Friday, 26 December 2014

REVIEW || The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey

Book Title: The Girl With All The Gifts
Author: M.R. Carey
Publisher: Orbit, June 19th, 2014
Source: Bought!
Format: Paperback, 403 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite but they don't laugh.
*Risk of (possible) very small spoiler ahead. Just in case.*

Without a doubt if you've picked up and read this book you were expecting a thriller and were presented with something entirely different. I was surprised to say the least, as I flicked through the pages and came to the realization that this was unlike anything I was expecting, and just as equally impressed – I don’t think you can read this and not come away with at least mutual respect for the author, even if you didn't like the book.

After the first few chapters it pretty much reveals itself as a zombie apocalypse novel, and an original one at that. One of my favourite elements of the book, and arguably one of the main things that makes the book so original, at least in my opinion, is the large extent of the scientific/technical elements that are weaved throughout the novel – most particularly noted in Caldwell’s chapters. As well as the rather stunning descriptions, along with Carey’s writing style, it almost seemed like prose – which I really enjoyed reading.

Furthermore, it is easy to say that the book has almost zero plot and yet it has ended up being one of my favourite books of this year, which I attribute to the writing and the original concepts. Unlike in most zombie apocalypse books where some part, some where in the book, feels taken from some other place – this feeling wasn't here at all, everything felt fresh and unique. Touching on the scientific elements again, I think that’s a big part of why I loved the book because it was grounded, real - the concept of things that were essentially “zombies” was explained and it sounded logical, hell I would believe it if it ran in a newspaper.

As with any book though, there are negative elements and there certainly were a few with this one, even if I did really love it. Something that really irritates me, strangely enough, is the fact that the book basically has zero plot. It is incredibly well written, that’s pretty indisputable, and I was riveted but with an ending that was less than satisfactory (but totally understandable! See why everything I've said in this review sounds so hypocritical? urgh), for me personally, it’s just a fact that sits at the back of my mind and sours the whole experience slightly.

Onto characters, again this is another element that was a negative for me, I didn't like a single character, not one – and whilst I can appreciate how real the author made characters such as Miss Justineau and Sergeant Parks, they just didn't do anything for me, they felt more like inconveniences distracting from the more interesting elements of what little plot was taking place. Then there’s Melanie, again I admire what the author has done with her character, she’s a fascinating ten year old, but as I've mentioned in a few previous reviews; it’s hard to get behind a book when you can’t even get behind the main character.

I still don’t know what I’m going to rate The Girl With All The Gifts – do my technical issues with it override the fact that I loved the book whilst reading it, and in spite of all the negative points can’t help but want to immerse myself in it again, and again? Maybe. Overall, The Girl With All The Gifts was a piece of literature that I loved, and whilst I have my bitterness with it being marketed a thriller when its something I view as completely different I won’t be denying the fact that I will recommend it to any and everyone I can. It’s a book you just want to talk about and dissect endlessly, which is a quality I very much admire in a novel.
*Just for clarification I'd like to point out that this is an Adult rather than YA novel!*

Wednesday, 24 December 2014


I think the title of this post will be very self explanatory but I just wanted to write a quick few lines to wish everyone a Merry Christmas if they celebrate it and if not a good holiday! I hope Santa is very good to you and you get what you have asked for! I will be spending my Christmas reading and being with my family! As I said this was just a quick blog post to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! ~ Zoe

Ditto on wishing you all a Happy Christmas, or an otherwise great week if you don't celebrate Christmas! Celebrating or not though, hopefully everyone gets plenty of books, although our TBR piles may complain a little... mine has already taken to emailing me suggestions... ~ Fionnuala

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Secret Santa

Hey guys! Sorry for the missing posts, I've been busy! Today I'm going to tell you what I got in my Secret Santa.

So a few weeks ago Holly and Orli emailed some book bloggers asking who would like to take part in a Secret Santa, and I of course said yes. I was given Cat to buy for, and you can see what I got her here, and then I got my awesome Secret Santa package!

This was the whole contents of the package, almost exactly as how I found it!

I had put in my form that I loved Christmas and Christmas decorations, so this little key ring is perfect for me. 

I'm always happy for some bookish postcards so these will find a nice home on my shelf somewhere.

I didn't even know that you could get Angel Delight Ice Cream but I'll be making some!

I've been wanting to read Zac and Mia for ages and it's really good so far, plus it's floppy!!

My Secret Santa gave me clues and once I read Zuzana I knew exactly who she was!

My Secret Santa was Hawwa and I have to thank her so very very very much for the awesome gift! Thank you also to Holly and Orli for arranging all this! I can't wait for next year's!

Monday, 22 December 2014

JOINT REVIEW & DISCUSSION || Red Rising by Pierce Brown (with Arianne!)

I have a very special guest helping me with today's review! Arianne who co-blogs over at Reading With ABC very nicely agreed to do this joint review and discussion with me for Red Rising. Now the reason I came up with the idea to do a joint review-ery discussion type post for this book, specifically with Arianne, is because we've talked about it a few times, and she has in fact already reviewed this over on Daisy Chain Book Reviews (which you can see by clicking here) but I did see at the end of her review she mentioned how she could've and should've said more on the book, so the idea of a joint review seemed like a great for me to sort out my own thoughts into a review and to allow Arianne to say even more on the subject!

My answers and replies will be in blue and Arianne's will be in red!

FIONNUALA: I may as well start, shall I? Okay - pretty much jumping into the deep end with this one, if there was one thing in Red Rising that you could immediately get rid of and burn what would it be, and why? I have a feeling I know what you're going to say!

ARIANNE: Ouch, what a tough question to start with! There are issues with the characterisation and world-building in the book, but I think I'd get rid of the misogyny which simply seems to be built-in to the framework of the novel. The way love interest Eo is treated - designed simply to encourage, support and pander to Darrow instead of living her own life; and even worse, forced to sacrifice herself so that he will become "the hero he was meant to be" - is just appalling. She's such a kick-ass character, but she's never given a chance to shine by herself or indeed on an equal footing to Darrow. For me, Red Rising reverses all the hard work done by campaigners trying to make the YA shelf a place where readers can choose books for themselves and not because of gender-based story bias or marketing. It's such a shame, too, as their relationship had so much potential. What about you - is there anything about the book you'd change?

I completely agree, just imagining how different the story would be if Eo was allowed to play a much more crucial, and equalized, role opposite Darrow makes me wish that that version of the book existed. Apart from what you mentioned, I definitely would have liked more world building, personally apart from the sentences when they're stating the obvious it didn't really feel like they were anywhere that was intergalactic - and toward the end it very much felt like it was turning into what you might associate with a dystopian novel more like The Hunger Games (forgive me for the comparison) but it very much publicizes itself as a Science Fiction novel, and I just wasn't getting much SFF in the book. Not that I have a problem with it being dystopian, its by far one of my favourite sub-genre's, but just tell it as it is, you know? Okay, well maybe on a more positive note, what was your favourite scene of the entire book, Arianne?

Thankfully this answer is much more straightforward: I loved any scene with Eo! Specific scenes aside, the plot was brilliantly paced and there were moments when I actually liked Darrow - he just wasn't real or flawed enough for him to become an all-time favourite character for me. 

Speaking of characters, is there any other secondary or minor character you think deserves a mention?

Oooh, I'll be honest here and say I can't remember many of the secondary characters by name, but I did love the character who helped transform Darrow from a Red to a Gold - not for any specific personality trait, but I just really enjoyed the slight exotic-ness he brought to the scene's he was in; a bit like Magnus from The Mortal Instruments.

So on the subject of characters, I did feel like some characters deserved more character development. Obviously, we've spoken about Eo being a main target for a more crucial and equalized role - a lot of the time it seemed to be all "Darrow, Darrow, Darrow" to me. So, which other character, apart from Eo, would you have liked to seen more development/focus on?

I agree with you here. Some of the characters were difficult to tell apart, and practically all of them needed more depth and development. I tried to keep an open mind to most of them, but I absolutely hated Titus. He's one of the most sickeningly evil characters I've ever seen in fiction - and not in a compelling "everyone has a dark side" way. He's rotten to the core. Even more worryingly, it seems like his role in the events of the book is supposed to be entertaining, which it clearly isn't. The gratuitous violence of his character - and of many other characters, including Darrow - is another feature that really ruined the book for me. I love action and danger in the books I read, but Red Rising is so needlessly gory.

