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  1. Record of a Spaceborn Few (The Wayfarers Series #3) – Becky Chambers (sci-fi, space opera, heart-warming) Chambers did not disappoint, once again. I think The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (LWSAP) is still may favourite out of the Wayfarers series however Record of a Spaceborn Few (ROASF) is a very, very close second, I love it for different reasons. ROASF starts just after LWSAP finishes and is set on ‘The Fleet’ which is a group of spacecrafts (homesteaders) on which, many decades ago, humans escaped a dying Earth to live in space. Eventually, after floating through space for many years, contact with other living beings was made and the fleet became a part of the Galactic Commons (basically like the EU). The story follows five characters who all live on The Fleet as they go about their daily lives. What I love about this book is that it explores human nature and what it means to be human. The characters are deeply explored and we get a great understanding on who they are and how they feel they fit in to their society. Although this book was not so full of alien species and planets (which is usually one of my favourite parts of space opera sci-fi) as the other two books in the series, I didn’t feel it was lacking anything as instead we were given such a thorough look at ‘The Fleet’ and the society humans have built in space. I would encourage anyone who likes sci-fi and who also likes character driven stories to pick up any book from this series (they can all be read as standalones), they are truly heart-warming. Opening line: ‘Mom, can I go see the stars?’
  2. The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett (fantasy, creative, whimsical) The Colour of Magic is the first of Pratchett’s ‘Discworld‘ series, books that all take place on a world riding on the back of a giant turtle flying through space. The book is both as bonkers as it sounds as well as making complete sense, everything is so well thought out that it just works perfectly. The story follows Rincewind and Twoflower as they undertake an adventure across the Discworld where they encounter many different creatures and learn lots about the disc they live on. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it was really fast paced and witty that it kept me drawn in and wanting to keep reading. I enjoyed all the different creatures within the story and think the world Pratchett has created is fascinating. There aren’t really chapters, more so ‘parts’ which although I usually prefer chapters on the shorter side, I found that the way this book was constructed actually worked really well. I found the first part, set within the city of Ankh-Morpork a little boring however once Rincewind and Twoflower embarked on their journey I was hooked! I will definitely be reading more from this series at some point and I like that fact that they are all individual books and therefore you can dip in and out whenever you like and read them in any order. Opening line: In a distant and second-hand set of dimensions, in an astral plane that was never meant to fly, the curling star-mists waver and part…
  3. Keeping It Real – Justina Robson (urban fantasy, sci-fi, futuristic) DNF at 70% Keeping It Real is set in a reality where a quantum bomb explodes, ripping apart the fabric between dimensions. Ever since this event humans have had to learn to live alongside different magical creatures including elves, fearies and demons. From the description I was really excited to read this book, it sounded right up my street. I was however pretty disappointed. I am usually a stickler for finishing books, even if I am not particularly enjoying them, but I decided to just give up on this one, it just wasn’t working for me. I think there were two main issues with the book, firstly I just did not connect with the characters. I didn’t buy their relationships and felt no investment in them what so ever. Secondly, I think that the concepts of the story were not as thought out and explained as they could have been. There were lots of really interesting elements that just got a bit confusing and ending up falling flat. Unfortunately, I also think that I had too high expectations for the book. I was really in the mood for an urban fantasy of sorts, where magical creatures are living normally among humans and although yes, this is the case for this world, it wasn’t really the focal point of the story. That’s not really the fault of the book, more so that I was hoping for it to be something that it just wasn’t. I may end up eventually finishing it, if just so I can count it towards my good reads reading challenge (seems a bit of a waste of the 200 pages read so far if not!). Opening line: In the days that followed the explosion at the Superconducting Supercollider in Texas, at some unknown point in the Lost Year, 2015, scientists discovered a hole in the fabric of spacetime over the blast.
  4. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold (haunting, domestic, spiritual) The Lovely Bones is told from the perspective of fourteen-year-old Susie from heaven after she is raped and murdered by her neighbour Mr Harvey. Susie watches her family and friends as they try to deal with her death and move on with their lives without her. Mostly I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. I liked how it explored grief and how different people deal with it in different ways however overall, I think I just found it a bit boring and that certain parts dragged. I’ve realised that I am not really in to the whole lyrical type of writing, I just find it all a bit too wishy washy. Nothing really happens, apart from the tragic event at the start I kind of felt like the whole book was just Susie rambling and minor events. All this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a bad book, just not my sort of book. However, there was one part towards the end that was kind of the last straw for me in deciding I didn’t really enjoy it. Somehow Susie ends up possessing her friend’s body and having sex with her teenage crush. Now, apart from this to me being morally wrong, I also really don’t do well with ‘supernatural’ elements occurring in a real-world setting. I guess this scene could be interpreted as Susie wishing she could inhabit her friend’s body in order to be back on earth and imagining that it happened, however it is presented as an event that actually happens. I have never been one for believing in people being able to look down from heaven, being able to feel deceased loved one’s presence and therefore maybe that is where my difficulty with the book lies. If Susie had remained completely separate from earth, not being able to interact and her being in heaven was used just as a narrative style then I think I may have liked it a bit more. I think if I had gone in to the book with a different expectations I may have enjoyed it more, although having said that I probably just wouldn’t have picked it up in the first place. Opening line: My name was Salmon, like the fish; first name, Susie.
  5. A Court of Thorns and Roses Series (#1 A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2 A Court of Mist and Fury & #3 A Court of Wings and Ruin) – Sarah J. Maas (fantasy, YA, romance) The A Court of Thorns and Roses series is set in a world where a wall divides the human world from the dangerous faerie world. Fayre, a young human woman living in poverty finds herself on the other side of the wall and trying to come to terms with living amongst faeries. The main aspect that I loved about this series is the faerie world and all the creatures that inhabit it. Maas has done a good job of creating interesting magical creatures that feel new and inventive, I do however wish that we go to read a bit more about them. I did find the relationship between the two main characters a little cringy at times. It felt a little bit too perfect at times with regards to how the male love interest treats Fayre, we are constantly being reminded of how much choice and freedom he gives her. Now don’t get me wrong, I'm all for unproblematic male love interests, however it started to feel a little unrealistic at times, I would have liked to have seen his character at least slightly flawed. However, I guess that’s where I am not really the intended audience of the series, that being YA, and can see how this sort of character would appeal to, in particular, teenage girls. Overall, book 2 was my favourite, there is a real sense of found family in this book which is one of my favourite tropes. The characters are well developed and my favourite parts of the books were the interactions between them. The climax war at the end did feel a little rushed to me, considering three books were spent building up to it, however I am not particularly in to reading heavy action/fighting scenes so this didn’t bother me too much. Opening line: The forest had become a labyrinth of snow and ice.
  6. I did really enjoy The Constant Rabbit but I found that Shades of Grey kept me more intrigued and therefore I preferred it overall
  7. Me too, the world of Alice in Wonderland is just so magical and enchanting that I am immediately drawn to anything set in it!
  8. Heartless – Marissa Meyer (re-telling, fantasy, whimsical) Heartless is a prequel/re-telling of Alice in Wonderland and tells the story of how the Queen of Hearts (Catherine) becomes the villain we know. Catherine is the daughter of a Marquis and is destined to marry the King of Hearts, however all she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend. Re-tellings can be tricky, particularly when it’s a story as beloved as Alice in Wonderland, however I think Meyer did a great job of capturing the same whimsical feeling of the original story but still adding enough new components too. A lot of the stand out characters from Alice in Wonderland made an appearance but it didn’t feel forced, they naturally fitted in to the story. Due to this being the origin story of a villain it was fairly obvious throughout the book what the outcome was going to be, however the storyline meandered enough that the specifics of the tale were still left to be discovered. I would highly recommend the book, it’s a nice opportunity to take a different perspective of the Queen of Hearts. Opening line: Three luscious lemon tarts glistened up at Catherine.
  9. Snow Crash – Neal Stephenson (cyberpunk, dystopian, speculative) In Snow Crash we follow the main character Hiro as he discovers and tries to stop a new computer virus and wonder drug before it causes irreversible damage to the world. Hiro lives in a time when the world as we know it has broken down and different corporations now have power and control over different areas of America. This book didn’t turn out to be what I was expecting, I thought it would be more focussed in a virtual reality world, which was not really the case, however this didn’t really bother me, I found the world Stephenson had created fascinating enough that it didn’t need much virtual reality. The book gave me A Clockwork Orange feel, as it is set in a world that had a lawless and chaotic feel. I found the way the book was written a little difficult to get along with, the perspective seemed to jump around a little and I sometimes found that I wasn’t entirely sure as to who’s perspective we were reading from. There was also a big section in the middle that was basically just a massive info-dump and I found that during this part I stopped absorbing information after a while and therefore some things were a little lost on me. Overall, I found that there were ideas introduced that weren’t really fully explored and therefore it felt a little bit underwhelming when it ended as I felt there were a lot of threads left hanging. Having said that I did enjoy the book and would recommend if it sounds like your sort of thing! Opening line: The Deliverator belongs to an elite order, a hallowed subcategory.
  10. Shades of Grey – Jasper Fforde (dystopian, creative, humorous) Jasper Fforde has definitely become a favourite author of mine. I love the way that aspects of the story are introduced in a matter-of-fact way and not necessarily immediately explained. Something will be mentioned however we as the reader are kind of left to figure out what it means. Although this can be a little frustrating as it can take you a while to fully understand things, I personally think that it makes it so much more interesting when you eventually work it out. Fforde has a clever way of gradually revealing the story and the setting that it keeps things very interesting. Shades of Grey follows Eddie in a world where people can only see one colour and the colour that you can see determines your status in society. Eddie goes with his father to East Carmine where he finds that everything is not quite as simple as he once thought. I love the concept of colour perception determining status and Fforde does an excellent job of cleverly using the aspect of colour perception to replace our normal society in a way that feels so realistic. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realised that it is actually the first book in a series however the following books have not yet been written. I really hope the rest of the series is eventually written and released as it was left with lots more to discover and I am really intrigued to see what happens next! Opening line: It began with my father not wanting to see the Last Rabbit, and ended up with me being eaten by a carnivorous plant.
