The Princess and the Fangirl, by Ashley Poston

pfThe Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Prince and the Pauper gets a modern makeover in this adorable, witty, and heartwarming young adult novel set in the Geekerella universe by national bestselling author Ashley Poston.

Imogen Lovelace is an ordinary fangirl on an impossible mission: save her favorite character, Princess Amara, from being killed off from her favorite franchise, Starfield. The problem is, Jessica Stone—the actress who plays Princess Amara—wants nothing more than to leave the intense scrutiny of the fandom behind. If this year’s ExcelsiCon isn’t her last, she’ll consider her career derailed.

When a case of mistaken identity throws look-a-likes Imogen and Jess together, they quickly become enemies. But when the script for the Starfield sequel leaks, and all signs point to Jess, she and Imogen must trade places to find the person responsible. That’s easier said than done when the girls step into each other’s shoes and discover new romantic possibilities, as well as the other side of intense fandom. As these “princesses” race to find the script-leaker, they must rescue themselves from their own expectations, and redefine what it means to live happily ever after.

I was gifted an advance reading copy of this book from Quirk Books in return for an honest review.

I read Geekerella quite late in the year, last year, after having it sitting on my TBR shelf for quite a long time. It was one of those books that I knew I would love so I kept saving it for a time when I would really need a good book to get lost in. As predicted, I adored it, so much so that I found myself sitting in a cold bath in my darkened bathroom, hours after getting in and only coming to my senses when it became too dark to continue reading. The dreamy romance combined with the geekiness of the con and Starfield and the fairytale retelling trope (undoubtedly my favourite trope ever) was just completely perfect.

With this in mind, I’ve been desperate to read The Princess and the Fangirl since the moment I turned the last page of Geekerella and went online desperately searching for more books by Ashley Poston. Where the last book was a retelling of Cinderella, this book is a modern gender twist take on The Prince and the Pauper and it works SO well.

More of a companion novel than a true sequel, The Princess and the Fangirl follows a new protagonist as well as several reoccurring characters from Geekerella. Darien pops up enough for plenty of swooning opportunities, but at the same time the story is pretty much brand new and you could probably get away with reading it without having read Geekerella first without too much confusion (though you should definitely read it because it’s great.)

Everything I loved from the first book is present in this companion book. The Starfield fandom is so intricately developed that I absolutely forget it isn’t a real thing. I’m sold on it completely and really invested in what’s going to happen to the franchise. Romance is again central to the story, with a f/f relationship as well as a m/f one, which both develop so beautifully. I wasn’t a huge fan of Jess when reading Geekerella, but she definitely grew on me in this book and I enjoyed reading her chapters and getting to know her character and the reasons for her prickliness. I wanted to enjoy her blossoming relationship more than I could initially. I found myself really focused on the lies that I knew would catch up with her and it gave me minor anxiety thinking that they were going to crash and burn when they had such promise! Having said that, even with the lies there’s no denying that the chapter where she’s having a private dinner in a hotel room with her love interest was electric, so much chemistry.

Imogen was possibly my favourite character. I loved the simplicity of her love for Starfield and her, at times overzealous, passion. Another of my favourite tropes is hate turning to love, and Imogen and her love interest were the perfect depiction of this. I was rooting for them with every snide comment they flung at each other, hoping they would end up together.

I loved the Princess and the Fangirl so much. The romance, the con setting, all the geeky references and the continued story of the Starfield franchise. It was everything I wanted in a companion novel.

Internment, by Samira Ahmed

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Internment
by Samira Ahmed

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Blurb: 

Rebellions are built on hope.

Set in a horrifying near-future United States, seventeen-year-old Layla Amin and her parents are forced into an internment camp for Muslim American citizens.

With the help of newly made friends also trapped within the internment camp, her boyfriend on the outside, and an unexpected alliance, Layla begins a journey to fight for freedom, leading a revolution against the internment camp’s Director and his guards.

Heart-racing and emotional, Internment challenges readers to fight complicit silence that exists in our society today. 

Given the nature of the current political climate around the world, Internment is a frighteningly stark, no holds barred, powerful YA contemporary set “15 minutes” into the future within a US internment camp for Muslims.

Some books you read for pleasure, and others you read because you should read them and you need to read them. Internment is an uncomfortable read because it’s so believable. Previous examples of internment camps are referenced and discussed by the characters, particularly the Japanese Americans interned during WW2 and this constantly reminds the reader that this isn’t just fiction, this has all happened before and could easily happen again.

