Saturday 31 December 2016

December Wrap-Up.

As is usual for December, I didn't manage all of my reads this year. That is in fact not surprising because Christmas month is always SO busy for me! Still, I managed a lot of reads (four of the original seven I chose, plus one extra) and I'm excited to talk about them all!

  1. 'Dragon Slayer Number Nine' by Intisar Khanani. This book probably shouldn't count seeing as it was only four or five pages long, but I'm including it anyway because it was a pretty cool short, experimental story written by one of my favourite authors of all time (I can call her that now because I've adored everything she writes so far). I really wanted to get back into the Khanani mood and this piece seemed like the perfect way to do it. In fact, I'd love if she'd expand upon it because the problem with a story with ONLY dialogue is that it becomes exceptionally short. 3/5 Stars.
  2. 'Memories Of Ash' by Intisar Khanani. After my little warm-up, I dived straight into the book I've been waiting to read all year. I read the first in this series, 'Sunbolt', quite a while ago and I've been hoping for a sequel much longer in length ever since. I certainly got that! Khanani took everything great from the original novella and expanded upon it in this. The characters are well thought-out (and she has the kick-ass female character thing down to a tee), the world-building absolutely gorgeous and Khanani just writes such strong story-lines. 5/5 Stars.
  3. 'Stealing Snow' by Danielle Paige. Sadly, my happy reading bout couldn't last long. I really didn't enjoy this book, which was sad because it could have made the perfect wintry read. Instead, it just disappointed me. The pace was way too fast, revolving an annoying, indecisive main character who jumps from scene to scene without fully being allowed to explore it. Not to mention the fact that she falls for every guy she meets. Ugh. The world didn't comprise of much more than lots of snow, coloured trees and a few penguins and became just a generic Fantasy world rather than having personality. 1.5/5 Stars.
  4. 'Heartless' by Marissa Meyer. Marissa Meyer did it again. I was a little unsure going into this despite my love for Fairy Tale retellings because Wonderland is a difficult place to get right. It has to have the perfect balance of madness and sense, otherwise it will either be no fun/unrecognisable or just too ridiculous. Of course Meyer managed it perfectly and created the perfect origin story for the infamously cruel Queen Of Hearts. She also neatly slotted in some great references to other recognisable characters from Carroll's original novels and paid great tribute to him in the process. 5/5 Stars.
  5. 'A Girl Called Owl' by Amy Wilson. My last read of the year was okay, and while I was hoping for something overwhelmingly positive, it wasn't a bad story. In fact Wilson had thought up some pretty neat ideas about the cycle of the seasons and how famed figures of folklore could actually be real. The problem was that I felt that Owl, the MC, was far too flighty and her feelings didn't fully match up to her actions. Many sub-plots were introduced but not for any real reason other than a device to keep Owl's story moving and other areas that I would have liked more development on didn't get enough attention. 2.5/5 Stars.

This month I have read zero books for Pretty Deadly Review's Backlist Challenge, bringing my yearly total to fourty four

This month I have read three book for Falling For YA's Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge bringing my yearly total so far to nineteen. This month's reads were:

- 'Stealing Snow' by Danielle Paige
- 'Heartless' by Marissa Meyer
- 'A Girl Called Owl' by Amy Wilson

This month I have gained two points for Novel Heartbeat and Writer Grrl Reads' Prequel & Sequel Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to sixty two. This month's read was:

- 'Memories Of Ash' by Intisar Khanani (+2)

This month I have read two books for [un]Conventional Reviews' New Releases Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to seventeen. The books I read were:

- 'Memories Of Ash' by Intisar Khanani
- 'Stealing Snow' by Danielle Paige

Note: I have not included 'Heartless' or 'A Girl Called Owl' as they are not released until 2017.

This month I have read two books for Daily Prophecy's Retelling Challenge, bringing my yearly total to twelve. My reads were:

- 'Stealing Snow' by Danielle Paige
- 'Heartless' by Marissa Meyer

I also started my new Bookish Bingo card, and here is the result.

Alternative Format: Dragon Slayer Number Nine; Intisar Khanani
Sequel: Memories Of Ash; Intisar Khanani
2017 Debut: A Girl Called Owl; Amy Wilson
GR Choice Nominee: Heartless; Marissa Meyer
White Cover: Stealing Snow; Danielle Paige

Book Review: A Girl Called Owl; Amy Wilson.

And just as we reach the end of December, another book bites the dust! I'm so glad I managed to get one more in before the end of the year, even if it wasn't my favourite read I've got to.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: A Girl Called Owl
AUTHOR: Amy Wilson
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Children's Books
PAGES: 336
GENRE: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Adventure

RATING: 2.5/5 Stars

It's bad enough having a mum dippy enough to name you Owl, but when you've got a dad you've never met, a best friend who needs you more than ever, and a new boy at school giving you weird looks, there's not a lot of room for much else. 

So when Owl starts seeing strange frost patterns on her skin, she's tempted to just burrow down under the duvet and forget all about it. Could her strange new powers be linked to her mysterious father?And what will happen when she enters the magical world of winter for the first time?

