Friday, 23 June 2017

REVIEW: BROKEN BRANCHES BY M. JONATHAN LEE

Hideaway Fall are a new publishing house dedicated to publishing up and coming authors. When I saw them reach out on Twitter for book bloggers a while back, I couldn't help but apply! Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee is the first book sent out by Hideaway Fall. I knew nothing about the story until the book landed on my doorstep back in May, and after reading the synopsis my first thoughts were along the lines of "this isn't something I would usually read", and it wasn't. I've been massively into fantasy for a while now, and while I do love a good thriller, something just felt different about Broken Branches.


From the cover:

"Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse."

Thoughts:

The chapters are split between present day and Ian's past. While I had no problem understanding this, there was nothing to really show that these chapters were different. Perhaps a different font or style would have been useful to reinforce the change in time At first I struggled to get into the story; I'm not sure if this was because of the writing style, or because it was so different than my usual reads. Though, as time passed, I started to find myself more and more intrigued by the story and I got through the last third of the book pretty quickly.

I definitely felt that there was a serious case of unreliable narrator syndrome. At first I was wholeheartedly behind Ian and what he was saying, but as the story pressed on I began to distrust him and question his view of events. This made for a sense of unease and mystery throughout the book, which did leave me a little on edge. During one particular "ghostly" scene, the wind made my door slam shut, and I might have jumped slightly. I also have to mention that there is a short scene that features animal abuse, and another featuring a dog in a particularly gruesome situation, which did make me feel uncomfortable.

There is a twist of sorts in this story, and while I did manage to figure most of it out towards the end, I still found that some of it was still a surprise. The ending was left very open with many unanswered questions, which I found very frustrating. After all the confusion and twists, I felt that there should have been some kind of resolution. I didn't feel any kind of connection with the characters either; I felt that they could have benefited from a little more depth.

While Broken Branches isn't my typical kind of read, I did enjoy it somewhat, and feel that it is a strong book for Hideaway Fall to start their journey with.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

MY FAVOURITE (GUILTY PLEASURE) TROPES IN YA

Last week I wrote about my least favourite tropes in YA, which you can read here. I thought it was only right that I told you my favourites too! Here's a fair warning, most of these tropes relate to love and relationships because I'm a bit of a sap like that.



1. Hate to love relationships

When that snarkiness turns to flirting and tense conversations, man I live for this shit! It doesn't only work for couples, I love when two people who despise each other become best friends too and join forces to kick arse, especially in fantasy.

2. Forbidden love

I just can't help myself. There's just something so satisfying about a forbidden love. The whole secrecy/keeping it quiet thing that more often than not results in a huge reveal where the characters put everyone else's thoughts and opinions to one side and just love each other. Brb, crying.


3. Training and learning

I love seeing our MC work to improve either their fighting skills or their knowledge. I appreciate this much more than those characters who are automatically "the best". The situations a character in training goes through can help them become a more developed character, so a good training montage/story line is one of my faves. Also it's super satisfying when a character is underestimated, they train and become really frickin' cool and then surprise everyone by kicking the shit out of those who disregarded them. YAS!

4. Fake marriage or relationship

Here we go again. I did warn you. Basically, point number four is dedicated to Lorcan and Elide in Empire of Storms. God I loved their story line. You know how it goes, two characters need to go somewhere or get something whilst remaining undetected, and the safest way to do this is to pretend to be a couple. AND if we're lucky, it eventually turns into to the real thing *smirking emoji*.

5. The bad guy who is actually a really, really good guy

When a character is introduced and you're all like "ugh no go away who even wants you here?" and by the end of the story you're crying "PLEASE FORGIVE ME, I DIDN'T KNOW THE TRUTH!" because they swoop in, deliver some brilliant lines and save the day. Rhysand, I'm looking at you (I love you).

So there are my top YA tropes! As you can probably tell from this, my favourite stories are typically fantasy with a good romance. Can you blame me? What are your fave tropes, I'd love to know!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

LEAST FAVOURITE TROPES IN YA

We've all been there. Reading books and coming across the same tropes and situations time and time again. Sometimes. I'm all for it, I love some of them! While there are others I could totally live without. Today I've got something that is a little different to what I usually post but I had fun putting it together!



1. The protagonist who comes from nowhere and is suddenly better than everyone at everything

Grrrr this one really grinds my gears. You know, when one of the characters is just a normal guy or girl who finds out that something really bad is happening and somehow they are sucked into it. Suddenly, with no training, they are fighting like experienced assassins, are confident politicians in meetings, are knowledgeable in the ways of the world and outrank most of the other characters. Ummmm?

