Thursday, 10 January 2019

Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden | Giveaway!

Today is the publication day for the fantastic third book in Katherine Arden's Winternight Trilogy: The Winter of the Witch! I'm so happy to be taking part in the blog tour for Winter of the Witch, I'm going to be sharing my spoiler-free review and stay tuned to the end for a giveaway!

There is a battle raging over Moscow, Old Gods and New are vying for control of Russia and it's people. Vasya is at the centre of this conflict, desperately trying to save both the human and magical worlds of Russia and the Winter King, who is fading in the creeping heat of summer and battle. But she might not be able to save them all.

In 2018, I read the whole of the Winternight trilogy, something I don't often do. I tend to start fantasy series and then trail off at some point, but this one had me gripped throughout. It turned out to be a five star series for me and one of the best I've read. I think the main reason for this is that it has such a great balance between character development and plot. I generally prefer character-driven novels but I get a bit frustrated when the accompanying plot is badly paced or non-existent. The Winternight trilogy has such strong characters who get you really invested and a well balanced plot which drives excitement and tension at just the right moments.

The Winter of the Witch is a really strong finale to this wonderful series. It maintains and builds on the folklore and spirit elements that were so present in the first book and made the second book so gripping, to create a fantastic, emotional and exciting final journey with so many unexpected twists and turns along the way.

One of the things I love most about this series is the sweeping range of settings across medieval Russia; the scenery was ever-changing across the course of the three books. From rural village life with lush descriptions of the nature which is almost a character within Vasya's home of Lesnaya Zemlya, to the high walls of Moscow, the dark forests of Midnight and the crackling fires of battle camps. The reader always feels completely immersed in this world as no matter the landscape, it is deftly described and fully realised without hitting you over the head with it.

Vasya is one of the best protagonists I've ever read. She could have so easily been a  manic-pixie-dream-girl or stereotypical chosen one but instead she is complex, flawed and brilliant. There were times I questioned her decisions, felt frustrated with her or urged her to take another path, but that is what makes her so real and human and an ultimately convincing character. I also really liked that romance was an undercurrent in these books, bubbling under the surface with just enough angst and emotion to invest in, but not distracting from the main story or Vasya's character development.

Vasya is firmly cemented as one of my favourite fantasy heroines of all time. Her character arc is incredible yet entirely convincing. I wholeheartedly adore her and I already can't wait to go back to this series for a reread and spend more time with her, watching her grow into the incredible woman she is in The Winter of the Witch. 

On my Instagram I described this series as epic and quiet at the same time and I think that's exactly what I love about it. It's sweeping enough to be exciting and to carry you fully into another world but it's quiet and charming enough for you to hold it close to your heart and feel like it's yours. This series felt like coming home to me, it felt like everything I'd ever wanted in a fantasy and I'll always hold it close. Read the Winternight trilogy, you won't regret it.


With the help of Ebury, I'm running a giveaway for a finished copy of The Winter of the Witch over on my Instagram! Head to the link below and read the caption for details on how to enter.

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πŸ“šπŸŽ GIVEAWAY! πŸŽπŸ“šHappy book birthday to The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden! My blog is today’s stop on the blog tour, head to the link in my bio to read my spoiler-free review. - To celebrate publication day of the third book in the Winternight trilogy, I’m collaborating with @eburybooks to give away a finished copy of The Winter of the Witch (swipe to see the gorgeous finished cover) to one lucky winner. - To enter: 🎁 Like the post 🎁 Follow me @sarahschapter 🎁 Tag a friend in the comments who might like to enter - Extra Entries: 🎁 Tag more friends (one comment per tag, up to five comments) 🎁 Comment on my review post (link in bio) 🎁 Share this post on your stories and comment when you’ve done this. - UK and Europe entries only. Giveaway ends 23:59 GMT on 16th January 2019. This giveaway is not affiliated with Instagram.

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Also, don't forget to catch the other stops on the blog tour:


I was provided with a review copy of The Winter of The Witch from Ebury in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affects my thoughts on the book. 

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Reviewing the Costa Novel Shortlist*

This post is a paid collaboration with Costa. All words, images and opinions are entirely my own.

