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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 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 

TOP TEN TUESDAY: 2021 Anticipated Releases (Jan-June)

TOP TEN TUESDAY: 2021 Anticipated Releases (Jan-June)

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

I’ve already made a video discussing ten of my most anticipated 2021 releases, but I’ve decided that I’m not going to mention any of them in this post so that I can shine a spotlight on ten more books that I’m excited about which are being released in the next six months!

This list is in order of publication rather than in order of excitement, because I can’t wait to get my hands on all of these.

Lore by Alexandra Bracken – January 5th



Lore is actually being released TODAY, which is probably why it was at the forefront of my mind when I was thinking of books to feature in this list.

I hadn’t heard much about Lore until about a month ago, when a few book boxes hinted towards the fact that they were featuring it in January. People got very excited very quickly and were raving about this book, and it got me intrigued.

This story is an urban fantasy following a Greek god called Lore who flees to New York to escape a brutal punishment called the Agon. Teaming up with Athena – the last of the original Greek gods – and a childhood friend who she believed was dead, Lore finds herself getting dragged back into the world that she thought she had escaped.

Embarrassingly, I have yet to read a single Alexandra Bracken novel. I know, I know, I’m a bad book blogger! However, I’ve heard great things about her writing, and I know I’ll have a copy in my hands before the end of the month, so it should be easy to squeeze this into my 2021 reading.



A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth – February 23rd




As soon as the cover for A Dark and Hollow Star was revealed, I was INTERESTED. Just… Wow. That is a cover that grabs your attention and screams for you to read the story inside.

Being marketed as City of Bones meets The Cruel Prince, I’m a little bit apprehensive about A Dark and Hollow Star, but I’m going to pick it up anyway. I really enjoyed The Cruel Prince the first time I read it, but didn’t enjoy it on a reread, and it has been absolutely YEARS since I read City of Bones (although I did love it at the time).

This certainly sounds as though it’s going to be on the darker side of the YA spectrum, featuring a series of ritualistic murders throughout Toronto and the Eight Courts of Folk who may be responsible. Colour me intrigued.






Yolk by Mary H.K. Choi – March 2nd






I have given both of Mary H.K. Choi’s novels (Emergency Contact and Permanent Record) five stars, so she’s well on her way to becoming a favourite author of mine.

Yolk sounds very different to Choi’s first two novels, which were romances toeing the line between YA and NA. However, Yolk is telling the story of two sisters who used to be the best of friends but have grown apart… Until one of them realises that she has uterine cancer, and they’re thrown back together.

I’ve been lucky enough to be approved for an advanced copy of Yolk via NetGalley, so I’m hoping to read this one within the next couple of weeks. It sounds like it’s going to be an absolute tearjerker.




Perfect on Paper by Sophie Gonzales – March 9th






I hadn’t heard of Perfect on Paper until I started researching for this post, but it’s catapulted straight to the top of my anticipated release list.

A bisexual girl has been offering anonymous relationship advice to her classmates, but when she gets caught she finds herself suddenly helping the hottest guy in school to win back his ex-girlfriend.

I’ve heard amazing things about Only Mostly Devastated but I haven’t had the chance to pick it up yet, but Perfect on Paper sounds like perfect contemporary for me… on paper, at least!





Mina and the Undead by Amy McCaw – April 1st






I’ve been following Amy McCaw’s blog – YA Under My Skin – for YEARS, so when it was announced that Amy was going to be releasing her debut novel I was ecstatic for her.

I’m excited for this book for so many reasons. Firstly, how gorgeous is the cover? I love the fact that it’s been designed to look like an old video tape, which I think perfectly complements the 90s setting.

Also, I’m a sucker for vampires. I got bored of them for a while, but they’re definitely coming back with a vengeance (Empire of the Vampire by Jay Kristoff would have been on this list if it wasn’t being released so late in the year!) so I can’t wait to read Amy’s twist on the vampire story.




The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky – April 13th





Confession time: I’m more interested in this book because of its title than anything else. Goldy Moldavsky gets some of the best book titles – Kill the Boy Band grabbed everyone’s attention as soon as they saw what it was called! – and The Mary Shelley Club deeply appeals to me.

This is being marketed as Scream meets Karen M. McManus – both things that I really like – and features a secret high school club focused on making truly terrifying pranks, which is something I’ve seen attempted many times in YA but never seems to pay off. Hopefully this book will finally get it right!





Kate in Waiting by Becky Albertalli – April 20th





I was torn over whether to include this book, because while I absolutely loved Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda I have heard mixed reviews about all of Becky Albertalli’s other novels and have yet to pick another one up myself.

However, there’s something about this one that really intrigues me. A girl and her best friend both have a long-distance crush on the same guy, but when he turns up at their school it throws their friendship into turmoil.

This story has so much potential – it could go terribly, but I also think it could be absolutely brilliant, especially if the focus is more on the friendship between Kate and Anderson than it is on the romance. Only time will tell.




Meet Cute Diary by Emery Lee – May 4th





Another book which I hadn’t heard of until I was making this list, another book which I now can’t wait to get my hands on.

Meet Cute Diary tells the story of a transgender teen called Noah who writes a blog spotlighting trans happily ever afters. Unfortunately, all of the stories are made up, and when the fictional nature of the blog is exposed Noah finds himself fake-dating a guy called Noah in the attempt to prove that trans happily ever afters can exist.

I love the fake dating trope when it’s done right, and Meet Cute Diary sounds like it’s going to tackle the trope very well. Also how gorgeous is that cover?!





Cool For the Summer by Dahlia Adler – May 11th





Another queer YA contemporary – 2021 is showing up for the gays!

Lara, our bisexual main character, has been lusting after Chase for years. When he finally starts flirting with her and she wins the guy of her dreams, things get complicated when Jasmine – the girl she spent a strangely perfect summer with, a summer that she’s still feeling confused about – walks in and shakes up what was supposed to be the start of Lara’s happily ever after.

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of this cover when it was first revealed, but it has grown on me and I’m now looking forward to having this book on my shelf.





The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson – June 15th




The Box in the Woods is the book on this list which I’m most conflicted about.

I wouldn’t say I hated The Hand on the Wall because hate is too strong of a word. I just felt ambivalent and disappointed and I think I disliked it more because of that than if I had actually actively hated it.

However, Maureen Johnson then announced that Stevie would be returning, and would be returning in an adventure set outside of Ellingham Academy and I got far more excited than I should have.

So, long story short: I’m going to pick this book up, I’m probably going to dislike it, and I have no one to blame but myself.






I hope you enjoyed this Top Ten Tuesday post! Which 2021 release are you the most excited about – one I’ve featured on this list, or one I haven’t mentioned?

See you tomorrow with my review of First Day of My Life by Lisa Williamson!

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