Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 – My Year in Books

I don’t know if it’s just me, but 2014 has gone super quick! This time last year, I was getting ready to party in Manchester and things have gone so fast and New Year’s Eve has come round again. This year I'll sadly be working but I'm very excited some great reads coming in 2015. 

It’s been a great year for books and I’ve been really lucky to review some great stories. 2014 has been a year of great book series. I’ve fallen in love with the Victorian espionage series India Black with a fabulously feisty female lead. I finished the dystopian Pure series by Julianna Baggott which blew me away and also the Tethers YA Trilogy by Jack Croxall. 

I recently started (and am loving) the excellent Reckoners series featuring superheroes and villains, The Southern Reach Trilogy by Jeff VanderMeer and my last book review of the year for the truly amazing Red Rising by Pierce Brown. 

This was the year that I got my Mum to do a few guest reviews as well which she really enjoyed so Mother Butterfly will definitely be appearing again in the future. This year saw me celebrate my second anniversary of book blogging and I hope I can continue to share books I like in 2015. I must admit that working a full time job has impacted majorly on being able to read and blog all the time, but with 50 book reviews, lots of extra posts and plenty more books read beside I think I’ve done ok! 

Goals for next year? Read more books. And more varied ones at that...but more about that later! Lots of end of year posts I have seen rate their top reads of the year, but as I enjoy all the books I review, this is a really hard decision to come to. I can genuinely say I don’t have a single solid favourite as many would compete for the top spot, so I’m hoping next year, maybe I’ll read a stand-alone title that will earn the status of Number 1! If anyone has a firm favourite book of the year that has not been featured here, I would love to know your recommendations to start off 2015 with an excellent reading list.

Thank you to every single person who has taken the time to read and comment on any of my posts. I wish everyone a happy and healthy New Year and all the best for 2015! x x

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising has been on my radar for weeks but it was the final enthusiastic recommendation from Liz at Liz Loves Books that made me get Red Rising straight away! 

Darrow is a Helldiver, one of thousands of Reds who live beneath the surface of Mars. They are a proud people of dance and song who spend their lives mining the elements that will allow the planet to be terraformed, so that the rest of humanity can live there, following the decline of Earth. 

It seems like a necessary sacrifice until Darrow learns the truth about Mars and the people who have enslaved the Reds to suit their own needs, the god-like Golds. 

With the help of a rebel force, he infiltrates the Golds by disguising himself and entering their prestigious school system, with the end goal of destroying them from the inside. But the school is a battlefield and the tasks that he faces may kill him, before he can avenge his fellow Reds. 

Wow what can I say? As we enter the last few weeks of 2014, I think this has to be one of my favourite books of this year. The only downside is that I have to wait until January to find out what happens next! 

I think I liked it so much because mythology is one of my passions, so the intriguing use of mythological ideas woven into this action packed and original story really enchanted me. There are also elements of dystopia, science fiction and adventure which also sit highly on my reading agenda! Red Rising is violent and relentless with my twists and turns than you can shake an Ion stick at! 

Darrow is a great lead character and I warmed to him from the beginning. I loved the colour hierarchy and the symbolism of the sigils which are the stuff that literary tattoos are made of! As I neared the end, I both raced to find out the end but was also deeply sad to see that know it would soon be over, which is always the sign of a good book. 

It’s not just great characters and an exciting storyline that make this book, but a whole world has been built that is fascinating and also slightly chilling to read about. I’ve heard rumours that these books have been optioned for film adaptation which is great as this story would be amazing on the big screen. 

This is a wild ride of a book filled with action and excitement, and this astonishing debut that looks set for a very bright future.  

Monday, 15 December 2014

The Tower by Alessandro Gallenzi

I was drawn to this book as it was a little out of my comfort zone; with a historical figure I’m not too familiar with and the story exploring concepts such as digital technology which is not my forte! An ambitious project based in Amman, Jordan is aiming to digitalize the world’s written works. 

As part of the project, the unpublished works of 16th Century Italian genius and rebel philosopher Giordano Bruno are being studied. However the research is halted by death of a priest and the theft of the precious manuscripts and two experts are bought in and thrown together to unravel an age-old secret that has severe consequences for the modern day. 

Not being familiar with the life and works of Giordano Bruno, I really enjoyed how the story delves into the past and explores his life and how his works and ideas became both prized and reviled. The two main characters (in the modern day parts) I found very hard to feel for and to me, they were just a means as to unravelling the ultimate mystery. The other characters around them I felt were very well depicted and ultimately served a similar purpose which glued the story together. 

The idea about digitalising all written words works was a fascinating one, and I have no idea if this is an actual occurrence or an educated glimpse into the future. The way the big corporation that have taken on the mammoth digitalization task and the various roles within their hierarchy were depicted within the tale seemed quite realistic to me and it was a great frame with which to underpin the rest of the novel. 

Overall I found the prose to be fairly slow paced, when usually these kinds of novels are all fast action and quick thinking, but I believe the slower, more refined way the scenes played out much better suited this story in my opinion, making it a more sophisticated and thoughtful mystery than  others of this kind. 

I’m not going to profess to understand everything in this book, as some of the religious parts were a little hard for me to follow at times, but the mix of religion, history and philosophy teamed with meticulous research and modern writing made this a story I had to see through to the end. 

The Tower is a cleverly crafted mystery novel with a slow built intrigue that will keep you turning pages to a satisfying ending. 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson

I don’t normally do reviews for novellas (in fact I think this might be my first one) but for this I was happy to be able to wax lyrical about The Reckoners series all over again. 

In the first book, Steelheart, a young boy witnessed the death of his father at the hands of a superhuman dictator (an Epic) and grows up aspiring to join The Reckoners; an underground group of ordinary humans who rebel against the Epics and work out ways to assassinate them. 

I loved the world that Sanderson created, where an unclassified event known as Calamity caused some of the population to develop superpowers, which then corrupted them making them the enemies of humankind. So often, when a story involves superpowers, it is always about the greater good (I’m thinking of Superman here, my least favourite of all superheroes!), so I liked how Steelheart turned this concept around. All the individual powers and weaknesses of the Epics were also incredibly interesting. But enough about Steelheart, for the full review check out the link! 

Mitosis is a bridging novella between Steelheart and the second book, Firefight which is due out in the New Year. It tells a little of the aftermath following events from book 1 and The Reckoners come across a new dangerous Epic who can split himself into numerous clones of himself. Cue chaos on a city-wide scale that has the team puzzling over how to defeat their newest foe. There are also the first few chapters of the next book which is a great sneak peek of what is to come! 

The main character in these books, David, is so lovable and really puts what is already an original story onto a level where you genuinely care. He’s so eager and honest and he is on a constant quest to find the perfect metaphor for different things that happen, but they always come out a little bit wrong, which added plenty of quirkiness to the tale. 

Well drawn characters, buckets of action and so much fun, this is a brilliant start to a series and I seriously can’t wait for more!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

India Black and The Shadows of Anarchy by Carol K. Carr

I’m always genuinely happy to see an India Black book on my TBR pile. I’m so in love with this series and when I feel like I’m a bit of a reading slump, I know a dalliance with India Black will cheer me right up! 

For any IB virgins, the series starts when Madam of Lotus House, India Black ends up helping agents of the British government in top secret state affairs. She is thrown together with dashing agent French, and with the help of her trusted street urchin Vincent, she becomes the self titled Madam of Espionage, using her womanly wiles and natural intelligence against enemies of Britain. 

After her successes, she finds herself called upon more often by the Prime Minister to assist in other such dangerous missions, so even if you haven’t read any of the novels before, they are perfect as standalone books. 

In this third escapade, India’s latest job is to infiltrate an anarchist cell, following the brutal assassinations of English aristocrats and politicians. It seems there is political unrest ongoing with Russian, but also unease amongst the foreign community living (not always legally) in London. Infiltrating the group is seemingly the easy part, as India must negotiate terrorist plots, personal attacks and her own secret identity in a mission that threatens her life of numerous occasions. 

This book, as well as the others, is so full of India’s sharp witted and charming personality. As well as her espionage, she is still very much a Madam and we are never too far from the day-to-day life at the popular Lotus House. Her love-hate relationship with French also heats up as she finds out more about his life; some things more than she probably bargained for. Their banter is brilliant and each retort is matched almost as well as their fencing! 

Set in the Victorian era (probably should have mentioned that before) the history of the time is well brought to life; from the descriptions of Victorian life, the splits in society between rich and poor, and the troubles of the time both politically and criminally. 

These books have all the things I enjoy in literature; a kick-ass heroine, intelligent prose, rich historical detail and oodles of action! If you have read any India Black novels, I want to hear your thoughts! If you have yet to pick up an India Black book and you like any of the aforementioned things, then you are seriously missing out!

Monday, 1 December 2014

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Back in October, I sped though the first book in The Southern Reach Trilogy, Annihilation, where the arcane landscape known as Area X is introduced. Publicly described as an environmental disaster, but with more secrets than are known, Area X is cordoned off by the military and a clandestine organisation deploys parties of experts over the fated border to try and unravel the mysteries of Area X. 

The first book details the most recent expedition and the four varying experts in differing fields that are sent on a fact-finding mission that previous participants rarely survive. 

In the second book, we delve further into the inner workings of The Southern Reach, the shady government agency tasked with investigating and containing Area X and its encroaching invisible border. 

Put in charge of this seemingly impossible endeavour is John Rodriguez, aka Control, who has been appointed the new director after the disappearance of his predecessor. Given orders by a higher authority, known only as The Voice, he must wade through the tons of information compiled from previous expeditions, including the latest one to try and make sense of Area X and its secrets, which is a much more complex and dangerous task than he ever could have imagined. 

I have to admit that it took me a while to get into this book, compared to the first offering. I didn't really warm to Control’s character and it didn't seem to have the pace of the first novel. However, as Control delves deeper into the seemingly bottomless pit of data, as well as adjusting to a mixed bag of colleagues; the dramas that arise and secrets uncovered are compelling and the thrill of the bigger mystery kept me reading. 

It was interesting to see the book from the agency’s view and learn how The Southern Reach’s actions, both as an organisation and as individuals affected Area X. The last third of the book gets especially gripping as things start coming to a head and the storyline moves forward much quicker and the ending definitely left me eagerly anticipating the last book. 

Filled with thrills and intrigue, as well as science and intelligence, Authority is a great bridge to the last instalment and I have no idea as to what is coming next, but am extremely excited to find out!