‘Dry’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! I’m having a weird burst of energy so let’s run with it, shall we?!

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synopsisEveryone’s going to remember where they were when the taps ran dry.

The drought—or the tap-out, as everyone calls it – has been going on for a while. Life has become an endless list of don’ts: don’t water the lawn, don’t take long showers, don’t panic. But now there is no water left at all.

Suddenly, Alyssa’s quiet suburban street spirals into a warzone of desperation and violence. When her parents go missing, she and her younger brother must team up with an unlikely group in search of water. Each of them will need to make impossible choices to survive.


my thoughtsYou guys, this was so stressful. I found it impossible to put this book down because I just absolutely had to know what would happen next. The tension was REAL.

I mean, I can’t say the characters were the most likeable. And their decisions were highly questionable at times. I was shouting at the pages in frustration at one point! I suppose I should say well done to the Shustermans for giving me anxiety. But even though I didn’t always like them, I still wanted to see them succeed. That’s some pretty good writing, right there.

I was gripped right from the outset of the book and found the plot to be hugely compelling. It was scarily plausible! I enjoyed the multiple perspectives and I appreciated the inclusion of little snippets from the likes of news stories, etc. There were also some lovely meaningful quotes to take away.

Dry was a book club pick and it was excellent to discuss with a group. I would definitely recommend it!

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Have you read anything by Neal Shusterman? I loved this one and Scythe/Thunderhead! x

‘Hunted’ spoiler-free review!

Hey everyone! Last night, I finished Hunted by Meagan Spooner, which was my book club’s pick for this month. For some reason, I was nervous about reading this one and wasn’t sure I would like it (Beauty & the Beast retellings are getting a little overdone after all) but I needn’t have worried!


What the book is about…

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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


What I thought of it…

Spooner has done a great job with this one. What could have been just another generic YA retelling is actually far more original and compelling thanks to the inclusion of Russian folklore. I’ve always been a sucker for Russian-inspired fantasy so as soon as I realised that’s what I was in for, I comfortably settled in for the journey.

The wintery aesthetic in this book was gorgeous. Give me all the snowy books please and thank you. Even though the book’s setting was quite limited, I thought the author did a great job of conjuring it and I could really picture everything that was happening. I believe this is in part due to the inclusion of a lot of sensory detail – sounds, smells, textures all added dimension to the story. 

Spooner’s writing is very readable. It is easy to become swept along in the narrative and the fact that the reader knows information that the protagonist, Yeva, does not makes things very interesting.

I also really enjoyed getting some snippets of the Beast’s perspective, as this is not something I’ve seen often in retellings. His narrative voice felt strangely reminiscent of Frankenstein’s monster, both in his moral conflictions and in the articulate way he expressed himself. It was fascinating to read Yeva’s hatred and thirst for revenge on the one hand and see the Beast’s struggles on the other; Spooner did a great job of balancing things and making the reader question their feelings towards the characters.

I have to say that the hate-to-love trope, which can sometimes annoy me, was VERY well done in this instance. The author handled the situation in a way that felt far more believable and plausible than other Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve read.

I also want to give points for the disability rep; while not a huge part of the book, it was nice to see it included.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. It is a compelling story which builds to an immensely satisfying conclusion and I would definitely recommend this one if you are a fan of fairytales or of books set in the wilderness of Russia!

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Have you read this one? What did you think of it? What are some of your favourite fairytale retellings? Let me know in the comments! x

‘The Ringmaster’s Wife’ spoiler-free review!

Hi beautiful people! Today, I’m reviewing The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron, which was my book club’s pick for September!

 

What the book is about…

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.

With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been.

 

What I thought of it…

I love a circus book but I’ve not read many with a historical setting. This was a nice introduction to the genre. Kristy Cambron did a great job of creating a vivid picture, capturing all the opulence of 1920s America and the less beautiful behind-the-scenes work of the circus. This, combined with the storyline, made for a very dreamy and romantic read.

I really liked the cast of characters. Rosamund was a feisty heroine who was easy to root for and Colin made for a wonderful love interest. But my biggest love was Mable Ringling. I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t heard of her before reading this book but I would love to find out more about her as it seems as though she was a person of great merit.

I did have a couple of small gripes with the book. Mainly, I was slightly confused by the timeline as it jumped about quite a bit. I also was frustrated to see that horrific cliché “she let out a breath she hadn’t known she was holding” – please can we stop using this line?!

Overall though, I really enjoyed this read. The ending took a surprising turn that I did not see coming but I really loved this journey through the circus world of the 1920s.

 

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What are some of your favourite circus books? x

‘The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding’ spoiler-free review!

This month, my book club The Story Voyagers decided to read something a little more spooky in the run-up to Halloween. We picked recent release The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken, a middle-grade book that came out on September 5th.

 

Here’s what the book is about:-

 

Prosper is the only unexceptional Redding in his old and storied family history — that is, until he discovers the demon living inside him. Turns out Prosper’s great-great-great-great-great-something grandfather made — and then broke — a contract with a malefactor, a demon who exchanges fortune for eternal servitude. And, weirdly enough, four-thousand-year-old Alastor isn’t exactly the forgiving type.

The fiend has reawakened with one purpose — to destroy the family whose success he ensured and who then betrayed him. With only days to break the curse and banish Alastor back to the demon realm, Prosper is playing unwilling host to the fiend, who delights in tormenting him with nasty insults and constant attempts trick him into a contract. Yeah, Prosper will take his future without a side of eternal servitude, thanks.

Little does Prosper know, the malefactor’s control over his body grows stronger with each passing night, and there’s a lot Alastor isn’t telling his dim-witted (but admittedly strong-willed) human host.

From #1 New York Times best-selling author Alexandra Bracken comes a tale of betrayal and revenge, of old hurts passed down from generation to generation. Can you ever fully right a wrong, ever truly escape your history? Or will Prosper and Alastor be doomed to repeat it?

 

I’m really glad my book club picked this one! I don’t tend to read a lot of middle-grade as I often feel too old for it but this was a really fun read, perfect for this time of year. I loved the characters; Prosper was an endearing narrator and Alastor provided a lot of unexpected comic moments. Everyone had a backstory meaning no-one was a 2-dimensional cardboard cut-out. Prosper and Nell both had issues going on and I really like that the author gave them some more emotional problems to deal with alongside the story’s main plot. For a middle-grade read, it had quite deep levels of emotional meaning!

The inclusion of various magical creatures was super fun and I loved Bracken’s take on fairies, witches, etc. And I have to mention the setting! It was almost like a character in itself (something I always love in books). The author really managed to capture that small-town vibe and I felt totally transported; I love reading about small-town America as it is but even more so when the action takes place during October! The whole thing reminded me of the movie Hocus Pocus, especially when Alastor was trying to find his way around the 21st century and eating plastic spiders! Great fun.

The whole concept of a ‘deal with the devil’ is far from original, yet the book didn’t feel boring or as if it was hashing over something that had been done before. For a middle-grade book, it didn’t feel dumbed down and was a very enjoyable read. Aside from the brutal cliffhanger, that is!

I gave this one 4/5 stars as I’m pretty sure it won’t be for everyone, but I really liked it!

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Has anyone else read this one? Or any of Alex Bracken’s other books? Or even Faust?! 

 

August wrap-up!

August was a spectacular reading month for me – I managed to read 16 books! I just tried really hard to grab as many extra reading hours as possible and I feel like it really helped me to log more pages. So thrilled!

 

Classics

I was on quite a classics kick this month; there are so many of these books that I feel like I ‘should’ have read by now so I decided to try and knock a few smaller ones off my list.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum

The first classic I read was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz! Apart from seeing the movie when I was younger (and being traumatised by those flying monkeys), I have never picked up this book. And my overall verdict is that I didn’t miss much! I didn’t hate it, it just didn’t really do anything for me. It felt very juvenile, with obstacles being overcome far too easily.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

This is the third Jane Austen novel I’ve read and it might be my favourite so far! I loved the tongue-in-cheek humour as Austen poked fun at Gothic novels. Her works transcend time and I could picture modern-day teenagers behaving in exactly the same way as Catherine and Isabella! 19th century young adult literature at its finest.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

One of the most ambiguous books I’ve ever read but deliciously so! Presented as your not-so-typical ghost story, this one raises some excellent questions to which you will never know the answers! Make of it what you will mwahaha.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Oh dear. Sorry Alice fans but I didn’t enjoy this one! I get that it’s a children’s story but it was just weird and I don’t think I would even have liked it as a child! Not for me at all.

 

ARCs

I was very lucky to get my hands on a few advanced release copies this month! Thank you kind universe.

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo

One of the most anticipated releases of 2017, I still can’t believe I managed to grab an early copy of this one! And I am yet to hear a bad word about it. Leigh Bardugo’s writing is fantastic and I loved the abundance of snark in this one. This one released yesterday – you can read my full spoiler-free review here.

SweetFreak by Sophie McKenzie

This YA thriller came out on August 24th and it was an enjoyable read with a guilty-until-proven-innocent plot. The author successfully captured the protagonist’s frustration at being falsely accused of cyber bullying her best friend. Check out my full review here!

Prisoner of Ice and Snow by Ruth Lauren

This was a fun MG read that comes out early September. It’s set in a Russia-inspired fantasy world with a thrilling prison-break plot. It was a fast-paced and exciting read – full review coming soon!

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

This is the first book I’ve read of Adam Silvera’s and I liked it! The characters were incredibly three-dimensional and the concepts in the book were unique and intriguing. It’s a bit of a stressful read (obvious, given the title) but I recommend it if you like character-driven books. It releases on September 7th and you can read my full review nearer the time!

 

Other reads

 

The Crowns of Croswald by D. E. Night

I was sent a super fun package by the author through Instagram. This was a fun MG with clear comparisons to Harry Potter but enough originality to keep things interesting. My full spoiler-free review is here.

Widdershins by Helen Steadman

This historical fiction debut really impressed me! Based on the Newcastle witch trials, this was an engrossing read with a very compelling storyline. I highly recommend this one! For more information, you can read my full spoiler-free review here.

The Dinner by Herman Koch

This was the next book I chose to read for the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. It was a buddy read with the lovely @ab_reads on Instagram but sadly, we were both a little disappointed. While this was an intriguing exploration of family dynamics and the length a mother will go to to protect her child, the execution wasn’t great and we agreed that this seemed like a poor man’s version of We Need To Talk About Kevin! So maybe save yourself some time and just read that one.

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

I received this book in the July FairyLoot box and it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I was not disappointed! I love circus books and this was no exception, especially as it had a quirky twist and wasn’t a straightforward fantasy but a murder mystery as well. My full review is here.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

I have now read three books by Matt Haig and I have loved them all. His ability to capture humanity is outstanding and he never fails to make me feel uplifted. This one is a really fun journey through history and I definitely recommend it.

Egg and Spoon by Gregory Maguire

This was my book club’s pick for the month and it was a really fun read! It had all the elements of a classic fairytale, plus it was set in Russia! That’s always a winner with me. It was a tiny bit wordy but really funny at times, and very enjoyable.

The Milly Molly Mandy Storybook by Joyce Lankester Brisley

I got a bit nostalgic with this one. Milly Molly Mandy was one of my favourites as a child and I recently found a gorgeous edition of this book – never let it be said that I buy a book solely because it’s pretty, I do actually read them! This was a lovely blast from the past and MMM was every bit as charming as I remembered.

Horseradish: Bitter Truths You Can’t Avoid by Lemony Snicket

Any Lemony Snicket fans out there? This collection of wisdom from the man himself definitely gave me a giggle or two. It’s not your typical collection of inspiring quotes; in fact, it’s a bit doom and gloom! However, take it with a pinch of salt and you should find something that speaks to you.

 

So there you have it! My August wrap-up. I’m so proud of me! And if you made it through this whole post, I’m proud of you too! You deserve cake.

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How many books did you read in August? Are you aiming for a similar number in September? And speaking of, who’s excited for Autumn?!

 

‘Fellside’ spoiler-free review!

Fellside was my book club’s pick for June and, unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it very much at all. I was initially intrigued by the premise of a ghostly prison story, especially as this would mean the protagonist, Jess, was obviously flawed (I’m so over ‘perfect’ characters). However, my initial interest petered out; Jess was DULL. In fact, none of the characters were very endearing or likeable. I get that the book is set in a prison so no-one is going to be all sweetness and light, but they were all just VILE. Paul in particular was creepy and weird. No thank you.

Also, this is a slightly strange complaint but what was with the character names?! They don’t read nicely! It reminded me of the stories I used to write as a child where I would make up random character names that just didn’t sound realistic at all! It made it really hard for me to suspend my disbelief and any time I would get into some semblance of flow, I would get jolted out of it by some weird name.

I found Fellside SO hard to get into. I’m not sure if that’s because it’s different from my usual kind of story or if it just really didn’t live up to its potential, but it took well over half of the book for me to become even a LITTLE invested. Even then, I don’t know how much of it was just me wanting to get to the end so I could read something else! It was FAR too slow. It did pick up a little towards the end but it was too little too late.

The front of my edition has a quote from Laini Taylor saying “you will not want to put this down” and it breaks my heart to have to disagree with my queen, but it was more like “I did not want to pick this up”. I genuinely had to force myself through it and, if this hadn’t been a book club read, it probably would have been a DNF.

I did like some of the writing in the early dream sequences and there were a couple of nice quotes, one of my favourites being “nobody ever got sharp from lying on a feather bed”. That spoke to me. However, I can’t say I enjoyed this. The ‘big reveal’ wasn’t shocking and it was basically one long slow journey towards nothing much!

I have to say, I’ve been very lucky in that this is the first book I’ve read with my book club that I haven’t enjoyed (and we’ve been going for over a year now! I blogged about that here). So that’s not bad! But sadly, this isn’t a book I’ll be recommending to anyone anytime soon.

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Has anyone else read this? Or The Girl with all the Gifts? What did you think?

‘The Diabolic’ spoiler-free review!

The Diabolic was my May book-club pick and the last book I finished in May. It was seriously great! I did not expect to enjoy this as much as I did, as I’m a little bit shy of science fiction. This could be the book that changes everything!

I was immediately gripped by The Diabolic. It gave me both Star Wars and ASOIAF vibes, which I loved. Kincaid’s world building is fabulous and I loved all of the little details she created, such as beauty bots (how cool would it be to have them in real life?!) It also helped that there was a ship named after me (anyone else get a little thrill when they see their name in a book? Just me then.)

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This book was FULL of twists and turns, especially towards the end, and it really kept me guessing. A couple of things were hinted at early on that I can smugly say I deduced; however, a lot of things took me by surprise! Always enjoyable when a book does that. Kincaid also writes a brilliant fight scene!

I had a couple of minor issues, such as the over-used repetition that ‘Diabolics can’t cry’ – I got a bit bored of hearing that after the third or fourth time it was said. I was also a little dubious about the casual drug use scattered throughout the book; but because it was sci-fi, I was able to forgive it a little more than I would a contemporary.

The character development in this novel was fantastic and I loved the whole concept of Nemesis developing humanity. I found it to be very original. (Maybe it’s been done before but, like I said, I don’t tend to foray into the world of sci-fi very often, so it was new to me). I got a tiny bit confused in parts trying to remember all the names and allegiances within the court, but that was 100% down to my tired brain and not Kincaid’s writing!

I don’t know if there are plans for this to be a series; while it certainly has the potential, I would kind of love for it to be a standalone! I don’t understand why everything has to be a series these days. Though in this case, if a sequel does appear, I will absolutely be reading it! (Update: I have since found out that it’s the first in a trilogy so I will be ALL OVER THAT).

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Has anyone else read this? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

A Year of Book Club!

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In April 2016, a call went out on Instagram looking for people who were interested in a buddy read of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. I was one of 5 people who responded and we began a journey together that is continuing to this day! We lost one of our members after the initial buddy read but the other 5 of us formed a book club, calling ourselves ‘The Story Voyagers’ since we are spread throughout the UK and USA. Since we have now been reading together for a year, I thought I’d look back on the books we’ve enjoyed together!

 

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Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

This was the very first book we read together and what a great way to start! I had wanted to read Little Women for YEARS and just never made the time for it or always found an excuse to put it off because, if I’m honest, I found it a little intimidating. I’m so glad I joined the buddy read because it greatly enhanced my enjoyment of this classic and I think I got more out of it than I would have reading it on my own.

The book is less action-heavy and more of a character study, and I found myself invested in their lives despite the book being set in a time and place that I could not relate to hugely. It’s a very human book. I enjoyed seeing the girls’ transition to young women with families of their own. There were some lovely little humorous touches here and there, as well as more serious issues, and I thought the balance was just right. And of course, as a bookworm, my favourite character was Jo!

 

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Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Our second book choice was Love and Gelato, which sounded so cute and perfect for summer! I have always wanted to travel to Italy and this book only intensified those feelings! It took me a few chapters to get ‘invested’ and the plot twist was a little predictable, but it was lovely to read something non-taxing after finishing my final year of university! If you like contemporaries, I would definitely recommend this. Apparently, there is a spin-off in the works so I have no doubt that we will read that as a book club when it comes out!

 

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Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

In August of 2016, we took a slightly different turn and chose an historical fantasy set in an alternate Europe where Hitler was still in power. This may be my personal favourite that we’ve read as a group. I have never come across such a unique concept! This book had everything: romance, action, supernatural elements; it was so interesting! The pacing was great and the characters and plot were well-developed. Flashback scenes added a nice emotional depth. I have no words for the ending other than WOW. I could NOT put it down.

 

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The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

After the action of Wolf by Wolf, we decided to slow down again with another classic. I tried to read The Secret Garden as a child but found it too slow; where were the dragons?! I appreciated it so much more coming back to it as an adult. It is utterly heart-warming and features some of the best character development I have come across in any book. Yes, it wasn’t action-packed; however, it was compelling in a different way and made for a lovely group reading experience. As with Little Women, I feel that my appreciation for this classic was enhanced by reading it with friends.

 

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The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

For October, we wanted a darker read and voted for The Lie Tree, which had been on many of our TBR lists. As predicted, it was wonderfully slow-burning and atmospheric, with delicious Gothic undertones. It wasn’t too dark because it’s a young adult book after all, but it was a very well-executed novel. Hardinge clearly did her research, creating a realistic portrait of the lives of women in the Victorian era. There were so many subtle nuances in this book. I loved the balance between the fantastical and the logical, and Faith was a fabulous protagonist. I definitely want to read more from this author!

 

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

When the sequel for Wolf by Wolf came out, of course we had to read it! This turned out to be our last read of 2017 and what a way to end the year! It was every bit as thrilling as its predecessor, full of crazy twists and turns, and, like the first book, I could not put it down. Graudin’s writing is both exhilarating and beautiful, and there were some great one-liners in this book. The duology was among my favourite reads of 2016. And yeah, apparently I never took a picture of this one?!

 

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The Muse by Jessie Burton

Our first group read of 2017 was a 2016 bestseller! Both this and Burton’s other novel, The Miniaturist, had been sitting on my shelf and it was a case of not knowing which to read first. Book club decided it for me! I found this to be very slow at first and struggled to get into it, but in the end I found it so rewarding! Burton is a master story-teller, able to weave together two stories into an accomplished whole. The book is full of rich, evocative imagery in a beautifully realistic Spanish setting. On top of her powers of description, Burton writes dialogue extremely well. The characters all felt fleshed out and the story was believable and highly compelling. This is the kind of book that has you coming up with all kinds of crazy theories! The whole thing felt very well-researched and I would highly recommend it.

 

Replica by Lauren Oliver

This was our first experience with sci-fi as a book club! I don’t know about the other ladies but I’m not a massive reader of science fiction, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this! Replica is a very unique book in that it is written from two different perspectives; you read a chapter from one perspective, then you flip the book over and read from the other side. I think we all experienced some funny looks when people saw us reading this one ‘upside down’! The book has a great opening hook and a break-neck pace, so it was a very absorbing read. The moral questions raised were both interesting and relevant, and I appreciated that there were no huge info dumps, rather a steady trickle of information.

I was initially disappointed with the ending of this because it didn’t wrap up at all; then I discovered it’s the first in a duology (oops). Undoubtedly, we will read the sequel as a book club too. And I’ll take a picture of it when we do! *hangs head in shame*

 

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The Book Jumper by Mechthild Glaser

Out of all the books we’ve read together over the year, this is the only one to have disappointed us so far! The concept for this book is so unique and exciting that I think we all had super high expectations; and the book just couldn’t live up to them. I mean, this book is literally a bookworm’s dream come true; who wouldn’t want to dive into the book world and meet their favourite characters?! Sadly, it just wasn’t executed well. The writing felt very young in tone, leading me to believe that the book should have been marketed as Middle Grade rather than YA.

I had many issues with this book, mainly the overuse of exclamation marks and the amount of telling rather than showing. I don’t know how much was lost in translation as this book was initially written in German, but I just felt like something was lacking. The concept is still fantastic and the book is a complete love letter to literature; it just didn’t meet our enormous group expectations.

 

18380833_296576720802340_7873109352071036928_n.jpgWell, there you have it! A year of book club reads! I bet you feel like you’ve been on the year-long journey with us after the length of this blog post, oops. Sorry, not sorry. I’m enriching your life with great book recommendations!

We didn’t read a book every month because sometimes life gets in the way, but I’m pretty sure we’re all in this for the long run, and we have already chosen The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid as our next read. Here’s to another great reading year!

 

Is anyone else a member of a book club? Online or otherwise? What have been some of your favourite books that you’ve read together? Let me know in the comments!