Tuesday 31 January 2017

January Wrap-Up.

Of the 7 picks for January, I actually managed 5 which is not bad considering the terrible start I got off to! I've read a lot in the past couple of weeks and I'm really pleased with all of my reads this month!

  1. 'The Bear & The Nightingale' by Katherine Arden. This was a real anticipated read on my part that I'd been hoping to read during December, but I'm pleased I got to now. It focuses on Russian Folklore and provides a re-imagining of that world and way of life. The historical research was phenomenal and paired nicely with some gorgeous world-building. Whatsmore, the story and characters were really nicely explored. I can't wait for book two! 5/5 Stars.
  2. 'A Quiet Kind Of Thunder' by Sara Barnard. Definitely my favourite read of the year so far, I'm shocked and amazed at how much I enjoyed this despite adoring Barnard's debut 'Beautiful Broken Things'. Guys, this is not just any old YA contemporary romance. This one grabs you in the feels. I loved the relationship between Rhys and Steffi, and also there is so much diverse representation in this book for BAME, the deaf community, those who suffer from anxiety and many more. 5/5 Stars.
  3. 'Rebel Of The Sands' by Alwyn Hamilton. I've had this on the list for a while now, and looked forward to a possible combination of books such as 'Vengeance Road' and 'A Thousand Nights'. I was certainly not disappointed on that front as I saw a whole host of magical creatures as well as shooting action. I felt like the pacing was much faster than I'd have liked and didn't leave time to explore relationships in the way I'd have liked. Nevertheless, this looks to be a promising series. 3.5/5 Stars.
  4. 'Saint Death' by Marcus Sedgwick. Even now I'm a bit unsure of my feelings on this one. There's no doubt that it's a powerful read with a serious message on the way that Mexico is frequently exploited by the USA and the sad lives that the people there lead. It feels especially relevant now and I liked the styling of it. I would have liked more of a story and better developed characters to get attached to but this has a feel of a classic in the making. 3.5/5 Stars.
  5. 'The Bone Sparrow' by Zana Fraillon. While I didn't rate it as highly as my first two reads, this is definitely the book that has stuck with me. It's setting of an Australian detention centre, and similarities to the classic 'The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas' is harrowing considering how current this situation is. There were a couple of pacing issues that I had to look past, mostly due to the target audience between that fine line between Middle Grade and YA. 4/5 Stars.
Now it's time to see how I did with my challenges this month!

This month I have read four books for the Netgalley & Edelweiss Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to four. My reads were:

- The Bear & The Nightingale
- A Quiet Kind Of Thunder
- Saint Death
- The Bone Sparrow

This month I have read two books for the 2017 New Releases Challenge, bringing my yearly total so far to two. My reads were:

- The Bear & The Nightingale
- A Quiet Kind Of Thunder

This month I have read zero books for the LGBTQIA Challenge, bringing my yearly total to zero.

This month I have read five books for the Diverse Reads Challenge, bringing my yearly total to five. My reads were:

- The Bear & The Nightingale [Optional Mini Challenge]
- A Quiet Kind Of Thunder
- Rebel Of The Sands
- Saint Death
- The Bone Sparrow

And I'm getting along nicely with my Bookish Bingo and Story Sprites cards too!

Alternative Format: Dragon Slayer Number Nine; Intisar Khanani
Set Abroad: Saint Death; Marcus Sedgwick
Sequel: Memories Of Ash; Intisar Khanani
2017 Debut: A Girl Called Owl; Amy Wilson
GR Choice Nominee: Heartless; Marissa Meyer
Pink Cover: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder; Sara Barnard
White Cover: Stealing Snow; Danielle Paige
Survival: The Bone Sparrow; Zana Fraillon
Blue Cover: Rebel Of The Sands; Alwyn Hamilton
Nature On Cover: The Bear & The Nightingale; Katherine Arden

Book With Multiple POVs: The Bear & The Nightingale; Katherine Arden
Story Regarding Anxiety: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder; Sara Barnard
Story Centred Around Social Issues: The Bone Sparrow; Zana Fraillon
Mostly Blue Cover: Rebel Of The Sands; Alwyn Hamilton
Book Addressing Socioeconomic Topics: Saint Death; Marcus Sedgwick

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Graphic Novels & Illustrated Editions I Would Love To Read'.

In all honesty I have never really found myself able to get into graphic novels, manga and illustrated books in the way that I wanted to. Plenty have piqued my interest but I've been so focused on getting through my TBR that I've never found time to try a new genre. If I could though, I would love to get time to read these!

1) 'The One Hundred Nights Of Hero' by Isabel Greenberg.

I saw a review of from one of my favourite book bloggers on social media, Lucy Powrie, and it really caught my attention for a variety of reasons. It's the story of a young man who is trying to seduce another man's wife in an attempt to win her castle, but is completely unaware that she is secretly in love with her maid. The maid, Hero, regales the young man with stories in order to have him lose. (1) It's a retelling of 'One Thousand & One Nights' which is quickly becoming my favourite material that author's are drawing from. (2) It's LGBT which is exactly the kind of graphic novels I would love to read. Diversity is very important to me. And (3) the art style looks gorgeous. I can't wait!

2) 'Through The Woods' by Emily Carroll.

I saw this book a long time ago and the fact that I haven't read it yet has played on my mind ever since. It's a quick read, comprising of five chilling tales that take place in the woods, but it has that 'fairy tale' feel that makes me happy. Also, everyone knows that I like spooky books and I've read so many reviews from freaked out readers, including Patrick Rothfuss who is my Fantasy writing hero and normally has some pretty great recommendations book-wise! Also, just look at that cover art! Wow! If the inside is as good as the outside, I'll have a visual feast on my hands!

3) 'Habibi' by Craig Thompson.

In today's current climate, I feel that a story like 'Habibi' would be especially relevant and heart-breaking to read. It tells the tale of two refugee slave children, and their love for each other as they learn to survive a cruel, harsh world. I love the focus on story-telling too an stories from the Islamic and Christian faiths are weaved through it's pages. The art looks beautiful too, and for those interested, I've heard great things about Thompson's other work, 'Blankets'.

4) 'Death Note' series by Tsugumi Ohba & Takeshi Obata.

I actually did try and start this series a long time ago, and thoroughly enjoyed what I read. I've also been watching and loving the anime more recently so I think that if I ever decided to get into manga, this is where I would start. It's an extremely popular series that tests it's readers moral compasses: Light, a bored student, stumbles upon a book that lets him kill whoever he likes, as long as he knows their name and face. His slow descent into madness and evil is catastrophic as he desperately tries to outsmart his Sherlock-esque opponent known only as 'L'. Full of twists and turns, I desperately want to read this again and actually finish it this time.

5) 'The Sandman' series by Neil Gaiman et al.

To be honest, I don't know an awful lot about this series other than the fact that it's one of Neil Gaiman's most famous works and there's a character called Morpheus. I've always been intrigued though because, like many other things that I love, it seems to delve into the realms of mythology and the fantastical. I'd really love to actually get into this huge series at some point because I think it would be very different from anything else I've read. I like the idea of delving into concepts like 'Death' and 'Dream' and treating them as if they are Gods and the artwork looks pretty cool too!

6) 'Fables' series by Bill Willingham et al.

I've had a little experience with this series but only through the Telltale video game, and not through reading the actual comics. As far as I'm aware, story characters have been banished from their land and sent to the mortal world where they are living in a small area of New York city.Everyone knows I love Fairy Tales with a spin, so Mayor Snow White? Detective/Sheriff Bigby the Big Bad Wolf? Right up my street for sure!

7) 'Wires & Nerve' series by Marissa Meyer & Douglas Holgate.

Marissa Meyer's books are like a way of life for me, so the idea of a Graphic Novel from Iko's POV? YES. Also, handsome palace guard? I'm so glad that Meyer decided to continue this on because I felt like it would have been nice for Iko to have a happy ending too. I liked the guard that she briefly met too so hopefully that relationship will get more attention, as will Iko herself! Also, how cool is that art style? Seriously!

8) 'Locke & Key' series by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez.

This is another of those series, like 'Sandman', that seems to have a lot of fans. And has been received well by Patrick Rothfuss. I hear it's a bit of a slow starter, but I've read 'Horns' by Joe Hill and enjoyed it, so have no doubt that I'll be able to handle the odd pacing. It's based around Lovecraft's work from my understanding, and I've always wanted to explore and discover what the obsession with fictional monsters such as Cthulhu is all about. I'd love to read the original works first, but I think this would be a nice way of then getting 

9) 'The Lie Tree' by Frances Hardinge & Chris Riddell.

So this isn't a Graphic Novel as such, and instead falls under the category of 'Illustrated Edition'. Still, I've read a book illustrated by Chris Riddell before ('The Sleeper & The Spindle') and liked his art style a lot. Whatsmore, having already read 'The Lie Tree' I love the story and think that illustrations would compliment it very well! I've seen the edition a couple of times in Waterstones while passing through and always find myself gazing longingly at it. In fact, this was the first book that sprang to mind when I saw the category this week!

10) 'A Monster Calls' by Patrick Ness & Jim Kay.

Another illustrated edition, this is another must for me! I have read 'A Monster Calls' and seen the movie and adored both! I would be so happy to get my hands on a copy of the illustrated edition because it looks stunning beyond compare! If you haven't got round to reading this story at all, I would thoroughly recommend it as it's a heart-wrenching, beautiful read that covers a lot of themes.

Monday 30 January 2017

Book Review: The Bone Sparrow; Zana Fraillon.

I can honestly say, without a doubt in my mind, that this book needed to be written. Fans of 'The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas' will like it, and also be horrified by the similarities considering that it's subject is one that is happening right now. It's not the past, it's the present, and it's why the refugee crisis needs more aid, media coverage and attention than it's getting.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Bone Sparrow
AUTHOR: Zana Fraillon
Orion Children's Books
PAGES: 240
GENRE: Young Adult, Middle Grade, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

RATING: 4/5 Stars

Born in a refugee camp, all Subhi knows of the world is that he's at least 19 fence diamonds high, the nice Jackets never stay long, and at night he dreams that the sea finds its way to his tent, bringing with it unusual treasures. And one day it brings him Jimmie.

Carrying a notebook that she's unable to read and wearing a sparrow made out of bone around her neck - both talismans of her family's past and the mother she's lost - Jimmie strikes up an unlikely friendship with Subhi beyond the fence.

As he reads aloud the tale of how Jimmie's family came to be, both children discover the importance of their own stories in writing their futures.

What I Liked:
  • Honestly, the huge amount of research and knowledge that must have gone into this book is immense. My own ignorance was well and truly revealed, as I had never heard of the Rohingya people (a Muslim community originating from Myanmar) nor did I know that the Australian Detention Centres were anything like this. This book is educational in so many ways, and it's why I appreciate that Fraillon wrote it in a way that balances on that fine line between Middle Grade and YA. Because I think kids need to be educated on these issues and a story like this is the perfect way to do it.
  • The dual perspective was a clever way of relating the stories of it's two characters, Subhi (a refugee born inside the camp) and Jimmie (a free but poor Australian girl who lives just on the outskirts of the Detention Centre). It gave some perspective on two different 'less than ideal' Australian living situations, but kept it's focus well. The interaction of the two children was funny but heartbreaking to watch, neither truly understanding the situation and being naive to the other's life in so many ways. It really worked.
What I Disliked:
  • To be honest, I had a few quibbles with little things such as the pacing and lack of in-depth characterisation (it is after all for a younger audience than myself) but these didn't really amount to anything when compared to the emotional impact of the story. Some people will think that the ending was a little too hopeful, and perhaps a more tragic ending would be better for such a topic but while I can see that, I think that this worked. It almost spoke to me in a way that said 'people like you get to choose the ending by fighting for the real people that are suffering, and not allowing them to be forgotten). That's powerful.
Overall Conclusion:
This is a hard-hitting book full of heart ache, gorgeous quotes and coverage of a crisis that doesn't receive nearly enough. It's very relevant, especially during recent times, and I can only thank Fraillon for writing this book. As I said before, it needed to be written. It's not long, and perhaps a bit more page space should have helped it even more, but I liked what Fraillon ended up with lot and I advise anyone else reading this book to spare a few minutes and read the Afterword. It's enlightening and educational.

Last Week's Shenanigans (23rd January - 29th January)...

Monday was sadly my last day off before having to go back to work, but also turned out to be the most productive in some ways. Both Mat and I were off, so we did a lot of cleaning in the morning, before going to see La La Land at the cinema in the afternoon! Guys, if you haven't already seen this film then go see it! It's one of the best I've seen in a while: fantastic visuals, a talented cast (seriously, Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling blew me away because this is not the sort of thing I expected to see them doing, but they were so good), and very moving story line that in many ways I could relate to. It definitely deserves all of those Oscars it has been nominated for! After the cinema we returned home and played a board game together late into the evening, which was a lot of fun too!

The rest of the week was sadly filled with work and very little else, though on Sunday I managed to see my family for a little while which was nice. They came to visit me while Mat was at work and we had a lovely catch up. After they left, Tash also came round for a chat and I enjoyed spending my day off actually socialising. I also got a few bits and bobs done around the house which was nice.

I Read...

I Received...

- 'Paper Butterflies' by Lisa Heathfield: Approved by Netgalley (26/01/17)

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Book Review: Saint Death; Marcus Sedgwick.

This, as my first Sedgwick read, was an important milestone for my reading journey. I've been wanting to read his work for quite some time and I thought that this would be as good a place as any to start! I enjoyed it too, and learned to appreciate it for what it was, but I can certainly see why this book won't be for everyone.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Saint Death
AUTHOR: Marcus Sedgwick
Orion Children's Books
PAGES: 240
GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary, Literary Fiction

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

Anapra is one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the Mexican city of Juarez - twenty metres outside town lies a fence, and beyond it, America - the dangerous goal of many a migrant. Faustino is one such trying to escape from the gang he's been working for. He's dipped into a pile of dollars he was supposed to be hiding and now he's on the run. He and his friend, Arturo, have only 36 hours to replace the missing money, or they're as good as dead.

Watching over them is Saint Death. Saint Death (or Santissima Muerte) - she of pure bone and charcoal-black eye, she of absolute loyalty and neutral morality, holy patron to rich and poor, to prostitute and narco-lord, criminal and police-chief. A folk saint, a rebel angel, a sinister guardian.

What I Liked:
  • There were a lot of great things about this book. One of the biggest things that impressed me was Sedgwick's writing. He wrote a fantastic depiction of Mexican life and culture, even going so far as to mix the English and Spanish language and punctuation. It was so clever and on a topic/area that isn't covered often in literature. Especially YA. Sedgwick wrote a really great depiction of poor Mexican communities, specifically Anapra, and his visual descriptors worked really well.
  • This book is not so much a story as a political message and I really thought that Sedgwick deserves all the praise for this literary piece. He injected it with a good story, plenty of facts and opinions, and even a little black humour. It was a brave topic to tackle and gave some very deep reflections on topics such as racism, gang warfare, consumerism and capitalism and exploitation. There were some great quotes in this book, including my favourite: the passage on 'polite embarrassment'.
What I Disliked:
  • I guess that while I can 100% appreciate what Sedgwick's book was all about and I shall definitely be getting into more of his work, this book was really not what I was expecting and in that sense it disappointed me. I wanted characters to get attached to and a plot that would immerse me, but in order to appreciate what this story was about I had to detach myself from the action and become like the titular entity herself: neutral, an observer and not allowing myself to take sides.
Overall Conclusion:
This is definitely one of those books that will be adored by a certain niche of people, those who are after books with deeper meaning and a need to learn something from the story. And I honestly think that people should read this book because of it's educational value, particularly as it shines a light on some of the truth regarding western morals. But for those that want a story that will bring them on a roller-coaster of a journey with likeable characters and a happy ending, don't choose this read. This is more of a political essay with fictitious situations serving as examples to Sedgwick's message.