What I Liked:
  • The premise of it was pretty cool, and there were glimpses of this book that had real potential, if they had been expanded upon. I've always liked the idea of a world where folkloric characters such as the Green Man or Jack Frost exist and Wilson did a fairly good job of that. In fact the story was actually pretty neat. I didn't dislike this book at all.
What I Disliked:
  • While I did like this book, I simply didn't love it. It's true that it's aimed at a younger audience than myself so I can't pin this on the slightly immature writing level, though I don't think a more natural dialogue would have gone amiss. I just felt like Wilson didn't really leave much room for development in her story, choosing instead to jump from moment to moment without expanding upon most of it. It was a little disappointing.
  • The characters were a bit on the 'meh' side too. I wanted to see more of Jack Frost, the Earl of October, the Green Man etc. but instead Wilson mostly just told me about their personalities and back-stories instead of showing me. Owl, the MC of the book was strong and independent but just a little too flighty for my liking. She was prone to a lot of strange mood swings which didn't make sense in the grand scheme of things and I would have liked more consistency on her part.
Overall Conclusion:
This was not a bad book and I didn't find myself really hating it, I just didn't fall in love with it like I'd have liked to. There was certainly potential here but in the end, the vague, rushed feel meant that it didn't really move above 'okay' for me. I wanted to learn more about everything and everyone and feel a slower, more consistent pace throughout without watching Owl run off here, there and everywhere.

Thursday 29 December 2016

Christmas Haul!

It's that time of year again where I get to tell you guys about all of the wonderful things I received for Christmas! I have to say that I'm pretty pleased with this year, though it's been a busy one! I'll dive right in and let you guys know what I got!

I'll talk first about the Secret Santa present I received from one of my friends, Joe, that we did for Thankchrismukkah celebrations! I got three awesome gifts: a Hogwarts cushion, a Hufflepuff bookmark and a Hogwarts snow-globe! So many Harry Potter themed goodies, which made me VERY happy. While talking about presents from friends, I met up with Isobel & Catherine (friends from my school days) and they bought me three wonderful books! 'The Night Circus' by Erin Morgenstern, 'Three Dark Crowns' by Kendare Blake and 'The Woman In Black & Other Ghost Stories' which I'm really pleased about because they are so pretty!

But back to Christmas! I'll start with Mat's presents because those were the first I opened on the day! The biggest was my brand new vinyl record player, alongside three beautiful vinyls: The 'Game Of Thrones' soundtrack (Season 1), 'Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them' soundtrack and the 'Wicked' soundtrack. I couldn't believe my luck! I also received two Thorntons gift sets and the 'Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them' screenplay which is a stunning hardback! I was totally blown away and am so grateful to have a boyfriend who knows me so well.

My immediate family (parents & sister) bought me (and Mat in some cases) some gorgeous presents. The biggest and most exciting one was a luxury foot spa which I've been after for ages thanks to my continuing foot problems. I tried it out and it brought me so much relief, so big thanks for that! Also they bought me a whole host of other thinks including colouring books and pencils, Disney AND grammar-themed mugs, '642 Things To Write About', 'Hidden Huntress' by Danielle L. Jensen, a steam voucher, a DKNY gift set, a Bonsai Tree growing kit (something I have always wanted), 'Game Of Thrones' coasters, 'The Case Of Beasts' that looks into the filming of the 'Fantastic Beasts...' film, a literary tea towel and a notebook that says 'Careful, or you'll end up in my next novel.' which I found hilarious! Also, they bought me some vinyls for my record player too: two David Bowie albums and one Michael Jackson which is an excellent start to a hopefully huge collection!

The rest of my family bought me some great gifts too, and Mat and I were very pleased with what we received. Chocolates from my Aunt, money from my Nan & Grandad, a paella set from another Aunt which Mat is really looking forward to trying out, and individually from yet another Aunt I received a makeup palette.

Mat's family also got me some wonderful gifts, making me feel like one lucky, spoiled girl! Plenty of socks which are Christmas-themed (I'm not joking in the slightest when I say that makes me feel very happy). Chocolate of course to add to my ever-growing collection, a humidifier complete with essential oils to hopefully help with some of my allergy problems and make the flat smell nice, a candle, shampoo and a Lynx gift set, even MORE coasters shaped like vinyl records and a very pretty box!

It's been a great haul this year and I'm very grateful for everything I received, so thanks! I hope everyone else received what they wanted and had fun giving out presents and celebrating Christmas too!

Tuesday 27 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Best Books That I Read In 2016'.

This is a category I've definitely been looking forward to: a chance to show off my favourite reads of the year! I had a lot more in the way of 5 Star reads to choose from this time (lots of good ones it seems) so it's been a little tough choosing. In the end, this is what I came up with!

1) 'The Dark Days Club' by Alison Goodman.

