Thursday, 6 August 2020

REVIEW: Heartbreak Boys by Simon James Green

Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: August 6th 2020
Buy the Book: Book Depository

Faking the best summer ever is a lot harder than it looks...
At the start of summer, Jack and Nate find themselves dumped as their respective exes, Dylan and Tariq, start up a new relationship together. Not only that, their exes start posting pics on social media, showing the whole world how fabulous their new life together is!

Jack and Nate are reeling. Not to be outdone, they decide to create their own 'highlights reel' and show their exes that they're having an even better time.

But between the depressing motorway service station motels, damp campsites, and an ultimate showdown with the exes, something epic really is happening: Jack and Nate are learning to get over their heartache and open themselves up to new possibilities for love.
WHERE DO I EVEN START? As someone who is constantly yelling, both online and in person, about my love for the stories of Simon James Green, Heartbreak Boys was always going to be one of my most anticipated reads of 2020. And as predicted, I was in for an absolute treat.

This story alternates between Jack and Nate, former friends who end up reuniting after their relationships with their boyfriends come to a screeching halt. Despite not having spoken to each other in years, Jack ends up joining Nate and his family on a road trip around Britain, all for the sake of documenting their summer on Instagram to prove that they've happily moved on in life.

Together they explore the world of online influencing and find themselves in situations they couldn’t have predicted if they tried. Their contrasting personalities make for an entertaining clash along the way, and the pacing is simply perfect. The best part? It managed to include all of my favourite tropes that I'm weak for no matter how many times I read them.

I 👏 LOVE 👏 THESE 👏 CHARACTERS. When I say I would lay down my life for Jack, I do mean it. He is WONDERFUL. His bubbly and hilarious personality had me warming to him immediately, and even though we learn that he can hide his true feelings behind that bright persona, it only made me love him more.

Then there’s Nate, a Precious Bean™ who must be protected at all costs. His emotions and doubts will definitely be relatable to a lot of readers, which is always an important factor. Nate’s struggle to repair his own flaws and make up for how he treated Jack in the past is told subtly whilst remaining a key part of the story.
  • FEEL GOOD MOMENTS. I could sit here all day and shout about the paragraphs in this book that left me smiling. Jack and Nate had some especially inspiring quotes as we got closer to the end, when they started realising what was truly important.
  • ROAD TRIP. Considering our own summers are likely to be quiet and full of Covid-related worries (yay 2020), it’s a joy to live vicariously through Jack and Nate’s adventures to some…questionable parts of the country.
  • PLENTY OF LAUGHS. As always, Simon James Green is a master of awkward YA comedy that leaves you giggling out loud. From dodgy campsites to unexpected invites, the characters reactions to the situations they end up in are always hilarious.
  • CHARACTERS. There's nothing I love more than a cast of wild and wonderful characters. From Jack's eccentric cousin Elliot to Nate's personality-filled family, they keep us entertained throughout.
Easily one of my favourites from this year, I enjoyed every chapter of Heartbreak Boys. The perfect pick-me-up after a difficult few months, Jack and Nate’s story was full of cheerful goodness, whist giving us a few important reminders about life. Anyone can fake a smile for an Instagram post, but the truly happy memories don’t need a camera to capture it.

Royal Rating:

Thursday, 11 June 2020

5 Books by Black Authors I'm Excited to Read

The past few weeks have made me take a long, hard look at my shelves, and it’s painfully lacking black authors. When it came to choosing my next read, I never usually took into consideration the gender or race of the authors I picked up. If a book sounded good, I wanted to read it, and I didn’t think too much about it. I’ve always been here for good stories, regardless of where they come from. Over the past few years though, thanks to discussions I’ve seen between bloggers and authors alike, I’ve actively sought out more diverse authors and main characters. But I know that it’s still not enough.

This month has made me delve so much deeper into the lack of diversity in the book world. From Black Lives Matter to the Publishing Paid Me tag, I’ve been reading and educating myself. Many of the books on my shelves have been read because of the people I follow. In being a blogger, I love both sharing and discovering recommendations. In looking at my Twitter timeline, my booktube subscriptions, and my Instagram feed, I’ve realised that a lot of the people I follow are white. This isn’t something I’ve thought nearly enough about in the past, so it’s something I’m changing from now on. The predominantly white book community needs to be paying attention to and following black reviewers. Thanks to the wonderful threads and Instagram stories that have been shared lately, I’ve discovered so many incredible new bloggers and booktubers to follow.

When it comes to my shelves, I will be actively searching for more black authors to support. I can’t rely on recommendations all the time. I must be searching for myself to make sure I’m reading and sharing a wider range of books. I will also say that a large amount of the books I read are gifted from publishers, and I know that there is a distinct lack of support for black authors in the publishing world, but that’s a whole other conversation. I’ll definitely be searching for publishing companies and book retailers that amplify black voices in the future.

Since my blog is YA focused, I thought I’d share with you five of the books by black authors on my TBR that I’m most excited to read.


You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson


Liz Lighty has always believed she's too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it's okay -- Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz's plans come crashing down . . . until she's reminded of her school's scholarship for prom king and queen. There's nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she's willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She's smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?
HELLO??? RIVALS FOR THE CROWN WHO ARE ALSO LOVERS???? I'm so here for this book. It sounds absolutely adorable and I'm always searching for more wlw stories, so this one already has me hooked.


Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender


Felix Love has never been in love—and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and transgender—to ever get his own happily-ever-after.

When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages—after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned—Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle....

But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
Gosh, this one sounds wonderful. I love stories that focus on the importance of learning how to be happy with yourself. Also: that cover is gorgeous!


Odd One Out by Nic Stone


Courtney "Coop" Cooper
Dumped. Again. And normally I wouldn't mind. But right now, my best friend and source of solace, Jupiter Sanchez, is ignoring me to text some girl.

Rae Evelyn Chin
I assumed "new girl" would be synonymous with "pariah," but Jupiter and Courtney make me feel like I'm right where I belong. I also want to kiss him. And her. Which is . . . perplexing.

Jupiter Charity-Sanchez
The only thing worse than losing the girl you love to a boy is losing her to your boy. That means losing him, too. I have to make a move. . . .
So this one has been on my shelf for a while but since it focuses on the theme of exploring sexuality, I'd been saving it for Pride Month. I've just started it and I'm very intrigued by both the characters and the plot so far! 
 

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds

When Jack and Kate meet at a party, bonding until sunrise over their mutual love of Froot Loops and their favorite flicks, Jack knows he’s falling—hard. Soon she’s meeting his best friends, Jillian and Franny, and Kate wins them over as easily as she did Jack.

But then Kate dies. And their story should end there.

Yet Kate’s death sends Jack back to the beginning, the moment they first meet, and Kate’s there again. Healthy, happy, and charming as ever. Jack isn’t sure if he’s losing his mind.

Still, if he has a chance to prevent Kate’s death, he’ll take it. Even if that means believing in time travel. However, Jack will learn that his actions are not without consequences. And when one choice turns deadly for someone else close to him, he has to figure out what he’s willing to do to save the people he loves.
I love contemporary stories that have a little fantasy or sci-fi twist, so this sounds exactly like the sort of book I'd devour. Hopefully I'll get my hands on a copy soon!


The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta 


I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen - then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers - to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.
I'm always searching for YA books with main characters in university rather than high school because it can be such an important time in a young person's life. This sounds like such an uplifting and empowering read.


There are many more books I've been adding to my TBR lately, but these are the ones I'm hoping to get to as soon as I can. To black bloggers, booktubers, bookstagrammers, content creators in general: please leave me your links and recommendations in either the comments or over on my Twitter page.

Information on what you can do to help Black Lives Matter can be found here, and a list of organisations that help black people in the LGBTQ+ community can be found here.

To white bloggers and creators: keep sharing links, keep signing petitions, do as much as you can and listen to black voices.


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.

On a quick side note: I LOVED REUNITING WITH SIMON AND BRAM SO MUCH.

  • 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!

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