Tag: four star review

BLOG TOUR: Kate In Waiting by Becky Albertalli

BLOG TOUR: Kate In Waiting by Becky Albertalli

Hello, and welcome to my stop on the Kate in Waiting blog tour! I honestly can’t tell you how excited I am to be taking part in a blog tour for a Becky Albertalli novel, and I’d like to say a huge thanks to The 

REVIEW: Scent by Isabel Costello

REVIEW: Scent by Isabel Costello

I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for accepting my request to review this title via NetGalley. Scent tells the story of Clémentine, a perfumer trapped in a failing marriage. Tensions between Clémentine’s son Bastien and his father Édouard have been 

REVIEW: Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

REVIEW: Rules For Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell and Katie Cotugno

First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Macmillan Children’s Books for accepting my request to read and review Rules For Being a Girl via NetGalley.

Rules For Being a Girl is a book I wish I could give to my teenage self.

Marin adores her English teacher, Mr Beckett. He’s just awesome. Down to earth, relatable, more of a friend than a teacher. Until he gives her a lift home late one night. On the way to her house, Bex swings by his apartment to pick up a book he keeps forgetting to lend to Marin. While they’re in his home, he kisses her.

She doesn’t know what to do. Marin’s certain that it was a simple misunderstanding. She must have been giving Bex the wrong impression, sending signals that she hadn’t been intending to send. She resolves to put it behind her and not allow it to taint their relationship.

However, Bex does the exact opposite. Suddenly he’s treating Marin harshly, grading her unfairly, and even interfering with her future. Marin has always followed the unspoken rules for being a girl: she’s been a model student, a good girl, and would never dream of causing a scene. But she’s starting to learn that some rules are meant to be broken…

Marin makes the best of a terrible situation, deciding to focus on educating herself on issues surrounding women’s equality and the difference in societal expectations between men and women. Straightforward and unafraid, Marin calls it how she sees it. This makes her seem like a much older character – it’s the kind of confidence which comes with growing up, and I didn’t know anyone who could call out sexist jokes or stereotypically macho behaviour in their teens – but it also makes her the kind of inspirational character that teenage girls need as a role model.

I didn’t understand feminism until I was in my very late teens, but if Rules For Being a Girl had been out when I was younger I would have been calling myself a feminist much earlier in my life. It was brilliant to see Marin start a feminist book club, and recommending titles by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Roxane Gay lays the groundwork for readers to explore feminist non-fiction written by women of colour. It allows interested readers to learn about intersectional feminism, and the way that feminist issues impact upon people from different backgrounds, from outspoken authors sharing their lived experiences.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Marin and Gray, and I found myself rooting for them more than I have for a YA couple in quite a while. I’m hoping that Bushnell and Cotugno consider writing a sequel to this story, because Marin and Gray’s relationship has a lot of potential for development in the future. I felt sad at the end of the book because I was attached to both of the characters and I wanted to see more of them, and that’s not something which happens to me very often.

The only reason I didn’t give Rules For Being a Girl five stars is because I wasn’t a fan of the ending. It’s rushed. Compared to the rest of the novel – which builds up tension slowly, making you wonder what Marin will do next and whether Bex will get his comeuppance – the end of the story falls flat.

It’s hard to talk about my main issue with the ending without giving spoilers, but let’s say that it is highly unrealistic (which is a shame, because the rest of the novel is written so believably). If it had played out a bit more slowly, Bushnell and Cotugno might have been able to address exactly how the events are supposed to play out… But instead the main characters plot off the page, intending to give the reader a satisfying reveal when we discover what they’ve done, but it didn’t seem possible that they would have been able to get away with it.

However, if it wasn’t for the ending this book would have been a five star novel. The topics explored are relevant (even if some of the pop culture references already feel painfully dated for a book which was only released last summer!) and are important for young people to be able to discuss. I’ve seen this novel favourably compared to Moxie and The Nowhere Girls, so I’ll be checking both out as soon as I can.

I already knew I enjoyed Katie Cotugno’s writing, but this collaboration seems to have elevated her to the next level. If these authors decide to work together again in the future, it’ll be an autobuy for me.

I hope you enjoyed this review. See you again soon!

Alyce

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REVIEW: It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

REVIEW: It Sounded Better in My Head by Nina Kenwood

It’s hard to review It Sounded Better in My Head, because the reality is that not a lot happens in this book. That being said, I bloody loved it. Main character Natalie gets a nasty surprise for Christmas when her parents announce that they are 

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: 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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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 

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 

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 on the entire Christmas series by Matt Haig!).

Tinsel (subtitled The Girls Who Invented Christmas) is a feminist take on the Father Christmas origin story, explaining how Santa Claus came to be known as an old man when Christmas was actually the brain child of Blanche Claus and her best friend Rinki.

Blanche is an independent young girl who is desperate to find her place to belong in the world. She pretends to be a boy so that her and her horse, Rudy, can work as carters, while plotting with Rinki to bring magic and hope to every child in the world by figuring out a way to deliver gifts to every single one of them in one night: Christmas.

Unfortunately this seems impossible, until Blanche meets a fairy/elf called Carol, who (along with many other fairy/elves, also called Carol) works to help Blanche make her Christmas dream a reality.

Sibéal Pounder’s twists on Christmas lore were clever and comical. There are lots of miscommunication and hijinks going on in this story, but also some believable mix-ups that do make you wonder whether the story of Santa Claus is as clear-cut as it seems.

My favourite thing about Tinsel was definitely Eggnog, a talking fir tree who just loves to give hugs which are far longer than socially acceptable. If Sibéal Pounder decided to write a sequel to Tinsel following Eggnog, I’d pre-order that in a heartbeat.

I also really appreciated the epilogue, which encourages young readers to try to find an environmentally-friendly alternative to tinsel and informs them of the risk of plastic pollution. A subtle yet impactful way to get little people thinking about their impact on the planet.

If you’ve read and enjoyed Matt Haig’s Christmas series, you’ll definitely love this story. There are some parallels between them – including a twisted newspaper owner who is desperate to spread misinformation, an important topic to educate young readers on – and they both effectively weave the bittersweet with the magical, adding a realistic aspect to their fantastical tales.

Are there any Christmassy middle grade novels that you would recommend I pick up next year?

Alyce

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BLOGTOBER Day 31: #10in20 review challenge #2

For today’s Blogtober post, I’ve decided to challenge myself to another round of #10in20. In this challenge, you write 10 books in 20 minutes, meaning you have only two minutes to write as much as you can about each book you review. This was a