Tuesday 28 February 2017

[article] A Month on Netgalley

I'm the sort of person who enjoys reading about other people's experiences on sites and with doing things. I've read lots of blog posts now by book bloggers about being a book blogger, about getting ARC's, about being on Netgalley, about writing reviews to deadlines, all these sorts of things. So I thought I would give back a little, for all those other people like me, and write about my first month on Netgalley! I hope you find it interesting. 

First confession: I was ensnared by free books. Free, advanced copies of books. I honestly don't think that there is anything wrong with this: I like books, I like reviewing books, and I like saving money. I knew I would read and write reviews for any books Netgalley gave me. The first one I snagged was something I had had my eye on for a little while: The Princess Saves Herself In This One, by Amanda Lovelace. This was available for anyone to read, you didn't have to be approved. Perfect! I read it, reviewed it, and moved on. And then I started requesting books. Lots of books. Since most of them weren't approved or rejected for at least a week, I didn't really realise how many I had requested.  

Saturday 25 February 2017

Red Queen, Victoria Aveyard

"What good will it do? Nothing will change." "For hundreds of years the Silvers have walked the earth as living gods and the Reds have been slaves at their feet, until you. If that isn't change, I don't know what is"

The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

* * * 
3 / 5

I was ready to rate this a 2.5 star book for being well written with a main character and supporting cast that I liked paired with an acceptable plot that incorporates a lot of young adult cliches and is lacking in originality. I bumped it up half a star for the cracking ending where the novel finally starts to show the glimmers of promise. It wasn't a particularly surprising twist that dominates the last 10% of the book, but it was bold and made me order the next one the moment I finished. Red Queen is nothing you haven't read before (if you read a lot of Young Adult) but it is fun.

Thursday 23 February 2017

A Darker Shade of Magic, V. E. Schwab

Antari could speak to blood. To life. To magic itself. The first and final element, the one that lived in all and was of none.
"As Travars," he said. Travel. 
Kell is one of the last travelers--magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city. 

There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King--George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered--and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London--a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

* * * * *
5 / 5

This book is simply stunning. It epitomises what fantasy fiction should be about: wonder, intrigue, deception, and most of all, magic. Every time I have read this I am enthralled by Schwab's characters, writing, and the delightful universe that she has crafted.

"As Travars," he said. The wall gave way and the traveler and the thief stepped forward and through

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Caraval, Stephanie Garber

So while we want you to be swept away, be careful of being swept too far. Dreams that come true can be beautiful, but they can also turn into nightmares when people won't wake up
Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show.

Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father.

When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend. 
* * * *
4 / 5 

Caraval is a highly acclaimed YA novel, which made me approach it as cautiously as one would (I imagine) approach a cornered wild animal. Whilst it inevitably fell short of all of the hype, it was still an outstanding debut by Stephanie Garber. This book is about Scarlett, a young woman who her never left her island, trying to survive under the thumb of her abusive father by agreeing to marry a man she has never met. Yet Scarlett somehow never lost the wonder of a child. Trickery follows her as she goes to compete in the yearly game hosted by Legend, Master of Caraval, only to find that not all is as it seems. Starting with when her beloved sister Donatella goes missing.

Monday 20 February 2017

[article] Shelfie, February '17

Shelfie, February '17

I use the word "shelfie" with a sense of irony, but also because calling it a "to be read photo experience" is long and unwieldy, and I'm already using "reading round up" for books that I've actually read. So even though this might more accurately be described as "pictures of stacks of books that I own and intend to read sometime soon", I'm sticking with shelfie.

The above photo is actually composed of books I've mostly already read, but I really am quite proud of the photography and thought it would make a nice header! I have no photography experience in the slightest and use my camera phone, so starting my own book blogger Instagram has been quite an interesting experience, to say the least. Remember you can check out the rest of my photographic brilliance here, on Instagram. If you are curious, the picture has: 

  • A Thousand Pieces of You trilogy
  • The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey
  • Meyer's Heartless 
  • Uprooted
  • Lexicon by Max Barry
  • Sorceror to the Crown
  • A Natural History of Dragons series, which I recommend with all of my heart (Victorian lady + dragons)

Sunday 19 February 2017

Red Rising, Pierce Brown

“You do not follow me because I am the strongest. Pax is. You do not follow me because I am the brightest. Mustang is. You follow me because you do not know where you are going. I do.”

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations. 

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.
But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class. 

* * * * * 
5 / 5

Incredible. I practically inhaled this book, reading it in under 24 hours. Think Hunger Games style tournament but weirder and even bloodier. Think Red Queen type society but far more developed and sophisticated. This book takes everything I love about young adult books and makes it more adult. 

Darrow is a Red, doing the most dangerous job in the mines beneath the surface of Mars. He thinks he and his brethren are working to make the surface of Mars habitable, giving up their freedom and their lives for the greater good of humanity. Little does he know that Mars is already inhabited by the upper "colours"; he and his people are kept in a state of slavery and servitude by the Golds. Golds are genetically superior, physically incredible, the closest state to divinity that humanity can be and this has made them cruel and callous beyond measure.

Saturday 18 February 2017

Mercury in Retrograde, Merethe Walther

Aralyn stared up at the stars above them. Once a place that had held untold fortune and adventure, she'd recalled the delight at setting out on her first run; tightness and happiness and fear warring in her belly. 
Aralyn Solari spent the last three years of her life in the galaxy's worst prison after a compromised run ruined her flawless smuggling record five years prior. Now that she’s free and has the promise of an easy job with a ridiculously large pay off, her last gig should be a cinch. As long as she follows the runner’s standard, anyway: get in, get out, get paid. 
* * * *
4 / 5

What an unexpected gem of a book! I requested this book on Netgalley because of the plot, but when I came to read it was put off (stupidly) by the cover. But I am so glad I read this. Mercury in Retrograde has unpredictable action, unbelievable heists, and an unlikely crew of rag-tag criminals that I grew to love. It's funny, delightful, made my heart race in parts, and tackled some difficult issues like human trafficking and slavery. 

Friday 17 February 2017

Romeo And/Or Juliet, Ryan North

"Juliet," your mom says, "don't you think this surprise mandatory arranged marriage is the most wonderful news??"
  • Run past her, tear out of the house and never look back 
  • Say "yes mom" automatically 
What if Romeo never met Juliet? What if Juliet got really buff instead of moping around all day? What if they teamed up to take over Verona with robot suits? This choose-your-own-path version of Romeo and Juliet—packed with fun puzzles, secrets, and quadrillions of possible storylines—lets you decide where the plot goes every time you read. You might play as Romeo, or as Juliet, or as both of them at the same time. You might even unlock additional playable characters!
* * * *
4 / 5 

I picked this up when it was on sale at Waterstones on a whimsy and I have not been disappointed. This choose your own path adventure is jam packed with hilarious plotlines, gorgeous illustration, and bundles of fun. If you've never "read" a choose your own path book, essentially you read some text and then it offers you a couple of options of things to do and you turn to the corresponding page. I would recommend you have had a reasonable acquaintance with Romeo and Juliet before buying this, otherwise I doubt that you would find it so amusing. With at least a hundred different endings, you never really finish a book like this. 

Wednesday 15 February 2017

The Hammer of Thor (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #2), Rick Riordan

 "it was just a little death prophecy!" "Blitz . . ." she turned. "You understand there's no such thing as a little death prophecy, right?"
Thor's hammer is missing again. The thunder god has a disturbing habit of misplacing his weapon--the mightiest force in the Nine Worlds. But this time the hammer isn't just lost, it has fallen into enemy hands. 

* * *
3 / 5

Better than it's predecessor but still smelling of Percy Jackson with a lick of paint, Magnus Chase and the Hammer of Thor is a decent, fun read. The plot is pretty recycled: something bad has happened (in this case another object has been stolen from a powerful god), our heroes have a very limited time frame in which to get their act together (seriously what is it with like five day quests?), and the humour is same-old, same-old. I laughed a couple of times but it's wearing thin. The Hammer of Thor is shorter than The Sword of Summer, which actually helped quite a lot in keeping me engaged and enjoying it. 

Saturday 11 February 2017

The Man Who Won The World, O. E. Boroni

"You are the one that is choosing to ignore my plea, and you are the one choosing to withhold mercy. That is not the way of the world," he said. "But the way that you have chosen to be"

* * 
2 / 5

The Man Who Won The World is, I feel, the start of something very long and epic. As the start of this epic saga, this novel is a mostly foundational, setting out the characters and the world. So, like any other first book to a long series, it is rather slow going and lacking in excitement. It is a little confusing to begin with, but does becoming much easier and more fun to read as you progress. It's best qualities are the lovely writing style and impactful ending, which really sets up for the next books. There is also the inclusion of a number of Korean terms, with a helpful glossary at the end. The cover is also gorgeous. 

Friday 10 February 2017

Gilded Cage, Vic James

An empty birdcage with the door shut. A tulip in its prime, upright in the vase but drab and gray, as if a week dead. A sheet ruled with musical staves but without notes. A violin with no strings.

Our world belongs to the Equals — aristocrats with magical gifts — and all commoners must serve them for ten years. But behind the gates of England's grandest estate lies a power that could break the world. 
* * *
3 / 5

Gilded Cage was a fun read, or as fun as a book about slavery and oppression can be. The writing was plain and the concept behind it was simple: there are the Equals, the nobility with magic-based powers called the Skill, and then there is everyone else. Normal people are second-class citizens who must serve their "slavedays", ten years of labour either in service to a house of Equals or in a slavetown, in order to gain their full rights. This all made it reasonably easy to follow; Gilded Cage is built on a decent idea executed in a satisfactory fashion. I devoured it in three days.

Thursday 9 February 2017

[article] My Five Most Anticipated Paperbacks, 2017

Because I'm cheap (read: is a student who has to by food) and aren't that fond of hardback covers (I often lose or crinkle the paper cover), I often wait for paperback releases. Which is unfortunate since they are often 6 months after the hardback releases. I buy lots of my new books off of Amazon, and though I do frequent second hand book stores this isn't a great way to get new releases, so I have used their release dates to compile this list. I only venture into fancy bookshops like Waterstones if someone is kind enough to give me a giftcard, or I receive a windfall of unexpected money. So Amazon it is!

So these are books that have already been published in hardback (which I won't purchase because I am on a budget or already own a previous book in paperback and damn I like matching sets) and eBook (which I don't want because the covers are particularly gorgeous and I think they would look fantastic on my shelf) but not yet in paperback.

Tuesday 7 February 2017

Ariadnis, Josh Martin

There's no time. No time, no time, no time. Ramon's face. The trees, singing. And the emptiness, pulling at the threads of me.

* * * *
4 / 5
Joomia and Aula are Chosen. They will never be normal. They can never be free.  
On the last island on Erthe, Chosen Ones are destined to enter Ariadnis on the day they turn eighteen. There, they must undertake a mysterious and deadly challenge. For Joomia and Aula, this means competing against each other, to end the war that has seethed between their cities for nine generations.

This book did not go in the direction that I expected. And I loved it. The synopsis suggests that it will be focused around a competition - this "mysterious and deadly challenge" - and whilst this is a key point, Ariadnis isn't really about the challenge. The book opens on the day that Aula and Joomia turn seventeen, a full year to go before they must undertake the challenge. It is an event that is built up to, looming in the distance, but not one that is the action focus of the novel, per se. This is by no means a problem, in fact I rather thought it enhanced the plot, but the synopsis is a little misleading. Further, the two cities Metis and Athenas are not exactly at war - there is animosity, yes, but not war. 

Sunday 5 February 2017

Big Mushy Happy Lump, Sarah Andersen

Swimsuit season is coming up! Better get beach-body ready! Work on those abs! Lift those butts! 

...Um, or how about never mind to all that and just be a lump. Big Mushy Happy Lump! 

Sarah Andersen's hugely popular, world-famous Sarah's Scribbles comics are for those of us who boast bookstore-ready bodies and Netflix-ready hair, who are always down for all-night reading-in-bed parties and extremely exclusive after-hour one-person music festivals. 

* * * *
4 / 5 stars 

I, like most people, have seen Sarah Andersen's cartoon comics floating around the internet. I have not read her previous collection nor have I frequented her website, so virtually all of the content was new to me. This may not be the case for Andersen's avid fans, as most online artists who publish collections only include a small amount of new content. I base my rating off of the fact that this wonderfully adorable collection was completely fresh to me. 

Friday 3 February 2017

[article] January Round-Up

January Round Up

It's time for my January book reading round up. I've had a good start to 2017, having read 8 books so I am bang-on target to read 100 books this year! I had university exams at the start of the month, which meant that the first books I picked up this year were some childhood favourites - Erin Hunter's Warrior Cats series. I wanted something light and non-brain-taxing to read on my downtime from heavy philosophical papers and mathematical proofs ;) 

I then tried something by a longtime favourite author of mine, Brandon Sanderson. I normally read his adult works (I highly recommend Elantris and Warbreaker if you are at all interested in fantasy, they are superb) but I picked up The Rithmatist for a lighter work. Sanderson crafts the most exquisite and unique magical systems I have ever read, and this one was no exception. 

Another notable read was Carve the Mark, Veronica Roth's new book which has suffered accusations of racist tropes, and Amanda Lovelace's The Princess Saves Herself In This One, which was unfortunately not my kind of read at all.

Article Index

All the non-review posts I have written can be found here, sorted by topic.

Recommendation posts:
2017, Five Most Anticipated Sequels
2017, Five Most Anticipated Paperbacks
2017, Five Upcoming Under-the-Radar YA Releases
2017, Five Upcoming Under-the-Radar Fantasy & Sci-fi Releases

Monthly Round-Ups:
A Year In Review, 2017
2018, January
2018, February
2018, March
2017, January
2017, February
2017, March
2017, April
2017, May
2017, June
2017, July
2017, August
2017, September
2017, October
2017, November
2017, December

Currently Reading/"Shelfies":
2017, February Shelfie

Challenge Posts:
Burn, Rewrite, Reread Challenge
Clean Sweep ARC Challenge, May 2017

AtlasRisingBooks Turns One!
Getting Down With The Technology
Three Months of Blogging
How To Rate Books?
Oh, the Things I Do For Book Blogging

Netgalley & ARCs
A Month on Netgalley
2017, Five ARCs I Was Thrilled To Get

A Warrior Cats Child
Beauty Is In The Eye of the Book-Holder
Books With Sport, It's More Fun Than It Might Sound
Christmas Books
Five Books I Mistakenly Thought I'd Love
Five Popular Books I Felt Ambivalent About
Making time & reading more
When Should Authors Stop?