Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer: Review & Interview

Letters to the LostTitle: Letters to the Lost
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope. 

Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past. 

When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can't resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they're not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.
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This book has just been announced as part of the Zoella Book Club and I couldn't be happier for Brigid Kemmerer. This book is incredible and I can't wait for so many new people to read the book because of this! Grab yourself a copy asap, and now you can even grab the Zoella Book Club WHSmith exclusive cover.

Before Letters to the Lost, I'd actually once tried to read another book by Brigid Kemerer, Storm, the first book in her Elemental series. I ended up not finishing the book, I couldn't get in to the story and thought that maybe her writing just wasn't for me. So I must admit that I was a little hesitant to pick Letters to the Lost up, but I just had to read it as it seemed like exactly my kind of contemporary. I was so very right. I am so glad I took a chance on it, I ended up absolutely loving this bstory and now I am left wanting more from this author. I read this book in just a few hours, I honestly just couldn't put it down and step away from the story or these characters. Within just a few pages Kemmerer managed to get me ridiculously invested in her characters and their story. Ahhhhhh, I just really loved this book and now I just kind of want to gush about it.

Since Juliet lost her mother in a car accident, she has been leaving letters at her grave as a way to feel close to her. Her mother was a war photographer, constantly travelling to war torn countries to capture the true horror, so letters have always been how Juliet and her mother kept in touch whilst she was away. Juliet never expects anyone to read the letters she leaves at her mother's grave, she definitely doesn't expect anyone to reply. But Declan does. He is currently doing community service at the graveyard when he finds one of her letters. He understands her feelings, he is still dealing with the death of his sister and the guilt he feels from that. He write back, which begins a communication between the two of them. They seem to understand each others pain, guilt and grief, but they don't realise that they know each other in real life and they haven't exactly had the best interactions with one another. Cue all the good stuff!

Image result for now kiss gifI'm not even sure where to begin, there are so many things that I loved about this book. It covered so many issues so well, and gave me so many feelings in the process. I think first I should say that I loved the characters, they just felt so real. Their grief and pain was just so easy for me to understand and relate to, as well as their guilt, even for the things they really shouldn't blame themselves for. I loved watching Juliet and Declan connect through their letters, whilst also getting to know one another in real life without even realising it. It showed so well how quickly we can judge people and make assumptions about them, without knowing their full story. It also perfectly showed how anonymity can make us far more comfortable and willing to show who we really are.

This book dealt with a lot of tough subjects, not just loss and grief; Brigid Kemmerer dealt with these all so well. It never felt like too much, or that she went too over the top with it like I have seen in other books. These tough issues were never used for drama, they were so important to the story and these characters, who they were and the decisions they made.

Another thing I loved about the book was all the different relationships portrayed here. You had those with good relationship with their parents, those without. Not to mention the strong friendships here, ones that I really enjoyed. I especially enjoyed Declan's relationship with his best friend Rev, the level of understanding those two have of each other is just brilliant. They know each others past and the struggles it caused them, they were supportive, whilst also being capable of calling the other out on their bullshit when they needed it. I felt the family relationships were also very realistic, especially Declan's struggles with his step father. I felt like their lack of communication was so true to real life. If you don't open up and tell someone your feelings and motivations, they'll judge you only on what they can see and that won't always be who you are. I really enjoyed how Kemmerer dealt with that relationship over the course of this novel.

Image result for kiss already gifKemmerer did such a wonderful job building up the relationship between Declan and Juliet. This is a fantastic contemporary, where the romance isn't overpowering the story, and I actually preferred it that way. This was definitely a slow build and slow burn romance, with two characters truly opening up and getting to know each other; my favourite kind of romance. That isn't to say that I didn't totally want to see these two end up together, I did. I shipped these two so very hard!

I absolutely loved this book and can't really find any faults with it. My one and only complain might be that I wanted one more chapter or so, which is what I seem to say about every single contemporary I ever read. That's not because the ending didn't wrap up the story enough or didn't give me closure, it was just that I didn't feel ready to say goodbye to these characters, which is a good sign that I loved the book.

5/5 Butterflies

Why do you write?

I’ve always loved telling stories. I started writing stories in middle school because I couldn’t find enough to read to keep me busy.

Do you write letters? How important do you think it is to keep up letter writing rather than just always texting/emailing etc – or do you think we have to move with the times? 

I rarely hand-write physical letters (though I’m going to write two physical letters to two people I found incredibly inspiring as I was writing Letters to the Lost). That said, I am constantly emailing and texting. I love being able to take the time to sit down and think through what I say, and especially with email, being able to deliver all of it at once, instead of as part of a conversation. I think that goes hand-in-hand with writing books: I’m just a storyteller at heart.

In the age of digital dating and online friendships, how much do you think it is possible to get to know a person without actually meeting them? 

My absolute closest friend is a woman I met online through a writers’ message board. We’re as close as sisters now, and we’ve only physically seen each other twice. I met my husband over the phone, and we developed a friendship well before we ever met in person. And those are my two closest relationships! I think it’s very possible to develop a close relationship with someone online. I’ve never met many of my writer friends. Being able to connect with people all over the world is one of the best parts of the digital age.

Which novelists do you admire? 

Oh my goodness, SO MANY! Huntley Fitzpatrick, Sabaa Tahir, Charlaine Harris, Sophie Kinsella, Bill Konigsberg, Jane Green…I could go on and on!

Describe your route to being published: 

I feel like I’ve been writing forever, but I started to really take it seriously in my late twenties. I began researching what it would take to get published—and learned it takes a lot of work! My first real novel was rejected everywhere, so I wrote another one. That novel landed an agent—but didn’t sell to any publishers. My third novel, Storm, sold at auction, and it’s the first novel in a series about four brothers who control the elements of earth, air, fire, and water.

What songs would be on a Letters to the Lost playlist? 

I always say that Shots by Imagine Dragons is the book’s theme song. The regular version is great, but there’s a slower, acoustic version that just absolutely nails it. The song is about someone who wants to do things right, but they feel as though everything they do ends up being terribly wrong.

What is the first book that made you cry? 

I can’t remember. The last book that made me cry was The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

What drove you to make Juliet’s mother a war photographer? 

I wanted her mother to have a job that would require a lot of travel, but also be something unusual and admirable. I started researching photojournalism and it just clicked immediately.

What’s your favourite photo you’ve ever taken? Or one that you’ve seen? 

The most powerful photo I’ve ever seen is the one that inspired the opening chapter of Letters to the Lost. It’s called “Iraqi Girl at Checkpoint,” taken by Chris Hondros, and it’s terrible and devastating.

Here’s a link: http://100photos.time.com/photos/chris-hondros-iraqi-girl-at-checkpoint How a Photo of an Iraqi Girl at a Checkpoint Changed the ... 100photos.time.com

The girl's parents were shot dead by U.S. soldiers who thought the family's car held insurgents or suicide bombers But seriously, it’s terrible and heartbreaking. Not for the faint of heart. The instant I saw it, I started crying, and the mother in me wanted to find her and hold her.

What was the hardest part of writing the book? 

Looking at war photographs. Some of them (like the one above) are terribly difficult to look at. My husband and I went to the Newseum in Washington D.C. so I could do some research for Letters to the Lost, and seeing so many photographs all at once was an incredibly emotional experience.

Can you tease any future projects? 

Yes! Rev Fletcher, a side character in Letters to the Lost and already a reader favorite, is getting his own book. More Than We Can Tell will be released in March 2018. I’m also just finishing A Curse So Dark and Lonely, a fantasy/contemporary crossover, which should be available sometime in 2019.

Swear on this Life by Renee Carlino

Swear on This LifeTitle: Swear on this Life
Author: Renee Carlino
Publisher: Atria Books
When a bestselling debut novel from mysterious author J.Colby becomes the literary event of the year, Emiline reads it reluctantly. As an adjunct writing instructor at UC San Diego with her own stalled literary career and a bumpy long-term relationship, Emiline isn’t thrilled to celebrate the accomplishments of a young and gifted writer.

Yet from the very first page, Emiline is entranced by the story of Emerson and Jackson, two childhood best friends who fall in love and dream of a better life beyond the long dirt road that winds through their impoverished town in rural Ohio.

That’s because the novel is patterned on Emiline’s own dark and desperate childhood, which means that “J. Colby” must be Jase: the best friend and first love she hasn’t seen in over a decade. Far from being flattered that he wrote the novel from her perspective, Emiline is furious that he co-opted her painful past and took some dramatic creative liberties with the ending.

The only way she can put her mind at ease is to find and confront “J. Colby,” but is she prepared to learn the truth behind the fiction?

Anyone who has followed my blog for a while will know that I have a complicated relationship with New Adult books. It is very rare for me to find a new adult book that I like. My biggest issue with the genre from the majority of books I have read is the poor writing, annoying tropes, every tragic backstory you can think of and the cringe-inducing dialogue. I mostly stick to Colleen Hoover, although I've been disappointed with her last few books. I recently discovered Fisher Amelie and I will forever recommend Katja Millay's The Sea of Tranquility. Every now and again I will take a chance on a new adult book, hoping that it will pay off. I decided to give Swear on This Life a try because it was recommended by Colleen Hoover and I was curious. Unfortunately, I have to say that this was one of the worst books I have read in a very long time.

Image result for i hate this gifThe story follows Emiline, a writing instructor at UC San Diego, who always longed to be a writer but could never find the story she wanted to tell. When a debut novel blows up and becomes the next big thing, Emiline decides to read it. She is surprised to find that the book is about her. The author, J. Colby has to be Jase, the guy she grew up with and her first love.

Another reason I was curious to read this book was because of the childhood friends to lovers story line, as I usually find them super cute. However this story offered me absolutely nothing and I honestly wish I had never picked it up. My biggest problem with this book was that it was poorly written. It had some of the weakest dialogue that I have ever encountered. It also contains the whole 'book within a book', a book we are supposed to believe is getting world wide attention and acclaim, which made no sense given how poorly that book was written, so much so that it could make Fifty Shades look like a work of genius. It was just so, so, so, soooooo bad.
This also had one of my least favourite tropes that is ride in New Adult literature. And that is the tope of the tragic back stories. Why can' a lead character in a new adult book not have some awfully tragic back story? One has an abusive, alcoholic father and a mother who abandoned them. The other has a druggie mother, absent father and brother who dies tragically. Of course! It is always sooooo fucking over the top and ridiculous and I hate it.

Image result for i hate this gifThe book within this book made it hard for us to get to know the characters as adults. Instead we kept going back to a fictionalised version of their childhood. It made it hard to connect to them or to really buy their romance. Not to mention it had a really rushed and swift end. It felt like you got absolutely no pay off for sticking through the whole book. I just had a horrible time with this book and it has put me off trying anything else by this author.

The Secret History of Us by Jessi Kirby: Review

The Secret History of UsTitle: The Secret History of Us
Author: Jessi Kirby
Publisher: Harper Teen
A near drowning…a coma for days…and then…

Olivia wakes up to realize she doesn’t remember. Not just the accident—but anything from the last four years. Not high school. Not Matt, the guy who is apparently her boyfriend. Not the reason she and Jules are no longer friends. Nothing.

That’s when it hits her—the accident may not have taken her life, but it took something just as vital: her memory. The harder she tires to remember things, the foggier everything gets, and figuring out who she is feels impossible when everyone keeps telling her who she was.

But then there’s Walker. The guy who saved her. The one who broke her ribs pumping life back into her lungs. The hardened boy who keeps his distance despite Olivia’s attempts to thank him.

With her feelings growing for Walker, tensions rising with Matt, and secrets she can’t help but feel are being kept from her, Olivia must find her place in a life she doesn’t even remember living.
I was very excited when I saw this book was available for review, I'd read Jessi Kirby's Things We Know By Heart  last year and absolutely loved it. Her writing just drew me in and I connected to her characters, so I was hoping my reading experience would be the same for this book. In the end, I did enjoy this book, it just didn't pack the same emotional punch as the first book I read by her.

We follow Liz, who wakes up in a hospital after spending eight days in a coma following a serious car crash, one that no one can understand how she survived. It soon becomes apparent that Liz doesn't remember the crash, in fact she doesn't remember the last five years of her life. She has no memories of her boyfriend of two years, who was in the car with her that night. Liz has to learn to come to terms with who she is now and where life has taken her in those five years. She is drawn to the young man who pulled her from the water that night, the same person who performed the CPR that saved her live.

I'm still really enjoying Kirby's writing, there is just something about it that draws me into her stories and makes her books hard to put down. I struggled to connect to the characters here, but that had a lot to do with Liv's memory loss. It feels like you never really get to know her and who she actually is. The book doesn't spend enough time on any of the other characters for them to make much of an impression.

I hadn't known what to expect from this book. I associate Kirby with contemporary fiction, but I got the impression this would be more of a mystery/thriller going off the slightly creepy cover and the memory loss story line. It isn't at all though, it is more of a contemporary about finding who you are and who you want to be, with a little bit of romance thrown in.

Overall, I felt it was an okay read but it just didn't make me feel much of anything. I never truly connected to Liv as a character. I also was never able to buy the romance here because we just didn't spend enough time with the other characters.Without Liv's old memories we are unable to see the moments they've shared, the ways that they connected. Personally, I just felt that not much happened in the story overall, and all the major events that do happen, happen right at the end, making the story feel rushed and incomplete. I still enjoy Kirby's writing, but I would definitely recommend her other book before recommending this one.

The Inventory Series by Andy Briggs: Review, Giveaway & Guest Post

Iron Fist (The Inventory, #1)Titles: Iron Fist, Gravity & Black Knight
Author: Andy Briggs
Publisher: Scholastic
The Rules: if you find a secret inventory of utterly deadly battle tech. 1) Do not try it. 2) Do not tell anyone. 3) Do NOT let thieves in behind you. What’s more secret than top-secret? The Inventory. Home to the deadliest inventions the world isn’t ready for. Invisible camouflage. HoverBoots. Indestructible metals. Plus a giant creature of chaos: war robot Iron Fist. No one has ever broken past the state-of-the-art AI security system. (Seriously, most bad guys have no idea this stuff is even there.) Problem 1: the security robot wasn’t ready for a gang of kids wandering in. Problem 2: they’ve ONLY brought the ruthless Shadow Helix gang in behind them. Seriously dumb, but it’s a bit late for ‘sorry’. Say hello to trouble: the Iron Fist is in the wrong hands!

The Inventory series by Andy Briggs is one of those action-packed books that is just perfect for its middle grade audience. I am actually starting a new job next week, managing a Secondary School library and I will be buying these in straight away if they don't have them. The Inventory is basically a huge storage facility where technology deemed 'unsuitable' or too dangerous for use is stored. Now this includes dangerous weapons, crazy inventions and incredible pieces of tech. Dev has lived with his uncle his whole life, and his uncle is charged with watching over the Inventory. Dev has never really made friends, so it comes as a surprise when two classmates show up at his 'farm' one day. It just so happens to be the day the Inventory is attacked by Shadow Helix, a group determined to break in and steal the Iron Fist, a piece of technology even Dev doesn't know what it can do. When they capture Dev's uncle it is down to Dev and his two classmates, Lot and Mason, to outsmart the bad guys and protect the Inventory.

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Me at almost every page!
This book is honestly just perfect for the age range. A group of teenagers working together, with all this advanced and rather incredible technology, to take down a gang of adults and protect the world. Seriously, perfect! And it is done soooooo well. There is action on every single page, there isn't a boring moment at any point during the book. I also loved watching Dev, Lot and Mason work together throughout the book. And that is continued on in the sequels, where they are helping to trach down items from the Inventory. The first book is set almost entirely within The Inventory, but with how big that actually is and the exciting inventions inside, it seems like such a bigger world and you don't get bored, instead you kind of wish you could peer into every corner of the Inventory and see all it offers.

These books are fast-paced and action-packed. I could get through these books in one sitting, without even realising it. It is hard to put them down because you are always in the thick of the action and there never seems a good time to step away and take a breather. I am actually so excited by this series, it is one of the best middle grade series I have read in a long time. I can't wait to start my new job and start recommending these to the kids I'll be working with, I know they're going to love them. Anyone looking for an exciting, adventure series then this is one I highly recommend.

7 Tips for Aspiring Authors
by Andy Briggs

1 - Finish your book. 

While on the surface this may sound like completely pointless advice, you’d be surprised. Touring around the UK, I meet many people who excitedly tell me that they’re writing a book. You meet very few people who have actually finished one. While it’s great that so many people are writing, it takes a lot effort to actually finish a book. Just remember, once you have completed your epic, you’re in a small select group of people who have actually done so – regardless if you’re published or not!

 2 - Write different things.

It seems that publishers all want are series. So, of course, everybody pitches their series ideas and then are surprised when they’re turned down. The thing is, publishers want material that has the potential to be a series, but stands up as a strong single book. One of the unexpected things writers get asked, shortly after being rejected by an agent or a publisher, is “what else have you got?”. If you’ve just been rejected for your dystopian vampire love story because there are billions on the shelves already, make sure you have something different (and preferably complete) in your back pocket – a story about a talking horse perhaps, make it something very different from your first offering. If the agent/publisher is asking that question, it’s because they like you and your writing, so don’t disappoint them.

 3 – Experiment.

Some people are desperate to be authors, but struggle to make it a reality. Constant rejections shouldn’t be the end of the dream, consider them a beginning. Writers create comics, non-fiction stories, magazine articles, screenplays, computer game scripts – and just about every other creative avenue requires writers. Spread your wings and experiment… you may find your niche in the most unexpected place…

4 – Don’t care, get it down!

I find it sad when I visit schools and see creative kids stymied by the ultra-important need to spell a word correctly and sharpen their grammar, because we all know that is much more important than creating anything original. The end result of their endeavours is a clinical lab experiment with no soul – accurately crafted sentences that are dull and unimaginative (and probably stolen from that movie the teacher hasn’t watched). I strongly recommend writing your story with no regard for spelling or grammar. Your goal here is to lay down your plot and bring your characters to life. Then you have the chance to rewrite, correcting spelling, grammar, and any other technical detail you feel is important. Oh, and by the end of the first rough draft… you have the pride of knowing that you’ve written a book!

5 - Write then rewrite. Repeat.

Following hot on the heels of point 4, rewriting is your friend. I know writers who hunch over their work, stressing about how they can make that next sentence perfect. As a result, days, weeks and even months pass with no progress – and the little demon called Writer’s Block has won once again claimed a victim. It’s best not to worry about perfection. You won’t achieve it. Write something, anything, then move on and you will soon find your rhythm. Remember, you will fix everything later in the rewrite, that’s the magic wand that makes your work even better.

6 – It’s a numbers game, not a word game.

When not stressing about their work, first-time authors stress about getting an agent or publisher. I don’t know any published author who doesn’t have a stack of rejection letters stowed away somewhere. You have to remember, most of these rejections aren’t a slight on your work (unless you get detailed criticism – in which case listen to it!), they’re simply stating a fact the market isn’t ready for yet another dystopian novel or an agent has exactly the number of clients they can comfortably manage. The harsh reality of this artistic endeavour is that it’s really a business and based on numbers. Generally, a rejection is not a rejection – it’s just a “this isn’t the right time” note. Write something else, and try again. Apply to other agencies and other agents within the one you have just been rejected by. Agents, like editors, have their own tastes. Just keep trying. Go to publishing events where you can mingle with agents and get to know them (before you insist they read your work). It’s just as much who you know as it is your quality of work.

7 – Don’t give up.

That should say it all. You never know when your break may occur. I used to think (and still do) that writing is an endurance game. Editors and agents move from place to place, and sometimes into completely unrelated jobs (I know one who now runs a pub!) – that means you have a clear playing field to start pitching your work all over again…

 Andy has extensive experience working on multinational co-productions and has worked in comics, books, TV, film and trans-media projects.
 Andy wrote and Executive Produced Legendary, currently the most successful independent UK/Chinese co-production. Released in China and grossing $5 million in the first week, with a theatric US release in 2014. With his brother he worked on Hollywood features such as Judge Dredd and Freddy vs. Jason and TV shows for the SyFy Channel and Netflix.
 He wrote and co-created Secret Agents, a trans-media interactive spy experience for children, currently on at the Discover Centre, Stratford. He has written 20 books and graphic novels published in the UK and around the world. In 2016 his latest feature, Crowhurst, will be released.

Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman: Review & Giveaway

Everything Beautiful Is Not RuinedTitle: Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined
Author: Danielle Younge-Ullman
Publisher: Scholastic
Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.
IFC the breakfast club GIFThe first I heard of this book, it was being pitched as The Breakfast Club meets camping, or something quite similar. To me, that is probably the perfect way to describe it. And it was a huge part of the reason I wanted to read it, as The Breakfast Club just so happens to be one of my all time favourite movies. I finished this book with tears in my eyes and an overwhelming feeling of happiness, this book didn't just meet my expectations, it exceeded them.

Ingrid has been sent off to camp, and she is not looking forward to it. She is imagining uncomfortable bunks, cabins and having to go to the toilet in an outhouse. None of them are pleasant ideas to her. She is determined though, she made a deal with her mother to do it. If Ingrid can make it through the two weeks at the camp then she can go to a prestigious school in London to study. The only problem is the camp turns out to be worse than she imagined. The camp is not a camp at all, it's a tiring two week trek through the wilderness, sleeping in tents and with no toilets in site. Ingrid's idea of hell. Not to mention she is in a camp with 'at risk teens', something she definitely wouldn't call herself. But Ingrid is stronger than she knows and there is more to her camp mates than she assumes.

Image result for camping gifI really liked Ingrid as a main character, especially since she is such a complex character. She clearly has a strained relationship with her mother at this time, given the fact her mum has sent her to the camp. She is also closed off, not willing to open about herself or what led her to the camp. She doesn't feel like she fits there, she sees herself differently to the others at the camp. I thoroughly enjoyed watching her character grow stronger, not just physically but emotionally. I loved seeing her open up to the others, standing up for herself and finding her voice.

This book also deals with some serious issues and I love it for that. It deals with depression, something I love seeing done well in YA books, especially as I have struggled with and used medication to help with depression in the past. It also deals so well with sexual assault, how that was handled in this book was just so perfect to me. Not to mention the perfect and complex mother daughter relationship here. Honestly, I am just so impressed with Danielle Younge-Ullman and I will read whatever she comes out with next.

This book was so much more than I had expected, I can fully admit that it didn't just hit me in the feels, it punched me so hard in them I wanted to double over in pain. I was a little bit of a weepy mess, but I kind of loved that. There is just so much about this book that I really loved. My only hang up is the same problem I have with almost every contemporary I read and that is that it felt too rushed at the end and there wasn't enough closure. It is the same with so many contemporary books, where you're holding just a few pages in your hands at the end of the book but feel there should be about another 30-50 pages to go. Don't get me wrong, the story wraps up and does it so well. I just felt maybe Ingrid's return from camp could have been given more time, so we have more time to adjust to that and see how it all plays out.

4.5/5 Butterflies

I am super lucky to be a part of the Everything Beautiful is Not Ruined blog tour, and Scholastic have been kind enough to offer a book for a giveaway. So one lucky winner could win a copy of this awesome book! The giveaway is for UK peeps only though, sorry international guys!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer: Review

HeartlessTitle: Heartless
Author: Marissa Meyer
Publisher: Fiewel & Friends 
Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland and a favorite of the unmarried King, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, she wants to open a shop and create delectable pastries. But for her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for a woman who could be a queen.

At a royal ball where Cath is expected to receive the King’s marriage proposal, she meets handsome and mysterious Jest. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the King and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into a secret courtship.

Cath is determined to choose her own destiny. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans.

Heartless was one of those books you seem to constantly see and hear about in the months leading up to its release. If I'm honest, I hate when that happens. I end up hearing far too much about the book and how incredible it is, the hype makes my expectations rise to ridiculous levels and then the book can't live up to them. It happened with Caraval and it happened here. Don't get me wrong, I still thoroughly enjoyed this book, I just feel I might have enjoyed it more if there had been less hype and I'd heard less about it before I got to read it. Plus all the warnings about this book and how it made people feel made it all so predictable, so it never packed the same emotional punch it would have if I'd gone in blind. There was so much I did enjoy about this book, especially the world and the characters. Not forgetting Meyer's fantastic writing, she definitely breathed new life into the world of Wonderland.

Image result for wonderland gifHeartless takes place in Wonderland, way before Alice found herself there. It is a Queen of Hearts origin story, as we see how she becomes the infamous villain we all know. Catherine Pinkerton is the daughter of the Marquess of Rock Turtle Cove, and one of the most coveted women in all of Wonderland. Even the King of Hearts himself wishes to make Catherine his wife. But Cath has always dreamed of being more than a wife. He dream is to own her own bakery, to share her delicious treats with all of Wonderland. That is not seen as an acceptable dream for a woman of her social standing, but Cath is determined to fight for it. Then she meets Jest, the King's new Joker and a mysterious new face ii Wonderland. Cath finds herself drawn to him, going behind the backs of her parents and the King to spend time with him. Cath is falling in love, dreaming of a future with Jest and her bakery. But there are forces in Wonderland beyond her control, forces that threaten to bring her dreams crumbling down.

Image result for dessert gifFirst, I must talk about the writing, it is utterly glorious! Meyer really brings the world of Wonderland to life, I could visualise it all so clearly in my mind. Her food descriptions are heavenly, she basically had my mouth watering almost the entire time I was reading. I feel she added her own style to Wonderland, one which I personally loved. This is where I have to admit something... I have never been an Alice in Wonderland fan. The Disney film was always one of my least favourites, and I didn't enjoy the book either and really didn't get all the fuss over the Tim Burton adaptation either. If I am honest, the whole story is just too strange for me. So I was happy to discover that Meyer could write a Wonderland that I'd absolutely love, craziness and all.

Meyer also does a fantastic job with the characters here, ones you will recognise from the Alice in Wonderland stories and also some completely new ones. I think the best way to do this is to look at my thoughts on some of the individual characters themselves.

Cath: Of course I must start with the Queen of Hearts-to-be herself. She is a really likeable character, especially in the beginning of this book. She's funny, kind, determined, a dreamer, plus she makes delicious desserts and that just instantly makes me want to be best friends with her. I had a lot of sympathy for Cath, she was stuck in a very tough situation. Meyer has created a kind of Victorian style Wonderland in terms of the society, with a woman's future being determined by who she marries and how that will benefit her family. Making decisions for yourself isn't something afforded to the women in Wonderland, unless you want to find yourself rejected by society and wind up destitute. So I did feel for Cath, especially in terms of the pressure put on her to enter into marriage with the King. However, she does also happen to be a truly frustrating character, I found myself wanting to reach into this book and shake her on multiple occasions. Having to watch her stay silent for so long really bothered me. You understand why she does it, but it is hard to read. It felt like she brought so much on herself, so much so that by the end of the book she had lost a lot of my sympathy.

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Me with Jest & Cath
Jest: Now Jest is the mysterious and alluring love interest, who enters Cath's life with a band and doesn't want to leave. He was like the perfect breath of fresh air for Cath, especially since he wasn't stuck up or prone to sticking to the societal standards expecting of him - go Jest! I adored his character because he was so much fun and he managed to push Cath out of her comfort zone. Plus he is the King's Jester, so he has the added bonus of being a forbidden romance and those are one of the best kinds.

The King: I absolutely hated the King, which is really the entire point of his character. He is just so passive and useless, the worst kind of person to be in charge of ruling a kingdom. I also found his character super creepy, as he unashamedly and doggedly pursues Cath, a young girl half his age. Not to mention that he comes across as a total idiot and at times talks like an exciting toddler. Yes, it is understandable why Cath doesn't want to marry that man.

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Cath's parents: Some more characters that it is very easy to hate. These two are people of their time, strict in sticking to what society expects of them. They're so certain of themselves and that they know what is best for Cath, what will maker her happy, even though they have absolutely no clue. It's really hard to read books with a Victorian style society, as it is so horribly sexist. Reading a book where you're basically watching parents pimp out their daughter to man half her age is uncomfortable at best. I did not like these two at all, I wanted the Jabberwock to swallow them both whole.

Image result for wonderland gifMad Hatter & The Cheshire Cat: I really like how Meyer decided to play with these classic Alice in Wonderland characters. Cheshire was basically perfect, so sarcastic and superior, he was so spot on and had the perfect cat personality. I am sure if my cat could taken then she'd basically act the exact same way. Hatta was less fun but I adored him as he was the only person willing to call Cath out on her bullshit, her complete inability to fight for what she wanted and for her unfair treatment of Jest. Honestly, he made me want to put the book down and applaud him as finally someone was saying what I was feeling.

Overall, I found Heartless was a really enjoyable read but I didn't completely love it. I actually really enjoyed Meyer's Wonderland and it worked so well for me. However, I did feel this book was much too long and with very little happening for most of the book. A lot of the story is Cath bemoaning her situation, but doing absolutely nothing to change it. It gets tiresome hearing her whine for hundreds of pages whilst taking no action. I did thoroughly enjoy watching Cath and Jest fall for each other though. Personally, I felt the end was a bit manic after so long of nothing happening, and a certain event felt so blink-and-you'll-miss-it that it didn't pack any kind of real emotional punch. There was a lot to like about this book, but aspects I wish were different and would have made it a much more enjoyable read.

3.5 Butterflies

The Inconceivable Life of Quinn by Marianne Baer: Review

The Inconceivable Life of QuinnTitle: The Inconceivable Life of Quinn
Author: Marianna Baer
Publisher: Amulet Books
Quinn Cutler is sixteen and the daughter of a high-profile Brooklyn politician. She’s also pregnant, a crisis made infinitely more shocking by the fact that she has no memory of ever having sex. Before Quinn can solve this deeply troubling mystery, her story becomes public. Rumors spread, jeopardizing her reputation, her relationship with a boyfriend she adores, and her father’s campaign for Congress. Religious fanatics gather at the Cutlers’ home, believing Quinn is a virgin, pregnant with the next messiah. Quinn’s desperate search for answers uncovers lies and family secrets—strange, possibly supernatural ones. Might she, in fact, be a virgin?

I have to start this review by saying that The Inconceivable Life of Quinn is one of the strangest books I have ever read, and I am completely unsure how I feel about it. It is such a weird and yet utterly compelling story. When I read the summary for this book I was instantly intrigued and knew I had to read it. Quinn Cutler is the sixteen year old daughter of  Brooklyn politician who is currently running for US Congress. The family is facing a ton of media scrutiny, so there couldn't actually be a worse time for Quinn to find out she is pregnant. The situation is made a whole lot worse because Quinn has no memory of ever having sex, as far as she is concerned she is a virgin and so is her long term boyfriend. It is a huge scandal for the family, and an alienating experience for Quinn as almost no one believes her. We follow Quinn as she tries to figure out how this happened, whether she has repressed the memory of a sexual assault or if something more supernatural is happening, or if she should believe those who think she is carrying the next messiah.

The best way to sum up reading this book:
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Going into this book, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. The summary hints to a supernatural element, whilst also making it seem like it could be a clean cut contemporary. The book makes for interesting, compelling and frustrating reading. You're so eager to get answers, whilst feeling like you can't trust Quinn as she is an unreliable narrator at times. I really loved the mystery of it all, it grabs you and you're desperate to find out what actually happened to Quinn. I just had to know how Quinn has found herself pregnant, whilst insisting she is still a virgin. I was so curious to see how the author would wrap it all up.

If you're looking for a book that will keep you guessing, this is definitely that book. Almost the entire book I couldn't decide what I thought was really going on and I never would have guessed either. Be warned that this is a slow paced book, where the plot revolves solely on finding out the truth to Quinn's pregnancy. I can tell this book will divide opinion, some won't be able to deal with the end as well as others will. Personally, I do wish that I had got more of a payoff. But then I also couldn't put this book down, there is just something so compelling about Baer's writing that grabs me. The book could definitely have committed to magical realism elements earlier on in the story and then the end would have worked better.

This book is just so hard to review, and that is because I have honestly never read anything else like it. It was a unique reading experience and those are rare to find the over saturated market of YA, where sometimes it feels like you have read the same story ten times over. So I have to applaud Baer for being able to grip me and then genuinely surprise me. She's someone to watch and I will be very curious to see what she comes up with next. If you're looking for something different, that will keep you guessing till the very end then this is definitely worth reading.

3.5 Butterflies

The Last Thing You Said by Sara Biren: Review

The Last Thing You SaidTitle: The Last Thing You Said
Author: Sara Biren
Publisher: Amulet Books
Last summer, Lucy’s and Ben’s lives changed in an instant. One moment, they were shyly flirting on a lake raft, finally about to admit their feelings to each other after years of yearning. In the next, Trixie—Lucy’s best friend and Ben’s sister—was gone, her heart giving out during a routine swim. And just like that, the idyllic world they knew turned upside down, and the would-be couple drifted apart, swallowed up by their grief. Now it’s a year later in their small lake town, and as the anniversary of Trixie’s death looms, Lucy and Ben’s undeniable connection pulls them back together. They can’t change what happened the day they lost Trixie, but the summer might finally bring them closer to healing—and to each other.

The Last Thing You Said turned out to be one of those books that I devoured in one sitting, as I needed to see how it would turn out for these characters. I foolishly started it just before bed, thinking I could read a couple of chapters and then put it down for the night, with the plan to return to it the next day. That did not happen, instead I ended up reading it in one go, staying up till the early am and paying for it dearly the next day at work. It was totally worth it though, there was just something about the story and the characters that made me unable to leave them until I knew how it all worked out for them.

Lucy and Trixie have been best friends for almost their entire lives, an inseparable pair, you wouldn't see one without the other. Lucy also just happens to be in love with Trixie's brother Ben, and she suspects that he might feel the same way. Just as it is seems that everything might work out for them, Trixie's heart gives out due to an undiagnosed heart condition. Ben hasn't really spoken to Lucy since, Lucy is struggling without Ben to lean or and without her best friend by her side. The anniversary of Trixie's death is looming closer, and Lucy and Ben keep finding themselves thrust together. The summer seems to be offering them a chance to heal and find their way back into each other's lives.

Recently I have read a ton of contemporary reads that deal with grief and I have enjoyed them all. What I particularly liked about this book was how it explore the uglier side to grief, how it can change us and turn us into people even we don't recognise. Every person copes with loss differently, some allow their own guilt and sadness to turn into anger that they aim at those who don't deserve it. It is horrible, it is also true to life and just how some people learn to cope. That is how Ben coped, by assigning blame to Lucy that she didn't deserve. It was hard to read and I will admit that sometimes I wanted to reach into the book and shake his character.

Sometimes I had to question myself and why I was so eager for these two to find their way back together. Ben could be a truly awful person and he was completely in the wrong, but I still felt for him. I am there, thinking he is a total asshole, whilst also really wanting it to work out for him and Lucy. Damn you, Sara Biren, you are good!

This was such a quick read for me as I couldn't leave it until I was done. It's a very enjoyable read and a great contemporary. It wasn't without its problems, mostly it had the over the top drama that usually bugs me in a book. I might have also totally hated the relationship that developed between Lucy and the renter next door, he came off far too creepy and clingy and I wish that was addressed more. This book just really worked for me though, it was such a great exploration of grief and how it can tear people apart but also bring them back together.

4/5 Butterflies

Building My Own Army of Fictional Characters + GIVEAWAY

It's World Book Day! The 20th World Book Day to be precise. And what a wonderful day it is. A day to promote my favourite thing: BOOKS! This is always such a fun day, especially when you work in libraries, that was especially true in public libraries. I love watching all the little kids running around in their costumes based off of fictional characters. I still remember the year where I dressed up at work as a Hogwarts students, with full robe and wand. It was a wonderful day! I just love watching children get excited about reading, and I hope that excitement and love of reading stays with them into adulthood.

I was actually lucky enough to be approached by Egmont to see if I wanted to help promote one of the wonderful £1 books coming out this World Book Day. Hmmmm, do I want to promote books that help instil a love of reading in the next generation? OF COURSE I DO! So I said yes. I quickly said yes because the book in question is by Michael Grant, the man behind the fantastic Gone series. The WBD book is called Dead of Night and links into his Front Lines series. The Front Lines series is a young adult alternate history book set in America. It proposes the question, what if women had been allowed to fight on the front lines during WWII. It sounded incredible and I can't wait to read it myself, I am a huge fan of alternate history books, they are some of my favourites.

I was lucky enough to get sent a copy of Front Lines, as well as the sequel Silver Stars and the WBD short story Dead of Night. I am very excited to read them all. Here is a little more information on the first book:

Front Lines (Soldier Girl, #1)1942. World War II. The most terrible war in human history. Millions are dead; millions more are still to die. The Nazis rampage across Europe and eye far-off America.

The green, untested American army is going up against the greatest fighting force ever assembled—the armed forces of Nazi Germany.

But something has changed. A court decision makes females subject to the draft and eligible for service. So in this World War II, women and girls fight, too.

As the fate of the world hangs in the balance, three girls sign up to fight. Rio Richlin, Frangie Marr, and Rainy Schulterman are average girls, girls with dreams and aspirations, at the start of their lives, at the start of their loves. Each has her own reasons for volunteering. Not one expects to see actual combat. Not one expects to be on the front lines.

Rio, Frangie, and Rainy will play their parts in the war to defeat evil and save the human race. They will fear and they will rage; they will suffer and they will inflict suffering; they will hate and they will love. They will fight the greatest war the world has ever known.

As a little something fun for this World Book Day, I thought I would pose myself a question: If I had to go into battle, what women from fiction would I want fighting by my side? I am also linking this up with Top Ten Tuesday, as there is no prompts for the last few weeks. A brilliant question and one I took some time to think of. I realised I don't just need those who can wield a weapon, or who would march bravely into battle, I also need those smart women who can help from behind the front line. So, without further ado, here are some of the wonderful women of fiction that I would want on my side:

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Artwork by Charle Bowater

Manon Blackbeach - Throne of Glass

I ADORE MANON!!! She is the best character in the Throne of Glass series now. Seriously, I just love her and Asterin. I don't just want Manon, I want her and her Thirteen. If I can get their Wyverns too then I would have an unstoppable force all of its own. But even if I could only have Manon, I would be happy. She has CLAWS! Giant nails that could slice my throat. She is loyal, she is brutal and she will fight till the death, and you can bet it won't be her death. She can be horrifyingly scary though, she would probably petrify me but I love her.

Celaena Sardothien - Throne of Glass

I think this one doesn't need too much explaining. Celaena Sardothien is an assassin, who seems rather unafraid to throw herself into battle. She is used to getting her hands dirty, watching her back and using the element of surprise to best her opponent. Of course I would want her to be on my team. Although I would spend the whole time worrying she might kill us all if she suddenly decided we weren't worthy or useful to her - the progression of that series proved to me that Celaena is either very forgetful, very fickle or very unloyal. But, hey, she can wield a blade and also has powers!

Image result for hermione granger fighting gifHermione Granger - Harry Potter

I want Hermione on my side for so many reasons. She's kind, she's smart, she is loyal and she is so very brave. I don't like that many people just associate a 'strong female character' as basically meaning someone who can fight or wield a weapon. It isn't. Don't get me wrong, I think Hermione is skilled in magic and I wouldn't want to face her on a battlefied. Plus we all know she can throw a punch. But she is also ridiculously clever, she always seems to be thinking faster than everyone around her. She would be brilliant in a war, she's already faced one and won.

A little something to make sure I can still paint after my week off!
I read ‘Not a Drop to Drink’ whilst I was away. I loved it and this is very much inspired by Lynn.
A couple of hours in PS :)
Artwork by Charlie Bowater
Lynn - Not a Drop to Drink

I really feel like the Not a Drop to Drink series is far too underrated and doesn't get nearly the love it deserves. This is such a beautifully written series, set in a dystopian future it is easy to imagine becoming possible. Lynn is such a fantastic character, she is such an emotionally strong person. The events she goes through and the things she endures would break me as a person, but she gets through it and helps others. She is skilled with a gun, she's also hilarious and someone I know I would love to spend time with. She also protects those she loves with everything she has, so she would be perfect.

Image result for katniss everdeen shooting gifKatniss Everdeen - The Hunger Games

Come on, of course I am not going to go into war without Katniss Everdeen. I LOVE that girl. I don't care what others say about her, I think she is a fantastic character. She is strong in so many ways, but she isn't indestructible. She does hurt, she does break, she forms emotional bonds but rarely, only to those she truly feels are worth her time. She can hunt with a bow and arrow, she has killed before. Sure, she is probably not going to provide the most small talk, you'd be lucky if she even spoke to you. I still want her on my team!

Artwork by PhantomRim

Mustang - Red Rising

Mustang is a pretty kickass character and I absolutely adore her. I didn't when she was first introduced, as I was still recovering from the events of the first half of Red Rising. She quickly grew on me, because she is just incredible. She is another wickedly smart character, who is actually has the brains and mind for politics, which could prove very useful. Plus if I befriended her during a war she might introduce me to my two favourite people: Darrow & Sevro! YES, PLEASE!

Image result for lisbeth salander gifLisbeth Salander - The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I honestly don't talk about the awesome Lisbeth Salander enough!!!! I think it is because I concentrate so much on young adult on here, I just seem to forget about her. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an amazing book and introduced me to one of my favourite characters of all time: Lisbeth Salander. Now this girl is smart, so smart that I can't even fathom it. She is also an expert in technology, she could probably hack into anything she sets her mind too. She doesn't take any crap from anyone, which I love about her.

So there are just some of the wonderful women I would want on my side during a war. Which women would you want fighting by your side?

Now time for a giveaway: