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REVIEW: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

REVIEW: Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

There have been quite a few books inspired by King Arthur published in recent years. Here Be Dragons by Sarah Mussi, The Guinevere Deception by Kiersten White, Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, Seven Endless Forests by April Genevieve Tucholke… The 

REVIEW: Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Goblin Army by Alex Gardiner

REVIEW: Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Goblin Army by Alex Gardiner

I read the first book in the Mossbelly Macfearsome series two years ago, and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I don’t really have all that much to say about Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Goblin Army. Although Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Dwarves of Doom seemed clunky 

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I discovered in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I discovered in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.

I read 240 books in 2020, and a lot of those were new-to-me authors. It’s been really hard to narrow this list down to just ten, because I could have easily gushed over 20+ authors who I read for the first time in 2020 and really loved.

However, these were by far the best of the best new authors that I read in 2020, and I’m looking forward to reading more from all of them in the future.

10. Dean Atta

I had never heard of Dean Atta until The Black Flamingo was shortlisted for the YA Book Prize. It blew me away, and I highly recommend it if you want to read a coming-of-age YA novel in verse. However, I then read one of Dean Atta’s adult poetry collections and I didn’t love it as much as I was expecting to. Although I’ll definitely be reading more of Atta’s work in the future, I didn’t feel able to place him any higher on this list.

9. Jennifer Lynn Barnes

My friend Anya has recommended that I read Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ novels more times than I can count since I’ve met her, but for some reason I never got around to picking one up. That changed in 2020, when I was honoured to be asked to participate in the blog tour for The Inheritance Games. Reminding me of a cross between Truly Devious and Dynasty, I really enjoyed this book and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of the sequel, The Hawthorne Legacy, when it is released. Luckily Jennifer Lynn Barnes has released tons of books over the years, though, so I’ve got a big backlist of her books to work through.

8. Colson Whitehead

I don’t often read literary fiction, but when Elliot Brooks and her partner read The Underground Railroad and really enjoyed it I decided that Sean and I should give it a go as well. Because it’s part of a genre I don’t pick up that often, it did take me a while to get into it, but the story is so powerful that I really felt every word of it. I have The Nickel Boys on my Kindle and I’m hoping to read it as soon as possible.

7. Jennifer Bell

I was intrigued by the cover of Wonderscape when it first popped up on NetGalley, but I didn’t end up requesting it until Gavin from How to Train Your Gavin read it and was absolutely raving about how brilliant it was. I ended up loving it, too, as it’s like a middle grade version of Ready Player One! I also read Jennifer Bell’s debut novel, The Crooked Sixpence, in 2020 when it was chosen as the Middle Grade Monthly read in November, and I’m looking forward to carrying on with the rest of this trilogy.

6. Robert Jackson Bennett

The first two books in the Founders trilogy absolutely blew me away. I’ve been seeing people raving about these books on Booktube for a little while, so I eventually caved and borrowed them from the library and I was not disappointed. With the dry sarcasm of Pierce Brown combined with the creativity of Brandon Sanderson, Robert Jackson Bennett is a brilliant author and I’m looking forward to the third book in the Founders trilogy finally being announced.

5. Michelle Harrison

Michelle Harrison is an author who I’ve known about for an awfully long time, but because I didn’t read much middle grade I just assumed I was too old for her books. However, after reading A Pinch of Magic for Believathon I couldn’t resist carrying on with the series, and I’ve now got the third book in the trilogy pre-ordered and I’m looking forward to reading it as soon as it arrives at the beginning of February. I’ve also bought the first book in the Thirteen Treasures series, so I’m looking forward to starting that as well!

4. Jay Kristoff

Jay Kristoff is a late addition to this list, as we read Illuminae in December and that was my first ever Jay Kristoff read. I absolutely flew through it and can’t wait to read Gemina (which is on my TBR for this month – luckily I still have a few days left!) and eventually read some of Jay Kristoff’s solo offerings, too. I managed to pre-order a signed copy of Empire of the Vampire last week: bring on September!

