Thursday, 16 April 2015

Review | The Selection by Kiera Cass

Image and video hosting by TinyPicThe Selection by Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #1
Published On: April 24, 2012
Published By: Harper Teen
Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 327
Format: Paperback
Source: Gift
Rating: ★★★★★

Amazon | Goodreads

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. 
  But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks. 
  Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself--and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

When her invitation to The Selection arrives, America Singer has no desire to enter. However, in a society divided by casts, life as a 5 is tough with money being tight, so with pressure from her family, and secret boyfriend Aspen from the cast below, America reluctantly enters. Soon she is one of 35 girls thrust into the royal palace, chosen to take part in the competition for the crown and the Prince, neither of which she wants.

Having heard such mixed reviews about this book, I had lowered my expectations. Evidently, the lowering of expectations was not at all necessary as I absolutely loved this book and don’t know where the bad reviews are coming from.

I loved the whole idea of this book. As soon as I read the synopsis for this book, the idea of it completely drew me in. It sounds exactly like some kind of reality TV show, a huge guilty pleasure of mine. In fact, while reading the book I was constantly reminded of the TV show “I Wanna Marry Harry”, in which a group of girls were competing for the affections of a fake Prince Harry. This book has very similar aspects to that and was a very fun plot to read.

While there is some mixed opinion over the main character America, I loved her and most of the other characters. I thought America was a great main character. She may not be quite as ‘kick-ass’ as many other much loved female protagonists but she is a very entertaining, and often relatable, character. I also really like Prince Maxon. I really like how down-to-earth he is, considering he’s a Prince, and he seems like someone I could be great friends with. Aspen was not a favourite of mine to begin with but he grew on me over the course of the book. I am definitely ‘Team Maxon’ though. The other girls in the Selection, the ones we were introduced to anyway, I mostly liked. Although, the majority of them were very minor characters.

I thought the society was very interesting. It may not make for as action-packed a book as others and it may not be quite as complex or terrible to live in, but I thought it was, in many ways, a very realistic vision of what the world could become. I enjoyed learning some of the history of the society, although I hope more will be revealed in the later books in the series.

As soon as I finished the first book, I couldn’t wait to read the next in the series. It was very difficult not to pick the next book up straight away as I enjoyed this book so much that I wanted to immerse myself in this world.

Overall, I absolutely loved this book. The incredibly fun plot made for such an enjoyable read and the characters were great too. I even liked the love triangle that took place, and that is not always a hit for me. I think it was a great start to the series and if it continues this way, this may become one of my new favourite series.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Review | Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Image and video hosting by TinyPicAllegiant by Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent #3
Published On: October 22, 2013
Published By: Harper Collins
Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 526
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
Rating: ★★★★★

Amazon | Goodreads

*WARNING! Synopsis May Contain Spoilers For Previous Books!* (review is spoiler free)

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered – fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. 
Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories. But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature – and of herself – while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice and love.

As Allegiant is the third book in the Divergent trilogy, there is little I can give by way of a brief synopsis without spoiling the previous books in the serious. I do, however, have a full review of Divergent, the first book, and mini review of Insurgent, the second book, if you would like to know more.

Despite all of the negative reviews I have seen for this book, I absolutely loved it. I think this was a perfect ending to a great series and, though it may not necessarily be my ideal ending for the trilogy, I absolutely loved what Veronica Roth did with this book.

The main change in this book from the previous books in the series was the introduction of the dual perspectives. I really was not sure about this at first as I couldn’t tell much of a difference between the two and often god confused as to whose perspective I was reading from. However, I can understand why it was done and I think it was in many ways effective.

Having followed their journey throughout the series, I still love these characters. I feel like this final book did a really good job of making the reader understand the actions of some of the characters in the previous books, and certainly left me with a different opinion of many characters. I was not so thrilled about a lot of the new characters introduced though, as I ended up becoming very suspicious of all of them, although rightly so in some cases.

