Review: Dead Popular by Sue Wallman

I’ve enjoyed every single Sue Wallman book I’ve read since her debut, Lying About Last Summer. With each new release, she proves herself an absolute master at crafting YA thrillers that are impossible to put down!

Dead Popular follows Kate, the most popular girl and Head Prefect at Pankhurst boarding school. One of her old friends, Sasha, is not returning for the school year after expulsion, and somebody wants revenge. We follow Kate and her form as they throw status symbol parties disrupted by school room pranks with more sinister motives. Everything can be explained away until one girl ends up dead.

Seriously, all you have to do is read the first page to get pulled into the story. I love narratives that begin with something dark, so you’re just anxiously waiting the entire time for things to turn ugly, but you don’t know when it’ll creep up on you. The energy this book has is definitely unnerving in how everything seems normal until the last minute.

I thought Sue Wallman did a great job at capturing the characters of a posh boarding school, their entitlement and preoccupation with beauty. I really understood the group dynamics – who was supposed to end up with who, who we weren’t supposed to like after what happened last summer – it was all developed so well in such a short space of time. And with all that, there still manages to be an intriguing romance plot thread to further complicate the relationships between everyone, from a book that’s under 300 pages. You really can have it all!

Boarding schools are one of my all time favourite book settings, and it was used perfectly to give that sense of isolation from parents…and civilisation. That said, the greater setting of the beach, from the cliffs to the chip shop, was so well conjured too, I could almost smell the salt air as I turned the pages.

The mystery itself I didn’t see coming. Always a good thing with thrillers, right? But of course, looking back at the end, all the seeds were there to make the reveal feel earned. It’s just a testament to the characters and atmosphere that I can be so oblivious to the genre they’re built it!

If you love thrillers, and are looking for the next book that not even ice cream in the blistering heat could tempt you away from, then I strongly recommend adding Dead Popular to your TBR.

 

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

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Interview with Lucy and Lydia Connell, authors of #FindTheGirl: All That Glitters!

Today, we have the pleasure of taking part in the blog tour for Lucy and Lydia’s follow up to #FindTheGirl, All That Glitters! If you’re out of the loop on the series, it focuses on twin sisters, Nina and Nancy. They have polar opposite personalities: Nancy is a popular, beauty and boy band obsessive, while Nina is a reserved, musical prodigy. The pair find themselves at the centre of a social media campaign when one of the girls spends quality time with Chase, the lead singer of Chasing Chords, and he’s desperate to find out who she is. There’s drama, romance and music you wish you could hear in real life!

Reading about the bond between twins is particularly special for us, and the journey that Nina and Nancy go through in All That Glitters, dealing with the pressures of the spotlight, and stepping out of each other’s shadows felt so deeply real. So, we were ecstatic to get the chance to interview Lucy and Lydia about the series, and how their relationship reflects in their characters.

Are each of you more like Nina or Nancy?

I would definitely say that Lydia is more like Nancy and my personality (Lucy) is definitely more like Nina. There is so much of us in these characters, I feel like they are exaggerated versions of ourselves! Lydia is much more outgoing, I feel like I’m so much like Nina! When our viewers and friends read this book, they will definitely see us in these characters!

If you could swap places with either of them, who would you pick?

Ohhhhh this is so hard! We both loveeeee Nancy’s confidence, style and fun loving personality but Nina has such a big heart and is such a talented musician and in this book, she attends the Guildhall summer music program which is something we would have loved to have done! Also she’s dating dreamy Chase! SO IT’S REALLY HARD!

How did being twins yourselves influence Nina and Nancy’s characters?

One thing we love about being twins, is that twins have such a special bond, which is something we really wanted to highlight in both of our books. There is no bond as strong as a twin bond, you’re always stronger together. The twins are so close at the end of our first book, but in this second book, they face some new challenges of having to be independent. Nina is now the ‘IT’ girl, dating Chase from the biggest boyband Chasing Chords and Nancy finds this quite hard as their roles of popularity have now reversed. Nancy is struggling with feeling left behind and not knowing exactly what she wants to do and Lydia felt a little bit like this when she was at school.

Obviously Lydia and I are extremely close, and have always been so it was fun to explore the possibility of these twins being polar opposites, and having such different personalities that we could really develop!

What was the best and the hardest part of writing together?

The best thing about writing our books together is that we could really bounce ideas between us. This really helped develop our story, all of our ideas and enabled us to be extra creative with the story. The hardest part of writing together was that we wanted to work on the same chapters, and when we did this we would have to decide on which version we preferred/had to choose which part we preferred.

Describe the series in emojis!

💗 👭 🎵 ✨ (pink heart, two twinning girls and a music note because of the love of music in the book and of course the sparkle emoji because our new book is called ALL THAT GLITTERS! 

In the way that Nancy is obsessed with Chasing Chords, what are you both obsessed with at the moment? 

We are both absolutely obsessed with Soul Cycle gym classes at the moment! They are so much fun! We are also obsessed with mini ice cream Twisters! They are a summer must have! Of course, just like Nancy we are music obsessed and we have actually made a FIND THE GIRL playlist that would be the most perfect soundtrack for our book! We have been listening to this on REPEAT!!

FIND IT HERE :  https://open.spotify.com/playlist/1FI88x3lZNvb7R4Uu3QpPs

We absolutely lived for your New York Minute recreation on Instagram last year! What are your top 3 Mary-Kate and Ashley movies?

Thank-you so much! Those photos are some of our favourites ever! We love recreating our favourite Mary-Kate and Ashley movies. They were our idols growing up and we looked up to them so much! We hope Nina and Nancy can be an inspiration just like Mary-Kate and Ashley were to us! Our favourite Mary-Kate and Ashley movies were definitely Holiday In The Sun, Our Lips Are Sealed and New York Minute!

 

Thank you to Penguin Random House for inviting us to be part of this blog tour, and to Lucy and Lydia for answering our questions! Twin sisters > anything else!

How Successful Were Our 2017 TBRs?

This year more than any other, Bee and I have been making TBRs for ourselves and trying our best to stick them them. For some, we gave ourselves the whole year and others, we had a month.

First of all, there were the 5 books we wanted to read in 2017.
Maddie read: 4/5 | Leftover: The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Bee read: 4/5 | Leftover: The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon
I wonder if we’ll use the last couple of weeks of the year to strike these two of our lists, but TUE wasn’t Bee’s favourite Morgan Matson book, so I’m not inspired to pick it up and TBS has completely slipped off our radar since January.

Then, our Easter TBR for Tome Topple.
M & B read: 4/5 | DNF’d: Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas.
This totally counts as completed, and means we’ve met one of our resolutions to not finish books we don’t like! Double points!

Next, there was our Summer TBR: Rainbow Edition.
M & B read: 7/7! Oh my goodness, we actually got round to all of these books, mostly thanks to our weekend readathons during the summer break. Maybe it shouldn’t be so much of a surprise, seeing as we did have a four month break…

During the summer, we were also prepping for YALC, so of course we made a TBR!
Maddie: 4/6 | Leftover: A Conjuring of Light by V. E. Schwab and Spellbook for the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle
Bee: 9/11 | Leftover: Noah Can’t Even by Simon James Green and Slated by Teri Terry
Bee really set the bar high for this one and managed to read loads, whereas I gave myself two books that were over 500 pages, so definitely slowed my pace.

Our last official TBR of the year was our Autumn TBR, with 5 books we wanted to read before the end of the year.
Maddie: 3/5 | Leftover: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Kingdom of Sleep by E. K Johnson.
Bee: 5/5! Okay, so it’s obvious who’s better at sticking to TBRs our of the pair of us!

Overall, TBRs have worked out pretty well for us this year. They’re something that we swore off when we first started our BookTube channel, not wanting the added pressure of reading a certain thing, but they’ve helped us prioritise what’s most important and shifted our focus from recently hauled books to ones that have been on our shelves the longest. Are they going to be something we continue to do in 2018? Of course! But, I think we’ll stick to TBRs with long deadlines, so the pressure is there but not suffocating.

It’s disappointing not to finish a TBR, especially at the end of a year because it just means those books will carry with us into 2018, but this post acts as a record, so hopefully in December next year I can look back and see that I’ve read everything I wanted…12 months late.

As for the last chance TBR we set at the beginning of Blogmas, as of the 19th, I’ve read both Ash by Malinda Lo and Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch. Bee’s only read Truth or Dare by Non Pratt, but she’s still got time to read her final book, so fingers crossed!

Were your TBRs successful this year? Have you got many books left over? Do you like TBRs or loathe them? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

Review: Unveiling Venus by Sophia Bennett

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

This was such a lovely and enjoyable continuation to Persephone’s story! I didn’t think it would be possible to enjoy the sequel as much as I did Following Ophelia, but here we are! There’s passion and scandal and, of course, art. What’s not to like? Continue reading “Review: Unveiling Venus by Sophia Bennett”

Reading, Blogging & BookTube Crisis

The title of this post makes it sound really melodramatic but Bee and I have been having a lot of thoughts recently that have really affected our reading/blogging/BookTubing and whether the passion we had for Heart Full of Books is still as strong as it was when we started…four years ago.

Four years is a long time to keep something going. It’s not a secret that we’ve put more effort into our YouTube channel than our blog, and that filming videos and posting regularly has always been more of a priority than sitting down to write about our most recent reads. I guess that’s because on our channel is where we’ve built the biggest audience, and although no one likes to admit it, sometimes the numbers do matter and can be a huge motivator to keep working on something.

It’s also true that the people who read our blog or not necessarily the people that watch our videos. Because our blog has always been more of a side project, despite being the thing we created first, we just haven’t put the time and effort into building a little community over here.

Each year, both of our platforms have grown steadily. There was a time where I’d look at stats every morning and be really pleased with how many people were finding our stuff. We always wanted to make sure that we were posting what we wanted to post, but if we looked at what’s most popular, it’s not what we did most often. It got us thinking if we should start making more spoiler reviews or ‘Top 5’ posts.

As is the usual with the September-October months, we’ve done a lot less reading  because of starting our final year at university – which is obviously super important and deserves our focus – but the time away from reading put some interesting thoughts in our heads.

Did we still want to do wrap ups anymore? How often did we want to post videos? Do we want to do more readathon vlogs because people seem to really like them?  And most importantly:

Is our blog dead??

We haven’t posted on our blog in a month. We’re not motivated to write reviews. We can never think of anything interesting to write about outside of reviews…

But we want to do Blogmas. It’s been a tradition on our blog since it started and darn if we’re breaking the tradition this year. I want to be passionate about blogging. I want to find an audience that wants to read what I have to write and I’m not just saying that to convince myself.

Heart Full of Books has been our entire identity for four years, pretty much. Reading and talking about books is our number one hobby. It got to a point where we forgot it was possible to have other hobbies at the same time, but now that we’ve started drawing and writing again, our reading/blogging/BookTubing was bound to reduce.

I guess I’m just not entirely sure how that makes me feel. Just because you take a break from something doesn’t have to mean you love it any less, but that’s definitely the mindset I fell into.

Bee and I are going to work hard to make this blog something we want to work on and something that we’re proud of. And we’re still going to post videos, if a little less regularly than before. There might be some changes in content, like less wrap ups/reviews and more…other stuff that we haven’t quite figured out yet.

This was an absolute ramble of a post and something we don’t really share a lot of on this blog, but maybe that’s something that can change too. So, crisis over. Thanks for getting to the end of the post if you did, and look forward to more regularly scheduled, mixing-it-up content in the future!

Review: Lola Offline by Nicola Doherty

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Let’s get this out of the way first: if you LOVED Anna and the French Kiss, particularly the international Parisian boarding school and Etienne as the irresistible, popular love interest, you’ll LOVE Lola Offline. It has both of these things, though Etienne comes in the form of Tariq. Same guy, without the whole cheating-on-his-girlfriend thing. So, in the end, a better and more racially diverse alternative. (Perfect!)

Lola Offline is about a girl that wants to escape her identity. Delilah moves to Paris and changes her name to run away from a social media scandal, where she posted something  completely inappropriate without stressing the fact she was being ironic. When the Internet gets mad, there’s no going back. Lola hopes that the boarding school and new group of friends will never find out what she did.

Like that was going to happen. Her Twitter footprint is online forever, whether or not see is and you get a scene very reminiscent of Janice and Kady’s in Mean Girls when Lola’s identity and globally recognised mistake is unearthed by Vee, the girl who’s extremely mad at the world.

My favourite character was, without a doubt, Fletcher. She so could have easily been the Regina George of the school: blonde, pretty, popular. But Vee seems to think that about her, getting very antsy when Lola suggests being her friend when Fletcher has done nothing wrong. She’s the sweetest girl ever, and I really appreciated that her character defied the stereotype that would have been dumped on her if this was, say, a teen movie.

Tariq and Lola’s relationship was a slow burn, but not because he had a girlfriend, but because for most of the second half, Lola thinks he’s gay. That would be fine, besides the fact that she bases this opinion on the fact that he got over his girlfriend quickly, has a good sense of style and ‘baked brownies’. Brownies?? Since when have delicious baked goods been a sexuality signifier? It was so ridiculous, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Another great thing, though, was how clued in the book was to social media and the consequences. Sometimes it could read a little like a high school assembly about the dangers of putting yourself online, but the comments it did make about permanence and how everything you say affects your future were poignant, nonetheless.

Overall, Lola Offline struggled for me to make it’s own splash, as I could constantly think of things that may have been inspirations, or where I’d seen similar plot threads before. BUT, the things it did mimic in some way are sure to appeal to fans of those things, and I’m sure someone that’s just looking for a cute, social-media orientated romance will really like this book.

The GBBO Book Tag!

We were tagged by Aoife at Fred Weasley Died Laughing to do the GBBO book tag, created by ReadingWithJack and what better time to do it than the week Bake Off is back on air!

1. CAKE: The cake has sunk in the middle. Pick a book that didn’t rise to your expectations.
Bee: Across the Universe by Beth Revis. It turned out to be one of the most predictable and boring read!
Maddie: Anything I’ve read this year by E. Lockhart: How to be Bad and the Ruby Oliver series. Nothing has been as cool and plot twist-y as We Were Liars!

2. BISCUITS: Once you’ve eaten one, you’re hungry for more and each time you eat another, they get more and more delicious. Pick a book series or trilogy that got progressively better.
Bee: The second half of the Study Series by Maria V Snyder. I love the original trilogy, but the fourth book kind of let me down. But, Night Study really pulled it back to a kick ass continuation!
Maddie: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne – Each book got progressively more feminist and filled with girl power, two of my favourite things! Continue reading “The GBBO Book Tag!”

Award: The Book Fangirling Blog Award

We were nominated by Kellie at Book Delights, so a huge thank you to Kellie! Fandoms are definitely something that Bee and I are apart of, but it doesn’t take over our lives as much as it could. So, let’s have fun answering her great questions.

The Rules

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  • Answer the questions they set for you.
  • Set some new questions and nominate five more bloggers.

Questions

1. Which fandom do you think creates the best (subjectively) fanart/fanfiction/gifs…?

We’ve been following the eighth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race and seeing all the fanart of the queens has been AMAZING! Drag Queens make such great models for fanart because of their intense costume and makeup, personal favourite artists being: Chad Sell and dariendoodles!

And, more longstanding, the Percy Jackson fandom has always been on point with their fanarts, see Viria if you want to cry your heart out over the beauty.

2. How many fandoms do you identify yourself with? What fandoms are they?

SO MANY. At the moment, our current fandoms are Steven Universe (life-changingly adorable. (Those new episodes, though!)) and Victorious, because we’re discovering old Nickelodeon shows from 2008 and it’s the best thing ever!

3. Do you have any fandom items? If you do, what is your favourite item?

We have a lot of Harry Potter merch, from t-shirts and figurines to actual wands from the Warner Brother Studios, but our favourite things are probably all the dolls we have that assert us as part of the Mattel fandom.

4. Favourite OTP from your favourite fandom?

All time favourite fandom? Oh my goodness, how can anyone decide this? We did a video of our favourite couples, so turn to that to get to know us a little better! Currently, Cat and Robbie from Victorious are fuelling my happiness. (And the fact that they turn up in Ariana’s One Last Time video makes my life complete.)

5. What book (series)/fandom/tv series/anything will you remain a fangirl for until the very end?

Once Upon A Time. No matter how bad people say the writing is, or the trajectory of the character’s fates, we’ll remain in Storybrooke forever, or at least until Rumbelle get their happy ending! Similar things can be said for the Pretty Little Liars fandom. As long as the baes all end up together by the end of season seven, you can count us both as satisfied fans!

Our Questions: 
1. What fandom would you recommend to others?

2. What fandoms have you been part of for the longest and the shortest amount of time?

3. Do you contribute to your fandoms with fanfiction, art, gifs, etc. or do you just support and appreciate it?

4. What’s your all-time favourite fandom?

5. Do you have any head-canons, or only follow the canon?

If you like the sound of this tag, we tag YOU to do it!

Reviews: World Book Day Books for Older Readers

Both of these stories were available for £1 on World Book Day, March 3rd, and are still available as e-editions. 

26365537Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Romance
Published by: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 63
Rating: ★★★

This was a classic Rainbow Rowell story in that the romance was adorable, and follows the same kind of fangirl culture, similar to Fangirl itself. Elena, our protagonist, decides to camp out in front of the movie theatre a few days before the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. She’s already bought a ticket online, but it’s the ritual of devotion to the franchise, no matter how unnecessary. Gabe and Troy are the only other people in the line.  Not only is this a romance story, but a story about being a fan of something, and how we need to show the world we like something, especially online. Gabe even has this little speech about nerd/geek culture and how it’s cool to be part of a fandom nowadays. We could both talk for a long time about fandom culture, so we won’t, but just know it sparks some interesting thought.

The scenario was really unique and the characters were witty. It was something you could enjoy for an hour, and be sucked in by.

The one thing that niggled at us both was the convenience of the relationship between Elena and Gabe. It turned out that they both knew of each other before the line, as if that would make up for the shortness of the story. It just felt a bit incomplete.

9781471405679Spot The Difference by Juno Dawson
Genre: Contemporary
Published by: Hot Key Books
Pages: 84
Rating: ★★★★

This book was really refreshing because the main character, Avery, had acne. I’ve never seen that dealt with as a serious topic in a book before, which seems ridiculous because a lot of teenagers suffer from it, and if not from full blown acne, then definitely from the odd pimple or two. The plot revolves around Avery getting some treatment for her spots and becoming beautiful as they disappear. Because of this, she is accepted by the most popular crowd (which really brings to light how superficial popularity is in high school.) While this is happening, there’s an election for head boy and head girl, and Avery is persuaded to go for it.

There were some really lovely messages in this book, about loving the skin you’re in, and being true to yourself, and having loyalty to the people who have been with you through thick and thin. Although the story line could be predictable (because the adoption to the popular crowd is a trope) the characters and their actions were believable, so we didn’t mind.

This story could be read by every person in secondary school, because the characters feel a little ageless. They could be in Year Seven or Year Eleven, and the same dynamic would apply.

Overall, Spot the Difference worked excellently in a small number of pages. It could have been a much longer book, but it was just really concise and wonderful. We loved the humour and the positivity about being yourself, so this was definitely a favourite of the WBD books we’ve read.

 

September Wrap-Up

This month hasn’t be amazing, reading wise! We started university on the 20th September, and even before getting here we were both struck by the dreaded Reading Slump! We managed to read 8 books each, which is still an incredible number, especially given the circumstances, but, unfortunately, it’s not our usual standard.

University has radically changed our reading habits. We’re still reading a lot, but it isn’t exactly the YA we love! There’s a lot of critical essays to devour, so YA has been put on hold and therefore reviews may be few and far between! However, because we’ve started to properly settle in now, we’re hoping to find some time to get back into a regular reading routine. The Creative Writing side of our degree really encourages you to keep reading what you love and to keep up to date with contemporary fiction. If anything, I’ll be using this as my excuse to buy Six of Crows! Also, you never truly realise how expensive books are until you’re a poor student that has to wait until Christmas to get new releases.

Phew! University is tough, and even more of our time has been spent working on our side blog Maddie & Bee, because we’ve been working on our web series, which should hopefully be released sometime this week!