Three Dark Crowns

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

How she poisoned her sisters so slyly and quietly that it took them days to die. How when it was over they looked so peaceful that had it not been for the froth on their lips, you would have thought they had died in their sleep…

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake is brilliant. Sinister, grabby, wicked and sly. It’s the best kind of dark, dark fantasy.

She motions to the priestesses, and they draw their knives. “Take her head and her arms. Cut the heart separate from the body. And throw it all into…

With the combination of superb characters and the rich storyline which flows like thick treacle, oozing with venom,  this is a book I will not forget. So very dark.

The ocean’s layers, its currents, and cold and churning sand move as she commands. It is not easy, but the water obeys…

It’s chock full of treason, murder, dark magic and unexpected twists, the bendy type of twists that turn the reader inside out.

She will set them both on fire…

I am fascinated by all the different covers and for the first time ever I actually don’t have a preference! The covers above are quite popular, but my ARC from Pan MacMillan below is new to me. 5 Star

 

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Three Dark Crowns
Series: Three Dark Crowns #1three-dark-crowns-arc
Author: Kendare Blake
Publication Date:
20 September  2016 
Publisher: HarperTeen/Pan Macmillan
Source: Review copy
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Every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins. The last queen standing gets the crown.

If only it was that simple. Katharine is unable to tolerate the weakest poison, and Arsinoe, no matter how hard she tries, can’t make even a weed grow. The two queens have been shamefully faking their powers, taking care to keep each other, the island, and their powerful sister Mirabella none the wiser. But with alliances being formed, betrayals taking shape, and ruthless revenge haunting the queens’ every move, one thing is certain: the last queen standing might not be the strongest…but she may be the darkest. — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

Songs to Lift the Bad Day Blues

I love listening to music and can often be found singing off-key with earphones in (sadly, my kids have the evidence and are not afraid to use it!).

But on a bad day, one of those days when everything goes haywire, I have a short playlist of songs that I listen to on repeat until I feel like I can face the world again. I never get tired of these songs and listening to them always makes my world feel right again.

My tried-and-tested list of songs to make your day shine.

The Parlotones – Push Me To The Floor

One Direction – Perfect

Fun.: We Are Young ft. Janelle Monáe

Snow Patrol – Chasing Cars

OneRepublic – Something I Need

Robbie Williams, Pet Shop Boys – She’s Madonna

Suzanne Vega – The Queen And The Soldier

Stars Fall Down- The Parlotones

Dire Straits – Sultans Of Swing

Imagine Dragons – I Bet My Life

Top Ten Tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Top Ten Crime

I haven’t participated in a top ten for a while. Moving house took longer than expected. But I am back and with ten of my favourite crime books. Not necessarily mystery stories, but all these books feature an element of criminal activity that dominates the storyline.

 

Heist Society by Ally Carter
Heist Society

What would you do if all your family vacations were planned around the next heist?
Like all Ally Carter stories, Heist Society is fun and addictive.

 


Grass by Cathy MacPhail

Grass

 

 

A hard-hitting story of a witness to gang crime.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak
I love Laurie Halse Anderson’s books and Speak is my favourite. Subtly written and frighteningly realistic.


Don’t Look Back by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Don’t Look Back

A beautifully written, unpredictable and scary thriller.

Tricks by Ellen Hopkins

Tricks
If you’ve never read Ellen Hopkins’s books this may not be the best one to start with. She does not shy from the truth and these books are all too horrifyingly, raw and edgy. Only the brave go forth and steel yourself – it is gritty and unflinchingly true.
Having said that, they are also not to be missed. Her stories flow almost effortlessly through verse and you won’t want to put them down.

Pointe by Brandy Colbert

pointe

Despite the warm and soothing writing, this book packs a powerful punch.

The blurb and hype surrounding the story try to prepare the reader, but I am still reeling in shock…

 


All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

All the Missing Girls
A very, very cleverly written murder mystery. Original, unpredictable and brilliant!


A Time to Kill by John Grisham

A Time to Kill

Published after he became a best-seller, this is John Grisham’s first novel and by far the best he’s written.

 


The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner
Another book that packs a powerful punch. I loved this beautiful wistful story of regret, longing, friendship and war.

 

 

 

Newes from the Dead by Mary Hooper

Newes from the Dead
Set in 1650, this is a true story of a young girl who was falsely accused of a crime and sentenced to death. Told in alternating POV’s that allow us to see the present while understanding the events that lead up to… (nope! no spoilers here!)

Top Ten Tuesday

 
 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Are Adult books threatened by YA?

This is not a post about whether adults should be reading YA, but rather a look into why YA dominates the current market.Is YA eclipsing Adult books?

Are Adult books threatened by YA?

The short answer is yes. A glimpse at my TBR (to-be-read) shelf on Goodreads confirms that. And I don’t think I am alone. If that doesn’t convince you a quick search online will show you that currently, YA books top the sales statistics and although this could be argued that they not purchasing for themselves, the majority of buyers are adults.

Categories and buzzwords

Before YA became a category (It’s not a genre!), a buzzword and sometimes sadly a condescending sneer, we read what we wanted to. Admittedly books aimed at the YA market a few decades ago were few and far between, think The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Ask Alice, but these were enjoyed by all, alongside adult novels. 

The publishing industry has exploded in the last few years and there are more books published in a year that could be read in any lifetime. It’s all too terrifying to think of the great books we’re not going to have time to read.

Books are now extensively categorised and marketed in different niches. I am known for blurring the lines so it’s no secret I don’t like this. I have never pretended to be pretentious and only read top quality literature. This doesn’t mean I don’t, I just don’t read these exclusively because I believe we should read what makes us happy (yes even sad books can make our souls happy!).

With more than ten years experience in school libraries, I have been exposed to a wide range of books targeted for different age groups. During this time I started making a point of reading more YA to be able to book talk and recommend books to teenagers who according to our statistics were reading less than any other students. Now? Even though I am not currently working in a school 90% of the books I read are YA

Why do I read YA?

So why am I reading YA? Because I am addicted want to. When I am reading for pleasure I want to read what I like.

I believe the appeal of YA books comes down to the following:
Fast-paced, emotional, intense, exciting, the feels, realistic, relatable, dramatic, risky

In comparison adult books often seem slow, boring, tedious, monotonous, tired. Even highly anticipated books built up with media hype, such as the recent The Girl in the Train fall flat when put against the furiously expanding YA category.

Disclaimer: Obviously my opinion on adult books is a generalisation and not all YA is good, but there are many excellent YA reads which can be found on Goodreads or better yet from the recommendations made by honest bloggers & reviewers.
The blogs I recommend can be found on the drop-down menu under ‘About Me’ in the menu above. 

So here’s the question…  Is YA eclipsing Adult books?

Can Adult books keep up? Should we be worried?

Perhaps the key is in marketing?

I am hoping rather than squashing down those adult’s who, like me, happily read YA in public there can be a spark of change coming from the book industry themselves. Perhaps the key is in marketing?

The pre-publishing hype for YA is phenomenal, and in my opinion, it surpasses any other category. When, as a book blogger, I request an advance copy (ARC) of a YA title I already know a great deal about it. Book bloggers are always tuned to the new-book-radar. Listening to the quiet murmurings that a debut has reached the publishers or an established author is working on a new book. I anticipate the cover reveal, debate its aesthetics with fellow bloggers. I have read quotes, advanced reviews and seen book trailers. But when I browse the forthcoming adult titles I am frequently confronted by titles and covers I have never heard of…

Let me know what you think.

Further reading for those interested in the YA debate:
CNN:  A brief history of young adult literature
The New York Times: When Authors Take Risks, That’s Not Kid Stuff
New York Public Library: How did YA Become YA?
School Library Journal YA: A Category for the Masses. But What About Teens?
The New York Times: The Great Y.A. Debate of 2014
The Slate Book Review: Against YA
The English Journal: Young Adult Literature: The Problem With YA Literature
The Guardian: Why are so many adults reading YA and teen fiction?

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts

I love that this book about a book blogger who is not afraid to break the mould of pretentious book characters reading only the classics. I’m a little sceptical that so many books feature YA characters who read only Victorian classics.

Did I tell you it’s about a book blogger? (yes!). Viv is a mega layered character who puts her foot into it more often than not and tries very hard to avoid being hurt by potentially dating out the ‘zing’ zone.

The only thing that let this book down is the author’s passive treatment of abuse, which should never be tucked under the carpet without the strongest message about how wrong it is.
4 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: The Replacement Crush
Author: Lisa Brown Roberts
Publication Date: 6 September 2016The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Source: Review copy

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True love can’t be strategized.

After book blogger Vivian Galdi’s longtime crush pretends their secret summer kissing sessions never happened, Vivian creates a list of safe crushes, determined to protect her heart.

But nerd-hot Dallas, the sweet new guy in town, sends the mission and Vivian’s zing meter into chaos. While designing software for the bookstore where Vivian works, Dallas wages a counter-mission.

