Friday, January 31, 2020

January Wrap-Up

Here are the books I planned to read this month . . .


Spellhacker by M.K. England - eARC - 2.5/5 stars - read my review here.
Viper (Isles of Storm and Sorrow, #1) by Bex Hogan - paperback - 2.5/5 stars - read my review here.
The Sky Is Mine by Amy Beashel - ARC - 3/5 stars.

 Hortense and the Shadow by Natalia and Lauren O'Hara - hardback - 3/5 stars.
Teen Titans: Raven (DC Icons, #1) by Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo (Illustrator) - paperback - 3.5/5 stars.
A Queen in Hiding (The Nine Realms, #1) by Sarah Kozloff - ARC - 3.5/5 stars - read my review here.

 Meat Market by Juno Dawson - eARC - 3.5/5 stars - read my review here.
My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma - eARC - DNF (1/5 stars) - read my review here.
Girls with Sharp Sticks (Girls with Sharp Sticks, #1) by Suzanne Young - eARC - 3/5 stars - read my review here.

The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells - Kindle copy - 2.5/5 stars.
The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg - eARC -3.5/5 stars - review to come.



 The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage by Sydney Padua - paperback.
A Heart So Fierce And Broken (Cursebreakers, #2) by Brigid Kemmerer - FairyLoot hardback.
A Queen in Hiding (Nine Realms, #1) by Sarah Kozloff - I was sent an ARC of this from Tor Books.



This month has been pretty exciting!
In December I took redundancy from my job and earlier this month I flew to New Zealand! I'm now a nanny for my friend's daughter and will be returning to the UK in July!
I'm still blogging and I'm hoping to work through my backlog of NetGalley books while here.



What She Found in the Woods by Josephine Angelini

What books did you read/haul in January?


Thursday, January 30, 2020

Review - Girls with Sharp Sticks (Girls with Sharp Sticks, #1) by Suzanne Young

Title: Girls with Sharp Sticks (Girls with Sharp Sticks, #1)
Author: Suzanne Young
Pages: 400
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Release Date: 19th March 2019

Blurb from Goodreads:

The Girls of Innovations Academy are beautiful and well-behaved—it says so on their report cards. Under the watchful gaze of their Guardians, the all-girl boarding school offers an array of studies and activities, from “Growing a Beautiful and Prosperous Garden” to “Art Appreciation” and “Interior Design.” The girls learn to be the best society has to offer. Absent is the difficult math coursework, or the unnecessary sciences or current events. They are obedient young ladies, free from arrogance or defiance. Until Mena starts to realize that their carefully controlled existence may not be quite as it appears.

As Mena and her friends begin to uncover the dark secrets of what’s actually happening there—and who they really are—the girls of Innovations will find out what they are truly capable of. Because some of the prettiest flowers have the sharpest thorns.

My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Simon and Schuster UK Children's and NetGalley*

Innovations Academy is an exclusive boarding school for beautiful girls. They are taught how to be gracious, how to manage a household, and, most importantly of all, how to make men happy.
Then one of the students, Philomena 'Mena' Rhodes, discovers that there might be more to Innovations Academy than there seems, and that the girls' lives are more controlled than they realise.
What dark secrets lie within Innovations Academy?

In a few ways, Girls with Sharp Sticks reminded me of Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill - the way that the girls were controlled, and how angry that made me.
It was scary that I could totally imagine schools like Innovation Academy existing in real life, with men controlling how women should look and act.
My favourite thing about the book was the theme of friendship - Mena was very close to her fellow students, and I really liked that that they were all so supportive of each other. It was nice that there was no bitching or back-stabbing for a change.
I wanted to break into the school and rescue the girls myself. Especially Lennon Rose, who I wanted to hug and tell her that everything would be okay. I liked Mena too and thought she was a relatable protagonist.
The plot was good, but the first half suffered pace-wise for me. The second half when all the secrets started being revealed was a lot more interesting. However, I did have an inkling what the twist would be.
The writing style was engaging and easy to follow. I would read another book by the author if I got the chance.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

DNF Review - My So-Called Bollywood Life by Nisha Sharma

Title: My So-Called Bollywood Life
Author: Nisha Sharma
Pages: 320
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Release Date: 2nd May 2019

Blurb from Goodreads:

Bollywood film fanatic Winnie has grown up believing the future is written in the stars. Her family's pandit predicted she would find the love of her life before her eighteenth birthday. So when her relationship with Raj collapses, despite him meeting all the criteria, Winnie is lost. This is not how her perfect ending is scripted.

Then fellow film geek Dev challenges Winnie to look beyond her horoscope: is taking the future into her own hands the way to find her happily ever after? To get the perfect ending, Winnie will need a little bit of help from fate, family and, of course, a Bollywood movie star.

A fate-filled debut sure to dazzle fans of Stephanie Perkins, Maureen Johnson and Sandhya Menon.

My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Little Tiger Group and NetGalley*

- DNF @34% -

Bollywood-obsessed Winnie has always know that she would meet her soulmate before her eighteenth birthday - it was predicted by her family's pandit.
Winnie was certain that her soulmate was Raj, her boyfriend, but then the two of them break up and Winnie doesn't know if Raj was her destiny after all.
As Winnie starts spending more time with Dev, a film fanatic, she's unsure if she will have the happy future that was predicted for her.
Will Winnie's destiny be fulfilled?
Will she give up her dream career like her father?

I have never watched a Bollywood film, so I was interested to read a book where the protagonist loves them.
I liked that there were mini reviews for Bollywood films at the beginning of each chapter.
I had mixed feelings about Winnie - there were times when I liked her and times when I found her annoying and a bit over the top.
I liked Winnie's best friend, but found her ex, Raj, really frustrating. 
In what I read not much happened and I feel like the pacing could have been better. What did happen failed to hold my attention and I found myself skim-reading.
From the beginning I struggled with the writing style - the book is written in third person, however, I feel I could have connected with Winnie a lot more if it had been in first person. I also would have liked more description, especially at certain settings as this would have helped to set the scene, and I felt like I was doing all the heavy lifting, so to speak. For example, Winnie drove several times but we were told nothing about her car. I'm capable of imagining a car, but it would have been nice to know something about it. What colour was it? Did her parents buy it for her?
I'm disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more.

Unfortunately, this wasn't for me.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Blog Tour + Interview + Giveaway - The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious, #3) by Maureen Johnson

Find the tour schedule here.

The Hand on the Wall (Truly Devious, #3) by Maureen Johnson
Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: January 21st 2020
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, Thriller


New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson delivers the witty and pulse-pounding conclusion to the Truly Devious series as Stevie Bell solves the mystery that has haunted Ellingham Academy for over 75 years.

Ellingham Academy must be cursed. Three people are now dead. One, a victim of either a prank gone wrong or a murder. Another, dead by misadventure. And now, an accident in Burlington has claimed another life. All three in the wrong place at the wrong time. All at the exact moment of Stevie’s greatest triumph . . .

She knows who Truly Devious is. She’s solved it. The greatest case of the century.

At least, she thinks she has. With this latest tragedy, it’s hard to concentrate on the past. Not only has someone died in town, but David disappeared of his own free will and is up to something. Stevie is sure that somehow—somehow—all these things connect. The three deaths in the present. The deaths in the past. The missing Alice Ellingham and the missing David Eastman. Somewhere in this place of riddles and puzzles there must be answers.

Then another accident occurs as a massive storm heads toward Vermont. This is too much for the parents and administrators. Ellingham Academy is evacuated. Obviously, it’s time for Stevie to do something stupid. It’s time to stay on the mountain and face the storm—and a murderer.

In the tantalizing finale to the Truly Devious trilogy, New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson expertly tangles her dual narrative threads and ignites an explosive end for all who’ve walked through Ellingham Academy.

Book Links:

What was your favourite thing about writing The Hand on the Wall?

