Brief blogs for busy bees

Author: Alyce

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 […]

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 the Fire by Will Hill – are still sitting on my TBR, but I am planning to get around to reading them at some point.

I also didn’t keep up to date with YA releases as closely as I normally do, so crafting this prediction post was actually really difficult! But I had a lot of fun seeing which books I predicted would be on the shortlist actually appeared on it, so with the list being revealed tomorrow I couldn’t resist putting a post together.

In alphabetical order, these are the ten books I think deserve to be shortlisted for this year’s YA Book Prize: 

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne almost always appears on the YA Book Prize shortlist, so I wouldn’t be surprised if 2018’s Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? is on there. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but considering how much I enjoyed Am I Normal Yet? and It Only Happens in the Movies, this is bound to become a fast favourite.

Clean by Juno Dawson

I didn’t read many five star books in 2018, but Clean was one of them. It was actually the first book that popped into my head when I started planning this predictions post! Juno Dawson has been one of my favourite authors since releasing All of the Above, and Clean was an unapologetic look at an upper-class socialite forced into a stint at a rehab centre by her brother.

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

Laura Steven’s debut novel was a book which I deeply related to, and I know a lot of people who felt the same way. Telling the story of a girl called Izzy who gets slut-shamed for sleeping with two guys at one party, it’s a surprisingly hilarious book.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

When Sara Barnard’s second novel, A Quiet Kind of Thunder, was missing from last year’s shortlist, I was absolutely gutted. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I was certain it was going to be the winner, so for it to be missing from the shortlist really surprised me! I haven’t read Goodbye, Perfect yet, but if it’s anything like Barnard’s first two books it deserves a spot on the list.

I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

I haven’t read I Was Born For This yet, but it was one of the most talked about YA releases of 2018. Radio Silence is one of my favourite novels and Alice Oseman is a stunning writer, so even if I Was Born For This isn’t on the shortlist I’m still going to be picking it up fairly soon.

My Box-Shaped Heart by Rachael Lucas

I’ve been a huge fan of Rachael Lucas’s writing since I read her first young adult novel, The State of Grace. I read My Box-Shaped Heart through the library and it was such a quick and fun read even though it tells the story of a girl who has to deal with a mother who is a hoarder, making their life rather difficult!

Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

Sophie Cameron’s debut novel is a YA fantasy set in Scotland. Angels start falling from the sky soon after Jaya’s mother’s death, and her father becomes utterly obsessed with hunting them, predicting where the next one is going to fall. Unfortunately, Jaya’s the one who’s on the scene when an angel comes plummeting out of the sky in the location he’s predicted… Just a little bit early. Out of the Blue was the first book I finished after my daughter’s birth, and it’s that good that I even found myself reading it on my phone in the hospital while we were waiting to get her checked over just after she was born!

Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Rosie Loves Jack should certainly be one of the top ten. Following a girl with Down’s syndrome as she travels to see her boyfriend, you’ll be heartbroken by the way evil people take advantage of Rosie, but totally empowered by the way she sees herself.

Skylarks by Karen Gregory

I still haven’t been able to review Skylarks, because it’s impossible to put how I feel about it into words. The best book I read last year by far, Karen Gregory’s second novel is a politically-minded novel fighting back against austerity, while also exploring the strain placed on romantic relationships between people who come from different economic backgrounds.

Tender by Eve Ainsworth

Tender is Eve Ainsworth’s fourth novel, but it’s my favourite by far. Ainsworth is known for tackling difficult topics head on, and this look at teen carers is excellent, educating the general public about the emotional and mental impact of looking after a close family member who is suffering.

I hope you enjoyed this prediction post! Do you think the YA Book Prize shortlist is going to look anything like this, or are there some really obvious titles I’m missing?

Alyce

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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. A Testament to Murder […]

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 spoilery. I’m warning you now, I’m going to give away EVERYTHING in this review. That’s why I’ve waited until after publication date to post it, because it makes me feel a little less guilty for being unable to resist going on a bit of a tirade.

If you haven’t read The Taking of Annie Thorne and want to retain some element of surprise, look away now.

The rest of you ready? Well, let’s dive right into this then.

The Taking of Annie Thorne focuses on Joe Thorne, Annie’s older brother, who has returned to the town of Arnhill with revenge in mind. Revenge against Stephen Hurst, his old ‘friend’, a man who he has some serious dirt on.

The dirt? That Stephen murdered his sister, Annie.

Everyone thinks Annie disappeared for two days before she came back, covered in dirt and acting differently, but Joe remembers the truth. He knows that the head injury inflicted by Stephen’s crowbar isn’t something that an eight-year-old could have survived, and whatever came back from the mine wasn’t Annie.

So Joe has returned to Arnhill, planning to threaten Stephen into giving him enough money to pay off his gambling debts in return for his continued silence. But Stephen Hurst has always been a powerful man, and Joe’s plan isn’t going to go as smoothly as he was expecting it to.

I was enjoying The Taking of Annie Thorne until it took the turn into the fantastical. Expecting a traditional psychological thriller – child gets kidnapped, returns marked by the events that they’ve experienced and changes their family’s lives for good – I didn’t see the twist of Annie’s death coming. It ruined the entire story for me.

The first half of the novel blew me away. The foreshadowing was a little heavy-handed, but the brutal way that Joe is treated by the people from his past upon his return to the village was shockingly violent. It made the story far darker than I was expecting, making me excited to find out exactly what happened to Annie all those years before.

It was a shame that the reveal caused my enjoyment of the book to plummet so rapidly. Perhaps I would have felt differently if C.J. Tudor had focused on why the events happened, but instead the characters seem to blindly accept the fact that something about Arnhill makes children come back from the dead.

There are some insinuations that the land itself is magical – the tragic events take place a burial ground filled solely with children’s bones – with hints towards the same thing happening to more children after Annie. However, there’s no concrete history that cements it in the story of the village and makes it more believable.

It gives it the impression that C.J. Tudor was halfway through the story, had an idea and decided to turn it on its head, but didn’t completely think things through. This becomes even more apparent during the last couple of chapters, where nonsensical events happen like dominoes falling. It made me feel as though my copy was missing a chapter or two at the end that actually explained things, but unfortunately that was not the case.

I’ve seen a lot of rave reviews for The Taking of Annie Thorne, so I’m definitely in the minority having not enjoyed this novel. Perhaps I would have liked it more if I’d known what I was letting myself in for, but I’ve also never been a huge fan of novels which blur the lines between genres, so perhaps this was never meant to appeal to me.

If you’ve already read The Taking of Annie Thorne, let me know what you thought in the comments down below!

Alyce

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Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Review: Love & Luck by Jenna Evans Welch

Addie is heartbroken, so spending the summer in Ireland watching her Aunt Mel get married (again) is not the one. It’s made even worse by the fact that her and Ian – her brother and her closest friend – are at each other’s throats constantly. […]

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

Review: Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

“You know what I’m talking about,” she said. “You’ve known from the day we met. Even on text, where there are no inflections or nuance or tone for non sequiturs. You’ve always spoken fluent me.” When Sam’s ex-girlfriend Lorraine – the great love of his […]

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

‘It’s dope to be black until it’s hard to be black.’ 


When Starr’s friend Khalil gets shot and killed by a police officer during a routine traffic stop, her world is turned upside down.

Already struggling to juggle two personalities – the person she is in her ‘hood, Garden Heights Starr, vs. the person she has to be at her majority white private school, Williamson Starr – Starr now has to contend with police interviews and the constant worry that One-Fifteen is going to be found innocent of murdering one of her oldest friends.

‘I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. 

I’ve tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr and signed every petition out there. 

I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down. 

Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.’

The Hate U Give is extremely hard to review, because it’s hard to put into words exactly why I loved it so much.

It’s unapologetic, attacking the American justice system and the systemic racism authority figures exhibit towards black people (even touching upon what happens when the authority figure is black).

It’s educational, breaking down stereotypes while offering a realistic snapshot of everyday life in the ‘hood. Filled with references to Huey Newton and The Black Panthers – a political party which I’d never heard of before – it’s the perfect way to begin learning more about black history.

It’s powerful, a pull no punches debut. Reading this book you’d genuinely believe Angie Thomas had been releasing novels for decades, because it takes a remarkable amount of bravery to write such a politically charged first novel.

But it’s also much, much more.

There are bits that will have you laughing out loud, which I certainly hadn’t expected. The conversations between Starr and her family had me giggling, all of them trying to out-sass each other – particularly her mother, Lisa, who takes no shit from any member of the clan.

Meanwhile there are bits that are utterly infuriating. The close-minded attitude of Hailey, one of Starr’s white friends, had me wanting to tear my hair out. Some of the things she said weren’t even that extreme, but they were still aggravating. It made me take a moment to think about how I’d feel if I was experiencing constant low-level discrimination on a daily basis and how quickly it would add up.

A book that makes you have to physically stop and think is rare, but I lost count of how many times I had to pause to take everything in during The Hate U Give. From Khalil’s funeral to the riots which erupt across Garden Heights, it’s surprising that a book focused on such serious subjects has had such a success in the mainstream, but it’s proof that this is a relevant subject which the general public are heavily invested in.

One of the aspects that stands out the most was the incorporation of online activism, and the way that it bled into the real world. As so many young people are heavily involved in online activism, it’s important to raise awareness of the good that it can do. It’s impossible for people to claim that sitting in front of a screen can’t do any good, because every little helps.

It don’t matter if you’re black or white, The Hate U Give teaches a very important lesson to all. I strongly believe it should be made required reading. However, I’m hoping that it’ll be a lot less relevant in five or ten years. It shouldn’t be possible that this book was released almost two years ago and there are new cases from the past six months – like those of Emantic Fitzgerald Bradford Jr. and Jemel Roberson – in which black men have been killed by police officers who have faced little to no repercussions.

If you haven’t read The Hate U Give because you’ve been scared that it won’t live up to the hype, don’t be. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I wish I’d read it sooner.

Alyce

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Top Ten Tuesday: Underappreciated books I love

Top Ten Tuesday: Underappreciated books I love

It’s been two years since I last wrote a post about all of the underappreciated books I love, but it’s still one of the most fun lists I’ve ever made so I’m glad that I get to write a follow up. The topic for this […]