Her Bookshelf Challenge: February 2020

I thought it would be fun to start a monthly bookshelf challenge focused on reading the books I actually have sat on my shelves than on new releases. So if you are looking to tackle your tbr take a look.

All challenges are bookish/pop culture/fandom related which you will probably enjoy if you have the same sense of humour as me.

I watched the first season: A book series you abandoned after the first book.

I’ve already started this as I read the first book in the Mistborn trilogy last January and now I’m reading the second book The Well of Ascension.

A nice murder that will cheer you up: Read a murder mystery novel

I’ve been meaning for ages to read my Deanna Raybourn book as I love her other series.

A court of definitely not ya and please shelve properly: A book that is often classed as YA but isn’t.

For me this will be The City of Brass by S.A Chakraborty which I often see in the young adult section.

I’m just here for the pretty cover: Read a book by an author you’ve never read despite owning lots of their books.

I am going to read a book by Mark Lawrence as I own 8 of his books despite never reading anything he’s ever written. My choice for this challenge is The Girl and the Stars.

Let me know if you are participating below and what books you would read for each challenge.

Spoiler Mini Review: The Sisters Grimm by Menna Van Praag

Disclaimer: As the title suggests this review is full of spoilers. I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This is a dark and vague sort of read with lots of whimsical descriptions and flowery prose. In the beginning it took me a while to get the four POVs straight but after a while you get to know each character’s own voice.

This book follows four “sisters” who were all born on the exact same day and have the ability to enter a magical place called Everwhere.

Each sister has forgotten about Everwhere and the power they have, believing Everwhere to be a childish dream they had. It’s explained in the book why but the whole plot is a countdown to the day all four sisters will be allowed back into Everwhere – the night of their 18th birthday.

I really struggled to get through this book after a while particularly because the ending was obvious. I liked reading about each characters lives and struggles but I felt the ending kind of aborted their individual storylines in the real world.

For those that like it, there is a romance in the book but it’s the sort of romance that excuses the murdering of a parent by said lover. If that’s your thing you will love it until the ending.

I dropped a few stars for the predictable ending. I guessed which sister would die and that each sister had a soldier in their life that would try to kill them at the end of the book.

This book is perfect for fans of Dark Fairytales, The Hazel Wood, Alice in Wonderland, female heroines and forbidden romance.

Rating 3/5 stars

Top ten favourite book covers in 2019

You aren’t supposed to judge a book by it’s cover but I can’t help it when books looks this good. I can honestly say I’ve bought four of the books in this list for the cover alone without having an idea what the book was about. I blame it on my designer background but I just really appreciate beautiful artwork and I can’t resist a gorgeous cover.

Here are my Top Ten Favourite books covers in 2019. Note: I haven’t put these in any order as it’s impossible to rank them!

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Deep light by Frances Hardinge

Synopsis: On the streets of the Island of Lady’s Crave live 14-year-old street urchins Hark and his best friend Jelt. They are scavengers: diving for relics of the gods, desperate for anything they can sell. But there is something dangerous in the deep waters of the undersea, calling to someone brave enough to retrieve it.

When the waves try to claim Jelt, Hark will do anything to save him. Even if it means compromising not just who Jelt is, but what he is . . .

I genuinely had no idea what this book was about until I copied and pasted the synopsis for this blog post. I got this beauty for Christmas with the gorgeous orange sprayed edges.

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Stormtide by Den Patrick

Synopsis: Book Two in stunning Scandinavia-inspired fantasy trilogy The Ashen Torment.

I’m deliberately NOT posting the synopsis for this book as it’s book two and we all know the synopsis for sequels spoils the crap out of the book before. I bought this book as I was attending VoyagerCon and was investing more in adult fantasy.

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The Binding by Bridget Collins

Synopsis: For a Bookbinder’s trade is like no other. In the house set deep in the marshes, Emmett learns the skills to make exquisitely beautiful volumes, every one as unique as the last and each holding a dark and peculiar secret: a person’s most unconscionable memories. And to Emmett, they whisper in the darkness. Then one day he discovers a book with his own name on it and is forced to choose between forgetting and the dreadful, tantalising promise of remembrance.

Conjuring a magic all of its own, The Binding is a richly imagined story of boundary-defying desire and prejudice wrapped in layers of enchantment, enigma and stunningly evoked detail. Peopled by fully-fledged characters that live and breathe from the book’s pages, it is a novel to fall in love with.

This book wasn’t on my radar at all until I started seeing other people’s copies arrive. I looked for the purple sprayed edged edition after the release and I couldn’t find it anywhere Later on I saw some on someone’s story so ending up reserving it from one Waterstones and getting it sent to my local Waterstones. If I had bothered to check my local Waterstones first I would have seen they had some in stock so I didn’t need to go through so much effort!

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Darkdawn by Jay Kristoff

Synopsis: The third book in the Nevernight Chronicles

Again I am not posting the synopsis as it will totally ruin the Nevernight series for you. This book was without a doubt my most eagerly anticipated and brutally disappointing read of 2019. You can check out my full review on my blog. Still love the cover though.

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Descendent of the Crane by Joan He

Synopsis: Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own. Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she enlists the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

I got this beauty in an illumicrate box and I am so glad I did because I am weak for sprayed edges.

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The True Queen by Zen Cho

Synopsis:
The enchanted island of Janda Baik, in the Malay Archipelago, has long been home to witches. And Muna and her sister Sakti wake on its shores under a curse, which has quite stolen away their memories. Their only hope of salvation lies in distant Britain, where the Sorceress Royal runs a controversial academy for female magicians. But the pair travel via the formidable Fairy Queen’s realm, where Sakti simply disappears.

To save her sister, Muna must learn to navigate Regency London’s high society and trick the English into believing she’s a magical prodigy. But when the Sorceress Royal’s friends become accidentally embroiled in a plot – involving the Fairy Queen’s contentious succession – Muna is drawn right in. She must also find Sakti, break their curse and somehow stay out of trouble. But if fairyland’s true queen does finally return, trouble may find her first . . .

I picked this book because the author was at YALC. Originally I thought this book was the sequel to The Sorcerer to the Crown so I convinced myself I didn’t need The True Queen because I didn’t have the first one. However my friend Emily and I decided to look on ebay for the Hardback of Sorcerer to the Crown and found it. So we took it as a sign to both buy The True Queen and Sorcerer to the Crown and get The True Queen signed.

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House of sacrifice by Anna Smith Spark

Synopsis: The third Empires of Dust novel

This book is a sequel so you know the drill by now. I bought this one for the same reasons as Stormtide. I was attending VoyagerCon and decided to buy the entire series after seeing this cover for the final book on Twitter. I was deliberating between paperback and hardback before my friend Sammy decided on hardback for me. I got them all signed at VoyagerCon and I can’t wait to read them.

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The Cerulean by Amy Ewing

Synopsis: Sera Lighthaven has always felt as if she didn’t quite belong among her people, the Cerulean, who live in the City Above the Sky. She is curious about everything–especially the planet that her City is magically tethered to–and can’t stop questioning things. Sera has always longed for the day when the tether will finally break and the Cerulean can move to a new planet.

But when Sera is chosen as the sacrifice to break the tether, she feels betrayed by everything in which she’d been taught to trust. In order to save her City, Sera must end her own life.

But something goes wrong, and Sera survives, ending up on the planet below in a country called Kaolin. Sera has heard tales about the dangerous humans who live here, and she quickly learns that these dangers were not just stories.

Meanwhile, back in the City, all is not what it seems, and the life of every Cerulean may be in danger if Sera is not able to find a way home.

I absolutely love everything about this cover and I didn’t know anything about the plot until now. Unfortunately it’s not a book I own..yet.

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Spin the dawn by Elizabeth Lim

Synopsis: Maia Tamarin dreams of becoming the greatest tailor in the land, but as a girl, the best she can hope for is to marry well. When a royal messenger summons her ailing father, once a tailor of renown, to court, Maia poses as a boy and takes his place. She knows her life is forfeit if her secret is discovered, but she’ll take that risk to achieve her dream and save her family from ruin. There’s just one catch: Maia is one of twelve tailors vying for the job.

Backstabbing and lies run rampant as the tailors compete in challenges to prove their artistry and skill. Maia’s task is further complicated when she draws the attention of the court magician, Edan, whose piercing eyes seem to see straight through her disguise.
And nothing could have prepared her for the final challenge: to sew three magic gowns for the emperor’s reluctant bride-to-be, from the laughter of the sun, the tears of the moon, and the blood of stars. With this impossible task before her, she embarks on a journey to the far reaches of the kingdom, seeking the sun, the moon, and the stars, and finding more than she ever could have imagined.

This book was very popular on bookstagram this year and yet somehow I still don’t own it.

