Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Book Review - The Scarecrow Queen

I DID IT!!! I READ THE ENTIRE TRILOGY IN A SPACE OF THREE MONTHS!!! Bit late to the party but I DONE IT!!! (and to that fan who tweeted Melinda that she read the whole trilogy is less than 16 days, shame of you. Melinda kept giving me tweets to say "er... LOOK!")

In this, the third and final book in the trilogy, the Sleeping Prince has taken control of Lormere and with Twylla in hiding and Errin in his clutches, time is running out to them and their band of rebels to stop him taking full control.

But Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne and to keep it forever.

Anymore than that and I might spoil a lot of details within the previous two books in the trilogy, The Sin Eater's Daughter and The Sleeping Prince. But it's gonna hit the fan, so brace yourselves...

This is the strongest and my favourite book in the trilogy. Things are put into place and the pay-off worked excellently, characters have grown from when we first met them and we have a climax which left me breathless.

This is how a final book in a trilogy in a dark fantasy trilogy should be: dramatic, badass, tender, creepy as heck (I couldn't stop thinking about the prologue for days after I read it, and those interlude chapters were just ), breath-taking as you want to sped through to the end yet want to savour the writing at the same time. It's been so long since I read a faultless finale, and this ticked every box!

Shame it's taken me so long to discover this trilogy (blame the hype fear and the wrath of nearly EVERY BLOGGER/VLOGGER WHO SCREAMED AT ME TO READ THIS TRILOGY [and Melinda who threatened to send a Dementor at me - I swear she's Voldermort's secret daughter!]) but Mel has a new fan and I await her next book, Floored (which she is co-writing with Sara Barnard, Holy Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood) and her just-announced trilogy with baited breath!

EDIT: Just when you thought I can't mess up the author's name further (have you guys not see me say Mel's surname wrong. I called her a supermarket chain!!!), I then type up her first name wrong! AND IT'S THE AUTHOR WHO TELLS ME ABOUT IT!

MEL, I AM SO SORRY!!! Thanks for pointing it out to me and being very kind and laughing at it (better than my reaction which involved swear words and me blaming auto-correct and a podcast I have recently discovered called My Dad Wrote A Porno [don't ask. Will blog about this in future once all catch up - not sure if that's a good thing or not]). SORRY! 

Monday, 20 March 2017

The Scarecrow Queen Launch Party

Last Wednesday (because I have been weirdly busy - thanks work, reading and Breath of the Wild!), I was very kindly invited to the launch party of Melinda Salisbury's third and final book in the Sin Eater's Daughter trilogy, The Scarecrow Queen.

Now, as you know, I have been trying to blitz this trilogy and, since been invited, I have been trying to finish Scarecrow Queen before I got to the party. And I failed. I got a good chuck in but, alas, not completed it.

So, after doing a half day at work, rushed home, changed and on the train to London I went, speed reading (or trying to. You can't rush this book, I found!) Scarecrow Queen. After getting there a bit early (for reasons am going to explain), I popped to Kings Cross to see Platform 9 and 3/4 and the shop (it was MAD!). And bought myself some pens - because that's what this Hufflepuff likes.

Then, off to where the launch party was being held - in a crypt. That's right, dear readers, a crypt. It wasn't Melinda's natural writing habitat (I checked) and we weren't going to get locked in and have to offer a blood sacrifice to get out and go home (though, I would have loved to see how work would have reacted if I phoned up and went "I'm going to be in today. Why, you ask? Well...". Plus, I could have finished Scarecrow Queen in peace!).

But, I had to get there a little bit early because Lorraine from Scholastic asked if I fancied asking Melinda some questions on their Facebook Live feed. I said yes, then panicked because I have no filter. So I had to be professional and control and not panic over the fact that, before I left for the event, I spend ages trying to figure out what to wear! I HAVE TO LOOK ME BUT PROFESSIONAL  BOOK BLOGGER/LOVER!

I haven't watched the video. I just can't. Not only because I'm not a fan of watching myself on film, but a little bit because I got Melinda's surname wrong. Of all the things that could go wrong, I didn't think me GETTING THEIR NAME WRONG TO THEIR FACE would be one. And after me panicking over getting the characters's names wrong (how many times I asked how to pronounce Twylla before the interview?). But Melinda has a great sense of humour (as you can see) so, hopefully, she didn't get that annoyed with me. Plus, if we play our cards right, we might be able to annoy Sainsbury's supermarket chain for some freebies (unlikely but you never know!). 

Oh, if you want to enter the contest I mention, go to Scholastic UK's Facebook page and like the video. And that's it! 

Anyway, after that whirlwind panic, the launch party started! The crypt was creepy and filled with people - family, friends, publishing people (some who needed wine after London Book Fair - apparently, it was manic!) and bloggers! There was (hang on, let me check my Twitter as have a bad memory and I did have two glasses of wine on an empty stomach!): George from @TheGeorgeLester, Kate from @Magic_Kitten, Darren from @ShinraAlpha, Bex from @MyShelfMyself, Jess from @bookendsending@littlehux (Am positive we chatted very briefly, or am I misremembering), Grace from @_gracelatter & Stephen from @MyBookishLife. I spoke to David Owen (whose upcoming novel, The Fallen Children, is coming out soon) who is very cool and will be helping me out with Zelda if/when I get stuck/find time to play it. I saw (but was too scared to talk to) CJ Daughter (Night School series and Secret Fire duology) and Chris Russell (Songs About A Girl) and I discovered that Katharine Corr (co-author of the Witch's Kiss series), Lindsay Galvin (whose novel, The Breathing Sea, will be out next year) and L.D. Lapinski (not sure if I spoke to you. If I did, yeah! If not, sorry! NEXT TIME, HUNT ME DOWN AND SAY HI!!!). 

After small, very sweet speeches, we had tiny cup cakes and got copies signed. And this is what Melinda wrote in mine... 

This fits perfectly with what Melinda wrote in my copies of Sin Eater's Daughter and The Sleeping Prince. But, HA-HA! I FINISHED SCARECROW QUEEN YESTERDAY (my reactions to this will be coming soon!) 

And then, due to it being a work night and the train journey back, we left. And the crypt looked SUPER CREEPY at night! 

Anyway, I would like to thank Melinda Salisbury, Lorraine from Scholastic and everyone at Scholastic for inviting me. It was such a fun evening and can't wait to see what Melinda writes next! 

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Book Review - 100 Hugs

Even since I first saw this on Twitter, I knew - KNEW - I had to buy it and read it. It's a small book with a simple idea from the current Children's Laureate: a book filled with illustrations of hugs. 100 hugs in total, hence the title. Nothing else. Just hugs, ranging from people, animals, fairy tales, magic, real, heartfelt and one or two slightly sinister hugs (it's the eyes, people! And you know the illustrations I mean if you've read this).

This isn't going to much of a review. More of a gush. I found this simply enchanting and utterly heartwarming.

There's not much else I can say about it. But this book - perfect for small hands - proves one of the many reasons he is a well-loved and respected illustrator.

If not, check these out. Aren't they wonderful?

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

DNFing Red Queen

As you guys know, I'm not a big lover of DNFing stuff. But, I am becoming more ruthless when I decide that am going to cut my loses with something I'm not clicking or loving.

And sadly, Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard is the latest.

Now, before most of you who love this series grab your flaming torches and pitchforks and come after me, let me just say I am not saying this is a bad book. It isn't. I know most of you guys really like this series and I get why from what I listened to. But I just didn't click with it. Or I did, but I would lose interest with it.

And it my main reason why I stopped. I just lost interest.

Red Queen had moments I really liked and would go "This is going to be good/interesting/how unique" but then something else would happen and I would go "That's very cliche/urgh". I would keep jumping back and forth between these two feelings.

And then, something exciting happened. At first, I was "Now, we're cooking" but within a chapter, I lost interest. I just lost it... and I'm not sure why.

I think it's a mix of things: I kept flip-flopping over how I felt over the story, finding time to listen to the audiobook, private life went a bit loopy as did work. But after a while, I listened to it and thought "I've lost it. I've lost that spark to keep going with this. So... why am I pushing myself with this when I have a ton of other audiobooks (which are for review and I bought myself) to listen to?"

So, that's why, if you have been following me on Goodreads/Pinterest, it's move from "Currently Reading" to "DNF". I might return to it one day. Maybe. But not yet.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Front Lines - What If...?

To celebrate the second book in the Front Lines series by Michael Grant, Silver Stars, Electric Monkey/Egmont asked if I wanted to be involved in this tour and I said yes. I haven't read the series, but in a world that is in the terrifying climate we're in, reading books like this are vital, in my opinion.

In this series, Michael goes "What If...?" on us. What if, during the Second World War, women were allowed to join the US army and fight alongside their male counterparts. What would have happened to the war in the USA? What would have happened to the Second World War in general?

So, where can I go with a post about "What If" during the second World War? Well, you can thank a random [contains swear words] youTube video about that... (and please forgive me if I make a mistake. I am not well-versed in US history so had to use the Internet to get information).

For a long time, the United States didn't realise how terrible the Holocaust was in Europe. Americans, at the time, knew the Nazi were encouraging vandalism and hate crimes towards Jews. But the US government didn't feel strongly enough to give refugees a safe place. At one point, the US turned a ship, filled with approx 900 Jews, back to Europe - most are feared to be have died in gas chambers. After this, the US Government reject a proposal to allow 20,000 Jews children to claim sanctuary. Anne Frank and her family were refused asylum. Albert Einsten wrote letters, begging Franklin D. Roosevelt to let Jews in.

The reason? Taken from a speech made by then-President, he said "Today's threat to our security is not a matter of military weapons alone. We know of other methods, new methods of attack. The Trojan Horse... Spies, saboteurs and traitors." (Fireside Chat 15: On National Defence - May 26th, 1940).

But what if... what if the US did allow Jewish refugees in during the Second World War? What if that bill to allow 20,000 Jewish children to stay in the US went through? Or the US didn't order the boat with 900 Jews to turn back to Europe? What would have happened if the American Government was brave enough to help those in need of help? Countless Jewish lives would have been saved, right? The death toll of those who died due to Nazism could have been lower than it is today.

But could this have changed when America joined the war? Japan bombed Pearl Harbour on 7th December 1941 and Germany decaded war on the US four days later. The vote on the bill to allow 20,000 Jewish Children to come and stay in the US was on January 20th 1939, less than 2 years earlier. So, if this bill went through, would have the US joined the war against Nazi Germany and its allies sooner? If so, would the war have ended sooner?

And after the war, what would have happened to the US then? Would the US be more kind toward refugees? Show empathy and compassion? Or would there be more cruelty and a possible rise of white supremacy, all in the name of "America First"?

And far would the effects be felt, both good and bad? Would it be a short period of time (a few years?) or would be we be feeling them today? Would be living in a kinder world for showing kindness and empathy? Or would be living in a crueller world, because people feel that their kindness was abused in some form?

This is the problem with "What If". You ask a simple question and the answer is far more complex than we expected. It's a butterfly effect - a small change could create huge consequences, both good and bad.

So, until we can treat time travel, we can play what if in our heads, in books, in Tv and radio and films. And we can look back into history and make sure we don't repeat the mistakes of our past and, because of this, create a hopeful, better future...

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Book Review - The Sleeping Prince

I am powering through this series, aren't I? By the time you'll be reading this, I should be a good chuck of the way into the third and final book in the trilogy, The Scarecrow Queen.

But that's not the book we're talking about today.

The Sleeping Prince is the second book in the series and we follow, Errin, sister to a character we met in Sin Eater's Daughter. Errin lives with her mother who is suffering a misery illness. When the village has to be evacuated due to an fairy tale comes to life and begins war in the neighbouring country. But when events take a dark turn, Errin has to fled. But with her father dead, the mother ill and her brother missing, the only person she can turn to is Silas, who's face she has never seen...

But can she trust him?

This is an interestingly odd book. Not in a bad way, but this is a mix of being a first book in a series and the second. Bear with me while I explain why.

This is the second book in the trilogy. There is information and details from Sin Eater's Daughter is reference so reading the first book is important. This is the same with characters. This is a second book in the series and should be read as the second (I did try last year to read this without reading Sin Eater's Daughter and I struggled).

BUT... reading The Sleeping Prince does have elements of first book in a series. We have new characters, new situations and elements that feel very book one of a series. Plus, with this book timeline that overlap ever-so-slightly with Sin Eater's Daughter, you could read them side-by-side and you would be alright, in theory.

Although, I would say that if you are going to read this trilogy, read Sin Eater's Daughter first then Sleeping Prince.

This book I would say is split into two. Part one and part two. Part one is setting everything up. Character development, information dropping, setting things up. While the writing is dark and seductive, this is very slow. It is a bit of a struggle at times to push forward and I think, because of this, it took me longer to read. I don't mind reading slower pace - because this is a new character and we have to get to know them and their situation - and once I got to know Errin, I liked her and her attitude, but there were moments in part one I wished the book would pick up pace.

Part two is when the pace picked up and I whizzed through. This is the strongest part of the story because you go "This is why Melinda did this. This makes sense now. There's a plan!". Plus, like I said, I like pacer chapters. I like it when characters feel like they are doing something - and with Errin, it felt like she was more proactive in part two than in part one (but once you read part one, you understand why).

And because of part two and how it ended, I am excited/worried over Scarecrow Queen. Melinda has put her characters and story in position and now we're going to have to wait and see how she's going to wrap this up...

While I like Sin Eater's Daughter more, once it found it's footing, The Sleeping Prince is a worth sequel. Now, am excited/terrified over how Scarecrow Queen is going to end...

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Scarecrow Queen Contest

Ok, this is a lazy post today as I'm not reading as much as I should be reading and have rediscovered gaming (weird, I know). But the lovely people at Scholastic wanted me to let you guys know that they are hosting a contest in a similar vine of the Vision Boards you've been seeing throughout the tour (if you want know what I mean by Vision Board, check out my stop in the tour that went up yesterday!) 

Now, before I show you what Scholastic sent me in the email, let me remind you this is Scholastic contest, not mine. But as I had a blast doing a vision board for Helewys, I thought you might wanna try and enter. I believe this is UK only but if you want to be sure, pop them an email and double check. 

Now, handing you over to Lorraine at Scholastic! 

The Scarecrow Queen vision board competition

Hello fellow bloggers and readers! It is time to get creative and win some prizes courtesy of Melinda Salisbury! Melinda would love for bloggers and readers to take part in creating a vision board of any character in The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, as you have seen us do during the blog tour. Feel free to check out what we have created over the course of the week to inspire you!  

The competition will run for 2 weeks from today and closing date is Friday 24th March, at midnight.

A main prize will go to the most creative vision board (images, lettering, drawings all welcome!). The main winner will win a prize pack of all three novels in the trilogy  and *signed* The Sin Eater’s DaughterThe Sleeping Prince and The Scarecrow Queen, a pair of The Scarecrow Queen socks, the King of Rats short story, a set of badges and postcards, a golem, a necklace and a golem/alchemical text bookmark which Melinda picked up on a recent trip to Prague.

Two runners up will win a copy of The Scarecrow QueenThe Scarecrow Queen socks, and a set of postcards and badges.

You can send your entries to publicity@scholastic.co.uk

Good luck everyone!

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Scarecrow Queen - Helewys's Stop

Today is my stop on the Scarecrow Queen tour! And as you know, each of us bloggers are doing vision boards to reflect a character. So does the lovely author Melinda Salisbury and we compare. This can go either really well or very badly wrong! 

And I have the terrifying stop to make a vision board for the Queen of Lormere, Helewys, who appears in the first book in the Sin Eater's Daughter trilogy, The Sin Eater's Daughter

Now, we were meant to pick six images each. But I am a total rule breaker and, without me even realising it, I chose 10! WHOOPSIE! 

Whereas Melinda, though a Slytherin, actually stuck to the rules. I didn't realise Slytherins could do that...!