Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Books I Read in January

It's the end of the first month of 2018

And I read a lot of books

Let's jump right in...we have much to discuss...

The first book I read this month (and this year) was The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton - and it had become one of my favourite books of all time.

It. Was. Fantastic.

I'm not sure what I was expecting from this book - but it gave me so much more than I ever knew I needed. The mystery element of the dollhouse and the miniaturist was so intriguing...but what blew me away were the characters - and the relationships between them. I can't say ANYTHING about why I loved the characters so much because SPOILERS...but they were so complicated and well-rounded and my heart broke for every single one of them in this book. The last third of the story had me sobbing into my pillow and I couldn't stop thinking about this long after I put it down. Needless to say, this was a five-star read for me and I URGE more people to pick it up!! 

'On a brisk autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman arrives in Amsterdam to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt. But her new home, while splendorous, is not welcoming. Johannes is kind yet distant, always locked in his study or at his warehouse office--leaving Nella alone with his sister, the sharp-tongued and forbidding Marin.

But Nella's world changes when Johannes presents her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. To furnish her gift, Nella engages the services of a miniaturist--an elusive and enigmatic artist whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in eerie and unexpected ways . . .

Johannes' gift helps Nella to pierce the closed world of the Brandt household. But as she uncovers its unusual secrets, she begins to understand--and fear--the escalating dangers that await them all. In this repressively pious society where gold is worshipped second only to God, to be different is a threat to the moral fabric of society, and not even a man as rich as Johannes is safe. Only one person seems to see the fate that awaits them. Is the miniaturist the key to their salvation . . . or the architect of their destruction?'

Enchanting, beautiful, and exquisitely suspenseful, The Miniaturist is a magnificent story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.'

I kicked myself very hard when I realised that I hadn't taken a proper picture of Day Four by Sarah Lotz - so I hope this creepy little GIF cover will make up for it - seriously though - nightmares *shudder*. This book was a sequel to The Three that I read at the end of last year, but I found them to be very loosely connected. Like the first book, I was sucked straight into this and pulled along for the horrifying ride...but also like the first book...I still don't get what really happened? This was weird, but I enjoyed it and I gave it four stars. 

Also - if you're interested in these books, I highly recommend the audio versions, the narrators such a good job

'Four planes. Three survivors. One message. It seemed like the end of the world... but it wasn't. This, however, just might be.

The extraordinary, unforgettable sequel to The Three - perfect for fans of The Shining Girls, The Passage and Lost.

Four days into a five day singles cruise on the Gulf of Mexico, the ageing ship Beautiful Dreamer stops dead in the water. With no electricity and no cellular signals, the passengers and crew have no way to call for help. But everyone is certain that rescue teams will come looking for them soon. All they have to do is wait.

That is, until the toilets stop working and the food begins to run out. When the body of a woman is discovered in her cabin the passengers start to panic. There's a murderer on board the Beautiful Dreamer... and maybe something worse.'

I picked up Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire because everyone was talking about this series and it sounded right up my alley. The book was so short and I flew through it...but there is so much packed between the pages that it feels so much longer!! I DID guess WHODUNNIT before it was revealed...but I enjoyed the way it was done anyway. While I liked this book, I was left wanting more...which is why I think this series is genius as we explore connecting stories in the next book. I gave this one four stars. 

'Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.'

If Every Heart A Doorway was right up my alley....then Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire was up my alley, through my front door and right onto my sofa!!


This one explores what happened to Jack and Jill in their horror world before they came to Eleanor's Home For Wayward Children.....and it was SO good!! I adore the characters, the world was creepily delicious, and just like the first book so much was packed into such a short space. I gave this second book in the series five stars and I can't WAIT for Beneath the Sugar Sky!! 

'Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. This is the story of what happened first… Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you've got. They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.'

Next I read Pines by Blake Crouch and 

What the actual eff?!?

Let me start by saying this book was horrifying.
A living breathing nightmare.

I spent the first three quarters unable to breathe and cringing within the safety of my own home. Blake Crouch writes horror so well...and I felt so so sorry for the main character in this book!! 

BUT...I didn't love the direction this book went in at the end. It was cool and clever...but not the kind of thing I wanted and so I won't be continuing with this trilogy...but that doesn't mean this book isn't worth a read. 

Read it

Feel unsafe in your own skin

And maybe you will enjoy how it all ends and want to read on? I gave Pines four out of five stars and I still have nightmares about it now. 

