Wednesday 30 December 2015

Books I'm Squeeing About in January

A new year is almost upon us! How did that happen?! This last year has been an incredible year for books with so many amazing releases we have been thoroughly spoiled. Normally I'd worry that this coming year would have a hard time beating it, but then I look at all the books due out over the next twelve months and I know that it's going to be another incredible year for amazing books.
And January is no exception, there are some stunning books kicking off the year in style. So here you have the books releasing in January that I'm squeeing about.

5th January - This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

10:00 a.m.
The principal of Opportunity, Alabama's high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve.
10:02 a.m.
The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class.
The auditorium doors won't open.
Someone starts shooting.
Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student's calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival.

So I already read this book months ago, and it is still haunting me. This debut is stunning. A heart wrenching, terrifying and utterly brilliant debut. I cannot recommend it enough.

5th January - Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
passage, n.
i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.
ii. A journey by water; a voyage.
iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them— whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are play­ing, treacherous forces threaten to sep­arate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home . . . forever

Complete honesty? This is one of the cases where a book went on my want to read it now list based entirely on buzz and the cover. I hadn't even seen the blurb when I added it, but now I have I'm doubly excited and cannot wait to get reading.

14th January - Judged by Liz de Jager

Kit's job description includes solving crimes - the supernatural kind . . .
Glow, a fae-created drug, is rapidly going viral and the suppliers have to be shut down. Teaming up with Aiden and Dante, Kit follows leads across London, tracking down dealers. They stir up trouble, making themselves a target for the gang they're trying to stop.
In the Otherwhere, Thorn stumbles across a secret that could destroy both the human and Fae worlds. The Veil that separates our human world from the fae realms is weakening and the goddess is dying. And if she dies and the Veil fails, madness and chaos will wreak unstoppable havoc upon both lands.
Thorn turns to the only person he knows who'll be able to help him: Kit. Torn between working the Glow case and her loyalty for the young prince, Kit is propelled headlong into a world of danger. She faces enemies from both the Otherwhere and our world. And as the stakes are raised, the consequence of failure for both Kit and Thorn, and two realms, could be devastating.

I may not have gotten along superbly with the second book in this trilogy, but the first book was so brilliantly written that I cannot wait to get my hands on the third and final book. I'm hoping that the momentary dip experienced in the second book was that dreaded but expected moment where set up for the third book drags at it, and that the excellence of the first book will be back for this last installment.

14th January - Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.
Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.
Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.
In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.

There has been so much buzz surrounding this book for months that I'm thoroughly excited about it already. It just sounds like it's going to be something I love - fantasy, magic, peril. Colour me thoroughly intrigued and excited.

26th January - My American Duchess by Eloisa James
The arrogant Duke of Trent intends to marry a well-bred Englishwoman. The last woman he would ever consider marrying is the adventuresome Merry Pelford - an American heiress who has infamously jilted two fiancés.
But after one provocative encounter with the captivating Merry, Trent desires her more than any woman he has ever met. He is determined to have her as his wife, no matter what it takes. And Trent is a man who always gets what he wants.
The problem is, Merry is already betrothed, and the former runaway bride has vowed to make it all the way to the altar. As honour clashes with irresistible passion, Trent realizes the stakes are higher than anyone could have imagined. In his battle to save Merry and win her heart, one thing becomes clear:
All is fair in love and war.

It's Eloisa James, of course it's on my need to read it now list, it's going to be superb.

There you have the books I'm going to be squeeing about in the coming months! Have any of these caught your eye? And are there any books that aren't on here that you think I need to check out? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas From The Review Diaries

The Review Diaries would like to wish all readers a very Merry Christmas filled with many wonderful bookish things.

I hope wherever in the world you are you have a lovely day with family and friends.

It's been a very disjointed end of the year here, so I know there hasn't been as much activity as usual. However I will be back to your regularly scheduled reviews and posts after the festive break!

Merry Christmas!

