Monday, 13 February 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (6th February - 12th February)...

Last week has been totally work filled (six days in a row, yikes!) and left very little time to do things for myself. Nevertheless, I'm still impressed with the amount of reading that I got done, and blog planning too. Also, Mat and I finished watching A Series Of Unfortunate Events (great series) and started watching Stranger Things (also an awesome series so far)! I had a small blip towards the end of the week where I ended up feeling a little unwell and got sent home from work, but I was back in the next day. Still recovering, but feeling much better!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'Traitor To The Throne' by Alwyn Hamilton: Approved by Netgalley (06/02/17)
- 'The Best Of Adam Sharp' by Graeme Simsion: Approved by Netgalley (06/02/17)
- 'Dragon Of Ash & Stars' by H. Leighton Dickson: Bought on Amazon (09/02/17)
- 'Ensnared' by Rita Stradling: Approved by Netgalley (11/02/17)

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Book Review: Stargirl; Jerry Spinelli.

I didn't know that 'Stargirl' was such a short book, but nevertheless I'm pretty pleased with how little time it took me to get through it. Having seen such mixed reviews of it on Goodreads (also many schools consider it a classic while others have banned it) I was expecting to feel a lot more strongly one way or another with this one. I'm actually almost disappointed that I ended up going with an 'okay' rating.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Stargirl
AUTHOR: Jerry Spinelli
Orchard Books
PAGES: 272
GENRE: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

RATING: 3/5 Stars

Stargirl. From the day she arrives at quiet Mica High in a burst of colour and sound, the hallways hum with the murmur of “Stargirl, Stargirl.” She captures Leo Borlock’ s heart with just one smile. She sparks a school-spirit revolution with just one cheer. The students of Mica High are enchanted. At first. 

Then they turn on her. Stargirl is suddenly shunned for everything that makes her different, and Leo, panicked and desperate with love, urges her to become the very thing that can destroy her: normal.

What I Liked:
  • I fully endorse Jerry Spinelli's message in this book, and can 100% see why many are calling this book a contemporary classic. 'Stargirl' exists to try and promote individuality and uniqueness. The moral, as it were, is that while conformity is safe it is not what our nature wants. Really, we all think and do tings that are considered 'weird' and we shouldn't ostracise others for that. Be happy and kind to people, don't just follow the social norm.
  • Other than it's message I thought that the book was written pretty well and Spinelli's study on archetypes was pretty cool. Everyone seemed to fit a high school cliche (Hillari as the ultimate queen bitch, Wayne Parr as Mr hot and empty-headed, Kevin as the gift-of-the-gab class clown, Archie as a 'wise old man' etc.) and using Leo, Spinelli did a great deal of thinking on how these stereotypes think and work. I like these kind of clever, relatively subtle reflections that most readers will be able to relate back to people they know.
What I Disliked:
  • While the message was clear, in some ways it didn't work because some of the issues that the students had with Stargirl, I sort of agreed with. I'm all for cheering for both teams or helping people, but the stalking and turning up at stranger's funerals is actually very disrespectful in my eyes. When Leo visited her office at the end, I found it way too bizarre. A;so, speaking of Leo, it's a shame that his only purpose was to be a narrator and as a result I felt like he had absolutely no character development whatsoever. He talked, breathed and thought only of Stargirl and was so dull. A real shame.
Overall Conclusion:
I expected, one way or another, to be blown away by this book. Either hating it or loving it, I wanted to understand the controversy that everyone else was feeling. Sadly, mediocre is the best I can do. I loved the message, thought Spinelli wrote well and found some pretty good reflective content in there too. Sadly, I also fund the girl I was supposed to root for way too creepy and the narrator whose eyes I was seeing her through monotonous and repetitive and just a tad too predictable. 

Thursday, 9 February 2017

Book Review: Under Rose-Tainted Skies; Louise Gornall.

Usually, I would call contemporary YA a bit of a touch and go gene for me. I have some great experiences but also find a lot of the story-lines very similar, a lack of representation and insta-love that puts me off pretty much straight away. But recently I've had a really good run of them, and this read was yet another one I enjoyed!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Under Rose-Tainted Skies
AUTHOR: Louise Gornall
Chicken House
PAGES: 272
GENRE: Young Adult, Romance, Contemporary

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths...

