Tuesday, 26 September 2017

Release Day: Invictus and Language of Thorns!

Hello everyone! Just a quick post here to celebrate the release of Invictus by Ryan Graudin and Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo here in the UK today! YAY! I was lucky enough to get a Language of Thorns sampler a few weeks ago (with some gorgeous candles) from the lovely Team BKMRK, and to pick up an early copy of Invictus at Foyles a week ago Saturday, though I am still eagerly awaiting chance to read it.


Language of Thorns is a series of short stories set in the Grisha verse and while you'll get no spoilers from me, what I've read is exquisite and beautiful. Add in the amazing illustrations and you've got yourself one damn fine book. I can't wait to get hold of a finished copy!

Invictus meanwhile is the space opera of my dreams, for lack of a better word. A fabulous cast of crew members (from the promotion I've seen) and a red panda just equals *heart eyes* in every sense of the matter. I can't wait to dig into it as I've heard so many great things.

What do you think about these titles? Have you read either yet? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter, and thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books That Feature LGBT+ Characters

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.



Today we were given a little bit of free choice in our picks, the only prompt being 'Books that feature X characters'. I, of course, chose one of my main reasons for picking up a book these days, and that is books featuring LGBT+ characters!

1) The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Bi/gay boys who I adore.
2) Mask of Shadows - Genderfluid MC *Heart eyes*
3) Simon VS The Homosapien Agenda - Beautiful sweet gay boys
4) Noteworthy - Bi-girl who could also be seen as gender-queer
5) Queens of Geek - Lesbian/Bi relationship
6) Tash Hearts Tolstoy - Asexual MC *Also heart eyes*
7) Truth or Dare - Ace character
8) A Darker Shade of Magic - Cinnamon roll gay boys
9) City of Bones - Closeted then proud gay boy who just needs a big hug. Also a pansexual warlock.
10) Daughter of the Burning City - Bi-Ace MC *All the love ever*

What are your picks for this week? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter! 

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf

Monday, 25 September 2017

Cover Spotlight Monday: The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Hi guys! I'm back again with more about The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I just love this book so much and one of the things I love is the cover.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Obviously the main thing I love is Monty on the cover. While I love being able to picture the character myself, and maybe even fan-cast, I also love when covers feature the MC's of the book, because it also allows me to picture the author's intended look for the characters too. Also that smouldering stare really does just draw you in, doesn't it?

Mainly I just love this cover because its so fun. It pictures everything that Monty loves in life. Cards and music, while the fiddle represents Percy, the love of his life. Meanwhile the ship represents their trip, and the hat his duties when he returns. With the title font I think it just exudes fun, and therefore the european trip these two boys undertake within. With Monty's smouldering gaze I really am just drawn in; I don't know about you.

What do you think of the cover? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Sunday, 24 September 2017

Spotlight Sunday: Diversity Recs - The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzie Lee

Hi everyone! Today I have a new Diversity Recs post for you all. I know I said I was going to spotlight Mask of Shadows, but I haven't had chance to read it yet, while this book is one I picked up during my trip to London last weekend and have started reading. I absolutely love it so far. It is of course The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee!

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy. Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

I've had this book on my TBR for so long and I was ecstatic to find it in Foyles. I absolutely adore Regency Era novels, and this one is no exception, but more importantly I was excited to read it for the representation of Bisexuality.

Henry 'Monty' Montague is our main character in GGTVAV, and he is proudly, unashamedly Bisexual. Even against his aristocratic father's wishes he spends most of his days waking beside both men and women, and is both proud and happy with his lifestyle. It's only when his father gives him the ultimatum of 'growing up and taking over the estate' or being disowned that things start to get complicated for Monty, but that doesn't change his attitude to his feelings, nor the very strong feelings for his best friend, Percy. Monty's attitude towards his sexuality is so refreshing. In many YA novels that feature Bi characters they are either not the main character or they spend a lot of the book figuring out their feelings. To find a character who knows immediately from the start who they are, and are proud of that fact, is like a breath of fresh air.  I love it. Lee's characterisation and writing of Monty is just *heart eyes*.

As someone who identifies as Bi-Romantic I am always ecstatic to find Bi characters in YA. After all doesn't everyone like to see themselves in what they read? This book itself is just wonderful, specifically - as I've said above - for its approach to to Bisexuality and Monty's proud self-identification. Many more books like this please publishing industry and I will be very very happy.

Have you read GGTVAV? What did you think? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Saturday Series: Love, Hate or Both? - Musicals!

Hey everyone! For Saturday Series this week I've decided to write about one of my favourite things. If you know me, or at least follow me on Twitter, you'll know I adore musicals. Having been back in London last week to watch the 2017/18 cast of Les Mis for a second (and certainly not final) time, I thought this Saturday would be the best day to write about why I love musicals so much. It won't be too long (otherwise I literally won't stop!), but I hope you enjoy it.

Les Miserables - Probably my favourite musical
Musicals are feel good therapy - first and foremost. I don't know about you but when I've had a long day or feel stressed, there's nothing better than curling up with one of my favourite musicals (Usually Les Mis, Phantom, Rent or Newsies) and belting out a few show tunes, my feet tapping along to the beat. There's something just so uplifting about watching a talented cast give their all and put on an amazing show, whatever the story.

Newsies is definitely a feel good musical
Musicals are dramatic - Even in shows with hints of humour and less life or death situations, I always feel that the actors are very fierce in their portrayals. Maybe it's the medium itself - being live rather than 'just filmed' and so their emotions need to reach the back of the audience, meaning they can't be too subtle - or whether its simply a coincidence with all those I've seen, I'm not sure. Either way I always find myself a lot more invested in the characters of musicals than those of TV shows or movies.

For dramatic, I always have to go with Phantom
Musicals are togetherness - Don't get me wrong I can happily ramble about my favourite shows or movies to my hearts content with another fan, but there's something uniquely different about singing or even humming a few lines of a favourite show tune and having a family member or friend join in. I love having theatre sing-alongs with my family, either when watching a filmed show at home or simply singing along to a soundtrack, it's just amazing. There's also that feeling of walking out of the theatre with family or friends, all amazed by what you've just witnessed, gobsmacked by the talent, feet tapping down the pavement as you sing those all new favourite (or old beloved favourite) show tunes.

And of course, the best thing is watching them live. I will always and forever love the West End - I even have a T-Shirt to prove it.

Possibly the best T-Shirt I own
Do you love musicals? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books On My Fall TBR

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 we were asked to list our Top Ten Books on our Fall TBR, and though mine are very similar to my September TBR, I've added a few recent purchases too.

ARCs to catch up on:

The Waking Land - Callie Bates
Shadowcaster - Cinda Williams Chima
Flame in the Mist - Renee Adieh
The Last Thing You Said - Sara Biren

Current/Future ARCs:

Daughter of the Burning City - Amanda Foody
The Fandom - Anna Day
Mask of Shadows - Lindsey Miller

Fun Picks:

Songs About Us - Chris Russell
Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue - Mackenzie Lee
Invictus - Ryan Graudin

What does your Fall TBR look like? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf




Sunday, 17 September 2017

Blog Tour: ARC Review of Fire Lines by Cara Thurlbourne

Hello everyone! Today I'm overjoyed to bring you my review of a wonderful YA fantasy for the official Blog Tour! I do hope you enjoy it. Big thanks to Faye Rogers for organising and sending me an e-arc, though my review is in no way influenced.

When your blood line awakens, how do you choose between family and freedom? Émi’s father used to weave beautiful tales of life beyond the wall, but she never knew if they were true. Now, her father is gone and Émi has been banished to the Red Quarter, where she toils to support herself and her mother – obeying the rules, hiding secrets and suffering the cruelties of the council’s ruthless Cadets. But when Émi turns seventeen, sparks fly – literally. Her blood line surges into life and she realises she has a talent for magick… a talent that could get her killed. 


Fire Lines is a wonderful mix of all of my favourite fantasy elements; magic, different races, myth, discovery, lies and more. It's a twisting tale that will have you second guessing characters and actions with every turn of the page, and leave you breathless with anticipation for the second book.

Fire Lines follows Émi, who lives in the fear governed, walled city of Nhatu. Her life is all too cyclical, repetitive day in and day out, and seemingly never ending. She looks after her mother and her sole joy comes from her childhood friend Tsam, who seldom visits due to class divisions. Émi's hiding a dark secret though, a magical prowess she barely understands, and when it is revealed her world is turned upside down. Secrets more than own come to light and the world she thoughts she knew comes to life around her. If you're looking for a book that's relentless in both action and plot twists, then Fire Lines is the book for you; I raced through it in two days, desperate to know the jaw dropping conclusion at its finale. Featuring a dark villain and morally ambiguous characters, Fire Lines was a joy to read and has quickly become one of my favourite releases of this year. The story is just so rich not only in plot but characters, races and locations, that it was a beauty for my mind's eye to behold.

The characters were quite easily my favourite part. I've said it before but I love stories with a great range of characters, each real, flawed and all the same wonderful. Fire Lines did not hold back. Émi is our main character, feisty, passionate and one heck of a warrior. She fights for what she believes in, what she knows is right, and won't let anyone tell her otherwise. Kole was definitely my favourite character and I dare any of you not to fall for him. A Taman, a warrior with an elephant partner (Maya, you'll love her, and her son *Grin*), he fiercely protects Émi and their friends. Often withdrawn only she seems able to pull his true self out and show us how amazing he really is. Plus his relationship with Maya is so adorable. Garrett was my other favourite, my adorable little cinnamon roll. You'll also meet Tsam, fierce yet kind, and Garrett's very protective sister, Alyssa. There's a few more, but I won't spoil anything. Be warned though, there is heartbreak between these hallowed pages, another reason why I fiercely adored this book.

Last but by no means least, I have to mention the world that Thurlbourne has created. Bright, vivid, alive. This is a world you will want to live in, or at the very least explore yourself. I do. From dark Nhatu to beautiful Abilene, this is a world you can imagine being real and just don't want to leave. It's phenomenal. A beautiful map just adds to the vivid picture painted and makes the adventure contained in the pages all the more wonderful.

Overall, Fire Lines is an exciting, intriguing book that's well executed and draws you in quite easily, then refuses to let go. I absolutely adored it and can't wait for the sequel. Fire Lines deserves a most definitive 5 stars!


What are your thoughts on Fire Lines? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Information about the Book

Title: Fire Lines
Author: Cara Thurlbourn
Release Date: 26th September 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Bewick Press
Format: Paperback


Author Information

Cara Thurlbourn writes children’s and young adult fiction. 'Fire Lines' is her first novel and it’s a story she’s been planning since she was fifteen years old.

Cara has a degree in English from the University of Nottingham and an MA in Publishing from Oxford Brookes University.

She lives in a tiny village in Suffolk and has worked in academic and educational publishing for nearly ten years. Cara blogs about her author journey and in November 2016 she crowdfunded her first children’s book. 10% of its profits are donated to animal rehoming charities.

Cara plans to write at least two more books in the Fire Lines series, as well as a young adult mystery series, and has lots more children’s stories waiting in the wings.

You can sign up for Cara’s newsletter, for giveaways, updates and latest releases, here: www.firelines.co.uk


Check Out the Rest of the Blog Tour!



Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I Loved During The First Year I Started My Blog

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 we've been given a throwback challenge and I've decided as per the prompt to tackle 10 books I loved in my first blogging year. I hope you like my picks.

1) Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge - The first book I reviewed.
2) Night Owls by Jenn Bennett - The first ARC I received.
3) Counting Stars by Keris Stainton.
4) House of Windows by Alexia Casale.
5) The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury - It's Mel after all ;)
6) Dumplin by Julie Murphy.
7) Never Evers by Lucy Ivision and Tom Ellen.
8) Defender of the Realm by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler.
9) Across the Universe by Beth Revis.
10) The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury - Again, it's Mel.

What are your picks for this week's TTT? As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Monday, 11 September 2017

Cover Spotlight Monday: Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Hi guys! I'm back with more regarding Daughter of the Burning City today because wow I just love this book (so far, ha, I'm still reading) and the cover is too pretty not to spotlight.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

Seriously though, what a cover. I love so many things about it. First of all, maybe a little superficially, but I just love the two toned purple background. Purple is my favourite colour and so I'm always very quickly drawn to purple books. Second, the gold hat and filigree. This really does just evoke such a magical feeling, and instantly draws me into what the book is about. Magic, the circus, supernatural. It draws me in. It makes me want to know more about the world I'm about to step foot into.

The lettering is just exquisite and I'm not sure what it reminds me more of. On one hand I feel like it's supposed to be chalk letters, evoking a feeling of the travelling circus, headlines and dates changing rapidly with every town they visit. But it also reminds me eerily of bone and draws me into the murder mystery side of the book, wondering who might become a victim, what the consequences might be, and who the villain ultimately is.

Most importantly I love the tagline. Who is wicked? Or what? Which city will burn? And why? So many questions and all the answers just waiting to be revealed once the beautiful cover is pulled back. Moreover, what exactly is this beautiful cover hiding? A dark and sinister tale perhaps. Only time, and reading, will tell...

What do you think of the cover of Daughter of the Burning City? As always do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Thanks for reading!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Sunday, 10 September 2017

Spotlight Sunday: Diversity Recs - Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody

Hello lovely readers! For Diversity Recs this Sunday I have a new release to spotlight! Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody was released 7 Sept in the UK (25 July in the US), and I was lucky enough to get both an e-ARC and also an early finished copy from YALC. My review will be up soon.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show. But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered. Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

This book is reported to feature a Bi-romantic, Asexual main character and I think that's just wonderful. Bi/Ace rep is very hard to find in YA, even in this modern era, and so its highly refreshing to see. As someone who identifies as Bi-romantic on the Asexual spectrum, I'm overjoyed by this rep. Absolutely ecstatic! I've started reading the book this weekend and I love it so far. The story is magical, intriguing in itself, but it's the rep I can't wait to see in its entirety.

We've all said it in so many tweets, but diversity is so important, especially in YA. So many teens deal with figuring out their identity and books can help a great deal, but only if they're diverse, only if these teens can see themselves in the characters. Had I read these books when I was younger I might have figured out my own identity earlier than 24. Books have power and authors have a responsibility to wield that power for the better. Books aren't just about entertainment. They're about life. That's why I'm overjoyed when such representation is presented in a YA novel. My heart swells.

So I'm off now to go and continue this wonderfully sounding tale. As always feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter! Thanks for reading, and check back Sunday 24th for a spotlight on a future release, Mask of Shadows by Linsey Miller.

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf


Saturday, 9 September 2017

Saturday Series: Love, Hate or Both? - Character Death

Okay, so I read a book recently where one of my favourite characters fell victim to the story's villain and, along with my current obsession with Les Miserables, it got me thinking about my feelings toward character death. Spoilers for Chicago Fire, Supernatural, Les Mis, Torchwood and Criminal Minds below.

Personally I have mixed feelings, so it's definitely a love/hate relationship with the subject. The threat of death often heightens the experience of reading/watching a story. Tension increases. We speculate, talk, investigate. This is usually why TV shows love to end seasons on 'Will everyone make it?' cliffhangers. It generates publicity and promotion, and likely increases ratings for the new season. It's a common tactic. But the outcome itself can have mixed reactions, including backlash, and can also have the opposite effect in losing viewers or readers.

Firstly, the who. Losing a popular character can effect a franchise's (All media types) audience both personally (identification and representation wise) and in terms of enjoying the remaining characters and their dynamic. Two instances for me personally are Chicago Fire (CF) and Criminal Minds (CM) respectively. When CF lost Leslie Shay it was not only sad in the extent of the character no longer being there and the changes it brought to the team dynamic, but it was also a huge loss in that Shay was openly a lesbian and never once changed who she was or showed any hesitation toward being anyone but herself. To lose such a powerful unique character who could have spoken to (and probably did) so many people - the only non heterosexual character in the show - most likely affected many viewers on a personal level too, and could have prevented them from wanting to watch future episodes. CM meanwhile felt a serious change in dynamic upon Emily Prentis' death, resulting in fan backlash and the character's eventual revival; a revival which then ultimately cheapened the show's tension and ability to place its characters in mortal peril. For a procedural this, to me, heralded disaster in the form of boredom. No tension equals no energy.

Secondly, the how and the why. I ran a poll on my Twitter account yesterday asking people for their opinions on the subject. While some chose the 'Totally fine' or 'Noooooo' options as to their feelings, and only a few comments were received, the response largely agreed with my own love/hate situation. 'Depends on the reason' was chosen by more than two thirds, and the comments received agreed that it's the how and why that matters more;



A death for drama's sake can anger audiences, resulting in rather verbal responses and 'resurrection campaigns' which too can harm a franchises overall rating and response. Such was the reaction to Ianto Jones' demise in season three of Torchwood. Though heartbreakingly wonderful in its own right (filming style, music choice, etc) the death itself was cheapened by its lack of necessity. Yes it was a global threat facing the team, the danger immense, but having started as a team of six, losing one in the first episode and two in the previous season, it was apparent that the writers were a little too trigger happy and left the original fans with little to hold onto going into season four. Again, on the personal side of representation, Ianto too (along with Tosh who passed in season 2) was an LGBTQ+ character, and the death could have affected viewers on a personal as well as fan level. In all cases, the reason has to be adequate and necessary, the execution flawless. Ripples must be felt. The characters cannot simply be forgotten. To the fans who love them, a character's death is never simply a plot device and that alone.

The last issue, in my opinion, is frequency. Too many deaths can have the opposite effect to increasing tension, and instead increase predictability and therefore boredom. One of the most obvious examples is in the case of Supernatural. This was a show I used to adore but now have no desire to watch as I felt every finale too predictable. One brother dies, gets resurrected somehow, then the other, and so on. With every threat introduced there was no danger, no tension, because we the audience knew the two beloved brothers are safe. Obviously they always would be (there'd be no show otherwise), but there's no need to make it so obvious.

One last thing of interest is also the media type, as I believe this has impact on audience reaction, because of two reasons.

1) Potential character longevity.
2) Ability to re-use characters.

Going back to Les Mis, this show has a lot of deaths; real emotional sucker punches, and I love them all. Part of this is execution - yes. They're well done, emotional and have an iron-clad reason for being there. But also the character longevity is short anyway. There'd rarely be a spinoff or sequel to a show/musical, so the impact on viewership is diminished. The story is a whole. There's little to 'fall out with' as a result. It's the same with standalone movies too, and single books.

Book and TV series' are a different matter, because there's an expectation for the characters to continue. Which brings in my second point. If a book character dies midway through a trilogy, while the chance they'll reappear in that trilogy is slim, there's always a chance for a spin-off or prequel, if applicable. With TV shows this is less likely and even if a spinoff does happen, if a character died seasons ago that actor could have moved on, making it harder to re-use the character. TV character deaths are therefore, in a way, always harder to handle. Most likely, that's it. Sad, but true.


Anyway, that's all my thoughts expelled for today. I hope you enjoyed the post, and as always do feel free to leave a comment below or @ me on Twitter!

Holly @The_Arts_Shelf