Wednesday, 7 February 2018

 

What I Read in December 2017 & January 2018 – Wrap Up & Mini Reviews


I was overseas in December (away from all of my books) and my camera broke in January (preventing me from taking book pics), so my December reads are looong over-due making this is a double-whammy of a round-up! Out of the eleven books I read these past few months, an awesome four of them were 5-star reads: middle-grade sky ship adventure Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy, inspirational tome of essays O's Little Guide to the Big Questions by the Editors of O, powerful contemporary YA More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer, and non-fiction nature book The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel, filled with feathered facts and lush woodland descriptions. An eclectic mix of reads, but I fell heads over heels in love with all four of these for different reasons.



Happiness: Your Route-Map to Inner Joy by Andy Cope (John Murray)

Finding inner joy is very much a hype in lifestyle publishing right now and I can see why. In our ever-connected, switched on and fast-paced society it's very easy to get stuck in a rut and on auto pilot and forget about your own happiness along the way. I certainly fall victim to this mind-set. Books like this for the most part don't say anything new, but they are a reminder of what is truly important in life and what easy changes you can make in your routine and outlook to make it happen. This particular little tome isn't only well-researched and inspirational, but hilariously told to boot. 4 stars. Get your copy here.


O's Little Guide to the Big Questions by The Editors of O (Pan Macmillan)

This is an extremely well-curated collection of empowering non-fiction essays, short stories and quotes that have previously appeared in O, the Oprah Magazine. They cover topics such as life and death, religion and spirituality, loss and love, and finding happiness and fulfillment, in raw and evocative ways. An eclectic mix of authors have contributed to this stunning book, each with their own unique voice and story to tell, creating a hugely varied collection of stories. Though they all work really well-together, complimenting each other in unexpected ways. Some are thought provoking, others are inspiring and yet others extremely moving in their brazen honesty, especially in those moments where the author shares a personal tragedy. Yet despite the sheer variety of writers and subjects present within this little tome, each of the contributions felt hugely relatable. It's a testament to the incredible authors for turning their experiences into words that will not only make the reader think, but that also create a beautiful connection. (Read my full review.) 5 stars. Get your copy here.


The Secret Life of the Owl by John Lewis-Stempel (Doubleday)

This little tome is filled with lush descriptions of woodlands and fascinating facts on the variety of owls resident in Britain. They are interspersed with beautiful poems and interesting historical tid bits on the titular feathered creature; sometimes seen as a death omen and at other times as a good luck charm. This lovely work is educational while also exuding peace and quiet, the perfect antidote to hectic city life (and especially suited to help find calm in the daily commuter storm). It is a rather slim volume, but as an introduction to Lewis-Stempel's work it fit its purpose and I'll definitely be trawling through his back catalogue for more books to pick up now. If you have any recommendations – either from John Lewis-Stempel or another contemporary nature writer – do let me know! 5 stars. Get your copy here.




More Than We Can Tell by Brigid Kemmerer (Bloomsbury)

This novel is a deeply touching and shocking contemporary YA tackling big issues such as cyber bullying, abuse, divorce and some of the terrible things that happen in the foster care system. It was an extremely uncomfortable read at times but for that very same reason it was also an extremely important one. It provides a very powerful look at the difficulties of growing up in the 21st century and some of the incredible hardships teenagers have to deal with today. Both protagonists were well-developed and fascinating characters and felt like very real people that you can find in any high school today, creating an instant emotional connection with them. This isn't an easy book to read, but it's a hugely important one. I got a lump in my throat several times and I doubt most people can keep it dry when discovering the character's back stories ♥ (Read my full review.) 5 stars. Get your copy here.


A Taxonomy of Love by Rachael Allen (Amulet Books)

I expected A Taxonomy of Love to be a cute YA romance, what I didn't prepare myself for was to be punched in the heart with all of the feels. The story of Spencer and Hope going from neighbours to friends to best friends to almost lovers to strangers and back again was an emotional roller-coaster and a half and I absolutely loved every minute of it (even the tough and frustrating bits). And it wasn't just a soppy puppy love story either, with Spencer's Tourette's and both of them having siblings with their own storylines there was tons going on – though it was the ever-changing and fascinating relationship between Hope and Spencer that was the indisputable heart and soul of this book. (Read my full review.) 4 stars. Get your copy here.


The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan (Electric Monkey)

I'd been excited to pick this one up over the holidays after rave reviews from my friend Catriona but while it was a sweet story, it didn't capture my interest as much as I thought it would. Maybe I should've read the original Dash & Lily book first? I found the characters a bit whiny and annoying and they're a large part of why I lost interest along the way... for two weeks! However, when I picked it back up I was at the cuteness galore point of the romance between the two teenage protagonists and the backdrop of the holiday season in New York certainly managed to melt my clearly cold hard to get into the festive spirit, making it a 3-star read in the end. 3 stars. Get your copy here.




Wicked Like a Wildfire by Lana Popovic (HarperCollins)

This is an interesting contemporary take on the age old story of witches and magic. Twins Iris and Malina have 'the gleam', as their mother calls is, but have been forbidden from showing their abilities to outsiders and because of this have lost practice of their skills. However, when something terrible befalls their family they're forced to come to terms with their abilities quickly to survive in a dangerous world where nothing is quite what it seems. This novel was highly suspenseful and incredibly interesting, but I felt that a lot of its intrigue got lost among overly descriptive writing and confusing world-building. I really wanted to love this book but it lost me on many occasions, and while I thought the concept was original and fascinating, towards the end I just really wanted it to finish. 3 stars. Get your copy here.


Zenith by Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings (HQ Young Adult)

It took me almost a week to read Zenith, which is the longest a book has taken me in YEARS and it's not even *that* big. The main reason being that there were far too many viewpoints, skipping back and forth between one and another, making it impossible for me to get to grips with the story and all of the characters until about mid-way through. There is a solid space adventure hiding within these pages, but for the first half it's drowned out by extremely slow pacing, over-complicated storytelling and fan fictionesque characterisation. This does get better as the story progresses and perseverance definitely pays off. Characters that felt one-dimensional at first become fully rounded and as a reader it's impossible not to feel invested in the fate of the crew of space ship the Marauder. And with loveable characters like Alfie and Havoc, hottie love interest Dex and THAT twisty and explosive ending, a book that felt like a 2-star read for the first half was completely saved by the epic second part and has me gasping for more already. 3 stars. Get your copy here.


A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (Bloomsbury)

This is a YA retelling of Beauty and the Beast, but the world it's set in is far richer and more complicated than the original fairy tale, filled with faeries of all shapes and sizes, different realms and a war on the horizon. Protagonist Feyre is a human who gets trapped in the web of lies and deceit in the fae world on the other side of the wall and falls in love with her captor; the High Lord of the Spring Court. I found the elements of Beauty and the Beast retelling thin and the originality of the fae world-building far more interesting and tempting. Though within this too there were flaws: the protagonist propelled forward as a heroine without the necessary means, a convenient love story that didn't quite ring true... And yet, the incredibly detailed world of the fae was pure magic. This is what captured my imagination and kept me hooked until the very end. The tale of Feyre and her High Lord was but a minor anecdote to the far greater story at play and that is one I hope will be expanded upon in the future novels. 3.5 stars. Get your copy here.




Bah! Humbug! by Michael Rosen (Scholastic)

This was a very cute contemporary children's retelling of Charles Dickens' festive classic A Christmas Carol, staying very true to the original novella. In fact, in stayed so true that it was mostly using the original text as a script throughout the book as the kids in the story were performing a stage version of A Christmas Carol. Perhaps not the best version to pick up for someone already very familiar with the story, but a great introduction for a younger generation. And the family tale surrounding the theatre show stayed very true to Dickens' themes of kindness and selflessness – and celebrated the true spirit of Christmas. 3.5 stars. Get your copy here.


Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy (Scholastic)

Brightstorm is what you get if you mix A Series of Unfortunate Events with Northern Lights and Around the World in 80 Days, and give it all a steampunk twist. Quirky characters, sky ships and sapient animals form the basis of an epic and fantastical action adventure story and an exhilarating journey of a lifetime. There isn't a better way to kick off a new reading year than with a book as original, exciting and awesome as this, filled with awe-inspiring settings and iconic characters I have come to love (or in one particular case, the exact opposite...). You've set the bar very high for my 2018 reading year, Vashti! 5 stars. Preorder your copy here.



Have you read any of the above books? And what did you read in December/January? Let me know in the comments below!


🎵 Listening to: Eugenius! – Go Eugenius
🔹 Mood: Accomplished



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