The Gentleman’s Guide To Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Collins)
Release Date: 27th June 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

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Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

So this book was not what I expected, which, is kind of disappointing. But it doesn’t stop it from being a really fun adventure that made my need for LGBT+ Historical YA to sore through to the sky.

Judging from the synopsis, I imagined a ‘romp’. I think maybe that word was used once or twice in one lined reviews slapped on some promotional material. Yeah, ‘romp’ and ‘raucous’. I love, and I mean LOVE, cheeky male characters with soft hearts and giant smiles, and that’s definitely what Monty was in the beginning, in the very beginning, however. He’s just woken up after a huge piss up and he’s seeing the antiques from the night before. But, while I understand that character development and change are a thing in books where the character has to learn a lesson,I was disappointed that Monty was kind of carried through by his sister and his best friend, Felicity and Percy.

I expected a lot more laughs and silliness from a rather naive-to-the-world rich teenage boy going on a Grand Tour (which were quite an important thing for a young man before he became ‘responsible’), but what we got was a lot more serious and a bit boring.

Things I did love; Percy and Felicity defying expectations, stereotypes, and social norms of the time. Considering when you read historical fiction, authors don’t bother including POC characters at all and only have female characters as speaking mains if it’s a bodice ripper and they’re sleeping with a king/prince, so it was nice just to have them there, with plots and personality and futures! Oh my!

I did thoroughly enjoy this novel, despite the fairly critical review, and the fact that it took me a while to even write one. But, I think the synopsis could be worded a little differently just so you’re not surprised that you’re not laughing as much.

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The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Publisher: Hodder
Release Date: July 2014
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Somewhere within our crowded sky, a crew of wormhole builders hops from planet to planet, on their way to the job of a lifetime. To the galaxy at large, humanity is a minor species, and one patched-up construction vessel is a mere speck on the star chart. This is an everyday sort of ship, just trying to get from here to there.

But all voyages leave their mark, and even the most ordinary of people have stories worth telling. A young Martian woman, hoping the vastness of space will put some distance between herself and the life she‘s left behind. An alien pilot, navigating life without her own kind. A pacifist captain, awaiting the return of a loved one at war.

I just clapped my hands together and shouted ‘SO’ to an empty room because I have a lot to say on this beauty of a book.

My expectations were fairly low; I rarely wander to adult sci-fi with space and spaceships and aliens because either I find the plots fairly similar and boring and copy cat versions of what they imagined space travel to be like in the 60s. But in The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet was not just a story but a commentary told through an highly imaginative and distinctly different storytelling that was just…WOWIE.

cropped-2017-03-13-05-03-25-11.jpgSo The Long Way is told over a good few years or ‘standards’ which I believe is longer than 12 months, where a crew have a job waiting for them on the other side of the galaxy. This is the over-arching plot that kickstarts everything, but the real stories are tucked inside the very characters on the Wayfarer where each person is given depth and development but it’s so much more than that. I’ve never read a character study that’s also paired with a whole new setting; writers like to explore deep characters and the flaws of what it means to be human in a setting we understand to better ground the characters in a more familiar place that won’t divert from the things the author is trying to do. But here, Becky Chambers manages to successfully juggle the two at the same time, WHILE not all the characters are even human.

Yeah. Incredible.

So we have these incredible characters, many of whom aren’t human, but are still telling this greater story of humanity and the greater good. How, we as sentients, need to look out for one another and respect customs, cultures and other languages. In the story’s universe, it’s a known fact that humans are a self-destructive and competitive species and that it had to change when allying with other species that were far more compassionate and advanced. It was amazing to read about these other fictional species who were just so different from other imaginings of aliens where, I often found, the aliens were still just humans but green, or blue or even were exactly like humans in every way. These species were nothing like humans; they had different languages, customs, body parts. Some had scales and feathers, some communicated through coloured lights in their cheeks, some didn’t wear clothes, some changed biological sex through age. There were differences in family dynamics and they way children were reared (as you can tell, the Aandrisk species was my favourite to learn about). It was just so interesting to read about and watching this crew grow into a family made my heart grow warm and fuzzy.

