Hey everyone, and welcome to my stop on the Wicked Little Deeds blog tour. To start off with, I’d like to say a huge thank you to The Write Reads for allowing me to take part in this blog tour, because Wicked Little Deeds ended …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to The Write Reads for organising this blog tour.
Instructions for Dancing is Nicola Yoon’s third novel, and her first release in five years. Because it’s been such a long time since The Sun is Also a Star was released, I had high hopes for Instructions for Dancing, but I wasn’t expecting to find a new favourite novel.
Before I share more of my thoughts on Instructions for Dancing, check out the cover and the synopsis below…
#1 New York Times bestselling author of Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star Nicola Yoon is back with a new and utterly unique romance.
Evie is disillusioned about love ever since her dad left her mum for another woman – she’s even throwing out her beloved romance novel collection.
When she’s given a copy of a book called Instructions for Dancing, and follows a note inside to a dilapidated dance studio, she discovers she has a strange and unwelcome gift. When a couple kisses in front of her, she can see their whole relationship play out – from the moment they first catch each other’s eye to the last bitter moments of their break-up.
For Evie, it confirms everything she thinks she knows about love – that it doesn’t last.
But at the dance studio she meets X – tall, dreadlocked, fascinating – and they start to learn to dance, together. Can X help break the spell that Evie is under? Can he change Evie’s mind about love?
Instructions for Dancing is a YA romance which focuses on what comes after happily ever after.
Evie’s parents’ divorce completely changes her attitude towards love. She can’t understand why people bother taking the risk of being in a relationship when they always come to an end. Why is her sister Danica still dating when Evie can’t even enjoy the contemporary romances she used to adore?
These thoughts solidify after she finds herself gifted a book called Instructions for Dancing. Shortly after acquiring the book, Evie discovers she’s been granted the power to see the highlights of a relationship every time a couple kiss in front of her. The one thing all of the relationships have in common? They all end. Whether they end in divorce, death or devastation, Evie finds herself swarmed with visions of relationships ending, over and over and over.
Evie confides in her best friend Martin about her newfound talent, and he convinces her to head to the address of the dance studio stamped in the back of her book. After spontaneously taking a dance lesson, Evie gets taken to one side by the dance instructor – a formidable woman named Fifi – who asks her to perform in a ballroom dance competition. Her partner? X, the grandson of the dance studio’s owners, and the boy who will make Evie want to reconsider her relationship avoidance.
I loved everything about this book, and it was one of the easiest five stars I’ve ever given. This is a refreshing take on the YA contemporary genre, and it’s one which I’m sure will stick in my mind for many years to come.
My heart ached for Evie from the first page of this book. She is hurting deeply because of the dissolution of her parents’ marriage, and genuinely sees no point in relationships or love. Something about the image of her hesitating while choosing to donate her romance novels – that brief second in which her hope rekindled – tugged at my heart strings, and I was hooked by Evie’s story from that moment on.
Similarly to Everything, Everything, Instructions for Dancing is made up of lots of very short chapters which switch between text conversations, group chat messages and even lists of romance tropes (which Nicola Yoon plays with delightfully). The changing formats make this a quick read, but I also found myself unable to put it down because I couldn’t wait to see what happened next between Evie and X.
Their relationship is definitely a slow-burn romance. It’s obvious that they have feelings for each other, but it takes X a while to break down Evie’s walls and convince her to give him a shot. It’s impossible not to root for them, and I’m sure X is going to be a new fictional crush for a lot of teen readers.
When you pick up Instructions for Dancing, make sure you have a packet of tissues nearby. I had a lump in my throat at the end of this novel, because Nicola Yoon isn’t afraid to show the end of the love story she has so painstakingly crafted. I was expecting to see the end of Evie and X’s story (with Evie seeing the end of relationships, it would be hard not to discover how their love story ends), but Nicola Yoon does it in a way which makes you appreciate the beauty of love, even though it may be fleeting.
There is so much more in this book that I want to gush over, but I’m trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible! Instead I’ll let Nicola Yoon’s words speak for themselves and share two of my favourite quotes from Instructions for Dancing with you.
‘Given enough time, all love stories turn into heartbreak stories.’
‘People who say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all have never really loved anyone and never really lost anyone either.’
Instructions for Dancing will make you grab life by the horns and remember to appreciate every moment you spend with the ones you love, and it’s inspirational as hell. This is the YA contemporary I needed, and it’s one which I think will resonate with a very wide audience.
About the author:
Nicola Yoon is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Instructions for Dancing, Everything, Everything and The Sun is Also a Star. She is a National Book Award finalist, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book recipient and a Coretta Scott King New Talent Award winner. Two of her novels have been made into major motion pictures. She’s also co-publisher of Joy Revolution, a Random House young adult imprint dedicated to love stories starring people of color. She grew up in Jamaica and Brooklyn, and lives in Los Angeles with her husband, the novelist David Yoon, and their daughter.
I hope you enjoyed my stop on the Instructions for Dancing blog tour. If you’ve also taken part in this blog tour, please leave a link to your stop down in the comments and spread The Write Reads love!
Thanks for reading,
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton, for accepting my request to read and review The Prison Healer via NetGalley. The Prison Healer is a predictable yet gripping YA fantasy novel. This book follows Kiva, the titular …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Hodder & Stoughton, for accepting my request to read and review this title via NetGalley. In the Ravenous Dark is an ambitious standalone fantasy novel focused on life, death and love. Rovan has …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Wildfire for accepting my request to read and review this book via NetGalley.
The best way to describe The Perfect Girlfriend is ‘a wild ride’. This adult thriller novel follows a woman called Juliette, who decides to become an air hostess. One simple thing has inspired her to begin a new career: her ex-boyfriend, Nate, is one of the pilots she’ll be working with.
Juliette knows she’s the perfect girlfriend, she just needs to remind Nate of how magical their relationship was. He accused her of being too intense, so she plays it cool and doesn’t let him know that she’s working for the airline until she’s already been employed for a few months. Surely he’ll see how easy and breezy she is if she’s been working at his airline for that long without approaching him? Nate asked for space, and Juliette is giving him that.
However, Juliette has many more tricks up her sleeve to ensure that her and Nate are together forever. Becoming an air hostess is simply step one in a much bigger plan…
The first half of The Perfect Girlfriend is slow. Because Juliette is watching Nate from a distance for so long the story meanders into ruminations on their relationship, making the pace slow and giving the plot no propulsion. It’s interesting reading more about the life of an air hostess – particularly because I’ve read a review on Goodreads from someone with knowledge of the vocation who says that it’s well-researched and highly accurate – but once you’ve read about one international flight, it gets a bit repetitive.
Things take a huge turn around the 50% mark, and the second half of the novel is impossible to put down. I went from struggling to read a chapter a day to finishing the entire book in a night, despite the fact that it meant I was up until the early hours of the morning. I just couldn’t resist finding out what happened next.
Sadly, the events that occur are a bit disappointing. There’s ‘wild’, and then there’s a thriller like this one, which is so extreme it just becomes silly. It reminded me of the Sweetpea series by C.J. Skuse, so if you loved Rhiannon’s story you’ll become obsessed with Juliette, but I found those novels a bit too bizarre at times.
I won’t go into details because I don’t want to ruin this story, but I can tell you that I didn’t guess anything that happened. Normally I struggle with thrillers because I find them too predictable, but this one was completely out of left field. If the pacing had been consistent I would have rated it a bit higher, but as it is this is a solid three stars.
I hope you enjoyed this review of The Perfect Girlfriend. Thank you so much for visiting The Bumbling Blogger!
See you soon,
I’ve finally finished Sword in the Stars, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the two books in the Once & Future duology. I’ve already discussed Once & Future over on my Booktube channel, so make sure to check that out as well if you haven’t already!
Before we start, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Rock the Boat, for accepting my request to read and review both books in the Once & Future duology via NetGalley.
The Once & Future duology follows a girl called Ari, who discovers she’s the 42nd reincarnation of King Arthur. Arthur has been caught in a seemingly endless cycle. His soul gets reborn, he discovers Excalibur and frees the sword from the stone, and then he gets tracked down by a Merlin who is growing rapidly and inexplicably younger. When Merlin tracks down Ari he thinks the universe is playing a joke on him. How can his Arthur have been reincarnated as a woman? But Merlin learns not to underestimate Ari when she becomes determined to break the cycle, saving her people from an evil corporation called Mercer and freeing Merlin from his impending childhood.
Along the way, Merlin and Ari find themselves gathering friends who correspond with other key players in the Arthurian legend. Ari’s friend Lam is easily identifiable as Lamarack, while their brother Val is Percival. Merlin’s relief at Ari avoiding Arthur’s legendary heartbreak is short-lived when she reconnects with old flame Gwen, but it comes as no surprise when their love story doesn’t progress smoothly.
Once & Future pleasantly surprised me. My relationship with Arthurian retellings is a fraught one; I’ve despised some of the Arthurian retellings I’ve read, while Tracy Deonn’s Legendborn became a new favourite earlier in the year. Blending medieval elements with a sci-fi setting could have been a disaster, but I enjoyed the first novel in this series a lot. The cast of characters had a lot to do with my enjoyment of the novel. It’s a diverse cast, featuring asexual, pansexual, gay, genderfluid and trans rep, as well as a demiguy (and that’s just the rep I can remember off of the top of my head!). All of the characters were well-crafted, and even though it was a big cast of characters they all felt necessary.
I was disappointed by the bad guy, as the Mercer Administrator doesn’t get much time on the page. The idea of the faceless corporation was more intimidating, but giving the company a leader and making him bland lowered the stakes in this story dramatically.
I will admit that I found it difficult to get into the story at the start. During the first few chapters we follow Ari before she discovers Excalibur, which means there’s no Merlin and no dual perspective. These chapters are the slowest in the entire book, and it takes a while to get the plot moving. I was tempted to DNF the book during this section, but I’m glad that I pushed through it because it really paid off. If you’re looking to read a novel which is fast-paced straight out of the gate, don’t reach for this one just yet!
My favourite section of Once & Future occurs about halfway through the story, when Ari is separated from her friends and they believe that she’s dead. I loved the exploration of grief and the way that different people respond to loss in different ways, and I thought Capetta and McCarthy did a great job of delving into the subject (albeit briefly).
I also really appreciated the conversation between the gang and Merlin when he misgenders Lam. Lam identifies as fluid and uses they/them pronouns, but Merlin explains that he’s used to presuming people’s pronouns based off of the way that they look. The gang correct him, but they forgive him for his mistake and Merlin does his best to prioritise using correct pronouns throughout the rest of the series. It’s a simple conversation to be had, but when so many people still don’t understand terms like genderfluid or non-binary, a small conversation like this can go a long way towards fostering acceptance and understanding.
Having given Once & Future four stars, I was excited to continue the series and see how it all wrapped up in Sword in the Stars. There will be spoilers for events which occur towards the end of book one, so look away now if you haven’t finished the first installment yet!
At the end of Once & Future, Ari and the gang have to make the decision to travel through time to the first Arthurian cycle, back in the days of Camelot. Merlin is still growing rapidly younger, Gwen is pregnant, and Ari’s brother Kay is dead (along with the Mercer Administrator, who has already been replaced).
I was hoping that Sword in the Stars wouldn’t spend too long back in Camelot, but unfortunately they remain there for around half of the book. This slows the pacing down dramatically. It also rips away everything I loved about the first book, because instead of flying around space and exploring the universe – key elements in any sci-fi novel – the book turns into a traditional fantasy, with horseback riding, swordfights and knights galore. I wouldn’t have minded this if I’d been expecting it, but the reason I picked up Once & Future in the first place was because I wanted to read an unconventional Arthurian retelling. Instead, Sword in the Stars gives us a gender swapped Lancelot and a whole load of timeywimey nonsense.
This book thinks it’s smarter than it is. There are lots of concerns about the events of the past changing the events in the future, but even cautious Merlin throws out all of his worries and decides to buddy up with his Old Merlin self in the attempt to fix his backward aging. The justification for all of this is that the gang brought a book of MercersNotes (basically CliffsNotes) about the Arthurian legends back in time with them, so they know they’ve gone wrong if pages start disappearing from the book, giving them ample opportunity to quickly correct the course of the timeline. While I liked that idea, I’m not sure if it would be a foolproof way of ensuring nothing changed, and it hurts my head to think about the implications.
I had some wild and wacky theories about the direction that the second book could take, and basically all of them came true. However, a lot of them were so farfetched that they were barely foreshadowed in the first novel. Contrasting the mystery of the first book with the extremely heavy-handed foreshadowing at the beginning of this installment, a lot of the intrigue about what’s going to happen later in the story is taken away.
My main gripe with Sword in the Stars is that it feels preachy. While Once & Future was diverse and inclusive it didn’t make it too much of a focal point because humanity had progressed enough to be accepting of a variety of sexualities and gender identities, but the return to Camelot makes Capetta and McCarthy really hammer home how dramatically humanity has shifted towards an inclusive mindset. Lam makes the first GSA as evidence that there were queer folk back in medieval times but they weren’t able to be out. While I have no doubts that this was true, surely Lam creating that GSA would change the society into being more open and inclusive, changing history – and therefore the future – in a pretty dramatic way?
The problem is, the people who need to read these statements aren’t the people who will be reading the second novel in an extremely diverse series. If these conversations had been had in the first book – along with the discussion about Lam’s pronouns – they might have had a huge impact, but the people who would benefit from reading discussions like these aren’t likely to pick up the second book in the series if they already had issues with the diversity and representation in the first.
Along with this complaint, there are some smaller issues which also hampered my enjoyment of this story. Ari makes a huge deal about not presuming people’s pronouns, but she does the same thing to a character in Camelot when she sees that they aren’t wearing a dress. Yes, they end up confirming that they identify as trans, but using they/them pronouns until that conversation would have felt more natural to Ari’s character.
There’s also a conversation between Ari and Gwen which left a very bitter taste in my mouth, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it throughout the second half of the novel. Gwen keeps referring to her baby as a girl because she doesn’t want to be responsible for giving birth to the legendary Mordred, who famously kills his father, Arthur. When the baby is born with male genitalia, Gwen muses that the baby might still end up being trans or fluid. I have a huge problem with gender reveal parties because I think the obsession with a child’s gender becomes more important than the fact that they’re healthy.
I can understand the context behind the comment, because if the child does end up being Mordred Gwen becomes directly responsible for both Arthur’s downfall and the start of the cycle that they’ve all been dragged into. However, the fact that this discussion occurs when the baby is less than a couple of hours old – having just been born in a lake in medieval times with no kind of midwives or healthcare personnel around – you’d think Gwen would be more interested in the baby’s health and wellbeing, rather than the possibility of them changing their gender identity later in life. It’s only a small moment, but it really destroyed my enjoyment of the book, and I lost a lot of respect for Gwen’s character because of this comment. Up until that point, she had been my favourite!
In all honesty, I should have DNFed Sword in the Stars. Yes, I struggled to read the first half of Once & Future, but once I got into the flow of the story it was a joy to read and I found myself looking forward to picking it up and re-immersing myself in this world and these characters. However, Sword in the Stars was a chore from beginning to end. It might have been worth the struggle if I’d liked the way the story ended, but it all seemed too convenient.
I ended up giving Sword in the Stars two stars, because I loved this cast of characters and when they finally got back into their time the story did get marginally more satisfactory, but unfortunately this wasn’t the five star I’d been hoping for.
All in all, the Once & Future duology has a stunning first installment, but things fall apart in the second book. I wonder whether this would have been better if the two books had been combined to make one long story, as it might have forced Capetta and McCarthy to cut down some of the slower sections and maintain the quick pace which I enjoyed throughout the first book.
I’ve read one of Cory McCarthy’s novels before – You Were Here – and it was a five star read for me, so I will consider reading more of their work in the future, but I’m starting to think Arthurian retellings just aren’t for me.
Thank you for reading this review. If you’ve read the Once & Future duology and would like to share your thoughts on it, feel free to leave them down in the comments!
See you soon,
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Smith Publicity for accepting my request to read and review this book via NetGalley. Heaven Has No Regrets tells the story of cousins – and best friends – Makenzie and Faith. Jumping between …