Friday, 9 October 2015

Reading Outside of My Comfort Zone

If you’re a regular reader of this blog then you’ll know that the main pool of books that I like to luxuriate in is YA but in 2015 I’ve found myself dipping my toes into new to me genres. Because I mainly talk about YA on here I thought that I’d share with you some of the gems I’ve been finding in other genres and how my reading tastes have evolved over the past year.

Middle Grade
I re-discovered Middle Grade as an adult when I won a copy of Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens from the lovely Michelle’s twitter giveaway. A lot of my blog friends who enjoy Middle Grade as well as YA had been raving about this book and so I wanted to see what the fuss was about before the second book Arsenic for Tea came out.

Sadly my dog died shortly after the book arrived on my birthday and I needed something to sweep me away to a time when life was simpler, I craved that childhood oblivion again and so I reached for Murder Most Unladylike. I fell in love with the friendship between Hazel and Daisy as the book swept me away to a boarding school set in the 1930s. I feel like I owe my sanity at that time to this series and it has even gone on to inspire me to write my own Middle Grade story.

Graphic Novels 
Graphic Novels have never been something that interested me before this year. I used to think that it was all Marvel and DC Comics – which I am a fan of when it comes to the movies and TV shows but didn’t necessarily want to read about.

Then I noticed more and more people hauling graphic novels that weren’t all about superheroes, no, they covered pretty much every topic imaginable. I was sucked in by glossy artwork and intriguing synopses and decided to check out a little series called Saga which so many people were reading and loving. To my surprise I was swept away to an epic space opera and devoured the series pretty much back to back. I’ve now become a little bit obsessed with graphic novels and am enjoying trying out different art styles and stories to figure out what works for me.

I tried listening to my first audiobook a year ago but didn’t get through it because, my poor logic at the time, was that I’d rather be reading a physical book. Then when I got a free trial for Audible I decided to try audiobooks again but this time listen to them during the times when I couldn’t be physically reading. I listened when I was getting ready in the mornings, washing up, and on car rides and loved the fact that I could listen to a book at a time when I couldn’t otherwise be reading.

I started to get through more books a month because of the bonus non-reading time spent listening to a book. Audiobooks can be hit and miss for me based on how I get on with the narrator but for the most part I’ve been enjoying what I’ve listened to. My best find has been The Song of Achilles which has gone on to become one of my favourite books and is probably not something I would have picked up otherwise if the audiobook version was not recommended to me by my blogger friend Sophie.

High Fantasy 
While I am a massive YA fantasy fan I’ve always been intimidated by those big chunky epic fantasy books mainly because of the sheer size and number of books that can belong to a series. Being a book blogger I always have a massive TBR pile to get through so can never justify dedicating a lot of time to a big series.

The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson had been on my must read list for such a long time and I finally decided to read it when Lucy at The Book Belle hosted Mistborn Mondays and I’m so, so glad that I finally picked it up! Reading a big series such as Mistborn feels so much less intimidating when you’re reading it alongside other people and the deadlines to read each book by made me stick to it because I am awful at not completing series. I haven’t read anything quite on the same epic scope as Mistborn since Harry Potter and I loved discovering a new all-time favourite series and an author who I’ve become such a fangirl over and who I will now read anything they write.

This year I have been more diverse and open with my reading choices and it has certainly paid off! The books that I have mentioned in this post have gone on to become some of my favourites of this year. I’m looking forward to delving further into all of these genres and discovering more books to love. In the future I’ll not be so hesitant to pick something up that is a little outside my comfort zone. 

I’d love to know which books outside of your comfort zone did you pick up and end up loving?

Monday, 5 October 2015

Review for Monster by C.J. Skuse

Monster by C.J. Skuse 
Publisher: MIRA Ink
Release: 24th September 2015
Genre: UKYA, Thriller
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at the school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits.

As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to room the moors outside the school – run wild.

Yet when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive."

Monster is a gripping mystery driven YA thriller that builds in ferocity with the turn of each page. The book starts off with a slower pace as C.J. Skuse sets the scene with a contemporary Hogwarts- esque type boarding school, an isolated snowy landscape and legend of a killer beast prowling in the school’s grounds.

There is so much intrigue and mystery surrounding the Beast of Bathory that as a reader I was never sure what to believe. I mainly read this at night before bed which was a poor life choice on my part! This book properly freaked me out and played on my mind at times. It’s perfect for fans of James Dawson or anyone looking for a good Halloween read.

The book follows Nash and a group of other girls, some who she’s friendly with and others who she’s not, as they stay behind at boarding school over the Christmas break and things start to go very, very wrong. Once again C.J has created a group of characters who read like real teenagers which is one of the many things that I love about her as a writer. In true C.J fashion there is buckets of hilarious banter between the group – even when things are looking ominous. My personal favourite of the girls was Maggie, an absolute cracker of a character who delivers the best one-liners at the most inappropriate times.

Monster is on point with its plotting - all too often with thrillers I find myself left with loose ends and questions but everything has a place here that is revealed throughout the book rather than with a rushed explanation at the end which I really liked.

Overall Monster was a wickedly scary read with a dash of C.J’s trademark humour that takes a look at the different types of monsters in the world and shows that sometimes a monster isn’t born, sometimes a monster is made.

Friday, 2 October 2015

September Round Up and Book of the Month

September's Book of the Month is The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

September was SUCH a good reading month for me - I read so many 4.5 and 5 star reads that could totally deserve the spotlight for my book of the month and so it was really tough deciding. In the end I went for the book that, even when I think about it now, I get so emotional over and is so epic that I'd recommend it to anybody who enjoys a good story regardless of their usual genre preference. I was recommended this book by my lovely friend Sophie over at So Many Books, So Little Time, it's not my usual thing at all but I'm so glad that I trusted her and tried it because it's now an all time favourite book of mine. I could go on about this book all day but I'll leave you with the comment that this is one of the greatest love stories I've ever read and I'd highly recommend it if you're taking part in the LGBT Readathon this month.

Basically me throughout The Song of Achilles

Read in September 
72.) Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (4.5*)
73.) Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond (4*)
74.) The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (5*)
75.) The Little Flower Shop by the Sea by Ali McNamara (3.5*)
76.) Saga Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4*)
77.) Saga Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4.5*)
78.) Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (4.5*)
79.) The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson (5*)
80.) Saga Volume 3 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4*)
81.) The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell (3.5*)
82.) Saga Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4.5*)
83.) After You by Jojo Moyes (5*)
84.) Saga Volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (4*)

Monthly Book Awards 
Best Plot: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Best Writing: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Best Cover: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Best Characters: After You by Jojo Moyes
Best Ending: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Best Romance: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Most un-put-down-able: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Most Memorable: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Best Moral: After You by Jojo Moyes

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: The Song of Achilles, After You, The Well of Ascension

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in October 
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch
What We Left Behind by Robin Talley
Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
A Step Toward Falling by Cammie McGovern
The Twelve Dates of Christmas by Lisa Dickenson
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly
A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

 What did you read and love in September? 
 And what are you looking forward to reading in October?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Six of Crows Blog Tour: Six signs you have what it takes to join Kaz's crew!

Today I am so excited to be hosting "Six signs you have what it takes to join Kaz's crew" as part of the Six of Crows blog tour. I'm sure a lot of you know that I am a massive fan of the Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows and it is always a pleasure to have Leigh on the blog! This is a joint tour so make sure you check out Reading Teen as well for the sister part to this post!

Here is a special message from Six of Crows author Leigh Bardugo herself about today's post...

"Hey, Jess! Thank you so much for being a part of the Six of Crows blog tour. I've been living with the members of Kaz's crew for so long that it's hard to remember exactly how they all came into being and developed their particular skills, but I can at least tell you who arrived first: Matthias, Nina, and Kaz. 

A few years back, my agent Jo and I were on a bus in Ireland (long story), discussing possible bonus content we could offer fans of the Grisha trilogy. I realised that I really wanted to write something from the point of view of a Fjerdan drüskelle, one of the deadly witchhunters who pursue Grisha. Because as frightening and brutal as they are, I could still understand the fear that would drive them. I wanted to put a Grisha soldier and drüskelle into a survival situation and see what might happen. But was it a short story? A novella? I wasn't sure. Then I got the idea for Six of Crows and I had my answer: Nina and Matthias, two people with some serious history and plenty of prejudice between them, would be part of the team forced to band together to pull off an impossible heist. 

As for Kaz, the leader of the crew, his story began with an idea for a character known as Dirtyhands, a boy for whom no deed was too low, no job too dangerous. He's the criminal you go to when you're out of other options, the person you don't want to be indebted to, the guy you never want to hear knocking on your door. As soon as I knew who would be leading the team, the rest of the characters began to take shape."

Six Signs You Have What It Takes To Join Kaz's Crew 

To join Kaz's Crew you need to be...Resilient 

A big theme throughout Six of Crows is resilience and to be part of Kaz's crew you need to have it in buckets. The crew is made up of characters with horrific pasts but what's important is that you bounce back from the horrors of the world time and time again and be stronger for it.
Most Resilient Crow: Kaz 

To join Kaz's Crew you need to be...Cunning

This crew has an impossible heist to pull off so you need to be ruthless and willing to do anything to see the mission through. Each crew member needs to be cunning enough to make sure that nothing stands in their way.
Most Cunning Crow: Jesper 

To join Kaz's Crew you need to be...Calm 

With all the craziness that comes with being a crow crew member you need to be able to keep your cool in situations where chaos is going on around you. You need to be able to stay calm and focused to complete what needs to be done.
Most Calm Crow: Nina 

To join Kaz's Crew you need to be...Intelligent

To be part of Kaz's crew you need to think outside of the box. Heist's take a lot of planning beforehand but you also need to be somebody who thinks on their feet to save yourself and your crew from tricky and unexpected situations.
Most Intelligent Crow: Wylan 

To join Kaz's Crew you need to be...Courageous 

Being a crow means willingly putting yourself in dangerous situations as part of the job but as well as risking your life daily you're also going to have to face and overcome some of your most personal demons.
Most Courageous Crow: Inej

To join Kaz's Crew you need to be...Strong 

Whilst it's good to have physical strength, as a crew member it's more important that you're mentally strong. To live life as a crow you need to have incredible inner strength in order to face a life of trickery, deceit and risk.
Most Strong Crow: Matthias 

From 24/9 - 29/9, bloggers in the US and UK will be paired up to share their own Six of Crows-inspired lists, such as six tips for surviving the Grishaverse, six signs you do/don't have what it takes to join Kaz's crew, and more.

But wait. There's more! Enter to win a Six of Crows prize pack full of US AND UK swag by commenting on all 12 blog posts by 11:59pm EST Friday, October 2.

See Leigh on Tour!

For more of my thoughts on Six of Crows check out my review here.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Review for Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Indigo
Release: 29th September 2015
Genre: Fantasy
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review


"Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...

A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first."

Six of Crows is like the hotter, maturer, dangerous older brother of the Grisha trilogy and boy did I love the Grisha trilogy! In Six of Crows Leigh Bardugo takes everything that I love about her first series and expands upon it making this her best book yet. This is the Grishaverse as you’ve never seen it before.

The book is told between five of the main characters as they try to pull off an impossible heist. I love books that are told from more than one point of view but I was a little worried going into this that I’d find five perspectives confusing. That may have been the case if told by a less accomplished writer but Leigh has created a group of distinct characters who are both sexually and ethnically diverse who are their own unique blend of good and bad and come with their own set of motives and desires. The different perspectives kept this book constantly moving and allowed us to view the heist from all angles. It allowed us to get to know these characters more complexly and also explore the backstories that made them who they are which was one of my favourite aspects of this book.

The way that this book is crafted is nothing short of extraordinary. It only gives you information about the world and characters as and when you need it which not only felt really natural but also provided a lot of surprises. Despite Six of Crows being a big book it’s fast paced and impossible to put down with heart stopping, jaw dropping moments laced throughout.

In short every aspect of Six of Crows was epic and faultless. Not only is this a strong addition to YA Fantasy but also to high Fantasy. It can certainly hold its own next to the likes of Game of Thrones and The Final Empire. This is easily a firm favourite of mine for 2015 – don’t miss it!

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