YALC 2019 Day two: Looked like the Slytherins had a party last night

Saturday at YALC

I got to YALC at 8:30am laden down with my two illustrated editions of Harry Potter and Vicious by V.E Schwab. They weren’t making people queue in the rain this time so we all waited in the lobby. A girl came up to me I didn’t know who it turned out I knew from Instagram which was nice. Honestly everyone should be forced to wear a name badge with their usernames because I don’t know who anyone is.

The stampede up to the YALC floor wasn’t too bad but people were queuing for the Infinity Son drop and running and blocking the lifts. It was so bad the publisher was banned from doing it again and instead had to raffle the last 100 on the Sunday. There was also a huge queue to buy books from Hodder to get an ARC. I thought stupidly that people were only being given one ARC for buying two books. But no you could actually buy 4 books and get 2 or 6 and get given 3. Which I think is a bit greedy and doesn’t really give everyone an opportunity to get one.

I ended up seeing Tube Girl again and told her what happened on the tube. We had a good laugh and she said she probably looked like a stalker. I didn’t get her name which is annoying but I did see her around a lot that day.

Early in the morning I went to go get a virtual queue ticket cos I figured the Schwab queue would be crazy. The queue for the VQ tickets was super long and ironic. My friends and I ended up waiting an hour and going back when nobody was there. I got tickets for Jim Kay, V.E Schwab and Zen Cho.

It was funny as before I went to YALC I really wanted to buy Zen Cho’s book but I didn’t have the first one in hardback and I like my editions to match. I was telling Emily who found some on eBay so we both ended up buying Sorcerer to the Crown and The True Queen and getting The True Queen signed together.

Me and Emily are definitely a bad influence on each other as we also ended up spending £20 on prints with Steph later on from Diana Dworak’s stand. I got myself an amazing Manon Blackbeak print and Mia from Nevernight print which I couldn’t resist tweeting to Jay Kristoff in case he was missing from his wall (he wasn’t). After that I went off to get my book signed by V.E Schwab. This is when I witnessed some pretty poor behaviour by an event organiser/volunteer.

A girl in front of me was trying to get in the queue but she didn’t have a virtual queue ticket. The guy told her you can’t queue without one and she should’ve got it in the morning. But Schwab started signing at 11am so it’s not unreasonable this girl hasn’t arrived at YALC before then. She was kicked out of the queue and didn’t get her book signed as far as I’m aware. It was never clear that a virtual queue ticket was mandatory and I only went and got one that morning because I knew she was a hugely popular author.

It wouldn’t be YALC if you didn’t spot some famous people (besides the authors of course). Throughout the weekend I saw Jason Momoa walk by alot and Alfie Allen with his dog who definitely chuckled when Emily yelled and pointed “Look it’s Alfie Allen’s dog”. Later one in the day I went down to Comic Con with Sammy to get her book signed by Tom Felton and we met Vicky from whatvickyread while we were down there.  Sammy’s friend Abby and I weren’t meant to stay in the queue right up to the signing desk but nobody stopped us so we kind of met Tom Felton too and I tried to sneak a picture which is DEFINITELY not allowed. I have to say Tom Felton didn’t look his best (hungover for sure) and at one point awkwardly stopped to pick a new song before signing Sammy’s book.

Back at YALC Sammy and I were trying to get her friend Abby a copy of Into the Crooked Place but by this time people had clocked onto the fact bats were being hidden and it was mayhem. As soon as one of the staff left to hide them they were followed and the bat was grabbed as they put it down. Luckily Abby did manage to grab one later when more were hidden again

My final signing of the day was Jim Kay who was LOVELY and very tired as apparently he was moving house. His table was right on the end of the green room where the door was so a fair few famous actors kept walking behind him and he joked he was missing it and I laughed because Zachary Quinto was talking to someone about 2 metres away.

I popped down to Comic Con again after that to have a look around and visited the Cake in a Jar stand where I bought Peel the Force their banoffee flavoured one.

Sammy, Emily, Abby and I decided to go to WestFields for dinner and afterwards I decided I wasn’t going to attend YALC for the Sunday as I’d done and seen everything I wanted to. I was so exhausted that night I fell asleep and woke up at 2am with no idea what happened.

Compared to last year YALC has definitely improved. Publishers and book boxes have definitely upped their game on what they have to offer and I felt like everyone had a fair shot. I think having virtual queues for everything was a great idea IF everyone had known about it and I preferred the way the signing area was set up compared to last year when queues were cut in half by stands.

I am actually thinking of exhibiting myself so maybe you will see my stand full of my metalmarks next year!

TREATING MY SHELF: My most recent bookmail

I love reading lists like this because I am incredibly nosy and I love living vicariously through others so I thought I would do my own. These past few months I’ve been incredibly lucky with books from publishers and glutted myself on shiny, new books that I literally don’t have any space for. The only way these books will be getting a home is if I finally cave and by myself one of those swanky reading carts I’ve been seeing all over bookstagram..

My haul will be split into book mail from publishers, books I traded for and book mail I spend far too much money on. Also just a heads up a lot of the arcs I got I’ve put the cover of the final version. This is just because there’s never pictures of ARCs unless you take them yourself (which I haven’t) up first…

Book mail my bank did not thank me for:

The Caraval Series by Stephanie Garber

I’ve never read this series. In fact I was once gifted an ARC of Legendary after a job interview at Hachette that I gave away to a friend. A year later here I am dropping about £80 on the entire series because I really wanted the Waterstones sprayed edges version of Finale and I saw a girl selling the first two books.

The Empire of Dust Series by Anna Smith Spark

This series has been on my radar for a while but when I saw the final book in the trilogy was coming out I knew I just had to pick these up. I’ve been wanting to read more Adult Fantasy as it’s definitely my preferred genre and since Anna Smith Spark is known as the “Queen of Grimdark” I just couldn’t say no. I debated getting them in paperback to make it cheaper but I went for hardback in the end which I am so glad about as they are STUNNING. In my defence I did use a £10 book voucher towards the purchase AND by lucky coincidence I am attending VoyagerCon in August and will be able to get them signed too.

Ashen Torment Series by Den Patrick

These were honestly just complete cover buys and I wanted to get the beautiful hardbacks before they weren’t available anymore.

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: Illustrated Edition by J.K Rowling. Illustrated by Jim Kay

This purchase was for YALC as Jim Kay will be there and I really want to get as many signed as possible. It will be a bit of a pain getting them down to London but having looked at the authors attending YALC I don’t have many books I want to get signed anyway.

My book trades:

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Courting Darkness by Robin Lafevers

I traded this for the Storm Crow arc that was in the Fairyloot box (Can’t remember which month). I’ve still got the Grave Mercy series to read first but I kept seeing this book everywhere and I really wanted to get a copy so I’m very happy with this trade.

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The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty 

I traded my copy of Damsel for the Illumicrate ARC of The City of Brass. This is another adult fantasy series I’ve been wanted to check out and the author will be at VoyagerCon so fingers crossed I can read it before then. I know I will probably be hugely regretting not investing in the beautiful hardbacks as they released though.

Bookmail from lovely publishers:

An Illusion of Thieves by Cate Glass and The Nightjar by Deborah Hewitt

Illusion of Thieves is about a ragtag crew with forbidden magic who must pull off an elaborate heist and stop a civil war, in a fantasy world where being a sorcerer is a death sentence. The Nightjar is a contemporary fantasy about another London, a hidden magical world with birds that guard human souls and a dangerous faction intent on the annihilation of magic users.

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The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

Look out for my full mini review in a few weeks but The Bone Garden is a dark fantasy fable that I am very excited to read.

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Serpent and Dove by Shelby Mahurin

There’s been a huge amount of hype for this book so I jumped at the chance to ask for a copy from Harper360ya and I was so happy when it turned up. Serpent and Dove is the first book in a duology and is tale of witchcraft and forbidden love. I actually got 40 pages into reading this before I put it aside for to buddy read the ARC below.

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The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

FULL DISCLOSURE: I’ve had the paperback of The Poppy War for a while now and I hadn’t actually read it when I saw The Dragon Republic was available to request on Twitter. So I took my shot and actually got told by the publisher I wasn’t getting one but then it turned up anyway?! So to avoid being that girl I quickly read The Poppy War and dived straight into this. Look out for my mini review soon but I LOVE THIS SERIES.

