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  1. Review: Half Bad by Sally Green

    Saturday, 29 March 2014

    Half Bad by Sally Green

    This was actually a cover buy. That is, I fell in love with the beautiful cover. And yet,as I started to read the book, I fell in love with the beautiful writing.

    Half Bad follows the protagonist, Nathan. Who is a Half Code (Half White, Half Black Witch). His mother is a white witch, whereas his father Marcus is the most feared and most hunted black witch of all time. The story starts off in second person, and then moves onto first which is interesting in and of itself. In a world where black witches are persecuted and half bloods are held under stifling law by the Council, who no doubt wish for nothing more than to rid the world of black witches and half bloods.

    At the start of the story, Nathan lives with his gran, half brother Arran and two half sisters Jessica and Deborah, all of whom are white witches, and whom Nathan's father killed. Nathan is held under the councils thumb by the notices they send to his thumb and every year on his birthday, is sent to the council for interrogation and to attempt to designate his code. 

    Being a Half Code isn't easy. Nathan can't read or write, nor can he sleep inside at night. He's treated like scum. And yet, he can heal rapidly and can tell of someone's witch status (White, black, fain) just by their eyes. A rare ability, even in this world.

    I think the sole motive for this character is to get his three gifts and the blood of a relative, which will result in him receiving his main gift. As a character, it took me a while to care for or even identify with Nathan. He was quite a confusing character, didn't really seem that likeable, or strong in any way. But his character seemed to bloom as the book progressed and by the end of it, I really wanted him to be okay. And Gabriel, <spoiler>his friend who he met towards the end</spoiler>. 

    This is no Harry Potter. I shall warn you now. It is dark, it is violent. It is not a light read, and you will actually be shocked at the violence that it features. And yet, it seems so hopelessly realistic that you actually feel anger at the council, and the Hunters, who despite being White Witches, are probably just as evil as some black witches.

    For me, the recurring theme is that there is a thin line between good and evil. In fact, the author actually says in her acknowledgements that the following quote by Shakespeare's Hamlet is an inspiration for the whole story.

    "There is nothing neither good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

    Before being introduced to other character's, I was under no illusions that all black witches were evil. Perhaps by only being introduced to bad ones at that point. But then, as Nathan's mind slowly changed, and we were introduced to another black witch, one whom didn't seem evil. (He had killed, yes), but he seemed less bad than most white witches.

    Now. Onto the book itself. The writing, I found was clear, crisp and beautiful. The author found no need for big, confusing words and instead used impact to keep the reader going. I will admit, though. The book does start off slow and can get boring in places. But for its genre, I think it's a good way to introduce the setting, characters, feel before bouncing right into the action. Which is exciting, heart pounding and exhilarating. You really get a feel for the characters in these scenes, and I could almost imagine myself beside them. Smell the blood, taste the sweat in the air.

    Despite this being a cover buy, I fell completely in love with Half Bad, and will await anxiously, the sequel which is due out next Spring.


  2. If - like me - you have many people in your life who love to read. Who spend their time curled up with a good book and often eschew social events in favour of their favourite literary hero, then you might spend many hours, despairing over what gifts to buy for your bookish friends. But never fear! I have compiled a list of gift ideas at reasonable prices that are perfect for the book lover in your life.

    Books to Check Out Reading Journal

    This is the perfect gift for the book lover in your life. If they have a TBR (to be read) list as long as their arms, this book will have them squealing in delight. Quite literally in most cases. It contains books to read and favourite extracts from books to keep the bibliophile in your life extremely happy.

    Personalised Bookaholic Mug

    What's better for a book lover than receiving book related stuff? Receiving book related stuff with their names on it of course! These cute little mugs are sure to delight your loved one. And you may find them clutching this very mug as they sob over the latest novel.

    Magnetic Poetry

    If we're not reading, we're engaged in literary type activities. (In my case this isn't even an exaggeration). Put a smile on someone's face with this magnetic poetry set, inspired from the beautiful words of one William Shakespeare.

    Classic Book Cover for Kindle

    A lot of us have moved with the times and snapped up one of these amazing pieces of technology. to be able to hold a world of books in our pockets without receiving muscle strain is fantastic indeed. So what better way to protect our E-reader with these snazzy little cases. One things for sure, this is one thing I will be hinting at by the time my birthday rolls around!

    Leather Book Cufflinks

    Allow your book lover to make a bold statement with these beautiful book cufflinks. They are sure to be the envy of their fellow bibliophiles as they proudly parade them. Honestly, if I had a man in my life  (and he would love books as much as I, trust me), I would buy him these in a heartbeat. I wouldn't even need an excuse.

    Gift Cards for any book retailer

    A lot of the time. If I have any spare money, I will use it to expand my collection of books. Nothing is better in my opinion than receiving a pre-loaded card in order to buy cards without losing money. If you think that this is a naff gift, think again. They will be sure to be ecstatic at getting to choose their own books without worrying of the financial repercussions. This site seems like a place to start if you're stuck.

    Classic Book Posters

    Not only are they stylish, but they are also undeniably book-savvy. Spice up your friends home with these beautiful replicas of old book covers.  The Literary Gift Company is the best place to find these posters.

    Classic Book Cover T-shirts

    Your book savvy friends will be sure to make a statement with these t-shirts and jumpers dedicated to our favourite classics. Can be found on OutofPrint

    Leaf Sticky Notes

    Nothing is more frustrating than losing a page or forgetting the presence of your favourite passage. So these leaf shaped sticky notes are sure to go down a treat. Can be found on The Literary Gift Company. (I'm beginning to sense a pattern here!)

    Finger Bookmarks

    These cute little bookmarks are a necessity for any reader. It is wholeheartedly frustrating when you fall asleep halfway through reading a book. So how do you counter this? By marking your exact position of course! This is literally the most perfect gift ever! Can be found on Amazon.

  3. I am an avid writer. If it appeals to me, I will be sucked into the pages for hours on end, perhaps only pausing to take a tea break. So to honour my bookishness, I have compiled a list of all the books that I want to get round to reading this year.

    #1 Half Bad by Sally Green

    Bought purely on impulse and an ardent desire to devour good literature, I snapped up this book the moment I saw it. I fell in love with its beautiful cover and a quick look at the summary on Goodreads only reaffirmed my desire to read this beautiful novel. I can't wait to read it! Review to be posted soon.

    In modern-day England, witches live alongside humans: White witches, who are good; Black witches, who are evil; and fifteen-year-old Nathan, who is both. Nathan’s father is the world’s most powerful and cruel Black witch, and his mother is dead. He is hunted from all sides. Trapped in a cage, beaten and handcuffed, Nathan must escape before his sixteenth birthday, at which point he will receive three gifts from his father and come into his own as a witch—or else he will die. But how can Nathan find his father when his every action is tracked, when there is no one safe to trust—not even family, not even the girl he loves?

    In the tradition of Patrick Ness and Markus Zusak, Half Bad is a gripping tale of alienation and the indomitable will to survive, a story that will grab hold of you and not let go until the very last page

    # 2 Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith 

    Another impulse buy, bought together with Half Bad. (Darn those deals!), the bright cover and good reviews spurred me to buy this highly original and strange plot. Working along the lines of Michael Grant, this novel is bound to be as addictive as it is weird.

    Sixteen-year-old Austin Szerba interweaves the story of his Polish legacy with the storyof how he and his best friend , Robby, brought about the end of humanity and the rise of an army of unstoppable, six-foot tall praying mantises in small-town Iowa.

    To make matters worse, Austin's hormones are totally oblivious; they don't care that the world is in utter chaos: Austin is in love with his girlfriend, Shann, but remains confused about his sexual orientation. He's stewing in a self-professed constant state of maximum horniness, directed at both Robby and Shann. Ultimately, it's up to Austin to save the world and propagate the species in this sci-fright journey of survival, sex, and the complex realities of the human condition.

                                             #3 The Mortal Instruments 

    Everyone in the entire Western world knows about these books. they are insanely popular, and from the quick glances I have peeked, and the sample I have downloaded onto my Kindle, I can understand why. I can't wait to sink my teeth into this novel.

    When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder -- much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

    This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know... 

    Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

    #4 Divergent by Veronica Roth

    Another hugely popular book by an insanely talented author. This book, which I think centers around a dystopian future, has actually just been made into a major motion picture. Something I am highly excited to read; along with its two sequels and the shorts that accompany it.

    In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago world, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue--Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is--she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

    During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles alongside her fellow initiates to live out the choice they have made. Together they must undergo extreme physical tests of endurance and intense psychological simulations, some with devastating consequences. As initiation transforms them all, Tris must determine who her friends really are--and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes exasperating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers unrest and growing conflict that threaten to unravel her seemingly perfect society, Tris also learns that her secret might help her save the ones she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

    # 5 My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

    As I was leisurely strolling through Waterstones, idly noting down books that I wanted to read, I came across a book with a beautiful cover and a stellar plot. In a world dominated by angels, vampires, werewolves and demons, when I saw a book that centered around banshees, I was hooked and thirsty to read it. Here's to reading it in 2014.

    Something is wrong with Kaylee Cavanaugh...

    She can sense when someone near her is about to die. And when that happens, a force beyond her control compels her to scream bloody murder. Literally.

    Kaylee just wants to enjoy having caught the attention of the hottest boy in school. But a normal date is hard to come by when Nash seems to know more about the dark forces behind Kaylee's power than she does.

    And when classmates start dropping dead for no apparent reason and only Kaylee knows who'll be next, she realises that finding a boyfriend is the least of her worries!

    #6 Hush Hush Becca Fitzpatrick

    So I feel like I am posting a lot of fantasy/dystopian books in this list, but I couldn't NOT include it in this list. This book has been hyped up massively since its release in 2009. Besides, the plot intrigued me from the summary and I am keen to read more to see if it lives up to the hype that surrounds it.

    Romance was not part of Nora Grey's plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

    But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

    For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.

    # 7 The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp 
    In a fiction world so dominated by the fantasy genre, it's always refreshing when something outside of it comes along. So this is why I want to read this book. That and the beautiful, original and slightly bittersweet sounding plot.

    SUTTER KEELY. HE’S the guy you want at your party. He’ll get everyone dancing. He’ ll get everyone in your parents’ pool. Okay, so he’s not exactly a shining academic star. He has no plans for college and will probably end up folding men’s shirts for a living. But there are plenty of ladies in town, and with the help of Dean Martin and Seagram’s V.O., life’s pretty fabuloso, actually.

    Until the morning he wakes up on a random front lawn, and he meets Aimee. Aimee’s clueless. Aimee is a social disaster. Aimee needs help, and it’s up to the Sutterman to show Aimee a splendiferous time and then let her go forth and prosper. But Aimee’s not like other girls, and before long he’s in way over his head. For the first time in his life, he has the power to make a difference in someone else’s life—or ruin it forever.

    # 8 How to Fall by Jane Casey 

    Being quite interested in the whole mystery genre of young adult, this book appealed greatly to me. Can't wait to read it! 

    The first unputdownable YA crime thriller from bestselling author Jane Casey

    Freya is found drowned - but was it suicide or murder? Her cousin, Jess Tennant, is determined to uncover the truth. But asking questions may prove deadly - anyone could be a suspect and everyone is hiding something...

    Can Jess unravel a mystery involving secret love, seething jealousy and a cliff-top in the pitch black of night?

    #9 Just Listen Sarah Dessen

    I know a lot of people who loved this novel, or just Sarah's work in general. So I decided to have a quick gander at it in Waterstones. The plot seemed quite interesting and appealed to my preferences, so that is why it sits on this list now.

    Last year, Annabel was "the girl who has everything" — at least that's the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf's Department Store.

    This year, she's the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong.

    Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen's help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.

    #10 Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

    Another massive book franchise, with legions of faithful fans all over the world, who will gladly recommend this book. From the sneaky glances at the first chapters that I have taken in Waterstones, this book will be quite enjoyable.

    St. Vladimir’s Academy isn't just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger...

    Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

    So that's it. My (not so) extensive list of my must reads of 2014. This is not a complete list, moreso a shortened version of the hundreds books that I am desperate to get my hands on. Links for the books will be found below.


  4. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    Tuesday, 4 March 2014

    The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

    Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs... for now. Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means) Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault. Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly, to her interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.

    Words cannot even begin to describe how this novel made me feel. Never has the written word imbibed such deep emotions within me. Indeed, never has a novel made me think so much. About the sanctity life, of my own morality, and on other notes, of how unjustifiably unfair life really is.

    The Fault in Our Stars follows the prose of Hazel Grace Lancaster, the protagonist, who is suffering from late stage thyroid cancer, and has to walk around with an oxygen tank in order to breathe properly. She meets Augustus, sufferer of Osteosarcoma, who fears oblivion, and Isaac, who has eye cancer, at a support group for cancer sufferers.  Aptly nicknamed the Literal Heart of Jesus. Augustus, we find out from the start, is highly intelligent and passionate and just a generally beautiful human being. He holds an unlit cigarette in his mouth as a symbol of defiance, a way of winning against the cancer. He says it's holding the cancer causing object in his mouth, without giving it the power to give him, by lighting it. (Please excuse my inadequate response of a beautiful, beautiful character). What makes Gus so loveable, so amazing is that he is human. he's brave and intelligent and beautiful, yes, but he's also scared, scared of Oblivion, as he tells Hazel Grace. As most stories go, they fall in love. But their love is so pure, so untainted.

    Death surprisingly, was not the main objective of this book. As one would think when reading novels that deal so heavily with sickness and morality. The book centers around the romance between Hazel Grace and Augustus Waters, a character to whom many have fallen in love with. John Greens flawless prose and philosophical speech help you to really get a feel for the characters, to fall in love with them, cry for them. I root for them, and just want them to get better, to fight the disease that slowly kills them. But John is pretty clear from the start, their fate is sealed from the first turn of the page.

    Although this is aimed at teenagers/young adults. The strong writing and delicate prose, is ideal for an older audience too. Anyone can enjoy the beauty of Johns writing and fall in love with his characters. This is a piece of literary masterpiece that will stay with you forever. Whether you like it or not. So many times I cried, I laughed and I turned the pages feverishly, inspired to get to the last page. To find out the fates of his characters. And yet as the fate became grimmer, more darker, I was spurred to read on. I could say so many things, so many empty words. But they all pale into significance, along with that blinking cursor as I try to form an appropriate diatribe. Because, never, in such a long time have I cared so deeply for characters. or a book in my life. And this is one novel that I will carry with me forever.