Sunday, 26 February 2017

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza


"Was there really so much hatred in the universe, so much prejudice, even among people who claimed to be unbiased? Had this always been true?"



Honestly, Sci-Fi isn't always my go-to genre; I have always been an avid Star Wars fan, but I tend to be quite wary of sci-fi novels as I really struggle to find ones that I can connect with, or that don't info dump too much (in my opinion). However, when Empress of a Thousand Skies was announced, I jumped straight on the hype train along with everyone else. All I knew about this book was that it was a YA sci-fi, centered around a Princess set on vengeance, full of diverse characters, and I had high hopes for it. I'm happy to say that this book didn't disappoint. 

Empress of a Thousand Skies switches between two POV's - Princess Rhiannon Ta'an (Rhee), the last survivor of the Kalusian dynasty. Rhee is approaching her sixteenth birthday and coronation, but is determined to out her family's murderer before she is crowned. The second POV character is Alyosha, a Wraetan refugee who has found fame in a DroneVision show, The Revolutionary Boys. When Rhee is attacked during her journey to her home planet a few days before her coronation is planned, the galaxy assumes her dead, and Alyosha is blamed - a scapegoat in a universe still full of prejudices against Wraetans. 


For me, what really made this book was the incredibly relevant social commentary. Alyosha struggles daily with being Wraetan and being famous - he feels as though his actions will reflect the actions of everyone from Wraeta, his home planet which was destroyed in the last war with Kalu. Despite the treaty between the Kalusians and the Wraetans following the war, tensions are still high between them both, and Alyosha is determined to prove the often racist and stereotypical opinions that the Kalusians have of the Wraetans wrong. However, when he is framed for Rhee's murder, all of his carefully done hard work goes awry, and war flares back up across the galaxy. Alyosha also has an incredibly emotional backstory, focusing on his journey away from Wraeta before it's destruction, and his feelings of displacement ever since. I felt as though Alyosha's story particularly is so relevant to the world we're currently living in, and it was easy to see the parallels despite him being from a completely fictional planet. 

Rhee's side of the story is far more fast paced, and is much more of a coming of age story as she delves into the secrets surrounding the murder of her parents and sister, as well as coming to terms with the differing opinions of her being on the brink of taking the crown at such a young age. Both Rhee and Aly's stories circle each other and join together in such a perfect way, making the overall plot of this book full of cliffhangers, surprise twists and heartbreaking scenes. 


I often struggle with world building in sci-fi novels, however the world building in Empress was both easy to follow and complex enough to flesh out the galaxy at the same time. Each of the characters visited multiple planets, moons etc throughout, which I thought really added to the overall plot - why stick to one planet when you have a whole galaxy in your reach? There was also a map and a little glossary at the front - two things which are bound to start a book off on the right foot!

If I were to have one criticism, it'd be that I would have liked more character development. I felt as though I could have connected to Rhee more than I did, and hopefully I'll be more emotionally invested in her story in the second book. 

Overall, Empress is truly unlike any other sci-fi book I've ever read - it's culturally relevant to our time, whilst remaining fast-paced enough to keep you interested, and is set across a whole galaxy that I can't wait to see more of in the sequel. I'd definitely recommend this book! 

+

love Becky @

Monday, 20 February 2017

February Fairyloot Unboxing: Emperors and Fugitives


After guessing which book would be included in this month's Fairyloot, I knew I had to get hold of one, and luckily I managed to grab a box just before they sold out. Here is our full unboxing of the Emperors and Fugitives box - if you are waiting for your box and wanting to avoid spoilers, I'd suggest looking away now!



* Spoilers Below*




Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza + signed bookplate and letter from the author

This is a book that's been on my TBR list for a long time, so I was so excited to receive it (plus a letter from the author and a signed bookplate) in this month's box! I can't wait to get stuck into this book; an action packed space opera full of diverse characters!


Manon and Dorian double-sided print by Taratjah 

Who doesn't love Manon and Dorian? This double-sided print is perfect for any fan of the ship (what would they be called? Manorian?) and I've already stuck mine up on my wall (with the Manon side visible, obviously!)

Rebel of the Sands Pouch by Alisse Courter

This is a lovely little pouch that could easily be used as a pencil case, a make up bag, a little purse, and more! It's hand lettered with a quote from Rebel of the Sands, 'The world makes things for each place'.

Kalusian Sunset Candle by Happy Piranha

This is a full-size candle with a gorgeous, sweet scent. My favourite thing about it is that the author of this month's book, Rhoda Belleza, named this candle!

Celestial Gunpowder Bath Bomb by Bathing Beauties

This exclusive bath bomb smells of cupcakes, and I can't wait to use it! 

Space Girl Bookmark by Till and Dill

Considering that I used to use train tickets to mark my place in a book, I now have quite a collection of bookmarks, and this is a perfect addition to that collection!