I have struggled with my feelings for the Tris/Four relationship throughout the series but I did enjoy their relationship in this book. I adored this relationship in Divergent but the constant relationship drama in Insurgent changed my feelings somewhat. In this book the relationship felt more real. While they were out of the initial loved up state as seen in Divergent, and dealing with some of their issues, they were much more bearable than in Insurgent. I felt the problems they had within their relationship during Allegiant, and how they were dealt with, meant their relationship was portrayed in a much more realistic way.

While I loved the initial setting within there messed up society, I really enjoyed this new setting. It was exciting to see what was going on beyond the factions and learn more about the history of this society and how it came to be. It was also interesting to get more of an insight into the history of the characters’ families.

And now to the most controversial part of this book: the ending, which I loved. I can completely understand why so many people were upset or angry about this ending but I thought it was so perfectly done. I felt the ending was very appropriate for this series but it did, along with so much of this book, broke my heart. In fact, I sobbed for about the last 100 pages.

Overall, though I feel Insurgent may have slightly ruined this great series, Allegiant was a perfect ending for me. Veronica Roth did a fantastic job of giving us a full understanding of the society and tying up a lot of loose ends before building to, what I thought to be, a fantastic, raw and fitting ending to the series.

Monday, 13 April 2015

TBR | April 2015

To unintentionally keep up with tradition, I am once again late to the party and posting my TBR on the 13th of the month. My TBR is again slightly ambitious considering I will be spending a good majority of April studying for my exams at the end of the month. I am also in a bit of a reading slump at the moment but I am hoping to get over it in time to read all of these books.

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I Was Here by Gayle Forman -
I had this book on my TBR for March but didn't get around to it, which is why it is on my TBR for April. This is about a girl whose best friend commits suicide and she is determined to find out why. I read a similar book, Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff, in March but I am hoping this will be a better take on the subject.

Luuurve Is A Many Trousered Thing by Louise Rennison -
I am still making my way through the Confessions of Georgia Nicholson series so for the month of April I am hoping to read the 8th book. Like I have said many times, these are quick and fun reads so this probably won't take me too long to read.

How To Fall In Love by Cecelia Ahern -
I pulled this one out of my TBR jar for this month and I am so glad I did. Having just watched, and completely loved, the movie adaptation of Love, Rosie, one of my favourite books and he only one I have read from Cecelia Ahern, I cannot wait to read something else by her. This is about a woman who comes across a man about to jump from a bridge and persuades him not to by making a deal, she must convince him that life is worth living in just two weeks. Despite this being my third book about suicide in a couple of months, I expect this one to be a lot different.

The Selection Stores: The Prince & The Guard by Kiera Cass -
This is the bind up of the first two novels from the Selection series, The Prince (#0.5) and The Guard (#2.5). I have read the first three books in the series this year and loved them. Now I am trying to read all of the novellas before the fourth book is released in May. I also own The Queen (#0.4) as an eBook so I may try to read that as well.

Make It Count by Megan Erickson -
This is my eBook for the month that I pulled out of my TBR jar. I have been really in the mood for 'romcom' style contemporary stories recently and this sounds like just what I have been wanting. It is about a girl who is struggling in school and enlists the help of her boyfriend's best friend to tutor her. However, they then develop feelings for each other. This sounds like exactly the kind of story I am in the mood to read.

I am also currently listening to We Should Hang Out Sometime by Josh Sunquist on audiobook and really enjoying it, so hopefully I can finish that this month as well. 

What are you hoping to read in April?

Sophie :)

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Wrap Up | March 2015

March wasn't the most memorable month for me, in fact it completely flew in. I didn't have the best reading month. I managed a total of 5 books, which I guess isn't too bad, however the books I read were not great.

My Life In March...
- I had a really great dinner out with friends I haven't seen in a while.
- I paid my first visit to A&E in a couple of years, breaking my 'no A&E' spell.
- I had a horrible time with uni work in March, with a whole lot of essays.
- My family and I had out first weekend away of 2015.
- I got to spend a weekend with my best friend, who I don't get to see that often.

