Sunday, 18 February 2018

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - review

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books (8th March)

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy. (Publisher's blurb)

As soon as I heard about this book, I loved the idea of a foundation in African mythology and was thrilled to receive a proof copy from My Kinda Book. For me, Children of Blood and Bone far exceeded the hype and I would rank it as one of my top 5 fantasy books of all time.

I think the real strength is in the plotting. The stakes are high and the book piles on the conflict throughout! There was a fantastic balance of lighter moments, relationships and fast-paced action. 

The three viewpoints were also really effective, delivering very different perspectives and motivations. I thought all of the characters were nuanced and interesting, from the most minor characters to the main ones. I loved Zélie the most of all, for her strength and the journey she went through as a character.

I don't think I've ever read a book based on African mythology and I loved the world-building in Children of Blood and Bone. The politics, magic and mythology interwove into a rich, complex but accessible world.

This is the most exciting series I've read for a long time and I think all of fans of YA, fantasy or just a fantastic story should read it.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Scholastic Bloggers' Book Feast and 2018 list

This was my first ever Scholastic Bloggers' event and I had a fantastic time. It was really fun to visit the Scholastic office and to meet so many lovely bloggers, publishers and authors. I thought the day was really well-organised and I got a lot out of it as a reader, a blogger and a writer.

Scholastic have a wonderful list of books coming out in 2018 and the day started with a summary of their list. All of them sounded great but here are some that I'm the most excited about!

I managed to pick up a copy of Shell by Paula Rawsthorne, which came out in January and it sounds incredible. It's the story of a girl who was terminally ill until her parents find a new body for her, and I'm obsessed with the idea of a modern take on Frankenstein.

We got chance to see the cover for Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill, out in May, and it's absolutely gorgeous! There'll be a public cover reveal soon. This story of The Little Mermaid told through a feminist lens appealed to me from the moment I heard about it and I can't wait to get a copy!

I was already very excited about State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury, and the more I hear, the more I'm not sure how I'm going to wait until March.

I'm a huge Sue Wallman fan and I can't wait to read Your Turn to Die in May, another fantastically twisty YA thriller.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, out in June, is about five friends who are given a devastating choice: they must decide which one of them will live, and then the rest will die. We received a copy in our goody bags and I can't wait to see how this book turns out!

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood is described as 'a gorgeously dreamy coming-of-age romance set against a stunning Gatsby-esque backdrop'. Out of the all the books we heard about, this was one of the most exciting and I can't wait to get a copy. Laura read the prologue to us and I was immediately gripped. The writing is beautiful, and very evocative of the time period and setting.

Here's a rundown of the other gorgeous books coming out and their release dates:

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson - January

Last Descendents: Fate of the Gods by Matthew J Kirkby - January

Tender by Eve Ainsworth - March

Spark by Alice Broadway - April

Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias - May

Noah Could Never by Simon James Smith - June

Show Stealer by Hayley Barker - June

Access All Awkward by Beth Garrod - July

Riverdale - two novels coming out this summer

A Storm of Ice and Stars by Lisa Lueddecke - October

It was amazing to hear from authors about their books and writing processes, and I really enjoyed the conversation between editors about what their role entails. The presentation by designers was also really interesting, as I've never seen how a book cover goes from a sketch to the glorious finished product.

There was also a fantastic author panel with Alice Broadway, Paula Rawthorne, Tracey Mathias, Sue Wallman, Eve Ainsworth, Laura Wood, Simon James Green and Lisa Thompson. I really enjoyed hearing them talk about their books and the amazing range of stories.

I had a great day and I'm really excited to read my new books. Thank you to everyone at Scholastic!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Meet Cute short stories - review

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of "how they first met" from some of today’s most popular YA authors. (Publisher's blurb)

This is one of the best collections of short stories that I've read for ages, and with the calibre of authors included I'm not surprised. I enjoyed some aspect of all of the stories and I thought there was a really good range of genres and subject matters covered. Most stories were contemporary but there were some with fantastical and sci-fi elements that I really enjoyed. 

My favourite stories were by Nina LaCour, Julie Murphy, Nicola Yoon and Dhonielle Clayton. I've just read and loved The Belles, but I need to get books by the other authors immediately!

Nina LaCour's is the story that really stayed with me. I wish there was a whole book with these characters! It's about two girls who meet through a customer service complaint. Their fledgling relationship was really heartwarming and I loved both characters.

