Reading Resolutions 2017

resolutions
1. Keep a reading diary.

I normally keep track of my reading on Goodreads, which is just fine. But all writerly folk will understand the joy of carrying around a little notebook to keep all my bookish joy inside. You’ll also understand the very strong likelihood of giving up or forgetting to keep up with it after a couple of weeks.

I’m planning to keep track of new releases I’m excited for each month, books I specifically want to read, books I actually end up reading, and my favourite quotes as I read them. I’m hoping it will also help me keep up with the following resolutions.

2. Read at least three books per month.

This is a tricky one as three books doesn’t sound like many at all. However, my reading habits can be quite erratic based on how busy work is, if I can face reading through a headache, and of course whether I get sucked into any multi-season TV dramas on Netflix (case in point, Grey’s Anatomy in 2015 and Gilmore Girls in 2015).That means I could read eight books one month but only one in another, and my TBR pile(s) just can’t cope with that any more!

2. At least one book per month should be written by a BAME author.

This shouldn’t even have to be a resolution.

In an ideal world, if we pick up a book there should be an equal likelihood of it being written by any sort of diverse author. Any kind of human. But the sad case is that, especially in YA, we sometimes have to go out of our way to find it. I’m glad there’s a lot more awareness around the issue at the moment, and pushes to improve the problem.

Whilst there is plenty more character diversity, be it by ethnicity, disability or sexuality, in books being published now, they are still often written by heterosexual, white, able-bodied authors. But we can all do our little part to make sure we’re reading and appreciating different voices to our own. Reading is how we learn.

3. Read more graphic novels.

I own so many graphic novels. They’re on a separate book shelf and slightly less handbag-friendly than a paperback so I always forgetting about them. Worst excuse ever, right? I have a backlog big enough to read one per month, so that’s my aim for this year, in addition to my book goals.

4. Catch up on those pesky high fantasy series.

Here’s my problem. I love high fantasy. When a new book in a series is released (and they’re always in a series) I’ll get all excited and buy it straight away. In hardback. I don’t know about you, but when I’m reading a good book I want to take it everywhere with me…especially since Southern Rail is my main transport link. The conundrum arises because I’m way too lazy to carry around a 700 page hardback. And I just can’t face buying the e-book version and ruining my beautiful set!

Just like everyone else in the world, I want to get fitter in 2017. No, let me clarify. I want an excuse to eat more food. This may involve using my gym membership that I pay for every month but never utilise. Seriously, the gym is boring and it’s hard to read books on some of the machines (I’ve tried). So I’m hoping that Audible can save the day on two counts. This could be a terrible decision…I’ll let you know.

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Review: ‘The Sleeping Prince’ by Melinda Salisbury

aprilreads4Synopsis: Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin’s life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

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


The Sleeping Prince is the eagerly awaited sequel to Melinda Salisbury’s debut novel, The Sin Eater’s Daughter, and it’s definitely worth the wait.

Instead of following Twylla, the original protagonist, the POV character is now Lief’s sister, Errin. Evacuated from her makeshift home because of the war the Sleeping Prince is waging, she must travel the kingdom in an attempt to save her sick mother.

The book starts off as dramatically as it continues, Salisbury isn’t afraid of shocking the reader. Dark and fantastical, the story weaves together beautifully. Hints and clues (throughout this novel and the first) twist and tie together seamlessly, leading to many an “OH!” moment. All of this is topped off with interesting mythology and backstories that build up the vividness of the world and give it a distinctive fairytale feel.

The problem with reviewing this novel is the very fact that there are so many twists and turns. It’s difficult to say much without spoiling anything so I’m going to leave this review short and vague. And it is of course another reason to go and read it right now.

Favourite quotes:

“Mysterious boys are not as enjoyable in reality as they are in stories.”

“Fortune favors the bold.” I smile weakly.
“So does death,” she counters immediately. “The craven tend to live much longer than the heroic.”

Top three reasons to read:

  • You can never tell what’s going to happen, this novel is the opposite of predictable.
  • The characters are so well written and you will often find yourself either loving to hate them or hating to love them.
  • Melinda Salisbury is a sadist. You will feel a lot of emotions.

Review: ‘Beautiful Broken Things’ by Sara Barnard

aprilreads2Synopsis: “Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realizes, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.”


Beautiful Broken Things is an emotional and heartbreaking contemporary YA novel told from the point of view of Caddy, who lives in the belief that her life won’t be important until she experiences a ‘significant life event’. Essentially, this is the story of Caddy wishing to be just a little bit more interesting and special, and craving to be validated with attention and affection, until she gets more than she bargained for.

Whilst Caddy is a bit wet, desperate and annoying (and she is written wonderfully with realistic and relatable flaws), Rosie was probably my favourite character. Rosie tells it like it is. She’s what I wish I could have been like as a teenager. Rosie is someone who people listen to, someone who isn’t trampled over and taken advantage of by others. And I think that’s the point of her character. Teenage girls reading this novel are likely to relate to Caddy’s self-depreciation and crisis of identity whilst looking up to Rosie, especially as we see her through Caddy’s idolising and envious eyes.

And then, of course, there’s Suzanne. Now Suzanne is very enchanting but a bit of a dick. And not without reason as the story is based around her dealing with an abusive childhood.

One argument I often come across when people discuss YA Fiction is that adults reading books written for teenagers should not complain about how ‘frustrating’ it is when teenagers act like teenagers. Which is a very good point. In this context, it’s especially important. I spent a whole lot of this book internally screaming at one girl or another, because they do and say stupid, naive things.

But guess what, that’s why this is realistic. If I were to try to count all the stupid things I did as a teenager, from the little things you say to the way you act or the big decisions you make, I would never sleep again. Granted, there was pretty much zero chance of me going out drinking with strangers in another town at the age of sixteen (I would have been the one sitting on my computer at home on Harry Potter fan forum of some kind) but I definitely believe that other teenagers did.

Finally, I really enjoyed how this wasn’t just about romance. Because guess what, contemporary YA fiction doesn’t have to be! It gives the story a chance to explore dynamics of friendship (and how these change and break down) in their own right, instead of in relation to boys.

Favourite quote:

“It had never occurred to me that my flaws could be strengths in a different context.”

Top three reasons to read:

  • Focused on female friendship (and its flaws) instead of romance.
  • Deals with important issues like abuse and mental health very well.
  • Realistic portrayal of flawed characters.

Review: ‘Crush’ by Eve Ainsworth

maybooks1Synopsis:Love hurts … but should it hurt this much? Reeling from her mum’s sudden departure, Anna finds the comfort she needs in her blossoming relationship with Will. He’s handsome and loving, everything Anna has always dreamt of. He’s also moody and unpredictable, pushing her away from her friends, her music. He wants her to be his and his alone. He wants her to be perfect. Anna’s world is closing in. But threatening everything is a dark secret that not even Will can control… Eve Ainsworth’s gripping second novel is a pitch-perfect exploration of love at its most powerful, addictive and destructive.”


Crush is a short read about 14-year-old Anna who is dealing with anger and family problems in the wake of her mother leaving home. We follow her growing relationship with Will, who has his own family baggage and a bad way of dealing with it.

As a narrative on toxic relationships, this book should be a staple in all school libraries. Crush doesn’t only deal with physically abusive relationships. Yes, posessiveness, jealousy and threatening behaviour are all fairly obvious signs of abusive relationships (at least from the outside) and of course they’re important to emphasise.

But Crush also deals with controlling behaviour that is harder to pin point, such as demanding that someone looks or eats a certain way, using guilt and love to gain this power. As such controlling behaviour can also manifest in relationships without elements of violence, it’s great that this book gives the message that emotional blackmail is not okay in any form. This could really help young people understand and speak up about similar isssues in their lives or others’.

What I think Eve Ainsworth writes particularly well are Anna’s feelings of responsibility for Will’s anger, emphasising why anyone in her siutation could find it difficult to see there’s a problem. Once again, this is an especially important theme for teenagers. If the abused party is young and naive, they may not have experienced any other relationships so don’t realise they should be treated any differently.

This effect is doubled when as a young person you feel as if you don’t fit in and nobody understands you, so you’re especially grateful for someone who appears to prioritise you. This is exactly what Anna represents and Ainsworth has captured it beautifully.

Lastly, it’s the friendships that make this realistic. Everyone’s experienced friends getting into a relationship and then suddenly ignoring all their friends. It sucks. Some of us might have even been that person.

Favourite quote:

“It had only been a few weeks and I could already see a change in Izzy. Will had warned me about it. Told me that mates can “get funny” when you get a boyfriend.”

Review: ‘Red Rising’ by Pierce Brown

rrSynopsis: “Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed.”


Bored of Dystopian trilogies? You won’t be after this. Granted, I’ve only read the first book in the trilogy but can’t wait to get started on the rest!

It’s hard to write a summary of the plot because there are so many twists and turns that everything is a spoiler. Unfortunately the blurb pretty much tells you the first few plot twists (which is why I’ve only included the first part above) so here’s my very vague description instead: Darrow is a young, cocky and skilled mine worker on Mars who, after a series of tragic events, vows to get revenge on his masters…from the inside.

The first thing to say is that Red Rising is absolutely brutal. It’s technically an adult book so that’s not surprising, but it’s not just the violence itself that’s unsettling. You actually get desensitised to people dying pretty quickly, Pierce Brown must be pals with GRRM. No, it’s also how vividly everything is portrayed through the eyes of the characters, all the raw emotions attached (or even more chilling, the lack of emotion) and how inventive said violence can get. This book has been compared to The Hunger Games over and over (look, it’s right there on the cover!) which I’d say is fairly accurate but minus the feelsy, compassionate bits, like Rue. This is hardcore. Try Lord of the Flies.

Most Dystopian series follow a stock pattern: Young protagonist lives in a Utopian society where perfection and safety is obtained at the price of freedom from the corrupt but well-meaning rulers. Protagonist decides they know better than all the adults, joins a rebellion and brings down the system whilst suffering significant losses along the way. And that’s not to say we don’t love reading those books, each with their individual takes on the trope. There’s a reason they’re so popular after all. Red Rising sort of follows this familiar story line insofar as it takes a big bite, chews it up and spits it painfully back into the gaping cavern where your heart used to be before you started reading.

This is labelled as a science fiction novel and you do get to see some slivers of amazing technology and ideas. Weirdly enough though, the setting is predominantly muddy and medieval for a good percentage of the book, which could a bit disappointing when you’re not expecting it. I didn’t mind in the slightest, since I love fantasy too, but I’m really hoping for some more spacey world-building and technology in the next books. And to give the author credit where it’s due, the sci-fi elements that are in play (such as different levels of gravity on Mars) are worked into the narrative very consistently and cleverly.

The language is really immersive, giving the book an individual feel and sucking you right into the world Brown is creating. Luckily it’s not so intense that you don’t know what characters are saying (here’s looking at Clockwork Orange) but you do pick up the fantastic colloquialisms quickly and are 99% likely to use the words “bloodydamn” or “goryhell” in everyday life. Just embrace it, you’ll probably end up making surprise friends who’ve also read the books.

I did find the geography a bit hard to grasp and had to continually refer to the map at the front, which I’m not convinced was that accurate compared to the written descriptions. My only other complaint whilst reading was that the novel started off fast-paced but some parts did drag on a little bit. However, that did allow Brown to do his majestic (and slightly disturbing) thing with developing characters and their relationships with each other. By the end you can see why describing every little detail of every interaction was necessary…once you get past a few too many descriptions of how dirty everyone is.

Whist Red Rising wasn’t necessarily as unputdownable as the review hype led me to believe (some parts definitely were), it was nevertheless an exciting, vivid and clever read and I need the sequel. Right. Now.

Favourite quote:

“Death isn’t empty like you say it is. Emptiness is life without freedom, Darrow. Emptiness is living chained by fear, fear of loss, fear of death. I say we break those chains.”

Top three reasons to read:

  • You may feel as if you haven’t cried enough recently. If so this will help.
  • It’s brutal, realistic (insofar as you can say that about science fiction) and gritty.
  • The sequels are all complete so no waiting around necessary.

Review: ‘Radio Silence’ by Alice Oseman

Radio SilenceSynopsis: Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…”


I read Alice Oseman’s debut novel ‘Solitaire’ over Christmas, but her second book ‘Radio Silence’ really knocks it out of the water. The novel follows brilliantly clever Frances, who has a life ambition to get into Cambridge University and an obsession with an obscure podcast, as she becomes friends with Aled, the creator of said podcast.

First of all, I can’t get over how ridiculously relatable Frances is. This book is for anyone who’s ever felt more comfortable holed up in their room on a computer than out in the real world. For anyone who has ever fangirled about anything on the internet. For anyone who’s ever made better friends on Tumblr than in real life because you have something in common. It’s for anyone who’s ever had to go to school with ‘normal people’ and pretend none of that exists.

I can only really compare Frances to a less annoying Cath from Rainbow Rowell’s ‘Fangirl’ because she actually tries to break her boundaries. Anyway, here are a few of the things that I found most important about the novel.


Diversity: A++++ for a mixed race, female protagonist. I’m not going to pretend I can play the mixed race card (except when my friends joke about me being Chinese) because I look and sound like a middle class white girl and have never personally experienced any prejudice because of that. But I still love hearing from a voice which is that little bit different and it reminds me of stories that my parents and grandparents have told me about their own experiences.

Not even kidding, my blue-eyed, blonde-haired, Australian grandmother once had a student look under her desk at work for “Mrs. Wong” because she didn’t believe that it could be her. Someone once even exclaimed to my mum, “Your English is very good!” to which she replied in her first language (English), “Thanks, so is yours.”


Scarily Accurate Humour: Anecdotes aside, another thing that I really enjoyed about ‘Radio Silence’ is how ridiculously quotable it is. That’s partly because Frances is so relatable but also just because Oseman’s humour is fantastic. So many lines made me simultaneously giggle to myself and kind of freak out that she might be reading my mind, like:

“Firstly, everyone was just gonna get drunk, which I could do perfectly well by myself in my lounge while watching YouTube videos instead of worrying about having to catch the last train home or avoiding sexual assault.”

And I had to highlight this one so many times because it basically sums up my entire being, in a way that I could never have explained out loud until I read this:

“You’re an idiot,” said Mum when I relayed to her the entire situation on Wednesday.

“Not an unintelligent idiot, but a sort of naieve idiot who manages to fall into a difficult situation then can’t get out of it because she’s too awkward.”

“You just described my life.”


Academia: It’s not all laughs, there are some deep and serious issues this novel tackles which make it super Important (yes with a capital i) for its teenage readership. One such issue is the UK’s obsession with constantly examining our children and the pressure to go to university. ‘Radio Silence’ is the breath of fresh air that tells teenagers that actually, it’s okay to be a bit concerned about the concept of paying £9,000 a year in tuition fees alone when you have no idea what career path you want to go down.

Teachers, parents and even the government have by now cottoned on to the fact that university isn’t for everyone. If a teenager isn’t academically gifted, authority figures can suggest various different routes into work, such as apprenticeships. What ‘Radio Silence’ highlights is the complete void in providing alternative options for brighter students because it’s simply assumed that because they’ll pick an ‘academic’ subject and boost the school statistics by getting into uni, where they will automatically thrive. Otherwise it would be a ‘waste’ of their intelligence.

This is essentially why I chose History over Art. Because university did turn out to be the right choice for me, I’ve never really thought about the possible ramifications had that not been the case and I’m glad this book makes people seriously think about that.


Friendships: It’s a really big deal in YA to have a platonic friendship, especially between the male and female protagonists. It’s so refreshing to see a pair of characters that don’t instantly fall in love, which is such a trope in the genre. This is as much down to the readers as the authors. We just cannot help shipping anything that moves (guilty) so it was pretty brave of Oseman to make it clear really early on in the book that this is never going to happen, please do not ship the thing. Mad props. Especially when Aled is just so damn adorable.

The great thing about the friendship theme in ‘Radio Silence’ is that it’s so multifaceted. It isn’t just about the fact that relationships can be platonic, the story also explores how to fix your friendships when you accidentally (and inevitably) f*ck them up. It’s a good lesson and Frances is definitely a better person than me to keep trying so hard.

Not to get too deep into spoiler zone, but some of the most heart-wrenching parts of the novel are about Aled’s family relationships. ‘Radio Silence’ shows that friends can be as good a support system as any family. Yes, it can be cliché when the moral of a story is that friendship conquers all, but it really works in this context and I dare you not to get a bit teary.

March YA Book Bargains

Here are my #bookbargains for March! I’ll keep updating this list as I find more. The prices will probably go back up without warning, so I’ve included the last date that I saw each book at the listed price.

Some of February’s #bookbargains are still cheap, so check them out here if you want some more recommendations.

Darker shade of magic

‘A Darker Shade of Magic’ by V.E. Schwab
£0.99 on Kindle e-book as of 21.03.16 (click here)

“Most people only know one London; but what if there were several? Kell is one of the last Travelers—magicians with a rare ability to travel between parallel Londons. There’s Grey London, dirty and crowded and without magic, home to the mad king George III. There’s Red London, where life and magic are revered. Then, White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. But once upon a time, there was Black London…”

Notes: Bought this as I saw it was tweeted by @CaitLomas. I don’t know what to expect but I love magic and books set in London! You can follow the author on Twitter here: @veschwab

redqueen

‘Red Queen’ by Victoria Aveyard
£1.99 on Kindle e-book as of 21.03.16 (click here)

“This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change.

That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.”

Notes: I’ve had this sitting on my bookshelf for SO LONG but haven’t got around to reading it yet! Reading the synopsis is getting me excited again so perhaps this will inspire me to bump it up my list. You can follow the author on Twitter here: @VictoriaAveyard

 

Chaos Walking Trilogy - 3 Books - Collection - 9781406339703 - Patrick NessThe ‘Chaos Walking’ Trilogy by Patrick Ness
£5.49 for the full trilogy in paperback from The Book People as of 21.03.16

Includes:
The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and the Answer
Monsters of Men

“Imagine you’re the only boy in a town of men. And you can hear everything they think. And they can hear everything you think. Imagine you don’t fit in with their plans… Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run…”

Notes: Again, I haven’t read these but I have only heard amazing things. Plus I recently red ‘A Monster Calls’ which I’m sure is completely different but was written so beautifully I now need to read everything Patrick Ness has written. This is also an absolute bargain, even with £2.95 shipping (free if you spend over £25…this could go badly) and I’m buying them right now. Patrick Ness is also amazing on Twitter, you can follow him here: @Patrick_Ness

divergentThe ‘Divergent ‘Series by Veronica Roth
£9.99 for the full trilogy in paperback from The Works as of 01.03.16 (click here)

“Sixteen-year-old Tris has been forced to make a terrible choice. In a divided society where everyone must conform, Tris does not fit. So she ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Tris can trust no one in this brutal new world, but she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her.”

Notes: I know you’ve all heard of this series and probably read the books already. If you’ve only seen the films and aren’t sure whether to give the books a try, they’re so much better! Go for it! Especially with the ‘Allegiant’ hype right now with the film coming out and all. The Works charges £2.99 for standard delivery, but you can get it for free if you spend over £20 or select the ‘click & collect’ option if there’s a store near you. You can follow the author on Twitter here: @VeronicaRoth

boneseason‘The Bone Season’ by Samantha Shannon
£2.00 in paperback from The Works or 6 for £10.00 as of 01.03.16 (click here)

“Nineteen-year-old Paige Mahoney works in the criminal underworld of Scion London. Her job: to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. For Paige is a dreamwalker, a clairvoyant and, in the world of Scion, she commits treason simply by breathing.”

Notes: This is not technically YA as it’s classed as an adult book by Bloomsbury, but it’s the sort of books everyone who likes YA enjoys. You need to read this if you like London, Oxford, dystopian societies, clairvoyance and supernatural elements. The protagonist, Paige, does what the hell she wants and is multi-faceted and amazing. In fact, everyone needs to read this. You can follow the author on Twitter here: @say_shannon

tbts

‘Take Back the Skies’ by Lucy Saxon
£2.00 in paperback from The Works or 6 for £10.00 as of 01.03.16 (click here)

“Catherine Hunter is the daughter of a senior government official on the island of Anglya. She’s one of the privileged – she has luxurious clothes, plenty to eat, and is protected from the Collections which have ravaged families throughout the land. But Catherine longs to escape the confines of her life, before her dad can marry her off to a government brat and trap her forever.

So Catherine becomes Cat, pretends to be a kid escaping the Collections, and stows away on the skyship Stormdancer. As they leave Anglya behind and brave the storms that fill the skies around the islands of Tellus, Cat’s world becomes more turbulent than she could ever have imagined, and dangerous secrets unravel her old life once and for all..”

Notes: I may be biased because Lucy is a fantastic human and I own at least 3 copies of this book. Read this if you like steampunk, adventure, airships and having a lot of feels. Her second book ‘The Almost King’ (also in the Tellus universe but not about the same characters) is also out so you should probably read that too. You can follow the author on Twitter here: @Lucy_Saxon

angelfall

‘Angelfall’ by Susan Ee
£2.00 in paperback from The Works or 6 for £10.00 as of 21.03.16 (click here)

“It’s been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.”

 

Notes: I read this in ebook form quite a while ago so have just bought the nice shiny paperback to reread before I can devour the sequels. It’s a fast and gritty book with plenty of action, conflict and emotions. Also there is no ridiculous insta-love which is a definite plus. The sequel ‘World After’ is also £2.00 from The Works and in the 6 for £10.00 offer so you may as well buy them both at the same time for when you inevitably get addicted. The third book ‘End of Days’ is also out but unfortunately not available at The Works. You can follow the author on Twitter here: @Susan_Ee

Throneofglass‘Throne of Glass’ by Sarah J Maas
£2.37 on Kindle as of 21.03.16 (click here)

“In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?”

Notes: This doesn’t really need any description, just hnnnnnnnnnng. The start of an increasingly amazing series that simply kicks ass. And you already know it. You can follow the author on Twitter here: @SJMaas

Have you seen any book bargains that I’ve missed? Tweet me here: @JadeDH!

2016 To Read List

I made a huge mistake. I tried to comprehend the vastness of my bookshelf and everything on it that I haven’t read. I am now spiraling into a black hole of combined self-loathing/inspiration. So of course I made a list to prioritise what I really want to read this year.

This list includes series that I loved but haven’t finished (you know the feeling when the sequel comes out but you can’t quite be bothered to reread the first book?) as well as books that I’ve owned for ages but haven’t read, series that are repeatedly recommended, and new releases that I’ve just bought or am eagerly anticipating.

I’ve allowed myself 40 spaces because that’s how many books I read last year. I’d love to get up to 52, one book a week, but when work is busy that’s impossible. Luckily I’ve managed to tick off a handful already this year!

Anyway, watch this space whilst I spend the entire year ignoring everything I’ve planned, panicking when YALC authors are announced and I have to add 25 more books to the list, getting distracted by Netflix marathons and buying completely unrelated trash on Kindle.

radio silence rebel of the sands the broken eye the blinding knife the great gatsby how hard can love beall that glitters head over heels I'll give you the sun the buried giant delirium the handmaid's tale   cinder scarlet cress the sleeping prince a monster calls the daylight warthe skull throne red rising golden son morning star shadow scale half lost  beautiful broken things a court of mist and fury throne of glass 5 snow like ashes ice like fire Anna my true love gave to me something strange and deadly angelfall world after end of days shatter me unravel me ignite me red queen glass sword

  • Alice Oseman – Radio Silence
  • Alwyn Hamilton – Rebel of the Sands
  • Brent Weeks – The Blinding Knife
  • Brent Weeks – The Broken Eye
  • Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
  • Holly Bourne – How Hard Can Love Be?
  • Holly Smale – All that Glitters
  • Holly Smale – Head over Heels
  • Jandy Nelson – I’ll Give You the Sun
  • Kazuo Ishiguro – The Buried Giant
  • Lauren Oliver – Delirium
  • Margaret Atwood – The Handmaid’s Tale
  • Marissa Meyer – Cinder
  • Marissa Meyer – Scarlet
  • Marissa Meyer – Cress
  • Melinda Salisbury – The Sleeping Prince
  • Patrick Ness – A Monster Calls
  • Peter V. Brett – The Daylight War
  • Peter V. Brett – The Skull Throne
  • Pierce Brown – Red Rising
  • Pierce Brown – Golden Son
  • Pierce Brown – Morning Star
  • Rachel Harman – Shadow Scale
  • Sally Green – Half Lost
  • Sara Barnard – Beautiful Broken Things
  • Sarah J. Maas – A Court of Mist and Fury
  • Sarah J. Maas – Empire of Storms
  • Sarah Raasch – Snow Like Ashes
  • Sarah Raasch – Ice Like Fire
  • Stephanie Perkins – Anna and the French Kiss
  • Stephanie Perkins – My True Love Gave to Me
  • Susan Dennard – Something Strange and Deadly
  • Susan Ee – Angelfall
  • Susan Ee World After
  • Susan Ee – End of Days
  • Tehereh Mafi – Shatter Me
  • Tehereh Mafi – Unravel Me
  • Tehereh Mafi – Ignite Me
  • Victoria Aveyard – Red Queen
  • Victoria Aveyard – Glass Sword

What else should be on my list? Which amazing new releases am I missing?

February YA Book Bargains

I recently started posting on Twitter whenever I spot a great #bookbargain for a few reasons:

  1. It’s really important that everyone has access to books they can fall in love with, especially young people. Not everyone can afford to spend £7.99 on the high street for a paperback, but anyone who has a computer, phone or tablet can download the free Kindle app or order series from lesser known suppliers online.
  2. I get really excited when I can buy lots of new books without a huge feeling of guilt. Especially if I want to try new authors, it mitigates the risk factor and encourages me to branch out.
  3. I get really excited when I see a book that I have read and enjoyed on offer because I genuinely think your life would be improved by reading it. It also means I can force my friends to read and discuss them with me.

Most of the book bargains I post are Kindle e-books, simply because they tend to have much cheaper offers due to their digital nature. Another good way of getting bargains though is through buying a whole series as a collection from places like The Works and The Book People.

So here are my book bargains for February. I’ll keep updating this list as I find more. The prices will probably go back up without warning, so I’ve included the last date that I saw each book at the listed price.

half bad

‘Half Bad’ by Sally Green
£1.99 on Kindle e-book as of 18.02.16 (click here)
It’s in the Kindle Half Term sale so will likely only be on sale until 21.02.16

“Meet Nathan Byrn . . .

He’s half White Witch, half Black Witch.
His mother was a healer, his father is a killer.
He’s been kept in a cage since he was fourteen.

But if White Witches are good and Black Witches are evil, what happens if you are both?”

Notes: I’ve read this book and loved it. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes a darker fantasy story with beautiful, emotional prose. The second book in the series (‘Half Wild’) is already out and the third book (‘Half Lost’) is coming out at the end of March this year.  I can’t wait! You can follow Sally Green on Twitter here: @Sa11eGreen

Uglies

‘Uglies’ by Scott Westerfeld
£0.99 on Kindle e-book as of 18.02.16 (click here)
It’s in the Kindle Half Term sale so will likely only be on sale until 21.02.16

“Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. In just a few weeks she’ll have the operation that will turn her from a repellent ugly into a stunning pretty. And as a pretty, she’ll be catapulted into a high-tech paradise where her only job is to have fun.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to become a pretty.”

Notes: It’s the usual dystopian future/breaking away from the system book. I actually bought all four books in the series a while ago but haven’t read past the first few chapters of ‘Uglies’ yet, mainly because I got annoyed my fingers kept smudging the black cover. Maybe I should buy the e-book instead. You can follow Scott Westerfeld on Twitter here: @ScottWesterfeld

Anna‘Anna and the French Kiss’ by Stephanie Perkins
£1.99 on Kindle e-book as of 18.02.16 (click here)

“Anna is less than thrilled to be shipped off to boarding school in Paris, leaving a fledgling romance behind – until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a girlfriend. But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with a longed-for French kiss?”

Notes: I bought this book because a) it was cheap and b) I saw a recommendation for the series in a book vlog yesterday. I literally just finished it about 5 minutes ago. This is a contemporary romance aka basically 382 pages of sexual tension, and not in a bad way. It will make you want to go to Paris right now. You can find Stephanie Perkins on Twitter here: @naturallysteph

Poison Study

‘Poison Study’ by Maria V. Snyder
£1.99 on Kindle e-book as of 19.02.16 (click here)

“In the territory of Ixia the government maintains control through the Code of Behaviour, forbidding the practice of magic, but danger lurks in mysterious places…Imprisoned for murder Yelena Zaltana’s punishment is death, until she is reprieved – for a price.

As the Commander of Ixia’s food taster she will risk assassination from poison daily, a position she would be a fool to refuse… In a world where magic equals death and freedom is for the lucky few, survival is all Yelena has and the battle for her life has just begun.”

Notes: This is one of my all time favourite books. I love it so much.  In case there wasn’t enough reason to read it, the sequels ‘Fire Study‘ and ‘Magic Study‘ are also £0.99 and £2.99 respectively. A whole trilogy for under £6! Read this if you like magic, castles,  intrigue and brooding men.

cuckoo

Cuckoo Song’ by Frances Hardinge
£0.99 on Kindle e-book as of 19.02.16 (click here)
It’s in the Kindle Half Term sale so will likely only be on sale until 21.02.16

“When Triss wakes up after an accident, she knows that something is very wrong. She is insatiably hungry; her sister seems scared of her and her parents whisper behind closed doors. She looks through her diary to try to remember, but the pages have been ripped out.

Soon Triss discovers that what happened to her is more strange and terrible than she could ever have imagined, and that she is quite literally not herself. In a quest find the truth she must travel into the terrifying Underbelly of the city to meet a twisted architect who has dark designs on her family – before it’s too late . . .”

Notes: I haven’t read this yet, but I bought it when I saw the price because I’ve heard nothing but praise since her novel ‘The Lie Tree‘ won Costa Book of the Year 2015. This sounds a little creepier than what I normally read (I’m a wuss) but based on the reviews, I’m sure it will be worth it. You can find Frances Hardinge on Twitter here: @FrancesHardinge

ink and bone

‘Ink and Bone’ by Rachel Caine
£0.99 on Kindle e-book as of 19.02.16 (click here)
It’s in the Kindle Half Term sale so will likely only be on sale until 21.02.16

“In 48 AD, a fire set by the troops of Julius Caesar destroyed much of the Great Library of Alexandria. But what if the fire had been stopped? What would the Library have become? Fast forward: the Great Library is now a separate country, protected by its own standing army. It has grown into a vast power, with unquestioned and unrivalled supremacy. Jess Brightwell, seventeen and very smart, with a gift for mechanical engineering, has been sent into the Great Library as a spy for his criminal family.”

Notes: Another novel I’ve just bought and haven’t read yet. There was no way I could pass this by after seeing mention of the Great Library of Alexandria, plus the theme around the power of knowledge sounds fascinating. Rachel Caine is on Twitter here: @rachelcaine

There are loads of other YA books in the Kindle Half Term Sale, so if you want to peruse the whole list then you can find it here until…probably the end of half term.

Have you seen any book bargains that I’ve missed? Tweet me here: @JadeDH!

Review: ‘How Hard Can Love Be?’ by Holly Bourne

hhclbSynopsis: “Amber, Evie and Lottie: three girls facing down tough issues with the combined powers of friendship, feminism and cheesy snacks. Both hilarious and heart-rending, this is Amber’s story of how painful – and exhilarating – love can be, following on from Evie’s story in Am I Normal Yet?

All Amber wants is a little bit of love. Her mum has never been the caring type, even before she moved to California, got remarried and had a personality transplant. But Amber’s hoping that spending the summer with her can change all that.

And then there’s prom king Kyle, the guy all the girls want. Can he really be interested in anti-cheerleader Amber? Even with best friends Evie and Lottie’s advice, there’s no escaping the fact: love is hard.”


I started reading Holly Bourne’s books after I met her at YALC in London last summer. I bought ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ to get signed and she was so lovely and funny that I knew her writing would be too. I wasn’t wrong, and ended up devouring ‘Soulmates’ and ‘The Manifesto on How to be Interesting’ too.

‘How Hard Can Love Be’ follows on in ‘The Normal Series’ but is told from the point of view of Evie’s best friend and Spinster Club founder, Amber. Can I just point out that I love Amber? All of Bourne’s characters (especially the Spinster Club trio) are full of life, but Amber is so awkward, angry and sarcastic, especially when hit smack-bang in the face with American culture, that I challenge any British teenage girl not to relate.

The book follows Amber’s trip to work at an American summer camp, where she is visiting her mother for the first time in two years. We slowly learn more details about her family’s situation as she tries to deal with it. The story is equal parts hilarious and heart-wrenching. Here are some things I especially loved about it:


Feminism: In the same way that ‘Am I Normal Yet?’ was so on point about mental health, HHCLB tackles women’s rights in a way that is easy for the young adult reader to digest, but without being patronising. This is what we need in every book. Bourne dissects complex theories in women’s rights, breaking them down through the teenage voice of best friend/genius Lottie. It really gives you something to think about.

One example is the “Female Chauvinistic Pig” theory, or how the liberation of women’s sexuality has turned so far around that it’s no longer a case of women being able to embrace their sexual nature if they want to. Instead we are forced into a big sexiness competition by society, which of course benefits men. HHCLB just goes to show that teenage girls can actually think for themselves and try to break away from such moulds.

Bourne also shows us that it’s okay not to be a perfect feminist all the time. Amber encapsulates the common internal battle between needing to take your emotions out on something vs. trying to do the right thing for womankind. She perfectly illustrates this issue when she makes comments like, ‘I knew it probably wasn’t strictly feminist, to bond with one girl by bitching about another.’ It just goes to show how far competition over appearance has been ingrained into us by society that even the inspirational Amber has bitchy thoughts. And we can’t possibly judge her for it.


Humour: I cannot get over how many times I snorted out loud whilst reading this book. You’ll have to read it to see for yourself.


Real family problems: This is so emotional. I JUST WANT AMBER’S MUM TO LOVE ME. Teenage girls are typically labelled hormonal, hysterical, stroppy, and over the top just because they disagree with their parents. Amber is, from the outside, all these things (and even admits to feeling childish about her outbursts) but we follow her thought process the whole way through. We understand and agree with where she’s coming from but as the adults in her life consistently don’t get it, the reader wants to scream/cry with frustration as much as Amber. And that’s from my point of view, never having experienced family angst like that. I can’t imagine how emotional this would be for any readers who have gone through similar things.

One thing I loved slightly less in HHCLB was Perfect Kyle. But the more I thought about it, I realised the fact that the romance was not the main element (in the novel or in Amber’s mind) does redeem him. Yes, it’s a romance. But it’s not a YA trope about going to camp, meeting the perfect-boy-who-just-happens-to-be-in-love-with-you and falling in insta-love. Kyle just happens to be there as a relief from all of Amber’s family issues. And the fact that he’s there to listen (and provide some happiness instead of another angsty plot line) lets Bourne get much grittier about Amber’s mother without the book becoming a full on woe-is-me sob story.


Harry Potter references: Possibly my favourite line was, ‘I learned a lesson about not judging people until you’ve found out whether or not they’ve read Harry Potter.’ This is basically a life lesson that everyone should live by. Also, don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Harry Potter. JKR (aka ‘The Queen’) has had such an influence on our generation growing up that this is exactly right; Potter references are now part of our everyday vernacular and I love how HHCLB incorporates that.


Friendships: Not much needs to be said about this. If you’ve read either of ‘The Normal Series’ you’ll know how perfect Evie, Lottie and Amber are together. It makes me warm and fuzzy inside. They’re just. So. Bloody. Adorable. Plus I really respected how Amber was able to make friends at camp without them getting all possessive and jealous. They’re just really excited for her because, once again, Bourne’s ladies break out of gender stereotypes. Boom.