Monthly Archives: July 2017

Book Review - Books - Lists

5 Reasons to Read Dare to Fall by Estelle Maskame | Blog Tour

July 27, 2017

First thing’s first – happy publication day, Estelle! I’m so excited to be hosting a stop on the blog tour of Estelle’s latest YA release, Dare to Fall, and on it’s publication day no less! Already the author of the bestselling DIMILY trilogy, which has been translated in 16 countries, sold over half a million copies worldwide and been shortlisted for the 2016 RoNAs, Estelle is a wonderful Young Adult writer with a glittering career ahead of her, and her latest novel is one that you really won’t want to miss.

MacKenzie Rivers seems like she has it all figured out. She has great friends, she’s doing well in school and her handsome ex-boyfriend is desperate to win her back. But something is missing from her life in Windsor, Colorado. And as much as she hates to admit it, that something might be Jaden Hunter. Tall, blond and athletic, a year ago Kenzie was falling fast for him and his crooked smile.

Twelve months later, everything has changed. A tragic accident has destroyed Jaden’s family and, despite the way she feels, Kenzie has no idea how to talk to him anymore. She is all too familiar with the impact family tragedy can have on the people she loves, and she can’t bear to go through it again with Jaden. She does the only thing she knows how to do: walk away.

When the pair meet again by chance one night, Kenzie realizes that she can’t ignore her feelings for him any longer. But as she is drawn back into Jaden’s life, she finds herself caught between her increasingly volatile best friend, her interfering ex-boyfriend and her own fears about opening up to Jaden.

Will Kenzie dare to fall for the one person she’s so afraid of growing close to?

Dare to Fall is certainly set to be the big release of the summer, and if you’re a fan of YA contemporaries, you really need to get your hands on a copy. Here are my top five reasons why you need to reshuffle your summer reading list, make space in your beach bag and settle down with a copy of Estelle’s fantastic latest release:

1. The setting. One of my favourite things about Estelle’s writing, in both Dare to Fall and the DIMILY trilogy, is how excellent the world building is. I can only imagine the hours of research spent pouring over locations, from LA to New York to Colorado, in Dare to Fall, and consequently the settings of her novels are brought completely to life. Estelle well and truly transports you across the pond, and after reading her books my urge to travel there myself grows ever greater!

2. The emotions! Oh boy, you’re certainly going to want to have a box of tissues handy when you read this one! Honest and confronting, Dare to Fall will make make you feel every emotion under the sun – from filling your heart with happiness one chapter to completely shattering it the next, Estelle certainly knows how to pack a well aimed punch right in the feels! (You have been warned…)

3. The topics. So much more than your typical fluffy YA romance, Dare to Fall is a bittersweet contemporary that deals with topics such as grief, guilt, alcoholism, loss, love, and everything in between. All expertly written and masterfully handled, Estelle takes care not to brush over these important themes, and instead gives them the care and page-time that the deserve. Every situation felt so very real, and once again I can only commend Estelle for the amount of time and research that I’m sure must have gone into crafting such a novel that, unlike many YA’s I have read, is unafraid to delve into those topics that we’d rather not talk about.

4. The characters. Once again, all of the characters within Estelle’s books feel so real and relatable, and the many relationship dynamics present an accurate depiction of real life. I loved all of the great cast of characters and reading about the different ways that they each dealt with the difficult situations that they faced, and of course found myself rooting for the relationship between MacKenzie and Jaden!

5. The cover. Of course this had to be one of my reasons – I mean, have you seen that cover?! I can confirm that it’s even more beautiful in real life, so please, do your bookshelves a favour and add this one to your collection – it really is too pretty not to own!

Don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on the Dare to Fall blog tour!

Books - Travel

Exploring Karou’s Prague

July 11, 2017

“The streets of Prague were a fantasia scarcely touched by the twenty-first century – or the twentieth or nineteenth, for that matter. It was a city of alchemists and dreamers, its medieval cobbles once trod by golems, mystics, invading armies. Tall houses glowed goldenrod and carmine and eggshell blue, embellished with Rococo plasterwork and capped in roofs of uniform red. Baroque cupolas were the soft green of antique copper, and Gothic steeples stood ready to impale fallen angels. The wind carried the memory of magic, revolution, violins, and the cobbled lanes meandered like creeks. Thugs wore Mozart wigs and pushed chamber music on street corners, and marionettes hung in windows, making the whole city seem like a theatre with unseen puppeteers crouched behind velvet.”

– Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

A couple of weeks ago, my boyfriend and I jetted off for an extremely last-minute trip to Prague. We visited for the first time last summer and completely fell in love with the city, and were both eager to return, and this time around I thought it might be a little interesting to visit a few places mentioned within one of my favourite books. The Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor and Prague itself are two of my greatest loves, so of course I jumped at the chance of getting lost in Karou’s city for a little while. Unfortunately I didn’t manage to find Brimstone’s door, or happen upon a brooding angel with eyes like fire, but I suppose you can’t have it all!

Charles Bridge

The Charles Bridge is one of those places that never gets old. Day or night, sun or snow, it’s always different, the view on both banks of the Vltava like something something out of a medieval engraving. On second thought, it actually does get old when it’s crammed with tourists, which is pretty much all sunlit hours for most of the year, but it’s quiet now, just a few scattered folk hurrying both ways between the rows of statues, like running a gauntlet of saints.” – Night of Cake and Puppets

Karou crossed the Charles Bridge many times during her time in Prague in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Zuzanna set up her giant puppeteer here for her end-of-term project, and became a discarded yet amazing marionette doll performing for the hordes of tourists as Mik played his violin. Akiva also watched Zuzanna and Mik’s performance while observing Karou ahead of their very public fight in the streets of the old town, and, more importantly, it’s where everything about the past and the present clicked for him – where he realised the truth about why Brimstone gave Karou the wishbone, and who she really was. Finally, the Charles Bridge was also the setting of the fight between Akiva, Liraz and Haazel, where they exposed themselves as angels as they fought over the fate of the mysterious blue-haired girl.

“Satellites had even been tasked to surveil the Charles Bridge, in case the… visitors… returned.” – Days of Blood and Starlight

Karlova and the Old Town

There was a deceptive tangling of alleys that gave you, gargoyles tiptoeing away, stones like puzzle pieces rearranging themselves into new configurations while you weren’t looking. Prague entranced you, lured you in, like the mythic fey who trick travellers deep into forest until they’re lost beyond hope.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Karlova is the main pedestrian route between Charles Bridge and Old Town Square, and where Kaz’s new vampire tour was located. Karou felt someone (Akiva, as it turned out) following her along Karlova, and used her knowledge of the cobbled maze to lure him out, resulting in the mid-air fight that was captured by tourists believing their flying to be part of Kaz’s vampire trickery. Karou’s apartment is also located in the Old Town, boasting a view “over the rooftops of Old Town”.

“He was perched on a rooftop in Old Town. The towers of Týn Church reared up like devil’s horns behind the row of buildings across the street, in one of which was Karou’s flat.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Jewish Quarter and Brimstone’s Door

“The plain metal door didn’t look like anything special, and in and of itself, it wasn’t. If you opened it from without, it revealed only a mildewed laundry room. But Karou didn’t open it. She knocked and waited, because when the door was opened from  within , it had the potential to lead someplace quite different.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Brimstone’s door, and the earthy entrance to Eretz, is located in Prague’s Jewish Quarter, “a medieval ghetto that had given way to a dense concentration of Art Nouveau apartment buildings as pretty as cakes.” The plain and inconspicuous doorway granted Karou access to the vestibule, Brimstone and her adopted family, and was used many times by both Karou and Kishmish on the way to one errand or another. The only time that both in internal and external doors were opened simultaneously was the day Brimstone thew Karou out into the freezing street… and that’s when she noticed the black handprint burned into it, as they were across many similar doorways across the world.

“At the same moment, though Karou didn’t know it, across the world, at every door emblazoned with the black  handprint, fires raged. They couldn’t be doused, and yet they didn’t spread.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Prague Castle

“Above it all loomed the castle on the hill, its silhouette as sharp as thorns. By night it was floodlit, bathed in eerie light.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Karou’s Old Town apartment had a view that was a direct line over the rooftops to the castle, and Zuzanna’s marionette show on the Charles Bridge had a “photo-perfect backdrop of Prague Castle on the hill”. The morning after Akiva and Karou’s confrontation in Karlova, they flew over the river and towards the castle, where they circled down toward “the cathedral at its heart” to eat their breakfast of still-warm bread.

“‘No. We’re on the cathedral,’ she said again, and he thought he was missing something, some nuance lost in language, but then he realised: She was just amazed. Amazed to be perching atop the cathedral, high on the hill above Prague with everything below her.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

“The first time she’d come to Prague, she’d gotten so lost exploring these streets. She’d passed an art gallery and a few blocks later doubled back to find it, and… couldn’t. The city had swallowed it. In fact, she had never found it. There was a deceptive tangling of alleys that gave the impression of a map that shifted behind you, gargoyles tiptoeing away, stones like puzzle pieces rearranging themselves into new configurations while you weren’t looking. Prague entranced you, lured you in, like the mythic fey who trick travellers deep into forests until they’re lost beyond hope. But being lost here was a gentle adventure of marionette shops and absinthe, and the only creatures lurking around corners were Kaz and his cohorts in vampire makeup, ready with a silly thrill. Usually.” – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

Have you read the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy? Or ever visited Prague? I hope you had fun exploring Karou’s city with me!

Books - Lists

Top 5 Books On My Summer TBR List

July 5, 2017

As I’ve mentioned previously, when it comes to making TBR lists I’m really not the greatest. I love the thrill of browsing my bookshelves, pulling off titles I’m excited about and reading the first few pages, then stacking them all up in a lovely pile with every intention of getting to them in the not-too-distant future. Unfortunately, despite my best intentions, those little TBR piles often end up sadly neglected and collecting dust, only to be once again returned to the shelves unread and unloved some weeks later.

Yet despite my rather shocking track record of failing to stick to my TBR lists, I thought that it might be interesting to set myself a little summer TBR challenge for the coming months. After much deliberation, I’ve decided upon five books that I’d really, really like to read soon, and I’m determined to do it this time! Seriously, sticking to TBR lists shouldn’t be this hard…

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Truly deserving of the accolade Modern Classic, Donna Tartt’s cult bestseller The Secret History is a remarkable achievement – both compelling and elegant, dramatic and playful.

Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and for ever.

Yes, I know, I can’t quite believe that I haven’t read this one yet either. I’ve heard so many amazing things about Donna Tartt’s writing, and this book in particular, and so I cannot wait to get stuck into it. I think the length of it has put me off in the past, and the fact that my edition has the tiniest font imaginable, but I’m sure that I’ll fly through it when I do (eventually) give it a read.

The Power by Naomi Alderman

‘She throws her head back and pushes her chest forward and lets go a huge blast right into the centre of his body. The rivulets and streams of red scarring run across his chest and up around his throat. She’d put her hand on his heart and stopped him dead.’

Suddenly – tomorrow or the day after – girls find that with a flick of their fingers, they can inflict agonizing pain and even death. With this single twist, the four lives at the heart of Naomi Alderman’s extraordinary, visceral novel are utterly transformed, and we look at the world in an entirely new light. What if the power to hurt were in women’s hands?

The recent winner of the 2017 Bailey’s Women’s Prize for FictionThe Power has been everywhere at the moment, and it seems that everyone but me has already read it. While I have heard a few mixed things, I’m interested to see what I think about this one, as the premise certainly sounds intriguing! I don’t usually follow many literary prizes, however the titles included within the Bailey’s prize long and shortlists are always a complete mix of genres and writing styles, and it’s good to step out of my comfort zone and try something new once in a while.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their differences, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’s mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

If you’ve read my latest book haul post you will have seen that I recently picked up a copy of Madeline Miller’s beloved historical fiction novel, and my excitement to read it remains extremely high! Again I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, and as historical fiction is one of my favourite genres I’m sure this one will go down a treat.

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Working as a lady’s companion, the heroine of Rebecca learns her place. Her future looks bleak until, on a trip to the South of France, she meets Max de Winter, a handsome widower whose sudden proposal of marriage takes her by surprise. She accepts, but whisked from glamorous Monte Carlo to the ominous and brooding Manderley, the new Mrs de Winter finds Max a changed man. And the memory of his dead wife Rebecca is forever kept alive by the forbidding housekeeper, Mrs Danvers…

Not since Jane Eyre has a heroine faced such difficulty with the Other Woman. An international bestseller that has never gone out of print, Rebecca is the haunting story of a young girl consumed by love and the struggle to find her identity.

Daphne du Maurier is an author who I have only just recently discovered, fallen in love with, and vowed to read everything she has ever written. I’ve already managed to tick off both Jamaica Inn and My Cousin Rachel, and I think now the time has come to read du Maurier’s most popular and best loved classic, which again I am certain that I am doing to adore!

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir

A Spanish princess. Raised to be modest, obedient and devout. Destined to be an English Queen. Six weeks from home across treacherous seas, everything is different: the language, the food, the weather. And for her there is no comfort in any of it.

At sixteen-years-old, Catalina is alone among strangers. She misses her mother. She mourns her lost brother. She cannot trust even those assigned to her protection.

Katherine of Aragon. The first of Henry’s Queens. Her story. History tells us how she died. This captivating novel shows us how she lived.

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a ticket to see Alison Weir at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August, where she will be discussing her the first two titles in her recent Six Tudor Queens historical fiction series. Sadly I am a little behind and am still yet to read either, but I would really like to make a start ahead of seeing Weir at the book festival. I love her non-fiction titles, and am sure that, given the amount of research that she puts into her work, the first instalment in this Tudor fiction series will be just as wonderful as I am hoping that it will be.

Have you read any of these books? What’s currently at the top of your summer TBR list?