Monday, 16 January 2017

COVER REVEAL: 'True North' by L.E. Sterling

I read 'True Born' back in April, and I loved it. I'd fallen out of love with the idea of dystopians, because they all seem to regurgitate the same plot, making them predictable and bland, but 'True Born' revitalised my love for the genre. As soon as I finished it, I was adding the sequel to my Want To Read list, desperate to continue on with Lucy and Margot's story.

So when an email popped into my inbox last night asking me if I'd like to be involved in the cover reveal for the second novel in the series, 'True North', I jumped at the chance. I seriously don't think I've ever responded to an email that quickly!

Keep scrolling down to see the cover, and then look below for a synopsis of what is going to happy to the Fox twins next...

Abandoned by her family in Plague-ridden Dominion City, eighteen-year-old Lucy Fox has no choice but to rely upon the kindness of the True Borns, a renegade group of genetically enhanced humans, to save her twin sister, Margot. But Nolan Storm, their mysterious leader, has his own agenda. When Storm backtracks on his promise to rescue Margot, Lucy takes her fate into her own hands and sets off for Russia with her True Born bodyguard and maybe-something-more, the lethal yet beautiful Jared Price. In Russia, there's been whispered rumors of Plague Cure.
While Lucy fights her magnetic attraction to Jared, anxious that his loyalty to Storm will hurt her chances of finding her sister, they quickly discover that not all is as it appears... and discovering the secrets contained in the Fox sisters' blood before they wind up dead is just the beginning. 
As they say in Dominion, sometimes it's not you... it's your DNA.  
I can't put into words how much I love this cover. I'm ecstatic that it matches the cover for the first book, because so many series have been getting redesigned halfway through and that's a huge pet peeve of mine. 
The thing that really grabs me is that byline. "It's not you... it's your DNA." Having studied psychology, I've always been fascinated by reductionist theories that you can't change who you are at a fundamental level, and if that's going to be dealt with in this book I know I'm going to adore it.

'True North' is set to be released on April 4th. If you're like me and you can't wait to continue on with the story, order a copy today!

About the author:

L.E Sterling had an early obsession with sci-fi, fantasy and romance to which she remained faithful even through an M.A. in Creative Writing and a PhD in English Literature - where she completed a thesis on magical representation. She is the author of two previous novels, the cult hit YA novel 'The Originals' (under pen name L.E. Vollick), dubbed "The Catcher in the Rye of a new generation" by one reviewer, and the urban fantasy 'Pluto's Gate'. 

Originally hailing from Parry Sound, Ontario, L.E. spent most of her summers roaming across Canada in a van with her father, a hippie musician, and her brothers and an occasional stray mutt - inspiring her writing career. She currently lives in Toronto, Ontario. 

BLOG TOUR: 'Frostblood' by Elly Blake

I'm beyond excited to welcome you to my stop on the Frostblood Blog Tour! 

I was lucky enough to receive a review copy of 'Frostblood' way back in July, at the Chapter 5 Proof Party. I'm only halfway through, because I decided to wait until closer to the release date to actually pick it up (yes, I'm a moron, I'm aware!) so I haven't got a review for you just yet - sorry! That's what you get when you spontaneously decide to apply to university and you have to put reading on the back burner for a few days...

However, I do have an exclusive - and very hot - excerpt for you!
When Becca invited me to be a part of this tour, there was only one question: would I choose fire, or would I choose ice?
Well, I HATE the cold, so I had to pick fire. Read on for a firey excerpt from 'Frostblood'...
I offered my hand to the fire. Sparks leaped from the hearth and settled onto my fingers, heat drawn to heat, and glittered like molten gems against my skin. With my free hand, I pulled a bucket of melting snow closer and edged forward on my knees, ready to douse myself if the sparks flared into something much larger.
Which is exactly what I intended.
Winter solstice was six weeks away, but my village, high in the mountains, was already blanketed with a thick layer of snow. Grandmother used to say that the true test of a Fireblood's gift was in the cold. But she died before she could show me more than the most rudimentary of lessons, and Mother had made me promise never to practice at all. 
It was a promise I couldn't keep. If the king's soldiers discovered me, wasn't it better to know how to wield my heat? I closed my eyes and focused on my heart, willing the gathering warmth to surge upward and out the way Grandmother had taught me. If I did it right, the bright sparks on my hand would burst into tiny flames.
Come on, little wisp, where are you?
After years of being told to tamp down my fire, keep it hidden, make it invisible, I struggled each time I tried to find it. But there it was, a small, churning tendril. I coaxed it forward, a reluctant thread that grew a little, then a little more.
That's it. I held my breath, afraid to break the spell.
A gust of frigid air whipped my hair across my face. The sparks on my fingers died, and the wisp darted back into my heart.
Mother slammed the door and shoved the quilt back against the crack at the bottom, a deep shiver shaking her fine-boned frame under her cloak. "It's wicked out there. I'm chilled to the bone."
Seeing her tremble, I finally scooted to the side, revealing the hearth. "I thought you were delivering a baby."
"It wasn't time yet." Her eyes widened at the tall flames, then narrowed.
I shrugged, my excitement wilting. "It was so cold."
"Ruby, you were practicing." The tone of disappointment was familiar. "If even one person sees what you're doing, just one, they could alert the king's soldiers. With the summer being so wet, and the grains running out, people will do anything to survive, including taking a reward-"
"I know. You don't have to tell me again."
"Then why are you doing this? It's bad enough when you're not trying to use your gift." She waved her hand at a pile of half-burned rags. Scorch marks still stained the floor.
My cheeks warmed. "I'm sorry I lost my temper the other day. Again. But tonight I could almost control the flame."
She shook her head in a tense movement that told me there was no use pleading. I wrapped my arms around myself and rocked gently. Finally, her wind-chapped fingers reached out slowly to take a lock of my hair, which she always said was lucky to be black and not red like some Firebloods'. My skin might be a little too sun-kissed for a child of the North, but people didn't look closely in this sleepy village, where no one had powers, frost or fire. 
"I understand that your gift is a part of you," she said softly. "But I lie awake at night worrying. How can we keep your secret if you insist on using your fire, even when you know it can spiral out of control?"
It was the same question she'd asked over and over during the past few months, when I'd decided to start practicing with my gift. And I replied with the same answer. "How will I learn to control it if I never use it? And if we're not safe here, why don't we go somewhere safe?"
Tell me that excerpt didn't grip you, and I'll tell you you're a liar! Even though this feels like it must come some way into the story, it's actually the first few pages of the book, and it makes it impossible to stop reading. Talk about a strong opening!
One thing I can say about 'Frostblood' is that it's very difficult to put down, so don't do what I did. Make sure you put aside a chunk of time when you decide to pick it up, because you won't want to stop turning the pages until you find out exactly what happens to Ruby. This is one of those books where you'll keep saying "just one more chapter" until you realise it's the middle of the night and you've almost read the entire book.

I hope you enjoyed my stop on the 'Frostblood' blog tour! Make sure to visit the other bloggers involved in the tour this week, and then run out and buy a copy of this novel. You definitely won't regret it.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' by Sara Barnard

Image result for a quiet kind of thunder sara barnard
*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children's Books, for accepting my request to view this title on NetGalley, and to NetGalley for the service that they provide.
'Here are three separate but similar things: shyness, introversion and social anxiety. You can be one, two or all three of these things simultaneously. A lot of the time people think they're all the same thing but that's just not true.'

'Millie Gerdavey cheated on her boyfriend again.'
This opening sentence made me think this book was going in a COMPLETELY different direction.
I hadn't read the blurb beforehand - something I normally do - because I knew I was going to enjoy the book. 'Beautiful Broken Things' was one of my favourite debuts of last year, and I've been highly anticipating reading more of Sara's writing since I read her first release way back in March.

