Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Book review: Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle.

Vivian Apple never believed in the Church of America - unlike her fanatical parents. And as for the so-called impending 'Rapture', she knew she'd believe that when she saw it. But then Vivian wakes one day to a New World, and all that's left of her parents are two empty spaces. The Believers have been taken, it seems. And for those left behind, the world is a desolate and eerie place. All Vivian has now are her memories and her volatile friend Harp.

Faced with society on the brink of collapse, Vivian and Harp embark on a journey across America, in search of any family they have left, and determined to expose the truth about the Rapture. Three thousand miles through floods, fog and heat waves, Harp and Vivian and a boy with the bluest eyes and the kindest heart are driving on to their future.

But will this be a coming-of-age road trip with no return?

The premise of Vivian Versus the Apocalypse had me from the start. How many times over the past few years has the apocalypse been predicted in America? And every time we all take it the same way that Vivian and her friend Harp do at the start of the novel, like it's all a big joke that'll never happen. But in Vivian Versus the Apocalypse it actually does happen. Maybe.

I think this is the first book I've ever read that can be classified as both contemporary and post-apocalyptic and in my opinion the combination worked fantastically. Coyle makes it so easy to imagine this possibly post-apocalyptic America as her descriptions of the country post-rapture mix easily with scenes that are far more familiar to modern-day.

Another great strength of this novel is its main character, Vivian Apple. It's so refreshing to see a teenaged heroine thrown into a situation like this and to react like a real teenager. Vivian does not immediately leap into her role as heroine. She is reluctant and scared, just like most teenagers probably would be in her situation. Watching Vivian gradually discover her own strength and bravery is definitely part of what makes this novel so great. And don't even get me started on how much I love her best friend, Harp.

The sequel to this book, Vivian Versus America, is out already and I can't wait to get my hands on it and find out what happens next (especially after that heart stopping twist at the end of the first book!) If you're into contemporary, post-apocalyptic, or just really interesting YA with badass female heroines, then I highly recommend Vivian Versus the Apocalypse.

4/5 stars.

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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Book review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys trilogy, which follows the story of Blue Sargent and the Raven Boys on their search for the ancient Welsh king Glendower.

I loved the first two books in the series, The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves, and I can't recommend the series enough. Maggie Stiefvater's writing style is so immersive I always feel like I can't read her books quick enough and she writes teenagers who really act and sound like teenagers, which is always a plus in YA. I enjoyed Blue Lily, Lily Blue because of Stiefvater's style, because of the characters, because of the world, but honestly I felt like not much really happened. I mean, of course things happened, but I spent pretty much the whole book waiting for something big to happen. Waiting for the story to really start.

There are new characters who don't really do anything and a plan that never actually takes place and even the things that did happen didn't really make as much of an impact as the events of the first two books. But this is a Raven Boys book so I did really enjoy it and I would still absolutely recommend the series, even if you aren't normally a fan of fantasy.

One thing Blue Lily, Lily Blue did do fantastically well was to set up the story for the next book in the series and I can't wait to read that one.

3/5 stars

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Friday, 28 November 2014

Would you rather: book edition.

I already typed up this entire post once and then accidentally deleted it and I am Not Happy about it, but anyway... I recently saw this tag on The Book Journal and thought it seemed like a fun bunch of questions. So let's get started! (Again!)

Would you rather read only trilogies or only stand alone novels?
Definitely stand alone novels. One really good book is always better than a trilogy where the story's been all stretched out to fit the extra books in.

Would you rather read only male or female authors?
Female authors. There's still one Raven Boys book to be released and I am not missing out on that!

Would you rather shop at Barnes & Noble Waterstones or Amazon?
I would rather shop at Waterstones but when you buy as many books as I do sometimes you have to go for the cheaper option, you know? I do prefer a proper bookshop though. Especially because there isn't one where I live.

Would you rather books became films or TV shows?
I love TV but thinking about it, if a book is made into a film then yes some things will have to be left out but if it's made into a TV show then eventually whoever is making it is going to run out of source material and have to add things and make up extra story lines and I think for a book I really love I'd prefer having things cut out for a film than have that happen. So I'll say film. Unless we're talking about a one off mini-series... This is a very complicated decision.

Would you rather read 5 pages a day or 5 books a week?
Definitely 5 books a week!

Would you rather be a professional reviewer or an author?

Would you rather read your favourite 20 books over and over or only read books you've never read before?
I'll say books I've never read before because I may miss my old faves but maybe I would find some new ones??

Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?
A bookseller. Think of me as the female Bernard Black.

Would you rather only read your favourite genre or every genre except your favourite?
Only my favourite genre because my favourite genre is probably contemporary YA and there is a pretty good variety in that genre, I think. I could probably deal with that.

Would you rather read only physical books or ebooks?
My heart says physical books but my rapidly overflowing bookcases say ebooks. (It's physical books though. It's always physical books.)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Book review: Love in the Gilded Age by Saruuh Kelsey.

Once in a hidden queendom...

There is an ocean: In the infinite distance, between one hidden world and the next, is an unmeasurable expanse of twenty seas. One sprawling edge of the world to another is filled with waters as beautiful as they are deadly, as miraculous as they are fraught. Treasure and treachery litter their ocean beds, sleeping side by side with adventurers whose travels ended abruptly, lives caught and held under a wave until all breaths fled.

There is a land: Tucked into a corner where four oceans fold together, land rises up illustrious in a jagged slash of mountains and forests, with secrets and wonders as plentiful as any water.

There are chronicles: Not of the twenty savage seas but of the fissure of land and the people who sigh life into it.

Love in the Gilded Age is the first collection of stories in a series called The Fissure Chronicles, of stories which all take place in the same universe. The stories are all based on classic fairy tales and in this first collection we have; 'Love in the Gilded Age', based on 'Rumpelstiltskin'; 'Xanna', based on 'Little Red Cap'; and 'A Fortress of Thorns', based on 'Brier Rose'.

Each of the three stories takes the source material and turns it on its head. The stories all stray from their original fairy tales but they also all contain enough of those fairy tales to be recognisable. 'Love in the Gilded Age', for example, tells the story of a girl who must spin straw into gold for a king who keeps her locked in a tower, however this is pretty much where the similarities to 'Rumpelstiltskin' end. She does promise her first born child to someone but there's a very clever twist to that promise that I won't spoil for you.

All three of these stories are about young heroines who must save themselves, someone, or something else and although they all need help from time to time that is never portrayed as a weakness. They all remain the heroes of their own stories. The stories also feature characters with disabilities, characters of colour, and LGBTQ characters, which is a lot more diversity than you'll find in most YA books right now.

These stories are all really interesting and unique takes on some of the most famous fairy tales. They're all entertaining and full of adventure and I can't wait to read the next collection!

5/5 stars

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Friday, 21 November 2014

Book review: The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude.

The Reverend Dodd, vicar of the quiet Cornish village of Boscawen, spends his evenings reading detective stories by the fireside - but heaven forbid that the shadow of any real crime should ever fall across his seaside parish. But the vicar's peace is shattered one stormy night when Julius Tregarthan, a secretive and ill-tempered magistrate, is found at his house in Boscawen with a bullet through his head.

The local police inspector is baffled by the complete absence of clues. Luckily for Inspector Bigswell, the Reverend Dodd is on hand, and ready to put his keen understanding of the criminal mind to the test.

The Cornish Coast Murder was everything I wanted The Norfolk Mystery to be with the added bonus of it being set in my home region (I'll read pretty much anything set in Cornwall.) There's a murder (obvs), a clandestine romance, baffled policemen, a vicar with a keen interest in Agatha Christie novels (why is there always a vicar?), and plenty of suspects. I don't know about you, but that's pretty much everything I would think to ask for from a murder mystery novel.

The Cornish Coast Murder is a little dated in some aspects but I found that kind of endearing in a charming, old fashioned, sort of a way.  The story takes its time as the inspector and the vicar move from theory to theory and dead end to dead end so I wouldn't recommend it if you like your novels fast paced as it's definitely a slow one. It's a very atmospheric read though, perfect for this time of year when the nights are getting longer.

If you're the kind of person who really likes to figure out the murderer for yourself before the detectives do then you might get a little frustrated at just how many red herrings Bude throws into the mix before the murderer is finally discovered but I personally really liked this. I like to be surprised and the nature of the murder in this story lends itself to all sorts of theories.

I've said before that I'm pretty new to the murder mystery genre but The Cornish Coast Murder is pretty much exactly what I expected from it and I wasn't disappointed at all. If you're a fan of early 20th century crime novels then it's a safe bet that you'll enjoy this one.

4/5 stars.

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Book review: The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom

Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is flat broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where 'intelligence is essential', he applies.

Thus begins Sefton's association with Professor Swanton Morley, autodidact. Morley intends to write a history of England, county by county. His assistant must be able to tolerate his every eccentricity - and withstand the attentions of his beguiling daughter, Miriam.

The trio begin the project in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church's bell rope, they find themselves drawn into a fiendish plot. Did the reverend really take his own life, or was it - murder?

I picked up The Norfolk Mystery on a whim a few weeks ago. It's an enjoyable read. It's sort of cosy and something about it feels very English. However, I did expect more mystery.

