Friday 30 October 2015

Monster, CJ Skuse

Pages: 318
Publisher: Mira Ink
Release Date: 24th September 2015
Edition: UK proof, received in UKYABA goody bag

Other Titles by this Author: Pretty Bad Things, Rockaholic, Dead Romantic

Sometimes the thing you fear the most is closer than you think…

At sixteen Nash thought that the fight to become Head Girl of prestigious boarding school Bathory would be the biggest battle she’d face. Until her brother’s disappearance leads to Nash being trapped at school over Christmas with Bathory’s assorted misfits.

As a blizzard rages outside, strange things are afoot in the school’s hallways, and legends of the mysterious Beast of Bathory – a big cat rumoured to roam the moors outside the school – run wild.

Yet, when the girls’ Matron goes missing it’s clear that something altogether darker is to blame – and that they’ll have to stick together if they hope to survive.

I’ve been a fan of CJ Skuse’s novels since her debut, but Monster, a dark, tense and immensely fun YA horror, is by far my favourite.

Bathory is the perfect setting for a YA horror novel, especially an isolated one where abandoned over Christmas in the biggest snowstorm in decades. The novel gets progressively creepier and creepier as the girls become embroiled in the fearful legends of the Beast of Bathory. I'm a bit of a wuss really, but I didn’t want to stop reading this; it’s addictive and so easy to read. I was desperate to find out how the girls’ would entangle themselves with the beast and who would make it out unscathed.

My favourite part of Monster is the leading lady, Nash. She's the ultimate good girl. Nash spends her free time running around after her teachers, doing chores and looking out for the other girls in the school in an attempt to be made Head Girl, but inside she’s angry and scared and incredibly real. And so is Maggie, the resident troublemaker at Bathory. She's fiery, outspoken and an unrepentant prankster and I love her. In fact, there’s not a girl in this who is glossed over and polished, perfected and refined out of their being a teenager in their speech, personality or thoughts and it was so refreshing. Go CJ!

I completely loved Monster. It's the perfect Halloween read and for the dark and dreary nights ahead.

Thanks to Mira for the review copy.


Thursday 29 October 2015

Paper Dandy's Horrorgami

Pages: 128
Publisher: Laurence King
Release Date: 7th September 2015
Edition: UK, review copy

Paper Dandy’s Horrorgami features 20 kirigami (cut-and-fold) designs based around haunted houses and scenes from horror films by the creator of the successful Horrorgami blog and exhibition.

Each project features step-by-step instructions and a template that you remove from the book. You then follow the lines on the template, cutting and folding to make your own kirigami model. All you need is a scalpel, a cutting mat and a ruler. Clear cutting tips help you with the tricky stages and give you an order in which to complete your work, while photos of the finished model show you the final design. Projects are ranked from beginner to advanced.

Suitable for folding experts and beginners alike, Paper Dandy’s Horrorgami makes the perfect Halloween activity.

This is so much fun – it’ll be a godsend for keeping kids (and adults) occupied during rainy days and school holidays.

The instructions are clear and plentiful and there’s even an introduction at the beginning to show you how to do all the different folds and cuts to get the best finished result you can. There are also full colour images showing you how it should look at the end so you can sort of see if you’re on the right track or not! As the projects start from a beginner level as well as those handy bits and pieces, it really is accessible. The thick white paper is also lovely quality so there’s a really cool finished product at the end.

The little introduction’s and background on the images were really cool and reading about them really got me in the Halloween mood. I’m a wuss so I haven’t seen any of the movies the images are based on, but a few of them have literary backgrounds – Dracula, Frankenstein, The Fall of the House of Usher – and I've read them so that was nice.

Unfortunately, Blogger isn’t playing ball about putting my photos in, but I’ll try again to upload them into the post at a later date.

Thanks to Laurence King and Midas PR for the review copy.


Wednesday 28 October 2015

Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 491
Publisher: Indigo
Release Date: 29th September 2015
Edition: UK trade paperback, purchased

Other Titles by this Author: Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, Ruin and Rising

Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts they city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

I thoroughly enjoyed the Grisha trilogy, but Six of Crows was completely brilliant.