What I Liked:
  • There were so many aspects of this book that I enjoyed! More than anything, I loved the focus that Gornall gave to mental health: in particular, OCD, Agoraphobia and self harm. I realised in fact that I have never read a book that focuses on self harm which is disappointing because it's an issue that a lot of teens face nowadays and I think should be properly discussed. I don't have Agoraphobia or severe OCD like Norah but the anxiety thing was 100% spot on, that's for sure. Also, bonus points for the positive outlook on therapy!
  • I really did have a lot of love for the romance in this book, and that's a great compliment from me because that genre is not something I usually enjoy all that much. Luke was absolutely adorable and really meshed well with Norah. I loved the cute letters through the post box and his unstoppable enthusiasm and understanding of Norah's situation AND the fact that Luke wasn't there to 'cure' her. In fact in some ways, he made things worse. His backstory made for an interesting read too. Norah was likeable enough as an MC and I was impressed that Gornall put so much development into all her characters (except maybe Amy, who definitely fit a 'trope').
What I Disliked:
  • There were a couple of issues with this book that stopped me from giving it the full five stars, and they mostly arose from the ending...or lack of. I understand that mental illness doesn't just stop and life goes on, but the whole someone breaking in thing felt a little forced and bizarre and the recovery from the hospital didn't satisfy like the rest of the book had. It didn't address the self-harm, nor did it give any 'where do we go from here' hints. 
Overall Conclusion:
This book definitely lives up to the hype it's been receiving in the Blogosphere and I'm glad that I ended up enjoying it so much. Don't be fooled by it's pretty pink cover, this book goes dark when it needs to and I think it will be triggering for some people that read it. However, it covers a lot of important issues really well and does a wonderful job of introducing a cute romance story-line in the process. I just wish that the ending had been as well thought out as the rest of the book!

Monday, 6 February 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (30th January - 5th February)...

I can't believe how quickly January went, and that we're already on February! This week hasn't been overly busy for me so this won't be a long paragraph as I mostly worked throughout the week. My time off is well and truly over so my days off around it were spent relaxing and recuperating. I found good time to read, blog and game around that which was nice though!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'One Of Us Is Lying' by Karen M. McManus: Approved by Netgalley (30/01/17)
- 'Sea' by Sarah Driver: Approved by Netgalley (02/02/17)
- 'The Seventh Miss Hatfield' by Anna Caltabiano: Bought on Amazon (05/02/17)
- 'The Voyage Of The Basilisk' by Marie Brennan: Bought on Amazon (05/02/17)
- 'From The Editorial Page Of The Falchester Weekly Review' by Marie Brennan: Bought on Amazon (05/02/17)


I Posted...

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Book Review: The Loneliness Of Distant Beings; Kate Ling.

After such a long time away from this genre, it's actually really refreshing to be reading a Science Fiction book again. I don't tend to read them much, but when I get into them, I find them so good!

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Loneliness Of Distant Beings
AUTHOR: Kate Ling
SERIES: The Ventura Saga (#1)
Little Brown Books For Young Readers
PAGES: 320
GENRE: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

Even though she knows it's impossible, Seren longs to have the sunshine on her skin. It's something she feels she needs to stay sane. But when you're floating through space at thousands of kilometres an hour, sometimes you have to accept there are things you cannot change.

Except that the arrival of Dom in her life changes everything in ways she can barely comprehend. For a while he becomes the Sun for her; and she can't help but stay in his orbit. Being with him flaunts every rule designed to keep their home in order, but to lose him would be like losing herself.

In the end they must decide what is most important: loyalty to the only home they've ever known, or to each other?

What I Liked:
  • The world-building in his book held a lot of promise and was probably my favourite aspect of the book. Ling did an awesome job of actually considering what life aboard a space ship might be like, and I liked that there was a lot of advanced tech but the whole thing didn't feel overly complicated and full of unnecessary teleportation devices and lasers and goodness knows what. Also, the climax of the story has some really cool 'flying' speak and gave a good insight into flying a craft. The level of detail is really nice.
  • Ling wrote the story itself really well. I liked the narrative despite not being a fan of the MC (I'll get to that later) and enjoyed the solid pacing and the fact that Ling struck such a good balance between giving us the information that was necessary to the story but without info-dumping which is a great danger in Science Fiction. I liked the constant thrills and plot events too so that I never felt bored or uninterested while reading. In that sense, Ling did a cracking job.
What I Disliked:
  • As I said, I wasn't a fan of the MC. Seren definitely wasn't the worst POV I've read from, but I found her too selfish, immature and frankly a little bratty even though I agreed with most of what she was saying. In fact, most of the characters I couldn't really get on board with because I either felt like they were a little one-dimensional (Pandora - uber bitch, Captain Kat - pure psycho, Seren's Grandad - cold as ice, Seren's Dad - Mr. Mopey, etc.) or suddenly went against their characterisation big time (Ezra...I liked him in the end and he was definitely horrible to begin with). I only started getting emotionally attached during the last 'scene' where I actually began getting excited for the possibility of a sequel.
Overall Conclusion:
I really liked the premise of this Science Fiction novel and for the most part it was really well done. I loved the world-building, and the plot but felt that some of the characters could have done with a bit more attention. I did like the diversity that Ling included within the book, especially by including a male love interest from a different culture. The final fifth of the book was awesome too: fast-paced, action packed, and more emotional than the rest of the book combined. It gave me hope for a better sequel so I'm actually excited at the prospect of another book.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Planned Reads For February.

Wow, are we already on month two of 2017? Crazy! I have a couple of leftover reads from January that I'm dying to get to, as well as six awesome new picks that I'm excited about.

  1. 'The Loneliness Of Distant Beings' by Kate Ling. I've started this one already (I'm about a quarter of the way through) and I have to say I'm enjoying it so far though intrigued to see where Ling is actually going with this. It's been on my list for a long time, provided by Netgalley an age ago.
  2. 'Under Rose Tainted Skies' by Louise Gornall. I've been looking forward to this book for some time, and it was one of my most anticipated reads from attending and buying it at YALC. It's focus on mental health, anxiety and in particular Agoraphobia will definitely make for an interesting read I'm sure!

  1. 'Ruin & Rising' by Leigh Bardugo. Finally I am going to actually read this book and finish the series. I've had some ups and downs with it: I love the world-building, villain and plot but not so keen on the romance. I hope that this last book will convince me that this is a good series because I desperately wanted to finish it before starting 'Six Of Crows'!
  2. 'Orangeboy' by Patrice Lawrence. In a bid for more diverse reads, this was next on the list. Reading the description made me think fondly of my love for Malorie Blackman's 'Noughts & Crosses' series, as this focuses on gangs, racism and family. I've heard great things from bloggers that I trust, so I look forward to it!
  3. 'Stargirl' by Jerry Spinelli. This classic contemporary is another Netgalley approval that combats the idea of having to fit in and calls out bullies as wrong. I strongly believe that people should be allowed to express themselves in any way that they want without judgement and I look forward to reading a book that promotes this message.
  4. 'The Rest Of Us Just Live Here' by Patrick Ness. It's time to read some more of the weird and wonderful by this guy! I love Ness' ability to cross genres so easily, and the way that he so flawlessly includes diverse characters within his stories. I love the premise of this story too, so it has a lot of promise to be a 5 star read I think!
  5. 'Ash' by Malinda Lo. This LGBT retelling of Cinderella has been on my TBR for ages! In fact, I'm pretty sure I pledged to read it a ton of times in 2016 and then never got round to it, so I really want to not keep dragging that out in 2017 too. It's received some great reviews and I've seen Lo's name pop up a few times on the Blogosphere regarding her newer release 'Huntress' too.
  6. 'Small Great Things' by Jodi Picoult. Another book that focuses on social issues that feel really relevant right now, but this time from another name that I hear frequently and have never read: Jodi Picoult. I often saw her books around but felt they just weren't something that would interest me. This is new territory for Picoult though, so perhaps a good place to start?

