Thematic Recs: Boarding School

Boarding schools make great settings for stories; familiar enough to the average reader, but enclosed in their own social bubbles, allowing for some really interesting situations – of all kinds! So, from a few different genres, here are a few of my favourite boarding school books:

1) Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick. A short story set in a girls’ boarding school and told from several perspectives, which circles around the mystery of the death of a student the previous year. For a book this short, it manages to pack quite a punch, and is wonderfully atmospheric. I believe it also has some connection to Sedgwick’s previous book, The Ghosts of Heaven, but you certainly don’t need to have read that in order to enjoy this one, as I can attest! 😊

2) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockheart. Annoyed at being excluded, Frankie decides to infiltrate her school’s secret boys’ club, sparking a hilarious and meticulously-plotted prank war. Fantastically written, with an amazing lead, and a great feminist angle that really snuck up on me… just like my love for this book, which I now consider among my all-time favourites.

3) Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson. Ruby and Garnet are identical twins, and love to play a matching pair, but beneath the surface they’re actually very different – and when they’re forced to move away from home and live with their dad’s new girlfriend, their relationship is put to the test. I read quite a lot of Jaqueline Wilson books as a child, but this one is hands-down my favourite; it’s a riot for younger readers, but still interesting for anyone older, and beautifully illustrated, too! Unlike the other books I’m recommending here, Double Act isn’t set at a boarding school, but the school does play an important part in Ruby and Garnet’s changing relationship towards the end of the book.

4) The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. And, of course, no list of boarding school books would be complete without an appearance from the school that we all wish we could’ve gone to: Hogwarts! Of course, there’s little point in my recommending these books, as they’ve already got the attention of anyone who’s even slightly interested, but I would like to give an honourable mention to a couple of other magical-boarding-school books: The Iron Trial by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare, and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, both of which were undoubtedly influenced by Harry Potter, but have put their own unique spin on the genre. (Carry On, in particular, is a favourite of mine.)

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The Harry Potter Tag

harry potter tagToday I will be doing the Harry Potter Tag, which I’ve been seeing around quite a bit recently, looking absolutely fabulous (with help from that lovely artwork 😉 )! The tag (and aforementioned art) was created by Lashaan & Trang from Bookidote, and I was tagged by Poppy from Poppy’s Best of Books, whose blog you should check out for more bookish awesomeness. 😀 There’s only one rule for this tag: No picking Harry Potter for any of the answers! 😮flagrateHolly Bourne//Soulmates1) A book with a theme you found interesting, but would like to be re-written.

Soulmates by Holly Bourne was a book that I picked up because its premise – that meeting your soulmate isn’t always a good thing – sounded really interesting, but this book was terrible. And I don’t say that lightly. 😡alohomoraTamora Pierce//First Test2) The first book in a series that really hooked you.

There have been so many, but going way back, I’d like to mention First Test by Tamora Pierce, which not only got me into the Protector of the Small series, but the whole Tortall universe, and later on, her other books as well.accioDavid Gaider//Dragon Age: Library Edition3) A book you wish you could have right now.

I really want to get my hands on the Dragon Age: Library Edition by David Gaider and various different illustrators, which is a bind-up of the three comic books that have been released for the series so far – but I’m not letting myself buy any more books until there’s some space on my TBR shelf. 😦 One day, however, it shall be mine!avada kedavraGeorge R.R. Martin//A Storm of Swords4) A killer book. In both senses.

A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin. This is my favourite book in the A Song of Ice & Fire series – there were so many excited twists and turns! It’s also probably the bloodiest of the books so far.confundoBeate Grimsrud//A Fool, Free5) A book you found really confusing.

A Fool, Free by Beate Grimsrud was quite confusing in places, because Eli was such an unreliable narrator. It was mostly confusing in a good way though, & I did enjoy it – you can read my review here.expecto patronumRainbow Rowell//Carry On6) Your spirit animal book.

I’m not entirely sure how to interpret this one, but I figure it means a book that spoke to you in some way? 😕 So I’m going to go with Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, every word of which just made me ridiculously happy (as is something of a theme with Rainbow Rowell’s writing). XDsectumsempraSally Green//Half Bad7) A dark and twisted book.

The whole Half Life trilogy by Sally Green, which is surprisingly dark and gritty for a YA series – it starts off with a child being tortured, and goes on from there… o_OapareciumE. Lockhart//The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks8) A book that was more than it seemed, and surprised you in a good way.

