Book Review # 86: Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Wednesday, 21 December 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Penguin. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: Holding Up The Universe 
Author: Jennifer Niven
Publisher: Penguin
Format: ARC 
Publication DateOctober 6th 2016
Pages: 388
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed 'America's Fattest Teen'. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum's death, she's been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby's ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world - theirs and yours.
In 2015, Jennifer Niven shocked the YA community with her deliverance of All The Bright Places, a novel I described upon review as compelling, compassionate and yet totally soul destroying. It was a novel that left an impact on me as a reader, so when I realised the announcement of a second novel entitled Holding Up The Universe, I was intrigued. Tackling such prominent and modern struggles such as weight, Niven delivers once again with Holding Up The Universe. It of course was of no surprise when I realised that Niven explores the complexity of human emotion and even branches out to exploring a condition that I hadn't even heard of. Prosopagnosia (or face-blindness) is the inability to recognise the faces of others, no matter how many times you see them. This outlook on life was a really interesting and inspiring way of looking at the world and understand the difficulties that came with living with the condition. 

As expected from a Niven novel, our two characters originate from two very different backgrounds and meet through consequence or as some may call it, 'fate.' From then on, we watch as spectators as their journeys develop and intertwine in with one another and a relationship begins to brew. Thankfully, unlike the horrors Niven expressed to us at the end of All The Bright Places, Holding Up The Universe ends in a much happier and more joyful manner. If you've read stereotypical romance novels before then I don't need to express to you the ending as you can most likely guess. However, like other romances, Jack and Libby go through their various trials during their relationship. But this book is a lot more than just romance. It explores the notion of coming to terms with who you are and not allowing others to define that. It also indicates the most important message is to understand that you are wanted, no matter what other say, because if you want yourself then that shatters any negativity coming at your from elsewhere.

With these characters comes two very distinctive voices, and both Libby and Jack were very resonant with their character traits. Libby's voice was confident, positive and at times had a fragility edge to it, whilst Jack's was often quite the opposite. Often hiding behind his asshole demeanour, Jack is simply trying to fit in and achieve normality in such a deranged world. At times I did feel a lot for Jack, and whilst I did feel for Libby the majority of the book, my heart did go out more strongly for Jack. With his condition; not being able to recognise the people you love, it's heartbreaking, and trying to overcome this idea of fitting in - well that's something that I believe most people can relate to at some point in their lives. We've all done it, haven't we? However, whilst this novel was adorable and very powerful for many reasons, I did have frustrations at times with some of the predictability, it was an enjoyable contemporary novel that shared a lot of powerful messages. Would I read it again? Certainly. I award 4 out of 5 stars to Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven. It resonates strongly as a YA contemporary novel and I would strongly urge others to read it. 

Book Review # 85: A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Monday, 12 December 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Harper Voyager UK. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: A Torch Against the Night 
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Harper Voyager UK
Format: ARC 
Publication Date: September 8th 2016
Pages454
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆

Elias and Laia are running for their lives.

After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf - the Empire's most secure and dangerous prison - to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars' survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene - Elias's former friend and the Empire's newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus's will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own - one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape... and kill them both.
After the thrills delivered in An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir showed the world her potential in crafting an original, mythic concept within a troped, Young Adult type setting. It explored roman design and democracy in a brutal system, and alas Sabaa concocted originality in its simplest form. With A Torch Against the Night, Tahir brings a whole new level of excitement to the table with the second installation in this saga, this time merging the classic themes delivered in Ember with a fantasy lined undertone.

The book kicks off where we left our beloved characters, observing them on the run from the new Emperor, Blood Shrike, The Commandment and their band of viciously trained Masks. Their target? Escaping to the prison in Kauf to liberate Laia's brother. From then, their journey unfolds, as we as readers explore with our two heroes, the perils and excessive trials they face and the compromises they have to make along the way to survive.

Whilst Embers focused in the duel narrative perspective, Torch delivers us a third perspective from Helene who has her own perilous journey of her own - tracking down Laia and Elias and ending them. Fighting for honour and sacrifice, both very traditional traits, and tradition and loyalty is a theme that runs throughout and identifies heavily in all characters in this novel. Helene relies heavily on her determination for her wellbeing and her family, Laia has the loyalty to her brother and Elias is loyal to his own freedom.

Although, whilst character development is something that Sabaa identifies heavily with in this novel, she could also be seen as taking a sideline with it, as she spends less time exploring the deeper emotional states of her characters and focuses more on the crafting of her expansive world. As aforementioned, our main protagonists venture across this newly developed world on a quest to free Laia's brother and we get to explore not only the expanse of the world but also of the power dynamics of the world. Through Sabaa's development in writing, we also are exposed to the internal struggles and how the uncertainty of navigating politics can have an effect on characters and the world around them.

One of the other elements that has slowly been building its way up since the beginning of the series is the aspect of myth and magic. It becomes very evident in this book with Laia's character developing some unique gifts that throw a new edge into Tahir's world. With the development of the 'Nightbringer' on the imminent horizon, it is curious to wonder just how great of a threat this foretold villain is going to pose, considering how ruthless the antagonists have been thus far in Sabaa Tahir's work. It will be interesting to see how the current characters at play weave into the story of the Nightbringer and how it will develop against the whole plot. So how do I rate this instalment in Sabaa's saga? Well as confusing and mystifying as some of the more elaborate fantasy elements woven into the story had me, A Torch Against the Night is a solid sequel to Embers and I award it a 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale.

Book Review # 84: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Titan Books. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: This Savage Song
Author: Victoria Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback 
Publication DateJune 7th 2016
Pages407
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.

After the success of Victoria's 'Shades of Magic' series thus far, This Savage Song appealed to me as Victoria's writing is so melodic and fluid. Trust me, you don't realise how appropriate the word melodic is for this book until you read it! In a world divided where monsters are born from violence, our two main characters fight for survival in their own unique ways.  What I found so beautiful about Victoria's book was that whilst this book was very dystopian in its intend, the messages it portrays about modern society were so realistic and foretelling. Monsters born from violence. Ringing any bells? I followed Victoria's process on Twitter through the inception of This Savage Song, and she details it as being her dark monster baby. You can definitely tell that Victoria has poured every ounce of her being into this work, and it is totally one that she needs to be proud of.

Exploring the world of monsters was fascinating, especially from August's point of view. Seeing darkness from the perspective of the supposed 'evil' in the world greatly arouses curiosity and wonder. Now, whilst character's battling their inner evils is nothing new within YA, Schwab delivers her readers with the exploration of normality and the struggles that people can conquer to try to achieve it. It is interesting to see the emotional journey of these characters, who centre the majority of this novel. One thing that Schwab delivers effortlessly are solid and realistic characters, who have relatable ties to the emotional well-being of her readership. If you find yourself drawn instinctively to character focused novels then This Savage Song is the book for you.

However, whilst I adored the character journeys in this book, there was a lack of plot enthusiasm for myself, which surprised me for a Schwab book. In comparison to her Darker Shade series, which really awed me and enticed me, that is very heavily focused on a perfect blend of character development and plot line, This Savage Song fell slightly flat, hence the star rating I'm awarding it. That isn't to say that there wasn't a plot, because the very evidently was. I just felt that it wasn't as defined as I would have hoped for. Obviously, this is just the opinion of one sole blogger, and you will find hundreds, if not thousands of reviews praising the plot. Will this stop me from continuing on with this duology? Not in the slightest! Luckily, the intrigue of the characters enticed me enough to continue, and this sole blogger looks forward to seeing where the story continues in the next instalment. I award This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab a 3 out of 5 stars. Once again, Schwab impresses with her development of realistic characters. 

Book Review # 83: A Gathering of Shadows by V.E.Schwab

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Titan Books. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: A Gathering of Shadows
AuthorV.E.Schwab
Publisher: Titan Books
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: February 23rd 2016
Pages: 508
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆☆
Four months have passed since the shadow stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Rhy was wounded and the Dane twins fell, and the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift, and into Black London.

In many ways, things have almost returned to normal, though Rhy is more sober, and Kell is now plagued by his guilt. Restless, and having given up smuggling, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks like she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games—an extravagant international competition of magic, meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries—a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.

But while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life, and those who were thought to be forever gone have returned. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night reappears in the morning, and so it seems Black London has risen again—meaning that another London must fall.

In 2015, Victoria Schwab introduced the world to the first book in her new Shades of Magic series. Not only did 'A Darker Shade of Magic' entice thousands of readers internationally, but it also exposed those who dreamt of stranger worlds to a phenomenal new series that would leave a lasting impact on those who read it. Personally, I adored A Darker Shade of Magic, awarding it a full 5 stars on my classification scale. When A Gathering of Shadows was realised, I knew it was a novel that I had to get to right away. However, this was not to be! I didn't actually get round to reading it until recently, when not only did I know that the conclusion to this trilogy would be closer at hand, but also I didn't want to have to not be in this spectacular world. Schwab has crafted such a unique and magical setting along with phenomenal characters that leave such a lasting impact on her readers. It's definitely one of those worlds that you do not want to leave. I haven't felt this way about a book series since Harry Potter, so my full appreciation of Schwab's work knows no bounds.

In this next instalment, we revisit the various versions of London along with the mesmerising characters we were introduced to in the first book. Luckily for readers, not much time has passed between the events of the last book and Gathering, therefore the impact that has been made since the events of Darker Shade are very apparent to readers, and it doesn't feel like we've been far from home since. However, there is something new looming on the horizon, The Element Games, a magical tournament meant to entertain and keep healthy relationships with neighbouring countries. In doing so, an old friend returns to Red London. Although, that isn't all that returns as darkness from Black London begins to stir in White London...

Gathering allows Schwab to expand her description of the magic system in the world beyond what she introduced in Darker Shade. Through the Element Games, we were exposed to different varieties of magic and we were allowed to see the effects that overuse of that magic posed. Now as magic began to grow with Red London, we also get glimpses into the effects of dark magic now brewing within White London as we revisit an old friend and opponent... As for the characters, Kell is finally settling into life in a princely style after Lila's departure from the docks of Red London. Unfortunately for him, it's not quite all it lived up too, as he begins to realise the constraints of the monarchy as he battles with something that lives inside him that constantly needs letting out. As for Lila, she's been at sea for four months in search for adventure and now she's returned to the surprise of the Elemental Games, and with the development of her new found talents, she's set her eyes on a new adventurous prize.

Although, whilst we are reunited with our old favourites, Schwab treats us to the introduction of some new characters. One of these characters is the stunningly fabulous Alucard, who's past with Rhy lays bubbling away awaiting for the past to catch up with them. We also get the pleasure of meeting some of the magicians from far across the seas whom I will be excited to see if we meet again in the finale, A Conjuring of Light. Once again, Victoria Schwab has blown me away with the way she has crafted her magical tale. I award A Gathering of Shadows the full 5 out of 5 stars on my classification scale, and I eagerly await to see what sweet torture she brings for us in the conclusion to this trilogy, especially after how perilous she was in the cliffhanger at the end of this book! V, you have me enthralled!  

Book Review # 82: Replica by Lauren Oliver

Friday, 4 November 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Hodder and Stoughton. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!


Title: Replica
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Format: ARC
Publication DateOctober 4th 2016
Pages520
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆☆

Lyra's story begins in the Haven Institute, a building tucked away on a private island off the coast of Florida that from a distance looks serene and even beautiful. But up close the locked doors, military guards, and biohazard suits tell a different story. In truth, Haven is a clandestine research facility where thousands of replicas, or human models, are born, raised, and observed. When a surprise attack is launched on Haven, two of its young experimental subjects—Lyra, or 24, and the boy known only as 72—manage to escape.

Gemma has been in and out of hospitals for as long as she can remember. A lonely teen, her life is circumscribed by home, school, and her best friend, April. But after she is nearly abducted by a stranger claiming to know her, Gemma starts to investigate her family's past and discovers her father's mysterious connection to the secretive Haven research facility. Hungry for answers, she travels to Florida, only to stumble upon two replicas and a completely new set of questions.

While the stories of Lyra and Gemma mirror each other, each contains breathtaking revelations critically important to the other story. Replica is an ambitious, thought-provoking masterwork.
One story told from two points of view. Not an uncommon occurrence amongst the Young Adult community. However, a book containing two stories from different points of view, cleverly interwoven into a much larger picture? It's rare, and Replica by Lauren Oliver takes on this unique twist on storytelling that has forced Replica to the top of my favourites by Lauren Oliver. If you've read my reviews in the past you will find that I have a mixed relationship with Oliver's books. They've always intrigued me and yet upon completion, they've left me disappointed. Oliver's newest novel, Replica, did the complete opposite for me. Frankly, I adored it. Interweaving two tales allows Oliver to focus on the complexity of her characters. As for the general reading experience, Lauren Oliver builds up her plot to allow for dramatics to occur within the last few chapters, and it is clear how Oliver sets up her readers for a thrilling ride in the conclusion to this first book. At a 560 page novel, most readers might be put off by the sheer size, but upon delving into this novel, the pace of the novel was relatively fast, allowing the novel to progress at a positively normal rate. As a result, the novel didn't feel overly long, nor too short, which I appreciated greatly.

What initially grasped my attention for Replica was not only the intruiging way of telling the story, but the actual plot.  A research facility where thousands of human replicas are born, raised, and observed. Tell me that doesn't sound fascinating! The beauty of Replica invites the reader to indulge this novel in two different ways; read Lyra and Gemma's perspectives individually or read a chapter of each and alternate perspectives as you go through. Whilst the prospect of flipping the book over after every chapter seemed inviting at first, I decided that as Oliver's books have let me down in the past over poor character development, I'd focus individually on the different stories. There is a lot of controversy doing it this way about who's perspective you should begin with. Some argue Gemma's sets the story up better whilst others argue Lyra's is more action focused to begin with and you gain a larger picture of the institute earlier on. I, in the end, decided to begin with Lyra's tale and I'm glad I did, as I agree with the notion that it sets up the Haven Institute more and I found it actually grasped my attention more because the whole idea of the Replica's was what attracted me to this novel in the first place.

Upon completion of this novel, I wasn't made aware of the fact that it had a sequel, so I was left in anticipation of what would happen next, hoping that Oliver wasn't going to leave her book on a disappointing notion. That being said, the events that occurred at the conclusion to this novel screamed sequel book, but I didn't want to get my hopes up. It wasn't until later on when coming to write this review that a sequel was actually announced. Based on this knowledge, Oliver has definitely set her readers up to enquire what will happen in the following instalment, and I have to admit that I am excited to pick it up and see where the adventure will take me! I've fallen for these characters, especially Lyra. It was definitely interesting reading from her point of view; so naive about the world and accepting everything as new. It was actually quite refreshing, like growing up for a second time over the period of 500 pages or so.

So where would I rate Replica? Well, with it's unique storytelling experience and fascinating plot, Replica and it's following sequel/s have captured my attention and I am looking forward to seeing where this story goes. Replica is also one of those novels that I could instantly see being brought visually to the public's attention, either through movie or television format. Due to the rareness of this occurrence for me, I am awarding Replica by Lauren Oliver a 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale. Two truly wonderful tales, interwoven together with curiosity and the novelty of fresh life. I would easily recommend to others if you're looking for that contemporary and science fiction mix.

GEMINA Blog Tour: Review (# 81) and Giveaway!

Friday, 21 October 2016 0 comments

Hey guys! Today I am here as part of the five day blog tour for GEMINA by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff! Thank you to the lovely people at Rock the Boat for giving me this opportunity to part of the tour. Now I read ILLUMINAE last year and fell in love with it's new style of telling an epic tale filled with twists and turns, and it is my privilege to bring for you today, my non-spoiler review of the second instalment in the ILLUMINAE Files, GEMINA.

Hang around because Rock the Boat has also given me the opportunity to give away some finished copies of GEMINA, with the added bonus of the books containing signed bookplates! Yes people, you heard it right - you can be in with the chance of one of three SIGNED copies of the book, scribbled in by the lovely Amie and Jay themselves! I understand your jealousy, but read through the review and then to enter - fill in the form at the bottom of the page!

Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Rock the Boat. I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge, now onto the review!


***********************************************************************************************************************


Title: GEMINA
Author: Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Publisher: Rock the Boat Publishing
Format: ARC
Publication Date: October 20th 2016
Pages: 672
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating: ☆☆☆☆

Purchase: The Book Depository / Waterstones

Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.
After becoming totally absorbed in the Illuminae Files world from ILLUMINAE, GEMINA was a refreshing reminder of just how epic this series is turning out to be. Amie and Jay are the total dream team who have crafted a fast paced and thrilling pair of novels, crafted in a unique way not yet explored in the YA industry. GEMINA spins it's tale in a similar way to it's predecessor, with it's use of audio transcripts, official documents, instant messaging conversations and many other notable mediums used to tell this journey.
The story contained within GEMINA's pages tells of the story on the space station, Heimdall, during the events of ILLUMINAE, and with it brings a new epic saga of events that drive the forefront of modern Science Fiction. After the worldwide success of ILLUMINAE, GEMINA brings its readers refreshing twists and turns that will leave them gripping the edge of their books in rapid anticipation. Kaufman and Kristoff definitely know the delights of their readers, bringing devastating delight that will cripple their readers with intense emotion and enjoyment.

GEMINA, similarly to ILLUMINAE, introduces us to two main focal characters. Hanna and Nik are both feisty and dynamic characters who are just as refreshing and kick-ass as their predecessor characters were. Whilst not unusual to expect new characters from Kaufman after the alternative perspectives found in her previous Starbound series, it was, dare I say it, illuminating to see a new twist in events in this epic new universe.

Whilst an enjoyable and pleasurable read, don’t take GEMINA for granted. Kristoff and Kaufman are masterminds in disguise, and provide GEMINA readers with thrilling new jump scares hiding around every turn. Leaving no victims living in their bloodthirsty trail, GEMINA takes a whole new twist of gruesome, providing it’s delicious readers with a slight element of horror, so much so that you feel your heart beating tenfold in your chest.

GEMINA shines bright in light of it's predecessor, providing interwoven storylines filled with endless wonder and surprise. Whilst I could easily ramble for ages on how amazing it is, it's only best that you discover it all for yourself. I easily award GEMINA by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff a 5 out of 5 on my classification scale - a truly magnificent piece of literature, told in a refreshing new style that will take the YA world by storm!

************************************************************************************************************************

In order to assist in exposing you to the wonderful world of GEMINA, the lovely people from Rock the Boat have given me the opportunity to give away three signed copies. Yes, signed copies of GEMINA could be yours! (Bookmarks in the picture not included*)

All you have to do, is follow me on Twitter (@theblogbookshop) and keep your eye out for the giveaway post which will be posted at some point today! As soon as you see it, retweet it! You will be entered into my giveaway, which will last 2 weeks, and be in with the chance of winning a lovely signed edition of the book!

Good luck!

************************************************************************************************************************
And that is everything we have time for here at The Blogger's Bookshop for this lovely review and giveaway of GEMINA by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff! If you haven't read ILLUMINAE and you're wondering what on earth we are talking about, then definitely go and check it out and enjoy your entrance to this phenomenal new series thats exploding into bookstores worldwide as a number one best seller! And heck, whilst you're about, check out Amie and Jay's previous series too, they're pretty amazing!

Thank you again Rock the Boat for letting me take part in the GEMINA Blog Tour - it's been a pleasure to host the final day!



Stealing Snow Blog Tour: Danielle Paige's Top Six Fantasy Worlds

Thursday, 6 October 2016 0 comments

Good day everybody! My, oh my hasn't it been a while! A few months I'd reckon! Well to kick things off a bit as a revamp here on The Blogger's Bookshop (The Blogger's Spookshop if you want to be Halloweeny!) I have the lovely New York Times Bestselling Author, Danielle Paige, who is here to celebrate her new release, Stealing Snow. Imagine Disney's Frozen meets YA! If you thought Frozen was popular, then wait until you see what treats Stealing Snow has in store for us!

I have Danielle here today to talk about her Top Six Fantasy Worlds! So without further ado, and in no particular order, here are Danielle's Top Fantasy Worlds!

The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer

Taking Cinderella to space was a feat that I could not have imagined. It totally inspired me when writing my Dorothy and again in writing Stealing Snow. She gives happily ever after a new landscape while still maintaining the heart of the story we grew up loving.

Wonderland

Every detail was magic. Lewis Carroll takes us down the rabbit hole and plays with perspective, taking us eye level with Caterpillars and making us tower over Wonderland! 

The Land of Oz

From L. Frank Baum's original to Gregory McGuire's Wicked, I wanted to go over the Rainbow and meet the witches and munchkins and all of Dorothy's friends. And I got to go to Oz in Dorothy Must Die, but I may have dimmed the technicolor a bit!

Westeros from Game of Thrones

The map of Westeros may as well be a chess board. From Winterfell to the wall to Lannisport, each land is distinct and each people prepared to battle! And there's magic and dragons!!!

A Galaxy Far, Far Away from Star Wars

Star Wars was my first introduction to a space opera, and I will be forever in love with George Lucas' world building! From the Death Star to Tatooine, Lucas creates lands filled with machines, aliens, and creatures! 

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Collins' thirteen districts have to fight in a constructed game of death. The architecture of the game changed with each book as Katniss tries to redraw the map, save herself, and save the people.

***********************************************************************************************************************
And there we have it! The Top Six Fantasy Worlds by Danielle Paige! It's really phenomenal to see where Danielle got her inspiration from, as some of these worlds are absolutely fantastic. I know the world of The Lunar Chronicles is beyond ridiculously cool and the way Meyer spins it is unique! However, that being said, Danielle does a pretty fantastic job at weaving her own worlds as well - I know that whilst reading Dorothy Must Die for the first time, how impressed I was at just how dark and sinister Danielle made The Land of Oz. That being said, the world she crafts in Stealing Snow, whilst being a complete contrast to the alternate version of Oz she creates in Dorothy Must Die, is still just as brilliant and I can't wait for you all to visit it.

I just want to put out a special thank you to Danielle for having me host her fantasy worlds and to the lovely people at Bloomsbury for organising it! Don't forget to check out the final stop in the Stealing Snow Blog Tour over at Emily The Book Addict's blog!

************************************************************************************************************************


Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent her life locked in Whittaker Psychiatric—but she isn’t crazy. And that’s not the worst of it. Her very first kiss proves anything but innocent…when Bale, her only love, turns violent.

Despite Snow knowing that Bale would never truly hurt her, he is taken away—dashing her last hope for any sort of future in the mental ward she calls home. With nowhere else to turn, Snow finds herself drawn to a strange new orderly who whispers secrets in the night about a mysterious past and a kingdom that’s hers for the taking—if only she can find her way past the iron gates to the Tree that has been haunting her dreams.

Beyond the Tree lies Algid, a land far away from the real world, frozen by a ruthless king. And there too await the River Witch, a village boy named Kai, the charming thief Jagger, and a prophecy that Snow will save them all.

Book Review #80: The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

Sunday, 19 June 2016 0 comments
Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Scholastic UK! I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: The Sleeping Prince
AuthorMelinda Salisbury
Publisher: Scholastic UK
Format: ARC
Publication DateFebruary 4th 2016
Pages: 367
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆☆

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

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

The Sin Eater's Daughter was the introduction to this fantasy world. A book where medieval  royalty plagued the lands, where confinement and routine are drilled into your minds, where treachery and betrayal looms around every corner. The Sleeping Prince took that initiative and developed it beyond my expectations. Focusing on a completely new character, The Sleeping Prince introduces us to Errin, her story and the trials that she faces in her day to day life. Whilst Errin's story plays out, in the background the Sleeping Prince is awake and his hell-bent revenge and path of destruction knows no bounds.

Errin's tale was totally different to Twylla's and I found myself so engaged for completely different reasons. Whilst I admired Twylla's bravery to survive, I also loved the shared interest to survive from Errin, even if the scenario she was in was completely different. I really loved the contrast between Errin and Twylla - one full of fear and passion and the other embodied by mystery and hope - their narration really makes the story and I'm so glad that Melinda decided to tell their tales in two halves.

Delving into this whole other world, the dynamics of Errin's life are unique. Life as a apothecary has it's hardships for Errin, fighting to survive for a simple meal and to keep the roof over her head, let alone having to deal with the loss of her father, a missing brother and a mother whose mental health is declining so badly it's becoming a danger to herself and Errin. When war against the Sleeping Prince threatens Errin's doorstep she becomes thrust into a world of alchemy, magic and darkness. Her only lifeline is Silas, and the hope of a mystical cure for her mother that takes her across the realm with the threat of the Sleeping Prince hot on her tail. With the introductions of familiar faces woven throughout, readers will be delighted to wonder in this mythological infused fantasy. You'll just have to ignore the brutal and merciless trail of bodies that Melinda leaves in her wake. 

For those of you who have read The Sin Eater's Daughter, you will know that Melinda isn't afraid to take risks, but considering the prologue of The Sleeping Prince leaves readers with a blood volume higher than Dracula's private storeroom, fans of Salisbury's lust to defy reader's expectations will be eternally satisfied. 

In my review of The Sin Eater's Daughter I mentioned that I would have liked to have explored the history and mythology of the Sleeping Prince more, and in this book my desire was granted ten-fold, as Salisbury crafts a mythical lore that will leave readers in awe. The Sleeping Prince is not a force to be reckoned with and the passion in his mythology brings his tale to life. It is truly phenomenal and I cannot wait to see where his vengeance takes the story next.

All in all, the journey that this book takes you on and the woven themes that are presented in both books make this series easily one of my favourites. Whilst I may not be able to completely put my finger on why, it's unique development of it's characters gives this story an edge over other YA titles currently out there. It's no wonder that Melinda's book has been nominated for so many awards, it's truly a magical tale. The Sleeping Prince leaves readers with an epilogue that screams continuation, and whilst 2017 seems like an absolute age away, you can be assured that I will be on the waiting list to read the novel first. I award The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury a 4 out of 5 stars on my classification scale.Congratulations Melinda, you've provided a delightful adventure for young readers to explore, find themselves in and to be completed absorbed by.

Book Review #79: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard

Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Orion! I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: Glass Sword
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Publisher: Orion
Format: ARC
Publication DateFebruary 9th 2016
Pages444
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆☆

If there’s one thing Mare Barrow knows, it’s that she’s different.

Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control.

The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.

Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors.

But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.

Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?

The electrifying next installment in the Red Queen series escalates the struggle between the growing rebel army and the blood-segregated world they’ve always known—and pits Mare against the darkness that has grown in her soul.

It's always difficult to review a book when the only notes you have left for yourself are ' That ending! Those deaths! Why?!' Seriously helpful, Daniel. Looking back on Glass Sword, it is definitely evident to see that Victoria Aveyard has stepped up a notch in providing her readers with something extra. Red Queen was an introduction to Norta and the story of Mare Barrow, and that itself packed a mighty punch. Glass Sword was unreal - a complete opposition to Red Queen in it's story, and yet there was so much development that it left me craving for more.

We continue the story immediately from where Red Queen left off, and we're once again thrust into Aveyard's world of deception and mystery. Escaping from the vindictive and newly crowned, Maven, Mare surrounds herself by old friends as well as a new rebellious force behind the Scarlet Guard. Over time, Mare's story journeys to far off areas of Norta, giving readers a wider angled view of the country we began to learn about in Red Queen, as she seeks out the newbloods on her list - individuals embodied with silver abilities disguised within red blood. As we venture through the lands, we're exposed to some new characters, reunited with old characters and provided with a developed sense of bond and unity that holds the rebellion together. All in all, it was very impressive to see the counter side of the fight after spending the majority of Red Queen investing in the world of the silver bloods.

Whilst at times the story seemed repetitive, constantly seeking out the next newblood, Aveyard provides her readers with intense action sequences and a variety of twists and turns along the way, each darker and more suspenseful than you could imagine. That is one thing that impressed me so much in Red Queen and in Glass Sword it blew it out of the water - Aveyard's ability to provide surprise that will literally get your heart pounding. 

Character development is a major feature of Glass Sword, especially for our main protagonist. In this novel, Mare changes quite a bit, dealing with the impacts of Maven's kingship as well as the extension of her abilities. As she learns to battle against herself, the forces of revolution around her remind her of the trials and tribulations she is yet to face under Maven's rule. You can definitely see there is going to be a scene or two in the third book where Mare is going to have to confront everything she has learned to battle against, especially within herself, and it's going to be explosive. I can't wait. 

Now a book wouldn't be good without a good death and boy oh boy does Aveyard smack you in the face with the death count. Whilst her body hits aren't as torturous as George R.R.Martin, Aveyard certainly knows how to caress your heart and then crush it into a thousand pieces when it comes to her characters. I'm not going to bother spoiling who dies and so on and so forth, but my advice to readers is simply to prepare yourself because it cripples you. As soon as you read it, you'll soon know the sweet torture that Aveyard delivers.

In consideration of everything, the element that makes this book what it is has to be the ending. Aveyard wasn't afraid to shock us in Red Queen with Maven's dramatic turn, and yet in Glass Sword, when we thought Aveyard couldn't brutalise her cliffhangers much more, she drops the bombshell on us that is the Glass Sword ending. My goodness, if you weren't eager for the next instalment then you certainly will be now - the ending is torturous, heart-breaking and yet devilishly delicious. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book to see where this dark and twisted finale will take us. I award Glass Sword a 4 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale - a delicious wonder to behold for those who enjoy sinister betrayal and an explosion of character development. I eagerly await the next book. 

Book Review #78: Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch

Please note that before you read this review that I am reviewing this publication for Harper360! I received an advanced readers copy of this title in exchange for an honest review. In no way is my opinion influenced by the fact that I received this free of charge. Now on with the review!

Title: Ice Like Fire
AuthorSara Raasch
Publisher: Balzer and Bray
Format: ARC
Publication DateOctober 13th 2015
Pages479
Source: Review Copy from Publisher
Rating☆☆☆☆

It’s been three months since the Winterians were freed and Spring’s king, Angra, disappeared—thanks largely to the help of Cordell.

Meira just wants her people to be safe. When Cordellan debt forces the Winterians to dig their mines for payment, they unearth something powerful and possibly dangerous: Primoria’s lost chasm of magic. Theron sees this find as an opportunity—with this much magic, the world can finally stand against threats like Angra. But Meira fears the danger the chasm poses—the last time the world had access to so much magic, it spawned the Decay. So when the king of Cordell orders the two on a mission across the kingdoms of Primoria to discover the chasm’s secrets, Meira plans to use the trip to garner support to keep the chasm shut and Winter safe—even if it means clashing with Theron. But can she do so without endangering the people she loves?

Mather just wants to be free. The horrors inflicted on the Winterians hang fresh and raw in Januari—leaving Winter vulnerable to Cordell’s growing oppression. When Meira leaves to search for allies, he decides to take Winter’s security into his own hands. Can he rebuild his broken kingdom and protect them from new threats?

As the web of power and deception weaves tighter, Theron fights for magic, Mather fights for freedom—and Meira starts to wonder if she should be fighting not just for Winter, but for the world.

After finding Snow like Ashes a more than pleasurable read, I was extremely delighted to dive straight into the sequel, Ice like Fire. Expanding the world of Primoria beyond what we only glimpsed at in the first book, Raasch definitely provides her readers with a whole new experience, picking up almost immediately where the last book left us.

It's been three months since the book ended and King Noam has put in force his plans for the Winterians. Digging away in the mines, striving to uncover the magic chasm that the kingdom's conduit were forced from, our story takes a very different twist from it's predecessor as whilst previously there is a greater impact placed on character development, Ice like Fire is quite heavily focused on the action. That isn't to say however, that there isn't a sense of character development in this book because the way the chapters are split up into Meira and Mather's points of view definitely explore all angles and feelings about whats happening in Primoria. 

Setting off to warn the other kingdoms of Noam's imminent invasion, Meria journeys to the Summer kingdom and meets the princess Ceridwen. Ceridwen for me was my absolute favourite new introduction by Raasch - her determination and defiance of even her own kingdom's beliefs was refreshing and her eased up attitude added a great deal of humour to scenes of such a darker nature.

This books definitely takes a darker turn than Snow Like Ashes did and you can see this simply from some of the themes that are brought about. One of these themes, in particular, is the theme of secrecy. In this novel, Meria discovers many truths that were previously held secret to Winter and the other Kingdom's as well as that of secrets that other character's are hiding themselves. The most mysterious of these would be Theron in this book, and whilst in Snow Like Ashes I adored Theron, in this book I definitely read Theron differently and this dark mysteriousness to him aided this reading. It was a shame to see such a significant turn in Theron's character, and yet the ending, whilst it surprised me, opens up so many opportunities for Theron to develop. This twisted result favours Raasch's ability to surprise and prove some even darker twists and turns which I'm sure will be revealed in Frost Like Night. 

Overall, Ice Like Fire is a difficult book to review without giving away major spoilers because this is definitely a book that changes multiple perspectives. However, these perspectives completely credit the book and Sara Raasch's writing and I found Ice Like Fire to be a thoroughly enjoyable read and one of the most surprising I've read in a while. I award Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch a full 5 out of 5 star rating on my classification scale, a dark and delicious sequel to what is developing as a stunning series. I eagerly await the final instalment from Sara - I just hope she isn't too merciless to some of our beloved characters.

Character and Voice - A Guest Post by Olivia Levez

Thursday, 7 April 2016 0 comments
Hey guys! I'm here today with a fantastic guest post by Olivia Levez, author of the newly debuted 'The Island'! In order to promote the release of The Island, Olivia is here today to talk to you about character and voice, and how she met her main protagonist Fran Stanton. So without further ado, I'll pass you straight over to Olivia!

"Character and voice- how i met fran stanton"

In YA fiction, you’ve got to find the voice. But first the voice has to find you.

The first time Fran spoke to me, I was in the kitchen, doing something mundane, like putting dishes away.

Hurriedly, I grabbed a pen and listened.

Then it started to happen more and more. Her voice would slip into my head, and she’d say something so real, so raw, that I’d sigh and look for my notebook/receipt/piece of kitchen roll, and scribble it down.

Eventually, all these random gatherings became, of all things, a letter.

This girl, Frances, told me she was on a desert island. She was fuming mad because she’d been trying and failing to make a recipe out of berries she’d foraged.

I called it ‘Poison berry Trifle’. She was speaking to a fictional daytime cookery show presenter, and it was all very ironic and fairly random. My writing group was quite polite about it. Eventually, I took it out of the book. I mean, she didn’t even have a pen, and I didn’t think she’d be the sort of person to watch daytime cookery shows.

But it was the first time I wrote in her voice.

It needed toning down a bit. I mean, it was very sweary. And the visceral description of the physical effects of food poisoning probably wasn’t necessary in quite so much detail. But there she was, speaking to me. Spitting angry. Scared. Frustrated. Needing to connect, but hating everyone.

This Frances character swore. A lot. And, being mindful of school gatekeepers, I wondered about showing that. In my previous fantasy book I used ‘faecking’. For Fran I came up with ‘frickin’. No end apostrophe, just because it seemed more like her actual word, not an abbreviation. Also, I worried that so many apostrophes could be irritating in large doses. In original drafts she said ‘cause’ instead of ‘because’ (‘coz’ and ‘cus’ being too baby-ish) but that got removed in editing as it was too confusing for the reader.

Another thing my character does is make lists. It wasn’t a deliberate thing, but something that gradually happened, and it became a big part of her voice. Maybe it’s because in her real life, Frances has to forage too. Her mum, Cassie, is too lazy and useless to stock up the cupboards, and Fran and her little brother live mostly on Snickers bars.

It made me wonder why people make lists. Because things are scarce, and you want to keep a check on things? Because you’re anxious you may forget something? Because there are things on your mind that disturb you unless you list them, write them down? Maybe new sensations are worth listing. Maybe lists are a mindful way to connect, properly connect, with your environment.

My current ‘to do’ list – don’t ask about the mould on the ceiling!

The Island is full of lists, whether it’s lists of the disgusting foods Fran finds, or foods she longs to eat, or a list of her first impressions of the magical otherness of the setting. Or when, filled with horror, she lists the noises she hears as she’s cringing and flinching in her washed up liferaft, that very first night by the forest. For whatever reason, lists became a big part of Fran’s voice.

So I had lists, and I had ‘frickin’, but mostly I felt and heard the character; I was her. I felt very low and lonely, writing the parts of the book where she is really suffering. I have already talked about method writing in my own blog, where I became a ‘caravan castaway’ in order to write the book, and this isolation really did make me feel Fran’s experiences.

In my teaching job at a secondary school, I have known Frans. Many of them.

Late for lessons, surly, up for a fight. Looked after. Pupil Premium. Disadvantaged student. There are lots of labels. Often such pupils are carers, for their mum, their kid brother or sister. There are reasons why they’re tired in class, why knowing the success criteria for the lesson isn’t exactly top of their agenda.

Sometimes, creative writing is an outlet. I’ve been a GCSE examiner, and in the past read hundreds of stories, when that used to be part of the exam. And sometimes, you’d read one, and think, uh-oh, that’s too real, that’s not fiction, and the events described would be so harrowing that you’d contact the exam board to report it as a possiible safeguarding issue.

Because students write the truth, in the exam hall; they believe they’re writing to an anonymous audience, that it’s a safe place. So, in the same way, my character Fran writes her ‘story within a story’.

Fran Stanton is streetwise. She’s lived in Brixton all her life, and only once been to the seaside, when her mum took her and her brother to Weymouth. So what would she do on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean? Already used to stealing, foraging, toughing it out, sleeping on rooftops, how would she use her urban skills to survive? I thought it would be fun (though not for Fran) to make her self -destructive at first. So that she’s the antithesis of your typical Bear Grylls-type survivor.

Tobacco Caye, Belize, one of the places that inspired Fran’s island.

So she wastes everything through sheer recklessness, pours away water and refills with vodka, wastes all the matches by having a seagull party on the liferaft. She doesn’t care if she survives or not, because what’s the point?

But then there’s her brother. And all the memories. And of course the healing nature of the island itself.

And that is how I met Fran Stanton.

I just needed to work out why the frick she was on a desert island…

***********************************************************************************************************************

Olivia Levez is a YA author who's debut, THE ISLAND was published in March 2016 by Rock The Boat. She is a writer, a blogger and a teacher. She is a Gryffindor and prefers snow days over heat-waves. Her caravan is her writing place - her room of one's own and she can almost do a headstand!

Twitter: @livilev
Instagram: olivialevez


***********************************************************************************************************************

There were friends once, but they melted away. Things are different now I am a monster.

Frances is alone. Cast away on a small island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, she has to find water, food and shelter. But survival is hard. Especially when she is haunted by memories of the things that she did before, the things that made her a monster. Pushed to the limit in extreme conditions, she battles to come to terms with her past, and find a future worth fighting for.

This is a gripping and thought-provoking story about one girl’s journey to become the person she believes she can be.

***********************************************************************************************************************

Contact Form

Name

Email *

Message *

Copyright © 2014 The Blogger's Bookshop
Template by These Paper Hearts