Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Blog Tour: Review - The Fandom by Anna Day

Hello everyone! Today I'm overjoyed to bring you a review for one of my favourite books of 2017, for the official blog tour for Anna Day's The Fandom. Big thanks to Jasmine from Chicken House Books for sending me an ARC and allowing me to take part in this wonderful blog tour. This however has no effect on my honest review.

Cosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands ...

A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction.

I absolutely adored The Fandom. I was lucky enough to get an ARC just before YALC and so was quite a few pages in by the time I got chance to meet Anna. This meant I was able to talk (Read: Gush) to Anna about The Fandom in a little more detail (See below: Ash), which was amazing. I finished the whole book slightly after but was waiting until closer to publication to write my review. Jazz then gave me the opportunity to post it today for the blog tour. My thoughts should therefore be more or less coalesced, as I've had a lot of time to process the myriad of feelings I have about this book. That said, I did absolutely adore it, so I apologise if I do start to get a little rambly, so to speak. I hope you enjoy it.

First of all I want to talk about the story itself, the book's plot. I, and no doubt anyone who has ever called themselves a fan, have always dreamed of being transported to the world of one of my favourite books. Narnia perhaps? Middle earth? Or more recently Lormere. I have always dreamed of meeting my favourite fictional characters; Edmund Pevensie, Aragorn Longstrider, Merek Belmis and Twylla Morvern. The Fandom is a story about what happens when this becomes a reality, but for Violet and her friends it is nothing at all like they imagined. When Violet unwittingly causes the death of their book's heroine, Rose, she finds she must take her place and finish the story if they ever want to get home. But finishing the story means that the Gallow's Dance, the book's namesake, calls for her; it means hanging for her people.

Except they're not her people, because she's not Rose, and she doesn't want to be.

Even armed with an extensive knowledge of the world she's now living in, the entire script in her head as easy as breathing, Violet does not consider herself a heroine, and watching her grow to become one in her own right was one of the many story elements I loved.

Without spoiling anything I also loved how Day roots the Gallows Dance world - the reason why our characters are there - in a science fiction style base rather than an outright fantasy one. The story seems therefore within our grasp, as if a similar instance could happen to ourselves, while also bringing in a real element of danger - a ticking clock - for our heroine and co. Somehow everything is not a simple elaborate dream, but instead real. This danger, the ticking clock, helps to create a pace that both allows you to breathe whilst also never letting go. This theoretical clock, the awareness of the reader understanding the book's plot - the canon - must be preserved and the consequences for our characters if it is not creates a tense atmosphere; a desire to see the story within the story finish unfolding whilst also desiring our heroine Violet to succeed herself. The action and character development work together like fine interwoven silk. No action feels unnecessary. Everything works to push the story forward whilst keeping an exciting but not overwhelming pace. Little if nothing gets lost in translation yet every page is as riveting as the last. This seemingly perfect pace grips and enthrals the reader until the very end. It's easily a book you can sit down with one afternoon and finish in one go.

The book also prompts a discussion on perceived beauty - the antagonists having made themselves genetically perfect - human rights, as well as classism/elitism. These are very important, poignant points to be made in an age where use of social media and digital imaging is rife, and where instances of bullying and abuse of privilege seem common. Day has not just crafted an enchanting novel but a discourse about the world we live in. This again gave the book a more sci-fi rather than outright fantasy feel, grounding The Gallows Dance in elements of our own world, so that we the reader feel that this dystopian future isn't entirely impossible; the story all the more intriguing and illuminating.

The world of The Gallows Dance itself, as this is where we the reader spend the most of our time, was incredible. I've already spoken about it feeling very realistic to our world, but the detail included, each scene seemingly adding something new, was wonderful to imagine. Not only was I able to vividly picture both what was going on in each scene and the world itself, but it really felt as if The Gallow's Dance was a book in its own right, one I could have read (and would very much like to) just as easily as this one. It's a world I would definitely like to see more of. I also loved how Day interwove the Gallow's Dance world with our own (I can't say much more than that without spoiling though), and how the initial view of the 'real world' is shown through the lens of our characters attending a convention. This common ground for a lot of fans will certainly help pull the reader in at page one, as it did for me, as we can imagine ourselves there along with the characters. Being that the convention is set at the Hammersmith Olympia, where the yearly UK Young Adult Literature Convention is held, this is all the more the case, and I loved it. Again it was easy to imagine that it could be myself in Violet's situation, drawing me all the more into both story and characters.

As for our characters, Violet was a wonderful heroine whom the reader sees grow and mature throughout the pages of the book. She starts off shy and unsure, unwilling to be who she now must, but by the final few pages she is independent, powerful, and stronger than she ever gave herself credit for. It was a joy to follow her through the story and I do hope this isn't the last we see of her.

I loved Willow, The Gallows Dance's love interest, and how Violet brought out a side of humanity in him that the Gems (the elites) do not usually have. Though quite shallow due to his instinctive nature and upbringing, he ultimately sees some truth in the rebels' cause (as per the canon). How much he sees is dependant on Violet's actions however, making him a dependant character, and for that reason among others I preferred Ash.

Ash is a side character in The Gallows Dance, and for that reason he is very independent. He has little scripted and so when Violet and co 'drop in' his part becomes a lot larger. Though he interacts a lot with Violet his actions are his own, and that makes him all the more endearing. He is sweet and caring, if not stubborn and brash also. He is very much the 'human element' in The Gallows Dance tale. He brings life and compassion to what could be and is a cold, harsh world, even if he also brings the complications that unfold over the course of the story. I'm definitely hoping there'll be a sequel because I need more Ash, stat!

Really every character in the book is well woven and adds a new unique element to the story. From gruff Thorn to vain Alice, they are all intriguing, each with their own backstory, hopes, dreams and motivation. It was a joy to see them interact with each other, to guess their next actions, and to see how they either helped or hindered the unfolding story. The story may be 'canon' and therefore mostly foretold, but it is the characters who inhabit the story that create the tension, drama and intrigue I loved so dearly.

Overall I give The Fandom a well deserved 5* rating. It was a joy to read, thoroughly enjoyable with more than a few important messages to take home, and is a book I would recommend to anyone who calls themselves a fan, whatever their preferred subject. I'm pretty certain you won't be disappointed while I myself will be eagerly awaiting Day's next novel, whatever that may be.

As always thanks for reading and do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

You can find out more about Anna and The Fandom below, and don't forget to check out the rest of this amazing blog tour!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

About Anna Day:

Anna grew up and still lives in the North East of England. She was raised by a guitar-obsessed father and a mother with amazing cooking skills, and she still loves all things music and food related. She studied Psychology at university, and worked for several years as an Assistant Psychologist. She then gained a doctorate in Clinical Psychology in 2009, and has since worked as a Clinical Psychologist with people with disabilities. She has always loved creative writing; even as a little girl she would staple pieces of paper together and write stories for her parents to read. However, she only started writing seriously a few years ago, and was noticed by the Chicken House team when she was shortlisted for the Times/Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition in 2015. Her greatest love is her children -- a little girl and a little boy, who provide her with constant entertainment and inspiration.

About the book:

Release date: January 4th 2018
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Chicken House Books
Format: Paperback

Buy the book:

Monday, 1 January 2018

Letters Between Friends: Dear Cazz #1

Hello and Happy New Year! For 2018 myself and my friend Cazz (Loaded Shelves) have decided to start a new feature series where we write a letter to each other each alternate Monday. The title is an homage to our mutual love for Carrie Hope Fletcher. It's just a way to catch up more often than we otherwise might and keep in touch with our blogs to try and have a better blogging year in 2018. If these letters are enjoyed by others too, that's a bonus!

Firstly, Happy New Year! I hope your year is bright and prosperous and everything that you want it to be; you really deserve that. For me I have a few resolutions I want to stick to, in order to make sure I use this year to its fullest, and finish 2018 happier and healthier, in more ways than one.

1) I want to sing for an audience: I can't very well profess to love singing and have a dream of being on the West End in Les Mis if I don't actually sing for people, so this is a big one. I need to overcome my fear of performing once and for all and believe in myself.

2) Follow my dreams: Publishing or Musical Theatre? I'm not sure yet, but it's better to try something than just keep planning and making lists. 2018 is about productivity!

3) Look after my health: I'm the worst person for stress eating and not exercising. I'm gonna do my utmost to change that.

4) Read more: Especially for fun rather than always reading for blogging, though I do have a lot of review books to catch up on as well.

5) Blog more: As above I do need to relax a little more and stop letting the stress get to me, but I do also need to be more organised. I love blogging but I have to remember it's a hobby. I can be less stringent while still actually getting more done because I'm enjoying myself more.

6) Write 2 novels: This is another big one because I'm so terrible for switching from one to another, but I have 2 I really love right now; A fantasy (Les Mis meets Hunger Games with cute rebels) and a Contemp-Romance set in the West End. I want to get first drafts done, minimum, by the end of the year.

My toe still hurts (Stupid me for walking into the couch in the first place!) but it's more stiff than sore so while it's a pain to walk on because I kind of hobble-wobble (New catchphrase!) I'll be okay. Pretty sure it's not broken. On the bright side I should definitely be able to get to London on Saturday because I'll admit I was panicking a little.