By focusing in on the main character Layla’s experience, Internment becomes a really personal story and really emphasises how crazy and arbitrary the idea of these camps are. Layla and her parents go from being normal American citizens to prisoners within a single night, with little explanation from those interning them.

The conditions described in the book are atrocious, made all the more horrifying for façade that the government have put up to make it seem as if the camp is not a prison- individual caravan type homes for each family, a mess room to eat dinners in and schooling/work schedules. Samira Ahmed explores human rights in a really interesting way, depicting how quickly people interned in this way become grateful for the smallest of privileges when just the week before they were normal citizens with complete freedom.

I really liked the dynamic between Layla and her parents. Layla is a very strong, determined woman and her parents are torn between encouraging this as they have previously, and wanting her to keep her head down inside the camp to keep them all as safe as possible.

At times I did find the actual plot of the book lost its way a little and could have been a bit tighter. I didn’t much care for Layla’s boyfriend David and found his sneaking into the camp the most far fetched aspect of the whole book (which is actually terrifying when you think about it…)

Overall, Internment is a gripping, terrifying reminder about what governments can do given the power if we don’t all fight against it. It’s depressing to know that in 2019 a book like this is still so relevant and important. Samira Ahmed’s writing is very accomplished and the story is written so realistically which makes it all the more effective. This book should be required reading in schools.

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Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

61kYThMpzVL._SX325_BO1,204,203,200_Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Blurb:

Defeated, crushed, and driven almost to extinction, the remnants of the human race are trapped on a planet that is constantly attacked by mysterious alien starfighters. Spensa, a teenage girl living among them, longs to be a pilot. When she discovers the wreckage of an ancient ship, she realizes this dream might be possible—assuming she can repair the ship, navigate flight school, and (perhaps most importantly) persuade the strange machine to help her. Because this ship, uniquely, appears to have a soul.

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exhange for an honest review.

Skyward was the first Brandon Sanderson book I have ever picked and I was not disappointed. Prior to this I’ve always been put off of Sanderson’s work because they tend to be fairly lengthy books and I found that intimidating. However, as soon as I heard about Skyward I just had to read it immediately.

The description that drew me in was “it’s like ‘How to train your Dragon’ but in space” which is quite frankly the most appealing sentence I’ve ever read and I have to agree, aside from, ya’ know, the lack of any actual dragons in Skyward.

The first thing I noticed about this book was that it’s true what people say about Sanderson’s writing: he’s a master of world building. The creation of this planet with its layers of detritus protecting/blocking the inhabitants from space/their enemy the Krell was just incredible. The cave systems was described in-depth and the political running of the world seemed to be explained very quickly and yet within a couple of chapters I felt I knew exactly how the planet was run. There were no long boring descriptions, but somehow Sanderson got the important points across masterfully.

The Krell themselves are a formidable enemy and I loved how we began knowing hardly anything about them and then slowly gathered more information as the plot built.

As a lead character, Spensa is one of the strongest heroines I’ve read for a long while. She’s fierce, talented and ambitious with a huge need to prove her worthiness and step out of her father’s shadow. Most of all, she’s believable and the insights we get as readers into the insecurities and worries she indulges in privately really endeared her to me.

The camaraderie of Skyward flight really sparked and flew off the page. So many different personalities in one team made every class a joy to read and I didn’t want to put the book down.

All of this added together made an amazing book, however, my absolute favourite character was Spensa’s ship M-bot. I love him. His hilarious attempts at understanding humans, his inexplicable dislike for Rig and, I’m not ashamed to say, it was a part of the book involving M-bot which made me so emotional I even shed a few tears because I was so proud of him.

Skyward ended in a very interesting place, with Spensa finding out some really interesting stuff regarding her father and the Krell. I will be pre-ordering the next book in the series as soon as the details are announced because I am DESPERATE to read more!

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Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich


Dear Evan Hansen
by Val Emmich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I’ve listened to the Dear Evan Hansen broadway soundtrack several times a week for the last year so when I heard it was being released as a YA novel I was desperate to get my hands on it. It was the only ARC at YALC I was desperate to go home with and sadly I didn’t manage to win the raffle. I was lucky enough however to be granted access via Netgalley AND my husband bought me a copy of the final published book (can you tell I went on about it a bit?!)

I find this story really sad. My heart hurts for Evan and the struggles he faces and the situations he gets himself into. Reading the book was more emotional than the musical because the novel format allows you to delve further into Evan’s brain and really expand on the emotions and issues he experiences. This also makes the book far heavier than the musical as there are no lighthearted catchy tunes to raise the mood. With no light relief the book is a really intense reading experience which is incredibly immersive.

The author’s writing is captivating and very believable. I imagine it was extremely hard to write this story without making it sound preachy- how can Evan learn his lesson without making it sound like a cheesy cautionary tale?
The authors managed to tell the story with compassion and through it all Evan remains a sympathetic, lovable character.

I recommend curling up with this book with the soundtrack on in the background. You can never have too much Dear Evan Hansen!

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What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Essentially this book is best described as a modern day gay Sleepless in Seattle and it was an absolute joy to read from beginning to end. Throw in tons of references to Hamilton, Dear Evan Hanson and fantasy novels and I was in heaven.

If you know me you know how partial I am to a love story set in New York and I was heavily invested in Arthur and Ben’s relationship from the beginning of their meet cute right to the end of the book. Arthur was like an adorable puppy dog and I honestly LOVE him, whereas Ben was a little more guarded and standoffish. I like both of them but at times I was annoyed at Ben for hurting my poor baby Arthur. I really enjoyed the fact that they had to work at their relationship but they were prepared to do so.

In addition to Ben and Arthur, their friends were also wonderful to read. Dylan is my second favourite character (after Arthur), I loved his friendship with Ben, his slightly crazy approach to his own relationships and his general outlook on the world.

I’m so sad I’ve finished reading this book, I really wasn’t ready to leave their little gang. I foresee a lot of rereads in my future.

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Ascension by Victor Dixen

Ascension by Victor Dixen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley

As soon as I read the blurb for this book I knew I had to read it. I have a weakness for books set in space and I loved the idea of a speed dating reality programme aimed at creating the first human colony on Mars, it’s definitely an original idea!

This book gave me the same kind of feeling as The Hunger Games did when I first read it, both because of the aspect of young people trying to outwit themselves in a ruthless competition and for the fact I couldn’t tear myself away from it once I started reading.

The story unravelled really well, revealing massive plot points seemingly in every chapter which really kept me glued to the book desperate to see what happened next.

At times I found that the dialogue between the characters felt a bit stilted but I think this was down to the translation of the book. There was also plenty of cheesiness in each speed dating session but I think this perfectly depicted how awkward it is to try and sell yourself to someone in a six minute window.

I was gutted when I reached the end of this book because I wasn’t ready for it to be over. I need answers! I will definitely be picking up the next book in the series!

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Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

Always Forever Maybe by Anica Mrose Rissi

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thank you to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exhange for an honest review.

I would find it very hard to say I enjoyed reading this book given the subject matter, however, I can say that it is a very powerful, engaging and important book.

Always Forever Maybe tracks the relationship between Betts and Aiden, from the first head over heels, love at first sight moment, to the intense puppy dog love stage and beyond into more toxic territory.

Anica Mrose Rissi charts the rise and fall of this abusive relationship so realistically it is very difficult to read in places. Although Aiden does become more psychically abusive towards Betts as the book goes on, much of the story focuses on his emotional abuse- alienating his girlfriend from her friends, trying to change her behaviour and making her apologise for insignificant things so that she keeps the peace and avoids his dramatic mood changes.

The intense fast-paced nature of this relationship is so common in abusive relationships. It’s a way of gaining complete control over a person and making them feel as if they need the relationship and can’t leave. Even with the support of her friends, Betts still found herself trapped, feeling as if Aiden was the only thing that mattered.

I loved Betts and Jo’s friendship, and the unwavering support Jo showed for Betts even when she was being a bad friend to her. Jo also provided some much needed comic relief in this book and was probably my favourite character for this reason.

Although it was difficult to read, I’m glad a book like this is out there. This type of toxic behaviour in relationships can be so easy to explain away when you think you are in love. Hopefully, this book will help some people realise that they shouldn’t be subjecting themselves to such treatment.

Whilst it’s incredibly well written, I only recommend this book to you if you feel you can handle the topic. If you are at all senstive to the subject of domestic abuse I would advise reader discretion.

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Eve of Man by Giovanna Fletcher

Eve of Man by Giovanna Fletcher

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recieved an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

Individually I love both Tom and Giovanna’s writing. Giovanna’s warm, cozy romances always go straight to the top of my TBR list and as the mother of an 18 month old troublemaker I loved her non-fiction parenting book too. Tom meanwhile has until now stuck to children’s picture books and middle grade fiction and whilst I have enjoyed them, I’ll admit that I was interested to see how his writing style, which seemed so suited to younger audiences, would adapt to fit this new audience for him.

Eve of Man is set in a world where no girls have been born for 50 years. Then, Eve is born and she is protected and revered as the saviour of mankind. Kept in a tower, away from the rest of the world Eve’s whole life is mapped out for her but all Eve wants is freedom and the chance to make her own decisions about her future.

The plot appealed to me immediately. I love a post-apocalyptic dystopian story and although it’s a genre that became quite saturated a few years ago, I haven’t read any in a good few years so I was ready to get stuck in.

The story is told through the point of view of the two main characters Eve and Bram, with each author taking resposibility for writing one of the characters. I love the idea of this collaberative way of developing a story and I think it was really effective in making both Eve and Bram such well developed characters. Obviously both Tom and Gi had an overview of the story as a whole but as you read the book you can tell that they trusted their instincts and wrote each chapter as they felt their character would react and that meant I felt really personally invested in them as people.

A main part of the story centres around Eve being presented with suitors for her to select one with whom she would begin to repopulate the human race. The scenes that centre around Eve’s preparation for this are really uncomfortable but also so powerful. Internal examinations and frank discussions about what is expected of “the saviour of mankind” would of course be part and parcel of Eve’s life but I don’t think I’ve ever seen them featured in a book in this way.

There were lots of little touches in the book that weren’t particularly part of the main plot but which really added to the atmosphere of the story. One particular aspect I liked was the inclusion of a little pod that they travel the Thames in. Not until it docked in a “big wheel” did I realise it was a pod from the London Eye! I thought this was an ingenius little touch.

I really enjoyed this book and I can’t wait for the next installment in the trilogy.

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I have lost my way by Gayle Forman

I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve never read any Gayle Forman before so I was really interested to see what I though of “I lost my way” when I won a copy via Twitter.

From the first page I was completley drawn into the story and I binge-read it in one sitting. I couldn’t help it!

The book follows three people who have “lost their way”. Freya, an up-and-coming recording artist who had lost her voice; Harun, a gay muslim who is about to leave his secret boyfriend behind and enter into an arranged marriage with a woman; and Nathaniel whose home life has completely fallen apart leaving him all alone.

All three stories converge at the beginning of the book, whcih follows them over the course of a single day. During this day they help each other find themselves and discover what life can be like if you’re true to yourself.

I think part of the reason this book was so easy to read is Gayle Forman’s writing style. She has a really clear, simple way of putting accross a lot of complex emotion. The three main characters all jump off the page at you and their voices are all so individual. I love POV books for this reason; I enjoy hearing the inner workings of each characters minds and in this book it really helped me to see why each character so desperately needed the support of their new friends. Vitally for a POV book, each of the story arcs were captivating and well developed so there was no feeling of being desperate for a different story line to continue. They were all as strong as each other and beautifully interwoven.

Each of the three protagonist’s stories were incredibly sad, however, when I finished reading the book I felt really positive and happy. The way they all came together to protect and save their new friends after only a day of knowing each other was so beautiful and I loved the dynamic between them.

There is potential for a sequal to be written and I would welcome one with open arms because I am not ready to leave these characters yet. Having said that, this book did beautifully conclude this chapter of their lives so it could just as easily be left as a standalone novel.

*This book does deal with difficult themes such as suicide and homophobia so please be aware of this before you decide to read*

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Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

Bookshop Girl by Chloe Coles

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of this manuscript via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Books set in bookshops always get put straight to the top of my to-be-read list, so when I heard about “Bookshop Girl” I couldn’t wait to read it.

When the regional manager of Bennett’s bookshop comes for a meeting the staff are devastated to learn that their branch of the store will be closed. Sold to them as a fait accompli, they resign themselves to the idea- all except Paige Turner (don’t worry, the obvious jokes are addressed and it isn’t as cheesy as it seems!) and her best friend Holly who decide to become activists to prevent their only haven in their hometown from being closed.

I’ve never worked in a bookshop myself, but I have experienced the soul crushing sadness of seeing yet another beloved bookshop disappear from the high street until the only place left to buy books is an hour away or online.

I loved the friendship between Chloe and Holly and how silly they were together whilst also being supportive of each other. Their antics whilst attending their still life course were hilarious, and exactly how two sixteen year old girls would behave in such an awkward setting.

There was some romance in this book, but it really took a back seat to the main plot which I think was really positive. The girls had their crushes but the bookshop and their friendship was far more important. Paige and Holly’s efforts to save the bookshop are so earnest and determined and their love for books is infectious. By the time I finished reading I was desperate to visit my nearest bookshop!

Bookshop Girl is a really fun, light, easy to read contemporary. The main characters are strong female leads and the whole message of the book is really positive. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series and continuing to get to know Paige and Holly.
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