Monday, 3 November 2014

Top Ten TV Shows to: distract Caitlin from blogging

I really love TV. Not as much as books, but a lot more than films. I can happily sit and binge-watch for hours (days) on end and not get bored. I've been struggling with blogging for a while, and I think at least a part is down to the fact that I have been watching A LOT of TV lately. I wanted to tell you about some of the shows I've discovered this year, that are pretty awesome:

Veronica Mars
So, I knew practically nothing about VM until not very long ago. I missed it on TV in the UK and I was baffled by the Kickstarter.When I eventually sat down to watch it, well...where has this show been all my life? Veronica is a great model for teenage girls: she's determined, full of initiative and very smart.And Logan is just well...he's Logan. 

Arrow/The Flash
Arrow is a recent discovery for me. I always knew the title, but never what it was about which is weird cause...superheroes are right up my street. I'm now completely addicted and enjoying watching S3 'live' with The Flash, Olicity forevs. 

Orange is the New Black
This was that show that people raved about, but I didn't watch it until just before the second season started. What a magnificent show it is. It's a Netflix original and it's so very human and so awkward and funny and real and I just adore it. The ensemble cast is perfect (Poussey, Morello and Red are my faves) and it is wonderfully acted.

RuPaul's Drag Race
I had seen many, many Twitter people talking about this show but I always thought it was about car racing (LOL) until I looked it up on a whim, and realised was not about car racing. This is a fun, funny, rather tongue-in-cheek reality show reminiscent of ANTM...but with drag queens. It's epic.

House of Cards
Another Netflix original. I've only seen the first season so far but can already tell it's a favourite. Kevin Spacey is so majestic and controlled and yet so, so sinister. I love how back-stabby and complicated this is, and how it's slowly getting more and more involved. It's fantastic.

My boyfriend and I watched Firefly (and Serenity) over a long weekend whilst I was struck down with that awful affliction we call The Cold. It was after much, much badgering from several of my colleagues and I have to say they were right to pester. This show is part western, part sci-fi and it is fabulous. It's funny and full of adventure and great characters. I swore I wouldn't find Nathan Fillion attractive and...I failed. It's the trousers. 

Battlestar Galactica
My boyfriend and I started watching this on a whim one night and became totally hooked. It's ten years old but it's aged SO well. I'm NGL, it's a pretty grim show. And so tense. There were times I wanted to stop watching because of how tense it was, But I loved how caught up in it we both got, and how we talked about it for ages and speculated and paused it to react to what had just happened! Fun Fact: I saw the actors who play Bill and Lee Adama at LFCC back in July (Jamie Bamber is SO PRETTY)

Hemlock Grove
This is the third Netflix Original show I watched this year. It is FREAKING WEIRD (Season 2 finale, anyone?) and also super graphic in parts, but it's strangely alluring and also features the very attractive Bill Skarsgaard (the younger brother of Alexander Skarsgaard whom I am now in love with)   

Dance Academy/Make It or Break It
I'm putting these together because they are very similar (one about Aussie dance students, one about US gymnasts). They're total guilty pleasure shows, I will never tell you they're the best TV ever made but they're so very YA and extremely addictive. 

White Collar
White Collar is my newest discovery, the show I turned to when I felt like I'd watched every show on Netflix ever. I was initially VERY sceptical about this one but I stand totally corrected. It is very watchable, charming and funny. I rather love Matt Bomer and his roguish character, and the cute little bromance he has with his FBI handler Peter Burke!

And there we have it! Believe it or not, I have watched all of these shows this year (suddenly my lack of blogging is less of a mystery eh?) 

Have you seen any of these? Any of them on your list? What other shows do you recommend for a girl who feels like she's watched everything?

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater 
Release date: 3rd July 2014
Publisher: Scholastic 
Reason for reading: COLE AND ISABEL

Goodreads synopsis:

Sinner follows Cole St. Clair, a pivotal character from the #1 New York Times bestselling Shiver Trilogy. Everybody thinks they know Cole's story. Stardom. Addiction. Downfall. Disappearance. But only a few people know Cole's darkest secret -- his ability to shift into a wolf. One of these people is Isabel. At one point, they may have even loved each other. But that feels like a lifetime ago. Now Cole is back. Back in the spotlight. Back in the danger zone. Back in Isabel's life. Can this sinner be saved?

My thoughts:

I was one of those people that was happy with the end of Forever. I liked not fully knowing what happened, getting to imagine my own reality. But when I heard Maggie was writing this standalone novel focusing on Cole and Isabel, I knew it would be the book I didn’t even know I wanted.

And it is marvellous. It is everything I love about Maggie Stiefvater; it is raw and polished all at the same time, it is full of feeling and heart and soul but it is never cliché, the characters are beautifully imagined and what characters they are. Cole and Isabel were always my favourite, and to have a book focus on their story is such a treat. From the very first page I felt at home in this world, with these characters. I wanted to crawl inside the pages and never leave. I wanted to wrap the story about myself like a comfort blanket and snuggle into Maggie’s beautiful prose.

Isabel is one of my favourite YA characters. She’s prickly and mean, she can’t handle emotions and is so, so broken. She is completely real and mesmerising, she lashes out, she closes down and maybe, just maybe, she’s starting to thaw. Likewise Cole St Clair. The boy with 2 sides: his public persona and his true self and we saw much more of both. Cole’s public self is in LA to record an album while starring in a reality TV show, but his real side is here for Isabel and their relationship throughout this novel is electric, tumultuous, and completely engrossing.

Seeing Cole and Isabel drawn together, torn apart, both of them fighting every step of the way (though fighting different things) was completely mesmerising. The plot was almost secondary to me; I just wanted their interactions. The way everything came together, the way it ended how it began, yet differently, is sheer Stiefvater perfection. That woman is a true artist.

TL;DR: The Wolves of Mercy Falls novel I never knew I needed but fell completely in love with. Cole and Isabel are electric and the story evoked nostalgia and a whole host of emotion. I need to go and reread the trilogy now. 

Monday, 2 June 2014

May wrap up post

June! I'm looking forward to June cause some good things are happening. Let's see how I got on with May.

In May I read
Laura Marlin Mysteries: Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John
Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
Adventure Island: The Mystery of the Whistling Caves by Helen Moss
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins (reread)
She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick
Osbert the Avenger by Christopher William Hill
Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy
City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Favourite Book of May
So, this will come as a shock to those of you who know me well...not only did I read an adult book in May but it was my favourite book of the month! Life After Life by Kate Atkinson is magical and moving and just all round wonderful. Thoroughly recommend it.

Books acquired in May
So after a pretty good April...May went a bit insane again. I seem to be doing one month on, one month off when it comes to book buying!

Skulduggery Pleasant: The Last Stand of Dead Men by Derek Landy
Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Greek and Roman Political Ideas by Melissa Lane
Revolutionary Russia, 1891-1991 by Orlando Figes
The Night Watch by Sarah Waters

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Season to Taste by Natalie Young

Half Bad by Sally Green
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Most excited for in June
I am most excited for the release of Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens! I have already read this, but I cannot wait to get my little fingers on a finished copy and also go to the launch party! Robin Stevens is such a lovely and cool person so I'm so happy that her incredible book will finally be out in the world. You can read my interview with Robin Stevens here

Thoughts on May:
Pretty happy with May! I read a lot of middle grade, a couple of adult books (including a literary fiction, gasp) and put to bed a series I've loved since before I started blogging. I also watched Make It Or Break It on Netflix which I LOVED and Orange is the New Black which is super amazing; cannot wait for S2 on Friday!

How was your May?

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Countdown to 5th June: Interview with Robin Stevens


Countdown to YA

Welcome to my Countdown to 5th June post! I am hugely excited to welcome Robin Stevens, the author of one of my favourite books of the year, Murder Most Unladylike!

1.Murder Most Unladylike is a fantastic combination of 1930s boarding school story and murder mystery…what was it about these two things that made you want to put them together?

