Monday, 29 February 2016

Books I'm Squeeing About in March

It's March! Already! How did that happen! This month is a particularly good month for books though, with a whole host of very exciting novels hitting our shelves over the next thirty one days. Good for reading, less good for the bank balance...
I've had a bit of a reading slump over the last few weeks so I'm hoping that a few of these will jolt me out of that and into a stretch of wonderful novels that make me excited to be reading again.

1st - Burning Glass by Kathryn Purdie
Sonya was born with the rare gift to feel what those around her feel—both physically and emotionally—a gift she’s kept hidden from the empire for seventeen long years. After a reckless mistake wipes out all the other girls with similar abilities, Sonya is hauled off to the palace and forced to serve the emperor as his sovereign Auraseer.
Tasked with sensing the intentions of would-be assassins, Sonya is under constant pressure to protect the emperor. One mistake, one small failure, will cost her own life and the lives of the few people left in the world who still trust her.
But Sonya’s power is untamed and reckless, her feelings easily usurped, and she sometimes can’t decipher when other people’s impulses end and her own begin. In a palace full of warring emotions and looming darkness, Sonya fears that the biggest danger to the empire may be herself.
As she struggles to wrangle her abilities, Sonya seeks refuge in her tenuous alliances with the volatile Emperor Valko and his idealistic younger brother, Anton, the crown prince. But when threats of revolution pit the two brothers against each other, Sonya must choose which brother to trust—and which to betray.

One of those random books that popped up on my 'hey you might like this' Goodreads recs, and from that blurb yes, yes I think I will. It's been sitting on my 2016 wants pile for a few months now so I'm looking forward to finally seeing if it lives up to my expectations.

3rd - The Shadow Queen by C J Redwine
Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.
In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

Early reviews so far say that this is just as good as I'd hoped, which makes me even more excited to get reading. I've loved Redwine's previous work and the blurb has me thoroughly intrigued. Definitely all good things.

8th - Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare
It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.
Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…
Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Part of me has really just had enough of the Shadowhunters world at this point, but another part is craving another fix. It's like crack. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this new series yet, but I'm curious (plus that cover) and that alone is enough to have this book on my March reading list.

22nd - Broken Crowns by Lauren DeStefano
The city is falling out of the sky…
Morgan always thought it was just a saying. A metaphor. The words of the dying. But as they look up at the floating island that was their home, Pen and Morgan make a horrible discovery—Internment is sinking.
And it’s all Morgan’s fault.
Corrupted from the inside by one terrible king and assailed from the outside for precious resources by another, Internment could be destroyed because Morgan couldn’t keep a secret. As two wars become one, Morgan must find a way to bring her two worlds together to stop the kings that wage them…
Or face the furthest fall yet.

I haven't actually read the second book in this trilogy yet (I know, I'm terrible) but I adored the first book and I cannot wait to get stuck into the rest of this series, so waiting until the final installment is out so I can binge read my way through at the end of the month seems like an excellent idea.
If you've enjoyed DeStefano's previous novels then this series is a must read, her writing just gets better and better, and it was already pretty awesome to start with.

24th - The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski
War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.
At least, that’s what he thinks.
In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.
But no one gets what they want just by wishing.
As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Take my money now. I stormed through the first two books in this series when book two came out this time last year, and now finally,  finally, the third book is in my grasp. That cliffhanger! Basically this series is amazing, and I cannot wait to see how it ends.

29th - Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn
Sometimes you find love in the most unexpected of places...This is not one of those times.Everyone expects Billie Bridgerton to marry one of the Rokesby brothers. The two families have been neighbors for centuries, and as a child the tomboyish Billie ran wild with Edward and Andrew. Either one would make a perfect husband... someday.Sometimes you fall in love with exactly the person you think you should...Or not.There is only one Rokesby Billie absolutely cannot tolerate, and that is George. He may be the eldest and heir to the earldom, but he's arrogant, annoying, and she's absolutely certain he detests her. Which is perfectly convenient, as she can't stand the sight of him, either.But sometimes fate has a wicked sense of humor...Because when Billie and George are quite literally thrown together, a whole new sort of sparks begins to fly. And when these lifelong adversaries finally kiss, they just might discover that the one person they can't abide is the one person they can't live without...

I am a huge Julia Quinn fan, particularly for her Bridgerton series - that family, I adore them. So to be back with the family (admittedly a generation earlier) is a dream come true. Add in that cover (the mallet of death!) and I'm ridiculously excited to get lost in another Quinn historical romance. I need some happily ever afters right now, and no one does them better than Quinn.

