Tag Archives: Middle Grade

Favourite Reads of 2016 | Wherein I am Extremely Late to the Party

So… it’s now almost half way through 2017, and I still haven’t mentioned my 2016 favourites yet. To that end, here they are:

The books listed are ones that I read for the first time in 2016, not just 2016 releases. They are roughly ranked.

In 2016 I read a total of 105 books. You can click here for the full list.

Unless otherwise specified, the titles link to Goodreads.

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The Fairyland Series 

By Catherynne M Valente

This series is adorable and amazing and will forever be one of my all-time favourites. The story is just so imaginative and vibrant, the writing is beautiful and the characters are well-developed and loveable.

The main focus is on friendship, adventure and discovery. Family also plays an increasingly important part as the series progresses, which is awesome to see.

Fairyland is the childhood series I wish I had. I pitch it as Fairy Realm (by Emily Rodda) cross Narnia – the issue is, not many people have read the Fairy Realm series.

I listened to the audiobooks which I 100% recommend doing if you can. Not only are the audios themselves amazing but the style of the books are such that there is a narrator telling you the story, which makes it a perfect audiobook. Also, the author narrates 3/5 of the series, which is amazing.

I also highly recommend this series if you want to get into listening to audiobooks but don’t know where to start.

This is a series that I started in 2015 but finished in 2016, so it still counts.

You can find my full review of the first book here.

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Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle #1)

By Jay Kristoff

I cannot recommend Nevernight highly enough.

A high fantasy featuring blood, death, violence, gore, sass, explicit scenes and what is essentially an assassin training school, Nevernight is a heap of fun with several unexpected plot twists.

The writing itself is fantastic – setting aside the footnotes, which get progressively more sassy and less full of world building as the story goes on – from the first chapter I found the writing engaging and extremely clever.

Surprisingly enough, I read Nevernight before I’d been exposed to any hype. I knew Jay’s writing from Illuminae so when I saw a poster advertising the book launch for Nevernight I decided to give it a go – and I’m ridiculously glad I did.

I will also say that the Australian & UK edition is so much prettier than the US – which is definitely a novel experience.

That said, there has been talk that the racial representation is slightly problematic,  so take that as you will.

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A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2)

By Sarah J. Maas

While I enjoyed A Court of Thorns and Roses well enough, on retrospect it wasn’t that great. I’d deliberately stayed way from any mention of A Court of Mist and Fury so I was surprised and ecstatic to find that ACOMAF blew me away. As I now say, ACOTAR is simply a necessary evil to reach ACOMAF.

ACOMAF has a fantastic, engaging plot and is full of amazing characters, major character development, and a subtle but apt discussion about unhealthy relationships, PTSD, personal growth, friendships and the impact of people on our lives as we ourselves grow and change.

If you want to get into Sarah’s writing, but Throne of Glass seems too daunting (those books are massive) and you don’t mind a bit of mature content then I would definitely suggest starting with these books.

Essentially, this book is absolutely fantastic and if you’re even slightly inclined to pick it up, please do.

You can find my full review here.

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The Medoran Chronicles

By Lynette Noni

Marketed as Harry Potter cross Narnia, The Medoran Chronicles is a fantasy series by an Australian author that reads somewhat like a contemporary (to me, at least).

Featuring a strong focus on friendship, great characters, a sentient library, a boarding school for the gifted in a parallel world, adventure and magic, Akarnae is a definite favourite of mine. Raelia, the second instalment, also features fae and a hint of romance while Draekora (which I have unfortunately not yet read though I desperately need to) features dragons.

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The Splintered Trilogy

By A. G. Howard 

A somewhat gothic, contemporary Alice in Wonderland retelling (with gorgeous covers!), Splintered is a captivating, whimsical, fantastic read featuring one of the only well-written love triangles I’ve read.

Great for marathoning, I read each of the instalments in a single sitting and the trilogy as a whole over barely four days.

I am a huge fan of this series and I really loved how it concluded. Everything about this book was fantastic and I love it to pieces.

If you feel like Splintered might be your thing, I 100% suggest going for it.

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The Raven Cycle

By Maggie Stiefvater 

The Raven Cycle is one of the series that had been sitting unread on my shelf for over a year, and on my TBR before that – despite the fact that I was sure I would love it (spoiler alert: I did). Thanks to the shrieking recommendation from Cait at Paper Fury and Sam on Twitter, I finally picked it up – my only regret being that I didn’t read it sooner.

A whimsical, distinctly character-driven series, The Raven Cycle is extremely hard to categorise – it reads like a contemporary but one might tentatively label it as magical realism.

I have so much love for this series. The writing, the characters, the friendships, the relationships, the plot, the mythology… but mostly the characters.

The characters definitely make the books, it is their story just waiting to be written. They are some of the most dynamic and real characters I have ever read and I love them, and I love how they love each other – the overarching rightness of it all.