Steffi has selective mutism. Well, calling it that makes it sound like her silence is a choice, but often it's completely the opposite. She wants to speak, but 'words fizz up on [her] tongue, then dissolve into nothing'. 
Rhys is the new boy at school, and he's deaf. He's good a lip-reading, but prefers to speak using BSL (British Sign Language). 
Steffi knows some BSL - her uncle decided it was worth a shot, to see if it would get her talking again - so they get introduced on the first day of school. Steffi doesn't have anyone else, because her best friend Tem went to college to study sports science rather than staying on at their sixth form, but her and Rhys strike up a fast friendship. He's patient with her, not afraid to slow down and simplify his signing so that she can follow the conversation and learn more of his language.
Soon enough, their friendship becomes more. Steffi has never had a boyfriend before, and when she's not fighting with her anxiety she's the happiest she's ever been. 
But this is the year she's supposed to be proving that she can make it on her own. If she can't show a marked improvement in her communication, her parents have told her that she can't apply to university like she wants to. Having Rhys makes her feel more confident than she's ever been before, but her mother worries that she might be using him as a safety net. 
Steffi is determined to show everyone - including herself - that she can learn to cope with her anxiety and get on with her life. Whether that'll be with or without Rhys, only time will tell. 

I'd like to tell you a story.
Last April, I turned 20. The night before, I went to see Funeral For a Friend in Cardiff. The night before that, I was seeing Bring Me The Horizon at the Royal Albert Hall. I spent the majority of my birthday with my girlfriend, walking around the countryside and talking for hours. I almost cried when she gave me presents, because they showed exactly how well she knew me, and I was struck by how much she cared about me. The night of my birthday, I went out for a wonderful meal with my mum and my grandad, and the restaurant played both 'The Fox' by Ylvis and Weird Al Yankovic's 'eBay'.
No part of the weekend could have been better.
Then the day after my birthday happened.
I woke up, and I felt as though I had a lump in my throat. It was an effort to get out of bed, the weight of the world pressing against my chest and leaving me trapped there. After a couple of hours of wallowing I summoned up some energy and made my way downstairs, but as soon as I saw my family I started crying.
I didn't stop crying the entire day. I couldn't explain why; I could hardly speak because I was blubbering, hyperventilating and internally berating myself. What was wrong with me? Why did I have to ruin one of the happiest weekends of my life by having the worst day I could ever remember experiencing?
Why couldn't I just be happy like a regular person? 
Steffi has a birthday party, which goes amazingly. She spends the day with her family, Tem and Rhys, and nothing could possible be better. But when she goes to bed she has a debilitating panic attack. She's awake until the early hours of the morning, worrying about losing all of the people around her and never having another wonderful day like that again.
As you can see, I related to this book.
When my counsellor told me I had anxiety, I laughed her off. I wasn't anxious, I had the same worries as everyone else! Everyone gets on the bus and starts panicking about the potential of missing their stop. Everyone worries about their friends and family dying.
Everyone worries, but some people worry more than others. Seeing pieces of myself in Steffi at multiple points during 'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' has helped me realise that I should have listened to my counsellor, and it has made me more determined than ever to focus on self-care and the state of my mental health.

I loved everything about this novel.
The relationship between Steffi and Rhys is adorable, but more importantly than that it's realistic. There's no kissing in unrealistic places, just a simple make-out session under the glare of a streetlight. Their first time isn't perfect - in fact, Steffi's happy to admit that the second time was much better than the first! These aren't scenes out of a movie; these are scenes out of real life. Reading their interactions made me miss my boyfriend, but it also made me feel beyond grateful to have someone who I feel this strongly about. If you've ever taken anyone you love for granted, this book will remind you just how special they are to you.
Sara Barnard doesn't gloss over the less attractive parts of being a teenager. Steffi and Rhys both make mistakes - particularly when she sends him the Youtube link to a song and doesn't consider his inability to hear! - but that's a part of being human. Steffi argues with Tem, because even lifelong best friendships have fault lines. There's the usual tension between Steffi and her parents, but with an unusual family dynamic: Steffi's mum and dad have both remarried but remain civil, and Steffi's stepbrother, Clarke, died a few years ago.
Nothing in this book is perfect, which is what makes the story itself so faultless. I could list every scene here, do a page-by-page breakdown of all of the action and why I loved it so much, or you can just go and read it yourself.
I don't need to justify why you'll love this book, because you're going to. It's impossible not to think of this as one of the best young adult novels ever written.

This is my favourite book of all time.
Thank you so much, Sara, for writing such a beautiful book. 
'A Quiet Kind of Thunder' is a book that's helped me understand myself more, a book that's shining a light on the struggles of the deaf community, a book that shows that you can do anything that you put your mind to. 
Yes, it's a love story. 
But it's so much more than that.

WTF Did I Miss This Week? #15 (w/c 09/01/17)

In the publishing world:

This week, there were more new releases than I could count:
Image result for a quiet kind of thunder sara barnardImage result for the one memory of flora banks
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Image result for frostblood elly blakeImage result for beheld alex flinn
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Image result for windwitchImage result for you don't know my name kristen orlando
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This week there were a bunch of exciting cover reveals:


In other news:
  • The first trailer for the adaptation of 'The Handmaid's Tale' has been released...
  • ...while the Netflix 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' adaptation was released. It's only 8 episodes, so go and binge it! 
  • E Lockhart's new novel, 'Genuine Fraud' will be released in September.
  • Logan Miller has been added to the cast of 'Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda'. 
In the music world: 

Getting back into the swing of things, there were quite a few new releases this week (but not as many as are coming next week!):
Image result for i see you the xxImage result for ambitions one ok rock

There were some exciting pieces of new music released:

Deaf Havana have a bit of a 'Fever' in the lead-up to their fourth album:

Ex-FVK frontman Kier Kemp's new band, Inklings, have let out another track:

Also this week, supergroup NEKOKAT (featuring members of The Ready Set and The Summer Set) released a new song, The Chainsmokers went to 'Paris', The Weeknd proved what a 'Party Monster' he really is, and Halsey released her first original song since her debut album. Called 'Not Afraid Anymore', it's currently only available on Spotify and iTunes, but will be on the '50 Shades Darker' soundtrack!

Because I don't have tickets for enough things already, there were a whole bunch of tour announcements.
  • Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties (aka Dan 'Soupy' Campbell of The Wonder Years) announced his first UK full-band show. It'll take place at the Boston Music Room on February 2nd.
  • Pierce The Veil announced the Rest in Space tour, playing shows throughout America during February and March. Support comes from Crown The Empire and Falling In Reverse - that's a big bill!
  • City and Colour are touring south-east USA in March. 
  • Simple Plan will be celebrating the 15-year anniversary of 'No Pads, No Helmets... Just Balls' by touring the US throughout March and April. Support comes from Set It Off and Seaway - if you're a pop-punk fan, you cannot miss this. 
  • Another anniversary tour in American in March and April is Four Year Strong's 'Rise or Die Trying' 10-year tour. Support comes from Can't Swim, Sleep On It and Light Years, all hotly-tipped to be huge in 2017.
  • Biffy Clyro are returning to America for the first time since 2014, playing shows throughout March and April
  • Bayside and Say Anything have announced a co-headline American tour throughout April and May...
  • ...while Mastodon have gone one better, announcing a run of American dates that stretches from April to June, with EODM as main support.
  • The 1975 announced a one-off headline show at Madison Square Garden on June 1st. 
  • Green Day will be touring North America throughout August and September, supported by Catfish and the Bottlemen. I had bets on Green Day being announced as one of the Reading and Leeds headliners, and they have the 25th and 27th of August off: that headline slot is looking less likely, but is still possible.
In other news:
  • Dave Escamilla announced he was leaving Crown The Empire...
  • ...and Josh Balz left Motionless In White.
  • You Me At Six performed in the Live Lounge, played a secret show in Leeds as The Underdogs, and new album 'Night People' 
  • Real Friends finally announced their supports for their rescheduled UK/European tour: Can't Swim and Microwave.
  • There were a bunch more festival line-up announcements, including Bonnaroo, Shaky Knees, Rocklahoma, The Powerfest and Boston Calling.
  • Ed Sheeran's third album, '÷', will be released on March 3rd, and the tracklist looks like this.
  • While Blaenavon revealed that their debut album, 'That's Your Lot', will be released on the 7th of April. It's about time, lads! 
  • Sorority Noise also had some album news. 'You're Not As _____ As You Think' will be released March 17th.
  • Following in the footsteps of Panic! at the Disco and The 1975, Avenged Sevenfold have announced their own Camden Market pop-up shop.
  • Queens of the Stone Age are working on their new album...
  • are Tonight Alive!
  • Last, but certainly not least, 3 Doors Down will be playing Donald Trump's inauguration, and Highly Suspect had something to say about it. Johnny Stevens is my president. 
Phew, that was a big round up! I'll see you all next week, if my fingers don't fall off before then... 

Thursday, 12 January 2017


To start this post, I need to say a huge thank you to Grace Vincent from Little, Brown for inviting me on this blog tour. It's been so long since I've read a really good thriller, and 'The Dry' has been a brilliant change of pace from the other books I've been reading recently. 

Image result for the dry jane harper

'It wasn't as though the farm hadn't seen death before, and the blowflies didn't discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.'
As soon as I read that opening sentence, I was HOOKED. I actually had to stop to gather myself, because it had an instant impact. Tell me that doesn't send shivers down your spine.

It's been two years since Kiewarra last had rain. For a town made up mostly of farmland, it's been disastrous. Crops are dead. Animals are getting put down because it's impossible to give them enough to drink. People are getting pushed to breaking point.
It seems like Luke Hadler was one of those people. A delivery man turns up on the doorstep of the Hadler's farmhouse with a package for Luke's wife, Karen, and is concerned when he finds the front door wide open. Stepping through, he finds Karen dead in the hallway, a gunshot wound to her stomach and a puddle of blood surrounding her. Luke and Karen's son, Billy, is dead in his bedroom, but their baby is still alive. Luke's nowhere to be seen.
He's found in the back of his ute a few miles away, the shotgun used to kill his family held between his knees, his face blown off.
Aaron Falk hasn't returned to his home town in twenty years. His friend Ellie Deacon was found in the river, her pockets filled with stones, but when investigators found a piece of paper with his name on it - Falk - in her bedroom, all fingers were pointed at him. Luke gave him an alibi: they were shooting rabbits together. But by accepting Luke's offer, Aaron gave him an alibi in return, and it still didn't stop the Falk family getting run out of town.
Now Luke's snapped and massacred his family, Aaron feels guilty. He should have pushed Luke to tell him the truth about where he was on the day that Ellie died, and now it's too late. Could Luke have killed her, and hidden his murderous tendencies until now?
Aaron plans on returning to Kiewarra for the funeral and getting out of there as quickly as he can. But when Luke's parents, Gerry and Barb, beg Aaron to investigate his financial records, he feels as though he can't refuse the wishes of his friend's parents. Aaron and Luke were so close that he was practically a member of the Hadler family, and he owes them that much.
But people in the town aren't willing to leave the past alone. Ellie's cousin and father are still living in the same farmhouse she once called home, and they're desperate to get Aaron to leave. Their land shares borders with the Hadler land, so could they have killed the family and framed Luke to be able to make more money from a sale?
Or could it have been Gretchen, Luke's ex-girlfriend, who he cared for less than Ellie and then abandoned as soon as his future wife came on the scene?
One thing's for sure, the crime has to have something to do with Luke. Karen was a good mother and a good worker, but Luke knew how to rile people. Luke was the centre of attention when they were kids, the leader of the pack, and Aaron knows that's something about Luke that can't have changed.
But with Aaron so caught up in the past, will he be able to discover the truth behind what's happening in the present?

Just... Wow.
One of the reasons I stopped reading thrillers and crime novels was because I was finding them so damned predictable. I could see what was coming, and I got bored out of my skull.
'The Dry' keeps you guessing. I really hope you're not allergic to fish, because the amount of red herrings sprinkled throughout is astounding, particularly when you get to the end of the novel and all of the loose ends are tied up. I'm not going to talk spoilers here, but just know this: I suspected four different people throughout the novel, but I didn't consider the person who actually did it for a second.
Come on, that doesn't count as a spoiler! Did you really think Luke Hadler had done it?!
It isn't just the plot that blew me away. Jane Harper is a wonderful author, writing nuanced and complex characters that shine - even if they're only alive for brief moments in one of the many flashbacks laced throughout the narrative.
This novel is a masterclass on pathetic fallacy. The arid descriptions of the endless heat raise the tension to breaking point, and it becomes almost impossible to read on. You know something is going to happen, but it's so difficult to predict that you can feel a knot in your throat as you become desperate to get answers, willing Falk and his partner Raco to make a break through in the case.
The intertwining plot lines - Ellie Deacon's cold case and the presumed murder-suicide - both get their time in the spotlight, neither of them getting neglected. To be able to tell two stories simultaneously takes skill, and Jane has boatloads of it.
I just wish it hadn't ended. It's a satisfying conclusion, but I was enamoured with the characters and I wanted more. It's not often that I want a standalone to receive a sequel, but I'd love to be able to read more of Falk. 'The Dry' film rights have already been acquired by Reese Witherspoon's production company, and I can't wait for the day that I'll be able to watch the drama play out on the big screen.

If you love thrillers, you'll love 'The Dry'. If you're bored of thrillers and want one to come along that will actually surprise you, you'll love 'The Dry'. If you've never tried thrillers before because you think they're all gratuitous violence and don't focus on crafting beautiful language and breathtaking descriptions, you'll love 'The Dry'.
I genuinely believe that this is a book that everyone should try. I wasn't expecting to love it as much as I did, and now I'm thinking I've just read one of my favourite books of 2017 within the first week of the year.
This is more than just a thriller.
This is an exploration of a country plagued by extreme weather conditions, written by someone who knows Australia well.
This is a look at how the past will always impact your future, in ways you couldn't even begin to imagine.
This is one of the most exciting books you'll read in 2017.

I hope you enjoyed my stop on 'The Dry' blog tour!
Based on how many emotions I'm feeling towards this novel, and the fact that I just want to DISCUSS DISCUSS DISCUSS, I'm going to write a more spoiler-filled review at some point next week. Keep an eye out for it going up.
I'm taking part in another two blog tours this week: one on Monday, one on Tuesday. Come back and visit to find out what books I'm going to be talking about then!

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

TOP FIVE WEDNESDAY: Top five 2017 debuts I'm excited for

(Top Five Wednesday was created by GingerReadsLainey. Find out more at the Goodreads group!)

I actually wrote a post on this topic for Top Ten Tuesday last week, but instead of skipping a week I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to talk about ANOTHER five debuts I'm really excited about!
There are so many exciting first novels coming out in the next twelve months, and I love being able to promote them and introduce you guys to some books you might not have heard about just yet.

5) 'Gilded Cage' by Vic James
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I'll be honest, I've heard so much hype around 'Gilded Cage' but I still have no idea what it's about, because every time I hear about it I just get distracted by how beautiful that cover is! I promise I'll look up what it's about eventually... If I can stop staring at the beauty... 

4) 'The Gallery of Unfinished Girls' by Lauren Karcz
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I have a hate-hate relationship with magical realism. All of the books I've read that have been described like this have just been confusing or boring or a combination of the two that leaves me groaning and wishing for the books to just END ALREADY. I'm hoping that won't be the case with 'The Gallery of Unfinished Girls', because I've heard nothing but rave reviews about it so far. 

3) 'The Art of Starving' by Sam J. Miller
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I'm have a macabre fascination with biological illustrations, skulls, bones and the like, so when I saw this cover I fell in love. I'm gonna be honest, this one sounds like it's going to hurt me, but actually seeing male anorexia dealt with in YA is so refreshing that I need to pick it up. 

2) 'The Inevitable Collision of Birdie and Bash' by Candace Ganger
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I'd included this book in my post last week, but I ended up editing it out because it sounds a bit like 'Severed Heads, Broken Hearts' by Robin Schneider, which I hated. I've decided I can't judge a book by the feelings I had towards the book it kinda-sorta sounds like, so I'm getting excited about this one once more. 

1) 'Wicked Like a Wildfire' by Lana Popovic
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I've had my eye on 'Wicked Like a Wildfire' since the cover was revealed back in October, and even though it's still eight months away I'm looking forward to getting my hands on a copy. It sounds like nothing I've ever read before, and I think it's going to blow me away. 

I hope you enjoyed this Top Five Wednesday! Are you as excited as I am for any of the debuts I've talked about recently?

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

'Wondrous' by Travis M. Riddle

*This review will contain spoilers!*

First things first, I need to say a huge thank you to Travis, for sending me an early copy of 'Wondrous' to read and review. 

'There were loud shouts. Angry noises. Things to make Miles' skin tingle and stomach flip. He was soothed with quick I love yous and goodnight forehead kisses, and then the room blackened into stillness.' 
Establishing pretty quickly that Miles' home life wasn't the best, I hadn't been expecting a start like this. With the bright colours and beautiful watercolour design of the cover, it tricks you into thinking it's going to be a much more lighthearted fantasy.
If you didn't come here for emotional upheaval and countless deaths, look away now...

Miles is huddled under his duvet at home in Texas, trying to block out the sounds of his recently divorced parents arguing. A storm is raging outside, and when he opens his eyes he's surprised to find that he's been transported to a mysterious wood made up of trees covered in purple leaves.
Within moments he's being apprehended by two scorpion-esque creatures: the Skyr (the yellow person on the cover). They believe he's a spy for Queen Alys, and he gets thrown in a cage with a green frog-like man called Mortimer (also pictured on the cover). 
Mortimer explains that Rompu are in the middle of a civil war: King Mykael used magic to summon an uncontrollable flying monster called the Veratt (you guessed it, the terrifying purple thing on Miles' head), and Queen Alys disagreed with his actions, so now the world is divided. The majority of Skyr and Omne (lizard men, who I think of as similar to komodo dragons) support the King, while the Queen is supported by the Rompuns - Mortimer's species - and the Ruhigans, who have wings (and who I picture looking like Hawlucha from Pokémon).
Miles and Mortimer manage to escape when a rouge lightning bolt strikes one of the trees surrounding the Skyr encampment, causing a fire. In the panic the two prisoners get away and Mortimer promises he'll take Miles to Trafier to speak to the Queen, who might be able to get him home.
But in the world of Rompu, Miles has magic. He finds a wild dog called a maylan, who has an injured leg. Mortimer tells him to leave the maylan behind which makes Miles distraught. He reaches out to stroke the animal and a blue-green aura surrounds them, after which the maylan able to walk unassisted when moments before he could barely stand. Miles calls the creature Clint, and he joins them on their quest to reach Trafier.
After a brief rest with the Ruhigans, Miles and Mortimer are given Carriers (which I imagine are like World of Warcraft Wyverns) to ride to get them back to the Rompun's home. The Veratt attacks during this leg of their quest, and Mortimer falls from his Carrier when it's swiped out of the air. Miles and Clint make it to Trafier, where he has to tell Jaselle, Mortimer's wife, the fate that has befallen her husband.
After Miles has had a couple of days to rest, he meets Queen Alys. Mortimer has been corresponding with Jaselle and the Queen during their journey, and he has told them that he believes Miles possesses magical powers. It's the first Miles has heard of it: he's just a regular boy who wants to go home. But after a few days of training, they all agree that Mortimer was right.
When Miles is angry, he conjures fireballs in his hands. When he's sad, it begins to rain, and when that sadness turns to fear lightning strikes all around. He can't work out what helped him heal Clint, but he knows that the adults are on to something.
It's difficult to keep random lightning storms under wraps. The King finds out that Miles has powers, and he sends in Jericho and Kricket, an Omne and a Skyr, to bring the boy back to him. He wants Miles to defeat the Veratt, because since he summoned in the King has had two warring personalities. The murderous, evil one seems to be becoming stronger the longer the Veratt is allowed to roam free.
But Miles is only nine, and saving the world is a big responsibility. He needs to focus on the memories that hurt him the most - his parents arguing over something his dad did, his grandmother telling him she thought she was dying - and it drains him. If he isn't strong enough to face his past, how can he be strong enough to take down the Veratt?

'Wondrous' was confusing. I often struggle to read fantasy because I find it difficult to picture the brand new species and exotic locations described, but because Travis adapted the Omne, Skyr, Ruhigans and Rompuns from creatures in our realm, this didn't plague me as much as it has in other high fantasy that I've read. 
However, because Miles' powers are linked to his emotions, there are often rapid flashbacks interspersed with the action going on in the present, and the jumping back and forth made me feel dizzy. It was linked beautifully, sentences said in the present throwing Miles back into a scene from earlier in his life in a very intelligent way, but I feel as though it would work better on the screen than it does on the page. Despite the fact that the two scenes flowed into each other, I often found the blending obscured meaning and there were large sections that I had to read twice to properly understand.
That was my only complaint
This book is a delight to read. Miles is only nine years old, but he lost his innocence early in life due to his parents' divorce and his grandmother's death. That makes 'Wondrous' a bit of a coming-of-age novel, with Miles learning to deal with his broken family and his mysophobia while journeying through Rompu and helping to save them from the evil Veratt.
Due to the death and destruction the Veratt causes, 'Wondrous' is definitely a young adult novel. There are quite a lot of difficult terms used when describing the civil war that's raging through the land, and the injuries caused by the Veratt are described in often graphic detail. I wouldn't recommend it to a reader the same age as Miles, but I would suggest you don't write it off because it's told from a child's point of view. I found it easier to empathise with Miles than most protagonists: he just wants to go home to his family and his dog, and he doesn't really want to face up to his responsibility as the only one capable of defeating the monstrous beast. 
The memories that Miles needs to access to use his magic will be familiar to us all, the death of Miles' grandmother hitting me particularly hard. Travis has a skill at writing emotive passages, and at multiple points I found myself feeling angry and upset alongside Miles, particularly because the King of Rompu doesn't think twice about manipulating his feelings to access his magic. 
I particularly appreciated the way Travis dealt with Miles' mysophobia. Rather than including the phobia as a character quirk and quickly sweeping it under the table, his fear of germs crops up regularly and we watch as he learns to live with his fear, eventually beginning to move past it. The portrayal of anxiety was authentic, and the character development made sense: I bet if you were living in swampland, you'd find it hard to maintain a fear of germs too! 
I had to put my scepticism on the back burner a couple of times - Miles is able to convince the adults to let him do whatever he wants, and he manages to defeat the Veratt despite being told that one of his arms was rendered virtually unusable after a painful fall - but I enjoyed this book a lot more when I let the story carry me along. There's always going to be potential plot holes in fantasy novels (particularly those with child protagonists) but the beauty of 'Wondrous' is that it impressed me in spite of these little annoyances. Travis has poured his heart and soul into the world of Rompu, and with a world this well thought out and crafted I genuinely hope we'll be able to visit the residents again in the future.

The idea of magical skills being linked to your emotion isn't uncommon, but the range of different species that Travis created to populate his world are extremely unique. Rompu and its inhabitants are fascinating and while I found it a little confusing at points, overall Travis explains the history and geography of the world extremely well. Excerpts from text books make you feel as though you're really researching this world alongside Miles, and the folklore brings it to life. 
This is Travis's debut novel, but I'm already excited to see what he'll write next. With a mind like his, it's bound to be wondrous.