Saturday, November 14, 2015

Book Review #606 - Counting Stars by Keris Stainton


My Rating: 4/5

Source: Five Mile Press

Buy: The Book Depository


Big city, big dreams, no money, no problem...

Six 'friends', one flat, big dreams... what could go wrong? When eighteen-year-old Anna leaves school and moves to Liverpool, she feels like her life is finally beginning. She's landed her dream job at a theatre, and she's moving into an exciting (if not slightly run-down) flat on a buzzing street lined with shops, bars, and buskers. Best of all, her new flatmates are kind, welcoming and a lot of fun - what more could she ask for?

But although her new life is fun, it's also a little overwhelming. Anna's job quickly falls through, and then she realises that although her new friends are great, they're also a little mixed-up... and it's not long before Anna starts using her blog to talk about her experiences, from the hilarious to the ridiculous to the little-bit-scary. But when Anna spills a bigger secret than she can handle, suddenly the consequences are all too real. She'll have to prove she has the mettle to make it in the big city, or risk losing everything she thinks she wants.

I have read a few of Keris Stainton's YA novels and have rather enjoyed them so I was interested about her New Adult book. 

I loved this book much more than I thought I would and that is simply because of the characters. 

All the characters were so lively and multi-dimensional. They were also completely unique from one another and yet they mixed together extremely well. 

The setting of Liverpool was an interesting dynamic and I have never read a book set there before. 

The only negative thing I can say about this book is that the romance took too long to develop and so it was kind of rushed towards the end. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Book Review #605 - State of Grace by Hilary Badger


My Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Hardie Grant Egmont

Buy: Booktopia


Ever since she was created, Wren has lived in an idyllic garden with her friends. Wren's deity Dot ensures the trees are laden with fruit and the water in the lagoon is crystal clear. Wren and her friends have everything they could possibly need right there, in Dot's Paradise.

If only Wren could stop the strange, disturbing visions she's started having. Do these visions make her less worthy of Dot's love? And what does Blaze, the most beautiful and mysterious of Dot's creations, know about what's going on in Wren's head?

Wren is desperate to feel Dot's love, just like everyone else. But that's harder than ever when a creation she's never met before arrives in the garden. He claims to be from outside and brings with him words and ideas that make Wren's brain hurt.

Gradually Wren and Blaze uncover the truth: they're part of a clinical trial of an ominous drug called Grace.


And as she deals with this disturbing knowledge, Wren confronts a horrific secret from her past. Now she must decide whether to return to the comforting delusion of faith or fight for the right to face the very ugly truth. 

I tried reading this book when I first received it about a year ago now and gave up on it after only reading around 25 pages. I felt like there was a strong religious reference in it that I just didn't like. 

This time around although it didn't pull me in straight away, by page 50 I was hooked. 

The twist made the book for me which is the main reason why it took me so long to become interested in this book. 

This book is an unique take on the dystopian genre and even though it is rather slow paced I enjoyed it. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Book Review #604 - The Marvels by Brian Selznick


My Rating: 5/5

Source: Scholastic Australia

Buy: The Book Depository


Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

This book contains two stories that are connected in a way I can't explain without revealing massive spoilers. 

The first book is told entirely through drawings. The second is told through a combination of drawings and words. 

The author conveys his story extremely well using both methods. I honestly cannot choose which skill he is better at. 

I love the drawings in this book. They really carried the story. They were expressive and conveyed the story perfectly. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Review #603 - All Quiet on the Western Front (All Quiet on the Western Front/The Road Back #1) by Erich Maria Remarque


My Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Bought

Buy: The Book Depository


One by one the boys begin to fall...

In 1914 a room full of German schoolboys, fresh-faced and idealistic, are goaded by their schoolmaster to troop off to the 'glorious war'. With the fire and patriotism of youth they sign up. What follows is the moving story of a young 'unknown soldier' experiencing the horror and disillusionment of life in the trenches.

I decided to read this as part of my 1001 Books you must read before you die challenge where I try and read one book from the list per month. I thought because of Remembrance Day, this would be the perfect pick for November. 

This book was both vivid and compelling. It was obvious that the author was writing from experience as it was high quality and seemingly accurate. 

The relationship between the young German 'boys' who have known each other since childhood was fascinating because of how their relationship changes over the course of the novel. 

My favourite scene in the book is when the narrator goes out into the trenches as a scout and ends up getting lost. This scene had me on the edge of my seat and it was extremely vivid. 

The only negative things I can say about this book is when the narrator goes home on leave in around the middle of the book I felt like this disrupted the flow of the story and I became a little bored. Also, the ending was a little rushed and vague. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Book Review #602 - World War One: A History in 100 Stories by Bruce Scates, Rebecca Wheatley and Laura James


My Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Penguin Australia

Buy: The Book Depository


There has been no shortage of heroic stories over the course of the Anzac Centenary: stories of courage and sacrifice, fortitude and endurance, mateship and resolve. But a hundred years on, there is a need for other stories as well - the stories too often marginalised in favour of nation-building narratives.World War One: a history in 100 stories remembers not just the men and women who lost their lives during the battles of WWI, but those who returned home as well: the gassed, the crippled, the insane - all those irreparably damaged by war.

Drawn from a unique collection of sources, including repatriation files, these heartbreaking and deeply personal stories reveal a broken and suffering generation - gentle men driven to violence, mothers sent insane with grief, the hopelessness of rehabilitation and the quiet, pervasive sadness of loss. They also retrieve a fragile kind of courage from the pain and devastation of a conflict that changed the world.

This is an unflinching and remarkable social history. It is an act of remembering in the face of forgetting. Telling the truth about war requires its own kind of courage.

I have extensive family connections (like most Australians) to World War One and so I was really looking forward to this book. 

This book was obviously published to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Landing and is the reason for there being exactly 100 stories.

This book tells 100 unique, compelling stories about people with different connections to the Great War. For example, some stories follow the brave young men who made the ultimate sacrifice on the front line while others follow women back home in Australia doing anything they can to help. 

I loved the amount of research that was obviously done to create this book. All the letters from parents to the War Office were harrowing and showed how incompetent the government was when Australia was in its infancy as a nation. 

I found this book to be more of a coffee table book in that I would randomly pick it up every now and then and read a few stories at a time. The size and weight of the book really prevent cover to cover reading anyway.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Book Review #601 - Breakfast at Tiffany's by Truman Capote


My Rating: 3/5

Source: Bought

Buy: The Book Depository


Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's is a brilliant glimmer of the excitement of 40's New York. Holly Golightly – brashly beautiful with a slim black dress, a mysterious past and dark glasses over varicoloured eyes – entrances all the men she meets, including the young writer living above her, though her recklessness may yet catch up with her. Also containing three short stories, this edition shows the elegance and warmth of Capote's writing at its most flawless.

I read this as part of my 1001 Books you must read before you die challenge where I try and read one book from the list per month. This was my choice for October. 

The warmth of the writing is what drew me into this book. Truman Capote really has a way with words and tone. 

Whilst the writing is what initially drew me in, it was the mysterious, enigmatic nature of Holly Golightly that ultimately held my interest. 

At exactly 100 pages long (in my edition anyway) it took me longer than expected to read (2 days) and this was largely due to the fact that the book has no chapters and it just written as one large story. This really influenced me reading the book. 

I have since watched the Audrey Hepburn film adaptation of the book and I loved it even though there were numerous changes - particularly the ending. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Book Review #600 - The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

My Rating: 3/5 

Source: Bought

Buy: The Book Depository


Everyone has a dark side. Dr Jekyll has discovered the ultimate drug. A chemical that can turn him into something else. Suddenly, he can unleash his deepest cruelties in the guise of the sinister Hyde. Transforming himself at will, he roams the streets of fog-bound London as his monstrous alter-ego. It seems he is master of his fate. It seems he is in complete control. But soon he will discover that his double life comes at a hideous price . . . 

I read this as part of my 1001 Books you must read before you die challenge where I try and read one book from the list per month. This was my choice for September. 

Classics and me do not have a great history. I can count on one hand the amount of classics I have read that I have loved as much as I was supposed to. I generally just tolerate them and this book was no exception. 

I am sure I will re-read this book when I am older and get a lot from it but now is definitely not that time. 

This book was barely over 100 pages long but felt so much longer as I kept losing track of what was happening as I found my focus in this book was extremely hard to keep for long periods of time. 

The major problem I had with this book is that I knew the ultimate plot twist. I can't help but think what I would have thought of this book had I not known the end. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Book Review #599 - William the Conqueror vs King Harold by Jesse Lee Vint


My Rating: 3/5

Source: The Author

Buy: The Book Depository


THE STORY THAT HAS NEVER BEEN TOLD! Even rarer than the appearance of Halley’s Comet in the year 1066 A.D. was the appearance of three undefeated warrior kings that same year. All three of these warrior kings felt that they had a claim to the British crown, and all three were intrepid fighters who were well known for never taking a step backward. For this reason 1066 was a historical year unlike any other. 

Normandy’s William the Conqueror is one of the most dashing, powerful, and massively influential figures in all of world history. Equally fascinating is Harold Godwinson, crowned King Harold II of England in January of 1066. Norway’s Haarald (Hard Rule) Hardrada, the incomparable Viking warrior king, also played a central role in the destiny of the world in that amazing year. 

These two historical giants, William and Harold, became the greatest of friends -- and the worst of enemies. Caught in the middle of this raging storm that resulted in The Battle of Hastings was Princess Adelize, the young and beautiful daughter of William, and the devoted fiancé of King Harold II. 

Humor! Heart! History! These are the three words that define this historical saga that is written in the style of an Arthurian adventure novel.

I am always looking for interesting books in genres I don't normally read and this book really hit that mark for me. 

William the Conqueror is a historical figure that I have heard of, but just didn't know that much about. I loved that this book blended the historical elements with an interesting and likable plot. 

The book had a very cinematic feel to it so it was not surprising that soon after finishing it I discovered it had originally been written as a screenplay. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I loved the time period that it was set in. 

I would recommend this book to readers of all genres as it blends a wide variety of genres really well and everyone is bound to find something they like with this book. 

Friday, November 6, 2015

Book Review #598 - All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven


My Rating: 4/5

Source: Bought

Buy: The Book Depository


Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the 'natural wonders' of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself - a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all. And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.

I had heard nothing but good things about this book prior to reading it so I had relatively high expectations. It was for this reason that I had put off reading it for so long. 

This book has quite a dark tone to it throughout. I found there always seemed to be a sense of impending doom. 

Violet and Finch are two broken, lonely, heavily flawed characters who meet when they both finally hit rock bottom. 

Family is a big theme in this book and Finch's family made me grateful my own family is more like Violet's than his. It also angered and annoyed me to think that families like his do exist in real life. 

The relationship between Finch and Violet was short but meaningful. 

I have read some reviews of this book that feel like the book glamorized mental illness due to Finch's personality. I felt however that the book showed that mental illness does not discriminate and that some sufferers get very, very good at concealing their symptoms. 


Before reading this book I believed that suicide was selfish but this book has opened my eyes to the truth and that it clear sign of a remarkable book. 

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Book Review #597 - The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight


My Rating: 3.5/5

Source: Bought

Buy: The Book Depository


Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Imagine if she hadn't forgotten the book. Or if there hadn't been traffic on the expressway. Or if she hadn't fumbled the coins for the toll. What if she'd run just that little bit faster and caught the flight she was supposed to be on. Would it have been something else - the weather over the Atlantic or a fault with the plane?

Hadley isn't sure if she believes in destiny or fate but, on what is potentially the worst day of each of their lives, it's the quirks of timing and chance events that mean Hadley meets Oliver...

Set over a 24-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.

This was a super quick and easy book to read and I read it in one sitting. 

The book was mostly light-hearted but it did have its heavier, serious moments especially regarding family. 

The relationship between Hadley and Oliver develops throughout the book so the title of the book is somewhat misleading - although the true reason for the title is revealed on the last page of the book. 

The book is full of English culture and as a bit of an Anglophile I loved it. I found that the slang used was similar to that used here in Australia. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book but I didn't feel like it will be very memorable as it didn't do enough to set itself above those in a similar genre. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Book Review #596 - The Dog, Ray by Linda Coggin


My Rating: 4/5

Buy: Booktopia

A girl, a dog, a boy, a journey

'When my death came, it was swift. Swift as a racing horse.'

Twelve-year-old Daisy has just died in a car crash. But in a twist of fate, and through a heavenly bureaucratic mistake Daisy ends up, not where she is supposed to be - but in the body of a dog. Daisy may now be inhabiting a dog's body, but inside she is still very much Daisy, and is as bouncy, loyal, positive, energetic as she ever was. 

Daisy's only thought is to somehow be reunited with her parents, who she knows will be missing her. And this is how she meets Pip, a boy who is homeless and on his own journey, and a lasting, tender and very moving friendship between boy and dog/girl is formed.

I love dogs and so this book appealed to me as it is told from the perspective of a dog. 

The book begins with the death of a 12 year old girl. I know this sounds a little dark for a children's book, but where there is death there is also life which is where this fantastic little adventure begins. 

There is a mix-up in the afterlife and 12 year old Daisy gets reincarnated as a dog! At first she is adamant on tracking down her parents but being a dog communication is impossible. 

The portrayal of life as a dog was realistic. The voice as a dog was the best thing about this book. I loved how excitable, loyal and likable she was. 

When Daisy meets Pip, a boy who has problems of his own, and her memories of her previous life as a human start to fade she finally finds happiness in her new life as The Dog, Ray. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Book Review #595 - The Lovely and the Lost (The Dispossessed #2) by Page Morgan


My Rating: 4/5

Gabby and Ingrid may have saved their brother, but their journey is far from over. Ingrid must learn how to control her powers before they begin to control her. She wishes Luc would help her, but he's refusing... Meanwhile Gabby has thrown herself into the Alliance, despite the eye patch she now wears thanks to a hellhound. But there are major changes afoot. When Nolan returns from the trials of the traitorous Alliance members he brings his father and his cousin, whose first order is to remove Chelle, Ingrid, and Gabby from their duties - women are no longer welcome.

But Paris needs hunters, especially now murder is sweeping the city again. Whole families are being slaughtered in their sleep, at the dinner table - even while out in the family carriage. Just who or what is behind these slayings? The action, romance, and devastatingly dark secrets revealed in THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE CURSED continue as Ingrid and Gabby fight for their loves, their lives and their city.

This is the sequel to The Beautiful and the Cursed

I loved this book so much more than the first. I decided not to re-read the first book before reading the sequel even though I didn't really remember anything other than the basics from it as I read it over a year ago. 

This book was written perfectly to refresh the reader of what occurred in the first book before diving into the next adventure. 

These books have a certain eeriness to them which lingers on every single page. It was definitely a perfect October read. 

The character development in this book was significant especially with Grayson. It helped that we had chapters from his POV. 

I love the mythology in this series. It seems really thought out and researched. 

The ending was amazing with an absolutely shocking cliff hanger and I cannot wait to get my hands on the third book The Wondrous and the Wicked

Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Review #594 - The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew


My Rating:3/5 

A startling coming-of-age novel set in a contemporary Nazi England.

Jessika Keller is a good girl: she obeys her father, does her best to impress Herr Fisher at the Bund Deutscher Mädel meetings and is set to be a world champion ice skater. Her neighbour Clementine is not so submissive. Outspoken and radical, Clem is delectably dangerous and rebellious. And the regime has noticed. Jess cannot keep both her perfect life and her dearest friend. But which can she live without?

THE BIG LIE is a thought-provoking and beautifully told story that explores ideas of loyalty, sexuality, protest and belief.

This book poses the question what if Nazi Germany had won the war? It was the question that immediately won me over and convinced me to read it. 

The book follows Jessika Keller. Her family are hardcore Nazi followers, especially her father and Jessika has grown up with strong Nazi beliefs. 

On the other hand, Jessika has a forbidden crush on her childhood friend and neighbour Clementine who happens to despise the Nazis.

The whole setting of an alternative history was really interesting and compelling.

Jess seemed really naive at times and ultimately just wanted to please everyone all the time.

As the book progresses, Jess starts to question everything her parents value as Clementine's starts acting upon her extremist views. 

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Book Review #593 - Outlander (Outlander #1) by Diana Gabaldon


My Rating: 4.5/5

Source: Bought

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord . . . 1743.

Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

I was curious how I was going to see this book as on one hand I'm not the biggest fan of time travel book or romance books but on the other hand I love historical fiction (especially in the British era). 

The historical element was my favourite aspect of the book of the book. Like the characters, it was very realistic and reading it was like being transported to that time period not unlike Claire. 

The men of that era, although savage like and thinking very little of women were accurately portrayed for that time period. 

The book alludes to a lot of historical moments such as the Irish Potato Famine and the Jacobite Risings and I am looking forward to hopefully seeing these and more develop. 

I had mixed feelings towards the protagonist Claire as I found her rather annoying at times but for the most part I did like her. 

The differences between Claire's era (1946) and the era she magically transports herself to (1746) are endless and for that reason I didn't think that enough was explained illustrating that point. I also didn't think it was very accurate how quickly Claire adjusts herself to her new world. 

There are so many graphic moments in this book (especially at the end) that if I had not become so heavily invested in the book I would definitely stopped reading. It was more the non-romantic graphic scenes that I didn't particularly care for. 

The pacing of this book was all over the place. There were times where I just wondered where the plot was going and other times when I simply couldn't put the book down. 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and hope to read the sequel soon.