The Long Way definitely felt like a series of episodes, rather than one large quest, and so if any networks are looking for a sci-fi book to adapt into a show which is kind of like Firefly but SO much more imaginative, then this is your book. Get on it.

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Release Date: 21st January 2017
Rating: ☆ ☆
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Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful and cruel father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

Continue reading “Caraval by Stephanie Garber”

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard

Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: June 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realises, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

25437747I love reading books set in Britain, and it’s kind of a sad sentence. Because despite living in the UK, and having a passion for books, I still find it difficult to find them set in Britain and written by British authors. So, when I do, I snap them up pretty quickly.

Beautiful Broken Things was no exception. And, since it was in the Zoella Book Club last year, I thought it’d be nice to pick up a book that supported a campaign to get young people reading, as well as hearing that it touches on serious subjects well.

And it did, however, it was one of those stories when the main character was over shadowed by another character who clearly had too much sway in how the story was going to be told. Caddy is an alright main character, but she’s so privileged that she’s jealous of her new friend Suzanne. She ends up saying and doing silly things and then gets upset when people react badly, and there isn’t necessarily any development for her.

Despite this, I really enjoyed the themes discussed in this book. There is no romance (unless you found the scenes between Suzanne and Caddy to be borderline romantic), and the story solely focuses on the dynamic between teenage girls, and what they’ll do to be liked and fit in. It’s hard to find a story that focuses on female friendships in a healthy and realistic way, as well as promoting the idea that girls can actually be friends (who’d a thought it). It’s tiring seeing so many YA novels where girls automatically dislike each other because of a boy or just for the sake of it. So, with that in mind, I gave it a 4 stars. It was gripping, with a great message, but with a bland MC with very little action until the end.

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Release Date: September 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
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Plot: Kaz Brekker and his crew have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives. Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties. A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets―a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world. 

I don’t know why I put off writing this review for a while.

Oh wait. YES I DO. BECAUSE THEN IT WOULD MEAN ADMITTING IT IS THE END.

Quite frankly, I could read many books that just narrated each member of The Dregs’ daily lives. I love each of them in a major but different way, and I would honestly not mind reading spin offs of each character. At first, when I read Six of Crows, I was a bit concerned that I wouldn’t get on bored with the multiple narratives. I’m a writer, and I’ve found I can only write two perspectives in a story because after two, I’m confusing myself.

But no, each narrative was woven together perfectly to create a full blown story sweater that just fit in all the right places.

Almost all the story takes place in Ketterdamn, which I loved considering we only got a glimpse of it in Six of Crows after the gang go on a voyage heist, leaving Ketterdamn to our imaginations. But in Crooked Kingdom, it feels like you are running along the canals and cobbled streets with your favourite street rats (and I mean street rats in the most affectionate way possible).

You get a shit ton of back story, and because this is the last book in the series, I can understand why. But honestly, each character is so lovable and deadly that I was ready for the pages upon pages of it. I felt that CK was much more character driven than SoC, which was more ‘heist fun adventure story’, and while it sounds like I’m comparing the two (because they are so very different), the story flows well from one to the next, despite the different ways in which each story is told.

Look, if you read SoC and you didn’t think it was the best, then fine. But honestly, you’re not giving up on a 7 book business. There’s one book left, you might as well read it and see how these babies are doing post-heist, and hopefully, whatever apprehension you feel about this series will change.

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P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han

Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: May 2015
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Goodreads

Plot: Lara Jean didn’t expect to really fall for Peter.

She and Peter were just pretending. Except suddenly they weren’t. Now Lara Jean is more confused than ever.

When another boy from her past returns to her life, Lara Jean’s feelings for him return too. Can a girl be in love with two boys at once?

