31 October 2013

Review: Margot by Jillian Cantor

Margot by Jillian Cantor

Published: 3 September 2013 by Riverhead

Pages: 352 (paperback)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Anne Frank has long been a symbol of bravery and hope, but there were two sisters hidden in the annex, two young Jewish girls, one a cultural icon made famous by her published diary and the other, nearly forgotten.
In the spring of 1959, The Diary of Anne Frank has just come to the silver screen to great acclaim, and a young woman named Margie Franklin is working in Philadelphia as a secretary at a Jewish law firm. On the surface she lives a quiet life, but Margie has a secret: a life she once lived, a past and a religion she has denied, and a family and a country she left behind.

Margie Franklin is really Margot Frank, older sister of Anne, who did not die in Bergen-Belsen as reported, but who instead escaped the Nazis for America. But now, as her sister becomes a global icon, Margie’s carefully constructed American life begins to fall apart. A new relationship threatens to overtake the young love that sustained her during the war, and her past and present begin to collide. Margie is forced to come to terms with Margot, with the people she loved, and with a life swept up into the course of history.

My Thoughts

From the very moment I first heard about Margo, I wanted it in my hands.  I've said it a hundred times, but Historical Fiction is the genre I grew up reading - I love the insights into life in the past, the characters, the atmosphere - absolutely everything about it.  And although Margot is based on a non-fiction book, the fiction element was strong enough to have me obsessing about reading it.

I admit that I don't remember reading The Diary of a Young Girl although I do own a copy - iconic books are often the ones that I don't choose to read because I'm so fearful of being disappointed, but I don't think it would be considered essential to have read it first - and in some ways I'm glad I haven't.  Although it will be interesting to read it having read this, albeit fictional, book from Margot's perspective.

I had an overwhelming sympathy for Margot right from the beginning - having lost her family and even her own identity, she has ensconced herself in a safe, comfortable life in Philadelphia, and has, for the most part, packed away her past and concentrated on just blending into the background and making it through the next day.  As the story progressed, I really started to admire her as a character too - although cracks start to appear, she continues to hold everything together as best she can.

Cantor's creativity in re-imagining Margot's story was fabulous - it really made me stop and think about how secondary characters in non-fiction and in first person perspectives in fiction are usually very one dimensional because their side of the story isn't told.  I also wondered about Diary of a Young Girl, and how in becoming so famous, that book only tells part of the story of the Frank family as it is from Anne's perspective. 

The plot is not action-packed - when I finished reading and looked back on it, all that really happened was Margot's journey to confront her past and understand how it fit into her present.  But it was a page-turner nonetheless - Cantor sucked me right in to Margot's story and whenever I had to stop reading, I couldn't wait to get back to it.

Margot was incredibly creative, well thought-out and the characterisation was fantastic - I'd recommend this book to anyone.


29 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Scary Covers


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists!

HA!  I could really go to town on his one. I haven't read all of these, but they all LOOK scary.


Dead River by Cyn Balog - I thought this one was just eerie until I noticed the ghostie in the bottom left-hand corner
Mr Shivers by Robert Jackson Bennett - perhaps a little more subtle, but still spooky.
Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1) by Kendare Blake - The cover was the first thing I noticed about this book, and I HAD TO HAVE it on my shelves.
Meat by Joseph D'Lacey - Dark and attention grabbing, just like the book itself.
Blood Fugue by Joseph D'Lacey - These are NOT nice vampires.  Not a sparkle to be seen.
The Well by Peter Labrow - My worst nightmare on a cover.
Swan Song by Robert McCammon - I have a different version on my shelves, but I love the 1980's horror feel of this version.
Breeding Ground by Sarah Pinborough - Killer spiders?  You betchya!
Asylum by Madeleine Roux - Anyone without a face is automatically spooky!
The Murmurings by Carly Anne West - Yep, good things are not happening to this chick.

What are your favourite scary covers?

28 October 2013

Review: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Published: February 2012

Pages: 452 (paperback)

Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Young Adult

Source: Publisher for review

Synopsis

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

My Thoughts 

Code Name Verity is a book that immediately screamed READ ME the first time I saw it.  Apart from being historical fiction set during World War II, the lead characters are female - which is not exactly rare but there's usually one female and one male character (rinse and repeat).  Coupled with the fact that it's YA, which doesn't have THAT much historical fiction in comparison to other genres, I was really excited about it.  But I won't lie - although I hadn't read any in-depth reviews, I'd seen how other readers had rated it - and the reviews were pretty much extreme love or extreme boredom.

The story begins at the end.  Kind of.  And because of that, I didn't find it the easiest read, nor a particularly flowing narrative.  At times I actually felt like I was reading but not progressing at the rate I would have expected, not because it's a bad book, but because I found it pretty complex to get into.

As mentioned earlier, one of the things that appealed to me the most about Code Name Verity was the female characters - but what I didn't expect is the strength of their friendship and their bravery.   It's something that I didn't really appreciate until about 25% of the way through, and it only continued to consolidate itself the further I read.

The characters and their interactions were the highlight of Code Name Verity for me - although the setting was intriguing, and the storyline pretty jaw-dropping, the characters felt very real to me - and at times I completely forgot that they were fictional characters in a fictional situation.

There is a lot of airplane-speak and although I found it infinitely fascinating and Wein does a pretty fair job of making it easy to understand, I can see that it might be off putting for readers who are just not interested in it because it's a pretty heavy theme throughout the story.

I won't go any further into the plot because I'd be throwing spoilers around everywhere, but although I found it slow-going in some places, the action definitely picked up in the last third or so, and by the end I was completely emotionally invested in the story.  

Code Name Verity is intense historical fiction that at times feels a little more heavy than I expected it to be, but the characters more than made up for any stagnation in the plot and they kept me reading because I was so invested in finding out what happened in the end.

If you enjoy historical fiction with strong characters, I can definitely recommend Code Name Verity.  And if you start reading and feel a little lost, or get a little stuck, my advice would be to push on - the characters were really worth investing in.

27 October 2013

Showcase Sunday #59

Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

It's been a funny old week - after reading an unbelievable amount of books the week before, I had to go back to real life and do things other than read (boo!).  But on the plus side I've received some awesome books this week.

AND found out that there will be a second Every Day book - apparently from Rhiannon's persepective - yeah, that book scares me shitless already.

EGalleys
Autumn Rose (The Dark Heroine #2) by Abigail Gibbs (thanks to Harper)
Elusion by Claudia Gabel & Cheryl Klam (thanks to Harper)
Avalon (Avalon #1) by Mindee Arnett (thanks to Balzer + Bray)

Purchased
Six Earlier Days (Every Day #0.5) by David Levithan
Tomorrow (Yesterday #2) by C.K. Kelly Martin
Let the Sky Fall (Sky Fall #1) by Shannon Messenger

Have a fabulous week lovies!

25 October 2013

Review: This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Published: 17 September 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Pages: 288 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Contemporary, Realistic Fiction

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.

My Thoughts

This Song Will Save Your Life is a book that pretty much everyone I know completely adored.  In fact, it's a book that never would have been on my radar if it wasn't for the glowing reviews that it received from bloggers that I trust implicitly to be totally honest about how a book makes them feel.  So when it accidentally-on-purpose fell into my cart, I was so excited to read it.  

Elise is a character that I immediately felt a strong connection with - she's not popular, doesn't fit in and puts up with some horrendous behaviour from the other students at her school, but she has a burning passion for music, and can completely lose herself and ignore the world around her when she's plugged in.  And that is probably why this book was such a fabulous experience for so many people - being a teenager (and an adult if we want to get that deep) is hard, especially when you are different and for some reason that you can't fathom, you are ostracised, belittled and generally just treated like crap.  Relating to Elise was easy for me because I had similar experiences at school.