Doing the kind of classic detective mystery story that I always loved to read.

Did you do any research for The Hand on the Wall or the series in general?

Quite a lot! Certainly for the 1930s sections. I bought vintage Vermont maps and postcards and had them hanging in my office. I also had to spend a lot of time doing some fairly creepy research to pull off the murders in books one and two. I still get mail from The Journal of Forensic Sciences

Do you have a favourite character in The Hand on the Wall? 

Possibly Nate, the writer always panicking about writing his sequel. I might relate to that. Maybe.

Why did you decide to do a dual timeline throughout the series?

 It was always a part of the idea. I wanted to have someone trying to solve a cold case, so it was natural to me that we would see the original case and the present-day attempts to solve it. That way the readers got a chance to try to crack two mysteries.

What are you most proud of about the Truly Devious series?
The way it all ties up. It was like doing a word problem for four years. I got everything to add up!

About the Author


Maureen Johnson is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of several YA novels, including 13 Little Blue Envelopes, Suite Scarlett, The Name of the Star, and Truly Devious. She has also done collaborative works, such as Let It Snow (with John Green and Lauren Myracle), and The Bane Chronicles (with Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan). Her work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and The Guardian, and she has also served as a scriptwriter for EA Games. She has an MFA in Writing from Columbia University and lives in New York City.

Author Links:

Tour-wide giveaway

Open to US only

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Review - Meat Market by Juno Dawson

Title: Meat Market
Author: Juno Dawson
Pages: 416
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books
Release Date: 23rd March 2019

Blurb from Goodreads:
Jana Novak's history sounds like a classic model cliché: tall and gangly, she's uncomfortable with her androgynous looks until she's unexpectedly scouted and catapulted to superstardom.

But the fashion industry is as grimy as it is glamorous. And there are unexpected predators at every turn.

Jana is an ordinary girl from a south London estate, lifted to unimaginable heights. But the further you rise, the more devastating your fall ...

Honest and raw, this is a timely exposé of the dark underbelly of the fashion industry in an era of #TimesUp and #MeToo. It might just be Juno Dawson's most important book yet.


My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Hachette Children's Group and NetGalley*


Jana Novak doesn't feel comfortable in her own skin and is often teased because of how tall she is.
But when Jana's height and androgynous looks lead to her being scouted, Jana finds herself going from an average girl living in a London estate to a face that everyone knows.
Modelling isn't the future that Jana would have chosen for herself, but can she enjoy it and make the most of the opportunity she's been given?
Is modelling as glamorous as it seems?

Reading Meat Market was a bit of an eye-opener, especially as I'm someone who dreamed of being a model when I was younger. There's definitely a lot more to it than I thought and I don't think I could cut it.
Jana was a likeable and relatable protagonist and there were times when I just wanted to hug her.
I liked reading her interactions with her friends and other models. It was so crazy that Jana went from being a normal teen to someone that people recognised in such a short space of time.
The plot was interesting and held my attention, but I wasn't gripped.
The writing style was very easy to read and follow - I somehow read this in two days!
This is my favourite book by the author that I've read so far and I could definitely tell that a lot of research had gone in to writing it.
I thought the messages and themes explored were handled well and were important. In a way this felt like quite a powerful book.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read that I would recommend.

Friday, January 24, 2020

Review - A Queen in Hiding (The Nine Realms, #1) by Sarah Kozloff

Title: A Queen in Hiding (The Nine Realms, #1)
Author: Sarah Kozloff
Pages: 496
Publisher: Tor Books
Release Date: 21st January 2020

Blurb from Goodreads:
Orphaned, exiled and hunted, Cerúlia, Princess of Weirandale, must master the magic that is her birthright, become a ruthless guerilla fighter, and transform into the queen she is destined to be.

But to do it she must win the favor of the spirits who play in mortal affairs, assemble an unlikely group of rebels, and wrest the throne from a corrupt aristocracy whose rot has spread throughout her kingdom.

My Review:

*I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to Tor Books*

The Princess of Weirandale, Cerúlia, lives her life not knowing when she will see her mother or her home again, after being hidden away by Queen Cressa after an attempt on their lives.
The search for Cerúlia continues after Queen Cressa dies, and Cerúlia knows that one day she will need to claim back the throne. 
Every queen of Weirandale has a power and Cerúlia will need to learn how to use hers to help herself and her people.
How long will Cerúlia be safe at her new home?

I love a good fantasy book, especially ones about someone having to regain their throne, so I was excited to read A Queen in Hiding.
As this is the first book in the series, it establishes several storylines, characters, and countries. I thought this was well done and it didn't take me long to wrap my head around who was who and where they were from.
While I did like the main characters, my favourites were lesser characters who were more in the background like Seena and Kinley, who were two of the Queen's Shield, and Tiklok and Nana who worked in the palace.
A Queen in Hiding is nearly 500 pages long, but it didn't feel like it - the pacing was good and the plot was interesting and held my attention.
The world-building was good and not info-dumpy. It left me feeling like I could explain the different countries to someone, but also that I wanted to learn more as well.
I liked the concept of the Spirits and the queens of Weirandale having a different Talent that they used to help their subjects.
The writing style was easy to follow and engaging.
I definitely want to continue with this series and find out what happens to Cerúlia. The four books in this series are being published in consecutive months, so we don't have to wait long to see what happens next and can binge them.

Overall, this was an enjoyable book that I would recommend to fans of fantasy.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Review - Spellhacker by M.K. England

Title: Spellhacker
Author: M.K. England
Pages: 416 pages
Publisher: Harper Teen
Release Date: 21st January 2020

Blurb from Goodreads:

 In Kyrkarta, magic—known as maz—was once a freely available natural resource. Then an earthquake released a magical plague, killing thousands and opening the door for a greedy corporation to make maz a commodity that’s tightly controlled—and, of course, outrageously expensive.

Which is why Diz and her three best friends run a highly lucrative, highly illegal maz siphoning gig on the side. Their next job is supposed to be their last heist ever.

But when their plan turns up a powerful new strain of maz that (literally) blows up in their faces, they’re driven to unravel a conspiracy at the very center of the spellplague—and possibly save the world.

No pressure. 

Book Links:

My Review:

*I received an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to HarperTeen and Edelweiss*

Diz and her friends live in Kyrkarta where maz (magic) caused a magical plague that killed thousands of people. Access to maz is now controlled by a big corporation who charge as much as they want for maz.
Diz and her friends take advantage of this by illegally siphoning maz to order. Their next job is the last one they will ever do.
But the heist ends in explosions and destruction because of a new, dangerous strain of maz. 
On the run, the group find themselves caught up in a conspiracy that involves the spellplague and possibly the fate of the world.

I was really excited to read Spellhacker - it sounded like something I would love. Unfortunately, I ended up being disappointed and not enjoying it as much as I hoped I would.
My favourite thing about Spellhackers was the diversity. There were several LGBTQIA+ characters as well as non-white characters.
I have mixed feelings about the protagonist, Diz. There were times when I liked her and other times when she really annoyed me. She could be very mean and snappy to her friends, but I did sympathise with her. 
There weren't any characters in particular that stood out for me, but I liked the dynamic between Diz and her friends.
There was some world-building but I feel like there could have been more and that I couldn't tell someone much about the setting.
The concept of maz and all the different strains was interesting, as was the idea of the spellplague. I enjoyed reading about people using maz and totally wish that I could use it.
I did enjoy Spellhacker to begin with, but then I found myself becoming bored and in the end I didn't care what happened to the characters. 
There were a few times when I thought that characters reacted differently to how I expected, or that I thought reacted just plain weirdly. 
I guessed a big plot twist early on.
  I feel like Spellhacker didn't reach its potential. It was messy and disjointed at times.
I'm really disappointed that I didn't enjoy this more.

Overall, this was an okay but disappointing read.