ARC Review: The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein

Published: 4 May 2017 by Bloomsbury

Genre: Historical, Mystery

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ 1/2

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: When fifteen-year-old Julia Beaufort-Stuart wakes up in the hospital, she knows the lazy summer break she’d imagined won’t be exactly like she anticipated. And once she returns to her grandfather’s estate, a bit banged up but alive, she begins to realize that her injury might not have been an accident. One of her family’s employees is missing, and he disappeared on the very same day she landed in the hospital.

Desperate to figure out what happened, she befriends Euan McEwen, the Scots Traveller boy who found her when she was injured, and his standoffish sister Ellen. As Julie grows closer to this family, she experiences some of the prejudices they’ve grown used to firsthand, a stark contrast to her own upbringing, and finds herself exploring thrilling new experiences that have nothing to do with a missing-person investigation. Her memory of that day returns to her in pieces, and when a body is discovered, her new friends are caught in the crosshairs of long-held biases about Travellers. Julie must get to the bottom of the mystery in order to keep them from being framed for the crime.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not in any way influence my views on the book.

Review: I have been eyeing up Ms Wein’s books for some time now especially Code Name Verityher wartime book that I’m told portrays the endurance of friendship during times of difficulty. The Pear Thief is actually billed as a prequel of Code Name Verity but it can definitely be read as a standalone which is what I did.

The Pearl Thief is set in rural Scotland and honestly this book made me fall head over heels with the landscape because Wein’s descriptive language and setting was so evocative. I will confess that there were quite a few words that were totally new to a born and bred Londoner like me (burn – which I think is Gaelic for ‘fresh water’ for example) so some of the descriptions weren’t the easiest for me to visualise but despite this I was able to get an idea of the gorgeous highlands and grand country house that Lady Julia lived in – testament to Wein’s writing definitely! I will say though, this is one of those books where a map at the beginning would have done wonders and perhaps a glossary for idiots like me 🙂

The river has a voice that doesn’t die. It is as inhuman and ancient as starlight.

Lady Julia our protagonist was an interesting character. I didn’t immediately take to her but she grew on me as the book went on. I liked how adventurous and gutsy she was and willing to be open-minded and experimental even if society frowned upon it. Her friendship and dynamic with Ellen was easily my favourite – it was complex and a lovely surprise in a historical YA book! There was quite a cast of secondary characters but as The Pearl Thief is told from the Julia’s perspective, I felt we didn’t get to delve into their personalities as much as I’d have liked to – especially the McEwens and Mary who stood out.

Wein wove in societal issues like discrimination against the traveller community, rape and poverty in a really subtle way and gave an insight into what life was like in rural Scotland during that period of history. The discrimination theme was eerily timely and a little frightening how many parallels I could draw between Britain in the 1930s and 2017! One of the unique things about The Pearl Thief was the premise: the Strathfearn family estate being sold to private developers – a part of history that is oft-overlooked. The sexier Downton Abbey-esque era definitely gets more attention and so it was intereting to see a teenager dealing with a drastic change of fortune. I enjoyed seeing Lady Julia rise above her title and circumstances and discover her privilege but also we’re not all that different – be it Lady or traveller.  

They were the ‘dirty bold sleekit tinkers’. They were not dirty, did not appear to be all that bold, and it remained to be seen how sneaky they were. In fact, I was floored by the girl’s beauty.

The mystery and plot of The Pearl Thief definitely kept me guessing. I managed to figure out some of it right towards the end but was still pleasantly surprised at the reveal. I loved that the mystery had a solid story behind it, the pearls were given significance and a history which made it all the more interesting. However, I felt the pacing of The Pearl Thief could’ve been better. I definitely think the book could either have been shorter and punchier or instead just gone the whole hog and had more detail about the other characters – instead it was somewhere down the middle and had me at times just wanting to return to the central mystery.

Besides some minor issues, The Pearl Thief was a solid historical YA with a unique setting not often found in young adult lit. Wein’s descriptive language really added authenticity and the mystery was good whodunnit that kept you guessing. If you’re after something with a great heroine like Pullman’s classic Sally Lockhart series or Y. S. Lee’s brilliant The Agency series this one’s for you! The Pearl Thief is out on 4 May in the US and UK. Thanks again to Bloomsbury for the ARC 🙂

Are you planning to read The Pearl Thief? Or have some other brilliant YA historical/mystery recs? Let me know in the comments below!

