Tuesday 31 January 2017

Mini-Reviews: The Bands of Mourning, The Edge of the Abyss & Rising Action

The Bands of Mourning, Brandon Sanderson
448⎟Gollancz⎟5th January 2017

The Bands of Mourning are the mythical metalminds owned by the Lord Ruler, said to grant anyone who wears them the powers that the Lord Ruler had at his command. Hardly anyone thinks they really exist. A kandra researcher has returned to Elendel with images that seem to depict the Bands, as well as writings in a language that no one can read. Waxillium Ladrian is recruited to travel south to the city of New Seran to investigate. Along the way he discovers hints that point to the true goals of his uncle Edwarn and the shadowy organization known as The Set.

As a whole, I don’t think the second Mistborn trilogy is anywhere near as wonderful as the original, but The Bands of Mourning took this series to the next level. And I loved it.

The star of the show in the penultimate volume of the second era of Mistborn was definitely Steris. I really loved the way the relationship between her and Wax really started to become one of mutual respect and admiration instead of politics and duty; it made me so happy how well they began to fit together.

The stakes were the highest they’ve been and The Bands of Mourning was a real rollercoaster - I’m gutted I’ve got to wait at least a year for the finale!

The Edge of the Abyss, Emily Skrutskie
296⎟Flux⎟18th April 2017

Three weeks have passed since Cassandra Leung pledged her allegiance to ruthless pirate-queen Santa Elena and set free Bao, the sea monster Reckoner she'd been forced to train. The days as a pirate trainee are long and grueling, but it's not the physical pain that Cas dreads most. It's being forced to work with Swift, the pirate girl who broke her heart. But Cas has even bigger problems when she discovers Bao is not the only a monster swimming free. Other Reckoners illegally sold to pirates have escaped their captors and are taking the NeoPacific by storm, attacking ships at random and ruining the ocean ecosystem. As a Reckoner trainer, Cas might be the only one who can stop them. But how can she take up arms against the creatures she used to care for and protect? Will Cas embrace the murky morals that life as a pirate brings or perish in the dark waters of the NeoPacific?

The first book in this series was one of my surprise hits of last year so I couldn’t wait to read the next instalment of Cas’s adventures.

Emily Skrutskie really upped her game in The Edge of the Abyss and I loved everything in this book. The tensions between Cas and Swift, and Cas and Santa Elena, and Swift and Santa Elena, were at boiling point. It makes the risks riskier, the promises and the secrets even more crucial and I just couldn’t pull myself away. It was sexy, tense and totally captivating - I want more from this world. Please?

Thanks to Flux and NetGalley for the review copy.

The Wicked and the Divine 4: Rising Action, Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
144⎟Image Comics⎟11th October 2016

Every ninety years, twelve gods are reincarnated as young people. They are loved. They are hated. And sometimes - just sometimes - they fall into open Superstar wars.

Volume 3 in this series was really quite lacklustre for me - I was confused and lost my connection to the characters with the whole volume being split my different issues by guest artists. I was nearly ready to be done with it.

Rising Action was definitely a huge improvement and I feel like the story is getting back on track, but it’s still lost the awesome punch of the first two volumes. I felt like I had more grasp on what was happening and I was so glad we were back to Jamie McKelvie’s art - it’s truly stunning.

I’m hoping for the next volume to be back on form, or I’ll have to give this series up, I think. I don’t care enough for how expensive they are.


Tuesday 24 January 2017

Mini-Reviews: Bone Gap, Radio Silence & Dark Tales

Bone Gap, Laura Ruby
380|Faber|29th December 2016

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps - gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza goes missing, the people of Bone Gap aren't surprised. After all, it isn't the first time someone's slipped away and left Finn and Sean O'Sullivan on their own.

Finn knows that's not what happened with Roza. He knows she was taken, ripped from the cornfields by a man whose face he can't remember. But no one believes him anymore. Well, almost no one. Petey Willis, the beekeeper's daughter, suspects that lurking behind Finn's fearful shyness is a story worth uncovering. But as we, like Petey, follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap - their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures - the truth about what happened to Roza is slowly revealed. And it is stranger than you can possibly imagine...

I’ve been wanting to read Bone Gap for a really, really long time so I was crazy excited to see it finally picked up in the UK and it was definitely worth the wait.

Bone Gap
is one of the most beautifully written books in a really long time. Magical, dreamy and totally hypnotising, it’s how magical realism should be. A dreamlike haze hangs over the whole novel and it only gets more and more intense as the mystery unravelled and things heated up between Finn and Petey. Oh, Petey, how I love thee. She’s fierce and vulnerable all at the same time and I fell head over heels for her.

