Embers – Susanne Valenti

51GflEANEhL._SX311_BO1,204,203,200_I never know what to expect with novellas – going in I have such high hopes, and while there are some which I really enjoyed, a lot of the time they just fall a bit flat for me. The biggest one for me being The assassins Blade, which I still haven’t finished… I think it’s because novella’s tend to be tangential, talking about side characters, or different time periods, while I’m really invested in the main narrative and so struggle to move away from it. This was not the case with Embers though.

 

I loved this novella, which Susanne Valenti very kindly gave me a copy of. Positively adored it. It was super refreshing to read from Coal’s point of view, to the extent that I think I actually prefer his voice to Maya’s. He’s just a lot more grounded and logical, and although his emotions are still really powerful, he’s less flighty or impulsive, which I find Maya can be far too often. It was also great to get a nice dose of Coal after an entire book without him, so there is a high possibility that this might make my enthusiasm slightly biased…

 

Even so, I loved getting to know Coal’s character a lot more – while it was still definitely him as we know him from the main series, his key traits emerged much more powerfully when the focus was on him alone. His strength in particular, really stood out, and I think it’s something that will be even more important once the fourth book is out. But also his vulnerability – the whole thing really made you feel for Coal, and see past his tough guy facade, and oh poor baby I just wanted to give him a hug.

 

It was also satisfying to just have the questions relating to what happened to him tied up in such a detailed and fully-fleshed way, and even more so because it goes right up until the end of the third book, so you aren’t left with blank time to wonder about – I’m so glad that this novella exists, rather than just cramming the story into a couple of paragraphs in the dialogue somewhere at the start of the fourth book.

 

Overall I had a great time reading this novella, and I’m really intrigued to see the impact it has on the next few books (particularly how Shank and the doctor will slot in, if they reappear which I hope they do). Definitely worth a read if you’re as invested in the Cage of Lies series as I seem to be.

 

~ Becca x

Some Thoughts on Reviews

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What exactly makes a book review a book review? I’ve been reflecting on my blog over the past week or so, and the kinds of posts that I tend to put up, and I’ve realised that I’m not sure if my ‘Review’ posts actually count as true reviews. I guess they give my opinion, but they don’t necessarily analyse the writing style, the world building, the character development etc. objectively, or even, really, in any detail. Instead I usually just brain-vomit my thoughts on the book onto the page in a very long and rambly fashion. My posts never really have any structure (much like this one), but instead are just a dialogue or thought process on how I felt about the book, what my favourite parts are, how overly attached I got to particular characters. Is this still a review? Or is it a discussion?

Honestly, I’m not sure what the difference between the two is – at least not in a written format. I think I’ve always referred to them as reviews because they’re completely one sided – I’m not actually having a conversation with someone. But what made me think about this was how much I struggle to write a review without spoilers. I find it so difficult because usually all I want to do is rave or rant about the book, and to do that I have to give some context, which means giving away spoilers. It also assumes that the reader has at least some prior understanding of the book. Yet usually people go to reviews before they read a book, in order to find out whether it’s good and whether they are interested in reading it. And for that, at least in most people’s cases, spoilers are distinctly unappreciated.

Mostly, I write the kind of content that I enjoy reading – personally, I don’t really tend to read specific reviews before I buy a book. I’m happy to either go off of gut instinct, general hype, or the brief introductions that you get in book hauls, TBR lists and monthly favourites. If I’m not interested in the concept in that short space of time, I’m probably never going to have the impetus to actually pick it up. I tend to actively look for reviews after I’ve read the book. That’s when I want to know peoples thoughts in detail – I want to know if they loved it as much as me, if they liked the same bits I did, if they were drawn to the same characters I was. I love how reading someone else’s thoughts can put a whole new spin on a book for you, and allows you to see ideas you missed, put together connections that you didn’t notice when you were reading it. And in turn you can give them your thoughts and your ideas. You get to relive the experience of reading it, and keep building on that experience even after you’ve turned the last page. That, for me, is the joy of the book review. And so that is how I write.

Does it matter if it’s a book review or a discussion? Is there a difference? I don’t know, but do let me know what you think. Honestly, I write how I write, with long sentences and rambly prose and paragraph structures that make very little sense, and that is unlikely to change. I will probably continue to call my ramblings reviews, and spend 600 – 700 words spilling out all of my frustrated or fangirly emotions onto a page. Because I enjoy doing so and, hopefully, you guys enjoy reading them, whatever we choose to call them.

~ Becca x

Broken – Susanne Valenti

  So I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this from Susanne Valenti, but if you want your very own copy then it’s out now :)

Just a couple of notes before I start – 1) I’m writing this on my phone because the Internet on my laptop is busy again so sorry for the typos and dodgy layout. 2) there are spoilers in this review, mostly for the first two books but there are a few for broken too. Don’t worry though, I’ve it a warning before you get to them. 

It took me a lot longer to get into this book that either of the first two. I’m not sure if it’s because I was less immersed in it, or maybe life was just too busy for me to sit down and read for a good length of time, but it took me at least a week and a half to get through the first 150 pages. Following the death of Coal, the whole thing started out a bit dark and angsty. There was a lot of sitting around and moping and not really doing anything that, while probably realistic, did get pretty tedious after a while. And the whole focus on revenge was just a bit annoying, with Maya constantly doing stupid things which frustrated me throughout the entirenarrative. 
I was also feeling the loss of Coal.  Partly because I got slightly too attached to him, but mostly because it meant we got stuck with Taylor, who is possibly the worlds most annoying male romantic interest. He’s so overprotective which no one calls him out on. He’s possessive. He treats Crystal like a toy he can just throw away and Maya like she belongs to him. His entire approach to women is that they are objects and yet he has this altruistic ‘I’m just trying to look after you thing’ that means most of the characters just let him do it. It does my head in. Please go away. At least Coal, if over protective, allowed her freedom. 

Once I’d got past the whole obsessive revenge and Taylor things though, and actually stared getting into the story proper, I loved it as much as I did the first two. Once they’d left the town, the action started, and it was just as fast paced and exciting as I had come to expect. By the end, the beginning felt so far away as to have been part of another book, beCause so much had happened and the characters had developed a lot which is always really nice. I also, as always, enjoyed getting to see more of the world, and was particularly interested In getting to know it during winter – especially as a lot of books seem to forget that seasons are a thing. The world is just so well thought through, and so detailed and unknown and yet believable that you really do get sucked into it. 

While the overall plot structure was fairly similar to the first two, the nuances were different and allowed for a lot more character interaction than there was in the first two. I enjoyed seeing Alicia and Maya’s relationship develop – that was one of the ones that really drove the narrative and it was nice that friendship was portrayed as the most important bond here, rather than romance. Also Blaine and Jayden are just perfect. When they first appeared I was a bit dubious but I am 100% sold on both. 

Now here is the really spoilery section, but there are two points I just have to make – so if you don’t want to know what happens leave now and just accept that if you liked the first two you’ll want to read this one too. 
The first is that I would really appreciate it if Susanne would stop killing off the main characters. I mean, credit to her character development that it’s always so damn painful, but y’know, if you could stick to killing off people I’m less attached to that’d be great.  
Secondly, was the ending. I’d spent the whole book hoping that somehow Coal would reappear, and, by the end, I had kinda guessed that it would happen. But even of it was a tiny bit predictable, it was just so so satisfying. It made my heart happy. Although now I need the explanation!
Basically, read it. For me, it wasn’t quite as good as the first two, mainly because it took so long to get into, but I still loved it and by the time I was done, I was as desperate for the next one as I was at the end of book 2. 

Becca X

Books from my Childhood: The Two Princesses of Bamarre

 This is a book that, as a child, I was obsessed with. If I’m honest, I still am.

I first came across this book in my local library and read it over and over, and once I was a teenager I went and bought my own copy, which has, in turn, been read over and over. There’s just something beautiful, and simple and innocent about the book which I adored as a child, and the nostalgia of it now means I love it every time I read it.

