Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

33806020Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
Genre: 
Contemporary
Publisher: Canongate
Pages: 368
Format: e-book
Rating: ★★
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If there’s ever a reason to pick up a book, it’s to find out why half the characters are spontaneously combusting without rhyme or reason. The quirky plot drew me in, but the voice drew me out.

Mara Carlyle is our narrator. She’s hyper aware of the this role, calling chapters ‘things you should know’ and the like. I can forgive the story telling being dramatic – hey, not everyday is it that someone blows up in front of your face – but there was something about the narration that felt a little over the top. Maybe it was the humour, a joke gone too far. Not in the crude sense, where you just start gritting your teeth because something fun became something prejudice, but where every humorous moment, or observation is drawn out with one too many examples.  Continue reading “Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer”

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Review: Stargazing for Beginnings by Jenny McLachlan

32021893Stargazing for Beginnings by Jenny McLachlan
Genre: 
Contemporary
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 256
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★★★
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

As soon as I saw this book, it caught my eye, I’m a sucker for stars and anything space-based. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew it was a book I’d have to read immediately, dropping all responsibilities to be truly absorbed by a book.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a contemporary like this. My first instinct is to compare it to the writing of Holly Smale and the characters of Katy Cannon (AKA the recipe for Maddie’s Perfect Book.) I was even more delighted that, by the end, I could add YA Cathy Cassidy book to my list of comparisons. Stargazing for Beginners was perfectly made, and here’s how I think it was done! Continue reading “Review: Stargazing for Beginnings by Jenny McLachlan”

Review: The City Bleeds Gold by Lucy Saxon

32467656The City Bleeds Gold by Lucy Saxon
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 400
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★.5
Series: Take Back The Skies (#1) | The Almost King (#2)

First of all, let’s just take a moment to die over how beautiful this cover is. THE COLOURS. This is the third book in the Tellus series, and probably my favourite of the books so far. Each story centres on a different main character in a different country of the fantastical world, and The City Bleeds Gold follows Noah, the future queen’s almost-finance, who moonlights as Daniel, who searches for truth and justice in the lower areas of the city to bring down the big bad.

Continue reading “Review: The City Bleeds Gold by Lucy Saxon”

Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

30226723King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard
Genre: Dystopian
Publisher: Orion
Pages: 528
Format: e-book
Rating: ★★.5
Series: Red Queen
Note: We received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review!

So, I loved Red Queen but found Glass Sword to be a bit out there, and I have to admit that King’s Cage dragged. I feel like this is the one instance where it would’ve worked better as a trilogy! Seriously, this book is over 500 pages and it moves sooo slowly, and not in a good way. But I’m invested in the series, and considering there’s only one more to go, I’m going to soldier on and read it when it comes out next year.

Continue reading “Review: King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard”

Review: The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer

31305531The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer
Genre: 
Contemporary, Magical Realism
Publisher: Amulet Books
Pages: 384
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn is a story about a girl who finds out she’s pregnant and can’t remember having sex. She has a long term boyfriend, and a memory of kissing someone who was very much not her boyfriend, but that’s it. I was really drawn to the book because of the premise. I knew it would take a religious turn, what with the virgin birth thing, but I didn’t know that it would offer a general commentary on the ridiculousness of the media and how they write whatever they like, without sources or a sense of sympathy for those they harm. Continue reading “Review: The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianna Baer”

Interview with Michael Grant!

So, earlier this month Egmont reached out to us about Michael Grant’s Soldier Girls series, and as part of that we had the opportunity to ask Michael a few questions, and here they are:

  1. For those that haven’t read the series, what three words would you use to describe it?

Intense. Accurate. Entertaining.

  1. What triggered you to write Front Lines?

Actually my father-in-law was pushing the Liberation Trilogy by Rick Atkinson on me, and I thought nah, I’ve read enough about World War 2, but then I started reading it and very soon decided that I wanted to write about it.  It’s just so much story!  So many fascinating and strange and intense stories.

  1. Did you have any real life inspirations behind Rio, Frangie, and Rainy, and if so, who were they? 

Rio is based a bit not on the actual Audie Murphy, who was the most decorated American soldier in the war, but on the idea of Audie Murphy who was this short, squeaky, somewhat effeminate-looking kid from nowhere Texas.  The Marines rejected him, the Navy rejected him, and even after he was accepted in the Army and had been through training and was deployed to Italy, his officers tried to keep him out of combat because he was this little guy who stood 5’ 5” and weighed less than eight stone, which incidentally is about the size of a typical American woman.  Murphy won every medal they had, including the Medal of Honor, which is our equivalent to the Victoria Cross, and is not the sort of thing they hand out as prizes in Happy Meals.

  1. What was the most challenging and the most rewarding part of writing Front Lines?

The most challenging bit was getting the historical details right.  Practically every page required me to go and check some fact.  I suppose the most rewarding part was the feeling of having done something a bit outside my comfort zone.  Also, I’d never written in third person present tense before. You have no idea how many times I had to go back and correct myself for slipping into past tense.  But going with present was part of making the books feel more immediate, less sepia-toned.

  1. What was your favourite scene to write?

I think less in terms of scenes than characters and relationships.  I liked the relationships within Rio’s platoon.  I liked Frangie trying the square the circle between her basic gentleness and faith, and the fact that again and again she is patching soldiers up only to send them back into the fight.  And I liked Rainy’s coldly analytical way of thinking.  I liked all my main characters.  I would definitely like to buy them all a beer and sit in a pub and listen to their stories.

  1. In what ways did writing Front Lines differ from writing your other series?

Well, normally I just make things up.  That’s sort of my job description:  make things up.  The only time I’ve had to do much fact-checking was for the BZRK series, but even there I had much more control over how everything played out.  For FRONT LINES I went to a lot of trouble to get it all right.  In addition to reading and sifting through war videos I went to a number of locations:  Sicily, Luxembourg, Oradour-sur-Glane, Buchenwald.  And all tax-deductible.  Yay!

  1. If the Front Lines girls lived in contemporary society, who would they look up to?

Well, they would have voted for Hillary Clinton.  I’m sure of that much.


If you haven’t started this series yet, then we would highly recommend it and you can read our reviews of Front Lines and Silver Stars, if you need extra persuading!

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My Top 5 Historical Couples by Sophia Bennett, author of Following Ophelia

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Hey everyone! Something very exciting for today’s post – Sophia Bennett joins us for the penultimate stop on the Following Ophelia blog tour to talk about her favourite historical couples. Romance was one of the strongest elements of the book, so we can’t wait to hear what inspired Sophia for Ophelia’s love story.

(Check out the banner on our blog to find out where Sophia’s stopping next!)


Thanks for having me, Bee and Maddie, and thank you for your review of Following Ophelia. I loved it!

It wasn’t until my seventh book, Love Song, that I wrote a proper romance. I’m interested in girls who make things or do things and they never (not even in the romance) rely on a lover to sort their lives out. But there is something wonderful about love.

I’m lucky that I ended up with my soulmate – someone I trust absolutely, and who makes me laugh every day. He also put up a light for me yesterday, but knows that I could perfectly well have put it up myself, if I didn’t happen to be gardening. He is awesome. It took a while to meet him though. We didn’t marry until I was thirty-nine.

Before that, I experienced all the ups and downs of love. I want my readers to feel the heady thrill of lust, the joy of feeling a connection – but I don’t want them to think that automatically means ‘happy ever after’. It’s usually just the start of a roller-coaster, so I wanted Mary’s experience in Following Ophelia to follow mine a little bit. She’s only just started on the journey of love. I have more to write, and she has further to travel.

It’s been fun setting her story in the 1850s, with all the complications of class, money and sex the Victorians experienced. Here are some of my favourite couples from history and legend, whom I got to know while researching various books. It’s not always easy being in love.

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  1. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert – from Following Ophelia. I’ve always loved the strong connection between Victoria and Albert. Albert is underrated, I think. He was highly intelligent, curious, and passionately supported the arts. We have his energy and support to thank for the V&A Museum, for example.

    Victoria became boring and distant after he died, but she was quite different while he was alive. (Check out Daisy Goodwin’s fantastic TV series about them if you haven’t already seen it.) If only he’d lasted longer than 1861 …

    Demeter.jpg

  2. Persephone and Demeter – from Following Ophelia. I had to research this Greek legend for the book, as Mary takes on the name and inspiration of Persephone. She was a daughter of Zeus and Demeter, stolen by Hades and taken to the Underworld.

    Demeter, the goddess of the Harvest, desperately searched the world for her missing daughter. Eventually, she found her and begged for her return. But there was a catch, involving 7 pomegranate seeds … It’s a tragic story, driven by a mother’s love. I won’t spoil it if you don’t know it, but there’s nothing like a Greek legend for drama. And isn’t this statue of mother and daughter unusual and beautiful?

    Bowie.jpg

  3. David Bowie and Iman – from Love Song. It can’t be denied: they look incredible together. This could have gone so wrong, the pop star and the supermodel, but as she said, she married David Jones, not David Bowie.

    They kept their relationship fairly quiet – no big Hello spreads – but I never saw them look anything less than deeply in love. He always seems so utterly entranced by her company.

    It might seem odd to have them as a historical couple, but when David died last year it felt as though a special period of history had come to an end. RIP David. We still miss you.

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  4. Sah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal – from Beads. He loved her so much he built the Taj Mahal as her monument. That says it all, really.

    YSL

  5. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé – from Threads. Researching fashion designers as I did for the Threads series, I became fascinated that so many of them – almost all, in fact – had a brilliant business manager by their side, who was often their lover too.

    It takes a combination of creative flair, passion and cold business sense to make a fashion house work, and very few individuals have that in one package. Yves needed Pierre, and Pierre needed him. They were so lucky to find each other. If you’re a creative person, it really helps to fall in love with someone who appreciates and supports what you do!


After getting all flustered by how adorable all these couples are, you’re probably dying to read Following Ophelia, right? Check out our reviewFollowing Ophelia‘s Goodreads and find Sophia Bennett on Twitter!

Review: A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab

31671570A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab
Genre:
Fantasy
Publisher: Titan Books
Pages: 666
Format: Paperback
Rating: ★★★★
Series: A Darker Shade of Magic (#1) | A Gathering of Shadows (#2)
Note: We received this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. 

I have been in love with this series for a year, and the time has finally come: the release of A Conjuring of Light. I also don’t want this to be a spoiler review and that’s going to be hard so I’m just going to do what we always do on Heart Full of Books when it’s a book we really liked and make a list. I’m going to do this slightly differently and work through some of my thoughts whilst I was reading, let’s go!  Continue reading “Review: A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab”

Review: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

32187354The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas
Genre: Contemporary
Publisher: MacMillan Children’s Book
Pages: 224
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★★
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This was the perfect book for us to read after finishing the Geek Girl series by Holly Smale. Grace had the same style quirks as Harriet, and even though she wasn’t spurting facts left, right and centre, there was that same sense of frivolity and fun that Geek Girl omits. If you love that series, it’s guaranteed you’ll get on well with Grace and co.

Grace has Asperger’s. Grace, and everyone around her, deals with this because it’s completely normal. I’ve read a few Own Voices reviews of the book that talk about how good it is that Grace isn’t seen as a ‘problem child’ or ‘weird’ by other people, and that’s one of the reasons this book is so good. Many books that are dealing with the non-average teenager will make whatever makes them non-average into their whole personality. Have an eating disorder? Well, you might as well be called Anorexia. Have depression? Well, looks like all you’ll be feeling is depressed. Grace is the complete opposite of this, and that’s beyond refreshing. Some of her teachers don’t even realise she has Asperger’s. It’s not an excuse for her behaviour – it’s just something she lives with.  Continue reading “Review: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas”