Winged Reviews A young adult book blog for those a little bit older.

Bookish Firsts: Julia Gray

Bookish Firsts: Julia Gray

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Please welcome debut author Julia Gray to the blog, to celebrate the release of her book, The Otherlife.

Bookish Firsts

with author Julia Gray

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What is the first book you ever read/remember reading?littleprincess
The first book I ever read on my own was Five Run Away Together, the third book in Enid Blyton’s Famous Five series.

What is the first book you wrote (either published or unpublished)?
I wrote a novella when I was sixteen all about music and guardian angels, mercifully unpublished, though I still have it in a drawer somewhere.

What is the first book character you loved?
I can think of several: What-A-Mess, Winnie the Pooh, Pippi Longstocking (I loved her chest of drawers full of treasures and her sense of adventure), and, later, Sara Crewe from A Little Princess. I also liked a series of books from the 1930s by Gwynedd Rae about a bear called Mary Plain. Mary was brilliantly eccentric and egocentric and funny.

About The Otherlife

The Otherlife by Julia Gray

When troubled, quiet Ben begins at the ruthlessly competitive Cottesmore House, school to the richest, most privileged boys, he is befriended by Hobie: the wealthy class bully, product of monstrous indulgence and intense parental ambition.

Hobie is drawn to Ben because he can see the Otherlife: a violent, mythic place where gods and monsters roam. Ben has unnerving visions of Thor and Odin, and of the giant beasts that will destroy them, as well as Loki, god of mischief. Hobie is desperate to be a part of it.

Years later, Ben discovers his beloved tutor Jason is dead. And he can’t help wondering if Hobie – wild, restless, dangerous Hobie, had something to do with it…

About Julia Gray

Julia Gray author pic
Julia Gray is a writer and singer-songwriter. She studied Classics at UCL and has a diploma in Children’s Literature and an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, for which she received the Sophie Warne Fellowship. She has released three albums with the trip-hop/jazz collective Second Person, and more recently two solo albums, I Am Not The Night and Robber Bride.
 
 

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Five of My Favorite Fantasy Authors

Five of My Favorite Fantasy Authors

Fantasy has long been my favorite genre, and while I have dozens of favorite individual books, I wanted to give some focus to overall favorite authors in the genre. People who I have read and loved more than one book/series and from whom I am always wanting the next story! 🙂

  1. Juliet Marillier: My absolute favorite out of all Marillier’s work is the multi-generational Sevenwaters Trilogy, which kicks off with Daughter of the Forest, a beautiful retelling of the fairy tale The Wild Swans. The second book in the trilogy is Son of the Shadows and features one of my all time top book boyfriends (BRAN)! The entire series is gorgeous. She also has a beautiful beauty and the beast style retelling titled Heart’s Blood that I adore. Her current series is Blackthorn & Grim, featuring the journey of two prison mates, the healer woman Blackthorn and her devoted shadow Grim, after their escape. These all read like historical novels with magic/mysticism woven in.
  2. Patricia McKillip: I am a huge fan of books that feature faeries. To me, no one does this better than McKillip. Frequently the fay are written as little more than what humans would be like if they were immortal, deadly beautiful, and possessed magic powers. It doesn’t seem to be easy for an author to capture that necessary alien quality they should have. At the end of the day I feel these beings should be incomprehensible and totally other. Mckillip gets this. Part of her success comes in that she does not over-expose them, her books are not set in fay worlds. When they influence the story it is always with that distinct and chilling feeling of how remote and unknowable they and their world are. The Book of Atrix Wolfe and Winter Rose are two favorites.
  3. Brandon Sanderson: Prolific and consistently good. I feel The Stormlight Archives are the best even if it is not necessarily the best series for a newbie to his universe. There are plenty of worthy starting places though, his Mistborn series being the most famous.
  4. Scott Lynch: Okay so he is still in the midst of his first series, so I can’t point towards a diverse body of work yet. But seeing as The Lies of Locke Lamora is one of my absolute favorite books of all time and I continue to devour The Gentlemen Bastards series, I could not leave it out.  Stories set around thievery and heists are one of my favorite themes as they inevitably feature the intelligent and morally grey characters I adore (warriors often get away with being thick as mud) and there is no character I love more than Locke.
  5. Laini Taylor: I loved both her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and the lesser known Dreamdark series (which I desperately hope she will one day finish!). She maintains a wonderful balance between consistent characters that are easy to invest in, unique world building, and a heart centered plot. In all her works there is something so unique in the manner which she weaves all three.

Honorable mention for fantasy stories by other authors I have loved over the past year: Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, and The Winners Trilogy by Marie Rutkoski.

 

 

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Pokemon Go Book Tag!

Pokemon Go Book Tag!

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The Pokemon Go book tag was created by readatmidnight. Following the extremely popular release and play of Pokemon Go, I thought I’d participate as I LOOOOOVE Pokemon Go!

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I’ve always loved reading, and my parents used to read to me when I was younger, but my favourite books when I was small were the Rainbow Magic books which is a series all about fairies and two human girls. I started reading them when the first series was out, but the series is now MASSIVE.

Side note: When I started the game, I chose Charmander! What did you choose?

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My answer is pretty obvious, but Harry Potter will always be one of my favourites and I would consider it a classic, even if all of the series was written and released in my lifetime. One thing is for sure, it is definitely iconic.

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For me, this book is Twilight. I have actually read the whole series, as I read Breaking Dawn before the Twilight movie actually came out, but among other reasons, I totally interest in Twilight because the books were absolutely everywhere and especially because of the movie release!
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Zenith reminded me of a few books as there were quite a few comparisons to other characters and story lines, but I’d say I only like it, no where near love!

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This would be the Mortal Instruments series, with the two surrounding series as well, the Infernal Devices and the Dark Artifices. The series is just huge to me, especially when including the prequel/sequel series’. Perhaps I’ll marathon them soon!pokemon-tag06-gengar

I don’t tend to stay up really late reading just because I get so tired, but the obvious would be Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I stayed up so late reading this one as it’s so fast paced and obviously I want to know how it, and the series, ended!

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Hate getting into this sort of thing because ‘ship wars’, but Anna and Etienne from Anna and the French Kiss, and..Celaena and Chaol from the Throne of Glass series. I’m sorry, but I have been rooting for this since the beginning and I cannot drop it now.

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Oooooh, there are so many, but one book I recently read had me really turning the pages and eager to know what would happen next. That book is These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly! It’s a historic mystery set in early 1900’s New York. Just everything about it is amazing!

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I don’t read very much historical fiction at all, which is funny as I’m, ya know, a history student!! But the first book I did read from this genre was A Mad, Wicked Folly and I LOVED it. Seriously loved it. Not to mention I share a name with the main character but god, was it good! If I could, I would recommend it to everyone!

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Does the A Court of Thorns and Roses series count? I know it’s only three books and the third hasn’t come out yet, but SO many people talk about Sarah J. Maas’ books (which I love btw), and this is a series that I still haven’t got too yet because I am a slow bookworm, but I’m still so excited to read it and see what it’s all about!

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I would love a first edition of Harry Potter, there is no denying the want for that.

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I’ve heard a lot of great things about The Star-Touched Queen, which came out earlier this year but I haven’t had chance to read it yet. I’ve just bought the book with some money I received for my birthday last week, so hopefully it arrives soon!

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Sarah J. Maas, Marissa Meyer and Stephanie Perkins! Also, Emery Lord. I knew there would be a few for this!

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I feel like the servers go down allllll the time for Pokemon Go, especially last week. It seems a little better, but it’s always around dinner time here in the UK that it goes down for me and my friends! Anyway, this book for me is probably Heartless by Marissa Meyer. I feel like it’s been forever since the news was released that she was going to be writing it. Release date cannot come quick enough. And another author who falls into this is Sarah J. Maas (duh, this is definitely a ‘see how many times you can fit Sarah into this post’ after all..). I feel like I’m waiting forever for Empire of Storms but that’s my own fault seeing as I blasted through the first four books in the series last Summer!

 

So there you have it, this is my completed Pokemon Go book tag! So much fun! If you’re reading this then reader, I TAG YOU!

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Zenith by Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay CummingsZenith
Author: Lindsay Cummings, sasha alsberg
Series: Androma Saga #1
Publisher: Self-published
Date: 21/06/2016
62 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Buy the BookGoodreads

There is darkness sweeping across the stars.

Most know Androma Racella as the Bloody Baroness: a powerful mercenary whose reign of terror stretches across the Mirabel Galaxy. To those aboard her fearsome glass starship the Maurader, she’s just Andi, their captain and protector.

When a routine mission goes awry, the all-girl crew’s resilience is tested as they find themselves in a most unfamiliar place: at the mercy of a sadistic bounty hunter connected to Andi’s past and a harrowing betrayal.

Meanwhile, on the far side of the galaxy, a ruthless ruler waits in the shadows of the planet Xen Ptera, biding her time to exact revenge for the destruction of her people. The final pieces of her deadly plan are about to fall into place, unleashing a plot that will tear Mirabel in two.

Andi and her crew embark on a dangerous, soul-testing journey that could restore order to their ship—or just as easily start a war that will devour worlds. As the Marauder hurtles towards the unknown, and Mirabel hangs in the balance, the only thing certain is that in a galaxy run on lies and illusion, no one can be trusted.

There are a few things I’d like to state before getting into this review. First of all, I am still hovering between 2.5 and 3 stars with this book. Secondly, it is only the beginning of this story – it is serialised, however it hasn’t been announced when the second instalment will be out.

So my review.

Well, this was not totally what I was expecting. In fact, I think I expected more. With there being so much hype surrounding this, and so many people screaming for joy when it came out, I expected amazing things however I was disappointed. There were similarities to other stories (eg. ‘Stars Above’ – Marissa Meyer book title right there!) and it was very, very descriptive. I feel like I read 62 whole pages of description.

I can appreciate this is a serialised novel meaning that we get the story in parts but for me, this first part needed to be longer. I didn’t really feel that engaged with it and I really struggled to keep my attention on it. In fact, I struggled so much that instead of reading the 62 pages in one sitting, I started it the day it came out, and didn’t actually finish it until just under a month later. That is just an example of how short my attention span was for this book, which makes me sad as I really desperately wanted to like it.

I felt there wasn’t enough space in the book to really introduce the characters fully, and that the first part was quite rushed, almost ‘here’s these characters and then there is this character and then another character to add to the mix’, but also there was just so much description throughout this part, and it felt so metaphorical in a lot of places. I’ve also heard a few people think the main character compare to Celeana from the Throne of Glass series, which I can kind of see. Though, I do think the characters seem like a good part of this story, particularly Andi’s crew.

You know, despite this review, I don’t think it’s that bad, however I really do think that I would’ve liked it more if it was just a bit longer so we had more time to actually settle into the story and so there was time for me to really feel engaged in this book.

Personally, I think I would be much better off waiting until all of the sections are out there so that I can read this all at once, perhaps then it will capture my attention a little bit better as there will be more to read.

I think the issue surrounding this book is that it is written by an extremely popular booktuber. And here’s the thing, I really like both Sasha and Lindsay, however I just was not impressed as I thought I would be, but hey, there’s always next time!

3 Stars

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The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh

The Rose and the Dagger by Renee AhdiehThe Rose & the Dagger
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath & the Dawn #2
Publisher: Penguin
Date: April 2016
416 pages
Source: Purchased
Genres: Fantasy
Buy the BookGoodreads

The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.

The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

This review will have spoilers for the first book in the series, The Wrath & the Dawn, so if you haven’t read it yet then stop here!

The Wrath and the Dawn was one of my favorite books of 2015 and so I had been eagerly awaiting its conclusion for a year. Things started out really good, characterizations were consistent and the language and descriptions as beautiful as ever. I enjoyed both Shahrzad’s story at the camp as well as Khalid’s experiences at the palace, especially his relationship with Jalal. Unfortunately once the story started moving the plot felt glossed over and resolutions came too conveniently.

Shahrzad finally seeks out the Fire Temple and Musa Zaragoza, a story line I was really looking forward to and where Shazi teams up with a new character, Artan. I loved their interactions!! They were funny and had great chemistry. However, while he remains present for the rest of the book we don’t see much of him. It’s just made clear that he is around and helping. I would have enjoyed seeing a lot more of them working and training together, their dynamic had more energy and excitement than some of the others that got featured more heavily.What we do get is a lot of time spent on Shazi’s sister Irsa and Rahim, which ultimately felt like a waste of page time with so many other interesting characters (Jalal, Despina, Artan) being sidelined. When it came to the actual steps needed to break the curse it all felt too easy. This was a curse whose casting had cost a mans life and originally demanded the lives of a hundred girls to break, I expected more difficulty and sacrifice to come with this, but in the end the solution felt like a non-event.

The antagonists again are Khalid’s uncle the Sultan of Parthia, as well as Tariq’s uncle and Shahrzads’ father Jahander. None are especially scary and Jahander is flat out annoying, flip flopping from one emotional extreme to another. Between villains I couldn’t take seriously and the diminished threat of the curse, there was a lack of tension. I wasn’t really nervous or convinced the protagonists were in over their heads. I think the book would have been amazing if it had another hundred pages or so. This series is full of characters that are easy to invest in and a plot that could have been really complex, but instead of taking time to get deep into it all, most of the events are explained away too quickly.

On the plus side I appreciated the way Tariq’s story line progressed and felt it was deserved after a lot of irrational hate towards the character. In addition there continued to be great examples of sisterhood via the dynamics between Shazi, Yasmine, Despina, and Irsa. 

While it wasn’t by any means a bad book, I 100% expected to love this and feel sad that I didn’t.  Shahrzad and Khalid have some great swoon going on though, and as I said at the start, the characterizations and descriptions are wonderful but the conflict resolution felt too tidy and easily won to be compelling.

3.5 Stars

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