15 August 2018

Ascension by Victor Dixen

I don't know what I expected when I first picked up Ascension by Victor Dixen, but I do know that I was utterly blown away by it. I loved how it explored relationships under pressure, under public scrutiny, the reactions of the public. And how it explored space.

Ascension by Victor DixenAdd to Goodreads
Six girls, six boys. Each in the two separate bays of a single spaceship. They have six minutes each week to seduce and to make their choices, under the unblinking eye of the on-board cameras. They are the contenders in the Genesis programme, the world's craziest speed-dating show ever, aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars.

Leonor, an 18 year old orphan, is one of the chosen ones. 
She has signed up for glory.
She has signed up for love.
She has signed up for a one-way ticket.

Even if the dream turns to a nightmare, it is too late for regrets.

Source: Giveaway

5 Words: Friendship, space, family, secrets, lies.

This book really surprised me. I had seen it referred to as Love Island in space and that was an interesting enough hook to spur me into entering the giveaway. Then once I picked it up, I was as captivated as the audience, I couldn't get enough of LĂ©onor. And that ending left me desperately wanting more.

Ascension is a fantastic examination of the greed of humanity, the fascination with reality TV, the power of passion, and the crush of impostor syndrome. It picks apart society's perceptions of beauty, it goes under the surface to scrutinise what people are at their core. And it does it all amazingly.

The story is addictive and fast paced. I could not put it down and I wanted it to be longer, it really is a page-turner. It did take me a little while to get used to the writing style - the story is very much driven by the interactions between the characters rather than the plot itself. I know this won't be for everyone, but for me it fitted the story perfectly.

13 August 2018

Saving Tips for Book Events

Last year I posted my Four Steps to Saving For YALC and this year I'm sharing my saving tips again, because yes, I've already started saving  myself. This is a general Saving for Book Events guide and is how I save my pennies to hit up as many book events as I can despite a) being poor, and b) living up North.

Me at YALC
Me at YALC 2018 having the time of my life.

Start Saving Now

I pretty much never stop saving. Whenever I can I put money away, whether it's £1 in a coin jar or £100 transferred straight out of my wages into savings, I do it. I cannot stress how much easier the whole process is when you start earlier. You can save little and often, and it very quickly builds up.

Get Planning

The sooner you book your accommodation, the cheaper it will be, as the closer you get to the event demand will drive up the prices. Travel has to be left to closer to the time as tickets are often not released until 12 weeks beforehand. But setting out a budget also gives you goals, so you know what to aim for.

Go on a Book Buying Ban

Despite being on a buying ban for three months leading up to YALC, I still ended up already owning almost all of the books that publishers had at their stalls so I couldn't take advantage of any of the "buy two get a proof" offers or cheap prices. Next year I'm going to try to be a little more hard on myself.

This doesn't mean not supporting authors though - I request a lot of books at my local library and they're pretty good at getting them in, so there's a wee PLR boost for them. And I'll still buy the ebook if it's one I'm very excited about.

Start A Books Read Money Jar

This is a favourite of mine, and I tend to get £100+ from this alone. Every time I finish a book, I put £1 in my money jar. Every couple of months I switch out the coins for notes and then by the time an event comes round I have my spending money ready.

Give Something Up

If you're spending your money on a bottle of wine a week, why not give your liver a break and save that money instead? I've done this in the past with chocolate for a month, booze for three months, and smoking forever.

The most recent thing I gave up was one of my subscription boxes - I just wasn't feeling it any more, the books were going unread, and it was time to put that money to better use. Like buying even more books.

Unhaul Some Books

This is one I actually need to do more myself. Being a bookworm I have a lot of books that I've either read and won't read again, or haven't read and probably won't if I'm truly being honest with myself. There is nothing wrong with selling on books you no longer need, you can raise some pennies for yourself and get those books into the hands of those that will actually read them.

What are your tips for saving money?

09 August 2018

A Year at Hotel Gondola by Nicky Pellegrino

Reading A Year At Hotel Gondola by Nicky Pellegrino has made me all the more desperate to one day go to Venice myself. The writing is so evocative that I felt like I was there.

A Year at Hotel Gondola by Nicky PellegrinoAdd to Goodreads
Kat has never wanted to live a small life. She's an adventurer, a food writer who travels the world visiting far-flung places and eating unusual things. Now she is about to embark on her biggest adventure yet - a relationship.

She has fallen in love with an Italian man and is moving to live with him in Venice where she will help him run his small guest house, Hotel Gondola. Kat has lined up a book deal and will write about the first year of her new adventure, the food she eats, the recipes she collects, the people she meets, the man she doesn't really know all that well but is going to make a life with.

But as Kat ought to know by now, the thing about adventures is that they never go exactly the way you expect them to...

Source: Blog Tour

5 Words: Venice, regrets, love, friendship, food.

This book is written in a rather different way - not only is it told from Kat's perspective, but also a narrator in third person. This did take a little while for me to get used to, but by about half way through it didn't disturb my reading or the flow of the story.

