“Real Book” Month

All posts in the “Real Book” Month category

Everbound (Everneath #2) – Brodi Ashton

Published February 5, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Nikki Beckett could only watch as her boyfriend, Jack, sacrificed himself to save her, taking her place in the Tunnels of the Everneath for eternity — a debt that should’ve been hers. She’s living a borrowed life, and she doesn’t know what to do with the guilt. And every night Jack appears in her dreams, lost and confused and wasting away.

Desperate for answers, Nikki turns to Cole, the immortal bad boy who wants to make her his queen — and the one person least likely to help. But his heart has been touched by everything about Nikki, and he agrees to assist her in the only way he can: by taking her to the Everneath himself.

Nikki and Cole descend into the Everneath, only to discover that their journey will be more difficult than they’d anticipated — and more deadly. But Nikki vows to stop at nothing to save Jack — even if it means making an incredible sacrifice of her own.

In this enthralling sequel to Everneath, Brodi Ashton tests the bonds of destiny and explores the lengths we’ll go to for the ones we love.

What did I think?:

It’s always tricky reviewing the second book in a series so I’m going to try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible! For anybody who hasn’t come across the Everneath series before it’s heavily based on Greek mythology (one of my favourite things) but set in contemporary times. The Everneath itself is the equivalent of the Greek Hades and is ruled over by a Queen (who is slightly more tyrannical than the Greek Persephone). It’s definitely become one of my favourite YA series and not just because of the mythological nod. I love the characters, the plot and the world building – basically, it’s just a darn good read if you like your fiction a little fantastical.

Our main character is Nikki Beckett whom in the first book, experienced all the horrors of the Everneath through Cole, a resident of the area. At the time, her mother had died, she was having problems with her boyfriend Jack and generally wasn’t in a good place. However, visiting the Everneath with Cole came at a price. After coming back to her normal life, she was compelled to return to the Everneath after a period of six months for good and is desperately trying to figure a way around it after she was happily reconciled with Jack. The first book ends with a bit of a bang leaving both Nikki and Jack’s lives in danger. With the help of Cole, she must return once more to the Everneath to save both her and her boyfriend’s lives. Entering the Everneath with the hope of escaping is not going to be an easy task in any way, shape or form. Nikki must penetrate the three barriers of wind, fire and water, avoid zombie-like creatures that wander aimlessly around and the furious Queen if she can possibly help it and manage to escape out the other side, back to the real world with both her and Jack’s lives intact.

This is a brilliant and very strong second book in the Everneath series. I love Nikki as a character, she’s independent and determined and although she has been through multiple traumatic experiences she seems to come out of it relatively scar free with more motive than ever before. I’m not usually a fan of love triangles (cue eye rolling) in YA fiction but I really rate the characters of both Jack and Cole, the latter of which just fascinates me. For Jack fans, there is less of him to savour in this outing but we do get a few flashbacks of the early stages of his relationship with Nikki which was lovely to read. Finally, the world building which I mentioned earlier is just phenomenal and so imaginative. I could really picture the Everneath in my mind’s eye and whilst Nikki is there, the action is full throttle and incredibly thrilling. I’m definitely looking forward to the final book in the trilogy now and will feel a bit sad when it all comes to an end!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

February 2017 – Real Book Month

Published February 1, 2017 by bibliobeth

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It’s time for one of my favourite months – real book month! This is where I try to bring down that pesky TBR as much as I can. I try to focus on books I’m really excited about and roll my eyes that I haven’t managed to get to them before now. I normally have a list of about ten I want to read, however, because I also participate in Banned Books and Kid-Lit with my sister as well as reading the Richard and Judy book club titles, I’ve felt under too much pressure lately so am just easing that slightly. Here’s what I plan to be reading this month:

Empire Of Storms (Throne Of Glass #5) – Sarah J. Maas

Finders Keepers (Bill Hodges Trilogy #2) – Stephen King

The Swan Kingdom – Zoe Marriott

Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things – Jenny Lawson

Dark Places – Gillian Flynn

What can I say about this list? Except they’re books I’ve been wanting to read for SO LONG. The fifth book in the Throne Of Glass series as I’m a unashamedly huge fan (as with Stephen King), the Zoe Marriott as I absolutely loved her book Shadows On the Moon and The Swan Kingdom was a gift from my sister. Chrissi also read Furiously Happy a while back and really enjoyed it and I must admit, I have been staring longingly at it on my shelves! Finally, Dark Places as I’ve recently read and enjoyed Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn and really wanted to finish her back catalogue.

