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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: 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

I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

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I picked up this book without really knowing what it was about – I loved Radio Silence so much that I would probably read Alice Oseman’s shopping lists. This book is so different and yet so similar in theme to Radio Silence – if you haven’t picked up any of Alice’s books yet, you should. She is one of the few (if not the only) authors talking about teenage fandoms, internet culture, Tumblr, and the soul-crushing and dream-destroying expectations put on teenagers today.

I devoured I Was Born For This in an evening (something I almost never do). The story is told through dual perspectives. Angel Rahimi is a hijabi travelling to London to meet her best ever internet friend for the first time, so that they can both see their favourite band, The Ark. Jimmy Kawa-Ricci is the transgender frontman of The Ark, struggling with anxiety and debating whether to continue with the band. The book takes place over one week in their lives, where they are thrust together in unexpected circumstances.

This is UKYA at its best – distinctly British characters who are both relatable and realistic, dealing with issues such as anxiety, making friends over the internet, being part of a fandom (or being the subject of many fans), and the pressure to succeed. It’s not often you come across these issues, even in teenage fiction – and the diversity of characters in this book didn’t feel forced or tokenistic.
Each character’s voice was distinct, and I was rooting for both of these characters throughout the book.

A unique and incredibly readable read, and one that should be on your pre-order list as it is essential UKYA fiction. If you haven’t checked out Alice’s other books, now is the time.

annalsie

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

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The Belles is a book that is completely up my street – it’s a thrilling court fantasy, with mystery and intrigue at every corner. I absolutely devoured this book – the language and writing is deliciously moreish, with vibrant descriptions unfurling the world of the Belles.

The Belles is the story of Camellia, one of six sisters who bring beauty to the fantasy kingdom of Orleans (based on New Orleans). The citizens of Orleans are born grey, and the Belles have the job of carrying out beauty treatments, changing the appearance and temperament of the citizens of Orleans at will. At the beginning of the book, the sisters are assigned a location where they will tend to the citizens – and Camellia is desperate to be favourite, assigned to the Royal family.

I raced through this book, desperate to know more about the Belles – I had (and have!) so many questions and can’t wait for the next book in the series. There are so many mysteries set up in this first book, and yet I still found the ending satisfying and unexpected.

This book wasn’t without its faults though – I’ll let other reviews talk about the treatment of queer characters in this book – and for me some of the characters were a little one-dimensional. For me, I didn’t find the flowery language too much, although other readers may find it a little grating. I must say I’m not the biggest fan of the cover design – I love the cover image and the design inside, but the back cover and title font feel a little childish to me. The blurb also contained spoilers for events that happen quite a way into the book.

If you’re looking for an exciting new court fantasy reminiscent of Red Queen or Everless, this is one for you. If you’re not, you should probably pick it up anyway.

annalsie

Review: Everless by Sara Holland

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So, I read Everless in 2017 and I never reviewed it… until now.

I really loved Everless – it’s set in a world where time is currency, and the poorer folk in this kingdom pay with their blood… literally. They go and have their blood drained and turned into coin. It’s a really interesting concept that I enjoyed a lot. (Does that sound creepy?)

Jules and her father fled from the nearby aristocratic estate (Everless) years ago, but she finds herself back there again after taking a job there to earn some money, to help her dying father. Everless is full of royalty, court drama, mystery, intrigue, secrets and magic.

When you’ve read as much YA fantasy I have, it’s sometimes easy to predict how the story is going to play out – but Everless is full of twists and turns and surprises, and I really loved the world-building. Put simply, Everless was a joy to read.

I’m really looking forward to the next book in this series (at least I think it will be a series?) and if you’re looking for some fun fairytale fantasy, give this one a go.

annalsie