Reading Jar 2017

2017readingjar

Happy New Year!!!

If you’ve been around for a while, you may recall my post this time last year about my reading jar for 2016. If not, do not fret – the idea is very straightforward.

Every book I read in 2017, I wrote down on a slip of paper and put in a jar. The slip usually has the date I finished the book, a star rating and any comments I had about it.

(The comments range from actual critiques of the book to my incessant fangirling. Hey, enthusiasm is enthusiasm, right?)

I didn’t hit my target of 50 this year, instead clocking in at 43. ( I could’ve sworn Goodreads had 44 on it, and that was before I added one in that I’d forgotten. Hmmm.) Hopefully 2018 will prove to be a better year!

Without further ado – Holly’s book read in 2017:
(Any reviews will be linked)

January
1st – Faegotten, Jude Tulli (Novelette)
2nd – Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo
5th – Antigone, Roy Williams (Play)
14th – The Tempest, William Shakespeare (Play)

February
5th – Perchance to Dream, Lisa Mantchev
13th – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J Maas
17th – A Court of Mist and Fury, Sarah J Maas
26th – The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black

March
5th – The Angel Experiment, James Patterson
9th – We Come Apart, Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan
17th – Kill The Boyband, Goldy Moldavsky

April
9th – Hook, K.R Thompson
13th – Kid Got Shot, Simon Mason
19th – Atonement, Ian McEwan
22nd – The New World, Patrick Ness (Novella)
29th – A Quiet Kind of Thunder, Sara Barnard

May
11th – The Invisible Library, Genevieve Cogman
17th – The Call, Peadar O’Guilin
28th – Geekerella, Ashley Poston
31st – The Orchid Caper, Connie Dowell

June
2nd – A Court of Wings and Ruin, Sarah J Maas
11th – Peter Darling, Austin Chant
28th – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
30th – Holding Court, KC Held

July
2nd – Murder Most Unladylike, Robin Stevens
9th – Hush Hush, Becca Fitzpatrick
18th – Sword Art Online, Reki Kawahara
26th – The Dark Prophecy, Rick Riordan

August
8th – Oy Yew, Ana Salote
9th – Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
16th – Lord Edgware Dies, Agatha Christie

September
29th – The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
30th – Wonder Woman: Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo

October
13th – Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead, Rick Riordan
21st – A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams (Play)
26th – the princess saves herself in this one, Amanda Lovelace (Poetry)

November
29th – Am I Normal Yet?, Holly Bourne

December
11th – A Girl Called Owl, Amy Wilson
13th – Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard
15th – Glass Sword, Victoria Aveyard
19th – Feminine Gospels, Carol Ann Duffy (Poetry)
22nd – Wolf by Wolf, Ryan Graudin
31st – Blood for Blood, Ryan Graudin

And there we have it, dear readers. My 43 book of 2017.

Some stats –
Best Month: December
Worst Month: November
Average Books Per Month: 3.58
Average Book Per Week: 0.82
Favourite Books: A Court of Mist and Fury, Geekerella and Wolf by Wolf/Blood for Blood
Least Favourite Books: Hush Hush and Glass Sword

How did you guys fare this year? My target is, as always, 50 books – you can find me on Goodreads.

Happy reading, and I hope you have a brilliant 2018!

Holly xx

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Glass Sword – Book Review

glass sword cover

Title: Glass Sword
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Paperback: 464 pages
Published: February 11th 2016 by Orion
My Rating: 2/5 stars

Summary (From Goodreads): Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. 

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. 

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. 

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

*THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS. CONTINUE AT OWN RISK.*

What.
Happened.

The first book was so good? I know I gave it a fairly mediocre review, but it was actually somewhat riveting.

This here.
This book.

There was nothing. I am so incredibly bored of Mare. She’s bland. She monologues. She angsts. The amorality of her would be fascinating if she wasn’t so flipping dumb. The novel consists of her walking into trap after trap and I am so done with her INCESSANT WHINGING.

It doesn’t help that my favourite character got killed off. For good, too. Although, that’s perhaps for the best, considering the very slim amount of page time he was getting.
That can be said for a lot of the characters though – all are background to Mare’s Monologues. She’s so self-centered it’s a wonder she notices anyone around her at all.