August 2016 – Real Book Month

Published August 6, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Every other month I set myself a little challenge to complete which alternates depending on the month from Chrissi Cupboard Month and Real Book Month to Kindle/NetGalley/Review Copy Month. This August it is the turn for real books, which is one of my favourite months. I have a HUGE backlog of books just itching to be read and its a way of trying to get that pesky TBR and my own book collection down to er…more manageable levels, if at all possible! This August I shall mostly be reading :

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane – Neil Gaiman

The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie – Alan Bradley

I Am The Messenger – Markus Zusak

Annihilation – Jeff VanderMeer

The Moth – Catherine Burns

Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion and Betrayal – Mal Peet

Born Weird – Andrew Kaufman

The Last Banquet – Jonathan Grimwood

1222 – Anne Holt

The Panda Theory – Pascal Garnier

All these books have a bit of a theme through them – they are the books I have (shamefully) still to read from the wonderful reading spa I went to with my sister, Chrissi quite a while ago now. We recently went again to Mr B’s Emporium Of Reading Delights for another spa and it reminded me I really had to finish what we had last time! So now… I will! Looking forward to all of these beauties.

February 2016 – Real Book Month

Published February 7, 2016 by bibliobeth

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Every other month I set myself a little challenge to complete which alternates depending on the month from Chrissi Cupboard Month and Real Book Month to Kindle/NetGalley/Review Copy Month. This February it is the turn for real books, which is one of my favourite months. I have a HUGE backlog of books just itching to be read and its a way of trying to get that pesky TBR and my own book collection down to er…more manageable levels, if at all possible! This February I shall mostly be reading : –

The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

A Little Life – Hanya Yanagihara

Heart-Shaped Box – Joe Hill

Wolf Winter – Cecilia Ekbäck

The Paying Guests – Sarah Waters

The Shut Eye – Belinda Bauer

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children #2) – Ransom Riggs

The Farm – Tom Rob Smith

Broken Monsters – Lauren Beukes

The King’s Curse (The Cousins’ War #6) – Philippa Gregory

I think this must be one of my most exciting real books months to date. I literally cannot wait to read ALL of these books. Some have been languishing on the TBR pile for far too long, like Heart-Shaped Box, the debut novel from Stephen King’s son Joe Hill. Others are relatively newer additions, like The Sparrow which was recommended to me from one of my favourite podcasts, Books On The Nightstand. I have heard so many great things (also from BOTN) about the Man Booker short-listed novel A Little Life and having loved her debut novel The People In The Trees, I’m so so excited to get to this one, hence why it’s nearer the top of the list.

Other novels I’ve been meaning to get to is Hollow City, the second in the fabulous Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children series – please see my review for the first book HERE. Lauren Beukes novel, The Shining Girls was one of my top reads for 2013 and I cannot wait to read her most recent novel, Broken Monsters which has been staring at me from my bookshelves for quite a while now! The Paying Guests will be my first novel by Sarah Waters and I’ve heard amazing things. I know my blogger friend Cleo over at Cleopatra Loves Books loved it and it will be quite exciting to compare thoughts with her once I’m done. Finally, I’m looking forward to a bit of historical fiction and one of my favourite authors, Philippa Gregory with the final book in her Cousins’ War series.

This is going to be a great month, I just know it!

The Ask And The Answer (Chaos Walking #2) – Patrick Ness

Published November 28, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

We were in the square, in the square where I’d run, holding her, carrying her, telling her to stay alive, stay alive till we got safe, till we got to Haven so I could save her – But there weren’t no safety, no safety at all, there was just him and his men…

Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss. Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor’s new order. But what secrets are hiding just outside of town? And where is Viola? Is she even still alive? And who are the mysterious Answer? And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode…

“The Ask and the Answer” is a tense, shocking and deeply moving novel of resistance under the most extreme pressure. This is the second title in the “Chaos Walking” trilogy.

What did I think?:

Patrick Ness is, without a doubt, one of my new favourite authors and after the fantastic Knife Of Never Letting Go which I read a little while ago, it was high time that I read this, the second in the series. Ness leaves us at the end of the first book with an unbelievable cliff-hanger and I’m going to try and make this review as spoiler free as possible but if you’ve not read the first book, I highly recommend you do and then come back and read this review! I don’t think it’s a spoiler to reveal that Todd and Viola have walked right into terrible danger, in the form of Mayor Prentiss, a terrific fanatical villain who has plans for a new world order, one in which he is the President and rules by manipulating the “noise,” of his citizens.

Almost immediately, Todd and Viola are separated and for most of this novel, we see the story from both of their points of view as Viola is placed in the care of a group of healers with all the women and Todd is left with the Mayor (sorry, PRESIDENT) and the men. He is forced to take charge of the Spackle, strange and mute alien beings who were actually the native species of this planet before the humans arrived and, as is often the case, took over everything. President Prentiss has plans for the Spackles – not nice ones I’m afraid to say and by using an eerie form of mind control, torture, threats and his son Davey, he forces Todd to do things he is not proud of which brings back bad memories of what he has done in the past. He becomes desperate to find Viola and make everything right again, even if this means war and over-throwing Prentiss.

Meanwhile, Viola is adapting to life amongst the healers where tensions and bad feeling against Prentiss are slowly beginning to rise, master-minded by the lead healer, Mistress Coyle. Eventually, she heads up a group of women known as “The Answer,” to stand against the President in a war that makes Viola question everything she believes in. These are dangerous times, especially when another group also rises to fight which could mean the end of the world as they know it. Who is right and who is wrong? Which side should Todd and Viola choose? Is war ever justified? These questions and so many more are just begging to be answered as we head towards the final book in this thought-provoking and action packed trilogy. There’s one thing I know for sure, it’s going to be one hell of a finale.

For me, the second book in the Chaos Walking trilogy was even better than the first and I didn’t think that was going to be possible. I absolutely love Todd and Viola as characters (although I did miss a certain dog…) and it was great to see our heroine’s point of view a little more in this novel. What makes them so great? It’s a mixture of things, Todd’s unique voice and the way he uses grammar is a real bonus for me and I love the way he’s so imperfect. Yes, he makes mistakes, he struggles, he doesn’t always make the right decisions but he’s still a young lad trying to find his feet in a dangerous world facing things we can only imagine – he’s allowed to mess up! Viola is a perfect compliment to his character, providing peace and inner strength, allowing him to make his own way and then helping him to be a better person. Then we have Prentiss, a phenomenal villain who could definitely benefit from some psychiatric help but truly believes he is doing the right thing for the world. Well, they do say psychopaths believe their own hype, right?

This story is so jam packed full of action, just when I thought it couldn’t get any more frenetic, Ness ramped it up just one more notch. This is certainly a book I couldn’t put down and one that stayed with me for a while as I considered exactly what the author was trying to say about war, violence, friendship, fascism and indeed, racism. Throughout the novel I was moved, angered, repelled and excited (sometimes all at the same time) and it has paved the way for an extraordinary series ending. If you haven’t started or finished the series yet, please do yourself a favour and DO IT! You won’t be disappointed.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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Image from http://www.ohthebooks.com/bookish-reunion-the-ask-and-the-answer-by-patrick-ness/

 

The Tale Of The Duelling Neurosurgeons: The History Of The Human Brain As Revealed By True Stories Of Trauma, Madness and Recovery – Sam Kean

Published November 15, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

From the author of the best-seller The Disappearing Spoon, tales of the brain and the history of neuroscience.

Early studies of the functions of the human brain used a simple method: wait for misfortune to strike-strokes, seizures, infectious diseases, lobotomies, horrendous accidents-and see how the victim coped. In many cases survival was miraculous, and observers could only marvel at the transformations that took place afterward, altering victims’ personalities. An injury to one section can leave a person unable to recognize loved ones; some brain trauma can even make you a pathological gambler, paedophile, or liar. But a few scientists realized that these injuries were an opportunity for studying brain function at its extremes. With lucid explanations and incisive wit, Sam Kean explains the brain’s secret passageways while recounting forgotten stories of common people whose struggles, resiliency, and deep humanity made modern neuroscience possible.

What did I think?:

I couldn’t resist The Duelling Neurosurgeons when I saw it, it’s got everything I could possibly ask for from a popular science book. Firstly, it focuses on arguably the most exciting and mysterious organ in the human body – the brain, which has always fascinated me ever since I studied a module on neuroscience as part of my first degree. Secondly, it combines triumphs (and disasters) of neurosurgeons through history and provides case studies of “real,” patients, some of whom left me dumbfounded. For example, the blind man who travelled the world by using echolocation and textbook studies such as Phineas Gage who received such a traumatic brain injury that it ended up changing his entire personality. Finally (and perhaps one of the things that excited me the most), Sam Kean introduces each chapter by providing a little puzzle or “rebus” to illustrate what the content of that particular chapter might be about.

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This was so much fun and I was quite strict with myself, not going on to read the chapter until I had figured out the rebus. This proved quite frustrating with some of the trickier images!

Why The Duelling Neurosurgeons? Well, it all starts in 1559 where King Henri II of France receives a traumatic injury to his brain after a jousting accident. The two most prominent brain doctors of the day, Paré and Vesalius (who also founded what we know now as modern anatomy) were called to his bedside and although some of their methods for treating the king were quite primitive, essentially they both led the way for further experimentation and brain surgery today. For example, Paré was quite keen on strange concoctions and compresses, one in particular consisted of egg yolk, turpentine, earthworms and dead puppies. Each to their own I guess?!… He also devised a strange experiment that allowed him to differentiate between fatty tissue and brain tissue in a frying pan where fat was seen to liquefy and brain would shrivel.

