Tag: book review

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 – 

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 

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 read and loved Dry and the entire Arc of the Scythe series, I thought that I might have discovered a new favourite author. I featured Game Changer in my most anticipated 2021 releases video, and I thought it was going to be an easy 5 star read to start off 2021 right.

Unfortunately, Game Changer took those hopes and dashed them to pieces.

Game Changer tells the story of a boy called Ash, who hits his head badly during a football game. He feels cold and uncomfortable, and wonders if it might be a concussion until he’s driving home and runs a blue light.

Yep, a blue light.

Ash realises that the world around him has changed, but he has no idea why. The only thing he can think to do is make sure to hit his head again during his next game in the hope that things might go back to normal. Unfortunately Ash finds himself quickly shifting further and further away from the life he’s used to.

I think the concept of Game Changer is utterly brilliant. The idea that the entire world could change due to such a small, seemingly inconsequential event makes you reconsider the impact that your actions may have. It could have had a positive impact on the behaviour of a lot of people, if it wasn’t trying to do quite as much.

Neal Shusterman uses Game Changer to criticise a lot of different injustices found across the world. The class divide, the racial divide, the gender divide – all of these and more are critiqued and torn apart throughout the course of Ash’s story.

Unfortunately, rather than educational and eye-opening, it comes across as extremely preachy. Ash is a white kid who struggles to listen to his best friend Leo, who is Black, when they talk about racist issues, yet we’re supposed to believe that Ash’s attitude changes remarkably quickly. One minute he’s contradicting Leo’s lived experiences, but a few chapters later he’s suddenly converted into a social justice warrior fighting the good fight for anyone who could be described as underprivileged.

I sincerely appreciate what Neal Shusterman was trying to do, but it doesn’t work. Stuffing this many important conversations into such a small book (while also introducing some pretty mind-boggling scientific concepts) is overwhelming, and sadly I didn’t enjoy Game Changer anywhere near as much as I was expecting to.

That being said, Neal Shusterman’s writing is still great. The conversational tone that Ash takes throughout makes him feel like a friend rather than like a character.

I cared about a lot of the background characters, even the ones that we don’t spend a lot of time with, because Shusterman has a skill when it comes to fleshing out characters realistically with only a brief description. This is something I noticed throughout the Arc of the Scythe – sometimes characters are only around for a chapter or two, but they stick in your mind remarkably – and it’s something Shusterman manages again in Game Changer.

I would still recommend picking up Game Changer – the early reviews seem to be extremely divisive, so you’re either going to love or hate this book – but unfortunately it just didn’t do it for me.

I hope you enjoyed this review, even though it’s not what I expected to be saying about this novel!

See you tomorrow with my review of another anticipated 2021 release,

Alyce

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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 

Series review: Christmas by Matt Haig

Series review: Christmas by Matt Haig

As I mentioned during my review of Tinsel of Sibéal 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 

Review: First Day of My Life by Lisa Williamson

Review: First Day of My Life by Lisa Williamson

I’d like to start this review by saying a huge thank you to David Fickling Books, who sent me an advanced copy of First Day of My Life in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I read First Day of My Life back in May but, with the release date being pushed back due to everything that’s going on in the world, I decided to wait to review it closer to release day. That is now TOMORROW, which is extremely exciting! But also means I can hardly remember anything I was planning on saying about this book, so it’s already due a reread.

First Day of My Life follows two best friends, Frankie and Jojo, as they discover truths about each other (and themselves) that puts their friendship to the test.

Frankie hasn’t seen Jojo all summer, so she’s looking forward to meeting up with her friend to collect their GCSE results on Results Day. However, when she gets to the school Jojo is nowhere to be found. That might be Frankie’s fault, though – she’s late because the route she normally takes is closed because of a police investigation into a kidnapping.

It isn’t until later that day, when she finally gets hold of Jojo on the phone, that Frankie makes a startling discovery. Hearing a baby crying in the background, Frankie starts to wonder whether Jojo might be responsible for the kidnapping. But why would Frankie’s goody-two-shoes best friend decide to kidnap a baby, and where can she have gone?

Luckily Frankie has Find My Friend on her phone, so she manages to track Jojo down to a hotel in Swindon. Unfortunately, the only person Frankie knows who drives is her ex-boyfriend, Ram. Driving across country in a search for the truth, will they be able to put the awkwardness behind them to save Jojo from whatever trouble she might be in?

This novel is a love letter to the tumultuous nature of teen friendships. Lisa Williamson perfectly encapsulates the extreme emotions found in platonic relationships (particularly those between teen girls). The friendship between Frankie and Jojo is almost toxic at times, but the depth of their feelings for each other means that they’re able to work through anything given enough time.

Frankie is very self-absorbed, and makes everything about her throughout which is frustrating. However, it did remind me a lot of my teen days, and I saw a lot of myself in the way that Frankie reacted to the situation that she found herself in! Even though it is quite annoying, it’s realistic.

Meanwhile Jojo makes herself the centre of attention by running away, but she does it for a very important reason, and this story shows that sometimes extremely out of character behaviour is the only choice you have.

My favourite character out of the three perspectives was probably Ram. He’s such a cinnamon roll. I would have liked it if more of the story had focused on him as I thought his character had a lot more potential, but I also appreciated the fact that this is a YA contemporary which is much more focused on the importance of friendship over romantic relationships.

This has lots of different aspects that I love – multiple perspectives, a non-chronological timeline, a cross-country road trip – and the main bulk of the action plays out in Swindon, which is actually where I live. It was a lot of fun to speculate over whether Lisa Williamson had been to Swindon to research the setting before basing her story here, and discussing which clubs, takeaways and hotels the characters could be visiting. We have much more than just a Magic Roundabout here, I promise!

This was easily a five star read for me. I’m a bit sad about the fact that the publication date got pushed back to 2021 because I was convinced that this was going to be appearing on the YA Book Prize shortlist this year. I’ll just have to wait until next year and keep my fingers crossed that this novel gets the recognition that it deserves.

This is the third of Lisa Williamson’s YA novels that I’ve read (I only have All About Mia to get to!) and her books have always been four or five star reads for me, so if you haven’t read any of her other stories I highly recommend picking them up. She’s a shining star in the UKYA scene.

Once again, huge thanks to David Fickling Books for sending me an advanced copy of this one. I will cherish it forever!

Alyce

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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 

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 

BLOGTOBER Day 15: Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

BLOGTOBER Day 15: Review: Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

Establishing a centuries-old conflict between the two countries of Kalyazin and Tranavia, Wicked Saints is a dual perspective novel following a Kalyazi cleric and the Tranavian prince.

When we meet Nadya she’s in the cellar of the monastery where she lives, peeling potatoes as a punishment with her best friend, Kostya. They hear cannonfire in the distance and are dismayed to discover that the Tranavian army are at their door (despite the fact that the monastery is at the top of a very high mountain in the hidden depths of Kalyazin).

Serefin is the leader of the Tranavian army, and when Nadya flees the monastery he pursues her… Only to be called back to Tranavia by his father, the king, who has decided that it’s the perfect time to begin the search for a wife for Serefin. Such inconvenient timing!

On the road Nadya meets two Akolans and a Tranavian who are scheming to end the war. Nadya finds herself drawn to the Tranavian, Malachiasz, and subsequently drawn into his plot to infiltrate Tranavia and kill the king. Nadya must masquerade as one of the women vying for their shot at marrying Serefin, while trying not to completely alienate the Kalyazin gods who guide her.

Wicked Saints is a book which tries to do far too much.

I loved the fact that the story began with a bang, but I was hoping that Emily A. Duncan would work some lulls into the story to deeply craft her world. Unfortunately, it felt like the world-building was still lacking when the story finished, so I’m wondering whether this might be coming during one of the later installments. As the characters explore both Kalyazin and Tranavia you do get a bit of an idea about the differences between the countries, but although we travel with two characters from Akola their country is not described at all, which makes the world seem poorly fleshed out.

Before we know Nadya well enough to care about her character, her life has already been threatened multiple times and she’s managed to escape unscathed. Her ability to escape any situation eases a lot of the novel’s tension. Emily A. Duncan attempts to keep the adrenaline high for too long – ambushes, battles and bloodshed abound throughout the novel – but those scenes start to feel boring because they’re happening with such frequency.

Nadya is also mourning the loss of her friend Kostya, who is hardly described and only appears in a scene right at the beginning of the book. It’s hard for the reader to care about her loss. If the characters and location had been established before the action kicked off, this would have packed an emotional punch.

The magic in this novel can be quite triggering as it’s blood magic and involves the characters cutting themselves frequently, so if you’re opposed to reading scenes of self-harm or bloodletting then this is a book you should definitely avoid. Although I thought that the Tranavian blood magic system was well-crafted, Nadya’s magic was sorely lacking in substance; she calls upon many, many gods (I believe there were at least twelve, possibly more) and asks if she can use their powers for whatever she needs. Not only does this make Nadya a bit of a Mary Sue, but it also means that the gods aren’t fleshed out. Too many of them are introduced too quickly for them to have an impact, and I can only remember the name Marzenya out of all of the gods which were referenced (and I only finished the book yesterday!).

I did enjoy the fact that each chapter begins with an excerpt from a book from the world – primarily Vasiliev’s Book of Saints or the Codex of the Divine – because that added a lot of history to the world, but I was desperate for this to be more integrated into Nadya and Serefin’s story.

There’s a dramatic twist at the end of the book which was pretty predictable, but I was expecting it to be a twist on a twist (once you’ve read the book you’ll know EXACTLY what I was expecting to happen!) so I still found myself pleasantly surprised by the way that Emily A. Duncan concluded the first installment in the Something Dark and Holy trilogy. This wasn’t the best series opener that I’ve ever read, but it has a lot of potential and I’m looking forward to seeing where the story goes in the next two books.

If you’re a fan of the Grisha trilogy or The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, I think you’d enjoy this novel.

See you tomorrow!

Alyce

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BLOGTOBER Day 5: Dear Justyce (Dear Martin #2) by Nic Stone

BLOGTOBER Day 5: Dear Justyce (Dear Martin #2) by Nic Stone

After finishing Dear Martin back in July, I wondered why it was getting a sequel. Justyce’s story resolves neatly in the first book in this series, and I couldn’t for the life of me see where the story could go from there. Little did I