Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Waiting On Wednesday | Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

What's this? Another Wednesday blog hop? I discovered Waiting On Wednesday a few weeks ago, and I just thought it was a really fun idea to spread some book love. This feature is hosted over at Breaking the Spine, and is a weekly event to showcase an anticipated, upcoming release!

(No What's Up Wednesday post from me this week - you'll understand why next week!)

My pick this week is:

Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers

Expected Publication Date: 4th November, 2014

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own.

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has.

But across Brittany, the tides of war are drawing ever nearer, with France pressuring the beleaguered duchess from all sides. Annith’s search for answers threatens to rip open an intricate web of lies and deceit that sit at the heart of the convent she serves. Yet to expose them threatens the very fabric of her existence and risks an unforeseen chance at love, one that she can no longer deny. Annith must carefully pick a path and, gods willing, effect a miracle that will see her country—and her heart—to safety.

Why I'm Waiting: I can't wait to finish off this trilogy! I was pleasantly surprised with Grave Mercy and I loved Dark Triumph, so I'm really excited to see how this trilogy is going to end and to see how Annith is going to fit into the story. Ultimately, how could I not love a story about assassin nuns?

What are you waiting on?


Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Top Ten Tuesday | Most Owned Authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find out everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Top Ten Authors I Own the Most Books From'. I didn't think I'd have that many, but I actually filled this list really easily!

Get ready to marvel at my appalling photography (though in my defense I took these pictures with my phone).

J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter 1-7, The Tales of Beedle the Bard and The Casual Vacancy.

Derek Landy

Skulduggery Pleasant 1-7, The End of the World and Tanith Low in the Maleficent Seven.

Maria V. Snyder

Study series 1-3, Glass series 1-3, and Healer series 1-2.

Tanya Huff

Vicki Nelson 1-6, Quarters 1-2, and The Silvered.

Garth Nix

The Old Kingdom 1-3, Across the Wall, A Confusion of Princes, and Shade's Children.

C. J. Sansom

Matthew Shardlake 1-5 and Dominion.

Neil Gaiman

Smoke and Mirrors, Good Omens, The Graveyard Book, American Gods, Neverwhere and Stardust.

Celia Rees

Witch Child, Sorceress, Pirates!, Sovay and Blood Sinister.

Natsuki Takaya

Fruits Basket 1-11.

Stephenie Meyer

Twilight 1-4, The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner, and The Host.

Which authors made your list?


Monday, 28 July 2014

Classics & Contemporaries | Romance (Non-Austen Edition)

On Friday I started my new series, "Classics & Contemporaries", with the first Romance installment centered around the works of Jane Austen. You can find that post here

Today I'm back with the second installment, which is Austen free, and finishing off the Romance section of this little series.

On Friday we began with one of the most famous love stories in existence and its 21st century retelling, and today we're going to do that again!

I have to admit for a little while I couldn't decide if I wanted to include Romeo and Juliet in this series at all, because I could write an entire post about how it isn't a love story (and perhaps one day I will!), but there's no denying that this play has inspired hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of stories.

In fact I'm so certain of this play's impact on the history of the story that I don't think I really need to tell you what it's about, do I? We all know the story of the two warring families and the star-crossed lovers caught in the middle of them - in fact the names 'Romeo' and 'Juliet' are often names we use to describe people who are in love.

Romeo and Juliet isn't my favourite of Shakespeare's plays - Macbeth has always been my favourite - but it's still worth reading. Sadly though, too many people end up hating Shakespeare because they're introduced to him in the wrong way. Usually in school.

I've always lived in Britain so while I can't speak for people elsewhere in the world, most of us who live in Britain are introduced to Shakespeare in primary school; in fact I first read Macbeth when I was 10 years old! If you have a teacher who can't make Shakespeare fun, however, you're bound to be baffled by him, and so many teachers fail to tell their pupils about all the dick jokes in his plays...

If the thought of reading Shakespeare makes you break out into a nervous sweat, I have just the story for you!

