This is technically a review of a re-read, mixed up with my feelings from the first time round. Deep in the drafts section of this blog was the remnants of a mini review from when I was a bookseller and would habitually upload a few lines to Waterstones.com.
The final book of the Rebel trilogy, Hero of the Fall, has been published and the other night while near-meltdown, exhausted from packing copies of books from our Kickstarter, I had a desire to read something I knew. I never used to re-read books until a few years back, realising a special joy that comes from it, especially in the noticing. You notice a lot more.
I certainly have noticed a lot more in this re-read of Rebel, and it truly has made me fall in love even more with Amani’s story.
Amani is a girl of the desert, whip-smart and sharp shooting, and desperate to get out of Deadshot, lest she stay and become her uncle’s next wife. Deadshot, a town in the grimly-named Last County is devoid of magic, sick with iron from the mines and factories, and a perfect place to waste a life way. Once a place where First Beings roamed, it is now a desert in more ways than one.
In order to escape her future as it stands, Amani enters a shooting competition, disguised as a man who is given the nickname the Blue-Eyed Bandit. The contest is rigged and in a blaze of gunfire and actual fire, she and her mysterious competitor The Eastern Snake escape with their lives. When the same man appears in her shop the next day hiding from the army, Amani is sucked into a world of adventure and rebellion, magic and Princes.
Rebel of the Sands is an absolute riot of a ride through the tropes of the Wild West, juxtaposed against legends of the Djinni and creatures straight out of One Thousand and One Nights.
Amani herself is more gunpowder than girl, quick thinking, brash and brutal, just like the desert she was raised in. I completely buy into her passionate romance with Jin, and especially love the cast of characters introduced fairly late-game in the novel — no spoilers, but you’ll see why I don’t go into detail when you get there.
This is an exciting, fast-paced adventure of escaping brutality, fighting for good and falling in love. I especially recommend reading them back-to-back for the full Amani experience, so you can appreciate her growth, the adventure and the many curve-balls Hamilton throws at you through the series.
I love Non Pratt, so much so that a few weeks ago I wrote a short post about just how much I love her books. Pratt writes the most wonderful characters, teenagers who feel real with relatable problems.
I think Second Best Friend is her most honest book so far. Jade and Becky are best friends, matching with blonde hair and interchangeable wardrobes. But when the boy Jade breaks up with tells her he only pursued her because Becky turned him down, Jade begins to suffer an inferiority complex. Why does she always come second to Becky?
When a new lesson proposes a school election, Jade sees it as the perfect opportunity to step out of Becky’s shadow and win something for herself.
This is such a heart-wrenching book. Jade’s behaviour is so oftentimes cruel or thoughtless, but her pain is so believable and her anxiety completely understandable. I found myself rooting for Jade even when she treats Becky terribly.
This is a brilliant, intense novella from one of the greatest writers from the UK young adult scene, and I eagerly await the next book, which will be Floored, a book written by seven different UK YA authors.
Second Best Friend is published by Barrington Stoke, who publish super-readable fiction — short, intense stories in accessible fonts and paper that make reading easier for those who struggle. Their backlist is full of amazing writers — Malorie Blackman, David Almond, Sita Brachmari. I strongly recommend you go check out their books!
Alice Oseman is one of the most interesting voices in UK young adult fiction right now, and one of my favourite creators across the board. This started as a review of Solitaire, but has quickly descended into a celebration of the magical stuff that Oseman creates. Stick with me.
I’ve previously spoken about Radio Silence, her second novel, and I had been saving Solitaire in some form of protectionism, determined to make sure I always had one spare (yes I know this is weird, okay). I realised I had to get over this, and just let myself enjoy it. So I did. And I did.
Tori Spring is a dry witted cynic, who spends most of her time being sarcastic on the internet – here is her tumblr set before the start of the novel (yes really). But one day, Tori comes across the mysterious Solitaire and their public demonstrations – are they a group of pranksters, or are their motives more sinister? And why do they seem to always turn up when Tori is around? Not only is she dealing with a shadowy organisation, but she seems to have gained a friend in Michael Holden, possibly the most colourful positive antithesis to her. Are the rumours that dog Holden true? Will Tori and Michael get the root of Solitaire before something really bad happens?
Solitaire is Oseman’s debut novel, released while she was still a teenager, written in her bed after school and partially inspired by the first series of Skins. I absolutely loved this book. Tori is a great character; fiercely protective of her younger brother Charlie and his care, while also unable to see her own needs. She is witty and complex, and utterly relatable to depressed struggling teenagers. And Michael Holden is just the cutest little perfect bean in the whole world. I’m sorry, it’s true.
What I didn’t know before was that her novels are all set in the same universe, with shared characters and settings. Not only that, but Oseman draws fan art of her characters, which has since evolved into Heartstopper, a comic all about two of my favourite characters from Solitaire, Tori’s brother Charlie and his boyfriend Nick. I’ve been a Patreon backer since Alice launched it but hadn’t read it until November because of the whole not reading Solitaire, saving art so that there’s always some more etc etc. But what I’m saying is you must must must read Solitaire then go binge Heartstopper, which is the story of how Nick and Charlie got together. Oseman has stated that she intends to produce a book of Heartstopper in the future and has already created a short comic which you can pick up a digital copy of here.
She also has two ebook novellas that follow on from Solitaire which you can get here – Nick and Charlie and This Winter. I sincerely hope that her publishers publish these in hard format in the future!
You can also go find out which of Alice’s character is most like you in this handy quiz. I was surprised but very happy to discover I was Charlie Spring, and Tim got Tori. Almost as good as us getting Narlie.
I know Rebecca from Twitter, home of the book bloggers, and have been really excited about her new business, so let’s hand it over to her!
Introduce yourself — who are you?
My names is Rebecca, a media graduate/retail worker/book blogger from the North East of England. I love all things Harry Potter, dystopian future and have a soft spot for corny romance.
Sum up your business in 140 characters!
Is it cheating to use my tagline in this? Candles made with love, under the moon and beside the sea. Bookish, hand poured candles that are supporting my all time favourite reads.
What came first — the products or the idea?
The idea came first sometime last year. I was spending a lot of money on candles and it dawned on me that I could do this myself. I didn’t have the money at the time so it remained a pipe dream. Then I was talking to Zoe (nosaferplace) and she was moving along and thriving with her new business and she inspired me to take the plunge and order my first lot of ingredients to make my Life Finds A Way candle, that was just in December last year so it’s been a quick turn around.
When did you launch your business?
My business officially launched Janurary 31st (just a few days ago and I still can’t belive it). I did start making orders for my friends on the 19th and they were the first people to buy my candles.
What’s your favourite product?
This is tough and I change my mind on a daily basis. Right now I am loving my Real Friends candle, which is Slytherin inspired and smells like peppermint and chocolate, which was inspired by a couple of other candle makers who have the same scent for different candles (shout out to Flickerink and Meraki candles*). I also have a soft spot for Life Finds A Way as it was my first baby.
*Sadly Heather has now closed Meraki Candles.
What’s been your favourite moment of your journey running a business so far?
Probably gifting author Anna Day two of We’re Not In Cosplay Anymore at her book launch, the candle is inspired by her book The Fandom. She was so amazingly supportive when I asked if I could use her quote and has been lovely since then too.
Do you have any advice for anyone thinking of starting this own small business?
If you’re in the position to do it, then do it. I made so many excuses, space, time, self doubt but in the end I just went for it and everything has gone better than I could have imagined. Therell always be reasons not to do something, but for me working in a job that didn’t allow me to be creative was slowly eating away at my soul, now I can do both I’m feeling happier than I have since I graduated university. It’s been worth the cost and effort already, and I can’t wait for what’s next.
If you could recommend any other small business to anyone, who would it be?
I lie, it’s not really a year, not just yet, but today is Nerys’ first birthday! In light of this, I thought I’d take some time to impart some wisdom we’ve learned over the last 9 months that we’ve been sharing our home with a furry little terror, and recommend you the products we’ve found basically essential.
Note that Nerys is a border terrier so some of the products may not be suitable for bigger pups, but usually there are sized-up equivalents.
Zac George is your new best friend
Before you bring home any dog, I strongly recommend you go watch a bunch of Zac George videos. Zac is a charming American dog trainer who is relentlessly enthusiastic and looks unsettlingly like one of my exes, but his explanations and insight into dog thinking and how to train them in line with that are top notch. We started out training Nerys with Zac’s instruction from day one which put us in good stead as we weren’t able to take her to a puppy class until she was 11 months due to a split first season. He uses positive reinforcement only — keep clear of anyone who doesn’t, looking at you Caesar Millan, because negative reinforcement only teaches your pup to be afraid of you, while positive reinforcement builds a better bond between you.
Speaking of puppy school, if you are local to a centre then I strongly recommend Dog School at The Dog’s Trust. They have classes for puppies and adult dogs, both rescue and rehomed, and I have really enjoyed their tuition style. They are fairly affordable and the money goes back into the centres themselves, helping other dogs that need looking after. They also have a bunch of videos here that will help you teach your pup some tricks.
Crate training is a great way to go
Back in the beginning, we were quite skeptical about crate training as sticking a pup in a box seemed pretty mean. However, reading up a lot convinced us otherwise — Zac’s video helped a lot too! The extra upside is that on the first few nights your pup comes home, you can keep them in their crate in the bedroom so they don’t feel alone, and over the next few nights move it sequentially further out your bedroom into the place you want them to sleep. The only time we had puppy cries was the night she finally made it into the living room, and then it wasn’t for very long because her crate already smelled like her and us.