Watched In March...
- Step Up All In - 4/5
- Before I Go To Sleep - 3.5/5
- Sunshine On Leith (rewatch) - 5/5
- The Pill - 2/5
- Girl Most Likely - 3/5
- A Long Way Down - 4.5/5
- Pretty Little Liars Season 5 (Part 2) - 4/5
- Ex On The Beach Season 2 - 3/5

Read In March...

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Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse -
I have had this book on my TBR list multiple times and never got around to reading it but I finally got to it in March. This is about a woman whose husband does not come home one night and his secrets begin to unravel. This was compared to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, which was what initially drew me in, but it definitely was not up to that standard. I enjoyed this book, but it was nothing special. 3/5

Startled By His Furry Shorts by Louise Rennison -
This is the seventh book in the Confessions Of Georgia Nicholson series, which I am making my way through by reading one book a month. Despite being a little underwhelmed with book 6 last month, this instalment was on par with the first 5 books. I find these to be fun, quick reads but a little immature for me. 3/5

The One by Kiera Cass -
Boy am I glad I reads this book this month. Amongst a month of not great to average books, I needed a really great one to cheer me up and this was it. I absolutely loved the previous books in the series and has high hopes for this one, despite seeing some not so great reviews, and I was not disappointed. I loved the third book in The Selection series just as much as I did the first two and I am so glad Kiera Cass decided to write a fourth. 5/5

Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult -
This was probably my biggest disappointment of the month. I absolutely loved My Sister's Keeper, my first and only other book of hers I have read, and I was interested in the premise of this story, so I was excited to read it. It is about a school shooting, which is not something I have read about before so I found intriguing. Unfortunately, this was not at all what I had expected. I found it to be quite boring and did not enjoy it very much. 2/5

Playlist For The Dead by Michelle Falkoff -
As the first book I read as part of the Debut Author Challenge, I was really wanting to like this book. It is about a boy whose best friend commits suicide, leaving him a playlist of songs to help him understand why. I listened to this on audiobook and, to be completely honest, if I hadn't been listening to it I probably would not have finished it. I found it to be slightly boring and quite predictable. 2/5

Those are all of the things I have done, watched and read in the month of March. Have you read any of the books I did? What did you think?

Sophie :)

Friday, 10 April 2015

Review | The Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan

Image and video hosting by TinyPicThe Lightening Thief by Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson And The Olympians #1
Published On: March 1, 2006
Published By: Puffin
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 375
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: ★★★★

Amazon | Goodreads

Half boy. Half God. All Hero. 
Look, I didn't want to be a half-blood. I never asked to be the son of a Greek God. 
I was just a normal kid, going to school, playing basketball, skateboarding. The usual. Until I accidentally vaporized my maths teacher. Now I spend my time battling monsters and generally trying to stay alive. 
This is the one where Zeus, God of the Sky, thinks I've stolen his lightning bolt - and making Zeus angry is a very bad idea.

The Lightening Thief, the first book in the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan, follows Percy as he discovers he is no ordinary kid; he’s a demigod. As the son of a Greek God, there is only one place where Percy will be safe from the many monsters that are after him: Camp Half Blood. With the help of the friends he meets there, Percy must complete his quest to the Underworld to stop a war amongst the Gods.

I have friends who have been trying to get me to read this for a while now and when I finally caved, I flew through it. I had my doubts as I am not much of a fantasy reader, nor have I read much middle grade, but they were definitely unnecessary doubts. I couldn’t get enough of this story.

It is hard not to fly through this book, as it is so action packed. There is never a dull moment throughout Percy’s adventures and hardly a page went by without something exciting happening. I was completely sucked into the story by all of the excitement and action.

Rick Riordan’s writing style adds so much to this story. As if all of the action wasn’t enough, the way in which it was written kept the reader interested. The writing style made everything that much more exciting and even added some suspense, while being very witty at the same time. I’m also curious as to how Rick Riordan thought up all of the crazy things that happened throughout the book. 

The characters in this story are great. I loved pretty much all of them. Percy was a great main character, both brave and heroic. I loved Grover and his loyalty to his friends, as well as his hilarious mannerisms. I even loved the monsters and the bad guys.

Possibly my favourite thing about this book is the references to Greek Mythology. Having studied Latin and Classical studies for 6 years, I am very interested in all things related to Greek and Roman mythology. I loved the way the mythology that could often be considered boring has been given an exciting twist.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first book in this series. I can see why so many people love the series, and why my friends were so eager for me to start reading it, which I’m glad I finally did. I will definitely be making time to read the rest of the books in this series.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Haul | March 2015

I should learn by now that putting myself on a book buying ban is the one way to guarantee I buy a ton of books. In the month of March, I decided that I needed to reward myself after a really tough week of uni work and, of course, there is only one way to reward yourself: with books! I also had a gift card to spend so decided to brave the dangerous (for my bank account) world of Waterstones, that always ends in books.

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We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach - This is a book that I have been wanting to read since I read the synopsis while researching 2015 debuts. It was released towards the end of March and when the reviews started, they were pretty mixed. That made me a little unsure about buying this book but the very persuasive woman in Waterstones told me how much the people at Head Office were raving about it so I had to pick it up. It was also part of a 'buy one, get one half off' offers so I couldn't really resist. This is about a group of teenagers who want to rid themselves of the labels given to them before the world is destroyed by an asteroid. This just seems like the perfect mix of contemporary and science fiction, it's intriguing.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven - I'll be completely honest and admit that this is a book I had very little intention of reading. However, it was the only one in the 'buy one, get one half off' offer that I had heard anything about so I decided to give it a go. I know very little about this book other than it being about a guy and a girl who are both suffering from mental health problems. I have heard very mixed things about this so I am interested to see what I think.

The DUFF by Kody Keplinger - This is another book I had very little intention of reading, until I watched the movie trailer. I have heard several people say the trailer looks at though the movie will be nothing like the book, but I would still like to read the book before watching the movie, no matter how different they turn out to be. I know very little about this book, other than what the movie trailer advertised, but I believe it is about a girl who is labelled the 'Designated Ugly Fat Friend' by the school 'jock' and they may develop some kind of relationship, I'm not entirely sure.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han - I have wanted to read this book since it first came out so I cannot believe it has taken me this long to get my hands on it. This is about a girl who writes letters to all the boys she has ever had a crush on and hides them under her bed, until one day the letters are sent out. I loved the idea of this book from the second I heard about it, and with the second book being published in May, it was about time I picked it up.

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Amy & Rodger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - I got this as an audiobook from Audible but after listening to the first chapter, which included things like a report card and route plan, I decided it would probably be better to read this one, rather than listen to it. I had really liked the first chapter, however, so as soon as I had an excuse to buy books I went on Amazon for this one. This is about a girl whose family is moving across the country and it is up to her to get the car there. To do this, she enlists the help of family friend, Rodger and they embark on a road trip together.

Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone - It is common knowledge that if Amazon offers free delivery on orders over £10, you need to buy more books. Of course, this was the case when buying Amy & Rodger's Epic Detour so I had to pick up some other books. I found this one for a pretty good price and it is one I have had on my Goodreads 'To Read' shelf for a while. This is about a girl living in 1995 and a boy living in 2012, however he has the ability to time travel. 

Daughter by Jane Shemilt - This was another book I picked up to spend enough for free delivery. I have heard quite a lot about this book, and as I have been reading a lot more of the mystery/thriller genre recently, I thought this would be something I would enjoy. It is about a woman whose daughter disappears and things may be more complicated than they appear.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters - I have never even heard of this book before but while at uni the other day waiting to have a meeting with one of my tutors, one of the women in the administration office handed me this book. Apparently they had a lot of copies and were giving them away to anyone who reads. I am definitely not the person to turn down a free book so I took the book from her and have added it to my collection. I believe this is historical fiction with some supernatural elements, which is something out of my comfort zone, but I will give it a go.

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Grey's Anatomy by Chris Van Dusen - I am a huge Grey's Anatomy fan. Like HUGE! As soon as I found out, thanks to Wikipedia, that one of the producers had written two short stories based on the show, one from the point of view of a nurse (Notes From The Nurses' Station), and another from the point of view of Joe the Bartender (Overheard At The Emerald City Bar). Though these stories are set back during the first few seasons of the show, I still had to have them and managed to find this book on Amazon Marketplace.

The Real Grey's Anatomy by Andrew Holtz - While buying the book above, I was recommended various related books, as you are with Amazon, and this one caught my eye. It would seem I was in the mood for slightly unusual books relating to Grey's Anatomy that day. This is about the reality of life as a surgical resident in comparison to that on the TV show. I am really interested in the process of becoming a doctor so I think this will be quite insightful.

The Medical Science Of House MD by Andrew Holtz - This was another book that Amazon recommended to me and is quite similar to the previous book. This explains the reality of the medicine behind the interested cases in the TV show, House. I love House and was always intrigued by the medicine aspect, which makes this very interesting to me.

Literary Listography by Lisa Nola - I wasn't sure whether or not to include this book in my haul as it is not a traditional book in the sense that it can be read. However, it is related to books. This is essentially, as the full title suggests, your reading life in lists. It has any kind of reading related list you can think of and is perfect for my obsessive list-making self. 

Those are all of the books I added to my collection in March. Have you read any of these books? What are your thoughts?

Sophie :)

Monday, 6 April 2015

Review | If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Image and video hosting by TinyPicIf I Stay by Gayle Forman
Series: If I Stay #1
Published By: Speak
Published On: July 8, 2014 (originally 2009)
Genre: Contemporary
Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: ★★★★

Amazon | Goodreads

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind? 

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

On a snowy morning, 17-year-old Mia and her family go for a happy family, never expecting the worst to happen. However, when it does Mia sees everything, including herself lying unconscious on the ground. Watching doctors rushing to save her life, Mia must make one very hard decision.

I desperately wanted to love this book. As soon as I saw the trailer for the movie adaptation I knew I had to read this and love it. It is exactly the kind of thing I enjoy reading, something heart breaking but truly beautiful and inspiring. That is what I wanted from this book and unfortunately I was left a little disappointed.

I really liked our main character, Mia. Both in the hospital and in the flashbacks Mia is a very relatable character who can be seen to grow into such a strong character through the heartache she faces in the hospital. She was one of the only characters I managed to have some kind of connection with in this book.

Though I didn’t build a connection with them, I really liked Mia’s grandparents. They seem like such lovely people and there is just something about grandparents. I have really great grandparents and when I see them in characters, such as Mia’s grandparents, I can’t help but love the characters. The most touching scene in this book for me was with Mia’s grandfather, who in that moment reminded me so much of my own that it was almost painful. That, I think, is the sign of a great writer.
I really hate to admit this but I didn’t love Mia and Adam’s relationship. It’s not that I didn’t like the relationship, I just didn’t have any kind of feeling towards it. I felt no real connection with Adam, which may be why I had no strong feelings about his relationship with Mia.

As a musician myself, I loved the importance of music. I am a strong believer in music being more than just sound, but something that can bring people together and something that can really save a person. To read about characters who shared this belief was great.

I really liked the premise of choosing to live or die. I think this concept, being something that there are so many different opinions about, was a very good thing to tackle in a young adult novel. It’s very philosophical and I think it is a really great thing to get teenagers thinking about. It was a brave subject to take on but I think Gayle Forman did a very good job of it.

This is not a very helpful point in a review but my main issue with the book was the fact that I felt as though something was missing. This ‘something missing’ is the main reason for my slight disappointment with this book but I can’t put my finger on exactly what it is. I watched the movie after reading the book and I absolutely loved it. Whatever was missing from the book was not missing from the movie yet I still don’t know what it was.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book but I did have a few slight issues with it. Like I said, for me there was just something missing that meant this book did not live up to the expectations I had and resulted in me, unfortunately, not absolutely loving it like I had hoped I would.