Operation Replacement Crush is in full effect. And Dallas is determined to take her heart off the shelf.    — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Under Rose-Tainted SkiesNormal takes a nosedive into my bag, sinks beneath the copious amount of clutter, and dies a slow, painful death.

A new favourite, Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a book I knew I would like from the first time I heard about it, even before I had seen its beautiful cover. But didn’t expect it to touch me as much as it did. It was real and sad but at the same time full of hope. Norah crept into my heart and I wished I could sit outside her door and talk to her. I loved the unexpected humour and Norah’s witty banter, often with herself.

Why has he stopped? Am I supposed to smile? Wave? Throw him a thumbs-up? I feel like an idiot.

The author did not shy away from the difficult, but rather showed us an unflinching raw, honest look into the life of a young adult coping with a mental illness.

Like a giant in cast-iron shoes, I make my way down the stairs. Eleven steps, so I have to take the last one twice. I have this thing about even.

It came at no surprise that the author drew on her own experience of mental illness for inspiration as the medical facts ring true. Her take on mental illness is a reassuring one which is not necessarily the case in every situation.

Perfection is a feeling, you’ll know it if you’ve ever questioned the competency of your penmanship before writing on the first page of a new notebook.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is a difficult book to rate, because how do you rate a mental illness? I am simply rating it for the feels I had while reading, and the lasting effect the book has had on me.

So instead, I wait. I wait a lifetime, curled up in a ball of cowardice on the hall floor…

It is time for mental illness to come out of the closet. Time that, despite the lack of visible wounds, illness is treated equally .5 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Under Rose-Tainted Skiesunder rose-tainted skies
Author: Louise Gornall
Publication Date: 3 January 2017
Publisher: Clarion Books
Source: Review copy

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Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.— Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.

Disclaimer: The quotes appear in my advanced review copy and may not appear in the final version.

Cracked Up To Be crop

Cracked Up To Be by Courtney Summers

I almost didn’t read this book. I spent the morning on a clean-up mission (it doesn’t happen often!) and realising that my TBR pile is… well beyond ridiculous, and that we will be moving soon, I decided I would trim it down and box up to donate those books I knew I wasn’t really going to get to anytime soon.

When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St Peter’s High goes on alert.

The next day I picked up the top book of the donate pile and read the blurb. The next thing I knew the book was finished and I had tears pouring down my face.

How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

A messed-up character, Parker had slipped over to the dark side and this is her story. Unraveling slowly, her story took me on a journey of discovery. Her protective layers peel back layer by layer until her heart is exposed.

Something terrible has happened, and it might just be her fault.

Brilliant!4 Star

Recommended age: 13+

Title: Cracked Up To BeCracked Up To Be
Author: Courtney Summers
Published: 23 December 2008
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Source: Purchased

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When “Perfect” Parker Fadley starts drinking at school and failing her classes, all of St. Peter’s High goes on alert. How has the cheerleading captain, girlfriend of the most popular guy in school, consummate teacher’s pet, and future valedictorian fallen so far from grace?

Parker doesn’t want to talk about it. She’d just like to be left alone, to disappear, to be ignored. But her parents have placed her on suicide watch and her counselors are demanding the truth. Worse, there’s a nice guy falling in love with her and he’s making her feel things again when she’d really rather not be feeling anything at all.

Nobody would have guessed she’d turn out like this. But nobody knows the truth.   — Extract from Goodreads.com

99 Days crop

99 Days by Katie Cotugno

99 days of summer vacation… that sounds a little like Phineas and Ferb *breaks into song*

Putting the whole cheating/betraying elephant-in-the-room aside,  I really liked this book. Real, raw,  honest and fun. I devoured it so quickly that it took me a while to realise there was no more. It was over. But it has such a pretty cover and will look good on my shelf *fangirls the cover*. That sounds a little shallow – but it is true!

Recommended age: 14+4 Star

Title: 99 Days
Author: Katie Cotugno
Publication Date: 21 April 201599 Days
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Source: Purchased

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Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that’s how I know everyone still remembers everything—how I destroyed my relationship with Patrick the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. How I wrecked their whole family. Now I’m serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college, and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn’t finished. I’m expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it’s just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. “For what it’s worth, Molly Barlow,” he says, “I’m really glad you’re back.”

