Tag Archives: debut

2016 Releases: Books on my To-Read List!

Here’s a list of some books coming out in the next few months that I can’t wait for.
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Also on this list (but with no final cover art yet, so I couldn’t make matching graphics!) are The Last Beginning by Lauren James, When She Came Back by Michelle Harrison and As I Descended by Robin Talley.

What new books are you looking forward to reading this year?

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Book Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

Published 16th July by Pan Macmillan.

The Bones of YouGoodreads Synopsis: When eighteen-year-old Rosie Anderson disappears, the idyllic village where she lived will never be the same again. Local gardener Kate is struck with guilt. She’d come to know Rosie well, and thought she understood her – perhaps better even than Rosie’s own mother.
A family torn apart: Rosie was beautiful, kind and gentle. She came from a loving family and she had her whole life ahead of her. Who could possibly want to harm her? And why?
A keeper of secrets: Kate is convinced the police are missing something. She’s certain that someone in the village knows more than they’re letting on. As the investigation deepens, so does Kate’s obsession with solving the mystery of what happened to Rosie.

My Review: This book looked and sounded amazing, so I was very excited to start it! I had to read the first half in short snatches between the last-week-of-school-rush-to-finish-coursework, but on the last day of school I sat and devoured the last half of the book in one reading. I wish I could’ve read the whole book like that. It’s fast paced and definitely one of my most gripping reads this year!

Rosie, teenage daughter of the famous TV presenter Neal Anderson, has disappeared. Kate, the local gardener who had a connection to Rosie, is shocked and saddened by the truths that are slowly coming to light. She decides to investigate on her own as to what happened – delving into the murky and mysterious background of Rosie’s famed family. The outcome of the story is absolutely terrifying.

The story felt so real at points it was scary – I especially really liked the psychological aspects and the heavy focus on media representation. It was very chilling to read about how the national papers exaggerated Rosie’s disappearance story – and made me think of how so many papers do this in real life.

The Bones of You is a very dark tale and certainly not for the faint-hearted – there are lots of grim scenes. However I raced through the story, utterly engrossed, desperate to unravel all of the answers. The Bones of You is an absolutely stunning début novel. The plot was so intricate and complex and I came up with countless theories, but none of them were anything like the outcome. I had to read over the revealing lines to make sure I wasn’t seeing things!

I became really attached to the characters, especially Kate. She felt very realistic and her actions were so believeable. Her daughter has just left for university, and on top of adjusting to that change, she becomes tangled up in the mystery of what happened to Rosie, a local friend’s daughter. I don’t read from adult perspectives very much as I mainly read YA but, unexpectedly, I came to love Kate as much as I would love a YA protagonist.

Overall, I was really impressed with this début novel – I went in with not very many expectations and was met with a truly unique, dark thriller. I would jump at the chance to read more from Howells in the future! She has a great talent for writing very realistic thriller stories. The plot was so well crafted, as were the unforgettable characters. I definitely recommend this to people who love crime books.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of The Bones of You from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Published 4nd June 2015 by Harper Voyager.

23569524Goodreads Synopsis: What if you were the spark that could ignite a revolution?
For years Laia has lived in fear. Fear of the Empire, fear of the Martials, fear of truly living at all. Born as a Scholar, she’s never had much of a choice.
For Elias it’s the opposite. He has seen too much on his path to becoming a Mask, one of the Empire’s elite soldiers. With the Masks’ help the Empire has conquered a continent and enslaved thousands, all in the name of power.
When Laia’s brother is taken she must force herself to help the Resistance, the only people who have a chance of saving him. She must spy on the Commandant, ruthless overseer of Blackcliff Academy. Blackcliff is the training ground for Masks and the very place that Elias is planning to escape. If he succeeds, he will be named deserter. If found, the punishment will be death.
But once Laia and Elias meet, they will find that their destinies are intertwined and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
In the ashes of a broken world one person can make a difference. One voice in the dark can be heard. The price of freedom is always high and this time that price might demand everything, even life itself.

My Review: I first heard about this at the Fire Sermon event with HarperVoyager a few months ago, and instantly the story appealed to me. Over the last year I’ve been getting into contemporary more and more, which has meant I’ve been reading less fantasy. After The Fire Sermon, this seemed the perfect read to rekindle (pun 100% intended) my love for the genre. And, it was! An Ember in the Ashes exceeded my expectations by miles. It was a mesmerising début, from a very talented new writer.