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

January Wrap-Up.

Of the 7 picks for January, I actually managed 5 which is not bad considering the terrible start I got off to! I've read a lot in the past couple of weeks and I'm really pleased with all of my reads this month!

  1. 'The Bear & The Nightingale' by Katherine Arden. This was a real anticipated read on my part that I'd been hoping to read during December, but I'm pleased I got to now. It focuses on Russian Folklore and provides a re-imagining of that world and way of life. The historical research was phenomenal and paired nicely with some gorgeous world-building. Whatsmore, the story and characters were really nicely explored. I can't wait for book two! 5/5 Stars.
  2. 'A Quiet Kind Of Thunder' by Sara Barnard. Definitely my favourite read of the year so far, I'm shocked and amazed at how much I enjoyed this despite adoring Barnard's debut 'Beautiful Broken Things'. Guys, this is not just any old YA contemporary romance. This one grabs you in the feels. I loved the relationship between Rhys and Steffi, and also there is so much diverse representation in this book for BAME, the deaf community, those who suffer from anxiety and many more. 5/5 Stars.
  3. 'Rebel Of The Sands' by Alwyn Hamilton. I've had this on the list for a while now, and looked forward to a possible combination of books such as 'Vengeance Road' and 'A Thousand Nights'. I was certainly not disappointed on that front as I saw a whole host of magical creatures as well as shooting action. I felt like the pacing was much faster than I'd have liked and didn't leave time to explore relationships in the way I'd have liked. Nevertheless, this looks to be a promising series. 4/5 Stars.
  4. 'Saint Death' by Marcus Sedgwick. Even now I'm a bit unsure of my feelings on this one. There's no doubt that it's a powerful read with a serious message on the way that Mexico is frequently exploited by the USA and the sad lives that the people there lead. It feels especially relevant now and I liked the styling of it. I would have liked more of a story and better developed characters to get attached to but this has a feel of a classic in the making. 3.5/5 Stars.
  5. 'The Bone Sparrow' by Zana Fraillon. While I didn't rate it as highly as my first two reads, this is definitely the book that has stuck with me. It's setting of an Australian detention centre, and similarities to the classic 'The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas' is harrowing considering how current this situation is. There were a couple of pacing issues that I had to look past, mostly due to the target audience between that fine line between Middle Grade and YA. 4/5 Stars.
Now it's time to see how I did with my challenges this month!

This month I have read four books for the Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to four. My reads were:

- The Bear & The Nightingale
- A Quiet Kind Of Thunder
- Saint Death
- The Bone Sparrow

This month I have read two books for the 2017 New Releases Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to two. My reads were:

- The Bear & The Nightingale
- A Quiet Kind Of Thunder

This month I have read zero books for the LGBTQIA Challenge, bringing my yearly total to zero.

This month I have read five books for the Diverse Reads Challenge, bringing my yearly total to five. My reads were:

- The Bear & The Nightingale [Optional Mini Challenge]
- A Quiet Kind Of Thunder
- Rebel Of The Sands
- Saint Death
- The Bone Sparrow

And I'm getting along nicely with my Bookish Bingo and Story Sprites cards too!

Alternative Format: Dragon Slayer Number Nine; Intisar Khanani
Set Abroad: Saint Death; Marcus Sedgwick
Sequel: Memories Of Ash; Intisar Khanani
2017 Debut: A Girl Called Owl; Amy Wilson
GR Choice Nominee: Heartless; Marissa Meyer
Pink Cover: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder; Sara Barnard
White Cover: Stealing Snow; Danielle Paige
Survival: The Bone Sparrow; Zana Fraillon
Blue Cover: Rebel Of The Sands; Alwyn Hamilton
Nature On Cover: The Bear & The Nightingale; Katherine Arden

Book With Multiple POVs: The Bear & The Nightingale; Katherine Arden
Story Regarding Anxiety: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder; Sara Barnard
Story Centred Around Social Issues: The Bone Sparrow; Zana Fraillon
Mostly Blue Cover: Rebel Of The Sands; Alwyn Hamilton
Book Addressing Socioeconomic Topics: Saint Death; Marcus Sedgwick