Top 5: Anticipated Releases II

It has been a while since I last posted on here… Oops! At the end of November I lost focus on my blog due to assignments deadlines; come December I had decided to attempt Vlogmas on my YouTube channel and during the latter half of December I went home for Christmas break, during which I also didn’t get round to doing anything YouTube-y. Since then and until last week, I’ve been busy writing a beast of an essay.

Now, that’s been handed in, and I have returned from my unplanned hiatus! I’m not sure what day I’ll try to upload every week, but I’ll definitely try to post something each week from now on!

Excuses aside, back in July, I wrote a Top 5-post on Anticipated Releases. Here is another list, with some more exciting books that’ll be released between now and May!

 dumplin1. Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy (28 January 2016)

Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant-along with several other unlikely candidates-to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City-and maybe herself most of all.

This book just sounds like a whole lot of fun: body positivity, pageants, trying to figure oneself out, and a spot of romance. Dumplin’ has been getting really good reviews so far, and I can’t wait to find out for myself whether I like it as much as I think I will (though that might actually take a while, because it appears to be released in hardback first – and I tend to find those too expensive… Eventually I’ll get round to it!).

2. The Wicked + The Divine, vol. 3: Commercial Suicide by Kieron Gillen (11 February 2016)wickeddivinevol3

After the detonation of FANDEMONIUM the gods-as-pop-stars of THE WICKED + THE DIVINE try living in the long dark shadow.

The Wicked + The Divine is one of the first graphic novels I laid my eyes on – after recommendation by a friend – and I loved it. It’s got such fantastic art, the story is fascinating and it ends on a huge cliff-hanger. I read Volume 2, Fandemonium, last summer and was just as enthralled as by the first volume – and it had just as much of a cliff-hanger as the first one. I’m very excited for the release of Volume 3, so I can finally find out what happens next.

radiosilence3. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (25 February 2016)

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way […] 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… She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

I read Alice’s debut novel, Solitaire, sometime last year – mostly out of curiosity about what a published book, written by someone my age, might be like. I didn’t like it all that much, which perhaps was largely down to the protagonist, or perhaps I just didn’t like the plot that much: I’m not sure. Who knows – I might give it another shot in the future. However, I am very interested in Radio Silence: story-wise it sounds more like something I’d be interested in, and I would also like to read something else by Alice and see whether I feel any different about it than her debut.

4. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (3 May 2016)acourtofmistandfury

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court–but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms–and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future–and the future of a world cleaved in two.

This was to be expected, right? Last year I first read Sarah’s work, and I was immediately hooked. I didn’t love A Court of Thorns and Roses quite as much as I do the Throne of Glass series, but I am excited about this sequel to ACOTAR nonetheless!

 

thecrown5. The Crown by Kiera Cass

Twenty years have passed since the events of The One, and America and Maxon’s daughter is the first princess to hold a Selection of her own. Princess Eadlyn didn’t think she would find a real partner among the Selection’s thirty-five suitors, let alone true love. But sometimes the heart has a way of surprising you…and now Eadlyn must make a choice that feels more difficult—and more important—than she ever expected.

To be honest, I have quite mixed feelings about The Selection series: I didn’t love the first three books, but found them somehow quite addictive. The Heir, which followed Eadlyn for the first time, I liked more: possible because America was constantly getting on my nerves in the first three. Despite my mixed feelings, I’m interested in reading The Crown, which will be the final instalment in this series. I’ve gotten this far – might as well see it through ‘till the end!

 

Those are all the books for today: as per usual, let me know what books you’re excited about and whether you’re planning on picking any of these up!

Magic & Mayhem with Leigh Bardugo and Melinda Salisbury

DSC01628

On the 23rd of October, authors Leigh Bardugo and Melinda Salisbury came up North to Newcastle upon Tyne for an event organised by Seven Stories in their attic filled with fairylights. Leigh is currently touring the world in promotion of her new book Six of Crows (the first in a companion duology to the Grisha Trilogy). Melinda is author of The Sin Eater’s Daughter (its sequel, The Sleeping Prince is currently set for release in March 2016).

The event was led by Lorna, who works at Seven Stories. After Melinda had gushed over the manuscripts by Diana Wynne Jones she’d been taken to see earlier that day (Seven Stories has a massive archive of Children’s Literature), the moderator took some time to draw parallels between both women’s writings: both their books are political, include intrigue and are set around a court, and, obviously, are both fantasy books.

At this point, Leigh could no longer contain her enthusiasm and asked Melinda whether she could (please hurry up and) read an extract from The Sleeping Prince. Apparently this was the very first time she’d read it to anyone other than her editors, so I feel very honoured to have been able to hear it (and though I have not yet read The Sin Eater’s Daughter, her upcoming book did sound really good).

When Melinda had finished, it was Leigh’s turn to read an extract from Six of Crows (including her doing an Irish accent). I’ll admit I didn’t completely understand what happened in the extract, as it’s from the middle of the book, but I’ve now got the book and will read it soon (and hopefully find out what actually went down).

When they’d both read their extracts, the moderator asked them a whole bunch of questions which the authors answered happily. Now, since I’ve got over six pages of notes on this event, I’ll condense the questions and answers to a selection of the answers I liked best (do note: these answers will most likely be a bit paraphrased as they spoke a lot and I only had one hand to write with).

Question: How much research do you do for your books?

Mel: None, really. I travel all the time (I’ll save up all of my money by eating dry toast for weeks and then go travelling), which is where I get ideas from. For example, the golems are in Prague, thDSC01629e Mirror Maze is real, sin eaters exist. You can’t really research what you make up!

Leigh: You can research what you make up, though. For example if you’re going to write about a disastrous economy, you should have a basic understanding of how an economy works; if you’re going to write about the way a land is ruled you should have a basic understanding of, for example, a dictatorship.

Mel: If you put it like that, I guess I do do research – it just doesn’t feel like research. I just love reading about stuff like the War of the Roses and Richard III.

Leigh: Even reading folktales, etc. is research. I absolutely hate reading about nautical stuff, so when I had to learn about that for Six of Crows I just read an entire book series that involved it a lot. It was still research, but fun. Six of Crows is based on the Dutch Republic in the 17th Century and I wanted to create an economy in a period like that with an actual middle class economy – so I had to research those.

Question: what about characters’ names?

Leigh: I’m always surprised by how many people ask me how to pronounce them! I thought they were all straightforward!

Mel: I don’t consciously choose names for my characters.

Leigh: All the Crows just had their names, although Kaz was originally called Baz, but then Rainbow (Rowell) came with Fangirl (and later Carry On) and I couldn’t use it anymore. I can’t write characters properly until they have a name.

Mel: I actually think I’m somewhat possessed. I just had this vision of a red-haired girl singing for a king. She loved singing, but they’d turned something she loved into something she hated. And her name was always Twylla.

Leigh: Really? I wish writing was like that for me. I’m definitely someone who outlines. I have to turn off the internet and write, and if I come across things I don’t know yet (like character’s names), I just insert ??? and fill that in later. The most important way to write about is just getting it written.

six of crows

Pinched the image of Goodreads

Question: What would you be doing if you weren’t an author?

Mel (who had an answer at the ready): A zookeeper.

Leigh: Must say I’m a bit freaked out about that.

Mel: Or I would be a wildlife photographer. I’d be doing something with animals.


Leigh:
So you wouldn’t mind picking up their poo?

the sin eater's daughter

Pinched the image off Goodreads

Mel: No! It’s not like I’d be picking it up with my hands – you get a shovel. And it’s not my own.

Leigh: … If I could be anything, regardless of whether I’m good at it, I’d be a fashion designer – even though I can’t sew at all.

Lorna: I would’ve thought both of you would say you’d teach at Hogwarts!

Mel & Leigh: I didn’t know that was an option!

Mel: Though I’d probably still be a dragonkeeper, like Hagrid, and shovel dung.

Leigh: I think the curse might be lifted off the job now, so if that’s the case I’d like to be a Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher.

Question: If you were to go home and write fanfic, what would it be?

Mel: Marauder’s Era fanfic – Remus and Sirius. (I think she said these names, not 100% sure)

Leigh: I’d write fanfic about The Sleeping Prince!

Question: Could you picture your characters?

Mel: Yes.

Leigh: No. They’re more like a dream: I know what clothes they wear, but I can never discern facial features, which is why fancasts always weird me out a bit. There are a lot of people who see Sean O’Pry (from Taylor Swift’s Blank Space music video) as the Darkling, and I think I’m OK with that.

Mel: If I were to fancast I’d probably go for Saoirse Ronan (starred in The Lovely Bones and The Grand Budapest Hotel) as Twylla – she doesn’t have that typical Hollywood face, but is very aesthetically pleasing. Merik would be Aneurin Barnard (who plays Richard III in The White Queen).

Question: Who should we be reading?

Mel: I usually say Leigh Bardugo. But you should also read Rainbow Rowell, Holly Bourne, C. J. Daugherty, Non Pratt and Tom Ellen.

Leigh: Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, Marie Lu (The Young Elites is one of my favourites and I love that it has a female anti-hero), Laini Taylor, Maggie Stiefvater and Gene Luen Yang.

Question: If you could steal/borrow a character from anyone else, who would it be and why?

Leigh: Geoffrey, so I can kick him around, because he needs more punishment.

Mel: Definitely Sirius Black. I would just like to give him a life – he was 21 when he went to prison for 12 years for a crime he didn’t commit and two years after he escaped he died. He never got to live.

Question: Do you find that you want to change things in your books after publication?

Leigh: There’s this one thing in the first chapter of Shadow & Bone that I’d love to change, but generally I don’t reread my own books – unless it’s at events.

Mel: I don’t reread my own books, because I’d have the urge to change things.

Question: When do you come up with titles?

Mel: Afterwards. The Sin Eater’s Daughter was always The Sin Eater’s Daughter, but for The Sleeping Prince I just had a random name and thought my publishers would come up with something genius. But they gave me this list of names that were hilarious, and barely had anything to do with the book, and I really didn’t know whether they were being serious or not.

Leigh: Titles are always there. Sometimes I sit in the bath tub and use my storyteller voice to come up with something.  Shadow & Bone was first going to be called The Grisha and Six of Crows was The Dregs (which is still the name of the series in both cases), but the publishers didn’t think that was very marketable. Also, the name of the Six of Crows sequel that’s currently on Goodreads isn’t the actual title of the sequel – it got changed after it was put on Goodreads.

DSC01738Question: Do you plan your books in-depth?

Leigh: Yes. I’m a plotter. I think of highs and lows in the story and work towards those. Otherwise I would start enthusiastically, knocking out a few thousand words a day, and soon after hit a wall of questions and have to stop. Outlining helps.

Mel: I plot, but by chapter two the story starts to get on with its own business. I can’t make the characters do anything they don’t want to do, so as long as what they do gets them to where they need to be and they stay true to who they are, I don’t mind.

Leigh: You really are possessed! Honestly, I had never even planned for Shadow & Bone to become a trilogy, but the way the story took off it naturally became a trilogy. I hadn’t even finished writing a book before Shadow & Bone.

***

After the Q&A part of the event, it was time for them to sign everyone’s books! Having never read books by either of them, I’d bought the books earlier that evening – I’m very excited to read them when I get the chance!

So there you have it! I’m aware this is a ridiculously long blog post, but I hope you’ve enjoyed it. I’ll be going to a Patrick Ness event in November and intend to do something like this for that event as well, so keep your eyes out for that!

Love,

Christa

What Became of My (Wishful) Summer Reading List

At the start of the summer I uploaded this post, in which I told you all about the books I hoped to read between July and September. The summer has now come to an end (both weather-wise and freedom from uni-wise) and I’m back to tell you which of those books I actually managed to read, as well as the ones I read that weren’t even on the list.

First up: the books from the list that I’ve actually read;

  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
  2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
  3. Vicious by V. E. Schwab
  4. The Year I Met You by Cecelia Ahern
  5. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
  6. Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger
  7. Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

So, that’s about half of the list I managed to read. Not too bad, but still, I really would have liked to read the others as well.

Now for the books that weren’t on the list:

  1. Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill
  2. The Next Together by Lauren James
  3. The Tinderbox by Hans Christian Andersen (Penguin 80th Anniversary Edition)
  4. Famous Five: Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton
  5. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  6. The Wicked + The Divine, vol 2: Fandemonium by Kieron Gillen
  7. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
  8. The Tale of Jemima Puddle-Duck by Beatrix Potter
  9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
  10. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale*
  11. Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome*

Overall, I’d say it’s been pretty good going – though I must add some of those books were tiny and both Harry Potter books were audiobooks. But still! I consumed a very decent amount of texts and some of the texts above are for my children’s literature module this semester (the ones by Lewis, Ransome, Pullman and Blyton).

