Tuesday, 31 January 2017

5 Reasons To Read Caraval by Stephanie Garber

As part of my desire to spotlight Caravel for its release today, I've compiled 5 non-spoilery reasons why you should read it. Thanks again to Hodder for the ARC, and I hope you enjoy.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show. Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father. When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever

1) Magic: The Isle of Trisda may lack magic but Legend's personal palace on Isla De Los Suenos certainly does not. If you're looking for a darkly intriguing tale, sprinkled with magic and myth, then this is your book. Almost a cross between Alice In Wonderland and Labyrinth, you certainly cannot trust your eyes.

2) Mystery: Who kidnapped Scarlett's sister, Donatella? Is everything in Caraval really a game, or is it more nefarious than Scarlett, and we, are led to believe?

3) Illusion: In Caraval, you can't always trust your eyes, and the same goes for this book. Twists, turns and distrust abound, making for an intriguing game of wit and sanity.

4) Legend: Another to add to the neverending list of book boyfriends, Legend is both aloof - intimidating - but also possibly romantic, in a strange way. He certainly lives up to his name.

5) Family: As always, I love books about relationships, about family, and at the heart of everything - beneath the glamour and game - Caraval is about family.

If you're still not convinced, check out the cover which I featured yesterday, here, including a close up look at one of the secret designs. Or check out my ARC review of Caraval, here.

Is Caraval on your TBR? As always do feel free to leave a comment below, or @ me on Twitter, and thanks for reading.

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

ARC Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Do you yearn for magic and mayhem? Do you wish to experience the wonders of illusion? Then step into the world of Stephanie Garber's Caraval. Many thanks to Hodder for the gorgeous ARC.

Scarlett has never left the tiny isle of Trisda, pining from afar for the wonder of Caraval, a once-a-year week-long performance where the audience participates in the show. Caraval is Magic. Mystery. Adventure. And for Scarlett and her beloved sister Tella it represents freedom and an escape from their ruthless, abusive father. When the sisters' long-awaited invitations to Caraval finally arrive, it seems their dreams have come true. But no sooner have they arrived than Tella vanishes, kidnapped by the show's mastermind organiser, Legend. Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But nonetheless she quickly becomes enmeshed in a dangerous game of love, magic and heartbreak. And real or not, she must find Tella before the game is over, and her sister disappears forever

Rule number one. Trust nothing. Don't even trust your eyes. The Caraval players may be enchanting but they're also masters in the art of lies. They may tell you what you should hear - the clues to winning the game - but they'll also tell you what you want to hear. Coin is not currency; instead, secrets. They will twist your deepest thoughts; after all, that's part of the game.

Rule number two. Remember, it's only a game. Except when it isn't. For Scarlett there are real stakes at play if she doesn't win. Not only could she lose her sister for good, she could also be subject to her father's wrath, should she fail to get back to her own wedding in time. Scarlett isn't just playing to win, she's playing to live.

These were two of the most compelling pieces of the book, for me anyway. When reading I love distrusting characters and their motives, not knowing which way to turn, unsure of who is the hero and who isn't, if there even is one at all. I love being surprised, and this book surprised me in so many ways. Magical, enchanting, jaw-droppingly good entertainment; Garber's debut is absolutely wonderful.

I also adored the relationships between the characters; the intensity of the emotion within them. I've said it before, I love relationships in books. I love rooting not just for people but for relationships (not necessarily 'ships'), heartbreaking arguments or shocking deaths that leave you sobbing in a corner. In some ways (no spoilers!) Carnaval fits this bill completely, and I loved it all the more for it.

The relationships wouldn't be what they are without the characters though, and they were all amazing; the heart and soul of the story. Scarlett, our fierce heroine, was the epitome of a powerful woman. Though she did have help from Julian, she was not so easily swayed by his so-called expert knowledge of Caraval. She knew her sister, Tella, even knew Legend to an extent, but most importantly she knew herself. Thrust into a 'game' she hadn't wanted to play since she was a child, she was strong and independent, determined to find her sister. Though she was shown to have a softer side in some of the more emotional scenes, this only added to her character. Yes, she was worried for Tella, perhaps even for herself, and definitely afraid of her father, but she didn't let that stop her. If anything, she used it, allowing it to propel her forward.

Julian, the charmer, was also wonderful. Mischievous, coy, but with a good heart (In some ways...) he quite enhanced the book, its 'rules', and Tella's journey. Again I can't say much more without spoiling, but I'm certain you'll fall for him as I did.

As for Legend... well, he certainly lives up to his name, that's all I'll say.

