Wednesday, 5 August 2020

Review: Chelsea High by Jenny Oliver

Publication Date: May 2020
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Source: Review Copy from publisher

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Norah Whittaker’s upbringing has been charmingly unconventional: she’s grown up on a houseboat spending her days fishing, cherry picking and helping her mum out at her vintage market stall. As well as laughing at her chaotic dad. But when her dad’s latest get-rich plan ends up getting him arrested, everything changes.

Grandparents (incredibly rich ones) that Norah never knew had existed enroll her at exclusive Chelsea High. There are polo lessons, ski trips and parties photographed by Tatler, not to mention Coco Summers, Instagram sensation, who is determined to make Norah feel utterly unwelcome. Luckily there is also handsome Ezra who is cast opposite her in the school play.

But is he enough to persuade Norah that she belongs?

A big thank you to Electric Monkey for inviting me on the blog / bookstagram tour for this book! I hadn't heard of this book before but having been in a little bit of a reading slump, and reading lots of contemporary earlier in the summer, Chelsea High sounded perfect for me!

Chelsea High centers around Norah, a teenage girl whose life has been turned upside down by her father losing the money that their fellow inhabitants on their island invested into his movie. As her dad begins to be prosecuted, Norah must leave the safety of her island community to move to London where she is introduced to rich grandparents she has never met, who enroll her in the prestigious Chelsea High

I really liked Norah as a character. She was very authentic, goofy, funny and the reader could really feel her emotions coming through the page as she tried to deal with all the ups and downs happening in her life. I really enjoyed her relationship with her grandparents, watching that blossom and grow was lovely. The romantic aspect of the novel, with Ezra, was something I felt wasn't fleshed out in the best way. I felt it was semi rushed and there wasn't an awful lot of development and growth for what I look for in a romance. I prefer a slow burn, but I am looking forward to how they progress in the next novel. 

Tuesday, 23 June 2020

Review: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

Publication Date: May 19th 2020
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Source: Own

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It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capital, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out-charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He's been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined -- every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute... and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

 Okay so..if you've not heard of this book, you've been living under a rock. (P.s check out my reading vlog for this book on my booktube channel). 

This book is a prequel to the hunger games trilogy, following president snow as a teenager growing up in the capitol in the times of the 10th hunger games. 

Coriolanus Snow in this novel is young, poor and hungry to prove himself so he can then provide for his struggling family. Coriolanus enlists as a mentor in the hunger games in the hopes of achieving a scholarship to university. He is paired up with the District 12 tribute, traveller and singer Lucy Gray Baird. 
Lucy Gray is a louder than life, cunning but charming character. Her positive outlook on life counteracts Coriolanus's negative. Combined with Coriolanus's ambition to succeed in the games with his tribute, he and Lucy work to make her chances the best they can be in the games. 

Although I feel that there was supposed to be some desire for the reader to enjoy the "romance" between Lucy and Coriolanus but I did not. At all. 
The relationship between them begins as a way for Coriolanus to better himself and bring glory back to his family name. Therefore his whole reasoning for their relationship to succeed, is for his gain. Every move in their relationship, is a game of chess to Coriolanus where he must keep moving forward to win. 
The power imbalance in their relationship also made me very uncomfortable throughout the novel. Coriolanus is coming from a position of power, even though he is poor- he is capital poor, not district poor. He also comes from an education and a life of more resources available to him than Lucy could dream of. The power imbalance therefore makes their relationship non-equal. Coriolanus has this albeit invisible upper hand in their relationship. Therefore I could not support the relationship at all. It made me very uneasy. 

A character that I really enjoyed in the novel was Sejanus. He was a great character- the biggest cinnamon roll in the book but also at the same time, he could be a little yikes. Sejanus was definitely that guy who sees all the wrong in the world and wants to be the one to make a change, but ends up going about things in the wrong way. He was definitely the "Gale" of the book - since I know people have been comparing Lucy to Katniss

Sejanus was my favourite character in the entire book. His friendship with Coriolanus, which was begrudgingly accepted by Coriolanus who viewed it as a way to exploit Sejanus's much richer family assets, was actually sweet. You could see Sejanus just wanted to do right, to have a friend and live in a good world. 
Sejanus and Coriolanus was definitely the ship of the book for question. They fit together so well, Sejanus was clearly in love with Coriolanus and especially in the beginning of the book when Sejanus comments that Coriolanus keeps "saving him" and Coriolanus says "I can't help it". 
Tbh, I really wanted Sejanus and Coriolanus to be a couple but hey ho, at least we got to read like 1 sentence about a gay couple...representation I guess? 
Side note: Sejanus's mother- what a fantastic warm character. I loved her. 

This book really did so great in showing us the beginnings and origins of the games as we know them. We see that even though it is the 10th games, there is still a "new" atmosphere around the games as they are still experimenting and trying out new things. I found the capital mentor & tribute dynamic interesting. 
One of the most captivating parts were definitely the scenes with Dr. Gaul as she experiments and tries to find even more evil torture methods for the tributes. She is so creepy and terrifying. 

I really enjoyed the references to the hunger games books, or what we would typically know from those books- like the Katniss flower popping up, familiar names like Heavensbee, Crane etc., 
Also Tigris in the novel was interesting, I never realized she was Snows cousin. 

Although there was so much I enjoyed about the book, I did feel my attention waning at times. Not so much full on boredom, but more just reading through some parts so I could get to a more exciting part if that makes sense? I definitely felt there were exciting scenes, and not so exciting scenes, with some feeling a little dragged out. 

