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YA Book Prize 2021 Predictions

YA Book Prize 2021 Predictions

It’s that time of the year again! With the YA Book Prize shortlist being announced at 5pm on Wednesday (two days to go!!!), I thought it was the perfect time for me to showcase the ten books I’m expecting to see pop up on that 

REVIEW: It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

REVIEW: It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

It’s hard to review It Sounded Better in My Head, because the reality is that not a lot happens in this book. That being said, I bloody loved it. Main character Natalie gets a nasty surprise for Christmas when her parents announce that they are 

REVIEW: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

REVIEW: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Stepsister is a brilliant fairytale continuation with a lackluster ending (and far too many chapters!).

I wrongly assumed that Stepsister was going to be a fairytale retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of one of the ugly stepsisters. Instead it’s a continuation of the fairytale, beginning with the grotesque events of Isabelle and her sister Tavia chopping off pieces of their feet in the futile attempt to convince the prince that the glass slipper belongs to one of them (rather than their beautiful, mistreated stepsister, Ella).

Of course, we all know how that part of the story goes…

After Ella is revealed to be the prince’s love and is swept off to become a member of the royal family, Isabelle and Tavia become the most hated inhabitants of their French village. What kind of monsters sit back and let their loving, caring stepsister be maltreated, then twist the knife even further by trying to steal her chance at true love? Unfortunately it wasn’t down to Isabelle or Octavia, who were both just doing their best to fulfill their mother’s wishes.

Meanwhile, there’s a subplot following the personifications of Fate and Chance. Fate is an old crone who draws out maps of people’s lives, determining the twists and turns that their story will take. Chance, however, has decided that Isabelle deserves a second chance. He steals her map, fighting Fate on Isabelle’s behalf, desperate to prove that she can change her attitude – and therefore change her Fate – for the better, before it’s too late.

Although I found the subplot very interesting, at times I struggled to follow what was going on. That might have been because of the fact that I ended up listening to Stepsister on audiobook (my first full audiobook, ever!).

However, I think it’s more down to the fact that there is a large cast of characters, and a lot of the background characters feel unnecessary. Chance has a lot of allies, while Fate is introduced as an old crone with two sisters (and I’m still not quite sure what happened to the sisters, because I don’t remember them ever being mentioned again). This is a book I would be interested in rereading in the future, to see whether I find it easier to follow when reading it physically.

It also didn’t help that this book had so many chapters. By the end of the story we’re nearly on chapter 140, and for a book which is only 350 pages long, that’s too many. Some of the chapters were over before they’d really begun, and it made the storytelling disjointed and kept throwing me off. I found it hard to concentrate, and even harder to connect with the characters.

That being said, I did enjoy what Jennifer Donnelly did throughout Stepsister. There was a huge focus on the way that society views women and girls, and the roles that they are expected to fill. With Tavia having an intense interest in science and Isabelle being interested in war and military strategy, these girls don’t fit the typical mold a woman was expected to fill in France in this time period!

I particularly enjoyed the personification of Chance and Fate, and would happily read more books featuring these two in the future. It makes this fairytale stand out from the YA crowd by giving it such a great USP, and that’s not something I often find myself thinking about YA fairytale retellings (or continuations!).

All in all, this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It would have been better if the chapters had been structured better, and I also would have liked the ending to have played out a little more slowly. The story unravels painfully slowly, then the ending occurs at such a breakneck speed that I found myself wondering if I’d accidentally skipped some chapters.

Although I didn’t love Stepsister I’m still looking forward to reading Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly, and I’m glad I’ve finally picked up one of her novels as I’ve been hearing great things about her writing for years.

Thank you for reading this review,

Alyce

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TOP TEN TUESDAY: Purple, yellow and green book covers

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Purple, yellow and green book covers

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about celebrating books with purple, yellow and green covers because today is Mardi Gras! Without further ado, here are some pictures of the best purple, yellow 

REVIEW: Breathless by Jennifer Niven

REVIEW: Breathless by Jennifer Niven

First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin for accepting my request to read Breathless via NetGalley. Breathless was my first Jennifer Niven read, and it didn’t live up to the hype. Following a girl called Claude as her parents 

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Adult romances on my radar

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Adult romances on my radar

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

I’ll be honest, I have no idea how to talk about adult books. I would call all of the books on this list contemporary romances, but I don’t actually know if they are: they might be chick lit, they might be romcoms. They might be called romances. They might just be contemporaries! So this is me, apologising in advance if this list is a MESS.

Adult contemporary romance is a genre that I want to read more from. Whenever a book is described as a romance, I automatically feel put off of reading it. I imagine tightly corseted women with prominent bosoms swooning against shirtless men with scary abs (aka the most stereotypical Mills & Boon cover EVER!) and those books don’t appeal to me.

However, I read a couple adult contemporary romances last year, picking one up based on the cover (Love Songs for Sceptics by Christina Pishiris) and one because of the author (All About Us by Tom Ellen) and I really enjoyed them both!

