Friday, 29 April 2016

The Raven King, Maggie Stiefvater

Pages: 438
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 26th April 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Lament, Ballad, Shiver, Linger, Forever, Sinner, The Scorpio Races, The Raven Boys, The Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into his mission: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a life; and Blue, who loves Gansey … and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Nothing dead is to be trusted.

Now the endgame has begun.

Nothing living is safe.

Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

SPOILER WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS FOR ALL FOUR BOOKS, INCLUDING ‘THE RAVEN KING’, IN THIS REVIEW.

It feels like I waited forever for ‘The Raven King’. I had to have a re-read of the first three books so I could savour the final instalment in all its glory.

I can honestly say that I've never gone into a book feeling so damn scared for a group of characters. There were so many books that I had to put the book down and walk away for half an hour just to collect myself; I even felt a bit sick when I noticed that Gansey was wearing an Aglionby jumper and it was getting wet from the rain… It was kinda traumatic, actually. Part of me just didn’t want to read it because I didn’t want to know!

But guess what I 100% did want to know about? Blue and Gansey! I really am all in with them and I was so pleased when they finally revealed to Adam and Ronan that they were together. It was sweet and awkward and lovely. And that almost kiss at the toga party completely took my breath away – that kind of delicious, romantic tension is something that Maggie Stiefvater really does beautifully. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of it if I'm honest.

A photo posted by Sophie (@solittletimeforbooks) on

There was some with Adam and Ronan to a degree, but I have mixed feelings about their relationship. Up until ‘The Raven King’, I had only ever seen Adam as appreciating Ronan having a crush on him – he liked to feel loved and wanted and searched for Ronan’s approval, but I’d never gotten vibes of him actually returning his feelings. And I still didn’t until they kissed and then Adam was all confused about whether he felt anything for Ronan or not. That was never resolved or even really discussed again until the epilogue and Adam was driving Ronan’s BMW and his parents mentioned his ‘boyfriend’. Did I miss something? Although I love them together, I really do, I couldn’t help but wonder if that was a pandering to the fans.

The ending of the novel was just as heart-wrenching as I expected and I really liked the way that everything was worked out. Well, relief is a more accurate feeling than like… But I did feel a little underwhelmed by the epilogue. I was still left with lots questions: Can Blue and Gansey kiss now? Is the curse fulfilled, or is it a lifetime thing? Did Adam decide if he actually has feelings for Ronan? Did Noah pass over? It felt rather like it was all being left open for more, and while I'm completely up for that, I was expecting a bit more oomph from an ending to such a glorious series, and a book we waited 18 months for.

Thanks to Scholastic for the review copy.

Sophie 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Mini Reviews: Midnight Bites and Stars Above

Midnight Bites, Rachel Caine
514|Allison and Busby|3rd March 2016

Synopsis
Bringing together everything Rachel Caine has written in short form about Morganville, this collection is carefully organised into a timeline so you can read from the earliest adventures – some of which belong to vampires – all the way through to post-Daylighters, the final novel in the series. Midnight Bites includes more than 50,000 words of brand-new content, alongside stories compiled from the author’s website and anthologies.

Including ‘Dead Man Stalking’ and ‘Pitch-Black Blues’, these tales feature everyone’s favourite bunny-slipper-wearing mad scientist, a fatal car crash, zombies, eerie carnival grounds, a blood-dispensing vending machine and much more. This diverse and supercharged group of stories will shine a little more light into the murkiest corners of Morganville.

Mini-Review
Midnight Bites was a sheer delight to read; Morganville is like coming home.  

This collection spans 22 stories. From Myrnin hundreds of years before the founding of Morganville to a few months after the end of Daylighters. It was awesome to catch up with Claire, Shane, Michael, Eve and the rest of the gang, as well as see glimpses of them between books and before. I especially loved Myrnin’s stories and delving into Eve’s background and her early crush on Michael.

I had actually read some of the stories before in various anthologies and as extras in the books, but I still loved reading them again. Some of the longer stories even felt like I was in the middle of a novel and I was sad every time a story ended. But it was super cool to read an intro from Rachel to each story explaining the origins and backstory of each story – it’s always a treat to get a glimpse into an author’s process.

It was so amazing to be back in Morganville and I’m so exciting that there’s a possibility of more from Morganville and the gang in the future.

Stars Above, Marissa Meyer
304|Feiwel and Friends|1st March 2016

Synopsis
The universe of the Lunar Chronicles hold stories – and secrets – that are wondrous, vicious, and romantic. How did Cinder first arrive in New Beijing? How did the brooding soldier Wolf turn transform from young man to killer? When did Princess Winter and the palace guard Jacin realise their destinies? With nine stories – five of which have never before been published – and an exclusive never-seen-before excerpt from Marissa Meyer’s upcoming novel, Heartless, about the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland, Stars Above is essential for fans of the bestselling and beloved Lunar Chronicles.

Mini-Review
The feeling of being back in this world alone was worth the price of this book and much more. Pure joy!

It was interesting to see Cinder, Wolf, Winter and Jacin before we met them and to properly meet Scarlet’s grandmother, Michelle Benoit, and see Cinder’s journey to the farm and then to New Beijing. And, of course, the final story which was a sort of epilogue that went past the end of Winter and starred a wedding. That story was hands down my favourite and I even got a little weepy with all of the romance and sweetness and pure cute of it!

After ‘Something Old, Something New’, my other favourite was ‘The Mechanic’, a story not relating to any of the characters we’ve come to know and love. It’s a short, sweet tale of a mech android who is working on a luxury space ship and starts to develop human emotions for the designer of the ship. It was really cool to see more of the world and it was just a beautiful little story. I want more from this world!

Stars Above is a must-read for fans of the Lunar Chronicles and those pining for more of the gang after Winter. And now I’m off to find Fairest…

Sophie 

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

What I Thought Was True, Huntley Fitzpatrick

Pages: 407
Publisher: Dial Books
Release Date: 15th April 2014
Edition: US hardback, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: My Life Next Door, The Boy Most Likely To

“Heaven by the water.”
“Best-kept little secret in new England.”
Seashell Island, where I’ve lived all my life, is those things and more.
And all I want to do is leave it behind.

Gwen Castle has never so badly wanted to say good-bye to her island home till now: the summer her Biggest Mistake Ever, Cassidy Sommers, takes a job there as the local yard boy. He’s a rich kid from across the bridge, and she hails from a family of housecleaners who keep the island’s summer people happy. Gwen worries this will be her fate too, but just when it looks like she’ll never escape what happened – or the island – her past explodes into her present, redefining the boundaries of her life. Sparks fly and secret histories unspool as Gwen spends a gorgeous, restless summer struggling to resolve what she thought was true – about the place she lives, the people she loves, and even herself – with what really is.

From the acclaimed author of My Life Next Door comes a push-you-pull-you romance, full of expectation and regret, humour and hard questions.

My Life Next Door is one of my favourite books and I was expecting the same kind of intoxicating summer romance from What I Thought Was True, but I didn’t completely get one. I did still it enjoy it though!

Within pages of starting this book I was entranced by the setting. The small New England island is a haven for rich people wanting to spend their summer on the beach, while the islanders work year round to cater for them. It has that delicious small, American beach town feel that suckers me every. single. time. I just can't get enough of it! It was super interesting to see the disparity between the islanders and the visitors, and sometimes extremely uncomfortable in the way the islanders were treated – as servants, as lesser.

But I didn’t find the characters as lovable as the setting, sadly. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters, even though I liked them. Gwen is tangled and flawed in the best ways, but still did get on my nerves a little, unfortunately. A lot of the discussion around Gwen is about her sexuality. She's earned a bit of reputation and is reminded about it a lot, and yet she’s not ashamed of it unless someone makes her feel that way. It was very sex positive in that way and I was really pleased with the discussion it brought up.

Like in My Life Next Door, Huntley Fitzpatrick tackles lots of issues outside of the summer romance with subtlety and sensitivity. Gwen’s family are poor, sharing two bedrooms between the five of them in the house, constantly struggling with money; the pressure on Cass to follow the Ivy league path that his parents did; first love not always turning out to be forever love; and the lifetime of responsibility that Gwen’s little brother, Emory, will mean for the whole family, all play a part in the novel. It’s very rich in depth (if you know what I mean), but it never drags on those subjects at all.

What I Thought Was True didn’t live up to my expectations, but I did still enjoy it and I’m very much looking forward to finally getting stuck into The Boy Most Likely To.

Sophie 

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

#2016ClassicsChallenge: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall


Originally published in 1848 by Thomas Cautley Newby

My edition: The Penguin Clothbound Classics hardcover.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
Anne Bronte’s Agnes Grey was my first classic of 2016 and I thoroughly enjoyed it. For such a short, simple novel, Anne’s writing really made an impact on me and I knew I had to read Tenant, and the more I learned about her and her novels, the more I became convinced that she’s my favourite Bronte.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I appear to have become a little obsessed with the Bronte’s since reading Agnes Grey and I've set myself a bit of challenge to try and read all of the Brontes’ novels by the end of the year. When I set this challenge I had The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, The Professor, Shirley and Villette to read. One down, three to go!

WHAT Makes It a Classic
Anne is a Bronte. I don’t really need to say any more than that, even though Anne is the forgotten Bronte! Did you know that after Anne’s death (and huge success of the novel), Charlotte prevented the re-publication of Tenant until after she was dead herself? Explains a lot about why she's not as known as her sisters, doesn’t it?

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I completely loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It's my favourite Bronte novel by far and I was so sad to finish it!

Even though I had very much expected to love Tenant, I was still really surprised by it. It has a very different feel to Agnes Grey that it's almost as if it were written by someone else. It’s complex in story, structure and character; the themes are hard-hitting and uncomfortable; the characters are bolshy and flawed; and it's over twice as long as Agnes Grey. I feel like Agnes Grey was Anne’s test novel and then Tenant was truly hers. She put everything into it.

When Mrs Graham and her young son move to the looming, unloved Wildfell Hall, the whole village is fascinated by the new arrival, her dead husband and her lack of willing to socialise. And of course, Gilbert Markham is enraptured, and tells his story via letters to a friend. But what's really interesting about the structure of Tenant is that most of the novel is actually from the perspective of Mrs Graham (Helen) through the diary entries she gives to Gilbert to read in place of her explaining her situation.

It was fascinating to watch Helen grow through those diary entries into the Mrs Markham we knew from Gilbert’s initial introduction and meetings with her. We saw her fall in love, get her heart broken, put her little boy at the centre of her world and suffer at the hands of her alcoholic, debt-riddled husband. The change was subtle and steady but seeing her harden her heart and build her walls around her completely changed how I saw Mrs Graham and my approach to whether I wanted Gilbert to convince her to marry him. I’m still undecided, actually!


Anne Bronte famously drew a lot of Mr Huntingdon from her brother, Branwell, who died at 31 from a combination of addiction and tuberculosis. All of the Brontes suffered because of Branwell’s inability to work because of his addiction and an affair with the mistress of the house where he was a tutor. It’s clear how angry Anne was about it. Mr Huntingdon is a vile character and he is repeatedly condemned by both Helen and Anne. It's been a long time since I so thoroughly wanted to punch a character in the face. Repeatedly. Awful. So, so awful.

Helen’s relationship with Mr Huntingdon gave a startling portrait of marriage and the position of women and wives in the mid-1800s. And it's a scary one. Lots of classic novels set during that period focus on the falling in love and diving into marriage in a romantic haze, but Anne Bronte shows what was possibly the harsh truth for a lot of young women at the time: marrying a man they actually knew very little about and becoming trapped in that marriage by law and society. Their inheritances went to their husbands, their property went to their husbands, their money was controlled by their husbands – they had no freedom or control over their own lives once they were married, and if they ended up in an unhappy, or even abusive, marriage they were expected to just get on with it. Tenant was the first time I'd seen that angle in a classic novel before and it was refreshing and fiercely feminist. Is it any wonder Anne’s my favourite Bronte?

I completely and utterly loved The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. It’s my favourite Bronte novel so far and one of my very favourite books of the year. I’m so sad Anne didn’t get the chance to write any more books and I just wish she was as widely loved as her sisters.

WILL It Stay a Classic
100%. It's an impressive novel while still being brilliantly compelling and enjoyable. Plus, she's a Bronte.

WHO I’d Recommend it To
- People who’ve struggled with Emily or Charlotte – join me in the Anne fan club!
- Those curious about the fallout of those quick Victorian marriages…
- Everyone.

Sophie

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Square Root of the Summer, Harriet Reuter Hapgood

Pages: 323
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 5th May 2016
Edition: UK proof, review copy

My heart is a kaleidoscope, and when we kiss it makes my world unravel…

Last summer, Gottie’s life fell apart. Her beloved grandfather Grey died and Jason – the boy to whom she lost her virginity (and her heart) – wouldn’t even hold her hand at the funeral. This summer, still reeling from twin heartbreaks, Gottie is lost and alone and burying herself in equations. Until, after five years’ absence, Thomas comes home: former boy next door. Former best friend. Forever everything. And as life turns upside-down again, she starts to experience strange blips in time – back to last summer, back to what she should have seen then…

During one long, hazy summer, Gottie navigates grief, world-stopping kisses and rips in the space-time continuum, as she tried to reconcile her first heartbreak with her last.

Ever since I heard about Harriet’s debut, I knew it was going to be right up my street. I totally called it; I loved The Square Root of Summer.

Gottie is drowning in grief. The loss of her grandfather, Grey, and the unceremonious not-even-dumping from her first love have left her reeling. She takes comfort in her love of physics and the combination of her studies and the return of her childhood best friend cause her to fall into wormholes from the last summer before Thomas left and the last she spent with Grey. I was a little worried about the physics element as although I like science, physics was never my thing, but I ended up really enjoying it. Even though I didn’t understand it! It's so nice to see a heroine with a love and understanding of such a complex, and stereotypical male, academic interest and it really set Gottie apart.

It brought up lots of questions and I had to keep reading to find out the answers: What happened the summer Grey died? What’s Jason’s deal? Why is Gottie experiencing wormholes and screenwipes? How? As Gottie’s summers tangled together, memories came flooding back and things were revealed about what happened and I just fell more and more in love with her and the rest of the characters. Everyone is so perfectly flawed in a way that made them jump off the page and straight into my heart. Every character in The Square Root of Summer makes a stupid decision, does something selfish, says something hurtful or retreats into themselves when they shouldn’t and that’s life. The relationships were only stronger for that.

The Square Root of Summer is a gorgeous debut filled love, grief, friendship, family and physics and I completely loved it. If Harriet carries on like this, I’ll have to make her one of my favourites…

Thanks to Macmillan for the review copy.

Sophie