Illuminae Coaster by Read At Midnight

I haven't read Illuminae, but I really have a thing for bookish coasters for some reason, so I was really excited to find this in this month's box. This coaster reads 'She is catalyst. She is chaos. I can see why he loves her.' As with many items that Fairyloot include in their boxes, it's a really great item despite me not having read the book that the quote is from.

Baby Groot Keychain from Funko

So, I have a confession to make...
*whispers* I don't like Guardians of the Galaxy...
BUT, my husband soon stole this little Groot keyring off me, and I have to admit it's dancing is quite cute!


Extras: The One Memory of Flora Banks sampler | MyBookmark Discount Code 


love Becky @


Friday, 17 February 2017

Diverse Recs: Books with Muslim Characters II


Our previous post on books featuring Muslim characters which you can find here did so well that we decided to do a second part which is fitting considering the state of the world right now. If we continue to find books written by or featuring Muslims or you guys want to recommend any, we will definitely keep this series going so leave any comments below. Also, if any of the information we give is incorrect, please do not hesitate to let us know. 



Goodreads | Amazon





That Thing We Call a Heart by Sheba Karim

We follow the story of Pakistani-American, Shabnam Qureshi, a teen who is attending a private school alongside her best friend, Farah. However, when Farah starts wearing her headscarf without consulting her and after hooking up with the most racist guy in school, Shabnam's life begins to unravel. That is until she meets Jamie, a guy who gets her a job at his auntie's pie shack. Shabnam finds herself falling for him but knows there are secrets he is hiding from her. A story of love, culture and self-worth. 








Goodreads | Amazon



The Authentics by Abdi Nazemian

Daria Esfandyar and her group of friends call themselves the Authentics as they pride themselves on staying true to themselves and their culture, as being an Iranian-American, Daria is proud of her heritage. However, when researching a school project, she stumbles across something shocking about her own past which leads her on a journey of self-discovery whilst also trying to cope with her mother planning a sweet sixteen birthday party. With everything spiralling out of control, can Daria remain true to herself? This book is released on August 8th, 2017. 






Goodreads | Book Depository




Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

This is an amazing debut novel featuring an Arab Indian-American hijabi protagonist, Janna Yusuf. As a Muslim teen who is an aspiring photographer and occasional graphic novelist, a lot of people don't know what to make of her. Usually Janna doesn't care what people think about her but that is until she meets Jeremy but she could never date him, could she? Muslims can't date, right? What will people in her tight knit Muslim community make of Janna following her heart? This is a story of self-discovery, religion and if we do fit into the category of 'Saint,' 'Misfit,' or 'Monster.' This book will be released on June 13th, 2017.






Goodreads | Book Depository




The Secret Lives of the Amir Sisters by Nadiya Hussain

The story of four sisters - Fatima, Farah, Bubblee and Mae - who are the only Muslims in their small, English village. Struggling to fit in doesn't bother the sisters and as a whole, they are a happy family but each sister has their own problem. After continuing to fail countless driving tests, Fatima is trying to find out who she really is. Farah is desperate to be a mother despite being in a happy marriage, Bubblee is an aspiring-artist trying to make herself known in London and Mae is coming to terms with quickly becoming a Youtube star. When a tragedy strikes within the family, the sisters are forced to come together as one and support each other whilst dealing with their blossoming lives. A heartwarming tale by a debut author.








Goodreads | Amazon



God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen

I am SO excited for this one! Asiya Haque is craving a 'normal' teenage life, starting by going for a walk against her parent's wishes with Michael, her crush who she is head-over-heels for. What seems like a harmless act quickly turns into something way more serious when they stumble upon a dead body. Michael covers for Asiya, up until he himself goes missing. Despite allegations by the police, Asiya is sure that Michael is innocent but how can she prove it with her strict parents and sheltered life? The start of a mystery series with a Muslim protagonist? What more could you want? 








Love Angharad @

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli


The Upside of Unrequited follows the story of seventeen-year-old, Molly Peskin-Suso who knows all about the world of unrequited love after having a string of crushes but nothing in return. Her twin, Cassie, is her complete opposite and everything changes, including their close relationship, when Cassie meets and falls in love with Mina, a girl Molly meets in a girl's bathroom (yay for female friendships formed in the toilets!!) Faced with being alonie, Cassie tries setting her up with Mina's best friend, Will and he's everything Molly would usually go for. That is until she gets a new job and meets the Tolkien/Game of Thrones fan (who wears seriously white trainers,) Reid. What follows is a journey of self-acceptance, love in all its forms and a story full of diverse and fantastically written characters.