At first sight, you might think a story about flesh-eating zombies would have nothing to do with the most famous love story in the world, but Warm Bodies is nothing if not a retelling.

R (Romeo) falls in love with Julie (Juliet) as soon as he sees her. He murders her boyfriend Perry (Paris), has a best friend called M/Marcus (Mercutio) while Julie's best friend is Nora (the Nurse).

On top of all that, R is a zombie and Julie is not, which is a big problem considering all zombies and the living want to do is kill each other. Then again, all the Montagues and the Capulets want to do is kill each other, so not much has changed in 500 years!

Obviously there's a big difference between the way Warm Bodies is written and the way Romeo and Juliet is written, but at the core they're both the same story - one of them just has zombies! 

If you enjoy Warm Bodies there's no reason why you wouldn't enjoy Romeo and Juliet, but if you still feel a little intimidated by the Old English language why not try watching one of the many adaptations of Romeo and Juliet first? Baz Luhrmann's adaptation, originally released in 1996, is particularly useful, as it's set in the 21st century but still uses the Old English language.

Now we're going to travel forward 300 years, to the Victorian era, where another famous classic awaits us...

Charlotte Brontë's most famous work, Jane Eyre, was first published in 1847 under the pseudonym "Currer Bell". Upon its original release The Quarterly Review claimed it was "an anti-Christian composition", and it is a commonly held belief that Brontë wrote the novel as a protest against the Victorian lifestyle.

Gothic and atmospheric, Jane Eyre tells the story of the titular character who suffers neglect and abuse as a child, is sent away to boarding school and then eventually leaves to pursue a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. Thornfield belongs to the mysterious Mr Rochester, whose ward, Adèle, is Jane's charge.

Coarse and gruff, Mr Rochester is the typical Byronic hero, but Jane gives as good as she gets and in doing so, enchants him, but Mr Rochester is hiding a dark secret that could ruin everything.

I love Jane Eyre, but I know plenty of people who have never been able to get through it because of the novel's slow pace and the density of the text. The truth is that most Victorian novels are very dense - it's rather unusual to come across a short one - as many novels started out serialised in newspapers (such as Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone and Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist) and in the 19th century there were no televisions or cinemas; entire families would enjoy a large novel together, over the course of a couple of weeks!

So if you have a fondness for dark 19th century tales of love that crosses the boundaries of class, I have a piece of historical fiction you just might love.

Sarah Waters' Fingersmith tells the story of orphan Sue Trinder who, under the care of Mrs Sucksby, is raised as a petty thief. One day Gentleman, a beloved thief and con man, comes to Sue with an enticing proposition. If she can win a position as the maid to Maud Lily, a young and naive gentlewoman, and help Gentleman to seduce her, the two of them can make off with her vast inheritance and condemn Maud to a lunatic asylum.

Sue wishes to pay back the kindness of those who raised her and agrees to the plan, but when she meets Maud she begins to care for her in unexpected ways...

Perhaps one of the biggest differences between Fingersmith and Jane Eyre is that while the latter tells the story of a love between a man and a woman, the romance in Fingersmith is between two women. In fact Waters is well known for writing historical fiction featuring LGBT characters.

Other than that difference - and really is it that much of a difference? Love is love is love - there are quite a few similarities between the two stories. Both take place in the 19th century, both feature an orphaned heroine who rises from obscurity into a position at a wealthy home, both feature romances which cross the boundaries of class and both feature madness and deception in some form or another.

Fingersmith may not be the shortest read, for historical fiction also has the capacity to be dense, but as it was written in the 21st century its language is much easier to read, especially for readers who don't read an awful lot of 19th century literature - Fingersmith is a brilliant stepping stone towards a classic like Jane Eyre.

So that wraps up Romance! I hope this has been useful for anyone intimidated by classics, or that it's at least been an enjoyable read - I'll be back next month with an installment centered around Science Fiction!


