother has gotten mixed up in an unsavoury crowd. When a group of Irish travellers move into Paddocks field owned by the family. Her father in his loneliness seizes hold of the challenge to rid his home of these unwanted settlers. His mission is in stark contrast to Iris who is intrigued by the settlers and embarks on a sweet and childlike love with the son Trick. Neither family wants this to continue so Iris meets with resentment from both her dad and brother for even entertaining the idea. This story managed to present young love well and it was not overly slushy or romantic considering Iris is a young girl I felt this was appropriate. The way their love is written is endearing and coy and reflects the awkwardness both characters feel as they pursue this forbidden friendship.

The final climax of the story is written in a stilted style to make you unsure who is to blame and in that you can empathise with Iris’s tough unanswerable question posed at the start of the book.

As I said this story was not what I had expected. It is well written for the intended audience but has an appeal for adults also. It was nice to get out of my comfort fantasy/science fiction genre and read something different and brilliant. The tale has an easy rhythm making it a relatively quick read.

Be ready for some tears!

A beautifully sad story

Friday, 27 September 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Sequels Ever!

Another Top Ten Tuesday (on a Friday) here and this week it’s a really good one! Thank you to The Broke and Bookish again for this linky. My favourite genre has and probably always will be fantasy and one thing is for certain fantasy authors do not like to write stand alone fiction. I am not complaining here but sometimes those second books just don't live up to their predecessor. This top ten has taken me a while to compose as it’s so tough to decide what my favourite sequels have been! I have taken this to mean the second book in a series as opposed to a book anywhere in a series.

1. Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss (The King Killer Chronicles)

This series completely captivated me. I absolutely devoured this book and it was such a fantastic follow up to The Name of the Wind. This book continues the tale of Kvothe. This fantasy masterpiece is a tale of epic proportions that goes to unpredictable places and worlds and I cannot WAIT for the third!

2. The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula Le Guin

The second in the Earthsea Quartet has always been my favourite. It introduces the young girl Tehanu in an unusual world, for filling a bizarre role for her people. Sparrowhawk returns older, perhaps wiser to save her and she in turn saves him. I love this book as it was so cleverly written. It’s pretty different from A Wizard of Earthsea but it’s still fantastic.

3. The Scent of Magic by Cliff McNish

I have re-read the fantastic Doomspell Trilogy more times than I can count. I love the adventures of Rachel and Eric and the second book in the series is just as brilliant. Witches and Wizards are imagined in a whole new way by McNish and it’s so well written. I love the introduction of the character Yemi in this book and his unique magical ability.

4. Eldest by Christopher Paolini

*Sigh* I cannot rave about the books in The Inheritance Cycle enough. The characters, world and storyline have such depth and the second in the series Eldest does not disappoint. Continuing to follow the quest of Eragon as he faces the world as the last dragon rider. His fate is even more sealed in this book and other more minor characters are developed beautifully such as Roran.

5.Lireal by Garth Nix

It’s been a while since I read about the adventures of Sabriel. A great fantasy read with all the must have elements for a good adventure. The fate of the old Kingdom is in Sabriel's hand and she must rise to the challenge to save it. A great follow up that leads into a brilliant final book.

6.The Last of the Wilds by Trudi Canavan

I reviewed The Age of Five series in June and I highly recommend it. The sequel is another well crafted fantasy/mythical adventure that sees Auraya continue on her uncertain path. I love the character of the Old Hag so really enjoyed having more from this character in this story.

7. Slaves of Mastery by William Nicholson.

This top ten allowed me to remember a beautifully written series that I have not thought about for a while. I loved this series and the sequel does justice to characters the first book teaches you to love. Kestrel and Bowman helped make Aramanth safer and more peaceful but now it can be targeted. Separated from one another Kestrel seeks to find her brother as Bowman finally uncovers some truth about the Singer people.

8. InkSpell by Cornelia Funke

I very much loved Inkheart and I can remember when I finally got my hands on InkSpell as a young girl being so excited. Finally the book takes you into the Ink World where as a reader I had been longing to hear more about. I still love the premise of this story as it’s such a lovely idea and so cleverly written. Meggie gets her hearts desires but at what cost?

9.The Novice by Trudi Canavan

Another Trudi Canavan to feature on this top ten. I was toying with whether to put this in as it’s not as amazing as The Last of the Wilds. However, as a sequel comes it is a good follow up to the first and the character of Sonea is developed much better than she was in the first book. In fact I would go as far as saying that this book is better than the first.

10. Stormchaser by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell

I love the Deepwoods series even with its shocking amount of books. The second in the original trilogy is brilliant. Finally we get more understanding and action as Twig gets to take up his rightful place on his father's sky ship. We learn more about the world in this story and the illustrations by Chris are phenomenal.

*A little note about Harry Potter. As I took the word sequel to mean the second book in a series I could not in good conscience include The Chamber of Secrets. For me it is and has been for years my least favourite book. I have never liked it and I can honestly not pinpoint why. I like it because it is Harry Potter and I like being back in the wizarding world but I completely hated the idea people thought Harry could be Slytherin's heir and it just didn't make for as an enjoyable sequel for me.

What are your favourite sequels?

Currently Reading: Hunger by Michael Grant