Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Review: Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Publication Date: April 14th 2011
Publisher: Dutton
Length: 323 pages

"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "
Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.
Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.
When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.
By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.
What would he say . . . ?

Whilst I didn’t get along as well as I’d hoped with ‘Eleanor & Park’ I found myself falling head over heels in love with ‘Landline’ a couple of months ago so I’ve been itching to read the rest of Rainbow Rowell’s books ever since and find 
out which way I fall with them.

I did really enjoy ‘Attachments’ but unfortunately not quite as much as I’d hoped. It was a good read, enjoyable and engaging and incredibly funny in places, but at the same time I didn’t connect with the characters as I’d hoped and the plot becomes really stagnant at several points and a whole lot of nothing actually happens.

Everything starts out brilliantly with a hilarious exchange between Beth and Jennifer, one that sets the tone for their friendship wonderfully and gets the novel off to a great start. But then we meet Lincoln, who I didn’t really connect with in the same way and the story kinda stumbles out. Lincoln’s story is much slower, in fact it barely moves for the majority of the novel and it really drags everything back. I found myself putting the book down repeatedly because I’d become invested each time with Beth and Jennifer, and then lose interest with Lincoln.

I also really didn’t feel satisfied with the resolution. It felt like the plot meandered along for most of the novel and then things start to happen but not really and then suddenly poof, done. I felt like I missed the build-up, I missed the excitement and as a result I missed the pay off.

None of this means I didn’t enjoy it though. Beth and Jennifer’s friendship was the heart of this and I adored them. I loved their emails, the little snippets of their lives and backstory coming together. It was a gorgeous friendship, and my favourite part of the entire story. I did eventually start to enjoy Lincoln’s parts but never in the same way, and I never felt entirely comfortable with both Lincoln and Beth’s methods when it came to finding the other.

So whilst I did enjoy it, and I did find it funny and sweet, it also didn’t hit me in the same way as ‘Landline’ which was a shame because I know so many people who loves this one. Maybe I need to come back to it at another point, but this time around ‘Attachments’ sadly wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Top Ten Books You Need to Read Right This Second to Help Your Queen of Shadows Book Hangover

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely folks over at 'The Broke and the Bookish'. Want to join in? Follow the Link!

Having withdrawal from the lack of Aelin in your life? I think a lot of us are experiencing a rather huge bookish hangover after Queen of Shadows, so that got me thinking about all the books that I wanted to read because of similarities, assassins, fantasy worlds and brilliant writing. So without further ado, my top ten books you should really get onto to help get you through the next year of waiting.

If You Loved... 

The Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J Maas

You Need to Read... 

The Song of the Lioness Quartet by Tamora Pierce
This is the series that first got me into fantasy books way back when I was but a little wide eyed eleven year old who was attempting to read all the books in the school library, and I can pinpoint this series as being the one that set my love of fantasy off. Kickass heroine who won't let her being a girl stop what she wants to do with her life, a brilliantly real and detailed fantasy world, plus a whole heap of magic.

His Fair Assassin Trilogy by Robin La Fevers
Heroines with a healthy dose of murder? No problem. These three ladies each have a book of their own in the trilogy and all three of them are deadly. If your favourite aspects of Throne of Glass are the murderous sassy ladies, with a hint of utterly gorgeous romance then these books need to go to the top of your to read pile asap.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
Seraphina may be more comfortable playing with an instrument rather than a weapon, but if you're after a detailed an fascinating fantasy world then this is one of the best. There isn't any magic, but there are dragons. Seriously, actual dragons. I think that kinda balances it out. Plus the writing is gorgeous.

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R R Martin
The fantasy world with the politics, intrigue, machinations and murder that come along with it are what you want more of? Look no further than the books that the show Game of Thrones is based upon. They're hefty tomes so they can look daunting, but they are chock full of brilliant writing, complex characters, murder, mayhem and power plays.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas
Kind of an obvious one but always worth mentioning. Maas has started a whole new series, so if you're simply after another fix of Maas and her fantastic writing then look no further than this book.

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
So you like your heroines with a healthy dose of murder? Katsa is definitely one you need to get to know. There are three books in this trilogy, but Katsa is definitely the most murderous. All three ladies are fascinating, complex and very very different, plus there is magic in the form of Graces, beautifully constructed fantasy realms and some truly gorgeous prose.

Scarlet Trilogy by A C Gaughen
Less murderous than Katsa but still highly skilled with her knives, this gender-twisted Will Scarlet offers a fresh and beautiful retelling of the Robin Hood story. It's one of the most gorgeously written stories I've had the pleasure of reading, with a wonderful strong, feisty and determined heroine at its heart. This series is a definite favourite as we get to know Scarlet from knife wielding girl disguised as a boy to the woman she becomes as her past is revealed.

The Study Series by Maria V Snyder
I cannot believe how long ago the first book 'Poison Study' was published, because it shows just how long I've been reading it and loving it. Another book that rekindled my love of fantasy worlds and the people and politics that come along with magic, if you're after another 'magic is bad' fight like we've been seeing in Throne of Glass, then this series is a must read.

The Bekka Cooper Trilogy by Tamora Pierce
I picked this trilogy because of the setting, right in the heart of the city of Corus, which reminded me a lot of Rifthold, plus Bekka is part of the guards, so any Chaol fans will love her. However this could easily be any of Tamora Pierce's books and series because she is the official queen of fantasy children's and YA as far as I'm concerned. You want magic? Complex and interesting characters? Feisty and strong heroines? Interesting fantasy worlds? Diversity in every book? Seriously, look no further than Tamora Pierce.

The Girl of Fire & Thorns Trilogy by Rae Carson
Another diverse and brilliant fantasy world with a breathtaking plot and a complex heroine. Elisa may not be as badass with a sword as Celaena, but she is strong and powerful in her own ways, and watching her grow over the course of the books is so wonderful. This is another stunning series.

So there you have it, the top ten books or series that you should be stockpiling to see you through the bookish hangover left after reading 'Queen of Shadows'. It's going to be a long wait for the next book, but these will help get you through. And when you make your way through all of these there's always re-reading the Throne of Glass series on repeat...

Monday, 28 September 2015

Review: Some Like It Scot by Suzanne Enoch

Publication Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Length: 368 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and St Martin’s Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Munro MacLawry has always lived up to his nickname "Bear." Strong and brawny, he's known in his clan to be fiercely protective. Sadly for him, each of his siblings becomes "less highlander" as they get married, and Bear is left rowdy and alone with no one to protect. That is, until a routine hunt leads to the most alluring of creatures…
Catriona MacColl doesn't care to amuse the brash, strong, and sexy highlander she stumbles upon in the woods. She's too busy hiding with her sister from marriage into English society. Already well-equipped with a bull's-eye shot, she doesn't need a protector, no matter how badly her body burns for him. But as Cat's boyish nature gives way to her more feminine desires, she'll have to stop fighting the tide and listen to her heart…

I love a good romance, and Suzanne Enoch is one of my favourites, second only to Julia Quinn and Eloisa James. They’re sexy, they’re fun, and they always leave me feeling like all is right with the world after another happily ever after ending. I had a really fantastic time reading ‘When A Scot Ties the Knot’ by Tessa Dare a few months ago, so when I saw that Enoch was setting a book up in the Scottish Highlands I leapt on it with gleeful abandon.

Something that’s a huge bonus with historical romance books is that you know that regardless of the shenanigans that occur throughout the rest of the book, the hero and heroine are going to get together by the end. It’s pretty much a given and therefore near on impossible to spoil that element of a historical romance book. Which means that you don’t have to read a series in order, case in point with this one. ‘Some Like it Scot’ is actually the fourth book in the series, and I wasn’t hindered by not having read the previous three in the slightest. There are references to previous events, but with enough of a poke so that readers who haven’t yet read them won’t be left in the dark.

It has everything that you would expect from a romance book – a strong hero, a feisty independent heroine. Witty banter, steamy kisses and a solid plot to work off. I loved escaping into the story whenever I had a spare moment and whilst Bear and Cat aren’t my all-time favourite romance couple, they were definitely fun to get to know.

One thing that I really loved about this book is how the two of them worked together. Usually in an historical romance you’ll have a moment (two thirds to three quarters of the way through) where something will rip the couple apart and make a happy ending look bleak. Some secret will come out or they won’t declare their feelings or pesky people will get in the way and it’s all terribly tragic and morose for a while. Not so here. You have various people trying to split them up but Cat and Bear actually talked to each other, they communicate and as a result there are no misunderstandings and ridiculous moments where you just want to shake them. It was refreshing and wonderful to read and made them feel like a much more solid team rather than two individuals.

I really enjoyed this book, it was a bit of escapism that left me longing for the cold wet of the Highlands and for the first three books in the series to curl up with. It’s not my favourite of Enoch’s books but it’s definitely a strong contender and I cannot wait to go back and discover the rest of the MacLawry family stories.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Review: Equal Rites by Sir Terry Pratchett

Publication Date: October 1st 1989
Publisher: Corgi
Length: 283 pages

The last thing the wizard Drum Billet did before Death laid a bony hand on his shoulder, was to pass on his staff of power to the eighth son of an eighth son.  Unfortunately for his colleagues in the chauvinistic (not to say misogynistic) world of magic, he failed to check on the new-born baby's sex...

Whilst I was reading ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ I ended up talking about it with my lovely friend Sarah who also happened to be reading it at the same time, and I had to admit that whilst I have read many Discworld books, I tend to pick a character thread and read along that for a while when I pick up a Pratchett, and horror of horrors, I had not actually read a Witches thread book before.
To which Sarah responded STOP READING THE SHEPHERD’S CROWN NOW, PUT IT DOWN THIS INSTANT AND GO BACK TO THE BEGINNING. And she started telling me about how awesome the beginning was and ended up getting all nostalgic, so we came to a compromise. I would be allowed to finish TSC with the acknowledgement that it wasn’t the best in the Witches thread, and then we would both go back to the beginning and start reading them together.

So I finished, and I read, and I loved.

It has all the incredible weird hilarity that is so typical of Pratchett’s work. The ridiculous names, the oddball collection of characters, the utterly bizarre plots, it’s all there and all at its sparkling brilliance. There isn’t yet the sense of complete ease that comes in later novels when Pratchett has established exactly what he’s doing, but the trademark brilliance is there in abundance. I love the meandering of the plot as it flows along collecting seemingly random characters and moments until suddenly you hit the final stretch of the novel and everything kicks off and it all comes together into one explosive whole. It’s an art form and a thing of beauty to see done so well.

One thing I particularly love about Pratchett’s novels is his ability to take issues that we’re experiencing in the world now and twist them into these utterly absurd parallel situations in the Discworld – a kind of skewed mirror held up so we can see exactly how insane these issues really are. In Equal Rites he tackles sexism and the definition of male and female roles, and he does so spectacularly. I adored the dismissiveness on both sides of how women could only ever be witches and men only ever be wizards and never the two shall meet. I loved how it came out in ridiculously brilliant dialogue and action packed moments, and you know, I think Granny Weatherwax is definitely a new favourite. And that’s just from her first novel, I think when I get back to ‘The Shepherd’s Crown’ at the end of this I’m going to be a wreck re-reading that.

It’s a fantastic start to the witches thread, and has left me incredibly eager to get straight onto the next one and fill in all the gaps in my knowledge. So expect a fair amount of Pratchett here over the next few weeks as I fill in the woeful holes in my Discworld reading.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Review: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan & Deborah Bancotti

Publication Date: September 24th 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK Children’s Books
Length: 546 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Simon & Schuster UK Children’s Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Ethan aka Scam has a voice inside him that'll say whatever people want to hear, whether it's true or not. Which is handy, except when it isn't - like when the voice starts gabbing in the middle of a bank robbery. The only people who can help are the other Zeroes, who aren't exactly best friends these days.
Enter Nate, aka Bellwether, the group's 'glorious leader.' After Scam's SOS, he pulls the scattered Zeroes back together. But when the rescue blows up in their faces, the Zeroes find themselves propelled into whirlwind encounters with ever more dangerous criminals. At the heart of the chaos they find Kelsie, who can take a crowd in the palm of her hand and tame it or let it loose as she pleases.
Filled with high-stakes action and drama, 
Zeroes unites three powerhouse authors for the opening installment of a thrilling new series.

I love some good super powers and this blurb had me thoroughly excited to get stuck into a new series by some authors that I’ve loved. Unfortunately the book never quite lives up to the expectations set by the blurb.

There are six point of view characters, all with code names all with different stories and abilities. That’s a lot of points of view to get used to, particularly when they’re skipping between them every few pages. I never really felt like I got change to get to know one before we were off with someone else. Sadly I only ever really connected with two of the characters, which of six is a bit worrying. The other four were filled with padding, useless exposition and frustrating inner dialogues that never really moved the story forward. I frequently found myself skim reading those four and only properly reading Flicker and Anon, the two I found most interesting. Add to that the other four being thoroughly unlikeable or uninteresting and I found myself feeling thoroughly bored for the majority of the book.

That is a symptom of the entire book, there’s so much set up and then nothing much happens. You just end up skimming back and forth between all these different characters whilst nothing actually drives the plot forward. There are one or two moments where everything kicks up a gear and it gets interesting, but on the whole not really enough to keep my interest. There’s a lot of referencing to events that happened before the start of the book which leads to a lot of confusion and frustration. I was almost more interested in the events prior to the book than in the events in this book. So whilst it felt like a sequel, it also felt like a prequel, one to introduce these characters and put them all in place for the proper start to the series. So perhaps the second book in the series will go infinitely better than this one.

This had so much potential, and it does shine through at a few points, but if you’re after an exciting and fast paced new set of super powered teenagers this is not the place to look. Slow, boring and sadly lacking in interesting characters, zeroes sadly lives up to its name.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Review: The Royal We by Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Publication Date: April 7th 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Length: 454 pages

"I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they'll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next." 
American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face.
Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become.
Which is how she gets into trouble.
Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

When I initially saw this book and read the blurb I didn’t pick it up because to be quite frank it looked like real person fan fic based on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and the idea of real person fan fic makes me feel a little squicky.
I ignored it and read a whole heap of other books, but then reviews started coming in and everyone was saying how good this book was. So I gave it a shot.
And you know what? I am so glad that I did.

Yes ok the story is markedly similar to the real life story of the Duke and Duchess, but it also deviates in a lot of ways to create its own unique tale. From the very first page I was completely hooked. Morgan & Cocks have a truly brilliant writing style and it shines through in Bex’s narrative. From the very beginning I was drawn in, I was chuckling, I wanted to know more. It felt delicious and wicked and utterly brilliant and I tried to draw out reading it for much longer than I normally would with a book, because I wanted to savour it for as long as possible.

It was an engrossing read, peopled with fascinatingly real and flawed characters and tackled some really interesting problems, particularly with the media. How the media portray Bex (and by extension Lacey) how each character reacts to that attention as well as the truly terrifying lengths the methods the paparazzi go to to get their pictures and stories. It’s all depicted in horrifyingly realistic detail and really made me think about the news stories I see each day in a very different light. The novel is a brilliant blend of these heavier, darker tones, as well as exploring bereavement, family bonds, and trying to retain yourself in impossible situations where everyone feels like they own a piece of you/you’re constantly watched. But layered in with these heavier threads are some lovely light, romantic and fluffy elements that create a truly moreish read.

I squeed and giggled as Bex and Nick got to know each other at Oxford. I felt for Bex being stuffed into this impossible situation with their relationship having to be kept secret. I wept for her when she had to deal with the truly horrible treatment from the press and ‘The Firm’. I genuinely had no idea how it would end, how it could possibly all work out, and I loved that suspense.

My only frustration was that the timeline becomes a little hard to follow in places. I frequently found myself becoming confused as to how much time had passed when suddenly there was a Christmas that had happened when I wasn’t looking, or it was summer and last I’d realised it was autumn. It was very hard to keep up and work out precise timings, but it didn’t impair my enjoyment, it just made me a little confused from time to time.

It’s the perfect mix of fairytale romance and real life problems – both for those in the glare of the media and more average everyday relationships. Add in a brilliant cast of characters and this was a truly wonderful read. I loved losing myself in this story and falling in love with Bex and Nick. If you’re put off by the similarities to real life know that yes ok, it does borrow heavily from the real life story of William and Kate, but it also blends in enough fiction to create a truly fantastic story. Definitely a favourite and one I’m going to come back to again and again.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Top Ten Books on my Autumn TBR Pile

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the lovely people over at 'The Broke & The Bookish' - to join in simply follow the link.

How is it autumn already, when did that happen? It has been a year for awesome books, but it isn't over yet! So here are my top ten books that I want to pick up over the next few weeks. I've got a fantastic mix of bought books and ones I've managed to nab from Netgalley and I cannot wait to get stuck into them.

Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Release Date: September 22nd
Source: Bought/To Buy

Lee Westfall has a secret. She can sense the presence of gold in the world around her. Veins deep beneath the earth, pebbles in the river, nuggets dug up from the forest floor. The buzz of gold means warmth and life and home—until everything is ripped away by a man who wants to control her. Left with nothing, Lee disguises herself as a boy and takes to the trail across the country. Gold was discovered in California, and where else could such a magical girl find herself, find safety?

This has been on my desperate to read list for ages, and with the release date being today I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy and curl up with this gorgeous sounding book.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Release Date: September
Source: Bought/To Buy

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.
Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz's crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

Confession, I haven't yet read any of the Grisha trilogy, but it's on my must read now list because 'Six of Crows' is one of my insanely anticipated reads of the year. I have a thing for heist stories, like a ridiculous thing for them and this blurb literally has me shrieking and doing the excited dance, so I need to get caught up asap!

The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanof
Release Date: October 1st
Source: Bought/To Buy

The follow-up to the acclaimed novel The Curiosities: A Collection of Stories by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff. 
In an unassuming corner of Brooklyn, a young woman learns to be ladylike, to love context, and to speak her mind from a very curious sort of tutor. 
In a faraway land convulsed by war, a young soldier hears the desert’s curious hum as he disarms bombs with the person he doesn’t know how to love. 
In a place so shriveled by drought that any drowning is a curiosity, a young writer tries again and again to tread water beneath the surface of a vast and unusual sea. 
Three new stories—complete with commentary on the creative process—from three acclaimed young adult authors working at the height of their powers. 

I adore these authors, so all three of them in one book is like Christmas and Birthday and some sort of exciting festival all at the same time. I have yet to catch up on the first volume (how I missed it when it first came out I have no idea) but I plan on bingeing on both books over the autumn, because what better time to read stories by these three than when the days are getting colder and night is coming in faster?

Some Like It Scot by Suzanne Enoch
Release Date: October 6th
Source: Netgalley

Nineteenth-century, Scotland:
When a mad lass in trousers shoots at him, Munro "Bear" MacLawry isn't sure what impresses him more-the girl's sure aim or her irresistibly tempting curves. Catriona MacColl has fled to the Highlands with her half-sister to escape an unwanted wedding, and wants no part of him, nor any man. But he can't abandon the flame-haired, sharp-tongued wildcat now that he's discovered her-not when she fits so perfectly in his arms...
Munro has more than earned his nickname-he's a well-muscled, well-favored mountain of a man with an engaging bad-boy grin and a string of well-satisfied lasses behind him. Bringing Catriona food, blankets, candles, everything she needs to survive a winter in an abandoned abbey, Munro is an unexpected gift in her reckless bid for freedom-and an unexpected complication. Clan MacDonald has plans for her, and they don't include her falling for a MacLawry. But this man makes her feel like a woman-and he may be her one chance to live a life about which she's only dared dream...

There is always a need for romance, and romance set in Scotland? Yes please. I had a fantastic experience earlier this year with Tessa Dare's 'Some Like It Scot' which made me start hunting out ore Scottish romances, and I already know I love Enoch's writing so this should be a match made in heaven.

A Thousand Nights by E K Johnston
Release Date: October 22nd

Source: ARC from Publisher

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.
And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time.But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.
Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.
Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

We're having a sudden flurry of a thousand and one nights re-tellings, something I am very excited about. After the brilliance of 'The Wrath & The Dawn' earlier this year I cannot wait to see another take on the story.

How To Be Brave by E Katherine Kottaras
Release Date: November 3rd
Source: Netgalley
Reeling from her mother's death, Georgia has a choice: become lost in her own pain, or enjoy life right now, while she still can. She decides to start really living for the first time and makes a list of fifteen ways to be brave - all the things she's wanted to do but never had the courage to try. As she begins doing the things she's always been afraid to do - including pursuing her secret crush, she discovers that life doesn't always go according to plan. Sometimes friendships fall apart and love breaks your heart. But once in a while, the right person shows up just when you need them most - and you learn that you're stronger and braver than you ever imagined.

Every now and again a contemporary YA is precisely what I need, and the buzz around this one has me thoroughly interested. It has some big shoes to fill after some of the wonderful YA contemps I've read this year, but I have high hopes.

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Release Date: November 10th
Source: Netgalley

Stella Gordon's life is a lie.

She does not belong in Thunder Basin, Nebraska. As the key witness in a murder trial, Stella is under witness protection, living a life she doesn't want.
No one can know who she really is. Not even Chet Falconer, her hot, enigmatic neighbour. But against her better judgement, Stella finds herself falling under Chet's spell...
A storm is brewing. Is Stella really safe in Thunder Basin? And will Chet be her shelter, or her downfall...

I haven't read any of Becca Fitzpatrick's work before, but I've been meaning to, and with this blurb the time seems right round about now, so I'm taking the plunge. I have the 'Hush Hush' books on standby in case I am smitten.

Soundless by Richelle Mead
Release Date: November 10th
Source: Bought/To Buy
For as long as Fei can remember, there has been no sound in her village, where rocky terrain and frequent avalanches prevent residents from self-sustaining. Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom. 
When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink and many go hungry. Fei’s home, the people she loves, and her entire existence is plunged into crisis, under threat of darkness and starvation.
But soon Fei is awoken in the night by a searing noise, and sound becomes her weapon.
Richelle Mead takes readers on a triumphant journey from the peak of Fei’s jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiugo, where a startling truth and an unlikely romance will change her life forever...

Diversity! Chinese folklore! LOOK AT THAT COVER! Another book that has been on my radar since the start of the year, everything about this book appeals to me. My only worry is that I've spent so long getting excited about it, will it live up to the expectations? So far early reviews suggest it will...

The Light That Gets Lost by Natasha Carthew
Release Date: November 11th

Source: Netgalley
A small boy hiding in a cupboard witnesses something no child should ever see. He tries not to look but he still hears it. And when he comes out, there's no mistaking. His mum and dad have been killed. And though he's only small, he swears that he'll get revenge one day.
Years later, Trey goes to a strange camp that is meant to save troubled teenagers. It's packed with crazies, god-botherers, devoted felons and broken kids. Trey's been in and out of trouble ever since the day the bad thing happened, but he's not here for saving: this is where he'll find the man who did it. Revenge and healing, salvation and hell are a boiling, dangerous mix, and Trey finds himself drawn to a girl, a dream and the offer of friendship in the dark …

This isn't my usual must read, but I've been hearing quite a bit of buzz about this book already so when it popped up on Netgalley I couldn't wait to add it to my to read pile.

The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden
Release Date: November 17th

Source: Netgalley
In a post-storm New Orleans, Adele is haunted by myths, monsters, and her own family’s secrets.
After the storm of the century rips apart New Orleans, sixteen-year-old Adele Le Moyne and her father are among the first to return. Adele wants nothing more than to resume her normal life, but with the silent city resembling a war zone, a parish-wide curfew, and mysterious new faces lurking in the abandoned French Quarter, normal needs a new definition.
Strange events—even for New Orleans—lead Adele to an attic that has been sealed for three hundred years. The chaos she accidentally unleashes threatens not only her but also everyone she knows.
Caught in a hurricane of myths and monsters, Adele must untangle a web of magic that weaves the climbing murder rate back to her own ancestors. But who can you trust in a city where everyone has secrets and keeping them can mean life or death? Unless…you’re immortal.

Ever since 'The Originals' made an appearance on my TV, I've been hunting for books set in New Orleans, so combine that blurb and that title with that cover and I am more than a little intrigued.

So those are ten of the books on my autumn to read pile. Now it's over to you! Are there any that have piqued your interest? Any that we share? Let me know and link me to your own lists in the comments below!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Review: Mechanica by Betsy Cornwell

Publication Date: August 25th 2015
Publisher: Clarion Books
Length: 304 pages

Nicolette’s awful stepsisters call her “Mechanica” to demean her, but the nickname fits: she learned to be an inventor at her mother’s knee. Her mom is gone now, though, and the Steps have turned her into a servant in her own home. 
But on her sixteenth birthday, Nicolette discovers a secret workshop in the cellar and begins to dare to imagine a new life for herself. Could the mysterious books and tools hidden there—and the mechanical menagerie, led by a tiny metal horse named Jules—be the key to escaping her dreary existence? With a technological exposition and royal ball on the horizon, the timing might just be perfect for Nicolette to earn her freedom at last.
Gorgeous prose and themes of social justice and family shine in this richly imagined Cinderella retelling about an indomitable inventor who finds her prince . . . but realizes she doesn't want a fairy tale happy ending after all.

I was very excited to get stuck into this one, and whilst I did really enjoy this fresh take on the Cinderella story (strong independent woman!) there were a few problems that stopped it being the favourite I had been hoping it would turn into.

