Mid Year Check In (2018)

Hi all! It’s July, can you believe it, because I can’t! Anyway as we are now officially halfway through the year, I’m checking in on how I’m doing with the goals I made at the start of the year for my reading/writing life in 2018, it’s something I started doing two years ago, and it helps keep me accountable for my goals throughout the year, plus it’s just quite nice to check in on what I’ve been doing in the first six months of the year. So here we go, this is how my goals have been going:

  1. Complete my Goodreads Challenge

I set my challenge at the beginning of the year at 24 books, but it’s the end of June, and I’ve already read 21, so I’ve upped the challenge to 35, same as my challenge last year. I actually read 36 books last year, so I’d love to better that this year, ideally I’d love to get to 40 books, but 37, one upping last year, would also be fine!

2. Complete my #RockMyTBR Challenge

I started doing this challenge in 2016 and have been doing it every year since, even though I don’t think it’s officially being done this year! Anyway, I had 12 books on my list at the beginning of the year, and I’ve read 6 of them so far, so I’m on track to finish them all by the end of the year.

3. Expand my Writing Corner feature

I have definitely started to get this up and running! It’s still quite small, I’ve only done a few posts and I haven’t done any collaboration posts yet, which I would have liked to, but I’m happy that it’s starting to become an established feature on my blog. I’m hoping to get a post a month done on there for the rest of the year, if I can, so by the end of the year, my posts will be in the double figures.

4. Look into querying agents/the first steps of the publishing progress

So since January, every time I’ve seen an agent on Twitter, I’ve bookmarked their agency’s page on my browser, so now I have a built in list of agents for when I’m ready to start querying. I haven’t written a query yet, but I have been doing revisions on my novel since the beginning of the year and it’s with my critique partner at the moment, so between that and having my list of agents, I’m feeling a lot more prepared for when I finally do send out my novel for querying.

5. Finish Underground Magicians

Yeah…..so…….umm this one hasn’t been going so well! I’ve only written one more chapter of it than I’d had last year and I’m feeling kind of blocked for this story. I don’t want to give up on it, but I’m feeling a lot more inspired for TINALS at the moment, as I just finished my revisions and have started writing the sequel, so I’m going to leave this one on the back burner for a while and focus on my TINALS projects, in the hope that when I come back to Underground Magicians, I’ll be feeling more inspired!

6. Start giving a Bechdel Test rating for the books I read

This is going really well, I’ve rated every book I’ve read this year against the Bechdel Test, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the results: out of the 21 books I’ve read this year, only 6 haven’t passed the test!

7. Read more of my YALC books from 2015/16/17

I mean I’m not gonna lie, I could be doing better on this one, but I have read a few of my YALC books this year, I read The Exact Opposite of Okay in February (which I got at YALC last year), I read The Fandom in January & Rose Under Fire and Daughter of The Burning City in May so that’s five YALC books knocked off my list already. I did actually get rid of a few that I didn’t think I was going to read, so if there are still some from 2015 that I haven’t read by next year, I will probably unhaul them too. I’m super excited to pick up some more books at YALC though, even though I still haven’t read all the ones on my shelf yet!

8. Read more of my #otspsecretsister books

Okay so I’ve only actually read two of these this year, but out of 18, I now have 5 books that I’ve read, so I’m almost a third of the way through the books I’ve received through doing the Secret Sister project and I’m actually reading a third one at the moment, so I’m hoping by the end of this year, I’ll have read most of the books I’ve been given by my previous sisters and maybe have taken part in another round!

9. Reread some of my old favourites

Hahahahahahahahaha…….no. I haven’t reread a single book this year. I don’t know why I thought I would have time to do this. Much as I used to love rereading, I am just too busy now and have too many new books to read to do it. Maybe I’ll squeeze some in before the end of the year, but I doubt it!

10. Make time to read a little every day

I’ve actually done really well with this one! I’m proud to say that since January, I have read at least a few pages of a book every single day, this goal has kept me accountable for making sure that I squeeze in my reading even when I’m super busy, so it’s been really great!

11. Carry on collaborating with other bloggers

So I had a collab post as one of my first discussion posts of the year, which was really great, and I did my first guest post on This Northern Gal (which you can read here: http://thisnortherngal.co.uk/guest-posts/guest-post-maximising-your-reading-time-at-university/) which was so much fun to do. I also did an interview with Rachel from Bookmark Chronicles for her blogger Summer Spotlight Series (which starts next week!) which was super fun to do. I would love to get some more contributions for my blog and I’m definitely going to try and think of some more collaborative posts that I can do, but thus far, I’m feeling good about how this goal has been going this year.

12. Catch up with 2017 releases

I had 12 books on a TTT list where I talked about the 2017 releases I missed out on that I wanted to read by the end of the year, and so far I’ve read 4, which you know, could be better, but it’s 4 more than I read last year and I will definitely have read more of them by the end of the year as quite a few are on my #RockMyTBR challenge list as well.

So that’s how my year is going so far! I’m really happy with how I’ve managed my goals this year, at least 10 of them, I have been doing well with and am on track to have completed by the end of the year, there’s only two where I can definitively say that I’ve not done so well with, but there’s still six months of the year to go, so I’m hoping I will be able to complete all of these by the end of the year (though it may just be 11, I’m not sure whether I’ll actually do any rereading!). How about you guys? Did you make any goals for your reading/blog/writing/life this year? If so, how are they going so far? Let me know in the comments!

I will have my June #RockMyTBR update for you guys tomorrow, so stay tuned for that!

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Legendary (Caraval #2) Review

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Book: Legendary (Caraval #2)

Author: Stephanie Garber

This book was one of my most anticipated books of this year, as Caraval was one of my favourite books that I read last year and I couldn’t wait to dive back into the magical world that Stephanie Garber created, this time seeing it through the eyes of Scarlett’s younger sister Tella. Now I’ve been burned a little by my most anticipated reads this year as none of them have been quite as good as I was hoping, but not so with Legendary! Legendary ups the stakes from its predecessor, creating a thoroughly spellbinding story that I could not put down and devoured in just over a week. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

A heart to protect. A debt to repay. A game to win.

After being swept up in the magical world of Caraval, Donatella Dragna has finally escaped her father and saved her sister Scarlett from a disastrous arranged marriage. The girls should be celebrating, but Tella isn’t yet free. She made a desperate bargain with a mysterious criminal, and what Tella owes him no one has ever been able to deliver: Caraval Master Legend’s true name.

The only chance of uncovering Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella throws herself into the legendary competition once more—and into the path of the murderous heir to the throne, a doomed love story, and a web of secrets…including her sister’s. Caraval has always demanded bravery, cunning, and sacrifice. But now the game is asking for more. If Tella can’t fulfill her bargain and deliver Legend’s name, she’ll lose everything she cares about—maybe even her life. But if she wins, Legend and Caraval will be destroyed forever.

Welcome, welcome to Caraval…the games have only just begun.

We pick up pretty much just after we left off in Caraval, with the ball to celebrate the end of the game from the last book, so if you don’t have a great memory, I’d recommend refreshing yourself with at least how the last book ended, because we don’t get any recaps, we just dive straight into the story.

The book is narrated by Tella, Scarlett’s younger sister this time around and I have to admit, I much prefer her to her sister. Tella is more daring and reckless, she’s impulsive and a little naive and she makes mistakes, but she felt like a flawed, complex character to me and I found her voice a lot more engaging than Scarlett’s which made her easier to root for. We didn’t really get to see much of Tella in the last book, so it was interesting here to dive further into her motivations for her actions in the last game and to get to see that she’s so much more than she was made out to be in Caraval, she’s flirtatious and feminine and she likes pretty dresses yes, which makes people underestimate her but she’s so much stronger and smarter than everyone gives her credit for and I loved that. There was a great fight scene between her and one of the Fates, which I really loved.

I found the pace much better in this one, in the first book, it felt like the first half dragged and then the second half was much more fast paced, but this book felt like it had a much more even pace, it’s still quite slow, but it’s a beautiful unraveling of a mystery and I still felt really engaged and wanting to know what was going to happen with Tella and the game next. The chapters were a nice length, and though some were overly long, overall they were much more even and this helped with the pace feeling a bit more even here than it was in Caraval.

The writing was lovely, but it did feel like the author went overboard on some of metaphors sometimes (“smells like ink and secrets-what on earth do secrets smell like!) and there were quite a few repetitive phrases throughout the book, still for the most part, the writing created a real atmosphere and you felt like you were in the game-I especially loved the descriptions of the many, many, pretty dresses that Tella got to wear, I swear, I would risk my life in Caraval if it meant I could wear some of those clothes.

There were so many twists and turns and mysteries in this book, I was constantly intrigued throughout and wanting to know what would happen next.

I appreciated that there was a lot more worldbuilding in this book for the world outside of the game, last time we got a great idea of how Caraval worked, but not necessarily the outside world, this time we get to see a new location, Valenda, and get more insight into the religion and the mythology of the world, as Garber introduces the Fates, god-like beings who have spent centuries trapped inside a deck of cursed tarot cards. I thought the Fates were really interesting and look forward to seeing more of them in the next book. Jacks, The Prince of Hearts, was a captivating new villain and the introduction of the Fates has definitely expanded the scope of Garber’s world.

I loved the map at the beginning, it was so cool!

There were quite a few spelling errors and missing words here and there, which I found quite jarring. I know this is more an editing problem, but I think perhaps slightly more thorough proofreading was required because they were quite noticeable!

There was a LOT of romance in this book, which I didn’t mind because the chemistry between Dante and Tella was seriously strong, but I did feel like some of the romance plot could have been used to develop the relationship between the sisters on page, because much like in Caraval, it felt like we were only told how close Tella and Scarlett were as sisters and not really shown, and Tella’s romantic relationships kind of overshadow her relationship with her sister. I’m also worried we might be building towards a love triangle between Tella, Dante and Jacks (there were hints of it in this book) which I really don’t want because I still despise love triangles, even though I think this one could potentially be done well.

I was worried that having a second book set at a Caraval would be a bit boring and repetitive but the game is totally different this time around, so don’t worry too much about that, though I do wonder what will happen in the final book, since there’s no way there can be three Caravals in one year!

It was interesting to get more background on Scarlett and Tella’s mother (wow those two have seriously terrible parents!) and it will be interesting to see how everything plays out with her given the events of this book.

I wasn’t sure about Scarlett in this book, she’s more in the background, but she seemed to be doing a lot of shady stuff in this book and after what’s revealed about what she was doing at the end of the book, I’m not sure how I feel about her anymore, because what she’s doing….yeah it’s not great. I’ll be interested to see the fallout of her decisions in the next book and how it affects her relationship with her sister.

It felt like the Empress Elantine was a bit underutilized, she had the potential to be a really interesting character, but I wasn’t sure that she was used to her full effect.

We get some more insight into Legend’s identity this book, and I found the final “reveal” scene, a little bit anti-climactic because you’d essentially already been told before that point and it didn’t have the impact for me that I think Stephanie Garber intended. The resolution to everything felt a bit easy, I was really impressed with how Garber managed to keep the stakes high throughout the book and I was constantly worried for Tella, but the way everything resolved just felt a little too…..neat. I’m sure there’ll be some fallout from everything that happened in the next book, but for this one, the solution felt a little….deus ex machina-ey!

The ending…..wow! I have so many questions and theories about it, especially as to who the missing heir is, because I sense there is a lot more to that story and if my theory is correct then it could be pretty exciting. Stephanie Garber certainly knows how to end a book with a bang!

My Rating: 4.5/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-Tella and Aiko, the game’s cartographer, have a discussion about her mother’s history. Tella also talks with Empress Elantine about her mother.

My next review will be of my next YALC prep read (yes I am still doing that, I just took a break for a week), Radio Silence, by Alice Oseman.

 

Mid Year Book Freak Out Tag (2018)

It’s the middle of the year, so it’s now time to flail about how much of the year has gone already, how we don’t know how we got here, how many books we’ve read and how many we still have to read! I didn’t specifically get tagged for this by anyone, but I saw it on my friend Hannah’s blog and then on Cait’s over at Paper Fury and then basically everyone else seemed to be doing it, so I decided that I would jump on the bandwagon. Apparently this tag was originally created by Chami and Ely, so thanks guys!

Best Book You’ve Read So Far This Year

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I apologise in advance for using this book twice in one post, but it’s just that good! I enjoyed Caraval but this book is like a whole another level of amazing, we get Tella’s POV this time (and Tella is awesome) and the book is 10000 times more twisty and dark and amazing.

2. Best Sequel You’ve Read In 2018

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Yeah okay, I’m using it again, but this book is just really, really good okay!

3. New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

I’ve actually been doing okay with new releases so far this year, but there are still a few that I’m dying to read that I haven’t read yet:

37541828New Skulduggery Pleasant! Can you hear me squealing through the computer? AHHHHHHHHH!

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Everyone has been talking about this book, so I’m so excited to finally read it next month in the build up to YALC.

Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe, #2)I loved Scythe and after finally getting to meet Neal Shusterman back in March, I am super excited for his newest offering.

31076583Okay so technically I haven’t read the third book yet, but can you blame me for being excited for this one? JUST LOOK AT THAT COVER THOUGH.

4. Most Anticipated Release For The Second Half Of The Year

33590260THE LAST THRONE OF GLASS BOOK! MY HEART IS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS, I CANNOT DEAL!

40512862Why does Victoria Schwab have the most aesthetically beautiful covers in the history of all covers? I’ve read both her adult books and her YA books and I’m sure my first MG book from her will be just as wonderful as the rest.

Vengeful (Villains, #2)Okay so I technically haven’t read Vicious yet, but shush, shush, let me be excited for more Schwab.

36220335This just sounds like a deliciously different fantasy, I love the idea of a puppet master binding souls of the dead to puppets and its ownvoices for a bipolar character which I think is awesome because mental health is not discussed nearly enough in fantasy.

A Spark of LightJodi Picoult is one of my favourite authors, so of course I’m super excited to read her newest book when it comes out.

5. Biggest Disappointment

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You have no idea how much it hurts to type this, but Crooked Kingdom is my most disappointing read so far this year. It’s not that it was bad, but I was expecting to be five star flailing all over it and instead it was just…okay. So yeah, disappointed.

6. Biggest Surprise?

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I didn’t have any real expectations for this one, I thought it might like it, but I was surprised by how dark and twisty and different that this one was!

7. Favourite New To You/Debut Author?

Laura Steven

Laura Steven, I loved her debut, The Exact Opposite of Okay, it was super funny, plus timely and relevant and I’m looking forward to meeting her at YALC next month.

8. Newest Fictional Crush

Probably Dante from Legendary!

9. Newest Favourite Character

Okay I have two, so I’m cheating slightly but I don’t care! Izzy O’Neill from The Exact Opposite Okay because I swear if Izzy was real, we would probably be best friends and also Tella Dragna from Legendary because again, I could definitely imagine us being friends if she was real.

10. Book That Made You Cry

Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity, #2)

There are very few books that actually make me physically cry, but this one was definitely one of them, it was heartwrenching to read about Rose and the Rabbits’ experiences in Ravensbruck and knowing that real people actually had to go through that.

11. Book That Made You Happy

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I might have been a little disappointed with the plot and pacing of this one, but Rick Riordan’s books never fail to make me smile.

12. Favourite Book To Film Adaptation

Okay, I’m going to cheat a little and use Book To TV, because I’m like that, because I absolutely love what they’ve done with the A Series of Unfortunate Events Netflix adaptation, it’s SOOOOOOOOO much better than the rubbish film version with Jim Carrey.

13. Favourite Post You’ve Done This Year

I did a Writing Corner post this month all about my writing and editing process with my novel, This Is Not A Love Story and it was a great thing to write, to see how far I’ve come with it over the past couple of years. I’m looking forward to hopefully having a lot more subsequent posts about my journey as a writer and with TINALS.

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/16/writing-corner-on-this-is-not-a-love-story-the-writing-and-editing-process-so-far/

14. Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO CHOOSE? I HAVE ACQUIRED SO MANY PRETTY BOOK CHILDREN THIS YEAR. Okay, okay if you insist:

A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3.1)

I just can’t even with this book. Those colours, that border, that DRESS. Kudos to the cover designer because this book is gorgeous.

15. What books do you need to finish by the end of this year?
TOO MANY! Aside from the rest of the books on my #RockMyTBR list, I also need to read Tower of Dawn before the final Throne of Glass book comes out in October.

How has everyone else’s reading been going this year? What books are you guys desperate to finish by the end of the year? Let me know in the comments!

If you’re reading this, then consider yourself tagged.

Top Ten Tuesday #165

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Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, the UK is currently in the midst of our traditional summer heatwave and I feel like I’m constantly melting which is not great! Yes, I know the irony of complaining about not enough heat in France last week, and too much heat here this week, but I am British: complaining about the weather is a national pastime.

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday, we’re meant to be talking Series I’ve Given Up On/Don’t Plan To Finish, but I very rarely give up series and I didn’t really like the alternative suggestion of Series I’d Like To Finish Someday because I’m not really mid series of that many series right now, so instead I’m going to talk about my Top Ten Favourite Sequels instead. By sequels, I’m talking any subsequent instalment of a series, not just necessarily the second book. So here we go, my Top Ten Favourite Sequels:

  1. A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic #3)-V.E. Schwab

Honestly the entirety of Schwab’s trilogy is a masterpiece, so wonderfully plotted, the characters are amazing, the world is brilliant and immersive, I could go on and on and on. I was so hooked throughout this book, which is really hard to do in a 600+ page book, there was high stakes action, beautiful emotional scenes, great character dynamics, basically everything I wanted from a final book in a trilogy and more. I am so excited for the new Threads of Power trilogy, whenever it finally comes out!

2. The Song Rising (The Bone Season #3)-Samantha Shannon

The more streamlined, fast paced, focused plot definitely worked for me in this book, much as I enjoyed the first two, they were quite dense, this one was much more simple and straightforward which I enjoyed. I also loved Paige’s character development as she took on her new role as Underqueen and I liked seeing the expansion of the world as we citadels in Manchester and Edinburgh. I am super excited to get to go to Scion Paris in the next book!

3. Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass #3)-Sarah J Maas

Without a doubt my favourite book of the series so far, both Celaena and Dorian’s emotional journeys in this one are amazing and it’s the first book where we get to see the witches, including my favourite badass Manon, plus I’ve never had an ending of a book destroy me quite as much as this one, except perhaps the ending of Empire of Storms!

4. Undivided (Unwind #4)-Neal Shusterman

Often I’ve found that dystopian books let me down in the finale, not so here. The last Unwind book was just as exciting, creepy and emotional as all the others and it didn’t have to end in a violent war for Connor, Risa and Lev to get what they had been fighting for. It was the perfect culmination to an incredible series.

5. Chainbreaker (Timekeeper #2)-Tara Sim

If any of you have been sleeping on this series, then take this as your cue to do it no longer. It has everything, an awesome steam punk world, cute clock boys and the softest, sweetest m/m relationship. Daphne and Colton both have gorgeous arcs in this book and we get to see the alternative India of Sim’s world which was really cool.

6. The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4)-Maggie Stiefvater

AH I loved this book! Everything came full circle, the Gangsey were just amazing and I loved getting to see their beautiful friendship one more time and even though I was still left with unanswered questions after this book, I was also completely satisfied with how everything went down.

7. The House of Hades (Heroes of Olympus #4)-Rick Riordan

THERE WAS SO MUCH PERCABETH IN THIS BOOK IT WAS AMAZING! Okay though seriously, yes Percabeth’s arc is beautiful and brilliant but there is also great stuff from Nico in this book, Hazel got a really great arc, Leo got a really great story, basically it was light on Piper/Jason and heavy on the characters I actually liked, so of course I loved it.

8. The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and The Olympians #5)-Rick Riordan

This was such a good series ender book, there was everything I wanted, lots of battle action, much Percabeth (their first kiss may still be my favourite ever) and the way the prophecy that had been building since the first book unravelled was really good. Blood Of Olympus couldn’t even compared to this book.

9. The Last Stand of Dead Men (Skulduggery Pleasant #8)-Derek Landy

This is one of my favourite books of the Skulduggery Pleasant series, it and Dark Days are my top two. It’s actually more action packed and exciting than the 9th book in the series (which was the original finale, before the author started the continuation series), and we get to see all of Skulduggery’s friends working together, plus all of the Darquesse action that had been building up for the last few books comes to a head.

10. Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4)-JK Rowling

I know a lot of people say The Prisoner of Azkaban is their favourite book, and yes, I do love it, it’s definitely up there with the Harry Potter books I love, but The Goblet of Fire is my absolute favourite. I love the Triwizard Tournament and the Yule Ball, there are dragons and everything gets just a little bit darker, which of course I love. Plus we don’t yet have angsty Harry of The Order of The Phoenix.

Over to you! What are your favourite sequels? Have you read any of these? Did you like them? Let me know in the comments!

Next week’s topic is Red, White and Blue Covers in honour of the 4th July in the US, now obviously being in the UK, we don’t celebrate 4th July, but since the alternative is using your own country’s flag’s colours, it will still be Red, White and Blue covers I share, since that’s also the colours of the UK flags. In the meantime, I will be back on Thursday with a new book tag.

 

A Thousand Perfect Notes Review (e-ARC)

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Book: A Thousand Perfect Notes

Author: C.G. Drews

Published By: Orchard Books

Expected Publication: 7th June (whoops!)

Format: e-book

Thanks to Orchard Books and Netgalley for allowing me to read this book early. I have been following the author’s blog (PaperFury!) for the past couple of years and was really excited to read her debut novel, however, I would like to add that the fact that I like and follow the author’s blog had no bearing on my opinions of her novel, these are my honest opinions.

I knew one day I would probably be reviewing Cait’s book on my blog, but I had no idea it would be so soon. As soon as Cait announced her book deal, I was super excited to finally get the chance to read one of her books, and so naturally, I requested it as soon as it was available on UK Netgalley. I have to admit, I didn’t love this one quite as much as I was hoping to, it took me longer than it really should have for me to get into, given that this book is not even 300 pages long, the plot was a little sparse, the setting wasn’t entirely clear and it wasn’t even mentioned until right near the end of the book and there were certain aspects of the writing style I didn’t love. However, I did enjoy the characters and I thought the child abuse was handled thoughtfully and I could really feel for Beck’s pain, so it wasn’t entirely a loss, it just wasn’t quite as good as I was hoping for a book I’d been anticipating for quite a while. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

An emotionally charged story of music, abuse and, ultimately, hope.

Beck hates his life. He hates his violent mother. He hates his home. Most of all, he hates the piano that his mother forces him to play hour after hour, day after day. He will never play as she did before illness ended her career and left her bitter and broken. But Beck is too scared to stand up to his mother, and tell her his true passion, which is composing his own music – because the least suggestion of rebellion on his part ends in violence.

When Beck meets August, a girl full of life, energy and laughter, love begins to awaken within him and he glimpses a way to escape his painful existence. But dare he reach for it?

I will freely admit that my interest in this book came more from the fact that Cait was writing it than my interest in the topic, anyone who follows my blog knows that I’m not a massive contemporary YA fan, and although this book does fall on the darker side of contemporary YA that I tend to prefer, I think some of the problems I had with this book are issues I have with a lot of contemporary books, a lot of the time it doesn’t feel like there’s much happening and I don’t really find reading about people’s everyday lives engaging. It wasn’t really until the last couple of chapters of the book that I felt like things were really happening, so for about 75-80% of the book, I felt like I was just watching the characters go through the motions and wasn’t particularly engaged with what they were doing even if I liked them.

It also irritated me that for 90% of the book, I didn’t really know the setting? I actually thought it might be England for a bit, but then Beck doesn’t wear school uniform, so that wouldn’t work, I knew it wasn’t America because Beck refers to the Maestro as “mum” not “mom”, and then I figured Australia because that’s where the author is from, which turned out to be right, but I wish it had been clearer sooner as it’s kind of disconcerting reading a contemporary when you can’t figure out what the setting is.

I did like the characters. I could definitely feel for Beck and his struggle between wanting to protect his sister and therefore play the piano even though he hates it so his mother won’t hurt her and wanting to write his own music. It’s awful to see how low his self esteem is, and watch his mother reinforcing that. I did feel like as a character, he was a bit flat, but considering his home situation, that made sense and I kind of grew to love him anyway! Joey was without a doubt my favourite character in the book, she’s kind of vicious because of her abusive mother, but she’s also cute and likes pink, and glitter and chocolate and you can understand why Beck wants to protect her so much, their sibling relationship was one of my favourite parts of this book.

As for August, I’m kind of in two minds about her. In the beginning, she felt like just a classic hippy stereotype but I came to appreciate her more as the book goes on, she’s a genuinely nice and kind person and really just wants to help Beck out and her family were completely hilarious, it was nice to have a supportive family shown alongside Beck’s abusive mother, because it makes the contrast even sharper.

I liked seeing Beck and August’s friendship develop, they have great banter (Drews certainly has a talent for writing witty banter, something I always appreciate) and it’s nice to see Beck slowly open up more to August and end up developing a genuine connection with her. There’s hints of romance, but rest assured, this is not a love cures all situation and whilst August might give Beck a brief escape from his horrible home life, his relationship with her isn’t the solution to his home problems.

You could definitely feel Drews’ unique voice in there, though I don’t know if that’s just because I’ve been reading her blog for so long, though I can’t necessarily decide if that is a good thing or a bad thing, as oftentimes it feels like Drews, as the author is speaking to you, rather than the characters? I don’t know, it’s just something I noticed whilst I was reading.

I liked certain aspects of the writing, but not others. Drews definitely has a talent for writing dialogue, and the witty banter between the characters was a highlight of the book for me. But it felt like the writing was often a little overdramatic? There were a lot of overdrawn metaphors, and dramatic pauses with the sentences written down the pages and it just felt like a little …..much. Sometimes less is more and I felt like Drews went too far the other way with her writing.

Beck’s mother is an absolute monster and Drews definitely captures how scary and evil she is and you feel Beck’s fear every time she approaches him, not sure whether she’s going to hit her or not and I appreciated that Drews used a woman as the abuser in this story, because so often we see men as the abusers and we forget that women can be just as capable of abusing their children. It was horrible seeing what Beck and Joey went through. However, I felt like there could have been perhaps a little more nuance in her character? I haven’t experienced abuse myself (thankfully) but I feel like the reasons abusers are so good at hiding their abuse is because they aren’t always outwardly awful and although Drews did try to draw some nuance into the Maestro’s character, I reckon there could have been more.

There’s obviously a lot of trigger warnings for this book, as stated by the author, the book contains domestic violence, scenes with blood, self harm fantasies, child abuse and neglect. There’s also emotional abuse as well, so if you are sensitive to any of those things, then avoid this book, it is NOT a light, happy, fluffy book.

Music was almost another character in this book, and I loved that, even though I’m always a little wary reading about music, because it’s not quite the same as listening to it, but Drews showed both Beck’s obsession and hatred of music so well, everything in his life revolves around it, so it definitely feels like another character in the book, even if all the stuff about classical musicians meant very little to me, given that my only experience of playing music was several years of playing clarinet (quite badly) at school!

The chapters were a little long, which considering not much was happening for most of the book contributed to me finding it hard to get into.

I felt like the ending was kind of rushed? I was finally starting to get into things and then it was over! I did like the ending, that it wasn’t a happily ever after for Beck, but that despite being kind of sad, it was still hopeful. So that was good, but it did feel like it came kind of abruptly!

Overall, this was a decent debut, and I reckon if I hadn’t had such high expectations of the book because I’ve been anticipating reading a book by Cait for so long, I might have liked it more. As it is, I was just expecting a bit more from this, especially given how much people were raving about it, but for the most part I found the plot kind of lacking, and although I liked the characters, that wasn’t enough to carry the story for me. I think Cait will definitely go from strength to strength as she writes more and that this was just a starting point and it was by no means bad, it just didn’t blow me away either.

My rating: 3.5/5 (would have been 3 but I added an extra .5 for the last 15%)

BECHDEL TEST: FAIL-There are three named characters, August, Joey and Ida (the Maestro) but since Joey is five, she doesn’t really have more than a sentence or two conversations with anyone and August and Ida barely interact.

My next review will be of Legendary, the sequel to Caraval by Stephanie Garber.

 

Things A Bright Girl Can Do Review

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Book: Things A Bright Girl Can Do

Author: Sally Nicholls

This book is the first of my YALC prep books, as the author is going to be at YALC this year and I was planning on read this book this year anyway, since it was the centenary of The Representation of The People Act 1918, which gave women over 30 and female graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, as well as all men, the right to vote. I was really excited to read this book, as I love the suffragettes and did a whole module on gender in Britain in this time period for one of my history modules last year, but I was slightly disappointed that actually this book is less about the suffragettes and more about the British war effort, which wasn’t exactly what I picked the book up for? The book started out strong, but as soon as it got into the war parts, it felt kind of clunky and the plot was a little sparse. As an introduction to the suffragettes, this book does alright, but for me, someone who already knows quite a lot about the movement, I found it a bit lacking in places. Here is a short synopsis of the book:

Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women’s freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who’s grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice?

This story follows three girls during their fight for suffrage and WWI, each from a different class and family background, and the different reasons they have for wanting the vote and the methods they use to obtain it. In this respect, the book does well, seeing three young women of varying classes using different ways to fight for the vote is interesting and it’s also interesting to see how obtaining the vote would have a different impact on each of them. However one of the major flaws in this book is that there is no crossover between Evelyn and the two other girls! May literally gives Evelyn a handbill at the beginning of the book and that is all, she never crosses paths with Evelyn again and Nell never even meets her! Whilst that might be because of their family backgrounds, because Evelyn’s story is so separate from May and Nell’s, it makes the transitions between chapters seem kind of clunky,

Speaking of major flaws, there is a glaring omission of WOC in this book, and considering there was quite a big contingent of Indian suffragettes in the UK, it seems odd that there is only one passing mention of an Indian suffragette in the book. It would have been really interesting to see the struggles of women of colour in the suffrage movement and the fact that they aren’t there? Yup it definitely raised my eyebrows a bit, because the suffrage movement was not just a white women movement.

Evelyn was probably my favourite character in the book, I could relate to her most strongly, I reckon if I had been a girl in the 1910s, Evelyn is probably closest to who I would be. She wants the vote because she wants the same access to education that her brother has and feels it unfair that she is denied because she is a girl. She can come across as a little immature and naive at times, but I think that’s quite natural given her age and upbringing. Reading about her hunger strike was so harrowing. However, after the war starts, Evelyn’s storyline spins away from her education and more towards her romance with Teddy, which I didn’t love, not because I didn’t like her and Teddy together (I actually thought Teddy was quite sweet) but given how hard she fought to get her education, I would have liked to have seen more of her at Oxford.

May was perhaps my least favourite of the three, like Evelyn, she’s kind of headstrong and passionate, but she’s the sort of person whose views are so deeply entrenched that trying to talk to her if you have different views is like banging up against a brick wall, so I felt quite sorry for Nell in that respect. May is also quite immature and she seems to have blinkers on for a lot of the book, thinking that her way of seeing the world is the only way that’s right. She improved towards the end of the book, but by that time it was kind of too late for me to really like her.

In terms of storyline, Nell’s is probably the most interesting of the three and the one where we get to see the worst impact of the war. It was horrifying for me to read her chapters, where her family were practically starving and she’s so desperate to try and get a job to help them out, but no one will hire her because she dresses like a boy. I felt like I could really root for Nell because I could see how much she wanted to help her family. I felt awful for Nell when May was being a total brat about her getting a job to help her family because the job was involved in the war effort. It was also really heartening for me to see where Nell ended up at the end of the book.

There is some LGBTQ+ rep as May is a lesbian, sapphic and Nell…..well it’s a little more difficult to say what Nell is, as she reads as trans or potentially non-binary, it’s not explicitly stated, but she does express feelings of questioning her gender so I feel like defining her relationship with May as a “gay” one might be wrong, I don’t know! Anyway, so there’s LGBTQ+ rep and as far as I can tell, it’s pretty good, though there is obviously some internalised homophobia because of the time period. I also felt like May and Nell kind of rushed into a relationship and it always feels like May is more into it than Nell is, though seeing that it makes what happens later understandable.  It was also nice to see a teen relationship in a book that didn’t end in “true love forever” and a break up that was relatively healthy and the two characters moved on with their lives and weren’t necessarily pining for each other years later. There was also some good PTSD rep with exploring how Teddy (and by extension Evelyn) dealt with coming home from the war.

The chapter lengths were nice, pretty much all under twenty pages and a variation of some longer ones and some shorter ones which I liked. I liked the quirky little chapter titles as well, referencing something that was said or something that happened in the chapter, I thought that was cool-I love chapter titles, I wish more books had them!

Like I said at the start, I would have loved to see more stuff with the suffragettes and maybe less of the war as I found the suffragette stuff more engaging than the war stuff and that was more what I was expecting and the plot felt a little sparse during the war years. The language also takes a bit of getting used to as the characters either speak in a very old fashioned formal way (Evelyn and to an extent May) or in an old fashioned cockney way (Nell).

The ending is kind of anticlimactic, we end abruptly at the 1918 act that allows some women the vote, but we barely get to see the character’s reactions to that or the fallout for them. I wished we could have seen what happened to Evelyn post 1917, we get to see Nell and May react to the 1918 vote but we barely get to see Evelyn’s reaction.

Overall, this was a good introductory book for people who want to learn about the suffragettes and WWI but I would definitely recommend it more for younger teens as the writing style is quite simplistic, and it doesn’t really go very in depth on the suffrage movement. It was a decent enough book but wasn’t quite what I was expecting and could have been improved with more focus on the suffrage movement, the inclusion of WOC and more focus on Evelyn’s education.

My Rating: 3/5

BECHDEL TEST: PASS-May and Nell talk about many things that are not to do with men and Evelyn talks to her fellow suffragettes about actions they take part in.

My next review will be my e-ARC of A Thousand Perfect Notes, a little later than planned, but ah well!

Quarterly Rewind (March-June ’18 edition)

Hi everyone! The last few months have just sped by (why does January seem to last forever and then the rest of the year goes by in a flash, I don’t understand!) and as today is the official beginning of summer, it’s time for me to do another Quarterly Rewind, a feature started by Jamie over at The Perpetual Page Turner, where we look back at the season just gone and look forward to all the things we have coming up during the next season. This post will cover 20th March-21st June:

Image from this Spring:

la famille

The whole Elliott clan soaking up what little sun there was in France!

Favourite Quote from a book you read this Spring:

“You see, some people are born with a piece of night inside, and that hollow place can never be filled – not with all the good food or sunshine in the world. That emptiness cannot be banished, and so some days we wake with the feeling of the wind blowing through, and we must simply endure it as the boy did.”  -The Language of Thorns, Leigh Bardugo

I just thought this particular quote was so beautiful and this book was one of my favourite ones I read this Spring.

This Spring In One Word:

Busy!

Most Popular Review This Spring:

I’ve read 12 books in the period this rewind covers (I know, go me!) and have reviewed all but the most recent one I read. Unsurprisingly, given how popular the Grishaverse is, my most popular review this spring was Crooked Kingdom. Here is my review of it, if you want to check it out:

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/11/crooked-kingdom-six-of-crows-2-review/

Top Two Books This Spring:

I still haven’t had any 5 star books this year, everything I read this Spring kind of settled in the 3-4 star range, but there have still been some books that I’ve really enjoyed among them. These are the two that standout amongst the rest:

  1. The Language of Thorns-Leigh Bardugo-My highest rated book this spring, this collection of short stories was exactly what I needed during my exams, and I loved the dark, twisted, Grisha take on some classic fairytales.
  2. Daughter of The Burning City-Amanda Foody-I’ve been having a really good streak with Carnival/Circus Style YA recently and this one definitely added to it. I loved the unique combination of fantasy/murder mystery and thought the illusions were really awesome.

Two Things I’m Looking Forward To This Summer:

  1. YALC-AHHH! My fourth year of going to YALC is going to be this summer and I’m just as excited as ever. Though I won’t get to see my fave, VE Schwab this year, there are still several authors that I’m really excited to see and YALC is always my favourite weekend of the summer, so rest assured I am counting down the days!
  2. The Guilty Feminist at The Edinburgh Fringe-This year marks two firsts, my first time seeing a live recording of The Guilty Feminist podcast and my first time at the Edinburgh Fringe (which I somehow still haven’t been to, even after three years of studying in Scotland) and I am super excited for both things.

Three New Obsessions This Spring:

  1. The Hamilcast-I just started listening to this in May and YOU GUYS, WHY DID YOU NOT TELL ME ABOUT THIS BEFORE? If you are a Hamilton nerd and you haven’t listened to this podcast yet, then please do, Gillian is awesome and she’s spoken to so many cast members of Hamilton and it’s just such fun and AHHH, New Podcast Obssession!
  2. Riverdale-I shouldn’t love this, it’s ridiculously soapy and dramatic, and yet? I am totally addicted. Whoops.
  3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt-I wasn’t so keen on the most recent season, but I sped through the first three seasons in the first couple of days in May. Drunk therapist Tina Fey is now my official new favourite Tina Fey.

Five Most Popular Blog Posts This Spring:

As usual, my five most popular blog posts this Spring were all Top Ten Tuesday posts:

  1. Top Ten Tuesday #158-I wasn’t actually expecting this one to be the top post of this Spring, but you guys clearly like your pretty covers! This topic was all about talking about books with your favourite colour on the cover, so I shared a lot of pretty purple covers.

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/08/top-ten-tuesday-158/

2. Top Ten Tuesday #160-This topic was all about sharing your favourite character names, so I shared 10 awesome female characters whose names I absolutely love. I usually spend more time ribbing on character names than admiring them, so it was nice to share the love for once!

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/top-ten-tuesday-160/

3. Top Ten Tuesday #157-This topic was all about books that we would love to be able to read early! Sadly the book gods have not smiled on me, as I only have the books that have been released since I made that post and have not got early copies of any of the later releases…..yet.

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/01/top-ten-tuesday-157/

4. Top Ten Tuesday #164-This was this week’s TTT, where I talked all about the books that I’m planning to read this summer, and since posting, I’ve actually finished one of the books and started another, so the summer TBR is definitely off to a good start!
https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/06/19/top-ten-tuesday-164/

5. Top Ten Tuesday #154-This is a TTT from way back at the end of April, where I talked about books I will probably never reread.

https://jjbookblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/top-ten-tuesday-154/

Four Posts I’ve Enjoyed on Other Blogs This Spring:

  1. Lefty Reads did a discussion post about being an awkward age in the YA community, which is definitely something I’ve been feeling over the past few years as I’ve left my teens and am now into my twenties, but I still don’t really feel like an adult yet.

https://leftyreads.wordpress.com/2018/04/30/discussion-an-awkward-age-in-the-ya-book-community/

2. Lacy Literary did a discussion post about why they resent Indie bookstores, because of snobbery surrounding stocking romance novels in them, and although, as anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I don’t read romance novels, book snobbery is an awful thing and a lot of the snobbery surrounding romance novels is misogyny because it is a market dominated by women, so I thought their discussion post was really interesting.

Why We Resent Indie Bookstores.

3. Aoife at Pretty Purple Polka Dots did this really fun post about Things You’ll Know If You Date A Bookworm (so basically pretty much a guide for any of our future partners) and every single item is so true! Sorry future boyfriend, I will love my books more than I love you!

https://prettypurplepolkadots.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/things-youll-know-if-you-date-a-bookworm/

4. Grace at Almost Amazing Grace (you all know Grace Latter right? If you don’t then you should) did a post about her journey with her brain tumour, and although it’s technically from last month’s rewind period, I wanted to include it here because I thought it was a really inspiring and well written piece.

http://www.almostamazinggrace.co.uk/2018/03/stable-angry-and-proud.html

Five Things That Happened This Spring:

  1. I finished my third year of University! I’ve officially only got one year left to go now, and I kind of can’t believe that? On the one hand, the fact that by this time next year I’ll be a week away from graduating is pretty cool, but on the other hand, WHAT? I am not ready to be a fully fledged adult, please don’t make me!
  2. I finished the first round of revisions on my novel This Is Not A Love Story (you can check out my post about it under the Writing Corner tab), I’m just waiting for my edits back from my critique partner Katie and whilst I’m waiting, I’m going to be working on TINALS’ sequel, which I just started yesterday!
  3. I went out to France with my family for a short holiday.
  4. I got elected Fundraiser of my university’s Equestrian Club, so I’m going to be on the committee for my final year, which is pretty cool.
  5. I wrote my 50th article for The National Student!

Six Songs I Listened To Way Too Often This Spring:

  1. Nobody Needs To Know-The Last Five Years-I have a newfound appreciation for this song, even though Jamie Wellerstein is an ass.
  2. The Other Side-The Greatest Showman-Yes I am still addicted to The Greatest Showman soundtrack, no I do not have any intention of changing that anytime soon.
  3. The Room Where It Happens-Hamilton-This one comes up quite often on my running playlist and that pleases me much.
  4. If I Didn’t Believe In You-The Last Five Years-Yet another song from The Last Five Years that shows that Jamie Wellerstein is an ass.
  5. The Schmuel Song-The Last Five Years-A seven minute masterpiece!
  6. This Is Me-The Greatest Showman-You can expect to see this song on this list for the foreseeable future most likely!

So there you go guys, that’s my Quarterly Rewind for Spring! What have you most enjoyed on my blog this Spring? What have you been up to? What are you looking forward to for the summer (books or otherwise)? Let me know in the comments!