The Raven Cycle – Maggie Stiefvater

I’m about a million years behind the rest of the world in getting around to reading the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, but over the last month and a bit,
Will Patton’s dulcet tones have been keeping me company in my car as I tootle about the place, telling me the stories of Blue Sargent and her Raven Boys as they search for the ancient Welsh King Glendower.

Starting with The Raven Boys, there are four books in the cycle, and I thoroughly enjoyed all of them.

The Raven Cycle – Maggie Stiefvater

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.

From Maggie Stiefvater, the bestselling and acclaimed author of the Shiver trilogy and The Scorpio Races, comes a spellbinding new series where the inevitability of death and the nature of love lead us to a place we’ve never been before.

I really enjoyed this series of books. Blue was maybe the least interesting character in it, as the boys in Aglionby school really took centre stage. But the story ranged between Blue and the boys, and kept me captivated the whole time.

Blue, the non-psychic daughter and niece and cousin of psychics, is something of an anomaly. Struggling to find her place, she meets the Raven Boys – Gansey, the privileged rich kid who has everything, and is consumed by the search for Glendower; Adam, the scholarship student who’s struggling to escape his difficult home life; Ronan, the surly, furiously troubled soul who’s trying to deal with the loss of his father; and Noah, a smudgy, quiet watcher, who is easy to forget, but has more depths to him that we knew.

Over the course of the four books, we also get to know Blue’s mother and aunts, (and pseudo-aunts), Ronan’s brothers and mother, Gansey’s sister and parents, and more of the Raven Boys – privileged Aglionby students and their mysterious skills and gifts.

I thoroughly enjoyed all four of these books. There were plenty of twists and turns, frustrations, diversions, and a gorgeously strong friendship between the main characters.

Ronan was definitely my favourite, probably because everything he said seemed, to me, to be imbued with shades of my boyfriend Ronan. Occasional flashes of humour made this cycle more than just a ceaseless plodding search for magic.

With humour, friendship, loss, death, and a search for an ancient king, The Raven Cycle was definitely worth reading, and a wonderful distraction from rubbish traffic as I commuted.

All four books get four stars from me.

Mainly the lack of the final star is because of the use of the name Neeve, the fact that three brothers are called Ronan, Declan and (?) Matthew (although the reason for that becomes clear later), and because Matthew’s story was never resolved. But they are very minor niggles, and really, this was a superbly written and engaging series, that I would heartily recommend.

The Raven Boys
****
The Dream Thieves
****
Blue Lily, Lily Blue
****
The Raven King

****

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Nutshell – Ian McEwan

As I mentioned in my Challenge Update post, I needed a book by an author whose first name started with I, and Ian McEwan was the first that popped into my head. So Nutshell, his shortest book, was my pick to tick this category off. It was the biggest WASTE of my time…

Nutshell – Ian McEwan

30008702Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She’s still in the marital home a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse but John’s not here. Instead, she’s with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month old resident of Trudy’s womb.Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

 

I hated every minute of listening to this book. And it was largely because I absolutely could not get on board with the central conceit of the story. The narrator is the unnamed male baby of Trudy and John, who is still in-utero, and watches and listens as his mother and uncle plot the murder of his father. So it’s a retelling of Hamlet, except that Hamlet himself is still in the womb, and is more obnoxious even than Hamlet himself.

Just as given to soliloquys and musings, baby Nutshell is not yet born, but has developed already a taste for wine, ruminating on the crispness of particular vintages, and a voracious interest in all things political and cultural. As Trudy, his plotting, infidelous mother, paces uncomfortably around the house and fails to enjoy the final trimester of pregnancy, baby Nutshell is awake, and imbibing not only the wine she keeps drinking, but also the podcasts she listens to, and the talk radio she keeps on at almost all times.

This foetus is preternaturally intelligent. This was my main problem with the book. Trudy is dull and easily led, and seems to have no interests other than having a lot of sex with her lover, but happens to also have a propensity for listening to lofty discussions and podcasts which allows her unborn child to develop an intellect which far outstrips that of either of his parents. But at the same time baby Nutshell states in the opening lines of the book that he doesn’t know what blue is. The disconnect between what a baby could or should know (and indeed, how much they could hear or understand) from inside the womb was too much for me to wrap my head around, and I couldn’t get on board with it in any way.

Also, there was an unnatural amount of sex and drinking. I’m not a prude. I think sex is a healthy part of any relationship and a small drink during pregnancy is unlikely to harm the development of life. But all Trudy does is drink and fuck. And the descriptions of both are, frankly, nauseating. Nobody wants to hear about a sexual encounter from the other end of the penis, and frankly, with the amount of wine Trudy is chugging, baby Nutshell is more likely to have foetal alcohol syndrome than the intelligence he does display.

I’m sure that this book is actually a literary great, and I’m too much of a luddite to enjoy it. Certainly there were a few worthy speeches in there, as the foetus took a break from trying to avert the murder of his father to contemplate the commodification of third-level education. But honestly, I could not take this book seriously, and the disjointed, irregular nature of the narrative, as baby Nutshell segued from listening to murder conspiracies to extolling the virtues of a crisp sancerre was infuriating.

