Saturday, 31 October 2015

Happy Halloween!

Hey, bookworms. Happy Halloween! *evil laughter* Are you feeling spooky and have scared yourself silly with some creepy reads this month? If you haven't, you can always catch up on my Halloween-themed videos instead. *shameless self promotion*

Over on my channel, I posted my top Halloween reads, and a countdown of my five creepiest book villains. I even got dressed up for the occasion. (By dressed up, I mean I raided the old costume box to find Halloween props from seven years ago, and put on some black lipstick.) Feel free to check them out!



I hope you all have a spook-tastic Halloween! 



Friday, 30 October 2015

REVIEW: In Order To Live by Yeonmi Park

Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Penguin Press
Genre: Biography
Release Date: September 29th 2015
Buy The Book: Amazon - Amazon UK

'I am most grateful for two things: that I was born in North Korea, and that I escaped from North Korea.'

Yeonmi Park was not dreaming of freedom when she escaped from North Korea. She didn't even know what it meant to be free. All she knew was that she was running for her life, that if she and her family stayed behind they would die - from starvation, or disease, or even execution.

This book is the story of Park's struggle to survive in the darkest, most repressive country on earth; her harrowing escape through China's underworld of smugglers and human traffickers; and then her escape from China across the Gobi desert to Mongolia, with only the stars to guide her way, and from there to South Korea and at last to freedom; and finally her emergence as a leading human rights activist - all before her 21st birthday.

My Thoughts:
This book is harrowing to read, there is no doubt about it, but it is vital that people take the time to learn Yeonmi’s story. At just 21-years-old, Yeonmi Park’s life has been filled with terrors most of us can’t even imagine experiencing. Her fight for freedom has been long and torturous, but she refused to back down. Now she’s sharing her story with the world, inspiring those who listen, and informing the world of the true horrors that the people of North Korea face on a daily basis.

Yeonmi spent her childhood growing up within the difficulties of North Korea. As children, the citizens are brainwashed into worshipping their ‘Dear Leader’, pushed into believing that he is something more powerful than humans. Even though there are people literally starving to death around them, the people of North Korea are taught that they live in a fair and rewarding land, and that the suffering they face is to be blamed on South Korea and America. 

During the first part of In Order To Live, Yeonmi tells us of the pain she and her family suffered during their years in North Korea. The luck of her parents varied greatly, so they were always jumping drastically between being able to get by sometimes, and starving the next. The family hear stories of people who have fled to China in search of a better life. 

Whilst Yeonmi is in hospital, her sister leaves to get to China. When the family discover that she is gone, a worried Yeonmi and her mother track down the people that helped her to leave, and attempt to follow her. But once they get to China, they realise that they are no closer to achieving the freedom they deserve. They have been tricked and forced into the dark world of human trafficking. 

Whilst much of Yeonmi’s story is difficult to read, it’s so very important that people take the time to learn it. Before reading this book, I didn’t know much about the situation in North Korea, and Yeonmi has really opened my eyes to what the citizens face each day. It also shows what desperate measures families are forced to take in order to live a better, free life. The dangers these people have to put themselves through in order to escape the harsh hands of North Korea is heart-breaking. There are many emotional scenes that show sacrifices that should never have to be made.

Difficult it may be to read, this is a book that is also filled with hope. Yeonmi and her family showed tremendous courage and strength in order to gain freedom. I adored reading how they’re rebuilding their lives after all they have faced. Yeonmi has had to relive everything that she has been through whilst telling her story, but in doing so she is inspiring so many people with her determination to take a stand against the injustice within North Korea. The world needs to be taught more about what is really happening out there, and I’m so grateful there are women like Yeonmi who are willing to teach us.
 
Royal Rating:

Monday, 26 October 2015

REVIEW: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Realistic
Release Date: February 5th 2015 (This Edition)
Buy The Book: Amazon - Waterstones

For fans of John Green, David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell: a beautiful, funny and heartfelt novel about love and forgiveness. Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life - and suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two boys. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow; the other comforts her in it. But the two can't collide without Lennie's world exploding...


