April Wrap Up/May TBR

Friday 28 April 2017

I read seven books in April, but did I stick to my TBR?

TBR Feature #51

Wednesday 26 April 2017

TBR Feature is the chance for me to, every Wednesday, pick one of my unread books and discuss it: why I picked it up, when I'll get round to reading it, if I'm still interested in it at all etc.

The Queen's Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler

Outcast: A Darkness Surrounds Him by Robert Kirkman

Monday 24 April 2017

Outcast: A Darkness Surrounds Him
Robert Kirkman
Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Horror, Supernatural
Published: January 15th 2015
Pages: 152
Rating: 4 stars

Kyle Barnes has been plagued by demonic possession all his life and now he needs answers. Unfortunately, what he uncovers along the way could bring about the end of life on Earth as we know it.

Outcast promises demons, horror, and the impending apocalypse. I'd expect nothing less from the creator of The Walking Dead, and the first few pages are enough to raise your hopes for the rest of the series. They're sufficiently horrible and compel you to read on.

Our main character, Kyle, is first introduced as a brooding slob, and rather than put me off, it made me curious. Just what have the demons in his life done to make him live in such squalor? Are these demons inside him? Those he loves? Or are they just in his head? We get answers when he has a run in with the local reverend, but they still manage to create more questions. Just what is up with Kyle?

The artwork is fairly simple and I can't quite tell if I like it or not. It's not overly cartoonish, but at the same time it's not totally realistic, either. There's minimal shading when it comes to clothes, and some larger panels lack finer details. The full pages, however, do deliver more in these departments and the landscapes in general seem to have more detail than the people. Mixed feelings aside, the colour scheme throughout this volume is fantastic. Each issue seems to have a different main colour which is nice as it gives you more of an idea of when things begin and end, but as a whole nothing feels out of place.

There's a lot of talking and a smattering of action in this volume, but it doesn't drag or come across as boring. Yes, some of the speech is rather deep and philosophical - which seems out of place in a graphic novel but actually ties in nicely with the theme of demons - but it feels somewhat necessary. While this is set in our world, it feels like a world of its own and some degree of setting up is required.

Overall, this is an interesting volume and a good set up for the rest of the series. I'm excited to read more.

York Castle Museum

TBR Feature #50

Wednesday 19 April 2017

TBR Feature is the chance for me to, every Wednesday, pick one of my unread books and discuss it: why I picked it up, when I'll get round to reading it, if I'm still interested in it at all etc.

Suicide Notes From Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

Read Me Like a Book by Liz Kessler

Monday 17 April 2017

Read Me Like a Book
Liz Kessler
Genre(s): Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Published: May 14th 2015
Pages: 297
Rating: 2 stars

Ashleigh Walker is in love. You know the feeling - that intense, heart-racing, all-consuming emotion that can only come with first love. It's enough to stop her worrying about bad grades at college. Enough to distract her from her parents' marriage troubles. There's just one thing bothering her . . .

Shouldn't it be her boyfriend, Dylan, who makes her feel this way - not Miss Murray, her English teacher?

When you can't stand the main character in a book, it's hard to like the book as a whole. This was the case for me when reading Read Me Like a Book.

Ash was one of the most annoying characters I've ever come across: dumb, self-centred, one-sided, and far too arrogant for my liking. There was nothing redeeming about her and she continually made stupid decisions in order to seem cool and fit in. She made everything about her, completely ignoring the fact that other people can also be affected by things and have their own problems. I can't be overly critical of her, though, as the rest of the characters were just as bad. Cat and Dylan were cookie cutter stereotypes of the badass friend and slick player, respectively.

I had issues with the writing as well; it was very simplistic and nothing felt like it was coming from teens. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't badly written, it just didn't feel like it was written for young adults as there was no challenge or complexity

Being in my fourth year of studying A-Levels and in the process of applying for university, I also couldn't help but notice some discrepancies and falsehoods about the whole college situation. Kessler did a good job at trying to capture the essence of Year 13, but it felt very much like an adults perspective of what goes on at sixth form. Yes, you have the typical parties and drunken escapades, but you also do have tutors cracking down and handing out disciplinaries for not attending or completing work. However, I did appreciate the way Ash turned things around in the second half of the novel. If it had come a little earlier it would have worked better for me, as it was too little too late.

I also took issue with the fact that the LGBT elements only really started to come into play when the book was nearly over. I went into this expecting a strong, if taboo, lesbian love story. Instead, I got an afterthought. I felt no real connection between Ash and Miss Murray - or even Ash and Dylan, for that matter - and did not buy into the idea that Ash was struggling with her sexuality.

Going into this I really wanted to like it - I mean just look at the cover! - but sadly it didn't live up to my expectations at all. For a younger audience, I feel like this could be a good gateway into realistic and LGBT young adult literature, if taken with a pinch of salt. The intention was there, which I appreciate, but it just didn't work out.

Ruler of Books Tag

Friday 14 April 2017

It's been a good while since I last did a tag so I thought one was due. The Ruler of Books Tag was originally created by Ariel Bissett on Youtube and it basically asks you what you would do if you ruled the bookish world.

If you were the Ruler of Books…

TBR Feature #49

Wednesday 12 April 2017

TBR Feature is the chance for me to, every Wednesday, pick one of my unread books and discuss it: why I picked it up, when I'll get round to reading it, if I'm still interested in it at all etc.

And I Darken by Kiersten White

Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa

Monday 10 April 2017

Fans of the Impossible Life
Kate Scelsa
Genre(s): Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Published: September 10th 2015
Pages: 336
Rating: 1 star

Mira is starting over at Saint Francis Prep. She promised her parents she would at least try to pretend that she could act like a functioning human this time, not a girl who can’t get out of bed for days on end, who only feels awake when she’s with Sebby.

Jeremy is the painfully shy art nerd at Saint Francis who’s been in self-imposed isolation after an incident that ruined his last year of school. When he sees Sebby for the first time across the school lawn, it’s as if he’s been expecting this blond, lanky boy with mischief glinting in his eye.

Sebby, Mira’s gay best friend, is a boy who seems to carry sunlight around with him. Even as life in his foster home starts to take its toll, Sebby and Mira together craft a world of magic rituals and impromptu road trips, designed to fix the broken parts of their lives.

As Jeremy finds himself drawn into Sebby and Mira’s world, he begins to understand the secrets that they hide in order to protect themselves, to keep each other safe from those who don’t understand their quest to live for the impossible.

This book may be called Fans of the Impossible Life, but I wasn't a fan of it at all. I was hoping it would be good, seeing as it has quite a diverse cast of characters and tackles mental health, but it wasn't to my taste at all.

My biggest problem with it was the fact that I couldn't stand the writing style or the main characters. The story is told through multiple perspectives - not an issue, when done well, but this was just plain weird. Jeremy's chapters were in first person, Mira's in third, and Sebby's in second. While certainly unique, it didn't work, and I did not appreciate being turned into my least favourite character from the story. 'You did this, you thought this' no, I didn't, because I couldn't stand Sebby and didn't relate to him.

While the writing was unique, I felt that the rest of the book wasn't. It felt like every other young adult novel that tries to tackle mental health and more serious topics. The humour was very John Green and All the Bright Places-esque and I couldn't stand the pretension and try-hard behaviour of the characters. Sebby in particular felt very like a Manic Pixie Dream Girl - holier than thou, better than everyone else, selfish, full of himself, and above everything in life. The adults in the story felt very absent, too, and very dumb when they were included. It was as if the teens knew best and didn't have much respect for anyone other than themselves, especially not their bumbling parents.

Overall, things just felt very cliche and trope-y. Call me cynical, but I couldn't shake the feeling that this was written just for the sake of shoving as much typical young adult stuff as possible into one book. Kind of like The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Nothing felt real or genuine, and I couldn't even get excited about or appreciate the diversity because it all felt so fake and 'look at how inclusive I am!' Don't waste your time on it.

Recommendations: Graphic Novels

Friday 7 April 2017

Bedlam by Nick Spencer
If you want something dark, gory, gritty, and full of black humour then this is the series you need to start. It's an intense first volume but such a gripping read that you won't want to put it down until you've finished - and then you'll be reaching for the second volume. The art is gritty, with splashes of red all over the page. A good indicator for the tone of the story.

Rat Queens: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe
For something more fun and lighthearted - and with an all female leading cast - Rat Queens is what you need. It's funny but still badass, with characters and an adventure that draw you in and keep you entertained. There's diversity, too, with a romance you can't help but root for and friendships that are even better.

The Walking Dead: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman
A more serious look at horror comics but still just as gripping, The Walking Dead is a must-read for any zombie fan. And even those who don't care for zombies, as it's so character driven you almost forget this is set in a post-apocalyptic world. It's dark - and not just because it's drawn in grey-scale - and at times harrowing, disgusting, and emotional. You won't regret picking this up.

TBR Feature #48

Wednesday 5 April 2017

TBR Feature is the chance for me to, every Wednesday, pick one of my unread books and discuss it: why I picked it up, when I'll get round to reading it, if I'm still interested in it at all etc.

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

Letters to Eloise by Emily Williams

Monday 3 April 2017

Letters to Eloise
Emily Williams
Genre(s): Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Published: February 17th 2017
Pages: 293
Rating: 4 stars

When post-graduate student Flora falls unexpectedly pregnant during her final year studies she hits a huge predicament; continue a recent affair with her handsome but mysterious lecturer who dazzles her with love letters taken from the ancient tale of ‘Abelard and Heloise’, or chase after the past with her estranged first love?
But will either man be there to support her during the turmoil ahead?

A copy of this book was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influenced my thoughts.

Letters to Eloise is a simple yet captivating, heart-wrenching story that follows Flora, a post-graduate student who has found herself newly pregnant. It sounds a little cheesy - especially when you read that she's torn between two men - but trust me when I say it's worth reading and you'll come out of it eternally grateful that you gave it a chance. It's a short book and a really easy read, so what's stopping you?

From the very start you're drawn in to Flora's story, as the prologue introduces the letters and leaves an air of mystery that isn't touched upon until much later in the story. It's a good tactic, as even if you don't really care for Flora you'll want to find out just what happened. But trust me, you'll end up caring about Flora.

Yes, some of her letters to her unborn child were a little weird in terms of content (talking about intimate relationships? I hope she doesn't read those to the child when it's young!) and the fact that they're written less like an informal letter and more like an informal story, but they continue to draw you in. You pick up on Flora's excitement and worries, the support she receives from her friends and family, and it all paints a very honest picture of pregnancy. It's not all perfect and glowing; there's morning sickness, annoyance at growing fat, but also unconditional love and pride.

The story is full of twists and turns, especially when Flora enters her third trimester and moves home. It makes you question loyalties and whether things are actually going as smoothly as the doctors say. And the epilogue... Well. Let's just say it's a little intense.

The biggest issue I had with this - and it's really quite minor, in the scheme of things - was that there were quite a few spelling and grammar errors. Easily overlooked, but also easily fixed in later editions, they don't take away too much from the reading experience. And Flora and Eloise's journey will overshadow any problems you may stumble across as you can't help but want the best for them.

Letters to Eloise is a roller coaster of emotions and a frank look at juggling pregnancy and studying. If you get the time, give this a chance. You just might end up loving it like I did.

Emily Williams and her work can be found at...
Amazon (UK - US)

Bamboo Heart Blog Tour

Saturday 1 April 2017

Bamboo Heart
Ann Bennett
Genre(s): Adult, Historical Fiction
Published: September 1st 2014
Pages: 352
Rating: 4 stars

Thailand, 1943: Thomas Ellis is a prisoner-of-war on the Death Railway. In stifling heat he endures endless days of clearing jungle, breaking stone and lugging wood. London, 1986: Laura Ellis, a successful City lawyer, travels to Asia to retrace her father' past and discover the truths he has refused to tell her including how he got his Bamboo Heart. Heart-wrenching history plus a daughter's journey of discovery about her father and herself.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review as part of a blog tour. This in no way influenced my thoughts.

Despite being a fan of historical fiction, I can't say that I'm big on anything to do with the World Wars. Perhaps due to studying them for years at GCSE and A-Level, I just don't reach for fiction that surrounds them. That changed, however, when I learnt about the Bamboo trilogy which centres around WWII Asia - something I know nothing about thanks to school curriculum focusing solely on Britain.

Straight away when I picked this up my favourite parts were those set in 1943 following Tom in the POW camp. Needless to say I was surprised, but they were so interesting and informative without being boring or too horrific. Yes, things were described in detail and we got quite a good idea of the tortures those poor men had to suffer, but I personally found it to be more educational than off-putting. It was honest, but it wasn't overly graphic.

Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Laura's chapters in the first third of the book. I found her to be quite weak willed and actually rather dumb and insensitive when it came to her dad's past. Of course he wouldn't want to relive those moments so why on Earth would she think to pressure him?! And after a hospitalization no less! I also found it really hard to believe that - as a grown woman with a father who was in the war - she had no idea about what went on in the POW camps. Luke was by far the worst character in these chapters (and the book as a whole). He was manipulative and a complete asshole to Laura and what she was going through.

Thankfully, when you hit the 200s things take a turn as Laura travels to Thailand. The scenes from the 40s are still just as good, but those in the 80s start picking up. Laura comes to her senses regarding Luke and also starts unraveling the mystery of her dad's past.

I also lent this to my nan - who was born in 1939, the daughter of someone who served in the war and spent time as a prisoner, and also an avid history fan. Needless to say she knows some stuff about WWII, so it was interesting to hear her thoughts seeing as they come from such a different perspective to mine. She said that she found this to be difficult to read at times because it hit so close to home, but that Bennett knows how to tell a story and keep you interested, and for the most part I agree with her.

Given it's subject matter this is a really easy read that is, dare I say it, fun. It's quick to get through and doesn't require much prior knowledge of World War II to understand or enjoy. It will grip you from the first page and you'll want to know all about Tom, Laura, and their respective experiences in Thailand.

Ann Bennett 
Ann Bennett was born and raised in a small village in Northamptonshire, UK. She read Law at Cambridge and qualified and practised as a solicitor. During a career break, to have children, she started to write. Her father had been a prisoner of war on the Thailand– Burma Railway and the idea for a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy came from researching his wartime experiences. The research took her back to Asia, a place she loves and has returned to many times. She lives in Surrey with her husband and three sons and works in London as a lawyer.

Ann and her work can be found at her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon UK, Amazon US, and Goodreads

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