The surprise element in This Song Will Save Your Life for me was the musical element.  I hadn't connected the fact that she's wearing headphones on the cover with the mention of a band and DJ in the synopsis.  Elise has a passion for what I call PROPER music - not this manufactured crap (man I sound old), but music that you can sing out loud to, and the musical mentions throughout the book had me wanting to fire up my iPod and block out the world courtesy of The Cure.

It's not all doom, gloom and blocking out the world - my favourite part of This Song Will Save Your Life was seeing how Elise found her niche - people who liked her for who she was, appreciated her talent and made her feel valued and loved.  In that way, This Song Will Save Your Life has an important message to anyone that feels lost - there are people that care, and your passion can lead you to a happier place where you can be yourself.

One thing that I often bemoan in YA literature is the lack of parental involvement, or arsehole parents that might as well be absent for all the damage they are causing.  In This Song Will Save Your Life however, Elise's parents and family are all present, quirky and their love for Elise is obvious in their actions - plus they are pretty awesomely open-minded and supportive of Elise finding her feet.

This Song Will Save Your Life is a book that has a little bit of everything - music, fantastic characters, a little bit of romance (albeit slightly unconventional, but that's the best kind), family relationships and a plot that conveys an important message without being condescending or shallow.  

I'm not even completely sure why I'm not five starring This Song Will Save Your Life, but I honestly believe that there are a lot of people who will love this book even more than I did.  Read it!

24 October 2013

Review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1) by Kasie West

Published: 12 February 2013 by HarperTeen

Pages: 343 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Paranormal, Romance

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Addison Coleman’s life is one big “What if?” As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It’s the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie’s parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the “Norms,” or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it’s not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback’s girlfriend. When Addie’s father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she’s unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear. With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she’s willing to live through . . . and who she can’t live without.

My Thoughts

You know that moment you finish a book and think 'why the hell did I wait SO LONG TO READ THIS?' - that feeling is exactly how I felt about Pivot Point.  It's been sitting on my shelves since shortly after its release, and although it had received glowing reviews from nearly every YA reader I know, I still passed it over for other books on at least a dozen occasions.

It was only when I was 'browsing' (aka I have tried 4 or 5 books and they were all rubbish) my shelves for something I knew other people had loved that I decided it was time to get reading Pivot Point - and then I devoured the damn thing.

As I'm not a huge fan of paranormal novels as a general rule, I was a bit iffy about that element - sometimes they work for me and other times they don't - but luckily in Pivot Point although it wasn't my favourite part of the story, it works really well.  I think the key point is that it's believable - West has plausible explanations for the whole paranormal aspect - how they live, how they can be undetected and not be a flaming dystopian mess.

But by far, the stars of the show are the characters.  I loved Addie - she's a bookworm which automatically gets bonus points, but she also has a sarcasm that I really enjoyed, a determination that made me admire her, and a loyalty that made me want to be friends with her.  In other words, she's the kind of character I'd love to see far more often in YA - she's down to earth, likeable and feels like a real person.

Then there are the boys.  I'm not a fan-girl when it comes to book boys - I think I've used the phrase 'book boyfriend' a grand total of once, but all I will say is 'oh, Trevor'.  I loved him from the first moment he was introduced as a character - quiet but not grumpy, cute but not arrogant, damaged but not angry and the absolute perfect match for Addie.  All the while I was reading Pivot Point, I just wanted more of him, especially towards the ending when he has the most heartbreaking line pretty much ever (which I won't add here as it's a bit spoilery).

I honestly thought Pivot Point would be just another YA paranormal romance, but it was so much more.  There is also a thriller/mystery element which I didn't expect and yet I really really enjoyed it - for me it added an extra level to the whole package that made it just a fabulous read.  

If Pivot Point is languishing on your shelves waiting for 'one day' - go straight to your bookshelf right now (yes, NOW) and read it - it will definitely be worth your time!

22 October 2013

Top Ten Character Names I Love or Top Ten Unusual Character Names

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists!

