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!