Tag: four star 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: 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 

REVIEW: It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

REVIEW: It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

It’s hard to review It Sounded Better in My Head, because the reality is that not a lot happens in this book. That being said, I bloody loved it.

Main character Natalie gets a nasty surprise for Christmas when her parents announce that they are getting divorced (and that they’ve actually been separated for almost a year, even though Natalie had no idea).

Natalie isn’t quite sure what’s going to happen next. She’d been planning on living at home with them while attending university in Melbourne, but now her dad is moving out and her mum is planning to sell their childhood home. Natalie doesn’t know where that leaves her.

One thing she does know is that she’s rapidly developing feelings for her best friend Zach’s older brother, Alex. After attending a party with Alex he quickly becomes all she can think about. However, Alex is popular, charismatic and works in a pub. Meanwhile, Natalie’s an introvert who doesn’t drink and suffers with serious self-esteem issues (mainly thanks to the acne she’s been dealing with throughout her teenage years, caused by her polycystic ovarian syndrome).

Their relationship seems doomed before it’s even begun, but will Natalie take a chance on love or avoid the potential for heartbreak?

The main thing I loved about this book was how much I related to Natalie. I never suffered with acne, but I did suffer with constant spots and oily skin. I empathised with how she felt about herself due to her skin condition, and the lengths that she went to to protect herself from judgment.

Teenagers can be horrible – I distinctly remember getting soap thrown at me on my birthday as a ‘present’ – so I believed every moment of agony Natalie had experienced throughout high school, from strangers commenting on her skin to other teenagers screaming obscenities at her on public transport.

Yes, it made me revisit some terrible experiences in my life (a trip down memory lane that I probably could have done without!). But Natalie’s shrewd, hilarious commentary on her life made me find my memories less painful. This book would have helped me a lot if I’d read it as a teenager.

Hilarious really is the best word to describe this book. If a book is described as ‘funny’ I normally end up hating it, but It Sounded Better in My Head was exactly my kind of humour. Natalie quizzing Alex over his past sexual experiences was a particular highlight. I’m embarrassed to say that I did the exact same thing with my partner, but if you can ask the awkward questions at the beginning of your relationship it’s a good sign! I lost count of the amount of times I giggled at this book, and I properly cackled at least twice.

I also really liked the Australian setting, and it was a novelty to read a book set at Christmas which was filled with descriptions of trips to the beach and hot summer days!

The only reason I didn’t give this book five stars is because – as I said at the beginning of the review – not an awful lot happens. It’s extremely short, coming in at under 300 pages, and although I enjoyed the writing style and fell in love with Natalie’s character, I wanted more from it. There’s a lot of potential for a sequel following these characters into the future, and I hope Nina Kenwood decides to write it. Even if she doesn’t directly continue this story, she’s certainly an author that I’m going to be looking out for in the future, as she has a talent for writing authentic YA experiences.

Have you read any funny YA novels that you’d recommend I pick up? Leave your suggestions down in the comments!

Thank you for reading,

Alyce

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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: 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 

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 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 

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 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 3: TBR Jar Round #8

BLOGTOBER Day 3: TBR Jar Round #8

In September I did things a little bit differently because it was Bookoplathon (hosted by Becca and the Books). I pulled five books out of my TBR jar as normal, but ended up pulling another two books out of the jar throughout the month when