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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Deirdre Riordan Hall – Sugar

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I don’t really know what drew me to choose this book from Amazon – I know that it was free to read, but I think as usual it was probably the cover. ‘Don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ sounds like an admirable thing to say, but when there’s hundreds of thousands of books to choose from on Amazon, it’s kind of impossible not to.

I binged this book in one sitting, it was compulsive reading and impossible to put down (unputdownable(?) – I think that should definitely be a word, right?).

Mercy is a big girl. She’s from a big family. She can’t remember a time she wasn’t fat, and she is tormented mercilessly for it. Unfortunately that torment is not just from people at school or people in the street – it comes from her own family too. Everyone calls her ‘Sugar’ – a cruel nickname bestowed on her by her own mother of all people. Despite the fact that her mother is so big that she can no longer leave her own bed and relies on Sugar for every element of her care.

Sugar is miserable, and that misery makes her turn to food again and again and again. For the comfort that she’s not getting from those people who should be there for her.

So when someone bumps into Sugar for the umpteenth time in the school cafeteria and causes her to drop her lunch all over the floor, she’s had enough. But it turns out that the boy who ran into her isn’t the same as the rest. Even (his father wanted to call him Evan but couldn’t spell), turns out to be just what Sugar needs to escape from the crushing weight of her family.

As Sugar and Even get closer, we can literally feel the weight falling off Sugar’s shoulders as her heart becomes lighter and filled with small bits of joy. But we also feel Sugar’s insecurities creeping back time after time. Every time she returns to her family home you can feel her regressing back to her old ways.

I’m going to stop my plot review right there, as I don’t want to give away any spoilers to this fantastic book. Let’s just say that I had no idea what was coming, and when it happened it broke my heart.

I cried so many times during this book. Seeing so much of myself in Sugar (but thankfully none of my family in hers). I could empathise totally with her feelings and her lack of self-worth. The attempts to drown out the sting of the comments from people who don’t know her. Feeling like no-one will ever get to know the great person inside you because they can’t get past the way you look on the outside.

I loved this book. Despite feeling completely broken at the end, I loved it.

J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

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I know, I know. I’ve read this book so many times. And with the amount of books on my to-be-read pile, I should probably make a dent in that rather than re-reading my favourites again – but it’s HARRY POTTER. And when I saw that it was free on Amazon Prime reading, I just couldn’t say no.

I guess there’s not much point doing an actual plot review, since we all know exactly what happens (and if you don’t – drop everything you’re doing and go read this series now!). But I did love reminiscing about my childhood – I can’t believe it’s 20 years since I first read this book, that makes me feel really blooming old!

After going to the Harry Potter studio tour a few weeks ago, this was very firmly in my mind and it was so nice to lose myself in that world again. I’m just a little bit gutted that the rest of the e-books aren’t free to read, or I would be doing a full series read. I suppose that’s a good thing for my TBR shelves though!

 

Emily R. King – The Hundredth Queen

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I’ve been really slack at this whole book review thing recently. I finished this book over a month ago, but I just haven’t been able to get the motivation to log on and write up my review.

That’s no reflection on this book, which was absolutely great. As it’s been over a month since I read it, I don’t feel like I’m really going to do it justice in this review, for which I apologise.

Kalinda is an orphan, looked after by the Sisterhood. Her life is set out before her – a life away from the world. She’s always been a sickly child, so is unlikely to ever be claimed by any of the visitors to the temple.

But when Rajah Tarek visits the temple and claims her as his hundredth wife, her life is completely turned upside down. She’s now forced into a competition to fight for a place among the Rajah’s other wives. This competition is brutal and due to Kalinda’s sickly nature, it’s not looking good for her. She may have escaped from the temple, but it’s not looking like it will be for long.

But within Kalinda is a fire, a power. And if she wants to escape from the Rajah, she’ll need to find and harness this power to save herself.

I loved the developing relationship between Deven and Kalinda, the intensity of her feelings from the first time they met.

But what I loved more was the relationship between the women in the book – female empowerment at its finest.

I really wish I’d written this review straight after I’d finished reading as I feel I’d have been much more eloquent. It’s been a long few weeks at work and I’m afraid that I’ve lost so much of the nuances of the story. All I know is I really want to read the second book in this series, I can’t wait to see what happens to Kalinda next.

