Sunday, June 30, 2019

June Wrap-Up

*Contains spoilers for the June Wildest Dreams and FairyLoot boxes*


Here is what I planned to read in June . . . 


 Proud Anthology Compiled by Juno Dawson - eARC - 3.5/5 stars - read my review here.
Evermore (Everless, #2) by Sara Holland - eARC - 2.5/5 stars - read my review here.
Do You Dream of Terra-Two? by Temi Oh - hardback - 3.5/5 stars.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman - eARC - 3.5/5 stars - read my review here.
Tilly and the Bookwanderers (Pages & Co, #1) by Anna James - hardback - 3/5 stars.
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds - eARC - 2.5/5 stars - read my review here.


 A Good Girl's Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson - paperback - 3.5/5 stars.
We Are Blood And Thunder by Kesia Lupo - eARC - 2.5/5 stars - read my review here.
Flame in the Mist (Flame in the Mist, #1) by Renee Ahdieh - paperback - 4/5 stars.

Okami (Flame in the Mist, #1.25) by Renee Ahdieh - ebook - 3/5 stars.
Yumi (Flame in the Mist, #1.75) by Renee Ahdieh - ebook - 3.5/5 stars.
Smoke in the Sun (Flame in the Mist, #2) by Renee Ahdieh - ARC - 3.5/5 stars.

Noughts & Crosses (Noughts & Crosses, #1) by Malorie Blackman - paperback - 2.5/5 stars.
The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1) by Mackenzi Lee - hardback - 3.5/5 stars.


History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera - I got this in a trade.
Spare and Found Parts by Sarah Maria Griffin - I got this in a trade as well.
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens - another trade book.
The Paper and Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie - this was the June Wildest Dreams book. It came with a signed bookplate.
The Tesla Legacy by K.K. Perez.
Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson - this is the FairyLoot June book. It's signed by the author and has gorgeous glittery, green sprayed edges.


This month I went to the Scottish Highlands for a week. 
I was lucky with the weather but did get bitten by midges a few times.

My puppy, Mia, is now nearly five months old and she's getting so big!


 The Truth About Keeping Secrets by Savannah Brown

What books did you read and haul in June?

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Wildest Dreams Unboxing - Finding Your Tribe (June Box)

Wildest Dreams is a YA subscription book box run by the lovely Zoe who blogs at No Safer Place.

Each box included a YA book, a tea, a bath product, and usually a bookmark and something extra.

This month the theme was 
 Finding Your Tribe

Here's what was inside . . .

* A print of the characters in Holly Bourne's Spinster Club series designed by Lia at @lostinink_.
* A wax melt that is inspired by Radio Silence by Alice Oseman that smells like lemon tart. This is from Shimmer & Luxe.
* This month's tea is inspired by Six of Crows and is from Rosie Lea Tea. It's a black tea leaf with hints of chocolate and caramel.
* A cookie inspired by The Paper & Hearts Society created by Gardners Cookies which looks so yum!
* The book of the month is The Paper & Hearts Society by Lucy Powrie. It came with a bookmark and a signed bookplate.
I'm so excited to read this!

What do you think of this month's box?
Do you subscribe to Wildest Dreams?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Review - We Are Blood and Thunder by Kesia Lupo

Title: We Are Blood And Thunder
Author: Kesia Lupo
Pages: 448
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Release Date: 4th April 2019

Blurb from Goodreads:

In a sealed-off city, a young woman, Lena, is running for her life. She has been sentenced to death and her only way to survive is to trust those she has been brought up to fear – those with magic. 

On the other side of the locked gates is a masked lady, Constance, determined to find a way back in. Years ago she escaped before her own powers were discovered. But now she won't hide who she is any longer. 

