Thursday, 18 July 2019

Review: The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie

Publisher: Hodder Children's Books
Published: 13th June 2019

Synopsis:
Tabby Brown is tired of trying to fit in. She doesn't want to go to parties - in fact, she would much rather snuggle up on the sofa with her favourite book. It's like she hasn't found her people ...

Then Tabby joins a club that promises to celebrate books. What could go wrong? EVERYTHING - especially when making new friends brings out an AWKWARD BUZZING feeling all over her body.

But Olivia, Cassie, Henry and Ed have something that makes Tabby come back. Maybe it's the Austen-themed fancy-dress parties, or Ed's fluffy cat Mrs Simpkins, or could it be Henry himself ...

Can Tabby let her weird out AND live THE BEST BOOKISH LIFE POSSIBLE?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1444949233/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1444949233&linkId=83bb36799354fad59f2d5fd408655716

Review:
'The Paper & Hearts Society' by Lucy Powrie is a book that I would like to press into the hands of every teenager. It highlights the ups and downs of growing-up in a time when social media is everywhere and the pressure to fit in is sometimes overwhelming. There was so much about the story and characters that I identified with and I think the majority of readers will feel exactly the same. I read it in one sitting and was really, really impressed with Powrie's debut.

The story is about teenager Tabby Brown, who at the beginning of the book, has moved to a new area with her family. She's staying with her Gran, while her Mum and Dad pack up their old house. She's browsing books in the library one day when she comes across a flyer for a new book club. She's initially hesitant about going along but her Gran thinks it will be a good opportunity for her to make new friends and soon the club becomes the start of a whole new chapter in Tabby's life.

Tabby is a wonderful main character because she's just so real and relatable. She worries about fitting in with a group of friends that have already known each other for years and have a shorthand that she doesn't initially know. Although Olivia, Henry and Ed are warm and welcoming, she doesn't get off to the best start with Cassie who seems to resent her presence. Her anxiety about joining in with an established friendship group is something that I suspect most people have experienced at some point or another. Although it initially feels awkward, I thought that it was brave of Tabby to keep trying and to acknowledge that it would take time to properly fit in. As well as Tabby, I particularly liked the two boys: Henry and Ed. They have quite different personalities but they both help Tabby to feel more comfortable and at ease and are straightforward, easy-going characters.  

There are lots of different themes explored in the book. One is the power and pressure of social media and how it can be used as a tool for bullying. I'm really glad that I didn't grow up with social media and some of the technologies that we have today. I love Instagram and Twitter, but they can be extremely invasive and I felt for Tabby and what she goes through.

I LOVE the fact that 'The Paper & Hearts Society' celebrates books and reading and makes it cool to be obsessed with buying a stack of new books, or visiting literary landmarks or having an Austen-themed fancy dress party. I know exactly how the characters feel when they express their love of a particular author and plan an exciting road trip to see some famous literary cities. I've visited both Bath and Stratford Upon Avon many, many times and could share their excitement and awe because that's exactly the way I've felt in the past when I've visited Shakespeare's grave or seen the house where Jane Austen resided. I really need to plan my own trip to Haworth now! 

This is a gem of a book which has a fresh contemporary voice and exemplifies all the best qualities of the Young Adult genre. I felt like I was reading about myself at times which is a characteristic you don't often come across. This was a 5 star hit for me and I can't wait to read the next book in the series.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.

Friday, 12 July 2019

Mid-year 2019 books review wrap-up

I'm a little bit late with my 2019 middle of the year wrap-up but I thought it would be interesting to look back at how my reading is going so far this year, what some of my favourite books have been and what I've been enjoying and recommending.


1. My reading tally.I set myself the challenge of reading 180 books in 2019. I had a bit of a blip last year when I had a lot of other things going on and didn't have quite as much time as normal for reading. I also went through a spell of not particularly enjoying a lot of the books I picked up. I was determined that this year would be different and so far it has been! I've read 109 books between January and July (yes, I'm a fast reader!) and have discovered some absolutely phenomenal novels and new authors. There are lots more fantastic releases due out during the rest of the year and I'm once again head over heels in love with books.

2. My favourites.
Choosing favourites is always hard but I've narrowed it down to a top 5 (in no particular order). These haven't all been published this year but I'm picking from the titles that I've read in 2019.

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas (published by Bloomsbury)
An incredible end to the Throne of Glass series. 980 pages of pure enjoyment from one of my favourite authors.
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1408872919/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1408872919&linkId=a4f29e0349ef944a08b5c1f8030f0019
 
A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer (published by Bloomsbury)
I'm loving the trend this year for fairy tale retellings. This is a brilliant twist on the traditional Beauty and the Beast story. Kemmerer's storytelling perspective is fresh and original and I loved this one. Read my full review here.  
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1408884615/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1408884615&linkId=4ad4f73c85085eb34838dee706b8e12a
 

Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly (published by Hot Key Books)
Another twist on a classic fairytale but this time it's an inventive take on what happened to the ugly stepsisters after Cinderella was whisked off by the Prince. A sheer delight to read and a book which made me so happy!
Read my full review here
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07HQJRTHB/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07HQJRTHB&linkId=2426e205209dd07851c1644ee6479c0a
 
 Viper by Bex Hogan (published by Orion Children's Books)
I am obsessed with this book! If I could only recommend you read one thing this year, then it would definitely be 'Viper' which has reignited my love for all things pirate.
Read my full review here
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1510105832/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1510105832&linkId=9e6a978e15797905b368d872dd8f1f1e
 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley (published by Harper Collins)
The only adult read to make my top 5 of the year so far. A murder mystery thriller which is reminiscent of a classic Agatha Christie who-dunnit. Kept me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
Read my full review here
 
https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/0008297118/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=0008297118&linkId=d6595e4b132e0c38868d79e921fd2411
 
3. Book/Author obsession
This has been the year that I've discovered and become obsessed with everything Agatha Christie related. I've been devouring her books and every week have come home with huge piles of her novels from the library. My favourite so far has probably been Poirot's very first case, 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles' but it's hard to choose because I have enjoyed so many. I now only have about 16 still to read (which I'm madly hunting for) but I don't know what I'm going to do once I've finished! 
 
4. Book miss
I was excited about reading 'The Record Keeper' by Agnes Gomillion but I really struggled with it. I do like some science fiction but this was quite heavily rooted in the genre and it didn't spark a lot of enjoyment for me. I've since seen some really positive reviews of the book from other readers that loved it though, so I always think it's worth giving books a go and making up your own mind. You can read my full review here
 
5. Surprise hit 
I picked up 'A Sky Painted Gold' by Laura Wood without knowing much about it. I thought that the cover was pretty and it sounded like my kind of book. I was really pleasantly surprised about just how much I enjoyed it. It's a wonderful read for summer, set in Cornwall (which isn't far away from me), features a dreamy romance and has brilliant characters that leap off the page. Laura's new book, 'Under a Dancing Star' has recently been published, so I'm desperate to get my hands on a copy as soon as possible.  

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Review: Viper by Bex Hogan

Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Published: 18th April 2019

Synopsis:
Seventeen-year-old Marianne is fated to one day become the Viper, defender of the Twelve Isles.

But the reigning Viper stands in her way. Corrupt and merciless, he prowls the seas in his warship, killing with impunity, leaving only pain and suffering in his wake.

He's the most dangerous man on the ocean . . . and he is Marianne's father.

She was born to protect the islands. But can she fight for them if it means losing her family, her home, the boy she loves - and perhaps even her life?  


Review:
I've had an obsession with all things pirate related ever since I first watched the film Cutthroat Island and saw Geena Davis as a take-no-prisoners female pirate, on a quest for buried treasure. If I hadn't become a librarian then maybe life upon the high seas would have beckoned! I tell you this because it helps to explain my absolute obsession with 'Viper' by Bex Hogan. A debut which has stolen my heart.

I loved, loved, loved, loved, loved it! A fantasy pirate adventure, it delivered everything I want in a book and more. It conjured up the salty smell of the sea, the tang of spilt blood and the taste of danger. It gripped and entranced me from start to finish and my only criticism is that it wasn't twice the number of pages, so that I could have prolonged my enjoyment. It's one of the BEST books I've read so far this year and one that I'm going to be begging everyone else to read too.

The first in the Isles of Storm and Sorrow trilogy (oh thank goodness that there will be more!), the story follows the main character of 17 year old Marianne. She is the daughter of the Viper - the deadliest Pirate Captain on the seas and the 'supposed' defender of the Twelve Isles. The Viper is as evil and ruthless as they come and although Marianne is his daughter, he has never shown her any love or understanding. He only knows how to punish and cause pain. Throughout the course of the story the father-daughter dynamic is explored in depth, as Marianne struggles to make sense of her relationship with him. One of the main elements to draw me into a book, is a strong female protagonist with a powerful narrative voice. Marianne was exactly that and I became very invested in her journey and what lay ahead of her.

There are some terrific secondary characters in the book too. One of my absolute favourites was Bronn, who was her childhood friend on-board The Maiden, until he became her father's most valuable assassin. There's also Grace, who is another female member of the crew and who veers hot and cold a lot with her emotions. Plus Prince Torin who it took me a while to warm-up too then suddenly became amazing about half-way through the book. Complicated relationships are actually quite a strong characteristic in the story, probably because everyone seems to be hiding something. Also, a word of warning. It might not be safe to get too attached to anyone because literally every character in the book is in danger at some point. 