One I absolutely failed to enjoy.

Two Stars
**

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The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

I received a proof copy of this book at YALC.

I had never heard of Jen Campbell before, but her biography says that she’s a famous vlogger. In any case, The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night was one of the most beautiful proofs I got at YALC. It came in two versions, the night proof, which is what I got, and the day proof, which is a similar image, but in much brighter, daytime colours.

This collection of twelve short stories showcase the strange, the spooky, the weird side of fairytales, and will come with illustrations at the start of each story.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night – Jen Campbell

34517748‘These days, you can find anything you need at the click of a button.
That’s why I bought her heart online.’

Spirits in jam jars, mini-apocalypses, animal hearts and side shows.
A girl runs a coffin hotel on a remote island.
A boy is worried his sister has two souls.
A couple are rewriting the history of the world.
And mermaids are on display at the local aquarium.

The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is a collection of twelve haunting stories; modern fairy tales brimming with magic, outsiders and lost souls.

I really did not enjoy this book. It’s not even really fair to call it a book, because it’s a collection of short stories. But while I generally do enjoy collections of short stories, none of these stories had any point. Short one-shots, they gave you a glimpse into the lives of fairytale-type characters, from a hotel which specialises in giving you the experience of death to an aquarium where mermaids swim at night. But they were all just snapshots of lives, without any actual plot development or conflict to overcome, or … anything, really. They were just twelve one-shots into people’s lives.

Now I have to say that the writing was great. The twelve stories were all very different, but all had the same beautifully evocative and lyrical nature. I felt like I could see what was in front of me as each story began. Jen Campbell clearly has a way with words. I just didn’t feel like anything happened in any of these stories. And I like things to happen.

So for me this was a very mediocre read, and I finished it without any lingering feelings other than disappointment. But if you’re in the mood for a collection of strange and ephemeral stories of girls who buy hearts online, the worry that your sister has two souls in her body, or a discussion of how the world began, then this would definitely be the book for you. But it was not – at all – the book for me.

Three Stars
***

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Kill Me Twice – Simon Booker

I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Kill Me Twice is the second book about investigator and journalist Morgan Vine, who aims to right miscarriages of justice. Although I haven’t read the first book about Morgan, I was quickly able to catch up through Booker’s informative, but not boring, background information, and dove into the story of Morgan’s attempt to exonerate prisoner Anjelica of her ex-partner’s murder. Largely because Morgan has seen him outside her house. And you can’t have murdered someone who isn’t dead.

Kill Me Twice (Morgan Vine #2) – Simon Booker

34741179Karl Savage is dead.

He must be. His ex, Anjelica, is in prison for murdering him in an arson attack. Multiple forensic experts testified to finding his charred remains.

So when Anjelica begs investigative journalist Morgan Vine to prove her innocence, it seems an impossible task. It doesn’t matter that Karl was abusive. That Anjelica has a baby to care for. That she’s petrified of fire. The whole world knows Karl is dead.

Then he walks past Morgan’s window . . .

 

I really enjoyed this story of Anjelica, Morgan, Karl, Morgan’s daughter Lissa, and a host of other prisoners and ex-cons. Interspersed with the story of Karl Savage’s past, we follow Morgan as she begins to uncover a tangled web of lies and conspiracies, including prisoners getting out of jail after three years, with six-month old babies.

There was a whole lot going on in this book, but for the most part, it never felt like it was overblown. Morgan’s entanglement with the case was part coincidence, part design, and her investigative process ran into enough issues with obstructive coppers and surly prison guards that it never felt like she was figuring everything out too fast.

I read this in a single day, starting in the afternoon when I was sitting on the couch eating lunch with my mum, and finishing it that night, curled up in bed. And for the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I had only two main complaints.

The first was the story of forensic odontologist, Jatinder Singh. I think my main issue here was that Karl Savage had (somewhat conveniently) had dental x-rays taken only 11 days before his death. And then, when his murder was being investigated, those x-rays perfectly matched the post-mortem x-rays of the dead body’s teeth.

It’s not a spoiler to say that, obviously, the dead man wasn’t Karl Savage, because the fact that he’s still running around, clearly alive, is the main plot point of the book. But the way that the x-rays were faked didn’t make much sense to me. Savage intimidated and threatened Singh into duplicating the original x-rays, taken 11 days before his death, and passing them off as x-rays of the dead body. But less than two weeks before he died (obviously he didn’t die, and planned this somewhat) is close enough that it could well have been part of his plan. Wouldn’t it be much easier to threaten and intimidate his small-time local dentist than Singh, who is an affluent private, busy dentist, who also happens to dabble in forensics? The logic here made no sense, to me.

My other complaint was the secondary mystery of the story, which runs throughout the book, but is only resolved in the last two chapters. And my main complaint about that was that it wasn’t really resolved. Rather, it was just left open, as if to set up for another book. I wouldn’t mind a certain degree of ambiguity in the ending – the nature of the actions of the protagonist, and the revelation in the ending pages would have made ambiguity and future uncertainty practically a dead cert – but this read like a set-up for further books.

Morgan Vine is certainly a compelling main character, and I would be interested in finding her first adventure. If her next is following on from the closing pages of this book, I’ll be quite disappointed, but if it stands alone, I’ll definitely be interested in picking that up too.

