Saturday, 22 December 2012

2012 End of Year Book Survey

2012 End of Year Book Survey

The 2012 End of Year Book Survey is hosted by Jamie at The Perpetual Page-Turner.  I posted my Top Ten Books of the Year recently, and this is a slightly more in-depth look at all the books I read.  Be warned: I'm pretty much just going to fangirl the Chaos Walking trilogy. This is also likely to be my last post of the year as we head into Christmas and the New Year.  Happy holidays to everyone.

Best in Books 2012

1. Best book you read in 2012? (You can break it down by genre if you want)

Young adult fiction - Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (though this covers the whole trilogy)
Adult fiction - The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Also see my top ten books of the year, as linked above and here.

2. Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn't?

It feels awful to say this, but The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling.  I knew it wouldn't be the same as Harry Potter but it was still a new book by JKR and I really wanted to like it more.  I think I'd have been disappointed by it regardless of who wrote it, but it was somehow worse that it was her.

3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2012?

Probably The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.  For some reason I thought it would be a slog but it's really fun and as quick a read as a near-1300 page brick can ever be.  It was also as mad as Revenge in terms of people not putting two and two together about what the Count was up to, which I found entertaining.

4. Book you recommended to people most in 2012?

Pretty much whichever book I'd just read and loved.  Though I really pushed John Green and Maureen Johnson on people, especially my flatmate who didn't know what she was in for when she asked to borrow a book ("here, have this stack of great young adult.  I'm guessing you're more into contemporaries, so have Beauty Queens and Paper Towns and Girl At Sea.  Oh, and Dash and Lily".)

5. Best series you discovered in 2012?

The Wardstone Chronicles by Joseph Delaney.  I really wasn't expecting much but they are fun, scary children's books which make great use of British folklore.  Need to finish reading in 2013.

6. Favourite new authors you discovered in 2012?

Christopher Isherwood (his prose is beautiful, I need to read everything he wrote); Lauren Oliver (why did I wait till 2012 to finish a book by her?); and Madeline Miller (she's only written one book but I love it.  Want more from her).

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I'm not sure.  I didn't really read any genres that were radically different for me this year.  I think maybe Thirteen Reasons Why was out of my comfort zone just because it hit way too close to home (I was not a happy teenager) and it was a painful read.

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2012?

Monsters of Men.  I rushed through that one.  It isn't one of the books I read in a day, but I really couldn't put it down.

9. Book you read in 2012 that you are most likely to re-read next year?

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan, because I want to finish the series but can't remember all of the fine points of the plot.  It isn't a chore at all, though, as that book is fab.

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2012?

This is surprisingly difficult!  I'm looking at my books for 2012 in cover view on Goodreads and so many of them are pretty.  But if it has to be one:

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  Partly because it is stunning - as are all the illustrations - but also because it feels nice.  I like it when books feel like they're made of good things.

11. Most memorable character in 2012?

Viola Eade.  Total badass.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2012?

Another tricky one, but going with Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver.  Or My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2012?

Either My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher or A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness.  Both deal with loss and death in deeply moving and powerful ways.

14. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2012 to finally read?

I can't believe I waited till 2012 to finish The Chaos Walking trilogy, so this is two: The Ask and the Answer and Monsters of Men.  Seriously, I could have read this last year and I didn't!  Fool of a Took.

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2012?

I don't keep track of quotes I love - I need to start doing that - so if it was a library book then I'm stuck, but here's the most recent one I could think of from a book I own:

"It's not that you should never love something so much it can control you.
 It's that you need to love something that much so you can never be controlled." (The Ask and the Answer, p492).

16. Shortest & longest book you read in 2012?

Longest book - The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas at a mighty 1264 pages.
Shortest book - Prater Violet by Christopher Isherwood at 122 pages

17. Book that had a scene it it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc, etc). Be careful of spoilers!

The ending of The Ask and the Answer (argh, what? No!)

18. Favourite relationship from a book you read in 2012 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Viola and Todd in the Chaos Walking trilogy because the obvious romance doesn't get in the way of the plot (and because a love triangle is averted, thank the Lord) and Sunya and Jamie in My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece because they are so sweet.

19. Favourite book you read in 2012 from an author you read previously.

Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan.  I love this almost as much as Nick & Norah, which is saying something.

