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Rapid Reviews #3

Rapid Reviews #3

Oh boy, it’s already been over a month since I last posted. I wish I could say that things were going to start getting more frequent on here, but I can’t guarantee it! Throughout the last month I’ve continued binge reading NetGalley books from many […]

Rapid Reviews #2: The NetGalley edition

Rapid Reviews #2: The NetGalley edition

Boy howdy, it has been a while. I’ve been vaguely reviewing over on Goodreads, but it wasn’t until I was looking through NetGalley this morning that I realised that there are so many books on there that I’ve read and just haven’t had a chance […]

Blog tour: I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

Blog tour: I Hold Your Heart by Karen Gregory

Hello everyone! This is the most exciting blog tour I’ve been involved in all year, and I’ve been dying to share my thoughts on I Hold Your Heart – Karen Gregory’s third novel – with you all.

I absolutely loved Countless and Skylarks left me speechless (quite literally: I still haven’t been able to put my thoughts into enough words to review it…) so it’s not a surprise that I enjoyed I Hold Your Heart just as much as its predecessors, but there are so many reasons why.

Before I dive into my review, here’s a bit more information about I Hold Your Heart – if you’re not already interested, the blurb alone makes this one unmissable.

“You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,” Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. “I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.”

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.

But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?

Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.

I Hold Your Heart is an utter masterpiece.

Gemma first sees Aaron as she’s leaving one of her brother’s football matches, their eyes meeting across the pitch – sparks flying, a soaring orchestral soundtrack playing in the background – and she’s instantly attracted to him. Heading straight to her shift at the cafe with her best friend Esi, she can’t stop wondering whether she should have given him her number when – lo and behold – in he walks.

A huge fan of country songs, Gemma has always believed in true love and soulmates, the love stories that all of the greats sing about. She just hadn’t expected her first love to be it, but Aaron undeniably is. He’s perfect.

Karen Gregory approaches the topic of abusive relationships very intelligently.

At the beginning, I Hold Your Heart feels like it’s the worst kind of contemporary, filled with cringey instalove and soppy moments that have you rolling your eyes and trying not to be sick. It’s a genius decision, though: the reader feels exactly like Gemma, so swept off of her feet by Aaron that when he starts to show his darker side it’s almost impossible to believe.

As the book hasn’t been out very long I’m not going to go into some of the worst aspects of Aaron’s behaviour, but the slow and steady escalation makes I Hold Your Heart one of the most realistic depictions of abusive relationships that I’ve read. I’ve seen it touched upon a few times in YA, but normally the change in personality occurs at such a breakneck speed that it feels highly unbelievable. Instead, Gregory gets her readers care deeply for these characters – to even care for their relationship, at its more tender moments – only to see it come crashing down very dramatically.

You really feel yourself rooting for Gemma and Aaron at points. It’s hard not to agree when she pushes away Esi, who is getting overly involved in her relationship, because she should be allowed to be happy! But that’s the most dangerous thing about abusive relationships: if people think you’re happy, it’s even harder to tell people – or even yourself – that you’re not, and before you know it there’s no one left for you to talk to because you’ve pushed everyone away.

The inclusion of Aaron’s perspective really is the icing on the cake. As Gemma starts to realise that she isn’t happy, the story jumps across to Aaron more and more regularly, showing us how he justifies all of his actions – even the most horrible ones. It’s pretty scary stuff, because things that would be inexcusable to most people seem like common sense to him.

I think I Hold Your Heart could have a huge positive impact, as it showcases the warning signs so eloquently that it’s bound to have readers reaching out to close friends just to make sure that they’re doing okay.

This book is perfect for fans of Eve Ainsworth and Louise O’Neill – both authors who aren’t afraid to tackle emotional and controversial subjects in YA – and for fans of Holly Bourne, as some of Aaron’s behaviour later in the novel reminds me so much of It Only Happens in the Movies (one scene in particular, but you’ll know which one after you’ve read it!).

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of I Hold Your Heart, it’s available on Amazon.