I've had this idea for a book in my head for about ten years, for two very good reasons: first, I've been fascinated by murder mysteries ever since I can remember (seriously, if there was a nasty death involved I was on it. When I was seven I had a Ghost Society with my best friend and we’d try to contact ghosts to find out who killed them), and second, I went to boarding school! It’s such a perfect closed system – you can’t come in unless someone lets you, but once you’re in you can’t leave, so there will always be a finite number of suspects who know each other really well. Because you’re stuck with the same group of people every day, tiny arguments get blown up into something huge, and everyone knows everyone else’s nasty secrets. I realised that it was the ideal place to set a murder mystery – I was always a bit saddened one never happened in real life, so I decided to take the second-best option and make one up!

2.Who was your favourite character to write?

Absolutely Daisy. Hazel is far nicer, and if I met her in real life I’d get on with her a lot better, but Daisy is just so much fun. Her voice is a joy to write, because I can make her say such ridiculous, awful things. She actually makes me laugh out loud – which I figure is a good thing, even if it is a bit weird. 

3.As a huge fan of boarding school stories (especially when set in the 30s!) I loved how Murder Most Unladylike was so reminiscent of the stories I adore…how much research did you need to do for the book?

For the murder mystery elements, none at all! I’m a massive detective fiction nerd – I actually did my university dissertation on it, so I could genuinely go on all day about the conventions of the genre (you probably don’t want me to do that, though). For the boarding school part, I did draw a lot on my own experiences of school life and all of my favourite boarding school stories – but I also tried to do research to make sure that I got the period detail right. The most useful non-fiction books were The Long Weekend by Robert Graves, A History of Cheltenham Ladies’ College 1853-1953 by A. Clarke, A Modern History of Hong Kong by Steve Tsang and The 1930s Scrapbook by Robert Opie. That last one is particularly brilliant – it’s just a massive glossy compendium of 1930s adverts, so much fun to ogle!

4.We have talked before about our mutual love for the Pongwiffy series by Kaye Umansky, what were some of your other favourite childhood reads?

My dad grew up in the 1930s and 40s (yes, really – even though I’m 26 my uncle fought in World War Two), and then passed on his favourite books to me – so I had all of Enid Blyton’s books, the Swallows and Amazons series, Sherlock Holmes – and Agatha Christie, of course. Apart from those, I was (and am still) obsessed with Diana Wynne Jones, Eva Ibbotson, Michelle Magorian, Terry Pratchett, Brian Jacques, J. K. Rowling and also (extremely oddly) a book called Dave Barry Turns 50, which is a non-fiction comedy memoir about a guy who grew up in America in the 1950s that I stole from my mother’s bookshelf. Seriously, I read everything.

5. What books would you recommend to fans of Murder Most Unladylike?

It depends on the fans! For awesome girl detectives, try Helen Moss’s Adventure Island series or Lauren St John’s Laura Marlin Mysteries. For the detectives who inspired Daisy and Hazel, read the Sherlock Holmes stories, or any Christie book starring Poirot or her lesser-known (but charming) duo Tommy & Tuppence. For an excellent boarding school mystery, read Christie’s Cat Among the Pigeons or Josephine Tey’s Miss Pym Disposes (that one’s probably more for 14 and up). And for great, realistic-feeling portrayals of the 1930s and 1940s, read Michelle Magorian’s novels (again, many of these are for older readers).

6. Biscuits, cake and dessert in general do feature an awful lot in Murder Most Unladylike…what is your favourite sweet treat? (#bunbreak)

I've definitely got a sweet tooth, and I love to bake – Hazel’s obsession with food comes from my own. But although I've lived in England since I was three, I grew up on very American flavours (my mother is American, and spiritually she still lives in or around Chicago). So my ideal cookie is oatmeal raisin, and I love baked cheesecakes, cinnamon buns and pecan pie. My favourite British cake is coffee and walnut (this makes an appearance in the book), and my favourite biscuit-out-of-a-packet is a chocolate digestive. My mince pies are famous – but I’m still not sure I’ll ever understand fruitcake . . .

