The Fellowship of the Ring Tag

This fabulous Lord of the Rings themed tag (and it’s lovely graphics) comes from Nandini @ Unputdownable Books. As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of the LotR books (too wordy and too much info dumping, although they do have some really wonderful individual quotes, as you can see from this post) but I looooovvveeee the movies so when I stumbled across this, I knew I had to do it. Nandini’s also added in Gollum just to round out the question total.


Gandalf – A Book that Taught You Something

The Harry Potter Series – J. K. Rowling

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I’m going to double down on Nandini’s obvious answer for this one with good old HP. I grew up with this series and I think I learned a lot about bravery, friendship and loyalty from it. Hermione, in particular, taught me a lot about having a great work ethic and not being ashamed of being smart. Luna showcased the fact that it’s okay to be a little bit quirky and not to worry about what others think of you when you have good friends who accept you as you are. From Neville, I learnt that you can still be brave even if you’re scared and that it’s important to call people out on things even if they happen to be friends. Honestly, I could keep going but better not otherwise we’ll be here all day. 

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Frodo – A Book that Left a Mark on You

Sadie – Courtney Summers

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Sadie was such a raw, emotional and unflinchingly honest read. The book goes to some pretty dark and deep places, and tackles some heavy topics. I don’t think I’ve read many things like it. As a result, it really burrowed its way into my thoughts and emotions. Even without the sudden and open ending, I still think this book would have been playing on me for a long time afterwards. It’s definitely not something I’ll easily forget for a long time.

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Legolas – A Book You Finished in One Sitting

The Selection – Kiera Cass

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I find it difficult to get enough time to read books in one sitting because of my schedule but also because the books I read are often a bit too big. So, instead, I’ve picked something I raced through like there was no tomorrow (which also happens to be very short). The Selection is not well written and its main character, America, can be extremely frustrating, but it’s just so darn addictive in its trashy-ness. I mean, it’s the dystopian Bachelor. I had an absolute ball reading this book and finished it in no time at all.  It’s comfort fiction at its best.

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Gimli – A Book that Features an Unlikely Friendship

Zelie & Amari (Children of Blood & Bone – Toni Adeyemi)

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While I didn’t absolutely adore Children of Blood and Bone in its entirety, one of the parts I really enjoyed was the development of Zelie and Amari’s friendship. These two are from very different worlds and part of a social structure that puts them at odds with one another. When the book starts out, Zelie is extremely judgemental and resentful of Amari, treating her like the snobby and useless princess she believes her to be. However, over time she comes to realise that Amari is a lot more than this. Zelie helps Amari to come out of her shell and be brave. In turn, at the end of the book when Zelie needs it most, Amari is there for her and pushes her to stay strong even when it seems like all hope is lost.

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Merry – A Book that Pleasantly Surprised You

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

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I went into Fangirl thinking it’d be another cute, fluffy YA contemporary book that I’d enjoy but because of the hype would likely end up feeling a bit overrated. In the end, I was really surprised at how much I enjoyed it (a lot) but especially by the fact that it actually covered some more serious issues like mental health, broken families, and binge drinking. This book gave me some serious fanfiction nostaglia and while I’m not crazy about it like some people are, I wouldn’t say it’s massively overrated. Also, Levi = major love heart eyes.

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Pippin – A Book that Made You Laugh

The Hating Game – Sally Thorne

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Books rarely manage to make me laugh out loud beyond a casual snort, or maybe a slightly heavier breath, but as I mentioned in my recent review, The Hating Game did it on multiple occasions. I just love the banter and snark between Lucy and Josh – they have fantastic chemistry and although the barbs can be brutal on occasion, I can’t help cracking up when the real winners come out. Lucy, as a narrator, also manages to come up with some pretty funny commentary on events, while even some of the situations themselves are just amusing on their own (e.g. paintball warfare).

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Boromir – A Book/Series that You Think Ended Too Soon

Shades of Magic Series – V. E. Schwab**

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Okay, with already three books in this series I’m probably just being greedy. Also, considering the fact that a lot of series go on far too long beyond where they should have finished, Schwab likely did the right thing going out on a high. Still, I want MORE. *spoilers* A Conjuring of Light ends with Kell and Lila going off to explore the world together. Rhy has become king and is back together with Alucard. I would love to have read about Kell & Lila’s adventures, seen more of the world beyond the taste we got in book 3, and found out how Rhy rebuilt Red London/learned how to be a ruler. *end spoilers* I also feel like there’s a whole bunch of questions I’d really like to get answers for, in particular about Kell’s and Lila’s backgrounds.

** Okay, in the process of writing this post, I’ve actually just realised (HOW DID I MISS THIS) that last year Schwab signed a book deal for three more novels set in the same world as ADSOM. It’ll be called Threads of Power *jumps up and down and screams in excitement*. Okay, it’s not a direct sequel but I’ll take it!

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Sam – A Book with Memorable Side Characters Who Stole the Show

The Shadowhunters Books – Cassandra Clare

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Last year I re-read the first two books in this series (I will eventually re-read/read the rest, okay! I’m slow!) and realised that my favourite characters actually weren’t in them as much as I remembered. Over time, I think Cassie realised that although Jace, Clary and Simon were her leads,  people really loved Isabelle, Alec and Magnus, and as a result, they became much more present as time went on. Honestly, Magnus and Alec are so shortchanged in the early books, it’s almost criminal. I’m so glad that over time they got more page time to properly develop their stories and relationships.

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Aragorn – A Good Book with a Bad/Average Cover

Vampire Academy – Richelle Mead

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I’ve mentioned my eternal love for the Vampire Academy books repeatedly on this blog. It’s one of my absolute favourite series (exciting plots, fantastic characters, dramatic and funny writing, fab ships, and a great friendship at its heart) but the one thing I just can’t get behind is the covers. *sigh* Especially the first book in the series. What is it about YA books and their tendency to put random models on covers in awkward or weird positions? Worse, they’ve been recovered a couple of times and can never seem to come up with a winner. Even the 10th-anniversary edition is lacking a wow factor. Just because a book has vampires in it does not mean it has to look seedy.

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Gollum – A Book that had Great Potential but Disappointed You in the End

Sabriel – Garth Nix

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Sabriel is one of those books in fantasy circles that people seem to really talk up and Garth Nix isn’t exactly an unknown author either. The book has an interesting concept, too, and with all this in mind, I thought I’d be in for a really great read. Parts of it were good but on the whole, I had such a hard time getting into it and often found myself bored. The magic system that I’d heard so many amazing things about massively confused me and the world itself just felt a little odd. If there was one thing I did quite like it was Mogget, Sabriel’s massively powerful magical companion trapped in a cat’s body.


And there we have it. Done and dusted. You guys know I’m not one for tagging people but if you’re a LotR fan and would love to do this tag, I highly recommend it- just make sure to link back to Nandini’s original post.

Who’s your favourite member of the fellowship? Mine is definitely Sam – that sweet little hobbit, saving the world with his heart of gold and a frying pan. But if we’re talking movies,  I should also mention that I’m with you, Eowyn – Aragorn is a total dreamboat.

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Top 10 Favourite Reads of 2018

No, it’s not Tuesday but with the end of the year finally here, it’s time to start wrapping up on all the books I read in 2018. For this reason, here I am, counting down my favourite reads of the year. I am terrible when it comes to comparing and ranking things which is why my top tens are never ordered. Yet, this time around I’m actually going to try and do a proper countdown all the way up to my favourite read of the year. Can you hear me hyperventilating already? The pressure is intense, man. PANIC. To put it into perspective, I’ve read 89 books this year (I’m going to try my best to crack the big 9-0 before the year ends *crosses fingers & toes*) and have to pick TEN. JUST TEN.

So, here they are, in order, my 10 favourite reads of 2018:

10. THE CRUEL PRINCE – HOLLY BLACK | Review

34913691Let’s kick things off with a majorly hyped book. The Cruel Prince has some big flaws – lacking world building, slow pacing for the first half of the novel, a lot of unlikeable or eh characters, and am I completely addicted anyway for some inexplicable reason? Oh…..yes. The backstabbing, murder, political machinations, toxic romance, shades of grey characters, dark and twisty writing – I’m kind of in love with it all in an almost guilty pleasure kind of way. The second half of this book and especially the ending is just so addictive and exciting that I’m practically itching to get my hands on The Wicked King. It’s my most anticipated 2019 release, easy.

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9. The HATE U GIVE – ANGIE THOMAS | Review

34530151A lot of people are going to wonder why this one is so low on my list so let me explain. The Hate U Give is fantastic. No, really, the fact that this is an author debut is insane. It’s wonderfully written, the characters are rich and very well developed, and the story itself is topical, emotional and impactful. I admire THUG for all of these reasons and recommend that everyone read it at least once to better understand privilege, racism, and the importance of standing up for what is right. However, at the same time, it’s not something I would ever see myself re-reading or a book I could say I “loved” or was completely transfixed by, which is why it sits at number nine.

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8. TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE – JENNY HAN | Review

21028311This is another hyped up and somewhat flawed read which for some reason I couldn’t help gobbling up like an all-you-can-eat buffet complete with a chocolate fountain at the dessert table. To All the Boys is the fluffy, adorable, and sweet YA contemporary I didn’t even know I needed that would be able to make me smile even on an absolutely terrible day. Sure, it’s predictable, the plot is a little silly, and the ending is incomplete (to put it mildly), but it’s not meant to be a heavy read and I had such a wonderful time reading it that I immediately tracked down and read books two and three. Also, the fact that it features a mixed race protagonist is great. Basically just LJ x Peter K forever.

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7. WARCROSS – MARIE LU

36160193Warcross was my very first introduction to Marie Lu and what a fabulous one at that. I raced through this book like crazy, ridiculously keen for answers to all the story’s big plot questions. The warcross matches themselves were so much fun and a feast for the imagination – it’s basically virtual reality capture the flag on speed. The characters in Warcross were also really well done too, especially the MC, Emika, who became one of my favourite characters of 2018 (well, if we ignore Wildcard *cough*). She’s smart, talented, and pretty kick ass. I may not have been that keen on one of the major twists of the book but that didn’t stop me desperately craving book two the minute I finished it. I’ll definitely be checking out more of Marie’s books in future after the fun time I had with this one.

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6. SADIE – COURTNEY SUMMERS | Review

34810320Sadie was not a light read by any means – murder, child sexual abuse, loss, poverty – but from the get go I was hooked. There’s just something about this dark, little book which grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. The writing and pacing are so perfectly done with the divide between first person and podcast transcripts. Sadie, herself, was both strong and vulnerable, and I wanted nothing more than to protect her from the world’s evils on her journey toward revenge. The ending of this one will be gnawing at me for a long time to come.

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5. THE SONG OF ACHILLES – MADELINE MILLER | Review

Image result for the song of achillesI’d heard amazing things about this book for ages before finally reading it, and people weren’t wrong. This was the book that reminded me just how much I love history. It’s the perfect blend of mythology, magic, war, romance, and emotional trauma wrapped up in one innocent looking, book shaped package. Miller’s attention to detail is phenomenal and blended with her straightforward writing style, immerses you without ever feeling overwhelming. The characters are beautifully developed, both good and bad, and even though the story is an old one, Miller tells it in an emotional and impactful way that really does manage to hit you hard in the feels. The perfect reminder that I need to branch outside of YA more often.

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4. SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA – BECKY ALBERTALLI | Review

Related imageAs if this wouldn’t make the list. It feels like so long ago that I read Simon. I mean, it kind of is a long time ago as it was one of the first books I read in 2018. At the time, Simon was the latest in my attempts to branch into the YA contemporary genre and it’s probably what encouraged me to read so many of these kinds of books this year. This book made me feel so happy, so good about the world at the end of it, that I just couldn’t wait to write a review. Honestly, I believe Simon could win over even the most cynical of readers. There’s great LGBTI representation, the writing itself is actually laugh out loud (or in my case, snort) funny, and it really does take you on an emotional rollercoaster of ups and downs. If you’re in a reading slump, this is the novel cure for you.

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3. SCYTHE – NEAL SHUSTERMAN | Review

Image result for scythe neal shustermanI waited ages to get my hands on this book, meaning the expectations were very high because of all the positive reviews I’d seen during that period. To my relief, it wasn’t a let down in the slightest, mostly because Shusterman’s world is wonderfully original and fantastically constructed. I sucked up every detail like a ginormous sponge. The concept is compelling, a little crazy, somewhat terrifying, and perfectly executed even with the slower pace of the plot. The characters themselves are likeable and layered, and I really enjoyed reading through their arcs.  Also, a big plus, the romantic subplots are properly developed and don’t take over the main storyline. Simply put, I loved this book (and the sequel, too!).

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2. GOLDEN SON & MORNING STAR (RED RISING 2# & 3#) – PIERCE BROWN | Review

umqxjlfoedq7lj67v7w0Yes, this is two books but both of them have to be on this list and I feel weird about giving them separate slots so here they are, bundled together. This series gave me serious life at the start of 2018. My god, this is sci-fi at its best. I don’t even know where to start. Once they got going, and they really, really do, I could barely put them down until I finished. The story is so full of action, twists and turns, and backstabbing/plotting, it’s phenomenal. The characters are memorable, complex, have a wonderful dynamic, and when things go wrong for them, it really plays with your emotions. The other star of this series is Brown’s world building, or should I say ‘universe building’, which is just so damn good. The scale of it all is crazy. I will definitely be rereading these at some point.

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And that brings us to my final pick of the year, my favourite read, which was…

….

Are you ready?

1. THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO – TAYLOR JENKINS REID | Review

33160963Ta dah! Evelyn Hugo is my number one read for 2018. Not that it should be a big surprise to anyone who’s read my review. I knew this book would be magic from the very beginning. I just had that feeling, you know the one, and I was right. Honestly guys, I love this book. Adore it. It’s actually joined The Time Traveller’s Wife as one of my favourite books of all time. The characters in this story are so real and multifaceted, the love and care Reid gives them simply jumps off the page. This is especially so for Evelyn, herself, with all her imperfections. The LBGTI representation is fantastic, particularly with regards to the historical context. Honestly, I could sit here forever and talk about all the reasons I love this book and we wouldn’t even scrape the surface. The writing, structure, heartbreaking romance, old Hollywood setting, ah! It’s so good. Read it, read it, read it.

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SPECIAL MENTIONS:

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*Exhales* Made it! That wasn’t so hard was it? I’m kidding. That was agony. I’ll probably think about this list for the next week agonising about what I coulda, shoulda, woulda done. But hey, sometimes you just have to pick and stick with it.

What were your favourite reads of 2018? And what’s the last book you plan to read for the year?

Messy Love, Revenge & Real World Monsters: Sadie by Courtney Summers

5 stars

Sadie

Normally, when I talk about my 4.5 and 5 star reads I tend to use words like ‘amazing’ or ‘fantastic’. But as that tends to conjure up images of me running over hills, singing about the sound of music, that vocab may need a bit of an overhaul here. Considering this book deals with poverty, drug addiction, neglect, loss, murder, and child sexual abuse, it’s pretty much the perfect example for which to break out a Ron Weasley classic: You’re going to suffer but you’re going to be happy about it. Or more aptly: you’re going to enjoy reading Sadie even though it’ll take your fragile heart, break it into little pieces and then set those pieces on fire.

I’m totally selling you on this one, aren’t I?

Why You Should Read this Book

A Realistic World

One of the things that really stands out about Sadie is how real everything feels. This is surprising because Sadie spends much of the book travelling around the US, meaning most of the places and people don’t get a lot of time to make an impression. However, there’s something about the way Summers writes that just makes everything jump off the page.  By dividing the book up into podcast transcripts and Sadie’s first person POV, we get both a textbook description of settings and characters as well as a more biased, personal perspective which really helps immerse you in the story. No matter where the book is taking place or who Sadie (& West) is interacting with, you’re very easily able to visualise it/them.

Fantastic Plotting, Pacing & Writing

Going into Sadie my biggest concern was that it would feel rushed. I mean, look at it, I don’t think there’s any chance of me ever trying to use it as a paperweight. It only took me a few pages to realise that this wouldn’t be a problem. I can imagine some people might even find it too slow or subtle, but for me, it was paced perfectly.

Podcasts

The choice to tell the story half as a podcast transcript was a great one, not only because it’s entirely believable that events like this could form the basis of a crime podcast, but because they provide balance and variety to the novel  These “transcripts” were very useful as they allowed Summers to flesh out characters that interact with Sadie and details of her life that wouldn’t come up organically in her own POV. They’re also great at gradually building the foundations for some of the heavier reveals later in the book.  As West is essentially playing catch up to Sadie, some parts of his journey will feel repetitive but there’s something very interesting about watching him try to piece things together from what Sadie’s left behind and what people will tell him.

Sadie’s Perspective

Sadie’s POV is tragically sad but beautifully written and I found myself lost inside her head. Both the internal and external components of her plot seem to have this sort of natural progression. Reading through Sadie’s memories and recollections is almost like putting a puzzle together. There’s a sense of direction in that you’re getting closer to understanding why she is the way she is and why she’s doing what she’s doing. Summer’s writing is wonderfully emotive and she transitions between memory and present so seamlessly. Similarly, in terms of reaching her goal, while most of Sadie’s leads don’t exactly pan out as expected, you somehow always feel as though she’s getting increasingly nearer to the end.

Dark Subject Matters

As I mentioned earlier, Sadie deals with some heavy topics and it does so in a brutally honest way. Better break out the chainmail, cause this is going to hurt. This book really does remind you that the world is not even close to a perfect or nice place and that sometimes real monsters are far worse than any creature you could find in a horror film.  Weirdly though, Sadie manages to be disturbing without ever being graphic or gory. Dark moments are always alluded to but never described in detail on the page. I have to give Summers points because she understands that what the human imagination can conjure is often a million times more awful than anything she could ever describe (I can definitely vouch for my own imagination, you bloody overactive nuisance). Sadie doesn’t shy away from the darkest corners of the world. It’s not always a comfortable read but it’s extremely difficult to drag yourself away from it.

Sadie as a Character

One of my favourite parts of the novel turned out to be Sadie, herself. There’s something so deeply broken and vulnerable about Sadie – she grew up with very little money, in a household in which her mother was a drug addict and neglected her, had to take responsibility for her sister, Mattie, at a young age, was sexually abused when she was only eleven years old, and to top it off she has a stutter. There’s just so much pain and darkness in her life and all you want to do is protect her from suffering any more harm. The fact that she’s nineteen and has such a bleak view of people and the world is consistently heartbreaking yet understandably justified. However, at the same time, she somehow also displays a great degree of courage and determination. There’s this immense underlying strength that pushes her towards her goal despite knowing it’s dangerous. Even with her sister gone, Sadie’s still fighting for her and while her path may be extremely self-destructive and often involve some not so great actions, I can’t help but admire her.

Why You Might Skip It

An Open Ending

If there was one singular thing that brought this book down for me, and only because of pure, unadulterated frustration, it would be the ending. I’m warning you now, if you’re someone who loves closure and explanation, the conclusion to Sadie will make you want to scream. The end of this book drove me crazy for ages because it’s open and there are so many unanswered questions. After all the pain in this book, you just want one small bit of happiness. Courtney Summers says NO. No catharsis for you.

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Sadie is a raw, dark and unflinchingly honest read. If you’re looking for a YA thriller that’ll make you feel some intense things, this is the one for you. If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here, hiding under the bed covers because the world is a scary and horrible place.

So, if I worked in quarter stars and wanted to be super petty by deducting points for the ending, this would be 4.75 Stars but because I don’t and I’m not, we’ll round it up to…

5 Stars