ARC August

ARC August

Hey guys!

Just a quick post today but we have lots of posts planned for the next few weeks (including a YALC wrap up which I’m really excited to put together!)

So, ARC August coincides really well with YALC for me as I have a nice pile of ARCs to get through from it, so I decided to take part this year. I also have a couple that have been sent to me from publishers recently so I’ve included those too.

The ARCs I’m planning on reading this month are:

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch (Harper 360)

A Flicker in the Clarity by Amy McNamara (Harper 360)

Sawkill Girls by Claire LeGrande (YALC)

Kingdom of the Blazing Phoenix by Julie C. Dao (YALC)

Damsel by Elaina K Arnold (YALC)

Assuming I get through these five I’ll also try and read The Girl King by Mimi Yu, which I also picked up at YALC. I’m not in a huge rush to read this though since it’s not out till 2019!

Are you taking part in ARC August?
love Becky,

newlogolg copy

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Nearly a year has passed since Amani and the rebels won their epic battle at Fahali. Amani has come into both her powers and her reputation as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, and the Rebel Prince’s message has spread across the desert – and some might say out of control. But when a surprise encounter turns into a brutal kidnapping, Amani finds herself betrayed in the cruelest manner possible.

Stripped of her powers and her identity, and torn from the man she loves, Amani must return to her desert-girl’s instinct for survival. For the Sultan’s palace is a dangerous one, and the harem is a viper’s nest of suspicion, fear and intrigue. Just the right place for a spy to thrive… But spying is a dangerous game, and when ghosts from Amani’s past emerge to haunt her, she begins to wonder if she can trust her own treacherous heart.


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Thank you to NetGalley for sending me an eArc of this book.

This is a spoiler-free review of Traitor to the Throne, however, it does include spoilers for Rebel of the Sands! 


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Traitor to the Throne is the highly anticipated sequel to Rebel of the Sands. Having loved the first book in this series when I first read it, I was quite excited for the release of the second book in this trilogy. However, I have to admit that I feel slightly let down by Traitor. 

I feel as though, in my opinion, the biggest let down in this book (compared to Rebel) was Amani’s drastic character change. I’m all for character growth and development, but that wasn’t what this was. After discovering her Demdji heritage in Rebel, Amani seems to now be completely reliant on her magic and brings it into absolutely everything in this book. I much preferred the gunslinging sharpshooter version of Amani from the first book. Traitor also seemed to bring a few plot holes to light – for example, at one point, Amani comments that she is unable to make a sarcastic comment (as, being a Demdji, she physically can’t lie) and “her tongue can’t tell the difference between sarcasm and lying”. However, Amani’s entire personality in Rebel was based around her sassiness and sarcasm? I don’t want to sound too picky so I won’t go into detail, but I noticed a few little things like this that just didn’t quite make sense to me when you take the first book into consideration. 

Now, I’ll stop slating Amani and move onto a big issue I had with the plot. Skip this section if you want to avoid very mild spoilers!
So basically, Amani spends the majority of this book inside the Sultan’s harem after being kidnapped and sold to him, as he is looking for a Demdji. She slowly manages to gain more of his trust, and there is a point where she starts to have clear doubts about Ahmed’s ability to rule and about the rebellion in general. However, these doubts are voiced by her and then just never dealt with again? Fair enough if it was just a moment of doubt and she didn’t take it too seriously, but I would have liked to have read how she worked through that. Plus, anyone who knows me knows that I am in no way going to support a tyrannical character, but apart from a few things, the Sultan didn’t seem too awful. Like, I’ve seen fictional dictators who are far more evil. Ahmed is barely in this book, but he’s pretty insufferable in the scenes he is in, and to be honest, he just isn’t that good a good leader. Why is Shazad not leading this rebellion? Yes, she’s not royalty, but surely rebellion is just slightly about overthrowing imperialism. Shazad would be a far better ruler than any of the men in this book. I’m rooting for #ShazadforSultan2018. Anyway.

I feel as though I’ve complained way too much in this review (I’m sorry) so here’s a few things that I did like:

  • The political intrigue – of course I like action, but a bit of intrigue is never a bad thing in my opinion!

  • Some of the new/reintroduced characters – I won’t say much as I don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s a wonderful example of a strong female character reintroduced in this book, and I would’ve loved for her to have been a bigger part of the plot

  • The little myths and legends inserted between chapters every now and then! Not only were they intriguing, but they were beautifully written and really helped to build the story. I think more of these in book three would go far. 

  • There’s very little romance – the plot is almost entirely focused on the plot, and therefore on the rebellion and politics. Although I don’t dislike Jin and Amani as a couple, and I didn’t really see the point in her basically being mad at him for almost this entire book, I was glad that the romance was put to one side for a while.

  • Shazad, Rahim and Sam. Three characters I really liked in this book and really hope will be around more in book three. 

  • The Sultan. I love a good grey-area villain; this guy is clearly in the wrong in some aspects, but you can’t fully disagree with his ideas, and he clearly has an interesting back story. 
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Traitor to the Throne is published on the 2nd February in the UK / 7th March in the US.

love Becky @



Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Thank you to Titan Books for sending us early copies of Wintersong to review! 
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In the deep woods of Bavaria, Liesl has grown up with stories of the Goblin King and his underground realm. Intertwined with her life, the stories have inspired her musical compositions and been at the head of her Grandmother’s superstitions. As Liesl grows older and begins to help run her family’s inn, as well as looking after her younger siblings, her dreams of music and the Goblin King begin to slip away. However, when Liesl’s younger sister Kathë is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl realises that her childhood fantasies are a reality, and has to journey to the goblin’s underground realm to save her sister. A story of sacrifice, family and mythology, inspired by Jim Henson’s ‘Labyrinth’, Wintersong is a magical, dark fantasy debut from author S. Jae-Jones. 

Wintersong has been on my to-read list ever since I came across it on Goodreads – Labyrinth has always been a favourite film in our house, so when I heard that this was a more adult loose retelling of Labyrinth, I was all for it! 
Wintersong follows Liesl – the eldest of three siblings who has long given up on her dreams of writing and creating music. Cast aside as the ‘ugly, talentless sister’ next to her beautiful sister Kathë, and her brother Josef who has a great talent for playing the violin, Liesl has made do helping her parents run their inn and secretly writing pieces of music for Josef to perform. With a once musically talented and now alcoholic Father, and a Mother who was the beauty of Salzburg until the family had to move to the backwoods of Bavaria, Liesl has become the one to hold her family together. I found Liesl to be a really interesting character and so easy to connect to – usually with this sort of book, you’d find a character with her struggles to be quite whiney, but Liesl carries her burdens willingly and will always be ready to sacrifice herself for the sake of her family. 

