3rd Blogiversary Celebrations + Giveaway (INT)

2yr AnniversaryWhere does the time go? Today marks my third anniversary of this blog. It has been an absolute joy, every year has been so different and I am still learning and working out the kinks, and in between that I get to read fantastic books from fantastic authors and share them with the world, literally the world. That’s pretty awesome if you think about it.

Because of this blog I have discovered some amazing authors, some of which have fast become favourites and I am so pleased to have a platform where I can share a few of my all time favourite books and newly discovered ones as well. I am also forever grateful to the numerous authors and publishers who ask me to review for them. It’s an absolute joy and privilege to share your work and read your amazing stories.

To celebrate and to say a big enthusiastic THANK YOU to you all I am giving TWO lucky people the chance to win a book from the selection below.  The books I’ve chosen are some of my all time favourites that I’ve read in the past three years. Some I have reviewed others I haven’t, if you want to check out the books in more detail I’ve included some links below.

Because I’m in a celebratory mood I am opening it up internationally — the only condition being that bookdepository.com must ship to your country. If they do, then go ahead and enter!

Thank you again for a great three years, good luck to all the entrants, and happy reading!

Books

The Selection

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

Sunshine (#1) by Nikki RaeReview

Are We There Yet by David Levithan

Siren’s Song (#1) by Heather McCollum  – Review

Looking For Alaska by John GreenReview

The Book of Lost Things by John ConnollyReview

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Child Thief by Brom

Giveaway

To enter: For a chance to win one of the pictured books simply enter here and complete the Rafflecopter form.

 Please note: This giveaway is international on the basis the Book Depository ships to your country . To see if you are eligible you can check their website.

Giveaway runs until midnight AEDT on Friday 5th February 2016

Books I’m Looking Forward to in 2016

ReadingThere are so many great books due to come out in 2016, I know I will not get a chance to read all of them, I’m behind the ones I wanted to read for last year and the year before, but I will add them to my TBR pile all the same.

However, there are a few exceptions, a select few books that I will be snatching up as soon as possible and reading right away. The first is The Book of Dust by Philip Pullman. This has no release date yet and a late 2016 publication is tentative at best, but I have been waiting for years for this book to be finally finished and so far from what I’ve read 2016 seems like the year it is possibly going to happen. There isn’t even a cover yet I can admire either which is entirely unfair.

The next one on my list is Awaken by Heather McCollum. The third and final in The Guardians series I cannot wait to read this. I adored the first two (Siren’s Song and Broken) and I have no doubt Awaken will be of the same exhilarating and captivating quality.

Third is Wish List by Belinda Williams. Fourth and final in the City Love series, I am eager to hear Cate’s story and revisit the amazing group of women and William’s engaging writing.

Finally, The Shadow Hour, the second The Girl at Midnight book by Melissa Grey. I wanted this beside me ready to pick up when I finished The Girl at Midnight earlier last year so I will be ready to grab a copy and keep Echo’s story going and find out where Grey is taking her.

Many of these are due later in the year, but it won’t stop me waiting eagerly for them in the meantime. I have a myriad of books to keep me occupied while I wait though which is a good thing in itself.

 

Top Five of 2015

Top 5 2014This year trying to determine a Top Five was a bit harder than in the past. There were a few standouts but there were also so many that could have made the list based on a five star rating but I felt lacked the right feeling. After a lot of thinking and contemplating I finally settled on my Top Five books of the year.

Many of these books were amazing from start to finish, they grab you from the beginning and don’t let go, others draw you in slowly and tighten the hold as you reach the climactic and emotional conclusions. I recommend you read each book on this list, some of these are sequels and funnily enough the first books in the series made my Top Five list last year. If that isn’t a sign I don’t know what is.

For the first time every one of these books was technically a review request book, or offered to reviewers who had reviewed previous books by the author. These authors are amazing writers and are people I would never have read if I hadn’t started this blog so for that alone I am so grateful I finally took the plunge and started doing this.

Broken by Heather McCollum

This is the second book in the Guardians series and is just as fantastic as Siren’s Song. It deals with the consequences and outcomes of the first book and offers a deeper insight into the strange and magical world of Guardians and the cursed. McCollum captures the transition and consequences of the previous book wonderfully, the writing is expressive and intriguing, and there is suspense and mystery that draws you in and keeps you on the edge of your seat.

Saltwater Secrets Series by Jade Varden (Song of the Sea + Death and the Deep)

This series is an absolute joy to read. There’s mythology and suspense, and characters that are flawed and complicated and trying their best. I am being a bit sneaky and adding both books in here but when you read them you will understand. Song of the Sea drags you unexpectedly into this hidden underwater world with this ongoing war, complicating the lives of those above land and below. Death and the Deep deals with the consequences and the aftermath and the creation of bigger problems for all involved. Varden balances the mythology and the real beautifully and brings a touch of reality to the fantasy seamlessly. I almost put Death and the Deep on here alone but realised both books have great stories to tell.

The Girl At Midnight by Melissa Grey

This is a book people tend to love or are not too fussed about. Personally I loved it and I eagerly await the sequel. The story is creative and the world Grey has created is divine. Echo is a wonderful character that you can’t help but love and Grey leaves you wanting the next one as soon as you finish. There is magic and fantasy and drama and suspense that keep you turning the pages and gets your heart racing.

Death Wish by Megan Tayte

There is a touch of paranormal with this book, it simmers in the background nicely though and doesn’t take over completely. Tayte’s characters are complicated and whole, and the way she uses the words to bring them to life is stunning. The story is told very much through the characters and their actions and Tayte is a master at simple complexity where it seems simple on the surface but is actual filled with depth and intricacy the further you read.

Animal by Nikki Rae

Despite featuring characters from The Sunshine Series, this story isn’t really a prequel and isn’t presented one. While it does deal with events before those in the series, it’s more a completely new story about one of the minor characters. Rae’s writing is captivating and I could not stop once I started reading this. Her words pull you along, and with characters that come to life on the page it is an absolute joy to read.

Honourable Mentions

I had to have a few because these were also excellent books with fantastic stories that were beautifully and creatively told.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

The Darkest Part Forest by Holly Black

Top Five of 2014

Top 5 2014After a little searching and hard decisions I have created the new list for Top Five books of 2014. The books read last year were a mix of review requests, book club books, and personal choices. Something from all three categories made it into the list this time around and I included a few honourable mentions as well that were pretty spectacular reads as well but just missed the cut.

In the past some books have stood out from the start. They are immediate choices and they have been books that had a strong impact on me in some form or another, they were amazing reads that blew my mind while I was, and when I had finished, reading them. This time I picked books again that stayed with me in some way or that were really wonderful to read but 2014 did not have many books that truly stood out like the past. But I am a strong believer in that not all 5 star books are the same, and the reason for giving one book five starts can and often is totally different than the reason you gave them to another.

Many of the books on the list (both lists really) I think were very profound. They demonstrated so many remarkable things about its characters that say so much about people in general and each of these authors told a brilliant story. Superbly written each of these books were a joy to read, and while not always overly exciting or adventurous, they offered instead a wonderfully told story that astounds you in the writer’s capabilities and results in a complete admiration for their ability to tell such a story that you very rarely were expecting when you picked up the book.

1. The Weight of a Human Heart by Ryan O’Neill

This is the book of short stories that resulted in me tweeting the author after the reading the first two stories to tell him how much his book had already changed my life. These are not your usual stories; O’Neill tells his brilliant stories in so many unique ways. He tells many of his stories with graphs, diagrams, and peculiar layouts BUT IT WORKS! And once you adore him and are astounded by his creativity of making such a strange writing system make sense, you have to admire him for the truly heartbreaking and heart-warming and gorgeous stories that he tells with so few (sometimes barely any) words. He is a master at challenging how a short story, or any story really, needs to be presented.

2. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

The reason this book made it on to the list this year is because it is such a beautiful story. It is simple but it is astonishingly gorgeous in how Gaiman presents it. He uses Bod beautifully as a character and the characters tell this story as much as the narrative does. There is such honesty and simplicity, and such love and sincerity that even when the everyday is happening it remains a wonderful story.

3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I was not sure what to expect from this book but it was not long before I realised just how magical this book is. What Haddon has done in a magnificent fashion, is that he has managed to explain and describe what it is like to be a person who has behavioural difficulties. But this is in no way the focus of the book, set as a mystery Haddon explores how 15 year old Christopher sees and explores the world while trying to solve the mystery about the curious incident of the dog in the night-time. It is a beautiful book and one that needs to be read because it opens your eyes but also gives you a fantastic story with a mystery, humour, and compelling characters.

4. Tears of the River by Gordon Rottman

This was one of the books I was asked to review and I was amazed and captivated early on and in love with it by the end. Rottman tells an amazing story, one that is real and unforgiving at times, and demonstrates the power of determination and just what humans are capable when they have no other choice. It is filled with adventure, the unknown, and drama that comes from being in impossible situations, with language barriers, and no one but your wit and your knowledge to rely on to make sure everyone comes out the other side.

5. Siren’s Song by Heather McCollum

What I loved about this book is a combination of the characters, the story, and the way McCollum writes. The characters are complete and determined, and fascinating in their own way, and the balance and expression of the real and the paranormal is ideal and they interact really well. The story grips you and you cannot put the book down once you start, always wanting to find out what is going to happen, eager and excited to see where the story could possible go next. It is a story filled with suspense, secrets, and a bit of magic for good measure.

Honourable Mentions

Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

Nocturnes by John Connolly

The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman

The Sunshine Series by Nikki Rae

 

Siren’s Song by Heather McCollum

Today I am very excited to share with you my review of the young adult paranormal/romance Siren’s Song by Heather McCollum as part of the blog tour hosted by Spencer Hill Press. Links to purchase the book and find our more information on Heather and the book are after the review.

Goodreads badgePublished: March 25th 2014
Publisher:
 Spencer Hill Press
Pages: 376
Format: ebook via Netgalley
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Jule Welsh can sing. She enthralls people with her bel canto voice. But it takes more than practice to reach her level of exquisite song; it takes siren’s blood running through her veins. Jule is starting her senior year at Cougar Creek High when her relatively normal world begins to resemble a roller coaster flying through a carnival scare house. Her mother is diagnosed as insane and committed, a psycho-stalker is snapping pictures of her to put into his homemade Jule-shrine, her voice is suddenly putting people into comatose trances, oh and the gorgeous new guy in town, Luke Whitmore, is interested in her . . . but also wants to kill her.

I am going to be vague and secretive because I don’t want to give anything away because finding out is the best part of this book so you’ve been warned.

I adored this book, I simply adored it. There is no other way to explain it. The story McCollum has written is one that is filled with mystery and intrigue, and a brilliant combination of magic and reality that brings this paranormal romance to life.

From the beginning I was enthralled by the narrative and I fell in love with the characters. There is an ideal balance of secrecy and unanswered questions that tease you as you read and as we follow Jule in her experiences we learn as she does, though we are also not told everything either.

The paranormal element McCollum has in this book is excellent, the siren aspect is wonderful on its own but couple with everything else it’s marvellous. There is an excellent balance between the paranormal and the real, there is no domination of either and while the paranormal plays a large part in what is happening through the story, we are not actually given a large or overloaded exploration of it either. With first person narration by Jule this is understandable, but even when it becomes more prominent story wise, we are given exactly what we need to know in order to understand the story and the history of events, just as Jule is to understand what is happening around her.

Having only read a few paranormal romances I didn’t know what to expect but at the same time I had an expectation in mind. This, I am pleased to say, was nothing like what McCollum delivered. I have nothing against other paranormal romances, as I say I’ve really enjoyed a few, but for me the paranormal side of this young adult novel was fresh and new, certainly unexpected and brilliantly executed.

Initially I thought that Jule was not asking enough questions in the beginning when she saw strange things, I certainly thought some things required asking for an explanation, but as the story progressed I started to understand the possible reasons why. If like Jule you live your life not believing in the impossible or magical, then you may not recognise it immediately. Logic takes over and you use real world examples to explain away what you heard or saw, and while it may seem odd, your mind does not assume it is supernatural.

What I found interesting was that when Jule does discover the truth she is quite accepting. After a reasonable yet quite restrained reaction to what she finds out, she then listens quietly and doesn’t react as you expect. She asks direct questions, establishing the validity in what she is being told and doesn’t let them go unanswered or avoided. Her determination is what I love about her, she isn’t passively accepting things around her but she is willing. I think this understanding is helped by the fact there is clear evidence to substantiate the claims being made and while Jule remains wary on the surface she can’t help but believe what she sees. Though to her credit, while she seems to believe the circumstances around her, there is an underlying scepticism that rears its head every now and then as she doubts what she’s been told. This questioning is also evident regarding her connection with Luke. With all the facts behind her she does not assume that everything is as it appears and what feels real may be masked by magic and short term.

Her understanding of the magical elements in her life was not lost on her and while she goes along with these feelings for Luke she never forgets that they may not be real or everlasting. This is just another reason why Jules is a wonderful character. Her friendships and her common sense are excellent tools in this story, but she also has a sense of responsibility and she is willing to do things for the greater good.

Each of McCollum’s characters are excellent and intriguing, they pull you into their world and lives so completely you struggle to leave. Each character is their own entire person, and through their actions, their relationship with others, as well as what is said and left unsaid we are shown a great sense of who they are which only adds to the story as a whole. When the characters in a story feel complete and real, regardless of their role played, you can find yourself having pity and sympathy for characters with even the smallest part. It is truly wonderful.

I think one of the reasons I was kept up until three and four in the morning reading this book was the fact I didn’t want to stop and I needed to see where the story was headed and what was going to happen. I think if I’d had the time I definitely would have happily read it in one sitting, though having the excitement drawn out over a few days made it that little bit better.

There are some of the best sentences in the book as well. Two of my absolute favourites are “Loved with obsessive devotion, hated with barely controlled fury” and “The bravest warriors scream inside while fighting for what’s right”. The way McCollum tells this story is filled with suspense and secrets and wonderful explanations. They are unique, creative, and the ideal balance that makes then filled with tension and drama and the kind of writing that makes you gasp with excitement and your heart pound with uncertainty.

The conversations and dialogue are great through the book. There is just something about Luke’s portrayal as a character and the dialogue he delivers that is divine. Even the characters pick up on it, he is clever and funny, and he knows the right thing to say in the right moment with the touch of humour and restraint that make it so enjoyable to read.

There is humour threaded through this story which makes it fun to read. There is a humour that comes from characters that have had a long time to accept their situation and there is also a humour where the newly initiated try and make things less terrifying than they appear, a way to diffuse the tension. This is equalled beautifully by the serious moments that grab your attention so suddenly that you aren’t sure what is happening until you’re halfway through it. This is where McCollum excels, through the exquisite depiction of power and danger, magic and love, friendship and family. The kind of amazing writing and narrative that keeps you on the edge of your seat, sitting upright in bed, holding your breath while still managing to squeal and gasp as you read.

The reason this book was hard to put down was the fact McCollum has created a novel that not only pulls you long by the strength of her characters, but also with a plot that will not let you walk away willingly. The desire to keep going, to find out the secrets, and see how it is resolved is powerful and one I found very hard to ignore. Siren’s Song captures the beauty, the danger, and the seemingly mundane into a story that stays with you even after that last page.

 In honour of the release of Siren’s Song, Heather is giving away two One Direction lawn tickets to the 28th September show in Charlotte, NC. You can read the Terms and Conditions and enter through Rafflecopter here

 

All Your Bits and Pieces Needs
Website
Twitter
Other Goodies
Book Trailer
Facebook
Goodreads

Purchase ebook or paperback
Barnes and Noble
Amazon
Kobo
BAM