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16 August 2019

Book Beginnings #75

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey.

Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey cover

Lest anyone should suppose that I am a cuckoo’s child, got on the wrong side of the blanket by lusty peasant stock and sold into indenture in a shortfallen season, I may say that I am House-born and reared in the Night Court proper, for all the good it did me.
Someone, somewhere, recommended this book to me. And I can't remember who. All I know if that I am thankful they did, as it is excellent and I am loving it so far, even with the unexpected BDSM elements. I really should read blurbs and shelf tags more often.

I am reading Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey for the Magical Readathon #NEWTsReadathon2019, for my most recently acquired book prompt for Divination. It's a beast of a book in length, around 1000 pages, and goodness knows if I'll manage to finish it before the end of the challenge. Wish me luck!

I sat up straight on the couch. ‘The arts of the salon are of the utmost import, my lord!’ 
‘No.’ His grey eyes glinted. ‘They have value, Phèdre, and that is all. But what I will teach you, you will like, I think. You will learn to look, to see, and to think, and there is merit in such lessons as will last a lifetime.’
Because of the sheer length of this book, page 56 is a tiny 5% into the story. But my, a lot has happened. This is the first kind of really pivotal moment where things truly change for Phèdre and her new life starts to properly take shape.

I feel like at times this book is very dark, and it has very strong BDSM themes throughout. It is certainly not for the prudish, but a lot of respect has gone into the presentation of the BDSM elements. It's so full of political and court intrigue and power plays, and I am honestly in love with the story.

What are you reading this week?

12 August 2019

Book Review: American Royals by Katharine McGee *AD Gifted

Penguin Random House UK Children’s sent me a free electronic review copy of American Royals by Katharine McGee via NetGalley.

American Royals by Katharine McGee coverAdd to Goodreads button
Two princesses vying for the ultimate crown. 
Two girls vying for the prince's heart. 
This is the story of the American royals.

When America won the Revolutionary War, its people offered General George Washington a crown. Two and a half centuries later, the House of Washington still sits on the throne. Like most royal families, the Washingtons have an heir and a spare. A future monarch and a backup battery. Each child knows exactly what is expected of them. But these aren't just any royals. They're American.

As Princess Beatrice gets closer to becoming America's first queen regnant, the duty she has embraced her entire life suddenly feels stifling. Nobody cares about the spare except when she's breaking the rules, so Princess Samantha doesn't care much about anything, either... Except the one boy who is distinctly off-limits to her. And then there's Samantha's twin, Prince Jefferson. If he'd been born a generation earlier, he would have stood first in line for the throne, but the new laws of succession make him third. Most of America adores their devastatingly handsome prince... But two very different girls are vying to capture his heart.

The duty. The intrigue. The Crown. New York Times bestselling author Katharine McGee imagines an alternate version of the modern world, one where the glittering age of monarchies has not yet faded--and where love is still powerful enough to change the course of history.

Source: NetGalley

5 Words: Family, royalty, fame, responsibility, friendship.

American Royals is a really fun read, and honestly perfect for summer. I have read some of Katharine McGee's books before (check out my review of The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee) so I knew what to expect. Or so I thought. 

I loved the extravagance and vividness of the alternate reality. This book is pure enjoyment, and I loved how readily I could suspend disbelief and lose myself in it. It all felt so real and I loved it. It did feel more New Adult than Young Adult, but I this is more down to the age of the characters than the content as a lot of the drama is quite juvenile.

There are a range of narrators for the story, and I felt that they all had pretty distinct voices. I did find myself a little confused now and then, but ultimately I really enjoyed being in the different character's heads and seeing their points of view. I think my favourite was Samantha, even if she did have a lot of problems and I ultimately didn't even like her that much.

American Royals is somewhat predictable, but that does not detract from the enjoyment. It's like watching an episode of Gossip Girl, seeing all of these privileged people racing towards a trainwreck of privileged drama one privileged mistake at a time. I feel like the wider story with the next book (it's a series I think?) will be just as predictable, but equally fun to read.

