MINI REVIEWS: August 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves
Heartbreaking, charming and endlessly hilarious, I closed the covers of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves with a faint smile flickering across my face. If you ever want a reminder of what a good book feels like, pick up Karen Joy Fowler's latest release: a stunning tale of love and loss, depicting the intricacies of family life.

Author: Karen Joy Fowler | Publisher: Serpent's Tail | Pages: 323 | Source: Bought |

Meet the Cooke family. Our narrator is Rosemary Cooke. As a child, she never stopped talking; as a young woman, she has wrapped herself in silence: the silence of intentional forgetting, of protective cover. Something happened, something so awful she has buried it in the recesses of her mind.

Now her adored older brother is a fugitive, wanted by the FBI for domestic terrorism. And her once lively mother is a shell of her former self, her clever and imperious father now a distant, brooding man.

And Fern, Rosemary’s beloved sister, her accomplice in all their childhood mischief? Fern’s is a fate the family, in all their innocence, could never have imagined.

MY THOUGHTS: From Rosemary's engaging narrative to the beloved Fern, from the enigmatic Lowell to the wild card Harlem, We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves has an unforgettable cast. Yet, what makes them unforgettable is not themselves, but how they interact with one another. Fowler delves deep into the theme of sibling loyalty, presenting the complexities of Rosemary, Fen and Lowell's relationships. But she also sets out to present a friendship like no other; believe me when I say the relationship between Harlem and Rosemary is a highlight indeed.

Told through scattered memories, We Are Completely Beside Ourselves is an enthralling read. Rosemary, our narrator, is just charming and – as you realise at the end – nobody else could have told this tale but her.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves is a profound novel, accomplished in all aspects, complete with raw and interesting characters. Simply life-affirming.

MY FAVOURITE QUOTATION: “Language does this to our memories – simplifies, solidifies, codifies, mummifies. An oft-told story is like a photograph in a family album; eventually, it replaces the moment it was meant to capture.”


The Queen of the Tearling has everything needed for a good fantasy novel – a brilliant protagonist, a throne to fight over, an intriguing plot line – and, for the most part, it is a good fantasy novel. My only problem? It was too rough around the edges.

Author: Erika Johansen | Publisher: Bantam Press | Pages: 448 | Source: Borrowed |

Kelsea Glynn is the sole heir to the throne of Tearling but has been raised in secret by foster parents after her mother – Queen Elyssa, as vain as she was stupid – was murdered for ruining her kingdom. For 18 years, the Tearling has been ruled by Kelsea's uncle in the role of Regent however he is but the debauched puppet of the Red Queen, the sorceress-tyrant of neighbouring realm of Mortmesme. On Kelsea's 19th birthday, the tattered remnants of her mother's guard – each pledged to defend the queen to the death – arrive to bring this most un-regal young woman out of hiding…

And so begins her journey back to her kingdom's heart, to claim the throne, earn the loyalty of her people, overturn her mother's legacy and redeem the Tearling from the forces of corruption and dark magic that are threatening to destroy it. But Kelsea's story is not just about her learning the true nature of her inheritance – it's about a heroine who must learn to acknowledge and live with the realities of coming of age in all its insecurities and attractions, alongside the ethical dilemmas of ruling justly and fairly while simply trying to stay alive.

MY THOUGHTS: Erika Johansen's debut is intriguing indeed – complete with assassins, murder plots and a young queen claiming her throne. With no romance (so refreshing!), Johansen focusses heavily on the characters and plot: perfect for anyone who wants an old-fashioned 'good vs. evil' fantasy tale. And, whilst there was nothing bad about The Queen of the Tearling, nothing bad at all, I found myself saying too many elements were just 'satisfying' – nothing more, nothing less. Whilst the protagonist was wonderful and the plot line solid, I can't say the writing style or pacing 'wowed'.

But, to end on a positive, the best part of Erika Johansen's debut was the ending. Compelling, thought-provoking and empowering to no end. I'll definitely be picking up the next book in the series.

MY FAVOURITE QUOTATION: "As the lovely water laps her ears and throat, moves inside her shorts, slips across her fragile ribs, Pearl grins, thinking she hears laughter, and raises her arms to the just-glimpsed sky. These are some of the reasons she comes to the woods."