Friday, 25 July 2014

Classics & Contemporaries | Romance (Jane Austen Edition)

Last month I said I was going to start a new five part series titled "Classics & Contemporaries", to try and help anyone who feels intimidated by classics find another way of getting into them - you can find the initial blog post I wrote about the series here!

As I said then I promised the first installment would be Romance, but I did tell one little fib: I said for each genre I'd be talking about two classics and their contemporaries, but just this once I'm going to talk about four instead! Why? Why not! Well when I was narrowing down the classics I could talk about and finding their 21st century equivalents, I was torn between talking about some of the world's most famous love stories and some equally well-known modern reads, or talking about classics with some less obvious, and perhaps even lesser known, contemporaries.

So instead I decided to talk about both, and I suppose having double the amount is a good way to celebrate the start of this little series!

Two of the classics I ended up choosing for Romance were written by Jane Austen - one of the most famous romance authors of all time - so I thought I might as well split Romance into two separate posts, and centre one of them around the two Austen picks.

First up, let's start with one of the most famous, and most popular, love stories in the world...

Jane Austen's most famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, was first published in 1813 and is still widely read today. In fact to date the novel has sold 20 million copies worldwide!

When it comes to Jane Austen I can completely understand why someone may struggle to read one of her novels because I'm not one of her biggest fans myself, and I think a big reason for that is that I was simply introduced to her in the wrong way. For years I have said I will always dislike her novels, but recently I've thought about giving her a second chance. She must be well-liked for a reason, and perhaps now that I'm older I will have more patience with her work.

I had to read Pride and Prejudice during the second year of my degree but I just couldn't force myself through it, and yet I can watch an adaptation of any Jane Austen novel and enjoy it. And, in all honesty, I want to like her. I feel like I'm missing out on something!

The story of Pride and Prejudice is the kind of story I should love; give me a story about two characters who hate each other only to grow to love each other and I'm sold. And if you're the kind of reader who enjoys those kinds of love stories but feels too intimidated to jump straight into one of Jane Austen's novels, I have just the book for you!

I'm sure this doesn't come as much of a surprise to most of you; those of you who haven't read Bridget Jones's Diary have probably seen the film, and if Colin Firth playing the part of the modern Mr Darcy isn't enough of a clue that this is a modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice then I don't know what is!

Though I was still pretty shocked when I realised the connection. I'm dumb.

Just like Elizabeth Bennet, Bridget Jones is a single woman whose mother is desperate for her to be married; so desperate that she tries to set her up with Mark Darcy, a lawyer and old family friend, but Mark and Bridget don't get off to the best start...

This story is so much fun, and because it's basically a direct retelling of the original story I think reading this before you try reading Pride and Prejudice will make reading the classic much easier, and therefore less intimidating!

Next up we have one of Austen's less famous works, and the novel that first introduced me to her when I was 18: Persuasion.

Like Northanger Abbey, Persuasion was published posthumously in 1818 and is the shortest of Austen's novels. You might think that would make it the ideal Austen novel to start with, but this is the novel that made me dislike her work so much as a teenager (although it's also the one novel of hers I'd most like to reread now that I'm older). Having said that, if you are the kind of reader who finds the size of classics more intimidating than their content, this could be the ideal read for you!

Persuasion tells the story of Anne Elliot, an intelligent, 27 year old spinster, who was persuaded to break off her engagement to Captain Wentworth 8 years before because of his poverty and uncertain future. However, due to his success in the Napoleonic Wars, Wentworth is now wealthy and much sought after, and still hurt by Anne's rejection years before. While Wentworth seeks out a suitable bride, Anne struggles with the decision she made all those years ago and the feelings she still has for Wentworth.

If a story about people who are already in love - people who need to work through their troubles rather than try and get together in the first place - is one that interests you, then Persuasion is the novel for you, and I've managed to find a contemporary equivalent. A very recent equivalent!