Four Stars
****

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The Invasion – Peadar O’Guilin

YALC was the source of many, many proofs, but only a few that I was properly excited for. Chief among those was the sequel to last year’s The Call, which I read and enjoyed, and was probably overly harsh about because I was in a bad mood the week I read it.

So when I did pick up a proof of The Invasion, after lurking around the David Fickling Books stand for hours, I was more than chuffed. It took me a while to get around to reading it, because I wanted to do this book justice, and read it when I was in the mood to read it. So that time came last week, and I was not upset that I had waited.

The Invasion (The Call #2) – Peadar O’Guilin

The David Fickling cover art hasn’t been released yet, I don’t think. The only art on Goodreads is the Scholastic cover, and my proof didn’t have the final cover art. But I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of swirls show up on the eventual cover art!

 

After so much danger, Nessa and Anto can finally dream of a happy life. But the terrible attack on their school has created a witch-hunt for traitors — boys and girls who survived the Call only by making deals with the enemy. To the authorities, Nessa’s guilt is obvious. Her punishment is to be sent back to the nightmare of the Grey Land for the rest of her life. The Sídhe are waiting, and they have a very special fate planned for her.

Meanwhile, with the help of a real traitor, the enemy come pouring into Ireland at the head of a terrifying army. Every human they capture becomes a weapon. Anto and the last students of his old school must find a way to strike a blow at the invaders before they lose their lives, or even worse, their minds. But with every moment Anto is confronted with more evidence of Nessa’s guilt.

For Nessa, the thought of seeing Anto again is the only thing keeping her alive. But if she escapes, and if she can find him, surely he is duty-bound to kill her…

I really, really enjoyed this book. Although I was shocked by the constant assertions that Nessa is actually short for Vanessa (I don’t know why I was so shocked, because it was mentioned once in the first book, but apparently I didn’t retain that fact), I was chuffed to dive back into the creepy, grey world of an Ireland cut off from its neighbours, and plagued by the ever-approaching thread of the Sídhe entering the many-coloured land.

Nessa and Anto went through so much in the first book, they really deserve to just be together and enjoy the rest of their lives, but obviously that isn’t going to happen for them. So they’re plunged into new and greater threats and dangers as the Sídhe break into the human world, and Nessa is accused of being a traitor. With a host of new characters and the reappearance of many old ones, this was a massively enjoyable and very cleverly plotted second half of the story of the Sídhe.

There are actually three protagonists in this story – Nessa, Anto, and Aoife, who also played a major part in the first book. I don’t understand why she wasn’t given a mention in the blurb, because she’s just as major a player as the romantic leads, and she deserves more credit, because she’s super.

All three of the main characters are young, confused, scared, brave, and fighting for their lives in a world ravaged by the laughing Sídhe. I loved pretty much every word of this book, and was utterly chuffed with the ending – what a superb way of bringing together everything that had been built up over the previous two books!

I will definitely, definitely be looking out for more work from Peadar, as his grasp of the weirdness of Irish legends and the frailty and strength of human relationships allows him to draw a world which is immersive and thrilling, and believable at the same time.

Four and a half Five Stars
*****

 

PS – Totally unrelated to the content of the books, the author, Peadar, is really lovely and chatty on Twitter, and very nice in person as well.

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Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel

I’ve mentioned before that I seem to have read a startling number of books about people with dead sisters. Juniper Lemon’s happiness index is yet another one of those. I bought it at YALC, after drinking copious amounts of lemonade, and weighing myself down with many, many books. I read it a few weeks ago, realising that I didn’t yet have an author with an I surname checked off on my list, and that Julie Israel would fill that gap.

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel

33871765It’s hard to keep close a person everyone keeps telling you is gone.

It’s been sixty-five painful days since the death of Juniper’s big sister, Camilla. On her first day back at school, bracing herself for the stares and whispers, Juniper borrows Camie’s handbag for luck – and discovers an unsent break-up letter inside. It’s mysteriously addressed to ‘You’ and dated July 4th – the day of Camie’s accident. Desperate to learn the identity of Camie’s secret love, Juniper starts to investigate.

But then she loses something herself. A card from her daily ritual, The Happiness Index: little notecards on which she rates the day. The Index has been holding Juniper together since Camie’s death – but without this card, there’s a hole. And this particular card contains Juniper’s own secret: a memory that she can’t let anyone else find out.

I really enjoyed this book. Like, really enjoyed it. I started it late one night, just before I went to bed, and then absolutely failed to put it down until it was 4am, and I was turning the last page, tears drying on my face, and trying desperately not to count how few hours it was until I had to get up again.

Juniper’s story of dealing with the loss of her sister, her partner in crime, her buddy, is really beautifully written, and wonderfully portrayed. Taken suddenly, without any chances beforehand to say goodbyes, Juniper is struggling to deal with her relationships with friends and family, as they no longer know how to deal with the family of four becoming a family of three.

When Juniper finds a letter addressed to ‘You’, and loses a notecard with a secret written on it, she embarks on two simultaneous projects – to find the notecard, and to find You. Along the way she also discovers new nice boy next door, the bad boy who’s been lurking in the background, and a few new friends who have their own issues to deal with.

