UK Book Haul

ukcovers

I spent a little over a week in the UK (Cheltenham and Glasgow to be exact) and whenever I’m over there I end up buying too many things I can’t get in the US. The most of what I buy are books (surprise) because there are a lot of better covers. Books also tend to be a bit cheaper (even with the exchange rate) and most go right to paperback (I’m not the biggest fan of hardcover.) So here are the books I picked up over there at Waterstone’s and WH Smith.

  1. The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
    This cover is similar to the US version BUT the pages!! LOOK!!
    20160715_201815(If you missed it, I wrote a mini review of the book and made a playlist.)
  2. Would I Lie To You? (by a lot of people involved with the show)
    A thing the US doesn’t really have is quiz panel shows. Britain on the other hand has a ton and I love them. They’re kind of like game shows except with comedians and other celebrities. Would I Lie To You is one of my favorites (this explains it) and I spotted this in the airport. Apparently it doesn’t officially come out until September but airports get exclusives, which was news to me. This has 99 of the most common lies with the commentary from the showrunners and comedians regularly on the show.
  3. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan
    I do actually like the US cover of this, but it’s currently only in hardcover and I like the UK version a tad bit more so decided to get it.
  4. Back Story by David Mitchell
    David Mitchell (not to be confused with the author) is a British comedian who is on Would I Lie To You? plus a bunch of other shows I love. This memoir is only out on ebook in the US so I grabbed the paperback.
  5. Ghostwritten by David Mitchell
    The OTHER David Mitchell of Cloud Atlas fame. This is one of his I haven’t read and the cover is gorgeous. They also had a wonderful copy of Slade House with green pages, but I didn’t like that book enough to justify buying a physical copy.
  6. Coraline by Neil Gaiman
    I hadn’t read this yet and love the illustration. Purple!!
  7. How the Marquis Got His Coat Back by Neil Gaiman
    Another Gaiman story I haven’t read. It’s short so wouldn’t take up much room in my luggage. There is an entire set of his books with excellent minimalist covers and I wanted them all, but then I would be broke and also couldn’t carry them all.
  8. Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
    A favorite of mine and the pulp fiction covers are so much fun. This also has pink edged pages. Why doesn’t the US have more paperbacks with colored pages?
  9. For the Most Beautiful by Emily Hauser
    This is one I grabbed mostly because it’s pretty and I needed a second book for a buy one get one half off deal.
  10. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
    I kept seeing this pop up online, mostly from UK bloggers/vloggers. I don’t think it comes out until next year in the States and it sounds great.
  11. Paper Butterflies by  Lisa Heathfield
    This one I think is available on Amazon in the US, but perhaps not officially out here? Unsure. I had heard about it though and it was part of Waterstone’s BOGO half off deal so I picked it up.
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    They have these wonderful patterned covers for Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s books. I had recently bought Americanah in the US so couldn’t justify buying that even though I adore that cover, so went for Half of a Yellow Sun.
  13. The Summer I Turned Pretty series by Jenny Han
    The US covers are so boring. Stock photo teens. UGH. While these UK ones are so cute. I haven’t read this series yet, but I love Jenny Han and decided I needed the set.

Actually amazing I didn’t end up getting more. I had considered buying another suitcase so I could get more, but exhibited some self control. The US of A needs to step up its cover game.  More affordable books would also be nice, but that’s another conversation.

Share

And I Darken by Kiersten White

And I Darken by Kiersten White
Release Date: June 28, 2016
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Format: Paperback ARC
Genres: Historical Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Ratings: badass Surprised Me characters 

My Thoughts

You know the “unlikable character” thing? I have a lot of messy thoughts on that. The one solid thought I have on it though is female characters often don’t get to be “unlikable.” Male characters get to be horrible and are called “interesting” and “flawed.” When female characters are the same way, people have a hard time rooting for them and they’re hated. This isn’t much different than how women are treated in real life.

In And I Darken, one of the main characters, Lada, is the definition of an “unlikable” character and I love it. She is vicious and mean in ways I often don’t see female characters get to be without being the villain. She’s manipulative. She mostly has her own interests in mind. She is also fascinating, fighting – sometimes literally – in a world stacked against women.

That particular world is our own world, but from a historical standpoint. And I Darken takes place mostly in the Ottoman Empire which forced me to brush up on what I learned freshman year of high school. It’s not a part of history often visited in Young Adult fiction and it brought something different to my reading experience. There’s a lot of grit and uncomfortable truths. It’s not easy to root for the main characters. Their intentions aren’t always honorable. Right and wrong is a massive grey mess. While plenty of YA tip toes into that area, this book stomps into it. It challenged my thinking and asked more questions than it answered.

Radu, Lada’s brother, is the book’s other main focus. He is his sister’s opposite in most ways. He is gentle and handsome where she is brash and ugly. Their dynamic is what shapes this book into what it is.

And what is it? A lot of things. But mostly it made think about both power and love. Power beyond power over others, but power within oneself. Love beyond romance. Love when it’s ugly. Love when it brings both power and powerlessness. How both tie into womanhood. How being a woman, throughout history, is so often tied to the power of men. How love and power can be used to survive as a woman.

There are two more books to come and I hope they continue to explore these themes. I am left with a lot to think about until then.

Positives/Negatives
+ Characterization, especially of Lada, who I am grateful to have in fiction
+ The exploration of womanhood
+ All the complicated dynamics
– There is more of Radu and Mehmed I think could have been shown, but there are also two more books to do that.
? There is a lot of setup in the beginning and I haven’t quite decided if all of it was needed or not.

In Summary
This book rewrites a part of history that was a brief lesson in school and challenges what is expected of a female heroine. It destroys the line between right and wrong, leaving the reader with a lot to mull over.

As a final note, I am bored to tears with comparisons to Game of Thrones* already and I might have to display some of Lada’s viciousness as a result.

*I tried reading GoT and it wasn’t interesting enough to me. Women do better at writing women than GRRM. SORRY.

Note: An advanced copy of this book was provided free by the publisher for review consideration. This in no way influenced my opinion.

Share

TBR Essentials: Labyrinth Lost and A Torch Against the Night

Hello and welcome to this new feature where I tell you to add a book (or 2 or more) that isn’t out yet to your To Be Read list. I know I can’t make you reserve it at the library or preorder but I am STRONGLY SUGGESTING you do.

labyrinthLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
Release Date:  September 6, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Format: e-arc
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Fantasy
Ratings: Page Turner badass I Ship It 

 

Quick Summary

lol

 

 

Apparently this is the comment I made on my friend’s status (hi, Alyssa) about this book. Someone was mad this book has Spanish words in it because that’s a totally rational thing to be mad about. As if people who live in the US and have Hispanic roots don’t sometimes use both Spanish and English words. I’m third generation Italian and don’t actually speak Italian yet still use Italian words sometimes. *rolls eyes*

ANYWAY, this book is totally kickass. It follows Alex, who comes from a family of brujas (witches), but doesn’t exactly want powers. Her attempt to get rid of them goes terribly wrong and she has to travel to an in-between land to save her family. There’s a wonderful blend of grit and humor along with familiar and new fantasy elements. Córdova took inspiration from Latin American traditions and stories and mixed it with her own ideas. The result is GREAT.

Why Add It?

There are creatures and challenges and surprises around every corner. Alex is a character you can easily root for as she realizes the importance of family, learns who to trust, and grows in self love.

torchA Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: August 30, 2016
Publisher: Razorbill
Format: Paperback ARC
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance
Ratings: fave2 Page Turner characters badass I Ship It Wow Factor Gut Punch

 

First things first, have you read the first book, An Ember in the Ashes? No? Go do that. Right now. It’s inspired by the Roman Empire and it’s amazing. So go read it and then come back to the post.

Okay, hello, I am now assuming if you are continuing to read you have read book one. If not, sigh, fine, but do it soon.

This was everything I wanted from the sequel! It kept me guessing. SO MUCH HAPPENS. Many scenes got my heart rate up. Sometimes I had to pause to breathe. Often I yelled things out loud. Reading this was a multi-level experience.

Both Laia and Elias grow so much. We get the added perspective of Helene and GAH SO MUCH HAPPENS. I am being vague, I know. I’ll be slightly more specific in my full review closer to the release date.

Why Add It?

If you read Ember and were unsure or meh about it, this book is EVEN BETTER. If you read Ember and loved it, this books is EVEN BETTER.

Make sure both these books are on your radar then look out for my more detailed reviews in August and September. Or don’t. Your loss.

Share

Book Mix: The Square Root of Summer

The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Release Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary, Science Fiction, Romance
Ratings:Surprised Me I Ship It Gut Punch 

A common occurrence for me is reserving a book at the library and then, once it becomes available, having no recollection of what the book is about or even reserving it at all.

The Square Root of Summer is one of those books which I decided to jump into without reading the synopsis so it was all surprising to me. Perplexing and curious, the story grabbed my attention. Based on basically nothing (the cover? the title?) I expected a lighthearted story, but got something much more serious. Grief and love and wormholes and equations.

Something I specifically appreciated was the depiction of grief after the death of a grandparent. The deaths I come across in fiction that deeply affect someone are usually a parent’s or SO’s or sibling’s or friend’s. I don’t seem to find as many stories where the loss of a grandparent is so central. It’s usually someone dying too young. The MC’s grief over the loss of her grandfather resonated with me.

This story ended up being generally sadder than anticipated, but also more beautiful than anticipated. There’s heartbreak and romance, three dimensional secondary characters, and life lessons all with a side of being sucked back into time.

While listening to The Dø in the car, Miracles (Back in Time) seemed like an appropriate song for this book’s soundtrack so an entire playlist was born.

Share

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Romance, Fantasy, Retelling
Ratings:fave2Page TurnerPretty WordscharactersI Ship It

If you haven’t read The Wrath and the Dawn, stop reading this and order it or reserve it at the library. Whatever you need to do to get it read. The book is luscious. A warning that it ends on a cliffhanger, but that’s okay because we were gifted The Rose & the Dagger.

The Basics
So if you still haven’t read the The Wrath and the Dawn, it’s inspired by A Thousand and One Nights. The caliph Khalid marries one girl each night and kills her the next morning. One of those girls was Shahrzad’s best friend so she volunteers herself as a bride to get revenge. It’s wonderful so go read it. Right now.

If you’re one of those monsters who reads summaries to later books in a series before reading the first, book two is about after Shahrzad finds out why Khalid has to kill the girls (a curse) and falls in love with him. At the end of book one they are separated (for reasons) and Shahrzad is determined to break the curse with a war looming against Khalid because he killed all those girls and no one knows why (because he won’t tell them… for reasons.)

And all of this is told in beautiful language with quite a few descriptions of delicious food so these books may also leave you hungry.

My Thoughts
To put it all in a non-spoilerly way: The Rose & the Dagger was everything I wanted from a sequel.

The book throws you right back into Khorasan’s unsettling events. The chaos that Wrath ends on is there and you start to get some answers. While the first book starts a little slowly because there is a lot to introduce the reader to, the second is instantly dramatic. Shazi and Khalid are separated. She is keeping the secret of the curse, while trying to figure out what she can do to fix all the unrest. It’s instantly captivating.

There are a couple new characters, but mostly old characters given a broader story. Knowing more about Tariq and Rahim as well as Shazi’s father and sister added a new layer to everything going on, as well as gives more insight to Shazi’s life before she became the calipha.

There are so many surprises and little revelations that kept me engrossed. I could gush about all of them, but then I would ruin it for you.

“This is why the world would be a far better place
in the hands of women.”

And then there is Shazi who is definitely one of my favorite characters of all time. I have said before that I am a huge fan of difficult women and Shazi is one of them. She speaks her mind even when it’s not exactly safe to. She’s passionate and headstrong and oh how I love her. She loves fiercely and imperfectly and fights for who and what she cares for. There is so much more of her greatness in Rose.

Also the romance is great. I SHIP IT. I ship it in several instances. And in more serious terms, Ahdieh does wonderfully at building the relationship between Khalid and Shazi. In book one, she puts them on equal footing to be able to fall for one another. “Get up, Shahrzad al-Khayzuran. You kneel before no one. Least of all me,” is such a gorgeous and necessary line in the first book. It summarizes how Khalid sees her as an equal. This carries into the second book and there is growth in their love. Fear not, Ahdieh doesn’t take Khalid down the broody “I don’t deserve love” path like many heroes. She has instead created two characters that see the worth in each other and themselves. It’s not a perfect love, as no love is, but it is one that burns deep and expands and learns to be better.

Positives/Negatives
+ The action, the tension, the female characters, the romance, everything?
– ??? There isn’t more?

In Summary
The Rose & the Dagger is a deeply satisfying follow up. It provides the important answers to questions created in The Wrath & the Dawn. It keeps the plot moving. It gives more insight to characters only barely introduced in the first book. It has kickass woman saving the day. And it has Shazi and Khalid finding a way for their love to exist.

If you loved or even just liked The Wrath & the Dawn, you should read the second. It’s everything I loved about the first book plus more.

 

Share