Book Title Poetry #1

I am the messenger, the chosen one

Every day perfect people make me unwind all I know now

(The truth promised quiet)

We were liars once

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Top Ten Summer Reads 2015

The weather may be dire at the moment, but it’s still summer! For some reason I associate books with seasons, depending on where/when they’re set and how they make me feel. Sometimes I save books for the winter simply because they have either a darker, more ominous cover or a pale blue, icy looking cover – reflecting the darkness and coldness of harsh winters. Likewise, books with covers that are brighter and have a floral design I tend to save for the summer, and books that I know are ‘ChickLit’ I take on holiday with me (because lying in the sun with a heavy 400-page psychological thriller makes me feel uneasy at the thought of it)! I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but who actually follows that rule?!

Here are (in no particular order) my top 10 light reads for the summer time – perfect for reading whilst lounging about in the sun, in the park, or shut away in your bedroom (if it rains nearly as much in your area as it does here).

1 – Ink by Amanda Sun ink-by-amanda-sun

Katie has recently moved to Shizuoka, Japan, to live with her aunt. She is clumsy, socially awkward and is still adjusting to the new culture. She encounters a seemingly dangerous boy, Yuu Tomohiro, and as the spring flowers blossom, so does their relationship. Katie is desperate to find out Tomo’s secret, and finds herself somehow linked to a magical power originally from ancient Japanese mythology. When Katie has the opportunity to move in with her grandparents in Canada, will she leave behind her new friends, Tomo, and the living ink sketches, in order to escape the gang eager to stamp out Tomo’s destiny?

I absolutely loved this book – how the fantastical elements are so smoothly incorporated into Katie’s story. Despite it being a fictional story, it really opened my eyes to Japanese culture and daily life, and there is even a glossary at the back so that you can pick up some of the conversational Japanese used by the characters. I also enjoyed the outdoor descriptions and learning about the tradition of having a picnic under the blossom trees. Finally, the illustrations throughout the book are a lovely accompaniment to the story and really bring the sketches to life for the reader. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in fantasy, world culture, and art.

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2 – Meet Me At The Cupcake Café by Jenny Colgan

A typically British summer, a typically awful boyfriend and a typically awkward woman trying to recover from losing her typically boring day job. When her amazing cupcakes save the day, everything turns around and life begins to pick up again. Read this if you enjoy romance and cake (who wouldn’t?)

PaperTowns2009_6A-198x3003 & 4 – Paper Towns by John Green and Life Of Pi by Yan Martel Life-of-Pi

These books are bursting with colour and adventure. The Paper Towns characters are on a mission to find Margo, who has mysteriously disappeared, leaving clues everywhere. Q’s friends are lively and hilarious, each with their own quirks. They are now high school graduates and decide to go on a big journey to retrieve their friend. In Life Of Pi, Pi finds himself alone on a lifeboat with a tiger and a zebra, bound for the great unknown. This is a wild and imaginative journey where Pi learns to tame Richard Parker (the tiger) and provide for himself whilst hopelessly traveling in the ocean. I love both Pi’s insightful commentary on his life story and Q’s witty narration. I would recommend these books to readers who have an inner explorer and love escaping to other worlds not too dissimilar from their own. Click here to read my post about Paper Towns.

FangirlWIP5 – Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Rainbow Rowell is perhaps my favourite author to date. I am so excited to read Attachments (which I have been saving until after my exams) and Landline (when it’s out in paperback). Fangirl is quite relevant to me at the moment because, as well as being a huge fangirl, I am also starting university in September like Cath and Wren. This is such a wonderful novel, and I would highly recommend it (along with Rowell’s other books). Click here to read my brief review.

Book-delirium6 – Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Yet another dystopian novel that I love, where each 16 year old has surgery to remove ‘love’ and is forbidden to have particular feelings. Lena realises that she does not want to participate in the government’s scheme, and finds a way to escape and live as a nomad beyond the borders. This is a coming-of-age story about first love and brave acts of rebellion.

161433477 – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

This book is all about family politics and one girl’s experiences of the past few summer holidays spent on a private island. It’s poetic and exciting, and there is a huge plot twist at the end (so make sure you avoid spoilers)! Click here to read my brief review.

