Monday, 27 March 2017

WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: MARCH 2017

 While I started 2017 off with two really great reading months, I slowed down a little in March, reading a total of three books. I'm happy with that though, considering that I handed in my dissertation this month too! *internally screams*


The first book that I read in March was The Mime Order, the second book in The Bone Season series by Samantha Shannon. I read The Bone Season last month and absolutely loved it; I can't believe that I waited so long to read this series! So I can't really go into too much detail plot wise as I would hate to ruin the story for you, but the second instalment in this series is just as action packed, tense and exciting, if not more, as the first. I was never bored and actually found myself reading The Mime Order during any spare time I had (it was actually a life saver during breaks between lectures). Just like with The Bone Season, when I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about it, and I finished the book within a matter of days. This series has bumped it's way up my favourites list and I can't wait to read the rest! 4/5 stars.

Surprise surprise, the next book I read in March was The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon. My immediate response after finishing this book was "Holy shit!" so I think that sums up my feelings pretty well. I went to the book signing for this release at my local Waterstones (you can read about it here) and had all of my books signed by Samantha Shannon, it was such a fab night! I really made an effort to slow my reading down with this book, as I knew that once I'd finished this it'd be a long wait until the fourth instalment and I wasn't ready for that. But, as you may guess, I failed miserably.

This book was so incredibly good that I just couldn't help but devour it page by page. We get to explore more of the UK, heading to places like Manchester and Edinburgh. I really loved this, especially as I live in Manchester myself and am a quarter Scottish (is that even a thing? Well my Grandad is from Glasgow ok) so I found it really interesting to read about these cities in one of my favourite series. The characters go through some seriously harrowing stuff in this book, and I've really grown quite attached to them, so I found this pretty hard to read, but overall The Song Rising was amazing. It brought out so many different emotions and feelings: excitement, worry, panic, sadness, happiness, warmth and tension to name but a few. Once again, this was a really well thought out plot, with superb writing skills and excellent world building from Samantha Shannon. A definite 5/5 stars!

In March I finally delved into the wonderful world of Laini Taylor through the first book in the trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. I'd heard such great things about the series but never got around to reading it, until I saw that Laini was coming to Waterstones in Liverpool this month to celebrate the release of her new novel, Strange the Dreamer! I knew before even reading the books that I would love them after reading all of the reviews, so I booked my tickets to the book signing and ordered this book.

The writing was absolutely magical; it was unlike anything I've read before and I found myself completely swept up in the story and a little in awe of Laini's incredible talent. While I did find the plot a little slow in parts, I felt that the pace really helped with the world building and development of the story and I was hooked throughout, desperate to know what was going to happen next. For a change, I really loved each of the characters. Apart from the obvious (you know, living between our world and another) Karou is totally normal and relatable. She could just be that girl with the crazy cool blue hair in one of your lectures at uni, but underneath she is strong, and sassy and actually really brave. And Akiva, ah, well. Akiva made me all sorts of emotional. After all the loss and torture he has been through, he remains loyal, and hopeful and most of all, good. The romance between the two was definitely "swoon worthy" as much as I hate to use that phrase; no insta-love as such, though I did guess the link between the two of them before it was revealed. It didn't lessen the heartbreak any, though!

Reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone has me lusting to visit Prague so bad, it sounds amazing! As soon as I finished this book, I ordered the second, Days of Blood and Starlight. I mean technically I am on a book buying ban for lent, but if I'm meeting the author I really should have read her books, right? I got my hands on Strange the Dreamer yesterday and I'm so excited to read it. It's such a beautiful book and I wouldn't be surprised if it made an appearance in next month's TBR!


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Friday, 17 March 2017

MINI WATERSTONES BOOK HAUL

Back in February, for Valentine's Day, my boyfriend bought me a Waterstones gift card. We'd agreed no presents (which I stuck to apart from a large bag of Magic Stars, oops), and I was feeling a bit emotional, and he just knows me so well that I let out a huge sob. Anyway, I thought I'd share the books that I bought with the gift card! It seems that I had a bit of a thing for red books this month...
After finishing The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon in February (check out my wrap up here), I just had to get my hands on The Mime Order, the second book in the series. I ordered the book online, and with choosing First Class delivery it arrived the next morning! I was super impressed. It did cost more than had I ordered it on Amazon, but I've been finding out more about how Amazon really aren't that cool recently, so I'm going to try and shop more in bookstores where I can. 