The Library of Unrequited Love 
In short, The Library of Unrequited Love is about this: a woman who has a lot to say but is never given the chance. Yet, within the pages of Divry's debut, she's given that chance, her innermost thoughts flowing out in a skirmish of wit and oddity. The Library of Unrequited Love is a book for all readers willing to set aside half an hour to listen to the ramblings of one very, very outspoken librarian. I definitely recommend.

Author: Sophie Divry | Publisher: Maclehose Press | Pages: 95 | Source: Borrowed | 

One morning a librarian finds a reader who has been locked in overnight.

She starts to talk to him, a one-way conversation that soon gathers pace as an outpouring of frustrations, observations and anguishes. Two things shine through: her shy, unrequited passion for a quiet researcher named Martin, and an ardent and absolute love of books.

A delightful flight of fancy for the lonely bookworm in all of us…

MY THOUGHTS: Perhaps the best thing about The Library of Unrequited Love is that it's different to anything I've read before in so many ways. Told through second person, Divry's experimental style leads to an engaging, thought-provoking and delightful read. Stylistically it's perfect.

The librarian herself is a fully fleshed out character with odd quirks and thoughts. She's a truly interesting person. My only problem with The Library of Unrequited Love? At only 95 pages, when I reached the end, I needed more. The end feeling is comparable to eating a small but delicious meal, knowing that later on you'll still be hungry. But, overall, The Library of Unrequited Love is a short and sweet debut worth all the reads it can get.

MY FAVOURITE QUOTATION: “Love, for me, is something I find in books. You're never alone if you are surrounded by books”


Have you read any of them? What did you think? Are you planning to read any of them?

BOOK COVER LOVE: All-Time Favourites

I love book covers – perhaps more than a reader should. Maybe this is because I'm a fan of design, or maybe it's because the idea of one image capturing the essence of a book is all too intriguing. But, in short, I do love a good book cover. (Though I also have a tendency to hate some book covers, especially those featuring photos of people!)

MY TOP THREE ALL-TIME FAVOURITE BOOK COVERS:

HONOURABLE MENTIONS (I REALLY DO LOVE THESE ONES TOO):

WHAT I LOVE TO SEE IN A BOOK COVER:
  • With colour schemes, I either love dark, subdued shades with dashes of another colour (e.g. with The Night Circus, the colour scheme is black and white with splashes of red) or bright, autumnal colours. 
  • For the image, something bold and striking that really captures the essence of the book is perfect (e.g. the circus for The Night Circus, Faina bend the tree for The Snow Child and the palace for Shadow and Bone).
  • Sweet little fairytale-esque illustrations also draw me towards a book (see The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairytale Land in a Ship of Her Own Making).
  • A creepy something-is-not-quite-right-image is also intriguing (see Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children and Idiopathy)
  • Also, TREES. I really like trees on covers (for some reason). Especially the tree on the cover of The Magician King, with all those autumnal colours tied in: GORGEOUS.
  • Stunning illustrations with a Gothic element to them are also right up my street (e.g. that beautiful edition of Jane Eyre and also The Too-Clever Fox)

Do you have a favourite book cover? What style of book cover are you drawn to? Also, would you be interested in 'Book Cover Love' becoming a regular feature?

10 Reasons to Read Mistborn

I finished The Hero of Ages (#3) a few days ago: PERFECTION. All trilogies should end like Mistborn did. So. Good.

I go through phases of being incredibly obsessed with different trilogies at different times. My current obsession? Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson. Now, where to begin? This trilogy is EVERYTHING I love about fantasy. Sanderson embraces the genre with open arms, encompassing all different elements: it seriously has EVERYTHING. Believe me when I say Mistborn is not a trilogy you want to miss out on. Here are ten reasons you should read it:

1) Kelsier and his crew
Kelsier, oh Kelsier. What a legend. Criminal mastermind, fatherly figure for Vin, leader of the revolution… he's just brilliant. I genuinely can't remember the last time I encountered a character who's quite as loveable as Kelsier.

The brilliance of Kelsier:
"Ah, but being an annoyance is something that I am very good at. In fact, I'm far more than just a 'mild' annoyance – people tell me I can be downright frustrating. Might as well use this talent for the cause of good, eh?"
"There's always another secret."
"Foolhardy?" Kelsier asked with a laugh. "that wasn't foolhardy - that was just a small diversion. You should see some of the things I'm planning to do!