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8 – The Other Life by Suzanne Winnacker

In the suburbs of Los Angeles, Sherry’s family are in hiding until the Military tells them it’s safe to come out of their shelter. They have been waiting for 5 years, and their food has now run out, so Sherry and her dad decide to venture out to find food, even though they risk their lives. When Sherry’s dad is captured by mutilated creatures, she has no choice but to run away with Joshua, a hunter who is lurking nearby. How will she find her family again before they die of starvation, and how will she rescue her dad? I have just read this post-apocalyptic novel and although there aren’t many aspects that differ from other current books of this genre, it was a really good read. The action is gripping and exciting, and the characters are all interesting in their own way. I liked that there is a focus on developing the character of each family member so that the reader gets to learn about their personality and what makes them tick. I would recommend it to any fan of dystopian fiction (the cover says that it’s appropriate for fans of The Hunger Games, which I can partially agree with).

9 – The Selection by Kiera Cass 10507293

Potential princesses and pretty dresses – need I say more?

10 – Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur5982448

This book is aimed at younger teenagers, but I enjoyed it all the same because of the heart warming and uplifting story of the young protagonist. The story centres on Aubrey, who is recently orphaned and decides to try and survive by herself during the summer. If you like stories about families and young children finding their way in the world, this book is for you.

Bonus:

Ask The Passengers by A.S. King, Anna And The French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, and Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson are three books that I would love to add to this list… but I haven’t read them yet! They’re just sitting on my shelf, begging to be read this summer.

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2014 Book Wrap-Up (Part 2/4)

(11) If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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Series: If I Stay (book 1)

My rating: **

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: a girl who has a tragic accident followed by an out-of-body experience, where she must decide whether she wants to die or wake up to a world where her family are dead.

Pros: the narration flips between the past and present to create variation; the family of the protagonist is described in a lot of detail; one of the key themes is music and the conflict between genres, which is something different and interesting.

Cons: it is not the most exciting plot and the ending does not evoke any particular emotions; it does not live up to the expectations.

Would recommend to: fans of The Fault In Our Stars and Thirteen Reasons Why

(12) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Series: Stand-alone

My rating: *****

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: a first-year college student who writes fanfic for a series similar to Harry Potter, and has a twin sister who could not be more different.

Pros: it’s so relatable! So many feels! Rainbow Rowell is an incredible writer!

Cons: nothing – this book is perfect.

Would recommend to: All teenage fangirls

(13) Horde by Ann Aguirre

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Series: the Razorland trilogy (book 3)

My rating: ****

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: A group of hunters trying to kill the remaining horde of zombie-like creatures in different settlements, in order to create peace.

Pros: It follows on from Outpost really well; there are so many action scenes; I like that Deuce finally figures out that she can be a Huntress and a girl at the same time; this book has the best epilogue I have ever read -it’s adorable and makes you feel very satisfied.

Cons: The narrative spans over a long period of time, so it cuts out days or weeks, which ruins the flow at times; I was a bit disappointed that the Freaks could speak and communicate in the end; it was very long and some of the battles could have been cut out?

Would recommend to: Someone who likes a lot of action

(14) Promised by Caragh O’Briencar

Series: Birthmarked trilogy (book 3)

My rating: ***

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: A young woman leading a group of nomads to a walled city for refuge, who faces imprisonment and DNA experimentation against her will as a sacrifice.

Pros: as Gaia brings the group back to where she grew up, it links all three books of the trilogy together nicely.

Cons: the start feels a bit disjointed from the end of Prized; the relationship between the protagonists doen’t seem as swoonworthy as in other YA novels – even though Gaia accepted the proposal, I wasn’t convinced that she was truly in love (and with the right character!) and I ended up not caring too much.

Would recommend to: Someone who wants to finish the Birthmarked trilogy (just for a sense of peace)!

(15) Every Day by David Levithan

evrSeries: Stand-alone

My rating: ****

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: A genderless presence waking up every day inside a different person’s body, who falls in love and tries to have a relationship in their many states of being.

Pros: it’s such an original idea, and it manages to answer all your questions and doubts about the process by the end; there are so many interesting characters’ lives we get a glimpse of throughout the book; there are lots of profound statements and messages in the writing.

Would recommend to: Younger teens with a sense of adventure

(16) Escape From Camp 14 by Blaine Harden

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Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ****

Genre: Non-fiction

What it’s about: A true story of the only prisoner to have escaped a camp in North Korea, and how he lived before and after his incredible escape.

Pros: this is a brilliant insight into the totalitariansim of North Korea; the story is gripping and harrowing.

Would recommend to: Someone who likes inspiring stories from other cultures.

(17) The Death Of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell bee

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ***

Genre: Mystery

What it’s about: Two sisters living home alone who, having buried their parents in the garden, are faced with demands from a man owed money from their parents, and a kind neighbour who tries to protect and raise them.

Pros: it’s a heart-warming story with narration shared between two very different personalities; the general idea is completely unique; the inclusion of setting and context is consistent.

Cons: the subject matter is sometimes too graphic; some passages are a little boring.

Would recommend to: Someone looking for something completely different.

(18) The One by Kiera Cassone

Series: The Selection (book 3)

My rating: ****

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: A girl in the running to become the next princess, who must decide whether her heart belongs to the prince, or to a boy she has always loved.

Pros: this book is so much better than The Elite and was a really nice ending to America’s Selection story; look at the cover – it’s stunning; America finally makes her mind up about who she wants to be with.

Cons: the sub-plot about the rebels is irritating and is never explored deeply enough; the protagonist makes friends with the enemy but then something bad happens to the ex-enemy…

Would recommend to: Someone who likes modern-day princesses

(19) We Were Liars by E. Lockhart lie

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: *****

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: A wealthy family who own a private island and holiday there together every year, even though the tension rises as each sister demands to be left with the most riches in their father’s will.

Pros: the writing style is at times poetic, and always engaging; having family politics as the subtext makes for a more intriguing plot.

Cons: the author sneakily creates a huge plot twist at the end which messes with your mind!

(20) Looking For Alaska by John Green

lfaSeries: Stand-alone

My rating: ***

Genre: just YA

What it’s about: a group of unlikely friends at a mixed boarding school, who enjoy pulling large-scale pranks, and end up trying to solve a mystery about the death of their close companion.

Pros: all the characters are quirky in their own way; there are lots of passages that made me laugh out loud – I’ve never laughed so much whilst reading a book (John Green is quite the story-teller); the book is extremely quotable!

Cons: it reveals bad habits to younger readers.

Would recommend to: Someone who likes mysteries, and possibly someone who’s been to a boarding school because they could relate.

My rating system:

* means it’s really bad ** means it’s not that great *** means it’s mediocre **** means it’s really good ***** means it’s amazing

Note: let’s be honest, I have no idea what a ‘Contemporary’ novel even is…

2014 Book Wrap-Up (Part 1/4)

2014 has been a brilliant year for me in terms of reading. I feel like I’m now beginning to branch out from YA dystopian fiction in order to explore literature from genres such as sci-fi, contemporary, and even some works in Spanish. In 2014 I read 29 and a half books (I wish I could round it up to 30 but that would feel like cheating!) and 6 plays. I still have an enormous TBR pile of books which I am hoping to tackle in 2015. I feel like I’m growing out of YA, and I need to move on. So I really want to have read all my remaining YA novels before I start university, and I’d also like to be even more adventurous when I do my next Amazon book haul! 

My 2014 book wrap-up comes in 4 parts. Parts 1- 3 each list 9 or 10 books that I’ve read throughout the year (in chronological order). They will provide my personal ratings* as well as pros and cons. For Part 4, I will turn this video (by one of my favourite Book Tubers, Ariel Bissett) into a tag, and will write my response rather than film it. 

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1) Requiem by Lauren Oliver

Series: Delirium (book 3)

My rating: ***

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: A protagonist who is in hiding whilst trying to find out who her true love is, and her best friend who has been set up to lead an elite lifestyle in a family with bad morale.

Pros: The description is very detailed and imaginative; Hana is given a bigger part as she narrates alternate chapters; the plot follows on well from the previous two books.

Cons: The ending is inconclusive; sometimes the story gets boring; the action is lacking until the final part.

Would recommend to: A fan of Lauren Oliver’s other works

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2) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: *****

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: A beautiful relationship between a girl with a difficult family situation who is trying to fit in, and a Korean boy from school who accepts her for who she is.

Pros: There is so much character development; the protagonists are charming and endearing; the story is interesting and delightful; the chapters are short and this makes it a fast-paced read; it’s easy to relate to the characters and the awkwardness of being a teenager.

Cons: The ending is heart-wrenching.

Would recommend to: Teenage girls

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3) The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ***

Genre: Contemporary

What it’s about: An unlikely relationship between a popular guy at school and a smart, sensible girl in his year group.

Pros: The writing style is very informal and conversational; the narrator’s voice is full of comedy.

Cons: There is no real substance to the plot other than the relationship; the characters at times seem 2-dimensional; the subject matter is sometimes too graphic; the ending is hardly inspiring.

Would recommend to: Someone looking for a casual summer read

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4) Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: **

Genre: Fantasy

What it’s about: A girl living in the after-life, who ages backwards until she is reborn into another body again.

Pros: It’s very creative and the concept is interesting.

Cons: The style of writing is quite basic; the romantic element of the story is not developed well enough and seems unnecessary.

Would recommend to: Children and tweens (I didn’t realise this wasn’t YA)

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5) Splintered by A. G. Howard

Series: Splintered (book 1)

My rating: *****

Genre: Fantasy

What it’s about: A girl who inherits the ability to travel to Underland to end a curse, whilst encountering magical creatures, falling in love, and trying to save her mother in an asylum.

Pros: The description is phenomenal and the fantasy world that’s been created (to mimic Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland) is a vivid and flourishing setting; the action scenes are intense and well crafted; there is a clear plot and character development throughout the novel; the fantastical and magical aspects are fascinating and creative; Alyssa (the protagonist) is bad-ass, quirky and strong; the Underland symbols in Alyssa’s real world are eerie and mysterious.

Cons: The comedy is great – there should be more of it.

Would recommend to: Anyone looking for some escapism

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6) When I Was Five I Killed Myself by Howard Buten

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ***

Genre: Drama

What it’s about: A misunderstood 8 year old boy who is put into a mental hospital for a disturbing act he did not initiate.

Pros: The suspense runs right until the point of discovering the reason why Burt is in the mental hospital; the author effectively voices the perspective of an 8 year old; the novel is interesting from a psychological point of view; the manipulative nature of the other protagonist is unexpected and shocking.

Cons: It is supposed to be a ground-breaking novel but I didn’t engage that deeply with it (did I miss something?)

Would recommend to: Someone interested in childhood studies and psychology.

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7) The Language Of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ****

Genre: ?

What it’s about: An orphan who becomes homeless but is lucky enough to secure a job as a florist and fall in love with a marketplace flower-seller.

Pros: The idea of the language of flowers itself is so original and intriguing; this book made me seriously think about wanting to become a florist!

Cons: The very beginning was misleading (I thought it was a fantasy/sci-fi novel in the first few pages and couldn’t quite understand the situation); the protagonist is hard to sympathise with at first because of her bitter perspective; it felt like a very long book and it dragged on towards the end – the content could have been reduced dramatically to make it a shorter, punchier plot.

Would recommend to: Someone who likes romance with a twist.

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8) The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Series: The 5th Wave (book 1)

My rating: *****

Genre: Post-apocalyptic

What it’s about: Humans trying to save their race under the horrific invasion of aliens on planet Earth, with the plot focusing on a a girl fighting for survival and a group of teens being trained for combat.

Pros: I can’t begin to describe how much I love this book! It has comedy, sarcasm, action, war, sci-fi, romance… what more could you want?! The characters are brilliant and the individual storylines are woven together magically. Oh, and it’s going to be released as a film adaptation, starring Chloë Grace Moretz (she’s amazing)!

Cons: Knowing it’s about aliens is annoyingly off-putting before you start reading; the ending is a little weak.

Would recommend to: All teens (especially those skeptical about aliens)

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9) Como Agua Para Chocolate by Laura Esquivel 

Series: Stand-alone

My rating: ****

Genre: Magic realism

What it’s about: Three sisters living on a ranch in Mexico with their oppressive mother, and their personal, physical suffering with reference to relationship issues and illnesses.

Pros: The magic realism is a wonderful aspect of the novel and gives the story another dimension; you get to learn about the expectations of women in that era and how this affects the characters.

Cons: The characters are extremely 2-dimensional; the recipes can be boring to read through at the start of each chapter; it’s easy to become angry and annoyed with the characters at times!

Would recommend to: Someone who enjoys studying Spanish literature

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10) Champion by Marie Lu

Series: Legend (book 3)

My rating: ****

Genre: Dystopian

What it’s about: Teenagers with political power who try to save their country from war and corruption.

Pros: A new, exciting setting is introduced as June and Anden meet with political leaders to negotiate; the novel is jam-packed with action sequences and intense escape scenes; health becomes an increasingly important factor as the characters’ lives are threatened by disease – and this makes the plot even more gripping.

Cons: Although this is still a great read, it doesn’t meet the exceptional standard of Prodigy.

Would recommend to: Fans of dystopian fiction

*My rating system:

* means it’s really bad

** means it’s not that great

*** means it’s mediocre 

**** means it’s really good

***** means it’s amazing