This month I've been working with the Costa Book Awards to review the Novel shortlist ahead of the category winners announcement on the 7th January. I've spent the month reading the four shortlisted novels: The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman, The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker, Normal People by Sally Rooney and From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan. I'm here today to give you my reviews and share my own prediction for the category winner.

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
A slow-building character-driven novel with a pacy plot towards the end, The Italian Teacher begins in Rome, 1955, at a party to celebrate Bear Bavinsky. Bear is an artist with a magnetic, larger-than-life personality who seduces everyone he meets. His tendency to burn any work he is not entirely happy with creates an air of mystique and grandeur around the surviving works - making him a cult figure in the art world. But this isn't Bear's story, it's his son's - Charles 'Pinch' Bavinsky. As we read from Pinch's perspective, we begin to see Bear as an egotistical nightmare of man, who doles out rare and limited affection to his many scattered children, which they crave like a drug. The Italian Teacher explores all kinds of toxic relationships, between father and son, man and woman, artist and art.

I really enjoyed Rachman's exploration of the art world. I don't read a lot of books about art and it's something I used to really love. I know a bit about famous twentieth century artists so the references peppered throughout were quite fun for me and it was really interesting to learn a bit about how the art world works. Rachman's reflections on the importance of status and character in the art world were really thought-provoking and I found the consideration of how we leave a mark on the world and others' lives really quite moving.

The main character, Pinch, is kind of unlikeable but that isn't a downfall for me. I don't mind feeling frustrated with a character or questioning their decisions as long as I can still empathise or connect in some way. I found myself growing fond of Pinch, despite his huge flaws, because I could see myself in parts of him. The Italian Teacher is a portrait of vulnerability, loneliness and compromise who makes the reader consider what makes a life well lived.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
The Silence of the Girls is a retelling of the Trojan War from the women's perspective. It is historical fiction in a time that we see as so far removed from our own yet the fear and horror running through it unfortunately has such relevance today. The Silence of the Girls is brutal, it is about as far away from the romanticisation of Trojan war retellings as you can get. The women are slaves, prizes for the man who slaughtered their families. Their treatment is appalling and the book doesn't allow the reader to forget this. We read from the perspective of Briseis, whose city was sacked and family murdered by Achilles and the Myrmidons, who is then taken as slave and Achilles 'prize'.

I was a little surprised that Achilles had quite so many of his own chapters in a story that is conceptualised as being focused on the women. Achilles was presented as a complex character and humanised to an extent but his brutality and complicity in the enslavement of women was never shied away from. I did appreciate that Achilles was a fleshed out character with emotions rather than just being a one dimensional villain, this human aspect of him made his brutal actions more despicable. I also appreciated that Achilles' POV was told in third person to Briseis' first person. However, I do wish there was more of Briseis, what we got of her was so raw but her story felt a bit undeveloped. In a book focused on the women it is a little strange to feel like Achilles is the more developed character - but perhaps that's the point.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Probably the most hyped book on the shortlist, Normal People is quite a stunning read. Sally Rooney's prose is stark, even harsh, in places, yet even as someone who loves lush description, I fell for this book. It's a love story without being a romance and is moving and frustrating in equal parts. It's about how the unsaid things can twist a relationship and the people within it. Rather than hook us in to root for the couple or entertain us with their romance, Normal People presents the raw truth of the youthful experience of a relationship, complete with awkwardness, awe, pain and external pressures. The emotions within are so accurately depicted; it's almost shocking.

An issue I had that I've not heard many speak about is that it felt like modern historical fiction rather than a current portrayal of youth. I think because the characters attended university between 2011 and 2014, the exact years I did, I was subconsciously comparing and their vastly different experience threw me off. This is most likely a fault with me rather than the book but I felt it had quite strong 80s/90s/early 2000s vibes rather than current day eg. they wrote each other lengthy emails, which wasn't really something we did in 2012. It's nitpicky, but it did throw me out of the story a little too often and therefore affected my feelings about the book.

Overall, Normal People is a compelling, emotionally jarring read that cuts to the core of human relationships.

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
This was my first time reading Donal Ryan's writing and I was absolutely blown away by it. The expression of emotion in his writing is beautiful and almost lyrical but feels raw and cuts deep. There were times when I was reading this that is almost painful and so real. From A Low and Quiet Sea is told from the perspective of three very different men whose stories crash together at the end in unexpected ways. Donal Ryan's command of structure and interweaving detail is excellent and so much is conveyed in less than 200 pages. Like the others on the shortlist, this is very much a character-driven novel, which I usually prefer anyway. Donal Ryan does weave story and plots together in such interesting ways but the stars of the show are the complex and vivid characters whose inner lives we come to know through exquisitely constructed sentences. From a Low and Quiet Sea reflects on empathy, familial strain and how the past echoes through the present. It was a real joy, and an ache, to read.


So there we have it, my thoughts on all four books in the Novel category. Honestly, I think they are all fantastic in their own right so it's quite difficult to choose a winner. I have a feeling that Normal People may win because it's just been so hyped, but my personal winner is From a Low and Quiet Sea, it moved me the most and it's definitely made me want to pick up more of Donal Ryan's work.

The winners of each of the five categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's, will be announced this coming Monday 7th January and the overall winner will be announced at the awards on Tuesday 29th January.


*This post is part of a series of posts that are sponsored by Costa. All words and images are entirely my own and 100% honest.

Sunday, 16 December 2018

My December TBR feat. Costa Book Awards 2018*

This post is a paid collaboration with Costa. All words, images and opinions are entirely my own.

We're well on our way into the festive season, expecting some snow flurries this week and the Christmas break is tantalisingly close - so what better time to curl up with a steaming mug of coffee and a good stack of books? This month I've got a very special selection of books picked out because I'm thrilled to once again be working with the lovely folks at Costa on the Costa Book Awards 2018!

The Costa Book Awards have been going since 1971 and the reason why I love these awards in particular is because they celebrate the most enjoyable books with a wide appeal, the books people really *want* to read, instead of feeling like they should read them. These awards are completely unpretentious, they just celebrate having a good time whilst reading - and I'm all about that!

The shortlisted books are all from authors living from in the UK or Ireland and are spread across five fantastic categories: First Novel, Novel, Biography, Poetry and Children's, so there's something for every reader. I'm going to be reading the four shortlisted books in the Novels category before the category winners are announced on the 7th January - and I can't wait to get stuck in!

The Italian Teacher by Tom Rachman
Beginning in Rome in 1955 we see the great modern painter Bear Bavinsky, surrounded by admirers, but this story is not his. It's his son, Pinch's. We follow Pinch over the course of his life as he attempts to live up to his great name but finds a life marred by twists, compromises and pain. Yet Pinch will enact an unexpected rebellion that will forever leave his mark upon the Bear Bavinsky legacy.

With Bohemian Rhapsody being my favourite film of the year, the 70s and 80s are periods I'm really keen to find out more about and this book starts in the mid-50s and spans the next thirty or so years so I'm really excited about that. I love stories that cover longer periods of time and this seems to be almost a Bildungsroman which is right up my street. Having studied and had a passion for art in the past, I'm also interested to read about the art world of this time period.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker
When her city falls to the Greeks, Briseis's old life is shattered. She is transformed from queen to captive, from free woman to slave, awarded to the god-like warrior Achilles as a prize of war. And she's not alone. On the same day, and on many others in the course of a long and bitter war, innumerable women have been wrested from their homes and flung to the fighters. This novel seeks to break the silence of these forgotten women in history.

We learn about the Trojan War as children, but it is always a man's story. We don't hear of the women whose lives were torn apart. I think this one is going to be quite brutal but I'm definitely ready for it. I want to hear what these women's lives were like and hear them tell their story, even if it's heartbreaking. There's been a bit of a buzz about this one on booktube and Twitter so I'm keen to see if it lives up to the hype.

Normal People by Sally Rooney
Connell and Marianne have grown up in the same small town in Northern Ireland, but have led very different lives. Connell is popular where Marianne is an outcast. Connell's mother works as a cleaner for Marianne's family and when the two strike up a conversation one day, something that will forever change the fabric of their lives begins.

This is the only one of the shortlist which I've already read and I really enjoyed it, whilst also having a lot of complicated thoughts and feelings about it. I'm going to share my full thoughts in my review post but for now let's say that it's a love story without being a romance and it will suck you in completely.

From a Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan
Farouk’s country has been torn apart by war. Lampy’s heart has been laid waste by Chloe. John’s past torments him as he nears his end. From war-torn Syria to smalltown Ireland, three men, scarred by all they have loved and lost, are searching for some version of home. Each is drawn towards a powerful reckoning, one that will bring them together in the most unexpected of ways.

I've heard such great things about Donal Ryan's writing so I'm going into this with kind of high expectations but I'm sure it'll meet them. I love stories which bring several separate characters together in an interesting way and it seems like this is going to be an emotional story. I feel like I might need the tissues for this one!


So there we have it, the four shortlisted books in the Novel category of the Costa Book Awards 2018. I'll be reading them over the next couple of weeks and putting up a review post with my prediction of the winner just before the announcement on the 7th of January. Keep an eye on my Instagram too for some snippets of reviews as I read them!

Which of these books are you most excited to read? Let me know in the comments!


*This post is part of a series of posts that are sponsored by Costa. All words and images are entirely my own and 100% honest.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Recent Reads #6: China Rich Girlfriend, Penguin Mini Modern Classics, I'll Be Gone in the Dark

May has been another great reading month, I've read six books so far and am hoping to finish my seventh before the month is over. It seems like summer is here and I've been really enjoying sitting out on the balcony with a book and a cold lemonade - long may this continue!

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan | ☆☆☆☆
This is a sequel, so no synopsis to avoid spoilers!

In my last recent reads I reviewed the first in this series, Crazy Rich Asians, which I absolutely loved. I decided to listen to China Rich Girlfriend on audiobook as it's a bit of a chunker and I couldn't bear to put it down so this helped me get through it a lot faster. I really recommend the audiobooks for this series, the narrator is so engaging and nails the humour so well. China Rich Girlfriend was just as hilarious as the first book in the series. Kevin Kwan outdoes himself with the heavy satire, bordering-on-ridiculous drama and stunning descriptive passages. I love this series because each book is a hilarious rollercoaster ride but they also have some truly heartfelt moments. Stay tuned to the next recent reads for the finale: Rich People Problems.

Daydreams and Drunkenness of a Young Lady by Clarice Lispector | ☆☆☆
Tales of desire and madness from this giant of Brazilian literature.
This is another from the Penguin mini modern classics series, which the lovely folk at Penguin kindly sent me a selection of. Overall, I found this one a little hard to get into. Clarice Lispector's writing is so unique and I definitely see the great skill in the richness and layering of motifs but I just didn't really find it that enjoyable. I found her writing quite jarring and these three little stories kind of felt like an intense fever dream, and I'm not sure how I feel about that. I appreciate the artistry of Lispector's writing but it wasn't quite for me. However, this is why these mini collections are brilliant; they allow you just a taste of the author's work so that you can decide whether you want to read more.

I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle Mcnamara | ☆☆☆☆
A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer - the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorised California for over a decade, thirty years ago, - from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

With the recent arrest of the Golden State Killer, this book has had a lot of hype lately. I first heart of it through one of my favourite podcasts: My Favorite Murder. Karen and Georgia talked about how wonderful this book is and after GSK's arrest a few weeks ago, I knew I had to pick it up.

Michelle Mcnamara's writing is what makes this book stand out from other true crime that I've read. In a case so complex (over 50 crimes scenes, over a ten year period) there is a lot to discuss and therefore a risk of a written account becoming quite dry. I'll Be Gone in the Dark completely avoids this through Michelle Mcnamara's incredible skill as a storyteller. The book has a narrative feel with Michelle's descriptive writing not only making the book truly enthralling but incredibly unnerving. There were times when I was reading this in bed at night and had to get up to make sure all the doors and windows were locked.

Michelle does justice to the upsettingly large number of victims through her sensitive but thorough exploration of the case. Michelle's unexpected death in 2016 means that the book went unfinished, but has been patched together by her close collaborators. If you think that true crime non-fiction isn;t for you, then I urge you to red this snippet of Michelle's writing and reconsider:


What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Recent Reads #5: A Shiver of Snow and Sky, In Search of Our Mothers Gardens, Penguin Mini Moderns

April was a pretty fantastic reading month for me, I finished off a book I'd been reading for about a month and managed to get seven books read in total! I reduced my massive TBR quite a bit and even got a new bookcase so I can see my TBR more clearly, hopefully it'll shame me into reading my own damn books! Now let's get into the reviews...

In Search of Our Mother's Gardens by Alice Walker | ☆☆☆☆.5
Published in 1983, In Search of Our Mothers' Gardens: Womanist Prose is a collection composed of 36 separate pieces written by Alice Walker. The essays, articles, reviews, statements, and speeches were written between 1966 and 1982.

In Search of Our Mother's Gardens is an essay collection from Alice Walker, who is perhaps best known for writing The Color Purple. I bought it in a charity shop years ago and I don't think this particular edition is actually in print anymore so it feels kind of special.

In this collection Alice writes about a range of topics from black folklore of the south to Martin Luther King, single motherhood, feminism and the creative process. The essays vary in length but each is a little gem. It is not the responsibility of people of colour to educate white people, but I did feel like I learnt so much from these essays. Reading about feminism and civil rights from a black woman's perspective at a time of such political upheaval is absolutely invaluable.

I also loved reading about Alice Walker's creative process and her reflection on writing and the research it involves.  The passion, the drive, the history and the mythology behind The Color Purple leaps out from these essays. Walker was heavily inspired by Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God and I really enjoyed reading about Walker's fight to uncover Neale Hurston's fate and bring her brilliance back into public knowledge. Although this book took me a while to read (it's fairly dense), I was never bored as Alice Walker's writing is incredible.

A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke | ☆☆☆
After reading (and loving) The Bear and the Nightingale earlier in the year, I was in the mood for another wintry atmospheric fantasy so I had such high hopes for A Shiver of Snow and Sky but sadly I was left feeling a bit disappointed. I've heard people compare this book's world-building to Leigh Bardugo and I have to say I disagree. The world-building was one of the main elements that let me down. The mythology and fantasy aspects were a little out of the blue and it was hard to feel the supposedly deep history of this isolated island.I found it very hard to connect to the main characters. There was some insta-love without much depth, as most of the relationship building happened pre-book and we were just supposed to accept this deep connection between the two when in fact their chemistry/connection wasn't developed enough on the page. The writing was a little clunky and I didn't understand a lot of the characters' motivations. This book had so much potential which for me it sadly didn't live up to.

The Problem That Has No Name by Betty Friedan |☆☆☆☆
I was absolutely delighted when the lovely folks at penguin sent over a few of their new Penguin Mini Modern Classics. This selection from Betty Friedan's The Feminine Mystique is an interesting look at what inspired the 'second wave' of feminism. I quite honestly am rather uninformed on this particular period of feminism and this snippet of Friedan's work made me want to read more. I'm excited to get through a few more from this collection in the coming months.


What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Recent Reads #4: The Hate U Give, Crazy Rich Asians, Wilde Like Me

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas | ☆☆☆
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer.

Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

I can't believe it took me so long to read this! I received The Hate U Give all the way back in December 2016 at the Walker Books blogger Christmas party but put it down at the time because I wasn't quite connecting to it. Fast forward to March 2018 and it's probably my favourite book of the year so far! Sometimes it's just about reading a book at the right time, because when I picked it up this time I instantly fell into the story and the world - which is our world, but so far from anything I've experienced - and that's why this book is important.

In a way I'm glad I waited until now to finish it, because books like The Hate U Give aren't just about the hype. We still need to be talking about this book, and the Black Lives Matter movement, a year later, five years later and forever. Because if we stop talking about it, then nothing will change.

Angie Thomas writes Starr with such a strong voice and she's struggling with normal teenage things: a boyfriend, school, friendships and family - but these things are made so much more strained and complex by race issues. Starr struggles with race on a personal level, an institutional level and a societal level and Angie Thomas' handling of that is excellent.

Family is such a huge theme in this book and I loved it so much. Starr's family are so close and so real and amazing. After the book ended I genuinely felt sad because I wanted to spend more time with them. If you haven't already read this then you absolutely must.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan | ☆☆☆
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars and that she is about to encounter the strangest, craziest group of people in existence.

This book was a hell of a good time, a fun-filled romp through the lifestyles of a certain secretive class of Singaporeans, with some surprisingly emotional moments. Crazy Rich Asians isn't just fun fluff, it's pretty well written and the characterisation is excellent; a tough feat with such a huge ensemble cast. I did find myself having to refer to the family tree at the front of the book quite a bit but it got less confusing as I went on and each PoV chapter had a distinctive voice. I'm so glad that it's being adapted into a film, I can't wait to see how all the characters are portrayed.

Crazy Rich Asians is one of those rare books which felt like I was completely in the world. The characters were so well-realised and their lives so extravagant that I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading and couldn't wait to pick it up again. Having spent some time in Asia, it made me want to go back, not least for the amazing food that was described so lovingly and in such detail in the book.

Not all books have to be groundbreaking, often it's enough to have a good time and be totally transported whilst reading and Crazy Rich Asians definitely did that for me.

Wilde Like Me by Louise Pentland | ☆☆.5
Robin Wilde is an awesome single mum. She's great at her job. Her best friend Lacey and bonkers Auntie Kath love her and little Lyla Blue to the moon and back. From the outside, everything looks just fine. But behind the mask she carefully applies every day, things sometimes feel . . . grey. And lonely. After 4 years (and 2 months and 24 days!) of single-mum-dom, it's time for Robin Wilde to Change. Her. Life! A little courage, creativity and help from the wonderful women around her go a long way. And Robin is about to embark on quite an adventure . . . 

I listened to Wilde Like Me on audiobook as I'm a fan of Louise's YouTube channel. She's a funny and relatable voice in the vlogging world and I was intrigued to see if that translated onto the page. This was a fun, lighthearted book but ultimately disappointing. It would have benefited from some more careful editing as the plot progression felt quite inconsistent and the writing could've flowed a bit better, there were a lot of phrases that felt awkward and more than a few cases of unnatural dialogue.

Robin was an unlikeable protagonist for me and although I don't always mind these grey-area characters it was obvious that she was supposed to be very relatable and the reader was supposed to feel warm towards her. She felt a tad over-dramatic at times and she was so self absorbed it was kind of painful. Her character didn't progress much throughout the book and I found that disappointing.

The plot was pretty slow and didn't really go anywhere and although I don't always mind this, the characterisation and humour weren't strong enough to make up for it. It was quite a nice, fun book and I didn't mind passing the time with the audiobook on the way to work but ultimately it wasn't for me and I don't think I'll be picking up the sequel when it comes out.


What have you been reading lately? Let me know in the comments or tweet me!

Friday, 23 March 2018

A Book Haul

I've accumulated a fair few books so far this year and I thought I'd share them with you guys in case you fancy getting the book shopping bug too! I'm trying to get my tbr down and buy a bit less but a book here and there can't hurt, can it? It's actually looking like I'm going to need another bookcase soon...

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan
When Rachel Chu agrees to spend the summer in Singapore with her boyfriend, Nicholas Young, she envisions a humble family home and time with the man she might one day marry. What she doesn't know is that Nick's family home happens to look like a palace, that she'll ride in more private planes than cars and that she is about to encounter the strangest, craziest group of people in existence. 

My first book purchase of the year was inspired by Joce over at SquibblesReads, she has raved about this series and I really trust her judgement. Crazy Rich Asians sounds super fun and I'm excited to get into it. From a quick glance it looks like it's quite involved and has a lot of characters so I think it's going to be one that deserves quite a bit of my time so I'm going to take it with me next week when I go away with my parents for Easter. I always get a lot of reading done over the long bank holiday weekend so this is definitely coming with me!

The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden*
The sequel to The Bear and the Nightingale: in a village at the edge of the wilderness of northern Russia, where the winds blow cold and the snow falls many months of the year, an elderly servant tells stories of sorcery, folklore and the Winter King to the children of the family, tales of old magic frowned upon by the church. But for the young, wild Vasya these are far more than just stories. She alone can see the house spirits that guard her home, and sense the growing forces of dark magic in the woods... 

My Friend Fear by Meera Lee Patel*
A mix of personal reflections, inspirational quotes, questions for reflection, and breathtaking watercolour visuals, My Friend Fear asserts that having big fear is an opportunity to make big changes, to discover the remarkable potential inside ourselves.

These two were very kindly sent by publishers and I've actually already read and reviewed both of these books. You can see my thoughts on The Girl in the Tower here and My Friend Fear here.

I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan
Fifteen-year-old Muzna Saleem is used to being invisible. So no one is more surprised than her when Arif Malik, the hottest boy in school, takes a sudden interest. But Arif is hiding a terrible secret and, as they begin to follow a dark path, Muzna faces an impossible choice: keep quiet and betray her beliefs, or speak out and betray her heart.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard
Eden McKinley knows she can't count on much in this world, but she can depend on Bonnie, her solid, steady, straight-A best friend. So it's a bit of a surprise when Bonnie runs away with a guy Eden knows nothing about five days before the start of their GCSEs. And it's the last person she would have expected. Sworn to secrecy and bound by loyalty, only Eden knows Bonnie's location, and that's the way it has to stay. There's no way she's betraying her best friend. Not even when she's faced with police questioning, suspicious parents and her own growing doubts. As the days pass and things begin to unravel, Eden is forced to question everything she thought she knew about the world, her best friend and herself.

I had a little splurge in Waterstones Piccadilly before the Costa Book Awards at the end of January and picked up these two recently released YAs. I'd heard a lot of buzz about I Am Thunder and was excited to read a book with a Muslim protagonist and I love Sara Barnard so Goodbye, Perfect was an automatic buy for me. I've also read and reviewed these two and you can find out what I thought here.

In the Days of Rain by Rebecca Stott
As Rebecca Stott's father lay dying he begged her to help him write the memoir he had been struggling with for years. He wanted to tell the story of their family, who, for generations had all been members of a fundamentalist Christian sect. Rebecca was born into the sect, yet, as an intelligent, inquiring child she was always asking dangerous questions. She would discover that her father, an influential preacher, had been asking them too, and that the fault-line between faith and doubt had almost engulfed him.

The minute I heard the buzzword 'cult' around In the Days of Rain when looking at the Costa Book Awards shortlist, I knew I wanted to read this book. It was the winner in the non-fiction category and I picked it up from Waterstones Piccadilly right before the awards. Hilariously I also happened to get it in my goody bag at the awards that night, so now I have two copies! I'll be doing a giveaway on Twitter for one of them so keep an eye out for that.

Sunflowers in February by Phyllida Shrimpton*
Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. She has no idea how she got there. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead. But what is she supposed do now? Then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity - to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .

The lovely Hot Key Books offered to send me this for review and it was kind of giving me Vicky Angel vibes so of course I said yes! It's supposed to be funny and sad with relatable characters and some solid YA sounds right up my street at the minute. Hopefully I'll be getting to this one soon.

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday*
In New York, Alice, a young editor, begins an affair with Ezra Blazer, a world-famous, much older writer. At Heathrow airport, Amar, an Iraqi-American economist en route to Kurdistan, finds himself detained for the weekend. What draws these characters together, and how do their lives connect, if at all?

When the wonderful folk at Granta contacted me about Asymmetry I just had to accept. It sounds like such a gorgeous literary fiction and I love stories where completely different characters have subtle crossovers. It's also not too long which I *love*, I'm all about concise tightly-written narratives. This is a debut and apparently is slightly autobiographical which is intriguing. It's out now!

White Houses by Amy Bloom*
In 1933, President Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt took up residence in the White House. With them went the celebrated journalist Lorena Hickok - Hick to friends - a straight-talking reporter from South Dakota, whose passionate relationship with the idealistic, patrician First Lady would shape the rest of their lives. Told by the indomitable Hick, White Houses is the story of Eleanor and Hick's hidden love, and of Hick's unlikely journey from her dirt-poor childhood to the centre of privilege and power. 

Also from Granta, this historical fiction revolves around the relationship between two fascinating women. I love fictional retellings of historical events (e.g. The Importance of Being Kennedy by Laurie Graham) so this sounds right up my street. I also want to read a lot more LGBT+ fiction this year as I just haven't read enough of it, so this fits in nicely. White Houses is out on the 5th of May.


And that's it! I hope you're just as excited as I am for these books and hopefully you'll be seeing some reviews of them here soon. Let me know in the comments if you've read any of them or if there's a particular one you'd like to hear about first!

Books marked with a * were sent to me by the publisher for review consideration, I have not been paid by the publishers to feature any of these titles.

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