Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Top Ten Books I've Recently Added to my TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & The Bookish
My TBR pile is a large and scary thing, constantly being added to and looming large in my mind. But I always work hard to make sure that the books in it are ones I want to read, otherwise the excitement wanes and I find myself dragging my feet when it comes to ploughing through it. So the following ten books are ones I cannot wait to get my hands on, no matter how far in the future their release dates loom! Some of these are so far off there are no blurbs or cover art yet, just a title and a vague expected release, but you can guarantee that I will be dancing in line at the bookshop as soon as these babies come out!

Broken Crowns by Lauren DeStefano
Release Date: Spring 2016

There is nothing on this one yet except that gorgeous cover and a burning need to own it now. I think that this cover is my favourite of the series, it is absolutely stunning. I haven't even read the second book in the series 'Burning Kingdoms' yet, but the first book 'Perfect Ruin' made such an impact on me that I know I am going to love the rest of the series. DeStefano's writing is incredible and her ability to create these slightly distorted dystopian worlds with characters we can relate to is a truly wonderful gift.

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
Release Date: 15th September 2015
For twenty years, the Palomas and the Corbeaus have been rivals and enemies, locked in an escalating feud for over a generation. Both families make their living as traveling performers in competing shows—the Palomas swimming in mermaid exhibitions, the Corbeaus, former tightrope walkers, performing in the tallest trees they can find. 
Lace Paloma may be new to her family’s show, but she knows as well as anyone that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, black magic from the devil himself. Simply touching one could mean death, and she's been taught from birth to keep away. But when disaster strikes the small town where both families are performing, it’s a Corbeau boy, Cluck, who saves Lace’s life. And his touch immerses her in the world of the Corbeaus, where falling for him could turn his own family against him, and one misstep can be just as dangerous on the ground as it is in the trees.

A Romeo and Juliet style tale with two feuding circus performers? I love it already. The Night Circus has made me seek out any circus/performers tales that I can and this one looks like it is going to be fantastic. 

A Curious Beginning: A Veronica Speedwell Mystery by Deanna Raybourn
Release Date: 1st September 2015
London, 1887. As the city prepares to celebrate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee, Veronica Speedwell is marking a milestone of her own. After burying her spinster aunt, the orphaned Veronica is free to resume her world travels in pursuit of scientific inquiry—and the occasional romantic dalliance. As familiar with hunting butterflies as she is fending off admirers, Veronica wields her butterfly net and a sharpened hatpin with equal aplomb, and with her last connection to England now gone, she intends to embark upon the journey of a lifetime.
But fate has other plans, as Veronica discovers when she thwarts her own abduction with the help of an enigmatic German baron with ties to her mysterious past. Promising to reveal in time what he knows of the plot against her, the baron offers her temporary sanctuary in the care of his friend Stoker—a reclusive natural historian as intriguing as he is bad-tempered. But before the baron can deliver on his tantalizing vow to reveal the secrets he has concealed for decades, he is found murdered. Suddenly Veronica and Stoker are forced to go on the run from an elusive assailant, wary partners in search of the villainous truth.

It's a new Deanna Raybourn - need I say more?

The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks
Release Date: 1st August 2015
Annabelle Aster doesn't bow to convention—not even that of space and time—which makes the 1890s Kansas wheat field that has appeared in her modern-day San Francisco garden easy to accept. Even more exciting is Elsbeth, the truculent schoolmarm who sends Annie letters through the mysterious brass mailbox perched on the picket fence that now divides their two worlds. In this unconventional and enchanting tale, Annie and her new neighbor must solve the mystery of what connects them before one of them is convicted of a murder that has yet to happen…and somehow already did.

This one has caught my eye with the trio of things I always looks for - title, cover and blurb. Murder, time travel mailbox and strong female characters. Give it to me now!

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
Release Date: March 2016

No further information on this one at the moment, but given how fantastic the first two in this trilogy were, it's a no brainer that I wants it now.

Tell the Wind & Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan
Release Date: 2016

Tell the Wind & Fire is about a young girl called Lucie who lives in a New York very different from the New York we know: the city is torn between two very different kinds of magic, and Lucie’s own family was torn apart years ago by that conflict. Lucie wears magic rings and carries a burden of guilt she can’t share with anyone.
The light in her life is her sweetheart boyfriend Ethan, but it turns out Ethan has a secret too: a soulless doppelganger created by dark magic, who has to conceal the face identical to Ethan’s with a hood fastened by a collar nobody but a Light magician with magical rings can take off… and who introduces himself to both of them by, for reasons nobody can understand, saving Ethan’s life…

Sarah Rees Brennan is one of those authors that I will drop everything and run screaming to the nearest bookstore when I hear she has a new book coming out. Doesn't matter what it is about, I want it, I need it, I know it will be good.

Legacy of Kings by Eleanor Herman
Release Date: 25th August 2015
Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains and evil stirs beyond the edges of the map. A time when cities burn, and in their ashes, empires rise.
Alexander, Macedonia’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world but finds himself drawn to newcomer Katerina, who must navigate the dark secrets of court life while hiding her own mission: kill the Queen. But Kat’s first love, Jacob, will go to unthinkable lengths to win her, even if it means competing for her heart with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince. And far across the sea, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancĂ©e, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly Spirit Eaters.
Weaving fantasy with the salacious and fascinating details of real history, New York Times bestselling author Eleanor Herman reimagines the greatest emperor the world has ever known: Alexander the Great, in the first book of the Blood of Gods and Royals series.