The mystery (and memory) of finding out who You is was a wonderful metaphor for dealing with grief, and the lack of closure that often comes with it.

My two main complaints about this book were 1) It was a little predictable in terms of a big reveal near the end of the book and 2) there was very little of Juniper dealing with her parents, and their grief as a family, which I would have liked more of.

However, this is a really lovely book, with some great banter, a sweet romance, heavy topics dealt with deftly, and a happy/sad ending that made me smile and cry at the same time.

This is Julie Israel’s debut novel, and I will definitely be looking out for more from her in the future, because her writing style is the perfect blend of humorous and heartbreaking.

Four Stars
****

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Challenge Update – September 2017

So as I said near the start of the year, I have one challenge with three separate parts running this year. It’s an alphabet challenge, so I need to read a book with a title, an author first name, and an author last name for each letter of the alphabet. When I last updated I was a quarter of the way through the year and trucking along nicely. Now that’s it’s the first week in September (or probably the second week now, since it’s the 9th) and there are only four months left in the year, so we’re two-thirds of the way through, I’m starting to realise how many gaps I have left to plug!

But here’s how I’m doing so far:

Titles

A
Accidental Mother, The Coleman Rowan
After the Fire Hill Will
Alanna The First Adventure Pierce Tamora
Ariadnis Martin Josh
Aurabel Dockrill Laura
B
Before I Let Go Nijkamp Marieke
Birds and the Bees, The Johnson Milly
Blissed Farrell Jamie
Border, The Schafer Steve
C
CEO, The Purman Victoria
Christmas Catch, The  Baird Ginny
Close to Me Reynolds Amanda
Close Your Eyes Cloke Nicci
Confess Hoover Colleen
Countless Gregory Karen
Court of Wings and Ruin, A Maas Sarah J
Courted Chance Jennifer
Cows, The O’Porter Dawn
Craving for Love Vaughn Violet
D
Dance With Dragons, A Martin George RR
Dark Prophecy, The Riordan Rick
Daughter of the Burning City Foody Amanda
Dawn Study Snyder Maria
Dear Amy Callaghan Helen
Diabolic, The Kincaid SJ
E
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine Honeyman Gail
Everless Holland Sara
Exact Opposite of Okay, The Steven Laura
Eyes Like Mine Kamal Sheena
F
Feast for Crows, A Martin George RR
Fifth Letter, The Moriarty Nicola
Fireblood Blake Elly
Forever Dreams Morgan Leeanna
Frogkisser! Nix Garth
G
Gift, The Croggon Alison
Girl Before, The Delaney JP
Give Me The Child McGrath Mel
Godblind Stephens Anna
Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even, The Bell Anna
H
Handmaid’s Tale, The Atwood Margaret
He Said/She Said Kelly Erin
Heart Collector, The Salisbury Melinda
Hedge Knight, The Avery Ben
House of Mountfathom, The McDowell Nigel
I
I Heart Christmas Kelk Lindsey
I See You Mackintosh Clare
If Birds Fly Back Sorosiak Carlie
I’ll Be Home For Christmas Meaney Roisin
In the Hand of the Goddess Pierce Tamora
It Ends With Us Hoover Colleen
J
Judge’s Wife, The  O’Loughlin Ann
Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index Israel Julie
K
L
Last Namsara, The Ciccarelli Kristen
Lease on Love Vaughn Violet
Like Other Girls Hennessy Claire
Lioness Rampant Pierce Tamora
List, The Vivian Siobhan
Littlest Cowboy, The Shayne Maggie
Longest Holiday, The Toon Paige
Lord of Shadows Clare Cassandra
Lost Sister, The Elliot Laura
Love in Row 27 Shortall Eithne
Love Like This, A Duffy Maria
M
Marriage Pact, The Richmond Michelle
Mirror Image Moran Trish
Miss Mary’s Book of Dreams Nicholls Sophie
Monster Calls, A Ness Patrick
Moxie Mathieu Jennifer
My Not So Perfect Life Kinsella Sophie
My Side of the Diamond Gardner Sally
Mystery Knight, The Avery Ben
N
Nearest Faraway Place, The Long Hayley
Nearly-Weds, The Costello Jane
Nemesis Reichs Brendan
Neverwhere Gaiman Neil
O
Once and for All Dessen Sarah J
One Of Us Is Lying McManus Karen M
P
Part-Time Princess DuMond Pamela
Pearl Thief, The Wein Elizabeth
Perfect Fit, A Tullis Heather
Picture of Dorian Gray, The Wilde Oscar
Player, The Swank Denise Grover
Princess Bride, The  Goldman William
Problem with Forever, The Armentrout Jennifer L
Q
Quiet Kind of Thunder, A Barnard Sara
R
Rakkety Tam Jacques Brian
Raven Boys, The Stiefvater Maggie
Remix Pratt Non
Romeo and Juliet Shakespeare William
Rush for Love Vaughn Violet
S
Second Star Sheinmel Alyssa B
Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, A Sutherland Krystal
Shadow Queen, The Redwine CJ
Ship Beyond Time, The Heilig Heidi
Sin Eater’s Daughter, The Salisbury Melinda
Small Great Things Picoult Jodi
Sometimes I Lie Feeney Alice
Spellslinger de Castell Sebastian
STAGS Bennett MA
Storm of Swords, A Martin George RR
Sworn Sword (The Hedge Knight II) Avery Ben
T
Things A Bright Girl Can Do Nicholls Sally
Things I Want You To Know Reilly Martina
Three Dark Crowns Blake Kendare
Touch of Power Snyder Maria V
Treatment, The Taylor CL
Truth and Lies of Ella Black, The Barr Emily
Truthwitch Dennard Susan
Two Fridays in April Meaney Roisin
U
Underdog Zusak Markus
Unpredictable Consequences of Love, The Mansell Jill
V
Velveteen Rabbit, The Williams Margery
Visser Applegate KA
W
When I Was Invisible Koomson Dorothy
Who’s That Girl? McFarlane Mhairi
Windwitch Dennard Susan
With This Click, I Thee Wed Paulson Bonnie R
Woman Who Rides Like A Man, The Pierce Tamora
Wrath and the Dawn, The Ahdieh Renee
X