Good writers should be able to find different ways to build tension and make consequences felt instead of simply having characters slaughter each other all the time. It's a cheap trick that drains the emotional impact of a novel. Take the book Red Rising is so often compared to - The Hunger Games. As readers, we understand the ruthless cut-throat nature of the arena, but we still feel the emotional earthquake that is the loss of a character, whether that's Rue or Foxface or Cato or (insert a litany of spoilers here). With Red Rising, I just didn't get that, and for me, the storytelling was to blame. 

What about you, Fionnuala - were there any aspects of the storytelling itself that you particularly liked or disliked?

I agree with your point about Titus, I think it could have been slightly understandable if there had been some sort of character arc and transgression to becoming such an evil character - because with the situation they were in in the second half of the book, obviously some people are going to change for the worse and become savage. In no way do I condone this type of violence or would I truly enjoy it in real life, but in the pages of Red Rising I didn't mind the goriness in terms of where they were - so that's obviously a point we differ on! 

On the flip side though I do feel that there was so much potential to really make us feel the loss of characters, I mean even with people who were "close" to Darrow when they died (or worse) it was as though they were crumbs from a muffin that you wouldn't miss, and I personally really disliked that. It seemed like the author was just throwing deaths out left, right and center without anything more.

I definitely have issues with how the second part of the book seems to be completely different to the first half, the writing itself didn't really change but it did seem like two stories were flapped together and apart from the mentions in the second half I could have forgotten they were on Mars. Which, you know, I didn't want to forget! We're on Mars, space, exciting, don't make me forget! It could have been salvaged if the ending was rounded up with a return or something but (as its going to be a series/trilogy) it just felt discontinued which I quite abhor in a book. Similarly, I felt like there was a rapid change in pace once we got to the second half and it felt very abrupt.

I don't know if you've heard but Red Rising has been optioned for a film, what do you think of this development and about bringing Brown's world to the big screen?

I actually think a film version could have a lot of potential - if some major changes are made. Unfortunately, since films which improve on the books are the exception and not the rule, I think I'll have to see more details of the adaptation or even a full trailer before I make a decision. At least in the meantime we have the Mockingjay finale and some other really fantastic YA movies to look forward to, so I doubt we'll get bored!

And this is where my discussion with the fabulous Arianne ends! I had such a great time working on this post with her, and I really hope you enjoyed seeing both our point of views - as you can see even though we did agree on some points its quite clear that whilst it took me a while to get to the point where I've become comfortable with my stance about the book - that I did indeed like it more than Arianne, and fortunately I don't think this has harmed our friendship either, hehe. 

I've finally decided on a rating for Red Rising and I'm giving it three stars. I debated about giving it four stars because I did genuinely enjoy the book during the reading experience and was racing to get to the end because Brown had hooked me on the idea of the plot, but unfortunately when I finished what I was left with was less than satisfactory, hence the conflict and the rather long delay I took trying to decide what I really wanted to give this book. 

If anything the last element that really pushed me to giving Red Rising a lower rating was (and this is something I've come across a lot recently, which is slightly annoying) the fact that I couldn't really make any emotional connection to Darrow - and consequently its hard to get behind a novel when you can't get behind the main character. But having said ALL of that, I still added Red Rising to my Favourite Books of 2014 list (you can check it out here!) because its just stayed with me, and I liked it - it was only the more so technical elements that brought the book down.

You can find Arianne on Twitter @Ariannebooklove!

