Review: How to Write a Love Story by Katy Cannon

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

How to Write a Love Story is all about Tilly, who secretly wrote the ending to her gran’s biggest romance series and sent it to the publisher while her gran, Bea, was in hospital with pneumonia. The reviews say it’s the most satisfying ending ever crafted, and so Bea encourages Tilly to write her own romance novel from start to finish. This should be no problem, since Tilly’s been living on a healthy diet of romance since she was twelve years old and has probably read every boy-meet-girl trope possible.

The downside is, even with all this theoretical knowledge of how to craft the perfect kiss, Tilly gets writer’s block and thinks the solution is experiencing love for herself to make the writing process genuine. I knew I wouldn’t be entirely on board with this plot point, because I fundamentally disagree that good writing can only come from lived experience, but whatever. That’s my ace showing. The angle made me think that young teen girls especially would get something out of this book.

(Also, this book was extremely hetero. It would have been cool if one of the books Bea had written included an LGBT+ plot line, or that one of the romances Tilly mentioned/wrote did. Especially because there are quite a few background romances in this that could have added that diversity I always look for. I think this comes from the fact that I’m doing a Romance module at university and all the books we’ve read have been M/F. I’m dying to find something different!)

All of the writing advice was sweet and definitely made me want to put pen to paper, but it was so easy to get invested in Tilly’s story, my novel had to wait until I was done. And I flew through this at record speed.

Something particularly great about this was the relationship between Bea and Tilly. You don’t often see relationships between grandparents and protagonists, and exploration into the experience of the elderly is something I want to read more of. If anyone has any recommendations for books with cute old people, please let me know!

As with most romance, Tilly’s love story was a little predictable. I saw the relationship twist coming as soon as all the boys had been introduced and yet I still liked the connection Tilly had with who she ended up with. I guess the lesson is always look for good banter, rather than good looks.

If you liked Katy’s other books, you’re guaranteed to like this one, but if you also like writing, romance and stories about fame, think about adding this to your TBR!

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Review: Truly Wildly Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

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

I was really excited to read this after loving Stargazing For Beginners, earlier this year. I literally jumped when I saw this come up on NetGalley, because no way was I getting to read two new Jenny McLachlan books in a year. This definitely followed in the same style, and there’s so much to love about it.

First of all, Annie, the main character, has cerebral palsy and uses both a wheelchair and crutches in the book. I haven’t read about that many visibly disabled characters, and this is something I hope to change in the coming year. The discussion of Annie’s disability and her mentality surrounded it was really well handled, and although I can’t speak on behalf of those with CP, I felt it was respectful and insightful without trying to tell someone else’s story.

Second, it’s set at a sixth form and the representation of that environment is absolutely spot on. For the classes and cafeteria dynamic, to the desperate need to reinvent yourself and find new friends, I absolutely loved the setting. It took me right back to my sixth form years which were a delight.

Of course, it can’t be set in a school and not have English classes as a prominent feature. Throughout the novel, Annie and the boy she sits next to, Fab, are constantly arguing about Wuthering Heights. It felt like a copy and paste of my own A level lit lessons, as that was one of the texts we studied and I hated it. Jane Eyre, now that’s a book I can get behind. But, it was great to see how the book reflected Annie and Fab’s relationship and how it inspired the final 20% of the book in a very Sara Barnard style way. (Also, the style of the moors makes the cover beautiful!)

Annie and Fab are an interesting couple, mostly because they’re not a couple for most of the book. It’s obvious that Fab likes Annie, but Annie is apprehensive to be in a relationship. There’s a back-and-forth between them about this, and some classic miscommunication that could have been resolved quicker, in my opinion, and maybe I would have liked more reasoning for Annie’s disinterest in romance. She was showing a lot of demiromantic and asexual tendencies, and I got too excited about those possibilities when they weren’t canon.

I loved the scenarios that Annie and Fab were put in, like a costume party, a Polish wedding and a date involving berry-picking. It was all cute and lovely, exactly what I want in a contemporary romance.

Annie’s  mum was something special too. Close mother-daughter relationships are my favourite thing (see Radio Silence by Alice Oseman).  She was someone that Annie actually talked to about her problems and I loved her parental prominence.

Overall, I really liked Truly Wildly Deeply, if you couldn’t tell already, and give it 4 stars. There were a few things that I didn’t gel with, and there were a few pacing issues but they didn’t take away from how just lovely this book was. If you’re looking for disability rep, a love-tolerate romance and quirky plot points, I’d totally recommend this book.

Review: Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

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

This book comes to you in two very distinct parts. The first is a version of All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han, with our main character, Maya, attracting the interest of two boys: the very sweet parents-approve Muslim and the most popular guy at school that Maya’s had a crush on for years.

In the first chapter, she seems really into Kareem. They meet at an Indian wedding and have a lot in common, with Kareem encouraging Maya to pursue her dream of being a film-maker. It was cute and I was looking forward to the romance unfolding, following in the footsteps of When Dimple Met Rishi. 

Then Paul gets introduced later and there’s this contrived way from them to hang out: teaching Maya to swim. Paul was an exciting prospect because I haven’t read many interracial relationship before, but I couldn’t get behind their romance because Paul was already in a relationship. He’s hanging out with Maya in a definitely romantic fashion, and neither of them show any remorse for the fact that what they’re doing is cheating. It wasn’t okay in Anna and the French Kiss and it’s not okay here. I can’t root for a couple when I know there’s another girl outside the page that’s getting her heart broken.

The cheating thing felt especially bitter when Kareem was so lovely and an all around great guy. I didn’t understand that something which started quite flirty quickly fizzled out into ‘let’s just be friends’. I’ve never been on the ‘wrong’ side of a love triangle before, so this was an interesting experience and one that I hope never to have again.

So, if you haven’t got the sense already, this is definitely a contemporary romance. It stays that way for around 60-70% of the book. The rest of the story takes a complete U-turn from this.

At the end of every chapter, you get this tiny scene that slowly tells the story of a suspected suicide bomber that shares the same surname as Maya. They are in no way related, but the town reacts as if Maya’s family is responsible for the trauma. The 15% where this storyline is pursued feels like a different book. I wish it had played a bigger part in the book as a whole, because it felt like I was waiting and waiting to get to the moment described on the blurb, and the romance was just filler until then. Regardless, this plot line was powerful and will always be relevant to what’s going on in the world, but particularly this year when every day we seem to wake up to news of another terror attack, or more mass injuries. It was jarring to place these two things together, but realistic in the way that a terror threat is always going to deeply disturb a normal life.

However, if I didn’t know this book was going to have such a powerful perspective on the repercussions of prejudice, hatred and Islamophobia, I don’t think I would have kept reading beyond the halfway point.

I’m so pleased that more books like this are being published, and that I got the chance to read about a character so far from my own perspective. It’s definitely inspired me to try and find more books like this in 2018 – and also finally get round to The Hate You Give…

Mini Review: 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You by Vicki Grant

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

’36 Questions…’ is the story of Hildy and Paul who decide to take part in a PhD student’s experiment about falling in love. They are to ask each other – you guessed it – 36 questions in order to get to know more about each other and potentially find that romantic spark. Whenever the pair are talking to one another, they don’t know the other’s full identity and it’s written in interrogation interview format. (If you’re curious to what the 36 questions are and what to know to see what the conversations might be like, here they are.)

I found the dialogue between Hildy and Paul to be extremely predictable. It was like blah, blah, joke, getting offended, blah, blah, presumption about personality/upbringing/past relationships. This happened 36 times as they cycled through all the questions, so it’s safe to assume I got bored.

There were important things going on in the background, like Paul’s trauma with his mother, but the only thing that was lingered on was the pair’s supposed banter with one another that was all very one note. I was trying to read between the lines of their conversation and see when exactly they ‘fell in love’ but couldn’t pinpoint what made the change and so I wasn’t at all invested in the couple when they inevitably got together.

I’ve also read a few books recently, like Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index and Letters to the Lost that deal with the good girl/bad guy trope so complexly, so to see the personality types pared down to their most basic rom/com form was disappointing.

Unfortunately, this book was not for me, and I probably should have stopped reading it sooner like a few other people on Goodreads. BUT, if you like fast reads with different formats, and silly rom/coms that cheer you up whilst you’re reading, then I’m sure you’ll find ’36 Questions…’ quirky and cute.

Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

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

Everyone has known that Stephanie Perkins was writing a slasher/horror for the last two years. Now I finally have my hands on it, and boy was it…different to what I was expecting. After being known for Anna and the French Kiss and other lovey-dovey titles, I thought Stephanie Perkins would be really stepping outside her comfort zone. Turns out There’s Someone Inside Your House managed to have about five deaths, but still be 98% romance. And when I say romance, I mean carnal teenage ‘relationship’ because there was no romance to be seen. So let’s talk about it… Continue reading “Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins”

Review: The Girl’s Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski

If you love travel, or have been on a similar European tour, then this will feel like a Travel Diary and send you right back to your own adventures.

As someone who likes the idea of travelling but knows it’s definitely not for me, I have to admit I was bored at times. This is also from someone who loves DCOMs where travel is a huge part. (I’m talking Cheetah Girls 2, the Lizzie McGuire Movie, etc.) And let’s not forget my obsession with the old Mary-Kate and Ashley films. ‘When in Rome’ and ‘Winning London’ are pure classics. My favourite place the girls went to was probably Monte Carlo, only because I love the film ‘Monte Carlo’ and it reminded me how much I needed to rematch it. So, it’s not like I can’t enjoy travel stories, but this wasn’t the right one.

I don’t think the girls went through any character development. The ones that were in relationships ended up single and the girls not in relationships, found one. That was the only change. Personality wise, and friendship wise, they still seemed to be the same as page one. The friendship in general, though probably realistic, felt very imbalances. Leela had double standards and I wish the disconnect they were having could have been more of the centre rather than this Jackson guy who Leela kept calling a ‘Man Whore’….um no. You don’t get to judge someone based on how much sex they have! And they’d never even met! So, that was annoying.

I really liked what was going on with Sydney’s mother back home – her being agoraphobic and Sydney becoming the primary carer – and I would have much preferred to know more about that than their summer holidays. It felt like the most unique part of the story was happening outside of what we were being told.

I feel like their travels become a little dull, and kept hitting the same note. They’d struggle with money but somehow get through it, meet up with really kind people and sort of pick them up as they went along. (Even though there was this weird kissing contest that seemed to present itself at random times…) But there were no real stakes. We didn’t see the consequences of anything bad happening, so any sort of tension was completely lacking. Sydney and Leela had a few hiccups but nothing to stress over. I guess that’s because they were building this whole ‘perfect summer’ vibe, but maybe one instance of them having nowhere to sleep because they couldn’t afford it rather than some rich guy who fancies one of them coming in to save the day.

However thee final page did seem to suggest some kind of companion novel sequel about what was happening to one of Sydney and Leela’s other friends at the summer camp she was a counsellor at, which sounds 100% more up my street, so in the end, I’m glad I read this, so I could get the Easter eggs for the second book!

Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

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

I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a book. If it’s shocking to you, it’s shocking to me too because I thought I was going to love this. It was one of my most anticipated releases and I was so excited to read an #OwnVoices story about teenagers of Indian descent. And for the most part, the elements of Indian culture and passion for your own heritage was my favourite part of the book. It delivered that, but that was the ONLY thing it delivered for me.

So, let’s just pros and cons everything about this book, from character to plot to actual writing: Continue reading “Review: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon”

Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord

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

This book completely took my by surprise, and it is easily one of the best contemporaries I’ve read all year. Actually, let’s be honest: one of the best contemporaries I’ve read ever. I haven’t been touched this much by friendship, family and faith since the Clearwater Crossing series, which is an old one from the 90s but one of my all time favourites due to it’s absolutely beautiful complex characters and range of emotion. Emery Lord managed to pack the punch of a 20 book series into 380 glorious pages. The Names They Gave Us has a beating heart at its core and I was fully blown away.

Continue reading “Review: The Names They Gave Us by Emery Lord”

Review: Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Queens of Geek is the story of three Australian teens: Charlie, Taylor and Jamie, who travel across the world to attend SupaCon. Charlie is a Youtuber with 3 million subscribers, and she’s recently starred in a movie that everyone is obsessed with even though it’s only recently been released (so I’m a little confused by the timeline of this). Taylor has Aspergers but is conquering her anxiety so she can meet the author of her favourite book series. And Jamie’s basically just along for the ride so that Taylor can have some sort of love story.

I don’t want to say I have a problem with YA contempora

ries because that’s a sweeping statement and certainly not true, but quite a few ‘hyped’ books have severely disappointed me recently. And you know what aspect of the stories is letting me down? THE WRITING.

I honestly don’t want to get super negative, because it’s clear that Queens of Geek was Jen Wilde’s passion project but for me, the diversity was heavy-handed, the pacing was off, and the dialogue was really cringey and unrealistic. It felt like this book was trying to do too much.

The characters would lecture each other about intersectional feminism, handling anxiety, consensual sex, autism, leaving home, whether or not to go to university, being bisexual, slut shaming and body shaming (yep, all of these issues were talked about) even though everyone was on the same page with it anyway? They didn’t feel like real conversations the characters would be having, but rather conversations the author wanted the reader to contemplate. But the actually effect was that because it was trying to do ALL of them, none of them were done well. It was a classic case of spreading out too thin, resulting in everything being bad. If just two or three of these things had been the main focus then that would’ve been plenty, especially for a book under 300 pages.

But my main issue was suspension of disbelief:
1. I was ejected from the story the minute Charlie, who has 3 millionsubs, was acting as if no one knew her name. I’m sorry, but this is the kind of number where you’d be pulled over on the street to take pictures with your subscribers.

2. One part of the plot relies on Charlie not uploading a video, and instead asking her manager to upload it for her. The manager then uploads a different video which has some…consequences. HOW CAN YOU ULPOAD THE WRONG VIDEO? Charlie would have had to export only one video, turning it into a file that would probably save on her desktop?? But instead the manager goes into her editing software, exports clearly unedited footage (which would probably be like 40 minutes long and would take a long time on hotel wifi anyway so the consequences wouldn’t be as immediate as they are in the book), and then upload it to Youtube. She’d be waiting half a day if she had to export, upload and process herself! NO. The logical thing would’ve been for Charlie to upload and use the scheduling option for her own video. Does Charlie know how to Youtube???

I know, this is really nit-picking, but you can’t just jump hoops to make your logic work. This was stupid and contrived. I really dislike when things this are skipped over, because it just wouldn’t happen.

3. Taylor’s tumblr posts were never tagged with #personal, which is just completely unrealistic. Again, it’s a small thing, but show a lack of research. I’ve never seen someone use tumblr as an actual blog before all ‘Hi guys, so this is what I’m currently doing…’ Wouldn’t twitter have worked better for this kind of update?

So, that was a sort of rant, I guess. The only thing I’d ever heard anyone say about this was how ‘cute’ it was and that’s totally fine. But I’m not the kind of reader that just reads ‘for fun.’ Studying creative writing at uni and reading a ton of YA has resulted in my being highly critical (and probably a bit salty). We all get something different out of reading, and this book might have helped you with your own identity, but for me, it was very laboured and tried too hard to tick all the boxes, which didn’t make a successful story.

If you’re looking for a glowing review, I’d recommend Natalie’s. She goes into more detail about what good rep this book has, and picks up some issues it talks about that I didn’t mention. (Even though, do we really need more??)
And if you want to see a more balanced review, then check out Cait’sbecause she makes some really good points about how unnatural the speech is, but again comments on how good the diversity is.

Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott

28226839Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott
Genre: Psychological Thriller, Romance
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Pages: 300
Format: ARC e-book
Rating: ★★

I really love Victoria Scott’s ‘Fire & Flood’ series, so when I saw her most recent release pop up on Netgalley, I absolutely had to request it! There were also a ton of 5 and 4 star reviews on Goodreads, so I thought there was a high probability that I would love it, however, I’m definitely in the minority when I say I really didn’t enjoy this book. There are multiple reasons, but I think the most important one is this book lost focus.The new season RuPaul’s Drag Race has started and that always means getting out your editing eye and seeing how the Queens could cut back, and I think this really transferred to my reading of Violet Grenade. 

Continue reading “Review: Violet Grenade by Victoria Scott”