reading

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

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: Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood
Frostblood by Elly Blake

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a proof of this book in a Fairyloot box last year and can’t believe it took me so long to pick it up!

Frostblood is the story of Ruby, a Fireblood. The Firebloods and Frostbloods have been at war for as long as anyone can remember, and the Frostbloods are currently in power. The Firebloods have been hunted and killed, and Ruby has to stay hidden to stay alive. When her safety is compromised and her mother is killed, Ruby has to work with rebel Frostbloods to topple the throne.

This is an absolutely stellar debut novel from Elly Blake, with beautiful world-building and compelling characters. I really submersed myself in this world and loved the storytelling. The book definitely has elements of the Throne of Glass series and other YA fantasy novels, but it’s all done so well. I was gripped by the romance and there were so many twists and turns that made the story shocking and exciting.

The romance was done particularly well in that it wasn’t the main focus of the story and was pretty swoony. I really enjoyed the romance and the main characters were fleshed out particularly well.

If you’re looking for a YA fantasy with a fully immersive world, definitely check out this debut by Elly Blake. I can’t wait for the second book, Fireblood, which is due out in September 2017.
View all my reviews

Annalise x

Review: Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm
Animal Farm by George Orwell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m finally on winter break and reading a tonne – I think (fingers crossed) I’m over my reading slump! I have a load of reviews to catch up on and hopefully will be posting more regularly over the coming weeks.

Animal Farm is a novella by George Orwell which was written during World War Two (in 1943, to be exact). What at first appears to be the story of farm animals rebelling against their farmer and setting up their own farm, is underneath a political statement about communism and Stalinist Russia. Really, this book is an education – if only you can understand the metaphors and relate the actions of the characters in the book to what actually happened in Russian history.

I genuinely loved this book – it’s clever and educational as well as being relatively easy to read and understand. I did have to look up who each character is playing (e.g. Napoleon as Stalin, Snowball as Trotsky) and the significance of the events in the book (e.g. the Battle of the Windmill is an allegory to the Battle of Stalingrad).

Animal Farm is a quick read (it’ s just over 100 pages) that is an interesting observation of society and human nature, as well as a statement on Russia in the early 20th century.

Definitely worth a read, especially if you’re trying to read more classics!

View all my reviews

annalsie

Review: Inferno by Catherine Doyle

Inferno
Inferno by Catherine Doyle

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So I finally read Inferno in anticipation for Mafiosa (coming January 2017) and now I wish I’d waited a little longer because I need to get my hands on the third and final book…

Inferno. What can I say? (No, seriously, it’ s been SO LONG since I last reviewed because I’ve been super busy with my job…)

Inferno is the second book in the Blood for Blood series by Cat Doyle (the first book was Vendetta), and this series is a genuinely refreshing take on teen romance. Set in mafia-run Chicago, in the first book we saw Sophie Gracewell fall for Nic Falcone, who just so happened to be a member of one of Chicago’s notorious mafia families.

Now, most YA series would leave it there. Boy meets girl, boy and girl overcome challenges to be together. But what’s great about Inferno is that Sophie realises that Nic is not this perfect dreamboat, and he is actually a bad guy. And not a bad guy in a sexy ‘oh, so this guy so happens to murder people but oh my god he’s so good looking in his leather jacket’ kinda way, but in a ‘yep, this guy is a bonafide murderer’ way. These were the vibes I was getting in Vendetta, and it’s so satisfying to see an author run with it – Sophie and Nic’s story was perfect for me (trying so hard not to be spoilery but I think this was all clear in Vendetta).

Inferno is full of shocking revelations, action-filled sequences and enough bad guys to fill a whole season of Vampire Diaries. Honestly, I spent the book not knowing what was going to happen – Inferno wasn’t predictable or clichéd and it was a genuine rollercoaster of emotion.

I’m really looking forward to Mafiosa and how Sophie’s story will tie up – Inferno wasn’t a soggy second book in the series, and the stakes are now higher than ever. Definitely a recommendation for me, even if you weren’t the biggest fan of the first book.

View all my reviews

Review: The Deviants by C.J. Skuse

The Deviants
The Deviants by C.J. Skuse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A huge thank you to Cara at MIRA INK for the advance copy of this book – this is a review copy received in exchange for an honest review.

Set in a sleepy English Seaside town, Ella is one of five friends who were inseparable when they were younger. Something happened though, and now Ella is only in touch with Max, her boyfriend since she was thirteen years old. Five years later, the friends end up reconnecting – but they all have secrets and lies of their own, some dating from their friendship, and some a little newer.

This book has so many layers – the format is quite interesting, with a question being asked of the main protagonist, Ella, at the end of each chapter. I really liked this as it made me read on, and, without giving too much away, I will say this: this book is shocking and intriguing at every twist and turn.

C.J. is a master of suspense, and I loved how issues within the book were dealt with – I wasn’t prepared for many of the themes of the book which may be a little troubling for those with triggers as the book touches on some quite serious issues (I don’t want to spoil the book without revealing what they are, but I’d be happy to divulge via private message).

If you’re looking for a great suspenseful novel full of secrets and lies, this is a fantastic choice and a great autumn YA read to boot.

View all my reviews

annalsie

Waiting On Wednesday: Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

Before I start this post/rant, I just want to say one thing: I love Sarah J Maas’ books – ACOMAF has to be one of my favourite books of the year, and I’m currently working my way through Queen of Shadows. Sarah is an amazing writer with amazing characters, but I do have some reservations about the promotion of her new book, the 5th Throne of Glass novel, Empire of Storms.

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Before I rant a little…

THAT COVER THOUGH?! I love the cover for Empire of Storms (both the US and UK editions) and am so excited for it to join the rest of my collection on my bookshelf. Bloomsbury have done an absolutely STELLAR job with Sarah’s covers.

However…

1. The UK Tour.

A little background on me – I live in the Northwest of England, and as a recent graduate, I have no idea where I’ll be in October, when Sarah comes to the UK for the Empire of Storms tour. I would have loved to be able to meet Sarah, but the timings of the tour meant I won’t be able to make it.

This has to do with the fact that half the dates on the tour are in the South of England (London, Bath and Cheltenham), one is in Scotland, and another in Dublin. The one closest to me (Birmingham – still up to two hours on the train away!) is on a Monday at 4pm, so it’d be a real struggle to get to. I don’t think I’m alone in this – a lot of these dates are mid-afternoon, during the working/school week, and therefore difficult for many to get to!

I’m always a little disappointed when an author has a UK tour and doesn’t have a date in Northern England. It’s great that authors include Scotland and Ireland, but there are still a lot of fans who simply can’t make it to this tour. I’d be able to attend a date in the evening, or at the weekend (I was able to attend the Cassandra Clare Shadowhunter event because it was at the weekend!).

2. The many MANY editions of Empire of Storms

Because I’m not going to be able to meet Sarah on her tour, I pre-ordered the signed edition from Waterstones. I was really disappointed that I didn’t know Waterstones would be stocking signed editions of ACOMAF, so preordered EoS early so that I’d be guaranteed to get a signed copy.

Now, I’ve already seen the Target and Barnes and Noble editions with exclusive short stories, but now WHSmith, a popular UK newsagent and bookshop, is stocking its own special edition, with an exclusive short story. Now, I’m very hesitant to buy more than one copy of a book – despite intending to purchase the US covers of Sarah’s books – because of a small amount of exclusive content.

I’m, again, a little disappointed in the plethora of editions available. More than one edition always seems like a money-making grab to me, however beautiful they are. When you’ve already preordered a book, it’s frustrating to see more (and sometimes better) editions go on sale.

Which edition of EoS will you be purchasing? Are you going to Sarah’s tour? Comment below or tweet me at @annalisebooks!

annalsie

Review: Cuckoo by Keren David

Cuckoo
Cuckoo by Keren David

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I read Cuckoo (I read it during YALC weekend!) but I’ve been way behind on my reviewing due to a job offer(!) and trying to pack up to move house…

Cuckoo is the story of Jake, an actor in Market Square, the country’s hottest soap. Except he’s pretty much been dropped, and his family are suffering from the lack of income. His dad’s angrier, and Jake’s autistic brother Adam can be difficult to deal with – and then Jake finds out none of the money he’s earned over the years has been saved. Soon, he finds himself homeless – hidden at first, couchsurfing on all his friend’s sofas, and then on the street.

The first thing I should probably mention is the format of this book – it’s fairly short, split into short chapters which are each the script of an individual video. The book is Jake telling his story through the medium of vlogging, and there are comments at the end of each chapter. It’s a really unique format, and after reading another scriptbook this month (Cursed Child), this actually does work – there are enough characters in each chapter, each with a unique voice, that it really is effortless to read.

As someone who has an autistic sibling, I thought the character of Adam was dealt with particularly well. I think it’s easy when writing autistic characters to slip into constant tropes, and I didn’t think this happened here.

If you’re looking for something truly unique (especially in format, which was particularly innovative), and a quick read for summer that tackles some difficult issues, look no further than Cuckoo by Keren David.

View all my reviews

Blog Tour – The Regulars by Georgia Clark

Today I’m hosting something a little bit different – it’s Day One of The Regulars blog tour and I’m delighted to present a piece by Georgia Clark, the author of The Regulars, on how she came to write the book.

The Regulars has been described as the ‘Dorian Grey for the Girls generation‘ and is perfect for Lena Dunham and Amy Poehler fans.

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Best friends Evie, Krista and Willow are just trying to make it through their mid-twenties in New York. They’re regular girls with typical quarter life crises: making it up
the corporate ladder, making sense of online dating, and making rent.
Until they come across Pretty, a magic tincture that makes them, well …gorgeous. Like,
supermodel gorgeous. With a single drop, each young woman gets the gift of
jaw-dropping beautyfor one week, presenting them with unimaginable opportunities to make their biggest fantasies come true.
But there’s a dark side to Pretty, too, and as the gloss fades for these modern-
day Cinderellas, there’s just one question left: What would you sacrifice to be Pretty?
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Georgia Clark dishes the dirt on how she came to write the hot new novel, The Regulars.

As a child, I was enamored with my own beauty.

I’m compelled to describe myself in an early diary entry, doing so as follows: “I have long, wavy, golden hair and big, beautiful blue eyes.” My faith in my wonderful good looks was palatable, and I took delight in dressing in bright, showy colors, unafraid to stand out, peacock-like, from the crowd. Which is why it was so odd to find myself in my late-20s/early 30s convinced of my own Quasimodo-esque ugliness. The mirror was a horrorshow, reflecting back nothing golden or beautiful. Instead, I saw thin lips, a witches’ chin and dark circles on par with two black eyes. Despite having a boisterous group of friends, promising career, and exciting life in New York, love eluded me, and the reason (I was sure) was my own physical failings.

On meeting my partner, these feelings began to fade. Her daily affirmations that I was delightful in every way helped me see the girl in the mirror in a more positive light again. I might not be a supermodel, but I certainly wasn’t ugly. So why had a spent a long period of an otherwise happy life feeling that I was? And if I felt that way, surely other women felt that way too.

This inspired me to start thinking on beauty. Where do messages about beauty find us, how do they affect us, how do different women respond to these messages differently. What is beauty? How does a modern feminist reconcile her own empowerment with very real feelings of physical inadequacy? These thoughts and more were bubbling in the back of my brain when one night, inspiration struck. I was at home alone, working on the edits to my YA sci-fi novel, Parched, when a concept popped in my head. A serum. That turns you pretty: objectively, definitively. But only for a week at a time. ‘Hm’, I thought, putting my notes aside. ‘That’s interesting’. Less than a minute later, a scene began playing in my head, as crystal clear as a feature film. Three young women. A tiny bottle of Pretty, something from a modern fairytale. An impossible transformation, as visceral and gross as it was funny and unexpected. Someone comes home: ah, an excuse is needed! What next? Who knows… As soon as the scene stopped playing – a gift from on high, a missive from the muse – I knew, without a doubt, that was a novel. A year and a half later, I finished The Regulars.

Georgia Clark is an author, screenwriter and journalist who is widely published in women’s and lifestyle magazines, and writes for TV. She is enthusiastically vegetarian, proudly queer, definitely a city-dweller, a long-time lover and supporter of the arts and an advocate for the empowerment of young women.
You can follow Georgia at @georgialouclark, sign up to her mailing list at www.georgiaclark.com, and like her author page on Facebook.
The Regulars is available NOW in hardback from all good bookstores!
Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour:
georgia-blog-tour

I can’t wait to pick this one up – can you?

annalsie