The vicar is found hanged and Morley and Sefton do take an interest in the possibility that it might not be the suicide it appears to be. However, there is really very little actual investigation and Morley's deduction as presented near the end of the novel seems to come completely from nowhere. I understand that this could be a little bit of a parody of the early 20th century mystery novels - and maybe I'm just not well versed enough in the tropes of those novels to fully appreciate it - but the rest of the novel just doesn't seem to be so obviously a parody of anything.

There is some interesting social commentary throughout the novel, which is as relevant today as it was during the time between the two world wars, when this story is set. Morley's views about the goings on in the world sort of balance out how bloody annoying he is the rest of the time. There are also photographs throughout the book, which I had expected to be a fan of (I wrote my dissertation on illustrated novels so I have a specific interest) however in this case I just didn't think the photographs did anything for the narrative.

Despite these complaints, The Norfolk Mystery was an enjoyable read but I'm not sure I'll be picking up the sequel when it's released.

I mean, Morley spends half the book speaking Latin. What's that about? Is that parody???

3/5 stars.

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Monday, 13 October 2014

Book review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends - the Liars - whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True Love.
The Truth.

We Were Liars is my first E. Lockhart book but I'm sure it won't be my last (I've been eyeing up The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks for years, truth be told.) I wasn't too sure what to expect but I'd seen a lot of reviews, all of which seemed to follow the same pattern - this book is amazing but I can't tell you what happens - and now that I've read it I can totally understand why.

We Were Liars is powerful and surprising, both in the story itself and in the way in which the story is told. I've never read anything else like it and I'm sure I never will. But. I'm still not totally convinced about the writing style. While it's definitely interesting, I found it at times to be a little annoying, almost until the end. Towards the end I found myself appreciating the style and it started to make sense retrospectively, but I can't deny that I spent a lot of the book unsure about it. Also I still don't understand why the group are called 'The Liars' but I don't think I'm the only one.

Nevertheless this is definitely a unique novel, deserving of the praise it has gotten. The story unfolds in ever more clever and surprising ways and the final reveal comes like a punch in the gut. But, like, in a good way. I'd recommend it.

4/5 stars.

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

The A-Z bookish survey.

The same day that I decided to make this new blog I saw this tag on The Book Journal and thought it seemed like a fun first post to kick things off with. So without further ado (partly because this is kind of long. Mostly because I'm currently re-watching Gossip Girl and right now I'm on the first Christmas episode!) here are my A-Z Bookish Survey answers!

Author you've read the most books from
Meg Cabot.

Best sequel ever
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins or every single Harry Potter sequel.

Currently reading
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

Drink of choice whilst reading
A nice cup of tea.

E-reader or physical books
I do read a few books on my iPad and find it super useful but I think it will always be physical books for me.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school
Can I pretend that I was cool enough in high school to land Cricket Bell??

Glad you gave this book a chance
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. My mum bought it for me and it sat in my bookcase for ten years or something before I finally got around to reading it. I wish I'd given it a chance sooner!

Hidden gem of a book
I'm going to say Campari for Breakfast by Sara Crowe. It only came out earlier this year but I absolutely love it and I don't know anyone else who's read it yet.

Important moment in your reading life
Probably the first time I finished reading a novel by myself. It was Charm School by Anne Fine and I can still remember how excited I was when I reached the final page because I could finally say that I had read a whole book by myself!

Just finished
Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford.

Kinds of books you won't read
Probably horror? Maybe?

Longest book you've ever read
I expected this to be Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur but I just checked and it's actually Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, clocking in at an impressive 766 pages.

Major book hangover because of...
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins.

Number of bookcases you own
Two bookcases + a drawer full of books + half a shelf on my parents' bookcase.

One book you've read multiple times
Avalon High by Meg Cabot.

Preferred place to read
In bed or in the bath. Just, lying down somewhere, I guess.

Quote that you like from a book you've read
'God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be glorious; but after all that's happened, the inkles ain't easy anymore' from Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.

Reading regret
That I actually read the entire of The Time Traveler's Wife.

Series you've started and need to finish
The Percy Jackson series! I've only read the first one but I really want to read the rest of the series.

Three of your all-time favourite books
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Avalon High by Meg Cabot, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Unapologetic fangirl for
Harry Potter and The Princess Diaries.

Very excited for this release more than others
Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the third book in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys series.

Worst bookish habits
I can't really think of any. Unless you count buying books faster than I can read them. If you do then that.

X marks the spot - start at the top of your shelf and pick the 27th book
A Series of Unfortunate Events #12: The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket.

Your latest book purchase
The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude and The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom.

Zzzz-snatcher book - last book that kept you up WAY too late
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I barely stopped to sleep or eat while I was reading that book.

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