Saturday, 13 September 2014

August Wrap-Up and Mini Reviews

In August, I read 8 books which I am quite happy with, but I know I could have read a lot more, seeing as it was summer. However, one of them was quite long, and I also spent two weeks of August in a reading slump which slowed me down a lot.

No and Me by Delphine de Vigan 92%
Parisian teenager Lou has the IQ of 160, OCD tendencies, and a mother who has suffered from depression for years. But Lou is about to change her life - and that of her parents - all because of a school project about homeless teens. While doing research, Lou meets No, a teenage girl living on the streets and a friendship blossoms which both helps and complicates Lou and her family's lives.
I actually read this in July, but I completely forgot to review it in my July Wrap-up, so I thought I would mention it now instead as I just loved it. I think it has probably gone on to my favourites list, and for now it is on my Top 11 Influential books list which you can actually read about here. I thought this book was wonderfully written and we see some fantastic character development not only with Lou, the protagonist, but with nearly all the characters which I loved. There were so many
interlinking stories that went along with the main storyline making it a brilliant and intelligent read. I also found that it gave me real insight and a deeper understanding into what it means to be homeless and what it can be like.

The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen 75%
What has Macy to look forward to in the summer while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp? Days spent at a boring job in the library, evenings filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time passed with her mother, the two of them suffering from a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy's father.
But sometimes unexpected things can happen - things such as the catering job at Wish, with it's fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister's project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl's world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, is it really better to be safe than sorry?
This was my first Sarah Dessen book and although it was definitely not perfect, I really did enjoy it and would quite like to pick up some more of her books. I have been told that Just Listen is much better so I would be interested to see for myself how it compares as, from what I have read and heard of her, she seems to be a loved author of many but, I don't this book displayed her full potential. In my opinion, it was a really cute, funny read that was actually much deeper than I thought it was going to be. The emotions in this book were well captured, I loved Wes and, I thought it made a great summer read. However, I did find that it felt quite cliché, predictable and unrealistic which annoyed me at times. I still really enjoyed it though - a quick, fun and easy read for the holidays. 

Half Bad (Half Life #1) by Sally Green 80%
A boy's struggle for survival in a hidden society of witches.
You can't read, can't write, but you heal fast, even for a witch. You get sick if you stay indoors after dark. You hate White Witches but love Annalise, who is one. You've been kept in a cage since you were fourteen. All you've got to do is escape and find Mercury, the Black Witch who is known to eat boys. And do that before your seventeenth birthday. Easy.
I thought that this book has a very interesting and unique story line with an equally unique writing style that added a lot to the story. It switched between second person and first person and I have never read a novel written this way before, but I found that it was really effective for the story. There was brilliant character development and at times I found It hard to know what opinion I was in, in terms of the "politics" and story, because of the characters involved. I thought that this was a fantastic and intriguing touch. My one fault with Half Bad would be that it was a lot more slow-paced than I expected as the majority of the book was for the world building and set-up of the story for the rest of the series/trilogy (I can't remember which it is), which, although it will probably be necessary and makes sense for the next books, made it a slightly less exciting read.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell 80%
Two misfits. One extraordinary love. 
Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough... Eleanor 
Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises... Park.
Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds - smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave enough and desperate enough to try.
This was my second Rainbow Rowell read, and although I would have to say I liked Fangirl quite a bit more, I still really enjoyed this book. It was nothing like I was expecting, but I thought the storyline was excellent and the writing was, as always, wonderful. The narrative was split between Eleanor and Park, and although it was written in third person, it read like it was written in first person which I thought was really interesting and a unique way to tell the story. Eleanor and Park were so cute together and I was rooting for them so much and the ending was heartbreaking (I don't want to give spoilers but I'm sure you will know that it is a sad ending), though not in the way I expected it to be which was a good thing as it made it unpredictable and exciting. However, my one criticism would be that it did not feel very realistic (something I found with Fangirl a bit also, but not to the same level and did not bother me so much) and I felt like this story and the characters needed to be more relatable and less dramatic to make it a really wonderful book. I still really enjoyed it though and know that, for a lot of people, this is one of their favourite books and their favourite of Rainbow Rowell's novels. I would definitely recommend  it to fans of Rainbow Rowell, who has proved to be very versatile in her writing and story lines as this was completely different to Fangirl, and I will be trying to pick up Landline or Attachments soon.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 95%
It's 2044 and the world has become an ugly place. We're out of oil, have wrecked the climate and famine, poverty and disease are widespread. 
Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes reality by spending his waking hours on the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be who you want to be and live, play, even fall in love on over ten thousand different planets. Like most people, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within: OASIS founder, James Halliday, who dies with no heir, has promised the control of the OASIS (and his entire massive fortune) to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.  For years, millions have struggled fruitlessly to attain this prize, knowing only that the riddles are based on Halliday's obsession, 80s pop culture. And then Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. Suddenly, he finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions - and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed. 
I loved this book, it was brilliant and intelligent and pure unadulterated genius. It has gone straight in my favourites and I'm pretty sure will be in my top 14 of 2014 at the end if this year. Although I can enjoy and appreciate a dystopian story, I'm not a massive fan and the whole pop culture/video game theme isn't that big of an interest of mine so I had no idea that I would enjoy this book as much as I did. It was just so much fun, so exciting and gripping and an awesome idea. This book has a lot of 80s pop culture references which, I think is a brilliant, quirky idea and although I didn't get all (or even most) of the references, it didn't detract from the story at all, but if you do understand them, good for you! The characters were really well thought out, they all had flaws and quirks which made 
them so much more relatable and realistic. It was fast-paced and well written - I could barely put it down. This book is described as "Willy Wonka meets the Matrix" which is just the perfect way to describe it and makes it sound so fantastically awesome. You have to read this book.

Vicious by V.E Schwab 82%
Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognised the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong. Ten years later, 
Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the arch-nemesis have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end? 
I thought that this was a really interesting idea which I don't think has ever been done before. V.E Schwab tells the story in an intriguing, mysterious way that portrays the darkness of this story and the pretty messed-up characters. The story is presented in the usual fashion of the hero as the "protagonist" (Victor) working against the villain (Eli) but in actual fact, both of the characters were antagonists, neither of them were very good people which was really interesting and unique and I liked that a lot. However, I didn't connect with the story or care about any of the characters (apart from Mitch, whom you just can't help but love, he is just so sweet) and that, paired with the fact that this isn't a preferred genre of mine, just prevented it from being an amazing book for me. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K Rowling 100%
(I'm won't give a synopsis because I assume that everyone knows... If you don't then I don't even know what to say...err that's just strange Google it.) 
Of course, yet again, I absolutely loved this book, it may be one of my favourites of the series (I know it is for many people), but I'm not quite sure. I won't say much about it because 1. it will turn in to a whole humongous post if I do and I will save that for another day and 2. I don't know how easy it is for me to explain why and how much I love this series. But anyway... It is such an exciting and interesting instalment to the series with so much happening and I think this is where is just starts to get a little bit crazy, which I love. I also love the character development, even more world building and the interactions between the characters throughout, especially the rocky relationship between Harry and Ron which I think made them even better friends, showed that all friends fight and outlined their flaws, making them even more relatable, developed and interesting. 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart 96%
A beautiful and distinguished family. A private island, a brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy. A group of four friends - the Liars - whose friendship turns destructive. A revolution. An accident. A secret. Lies upon lies. True love. The truth.
Read it. And if anyone asks just LIE.
This book is about aliens from out-of-space. It's about a dog and a cat who fall in love. It's about a princess and her artistic talent. It's about a boy who got hit by a car. It's about a ship that sailed away and never to return. It's about an elephant who crashed a party. It's about two sisters who get lost underground. It's about a man and his housekeeper who have an affair. It's about two people who go on a voyage to a distant land. It's about enemies who join forces. 
Without a doubt, you will have heard of this book (unless you've been living under a rock) as it has received so much hype over the last few months and I have written a full SPOILER review (so I won't say too much) which you can find here. Although this book is definitely not for everyone (most people have either given it 5 stars or 3 stars), I loved it, it has gone straight on to my favourites list and was one of my favourite books of the year. The writing is exceptionally beautiful and it was such an intriguing, mysterious, gripping story, wonderful character development and a gasp-worthy twist that I loved. I definitely hope to pick up more of E. Lockhart's work as I really couldn't get enough of the writing. 

Clockwork Angel (the Infernal Devices #1) by Cassandra Clare 94%
In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of  history forever.
The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London's dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters - including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys that she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organisation of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them.
I know, it's been well over-due that I should pick this up seeing as I loved The Mortal Instruments (TMI) so much, in fact I should have picked it up even before I read City of Heavenly Fire because there are a lot of spoilers for The Infernal Devices (TID) in there and I am kicking myself for it now and wish I had known. I loved this book though, it's a vast improvement on City of Bones, the first book in the TMI series. While I still loved that book, the writing in this one is so much better, along with the world building and character development, making it a truly fantastic read. I absolutely adore Tessa and both Will and Jem have captured my heart (still can't decide who I like better, mainly because Will acts like an absolute jerk in parts). The story was fast-paced, gripping and interesting and I need the next one now...I mean it... NOW. But I can't and it's killing me because I'm dying to know what happens next. If you love the Shadowhunter world, or enjoy a really good urban fantasy story with swoon-worthy characters I definitely recommend this trilogy.

So those are the 8 books I read in August (plus one I read in July) and what I thought of them. I had a very successful reading month in terms of enjoyment, with 4 books I read being rated 90%+ and even though I could have read more, I still read a decent amount of around 3200 pages so I am rather pleased.
I hope you enjoyed this wrap-up and are having a good day. What did you read in August? Have you read any of the books I've mentioned, what were your thoughts on them?
Love Ellen xxx

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