Jay Asher – 13 Reasons Why

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Urgh.

Can I start a book review with ‘urgh’? I guess I just did.

I’ve been waiting to read this book ever since I saw the Netflix show announced, and I am utterly disappointed. But also a little relieved that I won’t be wasting my time watching 13 hours of TV.

I don’t really know what I expected from the book, it was such an unusual concept – audiotapes left by a girl (Hannah) who committed suicide, detailing the 13 reasons why she did it. But I couldn’t feel any emotional connection to Hannah in the slightest, she seemed a bit whiny to me if I’m honest.

And without an emotional connection, it was all just a bit ‘flat’. I just felt no impetus to keep reading, other than because the book would count as one towards my reading challenge, on which I’m falling behind.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers in case anyone reading is thinking of reading this book, but I just found it all a bit disappointing, I wanted to ‘feel something’ as I was reading, but I just felt nothing.

Maybe I’m the wrong age for this book, and it would be more popular with teenage readers, I know that the Netflix show was definitely popular with the teenage schoolgirls who get on my bus on a morning, judging by how many times I had to turn my music up to avoid spoilers!

So not for me, but maybe that’s just me.

Nicola Yoon – Everything Everything

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This book was SUPERB!

I sat down to read this book yesterday afternoon and didn’t get back up again until I’d finished it. It was that good. I just couldn’t stop turning the pages even for a second.

At the start of the book, we meet Madeleine. She hasn’t left her house for as long as she can remember – she has a disease that means she’s allergic to the world. But she’s 18, and she’s lonely. So when a new family moves in next door and she strikes up a friendship with the son Olly, it looks like she’s willing to risk her life just for some normality.

I’m finding it really hard to review this book without wanting to write major spoilers, as I could just gush about this book forever. What I will say is that the ending was definitely not what I expected in the slightest – I had just assumed it was going to be a super-sad book, but I was really surprised by the ending – and in a good way.

This book is coming out as a film later this year, and I can’t wait to watch it. If it’s even half as good as the book, it’s going to be fantastic!

Kate Eberlen – Miss You

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If you love romantic books with a bit of a twist, this book is definitely for you.

At times, it felt a bit familiar to other books in the same vein, for example One Day by David Nichols, but the author did a great job of making it unique enough to keep it interesting. It says something that I read this entire book in one day, as I’ve been really struggling to get through any books recently.

Tess and Gus first ‘meet’ in Italy where they are both on holiday before going away to University, and so starts a string of almost-meetings that will span the next two decades. They are tantalisingly close to many times but just never manage to quite meet.

As we follow their lives through the book, it’s clear that neither of them is living the life they always dreamed off, especially poor Tess whose dreams of going to university after that holiday to Italy are dashed when her mother dies, leaving her as a carer for her younger sister Hope.

And whereas Tess’ bad luck seems to be mainly not her fault, Gus seems to head from one bad decision to the next, floating through life still traumatised by the death of his older brother Ross, and the fact that he just can’t live up to his big bro in his parents’ eyes.

I was completely transfixed by the whole story, I just had to keep turning the pages, desperate to know that the two would finally meet and fall in love. And while you’ll be happy (and unsurprised) to know that of course that is what happens in the end, I was just a little disappointed that we didn’t hear more about what happens after – maybe a sequel though?

Bella Forrest – The Gender Secret

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I was in two minds about the first book in this series, it had good moments and bad moments, but the shock ending left me wanting to read more.

Unfortunately, I’m a bit disappointed that I did. As expected Viggo and Violet are reunited again, but then we spend the whole book going back and forth between ‘I trust him’ and ‘wait, no I don’t’. And it started to get on my nerves just a little bit.

But once we’d got out of ‘the green’, I did find myself on the edge of my seat waiting to see what was going to happen next, even if sometimes it felt like it was going slower than I thought. I didn’t particularly like the inclusion of Viggo’s chapters where we see things from his point of view, I felt like they weren’t quite as well written as Violet’s chapters and he seemed like a different personality to the Viggo of the first book to be honest.

I did think the ending of the book kind of redeemed the faults from the rest of the story, so I will probably try the 3rd book in the series when I can get it for free on my kindle, but I won’t be in a particular rush to get to it really.

Kathy Cooperman – Crimes Against a Book Club

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So apparently as an Amazon Prime member, you get a chance once a month to get a newly released book for free, and this was my choice for this month. I don’t read many crime books, but I was drawn in by the ‘book club’ in the title.

As it turns out, the book club was a very small part of the actual plot, and while I don’t usually ready crime books, this was a typical crime book as they usually focus on the people solving the crime, not the ones actually doing it.

I was drawn immediately to the main characters Sarah and Annie. Sarah, a drop dead gorgeous lawyer who is working herself into the ground, may look like she has a perfect life, but she can’t have children and it’s killing her. And Annie, who has a beautiful family at home and a loving husband, is going through problems too. Her son Oscar has been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, which is going to need a lot of expensive treatments and therapies.

So when Sarah and Annie come up with a quick way to make some money, it seems like life will be rosy for them. But Sarah, as the glamorous face of the business, doesn’t know the secret ingredient that Chemist Annie has added to the $2000 per jar face cream that they’re going to peddle to the wealthy members of La Jolla, starting with the book club.

Whatever the secret ingredient is, it’s having a dramatic effect on the lives of those people who start to use it, as we see through Sarah’s interactions with these people. But when Annie runs out of the secret ingredient, it looks like it’s all going to come crashing down, and she can’t exactly ask Sarah for help.

I found the book such an original idea and I loved both Sarah and Annie, two very different women going through their own struggles in the best way they can. I also liked the other cast of rich characters we are introduced to (although I think there could have been less of them), proving that money doesn’t give you happiness.

I would have liked more of a personal connection with Sarah and Annie and their families, in order to feel truly invested in their business, but when it all starts unravelling, I just didn’t feel like I was going through it with them. I also thought that after all the build up, the ending felt a little rushed.

I think this was a good choice from the list that Amazon was offering though, and I’d definitely recommend it, despite the little things I didn’t enjoy.

Bella Forrest – The Gender Game

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I thought the concept of this book was a very intriguing one. Two societies separated by a river: one ruled by women, one ruled by men. To be a man in Matrus is to have no rights or responsibilities, and to be a woman in Patrus is possibly worse. You are the property of your husband and cannot go anywhere without him. If he beats you and no-one else sees it, your word is not enough to prosecute him.

Our story begins with Violet trying to smuggle her younger brother from Matrus to Patrus, as he has not passed the test that all Matrus-born males have to undergo to prove that they aren’t too masculine to fit into society. But things go wrong and Violet is caught, and we next catch up with her during her imprisonment for that crime. But Violet is not good at abiding by rules, and she soon finds herself sentenced to death for killing a fellow prisoner.

But maybe that’s not the end for Violet. She’s offered the chance of a lifetime (literally). All she has to do is cross over to Patrus undercover, marry a man she’s never met and take part in a top secret plot. And here lies my first problem with this book. Why give such a seemingly important task to an orphan prisoner who has shown she has a violent and unpredictable personality?!

Nevertheless, of course Violet agrees to this task (it’s either that or the death penalty), and we see Violet plunged into more danger than she’s ever faced.

We then end up in a fairly stereotypical love triangle between Violet, her new husband (who seems nice but boring), and Viggo, the handsome enigmatic fighter that Violet is supposed to be tailing so they can frame him for the crime they are about to commit. But of course Violet falls in love with Viggo and the whole mission is in danger.

I really wanted to love this book as I thought the idea was such a good one, challenging the stereotypical notions of male and female characters and putting them out on display like that, but there was just too much predictability about it, and I would have preferred it without such an obvious love triangle. When you’re trying to expose gender imbalance like that, I think the story would have been just as good without the doey-eyed young girl part.

I did, however, enjoy the shock ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it did redeem the book enough for me to want to read the next book in the series to see where it goes.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers

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I wasn’t sure if I could include this on my 2017 reading challenge, but it appears on Goodreads, so I’m going to say yes. It was my first ever comic book (at the grand old age of 27), and I had a lot of fun reading it.

I just saw it on my kindle available for free, so I thought I’d give it a try, and since I’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy films, I thought it would be a good place to start as I would know kind of what would happen.

The quality of the drawing was superb, I felt so absorbed in the story. My only sad point was that Groot in the comic books was definitely not as cute as Groot in the films!

I definitely would read more comic books in the future, but I think I’d rather read them as a physical book rather than on Kindle, as I think it lost a little bit of something when swiping through the pages on screen.