Saturday, 24 December 2016

Jólabókaflóð!

Tonight is Christmas Eve and in Iceland this means an annual Christmas book flood!

Sadly I don't live in Iceland and no one is flooding my house with books right now, but I do have three books I've decided to read over the three days of Christmas (If I don't achieve any more that is!)

1) Frostblood by Elly Blake.

2) The Memory Book by Lara Avery.

3) Let it Snow by Green, Johnson and Myracle.

What are the books you're hoping to read over Christmas? Do let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Saturday, 10 December 2016

West End Review: The Phantom of the Opera

On November 7th I had the pleasure of watching one of my favourite musicals performed live at Her Majesty's Theatre, Haymarket, in London's West End. The Phantom of the Opera starred:


The Phantom: Ben Forster
Christine Daaé: Celinde Shoenmaker
Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny: Nadim Naaman
Carlotta Guidicelli: Lara Martins
Monsieur Firmin: Siôn Lloyd
Monsieur André: Philip Griffiths
Madame Giry: Jacinta Mulcahy
Meg Giry: Daisy Hulbert

In short it was an incredible show but - as always - there are some negatives to go with the positives. As a whole the entire cast was an amazing ensemble, but some did stand out above the rest.

Celinde Shoenmaker was a marvellous soprano and Christine, balancing the character's gentle nature with her deep fire. Her relationship with Daisy Hulbert's Meg was also enchanting; the latter portraying a wonderful part in her own right despite not being the leading actress.

Lara Martins had only just returned to the role of Carlotta, but it seemed as if she'd never been gone. Her stage presence and vocal range were phenomenal, brining a real life to the part.

Nadim Naaman was also phenomenal as Raoul. I'll be honest of never being a Raoul fan, even including Hadley Fraser's 25th Anniversary performance, but Naaman completely changed my view. His Raoul wasn't just confident and protective, but compassionate and powerful. He was a joy to watch.

Mulcahy's Giry was a fine portrayal but in my mind Madame Giry is meant to be a silent power, and this Giry didn't quite exude the control and fear over the ballet girls that I expected.

Forster's Phantom was sadly the most disappointing, though only in parts. I am a huge fan of Erik, and especially of his gentle, passionate ballads. Music of the Night is quite easily my favourite but it seemed Forster just didn't have the vocal range to pull off the ballad completely. Perhaps he was fighting a cold or other illness, I can't be sure, but his voice seemed to crack in places, and at times he was hard to hear. That said, his renditions of Point of No Return and Down Once More gave me chills.

It's quite obvious he's a wonderful singer and actor who can exude power like the flick of a switch, but I don't entirely feel like he has a master of the more gentle ballads that make the Phantom as sympathetic as he is. He has talent indeed - I myself was rooting for him during 'Superstar' - but the range of the Phantom seems just a little out of reach at this time. His portrayal meanwhile was interesting and unique, if not a little too twitchy for my liking.

The sets, costumes and special effects were of course wonderful, really bringing the audience into the story, especially during such ensemble pieces such as Masquerade, and such pivotal moments as the falling chandelier. The direction was exquisite, and it was surprising how many audience members elicited gasps over The Phantom's reveal behind the angel for his reprise of All I Ask of You. Every inch of the theatre was used to entice and entrance, and it was an absolute joy to witness. A solid 4 stars indeed.

Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed my review. Feel free to comment below or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Thursday, 1 December 2016

Updated: 2016/2017 Winter Reads Challenge

Well I originally set this as my Countdown to Christmas reading challenge, with my goal being 10 books. I quite completely failed that, succeeding in only 3 - none of which I managed to review *Sigh* As a result I've decided to change this to a Winter Reads Challenge so that I have up until the end of February to complete it. I still only have the 9 books - 3 read - so I'm setting my goal to an easy 5. This way I can read Fix You which is a review book I missed last year and need to catch up with, and can also finish Let It Snow, which I started. Any more will be a bonus. The list is still;

1 - How to Stuff Up Christmas: Rosie Blake - Thanks to Corvus. Review up soon.


2 - Fix You: Carrie Elks - Also thanks to Corvus.


3 - What Light: Jay Asher - Thanks to MacMillan, and I have already read, and loved, this book. Review up soon.


4 - 10 Days of Dash and Lily: Leviathan and Cohn. Review up soon.


5 - My True Love Gave to Me: Perkins (Editor).


6 - Let It Snow: Green/Johnson/Myracle


7 - Wish Upon a Star: Trisha Ashley.


8 - The Little Shop of Hopes and Dreams: Fiona Harper.


9 - Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop: Jenny Colgan.



Hopefully I'll succeed where I failed this time!

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

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Halloween Challenge: Results

Books Read: 3

I honestly thought I'd do better than this, but oh well, there's always next year!

Recap:

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: The only finished book from my original five challenge reads, but I adored it. I can't wait to finish the trilogy. Review up soon.


RoseBlood by A. G. Howard: Not on my original list, but a horror nonetheless. I loved this Phantom retelling and a review will be up as soon as the words coalesce from gibberish to english.


Phantom of the Opera by Gaston LeRoux: A classic I'd always been meaning to read, I finally took the chance this October. Review up soon!


In terms of my original challenge list, I also properly started Caraval, which I'm excited to continue this month.


Did you finish any great Halloween reads? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

I haven't done a Waiting on Wednesday in a while but, inspired by some lovely promotional book post from the publisher, I've decided to write one today for one of my anticipated 2017 releases.

A weekly feature created at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday features upcoming releases that bloggers are excited about.  You can find out more here.



Strange the Dreamer is the story of: 

the aftermath of a war between gods and men
a mysterious city stripped of its name
a mythic hero with blood on his hands
a young librarian with a singular dream
a girl every bit as perilous as she is imperiled
alchemy and blood candy, nightmares and godspawn, moths and monsters, friendship and treachery, love and carnage.

Welcome to Weep.




