Before December morphed into a brand new year, I proclaimed 2015 to be a lot of things. The year of fitness; the year of risks; the year of sorting out my sh*t;tThe year of dating.. And the year of reading. Reading was my first love, and I have my darling parents to thank for that, reading me bedtime stories since the day I was born. Somewhere between having a second child and running after a toddler, my mum managed to teach me how to read at two and a half years old! My passion for reading hasn’t dwindled in 24 years, but my motivation and time for reading often has. I didn’t discover as many literary worlds in 2014 as I would have liked, but this is the year of the bookworm (as proclaimed by me!!) What better way to record how much I am reading by a monthly reads segment!
The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer
Fairytales are one of my favourite genres to read, and adaptions that reimagine the magic without distorting the premise behind the original story are very hard to come by. I first heard about The Lunar Chronicles from the many BookTubers I watch and I was very intrigued. This is a four book series set in futuristic earth 126 years after World War IV as the Commonwealth are on the brink of another World War, this time united against the evil forces of the Lunars.
Cinder (Book 1): The series essentially centres around Cinder, an orphan who works hard and caters to the every needs of her stepmother and two stepsisters. Sound familiar? Without giving to much away, book one introduces us to our heroine, Cinder, and her life in New Beijing. After an accident that takes the life of her parents, she’s given a second chance at life and is turned into a cyborg thanks to the advances of science. Part human, part robot, Cinder is shunned from society but pays her keep as a teenage mechanic fixing androids and other electronics. One day out of nowhere, Prince Kai walks into her workshop and asks for her help to fix an old royal android. The work on the android leads to more and more chance meetings with the prince, and an invitation to the royal ball. But Prince Kai is unaware that she is a cyborg, and a cyborg couldn’t possibly go to a ball – she would be found out!! Just when you think the evil stepmother is the villain of this retelling, along comes Queen Levana from Luna (that’s the moon to us 21st century folk). Queen Levana has ruled Luna ever since the mysterious death of Princess Selena, the true air to the Lunar throne, who many believe to be still alive. Levana is gorgeously evil in every sense and when introduced to her, Cinder suddenly finds herself as the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive….
I’ve said too much already! Everything you think you know about Cinderella is reimagined in this book and I loved every minute of it. I haven’t read a first book in a series that left a desperate taste of longing in my mouth since The Hunger Games! If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for. I highly recommend it.
Scarlet (Book 2): I can’t say too much about book two without ruining book one! Continuing with the storyline from Cinder, a second heroine is introduced. Scarlet lives in rural France with her grandmother who inexplicably vanishes without a trace. Scarlet wears a red cape, and encounters a street fighter called Wolf who may have information on her grandmother’s whereabouts. Their adventure begins here…
This was my least favourite of the series so far. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, but there were aspects of Scarlet’s character that I didn’t warm to as quickly as I did with Cinder. That being said, the book itself is integral to understanding Cinder’s backstory. The thing I really liked was that Cinder wasn’t forgotten, and we were still following her story as well as Scarlet’s. When all is said and done, this is Little Red Riding Hood like you’ve never known her. I’m still not too sure that Wolf is as trustworthy as he is made out though. Didn’t the wolf not eat the grandmother in the original?!
Cress (Book 3): Our heroines, now intertwined and plotting to overthrow Queen Levana, make their way to Luna with the help of Cress, a talented hacker and shell (non-magic Lunar). Cress has been imprisoned in a satellite since childhood with only Little Cress for company, a software she created so she could have a friend to talk to and play games with. Under Queen Levana’s orders she provides intelligence and security for the Lunar Queen. Cress is young, naive, with hair that Rapunzel would be envious of, and has a vivid imagination. She dreams of escaping the satellite and visiting the earth that she gazes on from space every day. Cinder, Scarlet and crew manage to free her from her prison but their mission is intercepted. All of our heroines are suddenly separated and have to face individual battles without the help of each other. This is when things start to get a little scary…
Living up high, out of sight and out of mind, Cress is the Rapunzel of the sci-fy world. Her naivety was a refreshing change to Cinder & Scarlet who are confident leading characters steadily growing in their strengths. Scarlet isn’t a prominent character in book 3, which leads me to assume she’s going to have a HUGE part in book 4. Oh the anticipation!!! Actually, one of my favourite characters in book 3 has to be Iko, Cinder’s android. She’s been around since the beginning, and everything you would expect a stereotypical teenage girl to be, but provides much needed comic relief as things start to get pretty dark and scary in Cress…
Marissa Meyer has just published a prequel called Fairest which is Queen Levana’s story – basically, how the evil queen became evil. I haven’t seen it in bookstores in Ireland yet and I can’t seem to get it on Kindle, but get it I shall! I can’t wait to read it as Winter (Book 4) isn’t due out until November 2015. So. Far. Away!!
Looking for Alaska by John Green
Everyone has heard of John Green. Or at least of his many popular books-turned-movies. The only John Green book I had actually read before this was The Fault In Our Stars, and that was only due to the hype surrounding the movie. Looking for Alaska is his very first publication, and 2015 marks 10 years since it’s release. I always think there is something to be said about reading an author’s first published work. Something being the operative word here. I hate just saying ‘anything’ when I could say ‘something’. I digress (am I confusing you as much as I am confusing myself right now?). What I am trying to say is that I was pleasantly surprised with this book. Miles, or Pudge as he is affectionately known, is a bit of a loner and has an unnatural fascination with people’s last words. He leaves his parents and old life to go to boarding school in his quest to find “the great perhaps”. It is at the start of this quest where he meets Alaska Young, a beautiful, mysterious, over-the-top and emotionally confused scholarship student who is feverous about feminism and perpetually drunk! We see the world through Pudge’s perspective and experience his growing attachment, and borderline obsession, to Alaska as the book progresses. The book itself is divided into two parts – Before and After – and I won’t say much more in case I spoil the event that divides the two, but it is a pivotal ‘growing up’ moment, for not only Pudge and his friends, but for the reader too.
The ending did not leave me feeling happy. It did not leave me wanting more. It left me feeling empty, sad, and emotionally drained. But it was for that very reason that I adored this book. Looking For Alaska is Young Adult fiction. And although I am no longer classified as being a young adult anymore, I can remember vividly what it was like to be 16 and to feel all those emotions. I can remember feeling so deeply about things it hurt, feeling those conflicting emotions when you fall in love with a friend and trying to comprehend the reasoning behind why people you love do things in search of happiness that will ultimately deeply hurt and scar you forever. There is no sugarcoating of life in this book. It paints the reality of teenage life as it is. My only criticism is that Green didn’t write Looking For Alaska in 2004 when I was 16!
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
After Looking For Alaska, I felt like reading another Young Adult novel. This time I went for the slightly less ‘dark’ choice of Eleanor & Park. Although that isn’t to say that the main characters do not experience dark, intense, life-changing moments, with physical & emotional abuse being a key issue that the main characters face. Eleanor & Park is Rainbow Rowell’s debut novel, although I didn’t know that at the time of reading it. I’ve always said that nobody should write for teens who doesn’t remember what it was like to be one, but Rowell remembers, and I was instantly transported back to being 15 years old and falling in love for the very first time. Set in 1986, complete with Walkmans, home-phones and terrible fashion-sense, Eleanor & Park is a coming-of-age, hauntingly beautiful love story. Two teens, both misfits in their own way, sit next to each other on the school bus. Their relationship develops from disliking each other, to not talking, to silently sharing comic books to slowly falling for each other. The quirky characters are well developed and awkwardly relatable as I remember my own teenage years, and I found myself completely submerged in their story. The ending has outraged many fans of this book as not ‘believable’ but it strikes a chord with me as I did something similar to my first love as Eleanor did to Park – minus the drama that surrounds her decision – my reasoning was slightly less mature, I was stressed with school work and was struggling with the long distance!!
John Green sums it up best when he says “Eleanor & Park reminded me not just what it’s like to be young and in love with a girl, but also what it’s like to be young and in love with a book.”—John Green, The New York Times Book Review
Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets by J.K Rowling
I am currently rereading the Harry Potter books. This book really needs no explanation, because even if you haven’t read it, I’m pretty sure you would have seen the movie. Harry, Ron and Hermione are in their 2nd year of Hogwarts, and, spoiler alert, the defeat Voldemort for the second time while saving Ginny Weasley in the process. Shocker!
This is my least favourite Harry Potter books, which might explain my short and snappy “review”. It’s also one that I have read over 5 times while books 4-7 I’ve only read once! Maybe I’m just impatient to get to book 4, or maybe I know the story a little too well to enjoy a reread, but The Chamber of Secrets just doesn’t do it for me. Please don’t hate me Harry Potter fanatics..
Jip en Janneke Vol. 1 by Annie M.G. Schmidt
Finally, I have read (and translated) the first volume of Jip en Janneke short stories. Jip en Janneke are two 4 year olds who get into mischief a lot, and their stories are a staple part of growing up in the Netherlands for the last 50 years. Every Dutch person knows who they are. Each story is about 500 words long, so are perfect for someone learning a new language like me. I try to translate one or two stories every evening, and they give me a good giggle as well as a feeling of accomplishment when I can understand a full sentence without the help of a dictionary! Jip en Janneke remind me of the ‘My Naughty Little Sister’ stories by Dorothy Edwards and illustrated by Shirley Hughes. They were one of my favourite collection of short stories to read as a little girl when I visited my school library, and always put a smile on my face.
*Rating: 5/5 🙂
January wasn’t a bad reading month at all. Seven books under my belt already. At this pace by the end of December I’ll have read 84 books! Oohhhh I’m loving the Year of the Bookworm already. Anyone care to join me on my reading quest? Like Miles, I think i’m in search of ‘the great perhaps’. Perhaps 2015 will be the year of fitness, taking risks and dating. Perhaps not. But I know for sure it’ll be the year of reading!
Currently Reading: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Books Read in January: 7
Year of the Bookworm Total: 7
What was your favourite read this month?
How many books did you devour in January?
What books should I read next?
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