The To-Read Pile

There's an ever growing pile of books I want to read…

Giant review round-up post (or, wow, my life got crazy busy!)

At the beginning of September, I officially took over as the manager of a bookshop and the time I was spending at work increased dramatically. Then, in October, the new term at my university (The Open University – part time distance learning) began and I suddenly had even less time. I also caught a throat infection. Yay!

All of this is to say: sorry that I haven’t posted anything recently. I do have some scheduled posts that are still half written and there’ll be a review soon for The Bone Season, which I read with my friend Steph (and which she has agreed to review jointly with me!).

In the meantime, I’ve still been reading on the bus to and from work and my pile of books to review looks like this:

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And there are things missing from there too. I STILL haven’t reviewed The Elites by Natasha Ngan, for example.

There are one or two things on this pile that will get their own post: Half Bad by Sally Green isn’t published for a while yet and was so good that it will get its own review nearer the time. I also have a lot to say about The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty so I’m going to review that one separately too.

The rest are getting mini reviews in this post. Because I am review pile rich and time poor, as I mentioned, and because I’m starting to feel like I don’t want to read anything else so that the pile doesn’t get any bigger.

Books for very new readers

Dixie O’Day in the Fast Lane by Shirley Hughes and Clara Vulliamy

Dixie O'Day in the Fast Lane by Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy

I grew up reading books by Shirley Hughes and I thought it was lovely that she has now written a book with her daughter, Clara Vulliamy, who is an author in her own right. I thought this story was very good and I really enjoyed the presentation and illustrations. It would make an excellent bedtime story told over several days. I loved Dixie and his friend Percy and I thought that, on the whole, it had a nice message. That said, I do feel that something must be said about how it reinforces the stereotype that women are bad drivers who don’t know anything about cars. I know that Lou Ella is just generally bad (as the villain of the story) but I wish that we could stop sending this message.

4/5

Books for pre-teen readers

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

This was such a wonderful story and well deserving of the Newbery Medal and the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. Georges was the best kind of narrator and it was written in a style where those things unsaid are often more important than those that are. This is definitely one that works for both kids and adults. I heartily recommend it.

5/5

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo & K.G. Campbell

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo & K.G. Campbell

I loved this book so very, very much. Partly because the heroine, Flora, is a big fan of comic books but mainly because it’s a really lovely, really cute story. It’s a story about families (found and otherwise) and it’s interspersed with brilliant illustrations and also comic book style storytelling panels. I think you’ll love it.

5/5

Books for teenagers/more mature readers

Love is a Number by Lee Monroe

Love is a Number by Lee Monroe

I have strange mixed feelings about this book. I feel like it’s an important book because it centres around a girl struggling through the death of her boyfriend and realising that, even though no-one likes to speak ill of the dead, their relationship wasn’t healthy and she really is better off without him. As she works through these feelings, she starts sending messages to his mobile, not knowing that it has been picked up by a boy named Dan. When he replies to her messages, it might just be the start of something better. I didn’t like Dan at all. I think in his mind he was probably a nice guy but he struck me as kind of a jerk, so the romance didn’t really work for me and I felt like the story would have been better without it. Also, I thought the last couple of chapters were excellent but the ending left me a little cold.

3/5

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

Several people whose opinions I trust told me that I should read this book so I expected that I would love it. But I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it was well written and interesting and I definitely think it was worth reading but I didn’t love it. It’s the story of an ill-fated love triangle and the guilt of the girl left behind. I think perhaps my problem was with the epilogue and that it coloured my feelings about the entire book. I’d have to read it again to be sure.

3.5/5

Transparent by Natalie Whipple

Transparent by Natalie Whipple

I enjoyed this book a lot while I was reading it but I just don’t feel a particularly strong urge to recommend it. I liked the characters and I thought it was well written – I particularly enjoyed the heist-y parts – but I didn’t really buy in completely to the romance subplot and I just wasn’t wowed. I think the problem is that I had already read The White Cat by Holly Black, which also explored the idea of mobsters with superpowers. It’s a good read though, you might enjoy it.

3.5/5

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

The Friday Society by Adrienne Kress

Again, this is a book that I expected to love. And I kind of did. Sort of. I loved the premise and I loved the three main characters, especially Cora, the inventor’s assistant. I think the story was let down a little by the quality of the writing and by the way it was clearly the “setting up” book for a series. That said, I definitely want to read the sequel and I think there’s a lot of potential for the series.

3.5/5

The Elites by Natasha Ngan

The Elites by Natasha Ngan

I have mixed feelings about this book too. Have I been a particularly critical reader recently? Maybe. I loved the setting of this book and the two lead characters and I genuinely enjoyed the romance element. I did find, though, that the story was oddly paced, with enjoyable action scenes followed by not much happening. There was a little too much exposition for my taste and lots of minor characters were killed. More than I was really comfortable with. Overall, though, I did think it was a good read and there were flashes of something great in there. I can’t wait to see what this author does next.

3.75/5

Weirdos vs. Quimboids by Natasha Desborough

Weirdos Vs. Quimboids by Natasha Desborough

Before I start this review properly, why don’t you take a moment to properly appreciate the cover art of this book? Isn’t it fab? I really enjoyed this story, which reminded me of the Georgia Nicholson books by Louise Rennison. Poor Blossom is really unlucky in her initials, B.U.M, which are monogrammed on her school uniform. I laughed a lot while reading her story but I also cringed a lot, which was occasionally uncomfortable. It’s definitely worth reading, though.

4/5

ACID by Emma Pass

ACID by Emma Pass

This book was really good. It was nice to read a dystopian story set in England and this one was particularly well written. I loved the main character and found them all interesting and believable. I also found the world and world-building fascinating. I did have a slight problem with suspending my disbelief that the main male lead would happen to bump into the main female lead character, when they were already so connected.

4.5/5

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

Roomies by Sara Zarr and Tara Altebrando

I really enjoyed this story of two very different girls who discover that they are going to be college roommates and start emailing one another. I thought it was cleverly done and really interesting to read how they interpreted one another’s messages. I also enjoyed the way the characters grew and changed over the course of the story. My only gripe would be that I want to know WHAT HAPPENS NEXT! I wasn’t quite ready to let go of either character when the story ended.

4.5/5

The Savages by Matt Whyman

The Savages by Matt Whyman

I loved this book so much. Look at how great the cover is! If you’re a fan of dark comedy, this one is for you. What happens when a family of cannibals accidentally kill someone they can’t eat? And what happens when the eldest daughter decides to try out vegetarianism? Well, hijinks ensue and you end up with this hilarious story. It also manages to be quite a heartwarming story about what it means to be a family, too, which is really quite an achievement.

5/5

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

If you’ve read The Fault in our Stars and you don’t mind books that make you cry, this one might be for you. It’s another story about bereavement, this time the death of a sister. Lennie doesn’t know who she is without her sister, who was always the bigger personality. I thought the story was incredibly well written and I really empathised with Lennie. There was an incredibly light feel to the book despite the heavy subject matter and it wasn’t just a depressing slog. I also thought the love triangle wasn’t stupid (which I often think love triangles are!) and the romance element of the story worked well.

5/5

 

Whew! That was quite a marathon of mini reviews! We’ll see how things go through Christmas. I have quite a lot of exciting blog posts planned so there might be a lot of posts in January, once things have calmed down for me!

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