book reviews, spoiler free

Harley in the Sky

Book Review

38326343._SY475_Harley In The Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Rating: XXXX

Published March 10th by Ink Road Books

“I love the circus. I love the mystery, and the wonder, and the way every act transports my soul into another dimension. I love the way it makes me feel as if the world is in reverse and upsidedown all at once – like there’s starlight beneath my feet and the ocean above my head, and every impossible dream can come true with a single whisper.”

Harley Milano has dreamed of being a trapeze artist for as long as she can remember. With parents who run a famous circus in Las Vegas, she spends almost every night in the big top watching their lead aerialist perform, wishing with all her soul that she could be up there herself one day.

After a huge fight with her parents, who continue to insist she go to school instead, Harley leaves home, betrays her family and joins the rival travelling circus Maison du Mystère. There, she is thrust into a world that is both brutal and beautiful, where she learns the value of hard work, passion and collaboration. But at the same time, Harley must come to terms with the truth of her family and her past—and reckon with the sacrifices she made and the people she hurt in order to follow her dreams. 

As you may have seen from when I posted the cover reveal for Harley and a Book Tag (have a go yourself and you could be in with a chance to win a set of art cards from the book!) a few weeks back I was lucky enough to be a part of the Street Team for Akemi’s newest book and had the chance to read it early. I adored Starfish and Summer Bird Blue and I was so pleased to be given this chance, although I’m not primarily a contemporary reader Akemi’s books just seem to have this spark and this energy to them and she’s become an insta-buy author for me.

First of all, I haven’t been to a circus for years but the moment we see both of the circuses in this book through Harley’s eyes I find myself filled with the wonder and magic of it all that Akemi has captured so incredibly well. She really manages to anchor you into Harley’s point of view which I think is vitally important for a character who makes rash and sometimes hard to understand choices but put in her mindset it’s much easier to rationalise the seemingly irrational thoughts. Harley is, at times a difficult character but as a teen who often tried to run away (thankfully with much less success)  and who to this day still makes decisions based too heavily on strong, fleeting emotions I feel like I got her and that a lot of us possibly used to be her to some extent.

The cast of characters, Harley included, is a wonderfully diverse mix of cultural backgrounds and full of colourful personalities who are hard not to get immediately attached to, I particularly loved Dexi and Vixen! I found Vas an interesting character and thought he played mysterious stranger well, with all of the information about his past and motives coming out in a way that wasn’t exactly hidden but forthcoming due to Vas purely being a private person which was a nice touch.

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Although for me the characters really make this book the plot is still an enjoyable one and although a little predictable at times, especially the romance I still enjoyed it immensely and although there are certainly some wonderful and painful moments I found it a much lighter read than Starfish and Summer Bird Blue making this a bit of a comfort read for me, especially the around the middle of the story. Don’t let my words fool you though, there are still definitely some tough moments (trigger warnings include depression, mood swings, heart attack and references to suicidal ideation).

One of my random, favourite things about this book that didn’t fail to make me smile every time was the sheer amount of “nerdy” references. ‘Nerd’ culture is, I think, more popular than ever at the moment which is brilliant but other than the occasional mention of Harry Potter I haven’t seen it reflected in many books (this may be because of my habit of not reading a lot of contemporary) and it was very enjoyable, it also seems me and Akemi have a lot of the same taste in fandoms!

Harley in the Sky is out March 10th (in just three weeks) so make sure to get your pre-orders in and get ready to visit the Circus with Harley!

 

Tags

Harley in the Sky, Circus Book Tag

tag Thursday

One of my most anticipated releases for 2020 is out in just 47 days! Harley in the Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman (author of Starfish and Summer Bird Blue) is out on March 10th and let me tell you I’ve been excited for this beautiful gold book for a good while now! In-fact you might remember my cover reveal post last year when I became a part of the street team. I’ve now read an advanced reading copy of the book and let me tell you, folks, you are in for a treat so don’t forget to pre-order!

I decided to drum up some extra excitement on the run-up to release by creating a Harley in the sky/Circus themed book tag! I won’t tag anyone in particular as if you see it and like, you are more than welcome to have a go yourself (please link back to me in your posts) and you could be in with a chance of winning a set of Harley in the Sky art cards! Don’t forget to also check out all of the other lovely challenges that have been going on and are yet to come!

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RingMaster – What book introduced you to your favourite genre? 
I’m not actually sure what my favourite genre is, either fantasy or Sci-Fi I think. I know for fantasy the book that introduced me was “The Two Princesses Of Barrmere” by Gail Carson Levine. “The Other Boelyn Girl” by Phillipa Greggory introduced me to Historical Fiction and The Vampire Diaries by L.J Smith introduced me to paranormal romance/YA in general but for some reason, I can’t pinpoint a book that got me interested in Sci-Fi which I think was a progression from watching a lot of it on TV and in video games instead.

Acrobatics – A fast-paced read.  
Starsight by Brandon Sanderson is the first book that comes to mind, there are some quiet moments but there are some absolutely adrenaline-filled moments whenever Spensa gets in a cockpit.

Clowns – A book that made you laugh. 
I’m someone who will often cry at a book but I very rarely laugh at them while I’m reading so this one took a fair bit of effort to look back on but in the end, I remembered this PERFECT moment in Finding Home volume two by Hari Conner that had me in absolute fits. Poor Janek.

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Knife thrower – A book that had you on the edge of your seat.  
Obsidio by Amy Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I think I had my jaw gritted for most of this book, all of the books in the Illuminae trilogy have had me on edge really which I think is brilliant considering the kind of format it’s presented in. The third one though just felt like all bets were off and anything could happen which is why it was the one I picked for this answer.

Tightrope Walker – A book you just couldn’t put down. 
Sanctuary by V.V James.  This book was a fantastical wild ride that felt almost physically painful to have to stop reading for any length of time. If you haven’t read it, folks, you seriously need to get on it.

Ventriloquist – A book with a great twist. 
*Brings out a list of Lauren James books*
Seriously though, I have to pick just one?

I pick The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James, it’s just done so SO well. The particular twist I’m referring to is a fairly big revelation that I kicked myself for not seeing coming after it blew my mind at 2am, but it’s set up so well and looking back there are so many little clues sprinkled around and it just made so much sense, that’s a great, well-crafted twist to me and this one nails it.

Magician – A book with a magic system you love. 
I have a lot more to find out about it but I love the “creatures” in A Discovery of Witches with the witches, Daemons and Vampires, not just the differences between them but also how we get to see a more scientific approach (to a degree) to the point where they can tell a witches powers, which they seem to inherit genetically from analysing her blood. I’ve only read the first book but I can’t wait to get further into the series and find out more!

Static Trapeze – Best or Worst Cliffhanger. 
Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff. I haven’t decided if it was the best or worst cliffhanger yet but it was definitely one of them. The whole third quarter of that book was insane and the end was just…

I’m so glad that I only had to wait a few weeks between Godsgrave and Darkdawn because I would have lost my mind if I’d had to have waited a full year.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this tag and that you’re looking forward to the release of Harley in the Sky just as much as me! You can add it on Goodreads here and you can preorder from Amazon here and Waterstones here (but don’t forget to support your local bookstore if you’re able).

 

 

 

#SixforSunday, spoiler free

S4S – Books and the Seaside

I was hoping by the time this prompt turned up we would have been able to go on a family trip to the beach but no such luck yet! Soon though hopefully! For now, however, I just decided to see if I could think of six books that feature the seaside, or beaches at the very least.

Christmas at the Beach Hut by Veronica Henry
I adored this really sweet and relatable tale based in one of my favourite places in the world, Devon! I used to go on holiday with my family to Devon every year for most of my childhood and I love the place to death and it really helped me envision a lot of the beach scenes in this book.

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman
This is an ultimate beach book, don’t get me wrong, it’s hard and full of chest gnawing grief but I swear you can hear the waves and feel the sand between your toes reading some of the scenes in this book.

The Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris
A completely different feel from the beaches of Summer Bird Blue, for me the beaches of The Blue Salt Road are cold and windy, filled with pebbles and sea spray, not to mention selkies.

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare
The beach out by the Los Angeles institute features in all three of The Dark Artifices books but my favourite beach moment is right at the end of Queen of Air and Darkness. If you know, you know.

Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
I’ve been rewatching the Twilight films if I can’t sleep recently and I ended up watching the whole of New Moon and Eclipse last week instead of actually sleeping. I remember when reading them I loved the sound of La Push and the reservation etc and I love the scene with Bella and Jacob just walking along the beach chatting before all the supernatural stuff didn’t seem real.

The Wicked King by Holly Black
So I know this is pushing it a little but one of the biggest and most important scenes happens on a beach! (I literally just lost half an hour after going to check it was defintley on a beach and carried on reading the end of the book again damnit) So it totally counts right? I’m already so desperate for the Queen of Nothing already like I can’t explain. GIVE ME MORE.

Okay so only of these technically featured a “seaside” but they all have beaches in! Or at least sand? This was still easier than finding sunshine on covers last week at least! Also as I’m writing this the weather here is absolutely horrid, it’s humid and rainy and gross so thinking about these lovely beaches has been quite nice!

I also want to mention Lifes a Beach (Bookshop Girl #2) by Chloe Coles because this would have been a perfect book for this post but despite loving the first book I haven’t got around to its sequel yet and I’m disappointed in myself for it so this is me, calling myself out and telling me to read that damn book already.

book talk, spoiler free

Harley in the Sky Cover Reveal

It’s been SO difficult to keep this secret the past couple of weeks but as a member of the Harley in the Sky Street Team I was lucky enough to see the cover for Akemi’s newest novel a little earlier and I’ve been in love with it ever since! Harley in the Sky is the next book out by author Akemi Dawn Bowman, award-winning author of Starfish and Summer Bird Blue follows a multiracial teenage girl who dreams of quitting school to become a trapeze artist in her parents’ Las Vegas circus, against their wishes, prompting her to join a rival circus. There, she grows close to a handsome musician and performer—while untangling her family’s complicated past and present.

Would you like to see the cover?

 

 

Are you sure?

 

 

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I love the mix of yellow and bronze, the silhouetted figure, that absolutely gorgeous font and the beautiful stylised pattern in the background that just SCREAMS circus tent to me. You can add Harley in the Sky to your want to read on Goodreads RIGHT NOW. 

Blog Tours, book reviews, spoiler free

Summer Bird Blue – Blog Tour

35716237.jpgSummer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Rating: XXXX

Published: April 4th by Ink Road

“Becasue it turns out music isn’t just keeping me alive – It’s keeping Lea alive too.”

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying. What to eat, where to go, who to love. But one thing she is sure of she wants to spend her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea. Then Lea dies in a car accident, and Rumi is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Now, miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, feeling abandoned by her mother, and the aching absence of music. With the help of the “boys next door” teenage surfer Kai, who doesn’t take anything too seriously, and old George Watanabe, who succumbed to grief years ago Rumi seeks her way back to music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish. With unflinching honesty, Summer Bird Blue explores big truths about insurmountable grief, unconditional love, and how to forgive even when it feels impossible.

After reading and falling in love with Starfish and Akemi’s writing last year I have been SO excited to read her newest book Summer Bird Blue, the story of Rumi Seto grieving for her sister and trying to navigate her feelings and learning how to live her life again. I know I always mention this, but I don’t read a lot of contemporary books and was more than happy to break out of my norm to read this. I was lucky enough to be gifted an early finished copy from the lovely people at Ink Road Books and invited to take part in the blog tour 💙

I decided as this is a blog tour post I would spice it up a little so before we get to my review I want to play a little game. In Summer Bird Blue Rumi and Lea love to write songs together so I’m going to show you how to create your own using a book!

1. Pick your favourite book OR count along your bookcase or e-reader library etc until you get to your age and pick the book you finish on. I’m going to use Summer Bird Blue.

2. Take that book and look at the blurb and note down the word of the first three sentences or close your eyes and pick three words at random. This is the title of your song. (If there is no blurb then you can use the first three chapter names or three words to describe the cover perhaps?)

3. Next use your date of birth to choose which pages you’ll use to hunt for song lyrics. You can pick any two lines from each page or the first and last. I.e for me, my birthday is 25/12/1988 so I would use pages, 25, 12, 19 and 88. (Edit: page 12 is blank so going to pick the closest one with words)

4. Write them down in any order you like, it can make as much or as little sense as you like.

5. Your song is now complete! What kind of song do you think it is? A rock ballad? A punk-pop hit? Maybe it has a country feel to it? Let me know in the comments of you try it out! You can check mine about below:

Help Grief Sister

“Happy Birthday,” I say
The only thing dark in Hawaii is me
I feel like I hate everyone
A wish is a wish after all
I’ll never be able to reach her, not really
I’m not sure I understand what any of it means
I almost forgot what this felt like – to be lost in the music
“Is she going to stop?” I ask.

Summer Bird Blue is a powerfully evocative, intensely beautiful and heartbreaking story. At its core it feels a little like a coming of age over the summer kind of story but is so much more and although I am fortunate enough to be unable to imagine anything close to the all-consuming guilt Rumi feels and therefore cannot comment much on the accuracy of those emotions I feel like there are messages throughout this book for everyone, whether they have lost someone or not. It teaches a lot about grief but also mental health, confidence in yourself and others, identity (sexuality or otherwise) and feeling comfortable in your own skin as well as being able to let yourself rely on others and being there for them in return not to mention family, the good and the bad.

Akemi has absolutely hit the nail on the head with her second novel, it’s a brilliant mix of heartbreak and hope. I cried at this book a lot and in under ten pages – this book does not pull its punches. But although I can remember each and every moment that made me cry and hurt for Rumi and her family I can remember so much happiness too. There are some fantastic, organic moments throughout the book that just make it feel so real and make you really remember the good moments in spite of the painful ones and I think it’s an amazing parallel to a great approach to life, things can be bad and painful but we can’t let ourselves forget the good too.

Every single character in this book is memorable and I love them all. Kai is the most perfect male character I think I have ever read. I’m not saying he’s perfect because he’s gorgeous and can do no wrong, he feels perfect because he is flawed and he has problems like we all do and he doesn’t always deal with them in the best ways but that is life and I love him so much. I also love Mr Watanabe, who again I love more because of his flaws, he is quite possibly my favourite character in this book and maybe in any contemporary book I’ve ever read, he is an absolute gem. I also learnt about Hawaiin pidgin which a lot of the Hawaiin characters speak, first of all, I thought it was a written as it sounds accent kind of thing but then looked into further and realised it was its own language of sorts. I stumbled over reading it to begin with but it quickly became second nature and I really loved it.

Considering a fair amount of this book, especially the first half, is rather internal it moves really well. The internal parts are often scattered with memories of Rumi and her sister which helps to break it up some and everything else just moves in such a way that it feels really balanced. I found it really hard to put this book down and read it in about two days which is pretty fast for me and the poor book suffered from spine wrinkles which from me is a sign of an enjoyed book. I feel like I’ve been on holiday to Hawaii for the past five weeks and learned some important life lessons, I think this is definitely a book I’ll revisit in the summer.

Thank you so much to Ink Road books for my gifted early copy in exchange for an honest review and for having me on today’s stop for the blog tour! I hope you’ve enjoyed this review and if you’d like to check out more stops on the tour you can find them all in the graphic below!

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#SixforSunday, spoiler free

S4S – Debut books and authors

Honestly, how is it still March? I feel like this month has been ending for months and now we’re finally here with an ode to Debut books and authors. Thank you so much, as always to Steph at A Little But a Lot for the Six for Sunday prompts and happy it’s almost April folks.

1. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
I had missed most of the hype train that preempted Caraval releasing as I had only dipped my toe back in reading YA at this point and hadn’t even considered blogging again yet but was pleased when I found it in my Fairyloot box for the month after having it recommended to me by a bookseller at Waterstones Picadilly while visiting with a friend. I read it in just over twenty-four hours, which for me was unheard of at this point and I just couldn’t put it down. I loved the mystery, the strange setting of the Caraval and the shady story of Legend. I’m sorry to say I have yet to read Legendary despite buying it on release, I think maybe I’m worried I won’t like it as much as the first?

2. Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman
I know this is one of the books I almost always mention but it is one of my favourite debut books and As a result, is now one of my instabuy authors. (Keep an eye out for my Summer Bird Blue review coming Monday 8th April)

3. The Near Witch by V.E Schwab
I’m gutted I didn’t have a chance to read this when it first debuted but so glad I got the opportunity to read it on its rerelease. This book is super spooky and perfectly witchy, a fantastic debut for Schwab’s distinctive style.

4. A Good Girls Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson
Another of my most anticipated releases to come this year, I was lucky enough to receive a super early ARC at YALC last year and this murder mystery with a dark turn is a must read, it’s full of great tense moments and really keeps you guessing. (Review to come in May closer to release).

5. The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
I had expected to like this book because kick-ass girl and dragons but I absolutely ADORED it, another debut that has made this author an instabuy name for me. Before this book, I had grown a little bored of fantasy but The Last Namsara felt like it really gave the genre new life for me.

6.The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven
Another book I don’t often stop talking about, The Exact Opposite of Okay is a brilliantly funny and thought-provoking book that really challenges a lot of norms in our society while being fantastically witty and an absolute dream to read. I’m desperate to read the sequel, “A girl called Shameless” which is out now!

 

 

Monthly Wrap up, Uncategorized

March Wrap Up

I don’t usually do wrap-ups but as this month I didn’t manage to find the space for a monthly TBR post I decided to try one. Most of the books I’ve read this month have been reviewed here already so I won’t go into huge detail but just thought it would be nice to have it all in one place, in addition, I also wanted to include not just books but other forms of media I’ve enjoyed too. I’m not sure yet if this will be an every month occurrence yet or just a one-off for March but let me know if you enjoy it and we’ll see where it goes!

Books

The Near Witch by V.E Schwab XXXX (Spoiler free review here)
A brand new reprinting of V.E Schawb’s debut novel, The Near Witch is an absolute gem. It’s dark and spooky with the perfect amount of angst and a little romance. This debut, although not as polished as her later works it still very decidedly hers though and well worth a read even if you’ve read it before as this new version, in addition to being absolutely gorgeous also features an extra short story “Ash born boy” which was fantastic and well deserving of a XXXXX rating all of it’s own.

Firefly: The Magnificent Nine by Jame Lovegrove XXXXX (Spoiler free review here)
This was such a fun book to read, a fantastic tie in to the original TV series and although it certainly is an enjoyable book to read without any prior knowledge of the show its crowning glory is the brilliant way James has managed to really capture the whole feeling of the show and it’s world as well as it’s characters as well as giving us a deeper look into those characters in a way we weren’t able to get through the media of television but translates easily to the written word. A must for Firefly fans especially is Jayne Cobb is your favourite. I also did a Q&A with James which you can check out here.

Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy XXXXX (Spoiler free review here)
The only words to do this justice are ones I’ve already used in my full review…SWORDS, JOUSTING, SPACESHIPS, STRONG QUEER WOMEN, TEENAGE MERLIN, GORGEOUS FLUIDS AND NON BINARIES, MAGIC, ANGST, SEXUAL TENSION AND DID I MENTION THIS IS MOSTLY SET IN SPACE BECAUSE YES. Once and Future absolutely blew my mind, it riled me up, it crushed my heart then it brought me back, shoved a sword in my hand and it told me to go save the world. This is an absolute whirlwind of a book and despite the King Arthur type story, or even the reincarnation of King Arthur, Once and Future not only manages to feel new and unique, it feels damn well revolutionary. There is SO much fantastic rep to be found here and I honestly love it so damn much.

Currently reading: Summer Bird Blue By Dawn Akemi Bowman (Review to come soon!)
I’m SO close to finishing this book right now! I wasn’t sure how I would feel jumping from sci-fi into contemporary which isn’t my favourite of genres but Akemi has excelled once again, as with Starfish it explores complicated feelings and relationships and how her characters deal with those, in the case of Summer Bird Blue, Rumi loses her sister and is consumed by not only the sadness that we often associate with grief but also the anger and resentment we feel as well. A spectacular, moving story that I know is going to continue to break my heart.

Films

The Conjuring 2
The start of a slippery slope deciding to try out a horror film as I don’t ever really watch them at home but thought heck why not. This was actually really great. It had some great twists and a nice variety of different scares with the story actually being really interesting and making me really want to watch the third one now.

Don’t Knock Twice
Second horror film after the first one went so well, the trailer was pretty damn creepy and this one definitely had some moments and I actually screamed once but honestly, there was just too much talking for my liking and I did nod off a little once or twice.

The Lego Movie 2
My four year old has recently become obsessed with the first lego movie and it’s accompanying video game so we took a trip to the cinema together to check out the second film and it was fantastic, I really liked the first one and this sequel did not disappoint. It made fun of itself, there were some genuinely sad moments, some great twists and in the vein of the big twist/reveal at the end of the first one we got another great reveal that had been hinted at throughout the film and was done really well. I also have to say that I’m in love with the soundtrack and downloaded it the moment I got home, the catchy song is fantastic as is a slightly different version of “everything is awesome” towards the end of the film and the song that plays over the credits is just gold. Definitely, want to see this again.

Passengers
On my Sci-fi kick and when trying to decide on a film to watch this one really seemed interesting and was one we both hadn’t seen before and decided to try out. Really glad we did, I wasn’t sure what direction it would take and it definitely surprised me. Not to mention there was an android I got attached to. This film really went to places I wouldn’t have guessed and ended up being pretty thought-provoking and harrowing in places while also being sweet as well as having a good amount of action when the need called for it. Will be watching this one again as well.

TV Shows

Star Trek Discovery – Season 2 episodes 7-9
I have absolutely loved getting to see young, slightly crazy, hot Spock with a beard these past few episodes and it’s been super interesting finding out what really happened to him, not to mention we got to see parts that directly connect to the very first episode of the original series. Also I can’t help it but every episode I have to tell Chris (the husband) how much I just adore Captain Pike, he’s just so wholesome while also being a little damaged by his past and he’s just such a perfect character and Anson Mount has done an amazing job at portraying him, he’s an absolute gem.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this slightly different post from me, I enjoyed writing it and recapping my month. Where there any particular stories that you loved this month? Tell me all about them!