Posted in contemporary, feminism, review, young adult

It Only Happens In The Movies – Holly Bourne

“Romance films ruin people’s real-life relationships. They offer this idea of love that isn’t sustainable in normal life.”

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Blurb: “Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…”

Audrey is reeling from her own break up as well as the separation of her parents. She decides to fill her time focusing on getting into university and working her new job at the local independent cinema; along with deciding that all romance films are total fabrications. At this cinema, she meets one of her new co-worker’s – a bad boy named Harry. It Only Happens In The Movies tackles the conventions of romantic films by delving into reality of some of the iconic aspects such as “the kiss” and “the montage” in order to tell a story following the pattern of a romantic film. The narrative’s rise and fall coexists with the conventions of romantic films such as “the big date.”

It’s really nice to see an increasing number of YA books featuring sex in general as well as safe sex. It showed just how awkward a first time with a new person can be, along with the importance of learning about your partner. It felt like real characters taking an important step forward in their relationship.

I did struggle to get into this story but persevered and found that it picked up a lot in the last third. I actually found Audrey’s mum and her character arc more than anything else in the story. What happens to her throughout the plot is heart-breaking, brutal and raw. I felt so much for her that I wished I could climb into the book and give her a hug.

I got the point of what Holly Bourne was trying to achieve with this book but I found that the actual story itself fell a little short. I think a lot of that is down to the fact that I’m really not a fan of “girl is warned off bad boy but falls for him anyway” stories.

However, once again Holly Bourne takes a stab at one of the many ridiculous things about the world and really gets you thinking.

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Posted in fantasy, review

Sightwitch (Preview) – Susan Dennard

“In the name Sirmaya, I vow to protect the future that is shown, for the sleeper knows all, and there is no changing what is meant to be.”

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Blurb: “Set a year before Truthwitch, Sightwitch follows Ryber Fortiza, the last Sightwitch Sister as she treks deep underground to rescue her missing best friend. While there, she encounters a young Nubrevnan named Kullen Ikray, who has no memory of who he is or how he wound up inside the mountain. As the two journey ever deeper in search of answers, and as they brave one close call after another, a tentative friendship forms between them—one that might one day grow into something more.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was sent a “preview” copy meaning that it is only roughly half of the book so I cannot judge the book as a whole*

Sightwitch is a companion novella to the witchlands universe. Its content takes place before Truthwitch –the first book int the series- with the intention of setting up for the upcoming 2019 release of Bloodwitch.

Once again, Susan Dennard continues to baffle and amaze with the scope and detail of the world she has created. In this novella, we learn of a secret coven made up of sightwitches: beings with the ability to look at something once and remember it forever. There are three perspectives in total: Ryber, Tanzi and Eridysi (though I admittedly failed to see the importance of the latter) and told through diary entries and sketches.

Sightwitch has been pitched as very much an illustrated edition to the universe but I had a lot of difficulty reading the E-ARC I was sent. There were a lot of blank elements –which I’m assuming are where drawings are to be added later- and the formatting of the text made it very hard to read some of the more historical elements. For that reason I can’t judge on the more visual elements that I’m sure will be very appealing in the physical version.

One of Dennard’s absolute strengths in her writing is creating strong female friendships. Ryber and Tanzi were a pleasure to read and it’s impossible not to feel the strong bond between them. It was one of the main factors that kept me pushing through the story.

Sightwitch may only be short, but it will most certainly fill the void until readers can finally get their hands on the next instalment in the Witchlands series.

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Posted in fairytale retelling, review, young adult

Locked – K.M.Robinson

“We ourselves, can overtake the society. If we can get resistance groups to join us, there’s no way the society will survive.”

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Blurb: “When the girl with the golden hair is betrayed, no one has hope of surviving. The stories say that Goldilocks ran away, but being forced over the wall and separated from the man she cares for was hardly her choice. Now, uncertain if any of her friends survived the brutal attack, Auluria must work with her former handler, Shadoe, and raise a new army to invade the Society and take back that which is hers: Dov Baer, his family, their friends, and their freedom.”

Locked is the second book in a trilogy bringing the fairytale of Goldilocks back to life with a new twist. The society has even more power, and they also have Dov Baer which makes Auluria’s desire to take them down all the more personal.

Auluria is forced to team up with her enemies, one of which being Shadoe, in order to find the best way to regain her control.  Auluria makes a lot of questionable decisions and trusts everyone she meets straight away if they are willing to help her; which could be a very risky move but also makes her more human as it shows the sort of lengths people are willing to go to get their loved ones back.

I am an absolute sucker for training scenes in books and this one is packed full of them. It was great to see the team Auluria had created pushing themselves to be better. Speaking of which, the new characters really stood on their own ground and it didn’t feel like the story was over-populated with new faces.

