Book Recommendations: If You Liked That, You’ll Love This #3


Now that I’ve moved home from uni, I’ve been clearing out a bunch of childhood stuff from my room. I hate tidying, but it has one perk: finding things you’d forgotten about, and that includes books.

Whilst I hate giving books away, I’ve been sorting out piles of books for charity, mainly books I didn’t like too much, or books that are now too young for me. But I’ve also stumbled across lots of books I know that I’ll struggle to ever part with.

This leads onto another ‘If you liked that, you’ll love this’ recommendation. This week, it’s not an apocalyptic/dystopia theme like the last two posts, but YA historical fiction instead, specifically World War Two. I’ve always had a keen interest in the World Wars and there are so many books out there that capture the horror, but also the hope. Many of this fiction tends to be adult because of the often harrowing, and gruesome, nature of the wars. However, there are a few YA gems out there that do the genre justice. So…

If you liked Code Name Verity, you’ll love Tamar

It’s been quite a few years since I read both of these books, but I can still remember the impact they had on me. I actually read Tamar before Code Name Verity but, whilst I’ve seen Code Name Verity talked about a fair bit on YA blogs, I’ve never seen any mention of Tamar. Granted, Tamar has been out for longer (it came out just under a decade ago), but I think Tamar is just that little bit better than Code Name Verity. After all, it did win the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

I’m not too sure about the new cover for Tamar – I think my copy captures the sense of isolation better with it’s dark blue cover and lonely parachutist’s in the distance. However, I think the new cover for Code Name Verity is an improvement on my copy.

tamar edit

Tamar I think is a little darker than Code Name Verity. It’s fraught with fear, loneliness and confusion as the plot flits between the present day and the Second World War, culminating in an extremely well-executed plot twist and climax. Just writing this post makes me want to re-read Tamar! 

The characters are extremely likeable, but also flawed, and I could still describe to you right now, all these years after reading the novel, exactly what the protagonists are like. It’s a truly brilliant novel and I can’t stress enough that if you haven’t read it you should go out and pick up a copy now! Even though it’s classed as a Young Adult novel, I would say that this novel will easily appeal to adults. Brilliant prose, excellent characterisation, and a plot that doesn’t shy away from the darkest parts of humanity. Even if you’re not really a fan of historical fiction, this is too good a story to miss.

Synopsis for Tamar: 

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century earlier. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War. Unravelling it will transform the younger Tamar’s life.

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Have you read Code Name Verity and/or Tamar? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments below!

Caitlin (1)


Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

piercebrownsredrisingRed Rising by Pierce Brown

Genre: New Adult / Sci-Fi / Dystopian

Publisher: Hodder

My Rating: 5/5

Synopsis: The Earth is dying. Darrow is a Red, a miner in the interior of Mars. His mission is to extract enough precious elements to one day tame the surface of the planet and allow humans to live on it. The Reds are humanity’s last hope.

Or so it appears, until the day Darrow discovers it’s all a lie. That Mars has been habitable – and inhabited – for generations, by a class of people calling themselves the Golds. A class of people who look down on Darrow and his fellows as slave labour, to be exploited and worked to death without a second thought.

Until the day that Darrow, with the help of a mysterious group of rebels, disguises himself as a Gold and infiltrates their command school, intent on taking down his oppressors from the inside. But the command school is a battlefield – and Darrow isn’t the only student with an agenda.

Break the chains. Live for more.

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My Review

I don’t know why I waited so long to start this series; I’m actually pretty annoyed with myself. This novel is so slick, with excellent writing and a plot brimming with twists and turns, not to mention that the world-building is complex and unique (yet easy to understand) and the characters 3D.

Darrow himself is an excellent protagonist. Hot-headed, passionate, but deeply caring, his voice leads you through a story filled with violence and oppression, but also hope. Darrow is originally not a rule-breaker, unlike Katniss of The Hunger Games. However, both infiltrate their respective society’s from the bottom up. Yet, after tragedy strikes, Darrow is still not 100% sure he wishes to rebel. Initially, he just wants to give up, and to see Darrow change from a resentful boy to a headstrong young man was something I enjoyed most about this book. His hot-head nature and confidence never spills over into cockiness; he’s self-assured and talented, but if he ever attempts to overstep the mark, he is suitably knocked back. Usually, I find teenage male protagonists the hardest to connect with (Darrow begins the story being 16 and we see him turn 18), but I had no qualms here. Brown has created such a likeable and believable – yet suitably flawed – character and I commend him for this.

His cast of characters are truly unique and Brown doesn’t hold back in showing us their worst sides. Sevro may not be the most ‘humane’ character, but I really liked him, and even ended up liking Tactus a little (although his previous actions aren’t excusable). I did like Mustang as well, and I enjoyed the dynamic between her and Darrow. These ‘Gold’ teenagers – Gold’s being the highest caste in society. Reds, such as Darrow, are the lowest. Other colours include Pink, Green, Obsidian… – are thrust into a ‘game’ not unlike the Hunger Games. However, whereas The Hunger Games novels are Young Adult, the violence and language of the ‘games’ in Red Rising firmly cements it in the New Adult genre for me, as the book deals with slightly darker issues than a Young Adult novel, and so will also appeal to adults. The ‘games’ are brutal and Brown doesn’t shy away from violence and death; nor does he shy away from more sensitive topics such as rape.

Being now 21, Young Adult novels still appeal to me as I enjoy the sense of discovery and change that comes with adolescence, but often now they’re just not gritty enough. Red Rising was certainly gritty and exactly what I’ve been looking for. I think it can be a little naive of some Young Adult authors to ignore the fact that teenagers swear (a lot) and that issues are discussed beyond who kissed who.