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Kingdom of Souls: The Last Witchdoctor by Rena Barron

I genuinely don’t know what I did to deserve an ARC of Kingdom of Souls. I requested ages ago on Twitter but never heard anything so I was 99% positive I wasn’t getting one. I cannot wait to read this and I’m fully intending to start reading this after The Bone Garden.

and that’s a wrap!

I’ve been extremely lucky and I’m not actually sure how I haven’t got bankrupt yet.

 

 

Controversial opinion: My thoughts on ARCs.

So Harper Voyager dropped a UK Arc of DarkDawn recently and it got me thinking about ARC’s. I wanted to come at this purely from a Book Blogger perspective as obviously I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes in publishing. I can only see what publishers, authors, booksellers etc openly tweet about so this is definitely more an opinion piece than a factual look at the situation.

Arcs are pretty coveted commodity within the book community and I think we all know this. ARC’s in theory have two purposes – marketing for the book through giveaways, photos, unboxings etc and increasing awareness through reviews and word of mouth recommendation.

ARC’s also act as payment. Bookbloggers get literally nothing for their time but the book they are being asked to market/review. Sometimes this is a finished copy and sometimes this is an ARC. An entire community of free marketers, publicists and consumers that exists around books and the only thing we get for the hours of reading, writing and photography is the book itself. It’s nice to get something tangible to keep for all those hours.

I think the black market that has sprung up around ARC’s changed the game. People didn’t just want ARC’s to read, but also to collect or trade and even sell. I don’t think it’s wrong for people to trade ARC’s (I’ve done it myself) but something that was already pretty sought after has become a hugely valuable commodity and now even more difficult to get.

I think now there is bad feeling and in-fighting within the book community over who gets ARC’s, why and what they end up doing with them. People hate people who request ARC’s to trade them later. People don’t like it when others use their status to get access to ARC’s to trade whilst people with less followers who would love the book are getting ignored. No one likes seeing bigger accounts getting thrown ARC’s everyday and when you know they can’t read them all.

I think something needs to change.

With the amount of ARC’s that end up for sale on ebay, it is pretty clear that more care needs to be taken when choosing who gets a copy. Huge bookstagram accounts and bloggers with massive followings shouldn’t be just getting thrown ARC’s of books they didn’t even know existed.

I can definitely understand some book bloggers frustration with the situation.

For example with the DarkDawn UK ARC, that is a hugely anticipated release and you know people will be dying to get their hands on it for whatever reason. TO BE CLEAR I love Harper Voyager. I’ve been dying to get on their blogger list for years, they pretty much publish all my favourite books. However I didn’t think it was fair to post a photo of a hugely sought after ARC and follow up immediately with “Proofs are rarer than Hen’s teeth. So don’t even try it”. If they aren’t publicly available then don’t publicly announce it? It also didn’t help seeing someone who works for Harper Voyager ask for one and immediately get told it’s on it’s way. I’m not saying this person shouldn’t get one but maybe do it in a less public way?

Situations like this can be a bit of a slap in the face. From a blogger’s perspective the ONE thing we get as some sort of payment/reward whatever for our work is the very book we talk about. No one likes to feel under valued and it feels like book bloggers are at the bottom of the food chain when it comes to getting ARC’s.

Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk.

P.S I obviously can’t speak for all bloggers and I don’t think I’m trying to, so if you’re opinion is different that’s totally cool. Arcs aren’t hugely important to me, I’ve requested a fair few and received a few and I don’t really collect them unless the cover is gorgeous. I read what I can when I can and I always make sure to take a photo for the gram.

Blog Tour Book Review: Skylarks by Karen Gregory

Today it’s my stop on the bookstagram tour for Skylarks. I recieved a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I was so happy to be asked to take part in my first tour and I hope you pick up this book.

Synopsis

When she was little, Joni used to have dreams that she could fly. But these days her feet are firmly on the ground – they have to be when money’s tight and her dad can’t work and the whole family has to pull together to keep afloat.

Then she meets Annabel. Annabel is everything Joni isn’t, and yet there’s a spark between them. Though Joni barely believes it at first, she thinks they might be falling in love.

But when Annabel’s parents find out about the relationship, it’s clear they believe there are some differences that are impossible to overcome.

My thoughts..

Skylarks is a bitter sweet, coming of age, contemporary romance novel that tells the story of two girls from seemingly opposite worlds, learning they have a lot more in common than they would have thought. I don’t usually read contemporary fiction, but I’m glad I decided to step outside of my comfort zone for this book. I found Skylarks has a certain charm and I could not put it down, to the point I was literally reading it in the street walking home.

While I felt like this book was at times too black and white, there was a lot of uncomfortable truths in the portrayal of Joni and her life. I think Joni’s frustrations and feelings towards Annabel’s privileged life are relatable even for those not in Joni’s circumstances. On the other hand it is easy to assume that someone with lots of money must be happy, that they lead carefree lives without the burden of worrying about money. This book showed the prejudices that can exist on both sides.

Where this book dropped a few stars for me was in the cliched portrayal of the rich girl who can’t cook and loves to ride horses and the poor girl who doesn’t want charity and is not at all embarrassed about where she comes from. Often times Annabel and Joni felt like caricatures, as the story strayed into all too familiar and often stereotypical territory. Joni had siblings, Annabel was an only child. Joni’s house was filled with happy pictures of family times despite being poor, Annabel’s house only had super snazzy posed family photos. Annabel’s family was obsessed with grades and coming first, Joni’s parents just wanted her to do her best.

Despite this the portayal of Joni, her life and insecurities was in many aspects painfully real. This book was bitter sweet for me as even though it is in a way a light and flurry romance, it goes some way as serving as a reminder that their are real people, who are living Joni’s life and that their ending is not always so happy.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Book Review: The Goodnight Kiss by Jennifer L. Hart

Synopsis

A teenage serial killer with a mysterious past.
The deadly hunter sworn to protect her.
Secrets, lies and a shot at redemption.
It all begins with a kiss.

When 16-year-old Nic Rutherford heads out for a night on the town, she brings a full arsenal. Her best weapon? A deadly kiss that can take down the biggest game around—humans. Two-legged predators don’t stand a chance once she makes lip to skin contact. But her blessing is also a curse, one that Nic fears will inadvertently harm anyone who gets too close—her aunts, her best friend, or the mysterious new boy who possesses strange abilities of his own. 

Aiden Jager has the one thing Nic can’t resist—information. With his help Nic begins to unearth answers about her own murky past along with the key to a hidden world where magic thrives and the impossible becomes reality if one is willing to pay the ultimate price. Beware, for once the door is opened, there is no turning back.

My thoughts..

This story is a dark urban fantasy about a girl called Nic who can kill people by kissing them. Nic has appointed herself judge, jury and executioner over the local murderers, rapists etc for reasons unknown and with the help of her two aunts she kills them. Nic’s life is a mystery, she was adopted by two women who clearly aren’t what they pretend to be. There are a thousand different questions that this book raises and just when one question is answered you find you have more. I think that is what kept me reading until the end. I wanted to know who Nic was and what the hell was going on.

The main thing I struggled with in this book was the rather unusual blend of Norse and Greek Mythology mixed together with folktales and faeries. This is very confused by the fact the book is set in the real world, so you have an old Norse god running around after a teenage girl/faerie queen who kills people by kissing them. This teenage girl is looked after by her “Aunties” who are two of the three fates, but also vets in their spare time. All these aspects together just didn’t blend as seamlessly into one story as I would have liked.

Whilst this mix of Nordic mythology and folklore isn’t my cup of tea particularly, I think this book is perfect for people who loved the darker sides of those stories. This book has all the gritty realism of domestic violence and back-alley rapists but with a land of Giants and fae magic. What I loved most about this book was all the faerie aspects, The Seelie and UnSeelie Courts and The Wild Hunt.

This story is a strange and winding journey through familiar mythological and folklore territory that makes it unique. This book twists and turns a lot and while it is unfortunately mainly fuelled by every character being deliberately vague and unhelpful, is still is an entertaining and interesting read. I really liked the developing relationship between Aiden and Nic and the past histories that are being explored and explained between the characters. I’m looking forward to the next book and seeing more of the fae world that I love.

**I was given an eArc of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own**

Rating: 3/5 stars

 

 

Book Review: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Synopsis

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface.

As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love.

My thoughts..

“Perfect for fans of Game of Thrones”

This book was in short easy, easy to read, easy to understand, easy to guess what would happen next. This book lacked all the depth, world-building and characterisation of Game of Thrones. Every plot twist could be easily anticipated pages before, the dialogue felt shallow, the secrets and intrigue easy to guess. It was in every way a cliche young adult fantasy. I’ve seen a debate before that young adult doesn’t mean the story is dumber or simplified but contrast this book to A song of Ice and Fire and that’s exactly what you get. There was no complexity, no tension, no depth to the characters.

I wanted to like this book but it wasn’t offering anything new. Three Kingdoms really basically described, two really hate each other and another one is impoverished because magic is disappearing. A really shoddily put together political situation of a princess and lord murdering a peasant over wine prices that acts as the catalyst for the ensuing warring. In terms of characters you have the princess who wants to marry for love and has no interest in ruling so of course what happens to her? The drunkenly lord who loves to “lord” it over and is quickly made into the creepy villain of the book. You have the cold, evil King who treats his son like dirt but the son still wants to impress him. That same son who has learnt to survive by pretending not to care etc etc.

The only reason that you would compare this series to Game of Thrones is the random deaths. The deaths in Game of Thrones add an element of realism with their brutality and swift nature. The deaths in this series are random and you don’t care because the characters where only introduced two seconds ago.

I thought long and hard about finishing this book but I’ve read it all before. I was told it gets better and the second book is way better than the first but I know me and this book will never see eye to eye.

Rating: 2/5 stars

The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb

The Farseer Trilogy consists of the Assassin’s Apprentice, Royal Assassin and Assassins Quest and follows a young royal bastard called FitzChivalry. The books starts with Fitz being given to the royal family  by his Grandfather who tells them that the heir to the throne Chivalry is the father. Consequently Chivalry abdicates the throne to his younger brother Verity because of the issues he has created with the line of succession and leaves Fitz in the care of Burrich, his stablemaster and friend.

I’m going to try to be as coherent as possible with how much I loved these books and my reasons as to why. I could easily go on a fangirl filled rant but instead I’ve tried to order my thoughts into different overall reasons so that they make more sense to you. Hopefully after reading this you will also pick up this series as I think they are a must read for any fantasy lover.

The World

The history, the lore, the magic, the politics all give these books a depth few books ever achieve. I never felt like there was information I was lacking because the author hadn’t thought about it, I knew I was learning with the character and there would always be more to learn. You can really see the amount of thought and care that went into writing these books. These three books clearly only scratch the surface of what this world has to offer as there are several more trilogies set in the same universe.

Fitz

You read about Fitz from him being six years old to adulthood and by the end I loved him. I loved his character so much I began to hate all the side characters around him for what they ask of him and the sacrifices they expect him to give. Fitz’s journey is a brutal one, he goes through a hell of a lot in these books and you can’t help but feel for him. He has abandonment issues, anger issues and self-esteem issues, he often makes decisions with his heart instead of his brain and will do anything to serve his king including kill people.

The side characters

No one in this book is perfect and as much as I hated it as far as Fitz was concerned I also loved it too. Each character has their own trials and pain to deal with and while the focus is on Fitz you get a real insight into the other character’s lives and feelings. They are each flawed and damaged in their own way. It feels like they have all the depth and feeling of the main protagonist, the book just happens to be from Fitz’s point of view. I think this is important in a book as too often side characters are one-dimensional placeholders that serve a particular purpose and are then discarded.

The Wit

The Wit is basically a magical connection to animals, think like a familiar. The Wit is an old magic that you are born with which basically allows you to communicate, understand and bond with an animal. I loved this magic not only because of the communicating with animals because of how it was viewed by other people. “Beast magic” IS NOT an accepted thing in this world and it’s interesting to read why that is. I personally love the idea of being bonded to an animal so this branch of magic was really fun to read.

The closest comparison I can make for these books is Game of Thrones without all the explicit sexual stuff and less torture and messed up deaths/punishments. This trilogy did get a bit weird towards the end I freely admit but I think that often can happen in fantasy when magic is involved. I only had one issue with the end and that was how Fitz was..let’s say used for want of a better term. I won’t say anymore but you readers probably know what I’m talking about.

I definitely recommend these books if you’re a fantasy reader looking for something more adult.