My Month in Reviews: June 2018

Month in review

I might have to start calling this post my month in three-monthly reviews as I haven’t posted an update on what I’ve been reading since April but life keeps getting in the way.  I am – hopefully – back now though, with life being a bit calmer and a bit more sorted so, here goes, back in monthly update posts – and what a month.  I got a new contract for work – making me feel like an official freelancer – and I got to read some great books, mostly review books I was behind on. Plus the sun has shone and England has been doing well in the football – could life get much better?

Anyway, without further review, here’s what I read….

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

 

genuine fraud

E. Lockhart is one of those authors I’ve always meant to read more of, having been blown away by the one and only book of hers that I’ve read, We Were Liars.  It’s taken me nearly two years to get to that next book and I really don’t know why I’ve waited so long.

Genuine Fraud is told in a rather disjointed way, with the narrative moving back and forth across the life of Jules, a young woman who is either trying to live a carefree life thanks to an unexpected inheritance or is on the run after her best friend goes missing.

It’s all quite complicated and it’s all very simple at the same time, meaning I never knew where I was in the story and found myself putting everything together as if it was a jigsaw.  Then, as each piece fell into place, I wanted to say “of course”, even though I had been nowhere near guessing the truth.

Tuesday intro: Charlotte Says by Alex Bell

Once again I’m linking up again with Vicky at I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter/paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon.

This week, I’m sharing a book I picked up at the library for no other reason that the cover was pink – very pink.  I know that’s terribly superficial but sometimes I just can’t help judging books by their covers, which is exactly what I’ve done here.  Once home, I checked it out on Goodreads and was relieved to see good reviews – not so relieved to see it’s a young adult horror story but you can’t have everything right?  Anyway, I’m giving it a go. Here’s what it’s about…

Month in review: January, 2018

Month in review

Bye-bye January, hello February and – hopefully – warmer weather and longer days.  I long to see the sun after five in the evening!  For the first time in a while, I feel like saying a month didn’t fly by.  It was nice.  With school starting late after the holidays and a bit of a leisurely start to the month as a result, it hasn’t felt rushed for once.  Reading wise, it was pretty good too, with some great books (clicking on the links will take you to the reviews)…

The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

Last year, I read The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough.  To say I wasn’t a fan is a bit of an understatement.  Despite some beautiful language, the book just didn’t hit the mark with me.  Thinking back, a big part of my problem was that it was a short book (a novella) that could have been a short story.  The first half flowed, the second stalled and left me slightly bored.

Not long after, I read a review of The Death House on Keeper of Pages and it felt like I was reading the review of a different author.  Janel, of said Keeper of Pages, very kindly offered to send me her copy of the book so I could give Pinborough another go.  Now that I’m done, I have to say I’m really glad I did because this book – for me – was in a different ball park.

Tuesday intro: The Death House by Sarah Pinborough

Once again I’m linking up again with Vicky at I’d Rather Be At The Beach who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon.

tuesdayI’m also joining in with Teaser Tuesday, hosted by The Purple Booker, where you share teasers from your current read. I read a lot of these posts over the course of an average Tuesday so thought it would be fun to join in here too.

This week, I’m reading The Death House by Sarah Pinborough.  I have to say, I didn’t have much look with my last book by Pinborough, The Language of Dying, but then I say a review of The Death House on Keeper of Pages and thought she might be worth a lovely go.  So, when Janel offered to send me her copy, I couldn’t say no.  I’m a little way into it and, so far, I have to say it’s been a good decision.  Here’s what it’s about…

Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

The story so far… 

Contains spoilers

After the death of his grandfather, sixteen year old Jacob visits a remote Welsh island where his grandfather lived as a boy. There, he discovers the orphanage is just as his grandfather had left it, right down to the peculiar children who lived there. 

Peculiar children are ones with skills, abilities or physical quirks that set them outside the normal world.  They can make fire with their hands, float in the air, have bees living inside them or, in Jacob’s case, can see Hollows – creatures whose only mission in life is to find and kill peculiars (of which he has discovered he’s one). 

To avoid detection, peculiar children live in loops, days frozen in time, which they relive again and again, never aging unless  they leave the loop – in which case they die within days. The orphanage was in a loop when Jacob finds it. I say was because not long after he arrives, Hollows attack and kidnap the head of the orphanage  – Miss Peregrine.  It is one of many attacks throughout peculiar dorm and, before long, Jacob and the other children are on the run and racing against time to find Miss Peregrine and a loop that can stop them dying. 

What happens next

From goodreads

They’ll travel from modern-day London to the labyrinthine alleys of Devil’s Acre, the most wretched slum in all of Victorian England. It’s a place where the fate of peculiar children everywhere will be decided once and for all. Like its predecessors, Library of Souls blends thrilling fantasy with never-before-published vintage photography to create a one-of-a-kind reading experience. An army of deadly monsters. An epic battle for the future of peculiardom.

What do I think…

So I’ve been a big fan of this series, as my other reviews show, and that hasn’t changed with this book. It’s well written, has great vintage photos that add to the story, an interesting plot and well drawn characters. Key are Jacob and Emma, who find themselves in the heart of the dark world of the Hollows and all that threatens the peculiar way of life, leading to their forming some very unlikely alliances in order to save their friends.

Perhaps inevitably it all goes wrong and they find themselves in greater peril and travelling further into the loops that should in theory keep them safe but instead lead them into danger. forced to find the library of souls, where the most powerful shoulds in peculiar dorm are kept, Jacob has to use his wits to keep everyone he loves safe. If I honest, said wits seemed in short supply in the book but then again he is only 16 and under a fair bit of pressure to avoid everyone being killed. Still, he makes some pretty bad decisions. 

However this does make for a pretty fast-paced readers there is always something happening. The last in the trilogy, it felt like I was hurtling towards the end, towards a grand finale. And, of course, I was. And, because this is a young adult book, everything was also being tied up, all the loose ends were resolved and I got a pretty happy ending. It as one that seemed fitting and left me feeling satisfied, with the book and the series, both of which I liked a lot and would recommend.

Emma

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

imageThe story so far (for those who haven’t read book one in this series, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children)…

When 16 year old Jacob’s grandfather dies he takes a trip to Wales (from his home in Florida) to an orphanage his grandfather stayed at during the war. He arrives to find it exactly as it was when his grandfather left it, pretty much to the day. The orphanage, ran my Miss Peregrine, is stuck in time.

She and the children she looks after repeat the same day in 1940 again and again, living in what is called a loop.  Unlike the residents of the nearby village, they are completely aware of what is happening. They want it this way to keep them safe from the Hollows, invisible creatures whose one goal in life is to eat their souls.

The children are peculiar and their souls are special, as are they. They can create fire with their hands, float in the air, control bees, and carry out feats of superhuman strength. Jacob is amazed, even more so when he discovers he is peculiar too. His special trait, to see and fight Hollows. He is just what Miss Peregrine and her charges need because they are under attack.

Which is where Hollow City starts…

Continuing straight on from the first book, Jacob and the other children (including his potential love interest Emma) are on the run from Hollows and looking for help because in the attack on the orphanage Miss Peregrine has been turned into a bird and cannot turn back.  They are alone and scared. As well as help they need to find safety in another loop before the children, who have already lived for a 100 years in some cases, grow old in the “real” world.

Emma and Jacob almost instantly become their natural leaders, though they feel lost and unsure what to do. Thankfully, they have a map of sorts in the form of peculiar fairy tales, and come across enough other peculiars who can help them on their way. It is a way that leads them further into danger as opposed to away from it. It can’t be helped though as it becomes clear they aren’t the only ones the Hollows attacked and their whole world and way of life is at risk.

As with Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, this book is well written and has great pace. There are interesting photographs throughout which add to the descriptions of the children and those they meet on the way and make you feel that you are truly in a peculiar world.

The characters have further developed and become much more complex, as have their behaviours. To protect each other they make some hard and harsh decisions. This makes it a darker book than the first and more complicated. As this book is aimed at young adults it raises some interesting questions I think about how far an honourable person can go before they are no longer honourable.

The story feels like a natural progression from the first book and has plenty of action and twists and turns. It is a real page turner and I liked it a lot, if not more than at least as much as the first book. Highly recommended but read the first book first.

emma

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.

A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

Young adult and fantasy books are not ones I normally read – especially combined – but I’d heard such good things about Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children when it came out I had to pick it up when I saw it in the library. The cover alone is enough to catch the eye and then the description just sounds interesting, which it was.

It has many of the characteristics of other young adult books I’ve read – a disengaged teen (this time portrayed by 16 year old Jacob) discovers they are special (or in this case peculiar) which gives them inner strength to fight their demons (figuratively and literally) and change their lives (for the better) – but it didn’t feel stale or boring or standard. A difference for me was it wasn’t set in a dystopian future but rather the present and the past, which was a nice change.

The story was well constructed and well written, with strong characters in Jacob and Emma, one of the children – with all of them becoming more real thanks to the photos used throughout the book, reinforcing their descriptions. I really liked the photos and they added to my enjoyment of the book. And I did enjoy it – a lot – more than I expected. I found myself turning pages and couldn’t wait to pick it up when I had to put it down, all good signs and meaning this is a recommended read.

Emma

Source: Library
Publisher: Quirk
Publication Date: 7th June, 2011
Format: paperback
Pages: 352
Genre: young adult, fantasy
Find on: Amazon UK / Amazon US / Goodreads

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Not normally one for reading young adult books, I loved the cover of The Rest of Us Just Live Here when I saw it on the library shelf. Then I read the blurb – and couldn’t resist because my guilty pleasure is watching shows where good looking teens fight supernatural bad guys, usually while punning and falling in love. I just can’t help myself.

So, because I have been trying to step outside my comfort zone with reading, I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed it. It was a fun read – cleverly written and very tongue in cheek – but also very smart.  The story kept me interested, despite not being the target audience, with each chapter opening with a few lines about what was happening to the indie kids (those chosen to fight the latest big bad) whilst everyone else went about their everyday lives.

Everyday for Mikey and his friends include the usual teenage crushes and questions of being in love. It also included anorexia, alcoholism, mental illness and sexuality.  All heavy hitting issues yet each was dealt with sensitively and without sensationalism thanks to the characterisations – each person felt real and solid and I found I cared for them – and humour.

It’s hard to think back to my teenage years but there are some really well presented messages here about how it’s o.k. to be yourself whoever you are and, whilst this might or might not be “normal”, there really is no normal. In fact, we are all different, all special..and all dealing with things that are hard at times and feel overwhelming.  There don’t have to be blue lights coming from the sky and portals to other dimensions opening for important things to be happening in our lives. For all of this, though, we do get through things and life goes on – often in (good) ways we don’t expect.

Thankfully, none of these messages are laid on too thick or too heavy handed. They are woven in as the characters and story develops. This is a hard thing to do and Patrick Ness does it well. So, while I can’t say I’m now a convert to young adult books, I did enjoy this one and will be recommending it. Liked it a lot!

emma x