The ten books on this list are ones that I’ve either a) heard great things about or b) love the cover of, and they’re definitely adult contemporary romances that I’m going to prioritise picking up ASAP. As I said, I don’t really know how to talk about any of them, so I will be linking their Goodreads pages in the titles!

So, without further ado, here we go:

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron





I only discovered Accidentally Engaged while writing this list, but THAT COVER. Oh wow, that is absolutely stunning.

This book features a Muslim girl whose family are desperate to get her married off, baking, and what seems like a romance with the boy-next-door! I don’t think I need any more information to be sold on this one.




The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams




I first heard about The Bromance Book Club on Chelsea’s Booktube channel, and have heard a lot of people talking about it since.

Following a guy who decides to join a romance book club in the attempt to learn how to satisfy his wife, this sounds so wholesome and full-hearted. I also love the fact that it’s part of a series, so you’ll be able to follow the other guys at the book club if you like their characters!





The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary





The Flatshare actually inspired me to write this list, because I managed to get a copy in our local book swap box yesterday!

I’ve heard mixed things about this book: that the romance is really sweet, but the logic behind the plot is tenuous at best. Hopefully I’ll be able to suspend my disbelief and really fall in love with these characters (and if not, I’ll keep an eye out for one of Beth O’Leary’s other novels in the future!).



The Flip Side by James Bailey





It took me half an hour of searching to find The Flip Side last night, because I really wanted to include it on this list.

Not only is that cover really memorable (in fact, the only thing that I could remember about the book – I’d thrown out the author’s name and the title!) but I love the concept. A guy proposes to his long-term girlfriend and she says no… So he decides to start making all of his decisions based on the flip of a coin. What a fun idea!

Aoife from Pretty Purple Polka Dots has read this and said it was a lot of fun, so I’m definitely going to trust her recommendation.



Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert





The first book in the Brown sisters series, Get a Life, Chloe Brown features a chronically ill main character, which I think is brilliant. Chronically ill people deserve to be the stars of romance novels as well, but I haven’t heard of any other books like this one!

I’ve mostly seen people talking about Take a Hint, Dani Brown, the second book in the Brown sisters series, but if I’m going to read these I’ll definitely be starting with Chloe’s story.



Make Up Break Up by Lily Menon




Lily Menon is the adult romance pen name of Sandhya Menon, author of When Dimple Met Rishi. I absolutely loved her debut novel (even though I’m yet to pick up any of her other releases – the shame!) but I’m looking forward to reading her adult debut, too.

I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted to read a copy of Make Up Break Up via NetGalley, so it’s safe to say I will be reading this one really soon.

Following a girl who has an app called Make Up – destined to save failing relationships – and a guy who has an app called Break Up – making break ups as fast and to the point as possible – it’s going to be fun to see how this story unfolds.



The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai




The Right Swipe sounds quite similar to Make Up Break Up, in that it follows two rival app creators.

Rhiannon and Samson are supposed to be a one-time thing, until he turns up in the boardroom, partnered up with a business rival. Rhiannon has to decide whether to follow her heart, or her head.

This sounds like it’s going to be a lot of fun, and it’s also the first book in a series which makes me even more interested in it!



Ten Things My Cat Hates About You by Lottie Lucas




Another book I discovered while writing this list, Ten Things My Cat Hates About You sounds absolutely WILD.

Following a girl whose cat keeps chasing off her boyfriends, this sounds like it’s going to be equal parts frustrating and hilarious, and I can’t believe I’d never heard of it before!





The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren




Hailey in Bookland absolutely loves Christina Lauren, so I probably first heard of this book on her channel.

After a newly married bride and groom are struck down with sickness before their honeymoon, a bridesmaid and the best man are invited to go in their place. The only problem? They both absolutely HATE each other. Awkward…

This sounds like it’s going to be an enemies-to-lovers story, and I really like that trope when it’s done well, so I think this could become a favourite.



The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa





The last book on my list today is one that I can’t wait to read because it has one of the best covers I have ever seen.

A wedding planner gets ditched at the altar – ironic – but puts it behind her and continues making her wedding planning business successful. It’s all going well… Until she ends up working with the best man from her failed wedding!

This sounds like it’s going to be a comedy of errors, and I can’t wait to see what happens.





And those are the ten adult contemporary romances I can’t wait to pick up. If you’ve read any of these books and would recommend them, please let me know down in the comments! Make sure to also leave a link to your love freebie post: I can’t wait to see what other people have written.

Thanks for reading,

Alyce

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TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books written before I was born

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books written before I was born

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Because this week’s topic is rather vague, I’ve decided to split this list into two. I’m going to start this list by talking about five books that were written before I was born 

REVIEW: Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch

REVIEW: Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch

I was so excited when Love & Olives popped up as one of the Riveted Lit Free Reads in December. Love & Luck is still one of my favourite YA contemporaries of all time, and I thought Love & Olives was sure to impress me 

REVIEW: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

REVIEW: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

There have been quite a few books inspired by King Arthur published in recent years. Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke… The list is endless.

However, I don’t think any of them live up to Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn. Combining Black Girl Magic with a fresh twist on the Order of the Round Table, this is a captivating debut which I found ridiculously hard to put down.

When the book begins we meet our protagonist, Bree, on the night that her mother dies in a car accident. It’s made worse by the fact that Bree had a huge fight with her mother the previous night, leaving her to come to terms with the knowledge that the last words she said to her mother were ones said in anger.

Their fight was about Bree’s enrollment in an Early College program. Bree signed up without her mother’s permission, thinking she wouldn’t get in (but if she did, attending the university where her mother studied had to sweeten the deal, right?!). But Bree’s mother wasn’t ever going to let her daughter go there, and Bree is left with no idea why.

Unfortunately, Bree’s mother’s secrets end up causing her to get embroiled in more trouble than either of them could have anticipated. Before lessons begin she goes to a party where she meets a mysterious guy called Sel. She spots something strange that nobody else seems able to see, and Sel ends up doing something to her memories… Something that makes her wonder if her mother’s death wasn’t a simple accident.

Bree is left questioning the truth about the world around her, fighting with her best friend Alice, and being assigned a (startlingly attractive) peer mentor. How will Bree get her head around the new world she’s discovering while still struggling to cope with her grief?

Going into Legendborn, all I knew was that it was a King Arthur retelling. The last King Arthur retelling I read was one which seriously disappointed me, so instead of intriguing me that aspect made me put off reading this book for longer than I should have.

I wondered how a King Arthur retelling set in America was going to work, but Tracy Deonn does a wonderful job of explaining the history of how Arthur’s descendants came to be across the pond. She has obviously put a lot of work into researching not only the original legend, but the history of America itself as well.

At its heart this story is a scathing look at the way that generations of Black people have been treated in America – from back in the days of slavery up until today, when Bree experiences microaggressions and prejudiced comments just because of the colour of her skin. It’s empowering, it’s a call to arms, and it’s high time that we get more YA fantasy retellings written by Black authors about Black characters.

I absolutely love Bree. Although she is a Chosen One (and that’s not my favourite trope!) she is such a well-crafted character that I can almost overlook it. As well as dealing with the discovery of a magical underworld, she’s also dealing with developing feelings for Nick, the strain that the Early College program is putting on her relationship with her best friend, and her mother’s death. That adds up to a ton of character development, which Tracy Deonn ekes out and takes time with. Bree doesn’t change within a few pages, and throughout the novel we get a lot of her inner monologue as she struggles to decide what to do about the situation she has found herself in and the way that it is changing how she sees herself.

The other aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was the possible love triangle between Bree, Sel and Nick. I wouldn’t describe Bree and Nick’s relationship as instalove because it does take her a little while to trust him enough to let him in, but their romance does develop quite rapidly. However, the friendship between Bree and Sel was what I was living for. They have a lot in common, and even though he’s the bad guy at the beginning you quickly learn that there’s a lot more going on under the surface. I’m describing this as a possible love triangle because by the end of the first book Bree and Sel’s relationship is still purely friendship, but I have strong feelings towards these two and I hope that they end up developing strong feelings for each other! It’s been a while since I’ve felt this drawn to a YA romance, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Tracy Deonn takes these characters in the as-yet-untitled second novel in the Legendborn series.

There are only two reasons why I didn’t give this book five stars. The first is a very minor one, but it’s the overly repetitive descriptions of the way that each boy smells. I was reading this book aloud to Sean and I lost count of the amount of times I said the words ‘laundry and cedar’ or ‘whiskey and cinnamon’. Those descriptions are very vivid and vibrant, but when they kept getting repeated every couple of pages it threw me out of the story entirely.

The other reason that Legendborn ended up being four stars is that the ending is too rushed. For a book which comes in at just over 500 pages, the climax takes place over just a couple of chapters, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the action at the end of the novel had played out more slowly. I loved the fast-paced nature of a certain reveal, but as a whole the book had such slow pacing and I really savoured the level of world-building that Tracy Deonn was putting into the story, so for the ending to be a complete 180 was a bit of a shame.

That being said, this is one of the best YA fantasies I’ve read in a long time. I loved the fact that it included such a unique twist on the King Arthur legend, I really enjoyed the unique magic system and I think it’s brilliant that this book sits beautifully between YA and Adult – definitely sitting at the older end of the YA fantasy spectrum.

Tracy Deonn is an author to watch, that’s for sure. I’m eagerly anticipating news about the sequel to Legendborn, and I’m already looking forward to rereading this story in preparation for Bree’s tale to continue.

Are there any other King Arthur retellings that you’ve read and would recommend? Please leave them down in the comments!

Thank you for reading,

Alyce

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REVIEW: Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Goblin Army by Alex Gardiner

REVIEW: Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Goblin Army by Alex Gardiner

I read the first book in the Mossbelly Macfearsome series two years ago, and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I don’t really have all that much to say about Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Goblin Army. Although Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Dwarves of Doom seemed clunky