Wednesday, 28 January 2015

REVIEW || The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

Book Title: The Last Leaves Falling
Author: Sarah Benwell
PublisherDefinitions (Young Adult), January 29th, 2015
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Format: e-ARC, 320 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
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.

The Last Leaves Falling was among one of my most anticipated reads of 2015, and it did not disappoint – it was tender and truthful; a story that I think everyone needs to sample and consume. 

I know we’ve had a lot of books about illnesses, some have become rather mainstream (cough, The Fault In Our Stars) but I think what makes Benwell’s book so much more unique is how its set in Japan, not only the diversity that’s included throughout the book – and not in a forced way - but just the simple differences we see in Sora’s lifestyle.

Something that surprised me, and I’m slightly ashamed that it did, was how normal Sora was portrayed, even with the struggle and the worsening symptoms of ALS, he was just a regular teenager, on the internet, like us. Benwell portrayed that element so well, it really felt like familiar young voices talking – it’s an element that can so often be written wrongly (and in my experience, has been) that when it is written right, as in The Last Leaves Falling, you obviously can’t help but praise it.

I think the reason this was so surprising is that in a lot of novels about illness, that I’ve read, there’s an overwhelming amount of depression, and after a while, even though I hate to say it, it does get kind of tiring. Whilst a large part of the book is obviously about Sora’s story and his illness, ALS, I think something that was more so empowering was the role that friendship played in the book, it was like the lifeboat the helped the rest of the novel rock on the waves.

The Last Leaves Falling is just a truly beautiful and touching book, with fantastically diverse characters and elements. As ordinary as Benwell’s novel is, it’s also extraordinary in some respects and there’s a perfect balance here. With any novel of this nature, some tears are inevitable, what I couldn’t have foreseen was how Sarah made me smile through my tears. 

In short, this book has a lot of heart, and shouldn’t be dismissed quickly – I urge you to read it! 

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds

Monday, 26 January 2015

REVIEW || The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

Book Title: The Alex Crow
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Electric Monkey, February 26th, 2015
Source: Publisher (via NetGalley)
Format: e-ARC, 304 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Once again blending multiple story strands that transcend time and place, Grasshopper Jungle author Andrew Smith tells the story of 15-year-old Ariel, a refugee from the Middle East who is the sole survivor of an attack on his small village. Now living with an adoptive family in Sunday, West Virginia, Ariel's story of his summer at a boys' camp for tech detox is juxtaposed against those of a schizophrenic bomber and the diaries of a failed arctic expedition from the late nineteenth century. Oh, and there’s also a depressed bionic reincarnated crow.
I’ve made no secret of my adoration of Andrew Smith’s books, so obviously when I heard he had not only the sequel to Winger coming out this year, but another book altogether – it went straight on my wishlist. That book was The Alex Crow, and like all of Smith’s books (that I’ve read so far) Smith balances the weird and the wonderful in such a genius way; if anything I think this is one of Smith’s best books yet.

The thing with The Alex Crow is that you don’t really know what you’ve got until you’ve, well, got it – its brilliantly perplexing without being frustrating. To describe the book without fear of spoilers, its like all these little instances woven together to create a story that you can’t stop reading. It is fair to say that Smith is in his element here, creating a somewhat cloaked storyline that transcends time and occasionally, sense – just as in Grasshopper Jungle, but in my opinion, it worked much better for this book, and I can’t put my finger on why.

Leonard’s chapters at the beginning of the book were so morbidly fascinating; of course it all makes sense, eventually – but until you get the connection this melting man, this man who is undoubtedly insane, and falling apart (erm, literally) holds your attention. The journal entries from a particular Doctor weren’t at all exciting or riveting to put it bluntly but even so, you still wanted to read on – Smith made you want to know what happened to The Alex Crow; who was the melting man, and what happened to the boy in the refrigerator?

I think something that makes Smith’s books unique (apart from his original concepts, obviously) - especially this one - is how he seems to state everything so matter of fact, yet it’s full to the brim with eloquent descriptions and bouts of realism. I’m not going to lie, what started out somewhat disconnected came together and there are bits that pack quite an emotional punch – they did make me recoil slightly in horror, but I have to give a hand to Smith because not only was this written incredibly well but the plot was so well executed.

