November 2019 Wrap Up

This month has been fairly quiet so I’ve managed to get a decent amount of reading and writing done, and also wrote several blog posts for this month too. I’ve made a start on Christmas shopping but still have quite a few things left to buy. It’s my choir’s winter concert next weekend so I should probably do some more practicing this weekend!

Reading

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was a little disappointing. I didn’t love it and I just think it wasn’t the right book for me. I finally got round to reading Defy the Worlds, the sequel to Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars, which I absolutely loved. Although I didn’t like it quite as much, the sequel is still thrilling and a great read! I requested one eARC from Netgalley – A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr. The world building is great, but other aspects weren’t so strong, and I ended up being disappointed by this one too.

Book Haul

This month I only bought one book and it’s due to arrive in the post today! When I was looking at Black Friday deals on Amazon I discovered the 10th Anniversary edition of City of Bones by Cassandra Clare at half price so made an impulse purchase. I love Cassandra Clare’s books and City of Bones will always be special as the first of her books that I read.

Writing

I only have a few chapters left to write in my current WIP and I’m hoping to finish it by the end of the year! I’ve been a bit stuck on another novel that I’ve been redrafting for the last couple of years. Something about it just wasn’t gelling, but I randomly had a massive idea last night that would radically change it, but might just make it work. It’s a story I love so I would really like to try and get it published one day once everything clicks into place. It’s nearly there, it just needs something.  

I can’t believe there’s only one month to go in 2019. This year seems to have gone really fast.  

Book Review: A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr (eARC)

A Throne of Swans by Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: eARC from Bonnier Zaffre  

Pages: 352

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

In a world where the flightless are ruled by those who can fly…

When her father dies just before her birthday, seventeen-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion in a kingdom where nobles are able to transform at will into the bird that represents their family bloodline. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan. But she has not transformed for years, not since witnessing the death of her mother – ripped apart by hawks that have supposedly been extinct since the long-ago War of the Raptors. 

With the benevolent shelter of her mother and her father now lost, Aderyn is at the mercy of her brutal uncle, the King, and his royal court. Driven by revenge and love, she must venture into the malevolent heart of the Citadel in order to seek the truth about the attack that so nearly destroyed her, to fight for the only home she has ever known and for the land she has vowed to protect.

Written in rich detail and evocative language, this is the start of an irresistible, soaring duology about courage, broken loyalties and fighting for your place in the world.

Thank you so much to Bonnier Zaffre and NetGalley for the eARC of this book.

The concept for this book’s world is what first caught my attention. Also, the cover is striking and the title, A Throne of Swans, is clearly similar to A Game of Thrones. In this book’s world, shape-shifters are the rulers and the flightless, those who cannot transform into birds, are inferior. This is the strongest aspect of A Throne of Swans. This societal structure is well thought out and depicted, including integration into the characters’ language and interactions.

Aderyn is a likeable but uninteresting protagonist. She has a strong character arc, as she seeks to overcome her own fears and regain her ability to fly. However compared to most of the other characters she seems entirely honourable and above reproach. Lucien criticises some of her actions, as she thinks before she acts at times, and is unversed in court manners. But I felt her character lacked depth. Other characters were quite one-dimensional, and the antagonists weren’t intimidating and lacked motivation beyond a need for power. Any reasons for their actions are left a mystery, making them into almost caricature power-hungry villains plotting to take the throne. One antagonist in particular features substantially in the book, having multiple conversations with Aderyn, and giving the authors ample opportunity to provide insight into that characters motivations. But sadly that wasn’t explored at all, missing an opportunity to add more depth. 

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Writing Corner: Is My Book YA?

For today’s Writing Corner, I’m going to talk about categorising your novel by age. I see a lot of people on Twitter and forums who aren’t sure where their novel fits, or how much it matters. If you want to be published, it does matter, because that is how the publishing industry categorises fiction, but don’t get too hung up on it.

Middle grade (MG)

MG is generally written for, and features characters, aged from around 8 to 13 years old. These books are usually shorter than young adult books, and don’t have as much romance or violence. They often (but not always) have fun adventures and although they can touch on more serious subject matter, don’t explore it in as much detail as young adult books.

Young adult (YA)

YA is aimed roughly at those aged 13-18, with characters in that same age range, though characters are most commonly 15-18 years old. YA explores more serious subject matter than MG, including more mature content, with romance playing a much bigger role. YA also has more self-reflection and focuses more on the personal evolution of a central character. These novels are often coming of age, looking at the ups and downs of being a teenager. They can explore relationships, sex, mental illness, death etc. far more than MG. As well as this, they can often present more of a reflection on our society and current issues, and explore the characters finding their place in the world.

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Book Review: Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Defy the Worlds by Claudia Gray

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction           

Publishing Info: March 2018 by Hot Key Books

Pages: 394

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Noemi Vidal has returned to her planet, Genesis, as an outsider – ostracised for refusing to end the Liberty War by sacrificing Abel, the most advanced mechanical man ever made. She dreams of travelling through the stars again, and when a deadly plague arrives on Genesis, Noemi gets her chance. The only soldier to have ever left her planet, it will be up to her to save its people. If only she wasn’t flying right into a trap.

Abel, now fully aware of his soul and captaining his own Vagabond ship, never dreamed he’d see Noemi again, not when the entire universe stands between them. But when his creator Burton Mansfield delivers news of Noemi’s entrapment, Abel knows he must save her, even if it means risking his own life.

Danger lurks in the dark corners of the galaxy, and Abel and Noemi will discover a secret that could save Genesis and Earth… or destroy them all.

In this thrilling and romantic sequel to Defy the Stars, bestselling author Claudia Gray asks us all to consider what drives us, and where we truly belong.

The first book in this trilogy, Defy the Stars, was absolutely gripping and thrilling to read. I liked that it also explored complex issues and topics such as what it means to be human. Defy the Worlds continues to do that. While it was a little slow at the start, the stakes are quickly ramped up. Claudia Gray is great at getting her characters in difficult situations and forcing them to think of ways to get out of them.

I love Noemi and Abel as characters, and their relationship with each other. Noemi is so headstrong and determined to defend her planet. Meanwhile Abel, as a mech, is still trying to work out his human side in many ways. They have a few differences in opinion, but there actually isn’t much character development for either of them in this book. In Defy the Stars, Noemi has to overcome her preconceived notions of mechs, and Abel has to fight an internal battle against Directive One (his programming). There seemed to be a lot more character development in the first book. However, saying that, the events of this book seem to lend themselves to greater character development in the final installment.

I like how this series questions what it means to be human. Despite how Noemi has come to see Abel as having a ‘soul’ despite being a mech, some other humans still treat him differently and as lesser. This is a really interesting concept to see played out. Even as the books progress, Abel’s own understanding of what and who he is changes as he learns more about his unique life state through his experiences. The book also explores elitism, poverty and biological warfare, so there is some pretty deep subject matter amongst the action.

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Book Discussion: The Rise of the Exclusive Edition

Has anyone noticed that exclusive editions, particularly in YA, have suddenly become a massive thing? I’m not even sure when exactly this happened. It seems to have grown slowly. Book subscription boxes have exclusive editions, usually signed, but also with alternative covers, sprayed edges or different end pages. Bookshops like Waterstones also sell exclusive editions. They are very enticing. The book industry seems to have caught on to the fact that people not only like books, they like pretty books, and I guess they also like the idea of having something that’s exclusive or limited edition.

I have only two of these editions. The first is the Illumicrate edition of Once and Future. I haven’t read it yet, when I bought it I didn’t know for sure if I would like it, but it was high up on my TBR list and it was so beautiful I couldn’t help but fork my money out for it. I also bought the Fairyloot October box which included The Beautiful by Reneé Ahdieh with sprayed edges and artwork on the dust jacket. I doubt they will be the last I am tempted into buying.  

One thing I’m not usually persuaded to buy is Collector’s Editions. I never buy more than one copy of a book. I know others do but it’s just not something I usually do. I often go into bookshops and pick up collector’s editions of my favourite books that have bonus content, but there never seems to be enough new content to persuade me I need another copy. There’s something special about the copy of the book I first read, that makes that edition the special one to me. Plus there are so many different editions of books that it could get expensive getting all those fancy hardbacks! I’m sure I’ll cave though and buy a collector’s edition at some point! I am tempted to get the Throne of Glass collector’s edition as I only have it as an ebook.  

To return to exclusive editions of new books, I see photos of them flying around Twitter and Instagram and am sucked in. They have definitely caught onto something with this. I’m not complaining. I like the idea of having something special. But it makes me so tempted to buy more books when I already have so many unread on my shelves! Also if there are so many exclusive and special editions out there, are they that limited or special anymore?  

What do you think about special/exclusive/limited/collector’s editions? Do you love collecting copies of your favourite books, or are you not all that bothered by special editions?

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2013 by Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 481

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Cath is a Simon Snow fan. Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan.

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving. Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this? Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

I feel kind of mean giving this book 2 stars. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t good. It started out well and had me engaged at the beginning, but I just didn’t enjoy it that much the further it went along. It just ended up being kind of, well, boring.

To begin with, I was excited to read a book set in college rather than high school. It made a refreshing change to read about characters embarking on a different part of their educational and life journey. Although I can’t imagine sharing a dorm with someone. We don’t really have shared rooms in accommodation much in the UK. I liked having my own private space to retreat to – it would have been weird to have a roommate! Reagan – Cath’s roommate – was a great character and really different to Cath. At first they don’t really get along and mostly ignore each other, but eventually they become friends in a way that seemed genuine and not forced by the author.

One thing positive I do have to say is that I really related to Cath. She’s anxious about being in a new environment she isn’t familiar with, and Rainbow Rowell managed to describe those feelings really well. I liked how Cath and Wren’s relationship evolves over the course of the book. As twins, they’ve done everything together. Then suddenly Wren wants more independence, but Cath is so used to having Wren around, she feels lost without her. There are lots of ups and downs in their friendship over the course of the book.

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Fairyloot October 2019 Unboxing

This is my first unboxing post as I finally decided to order a subscription box, having been eyeing them up for ages! There are various book subscription boxes you can get, which usually include a book and a selection of goodies. Plus, it’s a surprise, as you don’t know what the book or items will be.

Fairyloot is a UK-based YA fantasy subscription box. If you subscribe, you get a box a month which includes a hardback book and 5-6 exclusive goodies around a theme. You can subscribe monthly, or there are 3 month and 6 month pre-paid options. The monthly cost is £26. Or you can get a single purchase and just buy a one-off box, which is what I decided to do. It’s pretty expensive to get monthly, so I just decided I would by a box occasionally as a single purchase when a theme catches my eye.

Be warned there will be spoilers for the contents of the October box in this post!

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