Friday, 29 March 2019

Books I'm Squeeing About in April

We're storming through this year, and yet more lovely books are finding their way into my little grabby hands this month. So keep an eye out for these gorgeous beauties this month when you find your way into a bookstore!

Descendant of the Crane by Joan He
April 2nd 2019
Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own. Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she's thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father's killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer--a treasonous act, punishable by death... because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira--a brilliant investigator who's also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.

I love that we're finally getting more diverse fiction cropping up in mainstream publishing, and this gorgeous cover and blurb have me all kinds of excited for reading this one.

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C G Drews
April 4th 2019
Can two broken boys find their perfect home?
Sam is only fifteen but he and his autistic older brother, Avery, have been abandoned by every relative he's ever known. Now Sam's trying to build a new life for them. He survives by breaking into empty houses when their owners are away, until one day he's caught out when a family returns home. To his amazement this large, chaotic family takes him under their wing - each teenager assuming Sam is a friend of another sibling. Sam finds himself inextricably caught up in their life, and falling for the beautiful Moxie. 
But Sam has a secret, and his past is about to catch up with him.

I adored Cait's debut novel last year, "A Thousand Perfect Notes" and have been antsing for her follow up ever since, and now it is almost here! Behold the beauty! Seriously, her writing is amazing and I'm super excited.

The Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu
April 9th 2019
All Magnus Bane wanted was a vacation—a lavish trip across Europe with Alec Lightwood, the Shadowhunter who against all odds is finally his boyfriend. But as soon as the pair settles in Paris, an old friend arrives with news about a demon-worshipping cult called the Crimson Hand that is bent on causing chaos around the world. A cult that was apparently founded by Magnus himself. Years ago. As a joke.
Now Magnus and Alec must race across Europe to track down the Crimson Hand and its elusive new leader before the cult can cause any more damage. As if it wasn’t bad enough that their romantic getaway has been sidetracked, demons are now dogging their every step, and it is becoming harder to tell friend from foe. As their quest for answers becomes increasingly dire, Magnus and Alec will have to trust each other more than ever—even if it means revealing the secrets they’ve both been keeping.

There's a special place in my heart for Alec and Magnus, and I feel for poor Magnus in his desperate desire for a holiday. Basically I can't wait for a novel that (finally) focuses on these two.

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten things your ears will thank you for listening to

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by the fabulous Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl. You can join in with future topics here!

Insomnia is kicking my butt at the moment, which is exhausting, but does leave me with a lot of time for listening to things... So, silver lining!
Here are ten things I think you should be listening to at the moment!

A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J Maas
When the world is particularly scary and my head is an in-fun place to be, I come back to this book. It's a special book that's got me through a lot of tough times, and I come back to it often. It doesn't hurt that it's a really wonderful narrator.

The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
I adore this book. It also took me completely by surprise. I wasn't a fan of Shannon's previous work, but I am hook, line, and sinker in love with this novel. Half way through, I'm trying to make it last as long as possible, and listening to it is a wonderful way to enjoy the story.

Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince by J K Rowling
There's something about this particular Potter instalment that is comforting in the dead of night. Maybe it's the slightly lighter feel of a lot of it, the time spent at Hogwarts, the lessons, the romance, the rivalry, Whatever it is, I love this audiobook, and particularly enjoy the feeling of coming home when we reach Hogwarts once more.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
One of the first audiobooks I ever listened to, this remains one of my favourites. It's an incredible story, with two wonderful narrators, and I've probably returned to Thisby more times through this audiobook than I have physically reading it. I adore it.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Another incredibly good narrator, and a wonderful story that you can really lose yourself in. I really enjoy the rest of the series too, but there's something perfect and magical about this first book that I love coming back to.

The Adventure Zone
Do you like fun? Then you should really be listening to The Adventure Zone. Three brothers and their dad formed a D&D group and insanity ensued. I'm slowly catching up with their back catalogue, and can frequently be found crying with laughter when I'm listening to this. I've now been banned from listening to it in bed after I woke my husband up in the middle of the night from laughing too loudly. However he is also a fan, so once I played him the episode I'd been listening to, all was (mostly) forgiven.)

Getting Curious with Jonathan van Ness
Everyone needs more JVN in their lives. I adore him on Queer Eye, I've loved the Queer Eye special episodes where he talks to each of the guys individually, and I love that he engages in such intellectual curiosity. He constantly wants to question and learn more about the world around him, whilst spreading positivity. I love this podcast.

