Thursday, 19 December 2013

Blogging Holiday

As we all know its close to Christmas time and I'm traveling back to Belfast (for those of you who don't know I've been abroad for a while) for the holidays' on the 19th (well, today). I won't have much opportunity to sit and write posts until early January, but I have scheduled a few until then.

So, if I'm not posting, I haven't died of more feels - though that is highly possible with everything that is being released next year - but am simply really busy sorting things out back home, and partaking in the Christmas rush of things!

I won't be on my Twitter as often, and it may take me slightly longer to reply to emails, just as a forewarning.

But hopefully posting should carry on at my regular day-in-day-out interval due to pre-scheduling.

Fionnuala x

Sunday, 15 December 2013

A Chat with Rick Yancey

A couple of days ago I got the opportunity to ask Rick Yancey, author of The 5th Wave a couple of quick questions regarding his book, and here are his answers!

How did you come up with the different waves?
I began with the premise that the invaders would want to wipe us out without destroying the environment, using methods which are efficient and “low-impact.” The concept of hitting us in waves arose from the fact that there are 7 billion of us spread out over nearly every continent. That means you couldn't destroy humanity with a single strike.

Why did you decide to have the split point of view the way it is in the book?
I felt there were only two ways to tell a story this “big,” with an omniscient voice or through multiple narrators. I decided, for better or worse, that using the third person would distance the reader too much from the intensity of the action and the emotional lives of the characters.  

What do you think of the varying opinions the book seems to be getting? Quite a few friends view The 5th Wave as over-hyped, whereas others say it was a brilliant read. I'm getting a very marmite feeling here, you either love The 5th Wave, or you hate it. Your thoughts? 
Well, when I learned the publisher was really going to promote the heck out my book, what was I going to say? “No, no, no, don’t promote my book!” I suppose it’s inevitable when a producer of anything says something is the next best thing since sliced bread there’s going to be some pushback. The 5th Wave is epic but it is also incredibly intimate; like all my books, it comes from a personal space that reflects my own fears, anxieties, and all those other things important to me as a person. In that sense, the book, like all books, is a baby and not everyone will think your baby is the cutest thing on the planet. Since no two people are alike, I expect some people to hate the book, but I respect those who don’t like it based on its merits. The opinions that trouble me are those that seem to be based on something the publisher did (the so-called over-hyping) and not anything between the covers.

Thanks for talking to me Rick!
Hope you all enjoyed getting a little insight into The 5th Wave if you liked the book or not, and you'll get to hear my thoughts on The 5th Wave soon as I'm reviewing it in January.

A little more on The 5th Wave:

16101128After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Publisher: Putnam
Publication Date: May 7th 2013
No. of Pages: 457 (Hardcover)

Friday, 13 December 2013

Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: The Maze Runner (The Maze Runner #1)
Author: James Dashner
No. of Pages: 371
Publisher: Chicken House
Source: Bought 

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers. 

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

Admittedly I had low expectations for this book, its been sitting on my shelves for over two months now, I barely glanced at the blurb. But I'd heard quite a lot about the book, so, as luck would have it, I got into a reading slump, and picked up The Maze Runner. I can safely say its not what I had been expecting, with intriguing characters, an ingenious plot, and harsh slang - this novel blew me away from page one.

When a bought my copy of the book one thing that really irritated me, after finishing the book, was a quote on the front that read "... a must for fans of The Hunger Games" as though The Maze Runner and The Hunger Games were alike. They most certainly are not. Both are excellent dystopian novels, but think of The Maze Runner as a modern Lord of the Flies. The writing style was another unexpected bonus, I was expecting something that was similar to MG, but it was descriptive, well written, and not to mention the slang Dashner created. I just absolutely love the slang, its become part of my own personal vocabulary now. 

The 'Maze' itself was an interesting concept, at first I was expecting a little Harry-Potter-esque type maze, but again Dashner blew my expectations out of the water with his own creations. With shifting walls and terrifying 'Grievers' that come into play about a third way through the book; the 'Maze' is life or death for the boys. Just touching on the Grievers, they definitely sounded terrifying on paper, but when I tried imagining what they would look like, I just kept getting a vague image of a slug, that was not even scary, which was a bit of a let down. 

