2017: A Year in Books

It’s that time of the year again when it’s traditional to look back and summarise the past 12 months. 2017 has been a strange year. There have been some truly low points and a couple of milestones, but mostly it has been a bit meh. One thing that has been good about 2017, however, is the wealth of great books I have read.

After a bit of a reading slump in 2016, I am happy to report that this year I read a lot more and, for the most part, I have enjoyed almost every single book I picked up. Reading has gotten me through the past 12 months, so below I have listed my favourite reads of the past 12 months.

Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

2017 has been a brilliant year for contemporary YA and I have certainly read a lot within this genre this year. One of the first books I read this year was Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and I simply fell in love with it. The characters are extremely likeable and the love story between Olly and Maddy is both cute and touching. A must-read for anyone looking for a sweet romance to devour.

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

Another read from early in the year which has stayed in my imagination is Caraval. With an air of The Night Circus about it, this book is mysterious and enchanting. Nothing is quite as it seems in this book and you find yourself questioning everything and everyone. Scarlett is a very likeable and strong heroine who manages to blend vulnerability and courage. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a bit of suspense along with their romance.

Strange The Dreamer – Laini Taylor

I love Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, but Strange The Dreamer just elevates her writing to a whole other level. The words on the page are so prosaic and they weave a simply beautiful story filled with magic, love, tragedy and hope. You cannot help but fall in love with Lazlo, a hero who represents all the dreamers of the world. If you only read one book next year, make it this one. I guarantee you will fall under its spell.

Lord of Shadows – Cassandra Clare

When it comes to YA fantasy masterpieces, Cassandra Clare is on point. Lord of Shadows is the follow-up to Lady Midnight and it is every bit as thrilling as I hoped it would be. Emma and Julian continue to wrestle with their feelings for one another while their world slowly unravels around them. The majority of this book is set in London which just made it all the more delightful to me because I knew the places mentioned. Lord of Shadows is a highly political book, mirroring the turbulent times we currently live in. There is also plenty of magic, adventure and romance to keep you hooked right up to the heart-wrenching ending.

When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon

I loved this book. Cute, romantic and funny, it was the perfect summer read. As a fan of Indian culture, I loved all the Hindi and cultural references scattered throughout this book. Dimple and Rishi are adorable and their love story made my heart melt. The supporting characters are also great, especially Dimple’s mom who is a typical Indian mother wanting to get her daughter married to a respectable boy from a good family. Dimple’s interactions with her were some of the funniest parts of the book.

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel

In the past I wouldn’t have bothered with a book like Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index. The main themes are loss and grief, but having experienced these things myself this year I found this book a big comfort. Juniper is struggling to come to terms with losing her sister in a car accident. When she finds a letter from her sister addressed to YOU, she sets out on a mission to discover who this person is. Along the way she makes mistakes, finds new friends and falls in love. This book really helped me think about the way I’ve been processing my grief and I could quite often relate to how Juniper was feeling. I really loved the idea of the happiness index cards. The best thing about this novel, however, is the friendship group that Juniper builds up around her. I really loved seeing these teenage girls bonding and standing up for one another; it was so refreshing and it’s true that friends are so important when going through a tough time in your life. No matter whether you have gone through something similar to Juniper or not, I am sure everyone will enjoy this book.

Seven Days of You – Cecilia Vinesse

Another great summer read, I literally could not put this book down. It is so cute and romantic and made me want to go to Tokyo. Vinesse paints such a vivid picture of the city that I felt like I was there with the characters. Sophia is a very likeable heroine and I adored her romance with Jamie. It really is proper cheesy cuteness but it was so much fun and just what you need for a bit of escapism.

Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo

This compilation of fairy-tales set within the Grishaverse is just beautiful. From the gorgeous illustrations to the new take on some classic fairy-tales, this was the perfect Halloween read. I loved how each tale was full of grey shades, and it wasn’t always clear at first who the real villain of the story was.

Night of Cake and Puppets – Laini Taylor

Laini makes the list twice, but she is seriously just an amazing writer. Night of Cake and Puppets is a novella about Zuzana and Mik from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Anyone who has read that series will remember how adorable they are, and this novella is just so romantic and beautiful and made we want to go to Prague when it’s snowing. Zuzana’s plan to romance Mik was pure genius and I loved how he turned the tables on her. There is also a cameo from Karou. A must-read for fans of the trilogy.

Those are my favourite books read in 2017, but what are yours? Do you have any recommendations (because I really need to add to my TBR pile…)? What books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

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Book Review: Lord of Shadows

Cassandra Clare is one of my favourite authors. Her books are always compelling with vivid characters and settings. I was therefore extremely excited for the publication of her second book in The Dark Artifices series, Lord of Shadows, which was back in May.

One of the great things about Cassandra Clare’s writing is the universe she has created. I love how each series is connected although they are all set in different time periods. Lord of Shadows opens with Jace and Clary, of The Mortal Instruments fame, visiting the Los Angeles institute. It is little cameos like this that make these books so special and it was great to see what Jace and Clary are up to now. They are not the only characters from other series to make a cameo – Alec and Magnus also appear.

