Saturday, 22 March 2014

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Fifth Bloggerversary: Discovering the New

I have had some fantastic opportunities come my way because of blogging, but one of the most important things to me - and the most basic, common thing about blogging - is all the new books I've discovered over the past five years. So for today, as part of my fifth bloggerversary celebration, I'll be taking a look back over some of them.

There are so many books I've discovered through blogging that have become absolute favourites of mine. I could go on forever about how amazing they all are, and this post would be ridiculously long. As it is, having narrowed my list down to the books and/or authors I absolutely must mention, this post is going to be fairly essay-like. These are all books I would never have picked up if it wasn't for blogging (let's put aside the fact that I didn't read YA before I started blogging - if I did, those in this list that are YA wouldn't have been ones I'd automatically pick up), yet all have either moved or touched me in some way, opened my eyes, or just completely blew me away. To be fair, I'm going to go in alphabetical order of author - no favourites within my favourites!

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - Perks is considered a modern classic. When I was at school, I have always had trouble studying classics. Sadly, my brain isn't wired so that classics are easily understandable to me. I hate it, but you could hand me a classic, tell me to read out a section, and then ask me what I was just reading, and I honestly wouldn't be able to tell you. You have no idea how much it bothers me that I can't get my head around the language of such books enough to understand what I'm reading - I love reading, so not being able to understand a book... it really makes me mad, and feel so stupid.

So, if a book is considered a classic, in any way, I tend to steer clear. Because I'm not going to understand it, so what's the point? When I was offered the chance to review Perks, I very nearly said no. Reading a book and not having a clue what's going on is not a feeling I relish. However, Perks has been raved about by practically everyone I know who's read it, and it would tie in with LGBTQ YA Month, which I was working on at the time. So I said yes. And I read it. And I completely fell in love with the story! Not only was Perks not in any way difficult to understand, it was absolutely beautiful. It gave me so much hope that I could try other classics, understand and enjoy them. This hasn't happened yet, but I've got a few that I want to try, a few that are actually mentioned in Perks, and I have the confidence to give them a go. Not so much doubt. I may not be able to read everything, but that doesn't mean I won't be able to read them all. And Perks is such an incredible novel! I am so grateful for having read this book!

One Seriously Messed Up Week in the Otherwise Mundane and Uneventful Life of Jack Samsonite by Tom ClempsonOne Seriously Messed Up Week in the Otherwise Mundane and Uneventful Life of Jack Samsonite by Tom Clempson - If I remember rightly, I hadn't read any other books that felt like they were aimed at boys (even if enjoyed by girls too! And why shouldn't they be?!) before OSMUWeek. It was a boy's book. Not for me. It was going to be stupid and full of eye-roll inducing boyish humour and sexist and completely ridiculous. Because that's what all boys' books are like, right? And that title! Seriously, there's no way I was going to enjoy this book. I put my hands up right now and say I was narrow minded and judgemental.

But then I started following Tom Clempson, the author, on Twitter, and discovered that he was freaking hilarious! Barely a tweet from him would go by without me grinning or laughing out loud. So funny! And if his book was anything like he was on Twitter? It was going to be amazing! Clempson kindly sent be a copy to review, and oh my god, I'm not sure I've laughed out loud to any other books as much as I have at OSMUWeek and OSMUWeekend, the sequel. Seriously. I was in hysterics at home, on the bus, on the tube, at work, where ever I took either book with me. And I actually found I could relate to Jack, and cared about where his story would go. And this was a boy's book! I have not stuck my nose up at books for boys since. I have read quite a few various ones since then, and have loved most of them! But none really reach the level of awesome that Clempson's novels do. I am such a huge fan now, and will read whatever he writes.

Brigid KemmererThe Elemental Series by Brigid Kemmerer - This lady can do absolutely no wrong. It's no secret (heh, Secret!) how much I love The Elemental Series, the Merrick brothers, the stories, the action, the romance! These books are incredible! Now, I am a huge fan of urban fantasy, so there is a chance I may have stumbled across this series eventually - say maybe later this year when it's published in the UK - but I wouldn't have found out about it without the awesome ladies from Eleusinian Mysteries and Read Me, Bookmark Me, Love Me and their Valentine's Event  several years ago, where not only did they rave about Storm, they had an absolutely incredible character interview with the Merrick brothers. I'd seen those kind of interviews before, but... those Merricks! They sounded so real; their voices, their individual personalities... and this was just an interview! That, and Gabriel and Nick were flirting with both Brodie and Lisa, and oh my god, that's just insane! In an awesome way, of course!

I actually won a copy of Storm from that event and was so excited to read it. As well as everything else I've mentioned about the series that I love so much, what I also find incredible is how well Kemmerer writes such real, human stories, intertwined with the paranormal. Pretty much every book in the series deals with a serious issue; death and grief, body image, sexuality, sexual harrassment, bullying, domestic violence... I'm sure there are more, but those are the ones that come to mind right now. And each topic is taken seriously, and dealt with, with such passion from Kemmerer. You would think it's hard to have such stories going on while a bunch of hot guys are fighting for their lives by controlling the elements, but Kemmerer nails it each and every single time. None of the books or short stories are overly heavy or depressing, but the paranormal element doesn't take away from the severity or seriousness of each topic, either. Kemmerer weaves it all together seamlessly. As I said, this lady can do no wrong. I'll be so sad once the series ends with Sacrifice, but I will absolutely be reading every single book written by Kemmerer in the future. She absolutely has incredible books in her, and I cannot wait for her to get them out on paper.