Xenocide

 Scott Card, Orson
Y
Yesterday Yap Felicia
You Had Me At Hello McFarlane Mhairí
Z

I’m really pleased with how titles are going. I have only two let to fill – K and Z – and I already have books picked out for both of those. Zenith, one of the proofs I picked up at YALC, and A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms, which I’m waiting for my dad to finish, since we’ve borrowed it from my sister. This is one that I’ll definitely get done before the end of the year. My only question is whether I’ll be able to complete it without doubling up on books. Felicia Yap – Yesterday was, until last week, the only book in title, first name, and surname!

 

 

First Name

A
Alice Feeney Sometimes I Lie
Alison Croggon Gift, The
Alyssa B Sheinmel Second Star
Amanda Foody Daughter of the Burning City
Amanda Reynolds Close to Me
Ann O’Loughlin Judge’s Wife, The 
Anna Bell The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even
Anna Stephens Godblind
B
Ben Avery Hedge Knight, The
Ben Avery Sworn Sword (The Hedge Knight II)
Ben Avery Mystery Knight, The (The Hedge Knight III)
Bonnie R Paulson With This Click, I Thee Wed
Brendan Reichs Nemesis
Brian Jacques Rakkety Tam
C
Carlie Sorosiak If Birds Fly Back
Cassandra Clare Lord of Shadows
CJ Redwine The Shadow Queen
CL Taylor Treatment, The
Claire Hennessy Like Other Girls
Clare Mackintos I See You
Colleen Hoover It Ends With Us
Colleen Hoover Confess
D
Dawn O’Porter Cows, The
Denise Grover Swank Player, The
Dorothy Koomson When I Was Invisible
E
Eithne Shortall Love in Row 27
Elizabeth Wein Pearl Thief, The
Elly Blake Fireblood
Emily Barr Truth and Lies of Ella Black, The
Erin Kelly He Said/She Said
F
Felicia Yap Yesterday
G
Gail Honeyma Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Garth Nix Frogkisser!
George RR Martin A Storm of Swords
George RR Martin A Feast for Crows
George RR Martin A Dance With Dragons
Ginny Baird Christmas Catch, The 
H
Hayley Long Nearest Faraway Place, The
Heather Tullis Perfect Fit, A
Heidi Heilig The Ship Beyond Time
Helen Callaghan Dear Amy
I
J
Jamie Farrell Blissed
Jane Costello Nearly-Weds, The
Jennifer Chance Courted
Jennifer Mathieu Moxie
Jennifer L Armentro The Problem with Forever
Jill Mansell The Unpredictable Consequences of Love
Jodi Picoult Small Great Things
Josh Martin Ariadnis
JP Delaney Girl Before, The
Julie Israel Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index
K
KA Applegate Visser
Karen Gregory Countless
Karen M McManus One Of Us Is Lying
Kendare Blake Three Dark Crowns
Kristen Ciccarelli Last Namsara, The
Krystal Sutherlan Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, A
L
Laura Elliot Lost Sister, The
Laura Dockrill Aurabel
Laura Steven Exact Opposite of Okay, The
Leeanna Morgan Forever Dreams
Lindsey Kelk I Heart Christmas
M
MA Bennett STAGS
Maggie Shayne Littlest Cowboy, The
Maggie Stiefvater Raven Boys, The
Margaret Atwood Handmaid’s Tale, The
Margery Williams Velveteen Rabbit, The
Maria Snyder Dawn Study
Maria Duffy Love Like This, A
Maria V Snyder Touch of Power
Marieke Nijkamp Before I Let Go
Markus Zusak Underdog
Martina Reilly Things I Want You To Know
Mel McGrath Give Me The Child
Melinda Salisbury Heart Collector, The
Melinda Salisbury Sin Eater’s Daughter, The
Mhairi McFarlane Who’s That Girl?
Mhairí McFarlane You Had Me At Hello
Michelle Richmond Marriage Pact, The
Milly Johnson Birds and the Bees, The
N
Neil Gaiman Neverwhere
Nicci Cloke Close Your Eyes
Nicola Moriarty Fifth Letter, The
Nigel McDowell The House of Mountfathom
Non Pratt Remix
O
Oscar Wilde Picture of Dorian Gray, The
P
Paige Toon The Longest Holiday
Pamela DuMond Part-Time Princess
Patrick Ness A Monster Calls
Q
R
Renee Ahdieh The Wrath and the Dawn
Rick Riordan Dark Prophecy, The
Roisin Meaney I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Roisin Meaney Two Fridays in April
Rowan Coleman Accidental Mother, The
S
Sally Nicholls Things A Bright Girl Can Do
Sally Gardner My Side of the Diamond
Sara Barnard Quiet Kind of Thunder, A
Sara Holland Everless
Sarah J Maas Court of Wings and Ruin, A
Sarah J Dessen Once and for All
Sebastian de Castell Spellslinger
Sheena Kamal Eyes Like Mine
Siobhan Vivian List, The
SJ Kincaid The Diabolic
Sophie Nicholls Miss Mary’s Book of Dreams
Sophie Kinsella My Not So Perfect Life
Steve Schafer Border, The
Susan Dennard Truthwitch
Susan Dennard Windwitch
T
Tamora Pierce Alanna: The First Adventure
Tamora Pierce In the Hand of the Goddess
Tamora Pierce The Woman Who Rides Like A Man
Tamora Pierce Lioness Rampant
Trish Moran Mirror Image
U
V
Victoria Purman The CEO
Violet Vaughn Craving for Love
Violet Vaughn Lease on Love
Violet Vaughn Rush for Love
W
Will Hill After the Fire
William Goldman Princess Bride, The 
William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet
X
Y
Z

This one isn’t doing quite so well. I’m still missing I, Q, U, X, Y, and Z. I’ve got books lined up for I, U, X, and Z (Ian McEwan, Ursula LeGuin, Xavier Neal, and Zoe Mariott), but I’m struggling hard to even find books for the other letters, let alone read those books. I’m gonna have to start doing some serious research soon. Thankfully it’s only two letters to actually think of authors. If anyone happens to love a book by Quentin someone, please do let me know!

 

 

Finally, last name.

Last Name

A
Ahdieh Renee The Wrath and the Dawn
Applegate KA Visser
Armentrout Jennifer L The Problem with Forever
Atwood Margaret Handmaid’s Tale, The
Avery Ben Hedge Knight, The
Avery Ben Sworn Sword (The Hedge Knight II)
Avery Ben Mystery Knight, The
B
Baird Ginny Christmas Catch, The 
Barnard Sara Quiet Kind of Thunder, A
Barr Emily Truth and Lies of Ella Black, The
Bell Anna The Good Girlfriend’s Guide to Getting Even
Bennett MA STAGS
Blake Kendare Three Dark Crowns
Blake Elly Fireblood
C
Callaghan Helen Dear Amy
Chance Jennifer Courted
Ciccarelli Kristen Last Namsara, The
Clare Cassandra Lord of Shadows
Cloke Nicci Close Your Eyes
Coleman Rowan Accidental Mother, The
Costello Jane Nearly-Weds, The
Croggon Alison Gift, The
D
de Castell Sebastian Spellslinger
Delaney JP Girl Before, The
Dennard Susan Truthwitch
Dennard Susan Windwitch
Dessen Sarah J Once and for All
Dockrill Laura Aurabel
Duffy Maria Love Like This, A
DuMond Pamela Part-Time Princess
E
Elliot Laura Lost Sister, The
F
Farrell Jamie Blissed
Feeney Alice Sometimes I Lie
Foody Amanda Daughter of the Burning City
G
Gaiman Neil Neverwhere
Gardner Sally My Side of the Diamond
Goldman William Princess Bride, The 
Gregory Karen Countless
H
Heilig Heidi The Ship Beyond Time
Hennessy Claire Like Other Girls
Hill Will After the Fire
Holland Sara Everless
Honeyman Gail Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Hoover Colleen It Ends With Us
Hoover Colleen Confess
I
Israel Julie Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index
J
Jacques Brian Rakkety Tam
Johnson Milly Birds and the Bees, The
K
Kamal Sheena Eyes Like Mine
Kelk Lindsey I Heart Christmas
Kelly Erin He Said/She Said
Kincaid SJ The Diabolic
Kinsella Sophie My Not So Perfect Life
Koomson Dorothy When I Was Invisible
L
Long Hayley Nearest Faraway Place, The
M
Maas Sarah J Court of Wings and Ruin, A
Mackintosh Clare I See You
Mansell Jill The Unpredictable Consequences of Love
Martin George RR A Storm of Swords
Martin Josh Ariadnis
Martin George RR A Feast for Crows
Martin George RR A Dance With Dragons
Mathieu Jennifer Moxie
McDowell Nigel The House of Mountfathom
McFarlane Mhairi Who’s That Girl?
McFarlane Mhairí You Had Me At Hello
McGrath Mel Give Me The Child
McManus Karen M One Of Us Is Lying
Meaney Roisin I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Meaney Roisin Two Fridays in April
Moran Trish Mirror Image
Morgan Leeanna Forever Dreams
Moriarty Nicola Fifth Letter, The
N
Ness Patrick A Monster Calls
Nicholls Sophie Miss Mary’s Book of Dreams
Nicholls Sally Things A Bright Girl Can Do
Nijkamp Marieke Before I Let Go
Nix Garth Frogkisser!
O
O’Loughlin Ann Judge’s Wife, The 
O’Porter Dawn Cows, The
P
Paulson Bonnie R With This Click, I Thee Wed
Picoult Jodi Small Great Things
Pierce Tamora Alanna: The First Adventure
Pierce Tamora In the Hand of the Goddess
Pierce Tamora The Woman Who Rides Like A Man
Pierce Tamora Lioness Rampant
Pratt Non Remix
Purman Victoria The CEO
Q
R
Redwine CJ The Shadow Queen
Reichs Brendan Nemesis
Reilly Martina Things I Want You To Know
Reynolds Amanda Close to Me
Richmond Michelle Marriage Pact, The
Riordan Rick Dark Prophecy, The
S
Salisbury Melinda Heart Collector, The
Salisbury Melinda Sin Eater’s Daughter, The
Schafer Steve Border, The
Shakespeare William Romeo and Juliet
Shayne Maggie Littlest Cowboy, The
Sheinmel Alyssa B Second Star
Shortall Eithne Love in Row 27
Snyder Maria Dawn Study
Snyder Maria V Touch of Power
Sorosiak Carlie If Birds Fly Back
Stephens Anna Godblind
Steven Laura Exact Opposite of Okay, The
Stiefvater Maggie Raven Boys, The
Sutherland Krystal Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares, A
Swank Denise Gro Player, The
T
Taylor CL Treatment, The
Toon Paige The Longest Holiday
Tullis Heather Perfect Fit, A
U
V
Vaughn Violet Craving for Love
Vaughn Violet Lease on Love
Vaughn Violet Rush for Love
Vivian Siobhan List, The
W
Wein Elizabeth Pearl Thief, The
Wilde Oscar Picture of Dorian Gray, The
Williams Margery Velveteen Rabbit, The
X
Y
Yap Felicia Yesterday
Z
Zusak Markus Underdog

Only three books on this list left, but they’re really tough ones – Q, U, and X. Again, I’m having trouble even coming up with things to fill the gaps with, let alone sourcing and reading them. I’d appreciate any suggestions for these gaps as well!

icon-question-mark-clipart-11

 

So with four months (or just under) to do, I still have 11 categories to fill with even one book. I haven’t actually tried to see if I can do everything without any dual reporting of books – I’m going to leave that until after I’ve filled all the categories, I think. Don’t want to try and run before I can walk!

Although I did once read a book where the MC had a younger sibling who could run but not walk. There might actually be something in that?? I will consider it further!

Four months. At least 11 books. I reckon I can do that, right?

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Everless – Sara Holland

This was another YALC proof giveaway. I’m not entirely sure if this will be the UK cover art, but it’s the only art available online at the moment. And look how awesome it looks!

When I read the synopsis of this, I thought it sounded a lot like the film In Time, with Justin Timberlake, which I watched, and thought it had an interesting concept. Add that to extra high fantasy elements and a YA slant, and I was hoping for great things from this book!

Everless – Sara Holland

32320661In the land of Sempera, time is extracted from blood and used as payment. Jules Ember and her father were once servants at Everless, the wealthy Gerling family’s estate, but were cast out after of a fateful accident a decade ago. Now, Jules’s father is reaching his last hour, and she will do anything to save him. Desperate to earn time, she arrives at the palace as it prepares for a royal wedding, ready to begin her search into childhood secrets that she once believed to be no more than myths. As she uncovers lost truths, Jules spirals deeper into a past she hardly recognizes, and faces an ancient and dangerous foe who threatens her future and the future of time itself.

I thought there was a lot of great stuff going on in this book – a corrupt money system based on time, where the poorest struggle to live from month to month, and the richest live for centuries. Jules clearly had some dark secret in her past, which she and her father had been fleeing from for ten years. Then, with her father struggling to survive any longer, bleeding his last hours to pay the rent, Jules is forced to take matters into her own hands.

Lots of things in this book were super – I really liked Liam, the mysterious, dark, dangerous heir of the Everless family, and hope to see more of him in the future.

My main issues with this book were a) it was kind of predictable in places. A good few twists and turns were pretty easy to see coming. But that said, there were also a few that I didn’t see coming, so that kept me on my toes.

My main main issue, however, which is b), was Jules was entirely incapable of listening to anything anybody told her. Don’t go work in Everless, her father said. So she goes to work in Everless. Stay away from the Queen!, she was told. So she tries to get appointed as the Queen’s handmaiden.

I also have issues with long-lost, hitherto unknown, family members inciting in characters the feelings of love and protectiveness that would be present if it’s family that you’ve known and loved and grown up with. But hey, maybe some people are capable of offering love to people they’ve never realised were blood tied to them before.

In any case, while there were some weaknesses in this book, it also had some nice strengths, with an interesting baseline, and a setup for a much bigger second book.

