Friday Book Tag

Author – Laura

Book Blog Confessions Book Tag

We have done Book Tags before here on The Bookspa, (read post) but this one delves a bit deeper into our likes, dislikes and guilty pleasures. Hate is a very strong word that we try really hard not to use, so we are going in with hate, and out with love…

1. Which book, most recently, did you not finish? I started reading The Confessions of Mr Whicher or The Murder at Road Hill House, by Kate Summerscale. Although I was really enjoying it, I made the fatal mistake of putting it down, and I completely lost the thread of the plot. I will pick it up again, but it’s slipping down the TBR list…

2. Which book is your guilty pleasure? Twilight. Easy. But I need a blanket and chocolate when I’m reading it. It’s a whole sensory experience 😉

3. Which book do you love to hate? I think I have to say 50 Shades of Grey. It’s not a brilliantly written book, and the similarities between it and Twilight are quite distracting. That being said, I enjoyed reading a completely new genre and read all three books in a week, so it couldn’t have been that bad!

4. Which book would you throw into the sea? You don’t get books wet. Ever. But if I really had to pick, I’d say Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Ugh.

5. Which book have you read the most? The Harry Potter series. And I never, ever get bored of them.

6. Which book would you hate love to receive as a present? A signed copy of Good Omens. I think I would spontaneously combust.

7. Which book could you not live without? I’d be sad if I could never read Good Omens again, but there are so many beautiful books in the world that I’m sure I could manage. Just.

8. Which book made you the angriest? I don’t think I’ve ever been really angry at a book, but I’ve definitely been angry on behalf of a character. I remember being pretty mad at Brimstone when it looked like he’d left Karou all alone in Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and I hate anything to do with hurting animals. But nothing is ever as it seems, and things normally work out for the best. I do like a happy ending!

9. Which book made you cry the most? It’s a toss up between The Green Mile and The Deathly Hallows. Proper sobfests both of them!

10. Which cover do you hate love the most? Hmm. There are so many beautiful covers. We wrote about our favourites a while back… Read Post I think the Angelfall series has beautiful covers, as does the Wolves of Mercy Falls series, and the Dark Heroine series. I’m a sucker for a pretty book. I picked up The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester, which was just gorgeous.

Feel free to tag yourselves in and share your answers with us, we’re nosy and we love to know which books people love and love less…

Have a great weekend!

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Friday Favourites – Female Protagonists

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Author-Hazel

It’s my turn this week to tell you all about my favourite female leads. Going through my read list on Goodreads and picking my favourites has made me realise that all my favourite females embody life and personality traits that I envy or idolise. I think a good aspirational character is a fantastic thing to read about in a story. It can influence you to better yourself or even better, realise you’re pretty darn great already. All my favourites have a lot of flaws which, I think, humanises them, making them more relatable and more enjoyable to read.

Kay Scarpetta (Kay Scarpetta series by Patricia Cornwell)

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When I was a teenager, and the teachers traipsed you down to the careers office, I was always drawn to the science and investigation careers. Primarily, a Forensic Detective. It’s my dream job, and if things had played out differently… who knows, it could’ve been. I loved reading about this fascinating career and all the different aspects of it, and I loved Kay Scarpetta; a strong woman holding her own as the chief M.E in a male dominated world. She made mistakes, but carried on anyway because she knew her role was important in potentially saving lives. And the woman can cook. Some of the mouth-watering recipes were described in the books.

Paula Myo (Commonwealth Saga by Peter F Hamilton)

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Paula Myo is a Police Detective. She’s brilliant and methodical. So methodical in fact she borders on obsessive. Perhaps because she was bred specifically to excel and want to work in law enforcement. The planet she originates from genetically alters the DNA of their humans so they are and will be pre-disposed to favour and be excellent in chosen careers. Paula Myo struggles with the love she has for her work and the fact she does not agree with her planets’ genetic manipulation. Her love of her job sometimes takes her into very dangerous situations and she has made many enemies over her lifetimes, but she won’t quit in the search for justice.

Avery Morganstern (Wait for you by J Lynn)

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Avery went through a terrible ordeal when she was 14, and because her family and town let her down she was forced to endure isolation and bullying throughout her teenage years. Although she is still very much affected by the tragedy she suffered, she’s trying to move on (and move away), get herself a College education and survive on her own without her parents. I admire her courage, strength and her ability to try and better herself even after going through something that would break a lot of people.