Her “romance” with Cal? Forced, without a spark of emotion. She dedicates so much time to her contemplation of her own morality that he feels like an afterthought. The part that stunned me was when they started sharing a bedchamber every night, because there was literally no indication that there were feeling between them. At all.
Like.
What?
Honestly, there is still more chemistry between Mare and Maven, hell, even Mare and Kilorn would’ve been better. But Cal? As a character I feel nothing from him except his presence every time Mare remembers that he’s there. Even Shade and Farley, two minor characters, have better chemistry that Mare and Cal, and their relationship is mentioned far, far less.

But enough of relationships.
My main issue with the book – Shade.
Okay, I’ll admit, I’m biased. He’s my favourite character, has been since the beginning of book one. You know when you’re reading and you kinda just get drawn to one character?
He got literally no development.
Mare refers to him so many times as her favourite, most understanding brother, but they barely speak. I can count the amount of actual conversations they have on my fingers.
But, it was redeemable – there’s another two books, right?

Well.
Well.

We reached the point where I could have easily hurled the book across the library and knocked out some poor year seven.

Who remembers Dobby?
Or, more importantly:
Who remembers his death?

That’s basically the end that Shade got and I could have cried. It wasn’t even a shock. The page prior, I sat there and said aloud “He’s going to die”.
It’s a poorly disguised plot device that gives Mare yet another thing to angst over. She literally just got him back! Surely there are better ways to progress a plot than by killing an underdeveloped character?

Ranting aside, I understand that characters do have to die sometimes. And if the death is done well, I wouldn’t be so irritated.
Alas.
No.

The plot has veered from The Hunger Games mixed with The Selection right into X-Men territory. Midway through the book, a whole bunch of new characters with no development are suddenly introduced, and a few chapters later, a bunch are killed off. No connection to them at all. Perhaps fewer characters would work better?

My other issue is the way that the action scenes are written, although that might just be the way that I read. I have a tendency to skim scenes, and details blur together, especially in action sequences.
It was the prison fight in particular that I found myself having to go back and re-read, because there were so many random changes and people present that I just couldn’t keep track.

The thing is though; I think that this would translate REALLY well into film or TV. A TV show would work with the storyline; it gives more room for character development, for plot arcs. It’s something that I could see myself watching and enjoying.

Thoughts?

Holly xx

Red Queen – Book Review

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Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Paperback: 388
Published: February 12th 2015 by Orion
My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

*THIS CONTAINS SPOILERS ON CHARACTER DEATH AND PLOT – READ AT YOUR OWN PERIL*

Summary (from Goodreads): This is a world divided by blood – red or silver.

The poverty-stricken Reds are commoners, living in the shadow of the Silvers, elite warriors with god-like powers.

To Mare Barrow, a 17-year-old Red girl from the Stilts, it looks like nothing will ever change.

Then Mare finds herself working at the Silver palace, in the midst of those she hates the most. She quickly discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy Silver control.

(Fair warning, I am now reading Glass Sword, and my opinions have changed drastically – I’m trying to keep this review as close to my first impressions as I can!)

Despite the terrible reviews I’ve read, I actually really enjoyed this book.

It’s not original.
Not in the slightest.
But it was compulsive reading.

The front cover literally says “A combination of The Hunger Games, The Selection, Graceling and Divergent” and it’s not wrong. I’d say that The Selection and Graceling are the closest, with maybe a hint of The Winner’s Curse.

So  to begin, a checklist of tropes in YA fiction that I hate:
– Main character with special powers
– Love triangle
– Dystopia split into classes

There are others, but that is what sticks out for me. And the author somehow spun them all into something positive, a novel that I struggled to put down. The book did have an actual plot, despite the Mean Girls aspects of it. I say “plot” like there’s one; there are so many subplots that weave together, it’s impressive.

Due to these plots, there is a large cast of characters to keep track of too, and if I’ve got to be honest, some of them I just don’t care about.

By that I mean Cal.

Dear lord, was that the most forced romance I’ve ever read. My mind was mostly taken up with Maven, so I didn’t linger too much on Cal’s character. Mare either loved him or hated him, but I found myself just skipping pages about him. Not interested, y’know?

The book changes pace and tone when she falls into the court; I barely noticed at the time, but the beginning reads more like how I remember The Hunger Games – a girl and her best friend are in town, avoiding guards and pick-pocketing. There is some real chemistry between the two of them, and I loved it.

Then we pitch into The Selection territory, which is far shakier. I still enjoyed it, don’t get me wrong; the mood change is kind of expected. I just feel that the start betrays the end a little, because the pay off isn’t what I was expecting. Who knows.