David LevithanDavid Levithan - The first book I read by David Levithan was one he actually co-authored - Will Grayson, Will Grayson, written with John Green. I quickly fell in love with Levithan's writing style, and I've been such a huge fan since. I haven't read even half his novels, but I will definitely be trying to read as many as I can. I haven't loved every book by Levithan I've read, but the ones I have make it easy to forget the ones I didn't because they are just so incredible. It's not just the fact that Levithan has written some beautiful and important, powerful LGBTQ YA (though that is a big draw, especially as he doesn't stick to gay fiction, but has also written a trans novel in Every Day) - and, it's got to be said, he has been the co-author of straight novels too which are also incredible - but also because has such a way with words; he can phrase things in a way that I've never been able to, and say the things I meant. Or he can write such beautiful imagery, or express wonderful ideas. His writing speaks to me at my core. I have had more than one mini-epiphany while reading his words where things suddenly click into place for me, things that are going on in my own life, and suddenly I get it. His writing is simply beautiful, and it moves me. If you ever get the chance to meet Levithan and hear him read an extract from his books, do it. It's amazing!

A+E 4ever by Ilike MereyA+E 4ever by Ilike Merey - I'm generally not a graphic novel fan. They're not the kind of books that appeal to me. However, A + E 4ever was a book I saw on several lists for LGBTQ YA, and as I was trying to be diverse with LGBTQ YA Month, I decided to give it a go. It's one of the most incredible romances I have ever read. I was moved, I was awed... I fell in love with this story in such a big way. I can't even really express the affect this book had on me. It's absolutely brilliant, and Merey is absolutely lovely and gave the most fantastic interview for the event. It's definitely one of the biggest surprises that has come from my five years of blogging, that a graphic novel makes my favourites list. Because I'm really not a fan of graphic novels, generally. But this is just amazing!

The Night Circus by Erin MorgensternThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern - I would never have picked The Night Circus book up if it wasn't for blogging for several reasons. Firstly, I'm not really a fan of historical. Secondly, the blurb doesn't really tell you anything about the story at all. Finally, there is a very literary feel to the story, and that's generally not my thing. But I said I'd take part in the blog tour, mainly because of the cover, to be honest, and what I found in it's pages is the most sumptuous language I've ever read. There is such a depth of descriptive detail, but it's all so beautiful, the descriptions draw you in rather than bore you. I still describe this book as a feast for the imagination, because with this book, in your imagination, your senses come alive. You see, smell, feel, hear, taste everything. You can imagine it all! And it's incredible! And the story is such a magical one, it's just perfection. The Night Circus is one of those books that was meant to be treasured.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - An absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking story of first love, I doubt this would have crossed my path without hearing about it from the blogging community. This book absolutely blew me away. One of the best romances I have ever read, one that really reminds you what love is all about, despite the ages of the two protagonists. It reminds you of what's really important. And the wonderful way Rowell deals with the serious subjects is just admirable. A truly incredible story! Completely moving! And now will read whatever Rowell releases. Too great a writer to miss!

Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini TaylorDaughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor - This book absolutely blew me away! I was lucky enough to get to read Daughter of Smoke and Bone before most other bloggers, because I was on work experience at Hodder and Stoughton earlier in the year it was released, so I got a very early copy. I do love urban fantasy, and I really enjoy high fantasy too, and Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the perfect combination of both! The whole plot is incredible; the romance, the discovery of Karou's past, the doors that lead everywhere from Elsewhere, the various characters! Absolutely fantastic! Blew me away, and the second book in the series, Days of Blood and Starlight, is just as incredible! An unbelievably good trilogy! So looking forward to reading Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the third and final book in the trilogy!

Don't Let Me Go by J.H. TrumbleDon't Let Me Go by J.H. Trumble - I was recommended Don't Let Me Go by both Sarah of Saz101 and Brigid Kemmerer, and it just blew me away! A beautiful, real romance, that also cover very real LGBTQ issues of homophobia. It's such a confronting and powerful novel. It's heartwrenching and disturbing, but also the kind of novel that fills you with hope. The fight for gay rights in school and Nate's desire to help other gay people has you mostly fist-pumping, where as Nate's insecurity and doubts about Adam make your heart break. And Danial, the enormously supportive straight male friend of Nate's who provides such perspective and belief, you can't help but love him. This book is just incredible! I still have to read Trumble's other novels, and I absolutely cannot wait to do so!

Tammara WebberTammara Webber - Tammara Webber is the first New Adult author I read, and I fell in love with her romances right from the get go. Easy is undeniably one of the most incredible novels I have ever read. Beautiful and hugely important for highlighting the serious topic of acquaintance rape. It blew me away with just how perfect it was; empowering and hopeful, but with the most gorgeous, supportive romance! Webber's Between the Lines series is just as amazing, with amazing romance and super hot chemistry! Webber is definitely one of my favourite authors. Yet the idea of a book about rape, or a series about teenage, self-centered actors is not something that would have ever appealed to me if people hadn't raved about Webber so much. Obviously, incredibly glad that I did pick up Easy! I will most definitely be rushing to get everything Webber writes in future into my grubby little hands ASAP!

As I said earlier, this isn't a conclusive list, but these are the ones that I can't rave about enough. If you've not yet read any of these books, or books by these authors, please do so! You won't regret it! So much talent, all in one blog post!

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