FAVOURITE READS OF TWENTY SEVENTEEN

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Autumn by Ali Smith
review
Sometimes, a book comes along that simply, unexpectedly, blows you away. Other than a beautiful cover, and my favourite season for a title, I knew very little about the content of this novel before reading it. Never having read an Ali Smith book before, I was unsure of what I would think of her writing style. After closing the final page of this book, Ali Smith’s entire works found their way into my TBR! This is a melancholic, yet hopeful examination of post-Brexit Britain, and it was done thoughtfully and with just the right amount of wit. It was easily my favourite read of the year.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber
review
Caraval was pure fun to read. It felt like a Night Circus meets Professor Layton mash-up – in the best possible way. Not often do I finish a book and want to open it up and start again immediately, but this was one of those books. I’ve already planned my re-read to prepare for the release of the sequel in 2018.

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Magic with Skin On by Morgan Nikola-Wren
review
2018 has been a year of discovering lots of modern free-verse poetry. I think I’ve read seven or eight new collections (much more than my usual one or two poetry books a year). So I’m saying a lot when I say that Magic with Skin On was my favourite poetry collection of the year. This collection of poetry and prose was moving, lyrical and utterly breath-taking in its crafting of language. It has become the poetry book I recommend to all, whether poetry reader or not.

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A Million Worlds With You by Claudia Gray
review
This was one of the first books I read in 2017, so it clearly stuck with me
throughout the year. A Million World With You is the conclusion to one of my recent favourite sci-fi series, and it was so refreshing to read a final book that satisfied every loose end, character arc, relationship and still kept me on my toes.

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Of Dreams and Rust by Sarah Fine
The sequel and conclusion to the Of Metal and Wishes duology; a steam-punk Phantom of the Opera retelling (yes, it is very cool). I enjoyed the first book, but the sequel made these books into some of my favourites. The characters were wonderful, and their development in this second book was brilliant. The exploration of culture and war was so interesting when set against a steam-punk backdrop.

What were your favourite reads of the year? Let me know in the comments!

BOOK REVIEW | A Million Worlds With You (Firebird #3) by Claudia Gray

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Title:
 A Million Worlds With You (Firebird #3)

Author: Claudia Gray

Genre: Science Fiction

Published: 1st November 2016

Publisher: HarperTeen

Format: Hardback

Rating:  star (1)star (1)star (1)star (1)star (1)


Travel through enough dimensions and maybe you’d find the hero and the villain in everyone”

Continue reading “BOOK REVIEW | A Million Worlds With You (Firebird #3) by Claudia Gray”

BOOK REVIEW | Stars Above by Marissa Meyer

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Title:
 Stars Above (A Lunar Chronicles Collection)

Author: Marissa Meyer

Genre: Fairytale/Sci-Fi

Published: 2nd February 2016

Format: Hardcover

Rating:  star (1)star (1)star (1)star (1)star (1)

 

 

“The first time, he had wondered why she liked books so much, and if it had anything to do with why he liked spaceships. Because they could take you somewhere far, far away”

Goodreads Synopsis:

The universe of the Lunar Chronicles holds stories—and secrets—that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realize their destinies?

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If you read and enjoyed the Lunar Chronicles and are debating whether this book will be worth your time, let me do you a huge favour and enlighten you…

IT IS WORTH YOUR TIME!

It is beautiful and wonderful and amazing and lovely and such a great addition to the series!

Stars Above is definitely to be read AFTER you have finished Winter though, as otherwise you may get some spoilers at the end! And no one likes spoilers!

I am going to review this book based on each story individually. In terms of individual stories, there were definitely some that I liked more than others, and I felt that I enjoyed the stories more as the book went on. However, as a collective, this book was just wonderful and amazing and everything I needed in life right now, and I’m not a mathematician or a scientist, so I’m going to pretend that averages don’t exist and round it up to a collective 5 star rating!

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The Keeper:

Rating: 3/5
This first story is a prequel to the series, following Scarlett and her grandmother, Michelle Benoit, and explaining how Princess Selene/Cinder came into her care. I thought it was really interesting for some background; to see Cinder’s beginnings on Earth. I also liked reading more about Scarlett’s grandmother, who had an important role in the series, yet didn’t feature in it much at all. However, I didn’t think it was the best start to the book, and it was my least favourite of the stories.

Glitches:
Rating: 3.5/5
In this prequel, we see the plague’s effects on Cinder’s new family, and its impact on her future years. This also wasn’t my favourite of the stories, but it was nice to see the origins of Cinder’s friendship with Iko, and her coming to terms with her life in a strange new house without memories of her previous years. And it flows really well from the previous story.

The Queen’s Army:
Rating: 4/5
This story follows one particular soldier, drafted into Queen Levana’s army, who will do whatever he can to not be turned into the monsters she is creating.
Three guesses for who this special soldier might be…
The funny thing is, I had read this story back when it was released, and didn’t even realise who it was about. I think because it uses his real name, which is only released later in the series, I think? Anyway, I enjoyed re-reading this with that new understanding and appreciation.

Carswell’s Guide To Being Lucky:
Rating: 4/5
Oh Carswell Thorne…we all knew you were cocky and arrogant and endearing, but as a teenager…! It was so funny reading a story about Thorne as basically a mini version of his older, Lunar Chronicles, self. The quote at the top of this review is from this story, and it made me smile. Because teenage Thorne loved his cargo spaceships, and his love for the Rampion ship was apparently a deep-rooted one! This was basically exactly what I imagined a younger Carswell would be like, and I loved reading a story from his perspective, as well as getting a bit of insight into his family life and background, which we don’t get in the main series.

After Sunshine Passes By:
Rating: 5/5
This story follows nine-year-old Cress and how she ended up in her satellite, spying on Earth. It was so heartbreaking. In terms of the story-telling and writing, this was my favourite of the stories. Cress is such a wonderful and real character…with fears and awkwardness and dreams, all in a relatable way. She is my favourite character of the series, and I’m so glad this story made it into this book!

The Princess and the Guard:
Rating: 5/5
This story was my favourite, in terms of content, of the whole collection. I always considered Cress and Thorne to be my OTP for this series, but after finishing this book, I think I would have to say Winter and Jacin may have topped it. I just loved reading more about them, and seeing their bond and connection. It also shows us some important events

in Winter’s life, and shows how she came to her Lunar sickness. It was a beautiful story of strength and care for one another, and I will probably read it many times!

The Little Android:
Rating: 4/5
I found this a very strange little story. I was really confused at first who it was supposedly about. I’m still not completely sure if we were supposed to know the android, but I read the story as if about a completely new character. I found it the most difficult to get into, but also really different (in a good way) and quite emotional. Marissa Meyer made me so connected to these characters in less than 50 pages. I thought, while reading, that this story felt a little like the Little Mermaid, so I looked it up, and yep, apparently that’s what it’s a re-tellling of! Albeit a very vague and unique one. Clearly I’m just wired to pick out fairy tales in everything! It was definitely of a different tone to the rest of the stories, but quirky and interesting to read.

The Mechanic:
Rating: 4.5/5
This story covers Cinder and Kai’s first meeting at Cinder’s stall, but from Kai’s perspective. I am so glad this story was in here. I forgot how much I loved Kai and his sarcastic humour. I loved seeing the scene from his perspective, and reading about his first impressions of her. It was such a cute and adorable scene!

Something Old, Something New:
Rating: 5/5
This is that epilogue that we all needed. There’s just one problem: now I need an epilogue to the epilogue! As the title suggests, this final story follows the wedding of one of the series’ couples. Not really the couple I was expecting though! But still, the story gets the happy ending we all want! This is a hard one to write about without spoiling. So I’ll just say: it is a fitting, wonderful, if a bit cheesy, (but who doesn’t love a bit of cheese?) ending to the series, and I am now experiencing my Lunar Chronicles withdrawal symptoms again!

BOOK REVIEW: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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“He presses the triggers. And like roses in his hands, death blooms.”

Rating: 2/5

Synopsis: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.
This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.
But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
(Taken from Goodreads)

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Warning: This review includes long rambling and complaining!

Please don’t virtually slap me with your slippers…but I did not like this book. If I were rating this book on its creativity in formatting, then it would get 5 stars. But I rate books on their story. And I did not like this story. And even the coolness of the physical book couldn’t take that away. In fact, it often added to my disliking. I didn’t like the ‘cool’ formatting. The ‘cool’ formatting was very annoying. In fact, would I even call it ‘cool’?

First of all, I thought the story was just…kind of…a bit…well, boring. I felt like I’d read the story before. World disaster, rescue from space craft, and race in space to get somewhere safe…I feel like I’ve read that story before. And this one (other than, of course the artistic and unique formatting of the book) had nothing new in terms of story to bring to it. Nothing really seemed to happen. When there were battle scenes, they just flashed by without us getting to actually read about them. I didn’t have an emotional connection to the characters at all (which, to be honest, was probably because the only way we get to read about them is through online chats, and surveillance reports).

As for the online chats, they often confused and annoyed me. Because, of course, the obvious thing to do when you are running for your life, is to get on messenger and have a chat with your friend. I know we live in a world where everyone likes to update everyone about everything they are doing, but come on! If you’re in an interstellar war and facing an evil virus-infected mob, you’re not going to be messaging someone with the details of your survival: “I’ve found a place to hide”, “Oh no there are people trying to kill me, I should probably instant message you about that before I run”. Maybe I’m exaggerating a little here, but it just felt like an inappropriate format to tell this sort of story in.

The one thing I did kind of like was AIDEN, the AI on one of the ships. A lot of this story is told in coding from AIDEN, which I did actually think was cool (even if it what was coming out of it was so completely unbelievable). I liked the creativity with which the AI’s parts were written, sometimes making you have to move the book around, sometimes letting you admire some pretty art. But as pretty as this book was, it actually completely distracted me while reading. I could not follow it, and each time the style changed, each time it switched from black writing on a white page to white writing on a black page, my brain shut down a little and I lost concentration. It was as though with each page I turned, I had to change my mindset to keep track – like when you finish a book and move straight onto another one upon putting the previous one down, and it often takes a little while for you to get used to the writing style of the latter. It just didn’t flow well for me, and I didn’t find the story itself particularly original or captivating enough to keep my motivation up. If it weren’t for the fact that I was reading this for my book club, I think I might have given up.

Another stylistic choice of the book that thoroughly annoyed me was the blanking out of swear words. I get that in YA, there is only so much swearing that can go into a book, and that the collection of reports in the story had been filtered for bad language, but you know what would have made this book a whole lot better to read if blanking out those words was necessary? Stop using about 3 swear words a page. Either put it in there, or don’t. But blanked-out words annoy me to no end, and completely disrupt my flow of reading. So do pages of writing like this.What even is this? Why have we got this here? We clearly have to read it to understand what’s going on, but it is the most difficult and frustrating thing to read ever.

I think what I’m ultimately saying here though, is that I did not connect with this book. If you can keep track of the changing page format, and the quirky style, and the use of IMs and surveillance footage, then you will probably find this book more enjoyable than I did. Just look at any of the many 5 star reviews on Goodreads and you will see I’m probably part of a minority in my view of this book. It just was not a book for me, at all!

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A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Book Review

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“Every form of art is another way of seeing the world. Another perspective, another window. And science –that’s the most spectacular window of all. You can see the entire universe from there.”

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis: Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are the inventors of the Firebird: a device which allows its user to travel to parallel universes. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, not long after the invention’s completion, the evidence points towards her parent’s research assistant Paul. But Paul has escaped into another dimension, along with the Firebird. Marguerite is set to kill, and races after Paul, through the dimensions. But with each dimension she travels, she questions Paul’s true intentions, and the lies that might surround her father’s murder. And the truth may be far more complicated than she had imagined.


Claudia Gray must have crept into my mind and pulled out everything I love about a book, and then written it all down to create this piece of art.

A Thousand Pieces of You was everything I needed in a book and more.

I knew I would like this book. I mean, epic love story/ revenge story, across alternate dimensions sounds pretty exciting. But I did not know it was going to become one of my favourite books! I’ve read a lot of bad/okay books lately, and I REALLY needed this book.

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Our main character, Marguerite, was really engaging, and her first person POV really connected me to the story. I wouldn’t have wanted to see this story through any other character’s eyes. But because this story followed Marguerite travelling through many different dimensions, there were also different versions of each character in each. I don’t know how Claudia Gray did it, but each character was written in such a way that although each alternate of each character had their unique differences and distinctions, you still got the essence of ‘that character’ in each variation. I would have known who a character was, even if they hadn’t been named. So not only is there a brilliantly written cast of characters, there are fantastically written alternates of each one!

And Claudia Gray was able to not only create one world really well, but lots. Each dimension travelled to was well developed, believable, and interesting. My favourite thing about this book was the anticipation of waiting to see which dimension Marguerite would travel to next. 5 worlds were built better in this 350 page book than one world in many other 500+ page books. My favourite world was easily the Russian one. With Russian Lieutenant Markov – you know what I mean if you’ve read it!

Which brings me to the whole idea of travelling to parallel universes. I thought it was going to be really confusing, and as much as I love the sciences, physics was not my strong subject! But the science in the book was described very well, and the travel was very simple to follow and understand. There wasn’t a whole lot of scientific jargon to get your head around, which I really appreciated, but there was enough to make it feel authentic.

I also loved the structure of the story. It was a relatively short book, and yet it was packed with so much information and back-story, without ever feeling info-dumpy. It starts right in the middle of the action, and tells you the back-story as and when the reader needs it. Everything in this book is necessary and important to the story – there is no wasted sentence. It’s fast-paced and action-packed, and suited the story really well.

And yet, the writing style is so romantically gorgeous…

“I believe in a moment. A moment when you glimpse the truth within someone, and they glimpse the truth within you. In that moment, you don’t belong to yourself any longer, not completely. Part of you belongs to him; part of him belongs to you. After that, you can’t take it back, no matter how much you want to, no matter how hard you try.”

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I could print quotes from this book and string them around my room. I do tend to fall for the beautiful, quotable books – and this was definitely one of them. But, like I said, every sentence of this book counts, and there is no wasted language. When these ‘quotable’ sentences come up, they are relevant and poignant to the actions and events at the time. It was just so brilliantly crafted!

Now, please bear with me while I attempt to obtain my own Firebird, so I can travel to an alternate dimension where I have not yet read this book, and enjoy it for the first time all over again!