Thursday 10 December 2015

Review: Lords & Ladies by Sir Terry Pratchett

Publication Date: November 1st 1993 (this edition)
Publisher: Corgi
Length: 382 pages

The fairies are back – but this time they don’t just want your teeth…
Granny Weatherwax and her tiny coven are up against 
real elves.
It's Midsummer Night.
No times for dreaming...
With full supporting cast of dwarfs, wizards, trolls, Morris dancers and one orang-utan. And lots of hey-nonny-nonny and blood all over the place.

Well that was intense.

It’s been well documented here over the last few months, my first foray into the Witches thread of the Discworld books, and I finally made it onto the fourth instalment, which effectively blew me away. Up until now, my favourite had been ‘Wyrd Sisters’ but something about ‘Lords & Ladies’ really clicked for me and it’s now vying for top spot.

I’ve found with past Pratchett novels that the action takes its time to build up, and the first two thirds are generally spent weaving several seemingly random stories that suddenly intertwine and snowball into a brilliant climax. Not so here. The action kicks off right from the start, and whilst there were a few sections that take their time, and storylines that amble along at their own pace, I was thoroughly hooked and engrossed in the story right from the first page.

It features some truly brilliant character development, particularly in the case of Magrat who has a real shift which was fascinating to watch unfold. But also with Granny Weatherwax, who continues to be brilliantly acidic, but with a slightly softer side she likes to keep well-hidden and cowed into submission.

This story takes stories set in motion in previous novels and builds upon them, although a brief summary at the start gives you an overview if you’re coming into this novel without the background laid out in the previous books. It also felt darker and at times scarier than I’ve come to expect from Discworld novels, which kept me on my toes and gave me chills whilst I was reading. This is definitely fairies as you’ve never seen them before, and they are not the nice kind…

All in all this is another fantastic Discworld instalment, offering brilliant character development, more acerbic wit and a brilliant melding of other stories and ideas into one insane yet brilliant whole. Pratchett has definitely found his feet within the Discworld now and it shows in one of the strongest novels I’ve read yet in the Witches thread.

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Top Ten Authors I've Discovered This Year

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

It’s been a busy year for books for me. At the time of writing I’ve read over 140 books, some written by authors I know and love and return to again and again. Others written by authors I have only just discovered. It’s been a wonderful mix of established authors that I hadn’t yet managed to read, and debut authors with stunningly eye catching first novels, and it’s so great to celebrate the top ten of those here.
Moira Fowley-Doyle
With the release of Moira’s debut novel ‘The Accident Season’ she shot straight onto my list of favourite authors. I adored ‘The Accident Season’ – the secrets, the magic, the tilting, shifting view of the world as everything unravels. It marked Moira as an author to watch, with a gorgeous writing style and an incredible imagination.

Leigh Bardugo
The first of my ‘Rosy which rock have you been hiding under to only just discover this author NOW’ authors, I’d somehow managed to avoid reading The Grisha trilogy until this year, but now that I have, followed by ‘Six of Crows’, I am hooked, HOOKED I TELL YOU. Basically I am on the Leigh Bardugo bandwagon and I cannot wait for the next book from her.
Rainbow Rowell
So my rock I’ve been hiding under has been busy. Technically I had already discovered Rainbow, but I’d not been particularly fussed on ‘Eleanor and Park’ so she hadn’t really caught my interest as an author to watch. But then earlier this year I read ‘Landline’ and it caught me at the perfect moment. It resonated so strongly with me, filled me with hope and longing and the magic that Georgie finds every night with this old clunky phone, and really captures both the wild reckless surety of love in your twenties juxtaposed by the deeper, more entangled love later in life. It was beautiful and perfect, and had me sobbing and auto buying every other novel Rainbow has written.

Diana Gabaldon
Outlander has been around for a while but it took getting hooked on the TV show (which is brilliant by the way, go watch it now if you haven’t seen it yet) for me to finally look up the books and immerse myself in Claire and Jamie’s world. These books are epic. Truly epic. They are so much more than the romance at their heart. They’re time travel, they’re historical novels, romance, war, political. A mix of everything into one glorious series. I fell in love with Claire and Jamie, with this world that Diana is depicting. It cemented my love of Scotland yet further, and illuminated a period of history I was shockingly hazy on. It also turned Diana into one of my favourite authors, and one whose books I am loving working my way through.
Sabaa Tahir
A dark, intriguing and complex novel, the hype surrounding ‘An Ember in the Ashes’ was huge and well deserved. It was a surprising novel that came to me at just the right time and sets up for a thoroughly fascinating series. The cliff hangers we were left with at the end of the first book have left me longing for book two to see more world development, character arcs and a plot worthy of the excitement the first book left me with.

Renne Adieh
This book was gorgeous. One of those beautiful novels that sweeps readers away and I saw the wave coming towards me and knew I was going to love this book. I was so right. Heart breaking, beautiful with such a rich and vivid story folded within its pages, I loved this one. I’m both eager to get my hands on the next book and sad to see the story conclude. If you’re a fan of the tale of 1001 nights and you haven’t picked this one up yet, you need to get onto this asap…

Martha Brockenbrough
I’d not come across any of Martha’s writing before, and then ‘The Game of Love & Death’ fell into my lap and broke me completely. It’s a stunningly beautiful novel. Unique, magical, and filled with hope. I loved the complexity of the characters, the added depth the game and the personification of Love and Death gave to the story. But above all I loved Flora and Henry, watching their story unfold and their emotions unfurl. It’s an incredible novel, one of my favourite reads of the year.

Sarah Benwell
Ok, so technically I have known Sarah and her writing much longer than just this year. However her debut novel ‘The Last Leaves Falling’ hit shelves way back at the start of this year and I want to show it some more love. Because it’s almost Christmas, and you should really be giving this book to everyone you know. Sarah’s debut novel was stunning. A beautiful, hauntingly quiet novel suffused with longing, the fragility of life and working out what it truly means to live, and hope. It’s beautiful, a uniquely different young adult contemporary that smashes the moulds and greets difficult subjects head on. It is an incredible debut and I cannot wait to see what Sarah writes next.
Marie Rutkoski
The first book in The Winner’s Trilogy somehow didn’t make it to the top of my to read pile before the second book came out, so I marathoned both books in a matter of days. My only complaint? That I didn’t wait for book three to be out first because THAT CLIFF HANGER. Despite the fact that my nerves will be in shreds by the time I read the third book, I LOVED this series. So well written, such a brilliantly constructed world with fascinating and morally grey characters, and such TENSION AND STRESS. I cannot wait to get my hands on the last book.

Terry Pratchett
Another author that yes ok I technically discovered a long time ago. But whilst I had read the odd Discworld book before, I don’t feel I truly discovered and started to appreciate Pratchett and the Discworld before this year. I enjoyed previous books, but something about the Witches thread has me thoroughly captivated. I’m loving getting to know Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg and co, and these are books that have definitely fallen into my lap at precisely the moment I’ve needed them most. I’ve stopped just enjoying my visits to the Discworld and started loving them, and I’m so glad I have so many more outings and stories yet to discover.

So there you have my top ten authors I've discovered this year. Do we share any? Are you appalled that it's taken me so long to discover some of these? Let me know and link me to your own top ten lists in the comments below!

Friday 4 December 2015

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: June 17th 2014 (this edition)
Publisher: Square Fish
Length: 435 pages

Darkness never dies. 
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can't outrun her past or her destiny for long. 
The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling's game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. 

So I read and loved the first book in the trilogy ‘Shadow and Bone’ – it was the perfect bit of escapism at a moment when I needed it the most. So as soon as I finished the first book I immediately picked up the second book and carried straight on with Alina’s story, which at the end of the first book was tinged with a little bit of hope in amongst all the darkness. It doesn’t last long. We’re barely thirty pages in when everything goes to hell in a handbasket and Alina and Mal are plunged straight back into terror and torture and bad things all round.But in amongst all the very bad things is one extraordinarily thing, or rather, person. Sturmhond. Be still my beating heart.

This book is a lot funnier than the first, the banter is on point, and it is pretty much all thanks to this wonderful guy. Seriously, virtually every word out of his mouth is a quote I highlighted, and I was frequently laughing out loud. There are also AWESOME TWISTS involving him which made me giggle with glee. 