Nick is a fantastic protagonist. I did have a couple of issues with her and the romance which I will discuss in a moment, but first I want to talk about what I loved. She’s intelligent, she’s feisty and determined, she’s incredibly clever and talented. And the best part? Unlike the original story where she has to rely on her fairy godmother and the Prince to rescue her from her life of drudgery, in ‘Mechanica’ she rescues herself. Yes she has friends and support, but she pulls herself up, she rolls up her sleeves and gets stuff done and turns her own situation around which I really loved.

I loved the steampunk elements – it’s not traditional full steampunk, and anyone worrying that it will be too similar to ‘Cinder’ your fears are unfounded, these are two very different books. The mechanical inventions and magic are worked in beautifully and I loved seeing Nick at work and the little titbits we’re shown of her relationship with her mother. They’re both incredible inventors and I thought that was a truly gorgeous new twist – particularly when we see the attitude towards women and their inventions in this world. I loved how they subvert expectations to create these stunning pieces and the transition from Nick’s mother having to pretend that her inventions are made by her husband, to Nick standing proud beside her inventions. It’s definitely a female empowerment story, and it’s done brilliantly.

However, one of my biggest issues was the romance. Nick meets Fin twice, maybe three times, and yeah ok he’s ridiculously hot and he’s actually been nice to her which at this point in her life is a rarity – crush away dear girl, I completely understand. But then she stars having imaginary conversations with him. She freely admits that she spends most of her time imagining conversations and situations and builds up this entire person in her head that she later says she doesn’t think she could have survived without. This is up there with insta-love for me – a love built up out of nothing. Of imaginings. It really didn’t work for me and I found any of their interactions following that to be really uncomfortable as a result.

The romance and relationships as a whole are handled quite poorly, so if you’re after the traditional happily ever after you’ll be sorely disappointed. Similarly whilst some elements of the friendships worked really well, there were other parts that really didn’t and left me feeling frustrated by various actions and conversations. The pacing is also a little off so the story lags quite terribly in several places, but the imagination that infuses it definitely helps to pick up the slack and kept me interested.

So whilst I loved a lot of this fresh reinvention of Cinderella, there were enough niggles and problems for it not to quite hit favourite status. However I really recommend picking it up, if only for the magical inventions and the empowered self sufficient Cinderella.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Review: Lock & Mori by Heather W. Petty

Publication Date: September 15th 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 256 pages

In modern-day London, two brilliant high school students, one Sherlock Holmes and a Miss James "Mori" Moriarty, meet. A murder will bring them together. The truth very well might drive them apart.
Before they were mortal enemies, they were much more.
FACT: Someone has been murdered in London's Regent's Park. The police have no leads.
FACT: Miss James "Mori"Moriarty and Sherlock "Lock" Holmes should be hitting the books on a school night. Instead, they are out crashing a crime scene.
FACT: Lock has challenged Mori to solve the case before he does. Challenge accepted.
FACT: Despite agreeing to Lock's one rule--they must share every clue with each other--Mori is keeping secrets.
OBSERVATION: Sometimes you can't trust the people closest to you with matters of the heart. And after this case, Mori may never trust Lock again.

This book nearly sent me into a rage spiral that would have sent my kindle flying across the room, except a) there were one or two redeeming features (although sadly not as many as I would have liked) and b) my kindle is new.

I’ve always been a little wary of Sherlock Holmes retellings – I love the books, I love the movies I love the shows, but as soon as you start sticking my beloved characters into strange and slightly side eye worthy situations I get nervous. Then earlier this year I read ‘Every Breath’ by Ellie Marney and it was so GLORIOUSLY GOOD that I thought maybe I had been too hasty to judge. After all here was a modern day re-telling that involved teenage James Mycroft and Rachel Watts and it was so good I shrieked loudly and often at everyone over the days following reading it. So after that brilliance I found I had renewed interest in the forthcoming ‘Lock and Mori’ which featured a teenage Sherlock and Moriarty with a modern setting and a gender twisted Moriarty – colour me intrigued.

Sadly though, it really didn’t live up to those expectations. As with several books I’ve read recently the only thing that stopped this being a one star read was that the writing was not bad, in fact in places it was quite good – it’s just a shame about everything else.

Sherlock does not actually feel like the Sherlock we have come to know through the original stories, in fact the only things he shares are a name, a brother called Mycroft and a slight tendency towards the genius. Which we see in precisely one scene at the start of the book and then it’s dropped in favour of INSTALOVE.

I could possibly forgive the Sherlock character destruction (I’m lying, I totally couldn’t) if Mori had been an interesting and compelling character. Sadly I was disappointed yet again. She’s not a particularly nice person, very selfish to the detriment of others, and for me she really didn’t work at all. Sure she’s intelligent, but she’s aloof, cold, not particularly likeable even to the reader and her reasoning behind a lot of the decisions she makes in the book seemed bizarre at best. Sherlock’s fascination with her I could understand – after all she’s definitely intelligent, but instalove? Really? The big reason at the end for why Mori will never trust Sherlock again left me feeling decidedly non-plussed. 
Any sort of logic or reasoning she may have been in possession of disappears at around the half way mark where solving murders is tossed away in favour of make out sessions, and justice and safety for not just herself but her three younger brothers is tossed aside for decidedly tenuous reasons. Add in the fact that she's an English girl referring to her Mum as 'Mom' and I was about ready to give up.

Then there’s the pacing. We discover who the murderer is at the half way point and I reached that reveal, checked to see how much more of the book was left and genuinely didn’t know how the second half could possibly be filled. Short answer? Badly. It plays on all the tired clich├ęs – look how stupid the adults are, we teenagers will solve everything and save the day! being the most frustrating to witness. Chuck in the instalove and I was ready to weep at the assassination of these characters. I’m all for playing with well-loved characters, twisting the scenarios to see how they work with different players and variables, but sadly in this case it really didn’t work.

If you’re after a good modern day Sherlock story then I cannot recommend ‘The Every trilogy’ by Ellie Marney enough. If you’re a fan of Sherlock, of the original stories, of interesting believable characters and well built up romance then sadly ‘Lock and Mori’ won’t be the book for you. It’s a great concept that could have been brilliant, but sadly is left to founder in bad pacing, terrible characters and an unbelievable plot.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Review: Never Never by Brianna Shrum

Publication Date: September 22nd 2015
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Length: 368 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Spencer Hill Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

James Hook is a child who only wants to grow up.
When he meets Peter Pan, a boy who loves to pretend and is intent on never becoming a man, James decides he could try being a child—at least briefly. James joins Peter Pan on a holiday to Neverland, a place of adventure created by children’s dreams, but Neverland is not for the faint of heart. Soon James finds himself longing for home, determined that he is destined to be a man. But Peter refuses to take him back, leaving James trapped in a world just beyond the one he loves. A world where children are to never grow up.
But grow up he does. 
And thus begins the epic adventure of a Lost Boy and a Pirate.
This story isn’t about Peter Pan; it’s about the boy whose life he stole. It’s about a man in a world that hates men. It’s about the feared Captain James Hook and his passionate quest to kill the Pan, an impossible feat in a magical land where everyone loves Peter Pan.
Except one.

You know when you emerge from the final page of a book and feel like you’ve just wasted your time? Yeah, that.

I love stories told from the villain’s perspective. Done right they can offer a nuanced character that always has more to them than the black and white evil/good character stereotypes, and they can often result in some of my favourite stories. Done wrong and sadly, you end up with something like this.
The story telling style is very reminiscent of Barrie’s original Peter Pan story – points for continuity – but sadly it just doesn’t fit with the actual story being told. The result is everything being told to the reader, never shown anything. You’re told that Pan is bad, that Hook is upset, that the world is a terrible place. You just never really see it and as a result that’s the first thing that disconnects the reader.

The second thing is the character’s, who never really feel like real functioning people. Yeah sure I could see Pan was bad, I felt for Hook being in this terrible situation, but I didn’t care. It comes back to the issue of telling the reader everything instead of showing them and allowing them to spend time connecting to the characters. It also doesn’t help that all of them are one note characters with no real depth to them. Pan is always awful, Hook is always betrayed and angry. There’s no depth no nuance, and as a result no real feeling,

Then you have the plot, which is virtually non-existent. The first section of the novel is taken up with James prior to Neverland and then going to Neverland and discovering he can’t leave. Then there is a whole host of nothing for the majority of the novel. There are a couple of standoffs between Pan and Hook, there’s a lot of Hook being abominable to everyone and sulking in his cabin, and then suddenly in the last 20% of the novel Wendy and her brothers arrive and we have a very condensed version of the original Peter Pan story smushed into that last section. There is no real drive to the story, I frequently found myself skim reading and skipping through the story because there was so much that was completely unnecessary.

It also doesn’t help that it can’t really decide what sort of book it wants to be and who it’s aimed at. To start with James is twelve and it has a distinct MG feel. Then he starts growing up until we reach some decidedly adult scenes where he’s discovering some of the delights of being a pirate captain which really wouldn’t be appropriate for a younger reader – it’s like it can’t work out quite who should be reading it. The relationships depicted are more than a little unhealthy, and I was actually horrified reading some of the scenes that are meant to be romantic.

There was so much potential for a really nuanced look at Hook, at this boy who grows up but not at a normal pace and in a normal environment. In fact with some of the descriptions of how quickly he ages it could have been a fascinating look at a fifteen year old boy trapped in a body of an adult with the mentality still of a child.

It’s so bleak. I like my stories with a little bit of hope and there was nothing in this. I finished the book, looked at the last page a few more times and honestly wondered why I’d just wasted my time on this. It was depressing and frustrating and I didn’t connect with anyone.

The only reasons that this was not a one star read is that the writing was quite good in places, plus the inclusion of so many little details from the original story and the versions since then was a really great touch. Those are the only things that kept me reading, otherwise I would have DNF this one at around a third of the way through.

So if you’re expecting a fascinating look at the villain of Peter Pan, trust me when I say the book you’ll get is not what you’re expecting and sadly in this case, that isn’t a good thing.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Review: Tonight The Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

Publication Date: September 24th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Length: 342 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan Children’s Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

From the author of This Song Will Save Your Life comes a funny and relatable book about the hazards of falling for a person you haven't met yet.
Seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley is recklessly loyal. Taking care of her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But she's tired of being loyal to people who don't appreciate her—including her needy best friend and her absent mom. 
Arden finds comfort in a blog she stumbles upon called "Tonight the Streets Are Ours," the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter. When Peter is dumped by the girlfriend he blogs about, Arden decides to take a road trip to see him.
During one crazy night out in NYC filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn't exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn't exactly who she thought she was, either.

