fantasy

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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The Belles is a book that is completely up my street – it’s a thrilling court fantasy, with mystery and intrigue at every corner. I absolutely devoured this book – the language and writing is deliciously moreish, with vibrant descriptions unfurling the world of the Belles.

The Belles is the story of Camellia, one of six sisters who bring beauty to the fantasy kingdom of Orleans (based on New Orleans). The citizens of Orleans are born grey, and the Belles have the job of carrying out beauty treatments, changing the appearance and temperament of the citizens of Orleans at will. At the beginning of the book, the sisters are assigned a location where they will tend to the citizens – and Camellia is desperate to be favourite, assigned to the Royal family.

I raced through this book, desperate to know more about the Belles – I had (and have!) so many questions and can’t wait for the next book in the series. There are so many mysteries set up in this first book, and yet I still found the ending satisfying and unexpected.

This book wasn’t without its faults though – I’ll let other reviews talk about the treatment of queer characters in this book – and for me some of the characters were a little one-dimensional. For me, I didn’t find the flowery language too much, although other readers may find it a little grating. I must say I’m not the biggest fan of the cover design – I love the cover image and the design inside, but the back cover and title font feel a little childish to me. The blurb also contained spoilers for events that happen quite a way into the book.

If you’re looking for an exciting new court fantasy reminiscent of Red Queen or Everless, this is one for you. If you’re not, you should probably pick it up anyway.

annalsie

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Thoughts on Bookish Boxes

Dear lovely readers,

I want to talk today about Book Subscription Boxes. As I sit and write this, I have a small pile of the cardboard boxes that contain all the bookish goodies next to me – I love using the boxes themselves to store things – papers, nail varnishes, bits and bobs etc.

At the end of last year, I moved by entire TBR onto another bookshelf (and a shelf on my ‘Read’ bookshelf because my TBR is HUGE) and finally got a really good look at what I don’t tend to pick up. I don’t tend to pick up big books (too intimidating!), the first book in a series (must read the rest of the series before forgetting what happened in the first book!) and hardbacks. I find it hard to find the time to read hardbacks because I don’t like carting them around on the commute in my backpack, I can’t take them with me when I travel for work (too big!) and I find them bulky and cumbersome to read. That being said, I love to look at hardbacks – pristine and shiny, often unread.

I also noticed something else, undeniably linked – I don’t seem to read books that come in book boxes.

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So, I’m not a hardcore subscriber of book boxes. In an attempt to be somewhat careful with my money, I only buy boxes when 1. I know what book is likely to arrive, and 2. I really want to read that book. Otherwise, I can’t justify paying that much for a box, when I’m unlikely to ever read the book.

Despite this, I still don’t seem to pick up the books that arrive in a book box. Sometimes, it’s because the book gets bad reviews and my interest wanes (this happens more than you would think), and sometimes it’s just the fact that a hardback is unlikely to be my next read.

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I do often enjoy the little book-related goodies that come in book boxes – I particularly like candles (although finding a place to burn them can be difficult!), mugs, coasters, etc. I’m less interested when I don’t ‘understand’ a piece – it comes from a fandom I have no knowledge of, or concerns a character I just don’t care about.

The one thing I do want to say on bookish goodies – I am really not a fan of food. I have food allergies so I’m unlikely to be able to dig into any treats that arrive in the box – and people with more severe allergies may react to just opening the box. Bath treats and candles should steer clear of allergens too – or state them clearly.

I also don’t drink tea – I much prefer a fruit tea, but haven’t tried any of the teas I’ve received so far. I know a lot of people do love tea though (and it feels like a good book accompaniment) so this is 100% personal preference.

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So where does that leave me and book boxes?

Honestly, I’m pretty happy with my current policy of waiting to see when book boxes are announced and deciding if I really need that book. I won’t buy a box unless I know what book it is coming with, and even then, I’ve been trying to cut down on book buying anyway, so it’ll have to be a really anticipated release for me to indulge.

That being said, I think they’re definitely worth trying – I really do love many of the little goodies inside the boxes, and I love sniffing the bookish candle collection I’ve built up.

 

What are your thoughts on bookish boxes – are you an ardent subscriber, book box newbie or something in between? Let me know!

annalsie

On Book Hype

Hello lovely readers,

My book-buying ban has spectacularly failed – although I am still intending to cut down significantly. I have pre-ordered some books that are coming out in February and March which I think I will really enjoy – and some are finales to trilogies that I’d like to finish this year. It’d be rude not to buy them.

When you’re trying not to spend spend spend, the hype becomes real. Books you hadn’t even heard of last week become a must-buy. It’s FOMO, and it feels real and urgent because everyone else is reading this book NOW.

Hype can be for a number of reasons. It can accumulate because a lot of book bloggers and vloggers have received copies – they’re hauling their copies in videos and gushing about how much they want to read it – and then the reviews come in, posted on blogs and vlogs and Goodreads. The book is appearing on your newsfeed and subscription list almost constantly and a book you were ‘meh’ about is now top of your to-buy list. Everyone else is reading it, why aren’t you?

The opposite can be true – a book can be hyped because only a few select bloggers have read it, and they loved it. This was the case with Caraval, where the hype began a full calendar year before the book was released. It was hard to get your hands on a copy of Caraval, and that drove up the hype ever more. Yet when I finally got my hands on the book, I was disappointed. It was still a fun read, but it didn’t live up to the expectations in my head.

Hype around certain books can be difficult to avoid – especially when you live on Book Twitter and Booktube – but I’ve been trying (and failing) recently to wait until a book is released into the world, and reviewed by more than the select few. Sometimes sky-high Goodreads ratings come tumbling down once the book has been released – and sometimes they stay high, and you’re genuinely going to be in for a great read.

One of my goals this year is to reduce the amount of money I spend on books – I want to reduce my TBR but also increase the quality of books I’m reading. If I know I’m not going to enjoy a book, I’d rather not read it. Part of this is also not subscribing to book subscription boxes – I already pick and choose which boxes I buy, and make sure it’s a book I know I want to read. That being said, I realised at the end of last year that I really struggle to pick up books that have come out of book boxes, even though I would have picked them up if I had bought them alone.

I’d love to know your views and experiences on book hype – let me know down in the comments or tweet me at @annalisebooks.

annalsie

Review: Everless by Sara Holland

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So, I read Everless in 2017 and I never reviewed it… until now.

I really loved Everless – it’s set in a world where time is currency, and the poorer folk in this kingdom pay with their blood… literally. They go and have their blood drained and turned into coin. It’s a really interesting concept that I enjoyed a lot. (Does that sound creepy?)

Jules and her father fled from the nearby aristocratic estate (Everless) years ago, but she finds herself back there again after taking a job there to earn some money, to help her dying father. Everless is full of royalty, court drama, mystery, intrigue, secrets and magic.

When you’ve read as much YA fantasy I have, it’s sometimes easy to predict how the story is going to play out – but Everless is full of twists and turns and surprises, and I really loved the world-building. Put simply, Everless was a joy to read.

I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series (at least I think it will be a series?) and if you’re looking for some fun fairytale fantasy, give this one a go.

annalsie

2018 Resolutions

Hello all! I hope you are having a perfectly pleasant first weekend of 2018 – and it’s probably time I write my 2018 resolutions. These are 100% so I can look back next year and see which ones I managed to do, and I’m sure I’ve heard that if you write down your #goals, you’re more likely to achieve them.

As ever, please let me know which books you rate down below in the comments or tweet me at @annalisebooks – I’d also love to know your resolutions, so feel free to let me know or link me to your blogs/vlogs/instagram.

Low Book Spend 2018

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I have a gargantuan TBR and a huge book-buying problem – I can’t just buy one book at a time, I buy a full series before even finishing the first book, my NetGalley TBR is spiraling out of control.

The plan this year is to really limit the number of books I buy. There will inevitably be must-have buys this year and it would be counter-productive to set a total book-buying ban – but the aim with any new book should be to read it immediately, and I’ve found a lot of new books I buy end up at the bottom of a very very very large TBR pile.

I’m looking forward to seeing how much better my bank balance will be by the end of this year – and I’ll need it as I’m planning on moving back to London. I’ll be asking myself with every book ‘Will I read it as soon as I get home?’ and if the answer is ‘yes’, I’ll be recording all the money I spend on books this year.

If the answer is ‘no’, and I still want to read it, I’ll put it on a list in my ‘notes’ app and reassess the situation later on – books on that list are totally fine to purchase for birthdays and christmas.

#FinishASeriesAMonth

My second resolution is to try and finish a series a month – this is slightly different to @dani_reviews’ #ASeriesAMonth2018 challenge as I’ve started a lot of series but not finished them. I’m ashamed to say a lot of the books and series featuring on this list have featured on my previous resolutions blogs before.

I’m not going to set the series I have to finish, and instead pick up the ones that I fancy each month but here are some of the series I would like to finish this year, in no particular order:

  1. The Dark Artifices by Cassandra Clare (I have books 2 and 3 yet to read)
  2. The Illuminae Chronicles by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (Just book 3 to go!)
  3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas (Just the 7th book – if it is released this year!)
  4. The Winner’s Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski (Books 2 and 3 to read)
  5. The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer (Books 3, 4, Fairest and Stars Above)
  6. The Red Queen Quartet by Victoria Aveyard (I’ve read Red Queen – I’d like to read these in close succession)
  7. Six of Crows Duology by Leigh Bardugo (I haven’t read either but I have read the Grisha Trilogy!)
  8. ADSOM trilogy by V E Schwab (I only have A Conjuring of Light left to read but it is a huge book!)
  9. Rebel of the Sands Trilogy by Alwyn Hamilton (I’m really looking forward to Hero at the Fall)
  10. Bloodlines series by Richelle Mead (I’ve had Silver Shadows and The Ruby Circle (books 5 and 6) on my TBR for years)
  11. ASOIAF by George R R Martin (I’ve read the first book – my aim is to read one book every 2 months throughout 2018)
  12. Lord of The Rings by J R R Tolkien (I haven’t even started – but I feel like these are must-reads for any Fantasy fan!)
  13. DIMILY trilogy by Estelle Maskame (Books 2 and 3 still on the TBR shelf!)
  14. Northern Lights trilogy by Philip Pullman (I read the first book in 2017 and really enjoyed it – just need to read books 2 and 3)
  15. The Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis (I haven’t started these but they should be quick reads)
  16. The Passenger Duology by Alexandra Bracken

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#Brontë200 Book Club

I’ll be taking part in the Bronte Book Club with @lucythereader – where every two months, I’ll be reading a different Bronte classic. I haven’t read any of the Bronte books, so I’m looking forward to completing some classics and getting out of my comfort zone.

Document what I’ve read even if it’s not YA

I’ve seen a few people start Twitter threads showing what they’ve been reading – I’ve been reading tons of non-fiction recently and it can feel weird to talk about books that are so different and serious and scientific. I’d like to highlight some of the great books I’ve been reading that aren’t YA – although I’ll probably keep full reviews to fiction.

 

So there we have it – some pretty big resolutions for 2018! Do let me know what your resolutions are and link me to your blogs 🙂

annalsie

 

What will I be reading in Autumn 2017?

It seems to me like the past week everyone has fallen through a pile of crunchy autumn leaves and landed firmly in the run up to Halloween and Christmas. All the names on Twitter are spooky (except mine, I’ll make do with some emojis because I can’t think of a good Halloween name!) and the season of book release upon book release is here. Time to cosy on up with a warm drink and a good book…

The first thing you should know is that my TBR is (hopefully) currently at a standstill – I’m trying not to buy any books this month, and hopefully not until Christmas! This excludes Fairyloot boxes so the books from those will be added to my TBR (and I’m fairly sure I know what those books will be!) but other than that, I won’t be buying any books. This is partly because my TBR is super huge, especially after YALC, and partly because I need to save money!

I don’t like to give myself an overly prescriptive TBR because I never stick to them. I want to be free to be able to pick up any book and be able to read it – and equally, sometimes I won’t be in the mood for a particular book, even if, at another time, I would instantly devour it.

I’ve read 75 books so far this year(!) and hoping to get to a hundred so the goal is 25 books before 31st December…

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I’m reading a weird combination of books at the moment, but I’d like to finish Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (I’m really enjoying this one and reading in preparation for the film which releases November 3rd), Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine (non-fiction about gender differences), Northern Lights by Philip Pullman (first time reading!) and Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (I have all of the rest of her books but just can’t seem to get through this one…).

My Kindle is nicely full at the moment – I’d like to read two of the Zoella Book Club, After The Fire by Will Hill and Girlhood by Cat Clarke before the year is out. I’d also like to read Fireblood by Elly Blake, before the final book in the trilogy is released in June 2018.

Hardbacks I’ve not got round to reading yet include Windwitch by Susan Dennard (in preparation for Sightwitch coming January 2018) and Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco (I was so excited for this one last year and still have not read it… story of my life!). I was also sent a beautiful copy of Warcross by Marie Lu which sounds amazing.

In the Shadowhunters world, I want to get up to speed with all the books before The Queen of Air and Darkness is released, which has been pushed up to May 2018. Whilst I’ll be reading Lord of Shadows next year, I’d like to get up to date with Magnus Bane and The Bane Chronicles as well as The Midnight Heir.

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Staying with Fantasy, I have a wild ambition to read all the ASOIAF books and rewatch the entirety of Game of Thrones before the final season, and so I had better get on with reading A Clash of Kings by George R R Martin. I wasn’t the biggest fan of A Game of Thrones but I love seeing the foreshadowing that’s going on way back in the first books.

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Over to New Releases, I am so excited for A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke and thank you very much to Scholastic for sending me a beautiful copy (this is such a gorgeous book!).

I also plan on reading my YALC haul – a lot of these books release in 2018 and it’s coming round fast! I’m hoping to get into City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty, The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles, The Treatment by C. L. Taylor, This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada… as well as 2018 releases including The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, The Fandom by Anna Day and The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr.

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I’m also exciting to read more Margaret Atwood, and I hope to get through Alias Grace in time for the Netflix series that will be released in November.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I’m excited to see which books will be my favourites, and which may fall a little flat.

Have you read any of these books, and what are you planning to read this autumn? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me at @annalisebooks x

annalsie

My Dream Book Panel!

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Recently, I was inspired by the lovely people at Eventbrite who asked me who I would want to see at my dream book convention? Dedicated readers will know I’m a huge fan of YALC and I spend way too much time dreaming about attending BEA or YALLWEST over in the U S of A, so it got me thinking… who would I *really* want to see? And what would I want them to discuss?

(And also, why haven’t I purchased my ticket to YALC yet?!)

First up…

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I’d like to see a panel on world building with authors who really know their stuff when it comes to creating weird and wonderful fantasy worlds. This panel would be all about writing fantasy, world-building and lots of tips for the audience on how each author works. We’d need only the best for this one so I’d pick:

  • V E Schwab, author of the Darker Shades of Magic trilogy
  • Laini Taylor, author of Strange the Dreamer
  • George R R Martin, author of the Song of Ice and Fire series

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I’ve been reading some super huge books recently, and so I’d like a panel with authors of some huge books to discuss writing fantasy, writing a huge quantity and how they have built their worlds. This panel would focus on authors who publish big books at a superhuman speed and so would feature:

  • Sarah J Maas, author of the ACOTAR and Throne of Glass series
  • Cassandra Clare, author of the Shadowhunters’ many series
  • Brandon Sanderson, author of the Mistborn trilogy, among many others

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You can’t have a hyped book convention without some elusive authors with an exclusive talk. This panel would focus on the price and pressure of fame after a super hyped book, and their decision to stay in/out of the limelight. This would be the panel everyone would be clamoring to go to and would feature:

  • Stephenie Meyer, author of the Twilight series
  • Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games
  • J K Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series

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So many fantasies focus on royalty, and I think a panel focusing on the challenges and fun of writing about princesses, princes, kings and queens would be an interesting addition. I’d go for an range of authors, including:

  • Meg Cabot, author of The Princess Diaries
  • Marissa Meyer, author of the Lunar Chronicles
  • Renee Ahdieh, author of the Wrath and the Dawn duology

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Now, I don’t think a book convention would be nearly as good without bookish friends and a heap of the amazing UKYA authors which have always made YALC such a special time. These authors I would probably listen to talk about Quorn cocktail sausages, but I’m sure they could come up with a few interesting themes between them!

  • Katherine Webber, author of Wing Jones
  • Non Pratt, author of Truth or Dare
  • Sara Barnard, author of A Quiet Kind of Thunder
  • Catherine Doyle, author of the Mafiosa trilogy
  • Holly Smale, author of the Geek Girl series
  • Lisa Williamson, author of All About Mia
  • Alice Oseman, author of Radio Silence
  • Sarah Crossan, author of One
  • Holly Bourne, author of the Spinster trilogy
  • and so so many more amazing authors!

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I’d love to see panels on topics such as diversity, mental health, feminism, disability, politics in YA, dystopias, LGBTQ, and so many more – I think sometimes the topic of the panel is what makes it so interesting rather than necessarily the speakers.

Check out Eventbrite’s conference page if you’re interested in hosting and organizing your own events!

So there are a few of my dream book panels! Who would you want to see? What would they talk about? Would you like to see some of my panels? Comment below, tweet me at @annalisebooks or create your own post – I’d love to know!

annalsie