This weekend I visited one of my local Waterstones stores and spent a good while browsing the store. My boyfriend George waited patiently as I scoured each shelf, even rearranging some of the books, and dutifully "uhmmed" and "ahhhed" as I pointed out various books and authors. The second book I bought was Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. So I haven't read any of Laini's books, but I've heard such great things about her books, this in particular, that when I saw it on the shelf I couldn't resist (I do also have Strange The Dreamer on pre-order).

The last book I bought from Waterstones is A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, the third in the Shades of Magic trilogy. Funny story, I haven't actually read the first two in the series... BUT, I do have the e-books on Kindle, and after reading all the rave reviews of the series I think I'm kind of guaranteed to love it, so I couldn't leave ACOL in the store! 

Also, major bonus surprise at the till. Both books were included in a offer so they ended up costing less than anticipated! It's the little things, hey? I've already read both The Mime Order and Daughter of Smoke and Bone so I'll be including those in my wrap up at the end of the month!

Saturday, 11 March 2017

SAMANTHA SHANNON BOOK SIGNING: THE SONG RISING

Earlier this week, on Wednesday night, I made my way to my local Waterstones on Deansgate in Manchester, for a very exciting event: a book signing for The Song Rising by Samantha Shannon! I attended one for Caraval by Stephanie Garber a few weeks back (which you can read about here) so I was very much looking forward to this as I knew how awesome these signings were! I started reading The Bone Season series last month, and it very quickly made it's way up my favourite book series list. I was about 50% of the way through The Song Rising the day of the event, which was only a day after the book was released, so that's testament to how much I was enjoying it.
Samantha's discussion was both insightful and inspiring; I loved learning about the history of her writing, how she developed ideas for the series and even a couple of personal things. 

I really like the fact that she draws on a lot of real world issues and events, and these influence her writing. For example, the way that the Salem Witch Trials were conducted and the idea of "unnaturalness", with those that are "different" being persecuted. 

While The Bone Season series could be considered dystopian, the fact that the world is actually quite progressive is quite contradictory. For example, Samantha clearly explained that there is no sexism or homophobia in her books. Her characters see people as just that, people. Not man, woman, gay, straight or bisexual for example. For a world that is so damaging in some ways, is actually more developed than ours in others. The idea of mass hysteria interests Samantha too, which is clearly reflected in the way that certain groups react within The Bone Season series, and again is quite prevalent to today's society.

Samantha began writing in her teens, around the age of 12 or 13, and started to write her first novel, Aurora at 15 (Samantha described this as Twilight with aliens)! While this story wasn't picked up by an agent, Warden was actually created first for this story and then adapted for The Bone Season. Apparently Warden was quite dark and brooding in Aurora, with the story revolving a lot around the "swooning" between him and his human lover. 

Speaking of which, Paige and Warden's relationship was somewhat inspired by the story of Beauty and the Beast, particularly how the Beast never really tells Belle what's really going on, when actually by doing that he'd have made things much simpler! Samantha also said that she drew inspiration from V for Vendetta (one of her favourite films) and the character of Mr Rochester from Jane Eyre.

While Aurora was unfortunately rejected, Samantha did receive feedback from one agent, and it was on her trip to this agency that she came across the area of Seven Dials for the first time. The New Age shops in the area helped Samantha to develop the idea of a secret society of clairvoyants in a not-too-distant future London, and so began The Bone Season.

I also found out that the film rights for The Bone Season have also been bought by The Imaginarium Studios, which is ran by actor Andy Serkis. I'm so so so excited for this, but I really do hope that they do the books justice!
I had such a great time at this event, and even got to have a chat with Samantha while she signed the books I had brought with me. It's such a pleasure to meet the authors of my favourite books, and so I encourage anybody that's thinking about going to a signing to just do it! You won't regret it. Keep up with any events at your local Waterstones here*. 



*Not sponsored or paid for, I just love bookish events!