Not to mention all of his thieving crew are awesome too. Breeze, Ham, Dockson… etc. Kelsier's crew are a band of charismatic and charming rogues of the mayhem causing kind. The dialogue between them all is so dynamic and it's great characters like this that make Mistborn such an enjoyable trilogy.

2) Allomancy 
Allomancy is perhaps THE BEST system of magic I have ever came across within the fantasy genre. It's the kind of magic system that has me jumping-up-and-down excited – it's just SO original.

If you like magic, READ MISTBORN. Especially if the concept of a 'mistborn' – somebody who uses the magic of the metals – intrigues you. ;)

3) World-building
Okay, so the world-building is IMMACULATE. Sanderson draws the reader in with concepts as intriguing as a world where ash falls from the sky and a swarm of mist creeps up at night.

It's so easy to picture each detail of the Final Empire because Sanderson describes them so well. Yet, he doesn't describe them through plain prose, but through the reactions of the characters – the Skaa slaving in the pits as the ash falls upon them & Kelsier training Vin in the mist.

Also, LOOK AT THESE COVERS. Gorgeous or what?! The designer did a more than excellent job.
4) THE DETAIL 
This is one of the best aspects of the trilogy. Sanderson has this wonderful way of introducing such intricacies and complexities without falling into the trap of info-dump.

And, with books so long, there's certainly a lot of information crammed in without it ever feeling like too much. Seriously, with Mistborn, there's just SO MUCH TO LOVE.

5) Vin
As a heroine, Vin is so easy to warm to. She's the underdog – a street urchin who works in underground thieving crews. She's driven by this sheer dose of curiosity (which I can't help but admire!) flawed only by her naivety and stubbornness.

Her backstory is also fascinating and, as a protagonist, you can't help but root for her!

6) Fight scenes
This may seem like a funny thing to mention, BUT, given how incredibly dull fight scenes can be, Brandon Sanderson definitely writes them with such flair. Part of what makes them so gripping is the way Sanderson combines the battle scenes with allomancy [see point 2]. With this system of magic, the battle scenes flow so beautifully and keep the reader intrigued. Also, the way Vin fights kind of reminds me of Celaena from Throne of Glass!

7) Unpredictability
I'm 100% blaming Kelsier for this one! Let's flash back to a quotation I used above:

"There's always another secret."

And, yep, in Mistborn, there always is. I have to admit, half the time whilst reading the trilogy I had NO CLUE what was going to happen – and that's so refreshing.

8) Prophecies, myths & Legends
Mistborn reaches this wonderful point where it's so endlessly original and well-developed that it can start to have its own inner myths and legends (e.g. the Well of Ascension and the Hero of Ages). And there's something about having prophecies within a story that just makes everything even more magical and even more intriguing.

9) House conflicts
Okay, so I personally love this aspect of Mistborn – it just adds a whole other dimension! You can just tell how detailed Mistborn is when the royalty have a system of houses (Great Houses of Luthadel). And the conflicts between these houses are fascinating! Hearing all the extra info at Royal Balls was so entertaining and made everything feel SO REALISTIC.

Also, did you see what I just wrote? ROYAL BALLS. Those scenes were a lot of fun.

10) THE PLANS/SCHEMES
Mistborn is full to the brim with wacky schemes and plans that are so entertaining to see carried out. If you like complex schemes then you'll love Mistborn!

Have you read Mistborn yet? Are you as obsessed as me? Have I persuaded you to start? (I hope I have!)

REVIEW: We Were Liars

In all honesty, We Were Liars is not a book I thought I'd enjoy. But a couple of evenings ago I was sat outside with a cup of tea, and, as the night stole the remaining beams of sunlight, I felt the urge to begin it. So, I got out my Kindle, and there it was, a little parcel, full of secrets and lies, ready to be unwrapped. And what a surprise it was.

Author: E. Lockhart | Publisher: Hot Key Books | Pages: 228 | Source: Bought |

We are the Liars.

We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.

We are cracked and broken.

A story of love and romance.

A tale of tragedy.

Which are lies?

Which is truth?

