2014 : My Year in Review

10:25




First of All I would like to say a big Happy New Year and thank you to anyone who has read this blog over the past year. I do it for myself but it's still nice to know that other people want to read what you write.

It's been an up and down year for me. Blog wise the biggest leap I made was getting a new design professionally made. It was the best decision I ever made as I am finally happy with how my blog looks!

As for the down part: My health took a turn for the worst this year so I have been finding it hard to keep up with all the regular things life throws at you never mind reading and blogging. The future is looking pretty unpredictable so I'm not sure If I'm going to be able to commit to regular posting all the time.

Now for the good stuff. My Year in review.


Favorite books of 2014








click HERE to read my review of Gretel and the Dark

Click HERE to read my review of Tony Hogan

I couldnt pick between these two so I had to go for both because they are so different. Both were amazing debut's though. I don't read a whole lot of YA but Gretel and the dark was incredible.

Tony Hogan was gritty and quirky. I'd recommend it to anyone who likes Roddy Doyle.

You can click on the links beneath  to be taken to a more in depth review of each.


The Goodreads Challenge

At the time of writing it's not looking like I'm going to hit my goodreads challenge target. Every year I set it at 100 books and every year I have managed to break it, until now. Due to health and other things I had to reduce it to 90 books and at the minute I'm over halfway through book number 87. I might just cheat and change it back to 85 ha ;)

It's not bugging me this year as I'm trying to focus on spending time carefully choosing books that I know I will enjoy rather than randomly requesting loads of books on Netgalley and not really enjoying most of them. 


Netgalley Ratio

At the minute my Netgalley Feeback Ratio is over 90%. Woo! I'm going to do my best to keep it that way by being incredibly strict with myself!

So how was your year? What were your favorite reads? If you've done a year in review post please feel free to link me to it so I can check it out!


Wishing you all a happy 2015!

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Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter

11:47

                    

Published: Novemeber 2014
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Format: Ebook



Finally, A YA book I didn't hate!!


I was so so sick of every YA book being full of Whiny teens who hate their parents and are caught up in ridiculous love triangles .


Ugly Girls doesn't pander to the reader and (rightly) assumes that they can handle more than some wuss crying over the new buff boy at school!


Danya ( knicknamed baby girl) and Perry have been friends for years. They dont really know whey their friends. They're not particular nice to each other. They dont talk about boys or other normal teens stuff. When they're together they just “are”. They seem to use each other to vent when ever it's needed. This venting comes in the form of hijacking cars from upmarket neighbor hoods or petty convenient store theft.

Baby girl seems to revel in her own insecurity. She ruins her appearance to match how she feels on the inside. Perry on the other hand is beautiful on the outside but rotten to the core. The perfect odd couple. That is until Baby Girl realises that Jamey is only speaking to her in an attempt to get close to Perry.

She someone manages to convince perry that they should meet up with him just to tell him to back off. This doesn't go to plan though and ends up being a sharp turning point for both girls.

I loved how descriptive the writing was. Hunter does a marvelous job of transporting the reader right into that dusty smelly trailer park.

I cant say I was mad about the ending. I'm not a reader who needs everything wrapped up in a neat bow but they're were a lot of loose threads left after turning the last page. I also had to knock of one star as it was pretty predictable.

However Ugly girls was dark, gritty and highly readable. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something more than the usual paranormal infested tripe that is YA.

Rating:

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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The Homesman by Glen Swarthout

18:22


Re published February 14th by Simon & Schuster 
Format: Paperback
Page count: 256


This was my first Glen Swarthout book so I had no idea what to expect from this. Like others (probably) I've seen the trailer for the film and liked what I saw. I then proceeded to rush out and buy the book so I could be all pretentious with the whole “ I liked it before it was a movie line”

This was a hard book to review. My god it was bleak. Really bleak but it doesn't try to be anything other than bleak. Considering the subject matter how could it be anything else?

In return for saving his life Briggs agrees to help Mary Bee Cuddy ferry 4 women who have lost their minds across the western plains back home to their families. Not exactly a laugh a minute.

But for all its bleakness there is beauty in it. Mary Bee is an amazing character. She lives alone as all the men have wrote her off for being plain as tin. They refuse to look beyond to see what a remarkable woman she really is. She lives alone and manages to stay sane and strong. Something women with a husband for support have not managed to do. They seem to think that having a husband and a lock of kids will solve everything. When it clearly doesn't !

When it comes time to bring these poor women home she commits the ultimate act of selflessness by agreeing to take on this seemingly impossible task.

I was so utterly disgusted by how easy it was for the husbands to just wave the wives off. Glad to be free of the burden. I know it was common at the time especially with the lack of asylums but it didnt make it any easier to read, or accept.

I found the pacing very very slow. The story trundles along very much like the wagon itself. The landscape seems to affect every aspect of this story. The journey is fairly uneventful until the unexpected twist near the end. I have to say I didn't see it coming at all but when it did happen I could see why it happened. It didn't make it any less heartbreaking though.

I'm still torn on the ending. It was almost like Swarthhout just ran out of material. It was strange.

If your looking for a slow burning western that's a little bit different then I'd definitely recommend The Homesman

Rating:

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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DNF : Victorian Murderesses by Mary S Hartman

18:45

                     

Published: June 2014
Publisher: Dover
Format: Kindle eBook


A copy was provided by the publisher in return for an honest review


In my head I had this idea that Victorian women murdering people and getting up to all sorts of unspeakable things would be more...shocking? I suppose in the 1800's it probably WAS incredibly shocking...but now, not so much.

Victorian Murderesses uses court transcripts and letters to re create the murders. It's well written but for some reason that just wasn't enough to hold my interest. The stories were brief but the author constantly skipped back and forth between unrelated crimes which really interrupted the flow. 

I would regard this book as a sort of stepping stone to individual cases of interest as it's not detailed enough for those who have already read extensively in any of the individual cases.

It's too dry for a pleasure read so I can imagine this book appealing to a limited type of reader. That reader just wasn't me .

Rating:

DNF

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Discussion: Do you review every book you read? Should we?

18:51




At this point in time there are 10 books on my goodreads "to review" shelf. I keep books I have just read on this shelf until I can get a chance to write a review.

Lately the amount of reviews I have been posting have decreased dramatically. This isn't because I have been reading a lot less. It's because I don't really feel like I have much to say about some of those books.

Some of them have been published a few years ago and I feel like I don't have anything to say that hasn't already been said. Others are there because I cannot bring myself to review them. 

The past few books I've read have been mediocre at best and the only word that comes to mind when wanting to review them is "meh". Best review ever.

This lead to me asking  if I really have to review every book I read if I don't have anything unique to say about it. 

I have always been a believer in quality over quantity but There is a fine line between posting quality infrequently and loosing readers because of infrequent posting.

If I receive a review copy from Netgalley or a publisher I obviously feel obligated to write a review because it's part of the deal.  They're expecting a review in return for providing the book regardless of how I feel. This has led to me being extremely choosy when requesting books .

I should also point out that I don't mean that I only want to review books that I enjoy. I want to write about books that make me feel something...anything.  Even if I hated it!

So what about you? Do you feel obligated to review every book you read? Even if you have paid for it yourself?


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The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

10:04

                         

Published: July 2014
Publisher: Picador
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 435


Another disappointing read. I seem to be getting a run of them lately. I thought this would be one of my favorites of the year. Reading other reviews is making me wonder if I was reading the same book.


The blurb lead me to believe I was getting a mystery I could really get into. I was hoping for something along the lines of Tracy chevalier or Michelle Moran. It didn't even come close unfortunately.


Nothing really happens in the book. It's badly paced and I almost gave up around the halfway mark. The endless droning on about sugar drove me mad. 80% of the book is one long pointless conversation


The story centres around Nella Orrtman. An uninteresting young woman who has married into the Brandt household. Her new husband is rather aloof and more interested in his work than her. In an attempt to show some interest in her, he presents her with a cabinet. An exact replica of the Brandt household for Nella to decorate as she pleases.


Nella contracts a miniaturist to begin crafting replica's to place in the cabinet. However she soon realises that these pieces have more significance. Each piece seems to tell a tale of what is to become. I wanted more of this. More mystery and suspense but the books namesake never really takes her place in the story.


It's hard to really put a finger on what I didn't like about this book. It just didn't grab me. It was mundane. The characters are one dimensional and completely lack in emotional complexity. Nella and Johannes show no real interest in each other so I felt no emotion towards the end when the tides turn against him.


Nothing is ever really explained. Nothing was convincing, so nothing was believable  

Rating:

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

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Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

17:15

                   

Published: October 2014
Publisher: Ballantine 
Format: Kindle



I've said it before and Ill say it again. Jodi Picoult doesn't write novels anymore. She just documents what ever it is that she's obsessed with at that point in time. This time...it's elephants.

I had legit pink elephant dreams after reading this. Like the Elephant Parade song from Dumbo.





For the most part, Leaving Time reads like a non-fiction book on elephant behaviour. Which actually sort of saved it for me. As a veterinary nurse I have a huge interest in everything zoological.