3. Robert Jordan

I don’t know why I waited until 2020 to finally start the Wheel of Time series, but I’m so glad that I finally picked it up. I was a bit apprehensive about reading these because of how long they are – the first book comes in at around 700 pages, and I think it’s one of the shorter installments! – but I have read the first three books in the series now and the lowest rating I’ve given any of them was 4.5 stars. I’m hoping the rest of the series will live up to my expectations: only 11 more books to go!

2. Jessica Townsend

In 2020 I read books one and two in the Morrigan Crow series, and I discovered a new favourite middle grade story. Following a cursed child called Morrigan Crow, this story has magic and whimsy but isn’t afraid to play with darker elements as well. The third novel in the series, Hollowpox, was released towards the end of 2020, and it’s a book which I can’t wait to get my hands on.

1. Elizabeth Acevedo

I’d been interested in reading Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing since her debut novel, The Poet X, was released, but for some reason I didn’t actually pick it up until 2020. I loved it so much that I read Clap When You Land a couple of months later, and I’ve got With the Fire on High on loan from the library at the moment. Elizabeth Acevedo has definitely become one of my favourite authors, but at the moment I’ve only read her novels in verse. I’m looking forward to reading With the Fire on High, which has a more traditional narrative structure, and discovering whether I love Elizabeth Acevedo’s writing no matter what style she is using.

And those are the ten best authors that I discovered in 2020! Please leave links to your Top Ten Tuesday posts down in the comments, so I can find out which authors you discovered in 2020.

Have a great week, and I’ll see you again soon!

Alyce

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REVIEW: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

REVIEW: Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

I’ve been interested in reading the Southern Vampire Mysteries series for a long time. It’s one of the only times I’ve caved and watched the adaptation before reading the source material. That being said, I hardly remember anything about the True Blood TV series – 

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I should have read in 2020

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Books I should have read in 2020

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. There were a lot of books that I meant to read in 2020, so I’ve already done a couple of videos and posts discussing them. Because of that, this list isn’t going to 

REVIEW: The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

REVIEW: The Girls I’ve Been by Tess Sharpe

First things first I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hodder Children’s Books, who accepted my request to read The Girls I’ve Been via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Tess Sharpe’s Far From You is one of my favourite YA contemporary novels of all time, so it won’t come as a surprise to you that The Girls I’ve Been featured on my most anticipated 2021 releases list.

The Girls I’ve Been follows Nora, the daughter of a con-woman, as she is caught up in a bank robbery along with her ex-boyfriend and her new girlfriend. Nora knows the day is going to be awkward – Wes caught her and Iris kissing last night, and she’s been purposefully keeping the relationship a secret from him – so she decides to swing by and pick up some donuts on her way to the bank, where the three teens are depositing money that they raised for a local animal shelter.

Unfortunately, the donuts have a lot to answer for. They make Nora late. If Nora hadn’t been late they would have already deposited the money and left the bank before the hostage situation occurred, and they wouldn’t find themselves in a fight for survival against two armed bank robbers.

There are so many things that I absolutely loved about The Girls I’ve Been.

Let’s start with Nora.

The main character, Nora has had one hell of an upbringing. Having a con-artist for a mother means that Nora was trained to become whatever her mother needed: pliant and perfect, meek and mild, silent and subdued.

The majority of the story is told during the bank robbery – counting up the minutes that the characters have been held hostage and the different assets that they find themselves with – but Tess Sharpe smoothly weaves in chapters from Nora’s past, introducing us to all of the girls she’s been throughout the years. My heart was breaking for the little girl who would do anything to please her mother, and it just broke further throughout as Nora came to the realisation that her mother’s work would always mean more to her than her daughter.

There is so much I could say about how much I loved Nora’s character. She prioritises the safety of her friends above everything, even her own wellbeing. She keeps a lot of secrets because of the nature of her upbringing, but isn’t afraid to confront her demons through therapy. She’s a 100% badass, and I’m desperate for Tess Sharpe to write a sequel because I want to read more of Nora (and I only finished this book two days ago!).