Three Stars
***

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My Side of the Diamond – Sally Gardner

YALC was the source of many wonderful books, and I’m still trying to work my way through the massive stack of ARCs (and books that I actually bought). Most of them have been thoroughly enjoyable, but I seem to have picked up an astonishing amount of sci-fi, which I’m actually not that keen on.

Sally Gardner’s The Door That Led To Where was the first book that I received as a book blogger, and so it has a special place in my heart. I was quite looking forward to reading another book by the same author, telling the story of the mysterious disappearance of Becky. But actually, I really didn’t like this book at all.

My Side of the Diamond – Sally Gardner

35698616An extraordinary tale about the search for love from the acclaimed Costa and Carnegie winning novelist Sally Gardner.

Jazmin has been shunned ever since her best friend Becky disappeared. But Becky didn’t just disappear – she jumped off a tall building and seemingly never reached the ground. It was as if she simply vanished into thin air. Did Jazmin have something to do with her disappearance? Or was it more to do with Icarus, so beguiling and strangely ever youthful, with whom Becky became suddenly besotted . . .

With detailed and intriguing black and white illustrations throughout.

I really can’t put my finger on what it was that I disliked so much about this book. It might have been that the characters didn’t seem particularly fleshed out, or that nobody knew what was going on. The coincidences between characters and their connections to Icarus were too much for me to handle, and I didn’t actually like any of the people I was reading about. Sci-fi isn’t really my genre of choice to be honest, and I was struggling to connect to anything in this story. Question after question was raised, but none of them were answered.

Although Becky was depicted as a central character in the book, and her disappearance was the mystery being investigated, I really didn’t feel like we knew Becky as a person, which led to me not having any real connection with her disappearance or otherwise.
As well as that, the entire book was written as a series of interviews/stories told to an investigating character, but either we don’t ever find out who’s investigating, or we did find out and I just didn’t care.

There were so many things in this book that I’m sure people would love – the beguiling, mysterious character of Icarus, the fraught relationship between Becky and Jazmin, the unravelling of a mystery that was intertwined in mysterious ways, and the story of people and their connections to Icarus and the vanishing teenagers. But it was just all wrong for me. I felt no connection with it, and didn’t really enjoy it at all.

Probably more me than the book, since Gardner is clearly capable of writing excellent books, and books that I enjoy, but this was a really disappointing one for me.

Two Stars
**

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August Roundup

August has been a very quiet month. With a lot of holidays, and not that much work going on, I’ve had plenty of time to read. Plenty of flights to read on, as well. The majority of this month’s reading material has been YALC picks, although there’s also been a number of books selected for the purposes of fulfilling challenge criteria, and for the most part I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them. As the links in the following list will show, however, I’ve been much faster at reading than I have been at revieweing. I’ll have to get on that again soon!

Books

  1. The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli
  2. Remix – Non Pratt
  3. A Love Like This – Maria Duffy
  4. Nemesis – Brendan Reichs
  5. Before I Let Go – Marieke Nijkamp
  6. I See You – Clare Mackintosh
  7. The Treatment – CL Taylor
  8. Fireblood – Elly Blake
  9. A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland
  10. After the Fire – Will Hill
  11. Things A Bright Girl Can Do – Sally Nicholls
  12. The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven
  13. The Heart Collector – Melinda Salisbury
  14. My Side of the Diamond – Sally Gardner
  15. The Truth and Lies of Ella Black – Emily Barr
  16. Moxie – Jennifer Mathieu
  17. The Sin Eater’s Daughter – Melinda Salisbury
  18. The Velveteen Rabbit – Margery Williams
  19. The Hedge Knight – George RR Martin, Ben Avery, Mike S Miller
  20. The Hedge Knight II: Sworn Sword – George RR Martin, Ben Avery, Mike S Miller
  21. The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater
  22. Everless – Sara Holland
  23. Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel
  24. Visser – KA Applegate
  25. The Mystery Knight: A Graphic Novel – George RR Martin, Ben Avery, Mike S Miller

Short Stories

None this month!

Cover Art

 

Ella Black doesn’t have cover art yet, so I can’t put it in here.

Favourite Book This Month

This is actually really, really tough. There were a lot of really great books this month that I very much enjoyed. In a complete cop-out, I’m actually picking two favourite books this month. Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, which I have yet to review, is about Juniper dealing with the loss of her sister, and A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares. Both were great!

But I also loved Fireblood, Moxie, The Exact Opposite of Okay, The Raven Boys… This was just a really good month.

Least Favourite Book This Month

Also a tough one. I really didn’t enjoy Before I Let Go, but at least it had some good elements in it. A Love Like This, which I haven’t reviewed, was dross, and I won’t read anything else by that author if I can help it.

Favourite cover art

So many good covers this month! Honourable mentions to Fireblood and Everless for gorgeousness, but the winner is The Exact Opposite of Okay. So many small elements of the cover art tie in beautifully with the book itself, it’s clear that the cover artist put a lot of love into this, and it really stands out.

35817737

 

Other…

I am the WORST at sticking to a book buying ban. I bought loads of books this month, including three graphic novels. But on the plus side, I didn’t *actually* buy any physical books, only ebooks. That counts for something, right??

 

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