While I will admit that I've only read Daughter of Smoke and Bone at this point in time, I absolutely loved it. I will finish the trilogy one day, but for now I'm utterly excited to see what Strange the Dreamer has in store for us all.



Hodder sent out these wonderful blogger packs last week as the proofs were sent to print, and I thought I'd just highlight the lovely little teasers.

Postcard: Welcome to Weep, it states on the front. What does this mean and who is the girl the excerpt describes?

Blood Candy: Described as 'the elixir of life', what is its purpose in the story, and who uses it?

Spirit of Librarian: Whose spirit is trapped and for what purpose?

Moth Tattoo: Are the months symbolic, or do they have a larger role to play?

These are just some of the questions this blogger pack has conjoured regarding Strange the Dreamer, and I honestly can't wait to see what all the answers - and further questions! - are. Thanks Hodder!

Are you excited for Strange the Dreamer? Do you have your own Waiting on Wednesday post? Please feel free to let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Monday, 14 November 2016

Books On Tour - London

This past week I had the pleasure of taking a trip to London for three days; my own little creative break. While there I had some great bookish experiences which I thought to share with you all in the first Books On Tour post in quite a while.

Firstly, I took a wonderful trip to Foyles on Charring Cross Road for the first time ever, and it was utterly exquisite!

Foyles' Atrium at Charring Cross Road mega-store

They have a wonderful glass atrium spanning upwards in the centre of the the shop, surrounded by six floors of books (Including Lower Ground) and a cafe! The YA section itself is phenomenal, and I'm not ashamed to say that I came away with six books and two adorable knitted dinosaurs (One for Mel Salisbury who I was meeting later that day).

I treated myself to Hunter by Mercedes Lackey which sounded amazing, The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh which I'd heard loads about, and a signed copy of Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige because I'd loved it so much. I also got a copy of And a Happy New Year by Holly Bourne which was also signed, and two copies of Dash and Lily (12 Days of - also signed), one of which was for a friend. I'd been wanting both for quite a long while.

I was also pleased to finally see the Cursed Child theatre!

I then headed to Forbidden Planet on Shaftsbury Avenue where - among comics and geekery - they had even more signed books! I acquiesced to four more; two again for my friends in the forms of signed Revenger (Alastair Reynolds) and signed Goldenhand (Garth Nix). I also treated myself to Newt's Emerald (Garth Nix) and Angels of Music (Kim Newman); both also signed. I'd heard loads of good things about Newt's Emerald, and the lovely Alisha at realitysabore recommended 'Angels' to me, as I'm a huge Phantom fan.

In London less than five hours...

After that it was time for me to watch one of the West End's most iconic book adaptations in The Phantom of the Opera, starring Ben Forster and Celinde Schoenmaker. It was incredible and a full review will be posted soon, but best of all I got to meet up with the amazing Melinda Salisbury, who was - as always - incredibly sweet and lovely (Read: Devil spawn 😉)

Day 2 proved slightly less eventful due to illness, but I still - amongst other stores and another fabulous musical - made a trip to Trafalgar Square and the hidden away Waterstones there. Two more books were lovingly purchased; a copy of The Diabolic by S J Kincaid that I was surprised to find but  had honestly been pining for, and a self-confidence journal that I felt was sorely needed for my current mental wellbeing.

Waterstones - Trafalgar Square

Day 3 provided one final bookshop; this time Waterstones Piccadilly, which was utterly beautiful. Along with The Victoria Letters for my mum who had been recently watching the show, I also picked up a copy of The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima, as I'd been meaning to start the series ever since I'd read the wonderful Flamecaster.

So those were my bookish adventures in London. I do hope you enjoyed reading.

Please feel free to leave a comment below, or @ me on Twitter!

Holly


Sunday, 30 October 2016

Ten Favourite Fictional Friendships

As promised, here's the final post in my little top ten series; top ten favourite fictional friendships (Try saying that three times fast, haha!) I hope you enjoy!

1) Spencer Reid and Derek Morgan from Criminal Minds.

These two are the ultimate example of friendship. So close they're almost brothers (Morgan even calls Reid such) they are willing to do anything for each other, whatever the action or price.

2) James Carstairs and William Herondale from The Infernal Devices.

The best literary friendship I've yet to come across, I can't get enough of these two. Parabati, brothers, warriors, they are with each other until death.

3) Kell and Rhy Maresh from A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab.

Actual brothers (More than the above anyway) Kell and Rhy are as thick as thieves. Schwab portrays some beautiful scenes between these two and I honestly can't wait for the third instalment of their tale.

4) Nick and Tim from House of Windows by Alexia Casale.

One of the things I loved most about this book was the characters, especially Nick and Tim. Their relationship, their very character, urged the story along, giving every scene a very real feel. I loved every moment between them and am honestly sad that it's only a stand-alone.

5) Carson Beckett and Rodney McKay from Stargate: Atlantis.

These two. These two are so sweet and adorable both together and apart. They couldn't not make the list.

6) Harriet and Wilbur from Geek Girl by Holly Smale.

I honestly cannot get enough of these two. Maybe not a traditional friendship, they are still so sweet and lovely and Wilbur is always the one person Harriet can rely on. I would happily read a book just about them.

7) Kelly Severide and Leslie Shay from Chicago Fire.

Best friends until the end, Kelly and Shay go through their fair share of ups and downs, but they always make it through.

8) Derek Morgan and Penelope Garcia from Criminal Minds.

Like Morgan and Reid I love these two, but in a completely different way. Their fun flirting is delicious, but they would still do anything for each other, and every scene is heartening.

9) Bashir and O'Brien from Star Trek: DS9.

Another of my favourite sci-fi duos, I can't get enough of them.

10) Jane and Maura from Rizzoli and Isles.

Kick ass women who fight crime, put down bad guys, and are there for each other 100%? Completely perfect!

Do you have your own thoughts on my list? Do you have your own favourites? As always, let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Ten Favourite Fictional Pairings

As promised, and just a little late, here are my ten favourite fictional pairings. Sunday I will post my favourite friendships. I hope you enjoy.


1) Rumbelle, aka Belle and Rumple, from Once Upon a Time.

Tale as old as time...

Despite all of their troubles and shortfalls, I love this pairing so much.

2) Twylla and Merek, from The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury.

I know many people love Lief but I honestly can't forgive his actions. To me Merek's love is true.

3) Malec, aka Magnus and Alec from The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare.

I don't think I really need to explain this one, do I?

4) Jessa, aka Jem and Tessa from The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare.

Also no explanation needed, though I will note that I love Will, I just wholly prefer Jem.

5) Janto, aka Jack and Ianto from Torchwood.

I have loved this pairing ever since they appeared on my tv screen. Despite everything, I still believe Jack and Ianto deserve, and will get, their happy ending.

6) Erik and Christine, from The Phantom of the Opera.

I know that Erik is a murderous, tortured soul, but part of the reasoning behind that is that he has been denied any kindness in his life. I believe everyone deserves love, including Erik, and wholeheartedly adore Christine and her Angel.

7) Kell and Lila, from A Darker Shade of Magic by V E Schwab.

As soon as I was introduced to these characters I knew they were meant to be. I'm sorely hoping book three will solidify their relationship.

8) Sophie and Luca, from Vendetta by Catherine Doyle.

These two are perfect. End of story.

9) Kaz and Inej, from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

He nurtures her darker side, and she his lighter. They are yin and yang. Two halves of one whole.

10) Meira and Theron, from Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch.

I doubt my ship will sail, but nonetheless I would love this pairing to get the ending they deserve.


So those are my favourite pairings. Do you share some? What are your own? Do let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Ten Favourite Fictional Characters

As much as I love stories, it's always the characters who drive them that interest me the most. So I thought I would make three lists of my ten favourite characters, pairings and friendships. Today I start with my favourite fictional characters and the other two posts will go up Tuesday and Thursday. I do hope you like them.

1) Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds.

Cute, caring and provably a genius, who couldn't love Spencer? I've been emotionally invested in his character for years and despite the changes the show has gone through, I have and always will stick by him.

2) James 'Jem' Carstairs from The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare.

I think one of the main reasons why I love The Infernal Devices series so much is because of Jem's character and his relationships with both Tessa and Will. Despite everything he has and does go through he is always the most selfless, thoughtful character throughout all three books.

3) Nick from House of Windows by Alexia Casale.

Though Nick does differ from Spencer in many ways they are also in some ways the same, and I think that's part of the reason why I love him. Adorable, socially inept and yet caring beyond all measure, Nick was a character I couldn't not love as I was reading the book. Every instance, every emotion, in his journey was so real and deep that his character quite literally sprung up from the pages.

4) Rumplestiltskin/Mr. Gold from Once Upon a Time.

I think Rumple is both a character I love and also love to hate. Some of his decisions are quite obviously selfish and self-serving and yet he so genuinely believes he's doing the right thing, so many times, for the people he loves, that it's so hard to truly hate him. There have been many instances where his scenes have broken my heart and I truly hope he gets the happy ending he deserves.

5) Prince Merek from The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury.

Have I mentioned lately how much I love Merek? I think the main attraction in his character is that no matter how much he loves Twylla, he sticks by her through her decisions. He doesn't treat her as a possession or as any less than the strong independent woman she is. He is caring and thoughtful no matter the situation, a great leader, and it is my dearest wish that he gets his happy ending *Narrows eyes at Melinda*

6) Prince Theron from Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch.

Like Merek I adore Theron for so many reasons. He too is a caring, thoughtful man and a noble royal with good intentions. Though I haven't yet worked up the courage to start Frost Like Night, I really do hope Theron gets his happy ending too.

7) Erik from The Phantom of the Opera.

Anyone for a musical genius and anti-hero? Despite everything that happens in his story, whatever incarnation, and the darkness that resides within his tortured soul, I can't help but love Erik, like so many people I'm sure. I recently watched Love Never Dies and it really has just made me love him even more. I honestly can't wait to see Phantom live for the second time this November!

8) Dr. Carson Beckett from Stargate: Atlantis.

A completely selfless hero, I fell in love with Beckett in the first episode of Atlantis. Adorably cute, a gorgeous Scottish accent to match, and a wonderful friendship with Rodney, he's been a favourite of mine for a long while, and I was lucky enough to meet the actor - Paul McGillion - this past April.

9) Dr. Julian Bashir from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Maybe I have an automatic love for Sci-Fi doctors, I don't know, but Julian is another of my longtime favourite characters. A doctor, a genius (I'm sensing a recurring theme...) and undeniably sweet, I honestly think he had some of the best storylines and episodes in DS9 and I was hooked to every single one.

10) Kaz Brekker from Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

I know I'm not alone in professing my love for Kaz. His character is so well built and excecuted that it's hard not to love him despite his flaws. Unique and passionate (behind the chilling facade of course) he's a fabulous character to follow, just as the rest of his crew. I'm eager to finally start Crooked Kingdom sometime soon.

So those are my top ten fictional characters. Do you have any comments or would like to share your favourites? Do let me know in the comments below or on Twitter, and look out for my Ten Favourite Fictional Pairings on Tuesday!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Sunday, 16 October 2016

10 Reasons To Read RoseBlood By A G Howard

I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this gorgeous book in the post last week and I'm happy to say that I've already sped through it and found it to be incredible. It's quite easily going to be one of my favourite reads of 2016, and so while I compose my thoughts for a detailed ARC review, I thought I'd post my 10 reasons to read this gorgeous retelling of Gaston LeRoux's tale.


NB: I'm going to talk about Phantom as a concept, so this incorporates the book, musical and movie. If you're a fan of any, you're sure to love RoseBlood.

1) It's based on Phantom, and exudes every feeling you'd want from such a book; the atmosphere and very core of the concept.