I wasn't 100% sure how to approach this weeks' list - I didn't want to list names I didn't like in case I offended anyone, so I decided to pick names that I either immediately remember when I see the book, or names that I think are pretty.

The Memorable

Rose Justice - Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

It might be because her name is in the title, but I'm going to have a hard time forgetting Rose's last name because of the way it connected to the storyline.

Kippy - No One Else Can Have You by Kathleen Hale

No offence to anyone that's called Kippy, but it immediately made me think of kippers.....however it's a perfect fit for both the character and the book because it's quirky and pretty unforgettable.

Lex/Lexington - Croak by Gina Damico

Lex suits Lex perfectly - and I love the imagination behind her full name.

Katniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Because this one we will NEVER FORGET.  And it's unique.

Infinite Darlene - Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

Unforgettable character with an unforgettable name.

Penryn - Angelfall by Susan Ee

Unique and totally suits her personality.

The Pretty

Addison/Addie  - Pivot Point by Kasie West

Alina - Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Bria - Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

Aria Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Which character names are most memorable or pretty to you?

21 October 2013

The Final Count - #WWReadathon


Yesterday marked the end of the Wonderfully Wicked Read-a-Thon, hosted by My Shelf Confessions. Sad!

Now, when it comes to read-a-thon's, I'm either a reading machine or a procrastination machine.  I'm going to leave it up to you to guess which side of the fence I fell on by just showing you this:


No, you are not imagining things - I read twelve books in just ten days - I don't think this has ever happened!

The downside of reading so much is that I missed most of the social events :-( - next time I will work harder at having a healthy balance, because the social events are half the fun.

Anyway, here's the final list:
Survive by Alex Morel
I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia Bitton-Jackson
Nearest Thing to Crazy by Elizabeth Forbes
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Margot by Jillian Cantor
Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales
Until You're Mine by Samantha Hayes

Twelve books, 3781 pages!  Now that's going to help my 2013 reading goals no end.  Just gotta write the reviews now........

20 October 2013

Showcase Sunday #58 - Am I Feeling OK?


Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

So last week I had a crazy amount of books, and this week I have just one - but it sounds pretty interesting:



Suburban Legends by Sam Stall (thanks to Quirk Books)

So this means I have read 10 times more books than I accumulated this week.  Yes, TEN books.  It all started with Dewey's read-a-thon last weekend and since then, I've rarely been without book in hand.   It also means I've been a little MIA from the internet this week, but I'm going to try and balance things out a little more next week!

Happy Sunday!

18 October 2013

Review: A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger

A Trick of the Light by Lois Metzger

Published: 18 June 2013 by Balzer + Bray

Pages: 189 (hardcover)

Genre/s: YA, Social Issues, Contemporary

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Mike Welles had everything under control. But that was before. Now things are rough at home, and they’re getting confusing at school. He’s losing his sense of direction, and he feels like he’s a mess.

Then there’s a voice in his head. A friend, who’s trying to help him get control again. More than that—the voice can guide him to become faster and stronger than he was before, to rid his life of everything that’s holding him back. To figure out who he is again. If only Mike will listen.

My Thoughts

I've read several books about eating disorders in 2013, but A Trick of the Light is the first one with a male main character, and also the most unique.  The narrator of the story is not Mike, it is anorexia itself, which brings a completely different perspective.  

The story begins as Mike's life starts to fall apart - he's a pretty quiet, unassuming kind of kid, with one best friend and does well in school and in sports - but when his parents relationship starts to disintegrate, he turns to the voice in his head to help him have one thing about his life that he controls - his weight.
I loved the relationship between Mike and his best friend, Tamio in the beginning - although not perhaps the most obvious of friendships, they are drawn together by common interests, but as Mike's illness starts to worsen, he isolates himself from his old friends and the connection starts to weaken.  

Mike's parents, particularly his mother, are fairly present throughout the story, although they are caught up in their own issues for the most part, and although his mother does become more involved by the climax it did make me feel more sympathetic towards Mike that the people who should have loved him the most didn't realise just how ill their son was becoming until it was nearly too late.

