Saturday, 24 February 2018

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson - review

Publisher: Walker Books

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review.

When the vuvv first landed, it came as a surprise to aspiring artist Adam and the rest of planet Earth ― but not necessarily an unwelcome one. Can it really be called an invasion when the vuvv generously offered free advanced technology and cures for every illness imaginable? As it turns out, yes. With his parents’ jobs replaced by alien tech and no money for food, clean water, or the vuvv’s miraculous medicine, Adam and his girlfriend, Chloe, have to get creative to survive. And since the vuvv crave anything they deem ‘classic’ Earth culture, recording 1950s-style dates for them to watch in a pay-per-minute format seems like a brilliant idea. But it’s hard for Adam and Chloe to sell true love when they hate each other more with every passing episode. Soon enough, Adam must decide how far he’s willing to go ― and what he’s willing to sacrifice ― to give the vuvv what they want. (Publishers’ blurb)

It’s ages since I’ve read a book about an alien invasion and I thought this novella had an intelligent take on the subject matter, saying as much about our potential future as it did about what might happen during an invasion.

I really liked how the book had a realistic story about a relationship from the beginning to the end. Adam and Chloes’ responses to their situation felt authentic, especially Adam’s changing perception of Chloe as their relationship deteriorated.

Although this novella is short, the world is richly developed. It captured how the humans of this version of Earth became carried away by what the vuvv promised, without realising the impact on their lives. Adam developed an illness because of the living conditions of this world and I thought this was handled really well. He had terrible digestive problems that were presented in a visceral, realistic manner but with empathy as well. 

Another thing I really liked was Adam's art. The book captured what it feels like to be creative, and showed how Adam used art to make sense of (and escape from) the world he lived in.

I devoured this book in a couple of sittings and I'd recommend it if you want a short, smart and thought-provoking read.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - review

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books (8th March)

They killed my mother.
They took our magic.
They tried to bury us.
Now we rise.

Zélie remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. When different clans ruled – Burners igniting flames, Tiders beckoning waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoning forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, anyone with powers was targeted and killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope. Only a few people remain with the power to use magic, and they must remain hidden.

Zélie is one such person. Now she has a chance to bring back magic to her people and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must learn to harness her powers and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where strange creatures prowl, and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to come to terms with the strength of her magic – and her growing feelings for an enemy. (Publisher's blurb)

As soon as I heard about this book, I loved the idea of a foundation in African mythology and was thrilled to receive a proof copy from My Kinda Book. For me, Children of Blood and Bone far exceeded the hype and I would rank it as one of my top 5 fantasy books of all time.

I think the real strength is in the plotting. The stakes are high and the book piles on the conflict throughout! There was a fantastic balance of lighter moments, relationships and fast-paced action. 

The three viewpoints were also really effective, delivering very different perspectives and motivations. I thought all of the characters were nuanced and interesting, from the most minor characters to the main ones. I loved Zélie the most of all, for her strength and the journey she went through as a character.

I don't think I've ever read a book based on African mythology and I loved the world-building in Children of Blood and Bone. The politics, magic and mythology interwove into a rich, complex but accessible world.

This is the most exciting series I've read for a long time and I think all of fans of YA, fantasy or just a fantastic story should read it.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Scholastic Bloggers' Book Feast and 2018 list

This was my first ever Scholastic Bloggers' event and I had a fantastic time. It was really fun to visit the Scholastic office and to meet so many lovely bloggers, publishers and authors. I thought the day was really well-organised and I got a lot out of it as a reader, a blogger and a writer.

Scholastic have a wonderful list of books coming out in 2018 and the day started with a summary of their list. All of them sounded great but here are some that I'm the most excited about!

I managed to pick up a copy of Shell by Paula Rawsthorne, which came out in January and it sounds incredible. It's the story of a girl who was terminally ill until her parents find a new body for her, and I'm obsessed with the idea of a modern take on Frankenstein.

We got chance to see the cover for Surface Breaks by Louise O'Neill, out in May, and it's absolutely gorgeous! There'll be a public cover reveal soon. This story of The Little Mermaid told through a feminist lens appealed to me from the moment I heard about it and I can't wait to get a copy!

I was already very excited about State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury, and the more I hear, the more I'm not sure how I'm going to wait until March.

I'm a huge Sue Wallman fan and I can't wait to read Your Turn to Die in May, another fantastically twisty YA thriller.

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl, out in June, is about five friends who are given a devastating choice: they must decide which one of them will live, and then the rest will die. We received a copy in our goody bags and I can't wait to see how this book turns out!

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood is described as 'a gorgeously dreamy coming-of-age romance set against a stunning Gatsby-esque backdrop'. Out of the all the books we heard about, this was one of the most exciting and I can't wait to get a copy. Laura read the prologue to us and I was immediately gripped. The writing is beautiful, and very evocative of the time period and setting.

Here's a rundown of the other gorgeous books coming out and their release dates:

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson - January

Last Descendents: Fate of the Gods by Matthew J Kirkby - January

Tender by Eve Ainsworth - March

Spark by Alice Broadway - April

Night of the Party by Tracey Mathias - May

Noah Could Never by Simon James Smith - June

Show Stealer by Hayley Barker - June

Access All Awkward by Beth Garrod - July

Riverdale - two novels coming out this summer

A Storm of Ice and Stars by Lisa Lueddecke - October

It was amazing to hear from authors about their books and writing processes, and I really enjoyed the conversation between editors about what their role entails. The presentation by designers was also really interesting, as I've never seen how a book cover goes from a sketch to the glorious finished product.

There was also a fantastic author panel with Alice Broadway, Paula Rawthorne, Tracey Mathias, Sue Wallman, Eve Ainsworth, Laura Wood, Simon James Green and Lisa Thompson. I really enjoyed hearing them talk about their books and the amazing range of stories.

I had a great day and I'm really excited to read my new books. Thank you to everyone at Scholastic!

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Meet Cute short stories - review

Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers

Whether or not you believe in fate, or luck, or love at first sight, every romance has to start somewhere. MEET CUTE is an anthology of original short stories featuring tales of "how they first met" from some of today’s most popular YA authors. (Publisher's blurb)

This is one of the best collections of short stories that I've read for ages, and with the calibre of authors included I'm not surprised. I enjoyed some aspect of all of the stories and I thought there was a really good range of genres and subject matters covered. Most stories were contemporary but there were some with fantastical and sci-fi elements that I really enjoyed. 

My favourite stories were by Nina LaCour, Julie Murphy, Nicola Yoon and Dhonielle Clayton. I've just read and loved The Belles, but I need to get books by the other authors immediately!

Nina LaCour's is the story that really stayed with me. I wish there was a whole book with these characters! It's about two girls who meet through a customer service complaint. Their fledgling relationship was really heartwarming and I loved both characters.

Julie Murphy's story of a reality TV dating show was hilarious, unexpected and entertaining! The voice of her writing was great and I can't wait to read more of her books.

Nicola Yoon wrote an incredibly creative story about breaking up that reminded me a lot of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's rare that I come across a story so delightfully inventive and I really enjoyed it! 

I adored Dhonielle Clayton's writing in The Belles and her short story was incredibly moving and thought-provoking, achieving so much in so few words!

If you want a book that's sweet and uplifting, this is a perfect option.


Monday, 5 February 2018

The Waking Land by Callie Bates - blog tour

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

It's been fourteen years, since King Antoine took Elanna hostage. Fourteen years since her father's rebellion failed. Fourteen years spent being raised by the man who condemned her people to misery. A man she's come to love as a father. 
Now 20, Elanna is about to be taken prisoner once again... but this time by her father's mysterious righthand man. Her father wants to reignite his rebellion, this time using Elanna as figurehead. He will tell his followers she is the legendary Wildegarde reborn, a sorceress who could make the very earth tremble.
But what no one knows is that magic really does flow through Elanna's veins. Now she must decide which side she's on, and whether she'll use her powers for mercy... or revenge.
I'm thrilled to join the blog tour for the paperback release of The Waking Land. This book has a unique premise and a rich mythology that made it a refreshing fantasy read.
Elenna went on an interesting journey as a character, both in coming to terms with her powers and her identity. I'm a fan of characters who don't have all the answers, and I enjoyed Elenna's developing relationships with the supporting cast of characters.
I really liked the setting of The Waking Land, especially the role of magic in the world's mythology. The politics were also really intriguing to me and I think there's plenty of material for the other books in this series.
I love a good revolution story! Elenna's personal struggle and torn loyalties added an extra level of tension. I really liked the romance in this book and it built to some steamy scenes that I enjoyed a lot. Although I felt like the pace slowed down in a couple of places, the revolution built to an exciting (and sometimes heartbreaking) conclusion.
This is a really promising start to a series and I'll look forward to the next book!

You can follow the rest of the blog tour stops using the list below:

Friday, 2 February 2018

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton - blog tour review and giveaway

Publisher: Gollancz (8 Feb. 2018)

In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.

Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater - and far darker - than she ever imagined.

When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever. (Publisher's blurb)

I can say with absolute confidence that The Belles is going to be one of my books of the year. The writing is dazzling, the plot hooked me immediately and it made me think too. I'll share my opinions and then you can find out how to win your very own copy!

The writing in this book is absolutely gorgeous. It powerfully evokes the senses and created a vividly realised world, which is so beautiful on the outside that it highlights the ugliness beneath the surface. 

I was also struck by the power of the book's message. The Belles very cleverly drew contemporary parallels about society's standards of beauty, and made me think about the pressure that both men and women are under. 

I also found this one of the most compulsively readable books that I've read for a very long time. I was really invested in what happened, mostly because I cared so much about the characters and also because the world was in such desperate need of change.

Camellia is a memorable, realistic main character, who goes through a real journey and the series of the book. I found her multi-faceted and interesting, with both strengths and flaws.

I loved everything about this book and it's definitely one I'll remember. It comes out on 8th February and I've already preordered my finished copy. 

The lovely people at Gollancz have offered a copy of the book to give away! Please comment on this blog post or retweet my pinned tweet to enter. The giveaway ends 10th February and is UK only.