Then there’s Iris. Obsessed with vintage clothing, Iris may look girly and soft on the outside but she has nerves of steel.

Suffering with endometriosis, Iris is in agony for much of their time as hostages, but she isn’t afraid to use her period to her advantage. Iris taunting the bank robber with the fact that she really needs to empty her menstrual cup will go down as one of my favourite scenes of all time. I always love seeing periods in fiction – they’re a huge part of life if you have a vagina, and it’s unrealistic to believe that nothing exciting would happen during at least one character’s time of the month – but it felt so natural and realistic that it took me a while to actually think “Oh my god! Casual period discussion!”.

Iris and Nora’s relationship is a complicated one – Iris knows hardly anything about Nora’s real past, while she’s also keeping secrets of her own – and I wish we’d been able to see more of them. Obviously there’s a bank robbery going on, so Tess Sharpe has much bigger fish to fry, but I would have been happier if we’d had some more chapters set in Nora’s recent past. We get a lot more of the relationship between Wes and Nora than we do the relationship between Iris and Nora, but I think if they’d been focused on a little bit more then they would have ended up being one of my favourite bookish couples for sure.

That brings us to Wes. The son of the mayor, Wes has an abusive home life that leads to him practically moving in with Nora and her sister, Lee.

I absolutely loved the description of Wes and Nora as Franken-friends. Wes finds out about Nora’s past while they are dating. Her secrets and lies are too much for him to take, leading to the end of their romantic relationship, but they manage to cobble together a friendship which Wes affectionately refers to as the Franken-friends.

It would be great if friendships between exes could be normalised in YA. In my lived experience, people are far more likely to stay friends with their exes than to never speak to them ever again, but that explosive end to a relationship is still the one most commonly portrayed in YA literature. It’s something so small, yet so effective (which can also be said about the casual period discussions!). Tess Sharpe has a brilliant way of making her stories feel realistic, even though the bank robbery/hostage situation is an uncommon inclusion in YA.

That certainly upped the pace, though. I flew through the first quarter of this novel and found it very difficult to put down, so make sure to pick this book up when you’re able to set aside quite a chunk of time for reading! Don’t make the same mistake I did and start reading right before bed, because the situation that the three friends find themselves in definitely gets your heart racing.

This is the second novel by Tess Sharpe that I’ve read, and I think she’s quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. I’m always going to have a soft spot for books with bisexual rep, but Sharpe makes the sexuality a part of her characters and not their defining characteristic which I highly appreciate. These are characters who are comfortable with their sexuality. They don’t feel the need to come out or to justify their feelings for each other, and I think this quiet acceptance of their feelings for each other and who they are makes Sharpe’s characters much more believable.

My only complaint – and the only reason that I didn’t give this book five stars – was because I wasn’t a huge fan of the ending. It feels as though it tells either too much or not enough of the story. If the story had finished a couple of chapters earlier it would have been a five star, and if the story had been extended for another few chapters it would have been a five star, but because of where it ended I was left feeling a bit dissatisfied.

That being said, this is still a book that I’m going to reread over and over again, and I’ll definitely be purchasing a copy as soon as it is released. I already can’t wait to see what Tess Sharpe writes next.

Thanks for reading,

Alyce

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REVIEW: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

REVIEW: Game Changer by Neal Shusterman

First things first I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books, who accepted my request to read Game Changer via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review. I have been so excited about reading a new Neal Shusterman novel. Having 

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Resolutions

TOP TEN TUESDAY: Resolutions

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. I’ve already done a video on my Booktube channel discussing my reading resolutions for 2021, so I’ve decided to use this Top Ten Tuesday post to discuss some of my other resolutions. I’ve 

Book review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Book review: Heartless by Marissa Meyer

First things first: I’d like to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for accepting my request to read this book via NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I don’t understand how we’re in 2021 and I’ve just read my first Marissa Meyer book.

I’ve owned the Lunar Chronicles since before the final book, Winter, was released. I’ve thought about borrowing Renegades from the library multiple times. Somehow, I never got around to reading either of those series.