Day 12: Gabe got me to come to this party, and I’m actually having fun. I think he’s about to kiss me—and that’s when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who’s supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who’s never going to forgive me.  — Abstract from Goodreads.com

insta

It is strange (but true) that many great books just don’t get into the hands of readers. Whether it’s an unappealing  cover / title or just poor marketing I feel sad for those little-known books that are really worth reading.

Here is a list (does anyone else get a spike of joy when compiling lists?) of books I loved but which have had very little attention on Goodreads even though it’s been a while since they were published. One thing these books all have in common, other than that I love them, is that they all have edgy, gritty characters (trust me this is a good thing!).

*All ratings are out of the possible 5 stars, subjective to the individual reviewer opinion published publicly on Goodreads and retrieved on 9 August 2016 .

These Books Deserve More Attention

Between Two Seas

 

Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen
317 Ratings,   4-star average
Set in Denmark this is a beautifully written historical fiction by a first-class author. It’s about a strong female character who journeys into the unknown to find her father. I have no idea why this book is not more popular. It’s a must read.

 

Dust by Sarah DaltryDust
37 ratings, 4.14- star average

An epic fantasy by an author whose writing is so seductive you’ll be sucked in from the first page. Full of twists the three main characters, a princess, assassin and a thief, will keep you on your toes throughout. Fantasy lovers add this to the top of your TBR. This is one of my rare 5-star reads,

Agora Files

 

The Agora Files by Adam Oster
18 ratings,  3.94- star average 

The Agora Files is a fast-paced, unpredictable and original dystopian story. Full of action, adrenaline, excitement and adventure but with a strong, appealing human element which comes through in family dynamics and unexpected relationships.

 

Scarred

Scarred by Joanne Macgregor
327 ratings, 3.86-star average

Written by a South African author this is a tender, sensitive contemporary story of hope and redemption but with strong, complex characters and witty banter.

 

Retaliation

Retaliation by Yasmin Shiraz
105 ratings, 4.24-star average

This is a powerful, brutal, raw but ultimately inspirational account of life on gang ruled streets.  Although set in Washington D.C. the story will resonate with any inner city streets of all major cities across the world and as such has the potential of reaching many teens who desperately need to hear the message of hope.

Grass

 

Grass by Cathy MacPhail
87 ratings, 3.75-star average

Grass is a story that will stick with you long after you’ve finished reading. Cathy MacPhail is a well-known author and this is my favourite of her books. A witness to a horrific crime by a local gang is placed in a very difficult situation when he is forbidden to grass (tell on).

Last Summer of Us

 

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt
388 ratings, 3.64-star average

Drama follows three best friends, whose relationships intertwine with unexpected results, as they embark on a road trip.

One Two Three

 


One, Two, Three
by Elodie Nowodazki
237 ratings, 3.61-star average

Passionate, gritty, complicated characters abound in this intense story which revolves around a ballerina’s future career after an accident and her bizarre family relationships


Street Duty

Street Duty, Case One: Knock Down  by Chris Ould
60 ratings, 3.82-star average

Trainee student police officers encounter gritty, streetwise characters on their watch. Fast-paced action and realistic settings. A book not to miss.

 

Goblet Club


The Goblet Club
by S.A. Partridge
34 ratings, 3.75-star average

Set in a boy’s boarding school this is a gothic, sinister, award-winning book by a South African author. Reminiscent of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History with the formation of a secret exclusive club which in this case is dedicated to the study of poison. Dark themes and compelling characters make this a book not to miss.

Top Ten Tuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

Every Falling Star

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee

An unflinchingly honest account

Every Falling Star is a powerful and courageous memoir of Sungju Lee’s childhood. Having every little knowledge North Korea I was not sure what to expect when I requested an advanced copy from the publisher. What I found was an unflinchingly honest account written with just enough emotion to allow the reader to become involved, but without self-pity and righteousness, so many memoirs have.

Powerful & Inspirational

The book manages to be both inspirational and heartbreaking at the same time and so compelling that I was completely engrossed. It’s a sad story of  a childhood which began so well before it crashed and burned, only for its ashes to be recovered and brought back to life. Alive. Free. But never the same. We get an inside look into a country which, in (extremely) different circumstances could be a beautiful place to live.4 Star

Recommended age: 14+

Title: Every Falling Star:
The True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
Author: Sungju LeeEvery Falling Star by Sungju Lee
Ghostwriter: 
Susan Elizabeth McClelland
Publication Date: 13 September 2016
Publisher: Amulet Books
Source: Review copy

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Every Falling Star is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.    — Abstract from Goodreads.com

The fact that I received a free advanced copy of this book does not influence my policy to write an honest review.