So after putting this review off for a while, I can safely say that I’m not as pissed off about it as I originally thought.


Lara Jean and her life is still a warm hug. She takes pride in making herself and her surroundings cute, as well as caring for her younger sister and generally just being an all-around Goddess when it comes to general housekeeping.

But it pains me to say that her love interest, Peter, is just a sack of shit.

Granted, he is nowhere near as bad as some love interests I’ve had the pleasure to read. In fact, Peter is a very realistic (but also stereotypical) representation of a teenage boy; he’s horny, selfish, boisterous, and has a very little understanding of how his actions can negatively affect others. While Lara Jean is quite the innocent, fragile little snowflake, it’s still frustrating for me to see her forgive Peter and be so understanding of him when he is not very understanding of her.

Especially when another boy walks into her life who is actually a ray of sunshine. John is respectful, funny and caring. I didn’t want to be the type of person who got angry when their ships didn’t sail. Been there, done that, but in this case there isn’t really a gray area to who Lara Jean should ‘choose’. I’d also recently watched Bridget Jones’ Baby and had the same problem; just because the audience/reader is familiar with a certain love interest, does not mean that should be the one the MC goes for.

The things I did enjoy were the relationships between Lara Jean and Kitty as well as with their father. I also just enjoy the whole aesthetic of the novel, how cute and pretty and particular the setting and the story line is. The detail, the baking, the arts and crafts. It’s sad to think that all of these things can boost it up to a 4 stars, but if Peter was flung off the page and didn’t exist anymore, this story would probably have made it to a 5.

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The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: May 2016
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ .5
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Plot: Andie has her future all planned out. But, when an internship falls through because of her congressman father’s political scandal, her summer is suddenly entirely free. What’s a girl to do? When Andie finds a job dog walking, she doesn’t expect the romance, the friendship, and the fun that’s just around the corner. And for the first time, she and her father are living in the same house, what could possibly go wrong?

unexpected everythingIt’s summer in Britain. It’s hot, actual hot not England hot, ice cream vans and paddling pools are out, the summery contemporaries are flying off the shelves and into my hands.

I’ve heard a lot about Morgan Matson; her feel good romance books set in summer can make your heart feel squishy as you lie in your deck chair with your sunglasses on. But, the more I read through The Unexpected Everything, the more I realised that actually, everything was really expected.

Everything was really predictable.

I’m not saying that’s a bad factor; I am reading a light contemporary after all. Of course it’s predictable, but it just meant I was skipping over a sentence every few paragraphs because I couldn’t be bothered to read about things I already knew about. That, and this book is unnecessarily long. While I enjoyed reading about pool parties and dog walking sessions and crazy scavenger hunts, the bits in between were so samey and long that I actually wondered if Andie (the MC) was going to give us a play by play of her summer. Some days were the same, as they are in summer, and she kept telling us. We KNOW you walked dogs today, Andie! You don’t have to remind us!

The book could have easily been 300 pages, instead it was over 500. FIVE HUNDRED. The ending was cute and sweet, but could have easily been sorted around the 300 page mark, I don’t know why the story was dragged out for so long. It got to the point where a paragraph would be a whole day, and then it would jump to the next day for another paragraph, as if the author herself was just trying to get through the days to get to the good ones.

Aside from the silly length and the unnecessary filler; I did actually enjoy this book. I loved the romance, it wasn’t instant and it grew as time passed. Andie went through some serious character development which, though a characteristic that can’t be changed in just one summer, showed just how much of a break can be needed for a stressed out teenager. Andie’s friends were great too, though I was slightly disappointed by the fighting over a boy. I get it, it happens, but the outcome could have been dealt with a lot easier, with maybe a better message.

I gave it a 3.5 overall because yes, it was what I was looking for; light, fluffy, and summery. But I didn’t think I would finish it, because it just kept going.

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