Chrissi Cupboard Month

All posts in the Chrissi Cupboard Month category

Checkmate (Noughts & Crosses #3) – Malorie Blackman

Published January 4, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Can the future ever erase the past? Rose has a Cross mother and a nought father in a society where the pale-skinned noughts are treated as inferiors and those with dual heritage face a life-long battle against deep-rooted prejudices. Sephy, her mother, has told Rose virtually nothing about her father, but as Rose grows into a young adult, she unexpectedly discovers the truth about her parentage and becomes determined to find out more. But her father’s family has a complicated history – one tied up with the fight for equality for the nought population. And as Rose takes her first steps away from Sephy and into this world, she finds herself drawn inexorably into more and more danger. Suddenly it’s a game of very high stakes that can only have one winner . . .

What did I think?:

Checkmate is the third book in the fabulous Noughts & Crosses series by a woman I’ve come to think of as a YA genius – Malorie Blackman. I am going to try and write this review as spoiler free as I can for anybody who hasn’t started the series yet but it gets harder with each successive book in the series. I heartily recommend anyone who is interested in dystopian fiction, prejudice and racial tension to read these books and discover the magic of them for yourself.

Our main character from the first book, Sephy is back and she has had a daughter, Callie Rose whom she is raising by herself with the help of her mother and Callie’s father’s mother. Callie is growing up in tough times where black people (known as Crosses) are the “superior” race and whites (known as Noughts) are treated with scorn and derision. Callie’s problem is that she has a Cross mother and a Nought father, so in effect is mixed race and suffers terrible prejudice from both sides of the divide. Checkmate is Callie’s coming of age story as she grows up in a hostile world, tries to connect with her often emotionally distant mother and finds out things about her family that may have been better left hidden and may have dangerous consequences.

To be perfectly honest, this book did not have as much of an effect on me as the previous two books in the series, Noughts & Crosses and Knife Edge, Apart from the ending that is, which is quite literally explosive and incredibly tense, paving the way for a potentially devastating final book in the series. I loved Callie Rose as a character and could see a lot of her mother in her young self but found myself becoming quite frustrated with Sephy at times as her wariness around her daughter was truly heart-breaking to read. I loved the way that this novel was told from the perspective of multiple characters once again, this is one of my favourite ways to read as I feel it gives you a much deeper insight into the mind of certain characters, especially ones where you can’t quite accept their motives. Say no more….apart from please start this series if you haven’t already and let me know what you think!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

December 2016 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #6

Published December 2, 2016 by bibliobeth

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It’s December. And that means (drumroll please)….. it’s Chrissi Cupboard Month!

Hi everyone! It’s nearly Christmas and what better way to finish off this year than a whole month of reading books loaned to me by my beloved sister, Chrissi Reads? This is what I’ll be reading for the month of December.

One – Sarah Crossan

Gathering Blue (The Giver Quartet #2) – Lois Lowry

Rebel Belle – Rachel Hawkins

Evertrue (Everneath #3) – Brodi Ashton

Into The Still Blue (Under The Never Sky #3) – Veronica Rossi

The Daughter Of Smoke And Bone – Laini Taylor

The Mysterious Howling (The Incorrigible Children Of Ashton Place #1) – Maryrose Wood

The Drowning – Rachel Ward

Follow Me Down – Tanya Byrne

The Art Of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

As usual, I’m really looking forward to all of these books but in particular, continuing with The Giver series and finishing the Everneath and Under The Never Sky series. There are also a couple of books on this list, namely Rebel Belle and The Drowning that come highly recommended from Chrissi. Here’s to an excellent month of reading!

The Last Leaves Falling – Fox Benwell

Published November 22, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this . . .

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.

What did I think?:

I read this book quite a while ago now (due to an incredibly long backlog!) and it’s taken me this long to try and collect my thoughts and feelings about it. Even now, I’m not sure if anything I say will make sense or if I can fully describe how this book played on my emotions or write a review that does justice to the beauty and brilliance of this fantastic debut novel but I’ll try my hardest. The Last Leaves Falling is not an easy book to read (emotionally speaking) by any stretch of this imagination and delves into some very murky places but if you’re strong enough to deal with a bit of sadness and despair, there are also a lot of rewards to be had in terms of the importance of love, friendship and family – all very prominent themes in the narrative.

Our main character is the wonderful Sora, who I instantly fell in love with. Sora is seventeen years old and is desperate for the life of a “normal” teenager but he is cruelly prevented from living his life the way he wants because of a terminal neuro-degenerative illness – ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease that is rapidly progressing through his body. He is now unable to attend school and relies heavily on his wheelchair and his mother to help him perform the menial tasks that we all take for granted, like getting washed and dressed ourselves. This is not only incredibly frustrating for a boy that used to be very active, but excruciatingly embarrassing for a young man of his age.

Sora spends most of his time online, reading the poetry of wounded samurai and emails he receives which describe an increasing number of individuals in Japan that contemplate or end up committing suicide. This is something he considers thoughtfully and intelligently, imagining how much worse life is going to get for him particularly when the muscles responsible for his breathing also fail him. At the same time, Sora just wants to be like everyone else. He meets two other teenagers online and strikes up a beautiful friendship with both, finally able to talk about normal teenage “stuff,” and not be the young man with a terminal illness. It is through the friendship and love of his new friends, Mai and Kaito that provides Sora with a reason for existing, hope and guaranteed assistance for the end of his life which will be devastatingly all too soon.

There are no words to describe how stunning this book is. From the beautifully drawn characters and their relationships with each other to the imaginative plot which is written in such a spectacular fashion, bringing me close to tears and making me appreciate my own life, friends and family even more. I struggle with a chronic illness myself and often have days when I rail at the unfairness of the world…until this book. Now I just count my blessings. As I mentioned before, it deals with some tough subjects like terminal illness, suicide, end of life care and as a result, was quite heart-breaking to read at many points but infinitely worth it. As a big fan of Japanese culture, I also appreciated the setting which was a refreshing change from other works of YA fiction that are set in the Western world and hugely applaud Fox Benwell for the diversity that was demonstrated in this book in general. I really urge everyone to read this book if you like what you’ve read so far, it’s an emotional journey but one you’ll be so glad you took!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1) – Lois Lowry

Published November 1, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

This haunting story centres on Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colourless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he’s given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community.

What did I think?:

A huge thank you to my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads for recommending this excellent young adult novel to me. The Giver is the original dystopian novel, before all the hype about The Hunger Games kicked off and spawned a new rush of books in the genre, this is the story to turn to if you crave an alternative community that revolves around making life for its individuals as de-humanising as possible. Of course, the society in question that our main character Jonas is raised in, does not know any different and in some ways, their life could be thought of as fairly peaceful and problem free. There is no colour, no memories of the past, no decisions to be made but also no pain, no suffering and no complications. Your spouse is chosen for you, your children are allocated to you and a range of medications are available to suppress any strong, difficult feelings be they negative or the first stirrings of passion.

Each member of the community has their own role to play when they turn twelve years old. Jonas like many children is nervous about which role he will be allocated and it turns out he is right to be. For Jonas is allocated the most terrifying role in their population of which there is only one. He is to be The Receiver, and the old man who currently holds the post is to be The Giver and transmit to Jonas all the memories from the past, both painful and pleasurable. For the first time, Jonas understands what it’s like to see a rainbow, sled down a hill, feel the pure happiness that comes from being in love but unfortunately he also learns what torture, war and devastation also feel like. With this newfound knowledge, Jonas must decide what’s best for the community and of course, himself as his mind is opened up to a different way of living – for better or worse?

I loved this book! As the first book in a quartet it sets the scene perfectly of a world that couldn’t be more unfamiliar than the world we live in today. Or is it? This book really makes you think and appreciate everything we take for granted but also gets you thinking about some aspects of our lives that could be thought of as quite controlled still. We are indeed able to see colour, feel strong emotions, love passionately and most of all, have individual choice and personal freedom but this isn’t the case for everyone around the world.

The Giver is also a coming of age story as whilst Jonas is trained up to become The Receiver he is also startled into adulthood. This is a moment we’ll probably all recognise from our own lives when we suddenly realise that the world doesn’t revolve around us, life is notoriously hard and at many points in our future we will have to make tough decisions. The characters are all wonderful, especially Jonas who seemed wise beyond his years but so personable and the plot rattles along at a thrilling rate culminating in a gob-smacking finale that you may not see coming. I cannot wait to read the second book in the series and enter this strange new world once more.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) – Marissa Meyer

Published October 21, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In this third book in Marissa Meyer’s bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

What did I think?:

Isn’t it strange how your opinion on a series can change so much from the first book? Mine certainly has. Not saying I didn’t enjoy Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles but it wasn’t a series I saw myself continuing. If it wasn’t for my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads assuring me how great the second book, Scarlet was, I probably wouldn’t have carried on! I’m ever so glad I did, because the world that Marissa Meyer has created is truly magical and each book in the series just keeps getting better and better.

Each book is loosely based on a fairy tale (and has the most fabulous covers known to man). So, with the first book it was Cinderella quite obviously, the second Little Red Riding Hood and in this third offering, Cress could otherwise be known as Rapunzel. She is an employee of Queen Levana, villain extraordinaire and a talented hacker for Luna. Levana has kept her isolated on a satellite for her entire life with her only point of human contact being Sybil, Levana’s head thaumaturge/flunkey. As a result, Cress is incredibly naive, quite socially awkward and desperately in need of friends and her freedom.

See where I’m going with this? Cinder, Captain Thorne, Scarlet, Wolf and Iko are all rattling around in a spaceship on the run from the evil Queen Levana and her dastardly plans (which I’m not saying anything about for fear of spoiling the series for anyone who hasn’t started it yet!). They immediately mount a mission to rescue Cress from her lonely, humdrum existence, guessing that her talents with I.T. could make her quite valuable to them in the future… Of course, this wouldn’t be an adventure if things didn’t go slightly haywire along the way and they do, for a number of our characters which could affect the whole game plan of overthrowing Queen Levana, preventing her hideous marriage to the wonderful Prince Kai and clearing the way for the rightful ruler of Luna to take the throne.

This book is quite a hefty, meaty read at nearly 600 pages but please don’t let the size put you off, it was so action-packed that I seemed to read it in no time at all. I’m loving the mixture of characters that the author is producing, they’re all so endearing in their own ways and I’m beginning to appreciate each one for what they bring to the narrative: Cinder and her burgeoning leadership skills, Thorne with his wicked sense of humour, Scarlet for her fiesty attitude and Cress for her sweet innocence. Then BAM! right at the end, we get introduced to a new character that will play a prominent role in the next novel – Princess Winter who appears to be all kinds of crazy but utterly bewitching. I literally cannot wait to see how this series is going to pan out.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Assassin’s Blade (Throne Of Glass 0.1-0.5) – Sarah J. Maas

Published October 19, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Contains all five novellas.

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

What did I think?:

I’m holding my hands up to unashamedly admit that I am a die-hard Thrones Of Glass super fan! Seriously. This series is all kinds of awesome and when I heard that a prequel was coming out that would tell Celaena’s story before she becomes the King’s Assassin, I instantly knew that it was a must-read for me. Here’s the facts though. It’s not a prequel novel but five separate novellas: The Assassin And The Pirate Lord, The Assassin And The Healer, The Assassin And The Desert, The Assassin And The Underworld and The Assassin And The Empire. Some people may shy away from this idea but trust me, it brings a whole new dimension to the twisted (and so often heart-breaking) world of Celaena Sardothien and may make you look at her a whole lot differently.

So, I don’t want to give too much away for anyone who hasn’t started the Thrones Of Glass series yet, I do hate spoilers myself! I’m not even sure whether to recommend reading this book first or indeed after the first book in the series. I came to it later myself after I had read a couple of books in the series and I found it a brilliant introduction to a character I had already professed myself to love. But…I can see why reading this book FIRST could be very advantageous as there is a spoiler referred to in the first book about something that happens in Celaena’s past and The Assassin’s Blade explains how this incident came to pass.

During these five novellas, which seem to merge into each other almost like a complete novel with only very short gaps in time between stories, Celaena makes both enemies and allies, is trained to the highest standard with The Mute Assassin in the desert, encounters betrayal and friendship in the unlikeliest of places and experiences the first giddy throes of love. We learn what events (good and bad) transpired to make her the character she is today, a bit about her strengths and where she is potentially weakest and just why she ends up as a prisoner in the salt-mines of Endovier.

If you weren’t the biggest fan of Celaena before The Assassin’s Blade, dare I suggest that you might change your mind after this? Personally, I’ve always loved her kick-ass, kind of cold but also occasionally vulnerable attitude but you realise so much more about her as a person that explains a lot about her thoughts and actions that follow both during and post Throne Of Glass. As with all the books in the series that I’ve read so far, it’s just as action-packed, just as heart-breaking and always compelling and difficult to put down. I’m only sad that after six books, this series will come to an inevitable end. I know, I know, it has to end sometime, but with a story like this I just want it to run and run and run.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Under My Skin – James Dawson

Published October 9, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Meet Molly Sue. Once she’s under your skin there’s no getting rid of her…

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realises that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’.

What did I think?:

Under My Skin is yet another fantastic YA read from the huge British talent that is James Dawson. After the brilliance of Say Her Name, I wasn’t sure if the author would be able to write another blinder and while this story isn’t as inherently terrifying as its predecessor, it’s an entertaining and compelling read and cements James Dawson as true YA royalty.

As I was reading Under My Skin, I kept thinking of a Point Horror book I read when I was younger called The Perfume where a teenage girl is taken over by a malign force that makes her do terrible things. In a similar way, this is what happens to seventeen year old Sally Feather although the wrestle of control is with a tattoo that Sally is talked into getting on her back, an American pin up girl called Molly Sue. At first, when Molly Sue starts to talk to Sally, she is excellent for boosting her fragile self-esteem and confidence but before long, Molly Sue starts to want more control of Sally’s body and mind, to do with as she pleases (and NOT good things by the way).

I loved Sally as a character, in fact she very much reminded me of myself when I was at school. I could have certainly done with a milder version of Molly Sue for myself perhaps! My favourite character had to be Molly Sue herself though. Bold, brassy, super-confident and just a little bit crazy she was the perfect villain in this exciting novel which was so easy to read that I pretty much finished it in one sitting. I also enjoyed the characters of Sally’s friends, who seem to be her only joy amongst the terrors and  deadly social politics of high school. I think I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of the author’s work that he has a real talent in writing believable teenagers and believable adolescent situations and this book took me right back to this confusing and to be honest, slightly traumatic time! This is a fabulous book for the target YA market but is also one that more than a few adults (like myself) would enjoy for sure.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0