Sarah J. Maas – A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses

I was recommended this book by one of the girls at the youth group I run on a Monday night. She’s only 12 so I had been putting off reading the book as I thought it might be a bit juvenile, but she’d mentioned it so many times that I thought I might as well give it a go.

I actually was pleasantly surprised. Unlike some of the reviews I’d seen on Goodreads, I found that the plot was well paced and not too shallow for a young-adult book. In fact, the girl at my youth group had mentioned that her mum wouldn’t approve of some parts of the book if she read it, and I can kind of see why. There was some adult language, and a couple of adult scenes. but they were quite mild really – I guess they just feel naughty when you’re young!

I spent the whole book waiting for a love triangle to start, and was so pleased when it didn’t. I find it quite annoying when you read young adult fantasy books and they all seem to have an infantile love triangle in just for the sake of it. It makes them very same-y and predictable.

I found Feyre to be quite a strong female character, willing to risk her life to save someone she loved. And then later on, willing to risk her life and that of her loved one to save the whole faerie world.

When I got to the end of the book, I was so looking forward to diving in to the second book, and was so incredibly annoyed to find out that I’d accidentally reserved book 1 and 3 on the library app but forgotten to reserve book 2, which has now been checked out by someone else.

Looks like I’ll have to wait until after Christmas to carry on reading. In the meantime, I’ll move on to the author’s other series – Throne of Glass. I’ve heard mixed things about this series – it’s won lots of awards but my best friend said she found it disappointing. We’ll see!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 432
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 4th December 2017 – 6th December 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.28
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Harry Potter and the Four Week Re-Read

Harry Potter

So at the beginning of last month, I realised that I was dreadfully behind on my reading challenge for this year – I wanted to read 52 books but I was stuck at 32. I knew I needed to get a few books under my belt, and what better way than with a Harry Potter re-read. I like to do it once a year, and it’s even better now that you can officially re-read a book on Goodreads and have it count towards your yearly challenge.

As always, I loved it. It’s so easy to get lost in Hogwarts and swept away in the magic. I did notice this time something that I hadn’t really noticed before, which is that the major plot element that becomes the ‘saviour’ towards the end is usually set up really obviously earlier in the book. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed it before, but I feel like I should have done. As you’re a quarter of the way through the book, you can usually see what will help Harry to defeat Voldemort once again.

The exception is the Deathly Hallows, which is so much darker than the other films that it’s hard to compare. I’d completely forgotten about certain plot elements like Wormtail’s silver hand turning on him and strangling him to death. So dark for a children’s book.

But the heartbreaker will always be:

“After all this time?” “Always”.

Oh Snape. I will always love you for being unfairly hated throughout the whole series when all you did was love Lily.

I feel like a Harry Potter movie-marathon is on the cards now…

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 1997-2007
Number of Pages: 4231
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 8th November 2017 – 4th December 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.5
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Brandon Sanderson – The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings

I think I’m a little bit in love with Brandon Sanderson. Scratch that. A lot in love.

I honestly can’t believe that one man could write such epic stories again and again and again and never leave me disappointed. I’d love to see what goes on in his head, blooming amazing! And honestly a genuinely nice guy, when I met him to get my book signed he was so lovely and friendly.

I’d actually been putting this book off for quite a while since it was over 1000 pages long, but with Oathbringer coming out, I wanted to get on with it so I could catch up. Although it was 1000 pages long, it didn’t feel a thousand pages long. I was skipping through pages so quickly determined to find out what would happen next and the book flew by.

The book was set from a few different perspectives, and for the first chunk of the book, I was finding it hard to see how they would all fit together, they seemed like such separate stories, but as we drew towards the end, things started slotting into place.

My favourite character (probably predictably) was Kaladin. A tortured soul, I was desperate to find out what was plaguing him and what secrets from his past were driving him in that way. But he was such a forceful personality, determined not to let his circumstances define his character.

I also loved Shallan, although she had treachery on her mind, she felt like an endearing character and I found myself drawn to her for some reason. I’m sure she’ll come into power as the series progresses.

The one thing that took me a while to get used to was that there were so many names that felt quite similar to me and it took me a while to get them straight in my head.

I was ill when I finished reading this book so I didn’t write the review straight away, and I don’t feel like I’m really able to do it justice, but all I will say is I’m so looking forward to Words of Radiance. I’m going to leave it til the new year with it being so long and me being so far behind on my reading challenge, but I can’t wait!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2010
Number of Pages: 1008
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 31st October 2017 – 17th November 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.64
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Dave Eggers – The Circle

The Circle

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.

My Rating: 3/5
Year Published: 2013
Number of Pages: 504
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 18th October 2017 – 26th October 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.45
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Evelyn Skye – The Crown’s Game

The Crown's Game

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!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 416
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 25th September 2017 – 17th October 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.83
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Marieke Nijkamp – This is Where It Ends

This is Where It Ends

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.

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 24th September 2017 – 26th September 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.63
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Sarah Crossan – One

One

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!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 448
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 23rd September 2017 – 24th September 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.15
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Brandon Sanderson – The Bands of Mourning

The Bands of Mourning

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!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 437
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 12th September 2017 – 23rd September 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.45
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Brandon Sanderson – Shadows of Self

Shadows of Self

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!

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 383
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 2nd September 2017 – 11th September 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.3
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Deirdre Riordan Hall – Sugar

Sugar

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.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2015
Number of Pages: 276
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 29th August 2017 – 29th August 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.94
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