Overall I very much enjoyed this book. If you are a big hunger games fan like I was, then I really think that reading this book will add to your enjoyment of the series and not detract. Really interesting character and political driven novel by such an amazing author. I would absolutely love if someday Suzanne Collins released short stories on each of the tributes we are familiar with, such as Johanna Mason or Finnick Odair on their experiences in the games and the affect on their lives afterwards. 
Check out my reading vlog for The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes on my booktube channel here!

Monday, 11 May 2020

Review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Publication Date: August 2018
Source: Own 

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At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.

A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.

 This book is one I had been meaning to pick up for the longest time. It had been recommended to me by everyone and the BBC making a TV show of it definitely pushed me over the edge to picking it up. 

I was so glad that I did. 

If I had to describe this book in one word: raw. 

This book is just so extremely raw - emotionally, physically and in writing style. 

Relationships really drive this novel from its core. Whether from the characters relationships with themselves and with each other. The characters grow over the course of the novel in many directions. The novel takes place over many years from Connell and Marianne being in secondary school to going to college to their adulthood. This long journey of the novel really gives the reader a more complete and long view of their lives. 

One of my favourite characters in the novel was Connell's mum. Connell and his mother have such a loving and caring relationship. His family is working class and his mother is actually the cleaner for Marianne's family. Connell's mum is so straight-talking, opinionated, unapologetic, caring ad warm. She is one of the best mother characters I've read in a book ever. Connells mum calls him out on his bad behavior, praises him, looks out for Marianne and shows her real maternal love which she had never experienced. Their relationship is so beautiful and well written. 

Friday, 8 May 2020

Review: Weightless by Sarah Bannan

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Publication Date: June 2015
Source: Owned 

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When 15-year-old Carolyn moves from New Jersey to Alabama with her mother, she rattles the status quo of the junior class at Adams High School. A good student and natural athlete, she’s immediately welcomed by the school’s cliques. She’s even nominated to the homecoming court and begins dating a senior, Shane, whose on again/off again girlfriend Brooke becomes Carolyn’s bitter romantic rival. When a video of Carolyn and Shane making out is sent to everyone, Carolyn goes from golden girl to slut, as Brooke and her best friend Gemma try to restore their popularity. Gossip and bullying hound Carolyn, who becomes increasingly private and isolated. When Shane and Brooke—now back together—confront Carolyn in the student parking lot, injuring her, it’s the last attack she can take.

 This book has been sitting on my shelf for a super long time, I am pretty sure I got it around the time of its release so basically 5 years! I have been trying to knock off some books on my TBR in quarantine so decided it was finally time to read this. 

The book centers on how a small town is rocked by the arrival of a new girl - Carolyn. As the town falls over themselves to first get to know Carolyn because she is the "shiny new toy" then then begin to turn against her just as quickly. 

One thing I found a little jarring about this book was the writing style. The novel is written in the "we". So the reader of the novel is reading from the perspective as the entire town as a collective we. This was very jarring and difficult to get into the writing flow in the beginning but I became more comfortable with it as the story progressed. This was a very interesting take on the novels point of view as it goes to show the reader just how complicit each and every person was in the rise and fall of Carolyn. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

5 Emotional Stages Of The Stephanie Meyer Countdown Announcement

Stage 1: Shock / Confusion 

What is this countdown? What is it counting down to? What does this books? And also, who is even checking Stephanie Meyer's website in the year 2020?? 

Thursday, 23 April 2020

The Baby by Lisa Drakeford

Publisher: Chicken House
Publication Date: July 2015 
Source: Own 

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When Olivia opens the bathroom door, the last thing she expects to see is her best friend Nicola giving birth on the floor – and to say Nicola is surprised is an understatement. She’s not ready to be a mum, and she needs Olivia’s help. But Olivia has her own problems – specifically her bullying boyfriend, Jonty, and keeping an eye on younger sister Alice. And then there’s Nicola’s friend Ben, who’s struggling with secrets of his own …

 This is one of the oldest books on my bookshelf so I decided to read it for the Stay Home Reading Rush for the book-read-in-one-sitting challenge. 

I wanted to read this book as soon as it came out but it turned out to be one of those books that you somehow forget about and they gather dust on your shelf. So I decided that in quarantine I'm going to try to read some of my oldest TBR books

The book centers around the mystery of Nicola giving birth at her friends birthday party in the bathroom. No one knew she was pregnant and no one knows who the father is. The rest of the book is based around the fallout of this. 

Monday, 20 April 2020

Review: Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

Publisher: O'Brien Press
Publication Date: June 2020
Source: Review Copy from Publisher

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When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold ... Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

 Thank you to the lovely people at O'Brien Press for sending me an advanced copy of the novel in exchange for my review. 

I was very much looking forward to this book as it received a huge amount of publicity even in 2019 which is a long time before its release date. 

The novel centers around Lia who has now inherited the throne and will become queen of the kingdom. As Lia ascends to the throne, dangers begin to surface in every aspect of her life. She hires Xania as her Whispers aka her personal protector and spymaster. From here their relationship begins to grow, deepen and become romantic. 

The representation in this novel is just next level. The novel features wlw, mlm, bisexual characters and gay characters throughout. I really loved this aspect as in this world all sexual preferences and relationships are normalised. So I loved reading about these relationships and the interaction between characters.