Wednesday, 27 May 2020

REVIEW: Wonderland by Juno Dawson

Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Quercus Children's Books
Genre: Retelling, Contemporary
Release Date: May 28th 2020
TW: Drug Use, Suicide, Self-harm, Assault
Buy the Book: Book Depository

What happens when you fall down the rabbit hole? The compulsive must-have follow-up to CLEAN and MEAT MARKET from bestselling author Juno Dawson

Alice lives in a world of stifling privilege and luxury - but none of it means anything when your own head plays tricks on your reality. When her troubled friend Bunny goes missing, Alice becomes obsessed with finding her. On the trail of her last movements, Alice discovers a mysterious invitation to 'Wonderland': the party to end all parties - three days of hedonistic excess to which only the elite are welcome.

Will she find Bunny there? Or is this really a case of finding herself? Because Alice has secrets of her own, and ruthless socialite queen Paisley Hart is determined to uncover them, whatever it takes.

Alice is all alone, miles from home and without her essential medication. She can trust no-one, least of all herself, and now she has a new enemy who wants her head...

Throughout this book we follow Alice, a student at a private London school. After spending a night with fellow student Bunny, Alice takes it upon herself to find out why she disappeared without a trace after their night together. Her journey leads her to Wonderland, an exclusive party for those high in society.

There’s nothing I love more than an exciting retelling of a classic story, and Alice in Wonderland always has so much potential with such a world to play with. What I especially liked about this version was that it was still set in our world, so the events, no matter how wild and dramatic, were still things that could possibly happen.

Alice, what can I say? I love her with my whole heart. She’s exactly the type of character we need more of in YA. Brutally honest, she says it like it is without apology. I appreciated slowly learning about her past as the story progressed. We come to know why she is on meds and the fears she has about returning to the dark place she was in. It was important that she referred to her therapist from time to time because I’ve read an alarming number of books that don’t shed a positive light on therapists from the beginning. It’s a part of life that we desperately need to normalise.I also loved how she openly discussed her body issues as a trans girl. This is exactly why we need more trans main characters in YA.

These versions of the Alice in Wonderland characters are genius. I’m a sucker for a set of characters that are…shall we say Morally Challenged? But they all have a complex and intriguing backstory that gives us a glimpse into their complicated lives.

  • Setting and storytelling. The world of high society is always an interesting one. This book showcases how money can help people avoid consequences. As terrifying as it is, it still happens all the time. 
  • Honest discussions about mental health. We see Alice slip into darker moments and what she experiences during them.
  • Character growth. It’s so rewarding to see Alice experiment and discover things about herself during her weekend at Wonderland.
  • Important topics. This book openly discusses drugs, self-harm, sexual assault, and much more. It doesn’t shy away from gritty details that need to be told.
  • PANSEXUAL REP!!!!!! I'm CONSTANTLY searching for pan characters in YA so I was thrilled when that was how Alice identified herself.

An engaging, dark, yet magical story, Wonderland never fails to give readers a surprise. It’s a re-imagining of a well-loved tale but manages to be unique and intriguing in its own right. Alice takes us on an unforgettable journey with her sarcastic and honest commentary entertaining us the whole way.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

REVIEW: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Pages: 343
Format: Paperback
Series: Creekwood #2
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: April 30th 2018
Genre: Contemporary
Buy The Book: Book Depository

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually right on the beat - but real life is a little harder to manage. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And she hasn't mustered the courage to tell her friends she's bisexual, not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn't know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high and it's hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting - especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended ...
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read Leah on the Offbeat. Simon vs. is one of my favourite contemporary books, so I was super excited to read about Leah in her own story, especially with how much I love her attitude. The book got a little lost in my TBR for a while, but I finally managed to pick it up whilst in lockdown.

It follows Leah through her senior year at Creekwood, preparing to go to college. The very same college that Abby Suso is going to. After Abby breaks up with Nick, she and Leah grow closer as they team up to pay a visit to their future college campus, and Leah struggles to figure out what she should do.

Leah is so torn throughout this story because whilst she may come across as sharp, cool, and collected, she never wants to do anything that would purposefully hurt her friends. She knows what her ever-changing relationship with Abby will do to Nick. She also wants to avoid being hurt herself whilst Abby figures out what she wants.

There are so many aspects of Leah’s character that I could identify with. Her love for anime and fandom, her passion for art, and her doubts about change. All of those things made her such a real character to me because there were emotions present that I FELT IN MY BONES. There were pages and quotes that called out to me so much it was PAINFUL. Leah’s thoughts and feeling about certain things just resonated with me so goddamn much.