A powerful and terrifying storm cloud engulfs the city. But this is more than a thunderstorm. This is a spell, and the truth behind why it has been cast is more sinister than anyone can imagine ... But what neither Lena and Constance realise is that the stormcloud binds them – without it, without each other, neither can get what they desire…


My Review:
*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Bloomsbury Publishing Plc (UK) and NetGalley*

Lena lives in a city that has been sealed off in quarantine for several years. This is because of a strange, magical storm cloud and the Pestilence which has killed many.
Sentenced to death by the Justice, who believes that Lena is a mage, she manages to escape, but finds herself surrounded by magic, something she has been taught to fear.
Constance left the city years ago but has returned to stop the spell that caused the strange cloud.
Can Lena control her new magic?
Will Constance be able to stop the storm from destroying the city and everyone inside?

I really liked the premise for We Are Blood and Thunder, but for me it fell flat.
I didn't particularly connect with Lena or Constance, and there weren't any characters that stood out for me.
I found the plot to be very predictable. There were only one of two things that I didn't see coming, and given that the book is over 400 pages, this made it feel even longer.
The setting was interesting, as well as the magic and the concept of pledging yourself to the Gods. I would be intrigued to find out more about how the Gods were able to control people's magic and about Chaos.
The writing style was okay. It was easy enough to follow but I wasn't gripped and at times I found myself skimming the pages.
I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more.

Overall this was an okay but disappointing read.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Review - Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

Title: Opposite of Always
Author: Justin A. Reynolds
Pages: 464
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Release Date: 9th April 2019

Blurb from Goodreads:
When Jack and Kate meet at a party, he knows he’s falling – hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.

My Review:
*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Pan Macmillan and NetGalley*

Jack meets Kate at a party and they hit it off instantly. They grow closer but then Kate dies.
Jack somehow finds himself back in time at the party where he and Kate first met.
Jack knows he must use this chance to try and save Kate.
Can Jack prevent Kate's death?
Will his actions effect his friends and family too?

I have mixed feelings about Opposite of Always.
There were times when I liked Jack, but there were also times when I found him really annoying and thought he was selfish and a bad friend.
I liked Kate. She seemed like someone I would want to be friends with.
I also liked Jack's relationship with his parents.
The time travel aspect of the plot was interesting, especially seeing what changed during each alternate time, but I did get a little bored at times.
The writing style wasn't one of my favourites - it didn't hold my attention all the time.
I love time travel, so I was excited to read this, but it didn't quite hit the mark for me.

Overall this was an okay but disappointing read.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday - Call It What You Want

Can't-Wait Wednesday is a feature hosted at Wishful Endings where people showcase an upcoming book they are looking forward to.

This week my pick is . . . 

Title: Call It What You Want
 Author: Brigid Kemmerer
 Pages: 384 
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA 
Release Date: 27th June

Blurb from Goodreads:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship...

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

Why I'm Anticipating This Book:

 I'm a big Brigid Kemmerer fan so I'm excited to read her next book! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday - Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a feature hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

This week the topic is

  Most Anticipated Releases of the Second Half of 2019
This has been such a good year for book releases and there are still loads more to look forward to.
Here are ten that I'm anticipating . . .  

1. Gumiho: Wicked Fox (Gumiho, #1) by Kat Cho - Release Date: 25th June

I'm so excited for this! I love the colours of this cover!

2. Teen Titans: Raven by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo - Release Date: 2nd July

I loved Raven in the Teen Titans cartoon so I'm intrigued to read this.

3. Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood - Release Date: 4th July

I loved Laura Wood's first YA book, A Sky Painted Gold, so I'm very excited about this one. Especially as it's a Much Ado About Nothing prequel. And how gorgeous is that cover?!

4. Call It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer - Release Date: 27th June

I'm a big Brigid Kemmerer fan so I can't wait for this.

5. Spin the Dawn (The Blood of Stars, #1) by Elizabeth Lim - Release Date: 9th July

"Project Runway meets Mulan"?! Yes please!

6. We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya, #1) by Hafsah Faizal - Release Date: 8th August

I was so excited when I saw that this was being published in the UK!

7. Kingdom of Souls by Rena Barron - Release Date: 10th September


8. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow - Release Date: 12th September

Magical doors in the 1900s? Sounds awesome!

9. The Secret Commonwealth (The Book of Dust, #2) by Philip Pullman - Release Date: 3rd October

I LOVE the colours of this cover and can't wait to see Lyra as a twenty-year-old.

10. The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1) by Renee Ahdieh - Release Date: 8th October

1872 + New Orleans + murders + vampires?
Colour me intrigued!

What books are you looking forward to?

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Blog Tour + Top Ten + Giveaway - Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan

Find the tour schedule here.

Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon by Mary Fan
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: June 11th 2019
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy


When a powerful viceroy arrives with a fleet of mechanical dragons and stops an attack on Anlei’s village, the villagers see him as a godsend. They agree to give him their sacred, enchanted River Pearl in exchange for permanent protection—if he’ll marry one of the village girls to solidify the alliance. Anlei is appalled when the viceroy selects her as a bride, but with the fate of her people at stake, she sees no choice but to consent. Anlei’s noble plans are sent into a tailspin, however, when a young thief steals the River Pearl for himself.

Knowing the viceroy won’t protect her village without the jewel, she takes matters into her own hands. But once she catches the thief, she discovers he needs the pearl just as much as she does. The two embark on an epic quest across the land and into the Courts of Hell, taking Anlei on a journey that reveals more is at stake than she could have ever imagined.

With incredibly vivid world building and fast-paced storytelling, Stronger Than a Bronze Dragon is great for readers who are looking for something fresh in epic fantasy.

 Book Links:

Top Ten Tips for Becoming a Better Writer

10. Take care of yourself.

There’s an ugly myth out there that suffering leads to creativity. While many creative types have drawn upon past suffering to make art, it’s not a requirement by any means. Not to mention, health issues (whether of the physical or mental sort) can hinder your ability to be productive. After all, how are you supposed to write if you can barely make it out of bed? 

9. Do things. Meet people. Yes, online counts.

The wider your range of experiences, the more you can draw upon for writing. Sometimes, they tie together in unexpected ways – I once drew upon my car troubles to add tension to a space chase scene. Of course, time and resources may present challenges. Many may disagree with me, but I say that online experiences count – especially when it comes to human interactions. Communicating with different people and personalities can inspire new ideas for characters, plot points, etc. in ways you can’t predict.

8. Let “good enough” be enough.

Especially in the first draft. No one’s first draft is good. Some of mine have been eye-clawing-ly awful. The one I’m currently working on required a complete rewrite because the voice was all wrong (which I didn’t figure out until after I’d written the whole thing, sent it to my critique group, and then reread it with fresh eyes a few weeks later). A first draft’s job is simply to exist. This is where you let your ideas gush out, where let yourself experiment. Not everything will work. Maybe none of it will work. But at least you’ll know.

And even when dealing with later drafts (or even the close-to-final proof), there might still be things that don’t feel 100% perfect. That’s okay – chances are, the reader won’t even notice. No piece of writing is ever completely, totally, unassailably good. 

7. Remember there’s no such thing as wasted words.

Trashing large quantities of writings – entire drafts, even – is hard. Sometimes, all you can think about is the number of hours and the sheer toil of getting all those words down. So the idea of throwing it away (or “trunking” it) seems like a waste.

But, to borrow an old cliché, it’s the journey that counts. Really. Because all writing is practice, whether you end up using the words or not. And writing is a skill, just like every other skill. Consider the dancers who spend hours in a studio perfecting a 3-minute piece for a single showcase. Were all those hours of dancing with no audience a waste? Of course not. Performance art is ephemeral, and so it’s easy to accept that a lot of labor will be put into practicing without an audience. Writing is more permanent – you’re creating something that could last for ages – so it can feel like not using the words produced is a waste. But really, it’s the experience that counts.

So don’t be afraid to slash, burn, and destroy in the revisions process.

6. Be efficient with your words – in your own way.

One thing I notice a lot when working with newer writers is how many unnecessary filler words they’ll have in there – that they don’t even realize they’re doing. For instance: She lifted her head up and down with eagerness and then said, “I agree.” Really, all you need to write there is: She nodded eagerly. “I agree.”

The more draconian purveyors of writing advice will put down rules like “delete all your adverbs” or “no dialogue tags, ever.” I disagree. Everyone has their own writing style – and their own inefficient habits (I, for one, tend to over describe and become repetitive in the process). It’s okay to write inefficiently during the first draft (my first drafts often get bloated to such an extend, I cut out 10% of the words on the first pass revision). But keep an eye out for ways to reduce the number of words you’re using to get to a particular point – without sacrificing the voice, of course.

5. Bring out your story’s sensory and emotional experiences.

Writing isn’t just about what happens – it’s also about how it makes the reader feel. It’s not just sunny outside – the rays are warming your skin and glinting off the water. Whether through the lens of your protagonist (when writing in first person or close third) or from a more distant POV, the more you can evoke the feeling of being someplace or doing something, rather than just stating the facts, the more your reader can feel like they’re part of the story, experiencing it from the inside.

4. Don’t feel beholden to someone else’s method.

A lot of people write posts about how their method, which works amazingly for them, is THE method. For some, it’s write every day, come hell or high water. For others, it’s build an extensive outline before you get started. Whatever the case, they’re all wrong – there is no single method for writing. While it’s worth trying on someone else’s method in case it works for you, there’s nothing wrong with saying “forget that” and doing things your own way. I, for one, have changed methods between books. Once, I was an avowed outliner, with pages and pages of notes before I started writing (one outline was 10,000 words long). Meanwhile, for Stronger than a Bronze Dragon, I basically made it up as I went.

3. Read. Read a lot. Read widely.

A lot of writing habits are absorbed, not just developed. Rather like speech – while taking lessons and memorizing rules does shape the way we communicate, what ultimately comes out is what feels natural to each of us. And that’s how we develop our own unique voices, both in speech and writing. When it comes to the latter, reading more can open you to new possibilities on how to use language and help you cultivate an ear for writing styles that could help you improve your own.

2. Take breaks.

The world is full of writers who claim to sit down at 6am and write nonstop until 6pm, with maybe a bathroom break and a quick run to the kitchen to grab a sandwich or something. Or the ones who say they write every single day no matter what. Good for them. For a lot of people, though, that kind of expectation just isn’t realistic. I, for one, am a “feast or famine” writer. Either I’m pumping out thousands upon thousands of words in a single sitting (my record is 10,000 in one evening after work, though I stayed up till 3am for that) or I’m doing absolutely nothing (sometimes for weeks). It’s easy to feel guilty during those “famine” times, especially when social media is crawling with productivity posts by other writers (good for you, Person-Who-Wrote-A-Novel-In-3-Weeks! I’ve spent the past 3 weeks binge-watching pointless shows on Netflix!). But ultimately, breaks are part of the process (for many of us). It’s a chance for our creative brains to recharge and reset and come back stronger. And hey, studies have shown that creative solutions come when your mind is wandering, not when you’re focusing on the task and trying to force it out.

1. Just keep writing.

You know that old cliché – the only way to fail is to quit? Well, it’s true. And by “quit,” I mean “stop writing forever and with no intention of ever trying again.” As mentioned above, breaks are fine, whether they’re for days, weeks, months, or even years (hey, it’s been 8 years since George RR Martin put out a Song of Ice and Fire book, and you know he hasn’t been actively writing that manuscript this whole time – he’s been up to other things). But anyway, the important thing is that whatever happens with your publishing journey, just keep writing as long as it’s something you enjoy.

About the Author

Mary Fan is a hopeless dreamer, whose mind insists on spinning tales of “what if.” As a music major in college, she told those stories through compositions. Now, she tells them through books—a habit she began as soon as she could pick up a pencil.

Mary lives in New Jersey and has a B.A. from Princeton University. When she’s not scheming to create new worlds, she enjoys kickboxing, opera singing, and blogging about everything having to do with books.

 Author Links:

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