20. Best book you read that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from someone else.

I didn't read a lot of books because of a recommendation, though I did buy a lot that I need to get to in 2013.  If there is one, it's This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel.  I actually read this because of April at Good Books and Good Wine's review of the second book in the series, Such Wicked Intent.  That's still on order at the library, and I can't wait to get my hands on it, but I really enjoyed This Dark Endeavour though I think Such Wicked Intent is going to be better.

Looking Ahead...

1. One book you didn't get to in 2012 but will be your number 1 priority in 2013?

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.  I bought this when it came out in January 2012 and haven't even touched it. 

2. Book you are most anticipating for 2013?

Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins.  I don't feel that needs any explanation.

3. One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging in 2013?

Reading - read more.  Seems simple but I procrastinate too much and I really need to make a dent in my TBR pile because it is getting ridiculous.

Blogging - join in more.  Linked to this is being less shy/scared of joining in, but I really want to do more and blog more and that means sucking it up and participating even when I'm a little scared of doing so.

Friday, 21 December 2012

Review: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #3)

Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
In the final book of the Chaos Walking trilogy: oh my God, argh no, seriously?  Just when you thought the end of The Ask and the Answer meant things couldn't possibly get any worse, they do.  Spectacularly.  And then you get repeatedly punched in the gut.

Title & Author: Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness
Published: 2010
Series: Chaos Walking #3
Pages: 603 (Walker Books, 2010)
Challenge: Series Catch-Up
Status: Owned book

Note: As with The Ask and the Answer, please don't read this review if you haven't read the previous books in the series (The Knife of Never Letting Go is #1).  While I don't spoil Monsters of Men I do discuss plot details from the earlier books.

Synopsis: As a world-ending war surges around them, Todd and Viola face monstrous decisions. The indigenous Spackle, thinking and acting as one, have mobilized to avenge their murdered people. Ruthless human leaders prepare to defend their factions at all costs, even as a convoy of new settlers approaches. And as the ceaseless Noise lays all thoughts bare, the projected will of the few threatens to overwhelm the desperate desire of the many. The consequences of each action, each word, are unspeakably vast: To follow a tyrant or a terrorist? To save the life of the one you love most, or thousands of strangers? To believe in redemption, or assume it is lost? Becoming adults amid the turmoil, Todd and Viola question all they have known, racing through horror and outrage toward a shocking finale. (from Goodreads)

First Line: "'War,' says Mayor Prentiss, his eyes glinting. 'At last.'"

Review: As the end of The Ask and the Answer and the first words of this book suggest, Monsters of Men is all about war.  There is a lot of fighting.  I didn't find this off putting (I am a huge fan of battle and action scenes, they are often my favourite thing in books and movies) but I know some other readers do - so, just to be warned, lots of fighting and battle and blood and death.  It never feels gratuitous, but it is constant for the first 1/3 or so of the book and this can be grinding.  It's completely realistic, but there isn't much breathing space.

Not that this book is all about the action.  It is, ultimately, a book about peace.  Peace is what most people are striving for, and what characters like Mayor bloody Prentiss (I really think I'm just going to take to calling him that) are constantly trying to prevent.  There is the added issue of thousands of settlers being on their way, potentially to land in either a war zone or to be wiped out by the Spackle, which makes a drive for a decent peace treaty - not like the one reached after the first war, which lead to a Spackle slave population - even more important.

This is all making it sound like a very simplistic plot.  And, to an extent, it is.  It is a relentless plot, just as the first two books are, and there are just as many twists and turns with as many surprises as you'd expect.  A lot of the focus is on the Spackle - there is now a third voice added to Todd and Viola's and it is absolutely awesome and adds a new layer to the debate about peace and war, justice and revenge.  The genius of this book, as with The Ask and the Answer, is that there are no simple solutions and pretty much every side is justified in their actions in some way (except Mayor bloody Prentiss).  Like the best science fiction it makes you think about the real world, about issues we have to deal with, and does so with an amazing story that left me crying and shuddering and wanting to recommend it to as many people as possible.

Does it work as the last book in a trilogy?  Hell, yes.  It is a fantastic finale, which brings together all the themes and works perfectly.  I did not feel remotely let down by any part of it.  I really don't think I can recommend this trilogy to people enough - it is painful and intense and there are times when you care so much that it hurts, but it is so worth the read.  I just wish I'd read all three last year when I first read The Knife of Never Letting Go.
Rating: 10/10

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Review: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #2)

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
In the second book of The Chaos Walking trilogy, just when you think things can't get worse they do.  Every time.  And it hurts (though not as much as it will in the finale).

Title & Author: The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
Published: 2009
Series: Chaos Walking #2
Pages: 517 (Walker Books, 2009)
Challenge: Series Catch-Up
Status: Owned book

Note: If you haven't read The Knife of Never Letting Go I strongly recommend you do so before reading this review.  While I don't spoil The Ask and the Answer I do, by necessity, discuss the ending of the first book which is not something you want spoiled.  Trust me.

Synopsis: Fleeing before a relentless army, Todd has carried a desperately wounded Viola right into the hands of their worst enemy, Mayor Prentiss.

Immediately separated from Viola and imprisoned, Todd is forced to learn the ways of the Mayor's new order.

But what secrets are hiding just outside of town?
And where is Viola? Is she even still alive?
And who are the mysterious Answer?

And then, one day, the bombs begin to explode... (from Goodreads)

First line: "'Your Noise reveals you, Todd Hewitt.'"

Review: So, the ending of The Knife of Never Letting Go was pretty bad, right?  Viola's been gut shot, Todd can't find anyone to help, and Mayor Prentiss has taken over Haven, renamed it Prentisstown and declared himself President.  Things can't get much worse, right?  Wrong, they get spectacularly worse in epic ways.

The book is told from Todd and Viola's perspectives, which is great and Viola Eade is a total bamf and Todd is just as cool as ever.  What's less great is that neither of them know what's happening to the other, so first there's the tension of Todd wondering if Viola survived, then there's all sorts of misunderstandings as they both try to muddle through and figure out just what the other one is up to.  And given that they end up on opposite sides of a fight between Mayor "I'm a nice guy really" Prentiss and Mistress "I know best let's blow stuff up" Coyle there are a lot of things to misunderstand.  This could become annoying, but Patrick Ness handles it well and there's only one moment when I wanted to smack myself in the forehead then slap them both because, guys, really, think things through for a bit and see that you're being played. 

Just as The Knife of Never Letting Go dealt with 'big' issues through a fantastic plot, so The Ask and the Answer addresses the little matters of dictatorship and terrorism while driving relentlessly to an ending with no easy choices.  I do like that Patrick Ness didn't make all those in opposition to the Mayor perfect or even likeable; it's more real that way, and opens up two matters for consideration.  Because as despicable as the Mayor is, the reaction some of the residents of Haven have to him both make things worse and give him the opportunity to improve his public image. 

And I really feel like I can't say more because, again, spoilers.  The one thing I will say is: make sure you have Monsters of Men to hand before you finish The Ask and the Answer.  Because if you though the cliffhanger to The Knife of Never Letting Go was evil you are wildly unprepared for the end of The Ask and the Answer.  Every plotline speeds up, rushes towards a conclusion - and then something wholly unexpected happens, which leads to Todd having to make a terrifying decision.  And then the book ends.
Ultimately I don't love this book as much as I love The Knife of Never Letting Go, but it is an exceptionally good read and an excellent middle book of a trilogy.

Rating: 9/10

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read in 2012

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  This week: top ten books we read in 2012.  This list is compiled based on my reading up to 16/12 - a total of 73 books (my target for the year was 100 but I've now dropped that to a somewhat more manageable 75).  This was quite a tricky ten to decide, because once I got past number 5 there were a lot of books vying for position.  But this is the definitive list of my favourite books for 2012 (unless I read something amazing in the next couple of weeks, which could happen) - with British dates, in case some look weird.

1. Monsters of Men by Patrick Ness (3/12 - 9/12) - This is really for the entire trilogy (this is book 3, The Knife of Never Letting Go is #1 and The Ask and the Answer #2) because oh my God it is so good.  Seriously, destructively good.  I could be quite obnoxious about recommending people read this, especially if they like science fiction and/or dystopias because it is just so good. (Goodreads for the trilogy)

2. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (from an original idea by Siobhan Dowd) (9/12) - So, I was in a bit of a Patrick Ness fangirl mood and so I read this as soon as I finished Monster of Men.  Which was a bit silly because I spent a day being messed up and teary.  The book deals with grief and love and loss in a stunning way that left me feeling like I'd punched in the gut.  Brilliant. (Goodreads)

3. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (27/6 - 29/6) - Until I picked up the above books, this was easily going to be my book of the year.  The story of The Iliad retold from Patroclus's perspective?  With him and Achilles in a relationship (which they blatantly are, it doesn't take that much reading between the lines, people)?  How could I not love that - well, if it had been handled badly, but it wasn't!  Absolutely beautiful and the ending made me cry even though I knew what would happen. (Goodreads)

4. My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher (7/11) - Another book about grief and loss that had me sobbing (there is a pattern forming).  Told from the perspective of wonderful ten-year-old Jamie who really needs a hug, this book is wonderful.  A quick read that nonetheless makes you feel all the things.  I can't wait to get my hands on her new book. (Goodreads)

5. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (5/1) - I only read this once, at the very beginning of the year (first book of the year, actually) but it stuck with me.  It was a little too close to the bone in some cases - I had a fun adolescence - but it dealt with an important issue very well.  The sort of book I'd want as many people as possible to read. (Goodreads)

6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (27/2 - 1/3) - I still haven't seen the film because I am ridiculous but I really liked the book.  Simple, beautiful language, wonderful characters, all fabulous.  I really need to get my own copy (this was a library book), reread it and watch the film. (Goodreads)

7. Dash & Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (10/5 - 11/5) - I love this almost as much as Nick & Norah.  A really fun, slightly daft read in a good way.  I leant it to my flatmate during one of my moments of indoctrinating her with YA and she liked it too, also making the point that all of the characters are great and Lily could be so annoyingly perfect but she isn't.  If you liked Nick & Norah read this (it's also Christmas-y!). (Goodreads)

8. Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver (13/6) - Until I read The Song of Achilles this was my favourite book in June.  It's my first Lauren Oliver (I know, what have I been doing?) and it's one of the most beautiful children's books I've ever read - my edition is a gorgeous hardback as well as being a gorgeous story.  The prose, the characters, the plot, everything is wonderful.  And it made me cry. (Goodreads)

9. The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan (6/1 - 9/1) - One of my first tasks in the new year will be rereading this and then finishing the trilogy.  This is fun, awesome urban fantasy and it's not only set in Britain (woot!) but also in places I know.  Oh, Exeter, I miss thee and was probably there when all this was going down. (Goodreads)

10. Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel (30/1 - 31/1) - this was the tricky decision but I'm choosing Mantel because her writing is just so good.  There's a lot in her memoir about feminism and writing and all sorts of other things that had me marvelling and determining to read the rest of her books. (Goodreads)

Also thoroughly enjoyed: anything by Christopher Isherwood, An Education by Lynn Barber, and Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking #1)

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
In The Knife of Never Letting Go, subjects such as war, love, feminism, misogyny and death are dealt with in a way that is a) beautiful and b) so intense oh my God I couldn't stop reading even though it hurt.  And that's just the start of a series that will wreck you.

Title & Author: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Published: 2008
Series: Chaos Walking #1
Pages: 479 (Walker Books, 2008)
Challenge: Series Catch-Up
Status: Owned book

Synopsis: Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him -- something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too.  (edited from Goodreads because hello spoilers much?)

First Line: "The first thing you find out when yer dog starts to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say.  About anything."

Review: This is a difficult review to write because a) I love this book so damn much, I've read it twice now and know I'll reread it repeatedly; and b) I want to say a lot but don't want to spoil.  A lot of what makes this book so good is the constant surprise and mystery and wondering just what Patrick Ness is going to drop his characters into next.  And then you find out and it hurts and you want it to stop but you also can't stop reading and then you get to the end and let out all the swears because I warn you now, cliffhanger o'clock.  Have the rest of the trilogy ready to go because it really needs to be read together or you'll go mad with anticipation.

So, without wanting to spoil anything: Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown, which is the last settlement on New World.  When Todd was a baby the Noise germ (released by the Spackle, the native aliens, during a war that eventually wiped them out) killed all the women of the town and made it so the thoughts of everyone and everything else can be heard.  All the time.  Forever.  This is shown in the book as a mass of words and fonts that are hard to differentiate and give you a sense of just how nightmarish this world is.  Todd has learned to hide his Noise a little, but he's still only twelve and stuff leaks out - and when he finds something strange in the swamp, he knows he has to keep it a secret.  Only he fails and has to run and then it's a manic chase across New World in which he learns that everything he thought was true isn't.

And there's death and violence and war and grief and seriously, this book is so good.  There's one bit (and people who've read it before know what it is) that I still can't believe Patrick Ness did because you do not do that sort of thing.  That is crossing a line.  I had forgotten it happened on my reread and I actually tried to convince myself it wasn't going to occur.  That it did and it hurt as much this time as before is testament to how this book sucks you in and makes you care about the characters.

I'm really not sure this review conveys how much I love and admire this book (although maybe the sheer incoherence gets that across).  I just think everyone should read it, and then continue with the rest of the trilogy.  It made me cry and think and swear, all of which are good things when I'm reading.  Read it.

Rating: 10/10

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Series Catch-Up: Midpoint Check In Post

The Series Catch-Up Challenge is hosted by Brittany at The Book Addict's Guide.  As we're halfway through it's time for a quick check in on my progress.  I signed up to the challenge here and set myself some goals, which are in bold below.

- Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (2 to go) - Haven't started these yet.  I need to, as I'm not allowing myself to read Bloodlines or The Golden Lily until I've finished Vampire Academy and I really want to read those.

- Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness (I'm going to have to reread the 1st one) - I have finished this series!  It was brilliant and heartbreaking and made me sob and yell and decide that I want Viola Eade to be real so she can fix all the problems ever because she is that much of a badass.  Reviews to follow.

- Gemma Doyle by Libba Bray (again, some rereading is needed, this time of the first two - not that that's a hardship) - haven't started this either.  No Diviners for me till I've finished Gemma Doyle.

Those were my main ones.  I did also say that I hoped to read "EITHER The Hunger Games OR The Demon's Lexicon OR Dream Catcher" although that may not happen.  I'm a bit dystopia-ed out after Chaos Walking and am wondering if even The Hunger Games will come close to how bloody awesome those books are. 

Actually, if you take anything away from this little post, I hope it's this: read Chaos Walking.  Seriously, read it.  It will eat your life and mess you up and make you think, and it is so worth it.

Harry Potter Readalong: Final Post

Harry Potter Read Along
So, today is the last day of the Harry Potter Readalong, which was hosted by the wonderful Jenna at Lost Generation Reader.  This means I should really do a final post listing everything I've achieved and what I've learnt etc.

Except I haven't finished rereading the series.

I stopped at Prisoner of Azkaban.

I would love to say I have good reasons for failing to do something I was incredibly excited about, but mostly I got behind and then couldn't catch up and, what can I say, it's pretty much my time at university all over again.  At least this time I had read the books before so I don't have to sit there nodding along as the lecturer talks about themes and meanings and the like.

But, I did really enjoy the start of the reread and I am going to finish it in my own time, most likely in January - plus, I really like the idea of rereading a series I love and having a fixed day to post reviews (I did it on Saturdays), so I think I'll make that a feature of my blog in 2013.

All of this is a long winded way of saying: I haven't finished the series, but I intend to, and will do so (with reviews) in January.  And then I will move on to other series I enjoy and have actually completed.

Posts for the Readalong
Sign Up Post - fascinating info on my decision to start the readalong.
The Beginning - in which I wax lyrical about my love of Harry Potter.
Top Ten Harry Potter Moments - it was a freebie at Top Ten Tuesday so I went with this.

Books reread and reviewed
Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Books to reread and review
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Quidditch Through the Ages
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Harry: A History by Melissa Anelli

I'll update this post with links to reviews as and when I post them.

And at some point I will have to do a big write up of my visit to the Harry Potter Studio, especially as I'm hoping to drag my friends there for my 30th next year.

Finally, thanks to Jenna for hosting the readalong in the first place. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Quick Update

I've been really lax in blogging lately, so to anyone who reads/follows - sorry.  I've suddenly picked up my reading after a massive slump and have torn through about 7 books in a weekend.  So now I need to write about them in review form.

I also have some challenges to participate in and sign up for, and end of year things to do.  Other than that - and the reviews required for said challenges - I'm not going to be posting much again until the new year when I intend to be a lot more organised and scheduled and productive.  Yes.  Because it is a new year and that is the sort of thing you say as you approach one.

So, things to come in December, but more stuff in January.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...