The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli

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At the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) in London last Month, I was lucky to get my hands on an Advance Reading Copy of The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli.

This YA fantasy novel is due to be released in October 2017, so not too long to wait.

I was very impressed with this book. It’s like a breath of fresh air for YA fantasy. I’d never heard of the author before and probably would never have picked it up if I hadn’t have been given it at YALC.

The heart of the story and why everything happens, is set around the old customs of the city, the Namsara and the Iskari, the original companions of the ‘Old One.’ Namsara was the golden child, bringing laughter and love and Iskari was the bringer of death and destruction.

The story follows Asha, the Dragon King’s daughter who has been condemned to a life of dragon slaying and given the tile of the Iskari, after provoking the first original dragon after feeding him with old stories that are forbidden, as they are part of the old ways. The dragon sets her whole city ablaze and during the blaze, Asha’s face is injured, leaving her with a permanent scar. Her father constantly uses her injury to remind the rest of the town that the old ways and customs, including dragons, are wrong. This is how she becomes a dragon slayer.  The story is told ten year’s later when Asha is 18.

Asha lures the dragons to slaughter by telling them the old tales, which they feed off. Her mother and many previous had died after telling the tales, growing weaker with each story. Somehow the tales don’t weaken Asha.

I especially loved that this book is interwoven with the old tales throughout, telling the story of the ‘Old One’ and how Asha’s descendants changed the customs of the land, capturing people from the other city, Skals, and making them slaves. With each tale my understanding grew of why Asha thought the way she did – hating the slaves and sharing the same opinions as her father.

The story focusses on Asha on a journey of her own discovery after she is visited by the first Namsara, as a revolution grows near. She grows feelings for one of the slaves, Torwin, who turned out to be my favourite character, along with the dragons, and steers Asha to learn that maybe her father’s ways are wrong. There were some lovely moments with the dragons, reminding me a bit of How to Train your Dragon, which is one of my favourite films.

I really did like this book as it’s not your stereotypical fae village with common magic and it seems to be set in some desert land, reminding me a bit of Aladdin. The magic is more historical and mythical, in the form of dragons and focussed around lesson learning. However, it bugged me a bit how the world building seems to lack detail and also the characters, making them hard to picture or make believable. I was really confused at first about the world and how to picture it but I soon got used to it.

If you are sick of fantasy books about Fae that are just full of romance and not much else, (although there is a love interest in this) I really recommend this book. It’s very unique and features dragons which is an instant win for me!

 

The Dark Days Club By Alison Goodman

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Think Jane Austen Vs Buffy the Vampire Slayer for this regency/fantasy novel. This is currently book one of two under the title of A Lady Helen Novel – I hope this means there will be novels from the perspectives of other characters in this book as I LOVED it. It was also great to meet the author at YALC last week whilst I was reading it.

The story is set around Lady Helen Wrexhall in the year 1812, London, as she prepares to marry into regency society, attending balls and dinners. Both her parents died when she was eight and she is raised by her Aunt and her strict Uncle. Helen ends up meeting Lord Carlston, a Cousin that is not respected in their family and who has just come back from somewhere exotic on the continent. The character of Lord Carlston really grew on me. I loved the mystery and secrecy around his trip abroad and why he had come back to London.

Helen becomes interested in Carlson and is intrigued by his secrecy. She ends up discovering that Lord Carlston is part of The Dark Days Club – a group of only eight people known as Reclaimers who can see and defeat Deceivers – demon like creatures who take on the form of humans, using them as a vessel. Reclaimers use an object made by the power of alchemy, that enables them to see blue swirls around everyone. They spot the Deceivers as they have a darker blue swirl and can develop whips that can attack the Reclaimers. Helen finds out that she too is a Reclaimer and that she is a direct inheritor from her Mother who was also a Reclaimer, which is unheard of. Her Mother leaves Helen a miniature when she died which Helen discovers is the object she can use to see the blue swirls to detect Deceivers.

The pace of the book is quite slow as it goes into a lot of detail about the Deceivers and the Dark Days Club, setting the scene for what is obviously going to be a series. I didn’t mind the slow pace of the book as it was so interesting and meant that you got to know the characters and became aware of the different types of Deceivers and the history around them. The writing style of this book was really enjoyable and it was easy to get submerged into the 1800s. It was also really believable even though there were demons everywhere.