This is definitely my favourite of the author's books, and I will absolutely read on if there are further American Royals books - and after That Ending I certainly need more.

08 August 2019

Book Review: DOGS by MA Bennett *AD Gifted

I claimed a free review copy of DOGS by MA Bennett from Hot Key Books via the Readers First program.

After reading and reviewing STAGS by MA Bennett exactly two years ago, I was pretty desperate to get my hands on the second installment. And when I picked up DOGS I was not disappointed, and just like with the first book I raced through it.

DOGS by MA Bennett coverAdd to Goodreads button
After the dramatic events of the last few weeks, Greer Macdonald is trying to concentrate on her A levels. Stuck for a play to direct for her drama exam, she gets help from an unexpected quarter...

A priceless lost play, buried by time, is pushed under her door. It is Ben Jonson's The Isle of Dogs, a play considered so dangerous in Elizabethan times that every copy was burned... Except one.

As the students begin to rehearse it, events become increasingly dark and strange, and they lead Greer back to where she never thought she would return - Longcross Hall.

There she discovers that not only is the Order of the Stag alive and well, but that a ghost from the past might be too...

Source: Readers First

5 Words: Privilege, power, ambition, secrets, ghosts.

When I first read STAGS two years ago I said that I would be happy for it to be a standalone. That was a lie, and we all know it. So knowing that

I think one of the great things about this book is that you don't necessarily have to have read STAGS first - but if you have you will get a lot more out of it. There is a recap of sorts in the first chapters - and it's not info-dump style, it fits well into the narrative - and it means that if you wanted you could just start from here.

Again I really connected with Greer - she is so relatable at times that it's almost a bit jarring, and I definitely agree with her verdict on Romeo and Juliet. She is the narrator and I love being in her head, she's dry and witty and I laugh a lot. With DOGS there are even more characters introduced, and I  loved Ty. I felt like the de Warlencourt twins are creepy, but that could also be that I kind of find twins in general a bit creepy because in the book they're actually not.

I loved how the play within the story got darker and darker as the story itself got darker - it was almost poetic and I thought it was really clever. DOGS has a lot less on page action and thrills, the physicality takes a bit of a back seat and the thriller aspect is much more in your head. I loved it, it made it all the more chilling for me.

And that ending? Now I'm desperate for the third installment! I am so glad that this is part of an ongoing extended series, because I love the twisted world of privilege and entitlement at Saint Aidan The Great School.

02 August 2019

Book Beginnings #74

For Book Beginnings, Rose City Reader invites us to share the first sentence (or so) of the book you are reading, along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires.

For Friday 56, Freda's Voice asks you to turn to Page 56 in your book or 56% on your e-reader and pick a sentence.

I am currently reading Nevernight by Jay Kristoff.

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff cover

The boy was beautiful. 
Caramel-smooth skin, honeydew-sweet smile. Black curls on the right side of unruly. Strong hands and hard muscle and his eyes, O, Daughters, his eyes. Five thousand fathoms deep. Pulling you in to laugh even as he drowned you.
I got Nevernight in an Illumicrate box years ago. I remember the box vividly (it also had a cute Gilmore Girls tote bag) and I remember being intrigued by the book. But I also remember sitting Nevernight on my shelf and kind just... Leaving it. Goodness knows why, because I'm a huge grimdark fan and I don't read nearly as much as I'd like to.

Anyway fast forward around three years (I'm a bad bookworm) and I'm finally picking up Nevernight by Jay Kristoff for the Magical Readathon #NEWTsReadathon2019. It's going to fill my White Book prompt for Divination. There is so much wild hype around the series that I am a little apprehensive, but only a few chapters in I am hooked. The writing style is almost lyrical, lush with description, and I love it.

This first line? I love it. And I'm excited to read on.

"It's like those fellows who name their swords 'Skullbane' or 'Souldrinker' or somesuch." Tric ties his saltlocks into a matted knot atop his head. "Tossers, all."
I am very much enjoying Nevernight, even if I am already drawing up a long list of content warnings in my review draft. It's very stylishly written, I like the flow, I'm enjoying the back and forth of finding out more about Mia Corvere. And yes, it's dark.

Have you read Nevernight by Jay Kristoff? What did you think of it?

What are you reading this week?

31 July 2019

OWLs in July Wrap Up

I was very late to the Magical Readthon party, mainly because I had a lot going on in April so couldn't join in them, so when Aoife mentioned she was doing her OWLs in July I jumped in and joined her.

I knew that I'd have A Lot going on for the considerable future, so I settled on the fairy easy goal of the Seer career path, as I knew it'd give me plenty of leeway for the NEWTs too.

Mandatory OWLs

Ancient Runes - Retelling

Astronomy - "Star" in the Title

Divination - Set in the Future

Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

Extra Credit OWLs

Muggle Studies - Contemporary

DADA - Reducto: Title Starts with an R

Rose, Interrupted by Patrice Lawrence

Charms - Age Line: Read an Adult Work

Potions - Next Ingredient: Sequel

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson

History of Magic - Published at least 10 Years Ago

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

So overall, I did much better than I expected. I read a lot more than I thought I would and I FOUND A NEW FAVOURITE BOOK and it's a Classic so colour me shocked because my party line is I Don't Like Classics. I even read a few other books outside of the readathon that I couldn't shoehorn into the prompts.

Now I'm excited for the NEWTs tomorrow, especially as I have a little more freedom if I want to stray from the Seer career path.

What did you read in July?

27 July 2019

Q&A With Rose Edwards

I picked up a copy of The Harm Tree by Rose Edwards when I was at NYA Lit Fest after hearing the author talk about it on a panel, and I devoured it. It's epic and exciting and fresh and fierce and feminist, and basically everything I need in a fantasy.

This is a bit of a different Q&A, because I AM AT YALC and SO IS ROSE and I was very hyped about the event. If you're at YALC pop over to UCLan Publishing's stall and grab a copy of The Harm Tree you will not be disappointed.

Q&A with Rose Edwards

Tell us a bit about yourself and what inspired you to write The Harm Tree.
I’ve always been interested in stories about gods and spirits. The touchstone for The Harm Tree came from thinking about Joan of Arc, about how a teenage girl convinced a disenfranchised prince and his army that saints were guiding her, and they should trust her to guide them. When I was young I loved mythology, and during my studies at university I came across accounts of spirit possession and millennial beliefs, the kind that convince whole communities that the world is ending, and that they should give up everything they have to prepare for the conflagration. I knew I wanted to write about two young women who inhabit a world where these themes overlapped, and who find themselves in the eye of a storm that’s been brewing their whole lives. Those were the starting points, and the story grew from there.

By the time this Q&A goes live, you'll be at YALC - what are you most excited about?
Firstly, I’m excited to be seeing so many inspiring writers in conversation with each other! I’ll probably spend the first day just fangirling about that. Secondly, I’m presenting an award at the UKYA Bloggers Awards on Friday(!) - having seen the effort and love that goes into so many book blogs it’s an honour to be part of an event to recognise all the work that goes into sharing and promoting YA lit. And of course this means I get to wear a party frock (I ASSUME I mean surely?), which is always a win. I’ll also be in conversation with my agent Sandra Sawika at 2pm on Saturday, making friendship bracelets (come make friendship bracelets with me!) at 4pm, and doing signings at the UCLan Publishing stall, so it’s not like I’ll be at a loose end. Finally I’m definitely going to try to sneak in to Comic Con to see Kieron Gillian – I’m a massive fan of The Wicked & Divine comic series.

Earlier this year you were in a panel at NYA, what was your favourite thing about it?
It was a treat and a delight to be sitting alongside established authors like Melinda Salisbury, Laure Eve, and Samantha Shannon, sharing our thoughts on feminism in fantasy. I mean, how could that not be a dream? They all write such interesting female characters, and it was fun mapping out how we had all come to feminism through such a variety of routes, and what it meant to us as writers to include those beliefs in our stories.

