Saturday, 31 December 2016

2017 Books I can't wait for

There are so many amazing books coming out in 2017, but these are the three I am looking forward to the most. 

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth

On a planet where violence and vengeance rule, in a galaxy where some are favored by fate, everyone develops a currentgift, a unique power meant to shape the future. While most benefit from their currentgifts, Akos and Cyra do not—their gifts make them vulnerable to others’ control. Can they reclaim their gifts, their fates, and their lives, and reset the balance of power in this world?

Cyra is the sister of the brutal tyrant who rules the Shotet people. Cyra’s currentgift gives her pain and power—something her brother exploits, using her to torture his enemies. But Cyra is much more than just a blade in her brother’s hand: she is resilient, quick on her feet, and smarter than he knows.

Akos is from the peace-loving nation of Thuvhe, and his loyalty to his family is limitless. Though protected by his unusual currentgift, once Akos and his brother are captured by enemy Shotet soldiers, Akos is desperate to get his brother out alive—no matter what the cost. When Akos is thrust into Cyra’s world, the enmity between their countries and families seems insurmountable. They must decide to help each other to survive—or to destroy one another. {Goodreads summary}

Publishing: January
Why I want to read it: Roth teased the opening online and I haven't been able to stop thinking about it since. 

A Court of Wings and Ruin by S J Maas

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.  {Goodreads Summary}

Publishing: May
Why I want to read it: Why would anyone not want to read it? The ending ACOMAF still has me on tenterhooks. 

Strange the Dreamer by Lani Taylor
Strange the Dreamer is the story of: 

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep. {Goodreads Summary}

Publishing: March
Why I want to read it: Because I loved her previous series and that summary is amazing!

Which 2017 releases are you looking forward to the most? Let me know in the comments. 

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Books on my Christmas List

These are the books I am hoping to get for Christmas (or on Kindle shortly afterwards since I think I'll be doing most of my reading in ebook form in the new year)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (illustrated version)
So, technically I haven't read the first illustrated version yet, but it looks lovely on my shelf and I'm collecting them ready for when my daughter is old enough to be introduced to the wizarding world. 

The Cursed Child
I finally got to see the play in November (over a year after buying tickets) and I can't wait to revisit the story again. I'm so, so pleased that I didn't get it before I saw the play though, as it was fantastic not knowing what was going to happen next. 

Structuring Your Novel by KM Weiland
Something a bit different, but definitely an area of my writing that I need to be working on. I'm hoping this book will help. 

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu
I don't know why I didn't buy this the day it came out. I need to find out what happens next in this amazing fantasy series!

The Crown by Kiera Cass
Another series I really should have finished by now. Who does Eadlyn choose? I need to know!

Are there any books you're looking forward to getting hold of over the festive season? Let me know in the comments which ones you can't wait to read. 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

The Accident Season

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara's life for as long as she can remember. Towards the end of October, foreshadowed by the deaths of many relatives before them, Cara's family becomes inexplicably accident-prone. They banish knives to locked drawers, cover sharp table edges with padding, switch off electrical items - but injuries follow wherever they go, and the accident season becomes an ever-growing obsession and fear.

But why are they so cursed? And how can they break free?{Goodreads Summary}

TAS is such a fun, unique story which was light and dark all at once; fantastical and magical, but with contemporary issues explored throughout. I really enjoyed reading it and never quite knew where it was going to go next. 

“Accidents happen. Our bones shatter, our skin splits, our hearts break. We burn, we drown, we stay alive.”

The prose was lyrical and beautiful; the characters enchanting and the story one of the most unique I have read this year. Fowley-Doyle is a superb writer and I will definitely be on the look out for more of her works in the future. 

“The day is still bright, but fading, like it's tired of holding on to the sun and the birdsong and the green smells of the fields just outside of town.”

Saturday, 17 December 2016

Princess Charming

Tonight I posted the final chapter of Princess Charming on Wattpad.