*Huge thank-you to Hodder & Stoughton for both my copies of Red Rising!*
~ Book Information ~

Book Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton, January 28th, 2014
Source: ARC from Publisher
Format: Paperback, 382 pages
Links: Goodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Darrow is a Helldiver, one of a thousand men and women who live in the vast caves beneath the surface of Mars, generations of people who spend their lives toiling to mine the precious elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed. Just knowing that, one day, people will be able to walk the surface of the planet is enough to justify their sacrifice. The Earth is dying, and Darrow and his people are the only hope humanity has... (~Goodreads)

Friday, 19 December 2014

My Favourite Books of 2014 || The YA Edition

This year, 2014, has been a year of reading and blogging, quite literally. I don't think I've ever read this much in a year, with as much purpose in the entirety of my life... and I'm quite proud of that as of today (the 17th of December) I have read a total of 108 books, not including re-reads or DNF's. So that brings us right up to the topic of today's post, what books were the best? What books have now taken up residence as a treasured favourite? Well, let me tell you, it was easy enough to list the ones I liked - it got slightly harder to come up with a list of ten books I read this year that I loved. I mean truly loved to pieces. Nevertheless, after much blood, sweat, and spilled tea, I have finally come up with the final list. 

I decided to do a "favourite books of 2014" books rather than "top ten" because I have not read all the books in the world, so the ones I'm talking about in this post are simply the ones that are my favourites out of all the books I've read this year, they may not technically be the best or considered the "top ten of all YA books" though. Furthermore, everyone is going to have different tastes and opinions on books, again, this is only my opinion!

1. Splintered by A.G. Howard - Splintered is an Alice in Wonderland-esque retelling, and it drew me in straight away, everything from the writing style which was vivid and imaginative, to the whole world that the book was set in - it may not be the Wonderland we know and love, but if anything its darker and better than ever before! This is a book I cannot stop raving about, and has definitely been a huge favourite of mine this year!
2. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart - If you haven't heard of this book already then I'm very, very, surprised because We Were Liars was surrounded by a lot of hype before and after it was published. I've heard my fair share of people call it the it book of 2014 and I'm here to tell you it really is that good. I was on tenterhooks the entire time, not only was it exceptionally well written, but E. Lockhart took me on such a roller-coaster of a journey that I was shaking by the end of the book.
3. Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - I'll admit that I was pretty sure I was going to love the latest installment in the Throne of Glass series before I'd even read it, and I did. Heir of Fire has definitely brought the series to a whole new level for me, from the character developments we see in Celeana to the sheer awesomeness of simply being sucked into Maas' world and writing style again!

4. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith - Grasshopper Jungle has been described as a very marmite book, which I think to some extent is true; you either click with it or you don't. Evidently I did click with it and whilst I read it very early on in the year it still remains a favourite. Not only was it a weird and original concept, but Andrew Smith doesn't seem to be afraid to put the finger up and write the truth. With LGBT elements, a little running for your life, and a whole lot of kickass writing this was funny, original and a book I think will get quite a few people into reading.
5. This Book Is Gay by James Dawson - James Dawson is one of my absolute favourite people, and one of my favourite writers, so when I found out his newest book was going to be non-fiction and on the matter of LGBTQ* teens and the topic in general I was really excited and it did not disappoint it was very colourful on the inside and out! Dawson's voice was brilliant, and I think this book could really help a lot of people to understand themselves and others, and not just teens but parents and everyone really! Also, I have to mention the brilliant illustrations by Spike Gerrell which just wrapped the book up very nicely!

6. The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd - The Madman's Daughter intrigued me from the very beginning and it got better with ever turn of the page, like Splintered its reminiscent of a tale we've been told before, but with its own unique spin, and it had a similarly brilliant writing style and again it was quite dark, more so than Splintered, a grungy atmosphere that I was immediately sucked into.
7. Red Rising by Pierce Brown - This book had me on the edge of my seat and whilst I (and my lovely friend Arianne) certainly had my issues with it I still can't deny that I loved reading it, and I really did enjoy the writing style itself - everything about it stood out.
8. All the Truth That's in Me by Julie Berry - I was pretty late to the party with only getting round to reading this quite late in the year but nevertheless I'm glad I picked it up. I've praised some of the above books for being original, and this is pretty much the epitome of that! Written in the third person this book had the right amount of everything, from mystery to thrills, to good old contemporary moments, and just like We Were Liars it had me on tenterhooks! Not to mention the brilliant way the author made the main characters voice come across in her writing.

9. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - Eleanor and Park was the book that made me fall in love with Rainbow Rowell. It was simply adorable, and I loved Eleanor and Park; Eleanor wasn't the perfect female that we see portrayed through the media, and Park wasn't your run of the mill guy either, he was slightly nerdy (for want of a better way to put it) and I loved him for all that he was. The story itself was honestly perfect, and the ending broke my little heart - it was an original contemporary that I knew right away would be going on my favourites list.
10. Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas - I think Dangerous Girls is a pretty underrated book, I haven't heard many people talk about it but it was a fantastic read! It had me constantly second guessing myself and Haas' wrote in a way that I can only describe as cleanly, but everything still came across. I have yet to pick up the companion/sequel, but I'm hoping to do that soon!

It took me all of four hours to narrow down my list, and then my short list, to get to this point where I had ten books I was happy with, but there's still a few others that I can't leave out so the following few books were close contenders and definitely deserve an honourary mention because I loved them too!

(from left to right; The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Just One Day by Gayle Forman, Take Me On by Katie McGarry, Winger by Andrew Smith)

So that's it for this post! Since I'm such a pushover and still have others book from this year that I loved I will be writing a second post based on books in the UKYA genre rather than just the YA genre (don't worry its not as long as this one!) as that was something I really made an effort to read more of this year - thanks to Lucy, really, being her friend pretty much guarantees that you'll be influenced to read more UKYA, hehe. 

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

DISCUSSION || TBR Piles & Mood Reading

There is one thing I find mentioned more times in my day now that I'm involved in the blogosphere and more so involved with all things bookish, and that is the phrase "to-be-read" or TBR, and consequently we all have our TBR piles or TBR shelves - I think you get the point... and its basically a fact of life that book bloggers will at one point or another struggle with their TBR pile, I mean, if you have not encountered this problem at all then I am in awe of you, please be my Yoda. If you still haven't got the idea yet a TBR pile is basically a pile of books (or e-books, but then its not technically a pile) that you want to read in the near-future.

Its a great way for book bloggers to prioritize books and review copies plus it also makes picking what to read next easier because rather than having to stand back and survey your shelves you already have a dedicated pile of books that need to be read. And then there's this breed of book blogger called mood readers, I happen to be one of them. Being a mood reader throws this entire system out of tandem, because we mood readers are totally freaking awesome and read whatever we want whenever we want. As a result, I'm very bad at keeping up with TBR piles so much to the point that I don't even bother making them anymore. 

Of course, there's books I know I want to read as soon as possible e.g. THE NEXT A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE BOOK and no matter my mood I would pick up that book and read it. Yet, a lot of the time my progress with review copies and ARCs (advanced reader copies) from publishers gets halted because I just won't feel like reading any of them, sometimes I'd just much rather curl up with one of the Harry Potter novels and revel in a re-read. But that doesn't mean I don't have a TBR at all, I do have a pile of books that I've categorized as "to-be-read-as-soon-as-my-silly-mind-decides-it-wants-to" and I have a shelf on GR (Goodreads) dedicated to TBR books.

I just don't necessarily give it any credit really. I could do the obvious things and force myself to read review copies that need to be read, but I don't see the point in that, mainly because if I force myself to read something and I don't enjoy it then I can't be 100% sure that it was actually because of the book or if it was only because I didn't actually want to read it. So it would be unfair to the author if I were to give their book a bad review on the basis of my mood.

Really, this was just something that was on my mind and that I decided I want to talk about. I've thought about discussing both topics separately before but then it just popped into my head that they both go hand in hand, so I might as well talk about them together! In case you couldn't tell this is a pretty casual post, and I'm sorry for not posting since the beginning of the month - even though its only been a week to you guys, its been seven days of stress-fully trying (and failing) to write posts for this month, again my mind is annoying because its just not in the blogging mood right now. Blergh. On the bright side that means I can recline with Red Queen, sigh.

Saturday, 6 December 2014


So last week, I posted a review of Girl Online. (if you haven't read it you can check it out here) I really enjoyed this book and I didn't have much to be negative about. But in the last few days, a lot has been spoken about to do with this book and I just wanted to make a post commenting on it all.

So if you haven't heard the buzz, Girl Online has become the fastest selling debut novel of all time, with an incredible 78,000 copies being sold in the first week. Many articles have been comparing Girl Online sales to those Of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, Fifty Shades Of Grey and Twilight. For some reason Girl Online outselling these sorts of debut novels is a complete shock. But Zoe Sugg has more that 6 million subscribers to her main YouTube channel. Of course her book is going to sell thousands of copies. I mean, what were people expecting. 

My own opinion on the whole thing is so what? Seriously we know how many fans Sugg has. Of course they were going to all go and get her book. But that are treating this as a negative because Zoe got a book deal easily, think of it like this. What if three quarters of those who bought her book had never read a book before. And what if, after they read the book, they read more and more books. A lot of people will think it's unfair that Zoe Sugg got a book deal so easily. But most of those people are the ones who want to get more children reading. What if Zoe's book helps them to do that and to read more books, and fall in love with it the way we all have. 

 I hope you didn't that I never reviewed today. I should have a review up soon, but I just wanted this up and out there. Sorry if it's a little shorter than a normal post!

Monday, 1 December 2014

TAG || Winter Wonderland Book Tag

Its the first of December which means its officially time to start counting down until Christmas, grab out your advent calendars etcetera etcertera... So I'm doing the Winter Wonderland Book Tag today, to get us started! This tag was super fun to do and I found it whilst I was browsing through book blogs a while back, I couldn't find who originally created this tag - but if you know please tell me so I can credit them in this post!

1. What book is so happy and sweet that it warms your heart?
This may be a bit of a shocker but I haven't read many la-la-rainbows-and-unicorns-happy books, at least none without any earth-shattering-ly sad endings, maybe I've been reading the wrong books? So let's just focus on the second half of this question, and that has to be Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt, I said something quite similar in my review of it - it just warms my heart so much, its all sunny and glowy and lovely.

2. What is your favorite book with a white cover? 
I have such a terrible memory I can barely remember which books I own that have white covers, let alone which one is my favourite... erm... I think I'm going to go with A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray, which may not technically be "white" - but whatevaaaaah. 

3. You're sitting in a nice comfy chair, wearing a onesie, with a lovely warm hot chocolate but what MONSTER read are you reading?
I'm not sure whether this question means monster as in horror, or monster as in MASSIVE, so I'm just going to cheat slightly and answer with two books. The scary book I'd be sitting in with, clutching my hot chocolate, is Say Her Name by James Dawson (you can read my review of it here!). It's one of the best horror novels I've read this year, absolutely fun, spine tingling, and a brilliant contemporary. The MASSIVE read I'd have balancing on my knee's would be one of the books from the A Song of Ice and Fire series, each one definitely counts as a tome, and its one of my favourite series to re-read. Plus the newest installment is coming out in January just in time for me to spend my birthday money on it, hehe!

4. It started snowing so you decided to have a snowball fight! What fictional character would you love to have the snowball fight with? 
It has definitely got to be one of the Harry Potter characters because I just associate Hogwarts with snowy Christmases and warm fireplaces - and obviously snowball fights! Eeek, the only problem now is to pick one of them... okay, the Weasley twins! Who wouldn't want to have a snowball fight with them? (Both of them. BOTH. OKAY.)

5. Sadly, your fire is beginning to go out. So what book would you tear the last few chapters out to throw into the fire? 
Even if its a book I hated I'm completely again defacing books but in this case... hypothetically... I would be totally okay with ripping out the last chapters of Allegiant, just to not have to go through *that*. You know what I mean.

6. What book is so close to your heart that you would gift to someone this Christmas who hasn't read before but wants to get into reading? 
Without a doubt Extrememly Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, I've recommended this so many times and I would absolutely gift it to almost anyone who wanted to get into reading. Its one of my favourite novels of all time, similarly My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult is a close second - I would gift both of them!

Now, I've got to tag some people, so I tag; Amber @ The Mile Long Bookshelf, Michelle @ Tales of Yesterday, Ruby @ Feed Me Books Now and Georgia @ The Bibliomaniac, and Holly @ Lost In A Library - have fun, muahahah!