My big issue in Golden was the pacing but in this one, those issues are a distant memory. The story progresses at the right speed to keep readers interested but also allow for a decent chunk of time for the characters to be in the right place to finally take back what’s theirs.

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Posted in discussion

Books I Want To Reread

The biggest piece of advice I give anyone who finds themselves stuck in a bit of a reading slump is read your favourite books again or reread books you once loved deeply. Dear reader, I am finally taking some of my own advice.

I wrote a list of fifteen books in total that I would like to revisit; for obvious reasons this list did not include works such as Harry Potter. I write the names down onto individual slips of paper, folded them up and commandeered my TBR jar for the purposes of this experiment. After I’d given the jar a good shake, I decided to pick out four books to start off with.

I plan on making my thoughts on rereads into a series here on my blog. But this will not be a fixed segment which means that I will post an update as and when I read them; though it will be made clear in the title if it’s part of this new series or not.

So let’s get into the books:

Simon Vs The Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

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The story follows a boy called Simon has been emailing another boy at his school. But when the emails get leaked and Simon’s sexuality is at risk of being made public, Simon quickly finds himself in an uncomfortable positon.

I know what you’re thinking: will Charlotte ever stop talking about Becky Albertalli? The answer is no. This made my list of favourite books in 2015 and admittedly I haven’t picked it up again since then. But this a rather promising-looking adaptation due to hit the big screen this year, it seems like the perfect time to give this another read.

The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald

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The story follows a man called Nick who moved next door to a big mansion in Long Island during the Jazz Age. After receiving an invitation to one of the many lavish parties held by his neighbour – Jay Gatsby- Nick soon learns that no one has seen or met the man. He is quite simply a mystery to everyone.

I know you’re all probably sick of hearing me talk about this book but it’s one of my all-time favourites for a reason. This is such a beautifully written, poetic tale with so many complex characters. This Penguin’s Modern Classics cover is also my favourite of the many redesigns The Great Gatsby has received. I won’t be doing another review on here for it in terms of reread thoughts because I’ve actually already done one which can be found here.
Eleanor And Park by Rainbow Rowell

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If you’re looking for a cute, all-consuming YA Contemporary love story, then Eleanor and Park is the book for you. I find it so hard to talk about YA romance without giving anyway any important details. But just know it’s beautiful.

The Book Of Lost Things by John Connolly 

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This is another book that’s difficult to describe without giving away the main points of the plot. But at its core, The Book Of Lost Things is about a boy coming to terms with the death of his mother and his reality and imagination sort of merge together with a  fairytale twist.

And that’s what I’m planning on rereading! Do you have any plans to revisit some old favourites?

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Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

The Creakers – Tom Fletcher

“What makes all the creaks, and clangs in your house? It isn’t the cat, or your dog, or a mouse. Those noises are made by mysterious creatures. Read on if you dare and you might meet… the creakers.”

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Blurb: “Do you ever hear strange, creaking noises at night? Ever wonder what makes those noises? Lucy Dungston always did. Until, one morning, Lucy discovers that all the grown-ups have disappeared – as if into thin air. Chaos descends as the children in Lucy’s town run riot. It’s mayhem. It’s madness. To most kids, it’s amazing! But Lucy wants to find out the truth. Lucy lost her dad not long ago, and she’s determined not to lose her mum too. She’s going to get her back – and nothing is going to stop her… except maybe the Creakers.”

The children of Whiffington wake up one morning to find that all the parents have gone missing. But not only that: they’re all having nightmares about strange creatures hiding under their beds.  Lucy Dungston, having already lost her father, takes it upon herself to not only get her mother back, but the other kids’ parents too.  Her mission takes her into the dangerous world of Woleb where everything is backwards.

One of my favourite things about The Creakers is the little fourth wall breaks in between certain chapters in which the narrator temporarily stops the story in order to check how the reader is feeling. For example: “Blimey! How are you doing? That was a bit intense, wasn’t it?” This little addition was just an extra bit of humour which I think would work brilliantly if this book was read aloud to a group of children.

The backwards ways of Woleb were just perfect and left me having many revelations along with Lucy as she attempted to navigate her way around the new world.

Another personal favourite of mine was the character of Norman Quick – a young boy scout who wears his badges with pride. He even has a camouflage one though he can’t remember where he put it on his sash!

The Creakers is a fantastic, slightly scary, story that teaches the importance of working together and accepting those different to yourself.

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month, discussion, review, romance, young adult

Audiobook Of The Month | P.S. I Still Love You

When I was younger, audiobooks were a special treat on long car journeys. I was the one snuggled up in the back seat reading my physical copy of the chosen book along with the narrator blaring through the speakers. Somewhere along the line that changed and audiobooks became a distant memory.

I’ve heard a lot about Audible ever since it launched with people seemingly left and right throwing their affiliate links at anyone who will listen and so I decided to use my free month trial. I did a full video discussing the good and bad things which can be found here.

So, as you can tell from the title of this post, I am launching a new segment here on my blog giving audiobooks the attention they truly deserve. This will be a monthly feature but I cannot confirm exactly what point in the month they will appear as I want to allow enough time for me to settle in with my current listen before giving any sort of opinion. (Please note that it’s also likely that I will post a full review of the book on here anyway.)

Anyway, with that little introduction out of the way, let’s talk about my current read:

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P.S. I Love You is the sequel to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (full review can be found here) which follows a girl called Lara Jean who writes letters to boys that she loves and then never sends them. It’s sort of a way of saying goodbye. Unfortunately for her, these letters get sent out and one of them lands in the hands of school heartthrob Peter Kavinsky which leads on to them having a fake relationship so he can win back an ex.

In the sequel, P.S. I Love You, Lara Jean has really fallen for Peter and is looking to hopefully turn their fake relationship into a real one. But exes can be vengeful and when worrying videos of Lara start to make the rounds online, she fears it may be better for her to step down.

If you haven’t read this trilogy yet but you’re looking to start, I highly recommend getting the audiobook version narrated by Laura Knight Keating. Admittedly, I picked up this series after hearing the movie announcement news and didn’t think I would fall in love with it as much as I have. Laura Knight Keating is the best narrator I’ve listened to up to this point. There’s just something about the way she delivers Lara Jean’s story that really brings the character and her story to life. I can only describe it as like being given one long warm hug. Her tone and the flow of her words just create this yearning inside of me to know more about what happens to this character.

I’m not too far into the book -10% at the time of writing this post – but already it holds the same charm as the previous; though I have seen a lot of people say this is the weaker of the three books. It’s interesting seeing the dynamic shift in Lara and Peter’s relationship and I can’t wait to see where this leads next.

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Posted in children's fiction, review

The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club – Alex Bell

“She never got tired of looking at maps and globes, and as far as she was concerned, a compass was just the most beautiful thing in the whole entire world.”

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Blurb: “Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?”

The story follows a girl called Stella Starflake Pearl who has a pet polar bear. Her dad is an explorer of the Icelands and she wants to be one too. But there’s one catch – girls are not allowed to be explorers. After much convincing, Stella is given the opportunity to prove herself by going on an expedition and, if successful, she will be given a place in the Polar Bear Explorers’ Club.

In The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club, the reader is thrown into an icy world of pure brilliance and never-ending magic as Stella is paired up with boys from her club as well as the others to make new discoveries. While the world is all-consuming and well put together, I did find myself getting lost quite a lot and having to re-read pages to get a sense of where the characters were in the world. It was one of the few times where I really did wish that there was a map at the front of this book. Sadly there wasn’t and I feel that let the book as a whole down a lot.

I like that there were many different explorer clubs: Polar Bears, Ocean Squid, Desert Jackal and Jungle Cat; all with their own rules. It allows that room to connect more with the world as readers can look at a glossary at the back of the book and see which club they’d most likely fit in.

There were plenty of magical twists on aspects that already exist in our world such as frostbite (a rather scary bit I must admit), however, I find it hard to be invested in a book and enjoy the story if I can’t really place where the characters are. For mainly that reason, this book fell just a bit too flat to me.

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Posted in children's fiction, discussion, lgbt, romance, young adult

Favourite Books Of The Year 2017

Another year has slipped by and it’s time to sit back and reflect on the reading year. I’ve frequently said that 2017 was a bad year for me in terms of quality rather than quantity. I read a lot of books that just left me feeling a big deflated and didn’t think about again once I put them on a pile to be donated to one of my local libraries. I feel that this is reflected in the minimal number on the list. But that in no way should diminish the spotlight on the ones I mention as they deserve all the love and praise in the world. So let’s get into it:

The Upside Of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli 

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The story follows a girl called Molly who really wants a boyfriend but feels that no one will ever love her because she’s a big girl and so she must settle for her list of unrequited crushes.

If you’ve been following me at all over the past year, you will know that I simply cannot stop talking about this book. It has pansexual, bisexual, jewish, fat and anxiety representation but it’s all weaved into the story in such a way that none of it feels like it’s there just to tick boxes. I’ve not connected to a book like this in such a long time. It made me feel valid in terms of body issues and the way my anxiety can be a real hinderance at times and it was nice to see a grown  bisexual woman represented in a Young Adult book. It felt like this book was giving me a hug and telling me that I am valid. If you’re interested in a full review, you can read it here.
Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green 

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This book is about a boy called Noah who just wants to be a normal sixteen year old boy and decides he’s going to cement this by kissing the beautiful Sophie at a party… but he ends up kissing his best friend Harry instead.

I came across this book because of an interview Amber from themilelongbookshelf did with the author. Simon pointed out the lack of British LGBT books which really got me thinking about how I actually couldn’t name any myself, which is what pushed me towards picking up a copy. There’s been a lot of discussion about YA books where the characters feel “too old” and Noah Can’t Even really feels like reading a story about a teenage boy. The internal monologue is embarrassing and cringy, but my gosh it’s downright hilarious. There were some parts of this book that had me laughing to myself for days after I’d finished it. I’m even laughing now writing this thinking about some of my favourite moments. If you’re interested in a full review, you can read it here.

The Christmasaurus: Musical Edition by Tom Fletcher 

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All William Trundle wants for Christmas is a pet dinosaur… and it just so happens that the elves at the North Pole have discovered a dinosaur egg. A wondrous turn of events leads to a truly magical Christmas Eve adventure.

I was in two minds about whether to include the musical edition on this list as, while it is a re-release, the original made it onto my list of favourites in 2016. But then I figured, I shouldn’t deny myself small pleasures and also this is my list therefore I make the rules. There are honestly not enough words to describe how brilliant this story is. It’s festive, magical and heart-warming and I shed many tears again, even though I knew what happened. If you’re interested in a full review you can find that here and my comparison review of the two editions can be found here.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin 

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The story follows a twelve year old girl called Suzy who finds out her best friend, Franny, has died. The cause of death doesn’t make sense to Suzy as her friend was an incredibly good swimmer so she struggles to understand how drowning could be the cause. Through a school trip to an aquarium she learns about jellyfish and comes to believe that one type in particular was the real culprit. She starts learning everything she can about jellyfish and looks into experts who can help prove her theory to be correct.

This book punched me right in the heart… several times… just to make sure it hurt enough. In these pages, the reader sees a girl facing her own mortality for the first time and trying to cope with the death of a loved one for the first time and it’s utterly heartbreaking to read. But I feel it’s something we can all relate to: searching for rational answers to something as unpredictable and -at times- nonsensical as death.

I’ve not been this affected by a book since I read The Book Thief but I think it’s finally found some competition.  Again, if you’re interested in a full review, you can find it here

And that concludes my favourite books of the past year! Here’s to another book-filled one!

Happy Reading!

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Posted in fantasy, review, young adult

The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

“Tell me what you dream of, Jude Duarte, if that’s your true name. Tell me what you want.”

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Blurb: “Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King. To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I am still relatively new to Holly Black’s writing, having only read The Coldest Girl In Coldtown and the Magisterium series which she has co-written with Cassandra Clare. However, when I read the premise for The Cruel Prince I jumped at the chance to get an early copy.

The story follows Jude and her siblings who are trapped in the High Court of Faerie after their mother was killed by Madoc, the King’s general, for betraying him. Being a human in a faerie realm is a big case of bad luck as faeries are notorious for seeing mortal beings as weaker than them. Jude has had enough and decides to earn her place by competing in a tournament for a place in the High King’s Court. The princes – particularly Prince Cardan – take a prominent dislike to Jude and do everything they can to dissuade her from entering.

I am an absolute sucker for stories about faeries and I just find the concept that they can’t lie so fascinating. I love how there are countless tales of them using deception and carefully worded phrases to get around this obstacle. So it wasn’t surprising to see that human ability exploited in Jude so that the High King could improve his standing in the realm. The political plot threads had me completely hooked.

While there are a lot of princes in line for the throne, the focus quickly falls on Prince Cardan who really does live up to the title of this book; in fact, in most scenes he does well to exceed that. I found myself audibly gasping and groaning and tensing up as I never knew whether some scenes would end with Jude walking away unharmed or dead.

However, somewhere along the line my interest started to waver and I feel that Jude took too much of a drastic character development as this is the first book in a series. It felt like she’d suddenly gone from a standstill to running at the speed of light which I found a bit disorientating. I also forgot that she actually had any siblings, which I will admit annoyed me a bit. They are presented at the start as this family unit but when the attention shifts to Jude, they quickly fall to the wayside and it would have been nice to see some of their reactions to what Jude was doing.

It just seemed to fall a bit flat and the only character I found really keeping my interest was Prince Cardan who really did have so many layers to him which were slowly peeled away.

Overall, this is another story of political intrigue, faeries and deception. I just wish it had given me a bit more.

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