Undercover Princess, Connie Glynn

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When fairy tale obsessed Lottie Pumpkin starts at the infamous Rosewood Hall, she is not expecting to share a room with the Crown Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolf. Due to a series of lies and coincidences, 14-year-old Lottie finds herself pretending to be the princess so that Ellie can live a more normal teenage life.

Lottie is thrust into the real world of royalty – a world filled with secrets, intrigue and betrayal. She must do everything she can to help Ellie keep her secret, but with school, the looming Maradovian ball and the mysterious new boy Jamie, she’ll soon discover that reality doesn’t always have the happily ever after you’d expect…

Warning: Spoiler alert.

So when I got the proof of this, I didn’t know it was written by a Youtuber. Which really, I shouldn’t judge a book on, but once again, this was another book by an online name that shouldn’t have really got a book deal. Or at least, should have been edited more than it was.

Honestly, thanks to the storm last night, I was up until 2am, so I thought I might as well read something. I read the whole book, then ended up writing bullet points on my phone of things I needed to remember for this – something I rarely do, thanks to having a brain that absorbs plots to the point I can recite passages of a lot of my favourite books. But for this, I wanted to make sure I remembered everything.

Heres the thing. I wanted to like this book. At points, there were sparks that showed this book had potential. It was good enough for me to actually read the whole thing – I’m ruthless when it comes to DNFing books. I have too many on my TBR to bother with books I hate. So there was enough to make it interesting. But then there was… the rest…

For starters, there were way too many unanswered questions at the end. Yeah, I know its start of a series, but every book in a series should have its own story arc within the main story. Yes, there should be questions that lead one story to the next but not as many that, when you finish the book, it doesn’t feel finished. You don’t think well maybe because I’ve got the proof I’m missing pages (yeah, the first thing I did upon going into work was checking a finished hardback on the shelf to see if the ending matched,)

So the girls get a riddle by one of their friends. Multiple riddles, really. One of which throws up the question of who the founder of their school really is. Theres like a whole damn chapter about them hunting down this picture to find this out, a conversation about ‘but who was he really’ and then its like… never mentioned again? Its only because I read the acknowledgements at the end I saw that apparently it’s going to be answered in the next book. But… maybe there should have been hints in this one and then the reveal in the next, because the way it was dealt with is just unsatisfying.

The same riddle friend also seems to know the truth about our two mains – who the real princess is. But again, its hinted at, she makes all this fun about it, and then its like its suddenly unimportant.

One of the characters was poisoned. He started telling the truth? Then fainted? Then didn’t remember anything about it? then…. IT WAS NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN. (are you getting the theme here) Like, Why did this happen? What was it for? I’m assuming the villain of the story was the one to poison him but WHY and WHAT WAS IT.

There were a few more things like this, but you get the hint.

There was no real worldbuilding to it. All I can tell you about the school is that its in Oxfordshire. I don’t even know where and I live in that shire. Like, there should be enough hints that someone living there her whole life should be able to point to which village it’s close to? Oh – and that the school has three houses (but again, why. What were they for, who were they named after SO MANY FREAKING QUESTIONS). There were a lot of buildings in the school but I couldn’t draw you a map of it if I tried.

Oh, and why was the school so important to get to as well?

Maradova – the place Ellie was princess of? Don’t even get me started like…. fuck knows.

Same with the characters. Like, not only did they all seem to only have one trait (the twins that ate sweets all the time. The main character who wanted to be a princess. The broody bodyguard. The rebel princess) they weren’t even described. Hell, it was only in the last quarter of the book when you got his backstory that we’re told that his mother was Pakistani. Like, there’s no descriptions of anything (except hair, like, once) anywhere. To build up a correct image in our heads of a character, we need to know things.

(also linked to that. None of the characters were seeming to act 14/15. Like… the girls were all relly affectionate. Cuddling and stroking each others hair and stuff and… it was not really in character for those ages?)

