Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Releases For The First Half Of 2016!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, inviting bloggers and readers to list their top ten for a certain category. The last topic of 2015 is anticipated releases for the first half of 2016 and you can find mine below.

1) The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

2) A Gathering of Shadows by Victoria Schwab

3) Head Over Heels by Holly Smale

4) Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

5) Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

6) Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

7) Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira

8) Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

9) The Inquisition by Taran Matharu

10) Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan

I hope you like my Top Ten for 2016 Part One, and would love to see your top ten. Feel free to leave a comment below or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Cover Reveal: Time to Say Goodbye by S.D. Robertson

Today I have the wonderful pleasure of helping to reveal an amazing new Avon UK cover! Apologies for posting a little late due to a family meal, and a massive thank you to the wonderful Helena at Avon for allowing me to be a part.

Today's cover reveal is Time to Say Goodbye by S.D. Robertson and we have been told it is a heartbreaker of a book. Time to Say Goodbye is due to be released in E-Book and Paperback on the 11th February and has been described by Helena herself as 'impossible to forget'. Now that sounds like a wonderful book.

Feast your eyes on the beautiful cover and description below.

A heart-rending story about the unique bond between a father and his daughter, for fans of JOJO MOYES and JOHN GREEN.


Will Curtis's six-year-old daughter, Ella, knows her father will never leave her. After all, he promised her so when her mother died. And 
he's going to do everything he can to keep his word.

What Will doesn't know is that the promise he made to his little girl might be harder to keep than he imagined. When he's faced with an impossible decision, Will finds that 
the most obvious choice might not be the right one.

But the future is full of unexpected surprises. And father and daughter are about to embark on an unforgettable journey together . . .

Personally this sounds like a book I may actually hesitate to read, but only because of my own personal experiences. After losing my aunt suddenly nearly four years ago I have been pretty much petrified of losing anyone else I love. It's a worry that consistently triggers my OCD, and is something that's honestly not fun to live with.

That being said, like the John Green books I have read, it also sounds like an uplifting tale of sorts. A sad story that has a much deeper meaning we're meant to carry with us and utilise in our lives. So there is also a good chance I may pick this one up and let the tears flow. We shall see.

Either way it is a gorgeous cover that I absolutely adore, and it is certainly going to be eye-catching once it hits the shelves.

What do you think of Time to Say Goodbye's cover? Feel free to let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Waiting on Wednesday: The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury

A weekly feature created at Breaking the Spine, Waiting on Wednesday features upcoming releases that bloggers are excited about.  You can find out more here.

My pick this week is the highly anticipated The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury.


Image and description from Goodreads:

Return to the darkly beautiful world of The Sin Eater's Daughter with a sequel that will leave you awed, terrified . . . and desperate for more.

Ever since her brother Lief disappeared, Errin's life has gone from bad to worse. Not only must she care for her sick mother, she has to scrape together rent money by selling illegal herbal cures. But none of that compares to the threat of the vengeful Sleeping Prince whom the Queen just awoke from his enchanted sleep.

When her village is evacuated as part of the war against the Sleeping Prince, Errin is left desperate and homeless. The only person she can turn to is the mysterious Silas, a young man who buys deadly poisons from Errin, but won't reveal why he needs them. Silas promises to help her, but when he vanishes, Errin must journey across a kingdom on the brink of war to seek another way to save her mother and herself. But what she finds shatters everything she believed about her world, and with the Sleeping Prince drawing nearer, Errin must make a heartbreaking choice that could affect the whole kingdom.


I know I've gone on so many times about how much I adore The Sin Eater's Daughter. I know you're all probably sick of me saying how amazing it was and how I'm excited for The Sleeping Prince yadda yadda yadda. I'm afraid you're all just going to have to put up with it one more time however, because with the picture Mel posted yesterday of the copies that arrived at her home, my WoW for today was of course going to be The Sleeping Prince.

I literally cannot wait to read more about the amazing world Lormere inhabits. This book takes place in the bordering kingdom of Tregellan. Anyone who has read the first book knows that these two kingdoms are sort of at war, and that Tregellan was Lief's home. Well this book revolves around Lief's sister Errin and that is something I am so excited about. Although I will not hide that I ship Merek and Twylla, I still loved Lief as a character and cannot wait to see how interesting Errin is.

Of course, I'm also super excited to see what Merek and Twylla are up to. I won't spoil anything, but the end of the first book was a big cliffhanger in terms of character development and how these two are going to move on. There was also a lot of mystery surrounding Lief himself, as alluded to in the summary of The Sleeping Prince.

This book is pretty much my most anticipated 2016 release. There are many others I'm super excited for, some of which I've been lucky to grab as ARCS/Proofs, but TSP is making my head spin with wonder of what the pages might contain. I am literally bouncing in my seat just writing about it, and yes, I kind of went overboard on Twitter yesterday when Mel posted her picture of the books. 


I'm excited. Clearly.

The Sleeping Prince isn't released until April 26th 2016 but hopefully that isn't as far away as it seems, and if you're in the UK Mel is running a giveaway for signed TSED and TSP until midnight Christmas Eve! Check her Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Wouldn't Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree This Year

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, inviting bloggers and readers to list their top ten for a certain category. My second TTT, in no particular order, presents the books I've put on my wishlist this Christmas.

