SUMMER READING PREVIEW

This summer we are once again taking on the challenge of trying to read one book every week! There is nothing better for expanding your imagination and challenging your mind than reading, and to celebrate this, here is a preview of some of the exciting books we are reading over the summer.

Catwoman Soulstealer – Sarah J Maas

When the Bat’s away, the Cat will play.

Two years after escaping Gotham City’s slums, Selina Kyle returns as the mysterious and wealthy Holly Vanderhees. Batman is off on a vital mission and Gotham is at the mercy of the new thief on the prowl. Joined by the cunning Poison Ivy and the notorious Harley Quinn, she wreaks havoc across the city.

Selina is playing a desperate game of cat and mouse. But with a dangerous threat from the past on her tail, will she be able to pull of the ultimate heist.

What’s the deal?

DC superheroes are being brought to life by well-loved authors in the DC Icons Series. Sarah J MaasCatwoman is the third release in this series, and is preceded by Leigh Bardugo’s Wonder Woman and Marie Lu’s Batman. Most recently, Matt de la Peña’s Superman was released in March 2019.

What’s the hype?

Many of the reviews for this book are positive. People are loving the DC/Maas crossover, and most are liking the level of human emotion Maas brings to the character of Selina Kyle. Some want more strength and sassiness in the character, but by the same token some “think there is room for the exciting villainous Selinas of the past and for this more sensitive, emotionally-complex version.” (Emily May on Goodreads)

What are we expecting?                                                                                                                 

We know Maas can write action. We know Maas can write romance. We know Maas can write fantasy. We can probably confidently say that her action writing, character development and world-building skills will translate into her contribution to the DC Icons series, and therefore this book is probably very good.

However, what is particularly exciting about the prospect of this novel is that it is very different from Maas’ previous output; whereas A Court of Thorns and Roses, and Throne of Glass is set in a very clear fantasy world, with high magic and royalty, Catwoman is closer to urban fantasy, and is already established as part of a very famous, loved world created by a large franchise. It will be interesting to see how Maas’ fares in this style of writing, especially ahead of her urban fantasy series Crescent City in late 2019.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

They killed my mother.

They took our magic.

They tried to bury us.

Now we rise.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers and her growing feelings for an enemy.

What’s the deal?

Nigerian-American author Tomi Adeyemi debuts with Children of Blood and Bone, which has already got a movie deal with Fox 2000/Temple Hill Productions. Adeyemi describes it as an “allegory for the modern black experience,” and in this West African YA-Fantasy magic, epic adventure and racial tensions all collide.

What’s the hype?

There is a HELL OF A LOT of hype surrounding this book, which is both a good and bad thing for the book. The more hype, the more exposure, but conversely, the more hype the higher the expectations of the reader. YA Fantasy readers have been wanting more diversity in what they read for a really long time, and Adeyemi more than delivers with this novel exploring race and issues in a world based on Nigeria and its mythology. Some readers have found issues with the book, saying the pace was very slow and they did not feel invested in the characters. Others, however, love the construction of both the world and characters, and feel it perfectly hits exactly what the YA market needs.

What are we expecting?                                                                                                                 

From reading some reviews, we are expecting the world building to be a particular highlight, with characters that you gradually warm up to the more the book progresses. We’re hoping there will be some good action and plot writing. Some of the more negative reviews have mentioned that they think the plot and characters are too trope-y, so it will be interesting to see what we think regarding that. Ultimately, this is Adeyemi’s debut novel, and we can’t wait to be introduced to her writing and finally catch up with reading this massively hyped book.

Once and Future – Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy

I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure.

What’s the deal?

Entangled author Amy Rose Capetta joins forces with The Color of Rain’s Cori McCarthy in this gender-bending, space-crossing retelling of the King Arthur legend. On the surface, this novel seems to have everything that’s hot in YA right now; a badass female lead, adventure, and a “sizzling, bold exploration of gender, power and revolution” (Jessica Khoury.)  We received this book in a subscription box from Illumicrate.

What’s the hype?

In reviews, this book has been described as “that strange blend of sci-fi and quirky comedy that some people seem to love” (Emily May on Goodreads) The hype around this book, however, is not huge. In fact, it seems almost non-existent. The majority of the reviews rate the book a happy average, with little to no outstanding or awful ratings. Many reviews positively comment on the inclusivity and humour in the book, but are a bit more critical of the pacing and intention.

What are we expecting?

This seems to be a good, creative idea for a novel, and the premise is something we are likely to enjoy, and so the success of this book will all be in the execution. How are we introduced to the world which is seemingly quite different from our own? How are we introduced to the characters and how are their relationships built and developed? What is the pacing of the novel like? Are we getting bored? These questions are all challenges we expect to have to put to this book.

City of Thieves – David Benioff

Four months into the siege of Leningrad, the city is starving. Seventeen-year-old Lev fears for his life when he is arrested for looting the body of a dead German paratrooper, while his charismatic cellmate, Kolya, a handsome young soldier arrested for desertion, seems bizarrely unafraid.

Dawn brings, instead of an execution squad, an impossible challenge. Lev and Kolya can find a dozen eggs for an NKVD colonel to use for his daughter’s wedding cake, and live. Or fail, and die.

In the depths of the coldest winter in history, through a city cut off from all supplies and suffering appalling deprivation, man and boy embark on an absurd hunt. Their search will take them through desolate, lawless Leningrad and the devastated countryside surrounding it, in the captivating journey of two men trying to survive against desperate odds.

What’s the deal?

In City of Thieves, Benioff retells the story told to him by his grandfather of two boys in WWII Leningrad on an insane mission. The horrendous and the comical are interwoven in every aspect of this book. We have two young boys about to face the firing squad in desolate, bleak wartime Leningrad, and all of the horrors that war has wreaked on their city. At the same time, we have a Soviet sending them across the destitute city to find some eggs, and if they return empty-handed then they will face their deaths. Described as an “intimate coming-of-age story”, this book seems to transcend all normal expectations of a war novel, finding the humanity in the inhumane.

What’s the hype?

Described as cinematic in its style, with writing that transports you, reviews are loving this deft combination of fiction and biography that provides an insight into a city that was devastatingly affected by the war. Many say that Benioff successfully manages to write a historical novel that both puts characters at its heart and also provides a harrowingly accurate picture of war-stricken Russia. In fact, it is very difficult to find negative reviews of this book. The vast majority of reviews rate it 4 or 5 stars, and even those that are lower are very complimentary, and the reason for the low rating is that they weren’t particularly interested in the subject matter. The consensus among reviewers is that Benioff’s writing is exquisite; indeed, J. Kent Messum says “it’s a modern textbook example of how to write a great story.”  

What are we expecting?

We’re expecting it to be really good! Benioff is co-creater of the TV phenomenon Game of Thrones, and so the cinematic writing that everyone is raving about is something we really hope comes across. We are interested to see if it has the same sort of pace and tone as The Book Thief, as this is what a fair few of the reviews seem to imply. The characters seem to be of central importance in this book, and so it will be interesting to see how attached we get to them, and how they are developed throughout. As is it historical fiction, we expect that the world-building will be good, and we want to get a real feel for what life was like in wartime Leningrad.

Uprooted – Naomi Novik

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

What’s the deal?

In Uprooted, Novik presents a high-fantasy world saturated with folklore and magic. The anti-hero of the novel seems to be the evil Wood, and clumsy, average Agnieszka finds herself at the centre of the battle against this “malevolent power.” “One part Polish folk tale, one part coming-of-age magical fantasy, and one part horror,” (Tadiana on Goodreads) and with a purposefully vague blurb, before even picking the book up, we are expecting big things.

What’s the hype?

This book has a lot of hype from some really big hitters in YA Fantasy; for example, Cassandra Clare, Lev Grossman, Maggie Stiefvater and Robin Hobb. If that doesn’t hype the novel up, I don’t know what does. With words such as “enchanting”, “thrilling” and “a delight” being regularly thrown around, Uprooted is being reviewed as both “otherworldly and planted in the real”; the seemingly perfect combination for a fantasy novel! On the other hand, some reviews are not so positive, with readers wanting much more character development, particularly for the anti-heroes, and describing the story as “nothing new.”

What are we expecting?

Described as “a charming and inviting story that looks unflinchingly at the strangling roots of hurt and revenge” (Robin Hobb), we expect this novel to be an easy read, but one with some dark tension interweaved in with the enchanting magical world. This is exactly the sort of book a YA Fantasy fan should hope to love; satisfying plot lines, adventure, perhaps a hint of romance and some epic magic. After the build-up from all of those authors, we’re really, really hoping it’s amazing – – please don’t let us down, Uprooted!

REVIEW: Three Dark Crowns

Quick summary: Dark, savage and mesmerising. 
Rating: ★★★★★
Try this series if you like: V.E Schwab, Neal Shusterman and Susan Dennard.


Read the full synopsis here

I bought and finished this book in two evenings worth of reading. The transitions between the points of view of the three sisters keeps you flipping the pages because you want to see what happens to the character after you’ve left them, and the more Blake unfurls tiny nuggets of information about each character, the more you are desperate to get to the next big reveal. I loved this book, and can’t wait to get into the next books in the series! I would also like to note at this point that I think Kendare Blake is exceedingly awesome, not least because her pets are called Tyrion Cattister, Obi-Dog Kenobi, Agent Scully and Armpit McGee. 