I did have a few things that didn’t sit completely right with me when it came to Leah, mostly because of her immediate reaction to Abby calling herself lowkey-bi. On one hand, I can understand how that might come across to someone who has known they are bisexual for a long time. But on the other, Abby is a high school senior who is confused as HELL. As someone in my twenties who still feels confused about sexuality and what, exactly, I should identify as, any high school student has every right to not know how to define themselves, and it’s perfectly okay.


  • FRIENDSHIP GROUPS. Friends play such as important part in this book, not just in terms of how much they support in each other, but also in acknowledging flaws. When Morgan makes a racist remark, Leah immediately calls her out on it, not allowing Morgan’s hurt feelings to be an excuse. 
  • REALISING YOUR SELF WORTH. One of my favourite parts of this story is Leah learning that her art is something she can make money from, and that she shouldn’t doubt whether people would want to pay her for her work. 
  • CUTE GIRLFRIENDS. Leah and Abby’s relationship development is beautiful. The prom scenes at the end? THE ABSOLUTE CUTEST.
  • LEAH’S HUMOUR. The laughing I did during this book. She has such flawless comic timing.

This was the wholesome, fun read I needed during lockdown, so I’m glad I finally rescued it from my shelf. It’s a story that deals with such an overwhelming time in a young person’s life, and it manages to make the changes of leaving high school look a little less daunting. I loved getting the chance to see Leah and Abby shine in a book of their own.

Royal Rating:

Friday, 27 March 2020

I've Redecorated!

I’ve been a book blogger for over nine years now (I’m a fossil, I know) and I’ve always designed my own look. When I first started blogging, there was no way I could afford to purchase a personalised design, so I felt like I’d never fit in with all the pretty and stylish blogs I loved. But it did mean that I had to take on the challenge myself. Over the years, I’ve had many ups and downs when it comes to design, but I’ve learned so much about graphics and coding, and none of that would have been possible if I’d have been in a position to save and buy a design. Hey, being utterly broke has at least one perk for me.

one of my first logos - graphic design is my passion

Why am I changing my design AGAIN, you ask? I love my old design. It’s the look I’ve created that I’m most proud of since I started. I literally spent months in front of my laptop, learning things I had zero knowledge in, just to make it perfect for me. But the problem was, I couldn’t design a functioning mobile site. That’s the one area of coding that I haven’t been able to figure out yet. Considering people tend to view everything on mobile these days, there was no way I could continue blogging without having something that is readable on a phone screen.

my old layout on mobile was a NIGHTMARE

Instead of creating my own look from scratch, I needed to actually use a pre-made template this time, just so I had a more readable mobile site. Nine years down the line, I still can’t afford to buy a sleek look for my blog. There’s also the fact that I’m a Blogspot blogger in a majority WordPress world to contend with, so finding one for my platform was difficult. Eventually, I came across a free template that I was able to tweak around to suit me. It has a pretty basic look on mobile, but at least it’s easy to navigate, unlike some. *glares at previous blog design*

So, as much as it’s pained me to say goodbye to the design I loved, the one that’s served me well for three years, I know I’ve made the right choice in switching. The desktop version is more minimal than I’m used to, but you guys can finally read my posts from your phone without having to do a lot of zooming, and a lot of squinting.

Here’s to many happy years with this design! (Until I get bored in six months and want to redecorate…)  

Monday, 23 March 2020

REVIEW: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Pages: 421
Format: Paperback
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: May 14th 2019
Genre: New Adult
Buy The Book: Book Depository

What happens when America's First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There's only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston's Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn't always diplomatic.
You know when you have a list of Things You Love in a Book, and then a story comes along and ticks all of those boxes? Red, White & Royal Blue is one of those books for me. It’s everything I’ve been crying out for. Rivals to Lovers with important and uplifting messages whilst dealing with political affairs, all carried along by exciting characters and funny situations? CHECK. I don’t even know if I can properly put into words how much I love this book.

Set in an alternative version of events, where the President is NOT DONALD TRUMP THANK GOD a single mother of two biracial children, this book joins Alex on his journey through his mother’s re-election campaign. After an altercation with a Prince of England, he’s forced to fake a friendship between the two of them to keep the media off their backs. 

Now is the perfect time to reiterate some very important information to you all: I CANNOT RESIST ANY SORT OF FAKE-RELATIONSHIP PLOT EVER. It’s one of my absolute favourite troupes. It really can’t be beaten. With that in mind, it was pretty damn certain I was going to love this book before I even opened it.

