Tag: book review

REVIEW: Scent by Isabel Costello

REVIEW: Scent by Isabel Costello

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for accepting my request to review this title via NetGalley. Scent tells the story of Clémentine, a perfumer trapped in a failing marriage. Tensions between Clémentine’s son Bastien and his father Édouard have been 

REVIEW: The List by Patricia Forde

REVIEW: The List by Patricia Forde

To begin, I’d like to thank SOURCEBOOKS Jabberwocky, for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley. The List introduces a dystopian world where vocabulary is being restricted and words are being systematically destroyed. The story follows Letta, the Wordsmith’s apprentice, as 

REVIEW: Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

REVIEW: Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for accepting my request to read and review Rules For Being a Girl via NetGalley.

Rules For Being a Girl is a book I wish I could give to my teenage self.

Marin adores her English teacher, Mr Beckett. He’s just awesome. Down to earth, relatable, more of a friend than a teacher. Until he gives her a lift home late one night. On the way to her house, Bex swings by his apartment to pick up a book he keeps forgetting to lend to Marin. While they’re in his home, he kisses her.

She doesn’t know what to do. Marin’s certain that it was a simple misunderstanding. She must have been giving Bex the wrong impression, sending signals that she hadn’t been intending to send. She resolves to put it behind her and not allow it to taint their relationship.

However, Bex does the exact opposite. Suddenly he’s treating Marin harshly, grading her unfairly, and even interfering with her future. Marin has always followed the unspoken rules for being a girl: she’s been a model student, a good girl, and would never dream of causing a scene. But she’s starting to learn that some rules are meant to be broken…

Marin makes the best of a terrible situation, deciding to focus on educating herself on issues surrounding women’s equality and the difference in societal expectations between men and women. Straightforward and unafraid, Marin calls it how she sees it. This makes her seem like a much older character – it’s the kind of confidence which comes with growing up, and I didn’t know anyone who could call out sexist jokes or stereotypically macho behaviour in their teens – but it also makes her the kind of inspirational character that teenage girls need as a role model.

I didn’t understand feminism until I was in my very late teens, but if Rules For Being a Girl had been out when I was younger I would have been calling myself a feminist much earlier in my life. It was brilliant to see Marin start a feminist book club, and recommending titles by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Roxane Gay lays the groundwork for readers to explore feminist non-fiction written by women of colour. It allows interested readers to learn about intersectional feminism, and the way that feminist issues impact upon people from different backgrounds, from outspoken authors sharing their lived experiences.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Marin and Gray, and I found myself rooting for them more than I have for a YA couple in quite a while. I’m hoping that Bushnell and Cotugno consider writing a sequel to this story, because Marin and Gray’s relationship has a lot of potential for development in the future. I felt sad at the end of the book because I was attached to both of the characters and I wanted to see more of them, and that’s not something which happens to me very often.

The only reason I didn’t give Rules For Being a Girl five stars is because I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It’s rushed. Compared to the rest of the novel – which builds up tension slowly, making you wonder what Marin will do next and whether Bex will get his comeuppance – the end of the story falls flat.

It’s hard to talk about my main issue with the ending without giving spoilers, but let’s say that it is highly unrealistic (which is a shame, because the rest of the novel is written so believably). If it had played out a bit more slowly, Bushnell and Cotugno might have been able to address exactly how the events are supposed to play out… But instead the main characters plot off the page, intending to give the reader a satisfying reveal when we discover what they’ve done, but it didn’t seem possible that they would have been able to get away with it.

However, if it wasn’t for the ending this book would have been a five star novel. The topics explored are relevant (even if some of the pop culture references already feel painfully dated for a book which was only released last summer!) and are important for young people to be able to discuss. I’ve seen this novel favourably compared to Moxie and The Nowhere Girls, so I’ll be checking both out as soon as I can.

I already knew I enjoyed Katie Cotugno’s writing, but this collaboration seems to have elevated her to the next level. If these authors decide to work together again in the future, it’ll be an autobuy for me.

I hope you enjoyed this review. See you again soon!

Alyce

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REVIEW: How To Disappear by Gillian McAllister

REVIEW: How To Disappear by Gillian McAllister

First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Michael Joseph for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley. How To Disappear tells the story of a girl called Zara, who has to enter witness protection after lying 

REVIEW: All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue

REVIEW: All Our Hidden Gifts by Caroline O’Donoghue

First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Walker Books for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley. All Our Hidden Gifts is a book which tries to do too much, but is still very enjoyable. Following 

REVIEW: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

REVIEW: Stepsister by Jennifer Donnelly

Stepsister is a brilliant fairytale continuation with a lackluster ending (and far too many chapters!).

I wrongly assumed that Stepsister was going to be a fairytale retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of one of the ugly stepsisters. Instead it’s a continuation of the fairytale, beginning with the grotesque events of Isabelle and her sister Tavia chopping off pieces of their feet in the futile attempt to convince the prince that the glass slipper belongs to one of them (rather than their beautiful, mistreated stepsister, Ella).

Of course, we all know how that part of the story goes…

After Ella is revealed to be the prince’s love and is swept off to become a member of the royal family, Isabelle and Tavia become the most hated inhabitants of their French village. What kind of monsters sit back and let their loving, caring stepsister be maltreated, then twist the knife even further by trying to steal her chance at true love? Unfortunately it wasn’t down to Isabelle or Octavia, who were both just doing their best to fulfill their mother’s wishes.

Meanwhile, there’s a subplot following the personifications of Fate and Chance. Fate is an old crone who draws out maps of people’s lives, determining the twists and turns that their story will take. Chance, however, has decided that Isabelle deserves a second chance. He steals her map, fighting Fate on Isabelle’s behalf, desperate to prove that she can change her attitude – and therefore change her Fate – for the better, before it’s too late.

Although I found the subplot very interesting, at times I struggled to follow what was going on. That might have been because of the fact that I ended up listening to Stepsister on audiobook (my first full audiobook, ever!).

However, I think it’s more down to the fact that there is a large cast of characters, and a lot of the background characters feel unnecessary. Chance has a lot of allies, while Fate is introduced as an old crone with two sisters (and I’m still not quite sure what happened to the sisters, because I don’t remember them ever being mentioned again). This is a book I would be interested in rereading in the future, to see whether I find it easier to follow when reading it physically.

It also didn’t help that this book had so many chapters. By the end of the story we’re nearly on chapter 140, and for a book which is only 350 pages long, that’s too many. Some of the chapters were over before they’d really begun, and it made the storytelling disjointed and kept throwing me off. I found it hard to concentrate, and even harder to connect with the characters.

That being said, I did enjoy what Jennifer Donnelly did throughout Stepsister. There was a huge focus on the way that society views women and girls, and the roles that they are expected to fill. With Tavia having an intense interest in science and Isabelle being interested in war and military strategy, these girls don’t fit the typical mold a woman was expected to fill in France in this time period!

I particularly enjoyed the personification of Chance and Fate, and would happily read more books featuring these two in the future. It makes this fairytale stand out from the YA crowd by giving it such a great USP, and that’s not something I often find myself thinking about YA fairytale retellings (or continuations!).

All in all, this one didn’t quite live up to my expectations. It would have been better if the chapters had been structured better, and I also would have liked the ending to have played out a little more slowly. The story unravels painfully slowly, then the ending occurs at such a breakneck speed that I found myself wondering if I’d accidentally skipped some chapters.

Although I didn’t love Stepsister I’m still looking forward to reading Poisoned by Jennifer Donnelly, and I’m glad I’ve finally picked up one of her novels as I’ve been hearing great things about her writing for years.

Thank you for reading this review,

Alyce

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REVIEW: Breathless by Jennifer Niven

REVIEW: Breathless by Jennifer Niven

First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin for accepting my request to read Breathless via NetGalley. Breathless was my first Jennifer Niven read, and it didn’t live up to the hype. Following a girl called Claude as her parents 

REVIEW: Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch

REVIEW: Love & Olives by Jenna Evans Welch

I was so excited when Love & Olives popped up as one of the Riveted Lit Free Reads in December. Love & Luck is still one of my favourite YA contemporaries of all time, and I thought Love & Olives was sure to impress me 

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 list is endless.

However, I don’t think any of them live up to Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn. Combining Black Girl Magic with a fresh twist on the Order of the Round Table, this is a captivating debut which I found ridiculously hard to put down.

When the book begins we meet our protagonist, Bree, on the night that her mother dies in a car accident. It’s made worse by the fact that Bree had a huge fight with her mother the previous night, leaving her to come to terms with the knowledge that the last words she said to her mother were ones said in anger.

Their fight was about Bree’s enrollment in an Early College program. Bree signed up without her mother’s permission, thinking she wouldn’t get in (but if she did, attending the university where her mother studied had to sweeten the deal, right?!). But Bree’s mother wasn’t ever going to let her daughter go there, and Bree is left with no idea why.

Unfortunately, Bree’s mother’s secrets end up causing her to get embroiled in more trouble than either of them could have anticipated. Before lessons begin she goes to a party where she meets a mysterious guy called Sel. She spots something strange that nobody else seems able to see, and Sel ends up doing something to her memories… Something that makes her wonder if her mother’s death wasn’t a simple accident.

Bree is left questioning the truth about the world around her, fighting with her best friend Alice, and being assigned a (startlingly attractive) peer mentor. How will Bree get her head around the new world she’s discovering while still struggling to cope with her grief?

Going into Legendborn, all I knew was that it was a King Arthur retelling. The last King Arthur retelling I read was one which seriously disappointed me, so instead of intriguing me that aspect made me put off reading this book for longer than I should have.

I wondered how a King Arthur retelling set in America was going to work, but Tracy Deonn does a wonderful job of explaining the history of how Arthur’s descendants came to be across the pond. She has obviously put a lot of work into researching not only the original legend, but the history of America itself as well.

At its heart this story is a scathing look at the way that generations of Black people have been treated in America – from back in the days of slavery up until today, when Bree experiences microaggressions and prejudiced comments just because of the colour of her skin. It’s empowering, it’s a call to arms, and it’s high time that we get more YA fantasy retellings written by Black authors about Black characters.

I absolutely love Bree. Although she is a Chosen One (and that’s not my favourite trope!) she is such a well-crafted character that I can almost overlook it. As well as dealing with the discovery of a magical underworld, she’s also dealing with developing feelings for Nick, the strain that the Early College program is putting on her relationship with her best friend, and her mother’s death. That adds up to a ton of character development, which Tracy Deonn ekes out and takes time with. Bree doesn’t change within a few pages, and throughout the novel we get a lot of her inner monologue as she struggles to decide what to do about the situation she has found herself in and the way that it is changing how she sees herself.

The other aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was the possible love triangle between Bree, Sel and Nick. I wouldn’t describe Bree and Nick’s relationship as instalove because it does take her a little while to trust him enough to let him in, but their romance does develop quite rapidly. However, the friendship between Bree and Sel was what I was living for. They have a lot in common, and even though he’s the bad guy at the beginning you quickly learn that there’s a lot more going on under the surface. I’m describing this as a possible love triangle because by the end of the first book Bree and Sel’s relationship is still purely friendship, but I have strong feelings towards these two and I hope that they end up developing strong feelings for each other! It’s been a while since I’ve felt this drawn to a YA romance, and I’m looking forward to seeing where Tracy Deonn takes these characters in the as-yet-untitled second novel in the Legendborn series.

There are only two reasons why I didn’t give this book five stars. The first is a very minor one, but it’s the overly repetitive descriptions of the way that each boy smells. I was reading this book aloud to Sean and I lost count of the amount of times I said the words ‘laundry and cedar’ or ‘whiskey and cinnamon’. Those descriptions are very vivid and vibrant, but when they kept getting repeated every couple of pages it threw me out of the story entirely.

The other reason that Legendborn ended up being four stars is that the ending is too rushed. For a book which comes in at just over 500 pages, the climax takes place over just a couple of chapters, and I think I would have enjoyed it a lot more if the action at the end of the novel had played out more slowly. I loved the fast-paced nature of a certain reveal, but as a whole the book had such slow pacing and I really savoured the level of world-building that Tracy Deonn was putting into the story, so for the ending to be a complete 180 was a bit of a shame.

That being said, this is one of the best YA fantasies I’ve read in a long time. I loved the fact that it included such a unique twist on the King Arthur legend, I really enjoyed the unique magic system and I think it’s brilliant that this book sits beautifully between YA and Adult – definitely sitting at the older end of the YA fantasy spectrum.

Tracy Deonn is an author to watch, that’s for sure. I’m eagerly anticipating news about the sequel to Legendborn, and I’m already looking forward to rereading this story in preparation for Bree’s tale to continue.

Are there any other King Arthur retellings that you’ve read and would recommend? Please leave them down in the comments!

Thank you for reading,

Alyce

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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