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YA Book Prize 2020 spoilery shortlist thoughts

YA Book Prize 2020 spoilery shortlist thoughts

Hey everyone! In case you’re new here, I am obsessed with the YA Book Prize. Every year I challenge myself to read the ten book shortlist in its entirety before the winner of the prize is announced so that I can choose my own winner,…

Blog tour: The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

Blog tour: The Enigma Game by Elizabeth Wein

Hey everyone! I’m here today with my stop on The Enigma Game‘s blog tour, and I’m thrilled to be welcoming Elizabeth to share a wonderful guest post with you all. I hope you’re all keeping safe and well in these trying times, and that this…

Blog tour: The Lizard by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart

Blog tour: The Lizard by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart

Hey everyone, and welcome to my stop on The Lizard blog tour! I’m honoured to be teaming up with Muswell Press once again to celebrate the release of a truly gripping crime debut.

As always, I’m going to tell you a little more about The Lizard before I share my thoughts on it – trust me when I tell you this is not a book you’re going to want to sleep on.

About the book:

St Andrews University undergraduate, Alistair Haston, heartbroken by his breakup with his girlfriend Ellie, heads off to where she summers in the hope of ‘accidentally’ running into her. On a ferry from Athens he meets Ricky, a magnetic Australian, who promises him a cushy job on the Greek island on Paros. Ricky introduces him to Heinrich, a charismatic German artist living in an exquisite mansion, who uses his talent and considerable wealth to lure susceptible tourists to his home. Soon swept away in a cocktail of hedonistic pursuits, Haston sheds his conservative skin and is immersed in a sun-drenched world of sex, fine food and drugs. When the body of a missing tourist is found, however, the finger of blame points at Haston and he is forced on a desperate life or death run.

The Lizard was inspired by a solo trip which Dugald Bruce-Lockheart took in 1988, during which he slept rough on beaches and rooftops and ended up getting chased by a local gang – at knifepoint! – around the island of Paros.

As soon as I was told it was loosely based on a real experience I couldn’t resist giving it a go, even though this is not the type of book I normally pick up.

The best word to describe the first quarter of the novel is hedonistic, and it’s definitely on the racier end of the spectrum. Alistair’s ferry trip on the way to Paros is debauched, and the parties at Heinrich’s mansion spiral further out of control as Alistair films the sexual antics of the attendants. If you’re someone who is opposed to reading books which include a lot of casual sex then I would recommend staying away from this one, as it is a huge part of the novel: Alistair works recruiting models for Heinrich to paint and gets a bonus if the models sleep with Heinrich – who also pays them for the pleasure of sleeping with them – so the sexual aspects of the story are not easily avoidable.

However, things quickly go from wild to absolutely WACKY. Alistair is arrested and discovers that Heinrich hasn’t just been painting the models. They have been turning up dead, and Alistair has been set up to take the fall for their crime. He manages to escape from prison and intends on heading to the British Embassy in Athens, until he receives a picture of Ricky with Ellie. Can he save her before she becomes their next victim, without losing his own life in the process?

This novel has so many twists and turns that you feel as though you’re on a rollercoaster, and every time you think the ride is nearly over you discover a whole new stretch of track filled with loop-the-loops and plummeting drops. Your stomach will be in your throat, your heart will be racing, and it will be impossible for you to put this book down.

Meanwhile, the location is described beautifully, the vibrant nature of the Greek islands thrumming through the pages. Considering there aren’t going to be any summer holidays happening this year, this is the perfect way to get a taste of warmer climes and escape from the ceaseless rain of another British summer.

If you’re longing for an escape to the sun but have a taste for a gritty crime novel, The Lizard is the perfect combination for you. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this novel, and it’s certainly put Dugald Bruce-Lockhart on my radar as one to watch out for in the future. As far as I’m aware this is a standalone, but it has a cheekily open ending so there is the possibility that he could revisit some of the characters in the future. I for one would be completely up for that!

About the author:

Dugald Bruce-Lockhart was born in Fiji and went to school at Sedbergh in Cumbria while his parents worked abroad. After St Andrews University he trained as an actor at RADA. He has worked extensively on stage and on TV and received many accolades including a Best Actor nomination from The Stage.

He recently directed a new production of The Last Temptation of Boris Johnson by Jonathan Maitland. He appeared as Michael Gove in the original production at the Park Theatre, London. He lives in South East London.