One of my first reads of the year, and one that has actually managed to stick with me throughout 2016. I read it as an ARC, managing to finish it on the day of it's release and, like most of my picks are going to be, this one is a retelling though not of a Fairy Tale. In fact, it's based on Jane Austen's 'Pride & Prejudice', though with a bit of a twist: demons. Unlike 'Pride & Prejudice & Zombies' which as I understand it is the original book with a few tweaks here and there in the writing, this book is has a gorgeously written original story that refers to the original characters rather than copying them. Also, I 100% found myself getting the same feels that I got when reading 'Pride & Prejudice' and can't wait for book two!

2) 'Winter' by Marissa Meyer.

Two of this lovely lady's works made the 5 Star club this year, one being my latest read 'Heartless' which provides the Queen Of Hearts with an origin story. I chose 'Winter' as the book that made this list however because I feel that I enjoyed it ever so slightly more (I had been looking forward to reading this finale for ages) and 'Heartless' technically hasn't been released yet. 'Winter' is the final book in The Lunar Chronicles series and proved to be just as good as the others in the series (though I still think 'Cress' is my favourite). We meet Princess Winter and her beloved Palace Guard Jacin and most of the action takes place on Lunar, which is a destination often talked about but never a setting until now. This book not only ties up all of the loose ends character wise, but provides plenty of page-turning, thrilling action for all 800 or so of it's pages (it's a hefty old book).

3) 'Wolf By Wolf' by Ryan Graudin.

My first ever Illumicrate book made it onto my top ten list for the year! Isn't that great? I actually received it November 2015 but I'm glad I read it at the beginning of the year instead because it means I get to write about it now. This is one of the best thrillers I've ever read, and while I'm not overly fond of the genre, this made me want to try out more books. It's Historical Fiction, though provides an alternate version of history where Adolf Hitler won WWII and rules Europe, his biggest ally being the Emperor of Japan. What with the skin-changing technology and the Hunger Games feeling motorbike race, it reads like a Dystopian, which I loved! Tension, plot twists and an interesting story-line are all to be found here, and having just received 'Blood For Blood', the second book, I can't wait to get stuck in!

4) 'Seven Ways We Lie' by Riley Redgate.

Another genre that I don't find myself getting stuck into is YA Contemporary, but every so often a book comes along that blows away all of your expectations. This was that book in 2016. 'Seven Ways We Lie' is told from seven different teenage perspectives, each indulging in a different 'sin'. Interestingly, despite so many viewpoints, the story flows smoothly which is pretty difficult to pull off (especially for a debut, wow)! I related to each character in some way, though some more than others, and I really enjoyed watching their stories intertwine. The most important aspect of this book that I need to talk about is the sheer amount of diversity to be found! Not only are there different ethnicities, but also plenty of LGBTQ+ (a confirmed Pansexual character and hinted asexual) which is awesome because characters like that are horrifyingly difficult to find in literature.

5) 'Pantomime' by Laura Lam.

While on the subject of  diversity, my fifth choice for this year is Laura Lam's incredible book 'Pantomime'. The first in the series, I have seen mixed reviews for this series so I went in with my expectations lowered but I was stunned by how much I really enjoyed it. And the best part? The MC (yes you did read that correctly, the actual main character of the book) is a hermaphrodite, meaning that they are both male and female and find it difficult to identify as one or the other in some cases. Lam integrated this gorgeously into the story without making the entire story about it, and I loved watching Gene/Micah struggle with both society and sexuality. I'm hoping to get to 'Shadowplay' soon because this series is promising to be awesome!

6) 'The Girl With All The Gifts' by M.R. Carey.

This book was a real winner this year, and I couldn't get over just how much I enjoyed it and how much it can teach a person about humanity as a whole. This is set in a post-apocalyptic where zombies, or 'hungries' that reminded me of the creatures from 'The Last Of Us' (if anyone has played that game) have pretty much taken over. Some 'hungry' children have been found that have retained human instincts and are captured and taken to a military guarded research lab. Here we meet the five main characters of the book: a young 'hungry' girl, her teacher, a scientist experimenting on the kids an experienced military sergeant and a soldier who is very new to it all. Each has their own moral standpoint, set of experiences and desires and I enjoyed watching these very different characters interact and try to understand the bewildering environment they are thrust into.

7) 'The Star-Touched Queen' by Roshani Chokshi.

In terms of visuals and descriptors, this was without a doubt my favourite book of the month. Just wow! Chokshi's writing absolutely blew me away and I'm bowled over by how good it was! I loved so many things about this book, but in particular the constant allusions to Indian mythology and stories because retellings are fun and it was great to focus on another culture outside of European myths, stories and legends. There were some really likeable characters, a shippable romance, a solid story and sumptuous world-building that was so well described I felt like I could actually see it. Also, let's not forget Kamala the hilarious, flesh-eating demon horse. Hands down the best character of the book and one I look forward to seeing in the next in the series.

8) 'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness.

If I had to pick an absolute favourite book of 2016, I'd say this would probably be one of my strongest contenders. Patrick Ness is an author I hear a lot about, but up until reading this had only got round to reading one of his books which is frankly appalling considering just how much I adored 'More Than This'. I've seen all sorts of advertisements for the up and coming movie adaptation, and it sparked my curiousity once again so after buying a copy at YALC, I decided to give this book a go. It's interesting because the narrative of the book felt younger, yet the themes were definitely much darker and more adult. It broaches grief, anger, family, friendship, terminal illness, bullying and so many other sensitive issues so I would really recommend that as many people read this book as possible.

9) 'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Let's move onto some non-fiction shall we? Ever since I watched Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED talk on 'The Danger Of A Single Story' which talks about cultural perspective and the destructive potential of fitting people into boxes, I've been an admirer of this lady. I knew she was an author though I'd never read any of her books, but I've wanted to since then. I went book shopping with my sister and decided to give this very short transcript of another talk of hers on feminism (a subject close to my heart that I've actually read very little about. Now, I love her even more. Everyone should read this short piece on why Feminism is a cause everyone ought to be getting on board with, and I loved gaining insight into what it means for people of other cultures too.

10) 'Memories Of Ash' by Intisar Khanani.

I've been looking forward to reading this book for such a long time, and honestly, Intisar Khanani is probably one of my favourite authors right now! I loved her book 'Thorn' as well this year but of the two I chose this one because after reading 'Sunbolt' so long ago, I've been desperate to get hold of this book ever since. It was a great prequel to this gorgeous novel, and Khanani did a wonderful job of expanding upon the world and characters. I can't wait for book three!

Monday 26 December 2016

Book Review: Heartless; Marissa Meyer.

I've been looking forward to this book for the longest time, though been a little nervous that I wouldn't like it as much as 'The Lunar Chronicles' series. Of course, I needn't have worried because Meyer paid what can only be described as the perfect tribute to Carroll's classic novel. It was moving, quirky and filled to the brim with interesting and fun references to the book which it is based upon.

SOURCE: ARC sent by Publisher
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Heartless
AUTHOR: Marissa Meyer
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Children's Books
PAGES: 464
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Romance

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Long before she was the terror of Wonderland, she was just a girl who wanted to fall in love. Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favourite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen.

Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

What I Liked:
  • Let's take a look at Wonderland itself: a world, I feel, is pretty hard to get right. Most of the characters are supposed to be a little odd, yet while this weird behaviour works in Carroll's novels, it can be difficult to apply in modern-day YA without getting picked apart. Meyer struck the balance between creating weird and wonderful characters perfectly and still allowed for a fresh take on each and every setting while paying homage to it's original inspiration. I loved getting a deeper look into certain areas of Wonderland and how the social, political and historical contexts come into play.
  • As I said, the characters were great. In particular, I enjoyed their complexities and the fact that they didn't necessarily fall into an easy YA Fantasy trope. The synopsis points towards a love triangle but it is not in the sense that you usually see in these kinds of books. I loved the fact that despite KNOWING how the story is going to end (this is after all an origin not happily) I still felt like I could get attached to all of the characters and immerse myself in their stories. Not only did we get to see how the Queen of Hearts came to be, we gain more insight into the Mad Hatter (or Hatta here), the Duchess, the mock turtle, and of course the King who is never given much attention elsewhere.
  • Meyer picked a good story for this book. Not too complicated but able to provide explanation for pretty much everything that we know about the Queen of Hearts (a fondness for baking, hatred of white roses, and need to decapitate everything and everyone she encounters, as well as some of her relationships with other Wonderland residents). It felt like a very well thought-out prequel to Carroll's stories and honestly could easily become a gorgeous movie. Meyer's wrote wonderfully as usual and her vivid descriptions of food certainly made me hungry!
What I Disliked:
  • Really I can only write about minor quibbles here, such as the fact that while I enjoyed the whole book, the second half was much more engaging than the first and it took a little long to get to the point where I was totally hooked and chatting about it. Also, no one can say that knowing how the story will end didn't make everything I read sadder and those glimpses of hope more of a shot through the heart.
Overall Conclusion:
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. In fact, while reading the final half, I spent the entire evening explaining to my poor boyfriend exactly what was happening, what that meant and how clever it was in relation to 'Alice In Wonderland'. Meyer put a lot of thought into expanding upon Wonderland itself and the characters that Alice is to meet later, while retaining it's original unique style and oddities. I totally shipped the romance in it too! It took a little longer to build the pace than I would have liked and it's known ending made me wary to get too attached at first, but in the end I just couldn't help myself! Another gorgeous addition to the fractured Fairy Tale genre where the original work serves as an inspiration so that Meyer still used her imagination and turned it into an almost original work that can be enjoyed outside of Carroll's works.

Last Week's Shenanigans (19th December - 25th December)...CHRISTMAS TIME!