I can imagine the endless recording of behaviour will drive others mad though. Just like the Hopi Indian element in vanishing acts drove me utterly insane.

The rest of the book is a bit of a mess. Are we really expected to believe that the investigators were that incompetent that they missed a wallet in a tree, a tooth on the ground and a nail fragment in a sweater. Really? ….ok

Lately Jodi seems to just stumble through her novels. It's almost like as if she can't wait to get to the plot twist which she hangs the entire story on, which in turn makes everything you've just read sort of redundant. As a reader this sort of structure just leaves me with a sort of empty feeling.

I appreciate the amount of research she put into this. Which is why I gave it 3 stars and not 2 but it doesn't make it any more readable.

I really miss her courtroom drama's. It was one thing she did really well and I feel her stories suffer when she abandons them. I hate to say it but Jodi is no longer a go to author for me anymore.

Rating:

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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The Perfect Mother by @ninadarnton

15:39

        

Published: November 2014
Publisher: Plume
Format: Kindle



This was such a gem! I stumbled across this by chance on Netgalley and requested it on a whim. I'm so glad I did . The past few books I've read have been mediocre so this was a breath of fresh air.


The perfect mother is a work of fiction but is very reminiscent of the Amanda Knox case.


Jennifer gets a late night phone call from her daughter. When your a parent late night phone calls always set alarm bells ringing. When your child is in a different country it's 10 times worse. Her daughter Emma has been arrested following the murder of a much loved Spanish teenager whom she accuses of trying to sexually assault her.

Emma expects to bailed out by her mother because thats the way its always been. If Emma has a problem mommy comes to the rescue and offers excuses or gentle persuasion so things swing in her daughters favor. Jennifer is the perfect mother. The mother all the other teenagers look up too and feel they can share their problems with. 



This resulted in what seems to be an utterly detestable spoiled teenager. I really just wanted to slap Emma and yell "start telling the truth girly or face life behind bars"! I love it when an author is talented enough to provoke such a reaction in me though! When the media get wind of the case the run with the promiscuous American angle. The whole country is baying for her blood as nothing she says seems to add up and Her sole focus is to protect her vigilante boyfriend Paco. I thought it was very interesting that Paco was such a strong character even though he didn't have a voice in this book.


Jennifer's character is the only one that shined for me. I hated Emma and her fathers attitude to the whole event was so blasé that it was almost unbelievable.


I have to say that the pacing was perfect. I raced through this and found it extremely hard to put down. I changed my mind about Emma several times during the book and was compelled to keep going at the end of every chapter.


The ending was entirely surprising giving Emma's actions throughout the story but it still left my mouth hanging open. I would have loved just one or two more pages!


If you like crime fiction but are looking for something a little lighter than usual then I'd highly recommend The Perfect Mother. It's a highly engaging, emotionally driven read.


Rating:

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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Giveaway: Losing It All by @marshacornelius

19:19

                       



Frank Barnes is content living on the streets of Atlanta. A soup kitchen and a makeshift shanty sure beat his days as a POW in Vietnam. But Chloe Roberts can’t handle the eviction that sends her into the hell of homelessness. With no family or friends to turn to, Chloe and her children are sucked into the traumatic world of night shelters, and dangerous predators.

When they bump into each other at the soup kitchen, Frank offers Chloe a glimmer of hope that she can pull her life back together. She rekindles his lost sense of self-worth by taking his mind off his own problems. But they will not meet again until Frank is riding high as a working man, and Chloe has hit rock bottom.

By helping Chloe rebuild her broken life, Frank banishes the demons from his own past. Unfortunately, the past comes strolling back into their lives, threatening to destroy the happiness they have finally found.

       Excerpt 

Pain’s a bitch. 
The doctor at the VA called it phantom pain, nerve trauma that would eventually go away. Yeah, right. Frank was twelve years and counting.
This morning, he woke to a cold, sluggish fog that had his foot throbbing before he even stood. His only relief was to shift his weight to his toes and keep pressure off the heel. Of course, the gimp-walk didn’t do much for his appearance. People already shied away from his long hair and shaggy beard. The shuffling limp and tortured expression convinced onlookers that he was a derelict.
They should have seen him twelve years ago at the VA. The pain was so intense all he could do was lie in bed, groaning and thrashing, his hospital gown soaked in sweat. Once he was up and around, he’d rolled down the hallway in his wheelchair, ranting at other Vietnam veterans with missing legs and arms. His rage seemed to ease his pain, but like a drug, he needed more. So he started ramming into other wheelchairs, then chasing after those who could walk, bruising their ankles with his metal foot-plates.
On his feet, Frank was a regular fighting machine, wielding a crutch like a club, or throwing sucker punches when least expected. It never occurred to him that those guys were battling their own pain.
In desperation, he pinned a doctor to the wall with his own clipboard, threatening to decapitate him if he didn’t up Frank’s morphine dosage. An orderly put him out on the street.
Then the pain really took hold. The dribble of morphine still in his system wore off while he slouched in the back of a city bus headed for downtown Atlanta. When he threw up in the aisle, the driver tossed him off. Unable to stand, much less walk, Frank crawled into an alleyway and passed out.
A wino rummaging through a trashcan woke him. Frank offered the bum some dough for his bottle of Thunderbird, and slugged the wine down in one long gulp. From there it was all downhill.

