Saturday, 15 October 2016

REVIEW: Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 536
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Orion Children's Books
Genre: High Fantasy
Release Date: September 27th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off the most daring heist imaginable.
But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're fighting for their lives.

Double-crossed and badly weakened, they're low on resources, allies and hope.

While a war rages on the city's streets, the team's fragile loyalties are stretched to breaking point. 

Kaz and his crew will have to make sure they're on the winning side... no matter what the cost.

My Thoughts:
Considering I’ve been doing this for over five years, I still suck at writing up my thoughts on books I completely adored. Like this book. I JUST DON’T HAVE WORDS. WORDS CAN’T DO IT JUSTICE. I’ve been staring at a blank page for ten minutes trying to think of where to START. Firstly, let me assure you that this is a spoiler free review, so if you haven’t read the book yet, no worries (but seriously read it right now, what are you doing with your life). I’ll have a full spoilery discussion on my YouTube channel really soon. But for now, I’ll keep it simple.

Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six of Crows, and the final book in the dualogy. It picks up just after the events of the first book, so the crew are currently doing everything they can to bring Inej back from the clutches of the despiseable Jan Van Eck (I HATE THIS MAN SO MUCH, JUST PUTTING THAT OUT THERE). The crows have to keep working together to assure that Van Eck doesn’t get his hands on Kuwei and that both he and Pekka Rollins pay for the trouble they’ve caused. Once again, the genius that is Kaz Brekker comes up with a masterful scheme for absolutely everything, even when you think he has no more tricks in store.

This plot is amazing. It’s tense and action packed from the very start. No matter what is thrown at the crew, they figure out a way to get around it. To see the the story that started in Six of Crows come to such clever and brilliant conclusion is immensely satisfying. Everything was so well plotted and there were plenty of twists to be found, even if some of them were a little stressful to read because THESE POOR CHARACTERS HAVE TO SUFFER.

Let’s talk about the characters a little because this story would not be as gripping as it is without such a varied bunch of characters leading the way. Not one of them is dull. Though I love them all dearly, I’ll admit that I did have a little extra love in my heart for Jesper throughout Six of Crows and I was excited to learn more about his backstory in this book, which didn’t disappoint. It was great to see him finally face his own demons and learn to be accepting of his abilities as a Fabrikator. I also have to point out how much I adored Kaz in this book. He is so complex and the way Bardugo told his story was perfect. He and Inej make such an amazing team.

Let me talk about Wylan because I love him very much. Finally we get chapters that follow him and they were everything I wanted them to be and more. His story broke my heart in several places but I’ve loved his character development over the course of this dualogy. Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that Nina has an interesting and slightly creepy side effect to the jurda parem she took at the end of SoC. I certainly wasn’t expecting it and now I want to know more. Novella, anyone? I would happily read more about Nina Zenik. Also, the scenes between her and Matthias in this book were touching and often hilarious.

I need to mention that the relationships between these characters were so beautifully built, even if there were certain scenes that made me want to throw my copy of the book across the room (YES, CHAPTER 24, I AM LOOKING SPECIFICALLY AT YOU). The bond that has grown between them as friends is great and we get to see a lot more lighthearted moments this time around. Even among all of the action, there are still some cute and funny moments between them all.

Though the ending was as heartbreaking as it was amazing, the events that happened were necessary to the plot. There wasn’t one single thing about Crooked Kingdom that left me disappointed, and I’m so grateful to Leigh Bardugo for creating these characters and this world. It’s one I’ll be thinking a lot about long after putting the book down.

Royal Rating:


Friday, 14 October 2016

INTERVIEW: J. A. George, Author of 'Gifted'

Today I'm pleased to welcome J. A. George to the blog to talk about her book, Gifted
Hi Jessica! Can you tell us a little bit about your novel,Gifted? 
Hi Katie! I sure can! Gifted is about a nineteen year old university student (Ava) who meets a silver-haired woman a little on the strange side before meeting a young man a little more on the stranger side. These meetings lead to the eventual discovery of Hayven – a city separated from the rest of the world where only those with gifts can go. She makes an eclectic bunch of friends and finds herself very happy in the golden city, but Hayven has its dark side and they’re called Cliders. Gifters turned rogue, Cliders are determined to see Hayven return to the way it was a thousand years ago when the city was under the dominion of Madrina. 

Gifted is a contemporary YA fantasy, but it’s a little different from what may be expected from YA fantasy novels at the moment. There is no instant-love, a chosen one or a fearless girl growing up in a dystopian society. My protagonist is as normal as they come! Ava is strong-willed, funny and sarcastic, but she’s also insecure and worries about the small stuff, like we all do. She’s not skinny and she’s not boys-line-up-at-my-door beautiful. She is wonderful though because I can see myself and many others in her and it’s nice to have a relatable character who experiences extra-ordinary things. 

Gifted also takes a look at real young adult relationships, friendships and modern-day topics such as, body weight issues and cheating in relationships. My series also plans to pack in a lot of diversity and so far I’ve plotted story-lines and roles for Asian characters, Muslim characters, Latin characters and homosexual characters. 

*deep breath!* So…yeah. Gifted is a little different, but I hope that’s more of a good thing than a bad thing. 

What was it that inspired you to write this story? 
I wanted to read it! I love reading YA fantasy, but I soon started craving something different. In fear of repeating myself, I’ll just say I wrote Gifted because I wanted to read a book series with relatable characters, no instant-love or chosen one and a lot of diversity. 

What were the most challenging aspects of the writing process for you, and what were the most rewarding? 
The most challenging for me was making sure I didn’t write for the book market. This edition of Gifted is my second and edition one is an example of me writing for the book market. There was instant-love, a strong love triangle etc. because I assumed that was what YA readers wanted. But because it wasn’t what I wanted to read, I hated reading it! Two years later I realised I can’t be an author who hates her own book! So I redrafted 95% of Gifted and out came edition two. 
The most rewarding is having readers say they enjoyed reading Gifted and can’t wait for the second one. For an author, I don’t think it gets much better than that. 

Giftedis the first book inThe Hayven Series, how is the second book coming along? 
It’s coming along well! I had planned to release book two in 2017 because I didn’t expect to hear so many ‘when is the next book out?!’ So I started working on it straight away. I’m refusing to rush it because that’s just asking for mistakes, but now the publication date will be the end of 2016. And I honestly cannot wait for those who have read the first book to read the second one! 

Did you relate to any of your characters at all? 
Pretty much all of them! I tried to make my characters as relatable as possible, the only un-relatable part being their gifts. Even my antagonist is a little relatable because I didn’t want to write about a senseless murderer. Madrina is…mentally unstable, but she’s very aware of it and everything she does, she can justify. You won’t always agree with her and sometimes, scarily enough, you will, but at the end of the day, she can tell you why she did what she did. 

What do you hope readers will take away from your story? 
I hope readers will subconsciously take away the fact that they don’t have to be supernatural to be extra-ordinary. 

Finally, the main character of your story, Avery, is nineteen. What were some of your favourite books to read at that age? 
Hmmm… Let me think. I was in university at 19 and you get a lot of books to read on an English Literature course so unfortunately I technically didn’t have spare time for extra reading! I did sneak a few books in and I think the one I remember was the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I’ve recently stepped out of the YA genre to explore other genres and I’ve found some amazing books, like The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaleed Hosseini. I’ll read whatever sounds good. 


Huge thank you to Jessica for stopping by!

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

REVIEW: The Last Beginning by Lauren James

Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: SciFi, Time Travel
Release Date: October 6th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

The epic conclusion to Lauren James' debut The Next Together about love, destiny and time travel.

Sixteen years ago, after a scandal that rocked the world, teenagers Katherine and Matthew vanished without a trace. Now Clove Sutcliffe is determined to find her long lost relatives. But where do you start looking for a couple who seem to have been reincarnated at every key moment in history? Who were Kate and Matt? Why were they born again and again? And who is the mysterious Ella, who keeps appearing at every turn in Clove's investigation?

For Clove, there is a mystery to solve in the past and a love to find in the future.

My Thoughts:
Oh my GOSH. I don’t even know where to start with this book. Since I read The Next Together, I have been dying (literally DYING) to get my hands on this sequel, and let me tell you, it was everything I wanted it to be and more. The Last Beginning follows Clove, the daughter of Katherine and Matthew, who was born right at the end of the previous book. It’s been sixteen years since her birth, and she has grown up believing that Matthew’s brother Tom, and Tom’s wife Jen, are her biological parents. When she discovers the truth about her past, she makes the decision to use the time machine created by Tom and Jen to get some answers. But time travel is tricky, and not everything goes to plan.

First of all, let my start by saying that this book is so CLEVER. Honestly, the way it ties in with the first book is brilliant and well thought out. I had to grab my copy of The Next Together from my shelf and go back to certain parts now that I understood it more. There were so many ‘OOOOHHHHH’ moments and I need to praise Lauren James for her wonderful brain. The time travel in the story works out so well, and I love that whilst the plot was intricate and complex, I never felt too confused by what was happening. I’ve read time-travel stories before that have just mind-boggled me to the point that it wasn’t enjoyable, but James explains everything perfectly in due course.

So moving on to the characters. I LOVE CLOVE AND ELLA SO MUCH, I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO EXPLAIN. Their chemistry is perfect and I was living for scenes between them. (I would also highly recommend reading Lauren’s lovely post about her decision to give this sequel an LGBT protagonist.) Clove journeying through time leads her to cross paths with Ella, who is more linked to Clove’s timeline than she ever could have imagined. Their relationship builds beautifully and the lighthearted moments between them made for touching breaks in the tension-filled race through time. It was great to also revisit characters I thought we’d left behind in the first book (like certain coachmen from a certain year…) AND I NEED TO MENTION HOW MUCH I LOVE SPART, OH MY GOD. Spart is an AI created by Tom and finally I was able to find out what was behind the computer text that appeared throughout The Next Together. Spart was so much fun and I want my own one. When will it be a thing??

Like with The Next Together, the story was told in part through articles, documents, and excerpts. There was also the lovely addition of social media interaction between Clove and Ella, with even a couple of adorable Snapchats thrown in too. These little inserts bring another layer to the story and the characters, and the story works so much better because of them. The language used was current and relatable, and I loved the references cleverly dotted throughout. Also, the humour is on point.

This story perfectly tied up every loose end from the first book and it was satisfying to realise how the two books threaded together to create such a smart story. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect conclusion. I also need to mention how believable the writing was - it made me feel as though any of the events that happened within the pages could actually happen in real life (YES, I AM EXPECTING A WORKING TIME MACHINE BY THE YEAR 2056). I’m so glad I decided to read this thrilling SciFi duology and I’m super excited for whatever stories Lauren James might have planned in the future.

Royal Rating:


Thursday, 6 October 2016

REVIEW: The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Pages: 240
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Genre: Contemporary, Christmas
Release Date: October 6th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Dash and Lily have been dating for nearly a year, but when Lily’s beloved grandfather falls ill, the repercussions take their toll on everyone. Even though they are still together, somehow the magic has gone out of their relationship and it’s clear that Lily has fallen out of love with life.

Action must be taken! Dash teams up with Lily’s brother and a host of their friends, who have just twelve days to get Lily’s groove back in time for Christmas.

My Thoughts:
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares is one of my favourite Christmas stories. With a fun-filled plot and wonderful characters, it’s a book I always return to in the festive season. So I was thrilled to discover that these two awesome authors would be teaming up once again to write a sequel!

The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily picks up a year after the ending of the first book. Dash and Lily are still dating, but it’s a difficult time for Lily after her grandfather suffers a heart attack. The stress of everything starts to consume her and she finds herself in a rather dark place. Things are on the brink of change for Lily and her family, and she has to learn to come to terms with life not being able to stay the same. Dash becomes determined to cheer her up and get her feeling in the festive spirit again.

I adored being reunited with these characters! They’re just as brilliant as they were in the first book and I loved getting to see what had happened in their lives over the course of the year. I was happy to see that Dash was still his witty and cynical self, but he’s also able to do things he never would have dreamed of doing before he met Lily. This story shows how much these two characters have managed to bring out the best in each other. The lengths that Dash goes to in order to bring some joy back to Christmas for Lily is absolutely hilarious. Honestly, it’s a good job I was reading this book in the house because I laughed out loud more times than I can count. This plot is wild but it’s also genius.

