Monday 19 December 2016

My Favourite Books of 2016

2016 has been another up and down book year for me.  I have to admit that I gave up on a lot of titles that failed to grab my attention.  This is something that I would never have done in the past but my new philosophy is that there are far too many books out there that I do want to read to persevere with ones that I'm not enjoying.  There were a few highlight titles for me but sadly not enough to make my usual top ten, so instead here's my 2016 top five list.  These are in no particular order and have not necessarily been published this year.

1. Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens
Published by Puffin
A festive five star read! I absolutely adore this series and I loved everything about 'Mistletoe and Murder', from the perfect snowy Cambridge setting, to the ingenious murder mystery, to the wonderful cast of characters. I devoured this in one sitting.   
2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Published by Bloomsbury
Words cannot describe how much I love Sarah J. Maas. Her books are utter perfection and 'A Court of Mist and Fury' was probably THE book which most knocked my socks off in 2016.

  3. Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens
Published by Puffin
Robin Stevens is the only author to have two titles in my top five books of 2016. If you haven't read this series yet then what are you waiting for.
 4. Oblivion by Jennifer L. Armentrout
Published by Hodder
The return of Katy and Daemon meant that this was definitely one of my most anticipated books of the year and also one of the best. It was fantastic seeing so many familiar faces again and this newest installment did not disappoint.

  5. The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May
Published by Gollancz
Utterly gripping, this was a fast paced page turner. Exciting, riveting and impossible to put down, I loved it. I wish there wasn't such a long wait though for the next book in the series.
Comment and let me know what your favourite books of 2016 were.

Thursday 8 December 2016

Review: Replica - Lauren Oliver

Replica by Lauren Oliver, published by Hodder and Stoughton on 11th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects - Lyra, aka number 24, and the boy known only as 72 - manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven Institute. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

I was really intrigued when I first heard about this book because of the interesting and unique narrative structure.  It can be read as two separate stories or it can be read in alternating chapters by turning the book from front to back.  I decided on the latter because I was worried that if I read them separately, I might find the plot a bit too repetitive.  I think this worked well and I was pleased with my choice, although I'll admit that I did get a bit fed up with having to turn the book around every few minutes.  That aside, the structure was incredibly clever and provides two differing narrative viewpoints from the main characters Lyra and Gemma.

I enjoyed Gemma's half of the book the most.  The way that she develops as a character was really interesting and the way that she decides to investigate and unravel the secrets being kept from her was enough to keep me glued to the pages.  Her father has a mysterious connection to Haven, a secret research facility and Gemma is determined to find out what is really going on there.  I thought that her journey was fascinating and packed full of surprises.

Lyra was much more mercurial and enigmatic.  Her story starts off with her living at Haven until a pivotal event throws her existence into chaos.  I wasn't sure what to think of Lyra in the beginning until I gradually began to understand more about her and saw her start to open up a little.

I sped through the second half of the book which was particularly gripping and couldn't believe the revelations that came to light.  As this is the first title in a duology, the ending left the reader on tenterhooks and desperate for the follow-up.    

Cloning is a hugely pivotal theme in the book and I thought that Lauren Oliver did a terrific job of exploring the different layers and viewpoints surrounding this subject.  I liked reading about all the science behind it and haven't come across any books quite as interesting on this topic before.   

Monday 5 December 2016

Review: Mistletoe and Murder - Robin Stevens

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens, published by Puffin on 20th October 2016

Goodreads synopsis:
Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea-rooms - but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Two days before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident - until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must use all their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

A new Wells and Wong mystery is fast becoming the highlight of my reading calendar.  This is one of my favourite series and each book is a genuine delight to read.  I usually devour them in one sitting - the perfect bun break treat!

The newest title is set around Christmas time in the gorgeous setting of snowy Cambridge.  Hazel and Daisy are spending Christmas with Daisy's Aunt and her brother Bertie.  They have no expectations beyond exploring their ancient surroundings and enjoying buns galore in Fitzbillies.  Well, that's not entirely true, as the two girls always have a nose for any possible mystery that might arise!  Instead of a quiet Christmas with family, they stumble upon a murder mystery after a terrible incident occurs.  Determined to investigate and solve the crime, they face competition from the Junior Pinkertons, Alexander and his friend George, who want to prove that they are the best detective society in Cambridge.

As usual, the mystery is fiendishly clever and such fun to untangle.  There are lots of clues presented along the way and suspects identified but I'm always in awe of Daisy and Hazel and their powers of deduction.  They make a great team.  People always seem to underestimate a pair of girls, which plays in their favour and allows them to investigate all kinds of different avenues.  Stevens, also uses this to highlight the differences between the two genders and the fact that even in the 1930s, women were still in an inferior position and treated as such by men. 

I loved the Cambridge setting.  I've never visited but would love to, so it was great getting to live vicariously through Daisy and Hazel.  Plus the ancient buildings sound gorgeous and are the perfect place for a murder mystery to occur.    

A five star fabulous read, I was head over heels for 'Mistletoe and Murder'.  I love the fact that it took place during my favourite holiday season and I can't wait to see our intrepid duo back together again for their next mystery.  This is one series that I hope will go on and on and on.
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