This week has been nothing short of chaotic for me in the fun, Christmassy way of course) and it's meant that I've done a lot but not really had much time for reading or blogging at all. Sorry about that! I started the week with a day off but ended up doing a fair few chores and generally catching up with other things in life that I've been meaning to do. Work of course also took precedence over other things the next few days after that, but instead of working five days, I worked three. Working in retail, Christmas can be a very trying time so I was very lucky and thankful that I'd managed to book a large portion of it (the busiest) off. On the 23rd, I cleaned the whole house and worked on a few things in preparation for Christmas! Also...I played the Sims 3...I have no regrets.

Then, on Christmas Eve, my lovely family came to visit me for the day. It was wonderful to spend time with my parents and sister. We ate food, played plenty of games and had a long and wonderful catch-up on all sorts of things. When Mat came home after work we all opened one present each from each other so that the rest could be opened on Christmas day. They left in the evening and Mat and I played on the Xbox 360 and enjoyed the remainder of the day. On Christmas Day, Mat and I started with each other's presents and a few from my distant relatives before face-timing my family to open the rest from each other. Christmas Day was lovely and chilled out, with a wonderful roast dinner cooked by Mat, plenty of chocolate and a couple of games of the Game Of Thrones LCG that Mat received from my sister for Christmas. It was our first Christmas together, just the two of us and it was just right!

A wonderful week in all, with not much room to do anything but go with the ride! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas too!

I Read...


I Received...

- 'Hidden Huntress' by Danielle L Jensen: Christmas Present from Bev (25/12/16)
- 'Fantastic Beasts & Where To Find Them: The Original Screenplay' by J.K. Rowling: Christmas Present from Mat (25/12/16)
- 'The Case Of Beasts' by Mark Salisbury: Christmas Present from Parents (25/12/16)

Monday 19 December 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (12th December - 18th December)...

This week has been significantly busier than the last, mostly due to the fact that despite having work, many important dates have fallen on this week! Mine and Mat's seven year anniversary for example was on the fourteenth, and then the fifteenth was Mat's birthday! Mat cooked me a lovely dinner for when I came home on our anniversary, and it was nice to spend some downtime with him before heading to the cinema for the midnight showing of Rogue One! It's an excellent film though a lot darker than I imagined and I felt like the first third umped from place to place a little too quickly! It fills in some great blanks though, I highly recommend it!

I had the day off on Mat's actual birthday and we had a lovely lie-in followed by meeting his mum for lunch and shopping at Stratford's Westfield! It was a lovely afternoon out for all, and upon returning home we played games, watched TV and even ordered pizza because...why not. I then continued to have work until Sunday, another day off that ended up being a lot of fun because Tash came round to watch Brooklyn 99 Season 3 with us, a couple more episodes of Once Upon A Time Season 6, and then accompanied me to my work meal late on Sunday evening. It was a lovely night for everyone and a wonderful end to the week!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The One Memory Of Flora Banks' by Emily Barr: Approved by Netgalley (12/12/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half Of 2017

I Posted...

Bookish Bingo (December 2016 - February 2017) Sign-Up Post

Sunday 18 December 2016

Book Review: Stealing Snow; Danielle Paige.

This book disappointed me on so many levels and I've had to think long and hard on how best to describe how, because there were so many problems! It's a shame, as I'd been looking forward to reading a Fairy Tale retelling, especially as I'd heard such good things about 'Dorothy Must Die'.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Stealing Snow
AUTHOR: Danielle Paige
SERIES: Stealing Snow (#1)
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Childrens
PAGES: 380
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling, Adventure

RATING: 1.5/5 Stars

Seventeen-year-old Snow lives within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she doesn't belong there, but she has no memory of life outside, except for the strangest dreams. And then a mysterious, handsome man, an orderly in the hospital, opens a door – and Snow knows that she has to leave…

She finds herself in icy Algid, her true home, with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she's destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change everything. Heroine or villain, queen or broken girl, frozen heart or true love, Snow must choose her fate…

What I Liked:

  • I rarely struggle to speak positively about books. In every single one of them I normally find something good to say, and often I berate myself because I fear that I'm not harsh enough on books that haven't won me over. Here...I struggled. I can see that Paige has definitely put some effort into trying to appeal to her readers. Elements of the story and world-building were nice and the odd character choice had moments that they appealed to me. Sadly, these vague allusions to moments of potential are all I have.
What I Disliked:
  • I have a few things to go through, so let's start with the world-building. Only one word can be used to describe it: vague. When I saw that this book was a crossover of Snow White and the Snow Queen, an interesting choice, I expected ice. However, ice was pretty much all I got! There was snow everywhere, some generic forests, rivers and castles that were bizarre colours just to attempt to show some imagination, and penguins. Even the name of the world, Algid, sounds like something taken from a name generator. Clearly Paige's focus was not on developing her world.
  • Alright so what if the world-building was non-existent? Clearly Paige wanted to focus on the action, right? Wrong? This book did not contain a coherent plot-line as such, but was instead made up of a series of moments that seemed like it was checking off a list rather than actually contributing to the plot. One minute she's in an asylum, then running to a tree where she meets the guy she dreamed about but is IMMEDIATELY taken someplace else where she stays for only a few chapters before TRAVELLING ELSEWHERE to prepare for a mission to DO SOMETHING ELSE. Honestly, I was so confused and that was without the flashbacks. I like fast-paced but this was too much.
  • So a character book then? Nah. Who needs to develop characters, right? Seeing as Snow, an unlikeable heroine at best, took so many trips to absolutely everywhere (though it pretty much all looked the same so how would I know) she didn't have time to stop and chat too much. We meet a few guys along the way and though we don't know much about them she proceeds to be in love with them all immediately. There are also a couple of LGBT relationships that you would think would work in Paige's favour but as they are only briefly mentioned in order to check the diversity box (though let's face it, it should be unchecked again for the horrible depiction of mental illness at the beginning). I literally didn't care for any of the characters, or what happened to them at the end.
Overall Conclusion:
This was not an enjoyable read, and that's because despite it's 380 page length everything was massively underdeveloped! I felt like I'd not really learned much about the plot, the people OR the world by the time I came out the other side. It took me a really long time to gt through this book too because the writing was not in the least bit engaging for me. I wanted to DNF so badly but chose not to break my rule. Time to move on I think!