About the author:
Karen Gregory

Karen Gregory has been a confirmed bookworm since early childhood. She wrote her first story about Bantra the mouse aged twelve, then put away the word processor until her first child was born, when she was overtaken by the urge to write. Her first novel, Countless, published in 2017, was shortlisted for the Leeds Book Award and longlisted for the Branford Boase. Her second novel, Skylarks, was published in 2018. Karen lives in Wiltshire with her family.

If you’d like to reach out to Karen and tell her how excited you are about I Hold Your Heart, you can follow her on Twitter or Instagram.

Before I go I’d like to say a huge thank you to Faye Rogers for organising this blog tour. It’s been a dream to review this book: with every new release Karen Gregory is further cementing herself as my favourite author!

Alyce

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Blog tour: The Partisan Heart by Gordon Kerr

Blog tour: The Partisan Heart by Gordon Kerr

Hi there, and welcome to my stop on The Partisan Heart‘s blog tour. It’s a huge honour to have been invited to take part in this tour, and I’m so excited to be sharing a brilliant extract from Gordon Kerr’s newest release with you. As […]

Blog tour: Breaking the Lore by Andy Redsmith

Blog tour: Breaking the Lore by Andy Redsmith

Hi there! It’s been a hot minute since I’ve had time to post (working in a chocolate shop at Easter is even busier than working retail at Christmas, so I’ve been struggling to recover) but I’m glad to be back and taking part in the […]

Top Ten Tuesday: First ten books I reviewed

Top Ten Tuesday: First ten books I reviewed

Wow, this is such a fun topic. For this post I’m delving back in time to the beginning of my previous blog, Everything Alyce. Travel back in time with me to the summer of 2014, and check out my first ever book reviews.

10) Picture Me Gone by Meg Rosoff

I’d completely forgotten about Picture Me Gone, but as soon as I skimmed over my review I found myself getting irritated all over again. I’m never going to understand why people praise Meg Rosoff as highly as they do, because her writing definitely isn’t for me.

9) Sweet Damage by Rebecca James

For some reason this book sticks in my mind far more than the other early books I reviewed – so much so that I was sure I’d reviewed Sweet Damage far more recently. I haven’t had a chance to read any of Rebecca James’s other novels just yet, but it’s still high up my list of priorities.

8) Stella by Helen Eve

The first book that made me so angry that I couldn’t even write a proper review. I just listed all of the reasons that I hated it!

6) & 7) The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

I won an ARC of The Rosie Effect, so couldn’t resist reading both installments of the Don Tillman series and writing a combined review of both of them. The third book in the series came out just a few weeks ago, and I’m looking forward to diving back into Rosie and Don’s lives.

5) Half Bad by Sally Green

I love Half Bad – so much that I’ve read it three times – but I still haven’t carried on with the series. That’s the problem with getting too emotionally invested in your favourite characters: you can’t bear to consider the possibility that something terrible might happen to them!

4) Ferryman by Claire McFall

My review of Ferryman was my first properly mean review. I tore this book to SHREDS. I’m not sure if it was my unflinching honesty or just the fact that I seem to be the only person that hated it, but this is still one of my most read reviews – pretty impressive, considering I’d been blogging for just under two months.

3) Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden

I absolutely loved Tomorrow, When the War Began – so much so that I ordered the entire series the day I posted my review of the first book – which makes me seriously disappointed in myself for never carrying on with the series.

2) Betrayal by Gregg Olsen

I read the first book in the Empty Coffin series before I started my blog, but my review of Betrayal features a lot of references back to the first book – I’m proud of myself for caring about the importance of context so much so early on! Disappointingly the Empty Coffin series never had a third installment, which is a shame because so much of this story was left open-ended.

1) The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

This book took me so long to read, and one of the reasons I decided to review it was so that I wouldn’t feel as though I’d wasted so much time. Funnily enough, I complain about the book having an epilogue because it was a standalone, but the sequel to it was released last year – I wonder if I’d feel differently if I read it again now?

I hope you enjoyed this trip back through time to the beginning of my book blogging career. Which book did you review first?

Alyce

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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 […]