So there you have the books that I cannot wait to get my hands on over the coming month. Are there any here that you're desperately waiting for too? Any that you think I've missed? Or any that you're planning on picking up after seeing them here? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

Review: Undertaking Love by Kat French

Publication Date: May 22nd 2014
Publisher: Avon
Length: 400 pages

When Marla Jacobs discovers that the shop next to her Little White Wedding Chapel is to become a funeral parlour, she declares all-out war.
Marla’s chapel in the sleepy Shropshire countryside has become a nation-wide sensation, but the arrival of Funeral Director Gabriel Ryan threatens everything Marla has worked for. She can picture the scene: wedding limos fighting for space in the street with hearses; brides bumping into widows; bouquets being swapped for wreaths.
Marla’s not going down without a fight. She enlists a motley crew of weird and wonderful local supporters, and battle lines are drawn. But, as soon as Marla meets her nemesis, she realises just how much trouble she’s really in. His rugged good looks and Irish lilt make her stomach fizz – how is she supposed to concentrate on destroying him, when half the time she’s struggling not to rip the shirt off his back?

So often debut novels set the standard so high that a second novel fails to reach the bar and ends up being a slight disappointment instead. I find it’s rare to for the debut to be a disappointment and the second novel to blow me away. With this in mind, given how much I loved Kat French’s second novel ‘The Piano Man Project’ when I read it last summer, I was expecting to love her debut novel ‘Undertaking Love’ just as much.

Not so.

Where ‘Piano Man’ was smart, funny, full of banter and brimming with emotion, I found French’s debut to be filled with over blown caricatures that I never connected with, crass humour and a whole host of plot threads that left me feeling anywhere from vaguely amused to downright horrified.

Where was the romance? The banter? The brilliantly conceived plot? All the things I loved so much from the second book were missing in this first. I didn’t care about the characters, their choices and motivations were a bizarre mixture, and so many of them were downright awful stereotypes and caricatures.

It was a slog to get through this one when I was expecting a fun and enjoyable read. Some people will connect with these characters and love this romance, and I could see glimmers of what I’d hoped for at odd moments throughout the book. However for me it just wasn’t enough. I wanted to be swept up in the romance, I wanted to fall in love and care for these characters. I didn’t want to be shaking my head at their terrible life choices and crass dialogue and humour.

Since I loved ‘The Piano Man Project’ so much though, I’m curious to see how French’s third novel (due out this summer) holds up in comparison. Will it echo the brilliance of her second novel? Or plunge back down to the disaster I found her debut to be? Fingers crossed it’s the former.

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Review: The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson

Publication Date: October 6th 2015
Publisher: Hogarth Books
Length: 288 pages

The Winter's Tale is one of Shakespeare's “late plays”. It tells the story of Leontes, King of Sicily, whose insane jealousy results in the banishment of his baby daughter, Perdita, from the kingdom and then the death of his beautiful wife, Hermione. Perdita is brought up by a shepherd on the Bohemian coast, but through a series of miraculous events, father and daughter, and eventually mother too, are reunited. 
In Jeanette Winterson's retelling we move from London, a city reeling after the 2008 financial crash, to a storm-ravaged city in the US called New Bohemia. Her story is one of childhood friendship, money, status, video games and the elliptical nature of time. It tells in a hyper-modern way, full of energy and beauty, of the consuming power of jealousy on the one hand, and love, redemption and a lost child on the other.

It’s rare these days that I get to go into a bookstore and pick up a random book that I know nothing about. With so many books on my to read pile, so many on my radar waiting for release dates, and so few English language books available for me to go and browse whilst I’m living in France, it understandably turns into a giddy and fun experience to wander through a UK bookshop and pick up books I know nothing about based on no more than an eye catching cover and an intriguing blurb.

“The Gap of Time” is one of those finds. A beautifully simplistic and engaging cover that caught my attention, and the possibility of a Shakespeare re-telling for a play that doesn’t get nearly as much coverage as some of his other works – colour me intrigued.

Luckily the insides more than lived up to the promises given, and I was enthralled from the opening line. ‘The Winter’s Tale’ is not a play that I’ve studied as extensively as some of Shakespeare’s other works, so it was nice that a brief summary of the play is included at the start to get you up to speed. It does take away a little of the mystery of what’s going to happen if you aren’t familiar with the play already, but it’s also a nice opening that allows you to sink into the story and appreciate it for what it is – a beautiful re-working.

It is stunningly written, filled with short sharp sentences, and passages and turns of phrase that took my breath away. It reminded me of ‘The Night Circus’ with some of the lyrically beautiful prose and I found myself quickly becoming lost in the story.

“In this night soaked bed with you, it is courage for the day I seek. That when the light comes I will turn towards it. Nothing could be simpler. Nothing could be harder. And in the morning we will get dressed together and go.”

My only issue came with Leo, who ends up coming across as a forced caricature, desperately shoe horned into a stereotype that works in the original play, but doesn’t in this. He’s flat, one dimensional and his ‘madness’ scenes were utterly bizarre. I couldn’t connect or understand, and that section was thoroughly jarring in relation to the rest of the novel. That was the only thing that stopped this breath taking book from being a full five star read for me.

Aside from that, I adored this book. It was a surprise find that enchanted me from the start. Full of beautiful passages and intriguing characters, this is a wonderful re-telling that brings Shakespeare’s tale to life in new and exciting ways. I cannot wait to see the rest of these re-tellings as they are released.

“That night, storm and rain and the moon like a mandala when the clouds parted, it was the moon that made him know. The baby had lain like the visible corner of a folded map. Traced inside her, faded now, were parents she would never know and a life that had vanished. Alternative routes she wouldn’t take. People she would never meet. The would-be-that-wouldn’t-be.
Because her mother or her father, or both, had left the map of her folded on the table and left the room.
It was a map of discovery. There were no more North Poles or Atlantic Oceans or Americas. The moon had been visited. And the bottom of the sea.
But she was setting out with the blank sheet and a compass of herself.
Unpathed waters. Undreamed shores.”

Monday, 8 February 2016

Review: This Song is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin

Publication Date: January 5th 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Length: 224 pages

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

Bandmate, best friend or boyfriend? For Ramona, one choice could mean losing them all. 
Ramona and Sam are best friends. She fell for him the moment they met, but their friendship is just too important for her to mess up. Sam loves April, but he would never expect her to feel the same way--she's too quirky and cool for someone like him. Together, they have a band, and put all of their feelings for each other into music.
Then Ramona and Sam meet Tom. He's their band's missing piece, and before Ramona knows it, she's falling for him. But she hasn't fallen out of love with Sam either.
How can she be true to her feelings without breaking up the band?

You know when a book has so much potential and just fails to deliver and you want to wrap it up in blankets and weep for the lost possibilities? Yeah, that.
It’s a nice enough idea that attempts to tackle a different romantic story to your usual YA fare. There’s Ramona – hyperactive, always cheerful, and in love with her two bandmates. Sam – quiet, shy, and definitely in love with Ramona. And Tom – asexual, kind of in love with both Sam and Ramona, and feels disconnected and depressed in regard to most other things. See?! Look at all this potential! But instead of actually living up to that, it glosses over it all and leaves you feeling grumpy and let down.

Having an asexual character made such a refreshing change, but unfortunately it really isn’t handled very well. The love triangle just ends up feeling like a bit of a mess. The entire thing is built so that you feel as though there will be some big revelation or confrontation, but it never comes. Everything builds and builds, and you keep waiting and then suddenly, it’s done. It leaves you feeling frustrated, and like the main point of the story was never really reached. I like fluff in my stories, but I also like a bit of substance, and sadly this story was really lacking that.

I want to see more diversity in the romances we see in YA fiction, I want to see more relationships that incorporate more than two people – that represent asexual people. But I want to see them done right, and sadly this book really doesn’t.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Review: See How They Run by Ally Carter

Publication Date: December 22nd 2015
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Length: 336 pages

Thanks to Netgalley and Scholastic Press for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Inside every secret, there's a world of trouble. Get ready for the second book in this new series of global proportions--from master of intrigue, New York Times bestselling author Ally Carter. 
Grace's past has come back to hunt her . . . and if she doesn't stop it, Grace isn't the only one who will get hurt. Because on Embassy Row, the countries of the world stand like dominoes, and one wrong move can make them all fall down. 
The twists get twistier and the turns get even more shocking in the second thrilling installment of Embassy Row.

I’ve loved so many of Ally Carter’s books that I fully expected the ‘Embassy Row’ series to be another hit. Alas, the first book in the series really didn’t work for me, and I was desperately hoping that book two would get me back on track with this series. Sadly though, I don’t think it’s mean to be.

I struggled with Grace in the first book, and whilst I had less issues with her in this book, she and I still don’t seem to be getting along. She comes across as very immature, and her reasoning and motives seem to be on crack half the time. She doesn’t feel real, she feels like a wildly swinging pendulum caricature. Add in a whole host of other interesting but not fully realised characters and I found it difficult to muster up any sort of enthusiasm for anyone in this book.

The plot trots along at a decent enough pace, and I did find myself curious to find out what was going to happen. It felt like it had a little bit more substance and intrigue than the first book which definitely helped. However we’re then thrown one of the most obvious and ridiculous plot twists on the final page which made me want to throw my kindle across the room in frustration. It just felt so forced, so obvious, and so utterly ridiculous. I want to be surprised by my books, not want to scream with irritation.

I want to love this series, and I know plenty of people that do, but sadly this second outing proves that this one just isn’t the one for me. I think I’ll stick with old favourites like ‘Heist Society’ and give the third instalment a miss.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Books I'm Squeeing About in February

I don't quite know how February crept up on me like that. I swear it was just Christmas and I blinked.
Luckily to help ease the stress and shock of hitting the second month of 2016 without even really realizing, there are a whole bunch of exciting books that are hitting our shelves this month that I cannot wait to get into.

4th - Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.
Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from. 
Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him...or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

The buzz surrounding this book has been incredible (congratulations publicists on a truly brilliant campaign and build up) and I cannot wait to get my hands on this one. It sounds brilliant, the early reviews confirm this, and it's been one I've been desperate to read ow for months.

9th - Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
Blackbeard the pirate was known for striking fear in the hearts of the bravest of sailors. But once he was just a young man who dreamed of leaving his rigid life behind to chase adventure in faraway lands. Nothing could stop him—until he met the one girl who would change everything.
Edward "Teach" Drummond, son of one of Bristol's richest merchants, has just returned from a year-long journey on the high seas to find his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, Teach dreams only of returning to the vast ocean he’d begun to call home. There's just one problem: convincing his father to let him leave and never come back.
Following her parents' deaths, Anne Barrett is left penniless and soon to be homeless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne is forced to take a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks, and Anne longs for escape. How will she ever realize her dream of sailing to CuraƧao—where her mother was born—when she's stuck in England? 
From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn to each other, they’re trapped by society and their own circumstances. Faced with an impossible choice, they must decide to chase their dreams and go, or follow their hearts and stay.

I'm loving the sudden appearance of covers with boats in bottles on the front, pretty and eye catching. A Blackbeard retelling? Yes please, sign me up. The cover caught my eye, the title had me intrigued, but the blurb has truly sold me. Another one that I've been desperate to read for months now.

11th - Glass Sword by Victoria AveyardMare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. 
The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.
Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. 
But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat. 
Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

I'm going to be honest with you, the first book in this series really didn't do it for me. Yeah I enjoyed it, yeah I stormed through it in one sitting, but it didn't grab me. The ideas were great but it never felt like they were fully developed.
But it was enough to intrigue me and to make me want to find out what happens in the next book. Here's hoping book two enthralls me in a way that book one failed to do.

23rd - A Gathering of Shadows by V. E. SchwabFour months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.
In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

Confession time, I have yet to read the first book in this series... But I've heard such good things about it, I cannot wait to get stuck in. In a way I'm quite glad I've waited until now, because it means I can storm straight through both the first book and the second in one glorious reading binge...

25th - Night Study by Maria V. SnyderEver since being kidnapped from the Illiais Jungle as a child, Yelena Zaltana's has been fraught with peril. But the recent loss of her Soulfinding abilities has endangered her more than ever before. As she desperately searches for a way to reclaim her magic, her enemies are closing in, and neither Ixia nor Sitia are safe for her anymore. Especially since the growing discord between the two countries and the possibility of a war threatens everything Yelena holds dear. 
Valek is determined to protect Yelena, but he's quickly running out of options. The Commander suspects that his loyalties are divided, and he's been keeping secrets from Valek...secrets that put him, Yelena and all their friends in terrible danger. As they uncover the various layers of the Commander's mysterious plans, they realize it's far more sinister that they could have ever imagined.

Admittedly I wasn't as thrilled with 'Shadow Study' as I was with the original Study trilogy, but it was still wonderful to return to the world and characters I fell in love with and see what they were up to. 'Shadow Study' felt a little slow to get going, but with so much set up in that book I'm hoping that this one will really fly and I'll fall in love all over again.

There you have the five books that I cannot wait to get my hands on and start reading this month. Are there any here that you can't wait to pick up? Any new ones that have you intrigued? Or any that you think I've missed? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Book Announcement: Kaleidoscope Song by Sarah Benwell

Today is an incredible day for bookish news, because one of my very great awesome friends has announced news of her second novel. Simon and Schuster (US) will be publishing "Kaleidoscope Song" by Sarah Benwell.

This is a huge deal, firstly because Sarah's debut novel 'The Last Leaves Falling' was stunning, heartbreaking, and one of the best books of 2015. But secondly, because for so long Sarah didn't think this novel would ever be released out into the world.

The full story in Sarah's words is over on Dahlia Adler's Blog please do go and read a bit more about this important and exciting book. 

I'm not going to lie, I cried a little bit when Sarah told me the news that S&S were going to be publishing her second novel, because this book is so important. It is a story that needs to be told. We keep on yelling for more diverse books, for more stories that show every facet of humanity, and whilst we are starting to see more, there are so many more that we're not seeing. Publishers, take note, we want these books. These books will sell. I am so glad that S&S are listening and sharing Sarah's novel with the world.

South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.