Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Books that give me hope - #YaXmasTour2016


Merry Christmas everyone! I'm so happy to be on this blog tour organised by the lovely Virginie (who you probably know as Chouette, blogger extraordinaire at www.chouett.com)

2016 has been a big, strange year for me and for the world. More and more, I seem to gravitate to books that give me hope and I wanted to share those as part of the blog tour.

These are some of my favourites from the past, this year and next year.



Northern Lights came out when I was eleven. My grandad used to take me to WH Smiths to buy books that were well-written and award-winning. I think he was trying to break my Point Horror habit! One such visit drew both of us to Northern Lights. I still count it as one of my favourite books because it started my obsession with fantasy and is so beautifully written. I loved Lyra because I aspired to be brave and wilful like her (and I'd still quite like to have my own daemon).





One of my newer favourites is Rebel of the Sands. I loved the Wild West meets Arabian Nights premise and like Lyra I think Amani is an incredible character. It makes me so happy to think of young girls (and people in general) discovering her for the first time. Alwyn did a brilliant post about her favourite things to promote YA Shot, which you can find here if you want to check it out.




I read Radio Silence earlier this year. From the moment I started reading it, I couldn't stop. This book was real, current and raw. It felt like such an accurate portrayal of what it's like to be a teenager and refreshingly is not a love story! I wish there were books like this when I was a teen and I'm so glad it exists now.



Anna Marie McLemore has become one of my favourite authors. The Weight of Feathers and When the Moon was Ours are beautiful, original and magical. Her writing sweeps you into the world and gives you all the feels! I can't wait to read what she comes up with next.



Laini Taylor is my favourite YA author so I was almost unbearably excited to get an advance copy of Strange the Dreamer. The only reason I haven't read it immediately is that I'm trying to savour it. The writing is just gorgeous and the plot and characters are stunningly original and realistic. I predict that this will become one of my favourite books of all time.

Based on this year, I have no idea what 2017 will bring (though I'm certain it has to be better!) At least we know that it will bring books and bookish conversations.

Merry Christmas everyone and a happy 2017!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich - review


Publisher: Orion Children's Books (14th July 2016)
US Publication title: And the Trees Crept In (6th September 2016)


When sisters Silla and Nori escape London and their abusive father, Aunt Cath's country house feels like a safe haven. But slowly, ever so slowly, things begin to unravel. Aunt Cath locks herself in the attic and spends day and night pacing. Every day the forbidden surrounding forest inches slowly towards the house. A mysterious boy appears, offering friendship. And Nori claims that a man watches them from the dark forest - a man with no eyes, who creeps ever closer. . . (Publishers' blurb)

When I read The Dead House last year, it really stayed with me. I'm not easily rattled or surprised by a book and The Dead House well and truly got under my skin! I
 put off reading Creeper Man until I was in the mood and it was everything I wanted.

First, take a minute to check out that cover. I love it for so many reasons and it gives me a little shudder every time I look at it.

One of the reasons why I adore Dawn Kurtagich's writing is that her books don't follow a straightforward narrative. There are extracts from characters' journals and other titbits that lend authenticity to the plot.

My favourite part of this book is the world building. You've not only got this disturbing, oppressive world that is shrinking as the trees creep in. Subtle details are also used to create a detailed picture of a crumbling outside world.

The characters are another fantastic part of this book. All of them, even those who appeared briefly, made a meaningful contribution to the plot and felt like heroes of their own stories. 

There weren't a lot of lighter moments in this, though for me that suited the building sense of threat and inevitability. It's a genuinely scary book with the qualities of the darkest, best kind of fairy tale. 

This is another original, surprising book by Dawn Kurtagich. If you like being scared, I highly recommend it.




Monday, 21 November 2016

Dear Charlie by N.D. Gomes review



Publisher: Harlequin Mira Ink HarperCollins (20 Oct. 2016)

I've had a short break from blogging but I'm back to review a fantastic book!

Dear Charlie is a hard book to read but also an important one. Before I launch into the review, there are a few potential triggers that I want people to be aware of including school shootings, suicide and depression.

At sixteen, Sam Macmillan is supposed to be thinking about girls, homework and his upcoming application to music college, not picking up the pieces after the school shooting that his brother Charlie committed.

Yet as Sam desperately tries to hang on to the memories he has of his brother, the media storm surrounding their family threatens to destroy everything. And Sam has to question all he thought he knew about life, death, right and wrong. (Publishers' blurb)

I have a lot of complex feelings about this book. At times I enjoyed it and felt uplifted, though because of the subject matter there were some very hard scenes to read. I'll try to unpick this in a bit more detail.

The narrative voice is utterly convincing. Sam seemed like a real person and I really felt for him. This sent my emotions reeling because they followed Sam's through the course of the book. I don't always read books that push me to explore difficult emotions but this book handled these areas really well.

I liked the 90s setting and found it very convincing (since this was when I was a teen)! The public reaction to the terrible events also felt realistic. I felt some echoes of 'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' in the time period and relationships, though I loved that book so it isn't necessarily a bad thing!

Based on current world events, I think more people should read books about the effects of violence. I might not have enjoyed everything about this book but I think that was necessary given the subject matter. I'm really glad that I read this and I hope lots of people do.



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Sunday, 6 November 2016

Revenger by Alastair Reynolds Review


Publisher: Gollancz (15th September 2016)

The galaxy has seen great empires rise and fall. Planets have shattered and been remade. Amongst the ruins of alien civilisations, building our own from the rubble, humanity still thrives. And there are vast fortunes to be made, if you know where to find them...

Captain Rackamore and his crew do. It's their business to find the tiny, enigmatic worlds which have been hidden away, booby-trapped, surrounded with layers of protection - and to crack them open for the ancient relics and barely-remembered technologies inside. But while they ply their risky trade with integrity, not everyone is so scrupulous.

Adrana and Fura Ness are the newest members of Rackamore's crew, signed on to save their family from bankruptcy. Only Rackamore has enemies, and there might be more waiting for them in space than adventure and fortune… (Publishers' blurb)


This book was exactly what I needed. I've read a lot of great books recently but this is one of my favourites. It's deservedly been classified as crossover fiction that will appeal to adults and teens.

I consider myself a big sci-fi fan but I don't necessarily understand all of it... This reminded me of Firefly, in that it felt very accessible at the same time as seeming authentic and richly researched. I wasn't surprised to discover that Alastair Reynolds used to be an astrophysicist for the European Space Agency! I think that's what lends such authenticity to this story.

I also really loved how this book combined elements of my favourite genres, from the obvious sci-fi, to elements of history, westerns and horror. These elements complimented each other well and came together to create something original. I was particularly in awe of the mythology that underpinned this world. I've not come across much sci-fi that does this so well, adding depth without overpowering the plot.

It won't come as much of a surprise that I read a lot, which means I often spot a lot of familiar plots and see them coming early on. It was great that this book genuinely surprised me over and over again!

Another of my favourite things was the characters. Like the plot, the characters were fresh and interesting. What an amazing idea to pit two young girls against a mysterious female space pirate! I quickly became invested in Adrana and Furas' story because of their bravery, intelligence and curiosity. I also loved that this was about sisters, a relationship that I'd love to see explored more in fiction.

This book appeals on so many levels that I think most people would enjoy it. If you want  a masterclass in writing, characters you can root for and a gripping plot, you don't need to look any further.


  




If you liked the sound of this, now try Starflight by Melissa Landers.






Saturday, 29 October 2016

Barefoot on the Wind by Zoe Marriott Review


Publisher: Walker Books

Author: Zoe Marriott

I received this copy of Barefoot on the Wind from Walker Books in exchange for an honest review.

A magical retelling of “Beauty and the Beast” set in a fairy tale Japan. A companion title to Zoë Marriott’s critically acclaimed Shadows on the Moon. There is a monster in the forest... Everyone in Hana’s remote village on the mountain knows that straying too far into the woods is a death sentence. When Hana’s father goes missing, she is the only one who dares try to save him. Taking up her hunting gear, she goes in search of the beast, determined to kill it – or be killed herself. But the forest contains more secrets, more magic and more darkness than Hana could ever have imagined, and the beast is not at all what she expects... (Publishers' blurb)

This book had a lot to live up to because Beauty and the Beast is one of my favourite fairy tales! As soon as I started Barefoot on the Wind, I fell in love with the writing and the story. This is a stunning and creative take on the beloved story.

Zoe Marriot's writing is gorgeous, evoking both the fantastical version of Japan and the dark, beautiful quality that I love about traditional fairy tales.

I was lucky enough to hear Zoe talk about feminism at the YA Shot Convention and she described her goal of reinventing the original story on a foundation of feminism. I really liked this aspect of the book, that Hana wasn't constrained by the tropes of fairy tales or the time period. She was very much in control of her destiny and she didn't need anybody to rescue her!

The plot of this world was very richly imagined. I loved how the fairy tale was used to underpin the story but there were so many layers added to the narrative and the mythology behind it.

This book has made me want to read more fairy tale retellings and lots more books by Zoe Marriott!









Thursday, 20 October 2016

Gravity by Andy Briggs - blog tour giveaway


Publisher: Scholastic (6th October 2016)
Amazon Linkhttps://www.amazon.co.uk/Gravity-Inventory-Andy-Briggs/dp/1407161806
Series: The Inventory (Book 2)
Eeek! Think that’s a monster? Nope: it’s a person. What terrible weapon could do this…? Errr – well, that used to be top-secret. Problem: it’s not quite so secret anymore. Dev messed up big time the day he let the ruthless Shadow Helix gang into the Inventory. What is the Inventory, we hear you ask? Well, it’s the secret lockup for all the deadly battle tech the world is NOT ready for. Which is why letting it get nicked was a REALLY BAD IDEA. Now the Shadow Helix have Newton’s Arrow: a terrifying weapon that messes with gravity, causing … well, you get the picture from this book’s cover. Dev and his mates HAVE to get it back – even if it means crossing the entire globe. To stop this evil, no trip is too far! (Publishers' blurb)

Giveaway

Iron Fist was the first book in The Inventory series and one of the best middle grade books that I've read for a long time! You can check out my review here. I'm really excited to get stuck into Gravity (the second book in the series) and for now I have a giveaway! To win a set of the books (Iron Fist and Gravity), all you have to do is retweet my pinned tweet or leave a comment on this blog post. 


To find out a little more about Andy Briggs, you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter.


Andy Briggs is a screenwriter, producer and author of the Hero.com, Villain.net and Tarzan series. Andy has worked on film development for Paramount and Warner Bros, as well as working with Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee and producer Robert Evans. With a strong social media following, Andy tours the UK regularly, doing festival, school and library events.


Tour Schedule

There are loads of fantastic stops on the blog tour and you can check out more details below.

Monday 17th October
Fiction Fascination
Heather Reviews

Tuesday 18th October

Kirsty Leanne
Emma’s Bookery

Wednesday 19th October
Sunday 23rd October

An Awfully Big Adventure

Monday 24th October

Tales of Yesterday
YA Yeah Yeah

Tuesday 25th October

It Takes a Woman
Sister Spooky

Wednesday 26th October

Bibliobeth
The Books Bandit

Thursday 27th October

MG Strikes Back
Read it Daddy

Friday 28th October

Snuggling on the Sofa
Live Otherwise

Saturday 29th October

Bart’s Bookshelf

Sunday 30th October

Kirstyes


Happy reading and good luck with the giveaway!

Friday, 14 October 2016

Shadow Magic Blog Tour

Information about the Book

Title: Shadow Magic (Shadow Magic #1)
Author: Joshua Khan
Genre: MG Fantasy
Publisher: Scholastic (6th October 2016)
Goodreads Link:
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23510089-shadow-magic
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Shadow-Magic-Joshua-Khan/dp/1407172085


Thorn, an outlaw's son, wasn't supposed to be a slave. He's been sold to Tyburn, an executioner, and they're headed to Castle Gloom in Gehenna, the land of undead, where Thorn will probably be fed to a vampire.

Lilith Shadow wasn't supposed to be ruler of Gehenna. But following the murder of her family, young Lily became the last surviving member of House Shadow, a long line of dark sorcerers. Her country is surrounded by enemies and the only way she can save it is by embracing her heritage and practicing the magic of the undead. But how can she when, as a girl, magic is forbidden to her?

Just when it looks like Lily will have to leave her home forever, Thorn arrives at Castle Gloom. A sudden death brings them together, inspires them to break the rules, and leads them to soar to new heights in this fantasy with all the sparkle and luster of a starry night sky.

I don't read a lot of middle grade books but I really loved this one! It's appropriate that Rick Riordan is quoted on the front because I think this book is as exciting and unique as the Percy Jackson series.

I'm a huge fan of books that have an original take on familiar themes like good versus evil. The stakes were huge for Lily and Thorn and the building conflict kept me interested throughout. I really rooted for Lily and Thorn from the very beginning.  

All of the characters were great but I became particularly fond of Lily. Castle Gloom was a fantastically creepy setting (complete with bats in the belfry) and the dark roots of her family were an interesting backstory for a main character. My only complaint is that I'm not a fan of the 'women are inferior' trope that pops up in a lot of fantasy. I appreciated that Lily fought against this but I feel like there can be other forms of conflict. 

The world underpinning this book was incredible, with its ruling families whose magic is fading through the generations. It's a great introduction to fantasy, because the world is very unique and compelling but at the same time very accessible.

I was really sad when this book ended because I need more! This is a fantastic start to a series and it's renewed my interest in middle grade books.

If you liked the sound of this, now try Artemis Fowl or Percy Jackson!

 
 
















Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman - ARC Review



Publisher: Rock the Boat (20 Oct. 2016)

I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review.


When I heard about Illumina, I thought the writing style was going to be a novelty that I'd get bored of fairly quickly. I didn't realise that it would suck me in, deliver gut punch after gut punch and that I'd love every minute of it. Gemina is just as brilliant and I'm not sure how I'm going to wait for the next book! If you haven't read Illumina, you might as well stop reading this review and get right on it. You have a week until Gemina comes out!

My favourite thing about this series is the format. I wasn't sure how it would affect my enjoyment of the narrative, but in the end the layout enhanced the reading experience. Through rotating between interviews, video transcripts and all sort of creative texts, you end up having to piece together the narrative rather than having it all handed to you. I thought that was fantastic!

Another strength of this series is the plot tension. I wasn't sure how the authors were going to top Illumina but Gemina was great at flipping my expectations and upping the stakes. (Monsters? Gunmen? Why not at the exact same time?) Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are masters at throwing curve balls that whip round and smash you in the face.
One of the main reasons that I got so invested in this was because of the characters. Hanna and Nik were both amazing and I really cared about what happened to them.  

I also loved Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, so while I'm waiting for my next Illuminae files fix I might just work my way through Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufmans' previous novels. This is one of my favourite book series and I highly recommend it.




Wednesday, 5 October 2016

The Thousandth Floor Review and Giveaway



Author: Katharine McGee
Publisher: HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (30 Aug. 2016)

Welcome to Manhattan, 2118.

A thousand-storey tower stretching into the sky. A glittering vision of the future, where anything is possible – if you want it enough.

A hundred years in the future, New York's elite of the super-tower lie, backstab and betray each other to find their place at the top of the world. Everyone wants something… and everyone has something to lose. (Excerpt from Publishers' Blurb)


I read somewhere that this was Gossip Girl set in a thousand floor building, which was a good enough reason for me to read it. I understand the comparison, in terms of the drama and interlinking relationships, but I think this is so much better!

The only thing I wasn't sure about at first was that the book shifts between quite a few characters' third person viewpoints. I found it hard to keep track of them at first but in the end I felt that it was one of the book's main strengths. I loved the way the characters' storylines intersected, sometimes in very unexpected ways.

Sometimes I get sick of romantic drama but I really enjoyed it in this book! The different relationships were so much fun to follow as they developed or unravelled.

Another part I really liked was the contemporary feel to this book set against the sci-fi setting. I haven't read many other YAs of this style and I'll definitely look out for more.

This is one of the most fun books I've read for ages. If you're in a reading slump or you want a really engrossing read, this is the perfect book!

With that in mind, I have a giveaway! One lucky winner can have their very own copy of 'The Thousandth Floor'. To enter, all you need to do it retweet my pinned tweet and follow me on Twitter (@yaundermyskin.) Good luck!




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Thursday, 29 September 2016

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore - Review


 Publisher: Thomas Dunne (4th October 2016)

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel's wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they're willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up. (Publishers' blurb)

I don't know how anyone could read that description and not buy this book immediately! My favourite book of last year was 'The Weight of Feathers' by Anna-Marie McLemore (which I reviewed
here) so I was really excited to get an advance copy of 'When the Moon Was Ours'. I'm so happy that I enjoyed this one just as much and can now safely say that Anna-Marie McLemore is one of my favourite YA authors.

I love Anna-Marie's writing more than any other author. Her lyrical style perfectly suits the gorgeous, magical things that she writes about. You could open any page and find a beautiful description that gives you goosebumps!

Like 'The Weight of Feathers', this book overlaps fantasy, myth and contemporary themes in a totally unique way. Both books feel timeless because of the strange, beautiful world that they are set in. I've never read anything else like them.

A great part of the book came after the narrative, where Anna-Marie explained the basis in her own experience. There was a strong sense of honesty and realism throughout this that I really appreciated.

Another strength was the characterisation. I adored Sam and Miel and I wasn't ready to let go of them at the end of the book. I also thought that the minor characters were really well developed and I understood their motivations.

This is a fantastic book and I can't stress enough how much I love it! It's out in less than a week and I hope everyone goes out and buys it.





 



Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Of Sand and Malice Made by Bradley Beaulieu - Review


Publisher: Gollancz

Çeda is the youngest pit fighter in the history of the great desert city of Sharakhai. In this brilliant new story, a prequel to Twelve Kings, she has already made her name in the arena as the fearsome, undefeated White Wolf. None but her closest friends and allies know her true identity.

But this all changes when she crosses the path of Rümayesh, one of the sadistic creatures known asehrekh which were forged long ago by the god of chaos. They are usually desert dwellers, but this one lurks in the dark corners of Sharakhai, toying with and preying on humans. As Rümayesh works to unmask the White Wolf and claim Çeda for her own, Çeda's struggle becomes a battle for her friends, her life, and her very soul. (Publishers' Blurb)


I thought this might be hard to follow because I haven't read 'Twelve Kings'. This wasn't an issue at all, as the book was accessible and made me want to know much more about this world.

My favourite part was Çeda's character and voice. She's quickly seemed real to me because her back story and motivations were fleshed out well. I loved that she was a pit fighter and I think my favourite scene was when we got to see her in action!

The world building was also incredibly strong
. Even though it was comparatively short, the book captured a complex and fascinating world underpinned by mythology.

Another strength was the plotting. There weren't any points where it lost momentum (or my attention with it). I loved the little mysteries that were thrown in and then uncovered later, such as Çeda's use of petals.

This was a great introduction to a new fantasy world and I'm looking forward to reading 'Twelve Kings'.




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If you liked the sound of this, now try Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.