Saturday, 30 April 2016

Weekly Feature



This week's feature is for Cait (otherwise known as Paper Fury)
She is a successful blog runner, book writer and book reviewer. If it wasn't for her beautiful, original and frankly hilarious blog, ours probably wouldn't have been created. She inspires other bloggers by sharing how to get comments, she discusses important topics and reveals her writing process.


If that wasn't enough, she also runs a Society6 shop full of beautiful prints, mugs, iPhone and much more and an Etsy store full of her amazing origami pieces. Can you say multi-talented or what?

If you are looking for someone who can write amazing stories (involving dragons!), read an excessive amount of books and will make you want to cover your walls in her beautiful prints, then Paper Fury is the one for you.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Becky's April Reads


I've read a lot of great books this past month, including some books from a few series's that I can't wait to carry on reading!




For starters, I finally got around to reading Maggie Stiefvater's The Raven Cycle series in time for The Raven King. I can't believe I didn't get around to reading this series sooner - I'm already in love with the plot and the characters!









Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
4/5 stars


A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab 
4/5 stars


An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
5/5 stars

Our review of An Ember in the Ashes was the first that we posted here on Two Book Thieves - take a look!


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater 
5/5 stars


The Reflections of Queen Snow White by David Meredith
2/5 stars


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
4/5 stars


What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler
5/5 stars

We recently wrote a full review of What We Saw. Take a look at that post here!


The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater 
5/5 stars


Burial Rites by Hannah Kent
4/5 stars

Take a look at our more detailed reviews of Burial Rites over on this post!


The Mirror and the Maze by Renee Ahdieh 
4/5 stars


Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
5/5 stars





What have you been reading throughout April? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Top 10 Bookworm Delights



As a reader, we all have little things that we love. Explaining them to non-readers earns you some funny stares but in this bookish community, they are welcomed and understood. We have combined a list of our Bookworm delights -

  • The smell of a new book - who doesn't, upon cracking the spine of a book, check the coast is clear and then stick their nose between the pages? (I hope it isn't just me.) The smell of a new book is one of the best things about reading. Also, when it gets to a point of extreme book hoarding that your bedroom starts to smell of them too!
  • Finding that perfect quote/paragraph - when you come across something that just has to be underlined, highlighted, bookmarked etc in a book. When it explains everything you're thinking but can't articulate, that makes your heart cry with the sheer genius of it. Yeah, you know what I mean don't you? Closely followed by then plastering it all over your social media.
  • Receiving a book in the mail - the amount of times I have nearly broke something running down the stairs when I see a book on the doormat or nearly ripping the arm off a postman as he hands it to me is too many to count. Tearing off the packaging and just seeing that new, untouched book is worth getting up early, every time.
  • Books with maps - if a book has a map in it, Becky has to stop herself from automatically giving it 5 stars. It allows you to become even more immersed in the book but it can seriously injure your pages as you constantly flip to the beginning to see where your beloved characters are in the world.
  • Reorganising your bookshelves - pretty much a daily (okay, monthly) routine. Should you go for alphabetical order? Colours of the rainbow? Favourite to least favourite? The possibilities are endless. Many times I have moved my books around just to put a new favourite at the top. It is all fun and games until someone moves one though. Not a good idea.


  • Book merchandise - the reason why half of us have no money. Raven Cycle tarot cards? Take my credit card. Pretty posters? You can never have too many. Having all the Harry Potter characters in Funko form? Completely acceptable. Also a good way to find some very talented artists. 
  • Meeting fellow readers - there is no better feeling than meeting someone based on your love of books. Seeing someone enjoy a book you recommended and then proceeding to scream at each other in message form is the most satisfying feeling. Just like the characters in our beloved books, we too have made lifelong friends thanks to the written word.
  • Finishing a book - I know a lot of people will be like "how is finishing a book good? It means it's over??!" I see your point but it is also incredibly satisfying to get to the end of a book, whether it is good or bad and especially if it's very long. It is a sense of accomplishment... for about two minutes before you start another book.
  • Finding a new favourite character - there is no greater feeling than meeting a character in a book that you grow to or instantly love. Whether it is because they remind you of yourselves or they are someone you aspire to be, it really is a magical feeling. What is not so magical is then having your heart torn to shreds when something bad happens to them. Unfortunately, that is what you signed up for.
  • Sitting down with a good book & a cuppa - such a British sentence, but it is true. Add rain, cosy blankets and a nice snack to the mix and you're in heaven. When you are sad or stressed, I recommend doing this. Relax and find your home between the pages. 


