Book of the Month 2015

Here are my reviews of books I have read this year, one for every month.

To read previous reviews visit Book of the Month 2014.

January

The Earth is Singing

The Earth is SingingMy name is Hanna. I am 15. I am Latvian. I live with my mother and grandmother. My father is missing, taken by the Russians. I have a boyfriend and I’m training to be a dancer.

But none of that is important any more. Because the Nazis have arrived, and I am a Jew. And as far as they are concerned, that is all that matters.

This is my story.

About halfway through January I was convinced I knew what my book of the month was going to be. Then I was given an advance copy of The Earth is Singing and that just blew everything out of the water.

How best to describe this book? Haunting, harrowing, and heartbreaking? Powerful and poignant? All of the above and more.

Having read her other books, I know Vanessa Curtis can write, but I still didn’t expect the sheer emotional punch this book packs. The unflinching reality of it, the beautiful simplicity of the writing, the stark and utterly tragic plight of an innocent teenage girl whose suffering represents the suffering of millions of Jews during this time, all combined to make this a book that not only moved me to tears but will stay with me for a very long time.

You can read an interview with the author here.

 

February

Paper Towns

Paper TownsQuentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificent, adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she opens his bedroom window late one night and summons him to join her on an ingenious campaign of revenge – he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to find that Margo has not. Always an enigma, she now becomes a mystery and Q soon learns that there are clues to be followed in the search for Margo.

My fantasy addiction means this isn’t the sort of book I usually pay much attention to, but I was impressed enough by The Fault in our Stars to want to try more of John Green’s work. And I’m glad I did.

While it doesn’t have the emotional depth and rawness of TFIOS, this book brilliantly challenges the notion of falling for the fantasy girl that no one really knows anything about. Margo is a sort of Manic Pixie Dream Girl – gorgeous, popular, unconventional, admired and adored by everyone around her. It’s not hard to fathom Quentin’s infatuation and it’s fascinating to watch him as he starts to look past the legend that surrounds Margo and see the girl she really is – the very ordinary, very flawed girl.

The plot is buoyed up by the genuine suspense of not knowing if Q is going to find Margo alive or if, as he fearfully contemplates, she has committed suicide. The characters are fascinating if not always completely likeable, and the dialogue sparkles with genuinely humour.

I hope that John Green’s other novels keep me as enthralled.

 

March

The Iron Queen

The Iron QueenMy name is Meghan Chase.

I thought it was over. That my time with the fey, the impossible choices I had to make, the sacrifices of those I loved, was behind me. But a storm is approaching, an army of Iron fey that will drag me back, kicking and screaming. Drag me away from the banished prince who’s sworn to stand by my side. Drag me into the core of conflict so powerful, I’m not sure anyone can survive it.

This time, there will be no turning back.

At the time of reading this book, I was unaware of the fourth book, The Iron Knight. As far as I knew, this book was the end of the trilogy. And what an end it was.

I make no secret of my love of Julie Kagawa’s writing. She has the ability to paint magic into her stories, and I will gobble up anything and everything she writes. The Iron King was the first book of hers that I read, and I completely fell in love. The Iron fey are one of the most fascinating takes on fairy mythology that I have ever seen, and the world that Kagawa has created is both beautiful and terrifying, so richly detailed that I literally felt like I was there with the characters.

Although there is a fourth book after this, The Iron Queen, is the one that wraps up the trilogy. It’s the book that pushes the characters to the edge. It’s the book that gives an ending that’s painfully realistic in its lack of a clear-cut happily-ever-after.

I feel very lucky that Julie Kagawa has shared her wonderful imagination with the world.

 

April

The Last Olympian

The Last Olympian

All year the half-bloods have been peparing for battle against the Titans, knowing the odds of a victory are grim. Kronos’s army is stronger than ever, and with every god and half-blood he recruits, the evil Titan’s power only grows.

While the Olympians struggle to control the rampaging monster Typhon, Kronos begins his advance on New York City, where Mount Olympus stands virtually unguarded. Now it’s up to Percy Jackson and an army of young demigods to stop the Lord of Time.

