Review: Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire

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Title: Every Heart A Doorway25526296

Author: Seanan McGuire

Publisher: TOR

Release date: April 5th, 2016

Pages: 169

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

my thoughts

See, I love the portal fantasy. I have always enjoyed Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. My favourite book series will always be The Chronicles of Narnia. So when I found out about Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart A Doorway, I knew I had to pick it up.

The first thing I noticed was how immersive McGuire’s writing is. She manages to cram so much detail and beauty and poetry in such little space because this book is tiny. Under 200 pages long. But it still holds so much weight with me and a lot of that is to do with how McGuire chooses to tell this story.

I en2joyed the uniqueness of this world and the worlds that are discovered within. Not just the good and the bad, with such a great compass line that affects how these kids interact with each other. There are insect worlds and worlds of the dead and worlds of candyfloss. And each of those who had visited and returned was deeply affected in noticeable ways, had adjusted to their lives in worlds that aren’t here from how they speak to how they move to how they think and see.

The worlds that are built in this story and the multitude of them were amazing.

The diversity in this book was great to see, especially because they’re all so open with who they are. Nancy has no problem telling these people that she’s asexual. Kade just is a boy, regardless of who he was as “Katie”.

My only criticism was the length. Despite the fact that McGuire managed to tell a beautiful story in a very small space, it might have benefited from another like 50 pages to drag out the climax of the book. The reveal is very quick and the conclusion is even faster. I wanted to have more time to be shocked and surprised by the mysteries end.

But even then, that doesn’t take away how much I enjoyed this book. It definitely inspired me and I cannot wait to get my hands on the sequel, Down Among The Sticks And Bones.

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Galley Review: S.T.A.G.S by M.A Bennett

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Title: S.T.A.G.S35154365

Author: M.A Bennett

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Release Date: August 10th, 2017

Pages: 294

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S. Just when she despairs of making friends Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’. When Greer learns that the invitation is to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S., she is as surprised as she is flattered.

But when Greer joins the other chosen few at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, she realises that Henry’s parents are not at home; the only adults present are a cohort of eerily compliant servants. The students are at the mercy of their capricious host, and, over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying realisation that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school… 

 

my thoughts

I was excited for this book from the first moment I heard about it. The very premise was something that pricked my interest. I was able to get a copy of this book signed by M.A Bennett during YALC this July and I impatiently waited for The Reading Quest to start so that I could start this book. As you can tell, there was a lot of build up and a lot of anticipation for this release.

S.T.A.G.S reached all of my expectations.

From the very first line – “I think I might be a murderer” – I was engaged in this story.

It’s written like almost like a memoir, everything told in retrospect which I think adds to the tension and thriller aspects of the story. You know something happened, you know someone died, you know who is responsible – you just don’t know what it is.

Bennett is really good at keeping the tension up throughout the story. The events of the deadly weekend are paralleled against the posh blood sports that take place each day – day 1, huntin’; day 2, shootin’; day 3, fishin’. Details about each bloody hobby are described and then seen acted out by the perpetrators. It’s a great way of adding foreshadowing – and therefore tension – to each arc of the story.

I really liked Greer’s voice. I enjoyed the moments of uncertainty that she felt, I liked all the movie references because that was something that was distinctly her and gives her a fantastic voice that you can follow with ease.

All the characters really were charismatic and entertaining in their own way. From the ‘Medievals’, blond and beautiful, to Shafeen, who wants to find out the secrets and save those he cares about, to Nel, who just wants to fit in. Each of them have you questioning intentions or feeling empathy deep in your chest for these feelings of inadequacy.

There’s a lot of focus on the modern world vs the old, and the social commentary that comes with that is incredibly interesting to read. Positives and negatives are both raised, the romanticisation of the past repeatedly challenged. In the end, this questioning is something that sets the characters and the world that S.T.A.G.S inhabited apart from everything else.

And as for the plot twist, well, let’s say – M.A. Bennett, is there going to be a sequel?

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Galley Review: Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

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Title: Are You Sleeping30753570

Author: Kathleen Barber

Publisher: Gallery Books

Release Date: August 1st, 2017

Pages: 336

Serial meets Ruth Ware’s In A Dark, Dark Wood in this inventive and twisty psychological thriller about a mega-hit podcast that reopens a murder case—and threatens to unravel the carefully constructed life of the victim’s daughter.

The only thing more dangerous than a lie…is the truth.