Overall, I really loved Red Rising. I’m wracking my brain for flaws and can’t really think of any. Maybe the beginning was a tad slow? But I didn’t really mind because the world-building and characterisation that occurred in the initial chapters was excellent. I’m really excited to get started on the next book at some point, and the prospect of a Red Rising film. I hope they don’t dampen it down to make it more suitable for younger audiences because I think the brutality is what makes Red Rising stand out. It’s not gratuitous, but instead is an excellent study in human nature and our capacity for violence and power.

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Have you read Red Rising? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Also, sorry I haven’t updated recently, but it’s been a busy week, especially with celebrating the end of my boyfriend’s university exams and subsequently giving him the Norovirus I suffered from last week! I’m currently reading All The Birds in the Sky and enjoying it. Review to come soon!

Caitlin (1)

Let’s Wrap | March

Let's Wrap MarchI’m currently sat in bed watching my boyfriend and his best mate play Call of Duty non-stop. It’s been like this for the past couple of nights. Why do I subject myself to this, you may ask? Good question. It’s because I have the flu and I want company, and this is the only way to get it.

However, being ill has given me time to think back over the books I read last month. Granted, most of them have been for university, so I’m actually excited to share some oldies but goodies with you guys that you might not have previously heard of. The list ranges from YA to 1930s prose, so there’s something for everyone. Let’s get started…


Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

My Rating: 4/5

Genre: New Adult

Synopsis: Amid the harsh landscape of the Ozark Hills, sixteen-year-old Ree is taking care of her mother and two brothers. Her father has put their house up as bail and if he doesn’t show up at court it’ll be sold from under them. To save her family she needs to track him down but in a community riven with long-running feuds getting answers isn’t easy.

Why I loved it: I’d watched the film adaptation of Winter’s Bone a few years ago, but surprisingly had never thought of reading the book. Then it turned out I needed to read the novel for my ‘The Girl in the Book’ course. I actually really loved the novel much more than the film. Whilst the film was good, it missed out some of the raw emotions that the book was fraught with. It’s a harrowing read, but Ree is the epitome of a strong, female lead and the dynamics between the men and women of the novel is an interesting one in terms of feminism and misogyny.


The Years by Virginia Woolf

My Rating: 5/5

Genre: Modernist

Synopsis: As the Pargiters, a middle-class English family, move from the oppressive confines of the Victorian home of the 1880s to the `present day’ of the 1930s, they are weighed down by the pressures of war, the social strictures of patriarchy, capitalism and Empire, and the rise of Fascism. Engaging with a painful struggle between utopian hopefulness and crippled with despair, the novel is a savage indictment of Virginia Woolf’s society, but its bitter sadness is relieved by the longing for some better way of life, where `freedom and justice’ might really be possible.

Why I loved it: I am a huge huge HUGE fan of Virginia Woolf. She is the master of character over plot, showing the literary world that all you need are some fleshed-out, spirited characters and emotional writing to produce a truly good novel. This was Woolf’s most popular novel in her lifetime, and her biggest, so newbies to Woolf might prefer to start with Woolf’s shorter (but no less popular works) of Mrs Dalloway and To the Lighthouse. But for me, The Years trumped them both in terms of its cast of characters and its lyricism.


Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth

My Rating: 5/5

Genre: Contemporary (somewhat YA)

Synopsis: Goodbye, Columbus is the story of Neil Klugman and pretty, spirited Brenda Patimkin, he of poor Newark, she of suburban Short Hills, who meet one summer break and dive into an affair that is as much about social class and suspicion as it is about love.  

Why I loved it: I read Goodbye, Columbus as part of ‘The Great American Novella’ half-unit and everyone in my seminar, me included, absolutely loved it. Roth is brilliant at making the words on the page seem effortless. The story itself is a somewhat YA contemporary novella set in the 50s with exceedingly interesting characters, yet it doesn’t feel dated in the least. Both Neil and Brenda are heavily flawed but very likeable. Heart-breaking and life-affirming, it’s a really enjoyable and easy read.


Hangover Square by Patrick Hamilton

My Rating: 4/5

Genre: Modernist, Thriller

Synopsis: London, 1939, and in the grimy publands of Earls Court, George Harvey Bone is pursuing a helpless infatuation. Netta is cool, contemptuous and hopelessly desirable to George. George is adrift in a drunken hell, except in his ‘dead’ moments, when something goes click in his head and he realizes, without a doubt, that he must kill her. In the darkly comic Hangover Square Patrick Hamilton brilliantly evokes a seedy, fog-bound world of saloon bars, lodging houses and boozing philosophers, immortalising the slang and conversational tone of a whole generation and capturing the premonitions of doom that pervaded London life in the months before the war.

Why I loved it: If I had to describe this novel in one word, it would be: WEIRD. This novel is so weird but so interesting. Like how intriguing is that synopsis? Man absolutely infatuated with a heartless girl, until he blanks out and carries on with his plan to murder her. The novel takes a little while to get into, but once it gets going you’ll most probably be awkwardly finding yourself rooting for George in his ‘dead’ moments like ‘FOR GOD’S SAKE GEORGE JUST KILL HER’. Whirlwind read with the unsettling backdrop of the encroaching Second World War.

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Let me know what you enjoyed reading this month! I’m currently still trekking through The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It was a daunting read to begin with, but now I’m really into it. Review coming soon.

Thanks for reading!

Caitlin (1)