Angharad's Thoughts:

 * My highlights *

MOLLY PESKIN-SUSO! Now on my list of my all-time favourite fictional characters. Molly is Jewish, fat and a surrogate child of her and Cassie's parents, Nadine and Patty. In other words, we have nothing in common but she is just so relatable. She's funny, has mental health issues (and medication is actually mentioned!!) and is the nicest person you'll ever meet. You root for her from the very first page. She's an avid fan of Pinterest and can make anything look good and she can bake the best cookie dough. I just want her to be my friend. Her weight is never an issue to her, she worries more that other people will judge her and that fat girls never seem to 'get the guy', or have sex or fall in love. I can't wait for the world to meet her.

FEMALE CHARACTERS! Other than Reid, Will and baby Xavier, this book is packed full with amazing and diverse female characters. We have the main family consisting of Molly, Cassie, Nadine, and Patty (and little Xavier.) Cassie's pansexual girlfriend, Mina. Olivia and Abby (close friends of the twins) and even their grandmother who makes a very controversial introduction but ultimately has good intentions despite saying hurtful things. They are all amazing, they all interact with each other, there is no rivalry (other than silly arguments), there's trust and they all have their own voices. 

NADINE & PATTY! Not only are they an interracial f/f couple (one being bisexual) whose cuteness destroyed me but they are parents that are PRESENT IN A YA NOVEL YES YOU READ THAT CORRECTLY! They are involved in Molly and Cassie's lives without interfering, they have grown-up conversations with them   (safe sex!!) and they have their own lives outside our protagonist's storyline to the point that we even learn about their pasts and how they met. I can't even express how important this is in a YA novel so I am incredibly grateful to Becky Albertalli. 

**

Overall, this book is just so positive. It deals with coming-of-age, body image and our insecurities. It is a book full of LGBTQIA characters, amazing representation and genuine conversations. There are mentions of medication, masturbation (I should have another 'M' here right?) and (safe) sex. It is a funny, upbeat and sweet novel. It is has something for everyone - friendships, family and relationships. Molly and her relationship with Reid is slow-burning but realistic and when they finally got together, they were just SO cute. I do believe there are little cameos from Becky's previous book Simon vs but I haven't read that book so I can't confirm this. Definitely put this book on your TBRs for 2017, share it with your friends and show your support because this book is important.

Becky's Thoughts:

I feel as though, if you read a basic plot synopsis for The Upside of Unrequited without any context or background information on the characters, it could seem like your typical girl-meets-boy YA contemporary. The thing is, it couldn't be further from typical.

Our main character Molly is a fat, Jewish girl with mental health issues and a wonderfully quirky sense of humour; she's a girl with an lgbt+ twin, two mums, and her and both of her siblings are surrogates. I didn't realise how much I needed a book with Molly Peskin-Suso as the main character until I read this. I absolutely devoured the entire book within a couple of hours, it was that enthralling, funny, and at times painfully true to life. Molly is a character you will connect with straight away - she's so likeable and easy to relate to, and I genuinely felt her anger on the rare occasions that she got mad.

As a girl who would be called overweight by a BMI calculator, Molly was a breath of fresh air for me. Finding a book with an overweight main character, especially a YA book, is such a rare occurrence - I actually can't think of any others that have one. Although Molly's life doesn't revolve around her weight (which was such a positive thing to reinforce!!!) she mentions issues that all of us slightly larger girls deal with - the chub-rub, the "you're pretty - for a fat girl" comments, the constant mental comparisons to skinnier girls - it's all dealt with in this book. I was immediately hooked when I read this extract, literally on the first page:

'I suck in my cheeks so it looks like I have cheekbones. And it's quite a transformation. Sometimes I have the idea that I could maintain this. I could spend the rest of my life gently biting the inside of my cheeks. Except for the fact that it makes my lips look weird. Also, biting your cheeks definitely gets in the way of talking, and that's a little hardcore, even for me. Even for cheekbones.' 

Honestly, I cannot even count the amount of times I've stood in front of a mirror and done similar things. I knew as soon as I read this that I'd instantly connect with Molly, and my love grew for her throughout the entire book.

Anyway, although I really loved Molly (if you can't tell that already from my insane amount of gushing) I did also love other things in this book! Cassie perhaps wasn't the best sister at times, but I loved how she always called out things that were wrong, and she was always prepared to stand up for Molly, even to her Grandma. I loved her personality and I adored her and Mina. I wish we could have seen more of Mina though - I have to admit that I fell in love with her just a little bit. Nadine and Patty, Molly and Cassie's parents, were absolutely perfect, and as Angharad said - it's a YA novel and they were actually present in their kids lives! They were such a down to earth couple and definitely family goals. Reid and Molly were also so cute together, and again, it was a breath of fresh air to read a YA contemporary that didn't resort to instalove. I loved watching their friendship grow and the way that they bonded over a love of mini eggs and cookie dough - food based friendships are the best kind, and everyone knows it.

One of my pet peeves with many YA contemporaries is the attempt to include social media without actually naming any modern day companies or websites. I find that often authors will say the main character "logged into a chatroom" etc, and you just feel instantly disconnected and transported back to the 90's. I really appreciated that the characters in this used up to date websites and apps that we all actually use - they're always checking Facebook and Instagram, and Molly is a complete Pinterest addict. Although this is just a small thing, I do really think it helps a modern day audience to connect to the characters (I mean, who even uses chatrooms anymore? Do they still even exist?!)

Overall, The Upside of Unrequited is such a diverse, modern, and generally relatable book. I love a good contemporary, but I am so tired of reading something that tries to portray the real world, but it couldn't be further from it. Becky Albertalli's world in Upside - with a range of diverse characters, strong but complicated family ties, different religions, and hey, characters who aren't all a perfect size eight with a flat stomach - this is the real world, and it was absolutely perfect.

+

This book is released on April 11th, 2017.
Love from

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones | Blog Tour - 'My Favourite Literary Villains'


As soon as I came across Wintersong online, I knew I had to get hold of a copy ASAP. Marketed as being a loose retelling of Labyrinth (one of mine and my husband's favourite films) aimed at a more mature audience, I couldn't wait to read this, and was thrilled to not only receive an ARC of it but also be able to be a part of the blog tour! Wintersong was released yesterday and I would highly encourage you all to go and pick up a copy.

Today, I'll be sharing with you a little insight into the mind of S. Jae-Jones (aka. JJ), author of Wintersong, on a topic close to my heart - favourite literary villains.

{PS. Don't forget to take a look at the first two posts of the Wintersong blog tour: Day One & Day Two can be found here. If you'd like to follow along, all blogs included in this tour are to the left!}

+ + + + + + + +


I love a good villain; so much so that I love reading books or watching movies told from the villain’s point of view, like The Mists of Avalon or Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. For me, a good literary villain is complex, with motivations that are understandable or even sympathetic enough to be chilling. The following are a few of my favorites:
Melisande Shahrizai from Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Legacy series
Melisande is one of my favorite characters full stop. What I love most about her is that she isn’t driven by evil or megalomania; she’s a villain because she likes to play games. The prize she’s set for herself is the throne of Terre d’Ange. Matching wits with Melisande is like playing against a chessmaster; she’s always several moves ahead. Yet despite her cool, calculating mind, she’s rather a good sport, acknowledging when she’s been beaten at her own game. There’s no active malice in Melisande, but she is completely terrifying nonetheless, and I love that about her.
The Darkling from Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha books
The Darkling could have easily been the tortured romantic hero in a different series. He’s brooding, he’s tortured, he’s vulnerable, and he’s so, so broken. Yet despite all this, he’s still a selfish, horrible person, and I love that Bardugo resists softening the Darkling’s edges to make him a palatable potential love interest for Alina. I love the Darkling because he’s all wrong, and I love that I love he’s all wrong.

Mrs. Coulter from Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials
There is a common thread through nearly all my favorite female villains: they are evil in their subtlety and complexity. Mrs. Coulter fascinates me because she’s amoral and completely selfish, yet also charming and charismatic. Even her love for her daughter seems to be an extension of her selfishness. Despite this, despite an entire life lived for power, she commits an act of ultimate selflessness, and this dissonance is what makes Marisa Coulter an amazing villain.
Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter
I will admit that some of my visceral reaction to Dolores Umbridge is personal. I was educated at an all-girls’ school, and for my first three years, I had a very McGonagall-like headmistress (down to the tartan print!). But in my final year, we had a new headmistress when the previous one retired, and this new one was Umbridge-like in every possible way: a toad-like face, affected girlish voice, and a saccharine manner disguising a terrifying authoritarian philosophy. I think we all know an Umbridge, and the fact that she actually exists in the real world in some form or another is the most terrifying thing of all.

+ + + + + + + +



All her life, Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, dangerous Goblin King. They’ve enraptured her and inspired her musical compositions. Now eighteen, Liesl feels that her childhood dreams are slipping away. And when her sister is taken by the Goblin King, Liesl has no choice but to journey to the Underground to save her. But with time and the old laws working against her, Liesl must discover who she truly is before her fate is sealed.

Published 7th February 2017 from Titan Books


Read my full review of Wintersong here!



+ + + + + + + +





S. Jae-Jones (called JJ) is an artist, an adrenaline junkie, and erstwhile editrix. When not obsessing over books, she can be found jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, co-hosting the pub(lishing) Crawl podcast, or playing dress-up.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, she now lives in North Carolina, as well as many other places on the internet, including TwitterTumblrFacebookInstagram and her blog. Wintersong is her debut novel.



+

love Becky @