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Review: Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

Goodbye, Perfect is Sara Barnard’s third novel, and the third novel of her’s that I have read. I am a huge fan of Sara’s previous novels, and this book was no exception.

Goodbye, Perfect is centred around the disappearance of our Eden’s best friend Bonnie with the school music teacher, Mr Cohn, set during Eden and Bonnie’s GCSEs. Eden battles between loyalty to her best friend and her said best friend betraying her by not telling her about being in a relationship with (and running away with) their teacher.

I loved how this book delved into topics such as adoption and fostering (Eden and her younger sister Daisy were adopted) and family bonds (particularly between Eden and her adoptive sister Valerie), as well as student-teacher relationships (way too often glamourised in teen media – think Ezra on Pretty Little Liars or Ms Grundy in Riverdale) and academic expectations. Bonnie was a particularly interesting character who was academically bright but wanted to carve a different path for herself.

This book is out in early February, so I would heartily recommend getting this one on your TBRs for 2018.

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Why I’m NOT reading the new John Green book…

Evening book lovers!

Today is the 10th October and also the release date of the heavily anticipated new John Green book – Turtles All The Way Down.

john_green_turtles_all_the_way_down_book_cover

(Is anyone else underwhelmed by the cover? There’s exactly ZERO turtles.)

Unlike what feels like most of the YA community, I won’t be reading this (yet?).

Why?

The short answer is that I am on a book-buying ban and so all the books I’m desperately lusting after have been relegated to the christmas list.

The long answer is… I just feel meh.

I read Looking For Alaska years ago; it was one of the first YA books I read. There was hype around this book and it just didn’t do it for me.

I read The Fault in our Stars around publication day and thought it was ok, then reread it in preparation for the film and absolutely loved it.

Yet I still have two John Green books on my TBR (An Abundance of Katherines and Will Grayson, Will Grayson), both of which I have started and struggled to get through. Maybe John Green is just not for me, or maybe I should give his new book a chance (although the premise doesn’t excite me the same way a lot of YA books do?)

Please let me know if you’ll be reading Turtles All The Way Down, and if you have/haven’t read it, let me know why! I’d love to hear all of your opinions 🙂

annalsie

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart


I took part in a stunt at YALC for Hot Key Books where I dressed up as the main character in the novel and handed out samplers for this book! In return, Hot Key Books sent me a copy of this book – thank you so much to them!

If I had to describe this book in one word, it would be confusing. It’s hard to talk too much about this book without spoiling anything, but it is a suspense novel about two friends, Jule and Immie, and it takes place in reverse chronological order, all over the world (London, San Francisco, Mexico, New York, Martha’s Vineyard…).

The reverse chronological order was new for me, and I liked the little reveals as you go through the book. However, I was confused, especially as Jule impersonates Imogen at times, and there wasn’t a big reveal at the end that made everything click into place. I also found some of the male characters (Forrest, Isaac, Paolo) to be a bit too similar, and so I was confused who was who…

I enjoyed E Lockhart’s usual themes and social commentary around women, privilege, education, etc., but there was a lack of wow factor with this book. That being said, I am looking forward to diving into some of her older work, especially The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which comes well recommended by Holly Bourne herself.

annalsie

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