The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave | Book Review


Title: The Girl of Ink and Stars

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Genre: Fantasy, middle grade

Publisher: Chicken House

Pushlishing Date: 2016

My rating: ***

I really had a hard time reviewing this book. It made me think about what I’m reviewing when I review a book, because I love the design of it, the cover is beautiful, it has french flaps, and every single one of the pages inside has this great map design. When I review I book I usually just review the content, which is how a review should be, but I feel like I want to shout out whoever designed this beautiful thing! The design is so important here, it’s pretty much what made me buy the book, because it managed to set the scene and the tone of the book before I’d read a single word, even on the blurb.

However, the beautiful design and the fact that that probably meant the publishers had put a lot of money into this book really made me expect great things from it. It’s like the publishers hyped it up so much – and then I was left really disappointed.

So, this book is set in a town on an island. A generation before the story takes place, a man arrived on the island, took over the town, and isolated them from the rest of the island. He’s now the general. Our main character is best friends with his daughter, and after the body of a girl is found in the forest, the general’s daughter goes out past the forest, to the forgotten zones (for some reason?) so the main character dresses as a boy to join the governor’s search for her.

The thing I loved about this book is the world building. The description of the island and its landscape, and what it’s like to live there. The rich mythology and importance of old tales that may hold truth in them. This really had a sense of other-worldliness. Sort of. There just wasn’t quite enough of it! I felt like the world building was just getting going, and then the plot kicked in. I want more world building! Overall, this is my biggest criticism of the story, as I feel like the world-building is the author’s biggest strength, but I didn’t feel like she played to it. I feel like there was too much of stuff she’s not so good at.

I feel like the author is not great at writing action scenes. Which sucks, because there were quite a few action scenes in this book. Especially for such a short book! A lot of the time I was left really confused about what was actually, physically going on in a scene and I just carried on reading and kind of muddled my way though it.

The other main issue I had with this book is that it’s too short. Like I said with the world building earlier, I don’t think there was enough of it. The length of the book also meant that I didn’t get to know the characters or the relationships very well, which meant I couldn’t really understand their actions. The governor’s daughter and main character’s best friend goes into the woods because…why? The governor’s soldiers do some spoilery things because…no idea. Also from the start it seems like people on the island hate the governor, so how come the soldiers are so loyal? Plus, from the start we find out that the main character’s mother and twin brother died when she was younger, and I feel like this is never addressed. The book just isn’t long enough to do all the things I want it to!

I think my problem with it might be the fact that it’s middle grade, which I don’t read a lot of, and didn’t know when I started reading this book. I only found out after I finished it and it made a bit more sense. I don’t read a lot of middle grade books but from what I hear, they’re pretty short and plot heavy. So I can understand why that’s the case in this book, but I really don’t feel like it plays to the writer’s strengths. I wanted this book to be longer, with more world-building (in terms of the history and mythology of the island), and more fleshed out characters and relationships. I feel like that would be a beautiful book!

I would like to point out, however, that the main character of this book is the daughter of a cartographer. Since the town was cut off from the rest of the island, there’s no need for this work anymore, but she has been brought up learning how to draw maps and loves it. The descriptions of her parents’ maps and of the maps she does herself are beautiful, they’re so lovely they make me want to be a cartographer even though I would be terrible at it. I feel like that’s a huge strength of the book – but it kind of illustrates my point that the author’s strengths lie in her description and world-building rather than in action-filled plot!

I’d love a young adult or adult book from her, something a little more fleshed out. But then, maybe middle grade just isn’t for me. What did you think of this book?


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How To Be A Bookworm On A Budget


Buying books on a budget is something that has become pretty close to my heart over the past few years, as I’ve gotten more and more into books and had a tighter and tighter budget, being a student that works part time. I used to buy plenty of books from Waterstones and Amazon at the full price, but I’ve found that it just isn’t cost effective, and I can get books cheaper elsewhere! After finishing my degree and going on to be a masters student, I’ve had a significant dip in student finance coming my way which has meant everything has had to tighten up – including my book buying! So here are a few tips on how to be a total bookworm when you’re on a budget.

Use your library

Yes I know, this one’s totally obvious. I don’t usually like reading library books – the collector in me doesn’t like to read a book that can’t then sit on my bookshelves as a trophy, shouting ‘well done, you read me!’ every time I glance over at it. But from time to time there’s a book I think I want to read, but I think I might end up hating. When that happens, it’s good to get it from the library, so if I do hate it I haven’t then wasted my money on it.

Also, your library can do a bunch of things you might not be aware of. Like let you borrow audiobooks! I really love audiobooks and I’ve managed to get a few free ones from Audible by redeeming various codes, but I can’t afford the monthly fee – and then I realised that I can get audiobooks for free from my library. And I can download them online – I don’t even have to leave the house.

Take advantage of points systems

Find out which places give you points or rewards for buying or donating books and use that place as much as possible! I’ve heard that in America, lots of second hand book stores give you points for donating books, which you can redeem on MORE BOOKS. I am so jealous of this and why don’t we have it in England.

For you poor old Brits like me, I’d recommend Waterstones. I don’t usually buy books from there anymore, but they usually have a bunch of books on offer for buy one get one half price. I don’t like to just buy this for the sake of it, but when this BOGOHP table happens to feature a bunch of books that I want to buy anyway, I pick them up there and collect the points. They really add up, and I’ve got quite a few free books from Waterstones with my points!

Lower your standards

This one was super hard for me. Yes, I love getting a brand new, pristine edition of a book that has been touched by no human but myself (and the people that made it and shipped it and probably a few others), but if I want more books for my buck, I’ve got to go for the used books. Sometimes I’ll have a look on ebay, they don’t always have the book I’m looking for but they often have pretty much new books for cheap prices. I’ve also started using the used & new section on Amazon. If the book you want is a few years old, it’s likely that some sellers will sell it for just a penny plus the £2.80 shipping fee, so you get a book for less than £3. I’m happy with that!

Look around the internet places

In the book community, there are always giveaways going on, whether that’s on someone’s blog, their channel, their instagram, or their twitter! Keep an eye out for these, lots of people give away copies of new releases – you never know!

Also: book swaps. People do these from time to time on blogs and on twitter, or if you can’t find one, host one yourself! If you’ve got a few books you’re not keen on, put them up for a book swap and get a book you want in return.

And my most recent tactic:

Wait until it’s your birthday (mine is next week so that’s handy) and then send everyone a link to your Amazon wishlist which shall be full of only books. They’ll get the idea.

Got any book-buying money-saving tips of your own? Let me know!

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Giant Days – Vols 1&2 | Book Review


Title: Giant Days

Authors: John Allison, Lissa Treiman, Whitney Cogar

Genre: Contemporary, humour

Publisher: BOOM! Box

Pushlishing Date: 2015 – present

My rating: Volume 1: *** Volume 2: ****

This is an odd one, to me, because it’s a graphic novel that’s contemporary/realistic fiction, which I don’t see much at all! Giant Days follows three girls (and as the story goes on, two boys) as they start university. It feels a little different to other graphic novels, as most graphic novels follow one main plotline throughout all of the issues, which develops and goes on throughout the series. This graphic novel feels more like a TV show. Each single issue within each volume is a story by itself, it has a beginning, middle, and end, and whatever the main plot point or problem was gets resolved in that issue. The main progression throughout the issues is just them adjusting to general university life, time goes on, a couple of issues in the second volume sees them go home for the winter holidays, and then each issue contains its own mini-story, so it really feels like episodes of a TV show.

I was a little iffy about this at first as I wasn’t prepared for it and the whole thing felt a little off, but once I realised what was going on I found I actually really enjoy it! It generally feels like quite a relaxing graphic novel to read, which might sound odd, but a lot of graphic novels have big, exciting, complicated, action-packed plots that I have to keep up with and remember until the next volume comes out – but this felt like I could just sit down and watch a short, fun, funny episode of something, and just read one issue of the volume at a time.

I really love what this graphic novel is trying to do – which is, really, show what it can be like to start university for three very different people. (Plus – it’s set here in England, which I LOVE.) One character is strong, stubborn, and studios (I will not say nerdy!), another is dramatic, flaky, boy-obsessed, and a goth, and the final character is very innocent, quiet, and is still trying to figure out who she is. All of these characters are so different and represent so many different people, which is great, and they all get along so well, which makes it so fun to read.

Here’s my issue with classing this as ‘humour’ – I’ve done it here because it’s done on goodreads and because I do think it’s important to point out how funny this is. But it doesn’t feel like the writers are really trying to make me laugh, or cracking jokes. It just feels like they’re writing about people – and people are funny! People like to make their friends laugh! So while I do find this graphic novel funny, I think classing it as humour wouldn’t be quite right.

What I really love about this graphic novel is that it’s so character focused, where most graphic novels I read are plot focused. There is a lot of plot and a lot of mini-stories, of course, but the main focus really is on the people and their relationships with each other and other students. So far, it’s covered a bunch of important topics for university-aged people, from exploring your sexuality to realising that you do actually have to study if you want to not fail.

I feel like this did take a few issues to really get going, but by issue 3/4 it was really in its stride, which is why I gave volume 2 a higher rating than volume 1. I have really high hopes for the next one, which comes out in November! I really feel like if graphic novels usually aren’t your thing, maybe give this one a go, because it’s pretty different!

Have you read this? Does it sound like something you’d want to pick up?




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How To Move From YA To Adult Fiction


These days, young adult is a huge category in the publishing world. When I was a teenager, it was just getting going, with big, popular series like Twilight and Uglies, but before that, most people pretty much went straight from kid’s books to adult book. It’s great that there are now so many choices for YA readers, but I’ve heard a lot of people say that as they get older they want to read more adult fiction – but that it’s a bit scary. Not because they worry it’ll be too difficult to read (although that is sometimes the case, I get that all the time!), but because it’s an entirely new area of publishing!

When you’ve been reading YA for years, you get to know quite easily which books you’ll like and which you won’t. You know the authors, you know the best sellers, you know the new releases, you know the buzzwords to look out for on the blurbs, you know which genres nad storylines you like best. You get to know YA so well, that dipping your toe into adult fiction can be hard, because you don’t know it nearly as well as you know YA! So I have a few tips to help you ease yourself into adult fiction.

Find authors who write adult as well as YA

This is my favourite way to find adult books I think I’ll enjoy. You might find that some young adult books you like are written by people who also write adult fiction, like Cecelia Ahern (Flawed) or Victoria Schwab. If there’s a YA author you know you like, I’d definitely recommend seeing if they’ve written any adult books. You’re already familiar with the writing style, and you can go on to find similar adult books. You might also be able to suss out a new author by having a look at their young adult books. You might have never read them, but you can put your YA knowledge to good use by having a look at their YA books – is it something that appeals to you? Do you think you’d pick it up? It could say a lot about whether you’ll also enjoy their adult books.

Familiarise yourself with the world of adult fiction

It might seem like a silly suggestion, but go to your local bookstore and have a look around the adult section! Have a look at the new books, the charts and best sellers, and which ones are sitting out on tables or in prominent positions. Read a few blurbs, have a look at the storylines. Every time I go into my local store, I have a look around even if I can’t afford to buy anything or if I’m going in to get a YA book. The reason I’m so comfortable with picking out YA books is because I feel like I know it, so by regularly looking around the adult section I’m familiarising myself with author’s names that pop up regularly, and with what type of storylines are popular. It’s a nice way to get to know adult fiction before diving right in.