2. Young protagonists who have the life experience of a thirty year old

This kind of links to point number one. When the 16 year old MC has fought in wars, has had several serious relationships, possesses knowledge and behaviours way beyond their years, I find it super hard to get on board. Maybe 16 year olds have changed since I was that age, who knows?

3. Insta-love

"Our eyes locked, and I  could have sworn that sparks flew between the two of us. In that moment, I knew. I knew that we were meant to be, and that I would die to keep him safe".  YOU JUST MET, HE COULD BE A MONSTER!

4. Protagonists who has no self worth until the love interest tells them they're beautiful

The plain character who absolutely despises the way they look and thinks they are worthless until their love interest tells them otherwise. I'm all for confidence boosts, and understand that sometimes you just need that to help yourself feel better, but it's important to know that you are not defined by other people's opinions of you!

5. Perfect love interests

Everyone has flaws, at least one, and when a character is utterly perfect in every way, I have zero interest. Give me someone with a crooked nose, a bad sense of humour or a slight case of clumsiness and I'm sold.
   
6. The MC who thinks they are so strong and smart that they need to ask no questions  

"Oh, I need to join this revolution and sneak into the heavily guarded castle and kill the King and save all the hostages... Ok, when do we leave?" I'm not sure if it's just me, but I'd be much happier sitting down and forming a plan before jumping in head first (if I was at all capable of storming any castle and saving anyone, but that's besides the point).

So that's just a few of the many tropes we see in YA. After reading this back, it seems to reflect fantasy more than anything! This post was a little tongue in cheek but I hope you enjoyed it. What are your least favourite bookish tropes?

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

REVIEW: ONE OF US IS LYING BY KAREN M. MCMANUS

While I do love a good mystery thriller, over the past few months I have leaned towards fantasy books more. I decided to mix things up and came across this absolute gem, One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus, on NetGalley which I was very kindly approved to read!


From the cover:

One of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide. Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
    Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
    Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
    Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
    Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
    And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose? 

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Thoughts:

The plot is unlike anything I have read before; I was gripped from the first chapter! I really liked the characters, especially the developmental journey that each of them experienced throughout the story which felt real and natural, and not just as though it was used as a plot device. I loved their relationships with each other too. They didn't become the best of friends out of nowhere, they were almost strangers in the beginning and throughout the story they come together to try and solve the murder mystery which was really interesting.

When I do read mysteries, I try my hardest to pick holes and guess what is going to happen, but I was far too engrossed in the story to bother doing that with this book. I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. Told from four perspectives (the surviving students from detention) I didn't feel that I blamed any of them for the death, but then the idea of "unreliable narrators" seeps in and straight away I didn't trust any of them.  The several perspective narrative was also really interesting, and the story was very well paced throughout. Whilst predominantly a mystery, there was also a romantic aspect to this story which I felt was not over or underdone, it was just right for me. They are teenagers in high school, of course there is going to be romance! 

I was kept guessing until the very end with this book; the last few chapters are so incredibly tense! I feel that the ending was very well executed and thought out, and for a change with a mystery thriller story, I was happy with it. I felt that it was wrapped up neatly but not lazily which I really appreciated. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I think the fact that I read it in less than 24 hours is testament to that. A solid and well deserved 4/5 stars from me!

*Book depository affiliate links used. I get a small commission if you purchase through them, and you get free delivery.

Monday, 5 June 2017

WHAT I READ THIS MONTH: MAY 2017

This month I finished my undergraduate degree after three years in university and a 12 month placement. Before I could finish though, I had to hand in my last assignments and sit my final exam. So you wouldn't blame me for thinking that I wouldn't get much reading done. Well, 12 books later and it seems that I've proved myself wrong!


The first book that I read in May (only just, I finished it on the 1st!) is Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. I had the pleasure of attending a book signing at Waterstones Liverpool in March where I had my copy of Strange signed, along with the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series which you can read about hereand it made me so excited to read the book. Laini has such a beautiful way of writing. I can't quite explain what she does to make it so magical but I was totally swept away from the first page. Though it did take me a while to get through the first few chapters due to my internal "I should be working and revising" struggle, I flew through the last half in one night. I was totally invested in the characters and the world and was whisked through a whole host of emotions. Strange the Dreamer is an utterly stunning book, both inside and out, about dreams, gods and libraries, with brave, loyal and loving main characters. It was the perfect way to start such a good reading month. 4/5 stars.

So it's probably not a surprise to those of you know that know me or follow me on social media that on the 2nd of May I both received and read a certain book. Yup, you guessed it, my second read in the month of May was my most highly anticipated book of the year, A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. Now, there is no way I can get all of my feelings and thoughts across in this wrap up without making it 24394857394873976 words long. What I will say is that from the moment it arrived I stopped reading it once, to make some lunch, which I ate gingerly whilst still reading hoping that I didn't get anything on the book, which wouldn't surprise me if I'm honest. 