Set two years after the Ravkan civil war and across the True Sea in Kerch, Six of Crows feels like a very different world to Alina’s. Where Ravka is traditional and a relic of the old world, Kerch is a gritty port city powered by trade, gangs, the pursuit of money and where Grisha are enslaved, criminalised and treated as animals. The whole novel feels very different but there are Easter eggs for the trilogy littered throughout which is lovely, but they're not something that would jump out at those who haven’t read it and ruin the story or anything; they are easily separated.

All six of the Crows are damaged, broken and morally lacking a lot of the time, but I loved them all! Told in third person and split between the POVs of Kaz, Inej, Matthias, Jesper and Nina, we get to see the epic heist from all angles and I can't even begin to imagine the planning and precision in plotting that writing this novel must have required. It was so tightly plotted and the way that Kaz kept information back from the rest of his crew and drip fed it whenever he felt like it came across so brilliantly and it caused some excellent plot twists.

I don’t really want to say much more about the ins and outs of what makes Six of Crows so wonderful because I think I enjoyed it all the more going in to it practically blind and you should too!


Tuesday 27 October 2015

Blast From the Past: Dracula

Originally published in 1897 by Archibald Constable and Company

My edition: the full-cast Audible recording, starring Tim Curry and Alan Cumming

What's it about?
When Jonathan Harker visits Transylvania to help Count Dracula with the purchase of a London house, he makes a series of horrific discoveries about his client. Soon afterwards, various bizarre incidents unfold in England: an apparently unmanned ship is wrecked off the coast of Whitby; a young woman discovers strange puncture marks on her neck; and the inmate of a lunatic asylum raves about the ‘Master’ and his imminent arrival.

In Dracula, Bram Stoker created one of the great masterpieces of the horror genre, brilliantly evoking a nightmare world of vampires and vampire hunters and also illuminating the dark corners of Victorian sexuality and desire.

Why now?
It’s October! It’s Halloween month! This is another book that I was meant to read at university and struggled to get into. It felt like the perfect time to give it another go.

The verdict:
In my second year of university I took a module on Gothic literature and Dracula as one of the set texts. I really struggled to read it on a schedule and gave up on it after only a few chapters. I’m so glad I decided to try it again in a different format.

The titular Count Dracula is rarely physically present in Dracula which gives the novel an overarching tension and sense of creepiness. The novel is an epistolary one, switching between letters and journal entries from a range of characters. It even gave me a nightmare one night after reading it a little too late at night which hasn’t happened since I was a kid! Hearing from so many different positions around Jonathon’s experience with the Count gave Dracula so many interesting layers and my curiosity about how everything would play out never wavered, even though it wasn’t really what I was expecting.

The element of Dracula that I found most fascinating was the portrayal of women throughout the novel. There are two main female characters: Mina Harker (nee Murray) and Lucy Westernra. Mina is the more prominent of the two and she's a mix of two eras. She possesses all of the characteristics of the ideal Victorian women; she’s intelligent, fiercely loyal, pure, good and kind, but she’s also a modern women with her knowledge of shorthand (which wasn’t a widely known or taught until the early to mid-20th Century), her eagerness to help and be involved in Dracula’s capture and her own investigations into the Count.

Lucy isn’t the pinnacle of womanhood that Mina is, though she is still sweet and good. As the story goes on and on, Lucy’s position in the novel changes and it's almost like her resistance to the Count isn’t strong enough and it’s almost related to her goodness in a way that Mina unfailingly resistant to his pull. Lots of critics match Dracula’s appeal to sexual appetite from the women, especially when Dracula’s three daughters are taken into consideration. It’s a really interesting concept and one that’s prevalent in the discussion of Victorian women who befall an unfortunate state and towards vampires in general. Oh my literature geek is out in full force today – sorry!

I thoroughly enjoyed Dracula. It wasn’t at all what I expected and I loved it. I’m so glad I gave it another chance and I highly recommend this recording – it’s engaging, tense and brings this classic to life.

Still not convinced?
- It spawned so many remakes and defined a genre in popular culture.
- For a novel that’s 118 years old, it reads with a very modern and accessible voice.
- It’s perfectly creepy for a Halloween read!


Monday 26 October 2015

The Iron Warrior, Julie Kagawa

Pages: 352
Publisher: MiraInk
Release Date: 19th November 2015
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Other Titles by this Author: The Iron King, The Iron Daughter, The Iron Queen, The Iron Knight, The Immortal Rules, The Eternity Cure, The Forever Song, Rogue, Talon, The Lost Prince, The Iron Traitor

The Iron Prince – my nephew – betrayed us all.

