Tag: book review

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 

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 just as much.

Unfortunately, I found Jenna Evans Welch’s third novel to be a bit of a struggle to get through.

Love & Olives follows a girl called Olive – sorry, Liv – who is looking forward to going away for the summer with her boyfriend before he goes to college. Her plans get quickly rearranged, though, when a postcard from her dad arrives out of the blue inviting her to spend the summer in Greece with him.

Her dad, who she hasn’t seen in almost ten years.

When Liv arrives in Greece, she is nervous about being reunited with her father and can’t imagine what it’s going to be like. She definitely doesn’t imagine being met by his (sidekick? cameraman? friend?) Theo, who is almost as gorgeous as Santorini.

It isn’t long before Liv discovers why her dad has invited her to Greece – and why Theo keeps shoving his camera in her face. They’ve been approached by National Geographic to film a documentary about the lost city of Atlantis, her dad’s lifelong obsession… And the reason that he abandoned Liv to return to Greece in the first place.

Will Liv be able to put her conflicting feelings about Atlantis behind her to help her dad make his documentary, or is this going to be the worst summer holiday ever?

My main issue with Love & Olives was that it bored me. The beautiful, sunny location of Santorini is a decadent setting, and the way that Jenna Evans Welch describes it makes me want to visit someday in the future, but it’s the kind of setting where characters are lazing around enjoying the sun and it made me feel restless.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a fair amount happening in this book… It’s just that when you get to the end of it and realise you’ve read 500 pages, you wonder how such a little amount of action stretched to such a length.

I was hooked at the beginning. I enjoyed meeting Liv, discovering why she was so against the postcards arriving from her dad and beginning to discover the list of things that he left behind. However, when she actually reunited with her dad my interest waned, and it didn’t come back in to shore.

The reason I loved Love & Luck so much was because I didn’t feel bored for a second. In my review for that book I mentioned that the story was pushed along ‘incredibly quickly’, and that was a huge selling point. That was the way things felt at the beginning of Love & Olives too, but then the pace meandered along and – sadly – that isn’t the kind of contemporary novel I enjoy.

I might have felt differently if I’d picked this up in the summer months, or had been able to read it on a beach somewhere exotic, but unfortunately I was so excited about this book that I didn’t think the cold weather would dampen my enjoyment of it. It was fun to learn more about the Greek islands and the myth of Atlantis, but Liv and Theo are not a couple who are going to stick in my mind as vibrantly as Addie and Rowan do.

If you enjoy slow-paced contemporary novels with luxurious settings, I’d highly recommend checking this one out. However, if you like reading contemporaries that you can fly through very quickly, I’d suggest trying Love & Luck instead. I still gave Love & Olives three stars because it wasn’t a bad book and I do really like Jenna Evans Welch’s writing, but it didn’t really do anything for me and I had no strong feelings towards either the characters or the plot.

At least I still have Love & Gelato to pick up at some point in the future. Fingers crossed that will impress me more than the last books in this series of companion novels!

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: 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 

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 – I consumed it in the space of about two weeks while pulling all-nighters studying for my A Levels – so I went into Dead Until Dark pretty blind.

Things I could remember: there’s a girl called Sookie Stackhouse who’s a waitress and a telepath. Her brother Jason is extremely good looking and sleeps with everything that moves. Her boyfriend is Bill, the new vampire in town. Sam, her boss, is so in love with her that she can’t see it (but everyone else can). There’s also a sexy bar owner called Eric, who’s another vampire. Oh, and Lafayette the chef! I love Lafayette in the TV show (R.I.P. Nelsan Ellis).

Things I couldn’t remember: basically everything else.

So when Sookie got a call from Sam asking her to go and check on fellow waitress Dawn, I had no idea that Sookie was about to find Dawn dead – the second in a series of spree killings which would rock Bon Temps to the core.