One thing that did put me off reading The Maze Runner was the lack of female characters, I'm being brutally honest saying that I didn't think a book full of male characters would work out, but of course, I was wrong. The set-up inside the Glade was evidence of this, everyone had their assigned jobs, such as Runners (lads assigned to run into the 'Maze' and map it, looking for a way out), they had a routine. I also enjoyed the way Dashner showed the boys as what they were, teenagers, through use of the slang, without using actual profanity, which a lot of YA authors seem to ignore. Not that swearing is great, but c'mon authors, do you really think teenagers don't swear?

The characters were just... I don't even know how to explain them. They were awesome, each had their own personality, you didn't necessarily have to like them to see that they were developed well throughout the plot. Since the novel was told from Thomas' POV it makes sense to talk about him first. I have to say he wasn't my favorite character, but I have nothing against how Dashner wrote him. Thomas is an excellent character and his POV works well for the plot, but I found myself predicting his next moves before I read about them, whereas other characters such as Newt, provided a little more intrigue.

A negative for me was the ending, it felt very rushed, and frankly its was predictable, it was something I'd read before, which was quite disappointing compared to the excitement I had experienced with the rest of the book. Also, I thought the 'puzzle' could have been slightly harder. I understand from the slight back-story it took them over two years, but again, it was just predictable, if Dashner was doing this for dramatic irony it certainly worked, if not... well, it got me thinking how things could have been done differently, and what I would have changed. Which I don't usually do when I'm reading a novel.

The writing itself flows very well, the chapters ended in the most frustrating, but effective ways. As all bookworms will know, how annoying are cliffhangers? Well, this book is full of them. But it was just so darn effective in the telling of the story, and had me on the edge of my seat wanting more. I'll definitely be buying the second book in the series, 'The Scorch Trials', and now I'm excited to see The Maze Runner come to life on the big screen in March! 

Rating: Three Bookish Birds  

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Five Star Ratings?

Today I was planning to post my review of The Maze Runner by James Dashner, which I'm apparently not doing now - anyways, it got me thinking about ratings and how we go about building up one book, or tearing down another. That's the point of reviewing, right; voicing your thoughts about books you have read, and recommending books you liked to other readers... But what about those novels that were absolutely wonderful, and heart-wrenching?

Something I've noticed whilst thinking about my reviews, is that I've never given a book a five out of five. And it got me wondering if I was being too picky? I mean, there are books I've read that deserve five stars such as The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer; which I haven't reviewed. I even tried reviewing the novels. But I could never come up with the right words to explain how excellent these books were and how much they actually meant to me, personally.

To be honest I think I was, and still am, slightly frightened, like reviewing a five star book would ruin it. If I didn't phrase everything exactly right. And its become an issue, really, not that I'm doing it on purpose, but I think a five star book depends on the person reading it. Obviously, every book wants five star reviews, but in my mind five star books are like perfection. See, even now I'm probably not explaining properly...

When I rate a book five stars, whether its a review or not, its because its usually a very well written novel, with an excellent plot, and interesting characters, but as an added element, I think a five star book should be something that is able to touch the reader personally, emotionally perhaps, rather than simple enjoyment and excitement that maybe a four or three star book would supply. I'm probably the only person with this problem, as other reviewers seem to write reviews for five star books quite easily. So, again, I have to ask myself, am I being picky? In all honesty I don't think I am. At the end of the day a five star book should be a novel that's able to connect with its reader, its those few books that other authors would aspire to write.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic; how do you decide if a book deserves a five star rating? 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Review: Freaks by Lisa M. Forester

Nobody's perfect... or are they?

Abigail always knew that she was different, but what she didn't know was just how different. 

That was until her 16th birthday, when her parent's revealed a devastating secret that confirmed her worst fears and changed her life forever.

Abigail is an Allelobrid: one of five children born as a result of their parents illegal science experiment in genetic engineering. The aim: to create a perfect human.

Yet perfection comes at a price.

Forced into a life on the run, Abigail finds love, danger and an organisation that will stop at nothing to get what they want.

When lives are at risk and freedom is threatened - could being perfect be enough to survive?

*I was sent an ARC of this book from the author in exchange for a 100% honest review.*

*pending re-write due to plagiarism issues* 
Rating: 3 Bookish Birds

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Interview with Lucy from Queen of Contemporary

I got the chance to interview Lucy from Queen of Contemporary, one of the first book blogs I read!

Hi Lucy! For those who aren't aware of you loveliness, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your blog?
Hi Fionnuala! Thanks for having me on the blog today! My name is Lucy and I’m the blogger behind Queen of Contemporary and Project UKYA. I first started blogging in April 2012, and haven’t looked back since. Reading has always been a huge part of my life and I love sharing that part of myself with everyone else.

Do you think you'll stop blogging anytime soon?
I certainly hope not! Starting my blog is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, and even though I 
feel like giving up sometimes, I could never actually do it. I’m too attached!

What is your favorite quote from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green?
“That's the thing about pain," Augustus said, and then glanced back at me. "It demands to be felt.” 
I think it’s such a true quote and it’s the one that I remember above most of the others. It’s one of 
my favourite quotes from ANY book.

Can you tell me more about Project UKYA?
Project UKYA was set up in September 2013 to help spread the word about UK authors and novels. After doing a fortnight of themed posts on my blog back in the summer, I decided to take things one step further and the blog is a place to let all of my –and others- thoughts on UKYA out and to share them with other people. We do monthly projects that are, hopefully, making more people go out and read UKYA and the feedback we’ve gotten is very positive. I love it!

Was the decision to start vlogging an easy one?
When I started vlogging, not many bloggers were doing it. It’s only recently that I’ve noticed bloggers start to vlog as well. I like reading blogs and talking to people who I feel I know and vlogging meant that I got to share another side of me and hopefully people would understand where I was coming from a bit better once they knew what I looked like and spoke like. I like the personal touches when I’m reading a blog.

How do you balance everything: Queen of Contemporary, Project UKYA, school etc.?
My answer is that I don’t. I am a very, very disorganised person and very often leave everything to the last minute. Now that I’m balancing booktube as well, it’s a bit harder but I love what I do so I try to get everything done, even if I do take ages to do everything. Scheduling posts really helps and then I have time during the week to read and do homework too. 
What are your top 5 favorite books?
Hard one!

1- Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. If you haven’t read this you must because it’s gorgeous!

2- The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It’s a very moving and inspirational story of a girl who has cancer. 

3- Magus of Stonewylde (and the rest of the Stonewylde series) by Kit Berry. 

4- City of Bones by Cassandra Clare.

5- Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi.

What's on of the most memorable occurrences, so far, that has happened due to book blogging?
I had to answer this for another interview recently, and I’m still not sure of the answer. I don’t think there’s one definitive thing that has happened to me that’s been amazing whilst book blogging, because every moment – every comment, every page view, every tweet – is incredibly special to me. 

If you could materialize one character, who would it be?
Levi from Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell! 

Thanks for having me, Fionnuala!

Friday, 6 December 2013

Epic Recs: December 2013

Epic Recs - The Book Pushing Book Club was set up by Judith from PaperRiot and Amber from Books of Amber. Their aim was to push each other to read books that they had previously loved. And last month Epic Recs was opened to the public, so, obviously, I jumped at the chance to be a part of this. To join in as well all you have to do is find a partner interested in Epic Recs and start book pushing. If you would like to be paired up randomly just visit Amber's Epic Recs post and fill in the form! You'll get paired up with another participant as soon as possible. So, shortly after joining, I became partners with Charli from To Another World, over twitter we paired up ourselves. Apparently, I book push her all the time, which I don't think I do... I just you know, give her a little shove, not a push, a shove - there's a difference. 

Now, onto our recs, Charli recommended that I read Earth Girl by Janet Edwards, and I gave a small squee once I got the rec, since I have wanted to read this book for ages! I recommended that Charli read The Book Thief (AMAZING), which I recently buddy read with Georgia (Books and Writers JNR). So, these are the Epic Recs books we will be reading this December.

12962345The Book Thief

I'm really excited to start reading Earth Girl, and can't wait for January's Epic Recs post!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Review: The Prophecy by Erin Albert

Growing up on a small farm in the kingdom of Vanguard, seventeen-year-old Layla Givens lives a deceptively tranquil existence. But her carefully constructed life quickly falls apart when she’s abducted by a religious zealot who proclaims her The Fulfillment of an ancient peace prophecy and whisks her away to marry her greatest enemy.

Wilhelm, Prince of the Ethereals, is reluctant to meet his new bride. He's grown up believing Vanguards are evil, an enemy to fight and fear...not love. Can he set aside his prejudices and work alongside Layla to bring lasting peace after centuries of war?