2) It's original, at the same time. If you're expecting simply the concept written for/with teens, be happily mistaken. It's so much more.

3) It builds on the concept, despite its originality. In all rights it is both a sequel and a stand-alone. Howard's detail and research is incredible.

4) The atmosphere is electric, from the streets of Paris to the bowels of the Théâtre Liminaire.

5) The characters are real; believable, flawed, empathetic, loveable. Each one, principle or supporting, is unique.

6) Thorn, a sweet, broken boy you'll immediately fall in love with. Easily a new book boyfriend.

7) Rune, gentle, strong, and unbelievably loyal. A powerful YA heroine and a favourite for sure!

8) Devilish Diable isn't the cutest cat but he's certainly the smartest. With his unique friend Ange, they certainly bring an adorable element to the tale. Animal lovers watch out!

9) Tremulous twists that will leave you reeling and gasping for pause.

10) An emotional roller coaster that will have you wishing it really wasn't a stand-alone.

Not to mention the beautiful writing!

Are you excited for RoseBlood's release in January 2017? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Review: The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen by Katherine Howe.

With thanks to Rock the Boat, please enjoy my review of Annie Van Sinderen.

It’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose-petal lips and her entrancing glow. There’s just something about her that he can’t put his finger on, something faraway and otherworldly that compels him to fall even deeper. Annie’s from the city, and yet she seems just as out of place as Wes feels. Lost in the chaos of the busy city streets, she’s been searching for something—a missing ring. And now Annie is running out of time and needs Wes’s help. As they search together, Annie and Wes uncover secrets lurking around every corner, secrets that will reveal the truth of Annie’s dark past. 
'Annie Van' was an unusual book for me in the fact that I've honestly never read anything like it. It was a completely new experience, but one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

The book tells the story of two characters from different periods of time.

Wes, a modern film-maker at NYU Summer School.

Annie, a businessman's daughter from circa 1825.

They unexpectedly meet, in the most peculiar of ways, and what follows is an adventure through time to right wrongs and put unfinished business to rest; a love story for the ages.

I guess I would classify it as a time travel ghost story, hence its unusual nature. Switching back and forth from two different time periods, it essentially tells two different stories, both of which were highly intriguing. The characters were all loveable, in their own way, and I especially loved Annie and Maddie, who very much mirrored each other, but who were also strong, independent women.

The only points that I would say slightly detracted from the story were;

1: Pace. Meandering in points, it did take me a while to finish.

2: Time travel aspects. Although the mix of it with the supernatural genre was interesting, the back and forth of the timelines was sometimes confusing and hard to follow. Moreover, the physics - the how - of the book was a little sketchy in places, such as why only certain people could see and interact with Annie, and yet why, at times, she was a corporeal, tangible being.

All in all however it was a highly enjoyable narrative and I give it a well deserved four stars.


Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think in the comments below, or on Twitter!


Sunday, 2 October 2016

Review: The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury.


Okay, so I know I'm super late in posting this, and I heartily apologise, but I'm here now! Yay!
With thanks to Scholastic, onto The Sleeping Prince!

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin's life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won't reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.
 


Three main points to start;

1: Melinda Salisbury is evil.
2: The Sleeping Prince is amazing.
3: I need The Scarecrow Queen now.

I don't think I need to say much more to be honest - I'd quite happily leave it there - but as this is a review and not simply me fangirling, I will.

The Sleeping Prince is a book that gripped me from the start, and then promptly made me want to throw it against the wall (If you've read it... *Cough* Prologue *Cough*). When this happens, you know you've got a good book in your hands.

The sequel to The Sin Eater's Daughter, we're introduced to a new character, Errin. She's Lief's sister, and a remarkable heroine. Against all odds she - accompanied by her mysterious 'friend' Silas - travels across Tregellan in search of the one person she believes can help find her lost brother. But all is not as it seems. 

Secrets are revealed.

Bonds are tested.

Promises lie in tatters.

Filled with so many twists and turns, this book is an absolute masterpiece. Exciting, fantastical, heartbreaking and harrowing, it is everything that I wanted for the sequel to The Sin Eater's Daughter, and more. Errin was an amazing character to follow. I'll be honest, I was wary at first, wanting more Twylla and desperate to know what happened to her and Merek, but I simply adore Errin and did so within a few pages. She's got more immediate courage and heart than Twylla did; she's already lost everything and refuses to lose anymore. She is the epitome of a strong woman, and I loved every minute of her journey. I was of course still happy to see all our favourite characters from the first book, but I am now quite honestly eager to finish Errin's story too.

Melinda quite firmly remains one of my favourite authors, and I am simply trembling in anticipation for The Scarecrow Queen. March cannot come soon enough.

I think all that's left to say is; Well done, Mel. *Claps* Well done. The Sleeping Prince receives a most deserved five stars.


What are your thoughts on The Sleeping Prince? What do you hope for in The Scarecrow Queen? Do let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!



Saturday, 1 October 2016

Five Spooky Reads!

Happy October 1st everyone!

In an effort to purge a little more of my enormous TBR, I thought I'd do a five book challenge (alongside my 2016 one) for Halloween.

Below are my top 5 spook-tastic books (Or just generally those I feel are more on the horror side) that I want to read this month, by October 31st. Five's maybe a little easy for a whole month, but I actually don't own many books I would consider 'horror' or even a touch scary. As always, if you have any recommendations, do let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

1) Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.



I've been meaning to read this series for so long that now, with me having all three books and the film out this month, is the perfect time I believe! A lovely Waterstones bookseller told me I'd love them, and I honestly can't wait to prove her right.

2) A Monster Calls.



Again this is one I've been meaning to read for so long, so it of course has to be on the list. I was attempting to read it before meeting Patrick last year, but I unfortunately didn't get very far. Fingers crossed that October is my month.

3) Way Down Dark.



