Friday, 30 October 2015

Books I'm Squeeing About in November

How is it November already?! Possibly because I spent most of October in a birthday cake induced sugar haze... But still! I stand by my original point that this year is flying by all too fast. The only thing that make it ok that we've hit the eleventh month already is the promise of a whole host of new books hitting our shelves this November. So without further ado, here are the books I'm squeeing about this month!

How To Be Brave by E Katherine Kottaras
Release Date: November 3rd

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 

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

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
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 

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.

Lots more gorgeous covers this month, and a whole host of exciting tales that I cannot wait to get stuck into. Are any of these on your reading pile this month? Are there any you're curious to pick up now? And are there any books you think should be on my radar that I've missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 26 October 2015

Eight Birthday Bookish Wishes!

Today is my birthday! So to celebrate (and since I missed this topic last week when ‘The Broke and the Bookish’ did a top ten Tuesday for bookish wishes) I’ve decided to talk about my top eight bookish wishes I would like to come true when I blow out the candles on my cake this evening.

1. Another Lady Julia Grey Novel
My love for the Lady Julia series knows no bounds. I adore these books, they are like literary crack for me. So I was devastated when it was announced that there would not be any more novels, simply four novellas to try and tie up any loose ends and then goodbye Julia and Brisbane. I love going back and re-reading the novels that we were lucky enough to see, but I would love to see just one more novel in this series to give everyone a full and proper ending.

2. All the Lady Julia Grey Novellas to be bound up in one book
I did enjoy the four novellas, but I am a physical books kinda girl so it frustrates me that I can only read them on my kindle. I want them bound up in one book (ala ‘The Assassin’s Blade’ by Sarah J Maas) so my Lady Julia collection is complete and I can gaze at all the pretties on my bookshelf.

3. For the Next A Song of Ice and Fire Book to be in my Grabby Hands Now
Seriously George, we’ve been so patient, now gief us the book! I need to know what happens next, you can’t just leave me on that cliffhanger of doom. It’s my birthday, just a hint?! (Or you know, a draft, I’m not fussy…)

4. More novels set in the Seven Kingdoms
I adore ‘Graceling’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Bitterblue’. I cannot get enough of these characters, this world, Kristin’s writing. It’s just so good. So whilst I would be very happy for any new writing from Kristin, in my heart of heart’s I would most like another novel set in the Seven Kingdoms. The chance to go back and explore more of this fascinating world would send me into a tailspin of glee. (Also for the audiobook to be read by the superb narrator of the first three books, because Emma Powell does such an incredible job of bringing these characters to life. Plus, continuity.)

5. A New Sarah Rees Brennan Book Every Year
You guys, if someone told me I could only read one author’s work for the rest of my life I would (after much wailing) declare that of course it would be Sarah Rees Brennan. (Fun fact, I met Sarah at a talk and signing on my birthday four years ago and she was awesome. I gave her cake.)
Her books are brilliant, funny, terrifying, and she gleefully rips my heart/soul into tiny little pieces. And I don’t even complain, because I enjoy it. I love her books that much. So if I could have a new book of Sarah’s every year forever please that would make me exceedingly happy. I’m not greedy, I’m not going to demand a new one every month or anything crazy, but one a year? Yes please, my little heart would swell with joy.

6. A New Maggie Stiefvater Book Every Year
Since this is my birthday and the wish granting genie is granting my bookish wishes I want to be greedy, and demand that I also get a Maggie Stiefvater book every year because OH GOSH YES PLEASE. Maggie captured my heart with ‘The Scorpio Races’, and let’s face it I am still not over that book, and then she continued to squish it with her genius with the first three books in ‘The Raven Cycle’. I fully anticipate not just squishing but outright annihilation by feels with the release of the final book ‘The Raven King’ early next year. So if I could get more incredible writing, stunningly beautiful magic and characters that I fall in love with and weep over every year, I would consider myself a very lucky girl.

7. A Series of Books set in the Marauders Era at Hogwarts

I think this would be on most people’s bookish wishlist. Can you imagine this? This would be incredible. I want to go back to Hogwarts, I want to spend time with the Marauders as they create the map and wreak havoc and generally get up to mischief. Picture it, just for a second. It would be like we got a series of books from the Weasley twin’s point of view, but MULTIPLIED. It would be epic.

8. For The Scorpio Races Movie to do the Book Justice and Not Make me Want to Weep
This book. Oh this book. It is so visual and would look so stunning on the big screen, but I am so terrified that any adaptation would lose the magic and turn it into this big Hollywood commercial THING. And that would be tragic. Done right, this could be perfection, complete and utter perfection. And to be able to watch the story unfold as well as listen to it and read it would be a dream come true. Now if they could get it perfect and with my dream cast that would be awesome…

So there you have my eight bookish wishes I will be wishing for before consuming cast quantities of cake this evening. Would you add any other wishes on? Or do you want to join in on some of these wishes (because double the wish power means a greater chance of them coming true…) Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 23 October 2015

Review: Life and Death by Stephenie Meyer (Twilight Re-Imagined)

Publication Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Atom
Length: 387 pages (just for ‘Life and Death’ not full hardback)

Celebrate the tenth anniversary of Twilight! This special double-feature book includes the classic novel, Twilight, and a bold and surprising reimagining, Life and Death, by Stephenie Meyer.
Packaged as an oversize, jacketed hardcover “flip book,” this edition features nearly 400 pages of new content as well as exquisite new back cover art. Readers will relish experiencing the deeply romantic and extraordinarily suspenseful love story of Bella and Edward through fresh eyes.

Sixteen year old me read ‘Twilight’ and loved it. I was swept away by the atmosphere and the forbidden love and the whole magical quality to the story. Now sixteen year old me didn’t have a huge amount of sense when it came to relationships and luckily I’ve grown up and realised just how unhealthy and terrifying the relationship between Edward and Bella really is, but I’ve never let go of the enjoyment and love I felt for this story when I first read it.
So it was a no brainer that I was going to read this re-imagined version when I heard about it, no matter what my logical brain might be screaming at me.

When Meyer says she’s gender swapped everyone apart from Charlie and Renee, she means everyone. Down to really bizarre things like the school nurse being an old man. There were moments like that where I really felt like she was taking it a bit far, as if she’s trying to make a point of ‘look how much re-writing I’ve done!’ rather than it serving an actual purpose to the story.

The gender swapped characters are a bit of a mixed bag. (Urgh, names, who would name their child Royal?!) On the one hand I was quite interested in Edythe – she’s still got all the creepy over possessiveness of Edward, but she’s not nearly as terrifying in her displays of anger which made me warm to her a little. However she’s juxtaposed against Beau, who I really did not get along with. I found him infinitely less interesting than Bella (which is saying something given how bland Bella has a tendency to be) and thoughts and actions which could be (sort of) forgiven with Bella came across as creepy and downright disturbing with Beau. Maybe Meyer cannot write un-alarming male characters, particularly not in this particular world, because almost all of her male characters in both this version and the original are terrifying. They’re possessive, angry, and have a tendency to be emotionally manipulative. Bella and Edwards’ relationship was a classic case of abuse, which is why it’s so alarming that a generation of teenagers grew up thinking that Edward and Bella had the perfect romance, and saying that they wanted to find their own Edward. 

Whilst the gender swapped version manages to avoid some of the issues of the original it is still more than a little alarming in places, both with Edythe’s control issues and actions (still not over how creepy Edythe/Edward watching Beau/Bella sleep is) and Beau’s actions towards Edythe. This is the very definition of an unhealthy relationship with a whole heap of instalove thrown in for good measure, and a gender swap doesn’t change that.
In fact, gender swapping brings up a whole host of new issues. In ‘Twilight’ there were no real moments where Bella talked about Edward’s physicality. Not so with Beau who judges every woman/girl he meets by their physicality. Meyer seems to think that turning Bella into Beau means that because he’s a boy he must be more fixated on how girls look. Iffy at best, but when you start looking at the things he focuses on it becomes much more alarming. He fixates on how you can see the sharp angles of Edythe’ collar bones and shoulder blades. How you can count all her ribs through her t-shirt, and then waxes lyrical about how this is the epitome of attractiveness. Not even remotely ok.

In fact, aside from these blatant ‘look, I can totally write from a male perspective, look at these male thoughts!’ moments, Beau never actually feels like a guy. I kept forgetting that he was a guy (until there would be the inevitable reminder and it would jolt me into remembering again) and most of the story he was actually a she – which made for much more interesting reading to have a female/female relationship. Alas, the possibilities that could have given this story a much needed shake up.

If you were hoping that Meyer might provide an insightful and (much better) version of Twilight with this gender swapped version, you may as well not bother. The majority of the novel is just a find and replace on pronouns and names. The novel is still filled with problems – some the same as the original, a few delightful new ones brought to light with the swap. There are a few new scenes which hardcore fans will delight in reading, and there is of course the alternate ending which is essentially a hot mess of exposition and Meyer attempting to cram the three books of the quartet into fifty pages. In fact I found the alternate ending thoroughly depressing, fitting in quite nicely with the feeling of reading the rest of the novel.

It’s expensive, even on kindle, and if you buy the hardback you get a thoroughly unnecessary extra copy of Twilight so that the book becomes even more unwieldy. The entire thing smacks of being a money grab rather than what it’s pretending to be – a tribute to fans of a book that despite its problems helped to put Young Adult fiction on the map ten years ago.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Three Tips for Getting Out of a Reading Slump

Everyone has reading slumps, periods of time where life catches up and you don't have time to read, or the motivation to pick up a book vanishes.
It's frustrating, particularly when you read on a regular basis and books are usually your outlet for escaping life.

I've been going through a reading slump recently (you may have been tipped off by the lack of posts going up on here!) where real life has reared its ugly head and I just haven't had the energy to pick up a book and escape for a while. So below I'm listing three tips for getting out of a reading slump.

1. Re-Visiting Old Favourites

Sometimes I look at my to read pile and no matter how much I want to read the books in there I cannot muster the motivation to pick up something there. Instead all I want to do is re-visit some of my favourite books: Harry Potter, The Scorpio Races, Julia Quinn, Deanna Raybourn. All favourite that I know inside and out and can provide a sense of comfort when I pick them up again. Sometimes spending some time with a book I know and love can be all the nudging I need to get me back in a reading frame of mind and back to my pile of books waiting to be read.

2. Focus on Something Else
When I'm not reading I love watching TV shows. I have a whole host of favourites that I love watching, and sometimes my brain needs a break from reading so I turn to TV. Sometimes taking a step back and doing something else, allowing my brain to recharge and stop thinking about books for a while is all I need to nudge me back again. Find the other things that you love to do when you're not reading and bring them to the fore for a while. Give your brain a break from books and soon enough you'll find yourself itching to get back to your to read pile.

3. Decide to take a step back

This particularly applies to book bloggers, because often the wanting to read is all tied up with the feeling like we need to blog. So when I'm struggling to read and review, instead of making myself feel guilty for not doing it I deliberately take a step back and decide to take a few days off. That lifting of pressure, even if it only lasts a few days is usually enough to get me wanting to read and review again and even if I've given myself a few weeks away I'm usually back and reading/reviewing in a couple of days.

There you have my top three tips, now I would love to hear from you guys! What do you do to get out of reading or blogging slumps? Do you have things that you do or try to avoid doing? Or any books you pick up to try and get you back in the reading mood? Let me know in the comments below.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Publication Date: October 8th 2015
Publisher: Macmillan
Length: 522 pages

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savor his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest, and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he’ll be safe. Simon can’t even enjoy the fact that his roommate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can’t stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you’re the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savor anything.
Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story — but far, far more monsters.

I’m still catching up with the rest of the world when it comes to Rainbow Rowell’s books, so when I started reading ‘Carry On’ I had no idea until a friend told me when I was a third of the way through that it was in fact a book that had been a fictional book in one of Rainbow Rowell’s other books ‘Fangirl’ where the main character wrote fanfiction about the character’s in ‘Carry On’. Confused yet? I was, but I was also highly entertained at how meta Rainbow was deciding to go with her latest novel.

Considering ‘Fangirl’ takes a fictional look at the real life Harry Potter fan-fic extravaganza, it is no surprise that the easiest way to sum up this book is to say that it’s like Harry Potter on crack.
It’s bizarre, completely insane, brilliant and more than a little crazy, and on the whole I loved it.

Rainbow dumps you into Simon and Baz’s final year at Watford and it feels like there should have been seven books leading up to this where we see all the crazy stuff they got up to and watch the rivalries and relationships develop. Instead we’re given this as a standalone and get constant references back to the various things that have happened in the past seven years. Sometimes that works brilliantly when they’re just casually dropped in and you have a moment of ‘wait, WHAT!?’ but other times I was just left feeling frustrated because I had missed all of this other stuff being referenced. It ends up being a bit of a mixed bag where some of it works and some of it doesn’t and I was left see sawing back and forth between loving it and being frustrated.

The magic is crazy. I adored so much of the insanity and frequently found myself laughing out loud – particularly at the phrases for spells that they use. It was all just so utterly bizarre. I also really loved the relationship between Simon and Baz, that was probably the best part of the entire novel for me. Scrap that, Baz was the best part of the novel for me. He’s snarky and aloof and the banter alone was fabulous. Rainbow plays on so many clich├ęs and turns it into something other, something that you never expect.

However I did have a couple of problems with it, mostly due to the complete lack of surprise at the twists and reveals. I could see them coming right from the start so instead of it eliciting gasps and excitement from me, I was left waiting for the characters to catch on. I also struggled with Simon’s persistent one track mindedness about Baz in the first section of the novel. Once Baz makes an appearance and we start getting his point of view, it wasn’t nearly so frustrating and it didn’t bother me in the same way. However to start with Simon sounds like a broken record and the lack of anything else really driving the plot forward makes it drag a little until Baz shows up.

All in all this was a good book, a quick and enjoyable read, and one that has made me even more eager to go and read ‘Fangirl’. I’m proof that you don’t have to have read ‘Fangirl’ first to enjoy and understand ‘Carry On’, although we’ll see how my opinion of this book changes after reading the former. It’s not without its problems, but it’s funny and unique and if you’re a fan of Harry Potter is definitely one to pick up.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Review: Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

