Brief blogs for busy bees

Author: Alyce

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d switch places with

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters I’d switch places with

Hiya! Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday post. It feels like I’m writing one of these every other day at the moment – time is passing so quickly this year, and I can’t believe it’s already March. This week’s topic is the ten characters that […]

Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

After Shane Ferrick dies in suspicious circumstances, rumours point the finger of blame in a few different directions. At the party where Shane was last seen alive, Juniper, Gavin and Brett all did terrible things to him, and everyone knows Parker hated Shane after he […]

Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

A school ski trip turns deadly when a storm springs up out of nowhere, cutting the town where the group are staying off from the rest of the world. The ski lifts are out of action, the townsfolk seem to have evacuated and the teachers have all disappeared, leaving the students to fend for themselves.

But there’s something happening in Kaldgellan, and it’s far worse than just a freak weather incident. When they try to look outside the next morning they’re greeted by the sight of blood. By the end of the day monsters are bursting through the windows, murdering students left, right and centre, leaving an increasingly smaller group teaming up in their quest to make it home alive.

A fight for survival set in the most harrowing of conditions, Whiteout is one of the best teen horror novels I’ve ever read. It’s legitimately chilling (and not just because of the zero temperature setting).

It has been an extremely long time since I’ve read a novel featuring scary, bloodsucking and throat-tearing vampires – especially not featured in a new release – and I’m hoping that this could be the beginning of a trend, because I’d forgotten how horrifying vampires could be. Although it’s not explicitly agreed that they are vampires, all of the traits are present, and for once the characters are actually aware of it. Film buff Nico referencing pop culture vampires and the ways that they’re similar and different is one of my highlights of the novel, because we’re normally expected to suspend belief and accept that the characters have no idea or prior knowledge of what they’re up against, and that makes no sense when vampires are a universal big bad!

There’s a huge cast of characters in Whiteout – a cast which rapidly decreases in size – but Gabriel Dylan does a great job of making all of them different from each other. Some only have minor parts to play so aren’t that developed, but the main characters are all fleshed out and easy to get emotionally attached to (a problem, when the death toll marches quickly into the double figures!).

However, I wasn’t too convinced by the epilogue tacked on to the end of the novel, as Whiteout works perfectly as a standalone and seems to have a rather neat resolution until the possibility of a sequel is added on. Honestly, if there is a sequel released I’ll probably read it – this is Gabriel Dylan’s debut novel and I’m already gagging to get my hands on more of his work, because his writing style is so gripping – but it would have been nice for any potential sequels to be more of a surprise, because it cheapens the impact of the last few chapters a little bit.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Stripes, for providing me with a copy of Whiteout in exchange for a fair and honest review, and a huge thank you to Gabriel Dylan for keeping me so entertained throughout this story!

Alyce

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Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that […]

YA Book Prize 2019 shortlist

YA Book Prize 2019 shortlist

In case you missed it, yesterday the YA Book Prize revealed this year’s #YA10. I put my predictions up on Wednesday, so today I’m going to share my thoughts on the shortlist: which inclusions surprised me, and which ones I feel stupid for not guessing! […]

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see.

While the other students embark on a slut-shaming mission against her, Anna has a project of her own to focus upon. She’s investigating the possibility that there may have been witches living in the little village she’s moved to, and that she may have found a necklace belonging to one of them hidden up in her attic.

As someone who has read and loved most of Laura Bates’ releases – particularly Everyday Sexism, which I would recommend everyone grab a copy of – I thought The Burning was bound to get five stars from me, but that wasn’t the case.

One of the first issues I had with the book was how unoriginal Anna’s story was. With the blurb and the cover nodding towards some kind of deep, dark secret, I was expecting something other than leaked nudes to be plaguing her. I’m not negating the seriousness of the events that Anna has to cope with, but I am criticising the way that the book was marketed. Knowing that Anna is investigating a girl from centuries ago who was accused of witchcraft, I was holding out hope that Anna’s secret might be more magical.

The pacing of the book was also very odd. When Anna is first settling into the school the pace is very fast even though it’s only focusing on everyday occurrences, but when her intimate images hit Facebook and the main story kicks off it all starts moving very slowly. In my school experience, if anything like this happened the school staff members would find out and get involved very quickly. Anna’s plight remaining undiscovered for weeks didn’t seem true to life.

I also felt as though the climax of the novel wasn’t realistic in the slightest. I’m not going to reveal what happens at the end of the book, but Anna’s actions didn’t feel authentic. Again, this issue could be chalked up to me setting my expectations too high: due to Bates’ history – tackling sexism by creating the Everyday Sexism project – I was hoping Anna would do something just as proactive as a response to her own troubles.

When I was a teenager I wasn’t interested in feminism at all, and I can’t think of a single one of my friends who identified themselves as a feminist. My interest in feminism didn’t develop until I was 18 and one of my colleagues introduced me to Laura Bates’ work. The Burning had the potential to be an accessible way to introduce young adults to feminism and its continued relevance, but the language used and the internal monologues showing the reader how Anna’s feeling just aren’t as engaging as they could have been.

I’m a fan of Bates’ and even I found my attention wandering, so it’ll be interesting to hear the thoughts of some younger reviewers as to whether this book had the intended impact upon them.

However, I did enjoy the way Bates’ linked the need for feminism in the modern era with the way that it was absolutely vital back in the 17th Century. Maggie’s story is harrowing and emotional, and I found myself wishing that she’d decided to focus on that story and tell it in its entirety, rather than just splashing it through in irregular flashbacks.

If you’re a young person who is interested in feminism but aren’t sure where to start, I would highly recommend trying Everyday Sexism or Girl Up! before you give The Burning a go. Despite the fact that they’re both non-fiction books, they’re a lot less dense and far more engaging than The Burning, so they should make it very interesting for you to learn more about feminism. It’s a good idea to get to grips with the basis of feminism before you read this book to see instances of everyday sexism and misogyny in action, because that’ll make The Burning far more influential upon you.

Alyce

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YA Book Prize 2019 predictions

YA Book Prize 2019 predictions

With all of the excitement of giving birth last March, I didn’t have enough time to read all of the books that were on the 2018 YA Book Prize shortlist. Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence, Philip Pullman’s La Belle Sauvage and the winner – After […]

Top Ten Tuesday: Places I want to visit

Top Ten Tuesday: Places I want to visit

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is supposed to be all about the places in books that you want to visit, but I was having a hard time coming up with a list of books that featured the places that I want to visit. Instead, I’ve […]

Blog blitz: A Testament to Murder by Vivian Conroy

Blog blitz: A Testament to Murder by Vivian Conroy

Hello, and welcome to my blog blitz post! I’m hugely excited to be sharing an extract from A Testament to Murder with you today, but I’m going to share a bit more information about the book first to whet your appetite.

The cover of A Testament to Murder

A Testament to Murder is the first book in Vivian Conroy’s new A Murder Will Follow series. Released on the 18th of February, this cosy crime novel is perfectly for curling up under a blanket and passing a lazy Saturday while waiting for the weather to warm up later in the year.

Suspenseful from the first page to the last, A Testament to Murder is perfect for fans of And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express and Crooked House.

A dying billionaire. Nine would-be heirs. But only one will take the prize…

At the lush Villa Calypso on the French Riviera, a dying billionaire launches a devious plan: at midnight each day he appoints a new heir to his vast fortune. If he dies within 24 hours, that person takes it all. If not, their chance is gone forever.

Yet these are no ordinary beneficiaries, these men who crossed him, women who deceived him, and distant relations intent on reclaiming the family fortune. All are determined to lend death a hand and outwit their rivals in pursuit of the prize.

As tensions mount with every passing second, retired Scotland Yard investigator Jasper must stay two steps ahead of every player if he hopes to prevent the billionaire’s devious game from becoming a testament to murder…

If you’re interested in purchasing A Testament to Murder, it’s available to order through Amazon.

Still not convinced? Here’s an excerpt from A Testament to Murder which is bound to sway you:

The butler hovered over him, and on his other side was the discreet-looking man in a suit, whom she had taken from the lawyer. Suddenly the air seemed charged with all the electricity of the building storm outside.

Did that mean something about the will would be mentioned?

Patty put down her knife and fork, rubbed her fingertips on her napkin and took a quick sip of water to make sure she didn’t gawk too conspicuously as all her hopes of a large fortune made their way to the head of the table.

Malcolm sighed with relief as he sank into the chair with armrests that stood there waiting for him.

The butler piled pillows behind his back, while the lawyer said something at his ear and then withdrew to stand along the wall.

Malcolm gestured with his right hand to indicate that the butler could clear the table. The clatter of plates was nothing like the solemn atmosphere Patty had imagined for a grand inheritance announcement. Would she forever have to recall that she had been pronounced sole heir to a fortune, while a fork almost fell into her lap?

It wouldn’t matter of course for the money would be just as good, but still she would have liked this moment to be special.

Malcolm waited until the butler had left the room and then said, his gaze slipping past all of their faces, “I’m very pleased that you’ve all accepted my invitation and have come out here to spend some time with me while you still can. I’d like to introduce you to my lawyer Frederick Koning, who is here to ensure everything is done legally.”

At the latter word an excited shock drifted through the room. Everybody was suddenly aware of what was about to happen.

Patty tried to look normally curious and not over anxious, although of course from the very moment everybody knew about her privileged position, they’d start undermining it. She had hoped Malcolm would keep his new will a secret until he was dead and nothing could be changed anymore.

Malcolm said, “For my entire life I worked hard and lived frugally. I put money in the bank; I bought houses and horses and cars.”

“Even a plane,” Patty mouthed, but Malcolm didn’t seem to see it and continued, “I collected antiques and other valuables. What you see on the walls in this room alone is enough to pay for a modest house in London.”

Sharp intakes of breath suggested that Malcolm’s wealth was suddenly greater than any of them had expected.

Malcolm continued, “I have gathered things upon things, not thinking about the time when I would have to leave this mortal existence without being able to take anything along. Now the time has come to think about it. I’m forced to think about it as my doctors have told me I will not recover.”

He coughed a moment and used a handkerchief to wipe his mouth.

Nobody said they were sorry to hear that he was dying.

They just waited, their faces tight, until he continued, “I decided to ask all of you to come over here so I can tell you what I will do with everything I own.”

His eyes with bright and intense as he glanced round again. “I could have done this the conventional way, I suppose. I could have decided to give something to everyone who played a part in my life. But why would I give any of you anything? My ex-wife Cecily showed herself so eminently able to spending my money whether I wanted her to or not. I think she spent quite enough and need not have any more.”

Cecily turned pale and seemed to want to protest, but Malcolm didn’t give her a chance. “My ex-partner, Howard, not only took my business but also my wife. I doubt I can give him anything that would go beyond that.”

Kenneth stared in shock from his mother to his father, and for a moment Patty felt sorry for him. The poor boy had probably never understood how things were in his family. This was a rude awakening, a blow dealt by an unsympathetic old man who had apparently chosen these moments for a little revenge.

Malcolm said, “My nephew Hugh could no doubt use money to keep him fed and lodged while he tries to decide whether ‘walked’, ‘trotted’, ‘marched’, ‘rushed’ or ‘ambled’ is quite the right word to convey his character’s current action. And as his masterpiece can’t end up shorter than at least three hundred thousand words, you can imagine such careful choices take up a lot of time.”

Hugh opened and shut his mouth like a fish out of water.

Malcolm said, “In addition to the demands of his fickle Muse, Hugh now also has the wishes of his new wife to take into account. Although I can imagine that a nanny who exchanged three screaming charges for only one, already got the better end of the deal and should not ask for more.”

Patty was numb with shock at being exposed like this at dinner and grabbed her wineglass, gulping down the contents.

Malcolm calmed continued, “She rather likes to drink…”

Patty lowered her glass to the table with a bang.

“And has expensive taste in clothes, although it is beyond me why dresses containing so little fabric have to cost so much.”

Theodora snickered, and Patty wanted to throw something at her. She had no idea why Malcolm who had promised to give her everything was now tearing her apart in front of everybody else. He had to be losing his mind.

Wow. That’s an explosive introduction to an eclectic cast of characters, and I can’t wait to find out more about them. Who do you think will be going home with Malcolm’s inheritance at the end of the day?

About the author:

Armed with cheese and chocolate, Vivian Conroy sits down to create the aspirational settings, characters with secrets up their sleeves, and clever plots which took several of her mysteries to #1 bestseller in multiple categories on Amazon US and Canada. Away from the keyboard, Vivian likes to hike (especially in the Swiss mountains), hunt for the perfect cheesecake and experience the joy in every-day life, be it a fiery sunset, a gorgeous full moon or that errant butterfly descending on the windowsill.

If you like the sound of A Testament to Murder and want to let Vivian know how excited you are, you can contact her on Twitter.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Canelo, for allowing me to get involved with this blog blitz and sending me such an exciting excerpt to feature! I’m working with them on another blog tour in a couple of weeks time, so keep an eye out for it – it’s a title I finished reading in a day and hugely enjoyed.

Alyce

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Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

‘When my sister was eight years old, she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back.’ It’s hard to share my thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne without getting […]