Book Review: Bookish and the Beast

I was gifted a free copy of this book by the publisher, Quirk Books, in exchange for an honest review.

I was so excited to be given the opportunity to review Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston. Although Geekerella didn’t really spark joy for me, I loved the second book in the series, The Princess and the Fangirl and I was really looking forward to seeing what Ashley did with a Beauty and the Beast retelling. I wasn’t disappointed!

bookish and the beast

Rosie Thorne is feeling stuck—on her college application essays, in her small town, and on that mysterious General Sond cosplayer she met at ExcelsiCon. Most of all, she’s stuck in her grief over her mother’s death. Her only solace was her late mother’s library of rare Starfield novels, but even that disappeared when they sold it to pay off hospital bills.

On the other hand, Vance Reigns has been Hollywood royalty for as long as he can remember—with all the privilege and scrutiny that entails. When a tabloid scandal catches up to him, he’s forced to hide out somewhere the paparazzi would never expect to find him: Small Town USA. At least there’s a library in the house. Too bad he doesn’t read.

When Rosie and Vance’s paths collide and a rare book is accidentally destroyed, Rosie finds herself working to repay the debt. And while most Starfield superfans would jump at the chance to work in close proximity to the Vance Reigns, Rosie has discovered something about Vance: he’s a jerk, and she can’t stand him. The feeling is mutual.

But as Vance and Rosie begrudgingly get to know each other, their careful masks come off—and they may just find that there’s more risk in shutting each other out than in opening their hearts.

I think it’s important to be clear from the start that Bookish and the Beast is very predictable. I knew what was going to happen right from the start, and I’m not just talking about the romance. But I didn’t care, because the way it was written was so good I just wanted to lose myself in the story. I think this might be my favourite of the Once Upon A Con series, and whether that’s because it’s based on Beauty and the Beast, or it’s just my level of sweet romance I don’t know, but it is. Put it like this: it arrived at 10am, I started reading it at 3pm and had finished it by 5.30pm! It also arrived at the point where it was exactly what I was looking for in terms of mood reading, which probably helped.

I loved the two households we spent our time with – Rosie and her dad, and Vance and Elias – which both had a adorable family vibe (even if Vance and Elias aren’t a traditional family unit), and the moments when they interacted were some of my favourites in the book. But I also enjoyed the tension between Rosie and Vance and was rooting for them from the start, even while Vance was being a jerk and I loved that Rosie was a bookworm as well as a fandom nerd.

Speaking of being a fandom nerd, I have seen people saying that there were too many pop culture references in the book, and no one actually speaks to each other that way. Clearly those people are not members of SFF fandoms! I personally loved all the references, even the ones I didn’t get, because to me they showed a real love of fandom and what it means to people. This book was written by someone who gets it, and people absolutely do speak in quotes and references when they know the person they’re talking will appreciate it (and sometimes even when they don’t!).

There were a few things that stopped this being a five star read for me. There was a potential background queer romance that just seemed to get dropped, and I would have loved a bit more development on that. Also, while I liked Rosie’s friends, I don’t think we really got to know them well enough, which was a real shame, although I did enjoy their mission to take down the jerk who thought he was entitled to Rosie’s attention.

I should probably also mention the library, which sounded amazing. In fact, the entire house sounded amazing, and I am so jealous of anyone who gets to live in anything similar! I would maybe have liked slightly more at a con given that is the usual premise of this series, but the library definitely made up for it! And I thought the story fitted really well into the original Beauty and the Beast. Yes, it was obvious, but there’s nothing wrong with that!

Overall then, I really enjoyed Bookish and the Beast. I wouldn’t go into it expecting surprises, but if you want a lovely, bookish, nerdy YA romance then I definitely recommend it!

4/5

Bookish and the Beast is out in the UK today, 4th August 2020

Review Catch-Up: Titan Books

All books discussed in this post were gifted to me by Titan Books in exchange for an honest review.

I am so far behind in my reviews at the moment that I’ve decided to do a few publisher round-ups to try and catch up. This is the first, covering some of the books the very lovely people at Titan Books have sent me. I’m hoping that if I can clear the decks a bit, I’ll be able to actually post reviews at a point that approximates to the book’s release date. We’ll see how this goes.

 

Cursed ed. by Marie O’Regan and Paul Kane

Cursed is an anthology of stories based on fairytales, edited by the same people who did the Wonderland anthology of Alice-inspired stories (see my review here). I’d really enjoyed Wonderland and was hoping for more of the same from Cursed, but unfortunately, this time the stories had a much stronger horror bent, and they weren’t really for me. I could see they were well-written, and I’m sure if you’re a fan of horror they were great, but my sensibilities are just a bit too delicate to have properly enjoyed the collection. Because of that, I found it a bit of a slog to get through but I still chose to rate it 3/5 because it wasn’t a bad book.

Deathless Divide by Justina Ireland

I read Dread Nation last year and absolutely loved it. Zombies are not usually my thing (in much the same way as horror isn’t), but the whole idea of the dead rising at Gettysburg and then over-running the US is fascinating. The duology presents such a likely alternative history for those circumstances that, even though it’s horrific, you can’t help getting caught up in it. But more than that, I love Jane and Katherine and their reluctant journey to friendship (and maybe something more?). I think I loved Deathless Divide more than I loved Dread Nation, and that’s saying something. It’s up there as one of the best books I’ve read this year, and I rated it 5/5.

The Library of the Unwritten by A J Hackwith

I wasn’t sure what this book would actually be like when I read the synopsis but I did like the idea of it being set in Hell’s library, where every book never written is stored. But what happens when a character escapes? Well, the head librarian gives chase of course! There’s more to it than that but to give any more details would be to spoil the twists and turns, and I wouldn’t want to do that. I really enjoyed this book – it maybe dragged a little bit in the middle, but I liked the way we were given bits of the library’s history and the stories of those who came before Claire, our main character, and the main plot was good without losing character development – and I’m looking forward to reading the sequel! I rated it 4/5.

Skein Island by Aliya Whiteley

Well, this was a very interesting book! It kind of defies categorisation to be honest. It’s the story of Marianne, who is sent an invitaton to Skein Island, a private refuge for women. Normally, a woman applies for her place, and Marianne has no idea why she’s been sent an invitation – but she knows about the island because seventeen years earlier her mother visited it and never came home. The way Whiteley layers the story with flashbacks and interludes which slowly tie together is excellent, and it’s a genuinely fascinating book which looks at the roles we all play. It did take me a while to read it, because it’s quite a slow book, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I rated it 4/5.

The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner

I must admit, when I first requested this book, I was not expecting it to be a middle grade book. I didn’t even know Titan published middle grade! Fortunately, I love a good children’s book, and this was indeed a good children’s book. It was definitely creepy (in a good way), and I really liked the character development. I think if you were actually giving it to a child to read, you’d have to be pretty sure they could deal with the themes though – the main antagonist is essentially a Dr Frankenstein, creating children from bone dust, and there are some very creepy moments. I was a bit wary of reading it at bedtime, and I’m a fully grown adult! I rated it 4/5.

I quite like this short review format, so I might do this more often in the future, and not just as a way to get through more reviews! Let me know what you think of this review post format – yay or nay?

Book Review: The Rules

A copy of this book was gifted to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review

I’ve been promising this review since April, and as The Rules by Tracy Darnton finally came out last week, I thought it was about time I actually wrote the post! I really loved this book, so many thanks to Charlie at Stripes for sending it to me.

the rules cover

Amber’s an expert when it comes to staying hidden – she’s been trained her whole life for it. But what happens when the person you’re hiding from taught you everything you know?

When a letter from her dad arrives, Amber knows she’s got to move – and fast. He’s managed to find her and she knows he’ll stop at nothing to draw her back into the extreme survivalist way of life he believes in.

All of a sudden the Rules she’s spent so long trying to escape are the ones keeping her safe. But for how long?

If you’ve read Stripes’ short story collection, I’ll Be Home For Christmas (and if you haven’t, you should), you’ve already met Amber, the lead character in The Rules. Tracy Darnton won a competition to have her story featured in the anthology, and that story was Amber receiving a letter from her dad via her social worker. I loved the story, so I was excited to read The Rules and see what happened next.

It’s not an exaggeration to say what happened next was nailbiting and I was genuinely surprised at how much I loved it. Amber is terrified of her dad catching up with her. It took a long time for her and her mum to escape him in the first place, and now she’s on her own and she knows he’s getting closer. Darnton dripfeeds us the background in flashbacks throughout the book so we don’t learn everything at once, but we can feel Amber’s fear and desperation and the suspense is sky high. There is a sense throughout that Amber is hiding something, and I really liked this aspect, which really paid off at the end. Amber is not a particularly likeable character, but as the extent of the abuse she suffered becomes clear, you understand her. At the same time, she’s not defined by that abuse, which I think is important.

I also really liked her relatonship with Josh, even if she did make some obvious mistakes which wound the tension even more because of it. Having someone there who knew and liked her, and occasionally reined her in helped Amber grow as a character too, and it was nice that it was more of a friendship than anything else.

I highly recommend The Rules. I can’t remember the last book I read that left me actually breathless with the tension when reading, and if that’s your sort of book, it’s definitely worth picking up. Just be aware that there are a number of content warnings listed in the book (well done to Stripes and Tracy for including them – there are so many publishers and authors that don’t) and take care of yourself.

4.5/5

Six for Sunday: Favourite Book Ones

s4s-may-week-1-banner

Six for Sunday is a weekly meme devised by Steph over at A Little But A Lot. Steph also kindly provided the above graphic for this week’s topic, which is favourite book one in a series.

  1. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch- the perfect start to a series about a police constable discovering that magic exists and sometimes the law needs to deal with it. I love this series, which now includes 8 books and 2 novellas, and this book is still one of my favourites.
  2. Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend – everything I love about MG books, Nevermoor is incredibly fun, full of magic and adventure and amazing characters.
  3. Soulless by Gail Carriger – this book starts with a Victorian society lady killing a vampire at a ball, and moves on through werewolves, ghosts and automatons in a steampunk Victorian London. I fell for Alexia Tarrabotti and her nemesis/paramour Conall Maccon immediately and I’m still sad that their adventures are now over.
  4. Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor – this hooked me with the very first chapter, and I just loved the lyrical writing, the world building and the characters. It’s a truly beautiful book, and the sequel didn’t quite live up to it for me.
  5. The Cruel Prince by Holly Black – this was another book that hooked me immediately, and it was the perfect introduction to The Folk of the Air series, for many of the same reasons Strange The Dreamer worked for me.
  6. Starfell: Willow Moss and the Lost Day by Dominique Valente – this is just a lovely book about a young witch finding her place and coming to terms with grief and loss. Willow and her friends are wonderful characters and I was desperate for the next book as soon as I’d finished this one.

I would like to note that I could have filled this list ten times over, and it was really hard to narrow it down to six!

Have you participated in this week’s Six for Sunday? Link me to your post in the comments!

April Wrap Up

Well. It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, isn’t it? As much as lockdown in the UK is for a terrible reason, I appreciate actually having time to do everything I want to! My blog has been terribly neglected for, well, most of its existence if I’m being honest, for various reasons, but hopefully this enforced period of staying at home will get me into better habits!

So, April. I know a lot of people have been finding it difficult to read at the moment, but I don’t appear to have the same problem. In fact, if anything, I’ve had the opposite problem – I read instead of doing the many, many other things I should be doing! As a result, I have read twenty-five books in April. Twenty-five! I usually manage somewhere between ten and sixteen, so twenty-five is a bit ridiculous. I’ve also found myself reading a lot of adult romance, which is not something I pick up very often, but has very definitely suited my mood in the latter half of this month.

april books

Five Star Reads

  • The Pieces of Ourselves by Maggie Harcourt. I love Maggie’s books, and this was no exception. In some ways it’s quite different to her previous two books, but it has a wonderful romance at its heart and I absolutely loved learning the history that Hal had come to uncover. Flora, the main character, has also been diagnosed with bipolar ii, and I thought the impact of that on her was explored really well.
  • Steel Crow Saga by Paul Krueger. So, confession time – I was sent this a really long time ago by Gollancz and had just never got round to reading it. I’d heard lots of good things about it, but it had been buried in the TBR pile, and having excavated it at the end of March, I decided it was time to finally read it. And it blew me away. I loved the way the four main characters’ stories interweaved, and the character development was fantastic, as was the world building. It did actually feel like a saga in the way it was written too.
  • Hold Back The Tide by Melinda Salisbury. I’m a huge fan of Mel, and so I can say with confidence that this is by far her best book yet. The setting, the characters, the plot, all of it was amazing and I was genuinely creeped out, even reading it on a bright sunny day. Also, can we talk about that ending?! Brilliant.
  • Wed Wabbit by Lissa Evans. I talked about this in my Easter readathon wrap up. Weird but brilliant is a good summary though.
  • Before Mars by Emma Newman. Also in my Easter readathon wrap up.
  • The Deck of Omens by Christine Lynn Herman. Reviewed here.
  • Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. This was the start of my adult romance kick. I’d seen a few people talking about this, and it was only £2.99 on kindle so I thought I’d give it a try. And it was brilliant. Chloe Brown is a plus-sized, chronically ill person of colour, and a complete disaster. I laughed out loud many times at the situations she found herself in, but the romance was also wonderful. I’m so glad I picked it up!
  • Wonderland by Juno Dawson. I received an early copy of this via Netgalley, and it was actually the last book I read in April. I thought it was fantastic, and is possibly Juno’s best. It’s an Alice in Wonderland retelling, and the way Juno weaved in the original plot and characters while staying true to the story she was telling, was amazing. I loved Alice, with all her secrets and self-doubt, and I really liked the way it tied in with Clean (and, to a lesser extent, Meat Market). It’s out at the end of May, and I definitely recommend you pick it up, although be aware that there are a number of content warnings listed at the front of the book.