If you missed my previous posts on Princess Charming, it's a gender-reversed retelling of Cinderella and is the follow up to my Snow White retelling, Mirrored Snow.

You can read the entire short story here:

In the new year, I will start posting the third story in the series, Skin Deep (a retelling of Beauty and the Beast) here on my blog, as well as on Wattpad. Please look out for it and let me know what you think in the comments.

2016: Or, the year I read some long books very slowly

According to my goodreads reading challenge, I haven't read very much this year. Twenty one books, at the time of writing. Twenty two if I can finish Empire of Storms before New Year's Eve. 

The number is deceptive though. My page count has possibly never been higher (except for the years when I re-read the entire HP series in a couple of weeks). I read some really long books this year: War and Peace; Winter; Carry On; and now EoS. YA in general seems to be getting longer. Crooked Kingdom - top of my list for next year - is going to take a while to get through. Gone, apparently, are the days of a YA novel being around 300-400 pages long. Now they span to epic proportions. Not that I'm complaining; it gives me longer to enjoy a world and it's characters. It just means that I'm reading fewer books and, if buying paperbacks, less frequently as they no longer fit so easily into handbags. 

So while I am a little disappointed that I didn't reach my 2016 reading goal, I am pleased that I've read some really good books. Here's the complete list:

The Wrath and the Dawn
An Ember in the Ashes
All of the Above
Carry On
Poems by Emily Dickinson, series one
The Forbidden Wish
Six of Crows
The Unmumsy Mum
Radio Silence
Shadow and Bone
A Court of Mist and Fury
Siege and Storm
Ruin and Rising
Rebel of the Sands
PS I Still Love You
Nothing Tastes as Good
The Graces
The Accident Season
The History Boys
War & Peace

That breaks down as:
1 play
1 poetry book
1 non-fiction
1 classic (definitely going to focus on increasing this one next year)
17 YA (13 fantasy, 5 contemporary)
3 male authors, 15 female (four books were written by the same author!)

So not as diverse as last year, which is a shame, but at least that gives me something to focus on next year. Plus, there's nothing wrong with reading lots of novels in a genre that you love. 

And this list doesn't include the vast number of picture books I have read throughout the year - most multiple times in the same day to the point that I now have them committed to memory. Nor does it take into account the large amount of reading time that has been lost to writing this year; I've had a really productive year where my writing is concerned and have lots of exciting projects to continue to focus on in 2017.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Nothing Tastes as Good and The Graces

I am combining blog posts for these two brilliant, although very different UKYA novels as I'm so behind on my reviews!

Nothing Tastes as Good by Claire Hennessy

Don’t call her a guardian angel. Annabel is dead – but she hasn’t completely gone away. Annabel immediately understands why her first assignment as a ghostly helper is to her old classmate: Julia is fat. And being fat makes you unhappy. Simple, right?

As Annabel shadows Julia’s life in the pressured final year of school, Julia gradually lets Annabel’s voice in, guiding her thoughts towards her body, food and control.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. Spending time in Julia’s head seems to be having its own effect on Annabel . . . And she knows that once the voices take hold, it’s hard to ignore them. {Goodreads Summary}

I had read a lot about NTAG on twitter before picking up a copy and read it as part of the SundayYA bookclub. 

While I thought NTAG was amazing, it was also quite a hard book to read. It's dark and it's upsetting. Hennessy takes you deep into Annabel's head and it isn't a particularly pleasant place to be. However, the thing that troubled me most about it was that it didn't really provide any solutions: everything anyone said or tried to do for Annabel and Julia made things worse instead of better. It highlighted how difficult it is to help and support someone with an eating disorder. 

“Maybe she knows, like I do, how harmful help can be, how sometimes the people who claim to care about you can hurt you the most.” 

Annabel would definitely feature in a top ten list of my favourite unlikable protagonists (something I might look at putting together in the New Year). There were so many times that I wanted to shout at her and tell her not to do something and her voice was one of the real strengths of NTAG. 