As for Les Mis on Saturday I cannot wait! I'm praying a few of my faves will be on as Principals and I'll get to see them at Stage Door again but we'll see. Either way it'll be great and I'm meeting my friend Kim again, so it should be a fab day one way or the other. I bloody love that show!

Speaking of Les Mis I've been a little obsessed with some old backstage videos posted by old cast members on Youtube. This week my favourite has been Carrie Hope Fletcher arriving in Dubai for the tour, because she's fab, but also because it features Ciaran Joyce from the current cast, who I adore. They've been good to watch when I was resting my toe on Sat as well, haha. I'm definitely going to look at getting her books.

As for books, the whole reason why we blog, my TBR this month looks something like this. It's not definite, because I'm still drafting my new year posts/challenges/etc and because I'm me and never stick to a TBR, but hey maybe 2018 will be different?

1) Zenith - Coming out next week I really want to get it read sooner rather than later. I have already started and it's awesome, but I need some motivation haha.

2) Everless - Also out in Jan I'm super excited to read this one. I'd hoped to read it, and Zenith, over Christmas but alas Jan will have to do.

3) Good Omens - A friends on Twitter recommended it and I love it so far!

4) Rebel of the Sands - Book one in the trilogy. Book three is coming out at the end of Jan and there's a launch in London that I'd quite like to go to as I was already planning another trip for sometime in Jan/Feb but I need to read 1 and 2 first!

I think that's it for now. Hope you're well.



Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones

Hey guys! It's time again for Waiting on Wednesday and today I've chosen the sequel to one of my favourite books of 2017 (See here) which is of course Shadowsong by S. Jae-Jones, the sequel to Wintersong. Slight spoilers for book one.

Six months after the end of Wintersong, Liesl is working toward furthering both her brother’s and her own musical careers. Although she is determined to look forward and not behind, life in the world above is not as easy as Liesl had hoped. Her younger brother Josef is cold, distant, and withdrawn, while Liesl can’t forget the austere young man she left beneath the earth, and the music he inspired in her. 

When troubling signs arise that the barrier between worlds is crumbling, Liesl must return to the Underground to unravel the mystery of life, death, and the Goblin King—who he was, who he is, and who he will be. What will it take to break the old laws once and for all? What is the true meaning of sacrifice when the fate of the world—or the ones Liesl loves—is in her hands?

I absolutely adored Wintersong and you can check out my full thoughts in my review here. One of the things I loved most was of course the characters. Liesl was a wonderful, strong, powerful heroine and I can't wait to see what challenges she faces in Shadowsong and how she overcomes them, but I also adored the Goblin King and I honestly can't wait to see what becomes of him and whether he actually gets his happy ending after breaking the rules to free Liesl and let her go back to our world, because he loves her. The ending was so heartbreaking and I really need to know that one of my favourite pairings has a happy conclusion! I also, as a musical theatre fan, loved some of the parallels with The Phantom of the Opera so, yeah, I love it and I need book 2 like now. I was lucky enough to get an ARC from the lovely publishers so I've had to wait even longer for Shadowsong and I just, I'm tired of waiting now. I need it. Please?

If you've read Wintersong, what are you looking forward to about Shadowsong? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Countdown to Christmas: Week Thirteen - Jólabókaflóð!

Hey guys! Tonight is Jólabókaflóð and in Iceland this means the annual Yule Book Flood, a tradition where Christmas Eve is reserved for giving, receiving and reading books all day long. How amazing! In honour I decided for my final Countdown to Christmas and December Blitz post to list which books I'm hoping to read over the Christmas period! I hope you enjoy it!

1) Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings.

2) Good Omens by Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman.

3) Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton.

4) Warcross by Marie Lu.

5) Songs About Us by Chris Russell.

6) Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (This one's a little ambitious).

7) Everless by Sara Holland.

Plus some of the books left on my Christmas TBR and any gained tomorrow morning!

I doubt I'll get through them all, but we'll see.

Which books are you looking forward to reading? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Saturday, 23 December 2017

December Blitz 23: Books I've Read Over Xmas!

Hi guys! It's the penultimate post for December Blitz and the big day is almost here! I might not have managed a separate post each day, but I've managed to cover each day none the less and that's something I'm pretty proud of. So today, as I've not quite managed another book review, I thought I'd showcase which books I've read this Christmas holiday, so far! I hope you enjoy!

1) Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens - Review here.

2) Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle - Review to come.

3) A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Luddecke - Review to come.

Which books have you read over Christmas? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf