Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

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Title: Caraval

Author: Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Date: 31st January 2017

Blurb:

Remember, it’s only a game…

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…beware of getting swept too far away.

For the last few months, I had been in a ready slump. I attempted to read 3 different books and got through 30-50% of them all and stopped there. I wasn’t sure what it was, but none of them was catching my attention. Feeling fed up, I went to twitter and set up a poll where people could decide what book I should read to pull me out of the slump. Caraval ended up winning by quite a bit, so I started it that night. Two days later and I had finished it and was left wondering where this book had been my whole life.

I honestly can’t remember the last time a book swept me away and transported me to a world where I forgot about everything else in my life. It was the most magical book I’ve ever read with gorgeous prose, incredible characters I cared about and twists & turns I didn’t know were possible. While I was reading I had this warm feeling throughout and struggled to put the book know when it was time to go to bed or finish my lunch break. I was hooked and left wanting more when I turned the last page.

Let’s start with the world of Caraval because it was spectacular. I loved the way Garber describes her settings because I can see it so clearly in my head, full of vivid colours and delightful scents. Some people might not like purple prose, but I for one love it and this book has a lot of it. There are strange and wonderful shops full of secret entryways and if you want access to them or to buy gorgeous gowns it all comes at a price, something that matters to the players such as a secret. The premise of Caraval being a game that is to be played by multiple people drew me in straight away, everyone fighting for a chance to win a wish. As you’re reading, it’s hard to tell what is real and what is an illusion, but that makes it even more fun to read. There are so many secrets waiting to be uncovered and you never know what will happen until it does.

The story is told from Scarlett’s perspective, a girl who is supposed to be getting married but is instead whisked off to Caraval and has to participate in the game to get her sister back. At first, I was unsure about Scarlett as she can be a bit over the top at times, but as the story progressed I found myself rooting for her. She gets caught up in the game, something that often has consequences for her, but she is determined to find her sister and win the game, whatever it takes. After being taken to the island by a sailor called Julian, she spends a lot of time with him and a romance soon blossoms. I say romance lightly because it is more of an insta-love in this book, but that might change in the sequels. Either way, I enjoyed the dialogue and scenes they shared together, showing their chemistry. I was invested in their journey together and was pleasantly surprised by some things that occurred near the end of the book. Julian is definitely one of my favourite characters, mainly because he’s rugged, hilarious and kind of the bad-boy type. Who doesn’t love that?

There were a number of side characters who make appearances throughout and who I’m sure will feature more in the other books. Scarlett’s father is awful and infuriated me with how cruel he is, but the only character I’m not sure on is Tella, Scarlett’s sister. She didn’t feature much in the book, but early glimpses showed her as being a little selfish and impulsive, but towards the end, we are shown a different side of her. I won’t spoil it for you because it is one of the bigger twists in the book.

The twists and turns were so incredible, I almost got whiplash. I think they are part of the reason why the pace was so quick. Something happened in every chapter that made me invested in the story and the characters. I kept saying to myself ‘just one more chapter’ but it was never just one and before I knew it, I was finished! There were even a few times where I gasped out loud while reading. It was that shocking.

I’m not sure what else I can say apart from I adored it. Nothing I say will do it justice, but I tried my best to articulate my thoughts. I finished it a week ago and it’s taken me that long just to get my thoughts in order. This atmospheric mystery is one of my favourite reads for the year so far and I am so excited to buy the remaining two books in this series to see what Garber does with the world and characters.

This is easily a five-star read for me!

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Blog Tour Review for Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

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 Title: Wicked Saints

Author: Emily A. Duncan

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: 2nd April 2019

Genre: YA Fantasy

Buy From Macmillan

 

A girl who can speak to gods must save her people without destroying herself.

A prince in danger must decide who to trust.

A boy with a monstrous secret waits in the wings. 

Together, they must assassinate the king and stop the war.

In a centuries-long war where beauty and brutality meet, their three paths entwine in a shadowy world of spilled blood and mysterious saints, where a forbidden romance threatens to tip the scales between dark and light. Wicked Saints is the thrilling start to Emily A. Duncan’s devastatingly Gothic Something Dark and Holy trilogy.

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I’d like to say thank you to Wednesday Books for giving me a chance to review Wicked Saints in exchange for an honest review during this blog tour. Over the last few months, I have heard a lot of amazing reviews about Emily’s debut novel, so of course, I was over the moon when I was given an eARC to read. The danger with a lot of hype surrounding a book is that it may not always live up to the expectations, but luckily for me, Wicked Saints did.

Kalyazin and Tranavia have been at war for a century, with the Tranavian heretics slowly growing in power. The gods have always listened to Nadya when she prayed and only she is strong enough to go against the blood magic of her enemies. When her monastery is invaded, she goes on the run to escape the High Prince, Serefin, who is the strongest of his kind. While travelling she meets two refugees and a Tranavian blood mage called Malachiasz who has rebelled against his order, the Vultures. Going against the wishes of the gods, Nadya forges an alliance with them in the hopes of travelling to Tranavia to kill the king and stop the holy war before it destroys them all. However, not everything is as it seems and Nadya begins to question everything she has been told about blood magic and her gods.

“We’re all monsters, Nadya,” Malachiasz said, his voice gaining a few tangled chords of chaos. “Some of us just hide it better than others.”

As an atheist, I normally tend to stay away from books with religious themes but I was intrigued by Wicked Saints, mainly because it was so different from anything I’d read before. The idea of gods choosing clerics who can hear them was interesting, especially because Nadya can hear all of them, the only one of her kind.

We’re thrown right into the action from the very beginning and I flew through the first quarter of the book. It was really enjoyable and I became more invested as I went along. It took me a little while to connect with Nadya as a character, probably because it dived into the action straight away, but I have to say I enjoyed the banter between her and the gods and it had me smiling on more than one occasion. I love the fact that her opinions never stayed the same and she questioned everything. She struggled, she made mistakes, but that is what makes her real. What teenager doesn’t struggle with their identity and beliefs at some point?

The world building was probably my favourite aspect of this story, as it was based on Russia and Poland. I could feel the chill of the mountains thanks to Emily’s descriptions and felt immersed in the story. Wicked Saints doesn’t read like a debut. It’s intriguing and full of atmopshere. Each new chapter opened with snippets about the history of the saints, clerics and gods of Kalyazin, giving insight into just how violent their world is. While the story takes place in Kalyazin and Tranavia, we also meet two characters from the desert lands of Akola, Parijahan and Rashid, who I really enjoyed reading about in this book. Hopefully, the world will expand more in the rest of the trilogy because I really liked what I read.

Blood magic is rife in Wicked Saints and I loved the new take on it. The mages have to cut themselves (TW: self-harm) and then press the pages of their spellbook against the cut to work the magic, which is something I have never read before. This is a dark book with dark themes (TW: torture, abuse, gore and blood), although I think part of me was expecting it to be more brutal and darker. However, Malachiasz is a blood mage who caught my attention instantly because I wasn’t sure what he was going to do. Nothing is as it seems with this book and it was fun watching Nadya try to handle this monster boy who makes her question everything. Malachiasz is a bit of mystery and it was good to see the secrets unravelling in a way I thought they would. There is nothing better when a plot twist happens the way you expect, showing it was well thought out.

As far as romance goes, I kind of wish it hadn’t stayed so close to the trope of enemies-to-lovers as I didn’t feel Nadya really had a reason to hate him and there was a lot of focus on him. I never once felt that it wasn’t Nadya’s story, but I wasn’t as invested in the romance as I thought I would be. However, I did enjoy their characters and can’t wait to see what becomes of them later on. Now, Serefin…he’s my favourite. He is morally grey, loves to drink and is always tired, which makes him the best kind of character in my eyes. Some people say the amount he drinks is unrealistic but they’ve clearly never been to a house party in the UK (I won’t say how much I used to drink). I really loved his character arc in Wicked Saints and I’ve been left with a lot of questions after the ending. There are other side characters who I loved reading about as well and who also offer some LGBTQ rep in the book, as well as disability, so there is something for everyone.

I’m glad Wicked Saints was a fast-paced book because it meant I was flying through the chapters, but sometimes I felt as if things moved too quick at times. The first 25% and the last 25% were my favourite parts as there was a lot going on, but I wish there had been more than just travelling in between that space. I also wish there had been more to read because of how much I enjoyed it. Saying that, now that the world has been set up, I’m sure there will be more twists and turns in the sequel which I cannot wait for. The ending left me feeling very excited to see what these characters get up to because I have questions. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, but I can’t wait to find out.

Overall, I really enjoyed Wicked Saints and felt it was a great debut for Emily A. Duncan and showcased her style of writing perfectly. It was unique with the world building, it had interesting characters, dark themes and plot twists, which are always my favourite parts of a story. I’m giving Wicked Saints a solid 4 stars!

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Praise For Wicked Saints

“Prepare for a snow frosted, blood drenched fairy tale where the monsters steal your heart and love ends up being the nightmare. Utterly absorbing.” – Roshani Chokshi, New York Times bestselling author of The Star-Touched Queen  

“Full of blood and monsters and magic—this book destroyed me and I adored it. Emily is a wicked storyteller, she’s not afraid to hurt her characters or her readers. If you’ve ever fallen in love with a villain you will fall hard for this book.” – Stephanie Garber, New York Times bestselling author of Caraval 

“This is the novel of dark theology and eldritch blood-magic that I’ve been waiting for all my life. It’s got a world at once brutal and beautiful, filled with characters who are wounded, lovable, and ferocious enough to break your heart. A shattering, utterly satisfying read.” – Rosamund Hodge, author of Cruel Beauty and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

Wicked Saints is a lush, brutal, compelling fantasy that is dark, deep, and bloody—absolutely riveting! With a boy who is both man and monster, mysterious saints with uncertain motives, and a girl filled with holy magic who is just beginning to understand the full reaches of her power, this gothic jewel of a story will sink its visceral iron claws into you, never letting go until you’ve turned the last page. And truthfully, not even then -the explosive ending will haunt you for days! ” – Robin LaFevers, New York Times bestselling author of the His Fair Assassin trilogy

“Dark, bloody, and monstrously romantic. This is the villain love interest that we’ve all been waiting for.” – Margaret Rogerson, New York Times bestselling author of An Enchantment of Ravens

“Seductively dark and enchanting, Wicked Saints is a trance you won’t want to wake from. Duncan has skillfully erected a world like no other, complete with provocative magic, sinister creatures, and a plot that keeps you guessing. This spellbinding YA fantasy will bewitch readers to the very last page.” – Adrienne Young, New York Times bestselling author of Sky in the Deep

About The Author

Emily A. DuncanEMILY A. DUNCAN works as a youth services librarian. She received a Master’s degree in library science from Kent State University, which mostly taught her how to find obscure Slavic folklore texts through interlibrary loan systems. When not reading or writing, she enjoys playing copious amounts of video games and dungeons and dragons. Wicked Saints is her first book. She lives in Ohio.

 

 

Website: https://eaduncan.com/
Twitter: @glitzandshadows
Instagram: @glitzandshadows
Tumblr: http://glitzandshadows.tumblr.com/

Why CPs and Beta Readers Are So Important

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I started writing my own books when I was about 13/14 years old (it could have been before then because my memory is terrible sometimes). Back then, no one saw my writing apart from my best friend at the time and even then, she never offered a critique of my work. She just told me it was good or that she enjoyed it. Of course, I was practising, and I wasn’t as serious about publishing as I am now.