Bookish Review: Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Published: March 2017 by Hodder & Stoughton UK

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.

What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving?The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries—including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? And if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? Welcome to Weep. 

Review: Every so often a book will come along that makes you think “wow, I wish I could write something like that!” and Strange the Dreamer about sums that category up. I got the gorgeous hardcover through FairyLoot (whooo!) and savoured the whole reading experience, especially as I’d recently met Laini Taylor during her UK tour (blog post on that here!) They hype was strong with this was from way back in 2016 and so I had high hopes… needless to say Strange delivered and then some 🙂

Stolen name, stolen sky. Stolen children, stolen years.

I want to start with Lazlo because *hearts* – but not in the Rhysand way (I’m sure you all know what that means…) Lazlo was so likeable and a character you couldn’t help but root for. I spent most of the book just wanting the world for Lazlo because he hella deserved it. It’s not often you get such a pure character that doesn’t also come across as a little too sugary, but Ms Taylor got it bang on with Lazlo, he was earnest yes, but very genuine. Sarai was another strong character – I loved how principled she was even though she had every right to be bitter, being punished for something that was before her time. The secondary characters were also great, interesting and complex but I felt like we didn’t see enough of them! Thyon and Calixte, Sparrow and Feral, Azareen and Eril-Fane clearly all have their own back stories and parts to play so I’m hoping we get to see more of them in the next and final book.

But dreams were a different matter. He was Strange the Dreamer. This was his realm, and there were no limits here.

Interestingly, during the event, Laini mentioned that Strange the Dreamer doesn’t have a villain – and while initially , I thought maybe I didn’t agree entirely, the beauty of this book is how it makes you re-examine concepts like good and evil, right and wrong, hero and villain. Nothing about the conundrum in Strange is clear cut black and white – Laini said she wanted to tackle the aftermath of war and whether forgiveness and healing can overcome violence and vengeance and I am in awe of how she handled this, through complex characters and flawless worldbuilding. Unfairly, YA seems to often have a rep for being about fluffy romances and high school drama, but then books like Strange knock misconceptions like that out of the park, especially as you can draw parallels between this fantasy story and many things going on in the world today. 

Vengeance… if you really feel it – then you speak it like it’s a still-beating heart clenched in your fist and there’s blood running down you arm, dripping off your elbow, and you can’t let go.

So yes needless to say, I completely fell in love with the story in Strange the Dreamer, it was totally original and Laini had me on tenterhooks the whole time – I could not have seen that ending coming or much of the book at all. At the signing event, Laini described the book as a love letter to fantasy fans and it really is! Strange the Dreamer is all about the beauty of dreams, the strength of imagination, and the wonder of love and evil. The story was woven well, and it all came together brilliantly at the end. One thing I did appreciate was that although Strange is the first in a duology, the ending didn’t feel like a cop out, it was very much the end of one story and the beginning of another.  

For what was a person but the sum of all the scraps of their memory and experience: a finite set of components with an infinite array of expressions.

Final mention goes to the EX-QUI-SITE writing in Strange the Dreamer. I fell in love with Laini’s writing when I read Daughter of Smoke and Bone and Strange  does not disappoint – in fact I think it’s miles better if that’s even possible. I found myself highlighting vast swathes of the book and conjuring up the most fantastical images of Lazlo’s world. Laini really does have a gift stringing together ordinary words in the most extraordinary way and hearing her talk about it at the event was beyond brilliant. If gorgeously written fantasy is right up your street, but Strange the Dreamer isn’t already on your shelves/kindle/TBR you must go and get it now! I promise you won’t regret it 🙂

Every colour was deeper, richer than the real, and there were so many of them. If the weaver of the world itself had kept the snipped ends of every thread she’d ever used, her basket might look something like this.

Have you read Strange the Dreamer? Did you manage to meet Laini during her UK tour? Let me know in the comments below!!

Bookish Event: Strange the Dreamer Signing

9 April will henceforth be known as the day that I MET LAINI TAYLOR!!! *hyperventilates* So ahem yes I’d started Strange the Dreamer before the event – it came with the April Fairy Loot subscription box (yay!) but I knew there was no way I’d finish in time to meet Laini. And anyway, I wanted to savour the book because the way she writes is beyond beautiful that you just can’t rush it! 

Laini landed in the UK on Sunday and went straight to her Waterstones Piccadilly Strange the Dreamer launch event. Katie Webber, who is a self-confessed Laini Taylor fangirl, was chairing the event so it was guaranteed to be a good event – and it was.The event was totally sold out so as per usual, doing a recap for those who couldn’t make it and won’t be able to catch Laini on her tour of the UK. Right, now onto the actual event and questions!

1. Katie started by asking how Laini got into writing, her inspiration and how she came to write Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Laini said that she’d always enjoyed world-building and found it came naturally to her, more so than storytelling. She ended up attending a writing workshop and was advised by the teacher to keep writing because “she was the real deal” – Laini said naturally that meant she did the exact opposite for ten years… art school! She explained that it was YA fantasy that bought her back to writing – specifically The Golden Compass and Sabriel. Reading these books she said she found her voice, and even though it was difficult, rediscovering fantasy made her the writer she is today. 

2. The second questions was one that a few of us were probably intrigued about – where did Laini get the idea of Strange the Dreamer?

Laini said where with Daughter of Smoke & Bone the characters and concept came fully alive and formed to her, the idea for Strange the Dreamer was in her mind for ages, and it was actually the first book she sold on proposal (where publishers buy the book based on an idea rather than a query/manuscript). Laini explained she had the idea of the muse of nightmares, and orphans of gods for a while and actually wrote the first 30 chapters of the first draft from Sarai’s perspective and with Lazlo as the love interest. It was only when she wrote from Lazlo’s POV that she realised it worked and he became the hero of the story! Fun fact: ‘Strange the Dreamer’ was actually the name of his chapter initially.

3. Katie then asked about romance and how Laini writes love stories in her books – something I’m sure we all appreciate 😉 

Laini started off saying that romance was one of her favourite things about stories – and something not to be ashamed of. She explained that love is something that speaks to everyone, it’s elemental and resonates in some way or another with readers and that genres, especially romance and fantasy, create an instant connection with readers. Laini then said she has a rather lewd way of explaining this connection – called the ‘myth hole’ 🙂 She explained that its a part of us that yearns for stories of myths and legend and fantasy. Strange the Dreamer and specifically the character of Laszlo who adores fairytales, was a love letter to fantasy readers. 

4. Katie next mentioned that Laini’s books deal with good and evil and asked whether that was a theme she consciously explores in her books. 

Laini explained that we are all a product of our circumstances and that the question of whether harm done to us can be undone really fascinates her. Whilst the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy is set during a war, in Strange the Dreamer Laini wanted to explore the aftermath of war, and the concepts of forgiveness, healing and whether it’s possible to not react to the violence of our circumstances. Laini also said that the ‘evil ante’ in YA and books generally was too high that she didn’t want to compete and create a villain so evil that it continued to up the ante – instead she decided that the villain in Strange the Dreamer would be dead already. She summed up the book as a less Disney-esque plot which culminates in killing the villain, and a more Miyazaki-esque plot driven by ‘saving’ the villain instead.

This was easily my favourite question and answer from Laini – made even better by the fact that she mentioned that it was telling that the #1 and #2 books on the NYT Bestsellers list atm are The Hate U Give and Strange the Dreamer respectively – books that discuss violence, stereotyping and society, important topics of discussion in today’s world.

5. Katie then asked how Laini manages to write so beautifully (something we all agree with I’m sure!) Katie asked whether it was in the editing or if it actually flowed that way when writing. 

Laini confessed that her writing almost never flows, beyond the few shining parts in each book. Laini explained that she has to love the writing process every step of the way and so she often writes scene by scene, which often means lots of drafts until the heart of that scene clicks. She said that whilst she loves crafting sentences and, like world-building finds its easier, books are not so easy! Laini also mentioned that she weaves the world building with the plot and tries not to do to much up front anymore.

6. One of the Q&A questions was the usual writing tips – I’m always curious about the different answers authors have for this question 🙂

Laini’s first piece of advice was to get into the habit of completing works in progress even if it’s short, and to do this by coming up with a narrative arc and concluding it. If you have writer’s block, she suggested instead of coming up with two or three plot development options, come up with 10 or 20 including wild and wacky ones just to get the creative juices flowing and make you feel less restricted. Katie piped up that Laini has a blog Not For Robots where she’s shared lots of writing tips – so definitely check that out if you’re interested!

6. Final question was would Laini explicitly go back to the world of Daughter of Smoke & Bone (eep!)

We were all on the edge of our seats when Katie asked the question we were all dying to know the answer to. Laini basically made all of our lives by answering, yes with the way the trilogy ended, she thought it was ready for a return to the world of Daughter of Smoke & Bone!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Have you read Strange the Dreamer? Are you a long-time fan of Laini and her Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy?? Let me know in the comments below!

Waiting on Wednesday: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which puts the spotlight on eagerly anticipated upcoming releases.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

Publication Date: 2 May 2017 by Bloomsbury 

Genre: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult

Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses (book #3)

Synopsis: Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well. As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places. In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all. (Goodreads)

Why I’m looking forward to it: I’ve tried to keep it spoiler free but read at your peril! Right, so I’d be surprised if this upcoming release isn’t on most YA readers and bloggers’ TBR lists! Anyone who has read A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury will be on tenterhooks to find out what happens when Feyre returns to the Spring Court after all that happened during ACoMaF. I read A Court of Mist and Fury as soon as it came out last year (review here). I basically devoured it and it went straight to the top of my favourite YA fantasy series.

The Inner Circle – Rhysand, Mor, Cassian, Amren, and Azriel – was easily one of my highlights in AcoMaF. The characters were in-depth, distinct and the dynamincs between each was killer and had me wanting an Inner Circle of my own *sigh* so I’m definitely looking forward to the return of Mor’s cutting one-liners and Azriel’s broodiness. I’ m also super duper nervous about the ships that I’ve come to adore and it’s got me worrying about which of my ships will be endgame! 

In AcoTaR and AcoMaF, Ms Maas also teased some of the wider world – the different Courts, the history of Prythian, and of course the motives of the King of Hybern so I’m really looking forward to finally (hopefully!) getting some long-awaited cameos from the other High Lords as well as some answers to my million burning quetions! The world building in ACoMaF in particular was phenomenal so I’m sure Sarah will not disappoint in this installment 🙂

I love that this book sees Feyre taking charge of her destiny, she’s really evolved as a character so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when she returns to the Spring Court and how things play out with some familiar faces (can’t say I’m not looking forward to more Lucien… hehe) Plus, with this being the final book in the series, I can’t wait to see how the final battle goes, I’m hoping it brings the whole of Prythian together and we get to see a certain character get the recognition he deserves…

Have you read A Court of Mist and Fury? What books are you most looking forward to this month? Drop me a comment below!

Bookish Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: April 2017 by Walker Books UK

Genre: Realistic Fiction, Young Adult

Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

Goodreads | Book Depository

Synopsis from Goodreads: Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, Khalil’s death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Starr’s best friend at school suggests he may have had it coming. When it becomes clear the police have little interest in investigating the incident, protesters take to the streets and Starr’s neighborhood becomes a war zone. What everyone wants to know is: What really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. But what Starr does—or does not—say could destroy her community. It could also endanger her life. 

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Review: I actually finished The Hate U Give a couple of weeks ago but I’ve been stalling on writing a review because I was worried about doing this stunning book justice. The hype has been strong with this one and whilst THUG isn’t actually out in the UK yet, I came across it whilst on holiday in Singapore earlier this month (so technically I few halfway around the world to get my hands on it – dedication!) proceeded to grab it and devour it in a day or two. Also fair warning, this review is a bit of a long love letter…

Let’s start with the characters because that is easily one of my favourite things about this book. The protagonist, Starr Carter has one of the most compelling voices I’ve come across in YA fiction. There are points where she is speaking directly to us, the reader, and seriously it’s difficult to remember that she is a fictional character. Her personality is so colourful and she is searingly honest about how her life is divided in two: the Garden Heights Starr and the Williamson Starr but at the same time naive about what she is sacrificing by having it so. In this way, Starr is brilliantly realistic – she is hyper aware of reality but at the same time just wants to fit in and initially doesn’t want to rock the boat. I loved reading about her relationships with her friends and family, the conflict of feelings she experiences when she becomes witness to the worst crime, and also how she bravely finds her voice. 

Being two different people is so exhausting. I’ve taught myself to speak with two different voices and only say certain things around certain people. I’ve mastered it.

And Starr isn’t the only standout character. Every other character felt fully formed – not one of them felt like they were trotted on to depict ‘Label X’ and then shown the exit never to be seen again. Instead, all of the secondary characters were given backgrounds, page time, interaction with the protagonist and most importantly, an original voice. Khalil is a good example – his death is what sets off the chain of events that make up the plot. I wouldn’t be surprised if this character wasn’t fully formed, I mean it happens often enough in books. But not THUG, no siree.. Even though Khalil is ‘on screen’ for a couple of chapters, his presence is felt throughout the book and Thomas makes you care about him and want justice for him which contextualises Starr’s response to her experience.

The drug dealer. That’s how they see him. It doesn’t matter that he’s suspected of doing it. “Drug dealer” is louder than “suspected” will ever be.

The same goes for the other characters. They were all distinct and real – and honestly I would be happy to read a book where Kenya is the protagonist, or Maya, DeVante, Khalil, or even freaking Uncle Carlos. Because Thomas writes in such a way that makes you care – you want to know these characters intimately, you want to know their history, how they got to where they are. A shout out here to the portrayal of Starr’s parents. I’ve often complained about absent parent syndrome in YA but this is most certainly not the case in THUG – not only are the parents present but they are parenting hard. I really liked how realistic Mr and Ms Carter were, the latter’s past was always acknowledged but never glorified, and their own difficulties were also made clear; they might be parents but they are also people.

That’s the hate they’re giving to us, baby, a system designed against us. That Thug Life.

I also want to mention the setting. The contrast between Garden Heights and Williamson was stark but not overdone – everything about Thomas’ writing is very much show not tell. The deprivation of Garden Heights was clear but the sense of community in spite of this was palpable to me. It felt like a real neighbourhood, one with the entire spectrum from young to old, ordinary to eccentric. I loved how Thomas showed us the best, like when the community band together in times of need, as well as the worst, like the gangs and turf wars that tear it apart.

This is bigger than me and Khalil though. This is about Us, with a capital U; everybody who looks like us…

The crowning glory of The Hate U Give though is the subject of the novel – a shooting of black boy by a white policeman, something that is sadly all to common these days. Thomas deals with the topic so deftly, she puts the big questions to us, specifically, ‘just because a person isn’t a saint, is that enough to condemn him to death?’ Thomas takes the narrative beyond the usual black and white and lays out the grey for us. At no point does THUG shy away from the big issues it grapples with whether it’s police shootings, casual and institutionalised racism, social deprivation and crime etc.

That’s the problem. We let people say stuff, and they say it so much that it becomes okay to them and normal for us.

In short, The Hate U Give taught me A LOT. It’s difficult to overstate how much of a landmark this book is – both in the publishing world but also, personally to me as a person of colour. I became very conscious of the fact that I’ve ‘experienced’ casual racism, and how it’s important to confront it rather than excuse it for the sake of keeping things cordial because this only serves to normalise such behaviour. In case it’s not obvious, I ADORED this book and think it should be made into a required text! This is one of those times that the book not only deserves the hype but surpasses it. And if you needed further convincing, I’ve already got both my sisters to read it with very positive results! The Hate U Give is out on 6 April but I recommend having it on pre-order 😉

Have you read The Hate U Give already? Or have it on pre-order – if so what about THUG are you most looking forward to? Let me know in the comments below!!

Bookish Event: Caraval & Wing Jones Signing

Yesterday was the Dark Societies event at Waterstones Piccadilly with the wonderful Stephanie Garber and Katherine Webber. It was a sold-out event so I wanted to do a recap for those that couldn’t make it.

Steph was on the UK leg of her Caraval tour whilst Kate was promoting Wing Jones. I’d been lucky enough to have met Kate at her Female Heroines event a few weeks back but this was my first time meeting Steph, plus I’d actually finished Caraval a few days beforehand and adored it, so I was super-duper excited. 

We started the event with Steph announcing that she’d made a few handmade bookmarks for fans. She asked if it was anyone’s birthday recently or upcoming and I timidly put my hand up (on the 28th ya’ll!) and STEPHANIE GARBER ACTUALLY GAVE ME ONE OF HER HANDMADE BOOKMARKS! I still can’t believe I have it – look how gorgeous it is! Easily the best early birthday present ever.

Right, now onto the actual event and questions. I’ll stick to summarising a few of the questions, but we seriously got through a huge amount courtesy of the lovely Leila of the Post-Apocalyptic Book Club chairing.

1. Leila started by asking what the inspiration behind Caraval and Wing Jones was. 

Steph started out saying she’d read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein and there was a particular scene where the characters and motivations are ambiguous – it was difficult to tell who was telling the truth or lying, and what was real and what wasn’t. This actually was the birth of Caraval, as a game! She also explained that she loves Baz Luhrman movies and she remembers watching the party and fireworks scene in The Great Gatsby which inspired the setting and atmosphere that Stephanie wanted Caraval to have.

Kate spoke about running track and country in high school and this inspired her to write specifically about a female runner. Wing’s character came fully formed and the dual heritage aspect was something that Kate knew she wanted to explore. The sibling relationship was important in Wing Jones and Kate mentioned this was inspired by her own experiences with her siblings, whilst the multi-generational family that Wing has was also based on the close relationships she had with her grandparents – she’s glad Granny Dee and LaoLao have gone down so well with readers!

2. One of the questions was about magic in both books and how they dealt with it. 

Kate said that the first drafts of the book had magic in them, but that she decided in later drafts to remove this aspect. Instead, the final draft was rooted in reality but had hints of fantasy through the magical realism that Kate decided on. She liked that it was more subtle and left the book open to readers’ interpretations.

Stephanie said that for Caraval she wanted to go with something that was easy to slip into – a “non-indexed fantasy” if you like. In the book, she treats magic like religion, some people believe in it, others are raised believing it, whilst others still see its existence in things that happen. She didn’t want there to be any hard or fast rules and wanted to show magic as something elusive and unconfirmed. 

3. With both Stephanie and Kate being debut authors, one of the questions was on their journey to being published. 

Stephanie answered this in a really raw, honest and quite emotional way – I think the whole audience was hanging onto her words. She relayed her story from the 100-200 queries she’d sent out for other manuscripts and attended conferences with no luck to the point that people close to her were suggesting she call off her attempts at becoming a writer. However, she knew she could do better and decided Caraval would be her last shot – she got eight agent offers and it kind of blew up from there!

Kate spoke about also having written multiple other works before Wing Jones (including the tree people one we’ve all heard about and are dying to read!) She said she had a great experience working with sensitivity readers for her dual heritage protagonist and she did it because she wanted to write responsibly – she was more worried about writing something harmful than being criticised for writing a dual-heritage character. Kate also praised the YA book community for being so supportive and said she was glad Wing debuted in the UK first (yay us!)

4. Leila mentioned that Wing Jones deals with tragedy and asked what motivated them to write their books. 

Kate said she wanted to write about what happens when someone you love unconditionally does something very wrong. She spoke about losing friends to drink driving and having friends who drove under the influence whilst growing up and she wanted to explore how a community responds to a tragedy where blame is apportioned. Ultimately, though Wing Jones is about a teen girl finding her own strength.

Stephanie said she wanted to tackle the same strength issues through Scarlett in Caraval. Growing up, she struggled with fear – she explained there were parallels between herself and Scarlett in that it was her dream to be an author like Scarlett’s dream was to go to Caraval, but once the opportunity presented itself, fear kicked in. So she wanted to write about an unconventional female protagonist – although she loves badass heroines she wanted to validate the fear and timidness she and others feel at a young age. 

5. One of the last questions was about deleted scenes and if there were any they were really fond of. 

Kate mentioned she’d written a 6000 word kissing scene that although she loved writing had to be edited down a lot… especially as this was for NaNoWriMo and the scene made up more than 10% of her book! She also said she really likes metaphors and keeps them on standby as fallback options.

Stephanie said Caraval was quite short for a completed manuscript and she actually ended up adding more detail rather than cutting down. But she did say the clock scene in Caraval came about after her editor insisted the original setting of a cabin and Scarlett and Julian looking for clothes whilst half-naked was boring!

6. Final question was: Dante or Julian?

Kate was quick to say she was Julian all the way, whilst Stephanie controversially chose Legend – he is her favourite character even though she doesn’t trust him one bit!  

Have you read Wing Jones or Caraval? Any recs to fill the WJ and Caraval shaped void in my life?? Let me know in the comments below!

Top Ten Tuesday: Galentine’s & Valentine’s Day Picks

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/ hosted by the brilliant ladies at The Broke and the Bookish with the idea of putting together bookish listicles according to the week’s theme. Today’s theme is obviously Valentine’s Day related: All About Romance Tropes/Types. However, I’ve decided to mix it up a little with my own take on this theme!

As some of you may know, whilst today is Valentine’s Day, February 13th was Galentine’s Day!! Galentine’s Day was introduced in Parks and Recreation (if you haven’t watched it, get on it now – it is hilarious!) by the brilliant character Leslie Knope. She describes it as “only the best day of the year” and rightly so, because this is a day for us ladies to celebrate our amazing female friends. 

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So to celebrate both, I’ve decided to split my Top Ten into Top Five Books With The Best Female Friendships in celebration of Galentine’s Day and Top Five Romance Books on my TBR List for Valentine’s Day. Without further ado then…

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Top Five Books With The Best Female Friendships

1. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – Feyre, Amren and Morrigan are basically squad goals. 🙂 I love how fiercely loyal and supportive they are of each other. I adore how they have really distinct personalities and are really strong characters but at the same time can be really girly with each other – especially Mor and Feyre. 

2. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Cath and Regan are the ultimate roomies! One of my favourite things about their friendship is how Regan gets that Cath isn’t as confident as her but whilst she encourages Cath out of her shell she never pushes too hard or too far. Exactly the definition of a great friend!

3. The Lunar Chronicles by Melissa Meyer – again the ladies in this series are the definition of squad goals! I love that they’re all totally different personalities and ages but still really close friends. Plus they have each other’s back through thick and thin, even when they’re planets apart…

4. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – Nina and Inej are my spirit animals. I adore how they understand each other without words, and get each other’s fears and aspirations – all the deep stuff – whilst at the same time encourage each other to eat to their heart’s content (well eat to Nina’s heart’s content) and laugh about it. Eating + Friends = perfection.

5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen – this one is slightly different as it’s more the bond between sisters which is so hard to find in YA. This classic has it all though, and from the first time I read it, it rang so true because I can see me and my sisters in the Bennets. Lizzie and Jane are so supportive of each other and Lizzie is so fiercely protective of Jane that I can’t but help feel an affinity towards her!

Top Five Romance Books on my TBR List

6. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – I recently read Everything, Everything and thought it was an amazingly original story. I’m looking forward to reading Yoon’s latest book, and if Everything, Everything was anything to go on, I’m expecting an equally amazing romance!

7. Vendetta by Catherine Doyle – I went to an event recently with Catherine Doyle on the panel, and honestly cannot tell you why I’ve not read this book already. It’s Romeo and Juliet but with a mafia twist – what more could you possibly ask for?! 

8. Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt – I’m sooo looking forward to reading this because I’ve never seen conventions be the setting for a YA book. I’m saving it until YALC (my first YALC – I know, shameful) because I want to get the full experience when I finally read this!

9. Dusk by Eve Edwards – This has been wholeheartedly recommended to me by time and time again my little sister as a timeless romance. I’ve not read very many war books, so I think a romance might be the way to ease me into the genre, especially if it comes as highly recommended as this one!

10. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson – Morgan Matson is something of YA contemporary romance royalty and her books always sound so intriguing and genuine. I’ve heard great things about Second Chance Summer so I’m trying to get around to some of her newer books!

Which YA books are in your top five for female friendships? What romance books are in your TBR pile? Let me know in the comments below – I’d love recommendations!