Publication Date: October 26th 2004 (this edition)
Publisher: Dell
Length: 1072 pages
Their passionate encounter happened long ago by whatever measurement Claire Randall took. Two decades before, she had traveled back in time and into the arms of a gallant eighteenth-century Scot named Jamie Fraser. Then she returned to her own century to bear his child, believing him dead in the tragic battle of Culloden. Yet his memory has never lessened its hold on her... and her body still cries out for him in her dreams.
Then Claire discovers that Jamie survived. Torn between returning to him and staying with their daughter in her own era, Claire must choose her destiny. And as time and space come full circle, she must find the courage to face the passion and pain awaiting her...the deadly intrigues raging in a divided Scotland... and the daring voyage into the dark unknown that can reunite or forever doom her timeless love.
The ending of ‘Dragonfly in Amber’ left me with no other possibility than to storm straight into the third book of the series, and it was wonderful to re-immerse myself back into Claire and Jamie’s lives with no delay.
However as each book in the series continues to get larger so does the possibility for frustrations and gripes, so whilst I did really enjoy the third instalment in the series, there were a lot more problems for me than I’ve found with the first two books.
The beginning of the story (as with the previous two books) has a tendency to lag in places. Having discovered that Jamie didn’t die at Culloden, the race is on for Claire, Brianna and Roger to try and find out what did happen to Jamie. Their efforts are interspersed with chapters following Jamie in his own lifetime so we can witness some of the key events first hand, as well as insights from a new character, Lord John Grey, who was briefly introduced as a very young man in the previous book. All of the information is interesting and I really enjoyed seeing the two timelines juxtaposed against each other, as well as trips into the past as we see more of Claire’s relationship with Frank and what life was like when she came back through the stones. However it did all have a tendency to feel like it was dragging, probably in part because I was so eager to see Claire and Jamie reunited.
Once the timelines all converge into one narrative from Claire again I found myself on more familiar ground and I settled into the novel quickly, enjoying the familiar rhythms and patterns of Claire’s thoughts and adventures. There is never a dull moment, never a peaceful moment either really. I loved the reunion and the small pieces of intimacy between Claire and Jamie as they re-learn each other and re-kindle their love. It’s by no means an easy road, and there are a lot of setbacks along the way, but that simply made their moments of joy and peace that much more rewarding when they appear.
However there were some sections, particularly towards the end where my belief was stretched a little too far. Where I found myself almost rolling my eyes because really?! I know that disbelief must be suspended because this is a story about a woman who time travels, but at the same time I felt like there were one too many adventures and mishaps that made me feel like any credibility was being stretched a little too far. There are also quite a few sections when Claire begins to explore new places and lands where the narrative becomes horribly bogged down in over detail. Whole pages of nothing but detail on vegetation and climate and I found myself growing a little bored and skim reading some sections because nothing was happening for so long. The action is also vastly confined in this book, unlike the previous two books, and so much of the narrative takes place on board ships. Full marks to Gabaldon for finding quite that many subplots to keep things busy on the long voyage, but it did put a strain on the action being confined to a ship for so long.

These gripes aside this was still a very good, engrossing and brilliant book. It’s not my favourite in the series, but it’s still a wonderful instalment and one that moves the story into whole new exciting territories. I adore this series and I cannot wait to continue onwards to see where Jamie and Claire end up next. I don’t think anything will ever re-create the magic I found in Scotland and Paris in the first two books, but this comes a close second and I’m looking forward to seeing what comes next.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Review: Hello, Goodbye & Everything In Between by Jennifer E Smith

Publication Date: September 1st 2015
Publisher: Headline
Length: 256 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Headline for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan only have one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they'll retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night will lead them to friends and family, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever?
This new must-read novel from Jennifer E. Smith, author of 
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, explores the difficult choices that must be made when life and love lead in different directions.

I absolutely adored ‘The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight’ so I was eager to get back to Jennifer Smith with her latest novel. Whilst it did have a cute story and I swept through it in one sitting, it never really grabbed me in the way I was hoping it would. In fact, if I’m completely honest the overwhelming feeling I was left with on finishing it was ‘meh’.

It didn’t really feel like there was a huge amount of point to the novel. The entirety of the action takes place over one night as Clare and Aidan attempt to work out if they should break up or stay together and take their relationship long distance. A lovely premise, except Clare gives every impression right from the start of the novel as already having decided she wants to break up and as a result the entire novel feels like one long protracted mope session as she wails and is generally indecisive – see sawing back and forth between the two options.

That might have worked had the characters been remotely likeable or relatable. But Aidan remained flat and one dimensional throughout, and I never particularly warmed to Clare. I wanted to, but she’s so black and white in her opinions – there is no middle ground. As a result I just felt bored by her dramatics and inability to make a decision and stick with it, or to learn to be a little more flexible. She starts to comprehend that the world isn’t built up of yes and no questions towards the end of the novel, but it just felt like too little too late.

So whilst it’s an engaging story, and I did enjoy reading it, and I loved the subject matter tackled (after all it’s a relatable story for anyone going off to college or uni who is faced with the prospect of a long distance relationship) it never really took off for me. I closed the book feeling meh about the entire thing and wondering what the point of it had been.

If you’re a fan of Smith’s other works then you’ll enjoy this latest offering from her, but be warned this is far from her best work. And if you haven’t yet discovered Smith’s heart warming love stories I don’t recommend starting with this one. Instead pick her up infinitely more engaging debut novel ‘The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight’.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Review: Every Move by Ellie Marney

Be warned for very mild/vague spoilers for the book. Nothing specific and nothing that will ruin the book. 

Publication Date: March 1st 2015
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
Length: 340 pages

The sequel to Every Breath and Every Word. After the dramatic events of London, a road trip back to her old home in Five Mile sounds good (in theory) to Rachel Watts, with her brother Mike in the driving seat. But when Mike picks up his old buddy – the wildly unreliable Harris Derwent – things start to go south. Back in Melbourne, Rachel’s ‘partner in crime’, James Mycroft, clashes with Harris, and then a series of murders suggest that the mysterious Mr Wild – Mycroft’s own personal Moriarty – is hot on their tail. When tragedy strikes, Rachel and Mycroft realise they’ll have to recruit Harris and take matters into their own hands…

I adored the first book in this series so much that it made me nervous to read the second one, just in case it didn’t live up to my expectations. However when I read the second one a couple of weeks ago it more than lived up to the high standards set and left me with none of the reservations I’d had about launching straight into the third and final book of the trilogy. Sadly, I really wish it had.

There is an awful lot to love in the conclusion to this thrilling series, but unfortunately there were quite a few elements that really didn’t work for me. One of the things I loved so much about the first two books is that Mycroft and Rache never exceed the limitations around them being teenagers and having limited resources/power. Adults got involved in the situations where necessary and I loved that extra element of realism that is so often missing from YA crime fiction. Not so in this book. Suddenly our heroes find themselves in utterly ridiculous situations and insane stand offs that jarred me and felt thoroughly unrealistic and left me thoroughly frustrated.

I could probably forgive that were it not for the two other big issues that marred the enjoyment. Firstly a love triangle is introduced. For no reason. With no real build up or explanation and Rachel suddenly starts acting completely out of character and flirting back with this new guy. I get that she’s having problems with Mycroft following the events of the second book, and I get that she’s suffering from PTSD, but this seemed so thoroughly out of the blue, out of character and completely ridiculous. I frequently found myself frustrated with Rachel’s sudden obsession with the new boy and it didn’t make any real sense.

Then the third frustration, and this was enough to make me put the book down and walk away for a few days. I wasn’t sure if I was actually going to pick it up again and finish it.
Mycroft and Rachel work out who the big bad is, but then instead of being logical or even remotely like their usual coherent selves, Rachel fires off an angry email telling the person that they know who they, everything they’ve done and she and Mycroft have all the evidence they need.

I’m sorry, what?!

Not even a remotely good idea, and it sets off the truly awful chain of events that topples down in the second half of the book. Now yes ok, I get that Rachel is angry and hurt and stressed and upset and has had enough of being terrified because of other people. But come on SOME COMMON SENSE PLEASE. It is a completely out of character move that puts everyone in danger and for NO REASON AT ALL.

It was just so frustrating and ridiculous and not like Rachel at all. Add to that the problems with the love triangle and some highly suss behaviour on Rachel’s part and my love for her was basically in shreds by the end of the book.

A lot of the elements I loved about the first two books were still there – good writing, fast paced plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. I also loved seeing Rachel’s PTSD tackled, although it felt a little like a couple of hugs and it went away which was also frustrating.

However all the love I felt for those things was horribly over shadowed by the problems I’ve outlined above. I adored this series, I fell in love with these characters, I swooned over them, I cried over them, I stayed up all night reading their nail biting stories, and this final instalment felt like a complete let down after that.

By all means go and see the brilliance of the first two books, but be warned going into this one that it has quite a few problems by comparison and might leave you wishing that you’d stopped after book two.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Review: Every Word by Ellie Marney

Publication Date: June 1st 2014
Publisher: Allen & Unwin/Tundra Books
Length: 340 pages

James Mycroft has just left for London to investigate a car accident similar to the one that killed his parents seven years ago...without saying goodbye to Rachel Watts, his 'partner in crime'.
Rachel is furious and worried about his strange behaviour - not that Mycroft's ever exactly normal, but London is the scene of so many of his nightmares. So Rachel jumps on a plane to follow him...and lands straight in a whole storm of trouble.
The theft of a copy of Shakespeare's First Folio, the possible murder of a rare books conservator, and the deaths of Mycroft's parents...Can Watts help Mycroft make sense of the three events - or will she lose him forever?
Sparks fly when Watts and Mycroft reunite in this second sophisticated thriller about the teen sleuthing duo.

Earlier this year I read the first book in this trilogy ‘Every Breath’ and was blown away by the sheer brilliance. You would think then that having loved the book so much I would have leaped straight into the second – that would have been logical I hear you cry. Instead I decided to flail and stress that the brilliance of the first book wouldn’t be caught quite so spectacularly in the second thus destroying my hopes and dreams and leaving me a sobbing mess for the brilliance that might have been. So I waited, and I procrastinated, and I read other books.

And then the two wonderful people who got me onto this series in the first place read the second book and both of them were effusive in their praise of how good it was, so I finally told the panicked voices in my head to shut up, and FINALLY I read it.

And you know what? IT WAS SO GOOD.

Never did I think I would be so smitten with a teenage take on the Holmes and Watson set up, but Ellie not only writes believable and fascinatingly complex characters, she puts them into fantastic, well-paced plots and then she hurts my babies. But it is so good and so well done that I don’t care about the terror and the weeping and the general pain and angst that occurred for me whilst reading it. Basically Ellie can rip my heart out with brilliant writing and I will simply beg her for more.

Everything that I loved about the first book was back in abundance – fast paced and engrossing plot, steamy sexual tension between the two leads, and clever workings of details from the various other incarnations of Holmes we’ve seen. Ellie is astoundingly talented at weaving in little details (some more obvious than others) and leaving the reader to notice them. It’s cleverly done and a huge source of satisfaction whilst reading to pick up on them.

This book felt much darker than the first, Ellie isn’t afraid to really hurt Mycroft and Rache, and some of the darkest scenes were horrifyingly realistic and believable. I stormed through the book, feverishly ripping through the pages because I simply had to know what happened next. I couldn’t put it down.

The writing is fantastic, and it was wonderful to have a change of setting and have the majority of this book set in London. Ellie really captures the feel of the city, and so many little pieces of England and British culture that help you to feel like you’re really there. It was also great to see Mycroft in his home element, to see him slide from boy next door into an English boy – as Rachel notes, suddenly you don’t just know that he’s English you see it. See how he fits in in these surroundings much more smoothly than he does in Australia, and it’s subtle and incredibly well done. We uncover a lot more of Mycroft’s backstory, and I loved having each new piece of information trickle out, seeing it through the filter of Rachel’s eyes and thoughts as she tries to deal not only with the murder case, but Mycroft’s rapid tailspin as events unfold. Rache is such a fantastic protagonist and she really holds her own against Mycroft, no easy feat when he is such a vibrant and fascinating character who is ever present, infusing every page, even when he’s halfway across the world.

I also love, as I did with the first book, that you never forget that these are two teenagers. There are no moments where you want to tear at your hair in frustration because adults are incompetent and Mycroft and Rache are doing things that no teen would realistically do. Yes they are put into extreme circumstances and as a result they’re forced to adapt and do things they otherwise wouldn’t, but it never felt ridiculous or overblown – something that a lot of YA novels never quite manage to achieve.

All in all this is a fantastic second instalment in the trilogy. It more than lives up to the high expectations set by the first book and has left me desperate to get straight into the third book. I love this series, I love Ellie’s writing, but most of all I adore Mycroft and Rache. If you’ve read the first book and are hesitant about getting into the second, don’t be. And if you haven’t yet discovered this series, do so now. Sherlock as the boy next door? Be still my beating heart.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Review: Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

Be warned for spoilers for the first book and very mild spoilers for the second (although it’s nothing you won’t see in the blurb)

Publication Date: September 2002 (this edition. First published 1992)
Publisher: Dell
Length: 947 pages

For twenty years Claire Randall has kept her secrets. But now she is returning with her grown daughter to Scotland’s majestic mist-shrouded hills. Here Claire plans to reveal a truth as stunning as the events that gave it birth: about the mystery of an ancient circle of standing stones… about a love that transcends the boundaries of time ... and about James Fraser, a Scottish warrior whose gallantry once drew a young Claire from the security of her century to the dangers of his....
Now a legacy of blood and desire will test her beautiful copper-haired daughter, Brianna, as Claire’s spellbinding journey of self-discovery continues in the intrigue-ridden Paris court of Charles Stuart ... in a race to thwart a doomed Highlands uprising ... and in a desperate fight to save both the child and the man she loves....

After starting the TV series for Outlander at the start of the year, I bought and devoured the first book in a matter of days. I then went on to buy the rest of the series, anticipating that I’d spend the next few weeks working my way through all of them.

However real life and other books intervened, so whilst I did start this book shortly after completing the first book, I then put it down again until last week when, on holiday to Scotland for a week, I decided that then was the time to get on and read it.

This delay was due to two things, the first being that it’s a large book and my blogging schedule makes it hard to sit down and work through a tome of this size with so many other books on my urgent to read pile. But it was also due to the start of the novel itself.

We finish Outlander with Claire pregnant and with Jamie in France, preparing to see if they can change the course of history. I expected this book to pick up where the first left off, so I was surprised and a little devastated to find that instead we open the book in Inverness in 1965. Claire is back in her own time, with a twenty year old daughter.

This time jump frustrated me for two reasons. One because it’s incredibly jarring to suddenly go forward and fill in the blanks of what happened before after quite a bit of exposition, and secondly because it destroys a lot of the tension. You know that Claire is going to leave Jamie and come back to her own time and you also know through simply looking at the timelines that Claire’s pregnancy at the end of the first book is going to end in tragedy. It does add a certain sense of foreboding to the novel, but it also leaves you waiting for the inevitable which removes the shock.

As a result the first half of the novel feels more like a waiting game than a thrilling second book in a series. If you aren’t interested in a slower moving historical novel then this will seem incredibly frustrating, but if like me you really enjoy the day to day bits of historical novels then you’ll love it. However I know that for a lot of people that jarring opening section, the slow paced meandering part set in Paris and the sudden introduction of a new perspective in the form of Roger Wakefield may be a little too frustrating and make you want to abandon the novel before you’re half way through.

However at the half way point things pick up. We return to Scotland, the plot kicks up several notches and history starts snowballing in a most alarming fashion until you’re left gasping and reeling in the final act. Dragonfly in Amber suddenly finds its footing and returns to the roots that Outlander fans fell in love with and as a result it shines.

Upon the conclusion of her story of the past, we then return to the present of 1965 where things continue apace as some events come full circle and new surprises will leave you gasping. The second half of the novel is beautifully constructed and more than made up for the sometimes slower sections in the first half.

I loved this novel for a lot of the same reasons as I loved the first, but also whole new ones. We see a whole raft of familiar faces in one way or another, something I hadn’t been expecting with the shift to France, but something I absolutely adored. We also get to see a lot more of the world with the shift to France, particularly Paris, as well as Edinburgh and more of the Highlands. Since I was reading this book whilst in Edinburgh those sections were particularly wonderful because Diana Gabaldon excels at research and bringing her stories to life in the most realistic and wonderful ways.

Whilst the Paris sections may frustrate some, I loved them. I loved the detail, the glimpses not only of life at court but also in the city. The gossip, the scandal, the fashion. There’s less of the uncertainty of the first novel and more of Claire embracing this life she’s been thrown into, and that is a wonderful sight to behold. There is less of the uncertainty and determination to escape and so Claire feels more grounded and settled than she did in the first book, allowing the reader to take their time exploring the new surroundings rather than be in a constant state of will she/won’t she escape back to her own time.

It also explores new depths to the relationship between Claire and Jamie. I loved watching the two of them discover their feelings for the other and build their relationship in the first book, so to watch those feelings deepen and evolve over the course of this book is truly wonderful, and really cements their status as one of my favourite fictional relationships.

So if you read and loved Outlander, this book is a must read. Be warned about the slightly jarring opening section and slow first half, but know that the second half more than makes up for any frustrations you may find in the first. It has everything readers loved about the first book and builds it into a truly gripping tale, one that cements the series as a classic of fantastic storytelling.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

The Top Ten Bookish Habits I Really Want to Kick

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the lovely folks over at 'The Broke & The Bookish' - to join in simply follow the link!

This week it's all about bookish habits I want to break, and at first I couldn't really think of any, but slowly they started crawling out the woodwork until I was inundated with habits I really would rather do without...

1. Stressing about the Goodreads Challenge
I know some incredible people who don't let the goodreads challenge stress them, but I also know a lot of people that do. 'Just don't set a challenge' I hear you cry, but the problem is that I love a challenge, and the idea of seeing just how many books I can read in a year is too good an opportunity to miss. But then the challenge bar starts judging me by telling me just how behind schedule I really am and I let it effect what books I read. No more! I actually managed to complete my challenge way ahead of schedule this year and instead of moving the goalposts and making it harder for myself for the rest of the year I decided to pat myself on the back for finishing and allow the last chunk of the year to be filled with books I wanted to read and re-read, rather than stressing about how behind my quota I am...

2. Not Letting Myself Re-Read Favourites
This one is kinda linked to the first one, but also linked to the sheer number of awesome books that hit our shelves every year. I become so swept up in all the new releases (and trying to hit my Goodreads Challenge) that I rarely let myself go back and re-read favourites, which is tragic because I love re-reading books. Sometimes I'm really in the mood for Harry Potter, or I want to re-visit Tortall or spend some time in The Dells or Thisby. A lot of this problem would go away if Goodreads would just add a re-read option but so far no luck. That's one thing I really want to work on, letting myself take a break from all the exciting shiny new books and sinking back into some favourites every now and again.

3. Making Myself Miserable Reading What I Feel I Should Rather Than What I Want
Shiny books are awesome, and being sent them by publishers is even more awesome. But unfortunately that puts a lot of pressure on what books I read when. I find my reading schedule gets dictated to so much by what books I feel I have to review and I rarely allow myself to pick up a book just because I want to. It's silly and foolish and whilst most of the time I really don't mind, sometimes it really sucks the fun right out of reading when I feel I have to read a book I'm really not in the mood for.

4. Not Allowing Myself to DNF books
This links in to number three - if a book has been sent to me for review for a publisher I find it nigh on impossible to put the book down part way through and say 'you know what, this book is not for me. I am not going to finish it and I'm not going to review it.'
I'm getting slightly better at DNFing books that I've picked up for me rather than pushing through them, but I'm still terrible at doing it for ones sent to me for review. Definitely something to work on because life is just too short to waste on bad books.

