Thursday, 30 December 2010

100 Books In A Year Reading Challenge - 2011

Hello there!  Just a quick post about my first participation in an official reading challenge.

Thankfully I have a lot of books I want to read (many of which are sat on my shelves!) and this challenge will be a great incentive to get through them all.

A big thank you to Book Chick City for running this fantastic challenge and good luck to all the other participants.

You can take part in this challenge by clicking the blue challenge button (on the right hand sidebar) or click here!

You can view my proposed list of reads (many of which I already own and need to be read!) on my challenges tab.  I will transfer the books on the list to the original  post as I read them (and their subsequent review links).

Let's see how many books I can get through in 2011 - bring it on!  


Nat

Nat's Top Five Books of 2010: and the award goes to...


Hi there! 2010 was a good year for new releases in the YA genre – as well as some anxiously anticipated sequels.  In celebration of a year of excellent young adult literature, here is my selection of the top 5 books of 2010 (which I enjoyed for very different reasons!) and some anecdotes about why I loved them.

1.    Linger By Maggie Stiefvater – Best Love Story
Maggie’s seminal follow-up to the hugely popular Shiver was another breathtaking success, and delighted me with the return of some much-loved characters.  The romantic story of Sam and Grace’s love was challenged by further conflicts and new characters in this wonderful sequel – and the ending left me highly anxious for more. 





2.    Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick – Best Sequel 
     The unbelievable success of Hush, Hush paved the way for one of the most anticipated sequels of the year; and boy did Becca deliver!  In a story that dealt with the truth behind Nora's father's death and the challenges of loving a fallen angel (turned guardian angel, but that's besides the point!), it definitely lived up to my expectations.






3.    You Against Me – Best for challenging boundaries
 In a genre that is heavily populated with supernatural romance stories comes this controversial tale of assault, familial loyalty and difference.  This was a breathtaking read from the author of Before I Die with some intense subject matter.  But Jenny blew it out of the park with intelligent writing and wonderful characters – making them feel real and uncontrived.  In doing so, she created a story which stayed with me long after I finished the book.

4.         Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – Best Storyline
Despite having only just read this – Mockingjay is without a doubt one of the best books of this year.  It’s intelligently written, its themes are mature and interesting and it has enough plot twists and turns to keep even the most demanding reader sustained.  The final book in a series of three, Mockingjay is without a doubt one of the best YA fiction novels out there; and deservedly so. 



5.    Night Star by Alyson Noel – Best Leading Male
Even though I don’t think this book was as strong as its predecessors, Alyson’s writing is still great and Ever takes a greater and darker journey in this book.  This will sound slightly shallow but I think Damen has to win it for a leading male.  Whilst Patch, Peeta and Sam come close- there’s something about Damen!  This book also paves the way for what I hope will be a fantastic climactic ending in Everlasting next year.



I did read more than five books this year and I have more than five favourites - but these were the ones that really stood out!  

On that note, what were your favourite books of the year?  Get in touch!

Nat 

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins


Author: Suzanne Collins
Date of release: September 2009
Number of pages: 480
Publisher: Scholastic
Also by this author: The Hunger Games, Mockingjay

Book Girl Rating: * * * * *

After winning the brutal Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen returns to her district, hoping for a peaceful future. But Katniss starts to hear rumours of a deadly rebellion against the Capitol. A rebellion that she and Peeta have helped to create. As Katniss and Peeta are forced to visit the districts on the Capitol's cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. Unless Katniss and Peeta can convince the world that they are still lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying... The terrifying sequel to The Hunger Games.(Amazon.co.uk).

After reading The Hunger Games, I became entirely transfixed by this series.  Catching Fire hasn’t extinguished any of the adoration I felt for the Hunger Games, and if anything, I enjoyed it more - because this book is as astounding and intriguing as I hoped it would be.

After winning the Hunger Games with fellow contestant Peeta, Katniss is back living in District 12.  But her success isn’t without consequence; and the Capitol is angry...

Once again I was swept up in the world of Katniss and her friends and the troubles of Panem.  My hatred for the Capitol and everything it represents grew deeper in this book, as I learned more about the terrifying world these characters live in. Even though Panem is such a grave and desolate place, filled with stark inequalities – I felt like I was right there in the action with Katniss.  

Catching Fire is simply a thrilling read – and holds its audience well.  Filled with unexpected surprises and boasting a wonderfully inventive plot, I was enthralled by the twists in the story to the very end.  Never before have I hoped the characters I read about to succeed in the way I did in this book.  The love triangle-esque dynamic  we suspected in the Hunger Games is interesting as a twist too, with Katniss conflicted about her feelings for the two boys she cares for deeply.  

The Hunger Games challenges its readers in ways I haven’t encountered in other YA books.  Collins constantly surprises her audience and the dystopian narrative serves as an eerie warning to current societal ways. Once again, this was a scintillating read.  The plot is equally as thrilling and riveting as The Hunger Games and the audience is dragged further into this surreal but effectively terrifying world of control, coercion and inequality.  

The Capitol’s sinister nature is once again displayed; at the forefront of which is the  dictatorial President Snow – residing over the Capitol like some sort of sinister caricature. 

This is YA literature at its very best; smart, savvy and imaginative.  This book scared me and thrilled me in equal measure; Collins is at the forefront of the genre and these books are sure to delight many readers to come -interesting and fantastically well-written.  Amazing!

Reviewed as part of Nat's Little Reading Challenge

Monday, 27 December 2010

Entice - Carrie Jones



Author: Carrie Jones
Date of release: January 2011 (UK)
Number of pages: 272
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Also by this author: Need, Captivate

Book Girl Rating: * * * 1/2

 Zara and Nick are soul-mates - they're meant to be together for ever. But that's not quite how things have worked out. For starters, Nick is dead, and has been taken to Valhalla, a mystical resting place for warriors. If they can find the way there, Zara and her friends will try to get him back. But even if they do, Zara has turned pixie - and now she's Astley's queen! Meanwhile, more teenagers go missing as a group of evil pixies devastates the town of Bedford. An all-out war seems imminent and Zara and her friends need all the warriors they can find...(Amazon.co.uk).

Warning: This review contains spoilers for the previous books in the series.

In Entice, Zara is adjusting to life as a new pixie as well as life without Nick.  Whilst she’s determined to get him back – she realises that getting to Valhalla isn’t going to be easy and there’s another problem – Bedford is being invaded by pixies and a war for territory seems imminent; and the other issue of being Astley's newly turned Queen. 

Where I loved Need and Captivate, Entice left me a little bit lost for words.  Nick’s absence is felt heavily by the group, especially Zara – and I kind of missed him too.  Whereas Zara seemed unsure about Astley at first, Entice seems to emphasise Zara's newfound trust in him and their relationship deepens.  Zara is truly unsure of her pixie status and where she stands as Astley’s queen.  Not to mention she is unsure of how Nick will react when he learns of her recent pixie-ness.

Zara still has great presence in the novel, but her former headstrong ways have been replaced by the need to be cautious and protective of her town.  She's still different to other teenagers; spirited and determined to succeed.  Astley was more than sufficient as a lead male too - but I liked him from the start; it's almost impossible not to like him! 

Entice has sufficient action to keep the plot going along - and the audience compelled to the very end with the notion of finding Nick.  There are new discoveries and interesting quirks/histories revealed which, though they do not live up to the first two books' strength - allow for sufficient interest to develop; leading to an exciting and indeed, enticing ending.  

In summary, Entice was a really good read. Whilst I didn't love it as much as the former books, I think it served as a good development for Zara and Astley's relationship - as well as teaching the audience about the histories surrounding his life.  I think the book was more about getting Nick back and it highlighted his differences with Astley well.
This book served as a fantastic prelude to what I hope to be the most action-packed, heart stopping next novel..romance and pixie wars will ensue! 


Reviewed as part of Nat's Little Reading Challenge.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

In My Mailbox – A Christmas Special


Well, here goes for a special inventory of my Christmas reads!  Whilst this isn’t an official IMM post, I thought I’d share the lovely things my lovely family got me book-wise this Christmas. 
  
The Twilight Saga – for Christmas I got all four books with white covers and red edges (as they’re special Christmassy editions!)

I also got Shiver and Linger by Maggie Stiefvater in all their lovely hardback glory
And last but not least, Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia and Matched by Ally Condie. 

I hope all you fellow bloggers are having a great Christmas – and you get the books you want too!

Let me know what you think of my books – and I’d love to hear what books you got for Christmas too.

Merry reading and a Happy New Year!

Nat

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!

Hi there!
I just wanted to wish all my fellow bloggers, followers and friends a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!  Although I've only been blogging a few months - I've spoken to some really great bloggers and learned a lot about the world of blogging! 

In 2011 I hope to be back with some new content, contests and more!  Plus I'll be sharing the books I bought over the Christmas period!


Nat 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

In My Mailbox - No.12

Hello, hello!  Welcome to my final In My Mailbox of 2010 (however, I will be posting the books I got the Christmas in post similar to IMM), but this is the final of the normal posts.  IMM was started by the Story Siren and you can visit her blog right here.

These past two weeks have been great, particularly in terms of new releases and once the snow subsided, my new books You Against Me and Entice came (IMM 11), which are both ace!  I stocked up this week and bought three new books too (all synopses are taken from the book covers/sleeves or Amazon.co.uk).

Stefan’s Diaries (Vol. 1 Origins)
Set during the Civil War, against a backdrop of grand estates, unimaginable riches, and deadly secrets, three teenagers in Mystic Falls, Virginia enter a torrid love triangle that will span eternity.
Brothers Stefan and Damon Salvatore are inseparable until they meet Katherine, a stunning, mysterious woman who turns their world upside down. Siblings turned rivals, the Salvatores compete for Katherine’s affection, only to discover that her sumptuous silk dresses and glittering gems hide a terrible secret: Katherine is a vampire. And she is intent on turning them into vampires so they can live together—forever.

Strangely, and though I’m a big fan of the TV programme, I haven’t read any of the Vampire Diaries books.  They, are, however deeply seated in my TBR pile and I have an inkling feeling they’ll be good.  I love Stefan and I bought this on a whim, I have heard some excellent things recently so this ought to be exciting.  The book chronicles Stefan’s time as a new vampire in the 1800s

I’d Tell You I Love You but then I’d have to kill you
Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses – but it’s really a school for spies. Cammie Morgan is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways (three of which involve a piece of uncooked spaghetti). But the one thing the Gallagher Academy hasn’t prepared her for is what to do when she falls for an ordinary boy who thinks she’s an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, and track him through a mall without his ever being the wiser, but can Cammie have a normal relationship with a boy who can never know the truth about her?


Being the sappy, romance driven reader that I am, I normally buy books on the premise of some form of romantic action, love triangle or otherwise themed book.  I’ve recently tried to branch out into more adventure driven novels but this book looks ace – and surprise, surprise, the abundant theme is love!

Mockingjay By Suzanne Collins
Against all odds, Katniss Everdeen has survived the Hunger Games twice. But now that she's made it out of the bloody arena alive, she's still not safe. The Capitol is angry. The Capitol wants revenge... The thrilling final instalment of this ground-breaking trilogy promises to be one of the most talked-about books of the year. 

 I’m still reading Catching Fire at the moment and loving it so far, so I bought this to have to hand as I’m sure I’ll love it.  More lovely Christmas reading and many of you, my fellow bloggers, have given this rave reviews.  I. Can’t. Wait! 

That was it for this week’s books and my final post of In My Mailbox 2010 (excluding Christmas books).

What did you get in this week’s mailbox?  

Happy reading! 

Nat

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

You Against Me - Jenny Downham

Author: Jenny Downham
Date of release: December 2010 (UK)
Number of pages: 416
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Also by this author: Before I Die

Book Girl Rating: * * * * *

If someone hurts your sister and you’re any kind of man, you seek revenge, right? If your brother’s accused of a terrible crime but says he didn’t do it, you defend him, don’t you? When Mikey’s sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart. When Ellie’s brother is charged with the offence, her world begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. This is a brave and unflinching novel from the bestselling author of Before I Die. It’s a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it’s a book about love.

After reading Jenny’s first novel, Before I Die, (which I adored), I was almost obligated to see what she’d write next!   Jenny definitely delivered with You Against Me, a searing and challenging novel about assault, loyalty and love.

I was drawn into this book almost instantly (to the point that I stayed up most of the night to read it!) and I wasn’t disappointed.   The story is this: Both dealing with the same shattering concept, rape, Mikey and Ellie couldn’t be further apart.

Ellie’s brother Tom is the accused and Mikey’s sister Karyn is the victim.  So, through the minds of these two siblings, we see the events unfold.  Mikey wants revenge for his sister and Ellie wants to believe her brother.  But when the two of them meet, the two worlds collide. 

The main characters, Ellie and Mikey are fantastic.  Especially considering it is their siblings who are battling this and people seem to forget about the effects on them; specifically Mikey’s drunken mother and Ellie’s possessive father.  Not to mention pressure from other friends and enemies alike – forcing these characters to face this trauma almost alone. As Mikey and Ellie get to know each other, the uncertainty is clear.  We’re kept in the dark for several chapters as the story of events unfolds.  As a reader, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I’d deal with such an event; then the additional struggle of familial loyalty, the difficulty of choosing between the right thing to do and following your emotions – I felt for these characters so deeply - both characters want to believe their siblings, and that was the most relatable part of the book; we would protect our siblings in the face of anything.

Jenny’s writing is simply ace.  I guess what I love about her writing the most is its realness – she makes the characters reachable and readable in equal measure – it’s mesmerising and down to earth.  I also love the third person perspective as it acts as an overview; we hear what both characters think and feel. 

To summarise, this book is as bold and steadfast as critics and reviewers post it to be.  It’s a story about sexual assault and the consequences that occur from that; and it made me really consider the consequences of one dark action – that changes lives forever and can’t be swept away.   

The happier consequence is that this book really is about love – how it conquers social and class boundaries and challenges loyalties; and it’s about two people, who in the midst of such overpowering chaos, find something in each other – something real and worth fighting for. 

Reviewed as part of Nat's Little Reading Challenge.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

In My Mailbox - No.11

Hello and welcome to my mailbox!  Thank you to the Story Siren, whose blog you can visit here!

I’m covering stuff I got last week as I missed IMM and I haven’t yet received anything this week due to the current weather!  Here's what I got:

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
On the outside, Macy Queen is cool and calm. On the inside, she's breaking. Silently struggling with her Dad's death, and spending the summer apart from her oh-so-perfect boyfriend, Macy is smiling her way through - she's 'fine'. It's only when she meets a group of new friends - and artistic, sexy Wes catches her eye - she realizes she can wear her heart on her sleeve sometimes. Because life doesn't stop when someone disappears - and even though she's lost so much, can Macy see what she has to gain? Hugely engaging and with great emotional depth, Sarah Dessen's rich, warm, atmospheric writing makes this the perfect summer read for teenage girls. 

I haven't read any of Sarah's books before but after reading a few really positive reviews in various places, I bought this.   

Perfect Chemistry by Simone Elkeles
When Brittany Ellis walks into chemistry class on the first day of senior year, she has no clue that her carefully created "perfect" life is about to unravel before her eyes. Forced to be lab partners with Alex Fuentes, a gang member from the other side of town, Brittany finds herself having to protect everything she's worked so hard for - her flawless reputation, her relationship with her boyfriend and, most importantly, the secret that her home life is anything but perfect. Alex is a bad boy and he knows it. So when he makes a bet with his friends to lure Brittany into his life, he thinks nothing of it. But the closer Alex and Brittany get to each other the more they realise that sometimes appearances can be deceptive and that you have to look beneath the surface to discover the truth. 

This looks really interesting and is mounted firmly on my TBR pile!   Both book synopses are from Amazon.co.uk.

Here’s what I should have had this week, two new releases from two of my favourites (when said weather improves):

Entice by Carrie Jones
Here's the story: Zara and Nick are soul-mates - they're meant to be together for ever. But that's not quite how things have worked out. For starters, Nick is dead, and has been taken to Valhalla, a mystical resting place for warriors. If they can find the way there, Zara and her friends will try to get him back. But even if they do, Zara has turned pixie - and now she's Astley's queen! Meanwhile, more teenagers go missing as a group of evil pixies devastates the town of Bedford. An all-out war seems imminent and Zara and her friends need all the warriors they can find...(taken from Amazon.co.uk).

How I love the world of pixies!  Captivate left me breathlessly awaiting more and desperate to know the fate of Zara and her friends.  I really hope Entice lives up to its predecessors and I cannot wait to read this one.  This is the last sequel of 2010 I had been waiting for, so hopefully I'll read it before Christmas!

Me Against You by Jenny Downham
 If someone hurts your sister and you’re any kind of man, you seek revenge, right?
If your brother’s accused of a terrible crime but says he didn’t do it, you defend him, don’t you? When Mikey’s sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart. When Ellie’s brother is charged with the offence, her world begins to unravel. When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide. This is a brave and unflinching novel from the bestselling author of Before I Die. It’s a book about loyalty and the choices that come with it. But above all it’s a book about love.

How intriguing does this sound?!  Jenny’s first novel, Before I Die, was so astounding and heartbreaking - I simply had to get this.  This book looks really different and the story sounds dissimilar to her first book – apart from that love seems to be an abundant theme.  The idea of conflicting relationships and a Romeo and Juliet-esque romance sounds really good. 

What did everyone else get in their mailboxes this week?  As always, I love to hear from you.

Happy reading!

Nat


Friday, 3 December 2010

The Hunger Games - By Suzanne Collins


Author: Suzanne Collins
Date of release: January 2009 (UK)
Number of pages: 460
Publisher: Scholastic
Also by this author: Catching Fire (book 2), Mockingjay (book 3)

Book Girl Rating: * * * * *
  
Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. But Katniss has been close to death before—and survival, for her, is second nature. The Hunger Games is a searing novel set in a future with unsettling parallels to our present. Welcome to the deadliest reality TV show ever... 
 
Set in a future country that was once known as America, a set of cruel and sadistic games take place, as a punishment to the districts for an earlier rebellion.  Twelve boys and twelve girls from the differing districts must battle in a futuristic arena - a battle to the death - in which only one can survive.  When Katniss Everdeen steps up to take her younger sister's place in the games, she holds little hope that she'll survive, with the weight of the world on her shoulders - can she withstand the veritable death sentence before her?

I adored this book from the first chapter.  In a genre that is dominated by supernatural romances, The Hunger Games provided the most intriguing story and set of characters; not to mention a fast-paced ride of anticipation throughout.

Firstly-Katniss, our protagonist, has such a commanding presence and she makes the best kind of heroine; instantly likeable, feisty and independent.  But I guess she’s had to be; after caring for her family for a long time, hunting and providing for her mother and younger sister, survival is something she's learned.

The characters make up a big part of this story, from the fantastic Peeta and adorable Prim, there’s nothing you wouldn’t do to free these characters of the anguish the world brings them.  Secondly, the story is utterly fantastic and as Katniss reveals more about the Games during subsequent chapters, you realise just what a fight it is for her and her family in this world.  In a story that keeps you constantly guessing, it's suspenseful in the best possible way - and Katniss's first person narrative ensures we're right there in the action with her.

Suzanne Collins has a fantastic way of writing, particularly when describing the country of Panem, the land that rose out of post-apocalyptic North America; as this divided and in parts, depleted society – one that is now subject to control and surveillance.  Collins' dystopian narrative says it all: it's the kind of futuristic nightmare that squashes the hope of true freedom.  Yet despite this, Collins' makes it hopeful through the characters she presents - in the face of unquestionable adversity.  
 
The Hunger Games is exactly what a fantasy novel should be, exciting, gripping, suspenseful and heartbreaking.  Katniss and Peeta have you holding on to this rollercoaster of uncertainty right to the very end.  I can’t wait to read Catching Fire, the second book in this fantastic, character-driven series.  In fact, I’m starting it right now!

Reviewed as part of Nat's Little Reading Challenge.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Book gush time..The Hunger Games

For some reason, it's taking me ages to finish The Hunger Games!  Not because I don't like it, but because uni and work keep getting in the way!  However, I have to gush over just how much I love it (so far..) before I write up my review.  Thankfully I also own Catching Fire (as it was recommended to me to have the next book to hand!).  So my little rant is over..but I officially love this book, it's witty and interesting and Katniss is potentially the coolest heroine ever...I can't wait to see what happens in the end and in the sequels!

Let me know if you love the book too and your thoughts are always appreciated!

Nat