I’ll be honest: I nearly DNF’d Dead Until Dark at the bottom of the first page. Sookie comes across as vapid at best, completely self-absorbed and irritating at worst. ‘I’m blond and blue-eyed and twenty-five, and my legs are strong and my bosom is substantial, and I have a waspy waistline.’ Cringe. So much for show, don’t tell…

After reading that sentence I literally put the book down, turned to Sean and said, “I already hate this”.

We decided to keep going until the end of the first chapter, which ended up being 40 pages later. When we realised we weren’t hating it quite as strongly, we decided to carry on.

The main reason that we were enjoying Dead Until Dark is because the pacing is brilliant. The book starts with a bang – Bill walks in to Merlotte’s where Sookie works, and by the end of the chapter she’s already saved his life – and the pacing doesn’t let up much throughout. The plot does get a bit distracted later on, focusing more on Sookie and Bill’s burgeoning relationship rather than the murder mystery (which was the bit I was more interested in!) but Charlaine Harris makes an effort to tackle both plot lines consistently within each chapter.

I definitely wasn’t expecting this book to have a sense of humour. As well as being fairly dark and gritty (there’s a multiple murderer on the loose in a town rapidly filling up with vampires, so there’s a fair amount of bloodshed!), Sookie’s dialogue is often dry and sarcastic, and it got a few chuckles out of me. However, a lot of the jokes seemed to miss the mark, and I found myself rolling my eyes more often than not.

One thing True Blood is well-known for is the amount of on-screen sex that the characters have. At times it’s just glorified porn (with more fangs… I hope). So I was extremely surprised by the lack of sex in Dead Until Dark. This was a pleasant surprise. I don’t read smut and don’t really enjoy erotic books, so picking this up in the first place was outside of my comfort zone. However, the sex which is included is… Laughable, is probably the best way to describe it?

There’s one scene in which Sookie and Bill are going at it in the graveyard, and she says that it was ‘as if he were trying to reach through me to the soil’. That’s not sexy! If you were hoping to get your rocks off while reading this book, I think you’ll have a hard time doing it.

As well as some uncomfortable sex scenes, there were also a handful of plot holes which weren’t addressed and I couldn’t let slide. The most memorable one is when Sookie finds herself reading the mind of Eric. Understandable, she is a telepath! However, she’s already mentioned a handful of times that she can’t read the mind of Bill or any of the other vampires she encounters. What makes Eric different? Will this get tackled later in the series or is it just a mistake?

Yes, I’m probably overthinking things. No, I won’t stop overthinking things.

The other major thing which knocked my rating for this book down was the scene where Sookie addressed the childhood abuse that she experienced. Although her reaction was realistic – she is flippant to start with, but then begins to exhibit symptoms of PTSD – I thought that Charlaine Harris could have done a better job of the way that she approached the subject.

It’s important for victims of childhood abuse, molestation and sexual abuse to see themselves represented (particularly in a character who doesn’t let the event be their defining characteristic, and has clearly learnt how to cope with the things which they have experienced). However, with Sookie mentioning it very briefly – and it mostly being used as a plot device to show the lengths that Bill will go to to show Sookie the depths of his feelings – I do wonder whether readers with those experiences could find this more triggering than empowering.

I’m not someone who has experienced any of the aforementioned things, so that’s just the way that I wonder if it could be received. I will be doing some more research to see if there have been any reviews looking at the impact of this representation more closely.

Although I didn’t love Dead Until Dark, I did enjoy it more than the first Charlaine Harris book I read, which I only gave one star. If you look at it like that, then this book is two and a half times better than Midnight Crossroad! However, I’m not feeling compelled to continue on with the rest of the series. I own all of them, so will at least try another one or two installments, but I honestly don’t know why there’s so much hype surrounding this series.

Thank you for reading this review. If you have read and enjoyed the Southern Vampire Mysteries, please let me know!

See you soon,

Alyce

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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 

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 SibĂ©al 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