Monday 23 January 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (16th January - 22nd January)...

So some of you may remember that I have had the entire week off of work, which has been absolutely wonderful. It's been such a long time since I've really felt that I've been able to take time to myself, and this week has allowed me to do just that. I've been as productive with my time as I could muster (reading, blog, household chores, the odd spot of job hunting and writing) but I've also really loved taking some time to play games and watch TV (the new 'A Series Of Unfortunate Events' series has Mat and I hooked). 

On Monday, Mat and I attended the surprise that I had booked for his birthday: tickets to see the Star Wars: Identities exhibition! I was expecting a room filled with props and set/scenery from the film with a few interesting facts but I was massively impressed by what actually greeted me. Visitors are given the opportunity to reflect upon their identity and what makes us the person that we are. As you do so, you are invited to create a character of your own and choose everything from race to parenting style to planetary traditions. There is so much information on the process behind creating the characters of Star Wars and much more to see than I had imagined there would be! Mat loved it and for the ticket price, I would definitely recommend it for fans of the franchise!

Mat had a couple more days off after that too so on Tuesday we went to the cinema to see Assassin's Creed. While I didn't think the film was terrible, it didn't really grip me in the way that I wanted. In fact I felt very unattached to everything that happened, both character and plot-wise and I was hoping for some better references to the games. Still, there was plenty of actions and I liked the SFX a lot! Nothing really happened as such until Friday, when I went out with Mat and co to Stratford's Las Iguanas to celebrate Tash's new job. It was certainly a lot of fun and broke up my day which was nice. The only thing I had after that was a two hour management meeting on the Sunday and then I was free to spend the rest of my time as I pleased!

I Read...

I Received...

- 'The Lonely Hearts Hotel' by Heather O'Neill: Approved by Netgalley (19/01/16)

Saturday 21 January 2017

Book Review: Rebel Of The Sands; Alwyn Hamilton.

This is a book I've been really looking forward to reading, most;y because it follows in the path of books I've loved before regarding the setting: a hot desert filled with sharpshooting heroines and/or magic, Arabian folklore and the supernatural. In fact, this book has all those things and I liked it a lot! Also, I'm entering this book into the monthly Key Word challenge AND the Monthly Motif challenge.

SOURCE: Bought
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Rebel Of The Sands
AUTHOR: Alwyn Hamilton
SERIES: Rebel Of The Sands (#1)
PUBLISHER: Faber & Faber
PAGES: 358
GENRE: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance

RATING: 3.5/5 Stars

Dustwalk is an unforgiving, dead-end town. It's not the place to be poor or orphaned or female. And yet Amani Al'Hiza must call it 'home'.

Amani wants to escape and see the world she's heard about in campfire stories.

Then a foreigner with no name turns up, and with him she has the chance to run. 

But the desert plains are full of dangerous magic. The Sultan's army is on the rise and Amani is soon caught at the heart of a fearless rebellion...

