Tuesday, 15 December 2015

My 10 Favourite Books I Read in 2015

Ahh, the classic “what is your favourite book?” question that strikes fear into the heart of every bookworm. As we all know, this is not a simple question to answer! My traditional response would be panicking, then a blank stare, followed by a severe case of conversational crickets. Thank goodness I can pick 10 books for this week’s prompt; if I had to choose just one I think my mind would start imploding. Seriously!

As of today, I’ve read 80 books this year, and I’ve loved some of those a lot more than others. This time last year I decided to rank my top 10 picks… and ooohh boy did it give so many guilty feelings! I loved each one of those books for dozens of different reasons, and ranking one above the other was so hard to do. This year I’m going to be a little sneaky: I’ll still choose ten books, but they’ll be split up into ten different categories. Hopefully this will 1) be the fairest way, and 2) cut down on my future guilt when I accidentally stumble across this post in a few months’ time!

*Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme run by The Broke and the Bookish. The topic this week is Top Ten Best Books I Read In 2015*

Favourite Novella:

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Favourite First Book in a Series:

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Favourite Sequel:

The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

Favourite Final Book in a Series:

Oblivion by Kelly Creagh

Oblivion by Kelly Creagh

Favourite Series I Started and Completed in 2015:

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

The Lynburn Legacy Trilogy by Sarah Rees Brennan

Favourite Horror:

Say Her Name by James Dawson

Say Her Name by James Dawson

Favourite Alternative History:

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Favourite Retelling:

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Favourite Science-Fiction:

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Favourite Fantasy:

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

What books are on your favourites list this year? Do we share any favourites? Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Reading!

Monday, 14 December 2015

Review: The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo

The Violinist of Venice by Alyssa Palombo book cover

Title: The Violinist of Venice
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Series: Standalone
Format: eARC, kindly provided
by St. Martin's Press for review.
(Thank you!!)
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: 15th December 2015
My rating: 4 / 5

Add to Goodreads

Like most 18th century Venetians, Adriana d'Amato adores music--except her strict merchant father has forbidden her to cultivate her gift for the violin. But she refuses to let that stop her from living her dreams and begins sneaking out of her family's palazzo under the cover of night to take violin lessons from virtuoso violinist and composer Antonio Vivaldi. However, what begins as secret lessons swiftly evolves into a passionate, consuming love affair.

Adriana's father is intent on seeing her married to a wealthy, prominent member of Venice's patrician class--and a handsome, charming suitor, whom she knows she could love, only complicates matters--but Vivaldi is a priest, making their relationship forbidden in the eyes of the Church and of society. They both know their affair will end upon Adriana's marriage, but she cannot anticipate the events that will force Vivaldi to choose between her and his music. The repercussions of his choice--and of Adriana's own choices--will haunt both of their lives in ways they never imagined.

Spanning more than 30 years of Adriana's life, Alyssa Palombo's The Violinist of Venice is a story of passion, music, ambition, and finding the strength to both fall in love and to carry on when it ends.

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

Since I began blogging almost two years ago, Young Adult has become my usual go-to zone for new books to read. I love it with all my heart – and I doubt that will ever change – but a little breathing room from the things we love is a pretty good idea from time to time! Recently I’ve tried to get back into reading some adult fiction, and when I got the opportunity to read The Violinist of Venice, it immediately sparked my interest and I jumped at the chance to review it.

Adriana d’Amato, our main character and narrator, is a young woman of 18 when the story begins, and has grown up under the strict, isolating and domineering rule of her father, Enrico d’Amato. According to the custom of the day and the class she was born into, she has little say in what her future holds, and she is seen more as a bargaining chip to be used for her father’s gain, rather than a beloved daughter. Encouraged by her mother to play the violin since childhood, she was forbidden from pursuing her passion after her mother’s death. Adriana is determined to find a way to keep music in her life, and she decided to sneak off unbeknownst to her father to get private violin lessons from Antonio Vivaldi. With a shared passion for music, the pair begins to fall in love, yet it is a love they know is strictly forbidden, and would have catastrophic consequences should it come to light.

The first thing I have to mention is how beautifully written the novel is. I absolutely loved the writing style, and I was drawn into the story after only a handful of sentences, and it kept me captivated and enthralled from beginning it end. It was so easy to visualise Venice is the early 1700s, and also to get a sense of just how limiting life was for women in the time-period. I loved how music was incorporated seamlessly into the story, and it really took on a life of its own and added so much atmosphere and vibrancy. My only little issue, and the best way I can describe it, is that sometimes the pacing felt like it hit an unexpected pothole and things slowed down a little too much. This could be because what I know about the technical ins and outs of violins and how to play them could be contained within a teaspoon, so most of the more technical moments went whoosh right over my head. I think this is purely me, in honesty: I love listening to classical music, but I have limited knowledge beyond the very basics.

Adriana was a fabulous character, and I loved seeing her journey throughout the book. It’s not your classic happy-happy story, but a more realistic one, and it’s impossible not to be moved with what she goes through, and to root for her to find a little happiness along the way. Being honest, though, I wasn’t fully convinced of the love and the intensity of feelings between Adriana and Antonio. I don’t really know what it was that was missing for me, but it just didn’t feel… complete, for want of a better word.

Overall, The Violinist of Venice was a captivating story from the very start, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction, and to those that are just branching into the genre. I thought it was a truly spectacular debut novel that captured 18th century Venice brilliantly and I can’t wait to see more from this author in the future.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

My 2015 New-To-Me Favourite Authors

Just how quickly has 2015 gone by?! I can’t believe the year is almost over, and it really doesn’t feel that long ago since I wrote up the 2014 version of this post. 2015 hasn’t been my best reading or blogging year: I’ve been flitting between reading and blogging slumps and just when I conquer one, the other comes along to taunt me. Over the year I’ve read more sequels to series I love, or other books from authors I know I’ve liked in the past and as a result I’ve read fewer new-to-me authors than I usually do. But, I HAVE found 7 new favourites, so it’s definitely not all gloomy! This list isn't in any particular order - all of them will appear on my auto-buy list in the future!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme run by The Broke and the Bookish, and the topic this week is “Top Ten New-To-Me Favourite Authors I Read For The First Time In 2015”.

Elizabeth May

Read: The Falconer and The Vanishing Throne

Sarah Rees Brennan

Read: Unspoken, Untold, Unmade, and all the novellas from The Lynburn Legacy.

Marie Ruthkoski

Read: The Winner’s Curse (And I plan to read The Winner’s Crime before the end of the year!)

James Dawson

Read: Say Her Name and Hollow Pike

Sabaa Tahir

Read: An Ember in the Ashes

Mary E. Pearson

Read: The Kiss of Deception and The Heart of Betrayal

Sara Raasch

Read: Snow Like Ashes

How was your reading year? Have you managed to meet all your goals? Do we share any new favourite authors? And, if you celebrate Christmas, have you started preparing yet?? I’M SO FAR BEHIND! Only TWO WEEKS left?! *Panics!* We’ll have to get stuck in this weekend and put the decorations up, no excuses anymore!

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Reading!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Review: Hollow Pike by James Dawson

Hollow Pike by James Dawson book cover

Title: Hollow Pike
Author: James Dawson
Series: Standalone
Format: Paperback, owned
My rating: 4 / 5

Add to Goodreads

Something wicked this way comes...

She thought she’d be safe in the country, but you can’t escape your own nightmares, and Lis London dreams repeatedly that someone is trying to kill her. Lis thinks she’s being paranoid - after all who would want to murder her? She doesn’t believe in the local legends of witchcraft. She doesn’t believe that anything bad will really happen to her. You never do, do you? Not until you’re alone in the woods, after dark - and a twig snaps... Hollow Pike - where witchcraft never sleeps.

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

Earlier on this year I read and loved one of James Dawson’s more recent releases, Say Her Name, and as I had Hollow Pike on my to-read list for a long time, I thought it was about time I gave it a go. I’m so, so, so glad I did, and I really wish I’d read it sooner! Set in North Yorkshire, Lis London, our main character, moves in with her sister and brother-in-law to have a fresh start after severe bullying forced her to leave her previous school in Wales. The story starts off with a fairly strong contemporary feel, but things slowly begin to turn more sinister and creepy.

I was wrapped up in the story straight away, and it was the exact book that I needed to read to shake me out of the reading slump I’ve been struggling through over the past few months. I flew through the pages, the storytelling and writing style was so absorbing and I couldn’t wait to find out what happened in the next chapter. Sometimes I find male authors writing styles and I don’t mix that well, but I have to say that James Dawson is one of the few that I’ve completely clicked with. Comparing both books of his that I’ve read, I can see how much he’s grown as a writer and storyteller, and after reading Hollow Pike it’s left me wanting to read even more of his works.

I really liked all the characters, and despite not having one real favourite, it was so great to see such a varied and diverse cast of characters and personalities throughout the story. The friendships Lis forms in her new school was easily my favourite part of the book. There is a touch of romance as well, but for me, the awesome friendships overshadowed it by a mile. It’s not very often that friendship trumps romance in YA, and I really wish this trend would catch on!

The witch elements are slowly woven into the story, and it’s only toward the second half of the book that they come into full focus. I loved that this gave the characters a chance to become established before the paranormal and thriller themes kicked in. The ending was absolutely fabulous, and I loved being kept in the dark for so long. The tension was slowly ramped up throughout, and when things began to kick off I hadn’t a clue what to expect, and it was oh so awesome!

Overall, Hollow Pike was a fantastic read and a brilliant debut novel. It tackled bullying in a truthful, raw and honest way, and with a fabulous cast of characters, it’ll be a book I won’t forget for a long time to come.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Review: Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Vampire Academy book cover

Title: Vampire Academy
Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy, #1
Format: Paperback, owned
My rating: 4 / 5

Add to Goodreads


Lissa Dragomir is a Moroi princess: a mortal vampire with a rare gift for harnessing the earth's magic. She must be protected at all times from Strigoi; the fiercest vampires—the ones who never die. The powerful blend of human and vampire blood that flows through Rose Hathaway, Lissa's best friend, makes her a dhampir. Rose is dedicated to a dangerous life of protecting Lissa from the Strigoi, who are hell-bent on making Lissa one of them.

After two years of freedom, Rose and Lissa are caught and dragged back to St. Vladimir's Academy, a school for vampire royalty and their guardians-to-be, hidden in the deep forests of Montana. But inside the iron gates, life is even more fraught with danger…and the Strigoi are always close by.

Rose and Lissa must navigate their dangerous world, confront the temptations of forbidden love, and never once let their guard down, lest the evil undead make Lissa one of them forever…

-- As seen on Goodreads

My Thoughts

I’ve known about the Vampire Academy series for a long time, but, being honest, I had little desire to read it before I joined the book blogging community. When I saw the overwhelming amount of love for the books, I reconsidered and decided to give it a shot. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen, right? Now that I’ve finished it, I can see why so many love it, and I genuinely do wish I’d read the series long before now!

The first thing I have to mention is Rose. I kind of despised her for the majority of the book. If she was a real person, I’d be able to tolerate her for a maximum of five minutes before she’d do my head in, and I’d run away screaming. Yeah… not the best reaction to have toward the main character in a beloved series, is it? What surprised me the most was how much her attitude grew and evolved in a relatively short book, and toward the final quarter of the story I found myself starting to understanding why she behaves the way she does, and I began to like and root for her. I’ve done almost a complete 180 in my opinion, and this was a lovely unexpected surprise as my opinions tend to get set in stone pretty quickly. I can’t wait to read more of her story, and to see how she continues to grow and develop as a character.

Easily my favourite part of the book was the vampire lore and ethos that was created. It was a refreshing take as vampires in general have started to become a little jaded over recent years in YA. (Again, this cements in my mind that I should have read this series YEARS ago!) Combining this with the world building and the writing style, I was captivated by the story within a few dozen pages, and craving to know more about the vampire and damphir society. It was this combination that kept me glued to the pages despite not initially liking the main character. It feels like we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the world-building, which is really awesome, and I’m really curious to see where things will go in future books.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Vampire Academy, and I encourage anyone that’s been on the fence about trying the series to give it a go. I can only imagine the books will get better as the series progresses, and I personally can’t wait to see what happens next.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

WoW #74: Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman

This week, I'm waiting on...


by Nicole Castroman

 Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman  book cover

Expected publication: February 9th 2016

Genres: Young Adult; Historical; Retellings; Fantasy

Add to Goodreads

Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything. This is their story.

Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.

Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to CuraƧao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England?

From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

Holy wow, this sounds awesome! A Blackbeard retelling? I don’t need any more convincing, sign me up! With all the new retellings on the way, it doesn’t look like my addiction will get a reprieve anytime soon (much to my bank accounts terror!) I had a quick glance on Goodreads when I was getting the cover for this post, and the early reviews look really positive, so finger crossed it’ll be just as awesome as it sounds!

What do you think of Blackhearts? Is it a book you will be interested in reading? And, what are you eagerly waiting on this week?

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Reading!

* Waiting On Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating. *

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

My Most Anticipated 2016 Debut Novels

Just from reading the synopsis of these 2016 new releases, next year is already looking like it’ll be a fabulous bookish year. And this is just for debut authors! When I look at my entire list of 2016 releases that includes series I’m currently obsessed with reading and my favourite authors’ new releases… I really think 2016 will be year I become broke because of books!

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry Beyond the Red by Ava Jae

Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman // The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry
Beyond the Red by Ava Jae // Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos

After the Woods by Kim Savage Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

Into the Dim by Janet B. Taylor // Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace
The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos // After the Woods by Kim Savage
Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

What do you think of my list? Do we have any hope-to-read books in common? I wish I could get my hands on every single book I want, but unfortunately it isn’t realistic. How do you choose between the books you buy? Do you have a set bookish budget? And can you stick to it?? (If you can do this, I envy you terribly!)

Thanks for stopping by, and Happy Reading!

*Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme run by The Broke and the Bookish.*


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