Friday 15 April 2016

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice

When Elizabeth Bennet first meets eligible bachelor Fitzwilliam Darcy, she thinks him arrogant and conceited, while he struggles to remain indifferent to her good looks and lively mind. When she later discovers that Darcy has involved himself in the troubled relationship between his friend Bingley and her beloved sister Jane, she is determined to dislike him more than ever. In the sparkling comedy of manners that follows, Jane Austen shows the folly of judging by first impressions and superbly evokes the friendships, gossip and snobberies of provincial middle-class life. 

Everyone knows this story, although I've never actually read it. I've tried a few times before but the prose doesn't always agree with me. That's why I've waited this long to try it again, I definitely need to be in the right mindset. Having said that, it is really easy to read, although it did take me a while! 

The Bennett family is so easy to relate to, the sisters all had their individual personalities but Elizabeth and Jane's were the strongest. Elizabeth is famously strong willed, out spoken and prideful. Her ability to read people is one of her proudest strengths but all that gets thrown out the window when her first assumption about Mr Darcy turns out to be completely false.

There are lots of different characters, from the Bennett's themselves, to their neighbours, friends both new and old. Obviously Darcy and Bingley were big players in this, as well as Captain Wickham, but there was also Mrs Bennett, with her hysterics and forceful love for her daughters' happiness; Mr and Mrs Gardiner, the girls' aunt and uncle who help in the girls' entrance to society and later with Lydia's "thing" with Wickham; Catherin De Bourgh, a powerful woman who apparently can't help but push her nose into everyone's business.

It was all very middle class, with marrying off daughters, worries about money, their place and reputation in society. I really enjoyed reading the original story; there were lots of little pieces I wasn't aware of and getting to know the original characters in their rightful place in history was great. I did have all the different versions running through my head, especially the recent web series Lizzie Bennett Dairies, with lines or scenarios I recognized. I'm not sure whether this ruined my reading or not; as much I love the various adaptations, it did mean that I was anticipating events way before they occurred. Either way, very glad I've read and loved the original story and the most famous Austen novel.

Published 30th January 2003 by Penguin. First published 1813.

Tuesday 12 April 2016

Legend trilogy by Marie Lu

June is an incredibly gifted and bright student at Drake University, in training to become a soldier a few years earlier than her peers because of her perfect score in the Trials. Meanwhile, Day is wondering the streets, looking for scraps and supplies to send to his family to keep them alive. Then things start to go wrong when June’s brother is murdered, presumably by Day, as he makes his escape after stealing plague medicine from a hospital, and June goes undercover in the slums of the city to find the legendary troublemaker who killed her brother. Or so she is led to believe.

This was told in dual narrative; I don’t think I’ve read a dystopia in dual perspective. Apart from Allegiant, and I’m not sure that counts. Anyway, it worked, as June and Day were such different people and ran in very different parts of the city, they each saw different flaws in the system. As June learns more about Day, the more she realises that he isn’t the villain that the Republic have been making him out to be. Especially after she discovers some truths about her brother and his investigation into their parents’ deaths.

I really liked this. I liked hearing from both perspectives, I liked the world building and the mirroring from our world, and the complexity of our characters.

Prodigy (Legend, #2)Elector dies and his son Anden takes over – immediately a very different feel with such a young leader and Anden obviously wants different things for his country. We also see a bit more history and learn that the Republic came about after extreme martial law.

Day and June join the Patriots, the radical group that want to bring back the United States – definitely a radical lot, planning the assassination of the new Elector to spark revolution while change has made the Republic weak. On some level I understood this but as June is taken back into the Republic’s army and gets to know Anden, it is very clear that he is not his father. And then comes the moral dilemma on who to believe! The young couple also escape briefly into Colonies land and it was fascinating to see their development – where the Republic is all about the military, the Colonies have super-commercialism.

I actually think it could have ended here – it might have been a crappy ending with June and Day not quite together, but things with the Patriots and Anden were mostly wrapped up and I honestly wasn't sure where the last book was going to go.

Champion (Legend, #3)Champion
Last book in the trilogy is set 8 months after Prodigy, so we kind of skip the personal growth and the time apart for June and Daniel but get right back into it. The Colonies are attacking and there’s a deadly virus spreading through the public. 

Like I said, I wasn't sure what the last book was going to resolve, especially as the Republic and the Colonies were at war again, but it gave everyone a chance to shine and really put an effort into changing the future of their country.

Still told in dual narrative, we got a balanced story between the two of them and saw things from all sides. It’s a good thing we’re inside both of their heads because if I was only in one of them, or neither, I would not understand either of their motivation! June especially, because with her training she did not display emotion but being inside her head we saw how difficult it was for her, with her brother, with her conflicting feelings for Day, and for Anden. In fact, I think if we weren't inside her head, I wouldn't like June very much. 

Finally, I quite adored the epilogue. It rounded everything up, wrapped things with a cute little bow and gave our couple the happy, hopeful ending they deserved. 

Friday 8 April 2016

The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe

The Appearance of Annie Van SinderenIt’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose petal lips and her entrancing glow. But there’s something about her that he can’t put his finger on that makes him wonder about this intriguing hipster girl from the Village. Why does she use such strange slang? Why does she always seem so reserved and distant? And, most importantly, why does he only seem to run into her on one block near the Bowery? Annie’s hiding something, a dark secret from her past that may be the answer to all of Wes’s questions . . .

Wes is a film student, doing a summer course at NYU that will hopefully let him transfer full time in the autumn. He is busy playing technician for a friend's art film of a seance when he is mystified by a girl in the corner. Thus begins a strange and complicated relationship with Annie. 

I was intrigued by this right from the off; I love a good mystery, add in ghosts, seances and the grit of New York city and I am all over it! Admittedly, it was all a bit strange to start with, it was difficult to see where the story was going but that kind of made it fun. I definitely didn't expect this other girl Maddie to play such an important part, in making Wes open up and in Annie's mysterious story. But she was a very cool counter balance, if you like, a thought-provoking hipster to counter-act Wes's shy nature. 

Told in three parts (Wes, Annie, then Wes and Annie), we see how the two of them connect and weave together across the years and across the city. It was quite satisfying to see how the pieces fitted together by the end. All in all, it was a very clever, funny and moving ghost story that doesn't use the word "ghost".

Published 7th April 2016 by OneWorld Publications. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday 5 April 2016

The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin's life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won't reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.

So, first thing I should mention is that I couldn't remember much from The Sin Eater's Daughter, but luckily I didn't need to. This companion novel is set in the same world but follows another lot of characters as the Sleeping Prince awakens and slowly takes over the land.

Errin lives in a different part of the country, a neighbouring county that values science and logic over magic and lucky talismans. Until the legend that is the Sleeping Prince isn't so legendary anymore and then it's mad panic. I really liked seeing this different part of life; the land and the stories were similar but the people had different values, different priorities and it was really cool to see how they all mixed when the time came.

Errin's partner in crime was Silas, a young man shrouded in mystery who bought Errin's potions. Silas was damn cool - protective, really smart, and an alchemist to boot! This bought a whole lot of really interesting magical explanations for this world and its beliefs. As much as I enjoyed this, it did have a bit of slow start. Nothing major happened in the first half apart from Errin going on the run. The final third or so was the best bit; Errin and Twylla's stories finally met and things blended together and made more sense in the bigger scheme of things. Best of all, it wasn't too rushed but I would have liked to get there sooner. All in all, a great sequel that didn't feel like one and it definitely left me hungry for more from this world.

Published 4th February 2016 by Scholastic.

Sunday 3 April 2016

Weekly Highlights: the 'April TBR' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things!

So, I'm thinking this "weekly" highlights might need re-naming! Anyway, same old news: still working loads, still super tired, still trying to balance life and reading. Good news is that I've got most of this fortnight off for Easter - I do love term-time only contracts! So I'm catching up on reading and online stuff, I've been to the cinema to see Zootropolis (pretty cool!), shopping, and a random road trip to Weston Super Mare. 

On The Blog
Lots of reviews this month, including some of my favourites: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen; Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine; and Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. I was also part of the blog tour for Crush by Eve Ainsworth. 

Currently Reading
As I'm writing on Friday, I'm about halfway through Pride and Prejudice but hopefully I'll have finished it this weekend. Next up is Legend by Marie Lu.

On My Bookshelf
Passenger (Passenger, #1)Passenger by Alexandra Braken
In one devastating night, 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 travelled not just miles but years from home.

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. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, his passenger, can find.

Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveller who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods' grasp. But as they get closer to their target, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home forever.

Paper ButterfliesPaper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield
June's life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one – and a secret one. She is trapped like a butterfly in a net. 
But then June meets Blister, a boy in the woods. In him she recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from her home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom . . . But at what price?

These two are from Netgalley, both of which I am very excited about! Thank you Netgalley!

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Dustwalk is an unforgiving, dead-end town. It's not the place to be poor or orphaned or female. And yet Amani Al'Hiza must call it 'home'.

Amani wants to escape and see the world she's heard about in campfire stories.

Then a foreigner with no name turns up, and with him she has the chance to run. 

But the desert plains are full of dangerous magic. The Sultan's army is on the rise and Amani is soon caught at the heart of a fearless rebellion...

The Novice by Taran Matharu
When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs.

And these two were a treat to myself when I bought Sarah's birthday present (A Court of Thorns and Roses, by the way). I'm really excited about these, I've heard great things about both of them. 

Think Twice by Sarah Mlynowski

What's worse than having telepathy in high school? Having telepathy in high school, and then losing it. When class 10B got their flu shots and developed the unexpected side effect of telepathy, it seemed like the worse thing ever. But two years later, they've got used to their powers. They've even come to like them. And as they prepare to leave school, they're all making exciting plans - plans that involve them being Espies. So when one by one they suddenly begin to lose their powers, they know they can't let it happen. Can they save their telepathy before it's too late? Or will they have to learn how to survive without them once again? 

This was a pure fluke find on a trip into town, but I loved the first book so of course I swooped it right up! 

Then I had a lovely day out in Bath with Sophie and Sara, and we hit all the book stops and this happened. 

Pictured is Never Evers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier, Banished by Liz De Jager, Vixen by Jillian Larkin, and The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud.

April TBR
First up is the next Classic Challenge book: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. Then it will be Passenger, due out over here on the 7th. And then I have a few read-for-pleasure books that I really fancy, mostly Never Evers and Think Twice. Is there anything that I've bought this month you think should be pushed to the top of my TBR?

Friday 1 April 2016

Love Song by Sophia Bennett

Love SongA million girls would kill for the chance to meet The Point, but Nina’s not one of them.

She’s the new assistant to the lead singer’s diva fiancée, and she knows it’s going to suck. She quickly learns that being with the hottest band on the planet isn’t as easy as it looks: behind the scenes, the boys are on the verge of splitting up. Tasked with keeping an eye on four gorgeous but spoiled rock stars, Nina’s determined to stick it out – and not fall for any of them …

Nina hasn't been swept up in the feverish love for this band. Her little sister, however, has so Nina plays the dutiful sibling and takes her to meet them. Fate intervenes and when one of the band's girlfriends dress catches fire, Nina is quick to act and make an impression. Thus her new job as Sigrid's personal assistant.

I really liked this, it was surprisingly down to earth, considering the subject; a crappy relationship had made Nina realistic and tough-skinned so she wasn't going to fall for the band's stunning good looks or bad-boy image. And because of this, Nina was pretty much perfect to look after them, whether it be keep an eye on George's drinking or read to Angus after his nightmares. 

The story was sort of split into two halves, the first with Nina as Sigrid's assistant and the second half when she's been fired and then bought back by their manager. I adored the second half; getting to know the boys in a more neutral environment, even though they'd been tricked into it, was very funny. In this old house in the middle of nowhere, Nina and the boys had the space to be themselves, with no outside interruptions. All in all, it was so sweet, just effortlessly cute and clever, with real relationship and family problems amid the swoon-worthy boy band drama. 

Published 7th April 2016 by Chicken House. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.