There were quite a few contenders for Book of the Month during April, but ultimately it had to be the fifth Percy Jackson book that took the spot. For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with mythology, including Greek. The thing I love most about the Percy Jackson books is the way Rick Riordan takes these ancient myths and legends, and weaves them into a modern-day setting. I loved all the previous Percy books and the finale was no disappointment.

Before this, I’d have said that any book that centres almost exclusively around this huge final battle, might have pacing problems. Surely it would get boring to read hundreds of pages about a battle. Boy, was I wrong. The Last Olympian is a thrilling rollercoaster of a book that grabs you by the throat and doesn’t let go until the very end.

The characters that we have fallen in love with have to make some tough decisions, while other characters reach the end of their journey during this battle. It’s not always hard to predict what’s going to happen but that really doesn’t matter. These books are action-packed, exciting, funny, and offer an incredible take on ancient mythology.

Thank you for the ride, Percy Jackson.

 

May

Angel Fever

Angel FeverWillow and Alex are mankind’s only hope. With the world in ruins, the angels are enslaving humanity, moving survivors into camps where they devour their energy, causing slow but certain death.

Training a new team of Angel Killers, Alex and Wilow’s love grows stronger than ever – and success is almost within their grasp. But when Willow senses a terrifying shift in the angels’ power, Alex is forced to embark on a deadly solo mission. Now Willow is left to defeat the angels with Seb, and she has no idea if Alex is ever coming back…

I held off reading this book for a long time because I really didn’t want the journey to end, but, eventually, I just couldn’t wait any more. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed. I adore the world that L.A. Weatherly has created, and I adore the way her characters have grown and evolved and matured since the first book.

Without spoiling anything for people who haven’t read it yet, Alex and Willow’s relationship definitely reaches a point that I didn’t see coming, and it was genuinely unclear if they could recover from it. I liked that uncertainty, even though I have championed their love from the moment they met, because it really gave their relationship an edge of realism. They are not cardboard, starcrossed lovers. They are real people with real feelings. Willow does not automatically forgive Alex for the choice he makes, and he is initially blind to the damage he has caused. Watching them try and navigate what has become very rocky emotional terrain makes their relationship seem that much more real and that much more beautiful.

Meanwhile, some characters return while others make wrenching sacrifices, and the world itself plunges into its darkest ever point. This book has considerably more grit than the average YA read, and deals with darker, more mature themes.

I’m honestly gutted that the ride is over.

 

June

The Eternity Cure

The Eternity Cure

In Allison Sekemoto’s world, there is only one rule left: Blood calls to blood. She has done the unthinkable: died so that she she might continue to live. Cast out of Eden and separated from the boy she dared to love, Allie will follow the call of blood to save her creator, Kanin, from the psychotic vampire, Sarren. But when the trail leads to Allie’s birthplace in New Covington, what Allie finds there will change the world forever – and possibly end human and vampire existence.

There’s a new plague on the rise, a strain of the Red Lung virus that wiped out most of humanity generations ago – and this strain is deadly to humans and vampires alike. The only hope for a cure lies in the secrets Kanin carries, if Allie can get to him in time.

Allie thought that immortality was forever. But now, with eternity itself hanging in the balance, the lines between human and monster will blur even further, and Allie must face another choice she could never have imagined.

You know how sometimes you read an amazing first book, but then get let down by the second? You know how sometimes it feels like the second book is just filler? Yeah, that doesn’t happen here!!

The Eternity Cure carries on the bloody and brilliant vampire post-apocalypse story that started in The Immortal Rules. Allison has lost none of her badassery, and remains one of the most complex and memorable heroines in YA fiction. Her relationship with Zeke remains genuinely touching and refreshingly realistic, a far cry from the insta-love that so often plagues this genre.

Old friends become enemies, and old enemies become friends, while a genuinely terrifying villain stalks the pages of this incredible second volume of the Blood of Eden trilogy. This book manages to be creepy, emotional, violent, and beautiful all at the same time, and I remain in further awe of Julie Kagawa’s ability to create such fantastic worlds and wonderful characters.

*bows down crying, ‘I am not worthy.’*

 

July

The Retribution of Mara Dyer

The Retribution of Mara DyerMara Dyer had no idea that it would end like this. She desperately wants to believe that there’s more to the lies she’s been told and doesn’t stop to think about where her quest for the truth might lead.

She never gave much thought before to how far she would go for vengeance, but with loyalties betrayed, guilt and innocence tangle, and when fate and chance collide it seems the time for retribution has arrived.

If I could sum this book up in one word it would probably be refreshing. Why that word? Because the characters in this aren’t plain black and white. This isn’t a case of the good guys versus the bad guys, and I love the gritty realism of that. It’s refreshing. I love a heroine who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty – and Mara’s hands get very dirty in this book! Mara has always stood out to me as a character. She’s flawed and dangerous, and possibly even crazy. And it makes her utterly compelling to read about, especially in this book when she goes down a very dark path. How is that not refreshing?

Noah and Mara’s relationship continues to fascinate, and that is another thing that I find so refreshing about this series. Their love is real but it isn’t always pretty. They are both damaged, messy people, and, consequently, they have a damaged, messy relationship. This isn’t a case of love conquering all, or everything being okay because you’re in love. Nope, Michelle Hodkin isn’t afraid to make things dark and gritty and twisted.

That’s why I fell in love with the first book, and why I have remained in love with the series. The haunting quality of the stories, and the complex natures of the characters make these books stand out in a crowd.

I eagerly await whatever Michelle is writing next.

 

August

Before I Fall

Before I FallSam Kingston is dead. Except she isn’t.

On a rainy February night, eighteen-year-old Sam is killed in a horrific car crash. But then the impossible happens: she wakes up in her own bed, on the morning of the day that she died.

Forced to live over and over the last day of her life – the drive to school, skipping class, the fateful party – she desperately struggles to alter the outcome, but every morning she wakes up on the day of the crash.

This is the story of a girl who dies young, but in the process learns how to live. And who falls in love…a little too late.

It’s no secret by now that I’m a sucker for imperfect, flawed characters. And Sam Kingston is most certainly flawed. Sam is a mean girl. She is shallow, arrogant, and selfish. But there is no sugarcoating here. There is no pretending that the actions of Sam and her friends are anything than what they are – cruel and petty.

But Sam has to be mean. The incredible journey that she goes on, and the brutally frank way she is forced to examine what sort of person she really is, and how her actions affect the people around her, simply wouldn’t work if she wasn’t a bitch to start off with.

The relationship she builds with Kent is beautiful, but tragic too, because we know this isn’t going to have a happy ending. I’m not going to lie – the whole way through the book I was desperate for Sam to turn this all around and get a happily-ever-after. But Lauren Oliver doesn’t cop out and give us a Disneyfied ending. This book is emotionally raw and powerful throughout, and the ending is no exception.

This is one I’ll remember for a very long time.

 

September

Spirit Bound

Spirit BoundDimitri gave Rose the ultimate choice. But she chose wrong.

After a long and heartbreaking journey to Dimitri’s birthplace in Siberia, Rose Hathaway has finally returned to St. Vladimir’s – and to her best friend, Lissa. It is nearly graduation, and the girls can’t wait for their real lives beyond the Academy’s iron gates to begin. But Rose’s heart still aches for Dimitri, and she knows he’s out there, somehow.

She failed to kill him when she had the chance. And now her worst fears are about to come true. Dimitri has tasted her blood, and now he is hunting her. And this time he won’t rest until Rose joins him…forever.

I love the Vampire Academy books. Just love ’em! They stand head and shoulders above most other books in the genre, and Spirit Bound is no exception. After the blistering events of Blood Promise, Rose and Lissa are back together, Lissa and Christian have rekindled their relationship, and Rose has to face her ultimate challenge – saving Dimitri or destroying him.

There isn’t much I can say at this point without giving away spoilers, but, as with the previous books, Richelle Mead takes her readers on a non-stop journey of highs and lows. This book might not have the raw emotion of Blood Promise, but that doesn’t make it any less compelling.

While trying to get her life back on track and deal with the pre-graduation trials, Rose is also forced to make some terrible choices in her quest to save Dimitri, choices that are going to reverberate throughout the final book. Which I can’t wait to read!! But we all know I’m going to put off reading the final book, because I really don’t want to say goodbye to this series.

 

October

Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Dreams of Gods and MonstersTwo worlds are poised on the brink of a vicious war. By way of a staggering deception, Karou has taken control of the chimaera’s rebellion and is intent on steering its course away from dead-end vengeance. The future rests on her.

When the brutal angel emperor brings his army to the human world, Karou and Akiva are finally reunited – not in love, but in tentative alliance against their common enemy. It is a twisted version of their long-ago dream, and they begin to hope it might forge a way forward for their people. And, perhaps, for themselves.

But with even bigger threats on the horizon, are Karou and Akiva strong enough to stand among the gods and monsters?

It’s finally over. I remember picking up a little book called Daughter of Smoke and Bone a couple of years ago, and just sinking into the rich, lush, and utterly compelling world that Laini Taylor has created. Since then I have forced myself to leave months between reads so I don’t have to say goodbye to this world, but the time finally came when I couldn’t hold off the finale any longer.

And it didn’t disappoint.

This book is chilling and beautiful, savage and emotional. Laini Taylor’s writing continues to astound, her characters continue to leap off the page and drag you into the story, and her worlds continue to be gorgeously painted and wonderfully realistic.

There are many books about angels and demons out there, but I don’t think there’s a series quite like this one. If you haven’t already read these books, what are you waiting for? Seriously, READ THEM!!!

 

November

Spider’s Revenge

Spider's RevengeOld habits die hard. And I plan on murdering someone before the night is through.

Killing used to be my regular gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spider, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly matters: Mab Monroe, the dangerous Fire elemental who murdered my family when I was thirteen.

Oh, I don’t think the mission will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more problematic than expected. The bitch knows I’m coming for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keeping Bria safe is my first priority. Taking Mab out is a close second.

Good thing I’ve got my powerful Ice and Stone magic – and my irresistible lover, Owen Grayson to watch my back. This battle has been years in the making, and there’s a chance I won’t survive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s coming with me…no matter what I have to do to make that happen.

It’s not secret to anyone who knows me that I love the Elemental Assassin books. Gin Blanco is one of my favourite fictional characters of all time, and she never disappoints me. I have felt every second of her struggle to take out Mab, and now the time has finally arrived.

And it was everything I hoped it would be – dramatic, violent, vengeful, and totally wonderful. Without giving away spoilers, Gin definitely doesn’t escape unscathed. That’s one of the things I love about this series. Jennifer Estep definitely doesn’t shy away from putting her characters through hell, bringing that gloriously gritty edge to this series.

I can’t wait to see what the Spider is going to do now she’s finally completed her mission of revenge.

 

December

This Side of the Grave

This Side of the GraveHalf-vampire Cat Crawfield and her vampire husband Bones have fought for their lives, as well as for their relationship. But just when they’ve triumphed over the latest battle, Cat’s new and unexpected abilities threaten to upset a long-standing balance…

With the mysterious disappearance of vampires, rumours abound that a species war is brewing. A zealot is inciting tensions between the vampires and the ghouls, and if these two powerful groups clash, innocent mortals could become collateral damage. Now Cat and Bones are forced to seek help from a dangerous “ally”; the ghoul queen of New Orleans herself. But the price of her assistance may prove more treacherous than even the threat of a supernatural war…to say nothing of the repercussions Cat never imagined.

Like Gin Blanco, Cat Crawfield is one of my favourite fictional characters. I completely fell in love with her from the very first book, and, several books on, that hasn’t changed.

I simply adore the world that Jeaniene Frost has created, and Cat and Bones have one of the most brilliantly portrayed, beautiful relationships that I have ever seen in a paranormal book – or any book, for that matter. Their love is so real and I never get tired of reading about them.

The Night Huntress series are the perfect blend of urban fantasy and paranormal romance. The action scenes are always intense, the sex scenes are always wonderfully steamy, and the characters are so real that you sometimes forget they are characters.

This is how paranormal books should be!