I thought that the world-building in the novel was particularly impressive. Each of the islands is unique because of it's setting and landscape, which is reflected in the people that live there. I felt like I could visualise each of them perfectly and I enjoyed the exploration of many of these as I found out more about them and their history.

Hogan interweaves lots of action and adventure into the story which is laced with traces of magic and blushes of romance. I hope we get to find out more about the magical mythology that was touched upon as I found this really intriguing. I have a feeling that there is lots more of that to come.

'Viper' delivered on every level and if there's one book that I want everyone to read this year, this is it. I'm so happy to see pirates emerging as a genre within YA novels as I will literally devour anything in this niche. Bex Hogan's debut though is certainly a novel that is hard to beat. I was beyond thrilled to find out that the second book in the series will be called 'Venom' but not so happy to discover that I've got to wait until 2020 for it to be released. Until then, I'd better dig out my pirate boots.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Review: The Shamer's Daughter by Lene Kaaberbol

Publisher: Pushkin Press
Published: 4th July 2019

Synopsis:
Dina has unwillingly inherited her mother's gift: the ability to elicit shamed confessions simply by looking into someone's eyes. To Dina, however, these powers are not a gift but a curse. Surrounded by fear and hostility, she longs for simple friendship.

But when her mother is called to Dunark Castle to uncover the truth about a bloody triple murder, Dina must come to terms with her power--or let her mother fall prey to the vicious and revolting dragons of Dunark.


https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1782692258/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=1782692258&linkId=53677bc5ba073c31616799f91d41c8a5

Review:
'The Shamer's Daughter' is the first in a middle-grade fantasy series called The Shamer Chronicles. Although aimed at a slightly younger audience, I found the book really enjoyable and I think there is a lot in it to appeal to older readers too. The series is written by a Danish author who is also responsible for translating it into English. Although originally published in 2002, I have to admit that I hadn't heard of the series before, so it's great that Pushkin Press are republishing all four books for a brand new audience of readers.

What originally appealed to me was the description of the book as high fantasy with dragons, magic and adventure. I also noticed that comparisons had been drawn between this series and His Dark Materials (which is one of my favourites!), so my expectations were pretty high.

The story revolves around the main character Dina. An 11 year old girl who is the daughter of a Shamer and who has inherited her mother's gift. They have the ability to look into another person's eyes and see all of their guilty secrets. Although this is an incredible power to have, Dina often sees it as more of a curse because of the fact that no one wants to be friends with her or can look her in the eye. One night, Dina's mother is called upon to go to Dunark Castle, after a terrible crime is committed. She is tasked with helping to identify the guilty party. However, things are not as they seem and Dina becomes embroiled in a terrible power struggle which threatens everyone she holds dear.

I loved the premise for this story which immediately hooked me in. I don't think I've read anything else quite the same as this which made it very unique. Dina is an absolute delight of a heroine. She reminded me a bit of Lucy from The Chronicles of Narnia because is brave and inquisitive and always ready to help anyone out. Her first person narrative was extremely engaging and I loved her interactions with the other characters, particularly Nico and Rose. Nico is great because although he is flawed that makes him more real and likable. He has his faults but he starts to face up to them. Rose was a fantastic addition to the story because she gives the appearance of being tough but underneath she has her own insecurities and fears. Dina helps her to see that she is not responsible for her own precarious situation in life.

The plot moves quickly and there is so much that readers will enjoy. Yes, there are dragons (and deadly ones at that!) but there is also a dangerous power struggle, a quest for justice and lashings of action and adventure.      

'The Shamer's Daughter' is a fast-paced fantasy. I got sucked into Dina's story right from the start and couldn't wait to find out what her fate was going to be. I found it a quick read which was well-paced and crammed full of mystery, magic and mayhem. I'm really eager to read the rest of the series now and find out what other adventures lie in wait for Dina.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate link from Amazon.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Review: Wolf Rain - Nalini Singh

Publisher: Gollancz
Published: 6th June 2019

Synopsis:
Kidnapped as a young girl, her psychic powers harnessed by a madman, Memory lives a caged and isolated existence . . . until she comes face-to-face with a wolf. Labelled an empath by her bad-tempered rescuer, Memory knows that her 'gift' is nothing so bright. It is a terrible darkness that means she will always be hunted.

But Memory is free now and she intends to live. A certain growly wolf can just deal with it. Alexei prefers to keep his packmates at bay, the bleak history of his family a constant reminder that mating, love, hope is not for him. But Memory, this defiant and fearless woman who stands toe-to-toe with him awakens the most primal part of his nature - and soon, he must make a choice: risk everything or lose Memory to a murderous darkness that wants to annihilate her from existence . . .

https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B07MZ91PJG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=adrofbo-21&camp=1634&creative=6738&linkCode=as2&creativeASIN=B07MZ91PJG&linkId=a3d794c7e75d4b4208d88d0ce9bccaed

Review:
'Wolf Rain' is the latest addition to Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. I haven't yet read all of the books in this fantastic series but that didn't stop me from being very excited about this new release. It hindered me slightly because of some of the references to particular characters and events but at the same time I don't think it affected my overall enjoyment at all and I found it easy to immerse myself quickly in this incredible story.

I really enjoyed getting to return to the SnowDancer pack and their world. It's my absolute favourite and I've missed reading them about. The story focuses on Alexei, one of Hawke's Lieutenants. He is a brilliant character who is still mourning the loss of his older brother Brodie who turned rogue. Alexei is extremely strong but sensitive too and is a central part of the Wolf pack. At the beginning of the story, we see him rescuing a new character called Memory from an underground prison. She is a Psy who has psychic abilities that are being used by a madman. Memory was interesting because although she has been held captive since she was a child, she has still tried to educate herself and learn about the outside world. She is well prepared to assimilate back into society if the chance to escape arrives and she hasn't been broken by her traumatic experience.

The relationship between Alexei and Memory is at the very heart of the story. They are brought together under difficult circumstances but there is an instant bond between them. They need each other in different ways which they begin to understand as the story progresses. Alexei allows Memory to explore who she is outside of her prison and she in turn, brings light and life into Alexei's world. She makes him laugh and opens his heart in a way that he has never experienced before. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about them both, although there is the added complication of the fact that Memory's captor is still trying to get her back. This means that danger stalks them both and the stakes are higher than ever.

I loved the SnowDancer community and all of Alexei's pack mates. I could sense the love and support between them and it was great seeing them interact with each other. They are very welcoming to Memory and they make her feel part of their family - something that she was robbed of.

The plot was fast-paced and exciting. I couldn't put the book down. I suspected from the start that it was going to come down to a head to head between Alexei and Memory's kidnapper, so I was on the edge of my seat up to the thrilling final conclusion.

Nalini Singh has done it again with this amazing new instalment to the series. 'Wolf Rain' is paranormal romance at its very best and it won't disappoint fans of the series or even those who are newcomers to this incredible world.

If you have enjoyed reading this review and would like to buy the book, please consider purchasing via my affiliate links from Amazon or the Book Depository.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

How my reading habits have changed

My blog is coming up to its ten year anniversary. This got me thinking about how my reading habits have changed over that time. Some of the changes have been a direct consequence of blogging and some have just changed naturally over time.


1. I DNF (Did Not Finish) books that I'm not enjoying. This has definitely been the biggest change for me, as in the past I would always finish every single book I started...even when I wasn't enjoying it. I always thought the book might improve near the end, or that I would miss out if I didn't finish it. I even occasionally felt ashamed if I didn't read every single page of a book, as how could I then record with good conscience that I'd read it. About 6 years ago, I was laid up in bed recovering from an operation. During that time I read a LOT of books. I needed to read to distract me from the pain. I needed the story to enchant me, sweep me away and fully occupy my attention. If I started reading something that didn't do that then for the first time in my life I would give up on it and put it down. I've decided since then that life is too short to read books that I'm not enjoying. There are so, so many books that I do want to read that I'm much more likely to DNF a title that is not ticking all my boxes.

2. I read a lot more new releases. I think this is a direct consequence of blogging because I'm lucky enough to receive a lot of new releases from publishers. I'm also more aware of new titles which I either buy or hunt for in the library.

3. I plan my reading schedule. Before I started blogging, I would read whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Now however, I plan what I'm going to read next based around the publication date of new books that I want to review, or around blog tours that I'm taking part in. I often try to get ahead of schedule with books I'm reading or blog posts that I'm writing. This then enables me to have some time during the summer or at Christmas to take a break and maybe read some non-fiction or whatever I fancy. This works for me as I'm super organised and it helps me not to get stressed with keeping up with my blog.

4. I read a wider selection of authors and genres. I've always read extremely widely but I think I'm now reading even more genres and trying more books by authors that I might not have come across before. There are very few books that I wouldn't at least try a few chapters of. I LOVE discovering authors with huge back catalogues that I can then go and binge on (e.g. the Agatha Christie love knows no bounds!)

5. I think more critically about what I read. This helps when it comes to reviewing books on my blog. Again, I've always tended to do this (which is a consequence I think of having a Literature degree) but I've noticed that I make more notes now when I'm reading or jot down points about the book that I want to remember when I'm writing reviews.

Have your reading habits changed? If so, how do you read differently? Has blogging had an affect on your choice of books?  
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