What I Liked:
  • Obviously the world-building was my favourite part of the book purely for the above-mentioned reasons: I really like Desert settings. 'Vengeance Road' by Erin Bowman was my favourite read of 2015 and like that book, this had the spirit of a rootin', tootin' Wild West novel including the sharpshooting heroine. But more than that, it contained elements of the Arabian/Indian folklore that has surrounded some of my other favourite novels: 'The Star-Touched Queen' by Roshani Chokshi or 'A Thousand Night's by E.K. Johnston for example. Hamilton did a gorgeous job of combining those two worlds together and made it feel comfortingly familiar yet new and exciting at the same time!
  • Amani was a really great heroine and I adored her feisty, stubborn nature mixed with intelligence, wit and quick-thinking to get her out of a sticky situation. Also, I'm so glad that Hamilton made her a PoC because I constantly harp on about the need for more representation for minorities in YA and when it happens, it warms my heart. Jin was a great character too and I really adored him more and more as I read on. What can I say? I'm clearly a sucker for the charming guys that have a sense of humour!
What I Disliked:
  • While this was a great book, I have to say it didn't grab me in the same way that those other desert reads I mentioned did. I feel that this is partly down to the incredibly fast pace of the novel. While I appreciate a book with plenty of action, this felt non-stop and allowed very little time to meet or get to know any characters. I would really have liked some areas to be slower so that more development could have taken place (particularly regarding Amani and Jin as a couple, I liked them together but it felt pretty rushed).
Overall Conclusion:
I liked this first installment a lot and I really feel like this series has so much potential. Hamilton demonstrates some pretty rich world-building talents, the writing was good and I liked the characters a lot. I wish that there had been some slower moments in the book where I could have got to know characters other than Amani and Jin better. I especially felt that the last third or so with Jin's family was rushed. Suddenly Hamilton unloads a ton of new characters on you and barely scratches the surface with any of their personalities, even revealing portions of their backstory through some very forced dialogue. Frankly, I got confused about who was related to who and skimmed a fair amount of that section. This series has a LOT of potential though and I'm still hoping that Hamilton will find her feet a bit better in 'Traitor To The Throne' because I'll definitely be reading it.

Monday 16 January 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (9th January - 15th January)...

This week has been pretty quiet, with nothing really to do except work and wait for the end of the week so I could start my time off work (I booked a week's holiday). On the Monday, Mat and I went to the cinema to see 'A Monster Calls' and it was so good! I've been wanting to see this film for months, especially as the book was amazing! Just like the book, the film was heart-wrenching and beautiful. The cinematography, animation and acting really stood out, and I loved every second of it (I also cried...a lot).

And that about sums up the week. On Sunday I spent the day relaxing and taking some time out for myself, because recently I've been feeling pretty drained and in need of respite. I'm really glad I was able to take some time off so early in the year!

I Read...

I Received...

Sunday 15 January 2017

Book Review: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder; Sara Barnard.

This book has been pretty high on my TBR list ever since it was first announced! After all, I really enjoyed Barnard's debut 'Beautiful Broken Things' and I was overjoyed when Pan Macmillan sent me an ARC of my own to read. I finally got round to this gorgeous book and it blew my expectations out of the water! It also contributes to my Monthly Key Word Challenge!

SOURCE: ARC Sent By Publisher
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: A Quiet Kind Of Thunder
AUTHOR: Sara Barnard
PUBLISHER: Macmillan Children's Books
PAGES: 320
GENRE: Contemporary, Young Adult, Romance

RATING: 5/5 Stars

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life - she's been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He's deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she's assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn't matter that Steffi doesn't talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she's falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. 

What I Liked:
  • The diversity was by far the best aspect of this book because Sara Barnard became one of those few, rare authors who remembered that not everyone is white, straight and physically/mentally able. Steffi, the MC, suffers from crippling Anxiety and Selective Mutism. Rhys, the love interest is mixed race and deaf which has to be the first time I've read that in a story ever. Even side characters such as Tem (who is black) are diverse and it really gave the story much more depth.
  • Barnard's ability to write good characters and gorgeous relationships is incredible. I knew this from 'Beautiful Broken Things' but didn't know that she could pull off romance just as well as friendship! She didn't let friendship go completely, and watching Steffi and Tem interact was just as heart-warming to read as following Steffi and Rhys' relationship. I liked that they started as friends, I like that their feelings grew over a longer time than is usually found in YA, and everything from the initial 'crush' to the development into love felt so realistic. 
  • Boy, did this author do some fantastic research. I already know from my own experiences about anxiety and I can safely say that Barnard was either pulling from her own experiences or went to town in nailing exactly what it feels like from other people because she got it so right. As for the inclusion of the deaf community, BSL and the hardships that come with being deaf, Barnard taught me so much and I'm glad she bravely decided to tackle the topic. Rhys, as I said before, was a great character with boyish charm and a adorable, fun nature. But even better, he came with his own insecurities and vulnerable moments which is important to be seen in a guy too.
What I Disliked:
  • Honestly, I didn't dislike anything about this book. If I had to pick something I wanted to be improved I'd say that the ending seemed to cut off a little strangely, as if Barnard wasn't 100% sure how to finish her masterpiece. The pacing towards the climax of the book felt a little quick too, but I still really liked how the book ended and have 100% fallen for every one of those characters.
Overall Conclusion:
Gah! Everything about this book makes me want to squeal and I think I'll be having a book hangover for a few days after this one. I don't usually like romance but this perfectly and realistically portrayed how teenage romance feels, and I loved the inclusion of so many realistic scenarios such as first time sex (and hand job) in a way that doesn't normally get seen in YA or in fact most books. It was messy, awkward and yet still kind of hot, which is exactly what it is like. Especially the first time. I liked this book even better than 'Beautiful Broken Things' and I'm really looking forward to the next Barnard book!

Wednesday 11 January 2017

Book Review: The Bear & The Nightingale; Katherine Arden.

So for my first read of the year, this was the perfect choice because it was wintery and a 2017 debut and based around Fairy Tales and folklore, my favourite kind of story! I really liked it too! I'm also entering this into the Monthly Motif challenge!

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: The Bear & The Nightingale
AUTHOR: Katherine Arden
SERIES: The Winternight Trilogy (#1)
PAGES: 336
GENRE: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Adult, Retelling

RATING: 5/5 Stars

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church.

But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods...

What I Liked:
  • The characters were really well constructed. The MC was obviously Vasya who was kind, independent and a pretty badass heroine, but other characters were given a turn of revealing backstory and complex character qualities too. Anna Ivanovna was a prime example of this, as she would have only been considered a wicked step-mother archetype if she had not been given a couple of POV chapters towards the beginning of the story. I also loved some of the mythical characters, especially Morozko, the Rusalka and the Domovoi because they were given such interesting personalities.
  • Speaking of the magic and mythical lore, there was so much of this in 'The Bear & The Nightingale'. I'm not overly familiar with Russia's culture and Slavic mythology: the extent of my knowledge is having heard of Baba Yaga and barely knowing what a Rusalka is. So, it was so much fun to learn new things about another country's stories and legends. It was done in such an enchanting and magical way too, Arden really does write beautifully and has a knack  for both storytelling and building a rich world. 
What I Disliked:
  • Towards the end, I did feel like the pacing became a little too fast in that it felt rushed in some areas. So many events happened at once that it was a little hard to process everything after such a slow build over a number of years. This was really only a minor quibble however, because there was just so much good in this story!
Overall Conclusion:
This book was such a great read, and gave me all the feels. There was some really interesting character work that played to archetypes and yet felt fresh, and I adored the visual imagery and rich world. Arden deserves all the credit for this debut and I'm seriously so happy to find out that Arden is creating a three part series set in this world because there were a few unresolved plot-lines that I'd like to find out the conclusion of!

Monday 9 January 2017

Last Week's Shenanigans (2nd January - 8th January)...

I had a lovely week despite being fully back at work now. Monday was another day off with Mat so we spent it together, and had a 'Date Day'. Firstly, we went to Stratford so I could go to the opticians (not so romantic) and shopping. I bought a few bits from LUSH, browsed HMV for some vinyls for my record player, and ate waffles for brunch, followed by pie for lunch. Then we made our way to the cinema to watch Moana, which is my new favourite film! The soundtrack is so addictive and I think they've done the Polynesian culture real justice. Amazing day all round!

Then, after working for five days straight again, Sunday was George's birthday so he (and later Tash) came over to watch Star Wars, play games and have a chill day. Later in the evening we braved the Tube strikes and headed to Stratford in order to see our other friends at the Loading Bar, a place that Mat and I had never been. Fans of video, tabletop and arcade games should definitely check this place out. It's definitely one for the nerds and they have a huge selection on offer as well as some neat themed cocktails to try!

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Top Ten Tuesday: 2017 Debuts I'm Looking Forward To

Tuesday 3 January 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for '2017 Debut Novels I Am Looking Forward To'.

This time of year is my favourite for this meme because there are so many reflection and looking forward posts! Debut novels are always fun to read, and like last year I'm hoping to read more of them, so I'm pleased this post is going to let me look forward to next year's!

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

As I'm currently reading this (a little ahead of it's release date) it felt like the ideal choice for this list. I've been really excited about reading it because it's not only a retelling, but is also based around Russian folklore rather than the kinds of fairy tales I'm used to. It's gorgeously written so far and I'm hoping it remains a strong debut.

2) 'Caraval' by Stephanie Garber.

Man I am so looking forward to this book! Who can blame me though really, as I'm pretty sure this pick will be appearing on everyone's list due to it's strong position on the hype train. I like books that involve circuses and performance, it promises a sisterly bond, and plenty of magic too to keep me interested! I can't wait!

3) 'Wintersong' by S. Jae-Jones.

Okay, so I love the film 'Labyrinth' and the synopsis for this sounded similar which got me excited! It also has elements of 'Beauty & The Beast' incorporated, which is even better! This is definitely very high on the anticipated reads list, largely due to the very intriguing synopsis, but also because of that beautiful cover. I cannot wait to get hold of this book!

4) 'Blood Rose Rebellion' by Rosalyn Eves.

Every year there's a new craze for covers and this year it's roses. I've seen so many gorgeous books with silver or white roses on them, and this cover really caught my eye. Upon reading the synopsis I was pleasantly surprised to discover a read that sounds like it has real potential. Historical fiction is a genre that I love, and that is where Eves' debut falls. Of course this also happens to include a little Fantasy, which is just what I like!

5) 'Wicked Like A Wildfire' by Lana Popović.

I've had mixed experiences with books involving witches, either finding them totally spellbinding, or lacking in personality and originality. I'm hoping that this will have elements of Sarah Addison Allen's work while still feeling fresh, and the ideas behind their powers shown in the synopsis seems like a lot of fun. Also, that cover is beautiful

6) 'Poison's Kiss' by Breeana Shields.

We all know I love folklore, myths and legends and after reading Chokshi's 'The Star Touched Queen' I want to read more books based around Indian culture and legends. This book has appeared a couple of times on my radar but it wasn't until reading the synopsis that I really wanted to read it. It also includes assassin's, which is an added bonus for me because books with assassins included are probably my favourite kind.

7) 'Girls Made Of Snow & Glass' by Melissa Bashardoust.

The title more than anything drew me to this book, because it sounded like it was going to be based on a Fairy Tale or two. I certainly wasn't wrong. It's a re-imagining of 'Snow White & The Seven Dwarves' of course! The synopsis also describes it as a feminist novel, so that has me really hopeful for the female characters of the book. Sadly no cover yet for this one, but I have no doubt it will be beautiful!

8) 'A List Of Cages' by Robin Roe.

I requested this book from Netgalley a while back. Admittedly this was mostly due to the gorgeous cover, but having since read the synopsis of this darker contemporary, I'm totally into it! I haven't read many books that involve the foster system, have an MC with ADHD or goes into some 'dark places' so I'm intrigued to see exactly what happens.

9) 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas.

This book intrigued me when I was hunting for some more diverse reads and it is of particular import right now because it's entire plot-line is based on the 'Black Lives Matter' movement, which is an important social issue right now. I haven't even read it yet but I am rooting for and excited by this book because of it's synopsis and relevance right now.

10) 'The Love Interest' by Cale Dietrich.

Yet another pick for the diverse reads list, and this one's a cracker because it takes those age old YA tropes and completely blows them off the map! Everyone knows the story of the girl who meets and half falls for two boys, one normally kind-hearted and the other the local bad boy, and then is forced to choose between them. Now imagine that those two boys were agents, sent to spy on and seduce her. Now also imagine that instead, they begin to fall for each other... As if this doesn't sound like a great read!