During my time at school, I wrote 3 completed novels, but I never edited them. Another idea always popped up to drag my attention away. There were also a number of ideas I started and never finished. When I completed my 4th novel in March of 2018, I thought that was the one. I started revising it, but then I got the idea for my dragon book. I couldn’t ignore this one because everything about it felt so right. I could see the world, the characters and where I wanted the story to go. I finished the first draft in 4 months and managed to find an incredible critique partner who has helped me along the way and become such an amazing friend in the process.

Working with A CP

My CP, Noelle, started reading my chapters while I was still writing, so she has literally been there since the beginning and has seen the messier stuff. I’ve sent chapters to her with little apologies and emails saying, ‘this is probably trash but here we go!’ However, she normally lets me know those doubts are just in my head and that for a first draft, it was pretty good. I suppose that’s the perfectionist in me making sure I get it mostly right the first time, even though I don’t outline. Don’t worry, I don’t understand it either.

Noelle has shown me when I use ‘and’ and ‘that’ too much, which I am slowly fixing as I go through my third draft and has been so supportive. She knows when I can do better, urging me on with comments along the lines of, ‘use your descriptive powers, show me what it feels like’ because I can admit that description is one of my strong suits when writing. When it comes to sentencing structure and pacing, her advice is invaluable in helping me improve. She is also my biggest supporter. She will scream in the comments when a plot twist occurs and tell me how much she loves my characters, so much so that she wants me to promise I won’t hurt them (which I can’t do, unfortunately – sorry Noelle).

Of course, there are things I need to work on, like all writers, but having a CP who looks at a story beyond the words on the surface is invaluable. All the advice she has given me sticks in my brain and has made my second and then third drafts even better. A CP also helps when there’s a plot point that you’re stuck on. Noelle helped me smooth out the kinks with the backstory of the enemy in my story and notified me when things might get tricky for a reader to understand. After all, I want this story to be as smooth as possible when I send it to agents for querying. They will want to know I can put in the work before I ever had an agent and that I’m taking this seriously.

While Noelle was my first CP, one of my beta readers has become another CP as her comments are so detailed and helpful. The more eyes on my manuscript, the better. However, when it comes to choosing a CP, make sure they are people you trust and who have similar views and tastes as you. It will make the process a lot smoother.

Taking It Up A Notch with Beta Readers

After smoothing things out in the second draft with the help of Noelle, I knew it was time to get other people to look at my words. This is when the beta readers come in. Personally, I chose four (making it 6 people in total who are helping me). For me, four is the perfect number as some of them don’t make a lot of comments, whereas others do. It also allows me to know when there is truly a problem with the book. If only one person picks up on something, it’s likely to just be their opinion, but if three of my betas pick up on something, I know it needs changing. However, that isn’t always the case. I had one beta reader let me know why my beginning might not make sense and suggested a way to change it (which I loved), but I wanted to run it by my other betas. They agreed, saying they hadn’t thought of it before and instead of sending them the second half after reading the first, I wanted to do a third draft so they could see if it flowed well. Two of my betas also suggested altering the character of Afira slightly, as well as having more of her voice in the story, and it made me realise it’s what I always wanted her to be like.

Another reason having beta readers is great is because it allows you to know when you’ve done something right. There have been certain scenes and sentences where all my beta comments were along the same lines. Whether that is telling me it shows great character or made them emotional, it lets me know I’m doing something right. On the days where I’m feeling down about my writing, I simply open up the document with their comments on and read it. Seeing those positive comments does so much for me mentally and gives me the drive to keep on going.

I know with the help of my betas I will be ready for querying in the summer, hopefully before I hit the first anniversary of working on this book (which is in June). I trust them all and listen to their comments. Criticism wasn’t something I dealt with well when I was younger (something my mum likes to remind me of), but I’ve grown a lot recently. Sometimes I get that ‘oh no, they hate it and think it’s terrible’ feeling when I see the comments, but after a little time, I realise they only say it because they want to help. Because they believe in me and this story and want to make it better. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

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If you’re a writer and you’re at the point where you think you need some more eyes on the draft, go for it! Choose friends and people you trust who will be able to give both praise and criticism. It’s a great way to prepare you for if you do get an agent because it’s likely they’ll want you to rewrite parts or cut whole sections.

I’m happy to have found people who will hopefully stick around for all my other magical ideas!

How I’m Staying Motivated While Revising My Novel

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Back at the beginning of June, on the 8th to be exact, I got an idea for a YA Fantasy story about dragons, which is now called Beneath the Empty. I won’t go into too much detail because there’s been a lot of plagiarism lately, but it’s about a princess who has the ability to shift between her human and dragon form. With her dragon guardian by her side, she goes against her mother’s wishes and ventures into enemy territory to figure out why her kind are being killed. Obviously, there’s a lot more to it than that, but that’s how it gets started.

I finished the first draft in October and the second draft in February, but my work wasn’t done there. In that time, I got an amazing critique partner (CP) and several beta readers who have helped me so much. Their help has been invaluable, but I’ll go into detail about why you need a CP and beta readers in another blog post. With their detailed notes, I have started writing the third draft of my book, which is currently sitting at 54,000 words (it was 109,000 at the end of the second draft). So far, they have only read the first half as I was writing the second half while they read it, but after this round of revisions, they will be able to read it all, which makes me slightly nervous.

I’ve lost count on the number of times I have read through my book, but I know it so well and the changes I am making have made it much stronger. However, it hasn’t always been easy to stay motivated, especially when new ideas start to pop into my head (which happened a couple of weeks ago).

Creating an Outline

A few of my betas suggested big changes which would have meant rewriting most of the first act, which was daunting in itself. However, I embraced the changes because I knew it would make the story better and improve character development. One of the ways I managed to stay on track was creating a detailed outline for all the changes I would be making. It’s hard to keep your mind focused when you’re jumping around from document to document, so having everything in one place helped.

