31 January 2014

January Wrap Up

It's hard to believe the first month of the year is already over.  For 2014 I've set myself the goal of reading 160 books, but I'm also going to make my second attempt at 60,000 pages in a year. 

In 2013 I was 1361 meagre pages short of my goal - so I'm determined this year to at least do better, but hopefully actually get to the 60,000 milestone.


Books read in January

The Naturals (The Naturals #1) by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler 
Under the Dome by Stephen King 
From Notting Hill with Love...Actually by Ali McNamara 
The Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor
Blood by Tony Birch 
Mind of Winter by Laura Kasischke
Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1) by Susan Ee
World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2) by Susan Ee
Wild by Alex Mallory
The Vanishing Season by Jodi Lynn Anderson
The Half Life of Molly Pierce by Katrina Leno
Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca 

That's 13 books and 4,963 pages (37 pages short of the monthly goal BUT I'm halfway through two books right now so I know I'm past that!).

How was your start to the year?

30 January 2014

Review: World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2) by Susan Ee


World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2) by Susan Ee

Published: 19 November 2013 by Skyscape

Pages: 314 (paperback)

Genre/s: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy

Source: Own library

As the second book in the series, this review may contain minor spoilers.  Read my review of Angefall.

Synopsis

In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what's left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn's sister Paige, thinking she's a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels' secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can't rejoin the angels, can't take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?


My Thoughts

When I first picked up Angelfall, I admit I was a complete cynic.  Despite friends telling me I would love it I was so sure it would be some cheesy horrible angel romance that would give me an eye-roll headache.  But as soon as I started reading, I ate all my words because Angelfall was NOT a cheesy horrible angel romance - it was a dark, post-apocalyptic page-turner.

Therefore World After was one of my most anticipated 2013 releases - and as soon as the calendar ticked over to January I devoured Angelfall again and went straight on to World After.  

Picking up shortly after Angefall ends, with Penryn recovering from her encounter with the creepy scorpions in the hotel basement, World After jumps straight into the action, and as with Angelfall, was completely and utterly addictive.

I loved Penryn in Angelfall, and I loved her even more whilst reading World After - shes the type of heroine that I couldn't help cheering on and admiring simultaneously - tough, family-focused and so incredibly brave.  Despite the fact that Paige has been forever changed after her 'surgery', Penryn sticks by her completely.  There is also more revealed about Penryn's background, and what happened before the angel apocalypse, which explained so much about her character and why she acts the way she does.

The relationship between Penryn and Raffe isn't the focus of World After and this is not a book where there's a whole lot of mooning and pining - Penryn is too busy living through the angel apocalypse to spend too much time thinking about Raffe, and it was so refreshing to have a romance that didn't overwhelm the whole plot.

World After is DARK my friends - it's creepy, imaginative and more than a little spooky - there were parts where I was literally cringing with the horror of some of the things that happened.  Susan Ee has a wicked imagination for bringing nightmares to life, and I loved every single moment.

The one and only issue I have with World After is the wait until the next book in the series *insert crying face here*.   And if you haven't read Angelfall yet - DO IT!


29 January 2014

Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Horns by Joe Hill

Published: 16 March 2010 by Gollancz

Pages: 437 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Horror, Fantasy

Source: Own library

Synopsis

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It's time for a little revenge. . . . It's time the devil had his due. . . .

My Thoughts 

I read Horns for the first time in 2011, and although I'd never really intended to re-read it, I was looking for a horror book one dark and rainy night and decided I would give it another turn.  I remembered that although it wasn't particularly scary, it was a book that gave me a lot to think about, and I was interested to see how my reactions may have changed over the past two years.

Horns is essentially the story of one man, Ig, coming to terms with the murder of his childhood sweetheart, Merrin.  After a night of miserable drinking and mourning at the site of Merrin's death he awakes to find he has sprouted a nice set of horns.  

The part of the story that I remembered, and enjoyed just as much the second time around was the reaction that Ig's horns caused strangers, family and friends.  The horns allow Ig to read their innermost thoughts, and to tap into their memories - which although it sounds interesting comes with a pretty terrible price.  The synopsis for Horns actually doesn't really convey Ig's character very well - although he is from a priviledged background he's actually a very down-to-earth character.  Apart from his obvious love for Merrin, which is demonstrated through flashbacks to how they met and their relationship progressed, he's also a pretty average guy and that made him likable and incredibly easy to feel sympathy for.

At times I felt that there was a little bit too much of a focus on the past, and I wished there had been some more of Ig's mind-reading, but essentially the plot is, strangely, a type of love story.  Ig is obviously devastated by Merrin's death and has pretty much lost all his passion for life, and Hill did a good job of making me feel that Ig really was at rock-bottom.


There's a strong paranormal element in Horns, and at times it was a little too convoluted for my tastes, but there's obviously a lot of imagination that has gone into creating the plot and the actual resolution is strangely satisfying.


28 January 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I'd Never Want to Trade Places With


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

Alex in Ashen Winter by Mike Mullin

I hate winter with a burning passion, and snow even more so.  Therefore a new ice age would pretty much drive me to the brink - all that cold and white shit - eeeeeekkk.

Christine in Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson

Imagine not knowing who you are every morning when you wake up.  Not knowing who the person sleeping beside you is, not knowing who YOU are.  Not being able to read a book because you won't remember it, or watch a TV series because you won't remember what happened in the last episodes.  It would be so isolating and scary.

Ellie in Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to wake up and find your country had been invaded, not knowing what has happened to your family and having to watch people take over your home and farm....it gives me chills just thinking about it.

Liz in Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

Although Liz comes to terms with being in the afterlife, the parts where she can see what is happening to her family but can't communicate them just broke my heart.

Allie in The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Because, vampires.  And being a vampire.  And vampires.

Ig in Horns by Joe Hill

Although it would be kinda cool initially to hear what people are really thinking, it would also be pretty scary.  Especially hearing what those creepy dudes on the train are REALLY thinking.

Gene in The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

I don't think I could go through all the hiding and pretending, knowing that one slip up would be the end of you *shudders*

Robert in I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

Even more scary than the vampires, it's the isolation - being the only person left alive would be the most horrible torture ever.

Robie in The Raft by S.A. Bodeen

There are two things that freak me out more than anything - the thought of an airplane crash and being stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean.  Particularly, a lifeboat.  Just. No.

Lynn in Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis
As shallow and insignificant as it sounds, I really wouldn't want to live in a world with a severe water shortage because I couldn't have a hot shower every morning (well, not without a lot of work to get one).  I honestly don't remember a time when I left the house without a shower, let alone went days without one.

There you go - as well as being a Top Ten list, I've also confessed most of my greatest fears and my obsession with hot showers!

Which character would you never want to trade places with?

27 January 2014

Review: The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden

The Third Day, The Frost (Tomorrow #3) by John Marsden

Originally Published: 1995

Republished: 26 April 2012 by Quercus

Pages: 278 (paperback)

Genre/s: YA, Post-Apocalyptic, War

Source: Own Library

Earlier series reviews: Tomorrow, When the War Began and The Dead of the Night

This review is spoiler-free for the series

Synopsis

Life in the war zone enters its sixth month of heart-stopping tension in the latest installment of the internationally bestselling Tomorrow series.

In the third installment of the Tomorrow saga, the anything-to-survive existence of Ellie and her friends has sharpened their senses and emboldened their plans. They aren't merely on the defensive anymore; they're also striking back. Their strategy? Attack the enemy not just on land, but also on water. If they have any hope of sabotaging the formidable container ship at Cobbler's Bay, then stealth is a must, but so, too, is one very big explosion.

And if they fail, they may face a whole new kind of terror -- imprisonment.

My Thoughts

Every time I pick up another book in the Tomorrow series to re-read, I'm immediately hit by nostalgia for the first times I read them - and the third installment, The Third Day, The Frost (also published as A Killing Frost), is the book where shit gets really serious.