Basically laughter, banter and a little bit of swooning. Whilst I would have enjoyed this book without him, the presence of Sturmhond truly lifted the book from one I enjoyed into one I adored. Which is a good thing because Mal was truly getting on my nerves in this book. I wanted to love him, so much love just waiting to give to Mal (except Sturmhond stole it all) but he was being a whiney child throughout the novel. I wanted to shake him. I couldn’t see the relationship between him and Alina, and almost every interaction with them left me frustrated. I feel like I’m being pointed at this ship and told to love it, yet not really getting any reason why I should.

The pacing is very different to the first. We’re chucked straight into the action for the first half and then there is a lot of politics and strategizing which was interesting, but definitely a change of pace. It’s a time to slow down, take stock, develop characters and relationships, and, you know, for Alina to think she’s going full on crazy. Despite the change of pace, or perhaps because of it, I really enjoyed this book, and I really settled down into loving this series. I loved getting lost in the magic, the world, the characters. Basically it was the perfect read for me in this frame of mind. If you’re after escapism, this is one to pick up.

Then it all kicks off and we have big battles and much death and it all feels rather bleak and desperate and I LOVED IT. Seriously, whilst I really enjoyed the first book, this book took everything to a whole new level, which was intriguing because often the second book in a series is the point where everything falters as pieces are moved into place for the grand finale in book three.

So if you’re worried that the second book won’t live up to you love of the first, HAVE NO FEAR, because it’s excellent. And you’ll meet Sturmhond, who is basically my latest fictional baby. Because, reasons.
And if you like me have put off reading this series (foolishly) then you need to get on it stat, because this is brilliant. Imaginative, brilliantly written, and thoroughly addictive, I love it.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Review: A Wicked Old Woman by Ravinder Randhawa

Today I’m the latest stop on the ‘A Wicked Old Woman’ Blog tour – don’t forget to check out all the other stops to find out more about the book!

Publication Date: October 24th 2015 (this edition)
Publisher: Matador
Length: 242 pages

Thanks to the author for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

Drama. Masquerade. Mischief.
A sharply observed, witty and confident novel. Linguistically playful, entertaining and provoking.
In a bustling British city, Kulwant mischievously masquerades as a much older woman, using her walking stick like a Greek chorus, ‘…stick-leg-shuffle-leg-shuffle…’ encountering new adventures and getting bruised by the jagged edges of her life. There’s the glamorous rebel who rescues her after a carefully calculated fall; Caroline, her gregarious friend from school days, who watched over her dizzy romance with ‘Michael the Archangel’, and Rani/Rosalind, who’s just killed a man…
Vividly bringing to life a bit of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

That blurb had me thoroughly intrigued from the outset, and whilst this is an intriguing novel it is a very different beast to the one I was expecting when I started reading.

The novel is a jumbled collection of characters and situations, story threads and backstory that takes a while to untangle so you can see the pattern clearly, and whilst I think this may put some people off, once you get through to that point it is well worth the effort.

The writing is lyrical, in places overly verbose, an exercise in linguistic gymnastics as Ravinder plays with language, thoughts and feelings to create an almost poetical writing style that paints Kulwant’s life in vivid colours.

This can become confusing and frustrating as you try to unravel the meanings and thoughts hidden in sometimes overly complex language. However in places it can be brilliant in its execution.
It can also provide some confusion as the characters are predominantly female and the author has a tendency to refer to characters by pronoun rather than name. That can lead to confusion and frustration as you have to then not only untangle the writing, but also try to work out who is speaking and to whom.

However despite these drawbacks and frustrations I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through this novel. It’s unique, fascinating and complex. I loved watching the characters grow, come into their own and embrace the world around them. I loved the culture, Kulwant’s experiences being Asian in England, the community and the vibrant characters that populate the novel.

It’s beautiful in places, filled with clever turns of phrase and lyrical prose, an interesting novel that is unlike anything else you will read this year.

If my review has piqued your interest don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!
You can find Ravinder across the interwebs

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Review: The Door That Led to Where by Sally Gardner

Publication Date: January 1st 2015
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Length: 288 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review

When the present offers no hope for the future, the answers may lie in the past AJ Flynn has just failed all but one of his GCSEs, and his future is looking far from rosy. So when he is offered a junior position at a London law firm he hopes his life is about to change - but he could never have imagined by how much. Tidying up the archive one day, AJ finds an old key, mysteriously labelled with his name and date of birth - and he becomes determined to find the door that fits the key. And so begins an amazing journey to a very real and tangible past - 1830, to be precise - where the streets of modern Clerkenwell are replaced with cobbles and carts, and the law can be twisted to suit a villain's means. Although life in 1830 is cheap, AJ and his friends quickly find that their own lives have much more value. They've gone from sad youth statistics to young men with purpose - and at the heart of everything lies a crime that only they can solve. But with enemies all around, can they unravel the mysteries of the past, before it unravels them?

This one was a quick and enjoyable read that thoroughly sucked me in, but never really developed into anything more than surface enjoyment. Sometimes that’s a good thing to have a story that you can just whip through in one sitting and be taken away for a little while. Sometimes that can be incredibly frustrating and leave you feeling cheated. Luckily I was in the former camp when I sat down to read this one.

It takes a little while to find its feet and really get going, but once it does it trundles along at a decent pace, not offering too much of a challenge in terms of plot or having to think whilst reading, but instead offers a simple story that relies heavily on the intrigue and magic infused within to carry the readers interest. A door that leads to the past, I loved how little time AJ spends having long desperate crisis about how this could be possible and just embraces it whole heartedly. AJ is an interesting protagonist, and I loved watching his story unfurl. The most interesting aspect for me was this idea of these three boys who hadn’t amounted to much in our world making something of themselves through the door. It was such a fascinating idea and I wish we could have seen a little more of its development. However the relationships between the three boys is left a little underplayed. We’re supposed to see that their the closest of friends, but it never really comes across. In fact the relationships throughout a little under developed which was a shame.

The writing is good, and I loved the historical details that are littered throughout. They really help to bring the past to life and to make AJs journeys through the door even more realistic and interesting. However the novel never really lifts from good into fantastic, which is a huge shame, and I felt like the writing let the concept down in several places.

All in all this was an interesting read that was thoroughly enjoyable to sit down with for a couple of hours. I was frustrated that it glossed over some of the parts that interested me the most, but on the whole it was a great stand alone read.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Publication Date: May 7th 2013 (this edition)
Publisher: Square Fish
Length: 372 pages

Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.
Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.
Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha… and the secrets of her heart.

I know what you’re thinking – how has it taken you so long to get to this series?! And I have no decent excuse. It got tangled up in my head with ‘Daughter of Smoke and Bone’ by Laini Taylor, and by the time I realised they were two very separate books the ship had sailed and I decided to wait until the full trilogy was out to sit down to read to them.
Then I promptly forgot.
Until ‘Six of Crows’ started making exciting waves and I decided that enough was enough and I really ought to get caught up on the Grisha world properly before launching into ‘Six of Crows’, and well, here we are.

This book had me from the first page. It was just the type of world, mythology, and exciting plot peopled with fascinating characters that I needed to get lost in. I stormed through it virtually in one sitting and loved it thoroughly.

It was such a refreshing change to see a gorgeous take on Russia used as the backdrop in Ravka. It leant the book a wonderful freshness and set it apart from so many of the fantasy books I’ve read this year. The world building is superb and I loved being immersed in this world, familiarising myself with the history and culture which is all captured so vividly and really adds an additional layer to the story that helps lift it from the page.

The characters are all complex and fascinating and I loved Alina from the start. She’s a wonderfully relatable protagonist, filled with flaws and weaknesses as well as strength and determination. I loved watching her come to terms with her past, her present and her future and all the facets of herself that she’s kept hidden for years. The only character that I wasn’t fussed on was Mal, strangely enough. I cared about him, but I wasn’t sold on the romance in the way I was hoping and expecting to be, which was a shame.

This is a fantastic start to what I’m sure is going to be a fabulous series. It’s filled with excitement and drama and magic and I slipped into this world and Alina’s life and fell in love. I cannot wait to see what the rest of the trilogy has in store.