Anyway, it took me eight and a half hours to read and throughout that time, I laughed, cried, shouted, sobbed my heart out, gasped, felt sick and by the end my heart was so full of emotion that I just had to sit and contemplate my thoughts for about half an hour. Now I know that some people had problems with the story but I loved it, wholeheartedly. I think SJM did an amazing job at wrapping up Feyre and Rhys' arc whilst leaving enough open for the next set of books. While I am absolutely heartbroken that this part of the story is over, I'll always be incredibly grateful to SJM for writing such an incredible series that has not only changed my life and helped me to meet so many other amazing people who love ACOTAR as much as me, but fuelled my love for fantasy once again. I'm currently re-reading ACOWAR with lots of tabs and notes so that I can soon my write my full spoilery review, so keep an eye out for that! Undoubtedly 5/5 stars. Always.

After devouring ACOWAR, I had a taste for SJM's writing and decided to re-read the last three books in the Throne of Glass series: Heir of Fire, Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms. While ACOTAR is my all time favourite series, Throne of Glass is a very close second. I love that our heroine is sassy, can kick some serious arse, isn't afraid to just do what she wants to do, but will do anything for those she loves despite having been dealt a seriously shitty hand. Not only is the series packed with action, the best kind of romance and some amazing characters, it's also full of twists and turns that will literally have you on the edge of your seat. Empire of Storms breaks my heart every single goddamn time. 5/5 stars.

I'm so glad to have had the chance to read this next book ahead of it's release, thanks to the publishers and NetGalley! I'd been seeing it all over Twitter and Bookstagram and knew that I had to read it. In When Dimple Met Rishi, Dimple, an aspiring web developer, gets the chance to attend a highly commended web development summer program. Unbeknown to Dimple, her parents agreed to send her there to find the "Ideal Indian Husband". Rishi on the other hand is a hopeless romantic, and jumps at the opportunity to attend the same program with hopes of wooing Dimple and falling in love. However, from the moment they meet and Rishi greets Dimple with "Hello future wife" to which Dimple responds to by throwing coffee all over him, their relationship was not what either of them expected.

I loved that Dimple really stood up for what she believed in and while Rishi loves the idea of finding his soulmate and falling in love, once he realises that Dimple desires different things, he puts his feelings aside and respects her wishes. I would have liked to have read more about the actual coding and web development that happened across the program however, I appreciate the story was more about the character development which I totally respect, and this hasn't changed my opinion of the book at all. When Dimple Met Rishi is the perfect own voices YA contemporary. It was funny, it was cute, it gave me "bookish butterflies" and I loved the main characters. I felt that I learned a lot about Indian culture whilst reading, and really enjoyed seeing lines in Hindi as well as English!  Diversity in books matters and I'm so glad to have heard from so many people that When Dimple Met Rishi is good representation and totally relatable! 4/5 stars.

So I'm a little embarrassed about how long it took me to start the next series I read in May. I'd owned the books for a few months but I'd been seeing them around the bookish community for so much longer. I finally started the Darker Shades of Magic by V.E. Schwab trilogy in May! I read the first two books, A Darker Shade of Magic and A Gathering of Shadows and was instantly swept away into a world of magic, pirates and royal intrigue unlike anything I've read before. While I raced through the stories and absolutely loved the characters, I think this was one of those series that is loved by so many and has received so many amazing reviews, that I went in with my expectations set way too high which could realistically never be met. Nonetheless, I am so excited to finish the trilogy with A Conjuring of Light and to see what happens next (though I've read that a lot of people were heartbroken so I'm also a bit scared) and the first two books are a definite 4/5 stars from me!

I came across the next series that I started reading in May over on Facebook. I'm a member of a couple of ACOTAR/TOG groups (cause you know... I just can't get enough) and a few other members had recommended Air Awakens by Elise Kova. I downloaded the first book onto my Kindle a while back as it was on offer, but only decided to read it this weekend. And well the rest, as they say, is history. I devoured the first book on Saturday, and as of the 30th May, I had finished the fourth. Air Awakens features elemental magic, a hate to love forbidden romance, a training school, war, politics, a corrupt royal family, side characters that make your heart melt and 'on the edge of your seat' action. What more could you want? Whilst the writing isn't technically the best I have ever read, I'm absolutely enthralled by the characters and the story, and for the first time in a long time, I have a real longing for the fictional world and spend my time counting down to when I can dive right back in. I gave Air Awakens and Fire Falling 5/5 stars, and Earth's End and Water's Wrath 4/5 stars.

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