  11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosky (mental health, coming of age, YA) The protagonist Charlie is a sweet, seventeen-year-old boy who struggles to fit in and participate in life. Charlie meets a new group of friends who immediately welcome him in and introduce him to new experiences and situations. The book is told in the form of letters Charlie writes to an unknown person. I was initially disappointed as I usually don’t particularly enjoy this type of format as dialogue between characters is something that I really like, however I actually found that the letters worked really well and the story really benefitted from this style. The language and writing style reflected that of a seventeen-year-old boy which I found made everything more believable. I absolutely fell in love with Charlie, he is such a kind-natured character and I just really felt a connection with him. There is an element of mental illness within the book however I liked that it wasn’t forced or overdone, it felt like a natural and genuine aspect of Charlies character. Overall, I would definitely recommend this book. It was on my TBR for quite a while as I didn’t feel a great urge to read it but am so glad that I finally did. Opening Line: Dear friend, I am writing to you because she said you listen and understand and didn’t try to sleep with that person at that party even though you could have.
  12. Eliza and her Monsters – Francesca Zappia (mental health, YA, friendship) I was pleasantly surprised by Eliza and her Monsters. I knew it was a book that explored mental health, particularly anxiety but other than that didn’t know much about it. Eliza is a teenage girl who at school is a nobody, but online she is the anonymous creator of a hugely successful webcomic and has thousands of fans and followers. The story follows Eliza as her two worlds begin to merge and how she copes when her online identity is ultimately outed. Overall, not an awful lot actually happens which initially I found frustrating however upon reflection I realised that I really appreciated this. I find that stories about mental health can sometimes be over dramatised and can become a bit unrelatable. It was refreshing to read about someone struggling in a way that seemed so real and even mundane, it felt a lot more realistic and relatable for me. Within the book there are some illustrations of Eliza’s webcomic along with some short chapters that are elements of her comic. I found that I didn’t enjoy these chapters that much as I found them a bit irrelevant to the story line however it was beneficial in emphasising the importance of the comic to Eliza. Opening Line: Eliza Mirk is the kind of name you give to the creepy girl who clings to her ex-boyfriend for weeks after he’s dumped her because she refuses to accept that he hates her guts.
  13. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman (contemporary, mental health, heart-warming) I don’t read much contemporary fiction, I always think that I am going to find it boring, reading about ordinary people in the ordinary world has never really appealed to me, however this book has made me re-evaluate my thinking on this. Although Eleanor Oliphant is not particularly action packed I found the character of Eleanor so intriguing that I couldn’t put it down. Eleanor is difficult, judgemental person who struggles to connect with other human beings, that is until Raymond, a friendly colleague comes in to her life. There are themes discussed within the story that are extremely difficult and saddening and we see as Eleanor learns and grows as she discovers things about her past. It truly is a story of self-development and friendship and I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it. Opening line: When people ask me what I do, taxi drivers, dental hygienists, I tell them I work in an office.
  14. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly – Sun-Mi Hwang (fabel, touching, heart-warming) This was such an unexpectedly sweet little book. I had never heard of it before and just saw it in a second-hand store and thought I would get it, and I’m so glad I did! The story follows Sprout, a plucky hen who manages to escape her cage and is determined to lay an egg and raise a chick of her own. Things don’t necessarily go to plan for Sprout but she is determined and strong and makes the most out of what she gets. I love the simplicity of the story and the characters and the juxtaposition of this against the heart-touching message. There are many themes touched on in the book including grief, bullying, acceptance and friendship all of which are presented in such a gentle and thoughtful way. Opening line: The egg rolled to a stop upon reaching the wire mesh of the coop.
  15. The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon (fantasy, epic, religious) The Priory of the Orange Tree is a fantasy story featuring queendoms, magic, pirates and dragons. The book follows four characters, Loth the close friend of a queen sent on a perilous journey, Ead a mage tasked with protecting the queen, Niclays a bitter alchemist who can’t seem to avoid trouble and Tane a young girl who dreams of becoming a dragon rider. We follow their separate storylines and see how their fates eventually entangle. There were some narratives that I preferred as opposed to other but overall, I really enjoyed the book, it felt very epic and reminded me of The Lord of the Rings. There are a lot of political and in particular religious focusses within the book and we learn how this has divided the world. I enjoyed learning about the different cultures and their relationships and conflicts with each other. Sometimes I can find high fantasy books daunting and worry that I am not going to understand them but, although very detailed and intricate I found that I was able to easily grasp the storyline, there is a map at the front of the book which was useful for referencing. there is a glossary and information about the different characters at the back of the book which I didn’t find out till after I had finished! I did find that personally this book was slightly too long, I have realised that anything over about 500-600 pages is just a bit much for me. I enjoy the excitement of starting a new book and the satisfaction of finishing one too much that I find myself just itching to finish towards the end when it comes to longer books. Overall though I would highly recommend this book if you like epic fantasies with lots of adventure. Opening line: The stranger came out of the sea like a water ghost, barefoot and wearing the scars of his journey.
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