There is a wealth of interesting information from case studies put forward in this book but I’ll just mention a couple of my favourites. The section on phantom limbs, where someone who has recently had a limb amputated can still feel pain in the area that the limb used to be was fascinating but did you know that some women who have had complete hysterectomies can still have phantom menstrual pains? Or there are even such things as phantom teeth, phantom penises and phantom erections? The topics covered by the author are intriguing, informative and endlessly thought-provoking. In fact, I’ve never had so much fun before reading a popular science book. I have the author’s first two books to read on my Kindle – The Disappearing Spoon and The Violinist’s Thumb and if they’re half as entertaining as this one was, I’m in for a treat. Highly recommended for anyone who wants to know more about this surprising and brilliant organ.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

 

The Bees – Laline Paull

Published November 13, 2015 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games in this brilliantly imagined debut.

Born into the lowest class of her society, Flora 717 is a sanitation bee, only fit to clean her orchard hive. Living to accept, obey and serve, she is prepared to sacrifice everything for her beloved holy mother, the Queen. Yet Flora has talents that are not typical of her kin. And while mutant bees are usually instantly destroyed, Flora is reassigned to feed the newborns, before becoming a forager, collecting pollen on the wing. Then she finds her way into the Queen’s inner sanctum, where she discovers secrets both sublime and ominous. Enemies roam everywhere, from the fearsome fertility police to the high priestesses who jealously guard the Hive Mind. But Flora cannot help but break the most sacred law of all, and her instinct to serve is overshadowed by a desire, as overwhelming as it is forbidden…

Laline Paull’s chilling yet ultimately triumphant novel creates a luminous world both alien and uncannily familiar. Thrilling and imaginative, The Bees is the story of a heroine who changes her destiny and her world.

What did I think?:

I was first attracted to this book in Foyles where the beautiful bright yellow cover immediately attracted my eye but it was not until I read the intriguing synopsis that I knew I had to read it. Told from the point of view of a bee, Flora 717 is an unlikely heroine in a world that demands uniformity and perfection with no deviation from the norm allowed. It’s been described as a cross between The Handmaid’s Tale and The Hunger Games and I can easily understand the comparisons but I think it’s also similar to books such as 1984 and Brave New World as a fascinating look at how a society can be brain-washed into believing certain ideals for the greater good as they imagine it.

Flora 717 begins her life in the Hive as a sanitation bee, the lowest caste of all bees and nothing is expected of them except to make sure the Hive was clean at all times. However, it’s not long before the higher caste bees begin to realise that Flora is no ordinary bee. For a start, she can speak – a function not given to the lower castes as it is not usually required. She can also produce “flow,” the substance given to developing larvae and for a while Flora is put to work in the Hive nursery, feeding and taking care of the infants. She is then given the opportunity to become a forager i.e. searching outside the Hive for as much pollen as she can carry back and becomes rather good at it. Even her bumblebee dances which explain to the other foragers where to get the best pollen and warn of any potential dangers, are praised and looked forward to on a daily basis.

It is not long before Flora is admitted into the inner sanctum of the Hive, where the Queen resides, attended to by high priestess bees. Once again, her intelligence and talents surprise everyone and surpass everything ever seen before from regular bees. It looks like life can only get better for Flora with ears in such high places, then something happens that has the potential to threaten everything she has ever known. Flora cannot help her response to such a situation and, as a result, must try desperately to hide her secret as much as she can. This is dangerous territory, especially when their Holy Mother the Queen is having problems of her own in a sensitive area that involves the future of the hive. Furthermore, the Hive Mind will always seek out any mutant bees or rogue thoughts in their midst that cannot be controlled by the sweet pheromones pumped out by the Queen Bee.

This was a really interesting and unique read, a dystopian fantasy from the perspective of a creature we normally take for granted, the humble bumblebee. I loved Flora as a main character, she had just the right amount of tenderness and rebellion to make her exciting and so very readable. The author has clearly carried out astute research into the life of bees yet I still had to laugh at the mental images I was getting of these little insects, such as sweeping the floors and doing their little explanatory dances.

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Image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photography-dance-bumble-bee-image5957307

Never fear adrenalin junkies there are also plenty of action sequences in this novel as we see the Hive battle enemies such as mice, spiders and their old adversary the evil wasp! Then there are the princely male bumblebees which provided an extra bit of humour as they were preened and doted on by the females before finding their own mate outside of the Hive. To be honest, I don’t really have much to criticise about this book, it was slightly slow in the beginning but as I settled into the style of writing I began to love Flora and all she stood for. If you’re an animal lover or intrigued by the world of bees specifically, this is the perfect book for you. I learned a lot but I was also highly entertained which of course is the main thing!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

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Image courtesy of http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-illustration-dancing-bumblebee-colored-cartoon-illustration-vector-image44156434