Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Half a King review

Half a King (Shattered Sea #1)
Joe Abercrombie
July 3rd 2014
Harper Voyager

A classic coming-of-age tale set in a vivid and richly imagined world from Sunday Times bestselling author Joe Abercrombie.

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea itself. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver

Born a weakling in the eyes of his father, Yarvi is alone in a world where a strong arm and a cold heart rule. He cannot grip a shield or swing an axe, so he must sharpen his mind to a deadly edge.

The betrayed will become the betrayer

Gathering a strange fellowship of the outcast and the lost, he finds they can do more to help him become the man he needs to be than any court of nobles could.

Will the usurped become the usurper?

But even with loyal friends at his side, Yarvi’s path may end as it began – in twists, and traps and tragedy...

I really wanted to love Half a King. Ever since I saw the cover and read the blurb I thought that it sounded great, and I was excited to read something by a well established adult fantasy author, because I don't really do that very often. Or ever, really. But I didn't entirely click with Half a King, which was a shame. I think I'll still read the second book at least, but I just wasn't really feeling it at the time.

I'm going to put a lot of my meh-ness towards Half a King down to the fact that I probably wasn't really in the mood for it when I read it, because I am a mood reader and I really have to be in the right mood for a book/genre to enjoy it. Also because Half a King has lots of stuff that I would typically love. An interesting, underdog of a protagonist, a group of misfits travelling around, court politics (in small doses) and a world inspired by Vikings (VIKINGS). But I just really found my interest waning towards the middle of the book and it took me a while to get through, for me. Maybe because that was the part of the book where all the travelling happened, I don't know, but it didn't really grip me at all. Which, again, I usually don't mind excessive travelling in my fantasy (it's part of the deal, really. You like fantasy, you have to put up with excessive travelling) so I don't really know why I found it to drag a bit in this instance. I think when the second book comes out, I might read this again and see if it was just down to my mood and if I'll engage with it more a second time around.

I did actually like parts of it, though! It's not like I didn't like the book or anything, it's just I didn't feel engaged in the story which is at least 80% down to me, so don't let it put you off. I really liked the beginning of the book, actually. I felt like it was the part of the book that held the most appeal to me personally. The beginning of the book and the ending were my favourite parts, as they either had the most action, or twists that I couldn't predict, or political machinations. Political machinations are my favourite. Which was probably why some of the most interesting characters in the book, for me, were Yarvi's mother Laithlin and his Uncle. I didn't like them per se, but I thought they were interesting. Probably more interesting than some of the other main characters. 

Again, I also really liked the ending, because after the middle where I'd kind of lost interest, it was nice to have some big action to get into again. And I didn't see some of the twists coming, so that was a lot of fun. I was genuinely really quite surprised by one of the big twists and I was just really impressed at how it had been carried out.  And I thought that most of the characters were interesting and engaging enough, even if I felt like personally the romance-ish type thing that happened/will inevitably happen between Yarvi and Sumael felt kind of unnecessary in this book. And I liked the world too, though I wish there was a map in the book (I don't know if there's one in the finished copy - I'll have to check next time I'm in a bookshop) so I could get a better picture of where everything is. I love maps in books. They're my favourite.

So, I did have some issues with Half a King, but they weren't so much that they impeded my enjoyment of the book. I do want to try reading it again though to see if I would be more engaged a second time around. I would like to read some of Abercrombie's adult books, though! And I will definitely read the second book.

Monday, 14 July 2014


So, if you are a person who uses the internet to talk about books, then you probably know that this past weekend was YALC, the first ever Young Adult Literature Convention. And it was pretty great. And it was also part of London Film and Comic Con, so I got to do some celebrity spotting, too, which is always fun!

Although there were parts that could definitely be improved, for a first time thing I think that YALC was really well run and curated with interesting and varied panels and a big variety of authors. I think that it definitely has potential to become a thing all it's own as the interest is definitely there! 

Because I am an idiot, I have about three pictures from the whole weekend and none of them are any good, so this won't be very interesting for you if you wanted to see lots of nice, pretty pictures (next time, if there is a next time (there NEEDS to be a next time) I will take more pictures, promise!) but I thought I should have at least one picture here, so there's all the books that I acquired/got signed over the weekend. I won't give a complete rundown of my time there because a) that would take ages and b) my memory is not that good and I didn't take notes, but I will just throw out some personal highlights.