Rainbow Rowell has quickly become one of the most famous authors of contemporary romance since the success of her YA novel Eleanor & Park. Her second YA novel, Fangirl, took the book community by storm, and this summer she released her second adult novel, Landline.

(I reviewed her first adult novel, Attachments, here!)

Landline tells the story of Georgie McCool and her husband, Neal, who are going through some marital troubles. They decide to spend Christmas with Neal's family in Omaha, but Georgie's job as a TV writer is hectic and something comes up at work. She has to stay in Los Angeles. Neal, however, takes their children and leaves for the airport.

Terrified that she has ruined their marriage for good, Georgie calls him, but the Neal that answers is the Neal from the past. Perhaps Georgie can use this strange connection to fix their future, or perhaps she should end their marriage before it even begins.

Obviously Landline and Persuasion are very different novels, Landline isn't a direct retelling in the way Bridget Jones's Diary is, and yet they share a lot of similar themes. Both feature a heroine who has made a mistake concerning the man she loves, and both include a mixture of maintaining an existing relationship while also including a small dose of 'will they, won't they'. If you're interested in Jane Austen's novels and you like Landline, I see no reason why Persuasion wouldn't be the perfect classic for you!

So there we have it: my 21st century suggestions for a 21st century reader who wants to read some Jane Austen. I really hope this has been useful (or at least fun!) and I'll be back on Monday with my non-Austen Romance installment!


Thursday, 24 July 2014

My Underhyped Books!

As some of you may know this week is the Underhyped Read-A-Thon. I am sort of taking part in this read-a-thon (I say 'sort of' because, sadly, I have too much work to do to commit to an entire week of non-stop reading) and I decided to only read books with less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads.

I thought there wouldn't be that many, but it turns out I own quite a lot of book with less than 1,000 ratings and it makes me sad that so many books aren't getting a lot of attention. There could be a book out there you might love, you've just never come across it before!

So today, I thought I'd share with you a list of just some of the books I own with less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads. I'm going to give you nothing but the title, the author, the number of ratings and a link to the Goodreads page, then if there are any titles which catch your eye you can go and look it up and perhaps discover a new book.

Happy reading!


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

What's Up Wednesday! | 23/07/14

What's Up Wednesday is a weekly blog hop created by Jaime Morrow and Erin L. Funk as a way for writers and readers to stay in touch!

What I'm Reading

On Friday I finished reading The Penelopiad and I really, really enjoyed it, but since then I haven't picked anything up. I still haven't read any more of Deadline - which is killing me because I so want to carry on with the Newsflesh trilogy - but right now I have so much work to do I feel guilty if I read for pleasure.

However, as I mentioned last week, this week is the Underhyped Read-A-Thon (I'll leave a link to the blog post I wrote about it here) and I'd really like to try and take part even if I only read one book. I gave myself a TBR but I'm notorious for not sticking to TBRs, and since making that TBR I've discovered I have quite a lot of books with less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads, which is how I'm classifying a book as underhyped. So before the end of the week I'm either going to pick up White Star by Robin Llywelyn, Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle or Devoured by D. E. Meredith - they're all pretty short reads!

What I'm Writing

I'm still working away on my portfolio - in fact I'm still working on those climactic scenes!

What Inspires Me Right Now

On Sunday my parents picked me up and brought me down to their house in South Wales for a couple of weeks, and it's so nice to just be able to relax for a bit while I do my work. I love being back in my big bed and I love my parents' cooking!

What Else I've Been Up To

On Saturday myself and a couple of my friends went to Manchester Comic Con! It was so much fun. We queued for two hours in the pouring rain but it was so worth it. I took a bunch of pictures of some amazing cosplayers - which I will share with all of you when I get around to writing up a post about Comic Con! - and I went to a panel featuring James Cosmo (Commander Mormont) and Ross Mullan (the whitewalker) from Game of Thrones and I even got the chance to ask them a question, it was so cool!

We also saw Warwick Davis and Hannah Spearritt (which was very exciting for a 90's child who loved S Club 7) and then there were all the amazing stalls. It was just so much fun! I'd hoped to buy myself a Pop! figure but sadly they were all £10 and as someone who was on a budget for the day I just couldn't afford to spend £10 on one thing.

That doesn't mean I didn't treat myself, though! I got myself a pair of unicorn earrings, a Cortez medallion and a Wolfsbane necklace which is just GORGEOUS.

Basically Saturday was amazing - I'd forgotten how fun conventions are!

What's new with you?

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Top Ten Tuesday | Desert Island Chums!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature created at The Broke and Bookish. Each week you compile a list of ten books which coincide with that week's theme. You can find out everything you need to know about joining in here!

This week's theme is 'Top Ten Characters I Would Want with Me on a Deserted Island'. It's up to us whether we pick the characters based on their survival skills or their attractiveness, but as someone who quite likes being alive I've decided to pick the characters I reckon I'd have the best chance of survival with!

  1. Carswell Thorne from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
    Considering Thorne managed to get himself and Cress out of a desert alive, all while being blind, I'd say he'd be a pretty good companion on a deserted island! Plus he's hot.
  2. Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    Do I really need to explain this one? Katniss is the ultimate wilderness survival expert; she could hunt and keep all eleven of us fed, not to mention safe!
  3. Sirius Black from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
    At first glance Sirius might seem like a bit of an odd choice, but the way I see it anyone who managed to outwit dementors to escape a place like Azkaban would be a good person to have around on a deserted island. And if he's with me he can't fall through the veil and die.
  4. Saba from the Dust Lands trilogy by Moira Young
    Saba's a real tough cookie. She managed to survive some pretty intense stuff in Blood Red Road and I just love her.
  5. Finnick Odair from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins
    I'm taking Finnick with me for those days when Katniss wants a day off from hunting and we're all in a mood for some fish. Plus he's a great swimmer - I think he'd definitely come in handy!
  6. Sybella d'Albret from the His Fair Assassin trilogy by Robin LaFevers
    I'd take Sybella with me to join the ranks of Katniss and Saba in this little miniature army I'm building up. I think the three of them would make an awesome team.
  7. Jack Barak from the Shardlake series by C. J. Sansom
    Perhaps another odd choice, but Jack's another character who's good at surviving. I like my chances if I'm surrounded by a group of survivors!
  8. Helen Graham from The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
    I imagine this seems like a really, really bizarre choice, but Helen's one of those people with a real strength of character. She took her son and left her alcoholic, abusive husband despite the fact that such conduct was frowned upon in her day. I want someone on that island with me who's got some real balls.
  9. Skulduggery Pleasant from the Skulduggery Pleasant series by Derek Landy
    First thing's first: Skulduggery's already dead, so that's one less person to feed. He's also hilarious; I want him around to make the rest of us laugh.
  10. Yelena from the Study series by Maria V. Snyder
    Yelena survived years of abuse, managed to get out of being executed, and survived her time as a food taster. She's also magic, so I definitely want her with me. Besides don't you think her and Sybella would be the best of friends?
Who would you take with you?


Monday, 21 July 2014

Top 5 | Fictional Friendships

A couple of months ago I wrote a post about my Top 5 Fictional Siblings, and in that post I said I wanted to write more like it to celebrate the relationships in fiction which are often forgotten in favour of romance. So today I'm going to share with you my Top 5 Fictional Friendships!

Harry, Ron and Hermione, from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

"Why is it, when something happens, it is always you three?"

No list like this would be complete without the inclusion of the Golden Trio. A lot of the time in books our protagonist will have just the one best friend, and in a lot of these books that friendship is often forgotten and brushed over so our protagonist can concentrate on their love life. Harry, however, has two best friends, and they're both fantastic.

What I love about the Harry Potter books is that friendship is so much more important than romance. There's such an emphasis on friendship and loyalty and comradery; even though it could mean the death of them, Ron and Hermione pack up their bags, leave Hogwarts and follow Harry into the big bad world so that he doesn't have to face Voldemort alone. What are friends for?