Anyone who knows me knows I love Hodder books and WDD has been keening at me for far too long. Poor book-y. With book three out very soon I really need to get on the band-wagon (so to speak) with this series and catch up!

4) Sweet Evil.



I am really excited to delve into Wendy Higgins' dark novel, and October feels like the perfect month for it. I've had it for quite a while now and have been very keen to start, but something else - whether another book or simply life - has always seemed to get in the way.

5) Caraval.




The only ARC in this challenge, Caraval is a future release I am so very excited for and I can't wait to finally crack the spine (not literally!) on this sprayed edge beauty! I have actually read the first few chapters and I'm honestly loving it so far; I'm certain the rest will be even better.


So those are my spooktastic reads for October! What are your thoughts? Are there any more I should be reading? Do you have your own October TBR? As always, feel free to let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!


Sunday, 21 August 2016

DNF: The Dark Days Club, and my feelings on DNF'ing

Okay so, I know The Dark Days Club was released in January, I know I received an ARC of it, and I know a review should be up by now. Except, I didn't finish it. I couldn't finish it, and I was too scared to say so.

Maybe there's a stigma to not finishing a book, especially one you've requested, I'm not sure, but I definitely felt bad for not finishing a book I requested. I felt so bad I had to keep putting it off, saying 'oh, I might try to carry on next week', until now when I've finally had the guts to say;

It didn't work for me.

I was really intrigued by this book, by both the blurb, the idea, and the fact that I loved the author's previous book, Eon. But the fact is, although these things drew me to requesting the book, these are the same things that would have made me buy it in the bookstore. If I'd have bought it in the bookstore however, and hadn't been able to finish it, I wouldn't have felt bad.

So why do I feel bad about review books?

Because, simply, they're for promotion, and I can't promote a book I didn't finish. But it's a known, obvious fact that we - as one person - cannot like every book we pick up. That's impossible. The fact that I didn't enjoy this book, that the pace annoyed me and I just didn't feel that pull to continue and find out what happened next, doesn't come from it being a review book, and I have to start remembering that.

Whether I will like a review book is speculative, just as with any book. I can't force myself to like it just because I've requested it, just as with any book. Requesting a book and enjoying it are two separate things. I will always hope that I will enjoy a review book, because I requested it because I was looking forward to it, because I wanted to read it, but if I don't then that's simply unfortunate. It's not something I should feel bad about.

So, although I was very excited to read The Dark Days Club in the beginning, I have to say - once and for all - that it wasn't the book for me. I do thank Walker for the beautiful ARC, and maybe I will give it a second chance down the line, but for now I have to say goodbye, and just as with anything in life, I can't feel bad for doing what's right for me.

Another day, another book.

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Positivity!

I'm not great sometimes for being positive. Sometimes I let myself get so weighed down by stuff. But I'm trying to change that, and in order to start I'm thinking of the top five positive things in my life right now.

I'm calling it #ThePositivityTag

Please do feel free to post your own and share it around; sometimes the world needs more positivity.

1) My Family.

I have an amazing family, both by blood and choice, including two amazing best friends and my fabulous boyfriend, and I really am thankful for every one of them. I wouldn't be who I am today without them.

2) My Goals.

Although my goals are sometimes the source of my stress, the fact that I have them - that I'm reaching for something - is also a source of joy and positivity. I know where I want to go and I'm determined to get there.

3) Disneyland Paris.

Holiday booked for myself and my boyfriend and I couldn't be happier. Disney is a constant source of joy in my life and I'm more than happy to be going back.

4) Arwen - The Super Hamster.

Whenever I feel anything other than happy, my little ball of fluff is always there to give me a cuddle. I'm so glad to have her in my life, even if she keeps me awake sometimes with her bar gnawing.

5) Books.

Maybe a little generic, but books really are a good source of positivity. Being whisked away to another world, if only for an hour, really does wonders for the heart, mind and soul.

What are your own positives? Feel free to write your own post using the hashtag, post in the comments below, or let me know on Twitter.

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

WoW: A Collection of Anticipated Reads

Okay. So I know I've been pretty bad at posting my WoW's, but to be fair I've had work and been on holiday, so maybe I get a pass? Either way, I've decided this week to post about my top 5 anticipated reads, to make up for the last few weeks. Sound fair? Good.

1) Roseblood - A G Howard

If you know me, you know I love retellings, and Phantom is one of my favourite musicals. So yes, I am very excited for January to roll around.

2) Frost Like Night - Sara Raasch

One of my utmost favourite series' and I really need to know how it ends! Shipping Meira and Theron all the way!

3) 12 Days of Dash and Lily - Levithan/Cohn

My friend introduced me to Dash and Lily and I've never looked back since. I totally need to have this next instalment in my life. Many hearts for it already.

4) The Scarecrow Queen - Melinda Salisbury

You know of my love for this series. I've been pretty obvious about it. After the cover reveal at YALC and meeting Mel for the second time, I'm desperate to know how it ends. Please let Merek be happy...

5) The Battlemage - Taran Matharu

Again, another one of my favourite series' where I really do need to know what happens next! Taran's cliffhangers are simply just too awesome.

So those are my five most anticipated reads! What are yours? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Saturday, 6 August 2016

When A Book Stays With You (Long After It's Finished)

Have you ever read that book that you can't stop thinking about? Weeks pass, months even, but it's still stuck in your head? Those feelings are still bubbling just beneath the surface and you wish more than anything that you could go back and read it for the first time again?

Alexia Casale's House of Windows was that for me.

If you've read my review you'll know how much I related to the main character, Nick. His experiences in education were much like mine, and maybe that's part of the reason the story has stuck with me so much.

But it's not the whole reason.

I think the real reason is because it's so true, and I'm not talking about the fact that it lacked dragons and mythical beings (though Gosswin was something...). Though House of Windows is a contemporary tale, what makes it feel so true is Casale's writing. It's so raw and powerful that you can't not feel for Nick's plight. It's impossible not to be drawn into the world of Cambridge that Casale has painted, to feel so utterly drawn into the tale that it's almost like you're living it yourself. From beginning to end it is completely evocative of real life.