There is brutality and the promise of violence dripping off every page of this book – the very premise of it is that these three sisters have to attempt to kill each other to win the crown. Kendare Blake presents romantic, platonic and familial relationships, all while asking how much a person has to do before you can’t forgive them anymore, and questioning what truly makes a family. This exploration of human relationships is a real highlight of the book. 

The character development in Three Dark Crowns was also interesting and well thought out. At first, admittedly, it is confusing because there are lots of characters, and as it hops between the three queens, you don’t really get time to sit and figure it out as the plot unfolds. I also worried that there wouldn’t be enough development of the queens because it hopped between them so much. In the end, I didn’t see this as much of a problem, because the key characters came up often enough that you recognised them and the queens did get enough air time to give us an insight into their characters. As the book progresses, Blake cleverly weaves the personalities of the three sisters into your heart, and you soon realise you would be devastated for any of the three to die.

One thing I would have liked to have seen more of in the book would be a bit more world development. I am a sucker for knowing all of the little cultural details about the world I’m reading about, and I feel that this was the only element lacking ever so slightly from this book. Of course, this is only the first book and as I progress through the series I may get more insight into the world. There were some details, such as the Naturalist hunt, which were lovely, and ultimately it just comes down to personal preference. In my opinion, it does not take away from the overall success of the book at all. 

To summarise, I thought this book was great! Blake’s plot and character writing are fantastic, and she really keeps you on your toes the whole time. For anyone tempted to put the book down and not finish it (I see you, DNF’s…) I definitely say even if you struggle at the start of book, definitely push on because the final third is particularly good – the plot twists are spectacular and the character writing starts to really come to fruition. Three Dark Crowns is dark, savage and mesmerising. Give it a read. 

 

Rosie x 

REVIEW: DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE

Quick Summary: Be right back, off to dye my hair blue.
Rating: ★★★★☆

Check out the full synopsis here

Laini Taylor scores a home run with this trilogy. It has everything a YA Fantasy novel should have. Thrilling adventure, friends who would cross worlds for each other, spine-tingling romance and epic writing.

The trilogy begins in Prague, and it is safe to say that I have never wanted to go to Prague more than I do now. The essence of the city leaps off the page, which is undoubtedly a testament to Taylor’s clever imagery and personification of the city. It goes to the next level from just describing the physical city itself to really encapsulating its soul and hidden gems. The fantastic writing, however, does not stop at world-building. Interactions between characters, whether it be a conversation or a sideways glance, is full to the brim with intrigue and foreboding, daring you to remember every hidden detail in case it reappears later.

The characters themselves are also well developed, and Taylor does not by any means neglect any of the characters in favour of developing the main protagonist alone. Karou, the blue-haired, enterprising protagonist lives a complicated life on the fringes of Earth and Elsewhere, at the beck and call of a mysterious creature. She is bold and artistic, but has to hide half of her true self from the human world, including her best friend Zuzana (my all time favourite, by the way.)

A significant premise of the novels is observing how the characters deal with pain. Every single main character has a setback which they have to overcome, whether it be grief, loss, madness. Despite being a fantasy novel, with many of the characters being fantastical creatures, the way Taylor writes them is so realistic. We admire and dislike different aspects of their characters, just as we would humans. They feel loneliness and react to difficulty as a human would. They are sometimes selfish, they have flaws.

Another star element of these novels is that while Taylor’s female characters have strength, they are not necessarily strong because they can kick ass. Strength in the female characters in these novels means many things – being able to be vulnerable, being able to stand up and take responsibility when needed, keeping going when their world is falling apart. Sometimes in YA novels, it feels as if authors are scared of portraying women as weak, and so the answer is to show them as physically strong, with no flaws. Taylor does not shy away from showcasing the weaknesses of her characters and uses their fear or loneliness as a catalyst for personal improvements and character arcs.

The plot is strong, with elements of duty, adventure, and some good twists. I would argue that there are stronger plot lines with better and more exciting twists out there, but that actually really didn’t matter in this series. It is almost the case that any denser of a plot would have taken away too much time and space for Taylor to really come into her own on the descriptive side.

Overall, this is a fantasy series you need to read. It is very readable, with interesting and well-developed characters, an intriguing parallel-world setup and beautiful, beautiful writing.

One question which you can answer once you’ve read the series: would you say there is a small case of fridging in here…? Does it count? Let me know what you think! As always, if you’ve read this series, leave any thoughts down in the comments or on our Instagram or Facebook pages!

Rosie x

I would recommend this series for lovers of Cassandra Clare, Sarah J Maas, and Leigh Bardugo. Also, if you’re into epic fantasy and want to make the switch to a more urban or YA fantasy, then this would be a good one to start with!