The story is told in switching perspectives; Laia, a scholar, and Elias, a ‘mask’ soldier. Laia is thrown into a world of resistance against the Empire and espionage in order to save her brother, whilst Elias is a promising soldier of Blackcliff, expected to go through horrifying things to compete to be Emperor, despite how much he detests the system. The two are about to meet in the place they are both trapped, and the path they take is set to change everything.

adored the characters. Laia was a refreshingly unique protagonist. In the beginning, she is weak, afraid and does not involve herself in anything illegal; that’s all her brother, until he’s captured. She develops a lot over the course of the plot; Sabaa Tahir has written her character so well. I didn’t really mind the vague love triangle, too!

It’s really hard to express my feelings about An Ember in the Ashes. It was just so enjoyable – I was sucked into the world of the Empire straight away; swept away with the characters on their terrifying stories. The story ended on such a huge cliffhanger, and I actually thought it was a standalone novel… Thankfully a sequel is due and I’m eagerly anticipating reading more about Laia and Elias.

Overall, I very highly recommend An Ember in the Ashes. If you’re a fan of fantasy, Sabaa Tahir’s book is the perfect next read – and, in fact, it’s the perfect book to get into the fantasy genre with. Undoubtedly one of the most stunning debut novels I have read.

My Rating:five

I received a copy of An Ember in the Ashes from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: The Unforgotten by Laura Powell

Published 3rd July by Hesperus Nova.

25246282Goodreads Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Betty Broadbent helps her erratic and beautiful mother run the Hotel Eden, a boarding house now besieged by reporters, keen for juicy gossip and eye-catching headlines. They are there because the Cornish seaside town has recently witnessed a string of murders, young girls stabbed to death. Among the newspaper jackals, Mr. Gallagher stands out. Quiet, serious Mr. Gallagher—Betty is fascinated by his mysterious nature and desperate to be noticed by him and not be treated as a child. As he and Betty get to know each other, through snatched conversation and illicit meetings, their feelings for each other grow. But she soon starts to realize how little she knows about the older, enigmatic journalist. With a dangerous cloud looming over the town, Betty starts to take risks to see him and hide secrets from her mother, her friends, and even herself—secrets that will echo through the years and affect the lives of many. Beautifully written with skilllfully drawn characters, evocative language, and set partially in 1956 with perfect period depiction, this is an astonishing tour de force from debut author Laura Powell.

My Review: I actually received this proof from the publisher via my dad and I hadn’t previously heard of them – or the book itself – but after finishing it, rather in awe, I’d love to see what this imprint also publishes… and what Powell will write in the future!

The Unforgotten is set in two times; 1965, and the present day. In 1965, Betty lives in the hotel with her mother, whilst it’s overrun with journalists clamouring to get scoops on the murder spree happening in the village. As tensions are rising, so is Betty’s fixation with Mr Ghallager, one of the local reporters.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect of the story and it was a lot darker than its pretty book jacket lets on. It didn’t feel like a clichéd ‘whodunnit?’ novel. It was simply stunning. I couldn’t predict who the killer was at all. I was swept up in the story – reading it in a day. The pages were practically turning themselves, as horrifying murders took place while a perilous connection between Betty and Mr Ghallager developed.

I was surprised at how invested I became in the lives of the central characters as they all unravelled mysteries. Betty was a little quirky and a really likeable character to read about – in the past and present.

Reading about the characters in 1959 then as elderly people, in the present day, made the story even more brilliant. I don’t think I’ve read many ‘split’ stories like it but it gave the mystery a new depth, as I tried to piece together evidence from the present day and the sixties. It was also a really interesting way to see how the characters changed and grew.

Overall, I wholeheartedly recommend The Unforgotten. I think it will appeal to teens and adults alike – especially to fans of Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey. The characters are really well formed and I haven’t been able to get them out of my head – especially after the bewildering ending!

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of The Unforgotten from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green [Tenth Anniversary Edition]

Published February 2015 by Harper Collins.

24599112Goodreads Synopsis: Miles has a quirky interest in famous people’s last words, especially François Rabelais’s final statement, “I go to seek a Great Perhaps.” Determined not to wait for death to begin a similar quest, Miles convinces his parents to let him leave home. Once settled at Culver Creek Preparatory School, he befriends a couple of equally gifted outcasts: his roommate Chip―commonly known as the Colonel—who has a predilection for memorizing long, alphabetical lists for fun; and the beautiful and unpredictable Alaska, whom Miles comes to adore.