My Thoughts:
This book is beautiful to read. Though filled with the utter pain and grief of losing a loved one, The Sky Is Everywhere manages to warm your heart and leave you filled with hope.

Lennie’s sister, Bailey, was her entire world. They were inseparable. After Bailey’s death, Lennie struggled to come to terms with having to carry on without her. That’s when her grief leads her to Toby, Bailey’s boyfriend. The loss of a girl who brought so much joy to their lives leaves them feeling empty, and that emptiness draws them together. Between the two of them, they keep Bailey’s memory alive.

But when Lennie returns to school for the first time since Bailey’s death, she meets Joe. He’s new to town and brimming with life. As Toby pulls her back towards her grief, Joe tries to lead her out of it. Lennie is left torn between keeping the pain of Bailey’s death fresh in her mind, or allowing herself to move on and be happy again. 

As a sister myself, Lennie’s pain really hit home for me. I can’t imagine what it is like to go through the shock and heartbreak of the sudden death of a sibling. What I really loved about this story was that although it focused on Lennie, it showed how a situation like that affects the entire family. Lennie’s grandma and her uncle are fantastic characters, and the book shows them separately dealing with their loss in utterly different ways. 

In her grief, Lennie turns to poetry. She writes on anything that she can get her hands on: spare scraps, sweet wrappers, coffee cups. The poems are included at the start of every chapter and they alone create a powerful story. Lennie writes her memories of herself and Bailey, leaving them around town as a way to immortalise her sister. 

The way the book dealt with Lennie and Toby’s relationship was wonderful. They don’t have feelings for each other, they don’t view each other romantically, but they are pulled together by their grief. It shows how relationships can be altered after a tragedy, and how feelings are often misplaced. The way the story resolved the sudden shift in dynamic between the two of them was touching to read.

I loved the building of the relationship between Joe and Lennie. It’s written beautifully. There are many moments in which Lennie feels guilty for being happy and having feelings for Joe when Bailey can’t do any of those things anymore. But as she the story progresses, she learns that she doesn’t have to feel that guilt. That isn’t what Bailey would want for her. 

This isn’t a book about death. This is a book about life and all it has to offer. Family, friendships, allowing your emotions out into the world, taking chances and being happy. This is a story that makes you want to grab life and savour every moment of it.

Royal Rating:

 

Thursday, 22 October 2015

REVIEW: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Pages: 517
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Genre: Fantasy, Romance, LGBT
Release Date: October 8th 2015
Buy The Book: Amazon UK - Waterstones - Amazon

Simon Snow just wants to relax and savour his last year at the Watford School of Magicks, but no one will let him. His girlfriend broke up with him, his best friend is a pest and his mentor keeps trying to hide him away in the mountains where maybe he'll be safe. Simon can't even enjoy the fact that his room-mate and longtime nemesis is missing, because he can't stop worrying about the evil git. Plus there are ghosts. And vampires. And actual evil things trying to shut Simon down. When you're the most powerful magician the world has ever known, you never get to relax and savour anything.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story - but far, far more monsters.

My Thoughts:
I don’t even know where to start. Seriously. I’m practically left speechless, which doesn’t happen very often. THIS BOOK. I can’t cope with it. I’ve been reading well into the AM because this book is too stubborn to leave my hands.

I apologise in advance for this emotional mess that I’m about to try and pass off as a review. Also, I’ll keep things spoiler free for now (WHICH IS GOING TO KILL ME, BY THE WAY, JUST SO YOU KNOW), but I do plan on uploading a video discussion very soon for everyone that has read the book.  

Anyway, where should we start? Let’s cover the basics of the plot. Simon Snow has magic, but not just any magic. He’s been prophesied as the Greatest Mage. He’s the chosen one, and is, according to his roommate and ultimate enemy, Baz, the worst chosen one that’s ever been chosen. He’s in a bit of a mess. He can’t control his power, he doesn’t know how he came to have this enormous amount of power, and he’s basically clueless about what all of it means.  He’s also being constantly attacked by the Insidious Humdrum, who has been out to get him since he started at Watford.

Simon and Baz are enemies, and they’ve fought against each other non-stop since being forced to be roommates when they first arrived at Watford. When Baz doesn’t turn up at the start of term, Simon begins to get suspicious. Throughout the first part of the book, Simon becomes obsessive in his need to know where Baz is and what he’s plotting. He’s convinced that Baz could jump out at any given moment with a plan to bring him down. 

The first part of the book also gives us a great insight into Simon’s life at Watford so far, and his relationships whilst being there. We get to meet his best friend, Penelope, who I totally adore. And also his girlfriend, Agatha. Even though there is a lot of backstory to cover, it doesn’t feel rushed. By the time I reached the second part of the book, I felt like I’d known the school and characters for years. 

The chapters in which Simon is constantly thinking about Baz made me so anxious for him to finally arrive in the story. It drove me crazy! And then when he did arrive, oh boy did he arrive in style. He owned my heart immediately. Baz is so completely different from Simon, and I loved getting to see things from his point of view. He’s just so full of sass and arrogance, I couldn’t ask for a better character.

Although he’s snarky and generally unpleasant towards others, there is a specific scene from his first night back at Watford that adds a vulnerable side to his character that I wasn’t expecting so soon. I was already emotionally attached to him by that point! 

Due to a promise made by Simon, he ends up working alongside Baz for the first time, and it is here that the story takes on a whole new level. The changing of the relationship between the two of them throughout this book is a tension-filled emotional rollercoaster, and it’s beautifully written. I don’t think I’ve read anything quite like it, and I simply couldn’t get enough. 

Rainbow Rowell is one of my favourite contemporary authors because of how fantastic she is at building relationships. Every moment is electrifying between her characters and no detail is spared. Although this is a fantasy novel, Rainbow manages to inject some of that wonderful contemporary style into the dialogue and the emotions, creating the perfect balance of fantasy and romance.

One of the things that really stands out for me is the way we get to see the story from so many different perspectives. It doesn’t just focus solely on the thoughts running through Simon and Baz’s minds. I loved seeing Penelope’s side of things, and even Agatha’s. It allows readers to get to know all of the characters more in-depth.

I also have to mention how fantastically British this story is. Total credit to Rainbow for being spot on with all of the references and dialogue. I adore stories that embrace Britian in all it's Britishness glory.

The plot is thrilling from start to finish. There wasn’t anything about this story that lacked excitement. The conclusion was cleverly thought out, and I loved that not every question was answered by the time we reached the epilogue (WHICH WAS PERFECT, BY THE WAY). There were some things left for the reader to ponder about.

I am so grateful that Rainbow decided to write this story, and it deserves every bit of praise that it gets. Not only is it my favourite book from this year, but it’s also one of my favourite reads of all-time! 

So, as you’ve probably figured, I’m in love with this book. Now I need to go and catch up on the sleep I lost reading it.

Royal Rating:


  

Thursday, 15 October 2015

REVIEW: Warriors by Sarah Noffke

Series: The Reverians #3
Pages: 226, Kindle
Publisher: One-Twenty-Six Press
Release Date: October 15th 2015
Buy The Book: Amazon - Amazon UK
Austin Valley appears as it always has, but Em Fuller knows that appearances aren’t what they seem. She knows under the surface, that cracks are starting to form in this seemingly well-manicured society. She’s responsible for creating these cracks and for planting a slow dissension among many of the residents of this once happy city. Broken in a way Em never thought possible, she turns into a well-calculated, strategic leader. With the help of the brightest minds in Austin Valley, Em begins building an army whose only purpose is to protect the population of Austin Valley from their President, Victor Vider. Em firmly believes the success of her army is inevitable, that is until a new blow strikes her heart and she questions whether she has the tenacity to go on.

*WARNING* This review will contain spoilers from the previous books in the series.

My Thoughts:
Warriors picks up a few months after Rebels. Em is still trying to lead the rebellion whilst coming to terms with Rogue’s death. Things are moving along quickly. Working with the trusted doctor, Parker,  her uncle, Ren, Nona, and Zack, Em is convincing as many kids as possible to avoid conversion to Middlings. If they choose to remain Rebels, Parker will inject them with a harmless fluid, and eventually they will finally receive their gift. 

Em is working non-stop, forcing herself to her very limit. Zack and Nona are concerned with how much she is taking upon herself, but she is determined to fight the battle herself and Rogue started, and finally win this war. 

This is the final book in The Reverians series, so I had high expectations, and I was not disappointed. Em was on strong form throughout this story, doing everything within her power to bring Vider down. I love how much she has developed over the series, and you get to really see how far she’s come in this final instalment. 

I’m not going to lie, I desperately missed Rogue. He was such a huge part of the first two books that I got so used to him being there, with all his wit and charm. It made me resent Zack a little when he had to step up and do more, because even though he wasn’t, I felt like he was replacing Rogue. 

However, this book did change my opinion on Zack. He got himself into a serious situation with 
Em’s sister, Dee, and how he dealt with it and resolved it made me admire his character. He proved how much he truly cares for Em, and was willing to do anything whilst fighting at her side. 

The final few chapters had me on edge, desperate to know how things would play out. Em’s final showdown with Vider did not disappoint, and I adored the comeuppance that Em had in store for him. It was perfectly genius. 

The epilogue for this story was beautiful, wrapping up the series brilliantly. There is a scene with a tree (and that’s all I’ll say, because spoilers), that was seriously emotional, and a perfect goodbye to the characters. They’ve offered me a little bit of everything; heart-stopping action, a gripping rebellion, and breath-taking romance. I’ve loved joining them on their journey for justice. I’m so thankful to Sarah for once again sharing her awesome stories with me! 

Royal Rating:


 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

COVER REVEAL: Spark by Holly Schindler

Hello, bookworms! I pleased to be taking part in the cover reveal for Holly Schindler's new novel, SPARK. So, drumroll please....


Holly Schindler’s Spark:
When the right hearts come to the Avery Theater—at the right time—the magic will return. The Avery will come back from the dead.

Or so Quin’s great-grandmother predicted many years ago on Verona, Missouri’s most tragic night, when Nick and Emma, two star-crossed teenage lovers, died on the stage. It was the night that the Avery’s marquee lights went out forever.

It sounds like urban legend, but one that high school senior Quin is now starting to believe, especially when her best friend, Cass, and their classmate Dylan step onto the stage and sparks fly. It seems that magic can still unfold at the old Avery Theater and a happier ending can still be had—one that will align the stars and revive not only the decrepit theater, but also the decaying town. However, it hinges on one thing—that Quin gets the story right this time around.

Holly Schindler brings the magic of the theater to life in this tale of family ties, fate, love, and one girl’s quest to rewrite history.


“In my hometown, the restoration of a former movie theater on the town square provided the genesis for my new YA novel, SPARK. Who among us hasn’t dreamed of seeing their name in blazing neon across a gigantic marquee? Let me invite you to dim the lights and draw back the velvet curtains—let your imagination run wild as you enter my fictional Avery Theater, where literally anything goes…”
—Holly Schindler

Holly Schindler is the author of three previous YA novels: PLAYING HURT as well as the critically acclaimed FERAL (starred PW review) and A BLUE SO DARK (starred Booklist review, ForeWord Book of the Year silver medal, IPPY gold medal). A writer of books for all ages, Schindler’s MG, THE JUNCTION OF SUNSHINE AND LUCKY, has made the master list for children’s book awards in Illinois, South Carolina, and Alabama. She is also a hybrid author, having independently released comedic women’s fiction (FIFTH AVENUE FIDOS) and the forthcoming PLAY IT AGAIN, her adult follow-up to her YA PLAYING HURT. She can be reached through her author site: hollyschindler.com, and hosts special sneak peeks and giveaways for subscribers of her newsletter: tinyletter.com/hollyschindler.com.



Spark “Premieres” May 17, 2016, but you can buy your “tickets” now. Links to pre-order -
Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Spark-Holly-Schindler/dp/0062220233/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1443300868&sr=8-1&keywords=spark+holly+schindler
B&N: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/spark-holly-schindler/1122566794?ean=9780062220233
IndieBound: http://www.indiebound.org/book/9780062220233
 
Add to your TBR list -
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/26155766-spark 


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