Thursday, December 31, 2015

Top Ten Books Read in 2015

What a year! I read 61 books this year, which is the most I've read in one year since 2009. I can hardly believe I managed to read so many books, what with taking on extra work and moving into my flat, but somehow I did and I am really pleased with myself.

I didn't do terribly well with most of my reading challenges but I finally, after years of trying, completed the British Books Challenge! I'll be posting again in the next few days about all the challenges I want to have a go at in 2016.

In the list below, books marked with an * were sent by the publisher for my consideration, this did not alter my opinion of any of these books.

Now, without any further ado...

My Top Ten Books Read in 2015 (in the order I read them)

1. Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception, by Eoin Colfer

This year I finally finished the Artemis Fowl series and, first book aside (and not qualifying, as it was a reread), this one is my favourite. Opal Koboi is a wonderful villain and this book is a rollercoaster of magical and technological delight. You can see me talk about all the Artemis Fowl books in the video above.

2. Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey

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I'm going to describe how good this book is via a quote from my sister, who almost never reads novels: "I think it's one of the best fictional books I've read. Made me teary at the end".

3. Remix, by Non Pratt*

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Friendship ups and downs at a music festival. I'm really pleased with how my review of this one came out, so rather than repeat myself, I'll tell you to go read it here.

4. I'll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson*

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I also read (and loved) The Sky is Everywhere this year but I think I'll Give You The Sun had more impact on me - I keep mulling over parts of it in my head. It's about twins who were once very close and how devastating events changed their relationship and the way they see the world.

5. Have a Little Faith, by Candy Harper (and the sequel, Keep the Faith)

This is so good! Funny, easy to read, addictive - as soon as I'd finished the first I had to grab the second, and I can't wait to read the third book, Leap of Faith, which actually comes out today! You can watch me talk about why I think Faith is the perfect comedy heroine in the video above.

6. Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Graudin

I read this book for my book club and also received a copy in my first Illumicrate box (watch the unboxing video above). It's a gripping blend of alternate history, fantasy and sci-fi, featuring a shapeshifting girl on a mission to kill Hitler.

7. Lair of Dreams, by Libba Bray*

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This is the sequel to The Diviners, which featured on last year's list. I loved returning to the glittering yet horrific world of this series, and the focus on different characters in this book - it made it more interesting. I'm looking forward to seeing what other intriguing - and gifted - individuals we get to meet in the next book.

8. Counting Stars, by Keris Stainton*

This is what I would categorise as New Adult - a story about a group of young people living in their first houseshare - and it's fabulous. Definitely my favourite of Keris' books. I spoke about Counting Stars and Lair of Dreams in my September Wrap-Up/British Books Challenge Vlog, above. Also, it's got most of my name in it.

9. Cookoo Song, by Frances Hardinge*

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This was just gorgeous. It's a beautifully-written, emotionally-involving, glorious, frightening, and marvellous adventure. I am definitely in love with changeling stories now and must find more. When I'm not devouring Frances Hardinge's other books, that is. Seriously, believe the hype, Frances Hardinge is as good as everyone says she is.

10. Suite Scarlett, by Maureen Johnson

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I have a full-length review coming (I've written most of it), but to summarise, Suite Scarlett was a delight. Funny and charming, it follows the trouble Scarlett gets into when the newest guest in her parents' struggling hotel takes it upon herself to meddle in her life. I am really looking forward to reading the sequel!

That was HARD to write! I'm not sure it really is my definitive top ten - but it's as close as I can manage, having read so many great books this year. I hope you enjoyed reading it! Are any of these books on your list? Let me know!

Monday, December 07, 2015

Book Review: The Sin-Eater's Daughter, by Melinda Salisbury

I found this copy of The Sin-Eater's Daughter in one of the Little Free Libraries
of Walthamstow. I left it there, as I already had a copy, but I wanted to use this
photo as it's a lovely cover and my proof doesn't have the big central image.
Twylla used to be the Sin-Eater's daughter, trained by her mother to take over the role when she died, until she was chosen by the gods for a different path, and left that life behind. Now she is Daunen Embodied, the daughter of the gods, betrothed to the prince, living amongst the splendour of the royal court - and executing their enemies. For Twylla's skin is poisonous, and none who are not anointed by the gods may touch her without suffering a horrible death.

The Sin-Eater's Daughter was one of my most anticipated books of the year, and I really enjoyed it, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. The problem with trying your best to ignore the hype and avoid spoilers is that sometimes this leaves you without a clear idea of what a book is meant to be about! I was expecting an exciting new fantasy world to explore, but The Sin-Eater's Daughter is actually quite light on the fantasy. Other readers (now I'm free to read reviews without the threat of spoilers), have said that it's more of a fictional-setting medieval romance, and I agree. I haven't read the blurb, as I read a proof copy, but if I were writing one I would definitely place emphasis on the romantic elements.

I would also mention rituals. The Sin-Eater's Daughter is all about rituals. Twylla, in her struggle to understand her position, learns how rituals can give us strength, but also how they can keep us locked in to dangerous patterns. I loved all the details about the religious roles and ceremonies - they seem both strange and familar, despite belonging to a fictional society. This is what really hooked me when I was reading the book - I found it almost impossible to put down when I had to go to work or sleep, because I was absolutely fascinated by the setting and by Twylla's descriptions of the society she lives in and her duties as Daunen Embodied.

I also really enjoyed the politics and I'm looking forward to seeing more of that in the second in the series. In fact, I liked the political intrigue so much that it made me impatient for the romantic scenes to be over so that the drama could continue! Maybe I'm getting old?! There's a bit of a love triangle, and it's all tangled up with the politics, which made the romantic interests a bit less likeable than they might otherwise have been, but people are complicated. Twylla's whole life is complicated. And there's the epilogue. I can only say that I really liked the epilogue, because spoilers!

I would recommend The Sin-Eater's Daughter to people who like dramatic, life-and-death romances, and perhaps as a gateway drug for those who would like to dip their toes into the fantasy genre. If you feel intimidated by complex magical systems, weird and wonderful creatures, and imaginary cultures, The Sin-Eater's Daughter could help ease you in.


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