On Saturday, I got to catch up with lots of bloggers and talk to them for a bit which is always the best, and I also got to meet RAINBOW ROWELL. NO BIG DEAL. We queued up for ages after her panel, Superfans (Andy Robb, Tim O'Rourke and Lucy Saxon - whose Cap America cosplay was amazing - were also on the panel and it was so good! Very entertaining.) to meet her and to get our books signed, and it was so worth it. She was so lovely even though she had a shit ton of people to get through, and I got the special edition HB of Fangirl which I just like to look at and touch a lot because it's so pretty. I was also equally excited about meeting Derek Landy, author of the Skulduggery Pleasant books. Thanks to Cait, I started reading the Skulduggery books in November and I LOVE THEM SO MUCH. Even though he'd been signing for hours already that day, he was so friendly and funny and I got to meet two of my favourite authors in one day which was amazing. I'm genuinely surprised my brain could handle that much excitement in about a four hour period. Bella and I also stopped Malorie Blackman so that Bella could get her book signed and we told her how great YALC was and thanked her and she was so kind and lovely and it was all so lovely. Sorry, I'm still kind of reeling from how great this weekend was.

Sunday was just as great as Saturday, if not just because it was less busy and they actually put the aircon on in Earl's Court so we didn't all melt and die from the heat and dehydration. I went to two panels that day - I'm Too Sexy For This Book, which was as funny as it sounds as well as providing food for thought about sex in YA (it gave me thinky thoughts that I might put into a blog post if I can be bothered/if they make any sense!), and Sisters Doing it For Themselves, an all female panel (WOOP) about heroines and girls in YA fiction. I really enjoyed both of them, though I do think next year they should try and create a space for panels where you can actually hear what's going on without the background noise from the rest of the con. Again, I got to talk to bloggers and authors who I hadn't seen/didn't have the chance to talk to on Saturday, which was so great! Honestly, I think one of the things that makes events like these so great are the people. It's all well and good getting to meet favourite authors and seeing panels, but it's the getting to talk to people who are like you and just feel safe and happy and like you are with your kin that makes these places so great. I would not enjoy blogging any where near as much if I didn't have these people to share it with (though I think Lucy expresses this sentiment way more eloquently than I do in her post here).

Basically, despite the heat and the crowds and the exhaustion and the aching shoulders (my god, the aching shoulders. Who knew carrying around a pile of books around all weekend would do that much damage), I had the best time at YALC. I so hope that this becomes an actual thing because it was just such a fun experience. I feel rejuvenated, even though I'm so tired right now. It's made me love reading even more, and I'm so excited about all the books I have to read. It's made me feel like part of a massive and great community that I love being a part of, and it's made me want to make more friends and just enjoy being a part of this community more than I already do. Basically, it was wonderful, and I want to thank Malorie Blackman and Katherine Woodfine and Booktrust and all the publicists and publishers and authors involved in making this great thing. So, thank you!

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Books I'm Dying To See Adapted

Well, not literally dying, but you know what I mean. Anyway, what with all the fuss over big YA adaptations coming out this year (and generally for the past few years, really. I haven't been living under a rock), I thought I would chip in with my wholly unimportant opinion about some books that I would love to see adapted. Some books you just read and think that they should stay a book, because a film or what have you would just ruin the magic. There are lots of books that I love that I really would not want to become a film because it just wouldn't be right. But then there are some that just would lend themselves so well to a different medium, as well as being awesome books, and those are the books that I want to talk about today. So, just in case any hotshot film producers are reading, take note. (I jest, but seriously.)

This Song Will Save Your Life - Leila Sales

I've tweeted about this before, but I stand by it. This is a book that I want  NEED to become a film. I adore the book so much, and I think that so many aspects of it will translate well onto the big screen. It would be emotional and funny and heartwarming. It's one of the closest things I can think of that would fulfill my desire for a coming-of-age (ish) movie about a girl that is driven by friendship and family more than romance. Which I guess there are films like that where the romance is a more minor aspect like in this, and there is a boy, but it is about Elise finding herself more than anything else, and her relationship is just part of a means to that end. And I would really love to see Start on the big screen. Tonally, I think it would be a mix of Perks and The Way, Way Back, only about a girl. And I am just ready for that film. Plus, the soundtrack would be banging.

This is Not a Test - Courtney Summers

The only downside I can think of to This is Not a Test becoming a film is that I think I would be too scared to see it in the cinema. It is the perfect marriage of a hard, emotional contemporary story and zombies, and when I was reading it I was wondering how it hadn't been picked up already. (Has it? Someone should really snatch up those rights.) The book is difficult and genuinely chilling and frightening, and I think given the right cast and director this would make a stunning film. Creepy as hell, but amazing. It would be the low-budget zombie-contemp-thriller of the decade.

Vicious - V E Schwab

This is the only title on the list that, to my knowledge, might actually become a film at some point in the near future. And, as with all the books on this list, if it is done right it will be amazing. Victor and Eli's story would translate so incredibly well, and it is the perfect time to make it as it would fit in perfectly with all the big superhero movies (which I adore). The film people should really capitalize on this as it's different enough from anything Marvel and DC are producing to properly stand out, and even though it's on a much smaller scale action wise, it more than makes up for it in tension, characters and tone. Though I do think that I'd get a bit wobbly at the violence at the end, I am desperate to see this as a film. I need it now. I'm already excited about it.

Beauty Queens - Libba Bray

Just hear me out here, okay? So - Beauty Queens as a TV show. On a streaming service like Netflix, preferably, because that way instead of having to have real ad breaks, you could put in fake ad breaks as a way to bring in the content of the footnotes and the advert scripts that are in the book in such a way that if people find them annoying like some people have while reading the book, they can skip past them, as well as being a fun way to world build. Also, in the style of Orange is the New Black, they could put in short flashbacks for each of the girls in each of the episodes. I'm not sure how well the absolute madness of this book would come across, or how people would respond to it, but I know that would make such a fun tv show. Maybe not a successful one, but a fun one. I would watch it. Repeatedly.

Undone - Cat Clarke

My vision for this is a channel 4 drama. It's my favourite of Cat's books (I love them all though. Entangled and Torn would make good films, I think, and A Kiss in the Dark would be awesome as a two-part BBC miniseries), and I think it would fit right in. Although maybe E4, like My Mad Fat Diary. It would be really great to maybe have a 6 or 12 part series, so they could have an episode/half an episode for each letter? I think it would be great to see how the events unfold right before you on the screen and it would make such a stellar British drama. In my imagination, it wins at least one BAFTA, though it probably wouldn't in real life. It would deserve them, though. And it would make you cry a shit load.

So, I have a pretty long list of these, but these are the ones that I would really love to see adapted. Especially the first two. As you can probably tell, I have thought this through quite a lot... Maybe if they were actually turned into films I would just end up being disappointed with them because they wouldn't be my exact, specific vision for them, but I'd just have to deal with that... This was a fun post to do! What books would you love to see adapted/do you think would make really good adaptations? I would love to know!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Darkness Hidden review

Darkness Hidden (The Name of the Blade #2)
Zoe Marriott
July 3rd 2014
Walker Books

In the electrifying second volume of ZoĆ« Marriott's The Name of the Blade Trilogy, Mio, Jack and Shinobu have defeated the terrifying Nekomata against all odds, and brought Jack's sister home alive. 

But Mio is still compelled to protect the katana, her family's ancestral sword, and now the Underworld has spawned a worse monster – one carrying a devastating plague that sweeps through London like wildfire. 

As Mio struggles to protect the city and control the sword’s deadly powers, she realises that this time there is no way she can keep everyone she loves alive... and she must make a terrible sacrifice to save the world.

I love Zoe Marriott's books, and even though The Night Itself wasn't my absolute favourite of her books (seriously, they're all great. She's one of the most underrated authors in my opinion and more people need to read her books), I have been eagerly anticipating reading the sequel. And it did not disappoint. It had all the action and drama that the first book had in bucketloads and built even more on the mythology of this world which was awesome.

The first book only took place over the span of a day, so I was glad that Darkness Hidden covered a slightly longer span of time, without losing the pace of the first. One of my favourite things about this book was that, because it starts almost immediately after the first, there was a kind of seamless transition between the two books. I get the feeling like this series is going to feel more like one story told in three volumes, rather than as three books that are completely separate entities in themselves. Which I guess is kind of what you expect with trilogies, really... But still. I think that getting the chance to read all three books in a row when the third, Frail Mortal Heart (how great is that title?!), comes out next summer and read Mio's story in it's entirety will really benefit the story as a whole. Not that I'm saying you should wait until all three books are out to read them, because this series is really great and you should probably get on that now.

Also, because the book does pick up where the first left off, a significant part of the story and characters arcs is directly related to the events of the first book. Depending on the nature of a series, it does sometimes annoy me when a book picks up months where the one before left off, and the ramifications of the events of the previous book are only sort of touched upon, but I just really love stories which explore consequences. And Darkness Hidden really does explore the consequences of the events of The Night Itself, weaving them effortlessly into the plot of the book as they're all so necessary to the story.

Which takes me onto my absolute favourite thing about Darkness Hidden: the characters. I already knew that I liked the characters from the first book, obviously, but I love what Zoe Marriott is willing to do with these characters, truly showing how the events of the first book have affected them, and how things are changing them into something other than who they were at the start, even if the story so far has only covered a few days. The Mio we met at the beginning at The Night Itself is so different from the Mio we know now. I adore her relationship with the katana, which is probably the central relationship in the story regarding its importance to the plot. The katana has this real power over her which is just increasing over time and presents a real situation for Mio as it's such a twisted, unhealthy relationship that she just can't quit. I'll be really interested to see how this turns out in the last book, and getting to see it explored further. I also loved Rachel in this book. I mean, she literally went through a kind of physical change, and again I just love the risks that Zoe will take with characters, what she puts them through, not to make them seem likeable, but to make them seem difficult and complex and real. In all of her books, she does really great character arcs (you know character arcs are my favourite thing ever), and it just shows even more now in this series, and I'm very excited to see where they go next, especially after that ending!

And yes, the ending was amazing. It wasn't the ending I was expecting when I started the book, and even though it may have brought a tear to my eye, I think it was absolutely the right way for the book to end. Frail Mortal Heart is going to be such a great book, I can tell, because that ending is going to have a massive effect on where the characters are at emotionally in the next book. I want to talk about it more but I don't want to spoil you. Just take my word for it, guys.

Darkness Hidden is a great sequel that takes the story to the next level, and it has all the things you want in an urban fantasy. Awesome mythology, check. Great characters, check. Breakneck pace and lots of action, check and check. Just read this series. Please.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Monthly Round-Up: May and June

So, over the past few months I have been even more absent than usual, mainly because they've actually been quite stressful (I was ill for about two weeks which kind of put me off reading for ages and then by the time I was better it was five days before my first exam and then exams happened which is never fun), but it's all good now, so I've got no excuses for not posting other than my own laziness.

Anyway! Here's what I got up to on the blog over the past 2 months:

Books Read

Young Avengers volume 3 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
The Fearless by Emma Pass
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Waganen
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

A Kiss in the Dark by Cat Clarke
Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt
Skulduggery Pleasant: Death Bringer by Derek Landy
Darkness Hidden by Zoe Marriott
The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson
Geek Girl: Picture Perfect by Holly Smale

Books Reviewed:
The Crown of Embers by Rae Carson
Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell
Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
Say Her Name by James Dawson

Book of the Month

                  May                                                                                                              June

It is safe to say that I absolutely loved both of these books. Beauty Queens was all things weird and wonderful and hilarious, and The Bitter Kingdom was a perfect end to a series that I adore.

I also got around to posting an interview with Susie Day, which was a lot of fun to do, and I hope it was fun to read to! As well as that, The TFiOS film came out in June, so I wanted to post my thoughts on that as well.

I also actually got up to some bookish stuff that wasn't just reading books in my bedroom in June! Since exams were over, I actually let myself go to things and enjoy myself instead of staying in my revision cave/bedroom and doing anything but revising... (namely watching Orange is the New Black, so who can blame me). So I went to the launch for Say Her Name, which was a lot of fun and I actually did something that could vaguely resemble mingling (I am a terrible mingler. I like to talk to the people I know because I am pretty bad at conversing with people in real life.) I also got to ambush Robin Stevens and tell her how much I loved her book, so all in all a successful evening. And then just this weekend I got to go to the Random House blogger brunch, where we got to go book speed dating and found out more about the new Young Bond title as the author, Steve Cole, was there to tell us about it! He was really great and came out to the pub with all the bloggers afterwards even though I think we might have scared him off... Plus we got copies of THE IRON TRIAL so no big deal (*dies*) I also went to nose about the new Foyles, and even though it doesn't quite have the charm or the YA selection that old Foyles did yet, I'm sure after a bit of time it'll get better. Though it is a lovely new shop and it was the busiest I've ever seen it!

So, that was May and June!
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