Friday, 19 May 2017

Barefoot On The Wind by Zoe Marriott

Barefoot on the Wind (The Moonlit Lands, #2)There is a monster in the forest... 

Everyone in Hana's remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana's father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it - or be killed herself. 

But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined. And the beast is not at all what she expects...

Hana lives with her family in a small village in the middle of a dangerous forest. Her family has lost more than most to the monster that hides in the dark but one night, her father returns from an attack, the first ever to do so. But he is injured and Hana is the only one brave enough to take on the monster in the forest. 

Hana is hurt on her hunt and taken in by a stranger but it seems that he knows more about this dark forest than he lets on. As Hana heals and they grow closer, the magic in the woods turns deadly. Marriott has said that this is a feminist retelling of Beauty and the Beast, written as if Beauty had the choice to stay in the forest rather than as part of a deal to save her father. I think it made a huge difference in the portrayal of bravery and their love story, as the Beast doesn't hold anything over Beauty's freedom. 

The whole story was such an interesting re-imagining of the classic tale, and with Marriott's lovely descriptions and skill for magical worlds, it practically burst off the page. Although short and sweet, I really enjoyed this Japanese-style fairy tale and was reminded of why Beauty and the Beast is my favourite story. 

Published 1st September 2016 by Walker Books.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Great Book Mums

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Side note: while creating this list, I realised two things: one, there really isn't that many mums in YA books - even if they exist, they're not really there. Two: when they are there, they aren't always named. Or if they are, I can't remember them!

1 - The Upside of Unrequited
Actually both mum's to twins Molly and Cassie, and little brother Xander. They are crazy in love, demonstrate a great and healthy relationship as well as diversity and open-mindedness as they quietly fight for LGBT rights.

Wing Jones2 - Wing Jones
Along with both sets of grandmothers, Wing's mum works and looks after the house and family, holding things together after Marcus's accident. 

3 - The Next Together/The Last Beginning
I put these books on the list for Katherine but actually I want to mention Jen too because she and Tom actually raised Clove which Katherine and Matthew were stuck in time, or on the run or whatever it was they are doing.

4 - Did I Mention I Love You?
Again, I mentioning the mum and the step-mum to Eden, because as her dad is less than supportive (about everything, apparently) they both really step up and give Eden a shoulder to cry on and someone to lean on.

5- Vendetta
Vendetta (Blood for Blood, #1)Determined to protect Sophie from her father's family past, her mum is strong and brave in the face of danger. I mean, it's the mafia!

6 - Harry Potter and the... actually, all of them!
Mrs Weasley is bad ass and totally deserves a spot on this list, because not only she an amazing mother to her seven children but also to Harry and Hermione when they need it!

Wow, that was actually really hard to come up with! Apparently YA books are like fairytales in which most of the mothers have vanished. Or maybe teenagers are all about ditching the parents, that's probably more likely. 

Friday, 12 May 2017

The Circus by Olivia Levez

The CircusWhy would a girl who has everything want to run away and never be found?

Willow has staged runaways ever since she was a little girl. She has everything a young person should want: a rich daddy, clothes, money, a pony and a place at a prestigious boarding school. In reality, she has everything except the thing she really wants: a father who cares enough to find her.

Aged sixteen, on the eve of her father’s wedding, she ruins the bride’s dress and escapes through a window, determined never to return. Her missing mother was a circus performer, and Willow wants to follow in her footsteps. But the performers she meets don’t want her. When her last bit of money is stolen by Suze, another runaway girl she thought she could trust, Willow becomes really homeless. Then Suze comes tumbling back into her life and a desperate Willow has to decide whether to trust her all over again . . .

So begins their frightening, exhilarating odyssey though hunger, performance, desperation and dreams. Will they both survive and will Willow make it to the circus of her imagining?

Willow is a tried-and-tested runaway but this time she isn't coming back. On the morning of her father's wedding, she cuts the buttons off her future step-mother's dress and runs away, hops on a train to Hastings. Willow desperately wants to find her mother, the woman in the sole photograph she owns of her, standing in front of a circus tent. From what her father is told her, Willow's mother was a beautiful acrobat and had to leave when Willow was a baby to re-join her troop.

In quite a similar vein to her debut The Island, Levez tells of a troubled young woman who just wants to find her family. Having been ignored by her father and not impressed with his parade of women, Willow wants to be reunited with her mother and the only lead she's got is a circus in Hastings so that's where she'll go. But living on the run isn't easy, even with her gap year savings. But she is taken under Suze's wing and together they train to get into the circus.

As it is told from Willow's perspective, it takes a while to realise that she actually has it pretty good. She is spoilt rotten, if sometimes ignored, by her dad, and as she struggles with living alone and her reasons behind running away in the first place, it becomes clear that she is selfish, attention-seeking and na├»ve. But on the other hand, all she wanted was to find a real family - what's so bad about that?

It was sometimes quite difficult to read - Willow sure was an idiot sometimes, so much so that I wanted to slap her, but also the real-life troubles she encounters, from homelessness to assault, made me queasy. As for the friendship with Suze, that did seem rather one-sided but in her own way (maybe when she remembered) Willow did care about Suze and didn't want to leave her behind like she had been before.

All in all, a sometimes-difficult but quite spectacular story about family and love; it might have taken a while but I think Willow learned something about empathy and how destructive her previous selfishness was.

Published 13th June 2017 by Oneworld Publications. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Top Ten Things I Want More Of In Books, Dammit!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

1 - Pirates - what's not to love about pirates? It can be any sort of pirate, good or bad, or with any kind of twist, like time travelling pirates in Passenger.

2 - Realistic first times - the thing with reading YA is that most teenagers are probably having sex but rarely is it discusses properly. I'm talking awkward fumbling, getting the giggles, and being confident enough to open yourself up to another person. One of the only books that handles this well is A Quiet Kind of Thunder and I want more of that!

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)3 - Space opera - stuff set in space that doesn't necessarily mean there's a space war - anything similar to The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet.

4 - Fairy tales - I know there are plenty of re-tellings but I cannot find any original fairy tales. I'm thinking The Sin Eater's Daughter, because the way Salisbury blended magic and folklore was amazing.

5 - Nerds - there are nearly always nerds in books but more often than not, they are in the background or the sad kid getting bullied. I want more awesome nerds, like Cath in Fangirl or Lexi in Unconventional.

6 - Hate-to-love trope - I recently did a Top Ten of my favourite love stories with this trope but I'm always on the look out for more!
Am I Normal Yet? (The Spinster Club, #1)
7 - Mental health - this subject is finally getting the attention is deserves but I'm always looking for something different or a different angle on a familiar illness.

8 - Anti heroes - with their own story! It could be like Baz in Carry On or getting the villain's backstory like Levana in Fairest, but they are always fascinating characters.

9 - Dragons - either I missed the boat on this or there really are not many books on dragons! The one that I desperately want to get my hands on is A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan.

10 - Mythology - linked to fairy tales, I would like to read stories based on the unusual myths; everyone knows Hercules and Thor but what about the other heroes and gods, from all sorts of cultures? Books on those please!

Friday, 5 May 2017

One Italian Summer by Keris Stainton

One Italian SummerIt's been a year since Milly, Elyse and Leonie's dad died, and a year since their last trip to Rome. Summer's here again, and once again they are heading with their mum to Italy - but what's it going to be like going without Dad? Rome still holds its familiar charms - the sun is still as warm, the gelato as delicious, the people as welcoming. But nothing is quite as it once was ... 

With grief still raw for all of them, Milly is facing the additional awfulness of having to see Luke again - gorgeous, gorgeous Luke, who she had a fling with last year, and who she made a total fool of herself with - or so she thinks. What's going to happen this time? What's more, things between Milly, her sisters and their mum are rocky - Leonie is being tempestuous and unpredictable, Elyse is caught up with her new boyfriend, and Milly feels like she just doesn't know how she fits in any more. 

Over one Italian summer, can Milly find a way back to the life she once had?

I adore Keris' writing style, it is always so easy to read and fall in love with. Her latest instalment follows Milly, the middle sister of three, as her family still struggle with the sudden death of her dad and the prospect of going to Italy for the first time without him.

Right from the off, it is evident that everyone has changed after their dad died, Milly in particular has retreated into herself. Their mum doesn't like to talk to them about it, Elyse the eldest is determined to pick up the pieces, and Leonie the youngest is getting more confident without Milly really noticing. It is strange how grief, especially long term, affects everyone differently but I think Keris did a wonderful job of sorting through everything and everyone's wavering emotions, especially in such a big family. 

So, they went to Italy for their aunt's wedding and they met up with their favourite cousin and his best friend aka Milly's crush. I thought this delicate balance between remembering their dad and having a nice holiday worked; I got the message about learning to get on with life, celebrate the good things, and how it's ok to start new things and move on without feeling guilty. Even a year after he died, their dad was clearly still around them and going to Italy, their regular holiday, meant that they could all remember him in a place that they loved and simultaneously get out of their holding pattern at home.

There was lots of really important and touching things about sisterhood, support and grief but also fun contemporary romance stuff about holidaying in Italy and growing up. Milly had lots of learn about finally confronting her fears and getting into a good place with Luke. All in all, a very sweet and moving story, equal parts funny and sad, cute and heavy. 

Published 4th May 2017 by Hot Key Books. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Never Judge A Book By Its Face

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme is a freebie, anything to do with covers. And after some pondering, I decided on book covers with faces. Faces and eyes are quite common on covers, and I really like them, they can be damn dramatic. 

1 - And I Darken by Kiersten White - badass! Do I need to say anything else?

2 - Doing It by Hannah Witton - Hannah's said before how she likes how the banner looks like she's being censored and I agree

3 - Radio Silence by Alice Oseman - adore the colours and the blending effect

4 - Splintered by AG Howard - pretty and slightly mad, just like the original Alice in Wonderland

5 - Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol - I adore how the ghost makes up the lines in Anya's hair, and the differences in their expressions

6 - Trouble Makes A Comeback by Stephanie Tromly - I like this cover more than the first one, I think it's the bright glasses

7 - Seed by Lisa Heathfield - I think the flower covering her month is a subtle but strong link to the book's theme and Papa S's power

8 - Geek Girl by Holly Smale - nerdy glasses, unsure expression, doodles of math equations, yeah that's Geek Girl in a nutshell!

9 - Under My Skin by Juno Dawson - such a brilliant portrayal of the main character's tattoo

10 - Shut Out by Kody Keplinger - kind of childish font but I like the colours and the warpaint