children's fiction · young adult

Favourite Books Of The Year | 2016

It’s the end of another year which means it’s once again time for me to discuss my favourite reads of the past twelve months. 2016 has been a very interesting reading experience for me as I decided to start being a tad more honest with my ratings and if I wasn’t enjoying a book, then I simply tossed it aside rather than forcing myself to finish in an attempt to get one step closer to achieving my Goodreads target. So, without further ado, here are the stand out books for the year of 2016.

Gabriel And The Swallows by Esther Dalseno 

 

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Gabriel and The Swallows follows a boy who stumbles across an injured bird and takes it home in the hopes that he can save its life, only to discover that the creature is in fact not a bird… but a girl with swallows wings. This book is a slow read, taking place over many years but it’s such a beautiful story. It’s very much in the realm of magical realism and explores the friendship between the protagonist and this remarkable creature that fell into his life. It’s been a very, very long time since a book affected me so much at the end that I just sat there sobbing. I honestly cannot put into words just how outstanding the contents of this book are.

My full review can be found here and I also went to the launch event for this book which can be found here.
Inherited by Freedom Matthews 

 

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Inherited by Freedom Matthews tells the story of a group of people on a pirate ship, cursed with the inability to love:  If they were to confess love for another, that person would die. Together, the crew search for the remaining heirs to the curse and aim to track down the sorceress that put the curse on their parents and get her to change her mind.

Frankly, we don’t have enough pirate books and it was so refreshing to read this book. What I love the most about this story is that because the majority takes place on a ship, where the characters have no real place to escape to, it’s easy to get boring, but Freedom manages to keep it interesting, introducing new ideas and backstories through dialogue.

My full review of this book can be found here.
Rebel Of The Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

 

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Set in the desert nation of Miragi, mortals rule and mystical beast roam free. Amani wants nothing more than to leave her dead-end town and when a shooting competition arises offering prize money larger enough to fund her escape, she disguises as a boy to take part. There’s a Sultan’s army, magic, a fantastic protagonist, vivid imagery and a growing rebellion.

I became very disheartened with Young Adult Fiction this year; an awful lot of the books I was excited for let me down. I was close to turning my back completely on the age range but Rebel of the Sands was utterly fantastic and proved to me that there’s still hope for good books in Young Adult.

My full review can be found here.

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

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Am I Normal Yet? Follows Evie who was recently hospitalised for her eating disorder. Starting at a new college where nobody knows her “secret” she wants nothing more than to be normal. She meets Amber and Lottie and together they create The Spinster Club dedicated to reclaiming their womanhood. This was a very difficult read for me as it deals heavily with anxiety disorder but the really good thing about this book is it doesn’t sugarcoat. It shows just hard it is to live with mental illness and I hope will generate a platform where readers learn about what it’s like to be in that mindset and how to help someone they may know who deals with these experiences on a daily basis.

My full review can be found here.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher 

 

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As the first full length novel from Children’s writer Tom Fletcher, The Christmasaurus tells the story of wheelchair user William who wants nothing more than a pet dinosaur for Christmas and it just so happens that a dinosaur egg has been found at the North Pole. It’s a wonderful adventure that takes place one Christmas Eve. This book is hilarious, festive, and heart-warming, accompanied by wonderful illustrations.

It’s also great that Tom included a wheelchair user as his protagonist because representation is so important, especially when your audience is children.

My full review can be found here

So there we have it!
What were some of your favourite reads?

I will be back in the new year with many more reviews.

– Charlotte

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adult fiction · contemporary · review

The Glorious Heresies – Lisa McInerney

“The frame around which one builds one’s life in a brittle thing, and in a city of souls connected one snapped beam can threaten the spikes and shadows of the skyline.”

 

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Blurb: “Maureen didn’t mean to kill a man, but what can a poor dear do when she’s surprised by an intruder and has only a holy stone to hand? Lucky that she’s just reconnected with her estranged son Jimmy because, as the most feared gangster in Cork, he certainly had the tools to sort out the mess. So Jimmy enlists his boyhood buddy Tony who, with six kids and a love of the bottle, could certainly do with the money, even if his teenage son, Ryan, is far too keen to grow up so he can become a gangster himself. And all is going to plan until Georgie, the girlfriend of the hapless intruder, starts to wonder where he went…”

For the past few years I have followed the Bailey’s Women’s Prize from the longlist, to the shortlist and then to the winner. However, I have never actually taken the step to read them. This year there was a wonderful sounding collection of books up for the title and The Glorious Heresies was crowned the winner.

If you frequent my blog or have seen my shelves on Goodreads, then you know that this book isn’t the kind of thing I normally read. But I tried to go into it with an open mind after my disastrous attempt at reading a wider range of fiction this year.

The story follows a group of characters all linked in some way to a man who is accidently killed when he intrudes on someone’s home. The person who dealt the unexpected blow is a woman called Maureen who enlists the help of her gangster son, Jimmy, to deal with the body. Jimmy turns to one of his inner circle, Tony, to help him. Tony’s son, Ryan, wants to grow up and become a gangster like his father and frequently deals drugs to a selection of contacts he had. The woman next door, Tara, isn’t privy to keeping her mouth shut, much to Jimmy’s annoyance. To make matters worse, Georgie, the girlfriend of the man Maureen killed, has started to look for answers.

I expected the murder to happen right at the start which it doesn’t; it’s a few pages in. Initially this threw me off but as I delved further into the story, it became clear that while the body is the factor that links them together, the plot itself is more so about the characters. Lisa McInerney had created a group of characters that are meant to be inherently unlikeable yet through her writing choices, it becomes easy to find them fascinating and at some parts, actually start to feel sorry for them. For me, the character of Tony was one I couldn’t stand yet as his arc progressed I found myself caring more about him than any other characters I crossed paths with on this journey.

The Glorious Heresies is so beautifully constructed that even the stagnant parts of their book still hold your interest. Definitely worthy of being a prize winner.

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fantasy · review · young adult

Empire Of Storms – Sarah J. Maas

“Hand in hand, they stared towards the darkness coating the mountains, the dread-lord’s bone drums pounding like hammers on iron. Too soon, those drums would be drowned out by the screams of dying soldiers. Too soon, the valley fields would be carved with streams of blood.”

 

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Blurb: “The long path to the throne has only just begun for Aelin Galathynius. Loyalities have been broken and bought, friends have been lost and gained, and those who possess magic find themselves at odds with those who don’t. At the kingdom of Erilea fracture around her, enemies must become allies if Aelin is to keep those she loves from falling to the dark forces poised to claim her world. With war looming on all horizons, the only chance for salvation lies in a desperate quest that may mark the end of everything Aelin holds dear.”

This is the fifth book in the best-selling Throne Of Glass series and everything is certainly out to play for. Aelin Galathynius is finally back in her long-lost kingdom Terrasen though is having to stay hidden until she has built up enough allies to help her re-claim the throne. The witches are preparing for war and Dorian is reeling from the events of the previous book.

I found the reading experience of Empire of Storms very mixed. The main problem I had was that current storylines at the forefront were brought in during Heir of Fire so when I considered re-reading the previous two books in order to refresh my memory, I was left with the conundrum of “am I willing to re-read two 600+ page books before Empire of Storms?” I didn’t and so I found this novel a struggle because of how deep the roots of certain character arcs are now extending. I frequently had to access character wikis to remind myself of who certain people were and access full recaps of previous books to understand where the characters were. This is no fault really of Sarah J Maas but me and my laziness. However, what I did enjoy  is that seemingly separate characters are now starting to cross paths and form the bigger picture as this series is now nearing the end.

The character who formed the centre of my affections was Manon Blackbeak ( a character who previously I detested having to read).No matter what your thoughts are on her, it is impossible to deny how fantastically well she’s written. Throughout this book in particular I loved seeing how she grew when she finally decided to stand up for herself and I was rooting for her through every single appearance she made. Another was the seemingly irrelevant Elide Loche who becomes one of the vital characters in this part of the story. I wasn’t sure what to make of her but she is yet again another testament to brilliantly written characters and her story may be tragic enough to match Aelin’s. Elide was another character I rooted for every step of the way.

This book felt very slow, especially in the middle and I feel that a lot of the action that happened was moreso intended to keep the reader interested as it’s a long quest that takes the centre of the story.

Although, in true Sarah J.Maas manner, she left it on such a note that I can do nothing but impatiently wait until the next book.

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fantasy · review

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Power, Politics And Pesky Poltergeists – J.K.Rowling

“Slughorn’s genuine remorse for the damage he had done in telling Riddle what he wanted to know is conclusive proof that he is not, and never was, Death Eater material.”

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Blurb: “These stories of power, politics and pesky poltergeists give you a glimpse into the darker side of the wizarding world, revealing the ruthless roots of Professor Umbridge, the lowdown on the Ministers for Magic and the history of the wizarding prison Azkaban. You will also delve deeper into Horace Slughorn’s early years as Potions master at Hogwarts – and his acquaintance with one Tom Marvolo Riddle.”

This is the third and final ebook I read in the new Harry Potter collection and it was a very satisfying way to end.

Power, Politics and Pesky Poltergeists focuses on a host of topics such as the backstory of arguably the most hated character from the Harry Potter series: Dolores Umbridge, a chapter dedicated to our favourite poltergeist Peeves, and an analysis of the fatal mistake Horace Slughorn made with Tom Riddle and how he coped with the aftermath, along with his role in the battle of Hogwarts.