The kids grow closer as they make their way through a school year filled with contraband, tests, pranks, breakups, and revelations about family and life. But as the story hurtles toward its shattering climax, chapter headings like “forty-six days before” and “the last day” portend a tragic event―one that will change Miles forever and lead him to new conclusions about the value of his cherished “Great Perhaps.”

My review is of the tenth anniversary special edition, which contains bonus content and deleted scenes.

My Review: This book came as a surprise in the post, but I was so excited when it arrived. I read Looking For Alaska last year, in the short period after finishing John Green’s latest book, The Fault in Our Stars, and I wasn’t sure about rereading it – but I ended up doing so and I think I loved it even more than I did the first time around.

Going back to revisit Miles and Alaska and the Colonel felt like a nostalgic reunion with old friends – I forgot how much I loved the characters and their chemistry. Though I feel that all of John Green’s characters are somewhat similar, I can’t fault them. They’re always endlessly funny, yet complex, and they have such well developed back-stories. Since my first read, I’d forgotten much of Alaska’s background and how it connects with her future, and it was quite haunting to rediscover it.

As for the plot, I somehow felt even more absorbed, knowing what was coming (though admittedly I forgot at which point the BIG PLOT TWIST THAT BROKE MY HEART happened, and it struck me really hard and I spent the rest of the night crying to my friend). I also picked up on some parallels in the ‘before’ and ‘after’ sections that the book is split into – I didn’t notice how events lined up and how the story begins 135 days before and ends 135 days after, exactly. This is why rereading is the best – There are so many things you pick up that you hadn’t noticed before!

However, I did dislike some bits of the plot – I loved the ending but I don’t feel it did the book justice, that near-end scene just felt a little disjointed and random to me. The ‘before’ part is definitely the best part, plot-wise, as in the ‘after’ I felt everything was just dragged out a little. However, it was definitely the most emotional part. I couldn’t help but tear up at so many parts.

the reason I’m reviewing this book again is because it’s a new edition, with bonus stuff, so I thought I may as well do a new post and not just reblog my old review. At the back of this edition there’s actually more new content than I’d anticipated – I loved reading John Green’s articulately answered Q&A, thought my favourite thing was the deleted scenes. There were original drafts of scenes such as the opening pages of the book, where Miles is saying goodbye to his parents and starting at Culver Creek school. I found it so fascinating to see how John Green’s writing developed over many rewrites.

Overall, I really recommend Looking For Alaska, especially this copy – whether you haven’t read it before and want to start reading Green’s books (Warning, does not come with tissues, you must purchase these yourself.) or whether you’re a long-time fan, as the new things included are really great! Also, hai, gorgeous shiny cover. The story is one of those rare ones that touches you in a way not many can. It rips your heart to pieces then puts it back together, over and over. The characters never truly leave you – the whole book is just unforgettable.

My Rating:

four and a half

I received a copy of Looking For Alaska from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

Book Review: The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson

Published 1st January 2015 by David Fickling Books.

23058402Goodreads Synopsis: Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.
On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.
When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long.

My Review: It’s pretty hard to collect my thoughts about The Art of Being Normal! I knew, from the many tweets I had seen about it, that it was going to be a stunning novel, and it was. I was speechless after finishing – I had no idea it was going to be that amazing.

I was so glad The Art of Being Normal it was receiving so much hype when I first heard about it last year, as not only is it a debut UKYA novel, but it’s also a story of growing up as a transgender teenager – a topic that is very rarely discussed in YA fiction. I think the only YA book I’ve read that centres around a character’s gender in a similar way is Pantomime by Laura Lam.

I have never read a book that tackles such a rarely-discussed subject so fearlessly. Lisa Willamson’s story is brutally honest, and very real-feeling. I definitely had moments where I was tearing up a little. The writing was strong, beautiful and engaging; from the first words I was swept up in David’s and Leo’s stories. I really felt like I was there, alongside them, or experiencing their situations first-hand.

The plot developed so well. I don’t think I’ve ever found an apt situation to use the phrase “the pages practically turned themselves” – but with The Art of Being Normal I can deifnitely use that. I never go through a book of this length in a day, but I literally couldn’t put it down. I was reading to and from school; during class; all through the evening. So many aspects just captured me: From the interesting social divide between characters, to the familiar UK school setting, to the very unexpected twists.Williamson has an unbelievable talent for storytelling and I’m very eager to see what she writes next.

Leo and David are characters whose stories I think I’ll always remember. They’re both in secondary school, of different social classes and circumstances, but they’re both struggling to cope with many issues. They were incredibly relatable & real feeling, and I was rooting for them all of the way. They develop so much over the course of the story. My favourite thing about the book was David and Leo’s chemistry and how it changes especially at moments like that reeeally big plot twist that I did not see coming…

Overall, The Art of Being Normal is most definitely one of the most powerful début novels I’ve ever come across. It was riveting, eye-opening, and had some perfectly crafted characters. I can tell we’ll be hearing a lot more from Lisa Williamson in the future; her writing voice is incredible. I’m so glad a story like this has gotten so much attention because stories like this need to be read by everyone.

My Rating:

five

I received a copy of The Art of Being Normal from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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Book Review: The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig

Published 23rd February 2015 by Harper Voyager.

23849652Goodreads Synopsis: When Zach and I were born our parents must have counted and recounted: limbs, fingers, toes. We were perfect. They would have been disbelieving: nobody dodged the split between Alpha and Omega.
Nobody.
They were born together and they will die together.
One strong Alpha twin and one mutated Omega; the only thing they share is the moment of their death.
The Omegas live in segregation, cast out by their families as soon as their mutation becomes clear. Forced to live apart, they are ruthlessly oppressed by their Alpha counterparts.
The Alphas are the elite. Once their weaker twin has been cast aside, they’re free to live in privilege and safety, their Omega twin far from their thoughts.
Cass and Zach are both perfect on the outside: no missing limbs, no visible Omega mutation. But Cass has a secret: one that Zach will stop at nothing to expose.
The potential to change the world lies in both their hands. One will have to defeat the other to see their vision of the future come to pass, but if they’re not careful both will die in the struggle for power.

My Review: From her début novel, I can already tell that Francesca Haig is already a rising star of fantasy: I’m sure I’ll be reading a great many more books from her. The Fire Sermon was an incredibly inventive and original work: I’ve never read anything quite like it.

The world-building was stunning. I found the idea behind the novel actually plausible – after a nuclear war, dubbed ‘the Before,’ the leftover radiation has tampered with the evolution of the human race, and now newborns always come as twins – one stronger Alpha and one weaker Omega. It was such a great premise.

I’ve been really interested in reading about dystopian societies recently, and The Fire Sermon has such interesting politics on the Mainland, where the book is set. I found the way the Alphas and Omegas interacted very thought provoking; as not only is the segregative behaviour very shocking, but it can be compared and related to real life past – and current – situations, and I think that brings a further sense of realism to the novel.

I really enjoyed the plot of the novel, for the most part, as Francesca Haig wrote some awesome plot twists. I can’t wait to see how the situation develops further in the next book. The beginning and the ending were enthralling, but I did feel like parts, especially towards the middle of the story, got a little dragged out – much of the book was the protagonists just running!

The main protagonist, Cass, was really likeable and I did enjoy her story but I don’t think I warmed to her as much as I thought I would. Her background was so interesting; Cass was born the Omega, but she suffered no visible affect. Instead, she has a different kind of mutation… and it made the story so so tense and gripping! The other main character of the story is Kip: and though the reveal of his past was really great I got so tired of his dialogue. I’m not sure if this was just me but he seemed to almost always talk in a really sardonic way. His frequent sarcastic remarks towards everything did irk me a little.

Overall, I think The Fire Sermon was a very stunning début novel. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a fan of fantasy – or if you’re like me and love a book with an inventive world and a societal focus. Admittedly I did find some parts a little repetitive where it was just walking/running away/etc etc… But The Fire Sermon was most definitely an incredible and thought provoking debut.

My Rating:

four

 

Also: In this post I wanted to take a moment to highlight the amazing Advanced Reading Copies / publicity campaign for The Fire Sermon! It was so cool. The premise of the book is that people are born as twins, either Alpha or Omega – so proof copies were labelled as one of the two, and numbered. It was really fun finding my twin Shannon!

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I received a copy of The Fire Sermon from the publisher, in exchange for a review. In no way at all did this affect my thoughts.

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