I started by going through all my beta readers notes, jotting down all the changes I needed to make, before visualizing what the story needed to be, what I wanted it to be. I wrote down where I needed to expand on details or cut any info-dumping, as well as drafting completely new chapters that hadn’t been there before. The outline I made helped keep me on track instead of feeling like I was losing my mind trying to sort it out.

Setting a Goal

This may not work for everyone, but I am a very goal-oriented person. When I set myself a goal, most of the time I am able to achieve it. When I was first drafting my book, I set myself a target of writing at least 1,000 words a day, which I suppose is the reason I was able to complete the 92,000-word draft within 4 months. Of course, I didn’t always write that much because life gets in the way sometimes and I also went through a low period when I was made redundant at my previous job. But it worked and I decided to set myself a similar goal for this draft.

If I want to finish this draft by the end of March, I need to be writing at least 2,500 words a day. Recently, I’ve been writing more than that because I am at the point in my revision where I can copy and paste certain pieces into the new draft as they don’t need any changes. This will be the case for the second half as I don’t have any beta notes for it, only a few CP ones, but some of the earlier changes will echo through the later chapters, causing dialogue and descriptions to change. At this point, I feel confident I will be able to send the new and improved document to my betas by the end of the month.

Listening to a Playlist

Unfortunately, I can’t write all day, not when I have a job to do and an art commission to finish. Even when I’m not writing, I am still thinking about my characters and the world, and having a playlist dedicated to my book helps a lot. The one I created for Beneath the Empty is full of haunting and cinematic songs which represent the book perfectly. Some songs make me feel emotional and others have me wanting to ride into battle on a dragon. Some have provided a lot of inspiration for certain scenes which wouldn’t have happened without it.

On the days where I’m feeling a little unmotivated to sit down in front of my laptop, I simply pop my headphones in and listen to the playlist. It’s amazing how much my mood can change by doing that and before I know it, I’m typing away. I don’t listen to it while I’m writing (I need to be able to hear the characters in my head, which doesn’t sound creepy at all) but I do when I’m stuck on something.

Rewarding Myself

When I finished the first and second draft of Beneath the Empty, I rewarded myself with my favorite meals, a bottle of wine and a new book. I’ll probably do something similar when I finish this draft, but in between, I give myself smaller rewards. When I reach the end of a chapter, I allow myself to indulge in my favorite treat or watch my favorite TV show. It helps keep me motivated, especially if I’m addicted to what I’m watching. Everyone loves to be rewarded, so don’t be afraid to do it for yourself when you’re writing.

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That’s all I have at the moment and so far, they have been working. I feel so excited every day when I finish work to get home and improve on this story. Before my current manuscript, I never edited a book, ever. I always got better ideas, but Beneath the Empty has my heart and I cannot wait until I can start querying it.

Switching It Up

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I’ve been thinking about my blog a lot lately and how I’ve been terrible at creating posts. I think the reason for this is that I’m in a funk with it and I have so much more to talk about than just reviewing books, as much as I love doing that! For this reason, I think my blog needs a little shake up to make things interesting again.

I have an amazing amount of followers so far and I am so grateful to you all. I will still be posting reviews and hosting blog tours when I am participating, but I also wanted to post about my life in general. Daydreaming Roux should be about more than just books, it should be about my world and everything that goes on in it. This will mean featuring a gallery where I can post my artwork and writing posts about my own writing journey. Because those things are a big part of my life too.

Hopefully you’ll all enjoy the change, which might come along with a little update to how the blog looks when I have the time. I started a new job about a month ago now after giving freelance a try. It turns out I prefer knowing how much money I’m going to get each month but luckily I have an amazing content writing job for a marketing company. Since then I have been less stressed and now that I’m in a routine again I think it’s a good idea to start blogging more regularly. To tell you the truth, I’ve missed it a lot, especially the community of the book blogging world.

I will try to post a few times a week but if you’d like to know more about what I have to say and what I’m up to, why not give me a follow on Twitter or Instagram? You can find the links along the sidebar of my blog and it would be great to connect with more people on there too! Again, I’m so sorry for disappearing while my life was a little all over the place, but I am determined to make a comeback and hopefully reach 500 followers soon!

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My Top 10 Most Anticipated Debuts of 2019

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The best part about entering a brand new year is all the debut novels that are coming out! Throughout the year there are a number of authors who are releasing their first novels and I am so excited to read them because they all sound amazing. Of course, there are so many to choose from but these are the 10 that have made me the most excited.

I follow every single one of these authors on Twitter, so I have seen them posting a lot about their characters and the story, which just makes me wish I could read them now (and some of them I can read now). There is a lot of hype for some of these books, which can sometimes be a bad thing, but from what I’ve read and seen I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy them all.

1. Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

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I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in the Blog Tour for Wicked Saints, so I already have this book on my Kindle ready to read. I have seen so many amazing things said about this book online, especially on Twitter (along with some incredible fan art). I love that this book has been inspired by Russia and Poland, which is something I have been enjoying in other books I have read recently. If you aren’t aware of what this book is about, it follows three main characters. A girl has the ability to speak to the Gods, a prince has been put in danger and a boy carries a monstrous secret, and together they have to stop a war by assassinating the king. It sounds amazing.

A lot of people have been saying that if you love the Grishaverse, you should enjoy this, which is the best comparison because I love Leigh Bardugo’s books. I also have to mention how amazing that cover looks as well, which is kind of tempting me to buy it as well if I end up loving the ARC.

2. The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

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Another author who I have been following on Twitter and another book with a lot of hype surrounding it. Already there are some amazing reviews out there in the world, which makes me even more excited to finally read this. The story follows Violet, who has moved to a town her family helped found and ends up meeting Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, who are all children of founder families. The townspeople treat her with fear and Violet realises the other children have otherworldly abilities, abilities they’ll have to use to figure out why bodies are showing up in the woods.

It was marketed as ‘Stranger Things meets The Raven Cycle’, so if you are a fan of those two things you might enjoy this book. Everything about this debut seems to have all the things I love in a good story and I cannot wait to read it.

3. The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

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I’m going to start by saying this is one of the best covers I have seen in a debut for this year. Everything about it is perfect and so mysterious. This book is about magical elemental crows that used to be in the Kingdom of Rhodaire, until the Illucian empire invaded them. Anthia is a fallen princess who has been depressed since that night, but she is spurred into action when she is forced to marry the Illucian prince. She ends up finding a secret Crow egg and devises a plan to hatch it in secret.

This was basically described as being ‘Eragon meets And I Darken’, with the crows supposedly being similar to dragons, so as soon as I heard that I was hooked. This book isn’t out until halfway through the year, but I have a feeling it’ll be worth the wait.

4. Wilder Girls by Rory Power

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When the Tox hit, Raxter School for girls was put under quarantine and Hetty’s life changed. It’s been eighteen months since it happened and there is still no cure. The woods outside the school are dangerous thanks to the Tox and so they must stay within the confines of the school, but when Hetty’s friend goes missing she decides she will do anything to find them. It is then that she discovers more about the school and what is happening. Wilder Girls sounds dark and creepy, but it also reminded me of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which is a book I read years ago.

There are a lot of five-star reviews already for this book, which describes it as a feminist horror and is something I didn’t realise I needed in my life until now. I cannot wait to read this when it is released in July.

5. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

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I’m lucky enough to have a copy of this Chinese-inspired tale already sitting on my Kindle, just waiting for me to dive in. Princess Hesina of Yan is thrust into power after her father dies and is determined to find out who responsible for his death. To do this she enlists the help of a soothsayer, but she risks her own life doing so as magic is outlawed in Yan. It isn’t enough and she turns to Akira, an investigator who has his own criminal secrets, but will the cost to find her father’s killer be too much? Honestly, everything about this book sounds incredible.

There are a lot more own-voices books going out into the world and it’s so exciting to read these books inspired by their heritage. The author has said it is like a Chinese drama with complex relationships, betrayal and sprawling families, which are all the things I love in a book.

6. Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

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This standalone novel has the following description ‘A divided nation. Four Queens. A ruthless pickpocket. A noble messenger. And the murders that unite them.’ This was enough to grab my attention straight away, as well as that gorgeous cover! Quadara is divided into four sections, with each part of the nation specialising in something, such as Toria being the intellectual quarter and Eonia the futuristic quarter. Everything about this story sounds so unique and interesting, and I cannot wait to find out more when it is released at the end of next month.

It’s got some great reviews online and following the author on social media means I am always seeing little bits of information that make me more excited for its release.

7. Enchantee by Gita Trelease

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Paris is one of my all-time favourite cities, a place I have visited on multiple occasions, so of course, I would want to read a book set there! It is based at the time of the French Revolution in 1789, where Camille must rely on petty magic to make a living since her parents passed away. She turns metal into coins, but when it doesn’t work she must go to the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette by transforming herself using dark magic. Everything about this debut sounds so magical and intriguing, especially with Camille going to the palace and gambling with cards for money.

I already have a copy of this on my Kindle to read before it is released at the beginning of February. Here’s hoping I love it as much as I adore the cover and description.

8. Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

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A cover hasn’t been released yet, but this is an aesthetic that Shelby created and posted on Twitter. This French-inspired book about witches instantly caught my attention and has me extremely excited for its release date at the beginning of September. The story is a dual perspective that follows two characters, Lou and Reid. Lou was supposed to be sacrificed on her 16th birthday, but instead, she forsakes her coven and escapes to Cesarine. There, she must hide her magic as Huntsmen roam the city, burning witches without a trial. Reid is one of these Huntsmen, who has devoted his life to eradicating the occult. Their paths cross when Lou stops him from capturing a witch and ensnares him in a public scandal that forces them to marry. For Lou, it means protection against the witches that are trying to kill her, but she has to convince Reid that she isn’t a witch herself.

Every single one of my mutuals on Twitter who has read this book absolutely loves it and I have a feeling I will too. I’ve been following Shelby for a while now and every time she posts a snippet or aesthetic, I get that much more excited for its release.

9. We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

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This debut fantasy novel is inspired by ancient Arabia, where Zafira is a hunter. She has disguised herself as a man to help feed her people by going into the cursed forest of the Arz. Then there is Nasir, known as the Prince of Death, who assassinates the people who threaten his father, the king. Neither of them wants to be the legends they have become, but with war brewing Zafira must find an artefact and restore magic. But, at the same time, Nasir is sent to retrieve the artefact and kill the Hunter. This story is all about ‘discovery, conquering fear, and taking identity into your own hands,’

I don’t think I’ve read a book before inspired by Arabia and it makes me so excited to read this one as the description sounds amazing. As with all the books on this list, there are already some incredible reviews out there in the world, so keep an eye out for when this book is released in May.

10. Blood Heir by Amélie Wen Zhao

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From what I’ve heard, this book is inspired by the story of Anastasia and Russia, which are two things that are very intriguing to me. Anastacya believes she is a monster, having been born with an affinity for blood, but when an accident happens that kills her father, the Emperor of Cyrilia, she is sentenced for his death. However, she knows who killed him and decides to make a bargain with an underground crime lord, Ramson Quicktongue, while on the run. In return for his help to clear her name, she will offer him an alliance, and so they set out on a dangerous journey to discover the truth.

This book seems to have everything I love, as well as a gorgeous cover! This fantasy world sounds extremely unique with ‘frozen tundras and ancient, snow-capped forests, where ice spirits roam.’ Who wouldn’t want to read this?

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I could have added even more books to this list, but these are my most anticipated ones. If you haven’t heard of any on this list, make sure to head over to Goodreads to check out the full synopsis. I can guarantee you will want to add them to your TBR and pre-order them.

What debut novel are you looking forward to the most?

Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

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Title: Circe

Author: Madeline Miller

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Date: 10th April 2018

Circe was the first book I’ve read for 2019 and I am so glad it was because this book is incredible. Words cannot even describe how much I enjoyed and loved this book. Greek mythology has always been something close to my heart. I’ve read many books about it, anything from fantasy to historic and it always captures my attention. I even started writing my own Greek mythology inspired story at one point (which I am inspired to go back to now). I’ve read about many of the gods and goddesses, but I had never heard of Circe before now, but she is definitely one of my favourites.

Circe is a nymph and the daughter of Helios, god of the sun and one of the Titans who sided with Zeus in the battle between the Titans and the Olympians. She isn’t as powerful as him, nor is she as alluring and mysterious as her mother. Circe is an outcast among her kind and so she turns to the mortals, feeling more like them than her own family. It is during her time with them that she discovers she isn’t powerless, that she is, in fact, a witch. Using her will, she can turn her rivals into monsters and cause the gods to fear her so much that she is sent to live in isolation on the island of Aeaea. While there, she hones her crafts, tames the wild animals of the island and meets some of the most famous figures in history such as the Minotaur, Medea and even Odysseus. However, she is not safe on her island and goes up against one of the strongest and most brutal of the gods and goddesses. If she wants to protect that which matters most to her, she must use all her strength and decide where she belongs; among the gods or the mortals.

I don’t even know where to begin with describing how much I loved reading Circe. I guess the best place is to start with the character herself. It isn’t often where I feel strongly for a certain character, but I did with Circe. She was an outcast and I could relate to that so much. When I was younger I felt like I was on the outside at times and it was awful reading how the other gods and goddesses, her own siblings, treated her. I wanted her to be happy, and when she thought she had her chance, it was taken away from her. Before reading this, I did a little research to find out who Circe was and found out that she was mentioned in The Odyssey, where she turns men into pigs. We find out later on in this story why she does this.

After discovering her powers by turning her rival into a monstrous sea monster, Circe is sent by Zeus to live on an island by herself, where she starts to discover who she truly is. While there, she learns more about her craft and how she takes control of her life. She isn’t perfect by any means, she has flaws like all of us, but that only made her more likeable. I also enjoyed reading about her interactions with her siblings, mainly her sister Pasiphaë, who is famous for giving birth to the Minotaur, which is as disturbing as you think it is. That led to her meeting Daedalus and eventually learning about his son, Icarus, and we all know what happened to him. She is told about the outside world by Hermes, who often visits her, and we realise how lonely it must be for her, but she doesn’t let that loneliness cripple her.

It wasn’t always easy and when men started arriving at her shores, looking for help, I had an inkling that something bad would happen (trigger warning: rape). However, she doesn’t allow what happened to her to define her and bring her down. Instead, she becomes strong and whenever she is threatened, she turns the men into pigs, until she meets Odysseus. Their story was one of my favourite parts of this book. If you want to know what their relationship is like, then this quote sums it up quite well.

“Odysseus, son of Laertes, the great traveller, prince of wiles and tricks and a thousand ways. He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

I enjoyed reading about their time together and how it shaped Circe, eventually gifting her with a child who she would protect at all costs against Athena. This part of this story was also one of my favourites because it showed the lengths a mother would go to protect her son. While I could mention what happened, I don’t want to because I want you all to read this book and see the incredible story-telling that is written in Circe. Circe embraces who she is and will not let anyone tear her down, which is why I love her character so much. This is a story about her life, the pain she went through, the love she felt, all the heartache and desire that clouded her emotions and it is a story about motherhood.

When it comes to world-building, I think that Madeline Miller is one of the best. I could picture everything, from the Oceanus, where she grew up, to her adventures out in the world and on her little island. I could smell the salt of the sea and feel her emotions as if they were my own, it was honestly magical. Circe is a book I know I will read again in the future as there is so much detail that I want to read more of, to find out more that I may have missed. I didn’t want to put this book down at all and when that happens, I just know it is a story that will forever stay with me.

I could go on and on about the masterpiece that is Circe and how much I loved every second of reading, but I think the best way for you to understand how good it is, is to read it yourself. The easiest 5 stars I have ever given and probably in my top 5 favourite books of all time. It is seriously that amazing!

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Review: Mirage by Somaiya Daud

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Title: Mirage

Author: Somaiya Daud

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Date: 28th August 2018

I was given a chance to review this book on NetGalley, but the first time I tried reading it I was in a reading slump. However, I knew I wanted to read this book as the premise sounded interesting and I left it to a later date. Overall, I enjoyed reading Mirage, but it wasn’t my favourite book and I think that is because I had been reading so many amazing 5-star reads, it was hard to keep up with them. I love that this is inspired by Middle-Eastern culture, which definitely came across in the writing and I love the sci-fi edge that this book had.

Amani’s home is ruled by the Vathek, a brutal empire who invaded the star system and sent her family into poverty. She dreams of being able to escape her life and go on an adventure, but one day she is kidnapped by the Vathek and brought to the home of the half-Vathek Princess Maram. It is there that she discovers the two of them look identical and how they plan to use Amani as a body double in dangerous situations. Amani has to become the princess if she wants to keep her family safe, which means she is thrust into a world full of politics and beautiful palaces, with Maram’s fiance, Idris, by her side.

I will start off by saying that I found the worldbuilding to be quite interesting at times, such as how it is set on a completely different planet, but it was also a little confusing. There was quite a bit of info-dumping at the beginning, which I don’t mind too much but it slowed the book down a lot. Some things were mentioned and never really explained properly, so I just had to have a guess at what they were. I think it was too much at times and it didn’t need to be as the idea itself is interesting enough to capture my attention, as well as the characters.

This is definitely a character-driven book, which is something I enjoyed as I loved reading about Amani. I felt her pain as she was taken away from her family and thrust into this unknown world. The first meeting between Amani and Maram doesn’t go well, as can be expected with a cruel princess who doesn’t care about anyone but herself, but along the way we see something growing between the two. We begin to realise why Maram acts the way she does and I might even say that it made her likeable towards the end of the book.

Something else that I enjoyed was the romance. It isn’t epic like some of the other books I have read, but it was pleasant enough and has made me excited to read more about the characters. While Idris might be engaged to Maram, you can see that he really cares about Amani and they both share their own stories of how the Vathek had ruined their lives.

While there are sci-fi elements in this book, it reads like a fantasy book, which is one of the reasons why I liked it. If you’re looking for an action-packed book, this isn’t the one for you. It is a lot slower, focusing on the history of the world and the relationships between the characters instead. I really enjoyed the unique setting and would be interested in reading the sequel to see what happens. Overall, I’m going to give Mirage a solid 3 stars.

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End of Year Book Haul!

end of year book haul

It is officially the last day of December and the end of 2019, so it’s time for me to share the books I bought/received in the last 31 days!

It’s hard to believe that another year has come to an end, but I have some incredible books that I can’t wait to get to in 2019. Next year is going to be an amazing one for reading, I just know it because there are so many debuts that I am looking forward to and series that I want to complete (as well as books that have been sitting patiently on my shelves).

To kick off the end of the year and month, these are the books I received as Christmas gifts.

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Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

Shadow of the Fox by Julie Kagawa

The Dark Vault by V. E. Schwab

I can’t tell you how excited I am to read every single one of these books and the covers all look so amazing! I’ve heard some great things about all of these, especially Girls of Paper and Fire, which I will definitely be reading in January at some point.

I wasn’t planning on buying any books myself this month (apart from a preorder I had on my Kindle) but then I saw there was a Kindle sale and I just couldn’t help myself. All of the books you see below apart from the pre-order cost me just over £5 altogether, which is amazing! The book I pre-ordered was Evermore, which is the sequel to Everless that I read last year.

Circe by Madeline Miller (currently reading)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang

Evermore by Sara Holland

The first four books are all ones that I have been dying to read but just never got the chance to. There was also the fact that some of them were quite expensive, so I’m glad that the sale happened and I can now see what all the hype is about.

Finally, these are the books that I requested on NetGalley!

Enchantee by Gita Trelease

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

I didn’t actually request Wicked Saints, I was asked if I wanted to participate in the blog tour that will be happening and I obviously said yes! I follow Emily on Twitter and have seen so much about this book that I cannot wait to dive into it at the beginning of the year.

All in all, this was a great month for book buying and receiving, which should keep me going well into the first few months of the year. One of my 2019 goals is to spend less time on social media and more time reading. I keep imaging how many pages or chapters I could read in the 20 or 30 minutes I spend on Twitter.

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Let me know what books you bought for the month of December and which ones you are looking forward to the most in 2019!

The Best Books I Read in 2018

the best books I read in 2018

How are there only 2 full days left of the year? It always blows my mind when we reach the end of another year and I think about how quickly the days are passing now that I’m getting older.

At the beginning of the year, I set myself a goal to read 50 books, but unfortunately, I have only read 43 (although I hope to make it 44 by the time Monday comes to an end). I hate that I went through a reading slump for three months because if I hadn’t, I would have been able to smash that goal. However, the 43 (44) books I have read this year were mostly amazing and it was so hard to choose my top 10.

Originally I had wanted to put them in order, but it was too difficult. I put my top 5 in the right spots, and the remaining 5 have no order to them because I couldn’t decide. So, here are my favourite reads for 2018!

1. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

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If there is one book that I have talked about the most on my blog and my Twitter page, it is Scythe. I cannot even begin to describe my love for this book and the world that Shusterman created. From the very beginning, I was sucked in and I had to keep knowing more. The concept of there being no disease or wars and that people can only die if gleaned by a scythe was so interesting to me and made me wonder if the world would really be a better place.

There are quite a few plot twists that I didn’t expect and when I reached the end, I knew I had to buy the sequel. This was the easiest 5 stars I have ever given a book and it is one that I will surely read again in the future. You can check out my full review here.

2. Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

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I thought it couldn’t get much better than Scythe and I was wrong. Thunderhead took the story to new levels that I didn’t think was even possible. I was on the edge of my seat wanting to turn the pages to find out what would happen. The plot twists were amazing and the character development was incredible.

What I loved the most was finding out more about the Thunderhead and the introduction of new characters who slowly became more important throughout. Even now, thinking about that ending gives me so many mixed emotions; shock, anger, sadness, but most of all excitement. I cannot wait to see how Shusterman will finish off the trilogy. You can check out my review here and if you haven’t read this series, what are you waiting for?

3. The Grisha Verse Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

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I was trying to figure out which of these books I enjoyed the most to add to this list and I thought, why not just add all of them? I feel like I was very late to read these books but I am so glad that I did because they are amazing. The world building is some of the best I have ever read. Everything was crystal clear in my mind, with a Russian influence that is clear but not overbearing and the characters were all so interesting.

Alina is one of my favourite main characters and her growth throughout the trilogy was amazing to watch with her growing into her powers. There’s a debate on whether people prefer the Darkling or Mal, but I love them both for different reasons and the ending of this series is one of my favourites! You can see the reviews for Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising by clicking on the links. This is definitely a series I will read again in the future.

4. Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this to read and I can’t tell you how much I love this debut novel. I have never read a book so quickly. Once I started, I was hooked with the story of family, loyalty and love. It is about overcoming prejudice and the character development was written beautifully. There is so much emotion in this book and I felt everything that the characters went through, which was a lot.

Some of my favourite parts were the action scenes and that is because they were written so well that I forgot about everything else around me. Sky in the Deep is one of those books you could read multiple times and never get bored, so if you have yet to pick it up, head to your nearest bookstore and give it a read. If you need a little more convincing, you can read my full review here.

5. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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Unfortunately, I don’t have a review written for this book as it is when I didn’t have a lot of time to blog, but this book was amazing. I had been hearing so many great things about this series, so when the Kindle version went on sale, I had to have it and I devoured it. What I loved was how seamless the dual perspectives were. With some books, it can be jarring to keep switching between voices, but this was written so well. Elias and Laia have such distinct voices and I loved the paths that they took in this first book in the series.

I’ve always been a sucker for books inspired by the Romans, so I knew I was going to like this before I started it. Given that a lot of fantasies are written in the third person, it was really refreshing to read a story told in the first person. I just finished the second book, A Torch Against the Night, which I loved just as much. I advise you to give this series a go if you love action-packed scenes, romance and danger.

6. Vicious by V. E. Schwab

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Vicious is the second book I have read by V. E. Schwab and I am so glad that I bought it because it quickly became one of my favourites. Once again, I was in a reading slump and was struggling to find something to capture my attention until this book came along. It only took me a few days to read and I think that is because the pacing of the book is so quick, especially with the timeline jumping, which is something I wasn’t sure of in the beginning but quickly loved.

There is a sense of urgency when you read it and you just want to get to the end to find out what will happen to Victor and Eli. Their rivalry is one of my favourites, where I could see both sides and why they felt the way they did. They are dark, funny and totally badass, which is one of the reasons why I love this book so much. I already have the sequel, Vengeful, on my shelves to read in 2019. I don’t read many adult books, but this has definitely gotten me into the genre, which is more Sci-Fi than Fantasy in my opinion.

7. Circe by Madeline Miller

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It may seem a little odd to put a book on this list that I haven’t finished yet, but I’m going to do it because I already love it so much. I absolutely adore Greek mythology and devoured so many YA and Adult books based on it when I was younger. It had been years since I came across one until I saw that Circe was on offer for an incredible £0.99 and I remembered how many people had been praising it on Twitter.

Well, I’m already a third of the way through and I only started it yesterday. I am hooked. Everything about this story is so captivating, but the voice is what’s drawn me in. The story-telling is amazing and the story of Circe is so heart-breaking that I feel everything with her. As someone who has at one time or another been an outsider, I can relate to her so much. Circe is actually a goddess that I haven’t heard much about before, which I think is one of the reasons I love it so much. Of course, we see the other famous Gods and Goddesses, but I love learning about the ones I didn’t know of before. I can’t wait to read this book and finish her story.

8. A Court of Thorns and Roses Series by Sarah J. Maas

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2018 was the year I finally read A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin, so it only makes sense that I add them all on here because I loved them. I read all three in the months that I took a hiatus from blogging while I dealt with being made redundant at my job. I absolutely flew through the first book and loved the parallels between Beauty and the Beast. Like most people probably did, I fell in love with Tamlin and swooned at how he cared for Feyre, so you can imagine my surprise at the events that took place in the two sequels. My emotions were all over the place with this series and I enjoyed every minute of it.

The characters were so intriguing and the growth that most of them went through hooked me, especially Feyre. From the beginning to the events of the third book, I watched her grow into this amazing woman who could do anything. I also realised why people like Rhys as a character, although I still held onto the Tamlin from the first book. I won’t lie, it took me a while to get through the second and third book as I was in the middle of a slump, but I enjoyed them. I definitely feel like this is a series I will have to re-read in the future to get all the details.

9. The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

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If you want to know how much I loved this book, I read it all within a day. I sat down in the morning and I didn’t move anywhere until the late afternoon when I finally shut the book. This collection of stories and fairy tales from the Grisha Verse was the first thing I read from Leigh Bardguo before diving in the Grisha Trilogy that I mentioned above. The writing in it was the most beautiful I had ever read. Everything about it took my breath away and it was one of those books where I held it to my chest when I finished, feeling so grateful I got to read those words.

It’s hard to choose a favourite story when there are six to choose from, each one dark and twisted, but filled with emotion. One of my favourite parts of this book was the illustrations. At the beginning of each story they would start in the corner and as the pages were turned they would keep growing until you reached the full-page image at the end. As an artist, I could appreciate the detail and beauty of each one and how they brought the story to life. If you haven’t read this book yet, you need to, because it is amazing. You can see my full review here.

10. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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There was a lot of hype surrounding this debut novel, which always makes me nervous because sometimes it doesn’t live up to it. However, I didn’t have that problem with Children of Blood and Bone because it was an incredible story and debut novel. I had never read a story based on West African mythology before and I was hooked from the beginning. There is so much detail and action on the pages that I wanted to soak in, but the information never felt like it was overwhelming me, which can sometimes happen with books.

One of the parts I loved the most was the magic system and how intricate it was, as well as being so unique. The adventure that Zelie and the other characters go on is so thrilling, showing how they are growing along the way and discovering new things about themselves. I love this story so much that when a chance came up to meet Tomi Adeyemi, I took it and it was amazing to hear how she came up with the story, as well as her process for writing it. The talk inspired me so much to keep going with my own writing and I will always be thankful for that. If you’d like to see my full review, you can read it here.

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There were so many books that I enjoyed in 2018 that I wish could have been on the list, but I didn’t want it to go on forever. Did you manage to read any of these this year?

Let me know your all-time favourite book for 2018 in the comments below!