Thursday, 1 June 2017

May Favourites: Feminism, Bookstagram and Conspiracy Theories

Hello everyone! It's been ages since I did a monthly favourites post mainly because I keep coming down with various illnesses since catching flu at the start of the year (it's true what they say, it really does throw your immune system out of wack) so a favourites post would mainly consist of cough sweets, sleeping and other boring sick person things that nobody wants to read about. But now summer is almost here and there has been lots of things I have been enjoying in May so let's take a look at what I've been loving this past month.

Favourite Books

   

In May I fell head over heels for two very different books. First up was Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh a YA Fantasy Mulan retelling. I loved the sound of this one but was a bit hesitant to pick it up because I wasn't the biggest fan of this authors previous book The Wrath and the Dawn but I'm so glad I decided to give this book a go because I absolutely loved it! I posted a review for this one so if you'd like to find out more do check that out here.

Half way through the month I found myself in a bit of a reading slump and fancied reading something light and enjoyable. I'd been hearing good things about Paige Toon's latest The Last Piece of My Heart so when I spotted a copy going for cheap in Tesco I decided to pick it up and read it right there and then. This book completely swept me away, I was so invested in the main character Bridget and her journey. I absolutely loved the romance and even had a little cry over the ending. Like Renée Ahdieh, Paige Toon's books can be a bit hit or miss for me but this turned out to be my favourite Paige Toon novel to date! This months reading has definitely shown me that sometimes giving an author a second chance can really pay off.

Favourite to Listen to

 

Recently I've been really loving the new single from Hailee Steinfeld Most Girls. Hailee's music is so fresh carrying a really strong feminist message and Most Girls is no different. It's a song that confronts the backhanded "you're not like most girls" compliment and celebrates different kinds of girls and how they choose to express themselves. The music video for this is fab and I'd definitely recommend giving it a watch if you haven't seen it!

Favourite to Watch


As I type this only the pilot episode has aired so far in the UK but it was so good that it had to make my favourites post. So, can we just talk about The Handmaid's Tale for a second!? I have yet to read the book (more on that in a future blog post) but I'd heard enough about it to know that it's a dark, harrowing look at a near-future where women lose their rights and become walking wombs for rich and powerful men, yet nothing could prepare me for how relevant this show is to things that have and are currently happening in the world at the moment. Sitting here writing this, the scene where one of the handmaids has been raped immediately comes to mind. She's sat in the middle of the room, closed in a circle by her fellow handmaids, who are pointing at her and chanting "her fault" that scene gives me goosebumps to think about and brings to mind what goes on in our own courthouses today. I have a feeling that The Handmaid's Tale will be one of the most important, most talked about shows of the year and I already can't wait for the next episode.

Favourite Online

   

Don't you just love when you find a new favourite YouTuber and you spend a whole weekend getting caught up on their entire backlog of videos? So that's basically what I did one weekend with YouTuber Kendall Rae when I fell down a conspiracy theory rabbit hole on Youtube. Kendall produces some of the most interesting, well researched content that I have ever watched on YouTube and covers everything from conspiracy theories, to murder mysteries, to body confidence videos, to astrology. Since watching her channel I now believe in so many things that I didn't this time last month so if like me, you are fascinated by the unexplainable I would definitely recommend checking out her content - just be warned that once you start you won't be able to stop! I've shared one of my favourite videos from her to get you started. You're welcome.

 Favourite Thing

From my Instagram JessHeartsBooks

My favourite thing in May has to be Bookstagram! At the moment I love nothing more than creating pictures of the beautiful books I get in whether that's by creating a set or playing around with filters and editing. Sometimes if my mental health is bad I can find social media pretty stressful but Bookstagram is my happy place where I can step away from online conversations and get lost in a world of pretty books. I think that Bookstagram is such a fun and creative way to share what you are reading and I love scrolling through the hashtag on Instagram to become inspired and look for new ways to improve my own content. I'm getting close to 1,000 followers so I'd really appreciate if you could give me a follow over there at JessHeartsBooks if you'd like to see more bookish posts from me!

Favourite Memory

Photo credit to RayReadsaLot

Early last month Ray, Chelle, Faye and I had a Girlhood reading party where we sat around with snacks, Chinese takeaway and the new Cat Clarke book for an entire Saturday reading out loud to each other and chatting. Our reading parties are always one of my favourite things that we do together as a group and this one was particularly fun because we were all reading the same book. Girlhood is a book that heavily focuses on female friendships so it was a really great choice for a group of friends to read together. We're talking about hosting another reading party in June and I already can't wait!

What were some of your favourite things in May?

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

The Summer House by the Sea Blog Tour

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on The Summer House by the Sea blog tour! Today I have author Jenny Oliver on the blog sharing a guest post on her top holiday reads.


My Top 5 Holiday Reads by Jenny Oliver

1.) My favourite pool-side read has to be Polo by Jilly Cooper. I remember when I was younger I’d take stacks of Sweet Valley High on holiday, then my mum told me there were these books called Mills & Boon which I then took stacks of away with me, then I saw my sister reading this giant book called Polo and, daunted by the size, I turned my nose up, only to discover it much later on and absolutely LOVED it! I am a huge Jilly Cooper fan – it’s the ultimate escapism.

2.) Last summer I read Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi and, while the story was completely different to what I was expecting, I couldn’t put it down. Hilarious, poignant, painful and brilliant.

3.) The People at Number Nine by Felicity Everett is the book I keep recommending at the moment. It shines a light on parenting, envy and middle-class snobbery in such a sharp, clever, insidious manner. I thought about it for ages afterwards. I think it would have me sizing up all the other people lounging by the pool.

4.) My favourite crime recently has been Missing, Presumed by Susie Steiner. Intelligent and gripping with a great female detective.

5.) I’ve never met anyone disappointed with Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor and Park – funny, touching and completely absorbing.

And of course, all the Jenny Oliver books you can cram into your suitcase! ;-)

 Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Monday, 22 May 2017

Summer at Conwenna Cove Blog Tour

Hello everyone and welcome to my stop on the Summer at Conwenna Cove blog tour! Today I have a brilliant guest post from author Darcie Boleyn on why she writes romance.


Why I Write Romance by Darcie Boleyn 

Life can be pretty full on at times, and reading is one of my favourite ways to relax. I enjoy all genres but when I want something to make me smile, something that I can rely on to lift my mood and to transport me away to another time and place, I turn to romance novels.

A romance novel takes readers on a familiar journey. That’s why I always smile when a novel is described as being ‘predictable’, because yes, romance readers do want a happy ever after. Or at least, a happy for now. And as much as I enjoy reading romance novels, I enjoy writing them. I love creating the complex main characters with their baggage, their lost hopes and dreams, and bringing them together. They might not always like the other character at first, but by the end of the story, they will do. However, the journey they go on mustn't be easy; there must be plenty of conflict, both internal and external, and there will always be a black moment, when the conflict is at its highest and it seems as though there couldn’t possibly be a happy ending.

I love the dance that the two characters perform… the will-they, won’t-they build up as their relationship develops. I love to build the physical and emotional tension between them, to convey how the other character makes them feel just by being close. I love describing how they feel when it dawns on them that they are in love, even if at that point it still seems like they can’t possibly be together. Because when they eventually do admit their feelings, it will be all the sweeter.

Most films and TV series feature at least one love story. Take Ross and Rachel, Monica and Chandler, Jim and Pam, Glen and Maggie, Carrie and Big, Harry and Sally, the list goes on. Many of us enjoy watching characters we like and care about getting together and reading romances is no different. We become invested in the stories and in the characters’ lives and want them to be happy.

The point of a romance isn’t just that everyone has someone, but that everyone is fulfilled, and when I write romances, I want the characters to evolve to a state where they don’t need someone else but are finally ready to be with someone. They have to be strong enough and confident enough and developed enough to be in a fulfilling relationship.

I want the reader to feel satisfied when they finish reading one of my novels, to believe that the two main characters have overcome the obstacles I put in their way and that they deserve to be together. I want the reader to feel happy and hopeful, because life is tough enough, and a happy ending in a romance novel can be something for them to hold close when real life is not quite so perfect.

Don't miss the rest of the blog tour!

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Review for Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder
Release: 18th May 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Source: Proof copy received from Amazon Vine




Synopsis: 
"Mariko has always known that being a woman means she's not in control of her own fate. But Mariko is the daughter of a prominent samurai and a cunning alchemist in her own right, and she refuses to be ignored. When she is ambushed by a group of bandits known as the Black Clan enroute to a political marriage to Minamoto Raiden - the emperor's son - Mariko realises she has two choices: she can wait to be rescued... or she can take matters into her own hands, hunt down the clan and find the person who wants her dead.

Disguising herself as a peasant boy, Mariko infiltrates the Black Clan's hideout and befriends their leader, the rebel ronin Ranmaru, and his second-in-command, Okami. Ranmaru and Okami warm to Mariko, impressed by her intellect and ingenuity. But as Mariko gets closer to the Black Clan, she uncovers a dark history of secrets that will force her to question everything she's ever known."

Review 
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ahdieh’s previous YA fantasy offering The Wrath and the Dawn but I loved the sound of Flame in the Mist so decided to give it a go and I’m so glad I did! Sometimes giving an author a second chance really pays off.

The book follows Hattori Mariko a seventeen-year-old girl who is on her way to marry the Emperor’s son when she is ambushed by the disreputable bandits the Black Clan who have been hired to kill her. All her life Mariko has been a pawn in a world ruled by men but now believed to be dead she decides to carve her own path and escape the clutches of her father and the political marriage he has arranged for her. Disguised as a boy, Mariko sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan so that she can discover who paid to have her murdered and to earn the clan’s trust so that when they least expect it she can get her revenge on those who would have killed her.

Flame in the Mist is a retelling of Mulan and I found it to be such a refreshing take on YA fantasy. A lot of the Japanese mythology used in this book was new to me and I loved exploring a different kind of fantasy world. The authors writing and descriptions were vivid and luscious making it so easy for me to get lost in the world around me.

Mariko was hands down my favourite aspect of this book. She’s a badass feminist heroine who questions the society she lives in and constantly uses her intelligence and ideas to prove herself equal to the men around her. There were so many quotes throughout this book from Mariko on feminism that I just loved.

My main issue with The Wrath and the Dawn was that I didn’t like the romance and felt that there was too much of it but in Flame in the Mist Renee Ahdieh gets it exactly right. There is a gorgeous slow burn between Mariko and her love interest and I appreciated how it played a smaller role and didn’t overshadow Mariko’s personal development or the adventure that she’s on.

With Flame in the Mist Renee Ahdieh has really upped her game as a writer and has created a lavish fantasy world with a dark mystery at its heart. This book really ticked all of the right boxes for me and I am already eagerly awaiting the next book in this series.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Review for The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne

The Marsh King's Daughter 
by Karen Dionne 
Publisher: Sphere
Release: 29th June 2017
Genre: Crime Fiction, Thriller
Source: Proof copy borrowed from the lovely Broadbean’s Books



Synopsis:
" 'I was born two years into my mother's captivity. She was three weeks shy of seventeen. If I had known then what I do now, things would have been a lot different. I wouldn't have adored my father.'

When notorious child abductor - known as the Marsh King - escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena's past: they don't know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve - or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don't know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone... except, perhaps his own daughter."

Review 
The Marsh King's Daughter was nothing like I expected it to be but in the best possible way! The book is narrated by Helena a woman born into captivity who spent the first twelve years of her life hidden away in the marshlands. Her whole world is made up solely of her teenage mother, her captor - who is also her father - and their daily struggle to survive in the wilderness.

Skip to the present day and Helena is a grown woman with her own husband and two young daughters who after her escape has severed all ties to her childhood in the marsh. But when her father escapes from prison she knows that he'll come after her and that it could be her daughters that he takes next.

In order to outsmart her father she has to become the daughter he raised - ruthless, feral, a skilled tracker and murderer so that she finds him before he can find her. But when it comes down to the love of a manipulative parent and the instinct to protect your children which would win?

Helena is far from your typical victim. Throughout the book we see her struggle with the side of her that is very much her father's daughter and her own complicated feelings towards him. It took me a while to really understand Helena as a character but once I did I found her fascinating to read about. I found it so interesting to read a book where the victim isn't scared of her kidnapper and instead struggles with feelings of adoration and love towards them despite knowing that she shouldn't feel that way. Helena's characterization and growth throughout the novel was the real highlight of this book for me.

The story is told in both the past and the present which kept the plot moving along at lightning speed. Although I loved the game of cat and mouse that Helena and her father played in the present day, it was the chapters set back when they lived together in the marsh that really held my attention. I loved learning about what Helena and her mother's lives were like and the cruelties that they'd experience, not only at the hands of their kidnapper, but also from the hard-living conditions of a life of solitude in the marsh.

Overall this is a story of our internal struggle between right and wrong and how that perception can become skewered for somebody who grew up idolizing and loving such a cruel parent. It's about survival and what it means to be a survivor. It's about the relationship we have with our parents and the thin line between love and hate, and it’s about the effect that our experiences as children have on our development. The Marsh King's Daughter is a phenomenal thriller and one that I'd recommend to fans of Room and anyone looking for something different and unexpected from the genre.

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