31 January 2017

Monthly Wrap Up // January 2017

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The first month of 2017 has already passed and what a crazy month it has been! I mean, for me it’s been crazy hectic and I feel a little exhausted now. I’ve had some really great days of seeing friends and read some good books and basically had a great start to the year. But then I’ve had terrible family news and the world has basically gone crazy with Donald Trump. January has been a whirlwind and whilst I’m glad it’s over I dread to think what February has to bring whilst also looking forward to it.

Can’t Stop Listening

Castle On The Hill – Ed Sheeran
Lone Digger – Caravan Palace
Hero – Family of the Year

January Reads


January Posts

January Links

Elevatormusik | 5 Quick Ways To Refresh Your Blog (because it’s a new year, and that means a new year you (or your blog))
Metaphors and Moonlight | How Our Environment Affects Our Reading // Why I Love Book Playlists // SFF Books With Disability Masterlist (I love this resource and you can help add to it as well)
Girlxoxo | How To Track Reading Challenges With  Spreadsheet (because we all need help being organised at the beginning of a new year)
Boats Against The Current | What’s Your Preferred Length of Book?
Stay Bookish | An Exciting Announcement (Hazel wants to start a YA e-zine so you should check this post out if you want to get involved)
Makeup Savvy | 100 Self Care Tips To See You Through Winter (I think we all need a bit of self care this month)

How has your January been? Have you been dragged down by the awful state of politics or have you found yourself a bright spot? And have you found any good escapist fiction to indulge in?

30 January 2017

After The Last Dance // A Fantastic Read I’d Been Convinced I Wouldn’t Enjoy

Published: 3rd December 2015
Source: Borrowed
Genre: Romance, Historical, Contemporary
My Rating:
Two women. Two love affairs. One unforgettable story.

Kings Cross station, 1943. Rose arrives in London hoping to swap the drudgery of wartime for romance, glamour and jiving with GIs at Rainbow Corner, the famous dance hall in Piccadilly Circus. As the bombs fall, Rose loses her heart to a pilot but will lose so much more before the war has done its worst.

Las Vegas, present day. A beautiful woman in a wedding dress walks into a seedy bar and asks the first man she sees to marry her. When Leo slips the ring onto Jane's finger, he has no idea that his new wife will stop at nothing to get what she wants. So when Jane meets Rose, now a formidable older lady, there's no love lost between them. But with time running out, can Rose and Jane come together to make peace with the tragic secrets that have always haunted their lives? After the Last Dance is an extraordinary story of two women, separated by time but connected by fate, that will make you believe in the redemptive power of unexpected love.
I forget how much I love what Sarra Manning writes until I read one of her books. This book is a long way from the first book I ever read by her, Guitar Girl, but I love this one just as much as I did that one the first time I ever read it. I'm just sad I waited so long to pick this up and I waited for the most ridiculous of reasons… I didn’t think I’d like it! I may have stopped reading Manning’s young adult fare as I often feel like it is too immature for my own reading tastes, but her adult novels have never failed to please me so it was illogical I chose to ignore this one simply because it included historical elements. Thankfully, my library had a copy and I do not regret borrowing this book at all.

To explain my hesitations I will tell you my reasoning. I am not always a fan of books which are set during WW2, it comes from over studying at school, I think. It’s strange considering I really love TV shows and films set during that same period. This one is written beautifully, though. Rose's story of life in London and everything she did was amazing and utterly heart-breaking. I'm was in tears over her struggles and adored her instantly as soon as she brazenly asked those GI’s a favour at the train station. Rose is what made me fall in love with this book with her bold personality who is willing to run from her home way up north to London simply to avoid joining the land girls. And the adventures she has in London during the war are amazing. These are the kinds of stories I want to know, the hidden ones which you don’t hear much about.

Are other main character, Jane was far less sympathetic a character. She was cold and manipulative and I didn't like her. I didn’t get why I should care about her during the present day when all she seemed to be was a gold digger and a con artist. The fact I loved her by the end of the book demonstrates both her character growth but also Manning's skill as a writer. The progression of her story and how it relates to Rose's was just amazing. I loved the slow reveal we had about both characters as the story progressed and the journey’s the both went through to get them to the end of the book. It was truly amazing and I don’t want to reveal a single thing in this review so you can enjoy it too.

