June 2015 Chrissi Cupboard Month

All posts tagged June 2015 Chrissi Cupboard Month

Mini Pin-It Reviews #5 – Four YA Books

Published January 28, 2017 by bibliobeth

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Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four young adult books for you – please see my pin it thoughts below!

1.) Something Strange And Deadly – Susan Dennard

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What’s it all about?:

There’s something strange and deadly loose in Philadelphia. . . .

Eleanor Fitt has a lot to worry about.

Her brother has gone missing, her family has fallen on hard times, and her mother is determined to marry her off to any rich young man who walks by. But this is nothing compared to what she’s just read in the newspaper:

The Dead are rising in Philadelphia.

And then, in a frightening attack, a zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor . . . from her brother.

Whoever is controlling the Dead army has taken her brother as well. If Eleanor is going to find him, she’ll have to venture into the lab of the notorious Spirit-Hunters, who protect the city from supernatural forces. But as Eleanor spends more time with the Spirit-Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel, the situation becomes dire. And now, not only is her reputation on the line, but her very life may hang in the balance.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) – Philip Pullman

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What’s it all about?:

The most magnificent fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings.” — The Oregonian

Lost in a new world, Lyra finds Will—a boy on the run, a murderer—a worthy and welcome ally. For this is a world where soul-eating Specters stalk the streets and witches share the skies with troops of angels.

Each is searching—Lyra for the meaning of Dark Matter, Will for his missing father—but what they find instead is a deadly secret, a knife of untold power. And neither Lyra nor Will suspects how tightly their lives, their loves, and their destinies are bound together… until they are split apart.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

3.) Another Little Piece – Kate Karyus Quinn

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What’s it all about?:

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese’s fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

 four-stars_0

4.) Something Real – Heather Demetrios

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What’s it all about?:

There’s nothing real about reality TV.

Seventeen-year-old Bonnie™ Baker has grown up on TV—she and her twelve siblings are the stars of one-time hit reality show Baker’s Dozen. Since the show’s cancellation and the scandal surrounding it, Bonnie™ has tried to live a normal life, under the radar and out of the spotlight. But it’s about to fall apart…because Baker’s Dozen is going back on the air. Bonnie™’s mom and the show’s producers won’t let her quit and soon the life she has so carefully built for herself, with real friends (and maybe even a real boyfriend), is in danger of being destroyed by the show. Bonnie™ needs to do something drastic if her life is ever going to be her own—even if it means being more exposed than ever before.

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Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

COMING SOON ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Books That Fall Into My “Random” Category

Monsters Of Men (Chaos Walking #3) – Patrick Ness

Published January 19, 2017 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

Three armies march on New Prentisstown, each one intent on destroying the others. Todd and Viola are caught in the middle, with no chance of escape. As the battles commence, how can they hope to stop the fighting? How can there ever be peace when they’re so hopelessly outnumbered? And if war makes monsters of men, what terrible choices await?

What did I think?:

Ah, Patrick Ness. You’ve just gone and finished the Chaos Walking trilogy with a giant bang and I loved every second of it. I actually waited for a while before reading the third book, Monsters Of Men as, to be perfectly honest, I really didn’t want the series to end. It began with The Knife of Never Letting Go which I can only describe as epic and continued with The Ask And The Answer which made me conclude that Patrick Ness is now one of my all-time favourite authors. What then did I expect from Monsters Of Men? Well, I was slightly worried that my expectations were actually too high. Shouldn’t have worried though – the final book in the trilogy was just as nail-biting, thrilling and fascinating as when I first came to the series.

I find it very hard reviewing books in a trilogy, especially after the first book as I’m very wary of giving spoilers for those people that haven’t started the series yet. What I can tell you is this is the story of Todd and Viola who met in the first novel under strained and dangerous circumstances and their friendship and love for each other has gone from strength to strength. I’m not going to re-hash what has happened so far but at the beginning of Monsters Of Men they have been separated and are embroiled in a fierce war against both the Spackle (the native species of the New World – yes, humans in fact are the interlopers!) and the humans who are against the self-entitled leader of the humans, President Prentiss. The novel is told from both Todd and Viola’s perspectives and also from one of the Spackles whom we met in the previous novel which I found particularly intriguing. Todd  must struggles with his conscience, the weight of his past and future decisions and the mind control of the Major whilst Viola begs for peace and is desperately trying to reach Todd.

This book meanders between being very fast-paced and action packed to slower, gentler sections where the reader can pause for breath before being sent into the next battle/exciting incident/devastating repercussion (sometimes all three!). Once again, the author presents us with a mastery of characters, from Todd and Viola who we have already fallen in love with to the villain of the piece President Prentiss to the bloodthirsty for revenge Spackle and the fierce Mistress Coyle (terrorist or freedom fighter – who can tell?). The old saying that war makes “monsters of men,” resonates very deeply especially in this final offering in the Chaos Walking Trilogy and all characters have to come face to face with another side of their personality that they may not have been aware they possessed. The brilliance of the writing and the thrilling plot truly shines through the narrative and I have to admit to being quite bereft when I turned over the final page, especially with an ending that left my heart in little pieces. I will read anything Patrick Ness writes – that is a promise!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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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

 

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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Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

Published October 8, 2016 by bibliobeth

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What’s it all about?:

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.

For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.

But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. . .

What did I think?:

Oh my gosh, this book. There was a lot of buzz about Only Ever Yours on Twitter just before it came out and I really hoped when I came to read it that it didn’t fall prey to the dreaded “over-hype monster.” Luckily, I had absolutely nothing to worry about and this debut novel from the hugely talented Louise O’Neill is truly mind-blowing. It’s the kind of book you enjoy but not in the usual way that you would enjoy something. It’s a very uncomfortable piece of dystopian/speculative fiction that you can draw surprising (and horrifying) comparisons with the world we live in right now and a possible future existence.

In this alternative future, woman are now scientifically and genetically engineered to be as close to perfect as possible and their only function in life is for the service and pleasure of men. Groups of girls known as “eves,” are trained in special schools to fall into one of three categories: one (and the most desirable) to be a companion for a man i.e. bearing him children for life, two, to be a concubine and available purely to satisfy men’s sexual urges and three, to be a chastity who teach other eves but remain without a partner.

The school is absolutely brutal. Academic, it is not. In fact, being academic is actually a form of insult to these girls. They are taught merely how to be beautiful, how to look after a man and one of the most important things – how to remain slim and desirable. frieda and isabel are two of these girls, best friends but in fierce competition with each other and desperate to rank in the “top ten” of their final year which pretty much guarantees that they will become a companion. And no, grammar police, I didn’t make a mistake. The girls don’t even have capital letters to their names, that’s how worthless the life of a woman has become. However, when isabel begins to gain weight and the pressure cooker of so many girls together begins to explode, frieda must assess what’s most important, her best friend or her future?

This book was both hideous and amazing on so many levels. Hideous because of the issues it addresses, like self-esteem, bullying, eating disorders, objectification of women… the list goes on! Amazing because of the way it deals with them. Louise O’Neill puts a harsh and unforgiving spotlight onto a lot of real problems that both young girls and older women go through today and this honest, no holds barred exploration of these issues is both admirable and makes for an incredibly compelling and at times, nail-biting read. Be prepared to feel uneasy and disgusted by this narrative but if you’re anything like me, hugely relieved that we have a writer out there like this who’s prepared to speak about these kinds of things in a world where sadly so many women are still not equal.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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June 2015 – Chrissi Cupboard Month #3

Published June 1, 2015 by bibliobeth

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

My lovely sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads gives me books on a regular basis, and as she reads at the speed of light I have had to acquire a cupboard in my bedroom purely for her books. Unfortunately, with all my other books and huge TBR pile, I’m not getting through them as fast as I’d like so I would like to dedicate the month of June to reading books purely from the Chrissi Cupboard. I will obviously be reading my short story every week and our Kid-Lit and Banned books for the month of June, but I’m hoping the majority of books will be from this cupboard. Here are the first ten I am planning to read and review:

Only Ever Yours – Louise O’Neill

Under My Skin – James Dawson

The Beloved – Alison Rattle

The Assassin’s Blade – Sarah J. Maas

Something Strange And Deadly – Susan Dennard

Cress – Marissa Meyer

The Giver – Lois Lowry

The Last Leaves Falling – Sarah Benwell

Checkmate – Malorie Blackman

Monsters Of Men – Patrick Ness

I’ve picked each of these books because they are ones that I’ve been wanting to get to for a while now. I am honestly looking forward to each and every one of them! Have you read any? What are your favourites? Let me know!