“There is music in your soul. A wild and untamed sort
of music that speaks to me. It defies all the rules and laws you humans set upon it. It grows from inside you, and I have a wish to set that music free.” 
Liesl’s relationship with her sister Kathë was far from perfect – Kathë was jealous of Liesl as she was the only member of the family who wasn’t musically inclined, and Liesl jealous of Kathë for being more beautiful than her – but the pair’s devotion to each other really made the character development in this book for me. I would have loved to have seen more of Josef, as I really loved the parts that he was in, and the way that he continually encouraged Liesl to follow her dreams even whilst she was dedicated to helping him start out his musical career in the best way possible. Family was such a key element to this story, and in my opinion this aspect of it was executed so well.
The Goblin King, I absolutely adored. S. Jae-Jones got him spot on – his voice, his internal conflicts, and can we just talk about how perfect his appearance was? I knew that, however he was described, I’d picture him as David Bowie, but he was most definitely based off Bowie’s appearance in Labyrinth – the long, pale limbs, the light fluffy hair, the pointed features – and to be honest, when his ‘mismatched eyes’ were mentioned, I teared up just a little bit – it was such a perfect hidden tribute to Bowie. I was also so thankful that he wasn’t just a typical anti-hero (although, I do love anti-heroes); he has a past and he has character development, and despite his elusiveness towards Liesl for a large part of the book, you do get to understand him more as the story progresses.
“Now the days of winter begin, and the Goblin King rides abroad, searching for his bride.”
Plot wise, Wintersong was very much split into two halves – the first, in which Liesl attempts to save her sister from the Goblin King, and the second, where Liesl is staying in the Goblin King’s Underground Realm. Both halves were very different (the first was far more of a journey/adventure style story, and the second followed more of a character growth plotline) but I loved both halves (if anything I think I preferred the second half), and despite their differences, I thought that they fit together so well. Liesl’s voice, attitude and entire character changes from one half to the next; to begin with, she’s still very much submissive to her family’s needs, but after offering to take her sister’s place in the Underground, she decides that it’s time to live as she wants now that she isn’t responsible for her family. She grows more daring with the Goblin King and begins to compare the child she was in the world above to the brave woman that she has become. I couldn’t help but compare Liesl and the Goblin King’s relationship to that of Marya and Koschei in Catherynne Valente’s Deathless: it was an intense romance with both parties battling for their own will before reconciling to the middle ground.
“I surveyed my kingdom. Chaos. Cruelty. Abandon. I had always been holding back. Always been restrained. I wanted to be bigger, brighter, better; I wanted to be capricious, malicious, sly. Until now, I had not known the intoxicating sweetness of attention. In the world above, it had always been Käthe or Josef who captivated people’s eyes and hearts – Käthe with her beauty, Josef with his talent. I was forgotten, overlooked, ignored – the plain, drab, practical, talentless sister. But here in the Underground, I was the sun around which their world spun, the axis around which their maelstrom twirled. Liesl the girl had been dull, drab, and obedient; Elisabeth the woman was a queen.” 

It is quite a long book – 500+ pages – but I found it to be a fairly quick read as both the writing style and the world were just so immersive. In fact, I could have happily read another hundred pages or so of the story – anything to mean that that ending wasn’t so excruciatingly heartbreaking. The companion novel to Wintersong is currently due to be published next year, and even though Wintersong itself hasn’t even been published yet, I already need that next novel…
Wintersong is published in the UK and US on the 7th February 2017. 
Goodreads | Book Depository | Amazon UK
Are you planning on reading Wintersong? What other 2017 releases are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments!

Love Becky @

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

In a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, a stranger with piercing blue eyes presents a new father with a gift – a precious jewel on a delicate chain, intended for his young daughter. Uncertain of its meaning, Pytor hides the gift away and Vasya grows up a wild, willful girl, to the chagrin of her family. But when mysterious forces threaten the happiness of their village, Vasya discovers that, armed only with the necklace, she may be the only one who can keep the darkness at bay.

The Bear and The Nightingale is a beautiful, fairytale-like story set around 14th Century Russia. Inspired by many Russian folklore tales, specifically the story of Morozko the Frost King, it follows the life of Vasya. It’s a story of family, the rising of orthodox Christianity in a pagan land that still worships household spirits, sacrifice, and wild untameable girls. The Bear and the Nightingale perfectly weaves fairytale into reality, incorporating traditional Slavic spirits – such as the household protective spirit, the domovoi – with harsh Russian winters and the day to day life of a family living by the forest in Northern Russia in the Middle Ages. 
A quick summary of the book – Vasya is born to Marina and Pyotr, and Marina predicts that Vasya will be different, as her mother was (a woman who many believed to be dabbling in witchcraft). Marina dies giving birth to Vasya, but pleas with Pyotr to protect her, telling him that she is special. The years pass, and Pyotr travels to Moscow to find a husband for his eldest daughter Olga, and a new wife for himself. When leaving the city, a stranger threatens Pyotr’s son, and in exchange for his life, bids Pyotr to give his youngest daughter (Vasya) a necklace embedded with a precious jewel. Pyotr is unwilling, and gives the necklace to the household maid, Dunya, to gift Vasya with. Dunya recognises the necklace for what it is – a gift from the Frost King Morozko – and pleads with him to let her keep the necklace safe until Vasya is grown. 
Meanwhile, the Priest Konstantin arrives in Vasya’s village. Anna, her stepmother, tells the Priest that she sees demons everywhere, and Konstantin makes it his mission to rid the village of their pagan ways. In turn, Vasya discovers that she must protect these demons – actually the Russian protective spirits of the household, horses etc – in order to protect her family. As Vasya grows into a young woman, Konstantin is constantly tempted by her, whilst at the same time believing her to be a witch. What follows is a battle against darker forces than either Vasya or Konstantin expected to be up against, in the dark Russian midwinter.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book – I’ve always been a huge fan of Russian folklore and modern day novels inspired by it, and this book introduced me to a traditional Russian tale that I haven’t come across before. Vasya was the perfect main character – she was elusive, brave and plucky, and as wild as the author made her out to be. In my opinion, the balance between mythology and reality was absolutely perfect; the two were expertly blended and neither felt as though it was overpowering the other. I enjoyed the relationship between Konstantin and Vasya – the way that he was drawn to her whilst at the same time almost repulsed by her, and the way she constantly felt the need to protect him even though she believed that he would cause the downfall of her village and her people. This was such a complex, magical book, and I would definitely recommend it, especially if you enjoy Russian mythology or similar slow-building fantasy novels (for example, Uprooted by Naomi Novik).

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love,


Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

She brings the snow with her touch,
they think she’s gone, but we know she will come again,
she will reign in his stead,
she will bring down the world on his head,
oh come, snow, come…

When Snow was five years old, she attempted to walk through a mirror, cutting herself to shreds. Ever since, she has lived in the Whittaker Institute – a mental hospital in New York. When she is banned from seeing her closest friend in the hospital, Bale, she devises a plan to escape with the encouragement of a strange new boy who appears in her dreams, encouraging her to find him beyond the tree. Snow soon finds herself in a world unlike her own, full of witches, magic, and snow-wielding kings – and it just happens to be the world that she had been born in. Now, she must uncover the secrets of Algid to help her find Bale, whilst trying to learn how to control her new found powers and come to terms with her royal heritage.
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Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the ARC of this book!
First off, I just want to point something out – a lot of people seem to think that this is a Snow White retelling (and I did, too, before I started reading it). Although Snow White’s dwarves are mentioned, this is when Snow is talking about the fairytale, not reliving it. This story is, if anything, a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen. Frankly though, if you’re looking for a retelling of that fairytale, I would honestly recommend sticking to watching Frozen. Really though, I think the world retelling is getting thrown around a bit too much now. This is a novel about a girl who has snow related magic and also happens to be a long lost princess, and we’ll leave it at that.
Anyway. Stealing Snow was certainly an experience. And when I say that, what I mean is I had no clue what was going on for the majority of the book.
At the beginning of the book, when Snow was still inside the institution, I was really interested. I wanted to know more about her life there, why she had been put there, about the other teens living there. Once Snow was outside and running around Algid, however, I lost interest quite fast.
Snow is taken to Algid by Jagger, wanting to find Bale, but then gets caught up with a river witch, a girl with a penchant for magic who was so insignificant that I can’t remember her name (Gaude, maybe?) and this girls sort of brother Kai, who is essentially the epitome of male YA stereotype. I have never read a character who is so unnecessarily melancholy. So, let’s review. We’re probably not even 25% into the book at this point, and we already have three love interests. When reading YA, I would expect one, if not two, love interests. But three? What? For a start, Snow has literally just met two of these boys – one of whom she believes kidnapped her first love interest, and the other who is nothing but awful to her. Second, I just don’t see the need? I didn’t think that whatever she supposedly “had” with Kai impacted the story in any way – it was completely unnecessary. 
So after Snow has had her run in with Kai and co., she meets up with Jagger again who takes her to meet a bunch of robber-girls who live in a castle, creating spells and changing their faces. You’d think everything would improve at this point, and the plot was definitely getting more interesting, but I still just didn’t care. I just can’t connect with a book if I don’t care about either the plot or the characters. 
Overall, Stealing Snow wasn’t an awful book, and I have definitely read worse. It’s real problem was that it didn’t make me feel anything. Often when I dislike a book, it’s made me really angry, but this didn’t even do that. In my opinion, there was no world building, no plot or character development, and no explanation for anything that happened in the plot (for example, how was it that Snow’s powers just happened to appear? Hadn’t she ever accidentally frozen someone as a child or something? Where did they come from?!)
This book does seem to be getting a lot of mixed reviews, so I would definitely encourage anyone who had been thinking about reading it to try it for themselves. Everyone has different opinions, after all!
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Have you read Stealing Snow yet? What did you think of it? Let us know in the comments!

Love,

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Thanks to HarperVoyager for the ARC of this book! This review will be spoiler-free.
If you survive, you shall be a force to be reckoned with in this world. But first you will be unmade. First, you will be broken.
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A Torch Against the Night kicks off right where An Ember in the Ashes left off – with Elias and Laia fleeing for their lives, on their way to rescue Laia’s brother from Kauf Prison. In order to reach Kauf in time, they must avoid detection from the Martials and the Commandant – but can they really trust those who they think are on their side?
The Empire has taken an even darker turn under Emperor Marcus, and Helene Aquilla must face his atrocities firsthand with her new role as Blood Shrike. When her loyalty to Marcus is questioned, she is forced to take on a mission in order to keep those she loves most safe – even if this mission destroys her.
 
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I think it’s quite easy for the second book in a trilogy to never quite live up to the thrill of the first book, however, A Torch Against the Night is definitely an exception to this. This book was just as amazing as, if not better than, An Ember in the Ashes. Once again, it was action packed from the start and there wasn’t a slow moment. I was worried that it would have a lot of filler material, and although a lot of the plot was definitely building up to something bigger coming which I assume will appear in the third book, everything was still relevant to this book’s storyline, and I definitely didn’t expect one of the big twists at the end.
As with the first book, Torch was written from one point of view; however, I feel as though where Ember was very much Laia’s story, Torch focuses a lot more on the stories of Helene and Elias. I have always loved Helene, but after this book, she’s definitely my favourite character from this series. All of the characters grew so much in this book, but I think Helene did most of all – and she certainly made me cry more than once.

I’d probably say that the one disappointing thing about this book was that the Commandant didn’t appear much. In the first book, I found her to be such a strong presence, and she’s definitely one of my favourite antagonists. I mean, when she did appear in Torch, she lived up to her reputation and was crueler than ever, but I think she definitely could have been around more. I’m hoping she’ll be a bigger character in the final book of the series!

Despite this, I’d still give A Torch Against the Night a strong five stars. Bring on book three!

A Torch Against the Night is released in the UK on the 8th September 2016 and in the US on the 30th August 2016. Are you excited to find out what happens after An Ember in the Ashes? Let us know in the comments!
 

 

And I Darken by Kiersten White

Thanks to NetGalley and Penguin Random House for the ARC!

And I Darken was all I wanted it to be and more. It’s a deep, dark and unique alternate history novel, set in the Ottoman Empire of the 1400’s, just before the fall of Constantinople. Kiersten White takes Vlad the Impaler and replaces him with Lada, Princess of Wallachia. 
Previously, I didn’t know much at all about this era in history, especially from an Eastern European perspective, so the setting of this book was so refreshing. It took facts from history and brought them to life with complex characters, political intrigue, wars, and intricate relationships. 
I absolutely loved Lada as a heroine, and the way that Kiersten White slotted her into the history of Wallachia and the Ottoman empire was flawless. The secondary characters – especially Lada’s brother, Radu, and Mehmed, the sultan’s son, also added so much to the story and I think the third person narrative worked so well in this book, as it meant that these characters thoughts and feelings weren’t overlooked. The plot constantly kept me on the edge of my seat with its twists and sudden revelations, as well as the culturally relevant issues that it presents throughout, such as the way that Lada is constantly overlooked by everyone just because she is a woman. 
And I Darken is definitely one of my favourite books of this year so far – I loved it so much that, despite having the ARC on my kindle, I had to order the hardback today – and the only negative thing I can say about it is that I almost wish I hadn’t read it so fast, as now I have to wait even longer for the sequel!