Why Won't You Date Me?
This is definitely not for younger listeners. Filthy rude, but absolutely hilarious, Nicole Byer (host of Nailed it!) explores the crazy world of dating in this day and age.

Directionally Challenged
Candice Accola and Kayla Ewell try and navigate being a thirty something and trying to have everything together. I've admired both women for a while, so I was really excited when they announced this podcast, and so far I'm loving it.

Drunks & Dragons
Technically I have not yet started this one, but it's on my list to listen to after a recommendation on The Adventure Zone. Essentially, a dungeons and dragons podcast with alcohol - expect hilarity.

There are my ten audio recommendations, now tell me some of yours! And have any of these piqued your interest?

Thursday, 14 March 2019

Review: From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon

Publication date: May 22nd 2018
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 330

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy-a.k.a. Sahil's twin brother? Dream come true x 2.
When mystery man N begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it's Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she's fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.
Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she's got is not the one she's scripted. But will it be enough?
Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

I absolutely adored "When Dimple met Rishi" and was so excited about reading this second novel from Menon, so it was perhaps those high expectations that left me feeling so disappointed and crushed after this book.

The biggest issue that I found was how unlikeable Twinkle was, and given that the entire book is told in her thoughts and feeling into her diary, that immediately becomes problematic. 
Even though you only have access to how Twinkle perceives everything, it becomes really clear really early on, that not only is Twinkle incredibly self absorbed, but she's also kind of a jerk, which makes a lot of the other character's responses to her hard to believe. Take Sahil - she treats him appallingly, and sure she has to answer for that a bit at the end, but on the whole Sahil just brushes is off and continues to make heart eyes at Twinkle which doesn't make any sense given how she's behaving.

It's a nice enough plot, a cool idea, and I liked a lot of the supporting characters, but my dislike for Twinkle coloured my entire perception of the book and left me feeling mostly frustrated and grumpy when I finished.

If you've yet to read any of Menon's work, I highly recommend checking out Dimple instead.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Standalone books I don't want a sequel for because they were perfect, but I still want to spend more time in the world

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by the fabulous Jana at The Artsy Reader Girl. You can join in with future topics here!

Well that title is a bit of a mouthful... And also is a little off-piste to what the topic actually is this week, which is standalone novels that I want a sequel for. But the problem is that a lot of the standalone novels that I love, I love because they are complete and whole entities on their own. I don't want more, but at the same time I wish I could go back and spend more time in the world... Dilemma.

Here are ten dilemmaful books that I both love and don't want more of at the same time. 

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
Oh "the sky, and the sand, and the sea, and Corr." I would happily sell my soul for a chance to go back to Thisby, but equally I love this strange and perfect novel so much that it might break my heart to get more of this story. As it is now, it stands as this pinnacle of wonder and magic that I adore in so many ways, and return to often.
You can read my original review here, and see how my feelings changed on my re-read.

Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel
I just read this one a couple of weeks ago and I cannot get it out of my head. It was beautiful, startling, and utterly gripping. I can't shake the world from my head - the layered approach to the story, the characters that evolve over the course of the novel, the tightly compacted sprawling mess of world that is unknotted through these handful of interconnected characters. I love it.
You can read my full review here.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
The circus arrives without warning... From the first, I was completely captivated by this lyrical, beautiful tale. There is nothing else quite like it. I could have spent so much longer exploring the circus tents alone, never mind spending more time with the characters. However as with everything on this list, it's another one that is perfect in its singular whole, and I wouldn't want to mess with that and risk being disappointed by a sequel.
You can read my full review here.

Fire by Kristin Cashore
After Graceling I never thought I could love another set of characters by Cashore in the same way as I did Katsa and Po. Then I met Fire and Brigan and I was utterly lost. This novel is gorgeous. A wonderful world, with complex and layered characters and such a stunningly beautiful story that weaves everything together. Yes we get a brief cameo for Fire in Bitterblue, but I want to just spend more time with Fire and Brigan in their day to day lives.
You can read my full review here.
The Time Traveller's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
It's been well over a decade since I've read this one, so I don't remember details, more a vague blurry feeling from when I read it. I loved it. It broke my heart, I sobbed over this book in a way I rarely do. It was perfect and strange and wonderful and I wanted more, but at the same time not, because I loved it as it was. I think it might be time for a re-read.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik
My first foray into Novik's writing, this one made a definite mark. It was such a twisty tale, one that refused to be pigeonholed. Every time I thought I had a grasp of the kind of story being told, she'd flip everything on its head and leave me scrambling. It was a really exciting and vivid world, with some really wonderful character development, and I'd love to spend some more time delving into spin offs without touching on the main story thread.
You can read my full review here.

Speak Easy, Speak Love by George McKelle
Much Ado About Nothing, set in 1920s America. I didn't think this could possibly work, but work it did, and swiftly turned into one of my favourites.
It's a wonderful retelling, full of favourite moments from the original, as well as fresh twists and new perspectives. I loved these characters so much, and was sad when I reached the end of the tale. Sure, that was the end of the play, but part of me really wanted to spend more time with these people, after the final act.
You can read my full review here.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
I adore all of Sarah's books - they're sassy, filled with brilliant characters and wonderful twisty plots. "In Other Lands", her most recent novel, is a standalone that combines all of the above, with a brilliant Harry Potter esq vibe magic school. Don't worry, nothing that similar, but that gives you a feel for the scope and design behind the book. Years of schooling crammed into one book, the story doesn't feel rushed, giving you a wonderful view in on Elliot's life and world. Plus amazing romance, glorious characters, and an all round amazing story. I adore this book and I want more.

The Game of Love & Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Oh this book. It's such a beautiful story, and one that haunts me to this day. I adored Flora and Henry, watching them come together and find themselves, each other, and their places in the world. The concept is stunning and Martha writes with a deft poetical magic that left me captivated and spellbound.
You can read my full review here.

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Quiet, haunting, this was such an unexpected delight when I found this one. Eowyn's debut was absolutely spot on, filled with desolation and loneliness, but suffused with a perfect, impossible to capture, magic. Even though it's been years since I've read this one, it's a story that hit some nerve within me and stayed embedded in my heart long after I finished it. One day I'll go back and recapture that.
You can read my full review here.

There you have ten of my favourite standalone novels that I both want more of and really want them to be left solitary and perfect. It's a confusing state! Tell me some of yours in the comments below!

Friday, 8 March 2019

Review: The Planetary Omnibus by Warren Ellis

Publication date: January 28th 2014
Publisher: DC Comics
Pages: 864

Planetary has been hailed as a timeless story that turned modern superhero conventions on their heads.Written by Warren Ellis (Transmetropolitan) and with stunning art by John Cassaday (Astonishing X-Men), this critically acclaimed, landmark series took a look at the inter-dimensional peace-keeping force known as Planetary.
The trio on the ground includes Elijah Snow, a hundred-year-old man, Jakita Wagner, an extremely powerful woman, and The Drummer, a man with the ability to communicate with machines. Tasked with tracking down evidence of super-human activity, these mystery archaeologists uncover unknown paranormal secrets and histories, such as a World War II supercomputer that can access other universes, a ghostly spirit of vengeance, and a lost island of dying monsters.

Oh Warren Ellis how good you are at wrecking me with your stories. I was first introduced to Ellis' work in "Transmetropolitan" (if you've not yet discovered this series of comics, do yourself a favour and get on that asap) and was curious to work my way through his other work. The Planetary Omnibus not only collects all of the Planetary comics in one place, but adds in three standalone stories, a whole host of artwork, and the original writing Ellis did when conceiving of the first comic to be sent to John Cassaday for artwork.

It's a hefty tome, but one that is well worth investing the time (and wrist strength) into reading. There are some wonderful character appearances - the different iterations of Batman was definitely a favourite, along with a sneaky sort of cameo from Spider Jerusalem - protagonist from Transmet.

I didn't find that it hit me with the same emotional impact as Transmetropolitan, but it was still an excellent story with some amazing characters. I was a little bit gutted to realise I'd run out of comics and had only special extras left to read...

It's a dark story, one that showcases Ellis's signature snark filled humour along with his sucker punches of emotion. One minute you'll be laughing, the next breathless from the impact of a well placed emotional blow. 

It's beautiful, extraordinary in its scope and concept, and a wonderful collection to read. If you've never really gotten on to the comics train, Ellis is a great place to start. His work is a brilliantly crafted pantheon of stories and characters that I love to come back to again and again, now I'm on to find out more about The Authority, who crop up in one of the cross over mini arcs...

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Blog Tour - Review: The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

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

Publication date: March 7th 2019
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 352

In this sequel to the instant New York Times bestseller, Camille, her sister Edel, and her guard and new love Remy must race against time to find Princess Charlotte. Sophia's Imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep the rebels from returning Charlotte to the castle and her rightful place as queen. With the help of an underground resistance movement called The Iron Ladies-a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely-and the backing of alternative newspaper The Spider's Web, Camille uses her powers, her connections and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orleans.

To celebrate the release of the sequel to the hugely popular 2018 book "The Belles", Gollancz have organised a blog tour of reviews. Don't forget to look out for the other reviews this week! I really loved "The Belles" so I jumped at the chance to take part, and was incredibly excited to find out what happens next to Camille, Edel, and Remy.

This was a good follow up novel - Clayton takes the world and characters she introduced us to in the first, and builds on that foundation to provide an exciting conclusion. Camille particularly becomes a more interesting protagonist, fueled by her anger from the events of the first book. However, I would have liked to see her grapple with more inner conflict. Yes she was fighting for what was right, but she never really has any inner turmoil to overcome, which at times can be slightly frustrating, as you're only ever given her own thoughts and feelings to experience.

The first half of the story takes its time, which slows the pacing down hugely. After the cataclysm of events at the end of the first book, I really wanted to drive straight back in, not hold back for as long as the story does. This lack of urgency, and a general feeling of the characters succeeding at all they attempt, means that there are points where the emotional resonance I'd hope for is missing, and I found myself coasting through some parts, rather than being fully engaged.
That said, you get an exciting (albeit slightly rushed) ending that really pays off a lot of the build up. I had a few minor gripes about how some things ended, but those are for a more spoiler filled review at a later date.

I'm really hoping that Clayton is going to give us a spin off book about the Iron Ladies, because I didn't feel like we got nearly enough time with them and I'd love to know more about them.

This is a solid conclusion to the story, one that offers some more insights into this curious world, and leaves you feeling pretty satisfied with the final act. I was a little disappointed with some elements, but this duology is still definitely one I'd recommend. If you've yet to read The Belles, pick up a copy as soon as you can! And if you read and enjoyed it last year, this conclusion is worth the wait.

Monday, 4 March 2019

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel

Publication date: September 9th 2014
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 336

An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization's collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be saviour, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night a famous Hollywood actor slumps over and dies onstage during a production of King Lear. Hours later, the world as we know it begins to dissolve. Moving back and forth in time—from the actor's early days as a film star to fifteen years in the future, when a theatre troupe known as the Traveling Symphony roams the wasteland of what remains—this suspenseful, elegiac, spellbinding novel charts the strange twists of fate that connect five people: the actor, the man who tried to save him, the actor's first wife, his oldest friend, and a young actress with the Traveling Symphony, caught in the crosshairs of a dangerous self-proclaimed prophet.
Sometimes terrifying, sometimes tender, Station Eleven tells a story about the relationships that sustain us, the ephemeral nature of fame, and the beauty of the world as we know it.

I popped into my local bookshop, "Mr B's Emporium of Books" and ended up looking at their staff recommendation shelves. One member of staff had picked four books, three of which were long standing favourites of mine, and one that I'd never come across before. Naturally I bought it.

And then I fell into this incredible story, and wasn't seen for several hours. I devoured it, I resented any time I had to spend away from it, I cried over it and laughed over it and felt myself unspool and reform slightly different after reading this. In short, all the signs of a truly excellent book.

It's a story about the end of the world. But it's also the story about a new world forming. It's about what really matters once you break down all of the pre-constructed ideas. But most importantly it's about people and relationships. Instead of falling into the trap of telling a world ending story on a world ending story scale, "Station Eleven" hones in tightly on a small group of people who are connected - some in obvious ways, others that you have to wait a while to find out how. It's about their stories in the years before the collapse, in the hours leading up to it, the days and years following. How each person adapts and responds to it - what makes them human coming to the fore.

I loved how each person ties back to Arthur, how everything revolves around his perfectly normal death - the lynch pin that everyone else spins around. A defining, linking point of kinship. Each little thread that overlaps, doubles back and loops on itself until you have a gorgeously constructed, tightly woven tapestry.

The writing is gorgeous, carefully constructed, haunting and engaging - I couldn't get enough of this beautiful piece. When I finished it, I simply sat staring into space until my husband asked me if he could do anything. I simply handed him the book and told him to read it. He did. He loved it too. And it prompted some really fascinating conversations about the book.

I can't believe I missed this book when it first came out, but I am oh so glad I've read it now. I can understand why that staff member put it up there with some of my other favourites, I'd put it there too.