The History of Bees – Maja Lunde

36193896I was really attracted to the concept of this book, but frankly, it was kind of boring.

We follow three separate timelines: William, researching the life of bees and attempting to create a newer, better beehive; George, a bee farmer struggling to cope at the time of the disappearance of the bees; and Tao, a Chinese pollen-farmer (in the future) whose son is suddenly taken from her.

The three stories are intricately connected, which was very well done. In fact, the entire book was very well written. Despite the three separate story-threads, it was very easy to follow and the whole thing was woven together very well.

Unfortunately, it was all pretty dull. The History of Bees is, essentially, three separate stories of unhappy families with parents who are weirdly overbearing towards their sons (except for Tao whose son is only a child and is mysteriously taken away, so that’s kind of fair enough). The overarching theme of bees was overshadowed by the family dramas and personal issues of the main characters, which was disappointing because the bee thing was what really drew me to this book in the first place.

Despite the exceptional writing, I was, overall, underwhelmed.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas book-lovers! I hope you’re all having a wonderful day (and got stacks and stacks of books from Santa).

merry christmas GIF

The Last Namsara – Kristen Ciccarelli

30846371Dragons, danger, romance; The Last Namsara is everything I love about fantasy fiction.

Following a traumatic dragon attack in her childhood, Asha becomes the Iskari – the King’s fiercest dragon-slayer. Feared by everyone (except her family), it’s a lonely life that leaves her feeling more like a weapon than a girl, and with a bleak future married to her father’s cruel, violent commandant, Asha has little to lose. Until the king offers her a way out: kill the First Dragon, and win freedom from her betrothed.

First things first, I totally loved this book. For starters, dragons. I love dragons. The dragons in this are both fierce and friendly (very How to Train Your Dragon-esk) – what more could you want? Second, Asha is a great main character. She’s strong, sassy and deeply troubled – the vital characteristics of any fantasy hero. Third, the relationship between Asha and Torwin is adorable and a delight to watch unfold.

The Last Namsara is well-written and engaging, although Ciccarelli’s style was at times a little too careful. You could tell that it’s a debut novel; I would love to see her take more risks and use a little more variety in her language.

I enjoyed this book from page 1, right up to the very end. I’m really looking forward to book #2. (Also, the cover is stunning).

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

My Top Ten Books of 2017

Hi Guys! As the year ends, it’s time to look back and choose my Top Ten Books of the year! This was super difficult this year (my list originally contained 20 books, and whittling it down was hard). So here we go, the best ten books I read in 2017 (which I believe were actually all published this year too):


Gather The Daughters by Jennie Melamed
35066549Gather The Daughters tells the story of an end-of-the-world cult founded years ago when ten men colonised an island. It’s a society in which men reign supreme, breeding is controlled, and knowledge of the outside world is kept to a minimum. Girls are wives-in-training: at the first sign of puberty, they must marry and have children. But until that point, every summer, island tradition dictates that the children live wildly: running free, making camps, sleeping on the beach. And it is at the end of one such summer that one of the youngest girls sees something so horrifying that life on the island can never be the same again.

 


The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden
25489134At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind–she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed–this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
34200289Meet Eleanor Oliphant. She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully time-tabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.

Then everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living–and it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.


Frostblood by Elly Blake
32618150Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.


Defender by G X Todd
29758033In a world where long drinks are in short supply, a stranger listens to the voice in his head telling him to buy a lemonade from the girl sitting on a dusty road.

The moment locks them together.

Here and now it’s dangerous to listen to your inner voice. Those who do, keep it quiet.

These voices have purpose.

And when Pilgrim meets Lacey, there is a reason. He just doesn’t know it yet.


One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
32887579Pay close attention and you might solve this.
On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.


See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan by Jack Cheng
2594057711-year-old Alex Petroski loves space and rockets, his mom, his brother, and his dog Carl Sagan—named for his hero, the real-life astronomer. All he wants is to launch his golden iPod into space the way Carl Sagan (the man, not the dog) launched his Golden Record on the Voyager spacecraft in 1977. From Colorado to New Mexico, Las Vegas to L.A., Alex records a journey on his iPod to show other lifeforms what life on earth, his earth, is like.

But his destination keeps changing. And the funny, lost, remarkable people he meets along the way can only partially prepare him for the secrets he’ll uncover—from the truth about his long-dead dad to the fact that, for a kid with a troubled mom and a mostly not-around brother, he has way more family than he ever knew.


Wondrous by Travis M. Riddle
wondrousMiles went to sleep tucked tightly in bed in his Austin apartment and woke up in the middle of a damp, dark forest in the kingdom of Rompu, a land being torn apart by a civil war between its king and queen.

Miles has few companions in this kingdom, which is filled with fantastical creatures yet sprinkled with familiar items like digital clocks and vinyl records. As he searches for a way to return home, he discovers that certain memories trigger magical abilities. But as he struggles to make sense of this new world, his thoughts are punctuated by painful memories of his sick grandmother, quarrelling parents, and an icy school therapist.

When Miles learns that a monstrous entity flying through the countryside and killing for sport was summoned from a portal to another realm, he believes this creature is the key to learning how to open another rift and return home. Tracking down this beast and mastering his newfound magical abilities may be the only way for Miles to help save Rompu and get back to his family in Texas.


Standard Deviation by Katherine Heiny
26198476Graham Cavanaugh’s second wife, Audra, is everything his first wife was not. She considers herself privileged to live in the age of the hair towel, talks non-stop through her epidural, labour and delivery, invites the doorman to move in and the eccentric members of their son’s Origami Club to Thanksgiving. She is charming and spontaneous and fun but life with her can be exhausting.

In the midst of the day-to-day difficulties and delights of marriage and raising a child with Asperger’s, his first wife, Elspeth, reenters Graham’s life. Former spouses are hard to categorize – are they friends, enemies, old flames, or just people who know you really, really well? Graham starts to wonder: How can anyone love two such different women? Did he make the right choice? Is there a right choice?


The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell
untitledWhen Elsie married handsome young heir Rupert Bainbridge, she believed she was destined for a life of luxury. But with her husband dead just weeks after their marriage, her new servants resentful, and the local villagers actively hostile, Elsie has only her husband’s awkward cousin for company. Or so she thinks. Inside her new home lies a locked door, beyond which is a painted wooden figure–a silent companion–that bears a striking resemblance to Elsie herself. The residents of The Bridge are terrified of the figure, but Elsie tries to shrug this off as simple superstition–that is, until she notices the figure’s eyes following her.

 


Because I had such a tough time choosing the best this year, here’s a special mention of those that almost but didn’t quite reach the Top Ten:

The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli; The Fourth Monkey by J.D. Barker; Final Girls by Riley Sager; The Witchfinder’s Sister by Beth Underdown; and The Cows by Dawn O’Porter.

Frostblood – Elly Blake

32618150Forced to hide her Fireblood abilities from the Frostblood ruling class, Ruby has never had the opportunity to practise or develop her skills. When Frostblood soldiers destroy her village and murder her mother, she is suddenly thrown into a battle she has little time to prepare for. Her mission: kill the Frost King.

Frostblood is a classic, fantastic YA fantasy adventure. By far the best I’ve read in a long time. It is very well-written, with all the predictable but vital components of the genre: a feisty teen heroine, a rocky but passionate romance, and an epic battle between good and evil.

Ruby is a strong, volatile character. She has some serious anger-management issues and the tendency to jump to conclusions, but it’s all essential to her Fireblood personality which stops her from tipping over the edge into annoying (like so many YA heroines do). The rest of the characters, including love-interest Arcus, are also likeable and well-developed. I especially loved brother Thistle – what a babe.

The plot is really, really good. It’s super eventful and unpredictable. There were good amounts of plot development, character and world building in equal measure. The book was at no point boring, but also didn’t speed along too quickly or become too action-packed. Plus there were one or two plot-twists that genuinely took me by surprise.

Frostblood is a must-read for fans of fantasy and magic. I will be buying book #2, immediately.

Goodreads | Amazon

No-one Ever has Sex on Christmas Day – Tracy Bloom

35918407.jpgKaty and Ben want the perfect Christmas for their daughter, Millie. But visiting family, an overseas job offer, and romantically-challenged friends all threaten to mess things up. With so much else going on, can Katy and Ben even make it to Christmas day?

No-one Ever has Sex on Christmas Day is a quick and light read. It’s quirky and fun, and perfect for this time of year. Although it is part of a series, I read it as a standalone and it totally worked. There were references to events in previous books (I’d obviously missed a lot of drama between Katy, Ben, Matthew and Alison), but it was still perfectly easy to follow on its own.

The plot is a little bit odd because there’s no real point to the story. There’s no affair, no breakup, no real drama, so the climax felt a bit… anticlimactic. Also none of the main events happen to any of the main characters (their stories must have been covered in the previous books), but to their side-character pals instead (mainly, Ian and Braindead). This made the book feel a little bit aimless, but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Braindead was by far my favourite character. I would have actually preferred to read a book based around him instead of Ben, Katy and the others, but he did play a fairly large role in moving the plot along so that was good. Alison, on the other hand, was just awful. I could have done without her.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon

Angelica – Clabe Polk

36561321When her mob enforcer husband dies in a car accident, Angelica Vicetti has no option but to flee Las Vegas with her son to escape the clutches of the mob and it’s notorious boss, Don Antonio Scarpone. Eleven years later, Angelica has set herself up with a comfy life in the small town of Poplar Bluffs. Everything is going fine, until members of Scarpone’s organisation start turning up with one goal: to kill her.

Angelica is a fast-paced and engaging story of survival. It’s an enjoyable read with an array of different characters. The town of Poplar Bluffs is a great setting (a surprising amount of the story takes places in the local diner, Bertie’s). I enjoyed the general writing style and the plot, although it did have one too many stages for my liking.

The story was good, but somewhat undermined by how useless the mob members actually were. Half of them had never killed a person and were very weak willed on the matter, while the other half were just useless (e.g. not ever realising when they were being followed). This discredited the story and made it much less believable. However, aside from the unimpressive mob members, Angelica is a good a fun read.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads | Amazon