Thursday, 25 May 2017

The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies, Glenn Song

She wanted to go back to her tower room and absorb herself in her stacks of algebra
Alicia Reynard, a country farm girl, has dreamed of flying like a bird as long as she can remember. For her, these dreams have become a quest to build a flying steam carriage. Lady Elena Singleton, a young noblewoman, is in love with mathematics and the new field of mechanical computation. When their country Maedrelleden goes to war with their northern neighbor, Vergenstat, the men are conscripted to fight for king and country. In their absence, an opportunity arises for these two very different women to gain a higher education in the capital of Aeterall. Will this chance be the opportunity to unlock their potential and ingenuity?

The Mechanical Bird: A Tale of Two Ladies is, as far as I can gather, a whole book chopped into thirds. Whilst it is the length of a novella it is not a novella in the sense that it does not contain a complete story arc and so, whilst I enjoyed the characters and the direction that this book was taking, I'm not quite sure why the author chose to publish his work thus, which is why I have left this book unrated.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

[article] Five Upcoming Fantasy & Sci-fi Under-the-Radar Releases, 2017

Robin Hobb's Realm of the Elderlings books are my all-time favourite fantasy series

Five Upcoming Fantasy & Sci-fi Under-the-Radar Releases

Or, Five Books That Sound Really Cool That You Probably Haven't Heard Of

I get a good chunk of my reading recommendations from Goodreads and for some reason the majority of my friends on there read YA rather than adult fantasy or sci-fi. So to find those awesome adult / older teen fantasy novels (think Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn or The Way of Kings), I normally have to do a bit of digging, often at the back of a charity shop. So I've compiled a list of five fantasy and sci-fi novels coming out later this year that I've got my eye on that I don't think are particularly well known. 

Sunday, 21 May 2017

The Boy With The Porcelain Blade, Den Patrick

Vanity is always the first casualty of survival
Lucien de Fontein has grown up different. One of the mysterious and misshapen Orfano who appear around the Kingdom of Landfall, he is a talented fighter yet constantly lonely, tormented by his deformity, and well aware that he is a mere pawn in a political game. Ruled by an insane King and the venomous Majordomo, it is a world where corruption and decay are deeply rooted - but to a degree Lucien never dreams possible when he first discovers the plight of the 'insane' women kept in the haunting Sanatoria.

Told in a continuous narrative interspersed with flashbacks we see Lucien grow up under the care of his tutors. We watch him forced through rigorous Testings, and fall in love, set against his yearning to discover where he comes from, and how his fate is tied to that of every one of the deformed Orfano in the Kingdom, and of the eerie Sanatoria itself

* * *
3 / 5 

I picked up The Boy With The Porcelain Blade from the library on a whim, mostly because the cover was nice and the title sounded a bit intriguing. For the first half or so I was rather underwhelmed, annoyed partly by constant switching back and forward in time and partly by the arrogant main character, Lucien. But slowly the book started to grow on me as the characters got fleshed out more and the action started building momentum. 

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Assassin's Fate (Fitz & the Fool #3), Robin Hobb

"Don't doubt us, or we are lost."
"Fitz, my love, that is the problem. I do not doubt Bee's dreams at all" 

Prince FitzChivalry Farseer’s daughter Bee was violently abducted from Withywoods by Servants of the Four in their search for the Unexpected Son, foretold to wield great power. With Fitz in pursuit, the Servants fled through a Skill-pillar, leaving no trace. It seems certain that they and their young hostage have perished in the Skill-river.

Clerres, where White Prophets were trained by the Servants to set the world on a better path, has been corrupted by greed. Fitz is determined to reach the city and take vengeance on the Four, not only for the loss of Bee but also for their torture of the Fool. Accompanied by FitzVigilant, son of the assassin Chade, Chade’s protégé Spark and the stableboy Perseverance, Bee's only friend, their journey will take them from the Elderling city of Kelsingra, down the perilous Rain Wild River, and on to the Pirate Isles.

Their mission for revenge will become a voyage of discovery, as well as of reunions, transformations and heartrending shocks. Startling answers to old mysteries are revealed. What became of the liveships Paragon and Vivacia and their crews? What is the origin of the Others and their eerie beach? How are liveships and dragons connected?

*this review contains mild spoilers for all previous Robin Hobb books*

* * * * *
5 / 5

I don't really have the words to say how much this series, these books, these characters have meant to me. But I will, nevertheless, try my best. I read Assassin's Apprentice when I was thirteen years old, and I genuinely believe that it changed my life, so when Robin Hobb announced that she would be writing the Fitz & the Fool trilogy a few years back, I was absolutely delighted. Whilst I enjoyed Fool's Assassin and Fool's Quest, they pale next to this stunning conclusion. Mostly, this is a result of a clear plot direction and the reunion of FitzChivalry and Beloved.   