What are some of your Bookworm Delights?
Let us know in the comments!


The Raven King Review



This review will be spoiler-free.

I'm just going to jump straight in and say that I am so disappointed. The Raven Cycle, as I've stated many times, is one of my favourite series. It's original, it's magical and it allows you to care about every character. There was so much hype surrounding the release of The Raven King and for good reason, as this series has such a huge fan-base.

The first half of this book, for me, was one big ball of confusion. Maggie introduced new characters, which in my opinion is silly for the last book in a series, and because of the lack of development, instantly became forgotten. I finished the book about an hour ago and I've already forgotten the names of them. The book switched between multiple POVs and I mean multiple. Minor characters had a voice and it did not work well, it made the story become confusing and unrelatable. 

I gave this book 3 stars whereas the previous three I have given 5. The only reason it got such a high rating is because of our much-loved characters (The Gangsey.) The romances were written well and Blue remained an amazing constant for me, she still does not takes shit from anyone. Don't get me wrong, there were certain scenes and moments that were written brilliantly and inspired me to continue.

Overall, I feel like Maggie rushed it. Too much was going on for a final book. Too many characters were introduced, too many POVs were floating around and the ending was the most disappointing for me. It was the kind of ending that made you close the book and say aloud, "What the hell did I just witness?" There are too many loose ends and not enough closure for each of my beloved characters.

Now I'm off to curl into a ball and pretend that this all didn't happen.
Have you read it? What were your thoughts?
Let us know in the comments.

- Angharad x

Monday, 25 April 2016

What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler


~~
"All I'm saying is there are rules." Rachel's face has gone chalky. Her voice is soft and quavers a little, as if she's desperate to convince us of something. She stares into her plate, afraid to look at me. "You don't get wasted. You don't take off your top. You don't flirt with raging drunks." She leans in and grips the edge of the table, lowering her voice. "You don't dress like a slut. You have to play by the rules. If you don't, this is what happens."
TW: RAPE


Angharad's thoughts -
This novel was truly heartbreaking.
I feel like it wouldn't be right to mark this as anything but five stars. It is a book that doesn't make you focus on punctuation or grammar etc, but more the story itself.
This novel is based on a true story and we follow Kate Weston who after attending a party, wakes up with no memory of its events. However, four people from Kate's school are arrested over charges of sexual assault and child pornography. What is heartbreaking is that the victim, Stacey, is not believed and pretty much the whole town rallies around to support the assaulters. 

"Will be boys’ is what people say to excuse guys when they do something awful.” 

So many times during reading this book, I wanted to scream and cry and tear my hair out. It deals with sexism, rape culture, slut-shaming, feminism and the vicious web of social media. Stacey became an outcast all because she was brave enough to speak out and because Kate dared to believe the victim, she too was cast aside by everyone she knew. This is happening every day in our world and as the author states at the start of the book, 'And for every "Stacey" whose story was never told.'

It is an important read, an eye-opening read. It will make you angry and heartbroken but it will also make you realise how important this topic is.

"Not being able to say no isn't the same as saying yes."


Becky's thoughts -
I've literally just finished reading this and I don't know whether to cry or scream. I literally sat down and read the entire book in one sitting and under three hours, it was just that powerful. 

What We Saw follows the story of Kate, who recently attended a party, left early, and over the next few days discovers that an old friend of hers who was also at the party has filed allegations of rape and assault against four boys from their school. Stacey, the victim, immediately has her claims dismissed by the entirety of the small town that the girls live in. Only Kate bothers to give her the benefit of the doubt and question what truly happened at the party. 
Lindsey sits up and looks at me, her eyes are bright, but clear—quickened by the rage that fills her voice. “You heard Rachel’s ‘rules.’ If you learn what we learn here—that Dooney and all those guys are entitled to tell you if you’re pretty or not, that it’s up to you to make sure you don’t give boys a reason to hurt you? Then you don’t think it was a crime. You think what happened to Stacey was fair game. It was boys being boys. Just a trashy girl learning the hard way what can happen when she drinks too much and wears a short skirt.”

What's truly heartbreaking about this book is that it's based on a true story, and not only that, but reflects the stories of so many rape victims throughout history. Stacey is called all sorts of names intended to be derogatory, and no one will even bother to listen to her side of the story. It is such a relevant book in todays culture - besides dealing with issues of rape, assault and consent, it also looks at negative views of feminism and slut shaming. Stacey is called a whore and a slut after going to the police with her allegations, and when a feminist group threaten to post information on the case online, they're immediately bombarded with derogatory comments relating to their views. 
“Why does everybody say ‘feminist’ that way?” 

“What way?” 
“The way Dooney kept saying ‘herpes’ after health class last year. Like it’s this terrible, unspeakable thing.”

I just literally don't know how to express how much this book has impacted me already. It definitely wasn't the most brilliant book I've read in terms of writing style etc (although some of the literary techniques that the author used were brilliant - I especially loved the use of some modern lyrics that sounded rather disturbing when mixed with the subject matter being fitted in between pieces of dialogue) or even in the plot (as I found a lot of it to be quite predictable), but the content and issues it deals with are just so important that it still definitely deserves the 5 stars I've given it. What We Saw is definitely a must read.





Sunday, 24 April 2016

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent



Based on a true story, 'Burial Rites' tells the story of the last days of Agnes, a woman charged with the murder of her former master. Upon waiting execution, Agnes is sent to live with a family on an isolated farm in Iceland. At first, her only friend is Tóti, a priest she has chosen to be her spiritual guardian. We follow her story as she goes from being feared to understood and the truth that is eventually unsurfaced.




Becky's thoughts -
It isn't often that I read crime fiction, but the idea of a Scandinavian crime novel based on a true story definitely appealed to me. I'm currently in Iceland, and chose to read Burial Rites leading up to and during my trip here to see the full perspective of the book, and I'm so glad I did! Burial Rites gives a lot of interesting cultural facts about Iceland, and being immersed in that culture definitely made me read this book in a different light. I was immediately drawn in to Agnes's story and the mysteries surrounding it that were unfolded as the book went on. The narrative didn't move too fast which perfectly built up the tension as you got closer towards the end, and the letters and records (all from real archives from the events) at the beginning of each chapter really helped to keep the facts straight, as well as inform you what was happening outside of Kornsà, where Agnes was staying. I loved how Agnes's story was told through her telling it to the priest sent to absolve her before her execution, rather than the book beginning at the crime scene - it really helped to develop Agnes as a character, as well as developing her relationships with the priest and the family she was staying with. The ending was sudden, perfect, and heartbreaking all at once. I also really enjoyed the section at the end of the book in which Hannah Kent explains how she discovered Agnes and her story. The conversations she describes having with Icelandic locals who believed Agnes to be a witch or an evil woman really showed how awful the unfair prejudices against her were during her sentencing. I really did enjoy this book and would thoroughly recommend it - just be prepared to have your heart broken.


Angharad's thoughts -
Right, this book? Wow.

Upon starting it, realising that it was based on a true story (and a story I wasn't aware of), I automatically became 10x more fascinated. I haven't read a lot of books based in Iceland so diving into a new country and learning new traditions was truly an amazing experience (especially with the help sheet at the start.) I like that the author included actual documents taken from the event and included them throughout the book. Not only does it add authenticity, but it also allows you to have knowledge of old Icelandic beliefs.

I loved Agnes as a character and knowing her fate from the start really allowed you to connect to her and the fear she must have surely felt. Seeing her relationship with the family grow was equally heartwarming and heartbreaking and I love that Agnes chose to reveal different parts of her past to different people. I like how everything moved slowly but surely to the end which yep, tore my heart out. 

I like how the end was recorded (as a fact rather than fiction) because it made it all the more real. It's one of those novels that although you know what is going to happen, you still wish it didn't. Following Agnes as she went from being feared and hated to eventually respected and understood was so important and needed to happen in order for you to feel empathy at the end of the book.

I would definitely recommend this. It's informative, heartbreaking and an atmospheric read.


Weekly Features





In the month of April, I have decided to feature the much-loved Fairy Loot Box.
Fairy Loot is a UK based monthly subscription (or single purchase) box featuring a newly released Young Adult book complete with other bookish goodies. Each month has a different theme, such as the 'Retelling' theme above with the photo taken by the amazing alice.in.wonderbookland

Although the box specialises in the fantasy genre, they do also include others such as contemporary, dystopian and historical fiction so there is something for everyone. The bookish goodies display the talents of their creators and as you can see from the photograph above, they even colour coordinate!

Give these amazing people some love and support and check out one of their boxes. It is UK based but they also ship internationally. Check out their blog and website for more information and make sure to subscribe if you want to see magic in the flesh. 

Perfect for every book lover!

Friday, 22 April 2016

Angharad's Top 5 Favourite Books

In no particular order:




1. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater 
“She wasn't interested in telling other people's futures. She was interested in going out and finding her own.” 

This is one of those series that no matter how much hype it has, I will never stop loving. It actually involves Welsh history! Every person in this book is my child. Gansey especially. It is interesting and funny and beautiful. No romance is cliche, the friendships are so important and it just makes me happy to feel at home in Henrietta and Cabeswater and Monmouth Manufacturing. Please read it and SAVEGANSEYSK16!




2. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.” 

This book will change your life. No kidding. It will. It makes you rethink everything you thought you knew about humanity and love and friendship and freedom. Having it narrated by Death and having it take place during an awful time in our history and yet still showing the humour and compassion that humans are capable of is so important.




3. Before I Die by Jenny Downham
"I realise that life is made up of a series of moments, each one a journey to the end.” 

This book, despite breaking my heart and staying with me for years later, has sentimental value to me. Not pictured is the amount of dog-eared pages and notes I have littered it with. It was the last gift my grandmother ever got me. It's poetic and heartbreaking and really will make you happy to be alive.




4. The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling
"Slowly, very slowly, he sat up, and as he did so he felt more alive, and more aware of his own living body than ever before. Why had he never appreciated what a miracle he was, brain and nerve and bounding heart?"

Pretty obvious choice but I couldn't do this list without including the books that made me the reader (and probably person) that I am today. This series taught me about happiness, bravery, hope. It made me appreciate the importance of family and friends. Most importantly, it taught me that happiness is possible even in the darkest of times. I will always be thankful.



5. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I'm not living.” 

I think even if this book had an awful plot (which it doesn't), it would still be one of my favourites just for the beautiful writing. Every sentence is quote-worthy. It will break your heart but it will also make you smile and will teach you a few things. It even has a few amazing photographs on the pages. It is truly mesmerising. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Becky's Top 5 Favourite Books



In no particular order:

1. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
“No mourners. No funerals. Among them, it passed for 'good luck.'” 

The book is immediately gripping and stays that way through it's entirety - it was one of those books that I just didn't want to put down, and was reading at every possible moment. All of the characters are so instantly likeable, especially Inej, who I adored from the start. A truly badass girl with an interesting back story is something that always makes a book perfect for me. 


2. Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
“You could rattle the stars. You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.” 

Although there's still two books yet to be released in this series, it's definitely one of my favourites - I've not been sucked into a fantasy series in this way for a long time. The characters, plot and scene setting are all absolutely perfect and I fell in love with Celaena straight away. I can't wait to see how the story progresses in the final two books!


3. Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
“Have you ever asked yourself, do monsters make war, or does war make monsters?” 

Laini Taylor manages to set the scene so perfectly - in fact, this book is the reason I'm heading to Prague for a week later this year. The descriptions are so beautiful, and no detail is missed out. You really do feel like you're strolling through cobbled streets and walking across the Charles Bridge. I'm still genuinely upset that Poison Kitchen isn't a real cafe in Prague that I can go and eat goulash in, because it certainly feels like a real place to me!





4. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater 
“In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them.
Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness.
Her raven boys.” 


I don't think it was quite what I was expecting, but that definitely isn't a negative comment - it was definitely far better than I thought it would be! I loved the plot, connected with the characters straight away, the mysteries played out perfectly and I didn't anticipate any of the huge plot twists in advance. 


5. Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente
"Koschei, Koschei," she whispered. "What would I have been if I had never seen the birds? I am no one; I am nothing. I am a blank paper on which you and your magic wrote a girl. Just the kind of girl you wanted, all hungry and hurt and needing. A machine for loving you. Nothing in me was not made by you."

What I love about Marya is that she's vulnerable, she's broken; her home and her heart are torn from war and heartbreak and loss and trials, and yet, she's a solid, formidable character. She suffers, and she grows from that suffering. She's beaten down, and she gets back up and fights even though she physically has nothing left. 



What are your favourite books?
Leave a comment below!


Monday, 18 April 2016

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh

“It’s a fitting punishment for a monster. to want something so much—to hold it in your arms — and know beyond a doubt you will never deserve it.” 


The Wrath and the Dawn (a retelling of A Thousand and One Nights) follows Shahrzad, a girl who has volunteered to marry Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan. Every night, Khalid marries a new girl, just to see them hanged by a silk cord the following dawn. After Shahrzad's closest friend is chosen for this fate and killed, she is determined to break this cycle and distract Khalid until she finds an opportunity to kill him. What Shahrzad doesn't expect is that the two of them will fall for each other, and she will be sucked in to the many secrets that Khalid is hiding from her and the people of Khorasan. 


Becky -

I have to say, I was unsure about reading The Wrath and the Dawn, and at first I wasn't really getting into it - but I'm so glad I gave it a chance and carried on reading. This book was amazing and the ending blew me away! I'm in the middle of preordering The Rose & the Dagger as I type this.

Usually, I feel as though I would find this sort of plot to be too cringey for me, but I loved Shahrzad and Khalid. Their romance was developed perfectly and with just the right pacing so that it didn't seem too unrealistic. 
Aside from the romantic aspects of this book, the fantasy world is set and created really well, and I love the hints of magic throughout - it does seem as though this is something that will be expanded upon in The Rose & the Dagger as well, which I'm really excited about! 

The ending was awfully heart-wrenching and has left me counting down the days until I can read the sequel, but I don't know why I expected anything different of such a brilliant book. 

My one initial problem with The Wrath and the Dawn was the beginning - it seemed to jump into the plot very fast, and I wasn't too sure what was going on for the first couple of chapters. However, it did encourage me to keep reading so I could work out what on earth was happening and who each character was, and once I'd properly got into it I loved it!




Angharad -

I wasn't sure about this one, purely because I've never been a fan of retellings but the beautiful cover and good reviews finally convinced me. I'm not kidding when I say I finished this book in ONE sitting. As in, I didn't go to bed. As in, I sat still for a few hours until it was done. Why? Because it was so good.

Without mentioning spoilers (which I am prone to do), I will just say that this book was a fantastic and refreshing read. I loved the Arabian setting, I loved the concept and I love how we had to wait until pretty much the end of the novel to find out the reason for Khalid's actions, making us as desperate to find out his secret as much as Shahrzad. 

My criticisms are that I do wish that there had been more world-building so we could learn more about the fantasy aspect of the world. I also wish Shahrzad hadn't of forgot her thirst for revenge so quickly. I think if the book had been longer, this would have been explored more. 

Renee's writing was spellbinding. I could imagine the atmosphere in great detail and the magic of the book was in the writing itself. The romance was beautiful, really bloody beautiful. I love that it built up slowly but surely and then it just burst into so much intensity and want. "My soul sees its equal in you." I mean?? It was lovely and I'm not usually a reader who likes the romance being the main point of the book. 

Overall, I do recommend this book. As I mentioned, a few things could have been improved but other than that, it was a captivating read and I am very much looking forward to the sequel.



What were your thoughts on this book?
Let us know in the comments!






Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Wolf by Wolf - Ryan Graudin

“Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them--made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.”
Wolf by Wolf takes place in 1956 and is a book set in an alternative history in which Hitler won the war. The story follows Yael, a girl with the unique gift, she can shape shift as a result of being experimented on in a death camp as a young child. She accepts a mission to compete in the annual Axis Tour: a motorcycle race across the continents but in order to do so, she must impersonate Adele Wolfe, last year's only female winner. Armed with her ability and a mind filled with revenge, she sets out to win the race and ultimately, kill Hitler.


Angharad:
I was immediately drawn to this book as I'm a huge fan of historical fiction, however, I've never really read any alternative history. The premise was amazing, what would have happened if Hitler and the Nazis had won the war? What would become of the world and its people? Yael for me is one of my favourite characters. She is strong and clever and uses her tragic past and her reminding ability to achieve good. She doesn't let anything get in the way of her goal, not even Adele's twin brother, Felix and fellow competitor and former love interest, Luka.


The story switches between 'then' and 'now.' We learn of Yael's past and all the people she lost along the way who are symbolised by the wolf tattoos on her arm, the only part of her appearance she can't change.



The race itself has you on the edge of your seat. It is filled with obstacles and plot twists and moments that make you stare and whisper, "shit." I love that Yael constantly has to be on guard and she isn't afraid to do what needs to be done in order to win. The ending had me shocked but ten times more excited for the sequel.

Overall, I loved this book. My only criticism is that I wish the ending hadn't of been so quick but it did make it all the more sudden. Read this book if you are a fan of historical fiction, especially with a twist and a love for action-packed journeys. If neither of those things grab your attention, read it for Yael.






Becky:

I loved this book so much that I started and finished it in just a couple of hours. As soon as I was recommended it, I knew it was just my sort of thing - a WWII era setting but with a twist on what we know actually happened after the war and an amazing, badass girl for a protagonist with an interesting back story. 


The book begins with Yael's experiences as a young girl, which allows you to be plunged into her world straight away. Graudin takes Josef Mengele, Hitler's infamous Angel of Death, and creates from him the nightmare that will both haunt Yael's dreams and will change her into the weapon for the resistance that she becomes. Obviously, there are so many books and films that portray the awful things that happened inside Auschwitz and other death and labour camps during WWII. However, I've never read or seen anything that focuses on a character inspired by one of Mengele's victims, and although Yael's story is fictional, it really did bring to mind the horrifying reality that real people actually went through the things that Yael experiences, to an extent. The "Then" chapters of the book, which focus on Yael's past and her path to where she is in 1956, really are chilling and at times left me on the edge of my seat. 

I think many people who didn't experience WWII first hand have been told the stories of how our lives could have been today if Hitler had won the war, and Wolf by Wolf plunges you straight into those imagined horrors. What I really love about this premise, besides how unique and fascinating it is, is how the horrors really are hidden at times. Yael, the main character, will be walking down the street and be stopped by some German officers. All seems fairly average, until they make some throwaway comments that truly set the scene:

"Stray bitches make good target practice. Almost as much as commies and Jews." The soldier laughed and slapped the butt of his Mauser.
It was, in a way, parts like this that really topped the book off for me. 

Wolf by Wolf was definitely one of the best books I've read this year so far - everything about it from beginning to end was action packed and completely drew me in. The ending took a huge, unexpected twist, leaving everything in the balance. 

I honestly can't think of anything I disliked about this book - the one "problem" I had with it was that I wished it could have been longer, and although there was a lot of back story in there, I definitely wouldn't have complained if there had been more!