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!