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Blog tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Blog tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Fallen Angel blog tour. This is the first Chris Brookmyre novel I’ve ever read, but as soon as Caolinn invited me to take part I knew I had to say yes – she described Fallen Angel in […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Rainy Day Reads

Top Ten Tuesday: Rainy Day Reads

I feel as though it’s tempting fate to say this, but the weather in England has been uncharacteristically bright for the past few weeks. It’s still cold, yes, but there’s been a surprising lack of rain: although April is supposed to bring showers, it’s instead […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Outrageous bookish things I’ve done

Top Ten Tuesday: Outrageous bookish things I’ve done

I found it really hard to think of ten things to put on this week’s list, because I haven’t done anything that outrageous in the name of books. I just about managed to scrabble a list together… Then I completely forgot to write it up and post it, because I had some teeth taken out yesterday and I’ve been a little bit distracted. Oops.

So, here’s this week’s Top Ten Tuesday, on a Wednesday. Hopefully it was worth the wait.

10) Reading at work

Okay, so this wasn’t so outrageous a couple of years ago because I used to work in a library. If you aren’t allowed to read in the quiet moments there, where are you allowed to? However, I now work in Thorntons, so it’s a bit more outrageous when I’m hooked on a book and can’t resist pulling out my phone to read a few more pages when the shop is empty. Shh, don’t tell anyone!

9) Pulled an all-nighter

Who hasn’t done this? I feel as though it’s in chapter one of the introduction to being a bookworm. When I was little I used to stay up as late as possible reading every single night, and in the past couple of years I’ve pulled all-nighters reading Patricia Cornwell, Jilliane Hoffman, Jenn Bennett, Cassandra Clare and Jennifer E. Smith novels.

8) Dropped my phone on my baby’s head

Awkward, but unfortunately I did drop my phone on Zophia’s head a couple of times in the early months while I was reading on my Kindle. I used to find breastfeeding extremely painful, but focusing all of my attention on a book helped me dissociate and get on with it without too much agony. Unfortunately, babies have terribly startly arms, and there were a couple of times that she threw her hand up and caused me to knock her little noggin with my phone. Thankfully she never seemed to notice – she was far too interested in feeding!

7) Read during a concert

Sorry, Taking Back Sunday, but Wing Jones was just too good to resist. I’ve never been able to read during a show before – the most I can do is flick through a few pages between bands – but I finished my chapter after the band took to the stage without feeling any remorse.

6) Saved a book from the bin

Outrageous, or just gross? As I said, I used to work in a library, so if a book was returned in really bad condition and we were unable to repair it or sell it on the book sale then they had to go in the bin. Once upon a time one of my colleagues had just decided to throw out a book which had severe water damage – so much so that it was still damp – but it was the third book in a series that I was planning on reading so I took it home and gave it a new lease of life!

5) Saved a book from the side of the road

Much the same as the previous point. There was a Mills & Boon novel chucked at the side of the road and I love books so much that I couldn’t leave it there, I felt too guilty! I never read it and ended up donating it to a charity shop last year, but I hope someone got some enjoyment out of it.

4) Wasted the night before my birthday saving picture books

Another library anecdote! Someone’s child knocked an entire can of Coke into the dual language picture books, and I was determined to save as many of them as possible. I took two crates home, sat up until the early hours of the morning on my birthday and gently folded paper towels around each and every damp page and corner (with the help of my mum, who really didn’t deserve to be dragged into it!). We ended up only getting rid of a handful of books despite the fact that the entire collection had been soaked. I’m still proud of how much I cared about that particular task.

3) Pulled muscles after buying too many books

Every time I go to the Oxfam bookshop and the Salvation Army charity shop in London, I end up coming away with hundreds of books. There have been times when I’ve found myself travelling across London with two huge carrier bags full of books, books spilling out of my previously empty rucksack, while staggering up and down the stairs in various tube stations. It’s not a surprise that this has resulted in more pulled muscles than I can remember.

2) Felt empowered and shouted at a driver

While I was reading The Burning by Laura Bates, a driver sped around the corner without indicating while my daughter and I were in the middle of crossing the road. After I reached the pavement on the other side he started honking at me and shouting that I needed to be more careful, so – filled with the feminist rage that Bates had instilled in me – I yelled back. I’m not a very assertive person, so I still feel proud of myself for that moment: if I’ve looked both ways before crossing the road and you’ve decided to take the risk of speeding without indicating on a dark street, then you deserve to feel ashamed.

1) Bought a suitcase to get all my books home

When my mum and I went to Weymouth a few years ago, I went on a book buying BONANZA. There was a closing down sale in The Works, all of the books less than 20p, and we bought so many (combined with all of the titles we’d picked up from various charity shops throughout the week) that we ended up needing to purchase a suitcase just to get them home. An entire suitcase of books was pretty hard to get from the platform onto the train, but it was definitely worth the pain (and a couple more pulled muscles, too…)

I hope you enjoyed this Top Ten Tuesday! What’s the most outrageous thing you’ve done in the name of books?

Alyce

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Top Ten Tuesday: Things that make me pick up a book

Top Ten Tuesday: Things that make me pick up a book

It’s been hard to narrow this list down to just ten, because there are so many different reasons I choose to read a book. I’ve had a lot of fun trying to pick which are my top ten reasons, though – I hope you enjoy […]

Rapid Reviews #1

Rapid Reviews #1

It’s been practically impossible for me to blog recently, as my glasses are broken and my laptop screen just isn’t clear when I’m wearing my contact lenses. However, it hasn’t slowed down my reading, which is why it’s time for my first ever Rapid Reviews […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite albums

Top Ten Tuesday: Favourite albums

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is an audio freebie, so I thought it was the perfect excuse to talk about some of my all-time favourite LPs. I’ve been playing with this list for a few weeks, and I’ve already had to take some of my favourites off of it to fit others in… At some point I should probably post a top 50 list, because there are loads!

10) White Noise by PVRIS

When White Noise was released back in 2014, it was a game-changer. The first album of its kind to be released by Epitaph, it blended clean pop vocals with dance-infused rock, making it a favourite in both the rock scene and the mainstream.

9) Louder Now by Taking Back Sunday

With seven albums under their belts it should be hard to choose my favourite TBS release, but Louder Now is by far the best. Every song is cinematic: the lyrics, the production and the performance combining to make you feel as though it’s been ripped straight from the soundtrack to a Hollywood blockbuster.

8) DIRT by Kids in Glass Houses

DIRT is an album that should have promoted Kids in Glass Houses to the next level, because it’s packed with stadium-ready tracks. If you don’t get goosebumps listening to Sunshine, you’re a robot. 

7) A Lesson in Romantics by Mayday Parade

I always liked A Lesson in Romantics, but there were particular tracks that I would skip to and others that I would avoid. However, after hearing it live in full back in September 2017 I’ve been unable to skip a single track. Listening to it from start to finish is such an enjoyable experience, and it’ll make you swerve from happiness to anger to unfathomable sadness every couple of minutes.

6) Priorities by Don Broco

It’s hard to choose a favourite Don Broco album, but Priorities started my love affair with the band so I couldn’t resist including it. It’s an impressive first offering from the four lads from Bedford, nodding towards all of the aspects that they’d eventually hone and perfect to forge them into arena headliners. There are poppy bits, rockier bits and an uncountable amount of singalong moments, and it’s still as fun to listen to as it was the day it was released. 

5) Hold Me Down by You Me At Six

It’s also hard to pick a favourite You Me At Six album (all except for VI and Cavalier Youth being worthy contenders) but there’s something about Hold Me Down that stands out from the crowd. It might be the slew of guest vocalists – Sean Smith’s spot on The Consequence and Aled Phillips’ spot on There’s No Such Thing as Accidental Infidelity giving the album a unique spark – but it really feels like a celebration of a UK scene that was blossoming back in 2010 when it was released.

4) Badlands by Halsey

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t even thought of Badlands until I was writing this list up, but it had to feature towards the top of my list. I have never been a huge fan of pop, but Halsey’s debut album opened my mind to a whole new genre. The lyrics that she writes are so deep and meaningful, rivalling Real Friends and My Chemical Romance for their honesty, but their upbeat backing tracks contrast perfectly.

3) A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out by Panic! at the Disco

The best debut album of all time. ‘Nuff said.

2) Vessel by twenty one pilots

I found Vessel when I was in an extremely dark place, and I’m not lying when I say that it saved my life. I was lucky to start listening to twenty one pilots before they exploded into the band that they are today, meaning that I’ve been able to see these songs in rather intimate venues, and I’m always going to be grateful for that. In fact, I didn’t think anything would beat Vessel as my favourite album…

1) TRENCH by twenty one pilots

…until October, when TRENCH was released. Combining the best aspects of Vessel and Blurryface, TRENCH is a concept album exploring the fictional world of Dema. I’ve already said enough about why I love this album so much, but after seeing the songs live earlier this month they’ve fully cemented themselves into my heart (even Cut My Lip, which I originally disliked, sounds amazing in a live environment).

That’s all for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday. What’s your favourite album of all time, and why?

Alyce

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Review: Monsters by Sharon Dogar

Review: Monsters by Sharon Dogar

I was extremely excited to see Monsters by Sharon Dogar on NetGalley, because I’ve been obsessed with Mary Shelley’s life since studying Frankenstein at university in 2017. Expecting a novelisation of her earlier years to bring to life all of the people I’ve studied so […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

Top Ten Tuesday: Spring TBR

I’ll be honest, every time I write a TBR post I struggle to stick to it. I’ve got so many books that I’m hoping to read during spring, and I’m bound to get hold of more that I end up prioritising, so don’t blame me […]

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

“I’m not just happy, Eff, I’m Happy Girl Lucky. People have always said that’s what I am, but I’ve never really understood the expression before… because why can’t boys be it too? But now it truly capsules me perfectly.”

Happy Girl Lucky introduces us to the Valentine siblings – Hope, Faith, Max and Mercy – children of Judith Valentine and Michael Rivers, one of the hottest celebrity couples around. But when news breaks that they’re getting divorced, Judith checks herself into a rehab facility and the kids are left to fend for themselves.

Hope, youngest of the gang, has been on the search for her leading man for as long as she can remember. Constantly playing out scenes in her mind – editing the lighting and angles and tweaking the script as she goes – she’s overjoyed when she meets Jamie, someone who’s finally worthy of acting opposite her in the film of her life.

Everything is perfect… Until Jamie has to fly home to California at the end of his holiday. Bummer. But if two people are really destined to be together, there’s no way that distance will keep them apart – and no one’s more determined than Hope Valentine to get their happy ending.

Happy Girl Lucky is the first Holly Smale book I’ve read so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t this. To go from writing a series called Geek Girl (about a super smart girl who’s also a model) to writing a book focused on an air-headed girl who thinks it’s ‘a doggy-dog world’? It’s a complete 180. I didn’t think Smale would decide to write such a vastly different character and it threw me to start with, because the narration feels more middle-grade than young adult.

I struggled through the first half of the book, because Hope is a very difficult character to read. She’s extremely naive and innocent (so naive that she’s verging on stupid) and I spent almost a quarter of every chapter rolling my eyes.

Hope completely misunderstands tons of popular idioms despite being corrected by multiple family members throughout the novel, because she just doesn’t seem to be interested in learning anything – she’s far more interested in fantasising rather than applying herself to anything other than her mental movies. I felt sorry for her teacher: he deserved a sainthood for putting up with her daydreaming for as long as he did!

Then Jamie comes along, and their whirlwind instalove romance makes the novel completely unpalatable. I considered abandoning ship, and I’m anti-DNFing so that shows how bad things got. However, you could tell something was going to go wrong and make the story more interesting, and when it eventually got there it became very satisfying.

Although it takes a while to get there, Happy Girl Lucky redeems itself towards the end of the novel. Bits had me giggling instead of groaning, because as you get used to Hope it’s easier to take everything she says with a pinch of salt. To some extent, her air-headed attitude is a persona that she’s putting on to fit in with other people’s expectations of her (a cross between a security blanket and a shield). It’s Hope’s way of protecting herself from the badness in every day life by pretending her life is a classic romance film and the happy ending is 100% guaranteed.

This might be a story about a relationship, but the moral is how important it is to have a good relationship with yourself above everyone else. As Hope learns to stop living in her dreamworld and to embrace every emotion – not just happiness – she develops into a far more interesting character.

I don’t want to give too much away, because this book has only been out for a few weeks, but I will say that one of the best parts of the book is Hope’s reaction to Roz. She thinks Roz is her father’s assistant, but when she realises who she actually is she reacts maturely: that was the moment when I knew I liked Hope a lot more than I thought I did, and I couldn’t resist bumping the book up to four stars.

If I’m right, Happy Girl Lucky is the first book in a trilogy – the other two novels focusing on Hope’s sisters, Mercy and Faith – and I’m looking forward to picking up the other two books when they’re released. The three sisters are polar opposites, and it’ll be interesting to see Holly Smale’s writing style change throughout the Valentines series.

Perfect for fans of Holly Bourne’s It Only Happens in the Movies, I’d recommend picking up Happy Girl Lucky if you want to read a fun contemporary but you’re tired with the end goal always being a relationship.

Alyce

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Top Ten Tuesday: Standalones  that NEED a sequel

Top Ten Tuesday: Standalones that NEED a sequel

I’m forever getting to the end of a standalone and craving a sequel, so it feels like this week’s topic was made with me in mind. It’s been difficult to pick just ten books, because I can remember thinking this about so many of the […]