Gail Carson Levine’s writing is delightful. In all of her books the plot-lines are fast paced, the characters are three dimensional and the world’s are so incredible vivid that it really does feel like you’ve fallen head-first into a fairy tale. Because that’s what she writes – fairy tales. In a lot of her books you can see the original fairy tale that she’s basing things on – Ella Enchanted, for instance, draws on aspects of Cinderella. It isn’t long however, before you realise that that original fairy tale has been left far behind, and you fall in love with the characters and worlds which are entirely the author’s own. For a girl who spent more time in her own imaginary world than the real one, Gail Carson Levine’s books were the height of escapism, spinning the tales of princesses and dragons that I loved but in an entirely refreshing way.

The biggest thing about them for me though, is the female protagonists. All of the books are driven by incredibly strong, brave, intelligent female characters – it’s them that saves the day and defeats the monsters. it’s almost always brains over brawn. Family relationships and friendships are just as emphasised as romantic ones. It’s exactly what you would want a young girl to be reading and learning from. And it’s this for me that made the Two Princesses of Bamarre stand out for me as by far my favourite.

The plot centers around two sisters, who are princesses. When one gets sick with a deadly disease, the other goes off on an adventure to try and find a cure, facing dragons and ogres and fairies along the way. Although there is a romantic plot=line running through it (and it is incredibly sweet), the plot is almost entirely driven by the bond between the two sisters. But most importantly for me, was Addie. Because Addie was not the brave sister. She was not the fighter, the confident one, the brash one, the one who you would expect to save the day. She couldn’t use a sword. She didn’t like battles or politics or monsters. No. Addie was the scared one, the worrier, the one who was quite happy to sit at home and sew while her sister went off on adventures. And yet, still, it was Addie who had to go off and save the day. And she did it using the skills she did have – her wits, her gentleness, her quick-thinking, her kindness.

As a child, and still to a large extent as an adult, I was a wimp. I was scared of everything. Aged 8, I refused point blank to go on the Dinosaur ride at Disney World because I had decided it would be scary (I am 94% sure it was probably not scary). I have always refused to watch horror films. I am not a big fan of scary monsters or near death experiences. And so, watching Addie overcome her fears and save her sister was really important to me. It not only showed me a character who was like me, but also told me that she was strong in spite of her fears. Not because she overcame her fears, or they went away, or she grew up. But because she was strong already, and even though the fear was still there, there were more important aspects of her character which she finally allowed to shine through.

To me, stories like these are so incredibly important for children to read. You can read 200 near identical books about Rainbow Fairies and Rescue Princesses and become a better, more fluent reader because of it, but it’s books like these which let you start to explore character, and who you are, and what real strength is. For that, Gail Carson Levine deserves an award.

~ Becca x

Monument 14 – Emmy Laybourne

(I have just sat through a very long bank appointment, so, instead of having half an hour to put this up, I have 5 minutes… I’ll sort the pictures out later, but I wanted to get something up today at least!)

What do I say about this book? I’m not really sure where I stand with it if I’m honest. I enjoyed it, it was entertaining and engaging and it didn’t take me long to finish. But am I in love with it? Not by a long shot.

The book tells the story of a group of kids stuck in a store while a series of natural disasters destroy the world. An interesting premise. And there were things that worked. I thought the characters were well done – each had a distinct personality, which was clear from really early on, and, most importantly, they all acted like kids. Even when they had to take on additional responsibility, they didn’t start spouting knowledge, or morals, or have skills that a sixteen year old in our world just wouldn’t. They reacted to things relatively normally and I appreciated that.

The overall premise was also well done. Although the natural disasters were never really explained, the whole blood type disease crazy thing was interesting, and seemed logical within the world. It was also fairly creepy, and gave the book enough villains, but in a believable way, without just throwing in evil people for the sake of it.

I did have some problems with it though. The first was the world building, because for me, it just wasn’t really there. For the entirety of the book the kids are stuck in a big department store which seems to have everything. Aside from just being ridiculously convenient, the store itself was never really constructed within the book – it all relied on the reader having previous knowledge of that kind of store to draw on. It was almost assumed that they would and so no effort was put in to actually describing or creating an image of the place in the readers mind. For many, this wouldn’t be a problem. The thing is, I’m not sure we have those kinda stores here. The closest I could imagine was a Tesco Extra, which is mostly food and not so great for everything else, or somewhere like John Lewis, which has everything you could want, except food, and is on about 5 floors. Nether of those really worked with what was going on. So while I could engage with the story, and it was fine – I’m not completely stupid, I can put together a giant store image for myself – I would have liked more to come from the author, rather than them just assuming I’d know what they were talking about and leaving me to struggle along by myself.

The second is that, well, not much happened. I feel like the same story could have been told in a book half the length. It wasn’t so much that it dragged, it didn’t feel slow when I was actually reading it, but every time I put it down I’d realise that I hadn’t really learnt anything new. Loads of time is given to scenes about what food their making, how they were decorating their living space, what clothes their wearing, and then back to the food again, but not enough time was given to actually progressing the story forward. All of that just kinda got crammed in the end, and then it was left on a massive cliff hanger, which was annoying in itself. It felt lazy. It felt like the author couldn’t be bothered to properly conclude and instead just stopped mid-plot so that you’d be forced to buy the next book. I’m not even sure that there’s that much plot left for another book, unless things start to get ridiculous (although it was already going in that direction by the end, when the whole Astrid thing was just completely unnecessary)… There was just never enough substance to the book, and most of the time I read so quickly because I was desperate to get to a point where something happened, not because I was gripped by the story itself.

It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t brilliant either. It’s a premise that has been done a lot before and I’ve seen it done a lot better elsewhere if I’m honest.

~ Becca x

Siblinghood of the World Blogger

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Thank you so much to Melanie for nominating me for this award. Granted she nominated me an absolute age ago (it has been over two months, I am so sorry), but we got there eventually and that’s all that matters right. Right?

Rules
🍁Thank the blogger who nominated you, and provide a link back to their site
🍁Answer the ten questions sent to you
🍁Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer
🍁Nominate ten blogs

Melanie’s Questions:

1) What’s your favorite hobby?

Rather sadly, right now I don’t really have a hobby. I’ve recently moved and I’ve only just had the time to go out and start doing anything. I do read a lot (obviously) and I do quilting/needlework (because I am prematurely old) which I suppose kinda counts? I have also watched enough Vampire Diaries in the last two months that I think it basically counts as a hobby in itself!
2) Which fandom(book/tv/anime/etc) do you most closely associate with?

Probably Harry Potter. It was such a huge part of my life growing up that I’ve always desperately wished to be a witch – I am still distraught that my Hogwarts letter never came and have convinced myself that there must have been an owl strike in 2004!
3) What book/series do you NEED to be made into TV show… like now?!

I’d rather like to see The Selection as a TV show – I know it was going to be one at some point but that never happened and I think it would work really well for TV. Mostly though, I’m not sure there’s anything I’m desperate to see adapted. Often the TV adaptations aren’t as good, and while I do love watching them, I’m quite happy having my favourite books as just books!
4) Are you a loud or silent reactor when reading books?

If I have my own way then loud. I will rant at the book, I will tell the characters off, I will laugh out loud and I will cry. I have even ended up throwing books against the wall before because I was so upset with what was happening! And my loud reaction doesn’t end at just reading it – I will usually keep going at whoever will listen, or is unfortunately enough to be nearby with no chance of escape!

I have learnt to temper my reactions in a lot of situations though – ie: public transport. I’m British. Trains mean silence.
5) What cliche do you love even though it’s a cliche?

‘You can’t judge a book by it’s cover’ because, despite the fact that I am very much influenced by the cover of a book when it comes to buying it, some of the best books I’ve read have covers which, honestly, leave a lot to be desired. So this one just reminds me that sometimes you should read that book anyway (despite the fact that this cliche is not meant to actually refer to books, or at least just to books, in my world it basically does…)

 

Also, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is both so true, and got me through some seriously painful rowing sessions, as well as some equally painful exam revision. I think I should make it my mantra. Kelly Clarkson was bang on.
6) What’s your worst bookish habit?

I’m not so great at looking after my books: the spines are bent, the pages are folded over and the covers are creased. I don’t mind so much, to me it’s just a sign of how much I loved the book, but I know to some people it’s the most heinous of crimes!
7) Name one book you think EVERYONE should read and why?

This is an answer which a) cannot be confined to one book (I’m not sorry) and b) will constantly change depending on how I’m feeling at the time. Also I’m avoiding the obvious classics, like Harry Potter, because they go without saying. So today the answer is:

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, because I’ve heard so many people tell me they don’t like YA or fantasy, and I think this book would prove anyone wrong.

Ernest and Celestine, because its absolutely gorgeous and there’s such a sweet simplicity to it. Even if you don’t have children, and especially if you do, it’s the kind of book that’s so easy to fall in love with.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Ruben, because, even though I’m only halfway through this, it makes you rethink your outlook on life and we could all do with taking some time to focus on being happy!
8) What’s the best comment you’ve received on your blog?

Any of the encouragements I got during NaNoWriMo because they’re what kept me going!
9) What’s your favorite part about blogging?

I love being able to interact with people who think like I do, and actually understand the long rants I post about books, while I understand theirs!
10) What’s the best place you traveled to and why?

I love Cornwall. Even though I’ve been to some stunning places abroad (shout-out to NYC) there’s just something about Cornwall that makes me feel very calm and very at home. Polzeath in particular has the most wonderful, laid-back atmosphere, beautiful scenery and you can spend the whole day outside, even in the worst weather, and still have an amazing day. I love the sea, and the countryside and Cornwall has both together!

 

I’m so late to the game here that I’m not going to nominate 10 people, I’m just going to nominate 3, and even they’ve probably done it already! – so if you want to have a go, consider yourself one of the other seven.

  1. Twist in the Taile
  2. Susannah Taylor
  3. Nut-Free Nerd

My questions are:

  1. What is the biggest thing you want to accomplish this year?
  2. Which book could you read over and over and just never get bored with?
  3. What is your favourite type of tea?
  4. Which book had the biggest impact on you as a child?
  5. How do you organise your bookshelf?
  6. Which fictional character would you most like to meet in real life and why?
  7. What stands out to you most about a book in a bookshop? What is it that makes you want to buy it?
  8. Name a book that you just could not finish and why?
  9. What is your favourite book-to-film adaptation?
  10. What do you love most about blogging?

Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

  
I feel like I’ve been very lucky recently in that the majority of books I’ve read (and thus reviewed) I’ve loved. I think it’s because I’ve stopped commuting by train and so spend a lot less time reading, that I’m being more selective with what I want to pick up. Also, because my TBR pile has grown extortionately large, I’m predominantly choosing to read the books I’m most excited to read from it, and thus, I’ve come across fewer that I haven’t enjoyed.

That being said, it’s hardly surprising that I loved Outlander. I briefly touched on this last week, but having finished the first book, I decided it definitely needed a review of its own. I watched the series back when part two was airing, and fell in love with it at once, and the books didn’t disappoint me either. I know that sounds backwards, because obviously the books came first, but I read them backwards so there we are. It only goes to show how good an adaptation the show is. Trying to choose between the two, in my mind, is next to impossible, because they both work so well, and are brilliant in their own ways, while at the same time clearly being the same storyline and with the same atmosphere.

Dianna Gabaldon’s writing is incredibly evocative. She paints the most gorgeous pictures of the Scottish landscape, the rolling hills and icy lochs and the rough, weathered people who live there. She fills her words with the beauty of the world she is writing, and it comes across so effectively that I felt myself dreaming of visiting. Having been born in Scotland, I’ve always wanted to go back, and Outlander just made me that much more desperate to go – although I imagine my trip will be less adventurous/perilous than Claire’s.

I also loved how attached to the characters I got, and how three-dimensional they were. Jamie, especially, as the main love-interest was exceptionally well done, being shown neither as a hero, nor a rebel, nor just a bland boyfriend character, but a combination of everything. There were times where he was so sweet it was painful, and there were times where, were I Claire, I would have dealt him a swift knee into the family jewels. And because Claire herself is so well-written, I really felt like I was part of the story; like the characters were people I actually knew. And apart from, y’know, the time-travelling, Scottish Highlander thing, they almost could be.

And then there was Randall, who is possibly one of the best presented villains I have come across, for being so purely despicable, and yet without any bells or whistles. To me he is terrifying, because you could actually imagine a real human being acting like him, and there isn’t any unlikely technology, or plots to take over the world, or giant armies. There is just one guy, one horrible, horrible guy, and he really makes my skin crawl.

The book is definitely adult, and I noticed it in that the pace was slower than what I’m used to from YA, and the sheer amount of sex in it (it’s literally like every other page, although actually done quite tastefully so as not to be too gratuitous, or vomit-inducing). Despite that though, I was swept up in it, and the over 850 page book didn’t feel anywhere near as long (except to my shoulder, because dang was it heavy to cart around with me).

Overall, it was a joy to read, and I am desperately excited to get into the next one, when I have no idea where the story will take me. If you’re looking for a good, if a bit heavy, January read, then this might be it.

~ Becca x

 

The Tea Edit: The Tea Pouch

This will probably be quite a short post, but I wanted to show off the Christmas present I got from my sister, because tea. Tea is amazing. And apparently she thought I needed more.

  
The pouch was literally jammed with a huge variety of random teabags, and while most people seem to think it’s excessive, IT IS AMAZING. I’ve been slowly working my way through them since the end of December, and even though I’ve had upwards of two a day, I have barely made a dent.

Tea is one of the best things in life, and I’m enjoying getting to try a whole bunch of new teas (especially the weirder herbal flavours) without having to commit to a complete box. Some of them were disgusting (Licorice and Cinnamon I;m looking at you). But lots of them are amaze, and I think I’m going to end up having to buy a whole box when they run out. I’m particularly in love with the Higher Living Chamomile and Vanilla, because being slightly sweeter than plain Chamomile, it tastes divine, but is still a lot lighter than the usual Chamomile and Honey versions that you get. It’s my new favourite.

  
Can we also just take a moment to appreciate the pouch itself? It has teapots on it! How adorable is that! Also, because they’re all individually packaged (while admittedly being terrible for the environment) it means I can take them with me places, and provide my own tea when I need it (*cough* Boyfriend’s house *cough*).

  
As I make my way through the pack I’ll probably find more favourites, but I basically just wanted to get excited about tea, and trying lots of new herbal teas and I knew you guys would appreciate it. Tea is the best.

~ Becca x

*This post doesn’t really have a point, I got too excited and just kinda typed… Sorry, not sorry.

 

The Standard Christmas Book Haul

  
I have been good, very good, towards the end of this year at not buying books. I bought a couple to tide me over, but mostly, I have spent my money on grown up things like a car, and fuel. And then Christmas happened, and I was lucky, and people gave me books. Even though my TBR pile is now ridiculously oversized, getting brand new, shiny, untouched books always makes my soul happy.

  

 The first three I got are absolute tomes but I am already obsessed. Santa (read ‘Father’) brought me the first three books in the Outlander series. They were on my Christmas list because I watched the show and adored it – I also bought the DVD for my Mother and have now re-watched it, while starting the first book. At first I was worried that I’d find it a bit tedious, reading the same thing, because that’s what I found with Game of Thrones. But I just didn’t. Although I now realise that the TV adaptation is ridiculously well done, the books just have so much more – the characters have more depth, the world is more detailed, more stuff happens, you get more back story – exactly as you would expect from a book. Dianna Gabaldon’s writing is also beautiful. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m about 3/4 of the way through the first book, and it’s so battered because I have been carrying it around everywhere with me. 

  
It’s taking forever to read, but it’s just so good. I can’t wait to read the next one, when I no longer know the story and just… yeah <3

  

Ten Thousand Skies Above You, by Claudia Grey, just had to be bought for the cover. I read A Thousand Pieces of You when it came out, and really enjoyed it, although I wasn’t completely blown away by it. Since though, it has just stuck in my mind, particularly the Russian bit. I was lucky enough to receive an Amazon gift card from some family, so part of it went on that. I’ll read it eventually, but in the mean time it’s lounging on my bookshelf looking stunning.

And then, the Kindle Christmas sale happened and I spent some actual money. Personally I think I was very restrained, but I’m so happy with what I got. For the first time in a Kindle sale, everything I go was on my Wish List, and there was very little impulse buying, so I’m proud of me for showing a little bit of restraint. First I got Fangirl, because I haven’t read it, and it was a pound (a pound!) and I felt like I was missing out. So that went straight in the basket. Then I went for The Bronze Horseman, because of my aforementioned hypnosis with Russia (she says having decidedly not watched War and Peace on Monday night…). It’s had good reviews, and I do honestly want to read more that’s set in Russia, or just other cultures generally, so that one was also a no-brainer. Then finally I went for The Miniaturist: again, it’s been languishing on my Wish List for an age, and it was so cheap that I just couldn’t leave it behind. Overall the three only came to £4, so I’m pretty damn chuffed. (Lack of pictures is due to lack of Internet on my laptop and my lazyness to find, save and upload pictures via my phone. Soz.)

   

I have no clue when I’m actually going to be able to read all of these, on top of my continually growing TBR shelf, but there’s nothing better than new books, am I right?!

 

~ Becca x

Illuminae – Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Wow. Like seriously, wow. I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, really. I guess I was thinking it would be something along the lines of Operation Red Jericho, which I’ve talked about on here before, as both of them seem to have the compiled from different formats approach. It was that in-my-head comparison, and the memory of how much I had enjoyed reading the ‘Operation…’ books, (along with the countless amazing reviews scattered about) that made me absolutely desperate to pick it up. Add to that the space opera plot line and I was 100% sold.

Weirdly, the book was near impossible to find in an actual bookshop where I live. I went to about three, repeatedly, and just nowhere had it for at least the first four or five days after it was released. And even then I could only find it in paperback. I’m not sure if it was actually released in hardback in the UK, but before I read it I felt like it was the kind of book that ought to be in hardback, and that I wanted in hardback because they always just look so much more gorgeous, and get ratty far less quickly, than their paperback equivalents. Still. I bought it anyway. Obviously.

And oh my goodness was it so worth it. I loved it. Beyond loved it. I kind of want to read it again. Except I can’t because I handed it to my mother basically straight away. It was just that good. To start with it reads as though it’s going to be a fairly standard space romance plot, albeit told in a novel way, with a couple on a destroyed planet, now stuck in space trying to work out the intricacies of keeping their relationship together. Okay, I thought, this is good, this is fine, I like this. And I sat down with my tea ready to read what I thought was going to be a new take on an old theme. And then I got hooked.

So hooked – I was eating it up. My poor boyfriend got abandoned for hours on end because I just could not stop reading. It got to the point that I was actually sneakily reading chapters during lulls in conversation, or during ad breaks, or while the kettle was boiling – literally anywhere I could. And he despaired at me, but I did not care. Because it got so good so quickly. And so dark. So wonderfully dark that I was both enthralled and terrified at the same time, all the while getting increasingly desperate to work out what was going on. For once, I’m going to avoid spoilers, because I think the book is so much better that way, but just know, that Kaufmann and Kristoff have managed to weave a captivating narrative in the most innovative of forms. (NB: Upon discussion with my sister, and having had a month to think it over because this review is so late, the actual plot line is, actually, pretty simple. Which is a testament to just how well the authors have managed to use the format to turn it into something great.)

I will talk about the format though, because it wasn’t what I was expecting. It did have the letters and the diary entries and the reports I was expecting, but it also had so much more than that, with the story being told visually, pictorially, through diagrams. There were points were I had to turn the page upside down. There were points where I was holding it at arms length to get a better visual. It was immersive, and wonderful, and fun – fun in a way that often reading isn’t. You didn’t just get lost in the book, you kinda became the book in a way, while still always being aware that it was just that: a book. Slowly, the authors pieced together the story, giving you just enough to understand what was going on and to get very, very attached to the characters (OMG Jimmy), but not enough to see the bigger picture. It was deliberate. It was clever. Every character had their own very strong personality that came through. Some were lovable. Some were not. But all of them felt very real and relatable.

I don’t know – this is one of the rambliest, least structured reviews I’ve ever written, which is saying something, seeing as most of my reviews are rambly and unstructured. I just loved this book, and I don’t know how to express that without either underselling it or giving too much away. It was seriously one of the best books I have read in 2015. I have shoved it on pretty much my entire family. If you have even the vaguest interest in it, or in space, or in YA, go read it. Because it’s beyond amaze.

~ Becca x