'Secret service agent Ethan Burke arrives in Wayward Pines, Idaho, with a clear mission: locate and recover two federal agents who went missing in the bucolic town one month earlier. But within minutes of his arrival, Ethan is involved in a violent accident. He comes to in a hospital, with no ID, no cell phone, and no briefcase. The medical staff seems friendly enough, but something feels…off. As the days pass, Ethan’s investigation into the disappearance of his colleagues turns up more questions than answers. Why can’t he get any phone calls through to his wife and son in the outside world? Why doesn’t anyone believe he is who he says he is? And what is the purpose of the electrified fences surrounding the town? Are they meant to keep the residents in? Or something else out? Each step closer to the truth takes Ethan further from the world he thought he knew, from the man he thought he was, until he must face a horrifying fact—he may never get out of Wayward Pines alive.'

My daughter picked Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys out of my TBR jar this month...so I read it. That's how these things work. I feel weird saying I liked this book...because it's tragic and devastating and based on awful true events...so I can't say that I enjoyed it. But I did appreciate the way the story was told - with facts mixing in with fiction - and the characters were so distinct and interesting. I'm glad this book exists, not least because it educates people on a maritime disaster that nobody talks about. Definitely worth the read. I gave this five stars. 

'Winter 1945. WWII. Four refugees. Four stories.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies, war. As thousands desperately flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom. But not all promises can be kept...

World War II is drawing to a close in East Prussia and thousands of refugees are on a desperate trek toward freedom, many with something to hide. Among them are Joana, Emilia, and Florian, whose paths converge en route to the ship that promises salvation, the Wilhelm Gustloff. Forced by circumstance to unite, the three find their strength, courage, and trust in each other tested with each step closer to safety.

Just when it seems freedom is within their grasp, tragedy strikes. Not country, nor culture, nor status matter as all ten thousand people—adults and children alike—aboard must fight for the same thing: survival.

Told in alternating points of view and perfect for fans of Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, Erik Larson’s Dead Wake, and Elizabeth Wein’s Printz Honor Book Code Name Verity, this masterful work of historical fiction is inspired by the real-life tragedy that was the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff—the greatest maritime disaster in history. As she did in Between Shades of Gray, Ruta Sepetys unearths a shockingly little-known casualty of a gruesome
war, and proves that humanity and love can prevail, even in the darkest of hours.'

I've had all four books in the Raven Cycle Quartet on my shelf for so long that I decided I was finally going to read them at the start of 2018, starting with the first book The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. 


I can't say I loved this book....and I can't say exactly why. 

The writing is so unique and interesting...the characters are lovable and intricate...But I think the plot is where I...well...lost the plot. I was just so confused for a lot of the time about what exactly was going on and I had to concentrate so hard to just merely keep up!! I'm really sad because I DESPERATELY wanted to love this book. I wanted to fall in love with this world as much as so many other people have. 

Also....I listened to this on audio and I'm not sure if that was a mistake. I didn't love the audiobook narrator. He read the book okay, but the voices he put on for the characters were just laughable at times. Call me mean....but I don't think he did this story any favours. 

I gave this book three stars. 

'It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.'

I may not have loved the first book and yet I chunder on!! I continued with The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater...and this was a significant improvement for me. 

Mainly because RONAN

Ronan Lynch is my sweet steamed bun and I love him so much. I LOVE that this book focused on his POV so much more and we got to learn more about him. I enjoyed his storyline and his character development. I just love Ronan. 

As for the rest of the book. I'm still hella confused about the plot (especially all the Adam stuff - what's going on with him) - but at this point I'm feeling like LOST Season 4 all over again. 

I have absolutely no clue what is going on but I'm down for the ride anyway because Sawyer's got his top off. 

Four out of five stars for this book - but only because RONAN

Aaaaaand finally, to wrap up the month I read S.T.A.G.S by M.A. Bennett - another TBR jar pick from Sophia. I am SO glad that she picked this out because who knows when I would've picked it up otherwise. 

This was such a big surprise! I wasn't expecting to enjoy this as much as I did. 

While the writing was a bit juvenile and vague at times, I can completely see that the write did that deliberately to match the main character's style of speaking and thinking. This story was so exciting!!! I had no clue what was going on and couldn't stop turning the pages to find out. The sense of dread grew with every chapter and the story was so well done. The author managed to weave threads together using little seeds from early chapters that you never realised were so important till the end...and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. 

That being said...I felt like the ending beat around the bush a little, and could've been done in a more succinct and effective way - but I liked how it all came together and I gave this 4 stars on Goodreads but it's more like 4.5. I've not seen anyone talk about this book and I think it deserves way more recognition - so if you see it - pick it up!! 

'Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin' shootin' fishin'. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry's parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports - hunting, shooting and fishing - become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school...'

So that's it. Nine books for the month of January - I think that's pretty satisfactory? I enjoyed a lot of what I read this month and can't wait to see what February holds - I'm already putting together my TBR!! 

What did you read in January? 
Have you read any of these books? 
What did you think of them?

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