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The Waking Forest by Alyssa Wees

Synopsis: The waking forest has secrets. To Rhea, it appears like a mirage, dark and dense, at the very edge of her backyard. But when she reaches out to touch it, the forest vanishes. She’s desperate to know more–until she finds a peculiar boy who offers to reveal its secrets. If she plays a game.

To the Witch, the forest is her home, where she sits on her throne of carved bone, waiting for dreaming children to beg her to grant their wishes. One night, a mysterious visitor arrives and asks her what she wishes for, but the Witch sends him away. And then the uninvited guest returns.

The strangers are just the beginning. Something is stirring in the forest, and when Rhea’s and the Witch’s paths collide, a truth more treacherous and deadly than either could ever imagine surfaces. But how much are they willing to risk to survive?

I really don’t know anything about this book I just stumbled across it when I researching this blog post. However it has witches in and I’ve always loved stories with witches.

Comment your favourite covers below ♥️

Spoiler Mini Review: The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black

SPOILER WARNING: As the title suggests this review is full of spoilers.

I have a like hate relationship with this book series. The ONLY reason I made it to the third book was because I love enemies to lovers relationships and I needed to know how Jude and Cardan ended.

So this mini review is going to be biased as I’m not really a fan.

But from a none fan’s perspective Cardan turning into a huge ass snake that death was the only escape from was…a very questionable choice for a finale.

I felt like the book fell into the trap of high drama but for me without properly engaging my emotions and building up to these moments it feels like I’m being flung from one dramatic moment to the next without any real meaning to them.

This has always been a pet peeve of mine so I’ll digress.

For those of you who need to know yes Cardan and Jude do end up together. He announces Jude is his wife when she falls from the ceiling after trying to save him from a suspected assassination attempt.

As far who is going to rule Faerie it looks like Jude still intends to give the throne to Oak but honestly it’s never really discussed or finalised.

Oh and the whole banishment thing was easily solved by how everyone suspected. Jude could pardon herself.

Rating: 3/5 stars

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective

The frustrating thing about YA from a book blogger’s perspective (i.e mine) is no one seems to know who YA is actually for anymore.

I came across a thread recently of several authors lamenting the fact that some reviewers were reading their books and then giving lower ratings because of several YA aspects in the story. For example the MC was too immature. Reviewers have actually have gone as far to state that they would have loved the book if they were a teenager.

So why does this happen? Why are adults apparently reading books they find too immature and slamming them for being something a 12 year old would want to read?

I think the answer is simple.

It’s because they aren’t being marketed as if they are for teenagers.

Let me be frank, YA is a hot mess of a genre. Even the name Young Adults implies the books aren’t for teenagers. But technically YA is meant to be for anyone between the ages of 12 – 18. However when you have books like ACOTAR and Six of Crows sitting in the YA section things get confusing. A lot of people wouldn’t read ACOTAR at 12 and Six of Crows deals with adult themes like sex slavery and addiction.

Now inclusion of sex doesn’t automatically make a book not YA but that’s not the point I’m making.

My issue is that YA books today are heavily marketed towards adults and you can tell this alone from the price tag.

What average 12 year old can afford special collectors editions that are about £20? Hell, you only have to turn up to YALC to see a serious lack of anyone under the age of 16 at a convention for YOUNG ADULT literature.

Clearly adults have more disposable income and while these books are written for teenagers they are sold to adults. I think it’s great that YA has great cross over appeal but the reason these debates start is people think adults are intruding on teenagers spaces despite the fact they were basically invited.

A perfect example of this is The Cruel Prince by Holly Black. Two book boxes are doing collectors editions of the entire series with new covers. One book box has always done a special edition. That’s three different sets of covers for books that is supposed to be for teenagers? I couldn’t afford to spend that kind of money on books until I had a full time job which only happened this year and I’m 26.

Also, young adults, like myself (I.e not a teen) see “young adult” as something they should enjoy. And I personally (without specific industry knowledge of the genre age range) spent a good year reading YA and wondering why it was too immature for me. I remember very clearly the only YA books I enjoyed immensely was ACOTAR and Nevernight. The two books that are commonly seen as YA that aren’t. Do you see the problem?

I would love for publishers to finally stop the YA marketing hype and make New Adult a thing. The introduction of New Adult would provide a space for older teens and actual young adults and stop books like Nevernight getting into the hands of an audience it was never meant for.

In the future I do think reviewers should consider the audience of the book when complaining about immaturity etc. But when said book has been put into the hands of adult readers, book bloggers and book tubers I can’t blame them for reading it thinking it was meant for a reader more their age.

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.