He killed me.

Then I woke up.

Waking after a month on the brink of death, Ethan Chase is stunned to learn that the Veil that conceals the fey from human sight was temporarily torn away. Although humankind’s glimpse of the world of faery only lasted just a brief moment, the human world has been cast into chaos, and the emotion and glamour produced by fear and wonder has renewed the power of the Forgotten Queen. Now, she is at the forefront of an uprising against the courts of Summer and Winter – a reckoning that will have cataclysmic effects on the Nevernever.

Leading the Lady’s Forgotten Army is Keirran himself: Ethan’s nephew and the traitor son of the Iron Queen, Meghan Chase. To stop Keirran, Ethan must disobey his sister once again as he and his girlfriend, Kenzie, search for answers long forgotten.

In the face of unprecedented evil and unfathomable power, Ethan’s enemies must become his allies, and the world of fey will be changed forevermore.

The release of The Iron Warrior sees the end of one of my very favourite series, and it does it with a bang.

It’s been five years since Meghan, Ash and Puck first teamed up to bring chaos to the Nevernever and I've fallen in love with them, Ethan, Kenzie, Kierran and the creatures of the faery world. Reading The Iron Warrior was very bittersweet. Meghan is truly a queen now and Ash has become everything I hoped he would be, but it’s the newer characters like Kenzie – Ethan’s girlfriend – who really had some development in this final instalment. I had liked Kenzie in The Lost Prince and The Iron Traitor, but she really came into her own here. Kenzie has learnt how to operate in the Nevernever; she knows the quirks, the loopholes and how to survive as a human in Faery. I can't help but wonder if Julie Kagawa ever brings this world back (oh please, please, please!), it’ll be with Kenzie in some way…

One of my favourite things about The Iron Warrior were the echoes of Ash and Meghan in Ethan and Kenzie’s relationship, particularly the way they worked together and a certain scene at a battleground camp, the night before the fight of their lives – even Meghan and Ash noticed that similarity! We also saw characters that helped Meghan, Ash and Puck throughout the original series come back to aid Ethan and Kenzie in their quest to stop Kierran and bring him home. It felt like a real send off to a group f beloved characters and a world that I would love to visit, though it's highly unlikely I'd survive even 24 hours in the Nevernever…

The Iron Warrior is an action-packed and thoroughly entertaining ending to the Iron Fey series and I really hope Kagawa will take us back one day; it was certainly left open to it.

Thanks to MiraINK and NetGalley for the review copy.


Friday 23 October 2015

Silence is Goldfish, Annabel Pitcher

Pages: 444
Publisher: Indigo
Release Date: 1st October 2015
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece, Ketchup Clouds

My name is Tess Turner – at least, that’s what I've always been told.

I have a voice but it isn’t mine. It's used to say things so I'd fit in. It used to tell the universe was something I wasn’t. It lied.

It never occurred to me that everyone else was lying too. But the words that really hurt weren’t the lies: it was the six hundred and seventeen words of truth that turned my world upside down.

Words scare me, the lies and the truth, so I decided to stop using them.

I am Pluto. Silent. Inaccessible.
Billions of miles from everything I thought I knew.

After hearing Annabel read from Silence is Goldfish and reading the endless praise from my friends about her previous books, I was expecting something wonderful, but I was a little disappointed.

Tess is fifteen, and she really sounds it too. I found it difficult to connect and identify with her and she's really very naïve which I struggled with. She seemed oblivious to the ways she was being manipulated and repeatedly led into a trap by the resident school mean girl. Her silence left her open to that in even more extremes than before. Tess believed that her silence gave her power, and it did at first, but it eventually lost her power. I loved how strong the message about having a voice was. The importance of taking up space in the world, and this was also tied into Tess being a bigger girl and her making herself own it.

I didn’t like Tess too much, but that normally means that I love the secondary characters in the novel a whole lot, and yet, I know this sounds silly, but everyone in Silence is Goldfish is disappointingly human. Each and every one of them was flawed and had hidden depths of being manipulative, having horrible secrets or a cruel side to their personalities. I particularly disliked Tess’s dad; quite frankly, he’s an ass. Then there was the lack of support from her mum (which I know was fuelled by frustration and fear, but still) and then the massive betrayal at school which I won't go into because spoilers!

Though I was rather disappointed by Silence is Goldfish, I do think that was definitely more me than the book and I’m sure it will be loved by teens and adults alike.

Thanks to Orion for the review copy.


Thursday 22 October 2015

I am a book bigamist...

Up until a few months ago, I've been a one book at a time kind of girl, but I was buckling under the pressure of my TBR pile and decided to try and read books for the first LGBT Readathon as well as my review copies. And it worked!

Nowadays I read a review book, an audiobook and occasionally a non-fiction, a classic or something I've bought for myself all at the same time. It's now not unusual to have three books on the go at once! It's nice not to have to sacrifice my reading whims for review copies, which is something I've been doing for years and a habit I’m really trying to get out of.

Reading a variety of books and different formats is really helping to avoid or get myself out of reading slumps. I've suffered from them a lot this year – probably because I've read a lot more than usual this year – and switching between genres and styles really helps to jolt me away from a slump. It also makes me feel very efficient! Even though I may not finish a book for three or four days, but then I finish two or three in a day or two – it's rather brilliant actually.

I don’t know if my book bigamy is a permanent solution to Mount TBR, but it's working for me at the moment and I really like how much more variety there is in my reading. Not since I started blogging have I read as many classics, adult novels and non-fiction as I have in 2015 and I’m loving it. I've discovered so many favourites this year that if I had only read my review books like in previous years, I wouldn’t have read at all and that honestly makes me really sad. I would never have read The Secret History, The Song of Achilles, The Martian and How to be a Heroine.

I know reading multiple books at a time doesn’t work for everybody, but it's worth giving it a go!


Wednesday 21 October 2015

Illuminae, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Pages: 599
Publisher: One World
Release Date: 22nd October 2015
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles from these Authors: Amie Kaufman: These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, Their Fractured Light; Jay Kristoff: Stormdancer, Kinslayer, Endsinger

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing shed have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra – who are barely even talking to each other – are forced to fight their way into an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will tell them what's going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore shed never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents – including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more – Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the coverage of everyday heroes.

Wow, what a novel! Illuminae is original, bold and moves at a rollicking pace – I loved it.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff’s first team effort is something I’ve never quite seen before. The story of Kerenza’s defeat and the fight for survival that the ships that save the refugees undertake is told through IMs, military reports, security footage transcripts, emails and AI. I was a little worried there might be a disconnect between me and the characters, but I felt for them just as strongly as would through a traditionally written novel.

Kady and Ezra’s story was actually a lot more emotional than I was expecting it to be. Because of the format, the reader is allowed to get attached to more characters than just the heroine and hero and, well, let’s just say that a space ship being chased through space with nuclear weapons isn’t the safest of places to be… I really liked that I was constantly afraid for all of the characters (I realise that’s not normal) as Kaufman and Kristoff aren’t scared to kill their darlings; it kept me on the edge of my seat!

At six hundred pages, Illuminae is intimidating, but it actually read really quickly. It's incredibly fast-paced and impossible to put down as well as the fact that not all of the pages contain are full text. The last section in particular was mind-blowing. It was dramatic, nail-biting and completely addictive. I couldn’t believe some of the twists that were revealed, especially in the final conversations and reports. Woah.

Illuminae is clever, different and a wonderful, wonderful start to a new trilogy and I’m so excited to see all the different ways Kady manages to nearly get killed in the rest of the series.

Thanks to Rock the Boat for the review copy!


Tuesday 20 October 2015

From Page to Screen: The Help

Released: 26th October 2011
Running time: 140 mins
Rating: 12

VIOLA DAVIS ~ Aibileen Clark
EMMA STONE ~ Skeeter Phelan
AHNA O’REILLY ~ Celia Foote
JESSICA CHASTAIN ~ Elizabeth Leefolt
ALLISON JANEY ~ Charlotte Phelan
CHRIS LOWELL ~ Johnny Foote

(Summary from the 2010 Penguin paperback)

Enter a vanished world: Jackson, Mississippi, 1962.
Where black maids raise white children, but aren’t trusted not to steal the silver…

There’s Aibileen, raising her seventeenth white child and nursing the hurt caused by her own son’s tragic death; Minny, whose cooking is nearly as sassy as her tongue; and white Miss Skeeter, home from college, who wants to know why her beloved maid disappeared.

