Top Ten Tuesday #199

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Hi everyone! I hope you had a good week since I last did one of these, I’m back at home for reading week this week and I’ve been having a great time so far, I was in London on Saturday for the Hot Key Bloggers Brunch, which if you haven’t seen my wrap up of it, was awesome. I’ve also been back in London today, going to an exhibition on the Romanovs at the Queen’s Gallery near Buckingham Palace, which was AMAZING and made my history nerd heart incredibly happy. In fact, it’s a very London centric week because I’ll be back there on Thursday with my friend Nicola for some sightseeing and most importantly, TO SEE HAMILTON. Only two days to go, and I’m so ridiculously excited I can’t even, I’ve been wanting to see Hamilton for almost two years, and I can’t believe it’s actually finally happening.

Anyway, if I start talking too much about Hamilton, I will never stop, so as it’s Tuesday, that means another Top Ten Tuesday, courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week we’re talking Books We Enjoyed That Have Fewer Than 2000 Ratings on Goodreads. I was a bit apprehensive of this topic since we have done it before and I wasn’t sure how much my list would have changed since the last time, but it turns out, it has changed quite a lot and I have 10 brand new underrated books to share with you guys. So here we go, Books I Enjoyed That Have Fewer Than 2000 Ratings On Goodreads:

  1. Firestarter-Tara Sim-222 ratings-My Rating: 5 Stars

Granted, Firestarter was only released just over a month ago, so it hasn’t really had time to build up a mass of ratings, but I think this series is just criminally underrated in general. This was an incredible, explosive finale of a brilliant trilogy, if you like steampunk gay Victorian boys and an alternate Victorian London (& India) where the world’s time is run by clock towers, then you should definitely try this trilogy.

2. The Enchanted Sonata-Heather Dixon Wallwork-321 ratings-My Rating: 3 stars

I didn’t exactly love The Enchanted Sonata, it read a little young for me (even more than the YA audience it was aimed for) but I did enjoy it and was surprised that it didn’t have more ratings, it’s quite a unique little story, a retelling of both The Nutcracker and The Pied Piper of Hamelin.

3. By A Charm and A Curse-Jaime Questell-495 ratings-My Rating: 4 stars

This was one of my favourite books of last year and given how popular Circus/Carnival books have been in the last few years, I’m quite surprised it has as few ratings as it does, especially since it’s a great book, kind of like Pinocchio crossed with your classic Disney Princess story. It’s so rare to get a standalone fantasy story these days and this one is an amazing one.

4. Charlotte Says-Alex Bell-549 Ratings-My Rating: 3 stars

Charlotte Says is quite an odd little horror book, it’s the prequel to Frozen Charlotte, a story all about haunted Frozen Charlotte dolls, this book shows how the dolls came to be that way. I enjoyed this book but I can understand why it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, things do take a turn for the weird and horrific, even moreso than in the first book!

5. Enchantee-Gita Trelease-641 Ratings-My Rating: 5 stars

This book is incredibly new, it only released at the beginning of the month, and it’s not out till Thursday here in the UK, so I can understand why it’s not as highly rated yet, not as many people have had the chance to read it yet. I’m sure once it’s been out for a little while longer, it will burn way past the 2000 ratings mark set by this week’s topic, because it has everything, History, a gorgeous backdrop in Versailles of the 1780s, an amazing heroine and a simple but incredibly effective magic system.

6. For A Muse of Fire-Heidi Heilig-718 Ratings-My Rating: 3.5 stars

The start of Heidi Heilig’s new fantasy trilogy is a wonderfully diverse, incredibly creative story with a mentally ill main character. The magic system was awesome, the main character is able to bind souls of the dead to shadow puppets and control them which was something I have never seen in fantasy before. It’s an interesting mix between French Colonialism and Asian culture and I’m looking forward to seeing what she does with the next book, A Kingdom For A Stage.

7. Chainbreaker-Tara Sim-780 Ratings-My Rating: 5 stars

As I have already established in this post, I love Tara Sim’s Timekeeper trilogy and think more people should read it. The second book in the series takes us to Victorian India and really dives deep into British colonialism and explores the biraciality of one of the main characters (Sim herself is also biracial) and we get to see a lot more of Colton’s emotional backstory, as well as his relationship with Danny. I will never forgive her for that cliffhanger though. EVER. If you read Chainbreaker, do yourself a favour and have Firestarter on hand straight afterwards.

8. Fawkes-Nadine Brandes-1,649 Ratings-My Rating: 4 stars

This was another of my favourite books of last year, the combination of the Stuart era setting, the Gunpowder plot re-imagining and the super cool magic system of colours being controlled by masks was a complete and utter winner for me and I cannot wait to read Brandes next historical fantasy re-imagining,  Romanov, this year.

9. The Exact Opposite of Okay-Laura Steven-1,668 Ratings-My Rating: 4 stars

Another of my favourite books of last year, The Exact Opposite of Okay was uproariously funny, amazingly feminist and just one of the most entertaining books I’ve ever read. I seriously want to be friends with Izzy O’Neill, I think we would have a lot of fun together. I cannot wait to read Izzy’s next adventure when A Girl Called Shameless comes out-only 3 weeks to go!

10. A Thousand Perfect Notes-C.G. Drews-1,776 Ratings-My Rating: 3.5 stars

I enjoyed Cait’s debut novel, not as much as I hoped I would, it took rather longer than I’d have liked to get into considering how short it was, but I did like the characters and I thought the story was good if not amazing. I’m looking forward to seeing what Cait does with her next novel, The Boy Who Steals Houses, out in April.

So there we go, Books With Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads that I enjoyed. Have you read any of these? Did you enjoy them? Let me know in the comments!

I will be back next Tuesday, with a topic that I’m hugely excited for, Places Mentioned In Books That I’d Like To Visit, I always love thinking of where I’d go if I got the chance to step into my favourite fictional worlds. It’s been quite a heavy week so far on the blog this week, with 3 posts in 3 days, so I doubt I’ll have anything else for you till my next Top Ten Tuesday next week, so stay tuned for that!

 

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Enchantee Review (e-ARC)

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Book: Enchantee

Author: Gita Trelease

Published By: Macmillan Children’s Books

Expected Publication: 21st February

Format: e-book

Bechdel Test: PASS-Sophie and Camille have several conversations which don’t revolve around men, and Camille talks to Claudette and Sandrine at the casino in a discussion which doesn’t involve men.

I received this book from Macmillan Children’s Books through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

As always, thank you so much to Macmillan and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early, it was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2019 so it was great to have a chance to read it before publication.

I was super excited to read Enchantee, fantasy mixed with history is basically my kryptonite, given that I love both magic and history, and the idea of magic mixed with the French Revolution was just so brilliant I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to read it. Obviously when your expectations are so high, there’s always a chance of disappointment but thankfully, that didn’t happen here and Enchantee was just as brilliant as I was expecting it to be. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Paris in 1789 is a labyrinth of twisted streets, filled with beggars, thieves, revolutionaries—and magicians…

When smallpox kills her parents, Camille Durbonne must find a way to provide for her frail, naive sister while managing her volatile brother. Relying on petty magic—la magie ordinaire—Camille painstakingly transforms scraps of metal into money to buy the food and medicine they need. But when the coins won’t hold their shape and her brother disappears with the family’s savings, Camille must pursue a richer, more dangerous mark: the glittering court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.

With dark magic forbidden by her mother, Camille transforms herself into the ‘Baroness de la Fontaine’ and is swept up into life at the Palace of Versailles, where aristocrats both fear and hunger for la magie. There, she gambles at cards, desperate to have enough to keep herself and her sister safe. Yet the longer she stays at court, the more difficult it becomes to reconcile her resentment of the nobles with the enchantments of Versailles. And when she returns to Paris, Camille meets a handsome young balloonist—who dares her to hope that love and liberty may both be possible.

But la magie has its costs. And when Camille loses control of her secrets, the game she’s playing turns deadly. Then revolution erupts, and she must choose—love or loyalty, democracy or aristocracy, freedom or magic—before Paris burns… 

I really love Gita Trelease’s writing, I was hooked on her prose from the very first line (which is killer by the way) and that didn’t let up through the whole book, I’m not a particularly visual reader, but the way that Trelease wrote made me feel like I was in the grimy streets of palace and the beautiful halls of Versailles, experiencing Camille’s adventures alongside her, which is the mark of an amazing book for me. Her prose was gorgeous, but not so dense that it felt overwritten which I liked.

I also liked that the chapters were relatively short, they did get a little longer later on in the book, but for the most part, they were pretty short, which meant I could read 4 or 5 odd chapters a day, which is always good (plus, I was so engrossed in the plot that I wanted to read 4 or 5 odd chapters a day).

I thought the magic system was AMAZING. The whole idea of it, basically there are 3 different types of magic, la magie ordinaire, which is small, little tricks, glamoire which is disguising yourself and la magie bibelot which is making ordinary objects sentient. The idea is that magic is fuelled by pain and sorrow, so the more magic used, the higher price paid by the wielder, which I liked, magic should always have some sort of cost and that was right at the heart of Enchantee. It was also nice for once to have a magic system that was relatively easy to follow, I love fantasies, but the worlds and magic systems can sometimes be overly complicated, which wasn’t the case here.

The main character Camille was absolutely amazing. She was really easy to root for, her parents had died, she was trying to protect her little sister from their abusive older brother and she’s just trying to do her best to make sure that she and her little sister are able to live comfortably. What I liked most about Camille was that she was so flawed, she’s scared and she makes mistakes but she’s just doing her best to provide for her sister and make a better life for her and you could just really root for her. I also loved that her relationship with her sister, Sophie was so pivotal to this book, everything that she does, she does because she wants a better life for her sister, they had such a lovely relationship and being someone who particularly loves sister relationships in books, the one between Sophie and Camille made my heart soar. It’s really hard watching as Camille descends further and further into Versailles and loses more of herself, because you grow to care for her so deeply and honestly I was worried for her life at several points!

Camille and Sophie also have an older brother Alain, he was awful, an abusive, alcoholic who tries to take advantage of his sisters’ generosity, none of the characters in this book are morally perfect but he was the one character that I couldn’t really find anything redeemable about.

The romance in this was a lovely, slow burn one that I could really root for. So often I feel myself getting tired of YA romances because they all feel SO samey, but I loved Lazare and Camille, they were both so awkward and cute and really felt like kindred spirits, and their first kiss scene…..I mean WOW. Both she and Lazare are hiding a ton of secrets which makes their romance very complicated, but it’s so fun to watch them dance around each other trying terribly to hide their respective secrets. Lazare was amazing as well, I loved the biracial representation (this book is #ownvoices for that), and Lazare’s feelings of not being considered French or Indian came across as very realistic struggle.

I also really loved the hot air balloon aspect, I wasn’t expecting to, I didn’t really know how it was going to fit with the French Revolution, but it really did, I loved how Trelease used the balloon as a metaphor for the freedom the people are hoping is provided for them through the revolution, and as a way to connect both Lazare and Camille as both are looking for the hope & escape that the balloon provides them.

Chandon was probably my favourite of the court characters, he’s charming and kind of slippery and just generally so much fun. He’s also gay and I loved getting to see historical gay representation because yes, gay people did exist in the 18th century!

I loved everything about the Versailles that Trelease recreated in her book, it was beautiful and magical and dazzling but you discovered alongside Camille all of the dark underbelly of the court, yet you still found yourself addicted to the place, it was honestly like I was experiencing everything alongside Camille. It would have been so easy for Trelease to characterise the nobles of Versailles as “evil” especially given the timing of the story, but she doesn’t, instead they are all fully formed, complex humans and Camille discovers that there is a lot more to them than meets the eye.

I LOVED the magical dress that Camille used to help disguise herself at Versailles, I have a thing for gorgeous magical dresses (after Caraval) and this one was just brilliant, it’s somewhat sentient, so it helps Camille out a lot throughout the book but it’s also weirdly sinister and dark and I loved that. There’s a masquerade ball scene quite late on in the book and I JUST….a masquerade ball in 1700s Versailles? YES, YES, BOOK YOU HAVE STOLEN MY HEART.

The main villain, without wanting to reveal too much, is appropriately dark and twisted and really quite scary, it takes a while for him to be truly revealed but there is a dark undercurrent throughout the book and Camille is never quite sure exactly who to trust.

I loved the little name drops of actual historical people through the book, we see Lafayette and Jefferson and it just made my history loving heart leap a little to see real people mentioned in the book!

Trelease doesn’t go too much into the French Revolution but honestly I didn’t mind that, I actually preferred how she introduced an undercurrent of unease and unrest throughout the book and we just get the first explosion of Revolution because that’s not what the book was really about, it’s not about this big historical event, it’s about Camille and her internal struggles more.

Some people have said that the pacing lagged a little in the middle, but I don’t really agree, I felt like the pacing was pretty solid throughout. There are places that are perhaps slower than others, but I felt consistently engaged and excited by the story throughout, even in the quieter moments which I feel is a true testament to the writer. The ending chapters in particular were brilliant, I was on the edge of my seat wanting to see how everything worked out in the end.

I know there’s going to be a sequel and I’m super excited to be released back into the world Trelease has created here, but for those who don’t like cliffhangers, the book does end in a very satisfactory way that allows it to stand alone.

Overall this book was an incredible, magical romp through 1789 Paris and Versailles, with a sympathetic, flawed and brilliant MC, a wonderful sibling relationship at the heart of it, fabulous writing which completely threw you into the world & a simple, but incredibly effective magic system.

My Rating: 5/5

My next review will either be of Hamilton and Peggy! A Revolutionary Friendship or of A Curse So Dark and Lonely depending on which I finish first.

Hot Key Women In History Bloggers Brunch Recap

 

Hi everyone! I know, what is this madness, event recaps two months in a row? Well it’s going to be a very busy couple of months for me, book event wise, as I’m going to Samantha Shannon’s Priory event in Glasgow on the 28th (so soon!) and then Victoria Schwab’s Near Witch/Steel Prince event, also in Glasgow in March, so there will be a lot more content than there usually is in this section of the blog over this month and the next.

I’ve been on the Hot Key mailing list for a while now, so I often get emails from them inviting me to their blogger brunches or events but 99.9% of the time, I’m in Scotland when their events are happening and their events are always in London, so go figure, I can’t make it. However, this time, I happened to be home anyway for my University’s Reading Week and being a history student who particularly loves Women’s History, I was super excited to be able to get to attend this event.

I got the train in from Cambridge to London at around 9.45, getting into London just after 10.35. I had to admit, I’d never been to the Bonnier Zaffre (the company which Hot Key is an imprint of) headquarters before, but luckily my mum knew the address and had given me instructions on how to get there. It wasn’t too far, I just had to get the tube from Kings Cross to Oxford Circus and after a few false starts with my Google Maps, I managed to find the building.

We were given name badges, and lead upstairs to where the event was taking place. We were all a little bit early, so there was some time to mill around, which meant, *shock horror* mingling. I was a little bit nervous because I was there by myself and I’m not the best with strangers, but thankfully bloggers are lovely people and I happily chatted with a few of them, including Amy from A Bookish Life who was also there alone and really made me feel at ease about the whole thing (thank you Amy!). It was quite funny because no one wanted to be the first one to go for the food, so we were all standing there, hungry, but we didn’t want to be the first one to break the ice. Thankfully, eventually someone did and then we all descended on the pastries.

The food was awesome, I had a chocolate twist, a pain au raisin, lots of raspberries and strawberries and some delicious cookies! After milling around and chatting for a little while, the people from Bonnier Zaffre came in and announced that we were ready to start. We did have to sit on the floor, which I wasn’t totally thrilled about, but I get that it was a small room fitting in a lot of people (hence the lack of pictures of the authors, I just couldn’t see over the people in front of me to get a good picture!).

Then Lucy and Heather came in, Lucy introduced herself and Heather (she was acting as the moderator for the discussion), and then the talk started. It was a lot more informal than many author discussions I’ve been to, which I really liked, I don’t know if the two of them had met before this, I assume so, but they had a very easy and natural rapport and despite talking about a very heavy topic (the Holocaust), they made the discussion engaging and fun to listen to (without taking the subject lightly in any way). The two of them talked about how they came to learning about the Holocaust and how to get young people engaged in that part of history and Heather discussed bringing The Tattooist of Auschwitz to a younger audience and how important it was not to over-sanitise the horrors of the Holocaust.

They talked a lot about how they did research for their books, which was obviously super interesting to me, being a History student, I love to hear about how historical fiction writers do their research. Heather talked a lot about interviewing Lale and the responsibility she felt for telling his story and how much of her research actually didn’t end up in the book in the end because she found out so much that she obviously couldn’t include it all. She also talked about how she wanted to make sure there wasn’t much emphasis in the story on the more famous names (i.e. the Nazis who committed such dreadful atrocities) because they don’t need any more attention drawn to what they did, she wanted to make sure that the story was all about Lale and his experiences.

Heather originally intended The Tattoist of Auschwitz to be a screenplay, and it was quite interesting to hear how the story went from that to a book, she was working on it with a film company, but the project stalled and she couldn’t stop thinking about the story, she talked about Lale so much that her family eventually encouraged her to just, in her words, “write the bloody book”. I’ve never heard of an author transferring their story from screenplay to book before, so it was very cool to hear from Heather how that process worked.

She also spoke more about her upcoming book, Cilka’s Journey, following one of the characters from The Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka, also a real life person, and the difficulties she had in researching that book because Cilka died a long time ago, so unlike Tattooist, where she had Lale’s personal testimony, she had to rely on second hand accounts of Cilka. She discussed some of the reactions to The Tattooist of Auschwitz and it was awe inspiring to hear how many people had shared personal stories about how the book had affected them.

Both authors spoke about the importance of hope in Holocaust stories, and how that theme ran through their work, which I really loved as that’s what I always hang onto when reading books about this most harrowing part of human history, the incredible resilience and hope shown by people in the most unbearable of circumstances, so it was great to hear them speak about how they used that in their books.

After the discussion portion of the event had ended, the authors took questions from us, I was, as always, too nervous and awkward of speaking in front of people to ask anything, but both authors had really insightful responses to the questions.

Once they had answered questions, we got to hear a little bit from both authors’ books. Lucy read a chapter from her upcoming novel Summerland, which addresses the journey of one of the minor characters from The Red Ribbon after the war (she says she has always been interested in what happened to people after the war, as WWII stories tend to end when the war does) and with Brexit, refugees have been on her mind, so she really wanted to write a refugee story set after WWII. I have to admit, I haven’t read any of her books before, but hearing her read from Summerland made me really excited to read The Red Ribbon (plus I loved that each of the chapters from Summerland is named after a different 1940s recipe and that she’s going to make a recipe book of them!).

We then got to hear Heather read from the ending of The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Usually I would be annoyed for being spoiled for the end of the story before I’ve even read it, but since history can’t be spoilers, I wasn’t too bothered knowing the ending of Lale’s story! Plus, it was such a gorgeous passage that she read out to us, and was so heartwarming, that it really made me want to read the rest of the book, so mission successful.

Once the readings were over, we were allowed to go and collect books for signing. I had brought my own copy of The Tattooist of Auschwitz from home, but I needed a copy of The Red Ribbon (since Lucy made it sound AMAZING) and copies of both books for my friend Nicola who couldn’t make it to the event (since you know, she lives in Scotland!). The queues were quite long, so I only got to have a brief chat with both authors, but that’s okay with me since I’m awkward and can’t think of much to say anyway, I talked to Lucy about being a history student, the fact that I thought costume history was such a cool area to go into and that my friend (the aforementioned Nicola) is doing a WWII based dissertation. I’m pretty sure all I managed to say to Heather was that I’d never been to Poland, but always wanted to go. I don’t do well at coming up with stuff to say under pressure!

When I’d had my books signed, it was all over and it was time to go, so I picked up my coat from the hangers they had outside and then headed back to Oxford Circus to get the tube, and then the train home. All in all, a very successful day out for me, it was a super fun event and I hope that I’ll be able to go to another one, if the timing of the next event and me being back home happens to line up again.

Did anyone else go to the Women In History Bloggers Brunch? Did you enjoy it? Let me know in the comments.

I will be back tomorrow with my e-ARC review of Enchantee by Gita Trelease (spoiler alert, I really loved this one guys!).

Alex and Eliza (Alex and Eliza #1) Review

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Book: Alex and Eliza (Alex and Eliza #1)

Author: Melissa De La Cruz

Bechdel Test: Fail-All the conversations Eliza has with other women in this book revolves somehow around Hamilton.

This month on the blog is Hamilmonth, in honour of me going to see Hamilton for the first (and I’m sure not last) time in London with my friends next week (yes, I’m ridiculously excited about it and will not stop talking about it), so I decided to read the two Hamilton related books that I had on my bookshelf in the weeks leading up to going to see the show, and to kill two birds with one stone, this is also my #RockMyTBR book for February. I was really looking forward to this one, since obviously I love Hamilton the musical, but I found it a little disappointing. There were a LOT of historical liberties taken with the plot, it was rather slow and the main characters felt like cardboard cutouts, not fully dimensional flawed people. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Their romance shaped a nation. The rest was history.

1777. Albany, New York. 

As battle cries of the American Revolution echo in the distance, servants flutter about preparing for one of New York society’s biggest events: the Schuylers’ grand ball. Descended from two of the oldest and most distinguished bloodlines in New York, the Schuylers are proud to be one of their fledgling country’s founding families, and even prouder still of their three daughters—Angelica, with her razor-sharp wit; Peggy, with her dazzling looks; and Eliza, whose beauty and charm rival that of both her sisters, though she’d rather be aiding the colonists’ cause than dressing up for some silly ball. 

Still, she can barely contain her excitement when she hears of the arrival of one Alexander Hamilton, a mysterious, rakish young colonel and General George Washington’s right-hand man. Though Alex has arrived as the bearer of bad news for the Schuylers, he can’t believe his luck—as an orphan, and a bastard one at that—to be in such esteemed company. And when Alex and Eliza meet that fateful night, so begins an epic love story that would forever change the course of American history.

Obviously my biggest problem with this book was the historical inaccuracies. The entire plot with Livingston was completely plucked from nowhere, Eliza wasn’t engaged to anyone else before Hamilton as far as I’m aware and in fact Henry Livingston was already married by the point this action took place, if De La Cruz had wanted to introduce a romantic rival for Hamilton then she could have at least picked someone who in reality wasn’t married at the time. The stuff with Benedict Arnold did really happen (something I didn’t know about before reading this book) but there is no way that Hamilton would have deserted the army & even then he wasn’t actually given a command until 1781, the book has it a year earlier. Also the Schuylers actually approved of Hamilton, which was why Eliza was the only Schuyler sister who didn’t elope so the whole plot about him not being allowed to marry her because of his status was pure fantasy. Angelica had married John Church three years before, so she would have been married at the opening of the book, not halfway through, plus the author completely ignores the fact that the Schuylers owned slaves, despite the fact that Eliza professes her vehemence for the practice and desire for black and white people to be equal. Both Laurens and Lafayette were already married by this point, and De La Cruz portrays them both as bachelors who are interested in Eliza.  I can deal with a little creative license and I get that there isn’t much to draw from historically, since Eliza burned all Hamilton’s letters, but still, if you can’t get even the facts that we do know right, then you have no place writing a historical fiction novel. It did expand on some stuff that the musical left out, which I appreciated but that doesn’t take away from the many historical inaccuracies.

The chapters were relatively nice and short, and I liked the chapter titles, although I didn’t get the point of the little subheadings saying where each chapter took place, especially given that there weren’t all that many different settings in the book.

I did love the sibling relationship between the Schuyler sisters, their banter was great to see, although I felt like Angelica’s wit was dummed down somewhat to make Eliza seem like the smarter Schuyler sister, which wasn’t great, in fact I was kind of disappointed with how Angelica was portrayed. It was nice to see more of Peggy though, since she is barely seen in the musical.

I don’t really know much about Catherine Schuyler (the Schuyler matriarch) but she was made out to be really awful here. Still it was nice that Eliza’s older relatives were included in the story, since so often parents and other adult relatives are left out of YA books, I particularly liked her Aunt Gertrude, she was a hoot!

I will say that the story reads far younger than it is meant to, it’s meant to be for a YA audience, but the writing style and language choice suggests it was written for a younger audience.

There was also quite a lot of infodumping, I get that the author wanted to show she had done some historical research (though clearly not enough) but there were passages that were clearly there just to show what the author had found out about Hamilton and that kind of took me out of the story.

It was incredibly slow paced, not much happened for most of the book, I mean I get it’s a romance and that’s not what I usually read, but the whole book was basically just Alex and Eliza dancing around each other, and despite Eliza initially not liking Hamilton, she seemed to change her mind incredibly quickly. The dialogue was also a bit stilted and cheesy at times, in fact their entire romance came across as kind of cheesy to me.

Alex was a little more shy than I had expected, not at all like the over-confident Hamilton of LMM’s version of Hamilton, but I kind of liked that, I thought he was very sweet and endearing. I also didn’t know that Hamilton was ginger before reading this book! I did like Eliza but I felt De La Cruz was trying to portray her as the perfect woman and a lot of “not like other girls” stuff slipped through, which I didn’t love.

The attempted rape scene, in addition to being historically inaccurate, was entirely unnecessary to the plot and really should not have been included at all, considering that the whole thing was fabricated, De La Cruz could have found another way to get Eliza out of her engagement to Livingston.

The ending was far too rushed, Eliza and Alex are reunited, engaged and married all within 3 chapters and I couldn’t help but feel like if De La Cruz had lost some of the filler, then those parts could have been expanded on and it wouldn’t have felt like the book came to such an abrupt conclusion.

Overall, I did enjoy parts of Alex and Eliza but there were far too many historical inaccuracies and liberties taken for me to get fully invested in the story, and the pacing was incredibly lacklustre which meant it was hard to get into the plot. It’s not a bad book, but I feel like it would appeal more to a younger audience than the audience its aimed for due to the way the story is written and definitely for people who are less familiar with the actual history!

My Rating: 3/5

My next review will be of Enchantee by Gita Trelease, I’ll be publishing my e-ARC review of it on Sunday/Monday in time for release date on Thursday. My next read will be Hamilton and Peggy! A Revolutionary Friendship, my other read of Hamilmonth.

 

Jo Talks Books: How Blogging Has Changed My Reading Habits (5 year Blogaversary Post!!)

Hi everyone! As you can see from the title of this post, today is my 5 year blogaversary, I’ve always found it kind of ironic that the anniversary of me starting this blog falls around Valentine’s Day given what a romance cynic I am, but ah well! Anyway, before I get started on today’s post, I just want to thank all of you, however long you’ve been following or reading my blog for sticking with me over the past 5 years, there’s no way that I’d still be doing this without your support, so thank you so much. It’s hard to believe that when I started this blog, I hadn’t even done my A-Levels yet and now, 5 years later, I’m set to graduate University, I’ve had my work published in an actual newspaper and this blog has over a thousand followers, which is amazing.

Anyway, today being my blogaversary actually fitted quite well with something I was wanting to talk about anyway, how blogging has changed the way I read. My reading habits have changed a lot in the last five years and I could put that down to a lot of things, Uni has had a massive impact on how I read, general changes in my interests but I have to admit, I think blogging has probably had the biggest impact in how my reading has changed in the past five years.

For one thing, rereading. I used to love to go back and reread my old favourite from time to time, just to remind myself of why I loved them so much in the first place. Since I’ve started blogging though, I just don’t have time to reread as much as I’d like to, I buy a lot more books, so I have far more new stuff to read than I ever did before and when you’re only reading two or three books a month, you don’t really have time to reread.

I’m also far more aware of, and read far more new releases than I used to. Before I started blogging, I would only really be aware of when my favourite authors were releasing new books and other than that, I would mostly just go into Waterstones and see what I’d liked the sound of. Now I know what books are coming up, and what I’m excited for well in advance of their release dates, and I can either request an ARC or I can go into a bookshop and see if they have it. On the one hand this is good, because it takes away some of the uncertainty, but I do miss being able to just browse and come across something that really surprises me, it’s very rare that I don’t know about a new release especially a YA release coming out, so I can’t just go into Waterstones and be surprised by a random book anymore, which is a shame. It does however mean that I read a lot more debut authors than I used to, which has been great, I’ve discovered a lot more amazing authors through blogging because I’m more willing to try authors that I haven’t necessarily heard of before now.

Before I started blogging, I never read e-books at all, I’m ashamed to admit I was a little bit of a snob about them, I had a bit of physical book superiority syndrome. I will still say that I do prefer physical books to e-books, and I only really read e-books when I’m reading e-ARCs from Netgalley as I’m not a massive fan of reading on my computer, but since I’ve started blogging, I have come to appreciate e-books more than I did before and they do allow me to read more, as I read them faster than physical books, so that is definitely a benefit that I’ve enjoyed since I started blogging.

I was also very much a one book at a time kind of girl before I started blogging, and although I still don’t love having more than one physical book on the go at once, I have learned how to balance physical books and e-books so that I’m able to maximise my reading time and get a lot more done, which has definitely helped me in order to read more and therefore be able to blog more, something that I never would have thought about doing when I didn’t have a blog, because I didn’t feel the need to get through multiple books at once (nor did I have e-ARC deadlines to meet).

I’m a lot less willing to go into books blind now, before I would quite often go into a shop and pick up a book and if I liked the sound of it then I would try it, whereas now, I have to have heard something from other bloggers about the book before I’m even wiling to try it, which is good because I feel like I pick up less duds now than I did before, I’m more certain that I’ll like something before I pick it up. I get a lot more recommendations now than I used to, and am more likely to pick things up if they’ve been recommended to me by another blogger than if I’ve never heard of it.

I also keep track of my reading a lot more. I started my Goodreads account in my first year of blogging and since then I have religiously tracked my reading, which has been a really positive thing to come out of blogging, because I can keep track of the books I like and don’t like, the books I’m excited for, the arcs that I’m reading, Goodreads has been super helpful for me in keeping organised in my reading life and I never would have found it if it hadn’t been for blogging. I didn’t even have a TBR before I started blogging, at least not anything official and now because of blogging and Goodreads, my TBR has just exploded.

I’m far more aware of what works for me and what doesn’t because of blogging, and I think that has made me a more discerning book buyer. I can be pretty confident before even turning a single page now whether I am going to like or dislike a book, I don’t think this necessarily all comes from blogging, being a reader your entire life does this as well, but blogging has made more self aware about what works and what doesn’t for me in a book (and why) and this means that I no longer need to waste my time with books I know I won’t like, every book I pick up now, I am reasonably sure before I go into it that I’m going to like it. Blogging has also really helped me as a writer, because in writing reviews, I learn what works and what doesn’t work for me in books and take that into my own writing. I keep notes on every book I read now, and that allows me to sort out my feelings about a book a lot more cohesively than I was able to before I started blogging.

I’m a lot less patient with books now, I still have difficulties DNFing, because I like to have closure, but for the most part, if a book isn’t gripping me, or I’m struggling to get into it, I won’t push on through till the end, I’ll put it down because at the end of the day, I have a lot of books to get through and I don’t have the time to be wasting it on books that I’m not enjoying. I do worry if that means I might miss out books that I will enjoy because I’m not giving them enough of a chance.

I’m also a lot more aware of diversity in books which was something I wasn’t particularly aware of before I started blogging and I will be far more discerning of books that have little to no diversity in them than I would have been five years ago, because now I know how important representation is for marginalised groups and want to help support titles by diverse authors.

Before I started blogging, I had one friend who I spoke to about books all the time and if she hadn’t read them, then I just had to bottle up all my feelings about them until she had. Now, not only can I share my thoughts about books on the Internet, I have an entire community of people that I can talk to about books whenever I want, which is just incredible.

Blogging has definitely changed the way I read, in both good and bad ways, but after five years of doing this, I can’t imagine my life without it, I’ve gained a whole community of book loving friends, I’ve been to so many wonderful book events, I’ve read so many amazing books, it’s been a wonderful five years and I look forward to many more to come!

Has blogging changed the way you read? How? Let me know in the comments!

I have a giveaway going on over on Twitter for my blogaversary, you have the possibility of  winning one of my favourite books if you enter, so go and check it out.

I don’t know when my next Jo Talks post will be going up, it depends on how busy I am for the rest of the month, but I’ll be talking about Read-a-thons and why they don’t work for me, so look out for that. In the meantime, I’m almost done with my current read Alex and Eliza, so I should have a review of that up for you guys over the weekend.

 

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday #198

TTT-Big2

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve had a good week since I last did one of these, I had a lovely weekend, my mum came up to visit and we went to the cinema to see Green Book (great film) and out for dinner, which was very nice. I had a rather frustrating Monday though, as I’m having to chase people up for interviews for my project and not everything is going the way I want it to, which is more than a little bit irritating.

Anyway, enough about my project woes, it’s Tuesday so that means another Top Ten Tuesday courtesy of Jana over at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, we’re talking my least favourite topic, Valentine’s Day. We’re supposed to be talking Favourite Couples but honestly, my list hasn’t changed much since the last time I did this topic, so I’ve decided to switch it up a little, and share my Top Ten Films To Watch on Valentine’s Day For Those Who Are Just Done With Love i.e. if you’re single and cynical like me. So here they are:

  1. The Last Five Years

This one is going in my own Valentine’s Day film rotation this year, it’s perfect for those of us who aren’t wanting to watch a happy couple film on Valentine’s Day, instead you can watch the deterioration of Jamie and Cathy’s relationship from beginning to end (and end to beginning)!

2. Ocean’s 8

What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a single woman than gathering your girls and watching this awesome heist movie? I can think of none.

3. A Monster Calls

If you prefer to take the sad, depressing way out of Valentine’s Day, then A Monster Calls is a perfect call, instead of having to watch happy, loved up couples, you can watch Conor face his mother’s terminal illness.

4. Gone Girl

After watching the twisted relationship that is Amy and Nick Dunne in Gone Girl, you’ll be thanking your lucky stars that you are single and not involved in a relationship like theirs!

5. The Book Thief

If you’re feeling a bit maudlin on Valentine’s Day, you can always pop in The Book Thief, and listen to Death narrate the tale of Liesel Meminger, a young bibliophile living in Nazi Germany and using the only weapon she has at her disposal, her love of books and stories.

6. (500) Days of Summer

(500) Days of Summer might look like a rom-com on the surface, but as the movie itself will tell you, this is no love story. It’s a tale of unrequited love and how our expectations and reality of love can be completely different things.

7. The Break-Up

The Break-Up is described as a romantic comedy, but it’s really not, much of the movie follows the main couple Brooke and Gary, after their breakup, as the two fight it out in a battle of wills as to who will keep the couple’s shared condo following the breakup. If you’re not wanting to follow a loved up couple on Valentine’s Day, then this film might be perfect for you.

8. War Horse

There’s not even a whiff of romance to be found in this film, at least not of the human kind, it’s all about the love of a boy for his horse and the harsh times they face during WWI. If you are looking for a movie to make you cry on Valentine’s Day, look no further, you’ve found it.

9. Mulan

There’s nothing like a good bit of Disney, and Mulan is one of the best-yes there is a whiff of romance between her and Shang but that’s not the main focus of the film and this is no princess gets saved by handsome prince narrative, Mulan is the one who does the saving here, and it’s her country, China, not a man.

10. Ruby Sparks

On the surface, Ruby Sparks might appear like your average rom-com, but it’s a dark, twisted look at what happens when an author falls in love with his own character, and writes her to life. What initially starts as a happy romance, quickly spirals into chaos, so if you’re not wanting a typical romantic comedy on Valentine’s, then this might be perfect for you.

So there we go, my suggestions on films you can watch, if like me, you are just done with Valentine’s Day and don’t want to indulge in all the love with everyone else. Have you watched any of these? Did you enjoy them? What films would you suggest for those who don’t want to share in the love this Valentine’s Day?

I will be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’re talking Books I Loved With Fewer Than 2000 Ratings on Goodreads, but to be honest, I think I’ve done that topic before and I doubt it’s changed much since last time, so I will probably do something different, though I’m not sure what yet. In the meantime, tomorrow is my fifth blogaversary, so look out for a very special Jo Talks post to celebrate!

 

Writing Corner: On How Writing For Different Platforms Helps With Fiction

Hi everyone! Yes. it is me, I am hoping to keep the guest posts from last month coming as a more regular thing on this feature, but as I couldn’t find anyone for February, you’re stuck with me again. I think today’s post should be pretty interesting though, I’m going to be talking about my experiences writing on different platforms and how I think these have helped me become a better fiction writer.

It’s no secret that I write A LOT. I’m a blogger, I write for student news website The National Student, my entire degree is writing based, and of course I have my novel, so honestly, there aren’t many points in a given day where I’m not writing something or other. And obviously practice makes perfect when it comes to writing, so any writing you do is good practice for writing a novel, but I think that particularly writing on different platforms and in different forums has been really important for me as a writer, for several different reasons.

Firstly, voice. Voice is something that a lot of writers can struggle with, finding the right voice for your character and making sure that comes through in your work is hard. However, I think that writing for different platforms has made it much easier for me to pick up that skill. For one thing, so much of Journalism is tailoring the voice of your piece to your audience. You’ll want your article to read a different way depending on the platform that your work will be accessed through, the “voice” is different for every paper, articles from The Guardian don’t read the same as the Daily Mail, or The Independent and that’s because as a journalist, you have to learn to write for your audience, and your audience is going to be different depending on where you write for, meaning that you have to get very good at tailoring your voice to the audience. This is obviously a massive help when it comes to writing fiction because the same rules apply, you’re going to want a different voice if you’re writing for a YA audience as compared to an adult audience, or an MG audience, or a younger child audience. Being able to change the voice you write in is also very useful if you write in multiple character POVs, so that the two do not sound exactly the same, and this is another place where my journalism skills have come in handy, when writing my novel, I imagine what I want the audience to see in my characters, and tailor their voice to that, just as I would do when writing an article for a specific audience.

Blogging, believe it or not, is also quite helpful for developing voice in stories, albeit in a different way. When I write my blog posts, I want it to feel as if I am talking to you, like we could just be sitting and having a conversation, and I’ve tried to carry this over to my fiction as well, as that was something that was really important to me when writing This Is Not A Love Story, I didn’t want it to feel like my audience would just be sitting there watching Tiffany and Cam go through the motions, I wanted it to feel like they could be sitting with the two of them and listening to them tell their own story. I don’t know how successful I’ve been with that, but that was the intention anyway!

Journalistic writing has been a massive help in making my writing more concise. I mean being concise isn’t as much of a requirement in fiction as it is in journalism, but personally, I hate authors that waffle on with unnecessary description that isn’t really needed, so when I write my book now, I keep the lessons that I’ve learned from Journalism in mind and make sure that every word I use has a point and I’m not waffling on for the sake of it!

Writing on different platforms also gives my brain a break when I’m getting bogged down in one of my stories. If I don’t feel like working on TINALS or Underground Magicians or the sequel to TINALS, then I can come here and write a blog post, or write something for The National Student, and I’m still flexing that writing muscle, but it gives me a chance to work on something else and let plot issues bubble over in the back of my brain whilst I’m doing so. It also adds some variety to my writing life that I’m not always constantly working on fiction and I think that in turn makes me a better writer because you need different skills to be a great journalist or a great blogger than you do to be an author, but there are lessons that you can learn from each which make you better at the others.

It does have it’s downsides, spending so much time writing, means that sometimes my hobby feels like a chore, and I do have to remind myself that it is something that I find fun and I’m not just doing it to get a degree or for my future career, I’m doing it because I love it. I think it’s very important to have hobbies outside of writing as well, especially when you spend as much time writing as I do, because you don’t want to feel completely burned out by it.

So yeah, basically, I would really recommend writing for different audiences and different platforms if you are a fiction writer, it gives you more flexibility, you can learn transferable skills from writing for different purposes, it allows you to have some variety in your writing and plus, it can just be fun sometimes to try your hand at writing different things!

If you are a writer, have you ever tried writing something outside of your normal remit? Anyone else do Journalism like me? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll have my Top Ten Tuesday post up for you guys tomorrow, and also Wednesday is my fifth blogaversary, so I’m going to have a very special Jo Talks post up to celebrate that milestone, so stay tuned for those in the next few days!