MY THOUGHTS: We Were Liars is a book that I felt very involved with. It's a book that will make you want to scream, cry, tear your hair out and throw the book across the room… but in the best way, of course. We Were Liars is a book to be devoured in one sitting and it's a book to remember. We Were Liars is a book that will confuse the reader, but, ultimately, leave you in awe.

TWENTY LIES ABOUT WE WERE LIARS:
 The ending is predictable, you'll 100% see it coming.
 The characters are bland and you can't distinguish between them.
 It's a happy, normal book about happy, normal people.
 You'll LOVE the Sinclair family.
 You won't care what happens.
 It's totally forgettable.
 Every character is 100% honest all the time.
 It doesn't mess with your mind.
 You won't be up all night reading it.
 The narrator? She's totally reliable.
 Around page 200, everything is butterflies, marshmallows and rainbows.
 It's over-hyped.
 You won't force all your friends to read it.
 You won't force all your family to read it.
 You won't wish you wrote it.
 It has a sweet fairytale "happily ever after" ending.
 It will take you forever to read.
 You'll be bored throughout.
 You'll finish it smiling.
 It's an awful book.

I don't want to say too much more about We Were Liars because the best thing to do when reading this book is to leave the path open and to wander along it with no knowledge of where you'll arrive.

Favourite Quotations:
"She confused being spartan with being charitable, and gave away her possessions without truly doing good with them. She confused being sick with being brave, and suffered agonies while imagining she merited praise for it. She confused wit with intelligence, and made people laugh rather than lightening their hearts or making them think."

In One Word?
Why? 
The entirety of We Were Liars in shrouded in mystery and intrigue. In a book where you can hardly tell the difference between what's truth and what's a lie, secretive is definitely the best word to describe what lies within.


DISCUSSION: I Am a Mood Reader


What Is a Mood Reader?
A mood reader is a reader who chooses what they read in response to their current state of mind. E.g. If they're in the mood for a contemporary YA set in the summer, they will disregard all other books on their list of unread books and read a contemporary YA set in the summer.

I Am 100% a Mood Reader.
I can be an incredibly fussy reader and I'm very specific about which books I read and when I read them. Most readers read books they think they'll enjoy, but mood readers have to wait until the perfect moment to read each book. And, for me, and most probably other bloggers, this can be problematic, especially when I've been sent ARCs from publishers which have a deadline.

HOW MOOD READING AFFECTS MY READING (PROS AND CONS)

PROS of mood reading
 I enjoy books that, any other day, I would hate. For example, We Were Liars didn't look like 'my thing'. 364 days out of 365, I would have hated it. BUT, because I read it at exactly the right moment in time, exactly when I was craving a YA contemporary/romance/mystery with exactly E. Lockhart's style of writing, I enjoyed it.

 There's no better feeling than reading a really good book at exactly the right moment in time. I mean, the first time I read The Snow Child, it was snowing outside, I had a warm cup of hot chocolate next to me and I was just craving a beautifully written, fairytale-esque novel. IT WAS PERFECTION.

 I normally have a good idea of what I should read next. For instance, if I know I want to read a historical fiction crime thriller, there's only so many books on my shelf to choose from.

 I, generally, enjoy books more because I know how to make the most out of them. I try to read each book on my TBR at just the right moment, meaning I generally enjoy books more than if I just read them in a systematic order.

CONS of mood reading
I don't always enjoy books as much as I should  For example, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. Whilst there were several other factors that affected my enjoyment, I can't help but think that had I been in the mood for a vampire novel at the time, it could have at least moved up to 3.5 stars.

SOMETIMES, only sometimes, I have to force myself to read ARCs [advanced reader copies] I'm not in the mood for just so I can reach the deadline. On occasions, I've put off reading ARCs because I've been waiting for the right moment… and that moment never really came.

When I'm really anticipating a book and I buy it on the release day, I can't always begin straight away. This is why I haven't read Ruin and Rising yet. I'm not in the mood for it quite yet and, because I love the series so much, I don't just want to read it any time. I have to wait for the perfect moment.

My mood can change mid-book so I end up switching books a lot. This is a pain because I end up reading certain books over a long period of time (e.g. Rose Under Fire).

Are you a mood reader or not? Or maybe you're somewhere in between