The variety of characters on offer is what makes this such a fantastic read. From Lily’s louder-than-life family, to Dash’s best friend Boomer, their personalities and the bond between them are the heart of this novel. I loved getting to see Dash team up with Langston for the sake of Lily and to see the pair of them finally grow to like each other. Whilst there are moments of sadness throughout the story, we’re reminded to cherish the people that we have around us and to live in the moment.

Full of hilarious situations and heart-warming moments, this is a story that won’t fail to get you in the mood for Christmas. I flew through it in just a couple of days! Cohn and Levithan are a match made in writerly heaven and I’m so glad they decided to continue Dash and Lily’s story.

Royal Rating:

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

BLOG TOUR: Guest Post from Matt Dickinson, author of Lie Kill Walk Away

My guest blogger today is Matt Dickinson, author of the brand new YA thriller Lie Kill Walk Away.

GOING VIRAL! Why Bioterror (and a love story) are at the heart of my new thriller Lie Kill Walk Away’ 

One of the questions I often get asked in schools is:

‘What’s the most dangerous journey you’ve ever done?’

The expected answer is probably Everest (four per cent fatality for every 100 who reach the top and return) or perhaps K2 (twenty-nine per cent fatality for every 100 that reach the top and return alive).

No. The most dangerous journey I ever made was a clandestine one, sneaking across the border into Uzbekistan to visit an abandoned Soviet bio-weapons testing facility in the heart of the Aral Sea. I was the director of a documentary film for Channel 4, following presenter Nick Myddelton in a series called Going to Extremes.

It was certainly extreme. In forty-two degree heat (and dressed in bio-hazard protection suits) we travelled with a band of smugglers across the salty Aral Sea. It was a spooky voyage, passing the wrecks of Soviet trawlers that now stand abandoned on the salt flats of this polluted and almost desiccated lake.

When we reached the island of Voz the real terrors began. We filmed the laboratories where sinister bio-weapons were concocted at the height of the cold war.

Anthrax. Equine Flu Virus. Ebola. Really lethal stuff. 

Toxic cocktails cooked up in the minds of Soviet war mongers and stored by the ton ready to be deployed against the west.

A teaspoon of some of those bioweapons could kill everyone in London if it was ever deployed.

It was a terrifying experience, especially to witness the testing rooms where we found beds with restraining straps on them. Rumours say they tested deadly bio weapons on prisoners? Was it true? We couldn’t verify it but the evidence was there in front of our eyes.

I still have nightmares about that filming trip to this day … and that was why I chose a bio-weapons theme at the heart of my new thriller Lie Kill Walk Away.

I chose two teenage characters, Joe and Rebecca, and plunged them into a fast-moving terrorist threat with a bio-weapon at the heart of the tale. Of course I couldn’t resist sprinkling a bit of chemistry into the mix ... by which I mean Lurvvve! Thrillers are always far more interesting when the protagonists end up fancying each other don’t you think? Just ask James Bond!

I am proud of the book but I will never forget the terrors of the place where it all began.

Huge thank you to Matt for stopping by on the blog! Like Kill Walk Away is available to pre-order now!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Carry On Read-Along!

This October 6th, or 8th for those of us in the UK, will officially mark one year since the release of Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. As you may or may not know, it's one of my fave books ever. (I know, I talk about it a lot, but it is the eight wonder of the world.) So to celebrate this special day in young Carry On's published life, I've decided to reread the book throughout the month! From October 1st I'll be using the hashtag #carryonreadalong whilst I delve back into the world of Simon and Baz once again, sharing some of my favourite quotes and moments. If you fancy rereading the book, want to read it for the first time, or you simply want to share some of your own fave moments, feel free to join in with the hashtag - I'd love to see what you adore most about Carry On!

Also, if you haven't heard already, RAINBOW ROWELL IS TOURING IN THE UK WITH LEIGH BARDUGO, THIS IS NOT A DRILL. At the end of October, both of these fabulous ladies will stop off at four places in the UK to chat about their awesome books. To check out dates and details, be sure to visit the website:

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