This is a very complex mix of a novel. It isn’t what I was expecting and in some ways that’s a very good thing and in others not so great. I’m feeling a little conflicted because it’s fascinating and interesting and very well written and with some beautiful twisty elements, but at the same time I didn’t enjoy it. I didn’t like any of the characters, so that kinda dampens any enthusiasm I would otherwise have.

Arden is a complex and intriguing character that I really didn’t like, but she was still fascinating to follow. Her ‘thing’ is being ‘recklessly loyal’. She is labelled this when she was young and she thinks this is all she is, the sum total of all of her parts and that shapes everything she does, every decision, every conversation. Some people will identify and love her character for the way she goes out of her way to look after others and how that leaves her feeling, and I could identify with her to a certain extent, but there were decisions and elements that I really struggled with because she really takes it to extremes. Add in her attitude and thought process and she comes across as someone who enjoys being a martyr, who likes feeling hard done by that no one loves her as much as she loves them, because she never really allows anyone else to have any autonomy. Basically she’s a control freak, which becomes increasingly obvious with every interaction she is with others, particularly with Lindsay. She doesn’t ever actually consider whether the people she being recklessly loyal to actually want that. She just keeps on sacrificing herself over and over again without discussion, without allowing the people to be people. They are just a means to her being her ‘recklessly loyal’ label. It’s complicated and messy and fascinating.

The rest of the characters were all layers of ‘what the hell’ awfulness, but also kinda relatable characteristics. Her Mum who walks out on the family because she can’t deal with the lack of support from her husband and children. On the one hand it is incredibly selfish, particularly putting it on the kids in part for her not having the space to fulfil her dreams. But on the other, I completely got where she was coming from. The lack of support from those we love when we go out of our way to care for them can be soul destroying, so whilst I couldn’t get behind how her storyline plays out, I could fully understand it as what happened emerges.

The same cannot be said for Arden’s Father who I loathed all the way through. The sort of man who has the family dog put down because he can’t deal with the hassle? No. Not even a little bit. The same goes for Chris, who really frustrated me all the way through. He was awful towards Arden, expecting her to just be a passive ‘thing’ that he could say was his. No hassle, no drama, no sort of inclination to be there and support her. It makes the reader hate him from the start which then begs the question, is that done purely so we are on Arden’s side when she rushes off to find Peter?

And Peter. Oh boy, let’s talk about Peter. I really didn’t like him, right from the start. His blog just grated. He was so creepy and kinda overblown romantic but most definitely not in a good way. And he pursues a girl he knows is taken and shows no remorse. Just, no boy. I find his blog posts frustrating and then we meet him and he’s so much worse because he’s so full of himself and his own importance and I wanted to smack him. I get incoherently angry just thinking about him.

Some of the decisions that drive this story are as side eye worthy as the characters. I’ve already touched on Dad putting the dog down and Mum leaving, but the big one is always going to be Arden’s decision that what Peter most needs when his girlfriend breaks up with him, is her. It’s weird and terrifying and stalkerish and frankly Peter should have run the other direction, but it’s also fascinating. It takes a good long look at how the internet allows us to build up relationships with people that are entirely one sided. Because whilst Peter had no idea who on earth Arden was, she had built up this entire persona of him based on the pieces he was choosing to portray. She had turned to his blog when she needed comfort and distraction and this facet of Peter had become a major part of her life so for her, he was damn near perfect (because hey, when you’re shading in the gaps in someone you don’t really know but you also kinda do, of course they’re going to be perfect) and it made perfect sense that what he needed was her. It’s such a strange phenomenon these internet relationships we form. Some of them go both ways, some are one way, and it’s intriguing and complex and scary in places but this aspect is really well explored in the novel. And to see that relationship form on Arden’s side and then have her go and seek out the reality and see how that plays is really well done.

Other than characters and plot there’s just the pacing to talk about, because it gets a little bit strange in the middle. When Arden is discovering Peter’s blog we stop hearing anything very much about her life other than the odd ‘hey, bored, going to look at his blog again’ so you suddenly have an influx of Peter’s story and none of Arden’s and when you’re invested in Arden’s it can be very frustrating until it balances out again. I did however love the time jumps all over the place, both with Arden reading Peter’s blog out of order to start with, but also with Arden herself. We have anecdotes about her childhood, her past, her and Chris, and it’s fascinating to piece it all together into one narrative and works really well.

So as I said, this one was mixed. I really didn’t get along well with the characters, yet they were fascinating and intrigued me. I found a lot of the decisions really hard to process, but the results were complex and I found myself becoming increasingly invested. I loved the reveals and the twists as everything unfurled and we see the full picture, and I loved how the book explores relationships. And all sorts of relationships at that. Parents, siblings, partners, friends, random people on the internet. It’s a book of many layers and sifting through them is half the fun. It’s a book that isn’t afraid to make the point that we can never know the full story, we only see what other people allow us to see and what we allow ourselves to see.

It’s not a book I particularly enjoyed, but it’s a book that I think is done well, and one that I’m curious to see responses from other people when it comes out at the end of the month.