Bout of Books 13 TBR and Goals

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The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organised by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team


This will be my second Bout of Books and this time I’ll be doing it whilst working full time, so I’m not sure how much time I’m going to get for reading, but I want to participate anyway.

TBR pile:

1. The Death Cure by James Dashner – already started (100 pages in)

2. N-W by Zadie Smith

3. Finding Aubrey by Sophie Kinsella

I also hope to participate in two of the challenges over the course of the week and maybe the Saturday chat (the Monday one is at 2am BST so not good for me because I’m working!).

Feel free to link to your blog in the comments if you’re also taking part in this week’s readathon. Good luck everyone!

April Reading Wrap-up

I don’t really like starting a blog post with an apology, but in this case, I just want to say sorry for being so absent for the majority of April. I have always struggled to maintain my blog for any extended period of time, and although I’m doing much better in 2015, April has not been a good month for me. I’ve been working longer hours and struggling to find the motivation to post at the end of the day. I’m going to try to manage this by scheduling blog posts for the week on my days off and then I don’t have to worry about preparing new posts every day and can focus on exploring other blogs and commenting/replying to comments etc.

So, with that said, I’ll get back to the point of this post which is my April reading wrap-up. Despite not blogging much in April, I have still been reading a fair amount and managed to get through 10 books this month. Strangely, that seems to be my average, which I’m happy with – it’s a nice comfortable pace to be reading at.

1. 7 Days by Eve Ainsworth

I picked up a proof of this at work after seeing a lot of YA bloggers talking about it over the past few months. I loved the characters and they felt genuine with real personalities and personal struggles. Ainsworth tackles the topic of bullying really well; offering both sides of the story without legitimising the act of bullying itself. At time, I felt uncomfortable with the way Kez was treating Jess, despite understanding what triggered it. The novel is set over seven days which is a really intense time scale and it works well for this story. This was a great start to the month.

2. A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow by George R. R. Martin

I’m slowly making my way through the Song of Fire and Ice series, but I’m in no real hurry to get to the end because I don’t want to be left hanging, waiting for the as-yet-unwritten next book. This is the third book in the series, and I found it to be a much easier read than the second book. I’m also a fan of the HBO TV show, so I already know where the story is headed, but of course there’s so much more detail in the books which is great.

3. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

I was so excited to get hold of a proof copy of this. And so early too! Big hugs to Walker Books for this one. I have loved Patrick Ness since I first read More Than This last year (?) and was really intrigued by the synopsis for this latest book: what if you’re not the hero? what if you’re just trying to get on with your normal life while all this is happening around you? I’ll be talking a lot more about this one nearer to publication date (Aug. 2015)!

4. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

This was one I acquired fairly recently and I was really in the mood for a book about dragons. However, I have to say, I was a little disappointed with it. I found it difficult to read and struggled to immerse myself in the characters or their world. This was largely down to the first person narration, I think, which was lacking in personality. I really wanted to love this, but it didn’t quite hit the mark for me. I’ve heard there’s going to be a sequel and I’ll probably still give it a go, but it won’t be high on my priority list.

5. No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

An intriguing psychological crime novel. I’ve already posted a review, so check it out for more of my thoughts on this one.

6. We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen

I was kindly sent this by Andersen Press and read it pretty much straight away. It’s a story told from the alternating perspectives of two teens, the geeky and positive-minded Stewart, and the popular but cynical Ashley. Stewart’s dad and Ashley’s mum are moving in together and so Stewart and Ashley must learn to get along. This is a funny and touching novel about a blended family and I really loved it (even though the ended is just a little bit cheesy – it works!).

we are all made of molecules

7. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

There are a number of fairytale inspired novels emerging onto the YA scene this year, and it’s not normally a genre I find appealing. This is loosely inspired by Beauty and the Beast without drawing too heavily on the fairytale and instead uses it as a base for a complex and gripping fantasy. I really enjoyed this and am already eagerly awaiting the second book!

8. Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie

My second Christie novel of the year. This is a collection of shorter cases and a fun light-hearted read. Somehow she always manages to withhold the solution to each case right ’til the end.

9. Dead Ends by Erin Lange

This was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize this year and I was looking forward to reading it. It’s a story about an unlikely friendship between a boy with Down’s syndrome and the school bully. This is an unflinching novel about bullying and well worth a read.

10. Darkmouth by Shane Hegarty

I read this primarily because it’s the Waterstones children’s book of the month for May and I like to be able to recommend it with full knowledge of the content. It’s action-packed and funny and aimed at a similar market to Rick Riordan’s books. I read this pretty much in one sitting and would absolutely recommend it for ages 8-13 (or older, like me!).

darkmouth

So, that’s it for April. I’m already doing fairly well with May even though it seems to be slipping past so quickly!

Review: No Other Darkness by Sarah Hilary

no other darkness

Publication date: 23/4/15
Publisher: Headline
ISBN: 9781472207722
Source: Bookbridgr

From the Richard and Judy bestselling author Sarah Hilary. The phenomenal Marnie Rome returns in the outstanding follow up to the critically acclaimed SOMEONE ELSE’S SKIN. Two young boys. Trapped underground in a bunker. Unable to understand why they are there. Desperate for someone to find them. Slowly realising that no-one will…Five years later, the boys’ bodies are found and the most difficult case of DI Marnie Rome’s career begins. Her only focus is the boys. She has to find out who they are and what happened to them. For Marnie, there is no other darkness than this..

Despite not having read the first in this series, the synopsis for No Other Darkness really captured my attention and thankfully I didn’t feel like I needed to have read the first book to understand what was happening in this one. The prologue is told from the perspective of the older of the two young boys, who is trying to be brave for his brother’s sake. I really enjoyed this character voice and would have liked to have heard more from Archie as the story progressed.

This novel has an incredibly complex plot with many layers and sub-plots, but despite this, it is put together well and there are no obvious plot holes. The pacing was good throughout as Hilary slowly feeds the reader clues. I doubted almost every character at some point and the novel continued to surprise me right through to the end.

I enjoyed the way Hilary handled the some particularly difficult characters and situations, using them to her advantage to add to the mystery and confusion of the novel. Overall, I think the characters were well-drawn, but I would have liked to have seen some stronger personalities. Although we learn a fair amount about the protagonist DI Marnie Rome throughout the course of the book, by the end I was still no closer to really understanding her as a character. I’m sure this would be helped had I read the first book featuring this character, but the nature of a good crime novel is that it should be able to be a read as a stand-alone. In addition, characters such as Clancy who was initially intriguing remained distant and I would have liked to have learned more about him as a character.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but I didn’t love it. In some ways it failed to deliver on its promises, for me, and it wasn’t quite what I expected. That said, the plot and characters are well-constructed and the crime suitably difficult to solve.

My First Official Book Unhaul!

IMG_0037 I posted back in January about my book hoarding antics and, at that time, I had 80 books on my TBR pile after getting rid of a large box full of books. Since then, I have bought a few books and received a number more as proofs/ARCs. It seems that for every book I read I replace it with two more unread titles.

Books I have read:

1. The Maze Runner by James Dasher – I bought a second copy as part of a set and so I no longer need this.

2. Half Life by Roopa Farooki – I read this and liked it, but I hardly remember it and definitely won’t read it again so there’s no point keeping it.

3. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracey Chevalier – another one I remember liking, but again I won’t reread it and can’t remember much about it.

4. Rhyme’s Reason by John Hollander – a quirky little book about poetry and language techniques. I bought it for my degree and it was semi-useful but I don’t need it anymore.

5. My Secret Sister by Helen Edwards and Jenny Lee Smith – a true story about two long-lost sisters. An impulse buy and an okay read, but it hasn’t stayed with me.

6. The New Poetry – I bought this for my degree and used it once, I think. I have read some of the poetry but didn’t particularly love any of it so it’s time for it to go!

I’m also getting rid of copies of Roxanna by Daniel Defoe (otherwise known as the most boring book ever), The Cloud of Unknowing and Other Works, and A Short Residence in Sweden/Memoirs of the Author of ‘Rights of Women’ which were all books I was forced to study for my degree and really didn’t like.

Books I have not read: These are books which interested me when I bought them but I probably won’t ever find time to read. All of these were bought for less than £1 each in various book sales so I don’t feel too bad about giving them up.

1. Brixton Beach by Roma Tearne – The blurb doesn’t really tell me anything about it and therefore doesn’t make me desperate to get stuck in.

2. The Way Things Look To Me by Roopa Farooki – I read Half Life and liked it, but didn’t love it and so I’m not too excited to read this.

3. A Taste For Green Tangerines by Barbara Bisco 4. Lucky by Alice Sebold – I didn’t realise this was an autobiography when I bought it, and I don’t really enjoy autobiographies.

