Author: annalisebooks

Review: A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood


Disclaimer: I received a copy from the publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Thank you so much to Scholastic for sending a copy of this beautiful book my way!

A Sky Painted Gold is Laura Wood’s YA debut (she has previously written Middle Grade novels) – and it’s a glorious Cornish adventure, perfect for a sunny afternoon.

I had the joy of attending Scholastic’s Book Blogger Brunch earlier this year, where Laura gave the first reading from this novel and revealed the simply stunning cover. You really do need to see it in person – the gold foil and dotted design are breathtakingly beautiful.

A Sky Painted Gold is the story of Lou, who has grown up in a sleepy Cornish village with her many siblings, dreaming of becoming a writer. When her older sister Alice marries her childhood sweetheart, Lou is left fearing that her childhood is coming to an end and she’ll have to find herself a suitable husband. Across the sea, the grand Cardew house has stood empty for years – until its owners, the handsome Robert and gorgeous Caitlin, return for a summer of grand Gatsby-esque parties. Soon Lou is swept up in their glamorous world, all the while thinking she’ll soon have to step back into reality…

I loved the historical 1920s setting (with hints of the aftermath of the First World War) and Laura Wood sure knows how to paint a delicious setting with her picturesque Cornish village and lavish parties. I also loved how the characters were diverse and fleshed out, and the story had some great female friendships, as well as interesting family relationships.

The romance was a luscious slow burn with lots of flirting (and a masquerade ball!) and I thought it was executed very nicely – it has made me yearn to read more historical romantic fiction and so I think that is a win!

This is your perfect summer read, and it will have you dreaming of Cornwall, magnificent parties and great romances long after you have turned the last page…

annalsie

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Review: FLOORED

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Disclaimer: eBook copy received from publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I think the description ‘Breakfast Club meets One Day’ describes this novel perfectly!

Floored is a collaborative novel written by seven of my favourite UK Young Adult authors: Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, Tanya Byrne, Non Pratt, Melinda Salisbury, Lisa Williamson and Eleanor Wood. They are the reigning queens of UKYA, and I was so excited when I heard about this book last year. I think it’s an excellent idea to each have an author write a character – there are six characters and one ‘narrator’ who ties up each chapter. 

Our six characters are thrust together in the first chapter, and then they meet up each year after that, and we follow them on one day each year and see how their lives have changed. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book – I loved the time jumps, seeing how the characters developed and which life choices they made, and I also loved how the characters grew up over the typical YA age boundary and broke into university/adult life. This is something I’d love to see more of and I thought the time jumps between each chapter were the perfect vehicle for this.

I thought the format of the book was also the perfect vehicle for exploring issues like the characters’ different living situations, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexualities and disabilities. I loved the diversity in this novel and it didn’t feel shoe-horned in to the story. I also loved how this novel was set in the North of England (Manchester!) – as that is where I am from, and you don’t get too many novels at all set outside of an ambiguous English village or London. 

Considering this book is written by seven different authors, the writing didn’t feel out of place or ‘wrong’ – the book flowed beautifully and was engaging and addictive – I read this book in just over 24 hours, and just needed to know what happened next! I also felt that I could relate to each character – even the not-so-nice ones!

My one gripe would be that I would have liked a lovely definitive ending to tie this book up and I’m not sure I got that.

If you’re a fan of any of the authors involved, or just looking for a fun, addictive YA novel, pick up Floored at your next opportunity. 

 

annalsie

Review: How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne

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It’s time to review a book I read a while back and LOVED (I swear one day the paces of my reading and reviewing will match!)

If you’re a Young Adult Fan, chances are you already know (and love!) Holly Bourne’s books – she has given us the fantastic Spinster Club series and a myriad of other delectable stand-alones – most recently It Only Happens In The Movies, with her next book Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes out on August 9th.

Holly’s books are always relatable and humorous, and this, her first adult novel is no exception – in fact, it hits a little too close to home (in a good way)! 

Tori Bailey is a young woman on the edge of turning 30, trying to write the follow-up to her best-selling self-help memoir. Her friends around her are settling down and having babies, while Tori is dating a guy who won’t entertain the idea of marriage and children.

HDYLMN can be sad at times, but Tori is a funny, honest and relatable character. If you’re a little bit older than the typical YA audience, it’s time to dive into Holly’s first adult book which is sure to be a huge success.

annalsie

Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

 

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Disclaimer: An eGalley of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t think I can say much more about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine than has already been said: this book is utterly amazing, an absolute must-read and I bought myself a finished paperback after I read the eBook (the UK cover is striking (get it? because it has matches on the cover?)). Safe to say, this book gets my seal of approval.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine follows Eleanor Oliphant, a woman who struggles with social situations, who forms an unexpected friendship with a man from work when they save a man who has fallen on the sidewalk. This is a book that balances sad and funny moments, and it’s such a brilliant and memorable debut that I can’t wait to see what Gail Honeyman does next. I’m also interested to see how the film adaptation goes.

This book has already won the WHSmith Book of the Year Award and the Costa Book Award for First Novel, but if you needed a push to read this, here it is. You won’t regret it.

annalsie

Review: All of This is True by Lygia Day Peñaflor

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Disclaimer: An eGalley of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All of This is True is the story of a group of high school friends who befriend their favourite author, spilling their darkest secrets. Their favourite author then betrays them by writing a book obviously based on them and their secrets.The story is told through interviews and case files – think the Illuminae Files set in a contemporary world and without the cool graphics. There are also snippets of the book based on their lives set throughout the novel, showing the similarities between real events and the fictional novel.

My problem with this book is similar to my problem with books like the Illuminae Files – adding in interviews and case files takes the reader one more step away from the character. It’s much harder to empathise and sympathise with the characters and so it’s harder to… care. There’s no insight into the thoughts and feelings of these characters, just boring dialogue. There’s a reason most books do not just consist of dialogue, because the description surrounding that dialogue gives us an insight into the character that plain dialogue just does not.

In this book, I also found it difficult to differentiate between the different characters – they were simply too similar to each other, and again, this is symptomatic of the style the book is written in.

All that aside, I did find this book difficult to put down – it is a thriller after all, and I did want to find out what happened in the end.

An interesting concept, but one that just didn’t work for me unfortunately.

annalsie

Why I won’t be attending YALC this year

I’ve attended YALC for the past three years and I thought I’d be attending this year, but I’ve made the decision to give it a miss. I’ve been conflicted about this because I will have extreme FOMO, and I’ve made so many great friends in the bookish community who I’d love to catch up with over the YALC weekend. I’ve had some great times at previous YALCs, finally meeting twitter friends and making new friends over the weekend.

If you’re interested in my previous YALC posts, here they are:

YALC 2016: Day 1!

YALC 2017: The Wrap-Up

YALC, ARCs, and other Acronyms

 

  1. Cost

I mentioned this as one of my YALC hang-ups last year – it’s not cheap attending YALC. The biggest cost for me would be hotels (over £100 a night) and once you’ve added in train tickets and the ticket to the event itself, I’d be looking at over £500 for a weekend. I think I’d be happy to pay this if I didn’t have other problems with YALC, but I do (and I will discuss them below). 

It’s important to also factor in the cost of food and eating out (it’s lovely to have a meal after a long day at the convention, but it can still be expensive or awkward on a tight budget) and the fact that I cannot control myself when it comes to buying books. I bought a few books on recommendation of friends, and also got a few books pre-release (last year it was Loneliest Girl by Lauren James). The atmosphere of YALC can make it very difficult to stop yourself from buying books, and some events will have you running to Waterstones as soon as the event has finished to pick up the entire backlist of this inspiring author you’ve just discovered.

I’m not entirely sure what could be done about reducing the cost of YALC – potentially moving from a central London location, not being part of London Film and Comic Con… I’m not sure there’s an easy answer.

For me, I’ll hopefully be moving back to London at the end of this year and so next year’s YALC will be cheaper for me to attend. The money saved from not going to YALC I’m sure will come in handy too. 

2. Accessibility/comfort

From my experiences last year, YALC needs to be a lot more clued up around making the event accessible. My main concern is around proof drops being announced on Twitter and expecting attendees to run for ARCs, but there are also issues around long queues for authors and a lack of comfortable seating.

The seats last year for the panel events really hurt my back, and so I went to very few panel events. There’s a general lack of seating (and it’s even worse at LFCC) around the floor, and so I spent a lot of time sitting on a very hard floor, making my back and legs hurt. I’d love there to be more comfy chairs for people to sit around and get to know each other better.

3. ARCs

This is a big one for me – I’ve written previously about how the distribution of proofs and ARCs at YALC can be ableist, anxiety-inducing and I actually think they can ruin the spirit of YALC. Pitting bloggers against one another ruins the community spirit. Last year, I experienced pushing, shoving, long queues for proofs, and embarrassing challenges. The saddest part for me is that I had some bad first impressions of new bloggers, especially those who fought for (sometimes multiple copies of) proofs just to trade them away on Twitter days later.

So many publishers announce their giveaways on Twitter and often during popular panels which leads bloggers to have to decide between seeing their favourite authors and possibly getting their hands on a favourite new book. I shouldn’t have to carry around my phone all weekend, using up my data plan and running low on battery, just to be able to take part in YALC. 

On the ARCs themselves – I am overwhelmed with the number of books on my TBR pile, and some of the ARCs I got from YALC last year I didn’t end up reading because they were inundated with bad reviews. There have been some real gems that I’ve loved, but I don’t think it’s a particularly great idea this year for me to supplement my book shelves with another stack of books just before the big move (and also I think my bookshelves may actually collapse).

4. Attendees

At this moment in time, 75% of authors attending have been announced – and honestly, I have met and loved most of the list. It’s not a bad thing to have authors who have previously attended on the list, but no-one has been announced who I just have to go and meet because this will be my only opportunity. A lot of UKYA authors will be touring the UK with their future books, and there is plenty of opportunity to meet them at other times – and you’ll probably get to spend a little more time talking to them. 

I’m hoping to discuss this more in a later blog post, but I haven’t been impressed with the diversity of authors announced so far – for example, there are only a handful of BAME authors attending. I don’t want to comment on this fully now until the entire author list has been announced and the timetable has been confirmed. I’m also hoping to address soon the fact I’d love to see YALC better facilitated to introduce bloggers and inspire bloggers and vloggers to collaborate and create content, rather than the focus being on meeting authors, but again, I will address that once the full programme has been released.

5. Exploitative/uncomfortable atmosphere

I wasn’t sure whether to mention this, but LFCC is built on fans paying good money to buy a signed photograph and talk to their favourite star (quite often, but not always, a woman they’ve seen scantily clad on TV). 

It’s a majority male (but not exclusively male) event, with many popular fandoms represented (Doctor Who, Star Wars, Marvel Cinematic Universe, etc.). Cosplay for women (from a quick Google Image search) is often typified as tight-fitting with a heavy focus on boobs – that’s not to say that all women who cosplay dress that way, but that cosplay for women is almost expected to be overtly sexy, in a way that men’s cosplay just isn’t. 

Contrast this with the mainly young female audience of YALC.

I (and many other YALC attendees) have ventured down onto the lower floors of LFCC to see the stars of TV and Film, to look at the Funko Pops and to purchase a few choice items from the well-stocked market stalls on offer. I’ve never felt threatened or uncomfortable, but it’s easy to see why someone could. 

There are also sometimes awkward interactions between publishers and bloggers and this is mostly around ARCs and proofs and bloggers desperately wanting to get their hands on them. This is exonerated when publishers make bloggers perform silly challenges like dancing, lying on the floor, taking part in a game, etc. 

 

 

If you’re attending YALC this year, please don’t worry about my reasons for not attending – it is a great event where the whole YA community comes together for the weekend and I’ve made so many friends attending YALC in the past. 

Please let me know what you think, either in the comments or over on Twitter @annalisebooks x

annalsie

On Character Deaths

Hello lovely readers!

The (probably) last snow of the year has cleared, and spring is well and truly on its way. With it, comes a whole host of new stories so today I thought I’d talk about… endings. Specifically, character deaths.

This has been spurned by two books, both finales in a trilogy, which I won’t go into too much detail about because I know they were both highly-anticipated and not everyone will have had the chance to read them yet. It’s also been spurned by the upcoming release of The Avengers: Infinity War movie where it has been rumoured key characters will die (Captain America, Iron Man, etc.)

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I’ve been writing recently and trying to plot out a novel has led me to consider the deaths of characters. Deaths in real life are never just a plot device, never just glossed over and never mentioned again for the rest of the book. Deaths in books (especially of major characters) tend to be dramatic and untimely, sometimes mysterious, sometimes gruesome. Ultimately, what they do is they move the story on, shock the reader and develop the remaining characters. They have to happen for a reason, whatever that might be.

George R R Martin’s ASOIAF series (turned into the Game of Thrones TV series) uses character deaths to leave readers on the edge of their seats – absolutely anyone could meet their untimely end at any time, and it may not be for the most violent of reasons. What Martin does at the end of the first book in killing off main character Ned Stark, is shock readers into believing anything is possible. In many books, it doesn’t make sense to kill off your main character, but with a multi-perspective story, Ned’s death ramps up the tension for books to come. Arguably, now we are into the final books and final season, there are many characters it doesn’t make sense to kill off at this late stage (we’ve followed their stories this far, it’d be painful not to see the conclusion of all these intertwining plots), and it will be interesting to see who survives the Game of Thrones.

What stood out for me when talking about these two books whose names I won’t mention, both different genres but ultimately YA, is that a lot of people died. A lot. We’re talking thousands here. Both had a scene where it seemed our main love interests had died, but – surprise! – they were absolutely fine in the end. (Perhaps not as dramatic as the dream fight scene in Breaking Dawn Part 2!). Ultimately, a series of couples we had been rooting for the entire series all survived, and absolutely no main characters died. And that’s disappointing to me.

I think part of this has to do with not being too attached to our main characters, and I’m also not a huge fan of these grand happily ever afters. Some of these couples simply aren’t good together, and it wouldn’t be the end of the world if maybe one of them perished in a grand battle. It might anger some fans, but it would also probably make the story more memorable.

So, dear readers, I want more shocking deaths please – but the type where you realise afterwards that it had to happen all along. Endings with a sense of satisfaction because everything is right in the universe – even if that meant the death of a love interest or best friend. There’s nothing worse than multiple deaths being teased, and then, SURPRISE, everyone is right as rain and ready to fight another day.

annalsie