7.Can we expect more from Wells and Wong? (I hope so!)

Absolutely! In fact, I've just given the second draft of Wells & Wong 2 – which will be called Arsenic for Tea – to my editor. Murder Most Unladylike is a school murder mystery, Arsenic for Tea is a country house murder mystery and now I’m thinking about the initial plot for the (as yet untitled) Wells & Wong 3. I haven’t settled on anything yet, but I think I want to send Hazel and Daisy on a journey – with a murder attached, of course. But although the settings keep changing, Hazel and Daisy stay just the same as ever – and some of my favourite characters from Murder Most Unladylike will also return in the two sequels. I’m not going to spoil you by telling you which ones . . . 

Thanks so much for these marvellous answers Robin!

About Robin Stevens

Robin Stevens was born in California and grew up in an Oxford college, across the road from the house where Alice in Wonderland lived. She has been making up stories all her life.

When she was twelve, her father handed her a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and she realised that she wanted to be either Hercule Poirot or Agatha Christie when she grew up. When it occurred to her that she was never going to be able to grow her own spectacular walrus moustache, she decided that Agatha Christie was the more achieveable option.

She spent her teenage years at Cheltenham Ladies’ College, reading a lot of murder mysteries and hoping that she’d get the chance to do some detecting herself (she didn’t). She then went to university, where she studied crime fiction, and now she works at a children’s publisher, which is pretty much the best day job she can imagine.

Robin now lives near London with her boyfriend and her pet bearded dragon, Watson

Catch Robin on Twitter and check out her website

Be sure to read Murder Most Unladylike when it's released on...yep, you guessed it, the 5th June!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Release date: 15th May 2014
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Reason for reading: the twist! the twist!
Add it on Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:

We are the Liars.

We are beautiful, privileged and live a life of carefree luxury.

We are cracked and broken.

A story of love and romance.

A tale of tragedy.

Which are lies?

Which is truth?

My thoughts:

 We don’t know much as the story starts. We know something happened to Cadence two years ago, on the island where her family spends their summers. We know she can’t remember what it was. We see Cadence struggle with debilitating headaches, see her life fall apart around her, and see her slowly, painfully, attempt to piece it back together. Cadence is the very definition of unreliable narrator; she barely remembers that whole summer, let alone the event that triggered her memory loss. Cadence returns to the island two years after the incident to discover the truth of what happened there; the truth so awful she forgets it whenever she is told it. 

The awkward, grasping feel of the present on the island is interspersed with Cady’s idyllic, dream-like recollections of summers past and with whimsical fairytale retellings. An interesting narrative style that left me feeling as though I was constantly teetering on the precipice of a massive revelation; dangerously close to a horrible truth, yet a touch too far away to see it clearly. The overall effect is unique and very haunting, wrapped up in the most luscious and elegant of prose. 

Cadence, the Liars, their families and the island were all described so vividly they felt tangible. I was completely enthralled by them all and their ridiculous, privileged, appearances-are-everything existence. You should hate them, or feel sorry for them, but I was addicted. I couldn't get enough of them. The more Cadence told us, the more I wanted to know. 

The ending did come as a massive shock because I was just so immersed in the world of We Were Liars. It's the kind of ending that makes you wonder how you missed it, makes you want to go back and read it again to catch the clues, makes you wish it wasn't so. But you shouldn't read this for The Twist, or because of how hyped up it is, read it because it is beautiful and painful, because it is love and loss and because it will make your heart ache. 

TL;DR: A beautiful, haunting story told in beautiful, haunting prose. Don't try to figure it out, just enjoy it.

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

April Wrap Up Post

It's May! I like May because there are bank holidays and bank holidays mean an extra reading day. Or in my case last weekend, an extra day for marathoning TV shows.