Tuesday 13 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half Of 2017'.

It's that time of the year where we start thinking ahead to next year's reads and I'm so excited! Especially as I have hold of a couple of them now!

1) 'The Bear & The Nightingale' by Katherine Arden.

Publication Date: 10th January 2017

Everyone knows I love Fairy Tales, whether their classics such as Beauty & The Beast and Cinderella or lesser known ones. In fact, one of my favourite retellings is Eowyn Ivey's 'The Snow Child' which is based on a Russian Fairy Tale of the same name. I was overjoyed therefore when I was approved for this little beauty, another retelling of a Russian Fairy Tale and it looks stunning. It has received a lot of praise and the publisher sent me a lovely email that assured me even more that this would be right up my street!

2) 'RoseBlood' by A.G. Howard.

Publication Date: 10th January 2017

At first, when I saw the cover for this, I assumed it was part of Howard's 'Splintered' series and scrolled past it, as I haven't got round to that series yet. Having researched further however, I realised it was actually a totally new project and one I'm looking forward to a lot. While I've never read the original book, 'The Phantom Of The Opera' musical has been a huge part of my life and love for theatre for well over a decade now. To see a YA retelling of the story? Excitement doesn't even begin to cover it.

3) 'Windwitch' by Susan Dennard.

Publication Date: 10th January 2017

While the first book didn't exactly blow me away, I have to say there was a lot of potential in 'Truthwitch' and I'm intrigued to see where Dennard takes the story, so look forward to reading book two! So many people adored the first in the series and I think much of my disappointment was down to the fact that it had been built so highly in my mind and my expectations were through the roof! There were definitely a few original ideas and intriguing characters to be found, and I'm hoping that Dennard establishes everything with a little more detail and thought in this next installment.

4) 'A Quiet Kind Of Thunder' Sara Barnard.

Publication Date: 12th January 2017

Just thinking about this book is giving me the shivers. I'm so lucky that Pan Macmillan deigned to give me an ARC (that I plan to read this month) and am excited at the prospect of a second book by this wonderful author. I loved 'Beautiful Broken Things' so much, particularly as it's main focus was friendship which is pretty rare to find in YA Contemporary. The cover for this book is absolutely stunning too which is always a bonus for me.

5) 'Carve The Mark' by Veronica Roth.

Publication Date: 17th January 2017

I actually almost completely forgot about adding this book to this list, which should be nigh on impossible considering how much attention it has received as it's release date approaches. People who have read my rather unimpressed review of 'Allegiant', the third book in the 'Divergent' series, might be a little confused that I'm looking forward to this book so much, but it's important to bear in mind my initial love for the series, and the fact that Roth's writing has never been the real issue. I'm intrigued to see her work with new characters, synopsis and setting.

6) 'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber.

Publication Date: 31st January 2017

This is the only debut I have on this list because it's probably one of my most anticipated reads of next year. Period. Seriously, I've seen this book everywhere, and once I'd looked into the synopsis I couldn't take my mind off of it! It involves performances, magic, dreams and a strong sister bond which is also something I enjoy reading about. Honestly, I know I am not the only one desperate to get their hands on this book and I'm looking forward to the moment I do.

7) 'Heartless' by Marissa Meyer.

Publication Date: 9th February 2017

Words cannot even touch upon how overjoyed I was to receive an actual, physical proof for this book. Not just because it's one of the first times I've been approached about such a popular author, but also because I LOVE MARISSA MEYER. Everything she's written that I've read (AKA her entire 'The Lunar Chronicles' series) has received an instant 5* rating, and obviously every lover f Fairy Tales such as I would instantly be in favour of a Queen Of Hearts origin story. Also, just look at that cover!

8) 'A Crown Of Wishes' Roshani Chokshi.

Publication Date: 28th March 2017

This is coming out so soon and I am really hyped about it because I only recently read and adored 'The Star Touched Queen'. I loved the Indian mythology, the gorgeous setting, likeable characters and visual imagery to die for. Not to mention the romance and fairy-tale esque feel to it all. It deserved it's 5* rating from me and the sequel is without a doubt one that I've been looking forward to from the moment I finished book one. I can only hope it's as good as the first, as Chokshi really impressed me.

9) 'Strange The Dreamer' by Laini Taylor.

Publication Date: 28th March 2017

Much like Veronica Roth's new release, this book has long been on the list of many a book blogger. The 'Daughter Of Smoke & Bone' series was huge when I first started blogging and while it took me a little while to get round to it, I liked it a lot. I didn't enjoy the third and final installment nearly as much as I had liked the other two, but I'm looking forward to a change of scenery and situation because Taylor's writing is nothing short of captivating and her imagination is wonderful.

10) 'Flame In The Mist' Renee Ahdieh.

Publication Date: 2nd May 2017

Honestly, I'm very ashamed of myself for daring to include this on the list thanks to my lack of reading 'The Wrath & The Dawn' series, which has been on my TBR for like-ever. But it's so pretty, I just couldn't help myself. While Ahdieh's previous popular series takes from 'One Thousand & One Nights' and middle-eastern folklore, this series draws from probably one of my favourite countries of all time: Japan. I don't get to read much in the way of Asian literature or stories, so it will be cool to do that with this series!

Bookish Bingo (December 2016 - February 2017) Sign-Up Post

I didn't do too badly in the last three months' Bookish Bingo challenge. I adore this game, as you all know, so I'm extremely excited to be onto the next board and try to get more bingos all over again!

This is a gorgeous board! I'm very late in posting this but I already have a ton of ideas on books for each security. Exciting!

Monday 12 December 2016

Last Week's Shenanigans (5th December - 11th December)...

Last week was not all that busy, and in fact I only worked with not an awful lot else going on. I'm actually pretty tired while writing this because this is my first day off in six days! I had to swap some shifts around because Mat's birthday is coming up and I wanted to spend the day with him. While I haven't been at work this week, I've been playing Pokemon Sun (Mat has Pokemon Moon) as well as watching The Big Bang Theory, Agents Of SHIELD and Death Note. Hooray for Netflix!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours' by Helen Oyeyemi: Approved by Netgalley (06/12/16)


Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016

Friday 9 December 2016

Book Review: Memories Of Ash; Intisar Khanani.

My first read of December took me a little longer than planned to get round to, especially as it was released in May and I've been looking forward to it for so long. I've been worried that I'd forget the characters and situation, seeing as it has been so long since I read 'Sunbolt', but luckily that didn't happen at all!

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Memories Of Ash
AUTHOR: Intisar Khanani
SERIES: The Sunbolt Chronicles (#2)
PUBLISHER: Purple Monkey Press
PAGES: 359
GENRE: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure

RATING: 5/5 Stars

In the year since she cast her sunbolt, Hitomi has recovered only a handful of memories. But the truths of the past have a tendency to come calling, and an isolated mountain fastness can offer only so much shelter. When the High Council of Mages summons Brigit Stormwind to stand trial for treason, Hitomi knows her mentor won’t return—not with Arch Mage Blackflame behind the charges.

Armed only with her magic and her wits, Hitomi vows to free her mentor from unjust imprisonment. She must traverse spell-cursed lands and barren deserts, facing powerful ancient enchantments and navigating bitter enmities, as she races to reach the High Council. There, she reunites with old friends, planning a rescue equal parts magic and trickery.

If she succeeds, Hitomi will be hunted the rest of her life. If she fails, she’ll face the ultimate punishment: enslavement to the High Council, her magic slowly drained until she dies.

What I Liked:
  • All of Khanani's characters are phenomenally written, and I especially enjoyed Hitomi's POV. She's a strong, fierce, kind character and I adored her just as much as I did in 'Sunbolt'. The characters surrounding her were also great, both new and old. Familiar faces such as Brigit, Val and Tanuki were wonderful to read and become reacquainted with, and I adored new characters such as Osman Bey, Stonefall and Huda.
  • The world-building was really great, and I loved the sheer amount of development that Khanani had put into it. There were recognisable features from book one, but also new places, more politics, a better understanding of the history and a more refined explanation of how magic works in this world.
What I Disliked:
  • To be honest, I can't really think of anything other than the fact I'm probably going to have to wait an exceptionally long time before book three is released and I can read it. Tears, tears, a thousand tears.
Overall Conclusion:
Khanani, as usual, did a great job with this novel. It's the second full length story I've read by her and thoroughly enjoyed, and this has the potential to be such a good fantasy series. I'll certainly be recommending it to everyone, ALL OF THE TIME, because I'd like Khanani's work to receive more attention from fellow readers and bloggers alike. It's a great contribution to YA, Fantasy and diversity in reading and deserves to be read and enjoyed by as many people as possible.

Tuesday 6 December 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Authors I Read For The First Time In 2016'.

Sadly, I've been slacking with TTT for a while. This is mostly because I've had a lot on my plate for the last few months (illness, moving flat, promotion at work, etc.) and I haven't had the energy to continually keep up so I've been picking the topics that really interest me instead. It's coming to the end of 2016 now so I thought this would be a good time to reflect upon the reading that has kept me grounded through a chaotic year. I probably won't be including Debut authors on here as it's the first time anyone has read anything by them. Just authors that I really feel I ought to have read by now.

1) Arthur Conan Doyle.

That's right. 2016 was the year I finally got to read the famous, original Sherlock Holmes series. Or at least, part of it. Over the course of the year I've read three of the nine 'volumes' and I have to say I've enjoyed them all immensely. Arthur Conan Doyle was part of my attempt to get back into reading Classics that I hadn't read yet and I'm pleased with my progress so far!

2) Matt Haig.

I hear Haig's name bounced around a lot, though I never fully looked into his books. Then, my sister read his non-fiction book 'Reasons To Stay Alive' and begged me too, and I'm so glad I did. That book has changed my life and perception of myself in so many different ways, and was also my first non-fiction read in a really long time. Thanks Matt Haig for opening my eyes.

3) Kiera Cass.

Pretty much every blog I follow has reviewed Kiera Cass' 'The Selection' series, for better or for worse. It's definitely a 'marmite' series in the blogging community. I'm one of the weird few who found it 'okay' but I can see a lot of potential in it and I'd like to read more. I know it's quite a long series and I've read only the first book so far, but I felt like I accomplished a big reading goal when I got round to it at last.

4) Sarah J. Maas.

Maas, just like Cass, is one of those authors I see everywhere. Her 'Throne Of Glass' series might be a little more popular but I was of course drawn to the Fairy Tale retelling inside. I have to say, while I see that elements of the book could lead to some real issues, I really liked it and am putting faith in Maas' judgement that I'm not going to start hating the series further down the line.

5) Jennifer Niven.

'All The  Bright Places' was a book that started getting shoved at me by various advertisements after I read and adored 'The Fault In Our Stars'. While the two follow story-lines that are actually pretty different, it's easy to see why they've been lumped into the same category. I enjoyed it a lot, and read it not long after my two flat mates which meant we could rave about it together. I'm looking forward to 'Holding Up The Universe', Niven's next work that Netgalley recently approved me for.

6) Dan Brown.

To be honest, Dan Brown has never been of great interest to me. I was alive and reading during 'The Da Vinci Code' craze and didn't watch any of the films or even pick up the books to read the synopsis. It wasn't my thing. My boyfriend however loves them. I was reading over his shoulder while he read the latest one last year and found myself inexplicably hooked, though it wasn't, by any means, the best thing I'd read all year. Finally, in 2016, I have caved and given the first in the 'Robert Langdon' series a try. There's a lot of contention surrounding this author, as well as love, so it was quite strange to see that while I was angry that Brown had so obviously decided to purposely mislead people on the facts, I also guiltily enjoyed the cheesy cliffhangers and sense of danger.

7) Cassandra Clare.

It seems I've had a bit of a penchant for controversial authors this year. As well as Dan Brown, the amount of hype and adoration that surrounds Cassandra Clare is insane. But so is the amount of claims of plagiarism and copying that she has been accused of. 'City Of Bones' is the first book in her most popular series, so I gave it a try. In a way, it was corny. I could totally see why people were angry too because having done my research, the claims seem pretty well-founded. But in a way, it was a pretty good series with, again, plenty of potential. I've been warned to only read the first three (advice I'll probably take) but who can resist a book that contains Magnus Bane?

8) Rainbow Rowell.

I know, I know. It's basically a crime not to have read Rowell's work by now. Contemporary YA Romance has NEVER been something I adore so I honestly thought Rowell wouldn't be the kind of author I would get into easily. Turns out I was totally wrong and once again need to give my sister all the points for her amazing book recommendations. I liked 'Kindred Spirits', her short story, a lot. I loved 'Fangirl' and now I'm looking into more of her YA. 

9) Rudyard Kipling.

Disney's 'Jungle Book' has been with me for a lot of my life and I've always enjoyed the story. My parents bought my sister and I a different animated version of it too which I adored so I've known the story all through my childhood. It occurred to me, while going to see the live-action film, that I have never read the books and I wanted to rectify this ASAP. Kipling's version is of course a little more adult and much darker, but I actually quite liked it and am glad that I took the time to try this collection of short stories out. 

10) Alice Sebold.

Alice Sebold is one of those names that I've heard often in my life, especially by readers of Cecelia Ahern or Jodi Picoult. Again, those kinds of books never really appealed to me, but the movie of 'The Lovely Bones' has always stuck with me since going to watch it with my friends all those years ago. With that in mind, I decided to try the book and liked it. The creepy tone, sense of justice in the end and bizarre but oddly beautiful nature of the story were all there. I don't know if I'll read more of Sebold's work, but it felt like a milestone nonetheless.