Picking up shortly after the end of book two, the teens find themselves struggling to decide what to do next, and how to continue avoiding the army and colonists that have invaded Australia.  This is a far darker book than the first two in the series, although none of them are a real picnic, this is the one where everything that has happened since the invasion really hits home - they all struggle with different psychological issues, and all their problems feel very realistic.

The characters also continue to examine their personal relationships, and especially Ellie is very honest about how she actually feels about being in a relationship formed during wartime.  This honesty is one of my favourite things about Ellie, and all of the characters in the book - even though these books were written in the 1990s, they are still relevant today because they feel so realistic.

Once again, the Australianisms and slang words came flooding back to me, and although they could potentially be confusing for non-Australian readers, Marden's use of this terminology makes it easy to work out what is actually meant - or at very least would make me curious to look them up and see what they actually mean.

This series is so intensly readable - the plot lines move at a fast pace, the characters are so realistic and it always makes me just a little homesick.

26 January 2014

Showcase Sunday #67



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.

I survived my first week back at work (being a grown up is tough!), and read some great books. It's pretty much the only redeeming feature of winter - lots of time snuggled up in a blanket with a good book!
For review
Summer I Wasn't Me by Jessica Verdi (thanks to Sourcebooks Fire)
The Dark Inside by Rupert Wallis (thanks to Simon & Schuster Children's)
And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard (thanks to Delacorte Press)
Sunrise (Ashfall #3) by Mike Mullin (thanks to Tanglewood Press)
The Fever by Megan Abbott (thanks to Little, Brown and Company)
Pandemic by Yvonne Ventresca (thanks to Sky Pony Press)

Ebooks Purchased
Rivers by Michael Farris Smith
The Reaping (The Burn #3) - Annie Oldham

Happy Sunday and have a great week!

25 January 2014

Audiobook Review: Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin


Golden Boy by Abigal Tarttelin

Published: 21 May 2013 by Atria Books

Genre/s: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, GLBT

Pages: 352 (hardcover)

Audio version

Published: 16 May 2013 by Whole Story Audiobooks

Length: 13 hours, 27 minutes

Narrators: Toby Longworth, Penelope Rawlins, Antonia Beamish, Oliver Hembrough

Source: Own library

Synopsis

The Walker family is good at keeping secrets from the world. They are even better at keeping them from each other.

Max Walker is a golden boy. Attractive, intelligent, and athletic, he's the perfect son, the perfect friend, and the perfect crush for the girls in his school. He's even really nice to his little brother. Karen, Max's mother, is a highly successful criminal lawyer, determined to maintain the façade of effortless excellence she has constructed through the years. Now that the boys are getting older, now that she won’t have as much control, she worries that the façade might soon begin to crumble. Adding to the tension, her husband, Steve, has chosen this moment to stand for election to Parliament. The spotlight of the media is about to encircle their lives.

The Walkers are hiding something, you see. Max is special. Max is different. Max is intersex. When an enigmatic childhood friend named Hunter steps out of his past and abuses his trust in the worst possible way, Max is forced to consider the nature of his well-kept secret. Why won't his parents talk about it? What else are they hiding from Max about his condition and from each other? The deeper Max goes, the more questions emerge about where it all leaves him and what his future holds, especially now that he's starting to fall head over heels for someone for the first time in his life. Will his friends accept him if he is no longer the Golden Boy? Will anyone ever want him — desire him — once they know? And the biggest one of all, the question he has to look inside himself to answer: Who is Max Walker, really?

My Thoughts

It had been about six months since I had listened to an audiobook, and I was desperately searching for the Right One to get me back into it.  And when Christina mentioned Golden Boy was fantastic, I knew I must be onto a winner - firstly it sounded fabulous, and secondly Christina is probably just as particular about narrators as I am.

Told through multiple POV's, Golden Boy is the story of Max - who is intersex and raised by his parents as a boy.  Quite secure with himself, Max is a golden boy - good at sports, popular and beloved by his mother, Karen.  It's only when his friend Hunter does something completely horrible to Max, is he forced to look at who he is, how he fits into the world, and what his future may hold.

Max is incredibly likable as a character - although he excels at anything he sets his mind to, he's a genuinely nice person - he spends a lot of time with his younger brother, who is Max's complete opposite, treats his parents with a lot of respect and love, and genuinely tries to do the right thing.  It was impossible not to want the very best outcome for him both in terms of the plot of the book and for his future.

Both of his parents, Karen and Steve, have their flaws, as all realistic parental characters should.  Karen tends to over-control a situation and Steve lets her pretty much rule the roost - what Karen says, for a majority of the book, is what goes - but it doesn't make her unlikable because her intentions are always to protect her children, no matter what.

The relationship that I particularly loved was that between Max and Sylvie.  Sylvie is a slightly unconventional girl, who although is friends with popular kids, also comes across as a bit of a loner.  Her number one priority is the people she loves, not what is the cool thing to do, and I had an unlimited amount of respect for how she handled absolutely everything that happened during the course of the book.

What Tarttelin does best though, is to get inside of heads of the characters.  Whether they are good, bad or somewhere in the middle, they are consistent and realistic - it felt like I was listening to real people tell their story, rather than actors voicing a book.  Particularly tense moments are just that - tense, page-turning and completely absorbing.  She also handles the subject of intersexuality, and all the medical and psychological aspects without resorting to dramatics to get the point across - the characters really tell the story themselves through their actions.

The narration is absolutely perfect - all the narrators play their part perfectly, the emotions are conveyed in a way that felt realistic and the characters really came to life through their voices.


I will unhesitatingly recommend this book to anyone - it's as close to perfect as they come.


24 January 2014

Australia - the good, the better and the best

So I've just returned from this little vacation.....OK, it was a huge vacation, one I'd been looking forward to for more than three years - 56 hours, 10 flights, four hotels and a massive flood of tears in Sydney airport later, I'm back and ready to tackle the rest of the winter and save up all my pennies to get back there asap.

We left Amsterdam on 22 December, and after a brief stop-over in Sydney, arrived in my hometown, Hobart, on Christmas Eve.  My dad and step-mum hosted a Christmas Eve dinner for us, with two of my brothers, their partners and my niece and nephew (who I met for the first time), before everyone came back on Christmas Day morning for my dad's famous egg and bacon muffins and SUNSHINE!  Yes, it was 28 degrees celcius - Dave's first ever summer Christmas really turned it on!

Christmas sunshine!

After all the Christmas excitement, we escaped to the city for two nights - attending Taste of Tasmania (a food festival celebrating Tasmanian produce), wandering around my old stomping ground and eating the best seafood in the world (I am totally unbiased!)














Although I lived in Australia for the first 25 years of my life, I've never been to the Great Barrier Reef - and as Mr Sykes needed some sunshine I took it to the extreme and we jetted off to Cairns for four days, including for New Years Eve.  Every day it was more than 30 degrees, humid and sunny and we crisped up a treat, especially whilst enjoying the reef - it was AMAZING.



















After our roasting, we jetted back south to my favourite city (after Hobart) - Melbourne!  We spent a day at Melbourne Zoo (of which I have no pictures, Mr Fancy Camera has yet to upload them and share with me), and two other days just wandering around and re-embracing a city we both love.  



















After stuffing ourselves stupid (and eating in the same pub three times in FOUR days), it was time for the big event - The Wedding.  It was so awesome seeing my brother get married, especially with his children there, and a special mention of my mum during the ceremony was so special.  I felt incredibly honored to be part of such a fabulous day, and the weather was amazing!

In a sneaky (but ill-disguised) attempt to convince Mr Sykes we need to move to Australia asap, I miraculously caught the bride's bouquet and Dave caught the garter.  Now that's some kind of pressure ;)



















And then it was time to go home and I won't lie - I bawled my eyes out.  Every time I leave Australia it gets harder and harder - I honestly don't think I could handle just going back for a vacation next time - it will need to be for reals.

And this was BEFORE the tears even started!
And by the end of the holiday, we were selfie pros.

And that was my vacation!  It was awesome, amazing, wonderful, calorific and reminded me just how much I love Australia.  



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