Tuesday, 5 February 2019

The Rose & The Dagger by Renée Ahdieh

The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever. {goodreads summary}

Three things I loved about The Rose & The Dagger: 

1. The writing is rich with imagery and beautiful pieces of description. 

2. It is a brilliant example of how to switch between multiple third person perspectives. Every character has a distinct voice and feel, even though the story isn't written in first person.

3. It was a satisfying, adventure packed ending to a series I have loved reading. 

Tuesday, 29 January 2019

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

A princess, a traitor, a hunter and a thief. Four teenagers with the fate of the world in their hands. Four nations destined for conflict. 

In Brigant, Princess Catherine prepares for a loveless political marriage arranged by her brutal and ambitious father. In Calidor, downtrodden servant March seeks revenge on the prince who betrayed his people. In Pitoria, feckless Edyon steals cheap baubles for cheaper thrills as he drifts from town to town. And in the barren northern territories, thirteen-year-old Tash is running for her life as she plays bait for the gruff demon hunter Gravell. {goodreads}

I still need to catch up on a few reviews from 2018 and here's the first. I'm trying out a new format to help me write them more quickly!

Three things I loved about The Smoke Thieves:

1. The multiple view points in this novel weave together seamlessly. I was constantly wondering who was going to encounter each other next. All of Green's characters are so well developed - each could be the star of their own novel, but it's fun seeing them come together and interacting with each other.

2. The plot works so well, and narrative strands come together neatly. If you struggle with plotting and pace (and I know I often do) this is a great novel to analyse.

3. Rich fantasy world building, which I feel we've only scraped the surface of so far. I have so many questions and am looking forward to getting answers in the next novel.

Tuesday, 22 January 2019

The Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill

Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice? Hans Christian Andersen's original fairy tale is reimagined through a searing feminist lens, with the stunning, scalpel-sharp writing and world building that has won Louise her legions of devoted fans. A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding. {goodreads}

Three things I loved about The Surface Breaks:

1. I couldn't be sure, right until the very last page, how this story was going to end. In particular whether it was going to be happy or tragic.

2. The complexity of the characters. No one felt one-dimensional, and every character had a depth to their backstory that explained why they acted in the way they did. 

3. Despite being set in an underwater fantasy world for half the novel, like Only Ever Yours, TSB offered a startling and terrifying reflection of reality.

I was initially going to wait and read TSB after I'd finished writing Out of Water, but I ended up reading it just before I got to the end. It was a great way to motivate me to finish my own retelling.

Saturday, 5 January 2019

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has... {goodreads}

Three things I loved about The Exact Opposite of Okay:

1. The humour. There were so many jokes that I immediately wanted to message my sister about. I know that if I'd been reading this on my kindle, I would have highlighted something on almost every page. 

2. Izzy was a really endearing character. I loved her voice and she was someone you definitely root ed for. 

3. Behind the humour and the heart, the topic at the centre of this story is really important, and one definitely worth reading about. 

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

The State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury

A people laid low by grief and darkness.
A cut-throat race for power and victory.
A girl with everything and nothing to lose… {goodreads}

My first novel of 2019 was one I started at the end of 2018. State of Sorrow was a fantastic way to start the year and has really set the bar high for whatever I try to read next!

Three things I really loved about State of Sorrow (other than the clever title and beautiful cover) are:

1. The subtly of the world building. In particular, I really enjoyed all the little details about animals, how the buildings were constructed and the climate. I felt fully immersed in the world of the novel and can't wait to explore more of it in book two.

2. The emotional impact. There was one scene, part way through, where my chest ached for Sorrow - Salisbury's writing caused me physical pain. I think the only books that have done that before have been Harry Potters. 

3. The ending - because how could I review a Melinda Salisbury book and not talk about the ending? She is queen of last minute twists and cliffhangers and State of Sorrow did not disappoint!

If you're looking for an immersive, UKYA fantasy with a strong emotional undercurrent, State of Sorrow will be one of your favourite novels of the year. 

Monday, 22 October 2018

A Few Classics

As well as reading some brilliant YA and adult fiction over the summer, I also read a few classic novels. 

I spent a week in the French Alps in August and decided to read some French classics while I was there. Candide by Voltaire was definitely not for me - I've decided to avoid satire from now on as I always hated it at uni as well. Madam Bovary, on the other hand, was superb. I loved it from start to finish. 

It would be a contender for my favourite classic of the year, but I followed it by reading A Room with a View, which I enjoyed even more. This is the second Forster novel I have read and I'm making plans to read A Passage to India soon. His novels remind me a little of Jane Austen's (without the guaranteed happily ever after, and a lot more social commentary). 

Saturday, 20 October 2018

What I'm Writing

At the moment, I'n busy getting Fearful ready to be queried. It's almost there: the pitch is done, the synopsis is written, I'm just making a couple of tweaks to one of the chapters before I start sending out emails. 

I'm also working on my full-length version of Mirrored Snow. There have been a few false starts on this one, but I now have a firm outline that I'm happy with and I'm certain I have enough material to work with. 

I'm a few chapters in to Out of Water - my Little Mermaid retelling being posted weekly on Wattpad, which you can read here. 

I have a couple more ideas taking shape at the back of my mind, and I would really like to have another go at New London is Burning - the dystopian novel I queried last year - at some point too. Hopefully I'll have a complete draft of Mirrored Snow by Christmas, then I can start the new year with some new projects.