Thursday, 9 March 2017

REVIEW: THE ROANOKE GIRLS BY AMY ENGEL

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel is a book that I'd seen a lot of buzz about on social media, and so when the opportunity arose for me to be sent a proof copy (thank you Hodder Books!), you better believe I said yes.

From the cover:


Beautiful.
Rich.
Mysterious.

The Roanoke girls seem to have it all. But there's a dark truth about them which is never spoken. 

Every girl either runs away, or dies.

Lane is one of the lucky ones. When she was fifteen, over one long, hot summer at her grandparents' estate in rural Kansas, she found out what it really means to be a Roanoke girl. Lane ran, far and fast. Until eleven years later, when her cousin Allegra goes missing - and Lane has no choice but to go back.

She is a Roanoke girl.

Is she strong enough to escape a second time?


Thoughts:

First, of all, wow. This book had me gripped from the beginning; I read 30 pages the first day and the only reason I stopped was because I had to go out. The day after (yesterday as I'm writing this), I found myself saying "just 10 more minutes of reading"... until I'd finished the entire thing.

This book deals with some pretty dark and heavy themes, and certainly could include triggers for some people so I would recommend maybe reading a few reviews online which go into this further. as I don't want to reveal the main theme of the book here.

I really can't go into the actual story much without giving away huge spoilers, but I can say that the main themes are pretty easy to work out early on in the book (pretty much spelled out for you in the first quarter of the book), while the main "whodunnit" totally shocked me. This is testament to how well written and full of suspense The Roanoke Girls is; usually I'd be attempting to pick holes in the story line while trying to figure out who did what, but this time I was far too engrossed to even bother. There were parts of this book where I felt uncomfortable and disgusted, but my main feeling was sorrow. The Roanoke Girls seem to have it all, but at what price? 

The Roanoke Girls covers two periods in our protagonist Lane's life. Written in first person, we start with Lane at 16 years old when she first visits Roanoke, and discover the awful events that unfold the summer that she stays there, and eleven years later when Lane returns to help find her missing cousin Allegra. The book is also peppered with snippets from the other Roanoke girl's stories, which only added to the overall feeling of unease.

Lane sometimes confused me; don't get me wrong, I really liked her but in some parts of the story I found her actions very out of character, as if they'd been slotted in to help fuel the story with no thought as to how it would tie in with how we have previously seen her act. Despite this, I still loved how the characters were written. They all just worked. Even though some of the characters were truly terrible, they seemed completely three dimensional, and I felt as though I could picture them in every single scene.

I put this book down after finishing it feeling quite odd; had I really just enjoyed a book about something so evil? I had, but this book definitely isn't for everyone. If you like dark, deep and twisted stories about dysfunctional (to say the least!) families, then I would highly recommend The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel, released today.


Thursday, 2 March 2017

WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: FEBRUARY 2017

Last month I read eleven books. Yup, eleven, and I was totally proud of myself. This month I only managed to read five, and I'm still pretty chuffed with that. Five is a great number of books to read, especially when you love pretty much all of them (most are 4/5 star books), and are reading them in the midst of writing your dissertation and other final year work!
The first book that I read in February was Wintersong by S, Jae-Jones. I have a full review of Wintersong up already which you can read here. But long story short, Jae-Jones has taken inspiration from 19th century German fairy tales, along with a pinch of David Bowie's Labyrinth to create a novel unlike anything I'd read before. I was automatically drawn to this story and I loved it. With interesting, three dimensional characters, a dreamlike way of writing with amazing world building and a dark and mythical undertone, Wintersong had me enthralled from the first chapter. 4/5 stars.

I then read One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus. Over the past months I have leaned towards fantasy books, I love how you can get sucked into a new and exciting world so easily. Though, I do love a good mystery thriller, and when I heard about this book (which has been likened to Pretty Little Liars!) I had to request it on NetGalley, and thankfully I was very kindly approved to read it!

"On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention: Bronwyn, Addy, Nate, Cooper and Simon. Only Simon never makes it out of that classroom". Eep! The story follows the four remaining students as Simon's murder is investigated. I was kept guessing until the very end with this book; the last few chapters are so incredibly tense! I read it in less than 24 hours too as I just HAD to know 'whodunnit'. You can get your hands on One Of Us Is Lying on the 1st of June. A solid and well deserved 4/5 stars!

I've had the audio book of The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken on the Audible app for a while now, and while I'd started it about four times, I finally listened to the whole thing this month.

After most of America's children fall victim to a mysterious disease, the survivors develop uncontrollable abilities which make them dangerous and unpredictable, resulting in them being sent to brutal government "rehabilitation camps". After escaping her camp, Ruby joins a gang of kids seeking a safe haven for their kind, but faced with an unrelenting government and leaders who aren't what they seem, Ruby must make a terrible decision that may mean that she has to give up the one thing that makes her life worth living.

While it did take a long time to finally get around to listening to this, oh man I wish I'd listened earlier! I tend to listen to audio books whilst driving, but because I just could not get enough of this story I was listening to it while I was getting ready, whilst working, whilst doing jobs around the house - basically anywhere that I could. Dystopian stories often tend to be quite 'samey', (think The 5th Wave etc), but despite this I really enjoyed The Darkest Minds. I found the middle to be quite slow, and can imagine that if I were physically reading the book I'd be quite bored, but overall the plot was well thought out and I really enjoyed the character development. Parts of the story were quite hard hitting and my heart broke for the characters; imagine having been taken away from your family at 10 years old because they don't understand? Or worse, being given away by your family? So so sad. The world building was second to none and I am so excited for this to be brought to life in the upcoming film! Another 4/5 star read for me.

*I just want to post a trigger warning for the next book: rape, sexual harassment. cyber bullying*

I'm really not sure how to write a review for the next book I read in February, Asking For It by Louise O'Neill. I'd heard a lot about it in the book blogging community, but it wasn't until The Banging Book Club posted a review podcast on it that I decided to pick up the e-book.

One summer in a small town in Ireland, beautiful, happy and confident eighteen year old Emma O'Donovan goes to a party. The next morning, she is found on the front porch of her house by her parents. She doesn't know what happened, but everyone else does. Emma finally finds out what happened, through photographs that were taken on the night of the party, explicit  photographs, that have been shared with the whole town.

Ok so this book deals with a lot of heavy and serious issues, from alcohol and drugs, to sexual harassment, to rape, to bullying both on and offline to dysfunctional families. I didn't actually give this book a star rating on Goodreads because I genuinely don't know how to feel about it. I cannot say that I 'enjoyed' this book, because parts of it made me feel disgusted, sick, exasperated, uncomfortable and down right angry. On the other hand, I think that Asking For It is so powerful, and although there are shockingly high rape statistics, isn't really discussed in YA.  I'll leave you with this quote from Emma: "They are all innocent until proven guilty. Not me, I am a liar until I am proven honest." Ugh. That sentence alone is enough to make my blood boil. As Louise says herself, "We need to talk about rape. We need to talk about consent. We need to talk about victim-blaming and slut-shaming and the double standards we place upon our young men and women".

The last book I read this month is The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. What a way to end my reading month! I'd had The Bone Season on my bookcase for an embarrassing amount of time, but as I'm going to a Samantha Shannon at my local Waterstones later on this month, paired with the unending praise I hear for this series, I decided it was about time I read it. While the first few chapters were a little info dumpy and hard to get my head around, as soon as I had a grip on the world and the characters, I was hooked. Why oh why did I put off for so long?

The year is 2059. Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London where it is her job to break into people's minds as a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant, and in Scion, she commits treason just by breathing. One day Paige is attacked, drugged and kidnapped and taken to the secret city of Oxford where she is then controlled by an otherwordly race. To be able to escape this prison, Paige must learn to thrive and adapt, and most of all, trust.

I couldn't get enough of this book. When I wasn't reading it, I was thinking about reading it, and when I was reading it, I was devouring it, racing to get to the next page, the next chapter. I loved the kickass female lead, I loved the London setting which I found really interesting, but most of all I loved the fast paced, action driven plot. I was constantly entertained and was just completely enthralled from beginning to end. I've just started The Mime Order and I'm SO excited to attend the Samantha Shannon event in a couple of weeks. Another 4/5 stars!

I've had such a good reading month, I feel like I've started 2017 with a bang and I'm so excited for the rest of the year - there are some amazing books being released!


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