The fact I liked both love stories in this book helped as well. I just couldn't help myself. My only complaint is we didn't learn more about Charles as I adored him so much and how he helped Jane. I would have loved to have known more about his past in the book, but there is little which can be done about that. He will just be a fabulous mysterious stranger.

In the end, this was a really fantastic book and one of my favourite reads of last year. It demonstrated to me both that Manning is a fantastic writer who shouldn’t just limit herself to romance (something which I know her best for) and an author who can tell a wonderful story not matter what year it is set in.

What was the last book you read which surprised you because you had convinced yourself you wouldn’t like it?

29 January 2017

Sunday Summary // 29.01.2017

Sunday Summary
I’m telling you guys, I don’t know where the weeks go. Is it Sunday again already? I say this, my working week dragged like nobodies business and I wish I knew why. My time outside of work seemed to disappear in the blink of an eye, though.

It’s been a week of ups and downs. As I said, work has been dragging this week and I think it may just be me feeling a bit exhausted and run down. Now surprising considering the month we’ve been having, I’m run down from doing two people's work. I think it’ll pick up next month, though, and I will hopefully be a bit less exhausted from that. I also had some bad news in regards to my family. I won’t go into the details but it definitely put a dampener on my Thursday and left me in a bad mood Friday so that’s probably not helped things.

Luckily, other parts of my week have been far better. I had a really great readalong of The Hating Game with Danya and we enjoyed ourselves chatting about that book. And don’t think I’ve forgotten about reading Burn For Me either. I may not have been approved for White Hot or anything but I can still get on board for a reread of the first book in prep for the release. I also went to the cinema with a friend and saw Split (it was weird but James McAvoy was brilliant portraying his individual personalities as distinct individuals) and I also went to the pub Wednesday with a friend celebrating her house buy. I mean, the process is only just starting but I’m happy she is starting on the path to proper adulthood and house ownership (fingers crossed it goes well for you).

Basically, I’ve had a really hectic week of ups and downs and I am looking forward to sitting in on Sunday and just reading. I need some good old escapism for the day. I’ll face reality tomorrow. Especially when reality includes Donald Trump with his executive orders and walls. Honestly, could the man be more of a joke?

What I’ve Been Reading

I’m averaging 4 books a week lately and I’m liking it. I am actually enjoying reading after DNF-ing 2 books this year. I think I’ve got my reading mojo back. I may not be reading 6 books in a week like during my romance binges but I am pretty damn happy with how I’m doing. I’ve already mentioned The Hating Game, when reading that I got a craving for romance while I was waiting to be able to chat about it with Danya so I began reading Close To Home. It proved romance is the easiest genre to read as I finished that in a day. It wasn’t my favourite romance but it was so easy to get lost in and I’m excited for the next book, so there’s that. I also began reading Caraval and, wow. That book is addictive. I have a review planned for next week (I hope). I really enjoyed it and I recommend it. I am now venturing into sci-fi, because who doesn’t like to round out their reading week with different genres?

New To Me

Only 49p spent on books this week! And that was a giftcard purchase and doesn’t count, that’s Highland Spitfire if you’re wondering which book I bought. If you’re not already aware Hello Again is a novella release by Mhairi Mcfarlane and is a sequel to You Had Me At Hello and it’s free! I couldn’t say no. And Once Burned was an impulse freebie buy when I saw the series mentioned on someone else’s blog. I know freebies are still new books but… I have issues and this way at least my spending is down.
I did take a trip to the library this weekend, though. I only intended to drop two books back in and get the next book in the Fox and O’Hare series… I then somehow ended up wandering around the shelves and borrowed for books. I don’t know how it happened either. I mean, I’d been inteding to borrow the next two books in the Cainsville series for a while… but I was intending to try and space them out for the release of the next book… I guess plans change? As for Angel’s Blood, I’ve got an urge to reread Nalini Singh’s books and I remember liking this series so why not?

What have you guys been reading lately? And am I the only walking out with more books than intended every time she goes into the library?

27 January 2017

My Thoughts // Where I Didn’t Like A Book I Thought I Would And Question Why

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My Thoughts is a discussion feature I like to include sporadically on my blog and each one goes towards my goals in the Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole and Shannon. I try and reason out things and talk about things which have been on my mind.
I began reading Labyrinth Lost, a book I had been very excited for, just a few days ago and as I slowly began reading I was nervous because it soon became apparent I wasn’t destined to love this book. It wasn’t even the books fault, I loved the premise. I was thrilled it features a bisexual main character with a M/F/F love triangle. I loved the fact it features Latin folklore of brujas and brujos and just learning about a culture I knew nothing about. I adored the fact that family was a central theme in the book and it wasn’t simply family present but past family members, ancestors, who played a role in shaping these characters because heritage was obviously important. All of that would normally mean I adored the book…. unfortunately, I ended up DNF-ing at 40% because of one reason and one reason alone… I hated the main character.
This post is me learning a few things about myself and how I can be way more judgemental depending upon the genre.

Alex was annoying to me for many reasons and they will be spoiler filled reasons, but spoilers which reveal little more than the Goodreads summary does. But if you’re adamant to avoid spoilers I will say it’s because she is impulsive and makes stupid decisions she doesn’t accept responsibility for (at least, not within the first part of the book).
The spoiler filled reasons are that she is whiny as hell at the beginning and so supremely ungrateful and selfish. I mean, I could accept her being scared and unwilling to accept her magical ancestry and powers but she makes idiotic mistakes and is unwilling to listen to advice and is to blame for her own ignorance. She completely ignored her heritage whenever possible, refused to listen to someone telling her that it probably wasn’t the best idea to use her magic if she was unwilling to accept the consequences, and made the cardinal magical mistake of combining 2 cantos (spells) when she didn’t know what would happen.
I may be being overly harsh to her incompetence but I really struggled to feel any sympathy for her and her plight when she was to blame for banishing her entire family to Los Lagos and she then tries to blame others at first and not accept it was her own damn fault. I just wanted to slap her dumb face and knock some sense into her. What was more annoying was when a character mentioned she would know things if she’d gone to Lady’s lessons as others her age do and I was beyond pissed. She can reject her gift, fine, but she put herself in the position by not even learning of her heritage? I can’t even deal with that kind of blind ignorance. And willing ignorance at that.
Now, I know many will say she is still quite a young character and this leaves her open for some great character growth and self-discovery, which I like the idea of. If this had been contemporary YA where a main character had been self-centred and made mistakes I might have enjoyed it. But, because it is a fantasy book it leaves me more critical of rash decisions made by characters as the stakes are higher. Her decisions can lead to character deaths and they have far greater consequences. It’s difficult to have the same stakes in contemporary YA so I am not so critical of characters. I can forgive them and then continue reading to see how they develop and will be invested but in fantasy, I struggle to have that same mind frame. It’s strange how something as small as the book’s genre can affect my perspective on things.
My criticisms of Alex’s character may stem from me having a particularly annoying week or two dealing with the consequences of people who don’t know how to do their job and the frustrations this has caused me so I am less willing to deal with incompetent characters in books as well. I don’t know, but I was not a fan of her and I do not want to read about scared characters who allowed themselves to be ignorant of their past. Some may say it was nice to have a character who was aware of her heritage and had a strong family behind her so she strong emotional connections to help guide her, I say I would have been more forgiving of her stupidity if she had a good reason for not being fully aware of her heritage, but willing ignorance is something that really bugs me.
Anyway, what I learnt from this is that I prefer to have slightly more sensible characters in my fantasy. I prefer strong women who kickass and fewer teenagers making stupid life decisions and seem to be put in a book just to piss me off (because this entire book was an entire attack on me and what I like, obviously). I may go back to this book another time and really enjoy it, but for now Labyrinth Lost was a book with an excellent premise that was hampered by an annoying main character that made me stop reading. There were lots of things which if done differently would have made me be someone raving about this book too, but sadly I’m not and that’s the worst feeling because I was excited about this book.
Have you read a book where all the boxes are ticked for you and a main character ruins it for you? Am I alone in being more forgiving of character flaws in contemporary fiction for some reason or am I just being a bit crazy right now? Am I just being overly critical and need to get over myself?

25 January 2017

Frostblood // A Really Fab Fantasy Which Had Me Hooked (Even If I Had Some Grumbles)

Published: 12th January 2017
Source: Book Box
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
My Rating:
The first in a page-turning young adult fantasy series perfect for fans of Victoria Aveyard's Red Queen and Sarah J. Maas's Throne of Glass series.

In a land governed by the cruel Frostblood ruling class, seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has spent most of her life hiding her ability to manipulate heat and light - until the day the soldiers come to raid her village and kill her mother. Ruby vows revenge on the tyrannous Frost King responsible for the massacre of her people.

But Ruby's powers are unpredictable...and so are the feelings she has for Arcus, the scarred, mysterious Frostblood warrior who shares her goal to kill the Frost King, albeit for his own reasons. When Ruby is captured by the Frost King's men, she's taken right into the heart of the enemy. Now she only has one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who took everything from her - and in doing so, she must unleash the powers she's spent her whole life withholding.

Frostblood is set in world where flame and ice are mortal enemies - but together create a power that could change everything.
I have a lot of feelings about this book and they aren’t all positive.  I think my expectations may have been slightly too high going in so I was disappointed and I was also suffering through a bit of a reading slump where I was reading because I knew I had to but didn't want to, so reading this did feel a bit like a chore. That being said, it is a really fantastic YA read and each time I get my teeth into reading it I was sucked into the story. I think I was just letting my feelings in regards to one book affect my feelings to this one as well. I enjoyed the book and I really liked the characters and the plot was interesting.

First Of All: The Characters Rock

I was pretty certain I was going to like the characters going in after reading Nick’s review of this book and I was proved right. Ruby was amazing. She was sarcastic and funny and flawed and I just loved her. She was a girl who lost her mother and had a major guilt complex with her survivor’s guilt only exacerbated by the fact she was the one the soldier’s were after as she was a fireblood. She was stuck surviving through terrible things such as depravation in prison and being taken by utter strangers who expected her to achieve the impossible goal of killing a king when she never once knew how to control her powers. She doesn’t trust these strange monks and she doesn’t understand why she could care about their mission. I have to say, I agreed with everything she did, I would have been the same. Too often in YA fantasy you have these MCs who make grand sacrifices for people when they have their own shit to deal with and I don’t understand all the self sacrificing. It was nice to see Ruby feeling a bit selfish and wanting to put herself first (and avoid further harm to the monks) and then see her reasoning for coming around to the idea of helping them. Character growth and solid explanation for why she does what she does.

Throughout the book, I was cheering for her getting things right and making good choices and I got why she struggled so much because she is left alone without knowing what's going on and she has to make the best of a bad situation. She is a favourite. I was like her, mistrusting everyone she came across because who knows who you can trust when you live in a kingdom where everyone hates your kind?

I know a lot of people loved Arcus and Ruby’s romance with him, as well. I liked that romance but I didn't feel it was a sparky and passionate as some have said. Ruby and Arcus do have fun banter-y conversations and they do bounce off one another but I kept waiting for an incendiary spark between them and it didn't happen. Hopefully, in the next book where they get to spend more time together without secrets I might like them a bit more. That being said, I did like Arcus and the fact our romantic interest had his own secrets and his own hang-ups and wasn’t this flawlessly perfect person (a la Brooding YA Hero) he felt like a fully fledged character with personality who wasn’t always happy with the choices Ruby makes. I can definitely get behind two characters I like getting together, it’s why I hope the romance gets interesting in the next book as it wasn’t enough in this book.

My Issue: The Plot

That makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy the story, and that would be a lie. I enjoyed the book and the characters, but I was annoyed that what were meant to be plot twists were glaringly obvious to me five chapters ago. I don’t mind figuring things out but I figured a lot of things out way before they happened and that bothered me. I would have liked a bit more mystery and a bit less predictability. I mean, this may have stemmed from the fact this is a well trod genre and it’s hard to be completely original in YA fantasy and it’s hard to avoid the usual plot points. I may be being too critical, but I did feel like it was following a path which had been done before and that was a bit frustrating.

It’s Not All Doom And Gloom

I did really enjoy Frostblood. I was hooked but suffering from a slump which left me not wanting to read. Basically, this is a really fun YA fantasy which fans of that genre will enjoy. It isn't ground-breaking. It will never define the genre. But why does every book need to be new and amazing? I liked it a lot and would easily recommend it to others, surely that means it's a good read, right? I will definitely be sticking around for the next book, anyway. I need to know what happens next and any book which hooks you like that deserves some love in my eyes.

Have you read this and what did you think? And tell me I’m not alone with needing to be blown away with a book to still be able to thoroughly enjoy it.

23 January 2017

Wayfarer // A Flawed Book That Concluded An Excellent Duology

Published: 12th January 2017
Source: Netgalley
Genre: Fantasy, Time Travel, Historical, Young Adult
My Rating:
All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected - Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master's heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta's past could put them both at risk.
Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travellers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realises that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.
As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognisable ... and might just run out on both of them.

I had been looking forward to this book for a good long while. I mean, as soon as I finished Passenger I knew I wanted to read the next book. I know a lot of people didn’t like Passenger but I was in love with it and I am not ashamed of that fact. I got why people didn’t like it but I just wasn’t one of them. As soon as I saw this book available on Netgalley from one of my favourite publishers I requested straight away.

Now, anyone who has read my Sunday posts will know I couldn’t for the life of me remember the story in full from Passenger. I thought I did. I remembered the ending and some of the middle, but I couldn’t remember the names of all the characters (a continual problem of mine). It wasn’t until I was 20% in that I learnt that Alexandra Bracken had posted a recap on her blog. Once I read that I really got into the book.

I do have to say, even if I had remembered everything from Passenger, I still wouldn’t have awarded 5 stars to it. Much like the first one kept unnecessary secrets, this one kept our main characters apart for far too long and there were far too many misunderstandings and too much misdirection. It really annoyed me at times that Nicholas and Etta were so close to being able to see one another and then there was another obstacle in their way. By the end, I got the reason for it all but that doesn’t help make the first three-quarters of the book better for me. Now, my annoyance may partially have been because I forgot about that element when reading the first book so I might have expected it if I’d read the books together. Unfortunately, I didn’t.

Apart from minor grumbles and my own bias, though, this book was utterly fantastic. I mean, I hated the near misses, but much like the epic cliffhanger ending seemed to redeem Passenger for me, the ending of this books also seemed to redeem the sequel. Maybe Bracken is just writing these endings that almost make you forget about your complaints from the beginning of the book? I couldn’t see how she was going to resolve many of the issues of time travel and the astrolabe in time for the ending and still give me the kind of ending that I wanted but somehow Bracken did and that was truly impressive if I do say so myself.

Another thing which impressed me was the way Bracken turned these characters around from the first book. Nicholas was such a great character who had serious doubts about himself throughout the two books. Questioning the decisions he made (constantly, it was almost annoying) and he was this deep thinker who was obviously meant to take the path he did despite his struggles. He wasn’t flawless, he made poor decisions which deeply affected those around him, but he really did do it for the right reasons. And there was Etta who doubted herself throughout her adventures because she had been lied to constantly, how could anyone be surprised that she began to deeply doubt many close to her, especially her mother. She was thrown into the deep end, and this book when she meets her father I get why she was so quick to embrace him when all her mother had ever done was push her away. I have to say, Sophia became one of my favourite characters in this book. She may have lost an eye and could no longer pursue an opportunity as the Ironwood heir, but she revealed a lot about what motivated her. She came from an upbringing which was less than desirable, and much like Nick she wanted security for herself and she was willing to do whatever she could get it In this book she developed to care about others around her as well, though, and that was brilliant.

I loved how this book was also about family and what made a family. Each of the characters discovered a family and that didn’t necessarily include those they were related to by blood. I love when friendships become family bonds in a book and that these characters, although they weren’t always great people, all seemed to be pursuing a goal of protecting those close to them, even if it put themselves at risk.

In the end, this was a really good adventure and I loved the conclusion to the duology. I know others will take issue with the ending because it isn’t flawless and I know it. I am not deluded of that fact, but somehow I just can’t seem to care as much about the flaws when I enjoyed the story itself. I am that person who can like the worst books sometimes and I don’t care.

Has anyone else read this ending to the duology? Did you enjoy it? Am I alone in book amnesia issues (why are names so hard)? And do you find yourself rating a book higher when you really enjoyed the ending?

22 January 2017

Sunday Summary // 22.01.2017

Sunday Summary
So, I’ve changed my comments platform because IntenseDebate had started adding people to my spam list for no apparent reason and it was really annoying me. It’s happened a few times and even when fiddling with the setting wouldn’t fix itself so I’ve changed to Disqus. It does mean all old comments no longer link to who you are because for the life of me I can’t be bothered to figure out how to make my import work as I want it to. That being said, going forward it should and that’s all I care about, I never go back and read old comments. I just read the ones I’ve had. If I hadn’t replied to you before the comment move then if you care enough, you’ll have to have a nose and see if I’ve replied. I spent my Friday night making it work and even then it wasn’t until Saturday that I realised the mobile version of my blog had no comment system (I know, why is technology so hard?).

My move to Disqus is something I’ve been wanting to do for about a year because IntenseDebate had done random things of not letting folks comment before but I was too lazy to figure out exporting my old comments and importing my new ones. It just seemed too complex and I’m lazy. Luckily, Google is my friend so when people who visit often were getting sent to spam without me noticing I knew I had to bite the bullet. It’s mostly worked out but guys let me know if you notice anything weird. I know I’ve lost a few older comments so let me know if anything goes rogue.

Now, outside of a very thrilling Friday night where I stayed in messing with my blog comments and watching Eastenders (what? I like bad soaps, so sue me), I have been quite dull this week. It’s just been so busy at work I’ve not had time to do much. I even missed using my bullet journal some days because I’ve just been exhausted. I’ve mostly vegged out and read and watched TV and been very unexciting. I think it’s because I’ve been training the newbie at work and that is exhausting while my own work piles up and then I’ve had to deal with people on the phone, something I hate because I never enjoy phone calls. I was definitely glad for a lie in this weekend. I do not plan to leave my house.

What I’ve Been Reading

I finished The Scam literally straight after posting last Sunday so I didn’t include that this week. I decided not to quickly read a review copy the week before I needed to get a review up so began reading Somebody Like You in time for a February post (check out me and my forward planning!). It was such a good romance read. I had a few issues with it (because there are few perfect romance reads) but overall it was great. I would recommend checking it out if you fancy a good romance read which is a bit lighter on the sex than some.

I came out feeling good from my romance read so decided to check out Labyrinth Lost as it has been on my kindle for a few weeks. It had been a bit hyped up for me so I was excited… I then ended up disappointed. Not because the book is bad, I think I might have liked it if I had read it at a different time, but I ended up hating the main character of Alex and had to stop reading at 35%. It was upsetting but maybe I’ll revisit? My solution to dealing with another DNF? I picked up Before I Fall because that’s guaranteed to cheer me up. It was a really good book… even if the ending had me up in arms. Now I’m reading Agnes and the Hitman and I’m enjoying it. It's funny, there is murder and a woman with a short temper, what's not to like?

New To Me

Now, before you go accusing me of getting lots of new books, the only one I bought was Agnes and the Hitman. I am happy with that purchase as well so no making me feel guilty. I’m reading it already, as well. As for The Girl in Between and Spanish Lessons? They were both freebies. No one can say no to a free book, trust me. I also won a physical ARC of Caraval from Lynn over at Books and Travelling With Lynn which yay! I am planning a few reads over the next week. I’ve got a buddy read and a couple of other books.
I also got a wish granted on Netgalley and have a copy of Traitor to the Throne so I’ve got a reread of Rebel of the Sands to do before I pick that up. Basically, I am on a reading high and cannot wait.

What have you been up to this week? Anyone else had the joy of some blog upkeep? Isn’t it boring as hell? I almost decided to drink while I did mine, but it seemed like a recipe for disaster. And what have you been reading?

18 January 2017

Blog Tour // Relativity - A Book All Out Of My Comfort Zone Which I Was Absorbed By

51oo0k0LFKL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_ Relativity – Antonia Hayes
Published: 17th January 2017
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
My Rating:
‘A true storyteller: her characters are alive’ Christos Tsiolkas, author of The Slap
‘Wonderful; a beautifully written, heart-breaking novel’
S J Watson, author of Before I Go to Sleep

‘Genuinely difficult to put down’ Graeme Simsion, author of The Rosie Project
‘I tore through it’ Courtney Collins, author of The Burial

‘An affecting, gripping debut novel about the nature of family and identity’
Mail on Sunday

Ethan is an exceptionally gifted young boy, obsessed with physics and astronomy.
His single mother Claire is fiercely protective of her brilliant, vulnerable son. But she can’t shield him forever from learning the truth about what happened to him when he was a baby; why Mark had to leave them all those years ago.

Now age twelve, Ethan is increasingly curious about his past, especially his father’s absence in his life. When he intercepts a letter to Claire from Mark, he opens a lifetime of feelings that, like gravity, will pull the three together again.
Relativity is a tender and triumphant story about unbreakable bonds, irreversible acts, and testing the limits of love and forgiveness.
I will begin this review by saying this book was completely out of my reading comfort zone. I don’t read a lot of adult fiction which doesn’t fall into the category of romance (seriously, I’ve taken a look through my shelves and I really don’t). I wasn’t completely certain of what to expect going in. The book’s summary reveals little (so I won’t elaborate too much, either) and just leaves you knowing the story revolves around Ethan and his mom and his father, Mark, who he knows little about.  It was so different to my usual books yet exactly the kind of book I enjoy reading. Nothing is as you expect in it and it raises so many questions.

Even this I’m not sure I want to say, but this book taught me a few things about myself. That may sound strange but the story between Claire and Ethan and why Claire split with Mark, Ethan's father, is a complex one. It deals with a serious subject and so many secrets are kept until the end of the book that there is continually doubt about what happened. As such, I realised I am an optimist who wants to believe the best in people. I wanted to believe the best in Mark and I didn't realise I was such an optimist. I almost cast Claire as the bad guy in my mind, reaching judgements because that’s what others had told her to believe. Even when I was casting her as the villain, though, I was sympathising with her plight and understanding she was in a difficult position all along. I didn’t agree with her decisions, even at the end of the book, but I understood why she made them.

I think that’s one thing which is really great about this book. Each of the characters is a fully realised person with flaws and bad decision-making skills, but you understand why they make the choices they do. You can empathise with their situation and even when you want to judge them you can’t because you get them. I mean, Claire makes bad choices but she does them out of love. She adored Ethan more than anything and only wants to help him have the best kind of life, as any mother wants for their child. She wants to help him avoid getting hurt, even if that ends up hurting him later on. Then there’s Ethan who is just 12 years old and even though he is some kind of science whizz kid, he’s still a kid making silly choices like going places without telling his mother, hiding things, and getting into fights at school. He is flawed and though I wanted to scold him like a naughty child I couldn’t say I wouldn’t make the same decisions too. And then there is Mark, who we don’t get to meet immediately and know little about. I felt bad for him. The entire way through the book I really felt bad for him. It seems he got a raw deal and got left alone and it seems unfair. You grow to like him as the book progresses, he seems like a nice guy and you care for him. The fact you can understand and like all these characters when each of them is giving you reasons not to is just astounding.

I did find reading about science a bit boring, though. I get Ethan is a science genius and that Mark was studying theoretical physics for his PhD but I find science so boring. My brain just fails to compute it well despite my three GCSEs in the subject. I felt like I was getting a physics lesson throughout this book. So much of the science went over my head it was unbelievable. Physics was definitely my weakest science subject at school, I could never fully grasp it even with my good maths understanding. So reading the science in this book was difficult. The times Ethan goes off about one science concept or another had my brain switching off a little bit. Some may say that means I didn't enjoy the book but in fact, the skilful writing meant that even if I had to skim read a science-y bit I was fully engrossed in the story itself.

The thing with this book is you get both Mark, Claire, and Ethan's POV and it is difficult to dislike any of them so when you're dealing with the difficult subject matter of this book it's hard. I want to believe the best and say Claire is at fault yet at the same time I hate Mark and all he has done as well. I can understand why he did what he did and I understand why he acted as he did and yet I hate him. I also hate Claire and all the secrets she has kept for so long. She is also in the wrong. The only character I like regardless is Ethan because he is stuck in the middle, but even then he kept acting like a dumb kid, but he is so it’s ok. In the end, I enjoyed this book even with my mixed feelings. It seems like a book which sticks with you for a while. It's not one I'll easily forget.

Also, did I mention it was set in Australia? Love a book which isn't in the US or the UK.

What was your most recent read outside of your usual comfort zone and did you enjoy it? And have you read Relativity, what were your thoughts?

16 January 2017

Blog Tour | A Boy Made of Blocks // A Truly Wonderful Read Which Packs An Emotional Punch

Published: 5th January 2017
Source: Publisher
Genre: Fiction, Contemporary
My Rating:
A beautiful, funny and surprising story of family and love, perfect for fans of The Rosie Project, David Nicholls’ Us and Nick Hornby’s About a Boy.
MEET THIRTY SOMETHING DAD, ALEX… He loves his wife Jody, but has forgotten how to show it. He loves his son Sam, but doesn't understand him. Something has to change. And he needs to start with himself.
MEET EIGHT-YEAR-OLD SAM… To him the world is a puzzle he can't solve on his own.
When Sam starts to play Minecraft, it opens up a place where Alex and Sam begin to rediscover both themselves and each other… When life starts to tear one family apart, can they put themselves back together, one piece at a time?
A Boy Made of Blocks is a beautiful, funny and heart-warming story of family and love inspired by the author’s own experiences with his autistic son.

I will begin by saying I was emailed about this book once before I took part in this blog tour. I was really interested in reading but I was drowning in a sea of books and didn’t have the time so I had to say no. When I got emailed about participating in the blog tour for this book I couldn’t think of a single reason I would want to say no, even though I am still drowning in a sea of books. I wanted to read it because this was about a father of an autistic child who was inspired by his own experiences to write a book and am I glad he did. I was actually meant to post this Wednesday, but I accidentally committed to another book tour on that for Relativity, so it's a couple of days early.

I actually have a cousin who is autistic. I don’t see him often, he is quite shy and often doesn’t come to family gatherings but I distinctly remember, even as a child, he rarely made eye contact, was never happy if he couldn’t do things as he wanted, and always liked to follow a certain routine when it came to visiting places he knew. He was a handful but I know everyone really loved him and his unique way of doing things. I say this because Keith Stuart obviously knows how that is and understands how frustrating autistic children can be but how utterly wonderful they are as well and it comes across on every page of this book. This book just made me so happy to read.

It begins with the main character, Alex, struggling in life. He is going through a trial separation from his wife, Jody, and has moved from the family home to live with his friend Dan. He hates his job, feels utterly terrified by his autistic son, Sam, and doesn’t know how to get to a point where Jody will allow him back home.

He doesn’t know what he’s doing wrong but he knows he must be because he dreads going home and dealing with Sam’s tantrums and he dreads going to work and he is losing his temper and isn’t happy. The only problem is he doesn’t know what’s causing him to feel the way he does and Jody wants him to figure out what’s causing his unhappiness and fix it because otherwise, she cannot live with him.

I enjoyed reading this book because Alex and his mindset felt so genuine. I know how frustrating it can be with autism feeling like nothing is getting through and everything being a struggle and that comes across. This book works because Alex is such a sympathetic character, he isn’t flawless, in fact, he is very flawed. Instead, he is real. He felt like I could bump into him on the street and he wouldn’t seem out of place. Every character felt real and think that was because it was inspired by Stuart’s own experiences. The mistakes which Alex makes are ones any person could make because he hadn’t thought things through and acted rashly.

I have to say, I didn’t fully appreciate the character of Alex until he made the decision to try and connect with his son properly instead of continually feeling like Sam was a challenge to be attacked he instead chose to actually speak with him and listen to what he had to say. When Alex and Sam finally connected playing Minecraft together and got to know one another, that is when I fully appreciated what a great book this was. From that point onwards I was utterly in love with the characters and their foolish decisions and poor life choices that made them human.

In the end, this is inspired by a real person’s life, sure, it’s not a biography, but instead inspired by Keith Stuart’s own experience with his son and playing Minecraft. But that small element of truth shines through this book. Minecraft doesn’t magically cure Sam of his autism, or of the tantrum’s and fears he experiences. It does allow him a way to communicate with others and allow him to build a true connection with others he had previously been unable to experience and that’s what made this book wonderful. I stayed up way too late to reach the conclusion of the book and I was in tears by the end because I am a sentimental fool. I hope everyone reads this book and has a chance to read something a little different because it is completely worth it.
keith stuart
In 2012 one of KEITH STUART's two sons was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. The ramifications felt huge. But then Keith and both boys started playing videogames together - especially Minecraft. Keith had always played games and, since 1995, has been writing about them, first for specialist magazines like Edge and PC Gamer then, for the last ten years, as games editor for the Guardian. The powerful creative sharing as a family and the blossoming of communication that followed informed his debut novel.
Has anyone else read this? What did you think? And isn’t it the best when you read something a little different every so often?