These books are all ones I've asked for so I've had to stretch it to twelve I'm afraid. I also asked my parents for the signed and numbered Crimson Peak collectors book, but I know I'm getting that so I haven't included it.

These are all books that I have heard so many good things about, and that I can't wait to own and read.

1 - The Falconer - Elizabeth May

2- Lock and Mori - Heather W Petty

3 - Vendetta - Catherine Doyle

4 - Never Never - Brianna Shrum

5 - The Book of Broken Hearts - Sarah Ockler

6 - The Magic Thief - Kendall Kulper

7 - All of the Above - James Dawson

8 - Fans of the Impossible Life - Kate Scelsa

9 - The Girl at Midnight - Melissa Grey

10 - George - Alex Gino

11 - The Art of Being Normal - Lisa Williamson

12 - Percy Jackson - Rick Riordan

Which books are you hoping Santa will bring? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: The Best of 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, inviting bloggers and readers to list their top ten for a certain category. This is my first time taking part and I'm excited to share with you all my top 10 reads of 2015! They are in no particular order.

1 - Illuminae

I adored Illuminae, having received a proof copy this summer from Rock the Boat. They were new authors for me, but since finishing I have been and picked up These Broken Stars which I'm very excited to read. Illuminae was a mix of many of my favourite sci-fi elements but told in a completely new way. The book itself is a work of art, the story heartbreaking and powerful.

2 - Ice Like Fire

Having read and loved Snow Like Ashes late last year, I was very excited for the sequel. This was another ARC I received and it absolutely broke my heart. I don't think I read anything else for around two weeks afterwards because I was completely in denial. It was that good. SLA has quickly become one of my favourite series' and I urge you to read it if you haven't done so already.

3 - A Darker Shade of Magic

This book simply contained everything I'd been wanting to read over the summer. Kingdoms, brotherhood, magic, pirates and multiple worlds, ADSOM (As it's lovingly referred to) is perfect in every single way, and A Gathering of Shadows is definitely on my 'most anticipated 2016's' list.

4 - Daughter of Smoke and Bone

I was urged to read this by author Helen Maslin (Darkmere) and it blew my mind. I'd heard a lot of things about this series but had been reluctant to start it. Now I only wish I'd read it sooner! I loved everything about it, especially Brimstone and Karou.

5 - Anna and the French Kiss

I read this over the summer and it was the perfect contemporary read for while I was on holiday. Perkins describes Paris with great detail to the point where I felt I was actually there, and I adored Anna and Etienne's story. I just wish I could read it all over again!

6 - House of Windows

HoW was my last read after I bought a copy from Liverpool Waterstones during a signing involving author Alexia Casale. I adored it from page one, as evidenced in my gif filled review (Here if you haven't seen it), and have been recommending it ever since.

7 - The Sin Eater's Daughter

If you've seen my Twitter account (And profile pic) you will know how obsessed I am with this book. Amazing, mind bending and thought provoking in so many ways, I am literally counting down the days until The Sleeping Prince is out. Let's hope February comes sooner rather than later, yeah?

8 - Summoner: The Novice

The Novice is another book that I am completely obsessed with and I have been recommending it to everyone since about June this year. Breathtakingly original and yet like all my favourite fandoms crushed into one, I found it extremely hard to put down.

9 - Queen of the Tearling

Though I mostly read YA, fantasy is my one big exception and I will happily read anything that involves spaceships and magic to regency and alternate universes. Queen of the Tearling was a book I knew nothing about, but which grabbed me one day whilst shopping. When I started reading I was immediately hooked and only put it down when I had to. The shocker ending tore my breath away and left me aching for the sequel, which I'm currently reading. It was simply amazing.

10 - Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda

A fabulous LGBT novel that completely encompasses its phrase 'Why does there have to be a default?' I tore through the pages in about three days and it left me a weeping mess in the corner. Everyone needs to read it, regardless of your orientation. It's a book that has really made me think about how often labels are used and how generic they can sometimes be.

What are your Top Ten Tuesday picks? Join in the fun!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Monday, 14 December 2015

Cover Reveal: Match Me If You Can by Michele Gorman

Match Me If You Can is a new contemporary romance by Michele Gorman which releases in paperback and e-book on January 14th.

Last night Avon took to Twitter with Michele to reveal the UK and US covers, and I have to say they are both gorgeous.

I personally love the UK cover. It really grabs my attention and holds it, making me want to know more about the story inside. That being said, the US cover is also amazing, and I may just have to buy both...

Which do you prefer? Let Avon (@AvonBooksUK) and Michele (@MicheleGormanUK) know on Twitter!

Match Me If You Can

What if Mr Right was just a click away?

Meet best friends Catherine, Rachel and Sarah.

Yet to find Mr Right, they’ve been settling for Mr Right Now.

But when Catherine, London’s finest matchmaker, gets the girls to join her dating site where they can rate and recommend their ex-boyfriends, they soon realise that anything could happen . . .

There’s someone for everyone, right? These best friends are about to find out for themselves!

So I hope you enjoyed that amazing cover reveal. Do let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Guest Post: Map of Fates by Maggie Hall, with giveaway!