4. Songs My Mother Never Taught Me by Selcuk Altun

5. The Music Room by William Fiennes

6. Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel – I bought this because I recognised the author, in all honestly. I read Life of Pi last year and didn’t actually like it. I’ll probably never read this.

I also have a few battered ex-library books I rescued from a library sale but am never going to read including: A Passage to India by E. M. Forster, My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurierand Free Falling by William Golding.


My current TBR pile stands at 81 titles, so I haven’t really made any progress there despite reading a number of books from the list. This wasn’t helped by having to read ebooks for two weeks last month, however, and so I’m still hopeful that I can half this list by the end of the year!

Top Ten Books I Recently Added to my TBR List

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week the theme is the top ten books you recently added to your TBR list. I already talk quite frequently about my TBR list and a recent Top Ten Tuesday asked for the top ten books I plan to read in Spring 2015. This week, I’ll list the ten books that I added to my collection most recently.

10. The Establishment by Owen Jones – I picked up a copy of this during my work experience placement and am currently about 80 pages in. I am pretty slow at reading non-fiction, especially if it is academic in tone, and so I’m letting myself take my time because I want to continue enjoying it rather than it becoming a chore. I think that part of the reason why I struggle to read non-fiction is because of the pressure to skim-read articles and books at university. It’s a type of reading that’s going to take some time for my brain to relearn.

9. Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – I don’t really know much about this, except that I was given it during my work experience because a colleague thought I would like it. It’s the first in series in which a woman is thrown back in time and meets her husband’s six-times great grandfather. From the blurb, this seems to be a bit too women’s fiction-y for my tastes, but I’ll keep it for a while and maybe give it a go.

8. Fourth of July Creek by Smith Henderson – Yet another one I got during my work experience. It’s about a social worker who attempts to gain the trust of “an undernourished, nearly feral eleven-year-old boy living in the wilderness”. This was a Waterstones Book Club pick for March and I have heard great things about it so I’m looking forward to reading it at some point.

hawley book dead7. The Hawley Book of the Dead by Chrysler Szarlan – The final book I got during work experience (they were very generous with the books!) this is an intriguing fantasy novel with a touch of romance. The cover for this one is lovely, and I don’t normally like red/black colour schemes on covers.    I may actually pick this one up fairly soon.

6. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga – I actually requested this on bookbridgr a couple of months ago but never got sent a copy so was really pleased when we got sent a proof at work. I’ve heard good things about this book and am looking forward to reading it soon,

5. Hold Me Closer by David Levithan – This is a spin-off novel about Tiny from Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan. I haven’t actually read WGWG yet but want to read it before I get to this, so this one might have to wait a while. (I received this as a proof which is why I own this and not WGWG.)

finding aubrey

4. Finding Aubrey by Sophie Kinsella – I actually picked this proof up for my mum who likes women’s fiction before realising it is YA. It’s a contemporary novel about a girl called Aubrey who can’t leave the house – I’m assuming she suffers from Anxiety or a similar condition at this point, but that may not be the case. I’m mainly just curious about this because Kinsella is such a strong adult fiction writer. This will have strong crossover appeal, but will hopefully find its place with a YA audience.

3. The Boy in the Book by Nathan Penlington – I requested this on bookbridgr over a month ago and just assumed I was too late with my request as I didn’t receive anything within two weeks. Then this came through my letterbox last week. As far as I know, it’s a true story about a second-hand book with lots of annotations by its previous owner. The author tries to track down the boy and find out what happened to him, and this is the result. This sounds really meta and I love things about form and structure and the idea of annotations and people leaving their mark so this intrigues me.

2. Seraphina by Rachel Hartman – This was found under some old boxes in the staff room at work and it has dragons in it. Enough said. I’m really feeling this kind of book right now, so it might jump up on my TBR priority list.

1. Stonebird by Mike Revell – This is about a boy whose Grandma has dementia and his family is basically falling apart. Then he finds an old gargoyle who starts telling him stories. It sounds quite similar to A Monster Calls and I’m looking forward to reading it soon.

These are the ten most recent additions to my shelves. Please let me know if you’ve read any of these – positive feedback might spur me on to read some of them sooner rather than later – and tell me your most recent TBR books in the comments.

Review: Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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Publication date: 7/4/15
Publisher: Penguin Books
ISBN: 9780141356099
Source: proof copy

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is one of the most talked about YA releases of the year so far, and with good reason.

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Funny, adorable, painfully awkward… this story perfectly captures the struggles of the modern teenager from blackmail and betrayal to a personal battle against a heteronormative society. Simon is a smart and engaging narrator and I really felt I could identify and empathise with him despite not having been in his situation myself. I enjoyed the readable tone of the novel; I’m always wary of letters/emails/text messages etc. in novels because it has become a very over-used trope, but I found the exchanges between Simon and Blue original and sweet and they really worked for this story.

In many ways, this book reminded me of John Green’s books, although Albertalli’s characters are more genuine and believable as teenagers. The mystery surrounding Blue’s identity is cleverly handled – every time I thought I knew who he was something happened to make me doubt myself. In the end, I was really pleased with his identity and it made a lot of sense without being hit-you-over-the-head obvious.

Simon is set to be one of the YA reads of the year and will appeal to fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, and David Levithan. This is a fabulous debut and one of my favourite reads of the year so far.

March Wrap-up

I can’t believe it’s the end of the month again already. March seems to have flown past and this is reflected in my reading this month – I haven’t read nearly as much as I hoped to.

1. Allegiant by Veronica Roth – I can absolutely understand why so many people dislike this final book in the Divergent Trilogy. I have to say, I found the story predictable and boring and the ending was highly unsatisfying. I really wanted to like this because the idea behind the trilogy is great, but it just didn’t quite do it for me.

the catalyst

2. The Catalyst by Helena Coggan – I first saw this in the free paper I get on the bus every morning and was intrigued by the synopsis and by the fact that the author is only fifteen years old. I enjoyed the plot and the world is fascinating. I’m looking forward to the sequel as I still have so many questions about this world.

3. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness – Adapted from ideas left by the late Siobhan Dowd, Ness tells a wonderful story about coming to terms with the loss of a loved one. A potent combination of the supernatural and human struggle, this book literally took my breath away.

the art of being normal

4. The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson – I bought this while I was  in London a few weeks ago as I happened to see a table of signed copies in Waterstones Piccadilly. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer to read it. This is an insightful portrayal of two transgender teenagers who are trying to work through issues of coming out, navigating relationships, and dealing with family issues. I really liked that there was more to their stories than the issue of gender and the ending was absolutely perfect for me. A must-read!

5. Are We There Yet? by David Levithan  – I borrowed this as an ebook from my local library service. It is a story about two siblings who don’t get on but are tricked into going on holiday together by their parents. Whilst this isn’t my favourite Levithan book, it’s a enjoyable read and I liked the fact that it focuses so closely on a sibling relationship, particularly between two brothers. We often see books about sisters, but there aren’t so many which really explore the emotional bond between brothers.

6. The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett – This is a childhood classic that I somehow missed out on, so I downloaded it as a free ebook. It’s a charming story of kind and clever young girl who loses her devoted father. This is a little dated for today’s audience, but a sweet and moral read nonetheless.

half wild

7. Half Wild by Sally Green – I was so excited to read this! I was at work when we got our first batch of copies in and I fangirled a lot. In front of my boss. This is the second in a trilogy (you can read my review of the first book Half Bad here) and I actually thought it was even better than the first book. I’m hopefully going to do a full review for this soon so I’ll save my thoughts for that, but I LOVED IT and can’t believe I have to wait a whole year to finish Nathan’s story.

8. Half Lies by Sally Green – this technically doesn’t count as a separate book as it is a short story that was printed at the back of my copy of Half Wild. It was released as an ebook before this though, so I’m counting it anyway! It is told in the form of journal entries by Gabriel’s sister Michele and gives us some background for the character of Gabriel and some explanation of how he lost his Gift – something that is key to the plot of the second book. I am glad this was printed as extra content in my copy of Half Wild as I probably wouldn’t have gone out of my way to read it otherwise. (Note: this extra content is only printed in Waterstones exclusive copies of the paperback, to the best of my knowledge).

Despite not reading as much as I wanted to, I’m very pleased with my reading choices this month as I enjoyed pretty much everything I read and found a couple of new favourites. Next month, I would like to read more books from my current TBR pile as I didn’t do so well with that in March. I still hope to get my overall list down to 40 TBR by the end of the year so I have a way to go yet!

Let me know your thoughts on any of these titles, if you’ve read them or want to read them. I’m falling a little behind with reviews and I can’t possible review every book I read but I hope to review a couple of these in full over the next few weeks. If there’s any one you’d particularly like to read a full review of then let me know.