Josie Buhrman has spent the last ten years trying to escape her family’s reputation and with good reason. After her father’s murder thirteen years prior, her mother ran away to join a cult and her twin sister Lanie, once Josie’s closest friend and confidant, betrayed her in an unimaginable way. Now, Josie has finally put down roots in New York, settling into domestic life with her partner Caleb, and that’s where she intends to stay. The only problem is that she has lied to Caleb about every detail of her past—starting with her last name.

When investigative reporter Poppy Parnell sets off a media firestorm with a mega-hit podcast that reopens the long-closed case of Josie’s father’s murder, Josie’s world begins to unravel. Meanwhile, the unexpected death of Josie’s long-absent mother forces her to return to her Midwestern hometown where she must confront the demons from her past—and the lies on which she has staked her future.

my thoughts

I really enjoyed this book. I read it in about two days – it was really hard to put down.

Barber’s writing is immersive and entertaining, balancing fantastic dialogue with just the right about of delving into the emotional journey of our protagonist, Jo, and snippets of modern media – reddit threads, twitter feeds and, the most important, podcast transcripts. All these elements blend together really well, flow seamlessly from one section to the other.

I really enjoyed reading the podcast transcripts and experiencing this murder mystery through the eyes of those outside of the family, especially when these characters crossover with the main body of the story.

It also questioned the sudden popularity of these kinds of shows. Admittedly, I enjoy sitting down and binge watching and passing judgment as an armchair detective, but reading this almost made me feel guilty. It’s strange how, because it seems like a world away, you don’t connect that this has happened to real people, in the real world who are likely still suffering from it. The raising of this moral dilemma and of society’s fascination with crime and murder is definitely an interesting part of the story that I wasn’t expecting to come away thinking about.

As for characters, I really enjoyed reading about Jo and Lanie. As the story is set in present times, Barber focuses a lot on the past, on the twins relationship with each other and how it changed, how they grew apart and why. There so much strain and tension, so much hatred and reading about them reconnecting, trying to find common ground after everything was a really sweet part of the reading experience.

I liked Aunt A and her desperate attempt to keep everyone together, and Ellen with her unexpected loving relationships and caring attitude, and Caleb who is just a darling, so supportive and understanding of everything that’s happening.

In terms of the actual murder mystery, I enjoyed the twists and turns and personally, I fell for the red herring hook line and sinker. I honestly didn’t suspect the outcome at all and that’s a real credit to this story and Barber’s ability to weave doubts into the narrative.

Are You Sleeping is a really enjoyable murder mystery that uses our modern love of true crime investigations in a way I haven’t seen in other crime novels. Barber focuses on the victim’s family and the fall out of a murder and you genuinely feel for every character in this book.

For all you true crime fans out there, this is definitely a book for you.

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Blog Tour/Book Blitz: The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

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So this is the release week of The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee, a book that I’ve been excitedly waiting for since I found out about it months ago. I haven’t had a chance to read it as of yet, but if you’ve seen my weekly wrap up post, you’ll know I’ll be starting it soon.
Until then, I thought I could at least participate in the book blitz and encourage as many of you as possible to pick up this book and get reading!


About The Book

Title: THE EPIC CRUSH OF GENIE LO
Author: F.C. Yee
Pub. Date: August 8, 2017
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 336
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Find it: Amazon | Barnes&Noble
Synopsis: The struggle to get into a top-tier college consumes sixteen-year-old Genie Lo’s every waking thought. But when her sleepy Bay Area town comes under siege from hell-spawn straight out of Chinese folklore, her priorities are suddenly and forcefully rearranged.

Her only guide to the demonic chaos breaking out around her is Quentin Sun, a beguiling, maddening new transfer student from overseas. Quentin assures Genie she is strong enough to fight these monsters, for she unknowingly harbours an inner power that can level the very gates of Heaven.

Genie will have to dig deep within herself to summon the otherworldly strength
that Quentin keeps talking about. But as she does, she finds the secret of her
true nature is entwined with his, in a way she could never have imagined…


Excerpt

“GREETINGS,” HE SAID, HIS ACCENT THICK BUT HIS VOICE LOUD and clear. “I have arrived.”
 
Now, I’d done my best to describe this guy to the police. They pressed me hard for details, as apparently this wasn’t the first group mugging in recent weeks.
 
But I’d let Officers Davis and Rodriguez down. Nice eyes and a winning smile weren’t much to go by. I was too frazzled to notice anything before, which meant this was my first decent look at the boy without the influence of adrenaline.
 
So a couple of things.
 
One: He was short. Like, really short for a guy. I felt bad that my brain went there first, but he wasn’t even as tall as Mrs. Nanda.
 
Two: He was totally okay, physically. I didn’t see how anyone could be up and about after that beating, but here he was, bruised and unblemished. I felt relieved and disturbed at the same time to see there wasn’t a scratch on him.
 
And his mint condition just made Point Three even more obvious.
 
He was . . . yeesh.
 
Nothing good could come of our new classmate being that handsome. It was destructive. Twisted. Weaponized. He had the cheekbones and sharp jawline of a pop star, but his thick eyebrows and wild, unkempt hair lent him an air of natural ruggedness that some pampered singer could never achieve in a million years of makeup.
 
“Argh, my ovaries,” Yunie mumbled. She wasn’t alone, judging by the soft intakes of breath coming from around the room.
 
“Arrived from where?” said Mrs. Nanda.
 
Quentin looked at her in amusement. “China?”
 
“Yes, but where in, though?” said Mrs. Nanda, trying her best to convey that she was sensitive to the regional differences. Fujianese, Taishanese, Beijingren—she’d taught them all.
 
He just shrugged. “The stones,” he said.
 
“You mean the mountains, sweetie?” said Rachel Li, batting her eyelashes at him from the front row.
 
“No! I don’t misspeak.”
 
The class giggled at his English. But none of it was incorrect, technically speaking.
 
“Tell us a little about yourself,” Mrs. Nanda said.
 
Quentin puffed out his chest. The white button-down shirt and black pants of our school’s uniform for boys made most of them look like limo drivers. But on him, the cheap stitching just made it clearer that he was extremely well-muscled underneath.
 
“I am the greatest of my kind,” he said. “In this world I have no equal. I am known to thousands in faraway lands, and everyone I meet can’t help but declare me king!”
 
There was a moment of silence and sputtering before guffaws broke out.
 
“Well . . . um . . . we are all high achievers here at SF Prep,” said Mrs. Nanda as politely as she could. “I’m sure you’ll fit right in?”
 
Quentin surveyed the cramped beige classroom with a cool squint. To him, the other twenty-two laughing students were merely peons on whom his important message had been lost.
 
“Enough wasting of time,” he snapped. “I came to these petty halls only to reclaim what is mine.”
 
Before anyone could stop him, he hopped onto Rachel’s desk and stepped over her to the next one, like she wasn’t even there.
 
“Hey! Quentin!” Mrs. Nanda said, frantically waving her hands. “Get down now!”
 
The new student ignored her, stalking down the column of desks. Toward mine.
 
Everyone in his way leaned to the side to avoid getting kicked. They were all too flabbergasted to do anything but serve as his counterweights.
 
He stopped on my desk and crouched down, looking me in the eye. His gaze pinned me to my seat. I couldn’t turn away. He was so close our noses were almost touching. He smelled like wine and peaches.
 
“You!” he said.
 
“What?” I squeaked.
 
Quentin gave me a grin that was utterly feral. He tilted his head as if to whisper, but spoke loud enough for everyone to hear.
 
“You belong to me.”

About The Author

F. C. Yee grew up in New Jersey and went to school in New England, but has called the San Francisco Bay Area home ever since he beat a friend at a board game and shouted “That’s how we do it in NorCal, baby!” Outside of writing, he practices capoeira, a Brazilian form of martial arts, and has a day job mostly involving
spreadsheets.
                       
 
 

 

 


Giveaway

5 winners will receive Genie Lo prize packs—complete with a finished copy of the book and a special Genie Lo horoscope (that doubles as a bookmark!), US Only.

click here to be redirected to the Rafflecopter giveaway!

 

Thank you for reading! What do you think about The Epic Crush of Genie Lo? Are you excited for it, or have you read it all ready? Leave me a comment and let me know your thoughts!

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Galley Review: Solo by Kwame Alexander

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Title: Solo33004289

Author: Kwame Alexander

Publisher: Blink

Release Date: August 1st, 2017

Pages: 320

Solo, a YA novel in poetic verse, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Blade Morrison, whose life is bombarded with scathing tabloids and a father struggling with just about every addiction under the sun—including a desperate desire to make a comeback. Haunted by memories of his mother and his family’s ruin, Blade’s only hope is in the forbidden love of his girlfriend. But when he discovers a deeply protected family secret, Blade sets out on a journey across the globe that will change everything he thought to be true.

my thoughts

The first thing that has to be pointed out is how Kwame Alexander told this story – through poetry, through lyrics, through reflection on the words of other great rock ‘n’ roll songs. It’s wonderfully unique and makes for a fantastic read – not to mention, it fits the story and adds to it in the most fantastic way.