These characters. I will offer them my heart. Alex and Henry are such contrasting personalities that it made their journey to becoming friends, and beyond, even more satisfying to consume. Alex discovering more about himself and realising he was bisexual was such an important part of the story. Sexuality is never black and white. There will always be people who don’t realise how they define themselves until later in their lives.

Now let me cry about how much I love Henry for a bit. HE’S ADORABLE AND INSTANTLY BECAME ONE OF MY NEW FAVOURITE CHARACTERS. Despite both being in the public eye, Henry leads such a different life to Alex, with the expectations that come with being a royal. I can’t even describe how much I adored his true personality being slowly revealed as Alex got to know him outside of what he shows the world.

When it comes to the Whitehouse Trio, and Henry’s best friend and sister, I loved them all equally. The merging of the two friendship groups is such a heart-warming aspect of the story because they are all people of around the same age, dealing with a similar way of life, and they share a bond through those experiences.

  • DIVERSITY. The range of characters within these pages is BEAUTIFUL. The discussions they have are open and thought provoking.
  • POLITICS. There’s never been a more important time to include politics in fiction. American politics is something I’m always trying to gain more knowledge in because I feel like I don’t know as much as I should, so the situations that arose in this story taught me a thing or two.
  • HUMOUR. God, the amount of scenes that had me laughing out loud. The groupchats and emails between characters were a perfect way to get quick, hilarious interactions.
  • BONDS. The genuine connection between the friends and family is enough to warm hearts and remind us of what’s truly important.  

The final few chapters had me crying happy tears and I have nothing but praise to give this book. I wish I could offer something more than my heart-eyed babbling, but it’s easily going to be one of my favourite reads from the year. If you haven’t given this one a try yet, it might just be the feel good pick me up you need right now.  

NOTE: This is New Adult as opposed to Young Adult so there are scenes that go more into detail when it comes to sexual content!

Royal Rating:

Monday, 16 March 2020

5 Feel-Good Series to Start Whilst Social Distancing

Coronavirus. Covid-19. Pure Evil. Whatever you want to call it, it's been a huge part of our lives since the start of the year. You don't need me to discuss how dangerous it can be and how much we need to distance ourselves from others because you've heard it repeatedly from the news and social media. Hopefully, we're all doing the best we can with the circumstances we're in. For a lot of us, that means staying at home as much as possible.

Even for those of us who can't be at home due to work and other responsibilities, this virus is causing a lot of worry and stress. In times like this, it's a good idea to distance ourselves from constantly checking social media for statistics that only cause us to feel even more anxious.

I thought I'd compile a list of some feel-good series to start reading to distract us from Eternal Doom. In the age of eBooks, we're able to download stories from shops and libraries in an instant, which is perfect for staying indoors. You might even have some of these books already sitting on your shelves, gathering dust because you haven't gotten around to them yet...

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green

I know, I know, I waffle on about this series all the time, but it truly is one of my favourite feel-good reads. It follows Noah dealing with the fall out of kissing his best friend at a party. These characters find themselves in some wild situations which will make you laugh out loud, so it's the perfect book to put a smile on your face.

To All The Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

It's impossible to hide from this trilogy since the gorgeous film adaptation dropped on Netflix. I picked up the first book at a time when I'd grown tired of YA contemporary, but it quickly became one of my faves. It's no secret that I'm not a fan of love triangles anymore (I'VE JUST READ TOO MANY, OKAY?), but the romance in these books had me rooting for my favourites.

You can purchase the trilogy together on Kindle

Confessions of Georgia Nicholson by Louise Rennison

One of the older series on this list, but still an absolute gem. These books got me through my high school years and hold plenty of happy memories for me. It's the first series I remember excitedly reading with friends (who weren't big readers outside of these books). Though this series started over twenty years ago, the humour in these books is still as funny as ever, so if you've never given them a read before, it's the perfect time to try. If you've read the series before, there's never been a better time to plan a reread.

The first book is currently £1.99 on Kindle

Percy Jackson by Rick Riordan

Okay, so I know these books aren't exactly feel-good all the time because you can't have a Middle Grade/YA fantasy series without a little teen trauma, but these books feel like a cosy blanket on a cold day. The world is so full of wonderful characters with contrasting personalities, and they're always on an exciting adventure. If you haven't gotten around to this series yet, it's time to jump in.

Super Awkward Series by Beth Garrod

Some more awkward teen girl books now because nothing gives us a giggle like high school characters who make an accidental fool of themselves. These books are adorable and light-hearted throughout, with the friendships of the characters being one of the best aspects of the story. There's plenty of fun scenes to be found within this series.

BONUS: Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

If you don't feel like picking up a book right now but still want to consume a cute story, how about trying my fave webcomic? This comic follows Eric Bittle, teen YouTuber and baker extraordinaire, as he joins his University hockey team. It's adorable and always puts me in a good mood. 

You can read the comic for free on the Check, Please! website

Hopefully this list got you interested in a potential new read! I know it's difficult to remain positive, but hang in there, be safe, and stay mindful of others.


Share what books you're currently reading in the comments!

Thursday, 27 February 2020

REVIEW: Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Pages: 356
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: September 24th 2019
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Simon Snow did everything he was supposed to do. He beat the villain. He won the war. He even fell in love. Now comes the good part, right? Now comes the happily ever after…

So why can’t Simon Snow get off the couch?

What he needs, according to his best friend, is a change of scenery. He just needs to see himself in a new light…

That’s how Simon and Penny and Baz end up in a vintage convertible, tearing across the American West.

They find trouble, of course. (Dragons, vampires, skunk-headed things with shotguns.) And they get lost. They get so lost, they start to wonder whether they ever knew where they were headed in the first place…

With Wayward Son, Rainbow Rowell has written a book for everyone who ever wondered what happened to the Chosen One after he saved the day. And a book for everyone who was ever more curious about the second kiss than the first. It’s another helping of sour cherry scones with an absolutely decadent amount of butter.

Come on, Simon Snow. Your hero’s journey might be over – but your life has just begun.

Before we start:


Now we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s proceed with paragraph upon paragraph of my jumbled raving about how much I love this goddamn book. If you’d like a full breakdown of my thoughts on Wayward Son then I have a discussion video over on my channel!

Wayward Son picks up a year after the events that took place in Carry On, with the main characters taking a trip across America. In case you didn’t already know, Carry On is my book soulmate. It’s my One. I’ve spent over four years convincing every person I know to read it. I would throw each and every other book I own off the shelf if Carry On somehow told me to. I’m whipped, your honour.

With that in mind, it’s not exactly surprising that I went completely FERAL over the sequel announcement. I’ve been losing my marbles patiently waiting ever since. With my love for Carry On being so high, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive about jumping into a continuation. We all know how devastating it is when a sequel doesn’t reach our expectations.

Thankfully, I had nothing to be worried about. Though the first few chapters felt quite jarring, it was simply down to the fact that it was WEIRD (the good kind of weird) to have new content after all this time. I settled into the story as soon as they began their adventures in America.

As you may already know, my heart and soul belong to Baz Pitch. He is Up There in my list of favourite characters e v e r. And this book only solidified that fact. HE’S??? SO BRILLIANT. It was wonderful to actually have Baz in the story from the start this time, given that we have to face a torturous 150 pages without him in Carry On. Whilst he was the same hilariously sarcastic, sneering Baz that we know and love, we got to see sides of him that we’ve not been totally exposed to before. He’s much more vulnerable in this book, both in his love for Simon and his concern over his life as a vampire.

Speaking of Simon, let me talk about his journey through Wayward Son. I LOVE how Rainbow handled his situation because it’s the side of characters we don’t get to see often enough. It showcases the trauma he faces after the events in Carry On, the next steps after his Happily Ever After moment, and that’s so important. He’s got a long way to go, but it’s truer to reality.

When it comes to the ladies, I loved Penelope just as much this time around, and I can’t wait to see where her story goes in the next book. Some of the funniest scenes for me came courtesy of her. As for Agatha, I definitely appreciated her a whole lot more in Wayward Son. She’s a character who I warmed to slowly in Carry On. I wasn’t a huge fan of her the first time I read it, but with each reread I came to like her more. In this sequel, I completely adored her. With her wanting nothing more than to live a normal life, I can’t help but feel sorry for her situation.

Sheppard was also a great addition to the story. I loved having a new character to follow! Though it took me some time to decide whether or not I wanted to trust him. Which was probably the case with every single character we met in this book.

  • ROADTRIP. I do love a good roadtrip in a story, and this one is as wacky and wild as you could want. I loved getting to see the American magic system and how different it is compared to what we’re used to in Carry On. 
  • SNOWBAZ BEING REALISTIC. This isn’t the two of them being cute boyfriends throughout the story. They love each other very much but they have issues to work through and a communication block wall they have to climb over.
  • BAZ IN GENERAL. Not just saying this because I’m biased, honestly. Him learning more about what his life can be like as a vampire is as beautiful as it is heartbreaking.
  • FUNNY MOMENTS. I appreciate a book that can break my heart but also leave me laughing out loud. Just like Carry On, this sequel has so many hilarious moments and lines.

Honestly, this story isn’t what I expected a Carry On sequel to be, but that turned out to be one of the things I loved most about it. It tore my expectations to shreds in the best possible way. I’m so grateful to have these characters back in my life with fresh content, and I’m as anxious as I am excited when it comes to the next book. I WANT ANSWERS.

Royal Rating:

Saturday, 25 January 2020

Bookish Gift Haul | Christmas 2019

Why are you making a post about Christmas gifts weeks after the big day, you ask? Why must you remind us of Christmas when it's January and everything's miserable again, you cry in despair! I can only say Oops for my level of procrastination. 

When it comes to gifts, I'm a super easy person to please. Just shove anything even slightly book related under my nose and I'm thrilled. My family and friends constantly ask me BUT ARE YOU SURE YOU'RE NOT BORED OF BOOK GIFTS? And I always remind them that I COULD NEVER GET BORED OF ANYTHING BOOK RELATED. So, on Christmas, I was lucky enough to receive some wonderful bookish gifts that I'm excited about. 

Let's start with the actual books I received and will most definitely be talking about on my blog in the not-so-distant future. First up is one of my most anticipated reads, Red, White and Royal Blue! My lovely friend Jasmine got me this because it was one of her favourite reads from 2019. Since I trust her bookish opinion very much (I don't think we've ever disagreed on a book), I'm excited and ready to utterly fall in love with this book! 

Next up is another book from Jasmine because she's the absolute Queen of book recommendations, and it is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I've been interested in reading this one for a while so I'm looking forward to diving in.

The third bookish gift is from my best friend and fellow blogger, Rachel, from Rachel's Really Random Reviews. She got me the beautiful art book for Spirited Away that I've been lusting over for a long time! Anyone who knows me knows how much I adore Studio Ghibli. Hayao Miyazaki is my favourite director of all time and his movies will always hold a special place in my heart.

Spirited Away was one my very first Ghibli movies, and I'm looking forward to reading all about it and crying over how gorgeous the art is. The pages above are some of my favourite animated scenery shots!

Let's move on to the section that absolutely no one is surprised to see. It wouldn't be a bookish gift haul without some Harry Potter presents! When my parents are stuck for ideas, they always revert to Harry Potter, and that's more than fine with me. And what's better than mugs and stationary?

They also got me some Hufflepuff PJs that came in this box, which I've now repurposed into a storage box because I try not to let things go to waste if I can help it! It's an excellent place to temporarily hide books I have no shelf space for.

Helping to continue my theme of showing my Hufflepuff pride, Rachel gave me this cap so I can represent my house whilst I'm out and about.

I can't not mention the gorgeous little Hogwarts statue that my parents got me from good old Waterstones. It looks so pretty on my shelf!

Next, we're moving on to the manga section! If you happened to read my wrap-up of 2019, you'll know that reading manga was a huge part of my year, and it's something I'm continuing in 2020. I was given issues 3 & 4 in my current favourite series, Bungo Stray Dogs. I cannot recommend this series enough. I also got lil figure of my fave character.

One of my most loved manga is Seraph of the End and I'm currently trying to collect the physical copies. For Christmas I was lucky enough to get the second issue in the series and a light novel.

my seraph funkos are my pride and joy
This last one is a little present I got for myself. I found this in the Oxfam store I volunteer at and immediately bought it. Howl's Moving Castle is one of my favourite stories, both the book and the Ghibli adaptation, so this one absolutely had to come home with me.

howl is the ultimate fictional boyfriend
Finally, here's a present that really isn't a book but is equally as important and is designed to look like a book so it still counts. A TEA BOOK. Two of my favourite things. I've been indulging in these glorious flavours since Christmas.

There they are, the wonderful bookish gifts I was lucky enough to receive this Christmas. I'm so excited to delve into the stories. Keep an eye out on my blog for my upcoming thoughts on them!

Did you get any bookish gifts this Christmas?

BONUS: I wasn't going to make it through this post without mentioning KPOP, so here we are. Shoutout to my parents and sister for supplying my with these glorious albums from some of my fave artists.

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