Brief blogs for busy bees

Author: Alyce

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?



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.



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 […]

Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood

Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood

Effie Kostas is new at school and she’s struggling to fit in. She’s intelligent and confident, but she feels basically invisible until she gets into an argument with Aaron Davis – Student Council President – when he abuses his lunch pass privilege to buy the […]

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down.

Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart try to get to the bottom of why she was kidnapped and how she ended up living on the other side of the world. Having lost her ‘mum’ years ago and unable to get the truth out of her stepfather, Kim has no choice but to dive into the deepest, darkest parts of Manson. Of particular interest a snake-obsessed cult called The Church of the Light Within, who seem to have brainwashed her mother shortly prior to her abduction…

When I first finished The Nowhere Child I gave it four stars, because it filled me with adrenaline. It has a hugely climactic ending that had me rushing to finish and a twist-filled resolution that I didn’t see coming, and it’s not often that thrillers surprise me!

However, after a couple of days reflection I’ve realised that one of the reasons I didn’t see the ending coming was because the red herrings placed throughout are done in an extremely unskillful manner, purposefully duping the reader and not making much sense to the wider plot.

The detective in charge of the case arranges a date with someone with the surname Leamy, making it impossible to believe it’s anyone other than Kim’s kidnapper – it’s a very unusual surname, after all – but she’s dropped in and then never revisited, so it’s not very satisfying to be misled in such an unsubtle way.

Then there’s the surname of the main family. A girl with the surname of Went gets kidnapped? Jeeeeeesus, that’s some heavy-handed naming. Cringe.

The plot of The Nowhere Child is intelligent, but these simple choices definitely detract from the impact of the book. It’s frustrating, because they’re such easy things to change, and I’m surprised that they weren’t altered during the editing process: if the red herrings had been gentle hints rather than forceful shoves in the wrong direction it would have been a far more enjoyable novel.

However, those aspects are only enough to get me to drop my rating down to three stars, because I still enjoyed the majority of The Nowhere Child. Bouncing from the present day back to when Sammy was taken, we get to learn more about the Went family and the people of Manson, and I found myself interested in all of their stories.

This book features a very strong cast of characters, from Sammy’s mother – struggling with post-natal depression and embraced by a cult – to Sammy’s father, who himself is struggling with his sexuality. Although I didn’t like some of the characters, I enjoyed reading about all of them, and I would have happily read this as a duology – one book taking place at the time when Sammy was taken, and one picking up the story twenty years later when Stuart managed to track Kim down.

I’m certainly going to be looking out for Christian White’s work in the future, because The Nowhere Child shows an author with a lot of potential. It’s not a surprise that it’s won the same award that The Dry by Jane Harper took home a few years ago (and you all know how much I love The Dry!) so hopefully I’ll enjoy Christian White’s future novels just as much as I adore Harper’s.



Review: Proud anthology

Review: Proud anthology

I was lucky to be invited to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea back in January, where I picked up an early copy of Proud. Since Proud was announced last February, it’s been my most anticipated release of 2019, so I’m so excited to be able to […]