50 Book Challenge 2014 (recap/final reviews)

Although I didn’t quite reach my goal of 50 books read this year, I don’t think I did too badly. I managed to finish 40 books in 2014, and I still have a couple that I’m making my way through that I’ll be moving to my 2015 reading list. I didn’t get around to posting reviews for a couple of the books I read later in the year, so here they are –

Dangerous Girls by Abigail Haas (6/10) – A friend of mine mentioned this book earlier in the year, and I made a mental note to pick it up when I had the chance. I managed to grab this from my local library (great for books you know will be one-off reads), and churned through it in a week or so. It was a very easy read, and the storyline was interesting enough to keep me turning the page. This is very much a YA book though. Not a whole lot of substance to it, but definitely a bit of fun.

Tampa by Alissa Nutting (3/10) – This was the second book club book that my friends and I read for the year, and it was my choice. I thought it would be an interesting book to read with the aim of discussing it at the end because I knew it would be quite controversial. The book itself had some potential, the plot was unique enough that if it was executed well it would have made for an interesting story. Unfortunately it just wasn’t as good as it could have been. In fact, it was pretty awful to read. Only one out of the six women in my book club liked this.

The Vacationers by Emma Straub (5/10) – I’d heard a few people raving about this book, so I ordered it in my Spring/Summer book haul earlier in the year. To be honest, it wasn’t as good as I was expecting it to be. It was a nice, easy ready. I’d recommend this as a beach read, or a book to pick up if you’re going on holiday somewhere sunny.

We Are The Goldens by Dana Reinhardt (6/10) – Marcus Zusak mentioned this book in a tweet, and if Marcus Zusak recommends a book you can bet that I’ll be picking it up ASAP. I won’t give too much of this book away, but I will say that I think fans of ‘We Were Liars’ will probably enjoy this. Another easy read, and I finished it off in one weekend.

I’m going to be doing my annual giveaway of the four best (in my opinion) books that I read this year, so stay tuned for that later in the week!

Books 2013 (overview, final reviews + giveaway)

Goat Mountain by David Vann (6/10) – I saw this book sitting on the shelf at a book store and couldn’t resist the beautiful cover art. The blurb compared David Vann’s writing style to Cormac McCarthy, so of course I was sold. The writing in this book is beautiful, but I couldn’t stomach the subject matter. I’m not sure what it was but I was not in the right frame of mind to read this book. At one point I had to stop reading it while I was eating my lunch at work because it made me feel physically ill. Despite this little hiccup, the book was so beautifully written that I’d still recommend it.

White Horse by Alex Adams (5/10) – This book had so much promise: a strong female protagonist, a post-apocalyptic plot, beautiful cover art (heh), but it still fell short of my expectations. I wasn’t a fan of the overly wordy style of writing, and I’m still I’m still tossing up whether I’m going to read the other books in the series.

I usually do my book giveaway at the end of the year, but as I was on a hiatus throughout most of December it was pushed forward to January. So here we go! I have selected my four favourite books for the year, and will be giving away one copy of each. The books are: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, Columbine by Dave Cullen, and The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post telling me which of the books you’d like to win. Be sure to include your email address so that I can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. The giveaway is open internationally, and will be drawn on February 4th. Good luck!

Book Review: Ragdoll by Daniel Cole

Book: Ragdoll by Daniel Cole – kindle edition, 384 pages.

(Advanced Readers Copy)

Synopsis: A body is discovered with the dismembered parts of six victims stitched together like a puppet, nicknamed by the press as the ‘ragdoll’.

Assigned to the shocking case are Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes, recently reinstated to the London Met, and his former partner Detective Helen Baxter.

The ‘Ragdoll Killer’ taunts the police by releasing a list of names to the media, and the dates on which he intends to murder them.

With six people to save, can Fawkes and Baxter catch a killer when the world is watching their every move?

My thoughts: Now, you’ll have to bear with me because it’s been a little while since I finished this book, and my memories of it are not as clear as I’d usually want them to be when writing a review. My reviews have fallen behind a little bit, but I’m now trying to catch up.

I remember really liking a few things about this book, but in particular the main character Detective William ‘Wolf’ Fawkes. I felt like he was a really strong protagonist, and a character I could see a series being built around. Having said that, I found some of the detective’s actions clumsy, which was frustrating for me because I feel like crime thrillers often rely heavily on the backbone of the central characters and the reader’s belief in their ability to do their job. I also felt like some of the supporting characters needed more development, but there were a couple of others that stuck out and felt fully formed to me.

The pacing of the book was well done, and I think the idea of the killer setting a countdown to the next victim was a great way to keep the reader turning the page. The killer was not as interesting as I’d hoped, with the build up being what it was. But it was still an enjoyable enough read. All in all I found this to be a decent crime thriller, and would be good to pick up if you’re in the mood for something of this genre set in London.

Rating: 6/10

40 Book Challenge (part 1)

OK, so there is a bit of a backlog as I have not written a book post in 2016, but on the plus side, thanks to my re-reading of a lot of nostalgic books from my childhood I am already 45% done with my challenge for this year. Thanks, Sweet Valley High. Sorry if the earlier reviews aren’t very detailed, I’m struggling to remember my thoughts on some of the books. Anyhoo, here’s what I’ve read in 2016 so far –

Sanctuary Bay by Laura J Burns & Melinda Netz (5/10) – This was a book provided to me by Netgalley, and to be honest it was something I probably wouldn’t have picked up if it wasn’t free. Having said that I didn’t mind this book (from what I can remember), it was suspenseful, interesting, and had it’s share of creepy moments.

Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer (4/10) – I remember this being an easy “beach read”, and really enjoyed the setting of Nantucket. Maybe because I am obsessed with the idea of holidaying in the Hamptons?

If You Dare by A.R. Torre (5/10) – This is the third book in the Deanna Madden series, and my least favourite of the series so far. I love the idea of the Deanna Madden character (my inner introvert loves the idea of being locked away from society and never having to leave the house), but she lost a bit of her shine in this book. I won’t say too much about the plot as it ties in with the rest of the series, but I will say I’ll definitely be reading the next book even though this one fell a little flat for me.

Petals On The Wind by Virginia Andrews (8/10) – I am obsessed with the Dollanganger series, it’s my number one go-to for an easy/juicy/trashy read. This is the second book in the series and is chock-full of the kind of incest/ballet/menstration/murder plot lines that I’ve come to know and love from Virginia Andrews books. Cathy is a self-centred egomaniac and I love her. Too many men in this book have moustaches.

Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (7/10) – Like any collection of short stories, this had it’s ups and downs for me but as a whole I really enjoyed it. The story about the kid in the helicopter hat will haunt me forever.

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry (3/10) – The themes of this book are genuinely horrifying – abduction, assault, survivor’s guilt – but despite all of the ingredients being there, the book didn’t quite hit the mark. I tried to suspend my disbelief while reading this re: teenagers trying to solve a crime, but in the end that’s what let the book down for me.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes (9/10) – This was my most anticipated book of 2016/all time, as I loved ‘You’ by Caroline Kepnes and it was my favourite book of 2015. Again this is book 2 in a series so I won’t go into too much detail, but if you’re looking for a book that has an evil protagonist please check this out. Joe, I just love to hate him. (PS: thank you SO MUCH to Tonile for sending me the ARC of this, I am still so grateful!)

The Runaways by Ruth Thomas (7/10) – This is one of my childhood favourites, and it still holds a lot of it’s charm for me. Two unlikely friends discovering a large sum of money running away and going on an adventure across the English countryside? Yes please.

Goosebumps Book #14The Werewolf of Fever Swamp (5/10) – If you were a fan of the Goosebumps books growing up and you haven’t yet listened to Welcome To Deadcast, please remedy this immediately. I got the itch to re-read the Goosebumps series after falling into a hole of nostalgic bliss recently and this was the first book I ordered off Ebay. This is one of the books from the series that I have the strongest memories of, as it was the first episode of the TV series that I can remember watching. The cover is perfect and the story is a Goosebumps classic.

Sweet Valley High Book #73Regina’s Legacy (4/10) – Sometimes the fashion on the Sweet Valley High book covers could fit into today’s style, and Elizabeth’s backpack is definitely 2016 worthy. The story in this book is typically stupid, Elizabeth decides to solve a crime with (yawn) Todd rather than call the police and Jessica is her usual sociopathic self who gets everyone in trouble.

Sweet Valley High Book #41Outcast (3/10) – First things first, the hairstyles featured on this cover are a crime. I was never a fan of the books that didn’t revolve around the twins, and this was no exception. Following Regina Morrow’s drug overdose at her party, Molly Hecht falls into a depressive spiral and nobody seems to care or offer her any support. Jessica does something unselfish for once, and at one point people smoke pot. Scandalous.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (5/10) – This book is told from a collection of character viewpoints over the course of a couple of hours as a school shooting takes place. There were a few things I didn’t like about this book, but overall I enjoyed it. I loved how diverse the cast of characters was, but I wish the story went more into detail about the shooter’s background, and I would have liked the scene to be set a bit more in-depth prior to the shooting. Despite it’s flaws this was a gripping read, and I sped through it in a day or so.

Blindfolded Innocence by Alessandra Torre (5/10) – Having loved Alessandra Torre’s Deanna Madden series so much I decided to pick up a book from another of her series. This was an easy read, and although it was a lot fluffier (and raunchier) than what I’m used to, I really enjoyed it and I’ll be reading the rest of the series sometime this year.

Risk by Fleur Ferris (7/10) – I picked this up on the recommendation of Kirsti from Melbourne On My Mind, and I’m really glad I did. It follows the story of Taylor, who’s friend Sierra goes to meet up with a boy she’s been talking to online, and doesn’t return. If you have any young women in your life who have any kind of online presence (who doesn’t these days?), this is an important book to read and share. The story is all too real, and is genuinely chilling.

Sweet Valley High Book #56Lost At Sea (5/10) – Jessica is stunning on this cover, despite being a bit sulky about being wet even though the sun is clearly shining in the background. I hate that the outfit she’s wearing doesn’t match what is described in the book but ANYWAY. A handful of students from Sweet Valley High go on a boating trip for a science project and a big storm hits, Jessica and Winston end up deserted on an island (with a bear?), and everyone else for the most part keep living their lives despite the fact the pair could be dead. Jessica is on the brink of redemption at one point in the book, but at the end goes back to being an awful person and all is right in the world.

Nightmare Hall Book #4The Wish (4/10) – This series creeped me the f*ck out as a kid, but I don’t remember ever reading this one so I was excited to pick it up. The concept is good – a bunch of college students get their fortunes told and they start coming true one by one in the most horrific ways possible – but the ending fell flat and was kind of lame.

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (8/10) – This book made me a bit swoony. I love the idea of two people meeting up online and gradually getting to know each other before falling in love. Possibly because that is how Sebastian and I came to be a couple? This is YA contemporary fiction done right.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (3/10) – This book was a bit of a hard slog for me, and I struggled to get into the story each time I picked it up. I wish they’d focused more on the back story of the main character rather than her life on the run, because that was the most interesting part of the book for me and had a lot of potential.

50 Book Challenge (part 8)

The Raven Room by Ana Medeiros – 1/10 – Hmm. I really don’t like writing negative reviews for things, especially books. Having said that, I really did not like this book. I think this book should come with a trigger warning of some kind, because it features a lot of physical and emotional abuse and some scenes that border on rape. Really, beyond that is there any need for me to explain why I didn’t enjoy it? I don’t think so.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – 8/10 – I love the way Liane Moriarty writes about Australian life. It’s so honest and her characters are always believable. Although this wasn’t my favourite out of her books that I’ve read so far, I found it really enjoyable and difficult to put down. If you’re after a funny contemporary fiction with a few twists and turns along the way you can’t go wrong with this.
The Secrets We Keep by Trisha Leaver – 5/10 – You know that feeling when a main character in the book you’re reading constantly makes mind-bogglingly terrible decisions that don’t really make any sense? That’s what this book will give you. The story is basically laid out in the blurb, so I don’t think I’m giving anything away by saying this – the thing that pissed me off the most about this book was the fact that Ella completely took away her parent’s ability to properly grieve the loss of their daughter. Bizarre.
The Girl In 6E by A.R. Torre – 9/10 – So close to a perfect rating! So very close. I enjoyed this book a lot, so much so that halfway through reading it I put a reservation on the second book in the series at my local library. Gotta be prepared. This book was really different to anything I’ve ever read. Murderous female protaganist? Check. Interesting and believable erotica? Check. Romance!? Check. This was a great book, and I highly recommended it – but it’s definitely not for the faint hearted.