One thing I absolutely LOVED was the sarcasm. It’s something that I can’t help. Just…give me a sarcastic narrator, or a sarcastic friend (or a sarcastic brother *squints at Shade*) and I’m yours.
Ugh.

*SPOILERS ABOUND. LAST CHANCE*

Okay, not even gonna lie, the thing that got me through this book was sheer denial that Shade was dead. That is what kept me reading. You know when you read something and go, “oh yeah, this one is my favourite”?
That’s what happened on reading his letter.

Dear family, I am still alive. Obviously.

*shakes head at self*
I’m a sucker for sarcasm.
That is all.

And now.
The other thing, the main thing that everyone screams about:
MAVEN.

What the actual heck was that?

I was rooting for this guy, all the way through. I was rooting for him over Cal, over Kilorn, over anyone else who could possibly be considered a love interest, and I was betrayed.

That’s right, dear readers.

Betrayed.

That is all. Again.

I would highly recommend checking the first book out, as it is interesting and fast paced enough to forgive its flaws.

The sequel however?
That…remains to be seen.

Thoughts?

Holly xx

P.s. Yes, I will probably be posting a rant about Glass Sword because…let’s face it, this is not going well
*scurries away*

Am I Normal Yet? – Book Review

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Title: Am I Normal Yet?
Author: Holly Bourne
Paperback: 434 pages
Published: August 1st 2015 by Usborne Publishing Ltd
My Rating: 5/5 stars

*TRIGGER WARNING FOR OCD/ANXIETY BEING DISCUSSED*

Summary (from Goodreads): All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…

But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

This book started with me picking up …And a happy new year? in my school library. For those not in the know, this is a novella-capstone-type book on the end of the Spinster Club series.
I started reading it aloud to a couple of friends and we fell in love with the three narrators. The bit that got us was two texts between Amber and Lottie;

Amber: Christmas is over

Lottie: But the patriarchy isn’t

To which we all went “Same.”

So anyway. Our librarian, Heidi (who is awesome, btw) told us that it was the end of a series.
Cue one mad dash to the shelf to find Am I Normal Yet?
Surprisingly, I won!
(Well. I won by default. One friend is halfway through Crooked Kingdom and the other Lady Midnight, so it was technically mine for the taking. But I digress.)
I got through it in three days.
All things considered, I’m quite impressed.

Anyway, the book.
It.
Was.
Awesome.
The author has shied away from nothing and presented one of the most real voices I’ve read in YA lit. The book is feminist, and has no issues with discussing feminist issues. Things like periods are brought up, no sweat. I really wish they weren’t a taboo topic in society, considering about half the population get them; one tiny, tiny qualm I have is that the three girls’ periods all seem to last only 3 days.
If only.

The other main topic is mental health, specifically OCD and anxiety. The book handles this sensitively and realistically, without romanticizing mental illness.
Evie’s relapse was so, so believable. Her thought processes, actions, just everything was so real and understandable. The way that “Bad Thoughts” are laid out on the page emphasizes how they invade the mind and take up more and more room.

A note, however; the book can be triggering. When I say that the author has shied away from nothing, I mean nothing. Everything is described in absolute detail. Just a heads up, if you were planning on reading this.

My favourite part (besides some SAVAGE one liners and the first author’s acknowledgement that I’ve actually read) was Evie’s speech at the end. It  just brought up such a relevant issue? It’s one that speaks to me on a personal level and I had to put the book down for a few moments to contemplate it.

For a book labelled ‘Romance’, I have to argue; the romance takes a backseat to the friendship. Amber, Lottie and Evie – the Spinster Club. Amber, I feel got more character development than Lottie. She felt more vivid (though, that may be to her physicality being pointed out more, being 6 foot tall with flaming red hair) and I found myself sympathizing with her.
Lottie, I sympathized with a lot less, but I think that’s mainly down to me not digging sex. As a character, she’s brilliant – brutally honest and sparky as hell.

So back to the romance. We have three contenders: Ethan, Guy and Oli.

Ethan – This guy is a textbook douche. Shows up drunk to a date, then sleeps with someone else? No thanks. His apology halfway through thawed me a little, before he sexually assaults Evie (again) by kissing her and we were back a square one. #youtried.

Guy – I just…loathe this one. The way he treats Evie like an object? The way he never actually speaks to her? This is one of the most realistic portrayals of a toxic relationship that I’ve read – it never really hit home how easy it is to fall into one.