Like… This almost reads to me like a first draft. This is the ‘dump down on paper so you have an idea of story twists’ draft, but it should have been refined. The editor, or hell, friends that read it over for you, should have raised their hands and gone ‘ughhhhhh’ at so many points. If that had happened, if someone had gone through with a red pen and gone ‘what is this’ or ‘explain’ or something, it could have been so much better. Because it was meant to be a fairytale esque story, but it was clunky and painful at times.

despite all of this (and more, of which I can’t be bothered to write down, after 3 hours sleep and a day of work) it was a light fun read. And if you don’t mind being frustrated by unanswered questions, and you have a day where you’re bored and have nothing to do, or you have a 10 year old, princess obsessed kid you want to read to, it’s great.

… I mean, plus side, I honestly can’t tell who the love interest in the next book will end up being because all I got from the three mains is they all love each other so like, it could go either way…. as long as theres not an awkward love triangel, that is.

three stars

 

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Whisper to Me, Nick Lake

Cassie is writing a letter to the boy whose heart she broke. She’s trying to explain why. Why she pushed him away. Why her father got so angry when he saw them together. Why she disappears some nights. Why she won’t let herself remember what happened that long-ago night on the boardwalk. Why she fell apart so completely.

Desperate for his forgiveness, she’s telling the whole story of the summer she nearly lost herself. She’s hoping he’ll understand as well as she now does how love—love for your family, love for that person who makes your heart beat faster, and love for yourself—can save you after all.

I am conflicted.

I’ve been sitting on this review for like, two days, because I don’t know what I feel or think about this book.

Thing is, it’s interestingly written. It’s an email, from Main Character to Love Interest (For once I’m justified in calling him LI since he doesnt have a name.) detailing her life in the run up to meeting him, then her knowing him, and a bit afterwards, explaining why she did a bunch of stuff and why she broke his heard. So it’s different to most things I’ve read before.

Even other first person books aren’t as chatty as this one, because the narrator isn’t assuming you don’t know anything, but assuming you are the person the email would be going to. This isn’t something I’m sure I liked, but it didn’t annoy me so much that I couldn’t read it, and I got used to it after a while.

I probably would have liked it more if Mainy wasn’t as… irritating as she was, but all books (and characters) have their flaws.

Ughh so I’ve just realised that I liked this book more before I started thinking about it. Oops. Bare with me.

okay:

  1. My biggest issue with this was that it opened with a question. The whole book was about the question. AND THE QUESTION WAS NEVER ANSWERED. Seriously don’t set a book up and never answer what you started to write it for. Did LI forgive mainy? Who knows? Not me (though I really hope not)
  2. Mainy is just…. Nope. No. No sorry. I get that a lot of what made her look like a self-absorbed bitch was The Voice demanding she not talk to people and her basically keeping it secret but the whole point of LI was that HE MADE THE VOICE GO AWAY so WHY WAS SHE SO AWFUL TO HIM. Like really really really….
  3. HE DESERVED SO MUCH BETTER THAN HER.
  4. she makes this email to LI saying how it wasn’t all her and it was The Voice but all the stupid mistakes were… just her…. being a dick.

Which brings to nicely to ‘I really really hope LI said fuck this and didn’t forgive her, because I’m sorry, but she was awful. She made his life hard, had a go at his father for no reason, then kissed another guy because she knew he was watching like ughhh if I were him I would have read the email and just probably gone to punch her because no reason or email in the world would excuse that kind of behavior.

So basically…. I did enjoy reading the book, but I also didn’t like the book. Logic.

three stars

 

The Upside of Unrequited, Becky Albertalli

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Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I like this book. Just as Albertalli proved with her first book, she can write cute and write well, and write relationships well.

I think thats my favourite thing about her books. Every relationship around the main character is brilliant. A lot of YA falls down with parents – either they don’t expect, or they don’t care, or something around that idea – but in this book, not only do the parents act like parents, they have good relationships with their children. And siblings are done well too – the two mains are twins, and the book shows how both of them change as they gently grow up and both start to fall in love. They snap at each other but forgive easily and I could just see my sister and I inside them (when we were younger, at least. Now we communicate by text only!) though Cassie was not the best sister in the world.

The only downfall with this was that the main few were so well done that most others fell flat. The sister’s girlfriend fell a bit flat and Will, one of the apparently Love Interests was… well, to be honest, just an asshole. With no personality other than the ability to steal alcohol.

It was still cute though, apart from that. It’s set around the time gay marriage was legalized in America, so the story builds towards the fact that Molly’s mums decide to get married, so basically the entire book is about love and happiness and cheesiness.

I didn’t like it as much as I liked Simon but it was still a light, easy read that made me smile. Basically one of those books you would be happy to spend a summer morning reading.

Also, added bonus. Main character was explicitly fat, didn’t have to change for a happy ending and found someone who didn’t want her to change. so…

three stars

Show Stopper, Hayley Barker

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Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land are forced to sell their children to a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.

Have I ever said how much I hate insta-love?

Okay okay so this book had a really interesting premise and a kinda interesting plot but it just… wasn’t pulled off well? Maybe I was expecting too much from it and that let me down. All I know is that it took me three weeks to actually read because I just kept putting it off.

The idea was good – it’s taken a world we seem to be heading towards and put it to the extreme, where ‘pure’ british people are the only people seen as human and everyone else is there to be abused and for entertainment and to starve. And it was interesting to see that world through both the eyes of a dreg and a pure.

And the circus, the chapters in Hoshiko POV were brilliant. Dark and dangerous and interesting, I was instantly swept up into her world and wanted to know more about it.

But then it failed.

See, this book is set over like, two days. And it’s narrated by both main characters. It’s rare I say this, but wow I would have happily cut out all of Ben’s chapters and not bothered with them. His story was dull, uninteresting and nothing happened in them compared to Hoshiko’s own.

And literally within the first few chapters, with nothing, Ben just decides that he’s completely and utterly in love with this girl who he has never spoken to (and when he finally does speak to, she just shouts at him?). He literally… becomes a stalker. Seriously, he knows nothing about her yet goes and searches her name, breaks into this circus and upturns his life just to talk to her and then they fall in love like NO.

This would have been such a better story if you took away that awful romance element that didn’t work and just had it as Hoshiko trying to survive in this awful place, maybe trying to break free or something.

Because Ben’s whole storyline just seemed unrealistic? Like he lived around dregs his whole life and didn’t seem to notice that he was part of the people hurting them and how bad the pures were until he magically fell in love with one?

Hoshiko’s chapters were brilliant and full of action – action I mostly was interested in. I loved her relationships with the others in the circus and loved seeing them battle against their rage and anger every day. She is the reason I’m giving it three stars – because her on her own made an excellent story.

three stars

Caraval, Stephanie Garber

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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.

So I apparently really like books sent in circuses and carnivals and slightly weird placed like that? As my boss said, thats a pretty specific genre to read, but thankfully, there are plenty of books out there at the moment.

I count Caraval as one of those books, because despite it being set in an almost-town (I mean, it is pretty big) it travels around, has a head dude who makes all the rules and games, is full of magic and done for entertainment.

The thing about Caraval is that… the idea was brilliant, it was interesting but I wasn’t overly impressed with it. I can’t even put my finger on why- maybe because everything was good. But not amazing. It doesnt stand out from the crowd, to me.

The book design was beautiful. Not just the cover (though really, the covers- both US and UK- and just amazing) but the inside as well. In many books, if there are letters sent around to different characters, it’s just written in italics, but with this book, they were all styles to look like letters, complete with their own sets of handwriting, which made it slightly more personal and pretty.

The plot itself really interested me, along with the whole cast of characters. Main Character Scarlett, while annoying at times, is loyal and interesting, and completely different to her sister, Tella. It was nice to see a sibling friendship where they actually liked and protected each other.

The plot itself was what kept me going, despite the fact that many of the twists and turns were easy to guess early on. There was just enough hint of more that kept me interested in reading- like why Legend had dragged certain people into the game, and why he was doing it all anyway. And I’m interested enough in that to want to read the next book.

The problem was… everything else just let me down. The romance, I thought, was forced and predictable. I liked Julian, but I got annoyed that everything was about liking her- I thought they would have been better if they had stayed friends, especially when I didn’t get any feelings off the book itself. For a good love story, the reader has to feel it too, has to fall in love with the Love Interest as the Main does. And yeah, Julian was okay, but I didn’t care. Not about him, not about her, not about them together and I really really didn’t care when one particular twist happened. I actually had to read the page twice to make sure I hadn’t missed something because I just didn’t care.

And then when the next meant-to-be *gasp* moment happened, pages later, I cared even less. I had been reading this whole book waiting for Scarlett to find her sister and this big thing happens and I was left like… meh.

It was more the characters than the writing- because the writing was great. It was because the characters didn’t develop at all. There was no incentive to care about them, or if they all got out the story alive.

So I will be reading the next book- because I do want to see what happens and if the author improves, but I’ll be reading it for the world and the magic much more than I will be for any of the characters.

three stars

Half Bad, Sally Green

Half Bad: cover of first novel by Sally Green, predicted to be next Harry Potter or Twilight Saga

Warning: This one DOES contain spoilers!

Synopsis:

Wanted by no one.
Hunted by everyone.

Sixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late. But how can Nathan find his father when there is no one safe to trust, not even family, not even the girl he loves?  

Review:

I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I loved the idea. Hated everything else. It felt to me like it was too clear cut- you had to hate this character, you were meant to like that one. I like books where you can make your own mind up, where you end up loving the badie because they still had goodness. In this one, Jasmine was just…evil. Arron was just lovely. You had no other way of seeing them so you had no other way of feeling.

I loved the idea of the black and white witches. Because the white’s, they are meant to be good and pure, but are they? As you go through the book, you realise that they may not be as lovely as first thought. I mean, look at the legislations put against our main, Nathan.  First, he’s got to be tested every year to see what he is- yeah, fine- but then it gets worse. No Giving Ceremony without Permission. Every person he talks to must be reported, no matter how little interaction they have. Then his movements are stopped. Everywhere he goes must be reported. Is that really for the safely of the Whites, or another way of isolating someone that’s different.
Another part of this that was good was the ‘nature vs nurture’ aspect of Nathans growing up. What makes him evil- is it the black witches in his family, or is it the way the whites treat him before they even know what he is like?

The plot was a bit of a problem.  Like, here we have a boy whose hated for what he is and there’s been a prophesy where only he will kill his father with a particular weapon so everyone wants him! Hurray! But not for the right reasons…
So we have 380 pages where…he’s running from everyone and refusing to kill people and being beaten up…but not much else. Seriously. There were pages and pages of people being rude to him, or being locked up for ages, but no actual story. I don’t want to read an entire chapter about the mud under his feet as he is ordered to run.
Not only that, but where is the world building? So these witches, right? Where did they come from? Who first realised they needed three gifts? Like, did they all die before this happened? What happened to get the split between the two types of witches? And why are the black ones hated so much (like, the whites seem to kill just as many people…)
And that’s just the background part of the world building…

Although I didn’t agree with the way characters were perceived, I have to say they were all solid in who they were.  I loved that you could see them change their views as we move though the book- take Celia. At first, its clear she doesn’t want to like Nathan. There is a history between the families so (once again) she judges him for his father. However, the more time they spend together, the more she realises that he is not like his father, and she grows to like him. It’s not easy to tell, not until she fights the fact the Council want to take him away.

Let’s talk about the love interest. Annalise. (collective groan from everyone who already knows my view on this). Why? Why is Nathan so obsessed with her- and yes, I am using the word obsessed, since what, they met at eleven, talked like, twice and then they didn’t see each other until the kiss. That’s pretty much it. And then for the rest of the book (where you see her for a single second) he worries about her and thinks about her. Like, come on. You have both grown up, this obsession you have with her is a childish dream. It really really annoyed me, because it felt like Green had gone ‘AHA I am writing a book for teenagers, I must add a love interest!’
NO!
I’m sorry, but romance with characters should not just be on paper. You should see the chemistry as it unfolds and wish that they do get together. With Annalise and Nathan, I just wanted to slam the book shut and scream.
Plus side…I see a bit more from Gabriel, who is one of the few characters in this book I actually really like.

I could go on but I will stop, for my sanity and yours, and I will leave you with this:

The title of the book sums up my thoughts perfectly. It’s a bit more than Half Bad.