I have written/filmed reviews of the following books in case you’re interested: The Picture of Dorian Gray, A Court of Thorns and Roses, Lying Out Loud, Only Ever Yours, The Next Together, Everything, Everything, and will soon have some sort of collective review going up on some of the children’s books I’m reading for uni!

Let me know what you’ve read this summer in the comments!

Love,

Christa

*Technically I haven’t finished the starred books just yet, but I’m sure I will have by the end of this week!

Top 5: Books I Wish I’d Read While Growing Up

Having been born and raised in The Netherlands, I discovered I had missed out on a great deal of good children’s literature when I moved to the UK in 2013 and learned what my British peers had read when growing up (or what children’s books were around). Therefore, I have decided to make up a list of books that I wish I’d read while growing up – some of these I now have read, most of these I still haven’t gotten round to, but hope to get my hands on soon!

chronicles of narnia

  1. The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Four adventurous siblings Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy Pevensie step through a wardrobe door and into the land of Narnia, a land frozen in eternal winter and enslaved by the power of the White Witch. But when almost all hope is lost, the return of the Great Lion, Aslan, signals a great change… and a great sacrifice.

As a child, I’d never read The Chronicles of Narnia. At some point I did see the BBC adaptation, and later the film adaptations by Walden Media, but it wasn’t until I was about fifteen years old that I read the books. I enjoyed them, but didn’t think a whole lot of them. As I write this, I have just finished reading The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe for a second time as we’ll be discussing it in my Children’s Literature module at university. I definitely enjoyed and appreciated it more this time round, but I can’t help but feel I would have loved the series, had I read them as a child.

The blurb above is of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – officially this is the second book in the seven-part series, but it was the first that was actually written and published.

  1. the wizard of ozThe Wizard of Oz (and its sequels) by L. Frank Baum

Dorothy thinks she is lost forever when a terrifying tornado crashes through Kansas and whisks her and her dog, Toto, far away to the magical land of Oz. To get home Dorothy must follow the yellow brick road to Emerald City and find the wonderfully mysterious Wizard of Oz. Together with her companions the Tin Woodman, the Scarecrow and the Cowardly Lion whom she meets on the way, Dorothy embarks on a strange and enchanting adventure.

I am a huge fan of the musical Wicked – a musical that is based on the novel of the same name by Gregory Maguire. A novel which, in turn, has been based on The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. I’ve read the novel Wicked, and have seen the film adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, but am yet to delve into the pages of the novel that started all of it. And although I think I might be able to that soon, I think it would’ve been even better had I read it when growing up!

  1. anne of green gablesAnne of Green Gables (and its sequels) by L. M. Montgomery

The Cuthberts are in for a shock. They are expecting an orphan boy to help with the work at Green Gables – but a skinny red-haired girl turns up instead. Highly spirited Anne Shirley charms her way into the Cuthberts’ affection with her vivid imagination and constant chatter, and soon it’s impossible to imagine life without her.

To be honest, I don’t know an awful lot about this book and its sequels, but I know it’s a British children’s classic. For my birthday this year I received a box set of all four books, so I’m sure I’ll read it soon (though ‘soon’ might not be soon at all, what with me having to read a lot of books for uni as well).

  1. alice in wonderlandAlice in Wonderland (and its sequel) by Lewis Carroll

On an ordinary summer’s afternoon, Alice tumbles down a hole and an extraordinary adventure begins. In a strange world with even stranger characters, she meets a rabbit with a pocket watch, joins a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, and plays croquet with the Queen! Lost in this fantasy land, Alice finds herself growing more and more curious by the minute…

I don’t know why, but I just have never read Alice. I’ve seen the Disney animation once or twice, the live action Disney adaptation a fair few times, but I’ve never read the book. I promise it’ll change within a year, though! I’ve got my hands on a gorgeous edition this year – one that is, I believe, almost exactly like the original manuscript – and I look forward to reading it.

  1. sabrielSabriel (and its sequels) by Garth Nix

Since childhood, Sabriel has lived outside the walls of the Old Kingdom, away from the power of Free Magic, and away from the Dead who refuse to stay dead. But now her father, the Abhorson, is missing, and Sabriel must cross into that world to find him. With Mogget, whose feline form hides a powerful, perhaps malevolent spirit, and Touchstone, a young Charter Mage, Sabriel travels deep into the Old Kingdom. There she confronts an evil that threatens much more than her life and comes face-to-face with her own hidden destiny…

Like with Anne of Green Gables, I don’t know an awful lot about this series, but it sounds intriguing. I know recently Garth Nix published two new books in this series (Clariel and To Hold The Bridge) with Hot Key Books – something from which I only can deduce these novels are still very well-loved and definitely worth a read.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these or if you think there are some books that are missing on this list!

Love,

Christa

The Next Together by Lauren James

the next together gif

Pinched the image off Lauren‘s website!

How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…

The Next Together, written by YA debut author Lauren James, was published by Walker Books last week Thursday, on the 3rd of September. As I mentioned in my Anticipated Releases post, I was excited about getting my hands on this book and made sure to have it pre-ordered. Part of my excitement is due to Lauren’s age – I can’t help but find it incredibly inspiring that people around my age have published books – but also due to the premise of the book and the love it’s been receiving from many other YA authors and book reviewers.

As for my thoughts on the book: I really enjoyed it. I didn’t adore it, but I did really like it. As is mentioned in the summary, the novel spans four different timelines – one of which, namely 2019, is solely told through snippets of communication between Katherine and Matthew (imagine fridge notes, emails, texts, etc.). Each chapter contains a part of each timeline, which, for me, made it a bit difficult to get attached to the story at the beginning. However, once I’d gotten used to it, the transitions were smooth enough and I began looking forward to reading my favourite timelines (which I think were 1854 and 2039 – the latter being my favourite because it contained the most suspense).

Throughout the novel an unknown being tracks Kate and Matt’s ‘progress’ in their relationship. I thought this was a really interesting touch. It also added another layer of suspense and invited the reader to ask more questions: what is this thing and why is it tracking, and sometimes influencing, the lives of these characters? At the end, a bit more information is given, but it remains vague, so hopefully it’ll be explained more in-depth in the sequel The Last Beginning!

Something to appraise this book for, is the amount of work that’s gone into the usage of different fonts, visualising of newspaper clippings, websites, and messages between characters. This added a great dimension to the novel and, in all honesty, is a lot more fun that just putting the text in italics. These snippets were not only fun, but also included a lot of detail surrounding the text.

There are two points that made me give this a 4/5 stars on Goodreads, the first one being is that I really would’ve appreciated the precise dates to be included at the start of each new section. Right now, the start of each section mentions where the characters are and in what year, but I would have liked to know the exact dates as well (don’t ask me why – I just feel that way!) The second point is that all four storylines, at their centre, revolve around Kate and Matt. There are not many side characters who have a lot of effect in what’s happening. I understand that the whole premise of the novel is that for some unknown reason Kate and Matt are destined to be reborn and fall in love with each other, but at times it got a bit much for me.

Over all though, Kate and Matt were two fun characters to read about and it was interesting to see how Lauren has woven the different timelines together. I would definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves stories involving romance, time-warpy elements and pieces of both historical and futuristic fiction – because this book has it all!

The Next Together is the first in a duology, the second of which is called The Last Beginning and will be published in Autumn 2016.

Love,

Christa

Ps. You might have noticed in the tags that I tagged this post/book as science fiction – that is because that seemed to be the most appropriate genre in my eyes at this moment. If I find something more suitable, I’ll change it!

Pps. If you enjoyed the book, I really recommend checking out Lauren’s website, as in the run-up to the release she’s posted lots of extras about the characters and the novel!

Diverse Fiction

Being a child of the Internet and following loads of bookish people on Twitter, the call for more diverse books (diverse in every which way possible) has certainly not gone unnoticed by me.

There is even an entire organisation dedicated to the finding and creating of diverse fiction for children and Young Adults: We Need Diverse Books. On their website they state the following as their mission:

We Need Diverse Books™ is a grassroots organization of children’s book lovers that advocates essential changes in the publishing industry to produce and promote literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.

How we define diversity:

We recognize all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities*, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities.

Since noticing this movement (if that’s what you want to call it) I have been more aware of the texts I’m reading and whether they offer anything diversity-wise.

I must admit that I can be a bit apprehensive, or scared even, to talk about issues such as the need for diversity in fiction, out of fear of saying the wrong thing or not having thought what I’m saying through enough. However, I still want to recognise that I understand the need for diverse fiction and I want to aid in raising awareness for that need and books that fulfil that.

Therefore, I have decided to use the tag ‘diverse fiction’ on my blog. Any posts on this blog that discuss or review books that offer (major) characters that are different from the cis-gender heterosexual white people that for some reason seem to be the standard, will be tagged with ‘diverse fiction’. That way if you, the reader of this blog, are interested in seeking out diverse fiction, it will be easier for you. I will discuss the diverse aspects more in-depth if they are of importance to the course of the story (say, if discrimination is a big part of the storyline). If you would like me to add to book reviews what sort of elements of diversity the book in question entails, please tell me in the comments and I could do that.

Please let me know what you think of my decision down below, and if you have any tips for discussing matters as these in a thoughtful manner I’d appreciate whatever you have to offer.

Love,

Christa
#WeNeedDiverseBooks

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

Pinched the image off Louise's website!

Pinched the image off Louise‘s website!

freida and isabel have been best friends their whole lives. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year at the School, they expect to be selected as companions – wives to wealthy and powerful men. The alternative – life as a concubine – is too horrible to contemplate. But as the intensity of the final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty – her only asset – in peril. And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known…

I can’t exactly remember when I first heard of Only Ever Yours, which was the debut novel of Irish author Louise O’Neill, but I know I wanted to read it ever since I’ve known about its existence. I even mentioned it in my Bookish Wish List a few weeks ago.

Having since obtained it, I read it during this year’s Booktube-A-Thon. And I loved it. Throughout the novel, I feel like not a whole lot of information is given about the, somewhat dystopian, world it’s set in – there is especially not a lot of information about what goes on beyond the walls of the School. We, as readers, know as much about her world as freida does, which is intriguing. Rather than lots of things being explained by freida, they just are. We don’t know why they’re the way they are, or how the world has developed to be like it is in the novel, because freida doesn’t know. All she knows, and we know, is that she needs to perfect – she needs to constantly improve herself so she can fulfil her life’s goal to become a companion and bear sons.

The lengths these girls go to in order to improve themselves and upkeep these impossible standards are frightening. What’s perhaps even scarier is the fact that at times freida would be talking herself or others down, in a way that reminded me of ways I’ve thought about myself and/or others, as well as how I’ve heard others speak of themselves and each other. It’s appalling that we feel the need to think and speak so badly of ourselves and others – we’re only human and flaws are a part of our existence.

As for the novel itself – it was great. It fascinated me to read from freida’s perspective as she struggles to maintain the desired standards. Furthermore, I also feel Louise O’Neill portrayed a very plausible cast of characters, and I would be eager to learn more about each individual. For example, I would have loved to know more about the outside world – for example what the girls’ lives would be like after becoming companions, concubines and chastities. Or even how the boys felt in their roles as Inheritants.

The manner in which this story was told, as well as the themes that are prevalent throughout it, reminded me of both Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  Which, let’s be honest, are far from terrible stories to be reminded of when reading something.

So if you like those two novels, or generally enjoy calm and somewhat eerie dystopian reads, I would highly recommend Only Ever Yours. I will definitely be picking up her upcoming novel Asking For It when it’s released (though I might wait until the paperback comes out), and I can’t wait to see what else Louise O’Neill will write in the future!

Love,

Christa

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything

Pinched the image off Nicola‘s website!

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon will be published by Penguin Random House Children’s on the 27th of August, 2015 (and on the 3rd of September in the UK). I received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, so here goes!

Everything, Everything tells the story of Madeline Whittier: an eighteen-year old girl, who was raised by her single mother, and is allergic. To everything. Madeline is comfortable living in her squeaky-clean, decontaminated, sterile bubble, being tended to by her nurse, Carla, and her mother. Then, she hears new neighbours moving in, and discovers amongst them is a boy her age. Noticing her, he gives her his email address and soon the two are getting to know each other online – and in doing so, they’re threatening to break Madeline’s bubble of health.

From what I’ve seen on booktube, Everything, Everything has received a lot of buzz and love already, which is mainly what made me curious about it too (because I will never be able to help myself and always want to read the books that people are loving so much) – thanks to Netgalley I had the opportunity to read it.

Yoon’s debut novel is a YA Contemporary, and reads very much like one: it’s a quick read, but at the same time enticing, sweet, and… nice. I enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend it if you’re on the look-out for a contemporary YA novel with a sweet romance and a plot that doesn’t merely revolve around that romance, but I’m, unfortunately, not as head-over-heels in love with this book as so many people seem to be.

There are a few things that I didn’t like that much about it. First of which, is that I guess the plot twist soon after I’d started reading it. It was a good twist nonetheless, and I think surprising for plenty of people, but I feel what came after was a bit too sped up (which is my second ‘dislike’ if you will). After the twist was revealed, the ending to the novel came very soon and I feel there were characters that could have been explored so much more in the aftermath of that twist – characters whose experiences I wanted to be shed more light on.

What I did like about the novel were Madeline and Olly: I enjoyed reading their communications (especially the IM parts), how they got to know each other and the tensions between them. Another thing I liked very much about the novel were the many doodles and illustrations that were scattered across the pages. Some were merely decorative, whereas others were a part of Madeline’s story and depicted something that was described or told you about what she planned to do. In a way, this was a very nice way of taking the ‘showing-not-telling’ (that all writers are drilled about) to the next level. What makes them even sweeter is that they were drawn by Nicola’s husband, David Yoon.

In the end, I gave the novel a 3.5/5 on Goodreads.

Let me know if you plan on reading Everything, Everything!

Love,

Christa

Anticipated Releases

In a way, this blog post is linked to this week’s video on my YouTube channel – namely My Bookish Wish List. But whereas the video will mainly be about the books I wish to own and read that are already published, this post will be about the books I wish to own and read that are yet to be released.

queen of shadows

  1. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (01/09/2015)

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. Now she returns to the empire – to confront the shadows of her past …The fourth breathtaking instalment in the New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series. Bloodthirsty for revenge on the two men responsible for destroying her life, and desperate to find out if the prince and his captain are safe, Celaena returns to Rifthold, the seat of so much evil.

I’ve read Throne of Glass for the first time this January, and quickly followed it up with the sequels (and prequels!) after finishing it. I adore this series and can’t wait to see where it will go. Sidenote: I also love Maas’s writing – it is so well done and I will forever be envious of the words she manages to choose!

  1. the next togetherThe Next Together by Lauren James (03/09/2015)

A powerful and epic debut novel about fate and the timelessness of first love. Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again. Each time their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated. How many times can you lose the person you love? For Matthew and Katherine it is again and again, over and over, century after century. But why do they keep coming back? How many times must they die to save the world? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace? Maybe the next together will be different.

I think I first stumbled upon Lauren James and her upcoming debut after following author Alice Oseman on twitter. The two are friends and Alice might’ve mentioned The Next Together. I followed Lauren quickly after and found out more about her novel. It sounds very sweet and exciting and I can’t wait to read it! (I won’t lie: part of my excitement comes from Lauren being a young author at only 22, which, you know, is always inspiring to me!) I’ve already got the book pre-ordered, so I’ll be reading it as soon as it lands on our doormat.

  1. flawedFlawed by Cecelia Ahern (March or April 2016)

Celestine North lives a perfect life. She’s a model daughter and sister, she’s well-liked by her classmates and teachers, and she’s dating the impossibly charming Art Crevan.But then Celestine encounters a situation in which she makes an instinctive decision. She breaks a rule and now faces life-changing repercussions. She could be imprisoned. She could be branded. She could be found FLAWED.

Let us be silent in our excitement for a moment…

I am so, so, so excited for this book! I’ve been reading Cecelia Ahern’s novels for years and have always loved them, but now she’s releasing a YA novel! From what I gather it’s the first in a dystopian duology (the second being named ‘Perfect’) and it will be released early 2016. I can’t wait to see how she handles a different audience and genre!

  1. hp one illustratedThe illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J. K. Rowling & Jim Kay (06/10/2015)

Prepare to be spellbound by Jim Kay’s dazzling depiction of the wizarding world and much loved characters in this full-colour illustrated hardback edition of the nation’s favourite children’s book – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Brimming with rich detail and humour that perfectly complements J.K. Rowling’s timeless classic, Jim Kay’s glorious illustrations will captivate fans and new readers alike.

This book. Oh man, this book. It looks stunning. I always thought Harry Potter could’ve done with some illustrations (especially ‘cause its intended audience is children) and now it’s happening! The few illustrations that have been released look amazing and I think Jim Kay has interpreted the characters wonderfully. It might take a while for me to get my hands on this book once it’s released, because it retails at a whopping £30, but I’ll get it eventually!

  1. more happy than notMore Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera (unknown)

The Leteo Institute s revolutionary memory-relief procedure seems too good to be true to Aaron Soto miracle cure-alls don’t tend to pop up in the Bronx projects. Aaron could never forget how he’s grown up poor, how his friends aren’t there for him, or how his father committed suicide in their one-bedroom apartment. Aaron has the support of his patient girlfriend, if not necessarily his distant brother and overworked mother, but it’s not enough. Then Thomas shows up. He has a sweet movie-watching set-up on his roof, and he doesn’t mind Aaron’s obsession with a popular fantasy series. There are nicknames, inside jokes. Most importantly, Thomas doesn’t mind talking about Aaron’s past. But Aaron’s newfound happiness isn’t welcome on his block. Since he can’t stay away from Thomas or suddenly stop being gay, Aaron must turn to Leteo to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he is.

Another case of me following the author on Twitter and learning about their upcoming debut. As of right now, More Happy Than Not has already been published in the USA and has received many glowing reviews. I could order it on Amazon and get the American hardback of this book, but I’m leaning towards waiting for it to be sold to the UK. Apparently the novel is somewhat heart-warming, but in equal parts heart-breaking, and I can’t wait to read it.

That is it for today – I’m sure in the future I’ll bring back this feature and discuss some more of my anticipated releases, but for now these are the highest on my list!

Love,

Christa

Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger

Pinched the image off Kody‘s website!

Lying Out Loud* is Kody Keplinger’s newest novel and a companion to her, now turned into a feature film, novel The Duff.

Like The Duff, the novel is set in the small town of Hamilton and the high school there, Hamilton High. Lying Out Loud follows Sonny (or Sonya), who is best friends with Wesley’s sister Amy (Wesley from The Duff) and a perpetual liar. Due to problems at home that she doesn’t like to talk about, Sonny secretly lives with Amy.

A new boy, Ryder, has transferred to their school. He is obnoxious, arrogant, and considers everything in Hamilton inferior compared to his previous school and life in Washington. One night, though, Sonny accidentally messages Ryder and the two get talking online. Soon enough, Sonny’s lies get her caught in a web of her own weaving and it becomes difficult to find a way out without hurting herself – or those she cares about. 

I think, once again, Keplinger has written a very solid YA novel. It is an incredibly fast read (I want to say I finished it in about 3.5 hours), and at no time gets boring. One thing I liked about The Duff when I read it, was how although a conflict with a boy was one of the big issues the main character dealt with, there were also so many more elements that were focussed on. In Lying Out Loud, Keplinger has managed to do the same once more: friendships, familial relationships, and how wrong first impressions can be are all important themes in the novel and handled very well.

Keplinger has a knack for writing YA that feels very genuine: in The Duff she didn’t gloss over the sex the main characters had (in fact, there was quite a bit of it) and in Lying Out Loud she makes excellent use of swear words; they’re not used very frequently, but when they are used, it feels very appropriate. Furthermore, the overall diction used by the teens felt very apt and real.

Although most of the characters sometimes acted (somewhat) irrationally, and I personally would not have done as they did,  I definitely understood why the characters acted as they did: all their actions were driven by something deeper.

My only “negative” comments would be that Sonny changed her mind about Ryder rather quickly – but then again, I can imagine one would – and that I would have liked to know more about Sonny’s dad. Lastly, the ending was a little too abrupt for my liking and stopped just a little too soon (but really, that’s just a compliment for Keplinger!).

Overall, I really enjoyed Lying Out Loud: it left me curious about what might happen after the book ended and, although I sometimes wanted to shake Sonny to stop being so silly, I really rooted for her and I wanted all to turn out well. I would recommend this book to anyone who’s in for a quick, fun read that deals with romance, but also so much more. I gave it a 4/5 on Goodreads.

Love,

Christa

ps. is calling your friends’ parents “Mrs […]” and “Mr […]” and American thing?

*I received a copy of the novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.