Julie Murphy's story of a reality TV dating show was hilarious, unexpected and entertaining! The voice of her writing was great and I can't wait to read more of her books.

Nicola Yoon wrote an incredibly creative story about breaking up that reminded me a lot of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's rare that I come across a story so delightfully inventive and I really enjoyed it! 

I adored Dhonielle Clayton's writing in The Belles and her short story was incredibly moving and thought-provoking, achieving so much in so few words!

If you want a book that's sweet and uplifting, this is a perfect option.


Monday, 5 February 2018

The Waking Land by Callie Bates - blog tour

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

It's been fourteen years, since King Antoine took Elanna hostage. Fourteen years since her father's rebellion failed. Fourteen years spent being raised by the man who condemned her people to misery. A man she's come to love as a father. 
Now 20, Elanna is about to be taken prisoner once again... but this time by her father's mysterious righthand man. Her father wants to reignite his rebellion, this time using Elanna as figurehead. He will tell his followers she is the legendary Wildegarde reborn, a sorceress who could make the very earth tremble.
But what no one knows is that magic really does flow through Elanna's veins. Now she must decide which side she's on, and whether she'll use her powers for mercy... or revenge.
I'm thrilled to join the blog tour for the paperback release of The Waking Land. This book has a unique premise and a rich mythology that made it a refreshing fantasy read.
Elenna went on an interesting journey as a character, both in coming to terms with her powers and her identity. I'm a fan of characters who don't have all the answers, and I enjoyed Elenna's developing relationships with the supporting cast of characters.
I really liked the setting of The Waking Land, especially the role of magic in the world's mythology. The politics were also really intriguing to me and I think there's plenty of material for the other books in this series.
I love a good revolution story! Elenna's personal struggle and torn loyalties added an extra level of tension. I really liked the romance in this book and it built to some steamy scenes that I enjoyed a lot. Although I felt like the pace slowed down in a couple of places, the revolution built to an exciting (and sometimes heartbreaking) conclusion.
This is a really promising start to a series and I'll look forward to the next book!

You can follow the rest of the blog tour stops using the list below:

Friday, 2 February 2018

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton - blog tour review and giveaway

Publisher: Gollancz (8 Feb. 2018)

In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.

Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater - and far darker - than she ever imagined.

When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever. (Publisher's blurb)

I can say with absolute confidence that The Belles is going to be one of my books of the year. The writing is dazzling, the plot hooked me immediately and it made me think too. I'll share my opinions and then you can find out how to win your very own copy!

The writing in this book is absolutely gorgeous. It powerfully evokes the senses and created a vividly realised world, which is so beautiful on the outside that it highlights the ugliness beneath the surface. 

I was also struck by the power of the book's message. The Belles very cleverly drew contemporary parallels about society's standards of beauty, and made me think about the pressure that both men and women are under. 

I also found this one of the most compulsively readable books that I've read for a very long time. I was really invested in what happened, mostly because I cared so much about the characters and also because the world was in such desperate need of change.

Camellia is a memorable, realistic main character, who goes through a real journey and the series of the book. I found her multi-faceted and interesting, with both strengths and flaws.

I loved everything about this book and it's definitely one I'll remember. It comes out on 8th February and I've already preordered my finished copy. 

The lovely people at Gollancz have offered a copy of the book to give away! Please comment on this blog post or retweet my pinned tweet to enter. The giveaway ends 10th February and is UK only.

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart - review

Publisher: Penguin (11th January)

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review.

An atmospheric, chilling page turner from rising star Martin Stewart, reminiscent of Stand by Me and Stranger Things.

Sep, Arkle, Mack, Lamb and Hadley: five friends thrown together one hot, sultry summer. When they discover an ancient stone box hidden in the forest, they decide to each make a sacrifice: something special to them, committed to the box for ever. And they make a pact: they will never return to the box at night; they'll never visit it alone; and they'll never take back their offerings.

Four years later, a series of strange and terrifying events take place. Someone broke the rules, and now everyone has to pay.

But how much are they willing to sacrifice?

I knew from the blurb of this book that I was going to enjoy it. Even the title and cover piqued my interest. I’m a huge horror fan and I’m still waiting for more options when it comes to YA horror. This is an excellent addition to the genre, particularly because it’s reminiscent of some of my favorite adult horror titles. Chelley Toy had a fantastic guest post from Martin Stewart that you can read here, which explains his nostalgic influences.

One of the best things about this book is the 80s feel. I only vaguely remember the 80s but I’ve always loved 80s movies, from the feelgood to the terrifying. This book captures the 80s in the subject matter, plot and touches from the time period, such as the music and clothing. It has all the best elements from books like IT and Salem’s Lot, in its wonderful characterisation and a gripping plot that takes you to some scary places.

The characters in this book are fantastic. It was hard to keep them all in my head at first, but then I really appreciated the variety of different personalities. All of them had something to different to contribute and relate to, and I particularly enjoyed Arkle's humour, as it added much-needed lightness.

This was the first book I've read by Martin Stewart and I'll certainly read more in future.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Hero at the Fall launch - 25th January

Alwyn Hamilton's Rebel of the Sands series is one of my favourites, so I was really excited (and a bit sad) to attend the launch for Hero at the Fall at Waterstones Piccadilly. I've already read and loved the book, and you can read my review here.

There was a great atmosphere in the room, with drinks and fan art cupcakes throughout the night. Waterstones Piccadilly were fantastic hosts as always and Samantha Shannon asked a really interesting range of questions.

Alwyn feels a real sense of satisfaction on finishing the series and feels that she's rounded everything up how she wanted. It's been a long time writing one protagonist, so it's time to make new fictional friends!

She wrote six books before Rebel of the Sands, all of which were the starts of a series. She'd never written a second or third book but learnt something from all of the other projects. Alwyn's original idea was that this series would be one book that ended with the rebellion. Hero ended where she always intended the story would finish.

Alwyn's favourite part of the publishing journey has been knowing that she could write a second book and talking to people about her books, because it feels like you write in a vacuum sometimes.

Hero was probably the hardest book to write, as all the threads needed to be brought back in. Coming up with the title was challenging too (and Renee Ahdieh helped!). Alwyn always knew the titles were going to start with Rebel, Traitor and Hero because history is a matter of perception. If a rebellion succeeds you're a hero and if it fails you're a traitor.

Samantha asked an intriguing question about whether Alwyn ever considered Amani fighting for herself, and not someone else. to be on the throne. In the first book, Amani had to learn to be less selfish, so it wouldn't make sense for her to have a leadership role. Alwyn wasn't even sure Amani was ready for a readership role by the third book!

Alwyn felt there's sometimes hesitance for a female character to be flawed and she really wanted that in the first book. It was also really important to her to have other women in the rebellion, and Alwyn very soon decided that she wanted Shazad and Amani to be friends rather than antagonists. Shazad was like Amani could have been if she'd had more support.

An audience member asked a really fun question about which Hogwarts houses the characters would be in. Most are in Gryffindor (including Amani and Jin), the Sultan and Leila are in Slytherin, Rahim and Shazad are in Ravenclaw and Sam is a Hufflepuff who wants to be a Gryffindor. 

I had a fantastic time at the event and I have a giveaway on Twitter if you would like to win the gift bag we got at the launch and a signed copy of the book (which are in the two photographs above)!

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Fandom by Anna Day - review

Publisher: Chicken House (4th January 2018)

No story is worth dying for ... is it?

Violet and her friends love being part of the fandom for The Gallows Dance. But at Comic-Con, they’re somehow catapulted into the story itself – for real. Trapped in a twisted world where they’ve accidentally killed the original hero, Rose, there’s only one way to survive: Violet must fill Rose’s shoes and put the plot back on track ...

A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction. (Publishers' blurb)

I was really intrigued by the premise of The Fandom from the start - it's the perfect book for YA readers!

The best thing about this book for me was looking out for pop culture references and familiar tropes from YA fiction, especially dystopians. The only downside of this was that it made the plot a bit predictable in places, but enjoyable nonetheless! There was a good balance of sweet, funny moments, heartbreak and high-stakes tension.

Another thing I liked was the interplay between characters from ‘The Gallows Dance’ and the contemporary characters who ended up in their world. There were lots of opportunities for humour from the clash of two cultures, and I liked the fact that characters from both sides had surprising attributes. By the end, this book really grabbed me emotionally and there was an abundance of feels!

From the ending, I can't tell if there will be a sequel, but I hope so!

Monday, 22 January 2018

Wildest Dreams January unboxing

This is the second Wildest Dreams box and again I'm so pleased with the contents! The items were very carefully chosen to match the 'Into the Jungle' theme. There was also a signed bookplate as an added bonus this month. I've already sampled the toffee apple 'Dinosaur DNA' tea and it's absolutely delicious! The Geeky Clean item is a room spray that smells gorgeous too.