5. Saying yes to ALL THE BOOKS
I am so much better at this than I used to be, but it's still something I need to work on. The temptation to request all the books on Netgalley is something that every book blogger faces, which then results in a lot of stress and panic reading. Like I said, this is something that I've stopped doing as badly, but there are still odd moments where I say yes to books and then think that was a terrible idea, why did I do that?...

6. Reading Multiple Books at the Same Time
This can be a good thing and can also be bad. Sometimes I like having the variety of skipping between different stories, like when I'm reading a paperback during the day and then switch to a kindle book when I'm reading in bed at night. But other times, when I have four or more books on the go at the same time I just end up feeling guilty and inevitably leaving one behind where it will languish in half read state for some time. So whilst I really don't think that reading several books at the same time is always a bad thing, I do think that reading more than three at once is a bad idea for me...

7. Leaving Books to Languish Unread on my Bookcase
Most book buying sprees result in the purchase of several books and usually at least one of them will be something that I'm not a hundred percent sure about but it looks interesting enough to give it a go. Unless I start it within a couple of days of buying it though, I tend to get easily excited by other books I do know about and am desperate to read. Thus the book gets left on the shelf gathering dust, making me feel guilty, and leaving me constantly saying I'll get around to it soon... I think next year I should make a stack of books that have been sat on my shelves waiting to be read so I can finally get around to them.

8. Waiting to Write my Reviews
Again, another habit that I am much better over but not entirely broken of yet. I need to get on and write a review for a book within a few days of finishing it, any longer and my brain starts to get fuzzy and I can't remember all the things I wanted to say about it. The more books I read between finishing a book and writing the review for it, the harder I find it when I sit down to write the review. And the longer it goes the more reluctant I am to actually do it because I know I'm going to struggle (at least at first) to remember all I wanted to say. Vicious circle really!

9. Taking Forever to Finish a Series
We're often faced with a year to wait between installments in a series, perfectly reasonable because of how long it takes to write, edit, publish etc. But my little brain often then has issues remembering all the details of the previous book. I forget names and events - some books are easier to remember than others though so this doesn't happen all the time. However with the volume of books I'm reading, to try and think back to a book I read over 150 books back is quite often difficult. So when a new book in a series comes out I often want to go back to the start of the series and re-read them. Which then runs into my earlier bad bookish habit, not allowing myself to re-read... So I'll want to read this new book, but also want to go and re-read the first books so I remember what's happened up to that point, and I end up not getting around to it for ages.

10. Having Multiple Copies of the Same Book
This could be a bad bookish habit, but also not at the same time depending on your view. I never used to do this, but then I started finding so many gorgeous covers for US books, or new editions of books and I want them on my shelves even though I already had a perfectly lovely copy. It tends to only be with my favourite books, but I have quite a few where I have several copies of the same book, including 'The Night Circus', 'The Scorpio Races' and 'The Seven Kingdoms Trilogy'. Lovely for the pretty lovely gorgeous books, less good for shelf space and my bank balance.

So there you have it, my top ten bad bookish habits. Are there any that we share? Let me know and link me to your top tens in the comments below!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Rosy Rec's The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

'The Night Circus' is a standalone novel that has been a favourite of mine ever since I first read it back in September 2011. It has remained a steadfast favourite against hundreds of other books, one I return to again and again and always find myself disappearing into the magic, the stunning prose, the heart break and love that suffuse this story. It is one of my most gifted books, everyone I know has had a copy bought for them, and everyone who has read it has loved it. It is a book that has something for everyone, a truly magical thing.

What’s it About?
Magic, love, a circus that only opens at night.
This is a story about many things but at its most basic level it is a love story. A story about magic. About a game where Celia and Marco are the players pitted against each other without any choice in the matter – a game where they play with magic on the ever changing board of the circus. It spans countries and continents, years and a vast cast of characters. It is a love letter written in the tents of the circus, filled with stories and secrets and breath-taking magic.

Why I Love It:
It’s a beautiful sprawling tale filled with exquisite prose and a depth of imagination that left me speechless. Spanning years with a colourful cast of fascinating characters, this is magic at its finest. Set against the backdrop of the monochrome circus filled with wonder and magic, it weaves a slow yet beautiful narrative that takes its time easing you into the magic, love and heartbreak that make up this story.
Some people may find the slow pace and descriptive passages frustrating, but if the magic gets you this will be a permanent favourite. I fall in love with the writing every time I read this book. I fall in love with the characters and the little glimpses of the circus we see. I fall in love with the magic that slides so seamlessly into the story, weaving into everything until it is as vital as breathing. It is a beautiful book, one I come back to again and again, filled with poignant and stunningly lyrical prose.

“I have been surrounded by love letters you two have built each other for years, encased in tents.” 

Who Should Read It?
Everyone. It is possibly not the most attractive writing style for younger readers, but the content is suitable for all ages. All you really need is a love of magic and beautiful prose and this one is a must read.

Read This If You Liked:
The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister
The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler
A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn