Alex & Eliza by Melissa de la Cruz

Disclaimer: I had the entire Hamilton soundtrack in my head the entire time I read this.


Alex & Eliza is the (embellished) story of how Alexander Hamilton and Elizabeth Schuyler met and fell in love. Those of you unaware of these two characters – go and listen to the Hamilton soundtrack from start to finish, now.

I got this book as an early copy during YALC and because it has a gorgeous cover – it’s a beautiful pearlescent pink with a subtle pattern that looks like old wallpaper (it looks good, I promise!).

I really enjoyed this book – it’s a historical novel, where Melissa de la Cruz has taken some creative liberty to tell the story of how Alex and Eliza met and fell in love. I believe not much is known about this time so I think this story is more fiction than non-fiction, but it was enjoyable (if you take it with a pinch of salt, of course!). It’s set in the late 1700s in the recently-formed United States of America, and it’s full of historical setting and backstory which I really liked (although sometimes it did read like an infodump).

What I didn’t get when I picked up this book is what story it was going to tell – this isn’t a novelisation of Hamilton the musical, it’s set in the early years of Hamilton’s career when he meets and marries Eliza. I thought this book might be set over the years of their marriage but it ends with their wedding day (hopefully not a spoiler that they get married!).

I was a little disappointed with the characters of Angelica and Peggy who are much more fun in the musical, but overall it was an enjoyable read and one that will look very nice on my shelf!

annalsie

A Change Is Gonna Come – #ChangeBook


#ChangeBook is the breath of fresh air the publishing industry needs right now. It’s a collection of short stories and poems from 12 BAME authors centred around the theme of ‘change’ – four of those authors are unpublished and ones to watch out for.

I bought this book because I think it’s important to send out a message to the publishing industry that we need more diverse books, more BAME authors. A bonus was the amazing stories inside, which were exactly what I was looking for – stories about cultures other to my own, that weren’t too focused on themes such as gang culture and violence. I loved that there’s a real selection of female BAME voices here, and I’d love to see more and more in future.

Every single story in here is absolutely fantastic, covering topics that are regularly in the media nowadays – mental health, grief, sexuality, gender, racism.

My absolute favourite story in here has to be Mary Bello’s Dear Asha, but I enjoyed every single story in it’s own right, and can’t wait to read more from these authors.

Get down to your nearest bookstore and grab a copy of #ChangeBook – you won’t regret it.

annalsie

MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

MOXIE GIRLS FIGHT BACK!


I just loved this book…

I bought Moxie a few weeks ago, and after a Twitter poll earlier this week, my followers decided it should be my next read. This was a book I spotted in WH Smith a few weeks ago when the #Zoellabookclub was announced and had decided it wasn’t my cup of tea – but then I heard good things and picked it up along with After The Fire by Will Hill the week before YALC. Proof copies were available at YALC (for a book that is technically still not out yet but exclusive to WH Smith…

Then last week I caved and bought a Kindle (my old Kindle broke a few years ago!) and I saw that Moxie was 99p. To save myself carrying around Moxie, I bought the Kindle edition and let me tell you now… go buy it. It’s 99p. And this book is amazing.

Vivian Carter is fed up of her sexist high school – all the money being funnelled into the boys’ football team, the sexist dress codes, the ‘gross comments from guys during class’ being unpunished. Inspired by her mum, a former punk rock Riot Grrrl, Viv creates Moxie, a feminist zine, which she posts in girls’ bathrooms around her school. Soon, Moxie is taking off, and the girls at her school start to stand up and shout out the sexism around them.

I loved the portrayals of friendship and family in this story – I thought Viv’s mum’s new relationship and previous history as a Riot Grrrl were great and made you think, particularly about being in a relationship with someone with differing political views, and adjusting to life back in a small town after a wild and adventurous youth. I also loved how Viv was very similar to her mum and inspired by her – I thought this made the characters so much more realistic (and I always love present parents in YA!).

I was a little conflicted about the relationship in the book – I think it served a purpose of talking about how men can be feminists too, and nobody can be a perfect feminist, but I’m also tired of very heterosexual relationships being a mainstay of YA! This book could have easily stood up without the romance – and Seth was a little too classic swoony book boyfriend for me.

The feminism in this book was done well – I really related to the girls’ issues at school with sexist dress codes (having had one at school myself!) and nobody was a perfect feminist. Viv’s best friend also shunned feminism which I thought was a nice touch (and another example of characters with differing political views managing to get along and understand each other!).

I also loved the portrayal of American high schools in this novel – it was so enjoyable in addition to being a very important book.

The drawings inside (the Moxie Zines) added some more fun to this novel and they were perfect for this novel!

One gripe I do have is about the cover – I love the design but the finish of the UK cover (at least the Zoella edition) is matte and papery to make it more like a zine – but despite having not read the paperback, my book has started to look a bit tatty!

This book is so inspiring and thought-provoking (it handles a lot of interesting arguments about feminism today very well) that I must implore you to go out and read it. Now.

annalsie

YALC, ARCs, and other Acronyms

Afternoon readers (or whatever time it is where you are),

Inspired by the brilliant @hollieeblog, I thought I’d talk about some of my hang ups from last weekend – YALC 2017. Now, I love going to YALC, meeting up with existing friends, making new friends, and generally sharing my love for books with so many people who make the YA community great. The panels and workshops are so inspiring, that they make me want to revitalize my blog and write one or two thousand bestselling novels.  YALC is consistently one of the best weekends of the year for me.

However, it would be wrong to say that it is not without its flaws, and I thought I’d discuss them here in more detail.

Cost

This one is pretty unavoidable, but the sheer cost of getting to YALC is fairly large – a hotel booking during the weekend in the summer in Central London is likely to set you back a few hundred pounds. The ticket itself is £56 (I think!) which isn’t badly priced, but the cost of food, drink, travel, etc. add up quickly and so maybe YALC isn’t as accessible to everyone as it could be, especially to teenagers from outside London. I think moving YALC would mean fewer authors and fewer attendees, but I’d love to see YALC North emerging in the future to offer a lower cost option bringing the YA Community together. I would also recommend YAShot (April 2018)!

LFCC itself isn’t cheap – meeting the celebrities and getting autographs adds up very quickly. I didn’t get any photos or autographs this year (although I did see Benedict Cumberbatch, Pamela Anderson and Natalie Dormer around the YALC floor…) but if this is something you’re interested in, prepare to save up.

Accessibility

I’ve heard a few horror stories about accessibility this year, with LFCC not responding to emails and queue-jump wristbands for those who simply cannot queue running out. I am by no means an expert on accessibility but there were two issues for me: 1. seating and general comfortableness, and 2. the ableist ways of getting proofs/ARCs/goodies.

YALC is generally the best floor to be on for those with social anxiety and claustrophobia – the lower floors can be overwhelming, but YALC (for the past two years, at least) has had wide open spaces and quiet areas. The problem this year was that there was little seating, and I was sat down for a large proportion of the event. The seating in the panel area itself was uncomfortable so I didn’t attend many panels, but the other option of the thinly carpeted concrete floor was little better. Better seating helps everyone – and it also allows new conversations to start up rather than joining a large spread of people complaining about sitting on the floor.

This year there was a mad rush for proof giveaways – and some publishers more than others gave their proofs away first come first serve, or made attendees do silly challenges. The ability to run (and to run fast) was required to have a chance on getting most of the ARCs – and the challenges often required you to find a partner (and as someone who came to YALC alone in her first year, that thought terrifies me!) or throw your dignity out of the window.

ARCs/Proofs

There were a lot of highly anticipated proofs this year at YALC which was exciting, but made me anxious all week thinking about how upset I would have been if I had missed out (not my best trait!).

ARCs really do bring out the worst in people – for some, there was queuing for five hours instead of enjoying the panels, there was shoving and elbowing, there was confronting other people in queues. I’ve been very very disappointed in those who attended YALC, took multiple copies of the limited proofs on offer, then proceeded to trade them away almost immediately – that isn’t the spirit of the bookish community, especially when many book lovers have paid a considerable amount to attend and possibly get a copy of their favourite author’s next book.

This behaviour was more prevalent when proofs were limited – and I think there’s an onus on publishers to expect high demand for proofs and limit the damage. Making giveaways of proofs fairer (BKMRK and Chicken House did this particularly well) and reducing the anxiety of attempting to get a proof would go down very well next year.

I’d also like to see a reduction in the use of Twitter to announce giveaways – carrying around a charger and using up all the data in my plan shouldn’t be the way to enjoy YALC. Publishers announcing giveaways during popular panels is also annoying!

Lack of Blogger focus

Now, I’m not saying I only want ARCs to go to the most prolific bloggers – but I feel there needs to be more emphasis on why proofs are given out at these events, and that is to ensure reviews and buzz pre-publication. My first YALC two years ago had some brilliant events about blogging and vlogging that inspired me to set up this very blog, and to discover this amazing community. I felt this year it would be easy to attend YALC without even hearing the words ‘book blogging’.

I’d love to see YALC switch its focus a little from authors to bloggers/bookstagrammers/booktubers.

Part of this is because just by the very nature of a UKYA event, a lot of the authors have attended YALC before. They are all amazing and brilliant and interesting speakers, but it’s rare to have an author who you won’t bump into at another event in the next year (which was good for me as I brought very few books to be signed!).

A more blogger-focused event would inspire more bloggers, inspire existing bloggers and ensure more buzz around certain books. I’d love to see publishers fully embracing this and setting up ‘bookstagram’ areas where you can snap a picture of your new book, for example. I love YALC, but I love it because I can meet up with my favourite online friends away from the keyboard – and I’d love to be able to meet online friends a little less awkwardly!

 

Apologies for the overly negative post – I’d love to hear your thoughts on the weekend, what went well and what didn’t, and whether you agree with mine!

annalsie

 

 

Review and Blog Tour Stop: Dare to Fall by Estelle Maskame


**Disclaimer: Review Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**


First things first… that cover. It’s amazing and beautiful and the kind of book that should be facing outwards on your bookshelf, no?

Thank you to Ink Road Books for sending me a beautiful finished copy of Dare to Fall and for letting me host one of the stops on the blog tour!

Dare to Fall is the fourth book by Estelle Maskame, who is still a teenage writing sensation, and author of the DIMILY (Did I Mention I Love You?) series. I’ve read the first book of that trilogy, with books 2 and 3 on my TBR – but when Dare to Fall landed on my doorstep, I couldn’t resist diving into Estelle’s new novel.


Dare to Fall is the story of MacKenzie, who only last year was falling in love with the gorgeous Jaden Hunter. Then his parents died in a horrific car crash, and MacKenzie walked away from what could have been, Jaden and his sister Danielle – because she knew grief, and she couldn’t cope with being around two grieving friends. Now, one year later, she ends up bumping into Jaden for the first time in months, and Kenzie has to face her fear of being around Jaden – but will she dare to fall for him?

I loved this book – Estelle’s writing is wonderful, really easy to read and the perfect ‘guilty pleasure’ romance but in depth enough that I felt sucked into Kenzie’s world. I was impressed that Estelle tackled some really serious issues in this book – grief, alcoholism, death – without this book being too depressing – and the romance was still great, too. These topics were really well written. This book reminded me of The Truth about Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout – except this one was much better.

If you’re looking for a beautiful book covering romance and some more serious issues, look no further. I look forward to Estelle’s future novels and need to get reading her previous books!

YALC 2017: The Wrap-Up

Dear readers,

Last weekend was the highlight of the year: YALC. The Young Adult Literature Convention. In London. Every year, the UK (and European!) book community descends on the Olympia Conference Centre to celebrate all things book.


Thursday

Every year, a group of us get together for #cafeya organised by the wonderful Karen (@karenbultiauw) and Demet (@books_polished). I met my bestest YALC friends this way last year and it was great to be back at Holland Park Cafe to catch up and plan our attack for YALC. As well as old friends, it was great to meet new faces – I heavily recommend joining in next year, as meeting up beforehand on the Thursday means you have friends to queue with, eat lunch with, sit around with all weekend… During the meetup, the heavens opened and my trainers turned into puddles – and while we were walking to a nearby pub, we were hit with a spot of torrential rain. The British Summer, eh?

Friday


Friday was the first official day of YALC. Waking up at the crack of dawn, I headed over to Olympia and the VIP YALC queue at 8am, to be greeted with people already queuing?! I had expected to be the first in the queue! Laden with food, a few books, my battery pack and a phone with notifications for ALL PUBLISHERS turned on, I stood in the queue counting down the minutes until YALC officially begun. Kalie (@abitkales) hit the My Kinda Book stand first for the elusive There’s Someone Inside Your House proofs by Stephanie Perkins then whipped round the other stands – my arms were aching with books before I’d even had chance to grab my YALC tote bag!

The first (and only, for me) panel of the day was Heroine with Mel Salisbury, Amy Alward, Laura Eve, Sophia Bennett and Alwyn Hamilton, chaired by the wonderful Anna James (who has a book coming out herself this autumn) – this was a great panel that was funny and filled with feminism. I didn’t go to many panels this weekend, but the ones I did attend I was very glad I did. I was very tired all weekend and so I wasn’t as focused as I could have been!

Friday was a great day for proofs and new releases alike – I grabbed copies of The Loneliest Girl In The Universe by Lauren James (review coming soon…) and A Change Is Gonna Come (#ChangeBook), a BAME anthology I just know I am going to love. I also got an early copy of Daughter of the Burning City from the HQ stand, Alex and Eliza from MyKindaBook (which as a huge Hamilton fan, I am looking forward to!) and Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin, which I read and loved last year, but didn’t have a final copy of. I knew Wolf by Wolf would sell out before Ryan’s signing on Sunday, so needed to grab a copy fast!

Friday was also characterized by frequent spottings of Pamela Anderson of Baywatch fame, and ended with a trip to the in-house Pizza Express with Kalie, Lily and Ellen.

Saturday

Saturday was another early start, getting to the queue again for 8am. I was exhausted. Properly, considering going home and sleeping all weekend, exhausted. I soldiered through,  sitting on the luxurious pavement outside Olympia, dreaming of the exclusive YALC proofs inside. Except, when we got to the YALC floor, there were no proofs to be seen. *sob*. Obviously, proofs are a huge bonus, but it was a little disappointing to be so tired and to have been waiting for so long for nothing. Alas, I spent my morning wandering around the stalls, scoping out books to buy and caving into Kalie’s suggestion of purchasing The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (which I am now very excited to read!).

Now, at 11.30am, I took part in a stunt with Hot Key Books – I was given a blonde wig and sunglasses and a t-shirt and went around YALC in disguise – although apparently I was still recognisable – handing out ‘US Passports’ or samplers of E Lockhart’s new book, Genuine Fraud. In exchange, I got to sit at the front of the E Lockhart panel with Holly Bourne – which was amazing, by the way – her definition of young adult was *so* on point. Essentially, she said where a mystery is defined as a book where there’s a terrible murder, YA is a book where a character grows or goes through a transformation of some sorts – I think, do not quote me on this! Afterwards, I got my brand new copy of We Were Liars signed by E Lockhart and I can’t wait to dive into the extra content (also, it’s a beautiful new edition.)


I headed from YALC fairly early as I went to see Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour in the evening – but not before purchasing a candle I am obsessed with, Butter Beer from Geeky Clean. If you haven’t checked out her products, what are you waiting for?!

Sunday

On Sunday, I waddled over to YALC with my suitcase full of books, my backpack full of books, my tote bag full of books, and a tote bag full of snacks.

My only panel of Sunday was Writing for Social Change, which I loved and was so inspiring – I need to get on and write my novel! Catherine Barter, Nikki Sheehan and Ryan Graudin were so inspiring, and Non Pratt (with newly-shaved head!) was a wonderful host, as always. Afterwards, I got my books signed by Ryan (including a proof of her upcoming book, Invictus!) and then headed down with Kalie to the LFCC marketplace to look at the funkos and alpacas.

I got some amazing pieces of art for my wall – there’s some really cool stuff on sale at Comic Con, although of course all the real fun is upstairs at YALC.

I stayed around for the end of YALC, picking up some more books – Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index and Now I Rise from the Penguin stand’s 3 for £10 offer.

 Now… time for the book haul:


Overall, YALC was a great weekend – although I’ll be talking about what could make it even better next year in a future post!

Did you attend YALC? Please share your own wrap-ups and thoughts – and tweet me at @annalisebooks!

annalsie

 

Review: One Of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus

Ooh, I am finally writing a new review.

So, I picked up One Of Us Is Lying a few weeks ago from Waterstones Piccadilly, breaking my great YA book buying ban. I’ve been carrying it around for about a week, and then, today, I read most of it (and finished it, yay!).

This is a murder mystery that is essentially Pretty Little Liars meets Gossip Girl meets The Breakfast Club. Our four main characters (and we see from each of their perspectives throughout the novel) are all forced into detention with Simon, the school’s Gossip Girl – he runs a gossip app that has never failed to be true. Suddenly, he drops dead. Our main characters are the main suspects in a murder enquiry, and he had dirt on each of them – dirt none of them wants getting out. Our characters deal with the fallout of Simon’s death each in their own way, whilst trying to figure out who dunnit.

This book did take me a while to get into, but once I did, I couldn’t stop reading. I also didn’t guess the ending, but it wasn’t a horrible shock (cough Pretty Little Liars cough) and it felt believable. I liked the use of technology in this book that other authors shy away from, and although the characters did feel cliché at times, that’s because they are clichés (geek, jock, stoner, princess) but they did start to feel more rounded as we went through the novel.

All the characters had believable back stories, parents, families and hobbies, which I really liked – the characters felt fleshed out. I also felt this book was the perfect length at 360 pages, and kept me guessing until the very end!

This is one beautiful book (with foil title and red sprayed pages) that I’m really glad I picked up.

On Hardcovers

I’m currently in a book slump, where instead of reading, I’ve been binging Season 5 of Orange is the New Black. Which is no bad thing, except tomorrow I’m off on my holidays and I have no idea what I want to read (and whether I’ll still want to read it when I’m there!).

So over the past few months, I’ve acquired a stack of beautiful hardcovers. I love hardcovers. Some of my most beautiful books are hardcovers. (I mean, have you seen the UK edition of Strange the Dreamer?) 😍

But I can’t fully commit to reading a hardcover book, because I don’t want to carry it to work and back everyday, and they’re awkward to read lying down in bed. So I’m stuck wondering when I will get to read my beautiful hardcover stories).

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met Rishi
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Copy received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

Whew, where do I start with this one? I loved it.

When Dimple Met Rishi has been on my must-have releases of 2017 since I first heard of this book. This is the story of Dimple, an aspiring coder, who finally convinces her parents to let her go to Insomnia Con, a 6 week programme for coders, before she heads off to Stanford in the autumn. What Dimple doesn’t know is that her parents have only let her go so she can meet Rishi, a boy they approve of and wish for her to marry.

First things first, I loved the Indian references in this book – Dimple and Rishi are both Indian-American and I feel like I learned a lot about their culture just reading this book, from Bollywood references to the expectations placed on Dimple and Rishi by their respective families. And talking of their families, this is one YA book with realistic and present families throughout.

Dimple is a great character – she doesn’t conform with society’s expectations of her, shunning makeup and even traditional Indian clothes, and she is confident that she doesn’t want a boyfriend and wants to focus on her career. Rishi is also fully fleshed-out – he’s a hopeless romantic and traditionalist who has his heart set on marrying Dimple before he’s even met her. He’s also destined to study computer science, despite his love for comic artistry.

I loved the fact that this book is the older end of YA – Dimple and Rishi are both spending their summer before college/university at Insomnia Con. I loved the feel and tone of the book; it’s really something special, and it has that summery first-taste-of-freedom element to it.

If you like YA contemporary, this is a gorgeous summer romance that brings something new and refreshing to the YA table, and it has to be one of my favourite releases of the year so far.

View all my reviews

annalsie

If Noah Can’t Even were a TV Show…

It’s Thursday 18th May and it is my turn to host the Noah Can’t Even Blog Tour! Thank you to Scholastic for inviting me to participate and Simon James Green for writing the book and this blog post!

 

If Noah Can’t Even was a TV show…

This is good fun! What if Noah Can’t Even was a TV show? Who would my dream cast be? Casting a TV show is actually quite a long and complicated process, so I’m going mainly on visual references here, or actors I’ve seen play similar types of role, who I love.

Noah

The casting of Noah would be crucial. In my head, he looks a bit like Asa Butterfield – especially in shots where he’s wearing glasses. Noah is geeky, but sweet, with dark hair – and, of course, he’s a bright, intelligent boy. Asa’s maybe a little younger than 16 in some of these pics, but you get the idea…

asa-butterfield
Harry

Harry’s a bit taller than Noah, has slightly cooler hair, and, as Noah mentions, ‘the beginnings of proper arm muscles.’ He’s a real ‘boy next door’ type – very sweet, with beautiful eyes. I’m thinking someone a bit like Logan Lerman – but a British, 16-year-old version.

logan-lerman-9
Josh Lewis

Josh is 19 and the hottest lad in school… only there because he’s agreed to put Uni off for a year to help out the sports team… obviously. Everyone looks up to him and admires him. He’s pretty much perfect – physically, anyway. Definitely has very distracting abs. Oh, it’s really awful having to search the internet for pictures like this… um… how about someone like KJ Apa? (But again, KJ Apa doing a British accent, or else a Brit version of him!)

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Sophie

Intelligent and sophisticated Sophie takes Noah under her wing and doesn’t mind when he’s massively awkward with her in all sorts of situations. Everyone needs a Sophie in their lives. There’s a fab British actress called Indeyarna Donaldson-Holness (she was in the Ab Fab movie) who might just fit the bill…

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Eric

Short, greasy, and pretty disgusting in so many ways – Eric is bad news. He’s the school blackmailer, with underworld connections and a habit of knowing what everyone is up to and using it to his advantage. He’s not like this in real life at all, but Craig Roberts in this role in Being Human, has always been my reference for how Eric looks.

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Jess Jackson

School ‘bad girl’ Jess Jackson is bad news for Noah. But, boy, is she popular with everyone else! She spends a lot of time making sure she looks great, and she’s got a super-mean streak. This actress is American again, and her hair colour doesn’t quite match the description in the book, but I rather like Madelaine Petsch, who can currently be seen playing Cheryl Blossom in Riverdale.

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Gran

Good old Gran! Always there for Noah, she’s great at giving him good advice… most of the time! She’s not old enough, but maybe with make-up and her great acting skills Julie Walters would be a good choice here? I’m a huge fan and she’s so funny, I think she would play Gran brilliantly.

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Huh. All this talk of casting has got me excited for a TV series or movie of Noah Can’t Even! Let’s keep our fingers crossed, shall we?!

Simon James Green

Simon James Green

Simon James Green grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire that definitely wasn’t the inspiration for Little Fobbing – so no-one from there can be mad with him, OK? He enjoyed a classic British education of assorted humiliations and barbaric PE lessons before reading Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he further embarrassed himself by accidentally joining the rowing team despite having no upper body strength and not being able swim. When it turned out that being a lawyer was nothing like how it looks in Suits or The Good Wife, and buoyed by the success of his late night comedy show that involved an inflatable sheep, he travelled to London to pursue a glamorous career in show business. Within weeks he was working in a call centre, had been mugged, and had racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt. Finding strength and inspiration in the lyrics of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba, he eventually ended up working on a range of West End shows and UK tours, co-wrote a feature-length rom-com for the BBC and directed Hollyoaks for C4 / Lime Pictures. After trying really, really hard, he also managed to write Noah Can’t Even. If you are interested in stalking him, he still lives in London, where he spends a lot of time telling people that Noah Can’t Even is only partly autobiographical, and his mum has definitely never done a Beyoncé tribute act.

http://www.simonjamesgreen.com
@simonjamesgreen

 

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did! Noah Can’t Even is out now, published by Scholastic.

annalsie