Skeeter, Aibileen and Minny. No one would believe they’d be friends; fewer still would tolerate it. But as each woman finds the courage to cross boundaries, they come to depend and rely on one another. Each is in search of a truth. And together they have an extraordinary story to tell…



After having The Help on my shelf for years, I finally read it last month and I loved it so I finally knew it was the time to watch the adaptation – a DVD that my mum bought immediately after reading the book and trying to get me to read it.

As expected, the movie moves a lot faster than the novel does, launching straight in Skeeter getting her job writing the Miss Myrna column in the local newspaper and getting the idea for her book exposing the true experiences of the help in Jackson. Though the timeline is moved around a little and there isn’t the same build up and level of need for her to do something, The Help retains the feeling of the book. The warmth, humour and friendship between Aibileen and Minny and later Skeeter were there in spades and the film allowed us to laugh at the horror of Miss Hilly instead of the violent hatred I felt for the truly vile book-Miss Hilly. I think making her into a character who could be ridiculed hammered home the ridiculousness of how the maids were treated in a subtle but still powerful way and I thought it was really cleverly done.

Instead of a growth into noticing the way that the maids and African-American community in Jackson are treated, Skeeter is shown as an ally from the off and it’s in stark contrast to her friends, family and peers. Emma Stone’s Skeeter is actually just plainly a little more than the Skeeter in the novel. Stone brings out the sarcasm, wit and awareness that is glimpsed in book-Skeeter and fully fleshes it out. I’d actually go as far to say that I preferred film-Skeeter and she matched Minny and Aibileen in narration that way, rather than lagging slightly as she did in the novel. Speaking of Minny, I listened to the audiobook of The Help and Minny was voiced by Octavia Spencer who played her in the film as well! It was so strange to find her voice familiar but it was lovely as Spencer clearly knew Minny inside and out.

Minny’s struggles with her husband’s domestic abuse were a lot bolder in the film and it played out a little differently, but for the best, I think. There were a few other instances in the novel such as a black man being blinded and another killed that were played down or omitted in the film which meant that the spur to write Skeeter’s book lost the sudden surge of power and determination behind it from the maids. It also felt a little like a disservice to representing the people and situations that Skeeter was trying to air. The same went for the maid who raised Skeeter, Constantine. I know there wasn’t really time in the film to explore it fully, but for me, Constantine’s back story and the reason she left Skeeter’s house was the most powerful moment in the novel and I was sad to see it go. It was the bit that really punched me in the gut and I think it would have been incredibly powerful to see on screen.

Just like the book, The Help is an important look into the lives of the people living in the South during the Civil Rights Movement, told with warmth, humour and a focus on love and friendship. Gorgeous.


Sunday 18 October 2015

Letterbox Love #109

Letterbox Love is a way to give all of the books I receive for review some exposure. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated.

River of Ink, Paul MM Cooper (e-proof)

All Asanka knows is poetry. From his humble village beginnings in the great island kingdom of Lanka, he has risen to the prestigious position of court poet and now delights in his life of ease: composing romantic verses for love-struck courtiers, enjoying the confidence of his king and covertly teaching Sarasi, a beautiful and beguiling palace maid, the secrets of his art.

But when Kalinga Magha, a ruthless prince with a formidable army, arrives upon Lanka’s shores, Asanka’s world is changed beyond imagining. Violent, hubristic and unreliable, Magha usurps the throne, laying waste to all who stand in his way. Under his terrifying rule, nothing in the city is left untouched and, like many of his fellow citizens, Asanka retreats into the shadows, hoping to pass unnoticed by the tyrant. But it seems his new master is a lover of poetry…

To Asanka’s horror, Magha tasks him with the translation of an epis Sanskrit poem, a tale of Gods and nobles, love and revenge, which the king believes will have a civilising effect on his subjects, soothing their discontent and snuffing out the fires of rebellion he suspects are igniting across the island.

Asanka has always believed that poetry makes nothing happen, but as each new chapter he writes is disseminated through the land and lines on the page become cries in the street, his belief and his loyalties are challenged. And, as Magha circles ever closely to the things Asanka treasures most, the poet will discover that true power lies not at the sword, but in the tip of a pen.