Nash, a loner who has never fit in, carries a huge secret, one big enough to destroy both kingdoms. When he accidently meets Layla, he’s no longer content to live in the shadows, but he must resist his growing attraction—for her safety and for the longevity of the two kingdoms.

When Nash's secret is revealed, a firestorm sweeps through both realms, with Layla at the center. Now she must choose between duty and desire while the fate of two nations hangs in the balance.

I got sent this book from the author in exchange for a 100% honest review, thank-you Erin!

When this landed in my hands I was so excited that I read it in one sitting. I knew Erin before reading her book, through twitter, and this amazed me. As soon as I finished I fangirlishly tweeted her about Nash - he's mine, all mine. I MEAN IT, hands off. I've gone back and forth for ages trying to write this review, but nothing seemed to show how good this book actually was. From fangirlish rantings to high character analysis I was stuck. The truth is that for a debut novel this book is amazing, the characters were well developed, and the author seemed to truly know her characters. I'm still unsure of how to tell you why I loved this book and why you should read it but here goes...

I absolutely loved this book, and all its characters. From the plot to that touch of romance, I was hooked on this book from the beginning. It was like Throne of Glass all over again. Starting off with Layla the female protagonist - I loved the way her thoughts and personality were portrayed in the novel (you might be hearing the words "I loved..." a lot). She was strong willed and everything a Vanguard should be, I would imagine. Again, this was a bit like welcoming home Calaena, they were both separate entities but had the same characteristics that I absolutely adore in female protagonists. Though Layla is a bit quieter than Calaena (in a good way!) and without the Assassin's title. 

Some of my favorite characters were Layla, of course, Samson, Grant and Vespa. Again, they all had such distinct personalities, we don't see too much of Samson in the book, but I have a feeling that later in the series he will be more involved. But with such good characters in a novel, surely there must be evil ones to balance them out? Yes, most definitely. I don't want to spoil too much, but lets just say that there are a few evil people in here that you'll have death wishes for. 

The build up of the world that the book was set in could have used a little more detail, but the introduction and use of the un-peaceful (maybe a bit of an understatement) atmosphere between Etherea and Vanguard was spot on and flowed well with the plot. It wasn't just background location, which I often loathe in a book. And everything had a point, nothing led to a dead end, or was 'excess baggage' in the novel. But it was not predictable either (except for the romance bit, but more on that later!) The powers that each kingdom had intrigued me to no end, the Ethereal's skill to create Alterations in people's minds, and the Vanguard's super strength.

On the first few pages I had to get used to the terminology, but once they were in my head it was so easy to follow and became a part of my general dialogue. The general description within the novel was just on par for my tastes. Sometimes there is too little or too much detail that it becomes boring. But I can say very audibly that there was never a dull moment in this book, even when not in an action-y scene.

Now, finally, onto the romance. Nash; we first meet him saving Layla, I mean, who doesn't love a guy who saves a girl? But really, he's sweet and mysterious, and we learn more about him throughout the book, I JUST LOVE HIM SO MUCH. Then Wil, the Prince of Etherea, might seem to cause some complications, if you're starting to think that there's a love triangle here, STOP, STOP, STOP - with Layla being the so called Fulfillment for a Prophecy, it is her duty, and Wil's, to marry (they're betrothed in the book) and make the prophecy come true, consequently bringing peace between Etherea and Vanguard. Okay, so maybe there's a little bit of a love triangle, but its not your stereotypical one. Again, I love Nash, but Wil... he's so sweet and wonderful and lovely, both guys are equally swoon-worthy. Time to pick a team ladies. 

This book gave me so many feels that it was unreal, I even shouted out 'No!' once I'd finished the book, for two main reasons; 1) "IT CAN'T BE OVER, NOT YET" and 2) Erin left two main things happening at the end and I'm still thinking how it effects all the characters and what might happen in the next book. Also... MAJOR cliffhanger, which I hated... and loved. Ugh, I want the next book now, but the ending was great as well... I was emotionally unstable throughout this entire novel, laughing, crying, flailing, you name it, I was doing it.

I definitely recommend this if you are a fan of YA Fantasy, actually, even if you aren't, go read this book, its so awesome that everyone should read it. NOW. GO READ IT. Please. This is without a doubt one of my favorite debut reads of 2013!

Rating - 4 Bookish Birds