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Under Rose-Tainted Skies, Louise Gornall

"I'm being forced to challenge ideas that have kept me safe for so long"
At seventeen, Norah has accepted that the four walls of her house delineate her life. She knows that fearing everything from inland tsunamis to odd numbers is irrational, but her mind insists the world outside is too big, too dangerous. So she stays safe inside, watching others’ lives through her windows and social media feed.

But when Luke arrives on her doorstep, he doesn’t see a girl defined by medical terms and mental health. Instead, he sees a girl who is funny, smart, and brave. And Norah likes what he sees.

Their friendship turns deeper, but Norah knows Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can walk beneath the open sky. One who is unafraid of kissing. One who isn’t so screwed up. Can she let him go for his own good—or can Norah learn to see herself through Luke’s eyes?

* * 
2 / 5 

Under Rose-Tainted Skies has taught me two things: firstly, to read the backs of books properly in order to correctly identify a YA romance, rather than a general YA book. Secondly, that YA romances are just not my thing. Whilst Under Rose-Tainted Skies has an insightful and respectful portrayal of various types of mental health issues (OCD, agoraphobia, anxiety), the book feels directionless and the romance falls flat. 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

The Selection (The Selection #1), Kiera Cass

"No, I'm not choosing him or you. I'm choosing me."
For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn't want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she's made for herself—and realizes that the life she's always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

* .5
1.5 / 5

I didn't really expect to enjoy The Selection, but I was hoping it would be enjoyable in the same sort of way that Made in Chelsea is enjoyable - it's complete and utter trash, but it's fun trash. But most of the time The Selection isn't really that fun. It's key flaw, I think, is that it tries to be serious. If it had owned the fact that it's a weird Hunger Games parody, it might have been more enjoyable.

Monday, 15 May 2017

[article] Five Upcoming YA Under-the-Radar Releases, 2017

Five Upcoming YA Under-the-Radar Releases

Or, Five Books That Sound Really Cool That You Probably Haven't Heard Of

Like a lot of readers, I get many of my book recommendations from my friends or from Goodreads. What that means is that a lot of the books I preorder or get excited for in advance are popular books - the hype on my dashboard surrounding A Court of Wings and Ruin would be a good example. This means that, unfortunately, whilst the hype machine can pick up wonderful reads that I might not have otherwise tried, a lot of great books slip under the metaphorical radar. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Joyride Vol #1, Jackson Lanzing

Earth sucks. Steal a spaceship.
Earth sucks. The stars have been blocked out for so long that people have forgotten there was anything else besides the World Government Alliance watching over them. When Uma Akkolyte jacks an alien spaceship and punches through the stratosphere she sets forth on an adventure with an unlikely crew who are totally not ready for all the good, bad, and weird the universe will throw at them.
* * * *
4 / 5

Joyous and beautiful, Joyride #1 is an excellent start to a comic series.  Uma Akkolyte, fed up with her life on a tyrannically ruled Earth that has forbidden interstellar travel, steals an alien spaceship and sets out to explore the stars with her friend Dewydd, a robot, an alien they pick up on a nearby planet, and a surprise guest in the form of the Princess of Earth, Caitlin. I absolutely loved the crew and their dynamics.

Friday, 12 May 2017

Welcome Back #1, Christopher Sebela

Mali and Tessa have lived hundreds of different lives throughout time, caught up in an eternal cycle as they take part in a war so old that neither side remembers what they’re fighting for anymore. As Mali wakes up in her newest life, she suddenly becomes self-aware and starts to question everything, especially why she continues to fight. But elsewhere, Tessa is already on the hunt
* * * 
3 / 5

Welcome Back is a graphic novel, the first book comprising of 4 issues. I don't often read graphic novels, but this one was a fun foray into the genre. I was entirely attracted by the plot: Mali and Tessa have lived hundreds of lives and each life they have only one goal: to kill the other. Lifetime after lifetime they have fought, for so long they can't ever remember why, only that they must. But now, Mali is having doubts. 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Den of Shadows, Christopher Byford

"I can't stand the idea of not being in control, that something is pulling my strings to reach a destiny I can't influence" 

While fighting off poverty in the blistering desert heat a travelling casino offers one night of solace. One night to forget all your troubles. But once on board there is more to the show than meets the eye: enter Franco, the elaborate ringleader, Wyld the stowaway thief and Misu the fire breathing showgirl.

In a kingdom ruled by the law Franco ensures his den remains in line, ruling with an iron first. But when he’s faced with saving the fate of the train, and those on board, he may be forced to break his own rules. Life on the den isn’t just a job but a way of life. And now you’re about to find out why!

* * 
2 / 5

This book took me on such a roller-coaster ride of feelings. It has such a promising and solid start that I thought it would a 4 or 5 star read for sure. Then it sort of plodded along aimlessly, picked up a bit near the middle with some Western-vibe gunfights and political malarky, then shuffled to the end of the book. Den of Shadows could absolutely work for you if you like slow-paced, character study-esque novels, but unfortunately I found it rather underwhelming.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Spellslinger, Sebastien de Castell

"Tricks are all I have." I said. "Clever. The boy always seeks to be clever."

Kellen is moments away from facing his first mage's duel and the start of four trials that will make him a spellcaster. There's just one problem: his magic is gone.

As his sixteenth birthday approaches, Kellen falls back on his cunning in a bid to avoid total disgrace. But when a daring stranger arrives in town, she challenges Kellen to take a different path. 

Ferius Parfax is one of the mysterious Argosi - a traveller who lives by her wits and the three decks of cards she carries. She's difficult and unpredictable, but she may be Kellen's only hope...

* * * * .5
4.5 / 5

Kellen is supposed to be earning his mage name; on the cusp of turning sixteen, if he doesn't pass the four trials he'll be relegated to the life of a servant. The problem? He doesn't have any magic any more. It doesn't help that his father is the most powerful mage of their people and his sister, barely thirteen, is already passing all of her trials. This is an absolutely wonderful book that grabbed me from the very first page.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Hit The Ground Running, Mark Burley

"Dudes, seriously, what's the plan?" asked Lakey
Eric might not be getting along with his family—or anyone else, for that matter—but he's pretty sure a boarding school in another country isn't the answer. Skilled in parkour, running helps him deal. So be it, he decides. Do the time and get out. Flow like water. But when he gets a cryptic message from his brother telling him their parents have been abducted, and then his brother disappears, he realises they weren't punishing him, they were hiding him. 
To find them, Eric has to discover the secrets of his parents' research, but the conspiracy he uncovers threatens more than just his family. With help from unlikely new friends, a hack-first-ask-questions-later approach to computers, and a dangerous plan, he soon learns that some secrets don’t want to be found, and others have a way of revealing themselves at all the wrong times.

* * *
3 / 5 

Eric gets a mysterious video message from his brother that ends in his apparent kidnapping. Unsure if this is a joke or not, Eric recruits fellow schoolmates Tess, Seth, and Lakey, to help him investigate. We get pulled into the web of mysteries that surrounds Eric, his brother, their parents and their team's latest archaeological dig in Libya. Hit the Ground Running is well written and the characters are great, but the action is predictable and the mystery bizarre.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Girlhood, Cat Clarke

I do believe in forgiveness - for other people. If only it were as simple to forgive yourself. 
Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; the kind of girls who Harper knows have her back. But Harper can't escape the guilt of her twin sister's Jenna's death, and her own part in it - and she knows noone else will ever really understand.

But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Harper finally feels secure. She finally feels...loved. As if she can grow beyond the person she was when Jenna died. Then Kirsty's behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper's? And why is she so obsessed with Harper's lost sister? Soon, Harper's closeness with Kirsty begins to threaten her other relationships, and her own sense of identity.

* * * * 
4 / 5 

Girlhood was a bit of a surprising read. It's less thriller than I thought it might be, but still had that compulsive quality where I found myself flicking pages as fast as possible to find out what was happening. In some ways, Girlhood is a very typical girl's boarding school tale about a group of female friends that starts to fall apart as secrets are revealed, in other ways it's a very good and frank examination of loss, grief, friendship, and family, and one that I highly recommend.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Love and Vandalism, Laurie Crompton

I roar and scream again and again until all the lions are overcome by my passion
Rory has a secret: she’s the vandal who paints graffiti lions all over her small town. If her policeman dad knew, he’d probably disown her. So when Hayes, a former screw-up on the path to recovery, catches her in the act, Rory’s sure she’s busted. Instead, he makes her a deal. If Rory shows him around town, he won’t turn her in. It might be coercion, but at least the boy is hot.  

As they spend more time together, Rory worries she made the wrong choice. Hayes has a way of making her want things she shouldn't want and feel emotions she's tried to bury. Rory's going to have to distance herself from Hayes or confront a secret she can't bring herself to face...

* * 
2 / 5

This was an odd book. It had one spectacular twist and some exploration of art, mental health, alcoholism, family relationships and the like, but there was also a whole load of eye rolling on my part and cringe-worthy scenes. Love and Vandalism is, in essence, a romance story. 

Monday, 1 May 2017

[challenge] Clean Sweep ARC

Clean Sweep ARC Challenge

Or, My Attempt To Raise That Netgalley Review Percentage

This month I will be participating in caffeinatedbookreviewer's Clean Sweep ARC Challenge. I will attempt to read as many ARCs, in my case from Netgalley, as possible in this month of May. These will all be eARCs read on my Kindle and will be mostly of the YA and fantasy genres. Because I have my university exams at the end of the month, my goals here are modest.

You can read the full rules and join in the fun yourself <here>. 

[article] April Round Up

I finally made proper use of my local library for this month's reading

April Round Up

I can't believe we are already a third of the way through the year! I've had a pretty great month - three weeks off of university for Easter and a week back hiking up for summer exams at the end of May. This unfortunately coincides with the release date of a lot of ARC's in my possession, so I've been frantically trying to read those this month. Because I read so many books in April, twenty three to be precise, I'm trying out a new format for my reading round up posts in order to keep it shorter. Let me know if you prefer this way or not! 

Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Winner's Curse, Marie Rutkoski

He knew the law of such things: people in brightly lit places cannot see into the dark
As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

* * .5
2.5 / 5 

The Winner's Curse was much better than I had feared, but still managed to do virtually nothing for the first 250+ pages. When the action finally starts, it is fast paced and exciting, but before that we are subjected to Kestrel whinging about her life, playing piano, and going to lots of parties whilst Arin either mopes or sneaks around. The series does show potential, however, and I was particularly pleased with how it ended.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1), Alwyn Hamilton

It never mattered to me if they were true. They had enough truth of greater ideas, of heroes and sacrifice and the things everybody wanted to be. 
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.
* * * 
3 / 5

I'll admit it. I had very high hopes for Rebel of the Sands and I was initially quite disappointed, right up until 2/3 of the way through. The setting and mythology were lush, the characters were spunky, but Rebel of the Sands was missing the spark that makes a book memorable and good. Then, suddenly, it was everything I wanted but there was only a hundred pages left! 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Noteworthy, Riley Redgate

As I stood there in that derelict husk of a theatre, I felt like I'd got lost in between my lives, and the road ahead looked long and strange and poorly lit. 
It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped ... revered ... all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

* * * *
4 / 5

I know nothing about a cappella beyond watching Pitch Perfect and literally nothing about performing arts schools. Despite this, Noteworthy was an absolute treat. The main character, Jordan Sun, disparaged by not making the musical for the third year running, disguises herself as a guy and auditions for the Sharpshooters, an all-male a cappella octet. Soon her life splits in two: one half concerned with passing her classes and making sure no one connects Jordan Sun and Julian Zhang, and the other half diving into the world of a cappella and the Sharps boys. Noteworthy is funny, mature, and deals sensitively with topics like the differences in male and female socialisation, being gay and bisexual, and chasing your dreams. The vibe in the Sharpshooters is a little like The Raven Boys, so if you liked that dynamic, try Noteworthy!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

[article] Three Months of Blogging

I went back home for the holidays to the glorious countryside

Three Month Blog-versary

Today is the three month anniversary of my blog, Atlas Rising Books, which is super awesome for me. I'm not very good at picking up new hobbies, to be honest. I'll get very excited and passionate about something for a couple of weeks - like going running or taking up embroidery - and then my interest will drop off and I'll try something else. So it take a fair bit of perseverance for me to cement a new interest into my day-to-day life. And blogging definitely takes up a fair chunk of time and managing my ARCs even more so - there's writing reviews, writing other reading articles, a touch of research, taking (not great) photos, cross-posting reviews to Goodreads, Netgalley, and Amazon; it all takes a good bit of my time. But I've also found it super rewarding!

So in honour of my three month blogging milestone, I'm going to write a little about a few of the things I've learned whilst blogging, a couple of tricks I've picked up, and a few things I'm excited for. 

Monday, 24 April 2017

Ten Birthdays, Kerry Wilkinson

My dearest Poppy, I've wondered for a long time whether I should do this. That this might be a selfish act because I want to somehow live on in your life. I honestly don't know any longer.

It’s Poppy Kinsey’s birthday. She should be blowing out candles and opening presents – but hers falls on the type of heart-wrenching, agonising anniversary she would far rather forget. 
The worst day of them all. The day her mother died.

But this year is special because the person she misses most in the world has left her a set of letters, one for each of her next ten birthdays. As Poppy opens them year by year, she discovers that no matter how tough life gets, her mum will always be by her side, guiding her along the way.
* * * 
3 / 5 

Ten Birthdays is a poignant story about grief and growing older. Poppy Kinsey's mother died on her fifteenth birthday, leaving Poppy and her dad behind to live in a little village just outside Bristol. Poppy's mother left behind ten letters, one for each of Poppy's birthdays. The book follows Poppy through each of these birthdays as she and the people around her grow older and change from year to year.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Grendel's Guide to Love and War, A. E. Kaplan

"Tom no," Zip said. "Tom," I said, "yes."
Tom Grendel lives a quiet life—writing in his notebooks, mowing lawns for his elderly neighbors, and pining for Willow, a girl next door who rejects the “manic-pixie-dream” label. But when Willow’s brother, Rex (the bro-iest bro ever to don a jockstrap), starts throwing wild parties, the idyllic senior citizens’ community where they live is transformed into a war zone. Tom is rightfully pissed—his dad is an Iraq vet, and the noise from the parties triggers his PTSD—so he comes up with a plan to end the parties for good. But of course, it’s not that simple.

One retaliation leads to another, and things quickly escalate out of control, driving Tom and Willow apart, even as the parties continue unabated. Add to that an angsty existential crisis born of selectively reading his sister’s Philosophy 101 coursework, a botched break-in at an artisanal pig farm, and ten years of unresolved baggage stemming from his mother’s death…and the question isn’t so much whether Tom Grendel will win the day and get the girl, but whether he’ll survive intact. 
* * * * *
5 / 5

This book managed to be a hilarious, witty, endearing and slightly heartbreaking page turner all at once. I was thoroughly impressed. This book had such a solid main cast from Tom Grendel himself, lawn mower and interviewer of old ladies, to his wild actress sister Zip, best friend Ed, and unruly teenagers next door, Willow and Rex (bro-iest bro ever to bro). It also managed to be so lighthearted and genuinely funny whilst touching on some serious topics.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Unknown Horizons, C J Birch

I don't know what it is, but there's something comforting about cruising through space wrapped in the certainty that you're sometimes only inches from the utter stillness of space
The moment Lieutenant Alison Ash steps aboard the Persephone, she knows her life will never be the same. She will never again watch the sun rise over the asteroid belt, never again see Earth from a handheld telescope, and never again see her family.

In less than three weeks, the ship will dock at the Posterus and begin the most important journey humankind has ever undertaken. More important than discovering fire, creating language, or even abandoning Earth to live confined in biospheres among the asteroid belt over 100 years ago.

What Ash doesn’t expect is that by keeping her recent memory loss a secret she is jeopardizing not only the Persephone’s mission but humankind’s launch of the first ever generational ship. Nor does she anticipate her attraction to Captain Jordan Kellow, but both will change her life forever.
* * * 
3 / 5 

Unknown Horizons absolutely nails some good sci-fi staples: an officer aboard a starship, a mission to help save humanity, a sort-of savage mech race, some religious aspects, and a nice romance. Lieutenant Alison "Ali" Ash has memory loss, a fact she conceal from Captain Jordan Kellow when she boards her vessel Persephone, en route to the Posterus, the first multigenerational ship setting sail for new habitable planets. As Ash alienates almost all of the crew, stranger things keep happening to her.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Radio Silence, Alice Oseman

Hello. I hope somebody is listening.
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

* * * * *
5 / 5 

A phenomenal contemporary read. Oseman perfectly captures what it is to be a British teenager on the cusp of attending (or not) university, struggling to separate who you are and who you want to be from what other people want you to be, but also from who you thought you ought to be for so long that it has become who you are. It seamlessly blends in social media, friendships, understanding your own sexuality, and a beautiful podcast: Universe City.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Girls Can't Hit, Tom Easton

I'd trained hard too. Bonita may have thought I was some useless piece of dental floss, who'd never worked hard for anything, but she was wrong. I'd run, I'd cycled, I'd lifted weights over and over until I hated the sight of the damn things.
Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously - until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She's the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting . . . but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction. So she goes back the next week, determined to improve.

Fleur's overprotective mum can't abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring, why won't she join her pilates class instead? Her friends don't get it either and even her boyfriend, 'Prince' George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite - but it's Fleur's body, Fleur's life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training. When she finally makes it into the ring, her friends and family show their support and Fleur realises that sometimes in life it's better to drop your guard and take a wild swing!
* * * *
4 / 5

Girls Can't Hit is a lovely, emotional, and heart warming story about boxing, friendship, family relationships, and knowing when to fight. Fleur Waters takes up boxing to prove a point and ends up loving it, despite everyone trying to stand in her way. It's about Fleur changing as a person, growing into someone she never thought that she could be and finding she loves it. Only problem is her mother hates her hobby, her boyfriend thinks she's getting too masculine, and her friends think she's becoming too distant. Awkward. 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Strawberry Summer, Melissa Brayden

On the drive back to my house, I blared the radio and smiled at this new development in my once boring and uneventful life. Courtney Carrington had come to town.
Margaret Beringer didn’t have an easy adolescence. She hated her name, was less than popular in school, and was always cast aside as a “farm kid.” However, with the arrival of Courtney Carrington, Margaret’s youth sparked into color. Courtney was smart, beautiful, and put together—everything Margaret wasn’t. Who would have imagined that they’d fit together so perfectly?

But first loves can scar.

Margaret hasn’t seen Courtney in years and that’s for the best. But when Courtney loses her father and returns to Tanner Peak to take control of the family store, Margaret comes face-to-face with her past and the woman she’s tried desperately to forget. The fact that Courtney has grown up more beautiful than ever certainly doesn’t help matters.

* * * * *
5 / 5

Perfect. This novel had absolutely everything I wanted and then some on top of that. It made me cry at least twice. Strawberry Summer was my first venture into Melissa Brayden's work and now I'm off to go get my hands on some more (I'm thinking First Position). This book has some well-loved tropes, two sparkling female leads and a host of loveable background characters, and more than its fair share of emotional moments. Strawberry Summer is a heartwarming and heartbreaking lesbian novel that is bound to be an absolute hit.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Hyperbole and a Half, Allie Brosh

“I had tasted cake and there was no going back. My tiny body had morphed into a writhing mass of pure tenacity encased in a layer of desperation. I would eat all of the cake or I would evaporate from the sheer power of my desire to eat it.”
This is a book I wrote. Because I wrote it, I had to figure out what to put on the back cover to explain what it is. I tried to write a long, third-person summary that would imply how great the book is and also sound vaguely authoritative--like maybe someone who isn’t me wrote it--but I soon discovered that I’m not sneaky enough to pull it off convincingly. 

* * * * *
5 / 5 

Hyperbole and a Half has been on my Amazon wishlist for over a year, but I never got around to buying it. And then. AND THEN. I saw it in my local charity book shop for ONE WHOLE POUND, so obviously I bought it. And what a glorious, heartfelt, hilarious experience I had. If you haven't read her comics before (I believe they are all on her website), I absolutely 100% recommend this.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Descendants (The Arete Series #1), Rae Else

I used to wonder if we were carrying Eve's sin: to always bear the temptation of the serpent 
El, a seventeen-year-old has inherited an ancient and deadly power. She loses control of it, causing a horrific accident, and becomes the prey of a secret organisation, known as the Order. Forced from her family and home, she hides in plain sight amidst the crowds of London, and is thrust into a world she never knew existed; one full of arete: beings with extraordinary powers like hers. 

Arete are beings that can trace their lineage and powers from ancient Greece. They do not claim their inheritance comes from the gods, rather legend says they are descended from cursed beings, such as Medusa. 

At the heart of their world is the kerykeion, the symbol that protects them from the humans and the humans from them. El is trapped between two factions, one that has built an empire around the kerykeion and another that is determined to bring it down. As she is drawn deeper into the conflict, the only way to find the truth is to take matters into her own hands, and the line between friend and foe becomes dangerously blurred. 

* *
2 / 5 

Descendants sounded and started off like it was going to be in the vein of Percy Jackson, before diverging in a wildly different direction at breakneck speed. Everything happens so fast in this short novel (210 pages) that I felt like I was getting whiplash. There's betrayals, characters appearing and disappearing and dying, plot twists occurring so quickly that I found it difficult to care all that much about what was happening. I think Descendants would have done better as a longer book.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Definitions of Indefinable Things, Whitney Taylor

You're never as alone as you think you are
Reggie Mason is all too familiar with "the Three Stages of Depression." She believes she’s unlocked the secret to keeping herself safe: Nobody can hurt you if you never let them in. 

Reggie encounters an unexpected challenge to her misanthropy: a Twizzler-chomping, indie film-making narcissist named Snake. Snake’s presence, while reassuring, is not exactly stable—especially since his ex-girlfriend is seven months pregnant. As Reggie falls for Snake, she must decide whether it’s time to rewrite the rules that have defined her.
* * 
2 / 5

Reggie Mason is depressed. She meets the equally, if not more so, depressed, nihilistic, terrible indie film-maker Snake. Snake's sort-of and entirely one-night-stand girlfriend Carla is seven months pregnant with his child. What intrigued me about Definitions of Indefinable Things is this entirely bizarre triad relationship and the scenes that involved this odd dynamic were definitely my favourites. Unfortunately, I found the book to be unbearably pretentious and Reggie and Snake to alternate between quite realistic and unbearably insufferable. Carla was definitely my favourite.

Monday, 10 April 2017

In Ageless Sleep, Arden Ellis

You couldn't trust beauty when it came from a place like that. But that didn't stop Mal's eyes from sticking to that face like hull-sealing glue.
Mal is a spy, a misanthrope, and a coward; growing up in the brutal Reaches has taught her that honor is a quality best left to the dead. Her latest mission: to hijack a cryo-ship carrying the brilliant daughter of the Sovereign King, and deliver her straight into enemy hands. 

But when a vital component of the ship’s cryostasis system malfunctions, the only person who can keep the unconscious passengers alive is the woman Mal was sent to kidnap. Alone together on a ship of silent sleepers, Mal must remember that she and Aurora are enemies—or risk them becoming something much more dangerous.
* * *
3 / 5

In Ageless Sleep is a tiny little sci-fi/lesbian novella clocking in at about 17,000 words. Mal is a spy, grown up and grown old in the Reaches; Aurora, or "Rory", is the daughter of the Sovereign King and in cryostasis on the way to a scientific mission when Mal hijacks her ship. When a system disasters strikes, Rory is the only one who might be able to help Mal save the ship.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

True North (True Born Trilogy #2), L. E. Sterling

If we listened closely to our bones, fought hard enough, showed the world we'd not back down, my sister and I could pull each other from the jaws of fate
Abandoned by her family in Plague-ridden Dominion City, eighteen-year-old Lucy Fox has no choice but to rely upon the kindness of the True Borns, a renegade group of genetically enhanced humans, to save her twin sister, Margot. But Nolan Storm, their mysterious leader, has his own agenda. When Storm backtracks on his promise to rescue Margot, Lucy takes her fate into her own hands and sets off for Russia with her True Born bodyguard and maybe-something-more, the lethal yet beautiful Jared Price. In Russia, there's been whispered rumors of Plague Cure.

While Lucy fights her magnetic attraction to Jared, anxious that his loyalty to Storm will hurt her chances of finding her sister, they quickly discover that not all is as it appears…and discovering the secrets contained in the Fox sisters' blood before they wind up dead is just the beginning.

* *
2 / 5 

Unfortunately, for a good chunk of True North absolutely nothing happens. I read this shortly after finishing True Born and what I expected was badass action scenes, exploration of Russia and how it differs to Dominion, more information about True Borns, more information about the preachers, and to discover the truth about the Fox sisters. True North manages to do the last one and throws in more of Jared Price being creepily intense and disturbing to compensate. 

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The State of Grace, Rachael Lucas

And the funny thing I've figured out is that sometimes, when it seems like everything is falling apart, it's not the end - it's the beginning.
Grace has Asperger's and her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more. 

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own.
* * * .5
3.5 / 5 

The State of Grace is a book about being young, growing up and having Asperger's by, I'm informed, an author on the autistic spectrum. I think these kinds of books are particularly important, so I was impressed not only by the sensitive depiction of Grace but by the fast-paced plot, solid writing, and the way Lucas managed to capture the awkwardness of being a young teenage girl. 

Thursday, 6 April 2017

True Born (True Born Trilogy #1), L. E. Sterling

Evolve or die. What is the price of living?
Welcome to Dominion City.

After the great Plague descended, the world population was decimated…and their genetics damaged beyond repair.

The Lasters wait hopelessly for their genes to self-destruct. The Splicers pay for expensive treatments that might prolong their life. The plague-resistant True Borns are as mysterious as they are feared…

And then there’s Lucy Fox and her identical twin sister, Margot. After endless tests, no one wants to reveal what they are.

* * *
3 / 5 

I'm not really sure why I enjoyed this as much as I did. The science was dubious at best, the setting confused, and if the love interest had been burnt at the stake then True Born would have been 10x better. But I had fun nonetheless, which is why I award True Born 3/5 stars and have requested the sequel on Netgalley! So what's it all about? Rich, Upper Circle twin sisters Margot and Lucy live in Dominion City which is overrun by The Plague (capitals for dramatic effect) which divides humanity into three: Lasters who cannot be saved (if they catch The Plague, they're gonners), Splicers who can pay extortionate fees to extend their lives, and the True Born. 

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

[discussion] When Should Authors Stop?

Claudia Gray wrote a trilogy and moved on, but not all authors do

When Should Authors Stop?

Or, When Will I Stop Buying What You Churn Out?

The other day I was in the bookstore when I saw the Diary of A Wimpy Kid Book 10 being advertised and thought to myself, Christ alive, what an obvious cash grab. Then I remembered that I had just gleefully and excitedly ordered Skulduggery Pleasant: Book Ten by Derek Landy, all the while going oh my god he's writing a new one. It has the tagline "you can't keep a dead man down" which is just about the best thing I've ever heard. But this got me wondering, where and when would I stop buying books in a series? When does an author cross the line, in my eyes, from creating new stories in a beloved universe to beating a dead horse with a stick?

Monday, 3 April 2017

Sea (The Huntress #1), Sarah Driver

What am I, without my ship? I hunch over the spiny bump and grip Sparrow's hand. Shooting stars sizzle through the night sky. The sky-gods must be warring with fire and iron spears.
In the sky, the fire spirits dance and ripple. Grandma says they showed our Tribe that I’d be a captain, before I was even born.

Ever since Ma died, Mouse has looked after her little brother, Sparrow, dreaming of her destiny as captain of the Huntress. But now Da’s missing, Sparrow is in danger, and a deathly cold is creeping across Trianukka . . .
* * *
3 / 5

Reading Sea felt a little bit like reading The Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, with respect to the tribes and the amount of research put into the context and little details, books which I loved (and still do) as a child. Though Sea didn't quite have the scope and originality of those books, it was still a solid, fun read. I was also getting a bit of a How To Train Your Dragon vibe (the books, not the films) which is a very favourable comparison in my book! 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

[article] March Round-Up, 2017

Again, I read many Kindle books so this month's photo is rather lacking. 
The candle was in the March Fairyloot box, the photo on my instagram

March Round Up

I read a lot of ARC's this month. A lot. I read thirteen and wrote reviews for all of them, as well as seven of my own/the library's books, totally twenty books this month. Phew. I have even more ARCs left to read and as my summer exams are creeping up on me, the stress is starting to mount a little. Thankfully, the Easter holiday is almost upon us and I can go back to studying intensely for maths (and philosophy of maths) exams in order to be able to stay on my integrated master course. Obviously, there will also be time put aside for reading!

Friday, 31 March 2017

Red Sister (Book of the Ancestor #1), Mark Lawrence

"That's my secret and my shame. I'm Nona Grey, war is in my veins, and the screams of my enemies are music to me."
At the Convent of Sweet Mercy young girls are raised to be killers. In a few the old bloods show, gifting talents rarely seen since the tribes beached their ships on Abeth. Sweet Mercy hones its novices’ skills to deadly effect: it takes ten years to educate a Red Sister in the ways of blade and fist.

But even the mistresses of sword and shadow don’t truly understand what they have purchased when Nona Grey is brought to their halls as a bloodstained child of eight, falsely accused of murder: guilty of worse.

* * * * *
5 / 5

Absolutely incredible. Red Sister is the amazing, heartwrenching, slow-paced, bloody story of ten year old (then twelve, then older) Nona Grey, first sold to a child-seller, then to a a gang of ring-fighters, then inducted into the Sweet Mercy convent of assassin-nuns to save her from the hangman's noose. It started with a bang and ended with my heart in pieces and my eyes yearning for more. Seriously, it starts with:

"It is important, when killing a nun, to ensure that you bring an army of sufficient size. For Sister Thorn of the Sweet Mercy Convent, Lano Tacsis brought two hundred men."
And Red Sister only got better from there on out. Exponentially better.

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

The Jungle Book: Manga Classics, Chrystal Chan

Heavily influenced by his childhood in British-ruled India, Rudyard Kipling created some of the most well-read children s stories in Western Culture. Book One of The Jungle Book(s) includes Mowgli s Brothers, the story of Mowgli, the abandoned man-cub who was raised by animals in the Indian jungle, Rikki-Tikki-Tavi the heroic mongoose, and Toomai of the Elephants, the tale of a young elephant-handler, and in The White Seal, we meet Kotick, a rare white-furred northern fur seal as he searches for a home where his family will not be hunted by humans.

* * * *
4 / 5

I picked up a copy of the The Jungle Book, manga edition on a whim and I was very pleasantly pleased with it. I have read my fair share of manga in my youth and this book follows the traditional format of being read right to left (a handy guide at the back for those that have never read a manga), as well as having loving, classically manga illustrations. As far as I can tell, The Jungle Book follows Rudyard Kipling's original seven stories very closely, even integrating some of the shorter poems into the artwork.

Monday, 27 March 2017

Defy the Stars, Claudia Gray

Make a choice. Assert your own will. It's the first step toward being something more than a machine. Find out what you might become. 

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth's robotic mech warriors, she realises that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis' salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her - even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He's a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth's various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer - both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world's fate, and Abel's. 

* * * *
4 / 5

Woah. I picked this up because I had fondly read A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray and thought hey, great, she's writing something new - and it has robots in space, so why not? In Defy the Stars Gray shows the same depth of imagination as she did in the Firebird Trilogy, creating an equally vivid and inspired universe. Noemi and Abel are amazingly compelling characters. My only problem is that Gray really likes to write love stories and about the power of love, which isn't what I thought Defy the Stars was going to be.