Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: book review

Blog tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Blog tour: Fallen Angel by Chris Brookmyre

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Fallen Angel blog tour. This is the first Chris Brookmyre novel I’ve ever read, but as soon as Caolinn invited me to take part I knew I had to say yes – she described Fallen Angel in […]

Review: Monsters by Sharon Dogar

Review: Monsters by Sharon Dogar

I was extremely excited to see Monsters by Sharon Dogar on NetGalley, because I’ve been obsessed with Mary Shelley’s life since studying Frankenstein at university in 2017. Expecting a novelisation of her earlier years to bring to life all of the people I’ve studied so […]

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

Review: Happy Girl Lucky by Holly Smale

“I’m not just happy, Eff, I’m Happy Girl Lucky. People have always said that’s what I am, but I’ve never really understood the expression before… because why can’t boys be it too? But now it truly capsules me perfectly.”

Happy Girl Lucky introduces us to the Valentine siblings – Hope, Faith, Max and Mercy – children of Judith Valentine and Michael Rivers, one of the hottest celebrity couples around. But when news breaks that they’re getting divorced, Judith checks herself into a rehab facility and the kids are left to fend for themselves.

Hope, youngest of the gang, has been on the search for her leading man for as long as she can remember. Constantly playing out scenes in her mind – editing the lighting and angles and tweaking the script as she goes – she’s overjoyed when she meets Jamie, someone who’s finally worthy of acting opposite her in the film of her life.

Everything is perfect… Until Jamie has to fly home to California at the end of his holiday. Bummer. But if two people are really destined to be together, there’s no way that distance will keep them apart – and no one’s more determined than Hope Valentine to get their happy ending.

Happy Girl Lucky is the first Holly Smale book I’ve read so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but it definitely wasn’t this. To go from writing a series called Geek Girl (about a super smart girl who’s also a model) to writing a book focused on an air-headed girl who thinks it’s ‘a doggy-dog world’? It’s a complete 180. I didn’t think Smale would decide to write such a vastly different character and it threw me to start with, because the narration feels more middle-grade than young adult.

I struggled through the first half of the book, because Hope is a very difficult character to read. She’s extremely naive and innocent (so naive that she’s verging on stupid) and I spent almost a quarter of every chapter rolling my eyes.

Hope completely misunderstands tons of popular idioms despite being corrected by multiple family members throughout the novel, because she just doesn’t seem to be interested in learning anything – she’s far more interested in fantasising rather than applying herself to anything other than her mental movies. I felt sorry for her teacher: he deserved a sainthood for putting up with her daydreaming for as long as he did!

Then Jamie comes along, and their whirlwind instalove romance makes the novel completely unpalatable. I considered abandoning ship, and I’m anti-DNFing so that shows how bad things got. However, you could tell something was going to go wrong and make the story more interesting, and when it eventually got there it became very satisfying.

Although it takes a while to get there, Happy Girl Lucky redeems itself towards the end of the novel. Bits had me giggling instead of groaning, because as you get used to Hope it’s easier to take everything she says with a pinch of salt. To some extent, her air-headed attitude is a persona that she’s putting on to fit in with other people’s expectations of her (a cross between a security blanket and a shield). It’s Hope’s way of protecting herself from the badness in every day life by pretending her life is a classic romance film and the happy ending is 100% guaranteed.

This might be a story about a relationship, but the moral is how important it is to have a good relationship with yourself above everyone else. As Hope learns to stop living in her dreamworld and to embrace every emotion – not just happiness – she develops into a far more interesting character.

I don’t want to give too much away, because this book has only been out for a few weeks, but I will say that one of the best parts of the book is Hope’s reaction to Roz. She thinks Roz is her father’s assistant, but when she realises who she actually is she reacts maturely: that was the moment when I knew I liked Hope a lot more than I thought I did, and I couldn’t resist bumping the book up to four stars.

If I’m right, Happy Girl Lucky is the first book in a trilogy – the other two novels focusing on Hope’s sisters, Mercy and Faith – and I’m looking forward to picking up the other two books when they’re released. The three sisters are polar opposites, and it’ll be interesting to see Holly Smale’s writing style change throughout the Valentines series.

Perfect for fans of Holly Bourne’s It Only Happens in the Movies, I’d recommend picking up Happy Girl Lucky if you want to read a fun contemporary but you’re tired with the end goal always being a relationship.

Alyce

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Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood

Review: Vote For Effie by Laura Wood

Effie Kostas is new at school and she’s struggling to fit in. She’s intelligent and confident, but she feels basically invisible until she gets into an argument with Aaron Davis – Student Council President – when he abuses his lunch pass privilege to buy the […]

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down. Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart […]

Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

Review: This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher

After Shane Ferrick dies in suspicious circumstances, rumours point the finger of blame in a few different directions. At the party where Shane was last seen alive, Juniper, Gavin and Brett all did terrible things to him, and everyone knows Parker hated Shane after he stole his girlfriend, Ruby.

When the five involved in his death are invited to a murder mystery dinner to compete for a scholarship, darker forces are at play. Trapped in a house with Doll Face, knowing one of them is the mysterious Ringmaster behind it all, only one thing is certain: they aren’t all going to survive this night. Revenge is deadly.

I’m going to come straight out and say it: This Lie Will Kill You is one of the worst books I’ve ever read.

I’m not kidding.

Marketed as a cross between Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale, this story has a lot more in common with Cluedo (except it’s nowhere near as fun).

The reasons I disliked this book are endless.

The creepy house stuffed with secrets is reminiscent of the more melodramatic moments of Pretty Little Liars, but at least the people in that show feel like realistic teenagers. Every single character in This Lie Will Kill You is an over-dramatised and completely inauthentic portrayal, and I hated all of them equally.

There’s the instalove between Ruby and Shane, who meet in the corridor at school on his first day, slow dance to some kid’s ringtone and have a deep and meaningful chat in the middle of the night a couple of days later when Ruby sneaks in through his window.

Shane himself is the most pretentious character I’ve ever had the displeasure to read on the page, going on about sand and pyramids and gods and blegh. The way he talks to Ruby is so cringey – honestly, if anyone tried to give me the nickname ‘strawberry’ I’d probably punch them in the face – and if anyone genuinely believes that their relationship is #goals then I’m seriously concerned. I wouldn’t have been sad if all of the characters died and joined him, because none of them have any redeeming features.

There are unnecessary almost-romances sprinkled all over the place, too. Gavin and Juniper are obviously both attracted to each other, but instead of talking about it they wait until the least appropriate moment to make their move. It’s also hinted that Juniper is in love with Ruby – because, come on, who in this novel isn’t in love with Ruby – but it feels more like queerbaiting than any legitimate exploration of bisexuality. Then there’s Brett, who treats Parker like a brother for the majority of the novel… And then is suddenly revealed to be in love with him? Sure, sure.

If you’ve read any of Chelsea Pitcher’s other novels and would recommend them, please let me know. I can see that her writing has potential – it’s lyrical at the start of the book, with the first 100 pages being tightly woven and gripping, and I genuinely thought this was going to be a huge success – but it becomes far too over the top very fast.

Alyce

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Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

Review: Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan

A school ski trip turns deadly when a storm springs up out of nowhere, cutting the town where the group are staying off from the rest of the world. The ski lifts are out of action, the townsfolk seem to have evacuated and the teachers […]

Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Review: The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

‘It was a winter they would tell tales about. A winter that arrived so sudden and sharp it stuck birds to branches, and caught the rivers in such a frost their spray froze and scattered down like clouded crystals on stilled water. A winter that […]

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

Review: The Burning by Laura Bates

New girl Anna Clark moved from Birmingham to Scotland to escape something terrible that happened in her past. But you can’t outrun your demons quite that easily, especially not when they’re plastered all over social media for the world to see.

While the other students embark on a slut-shaming mission against her, Anna has a project of her own to focus upon. She’s investigating the possibility that there may have been witches living in the little village she’s moved to, and that she may have found a necklace belonging to one of them hidden up in her attic.

As someone who has read and loved most of Laura Bates’ releases – particularly Everyday Sexism, which I would recommend everyone grab a copy of – I thought The Burning was bound to get five stars from me, but that wasn’t the case.

One of the first issues I had with the book was how unoriginal Anna’s story was. With the blurb and the cover nodding towards some kind of deep, dark secret, I was expecting something other than leaked nudes to be plaguing her. I’m not negating the seriousness of the events that Anna has to cope with, but I am criticising the way that the book was marketed. Knowing that Anna is investigating a girl from centuries ago who was accused of witchcraft, I was holding out hope that Anna’s secret might be more magical.

The pacing of the book was also very odd. When Anna is first settling into the school the pace is very fast even though it’s only focusing on everyday occurrences, but when her intimate images hit Facebook and the main story kicks off it all starts moving very slowly. In my school experience, if anything like this happened the school staff members would find out and get involved very quickly. Anna’s plight remaining undiscovered for weeks didn’t seem true to life.

I also felt as though the climax of the novel wasn’t realistic in the slightest. I’m not going to reveal what happens at the end of the book, but Anna’s actions didn’t feel authentic. Again, this issue could be chalked up to me setting my expectations too high: due to Bates’ history – tackling sexism by creating the Everyday Sexism project – I was hoping Anna would do something just as proactive as a response to her own troubles.

When I was a teenager I wasn’t interested in feminism at all, and I can’t think of a single one of my friends who identified themselves as a feminist. My interest in feminism didn’t develop until I was 18 and one of my colleagues introduced me to Laura Bates’ work. The Burning had the potential to be an accessible way to introduce young adults to feminism and its continued relevance, but the language used and the internal monologues showing the reader how Anna’s feeling just aren’t as engaging as they could have been.

I’m a fan of Bates’ and even I found my attention wandering, so it’ll be interesting to hear the thoughts of some younger reviewers as to whether this book had the intended impact upon them.

However, I did enjoy the way Bates’ linked the need for feminism in the modern era with the way that it was absolutely vital back in the 17th Century. Maggie’s story is harrowing and emotional, and I found myself wishing that she’d decided to focus on that story and tell it in its entirety, rather than just splashing it through in irregular flashbacks.

If you’re a young person who is interested in feminism but aren’t sure where to start, I would highly recommend trying Everyday Sexism or Girl Up! before you give The Burning a go. Despite the fact that they’re both non-fiction books, they’re a lot less dense and far more engaging than The Burning, so they should make it very interesting for you to learn more about feminism. It’s a good idea to get to grips with the basis of feminism before you read this book to see instances of everyday sexism and misogyny in action, because that’ll make The Burning far more influential upon you.

Alyce

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Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

Review: The Taking of Annie Thorne by C.J. Tudor

‘When my sister was eight years old, she disappeared. At the time I thought it was the worst thing in the world that could ever happen. And then she came back.’ It’s hard to share my thoughts on The Taking of Annie Thorne without getting […]