I was completely transported to Venice as I read this book. The setting is so rich, so vivid, that I could easily picture myself there. And it felt like I experienced the whole story with the free-spirited Kat.

Although I didn't really connect with Kat (and I suspect this is just down to the age gap and my own preference) she was fantastically self aware, and the beautiful setting more than made up for it. I did enjoy how the story explored Kat's regrets and thoughts and feelings about how her life had panned out and kept surprising her.

One thing I absolutely loved about the book was the abundance of food, especially in the form of recipes. I can't wait to try out some for myself.

This is the perfect summer read. And now I'm desperate to go to Venice.

The Hugo cocktail recipe, A Year at Hotel Gondola by Nicky Pellegrino

But I've made myself a promise - even if I live till I'm a hundred I'll never be a homebody.

08 August 2018

Review: The Island by MA Bennett

If you know me then you'll know that I loved STAGS by MA Bennett when I read it last year. So going in to The Island I had high hopes... And I was not disappointed. Another fantastic exploration of the darker side of humanity set against a background of privilege and desperation.

The Island by MA BennettAdd to Goodreads
Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad - however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others...

When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School - forever - if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it for the ultimate prize. But this particular trip will require a very special sort of endurance. The saying goes 'No man is an island' - but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? When oppressive heat, hunger and thirst start to bite, everyone's true colours will be revealed. Let the battle commence...

From the acclaimed author of S.T.A.G.S.

Source: Giveaway

5 Words: Power, responsibility, school, resentment, revenge.

Take one of each high-school stereotypes and dump them on a desert island, then sit back and watch the horror-show commence. The Island explores the darker realities of humanity, looking at abuse of power, misogyny, desperation, and revenge.

I imagine that this book will not be for everybody - the characters as a whole are intensely unlikable ,and it is very much a character driven story. But I loved the power struggles and how the situations unfolding turned everything on its head. The character development was incredible.

My favourite character was (predictably?) Flora. She's not the main character, and Link often pushes her aside and disregards her, but I loved those glimpses that we saw. She's probably the "best" character morally, and I loved that she could stand her ground under intense pressure and in almost unimaginable situations.

I think that the only bit of the book that I didn't like was the epilogue, as I'd have liked it to end on the last chapter and keep everything open - but that's just personal preference.

Breakfast Club meets Lord of the Flies.

Join my on Sunday 19th August at 6pm where I'll be chatting on Twitter about The Island for #SundayYA Book Club!

31 July 2018

ARC August TBR

I'm joining in with Read.Sleep.Repeat.'s ARC August Reading Challenge as a way to tackle the proofs I was lucky enough to grab at YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) and the couple I got before I left. I've been a very lucky teacup this month.

Read.Sleep.Repeat.'s Annual ARC August Reading Challenge #ARCAugust

My August TBR

The Must Reads

These are the books that I absolutely, definitely, will read this month. They're first up on my TBR and not gonna lie, I am excited for them.

The Island by MA Bennett
I finally won my first ReadersFirst book eek! This arrived after I had already left for YALC and hits shelves on 9th August, then I'm hosting #SundayYA Bookclub Chat for this book at 6pm GMT on Sunday 19th August.

You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance
When I was at YALC, browsing the Hot Key Books stall with Charlotte, I talked her into buying The Yellow Room by Jess Vallance and fan-girled so much that the publicist just handed it over. I squealed and hugged it to my chest and almost cried.

It Ends With You by SK Wright
I won this in a raffle at YALC and did a little squeal. I love thrillers and with what I've heard about this book I know I'm in for a gripping ride.

Killer T by Robert Muchamore
I can still remember the day many years ago when Robert Muchamore came to my school to talk about his Cherub series. I can't wait to be thrilled by this new dystopian standalone. This was sent to me the week before I left for YALC.

ARC August TBR featuring The Island by MA Bennett, You Only Love Once by Jess Vallance, It Ends With You by SK Wright, Killer T by Robert Muchamore

Next Up

These are the books that I'm going to read when if I finish my initial TBR. They're books that are not out for a while longer, or that I've acquired after publication.

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich with Steven Levenson
This isn't released until October so I don't want to read it too soon! I'm super interested to see how a broadway musical translates into a YA book. I won it in a raffle at YALC.

Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes
This is another book I won in a raffle at YALC, but it doesn't come out until next year! It is so hard to resist picking it up because it is right up my street.

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
I read a sample of this earlier this year and I loved it, but the final copy was too expensive. Luckily for me, when you bought a finished copy of one of Razorbill's books at YALC you could pick up an ARC too.--

Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi
This was another free with purchase ARC from YALC, and I've heard so much about this series and the second one is out in October, so I guess it's a good time to start.

Are you taking part in ARC August?
What's your next read?

23 July 2018

Review: Jinxed by Amy McCulloch

I accidentally read this book in pretty much one sitting. Once I started Jinxed by Amy McCulloch, I could not put it down. I ended up completely invested in Lacey's life and sped through it. I got it in my NYA Lit Fest goody bag. It's released in two weeks but I absolutely could not wait to share my review, and I hope you pre-order Jinxed because it is definitely worth it.

Jinxed by Amy McCullochAdd to Goodreads
Lacey Chu has big dreams of working for the company behind the 'baku' - a customizable smart pet that functions as a phone but makes the perfect companion for its user. The only problem is, she's just been rejected from Profectus Academy - the elite academy for cutting-edge tech. 

Then Lacey meets Jinx... Jinx is an incredibly advanced cat baku who opens up a world that Lacey never new existed, including entry into the hallowed halls of Profectus. But what is Jinx, really? His abilities far surpass anything written into his coded. He seems to be more than just a robotic pet.

He seems... Real. 

Source: Event Goody Bag.

5 Words: Privilege, expectations, family, betrayal, friendship.

It was a fantastic sci-fi that sits so close to the world we know that it didn't take much suspension of belief to immerse yourself in the world. I loved the engineering aspects, the coding aspects, the whole technology of the baku's (I want a baku). Even the setting itself, a whole town centered around and dominated by a single company, sprang to life before my eyes.

I loved Lacey so much. Her story really explores privilege, and how not having it puts you at a disadvantage, always. And I love how she rallied against it. Even with the most crushing disappointment weighing down on her, her resentment at the privilege of others, she still acknowledged her own privilege and pushed on to do her best when everything seemed stacked against her. She works hard.

Jinxed is the first book in a series, but it didn't feel like it. The story is wholly fleshed out on its own, it doesn't feel like it's just setting things up. There is a clear arc throughout the book, but I get the feeling that nothing dropped into the story is accidental. I feel a lot of clues have been subtly dropped regarding a world that, once you start digging, is actually pretty sinister. *puts on conspiracy hat*

There is a delicious thread of mystery throughout the story, and I was always kept wondering about the why. WHY did this or that happen? WHO was behind it? WHAT is the bigger picture that's being hinted at.

Although it could technically be read as a standalone, Jinxed is so addictive and has SUCH and ending that I can't wait for the next one. It's definitely one I'll reread as I loved Lacey (and particularly her friendship with Zora) and I'm now off to read some of the author's other books.

19 July 2018

My Theatrical Experiences

When I was in high school, I really wanted to study drama for my GCSEs. Only not enough other people wanted to, so they couldn't fill a class and the option was removed and I did a double in Business Studies, which was 100% common sense and 0% creativity. And I just shelved any hopes of being involved in acting in any way after that until I was in my twenties.

After reading Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt, I'm sharing some of my favourite theatrical experiences for the blog tour. This book is honestly SO lovely and so passionate that it has me smiling just writing the title, and I'd recommend it to everyone.

My Favourite Theatre Experiences

It wasn't until I was in my twenties that I first went to the theatre, but I absolutely love it and try to go as often as I can afford now. I usually go with my bestie if we can get cheap tickets or if it's RSC, and I go to the ballet with my mum.

The First Time

My first time in the theatre was when the RSC toured the UK and came to Newcastle Theatre Royal, I was lucky enough to get some £5 tickets for The Taming of the Shrew and BOOM I was in love. We had amazing seats in the grand circle, felt 100% out of place in our nicest jeans and tops, and had an excellent time. It was laugh-out-loud funny and brought my favourite Shakespeare play to life.

Theatre Royal, Newcastle

The Weirdest Time

Earlier this year I managed to nab some cheap tickets for Cirque Berserk at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House and oh man. If you can get to see it as they tour the UK then do! I was absolutely blown away by the strength and skill, the whole audience was completely engaged, and there were moments that I couldn't watch because I was on the edge of my seat (looking at you, knife throwing). It was the most exhilarating theatre experience of my life.

Cirque Berserk

The Most Anticipated Time

I finally got to see Cursed Child at the Palace Theatre in London this year. A weekend in London with my bestie, lots of power-walking, and seeing Actual Magic on stage through opera glasses from way up high at the very back of gods. And wow. I still can't believe that I saw it. I am so in love with it and want so badly to go again, although maybe not in the restricted view seats. The atmosphere was electric.

Opera glasses at Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Palace Theatre

The Next Time

Next up for me is Northern Ballet's Three Musketeers in October this year with my mum and RSC's Romeo and Juliet in February next year with my bestie, both at Newcastle Theatre Royal. As usual, I'll be taking my trusty theatre bag along with me, this Book Spine Clutch from Karina's Bags which I  had custom made four years ago.

Book spine clutch bag by Karina's Bags

What's your favourite theatre experience?

Theatrical by Maggie HarcourtAdd to Goodreads
Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one.

But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool… and her secret.

Gorgeously fresh, funny and commercial YA romance from the author of Unconventional, and The Last Summer of Us.