Oli – Bless Oli. He’s not present in the book as much as I’d expected, after what I’ve read from …And a happy new year? but what we did get was beautiful. Having a male character suffering with anxiety is something that I rarely get to see, and the stereotype of male characters kinda hit home for me? Either way, I have a soft spot for this guy.

The next book, How Hard Can Love Be? I am already reading. It’s Amber’s point of view, so hopefully it’ll live up to expectation!

Has anyone else read this? What’re your thoughts?

Holly xx

On A Levels

Hey hey guys!

So, you may be wondering why I haven’t updated in a full month (Or maybe not, considering my erratic posting schedule, so fair enough).

The short answer is: A Levels.

I have hit my second year, meaning that my workload is steadily increasing and I am working my socks off to stay afloat amidst deadlines galore.

Two of my subjects (Lit and Media) are essay based, and I’ve gotta be honest, I’m still wrapping my head around how to structure answers. I’ve improved since the beginning of Year 12, but it’s not something you can learn and then throw back onto a page.

Psychology, on the other hand, I seem to be able to do just that with. It is by far my best subject and I have no idea how, considering how close I come to falling asleep in some of the lessons. Honestly.

Coursework is the only way that I’m going to be able to drag my grade in the other two up, I’m afraid. Although, we get to choose whatever topic and texts we want, so there is that – mine seem to be based around children’s books and Disney, so I’m not sure what that says about me as a person.

I can also breathe a sigh of relief that I’ve dropped Drama. Don’t get me wrong, I loved it, but it took up so much time that I could’ve used to practice essay writing. It went well though!!! I’m so proud of our group!!

Mocks are in three weeks (and I got told this Tuesday, smh) so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that they don’t go horrifically badly!

Of course, I will continue to update as and when; who knows, maybe I’ll even write some stuff about studying? (Or just write in general to be honest).

Holly xx

Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead – Book Review

MagnusChaseShipofDead

Title: Magnus Chase and the Ship of the Dead
Author: Rick Riordan
Published: October 3rd 2017 by Puffin
eBook: 423 pages
My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary (from Goodreads): Loki the trickster god is free from his chains. Now he’s readying Naglfar, the Ship of the Dead, armed with a host of giants and zombies, to sail against the Norse gods and begin the final battle of Ragnarok. It’s up to Magnus Chase and his friends to stop Loki’s plans, but to do so they will have to sail across the oceans of Midgard, Jotunheim and Niflheim in a desperate race to reach Naglfar before it’s ready to sail on Midsummer’s Day.

Along the way, they will face angry sea gods, hostile giants, and an evil fire-breathing dragon who happens to be a former acquaintance. But Magnus’s biggest challenge will be facing his own inner demons. To defeat Loki, Magnus will need to use words, not force. This will require finding a magical elixir so deadly that it will either make Magnus Chase powerful enough to out-talk the silver-tongued Loki, or destroy Magnus utterly.

GUYS THIS WAS SO GOOD

Can it be said that I love Magnus Chase more than I love Percy Jackson?

…I think that maybe it can.

Something that I LOVE about this series is how all-inclusive it is. Representation of race, religion, disability, gender and sexuality. Yes please. There is a character in this series for everyone to relate to and it really warms my heart to see how far the author has come from the original Percy Jackson series that was white as snow and straight as a ruler.

A quick run through of the characters (because there are a lot of mains and I love them all):
– Magnus, my son. Okay, he’s actually the son of Frey, but y’know. Love him anyway. Sarcastic cinnamon roll.

– Samirah al Abbas. What a queen. Positive Muslim representation too, she is fasting for nearly the entirety of this book and still manages to hold her own in a fight.

– Alex Fierro: My other queen. I just…didn’t think it possible that I could love another character in this series more than Hearth, but apparently I was wrong. Alex is such an amazingly complex character and I really just need another book with him/her in it.

– Hearthstone: My favourite. Just. My favourite, since the beginning. He’s the most sweet-tempered character and I’m upset that he lost his scarf. Also lots of magic and sorcery from him because yes.

– Blitzen: Ah yes, Blitz. I felt like he didn’t get so much page-time in this book? (Same with Sam, actually) because we had more characters to explore. It would’ve been nice to have a bit more of him, but what we did have was good, so thumbs up.

– Mallory Keen: We literally had zero backstory on her for the first two books, so thanks for expanding on this. Her character finally feels somewhat fleshed out and I respect her more now that I know how she ended up at the Hotel.

– Halfborn: As above, we got more backstory. Although, I still feel like he could’ve been expanded slightly more. Who knows.

– Thomas Jefferson Junior: My, my. Again, I knew literally nothing about him. This book turned that around and I have a soft spot for this guy. He just…makes me smile.
Yeah, I like that this book kinda managed to reintroduce us to the last three characters, because for the first 2/3 of the series they all felt pretty flat.

My other favourite part is that Magnus isn’t the child of prophecy, or of the most famous god – he’s weak and appallingly bad in a fight (think Bilbo Baggins trying to brandish a sword at the end of An Unexpected Journey) but I love him. His talents lie in healing and caring for his friends and I honestly love that so much. I’m using the word love a lot, and I don’t use it very often to describe people.
Magnus’s snark is legendary and THE CHAPTER TITLES, PEOPLE. My favourite part of the book (well, almost) is reading them. Highlights include:

  • Percy Jackson Does His Level Best to Kill Me
  • Nothing Happens. It’s a Miracle.
  • We Devise a Fabulously Horrible Plan
  • We Devise a Horribly Fabulous Plan
  • I Become as Poetic as…Like, a Poetic Person
  • If You Understand What Happens in This Chapter, Please Tell Me, Because I Have No Clue
  • The Chase Space Becomes a Place

Okay so that last one is simply there because it rhymes. And also because I nearly cried at the last chapter.

I need more of this, okay? You cannot just leave a series like that, Mr Riordan. Just sayin.

If I’m actually being honest, the plot gets repetitive. It’s tried and true, and never fails to entertain me, BUT…I could do with something slightly different now.

This one is better for me than The Dark Prophecy, which I gotta admit started to bore me a bit. Much better than that.
Not quite on the same level as House of Hades though, because let’s be honest, that book is probably the best we’ve ever had.

Do you guys agree? Does anyone have a favourite Riordan book?

Holly xx

Oy Yew – Book Review

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Title: Oy Yew
Author: Ana Salote
Paperback: 278 pages
Published: June 27th 2015 by Mother’s Milk Books
My Rating: 5/5 stars

‘Lay low and grow’ is the motto of the waifs of Duldred Hall. The only way to escape their life of drudgery is to reach the magical height of 5 thighs 10 oggits, yet Master Jeopardine is determined to feed them little and keep them small. When the Master’s methods grow more sinister the waifs must face their doubts. What is kept in the Bone Room? Why is Rook’s Parlour locked? A new waif arrives and the fight for survival begins. But this child brings another mystery. Who is Oy?

Never before have I read something so utterly original – and in a children’s book no less! I genuinely want to sit a bunch of kids down and read this tale of woe and adventure to them.
Yes it is that good.

Oy Yew takes place in a fictional land with plenty of nonsense words and fictional nations. The words feel Roald Dahl-esque, which the geography puts me in the mind of Six of Crows. In this world, waifs are pressed into slave labour until they reach the height of 5 thighs, 10 oggits and escape…

…or do they?

The waifs of Duldred Hall discover something much more sinister lurking within its walls. The story gets creepy sometimes, but never tips into horror (which is just as well, considering it’s a children’s book).
The plot is gentle but pulls you in irresistibly. The plot line of the waifs is interwoven with that of the villainous Master Jepoardine beautifully and I rooted for them all the way.

Oy is a magical protagonist.
So…unassuming, so quiet. Yet his little heart and instincts just grow throughout the novel as he blossoms. As a character, he doesn’t say much, but as they say, actions speak louder than words.

A particular favourite character of mine was Alas. His resilience and determination stuck out and flipped my initial perception of him. The sibling-like relationship between him and Oy was sweet – it finally felt like there was someone to look after the both of them. The relationship between Alas and Lucinda was sweet too, again more sibling-like than anything else which I just loved after reading so many young adult romance books.

There are multiple view points, and more than a couple of times I had to double check who was who; some of the waifs seemed to blend into one another. That being said, the ones that were developed were written perfectly. A few of the adults blended into one another too, but being me, I wasn’t so interested in them.

This book was just…yes. I will be reading the sequel. And I will be lending it to the children that live across from me because they need this book in their lives.

I would recommend this for anyone that enjoyed Rose by Holly Webb, Hetty Feather by Jacqueline Wilson or any Roald Dahl books as a child (Or if you have children! Or grandchildren!).

I will hopefully be back sooner that I left it this time but, alas, A levels…

Holly xx