2014: My Year in Books

Hello lovely book people,

Firstly, I hope you are all having a great New Years Eve. I am spending mine with my lovely boyfriend in London watching some fancy fireworks from our hotel on the Thames – fancy schmancy. Yep I got myself a good one.

Anywho, back to some book business – I think we should all celebrate how great this year has been for books. I have read some phenomenal releases this year and I have thoroughly enjoyed it.

I originally set myself a target of reading 52 books this year. I admit it was a conservative number for me but I wanted to take it easy. Little did I know I would get sick and bedridden in February and be signed off work until September. So, yep I read a lot more than I thought I would. Here are my vital statistics:

Book Target: 52 Books

Books Read: 179 Books

Pages Read: 46662 pages

Percentage Rate: 344%

Yep, I even admit I am a little proud of myself based on these stats.

So here are the books that I read this year

1)            Born Weird by Andrew Kaufman

2)            Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

3)            The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse by Robert Rankin

4)            The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll

5)            White Boots & Miniskirts by Jacky Hyams

6)            The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes

7)            The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

8)            Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

9)            The Prince of Mist by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

10)          Do You Remember? by Mandy Baggot

11)          Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce

12)          I Heart Paris by Lindsey Kelk

13)          Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

14)          The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

15)          The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filier

16)          Falling For Gatsby by Claire Dyer

17)          Rules for Dating a Romantic Hero by Harriet Evans

18)          Just One Day by Gayle Forman

19)          Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn by Tilly Tennant

20)          Love Letters of Great Women by Ursula Doyle

21)          A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

22)          Gangsta Granny by David Walliams

23)          The Railway Children by E Nesbit

24)          The Commitments by Roddy Doyle

25)          A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

26)          Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

27)          The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

28)          A Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin

29)          The Colour Purple by Alice Walker

30)          The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751Books to Cure What Ails You by Ella Berthoud

31)          Mistakes in the Background by Lauren Dockrill

32)          The Geography of You and Me by Jennifer E Smith

33)          Sense and Sensibility by Joanna Trollope

34)          Autobiography by Morrissey

35)          A Hundred Pieces of Me by Lucy Dillon

36)          Thank You for the Days: A Boy’s Own Adventures in Radio and Beyond by Mark Radcliffe

37)          This Old Thing: Fall in Love with Vintage Clothes by Dawn O’Porter

38)          The Long Way Home (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Vol. 1) by Joss Whedon

39)          That Part Was True by Deborah McKinlay

40)          Beatrix Potter Illustrated Collection by Beatrix Potter

41)          Talking to Girls About Duran Duran: One Young Man’s Quest for True Love and a Cooler Haircut by Rob Sheffiield

42)          A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R R Martin

43)          Hook, Line and Singer by Cerys Matthew

44)          Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby

45)          Songbook by Nick Hornby

46)          Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson

47)          Amy, 27: Amy Winehouse and the 27 Club by Howard Sounes

48)          The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman

49)          You’re the One That I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

50)          Hungry, the Stars, and Everything by Emma Jane Unsworth

51)          Forever by Judy Blume

52)          I Murdered my Library by Linda Grant

53)          Here Come the Boys by Milly Johnson

54)          Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

55)          The Vintage Summer Wedding by Jenny Oliver

56)          Jumping in Puddles by Kerry Parkinson

57)          The Year of Reading Dangerously: How Fifty Great Books Saved My Life by Andy Miller

58)          The Lemon Grove by Helen Walsh

59)          The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

60)          The Wrong Knickers: A Decade of Chaos by Bryony Gordon

61)          A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R R Martin

62)          The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

63)          After I Left You by Alison Mercer

64)          The Bookshop on the Corner by Rebecca Raisin

65)          Never Google Heartbreak by Emma Garcia

66)          Animals by Emma Jane Unsworth

67)          The Stonehenge Letters by Harry Karliinsky

68)          Since Forever Ago by Olivia Besse

69)          The Briefcase by Hiromi Kawakami

70)          My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

71)          Stuff I’ve Been Reading by Nick Hornby

72)          The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

73)          Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy

74)          The Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera

75)          How We Deal With Gravity by Ginger Scott

76)          Yes, Chef! by Lisa Joy

77)          First Tango in Paris by Shelley Thrasher

78)          A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

79)          Thirst by Kerry Hudson

80)          Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid

81)          What Happens to Men When They Move to Manhattan? by Jill Knapp

82)          Before You by Amber Hart

83)          Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight

84)          The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays and Stories by Marina Keegan

85)          What Would Mary Berry Do? by Claire Sandy

86)          The Library of Unrequited Love by Sophie Divvy

87)          The Duff: Designated Ugly Fat Friend by Kody Keplinger

88)          The Atlas of Us by Tracy Buchanan

89)          Paper Swans by Jessica Thompson

90)          Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

91)          What Might Have Been by Matt Dunn

92)          Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

93)          Labyrinth: A Novel Based on the Jim Henson Film by A C H Smith

94)          Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

95)          A Song for Issy Bradley: A Novel by Carys Bray

96)          To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

97)          Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas

98)          One Kick by Chelsea Cain

99)          Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

100)       Necrophilia Variations by Supervert

101)       Boy21 by Matthew Quick

102)       The Mysterious Affair at Castaway House by Stephanie Lam

103)       Chelsea Bird by Virginia Ironside

104)       The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll in Ten Songs by Greil Marcus

105)       These Days are Ours by Michelle Haimoff

106)       An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

107)       The Wedding Speech by Isabelle Broom

108)       Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

109)       Poppy Does Paris (Girls on Tour Book 1) by Nicola Doherty

110)       Revenge of the Witch by Joseph Delany

111)       Playing With Matches by Suri Rosen

112)       My Other Ex: Women’s True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends by Jessica Smock

113)       Twitter Girl by Nic Tatano

114)       Lily Does L.A. (Girls on Tour Book 2) by Nicola Doherty

115)       Who is Tom Ditto? by Danny Wallace

116)       Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

117)       Michael Jackson’s Dangerous by Susan Fast

118)       Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

119)       The Snow Globe by Kristin Harmel

120)       The Supreme Macaroni Company by Adriana Trigliani

121)       1,411 QI Facts to Knock You Sideways by John Lloyd

122)       Confessions of a City Girl: Los Angeles by Juliette Sobanet

123)       A Song for Ella Grey by David Almond

124)       A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale

125)       Fat Chance by Nick Spalding

126)       Zenith Hotel by Oscar Coop Thane

127)       Us by David Nicholls

128)       Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson

129)       Arms Wide Open by Juli Caldwell

130)       From Notting Hill with Love…Actually by Ali McNamara

131)       The Wives of Beverly Row 1: Lust Has a New Address by Abby Wallace

132)       From Notting Hill to New York…Actually by Ali McNamara

133)       Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

134)       How to Lose a Girl in 10 Ways: Words from a Wonderful Woeful Womaniser by Sean Smithson

135)       The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown

136)       If I Knew You Were Going to Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go by Judy Chicurel

137)       I Will Marry George Clooney by Tracy Bloom

138)       A Place for Us Part One by Harriet Evans

139)       Moone Boy by Chris O’Dowd

140)       A Beginner’s Guide to Christmas by Jennifer Joyce

141)       It’s Not Me, It’s You by Mhairi McFarlane

142)       It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Judy Astley

143)       Christmas with Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

144)       A Place for Us Part Two by Harriet Evans

145)       The Kiss Before Midnight by Stephanie Pembroke

146)       A Place for Us Part Three by Harriet Evans

147)       Secret Santa by Scarlett Bailey

148)       Say It With Sequins: The Complete Series by Georgia Hill

149)       A Place for Us Part Four by Harriet Evans

150)       Zoey and The Nice Guy by Carter Ashley

151)       Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She’s “Learned” by Lena Dunham

152)       In Bloom by Matthew Crow

153)       Waiting for Doggo by Mark B Mills

154)       Skating at Somerset House by Nikki Moore

155)       Yours for Eternity: A Love Story on Death Row by Damien Echols

156)       Losing Heart by Donna Brown

157)       Cold Comfort Farm by Debbie Johnson

158)       The Shape of Shit to Come by Steve Lowe

159)       It Happened on Broadway: An Oral History of the Great White Way by Myrna Katz Fromer

160)       Half Bad by Sally Green

161)       Half Lies by Sally Green

162)       Melt by Selene Castrovilla

163)       Hazel by Julie Hearn

164)       Christmas at Thornton Hall by Lynn Marie Hulsman

165)       Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

166)       This Is Your Afterlife by Vanessa Barneveld

167)       A New York Christmas by Melissa Hill

168)       Strange Girls and Ordinary Women by Morgan McCarthy

169)       Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

170)       Maggie Does Meribel (Girls on Tour Book 3) by Nicola Doherty

171)       Trouble by Non Pratt

172)       Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton

173)       A Christmas Feast and Other Stories by Katie Fforde

174)       The Last Virgin Alive by Stephanie Crosby

175)       We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist

176)       Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

177)       There’s No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige

178)      The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

179)      I Don’t Care About Your Band by Julie Klausner

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Review: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Synopsis

When a Tornado sweeps across Amy’s hometown, the trailer in which she lives with her mother and pet rat is swept up and lands Amy in Oz. Yes, that Oz. Amy swiftly learns that the Oz that we have read about in the classic stories is not all what it seems. Now ruled under a reign of terror at the hands of Dorothy, Amy has to try her hardest to stay alive.

Review

The Wizard of Oz has always been one of my favourite stories. More so due to the movie rather than the books (although I do plan to read the whole series of Wizard of Oz books in 2015) however, I cannot seem to warm to any of the literature that has been created in light of the original story.

Well, actually that is a lie. I bloody love Wicked The Musical. The book Wicked didn’t do it for me though. Dorothy Must Die is an extremely clever concept. The idea that Dorothy had turned evil and changed Oz for the worse is so clever. It usurps everything that we know about Oz and our beloved characters and the way Paige tells the story it seems almost plausible that Dorothy would be angry at another girl arriving in Oz by tornado; sheesh, get your own entrance!

There are interesting twists on characters and a few third act surprises that do keep you on your toes. However, I did find that there was far too much exposition and not a lot of action happening. I felt that the pace sometimes dragged.

Overall, Dorothy Must Die is a brave attempt to take on a classic story and for the most part Paige succeeds. With the subsequent sequels I do hope that a lot more action takes place.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige is available now.

You can follow Danielle Paige (@daniellempaige) on Twitter.Dorothy Must Die

Review: The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

Synopsis

Rabbit Hayes has beaten cancer before. All it took was a battle which resulted in chemotherapy, radiation and a mastectomy. So when her cancer came back she was determined to beat it again. However, when a stumble results in a broken leg Rabbit is told the devastating news that her cancer had advanced. She was at stage 4 metastatic cancer.

When Rabbit has only days left to live her family gather round to say goodbye.

Review

There have only ever been a handful of books that have broken me. The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes has successfully joined those ranks. Let me get this out of the way before I get into the nitty gritty of the review – this book is beautiful. It is a gorgeous (albeit devastating) story, it is written in the most engaging way and it is surprisingly uplifting. Anna McPartlin has hit a pitch perfect note with this novel.

The heart of this novel relies on the closeness of the Hayes family; each character adding to the dynamic of the novel. The anger and sadness and desperation felt by the cast of characters is almost palpable. Yet their humour makes the utter wretchedness of the situation almost bearable. It is the verisimilitude of this attitude that makes The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes all the more relatable – anyone who has ever dealt with serious sickness or chronic illness within their family will know that laughing is the only way to get through it.

One of the most difficult things about The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is having the ability to put the book down. It is so beautifully written and heart warming; I was left with the horrid feeling of wanting to know what happened but not wanting the book to end because I knew what the inevitable ending would entail.

If you loved Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember (all of which made me cry) then The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is the book for you. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin is available now.

You can follow Anna McPartlin (@annamcpartlin) on Twitter

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

Review: We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist

Synopsis

Josh Sundquist embarks on a scientific study to reveal why he is so un-datable. In this study, he questions girls who he has previously either had a crush on or nearly dated. The results might not be quite what you had expected.

Review

This book had me gripped from beginning to end. You cannot help but relate to Sundquist. Who among us hasn’t felt the sheer mortification by being shot down by their crush? Who among us hasn’t felt the crazy overload of sweat when trying to tell our beloved how we feel? We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story almost holds a mirror up to our own insecurities and makes us realise that we all have reasons for people to love us, and yes, reasons for people to not feel the same way. Sadly, that is life. Josh Sundquist makes you realise that you aren’t alone in this.

What does become more and more obvious as you read this book is that there are very few characters – let alone protagonists – within modern literature who have a disability. Personally, I can only recall one other character. Whether or not Josh Sundquist was aiming to highlight this is unbeknownst to me; however it is something that should be addressed and made more prevalent in modern day fiction.

I really enjoyed We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story. Sundquist has a witty, self-deprecating and observational humour that makes you want to read more. I couldn’t put the book down and I read it in one sitting which to me speaks volumes.

We Should Hang Out Sometime: Embarrassingly, a true story by Josh Sundquist is available now.

You can follow Josh Sundquist (@JoshSundquist) on Twitter.

We Should Hang Out Sometime

SSS Review: The Last Virgin Alive by Stephanie Crosby

Title: The Last Virgin Alive

Author: Stephanie Crosby

Pages: 116 pages

Synopsis

College student Symphony has left her home town of Virginia to make a new life for herself in Chicago away from the demons of her teen years. Her plan for this year is to pop her cherry; but is she really ready for such a massive decision?

Review

I always feel bad when I have to write that I didn’t like a book; someone’s hard work and effort has gone into creating a book and therefore I feel bad for judging it. However, in the case of The Last Virgin Alive I have no compunction in telling it like it is. This book is awful.

Firstly, let’s look at it purely from a grammatical sense. Punctuation was flying about willy-nilly and incorrect spelling littered the pages. Secondly, entire phrases were repeated in the narrative descriptions of characters, not just a little phrase but a whole paragraph. That is either lazy writing or lazy editing. Thirdly, the narrative to dialogue ratio is unbelievably unbalanced. You are constantly struggling to guess who is talking. As a reader, I shouldn’t have to work that hard.

The storyline actually had a lot of potential to work as a young adult thriller but the execution was poor. In part, the fault of this lies in the characters. Our protagonist, Symphony, is difficult to like. She is whiney and needy and a little unhinged. Partnered with new boyfriend Adam – who causes arguments over completely random things – the relationship fails as fast as the thin plot does.

Normally when I write a review of a book that I do not like I encourage others to read it and make their own decision. In the case of The Last Virgin Alive I make no such recommendation, save your time and money. This book just isn’t worth it.

The Last Virgin Alive by Stephanie Crosby is available now.

The Last Virgin Alive

Review: Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton

Synopsis

Jessie and her best friend Emma have left boring Manchester in England for a summer adventure in one of the greatest cities in the world – New York! The girls are staying with Jessie’s mum and Jessie is hoping it is a chance to repair their fractured relationship. She is also looking for a holiday romance to get over bad boy Taylor who recently left her broken hearted.

If only she could meet someone in this great big romantic city…

Review

Ok, so here is my problem. I like YA fiction, however, when I read some YA fiction really begin to feel my age (coughs *31* coughs). Jessie Hearts NYC is one of those books. Don’t get me wrong, this book is well written, it has a sustainable and believable plot, the characters are well rounded and thought out and I actually rather enjoyed it. My only problem is not one that Stainton can be blamed for; I am not her key demographic. Therefore, I didn’t love this book but I can see all the good qualities in it. I am certain that teenage me would have adored this book.

Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton is available now.

Jessie Hearts NYC

Festive Feature Round-Up

Hello book bloglets,

Well I did it. I completed my challenge of reading and reviewing a Christmas story each week. I must say that this challenge did get me feeling festive. The books I read are:

The Snow Globe by Kristen Harmel

A Christmas to Remember by Jenny Hale

Snow Angels, Secrets and Christmas Cake by Sue Watson

The Great Christmas Knit Off by Alexandra Brown

I Will Marry George Clooney (…by Christmas) by Tracy Bloom

A Beginner’s Guide to Christmas by Jennifer Joyce

It Must Have Been the Mistletoe by Judy Astley

The Kiss Before Midnight by Sophie Pembroke

Christmas with Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

Zoey and the Nice Guy by Carter Ashby

Secret Santa by Scarlet Bailey

Skating at Somerset House by Nikki Moore

Cold Feet at Christmas by Debbie Johnson

Christmas at Thornton Hall by Lynn Marie Hulsman

A New York Christmas by Melissa Hill

A Christmas Feast and Other Stories by Katie Fforde

I kind of overshot the mark but never mind. Hope you have all enjoyed my festive feature and I hope that some of these books turn up in your Christmas stockings.

Merry Christmas folks,

L x

Review: A Christmas Feast and Other Stories by Katie Fforde

Synopsis

A collection of Katie Fforde’s short stories that have previously been published in magazines or only been available in e-book format.

Review

For years my mother has been encouraging me to pick up a book by Katie Fforde. My mother, having read (almost) everything that Fforde has ever written is a big advocate of her work. However, my lingering stubborn inner teenager has always declined to pick up any of Fforde’s novels.

When the opportunity to read A Christmas Feast and Other Stories came up via NetGalley I surreptitiously requested it and decided to give it a read without my mother’s knowledge. Turns out, as is quite often the case, my mother was correct. Mother 1 – Inner Stubborn Teenager 0.

The collection of stories was actually rather good. Personally I preferred the longer short stories but that is because, as I have previously mentioned I find short stories too…well, short. What is wonderful about this collection is that it allows people – such as my mother – to read the stories such as The Undercover Cook, From Scotland with Love (my personal favourite from the collection) and Staying Away at Christmas which have only ever been available on e-readers.

This is a charming collection of short stories and as Katie Fforde says in her introduction it is a perfect read for the busy person over the Christmas holidays because A Christmas Feast and Other Stories doesn’t require the full time commitment of a novel.

A Christmas Feast and Other Stories by Katie Fforde is available now.

A Christmas Feast and Other Stories

Review: Ticker by Lisa Mantchev

Synopsis

The product of a bizarre experiment, Penny Farthing has been left with a clockwork heart by scientist Calvin Warwick. On the day that Calvin Warwick is due to receive judgement for his crimes against nature Penny’s life starts to take one some strange twists and turns. Firstly, her family’s factory is subject to a bomb attack, and then she finds that her family home has been broken in to and that her parents have been kidnapped.

Will all this be too much for her already weak heart to take?

Review

I am fascinated by the whole steam punk genre and style so I was very excited to read Ticker and I was equally excited to be reading a book from an author whose work I haven’t encountered before. Instantly I felt like I was on to a winner.

I was wowed by Ticker. I haven’t read anything like it before. Mantchev managed to create a world that was so believable that I hated putting the book down; the factories, the fashion and the industrialism were painted in such a clear way by Mantchev I felt like I was part of the world. Her descriptions were highly evocative that I couldn’t help but be sucked in by the scenery.

Personally, I felt that the story was sometimes hindered by some stilted narrative and I did find myself drifting and having to reread previous paragraphs. However, the overall story was fast paced and intriguing enough to make me want to keep reading more.

I think what sells this book most is Mantchev’s high quality descriptive talent however, massive praise must be hailed on her for creating such a unique and twisted tale of industrialism gone wrong. I genuinely hope she creates more stories of this ilk.

Ticker by Lisa Mantchev is available now.

You can follow Lisa Mantchev (@lisamantchev) on Twitter.

Ticker

Review: Trouble by Non Pratt

Synopsis

Hannah is 15 and pregnant. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t want to say who the father is. She would rather people think that she is a slut and sleeps around than reveal that. However, new boy and fellow classmate Aaron offers to pretend to be the father. Hannah doesn’t know why he has done it but they both agree to keep her secret.

Review

Being that there is less than two weeks left of the year I was fairly certain that I had chosen my favourite book of the year and then I picked up Trouble. I had planned on reading it to vet it for the library in the school in which I work. They wanted to know if it was appropriate for both upper and lower school. Little did I know that I would be blown away. This book – Trouble – is amazing.

Not only is it an accurate representation of teenagers (believe me, I know, I’ve worked with them for nearly seven years) but it is such a clever, unusual and dramatic tale. One that had me drop a few f-bombs as I realised what was about to happen, get angry at characters and actually yearn to protect our protagonist, Hannah.

There are only a few books that I can name that have ever had that response from me. This is when I know I am reading something special. I also know a book is good if I can read it in one sitting…which I did.

Trouble is a book that all kids should read. Ok, some could see it as scaremongering other somewhat promiscuous teens to not get themselves pregnant (remember guys – no glove, no love) but the way I read this story was that a young articulate girl finds herself in a situation way beyond her experience and proves herself to be strong and indestructible by the bitchy cohorts in her peer groups whilst realising who her true friends are.

I am so glad I was asked to read Trouble. My highest praise has to be given to Non Pratt. You have written a remarkable book which will stay with me for a long time. Well done.

Trouble by Non Pratt is available now.

You can follow Non Pratt (@NonPratt) on Twitter.

Trouble