It only took me a couple of hours to read A Trick of the Light, and that was actually my main negative about it.  At times it felt like things were moving along far too quickly, and although I can understand that Mike was vulnerable and the situation spiralled drastically, it felt like there were big chunks of time that were glossed over rather than given the attention they needed.    The upside is that I found this a very hard book to put down - I read it in practically one sitting, alternating between sadness and hopefulness.

Metzger is pretty unflinching in her writing - there's not a moment where it felt like the seriousness of Mike's illness was being made light of, and it's definitely a compelling story.  

17 October 2013

Review: Contagious by Scott Sigler


Contagious (Infected #2) by Scott Sigler

Published: 30 December 2008 by Crown

Pages: 438 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Apocalyptic, Horror, Science-Fiction

Source: Own library

Disclaimer: As this is the second book in the Infected series, there may be spoilers for Infected.

Synopsis

Across America, a mysterious pathogen transforms ordinary people into raging killers, psychopaths driven by a terrifying, alien agenda. The human race fights back, yet after every battle the disease responds, adapts, using sophisticated strategies and brilliant ruses to fool its pursuers. The only possible explanation: the epidemic is driven not by evolution but by some malevolent intelligence.

Standing against this unimaginable threat is a small group, assembled under the strictest secrecy. Their best weapon is hulking former football star Perry Dawsey, left psychologically shattered by his own struggles with this terrible enemy, who possesses an unexplainable ability to locate the disease’s hosts. Violent and unpredictable, Perry is both the nation’s best hope and a terrifying liability. Hardened CIA veteran Dew Phillips must somehow forge a connection with him if they’re going to stand a chance against this maddeningly adaptable opponent. Alongside them is Margaret Montoya, a brilliant epidemiologist who fights for a cure even as she reels under the weight of endless horrors. 

These three and their team have kept humanity in the game, but that’s not good enough anymore, not when the disease turns contagious, triggering a fast countdown to Armageddon. Meanwhile, other enemies join the battle, and a new threat — one that comes from a most unexpected source — may ultimately prove the most dangerous of all.

My Thoughts

Immediately after I finished reading the first book in this series, Infected, I had to continue with Contagious.  Although not your classic cliffhanger ending, I wanted to get to the next part of the story, and because I have read Contagious before, I knew that it was more action-packed, intense and gory apocalyptic horror just waiting for me.

Where Infected focuses on three main perspectives in Margaret, Perry and Dew, Contagious broadens to include a host of other unforgettable characters, some of whom are definitely not your normal baddies, and a disease that grows more and more brutal as the story continues.  

What I particularly enjoyed about the characters in Contagious is the development - Perry is still dealing with the events of Infected and the impact is intense.  As the book progresses however, he definitely develops into an even more admirable character and I really enjoyed seeing his relationships with the other characters grow.  For much of Infected he was flying solo, and it was the final piece of his character that fell into place.  

I also felt that I got to know Margaret as a character more intimately than I did after Infected, and it definitely warmed me to her, particularly as she struggled with some difficult decisions.  Knowing that she is the main focus of the next book in the series, this was a huge plus for me - if I hadn't found her to be more likeable than in Infected, it probably would have muted my anticipation for Pandemic.

Dew also continues to become more of a well-rounded character as he begins to let down the walls that he had in the previous book and connects with the other characters on a more personal level.  It felt like all three characters were completely invested in the storyline and in each other, and seeing that growth was incredibly satisfying.

One thing that really stood out to me in Contagious is the increased military presence.  Understandably, its not that prevalent in Infected which focuses far more on the initial outbreak, but it's also something that I don't find particularly interesting, although by my standards it was very well written and explained.  This is particularly where Contagious was a weaker book for me than Infected and I found the POV of the character most heavily involved in the military aspect to be the least interesting and I started to develop that nasty habit of rushing through a POV just to get through that part of the story.  This is all a personal preference of course.

The pacing of the story is fast yet detailed and once again the shorter chapters (and the chapter headings are pure genius by the way) made it difficult to put the book down.  The POVs switch quite often, which I know is a turn off for some people, but I like the fast-moving feeling that it gives the story as it fits with the pacing.  Contagious ends not with a cliffhanger but openly, leaving a way for the story to be continued, but enough to round off the book perfectly.

15 October 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Was 'Cajoled' Into Reading

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and The Bookish. I heart lists!

So I'm calling this weeks list 'cajoled' because although I'm too stubborn to be forced into reading something, I'm certainly susceptible to hype.  My list is books that I didn't think I'd ever really love, and that either one particular person convinced me it was unmissable, or the amont of gushing reviews convinced me that I needed to at least try.


1) Pivot Point (Pivot Point #1) by Kasie West - I requested an ARC, preordered a copy, and then just never got to it.  It was only when everyone told me how much I was missing by not reading it, that I decided to give it a try - and it was SO GOOD.

2) Shadow and Bone (The Grisha #1) by Leigh Bardugo - Daisy at Between the Pages sold me on this book when we met up in Amsterdam earlier this year.  Fantasy is rarely my thing, but I absolutely loved Shadow and Bone!

3) Ask the Passengers by A.S. King - It wasn't that I didn't WANT to read an A.S. King novel, more that I had just never gotten around to it.  But after Christina at A Reader of Fictions consistently said how good her novels are, I decided it was time - and I loved it!  Can't wait to read more A.S. King!

4) The Hallowed Ones (The Hallowed Ones #1) by Laura Bickle - I've also struggled to enjoy vampire books over the years, and I was so hesitant about it.  But Karen at For What It's Worth convinced me otherwise - plus it is set in an Amish community, which gave me an additional reason to enjoy it!

5) Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) by Susan Ee - This list is starting to reveal my book prejudices - I was never interested in Angelfall until a friend of mine told me I HAD TO READ IT.  Despite iffy experiences with previous angel books, I loved this one.
6) Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1) by Veronica Rossi - This is a group effort cajoling - I was so sick of dystopians when book 2 came out that I was tempted to just skip the whole thing.  But I enjoyed it so much - it's still one of my favourite YA dystopian series.

7) Every Day by David Levithan - I'd never read David Levithan before, and the paranormal-y aspect of the plot didn't really appeal to me.  Then everyone gushed all over my feed-reader and I caved.  Best decision ever!

8) The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman - I'd been meaning to read Gaiman for YEARS.  Lots of people recommended The Graveyard Book, especially on audiobook.  I now inform everyone that intends to read Gaiman to listen on audio.  

9) Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes - The first (and only) book I've ever read about the Vietnam war was highly recommended by a Goodreads group I belong to - I was completely intimidated by the size, but sped through it because it was just so good.

10) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - I'm not the biggest fan of contemporary YA, and the subject matter was something that was a little too close to home for a long time.  But when other readers assured me that other aspects of the book, such as the characterisation made it a hopeful story too, I worked up the courage to read it.

That's my Top Ten Books that I was 'cajoled' into reading and loved!

14 October 2013

Review: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller


The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Published: 7 August 2012 by Knopf

Pages: 416 (paperback)

Genre/s: Post-apocalyptic

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Hig, bereaved and traumatised after global disaster, has three things to live for - his dog Jasper, his aggressive but helpful neighbour, and his Cessna aeroplane. He's just about surviving, so long as he only takes his beloved plane for short journeys, and saves his remaining fuel. But, just once, he picks up a message from another pilot, and eventually the temptation to find out who else is still alive becomes irresistible. So he takes his plane over the horizon, knowing that he won't have enough fuel to get back. What follows is scarier and more life-affirming than he could have imagined. And his story, THE DOG STARS, is a book unlike any you have ever read.

My Thoughts

The Dog Stars came recommended to me by several apocalyptic-story loving friends, and after having it on my wishlist for more than a year, I thought it was time I read it for myself.  