The core characters of Lord of Shadows are, of course, the Blackthorns – Julien and his brothers and sisters. An adopted member of the family, Emma Carstairs, is our heroine and along with Julien they are trying to figure out how to keep the family together and how to navigate their complicated feelings for one another. Julien and Emma are parabatai, and falling in love is forbidden. As we saw in Lady Midnight, the two have developed feelings for each other and much of the book is devoted to their struggle with these emotions. Continue reading “Book Review: Lord of Shadows”

Book Review: Strange The Dreamer

Every now and then a book comes along that is written so beautifully it is really a piece of art as well as literature. Okay, so there are probably many out there who would argue that all literature is art, but there are some books which have been crafted to such a degree that you want to savour each word. That was certainly how I felt while reading Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

Having read Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy I knew to expect something epic with vivid characters and a clever and unique plot. With Strange The Dreamer, she has gone one step above the previous trilogy. This book is beautiful in every sense of the word, from the gorgeous blue and gold cover, to the lovely, flowing prose on the page. It is imaginative and wonderful – like being in a dream; fitting really consider that dreams lie at the heart of the novel.

Our protagonist is Lazlo Strange, an orphan who has always been fascinated by the lost city of Weep. When Lazlo was young he felt the city’s true name disappear from his mind and ever since he has been obsessed with the mystery of the city. Chance brings him to the great library in the city of Zosma and there he finds every book he can about Weep. He dreams of travelling to the city and then one day a band of travellers ride into town. They are from Weep and they are seeking people to help them with their ‘problem’. Finally Lazlo has a chance to fulfil his dream. Continue reading “Book Review: Strange The Dreamer”

An Evening with Laini Taylor

In the past year I have been lucky enough to meet quite a few of my favourite authors – Cassandra Clare, Leigh Bardugo and Rainbow Rowell. On Thursday night I added to this list when I attended a talk and signing by Laini Taylor, author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, at Waterstones West End, Edinburgh.

It was by chance that I found out Laini was touring the UK promoting her new book, Strange The Dreamer. I happened to see a tweet from publishers Hodder & Stoughton about it and I was thrilled to learn Edinburgh would be one of the stops on the tour. Since reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have been a big fan of Laini. Her writing is so lyrical and her stories are just epic.

There was quite a diverse crowd at the event. I am used to feeling a little silly for being surrounded by teenagers at these YA book signings, but surprisingly there were a few older people there and some girls who seemed to be about my own age. It is great to see that people of all ages are interested in a YA author and it shows that the genre has a much bigger reach than its intended market.

Moreover, I do genuinely feel that Laini Taylor’s writing is not your typical YA writing. To me, her books read like any adult novel. Now, I get annoyed when people claim that YA is less challenging than adult fiction because that is a terrible generalisation to make. There are so many challenging YA novels out there that are written very well. Laini Taylor’s books, however, have a particular maturity to them. Her language is prosaic and could rival any work of literary fiction.

It was great to hear her talk about how she writes such amazing prose. She confessed that she is a perfectionist and that this held her back from completing a novel for many years. The thing that struck me the most about her was how down-to-earth she was. She was very candid about her writing process and how self-critical she can be when it comes to her own work. I could relate to a lot of her issues regarding perfectionism with writing and I found myself nodding along when she described the frustration it causes.

After the talk we all had the opportunity to have our books signed. I always get slightly anxious when meeting authors. I usually end up blabbering a load of nonsense but Laini was so nice and friendly. It was brilliant to get to meet her and have my copy of Strange The Dreamer signed.

I am a quarter of the way through it now and so far I am enjoying it immensely. I can’t wait to see where it will take me, but I am certain it will be another epic adventure.

Book Review: Caraval

When I first heard of Caraval by Stephanie Garber I knew I had to read it. Scarlett and Tella have longed to go to Caraval, a yearly magical travelling performance, all their lives. This year, after writing countless letters, they have finally secured invites. When they get to Caraval, however, Tella goes missing and suddenly Scarlett finds herself having to search for her sister in a game that seems far more real and terrifying than any performance.

The cover is so pretty – all black and gold with an arresting white title. I must admit I did imagine that Caraval would be in the same vein as The Night Circus. The colours of the cover gave me that vibe and Caraval itself sounded to me like a circus.

Oh my word, I was so wrong. Caraval is nothing like The Night Circus. Not in a bad way. In fact, I am really pleased that it turned out to be completely different. Caraval is an unique book, one that I am not quite sure how to describe. It is dark but also funny at times and there is romance thrown into the mix too. Trying to pin genres to this book is difficult. Yes, it is YA and probably fantasy, but at the beginning I felt as if there was a slight dystopian feel which later becomes more steampunk. In a nutshell it is a thrilling ride which will keep you guessing right up to the last page.

Caraval is Garber’s first novel but I would never have known this if it didn’t say so in the author biography. Garber’s writing is assured and manages to sweep you up into the strange, sometimes amazing, sometimes sinister world of Caraval. Her words paint a vivid picture of the performance – I could visualise every single building and all the colours that Scarlett sees. At times the writing was so good I did feel as if I was there with Scarlett, sharing her fear and longing to find her sister. Continue reading “Book Review: Caraval”

To Read 2017

We may not be quite one month into 2017 but already I have my eye on lots of up-coming book releases. February and May are shaping up to be particularly good months for those with a fondness for literature. While I am ashamed to say that I am still reading the book I started at the beginning of January, I am determined to try to read more this year. With that in mind I have come up with a list of the books, old and new, I am most excited for the coming months.

caravalCaraval, Stephanie Garber

I first came across this one through Twitter. Released on 31st January, the blurb conjured up echoes of The Night Circus for me. Caraval is about two sisters longing to escape their tiny island and abusive father. Caraval is a yearly event, a week of magic where the audience is part of the performance. The sisters receive the much awaited invitation but once there one of them is kidnapped and it is down to the other to try to find her. I love stories about magic and the blurb promises adventure and romance, so I am rather intrigued to get my hands on a copy of this book.

The Best of Adam Sharp, Graeme Simsion

One of my favourite books of recent years is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It was just so utterly heartwarming and joyful. When I learned that Simsion had a new book due out in February I knew I had to add it to my wish list. The Best of Adam Sharp is about a 50-year-old man who leads a stable but mundane life. His world is rocked when an old flame walks back into his life. Angeline was the one that got away and now she’s come back into his orbit he finds himself wondering what if…?

wintersongWintersong, S. Jae-Jones

Another up-coming novel that came to my attention through Twitter, Wintersong sounds like a classic YA fantasy tale. Liesl has always been fascinated by the Goblin King and the stories she has heard about him have inspired her music. When Liesl is eighteen, her sister is taken by the goblins and Liesl must journey to rescue her. The blurb promises adventure and a fantastical goblin kingdom and the cover alone is pretty enough to entice me to buy a copy. Wintersong is released on 7th February.

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor is one of those writers whose imagination astounds me. Her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy was so unique and amazing that it has to be read to be fully appreciated. If this new series is anything like her trilogy then it will be outstanding. The concept sounds very different to other YA fantasy books out there. Lazlo Strange has been haunted by the same dream all his life and the only way to lose that dream is to travel to the city of Weep where, two hundred years ago, a massacre took place. Strange the Dreamer brings a new twist to the mythology of gods and sounds truly epic in scale. I can’t wait to delve into it when it is released in March.

lordofshadowsLord of Shadows, Cassandra Clare

The sequel to Lady Midnight, Lord of Shadows is the newest installment from the world of the Shadowhunters. Emma is in love with her parabatai, Julien, but relationships between parabatai are forbidden. To try to protect Julien she has begun dating his brother Mark. Mark, however, has his own secrets and is emotionally scarred from his time in Faerie. With the faerie courts rebelling against the Shadowhunters the stage is set for conflict and heartbreak. Cassie has a knack of reeling her readers in and shredding their emotions to pieces. I have full faith that Lord of Shadows will be just as much of a rollercoaster as all her previous books.

As well as these new releases there are some books that have already been published that I am eager to add to my collection. A friend recommended The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon and I am also keen to read Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray. I’ve also nearly finished reading Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas and I have enjoyed it so much I have to read the others in the series.

So many books, so little time. What is on your reading list this year? I am always looking for recommendations so please feel free to share any titles you are excited for in the comments. Happy reading everyone!

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

acotarI’m a bit late to the whole Sarah J. Maas phenomenon. If you happen to be a fan of YA and have a Twitter account you will no doubt be aware of her immensely popular Throne of Glass series. I had seen these books online and in my local bookstore but I had never gotten around to reading them. It wasn’t until earlier this year when Maas released A Court of Mist and Fury that I became aware of her other book series. There seemed to be a lot of hype for these books too and so, after some research, I purchased the first in the series, A Court of Thorns and Roses.

The book cover is so pretty – red with trailing thorns, like a twisted take on a fairy tale. Fitting, considering A Court of Thorns and Roses is all about faeries. Our heroine, Feyre, is human and forced to hunt to keep her family alive after they fell on hard times. While out in the forest one day she kills a massive wolf who turns out to be a faerie in beast form. Little does Feyre realise that in killing the wolf her life is about to be turned upside down.

What follows from this opening act of brutality is a fairy tale the Brothers Grimm would have been proud of. Feyre is taken to the faerie kingdom, Prythian, against her will by the masked-High Fae, Tamlin. At first she is desperate to find a way back to her family and refuses to accept Tamlin’s hospitality. As time passes, however, Feyre finds herself growing closer to Tamlin. But there are forces in Prythian that are more dangerous than Feyre could ever have imagined and soon she finds herself caught up in an age-old battle that might cost her everything she holds dear. Continue reading “Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses”