Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Blog Tour: The Sleeping Prince, Melinda Salisbury

Pages: 367
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 4th February 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Some fairy tales should never come true…

Errin knows the old story well: the Sleeping Prince, who rises from his slumber every hundred year to wreak horror and bloodshed. She just never imagined he was real.

As this terrifying enemy rises and a war begins, Errin is forced to flee. With no one to turn to, her only hope is the mysterious Silas, a man whose face she has never seen…

The Sin Eater’s Daughter was one of my favourite debuts last year and the second book in the series, The Sleeping Prince, lived up to the magic beautifully!

I have to admit that I don’t remember much about what happens in The Sin Eater’s Daughter – it was early on in a year where I read over 200 books – so I did feel like I was missing some clues, references and tidbits that were revealed, but it also made some of the reveals and twists more surprising so swings and roundabouts!

I loved how The Sleeping Prince showed a different side to the world of the first book: this was a place of poverty, fear and bartering for your life. I also really loved Errin’s training as an apothecary. I love it when you see characters mixing potions and collecting ingredients in fantasy for some reason! Add into that the flashbacks, dreams that I wasn;t 100% convinced were just dreams and flee from a deadly enemy and it felt like the perfect medieval fantasy!

The final third of The Sleeping Prince really drew together Errin and Twylla’s story which was a lot of fun. It brought together the two worlds and set two fierce heroines against a truly terrible enemy and is going to culminate in what I think is going to be a properly epic third (and final?) book. Plus, after that super cruel ending, I am so ready for it.

The Sleeping Prince is filled with magical worlds, deadly fairy tales and fantastic heroines. I can’t wait for more from Melinda Salisbury.

Thanks to Faye Rogers PR and Scholastic for the review copy. Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour – banner in my sidebar!


Monday, 8 February 2016

The Abyss Surrounds Us, Emily Skrutskie

Pages: 288
Publisher: Flux
Release Date: 8th February 2016
Edition: US e-proof, NetGalley review copy

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo missions and snatches her from blood-stained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup and teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

But Cas has fought pirates her entire life. Santa Elena has no idea what she's in for.

When I was recommended a sci-fi/fantasy/pirate adventure I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited. The Abyss Surrounds Us was really unique, engaging and quite brilliant, actually.

Emily Skrutskie has created a fascinating world. It’s a sci-fi, futuristic version of our world where the leading nations (China, the US etc) have been divided into republics to help governments look after people better; the waves are ruled by pirates; and genetic engineers have created behemoth sea monsters (Reckoners), bred to protect their vessels and destroy those of the pirates. Cool, huh? In the beginning, it all seemed pretty clear cut: Cas and her family of Reckoner trainers are the goodies and the thieving, murdering pirates are the baddies, but once Cas is captured by a pirate crew and begins to learn of their lives, the waters begin to muddy. I loved that moral ambiguity, the feeling of a giant grey area. No person involved in any of the endeavours in The Abyss Surrounds Us was purely good or bad, though there were good and bad motivations, of course. It felt really refreshing and kept me on my toes!

As well as wonderful world-building, Skrutskie’s debut kicked it out of the park when it came to diversity. Cas has Chinese heritage, I imagined Santa Elena as non-white and there were actually native Pacific Islanders who I have never seen represented in fiction before, let alone in a YA fantasy. See, that’s how it’s done! The whole supporting cast in general was fantastic. Distinct characters with quirks and relationships and histories all in the background to Cas’s story and I’d be genuinely interested in getting to know them better as the series progresses. After the shock ending of The Abyss Surrounds Us, I imagine book two is going to be very different from the first and should give us a chance to explore the world more.

I’m especially looking forward to seeing more of Cas and Swift together. I loved reading their relationship. The dynamic between them is an interesting one, and I loved that they acknowledged and respected it: there can’t be true equality in a relationship between a captor and a prisoner and as well as adding to the tension between them, it really helped define them as characters. They moved from resentment to grudging respect to friendship to something more in a really organic way. Their relationship was changeable and authentic, balancing on the knife edge that they themselves were put on. Swift alone added a really challenging dynamic to it: she’s torn between upholding the orders that could make or break the career she’s fought for and the burgeoning feelings for Cas which could topple everything. It made every interaction between them so interesting.

I was so, so impressed by The Abyss Surrounds Us. Fantastic world-building, a truly unique premise and a deliciously meaty relationship; what more could have I asked for?

Thanks to Flux and NetGalley for the review copy.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

#6Degrees of Separation: Harry Potter

The lovely Jim of YA Yeah Yeah and Teens on Moon Lane has reinvented the 6 Degrees of Separation meme for MG and YA and asked me to take part! How it works: everyone starts with one book – today it’s Harry Potter – and from there, five books will be linked together in whichever way you can think of. The connections I've made between the novels are in  bold. Here’s mine!

Harry Potter, JK Rowling

The Wizarding World is most people’s most beloved fictional world, and it’s definitely mine, but I actually wasn’t interested in it when I was first given the first three books in the series for Christmas the year before Goblet of Fire was released. Then we had Philosopher’s Stone read to us at school and as soon as I got home I devoured the rest of the novel. This series became a forever love.

Matilda, Roald Dahl

Matilda is the book I credit with my falling in love with reading. I clearly remember finally picking it up one night when I couldn’t sleep and my mum advised reading something, then running downstairs to tell her that I could see it happening in my head! It was a revelation, and from a book that I was given by someone (my Nan, maybe?) that I just wasn’t interested in. Matilda was also adapted into one of my favourite book to film adaptations ever and it stars the brilliant Danny Devito.

The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides

Another book to be adapted for the silver screen and to star Danny Devito is one of my first reads of 2016 – The Virgin Suicides. This is a book that I've meant to read for years and years so I finally picked it up on audio and I was quite disappointed. I loved the claustrophobic, hot summer atmosphere and the style was really interesting, but it just didn’t capture me. I felt no emotional involvement which is crazy considering this novel is about suicide and mental health.

All the Bright Places, Jennifer Niven

This is another novel that deals with mental health and suicide, but in a very different way. I really, really enjoyed this when I read it early in 2015 but since then, some really problematic ideas have been raised about the novel which I do agree with. But it is a beautifully written book and easily one of the most emotional of those I read last year.

The Song Achilles, Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is another incredibly emotional read from last year and one of my top five from the 230-odd books I read in 2015. It’s so, so beautiful and the retelling of the story of Achilles and Patroclus growing up and ending in the Trojan War is breathtaking. I’m a real sucker for retellings of Greek mythology.

The Goddess Test, Aimee Carter

Aimee Carter’s trilogy is a retelling of Persephone’s myth and I really, really loved the first two books in the trilogy. Sadly, the final book wasn’t even published in the UK so I bought it when it eventually became available on Kindle, but it’s been so long! I do remember it being a really fun series with accessible mythological references and stories, though.

So there you have my #6Degrees! Why not have a go yourself?


Friday, 5 February 2016

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen, Susin Nielsen

Pages: 250
Publisher: Andersen Press
Release Date: 4th February 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: We Are All Made of Molecules

‘Everyone has their secrets. But mine can't be shared. The psychologist says I should talk about it. And he wants me to keep this journal. I’ll keep the stupid journal. But it stays a secret.’

Henry used to have a normal life. But one day, 7 ½ months ago, everything changed.

Now he's moved with his dad to a new city, where nobody knows their name. Living off a diet of pizza, hiding from the nosy neighbours, Henry just wants to stay under the radar and keep his family’s secret.

Then he meets Farley and Alberta, fellow social misfits who just will not leave his alone. And little by little, the past begins to come out.

I loved We Are All Made of Molecules when I read it last year so I got super excited when The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen dropped through my letterbox. I loved it just as much!

When Henry starts his journal on the recommendation of his psychologist after IT happened 7 ½ months ago. IT caused his family to split up, Henry and his dad to move to another city and his life to turn upside down. Henry mentioned little snippets related to what happened and I did make a few guesses, but really happened really blew me away. The truth was sadder, more shocking than I could have imagined. I won't spoil anything, but just so I can try to review this book, I will say that it had something to do with severe bullying.

The bullying was intense and scary and I ached for the characters that I fell in love with so quickly. Henry is a little overweight, what he calls his wobblies, and he’s a complete nerd and so he’s desperate to start a fresh at his new school. As things tend to do, the secret comes to a head and Henry reveals everything in his journal and eventually to his two new best friends. It was heart-breaking.

The changed relationship that was left between Henry and his mum was definitely one of the most powerful aspects of the novel. Though she had to come to terms with what had happened, it felt a little like Henry was being punished for it and it made my heart ache for him. It was nice to see the unexpected places that Henry found solace and comfort and advice in, though, particularly Karen from his new apartment building.

Susin Neilsen writes the most beautifully sweet and sad novels about family, friendship and loss and I'm eagerly awaiting whatever she releases next.

Thanks to Andersen Press for the review copy.


Thursday, 4 February 2016

Favourites: January 2016

Bend It Like Beckham at the Phoenix Theatre

Me and my bff, Sara, went to London when she came down for the weekend and decided to see if we could get last minute theatre tickets. We set ourselves a budget and crossed our fingers. We ended up with half price (£37.50) tickets for the dress circle and we were pretty chuffed. Then we arrived and GOT MOVED TO THE STALLS! And not only that, we were only 10/11 rows back! It was basically a dream come true. And the show was PHENOMENAL. We walked out and wanted to see it again.

HP Studio Tour (again)

Then the following weekend Sara turned up again (she’s impossible to shake off!) and we headed off to the HP Studios for Hogwarts in the Snow. It was my third visit and I loved it so, so much. Since I last visited some things had been added: snow (obviously), the Hogwarts Express, photo op in a train carriage and a whole new food area with Butterbeer ice cream! And just to add to the magic, as we left the studio, it actually began to snow. I know, perfect, right?

#FeminismInYA with Holly Bourne, Holly Smale and CJ Daugherty

Waterstones Piccadilly really do win at book events! Anna James led the panel with these three authors and discussions all aspects of feminism and its role in YA. It was a fantastic panel full of thoughtful discussion, Holly Bourne raging and some really interesting points. If you want a full wrap up, check out my post on Maximum Pop! Books – I'm one of their new book writers!