Lirael and the Disreputable Dog, from The Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix

"I am the Disreputable Dog. Or Disreputable Bitch, if you want to get technical. When are we going for a walk?"

Here we have another book in which romance is forgotten entirely, resulting in one of my all time favourite fictional friendships. Most of us, at some point in our lives, will have wanted a pet, and the only thing better than a pet is a pet than can talk.

Of course the Disreputable Dog isn't a pet, but she is a talking dog. A hilarious talking dog. Her relationship with Lirael is one of the most beautiful things in The Old Kingdom series, and that's saying something because this series as a whole is amazing. If you haven't read it yet I highly recommend it; Nix is a master at writing female-led fantasy that doesn't focus on romance for a second.

Cinder and Iko, from The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

"See? Injustice. Here we are, risking our lives to rescue Kai and this whole planet, and Adri and Pearl get to go to the royal wedding. I'm disgusted. I hope they spill soy sauce on their fancy dresses."

I knew I wanted to include The Lunar Chronicles in this selection, but I have to be honest it took me a while before I decided who to mention because I love them all. I love Cinder's relationship with Thorne - male/female relationships that stay purely platonic make me incredibly happy - and I love her relationships with Scarlet and Wolf, too. In the end, however, I just had to include Cinder and Iko, though to be honest Cinder, Iko and Thorne also make a fabulous little trio.

Iko is there for Cinder most when no one else is; in fact she's been with Cinder since the latter was just a little girl, and despite the fact that they're very different (not only in personality, but also in what they actually are) they make a great duo. Iko might be an android, but she's incredibly loyal and there's genuine affection between the two of them. Considering the amount of crap Cinder goes through, she needs a friend like Iko.

Legolas and Gimli, from The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

"Forty-two? Oh, that's not bad for a pointy-eared elvish princeling. Hmph! I myself am sitting pretty on forty-THREE!"

Legolas and Gimli: the ultimate bromance. All joking aside, however, I love the friendship that blossoms between these two for many reasons (even if I am cheating a little because I haven't actually read The Lord of the Rings yet). I think most of us are probably friends with someone now who, years ago, we never thought we'd be friends with - it's funny when things work out that way. These two are a beautiful example of overcoming prejudice; they both come from a race of people who despise the other, and yet by the end of their adventure they are willing to die side by side. I love these two.

Katniss Everdeen and Johanna Mason, from The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins

"I don't care if you're knocked up. I'll rip your throat out."

If that doesn't scream best friends forever, then frankly I don't know what does. Katniss and Johanna are my favourite characters from The Hunger Games trilogy, and I've always been slightly disappointed that we didn't get to see more of them together; in fact by the end of Mockingjay Johanna seems to just... disappear. 

Everyone in the trilogy was impressed with Katniss, as, of course, they should be, but I love how Johanna doesn't give her any special treatment. She treats her exactly how she treats everyone else, and I think that's something Katniss needs - she never wanted to be a 'celebrity' in the first place.

Do you have any favourite friendships?


Sunday, 20 July 2014

TBR | #UnderHypedReads

Tomorrow marks the start of the Underhyped Read-A-Thon - and if you're not too sure what that is I wrote a blog post about it here! - so I figured I might as well share with you the books I'm going to try and read. I say 'try' because I'm in the middle of working on my portfolio so I might not have much time to read, but I think this is such a good idea for a read-a-thon that I at least want to try!

It's up to each individual how they define a book as 'underhyped' - I've decided to try and get through some of the books on my shelves that have less than 1,000 ratings on Goodreads.

by Victoria Lamb

Number of ratings on Goodreads: 620

Meg Lytton has always known of her dark and powerful gift. Raised a student of the old magick by her Aunt Jane, casting the circle to see visions of the future and concocting spells from herbs and bones has always been as natural to Meg as breathing. But there has never been a more dangerous time to practise the craft, for it is 1554, and the sentence for any woman branded a witch is hanging, or burning at the stake.

Sent to the ruined, isolated palace of Woodstock to serve the disgraced Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII and half-sister of Queen Mary, Meg discovers her skills are of interest to the outcast princess, who is desperate to know if she will ever claim the throne. But Meg's existence becomes more dangerous every day, with the constant threat of exposure by the ruthless witchfinder Marcus Dent, and the arrival of a young Spanish priest, Alejandro de Castillo, to whom Meg is irresistibly drawn - despite their very different attitudes to her secret.

by Laura Powell

Number of ratings on Goodreads: 807

In a modern world where witches are hunted down and burned at the stake, two lives intersect. Glory is from a family of witches, and is desperate to develop her 'Fae' powers and become a witch herself, though witch-activity carries a threat of being burned at the stake. Lucas is the son of the Chief Prosecutor for the Inquisition with a privileged life very different from the witches he is being trained to prosecute. And then one day, both Glory and Lucas develop the Fae. In one fell stroke, their lives are inextricably bound together.

by Robin Llywelyn

Number of ratings on Goodreads: 9

"White Star is the first translation into English of Robin Llywelyn's award-winning novel Seren Wen ar Gefndir Gwyn. A hilarious romp through the fears and fortunes of three unlikely heroes out to save the world." Gwern started the war. By mistake. He and his friends, Pilgrim and Saffron Tinker, are trying hard to put things right. Perhaps a little too hard. Their journey takes them across Sunless Summer to the badlands on a diet of ice locust sandwiches. They get promoted as diplomats and even manage fifteen minutes as fighter pilots. As the evil Empire of the Heartless Bodies threatens to conquer the High Country, Gwern, Pilgrim and Saffron Tinker are learning a lot about allegiance.

This last book I may get out from my local library if I happen to see it there:

by Chris Kuzneski

Number of ratings on Goodreads: 382

The Hunters: a team of renegades - an ex-military leader, a historian, a computer whiz, a weapons expert and a thief - financed by a billionaire philanthropist are tasked with finding the world's most legendary treasures. 

The Mission: recover a vast Romanian treasure that was stolen by the Russians nearly a century ago. Fearing a Germany victory in World War 1, the Romanian government signed a deal to guarantee the safety of the country's most valuable artifacts until after the war. In 1916 two treasure trains full of gold and the most precious objects of the Romanian state - paintings, jewellery from the Royal family, ancient Dacien artifacts - were sent to the underground vaults in the Kremlin only to be lost to the Romanian people forever as Russia severed all diplomatic relations with the country and scattered the treasure to its outlying regions. With a haul valued at over $3.5 billion dollars, everyone wants to claim the vast treasure but its location has remained a mystery, until now.

Are you taking part in the Underhyped Read-A-Thon? What are you planning to read?


Friday, 18 July 2014

Jess Suggests | Middle Grade

Last month I read two middle grade books - Malkin Child and Witch Hill - and they got me thinking about some of the books I loved reading when I was younger; books which I still love to read now. So today I thought I'd share with you some of my favourite middle grade books, books I think readers of any age can enjoy!

by David Almond

When a move to a new house coincides with his baby sister's illness, Michael's world seems suddenly lonely and uncertain. Then, one Sunday afternoon, he stumbles into the old, ramshackle garage of his new home, and finds something magical. A strange creature - part owl, part angel, a being who needs Michael's help if he is to survive. With his new friend Mina, Michael nourishes Skellig back to health, while his baby sister languishes in the hospital. But Skellig is far more than he at first appears, and as he helps Michael breathe life into his tiny sister, Michael's world changes for ever . . .

Skellig was the first ever book I was assigned to read in secondary school - when I was around eleven/twelve years old - and it's been one of my all time favourite books ever since. Something about this story seems to pull in everyone who reads it; I don't think I've met a single person who's read this book and forgotten about it. This book is gorgeous, and I highly recommend it!

by Cornelia Funke

Twelve-year-old Meggie learns that her father, who repairs and binds books for a living, can "read" fictional characters to life when one of those characters abducts them and tries to force him into service.

Characters from books literally leap off the page in this engrossing fantasy. Meggie has had her father to herself since her mother went away when she was young. Mo taught her to read when she was five, and the two share a mutual love of books. He can "read" characters out of books. When she was three, he read aloud from a book called Inkheart and released characters into the real world. At the same time, Meggie's mother disappeared into the story.

I feel like the Inkworld Trilogy isn't talked about enough in the book community, which is especially confusing when we take into account that this is a book about books! Inkheart, like a few of the other books on this list, is often classed as YA rather than middle grade, but personally this trilogy doesn't feel like a YA trilogy to me. It has a very middle grade feel to it, and I mean that in the best possible way. A lot of YA nowadays is romance heavy, but this book is nothing short of an adventure book; it's the kind of story that will remind you why you love reading - give it a try if you haven't already!

by Justin Somper

Conor and Grace are twins, recently orphaned after their widowed father's death. Rather than being adopted by the town's busy-bodies, they decide to set sail in their father's last possession, his sailing boat. But a vicious storm sees their boat capsize and the twins are separated. Two mysterious ships sail to their rescue - each picking up one twin before disappearing into the mist. Conor wakes to find himself on a pirate ship and is soon being trained up with a cutlass. Meanwhile Grace finds herself locked in a darkened room, as the vampirates wait for night to fall and their feasting to begin... Determined to find each other, yet intrigued by their new shipmates, the twins are about to embark on the biggest adventure of their lives...

This book is just so much fun! It might not be a literary masterpiece or a stunning piece of writing, but it's a fast-paced, action-packed story, and frankly I refuse to believe that everything we read has to leave us with some powerful message. Sometimes we just need to read something fun and enjoy it - this book is great if you're in the mood for an adventure!

by Frances Hodgson Burnett

When orphaned Mary Lennox comes to live at her uncle's great house on the Yorkshire Moors, she finds it full of secrets. The mansion has nearly one hundred rooms, and her uncle keeps himself locked up. And at night, she hears the sound of crying down one of the long corridors.

The gardens surrounding the large property are Mary's only escape. Then, Mary discovers a secret garden, surrounded by walls and locked with a missing key. One day, with the help of two unexpected companions, she discovers a way in. Is everything in the garden dead, or can Mary bring it back to life?

This book is a classic, and I just had to include it on this list because I guarantee that you can enjoy this book whether you're six or sixty! This story is nothing short of lovely, and as well as being one of my favourite children's books, it's one of my favourite classics, too. In fact this book is a great place to start if you're intimidated by classics, or if you're a younger reader who's looking to start reading them!

by Louis Sachar

Camp Greenlake is a place for bad boys, where the belief is: "if you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy." When Stanley Yelnats, accused and found guilty of a crime he did not commit, is sent to Camp Greenlake he really doesn't think it can be so bad. Stanley and his family try to pretend that he is just going away to camp like the rich kids do, and he promises to write to them every day. But the harsh realities of the camp, and the evil Warden with her lizard-venom impregnated fingernails with her own reasons for making the boys in her charge dig so many holes, sometimes make dying seem like a great idea. When Stanley leaves the camp to go in search of his friend Zero, their journey towards freedom becomes a battle with hunger, thirst and heat in the shadow of Big Thumb--a mountain so entwined in Stanley's own family history that he knows if they can reach it they will somehow find salvation.

We started with a book I read in secondary school, so I thought it was fitting that we end with another. Like Skellig, there's something about Holes that just seems to stick with everyone who reads it. This story has so many layers; it'll make you laugh as much as it'll make you cry, and stay with you for years to come. The film adaptation is also worth a watch! 

Have you read any of the books on my list? What are some of your favourite middle grade books?