In April I read

Shut Out by Kody Keplinger
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell (reread)
Clean Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Undone by Cat Clarke
Pantomime by Laura Lam
The Illusionists by Laure Eve
Speechless by Hannah Harrington (reread)
Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington
Glaze by Kim Curran

Favourite book of April

Definitely The Illusionists!! I have been waited to read this book for AGES and it did not disappoint. It was so wonderful to slip back into this world...and I can't wait to get my hands on a physical copy in August :)

Books acquired in April

Adventure Island: The Mystery of the Whistling Caves by Helen Moss
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham

After a pretty insane March I wanted to scale back my book-buying in April and I definitely achieved that! The first Adventure Island book and Far From You were bought with my work discount and I got the Veronica Mars book from the Book Depository. I'm reading it now and while it's nowhere near as good as the TV show, I am really enjoying it.

Most excited for in May

Quite a few things actually! We Were Liars by E. Lockhart is released this month, which I LOVED in March so super excited to get my hands on a copy. Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy comes out in paperback and I cannot wait to read that, and City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare is released! Excited to finish the series that started me off blogging :)

Thoughts on the month

I'm a little disappointed in the amount of books I read in April. I was slightly prohibited by Paper Vs Pixels and you can read my thoughts on that here. April was also the month that, damn you, Jim, I started watching Dance Academy on Netflix. I watched most of the 60, 24 minute-long, episodes in April, polishing the third and final series off over the bank holiday weekend. That definitely ate into my reading time ;)

How did you do in April? What are you most excited for in May?

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Paper Vs Pixels thoughts

So my big thing for April was that I took part in the Paper Vs Pixels challenge set by Laure Eve and Hot Key Books! When the challenge was first announced, I knew I'd have to go with Pixels as I mostly read paper books, and I thought "no way, not possible" but after going away & looking through my Kindle & thinking about it, I decided maybe it was!

I drew up a shortlist of books, and while I didn't end up reading all the shortlist as a couple of others snuck in there (rereads and work books) I'm pretty proud that I read electronically for the entire month! It really made me think about how I read books...I found myself pretty uninspired when choosing what to read next, faced with a list of titles on an eInk screen rather than a stack of paperbacks, which I think is why I ended up rereading a couple of favourites & reading work books (the physical editions for which I could see at work, of course). I don't think it helps that I tend to use my Kindle for specific things: work books, editorial submissions and adult urban fantasy series. That means the number of unread offerings are usually fairly low, mostly titles bought in Kindle sales. I did, however, *pretty excitingly* get to read the sequel to Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve, The Illusionists, and felt that was just a perfect time to read it (and it is Ah-mazing!). In the end, I managed to read nine eBooks this month and I did not cheat at all. 

I only had a battery dilemma once, where my battery ran out on my commute into work, meaning my commute home again was sadly reading-free, but I remember how many times I've had to lug round 2 books for fear of finishing one and having nothing to read and really, having a Kindle is so ideal for combating this most traumatic issue...if you remember to keep it charged.

Overall, while I can see the many benefits of eReading, and while this was such an interesting experience, I wouldn't say I'm fully converted.  I'll still be reading certain things electronically, and will definitely continue to take advantage of Kindle bargains, but I can see me remaining a mainly physical book reader for at least the foreseeable future!

If you'd like to see which books I read this month, check back for my monthly wrap up this weekend!

Did you do the Paper Vs Pixels challenge? Which one did you choose and how did you do?

Monday, 31 March 2014

March wrap up post

I'm pretty happy with March! I posted some reviews & I read a decent amount of books. Here's hoping for a good April.

In March I read:

Banished by Liz de Jager
Don't Even Think About It by Sarah Mlynowski
Loki's Wolves by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong
The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Sesame Seade Mysteries: Scam on the Cam by Clementine Beauvais
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
Wide Awake by David Levithan
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira 

Favourite book of March:

Oh I honestly can't pick. I read so many amazing books in March! I can't possibly pick my favourite. But maybe, maybe if I was forced...I would say We Were Liars. But I would also have to say Far From You, Landline, Murder Most get what I'm saying?