Four Star Reads

  • Boy Queen by George Lester. Easter readathon again!
  • The Rules by Tracey Darnton. And again!
  • Harley In The Sky by Akemi Dawn Bowman. Another one from the Easter readathon!
  • Atlas Alone by Emma Newman. I love Emma Newman (pretty certain I’ve mentioned this before) and her Planetfall books have all been brilliant, covering a wide range of mental health issues, just in a sci-fi setting. I’ve rated all the previous books 5 stars, but I’m not sure what it was about this one that just didn’t click as well. Maybe because it’s the first one that’s a direct sequel? It can still be read as a standalone, but we’re with characters we met in After Atlas (which is my favourite of the series) and I just found it a bit more difficult to read. I enjoyed the spaceship and gaming setting though, and it was still good, just not as good as the prevous three books. I was sent this as a review copy by Gollancz (although I also bought a copy because I’m an idiot).
  • The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman. This was a reread after I finished The Deck of Omens, because I wanted to spend more time in Four Paths, and I greatly enjoyed going back to the beginning of the story.
  • Hex Life, edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering. This was a review copy from Titan Books, and I started reading it in October. And then my dad died and I really didn’t feel like reading about witches anymore. I finally picked it back up a week ago and finished it, and I enjoyed it a lot. There were some stories in there that I hated, but there were a lot more that I liked, and a couple that I loved (but most of them I read in October and I have no chance of remembering which ones now!). It’s a really well put together anthology, and even though not all the stories were for me, there was enough good stuff for me to rate it 4 stars.
  • 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne. I got this out of the library after a friend had been raving about The Hating Game by the same author (which the library didn’t have). It’s another adult romance, and although the main character is rather abrasive, I liked her, and the story,  a lot. I notice from goodreads that a lot of people who read this after The Hating Game were disappointed, but without having read that first, I thought 99 Percent Mine was great.
  • The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren. So many people have been raving about this, and as it was only 99p on kindle and I’d loved Autoboyography by the same authors, I thought I’d give it a go. And it was good! But I didn’t love it, and I downright hated the way Olive is treated for good portions of the book. Still, it was good enough overall to merit four stars.
  • That Kind Of Guy by Talia Hibbert. This was the fifth Talia Hibbert book I read in April, and my second favourite. It’s part of the Ravenswood series, set in a small English town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. By the time I got to this book, I knew almost all of the characters already and I don’t know if that made me more invested in the relationship than in the prevous three books, or if it was the fact that Rae, the main character, was my age and therefore more relatable than another 20-something. Whatever it was, I really enjoyed this book and would love to see more of the central relationship.

Three Star Reads

  • Word Nerd by Susan Nielsen. I read this right at the beginning of the month in an attempt to clear some of my TBR. The idea was to read a chapter and decide if I wanted to carry on with, except I couldn’t bring myself to stop. This was a nice enough read, nothing special, but I did like Ambrose as the main character.
  • Sky Thieves by Dan Walker. Read for the same reason as above. This was so nearly a four star book, but it didn’t quite make it. Very enjoyable though, and I’d be interested in reading the sequel.
  • The Girls’ Guide To Summer by Sarah Mlynowski. Again read for the same reason as the above two, again it came close to getting four stars. I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed this book, because I’d heard not great things about it, but it was a fun, summery YA read. I’m not someone who has a huge problem with instalove though, so that might be why!
  • The Other Half of Happiness by Ayisha Malik. I talked about this in my Easter readathon wrap up.
  • All Out edited by Saundra Mitchell. This is an anthology of LGBTQ+ historical stories, and I so wanted to love it. Sadly, for me, the quality of the stories just wasn’t consistent enough and I was quite disappointed. Some of the stories were great, but it really was a minority.
  • A Girl Like Her, Damaged Goods and Untouchable by Talia Hibbert. Grouping these together because my thoughts are pretty much the same on all of them. They were fun stories, I like that Hibbert’s characters have a lot of things going on with them, and the romances in all of them were incredibly hot. There just wasn’t the same depth in these stories as there was in That Kind of Guy or Get A Life, Chloe Brown, hence the three stars.

DNF

  • I didn’t finish The Sacrifice Box by Martin Stewart. It wasn’t bad, I just got 100 pages in and realised it really wasn’t my thing and I didn’t want to waste time reading it. It’s a shame, because I’ve met Martin and he was lovely, but this type of book just isn’t for me.

And that’s it for April! I can’t tell you how many books I’ve acquired in April because I completely failed to keep track, but there’s at least seven in the above list, plus I pre-ordered a copy of The Strangeworlds Travel Agency by L D Lapinski, which arrived on the 30th.

I suspect May will be a quieter reading month, not least because I’m back in the office two days a week instead of sitting at home constantly. However, I did finish a book this morning and I’ve bought four which are all due this month, so maybe it won’t be as quiet as I expect!

Let me know in the comments if you a) managed to make it through that screed, b) if you’ve read any of the above books, or c) what you’ve been reading!

Book Review: The Deck of Omens

Thanks to Titan Books for sending me a copy of The Deck of Omens for free, in exchange for an honest review.

I will give you a sneak preview of what I thought of this book: after I’d finished it, I went back and reread The Devouring Gray, and I still wanted more about Four Paths and its residents. It’s like The Deck of Omens stuck its fingers into my brain and won’t let go!

deck of omens

The teenagers of Four Paths must save their home.

Though the Beast is seemingly subdued for now, a new threat looms in Four Paths: a corruption seeping from the Gray into the forest. And with the other Founders preoccupied by their tangled alliances and fraying relationships, only May Hawthorne seems to realize the danger. But saving the town she loves means seeking aid from the person her family despises most–her and Justin’s father.

May’s father isn’t the only newcomer in town–Isaac Sullivan’s older brother has also returned, seeking forgiveness for the role he played in Isaac’s troubled past. But Isaac isn’t ready to let go of his family’s history, especially when that history might hold the key that he and Violet Saunders need to destroy the Gray and the monster within it.

Harper Carlisle isn’t ready to forgive, either. Two devastating betrayals have left her isolated from her family and uncertain who to trust. As the corruption becomes impossible to ignore, Harper must learn to control her newfound powers in order to protect Four Paths. But the only people who can help her do that are the ones who have hurt her the most.

With the veil between the Gray and the town growing ever thinner, all of the Founder descendants must put their grievances with one another aside to stop the corruption and kill the Beast once and for all.

But maybe the monster they truly need to slay has never been the Beast.

It’s very hard to review a sequel without spoiling the first book, so this will, by necessity, be quite vague about plot points! I loved The Deck of Omens though. Maybe not quite as much as I’d loved The Devouring Gray, but I found myself whizzing through it as I was desperate to know what happened.

That’s mostly down to the brilliantly written characters. We have new focus points this time – the Hawthornes and Sullivans – along with Harper dealing both with what happened at the end of the last book and the new threat to Four Paths.  Violet is obviously still aroud, but we see much less of her and her family this time. I love all these characters – there’s been so much growth for all of them over the two books – although Harper and Isaac are my favourites. I really enjoyed their parts in the story, and I loved the reveals about Isaac and his family in particular.

One of the things I really liked about The Deck of Omens is how much the town feels like one of the characters. Christine Lynn Herman is fantastic at creating atmosphere, and I loved all the town’s history we learned during the course of the book. The thought that has gone in to making Four Paths seem like a real place, albeit one with a Beast and various bits of magic, is amazing.

I also liked that, although the kids are the focus, the adults aren’t just ciphers. They’re also fully characterised, with their own (often suspect) motivations and history. This also contributes to that feeling of Four Paths being a real place of course. As a whole, the worldbuilding is fantastic.

There were a few moments which I felt didn’t mesh with what had happened in The Devouring Gray, which is one of the reasons I ended up rereading that book. There were just points with the Beast which seemed to contradict the lore we’d already heard. However, I’m also happy to accept that unreliable narrators are at the core of both books, and it’s probably a case of me misunderstanding where the line is between what we know and what we’ve been told by others rather than a plot hole.

All told then, The Deck of Omens is a wonderful sequel to one of my favourite books of last year. It builds on what’s come before and produces a very satisfying conclusion to the duology. I very much want to know what happens to everyone after the book ends, but I guess that’s what fanfiction is for! If you haven’t read The Devouring Gray yet, I highly recommend you do so, but make sure you have a copy of The Deck of Omens to hand so you can carry straight on. You won’t be disappointed!

5/5

The Deck of Omens is out now from Titan Books

Easter Readathon Wrap Up

easter-readathon-2020

I’m a teeny bit later than I planned to be in writing this post, but this is such a strange time all round, I’m going to give myself a break on that one!

The Easter readathon is an annual readathon hosted by Kate at Reading Through Infinity, which takes place over the Easter bank holiday weekend. I posted my TBR here, so check that out if you haven’t seen it, or carry on reading to see how I got on.

There were five prompts, and I chose a book for each of them. I could have combined a few, but I knew I’d probably be able to read five books in four days, and I did!

easter-readathon-2020-prompts

wed wabbit cover

Prompt completed: Read a book that’s under 250 pages

I absolutely 100% loved this book. I had no idea what to really expect when I went into it, but it felt like a properly traditional children’s book that was a bit daft, a bit silly, and very weird, but in the best way. It reminded me a lot of books like Enid Blyton’s The Enchanted Wood, or The Wishing Chair, but without all the racism and classism. Fidge is a fantastic main character. Wed Wabbit has been on my shelf for years, and I’m so glad I finally got round to reading it! 5/5

other half of happiness cover

Prompt completed: Read a book that gives you spring vibes

I picked this book for this prompt because it look kind of spring-like on the cover. Ultimately, it was a bit disappointing for me. I adored Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged, and this sequel had been on my shelf for about as long as Wed Wabbit had. It was interesting in that it showed you what can happen if you marry someone on impulse without actually knowing that much about them, but I loved Sofia and Conall’s relationship in the first one, so to see what happens to them in this one just made me sad. It’s still well written though, and I can’t say it’s not realistic. Still disappointing though. 3.3/5

the rules cover

Prompt completed: Read a book involving family/friends

To be fair, I think every book I read for the readathon covered this prompt, but I’m glad I chose to read this one specifically (sent to me for free by Little Tiger). I’ll review this one in full closer to publication date, but Oh. My. God. I was so surprised by this book and how much I enjoyed it. You definitely need to be keeping an eye out come July! 4.5/5

harley in the sky

Prompt completed: Read a bok with a yellow or green cover

Confession time: I was on the street team for this book and absolutely failed at doing anything to promote it. I’m so sorry Akemi! Having finally read it, I really enjoyed it – more than Starfish, less than Summer Bird Blue. Harley is a bit of a brat, but her character development is beautiful, and I loved the way Akemi showed Harley’s struggle with mental health and connecting to all the different aspects of her heritage. The love interest was also perfect! 4.5/5

before mars cover

Prompt completed: Read a book about new beginnings

I’m not a big sci-fi reader generally, but I love Emma Newman and her work with a fiery passion, so I will read anything she writes. I was a bit behind with the Planetfall series, but I’ve now caught up, and this book was as stunning as the two that came before it. The science mostly goes over my head to be honest, but I love how Emma can write it in detail, without the fact that I don’t get most of it affecting my enjoyment of the book. This is such a good series – I highly recommend it.

boy queen cover

Prompt completed: None

So this wasn’t on my TBR, but I hadn’t finished it before the readathon started. It would have nicely fit the family and friends prompt, or the new beginnings one, as we meet Robin, just as he’s rejected from all the drama schools he’s applied to and he realises he doesn’t know what to do now. This was a netgalley copy provided by Pan Macmillan for free, and as the book isn’t out until August, I’m not going to spoil my review here. I enjoyed it a lot though, and it very much reminded me of Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, one of my favourite musicals. 4.5/5

I also started Atlas Alone, the sequel to Before Mars, but I didn’t finish it and so I’m not including it officially. My review of it should hopefully be up soon though, if you want to know what I thought!

So I completed all the prompts, read all the books on my TBR, plus one, and rated all but one of them above 4 stars. I think that’s pretty good going! I also had things I needed to do on the Monday, so I only really participated until the Sunday evening, but it was lovely to spend most of three days just reading. Many thanks to Kate for hosting!

Let me know in the comments if you participated in Easter Readathon this year, or if you’ve read any of the books above!

Blog Tour: Rebel With A Cupcake

RebelBlogTour

Today I’m excited to be opening the blog tour for Anna Mainwaring’s new novel, Rebel With A Cupcake. I really enjoyed Anna’s Tulip Taylor last year so I was looking forward to reading Rebel. It didn’t disappoint!

(I was gifted a copy of this book as part of the blog tour, but all opinions are my own.)

Rebel with a cupcake high res

Jesobel Jones is bold and brash, the daughter of a hand model and a washed-up rock star. Jess sees no need to apologize for her rambling house, her imperfect family, her single status … or her weight. Jess is who she is. She makes her own cupcakes and she eats them, too. No regrets.

That is, until Own Clothes Day rolls around at school. Jess and her friends dedicate the requisite hours of planning to their outfits, their hair and their makeup for the one day they are free from school uniforms. But a wardrobe malfunction leaves Jess with a pair of leggings split open at the worst spot, and a mean girl calling her the one thing that’s never bothered her before: fat.

The encounter shakes Jess’s formerly iron-clad confidence, and she starts to wonder if she’s been just a little too comfortable in her own skin. When the boy of her dreams invites her to a party, she must decide whether to try to fit in for the first time in her life, or remain true to herself — whoever that really is.

I must admit that, at first, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Rebel With A Cupcake. I didn’t want to read a book where the fat protagonist loses weight and everybody suddenly realises how pretty she is, but fortunately, that’s not what this book is. Part of the storyline does involve Jess trying to lose weight, but she’s actually pretty confident in the way she looks until a perfect storm of events has her questioning her outlook on life. I actually really liked that even when she is trying to lose weight (to fit into a dress her mum deliberately bought in a size too small), she’s conflicted about it all the time. She knows she’s only doing it because it’s what people expect, and there’s a part of her that hates it. I also liked that even when she couldn’t be positive about her own body, Jess was still all about body positivity for others.

I liked Jess a lot. I liked her friends a lot too – always supportive, willing to call Jess out when necessary, and ready to listen. I did not like Jess’s mum and sister, who were obsessed with Jess’s weight. If my mum had bought me a dress that she knew was too small to try and make me lose weight, I would have been devastated. It’s such a passive aggressive thing to do! Cat, Jess’s sister, wasn’t much better, although it was clear her attitude sprang from her own issues, and when she was given the chance to support Jess, she took it. Jess’s Gran, on the other hand, was amazing and I loved her. I would talk about the staff at Jess’s school, but they made my blood boil, and I think it would end up a rant, so I won’t!

In terms of actual plot, the romance storyline did feel a bit obvious, and I got annoyed at Jess for being so oblivious to thngs that seemed so blatant to me, but I realise that Jess is only 16, and Matt is really the first boy she’s had a major crush on, so I guess I can forgive her. And I suppose we all know how it feels when that person, you know, the one that has always seemed so out of your league, pays you a bit of attention and you can’t believe your luck. I thought Mainwaring showed that really well and I was definitely getting flashbacks to my own teenage days.

I enjoyed Rebel With A Cupcake a lot. Jess is a great protagonist, with a great message for her YA audience. I did find it difficult to get into at first, as I was still getting to know the characters, but it’s worth sticking with because I grew to love both it and Jess. A very entertaining read!

Don’t forget to check out the other blogs on the tour!

4/5

Rebel With A Cupcake is out now. Thanks to Faye Rogers and Firefly Press for sending me a gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Wonderland

Sometimes you read an anthology just because you like some of the authors involved. In the process you discover many new potentially favourite authors, and that’s what happened with Wonderland, an anthology of stories inspired by Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, published by Titan Books in September. Titan were kind enough to send me a copy for free in exchange for an honest review and look, I’m only two months late reviewing it. Go me!

(I was only two months late reviewing it. Now I’m seven months late because I didn’t realise I hadn’t actually finished and posted this. Oops?)

wonderland cover

Join Alice as she is thrown into the whirlwind of Wonderland, in an anthology that bends the traditional notions of Lewis Carroll’s classic novel. Contributors include the bestselling M.R. Carey, Genevieve Cogman, Catriona Ward, Rio Youers and L.L. McKinney.

Within these pages you’ll find myriad approaches to Alice, from horror to historical. There’s even a Wild West tale from Angela Slatter, poetry, and a story by Laura Mauro which presents us with a Japanese folklore-inspired Wonderland.

Alison Littlewood, Cavan Scott and Catriona Ward make the more outlandish elements their own, while James Lovegrove instead draws on the supernatural. Cat Rambo takes us to a part of Wonderland we haven’t seen before and Lilith Saintcrow gives the legend a science-fiction spin. The nightmarish reaches of the imagination are the breeding ground for M.R. Carey’s visions, while Robert Shearman, George Mann, Rio Youers and Mark Chadbourn’s tales have a deep-seated emotional core which will shock, surprise and tug on the heart-strings.

So, it’s time now to go down the rabbit hole, or through the looking-glass or… But no, wait. By picking up this book and starting to read it you’re already there, can’t you see?

I wasn’t sure how much I’d actually enjoy Wonderland, as it seemed to have quite a horror bent, and that’s not my thing at all. Fortunately, although there is a fair bit of horror in this anthology, it’s not overwhelming, and I enjoyed almost every single story. That’s quite unusual for me with anthologies, but each author had such an interesting spin on Alice. My favourite was probably The White Queen’s Pawn by Genevieve Cogman, but each story was interesting in its own way. At least part of the fun is working out the spin the author is taking – some base their story on the real Alice, others concentrate on Lewis Carroll, or just give the original story a new setting, like a dreamscape on a spaceship to keep the crew sane while they’re in deep sleep for three thousand years. Some of them are a bit strange, I’m not going to lie, but I enjoyed them nevertheless.

I was really surprised by how much I enjoyed this anthology. I loved seeing how each writer interpreted the brief, and I highly recommend it, whether you’re a fan of the original or not!

4/5

Wonderland is out now! Thanks again to Titan Books for the gifted copy!

Easter Readathon TBR

easter-readathon-2020

Apparently it’s Easter this weekend? How did that happen? Anybody else completely confused by dates at the moment?

Anyway, you might have noticed (or not, that’s ok) that I’ve been missing for a while, apart from the occasional blog tour post (and I am so very, very grateful that publishers and publicists still let me take part in those, and send me books, even though I’m the worst). There have been reasons for this, but I thought it was about time I started blogging again properly. And what better way to kick this new start off, than with the Easter readathon?!

The Easter readathon is hosted by Kate over at Reading Through Infinity and it runs from 12.01am Friday 10th April (Good Friday) to 11.59pm Monday 13th April (Easter Monday). There are prompts that you can follow if you want to, but they’re entirely optional. I’m very excited to be able to join in this year as family stuff usually means I don’t have the time to commit, but that’s obviously not a problem at the moment. Check out Kate’s post above for more details and a giveaway opportunity (and check out her new youtube channel too!).

easter-readathon-2020-prompts

This is my TBR for the readathon:

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My Easter Readathon TBR

Prompt 1

The Other Half of Happiness – the cover looks nice and bright and spring like, right? I’m not sure it’s a happy sort of story, but we’ll see. I loved Sofia Khan Is Not Obliged, and this sequel has been on my bookshelf for forever. It’s time.

Prompt 2

Before Mars – the lead character has packed up her life, left her family behind and shipped off to Mars. You don’t get much more new beginnings than that! Again, I loved the first two books in the Planetfall series and it is beyond time I should have read this.

Prompt 3

Wed Wabbit is 242 pages long. I’m a huge fan of Lissa’s adult work (if you haven’t already, you need to read Old Baggage), and this got good reviews when it came out, but I am a little worried it’s going to be aimed too young for me to properly enjoy. We’ll see.

Prompt 4

I’ve been dying to read Harley In The Sky for months, and it has a (very) yellow cover, so it will fit nicely with this prompt.

Prompt 5

The Rules is about the main character’s dad finding her after she’d managed to break away from him, so it definitely meets the family prompt, even if the family concerned isn’t very nice. This book was sent to me for free by Little Tiger in exchange for an honest review, so it’s on my tbr this month anyway.

I hope I’m not being too ambitious. I should finish them easily in the four days, but I have no doubt there will be interruptions. Also, I’m pretty certain that once I finish Before Mars, I’ll want to move on to the next in the series immediately, but that’s fine. It’s only one extra book. It’s fine.

Check back in next week to see how I get on, or I’m sure I’ll be tweeting about it over at @donnamk79 if you want to follow me there! Let me know if you’re participating too!