Friday 31 March 2017

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard

King's Cage (Red Queen, #3)Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

The third instalment started off pretty slowly; Mare is a prisoner, paraded and used as a puppet for Maven's amusement. Mare is showing signs of PTSD and the longer she is prisoner, the more she seems to show Stockholm Syndrome, being glad to the smallest acts of kindness from Maven. I had forgotten how twisted Maven was, but peeking behind the mask and seeing his weaknesses made the black and white seem grey. It's not his fault that his mother was insane and messed with his head, but now that she's gone, it is entirely Maven's decision to continue acting like her puppet.

Like I said, the book started off slowly, there didn't seem to be a whole lot of plot, which is why it took me so long to read it. However, the character development, especially on Mare and Maven's side, was brilliant and terrifying. While Mare was with Maven in the palace, we had odd chapters from Cameron's perspective, to see what's happening back at camp, and then later on from Evangeline, which was utterly bizarre. Honestly, I couldn't remember Cameron at all, I had no idea who this person was, which ruined things for me a little bit, but the pieces came back together (albeit slowly).

I really enjoyed this, even though it felt so long. The villain dissection with Maven was quite spectacular, even made me feel sorry for him, and Mare went through a lot for the cause, which made up for the whining she was doing in the previous book. The last third made the book for me, the action finally picked up and although there's a long way to go, it felt like the Guard was actually getting somewhere in there fight against the Silvers. Plus, Cal and Mare reached a good point in their relationship, until the last second when someone (Cal) did something stupid, but we'll have to find out the repercussions of that in book four!

Published 7th February 2017 by Harper Teen. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday 28 March 2017

Top Ten Authors I Can't Believe I've Met

A.k.a ten times Anya very nearly made a fool of herself in front of her favourite people. Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Am I Normal Yet? (The Spinster Club, #1)1 - CJ Skuse - I've actually met CJ quite a few times now, twice at YALC and once at my local library. It's gotten to the point where she remembers me, which is both amazing and so sweet! 

2 - Holly Bourne - met Holly twice, both times at YALC, where I was able to get all of her books signed

3 - Rainbow Rowell - the first YALC, at the end of a very long queue, got Attachments and Fangirl signed.

4 - Sarra Manning - at YALC last year (are you sensing a pattern?) where I had a lovely chat with her and got Adorkable and London Belongs To Us signed.

Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1)5 - Sarah J Maas - at Bath's Children Lit Fest last October, I went with Alyce, and I took Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses to get signed. She'd hurt her wrist so her husband was using a stamp for some of the books, which was adorable and I told him so.

6 - Moira Young - I went with Sophie to her book launch in Bath Waterstones for Rebel Heart a few years ago. I talked to her and other book people and had a lot of fun. 

7 - Rachel Caine - another event with Sophie, this time in Bristol for the latest Morganville book, I think it was Fall of Night. We made a day of it, went shopping and had dinner.

8 - Liz Kessler - had a lovely chat with her at the book launch at YALC for Haunt Me, where I got my ARC signed. Didn't stay for very long, it had been a long day and we were exhausted! Lots of fun though.

Remix9 - Non Pratt - I think this only just counts - a couple of fellow bloggers and I got into a chat with her while at YALC last year, just while we were standing at the Barrington Stoke stall. I did get her to sign my tote bag and she was completely charming, considering we sort of ambushed her.

10 - Lucy Saxon - once at YALC, where she was dressed as Celaena from ToG, and once at Bath Kid Lit Fest, where she hosted the Sarah J Maas event. Incidentally, she was a great host, as a fellow fangirl, she asked great questions about Sarah's writing and characters.

Friday 24 March 2017

Dream Loot Crate

Loot Crate is a subscription box company that sends out monthly boxes full of gifts and geeky goodness, so when I learned about the project where I could design my dream crate - what I would like to have appear through the letter box - I jumped at the chance to get creative and so wild!

Now, because I am primarily a book nerd, I have designed my dream crate around an upcoming release that I am really excited for: Wonder Woman by Leigh Bardugo. And with a book like that, what could my theme possibly be other than "Heroines"?

Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1)

Loot Crate boxes typically have a few items that include a figurine, a household item, a comic book and a t-shirt. So that's where I started. The book was done, all sorted, but I couldn't decide on what other heroines I wanted to highlight. Marvel and DC are obvious choices and lo and behold:

The Mighty Heroines of Marvel blanket, Captain Marvel mug, Wonder Woman print. I think that covers a few good choices of women to aspire to!

I had to get some other fandoms in there so I found Hermione Granger's wand as a necklace, an Emma Swan pop vinyl and Rey's cuff bracelet.

The images I've used are real items for sale and I think can be found on a few different sites - these are just for ideas and to demonstrate what I had in mind.

Some other ideas but I couldn't find anything specific were: the X-men, the Scarlet Witch, the Black Widow, Agent Carter (all from Marvel), Merida from Disney's Brave, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Daenerys from Game of Thrones. As this is make-believe, I could go mad and say I'd like to include Dany's dragons, Buffy's stakes (and maybe Giles' library), Storm's mutant powers or at least her keys to the School, Peggy Carter's wardrobe... this could go on for a while!

Thank you to Loot Crate for inspiring me to create this post and let me know if there's anything you'd like in a Crate.

Wednesday 22 March 2017

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

The Upside of UnrequitedSeventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love-she's lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can't stomach the idea of rejection. So she's careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie's orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly's cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness-except for the part where she is.

Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny, flirtatious, and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.

There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's an awkward Tolkien superfan, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I loved her first book, and this was just as funny and as diverse, and I loved it. We are dropped right into Molly's world of weirdness, with her much braver twin sister, her supportive mums, her best friends and her new job that puts her in the path of Reid. 

I saw so much of myself in Molly - maybe not so much in the ridiculous amount of crushes, but definitely the fear of putting yourself out there and being the complete opposite of confident with your body. Molly has had a total of 26 crushes, spanning the years and the types, but it's only now that she thinks maybe she could put herself out there and actually tell them she likes them. 

So the love interests. Technically we met Will first but as he was the friend of the girl Molly was pushing towards her twin Cassie, all Molly noticed was he was hipster hot. Then we met Reid, the geeky and sweet boy who works in the shop with her. I was rooting for Reid from the get-go. Molly never really seemed all that interested in Will, it was more like an acknowledgement that he was attractive. Not to mention there was plenty of mixed messages with Will, between being too drunk or too worried.

When Cassie gets together with Mina, not only is it super adorable, but it also marks the end of an era with Molly and Cassie. They have always been each other's first call but this is the sucky part of growing up, that it's not like it was when you're young; first loves and getting older changes the relationships you have, especially with siblings and parents. And it did take some adjusting but Molly's anxiety makes her see things as worse than they are, so there is some harsh and bitter fights for a time. Ah, family.

Now, I can't not mention all of the diversity! Multiple homosexual characters, pansexual love interest (for Cassie), anxious protagonist (who happened to be fat and love food - but no body shaming!), black characters, bisexual characters, Jewish characters - and then a same-sex wedding! All of this squished just effortlessly into a heartwarming coming of age story that also discusses love, sex, feminism, inequality with racism and sexism, and mental health. A great story that has just about everything, and one that has sky-rocketed to the top of my favourites. 

Published 11th April 2017 by Penguin. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday 21 March 2017

Top Ten Books to Read The Day Away

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

Some books you just can't put down, and I have a little list of some of my favourite books to curl up with and spend the day reading (preferably in bed, with a cup of tea). These are in no particular order. 

1 - The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
A perfect and lovely contemporary with lots of diversity and hilarious characters, I did read this one super quickly anyway, just because I couldn't stop! By the way, my review of this will be going up tomorrow so check back to hear more thoughts!

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)
2 - Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Told in various formats, from transcripts to drawings, this is one of my favourite books ever and I would be perfectly happy to re-read the whole thing in one go - all 600 pages - and get some more AIDAN.

3 - A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard 
Another rom-com but with a diverse twist - Rhys is hard of hearing and Steffi has selective mutism. One of the greatest love stories I've ever read. 

4 - London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning
So funny, as per usual from Manning, and set over 24 hours spanning the city of London.

5 - Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
An incredible book with hilarious and relatable characters, Oseman just gets what it's like being a teenager.

6 - The Next Together by Lauren James
Carry OnSo many time periods, so little time! Time travelling, super computers, a love story that defies it all - what's not to love? 

7 - Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Over 500 pages and I read it in two days the first time, I'd love to curl up and re-read this magical tale.

8 - Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon 
Originally read it in a day, it was so easy to read and so damn sweet, I'd love to read it again. Ironic to spend a day in bed reading about a girl who can't to go outside? Probably.

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)9 - Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Do I even need to say anything? Come on, it's Cinder! Who wouldn't want to spend a day reading about this bad ass cyborg?

10 - I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson
Told between two twins, past and present, this is a beautiful and heartbreaking story about love and family. Definitely one to read all in one go and let the emotions wash over you.

Let me know if there are any books you'd love to spend the day reading, if you agree with my choices or think there any I should have considered.

Friday 17 March 2017

Guest Post: Moondust's Gemma Fowler


Fed up with reality? Create your own.

I have a very low tolerance of reality. I think it’s the reason I wanted to become a writer. It’s definitely the reason I chose to write sci-fi and fantasy stories. Why write about this familiar old world when you can escape into your very own?

World-building is my absolute favourite thing to do. I’m filled with glee at the prospect of building and crafting a detailed alternative society with its own quirks and traditions, and then setting about slowly destroying it. *evil laugh*

The world I built for Moondust is a reflection of our own: a future Earth that feels familiar and strange at the same time. I wanted to tackle issues that we might actually face one day – like the energy crisis – but I also wanted the United Earth to have an otherworldly quality, a style, for want of a better word.

Colour is a huge part of Moondust’s world. Lunar Inc’s ‘rainbow’ was one of the first things I had in my head. Before the story, before Aggie, I imagined a colossal lunar base covered in bright, bold, intimidating colours under an oppressive black sky. I used that feeling to test characters and scenes as I got down to writing. If a person or a setting wasn’t in keeping with Moondust’s rainbow feel, it (or they) didn’t make the cut.

Building a world is so much more than the words and scenes that make it into the final edit. You need to colour your world in other ways, give it its own history and culture. I didn’t realise this would lead to mood boards and maps and logos for things that readers will probably never encounter (well, maybe you don’t have to do the logos, but I did).

For example, I can tell you that Seb’s favourite band is called Sonic Nugget and they sound like kitchen utensils being thrown down a spiral staircase. The frozen custard brand that Aggie and Seb love so much is called Pluto’s, and they serve their desserts upside down to show how thick the mixture is (something I stole from a real frozen custard place called Ted Drewes in St Louis).

Keeping track of all these details can make your brain feel like it’s in a blender.  So I created my own ‘Lunarpedia’, documenting the history of the United Earth, of FALL, and of Lunar Inc. I’ve written the word count of Moondust over again just to fill in the blanks in a complex history of a world that only exists in my head. How awesome (and exhausting) is that?

The United Earth, Aggie and the Lunar Inc. base lived in my head until March 2nd, when Moondust finally made it out into the world. Creating a world is good, but sharing it with readers is just amazing.

Mood board alert! You can check out my Moondust boards on Pinterest here:

Gemma Fowler is the author of Moondust, out now, priced £6.99.

Find out more about Moondust here or follow Gemma on Twitter.

Tuesday 14 March 2017

Top Ten Books On My Spring TBR

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday, created by The Broke and The Bookish, where this week I will be listing the books on my Spring TBR. The list will be split into two: one for books I already own, and one for books that I do not but plan to as soon as humanly possible. 

WindfallAlready own:
Windfall by Jennifer E Smith - another review book, this time from Pan Macmillan, I am ridiculously excited about this, I have loved all of her previous books and this one is coming out early May. 

The Circus by Olivia Levez - an early review copy from Rock The Boat, I really liked Olivia's first book and this one actually sounds even better.

Replica by Lauren Oliver - picked up in a charity shop before Christmas, I would like to tackle this monster soon.

Suicide Squad: Kicked in the Teeth by Adam Glass - I know, I've been saying I'm going to read this for months but this time I actually mean it!

Desperately want in my hands:
Doing It by Hannah Witton - I've been watching Hannah's YouTube channel avidly for a while now and I am so excited to read her book, all about sex and relationships. This is coming out 6th April.

Into the Fire (Night Prince, #4)Into The Fire by Jeaniene Frost - the finale of the Night Prince series, I've been holding my breath for this for over a year and it's just come out but I'm poor and can't buy a copy yet and that makes me unbelievably sad. But soon!

The Wicked and the Divine vol 3 by Kieron Gillen - I'm really enjoying this graphic novel series, slowly plodding my way through them. 

Burn for Me by Ilona Andrews - I've seen loads of great reviews for Ilona's books and I can't believe I haven't read any yet! I plan on starting with her latest series. 

The Deal by Elle Kennedy - just something I've had my eye on for a while, a fresh NA contemporary that looks very funny and hot. 

Wires and Nerves by Marissa Meyer - published late January in the States, I don't think it's being published over here (or not yet) but a side story about Iko? I am all over that!

Friday 10 March 2017

The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury

The Scarecrow Queen (The Sin Eater’s Daughter, #3)

The final battle is coming . . .

As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . . .

Warning: spoilers for previous books, and possibly some minor ones for book three.

This is the epic finale, one that I've been waiting eagerly for, and it did not disappoint. Told in joint perspectives between Twylla and Errin, we see the multiple angles planning for the war, with Errin in the castle and Twylla on the front lines. All these characters, the girls especially, have grown so much, seen so much that has changed them and they've had to change with it, and I' so happy with their ending. 

Errin is being held captive at the castle by Aurek, who has a little doll of her that he uses to control her. Silas is being forced to make the Elixir and Lief is Aurek's right-hand man, hunting down resistance. Meanwhile, Twylla is on the run and trying to find help to overpower Aurek's rule. Not a great start to the revolution but Twylla becomes the symbol of hope when she used to be for death, and it's a great turn around and development for her character. I just loved to see her face her fears and become the leader that everyone knew she could be.

We also see the return of Merek, the supposedly dead prince, who helps Errin escape and joins the rebellion - I can remember liking Merek in book one and he really comes into his own here; as the rightful king, he has that natural leadership and power but wants what is best of his people. He also wants Twylla, which was utterly adorable, as they both have bigger concerns but their attraction was electric. 

Everything was pulled together, all the different story lines tied up, as well as a somewhat hopeful new start for the kingdom. Salisbury's writing just flowed, I had actually forgotten how good her writing was but I fell right back into it, her almost lyrical descriptions and beyond complicated and dark characters. It was the perfect ending to this story.

Published 2nd March 2017 by Scholastic.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Weekly Highlights: the 'March 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!

March already! Thank god, it's getting warmer and brighter! I haven't been all that good with blogging and reading recently, too many things happening in my personal life that is taking up all my brain power. Hopefully, it won't last much longer but that's why I haven't been around that much. Anyway, here's to a better reading month ahead!

On The Blog
Review of Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Review of Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt
Discussion: Top Hate-to-Love Stories
Review of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber
Review of Moondust by Gemma Fowler

Currently Reading
The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury - it's taking me a while, my mind just isn't in the mood for reading at the moment, but it is very good!

On My Bookshelf
The CircusThe Circus by Olivia Levez
Why 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?

An unsolicited review copy that appeared on my doorstep, I am none the less really excited because I enjoyed Olivia's first book and this one sounds very entertaining. Thank you One World!

King's Cage by Victoria Aveyard
King's Cage (Red Queen, #3)Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother's web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner.

As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare's heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back.

When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.

It took me too long to realise that book three was on Netgalley but once I did, I snapped it up! Details are foggy on previous books but I can't wait to see what in store for Mare next. Thank you Harper and Netgalley!

WindfallWindfall by Jennifer E Smith
Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. 

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. 

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

This past month I bought Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton and The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury. And from the library, I borrowed Spectacles by Sue Perkins and Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett. 

March TBR
Library books are first, obviously, I never return late. I would like to read The King's Cage, before I get spoiled. And as for review books, The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli is due out early April. Let me know what you're planning on reading this month. 

Friday 3 March 2017

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Traitor to the Throne (Rebel of the Sands #2)This is not about blood or love. This is about treason.

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince's message has spread across the desert - and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruellest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl's instinct for survival. For the Sultan's palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper's nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive... But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani's past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.

This is the sequel to the amazing Rebel of the Sands, but with a very different feel. Luckily, I loved it and the different pace and setting just added to the world-building. Hamilton has once again proved her excellent story telling skills and added a complicated plot. There was also a mad mix of characters, including a few more and the re-emergence of some old faces, but not nearly enough Jin!

As Amani is in the palace, being held hostage, she is able to play victim and send information back to the rebel camp. In doing so, she comes to understand more about the hierarchy and power trips in the palace. She also gets in close with the Sultan, who was such an interesting character. We already knew he was a bit of a douche in book one but seeing him face to face and actually getting to know him, Amani starts to feel conflicted because he actually does just want what is best for his country. It turns out he's doing it all wrong, but still! The fact that is it wasn't all in black and white, and giving the villain a heart was very clever and well written. 

The ending made me cry - just a warning! After most of the book was a game of political and magical cat and mouse, the final battle for escape was gut-wrenching. What I loved most about this book was that it didn't feel like a filler; even though the pace had slowed down compared to the first book, Amani was learning things about the rebellion and herself, moving the plot and character development along nicely. 

I adored this book - I know there are some very mixed reviews out there, and while I did miss the gun-slinging action of book one, I really loved the political games and the development of the magical lore in this book. I did miss Jin though, but I think Amani proved herself in this one, cut off from her support but still determined to help the rebels and her friends, even at risk to her own life. With everything set up for the finale, all I can say is: bring it on!

Published 2nd February 2017 by Faber and Faber.