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Book review: Tinsel by Sibéal Pounder

Book review: Tinsel by Sibéal Pounder

I decided to spend the last week of December reading a stack of magically Christmassy middle grade novels, and I did not regret it. Tinsel is the first of this stack that I’ll be reviewing (check back on Thursday when I’ll be discussing my thoughts 

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Ten book titles which would make great song titles

I always love it when Top Ten Tuesday has a musical twist, so I’ve been looking forward to this week’s prompt since the beginning of Blogtober! These ten books all have titles which would make great song titles. If I was more talented I’d probably 

BLOGTOBER Day 31: #10in20 review challenge #2

For today’s Blogtober post, I’ve decided to challenge myself to another round of #10in20. In this challenge, you write 10 books in 20 minutes, meaning you have only two minutes to write as much as you can about each book you review. This was a success last time, but will this round go as well?

All of these books are ones that I’ve read via NetGalley and just haven’t had a chance to review yet. Huge thanks to each of the publishers for granting me access to their titles, and sorry for sleeping on them for so long!

And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando – 4 stars



And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is a heartbreaking novel following a boy whose brother Al dies by suicide. Nathan is determined to get to the bottom of why Al decided to end his life, making this a bit of a mystery novel; Nathan knows there’s much more going on than meets the eye, but the people he asks refuse to get involved.

Meanwhile, we also follow Megan, one of Al’s closest friends, who starts to look inside herself and decide to be true to who she is. She feels guilt for pretending her and Al weren’t as close as they were in an attempt to fit in with her popular friends, and realises that it’s far more important to be happy than popular.

This is an inspiring novel with a hopeful twist, even though it did make me bawl my eyes out at the end. With a huge focus on art, the star and the universe, you’re bound to learn something, and Danielle Jawando’s writing is both lyrical and frank – an impressive combination to perfect in a debut.




Mayhem by Estelle Laure – 3 stars
Mayhem by Estelle Laure



I took part in the blog tour for Mayhem earlier in the summer and I thought I was really going to love it, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

Following a girl called Mayhem as her and her mother flee her abusive step-dad to return to her mum’s childhood home, Mayhem starts off intriguing but quickly becomes bland and boring.

Considering there’s a serial killer in this novel, there are no chapters that make your pulse race or make your heart sit in your throat. It’s very one level.

There is an interesting magic system, but it’s not very well-crafted. In fact it’s bloody difficult to work out what’s going on most of the times! I guess the Brayburn family are some kind of vampiric mermaids, but considering a lot of people were lauding this as a The Lost Boys retelling – a book which I know is about vampires – none of it made much sense to me.

Three stars because it didn’t make me feel much of anything, but the writing was unique.



Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo – 5 stars



This book cements Elizabeth Acevedo as one of the strongest YA verse writers around.

Following two girls, Camino and Yahaira, as they discover that their father recently deceased had been hiding a secret family from them, this is a beautiful portrayal of grief and the way that loss impacts not just the individual but also the community around them.

The dual narrative brings so much to the novel, as we see how both girls react to the discovery that their father was not what they thought he was. We also get to see the stark contrast between New York and the Dominican Republic, and the difference between the two locations is written impeccably.

I loved The Poet X and didn’t think that I’d enjoy Clap When You Land as much because I always struggle to love verse novels, but if anything I enjoyed this book much, much more. I can’t wait to see where Elizabeth Acevedo goes from here.



Unscripted by Nicole Kronzer – 3 stars



It’s been a few months since I read Unscripted, and in hindsight I am surprised I didn’t rate it more harshly.

I loved what this book was trying to do – attempting to tackle sexism at an improv camp and the stereotype that girls aren’t funny – but my issue was that none of jokes in this book are funny. I didn’t even crack a simple or let out a simple chuckle. Nothing about this screamed ‘funny book about unfunny things’ and that’s what I was hoping for, so I was really let down by this debut novel.

Perhaps it’s because improv is a pretty American thing – it’s not something which gets much airtime in the UK, particularly not compared to stand-up comedy – so I probably wasn’t the right audience for this book. I think that’s why I decided to go with a middle-of-the-road rating; because this will do really important things for some people, I’m just not one of them.

I enjoyed the camp setting, but that’s because I’m always a sucker for summer camp stories, but this just wasn’t the book for me.



What Stars Are Made Of by Sarah Allen – 4 stars





This book reminds me quite a bit of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Following a little girl with Turner Syndrome as she tries to get her favourite astronomer’s achievements recognised, this is an empowering middle-grade novel which will appeal to fans of The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge.

It’s always great to encourage girls to get into STEM subjects, and this book not only sparks an interest in STEM but also educates readers on some big achievements from female scientists – achievements which have often been attributed to their male colleagues! – and shows how women have quite literally changed the way we view the world.





Read To Your Toddler Every Day by Lucy Brownridge – 3 stars



I read Read To Your Toddler Every Day to Zophia a few months ago. Although I enjoyed these simplified folktales – a lot of which I had no prior knowledge of – she was rather restless while we were reading it.

Although the illustrations are beautiful throughout, there are a lot of small words on each page, which made it hard for her to concentrate. She’s a big fan of books which have a sentence or two on each page and a lot more illustrations!

I think this is a good book to read to your toddlers to teach them a variety of tales from across the globe, as it’s a good early introduction to more cultures. However, this isn’t the kind of book that will get your toddler reading along with you, so it might be worth reading it when they’re a little bit older (possibly in their first few years at school).

The Legend of the Light Keeper by Kelly Hall – 1 star



This book is very Cassandra Clare-esque, in that the synopsis references a ‘forbidden love’, which is actually the main character falling in love with her soon-to-be step-brother Talon. (Scoff, Talon, what a name). Not only that, she is then non-consensually kissed by a boy who ends up being her cousin, so there’s a lot of vaguely incestuous behaviour going on in The Legend of the Light Keeper.

Although the mystery aspects of this story is intriguing – there’s a random light which keeps turning up and leaving black smudges everywhere, and Lily is the only person who is able to see that the light is a person – there is far too much focus on the romance. The plot is neglected. Although the setting is well-crafted, there is no adrenaline and the writing is bland. Even though the characters were scared, my heart wasn’t racing, and I was reading this book each night before bed to send myself to sleep.



All About Us by Tom Ellen – 4 stars



All About Us is a romantic retelling of A Christmas Carol. Tom and Daphne have been having problems in their relationship, and he begins to wonder whether life would have been better if he’d pursued a relationship with Alice from uni. When he gets the chance to go back and live life differently, he realises how much he loves Daphne and how desperate he is to fix everything before it’s too late.

This is a heartwarming tale which is the perfect Christmas read. If you’ve been experiencing relationship stress due to this hellish year, it might be worth picking up All About Us, because it reminds you to remember why you fell in love with your significant other in the first place, and does a great job of revitalising a relationship that has grown a bit stale.



Three Perfect Liars by Heidi Perks – 3 stars




Unfortunately Three Perfect Liars ended up being perfectly predictable.

The concept of this one is great – there’s an office building which is burnt to the ground, and the story jumps backwards and forwards between the weeks leading up to the fire and the police interviews on the morning after the fire – but I saw the twist coming from a mile away which is a major disappointment.

However, I loved the discourse that Heidi Perks writes around the expectations placed on working mothers and the inherent discrimination that they experience when returning to work. Even though it might not be something that could be pursued in a court of law, the treatment that Laura experiences filled me with rage: if I’d been treated like her when I returned from maternity leave then I would have hit the roof! I can’t think of another thriller which discusses a subject such as this, which made this stand out from the pack.


Santa Jaws by Mark Sperring and Sophie Corrigan – 5 stars





I wanted this #10in20 to be a NetGalley special, and the only other NetGalley book that I’ve read recently was Santa Jaws, so I’m finishing this off with a picture book review.

This is a lovely story about a squid who gets tricked into thinking he’s meeting Santa Claus, and how he reacts when he discovers Santa Claus is actually a shark in a Santa costume!




I hope you enjoyed this round of #10in20 reviews, and that you enjoyed the rest of my Blogtober posts too. I can’t believe I actually managed to do it – I was certain I was going to fail after the first week!

See you soon, and Happy Halloween,

Alyce

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My little girl loved the gorgeous background illustrations in this one – there are lots of other marine animals floating around in the background – and this certainly put us in the mood for Christmas, which is perfect because we read this this evening after getting home from our pumpkin trail trick-or-treating extravaganza!

BLOGTOBER Day 30: The Hyped for Halloween Book Tag

Halloween is TOMORROW!!! Finally, the spookiest day of the year and my absolute favourite holiday! To celebrate, I thought I’d take part in the Hyped for Halloween Book Tag, which I originally saw on Aoife’s blog (but I also loved Amy’s answers too!). 1. What 

BLOGTOBER Day 29: Ideas for a fun, COVID-secure Halloween

This entire year has been a bit of a disaster. Mother’s Day was cancelled, Easter was cancelled, Father’s Day was cancelled and it’s looking more and more likely that Christmas will not be going ahead the way we’re used to, either. With that in mind, 

BLOGTOBER Day 28: Top Five Wednesday Revisited: Series I’m reading next year

Earlier in the month I discussed the series I can’t wait to finish and the series I can’t wait to continue, so I thought before Blogtober finished I should probably shine a light on some series which I still need to start.

This was a Top Five Wednesday topic way back at the end of 2015. I decided that I was going to try to read a series each month in 2016 and… failed spectacularly. It’s now 2020 and I’ve only finished one of the series that I featured. Oops.

However, I’m only picking five series this time around and I’m only promising that I’ll START them, not that I’ll read each series in its entirety. Hopefully by reducing the pressure from the beginning I might actually succeed this time around.

I’m also not going to feature any of the series I said I was going to read back in 2016. If I haven’t read them yet, it seems silly to force myself to read them in 2021!

5. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon



I loved Samantha Shannon’s standalone adult fantasy novel The Priory of the Orange Tree, so starting The Bone Season series has become a priority.

The only reason I’ve procrastinated starting this series is because it’s meant to be seven books long, and only three have been published so far. The fourth book in the series, The Mask Falling, is finally arriving in February. As over half of the series is going to be out in the world at that point, I think it’s time for me to discover whether the hype surrounding Paige and her adventures is deserved.



4. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas




I’m currently hosting #ACOTAlong – my own A Court of Thorns and Roses readalong – and it is going terribly. I’m over three weeks in and I’ve only managed to read three chapters because I’ve been reading It by Stephen King (and doing Blogtober!) but I’m determined to catch up and get the series finished.

Once I’m up to date on the A Court of Thorns and Roses series, there’s no excuse for me not to finally pick up Throne of Glass. I honestly cannot remember how long I’ve owned these books for, and I haven’t read a single one of them. I even went to a talk in Bath and saw Sarah J. Maas after the released of Empire of Storms and still didn’t read any of the books. I’m a mess.



3. The Locked Tomb trilogy by Tamsyn Muir




The Locked Tomb trilogy is either going to be a new favourite book or I’m going to hate it, which is why I’ve been putting off reading this one.

Part of me is expecting to love it, so even though I hadn’t read the first book I ended up ordering the Illumicrate special edition of Harrow the Ninth the moment it went on sale… But for some reason I’m still apprehensive about finally picking it up.

All I know about this book is that it features lesbian necromancers in space. That sounds amazing, but will it be? I guess 2021 is the year that I’ll finally find out.



2. The Nevernight Chronicles by Jay Kristoff




I only special edition hardcovers of all of the books in the Nevernight series, but I haven’t read a single one of them. What is wrong with me?!

(Side note: I do this far too often. I have special editions of The Dark Artifices, The Poppy War series, the Crown of Feathers series, yet I haven’t picked up any of the books in any of those series yet. Kill me now.)

I’ve heard that this book features an assassin, footnotes and a shit-ton of snark, so it should be my new favourite series… But something about it just puts me off picking it up. Is it the hype? Is it Jay Kristoff’s trademark ‘sass’ on Twitter (which comes off rather assholey)? I have no idea, but I’m going to force myself to pick up Nevernight at some point next year. If I don’t like it, it’ll get me a pretty big space on my shelves to fill with books which I will end up loving!



1. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir




Same old story, really. Pre-ordered An Ember in the Ashes because the hype was very intense before this book was released, then I got too scared to read it. Forgot to order the second book, then there were approximately 17 cover changes so I didn’t end up buying the rest of them… Now the series is nearly over, I still haven’t started it, and I’m still planning on trying to order one of the Fairyloot special edition sets when they go on sale. Someone stop me, or at least change my PayPal password when I’m not looking.

I know basically nothing about the An Ember in the Ashes series, apart from the fact that the main characters are called Laia and Elias and it’s inspired by Ancient Rome, but I think I’ll probably enjoy it!



Are there any series which you can’t wait to start in 2021? Which one of these five series do you want me to start first? Let me know down in the comments!

See you tomorrow,

Alyce

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BLOGTOBER Day 27: Top Ten Tuesday: Ten favourite candies

It’s only four days until Halloween, so for today’s Halloween freebie I decided to shine a spotlight on my favourite candies. I have the biggest sweet tooth in the world – which is dangerous, because I work in a chocolate shop – so if you 

BLOGTOBER Day 26: Autumn playlist

Autumn is in full swing: the clocks have changed, the leaves are falling and the temperature is dropping rapidly. That makes it the perfect time to update your playlist to reflect the new season, so here are ten songs which just scream autumn to me. 

BLOGTOBER Day 25: Review: It by Stephen King

BLOGTOBER Day 25: Review: It by Stephen King

It’s hard to review a book like Stephen King’s It, because there is nothing I can possibly say about it which hasn’t been said before. Despite that, I thought I’d share my thoughts on this tome, because I’ve spent the past three weeks gradually clawing my way through it.

It starts off extremely strongly. We meet Georgie Denbrough – the iconic little boy in the yellow rainslicker – as he chases his paper boat down the flooded street. The boat disappears in a drain, and when Georgie goes to investigate he discovers a clown lurking down there… A clown called Pennywise which quickly grabs hold of Georgie, ripping his arm off and killing him.

Thus begins another cycle of terror in the town of Derry, Maine. Every 27 years bad things start happening again: kids are abducted and murdered, good-natured folk suddenly flip into psychopaths while bystanders turn the other cheek and refuse to acknowledge the truth of what’s going on. The only ones able to see what’s happening are Georgie’s brother Bill and his friends in the Losers’ Club, who have all come face-to-face with It and have managed to escape with their lives. They know that It is behind all of the badness in Derry, so they take it upon themselves to fix Derry’s problem.

However, they don’t quite finish the job, so 27 years later each member of the Losers’ Club receives a phone call from fellow member and librarian Mike Hanlon, summoning them home to defeat It once and for all.

The way that Stephen King crafts this story is impeccable. Jumping from 1958 to 1985, we meet each of the members of the Losers’ Club as adults, following them back to Derry, where we eventually get told the story of what happened when they were younger. As well as that, each of the parts of the story is broken up by an interlude narrated by Mike Hanlon, during which he shares more stories from the horrible history of Derry.

Weaving multiple stories together like that is so clever and it helps propel the plot: for a book which is so long the story moves quickly, even though it does feel repetitive at times.

That’s my main problem with It – it is repetitive, at times verging on formulaic. There are multiple moments throughout when each member of the Losers’ Club will share their experience with It, so you’ll get a similar scary story from Bill, Eddie, Richie, Ben, Mike, Stan and Beverly. By the time you get halfway through the lineup you just think, “I get it, It’s scary. Can we move on now?!”. It works brilliantly at the beginning of the novel when the Losers are adults who haven’t seen each other in years and who are leading vastly different lives. However, when they’re sat around as children sharing stories, the determination to give them each their own viewpoint grows grating (although it does make it hard not to care for each of these kids).

I cared deeply about all of the Losers: overweight Ben, asthmatic Eddie, Stuttering Bill, short-sighted Richie, Jewish Stan, tomboyish Beverly and Mike, the only Black boy in town. They all have their own trials and tribulations which makes them all strong characters, and it’s impossible to choose a favourite throughout the story.

However, the focal point of the story isn’t any of the Losers OR Pennywise the clown, it’s Derry. Stephen King takes pains to craft every single centimetre of Derry, and it’s so vibrantly realistic that I found myself unable to believe it when I discovered that Derry is completely fictional. The way he writes the streets, the canal and the park, you would genuinely believe this is a place he walks through every single day of his life.

In fact, I think the little vignettes of Derry – the Kitchener Ironworks explosion, the murder of Adrian Mellon after the town fair, the fire at the Black Spot – are the most interesting parts of the story. I flew through each of these sections, unable to put the book down during any of Mike Hanlon’s interludes, and then struggled to motivate myself to pick up the book during the later parts.

Part of this is due to the repetitive nature of the story, but part of it is because towards the end of the book it does get hard to keep track of what is happening when. Instead of switching from the present to the past towards the start of the chapter, King begins flipping back and forth hectically, and I found myself getting totally lost. It did detract from my enjoyment of the novel a little bit: he takes his time crafting 90% of the book and then seems to rush the ending, which seems like a waste!

There are a few plot holes which annoyed me, but it makes sense that there would be minor oversights in a novel of this size. I’m a picky reader so it was hard to look past those issues, but despite them I was still torn between a 3 and a 4 star for this book because it is impressive. I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending – that scene in particular seemed unnecessary and didn’t contribute to the plot – but I’m glad I’ve finally read It and can give the film adaptations a go.

Have you read It? If so, what did you think of it?

See you tomorrow,

Alyce

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BLOGTOBER Day 24: 25 Before 25 update

I’m 25 in six months, which means it’s been six months since I shared my 25 Before 25 list. For day 24 of Blogtober, I thought I’d give you a quick update on which books I’ve currently read… And I’m embarrassed that I have only