Start with genres/plotlines you know you like

Just because you want to read adult fiction, doesn’t mean to have to read whatever is the most popular adult book at the time, or the one that just won an award, or the one someone told you to read. If you’re nervous about reading adult fiction, give yourself an easy start with a plotline you know you’ll like. Love sci fi? Try The Chimes by Anna Smaill or The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Love a historical romance? Try some Georgette Heyer. Like creepy cult books? Try The Girls. (I haven’t actually read all of these but they’re making my point!) Think up a plotline you just can’t say no to in YA and find something similar in an adult fiction book.

Remember: Adult fiction is more than just literary fiction

There is such a huge, gigantic range of adult fiction. It’s not just literary fiction. It’s not just books that want to win the Man Booker. Don’t be afraid to start light! I hate to use the term ‘women’s fiction’, but I haven’t been able to find a good replacement. There’s plenty of stigma around women’s fiction, plenty of people who say it isn’t real fiction or it’s just for people who aren’t intelligent enough to get literary fiction (hey, is this reminding anyone of what some people say about YA?), but if it appeals to you, go for it! There are so many amazing ‘women’s fiction’ books out there, get started with those! They’re often fun, light, and yes, they can be easier to read than literary fiction. But it all depends on what you want out of a book. If you want something fun and easy because reading is your hobby and escape from a stressful job, great! You don’t have to touch literary fiction if you don’t wanna. There’s also plenty of genre fiction in the world of adult. I don’t know how else to really explain this other that talking about how Waterstones lays out their stores. In my local one, the first floor has more ‘general fiction’, adult books that are general and/or best selling at the moment. Then on other floors, it has genre sections – there’s sci fi, mystery, horror, and plenty more. If you love YA horror books, go straight to the adult horror section in waterstones. You’ll find plenty you like.

Try some non-fiction

Wait, come back! There’s lots of fun non-fiction! Let me ask you a question. Aside from books, what are you interested in? Some of you might need a few minutes for that one. But whatever you come up with, there’s a non fiction book about it. If you’re interested in writing, art, or something creative, try Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Or, if you read books because you love reading about other people’s experiences of life, try memoirs! For some eye opening books about how other people live completely different lives to you, there’s In Order to Live by Yeonmi Park, or I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. Or to hear about someone else’s perspective on life, there’s An Astronaut’s Guide To Life by Chris Hadfield. If you’re interested in things like science or history, there’s plenty of great non-fiction out there. I’d recommend looking at the non-fiction bestsellers, as these are often intended to be read by the general public. Some non-fiction books are geared more towards experts or professionals in that area, but books that become bestsellers are generally easy for newbie to the field to read!

So those are all my tips, I’m 22 (23 in a couple of weeks!) and I still read mostly YA, but my interest in adult fiction is growing more and more. These are some ways I use to help me find some books I think I’ll enjoy when I’m not super familiar with adult fiction, like I am with YA! Let me know if you’re getting into adult fiction, or if you have any tips that could help!




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The Vegetarian – Han Kang | Book Review


Title: The Vegetarian

Author: Han Kang (translated by Deborah Smith)

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Portobello Books

Pushlishing Date: 2016

My rating: ***

This book was something, like I’m sure it was for many of you, that really intrigued me. So many people were reading it and talking about it, including a lot of people who don’t usually read literary fiction. I’ve heard so many mixed opinions on it, and it recently won the Man Booker, so I finally picked it up to read it – after my mum bought it for me as a graduation present. She thought it was hilarious to buy me a book called the vegetarian as we’re both vegetarians. Ha ha, mum.

I’ve seen a lot of people give a synopsis about this book where they say the main character is a woman who decides to become a vegetarian, but I wouldn’t describe it like that. The blurb of this book says it’s a story in three acts, as the book follows three perspectives, all of whom are connected to this woman – her husband, her brother-in-law, and her sister. So although this woman is the centre of the book, I’d say that it’s about these three characters, and how they each cope differently with mental illness.

That’s really the crux of what I think this book is about: mental illness. After a strange dream, this woman decides to become a vegetarian. (Note: she also cuts out all animal products like eggs, so I’d say she’s a vegan, but this was written by a Korean author so it may just be a culture difference that we make a distinction between the two, or it could be a translation issue.) However, this isn’t just a normal lifestyle change, from the get go it’s clear that there is more going on here than simply changing a diet. So really, I’d say this book follows three different characters and how they each deal differently with having a relationship with someone with a mental illness.

To anyone that wants to read this but is worried it’ll be difficult because it won the Man Booker: don’t be. It has a very easy, simple, writing style. It also jumps right into the plot, which helps to draw you into the book right away. If this isn’t your usual type of book, let me reassure you that you won’t have a problem with the writing style.

I had a fair few problems with this book. I had real trouble with giving it a star rating. I settles on three stars, because usually if I give two stars it’s because there’s something I find glaringly bad about the book. But here, although I had issues with it, I wonder if that’s because I didn’t quite get it. Sometimes I think that we all have such different experiences of like and different outlooks, that sometimes I just won’t get a book that someone else might love.

First, none of the characters were likable. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as I strongly think that a book doesn’t have to have likable characters to be a likable book. But here, I really felt like something was missing. I felt a real detachment from all of them, and I really feel like a likable character would have pulled me in that little bit closer.

Another problem I had was the choice of which person was used when writing. The first section is written in first person, when I feel like it would have worked really well in third, because again I felt a real sense of detachment from the character that seemed unrealistic to me. I don’t know if this whole sense of distance is a culture difference, but something about it really got under my skin while reading this. The last two section are both in third person, and I think they would have been better in first. Particularly the second section!

The second section is where I have most of my issues. I won’t ever give spoilers in my reviews, but I’m going to phrase this in a way so that hopefully if you’ve read the book you get what I mean. So, there’s some real strange behaviour in this section. The vegetarian woman’s strange behaviour is explain by the fact that she has a mental illness. However, the strange behaviour of the brother-in-law is explained by – nothing! This is where a first person perspective would have been good! What drives him to do those things? They’re pretty drastic and could have extreme consequences, why wasn’t his behaviour rationalised at all?

Overall, the main problem I had with this book is that fact that I know it was trying to make some kind of point methaphorically, but it didn’t work for me. I find it difficult to see metaphor in realism. Particularly when the metaphor centers around behaviour that’s a result of a mental illness. To me, it’s simply a book about mental illness and how it affects three people connected to that person. In this case, I really would have liked the vegetarian woman’s character to be explored more, I’d love more backstory, I’d love a perspective from her. If it’s all about the metaphor and the hidden meanings, I feel like they would have been so much more powerful if the book had leaned towards magical realism at the end, if her thoughts actually came true. In reality, this book sat somewhere in the middle where it didn’t really have an impact on me at all. I wanted so much more out of this book, one way or the other, and I just got something kind of middle of the road. It really didn’t have an affect on me, which is why it was so hard for me to give it a star rating.

People have been raving about this, and it just won the Man Booker, so I feel like I missed something. But hey, these are just my honest thoughts, and what else is this blog for! I’d love to know your thoughts if you’ve read this, please do let me know what you think in the comments!




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10 Upcoming New Releases | 2016


So we’re just over halfway through the year, and most of the new books everyone was excited for have now been released – but don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from! More books have been announced and given official release dates, and I’ve got ten here (including a couple of graphic novels) that I cannot wait for…

The Thousandth Floor – Katharine McGee | 30th August

The Thousandth Floor is set in 2118, in a huge tower where the elite live and the top and the not so well off live at the bottom, and long for the life above. When a young woman falls from the top of the tower, everyone is united in their obsession with the scandal and finding out what led to this women’s death, including our main character, who lives in the thousandth floor and is genetically designed to be perfect.

This book sounds like it’s full of lies, secrets, and betrayal, plus a hefty amount of mystery! It sounds like a really unique book and I’m super interested in finding out more about the world and how they live 100 years in the future.

The Little Book of Hygge – Meik Wiking | 1st September

This one is non fiction, and the subtitle is: ‘The Danish way to live well.’ The concept of hygge is something that’s really gaining popularity at the moment but if you’re not aware, hygge is a Danish word that doesn’t have a direct translation into English. It generally describes a way of creating happiness through cosiness, relaxation, and everything soothing. The author of this book is CEO of something called the ‘Happiness Research Institute’ (which sound AH-MAZING) and researches why Danish people are rated some of the happiest in the world. The book shares tips on creating hygge and general advice on how to use this concept to have a happier life!

This book sounds so exactly up my street. I’ve heard people describe hygge as some of my favourite things – reading a book with some yummy snacks, cozying up while it’s raining outside, drinking some hot chocolate, lighting some scented candles…it seems like it’s all about creating the right atmosphere. I’m such a huge introvert, and this book sounds like it’s packed full of ways to create happiness that don’t involve too much, you know, going outside and speaking to other humans, which is not my favourite.

A Madness So Discreet – Mindy McGinnis | 6th September

Yes!! Mindy McGinnis! This author wrote the Not A Drop To Drink duology which I absolutely love. She has a fantastic writing style which really makes me want to read more of her stuff, and the plot of this book sounds perfect for me. This book is described as a ‘twisted gothic historical thriller’ – YES PLEASE. It follows a woman who is sent to an insane asylum, and is later recruited as a doctor’s assistant when he visits her and decides she has a brilliant mind. From here, she struggles to balance her not-quite-sanity with her work, which becomes particularly difficult as she and the doctor investigate a murder.

Historical, mystery, thriller, asylums, gothic, twisted – YES OK I WILL BUY YOU

The Forgetting – Sharon Cameron | 13th September

This book sounds like it has such a unique plot. Nadia lives in the safe city of Canaan, surrounded by walls, where no one has a memory of what’s outside of them. Every twelve years, there’s The Forgetting – where everyone loses all of their memories. All they have afterwards is anything they’ve managed to write down to remind themselves of what they had and who they loved. Nadia is the only one who can remember. As the next Forgetting approaches, Nadia needs ot use her memory to fight an unseen enemy, before everyone forgets about it.

Just as I thought the dystopia genre was getting repetitive! Don’t get me wrong, dystopias are one of my favourite things to read about, but I’ve started to seen ideas getting repeated. And then this comes along! This world sounds so unique and imaginative, and I can’t wait to see what’s going on!

The Wonder – Emma Donoghue | 22nd September

This book is set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s – which is already drawing me in – as is based on the actual folklore about ‘fasting girls’ where girls seemed to be able to live without eating. This follows a girl in a small village who stops eating, and the nurse sent to see if it’s real or a trick, and is described as a psychological thriller.

This is another book full of buzzwords I’m loving right now: historical, thriller, small town, folklore. This is also by the woman who wrote Room (you might have heard of it?) which I completely adored. That’s the book that got her as well known as she now is, but she’d previously written plenty of historical fiction novels, so I’m excited to see her in her element.

Three Dark Crowns – Kendare Blake | 22nd September

This is one I’m sure you’ve all heard of! The hype for this is REAL. This is a fantasy novel surrounding triplet sisters, who are all equal heirs to the throne and who all possess different magical abilities. When the sisters turn sixteen, they must compete in a battle to the death to see who’ll become the next queen.

Now, I’m not usually one for fantasy. I’ve been getting into more gentle fantasy, like the Winner’s trilogy, but I’ve never actually read a magical fantasy before – aside from the obvious books that shall not be named. But this one is screaming out at me to read it! It seems mad that the sisters will be ready to kill each other, but then I suppose they will have knows this was going to happen all their lives and been prepared for it. I’m so ready to dive into this fantasy world, but I’m more interested in seeing what their relationships are like and how they deal with having to fight to the death!

Replica – Lauren Oliver | 6th October

This is one I’m sure I’ve been anticipating since about January. This book has an interesting format, as it’s like two books in one, with a story on each side of the book. So you can read either one first, or you can read each one a chapter at a time, as if it’s one book with two perspectives. One story follows Lyra, who’s stuck inside a research facility called the Haven, which houses human clones, or replicas. Her and a friend manage to escape when there’s a sudden attach on the facility. The other story follows Gemma who, after nearly being abducted by a stranger, starts to investigate her family’s past and discovers a connection to the mysterious Haven institute. She travels to Florida to find out more, where she stumbles across two escaped replicas.

I’m not sure how I feel about the layout yet – I feel like there’s probably a better way to read it and I want the publisher to tell me what that is. But we’ll see! I also feel like the blurb gives away so much of the plot, but hopefully this is just the tip of the iceberg. Even though I have a couple of reservations about it, this book sounds so exciting and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

The Wicked + The Divine – Volume 4 | 13th October

This is a graphic novel I’ve been reading since volume one came out, so it’s been painful reading it in real release time when I want all of the story at once! The story is set is our world in 2014, when the first volume was released, but with one difference: every 80 years, the gods are reincarnated into the bodies of humans, live for two years, and then die. Our main character is a normal teenage girl who becomes part of the huge fandom surrounding the gods, and gets caught up in the mystery when one of them is murdered.

The plot in the first three volumes had developed a lot, and got pretty complex. I’m definitely going to have to give the series a reread before I read volume four, so I’m not too lost, but I can’t wait for it. I have absolutely no idea where the plot is going to go and I love that it’s so unpredictable!

Glitter – Aprilynne Pike | 25th October

This book I found out about fairly recently but it MAY be the most exciting one on this list. Ok, so, this book is set in the near future, where a group of people live in the palace of Versailles. These people live their lives as if it’s the 18th century. Except there’s technology to make it super luxurious. Outside the palace, everyone else lives life normally. Our main character, Danica, lives in this palace, and is witness to a murder, which her mother uses to blackmail the terrifying king into making Danica his queen when she turns 18. So now, the palace has started to feel like a prison to Danica, and she has six months to raise enough money to escape, before she turns 18. So how does she go about raising that money? Glitter. A ridiculously addictive drug which she can sell for extortionate prices to anyone she managed to addict by mixing it with her lipgloss.

PHEW. So, a futuristic yet historical royalty drug-dealing blackmailing book – I’m sure it’s going to be an ADDICTIVE read! (hah, get it?)

I Hate Fairyland – Volume 2 | 15th December

Yes!!! What??? I didn’t even know this was happening until yesterday!! I AM SO EXCITED FOR THIS. I adored volume one of I Hate Fairyland, and the ending was amazing, so I can’t wait to see where the story goes from there. This book follows a little girl, who wishes she could go to fairyland, and she does! The idea is, she has to go on a quest to find the key that’ll take her home, a quest that should take about a day. The people of fairyland get to give lots of little kids their dream of visiting fairyland, and they’re back home after only a day. Jump to 20 years later, where this little girl STILL HASN’T FOUND THE KEY, has aged 20 years, and is still in the body of a child. She’s gone a little insane. And gotten a little violent. And prone to binging on the fairyland equivalent of drugs and alcohol. All she wants is to find the key and go home! And fairyland has gotten quite sick of her too.

This is so good. Possibly my favourite graphic novel ever of all time. I really hope the second one lives up to the first, but I have a feeling it will. A lovely friend of mine offered to get it for me for christmas, to which I said ABSOLUTELY NOT because I need to read it on the day it comes out, and I can’t wait an extra 10 days for christmas!

So those are all the new releases I have on my list to keep track of, are you excited for any of these? Any others I should add to my list?






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Books like… The Selection by Kiera Cass


Welcome to a new series! So many times, after reading a book I love, I’ll go on to furiously search online for similar books which I’ll (hopefully!) also love, so in this ‘Books like…’ series, I’ll be taking a popular book and giving you some suggestions on books you might also enjoy. First up in the series: The Selection by Kiera Cass.

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

Beauty Queens is a sort of dystopic satire – it’s set in an exaggerated version of our world, ruled by the corporation, who encourage endless shopping! It’s a fantastic, hilarious book that’s great in its own right, but I’d really recommend it if you enjoyed The Selection. Beauty Queens follows a group of girls who are all set to compete in a pageant together, but while they’re flying to their destination, the plane crashes and they end up stranded on a desert island.

For the first little while, most of the girls assume they’re going to get rescued and taken straight to the pageant, so they take the time to practice their talents, go over interview questions, and work on their tans. As time goes on, they realise that treating each other as competitors isn’t going to work out so well if they want to survive.

This book has a great ‘girls in competition‘ theme that The Selection has, which is so fun to read about. It also has a great, diverse range of characters, which is something I loved about The Selection. In that book, all the girls come from very different backgrounds, whether that’s their caste, their family, or their nationality/ethnicity, and this book is the same. You really get to know each girl, which is something I really enjoyed in The Selection. The other great thing this book shares with The Selection is the great female friendships that develop! Oh, Marlee…

The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead

This book was released recently and was often compared to The Selection, and suggested for people that loved that series. I think the comparisons between the stories aren’t as strong as they were made out to be over the release, but it definitely has some Selectioney vibes! The main similarity is the fact that all of these girls are living together in a grand house, and are taught things like upper class etiquette and style, which we get a lot of the in Selection. The reason I’d say the similarities were overplayed is that this isn’t the whole book, it’s just a part of it. Don’t let that stop you from reading it, I just was prepared for that to be the whole book so was surprised when there was so much more to it than that!

This has similar upper class/royalty vibes, with plenty of descriptions of outfits and dresses which sounds superficial but who cares I love it. It also has similar themes of female friendship and rivalry. The main friendships continue to develop throughout the book which I like, but the rivalry isn’t expanded upon too much and I hope we learn more about that character in the rest of the series! There are some really great scenes between the main character and her rival though – lines that make me want to shout ‘you go girl!’ and other things which I am far too white and British to be saying.

The setting has similar vibes too, as it’s set in a semi-fantasy world in that it’s a nonspecific historical time in terms of their technology and it has parallels to our own world. There’s also a fair amount of politics about different religions and ties with different countries, so if you like that political aspect of The Selection you’ll enjoy that!

The Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutkoski

Now, the plot of The Winner’s Curse is pretty different to the plot of The Selection, I’ll say that straight away. But the reason this is on my list is, again, because the setting gives me similar vibes. It’s set again in a nonspecific historical time that feels sort of medieval. Now I know The Selection had TVs, but there weren’t things like phones and the internet, and the whole royalty thing really gave it a historical feel, so I get the same kind of vibes from The Winner’s Curse. (Note to self: look up synonym for ‘vibes’ – or just think of a better way to express yourself.)

This series also has an upper class/royalty things going on, as our main character is the daughter of a general and lives on a large estate with plenty of servants. Well, slaves, actually, as the book is set ten years after the main character’s people have taken over Herran and enslaved its people. So this book also has plenty of politics if you enjoyed that part of The Selection, as there are obviously huge strains between the countries, and there’s plenty of strategy and tactical thinking in this one too if you’re ready for the next step up!

The Siren – Kiera Cass

If none of these are jumping out at you and you just want more of Kiera Cass’ writing – she does have another book! I’d preface this with a little note to bear in mind, which is that The Siren was originally self published, and was written before The Selection, and I do feel the writing is just not as good. It’s still an enjoyable story, but I don’t think it’s quite at the same level as The Selection series.

This is a pretty different story – it follows a girl who is chosen by the sea to become a siren, essentially working for the sea. She lives her life with the few other sirens, and that’s where I feel this book is similar to The Selection, as it has great female relationships and writes women really well. Each of the girls have their own strong, unique personalities, but they all accept each other and get along. They go through ups and downs together, each coping with their odd and difficult life in their own ways, and I really feel that the female characters are the strongest part of the book. Well worth checking out if you enjoyed that aspect of The Selection.

So – do you think you’ll be checking out any of these books? Do you have any of your own to recommend? Please let me know!



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Out of the Easy – Ruta Sepetys | Book Review



Title: Out of the Easy

Author: Ruta Sepetys

Genre: Historical, young adult

Publisher: Philomel Books (Penguin Random House)

Pushlishing Date: 2013

My rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆⋆

Well, she’s done it again. And by that, I mean, she’s done it before. Because she wrote this before she wrote Salt to the Sea. But I read that before I read this book.

Shall we start again?

This book is set in 1950s New Orleans, and follows the daughter of a prostitute. Yep, that’s all I need to pick up a book! The main character, Josie, lives above the bookshop she works in, and spends her mornings cleaning up the local brother where her mother works, reporting any found items to the madam, Willie. Josie longs to get away from this town where everyone knows her as the daughter of a prostitute, and make something of herself. She is inspired to apply for college in another state after a chat with a gentleman in her bookshop – who, the next morning, is found dead.

The story really kicks off from there, as Josie has a renewed determination to get out, while trying to find out what happened to this man, meeting interesting new people, and juggling her two jobs, her college application, and a trying relationship with her awful mother.

The first thing to say about this book is that it has such amazing characters. There are so many, but they’re easy to keep track of, and they all have such vivid, distinct personalities. Willie has got to be my favourite, she’s one of the best characters I’ve read all year. Ruta Sepetys manages to create so many believable and fully developed characters that are all so fun to read about. Her mother is a great character too – such a piece of work. She’s one you’ll love to hate. Josie herself was a great female lead – independent, intelligent, super hardworking, determined, and so likable.

The setting of 1950s New Orleans was set so well, the book gave a real sense of what it was like to live there. Everyone knows everyone else’s business, and it seems like Josie can’t turn a corner without bumping into someone or other. The ties between people give it a real small-town feel, but the description of the bustling streets show that it’s growing fast.

So, characters? Yep. Setting? Yep. Plot? Loved it! What made this plot so great for me was that it was so unpredictable. There were times where I thought I knew what was going to happen next, but I never managed to get it right. Most of the time I had no clue where it was going, and I loved that. There’s a really nice edge of mystery to this story as she tries to figure out how this man ended up dead, but it by no means takes over the story. The story is more like a lot of different sub-plots, all of which Josie manages to be involved in. It’s never confusing, but there’s always something going on which meant I devoured this book.

Through the entire book, I had literally one negative thing to say about it- and it’s really nit picky. There’s a prologue, involving seven year old Josie, which ends with ‘that was ten years ago.’ I felt it was a little sloppy, as the next chapter could easily have just said ‘ten years later.’ Having a fist person narrator say ‘that was ten years ago’ makes it sound as if they are directly addressing the reader and telling them a story, which is not the overall narrative style of the book. But you know what? It bugged me for a couple of pages, and then I completely got over it and fell in love with the book.

Amazing, five stars.

Did I mention that she LIVES AND WORKS IN a bookshop?


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Trope-Busting YA Novels



Young Adult books get a bad rep. Some of that might be for good reason (I can think of plenty of crappy YA books off the top of my head) but those books somehow seem to represent the whole of YA as a genre (if it even is a genre) and that sucks. There are plenty of great YA books out there, and those should be the ones that represent YA. After all, those great books are the reason I keep reading YA!

One of the biggest things people cite when bashing YA is the use of tropes. The whole, ‘I’m a clumsy white brunette who’s not like other girls, and I’m the ONLY ONE who can save the day in this dystopia I’m living in, and along the way I meet this bad boy who I instantly love and can’t live without, but uh-oh what about this typical nice guy who I’ve been friends with for years – I wonder what my black/asian/gay best friend has to say about all this? Also it’ll take three books to tell you about all this, except the second book will be super boring because this story doesn’t really need to be told over three books.’

So I thought I’d share some of my favourite YA books that either do a trope well, put a great spin on it, or just defy them completely. Of course there are plenty more than just these, but I don’t have all day here, so please leave your recommendations in the comments – I’d love to read them!

Trope #1: ‘I’m not like other girls’

This is a horrible trope. Not only is it just something that’s annoying to read, it really gives a bad message to readers, particularly to any younger girls that are reading. This has the message that it’s bad to be like other girls, and that boys only like girls who are ‘different.’ Putting down other girls does not make the main character better, it makes her worse.

The trope-buster: The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Now, the main character here, Kestrel, isn’t perfect. But she definitely goes against this trope. She also goes against the trope of a main girl who has little to no personality, no hobbies, no interests, she’s just kind of nothing-y. Kestrel knows that she wants, and isn’t afraid to go for it. In the world of The Winner’s Curse, anyone (male or female, which I love) has two choices when they reach 20: join the military, or have children. Kestrel has spend her life being trained up, as she’s the daughter of a general, but she knows that it just isn’t for her. She’s good at strategy, she likes to use her mind – she doesn’t like fighting and she isn’t great at it. She also loves playing the piano, even though it’s frowned upon as it’s something only the slaves should do, but she does it anyway. Kestrel manages to have a rounded out character of her own, without having to compare herself to others to validate it.

Trope #2: The tokenistic diverse character

This is a bit of a tough one to discuss, because the line between a good diverse character and a tokenistic one is a little blurred. And, generally, as a white, cis female, I find it difficult to put in my opinions on this. However, it’s hard to get wrong when it’s seen a lot. For example, a trope that seems to go around a lot of having a diverse best friend, while the main character is cis, white, and straight (like the Indian best friend in the Vivian versus series, or the gay, black friend in Mara Dyer). I suppose the way to bust this trope is to have a diverse main character, or, if the main character is cis and white, to have more than just one diverse secondary character, and to develop them.

The trope-buster: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

This one is busting tropes all over the place. The basic premise of this story is that a group of girls competing a beauty pageant crash on a desert island. This has characters of different ethnicities, sexualities, religions, even that struggle differently with gender. The way the narrative goes in this story, each of the girls get a perspective at some point, which means each character is developed really well. The backstories and effects of being a minority in a mostly white/cis/straight society are addressed and dealt with really well, so this one definitely doesn’t use tokenistic diversity.

Trope #3: The Love Triangle

Does this one even need an explanation? It’s gotta be one of the biggest tropes out there. A girl is in love with two guys and readers get strung along while she agonises over which one of these eternally devoted boys to pick – neither of whom seem to mind that she has feelings for them and for someone else. This always bugs me and as soon as a second love interest is introduced in a book it always lowers my opinion of it – couldn’t the author think of anything else to do?

The trope-buster: Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys

This book is great for some many reasons, but it has a really nice version of a love triangle. First of all, the main character’s love life is, if anything, a sub plot. Or even a sub sub plot. There are so many bigger things going on in this book and she always makes those things a priority over any feelings for guys she might be having. Second is that it’s a really weak love triangle. There’s no huge struggle between two guys, and for most of the book it isn’t really an issue. It just seems like a realistic way to do it, because she’s a normal teenage girl who’s never had a boyfriend, who knows two very different guys and likes them both for different reasons – as friends. People around her start to talk and gossip and wonder about which guy she likes, and that’s really what makes her start to think of them as possibly being more than friends. Usually love triangles are so annoying because they’re so over the top and unrealistic, but this seems like something that a lot of girls might struggle with, as they’re getting into their first relationship and wondering what they like and don’t like in other people.

Trope #4: Second book syndrome

I don’t know if this is a trope exactly, but it comes up a lot in YA trilogies. Second book syndrome is basically where the first and third books are good, but the second one is crappy. Usually it’s because the second book feels like it’s building up to something, and that something is book three. It might have a slow plot, it might all feel like filler before you can get to the third book – a trope often associated with a second book is where two characters from the first book are now separated for some reason. I have read plenty of these. I suspect it’s because publishers love a trilogy because they make more money, so books that may only need two or even just one book to tell the story are made into trilogies.

The trope-buster: Shift by Hugh Howey

Shift is the second book in the Wool trilogy – and it’s the best one in the entire trilogy. Take that, second book syndrome. I feel like this is even more impressive because this trilogy was originally self-published, before publishers discovered the brilliance that is Hugh Howey and jumped on the series. This second book is actually a prequel to the first book, which already makes it stand out from most trilogies. However, just because it’s a prequel doesn’t mean it’s going to be great. It could be full of dull backstory that an author wrote to fill up another book. THIS IS NOT THAT. This second book has so many twists and turns, it makes you think completely differently about the first book, and leaves you gagging for the third book now you have all of the twisty knowledge. The number of times my jaw dropped reading this. All three books in this series are great, that’s why it’s my favourite series ever, but the second one is the best. And you can’t say that about many sequels.

Trope #5: Instalove

Instalove. Isn’t that word an oxymoron? Surely it’s impossible to fall in actual real genuine love in an instant. Sure, they might think they’re in love. I met my current boyfriend when we were 13 and I was convinced I loved him straight away. We’ve now been together eight years and let me tell you, 13 year old me knew nothing about love. Just because we stayed together doesn’t mean that I felt real love. It meant I felt normal teenage feelings that grew into love. (Aww.) I feel like having instalove in a book is a sign of a not great author. I use the term ‘not great’ because they may be great in most other ways, but including instalove always bring them down a peg for me. Instalove is not realistic, it’s not authentic, even in magical fantasy worlds, it is just silly. Why an author would write something so far from the real world I don’t understand.

The trope-buster: The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

I’m gonna be vague here, because this book is a mystery. I mean it’s in the mystery genre. I think? A bunch of kids that went missing years ago come back with no memories, and they try and figure out what’s going on. I love this book, excuse my crappy synopsis there. So right from the beginning of the book, two of these kids feel drawn to each other. They feel like they have a connection, they think they must have been in a relationship before they lost their memories, and they feel this pull towards each other. Now, when I was reading this, my eyes were rolling up the skies. I just thought the author had used the amnesia thing as a way to excuse the instalove and sloppy character/relationship development. But I spoke to soon. The characters start to feel obligated to be together, but they’re not really feeling it. I really love this spin on the instalove trope because it’s basically in reverse – the love is there already and they kind of back away from it. And then other stuff happens. No spoilers here!

I’m looking at the word count for this blog post and I figure now’s a good time to stop. As a side note, I highly recommend every single one of these books, they are all fantastic and some of my favourites! Let me know if you can think of any other trope-busting books – or leave your most hated tropes in the comments and I’ll try and find books that bust them!




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Book Review: Asking For It – Kate Harding

Title: Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture – and What We Can Do About It

Author: Kate Harding

Genre: Non-fiction, feminist

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Pushlishing Date: 2015

My rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Asking For It is an incredibly in-depth look at what ‘rape culture‘ is, how it is perpetuated, and the consequences of it. The book is split into three main sections: the first goes into depth about what rape is, clearing up any ideas about ‘grey areas’ that readers might have, and looks at the many myths surrounding incidents of rape. It also looks at the issues with stigma, backlash, blame, and discusses how the general population seems to view rape.

The second section goes into detail about rape and the law, from research carried out with police officers (for example, the study on 11 police and sheriff’s departments in the USA which found that 22.7% of the officers agreed with the statement: ‘any victim can resist a rapist if he or she really wants to’), to discussing the laws surrounding rape, and how rape cases are dealt with at trial – if they ever get there. The final section explores the more ‘pop culture’ or everyday side of rape culture and how it affects our everyday lives, and discusses subjects like online gaming, trolling, and examples of backlash when celebrities have been accused of sexual assault.

This book is essentially about two things: the issues surrounding masculinity as an identity and as a goal (which encourages violence and dominance, often sexually), and the issues within our culture and within our legal system that mean that most rapes go unreported or unpunished.

Now, after that extremely serious synopsis, the first thing I want to point out is the writing style: it’s fantastic. Kate Harding has such a strong and relatable voice which comes through clearly in her writing, so it feels like we’re being informed of all this by a friend. She manages to keep the tone light with sarcastic jokes (because, unfortunately, some people are so horrendous all you can do is laugh at their stupidity)(Note: I don’t mean I’m laughing at rapists, I mean I’m laughing at the guy who said that if a woman gets pregnant by her rapist then it wasn’t a real rape, as women have ways of ‘shutting that whole thing down.’ You can’t help but laugh at that ridiculous stupidity.) Yet, of course, the tone is always appropriate and doesn’t make light of anything that shouldn’t be.

Another thing I love about this book is its heavy usage of facts and statistics from actual, scientific research. Much feminist literature is purely anecdotal, and, while I love a lot of those books as they are good in their own way, I feel like the persistent and frequent use of real numbers in this book really hammered home the point. Don’t let that fact scare you off, they’re explained in completely simple and understandable ways, this book never felt like a chore to read.

The author shares her own rape story right at the end, which I think was a great choice and I applaud her for it. I feel like waiting until the end to share her story meant that I could put everything I’d just learned into practice – in a sense. When she described feelings of guilt, I knew why. When she described how others reacted, I knew why. When she described why she didn’t report, I knew why. It kind of showed me just how informed this book had made me.

The reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is because of the editing, not at all because of the content. Sometimes the writing felt a little sloppy, with long sentences and multiple clauses which sometimes made it difficult to understand. It’s not too much of a major thing, and I certainly wouldn’t want that to put anyone off reading it as mostly it was fine, but I do feel like it should have been better edited.

Ultimately, the problem with a book like this is that everyone needs to read it – but not many people will. For me personally, I feel so much better informed of this issue, everything that goes into creating this issue, and the consequences of it. The book is more than just about rape, it’s also about masculinity and femininity and how that’s presented to us by our culture, which I feel is relevant for a general understanding of feminism. If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge of feminism and of rape culture I would definitely pick this up. Even if you feel like you’re a little lacking in knowledge, this book works for total beginners even if you’ve never read a feminist text before.

This book took an extremely difficult and important topic and managed to expertly inform of the facts from so many different angles, while keeping the entire book easy to read and – well, as enjoyable as a book on rape culture can be.






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