Elena Michaels (Women of the Otherworld by Kelley Armstrong)

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Elena doesn’t wear make-up, perfume or use scented bath/shower products. She wears comfy clothes. Essentially she looks like an everyday woman. But Elena is a werewolf. The only female werewolf. And she can hold her own amongst this heavy testosterone, alpha male environment. She’s tough but feminine and I love that combination.

Freya Beachamp (Witches of East End by Melissa de la Cruz)

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Although I was unimpressed by this book, I did like Freya. She’s full of energy and fun and isn’t afraid to dare and take risks. She followed her heart even though it put her in some sticky situations. She was conflicted by her feelings for her fiance’s brother and struggled with it throughout the story, making some questionable decisions along the way. She’s also the Queen of mixing up potions, creating elaborate concoctions for all occasions.

Do you have some favourite female protagonists?

 

 

 

 

Friday Favourites – Female Protagonists.

Author – Kiera.

I was the one who suggested the topic of this FF, but then I started to panic because I couldn’t think of any! Luckily Goodreads came to the rescue, and after going through my read pile I’d made quite a lengthy list. The interesting thing about focusing on a certain aspect of a book is that you start to see similarities you didn’t know were there.

Yelena – Poison Study by Maria V. Synder.

poison-study-young-adult-front-cover2 Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

We first meet Yelena in a prison cell. She’s there for committing murder, and when she’s called up for execution she is given a choice – become the new food taster for the commander or death. Obviously she becomes the new poison taster or it would be a very short book! Yelena is one of the most hardy characters I have ever come across. Her survival instinct is unparalleled and she almost always manages to stay ahead of the game.

 

 

 

Deuce – Enclave by Ann Aguirre.

enclaveI really have a soft spot in my heart for the characters in this series. Deuce is fifteen and one of the enclave’s only female huntresses. She faces some of the most harrowing circumstances possible, but she never becomes bitter or resentful in anyway. She sees the world for what it is, and does her best to survive each day. I think that it is Deuce’s age and innocence that makes her such an appealing character.

 

 

 

 

Jane Yellowrock – Skinwalker by Faith Hunter.

Skinwalker-250These books read in a very similar way to the True Blood/ Sookie Stackhouse novels. There is a lot of down time that is filled with tea making and internal monologue, but during that time you really get to know Jane as a character. She has no idea where she came from or who her family are, just that she is of Cherokee descent. Following her while she discovers more about herself and the city she has been hired to protect is an enjoyable ride, and Cherokee heritage isn’t something I had come across before so thumbs up for that too.

 

 

 

Lia – The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

tkod I’m not completely sure what it is that I find so captivating about Lia. She is a Princess and to prevent war breaking out between Kingdoms it is arranged for her to marry a Prince she has never met and certainly doesn’t love. So she does what any girl would do in her position, she makes a run for it and hopes that all hell doesn’t break loose. Now I am aware that actually most people wouldn’t do that, and maybe that is what I like about her. She makes a decision and goes for it. Such a go-getter.

 

 

 

Ivy – Wicked by Jennifer L Armentrout.

22895264Ivy is a character that I think people either love or hate. She is sarcastic, quick witted and can fight like a man. I fall into the love camp. I really enjoyed reading the story from her point of view. The dialogue between her and the other characters had me laughing out loud all the way through this book. Ivy has experienced a lot of loss in her life, and it makes her understandably guarded, but I found that to make her more relateable.

 

 

 

 

There were so many other amazing female characters I wanted to include here, but I wanted to try and keep them as diverse as possible. Which female characters are your favourite?

Wednesday Wonderings

Library Card Cartoon

You heard it here first – books are making a comeback. Personally I’m not fussy when it comes to reading. Whether it’s my Kindle, a paperback or even (in desperate times) on my smartphone I’m happy as long as I can read. There is something to be said for a physical book though, especially a second hand one. I’m a sucker for floppy pages and worn spines – it feels like the book has been enjoyed and I think thats a good thing. There are others that prefer to keep their books pristine and beautiful, and that’s ok too!

Here in Swindon we have an abundance of libraries, from the very small to the very grand tea-and-toast-serving multicoloured mothership in the centre of town. The beauty of a library is that you can try genres and authors you wouldn’t normally pick up, with no real commitment. If you don’t like it, you can take it back without worrying that you’ve spent a whole £7.99 that could have been spent on wine. I tend to go armed with my ‘To Be Read’ list from Goodreads, then competely ignore it for a pretty cover.

I would encourage everyone, whether you’re a casual reader or a serial book devourer, to join your local library. They often have great kids clubs (perfect for 5 minutes peace perusing the YA shelves) and many also provide tea and cake for a lot less than the local coffee shop. All this and free books? Sounds like a winner to me…

Laura
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Friday Favourites – Female Protagonists

Author – Laura

This week we’re going all Girl Power on you, and looking at our favourite female lead characters. With so many worthy women to choose from, this group was difficult to put together. Let us know who you think should be on this list…

Sonea – Magicians Guild Trilogy – Trudy Canavan

Sonea - Magicians Guild

Sonea is a girl from the slums of Imardin who discovers she has a magical ability that is normally only found in the upper classes of society. She spends most of the first book hiding her magic from the Guild, who she believes are trying to capture her. Her abilities are eventually revealed, and she is taken to the Guild where she witnesses something terrible, putting her in even more danger.

I loved reading about Sonea; she has strong values and although she is young you really get a sense of the power she has, and how angry she is! There is a little bit of romance but it doesn’t detract from her own story – she is powerful with or without her man.

Lyra Belacqua – His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman

Lyra Belacqua

Lyra Belacqua, or Lyra Silvertongue as she is known, is the eleven-year old girl at the centre of His Dark Materials. And she’s a little brat. I don’t normally like children, real or fictitious, but there was something about this grubby little tomboy that I felt drawn to. It’s probably that she reminds me of me a little bit. I hated school, and was much happier with animals and mud than being with other kids. I also had a strong dislike for authority. Bad news when you’re 11 and everyone is more important than you. It took me a while to get into His Dark Materials, but Lyra is adventurous and naughty enough to keep you interested.

Karigan G’ladheon – Green Rider Series – Kristen Britain

Karigan G'Ladheon

Karigan is a bit of an unlikely hero. She has run away from school to get to her father, but on the way she meets an injured Green Rider, a magical messenger of the king. He asks her to deliver a message to the King of Sacoridia, so Karigan agrees and takes on the mantle of a Green Rider to take the message to the King. Karigan is a bad ass – it was really refreshing to read an Epic Fantasy where the main character is a woman who can really handle herself (with a little help from Horse). This is a great series, well worth a read.

Matilda Wormwood – Matilda – Roald Dahl

Matilda - Roald Dahl

One of the best children’s characters in the history of ever, Matilda is a little girl with a very special ability. I love this story, and although it has sad undertones (she is neglected and eventually left by her horrible parents) everything is ok and the book has a lovely happy ending. This can’t be considered a spoiler – everyone knows this story! Matilda is a sweet kid who you root for immediately, and is so quiet and intelligent you forget that she is only 5 and a half. Protagonist might not be the right word to describe a 5 year old, but she’s a brilliant female lead character all the same.

Sookie Stackhouse – The Southern Vampire Mysteries – Charlaine Harris

Sookie Stackhouse

I chose Sookie because I want her life. I want to be her, and live in Bon Temps, and sunbathe all day, and work in a cool bar, and have big boobs, and long blonde hair… It’s never going to happen, but I enjoyed living vicariously through Sookie. These books are like balm to my soul. So easy to read, plenty of sexy vampires and tasty humans, and enough action to keep the story flowing through the whole series. Sookie is a great lead, enough balls to stand up to the various ‘supes’ in the neighbourhood but sweet and kind, with real Southern charm. Did I mention I want to be her?

Wednesday Wonderings

When people say they don’t read it makes me feel sad. They are missing out on so much. Films and TV are great, but there is nothing quite like having your own input into the story. Inventing the characters, the world and relationships. It’s a wonderful thing!

bspa

Friday Favourites – Standalones!

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Author – Hazel

This was a tricky one. I discovered that I tend to read books that are part of a series. But having said that, if I could, I would choose Standalones over books in a series. I like the excitement of delving into a new book. I like the story being wrapped up in a 400 page novel as opposed to sometimes having to get through several or more books to get to the conclusion.

Here are my favourites.

Pretty Girl Thirteen by Liz Coley

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This was one of my Book Club picks of 2013. It’s a young adult psychological thriller that kept popping up in various recommendation pages and the synopsis sounded like the story might spark some interesting discussions. Although the story was gripping and easy to read, the content was heavy and upsetting. Liz Coley did a great job of weaving a disturbing and unpleasant story in a way where younger people can read and appreciate the complexity and understand the distressing situations, without having to read graphic scenes of a horrible nature. I found the psychological aspect of the story fascinating.

Archer’s Voice by Mia Sheridan

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This book was recommended to me by someone on Goodreads. It’s a new adult novel about a girl running away from her past and a guy living with a disability. They meet and a beautiful romance begins. I loved this book, I couldn’t put it down and it gave me all the feels. And this book had a happily ever after ending.

My other favourites have already been mentioned in Kiera’s Standalone Favourites, or they already have a review on our blog.

Happy Reading 📖😊

Book Club Review – The Darkest Park of the Forest by Holly Black

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Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.

Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.

At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.

Until one day, he does…

As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough?

Laura

I have to say, “well done me”, I picked a corker this month! I’ve had my eye on this release for a little while, and although I haven’t read anything by Holly Black before she is a firm favourite with some of the other Bookspa ladies, so I knew there was a good chance we were going to love it.

This book is fabulous. Never too complicated that you have to re-read whole sections of text, but never too boring that you skip them either, the story flows along at a good pace, weaving in and out of Fairfold and taking you in unexpected directions before reaching it’s rather epic final showdown. It feels sort of beautiful, and reads like a dark fairy tale – I kept thinking of The Labyrinth, especially during the faerie revelry. The colours and descriptions are vivid, and the variety of characters, both fae and human, only add to the magic and romance of the story. I loved Hazel and Ben, and the bond between them that is central to the book. I also loved that Hazel was a bit of a badass and didn’t need a knight in shining armour to save her.

I could write loads of gushing praise for The Darkest Part of the Forest, but all in all I think this is one of the best books I’ve read for a long time, and I give it 5 stars *****.

 

Hazel

I really enjoyed this book. I thought the pace was great, I was never bored. Holly Black weaved a magical tale with lots of little twists and turns that kept you wanting more. I didn’t anticipate any of them which made the story even more magical. Her characters were well fleshed out, I loved the relationships between the characters, especially Ben and Hazel’s. The romance was sweet, I loved Jack. Above all, I felt warm and fuzzy whilst reading this book even though some parts got pretty dark and scary, it reminded me of the fairy tales I read in my youth. Wonderful pick Laura 😀

Kiera

I’m going to start by quoting you one my favourite lines from the book. For me this just sums up everything I loved about it.

‘I have loved you from almost the first moment I saw you, wild and fierce and brave, running through the woods, your lips stained purple from blackberry juice.’

I knew from the moment Laura mentioned this book that I would enjoy it. I love the way the Holly Black writes, and she is up there as one of my favourite fantasy authors. It reminded me a lot of The Spiderwick Chronicles, but as a more grown up version – sounds good, right? It was! Reading about all the different faerie creatures and the awful things they got up to was fascinating, and having Jack’s perspective in the mix being fae but in human society was a really interesting view point. The relationships between the characters was such a massive element throughout the story, and really kept the plot moving. The way that you had to unravel the mysteries of the story was so satisfying and I was never disappointed by the outcome. All in all a story of childhood and whimsy and love and magic and imagination. Completely brilliant.

Friday Favourites – Standalones!

Author – Laura

Standalones SML

So. Standalones. This was a surprisingly hard list to write. It turns out I read A LOT of series, not always intentionally but it seems to be the way of things. A lot of the storylines in the books I read are so epic that to do them justice the books would have to be bigger than my head, so I’m not complaining.

Here is my humble little list of my favourite standalone novels.

The Railway Children – E. Nesbit

“Daddy! My Daddy!”

This is one of my childhood favourites. I love the simplicity of life, the slightly grubby outdoor playtime and the strength of the familty unit.

It was the first time I remember being sad reading a book, and the relief when Bobbie’s Daddy arrives at the railway station still gives me goosepimples. I sometimes use this phrase when I see my own Dad; even though I’m (mostly) a grown up, the feeling of coming home is something that just can’t be matched.

A Gathering Light – Jennifer Donnelly

This is a beautiful and sad book. I might have stolen it from my sister, but we won’t mention that. Sharing is caring. I’m not exactly sure what genre you would put this book into; it’s a YA historical horror romance. However you want to describe it the story is powerful and it feels like an understated epic. A must read.

IT – Stephen King

I read this book as a kind of ‘kill or cure’ treatment. When I was far too young to know better I watched the movie, and for months (ahem, years) afterwards I was terrified of clowns and washing lines. I decided, not that long ago actually, to get over it and read the book that the film was based on. I’m really glad I did, because not only is it a fantastic read (if a little trippy), it’s also less about The Clown and more about a group of friends overcoming their childhood fears. I love it. Not so much the film though, even now it gives me the creeps!

The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

If you haven’t read this I’d be surprised. It’s one of those books that appears on a lot of Top 25 lists on Goodreads. I read it because the movie was about to be released and I have a thing about wanting the full story before I watch the film, just so I can fill in the gaps myself. It’s definitely worthy of its plaudits. Beautiful and horrifying, you feel like have to keep reading and almost hold Susie’s hand until it’s all over.

Good Omens – Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

I have written about this book before. It’s my most favouritest book in the whole entire world. You can read my review here. I love the characters, the humour and I love how the fate of the world hangs on an 11 year old boy who doesn’t really know what all the fuss is about. Amazing, amazing book.

NB – Not forgetting The Night Circus, The Prince of Mist and The Ocean at the End of the Lane. All of which have been reviewed here on The Bookspa Blog.

Book Review – The Breeders by Katie French

Author – Laura

Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world’s last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches – moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders’ long reach. The Breeders control everything – the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they’re hunting Riley.

When the local Sheriff abducts the adult members of her family and hands her mother over to the Breeders, Riley and her eight-year-old brother, Ethan, hiding in a shelter, are left to starve. Then Clay arrives, the handsome gunslinger who seems determined to help to make up for past sins. The problem is Clay thinks Riley is a bender– a genderless mutation, neither male nor female. As Riley’s affection for Clay grows she wonders can she trust Clay with her secret and risk her freedom?

The three embark on a journey across the scarred remains of New Mexico– escaping the Riders who use human sacrifice to appease their Good Mother, various men scrambling for luck, and a deranged lone survivor of a plague. When Riley is shot and forced into the Breeder’s hospital, she learns the horrible fate of her mother—a fate she’ll share unless she can find a way out.

So there are a couple of things to note about this review. For starters this is the very first YA Dystopian story I’ve ever picked up and read by choice. The second thing is that I read it in two sittings.

The Breeders is set in a future where females are scarce, thanks to a scientific discovery that affected the ability to produce female fetuses. Girls are kidnapped by the Breeders and artificially inseminated with genetically created females in the hope of repopulating the world.

Riley is a 16 year old girl who has been hidden by her parents on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Her life is lonely, but living under the ever present threat of capture by the Breeders prevents her from visiting town or seeing anyone other than her family. I absolutely loved her, and there was none of the bratty teen angst that is so common in YA literature. She is vulnerable but brave, and would risk everything to save her family. Which is good, because from the very beginning of this book the action never stops. Riley and her little brother, Ethan, are so close and the author does a great job of making sure the little moments between them are just as important and poignant as the big moments. The world-building is subtle but fantastic. Every new place they come to feels both familiar and strange, and creates a clear picture of the devastation of the land after the past events.

Considering this book is aimed at young adults it doesn’t pull its punches in the darkness stakes. There are more than a few moments of serious tension, and a couple of scenes that might make the more squeamish among us grimace a little. The premise is really sinister, and the scenes in the hospital are actually quite frightening – the author really captures a sense of the hopelessness of Riley’s situation. Having said that, with Clay’s steadying presence and the help they receive from some unlikely sources, this is an unexpectedly hopeful story which had me racing through the pages to find out what happened next.

This is a really great book, with fabulous writing and real atmosphere. I’m so pleased I stepped out of my comfort zone and chose something different to read; it was definitely worth it!

Check out The Breeders on Goodreads

Buy the book on Amazon