Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 Wrap Up

Ah, yes, it's that time of year when everyone wraps up their reading totals, their challenges and brag about how they've done. Well, now I'm going to do the same! 

A to Z Challenge
Nearly completed - I know I wasn't going to manage any X's or Z's and I didn't but also, weirdly, I didn't have a K. I'm not going to list them all - can anyone say boring? - but it was a good mix of YA, adult and even a few non-fiction. 

British Books
Boom! 28 total over the year. Mostly YA but a couple of adult fiction, which I'm happy with. All very good books.

Classics Challenge
I struggled with this one, my reading habits were all over the place in the second half of the year but I managed to read one classic every month, from Northanger Abbey to Charlotte's Web. 

I do this every year, set myself a target, see how far I can beat it. I always use Goodreads to keep track of my reading, the books on my TBR and release dates. At time of writing, I just finished my 130th book! I can see myself finishing maybe one or two more before New Year but I think with everything that's been going on, I'm quite proud of that total!

Behold photographic evidence of my best books of the year!

Me As I just mentioned, my reading habits have changed this year. With two jobs and at times, three locations, reading was way down on my list of priorities and near the beginning of summer I was actually getting worried about how slow I was reading. Luckily it did pick up, partly because of the summer holidays - yay for working in a college! - and partly because one of the three locations ended in October. 

I'm not sure if I've actually told you all this but I work in a public and a college library. The public one I've been at for a year and a half now and that's just weekends. The college job I got initially as maternity cover and then more hours were available at another site. Which was great, because the other site is my local college, literally right round the corner from me.

Anyway, all of these changes back and forth means that my reading, blogging and online life has taken a bit of a back seat and I can only apologise for that. One of my resolutions is to update and plan my blogging and, probably vainly, to take more and better instagram photos. I really do adore the book online community and lately blogging has almost felt like a chore and I don't ever want it to come to that. So, here's to a brighter, better and book filled 2017! 

Let me know how you all have done with reading challenges and if you have any reading resolutions for the new year. 

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Charlotte's Web by E.B White

Charlotte's Web

"I don't want to die!
Save me, somebody!
Save me!"

The tale of how a little girl named Fern, with the help of a friendly spider, saved her pig Wilbur from the usual fate of nice fat little pigs.

An affectionate pig named Wilbur befriends a spider named Charlotte, who lives in the rafters above his pen. In this story of friendship, hardship, and the passing on into time, White reminds readers to open their eyes to the wonder and miracle found in the simplest of things.

Don't hurt me but I've never read this. I know, even my own mother was shocked when I told her. Which is precisely why I chose it for my final Classic of the year, as something nice and easy to read before I broke up for Christmas. 

For those who have been living under a rock and haven't read this, like me, basically a little girl looks after a piglet and watches him grow up in a barn. Wilbur the pig likes being looked after by Fern but when she leaves, he is alone. Until a spider in the corner talks to him, called Charlotte. 

So, here are my thoughts: I know it's a children's book but it seemed really simple. Like, three word sentences simple. And yet, it used words like "perspiration"! While the story was pretty basic, I liked the message it gave, about friendship in all shapes and forms. It was also about growing up and being brave, which Wilbur was not, but Charlotte was. Charlotte is the one who comes up with the "miracle" of tricking the farmers and saving Wilbur. 

I read this in three short sittings, just slipping into the old-fashioned and easy world of barn life and Wilbur's story. Definitely should have read it when I was younger but I'm glad I could see what all the fuss was about and finish this Classic's Challenge on a high. 

Published 3rd July 2014 by Puffin Classics. First published 1952.

Friday, 16 December 2016

New To Me Authors of 2016

Once again I'm late to the party, this time in more ways than one! I rarely do Top Ten Tuesdays but this is a great topic and of course it should have been up a week ago. Anyway, here are some authors that I read for the first time this past year.

The Next Together (The Next Together #1)Lauren James - I actually read both of her books this year but specifically I'm talking about her incredible debut: The Next Together. The science, the use of time, the completely original look at reincarnation, the epic love story, all of it was amazing. 
Alwyn Hamilton - everyone should have heard about Alywn by now, her debut Rebel of the Sands totally rocked the blogosphere and was justified! 
Louise GornallUnder Rose-Tained Skies gave such a heart-felt and accurate description of mental illness that had me nearly in tears. 

Gwenda Bond - I hadn't really heard of Gwenda before Curious Fox sent me her Lois Lane books but I am glad I started with them because I am all about the superheroes lately and hearing more about a strong supportive woman in the DC universe was right up my street. 
Jane Austen - I read Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice for the Classics Challenge this year and really enjoyed both of them. I have technically read Northanger before but it was A- years ago (in school!) and B- before I was on Goodreads so it doesn't count. Ha. 
Passenger (Passenger, #1)Marie Lu - I've been aware of the Legend trilogy for ages - duh, I haven't been living under a rock - but just haven't had a change to pick it up. That is until I found it cheap and complete in The Works and sped through it. 
Alexandra Bracken - everyone goes on about how great her The Darkest Minds books are but I only picked this author up because of Passenger, a time-travelling pirate story. Do I need to say more?Daphne Du Maurier - another Classics Challenge catch-up. I'd heard of Rebecca, her most famous novel, before but only read it this year and oh boy! So damn good!
Emery Lord - I really don't know why it's taken me this long to read an Emery Lord book, her contemporary romances are beautifully written and tend to include some amazing real-life issues as well. This is especially true in When We Collided which is her latest novel and I read this year. 
Jay Kristoff - now, Jay I'd heard of but wasn't all too fussed about his books. Until Illuminae came along last year, co-authored with Amie Kaufman. One of my new all-time favourite books, it blew me away and then his new solo book, Nevernight, came out this year and I gobbled that up too! 

There you have it! My top ten list of author's I really should have read before but now consider them up there in my favourites. Do you share any authors or books on my list? What's on yours? 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

Mafiosa (Blood for Blood, #3)A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

What a brilliant finale! I admit, it’s been a year since I read Inferno so details were foggy but it’s amazing how things came flooding back when I started reading. Things are heating up and getting seriously deadly as the blood war between the Marino’s and Falcone’s escalated. Sophie has been sworn in to the Falcone family but still needs to prove her loyalty by taking her first life. 

The family and crime politics was interesting, especially as the families were practically frothing at the mouth to take each other out. You just know that life is never going to be safe again, especially when even a school dance is threatened and dragged into the danger. 

On the flip side, Luca was being his typical passive-aggressive self, protecting Sophie but not letting himself get too close. Meanwhile Nic was intent on winning her back, showing her how to aim a gun and completely ignoring Sophie’s insistence that there was less than no hope for them to be anything other than friends. I loved this normal lovers’ drama in amongst all the blood lust; it was refreshing and just as important to Luca and Sophie as revenge. And I can’t not mention a certain moment when Sophie is brave and my heart burst with happiness but then Nic came home… it was both awesome and terrifying at the same time!

All in all, this was a purely fantastic finale to what has been a wild ride of a retelling; it was dangerous and hilarious, it made me laugh and cry, especially the ending. I cannot recommend this enough, it’s one of those books that has you holding your breath and steals your heart. 

Published 5th January 2017 by Chicken House. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 2 December 2016

A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

A Quiet Kind of ThunderSteffi doesn't talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can't hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn't a lightning strike, it's the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life - she's been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He's deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she's 
 to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn't matter that Steffi doesn't talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she's falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. 

I adored Sara's first book so was very much looking forward to this. Plus I cannot resist a contemporary romance!

This is one of my new favourite love stories; it built slowly, the two of them starting as friends and getting to know each other, overcoming the awkward shyness of admitting feelings and a first kiss. It was all just so damn cute! It also had such an interesting set of characters, from Steffi and her selective mutism, her chronic shyness and anxiety, to Rhys and his deafness and his adorable confidence. The story dealt with a lot more than just first love. 

Another thing I absolutely loved was the depiction of an incredible support system, for both of them. Steffi had her dad, her mum didn't always know what to say but loved her anyway, and her best friend Tem was her complete opposite but they complimented each other. Rhys had an amazing family, and his old school friends all knew exactly what he had to go through every day because they dealt with the same. As we get to know both of them, it becomes clear that without meaning to, Steffi and Rhys push the other to be better, for themselves and for each other. I think that is what makes great relationships, wanting to be better for your partner but because you know it's the best thing for you. 

Can you tell yet just how much I loved this? Because I really did! I had a massive grin on my face for most of the book! I think it was perfect in its imperfections because life doesn't always go the way you want it to, but if you care about someone then you have the support to do better. 

Published 12th January 2017 by Macmillan Children's Books. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.