Lastly the world is... well, despite not wanting to sound cheesy, it is indescribable, at least not without spoiling anything. Garber has carved a world that is both beautiful and yet dangerous, tempting and yet repelling. A world where life and death are almost intertwined, where secrets are both kept and used, and where lies are everything. Isla De Los Suenos is, in essence, illusion, and yet a convincing one where the characters live to play; where we want to play too. It's simply wonderful; the detail exquisite.

Caraval is the type of book I've been wanting to read for years, and I absolutely fell in love with it. Mesmerising is the only adequate way to describe it. I really do urge you all to check it out.

If you're still not convinced, check out the cover which I featured yesterday, here, including a close up look at one of the secret designs. Or check out my 5 Reasons To Read Caraval, here.

As always, thanks for reading and do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Monday, 30 January 2017

Cover Spotlight Monday: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

For this Monday's Cover Spotlight I thought to highlight one of my favourite releases of 2017 - a book I so readily fell in love with - and my finished copy just happened to arrive in time for me to edit this post before I shared it. I do hope you all enjoy. With thanks to Hodder for the ARC, and releasing tomorrow, it is of course, Caraval.

How gorgeous is this book, seriously? A two toned jacket showing that everything in Caraval is not always as it seems, with glittering gold foil to enhance the feel of the magic that is inside. What I think is most ingenious about Caraval's design however is the four interior designs that are available.

Though this is also probably the most frustrating part of Caraval's finished copies because now I will have to buy all four, it also enhances the copy that bit further; additional elegance and style which makes it all the more beautiful.

I received the dress design in my copy, which I absolutely love because I have honestly fallen for Crimson's dress in the story; a gown that switches appearances based on the character's situation and mood. There are three further designs however which I need to get my hands on; the rose, the tent, and the timepiece. I think I would love to get the rose next, for various reasons *Cough* I love Legend *Cough*

Are you excited for Caraval's release tomorrow? As always do leave me a comment below or @ me on Twitter. Thanks for reading, and don't forget to check back tomorrow for my review of Caraval, and the reasons why you should read this wonderful tale.

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Review: Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

My first read of 2017 was the infinitely amazing Wing Jones; a UK YA gem. This book grabbed my attention from page one and refused to let go. Even more wonderful on the inside than it is on the outside (and trust me, it's gorgeous on the outside) this book is sure to stay with you for a long time.

Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing's speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

Wing, like most of us at one point in our lives, doesn't feel very special; that's her brother Marcus' role. He's the athlete, the star, but Wing's happy with that. She's fine simply being Marcus' sister, because he's the best brother she could ask for. Then tragedy strikes and everything comes tumbling down. Wing learns that perfection is simply a rose tainted lens; in the eye of the beholder. She learns that people lie, people hide, and her life becomes harder than it ever was before.

All because Marcus decided to drink and drive.

Yet it's in this tragedy, in the pieces that remain, that Wing finds two things she had scarcely before considered; love, and her own inner strength. Like a butterfly from a cocoon it is in this tragedy that Wing learns to push herself and to flourish.

I don't want to talk about too much more for fear of spoiling this wonderful story, but I will say that this book is wholly inspiring. It is thought provoking; a real wake up call to anyone, such as myself, who doesn't push themselves in everyday life; doesn't strive to achieve. It is also proudly a very diverse read through which I learnt a little (because of course cultures span much wider than the contents of a single book) about the culture of China and Ghana, which I always love.

It is, simply put, a wonderful debut.

My only, very minor criticism, would be of the scene on page 363 which - being that I wasn't expecting it - completely turned my stomach and in doing so diminished my enjoyment a fraction. That said, I would highly recommend this fantastic read to everyone; you really do need it on your shelf.

As always, thanks for reading and do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Sunday, 29 January 2017

2017 General Resolutions

A new year, a new dawn. As with every January I've come up with a few 'goals' that I want to achieve this year - mostly general and therefore not wholly difficult to achieve as long as I keep the right mindset - and I thought I would share them with you all. I hope you enjoy.

1) Read more.

Again I failed in my book challenges I set last year so this year I'm determined to do better. For one my anxiety escalates when I think of/look at everything I need to/ should read, especially review books, but reading makes me happy also. I'm determined to carve out dedicated reading time.

2) Blog more.

As above, I'm determined to do better. Not only am I still behind on review books, which doesn't help my mental health, I also love blogging about books and I want to make The Arts Shelf a project to be proud of.

3) Write more.

In general I want to be so much more creative this year (more in the next point) and part of this means writing so much more. Rather than wasting time thinking I or my story are not good enough, I'm just going to write what I feel and see where it goes. After all, some words are better than none at all.

4) Have no fear.

My creativity wanes a lot of the time due to my fear, but this year I'm not holding back, with so many hobbies/groups planned. I'm tired of letting fear get in the way. I've already started learning to knit and calligraphy, and am waiting for my local Am' Dram' society to start again at the end of February. I also want to get back driving, learn a language, take singing lessons, learn to play the violin, and much more. Onwards 2017!

5) Be happy.

Above all else, I'm doing this to be happy, because that's what life's about, right?

Have you got any 2017 resolutions? Feel free to share below or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Pre-Christmas Book Haul

I've tried doing these every month and I either forget, or don't because I have little to show, so I've just decided to post a haul when I feel it's required. I did however receive/buy some beautiful books before Christmas so I thought I'd share them with you all. I hope you enjoy.


Roseblood by A. G. Howard - Abrams Chronicle - Absolutely adored it. Review up here.

Famous by Jilly Gagnon - Harper Collins - A fun but poignant read. Review up soon.

What Light by Jay Asher - PanMacmillan - A lovely Christmas tale with a heart. Review up soon.

Heartless by Marissa Meyer - PanMacmillan.

Waking In Time by Angie Stanton - Curious Fox Books.

Reign of Shadows by Sophie Jordan - Harper Collins - Not pictured as it's a PDF.

The Bookshop Girl by Sylvia Bishop - Scholastic.

The Memory Book by Lara Avery - Hachette - Gorgeous. Powerful. Review here.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor - Hodder.


London Haul:


Hunter by Mercedes Lackey.

And A Happy New Year by Holly Bourne.

12 Days of Dash and Lily by David Leviathan and Rachel Cohn - Review up soon.

The Wrath and The Dawn by Renee Ahdieh.

Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige - Review up soon.

Forbidden Planet:

Newt's Emerald by Garth Nix.

Angels of Music by Kim Newman.

Waterstones Trafalgar Square:

The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid.

Self Esteem Journal.

Waterstones Picadilly:

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima.

Manchester Haul:

Soundless by Richelle Mead.

Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven.

My Lady Jane by Hand/Ashton/Meadows.

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern.

An Illustrated History of Noteable Shadowhunters by Cassandra Clare.

Batman and Robin: Eternal

Nightwing Vol 1


Lady Midnight Hardback by Cassandra Clare.

Revenger by Alaistair Reynolds.

Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch.

Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens.

Stitching Snow by R. C. Lewis.

Queen of Hearts by Colleen Oakes.

Yeah... I've got a lot of reading to do.

Have you read any of the above? Got any recommendations? Do let me know in the comments below or @ me on Twitter, and as always thank you for reading.

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

ARC Review: Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Well, I believe I just sufficiently had my heart ripped out, shredded before my eyes and then callously reinserted by the simple artefact that is ink on paper. Thank you S. Jae-Jones and Titan Books - I may know what I am reading next but I can't see how I'll enjoy it after the masterpiece that is Wintersong. You've broken me. Well done.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns. But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts. Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

Sobbing and broken hearts aside this book is truly spectacular and I devoured it in a short amount of time. Wintersong is one of those special books that leaves you out of breath, tingling, and grasping at the last page wishing that there were just 100 more.

I fell in love with Der Erlkonig, our King of the Underground, our Phantom, immediately. Charming, coy, austere. I quite frankly believe it's impossible for anyone to not fall for him, which is most likely why he has had so many wives. Spun, in my opinion, from Labyrinth, Phantom of the Opera, and Beauty and the Beast, he is both exquisite and tormented. Immortal and yet broken. Der Erlkonig is both an anti-hero and a character you sympathise with all the while.

'You are the monster I claim'

Yet he has - in all his lifetime and for all his many brides - never met anyone like Elizabeth. A friendship from childhood - shrouded yet in the secrecy of misunderstanding, fantasy and forgetfulness -, torn apart by the call of adulthood, their romance is one I shall scarcely forget. Dark, sexy, yet tender, their love blossoms over the course of 508 pages. It is a tale as old as time. A song to remember.

In all honesty, their love is the story. I was surprised by this myself, expecting more a battle for freedom - a clash of steel and magic - that resulted in blooming, passionate love. I was happily mistaken. Though tricks and trials do take stage in the first third of the book- cunning and mischief abound -, the remaining 300 or so pages are more a tale of love and loss. Jae-Jones spins an elegant tale of being - what makes us who we are - and of sacrifice. A tale which takes your heart wholly, loves it - entire - but eventually leaves it bleeding; echoing with the emptiness of loss.

Wintersong is not a happy tale, I will warn, but nor is it inherently a sad one. It is a tale of truth, of life, and of the sacrifices we all have - and may one day - face. It is a tale, all-told, about being human.

As always, thanks for reading, and do let me know your thoughts in the comments below or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Review: Emma Hearts L.A. by Keris Stainton.

This book was a wonderfully cheery read from one of my favourite authors, Keris Stainton. Stainton is a wonderful author, both in person and in writing. Her books are always what I need when I'm sad or feeling down; light-hearted, funny, romantic. Emma Hearts L.A. was no different.

Emma's not sure that LA's for her, but when she accompanies her sister Bex to an audition, a chance meeting with a teen TV star starts to change her new sunshine lifestyle for the better... But what about Oscar, so far her only friend in LA, who's turning out NOT to be the idiot she thought he was?

Soon Emma begins to find herself torn between two boys and reconsidering her entire future.

Maybe LA's not that bad after all.

I found Emma to be a wonderful heroine, and someone I really related to. Though I've never lived farther than my own home town, my feelings would have been the same had I been in Emma's shoes. That said, I'm also a little jealous of the adventure she has, which is one of the reasons why I loved the story so much.

Emma's story isn't just fun or quirky, it's a story about growth and finding oneself. Although Emma starts nervous and unsure - though her path isn't smooth - she flourishes in L.A. and finds love along with it. As with Stainton's books, the love story in Emma Hearts L.A. is magical; a slow burn romance which swept me off my feet. Oscar is a true book boyfriend - not a wizard, demon or vampire -, sweet, smart, real. The relationship is not a tale of insta-love, but a real relationship that blossoms slowly but surely. It is simply beautiful.

Oscar himself also gave the book much of its fun and vigour. Many of the sweet lines that elicited my chuckles were from him. Oscar, in a way, was the light of the story; the light that shows Emma the way.

I also loved the way that Stainton portrayed L.A. showing its life, its vibrancy. It very easily bumped L.A. up on my travel list, conjuring vivid images of its energy as I read. Her writing is simply wonderful.

Have you read Emma Hearts L.A.? Is it on your TBR? As always do let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter!

Don't forget also to join the Beat The Backlist challenge here; Emma Hearts L.A. is my first read for it.

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

ARC Review: The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Wow. Firstly just... wow. This book blew my mind. Many thanks to Books With Bite/Hachette for the review copy; as gorgeous outside as it is inside! If you're looking for a book that both inspires you and also breaks your heart, this is the book you're looking for.

They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember.
Sammie McCoy is a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even the rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly steal her memories and then her health.
So the memory book is born: a journal written to Sammie's future self, so she can remember everything from where she stashed her study guides to just how great it feels to have a best friend again. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime-crush Stuart, a gifted young writer home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood friend Cooper, and the ridiculous lengths he will go to make her laugh. The memory book will ensure Sammie never forgets the most important parts of her life--the people who have broken her heart, those who have mended it--and most of all, that if she's going to die, she's going to die living. 
This moving and remarkable novel introduces an inspiring character you're sure to remember, long after the last page. 

Sammie McCoy is a hero. A true hero. There's no battle in The Memory Book, no clashing of swords, no fire breathing breathing dragons, other than the battle between Sammie and her own body. Though she may be fictional she is a true inspiration. Despite everything she faces over the course of this book - in her life - she never backs down. Sammie refuses to let go of her dreams for anything or anyone. She is the epitome of strength; the epitome of life.

As someone who struggles with anxiety and self-doubt in daily life, this book was a bit of a wake up call for me; a realisation that some of the things I worry about are honestly stupid. A realisation that I should do rather than think. I thought that was great.

With regards to the story itself, it was addictive in a way. I was desperate to see how Sammie's story ended - which in truth made me sob - but I was also invested in the love story The Memory Book holds. Stuart is enchanting. Coop is uniquely adorable. Though I usually choose a side in love triangles, I honestly love both of them and can see why Sammie's path took the direction that it did, even if I don't quite agree with one of her actions.

The Memory Book is an emotional page turner but it's also a learning experience. I had never heard of NPC, let alone knew anything about it, before this book. Whether you're looking for knowledge, an emotional release, a life lesson, or simply a good story, I urge everyone to read this book. It's simply a must. A five star read!

Have you read The Memory Book? Will you add it to your TBR? As always do let me know your thoughts in the comments below, or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury

How long have I been waiting for this book? It honestly feels like it's been forever, and yet, come next Tuesday I will have it in my hands. Waterstones and Scholastic have kindly teamed up to provide early copies to those in attendance at Mel's next few events, and as I will be meeting her again for the fourth time on Tuesday, it does mean I will be purchasing a copy... or two... In preparation I thought to list a few reasons why I'm so excited for this release. Series spoilers ahead.

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.

The final battle is coming . . .

As the Sleeping Prince tightens his hold on Lormere and Tregellan, the net closes in on the ragged band of rebels trying desperately to defeat him. Twylla and Errin are separated, isolated, and running out of time. The final battle is coming, and Aurek will stop at nothing to keep the throne forever . . .

For one, Mel is evil. Her books quite literally break my heart, in a good way. If that's not a reason to get into a series, I don't know what is.

Two, I need to know if Merek's okay. She fooled us in The Sleeping Prince, but I'm not wholly convinced my beloved Prince will be alright. I'm worried. Add in Mel's evil nature and the fact that she always sidesteps my questions, and I'm actually having heart palpitations. Seriously whatever happens in Loremere just let my Prince be okay. Please?

Three, it's just a good story. A really good story. Okay! An amazing story! I'm seriously in love with every part and I can't wait to find out how it ends.

Finally, I want to see Lief get his comeuppance. Muahahahahahaaaa!

What are your reasons for wanting The Scarecrow Queen? Or what books are you waiting for? As always, do let me know in the comments below or on Twitter, and thanks for reading.

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

West End Review: Murder Ballad

Entrancing. Enthralling. Murder Ballad was utterly exquisite and unlike anything I'd seen before. I had the pleasure of watching the 8pm performance on Tuesday 8th November and I honestly wish it hadn't been a limited run, just so that I could have the pleasure of watching it again.

At its core the plot is a mixture of romance and lies; a weighty love triangle between Tom (Ramin Karimloo), his former lover Sara (Kerry Ellis), and her husband Michael (Norman Bowman). The story is told via the Narrator (Victoria Hamilton-Barrett) and takes place in New York, but deeper than that it is a story about love and forgiveness, the search for perfection in one's life, and how far one may be willing to go to attain, or destroy, it.

The story is brought together all told by a variety of songs ranging from pure ballad ('Sara') to a heavier rock mix ('You Belong To Me'), but all working to piece the show together, either with present day action, the past of the characters, or their internal feelings. They meld easily from one into another, both telling and bridging the story pieces, weaving an immaculate tale of love and self-destruction. Every song is mesmerising, but more so the cast who sing them.

One thing to bear in mind is that Murder Ballad is a four-hander. If one cast member is not up to par, even for just that one show, it could affect the audience's entire experience. Murder Ballad's foursome was impeccable; perfectly cast in every way. Karimloo and Ellis are well known theatre veterans and it was clear to see they each put their heart and soul into Tom and Sara respectively. Every note rang through the theatre with perfect clarity; emotions and power woven within. I honestly could not tear my eyes away.

Bowman was a new voice to my ears, as was Hamilton-Barrett, but I left wanting more. They both also gave impeccable performances. Bowman's Michael was so genuine and yet so raw and passionate when called for that it was hard not to empathise with him completely. There was honestly a point where my emotions matched his; as if I were the spectator of true life events.

Hamilton-Barrett's Narrator was however my favourite part of the night. Confident, assured, a silent attitude, she not only brought the whole piece together but did so with charm, grace, and a killer voice. I was hooked to her every line, every movement; both her part in the story and her portrayal were nothing less than perfect.

Last but not least, the staging was phenomenal; the last threads to effortlessly weave the complete story together. The stage itself is small and yet the set pieces, cast and wonderful direction utilised every inch to fully tell this immersive tale. A two way turntable and interactive screens enhanced the show further, pulling the audience quite literally into the minds of the characters. All told Murder Ballad wasn't simply a show, it was a masterpiece.

Sadly the season is over now but if it ever comes back to the West End I do urge you all to watch it; a fabulous 5 star show!

Have you seen Murder Ballad yourself? Have any thoughts or comments? Do let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Top Ten Tuesday - Freebie!

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish, here, inviting bloggers and readers to list their top ten for a certain category. 

This week's TTT is a freebie so I've decided to list ten books I'd love to take to an island with me. Also known as, ten reads I'm desperate to make time for but never seem able to.

1) Truthwitch by Susan Dennard.

I purchased Windwitch last week so I really do want to binge read both soon.

2) Ruby Red Trilogy by Kirsten Gier.

These books just look and sound gorgeous and the boxed set is just waiting for me to pick it up.

3) The Raven Boys Quartet by Maggie Stiefvater.

I started the first book but stopped for some reason, and I'm looking forward to picking them up again.

4) Shatter Me Trilogy by Tahereh Mafi.

One of the 'popular ones' that I own but have never read. Hopefully 2017 will be the time!

5) The Spinster Club series by Holly Bourne.

I started Am I Normal Yet? and loved it but then I lent it to a friends and ended up not wanting to skip to the second but still buying them all nonetheless, so now I have the whole four books to read. They're all on my British Books 2017 list however so I should succeed.

6) This Savage Song by V. E. Schwab.

I really want to read this before Our Dark Duet is released, and I adore Victoria's work.

7) An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.

Another 'popular' one I'm yet to get to, and one I've heard such good things about!

8) All Rick Riordan books.

I've read Percy Jackson 1 but that's it; I'm determined to finish them all by 2017's end.

9) The Hogwarts Library by J. K. Rowling.

Short but sweet, I'm sure.

10) Demon Road by Derek Landy.

I heard so many good things about this at YALC 2015 and yet I never read it. Hopefully this year I'll succeed here too.

What books would you take to an island? Do you have your own TTT? Feel free to let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter, and as always thank you for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Monday, 23 January 2017

Cover Spotlight Monday: The Memory Book by Lara Avery

In the first cover spotlight feature in a while I have decided to feature Lara Avery's wonderful The Memory Book. I've almost finished it and it's quite honestly breaking my heart in two and then ripping it to shreds. It's wonderful.

They tell me that my memory will never be the same, that I'll start forgetting things. At first just a little, and then a lot. So I'm writing to remember.

Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way--not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie's notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It's where she'll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart--a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she'll admit how much she's missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

'They say I'll forget. I'm writing to remember.'

I love this tag because it quite simply yet elegantly depicts the contents of the book. Sammie relies on her brain for everything, organises day by day, and now she has to organise her mind, piece by piece. I feel the post it notes show this also, especially the careful folds, emphasising Sammie's meticulous nature; her need to remember; to keep everything as it should be. Yet the crumpled post its also point out that things are not the same, that she can't remember, and how much that frustrates her.

What are your thoughts on The Memory Book's cover? Do you love it as much as I do? As always do feel free to leave a comment below, or @ me on Twitter, and thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn't Get To (But TOTALLY plan to)

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 second topic of 2017 is unread releases from last year and you can find mine below.

1) Truthwitch by Susan Dennard.

2) Frost Like Night by Sara Raasch.

3) The Shadow Queen by C J Redwine.

4) A Court of Mist and Fury by S J Maas.

5) Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard.

6) Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo.

7) Passenger by Alexandra Bracken.

8) Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

9) This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab.

10) Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton.

Hope you like my choices! Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

ARC Review: RoseBlood by A. G. Howard

Although it's a 2017 release, I think I can honestly say this was my favourite book I've read in 2016. I adored it, devouring all 432 pages in around three days.

I am a huge fan of The Phantom of the Opera so I was hugely excited when I learnt about A. G. Howard's latest tale. Abrams kindly provided me with an ARC, so huge thanks to them.

In this modern day spin on Leroux’s gothic tale of unrequited love turned to madness, seventeen-year-old Rune Germain has a mysterious affliction linked to her operatic talent, and a horrifying mistake she’s trying to hide. Hoping creative direction will help her, Rune’s mother sends her to a French arts conservatory for her senior year, located in an opera house rumored to have ties to The Phantom of the Opera. 

At RoseBlood, Rune secretly befriends the masked Thorn—an elusive violinist who not only guides her musical transformation through dreams that seem more real than reality itself, but somehow knows who she is behind her own masks. As the two discover an otherworldly connection and a soul-deep romance blossoms, Thorn’s dark agenda comes to light and he’s forced to make a deadly choice: lead Rune to her destruction, or face the wrath of the phantom who has haunted the opera house for a century, and is the only father he’s ever known.

RoseBlood contains all the heart and atmosphere of the original tale - complex characters, dark motivations and haunting arias - but Howard puts her own unique spin on it, bringing the tale into the modern era for a YA audience. Mixing a boarding school with deep secrets - think Night School - with the classic Phantom tale, Howard has produced a fabulous story with multiple twists and turns that I really didn't see coming.

I can say very little more about the story without spoiling it, so I'll move onto the characters; although I'm again editing for reasons you'll understand when you read it. #KeepTheSecrets

Rune is our heroine, and I adored following her journey. She started young and afraid - unwilling and unable to control her unique vocal power of song - but she grows stronger and more resilient with every turn of the page.

Thorn - who you'll quickly add to any list of book boyfriends - is mysterious and alluring, especially to Rune, but he's also a kind hearted musician who is only doing what he believes is the right course of action for the only father he's ever known. His backstory is heartbreaking, his love for Rune a force to be reckoned with. He was, quite probably, my favourite character.

Except for Diable and Ange that is. This cat and his brightly feathered friend are the somewhat lighter element of the story, and I absolutely adored them. I also want to give special mention to A. G. Howard's writing style. Her prose is almost poetic in its flow and pace, and quite immediately does the job of pulling you into the story. It's just wonderful, as is the author herself.

So those are my non-spoilers thoughts on A. G. Howard's RoseBlood. Have you read it yourself? What did you think? Or are you excited to get hold of a copy now it's been released? Do let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Monday, 9 January 2017

A Curious Christmas

Over Christmas I received a surprise package I was completely unaware of, containing two wonderfully adorable christmas gifts from the lovely team at Curious Fox Books. It was a lovely thank you they sent out to their bloggers, and I was honestly overwhelmed by the kindness of the gesture. I've been toying around with the idea of a blog post about it for the past few weeks, but I was asked a few days ago where I'd received the mug from, so I thought I'd do a post about the two items, where you can buy them, and some information about Curious Fox's YA titles.

The package contained a cute little fox teddy and an equally cute but also practical (Especially for late night blogging!) fox mug. Below you can find links to Amazon UK and the retailers main sites to buy them if you wish.

Curious Fox Books are a wonderful publisher of many genres of books, but especially of YA, and they have some amazing titles that you may wish to add to your 2017 TBR. Below I've included a few titles that I have received for review, and am looking forward to, with purchasing links, Goodreads link, picture, and a link to any of my reviews.

Children of Icarus by Caighlan Smith

Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond

Review to come

Lois Lane: Double Down by Gwenda Bond

Review to come

Lois Lane: Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond

Waking in Time by Angie Stanton

Review to come

As always thank you for reading, and do let me know in the comments below - or @ me on Twitter - if you're intending to read some of Curious Fox's titles, or have read some already; I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Friday, 6 January 2017

2017 Reading Challenge: Beat the Backlist

Beat the Backlist is a unique reading challenge created by Austine and Tia from novelknight.com dedicated to helping poor overwhelmed readers clear their backlogged TBR's. The challenge lasts all year and you can set your own goal with the target simply being to read and review books published prior to 2017. As someone who is consistently told that the upstairs support beams won't hold any more books, I thought this was a good challenge to get involved with, especially as I still have a few 2016 review books outstanding. I'm hoping the motivation will not only inspire me to read more but will also help me to consistently review and update my Goodreads.

You can find my preliminary list of books I'm hoping to read below. At the start and end of each month I will be including my progress in a TBR and Wrap-Up series respectively, so look out for those too.

1) Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton - Review here.
2) Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell.
3) Love Song by Sophia Bennett.
4) Cinder and Ella by Kelly Oram.
5) The Graces by Laure Eve.
6) Legend by Marie Lu.
7) The Young Elites by Marie Lu.
8) The Iron King by Julie Kagawa.
9) Rogue by Julie Kagawa.
10) The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid.
11) The Bone Dragon by Alexia Casale.
12) The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adieh.
13) The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima.
14) Holding Up the Universe and All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven.
15) Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard.
16) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.
17) If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo.
18) Changers by Cooper and Glock-Cooper.
19) Shadowplay by Laura Lam.
20) The Masked City and The Burning Page by Genevieve Cogman.
21) Vassa in the Night by Sarah Porter.
22) The Archived and The Unbound by V. E. Schwab.
23) All Rick Riordan books (Except Percy Jackson 1)
24) DIMILY trilogy by Estelle Maskame.
25) Demon Road by Derek Landy.

I will also be taking part in the Hogwarts challenges for the house cup, on behalf of Ravenclaw!

If you're interested in signing up yourself, you can find out more information here. Hope to see you there!

As always, thanks for reading and do feel free to leave a comment below, or @ me on Twitter, especially if you're taking part (and are maybe a fellow Ravenclaw?). I'll also be around for the monthly Twitter chars, so do say hello!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

2017 Reading Challenge: The British Books Challenge 2017.

One of my biggest problems when reading is choosing what to read, so I quite like having a list or challenge to go by, as it helps me out sometimes. This coming year I've therefore decided to participate in the 2017 British Books Challenge.

I'll be honest to thinking I read widely and yet both times I've attended YALC, hosting mostly British authors, I've been surprised by how many I haven't heard of, or at the very least haven't read. This year, I'm determined to do better.

Hosted by the wonderful Chelley Toy, I'm very excited for this challenge to begin. 2017 is going to prove an exciting year for books I'm sure. Below you'll find my preliminary reading list.

1) The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury - Review here.
2) Ink by Alice Broadway - Review here.
3) All of the Above by Juno Dawson.
4) The Spinster Club trilogy, plus And A Happy New Year by Holly Bourne.
5) Wing Jones by Katherine Webber - Review here.
6) Rockoholic by C J Skuse.
7) Lydia by Natasha Farrant.
8) Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall.
9) The Bookshop Girl (ARC) by Sylvia Bishop - Review here.
10) The Catalyst by Helena Coggan.
11) Shadowplay by Laura Lam.
12) Emma Hearts L.A. by Keris Stainton - Review here.
13) Moondust by Gemma Fowler - Review here.
14) This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton
15) Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell
16) Lovesong by Sophia Bennett
17) Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt.
18) The Island at the End of Everything by Kiran Millwood Hargrave - Review here.

Watch this space! More books will be added as time progresses, with hyperlinks to my reviews.

Don't forget to sign up yourself here, Chelley has lots of amazing things planned!

Thanks for reading, and do let me know your thoughts or suggestions on my reading list in the comments below, or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

ARC Review: Mafiosa by Catherine Doyle

'When truth is buried it grows, it chokes, it gathers such an explosive force that on the day it bursts out it blows up everything with it.' Emile Zola.

Shortly put, in Mafiosa, everything blows up. Thanks to Jazz Bartlett and Chicken House Books for the review copy.

A blood war rages on the streets of Chicago.

Protected by an infamous mafia family, Sophie is living a dangerous lie, pretending to lead a normal life. But the deceit can’t last for ever. Her heart belongs to a killer and Sophie’s the prime target of a rival clan. She’s determined to seek revenge on her mother’s murderers, but can she pay the price – can she be a mafiosa?

The third and final instalment in the explosive YA Blood for Blood series which started with Vendetta and Inferno.

I don't mean literally, of course. It's not 'Sophie and co were at Falcone Manor. Then it blew up.' That would be quite shocking of course, but all told a little short and unsatisfying. Theoretically however, in the sense of relationships, families, and the mafia hierarchy, everything blows up.

The truth of Sophie's heritage - a heritage she has disavowed - and the shocking conclusion to Inferno has put the Falcones on high alert. They're ready for a war, one which now seems unavoidable. They know it won't be clean. They know blood will be shed. They know their lives will never be the same. Yet within that there is another war brewing; a war of love between brothers.

Nic is certain he can win Sophie back; Luca won't let that happen, but he also won't wholly commit to Sophie when he knows what's coming. Brotherly bonds find themselves twisted and fractured at a time when they're needed the most. Death doesn't discriminate between the good and the evil; it comes for the Falcones with a cold hand.

Mafiosa provides an explosive, heart-stopping ending to the wholly fabulous Blood for Blood trilogy, and cements Catherine Doyle as one of my favourite YA authors. It receives a well deserved 5 stars. Mafiosa is out today and I urge you not to wait to finish this phenomenal saga. You won't regret it!

If you have read Mafiosa, feel free to message me on Twitter and of course do let me know your favourite Falcone in the comments below.

As always, do feel free to leave a comment below, or message me on Twitter, and thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

*Cough* More Gino *Cough*

Review: Inferno by Catherine Doyle

Does love run thicker than blood?

Romeo and Juliet meets The Godfather in the second installment of Catherine Doyle's Blood for Blood series.

Sophie's life has been turned upside-down, and she's determined to set things right. But Nic, the Falcone brother who represents everything she's trying to forget, won't give up on their love - and it's Luca's knife she clutches for comfort. Soon another mafia clan spoils the fragile peace - and with her heart drawn in one direction and her blood in another, Sophie's in deeper than ever.

If Vendetta was an explosion, Inferno is an implosion of everything we know up to this point. Relationships lie in tatters, blood is shed, bonds are broken. This book, in short, is an emotional roller coaster for all of our beloved characters, but no more so than Nic, Sophie and Luca.

In Inferno the whole truth surrounding Sophie's links to the Falcones is revealed, causing widening gaps between both sides, between the Falcones themselves, and between Sophie and those she loves. By the end of the book the world Doyle has portrayed is 100% turned upside down, leaving a lot to the imagination as to how book three may finish the trilogy.

I absolutely loved how Sophie grew over the course of Inferno; taking every situation and consequence in her stride, strengthening her character, learning, and standing up for who she is - and who she isn't.

I of course fell in love further with the Falcone boys, especially Luca and Gino, and could not wait to find out how the trilogy concluded, especially for them. Luckily I didn't have to wait very long.

Inferno is the perfect sequel to Vendetta and receives a well deserved 5 stars. If you haven't had chance to read it yet, now's the perfect time as the trilogy ends today with Mafiosa.

If you have read Inferno, do peruse my review of book 3, Mafiosa, here and also let me know your favourite Falcone in the comments below.

As always, do feel free to leave a comment below, or @ me on Twitter, and thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf