Month: August 2015

MOST ANTICIPATED: TBR September 2015

There’s tons of exciting new books coming out this September, it’s difficult to choose what to read first! Here’s a selection of my most anticipated.

  1. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas (1st September)

The adventures of Celaena Sardothien continue in the fourth installment in the Throne of Glass series. I’ve only read the first novel so far (review here), but I can’t wait to get stuck into the second and third books (which are apparently even better!).

Synopsis: Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

Celaena’s epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena’s story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

2. Asking For It by Louise O’Neill (3rd September)

This stand-alone novel has some amazing pre-release reviews and is sure to be a great read, after O’Neill’s debut Only Ever Yours (review here).

Synopsis: It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes…

3. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (29 September)

With a pre-release score of 4.34 and some very excited reviewers, this new series from the author of The Grisha series is set to be a sure-fire hit.

Synopsis: Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

4. Menagerie by Rachel Vincent (29th September)

As a huge fan of Rachel Vincent’s Werecats series, I always look forward to her new releases, even if I don’t always read them. Menagerie is looking to be a must-read for me.

Synopsis: When Delilah Marlow visits a famous traveling carnival, Metzger’s Menagerie, she is an ordinary woman in a not-quite-ordinary world. But under the macabre circus black-top, she discovers a fierce, sharp-clawed creature lurking just beneath her human veneer. Captured and put on exhibition, Delilah in her black swan burlesque costume is stripped of her worldly possessions, including her own name, as she’s forced to “perform” in town after town.

But there is breathtaking beauty behind the seamy and grotesque reality of the carnival. Gallagher, her handler, is as kind as he is cryptic and strong. The other “attractions”—mermaids, minotaurs, gryphons and kelpies—are strange, yes, but they share a bond forged by the brutal realities of captivity. And as Delilah struggles for her freedom, and for her fellow menagerie, she’ll discover a strength and a purpose she never knew existed.

Renowned author Rachel Vincent weaves an intoxicating blend of carnival magic and startling humanity in this intricately woven and powerful tale. 

What are your most anticipated books? Have you read any of these forthcoming books? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x

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Book Tag| The Reader Problems Tag

Thank you to Olivia Grace at bibliomad for tagging me, and make sure you check out her answers!


1. You have 20,000 books on your TBR. How in the world do you decide what to read next?

My TBR list is actually full of books I don’t want to read right now – a lot I selected long before they were released, and now they’ve been released and the reviews – not that great. I select what i’m going to read based on a range of factors. First, there’s price. So many new books are overly expensive, and I’d rather buy a cheaper book first. Then I look at GoodReads scores – I don’t tend to read anything under a score of 4, unless it’s been gifted to me. Then I look at the actual reviews. There are tons of books which have high GoodReads scores, but all the top reviews are 1-star, complaining about how terrible the book actually is. Another factor which plays into what I read next is the book’s current popularity – whether it’s being made into a film or TV show, whether it’s got a buzz in the reviewing community, whether my friends are reading it too. I think my TBR list would be narrowed down pretty quickly!

2. You’re halfway through a book and you’re just not loving it. Do you quit or are you committed?

If I really don’t like a book, I probably don’t make it halfway. I might leave it for a few months before picking it up again, but I really do like finishing every book I start.

3. The end of the year is coming and you’re so close but so far away on your Goodreads challenge. Do you try to catch up and how?

At the end of the day, it’s an arbitrary measure – if I have work to do, reading has to come second. I may choose to read some shorter books to catch up, but it’s really not that important.

4. The covers of a series you love do. not. match. How do you cope?

Ok, so this is a problem that has afflicted nearly all of my favourite series. There’s been series that started with the US editions, then changed to the UK ones. There’s series where they’ve scrapped the UK covers for the last book so they match the US editions. There’s books I’ve preordered in a matching cover, then the cover changes at the last minute, and there series doesn’t match anymore. It is so annoying to have a near full set of one style of cover, then the last book is completely different.

5. Everyone and their mother loves a book you really don’t like. Who do you bond with over shared feelings?

There are always negative reviews on GoodReads – and there’s always a review out there which I agree with. Sometimes a book has so much hype upon release,  but a few months later the reviews really are different.

6. You’re reading a book and you’re about to start crying in public. How do you deal?

Stop reading. Read something else for the time being.

7. A sequel of a book you loved just came out, but you’ve forgotten a lot from the prior novel. Will you reread the book? Skip the sequel? Try to find a synopsis on Goodreads?

If a sequel is well written, it’ll cleverly recap the events of a prior novel (J.K. Rowling does this expertly). I don’t tend to reread books, but I would read a good synopsis on the internet before diving in.

8. You do not want anyone, ANYONE, borrowing your books. How do you politely tell people no when they ask?

My friends don’t tend to read the same books that I do, so that’s not usually a problem. Saying they’re on kindle is also a great way of getting out of lending books.

9. You’ve picked up and put down 5 books in the last month. How do you get over your reading slump?

Easy – pick a short but sweet read, something that’s got brilliant reviews and is guaranteed to be good.

10. There are so many new books coming out that you’re dying to read. How many do you actually buy?

It really depends on the book. If it’s something I’m absolutely dying to read, I might buy it. Otherwise, I’d let the hype die down a bit, read some honest reviews and wait for the price to drop.

11. After you’ve bought the new books you can’t wait to get to, how long do they sit on your shelf before you get to them?

I might get stuck in if they’re something I really want to read, but I also have a huge backlog of books that I bought during finals, so it might take up to a year to actually get read. I also have a TBR shelf from a couple of years ago – books I started to read but just couldn’t get into, so it could literally be never (but that’s unlikely).


I tag…

Nichola (Always Rambling & Reading)

Mara (Across The Books)

Macy (Macy loves Stories)

and YOU! If you fancy participating, please do – just tag me in the post 🙂

Annalise x

Book Series I Didn’t Finish: Vampires

Young Adult Fiction is often plagued by two things: the ‘Genre of the Day’ (think vampires, then werewolves, then dystopia, sick lit, and the like), and the Never-Ending Series.

Genre of the Day goes a bit like this: one book sells brilliantly which happens to have an interesting selling point. For Twilight, it was vampires. Then, over the next few years, it seems like every book released also has this interesting selling point. Some books are brilliant, and give a new dimension to the mythology or lore, and are a real contribution to the genre. Others are little more than copies, with different names but the same basic plot. Then, another bestseller comes along, and the Genre of the Day changes to a new genre, and suddenly all the bestsellers are about werewolves, mermaids, zombies, ghosts, etc.

The Never-Ending Series is an affliction like no other. It usually starts with a pretty good book with pretty good characters, and then a few more good books. By the time you hit the sixth or seventh book, so much character development has happened that the series is unrecognisable – the characters have changed, half the cast have been killed off, and their motives are very different. Suddenly, the story and characters that made you fall in love with a series is gone, and you’re left with book after book after book, released mere months after the other, as beloved author starts milking this cow for all it’s worth.

The Sookie Stackhouse Series by Charlaine Harris

I first got into the Sookie Stackhouse novels when 8 had been released. I read five in one week. They’re really easy to read, with about a billion love interests, and I couldn’t wait for the next one to come out. But then, the last few weren’t so good, and they were expensive – about £10 a pop for hardback. I waited a year to read the 11th novel, just so it’d be cheaper on paperback. I didn’t bother reading the 12th or 13th (the finale) because I read the reviews first – and they weren’t good. The TV adaptation went the same way – a stellar first season, but by the fifth, I’d stopped watching.

The House of Night Series by P.C. and Kristin Cast

When I first read HoN, about five books were out in the US, and they were slowly being release here in the UK. The first three books were brilliant, and the few after that were good too, although the plot was getting a little strange, and it just wasn’t progressing. This was a series that was dragged out way too long, and I know I wasn’t the only one who stopped reading after  the 6th book. There’s 12 books in this series – if you look at the reviews for the final book, they’re all celebrating that this series is finally over. This is definitely a case of a book series being stretched too far.

The Vampire Diaries by L J Smith

The first Vampire Diaries trilogy was published in 1991. They’re fairly short novels, and so they were repackaged as two books  – the first book contains the first two stories, the second contains the conclusion to the trilogy, and the sequel (The Reunion). The trilogy is written from the perspectives of the series’ main love interests, Elena Gilbert and Stefan Salvatore, with the sequel written from the perspective of Elena’s best friend, Bonnie. They’re honestly not that great, but they are the source material for the CW series The Vampire Diaries, which has become one of my favourite shows, and which first premiered in 2009. To say it’s been popular would be an understatement, and so LJ Smith decided to write more books, to capitalise on the newfound interest in the characters.

First came The Return Trilogy. I read the first book, then stopped. Then, there was The Hunters trilogy, which was ghostwritten, and another ghostwritten trilogy, The Salvation. After the Return trilogy, Smith was fired from writing the Vampire Diaries books, and so she wrote her own sequel trilogy, Evensong, which is available on Amazon Kindle. There’s also six books based on Stefan’s Diaries, and three books so far based on the spin-off TV series, The Originals. That’s 25 books in total, all stemming from a trilogy which honestly, wasn’t all that great.

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Here’s one I didn’t give up on. I bought my copy of Vampire Academy before it was even released in the UK. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t plan on reading any more. But then the books were cheap and I ended up buying a few more (this is a very strange method of buying books that I wouldn’t necessarily recommend). I read the second book, and actually liked it a lot more than the first. By the time I hit the fourth book, I knew I had to finish the series, and so I waited impatiently for the sixth book. That was five years ago. Then Richelle Mead published a sister series, Bloodlines, which I have been reading, but haven’t quite got around to finishing (I’m on book 4, and they’re just not quite as good as the originals).

Quite often, the first book of a series isn’t an accurate reflection of the series as a whole. Sometimes that means that the first book is brilliant, and the following books just don’t quite live up to it. Other times, the first book isn’t too great, but the other books capitalise on the established world, and suddenly the plot livens up and the characters become a lot more interesting.

So what’s the moral of the story? When your fans want more (and you want to write more), sometimes just carrying on the current series isn’t the key. Expanding the universe, and focusing on other characters, can work, if done well. Sometimes, you just have to end a series on a high, and move onto something new. If it’s good, your fans will follow you.

Have you given up on a series? Or have you finished a series only to find you wish you hadn’t? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x

Review: On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought this book during YALC after a weekend of enthusiastic recommendations. The format of the book itself is a little strange – the first part documents how Stephen King became a writer, but it’s not quite an autobiography – it flits from scene to scene, year to year, only stopping to comment on a particularly important event. The second part of the book is a collection of tips for the aspiring writer. The third part of the book returns to autobiography, this time concerning the events that occurred during the writing of this book – that is, the car accident King was involved in in 1999.

I haven’t read any Stephen King before, but his work has become part of popular culture – his novels are incredibly popular, and have also been turned into some of the best films of our time – Carrie, The Shawshank Redemption andThe Shining to name a few. My knowledge of King’s works mostly comes from an episode of Family Guy – Three Kings, Season 7, episode 15 – which parodies three of King’s stories – Stand by Me, Misery and The Shawshank Redemption.

King regularly refers to his own works – surprise, surprise – throughout the book, so an acquaintance with his novels wouldn’t go amiss before diving into this book – but don’t despair. This is an inspiring and amusing book even without knowing his books in any detail.

King also uses the book to address the questions he most frequently gets asked at signings and book tours – and there’s a handy reading list at the back of King’s favourite novels, including one dedicated to the 21st century.

This is not a stiff non-fiction ‘How to write’ book, more of a gentle conversation with King himself as he gives advice and recalls tales of yesteryear.

A lot of the advice given here by King has been reiterated by authors again and again – I recognised a lot of the tips as ones authors themselves gave during YALC. I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that it’s good advice – and i’m almost certain i’ll be using it whilst writing my own stuff.

This is a book I’d certainly recommend for the aspiring writer, and/or fans of Stephen King. It’s clever, concise, and interesting, and a must-read for anyone thinking of writing their own fiction.

View all my reviews

The Inside Out Book Tag

inside-out

Thank you so much to Macy for tagging me in the Inside Out Book Tag!

A book that brings you joy

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

This is a sweet love story, but it’s also made me very optimistic for the future of YA – it’s not another rehash of Twilight, it has wonderfully written realistic characters, and its popularity is a testament that realistic books can do well in the market today.

A book that makes you angry

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

This one was difficult purely because I usually wouldn’t read a book that I knew I wouldn’t like. I read Hush, Hush years ago (probably about 2010). Everyone raved about. I didn’t think it was terrible. What I did think is that it was a complete Twilight rip-off. There were so many similar scenes and characters, and I was disappointed that a book would earn so much praise when it was so similar to other books on the market.

A book that makes you sad

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

So I must be one of the only people who didn’t cry during The Book Thief, but I think this book is pretty deserving of the sad book title – an absolutely beautiful original novel that should be the top of everyone’s TBR lists!

A book that disgusts you

Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book. I tried. I really tried. But I couldn’t get into it. I have seen the film though (yes, I’ve become one of those people) so I know the basic plot. It’s really cliché but I don’t read that many books which disgust me. Any book in which an unhealthy abusive relationship is idolized is undeserving of my reading time.

A book which brings you fear

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

I guess I don’t read that many scary books, but this is one that did scare me as a child (perhaps the film moreso) – it’s full of whispering murderous snakes and unpredictable deaths and paralysis. It’s also brilliant and deserving of another re-read sometimes soon – and the new covers are just beautiful.

So that’s it! Another thank you to Macy for tagging me, and although it’s been difficult, I think that just means I need to expand my book horizons and read more disgusting, scary literature!

Annalise x

Tags:

Nichola (Always Rambling & Reading)

Disha (Franklenstein)

Chanice (Inside The Mind of a Bibliophile)

Always Opinionated Girl

Olivia (bibliomad)

And whoever else wants to participate!

Review: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Handmaid's Tale
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought The Handmaid’s Tale months ago, and promptly left it unread for months before picking it up on the train home during Easter break. I then lost it. I spent a whole term wondering where i’d left it – on the train, at home, at university – before I found it underneath my bed (at home). Still, it went unread until I was compiling my reading list for my holiday, and so it finally got the love and attention it deserves, 4900ft up a mountain in the French Alps.

It was worth the wait.

Offred is a handmaid in the republic of Gilead. Her role is to go and buy groceries for the Commander’s household, and to bear his children. If she can’t bear children, she is worthless. She remembers the time before Gilead, when she had a husband, a daughter, a job, and knowledge, but that has all been taken away from her. The extreme Christian Right have taken over, and with it, Offred has lost her freedom, her name, and her family.

Apparently this book is like marmite – some people love it and some people hate it. I love it. It’s difficult to write a review about a book that you love.

First off, let me just mention that the writing style is a little different, and that initially put me off reading the book. It took a few chapters to get into the flow of the words, and into the world itself.

The novel is speculative fiction at its finest (that is, a situation that could theoretically happen on Earth in this day and age, rather than some crazy sci-fi alien war with zombies and dragons). There’s nothing in this novel which is completely unbelievable – which is what makes the story so compelling, the overall feeling that this could very well be reality.

Why should you read this book? If you, like me, love dystopian novels, or at least have read a few of the more popular ones, this is a good source of inspiration. It almost certainly has inspired and influenced some more modern dystopian novels. It’s one of the more classic dystopians, and that alone should push it onto your reading list. It’s also a great feminist novel, and really gets you thinking about the current state of society, and its treatment of women (which is more than relevant today).

After reading this novel, I think i’ll have a more informed view of today’s YA feminist literature, and i’ll be sure to add more Margaret Atwood novels to my TBR list.

View all my reviews

Review: Only Ever Yours

Only Ever Yours
Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Only Ever Yours was a book that I hadn’t heard of before I attended YALC. Then I was bombarded with praise for this book – including a full page spread in the YALC flyer – and within 48 hours I was on the tube to Foyles on Charing Cross Road to get myself a copy.

This is a debut novel which has won both the YA book prize and the Sunday Independent Newspaper Novel of the Year. It’s got to be good, right?

The novel revolves around Freida, who attends a school which trains women to go into one of three professions: companions (the perfect wife for a man of high standing), concubines, or chastities (teachers at the school). Freida, and her best friend, Isabel, are two of the most highly rated girls at the school, and surely destined for roles as companions… until Isabel distances herself during their final year and puts on weight. The novel details the last year of their schooling, including the arrival of the ten future husbands eager to choose a wife (and the destinies of these girls).

The girls have all been bred for sex, and independent thought is discouraged. They all have eating disorders. Essentially the girls in the book are all the same, with minor physical tweaks to make them differentiable. A slight problem here is that there are a lot of characters, of which only a small minority undergo any character development. The worthlessness of these girls is reinforced throughout the novel, to the point where the women aren’t even deserving of a capital letter in their name (a really poignant stylistic choice).

It’s depressing but it’s also brilliantly written and thought-provoking. This is the kind of book which you hate, but you understand why it’s been written how it’s written and the point it’s trying to make. The ending is inspired (and definitely worth the read), and even though it’s a little abrupt, it’s also perfect.

I would recommend this book, if not only because it isn’t a rehash of every other YA novel on the market. It has important things to say regarding the way society works today and the impossible beauty standards girls aspire to. It depicts realistic sex, it talks about periods and it discusses homosexuality (and its eradication in this world so that all women serve men). Those are topics which are completely relevant in YA but which hardly ever feature – and it’s important that they DO feature. The main heartbreak in the novel is one between friends, which is often way more relatable than having your heart broken by the most perfect guy/vampire/werewolf/alien on the planet.

After this brilliant debut, I can’t wait for Louise O’Neill’s second novel, Asking For It, which, refreshingly, isn’t a sequel. (Hooray for a stand-alone YA novel!)

View all my reviews

Annalise x

Review: Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass
Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Throne of Glass is a book that was heavily recommended to me, and, after YALC, I knew I had to read it. There was just so much love for this book series, evident in the enormous queues to meet the author, and the brilliant cosplays at the event.

Whilst shopping for my reading holiday on Amazon, I picked up a copy in the 3 for £10 deal, although the kindle edition is currently available for just 98p (an absolute bargain).

Throne of Glass starts with Celaena Sardothien, a deadly trained assassin who was caught and forced to slave away in the salt mines of Endovier, seemingly for the rest of her life. After a year in the mines, 18-year-old Celaena is offered a deal – she can fight in a tournament to win the chance to be the King’s Champion, but if she loses, she will return to Endovier. If she wins, she will win her freedom (after four years of service). Unsurprisingly, Celaena accepts the deal, and so enters the King’s court and competes in a series of challenges against other deadly folk, although other, mysterious things are going on…

I’d say there are four main characters in the book – Celaena (obviously), Chaol Westfall (Captain of the Guard), Dorian (the Prince, who has chosen her as Champion), and Nehemia, princess of the Eyllwe. Nehemia is one of my favourite characters – she’s a POC with a really interesting back story, and finally we have a strong friendship in a YA novel. However, the other characters succumb to a classic YA love triangle, which is a little disappointing – although I did enjoy how it was done, and it did leave me wanting to read on to find out what happens to the characters.

The basic premise of the book is a little too much Hunger Games, but where HG glossed over the love triangle sideplot, here it is very much the forefront of the book, with the whole tournament-to-the-death plot sidelined, and even skipped over. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but readers looking for a deadly badass assassin may be disheartened to find a very pretty, very talented, love interest in her place. I was disappointed to find that this assassin does no actual killing (which is an internal struggle I would love to see played out).

Another YA cliche is that Celaena loves to read. There are way more montages of her reading than there are of her training, fighting, or generally being an assassin. Yes, it’s a sure-fire way of connecting with the reader, but can we have a YA heroine for once who doesn’t have time to laze around reading classics because she’s too busy kicking ass?
I read most of this book whilst waiting for a delayed plane in an airport, and so I found this book actually quite difficult to read – I felt that if I skipped over a few words or sentences I wouldn’t really understand what was going on. For a book sold as fantasy, there is little world building (although what world is built is a solid foundation for further exploration).

Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy this book, and I do plan on reading the sequel, Crown of Midnight, in the future. I just hope that the sequels develop our main characters past their cliches, and we see A LOT more assassin behaviour.

View all my reviews

Have you read Throne of Glass? How did you find it? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks 🙂

Annalise x