Posted by Dahlia Adler Fisch

If you've already read The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall, you probably don't need to be told that its gorgeous, thrilling, sexy-as-hell sequel, Map of Fates, releases in three months. What you do need is an Advance Readers Copy of it, and some signed swag, and this is where you can get it!

(Photo: Sofia Embid)

To get your hands on a beautiful ARC, signed postcard, signed bookmark, and tattoos, you have to make the same tough choice as every Conspiracy fan:

Team Jack?
Team Stellan?

Pick one of the below pictures (with thanks to creator Diana Sousa!) and share it – on Instagram and Twitter – with the hashtag #MapOfMates, and tell us where you’d want to be swept away on an all-expenses-paid trip!

On January 2, five ARC winners will be selected, and yes, the giveaway is international!
  • 1 #TeamJack from Instagram
  • 1 #TeamStellan from Instagram
  • 1 #TeamJack from Twitter
  • 1 #TeamStellan from Twitter
  • 1 from either team who has one of the pics as their Twitter avatar
Haven’t read The Conspiracy of Us yet? Buy it now, and/or enter to win it (until 12/17) here! (Prefer paperback? That releases on February 2nd!) (Whether you enter or not, please spread the word; Maggie’s an amazing, generous, and talented member of the YA community, and due to emergency circumstances, she's unable to promote her own books right now, so please give all the support you can!) (But, like, you should enter, because these books are pretty damn good.)

Winners will be notified on January 2, 2016. See you on #MapOfMates!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Spotlight Sunday - Books On Tour: Bécherel, France.

Books on Tour is a new monthly feature here at TheArtsShelf which showcases books and bookish references in places around the world. From just down the road in Liverpool, to the Mediterranean, books and bookish references can be found everywhere.


Described as 'A beautiful book town', 
Bécherel in France is located in the arrondissement of Rennes. Although I have never been before, this lovely place was mentioned to me by a friend and I've been more than a little obsessed with visiting it ever since.

"Bécherel officially became a Book Town in 1989 when the first Fête du Livre was held; it is now an annual event, which takes place at Easter and is complemented by a series of events throughout the year including a reading festival in October. The town has around 15 bookshops, some with cafés, which specialise in every subject under the sun and range from rare first editions to contemporary fiction. A book market takes place in the town on the first Sunday of every month."

I'll be the first to admit that my french could use a lot of work, but Bécherel just seems like the perfect place for me when it comes to looking at potential holiday locations. First and foremost, coming from a town that has no bookshops whatsoever, fifteen bookshops would be a holiday in and of itself. Imagine all the hidden wonders that could be found, treasured first editions hiding in the nooks, and the delectable foods that would be on offer in the attached cafes. I think I could spend a whole week just eating and browsing!

The Sunday book market sounds like a lovely treat, while it would be truly amazing to be able to attend one of the many festivals held in Bécherel. I think what is quite possibly the best part of Bécherel however is the scenery.

As a writer I love places that inspire me; places where I could sit all day and write without a care in the world. I think Bécherel could be one of those places. The picture above is so stunning that it looks like someone painted it, while the buildings and town itself are so completely evocative of the age before the internet. Bécherel seems like a town frozen in time, hidden from the world, and that's something I really adore. To me it is the perfect place to simply get away from the stresses of everyday life; to be able to curl up and care about nothing but the book in front of you. It's somewhere I am aiming to visit in the near future, and a definite destination to think about when it comes to my next holiday.

I would love to say more about this magical retreat, but I assume its best kept secrets are ones you would have to see for yourself. 

Next time I will be delving into a town just down the road from me, Warrington, with Half Bad by Sally Green. Look out for it in the new year!

Do you have any travelling books or global bookish references you'd like to share? Feel free to post in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

*All quotes and images from*

Monday, 30 November 2015

Cover Spotlight: Skin by Ilka Tampke

I will not be the first, nor the last, to say that I adore a beautiful, well-designed cover. Cover Spotlight was created with the sole intention of highlighting and displaying some of the amazing covers the book world has to offer, and this week's pick is the beautiful Skin by Ilka Tampke.


I was gifted this gorgeous book for halloween by my lovely friend Cazz at LoadedShelves and it really is just beautiful to look at. It's not my usual read (IE, not YA) but I have been eyeing it for months, ever since some of my favourite bloggers received proofs that were just as beautiful. It's a historical fantasy, but - from what I know of it - isn't your usual 'in your face' (Elves, magic, etc) fantasy. It's one of those books where I'm not sure what to gleam from the summary but am excited to dive in nonetheless.

Not only is the design fabulous, really evoking the celtic vibe, but it's also inlaid with gold foil, which is one of my favourite cover techniques. The book itself is almost 'soft' (IDK how to describe it), and it's just all around a well made, gorgeous book. Plus, the end pages!

The end pages mirror the front cover design, but with a red background instead of white. I feel the red invokes kind of a war feeling, which is alluded to in the summary. The summary itself is written on the end pages, laid out like verses of poetry. The whole book is simply beautiful, I could look at it for hours! I applaud whoever designed Skin, because it is possibly one of my favourite covers I've seen.

Do you have a cover you'd like to spotlight? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Review: House of Windows by Alexia Casale.

I think I'm going to have to apologise in advance with the amount of GIFs in this review but I think Alexia herself will back me up when I say they're completely necessary. All were found on So without any further adieu, and with the usual spoiler warning, here's my review;


Image and description from

'The body is a house of many windows: there we all sit, showing ourselves and crying on the passers-by to come and love us.' Robert Louis Stevenson 
Nick hates it when people call him a genius. Sure, he's going to Cambridge University aged 15, but he says that's just because he works hard. And, secretly, he only works hard to get some kind of attention from his workaholic father.
Not that his strategy is working. 
When he arrives at Cambridge, he finds the work hard and socialising even harder. Until, that is, he starts to cox for the college rowing crew and all hell breaks loose...


House of Windows is a book I recently got from a local signing that involved 5 YA authors, Alexia included (Recap here). I was intrigued by the premise and began reading this past Sunday after looking at University courses for myself for next September. Feeling a little reminiscent of my days as an Undergrad, this book just seemed like the right read for me at the time. What I got however was a book that I can easily say is in the Top 5 of 2015.

Nick Derran is a maths prodigy. He could be called a genius, but he says he just 'works hard'. His modesty does him no favours though and he spends most of his time in solitude, reading; away from any potential friends and his workaholic father. Very quickly I found Nick akin to Dr Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds. Socially inept, preferring the company of problems that have solutions, and with equal addictions to books and caffeine.

The main difference is that Nick has built up a wall of sarcasm and disdain around his feelings, preferring to just insult people rather than even attempt a friendship that he feels will be constantly doomed to fail. He's a very emotionally charged character and I found myself really connecting to that. I too was called upon for my intelligence at school, much preferring the solitude and simplicity of a lesson to the more complex and barely understandable social interactions. The few people I did connect with were often flaky at best, giving into peer pressure when they deemed it more useful to them than being a friend. Like Nick, I couldn't wait to go to University, thinking it would be a place where people actually wanted to learn and where I would finally have elements in common with those I attended with.

Nick quickly finds out that University is not like that at all. Not only do people still call upon him for his intelligence and his want to achieve a first, but he also finds social interaction even harder due to his age. Unable to simply catch up at the pub after lectures or even attend Halls, he quickly finds his sole companion to be the ruthless yet charming Professor Gosswin.

Gosswin doesn't tolerate Nick's mumbling and shrugging as a response, and is the first person who truly gets him to talk about his feelings. Although called 'The Dragon Lady' by other students, she becomes a sort of surrogate Mum for Nick, and I adored their relationship. Quickly noting his social anxiety she gets him to join the college rowing team as Cox, although when would anything in Nick's life ever go that smoothly? More importantly she sees not just the lack of interaction between Nick and his father, but the lack of Michael at all. Concerned she orders for Nick to have a lodger, the other student under her wing, Tim. 

Tim's a PHD student with more money worries than most. He literally can't say no to lodging with Nick and his Dad, especially seeing as the only condition is to watch out for Nick when Michael isn't around. The two don't get along though, mostly tolerating each other while Nick glares at Tim over the rim of his cup. 

Nick doesn't feel he needs anyone, including his godfather Bill whom Nick feels is only caring because he pities the teen. It's only when Nick meets Tim's best friend Ange that he really starts to come out of his shell. Bubbly, boisterous and a little bossy, Ange refuses to let Nick do anything except warm up to her, and really how can you not? She was quite easily my favourite character, and very reminiscent of Criminal Minds' own bubbly tech wizard, Penelope Garcia.

As the storyline progresses Nick seems to be more socially at ease, at least around Ange and Tim, but there still seems to be something holding him back. At times he's still snappy and sarcastic, taking words out of context and believing people to mean things they don't. It's only when Nick reaches rock bottom, where he feels he's going to fail even his exams, that everything comes out. He confesses that he feels like he might turn out like his mother, and that he feels like a bad person for wishing things were and had been different.

It's only with the help of Bill and Tim, and an overheard conversation with Gosswin, that he realises that there are people who care for him; not out of pity but because they love him as he is, and that he does have a family. He realises he has the father figure he needs in Bill, regardless of whether his Dad is actually around, and that Bill wants to be there for Nick; for the both of them and not because of Mike. He realises that he isn't so different, such an outcast, and that Tim feels the exact same way sometimes and has his own mechanisms for coping like Nick does with his sarcasm and obsession with doing well. He realises that Tim, as much as they didn't originally get along, has come to care for him like a big brother, and that he will always be there for Nick when he needs him; just as Nick will be there for Tim. He finds friends where he didn't see them originally, and realises that sometimes you just have to be yourself, and love who you are. In doing that, others may see who you are and come to love that as well.

This was a story that made me cry upon finishing, not because it was sad but because it had ended. Although I had struggled to get into the first few chapters due to the immense detail included about Cambridge (Which I'll admit made my head spin a little), I ended up loving the vivid picture Alexia had painted and the characters that had become lovingly lodged in my mind. Nick's troubles, in some ways, were my own. The stress and complexities of both University and friendship that he felt were the same emotions that I felt during my whole three years. I may have made close acquaintances with one or two people, but it wasn't exactly the social hub I thought I'd finally be in the mix of. Even now, two years on, there's only a handful of people beyond family I can rely on. But the one thing I have learnt since high school, in growing up, is that people can only love you for who you are, and there is no use in trying to change just to win over a few friends; because really, how strong can a friendship be if its based on an act?

That's what I feel is the message of the book really. It's about Nick struggling to fit in - at a place where he thought it would be easier - and realising that family is what you make of it, that he can only ever be himself, and that no-one should try to change him otherwise.

This is a book I really do recommend to everyone. Whether you're struggling with similar issues yourself, or just want a great college-campus read, this book should be on your shelf. I give it a quite rightly deserved 5+ stars and will definitely be picking up The Bone Dragon the next time I have chance.

Do you have any thoughts about House of Windows? Feel free to share them in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Spotlight Sunday: An Evening With...

Melinda Salisbury, Holly Bourne, Keris Stainton, CJ Daugherty and Alexia Casale.

Image from the @YALiverpool1 Twitter Account.

So a few Fridays ago, on October 30th, I was lucky enough to have the chance to go to my favourite place in the north west, Waterstones Liverpool One, and meet some incredible authors.

I've been a fan of CJ and Holly for about two years now, ever since I discovered the YA genre. More recently I read The Sin Eater's Daughter and Counting Stars, and became big fans of them too. I'd not yet read any of Alexia's, but having missed the chance to meet her and become acquainted with her books at YALC, I was excited to finally get the chance. All in all, this was set to be an amazing event and I couldn't resist attending.

Armed with TSED, Am I Normal Yet?, The Secret Fire, and a copy of Legacy for my lovely friend Cazz who couldn't make it (and also had my copy of Counting Stars ;) ), I headed into town at around 4pm. I always feel a little funny attending events on my own, but after going all the way to YALC solo, nothing really compares and I was determined to have a good time.

Once there I got myself Alexia's House of Windows and Keris' Emma <3 LA then, slowly counting the minutes until 6.30, purchased a fabulous hot chocolate from the cafe. Sweets were handed out by staff upon sitting down (Sadly I'm on a low sugar diet. The hot choc' was my limit) as we eagerly awaited the five amazing authors, four of whom were apparently stuck in traffic.

No-ones mood seemed to dampen however, the little YA community abuzz, and by 6.45 I glimpsed the familiar figure of Melinda Salisbury. Having been unable to find her in the crowds at YALC, my excitement increased ten-fold. Yes, I absolutely adore TSED, in case you hadn't already guessed by my constant rambling about it (*Cough* See review *Cough*) and Twitter picture. Yes, I am super excited for The Sleeping Prince. Yes, I want it now.

By 6.50 the panel was underway, led by the amazing Keris and hot on the topic of feminism and strong female characters. In a room with around 25 women total, and given the title of the event, what else were we going to talk about? That being said, the discussion did occasionally move sideways onto the town of Leek, which is where all but Keris had been stuck for a good portion of the day. Is it sort of weird that I now want to go to Staffordshire and see this place? Possibly.

Image from the @YALiverpool1 Twitter Account.
(With the back of my head in the foreground)

Some laughs were had, many of which were orchestrated by Melinda who described her novel as 'Rapunzel with poison and incest'. While that's boiling the novel down quite simply, we all had to agree with a chorus of giggles. There were some solemn, serious moments though - as in all panels - because the representation of strong women is a big issue in fiction right now, and especially in YA. All these authors have fantastically represented women as strong, independent characters who are not limited by their anatomy and physiology. Once again Melinda orchestrated a laugh with her very blunt 'I have breasts. See?'. She makes a valid point though - they all did. Women are no different from men in their ability to be strong, heroic, and fight for what they believe in. They are different only in anatomy, and one could technically argue the other side of the coin and say men have different organs to women. Why does any argument have to be from the man's point of view, arguing the difference of women? After all, there are always two sides to every story. In my opinion these authors, and many others, are a part of the driving force that is starting to change the way people look at women, and really make a difference to the world. Sadly though, there is still a fair way to go.

The panel was fantastic overall, and I learnt a good deal about how to make my own female characters even stronger than they already are. It's not simply about outward strength, about moving boulders or wrestling dragons. Its about inner strength too. About fighting the demons within you, moving away from comfort zones, confronting fears, and living the life that you want to live regardless of what people think you are or should be. Its about being strong in all aspects of life, ripping away labels, and not letting anyone tell you otherwise.

As with all panels/events, the evening came to a close with all five authors signing as many books as we could carry (Or so it seemed...). Though I hadn't brought my hamster as Melinda and CJ had jokingly suggested on Twitter earlier in the day, I did have six books, which was a substantial amount for my YALC tote bag to carry. Rambling to each in turn about my love of books in general, their books, their writing, them, YALC, etc, I came home with five gorgeous personalised copies of some of my favourite books and some I've yet to read, a copy for Cazz, and a huge smile on my face. It was an evening I will not forget, and one I hope to have again in the future.

So all I can say is thank you to Melinda, Holly, Keris, CJ and Alexia, and the always wonderful staff at Waterstones Liverpool One, for such a fabulous evening. You guys are truly amazing!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Review: The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury.

What can I say about The Sin Eater's Daughter? The answer is a lot, and most of it is more than a little 'rambly'. I will do my best to keep my thoughts coherent and informative. Potential minor spoilers ahead.


Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she's engaged to the prince, Twylla isn't exactly a member of the court. She's the executioner. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she's taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla's fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he's able to look past Twylla's executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla's been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla's problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favour of a doomed love?


The Sin Eater's Daughter is fabulous and one of the best books I have read in 2015 so far. Immediately I fell in love with the characters, Twylla especially. Although she starts off a little meek with regards to following every royal order without much question and believing in everything that she has been told, she grows into a powerful young woman who learns to stand up for herself and those she loves. The problem is the men she loves are both hiding secrets of their own; ones which may have the power to turn everything Twylla knows upside down and leave her reeling.

The plot is an eccentric mix of fantasy, drama and whirlwind romance that left me reeling on multiple occasions. For a debut author Melinda Salisbury is a master of weaving action with deep character development. There were so many scenes that left me both breathless and filled with either sadness or joy, to the point where I was devouring page after page with little or no thought to anything else. There were so many twists and turns in this book, but at no point did they feel overused or easy to guess. The final fifty or so pages especially left me yelling 'What?!' to an empty room, and since finishing I am still calling out for answers; though in true author style she refuses to give any. It's fair to say that I literally cannot wait until I have a copy of The Sleeping Prince in my hands.

I loved both Prince Merek and Lief in their own ways, which is not typical for me. Usually in love triangles I know whose side I'm on straight away, but in this case I was left switching and swapping right until the very end. Although I now know who I'd rather Twylla end up with, I still love the other character anyway. Merek, although a Prince and potentially on the 'doesn't quite understand how the world beyond the castle works' side, is undeniably sweet at many points in the book. Though the marriage was arranged by his parents he does truly care for Twylla and is always thinking about her best interests, even in his secret keeping. Lief is more outwardly caring even though his position as Twylla's guard keeps him at a distance, but he has his own secrets to keep and a darker side that's hidden beneath his innocent exterior.

I don't think I can really say much more without spoiling anything, so I'll end simply by saying that this is a wonderful debut novel. Melinda Salisbury has not only produced a fantastically enjoyable fantasy, she has also created a novel that tackles issues such as feminism and religion, and is - despite its genre - relatable on many levels. I can't praise the book or its author enough, and am giving it a well deserved 5+ stars. I urge anyone who loves YA, fantasy, or just a riveting read, to grab a copy. I'm certain you won't regret it.

Do you have any thoughts about The Sin Eater's Daughter? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Monday, 9 November 2015

Cover Spotlight: The Dark Days Club

I will not be the first, nor the last, to say that I adore a beautiful, well-designed cover. Cover Spotlight was created with the sole intention of highlighting and displaying some of the amazing covers the book world has to offer, and this week's pick is a 2016 read that I'm so excited for.


The lovely Sarah at Walker Books sent me an ARC of the much anticipated The Dark Days Club and I'm so excited to read it. What I didn't expect was for her to send me a proof copy of the final cover as well, and it's so beautiful that I just had to spotlight it this week.

The proof cover is lovely, but it has nothing on the final cover. The gilded lettering is gorgeous and fits perfectly with the 19th century Georgian theme, whilst the lettering design itself is ragged as well as regal, hinting at the dark and demonic entities that roam below. I love the image of Lady Helen and Lord Carlston which - without having read it - I feel sets the tone as Carlston having secrets (As he's partially turned away) and Helen not being the typical Georgian Lady considering her crossed arms and posture. 

The background is fabulous, setting the location of high class London, while the mixture of fans and daggers in the top corners is reminiscent of Gail Carriger's series', which I adore, and leads me to believe there will be not only a lot of action but a lot of gorgeous tailored dresses too (If you know me, I love Georgian and Victorian style outfits). What I love most however is the deep blue colour and the bright whisps of light which, to me, hint at magic forces within a dark and dangerous world; my two favourite things!

So there's my thoughts about the final UK cover for The Dark Days Club. I hope you enjoyed it. I am so excited to start reading this book and will have a review up somewhere around the beginning of December. I do hope you come back to see what I thought.

Do you have a cover you'd like to spotlight? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

RE. Pressure

My lovely friend Cazz just posted a very poignant post about the pressure of reading and I thought I'd add my own addendum.

You can read Cazz's post here

I am the worst person for putting so much pressure on myself to read that I don't end up reading anything at all. In fact, I do this with everything. Just earlier I had to force myself to play a video game (Something I would call totally unproductive in relation to my life goals). That said, I only managed maybe an hour/one level before I cracked and thought 'I NEED TO DO XYZ'.

Yes, productivity is important. Yes, my goals are important, and yes to achieve them I do need to read, write, and blog, because how else do I create a decent enough portfolio to be accepted onto a publishing masters next year? But downtime is important too. As humans we cannot function without sleep. Similarly, without a period of relaxation our stress levels can increase exponentially which detracts from productivity. Everyone, no matter their job, sometimes needs just to chill.

But how? In such a busy and complicated world, how can you do anything without overthinking?

I only bought three books yesterday, all totalling £5, but I didn't do so lightly. There was 'do I really need them?', 'Can I afford to spend this money?' and of course the inevitable guilt. 'Why?' I always ask myself, and then comes 'I want to read them but I want to read xyz first and I NEED to read abc for my blog' etc etc.

When did life become so organised?

Where did the fun go?

And so I've decided I am going to - in a way - not care. ARC's may have to be an exception of course, but I have decided I am going to read whatever the hell I want to at any given time.

It's my life, my chill time, and I'll spend it how I wish; not how I feel I should. Hopefully the next few months will be a lot more relaxed, and well read, as a result.

Fingers crossed.

How do you deal with Reader's Guilt? Feel free to let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Flash 2x01 and 2x02 Review

I'll admit it took some prodding to get me to watch Flash in the first place. It wasn't that I didn't want to, per say, just that I felt I didn't have time for something new. As it was, when I finally started I couldn't stop and watched the whole series in one week. I was therefore then waiting anxiously for the new season to begin. Luckily I only had a few weeks left to wait, as Flash season 2 premiered on Sky 1 on October 13th. Catching up on my reviews before 2x05 airs on Tuesday, you'll find my review of the first two episodes below.

2x01 - The Man Who Saved Central City

The Man Who Saved Central City was a good season opener that I really quite enjoyed, but at the same time there were some parts that felt a little off, perhaps even rushed.

We begin weeks after the singularity was miraculously closed. I feel a little cheated in this aspect, but we did get a flashback revealing exactly how this happened so I can let that go. What I'm more 'upset' about is how the show decided to 'kill off' (We don't know for sure) the character of Ronnie in such a cheap way. If this aspect was crucially needed within the story, it shouldn't have just been done in a flashback. Similarly moving forward to half-way through the episode where Wells has decided to - out of the blue - leave Barry a video message where he admits to killing Nora Allen. How coincidental! Now they can get Henry out of prison, only for him to disappear because there's actually nothing in the show for him to do! Wow. How fortunate was that?

What I did like about Ronnie having been killed as well as Eddie was how the guilt of that manifested in Barry. The city was making a big deal of Flash having saved them, but Barry not only knew who the real heroes were, he also hadn't wanted any of that to happen in the first place. I loved how he'd gone solo, pushing away everyone, and how everyone had drifted away from each other too. I thought it was a nice opener to have everyone scattered and have it take the events of the episode to bring them back together and prove - once and for all - that they are stronger as a team. I also enjoyed the humorous moments of Cisco working with Joe at the Police Station very much.

Having been a WWE fan, Edge was great as The Atom Smasher. He was truly quite frightening and yet still gave you the ability to empathise with him at the end. He was also cause for a lovely scene between Cisco and Dr Stein where our beloved tech-nerd allows the intellectual half of Firestorm to name this week's meta. I really do love their budding friendship.

Cisco himself had some great character development in the form of discovering a bit about his own metahuman powers. I said in my review of season 1 that I was excited to see how this arc was going to play out, and the show it seems is not going to disappoint. Although only a brief minute, Cisco was clearly frightened by what he'd seen and Carlos Valdes has mentioned* that the character's transition to Vibe isn't going to be a pleasant one. The show is clearly going to tease us for a good few weeks.
What I most enjoyed about the episode however was everything that related to this season's main story arc. Although we never saw him, I loved how the single word 'Zoom' by Atom Smasher made me shiver a little. He's clearly going to be even worse than Reverse Flash was, and that makes me extremely excited for the season ahead. 

The best moment of the episode has to go to the reveal of Jay Garrick however. Not only was it a little funny in that he'd managed to break into Star Labs without anyone knowing just as they were saying that no-one would be able to do that, but Teddy Sears played the short scene so well that you can just tell he's going to be shaking up the stability Team Flash thought they'd just gotten back. Not to mention the fact that he's Jay Garrick. Anyone who knows of the comic books will know that's pretty awesome in itself.

The Man Who Saved Central City receives a well-earned 4 stars.


2x02 - Flash of Two Worlds

I absolutely adored this episode for multiple reasons. We were treated to a fabulously creepy introduction to Zoom who seems to be much more of a demonic speedster than Reverse Flash was. Though he didn't get very much screen time, his appearance in the episode has still made me extremely excited for the rest of the season.

Cisco was central this week with regards to character development as we saw his meta-human powers expand further and save the day. After last week's quick "vibe" we saw Cisco begin the journey to controlling his powers when he used them to tap into this week's meta-villain's particles to find out where he was holding Patty Spivot. There was also a beautiful scene between himself and Dr Stein where the remaining half of Firestorm discovered the secret Cisco was keeping.

Speaking of Dr Stein, his collapse at the end of the episode left me anxious for the third episode in order to see what would happen. We all know he'll be okay as he's scheduled to appear in Legends of Tomorrow but considering Arrow's penchant for killing characters off and then bringing them back, we never know. It was a very tense ending.

Patty was an intriguing new character introduced in this episode, who I feel brought back some of the passion and excitement back to the show with regards to meta-humans. It's obvious that our core team is so used to them by now, but it was still nice to see the story through a new characters' eyes and see what someone else thinks about the meta-human crisis. Her flirting with Barry was adorable, and very refreshing after the Barry and Iris debacle that I hope the writers never go back to. I also loved the throwback to the Flash of Two Worlds comic cover with both Barry and Jay jogging over simultaneously to help her up.

Sand demon was an intriguing villain in regards to his meta-human abilities, but I think the set up of 'multiple worlds = multiple versions of the same person' took away from any character building that could have been done with him. His powers were cool, as was the way Team Flash despatched him using science, but the character himself was flat and dull. When it comes to villains, power isn't everything. I for one love Captain Cold and Golden Glider, despite them not having any actual powers.

What I felt let down the episode the most though was Iris and Joe. As much as I love the characters, it doesn't feel like they're being given very much to do and so I feel like their presence is slowing down the scenes. The same goes for Caitlyn. In season one Caitlyn was one of my favourite characters and I love Danielle Panabaker, but beyond flirting with Jay which seems forced and uncomfortable, I'm not really sure what her purpose is anymore.

Despite a few letdowns, Flash of Two Worlds receives a near perfect 4.5 stars.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Cover Spotlight: Summoner - The Inquisition

I will not be the first, nor the last, to say that I adore a beautiful, well-designed cover. Cover Spotlight was created with the sole intention of highlighting and displaying some of the amazing covers the book world has to offer, and this week's pick has taken Twitter by storm with its reveal today.


Summoner: The Inquisition is the much anticipated sequel to Summoner: The Novice by Taran Matharu. The Novice was released in May of this year, and The Inquisition is set to follow up in May 2016.

After the events of the previous book, this one is bound to be a wild ride with even more twists, turns and shocking discoveries. For now, let's admire this amazing cover, shall we?

The first book's cover featured Fletcher, our protagonist, shrouded beneath his hood. He had little information regarding who he truly was and was very much a shadow beside his adopted father. Through the events of the book however Fletcher learnt some of who he was. He learnt to trust in his own instincts, to truly stand up for himself, and made some loyal friends along the way. By the end of the book he seemed more confident, stronger, and I think the cover of The Inquisition shows this. Fletcher's hood is pulled back, face on view, to show that he is standing his ground against whatever comes his way. He knows who he is in his heart now, and he's not afraid to stand up for himself or for what he believes in.

The luminescent green will look fabulous with the shocking blue of The Novice, but more importantly the background features a dense, wild jungle. I believe this to mean that Fletcher will be taking a journey to The Southern Jungles, perhaps in search of the Orc Shaman to find out more about how the Orcs summon demons, or perhaps to find out more about Ignatius' beginnings.

Lastly, Fletcher's signature coat and kopesh are present but more importantly so is Ignatius. Ignatius is the only character I actually like more than Fletcher, and look at how cute he is! To be honest, I'd read the book just for more Ignatius...

So there you have my thoughts on this fantastically gorgeous cover for what is bound to be an amazing sequel. I cannot wait until I finally have this book in my hands, and it's definitely going to be a long six or seven months. I have every confidence however that it'll be worth the wait.

Do you have a cover you'd like to spotlight? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Sunday Spotlight - Books on Tour: Counting Stars

Books on Tour is a new monthly feature here at TheArtsShelf which showcases books and bookish references in places around the world. From just down the road in Liverpool to the Mediterranean, books and bookish references can be found everywhere.


As promised, today I am delving into the beautiful city of Liverpool for the book Counting Stars by Keris Stainton. I absolutely adored this book and being that Liverpool is sort of a second home for me, it only feels right to highlight some of the main locations of the book.

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The most obvious place to start is of course the station where Anna first enters Liverpool. Liverpool Lime Street is the station I go to and is the most central to the shops and entertainment venues. I believe this is where Anna would be at the start of the novel.

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She'd then be walking down the main shopping strip, admiring the preserved buildings that now house chains such as BHS and Topshop, before arriving at her new home.

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Although I'm not familiar with apartments and homes in Liverpool, I found this lovely image online and it's pretty much how I imagine the group's famed balcony to be like. In a way, I can imagine them sitting there discussing everything from past loves to dreams and expectations. 

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The Playhouse Theatre is where I imagine Anna had been conducting her work experience, and where she'd been hoping to work upon moving to Liverpool. The fabulous Oh Me Oh My cafe meanwhile, pictured below, is where I imagine she ended up working. Busy, yet quaint and almost a little secretive; a gem among those who know of it.

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The Britannia Adelphi is the kind of hotel I imagine Nina working in. A little out of the way of the centre, and yet not too far, the Adelphi is quaint and charming but with an air of sophistication.

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Last but not least is The Entertainer in Liverpool One which is where I saw Sean going into when stalking his crush. There are probably many other toy stores in Liverpool, but being that I always go to Liverpool One, this is the one I pictured in my head when reading.

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Liverpool is such a fabulous, diverse city filled with shops, bars and buskers. It's wonderful to go to both in the day and at night, with so many places to see and things to do. It is one of my favourite cities in the UK, and so it was lovely to read such a fantastic novel set there. This post has given you a little taste of what Liverpool has to offer, and where Anna and her friends may have been, so I hope you enjoyed it.

Next time I will be delving into Becherel in France; a place I've never been but would really love to see.

Do you have any travelling books or global bookish references you'd like to share? Feel free to post in the comments below or on Twitter!

Holly @TheArtsShelf