Friday, 4 September 2015

This is One Moment, Mila Gray

Pages: 384
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 10th September 2015
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Come Back to Me. As Sarah Alderson: Hunting Lila, Losing Lila, Fated, Severed, Shadowed, The Sound, Out of Control, Conspiracy Girl  

A forbidden romance.
A wounded Marine who thinks he’s beyond saving.
A girl who’s determined to prove him wrong.

Didi Monroe’s waited her whole life for the type of romance you see in the movies, so when Hollywood heartthrob Zac Ridgemont sweeps her off her feet, Didi believes she might finally have met the one.

While Zac’s away filming for the summer, Didi begins her internship at a military hospital in California. There she meets wounded Marine Noel Walker. Frustrated on the outside and broken on the inside, Walker’s a pain in the ass patient who refuses all help.

Yet Did can’t help but be drawn to him, and though he’s strictly out of bounds it soon becomes impossible to ignore the sparks flying between them.

As the attraction simmers into dangerous territory, Didi finds herself falling hard for a man she knows is going to break her heart. Because Walker doesn’t believe in love or happy ever afters. So what possible future can there be?

Then tragedy hits, shattering both their worlds, and Didi is forced to choose between fighting for love and merely falling for the illusion of it.

I loved Mila Gray’s first novel Come Back to Me, as well as her books under Sarah Alderson, and This is One Moment was no exception.

I had no idea that This is One Moment was connected to Gray’s first novel in anyway, but Didi is Jessa’s best friend! She’s 21, done her undergraduate degree and embarking on a summer internship before settling into her PhD. I had no idea you could do a PhD without an MA! Her Dad is the head doc at a rehab unit for wounded vets in California and she's spending some time there. It was an emotional setting and Gray tackled some really tough topics that effect soldiers when they come home from war: depression, PTSD, shell shock, phantom pain and a myriad of physical injuries. It was heartbreaking.

Here Didi met Walker, a Lieutenant who lost five men in a bombing and managed to save one, who has been left blind and with a severely damaged knee. He’s angry and lost in a spiral of blame, but Didi can't help but fall for him. Their romance was tense, emotional and super swoony. I really loved seeing their story from sides as; I do love a dual narrative! I also thought that the way the prologue played out in the main novel was really clever and unexpected. Very impressed!

This is One Moment is emotional, engaging and romantic and I’m already looking forward to Mila Gray’s next offering.

Thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan for the review copy.

Sophie 

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Favourites: August 2015


#NewDayNewNormal Tour
David Levithan, Louise O’Neill and Lisa Williamson teamed together to tour the UK and take on the subjects of diversity, inclusion and breaking down barriers in YA just as they have in their books. It was a fascinating, funny and really interesting talk, particularly as, at first glance, the authors don’t seem to have much in common. I also got to get my books signed which is always exciting/scary/nerve-wracking. One day I’ll not babble incoherently when I meet one of my favourite authors… My apologies to David Levithan.


Michael Grant and Andrew Smith at Waterstones Piccadilly
A week after I journeyed to London for the #NewDayNewNormal event I was back for two more wonderful authors! I love Michael Grant and Andrew Smith’s books so I was really excited to hear them speak and get to meet them. The two are old friends and their easy banter was engaging, intelligent and really funny! They gave readings and talked about the sex and violence in their novels and I got a new phone so I could actually take pictures! Then we got books signed! And as I knew the two lovely publicists looking after the authors, I got a personal introduction to Michael which was awesome J


Feminist t-shirt
I went to Summer in the City this year and though I was largely underwhelmed I found a wonderful stall selling feminist t-shirts, totes, posters and bookmarks made by a small, ethically-sourced UK not-for-profit called Empowered Apparel. I couldn’t walk away without something so I grabbed the purple ‘Feminist’ t-shirt and I love it. I’ll definitely be getting more from them.

What were the best bits about your August? What are you excited about in September?

Sophie 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Queen of Shadows, Sarah J Maas

Pages: 645
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Release Date: 1st September 2015
Edition: UK paperback, review copy


No masters.
No limits.
No regrets.

Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain…

THERE WILL SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE FIRST THREE BOOKS IN THE SERIES, BUT NONE FOR QUEEN OF SHADOWS! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

As Queen of Shadows only came out yesterday, I’m going to make sure this review is spoiler-free. It’ll be very vague and very likely that you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about unless you’ve read it already!

