Monday, 16 September 2019

The Deathless Girls – blog tour review

The Deathless Girls is one of my most anticipated books of the year so it's great to kick off the blog tour today. I loved the idea that we would get to hear the brides of Dracula's side of the story and I've heard great things about Kiran Millwood Hargrave's other books.

They say the thirst of blood is like a madness - they must sate it. Even with their own kin.

On the eve of her divining, the day she'll discover her fate, seventeen-year-old Lil and her twin sister Kizzy are captured and enslaved by the cruel Boyar Valcar, taken far away from their beloved traveller community.

Forced to work in the harsh and unwelcoming castle kitchens, Lil is comforted when she meets Mira, a fellow slave who she feels drawn to in a way she doesn't understand. But she also learns about the Dragon, a mysterious and terrifying figure of myth and legend who takes girls as gifts.

They may not have had their divining day, but the girls will still discover their fate...

As soon as I heard the premise of this book, I was desperate to read it. That led to high expectations and The Deathless Girls exceeded all of them. It's a gorgeously written, unsettling book with feminist themes and brilliant characters.

The world-building and research that must have gone into it are impeccable. I really enjoyed the insight into the community of travellers at the beginning, though some things that happened were heartbreaking to read. I loved how this book blends history and mythology in a setting that feels very real.

The relationships were my favourite thing about The Deathless Girls. I loved the close sisterly bond between Lil and Kizzy and how this shapes their choices throughout the book. There is also an f/f relationship that is just the loveliest!

This book treads a line between genres that I really enjoyed. The writing style is lyrical and feels quite literary, while the plot has moments of horror, intrigue, tension and romance.

The Deathless Girls
is a compelling read with brilliant writing. I'm so glad that vampires are back, and this was a thrilling example.

Thank you to Ed PR for the review copy and for inviting me to join the blog tour! Check out the banner below to follow the rest of the tour.

Friday, 13 September 2019

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo – review

Magic rules the city of Creije Capital and Tavia Syn knows just how many tricks she needs up her sleeve to survive. Selling dark magic on the streets for her kingpin, she keeps clear of other crooks, counting the days until her debt is paid and she can flee her criminal life.

But then, one day, with her freedom in sight, Tavia uncovers a sinister plot that threatens to destroy the realm she calls home. Desperate to put an end to her kingpin's plan, Tavia forms an unlikely alliance with three crooks even more deadly than her:

Wesley, the kingpin's prodigy and most renewed criminal in the realm

Karam, an underground fighter with a penchant for killing first and forgetting to ask questions

And Saxony, a Crafter in hiding who will stop at nothing to avenge her family

With the reluctant saviours assembled, they embark on a quest to put an end to the dark magic before it's too late. But even if they can take down the kingpin and save the realm, the one thing they can't do is trust each other.

I love finding a new fantasy series to get excited about and this is one of my favourite of the year! Perfect for fan's of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody, it's full of action, world building and memorable characters.

I sometimes find it hard to follow a large cast of characters but characterisation is a real strength of this book. The characters are so distinct and each has their own back story. They all have something to offer to the team and the interactions between them are great.

I also really liked the world building in this book. I got a really strong sense of the world and the magical system without feeling overpowered by it. The first book puts plenty of things in motion that can be explored later in the series!

Even though I was really busy when I read this, I couldn't resist picking it up. The pace is quick and there's plenty of action. I liked how it moves between settings too. There were a lot of angles to keep my interest!

This is a great start to the series and my first Alexandra Christo book, so I'll definitely pick up the others while I wait for the sequel to Into the Crooked Place

Thank you to Hot Key Books for the review copy!

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass by Mariko Tamaki

Harleen is a tough, outspoken, rebellious kid who lives in a ramshackle apartment above a karaoke cabaret owned by a drag queen named MAMA. Ever since Harleen's parents split, MAMA has been her only family. When the cabaret becomes the next victim in the wave of gentrification that's taking over the neighbourhood, Harleen gets mad.

When Harleen decides to turn her anger into action, she is faced with two choices: join Ivy, who's campaigning to make the neighbourhood a better place to live, or join The Joker, who plans to take down Gotham one corporation at a time.

Harley Quinn: Breaking Glass is at once a tale of the classic Harley readers know and love, and a heartfelt story about the choices teenagers make and how they can define--or destroy--their lives. This is the first title in DC's new line of original graphic novels for middle grade and young adult readers.

This graphic novel is such a fun read! The illustrations are amazing and I really enjoyed the plot surrounding a teenage Harley Quinn.

Harley Quinn is one of my favourite graphic novel characters and I'm especially interested in her origin stories. This book feels like such a fresh take on her teenage years and a plausible start for the Harley I know and love. Her dialogue is hilarious and the book captures her naivety and bravery. 

Harley's friendship with Ivy was a highlight of this book for me. I haven't read many graphic novels that focus around female friendship and it's great to see their relationship develop from the start. Like Harley, I also liked the hints about how Ivy might end up as Poison Ivy.

This graphic novel uses a combination of muted colours and vivid reds really effectively to highlight scenes between different characters. The illustrations are really detailed and capture the character's expressions, perfectly complementing the dialogue. 

The storyline about standing up for your community and the people you love feels very timely. Harley and Ivy are forces for change in their own ways. Some of my favourite moments are with Harley's drag queen friends from the neighbourhood, especially Mama.

This is a memorable, engrossing graphic novel and I hope there are more Harley Quinn stories from Mariko Tamaki, with Steve Pugh's gorgeous illustrations.

Thanks so much to Penguin for the review copy!

Friday, 6 September 2019

14th BBC National Short Story Award shortlist

It's a pleasure to be an ambassador again for the BBC Young Writers' Award! I had an amazing time at the ceremony last year for the BBC National Short Story Award, Young Writers' Award and Student Critics' Award 2019 and loved reading the brilliant shortlisted stories. 

This year's writers were inspired by #MeToo, Brexit and Trump.

The 2019 shortlisted writers are...

Lucy Caldwell, multi-award-winning novelist, playwright and short story writer, has been shortlisted for the second time for ‘The Children’. Previously shortlisted in 2012 for ‘Escape Route’, one of her first ever short stories, Caldwell is joined on the 2019 shortlist by a wealth of emerging talent including University of Dundee Fellow and former bookseller Lynda Clark for ‘Ghillie’s Mum’; charity worker Jacqueline Crooks for ‘Silver Fish in the Midnight Sea’; civil servant Tamsin Grey for ‘My Beautiful Millennial’; and Welsh writer Jo Lloyd for ‘The Invisible’. The writers have explored sexual politics, intolerance, community and immigration.

The Award is one of the most prestigious for a single short story, with the winning author receiving £15,000, and the four further shortlisted authors £600 each. The winner is announced during a live BBC Radio 4 Front Row broadcast at a ceremony in London on Tuesday 1st October.

Congratulations to all of the brilliant nominees! I can't wait to read the stories. The Young Writers' Award Shortlist will be announced on 22nd September.

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Scars Like Wings by Erin Stewart – review

Content warning: House fire, burn recovery, attempted suicide

16-year-old Ava Gardener is heading back to school one year after a house fire left her severely disfigured. She’s used to the names, the stares, the discomfort, but there’s one name she hates most of all: Survivor. What do you call someone who didn’t mean to survive? Who sometimes wishes she hadn’t?

When she meets a fellow survivor named Piper at therapy, Ava begins to feel like she’s not facing the nightmare alone. Piper helps Ava reclaim the pieces of Ava Before the Fire, a normal girl who kissed boys and sang on stage. But Piper is fighting her own battle for survival, and when Ava almost loses her best friend, she must decide if the new normal she’s chasing has more to do with the girl in the glass—or the people by her side.

This is the most memorable debut I've read for a very long time. It takes a heartbreaking subject matter and turns it into an uplifting, thought-provoking story of friendship.

The voice of this book is brilliant and so distinctive. I really got a sense of Ava's personality and I loved the use of humour. Ava is a very realistic character and her reaction to her burns is very believable. All of the characters in this book are well-developed and have enough layers, flaws and strengths to feel like real people. Her aunt is probably my favourite character and I really enjoyed the exploration of her relationship with Ava.

I'm here for YA that focuses around friendships, with all of their wonderful and not so wonderful moments. I really related to Ava's relationship with Piper and my heart ached for both of them at various points in the book.

I've never read a book where a main character is recovering from serious burns, and I felt the subject was handled with empathy. The treatment felt very well-researched too.

This is one of those books that I still can't stop thinking about. I'd heard brilliant things about it and it deserves all of the praise.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Morgan Charmley: Teen Witch – review

A clean teen comedy with an on-trend witchy spin – Sabrina the Teenage Witch for a new generation. Morgan Charmley has spent her entire thirteen years on the planet attempting to prove she has control over her witch powers so that she's allowed to attend a normal school. And the day has finally arrived! But will she be able to make friends and fit in with non-magical teenagers? Can she resist using her powers to make herself popular or turn her teachers into toads? Can she keep her spells a secret?

I had so much fun reading this book! The blurb is exactly right – it has humour and magical shenanigans that reminded me of the original Sabrina the Teenage Witch TV show.

The premise of a girl who has never been to school is great and I liked the journey Morgan goes through over the course of the book, in terms of her powers as well as navigating school.

I also really enjoyed the magic in this book and how it centres around Morgan's family. I'm always a fan of families in teen/YA books and this was a particularly lovely, believable family. 

I think it's the voice that made this book so compulsively readable for me. I loved Morgan's first-person perspective and how we saw events through her eyes. The comic moments and things that went wrong were also a highlight!

I hope this is only the first Morgan Charmley book, especially after how it ended. I'm looking forward to seeing what she gets up to next!

Thank you to Scholastic for the review copy!