You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance – Book Review

Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Click the cover to read the book’s description

I received a copy of this book from Hot Key Books via Readers First in exchange for an honest review.

🌟 🌟 🌟.5

This is a book I want to give to 16-year-olds who have made themselves ill over stress and school work like it’s the end of their life and not just a stepping stone to the next stages. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need.

Vallance perfectly captured the mindset of a post-GCSE student and the sense of earnest, determined independence, yet greatly undecided and vulnerable nature of a young adult realising the insignificance of these exams in hindsight. The feelings described in this book about how school life depicts your future in comparison to the reality is so accurate it’s staggering. That, and Grace’s witty narration is so candid and sincere, even in melodrama, I was laughing from the start.

Grace goes through a tremendous amount of personal development and self-discovery, not least of all acknowledging her own sexuality to herself and her family and friends and coming to terms with what it all means.

Til, Grace’s best friend, was my favourite character; she was so funny and direct and reminded me so much of my best friend toward the end of high school.

I feel this book may be better given to less impressionable readers who are well versed in the mantra of ‘stranger-danger’ just as, I don’t know what it’s like in Brighton, but I wouldn’t advise Grace’s method of friend-making where I live. Though I did like Spider, he was an interesting character, his and Vicky’s age isn’t really that well defined (that I remember) but I got the idea they were a bit older than Grace and it made their relationship somewhat strange. It also made me a little uncomfortable with the fact this girl (who certainly acts 20+ years old) repeatedly kissed Grace, a 16-year-old, without invitation and Grace repeatedly comments on how she’s not sure she liked it or wanted her to.

I wouldn’t say any of the above is problematic per se, I just found it uncomfortable and weirdly, though I know I felt very grown up at 16, the closer I get to 20, the younger and more childlike that age seems to me.

A little note from me: I’m trialling some new Pinterest Graphics for my book reviews, and they took a while to perfect. I’m pretty proud of them but didn’t want them clogging up my post so they’re hidden within the review – if you could take 1 minute to maybe pin one with the below button I would really appreciate it!

Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Read my review of You Only Live Once by Jess Vallance, the first in a series that is perfect for fans of Geek Girl. Gracie Dart is a relatable and funny character and her journey of self-discovery and growing up is one I think young women need fresh out of the stress of exams.
Book Reviews by Bloodthirsty Little Beasts

 

Vox by Christina Dalcher – Book Review

My book review of Vox by Christina Dalcher - a book is set in 21st century America, a country recently relinquished to the control of religious zealots who have silenced half the population. #feminism
Click the cover to read the book’s description.

I received a copy of this book from Berkley via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

“Maybe this is how it happened in Germany with the Nazis, in Bosnia with the Serbs, in Rwanda with the Hutus. I’ve often wondered about that, about how kids can turn into monsters, how they learn that killing is right and oppression is just, how in one single generation the world can change on its axis into a place that’s unrecognizable.”

Except this isn’t Nazi Germany, or Bosnia, or Rwanda, this book is set in 21st century America, a country recently relinquished to the control of religious zealots who have silenced half the population with technology I’d guess is not beyond the capability of that we hold now.

I had contemplated making my review only 100 words long but realised that would probably utterly contradict the point this book was trying to make. And boy, it was making a point. If you are looking for subtle metaphors and understated symbolism portraying the oppression of women and its subsequent call to action, this isn’t really that book. This book’s message is not subtle, it’s blatant and undeniable but in a way, I think that is a good thing.

I love that academic subtlety and metaphor in my didactic literature as much as the next person, I really do, but in my experience discrimination is becoming more and more subtle and with anything you try to remove, is digging its heels. Most of my brushes with sexism nowadays are discovering it hiding, ingraining itself in cultural and social practices in the hopes of not being identified.

“When you get down to it, what’s the difference between some backwater assholes’ advising men to marry teenage girls and a bunch of costumed drunks flinging beads to anyone who shows her tits on St. Charles Avenue?”

I don’t necessarily think the above comparison is the best one to make, but I get the point behind it. In an age where basic arguments for equality are often met with a response of ‘political correctness gone mad’ (or at least in my corner of the world), it’s becoming clear that some arguments should be direct.

Enjoy seems a strange choice of word, but I did enjoy this book. It scared me, deeply, for two reasons. The first was Steven, the MC’s son, and how easily a young person at their peak of impressionability can be moulded into a character that is unrecognisable, even to their own mother. The second was, though I’m familiar with the concept of complacency, I have never considered myself complacent but this book made me feel like I was.

Think about what you need to do to stay free. Well, doing more than fuck all might have been a good place to start.”

The book isn’t without fault. The pacing, though generally good, did glaze over some areas and the inclusion of an affair on top of everything else felt like an unnecessary inclusion really. The story would have been perfectly good with either Lorenzo excluded, or situated as Jean’s husband. The whole thing felt … odd. Which bring me neatly to my main issue and that is the fact that Patrick was an interesting character that could have had a brilliant arc to do with uncovering the hidden layers to him, etc. but about 80% of this book short-changed him, especially in the end which felt a lot like the proverbial tying up of loose ends/brushing under the carpet/cleaning house.

I understood the meaning was showing how easily the world can turn onto its axis, as it were, but it wasn’t very well done. Despite that, this book did keep me hooked and it made me feel things: anger, fear, anticipation, indignation. Because of that, it deserves its 4 stars because only a good book can do that.

Book Review Vox by Christina Dalcher Bloodthirsty Little Beasts

 

How (Not) To Marry A Duke by Felicia Kingsley – Book Review

See my review of How (Not) To Marry A Duke by Felicia Kingsley, a hate-to-love romance set in modern day British aristocracy.
Click the cover to read the book’s description.

I received this book from Aria and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟 🌟

A gentle reminder two stars still means ‘it was okay’ by the Goodreads standard.

The premise for this book was interesting and the majority of my issues with it congregate toward the very start and the very end of the book, because the in between was pretty good and would have easily received 3/3.5 stars from me but, I did have my problems.

Like I said, it was an interesting concept, it was light and quite funny at times and, well it must have been compelling since past the 30% point I couldn’t put it down. By the end, I really routed for Ashford and Jemma because opposites attract has never been truer than when applied to them and, they worked. Inexplicably, they worked.

My issues as I said, began at the start, the first one being Derek’s part to play; I may be naïve to think this but no solicitor, or legal professional, would risk their integrity and livelihood to play matchmaker and disclose confidential client information and advise his clients to commit fraud. I’m sorry but lawyers are smart people, and that is dumb as f***. I know many, many solicitors and they wouldn’t dream of giving such negligent advice, let alone to a friend of theirs. I would have bought the whole scheme more if they had dreamed it up themselves.

The second issue I had was the portrayal of almost every character as some daft, caricature of an outdated stereotype. Carly and Vance’s hippy lifestyle, which hey, could well be accurate but I felt it was overemphasized and overdone; Ashford’s arrogance and ignorance (‘“We’re talking about three million pounds!” I complain.’ I’m sorry but one does not simply complain about discovering they are in £3m worth of debt. No one does, I don’t care how rich you are); and Delphina. Delphina, in general, was the absolute worst example of a caricature but even worse was the injustice I felt was done to poor Jemma.

Never mind the fact she was repeatedly treated like crap, and never actually got her sweet revenge by rubbing her millions in their snobby faces and proving someone can be wealthy and not act like they were born to the celestials, but I felt an injustice was done to working-class women in her portrayal. I felt I understood Jemma’s character, her roots; I come from a Labour-supporting, working-class city with roots as deep in football support as they are in tradesmanship. I know and am related to people like Jemma, who like what she likes and have the same take-me-or-leave-me attitude and don’t pander to those who feel as though they are above them, so her continuous abuse at the hands of the upper class meant something to me and I rooted for her. However, her consistent portrayal (both in thought and in action) as a childish, ill-mannered bimbo was just plain insulting. Living in the working class parts of London (which isn’t cheap even then), of any city doesn’t automatically make you incapable of holding a civil conversation, eating anything other than fried chicken and ignorant of the value of newspapers, even if you don’t enjoy them yourself. It just doesn’t, and whenever she did succeed at something it was never treated as an accomplishment, just a fluke or a lucky break as if no one like her could ever do such a thing based on skill. Even Ashford’s recognition is plain patronising and condescending. I get that everyone is different but I stopped relating to her the second I realised that unlike I first thought, she wasn’t the only real person in the book, she was yet another caricature.

As I said, the story improves and even though the plot cycles through (and references) the timeless tropes and themes of Pride and Prejudice, Taming of the Shrew, Pretty Woman and The Princess Diaries, I really did enjoy that part as we actually saw some great character development from our two main characters (even if Ashford never completely stops being an absolute asshole).

But the ending* spoiled it for me and took it down to a 2-star rating because it just made me angry. Not a bad book but for me, it was personally problematic.

*SPOILER ALERT

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The Last Romeo by Justin Myers – Book Review

Myers, J - The Last RomeoI received this book from NetGalley and Piatkus in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟🌟

This was a really, fun and funny read about one man’s descent into the horror that is the internet, online dating and fame going to your head.

“No one cared who i was until I put on the mask.” – Bane, The Dark Knight Rises

When Myers started his book with the above quote, he pretty much had me sold as he was obviously a cool guy with great taste.

I really enjoyed James’ narrative and point of view. He is a very real and relatable character with flaws and insecurities. His endless dating disasters (and not so disasters) were both comical but entirely realistic and I always enjoy reading from the perspective of a character who is a writer.

The author did a  really brilliant job of drawing you into the story and actually getting you vested in James’ hunt for The Last Romeo, without you even realising. I didn’t realise how deep I was until James made the stupidest choice possibly in the history of love stories and I was sat in my living room, alone, shouting “But why? Why? What the hell do you think you’re doing?! Goddamnit James, why?“.

Deep breath.

Anyway, I’m sure you’re wondering why only the 3 stars then? Surely, from what you’ve said this is 4 or even 5 star worthy? Well, because my ship got sunk – that’s why. Yes, it was that good a ship, and yes I sure as hell do hold a grudge.

That and though James undergoes huge character development, and is surely on the path to self-actualisation by the end of the book, it’s just a smidge incomplete at the slightly dissatisfying ending. The ending is still hugely worth it though – and I really hope Myers releases a short story set say, 6 years in the future, to let us know how it all turns out.

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking – Book Review

Hocking, A - Between the Blade and the HeartI received a copy of this book from the publisher, Pan Macmillan, and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

🌟🌟

So while I was checking who the publisher was for the opening line of this review I saw NetGalley’s description of this book started with these words: ‘Game of Thrones meets Thor: Ragnarok’.

Um, no? I feel like this is a severely misleading description if anything this book is Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Shadowhunters and well, every mythological being out there, apparently. I found this book quite disappointing really. It wasn’t bad, it was actually alright but it lacks focus on its concept and if you’re going into this expecting a Norse-inspired YA fantasy you’re going to be disappointed.

So far as I can tell the Valkyries in this book resemble those from mythology only in name, fierceness and weaponry. Their purpose and values are completely unique to this world and that is perfectly fine, they just don’t line up with the mythology and I think it might have been better if they had had a different name all their own. The atmosphere and setting of the novel is a very grungey, steampunk, overcrowded city complete with hover crafts, dark, gritty alleyways and underground markets just ’cause. The scene setting is actually really good, and the world building as good as it could be with the complete overload of inspirations it had.

The Norse influence is very limited and this book includes all manner of immortal, mythology beings including angels, demons, vampires, werewolves, goblins, cyclopses, ghosts, witches, devas (whatever they are), demigods, real gods, giant spiders, shapeshifters, sorcerers and pretty much everything in between. It’s too much, and frankly, I just wish the bad guys had had one overarching theme. On top of this, while a lot of the names used were German-inspired we also had them side by side with things named in different Norse languages, Latin and probably many others I’m too uneducated to recognise. It was just too much.

It’s our main character, Malin’s (and her fellow elite warriors the Valkyries) job to kill these many, many, many immortal beings when their time is dictated by some other faceless, immortal beings for reasons unbeknownst to us and her and she is aided by her human-come-sorceress-in-training best friend, her knowledge father figure mentor and this other dude she just met – but wait! She has to do all this world-saving and keep up with school work and exes and mother issues like any other teenager?! However, will she cope at being so awesome? (Do you see where I am getting Buffy from?)

Much like Buffy, I found it hard to keep my attention with this book. I mean it was interesting but, as with Buffy (when my best friend made me watch it, appalled I had missed it in my childhood despite it predating us both) my mind would wander and I’d hit pause to go do something else pretty easily.

Overall the writing was good even if a few sentences kind of felt like a thesaurus had coughed them out:

“Many immortals took umbrage with the idea of being “returned”, which was teh vernacular the Riks used for killing.”

And I feel when you are going to reference literature or mythology as part of your world building it’s important to decide once and for all if it’s also canon in your world or not. For instance, there was a place called ‘the Ninth Ring’ and one of the characters then explains it refers to Dante’s Inferno. It’s a place name. Your readers can get that reference themselves and it’s clever. When your characters get that it’s cheesy. I also didn’t get how the characters could refer to anything as mythology when it all lived right next door to them, quite literally. Or question if the Vanir gods are real when according to their own job description, they work for them. It was confused as hell.

My final peeve, is that I saw yet another example of what I’m tentatively going to refer to as a trope, since I’m not sure it is and I have not heard it discussed before. In the last few YA books I’ve read with a bisexual main character, I’ve noticed a trend that every single one seemed compelled to include two romantic rivals, one female, and one male as if it was necessary to validate their characters bisexuality? Just gonna say now, it isn’t. It makes sense in some books but on most occasions, it feels like the author is just trying to prove their character is bi to the reader. When a character makes it clear they are straight or gay in a book I don’t go looking for proof, I accept it because it’s a book, why would it lie? So, why do I need proof for bisexual characters in the form of forced, and often utterly incompatible love rivalries that add naught to the story except annoying inner turmoil for the main character as they decide who they like better? Please just stop, it’s dumb and borderline offensive.

I think this book will really appeal to a lot of people, as many people do really like the meshing of different mythologies and legends and overall it isn’t horrible, I’m just not one of them and I won’t be reading the sequel.

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly Ringle – Book Review

The Goblins of Bellwater by Molly ringleI received this book from NetGalley and the publisher, Central Avenue Publishing, in exchange for an honest review. I’d like to apologise for my tardiness in giving them that review, sincerely.

🌟🌟🌟.5

This is a dark, paranormal romance with a fairy tale atmosphere and an actual non-pathetic heroine to boot.

The intertwining of the two worlds, both our real world and this dark magical one was well done and the ‘liaison’ role between the two forces was original and intriguing though I wished we’d got to see a little more of Kit as a character. The pacing was good and it was refreshing to have such a satisfying ending for a fantasy standalone.

The first scene with Grady and Skye actually really tugged at my heartstrings, something about the way he treated and communicated with her and her own, albeit limited, responses just gave me the feels in a big way. I mean, it got rapidly less cute and innocent as you’ll see but that scene stuck with me.

Oddly, what I took most from this book is a strange insight to mental illness and depression. Though Skye’s illness is really a magical spell/curse the frustration and depression she experiences, as a result, is most definitely less than magical and I thought it was eloquently expressed and I found it interesting to see through her eyes.

One of my peeves with all books of this genre is the tendency for the characters to substitute sex for dealing with their problems and there’s some of that here but it’s definitely not as problematic as other books I’ve read and certainly less vulgar.

Livy was a cool and I must say, unexpected female lead and as I said before, utterly non-pathetic which is great. She didn’t need anyone to come to save her, she just did what she had to and I respected her immensely for it. I did wish Kit had more of a role to play but he was still a good character.

This was a great read I demolished in one day but I’d have to emphasise it only stands this strongly alone – a sequel (unless it was mindblowing) would probably ruin it.

ARC August Read Sleep repeat

ARC August 2018 #1 – Participation Announcement

Hello everyone!

So, as if I didn’t really have enough going on as it is I’ve also decided to take part in this year’s ARC August hosted by the lovely ladies over at Read. Sleep. Repeat. and I’m really looking forward to it!

I had the first week of August booked off as a reading holiday anyways so hopefully, I can get a strong start in. I’ve never taken part in this before but I’m quite excited, it will hold my first readathon and, what I’m most looking forward to, another bookish bingo card!

This will mean in addition to the challenges set for ARC August, I will also be taking part in that month’s Reading Rivalry challenges, the State of the ARC bingo card as well as my own personal goal to be Overdue ARC Free by 2019 (hey, I heard that sarcastic laugh, it’s possible). I know others have far more challenges going on but this is the most challenges I’ve taken on in one go, luckily they all coordinate quite well.

Since Reading Rivalry won’t announce their criteria for a couple of weeks yet, I’m just going to put a pretty wall of doom collage of the ARCs I have on my pile to be read and reviewed, both overdue and upcoming. When I know what they are I’ll try to fit them to as many criteria as possible.



Wish me luck! Are you participating in ARC August too? Let me know in the comments!