If you want to find out more or order your own box, you can visit this website.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Walker YA Blogger Evening - 2018 releases

Photo taken by the lovely Olivia Gacka. You can check out her blog here.

On Tuesday, I attended the Walker blogger event to find out about all the wonderful titles that are coming this year. At events like this, I always feel so grateful to be part of the blogging community. I met so many new people and caught up with friends, as well as finding out about the exciting books to come! 

This is the fantastic selection of books that we received on arrival: 

How to Hang a Witch comes out this month (January 2018) and I can already verify that it's just as good as it sounds. Written by a descendent of a witch hunter at the Salem Witch Trials, it tells the story of a girl called Sam who finds herself at the centre of a centuries old curse. If you love modern day witch tales (like The Graces by Laure Eve), or mysteries with historical elements, then this is a perfect read for you!

This premise really captured my imagination and we only have to wait until February until the book comes out. Scythe is a darkly comedic thriller set in a world where disease, war and crime no longer exist. Citra and Rowan have been reluctantly enlisted to be professional 'scythes', the only people who have the power to kill others. This is a chilling idea and I'm intrigued by the potential for humour and darkness.

Also out in February is this wonderfully dark and quirky title! Landscape with Invisible Hand is a novella about the downsides of accepting help from extraterrestrials. M.T. Anderson is the author of the critically acclaimed dystopian Feed and this sounds like an equally entertaining but thought-provoking read.

This is another much-anticipated title: a collectable gift edition of the popular Magnus Bane short story. This is also out in February. 

In April, Ghosts of the Shadow Market will be released, the first in a new series by Cassandra Clare. This is a story about the young Jace going to live with the Lightwood family. 

In February, gorgeous 10th anniversary editions of the Chaos Walking series will be released.

I can't believe it's ten years since this series came out. Shameful confession time - it might finally be time for me to read them. I've been a huge fan of Patrick Ness' recent books, so I'm excited to finally read these!

This book sounds just as gorgeous as the cover! It's described as 'a sweet and kooky romcom for fans of R.J. Palacio's Wonder, Sarah Crossan and Susin Nielsen's We Are All Made of Molecules'. It's a story about a family circus school, friends, family and first love. Flying Tips for Flightless Birds is Kelly McCaughrain's debut and will be released in March.

The Wonder of Us will be out in May, just in time for summer, and it sounds like the perfect holiday book. It's a story about friendship and an epic road trip around Europe. 

This is a Patrick Ness book that I have read and it's absolutely wonderful. The paperback comes out in May, and if you haven't checked it out yet this is the perfect opportunity. Taking place over just 24 hours, Release is a story about a boy struggling with his family's religious beliefs and learning to let himself love, despite the ex-boyfriend he can't quite let go of. Another gorgeously dark storyline runs alongside this one and it's an incredibly gripping, moving book.   

I'm not able to share the cover for Lou Out of Luck, which comes out in June. I can share that the followup to Girl Out of Water sounds fun and hilarious, with a realistic portrayal of what it's like to be a teen. 

I can't put into words how excited I am about this book. We got to watch a video of Angie Thomas talking about On the Come Up. Not only does she seem absolutely lovely, but her next book sounds just as amazing as The Hate U Give. Also set in the world of Garden Heights, it's about an aspiring teen rapper 'and what happens when you get everything you thought you wanted'. This book comes out in June and I'm already counting down.

This comes out in June and it sounds like a unique, compelling thriller that also explores mental health. Tom Pollock was at the Walker event to discuss the plot of the book and read an extract. He very openly talked about his own struggles with mental health and I'm really excited to read a genre novel that also delves into this subject.

What an amazing year for Walker Books! Thank you for a wonderful evening to all involved. I can't wait to read all of the books!

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Zenith blog tour – review and giveaway

Authors: Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings 
Publisher: HQ Young Adult (11th January 2018

Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness: a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her fearsome glass starship the Marauder, she’s just Andi, their captain and protector.

When a routine mission goes awry, the all-girl crew’s resilience is tested as they find themselves in a most unfamiliar place: at the mercy of a powerful bounty hunter connected to Andi’s past and a harrowing betrayal. (Publishers' blurb)

I was so pleased to join the blog tour for this much-anticipated new title. For my stop, I'll share my thoughts about Zenith and then you can find out how to win your own copy! The publishers have kindly offered copies for three lucky winners. 

The premise got me really excited - I can't think of many better ideas than female space pirates! The relationship between the crew (the Marauders) was probably my favourite thing, and it was fun to learn their different origin stories. I found Androma very similar to other fantasy characters, such as Calaena Sardothien, and I really liked the other crew members (especially Gilly and Breck).

This book had a space western feel that I enjoyed, and overall the plot kept my interest. The story was told from many different perspectives, which made it a little hard to follow for me personally, but a strength of the plotting was in the slow release of details. I found that this kept me intrigued and there were some character developments that I didn't see coming!

Zenith has qualities that will appeal to fans of Throne of Glass and Six of Crows, and I'll definitely check out the sequel.

To enter the publisher's giveaway to win one of three copies of Zenith, simply comment on this blog post or follow me and retweet my pinned tweet on Twitter (@yaundermyskin). Winners will be selected and notified on 25th January (UK only).

You can follow the rest of the Zenith blog tour at the stops below:

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather - review

Publisher: Walker Books (4th January 2018)
I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review.

The trials of high school start to feel like a modern-day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem's past in this thrilling, creepy and romantic New York Times bestseller.

"I am utterly addicted to Adriana Mather’s electric debut. It keeps you on the edge of your seat, twisting and turning with ghosts, witches, an ancient curse, and – sigh – romance." Jennifer Niven
After Sam's father is hospitalised, she has to move from New York to Salem with her stepmother, Vivian. Unfortunately, Sam is related to Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for the Salem Witch Trials, and to say she feels unwelcome in Salem is an understatement... She is particularly unnerved by The Descendants, a mysterious and tight-knit group of girls related to those persecuted in the Trials. At the same time, she must deal with Elijah, the handsome but angry ghost who has appeared in her house, and her new neighbour Jaxon only complicates things further.
When a centuries-old curse is rekindled, Sam finds herself at the centre of it. Can she stop history repeating itself? (Publishers' blurb)

This book has been described as 'Mean Girls meets history class' by seventeen magazine, and that's a pretty accurate description! I've always been fascinated by the Salem Witch Trials, and this book does a great job of fusing elements from the past to a fun contemporary story.

The historical elements were the real highlight of this for me, and I loved the fact that the author is actually a descendent of a witch hunter from the Salem Witch Trials. I really liked how historical events and characters impacted on the modern day events. 

I also thought this book had a really compelling plot, and I enjoyed trying to work out what was causing the curse. The book felt fast paced, and I read it really quickly. There were a couple of plot elements that felt familiar from similar books, but overall I felt this was a new take on the subject matter.

How to Hang a Witch was an enjoyable, intriguing read and I'll definitely read the sequel (which is already out in a previous edition).

If you liked the sound of this, try The Graces by Laure Eve.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton - review

PublisherFaber & Faber (30 Jan. 2018) 

Once, in the desert country of Miraji, there was a Sultan without an heir.
The heir had been killed by his own brother, the treacherous Rebel Prince, who was consumed by jealousy and sought the throne for himself.
Or so it was said by some. There were others who said that the Rebel Prince was not a traitor but a hero...
In the final battle for the throne, Amani must fight for everything she believes in, but with the rebellion in pieces, and the Sultan's armies advancing across the desert plains, who will lead, who will triumph, who will live and who will die? (Publishers' blurb)

There aren't many books that I've anticipated quite as much as this one, so I wondered if it could possibly live up to my expectations. I should've known that it would exceed them, and that I would go through every emotion (including buckets of tears).

Sometimes by the end of a series, I feel like the books (and my interest) have run out of steam. If anything, the action and tension were even greater in this book, so I almost couldn't bear it by the end!

The plotting is one of the best parts. I loved how Hero at the Fall pulled everything together from the other books, and how every detail in this one counted.

The mythical stories are another thing I absolutely love. I'm obsessed with myths, and not only are these beautifully written, it's also really clever how they reveal other elements of the story.

I can't talk about this series without mentioning the characters. Alwyn's books have some of my favourite characters of all time, especially Amani, Jin and Shazad. Even the minor characters feel well-developed, and I really cared about all of them (and who made it to the end).

This is an absolutely incredible series of books, that will give you all the feels (happy and heartbreaking ones). If for some reason you haven't pick it up, it's the perfect time to read Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne before the new book comes out!