Admittedly, I wasn’t particularly a fan of Adam to begin with, but that just highlights another great characteristic of the series – it’s fantastic and realistic character development. There is also a great LGTB relationship.

There is no doubt: this book, this narrative, is cyclical, and it is made all the more beautiful due to the nature of this series – how it plays with time.

The Raven Cycle is about hope, growth and making your own path but knowing some things are meant to be. 100% recommend.

Trigger warning for domestic abuse.

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Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2)

By Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman 

 

While I didn’t like Gemina quite as much as Illuminae I still really enjoyed it. Despite it being over 600 pages, the format and the fast pace meant that I finished it in a single day (and a school day none the less).

I really enjoyed the new characters we were introduced to, though it took me a little longer than with Kady and Ezra. Nick and Hannah were pretty great, though Ella was by far the standout. Ella was severely disabled but she didn’t let that stop her – she was sassy and amazing and an incredibly talented hacker.

In this instalment we also meet Isaac, Kady’s dad, which was great.

I will say, I went into Gemina expecting the surviving crew from Illuminae to come in around half way through, but it was more like two thirds.

I loved all the plot twists – which are essentially staples in both Amie and Jay’s writing. The character one was great, but at the end when we find out what “gemina” means? Genius. (And yes, I am being deliberately vague, thank you for noticing).

There is also much sass, which I always appreciate.

Suffice to say, I recommend this series to pretty much everyone and I can’t wait for Obsidio (in which my name will be included!)

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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

By Becky Albertalli 

An adorable, fun read featuring a gay protagonist and nerd culture appreciation Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a book that I should have read ages ago, but which was entirely worth the wait.

The relationship was adorable and fantastic and I love it.

The focus on family was refreshing as most YA books tend to wither feature negative relationships or absent families. The friendships were also prominent and great.

Note: You will likely crave oreos while reading this book. Just putting it out there.

Anyway, I love it, should have read it sooner and must now impasse upon you all the importance of reading this book ASAP.

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Empire of Storms (Throne of Glass #5)

By Sarah J. Maas

I love this series to death and have loved it for several years. Therefore, it is no surprise that I absolutely loved Empire of Storms even though, in retrospect, it’s not exactly Sarah’s best work.

Even though it came out on a school day, I devoured it – finishing it barely a day after its release. There’s definitely something to be said about that feeling.

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Six of Crows (Six of Crows #1)

By Leigh Bardugo 

So, after much delay, I finally picked up Six of Crows and, as anticipated, absolutely loved it.

The plot twists were amazing and the heists excellent, but the characters are what really made it for me – The wit, the chemistry, the genius… I loved it all (especially Kaz). I also just love books surrounding anti-heroes.

The diversity and representation is excellent, featuring characters suffering from chronic disability and PTSD as well as of racial minorities and LGBT orientation (the latter of which I actually hadn’t picked up, but which I believe is explored more in Crooked Kingdom).

Though I’m still not 100% sure that it’s necessary to read the Grisha trilogy before Six of Crows, it definitely helps in terms of understanding the magic system and overall context. I’m also glad that I listened to the audiobooks of the Grisha trilogy as it definitely helped my mental pronunciations of the various terms that otherwise I would have had no idea.

I will say, I kept getting distracted by the sheer beauty of the physical book. I managed to score the black stained hardback and it is utterly gorgeous – the colours are so deep and (again) gorgeous.

I definitely recommend this book and can’t wait for the next one.

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Infinity (The Infinity Division #1)

By Jus Accardo

How do you know it’s love if you’ve only ever experienced it once? What can you really know about a person when you only glimpse them? How do you know happiness is real? How do you separate your feelings for someone if they look exactly the same as the last person you loved?

A surprisingly brilliant read, Infinity features fantastic characters, a great plot, and a focus on perspective. While it had the potential to be extremely tropey and filled with instalove it (thankfully) was anything but that.

Very much a character-driven novel, Infinity was a thought-provoking read complete with a compelling plot.

Infinity focuses on the complexity of humanity and the morally grey area; when is it okay to kill someone? Is the death penalty ever okay? If someone close to you has broken the law or is planning to, where do your loyalties lie? What is the right thing to do?

You can find my full review here.

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Kasie West

Great for getting out of a reading slump or just for an enjoyable read, Kasie West’s books are lighthearted and fluffy with cute (if somewhat angst-ridden) relationships.

The Distance Between Us

A fun story to read in one sitting, The Distance Between Us is full of vibrant characters and dynamics, sarcasm, banter and wit. It has people being people, raw and unfiltered.

On the Fence

Another fun, light read, On the Fence was exactly what I needed to get me out of my slump – I breezed through it in a single sitting.

Reminiscent of Sarah Dessen (who got me into contemporary) it has great characters, an interesting story and deals with more serious issues of identity and family.

The Fill-In Boyfriend

While not my favourite work of hers, The Fill-In Boyfriend was still a great read.

Highlights include expansive character development, a focus on family and friendships, as well as encouraging us all to be better, more authentic and open people.

Kasie has definitely earned her place as one of my favourite contemporary authors and I look forward to reading more from her.

Let’s Discuss!

Even through I’m late to the party, what were some of your favourites of last year?

Have you read any books on my list? Are any on your TBR?

What are some of your favourite books so far this year?

Please share your thoughts, I’d love to discuss with you!

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1)

Finished on 10th April, 2017 (Re-Read)

Author: Catherynne M. Valente

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5 Stars

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Twelve-year-old September lives in Omaha, and used to have an ordinary life, until her father went to war and her mother went to work. One day, September is met at her kitchen window by a Green Wind (taking the form of a gentleman in a green jacket), who invites her on an adventure, implying that her help is needed in Fairyland. The new Marquess is unpredictable and fickle, and also not much older than September. Only September can retrieve a talisman the Marquess wants from the enchanted woods, and if she doesn’t . . . then the Marquess will make life impossible for the inhabitants of Fairyland. September is already making new friends, including a book-loving Wyvern and a mysterious boy named Saturday.

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Anyone who knows me well will likely be aware that Fairyland is my favourite series of all time; period. Which is saying something because I’ve read and loved a heck of a lot of books. Those who know me well will also likely have had me shove this book in their face – multiple times.

Fairyland is the childhood series I wish I had. I pitch it as Fairy Realm (by Emily Rodda) cross Narnia – the issue is, not many people have read the Fairy Realm series.

The story is universal; it is something that most people can enjoy, even if they don’t usually read middle grade.

Fairyland features fantastic friendships, complex characters, a morally ambiguous villain (who owns a very fine hat), adventure, adroableness, a Wyverary – that is, a wyvern (essentially a dragon) cross Library – and many other whimsical, magical, amazing things and people. (Look out for the key and the green smoking jacket; though inanimate, they are characters in their own right).

The story is so imaginative and vibrant, the writing is beautiful (not at all juvenile) and the characters are well-developed and loveable. The author takes a lot of stereotypes and spins them on their head. There is also a lot of book lover appreciation.

Even though it’s the first of a five book series, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has a complete arc in itself and could be read as a standalone (but please don’t as the rest of the series is just as wonderful, if not more).

If you like audio books or are thinking of getting into audio books, I 100% recommend Fairyland as I actually prefer the audio format. Not only are the audios themselves amazing but the style of the books are such that there is a narrator telling you the story, which makes for a perfect audiobook. Additionally, the author narrates 3/5 of the series, which is amazing.

Overall, Fairyland is a fun read, though it does get slightly dark. For me, it was even more fantastic the second time round.

If you need further persuasion, it is blurbed by both Neil Gaiman and Holly Black.

 

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read any of the Fairyland series?

Are you planning to? Have I convinced you?

If so, please let me know! Thoughts, feelings, rants, raves…

I would love to discuss with you 😉

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Harry Potter #5)

Read from 3-14th January, 2017

Author: J. K. Rowling

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5 Stars

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Harry Potter is due to start his fifth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. His best friends Ron and Hermione have been very secretive all summer and he is desperate to get back to school and find out what has been going on. However, what Harry discovers is far more devastating than he could ever have expected…

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I’ve been rereading the Harry Potter books for some time now, but this is the first instalment where my thoughts are extensive enough to warrant a review. That said, please forgive the fact that there are no prior reviews on these books and that I am instead jumping in at number five.

Many people say that this instalment is their least favourite of the series, but I didn’t find that at all – perhaps because I listened to the audiobook rather than reading a physical copy. At any rate, I loved this book.

Professor McGonagall and Ginny Weasley completely stole the show with their vibrant personalities and high levels of sass. Luna, Hermione, Neville, the twins and Tonks were also fantastic.

Umbridge has always been a fantastic love-to-hate villain and she certainly did not disappoint. There was also an interesting detail about her that I had forgotten until rereading which I quite liked. She was completely horrible and cruel, and it was a delight seeing her in disarray when the Weasley twins were up to mischief.

Harry really frustrated me, but I actually think that this was a good thing. Harry’s temper was quick and destructive (his friends were even scared of him at times), he didn’t appreciate the people around him, he was selfish, and he was rash. However, some of those qualities (such as the temper) I believe may have been (at least to some degree) appropriated from Voldemort. It also made him flawed and somewhat more relatable. It will be interesting to see his character development through the next few novels – you can already start to see it at the end of Order of the Pheonix in his interaction with Luna.

I really didn’t like Cho but I understand that she was needed to help Harry grow as a character. Personally, I found her to be selfish, extremely shallow and rather superficial.

Dumbledore was interesting. For the majority of the novel, I, like Harry, was frustrated at and disappointed in Dumbledore, who had been like a father figure to Harry in his time at Hogwarts to date. It had been such a long time since I’d read “Order of the Phoenix” that I’d entirely forgotten his motivations – but Rowling did a fantastic job at portraying them in the reveal at the end, painting Dumbledore as flawed, vulnerable and… old. That conversation was perhaps one of my favourite scenes in the novel.

Overall, it was a fantastic read with brilliant characters, mixing entertaining times with frustrating ones.

If you are struggling to get through, I do thoroughly recommend listening to the audiobook as I feel it would help out significantly. However, that is coming from someone who loves audiobooks and what works for me may not work for you.

Let’s Discuss!

Have you read Harry Potter? Are you one of the few who haven’t?

What’s your favourite instalment? Least favourite?

Favourite character?

Any unpopular opinions?

Come chat with me! I love to discussions.

Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods

Finished on 8th November, 2014

Author: Rick Riordan

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5 Stars

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If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on…

Who could tell the origin stories of the gods of Olympus better than a modern-day demigod? In this whirlwind tour of Greek mythology, Percy Jackson gives his personal take on the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece – and reveals the truth about how they came to rule the world.

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Pre-reading, I was expecting this book to be interesting, but sorely dry – like  a textbook. Thankfully, “Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods” surpassed my expectations by miles – the Greek myths and legends were totally Percyfied. (Which is totally epic!)

Reading this was like sinking into the embrace of an old friend. The writing was familiar, the backgrounds for so many characters were finally explained (there were a lot of “OH” moments when reading this) and, since this is Percy narrating, there was quite a lot of laughter in inappropriate moments.

Honestly, I’m not sure if I would recommend reading this before or after you’ve read the Percy Jackson books (or maybe in-between?) but either way, it is a great look into the history and make-up of the Percy Jackson universe. A well deserved five stars, “Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods” is a great, easy read that you can pick up at any time.

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Before I go, I have to make a quick note on the cover – is it just me or is this the worst Pj/HOO cover yet? Because as much as I love Logan Lerman, the cover is absolutely hideous! The other version is slightly better, but unfortunately that only comes in hardcover… *sigh*.

What are your thoughts? Am I the only one who dislikes the cover? Be sure to let me know, I’d love to discuss it with you!

The Giver (The Giver #1)

Read from 20-21st September, 2014

Author: Lois Lowry

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4.5 Stars

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Jonas’s world is perfect. Everything is under control. There is no war or fear or pain. There are no choices. Every person is assigned a role in the Community. When Jonas turns twelve, he is singled out to receive special training from The Giver. The Giver alone holds the memories of the true pain and pleasure of life. Now, it is time for Jonas to receive the truth. There is no turning back.

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A hauntingly enchanting read that makes you think about the deeper issues in life. The Giver – “the book that made dystopia” – is a classic read for all ages.

This novel is beautifully written. The language is eloquent and intelligent, delivering an intriguing story based in a fascinating world so unlike our own, yet believable all the same.

I found this utopian society fascinating. At first, I actually felt like I wanted to be part of The Community – it sounded pretty cool. Everyone seemed intelligent, you pretty much got your idea job, and marriages seemed to work out pretty well. But then we started to see the flaws. There was no books to read for fun, there was no love, I’m not even going to go near the releasing process (how can anyone be okay with that? And if they truly feel that it is the right thing to do, why do they lie about it?) – oh, and there’s no colour. Literally. Everything’s in black and white – the “Sameness” is what the Giver called it.

The concepts and importance of identity, memory, emotions and choice were addressed. Lois writes, “It was a community without danger or pain. But it was also a community without music, colour or art. And it was a community without books.”

The ending, however, let me down. While there are three other books in the quartet, they are seemingly unrelated to The Giver – so we don’t find out what happens to the characters we have grown to love. I understand the idea of “open-ended” book, but I felt that the ending was rushed and that the novel didn’t really have a conclusion.

Despite this, I did love the story. The Giver is a book that can be read on a philosophical level or just for fun. Either way, I believe that this well-rounded book can be read by all ages (starting with children around eleven).

I look forward to seeing the movie – the characters have been ages about four years and a romance has been added in, but I’m interested in how true the movie is to the book.

The Thirteenth Princess

Read in January, 2013

Author: Diane Zahler

The Thirteenth Princess

3.75 Stars

An interesting twist on the fairytale “the Twelve Dancing Princesses”. Recommended for but is not limited to people aged 8-12.

This book was not one of my favorites, but was written quite well.

Personally, I read this one to see what “a normal 12/13 year old” would read. – People always tend to say that I read things that are a few years “too old” for me. I call it “expanding my horizons”. – Go figure.