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart was a book that I expected to be a quirky boarding school romance story. Instead, it turned out to be about prank wars and upsetting the status quo, and was full of brilliant social commentary, which was way better – and it’s now one of my favourite books! 😀nomineesLast up, I nominate:

2015 in Review: Favourites

Since we’re getting super, super-close to the end of the year, I thought it was about time that I shared some of my 2015 favourites with you! (That is, books I read in 2015, rather than books that were released in 2015… Though, as it turns out, a surprising number of these are actually new releases.) It takes a lot for me to pick a new book as an “official” favourite – by adding it to my favourites shelf on Goodreads – but there were five books that made the cut this year, and they are (in the order in which I read them):

Elizabeth Gaskell//North & SouthAll the way back in February, I read North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell, since I’d been watching (and loving) the 2004 mini-series with my cousin, but was too impatient to wait for her so we could finish the series together. Reading the book was, for me, a nice compromise that let me find out what was going to happen, without actually going ahead and watching the TV series on my own. This was also one of the 12 books that I wrote a full review for this year – you can read it here.

Jenn Bennett//Night OwlsE. Lockhart//The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksIn the summer, I – like many people, I think – got really into contemporary fiction, and I ended up reading several very good ones. The two that really stood out to me, however, were The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart, which was a simultaneously really fun and really, really interesting boarding school story, full of pranks and social commentary; and Night Owls by Jenn Bennett, which was more of a pure romance novel, but with an unusual, arty premise.

Rainbow Rowell//Carry OnThe next book that really blew me away didn’t come along until October, but was, of course, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell! 😀 I’d been looking forward to this book for so long, and grabbed it as soon as I had the chance – and it didn’t disappoint, even a tiny bit. XD Everything about this book just made me ridiculously happy; I spent several weeks after (and during) reading it in a Carry On-induced happy daze, probably walking around with a ridiculous grin on my face the whole time. ^^’ (I also wrote a mini-review of this one, since I finished it during the Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon.)

Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff//IlluminaeSo, if I had to pick an absolute favourite for the year, then that would probably be it… Or this book would be: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff came as a huge surprise to me. I’d heard a whole load of rave reviews, and I eventually picked it up because I was curious, but – since I am, emphatically, not a sci-fi fan – I wasn’t expecting to be hugely impressed. Needless to say, I was wrong. Illuminae was powerful, and ridiculously emotional; I even cried a bit, towards the end, which is something that hasn’t happened since I read The Book Thief last summer (and never before that, so far as I can remember). I’ll definitely be picking up the second book in this series as soon as it comes out next year!

June Wrap Up

I’ve been super-busy this month, with work and my trip to Iceland, as well as various other social commitments, but I’m pretty pleased with the amount of reading I managed to get done in spite of it all. 🙂 In total, I read nine novels in June, as well as four comic books. I also seem to be approaching the completion of my new year reading resolution challenges, which is exciting! The two that I haven’t quite finished yet are to re-read five books (so far I’ve on;y read two), and to read five books that showcase foreign cultures (only one left to go for this challenge!)… Anyway, this month I read:

Jodi Lynn Anderson//Tiger LilyTiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson. A dark and eerie re-imagining of Peter Pan, focusing on the character of Tiger Lily, and, interestingly, told from Tinker Bell’s perspective. This was an incredible book, and I’ve written a full review of it, which you can read here, if you so desire.5 stars

Bill Willingham//Fables book 2Fables: The Deluxe Edition, Book 2 by Bill Willingham. This comprises the main series’ Storybook Love storyline – wherein Snow White and Bigby Wolf are sent on holiday together, where an assassin plots against them – as well as a few side stories, including some Jack and Boy Blue backstory, the tale of the Lilliputians, and a 2-issue comic where a reporter mistakes the Fabletown residents for vampires. This series is just getting better as it goes along, & I’m really looking forward to reading more. I’ve switched to the deluxe editions now, since they include more of the spin-off issues…5 starsCassandra Clare//City of AshesCity of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. The second book in the Mortal Instruments series, where Clary, Jace & co. try to figure out who’s killing Downworlder children, and why. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as City of Bones, but it was definitely worth reading. The tension between Clary and Jace is really well done, and Simon is growing on me a lot, although his relationship with Clary felt rather forced… At this point, I’m also really beginning to see what everyone means by Clary having really, really poor decision-making skills, but so far it hasn’t bothered me too much.4 starsTerry Pratchett//Interesting TimesInteresting Times by Terry Pratchett.Discworld novel, in which Rincewind is sent to the Counterweight Continent in order to help with a rebellion. This book was hilarious, as Terry Pratchett’s books always are, and I read it alongside my friend Clare while we were on holiday together, which made it even more fun. I wouldn’t, however, recommend reading it unless you’ve also read some of the previous Rincewind-centric stories, as they’re directly linked… There’s a really great Discworld reading guide here, if you need help figuring it all out (as I often do!).4 starsCassandra Clare//City of GlassCity of Glass by Cassandra Clare. The third Mortal Instruments book, and the conclusion to the series’ initial storyline. Also the first book I decided to read for the #Rainbowthon, and I decided to count it as my orange book, even though I read it on my kindle, and I was already halfway through it when the readathon started… 😳 Anyway, I really enjoyed the book, and it was a great conclusion to the storyline, even though I felt that some of the elements (particularly the romantic ones) were a bit predictable. It’s got nothing on The Infernal Devices, of course, but it was still a lot of fun. I’ll probably take a break before continuing the series, though. 🙂4 stars

Stella Gibbons//Cold Comfort FarmCold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons. A parody of late 18th & early 19th century agricultural novels (e.g. the works of Thomas Hardy or D.H. Lawrence), wherein Flora Poste, after the death of her parents, decides to embark on a career as a parasite, and descends on her unusual relatives, determined to sort out their lives. Thematically, the book reminded me a lot of Emma by Jane Austen, though as a parody, Cold Comfort Farm was understandably much more ridiculous… It took me a little while to really get into it, but once I did, I found it hilarious. In regards to the #Rainbowthon, this book counted for both red and blue.4 starsE. Lockhart//The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-BanksThe Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. This was my green book for the #Rainbowthon, and it was fantastic! It completely sucked me in, and I managed to read it almost in one sitting (it would’ve been one sitting, if not for the fact that I didn’t start it until about 1am, and also work…). It follows Frankie, who is a sophomore at an elite boarding school, which has a secret boys’ club called the Bassets. Feeling excluded, Frankie decides to infiltrate the club, and everything just escalates from there. I initially picked this up on faith (because I liked We Were Liars so much), since I was under the impression that it was a revenge book, which isn’t usually my thing… but I’m so glad I was wrong! The book is heavy on the social commentary, à la George Orwell’s novels – super-interesting, and very well-written – but unlike those, the characters were really likeable, and the story was buckets of fun~! 😀5+ starsJesse Andrews//Me & Earl & the Dying GirlMe & Earl & the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews. The story of a boy called Greg, who is forced by his mother (by means of incessant nagging) to befriend a girl who’s just been diagnosed with leukemia, and consequently has his life ruined (kind of). This was a great, and surprisingly funny take on a cancer story, with really interesting characters and relationships, and an incredibly deadpan narrator. The narration/writing style was probably my favourite thing about the book: It’s fast-paced, and a lot of it is written in script-format, so it’s very easy to get drawn into the story… (This was not one of the books I picked out for the #Rainbowthon, but I did finish it while that was still going on (but only just), and it technically qualifies to be my yellow book – which means I managed to get all the colours of the rainbow except purple! 🙂 )4 starsTed Naifeh//Princess Ugg vol. 1Princess Ugg, Volume 1 by Ted Naifeh. The first volume in a series about a viking-style princess who goes off to princess school in hopes of finding a nonviolent way of ender her people’s war against the frost giants. I was beginning to get a bit slumpy at this point in the month, so I thought I’d pick up a comic to stave the feeling off – and this book was really fun! 🙂 The story, characters and concept were great, and I really liked the art, too. I’m looking forward to seeing where this story goes.4 starsAntony Johnston//Umbral vol. 1Umbral, Book 1: Out of the Shadows by Antony Johnston. Another comic, this time about a thief who’s running from evil shadow monsters that seem to be killing everyone around her and taking their places… This was a strange, confusing story, and it didn’t really help that we were just dropped in in the middle of the action, which never really slowed down enough to explain anything. Apart from Rascal, the aforementioned thief, the story doesn’t stay with any characters long enough for us to really get attached to them, either, and unfortunately the character design meant that it was difficult to tell some of the characters apart…2 starsAntony Johnston//Umbral vol. 2Umbral, Book 2: The Dark Path by Antony Johnston. The sequel, in which the storytelling improved drastically, the pace slowed down, and the main characters were finally identifiable. I really enjoyed this, which surprised me – but it was certainly a happy surprise!4 starsSkye Jordan//RicochetRicochet by Skye Jordan. The third book in the Renegades series, which follows Rachel, the Renegades’ secretary/gopher/person-who-does-everything, and Ryker, a soldier on leave from Afghanistan, who’s called in as an explosives expert on a stunt they’re filming. This was a surprising hit, as I wasn’t too thrilled by the last book in the series! But Rachel and Ryker were both really great, sympathetic characters, and their relationship was both interesting and believable… Consider yourself warned, though: This series is definitely not for younger readers~ 😛4 starsAmy Tan//The Kitchen God's WifeThe Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan. The life story of a woman called Winnie – growing up in China, her disastrous first marriage, and how she eventually escaped from it. I read this mainly because my dad thought I’d like it – and he was right! The narrative was a bit slow to start with, as it took a while to really set the scene, but once I got to the part where Winnie began to tell her daughter about her life in China, I got very invested, very quickly. This book also features one of the most despicable antagonists I’ve ever come across: Winnie’s first husband Wen Fu is right up there with Joffrey from A Song of Ice and Fire and Dimitri from The Bronze Horseman in vileness…5 stars

The Nintendo Tag!

This tag was created by Novels and Nonsense, and as usual, nobody tagged me for it, but I knew I had to give it a try as soon as I saw that it was a thing that existed! 😛 The first post of this tag that I saw was on Kacie’s Bookshelf, which you should definitely check out. 🙂

Charlotte Brontë//Jane Eyre1) NES: A classic that you want to read

I say this every time classics come up, but I really want to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I’ve been meaning to read it for years already, but it keeps getting pushed aside in favour of something shinier… One of these days, I will definitely get to it, though.

Garth Nix//Lirael2) SNES: A sequel you liked better than the first book

There are a lot of them, really, but the one that first comes to mind is Lirael by Garth Nix. I really loved Sabriel, the first book in the Old Kingdom series, but Lirael just blew me away, & is one of my all-time favourites.

J.K. Rowling//Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone3) N64: A book that revolutionized the way you look at the world

This is probably an obvious answer, but I’ll have to go with the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, which is the series that made me love reading – and since reading has become such a huge part of my life, I think this counts as revolutionary…

Tahereh Mafi//Shatter Me4) GameCube: A popular book that did not go over so well with you

The Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi. I’ve written a review of this whole series, explaining why I wasn’t as thrilled with it as most of the other people I’ve come across seemed to be. I didn’t hate it by any means, but it really didn’t click with me… :/

E. Lockhart//The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks5) Wii: A new favorite book

I haven’t actually added any new books to my favourites list in quite a while, but I recently read and loved The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart – a boarding school story full of pranks and a surprising amount of social commentary.

Bryan Q. Miller//Batgirl vol. 16) Nintendo Power: Favorite graphic novel/A graphic novel series you want to start

I’ve read quite a lot of really great comics (particularly in the last year or so), but the one I’ve probably talked the least about is the Batgirl series by Bryan Q. Miller. The series didn’t run for all that long, so there are only three volumes, but they’re all fantastic, and Stephanie Brown makes a really fun lead character. 😀

Bill Willingham//Fairest vol. 1As for a series I’d like to start, I’m pretty interested in Fairest by Bill Willingham, though I probably shouldn’t pick it up ’til I’ve read a bit more of Fables

Amy Tan//The Kitchen God's Wife7) Super Mario: A character you want to squish like a Goomba

I’m currently reading The Kitchen God’s Wife by Amy Tan, and Wen Fu – the main character’s first husband – is simply vile. 😡

Brandon Sanderson//The Final Empire8) Zelda: A newer fantasy that you consider to be a modern classic

The Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. These books were just so well put together, with amazing characters, really wonderful world-building, and an unforgettable storyline! 😀

Patrick Ness//The Knife of Never Letting Go9) Samus Aran: Favorite Sci-Fi novel or one you want to read

I don’t read all that much sci-fi, but I really loved The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness… though I still haven’t read the sequels. 😳

Terry Pratchett//The Colour of Magic10) Pokémon: Book editions you want to collect

The old small-size editions of the Discworld series by Terry Pratchett, with Josh Kirby’s illustrations on the covers. There are so many of these books that I don’t know if I’ll ever get through them all, but I at least want to read all the Rincewind and City Watch books.

Den Patrick//The Boy with the Porcelain Blade11) Donkey Kong: A book with original characters

The Boy with the Porcelain Blade by Den Patrick, which I only just started reading. I’m still not entirely sure where this story’s going, but the characters are really interesting, and not at all like any I’ve come across before.

Fire Emblem Awakening12) Nintendo Fandom: Favorite Nintendo games

There are so many that it’s difficult to say, but a few of my favourites are: The Legend of Zelda series (especially The Ocarina of Time); the Pokémon series (particularly Pokémon Soul Silver and Pokémon Platinum); and more recently, I’ve been really obsessed with Fire Emblem: Awakening, though I haven’t played anything of the other Fire Emblem games (I’m super-excited for Fates, though 😀 ).

November & December Haul

Nov.-Dec. Haul 2014I didn’t really think it was worth posting a haul in November, since I ended up buying a grand total of one book, but hopefully this will make up for it… I went a little crazy spending my Christmas money, and (including that book I bought in November) I have twenty books to tell you about today. 😀 From top to bottom:

1) Studio Ghibli Layout Designs by the Hong Kong Jockey Club. A beautiful book of (mainly) artwork from various Studio Ghibli films. This was a Christmas gift from my lovely friend Chloë, when I went to visit her in Hong Kong. 🙂

2) Books I Have Read & Books I Want to Read by the British Library. This was the only thing that I actually requested this Christmas, and it found its way (to my delight) into my stocking on Christmas morning. It’s a journal-style book for keeping track of all the books I’ve read, as well as book clubs, literary events, and there’s even a little address book at the back for all my favourite bookshops and websites!

3) Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. This is the book I mentioned that I bought in November. I came across it while I was Christmas shopping, and couldn’t resist buying it (I’m weak-willed, I know) – partly because I’d heard so many good things about it, but mainly because it’s signed! It’s a World War II-era novel set in France, I believe, but I don’t know too much else about it.

4) Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson. A contemporary summer romance novel, though I’ve heard that it’s pretty sad. I decided to pick this one up after reading Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour, since I liked that one so much.

5) White Crow by Marcus Sedgwick. This is the first of the books I bought on my Christmas-money-shopping-spree, and I don’t really know what it’s about (this is going to become a theme in this haul), but it’s by Marcus Sedgwick, so I’m sure it’s very good (even though I still haven’t read any of his books…).

6) The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. Again, I don’t know much about this book, but I read We Were Liars, by the same author, earlier this year and loved it, so I have high hopes for this one, too.

7) The Executioner’s Daughter & River Daughter by Jane Hardstaff. The first two books in a series (or perhaps just a duology) about a girl who’s locked up in the Tower of London. These two were complete impulse buys, & I mainly picked them up because River Daughter (the second book) was in the buy-one-get-one-half-price deal, along with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks. I’ve been craving historical fiction lately, though, so hopefully I’ll read these sometime soon.

8) The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. I’ve heard so many amazing things about this series, & I’ve been wanting to pick them up for ages! Once again, I don’t really know what it’s about, but Catherynne M. Valente’s writing is like some kind of word-magic, so I have high expectations~ 😀

9) Trouble by Non Pratt. This one’s about a teen pregnancy, and sounds pretty interesting.

10) Mãn by Kim Thúy. This was a gift from my aunt & uncle, & I really have no clue what it’s about, except that it is very short (less than 150 pages) and the author apparently won several awards for her previous book. I’ve flipped through the first few pages, and the writing style seems really beautiful, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading more.

11) The Boy that Never Was by Karen Perry. A mystery novel about the parents of a small boy who disappears. My Dad picked this one out for me, as he apparently read a review that claimed it would be perfect for fans of Gone Girl (by Gillian Flynn). It looks interesting, though I’m not sure when I’ll get round to reading it…

12) Shatter MeUnravel MeUnite Me & Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is a YA dystopian trilogy (Unite Me is a novella bind-up) about a girl who has a lethal touch. I’ve actually read the first book already, so you’ll be seeing that in my December wrap up post, & I’m currently reading (& enjoying) Unravel Me.

13) Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley. A graphic novel about a young chef who finds a way to erase her past mistakes and ends up screwing with the fabric of the universe (more or less), to disastrous effect. It’s a lot of fun, & I actually read it almost as soon as it arrived in the post, so I’ll talk more about it in my wrap up.

14) Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths by Shigeru Mizuki. A short manga set during World War II, from the perspective of a Japanese soldier (I think). I’m definitely excited about this, since most WWII literature that I’ve come across is told from the Allies’ side, or else from the side of German Anti-Nazi sympathisers… I believe that it’s also partially autobiographical.

15) Rage of Poseidon by Anders Nilsen. Another book that I read as soon as I got it, so you’ll be hearing more about it soon. It’s a collection of graphic short stories mainly about the Greek gods in the modern world. Very well-done (and, to my surprise, published as a fold-out, concertina-style book, though only one side of the concertina has been printed on…).

16) Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor. The third and final book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, which I have not yet started, but am really looking forward to reading. I was actually planning on waiting until it came out in paperback to buy it, in order to save space on my shelves, but I recently obtained a new bookcase, and so I decided to throw caution to the wind! And it is a very beautiful book, so I regret nothing. 😉