We got Nerys’ crate from Pets at Home, filled with cut-to-size Vet Bed from a roll we got online and also stuck it inside a Ellie-Bo Easy Up Pen, so she had her only little play space away from anything potentially chewable (we also stuck one of these in the garden to help with wee-time training!) The crate is basically fine, but now she’s older and less crushable she just sleeps in the bed with us, but will go have little naps in her crate in the day time and is useful for when we go stay somewhere new. Just a note — if you can get one that is adjustable in size, I would pick that as to start with a big crate can feel scary for such a little pupper. The one we got wasn’t adjustable in size, so we put a plastic box inside filled with blankets to make it appear smaller — weird but worked!
A few helpful teething tricks
Teething is miserable for them, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. However, one product made a world of difference — Vet IQ Teething gel. Essentially, bonjela for puppers. While the ice cubes, frozen towels, and Nylabone Teething toys got us so far, the gel made the experience much less painful for us. Once she’d stopped teething though, she did keep asking for it as it smelled pretty good so we had to take it away.
The greatest gift is amazon packaging
Or to be honest, any cardboard. Stockpile it if you don’t get regular supplies of boxes. It makes a mess but it will happily keep them occupied for a long time and will keep them away from your slippers/wires/belongings. Her particular favourite so far has been the Illumicrate book box cardboard, as its particularly sturdy stuff.
Kong is the name to look for
First of all, investing in two or three puppy kongs are an extremely good idea. You can fill them with all sort of treats (and a quick google will find you lots of inspiration), and they can be freezed. We got three so we could have one in the freezer, one with the dog and one soaking in the sink at all times.
Secondly, their toys are brilliant and hardwearing. I particularly recommend the Wildknots bears — Nerys has a medium gray one for tug of war and a little tiny XS brown one she carries around in her gob. They have rope on the inside and a tiny squeaker over their heart.
Their wobble kongs are also a great idea for making kibble a bit more exciting, and we got Nerys the large one so she’d have to box it quite hard to get food out. It’s a bit like a big tasty punching bag.
Nerys is now a year old, so we’ve decided to change up where we get her food. Puppies always need to move their diet to adult food by the time they hit 12 months old, but we decided we’d give Tails.com a whizz as our friend Vanessa likes it so much. Tails.com designs your dog’s menu based on their age, breed, weight, activity levels. Our first bags are arriving this week, so I’ll follow up with how we’re finding it. If you want to try it out yourself, you can sign up here and get a month’s free trial.
Good luck new puppy parents, and send me all the pictures!
This book starts with a murder. Two, actually. The grisly murder of a woman and her husband by her ex-husband, who just so happens to be Madoc, a vicious faerie warmonger. But rather than return to Elfhame empty handed, he takes with him his daughter Vivi, but also her seven-year-old half-sisters Taryn and Jude, who he chooses to raise in his estate, in the world of the fae.
Raised as mortals in the world of the faeries is a precarious, often dangerous and always brutal existence. The Cruel Prince follows Jude, now a teenager, as she aims to prove herself as more than just human, as a powerful warrior set to be chosen as a knight in a faerie court. However, Jude’s hopes and aims do not go to plan, and soon she finds herself hired as a spy for one of the princes in line for the throne of Elfhame.
This is a novel of political machinations, of lies and brutality, of cruelty and beauty and brilliance.
Someone on GoodReads described it as the literary equivalent of being hit by a truck, and I think that sums it up pretty well.
There is so much to discuss in this novel that it is hard to know where to begin — Jude’s ambition, her sisters’ secrets, Madoc’s secret allegiances, cruel Cardan, beautiful Locke and the fruit! But I genuinely think it’s best if you go into this book knowing as little as I did.
Jude is a brilliant, furious creature — the product of murder, danger and brutality, strength built upon her fragility and weaknesses as a mere mortal, easily swayed and damaged by the world around her.
I know it is February (though I read this at the start of January) and so this is quite a ridiculous thing to say, but The Cruel Prince is one of my favourite books so far this year. The thing is I think its going to stay as one of my favourite books. I think I’ve found a new favourite author, and I honestly can’t believe I’ve not read any Holly Black until this. I’ve already gifted a copy of this to a friend who loves her writing, knowing that they would absolutely need to read this — and it also meant I have someone to talk to about my goddamn emotions.
I’m going to be counting the days until I can get back to Jude and her story; roll on the rest of The Folk of the Air series.
I’m doing a new thing! I hope it will last, because I really care about it, and I actually have a few posts planned already… so fingers crossed!
As readers will know, in the last year some extremely talented pals and I set up a small publisher, 3 of Cups Press. It has been a ridiculously exciting journey that has resulted in us making a real live book, which is wild. But it’s also meant that we’ve overcome some really strange problems we’d never thought we’d have to consider — like how to print barcode stickers and how to make a cup look cuppish enough but not too like a wine glass.
Running a small business is hard and exciting and the people who do it are incredibly talented, tenacious people. And so, I want to tell you about them!
I have a bundle of small businesses that I try and support as often as possible, and I realise you guys probably want to know about them too! So follow me here and get ready to learn about an exciting new business every week.
Do you run a small business and would like to be featured? Drop me an email at hux.sewmanybooks AT gmail DOT com.