What I found the most interesting in this collection were the chapters addressing the history of the Ministry of Magic and how it came to be along with the history behind the famous Azkaban prison.

It was another insightful read and just adds to how vast and how much of this world J.K.Rowling thought about when she was working on the Harry Potter books.

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fantasy · review

Hogwarts: An Unreliable Guide – J.k.Rowling

“The sorting hat spent nearly four minutes trying to decide whether it should place Hermione in Ravenclaw or Gryffindor. In Neville’s case, the Hat was determined to place him in Gryffindor: Neville, intimidated by that house’s reputation for bravery, requested a placing in Hufflepuff.”

 

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Blurb: “Hogwarts: And Incomplete and Unreliable Guide takes you on a journey to Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry. You’ll venture into the Hogwarts grounds, become better acquainted with the more permanent residents, learn more about lessons and discover secrets of the castle.”

This is the second of the new Harry Potter ebooks that I decided to pick up because they’re quick and easy reads.

Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide is a wonderful collection that pays attention to the relevance of Kings Cross Station to the both J.K.Rowling and the world of Harry Potter, an insight into the life of the maurauder’s and how the famous map came to be. The reader can expect to learn about the Hogwarts ghosts and their original names along with those that never made it into the books.

Secrets about the Mirror of Erised are revealed and there’s a quite funny chapter dedicated to the painting of Sir Cadogan which book fan may remember from Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban. Plus my personal favourite, a chapter about the Hufflepuff common room (I wear my badger with pride!)

As I’ve said before, these are pottermore essays so if you frequent the site a lot (especially in its original format) then it’s likely you’ve already seen these but this was certainly my favourite as it focused a lot more of aspects of the school itself such as what classes students study in year one and what options they get to choose later on.

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fantasy · review

Short Stories from Hogwarts of Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies – J.K.Rowling

“Minerva McGonagall was one of only a handful of people who knew, or suspected, how dreadful a moment it was for Albus Dumbledore when, in 1945, he made the decision to confront and defeat the dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald.”

 

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Blurb: “These stories of heroism, hardship and dangerous hobbies profile two of the Harry Potter stories’ most courageous and iconic characters: Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. J.K.Rowling also gives us a peak behind the closed curtain of Sybill Trelwaney’s life, and you’ll encounter the reckless, magical-beast-loving Silvanus Kettleburn along the way.”

When I first heard about even more Harry Potter material being launched into the world, I was both excited and sceptical. I will be reviewing each book over the course of this week so if you’re interested, keep an eye out.

This collection is basically the short stories that can be found on Pottermore, which as a free site makes the release of these ebooks feel very much like another chance to cash in on the new hype around the series. However, if you’re someone who’s a sucker for backstories then you’ll really enjoy Heroism, Hardship and Dangerous Hobbies.

It’s split into four sections, focusing on different heroic characters from the Harry Potter series. Those are: Minerva McGonagall, Remus Lupin, Sybill Trelawny and Silvanus Kettleburn. The reader is given an insight into the lives of each of these characters along with learning more about the history of aspects they are linked to such as the “prejudice of werewolves” for Lupin and “history of the animagus” for McGonagall.

It’s a fun, quick little read and sure to give heart-warming feelings to any Harry Potter fans.

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contemporary · review · young adult

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

“Home means something different for everyone. Many of us are fortunate enough to count our home as a place of stability, love and safety; others are not so lucky.”

 

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Blurb: “The UK’s top Young Adult authors join together in this collection of new stories and poems on the theme of home.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I have always been a sucker for anthologies. I just love the idea of a group of authors being given a particular theme and seeing what wonderful variety of stories are created from the minds of talented people.

This collection focuses on – you’ve guessed it – the idea of home during the festive period. Stripes Publishing have worked with the Crisis Charity for this book as not everyone has the option of being in a loving home this time of year and so some of the proceeds from book sales go to the charity.

The contributors are as follows:

Benjamin Zephaniah
Non Pratt
Marcus Sedgwick
Cat Clarke
Kevin Brooks
Holly Bourne
Julie Mayhew
Juno Dawson
Sita Brahmachari
Tracey Darnton
Tom Becker
Katy Cannon
Melvin Burgess
Lisa Williamson

What I loved about this anthology is that it introduced me to new authors and  every story was different. They all had a different message to put across, different ways a person could spend Christmas (for example,  one of the stories is set in space!) and it just helped show how vast the world is and how no two-people really share the same ideas and it also made me realise how grateful I am for  the things and people I have in my life.

If you’re looking for a festive, Christmas read that does some good in the process, I urge you to pick up a copy of this book.
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