Magic, romance and a heady summer, Bone Gap is the perfect escape from the chill of winter.

Thanks to Faber for the review copy.

Radio Silence, Alice Oseman
410|Harper Collins|25th February 2016

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.

I’ve had Alice Oseman’s second novel on my shelf since January and even with all the hype, i still didn’t pick it up until the beginning of this month. I think I must have been mad.

I listened to Radio Silence on audiobook and while it took me a little while to get into, but I soon struggled to stop listening. There’s mystery, angst, fandom and a real relatability to Frances and Aled that I was constantly wondering why on earth I’d waited so long to read it.

Frances is obsessed with the Universe City podcast. She’s posts fanart on Tumblr, listens to every episode religiously and RTs everything that comes from the creator, Radio Silence and it’s a real glimpse at how fandom works in 2016. As Frances gets deeper into the fandom and closer to Aled, she realises the poison behind such a ‘passionate’ fandom. It was scary and intrusive and endlessly pushy - the way the ‘fans’ treated the people behind the thing they loved so much was horrible.

The other strongest theme in this book is education. Frances has spent her entire life dedicated to passing exams, acing her coursework and using all of her free time to increase her chances of getting a place at Cambridge. Aled has done exactly the same, but now he doesn’t even know if he wants to go to uni. It’s not the only option after all, is it? It was really interesting to read from this perspective, one I know that Alice shares herself, having spent all of my school life thinking that university was the only way to secure a ‘good’ future.

I really loved Radio Silence and I’m already excited for Alice Oseman’s next book.  

Thanks to HarperCollins for the review copy.

Dark Tales, Shirley Jackson
208|Penguin Classics|6th October 2016

There’s something nasty in suburbia. In these deliciously dark tales, the daily commute turns into a nightmarish game of hide and seek, the loving wife hides homicidal thoughts and the concerned citizen might just be an infamous serial killer. In the haunted world of Shirley Jackson, nothing is as it seems and nowhere is safe, from the city streets to the country manor, and from the small-town apartment to the dark, dark woods...

Has a title ever been more appropriate than Shirley Jackson’s title of queen of American Gothic? Nope.

These stories are short and snappy - 17 stories in just over 200 pages! And not a single word is wasted. Jackson is a master of tension, suspense and quiet horror. There’s nothing overtly scary. No monsters, no blood, no on-page murder or death; it’s all psychological and that’s where Jackson shines.

My favourite stories in the collection are ‘The Possibility of Evi’, ‘Paranoia’, ‘What a Thought’ and ‘The Man in the Woods’. The creepiness of old houses, the unexplained actions of strangers and mysterious houses in the middle of the dark woods all deliver that same unnerving atmosphere and deep chill of evil. Deliciously dark.

Thanks to Penguin Classics and NetGalley for the review copy.


Tuesday 17 January 2017

2017: 8 Classics I Want to Read in the Next Year

Though the classics reading challenge run by the wonderful Stacey of Pretty Books is not running this year, I’m still dedicated to continuing my exploration of classics this year. As I was so successful last year, I’m doubling the challenge for myself and aiming for 24 classics in 2017. These are a few on my hitlist:

The Russians

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy

Oh yes, it’s happening. In fact as you read this (I’m pre-writing it at the end of December!) I should be three weeks into my epic War and Peace readathon. I’m planning on conquering seven chapters a day which comes out at about 40/50 pages which sounds totally doable. If all goes to plan I’ll have read the whole of the book around the 20th February.

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoevsky

Another chunker, but after War and Peace it should be a breeze! I tried to read one of Dostoevsky’s shorter works Notes from Underground last year but I couldn’t finish it. I’m hoping that his masterpiece will win me over more thoroughly. I’ve grabbed myself the paperback and the audiobook to keep me going on this one.

The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov

Bulgakov’s masterpiece is the one that I think could be one of the best books I read this year, but it’ll definitely be the weirdest. Moscow is shaken up when chaos mysteriously descends. It soon becomes clear that the Devil himself has arrived in the city. It surrounds surreal, fun and completely brilliant - let’s hope it lives up to my expectations!

Eugene Onegin, Alexander Pushkin

This verse novel set in 1820s Russia is said to be one of the foundation works of Russian literature and Pushkin’s favourite work of his own. Telling the story of a world-weary dandy as he moves from St Petersburg to the country, Eugene Onegin finds himself amidst tragedy and satire of his own making. It just sounds fun which not much Russian literature actually does.

The Rest of the World

The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux

This suddenly popped onto my radar when The Phantom of the Opera became an Audible daily deal. I feel like the drama, mystery and romance will be totally up my street, especially as I’ve actually never seen the musical or read/seen any adaptations so I’ll be going in blind. I nabbed the audiobook and it sounds great.

Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson

I read and really enjoyed Jekyll and Hyde a few years back so I’m looking forward to reading more from Robert Louis Stevenson. I feel like Treasure Island is a book I should have read or at least been read as a kid, but if I did then I don’t remember it! I have seen the Muppets movie many, many times, however, so I know I like the story.

The Three Muskateers, Alexandre Dumas

Now, this one is a beast but I’ve heard the most wonderful things about Dumas’ epic adventures, particularly in the last year or so from the classics booktubers. I’m honestly not 100% sure what this is even about, I just know there’s sword-fighting, friendship and serious fun and that’s enough to make me want to tackle this 650 page monster.

House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

I read and loved Ethan Frome last year - I devoured it in one sitting! I knew I had to read more of Wharton’s stuff and House of Mirth is meant to be her best. It sees the beautiful Lily Bart reluctantly find a husband in New York and ultimately become ruined by scandal and I seriously can’t wait.

What's on your classics TBR for 2017?


Friday 13 January 2017

History is All You Left Me, Adam Silvera

Pages: 292
Publisher: S&S
Release Date: 9th February 2017
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: More Happy Than Not

You’re still alive in alternate universes, Theo, but I live in the real world where this morning you’re having an open casket funeral. I know you’re out there, listening. And you should know I’m really pissed because you swore you would never die and yet here we are. It hurts even more because this isn’t the first promise you’ve broken.

OCD-afflicted seventeen-year-old, Griffin, has just lost his first love – his best friend, ex-boyfriend and the boy he believed to be his ultimate life partner – in a drowning accident. In a desperate attempt to hold onto every last piece of the past, a broken Griffin forges a friendship with Theo’s new college boyfriend, Jackson. And Griffin will stop at nothing to learn every detail of Theo’s new college life, and ultimate death. But as the grieving pair grows closer, readers will question Griffin's own version of the truth – both in terms of what he’s willing to hide, and what true love ultimately means...

I fell head over heels for Adam Silvera’s heartbreaking debut More Happy Than Not so I genuinely squealed with delight when History is All You Left Me arrived. It definitely lived up to my expectations.

History is All You Left Me is rich in grief from the very first line. Addressing the whole book to Theo is super powerful - it’s such a punch in the gut. Griffin’s grief is visceral. The narrative switches between their relationship - from beginning to end - that started two years ago and the morning of Theo’s funeral through to the one month anniversary of his death. There’s never a moment where it gets confusing or too much - it’s effortless.

As we follow Griffin and Theo’s relationship through it becomes obvious the inequality there, the secrets and the issues that arise when friendship turns into a relationship. The portrayal of sex in History is All You Left Me was brilliant. I’ve not read a book where it has such a strong presence between LGBT characters for a long time and it was done perfectly. I fully believed in the intensity of their feelings for each other and I really enjoyed how Griffin’s perspective of Theo and what they had together evolved as he got closer to Jackson and learned about Theo’s life in LA. He began to see their time together more clearly.

As well as grief, this novel explores mental health issues. Griffin has OCD, or quirks as he calls them. As he gets trapped further in his grief and determination to ease his guilt to Theo, his compulsions become stronger and more prominent in his life. I loved the way it was explored with sensitivity and honesty - and really positive about living with mental health issues. There was no judgement about therapy or medication and a real sense of encouragement in looking for and accepting help when you're struggling.

Adam Silvera’s second novel is a vivid, heart-breaking and empowering exploration of love, loss and friendship. I am beyond happy that we’re getting a second book from Adam in 2017. Bring. It. On.

Thanks to S&S for the review copy.


Thursday 12 January 2017

2017: Books I Want to Read this Year

As ever, I’m going into a brand new year with a heaving TBR that’s full of books I bought and was sent over the last year that I never got around to reading. My shelves are currently bursting with wonderful adult fiction that just also seemed to get pushed aside to make way for review books, but here are a few that I really want to make a priority in 2017.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One, Amanda Lovelace
This gorgeous little poetry collection has had a lot of love on Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads ever since it was self-published in April and was recommended for fans of Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey which I LOVED. Beyond ready for this.

It tackles grief, loss, loneliness, love, empowerment and an essense of the fairytale. Plus it's a poetry collection under 200 pages 0 it really won't take me long to read!

Warbreaker, Brandon Sanderson
I’ve fallen head over heels for Sanderson’s books in the last few years and I’m super excited to continue my journey through his backlist. Warbreaker tells the story of two princess sisters who live in a world where those who die in glory return as gods and a magic system based on breath - SOLD.

This is another chunky Sanderson though so it'll definitely take some working up to! But now I have a physical copy and the audiobook I really don't have an excuse not to get on with it...

The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt
Donna Tartt’s most recent novel has been on my TBR since I devoured The Secret History in 2015 but it’s just intimidatingly long. Her previous two novels that sit around 500 pages, while readable and thoroughly enjoyable, took me a while to read so I can’t imagine how long it’ll take to wade through 800 pages! But I’m sure it’ll be 100% worth it. Donna Tartt is a legend.

I'm determined to conquer this, and it'll probably be via audiobook.

The Paying Guests, Sarah Waters
I devoured Sarah Waters’ first novel Fingersmith on a trip to Disneyland Paris last winter and I was blown away. I immediately bought her latest with the full intention of reading it straight away. Whoops. I’m a little fussy with my historical fiction but I already feel like Sarah Waters could do no wrong.

She has the elements of romance, mystery, thriller, historical and Gothic all mashed together beautifully. Oh, and the writing is stunning. And now I'm making myself desperate to read it...

The Gracekeepers, Kirsty Logan
This book was the darling of booktube for a long while and I got swept up by the hype and the beautiful cover and bought myself a copy. And it’s sat (beautifully) on my shelf ever since. Islands, circuses and magical realism basically sounds like a dream and I’m pretty sure I’m going to love it, but the hype does make me worry...

BUT I'll suck it up and give it a read. That many people can't be wrong, right? Right.

What are you determined to read in 2017?


Tuesday 10 January 2017

Series Review: Avry of Kazan by Maria V Snyder

Series: Avry of Kazan
Author: Maria V Snyder
Books in Series: Touch of Power, Scent of Magic, Taste of Darkness

What’s it all about?
Avry’s ability to cure the sick should inspire awe and reverence in Kazan, but the outbreak of a deadly plague that killed millions changed everything. A plague that has been blamed on healers. When Avry uses her magic to save a dying child, she’s caught and faces execution until a mysterious band of rescuers help her flee her cell. They want her to save a dying prince who has the ability to heal Kazan, but it’ll kill her in return. Will she sacrifice herself to save her world?

The verdict:

Touch of Power
I picked up this book on a complete whim after it sitting on my shelf for four years and I fell head over heels with Avry, Kerrick, Flea, Balen and the monkeys. It’s been years since I binge-read an entire series that wasn’t a re-read or catch-up!

As always, Maria V Snyder has created an involving, vivid and dangerous world that I became immediately involved in. There’s never a moment in in Snyder’s novels when I wonder what’s going on or what’s happening which is something I often struggle with in fantasy - I hate that feeling of floundering. But most of all? It’s all about Kerrick’s gang. I love the banter, affection and loyalty between them and I feel for them all properly, especially the monkeys. It was just what I needed at just the right moment.

Scent of Magic
In book one I wasn’t completely sold on Avry and Kerrick’s growing feelings for each other, I was all for Avry/Belen for a long time, but after the ending of Touch of Power I was suddenly fiercely behind them. The agony of book two was in how much they were separated. The near deaths, the actual deaths, the near misses and the stress of their separation.

The stakes felt higher than ever and all of the risks to the world and the characters were more serious than ever. Seriously, some of the situations Avry got herself into made me want to throw the book across the room so I had to hunker down for hours to read instead. So good! The cliffhanger at the end of the book when Avry and Kerrick were finally reunited was cruel - I had to go straight on to Taste of Darkness.

Taste of Darkness
The finale came around and I still wasn’t getting at all tired of this series or these characters and I was genuinely sad to see it end.

There were many moments during this novel when I looked at how little was left and couldn’t figure out how everything could possibly turn out okay, but it ended perfectly. I was really pleased with how the relationships, friendships, enemies and the whole war thing turned out - and yet I totally feel like there’s scope for re-visiting this world and I really hope Maria V Snyder will go back to it one day. There’s so much to explore and so many side characters I’d love to be re-united with. Flea had one of the biggest and most significant arcs in the series and I’d love to get under his skin a little more.

All in all, a wonderfully readable and addictive fantasy trilogy that I could have followed for another 3 books. Highly recommended!