How have you prepared for YALC?
With printouts of the schedule, a carefully colour-coded selection of pastel highlighters, and making sure I have cool clothes. That’s cool as in the temperature; I hear YALC is hot. It’s literally the first thing everyone has said to me. Also smelling salts in case Jason Momoa.

Why do you think events like YALC and NYA are so important?
As well as giving you a chance to see hear some of your favourite authors discuss the topics explored by their books, or give insights into their writing process through workshops, festivals have a practical, aspirational side too. They bring authors, illustrators, readers, agents, publishers, librarians and bloggers together, something that wouldn’t happen otherwise. I think these festivals are a great opportunity to get an overall view of how the industry works, and see just how many people are involved in bringing a story into the world and nurturing it. It demystifies that process, and helps people who aspire to be part of the industry understand more about the different roles available to them.

The Harm Tree by Rose Edwards coverAdd to Goodreads button
An epic fantasy set in a world still recovering from one war, and on the brink of another.

The resistance is rising and dark forces stir to take back what was once theirs. Belief in the ancient gods runs strong—the sacrificial Harm Tree still stands.

You’re too young to remember why we needed heroes. You should be glad…

Nine years ago, two princes waged a bloody civil war for the right to rule Arngard. The younger prince took the throne and outlawed the ancient beliefs, but some wounds don’t heal. New religion replaced the barbaric traditions and finally, there’s peace.

Torny and Ebba are friends. Sent away by their families, they work together and watch out for each other. Too young to remember the war that tore apart the kingdom, Torny dreams of the glorious warriors of old, while Ebba misses her family, despite the darkness she left behind.

But when a man is murdered on the street and Torny finds herself in possession of a dangerous message, the two friends must tread separate paths. These will lead them through fear, through grief, to the source of their own power and to the gates of death itself.

As Torny and Ebba are used as tools for the opposing factions of the war, a deep power is ignited in them both. Can they uncover their own strength to finally heal the wounds of a nation?

24 July 2019

Spotify Book Tag

When I was blog hopping I spotted Book Hooked Nook's Spotify Book Tag and it looked so much fun that I couldn't resist giving it a go. I'm going to make it a little more challenging and only use books that I've read this year or are on my 2019 TBR.

Book Hooked Nook's Spotify Book Tag banner

Hit Rewind: a book you go back to again and again? 

Gilded Cage by Vic James. I love the world, the possibilities, the terrifying realness of the alternative universe.

Romantic Ballads: a book that gives you all those fluttery feels?

Romancing The Inventor by Gail Carriger. I'm a sucker for this author's books and the marvellous steampunk world she created with The Parasol Protectorate. Both of the Supernatural Society books are fantastic romances and give me the warm fuzzies.

Release Radar: a new release book you are excited for?

Wilder Girls by Rory Power. I've heard amazing things about this book from so many people that I'm now super excited to get my hands on it.

Discover Weekly: a book you haven’t read yet but want to discover? 

The Devouring Grey by Christine Lynn Herman. There is so much buzz and love for this book, and I can't wait to grab a copy next week at the Waterstones Newcastle event.

Alone Again: your fave book genre to read on your own?

Romance - I'm a sucker for romance and utterly adore the genre. I'd say over half of my kindle is just Romance.

Alternative: an indie book or author everyone should read!

A Hidden Hope by Laura Ambrose. It's just the MOST ADORABLE f/f romance, filled with passion, and love, and a hint of enemies to lovers. Yes please.

Cheesy Hits: a book full of cheese that you just love?

The Paper and Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie. It's just so delightful and happy and lovely, and I love the comfort of the predictability.

Summer Hits: a book you re-read every summer?

Darkmere by Helen Maslin. It's like an episode of Skins set in a haunted mansion and it's all kinds of excellent. I reach for this book every summer.

Power Hour: an empowering feminist book or character you adore?

Perfect by Cecelia Ahern. This is a much more broadly feminist book, with a focus on equality for all against a brutal regime. For some reason it took me years to actually pick it up, but when I did I read it in a day.

All Out 10’s: list ten banging books!