Friday, 27 February 2015

Review for The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

The Last Leaves Falling 
by Sarah Benwell 
Publisher: Definitions
Release: 29th January 2015
Genre: UKYA, Contemporary,
Diverse YA
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review



Synopsis:
"Japanese teenager, Sora, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future."

Review 
The Last Leaves Falling was one of my most anticipated books of 2015 and what a beautiful, moving book it turned out to be! The book is set in Japan and follows Sora a teenage boy living with ALS and his journey in coming to terms with his fate and making the most of now.

Sora’s illness keeps him pretty isolated. He spends most of his days at home with his mother because he can’t stand the pitying looks he receives when he goes out in his wheelchair. So it’s no surprise that he turns to an internet chatroom for company. It’s a place where he can be Sora again, just a regular teen, not the boy who is dying.

I really loved how this book portrayed internet friendships. It showed how the internet can be a lifeline for people who in the real world would be judged on appearance and lifestyle above who they are inside. I loved watching Sora’s internet friends become his real life friends. It showed how friendships you make online can be just as real and important as any other friendship.

I also loved Sora’s relationship with his family, especially his mother. Even though the book is told solely from Sora’s perspective and his mother was only a secondary character I could feel her love and pain for Sora on every page.

Sora has many meaningful relationships in his life but he doesn’t have a love interest which was a refreshing surprise for a book in this genre. All too often books about characters that are terminally ill show them finding their one true love to share their remaining time with and although that’s great it’s not entirely realistic. Instead I enjoyed the message of having all different types of love around you and the value of the love and support from family and friends.

The Last Leaves Falling put me in the mind of someone with ALS. It was raw and honest and sad and hopeful. I finished the book feeling broken and healed all at once. With a reoccurring theme of taking control of your own destiny no matter what life throws at you The Last Leaves Falling is the YA equivalent of “Me Before You”.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Review for The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest 
by Holly Black
Publisher: Indigo
Release: 5th February 2015
Genre: YA, Paranormal
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review




Synopsis 
"Near the little town of Fairfold, in the darkest part of the forest, lies a glass casket. Inside the casket lies a sleeping faerie prince that none can rouse. He's the most fascinating thing Hazel and her brother Ben have ever seen. They dream of waking him - but what happens when dreams come true? In the darkest part of the forest, you must be careful what you wish for..."

Review 
We’ve all played those games in the woods. The games that all children play with knights and faeries and monsters but what if those games that you grew up with, that you thought only existed in your imagination, were real?

The Darkest Part of the Forest was my first book by Holly Black and I was utterly enchanted from start to finish. I’m not usually a fan of books about faeries but this unique and atmospheric story swept me away to another time when I believed in magic and curses. It made me feel like a little girl again reading a fairytale.

In the town of Fairfold humans live out their lives side by side with faeries. The town is famous for it and every year attracts tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of the dark and magical creatures who live in the forest. There’s an unwritten rule that the faeries will leave the locals alone as long as they turn a blind eye when the odd tourist goes missing or falls prey to one of their wicked games.

Our main character Hazel and her brother Ben spent their childhood playing knights in the forest and whispering their secrets to the sleeping horned boy who has lay entombed in an unbreakable coffin for generations. Now they’re teens they’ve long since left their games in the woods behind in favour of games with boys and hearts instead. But when the horned boy that they both fell in love with so long ago awakens and the monster from the forest starts to attack locals Hazel and Ben learn that you’re never too old for games in the woods.

The Darkest Part of the Forest was my idea of a perfect read from the diverse characters, to the rich world building, to the atmospheric writing. It completely swept me away and left me in awe of how much detail and imagination was packed into one book. Highly recommended to lovers of the whimsical and the macabre who were all too reluctant to leave those childhood games behind as the night came creeping in.

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Review for The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater’s Daughter 
by Melinda Salisbury 
Publisher: Scholastic
Release: 5th February 2015
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review




Synopsis:
"Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she's engaged to the prince, Twylla isn't exactly a member of the court. She's the executioner.

As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she's taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla's fatal touch, avoids her company.

But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he's able to look past Twylla's executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla's been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen.

However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla's problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?"

Review
The Sin Eater’s Daughter was a book that I was really looking forward to reading in 2015. As soon as I read the synopsis I was sold and wanted to know more. I started reading this when I was after some much needed escapism and it did exactly that. I was swept away to a world of betrayal, sin and poison.

Twylla is daughter to the two Gods of Lormere. She’s immune to all poison and regularly ingests morningsbane so that her skin becomes venomous to touch. Twylla serves her kingdom by using her gift to execute traitors. She’s invaluable to the Queen and is betrothed to her only son, Prince Merek. But Twylla is all too familiar with the cost of sinning and being the palace executioner weighs heavy on her shoulders. Twylla accepts her life as the Gods will until she’s given a new guard, Lief, who challenges everything she thought she knew about fate and love.

My favourite thing about The Sin Eater’s Daughter was the rich Fantasy world that Melinda Salisbury has created. There are so many unique layers to this story from Twylla’s gift, to the beliefs and politics of the kingdom, to sin eating – a final banquet where the kingdoms sin eater feasts upon the sins of the deceased in order for them to move on to the afterlife. I was so intrigued by this world and the more I learned about it the more captivated I became.

My favourite character to read about was actually the villain of this story the Queen. She was so well developed and is the best antagonist that I’ve come across in a while. She surprised me with her ruthlessness and cruelty but at the same time I did believe that she was doing what she thought best for Lormere. She could certainly give Cersei Lannister a run for her money!

There were so many twists in this book that I didn’t see coming that really changed the direction of this story. The pacing of the book was well timed and I thought the ending was really strong whilst also sparking my curiosity for book two.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter was a rich mystery driven Fantasy that’s sure to keep readers enthralled with its surprising twists and unique world. Recommended.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Where I've Been and What I've Been Reading

Hello everyone,

So you’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been posting these last couple of weeks, I had an unexpected blogging break. If you follow me on social media then you’ll know why but I felt like I owed an official explanation here on the blog for those who don’t.

For the past year my beloved dog Dylan battled a very unpredictable type of terminal cancer. I had him for a lot longer than I expected given his diagnosis and he had a very happy life until the middle of January when he started to take a turn for the worse. I had to have him put to sleep on my birthday. It was a really hard day but I couldn’t be selfish and keep him suffering for the sake of one day. I wasn’t on the blog for that last week when he was poorly because he needed me a lot and then I decided to take some time out to grieve after he died. This might seem silly to some people but I’m a massive animal lover and to not have a dog anymore felt unnatural. I got Dylan eight years ago during a time in my life when I was at my worst with my mental health and he gave me a reason to get out of bed on days when I’d otherwise give up. He was a big personality and truly my best friend and closest companion. He has left a big hole in my life.

So that’s why I’ve been away. I’m at a point where I’m ready to return to blogging now but I’m not going to force myself to post if I don’t feel like it and will be taking a more laid back approach for a little while.

While I’ve been away I’ve been reading some fantastic books. I’ve taken a break from review books and have been picking up some older releases. I devoured the first two Wells and Wong books Murder Most Unladylike and Arsenic For Tea by Robin Stevens and I can’t recommend them enough. They provided some much needed escapism! I also recently picked up The Bone Season ahead of an event in Birmingham with the author Samantha Shannon last week and really enjoyed it. It’s perfect for fans of Daughter of Smoke and Bone but at the same time it’s very unique and different. I had a great time meeting Samantha and even plucked up the courage to ask her some questions! I started reading the second book The Mime Order over the weekend and I’m enjoying it even more than book one!

I’ve got lots of reviews lined up to share with you soon and I’m looking forward to getting stuck in to my review pile and getting back to blogging. I haven’t had the best start to 2015 but I’m looking ahead to spring.

I hope that all has been well with you and that you’ve been reading some fantastic books! Thanks again to everyone who sent me messages of support on Twitter and to everybody who has been so patient with me.

I’ll be seeing you soon,
Jess

Saturday, 17 January 2015

What Kind of Book Buyer Are You?

As a book lover I tend to visit a lot of bookshops regularly (as we do) and I’m also friendly with a few booksellers. Over time I’ve come to find that there are six (to my knowledge) types of people who buy books from a book shop. I thought that it would make a fun post to share with you my findings today.


The Researcher:- 
First off we have the category that I myself fall into. The Researcher knows what they like and what they want from their books. They spend hours reading reviews and have a carefully selected wish list. The Researcher rarely picks up books on a whim and they tend to know an awful lot about a book before reading it. The Researcher goes to a bookshop on a mission with a list of books in mind. Nothing beats the satisfaction of finding the book that they want in stock nor the disappointment on discovering that they don’t carry the book in question.

The Browser:- 
The Browser is my personal favourite kind of book buyer. They treat bookshops as their own personal cave of wonders. They can lose hours perusing the bookshelves, occasionally pulling out books that catch their attention. You can often find them sitting in one of the comfy chairs flicking through their findings before deciding if they want to buy. The Browser loves bookshops and the art of book shopping almost as much as they love reading itself.


The Cover Lover:- 
Whilst it’s true that the cover lover will often fall victim to a beautiful cover design it’s also the marketing on the outside of the book that can catch their attention. I’m talking about a snappy synopsis, a quote from a favourite author and award winner stickers. Cover Lovers can often be found in bookshops near public transport looking for a cover that catches their attention with promises from the press to be a great read. After all, they don’t have time to investigate much further; they have somewhere to be and are looking for a good book to pass the journey with.

The Bargain Hunter:-
The Bargain Hunter is perhaps the most easily recognisable type of book buyer. They are the ones clutching tightly to their smartphones blatantly looking for a cheaper offer online and comparing prices. If they are shopping in a group or with another person you may overhear them say “I think I’ll leave it, it’s cheaper on Amazon.”


The Newbie:- 
The Newbie can be a person of any age who has just discovered a book (or new genre) they love for the first time. Wide eyed they’ll excitedly dash over to the area in the store where they discovered their first love looking for something similar. Booksellers are the newbies new best friend as they ask for more books by the same author or similar titles.

The Wanderer:- 
The Wanderers are a diverse bunch. They usually exclude book lovers altogether and tend to come into a bookshop with their last intention being to buy a book. I’m talking about the civilians off the street looking for free Wi-Fi, coffee, shelter, and a toilet amongst other things. You know the type. They’ll do a full rotation of the shop whilst exclaiming to their friend that they “don’t really read.”


 So there you have it. The six types of people I’ve encountered whilst book shopping. Which group do you fall into? Have you ever come across a different type of book buyer?
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