Books acquired in March:

Trouble by Non Pratt
The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
Pure Dead Magic by Debi Gliori
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
A Love Like Blood by Marcus Sedgwick
Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin (not pictured)
Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan (not pictured)
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton (not pictured)
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

The Diviners by Libba Bray
Say Her Name by James Dawson
Boys Don't Knit by Tom Easton
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (not pictured)

Smart by Kim Slater
Dead Man's Cove & The Midnight Picnic by Lauren St John

So...I got a lot of books in March. A lot more than I thought I had. Forgive Me, Leanard Peacock, If You Find Me, A Love Like Blood and Golden Boy were all bought from our charity booksale at work for ridiculously cheap! Cannot resist. The Unbound I bought because I LOVE Victoria Schwab's books SO MUCH. Pure Dead Magic because I had them as a kid & loved them & just wanted to re-own it. Trouble, Two Boys Kissing and The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender are all books I read proofs of and loved and so bought when they came out! I'm super excited for Smart and the Laura Marlin mysteries...they sound amaaazing. 

Thoughts on the month:

I'm really pleased with the books I read this month, both because of the number of them and because they were also really, really awesome reads! 

Most excited for in April:

The thing I am most excited for in April isn't a's a challenge!

Laure Eve and her publisher Hot Key Books are challenging us to pick one format to read in... for the whole of April! Now, I do love my Kindle, but I've noticed lately that I've barely been using it. In fact, out of the 30 books I've read so far this year, only 8 of them have been eBooks and 5 of those were titles I read for work. That's pretty bad. So I'm taking up this challenge & reading only eBooks for the whole of April! Click on the button below for more info :)

papervspixels graphic pixels

How did you do in March? What books (or otherwise) are you excited for in April?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Release date: 27th March 2014
Publisher: Walker Books
Reason for reading: Received a proof & it sounded intriguing 
Add it on Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:

Foolish love appears to be a Roux family birthright. And for Ava Lavender, a girl born with the wings of a bird, it is an ominous thing to inherit. In her quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to join her peers, sixteen-year-old Ava ventures into the wider world. But it is a dangerous world for a naive girl...

My thoughts:

I knew immediately that The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was a very special book. The prose is haunting, whimsical and lyrical, and it just draws you in and before you know it, you’ve read half the book and your bathwater has gone cold (in my case, anyway). The story charts the history of Ava’s family, beginning with her great grandmother and the birth of her maternal grandmother, Emilienne. The narrative dips and weaves and dances about in a mesmeric way, leaving you completely captivated. We’re introduced to many different characters, but the strength and uniqueness of their descriptions makes it easy to keep them distinct.

The whole cast of characters (bar a couple of notable and decidedly dastardly ones) are wonderfully described with the same painstakingly brilliant attention to detail and whimsical twist as the rest of the book. I do have a rather large soft spot for Ava's brother Henry, but it was her grandmother and mother Emilienne and Viviane, that I liked the best. Both have experienced tragedy and both have dealt with it in their own ways. This story is as much about them and their lives and loves as it is about Ava. 

Ava Lavender is full of the sort of magical realism that follows no logic, yet is totally believable. People turn into canaries, into ghosts that haunt the living, and yet at no point does the story seem unrealistic. Instead the magical realism aspect is threaded seamlessly through the narrative, only adding to the quirky and surreal feel of the novel, enhancing it further.

There’s an important message in Ava Lavender and that is that yes, love might make us fools, but that’s something that can be survived. There’s a fair few women in the story that are spurned, damaged and broken by love, yet they endure. They are strong and they fight and they carry on. No matter the choices made by them or by others, choices that affect them adversely, they make the best of what they have and that is a wonderful thing.

TL:DR; The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is mindblowingly good. Full of on-point whimsy, heart-wrenching tragedy and enough sweet moments to offer some hope, it’s a bittersweet tale of love and loss, but it’s also so much more than that. You want to read this book. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Review: The Falconer by Elizabeth May

The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Release date: 26th September 2013
Publisher: Gollancz 
Reason for reading: Historial urbanish fantasy with fae-hunting? Erm, yes
Add it on Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis

One girl's nightmare is this girl's faery tale. 

She's a stunner.
Edinburgh, 1844. Eighteen-year-old Lady Aileana Kameron, the only daughter of the Marquess of Douglas, has everything a girl could dream of: brains, charm, wealth, a title — and drop-dead beauty.

She's a liar.
But Aileana only looks the part of an aristocratic young lady. She's leading a double life: She has the rare ability to sense the sìthichean — the faery race obsessed with slaughtering humans — and, with the aid of a mysterious mentor, has spent the year since her mother died learning how to kill them.

She's a murderer.
Now Aileana is dedicated to slaying the fae before they take innocent lives. With her abilities and her knack for inventing ingenious tools and weapons — from flying machines to detonators to lightning pistols — ruthless Aileana has one goal: Destroy the faery who destroyed her mother.

She's a Falconer.
The last in a line of female warriors born with the gift for hunting and killing the fae, Aileana is the sole hope of preventing a powerful faery population from massacring all of humanity. Suddenly, her quest is a lot more complicated. She still longs to avenge her mother's murder — but she'll have to save the world first.

My thoughts:

The Falconer instantly appealed to me for a couple of reasons. One, I'm a big urban fantasy fan but have only read one other historical UF title which was Grave Mercy. Two, The Falconer sounded a little bit like Grave Mercy. Three, The Falconer sounded a little bit like Grave Mercy crossed with the Fever series with a little bit of steampunk added in, and it totally was. 

Lady Aileana Kameron might be a nobleman's daughter, but lately she's much more at home with her skirts torn to shreds, clutching a deadly crossbow and facing off with a faery than she is dancing at a ball with her many suitors. I really felt for Aileana because not only was she having to fight these faeries that just insisted on showing up at the most inconvenient times but she was having to deal with her mother's death and the fact that practically everyone, even her father, thought her responsible. Regency Britain was not a place where you wanted to cause any controversy, especially as a young, unmarried woman and unfortunately for Aileana, and despite her many attempts to appear reputable, controversy seems to follow her around just as doggedly as the fae she's always fighting.

I loved how we jumped into Aileana's journey a year after her mother's death, after all the initial realisations, explanations and training, it made the whole plot feel more vibrant and was a lot less bogged down by exposition and revelation. The different castes of fae and elements of their lore were explained naturally, as we came across them, which felt really refreshing.  I was a little unsure about the steampunk aspect, as myself and steampunk haven't always gotten along, but it felt super natural, not at all shoehorned in or over explained, which I think can sometimes be a bit of an issue as authors can feel the need to describe every tiny detail of every gadget/outfit/device just to show that it's steampunk. I loved how this element really tied into the plot with Aileana's fae-hunts, and how it added another aspect to her personality with her inventions. Aileana is smart, smart and capable and inventive and I really felt for how she was so constrained, both by society and by herself, as she couldn't make herself give up her need for revenge. She was really easy to like and admire, and I just wanted everything to go right for her.

I loved Derrick as a character, he provided much needed comic relief and it was nice that Aileana had a supportive presence. I was such a fan of Kiaran, as I was always going to be and I loved how that element of the plot unfolded. The big surprise character-wise for me was Gavin. Not the sort of character I'd normally like, but he was so supportive and noble and took everything in his stride and was just so perfect and I...really liked him. 

I felt that after the initial adrenalin burst of the opening few chapters, the pace of the book slowed down and it took me a while to get re-invested in the story, but once I was I absolutely flew through the fast-paced tension-filled final part. The ending was such a cliffhanger, the kind that made me absolutely desperate for the sequel but that also makes the wait for it so, so delicious.  

TL:DR; The Falconer really works as a historical urban fantasy novel, the steampunk elements only enhancing its appeal. With a cast of likable and interesting characters, an enjoyable lack of exposition and a cliffhanger ending that will leave you begging for the sequel, it's perfect for light fantasy fans.