Thanks again to Muswell Press for getting me involved in this blog tour, and to you for coming to check out my stop.

With all physical book launches and events being cancelled it’s more important than ever to support the book blogging community and to celebrate debut authors, and by reading this post you’ve done both. Well done you!

See you next time,

Alyce

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TBR Jar Round #3

TBR Jar Round #3

Welcome back for another round of the TBR jar reviews! I only chose four titles out of the jar for April’s TBR as I already had a pretty busy reading month lined up what with reading the YA Book Prize shortlist and taking part in…

25 books I’m going to read before I’m 25

25 books I’m going to read before I’m 25

Hey everyone! Today is my 24th birthday (my champagne birthday, 24 on the 24th!) so I thought I’d take the opportunity to set myself a challenge. Next year I’m going to be 25, which is a pretty big milestone – halfway through my 20s, halfway…

#stayhomereadingrush wrap-up

#stayhomereadingrush wrap-up

As if we weren’t already reading enough books in April, we decided to take part in the Stay Home edition of The Reading Rush from the 16th to the 19th. Adding three more books to an already bursting TBR might not have been the best choice, but we ended up managing to complete all three over the course of the weekend, so I thought I’d pop some little reviews up and share my thoughts on the books we chose for each of the four prompts.

Autoboyography by Christina Lauren – 4 stars

Autoboyography is the second book I’ve read by Christina Lauren, and I enjoyed it much more than The House (which was a YA romance masquerading as a horror novel and didn’t live up to my expectations in the slightest).

Autoboyography, however, is exactly what it looks like: a m/m YA contemporary romance.

This story follows Tanner, a bisexual character living in a Mormon state, afraid to come out for fear of being completely cut-off. However, things change when he decides to take the Seminar, a renowned course where students are challenged to write a novel in a semester. In their first lesson the students are notified that a Seminar alum will be helping out, and as soon as Sebastian Brother – who is not only a Mormon, but is the local priest’s son – walks in, Tanner is instantly smitten.

Luckily, Sebastian feels the same, but this isn’t a cut-and-dried happily ever after. Sebastian struggles to reconcile his sexuality with his religion, sending him and Tanner on a will-they-won’t-they rollercoaster which makes it impossible for you to resist rooting for them.

There are so many things I loved about Autoboyography. Books about books are always a good time, but I love the fact that Tanner writes the story of him and Sebastian as his Seminar project, giving this Inception vibes. It does make the ending a bit of a rapid shift, as it switches from first person to third person and suddenly becomes a dual perspective, but I can’t think of a way that would have worked better… Something about it just threw me out of the story and made me feel a bit disconnected by the time the book resolved, which was a shame.

There’s also an incident which occurs about three quarters of the way through the book which left a bad taste in my mouth. I’m not going to outright state what exactly happens, and I can begrudgingly admit that Christina Lauren manage to resolve that subplot in an acceptable way, but it was something I didn’t see coming and which didn’t feel necessary to the story at all. It could have been removed and literally nothing would have changed, but it felt as though it was reinforcing some damaging stereotypes regarding bisexual characters. I would have probably been able to overlook the clunky style change and given this one five stars if I hadn’t also been a bit ticked off by this inclusion.

That being said, I can see why so many people rave about this book and I’m glad that I decided to check it out when I spotted it on Riveted Lit’s Free Reads. A lot of people recommend Christina Lauren for their adult romances, so my next step will be to check out one of those and see if it ticks all of the boxes for me.

I read Autoboyography to fulfill the prompt: Read a book that will make you smile.

The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson – 3 stars

Meh.

I’m going to write a series review for Truly Devious at some point, but this is one of those trilogies which gets worse with each new release.

I had high hopes for this series ender, but unfortunately for the majority of the book literally nothing happens. There’s lots of Stevie ruminating on possible links between events, rapid jumping backwards and forwards to the 1930s to join long-dead characters doing nothing particularly interesting, and one huge twist in the first chapter which pretty much gives away the entire plot of the novel. As soon as we finished the first chapter I turned to my partner and said, “Oh, so that means this and that and this!” all of which were proven to be correct between two- to three-hundred pages later. Yawn.

In fact, the plot for this book was so far from compelling that I found myself not even caring about the characters anymore. Whereas during The Vanishing Stair I found myself rooting for Stevie and a certain someone, during this last installment I just couldn’t muster the energy to give a shit about what happened to any of them. The ending is very predictable and wholly unsatisfying, and although I gave it three stars at the time I’m now thinking I might have been generous based off of how warmly I still feel towards the first two installments.

As I said, full series review to come at some point (if I can find the energy to write it…), but this has gone from being my most anticipated release of 2020 to being my biggest disappointment of 2020, which is a huge glow down.

I read The Hand on the Wall to fulfill the prompts: Read a book in the same room the whole time, and Read a book set somewhere you wish you could go (Canada/New York).

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden – 4 stars

We decided to pick up The Bear and the Nightingale after seeing a few people raving about the end to the Winternight series, The Winter of the Witch, on BookTube over the past couple of months. Going into this knowing basically nothing about it, I ended up being pleasantly surprised by this magical debut novel inspired by Russian folklore.

Vasilisa’s mother dies in childbirth, but life goes pretty smoothly for her despite that fact until her father decides it’s time to remarry. He goes to Moscow and brings home a wife (and gets a priest thrown into the bargain) and before you know it the folk who live near Vasya begin neglecting the household spirits who have kept them safe for centuries, bringing grief and misfortune to their village.

The Bear and the Nightingale is a book which I think I would give five stars to if I reread it. A lot of this story is confusing first time around, as nearly all of the characters have three or four different names (something which I was aware of from other Russian fairytales I’ve read over the years, but a fact which I always struggle to get my head around) and there are a couple of characters who appear in different guises throughout the story, making it seem as though there’s a much bigger cast of characters than there is. I had to stop reading a couple of times to puzzle everything out, and once I got my head around things I felt comfortable with carrying on, but I can totally understand why quite a lot of people have DNF’d this one. It can be a bit of a mental obstacle course to make sense of all the goings on!

However, that is exactly the reason why I’m so excited to continue on with the rest of the series. Now that we’ve been introduced to all of the characters and I have a solid grasp of the Russian mythology woven into this tale, I think I’ll be able to enjoy the next couple of installments without as much brain strain. I might be wrong – things might get more confusing from here on out! – but based off of the way this first book wraps up I feel as though The Girl in the Tower is not only going to start much quicker but is going to be much easier to understand.

This is such an accomplished debut, and makes me so excited to read more of Katherine Arden’s work in the future. It’s not like me to pick up a book without knowing a fair amount about it, so I’m glad that I went with my gut on this one (and that it nicely fulfilled one of the Reading Rush prompts, so I had no excuse but to give it a go).

I read The Bear and the Nightingale to fulfill the prompt: Read a book with a house on the cover.

That’s all of the books I read for this Stay Home edition of The Reading Rush! I’m pretty proud that I managed to squeeze all three in. I was certain that I was going to end up finishing one of the books after the weekend was over, but I guess that’s the only good thing about the current lockdown situation that we are all experiencing.

Did you take part in the Stay Home Reading Rush? If you did leave your comments down below and let me know which books you picked up to fulfill the four prompts!

I’ll definitely be taking part in the next edition of the Reading Rush, which is happening from the 20th to the 26th of July. I hope you’ll join me, it’s a lot of fun (and you can get badges for fulfilling the prompts – who doesn’t want badges?!).

Alyce

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TBR Jar Round #2

TBR Jar Round #2

Technically that title is a lie, because I’m no longer using my TBR jar. I have had to upgrade to a TBR bucket instead! But it still does the same job, it’s just a Halloween bucket rather than an unused travel mug meaning it is…

TBR Jar Round #1

TBR Jar Round #1

I have a NetGalley addiction. I check the site at least twice a day, and I request something nearly every single time I’m on there. I’ve tried – oh, I have TRIED – to stop myself, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything I…

Blog tour: The Codes of Love by Hannah Persaud

Blog tour: The Codes of Love by Hannah Persaud

Hi everyone! Welcome to my stop on The Codes of Love blog tour. It means an awful lot to me that you’re checking out this post – considering the state of the world at the moment I’m sure you have far more important things to do – so I just wanted to say a huge thank you for visiting. I hope you’re all taking care of yourselves and your family and are staying safe in this pandemic.

As always, I’m going to share a little bit about the book first, then I’ll share my spoiler-free thoughts before letting you read an excerpt to make up your mind for yourself.

Ryan and Emily appear to have it all, successful jobs, a beautiful house and the secret to a happy marriage. A secret that involves certain ‘rules’. But beneath the surface trouble is brewing in the shape of Ada. Whimsical, high-spirited and beholden to no-one, she represents the freedom that Emily’s been striving for and the escape that Ryan didn’t know he wanted.

The Codes of Love isn’t the kind of book I normally pick up so I pushed myself outside of my comfort zone for this one, but I’m glad to say it paid off!

As soon as I read the synopsis I was intrigued. I wasn’t sure whether to expect literary fiction or a domestic thriller, but it ended up being an artfully weaved blend of the two. The writing definitely leans towards literary fiction – there are some very unique turns of phrase which I haven’t encountered before, and the writing flows in a very musical way – but there are some scenes set at night in the Welsh countryside that had my heart racing for no particular reason. Hannah Persaud is already a master at crafting atmosphere, despite the fact that this is her debut novel.

Ryan and Emily have an open marriage, but we quickly learn that it’s not the mutual agreement that it first seems. With each chapter giving us a different rule that their marriage follows, the reader is quickly whisked through the pros and cons of an open marriage, and they aren’t always exactly what you’d expect.

I struggled at times because this story is written in the third person present tense, which is one of my least favourite writing styles, and it made it a little bit difficult to follow some of the flashbacks. It helped that the start of the chapter told you where and when the next few pages were set, but the non-chronological way that the story played out had me flipping backwards and forwards at points, desperately trying to reacquaint myself with when and where we were.

That being said, I think it actually added to my investment in the story. I was trying so hard to figure out the timeline that I had it all very fleshed out in my mind, and despite the fact that I didn’t particularly like either of the main characters – they can both be horrible people, so I don’t think this is a hot take! – I found myself very interested in what was going to happen to them and how the story was going to end. It took me a few days to read the first half of the book but I flew through the second half in a couple of hours because the pacing picks up dramatically.

I did only end up giving The Codes of Love three stars, but considering there were a lot of things in there that would automatically put me off of a book that rating is much higher than I had anticipated. I’m certainly glad that I tried something new, and Hannah Persaud is an author who I’m going to keep a close eye on in the future.

If you’re feeling conflicted about whether to pick up The Codes of Love or not, see how you feel after reading this excerpt:

‘She needs a coffee. From the kitchen she can see snowdrops hunching in the corners of the garden. Spring is arriving, though the ground is still frozen in the mornings. Last week she came off her bike, didn’t see the black ice until it was too late. She was lucky, thirty miles an hour downhill and she skidded on a bend, spinning into the opposite lane. She picked herself up shakily and looked up to see the driver of the car she narrowly avoided standing over her. Embarrassed, she refused the offer of a hand and stood, trying hard to pretend that the world was not ebbing around her. Her helmet was cracked and her left thigh is still purple from hip to knee, but it’s nothing compared to what it could have been.

At night she wears leggings when she sleeps; she doesn’t want to give Ryan cause for concern, or worse, another lecture on responsibility. He already thinks her reckless, biking too fast, braking too little. He’s away much of the time, but when he’s home she finds herself tiptoeing around him. How quickly their home has become a storage place for secrets. Better this than an argument though, the inevitable descent into blame. When he returned from Plymouth she asked him how his hotel was, the one he hadn’t stayed at. ‘Fine,’ he’d answered, disappearing into his office. He still doesn’t know about the issue with Leo. She is glad now that she didn’t tell him while they were in Venice. The growing chasm between them has made a liar of her when she checks her email and takes calls from her boss. This is how a relationship erodes, layer by layer, like rust.’

If that doesn’t convince you to pick up The Codes of Love, I don’t know what will. There are so many intriguing plotlines and this excerpt touches on just a few of them. I dare you to be able to resist finding out what ‘the issue with Leo’ is!

I hope you enjoyed my stop on The Codes of Love blog tour. A huge thank you to Fiona from Muswell Press for getting me involved. If you’re interested in checking out any of the other stops on the blog tour, please visit the other bloggers mentioned in the header, and if you’re excited to read The Codes of Love feel free to contact Hannah Persaud on Twitter.

Thank you all for visiting, and I’ll see you soon,

Alyce

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YA Book Prize 2020 predictions

YA Book Prize 2020 predictions

My favourite day of the year is almost here, with the YA Book Prize shortlist being announced on March 11th! So, as always, it’s time for my YA Book Prize predictions post. If you’d like to see my previous predictions, you can check out who…