Giveaway


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Terms & conditions

If the winner is from the US a hard copy will be sent
If the winner is from anywhere else in the world a Digital copy will be sent
I reserve the right to remove entrants found to be cheating 
By entering you are agreeing to provide and postal address / email so you can receive the prize 
I take no responsibility for prizes lost in the post 


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Sainsbury's eBook of the Year: Vote & Win £100 worth of books!

18:22


eBooks by Sainsbury’s has today revealed the finalists for its annual eBook of the Year awards.
Some of the UK’s most treasured writers including Jojo Moyes and Lee Child have joined the long list of commercially and critically acclaimed authors nominated to receive the coveted prize of eBook of the Year 2014.
The winner will be decided by a public poll on the eBooks by Sainsbury’s website where voting will open today, and close on 11 December. The winning title will be chosen from over 150 eBooks with the winner to be announced on 15 December.
In its second consecutive year, the awards are a celebration of British book publishing and literary talent. From gripping thrillers to out of this world science fiction, the long list includes the nation’s favourite ebooks from the past 12 months, from John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars to the runaway word-of-mouth hit that was The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion.
To encourage participation, every visitor to the eBooks by Sainsbury’s website who votes for their favourite eBook of the Year will be entered into a prize draw to win £100 worth of eBooks. The full collection of eBooks up for nomination can be found on sainsburysebooks.co.uk where public voting is now open. To vote, simply visit the eBooks of the Year page, log in to your account and click ‘Recommend’ next to your favourite book.

Sharon Nightingale, Head of Commercial at eBooks by Sainsbury’s, said:
“These awards are unique in that they celebrate Britain’s most popular eBooks, the books that bring reading to a huge audience wherever they are. Our long list for 2014 is rich and varied, fully reflecting what a spectacular year it has been, particularly for debut authors. We are honoured to support the industry and authors alike by encouraging people to go out and discover the fantastic reads that have made this year so special.”
Highlights from the eBooks by Sainsbury’s eBook of the Year long list include:
Literary Fiction
-          The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (Penguin UK)
-          The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy by Rachel Joyce (Random House UK)
-          The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joël Dicker (Quercus Books)  
-          The Sunrise by Victoria Hislop (Headline)

Popular Fiction
-          The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh (Headline)
-          The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (Penguin UK)
-          Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (Orion)
-          The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (Penguin UK)

Science Fiction and Fantasy
-          The Martian by Andy Weir (Random House UK)   
-          The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness (Headline)
-          The Girl With All The Gifts by M. R. Carey (Little Brown)
-          The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Headline)

Historical Fiction
-          The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Little Brown)
-          The Blood Crows by Simon Scarrow (Headline)    
-          Lamentation by C.J. Sansom (Macmillan)
-          Desert God by Wilbur Smith (Harper Collins UK)

Biography
-          This Boy by Alan Johnson (Random House UK)
-          There’s Something I’ve Been Dying to Tell You by Linda Bellingham (Hodder)
-          So, Anyway by John Cleese (Random House UK) 
-          Guy Martin: My Autobiography by Guy Martin (Random House UK)
Crime and Thriller
-          Cross My Heart by James Patterson (Random House UK)
-          Want You Dead by Peter James (Macmillan)
-          The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (Little Brown)
-          Personal by Lee Child (Random House UK)

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Giveaway: Apache Courage by Cynthia Hearne Darling

16:10

                 



A young psychologist finds it impossible to work with wounded warriors in his job in Washington, D.C. He drinks too much and is adrift. He suddenly leaves the Army and, on a whim, accepts a job on an Apache Indian Hospital in Arizona.

He suddenly finds himself with more problems,in understanding the culture and trying to sense to aura of witchcraft he comes upon. Gradually, he understands and empathizes with a people new to him. In this process, he becomes mature.

Only then, can he help people with whom he works, fighting to remove the fear from people terrified of the power of witchcraft.


Click here to read an excerpt 

Competition




Terms and Conditions


I reserve the right to disqualify entrants found to be cheating
By entering you agree to give your postal address to receive the book if you win
I take no responsibility for prizes lost in the post 


Thank you to Smith Publicity for sponsoring this giveaway


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The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen

16:14

                        

Published: 2001
Publisher: Bantam
Format: Kindle 



Have to say I wasn't really blown away by The surgeon. It just kind of left me with that "meh" feeling which is worse than hating a book.

The story itself is very ripper-esque. A killer on the loose whose disdain for women makes him hunt them down and butcher them.

WE never really get a good glimpse into the killers mind so we just have to assume rage is the reason behind these acts of violence

In fact I never really connected with any of the characters. They just seemed so flat and un interesting. Rizzoli especially. As a character shes so

self absorbed and I had very little interest in her


All of this could be forgiven if Gerritsen had not fallen into the hole that awaits many crime fiction writers. Karin Slaughter is down there too..


What us this faux pas you say? Well it happens quite a lot in crime fiction. It's lazy and it really grinds my gears.

*Spoiler*

[The killer doesn't actually play any part in the story. He only exists within narrative in his role as killer which to me is just really disappointing
Whats the point of leading the reading on a merry path of twists and turns if it doesn't mean anything? The reader could never have guessed the identity of killer correctly. This makes me feel so utterly cheated. (
*Spoiler Ends*


It's just plain lazy. If you can't create a convincing part for your killer within the story and keep him/her hidden then crime fiction is not your genre.

Not too much else to say about this really.

I may give the next book a go to see if it improves but not holding out much hope

Rating:

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

16:19


Published: 2013
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: Paperback
Page count: 294

Orphan Train was provided by Harper Collins 360 in return for an honest review.


Orphan train highlights a (surprisingly) little known time between 1954 and 1929 when thousands of children were steamed across America to be lined up in front of perspective "parents" in the hopes of finding a new hom





I use the term parents loosely as many of the children seemed to be treated as free slave labor.

The story is told from the perspective of Molly in 2011 and Niamh from 1929 to 1943.

I can see that the author was trying to do. I get that we are supposed to see that even though Niamh and Molly come from different times that they share a similar past. It just didn't work that well for me. I don't think Molly's story really added anything meaningful. We don't really get to know her so I didn't really care for her parts in the story.

On the other hand I did enjoy reading Niamh's parts. It was hard enough for her impoverished families to move half way around the world. For children to then loose the only support they had is just unthinkable.

Toddlers and babies had to deal with being taken towards an unknown future on the orphan trains. Not knowing whether anyone will want them. Then if they are wanted, what are they wanted for?

What I found particularly disturbing how the families felt the need to change a child's name because it didn't sounds right or sounded too catholic or Irish subsequently erasing that child's identity. This happened to Niamh multiple times. The few kind people that she is lucky enough to meet in her life lead her on a path to happiness. A path that will take her back to the original orphan train journey she took all those years before


I think personally I would have enjoyed more of Niamh's story. especially after the 20 years mentioned in the book. It's a quick and easy read. Something to have in between the heavier reads I've been getting into.

I can possibly see this being made into a movie. I think it actually may work better on screen?

Rating:

3.5 / 5

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Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

19:07

                
Published: 2005
Publisher: Anchor
Format: Kindle 



This was so disappointing

Haunted has been on my to read list for about 2 years. I was so looking forward to finally getting to read it. Especially at Halloween.

So, is it really as disturbingly gross as 
everyone says?

No ...


It's really not that bad. I've read much worse so I suppose I'm not exactly squeamish.


The idea itself is promising. A group of wannabe writers volunteer to "disappear" for 3 months so they can each write a best selling novel. However the solitude isn't nearly as inspirational as they expected. The resort to creating their own drama. They need to have a news worthy story to tell when they eventually leave.


They start simple by sabotaging the water and heating systems. Not satisfied with mere starvation they decide that drastic measures need to be taken. This involves them chopping off various amounts of fingers and/or toes.






I found it way too ridiculous to be horrified! Gangrene and infection don't seem to exist in this world. They all seem to get along just fine with less and 10 fingers and toes.


We learn about each person through a series of short stories. Some are well written. I loved guts (the first story). It was absurd but almost believable! Others, I just found utterly boring.


Other reviewers have pointed out that the stories all feel the same. That it's obviously one person writing. This hits the nail on the head. To me, a skilled writer is some who can convincingly write in multiple voices. This really stopped me from immersing myself in the story.


Haunted just really fell short for me and left me, on the whole, unimpressed. 

I also hate the cover. But that's not really that important....  

Rating:

★  ★  ☆  ☆  ☆

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