fantasy

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

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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

 

Review: Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Truthwitch
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Dislcaimer: Copy received from publisher in exchange for an honest review.**

Last January, Truthwitch was a book with a beautiful cover that was getting A LOT of hype around it. Written by the infallible Sarah J. Maas’ best friend, Susan Dennard, any fan of YA fantasy was desperate to get their hands on this brand new fantasy series about witches, friendship and elemental control.

Fast forward to January 2017, and I’ve *finally* read Truthwitch in anticipation for Windwitch, and I’ve come to the conclusion that all the hype was justified.
Truthwitch is the story of four main characters – Safiya, the truthwitch, Iseult, the threadwitch, Aedeon, the bloodwitch, and Merik, the windwitch. Truthwitch is Safi’s story, but the book focuses on all four main characters pretty equally throughout the book. I won’t go into the plot too much, but essentially Aedeon is in pursuit of Safiya and Iseult for Safiya’s truthwitch abilities, and Safi and Iseult escape the city on Merik’s ship. Each character is fleshed out with interesting and mysterious back story, and some of my favourite scenes were when we learnt a little more about each character’s background.

I also loved how the characters in this book have motives and no character is 100% good or evil.

As well as some pretty kick ass characters, the world building is extensive and original – I loved the different types of witches, some of which are completely new to me (threadwitches, for example). The world is so rich that some scenes almost come flying off the page as if they were on screen (especially some of the scenes with Safi and Iseult).

The friendship between Safi and Iseult was refreshing and a feature which I loved – rarely does a friendship in a novel eclipse any romances. Their friendship was well done and powerful.

The only reason this is a 4 star read rather than 5 stars for me was pacing – I felt this book was a little slow at times, or perhaps a little long at 400 pages.

Personally, I can’t wait to delve into Windwitch which I have heard is even better, and I look forward to returning to this beautiful world and its characters.
View all my reviews

annalsie

Review: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood
Frostblood by Elly Blake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a proof of this book in a Fairyloot box last year and can’t believe it took me so long to pick it up!

Frostblood is the story of Ruby, a Fireblood. The Firebloods and Frostbloods have been at war for as long as anyone can remember, and the Frostbloods are currently in power. The Firebloods have been hunted and killed, and Ruby has to stay hidden to stay alive. When her safety is compromised and her mother is killed, Ruby has to work with rebel Frostbloods to topple the throne.

This is an absolutely stellar debut novel from Elly Blake, with beautiful world-building and compelling characters. I really submersed myself in this world and loved the storytelling. The book definitely has elements of the Throne of Glass series and other YA fantasy novels, but it’s all done so well. I was gripped by the romance and there were so many twists and turns that made the story shocking and exciting.

The romance was done particularly well in that it wasn’t the main focus of the story and was pretty swoony. I really enjoyed the romance and the main characters were fleshed out particularly well.

If you’re looking for a YA fantasy with a fully immersive world, definitely check out this debut by Elly Blake. I can’t wait for the second book, Fireblood, which is due out in September 2017.
View all my reviews

Annalise x

Fairyloot April Unboxing!

This month I decided to try out Fairyloot, a new YA Fantasy subscription box, that promises one new hardback novel each month. Fairyloot is available to purchase on subscription or as a standalone box, and is based in the UK. After seeing some amazing March boxes, I decided to buy the April box as a treat.

Purchasing

Fairyloot is a UK-based box, and I decided to purchase a box from the UK to avoid import fees. The box costs £24.50 with shipping and tax on top, bringing the actual cost of the box to around £30. I found a 10% off code in the Fairyloot newsletter, so actually paid £28.40. Honestly, I was surprised to pay shipping and tax in the UK, so be aware.

Delivery

So, I messed up big time on delivery. I accidentally put my home postcode with my university address and so my box was delivered late. However, a note on delivery – Fairyloot use Yodel, who here were very good, but are notorious for late deliveries or non-deliveries. I’ve had parcels delivered by them in the past which have arrived late, and read hundreds of horror stories of broken, or worse, missing parcels. This time my box arrived in 6 days, which involved a trip up and down the country and to lost property, so actually arrived quite quickly considering!

Spoilers

Please, if you’re thinking of doing an unboxing of any box, heed this advice.

Just because you received your box, doesn’t mean everyone has. Waiting for this box led to me being spoiled on Twitter several times by people posting the title of the book, and pictures of their boxes. Please don’t do this – it ruins the surprise for those waiting for their boxes!

On the topic of spoilers… if you don’t want to be spoiled, click away now!

The Box!

The box is super cool, it has the Fairyloot logo on the top (here, obscured by the delivery label) and a Neil Gaiman quote on the side of the box.

On top, was a Hunger Games Funko Pop! – I got Katniss, but others got President Snow, Effie Trinket and Peeta Mellark. I love this so much – I have a small (for now) Funko Pop! collection of inspirational female characters, and so Katniss is a great addition.

Then, wrapped in a purple bow, is a poster from BehindThePages. It features a Glittering Court quote.

I loved the Vanilla Bean Scented Candle which comes in a metal tin wrapped with twine.

Also included is a sample of the book I was reading when I opened the box, The Wrath and the Dawn, which is an amazing book and the sampler is really cute.

Wrapped in tissue paper with confetti was the book of the month, The Glittering Court by Richelle Mead, with temporary tattoos and a themed bookmark.

Thoughts

I have a worry with these boxes and that is – to read YA is not to subscribe to all of the YA fandoms. There are plenty of YA readers who haven’t ventured into popular book series such as Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, and I’m sure there are those who have but just haven’t enjoyed them. There’s nothing wrong with not liking a certain series, but a lot of these boxes assume you like them all – it’s difficult to put these boxes together without fandom-related items but I’m not sure how I’d feel to receive something from a series I wasn’t familiar with.

The Glittering Court is a book I was considering pre-ordering but didn’t, as the reviews haven’t been brilliant. Richelle Mead is an established author (of the Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series, to name a few), and I’d be disappointed in this box if I’d already bought the book – I’d like to see more debut authors featured as these books are less likely to have already been bought and discovering new authors is always fun!

I love the hashtag – each month, two boxes come with the same hashtag, and so each person has a box buddy with who to discuss and read the book!

Final Thoughts

Fairyloot has to be one of the best subscription boxes out there, and is definitely worth it! With great themes each month – May’s theme is High Fantasy – these boxes make a great treat. I might not be purchasing every month, but seeing some amazing unboxings, it’ll be difficult not to.

Annalise x

Review: Rebel of the Sands

Rebel of the Sands
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first thing to say about Rebel of the Sands is that the cover is really, really beautiful. It’s eye-catching in blue and gold, and one of the best covers I’ve seen in a long time.

Rebel of the Sands follows Amani, a girl, dressed as a boy, trying to get out of her hometown, Dustwalk, to escape her uncle and travel to the city to live with her aunt (who she has never met). To leave, she needs money, and so she enters a shooting tournament. There she meets a foreigner, Jin, who will change her life forever…

Rebel of the Sands is unlike any other book I’ve read. It’s a Western, set in a desert, with mythical creatures and magic and the ilk. Each scene is so unbelievably clear, it’s like watching a film in book form. Amani is independent, rebellious, and determined to get what she wants, and that means going against what female characters often do, which is drop everything for the first attractive man they set eyes on. She’s decisive, self-preserving and a bit of a badass.

The setting is unusual for a YA novel, and as such is new and exciting, with different challenges than we normally see for fantasy characters and worlds. The characters are diverse, and, yet again unusual for a YA novel, I didn’t imagine these characters as white. The names and setting are like the Middle East on Earth, somewhere not very many novels are set. Hamilton thus brings a different dynamic to YA fantasy, one that I hope other authors will pick up on – not every fantasy needs to be set in a counterpart to the Western world.

I loved the feminist aspect, and the romance didn’t feel forced or unexpected. Action is definitely the forefront of this book, and Rebel shows that you don’t need a big dramatic romance in a good book – the other plot arcs can really carry a book. There were also some brilliant twists that I wasn’t expecting, but that made sense in hindsight – a sign of a good book.

Rebel has got a lot of brilliant reviews, but it fell a little short of 5 stars for me. I would have liked the characters to have been a little more developed (I think that perhaps too many characters are introduced too quickly). The book also felt like it dragged a little – although at 358 pages, this is more due to the style that to actual length. High octane action movies often have little plot spread over 2 hours – Rebel feels at times like a 4/5/6 hour action movie (depending on how long it takes you to read the book!). There are many more events in the novel than there would be in a film, and that takes some getting used to.

A promising and original YA debut, I’m hoping for many more beautiful covers (and stories) to come!

View all my reviews

Review: Crown of Midnight

Crown of Midnight
Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crown of Midnight is the second book in the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, following the adventures of the assassin Celaena Sardothien and her friends, the prince Dorian, Captain of the Guard Chaol, and Princess of the Ellywe Nehemia.

Whereas I did enjoy the first book, Throne of Glass (review here), I found it difficult to read (I read it whilst travelling), and I found the plot and characters a little clichéd. This book, however, was a breeze to read. I love Maas’ prose, and her use of foreshadowing is divine. There’s more action, more romance, more assassin…ations? More everything… and it works really, really, well.

What I particularly enjoyed is the fact that these characters really develop during the novel, becoming multi-dimensional and interesting. They make mistakes, they say the wrong thing… and it makes the whole book so much more enjoyable. There’s twists and turns, unexpected surprises, right up till the last page.

Chaol, for me, became much more fleshed out in this book, and became a character in his own right. Dorian got his own scenes and secrets and, as a consequence, became a character rather than a plot device. Celaena turned darker, and actually killed some people, for once. Novel, for an assassin. Are these characters clichéd any longer? Not at all. They’re interesting, fleshed-out and explosive when put together.

Is the plot clichéd? No. It’s dramatic, full of cliffhangers and mystery and ultimately satisfying – sub-plots are set up and explored, and I feel that the focus isn’t exclusively on Celaena – we spend time focusing on Chaol, Dorian and Nehemia, both separately and when they interact. Theres a really nice balance between the character’s perspectives.

The world-building here is also great, delving further into the history of the world and setting up an intricate world and conflict that will (presumably) play out in later books.

If you were on the fence after Throne of Glass, this book is really, genuinely, worth the read. It’s good. Like five stars good. Reading it, I kept on comparing it to the Harry Potter books. Yeah, THAT GOOD.

So, I have a problem. How are any other books of 2016 going to compare to this first read? And how am I gonna cope until I can get my hands on Heir of Fire?!

Annalise x

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Review: The Winner’s Curse

The Winner's Curse
The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, the Winner’s Curse is another book I bought way back in July at YALC. It was a complete impulse buy, driven by the fact I’d just watched a panel with the book’s author, Marie Rutkoski, and I’d heard amazing things (but then again, YALC is just a huge festival of book recommendations). So I rushed on down from Olympia to Foyle’s Charing Cross and picked myself up a copy (along with Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours and some books about writing fiction) but I haven’t got round to reading it until now.

First off, the cover for this book is beautiful. The vast majority of current editions use the same photo (the girl in a big pink dress), with slightly different formatting. This is a cover I want, no, need, on my shelf, and the formatting inside of the book is also gorgeous – I’m a huge fan of the black pages at the beginning and ends of the book in my copy, and the whole book is sleek and stylish. Strangely enough though, this delayed me reading the book. Beautiful books on the outside do not always equal beautiful books on the inside (on this occasion, I am delighted to be wrong).

The Winner’s Curse is the story of Kestrel and Arin. Kestrel is the general’s daughter, a 17 year old faced with the decision to either join the military or get married. On a whim, she purchases Arin, a young slave of the race her father conquered 10 years before. As Kestrel warms to Arin, she starts to realise that her impulse buy may have serious consequences…

Marie’s prose is beautiful, and the world is built up beautifully. This book is both fantastical and historical, which I love – I love how Marie takes a historical world (here one with a strong military and the presence of slavery and rebellion – based on the Greeks and the Romans I believe) and really expands it, with strong women and lavish balls and societal gossip. Personally, I love how there is no clear ‘good’ and ‘evil’ – every character has motives, beliefs and a fleshed-out back story, and this really helps the reader empathise with all the characters in the novel – it’s rare for a novel (especially a YA novel) to engage me with so many characters at once – and not to spoil anything, but there isn’t a particular side that I’m rooting for (as both sides are fighting for what they believe in, which conflict).

The characters aren’t only believable and fleshed-out, they’re also different. Kestrel is intelligent and cunning (not traits that are always apparent in female YA characters), and the relationship between Kestrel and Arin is developed slowly and subtly throughout the novel. However, I do have one gripe – the relationship between Kestrel and Arin is a little strange – he’s a slave with a secret and he just doesn’t act like it. He talks back, he’s sassy, and he walks all over Kestrel when he really shouldn’t be in the position to do so.

If you’re going to read any YA, make it good YA. This is good YA – mainly because the writing itself is beautiful (don’t underestimate the power of good writing). It’s not another YA rehash – it’s original and interesting, with intelligent characters who are really tested through power shifts and political turmoil. The world-building is done well – it’s subtle and understandable – and something YA does really well is light fantasy – just enough that you’re aware this is a different world but with human, relevant and relatable situations, and it never feels like you’ve just been thrown in at the deep end of this completely different world.

If you’re looking for something a little different, with interesting, political themes, forbidden romance, intelligent characters and which is, most of all, written fantastically, look no further.

I’m looking forward to completing the trilogy this coming year (The Winner’s Crime is out now, and The Winner’s Kiss will be released this March).

How did you find the novel? Is there anything you want to see more of in the coming novels? Tweet me @AnnaliseBooks or comment below!

Annalise x

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Review: Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London
Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this book the good old-fashioned way – it caught my eye when I was out shopping for books last January at Blackwells in Oxford. Usually when I buy books, I know exactly what i’m going to read from all the hype on twitter or goodreads, so it’s nice to find a book completely by yourself.

I found this book in the Fantasy section (which is next to the YA) but met the author, Ben Aaronovitch at YALC (which is primarily young adult fiction). The characters in the book are not young adults, but this book would be suitable for young adults (read: there aren’t any raunchy sex scenes).

Rivers of London (Midnight Riot in the US) follows Peter Grant, a probationary constable in the Metropolitan Police as he transfers to a proper unit. By chance, he takes a witness statement from a man, who is actually a ghost, and this brings him to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, wizard and leader of the secret supernatural unit. Peter becomes an apprentice wizard and supernatural detective, all the while tending to his crush on his former colleague, Leslie May.

So why did I pick up this book? It’s written really well, with real British humour and a distinct witty voice. It’s a really original take on the genre, and it’s based in London, real London (not just the tourist traps). It’s great to see a book so brilliantly British taking on fantasy and mythology. It is definitely more character driven rather than plot driven, with memorable characters, although the plot is a little more forgettable.

Who would like this book? I think it makes a refreshing change for any YA fan out there, but also any fan of fantasy, mythology and/or murder mysteries should be sure to give it a go. The books are a little expensive on Amazon (£6-7) but they are coming thick and fast – Foxglove Summer, book 5, came out in July, and The Hanging Tree, book 6 is due out in November.

I look forward to reading more of the Rivers of London series, although their current price means that it might be a while before I pick up another Peter Grant novel.

Annalise x

View all my reviews