At times it feels like The Dog Stars is trying to be TOO clever - it's certainly haunting and written in a unique way, but at times I felt so removed from what was actually happening it was difficult to pull myself back into the story.  The sentences are written in short bursts and the dialogue doesn't have quotation marks, which made it difficult for me to discern at times exactly who was speaking.  There is a reason given why Hig speaks in such short sentences, and at times it does make the story more haunting, but it also took quite a while for me to get used to.

The characters are fairly engaging,  but I found it difficult at times to understand and rationalise Hig's motivation for what he was doing and there is a fair whack of descriptions and dialogue about fishing and flying, although they were both presented in simplistic yet interesting ways.  Normally when a book has characters that have interests that are really far removed from my own I find it difficult to care, but there was no skimming over lengthy descriptions because they are actually in short bursts, so there is a positive to the short sentences.

His neighbour was a bit of an enigma - it was hard to understand his motivation as Hig didn't really go into any great depth as to how they came together other than running through the basics, and I would have liked to know more about him.  But their relationship dynamic was certainly interesting, and really made me think about how people that can be so different can work together in extreme circumstances.

As to the plot, it's pretty much what it says on the tin - Hig has freedom because of his plane, and he uses that to his advantage to scout the surrounding area and to go on his journey to find the other pilot that he hears, but although it doesn't move with a breakneck pace, it was interesting enough to keep me engaged and reading.

The Dog Stars is a book I'm glad to have read, but for me it wasn't anything very unique, other than the interests of the main character and the style took a bit of getting used to, but by the end I had come to appreciate the way that Heller had written it.  It's not the best post-apocalyptic book I've ever read, but it kept my attention and gave me some interesting food for thought.

13 October 2013

Showcase Sunday #57 - Goodbye Book Buying Ban!

Showcase Sunday is hosted by the fabulous Vicky at Books, Biscuits and Tea and is all about sharing our new books - beg, borrowed or bought.

All my 'I'm on a book buying ban' stuff goes completely out of the window this week.  Self-control is not my thing!


Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer
The Mockingbirds (The Mockingbirds #1) by Daisy Whitney
Are We There Yet? by David Levithan
Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan
Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn
A Possible Life by Sebastian Faulks
The Rig by Joe Ducie
Margot by Jillian Cantor
The War of the Wives by Tamar Cohen
Tigers in Red Weather by Liza Klaussman
Fire and Ash (Benny Imura #4) by Jonathan Maberry
Anomaly (Anomaly #1) by Krista McGee
The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford
This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales

Ebooks for review

Wake by Anna Hope (thanks to Random House)
Me Since You by Laura Weiss (thanks to MTV books)
Above by Isla Morley (thanks to Gallery Books)
Starbreak (Starglass #2) by Phoebe North (thanks to Simon & Schuster)

That's all for me this week - read on my friends!

12 October 2013

Dewey's Read-a-Thon Goals and Updates and All the Things!


Oh yes, it's time to stock up on the toothpicks, caffeintated beverages and snacks - let 24 hours of reading commence!  I'm super-excited to participate in my first ever Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon!

I'm going in totally list-less.  I KNOW everyone says that's the worst thing to do in a 24 hour read-a-thon but 1) I'm disorganised and 2) I'm lazy.  Let's do this!


Introductory Questionnaire


1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?


The Netherlands!


2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.


3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?


Popcorn - my favourite snack ever!


4) Tell us a little something about yourself!


I'm a book-loving Aussie who lives in the Netherlands - obsessed with zombies but I'll read pretty much anything!


5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?


This is my first Dewey's read-a-thon, so I'm looking forward to meeting other readers, checking out challenges and reading!


Mid-Event Survey


1) How are you doing? Sleepy? Are your eyes tired?


Being in Europe, I'd already been awake quite a while before we even started.  I'm definitely going to be crashing soon :(


2) What have you finished reading?


This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales and Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan


3) What is your favorite read so far?


Love is the Higher Law - I love David Levithan and it was such an emotional book!


4) What about your favorite snacks?


Popcorn.  Twice ;-)


5) Have you found any new blogs through the readathon? If so, give them some love!


Yep - another Netherlands book blogger (yay!) - Ciska's Book Chest


The Wrap-Up Questionnaire

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Hour six - I was starting to lose focus and the book I was reading was so dense I felt like I was reading the same page over and over.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

Anything by David Levithan - his books are usually quite short but pack a lot in.  Plus the writing is always beautiful.

3. Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

This was my first time, so I'm still getting through the newbie stage ;-)

4. What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

I enjoyed the mini-challenges - there was enough variety that it kept me entertained!

5. How many books did you read?

I finished three and started a fourth.

6.What were the names of the books you read?

This Song Will Save Your Life by Leila Sales, Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan, Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and started The Boy on the Bridge by Natalie Standiford.

7. Which book did you enjoy most?

Definitely Love is the Higher Law.

8. Which did you enjoy least?

Although I haven't finished it, I don't think I'm going to love The Boy on the Bridge.

9.How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

I will definitely participate next time - but only as a reader with better time-management skills ;)

Updates

Hour #1
Pages read: 102
Books completed: 0
Energy units consumed: 0
Feeling: Pumped!

Hour #2

Pages read: 86
Total pages read: 188
Books completed: 0
Energy units consumed: 1 coffee
Feeling: Chuffed I'm nearly finished the first book!

Hour #3

Pages read: 78
Total pages read: 266
Books completed: 1 (huzzah)
Energy units consumed: 0
Feeling: Yay, on to book two!

Hour #4

Pages read: 79
Total pages read: 345
Books completed: 1
Energy units consumed: Blackberries and an ice tea
Feeling: Book two nearly finished!

Hour #5

Pages read: 63
Total pages read: 408
Books completed: 2!
Energy units consumed: Fish & chip dinner - nom nom.
Feeling: Ready for a chunkster.

Hour #6

Pages read: 28
Total pages read: 436
Books completed: 2
Energy units consumed:  Ut oh, someone opened a bottle of wine....
Feeling: Overwhelmed - this is a dense chunkster!

Hour #7

Pages read: 42
Total pages read: 458
Books completed: 2
Energy units consumed: 1 'sip' of wine
Feeling: Better after swapping the dense chunkster for something easier!

Hour #8

Pages read: 76
Total pages read: 534
Books completed: 2
Energy units consumed: OK, two glasses of wine.  And a big bowl of popcorn.
Feeling: Back in the game!

Hour #9

Pages read: 54
Total pages read: 588
Books completed: 2
Energy units consumed: 0
Feeling: Distracted by TV.  Grrr!

Hour #10

Pages read: 66
Total pages read: 654
Books completed: 2
Energy units consumed: Um, more popcorn, grapes and coffee.  
Feeling: Like sleep is creeping up on me. gah!

Hour #11

Pages read: 72
Total pages read: 726
Books completed: 2
Energy units consumed: 0
Feeling: Very tired...this may be my last update today!

Hours #12 - #21

I'm not going to pretend I didn't intend to sleep that long because I totally did.  But I'm awake now *ping!*

Hour #22

Pages read: 66
Total pages read: 792
Books completed: 2
Energy units consumed: 1 coffee
Feeling: Ready to finish this book and MAYBE get to 1000 pages by the end of the readathon!

Hour #23

Pages read: 74
Total pages read: 866
Books completed: 2
Energy units consumed: Sausage roll - nom nom!
Feeling: 10 pages from the end of book three!

Hour #24 - the final results!
Pages read: 87
Total pages read: 953
Books completed: 3 - This Song Will Save Your Life, Love is the Higher Law and Code Name Verity
Energy units consumed: More coffee and some rice crackers.
Feeling: SO pleased that I got through nearly 1000 pages - I'm going to keep going for a few more hours and make up for my long sleep break.

Next time I'm definitely going to either try and sleep really late the morning before, or even take the day after the readathon off so I can participate for longer.

It was a huge amount of fun, so I really encourage people to join in, even if just for a few hours!

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