That is why House of Windows has stuck with me and, I'm sure, will continue to stick with me for a long time yet. If you haven't read it, I urge you to do so now.

Thanks for reading. Have any stories stuck with you for a long period? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Monday, 1 August 2016

Blog Tour: Review of Things We Know By Heart by Jessi Kirby.

I received a gorgeous copy of this wonderful book from the lovely Harper360, and have the pleasure of being the first stop on the equally wonderful blog tour! This however in no way affects my opinion or rating.

When Quinn Sullivan meets the recipient of her boyfriend’s donated heart, the two form an unexpected connection.
After Quinn loses her boyfriend, Trent, in an accident their junior year, she reaches out to the recipients of his donated organs in hopes of picking up the pieces of her now-unrecognizable life. She hears back from some of them, but the person who received Trent’s heart has remained silent. The essence of a person, she has always believed, is in the heart. If she finds Trent’s, then maybe she can have peace once and for all. 
Risking everything in order to finally lay her memories to rest, Quinn goes outside the system to track down nineteen-year-old Colton Thomas—a guy whose life has been forever changed by this priceless gift. But what starts as an accidental run-in quickly develops into more, sparking an undeniable attraction. She doesn't want to give in to it—especially since he has no idea how they're connected—but their time together has made Quinn feel alive again. No matter how hard she’s falling for Colton, each beat of his heart reminds her of all she’s lost…and all that remains at stake.



If I was asked to describe this book in three words, it would be this;

Beautiful, elegant, passionate.

Beautiful prose.

Elegantly crafted story.

Passionate characters and even more so the author.

This book was everything I wanted, expected, it to be and more. I readily anticipated a book about love and heartbreak, grief and betrayal, woven in with more secrets than you can count on one hand. What I didn't expect was a book that presented so many poignant points about how fragile - precious - life is but that at the same time so many of us are afraid to live it. A book that not only reminded me what it means to live - to be truly alive - but that made me also realise that no matter the situation or the fear, standing still is never an option. We live to love, and we should love to live.

Thought provoking matter aside though, Things We Know By Heart was also an amazing read. I truly felt for both Quinn and Colton, for both their motivations and their downfalls. They were, are, truly complex characters and they were a joy to read about. Thoughtful, kind hearted Colton - determined to use his second chance for all its worth - was a great 'yin' to broken but passionate Quinn's 'yang'. Their chemistry was simply amazing, and while we didn't get to see much of Quinn's relationship with Trent, it's no wonder why these two fall for each other. There were so many moments where I was truly swooning where I sat. The supporting characters were also wonderful, not just plot devices to push our two main characters forward but truly unique, real people who brought so much more to an already amazing story. It was like watching reality tv in a sense; two 'real' families thrown together by heartbreak and tragedy. Both Quinn and Colton's sisters were especially fabulous.

I really just loved how the author weaved tragedy with light humour, romance with drama. In some scenes one simple flip of the page had the whole scene or story turn on its head, the atmosphere changing like a swiftly moving storm cloud. 

In one simple word, this book was;

Perfect.

In every way.

Things We Know By Heart has not only left me wanting more, but thinking about how I live my life and what I could do better; what I could take more chances on. It's very easily one of my all time favourite contemporaries and perhaps one of my favourite books of 2016. I give it a well deserved 5* and recommend this magical, inspiring, yet heartbreaking read to everyone. It certainly holds some truths we all should know.

Thanks for reading!

Holly


Sunday, 31 July 2016

Spotlight Sunday: Books on Tour - YALC

On Friday I had the chance to attend the UK's only Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) for the second year running. Though I was only there for just the day, I thought I'd use this Sunday to recap my adventures in books.

Though I only arrived late due to coming from up north and a long train journey, I headed straight to the Books with Bite stand to sign up to their newsletter and get some awesome swag and a tote. I managed to get myself a Crooked Kingdom sampler (Currently reading 6oC), 6oC signed bookplate, and Summoner Books badges. I also got some more fabulous swag from the freebies table, including a Roseblood poster!

I then headed to the Atom stand for a signed copy of On the Other Side for a friend, and then to Waterstones for another copy of The Inquisition (for another friend), plus Half Wild and Unboxed for myself. After that it was time for the signing session for Melinda Salisbury, Taran Matharu and Sally Green.

Heading to Taran's queue first to make sure I got my friend's copy signed, we had a wonderful chat about the Summoner series, and he even remembered me from last year. Very happy start! I chatted to Sally about living around the same area as her and she even mentioned that the train Nathan would have taken to the council would have been the same one I took that morning. Super awesome. Then I joined Melinda's still snaking (Slytherin joke!) queue but it was totally worth it because once again she was so amazingly lovely! She gave me and devilish look when I said Merek needs a happy ending (Sad face) and then hugged me when I gave her a Slytherin pin I'd bought for her. Queen Salisbury of Slytherin!

I pretty much meandered around for the rest of the afternoon, spotting Chelley Toy and Stevie Finegan but being too shy to say anything, and gathering swag and books from all the different and amazing publisher stalls. I even managed to get a proof of Stealing Snow from the wonderful Bloomsbury team!

I also met the lovely Holly Smale again, who also remembered me from last year. We had a lovely chat about Geek Girl, specifically Wilbur and Jasper who I just adore. GG is one of my all time favourite series' so it was wonderful to meet Holly again.

After some more meandering and book buying I noticed a gathering of people around the signing area about 20 minutes or so before Victoria Schwab's signing. Alarm bells ringing I decided it was probably a good idea to join the just formed queue and get ahead of the game so to speak. Victoria was clearly going to be an extremely busy signing, and I'm so glad I did, it was mad!

Meeting Victoria was like a dream come true, and she was super lovely. We talked about her books and I told her how much I love Kell and Rhy. She even showed me some awesome fan art someone gave her and called Kell her baby. She seemed a little bit in awe of how many people were waiting for her and so I even told her I pretty much came because she was there; I'd been unsure beforehand because going for one day is so exhausting. It's certainly a moment I'll not forget!

After Victoria's signing I was done for the day. There were other things I would have liked to stay for but I knew I should look after myself first. That's con rule no1. Despite a slight panic back at Euston (Too many people!) I got the train back home and had experienced such a wonderful day.

I'll definitely be going again next year, and fingers crossed it'll be for the whole 3 days! For anyone who hasn't yet been, I really do urge you to. It's amazing!

Thanks for reading!

Holly

Monday, 25 July 2016

Tip Top Tips: YALC

YALC is this week! While I'm sure most of us, myself included, are still not wholly prepared, I thought I'd share my tips from attending last year for the first time (alone!) in the hopes it might help with some of the immense preparation for all.

1) Don't rush.

We all want to do everything. All the time. But sometimes you've got to take in the atmosphere too and make some memories. So don't rush. Take it all in. Enjoy. Remember. You'll thank yourself later.

One of my personal highlights that I remember vividly is Sarah Rees Brennan asking me my favourite TMI characters. Without thinking I said 'Jem' then, realising he wasn't really in TMI (technically not a MC), averted to 'and Magnus'. Somehow Sarah thought I meant as a couple, and the sidelong glance from Cassie had me in stitches once I was home. So yes, take it all in folks. YALC is one of a kind, as are the authors who attend.

2) Sustenance

The key to any convention. Do not underestimate queue length, both signings and the food itself. Be prepared.

3) Comfortable shoes

Another big one. Don't underestimate how important healthy, comfortable feet are. You'll be on them most of the day!

4) Give it a go!

Don't be afraid to let loose and try everything on offer! Being alone and anxious I was too scared to try much and I do regret it.

5) Polite, not pushover

I say this more from experience. Conventions are filled with people all with their own wants and fun packed agendas. Polite society and etiquette still applies of course (we are British) but don't be a pushover. I.E;

There was a competition for an ARC of House of Shattered Wings. Go to the Gollancz stand and shout 'wings' once they've tweeted to do so. I saw the tweet within seconds of posting and by the time I got there, the proof was still up for grabs. But people were in front of me looking at the books so I politely waited for a gap. As I did, someone sidled alongside me, shouted, and that was it.

So yeah, be polite, never rude, but don't be a pushover. Not when it comes to competitions anyway *wink face*

6) Bring a friend

What helps with both anxiety and not being a pushover is if you have a friend. If there's someone you can attend with, go with the phrase 'the more the merrier'. It helps.

7) Books, books, books

Bear in mind how much you take with you and how much you buy. You'll have to carry it all home in the end!

8) Take it easy

Just as with not rushing, take it easy. I ended up having a panic attack last year because I did too much, didn't eat right, bought too much, was alone, and was tired, hence the tips here. It's not something I intend to repeat or want anyone else to feel, so don't underestimate breaks and taking care of yourself.

9) Be careful where you roam

Part of what triggered my anxiety was heading down to the LFCC floor which was mad busy and packed to the rafters. So have fun, but be careful where you go and when.

10) 3 is better than 1

What's better than breaks and meticulous planning, trying to find the line between fun and keeping happy? More time of course. If you can attend all three days, it should improve pressure and anxiety because you simply have more time and less rushing.

11) Cash, not dash

The convention operates mainly on cash, so make sure you have plenty. You don't want to spend part of your day dashing to cash machines. It wastes time and could lead to potential purchases being taken by someone else.

12) Ears and eyes open

Announcements such as changes to signing times, panels and signing queues are usually by Twitter, so keep an eye out, or an ear for stewards. It certainly helps keep track and makes sure you don't miss anything.

So those are my tips for YALC! I really hope you've found at least a few of them useful.

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Sunday, 24 July 2016

ARC Review: Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith.

I received a proof of this wonderful book from the lovely Georgia Lawe and Curious Fox Books. This in no way affects my opinions or rating.

It is Clara who is desperate to enter the labyrinth and it is Clara who is bright, strong, and fearless enough to take on any challenge. It is no surprise when she is chosen. But so is the girl who has always lived in her shadow. Together they enter. Within minutes, they are torn apart forever. Now the girl who has never left the city walls must fight to survive in a living nightmare, where one false turn with who to trust means a certain dead end.
Information about the Book
Title: Children of Icarus
Authors: Caighlan Smith
Release Date: July 2016
Genre: Dystopian
Publisher: Curious Fox Books
Format: Paperback 

This story has been compared to the Maze Runner and maybe there are some similarities but I think Children of Icarus more than holds its own against the competition, a truly unique book in its own rights. The story follows an unnamed protagonist, a meek teen who has no desire to be chosen as Icarii, one of the special children who enter the unknowns of the labyrinth in search of eternal life. That's Clara. Her best friend.

But when Clara prays for both of them to be chosen, her life becomes a nightmare.

I think what I loved most about Children of Icarus was the protagonist's journey. She not only learns to stand up for herself, she grows as a person, and it was a joy to witness. I was cheering for her the entire way through.

What I also loved was the setting. Smith didn't just create a fearsome labyrinth within which these teens have to survive, she steeped it in mythology, adding reason to every action, monster and twist. Despite the fantastical, the story seemed as real and believable as you or I. It was therefore not just a setting I became sucked into, one that conjured images of fear and bloodshed, but a setting that I learnt from and that fostered a yearning to know more about the mythology it was steeped in.

The supporting characters really helped to make the book also. No one was purely hero or villain, they all had their own reasons and motivations, even if some were selfish or not quite clear in this first of a series, and that made them all intriguing to follow, trying to guess their next move. They truly made a story where it was difficult to discern what was going to happen next, and who might survive, while the fact that our protagonist had no name pulled me even further into the story; as if I were fighting to survive instead.

All in all, Children of Icarus is a wonderful book. I recommend it to any fans of YA dystopia and award it a well deserved five stars!

Thanks for reading!

Holly.


Thursday, 16 June 2016

ARC Review: Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima.


I am a fantasy lover through and through but wow did this book blow me away! Huge thanks to Alice at Harper/Harper360 for my ARC; this however in no way affects my opinion or rating.


A burning vengeance. Adrian sul’Han, known as Ash, is a trained healer with a powerful gift of magic—and a thirst for revenge. The son of the queen of the Fells, Ash is forced into hiding after a series of murders throws the queendom into chaos. Now Ash is closer than he’s ever been to killing the man responsible, the cruel king of Arden. As a healer, can Ash use his powers not to save a life but to take it? A blood-based curse. Abandoned at birth, Jenna Bandelow was told the mysterious magemark on the back of her neck would make her a target. But when the King’s Guard launches a relentless search for a girl with a mark like hers, Jenna assumes that it has more to do with her role as a saboteur than any birth-based curse. Though Jenna doesn’t know why she’s being hunted, she knows that she can’t get caught. Destiny’s fiery hand. Eventually, Ash’s and Jenna’s paths will collide in Arden. Thrown together by chance and joined by their hatred of the king, they will come to rescue each other in ways they cannot yet imagine.


Flamecaster contains everything I ever wanted in a YA fantasy. This is a riveting, action packed story set in a beautiful, evocative world and filled to the brim with smart, strong and engaging characters. Racing through it in four days, I really struggled to tear my hands from the pages; it was that good.

Although I own The Warrior Heir, Chima was a brand new author to me. It was the plot that drew me to request this book but it was Chima's writing - the style, pace and rotating POV's - and her ability to weave multiple character and story arcs so effortlessly that has me coming back for more. Simply put, Flamecaster was not only enjoyable to read, but beautiful. The twists and turns - the ending especially - left me breathless, and anxiously awaiting the sequel, but it was the characters that truly kept me glued to the pages.

I personally think that a good character is not just entertaining and intriguing, but relatable. I find it very hard to empathise and engage with a character if I can't relate to them, and so - being family orientated myself - one of my favourite aspects is family driven characters. From Kell and Errin to Clary and Darrow, family themes and motivations are at the heart of many of my favourite books. Flamecaster - its characters driven by such themes - now joins those ranks.

Jenna was by far my favourite. Driven by her love for her friends and father yet haunted by her origins, she was the perfect combination; both relatable yet fantastical. I found myself cheering for her success from the start, and her romance with Ash was perfect; equal parts sweet and sassy.

Ash too was fabulous and has definitely been added to the list of book boyfriends. Kind hearted but with a simmering darkness, and a royal Prince with an affinity for animals, I was swooning from the get go.

Last but not least, street smart Lila had my head spinning, opinions about her constantly shifting. The perfect finale in our triquetra  of heroes, I'm eager to hopefully learn a lot more about her in future books; fingers crossed.

Simply put, Flamecaster was perfect. Just when I thought I had everything figured out Chima threw in one last curveball.

I cannot fault it one ounce.

If you're a fan of fantasy, especially Tolkien, Raasch and Maas, do yourself a favour and go buy this book. If you somehow regret doing so after reading, I'll (metaphorically) eat my shelves!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Review: Timebomb by Scott K Andrews.

'Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey... stuff.'

Do you feel like reading a book that bends your mind but has you craving for more? Then look no further; Timebomb has quantum physics, shattered time streams and futuristic gizmos in spades. Thanks to Hodder for the review copy; I adored this book from the get go, and its sequel whose review will be up in a few days.


New York City, 2141: Yojana Patel throws herself off a skyscraper, but never hits the ground. Cornwall, 1640: gentle young Dora Predennick, newly come to Sweetclover Hall to work, discovers a badly-burnt woman at the bottom of a flight of stairs. When she reaches out to comfort the dying woman, she's knocked unconscious, only to wake, centuries later, in empty laboratory room. On a rainy night in present-day Cornwall, seventeen-year-old Kaz Cecka sneaks into the long-abandoned Sweetclover Hall, determined to secure a dry place to sleep. Instead he finds a frightened housemaid who believes Charles I is king and an angry girl who claims to come from the future. Thrust into the centre of an adventure that spans millennia, Dora, Kaz and Jana must learn to harness powers they barely understand to escape not only villainous Lord Sweetclover but the forces of a fanatical army... all the while staying one step ahead of a mysterious woman known only as Quil.


Time bomb follows a period in the lives of Kaz, Yana and Dora; three teens from different time periods whose lives have inexplicably crossed. At first they are unsure why or how their worlds have collided, but as soon as they start to uncover the secrets behind their time travel, they realise the reasons may be far more complicated than they originally anticipated. This is definitely a book for fans of Dr Who - one where you have to think to follow the story, whilst not being so overly complicated as to detract from the enjoyment.

What I loved most however, as always, was the characters. Loyal Kaz, strong Jana, determined Dora, and mysterious Quil were the heart of the story; each with their own darker side and shadowed past. Their interactions with each other were consistently fascinating, their personal motivations and histories riveting.

Jana especially was enchanting - a fireball of wit and courage - but what I loved the most was how at times she reverted back to simply being a teen. Yes she's the unelected leader of their little group, but deep down she's just a regular teen; awestruck by their adventures, by the sights and sounds, and excited simply by the prospect of being free. Throughout reading she felt constantly real, grounding the story for all its sci-fi elements in a palpable, tangible world. She was by far my favourite of the four, with Quil a close second.

No good book would be perfect without a cliffhanger though, and Timebomb was no exception. I was just glad I already had the sequel with me!

Overall I give Timebomb a well deserved five stars! Second Lives, the sequel, was recently released on 19th May 2016, and my review will be up shortly; I hope you stay tuned for it.

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf