Guest Post: Bryony Pearce author of Savage Island

Very excitingly, today we are hosting Bryony Pearce as part of the Savage Island blog tour! ‘Savage Island’ has to be my favourite of all the Red Eye books. It’s so atypical in terms of setting and tropes but I LOVED that Bryony thought outside of the box and made geocaching something to fear! The whole book played on expectations and cliches, and even though I was biting my nails the whole way through, I loved every second of it!

Now onto Bryony talking about how the setting represents the interiority of the characters!

Interior world, exterior world

Savage Island has two settings: the ordinary world at home, which is revealed in the Prologue and through flashbacks, and the island itself.

I always intended the island to be more than a setting however; it is more like a character in its own right. The island helps the protagonists, offers refuge or protection (caves, trees, rocks, ravines) and has moods of its own (shown in the landscape, weather, wildlife and time of day).

Further, the island is a representation of the interior worlds of our protagonists, reflecting what is going on with them.

The first we know about the island is its location and name. It is an island in the Shetlands called Aikenhead. (Aikenhead does not, of course, exist, but it is based on existing islands in the archipelago).

The Shetlands are a part of the British-Isles, the most Northerly part, but separate from them, just as the island follows the rules of the normal world but is apart from them.

Aikenhead is a Scottish name (one reason for picking it as the name of my fictional island), but it is also a surname. The most famous Aikenhead is Thomas, a Scottish student from Edinburgh, who was executed for blasphemy at the age of twenty (he was the last person in Great Britain to be executed for this crime).

In my last blog post I spoke about how the story forms a battle between the id and the superego. Thomas is another link to this – the arguments that got him killed were what many in this century might consider logical:

The prisoner had repeatedly maintained, in conversation, that theology was a rhapsody of ill-invented nonsense, patched up partly of the moral doctrines of philosophers, and partly of poetical fictions and extravagant chimeras … That the Holy Scriptures were stuffed with such madness, nonsense, and contradictions, that he admired the stupidity of the world in being so long deluded by them.

So even the name of the island represents this battle between logic and instinct, what is right and what we want / need. It is also, more literally named after a young man who was killed. A victim.

Before they see the island, the teens are sent a description of it, so that they can prepare. From this they discover that it is mainly peat covered moorland dotted with rowan and birch copses.

The Celtic meaning of the Rowan tree is power, healing, protection and transformation. Similarly, in early Celtic mythology, the Birch came to symbolise renewal and purification. By telling the teams that the island is covered in Birch and Rowan, they are warned that something transformative is going to occur: they will not leave the island the same as they arrived.

The copses offer the team protection when they are hunted and they offer healing in the crutch that Lizzie uses when she is injured.

Birch trees are also associated with vision quests and this is what Ben has when he has his tooth extracted.

When they reach the Shetlands, the island is shrouded in mist: invisible. This is another hint that in going to Aikenhead, the team is going to leave their ordinary world, and enter another where the rules are going to be different.

On the island itself, the birds are its eyes, the animals its barometer.

Above us natural ramparts were completely covered in roosting birds; white streaks calcified the rock and bush-like nests protruded from every cranny. The noise was incredible: cawing and screeching, crying and jabbering – an unruly audience awaiting a show.

At night, when things get dire for the team the wildlife changes – from rabbits, sheep, seals, otters and seabirds to midges, owls, moths and bats – more irritating, more mysterious, more threatening.

During the daytime, at the start of the competition, the island is a beautiful place, sunlit, hopeful and inspiring. But even here, we find foreboding: trees deformed by the wind, the skua hunting the gull. As the sun sets, it transforms. Colours vanish, sounds alter, even the scents change.

We were almost out of the trees and the full moon had risen higher, casting shadows of its own. Twigs cracked underfoot and I noticed that the scents of the island had changed, become colder and fresher. The sounds around us had changed too. The gulls had gone, but now I could hear the buzz of bats’ wings and the distant hooting of owls.

Then there is the weather. As the team gets deeper into the island, as their experiences become more terrible, as their hope dies, the weather worsens: wild winds, storms, lashing rain. As they become more terrified, so their physical environment becomes more terrifying, until the climactic battle takes place on the island’s highest peak, during an epic storm, wherein the wind is as much a participant in the fight as anyone else.

I staggered sideways as a gust of wind hit us. Someone was bowled off their feet, there was a yell of surprise and someone else thudded into my leg, not quite knocking me over.

Curtis and the skinny boy had another cornered and the fourth was too far away, fighting the wind.

My head was pounding, blood was streaming from my nose, my eyes were swollen – definitely blackened – and the wind was screaming.

 

You get the sense, reading Savage Island, that the island itself is on the side of the protagonists. That there is some hidden Goddess beneath the surface who disapproves of what is happening; nature (Aikenhead) vs. human power (Gates); she sends as much help as she can.

 

Advertisements

Review: Strange the Dreamer

To celebrate the release of the Strange the Dreamer paperback, I’m sharing my review of the book!

Strange the Dreamer is a masterpiece through and through. It’s beautifully constructed and the setting and characters are so vivid and intoxicating. It’s the story of Sarai and Laslo. She is a magical being who resides in the lost city of Weep, and he is a librarian on an expedition to rediscover Weep.

The whole book is a slow-burn, gradually introducing you to this new world. But it has all the familiar Lani Taylor traits you’ve come to love if you’ve read her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. There’s magic, mystery, and fairytales. But rather than being super plot driven, it’s a character study. The story of a blossoming relationship between these two unlikelies. The scenes when Sarai and Laslo are connected are so atmospheric and heart-warming, I wanted to stay with them forever. Additionally, as much as I loved the primary characters, the secondary ones are also something special. You feel connected to all of them, and I would read a companion novel about every single one!

But, there’s a twist. An excruciating one that had me reeling for the next book, like, right now. (Luckily, we’ve not long to wait, as Muse of Nightmares comes out 2nd October.) Strange the Dreamer has to be one of my all-time favourite fantasy novels, and I really can’t wait to be immersed in this world once again.

Buy on Amazon |Pre-order Muse of Nightmares
goodreads-badge-add-plus-71eae69ca0307d077df66a58ec068898

Review: The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

After falling in love with Moxie over the summer last year, I was really excited to find Jennifer Mathieu’s first book on NetGalley, as it’s being published for the first time in the UK, despite being a 2014 release in the US.

It was great to see Mathieu deal with similar themes in All About Alice as with Moxie. This book focuses on four different characters, dealing with the rumour that Alice slept with two guys at one party. Elaine is the party’s host and girlfriend of Brandon, one of the guys. Kelsey is Alice’s ex-best friend and responsible for spreading even worse rumours. Kurt is a nerd who’s in love with Alice and uses Math tutoring as a way to get close to her. Josh is one of Brandon’s best friends. Each character had such a unique voice, which I was so impressed by seeing as this was told in first person and it would have been so easy to make the girls and the boys POVs blend.

For such a short book, I felt like I got so much detail about each character. The only reason I didn’t give it four stars is because I felt that it was too short in places, and I would have liked if Alice was given more voice, rather than a few pages in place of an epilogue.

Just like Moxie, everything that happened in this book could happen in any school, anywhere in the world. I’ve heard so many of the rumours spread about Alice over my time in secondary school and it’s just a fact that gossip will never die. Mathieu manages to deal with sensitive topics with ease, and make me feel sympathetic towards bullies and boys that believe in the friend zone, which shouldn’t be possible. She might be a wizard.

This is the kind of book you want to read in one sitting and then pass on to your best friend. If you enjoy books that deal with slut shaming, feminism, and the good old rumour mill, this is perfect and pace-y and needs to be on your TBR.

Review: How to Write a Love Story by Katy Cannon

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

How to Write a Love Story is all about Tilly, who secretly wrote the ending to her gran’s biggest romance series and sent it to the publisher while her gran, Bea, was in hospital with pneumonia. The reviews say it’s the most satisfying ending ever crafted, and so Bea encourages Tilly to write her own romance novel from start to finish. This should be no problem, since Tilly’s been living on a healthy diet of romance since she was twelve years old and has probably read every boy-meet-girl trope possible.

The downside is, even with all this theoretical knowledge of how to craft the perfect kiss, Tilly gets writer’s block and thinks the solution is experiencing love for herself to make the writing process genuine. I knew I wouldn’t be entirely on board with this plot point, because I fundamentally disagree that good writing can only come from lived experience, but whatever. That’s my ace showing. The angle made me think that young teen girls especially would get something out of this book.

(Also, this book was extremely hetero. It would have been cool if one of the books Bea had written included an LGBT+ plot line, or that one of the romances Tilly mentioned/wrote did. Especially because there are quite a few background romances in this that could have added that diversity I always look for. I think this comes from the fact that I’m doing a Romance module at university and all the books we’ve read have been M/F. I’m dying to find something different!)

All of the writing advice was sweet and definitely made me want to put pen to paper, but it was so easy to get invested in Tilly’s story, my novel had to wait until I was done. And I flew through this at record speed.

Something particularly great about this was the relationship between Bea and Tilly. You don’t often see relationships between grandparents and protagonists, and exploration into the experience of the elderly is something I want to read more of. If anyone has any recommendations for books with cute old people, please let me know!

As with most romance, Tilly’s love story was a little predictable. I saw the relationship twist coming as soon as all the boys had been introduced and yet I still liked the connection Tilly had with who she ended up with. I guess the lesson is always look for good banter, rather than good looks.

If you liked Katy’s other books, you’re guaranteed to like this one, but if you also like writing, romance and stories about fame, think about adding this to your TBR!

Review: Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Laura Dockrill is one of my favourite writers. She’s hilarious and inventive and no matter what she does, I always fall in love with it. It’s no different for Big Bones.

I loved reading about Bluebelle, a character who talked so candidly about her weight, but never fell into that terrible ‘pretty for a fat girl’ mentality that needs to go and light itself on fire. It was all about body positivity. There was no shame attached to her weight and the lifestyle choices she needed to make to get healthy were decisions she came to on her own, never buckling to external pressures until she was ready for the benefits.

When reading this, you are going to be hungry. It’s just a fact. Each chapter is split up into what Bluebelle is eating at that moment and some much of it sounded delicious. Laura Dockrill is so talented with imagery and sensory descriptions that I was surprised to look up and not find a roast dinner in front of me. As well as being a story about change, Big Bones is a love letter to food.

As well as Bluebelle’s personal journey, you get to hear about her parkour-crazy sister Dove and the very weird and one sided relationship between her divorced parents. It was quirky and weird, but while reading, I got invested in each and every one of them. Especially Dove. She and Bluebelle had such different mentalities, so it was fascinating to see them interact and use their Sisterly Bond to get through to one another better than anyone else could.

It was refreshing to read about an overweight character, one of the most underrepresented body types in YA and it’s definitely encouraged me to find more. (Dumplin’ is bumped to the top of my TBR!) It’s also been a while since I’ve read a diary format before and I find that storytelling method so immersive, I read Big Bones in one sitting.

Overall, Big Bones is a fantastic book by a fantastic author. After you’re finished reading it, you’re going to want seconds…and thirds.

How Successful Were Our 2017 TBRs?

This year more than any other, Bee and I have been making TBRs for ourselves and trying our best to stick them them. For some, we gave ourselves the whole year and others, we had a month.

First of all, there were the 5 books we wanted to read in 2017.
Maddie read: 4/5 | Leftover: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Bee read: 4/5 | Leftover: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
I wonder if we’ll use the last couple of weeks of the year to strike these two of our lists, but TUE wasn’t Bee’s favourite Morgan Matson book, so I’m not inspired to pick it up and TBS has completely slipped off our radar since January.

Then, our Easter TBR for Tome Topple.
M & B read: 4/5 | DNF’d: Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas.
This totally counts as completed, and means we’ve met one of our resolutions to not finish books we don’t like! Double points!

Next, there was our Summer TBR: Rainbow Edition.
M & B read: 7/7! Oh my goodness, we actually got round to all of these books, mostly thanks to our weekend readathons during the summer break. Maybe it shouldn’t be so much of a surprise, seeing as we did have a four month break…

During the summer, we were also prepping for YALC, so of course we made a TBR!
Maddie: 4/6 | Leftover: A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab and Spellbook for the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Bee: 9/11 | Leftover: Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green and Slated by Teri Terry
Bee really set the bar high for this one and managed to read loads, whereas I gave myself two books that were over 500 pages, so definitely slowed my pace.

Our last official TBR of the year was our Autumn TBR, with 5 books we wanted to read before the end of the year.
Maddie: 3/5 | Leftover: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Kingdom of Sleep by E. K Johnson.
Bee: 5/5! Okay, so it’s obvious who’s better at sticking to TBRs our of the pair of us!

Overall, TBRs have worked out pretty well for us this year. They’re something that we swore off when we first started our BookTube channel, not wanting the added pressure of reading a certain thing, but they’ve helped us prioritise what’s most important and shifted our focus from recently hauled books to ones that have been on our shelves the longest. Are they going to be something we continue to do in 2018? Of course! But, I think we’ll stick to TBRs with long deadlines, so the pressure is there but not suffocating.

It’s disappointing not to finish a TBR, especially at the end of a year because it just means those books will carry with us into 2018, but this post acts as a record, so hopefully in December next year I can look back and see that I’ve read everything I wanted…12 months late.

As for the last chance TBR we set at the beginning of Blogmas, as of the 19th, I’ve read both Ash by Malinda Lo and Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. Bee’s only read Truth or Dare by Non Pratt, but she’s still got time to read her final book, so fingers crossed!

Were your TBRs successful this year? Have you got many books left over? Do you like TBRs or loathe them? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Shortlisted for the UKYA Blogger Awards!

If you’ve been on Book Twitter over the last couple of days, you’ll know that the UKYABA‘s are all anyone can talk about. It’s where everybody comes together to celebrate the community’s achievements. There are awards for bloggers, established and new, for content and design, for social media activism and for vloggers too.

On Wednesday 17th, Bee and I were long listed for not one, not two, but three awards: Adult Blogger, Champion of Diversity and Champion Vlogger. We can’t even begin to describe how much this meant to us. We’ve been making bookish content for coming up to five years now, and while it’s been great to be recognised along the way for our hard work, this is just generates next level gratitude.

We’re so proud to say that on Friday 19th we were shortlisted for Champion Vlogger! *cue delighted squeals* *confetti* *happy dancing*

In 2013, when we first made Heart Full of Books, we were starting at a brand new sixth form. We were 16 and we’d left everything behind for something we were completely unfamiliar with. We’d been quiet and judged for our social interiority throughout secondary school. Blogging and making videos about books was the perfect way to open up about our passions and find likeminded people who would just get us completely.

We don’t know where we’d be without this community. It’s introduced us to so many books, friends, trends and other passions that we wouldn’t have found otherwise. It’s been a way to champion seeing our underrepresented identity in YA and feeling like we have voices that matter. It’s inspired us to write a book together! It’s led to so many opportunities that have made these last five years the happiest of our lives, despite the anxiety of exams every year and starting (and soon finishing!) our degrees.

Honestly, we’re just so honoured to be on a list with three other amazing women who make this community infinitely better by just being part of it. Jean, Zoe and Lucy are all so deserving of this award, so please check out their linked channels and subscribe!

The category we’re nominated for can only be voted for by publishers/authors, so if either of those apply to you, then please consider voting for your champion vlogger. You can do so by requesting a form through emailing ukyaba@gmail.com with the subject: UKYABA Shortlist Voting – Author Voting Form. Voting closes on 31st January.

Thank you to everyone who’s supported us over the last five years, whether it’s through comments, likes, views or subscribing to our channel, we can’t wait to keep making bookish content forever. Yeah, forever seems right.

(Spoiler) Review: Quests for Glory by Soman Chainani

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Warning: This is a SPOILER review. If you have not read QFG, or the rest of the SFGAE books for that matter, you may not want to read.

The School for Good and Evil is one of my favourite series of all time. When I found out a fourth book was coming, I was beyond excited for it. Writing another series within the same world has become so common nowadays, that maybe I shouldn’t have been as surprised. So, Quests for Glory kicks off with a 100 pages ‘where are they now?’ section. If you’ve read the Handbook of Good and Evil, you already have a good idea of it. Sophie is the Dean of Evil, Agatha and Tedros are getting married but their relationship is on the rocks – when is it not, let’s be honest? – Hort is a teacher for Evil, and the Coven have been given the task of finding a new school master. Phew, we’re all up to speed!

Because Hort and the Coven are given sections, this first part is quite lengthy. It’s very expositional but familiarises the reader with the characters again, so I’ll cut it some slack. But, along with the main characters, every other student in Agatha and Sophie’s year gets name dropped, telling you what quests they’re on too…

The plot finally gets rolling when Tedros can’t pull Excalibur out of the stone and a new enemy turns up: the Snake. There’s this pretty long winded explanation about The Lion and the Snake, another fairy tale that’s going to frame the book. When we meet the Snake, there’s the suggestion that he’s Rafal from the first trilogy but one thing is for sure: he’s evil.

We also get to meet Rhian, who shares a name with Rafal’s twin, the Good school master so that can’t be a coincidence. He’s all handsome and generally a better version of Tedros that Sophie can fall for. He actually has King Arthur’s blood. It felt like wish fulfilment. Sophie didn’t get the guy in the first trilogy, so we’ll just make her a new and improved version of the guy she wanted all along. But, with the foreshadowing of the evil connection, it’s not a surprise when Rhian’s too good to be true and turns out to be the villain. We’re also heavy-handedly told that Sophie ‘isn’t good at choosing guys’, so does it come as a shock? No. It’s exactly what we saw in The Last Ever After. I would have much preferred if Sophie didn’t fall for another cute evil guy because what does it say about the most powerful witch in the world if she needs a guy to goggle at?

Tedros, by the way, is a complete whiny child. He’s always moaning ‘this is my sword, my kingdom, I’m the king, blah, blah,’ that he comes off as so immature and not kingly at all! Agatha is downgraded to Tedros’ assistant and never really given her own moment to shine until the end when she works out who Rhian really is. They don’t work together as a couple – they don’t even feel like a couple, although we’re tricked into thinking they genuinely care about each other with a few small kiss scenes. I just don’t see them working and I need their relationship to have more depth. Show me they’re in love, don’t just tell me.

We also get introduced to some new characters – as promised – but they’re nothing more than names on a page for me. Nicola, the new Gavaldon girl, was the most fleshed out and introduced seemingly just as a love interest for Hort. She’s smart and captains the ship for their quest, but I don’t really know why Agatha or Sophie couldn’t have done that. They’re both equally capable. There was also Willam, Bogden, Kei and…maybe someone else, but like I said, I know so little about them that they seemed irrelevant when we were just focusing on the characters we knew. Nicola seemed to vanish once she’d served her purpose. I hope they all have a stronger presence as the series go on, and we don’t have to rely so much on Agatha and the gang to draw in readers…but then again, the new characters didn’t get enough screen time to be established, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re destined to the background forever.

At least there are some deaths in Quests for Glory. Chaddick, Tedros’ best friend who I’d completely forgotten about, was the first to be killed of on his mission. It came a bit too early for me to care, especially because there was no scene between him and Tedros beforehand to really assert their brotherhood. It was really relying on you knowing Chaddick from the first trilogy. Second to die was Lancelot, who, again, was a secondary, maybe even tertiary character and the least important adult. I’ll need at least one big main character death in this series for it to have some sense of believability. (My guess is Hester so that Sophie’ll take her place in the coven, especially if we’ve established that Anadil and Dot are besties within the trio, so Hester’s more isolated.)

We’re also introduced to this HUGE bit of lore about the school that would have probably been important to know in the first trilogy, and that is that there’s a house in the school specifically for kids that are being raised by evil parents but who are actually good, or vice versa. We learn that Rhian, Kei and Aric are all from this house. To have a grey area is a really good idea, but if that’s the case, shouldn’t that have been where Sophie and Agatha went? Sophie was raised good but she was evil, and Agatha was the opposite, so to add this convenient but important nuance to the school is too little too late.

There were some scenes I really enjoyed, though. The more action-adventure scenes were the group was fighting the Snake – particularly in that trap-door room – was very cinematic and even though the ending felt a little rushed, the pacing meant I didn’t want to blink because that would mean taking my eyes off the page. It ended on a massive cliffhanger, if you think that Rhian pulling Excalibur from the stone, Tedros failing and the world being plunged into chaos was a surprise.

Overall, this book did a lot of setting the scene for the next two books in the trilogy. A World Without Princes is such a great sequel, and probably my favourite book from the first series, so my expectations are definitely high for the next book. I’ll be reading it, for sure, and just hoping that my Agatha is given some more of the limelight! Quests for Glory, as a first book, was promising and ambitious and did great things to already be establishing a threat as big (or bigger?) than Rafal. I just can’t believe I have to wait another year to read what happens next…

Review: Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

Note: We were sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

First can we take a second to appreciate this breath-taking cover. Okay, now that that’s done. Far From The Tree is the story of three half-siblings who were all put up for adoption and have only just been made aware of each other’s existence. Grace recently had to give her own daughter, Peach, up for adoption as she was only 16, Maya’s family have a lot of problems under the surface, and Joaquin has through a lot of foster families and the couple he’s living in now want to adopt him. Together, they want to try and find their birth mother.

Continue reading “Review: Far From The Tree by Robin Benway”