Celaena’s fourth adventure begins as she steps off the ship from Wendlyn into Rifthold’s port and she has a mission. It’s a new Celaena returning to where she started, she’s now Aelin Ashryver Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. As always, Sarah J Maas’s characterisation is second to none. Every character under her talented hands goes through a different arc in their life/personality/position in each instalment of this series, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, but it all still adds up to a fully rounded, authentic character. I think that this was particularly true for Chaol and Lysandra in Queen of Shadows and I loved the journeys they went on.

Some real antagonists were taken down in this book which all of the expected aplomb, and a few heart attacks from me, along the way. They were satisfying and needed; I’m glad they weren’t all left until right at the end, it may have felt a little drawn out and anti-climactic after over 600 pages otherwise! But don’t let that fool you that all was well at the close of Queen of Shadows – Aelin and the gang a lot of trouble ahead of them and I can only hope that they all make it out alive…

Manon and the Blackbeak witches were introduced in Heir of Fire and I was really pleased to see them back and more awesome than ever in Queen of Shadows – I have a strange fondness for them… I loved how much more page time they got this time around. It allowed me to get to know Manon and her Thirteen a little better and begin to figure out how they would play in to the brewing battle on Aelin’s hands.

But I really can't say much else with spoilers so, in summary, as my friend Kate said: “Perfect. No words. Too many feels.” I think she pretty much hit the nail on the head. Enjoy.

Thanks to Bloomsbury for the review copy.

Sophie 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Mini-Reviews: Go Set a Watchman, Reasons to Stay Alive and Bossypants

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee
278|William Heinemann|14th July 2015

Synopsis
Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year old Jean Louise Finch – ‘Scout’ – returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the political backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past – a journey that can be guided only be one’s own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humour and effortless precision – a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the brilliant of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to a classic.

Review
Even though I wanted to read Go Set a Watchman as soon as it was announced, I knew it would be a while under I got around to reading it and so I decided to give the Audible trial a go and listen to it that way. I really enjoyed it!

The novel is narrated by Reese Witherspoon and her soft, Southern drawl was perfect – it brought Maycomb alive. Scout is now 26-year-old Jean Louise and she’s back home in Maycomb, Alabama for a two week visit, but it's not quite what she remembered. It was really affecting to see how the relationship between Cal and Jean Louise had deteriorated so severely and even worse to see Jean Louise suffer as her ideas of the people she grew up with crumbled around her. And yet I also think it’s a really important part of growing up that Lee is showing here. Jean Louise is seeing her childhood throw adult eyes and it's a bit of a shock. Admittedly, Atticus’s view are nasty and it’s not pleasant for those that have loved him since To Kill a Mockingbird, but realising that someone you idolise is a mere mortal is part of growing up.

I really enjoyed the story of an older Scout and even more glimpses into her childhood and teenage years, but mostly I liked Go Set a Watchman as a curiosity. Seeing an early draft of one of the most beloved novels is fascinating. I loved seeing what had changed, what stayed the same, how the messages altered and generally how such a masterpiece evolved into one.

How to Stay Alive, Matt Haig
256|Cannongate Books|5th March 2015

Synopsis
Aged 24, Matt Haig’s world caved in. he could see no way to go on living. This is the true story of how he came through crisis, triumphed over an illness that almost destroyed him and learned to live again.

A moving, funny and joyous exploration of how to live better, love better and feel more alive, Reasons to Stay Alive is more than a memoir. It is about making the most of your time on earth.

“I wrote this book because the oldest clichés remain the truest. Time heals. The bottom of the valley never provides the clearest view. The tunnel does have light at the end of it, even if we haven’t been able to see it… Words, just sometimes, really can set you free.”

Review
Matt Haig’s memoir is an easy to read book about a difficult subject that I think everyone, whether you’ve suffered from mental illness or not, needs to read.

Reasons to Stay Alive is a collection of short chapters, anecdotes, lists, facts and a really lovely chapter where Matt Haig’s Twitter followers donated their #reasonstostayalive. It makes the book educational and enlightening as well as an insight into Matt’s experiences which are a little intense to read about at times. Near the end there’s a chapter where Matt lays out 40 pieces of advice on ‘How to live’ and that was by far my favourite part of the book. Those are tidbits that everyone could benefit from and personally, I found a particular few that I could really benefit from keeping in mind. In fact, there are a lot of quotes from Reasons to Stay Alive that I’d like to stick up all over my walls.

This is a really important piece of writing. For those who have suffered, for those who have bene close to others suffering and everyone else. I really hope that this makes it into the right hands – it could be invaluable to those wondering if you can ever come out of the other side.

Bossypants, Tina Fey
304|Sphere|5th January 2012

Synopsis
Once in a generation a woman comes along who changes everything. Tina Fey is not that woman, but she met that woman once and acted weird around her.

Before 30 Rock, Mean Girl and ‘Sarah Palin’, Tina Fey was just a young girl with a dream: a recurring stress dream that she was being chased through a local airport by her middle-school gym teacher.

She also had a dream that one day she would be a comedian on TV. She has seen both these dreams come true.

At last, Tina Fey’s story can be told. From her youthful days as a vicious nerd to her tour of duty on Saturday Night Live; from her passionately heartfelt pursuit of physical beauty to her life as a mother eating things off the floor; from her one-sided college romance to her nearly fatal honeymoon – from the beginning of this paragraph to tis final sentence.

Tina Fey reveals all, and proves what we’ve all suspected: you’re no one until someone calls you bossy.

Review
I didn’t know much at all about Tina Fey until Bossypants but it was an amusing an interesting look at being a woman in TV comedy, writing and anecdotes about the famous moments in her career.

Fey talks about her life as a whole, weaving in stories, observations and discussions along the way. She discusses motherhood, body image, the media, sexism, beauty standards and her work with Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. I have to admit that I was hoping for a little more about Mean Girls – it was only mentioned offhandedly a few times, sadly. I would love to have heard about writing and filming it, as well as maybe comments on its success and cult status.

I listened to Bossypants on audio and it was read by Fey. Her dry, witty and conversational narration was the perfect way to experience it and I highly recommending giving it a listen – it’s nice and short too!

I thoroughly enjoyed Bossypants and fell in love with Tina Fey along the way. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have 7 seasons of 30 Rock to watch.

Sophie

Monday, 31 August 2015

Legacy of Kings, Eleanor Herman

Pages: 432
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Release Date: 18th August 2015
Edition: US e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Imagine a time when the gods turn a blind eye to the agony of men, when the last of the hellions roam the plains, and evil stirs beyond the edges of a map. A time when cities burn and in their ashes, empires rise.

Alexander, Macedon’s sixteen-year-old heir, is on the brink of discovering his fated role in conquering the known world, but finds himself drawn to a newcomer…

Katerina must navigate the dark secrets of court life, while keeping hidden her own mission: kill the queen. But she doesn’t account for her first love…

Jacob will got to unthinkable lengths to win Katerina, even if it means competing with Hephaestion, a murderer sheltered by the prince.

And far across the seas, Zofia, a Persian princess and Alexander’s unmet fiancée, wants to alter her destiny by seeking the famed and deadly spirit eaters.

Legacy of Kings is the first book is what the synopsis promises is an epic tale of gods, kings, princesses, war, love and Ancient Greece. What more could I ask for, I thought? A little more is the answer.

Eleanor Herman’s YA debut is strong on historical detail, puts you right in the moment and details the fascinating early life of Alexander the Great, who I knew nothing about previously, but I felt kept at a distance. Legacy of Kings is told in an unusual third person present tense narration and while at first I thought it was pretty cool, it quickly alienated me. There are a lot of main characters in this novel – five, I think – and I don’t feel like I got to know any of them properly. There was no connection between me and the book at all, I skimmed a lot of it to be honest, especially Zo’s chapters. Her story felt unnecessary and tacked on. I’m sure they’ll be more important in book two, but I won't be reading that.

Though this book is promoted as high fantasy, it felt a lot more like historical fantasy to me. The detail and the setting and the politics felt a lot more important than the fantastical elements that didn’t even come in until fairly late in the novel. You could tell that Eleanor Herman is a historian and she clearly knows the period in incredible depth; her passion came across vibrantly but it also detracted from the characters and story a little at times.

I was really quite disappointed by Legacy of Kings unfortunately. I loved the setting and the idea, but the execution just didn’t work for me, sadly.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Teen for the review copy.

Sophie