How amazing does this sound?! And that cover… Thanks Bloomsbury and NetGalley!

Maresi, Maria Turtschaninoff (proof)

A world where girls live in fear.
A safe haven far away.
But is it far enough?

This is Maresi’s story.

Maresi came to the Red Abbey when she was thirteen, in the Hunger Winter. Before then, she had only heard rumours of its existence in secret folk tales. In a world where girls aren’t allowed to learn or do as they please, an island inhabited solely by women sounded like a fantasy. But now Maresi is here, and she knows it is real. She is safe.

Then one day Jai – tangled fair hair, clothes stiff with dirt, scars on her back – arrives on a ship. She has fled to the island to escae terrible danger and unimaginable cruelty.

And the men who hurt her will stop at nothing to find her. Now the women and girls of the Red Abbey must use all their powers and ancient knowledge to combat the forces that wish to destroy them. And Maresi, haunted by her own nightmares, must confront her very deepest, darkest fears.

I’m so in love with the sound of this! Translated feminist fantasy: sold! Thanks Pushkin Press and Riot Communications!

Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder (paperback)

The international bestseller about life, the universe and everything.

When 14-year-old Sophie encounters a mysterious mentor who introduces her to philosophy, mysteries deepen in her own life. Why does she keep getting postcards addressed to another girl? Who is the other girl? And who, for that matter, is Sophie herself? To solve the riddle, she uses her new knowledge of philosophy, but the truth is far stranger than she could have imagined.

An addictive blend of mystery, philosophy and fantasy, Sophie’s World is an international phenomenon which has been translated into 60 languages and has sold over 40 milion copies.

I read one of Jostein Gaarder’s books on my Nan’s recommendations years and years ago so I jumped at the chance to read and review the 20th anniversary edition of this classic. Thanks Orion!

Beetle Boy, MG Leonard (proof)

Darkus can't believe his eyes when he sees a huge insect drop out of the trouser leg of his horrible new neighbour. It has seven legs – or six legs and a horn – and it seems to want to communicate. But how can a boy be friends with a bug the size of a hamster? And what exactly does this beetle have to do with the strange disappearances of his dad and the arrival of evil Lucretia Cutter, with her taste for living jewellery?

The answers could lie in the mountain of rubbish next door – if Darkus and his new buddy are brave enough to find out…

How very intriguing… Thanks Chicken House and Riot!


Friday 16 October 2015

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell

Pages: 517
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 8th October 2015
Edition: UK hardcover, review copy

Other Titles from this Author: Attachments, Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Landline

Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he's probably right.

Half the time Simon can't even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, is he were here – it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story, and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell – but far, far more monsters.

Carry On is easily one of my very favourite books of 2015. It’s funny, charming, surprising and a wonderful ode to fandom.

As was noticed by readers of Fangirl, the story of Simon Snow is pretty much a rehashing of Harry Potter. Simon and Baz’s relatnioship is pretty much Drarry fan fiction, Simon is a hapless Chosen One that blends Harry and Ron and his best friend, Penny, has Hermione-like smarts. And yet it still feels entirely its own world, story and characters, and I loved it all.

It was really cool to see the Chosen One narrated approached from a different angle; it made it very human and relatable. I liked the cheeky approach to the spells – song lyrics, nursery rhymes and famous idioms; the unexpected and clever way the prophecy about Simon worked out; the reveal and final showdown with the Humdrum; the politics of the Magickal world. Everything felt so fleshed out and fully realised that I could have easily believed I was reading the third or fourth book in a fantasy series rather than a standalone (oh please, give me more Rainbow Rowell, please!).

But most of, I loved Carry On for the characters. Penny with her meticulous plans, incredible logic and skill at research and plans was the best friend every Chosen One wouldn’t survive without. Literally. Ppenny’s determination to stay friends with Agatha, Simon’s ex-girlfriend, even though she wants nothing really to do with the magickal world and would rather hang out with her Normal friends. And of course, Simon and Baz. Talk about OTP. I love them so hard. It was really cool to hear from both of their perspectives, especially with Baz’s frustration at his feelings for Simon and how he expected them to end with the death of one of them. His chapters actually ended up being my favourite.

I completely and utterly adored Carry On and, quite frankly, I’m rather upset that I’ve read it already. This will become a comfort re-read – I can feel it.

Thanks to Macmillan for the review copy.


Thursday 15 October 2015

Recommendations: Historical

When it comes to historical novels, I’m rather fussy. I don’t like to be bogged down with lots of boring details, but I also like for the era to be fully evoked – I want to be in the past when I open those pages. Here are a few historical YA novels that ticked all the boxes for me.

The Luxe, Anna Godbersen
Penguin|3rd July 2008

Society’s elite have secrets, scandal and revenge plots aplenty hidden in their ball gowns and under their hats. They are the most beautiful, the most handsome, the richest and the most privileged. Welcome to 1899 in New York City.

This series was one of the first historical series’ that I fell in love with. I eagerly awaited each instalment, desperate to find out which forbidden relationships would be discovered, who would be blackmailed, who would die and if any of them would get to live happily ever after. An utterly delicious series.

Murder Most Unladylike, Robin Stevens
Corgi|5th June 2014

Even though Deepdean School for Girls isn’t too high on crime, Hazel Wong and Daisy Wells set up their very own secret detective agency. When Hazel finds a teacher dead, they’re ready and on the case, but when they return to the scene of the crime, the body is gone. Now they have to prove that a murder took place as well as solve it.

Set in an English boarding school in the 1930s, Murder Most Unladylike is full of wit and charm and I smiled all the way through it and the next two books in the series. It’s clever, thoughtful and I completely love it. Robin Stevens and her heroines are also passionate advocates of a #bunbreak so straight away you know you’re among friends with Hazel and Daisy.

The Other Countess, Eve Edwards
Puffin|1st July 2010

Lady Eleanor has a worthless title, a gold-seeking father and a fiery personality that has captured lots of hearts at Court.

William Lacey is the new Earl of Dorset, and with his father’s title comes his debt, so William must marry a wealthy heiress and restore the reputation of the Laceys.

With William destined to marry high, he and Ellie must fight their attraction to each other, but it won't be easy.

Set in 1582, the first book in Eve Edwards Tudor-set trilogy is one of my favourites. I’m a big fan of the period in general and I love forbidden love divided by class and meddling families so this was always bound to be a hit! The writing is effortless to read and the history made accessible – I'd say this trilogy is a brilliant start for younger readers heading into YA historical.

Etiquette & Espionage, Gail Carriger
Atom|5th February 2013

Sophronia would much rather climb trees and dismantle mechanicals that learn how to be a proper young lady. She’s a trial to her poor mother so she's sent to Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But it's not quite what she expected. As well as learning how to dance, dress and behave in polite society, the girls are also taught to murder, sneak and investigate. Politely, of course.

This series is just a hell of a lot of fun! It's a Victorian steampunk series where the school is a dirigible, there is a vampire and a werewolf teaching, and there are plenty of dangerous excursions to investigate the mysterious happenings on the ship and Sophronia and her friends are a wonderful cast of characters. Fun, original and action packed.

The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow, Katherine Woodfine
Egmont|4th June 2015

Sophie has just got a job at Sinclair’s, the newest, biggest and best department store in London. When the precious Clockwork Sparrow is stolen the night before the grand opening of the store, Sophie and her friend Lillian Rose race to crack the clues and track down the thief before it’s too late…

This is another one that’s a lot of fun. Set around the 30s in the heyday of luxury department stores, Sinclair’s feels a lot like Liberty or Selfridges and I really would have loved to explore it, and the London of the time. It’s fast-paced, full of charm, wit and mystery and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Dusk, Eve Edwards
Puffin|6th June 2013

It’s 1916 and the First World War is raging. When wartime nurse Helen meets aristocratic artist Sebastian, they can’t help falling I love, even as they’re both posted to the front lines of the Somme. But Helen has a dark secret and when it escapes against the backdrop of a crime, the consequences are devastating. Will they find their way back to each other?

I’m not a fan of war stories, and even though I loved history at school, I hated learning about the world wars – probably because we learned about them over and over again… But I trusted Eve Edwards’ writing and storytelling and went in anyway – I loved it. The story flicks from between before the war and the early days of it and 1916 and I loved the glimpse into how people and the world was changed so drastically by the war. There is an evil cliffhanger at the end though so I’d recommend having Dawn on hand immediately!