This popped up on my twitter feed and I leapt on it. It looks exactly my cup of tea, an epic tale mixing fantasy and reality and politics and intrigue. I am very much on board.

The Game of Love & Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Release Date: 28th April 2015
Antony and Cleopatra. Helen of Troy and Paris. Romeo and Juliet. And now . . . Henry and Flora.
For centuries Love and Death have chosen their players. They have set the rules, rolled the dice, and kept close, ready to influence, angling for supremacy. And Death has always won. Always.
Could there ever be one time, one place, one pair whose love would truly tip the balance?
Meet Flora Saudade, an African-American girl who dreams of becoming the next Amelia Earhart by day and sings in the smoky jazz clubs of Seattle by night. Meet Henry Bishop, born a few blocks and a million worlds away, a white boy with his future assured — a wealthy adoptive family in the midst of the Great Depression, a college scholarship, and all the opportunities in the world seemingly available to him.
The players have been chosen. The dice have been rolled. But when human beings make moves of their own, what happens next is anyone’s guess.

This one just appeals on so many levels. The hook of the title, cover and blurb are all really strong and I am crazy excited to get into this one. It's a goodreads find, and I will forever be grateful for lists people put together - this one is on YA Historical releases for 2015 along with some other fantastic books.

Rebel Mechanics by Shanna Swendson
Release Date: 14th July 2015It’s 1888, and sixteen-year-old Verity Newton lands a job in New York as a governess to a wealthy leading family—but she quickly learns that the family has big secrets. Magisters have always ruled the colonies, but now an underground society of mechanics and engineers are developing non-magical sources of power via steam engines that they hope will help them gain freedom from British rule. The family Verity works for is magister—but it seems like the children's young guardian uncle is sympathetic to the rebel cause. As Verity falls for a charming rebel inventor and agrees to become a spy, she also becomes more and more enmeshed in the magister family’s life. She soon realizes she’s uniquely positioned to advance the cause—but to do so, she’ll have to reveal her own dangerous secret.

There appear to be a flurry of amazing historical novels coming to our shelves in the next year, and this one can count itself among them. I love a well done historical novel and I am so excited at the breadth we're being offered at the moment and cannot wait to see how this one turns out.

Etta & Otto & Russell & James by Emma Hooper
Release Date: 29th January 2015

I've gone. I've never seen the water, so I've gone there. I will try to remember to come back.
Etta's greatest unfulfilled wish, living in the rolling farmland of Saskatchewan, is to see the sea. And so, at the age of eighty-two she gets up very early one morning, takes a rifle, some chocolate, and her best boots, and begins walking the 2,000 miles to water. 
Meanwhile her husband Otto waits patiently at home, left only with his memories. Their neighbour Russell remembers too, but differently - and he still loves Etta as much as he did more than fifty years ago, before she married Otto.

This is the only one that is actually on shelves at the moment and it cropped up in my radar due to Emma teaching me at university. She was a wonderful tutor and a fantastic writer and I cannot wait to get hold of this and immerse myself in the story.

So there you have the top ten books that I've recently added to my TBR pile. I tend to look quite far in advance which is why most of these aren't out for a while! And I also wanted to look at some books that people may not have heard about yet, so I hope I've introduced you to a new favourite waiting to happen!
What are the top ten books you've added to your reading pile recently? Tell me or link me in the comments below!

Monday, 30 March 2015

Review: As White As Snow by Salla Simukka

Publication Date: 3rd March 2015
Publisher: Skyscape
Length: 224 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

The heat of the summer sun bakes the streets of Prague, but Lumikki’s heart is frozen solid.
Looking to escape the notoriety caused by the part she played in taking down Polar Bear’s crime ring, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson escapes to Prague, where she hopes to find a few weeks of peace among the hordes of tourists. But not long after arriving, she’s cornered by a skittish and strange young woman who claims to be her long-lost sister. The woman, Lenka, is obviously terrified, and even though Lumikki doesn’t believe her story—although parts of it ring true—she can’t just walk away.
Lumikki quickly gets caught up in Lenka’s sad and mysterious world, uncovering pieces of a mystery that take her from the belly of a poisonous cult to the highest echelons of corporate power. On the run for her life again, Lumikki must use all her wits to survive, but in the end, she just may discover she can’t do it all alone.

After the tense and fast paced ride of the first book in the trilogy ‘As Red As Blood’ I was very eager to get straight back into Lumikki’s world and this time to explore Prague with her. Unfortunately this book didn’t grab me in the same way as the first.

The story wasn’t as engaging this time, it took much longer to really get into the story and by that point we were reaching the climax and there wasn’t enough time to properly invest. I’m not really sure what it was about it that didn’t work. A combination of pacing, slow plot and characters. It followed the same formula as the first, with characters being introduced slowly, first with no names, and then later with names and motives. But instead of building the suspense like it did in the first book it dragged it out and left the plot barely moving for most of the book.

This instalment also suffered from problems in translation. The writing is very clunky and awkward, much more so than in the first book, which was frustrating as it felt as though that was not how it would have read originally. It’s almost enough to make me want to learn Finnish so I can read it as it was intended!

However, these frustrations aside this was still a very good book. I loved Lumikki, I loved finding out tiny pieces about her life and her history and I loved that we learnt more about the relationship she had the previous year. Also a huge amount of love for the person she was in love with being transgender and going through gender reassignment. It was an unexpected yet wonderful twist, and I loved seeing pieces of their relationship. I’m hoping that we will actually meet him in the final instalment in the trilogy now that the build-up has reached this this point.

So whilst this book didn’t appeal to me in the same way as the first one, and suffered from several issues with pacing that left me feeling frustrated for the first part as I waited for the story to start pulling together and to draw me in, this is still a very good book. Not quite up to the standard of the first book but still a good bridge before the third one, which I am very anxious to read.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Review: Shadow, Shadow by V. B. Marlowe

Publication Date: 16th February 2015
Publisher: All Night Reads
Length: 312 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

"The four of you have been blessed with a great gift. Well, it's a gift for you, but a curse for someone else." 
Harley receives a mysterious gift on her sixteenth birthday--a shadow box. The box gives her the power to trade someone to the shadows, meaning they will disappear and cease to exist. Harley can't imagine doing such a horrible thing and is warned that using the box comes at a price. Unfortunately, not using the box can be even more costly. Harley must make this life-altering decision as she discovers frightening revelations about the town she calls home.

This is one of the occasions where my stubborn determination to finish reading a book really irritates me. This book was terrible and is one of the examples of where a good blurb and cover can really hook you and the story within really doesn’t live up to the expectations set.

Whilst the premise sounded great nothing about this book actually worked. The characters are all supposed to be sixteen, and yet they come across as eleven or twelve. The motivations are haphazard at best and nothing really hangs together with any sort of coherence. There are so many things touched on in this, but they’re glossed over and nothing is really given any emotional depth. Harley is an abusive relationship, but it isn’t given any weight. It felt thrown in there as an added piece of drama and isn’t handled appropriately. Her parents are cardboard cut-outs and none of the interactions or relationships feel real.

The duel narrative points were completely unnecessary and Teaghan’s was very poorly written. It went over some of the same things that were already covered in Harley’s parts and added nothing more to the story. There were no real motives for anything, none of the decisions made any sense.

And then there is the complete lack of plot. Nothing really strings together – there’s a prologue that has no bearing on anything else in the story. It probably holds slightly more relevance to something later in the series, but for this book it is completely pointless. As is the epilogue. A character who was mentioned briefly half way through suddenly appears and starts dishing out wisdom, for no real reason, and in a way that again makes no sense. The rest of the story opens lots of possible plot threads and then doesn’t tie any of them up by the end. It all hangs on the reader wanting to read the next book in the series which is terrible plotting and means that the book feels like you’ve just wasted a lot of time reading it. It needs to be a full and complete story in and of itself with some hooks to make you want to go and read the next book, not a prelude that makes very little sense without the rest of the series.

All in all I really wish I hadn’t bothered. By the time I was two thirds of the way I was basically skimming and only reading the important parts, which is always a bad sign. Bad dialogue, cardboard cut-out characters with no real depth or emotional consequences to actions. No plot, terrible pacing, there really wasn’t anything to redeem this one. I won’t be keeping an eye out for the sequel.

Friday, 27 March 2015

Review: As Red As Blood by Salla Simukka

Publication Date: 1st August 2014
Publisher: Skyscape
Length: 274 pages

In the midst of the freezing Arctic winter, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson walks into her school’s dark room and finds a stash of wet, crimson-colored money. Thousands of Euros left to dry—splattered with someone’s blood.
Lumikki lives alone in a studio apartment far from her parents and the past she left behind. She transferred into a prestigious art school, and she’s singularly focused on studying and graduating. Lumikki ignores the cliques, the gossip, and the parties held by the school’s most popular and beautiful boys and girls.
But finding the blood-stained money changes everything. Suddenly, Lumikki is swept into a whirlpool of events as she finds herself helping to trace the origins of the money. Events turn even more deadly when evidence points to dirty cops and a notorious drug kingpin best known for the brutality with which he runs his business.
As Lumikki loses control of her carefully constructed world, she discovers that she’s been blind to the forces swirling around her—and she’s running out of time to set them right. When she sees the stark red of blood on snow, it may be too late to save her friends or herself.

This book was not what I expected. I don’t really know what I’d expected exactly, but after hearing good things about it I launched straight in without even reading the blurb. It’s dark, it’s gritty, and it had me racing through the pages to put it all together. It’s a very strange book, possibly in part due to it being a translation as it wasn’t written in English. That can lead in some places to some very odd sentences and moments that didn’t quite flow right, but are easily forgiven.

To start with I was highly confused. There is a lot of confusion with so many different character perspectives and not all of them are named and then there are flashbacks and really you have no idea where you might be and which character you might be with at any given point. It’s a jarring way of writing and reading to get used to and at first I really wasn’t sure if this book was going to be my cup of tea as I really wasn’t getting into it. However, a few chapters in when things begin to start unravelling and you have a better grasp of who is who, something clicks. And from that point I could not put the book down. I raced through it in a matter of hours, I just had to know how it would all come together. And the tension! It’s a short book but the tension is sky high. I didn’t even realise how stressed and invested in it I was until I finished and had to spend five minutes deliberately relaxing all my muscles from the clenched how on earth can this end well position I’d been in from around the halfway point.

It’s criminal that this book doesn’t have many high ratings on goodreads as I feel that it is seriously overlooked and under valued. Lumikki is a fantastic heroine with a troubled past who has worked hard to learn how to protect herself and keep herself safe. Some of the other characters were not as believable or engaging, but Lumikki really drove the story. I am very much looking forward to getting into the second book and seeing how Lumikki grows and evolves from the events of this book.

It’s so wonderful to read a YA book translated from another language and set somewhere other than the UK or US. It’s a quick read, barely over 250 pages and you will tear through it as the stakes get higher and the intrigue thickens. I can’t recommend this book enough and I hope that more people discover it because at the moment it is being criminally overlooked.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Rosy Rec's The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce

I realized the other day that there are quite a few staple favourites of mine that due to reading long before the blog started, or getting skipped over in a particularly busy reviewing patch, have never been fully reviewed on here.
So over the next few months instead of posting full reviews for these, I will be posting up 'Recs' or recommendations explaining a bit about the book (or series) why I love them so much, who it's suitable for and similar reads.

First up is a series that I first read when I was eleven and manically reading through everything in the school library, and I re-read again (for the hundredth time) just before Christmas - The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce. As I'm covering the entire series there will be plot spoilers for the books, although I will try to keep them to a minimum.

What's it about?
Ten year old Alanna doesn't want to learn to be a Lady, she has her heart set on being a Knight. So she and her twin brother Thom trade places - he goes to the convent to learn how to be a mage, and she disguises herself as a boy and heads to the castle to begin her training to be a knight. The series follows the next nine years of Alanna's life as she trains hard, fights harder, and proves to everyone that she is just as good and worthy of being a knight as the other boys around her. She makes friends, enemies and has some incredible adventures along the way as she discovers who she is and what it means to be a Lady Knight.

Break down of the books:
Alanna: The First Adventure
The first book covers Alanna's journey from ten year old determined girl to a fourteen year old who is best friends with Prince Jonathan and on the cusp of being made his squire. She has to navigate the pitfalls of hiding her true self and being a girl in a boys environment.

In the Hand of the Goddess
The second book is all about her journey from squire to knight, as more people are let in on her secret and love blossoms in unexpected places, Alanna has to begin to merge her two selves, both the boy she has pretended to be to get where she is and the girl she has been hiding all along. The book culminates in a truly epic battle against her arch enemy.

The Woman Who Rides Like a Man
Book three sees Alanna taking a break from court now that she is a true knight and everyone knows her secret. She travels to the desert and makes her home with a tribe of desert warriors, becoming their shaman and training some new mages. After the fallout from her unmasking as a girl this book is quieter, more about reflection and Alanna's continuing journey to become comfortable with the two halves of herself and the loves of her life.

Lioness Rampant
The final book kicks everything off. Alanna undertakes the biggest quest of them all and makes a band of friends along the way, but it soon is time to return home back to the court and to face the fallout from her unmasking as a girl. But all is not well at the court, an old enemy has returned and the battle that culminates the series is ferocious and terrible.

Why I love them:
Alanna is a wonderful heroine and the books tackle a range of themes that I think are really important for young people (and older alike!) to read. Alanna taught me that you can do anything, regardless of your gender. She taught me that it was ok to love, that sleeping with people did not automatically brand you promiscuous, and that you could love more than one person in your life and that was ok. Reading these books at a young age was incredibly important in the shape that my reading took, and my expectations of the world and myself in it. It formed my love of magic and fantasy lands and strong heroines who know what they want and are damned if they're going to let anyone tell them they can't have it. I also love how Pierce tackles Alanna/Alan and how Alanna has to learn to integrate the two halves of herself into a whole.

Who should read them?
I discovered these at the age of eleven and I loved them. I think they really shaped my love of fantasy, strong heroines and what a woman could do or be, that there should be no limits just because you're a girl. I think these books were incredibly important reading for me at that age, so I would recommend them for anyone 11 and upward. That said, I love them as much now as I did then, so whilst Alanna starts off very young in the first book, her struggles are very accessible for any age. 

Read this if you liked:
Any strong fantasy realm or magic books.
The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas
The Study Series by Maria V Snyder
The Seven Kingdoms Series by Kristin Cashore
Other Tamora Pierce books

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Review: Taste of Darkness by Maria V Snyder

Publication Date: 4th April 2014
Publisher: Mira Ink

Length: 458 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Avry knows hardship and trouble. She fought the plague and survived. She took on King Tohon and defeated him. But now her heart-mate, Kerrick, is missing, and Avry fears he's gone forever.
But there's a more immediate threat: The Skeleton King plots to claim the Fifteen Realms for his own. With armies in disarray and the dead not staying down, Avry's healing powers are needed now more than ever.
Torn between love and loyalty, Avry must choose her path carefully. For the future of her world depends on her decision.

I’m going to be honest, this is my third attempt at reading this book, but third time is apparently the charm because whilst the first two tries I only got a few chapters in before I lost interest and gave up. This time however, my interest held, which was great because I have been looking forward to the climax of this series for about two years now…

It was good to finally have a resolution to the story. There were a lot of loose ends tied up neatly, but there were also a whole host of things that were left unresolved. You just have to pick and choose what was important to have wrapped up, so some people will be really pleased with the ending, and others will feel frustrated.

There was also a lot of good character growth and development for some characters – mainly Flea – whilst others were relegated to secondary flat one trick ponies (I’m looking specifically at the Monkeys here) which was a big disappointment given how much potential for growth the story offered.
There is such a huge cast of characters that it felt like some were really short changed, others were thrown in for conflict or reasons unknown and some were left to be cardboard cut outs masquerading as fully formed people. Considering one of the things that I loved so much about the first few Snyder books were her characters and their development, this was a big let down.

The plot was a bit mixed. On the one hand there were some great action sequences (although you really had to suspend disbelief and logic for some parts) and it was great to finally get to the big battles we’ve been building towards (although again, not as much big epic battle as I was expecting for a war…) but it felt very oddly paced. Like lots of little stories building up into the big climax, which in some cases worked and others didn’t. It felt a little like peaks and troughs of emotion and stress where they would go and do a daring rescue, followed by a lot of walking/camping/several days of just checking on patients and sleeping. Which may be accurate and true to life, but doesn’t make for brilliant reading.

I also got slightly frustrated that after all the deaths in the first two books, everything was taken back. I was so excited in the first book that this series wasn’t afraid to kill off loved main characters, and then it felt a little pointless. Suddenly death stopped meaning anything at all.

My final frustration was the imprinting/bonding thing. Maybe it’s just that I need to go back and re-read the first two books again, but I don’t remember this coming up before. As a result it just felt really random and thrown in there and I wasn’t really sure I understood what it was and what it was supposed to mean and how that altered things.

Those grumps aside, this was a good end to the series. It was good to get some resolutions and see how it all worked out. Snyder’s ability to build interesting and intriguing worlds has always been what keeps me coming back to her books so it was great to see how this world was going to try and get back on its feet again. However I am nearing the point where the negatives are starting to outweigh the positives in each new book, so I’m going to tread carefully with the next book she releases.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Top Ten Books from My Childhood That I Want to Revisit

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & the Bookish
With so many incredible books coming out each month it becomes very difficult to keep up and go back and re-visit old favourites, so this week the Top Ten was particularly welcome! It was so wonderful to go back and look at some of my favourite books from when I was growing up - some from right back when I was tiny, and others from when I was a little older.

Tamora Pierce.
I recently re-read The Song of the Lioness Quartet (and loved it just as much if not more than when I first read it.) However I now want to go back and re-read all of the Tamora Pierce books I own and love. The Circle of Magic Quartet, The Circle Opens Quartet & The Immortals Quartet, not to mention the Beka Cooper books which I still haven't caught up on fully yet. These books introduced me to a lot of the elements that I love in books and they really shaped the type of books I love to read now - feisty heroines, magic, fantasy lands, love, politics & gods.

The Drina Series by Jean Estoril.
These books were a huge part of my Mum's love of books and that was passed down to my sisters and to me. Drina is wonderful and these books really kicked off my desire to travel. Every book features Drina visiting new places, making friends, working hard to achieve her dreams and dancing. I loved that Drina actually works for the things she wants, she doesn't just have everything handed to her. She has set backs and upsets, and she always works tirelessly to achieve her dreams. First publised in the 1950s, these books have aged incredibly well and are still as wonderful and relevant today as they were then. Definitely a series I want to go back and revisit.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling. 
These books were a huge part of my childhood/teen years. I was one of the lucky generation who grew up with Harry. We started life as scrawny kids and grew up together and it felt like I had three friends in these books. I love going back to them, but I can't ever just read one, I have to do a whole re-read so it requires some time blocked out to make my way through all seven years, numerous adventures, tears, chocolate frogs and lessons. It is always worth it though, and I love knowing that Hogwarts will always be there to welcome me home.

Haffertee Hamster by Janet & John Perkins.
A toy hamster that is real, what more could you want?! I loved hamsters as a child (I had many of them over the years) but the idea of a toy that was real really tipped this one into classic favourite territory. Following the adventures of Haffertee Hamster and his family, the Diamond Family, he gets into all sorts of mischief and learns all sorts in the process. I first came across him in Haffertee Hamster's first Christmas, and never looked back. Perfect for very young children and the adults reading to them, I adore Haffertee and cannot wait to share him with my kids.

Olga Da Polga by Michael Bond.
Are you sensing a theme with the animals yet? Along with hamsters I also loved guinea pigs (we had a lot of them growing up too...) and Olga was a truly fabulous guinea pig. The perfectly ordinary turns into exciting adventures with Olga who gets into scrapes galore and has an amazing attitude to match. She is a bit of a drama queen and has a whole host of friends in her new home outside the pet shop. Another one that is perfect for young readers, 

Sophie's Adventures by Dick King Smith.
Sophie is incredible. Another heroine who shaped my thoughts of the world and what you could do and be when I was very young. Sophie wants to grow up and be a lady farmer (she'd rather it be her own farm, but if she has to marry a boy for his farm then so be it...) and is going to let nothing stand in her way. A lover of animals she has a shed full of them, progressing from snails to cats and finally to ponies. Sophie is stubborn and determined and plucky and I loved her. Then and now. She is another one that I cannot wait to pull out again and revisit.

Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans.
This one sneaks across both books and TV, because the animated cartoon of Madeline was another foundation of my childhood. Madeline is amazing. Small, red headed, living in a boarding school with eleven other little girls and a nun in the heart of Paris, my love for her knows no bounds. As with all little girls her age she is forever getting into scrapes and uncovering terrible plots, but never fear, all will come right in the end and each story will end with twelve little girls tucked up in their beds. All in rhyme, and the TV show narrated by Christopher Plumber, Madeline's stories are fantastic. Be warned though, ignore the later live action film, it is terrible and loses the spirit of Madeline along the way. Stick with the books and animated show!

The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson.
I can't even with this one. So many memories and such an adorable and wonderful book, it takes me right back until I am five and reading it for the first time. I love this one. Always have, always will. I love the other books by Jill Tomlinson - notably the Otter who wanted to Know, but nothing will ever quite  compare to the Owl who was Afraid of the Dark. I hated the dark as a child so this one really stuck with me, and I loved seeing all the things that night was good for, that made night special and un-scary. And Plop, what a wonderful and determined Owl, even when he is terrified, he wanted to learn and understand his fear, and I loved him for it.

The Forestwife Trilogy by Theresa Tomlinson.
This was my first introduction to the world of Robin Hood re-tellings, and I haven't looked back since. It opened up a whole world of stories, from Robin Mckinley to A. C. Gaughen - all of them different but all of them linked back to this one legend. I loved Mary's story, the fresh spin it put on the tale and the little insights and details it provided. Mary is another strong heroine who isn't afraid to fight for the home and man she loves, and she helped add to the base of strong female characters I grew up loving - definitely an important thing for a girl growing up and learning about the world.
This series will forever be linked in my mind with another of Tomlinson's books 'The Moon Riders' because I read them at the same time and loved them.

Mort by Terry Pratchett.
I haven't read nearly enough Pratchett, and in light of the recent news I am being spurred to go back to old favourites and pick up ones I haven't yet read. However my love of Pratchett can be traced back to the first book I read, Mort. It was unlike anything I had ever read before - funny, biting, serious and full of incredible characters. I think the first Pratchett you pick up helps to define your favourite characters and that is definitely true for me - Death will always be my favourite. Whilst I will love others, Death will always hold a very special place in my heart, and I treasure this copy because Pratchett himself signed it and asked me if I liked being a Rosy. I told him that so far it was quite nice, but I hadn't been one for a hugely long time so I would let him know.

So there you have it! My top ten childhood favourites that I would love to revisit. It's been amazing going back through books that I haven't seen or thought of in so long, and I can't wait to re-read them once more. What about you? What childhood books are you desperate to go back to? Tell me in the comments below!

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Review: Treason by Althea Claire Duffy

Publication Date: 25th March 2015
Publisher: Less Than Three Press

Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

In the port city of Auragos, seven merchant Houses vie for control of the trade that has made the city wealthy. Raised as a spy for House Corellis, Elunet has played so many roles that she's sometimes unsure of who she really is. 
Sent to uncover proof of possible treason by their greatest rival, House Mellas, Elunet will be more than happy to see such a despicable family brought down. But then she meets Tavia—heir to House Mellas, student mage, and nothing that Elunet expected. And the treason she hoped to unmask instead proves to be an entirely different, but equally dangerous secret…

‘Treason’ is one of three novellas featuring strong LGBTQIA women being published by Less Than Three Press and I was so excited to get stuck into it. Unfortunately ‘Treason’ falls into the trap of many novellas where the idea is so intriguing that there simply isn’t enough space to cover everything and you end up with a very cropper view of the story as only one real element is brought to the fore. I could have quite happily read a full novel set in this world.

The world itself is intriguing and there is so much set up, so many names and places and intrigues and not enough time devoted to them. I wanted more, I wanted detail, but instead the sheer volume of information being thrown into these pages made me feel overwhelmed and I found it really hard to keep up with all the different houses and plots.

I also found the start of the relationship a little bit too rushed. There was a big surge of attraction and then everything simmered down to almost non-existent before another surge out of nowhere at the end of the story. It felt too random and the relationship itself too forced. It suffered from the same problem as the world – it needed more time to develop.

All in all this is a short, quick read that offers an interesting insight into Auragos, but skims over most of the exciting stuff and doesn’t really give the reader enough depth to invest in the story. Elunet is a fascinating protagonist though and I did really enjoy the story, I just wish there could have been more!

Friday, 20 March 2015

Remembering Sir Terry Pratchett

We've all had some time for the news to sink in now, news that was not unexpected but no less devastating, that Sir Terry Pratchett has died. It was announced on his twitter in the most perfect way, and has sent shockwaves through the book world.

Pratchett's books have been a part of my family and my life since I was born. They have been an ever present staple of any bookshelf in any house I've lived in, and they taught me that the rule book is not always the only way and that books really can be anything. Reading his books shaped what I love to read today, and they remain some of my favourite books to come back to.

My video for Bookish Brits today is in memory of him, thanking him for all the wonderful ways he helped make the book world a more interesting, funny and brilliant place.

Over the next few months I will be posting reviews for Discworld novels as I revisit old favourites and discover stories I haven't yet dipped into.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Review: The Glass Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Publication Date: 4th November 2014
Publisher: 47 North
Length: 222 pages

Huge thanks to Netgalley for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Three months after returning Magician Emery Thane’s heart to his body, Ceony Twill is well on her way to becoming a Folder. Unfortunately, not all of Ceony’s thoughts have been focused on paper magic. Though she was promised romance by a fortuity box, Ceony still hasn’t broken the teacher-student barrier with Emery, despite their growing closeness.
When a magician with a penchant for revenge believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, Ceony knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wayward hands.

There were a lot of things I liked about the first book in this series ‘The Paper Magician’ although it didn’t follow the route I expected, I thought that it was fantastic unique idea that echoed a lot of the things that I loved about ‘The Night Circus’. So I was really excited to see where Holmberg took this second instalment.

There was a lot that really worked for me in ‘The Glass Magician’ but there were some things that left me feeling a little cold and sadly the relationship between Emery and Ceony was one of those. I wanted to love them and individually I do, but there is something about the set up of the relationship that really doesn’t work for me. I think it’s a combination of the age difference and that he is in a position of power as her teacher. Whilst nothing is really happening so far and it feels very one sided on Ceony’s side, there are so many little things that Emery does that buoy Ceony’s hope and devotion to him and it feels cruel and unfair. It makes the whole thing feel as though it is an infatuation on her side that is ultimately making their relationship strained and Emery feel uncomfortable – which is not a great state of affairs for a romance plot. In its current state it really doesn’t work for me, which is a shame because I want to love them. However I’m willing to wait and see how things play out in the third instalment before judging it fully.

The same issue that I had with the first book is sadly present again here, with modern language and Americanisms creeping into the characters speech which ruins the setting of turn of the century London.

The last thing is that Ceony’s actions made perfect sense in the first book, whereas here they don’t. She needlessly throws herself into danger and ultimately seems to make things worse and a whole lot of bad things happen, instead of working with the people who actually know what they’re doing. I know they are excluding her which is frustrating and makes her want to take matters into her own hands, but she is so woefully underprepared in every encounter that it just made it painful to read.

However despite these issues I really enjoyed the book. It’s fast paced and is set in such a fantastic and imaginative world. I loved that we saw a lot more of the world in this book and got to meet some more characters. The first book was very much a three person story with Lira, Ceony and Emery, so it was wonderful to branch out and explore the world and the magic and everything that came with that. I can’t wait for the third instalment of the trilogy to come out later this year as despite the set backs, this is a really wonderful series that I have loved discovering.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Top Ten Books on my Spring TBR pile

Top ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke & The Bookish
So after a rather massive reading slump I am finally back to usual reading habits and that means an ever growing TBR pile (luckily being stuck in France has its perks as it means it's a virtual pile on my kindle instead of a teetering pile threatening to fall on me in the middle of the night...)
However there are so many awesome books out this spring that I cannot wait to get my hands on that I'm not really complaining! So without further ado, in no particular order here are the top ten books on my to be read pile this spring!

1) A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J Maas
(Release Date: May 5th)

Feyre is a huntress. She thinks nothing of slaughtering a wolf to capture its prey. But, like all mortals, she fears what lingers mercilessly beyond the forest. And she will learn that taking the life of a magical creature comes at a high price.
Imprisoned in an enchanted court in her enemy’s kingdom, Feyre is free to roam but forbidden escape. Her captor’s body bears the scars of fighting, and his face is always masked – but his piercing stare draws her ever closer. As Feyre’s feelings for Tamlin begin to burn through every warning she’s been told about his kind, an ancient, wicked shadow grows. Feyre must find a way to break a spell, or lose her heart forever.

I absolutely adore the Throne of Glass series by Maas, and my love of those books has basically guaranteed that anthing she writes is now on my TBR pile, without even looking at the blurb. However I have heard nothing but good things about this book and it's proving increasingly difficult to wait to start reading it...

2) The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey
(Release Date: April 28th)

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she's ever known.
Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she's fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it's time to act. Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it's how to hunt down what she wants... and how to take it. But some jobs aren't as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.
This one just intrigues me. I came across it on Netgalley and the blurb really caught my eye. I don't really know anything else about it, just that it looks fantastic and I hope it lives up to expectations!
3) The Shattered Court by M. J. Scott 
(Release Date: April 28th)
The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.
Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.
Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.

This is another one that crept up on me. Found through Netgalley and the blurb and cover caught my eye, I was thrilled to get an early copy for review. Anything magical at the moment is right up my street, so this blurb has me thoroughly curious and intrigued.

4) The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows 
(Release Date: March 10th)
When Princess Wilhelmina was a child, the Indigo Kingdom invaded her homeland. Ten years later, Wil and the other noble children who escaped are ready to fight back and reclaim Wil's throne. To do so, Wil and her best friend, Melanie, infiltrate the Indigo Kingdom palace with hopes of gathering information that will help them succeed.
But Wil has a secret—one that could change everything. Although magic has been illegal for a century, she knows her ability could help her save her kingdom. But magic creates wraith, and the deadly stuff is moving closer and destroying the land. And if the vigilante Black Knife catches her using magic, she may disappear like all the others.
Jodi Meadows is not an author I've tried before, but a combination of a fab cover and blurb and some truly wonderful reviews of this book mean that it has quickly edged into my top ten. Already released, I just have to wade through my other urgent reads and then I can sink in and devour it.

5) Illusionarium by Heather Dixon 

(Release Date: May 19th)
From the author of Entwined, a brilliantly conceived adventure through an alternate London. This sweeping, cinematic tale of an apprentice scientist desperate to save his family—and his world—is The Night Circus meets Pixar.
Through richly developed parallel worlds, vivid action, a healthy dose of humor, and gorgeous writing, Heather Dixon spins a story that is breathtaking and wholly original.

I adored Heather Dixon's take on the tale of the twelve dancing princesses in her debut novel 'Entwined' and I have been waiting desperately since then to any new releases from her. And now, finally, the wait is almost over. I didn't even need to read the blurb to know I had to have this, but now I have seen what little information they've released to us, I am even more impatient.

6) A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin 

(Release Date: May 19th)
It’s 1814. Napoleon is exiled on Elba. Europe is in shambles. Britain is at war on four fronts. And Stranje House, a School for Unusual Girls, has become one of Regency England’s dark little secrets. The daughters of the beau monde who don't fit high society’s constrictive mold are banished to Stranje House to be reformed into marriageable young ladies. Or so their parents think. In truth, Headmistress Emma Stranje, the original unusual girl, has plans for the young ladies—plans that entangle the girls in the dangerous world of spies, diplomacy, and war.
After accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire while performing a scientific experiment, Miss Georgiana Fitzwilliam is sent to Stranje House. But Georgie has no intention of being turned into a simpering, pudding-headed, marriageable miss. She plans to escape as soon as possible—until she meets Lord Sebastian Wyatt. Thrust together in a desperate mission to invent a new invisible ink for the English war effort, Georgie and Sebastian must find a way to work together without losing their heads—or their heart.

Spies? Intriguing boarding school that isn't what it seems? Regency England? Colour me intrigued. Very intrigued. This one has a bit of so many things that I love that I'm hesitant to read it in case it doens't live up to my quite high expectations. But if I did that with every book I had high expectations for I'd never read at all. So instead I'm going to continue to get very excited and keep everything crossed it lives up to my hopes!

7) Lion Heart by A. C. Gaughen 

(Release Date: May 19th)
Imprisoned by Prince John for months, Scarlet finds herself a long way from Nottinghamshire. After a daring escape from the Prince's clutches, she learns that King Richard’s life is in jeopardy, and Eleanor of Aquitaine demands a service Scarlet can’t refuse: spy for her and help bring Richard home safe. But fate—and her heart—won’t allow her to stay away from Nottinghamshire for long, and together, Scarlet and Rob must stop Prince John from going through with his dark plans for England. They can not rest until he’s stopped, but will their love be enough to save them once and for all?

The conclusion to Scarlet's story is finally nearly here, and what a ride it has been. Heart wrenching, beautiful and with Gaughen's stunning prose driving us all the way through. Scarlet is a fantastic heroine, one that will always have a place in my heart. Her's is a story I will come back to again and again. So it is a bittersweet excitement to find out how her story ends, both wanting to know and never wanting it to end.

8) Burning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefano 
(Release Date: March 12th)
After escaping the city of Internment, Morgan and her fellow fugitives land on the ground to finally learn about the world beneath their floating island home. The ground is a strange place where water falls from the sky as snow, and people watch moving pictures and visit speakeasies. A place where families can have as many children as they want, bury their dead in vast gardens of bodies, and where Internment is the feature of an amusement park. It is also a land at war. Everyone who fled Internment had their own reasons to escape their corrupt haven, but now they’re caught under the watchful eye of another ruler who wants to dominate his world. They may have made it to the ground, but have they dragged Internment with them?
Perfect Ruin, the first book in the series was incredible. It showed that DeStefano was a force to be reckoned with and far more than just her fantastic debut series 'The Chemical Garden' trilogy. I still haven't yet articulated into a review how much I loved the first book, but I'm hoping the second book will help me put into words that are slightly more eloquent than READ IT READ IT NOW IT IS SO GOOD.
9) Prudence by Gail Garriger
(Release Date: March 19th)
When Prudence Alessandra Maccon Akeldama (Rue to her friends) is given an unexpected dirigible, she does what any sensible female would under similar circumstances - names it the Spotted Crumpet and floats to India in pursuit of the perfect cup of tea.But India has more than just tea on offer. Rue stumbles upon a plot involving local dissidents, a kidnapped brigadier's wife and some awfully familiar Scottish werewolves. Faced with a dire crisis and an embarrassing lack of bloomers, what else is a young lady of good breeding to do but turn metanatural and find out everyone's secrets, even thousand-year-old fuzzy ones?
I adore Gail Carriger's books. They are just the perfect blend of brilliant wit, fantastic plots and wonderful characters. Her debut series 'The Parasol Protectorate' was my first foray into Steampunk and remains my favourite steampunk series to this day. And now we get a whole new series devoted to her daughter - nothing will keep me away!
10) Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman 
(Release Date: March 10th)
The kingdom of Goredd: a world where humans and dragons share life with an uneasy balance, and those few who are both human and dragon must hide the truth. Seraphina is one of these, part girl, part dragon, who is reluctantly drawn into the politics of her world. When war breaks out between the dragons and humans, she must travel the lands to find those like herself—for she has an inexplicable connection to all of them, and together they will be able to fight the dragons in powerful, magical ways. 
As Seraphina gathers this motley crew, she is pursued by humans who want to stop her. But the most terrifying is another half dragon, who can creep into people’s minds and take them over. Until now, Seraphina has kept her mind safe from intruders, but that also means she’s held back her own gift. It is time to make a choice: Cling to the safety of her old life, or embrace a powerful new destiny?

This book has been a long time coming and an exercise in patience. Seraphina was one of my favourite books of 2012, and also ranks in my favourite books of all time. It was just that good. And it set up such a wonderful series that I couldn't wait to find out where Hartman took Seraphina next. But we had to wait. And wait. And wait some more. And now finally, I almost cannot believe it is here. In fact until the book actually arrives and I have it in my hands I probably won't beleive it. But it is here. And I cannot wait.

So there are my top ten books I cannot wait to read this spring. Do you agree? Or are there others I've missed you think I need to know about? Tell me in the comments below!