However, my TBR jar decided that I’d be reading Heartless in January, so I’ve finally read a Marissa Meyer novel!

Heartless is an Alice in Wonderland prequel following the Queen of Hearts before she became royalty.

Lady Catherine Pinkerton, daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove, wants nothing more than to open a bakery. She bakes as much as she is able, despite her parents’ disapproval, and secretly creates a business plan with her maid Mary Ann that will enable them to open a profitable bakery… If she can get her parents to agree for her to spend her dowry on the rent and supplies to get her started.

However, her parents have bigger plans for Catherine. They want her to marry the King of Hearts and become Queen of Hearts, and they don’t care how unwilling she is. Becoming Queen is what is best for her, and that’s final.

Catherine is begrudgingly swept up in her parents’ plan, until she meets the new court joker, Jest. She’s drawn to Jest in a way that she’s never felt towards the King, and she knows that she can’t marry the King if she might be falling in love with someone else.

However, we all know how Catherine’s story ends, we just don’t know what happens along the way…

I wasn’t convinced by Heartless at the start. This is a novel set in Wonderland, but it didn’t feel whimsical enough to live up to Lewis Carroll’s source material. One aspect I did love was Raven, who speaks as though he’s flown straight out of an Edgar Allan Poe poem, and really incapsulates the magic of Wonderland.

However, by the time I’d read the first quarter of the novel the whimsical aspects were ramping up. In this version of Wonderland, Catherine lives in Hearts and there’s another world called Chess, which you can only travel to Through The Looking-Glass. This twist on the Alice in Wonderland tale fleshed out Marissa Meyer’s vision of Wonderland wonderfully, and made it much more interesting to read. That was the point where I started to enjoy the story a lot more, and from there on out I was struggling to put it down.

Catherine’s turmoil is something that a lot of people will be able to relate to (not quite to the same extent, obviously!). Parental expectations and not wanting to disappoint your family are worries that most young people encounter at some point in their lives. Although Cath wants to follow her dreams she knows that she would never realistically go against her parents’ wishes, and I appreciated the realistic way that Marissa Meyer told Cath’s story. It’s all well and good writing a heroine who decides to go her own way and strike out on her own, but all too often people will prioritise their parents’ hopes and dreams.

The story wrapped up a bit too quickly for my liking, which is one of the reasons that I dropped my rating down to four stars. The start of the story could have been trimmed and tightened more, which might have helped the pacing at the end feel less rushed. A pivotal event occurs and as soon as that’s out of the way everything progresses at a breakneck speed to get the story done, but it might have felt less speedy if the world and the characters hadn’t been crafted so deliciously slowly at the beginning. However, I would have been equally annoyed if events had been unnecessarily dragged out once the big event had occurred, which makes things tricky!

However, the main reason that I dropped my rating down to four stars was because of the way Catherine’s mother talks about Catherine’s weight and eating habits. She warns her that she will end up looking like a walrus, forces the maids to take away dessert and treats Catherine disgustingly. None of it is necessary, none of it adds to the story, so none of the comments serve a purpose. The reader already dislikes Catherine’s mother enough for dismissing Catherine’s dreams, without adding fat shaming into the mix.

That being said, there was still enough good in this book for me to rate it four stars, and I’m looking forward to reading more of Marissa Meyer’s novels in the future. The romance between Cath and Jest was a particular highlight – the yearning glances rivalled a Jane Austen novel! – and if the relationships featured in the Lunar Chronicles are crafted this beautifully then they’re sure to be catapulting to the top of my favourite ships list.

I hope you enjoyed this review, and I’ll see you tomorrow for another Top Ten Tuesday post!

Alyce

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Series review: Christmas by Matt Haig

Series review: Christmas by Matt Haig

As I mentioned during my review of Tinsel of SibĂ©al Pounder, I spent the last week of December reading a bunch of Christmas middle grades which included the complete series of Christmas books by Matt Haig! I have already talked about them a little bit