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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

Dave Eggers – The Circle

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I won’t lie, I decided to read this book because I saw the film on Netflix and that it stars Emma Watson (I love her), and I didn’t want to watch the film before reading the book.

I have mixed feelings now that I’ve finished. The concept was great and I was quite excited about it – raving to my colleagues about the plot and how creepy but scarily accurate it was in the beginning.

But certain parts of the book were a little irritating, most notably the main character Mae. I just couldn’t find any way to connect to her, even right at the start before she’s pulled into the Circle’s disturbing ‘inner circle’. She never seemed to think for herself, she was content to be carried along with the wishes of those around her.

I found myself laughing every time a new monitor was added to Mae’s desk, thinking that the need for constant validation of your social ranking and popularity sounds eerily familiar in these days where instagram likes are everything. But then when Mae leaves her desk, things get more disturbing and though you can agree with some of the things that the Circle does in the beginning, you quickly realise they’re taking it wayyyy too far.

The thing that bothered me the most was that we hear hardly anything from any objectors to the Circle’s crazy plans, even though you know for sure that none of this would fly in the real world. If this was supposed to be a prediction of where the future is heading, it’s scary, but hard to believe it would be possible.

My last complaint about the book – the ending. I was at 95% through the book and I just couldn’t see how it would end within the next 5%, but it turns out that the way to end it was disappointingly. I won’t give you any spoilers, but if you’ve read it, I’m sure you know what I mean – it felt like a bit of a cop out, potentially leaving the path open for a sequel, but leaving me wishing it had been different.

 

 

Evelyn Skye – The Crown’s Game

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Another book downloaded through Libby – I’m not sure what drew me to the book other than the mention of magic and the fact that it sounded a bit different to recent fantasy books I’ve read.

The premise of the book sounded great, two young enchanters who would have to fight against each other to become the Imperial Enchanter – working closely by the king’s side. The losing enchanter will die.

Sounds like it could be dramatic. But I don’t think it quite lived up to the idea I had in my head. Very quickly in the book you discover that there’s a love triangle which did become annoying, although towards the end, it becomes obvious why the love triangle was necessary and it made for a pretty surprising ending, one that I would never have guessed.

My e-reading app broke halfway through reading this book, so I had a gap of almost 2 weeks where I couldn’t read anything, which I think put a dampener on my enjoyment, as once I got back on again, I devoured the book within a couple of days, but when compared to other books in this genre, it just missed the mark slightly.

I did love the unusual setting for the book, I’ve not read a fantasy book set in Russia before (I don’t think), and it made for a nice change – the scenes were so beautifully described that I did feel like I could have been there!

The book ended on such a shocking cliffhanger that I definitely want to read the second one now, I just have to wait for it to become available to borrow from my library!

Marieke Nijkamp – This is Where It Ends

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I went into this book with a certain amount of trepidation as I made the mistake of reading the reviews before I started and there were quite a few terrible reviews. But I’d already checked the book out of the virtual library and it was less than 300 pages, so I figured I might as well give it a go. The average Goodreads rating was 3.63 so there must have been some good to balance out the bad, surely?

And actually, I was pleasantly surprised. I found the book thrilling and compulsive, I couldn’t stop reading once I’d started. I’m not sure if my impression of the book is affected by the bad reviews though, maybe I think I like it more than I did because I was expecting it to be so bad?

I’ve never really read any books based around school shootings before, and only really heard about them distantly on the news as something that happens in America but not really over here in the UK. So I think the author did a really good job of conveying the terror and confusion of what happens in that situation, but I’m definitely not an expert.

What I did find most compelling was the relationship between the characters we hear from. Having so many different perspectives was a great way to keep the storyline moving and exciting, and the fact that we learn more and more about how all these character’s lives intertwine was a big reason I wanted to keep reading.

The book was clearly aimed at young adult audiences – although it’s a hard topic to deal with, I feel like the book would have had more tension if it had been written for an older audience, but it was great nonetheless.

Sarah Crossan – One

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So Cecilia Ahern’s review on the front of the paperback cover of this book says ‘One broke my heart and mended it’, but that’s a lie. One broke my heart and then stomped it into the ground.

Heartbreakingly beautiful is how I would describe this book, narrated by Grace. You see, Grace and Tippi are conjoined twins. And with all the medical bills around their care, their family is falling apart at the seams and they can no longer afford to be home-schooled. So Grace and Tippi are going to school for the first time.

Now this is a terrifying feeling for anyone, but imagine if you’re the person that everyone stares at everywhere you go. The person who knows that people will ask you the same questions again and again without thinking of personal boundaries. School is way more than just ‘terrifying’.

But as Grace and Tippi arrive, they quickly find two fast friends who see through the obvious and see them for who they are. They have their own problems too, just like most of the other secondary characters in the book – they’re all real people. But just as school seems to be going okay, the twins are faced with a heart-wrenching decision that will change their lives forever.

This book was devastating, but just not in the way that I expected it to be. The characters are deep and well rounded – real humans that you can feel complete empathy for. And although they are conjoined twins, each girl has a completely separate personality which is expressed beautifully.

The fact that the book was written in free verse made it much faster paced than it would have been as a traditional story, I found myself consuming the book over 2 sittings in a matter of hours. I’ve never read a book written in free verse before, but I would definitely do so again. I’ve seen a lot of reviews on Goodreads that are critical of this writing style, but I think it felt much more like a stream of consciousness like this.

We are literally joined
at the hip-
united in blood and bone.

And
this
is why
we never went to school.

– – –

Because having a twin
like Tippi is
not
The Worst
Thing
Ever. 

The only reason I didn’t give the book 5 stars is that I would have liked the ending of the book to stretch out a little longer, it ended too abruptly for me. Although I can understand why it ended why it did and it was a very poignant ending, I just wished there had been more!

Brandon Sanderson – The Bands of Mourning

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It seems like these Mistborn-era books just keep getting better and better. This one was filled with so much drama and so many plot twists that I feel like I’ve read an 800-page saga, not one that’s just over 400 pages. Sanderson has packed so much into such a short book (short for him at least).

If I hadn’t gone on holiday just after picking this up, I would have consumed it hungrily in one sitting. There’s just not a quiet spot throughout the whole book to set it down, so it was hard for me that it took almost two weeks to get to the end!

As I expected, this book follows Wax, Wayne and Marasi again as they are sent on a secret mission which doesn’t exactly go to plan. Steris comes along with them and far from being annoying with her endless organisation and planning, she actually comes across as endearing and definitely proves her worth. I love the tender moments she shares with Wax, you can feel their connection growing through the book, despite how different they are.

I also liked the unexpected ‘relationship’ between Wayne and MeLaan, but my favourite relationship of all still has to be the bromance between Wax and Wayne. They’re a full-on double act, and it’s hard to imagine one without the other.

And when it seemed like that might be the case later on in the book (I hope that’s not too much of a spoiler), I actually felt my heart breaking a little bit.

And talking of ‘later in the book’, how about that ending, huh? Sanderson sure knows how to write them for sure! I read the last 100 pages of the book in a frenzy, heart in my mouth desperate to know how it would end. It was more than I could ever have imagined, but in the best way possible. It definitely brought back the excitement of the original 3 mistborn books which I could say has possibly been building back up over the last two.

The best thing I read in this book however was in the introduction, when Sanderson said he’s only half way through the planned story-arc for this universe. That made me inexplicably happy – perhaps 6 more mistborn books?! OH YESSSSS!!!

I absolutely can’t wait for book 7 now, it’s sure to be an explosive one, that’s for sure! In the meantime, time to find some other Sanderson to sink my teeth into!

Mechthild Gläser – The Book Jumper

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I ‘rediscovered’ our local library a few weeks ago when I was trying to find some ways for my dad to get ebooks of the latest books without having to pay for them, and discovered that with a library membership, you can loan ebooks in the same way as normal books using an app called Libby by Overdrive. All you need is a library card number.

So after getting my dad set up, I thought I’d have a good look to see what I could get for myself. And this was the first one that jumped out at me (if you’ll pardon the pun).

A story where the main characters can jump into books – in fact not ‘can jump’, but ‘must jump’ in order to keep the book world on track and to make sure that (for example) one of the seven dwarves doesn’t decide he wants to be a hairdresser.

But when elements start going missing from the book world, and not inconsequential elements, but the main ideas for the book – like the cyclone from the Wizard of Oz, it looks like Amy will have to fix this by herself, since the adults won’t take notice of her, and she’s not entirely convinced that it’s not one of them responsible.

And it turns out that there’s something about Amy that is more special than most book jumpers – but I won’t reveal that as it’s a pretty big spoiler.

There were a few things I loved about this book – firstly the relationship between Amy and Will which grows throughout the book. And secondly when Amy jumps into books that are so familiar to me – like Jane Eyre or Pride and Prejudice, and it made me so jealous that I can’t do the same thing! And her growing friendships with the book characters – how amazing to become friends with Shere Khan!

Certain things about the book did disappoint me – the fact that we don’t really learn too much about Amy and her relationship with her mother and the lives they left in Germany. And the ending of the book seemed like a bit of an anti-climax. I would have loved more details that kept me gripped – it didn’t have much about it that made my heart beat faster or make me desperately want to get to the end.

I feel like the book had a lot of potential, but it just fell a bit short. Perhaps it was aimed at younger readers and if it had been written for an older audience I would have been more fascinated by it. Or perhaps it lost some of the spark in the translation from the original German? I’m not sure. I definitely liked the book, but I wouldn’t say I was excited by it in the way I thought I would be when I read the blurb.

Brandon Sanderson – Shadows of Self

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Ahhhh Brandon Sanderson. Your books fill me with joy. I am constantly amazed by Sanderson and how he can write so many books but have them all be so flawlessly perfect. I’d love to know what goes on in his brain to be able to imagine the worlds that he does with all their infinite detail.

As soon as you start reading the first page, you’re sucked right into the world, like dipping your head into a Harry Potter style pensieve, it’s like being right there inside the story watching it all unfold around you. I’d say I’d love Mistborn to be made into a film, but I don’t think it would do it justice.

I’ve been wanting to read this book since it first came out, but I much prefer paperbacks to hardbacks, so I had to wait quite a while for it to be released. But it was most definitely worth the wait; to be back with Wax and Wayne again was fantastic.

I love the fact that these new ‘mistborn’ books are still in the same world as Vin and Kelsier, but they have such a different feel to them – more like your typical crime/thriller books that just happen to be set in this world filled with allomancy and feruchemy.

But this world seems to be getting darker, and characters from the past start making appearances. And for Wax, the strangest thing is that the Gods are talking to him. And as well as trying to battle through all these situations, he’s also getting married to Steris. An alliance of convenience and mutual benefit, but not one of love it seems, for Steris seems about as far in character from Wax and his friends as it is possible to be.

My favourite part of this book was that we get to hear more from Wayne. He’s such a wonderful character, so funny and off-the-wall, with his propensity for stealing switching things and his ability to take on personalities to blend in how he does.

I don’t really know how to say much more without giving away plot spoilers, and I don’t really want this review to be a gush-fest about how awesome Sanderson is, but it is what it is I guess.

The one great thing about leaving it so late to read this book is that I have Bands of Mourning sitting on my shelf ready to start straight away, I can’t wait to dig in!

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.