My favourite character was Jen Darby, Helen’s maid. There were some lovely touches of humour added to this character. Darby is a very dedicated maid to Helen and ends up helping her with the events of the Dark Days Club. The character of Darby is extremely warm and comforting, caring a lot for Helen.

I also love Helen, who is a very modern, intelligent 18 year old who could easily fit in to modern day life. During this book, she attracts the attentions of the Earl who wants to marry Helen. I think that there’s something not quite right with the Earl and I’ll be interested to see in the second book whether he is a Deceiver or not!

If you love fantasy and a bit of regency, I thoroughly recommend this book. I’m looking forward to picking up book two – The Dark Days Pact.

 

Young Adult Literature Convention London 2017 (YALC)

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So my first year at YALC did not disappoint. I’ve met some lovely fellow book lovers (mostly from sitting for hours in book signing queues!) including Kariny, my book signing queue and photo buddy for the weekend. Kariny also has a book blog over at: http://karinysteenbooxfrenz.blogspot.co.uk. Please pay it a visit as she’s been writing blogs way longer than me and it’s great.

Benedict Cumberbatch also made an appearance as Comic Con was happening on the floor below. I got pushed by someone and I turned around and realised he was trying to get past with his security guys!!

Over the three day event, I managed to meet some of my favourite authors including, Alison Goodman (Dark Days Club), Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer), Vic James (Gilded Cage), Alwyn Hamilton (Rebel of Sands) and finally the fantastic V.E Schwab (Darker Shade of Magic). Unfortunately I didn’t get a photo with V.E as she had a massive queue but I managed to get my book signed – I actually felt a bit emotional getting my book signed by her as I read it during a bit of a crappy time and it really helped me.

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Alison Goodman was especially lovely and coaxed me into taking part in some regency dancing which I turned out to really enjoy even though I went viral on Twitter! (thanks Alison!…)

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I managed to spot one of my favourite British book tubers – Sarah Jane (The Book Life, check out her channel!). I was really scared to say hello as I thought she would think I was weird but I plucked up the courage and she was so sweet – thanks Sarah!

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I attended some really informative author panels as I’m trying to get inspired to start writing my own stuff. My favourite was definitely the Books that Made Me interview with Joanne Harris, Laini Taylor and V.E. Schwab. I definitely feel like I get most of my writing inspiration from Schwab and Taylor as their world building is just magical. What I would give to live inside their heads for a day. It was fantastic to meet them in person and they were both so friendly.

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I also got my hands on some Advanced Reader Copy proofs during the weekend. I’m so excited as I’ve never received any ARCs before. There’s nothing so stressful as waiting in a queue for an ARC and watching the pile getting smaller. I can’t wait to get started on them as some of them are highly anticipated YA books for the end of this year or beginning of 2018. Watch this space for my up-coming reviews!

They are:

  • Blackbird by N.D. Gomes (Nov 17)
  • The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart (Jan 18)
  • The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli (Oct 17)
  • The Fandom by Anna Day (Jan 18)
  • Mister Tender’s Girl by Carter Wilson (Feb 18)
  • House of Ash by Hope Cook (Sep 17)
  • Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu (already out I believe)

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YALC has given me loads of knowledge into the book publishing world. I’ve learnt that it’s not as easy as you think to get published. The author panels have really opened my eyes to the fact that even really well-known authors received tons of knock backs from agents and publishers before finally getting somewhere.

As well as the books, authors and panels, there were also loads of FREEBIES! – this is always the best bit.

All the publisher’s stalls were so generous and I managed to win and pick up some pretty amazing Fairy Loots treasures after spinning a wheel of fortune sort of thing (Fairy Loot is a fab book box subscription service – www.fairyloot.com ) including potion bottle post-its, a cute tote bag, a stunning sky fire pendant based on The Stormheart series by Cora Carmack, a coaster with an Illuminae quote on it and poster based on Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

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I also received a free YALC tote bag which I have pinned all the free pin badges I received over the weekend on to it (I’m thinking of making the bag into a cushion cover). I also had to buy the t-shirt as I’ve ‘been there and done it and got the tee!’ Sorry – cheesy I know.

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There was a great candle company at YALC called Geeky Clean. I’m a sucker for a good candle, especially when they are book themed. One was of my favourite smell in the whole world – BOOKS so I obviously had to buy it. I also bought a Butterbeer and Unicorn Breakfast candle (I’m lighting this as I’m typing this blog and it smells AMAZING). Check out their website at: www.geekyclean.com   

I also bought a bookish necklace from Comic Con on the floor below YALC (this event scared me but had some fantastic fandom jewellery).

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I will leave you with some YALC photos and my MASSIVE book pile! Thanks for reading 🙂

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A thumbs down for The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

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I really tried to like this book and it’s not like me to put a book down, but life is too short to carry on reading a book you can’t get in to (especially when your TBR pile is growing!). I have also been really slow with reading it as I normally read one book a week and this one was taking me ages.

The main thing I didn’t like about this book is the world building – there is no explanation into any of the systems or abilities of the clairvoyant characters. As a reader, I felt like I had just been dumped into the story.  I looked at some reviews on Goodreads to make sure I wasn’t the only one who felt the same way about it and I actually found a lot of reviewers saying the same thing which made me feel better.

This book is set in 2059 about a 19 year old girl named Paige who works in the criminal underworld of Scion London. She is a Dreamwalker and Her job is to scout for information by breaking into people’s minds. Any Clairvoyant activity in Scion is illegal.

Paige ends up getting kidnapped to Oxford which in this book is a city kept secret for two hundred years, controlled by a powerful, otherworldly race… that’s when I gave up with this book. I just totally lost interest – sorry Samantha Shannon!

There are still loads of really positive reviews on Goodreads for this so you still might like it. If you have read this book I’d love to know what you thought of it.

Right, on to my next read which I will hopefully enjoy. Keep an eye out for a review coming soon!

 

I’m going to YALC! (by myself…eek!)

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So, a few months ago, I complained “why does the UK not have anything like Book Con?” and then to my excitement, people started responding on Twitter saying that I needed to go to something called YALC which happens in London.

Ever since searching ‘YALC’ into Google back in May, I’ve become obsessed with this event and I haven’t even been yet. YALC stands for the Young Adult Literature Convention which takes place in Summer every year alongside Comic Con. The event features panels with well-known authors, writing workshops and book signings.

This year, my favourite author, VE Schwab is going to be there (author of A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy) and also Laini Taylor (I’ve only read her Strange the Dreamer novel but need to read her others). I’ve also colour coded my three day schedule…sad, I know, but I’m a control freak and I don’t want to miss out on anything!

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None of my friends wanted to go or they were busy so I plucked up the courage and bought a three-day pass to go myself. At least I’ll be able to wander wherever I want without the worry of getting on anyone’s nerves!

Two weeks today I will be arriving in London with a backpack full of books waiting to be signed! I can’t wait!

Please let me know if you are planning on going. I’d love to meet some fellow book readers there as not many of my friends are as book obsessed as me!

 

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

 

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Now this book was awarded Waterstones Book of the Year in 2016 and I can definitely see why. This book was beautifully written, like a piece of artwork but in writing.

It took me a few chapters to get into it as the writing style has traits of Charles Dickens and was so unlike the previous book I’d just finished but you soon get used to it. I have to be honest, I had to google what some of the terminology was as the language is sometimes a reflection on the era the book is set in (1893). Everything is described in so much detail, to the point where you actually feel like you are there, in the Essex Countryside, until you look up and you’re actually sat on a busy train that is delayed half an hour.

The main character Cora Seaborne, a widow, retreats to Essex after her husband dies with her companion, Martha. I LOVE Cora. She is so unlike the stereotypical female in a historical novel. She is confident, independent and quirky, wearing men’s jackets and boots and rebelling against her previous married life where she was deeply unhappy.

Cora becomes interested in the ‘Essex Serpent’ a creature of folklore that the residents believe to have returned to roam the marshes in Essex. Hysteria and paranoia set in on the town with many deaths and strange occurrences.

Some of the chapters are written in letters exchanged between the characters. I really liked this style. I enjoyed the letters transferred between Cora and local minister William Ransome who completely denies all rumours of the Essex Serpent. The two characters are total opposites, one believing in science, the other in faith, but both become really close friends. Their relationship was my favourite aspect of the novel.

I’m going to rate this book 4/5 – simply because it was a stunning read but I did have to google and re-read certain parts at the beginning to grasp the writing style (probably just me though!).

I definitely want to read more by Sarah Perry!