Tag: four star review

YA Book Prize 2020 spoilery shortlist thoughts

YA Book Prize 2020 spoilery shortlist thoughts

Hey everyone! In case you’re new here, I am obsessed with the YA Book Prize. Every year I challenge myself to read the ten book shortlist in its entirety before the winner of the prize is announced so that I can choose my own winner,…

Blog tour: The Lizard by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart

Blog tour: The Lizard by Dugald Bruce-Lockhart

Hey everyone, and welcome to my stop on The Lizard blog tour! I’m honoured to be teaming up with Muswell Press once again to celebrate the release of a truly gripping crime debut. As always, I’m going to tell you a little more about The…

TBR Jar Round #3

TBR Jar Round #3

Welcome back for another round of the TBR jar reviews! I only chose four titles out of the jar for April’s TBR as I already had a pretty busy reading month lined up what with reading the YA Book Prize shortlist and taking part in the O.W.L.S Magical Readathon, but I’m pleased to say that I managed to get them all read in the nick of time.

I was very excited about the titles I picked out this month, as there are some books here that I’ve been wanting to read for a while and I don’t know why I’ve kept putting them off! But the question is, did they live up to my expectations? Let’s find out.

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver – 3 stars

I actually read Broken Things to pass my O.W.L.S Divination exam, for which you have to read a book which is chosen at random. I’ve read a couple of Lauren Oliver’s other novels but she’s an author who I’ve always wanted to read more from and the premise of Broken Things – following two girls who are suspected of murdering their best friend because of an obsession with a book – was right up my alley.

It took me a while to get into Broken Things because I wasn’t expecting it to be a dual perspective, but throughout the novel we follow both Brynn and Mia. Not only is it dual perspective but it also jumps from the present to the past, showing flashbacks to both of their lives with Summer before her brutal murder and the fallout they experienced directly following the events which unfolded.

Unfortunately, both voices sounded very similar, with little variation between the two characters. At multiple points I found myself thinking we were following Brynn and were actually with Mia. Considering Brynn is meant to be an overly confident lesbian and Mia is supposed to be the meek and quiet girl-next-door type, it should have been pretty impossible to get their viewpoints confused. The flashbacks made things a little bit easier, but I wonder whether this story would have been better told chronologically with two parts splitting life ‘Before’ and ‘After’: instead we have four parts, a pretty obvious murderer and a lot of confusion.

The excerpts from The Way into Lovelorn were one of the most interesting aspects of the story, and I’d definitely be interested in reading it if Lauren Oliver ever decided to expand the excerpts into a full-length novel รก la Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. However, The Way into Lovelorn has a mysterious ending which sparks their obsession with the novel, and that ending is explained away in a very off-hand way by one of the characters, making that plot point seem pretty null and void. Considering Summer’s death is supposed to have been a sacrifice to the Shadow – the evil monster from Lovelorn who terrifies all of the inhabitants – it would have been nice if it had had a bit more of a satisfying explanation, but it flipped one of the most memorable plot points into one of the least impactful with just a couple of sentences.

I was expecting this to be a new favourite, but instead it’s a very forgettable story which I’ve seen done better before and will definitely be done better in the future. I’m giving it three stars because I wasn’t annoyed by it, but I definitely wasn’t impressed by it: this story was very much middle-of-the-road.

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich – 3 stars

Dear Evan Hansen is a conflicting novel. Based on the musical of the same name, this book follows a boy called Evan Hansen as he gets accidentally dragged into a pretty bizarre situation.

Evan Hansen’s therapist has recommended that he writes letters to himself in an attempt to give himself a more positive outlook on life. Unfortunately for Evan, he prints one of his letters off at school, where it’s discovered by the brother of the girl who he has a crush on. Connor questions why Evan is writing about his sister, then takes the letter with him… And when he commits suicide that evening, his parents find the letter in his pocket and assume that he had written his suicide note to Evan, not realising that Evan had written the letter to himself.

Do you see what I mean by a ‘bizarre situation’ now?

Sadly, Evan’s anxiety is so bad that he doesn’t know how to correct Connor’s parents, so he goes along with it. Yep. Evan Hansen pretends to be a dead guy’s best friend to avoid upsetting said dead guy’s parents.

I really enjoyed the first half of this story, because Evan’s reactions to the situation are so genuine. As soon as he gets himself implicated it spirals out of control very rapidly – he can’t say no to going to the wake because that would be rude; he can’t say no to dinner with Connor’s parents because that would be horrible – but then Evan starts dating Connor’s sister, Zoe, and that was the moment where I became a bit less enthused by the direction the story was going in.

To start with Evan is just trying to comfort the Murphy family, but as soon as he starts dating Zoe it reads more that he’s taking advantage of their son’s suicide to improve his own situation in life. I loved the fact that Evan teamed up with a couple of schoolfriends to host a memorial for Connor – no one should be forgotten about after committing suicide, and raising awareness of mental health and depression is never a bad thing – but the more that I read the more uncomfortable the story made me.

It wouldn’t have been as bad if Evan had experienced some kind of retribution, but he gets away pretty unscathed. I actually think I would have found the story more satisfying if his deception hadn’t come out at all, because the reveal was such a non-event.

That being said, there are a few chapters sprinkled throughout which are told from Connor’s perspective, and these are fascinating. He gives us an idea of why he decided to end his life, and comes to terms with the choice that he made in a very poignant way. I actually think I might have enjoyed this book more if it had been written entirely from Connor’s perspective and he had been watching Evan’s deception play out, because the few times he sees what Evan is up to he is just as confused as the reader is by Evan’s choices.

I’ve read a few other reviews for this one and have gathered that most people dislike the novel and enjoy the musical far more, so I am still interested in potentially seeing this one on the stage. The concept is so good, and I can tell that the writer has obviously done their best to raise awareness of mental health, but something about it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus – 4 stars

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, which appeared on the YA Book Prize shortlist, has been described as the UK’s answer to One of Us is Lying, so of course the TBR jar decided I’d be reading both of them this month. What are the chances?!

I went into One of Us is Lying pretty blind, simply knowing that five people go to detention and only four of them end up leaving after the fifth person is murdered. Despite the fact that this has been out for over three years now (where has the time gone?!) I’d managed to avoid any spoilers, so I went into this looking forward to solving a mystery.

I thought I’d cracked it pretty quickly, as mysterious Tumblr messages begin popping up and only one of the characters doesn’t read one during their viewpoint… A pretty big giveaway! Or so I thought. Turns out, Karen M. McManus had totally thought about the fact that people would use that to figure out who was responsible, making it a very clever red herring which completely duped me within a couple of chapters.

However, I was reading this one with Sean and he did figure out the big twist! It meant I was still quite impressed by the way it played out, but he lost interest pretty quickly – apparently he’s already read or seen a few things which were quite similar, but this was my first time experiencing a twist like this. I’m not going to spoil it, because it does work really well if you don’t see it (or believe that it is) coming.

The only reason I didn’t give One of Us is Lying five stars is because there’s a twist in the plot which involves a character’s sexuality, and that’s not something I ever really enjoy. I saw that aspect of the story coming from a mile away – literally the character’s second chapter, when it is first alluded to – and it just made me roll my eyes as that kind of twist is very overdone.

I’m glad I waited so long to read One of Us is Lying, because the sequel, One of Us is Next, is already out. That means I don’t have to wait long to catch up with these pretty little liars and see what crazy shenanigans happen in their lives next. This is definitely a story which doesn’t need a sequel – the story is wrapped up very neatly, and if I had read it at the time I would have anticipated it being a standalone – but Karen M. McManus is a pro at writing multiple viewpoints, making all of her characters very different and utterly compelling, and I’m really looking forward to getting to spend some more time with them. Particularly Bronwyn and Nate. Hardcore shipping those two.

The Fire Child by S.K. Tremayne – 1 star

I knew it was too good to be true. The Fire Child was the last book I read out of my TBR jar picks for April, and of course it had to end up being a bloody one star!

This was actually a three star novel until about 20% before the end, where it started plummeting rapidly. I’m about to get pretty spoilery, so if you haven’t read The Fire Child yet and don’t want spoilers you should definitely keep on scrolling…

The Fire Child begins very strongly. Rachel and David have recently gotten married, and he’s just moved her in to his ancestral family home in Cornwall. They are completely smitten, and despite the fact that David has to work in London all week and only spends weekends at home Rachel has never been happier. That is, until her stepson Jamie warns her that she’s going to die at Christmas. There have always been stories that the Kerthen children can see the future so Rachel believes her stepson’s prediction. This causes David to believe Rachel is going crazy and that his son is in danger, so he beats Rachel, getting himself slapped with an exclusion order which means he can’t go within five miles of his home.

His burst of anger makes Rachel wonder whether the story regarding David’s first wife’s death is genuine. Nina plummeted to her death down a mineshaft on Christmas day eighteen months before, but Rachel begins to investigate her death.

What she finds is completely unbelievable, unrealistic, and so goddamned stupid that I’m surprised this book even managed to get published.

Turns out, Nina was barren, so David anonymously paid a young college student to accept his sperm donation and give birth to his child. And that college student was, drum roll please… Rachel! Out of EVERYONE IN ENGLAND, David just happens to meet and fall in love with the woman who he paid to carry his child! That’s TOTALLY believable! I completely buy it!

Rachel works this out because she sees a picture of Nina and David with Jamie and recognises the photographer’s style – Jamie’s face isn’t visible, as he’s turned towards his mother – and she knows that the photographer is the one who first introduced her to the concept of being paid to carry a child. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen loads of different photographers taking pictures of new parents with a baby whose face isn’t visible as that can give them a little bit of much needed privacy, so that’s pretty flimsy in the first place.

Add that to the fact that Rachel is suffering from an extremely rare case of prepartum psychosis, and I would have believed it much more if Rachel had ‘figured out’ that she was Jamie’s mother and then gotten herself sectioned because she was experiencing delusions and actually hadn’t been his mother, because it’s just so convoluted.

Rachel believed that the child she gave birth to was a girl who died, as she gave birth so prematurely that the nurses told her the baby died to make the separation easier. In what world does thinking your child is dead make it easier that giving that child to the family who paid you to give birth to them?! And why would the nurses also bother to lie about the gender when Rachel would never know either way? So many questions, so many unanswerable questions which tear this plot apart as soon as you ask them.

Not only that, but Rachel lied and claimed that the reason she was pregnant was because her father raped her, and she said that she lied like that to protect her mother? Rachel is sexually abused by her father as a child and that is horrendous – and also rather graphically described, another good reason to avoid this book – but I can’t see the logic of telling everyone that your father raped you and believing that you’re doing your mother a favour. Also, if your father is also the father of your baby, where are you explaining the sudden influx of money you’ve received from the man who paid you to carry his baby? Again, more unanswerable questions.

Honestly, the terrible ending isn’t the only reason I knocked stars off for this book. There’s also a brilliant line where the snowy landscape is described as ‘autistic’ and I just??? What the fuck? Who in their right mind describes as landscape as autistic? That’s not even the only time this is used as a negative descriptive word in this novel. Gross.

I loved the descriptions of Cornwall – I spent a day in Truro last year for some work training and S.K. Tremayne does a brilliant job of bringing the location to life – and the photography of the mines throughout adds another layer to the story and sets up the historical context of the Kerthen family very strongly. That being said, if I’d been anywhere near a fire while reading this one it would have been chucked straight in.



And that’s the end of another round of the TBR jar! This month’s picks were not as good as last month’s (and I can tell you already that there’s probably going to be another one star next month based off of those picks…) but at least that’s another four books ticked off on my NetGalley.

Once again, thank you to NetGalley for the service that you provide – I’m just sorry I take advantage of it far more than I should…

Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know your thoughts on them down in the comments, and I’ll see you tomorrow for a fun blog tour post!

Alyce

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#stayhomereadingrush wrap-up

#stayhomereadingrush wrap-up

As if we weren’t already reading enough books in April, we decided to take part in the Stay Home edition of The Reading Rush from the 16th to the 19th. Adding three more books to an already bursting TBR might not have been the best…

TBR Jar Round #2

TBR Jar Round #2

Technically that title is a lie, because I’m no longer using my TBR jar. I have had to upgrade to a TBR bucket instead! But it still does the same job, it’s just a Halloween bucket rather than an unused travel mug meaning it is…

TBR Jar Round #1

TBR Jar Round #1

I have a NetGalley addiction. I check the site at least twice a day, and I request something nearly every single time I’m on there. I’ve tried – oh, I have TRIED – to stop myself, but there just doesn’t seem to be anything I can do that will work.

Because of this, I have an awful lot of books on my NetGalley which I haven’t read or reviewed. In 2020, I’m challenging myself to start actively tackling the backlog, so I’ve made myself a TBR jar filled solely with the Ghosts of NetGalley Past. I’m planning on picking at least five titles out each month, and I took my first handful while filming my February TBR, so now that I’ve finished them all I thought I would share my thoughts with you. Was the jar kind to me?

The Sham by Ellen Allen

Last year my boyfriend taught me how to DNF books I really wasn’t enjoying, and that skill came in handy within the first few chapters of The Sham (I DNF’d it at 6% after struggling to get even that far).

Bitchy mean girls forcing an autistic boy to bite the head off of a bird, soiling himself in the process because he was so frightened? No thank you.

That’s not saying anything about how terrible the writing was. The mean girls were called Becky, Rebecca, Kitty and Cath. How are you supposed to tell them apart?!

I’ll be honest, the first chapter/prologue thing was vaguely interesting, with Emily’s boyfriend Jack murdering a girl in a rather bloody and very graphic way, but it just proved to me that the blurb for The Sham was so far off. It made it sound like The Fault in Our Stars with a bad boy, alluding to the fact that Emily’s boyfriend was very sick (but also accused of murder!) when in fact the murderous part of him is confirmed pretty dang quickly.

I also hated the fact that Emily refused to share the identity of which one of the mean girls he killed, called them ‘Dead Body and friends’… I mean, I hated all of the mean girls very quickly, so I’m more disappointed that he didn’t kill all of them.

Apparently Ellen Allen was inspired by a nightmare to write this, and this is the kind of horror-filled awfulness that should have probably stayed in her head.

It’s still the only novel she’s ever released… I’m quite glad about that, because she’s definitely an author I was not going to be trying out again.


The Messenger by Pamela DuMond – 2 stars

After Madeline is accidentally pushed off of a train platform, she finds herself waking up in 1675 in the midst of a battlefield in King Philip’s War. With colonists dead around her and a bloody gash on her forehead, Madeline – known in colonial times as Abigail – is the only survivor, but she’s certain that she must be dreaming. How can she have fallen over 300 years back in time?

However, for someone who has woken up in a different time period she’s remarkably chill. Almost running away within the first couple of days, she soon gives up and settles down, blindly accepting the wisdom of a local woman who claims that she is a Messenger. Next thing you know, Madeline is falling in instalove with a colonist called Samuel, learning how to tend fires and helping her ‘cousin’ Elizabeth with running the schoolhouse. All’s well that ends well.

But it’s not quite that easy. Next thing you know Madeline is being stalked by a Hunter who knows she is a Messenger and is desperate to get revenge. Despite the fact that Madeline has had no training at all, she – SPOILER ALERT – manages to miraculously save her life by teleporting back to modern day times, where she bumps into modern day Samuel and seconds later is confronted by the man who is hunting her… And then the book just ends.

Honestly, I was tempted to give The Messenger three stars because even though it was a bit cliched I really enjoyed the concept and I thought the plot was nice and absorbing, but the last few chapters just really annoyed me. The book starts with a flashforward and I’d been looking forward to finding out how Madeline found herself in such a situation, but it didn’t feel authentic when it got there. It also doesn’t help that Madeline makes it sound as though she’s been trained as a Messenger, when in all reality she’s only been given a couple of pieces of advice – I wouldn’t even call them ‘lessons’ as such, and as a reader you still have no real knowledge of how Messengers work (or Hunters or Healers, who are touched upon very briefly).

The ending was rushed, and leaving it on such a hammy cliffhanger irritated me, particularly as it ends under 75% into the NetGalley version which I was reading – the last 25% is a preview of one of Pamela DuMond’s other books, and it isn’t even a sampler of the second book in the Mortal Beloved series! I felt a little cheated and was really glad that I hadn’t spent money on this book, and it’s certainly made me think twice about continuing on with the series: these books are short enough, without making the last fifty pages part of a completely different story.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen – 1 star

I’m not sure whether I’ve been too harsh on The Lost Letters of William Woolf, but this is definitely a book with a great concept and poor execution.

William Woolf works in the Dead Letters Depot, a place where undeliverable post is sent in the hopes that one of the workers will be able to solve the mystery of that smudged address or that incorrect postcode. William spends most of his time up on the fourth floor in the ‘Supernatural Division’, tackling letters to Father Christmas and the Tooth Fairy, and when he stumbles across a letter from a lady called Winter addressed to her Great Love, he begins to wonder whether it could have been meant for him.

Now, I thought that concept sounded really cute – a lonely single male finding love in a postbag – but when I started reading it I discovered William is married. Now, his relationship with Clare is in a bad place before he discovers Winter’s letters, but it certainly changed the direction that I thought this story was going to take. He’s emotionally cheating on Clare, fantasizing about finding this girl and being her true love, and I just can’t get on board with that. Yes, Clare does some horrible things, but I think William is a bit of a hypocrite for acting all high and mighty when he’s not that much better than her.

Skip the next paragraph if you don’t want spoilers for how the book ends, but I just couldn’t with the final couple of chapters.

William reads one of Winter’s letters and discovers she is getting married, so he goes to the church, AFTER writing a letter to Clare telling her that he really wants them to give things another go. What, so if you can’t crash the wedding of a woman you’ve been effectively stalking by reading private letters which you shouldn’t really have opened, you’ll settle for your wife?! Meanwhile Clare has been pretty adamant throughout the whole book that she doesn’t want a baby, and in a cheap, throwaway epilogue – One Year and One Day Later – we join Clare in her art studio. She’s sporting a huge baby bump, reading The Lost Letters of William Woolf (#inception) until a MYSTERY MAN walks in. I mean, if my husband and I split up and I was having a baby with somebody else I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be reading my ex’s book, so it’s not really that much of a question about who she ended up with…

I think I would have been able to give The Lost Letters of William Woolf two stars if my expectations hadn’t been so high. It doesn’t help that it starts off really strongly – William goes on little cross-country adventures to reunite people with precious items which have been lost in the post, and these chapters absolutely flew by – but things go downhill so quickly. I would have preferred reading William’s own book, which he writes about the most interesting lost letters he has encountered in his career: that definitely would have been a five star read!

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green – 3 stars

Sally Green’s Half Bad is one of my favourite books of all time, which is why I have been constantly putting off reading The Smoke Thieves. I just couldn’t see it living up to Green’s debut, and my expectations for this one were through the roof.

Unfortunately, I was right.

My main issue with The Smoke Thieves is that there are too many viewpoints. As you can see from the cover, we follow a princess, a soldier, a hunter, a traitor and a thief, and only three out of the five kept me engaged.

I wasn’t interested at all in Princess Catherine or Ambrose – they are torn apart too early in the novel for me to feel invested in their separation or any kind of desperation for them to be reunited – and I found myself internally groaning every time I encountered another one of Catherine’s chapters. This a world where there is a lot of misogyny, but the scenes where males were talking down to Catherine and disrespecting her because of her gender were ones which I felt I’d read a thousand times before. I did appreciate the fact that each of her chapters started with a quote from a piece of literature from the world as it fleshed the setting out very nicely, but I think this would have had more of an impact if she’d done the same with all of the characters.

On the other hand, I absolutely flew through all of Tash’s chapters. She’s the female half of a demon-hunting duo and all she wants is to get paid so she can buy herself a pair of boots she’s been coveting. It’s a very simplistic motivation, but it does its job – that pair of boots pushes the plot in some action-packed directions! Not only that but Green has obviously thought through the way that she wants her demons to work, and it’s refreshing to see such a different version of them – I’ve never seen anyone else’s story feature dying demons releasing a smoke which people use to get high!

I also really loved March and Edyon. March is the last member of a race which was wiped out during the war between Princess Catherine’s father and her uncle, who we discover is Edyon’s father. The dynamic between the two of them is very interesting: Edyon is instantly attracted to March so he’s very flirty throughout the majority of their interactions, while March has no idea how to feel because he’s not planning on taking Edyon home to his father after all, meaning their entire relationship is built on a lie. I’m hoping this is going to be a slow burn romance which will be exploring throughout the other two books in the series, and I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what happens when March’s original plan is revealed.

The Smoke Thieves is a very strong start to the trilogy, but I think the success of the series is going to depend on how things continue. I’m looking forward to reading The Demon World, and I’m hoping I’ll enjoy it a bit more now that my expectations have been lowered.

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner – 4 stars

The last TBR jar pick that I picked up in February was The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner, and thankfully this ended up being the highest rated of the five books in the first round.

Following two sisters called Liba and Laya, The Sisters of the Winter Wood is an ambitious debut novel. Their mother is a swan and their father is a bear, and throughout the course of The Sisters of the Winter Wood Liba and Laya discover that they take after their parents, making this a coming-of-age tale which is chockablock with magical realism.

Not only that, but Rena Rossner tackles the plight of the Jews, who are being shunned in a small town following the death of one of the local girls. Animosity is already in the air, but when a group of fruit sellers sets up in the local market – all non-Jewish boys, one of whom starts wooing Laya – their racist attitudes cause tensions to be raised, and an impending pogrom seems certain.

One of the things I liked the most about The Sisters of the Winter Wood was the difference between Laya and Liba’s viewpoints. Liba is very logical and follows all of her parents rules so her perspective is written in prose, but Laya has her head in the clouds (quite literally, she is a swan after all!) and is much less restrained, which means it makes perfect sense that her chapters are written in verse. The contrast between the styles makes it easy to tell the difference between the characters, making this one of the first dual perspective novel I haven’t had to pause while reading to remind myself who I’m currently following.

However, the reason I couldn’t give this five stars is because there are a lot of gaps in the story where one character will pass out while the other isn’t present and you’ll suddenly time jump to when they’re back together, meaning there are times when you feel you’ve missed a chunk and get a bit disoriented. All in all, this is a very strong debut novel and I’m definitely interested in seeing what Rena Rossner writes next (whenever her second novel gets announced!).



So, as you can see, my first round of TBR jar picks was pretty unsuccessful. I’ve hardly ever DNF’d anything, so for my first choice to end up being a DNF was so unlucky!

Hopefully the books I picked out in my March TBR video will be more enjoyable…

Let me know your thoughts on any of these books down below, and I’ll see you soon,

Alyce

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Blog tour: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Blog tour: Foul is Fair by Hannah Capin

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Foul is Fair blog tour. It has been a whopping six months since I last took part in a blog tour – I know, where has the time gone?! – but when Meghan from Wednesday Books reached…

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: 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: Proud anthology

Review: Proud anthology

I was lucky to be invited to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea back in January, where I picked up an early copy of Proud. Since Proud was announced last February, it’s been my most anticipated release of 2019, so I’m so excited to be able to…