The Graces by Laure Eve

Like everyone else in her town, River is obsessed with the Graces, attracted by their glamour and apparent ability to weave magic. But are they really what they seem? And are they more dangerous than they let on? {Goodreads Synopsis}

A good synopsis shouldn't give much away. It shouldn't have to. This summary of The Graces drew me in without really giving me any indication of the story that was about to unfold. I spent a large portion of the novel trying to decide if it was a fantasy story about witches, or a contemporary story about a girl who wishes magic was real. There were so many twists, turns, secrets and big reveals that I never knew what was about to happen. 

All this was accompanied by a picturesque setting (I'm going to try and read more novels set in Cornwall next year), intriguing characters and beautiful writing. The only thing I wasn't quite so keen on was River's feelings for Fenrin, which never really made much sense to me. But the ending was superb and I have very high expectations for book two. 

No quotes as Goodreads doesn't seem to have any for some reason and I finished it too long ago to remember where my favourites were. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Christmas Picture Book Spotlight: Ten Little Elves

I don’t think there are words that could adequately describe how much my daughter and I love Brownlow and Rickerty's Ten Little… series. We have read each one so many times that even my two year old knows the words by heart and will often now do most of the ‘reading’ herself. The pictures are bright and cheerful, with so much to see that you find yourself spotting new things on even the fiftieth reading. And the rhymes and onomatopoeia makes these books a delight to read out loud. 

Ten Little Elves came out in November, but we managed to hold off on getting it until closer to Christmas (helped by the fact that we’d only just got Ten Little Monsters). It is already becoming a firm favourite in our house. 

TLE follows Santa's elves on a quest save Christmas by retrieving medicine for Santa’s sick reindeer on Christmas eve, without whom he’d be unable to deliver presents. As with the other stories in the Ten Little... series, nothing goes to plan and the poor elves encounter a number of challenges on route, including snowball throwing seals, the Snow Queen and (my daughter's favourite) a rather cross looking polar bear. 

TLE is funny, engaging and - most importantly - festive. I'm certain this won't be the only December that we'll enjoy reading it in our house!

What are your favourite Christmas picture books? Please pass on your recommendations in the comments. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

PS, I Still Love You

PS I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.
When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once? {Goodreads Summary}

YA novels is full of tough, action-driven, no nonsense protagonists at the moment, and while I love Katniss and Tris, there was something really refreshing about returning to Lara Jean. 

“People come in and out of your life. For a time they are your world; they are everything. And then one day they’re not. There’s no telling how long you will have them near.”

Lara Jean's naivity and optimism are the real strengths of this series; she is such a lovely character to see the world through the eyes of. PS I Still Love You is a celebration of being young and in love; of taking risks; and being, as Margo so brilliantly puts it "in love with love."

“Lara Jean, I think you half-fall in love with every person you meet. It’s part of your charm. You’re in love with love.”

Stormy was my favourite new character. She's a good contrast to Lara Jean, because her views on love and relationships are so different. If Lara Jean loves love, then Stormy loves living. I did also enjoy the introduction of John (the scene in the snow was particularly adorable), but I remained team Peter throughout. 

“I know now that I don’t want to love or be loved in half measures. I want it all, and to have it all, you have to risk it all.” 

Kitty was also just as brilliant as she was in the first book. I've read another review suggesting she ought to get her own story and I would definitely be interested in reading that. She's very different to Lara Jean, but her stubbornness and love of scheming make her very interesting to read about. I would also love a mini Lara Jean recipe book - she bakes so many delicious sounding things throughout the novel and it would be great to have a go at some of them. 

PS, I Still Love You also has a more serious side and Han repeated addresses the double standard between the way teenage boys and teenage girls are treated, which I thought was brilliant:

Society is far too caught up in shaming a woman for enjoying sex and applauding a man. I mean, all of the comments are about how Lara Jean is a slut, but nobody's saying anything about Peter, and he's right there with her. It's a ridiculous double standard.

Life is sexist. If you were to get pregnant, you’re the one whose life changes. Nothing of significance changes for the boy. You’re the one people whisper about. I’ve seen that show, Teen Moms. All those boys are worthless. Garbage!

If you haven't read To All the Boys I've Loved Before or PS, I Still Love You, make sure they're at the top of your 2017 reading lists; I promise they won't disappoint!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

War & Peace

So I haven't been blogging for a little while (the result of working on a short story, editing two novels, starting (and unfortunately having to abandon) NaNoWriMo), which means that I didn't get a chance to celebrate this exciting news when it happened a few weeks ago:

That's right, after a second epilogue which very nearly defeated me, I have finally finished War & Peace! And nicely within my one year target too. 

At times (the end) it felt like an impossible task, but I really enjoyed the vast majority of the novel. The characters are superbly written and the plot had enough twists, turns, battles and society drama to keep the story racing along. Tolstoy is a masterful storyteller and I loved the way he intertwined the lives of his different characters and kept me wanting to know what was going to happen to them next. I read and loved Anna Karenina in my teens and would definitely like to read Tolstoy's novellas at a later date. 

Would I recommend it? Absolutely, but not all in one go. 

Would I read it again? Probably not. I'll buy the BBC adaptation if I ever want to revisit the characters!

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Fairytale Community's Retelling Awards

As regular readers will know, I've been posting my gender-reversed fairytale retellings for a while now. A few weeks ago, I discovered that there was a Wattpad community devoted to retellings and they are currently running a competition!

I have entered both Mirrored Snow and Princess Charming, but if you're a Wattpad user, I need your help for the People's Choice category. You can vote for both here by commenting with the story title, username (I'm @makexbelieve on Wattpad, same as Twitter) and why you think they should win. You can vote for up to three retellings, so it's worth checking the list of amazing writers that have entered the award. 

If you haven't read either story yet, please do! You can find them on the following links:

In other exciting writing news, once I finish Princess Charming, I will start working on a Beauty and the Beast retelling which will be called Skin Deep. And I'm going to be posting each chapter here on the blog first, because I don't think I post enough writing on here anymore and I would love for readers who don't use Wattpad to be able read this one too. So keep an eye on the blog for more stories coming soon!

Saturday, 24 September 2016


Winter by Marissa Meyer

Princess Winter is admired by the Lunar people for her grace and kindness, and despite the scars that mar her face, her beauty is said to be even more breathtaking than that of her stepmother, Queen Levana.

Winter despises her stepmother, and knows Levana won't approve of her feelings for her childhood friend--the handsome palace guard, Jacin. But Winter isn't as weak as Levana believes her to be and she's been undermining her stepmother's wishes for years. Together with the cyborg mechanic, Cinder, and her allies, Winter might even have the power to launch a revolution and win a war that's been raging for far too long. Can Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, and Winter defeat Levana and find their happily ever afters? {Goodreads Summary}

It didn't take long for Winter to become my favourite Lunar Chronicles character. It's a shame that this was the final novel in the series, as it meant that there was a lot of non-Winter story line to resolve and I would have liked to read a book that was solely focused on her. That being said, the way Meyer weaves her characters different lives and plot lines together is extremely clever and Winter is a very successful conclusion to the series.

“Fear was a weakness in the court. Much better to act unperturbed. Much safer to act crazy, when in doubt.” 

I enjoyed the way Meyer portrayed her protagonist's mental health problems, giving them a fantasy twist. Winter aroused sympathy not only because of what she goes through on a daily basis, but also for the reason behind her hallucinations and the selflessness of her character. Cinder's physical disabilities were also explored more in this novel and it was interesting to see the effect that they have on her personality, particularly as her cyborg-enhancements make them easy to overlook in the previous novels. 

“When she catches you," the guard snarled, "my queen will eat your heart with salt and pepper." "Well," said Cinder, unconcerned, "my heart is half synthetic, so it'll probably give her indigestion." Kinney looked almost amused.

One of the things I have loved across the series that definitely wasn't missing in Winter is the humour Meyer injects into her writing. Thorne in particular is brilliant for this and he had some very funny lines. 

“Did you see any rice in there? Maybe we could fill Cinder's head with it."

Everyone stared at him.

"You know, to...absorb the moisture, or something. Isn't that a thing?"

"We're not putting rice in my head.”

Beyond the characters, it was really exciting to have the final novel in the series set on Lunar. Meyer's world building is superb and I never struggled to imagine her sci-fi world. I'm also looking forward to taking a closer look at the Lunar Chronicles colouring book and seeing how the pictures of Artemisia compare to what I'm imagined as I read. 

If you like fairy-tales with a twist; novels with action, romance and humour; and a diverse range of characters then I definitely recommend the Lunar Chronicles. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

The History Boys

The History Boys by Alan Bennett

An unruly bunch of bright, funny sixth-form boys in a British boys' school are, as such boys will be, in pursuit of sex, sport, and a place at a good university, generally in that order. In all their efforts, they are helped and hindered, enlightened and bemused, by a maverick English teacher who seeks to broaden their horizons in sometimes undefined ways, and a young history teacher who questions the methods, as well as the aim, of their schooling. In The History Boys, Alan Bennett evokes the special period and place that the sixth form represents in an English boy's life. In doing so, he raises—with gentle wit and pitch-perfect command of character—not only universal questions about the nature of history and how it is taught but also questions about the purpose of education today. {Goodreads Summary}

I think my love of reading plays began at school, when I studied A Streetcar Named Desire for AS English. I enjoyed it so much that I read the whole play in one sitting and quickly followed it with the other two plays in the book, as well as buying a copy of The Cat on the Hot Tin Roof so that I could read three more. My fondness for play scripts continued at University, where I took a module on European theatre and got to read everything from Moliere to Wedekind. And then of course, there's always Shakespeare. 

That's not to say that I don't like going to the theatre and watching plays in the format that the playwright intended. It's just very expensive and I can buy the book at a fraction of the cost to enjoy again and again. 

"But to put something in context is a step towards saying it can be understood and that it can be explained. And if it can be explained that it can be explained away."

My most recent play is The History Boys, by Allen Bennett. It's been years since I first saw the film adaptation and I've wanted to read the play ever since, but didn't get around to it. When I found out this week that we were going to be studying at work, I ordered a copy on my lunch break and started reading the next day. 

“History is a commentary on the various and continuing incapabilities of men. What is history? History is women following behind with the bucket.” 

In a week where educational reforms are making front page news, I don't think my first reading of The History Boys could have been more timely. Bennett picks apart not only what we teach in schools, but how it is taught and what it's value is. Do we learn to pass exams, or to help us in later life. Is poetry a way of scoring points or, as Hector puts it, "poetry is the trailer! Forthcoming attractions!" Bennett doesn't provide the answers, but he leaves you thinking about the questions long after you've finished the play. I'm looking forward to discussing them further over the next few months.

“I don't always understand poetry!'

'You don't always understand it? Timms, I never understand it. But learn it now, know it now and you will understand it...whenever.”

Friday, 26 August 2016

Reviews: An Update

I'm sorry the blog has been a bit quiet recently. Over July, I had two really long books on the go (War & Peace and Winter) so I didn't actually have any finished novels to review. By the time I'd finally finished Winter, I had moved into my new house and it has taken almost a month of phone calls to sort out any kind of WiFi. But I finally have internet access again, so in the next couple of weeks you can expect reviews of Winter and Rebel of the Sands, as well as a War & Peace update. There will also be lots more picture book reviews coming up - my daughter has just had a birthday so we have lots of new books to post about, including Giraffes Can't Dance, I'm a Girl and The Trouble with Dragons. 

Enjoy the bank holiday weekend! I'll post again very soon.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Why We Love... Shh! We Have A Plan

Picture Book Review: Shh! We Have A Plan

"Tip-toe slowly, tip-toe slowly, now stop. Shh!"

I had my eye on Shh! for a while before finally getting round to buying it, and I'm so pleased that I did. 

Shh! is a fantastic story that's really easy to get involved in. There's so much repetition that, with a few prompts, my daughter can read me the entire book. When I get the chance to read, I find it really fun to say aloud.

My daughter loves the protagonists' comical attempts at capturing a bird, which are accompanied by bright, eye-catching artwork. It's a really lovely picture book.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Why We Love... Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Picture Book Review: Tree: Seasons Come, Seasons Go

Tree is quite different to the sorts of picture books I normally buy. The only book we have that I could compare it to is Snow by Walter de la Mere, as it reads like a poem.

Tree follows the landscape through the seasons, as seen by an owl sat in his tree. Sections of the pages have been cut out, so the picture is built up gradually, with more animals appearing as the year progresses. The artwork in this picture book is really beautiful. The illustrator, Teckentrup, has done a wonderful job and I will definitely be on the look out for more of her work in the future.   

It's a calm, relaxing book which is good to read when you're winding down for bed or nap time. But there is still lots to get involved with, as there are plenty of animals to point out and name and it's a great way of explaining how the world around us changes throughout the year.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

The Grisha Trilogy

Shadow and Bone / Siege and Storm / Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

I'm condensing my review of these three novels into one, as I read them one after the other and I think I'd struggle to separate my thoughts on each. 

My favourite thing about this trilogy is definitely the strength of the world building. It is phenomenally well thought out, with different countries, customs, languages and, of course, magic. I think Grisha power was very well defined and it's limitations explored and explained. I knew a little bit about Grisha magic from reading Six of Crows, but it was nice to see it as the main focus in these books.  

My favourite character was Nikolai, as he had such a fun and distinctive personality. But I also liked the time that was given to the Darkling's backstory; he was a well defined villain and Bardugo does an excellent job of humanising him at the end. 

“Watch yourself, Nikolai,” Mal said softly. “Princes bleed just like other men.”

Nikolai plucked an invisible piece of dust from his sleeve. “Yes,” he said. “They just do it in better clothes.”

As with Six of Crows, the dialogue is really strong, and there are witty exchanges a-plenty, particularly where Nikolai was concerned and I repeatedly found myself laughing out loud. 

“I took a breath. “Your highness—”

“Nikolai,” he corrected. “But I’ve also been known to answer to ‘sweetheart’ or ‘handsome.”

Overall, I don't think I enjoyed this series quite as much as Six of Crows, (I preferred the characters in the latter) but I would still definitely recommend it. 

“Maybe love was superstition, a prayer we said to keep the truth of loneliness at bay. I tilted my head back. The stars looked like they were close together, when really they were millions of miles apart. In the end, maybe love just meant longing for something impossibly bright and forever out of reach.” 

Saturday, 2 July 2016

A Court of Mist and Fury

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas's masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights. {Goodreads Summary}

Sometimes, I find that I enjoy the first book in a series so much, I'm reluctant to read the next novel,in case the story doesn't follow the trajectory that I am hoping for. This is the reason I still haven't read Half Lost, by Sally Green. It's a sort Schrodinger's book problem; so long as I don't read the book, the characters can have the ending that I want. Sometimes though, when I do finally relent and read the book, it's even better than I expected. A Court of Mist and Fury is one of those books. 

"We were a song that had been sung from the very first ember of light in the world."

I remember reading some less-than-positive reviews for A Court of Thorns and Roses due to the problematic nature of Feyre and Tamlin's relationship. ACoMaF addresses this, and then some. I don't want to give too much of the story away, but there are some really clear representations of what is and isn't a healthy relationship in ACoMaF. 

“He thinks he'll be remembered as the villain in the story. But I forgot to tell him that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key. He was the one who let me out.”

“And I realized—I realized how badly I'd been treated before, if my standards had become so low. If the freedom I'd been granted felt like a privilege and not an inherent right.” 

Leading on from that, the other thing I really appreciated is Maas' portrayal of PTSD and depression. Often in books, characters move on from traumatic events with little or no effect on their mental health. Veronica Roth wrote a brilliant post on this topic on her blog. ACoMaF is not one of those books. Feyre's mental disintegration felt so real, as did her gradual recovery. She come out of the events of the books a stronger person, and I can't wait to see what she does next. 

"I was a survivor, and I was strong. I would not be weak, or helpless again. I would not, could not be broken. Tamed."

Also: feminism! ACoMaF really champions being your own person and rejecting any limitations people might put on you due to your gender. In the second half of the novel, Feyre refuses to let herself be sidelined from the action for her protection; she takes an active role and shows that she is every bit as strong and competent as the male characters. 

“She's mine. And if any of you lay a hand on her, you lose that hand. And then lose your head. And once Feyre is done killing you, then I'll grind your bones to dust.”

The ending. The ending! It's brilliant. It's terrible. It's fantastic. And it has made me more excited for the next book than I have been about a sequel since the Harry Potter years. I'll be reading book three the day it comes out. 

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Radio Silence

Radio Silence by Alice Osman

What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. 

Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets. It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness. Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has. {Goodreads Summary}

"He smiled and looked away. 'Sometimes I think we're the same person...but we just got accidentally split into two before we were born."

The most important thing to tell you about Radio Silence is that it's different. It won't be like every other YA novel you read this year, or possibly like any YA novel you've ever read before. For a start, there isn't a major romantic plot line. Instead, it's friendship that takes centre stage; not only that, but a friendship between a guy and a girl, which most teen TV shows/novels like to suggest is impossible. Radio Silence felt very realistic throughout. Osman's characters are real teens, not book teens. 

I think Radio Silence has a really positive message when it comes to exam pressure and the stress of getting into university, which is such a huge problem for British teens and is easy to relate to. I saw a lot of myself in Frances when she went to her Cambridge interview. It's nice to find a book that reflects the impact this pressure has and also goes against the school-rhetoric that exams and university are everything. Carys was a particularly strong example of this. 

I loved that Radio Silence had a competent, involved adult figure who knew what was going on in her daughter's life and did her best to support and help her. Absent/incompetent parents have become an over-used trope in YA, and Frances' mother was refreshing. 

“You're an idiot,' said Mum, when I relayed to her the entire situation on Wednesday. 'Not an unintelligent idiot, but a sort of naive idiot who manages to fall into a difficult situation and then can't get out out of it because she's too awkward.” 

If you want to read something that is different, realistic and diverse, Radio Silence is a must. 

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Why We Love... Goodnight Spaceman

Picture Book Review: Goodnight Spaceman

With a forward by Tim Peake, Goodnight Spaceman is a must-have for any young space enthusiasts. It follows two boys as they get ready to fall asleep, imagining themselves going on a rocket into space to see their dad, who is an astronaut on the ISS.  There is some nice use of the ESA and Principia logos and it's a great way of introducing young readers to space terminology. There is also lots to point out and discuss in the adorable illustrations. Although both of the young children are boys, there are female astronauts on the ISS, so this book should encourage both boys and girls who dream of a future in space. 

Sunday, 12 June 2016

My Writing: Self-Publishing and Beyond

I am currently getting ready to query agents about Amber & Ice (which has a brand new title that I'm really excited about but am going to keep to myself for a little while longer).

This doesn't mean that I have given up on self -publishing. The Elements of Power trilogy will continue to be available as ebooks (and hopefully in physical copies when I eventually get around to it). I have loved my experience self-publishing and my writing is so much better for it. A&I wouldn't be the book it is without the helpful feedback I've received on Elements of Power from bloggers and reviewers. I have a better sense of what works well, where my weaknesses lie and have improved my pacing and plotting so much as a result. I now know that I'm good at character who polorise opinion; something I'm going to put to good use in the two other novels I have in the pipeline at the moment.

I've also learnt how to market and sell my work. Experience I never would have gained without self-publishing.

I'm proud of the sales I have achieved (and am still achieving, over a year after Air was published) with Elements of Power. I get such a thrill when I log into Amazon and look at my sales dashboard. Self-publishing has never been about making money for me, but about sharing my work and every sale is another person who is reading (and hopefully enjoying) the novels that gave me so much joy to write.

However, I know that my writing can be better. I know that the experience a good literary agent and editor can bring will be invaluable to my writing. And I still want to realise that dream of walking into Waterstones and seeing my name on the shelf. That's why I'm still searching for representation, even after my brilliant experience self-publishing.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Why We Love... Hugless Douglas

Picture Book Review: Hugless Douglas 

We have been enjoying the World Book Day edition of Hugluss Douglas for a year now, but we have only recently tried the longer stories. The characters in Hugluss Douglas are charming and the series places lots of emphasis on friendship, which is great to see. 

One of the best things about this book is there are lots of excuses for cuddles and any book which encourages those is a hit in my eyes. 

The books are bright and cheery, with lovely artwork and typography. There's also a nice number of words per page, and lots to point out and discuss in the pictures, so they hold my daughter's attention really well. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

War & Peace: Post Three - Half Way

Half way! Half way! Half way!

That's right, recently I got to see THIS amazing update at the bottom of my Kindle - and we're not even half way through the year yet!

Unfortunately, I am also up to the part of the novel that I was dreading reading, and I hope my reading speed doesn't slow down as a result. I normally read the second half of novels more quickly than the first, so fingers crossed War and Peace will be no different. 

Overall, I am still really enjoying Tolstoy's epic. I may have started reading it for a challenge, but I'm continuing because I love it. 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Carry On

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters. {Goodreads Summary}

"I meet his gaze and sneer. My arm is a steel band around his waist. "I choose you," I say. "Simon Snow, I choose you.”

Carry On is the third Rowell novel I have read and it's the first novel I've finished this year by an author I have read before (Tolstoy doesn't count as the end of War & Peace is still twelve hours of reading time away...) It's also the third novel I've read this year written from multiple perspectives. 

“Just when you think you're having a scene without Simon, he drops in to remind you that everyone else is a supporting character in his catastrophe.”

I had seen a lot of love for Carry On online before I started reading it, but when I started I was a little disappointed and began to wonder what the hype was about. Then I read the first Baz chapter, and I was hooked. 

“Everyone’s still gossiping about where he’s been. The most popular rumours are “dark coming-of-age ceremony that left him too marked up to be in public” and “Ibiza.” 

I loved Baz. His perspective on the story was brilliant and not at all what I was expecting from Simon's complaints (which I guess was the point, but it still took me by surprise). I loved his dry humour and most of the funniest lines in the novel were his, but so were the most intense and the most romantic.

“Sharing a room with the person you want most is like sharing a room with an open fire.

He's constantly drawing you in. And you're constantly stepping too close. And you know it's not good--that there is no good--that there's absolutely nothing that can ever come of it.
But you do it anyway. 
And then...
Well. Then you burn.”

There are so many subtle Harry Potter references and parallels that I was thinking about them even while I wasn't reading. I had lots of fun spotting them. I also loved the pop culture references Rowell included through her spells (her whole concept of magic was really unique and interesting) and kept getting songs stuck in my head as a result. Despite being written by an American author, Carry On felt very British, from the language to the Bacadri Breezer references. Rowell has also given new meaning to the word 'numpty'.

“The front seat is for people who've never been kidnapped by bloody numpties. Jesus Christ, Baz.” 

I've purposely not included my favourite quote from the book, even though it appears four or five times in the Goodreads quote section, because I think you have to read it in-situ to get the full effect. When it occurs, at the end of one of Baz's first chapters, it starts the novel on a whole other level of amazingness.