Sunday, 27 September 2015

Queen of Shadows Review

Author: Sarah J Maas
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's

‘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. She has accepted her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, there are dark truths to learn and debts to be paid. Aelin must stay hidden beneath her assassin's hood and draw on her mortal strength as Celaena to prevent the King of Adarlan from tearing her world apart. Only then can she fight for her people. (Publishers’ blurb)

This is one of my favourite YA series, and the fourth book is a brilliant addition. The first book 'Heir of Fire' has been described as a cross between 'Game of Thrones' and 'The Hunger Games', and that lofty comparison is greatly deserved.

The world building in this series is staggering. Sarah J Maas has managed to create a world with a rich culture and mythology, without bogging the narrative down with backstory.

And the romance… I love a slow-burning, gradually building relationship more than just about any aspect of YA, and this one is amazing! Aelin and Rowan are my favourite two characters, and the close friendship and love between them feels utterly real and beautiful.

Another interesting aspect of this series is the witch Manon’s viewpoint. She is brave, brutal and merciless, and yet I found myself rooting for her. I looked forward to her storyline, because her ambiguous heroism/ villainy was very intriguing and quite different.

This leads me onto the narrative viewpoint. I loved the use of the third person in this book, because it gave an insight into the several unique and interesting main characters.

I only really had one issue with this book, and I’m not sure it’s a genuine problem. I felt like it was a bit long, and as a result of this my reading pace slowed way down in a few places.

I look forward to reading a lot more books by Sarah J Maas, and if you haven’t already started this series it really should be your next purchase!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Need by Carrie Jones
-The Mortal Instruments/ Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare

-A Court of Thorns and Roses (also by Sarah J Maas)
-The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
-The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Rest of Us Just Live Here Review

Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books

I'm really excited about this! It's one of those rare books that I miss now I'm not reading it. The idea of writing about everybody who isn't 'chosen' is super original, and the book had a strong voice throughout.

I think you could open a Patrick Ness book at any page and know that he wrote it. His style is so honest and convincingly teenage that it really sets his books apart. 

The characters are also enviably brilliant and unique. They feel like real people: flawed, lovely, annoying and likeable. Even the minor characters feel well-developed, like each of them has a story worth telling.

Another interesting feature was that each chapter started with a brief description of what the chosen ones (or 'indie kids') were getting up to, then the chapter was about how the main characters perceived those events. Admittedly it took me a while to work out that this was going on, but I appreciated it when I did.

I also admired the treatment of mental health. Several characters face challenges in this regard, and a perfect balance was struck between treating these issues respectfully but being realistic at the same time.

My only issue with this book (and it is a minor one) is tangled up with what I liked about it. I loved how the characters weren't the obvious heroes that have to battle the big evil. The problem was that sometimes the indie kid introduction to a chapter stirred up my interest, and I wanted to read more about them.

This is a moving, unique book that I'd recommend to absolutely everyone!

The edition I read was beautiful, with yellow edged pages, the author's signature and a limited print (see the picture above). You can buy it at Waterstones.

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Watching Buffy and Freaks and Geeks
-Because you'll never meet me by Leah Thomas (a YA that I've previously reviewed).
-Before I fall by Lauren Oliver

Vengeance Road Giveaway - and the winner is...

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Vengeance Road giveaway!

The winner is Land of Isolated Creatures, from my comments section. I'll be in touch with you shortly.

Please keep an eye on my blog and Twitter @yaundermyskin, as I'll be posting a giveaway about once a month. Next month's is particularly amazing, and may even be signed if I manage to pull it off!

Happy reading everyone. New review to follow shortly...

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Vengeance Road Review and Giveaway by Amy at YA Under My Skin

Author: Erin Bowman
Publisher (hardback): Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 1st September 2015

Keep reading to find out how you can win a hardcover copy of this amazing book!

I love Westerns, so this was an easy sell for me. A kickass heroine on a journey of redemption? Gorgeous cowboys tagging along to hunt for gold? Yes please! I was really excited about this one, and it didn’t disappoint.

A main selling point of this is how original the premise is. I love the idea of a YA Western, and the historical aspects were handled really well. I’ve read quite widely around this time period, and this book seems incredibly authentic and well-researched.

The plot of this book is really gripping too. Although it’s based on the revenge story arc, there are diverting romances and conflicts with Native Americans that keep it feeling varied.

Another strength is that the minor characters feel like heroes of their own stories. The Colton boys have their own motivations driving them forward, and are well-developed characters as opposed to tag-alongs for Kate.  They also meet a native American girl called Liluye, who is really likeable at the same time as feeling authentic for the time.

Only one part of it took some getting used to for me. Sometimes, especially early on, I found the ‘Western speak’ a little jarring. Maybe this was because I couldn’t get the accent right in my head, which left it ringing false on occasion.

Aside from that, I can’t recommend this book strongly enough. It struck me as very well-researched and authentic, and is a welcome new branch for YA.

If you liked the sound of this now try:

Deadwood - an awesome TV series that was made between 2003 and 2006 (though if you really don't like swearing you should steer clear)

For a chance to win, simply leave a comment below or retweet my twitter link to this blog (which can be found @yaundermyskin). Give me your email address or twitter handle, so I can contact you if you win!

The winner will be notified by Sunday 20th September. Good luck!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

An Ember in the Ashes Review by Amy at YA Under My Skin

Publisher: Razorbill
Author: Sabaa Tahir

Publisher’s synopsis:
‘LAIA is a Scholar living under the brutal rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who vow to save her brother from execution. ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they will find that their destinies are more intertwined that either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.

This is another great dystopian debut, with an interesting world and a good balance of action and romance.

I loved the alternating first person narrative, as it gave an insight into the two very different sides of this society. Laia was a particularly interesting character, as she experienced a lot of self-doubt when it came to her brave, borderline foolhardy mission to infiltrate the empire’s military academy. This made her feel believable and relatable, as I find some self-sacrificing heroines too selfless to be true! She seemed like a ‘normal’ person without powers or superior ability and battle, and I liked that a lot. 

I also enjoyed Elias’ character arc. It was interesting that he’d been raised with a conformist, military background, and came to question it.

Another compelling aspect of this book was that the war and revolution were described in very real, brutal terms. In my opinion, a book about these violent subject matters should tackle them head-on, in a realistic way. Otherwise, what’s the point?

One thing I liked less was that I was confused by gender roles in the book. Women were considered to be massively inferior, and rape was a commonplace experience for female slaves (with very little being done about it). Yet the military commander and one of their best soldiers were women. This struck me as a bit contradictory. I also felt that this series covered little new ground when compared with similar books in the genre.

Even though the subject matter of this felt quite familiar, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I hope the sequel comes out soon!

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas
-The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.
-The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys Review by Amy at YA Under My Skin

Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

Publisher: Dial Books
Kindle release date: Out now!
Hardcover: 13th October (Just in time for Halloween...)

The fabulous authors included (in order): Nova Ren Suma, Carrie Ryan, Cat Winters, Leigh Bardugo, Megan Shepherd, Danielle Paige, April Genevieve Tucholke, Jonathan Maberry, Jay Kristoff, Stefan Bachmann, Marie Lu, A.G. Howard and Kendare Blake.

I started reading Point Horror books when I was 9 or 10 (which probably explains a lot). For me, this book felt like the best kind of childhood flashback.
I’m not usually a short story reader, but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this collection. Part of it was to do with the amazing selection of authors (Marie Lu and Carrie Ryan – in the same book?!)

All of the stories left me at least unnerved, and at best were downright disturbing and terrifying. I felt like the authors pushed into some dark, twisted places, and I loved that! Only a couple of stories were less engaging, retreading familiar horror movie ground.  

I’ll give a quick rundown of my favourites, but I’d hate to ruin them by saying too much!

-My favourite by a long lead was Carrie Ryan’s story ‘In the Forest Dark and Deep’, based on elements of Alice in Wonderland. ‘The Forest of Hands and Teeth’ by Carrie Ryan is one of my favourite books, and I loved the dark depths that this story went to. Two trembling thumbs up!

-I also really enjoyed Marie Lu’s story ‘The Girl Without a Face’. It has an unusual narrative style, and a very unpredictable plot.

-My next top pick was ‘Sleepless’ by Jay Kristoff. This was an inventive take on the potential for horror surrounding internet chatrooms.

-Another story that I really enjoyed was Stitches by A.G. Howard. I’m not going to say anything except how wonderfully strange it was!

This book is a must read for horror adrenaline junkies. You weren’t planning to sleep tonight, were you?

If you liked the sound of this, now try:

-Absolutely anything by Stephen King
-…or Neil Gaiman
-Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake
-The Forbidden Game by LJ Smith (the author of ‘The Vampire Diaries’)

-Go old school and track down some Point Horrors