I’ve mentioned Smith’s no nonsense approach before and that doesn’t change in this book, with everything it’s all real and unfaltering at that. Similarly, you don’t necessarily need to like Smith’s characters to enjoy them, if that makes any sense. In The Alex Crow there was no one character that I liked, but I enjoyed them all, I truly did, and I think that worked well for the type of story that Smith was trying to tell here. I did begin to wonder how Andrew was going to talk about this stay at a camp for an entire book and still make it interesting, of course my trepidation was wasted – Smith succeeded and went above and beyond my expectations.

Overall, The Alex Crow was a brilliant book that I think is basically about two strangers becoming brothers, and throw in a suicidal crow whilst you’re at it. I really did love it, and it’s definitely going on my favourites shelf. I will say that I think this book won’t work for some people, but it worked for me. My only one reservation about this book is that I wanted it to wow me, to stun me, and like I said it is brilliant, but there was just that slight lack of “woah…” which is why I had to bring the book down a star. Finally, I do urge you to pick this one up!

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds

Monday, 19 January 2015

DISCUSSION || The Meaning of... Reading?

Reading is obviously going to mean different things to different people; and I’m not about to address anything as profound as the Meaning of Life (haha, got you there) but I think we’d all be na├»ve if we said we’d never thought about it before – even non-readers think about this in some shaper or form; I’m sure they wonder why we read when they don’t find any enjoyment in it.

A blanket answer to “why do you read?” is usually, in my experience, “because I love reading” – and then if we extend that to “why do you love reading?” We come up with answers like “because I can escape/be someone else/experience different things.” Which is all well and good, and I know as well as anyone how varied books can be – there really is something for everyone, take a little fall down the rabbit hole and your day goes from ordinary to extraordinary.

It’s a question I find myself asking, mostly in times of philosophical musings (if only I could say these periods were few and far between) – and if I replied with any of the above, I’m afraid I would be lying. I don’t read to escape, or to become someone else. Yet, a lot of people do, a lot of people read to forget their lives for a minute and get to live someone else’s – at first I thought this might just be because I hadn’t found the right book, or maybe it was because of various character defects that didn’t allow me to be truly sentimental in relation to a piece of fiction carved into a pile of desecrated tree.

I haven’t reached a conclusion yet but, as philosophical musings often do, it has raised other questions, namely; am I missing out? Am I missing out because I read for the sheer enjoyment of seeing pen put to paper, rather than some other reason? I haven’t come to a conclusion on any of these matters yet, but I think it’s pretty obvious that, more so profound reason for reading or not, it doesn’t dilute my love, and often times passion, for the written word.

Furthermore, you hear the phrase "this book/author saved my life" - just as I can't seem to love reading as an escape I would feel hypocritical, even uncomfortable, if I ever said a book or author had saved my life (again, I'm not trying to be offensive here! If a book or particular author helped you through a tough time then that's brilliant!) - even the thought of it just makes my skin crawl. I know it sounds harsh, and I don't mean it to!

I’m not berating or mocking the people who do identify with what I can’t, really, I actually admire it – I’m only saying that for me personally, that’s not how it works, sadly.

To explain more thoroughly; when I read a book, no matter what I’m reading, I’m always reading it as me. I’m always thinking, measuring, making assumptions and presumptions – I’m never the character, not for a moment, and I have to stress that this isn’t because an author is terrible at writing in first person, or second person – but because reading is something I look at with a birds eye view, plain and simple. As a result every decision, every plot twist is punctuated by my mind doing different things – rather than going a long with the character, and a lot of the time sarcasm plays a big role in my mental commentary – thankfully this doesn’t tend to distract me from a book, usually. Maybe I am missing out, but in the end, there’s that saying… you can’t miss what you’ve never had.

I will admit this post was a bit of a spur of the moment thing, sure I've given the topic itself a lot of thought but I always felt like it would sound a little stupid in a post - but here we are, and my dirty little secret is out in the world - I'm joking, joking! Its actually a fact I'm okay with, its never caused any emotional turmoil as such, I just find it an interesting point of discussion. So here comes the big question, what do you think?

Saturday, 17 January 2015

REVIEW || Winger by Andrew Smith

Book Title: Winger (Winger #1)
Author: Andrew Smith
Publisher: Penguin, June 5th, 2014
Source: Bought!
Format: Paperback, 438 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old boy at a boarding school for rich kids. He's living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he's madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy. With the help of his sense of humour, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life's complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what's important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.
Winger is a book I’ve been conflicted about for months, literally, and it’s only now that I finally decided to get on with it and write my review. Basically, in the simplest form that I could possibly put it; everything I loved about this book, I also disliked to some extent too. Having become and instant fan of Smith’s after reading my first book of his, Grasshopper Jungle, early in 2014; I was so excited to get my hands on this (thank-you Sophie!) that all I did the day it arrived was stare at it in anticipation.

Ryan Dean was a well written character with a personality that jumped straight off the pages (helped no less by the fun comics and drawings in the book) – you couldn’t help but find him adorable, even though I doubt he’d agree. But he could also be a whiny little marshmallow at times, and that just rubbed me the wrong way, there’s really no getting over it, for me. On that note, Annie (Ryan Dean’s best friend, who he is also in love with) also really annoyed me, not for any particular personality trait, but just in general I didn’t view her as a very good friend.

The book itself was really easy to get into and everything flowed really well, Winger also has one of my favourite secondary characters, Joey. I have to say that whilst there is plenty of plot progression, there isn't much of a plot itself, and I think for some people that might be a bit off putting.

I will say that how much I loved and hated this book surprised me, mainly because of how vehement it was/is. More accurately, it’s like I want to love this, a lot, but there’s also all these flaws that should reduce it to a terrible piece of fiction, but it just doesn’t. If anything it just makes the book even more fantastic, if I’m honest. As with all Andrew Smith’s books it was bloody well written, and not afraid to stay away from the good stuff (a.k.a. Gatorade bottle not filled with Gatorade) and there was lots of real gritty teen talk, and I don’t mean sleepover gossip, I mean real school struggles – it truly is a coming of age story.

With Smith’s books you can be sure there’ll be something interesting that changes the game, and Winger didn’t disappoint in that department either, the ending was punch to the gut. I was quite literally gobsmacked when I read it. Overall, Winger is a really excellent YA contemporary – real, touching, and combined with Smith’s trademark writing style it made for one hell of a book. 

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds
Edit: After a bit of deliberation I've brought the book down to 3.5 bookish birds!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

REVIEW || Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Book Title: Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die #1)
Author: Danielle Paige
Publisher: HarperCollins, April 1st, 2014
Source: Bought!
Format: Paperback, 452 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
I didn't ask for any of this. I didn't ask to be some kind of hero. But when your whole life gets swept up by a tornado—taking you with it—you have no choice but to go along, you know? Sure, I've read the books. I've seen the movies. I know the song about the rainbow and the happy little blue birds. But I never expected Oz to look like this. To be a place where Good Witches can't be trusted, Wicked Witches may just be the good guys, and winged monkeys can be executed for acts of rebellion. There's still the yellow brick road, though—but even that's crumbling. What happened? Dorothy. They say she found a way to come back to Oz. They say she seized power and the power went to her head. And now no one is safe. My name is Amy Gumm—and I'm the other girl from Kansas. I've been recruited by the Revolutionary Order of the Wicked. I've been trained to fight. And I have a mission: Remove the Tin Woodman's heart. Steal the Scarecrow's brain. Take the Lion's courage. Then and only then—Dorothy must die!
I think this needs a bit of a preset; Dorothy Must Die was one of my most anticipated reads of 2014 so obviously I bought it as soon as I could and then I found out some, let’s say unsavory things about the book related to Full Fathom Five (link to an article that might help explain this, here) which put me off reading the book. But it had been sitting on my shelf for ages when I got the point where I was like, “Hey, I was really excited for this book, I’m just gonna read this and try not to be biased.” And you know what? I really enjoyed this book!

The entire premise of the book had me enticed, I’ve always had a soft spot for fairytale retellings – especially unique ones, and as a result everything about the book was pretty much up my alley. I mean a book where the heroine we know and love has to be murdered? Yes, please!

The plot of the book, overall, was incredibly inventive and original. Everything flowed well and answered enough questions without info dumping. At moments it felt very much like a showing of queen teen drama at the cinema. I think the thing that really made this work as a cohesive whole was the descriptions; they held everything together and also reinforced the underlying fairytale feeling.

None of the characters were really relatable, nor were any of them rather likeable, but I think that worked in favor of the book because of the darker tale that was being woven. All the basics from the story we knew as children was there but everything was either turned on its head, or shown in a totally new light, and whilst it can make you go “woah, wait, hold the phone” it also makes you go “this is freaking awesome”.

In short, the reading experience was really enjoyable and everything about Dorothy Must Die was original and refreshing but not a lot of the book was very memorable, and Amy (the main character) just got on my nerves a lot, she was also sort of pushed into the role of being a heroine and didn't really act as... accordingly, which just didn't work for me - for those reasons I had to lower the rating. Whilst I don’t agree with anything associated with Full Fathom Five I liked this book for what it was, I gave it a chance and I am definitely looking forward to reading the sequel (The Wicked Will Rise) this year!
Rating = 3 Bookish Birds

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

REVIEW || The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Book Title: The Kiss of Deception (The Remnant Chronicles #1)
Author: Mary E. Pearson
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co, July 8th, 2014
Source: Bought!
Format: Hardback, 486 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
A princess must find her place in a reborn world. She flees on her wedding day. She steals ancient documents from the Chancellor's secret collection. She is pursued by bounty hunters sent by her own father. She is Princess Lia, seventeen, First Daughter of the House of Morrighan. The Kingdom of Morrighan is steeped in tradition and the stories of a bygone world, but some traditions Lia can't abide. Like having to marry someone she's never met to secure a political alliance. Fed up and ready for a new life, Lia flees to a distant village on the morning of her wedding. She settles in among the common folk, intrigued when two mysterious and handsome strangers arrive—and unaware that one is the jilted prince and the other an assassin sent to kill her. Deceptions swirl and Lia finds herself on the brink of unlocking perilous secrets—secrets that may unravel her world—even as she feels herself falling in love.
Before even going into this review I have to give a massive shout out to a certain someone, who I’m sure you all tired of hearing about now – obviously, I’m talking about Arianne, it was her review in the first place that made me extremely excited for this book (this was actually one of my most anticipated reads of 2014 after that review!), and then she was there for me throughout the entire reading journey (inevitably, I shared her love for Rafe).

Ah, wow, yeah, I don’t really know how to properly start off this review – simplest things first I suppose, The Kiss of Deception was fantastic, amazing, brilliant; take your pick of the adjectives that I will probably repeat a lot throughout this post. It really is a gem, sitting on my shelf looking all innocent when in reality it has very quickly become one of my favourite fantasy novels, of all time. I’m sorry, I just need to pause and talk about the cover – it looks totally mundane in the image, but it is so so so much better in person, I bow down to the awesome designer who brought this into existence. Moving on swiftly.

There are so many different aspects of the books that I loved and adored and if I were smarter I would probably bullet point them very efficiently, but I’m not so I’m going to ramble a lot, hehe. The thing that struck me first off, from the very beginning, were the magnificent descriptions that Pearson had weaved consistently throughout the entire novel. Not once did they falter, or feel repetitive – she really brought every scene, every emotion to life.

Similarly, the plot itself was absolutely fantastic, I did have my reservations about it because about two thirds of the way through it slowed and I wasn’t as immensely hooked, but I can see the necessity of it now and its doesn’t really bother me. Yet, I can’t help but wishing for some more plot development somewhere, even though I know it was for the purposes of further development in the sequel, it’s just a nagging thought. The ending was truly brilliant and I think tied up the book nicely, which may sound kind of strange since nothing actually ended – but it’s the best way I can describe it. The cliffhanger killed me a little bit inside, I want to know what happens already!

I definitely think it’s rather Game of Thrones-esque in its feel, writing style, and the general intricacies that inhabit every inch of the book. One element that I felt could have been improved was the voices of the characters – the book is told from various perspectives (well, three to be exact) – they weren’t very distinguishable from each other and often times I had to flip back and forth to check who was speaking/narrating. 

I think, apart from the spineless piece of barbarian trash a.k.a. Kaden, I liked all the characters, surprisingly – each one was written well and unlike with the character’s voices in chapter alternations it was easy to tell who was speaking as they were all quite distinctive. Let's not forget Rafe who won me over at first with his assassins allure, needless to say I was... startled when I found out he was actually the Prince - because I was already biased towards the Prince I didn't want to like Rafe but eventually I gave in and now he's won my heart.

Overall, The Kiss of Deception was a truly magnificent fantasy novel which immersed you in its world with every turn of the page, and every other sentence. In actuality I would give this book 4.5 stars if I could! It’s perfect for fans of the A Song of Ice and Fire series and if you like well structured novels which will leave you itching for more, then definitely pick this one up! I think anyone could read this and love it, so don’t be deterred but it being a YA novel – its brilliant and I will be book pushing this at everyone (so don’t be surprised if I force it upon you…).

Finally, all I can really do is urge you to read this book! My review definitely doesn't come close to describing the torch I carry for this novel now (incidentally, obviously...) and there are much better than me who have articulated their thoughts perfectly (ehem, Ari) but I did my best and at the end of the day I'm happy that I've spoken about everything important.
Rating = 4 Bookish Birds

Monday, 12 January 2015

REVIEW || The Glass Bird Girl by Esme Kerr

Book Title: The Glass Bird Girl (Knight's Haddon #1)
Author: Esme Kerr
Publisher: Chicken House, May 1st, 2014
Source: Gifted!
Format: Proof copy, 304 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Orphan Edie is sent by her artdealer uncle to Knight’s Haddon School, to investigate the disappearance of a precious glass bird belonging to his secretive client’s daughter, Anastasia, an unhappy Russian princess. But what Edie uncovers instead is a dangerous mystery that only the girls themselves can solve.

Being a big fan of boarding school novels I was excited to get into The Glass Bird Girl, especially when I read the back flap and saw that there was a kidnap plot. I’ll admit that whilst I was skimming over the first few chapters I became slightly skeptic towards how much I thought I was going to like it as the introduction wasn’t very strong, but as I got further into the book I began to really enjoy it.

I doubt I’m really the target audience for the book, I believe its more marketed to younger readers as it’s a Middle Grade, and hence why the juvenile elements of the novel were a negative point for me. Another negative point was the fact that I didn’t see much character development, and whilst there were some great descriptions that set the scene there was a lack of description of the characters which made it hard to fully immerse myself in the book since I couldn’t visualize who I was reading about!

I found the plot of the novel brilliant, it did take a while to build up but when it did I was absolutely satisfied and loved how everything played out. Even though I didn’t make any connect to her I still loved Edie as a character, she was really likeable I only wish we’d gotten a bit more back story when it came to Edith’s parents and Miss Fotheringay. Nevertheless the information provided was enough to pull everything together.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading The Glass Bird Girl – it was fun, unique, and I look upon it quite affectionately now. I definitely recommend it if you want a light read, or something to get younger children reading! I'm also looking forward to reading any more books that come out set in Knight's Haddon!

Rating = 3 Bookish Birds
*Thank-you to the lovely Kate Lock for gifting this to me!*

Saturday, 10 January 2015

REVIEW || Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Book Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves
Author: Robin Talley
Publisher: Mira Ink, October 3rd, 2014
Source: Bought!
Format: Paperback, 336 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
It's 1959. The battle for civil rights is raging. And it's Sarah Dunbar's first day of school, as one of the first black students at the previously all-white Jefferson High. No one wants Sarah there. Not the Governor. Not the teachers. And certainly not the students – especially Linda Hairston, daughter of the town’s most ardent segregationist. Sarah and Linda have every reason to despise each other. But as a school project forces them to spend time together, the less their differences seem to matter. And Sarah and Linda start to feel something they've never felt before. Something they're both determined ignore. Because it's one thing to be frightened by the world around you - and another thing altogether when you're terrified of what you feel inside.
Lies We Tell Ourselves has been bouncing around a lot ever since, and before its publication, it was really by chance that I picked it up at the WHSmith in London Heathrow Airport and then it was a couple of months before I finally picked it up last week and decided now would be a good time to have a read of it. I will say that at first it doesn’t stand out, writing wise, but after a chapter two you (or at least me) are already in love with without even knowing what happened.

The time period that Lies We Tell Ourselves is set in is one that I’ve always had a great interest in; I’ve always been a big advocate of civil rights, so I was really interested to see how Talley was going to approach it, and I can tell you that she did it fantastically. Not only was Sarah’s character and voice incredibly well developed but her chapters were heartbreakingly accurate. I also found the repeated short sentences and general prose of the novel quite interesting and if anything they enhanced the writing style and set the scene really well. 

As this book is told in dual perspective it was important to me that both characters (Sarah and Linda) be distinguishable and I think Talley succeeded in that, but I do think that in Linda’s chapter’s Talley’s style perhaps wasn’t as striking as in Sarah’s chapter’s and that transition was a little disappointing but understandable. Yet I will say that the way Talley has written the dual perspectives works incredibly well for the story and plot development.

The LGBT element of the book wasn’t as strong as I had expected it to be, and that was surprising because after everything I’d heard and the actual writing on the cover I’d expected something that was really going to explore the relationship and generally I’d just expected to be a really big part of the book when in reality it actually played quite a small part. Furthermore, I don’t really like the idea of Sarah getting into a relationship with someone, Linda, who was so openly racist – I mean, I can kind of get the fact that this how she was brought up, but in her chapters we can clearly see that she’s questioning it, she knows that its morally wrong yet there’s also a part of her that thinks its genuinely correct. Overall, I just disliked Linda as a character, and disliked the fact that in the end the oppressed and the oppressor got together.

Having said that though, I found the ending satisfactory, I didn’t actually hate it! I think the book could have ended a dozen other ways, but after all my theorizing I have come to the conclusion that even if I personally don’t really like it, it does seem like the perfect ending. After reading this book I definitely do consider it moreover a historical contemporary, and one that is truly brilliant. As soon as I finished the book I recall thinking “wow that was amazing” and by all rights Lies We Tell Ourselves is amazing. Talley has combined two controversial topics (homosexuality and Civil Rights) and brought something that I think is entirely unique to the YA table. I think this is a book that will leave people thinking about itself and the topics it broaches for quite a while.

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds

Thursday, 8 January 2015

REVIEW || The Manifesto on How to be Interesting by Holly Bourne

Book Title: The Manifesto on How to be Interesting
Author: Holly Bourne
Publisher: Usborne, August 1st, 2014
Source: Bought
Format: Paperback, 464 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
Apparently I'm boring. A nobody. But that's all about to change. Because I am starting a project. Here. Now. For myself. And if you want to come along for the ride then you're very welcome. Bree is a loser, a wannabe author who hides behind words. Most of the time she hates her life, her school, her never-there parents. So she writes. But when she’s told she needs to start living a life worth writing about, The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting is born. Six steps on how to be interesting. Six steps that will see her infiltrate the popular set, fall in love with someone forbidden and make the biggest mistake of her life.
Ultimately The Manifesto on How to be Interesting was a very fun read and is definitely one of the better YA contemporaries I’ve read this year, but in the end I was left unsatisfied and slightly irritated with the ending, and unfortunately the book as a whole. It left me feeling like “well, that was nice… let’s read another book *carries on with life*” and what I mean by this is it didn’t really leave any sort of imprint on me; it was just ehh nice enough, good book, moving ooooon.

Holly Bourne’s writing was engaging but didn’t do anything for me, to be wholly honest, I couldn’t find anything unique about it but the story definitely made up for that, in my eyes. It echoes the likes of Holly Smale’s Geek Girl and Non Pratt’s Trouble – with identifiable characters, a bucket load of personalities, issues, experiences, and other what-not’s that make up a person.

I thought the entire plot of the the novel was fantastically inventive but still totally grounded and real – it was also well executed, from the little elements like Bree being a failing novelist, to the bigger ones like her relationship with, ehem, Logan. (Who by the way, I kind of liked in the beginning, but I now think he is a slimy cockroach of a human who I would happily punch.) I have to say though, it was all a bit predictable, then again I didn't expect it to do a Gone Girl on me, so it wasn't that much of a negative point – but I would have liked something that surprised me a little more. Speaking of the relationship, it was a little hard to get comfortable with the whole student-teacher romance, for me personally because I'm not a big fan of that whole... thing. Although, Bourne did make it a cohesive element of the book and for that I can overlook my discomfort.

Bree as a main character is very, very, true and I think in a lot of cases quite relatable but (of course, there's a but) despite all that I didn't find her a likable character, yet I think that's one thing that actually carried the novel for me. Whereas in most contemporary novels if I don't like the main character then the book just become a lost cause, in The Manifesto it actually works in favour of the book. 

In general The Manifesto on How to be Interesting was a really good book, but was lacking in some areas - yet it is ultimately, what I think to be, one of the best portrayals of a normal (as in no illnesses, no tragedy, etc - just a regular person with regular issues) teenager struggling with school (and social life) that I've seen in YA. I definitely recommend it if you're looking to sample something in the contemporary YA genre.

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

REVIEW || Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

Book Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise O'Neill
Publisher: Quercus, July 3rd, 2014
Source: Bought
Format: Paperback, 392 pages
LinksGoodreads | Amazon | The Book Depository
frieda and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions - wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative - life as a concubine - is too horrible to contemplate. But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to remain perfect becomes almost unbearable. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty - her only asset - in peril. And then, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. frieda must fight for her future - even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known...
Let me just get this out; Only Ever Yours was scarily good.  

Like hold the phone, shut the door, tell all your friends good.

Only Ever Yours was brutally brilliant (my alliteration is proof of that!) not just on the basis of the excellent plot which was pretty eye-opening because it was just so possible, it really made you take a step back and have a look at what was happening not only in the future but now. Funnily enough it reminded me a bit of a dark land of Oz - something that's supposed to be good twisted into this horrible parallel nightmare. O’Neill wrote in such a cutting way, literally holding nothing back. It was so fascinating, and honestly there so many inventive elements that attributed to making us engrossed within the story that you can't not praise the author.

Having said all that there were negative points to the book as well, one of these being that I didn't like any character, not even freida. Everyone was just so vile; I could shudder when I think about them. Even the ones who were supposed to be nice (chastity-magdalena for example) made my skin itch. It was a bit hard to remain invested in the book due to that fact, but that’s not to say I hated them, on the contrary I think they were all perfectly formed to fit the story. I appreciate and respect that, but I still would have liked at least one person I was okay with.

Secondly, I do think the book got a bit repetitive and it caused that type of repetitive boredom where you’re still reading (and interested in what happens) but at the same time you can’t help but scratch your eyeball. Not to mention that Darwin was the epitome of good-looking-rich-boy-with-no-substance who became an absolute ass at the end, which just made me dislike him even more, but once again props to O’Neill for not taking the easy path. The ending was a punch in the face, and I am so so happy with it, you have no idea. About two thirds of the way through the book I was beginning to get slightly irritated because it seemed that the book was going in the “happy ending” direction but then O’Neill just comes along, laughs in your face, and makes you feel guilty for wanting an un-happy ending for freida.

Due to all these contrasting points I was quite conflicted on how to rate Only Ever Yours, on one hand the negative points seemed to outweigh the good, making it a two star read – and yet the positive elements left me slack-jawed and wowed, making it a four star read. Even coming to the end of this review I’m still not sure what to give this book, but I do and will recommend it to everyone I come across. I cannot wait to see what else O’Neill comes up with, and whether she brings out a contemporary, or a fantasy, I hope her writing style stays as brilliant and honest as it is in Only Ever Yours.

Rating = 4 Bookish Birds
(Note: I was unsure about mentioning this last bit but it annoyed me so much that I couldn’t not include it in my review of the book. Basically there were quite a few mistakes in the book, from a characters name being misspelled half way through and various other spelling mistakes, to simple grammatical issues. I just found that it drew my attention away from the story quite a bit, but it isn’t that big of an issue…)

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Monthly Wrap Up || DECEMBER 2014

For the second month in a row this wrap up is slightly late, but it was Christmas and so on, and I was also debating about doing a last minute yearly wrap up but decided not to because whilst I love reading other people's yearly wrap up's I don't particularly like the idea of posting one myself. Fortunately, even though I procrastinated my wrap up, I was actually really productive  blogging-wise in December, I wrote loads of reviews that needed writing! Plus I also read a lot - there are full days where all I did was sleep and read (and eat, obviously). The closer we got to Christmas the more chocolate became involved whilst reading, which is always a good thing!

Out of the many books I read this month a few favourites include; Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill, Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley, Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey. Now that we're in 2015 there are so many books that I'm excited for, most notably The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard, and Ensnared by A.G. Howard! I'm also hoping to read loads more UKYA this year - Debbie (and Jim!) have a spreadsheet of YA and MG books coming out this year (in the UK I believe) and its so helpful, you should definitely check it out here!

I'm not one for really making resolutions, and the whole "new year, new me" philosophy (for want of a better word) isn't something I believe in, but obviously its great if that motivates you to do better! Having said all that though I do a few guidelines I'd like to follow in relation to books this year - 1) Write my reviews no less than an hour after reading the book, if possible. 2) Only buy books if you're seriously going to read them soon! 3) Be brutal with your TBR pile... [That last one may need a bit of work.] And on the blogging front I just want to be a little more organized, and hopefully if I am I won't have to take a hiatus later in the year when I'm taking my iGCSE's.

2014 was a pretty good year to be honest, it wasn't without its up's and its counterbalancing down's but I feel like I really got comfortable with blogging, and now have my own little nook here and of course I've met so many wonderful, amazing people that I couldn't imagine not talking to now. I mean a lot of people don't understand it, a relative of mine for one straight out asked me why I was sending presents to people I'd never met before - but you guys get it right? I mean (as an example) Shazina and I have only been friends for a short time but I already feel like I could talk to her about anything, and our entire relationship bloomed from a shared interested of Supernatural! And of course there's Arianne, who I have mentioned countless times before; she is one of the nicest, kindest, people I have never met, and her intelligence doesn't intimidate me at all [it was thanks to that intelligence that she got me out of jail...] I honestly can't think of my life without her now. Plus countless others, who I can't list because as you all know I'm lazy. But I love you all <3

Now that I've said all the sappy stuff I should probably get on with actually wrapping up December, haha! To start off the month festively I did The Winter Wonderland Book Tag, and following Zoe posted a rant about Zoe Sugg's book; Girl Online. After that my second proper discussion post went up! I talked about tbr piles and mood reading - since I'm very much a mood reader! After that came the post of the year where I spoke about my ten favourite books that I'd read in 2014! The list included Splintered by A.G. Howard, Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - as well as lots of other excellent books! Then Arianne (there she is again!) and I talked about Pierce Brown's Red Rising in a discussion and joint review post! Zoe came back and told us about her Secret Santa package that she got from Hawwa! Rounding off the start of Christmas we wished you all happy holidays and finally I posted our last review of the year which spoke about why I was conflicted about M.R. Carey's The Girl With All The Gifts.

I think January is going to be a pretty good month for various reasons, like my birthday, and hellatus ending (WE GET TO SEE CHARLIE AGAIN - can my feels handle the next episode?) - and of course all the amazing books that are releasing this month! I have so many Jan 2015 arcs that I haven't read yet... cue the guilt and trying to read them all as soon as possible. Oh and before I forget Louise O'Neill announced the title of her next book (publishing in August/September) which is Asking For It - and obviously having loved Only Ever Yours I will definitely be picking this one up!

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Fionnuala's End of Year Book Survey || Part 2!

2014 End Of Year Book Survey

Welcome back to the second part of my 2014 End of Year Book Survey! Enjoy!


1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2014? 

I have so many favourite blogs and due to my terrible memory I don't even know which I started reading last year or this year, but a blog I discovered recently that I'm really loving is Michelle's Tales of Yesterday!

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2014? 

I'm really quite proud of the review I did of The Young Elites of Marie Lu - I'm sure its not my best though, but there's so many reviews from this year and I'm not going to sift through all of them, hehe.

3. Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog?

Best discussion post is definitely the discussion Arianne and I had about Pierce Brown's Red Rising! Not only did I get to talk about books (or well once book if you you want to be technical about it) with one of my favourite people but it really helped me decide what I honestly thought of the book.

4. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)?

I'm not sure if this counts as an event but every #ukyachat is brilliant (look up the hashtag on Twitter!) even though I've only participated in one (which was so much fun!) I always watch the tag when chats are going on because so many good book recommendations come out of it, and its just generally a great experience! A runner up is bout of books, which I participated in for the first time!

5. Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2014?

Not to be sappy but it obviously has to be meeting so many amazing bookish people through blogging!

7. Most Popular Post This Year On Your Blog (whether it be by comments or views)?

By views; my review of The End of the World as we Know It by Iva Marie Palmer - which was a very fun read. By comments; my mini reviews of Fangirl and Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell! If I haven't told you how much I adore Eleanor and Park then sit down because I'm about to gush.

8. Post You Wished Got A Little More Love?

Erm... *awkward*

9. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)?

Epic Reads! Everything about these girls and what they do is awesome, not only their website (which hosts brilliant posts and infographics) but Tea Time as well! I've made about four live ones now, and I'm hoping to make it to loads more!

10.  Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?

I 'm really happy to say that I completed every reading goal I set myself! I finished (and passed) my GR reading goal of 100 books, I managed to read 10+ UKYA novels this year annnd I read loads more fantasy and YA contemporary! Also branching out into genre's that I don't usually read such as Chicklit, which I surprisingly enjoyed.


1. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?

Oh goodness, there's so many, but probably Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard - I'm so excited for this one and I've had an arc for quite a while so I need to get on that!

2. Book You Are Most Anticipating For 2015 (non-debut)?

ENSNAAAAARED by A.G. Howard - have I mentioned this already? I probably have.

3. 2015 Debut You Are Most Anticipating?

The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury.

 4. Series Ending/A Sequel You Are Most Anticipating in 2015?


5. One Thing You Hope To Accomplish Or Do In Your Reading/Blogging Life In 2015?

This might be a little outlandish but I would love to reach 100 GFC followers in 2015!

6. A 2015 Release You’ve Already Read & Recommend To Everyone:

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell - such an amazing book! (Publishing on the 29th of Jan!)