Blade works through his emotions with music and so it makes sense that a story of his journey, from his point of view, would use poetry to tell the events. Alexander’s work is beautifully written and is so easy to sink in to, to get lost in.

Blade, as a character, is definitely interesting to read about, made like that because of the writing style of the prose,  but also because he’s going through something that everyone can relate to – an identity crisis – despite his individual circumstances. He’s the son of a rockstar, Rutherford, who fell off the wagon after the sudden death of his wife, and now is plastered, drunk and drug addled, across worldwide news stations.

The death of his mother and the grief of his father is definitely something that continuously affects his life – I enjoyed reading about how he tries to overcome, how he snaps and breaks and how he doesn’t give his dad the leeway to break again. He’s only 17 years old and he shouldn’t need to have this strength but it’s heartbreaking that he does.

The story is split into two parts – Hollywood and Ghana. Both are important in telling Blade’s story – Hollywood is where he is broken and lost, and Ghana is where he finds himself and builds bridges with his family once more. It’s interesting to see both the differences between the two worlds and how Blade interacts with them.

The only issue I would say I found the book is the way that child neglect and endangerment is kind of skimmed past. It would have been nice to have Blade and Rutherford especially speak about those issues directly rather than just have it as part of a memory. Alexander made such an effort to show how the family was broken and how they came back together that it seems amiss to not include that as part of the reconciliation.

Solo is a beautiful book about finding who you are, accepting your past to move into your future and music. I’d never read a Kwame Alexande3r book before Solo, and this is a book that definitely makes me want to go back and read the entirety of his works.

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Guest Post: The Line Between Good And Evil With M.E. Rhimes

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July 31st saw the release of M.E. Rhimes’ newest novel, Sink.

32948972This is a mermaid fantasy, almost similar to the original Little Mermaid fairy tale. Once Pauline finds out the dark truth of what happens to the human men mermaids are betrothed to, she finds herself unable to bite her tongue any longer, even if it’s at the displeasure of her tyrannical mother, Queen Calypso. In her attempt to do good, she might find herself repeating the circle again – because no mermaids kiss comes without warning.

It should be a great young adult fantasy novel about breaking tradition, identity and young love.

As part of the Book Blitz, Rhimes took the time to write a piece on the line between good and evil, on love and what makes a rememberable antagonist. I’m pleased to share it with you.


Good And Evil – The Almost Invisible Line

It only takes a quick flip through the pages of the most beloved and timeless books to find one common theme – love. And with good reason. Romance is enchanting, intoxicating, exciting, and arguably down right addictive. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything in the universe holding more influence. It can create a hypothetical fairy tale, filling our hearts and minds with visions of eternal happiness and happily
ever-after. Unfortunately, we learn as we grow it’s not all warm and fuzzy wonder. There’s a dark side to love. One that can take a perfectly innocent heart and crush it to pieces. It is from these ashes that villains are made.

Unfortunately, we learn as we grow it’s not all warm and fuzzy wonder. There’s a dark side to love. One that can take a perfectly innocent heart and crush it to pieces. It is from these ashes that villains are made.

If you’ve ever read one of my books, you’ll notice I have a pension for zooming in on the uncomfortable creation of evil. I’m a strong believer that in life we’re all born with an equal chance of going one way or the other. None of us are born wicked; we’re made that way. The path to hero or villain is complicated, dependent on circumstance, coping skills and surrounding support systems (or lack thereof).

To write a great villain, you should be willing to wade in their realm. See the world through their eyes and justify their actions, even if your hero/heroine can’t. Heartbreak is a powerful catalyst for action, and allowing a glimpse into your antagonist’s perspective adds an entirely different layer to the story.

The very best villains, the ones who stick with us past the final pages, are the ones we can relate to in some way. When we can say, “I understand why he/she feels the way they do, and I could’ve gone that direction, too,” we can truly immerse ourselves in the story. Once we’re that invested, we can get excited when the heroine defeats that darkness, because in some strange way it’s like they did it for us. The difference between the good and evil may seem like a chasm, but I think when you take a closer look, it’s more like a crack.

Once we’re that invested, we can get excited when the heroine defeats that darkness, because in some strange way it’s like they did it for us. The difference between the good and evil may seem like a chasm, but I think when you take a closer look, it’s more like a crack.


RhinesAUTHOR BIO

M.E. Rhines a southwest Florida native currently living in North Port with her two beautiful children and a third, much larger child whom she affectionately calls husband.
She writes young adult paranormal romance to feed her belief that fairy tales are real and nonsense is necessary.She also writes adult romances under her edgier alter-ego, Mary Bernsen.

Author links:


Sink can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo.

This book can be found on Goodreads.

SinkBlitzBanner

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A Word With The Author // Dyan Sheldon

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Dyan Sheldon is the talented author of many young adult books, including Confessions of A Teenage Drama Queen (something you might remember was adapted into a live-action Disney movie back in 2004). Her most recent book, More Than One Way To Be A Girl, explores feminism, friendship and what it means to be a girl.

After being given the chance to read the fantastic book (full review can be found here), I was also given the fantastic opportunity to speak with Dyan Sheldon and find out more about her newest release.

Why do you think it was important to have these two character archetypes in this story about what it means to be a girl?

“It was never my intention to provide answers in this novel. I wanted to get the questions out there. With a subject like this I felt that the best way to do that was the dialectic method – which is a discussion between people with different points of view to try and get at the truth through reasoned arguments. ZiZi and Loretta became the dialectic method in heels and work boots.”

What made you want to write this story in the first place?

“It’s been an uphill struggle, hasn’t it, the one for women’s equality? In most of the world, we haven’t even had universal suffrage for a hundred years. So, despite all the changes that have occurred in the last century or so, we still have a way to go. We have our waves of feminism, and women running governments and driving buses or whatever, but the images of women that you see in magazines, films and on television are largely the same old ones – women as accessories, women as sexual objects, women as the girlfriend, wife or love interest of the man. Old gender stereotypes and attitudes die hard, and often get reborn when you’re least expecting it.

“I believe that you can’t simply accept the world at face value. You have to question and think about everything. Just because things are a certain way, doesn’t mean that they should be.”

Where did the idea [for More Than One Way To Be A Girl] come from?

“In a way, the idea has always been there, and I’ve touched on it (sometimes more gently than others) in more than one of my books. I reckon I just thought it was time to go at it head first, as it were. Originally, it was called BEAUTIFUL ME and had a different storyline, but over the scores of drafts it evolved into something else.”

Was there something you found difficult to write when you sat down to begin More Than One Way To Be A Girl?

“This book fought me every inch of the way. I’ve never had such a hard time. I’ve had difficult novels before – I never find writing what I’d call ‘easy’ — but not this difficult. I spent months beginning it, getting to page 24, and then starting it all over again. I changed the characters, I changed the plot, I did everything I could think of.

And I’d get to page 24 and have to start again. I was about to give up on the idea completely when a friend (also a writer) said I couldn’t give up now, and that I should write it in two voices, not just one. And once I did that I steamed past page 24.”

Stephen King says to ‘kill you darlings’ – was there any part of More Than One Way To Be A Girl that you removed for whatever reason and wished you have kept in the final draft?

“It happens. I don’t think it happened in this book. Maybe a funny line or two that only I thought was funny got axed, but nothing major. I always save the bits I’ve had to take out, with the thought that someday I’ll use it in something else. But what normally happens is that I forget about them. Years later I may stumble upon it and think, Wow, that was really good. Or, alternatively, Whatever was I thinking? Thank God I took that out.

Which part did you find most fun to write?

“No offense to Loretta, of whom I am deeply fond (we do have a lot in common), but I think I’d have to say ZiZi’s narrative. She’s the least like me, but I really enjoyed her. And I did have a lot of fun with the end.”

What is the best writing advice you’ve received that you think every writer should know?

“The best advice I’ve ever had was this: The advantage of being a writer (and not, for instance, a conductor or some other sort of performer) is that you get to sit in your little room or in your garden shed and you don’t have to show anybody what you’ve done until you think it’s ready. And even then, you have plenty of chances to make it better. It’s not stand up on the stage and hope you don’t forget your lines.”

Summarise More Than One Way To Be A Girl in three words!

“What a stinker! The closest I can come is to condense it to two: Be yourself. (The trick of course, is working out what’s really you, and what’s  all the stuff you’ve learned and/or absorbed from the world around you.)”

 

Thank you, Dyan Sheldon, for this interview and thank you to Kirsten Corzen at Walker Books for making it possible.

More Than One Way To Be A Girl was released in the UK on 6th July 2017.

 

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