Thursday, September 5, 2019

American Royals by Katharine McGee Book Review

American Royals by Katharine McGee Book Cover
American Royals is the first in a series from Katharine McGee. It's America as we know it, but instead of a President ruling the country, a king does. One in a long line of successors from America's first king George Washington. And for the very first time, thanks to a change in the successor's act, America is to have their first Queen, Princess Beatrice. While still young at 22, she has trained to be a queen since the day she was born. She understands there is Beatrice the person and Beatrice the queen and knows the sacrifices that come with her crown. So when her parents pressure her into dating some eligible bachelors she agrees, even though her heart isn't in it. She's secretly in love with someone else.

Her younger sister Samantha feels like she's nothing, forever to be Beatrice's younger, wilder sister. A spare part, 2nd in line. She envies her sister and the way America adores her. A chance encounter with a handsome stranger at a party has a spring in her step, though trouble is always around the corner with Samantha.

Samantha's twin brother Jeff has split from a 3 year relationship with Daphne and is now falling for Nina, Sam's best friend and daughter to the Minister for Treasury. Nina is hesitant though. Despite knowing the Washingtons since she was 6, she isn't ready for a public relationship and all the pressures that come with it. Daphne is also determined to get back with Jeff but to what ends?

The book was a fun YA book, a little bit too long considering there are multiple points of view (Beatrice, Samantha, Nina and Daphne). It doesn't get confusing but I think having 4 POVs did slow down the pacing at times. It also meant that you'd just be getting into one person's narrative and looking forward to what was happening and then it would change. The tones never changed that much either and I do think it might have benefited from having the POVs from the men in the book. Perhaps that will happen in the next book in the series? Part of me likes the idea of reimagining American history. There were hints to the troubled past America has, such as slavery, and while it wasn't expanded upon, I'm glad it wasn't erased entirely. It does raise a question of the idea of a white monarchy in a country that already had native peoples and the fact that the whole point of the American Revolution was to get rid of a monarchy. That's the part of me that didn't like the reimagining part. However I did manage to cast that aside while reading it, as what the book does well is that it's like a soap opera. I could easily imagine it as a TV show. It was a very entertaining and light read, a fun YA novel that teenagers will enjoy.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Wych Elm by Tana French Book Review

The Wych Elm by Tana French being held in front of a Irish hillside scenery with blue skies and white clouds
Toby considers himself a fairly lucky guy. He has a job working for an art gallery with a campaign that's going really well, a girlfriend who's mad about him, his own apartment. Then one night he awakes to find the place being burgled by two men, who viciously beat him. As Toby struggles to recover from the attack that almost left him dead, he goes to live at his family's homestead to look after his dying uncle Hugo. The respite is interrupted when a human skull is found in the wych elm tree in the garden. Suddenly Toby and his family find their lives upside down as detectives investigate the mystery behind this skull. With Toby's memory being patchy since the attack and as tensions heighten, Toby is forced to reevaluate his life and if the past is everything he thought it was.

Be forewarned going into this book, it's long and slow moving. Knowing that meant that I could enjoy the book and anticipate what was going to come. It helps that Tana French is a favourite author of mine and that I knew everything would come together nicely. I enjoyed her wording and scene building, she has a lovely way with words. I was hesitant going into this because it isn't part of the Dublin Murder Squad series but honestly it felt like it was, the only difference being the point of view is from a suspect rather than a detective. And with the suspect's memory not being up to scratch, it was a mystery to us as we read it, as he was finding out as it went along what actually happened, so it was like a detective piecing everything together. I wasn't a massive fan of the ending, for something that was so slow it felt a bit rushed or something. That said, despite how slow moving it was at times, every time I wasn't reading it I was dying to pick it up and I read the 500+ pages quickly over the weekend. So that's a good sign! If you've not read Tana French before, I would not recommend this as the first book. But if you have and you're a fan, pick this up!

Friday, August 30, 2019

Anticipated Book Releases September-December 2019

In my Anticipated Book Releases May-August, I said I'd have a post up in August for my September-December Releases and I've actually managed to keep my word! Not going to lie, the idea of writing this post, getting the photos ready for this post seemed like such a hassle. More so because Blogger just doesn't seem to co-operate with me when it comes to photos. Anyway, there's lots of great books upcoming that I wanted to share which motivated me to get everything sorted!

Filter This by Sophie White

I read Sophie White's part-memoir part-cookbook Recipes For a Nervous Breakdown earlier this year and loved it. Filter This is her first novel which explores the dark side of social media. Ali Jones craves followers and being an influencer. So when she accidentally leads people to believe she's pregnant and sees a spike in followers, she decides to keep going with this lie. Meanwhile her idol and big influencer Shelly Divine seems to have it all, but we see the big stresses that having this fame brings to her and her family Sept 5th

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell

I've read and loved other Gladwell books so I'm excited to see a new release. As the title suggests, it's about talking to people you don't know and knowing Gladwell he'll tell us plenty interesting tales and facts to create his point September 10th

Once, Twice, Three Times an Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen

The 3rd book in the Oh My God What a Complete Aisling series. I'm looking forward to seeing what Aisling gets up to next. They're funny and heartwarming reads September 12th

The Confession by Jessie Burton

I was delighted to see a new Jessie Burton book this year! I enjoyed The Miniaturist and LOVED The Muse. To be honest, I don't know what it's about. I haven't even properly read the synopsis. Nor do I want to, I'm happy going in utterly cold! September 15th

Five Dark Fates by Kendare Blake

The final book in the Three Dark Crowns series, set on a secret mysterious island where triplets are born, brought up separately and at the age of 16 fight until one is victorious and becomes the new queen. I'm not super excited about this but it's been an interesting enough series and I want to know what happens September 15th

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty

The 3rd book from Caitlin Doughty, who I first came across with her Ask a Mortician series on YouTube. Caitlin will answer 35 questions that have been put to her by some of her youngest fans. I expect it will be funny, delightful and informative. I have it preordered on audiobook as I listened to her second book this way and love her narration September 15th

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory

Jasmine writes adorable fun contemporary romance novels, I've read the 1st three she's written so far. This one will be Christmas themed so I'm going to save it for that time of the year. Again I don't know too much about it but I'm ok with that! October 1st

The Places I've Cried in Public by Holly Bourne

Holly is the queen of contemporary YA and I've enjoyed many of her previous books. She covers lots of serious issues and it seems like this one will be no different October 3rd

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell

Sequel to her very popular book Carry On. While I did enjoy Carry On, with Simon Snow and Baz (the story that was the basis of fan fiction in Fangirl), I wasn't bowled over by it like others. But I think I might try and read this one to see where the story goes next October 3rd

It's Not Ok to Feel Blue and Other Lies currated by Scarlett Curtis

I really enjoyed Feminists Don't Wear Pink, essays and thoughts about feminism from all different aspects from different women. This is similar but this time the topic is mental health. This list of people included looks amazing! Names I recognise (I can't wait to see what Naomi Campbell has written!) and plenty I don't but will no doubt be interesting October 3rd

Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas by Adam Kay

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay has been a massive success. I read it in July and loved it, it was so funny and sad. This is a shorter book with stories set around being a medical professional at Christmastime. I'm sure it'll be just as funny and sad as the first book October 15th

Our Wayward Fate by Gloria Chao

I read American Panda by Gloria Chao earlier this year and really enjoyed it, it was a cute contemporary YA novel. Ali, who is the only Asian kid in her high school in Indiana, becomes close to new kid Chase, who is also Tawainese. Though when her mother finds out she forces Ali to end things. Ali uncovers secrets when she digs deeper into why her mum is so reluctant about Ali and Chase October 15th

The Book of the Year 2019 by No Such Thing as Fish

Another book with some of the craziest stories from 2019. As a fan of the podcast I look forward to these and will preorder it as an audiobook when it's available to do so October 24th

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

A new novel by the author of The Night Circus. I don't know much about this book, except there's magic and bound to be so dreamy descriptions of things. That's all I remember about The Night Circus! November 5th

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West

A book on feminism and pop culture. If it's anything like Shrill it will be insightful and punchy. November 5th

False Value by Ben Aaronovitch

The latest installment of the Rivers of London series. Though to be honest I'm not keeping my hopes up that it'll be out in November, lately these novels keep getting their publication dates pushed back. One can hope! November 14th

And that's it for 2019! There are of course other books coming out that probably have more hype than these. The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, the follow up to The Handmaid's Tale, is out September 10th. I'm not sure yet if I'll read it which is why I didn't include it. Other books may also be announced but I'm hoping I haven't missed anything.

What are you most looking forward to coming out over the next few months? Is it one of these books or something else I haven't posted? Let me know in a comment below or on Instagram!

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Reading Rush 2019 Results

Hello! So just over 3 weeks ago I shared my TBR for The Reading Rush 2019 (formerly BookTubeAThon). And then the following week, when I planned to write up my results I got sick with a throat infection. Which turned into a cough and is now a streaming head cold. Hurrah! Nonetheless I want to share which books I read and if I managed to do all the challenges. I'm forever posting the beginning of something on here and then getting too distracted to follow through.

If you didn't read the original post or you're too lazy to click through and read it now, I'm going to share the photo of my TBR that would have fulfilled all the challenges.

And the grand total of books I read from this pile? Two! However I must say now, spoiler alert, that I did read more than one book and I did complete all the challenges

Cover of graphic novel Sweet Valley High: Academic All-Star? by Katy Rex
The first book I read was Sweet Valley High: Academic All-Star by Katy Rex and Devaki Neogi. I've been looking forward to this read for a while now, ever since I first heard about it. I read it on day 1 and day 2 in bed to satisfy Read a book in the same spot the entire time. I started just after the midnight on the Sunday and finished it that Monday night.

Photo of book Like Water for Hot Chocolate by Laura Esquivel amongst potted plants and an ornamental sugar skull
I then read a lot of other books in different formats. A physical book, an ebook and an audiobook. Between working and then travelling to London to visit friends on the Thursday night, I finished the next book Saturday morning! Like Water for Hot Chocolate by Laura Esquivel was one of the books I was thinking of in my previous post when I said I had changed by mind about the TBR 30 mins after taking the photo. This book fulfills multiple challenges. Read an author's first book. Pick a book that has 5 or more words in the title (the book does seem to commonly go by Like Water for Chocolate but my copy specifically says Like Water for Hot Chocolate). Read and watch a book to movie adaptation. I haven't watched the movie yet, I had plans to watch it the following week when I got back from London but felt so crap. I'm rubbish at watching films anyway but I promise I will get to this one! This book was also a pick for Book Riot Read Harder 2019 for the challenge An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America.

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory book cover
Sunday morning I finished The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory. I read this as an ebook and for the Read a book with purple on the cover. Online the colour looks anything from pink to purple. I think it looks more purple to me, at least the ebook I had did. So I'm counting it!

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett cover of BBC radio adaptation audiobook
Sunday evening I finished the audiobook I was listening to, the BBC Radio adaptation of Good Omens. I was given the book years ago by a friend and have attempted to read it 2 or 3 times but never got into it. This adaptation was really good, I loved that it was done by a cast and that there's added sound effects. This one covers Read a book you meant to read last year as well as Read a book with a non-human main character (the two main characters are an angel and a demon).

I also listened to parts of two other audiobooks. The second chapter of Good Omens hadn't downloaded on my phone when I was at lunch one day so I continued listening to Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney. I also listened to some of James Acaster's Classic Scrapes by James Acaster in the car with my partner on the Monday.

I'm happy I did The Reading Rush this year and completed it. Ok, *almost* completed it, I will watch that movie! Usually I would read a book for each challenge task but seeing as I was working full time and away on holiday I'm pleased I managed to complete it with 4 books. Also by completing it I managed to maintain my streak of completing/not completing every 2nd year 😆 I also managed to complete some of the Instagram challenges at the beginning of the week, including the picture above of Like Water for Hot Chocolate. You can check out my Bookstagram here @rareopalreads.

Did you do The Reading Rush too? Let me know in the comments below how you got on!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers Book Review

 Thanks to massive advancements in science and technology, Ariadne and her 3 colleagues are sent to study 4 habitable planet and their ecology 15 light years away. Somaforming is the means that allows them to do so, a process where the astronauts are put into a sleep-like state while travelling, that slows down their aging and delivers synthetic biological supplements to their bodies to help with each different environment. The novella chronicles their journeys and the problems that arise for the explorers. What it's like to leave your family and loved ones behind on Earth, how much will change while they're away, will their work still be relevant, will they be remembered? I really like Chambers' sci-fi, how things work and their descriptions. It's so believable and intriguing.

The heart of the story for me is the characters and their relationships. Chambers is so brilliant at writing characters, just like her other books these didn't disappoint. The smallest nuances and interactions speaks volumes. I swear she can express so much with just just a pat on the back as another author would need a whole paragraph to convey. I would have loved a longer book to explore Ariadne and the others more, both before and after their trip. That's the only reason I gave this 3 stars (really 3.5), because I selfishly wanted more! It is still satisfying for a novella though, perfect for the summer.

One of my favourite quotes from the story is

'This is what a forest is, after all. Don't believe the lie of individual trees, each a monument to it's own self-made success. A forest is an interdependent community. Resources are shared, and life in isolation is a death sentence'

Becky Chambers has such a beautiful way with words and the scene this quote comes from is beautiful. Becky Chambers could write a shopping list and I'd be clamouring to read it! The novella is out August 8th.

Friday, July 26, 2019

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan Book Review

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan book cover

Colgan's books are like a mug of hot chocolate by a fire on a stormy day. They're very cosy! This one is no exception. Single mum Zoe and her 4 year old selectively mute son Hari are struggling big time in London. Hari's father is no help whatsoever and Zoe is being to drown. So when an opportunity comes along to work as an au pair and part time bookseller in the Scottish Highlands, Zoe decides to take the leap of faith and give it a go. She arrives at The Beeches, a big Scottish house surrounded in mystery. Here 3 children and their father live and Zoe is to be nanny number 7. And she soon finds out why, as the children are not the easiest to get on with. And there's so much mystery and unanswered questions that Zoe can not get answers to. Struggling to coax the children into behaving, keeping the bookshop van afloat and Hari's well being has Zoe exhausted. Can she pull it all off?

It's easy to dismiss books like this as flight, fluffy and frothy. Yes, this book has its light moments but there are some serious issues dealt with in here and I think Colgan managed them well enough. It certainly brought tears to my eyes! While there is a romance, it isn't the centre of the book, the real centre seems to be Zoe and the children. I loved seeing her encourage them and letting them blossom. There's some touching moments, I especially liked Shackleton's arc. The story was good, I do think it kinda meandered in spots and could have been edited a bit tighter. But overall it was enjoyable, like most of Colgan's books!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe Book Review

Three years on from the events in Paradise Lodge and Lizzie Vogel is now 18. She's managed to get a job as a dental nurse, living in the flat above the Leicester. Lizzie should be having the time of her life, she's young and living a city. But Lizzie is a bit homesick for her home in the country with her alcoholic eccentric aspiring writer mother. On top of that Lizzie hates the dentist she works for, a xenophobe who's obsessed with becoming a Free Mason and who is also in a relationship with another woman who works in the dental clinic . Lizzie starts seeing Andy and in true Lizzie fashion things are never quite clear. Are they seeing each other, is he more into in bird watching than having sex? Things get even more complicated when Andy becomes a lodger at his mother's house.

The book is very much character driven, there is a story arc but it's quite slow. The main focus are the characters and simple observations made throughout the book. Stibbe has a knack for mentioning things that might seem mundane or rambling coming from other people but from her they are charming and sometimes hilarious. There's nice descriptions and touches for life in the early 1980s, nostalgic without being over the top or too schmaltzy. I really enjoy the characters and how they interact with each other, Lizzie and her dysfunctional family are very entertaining. In Man at the Helm, Lizzie was this perfect mix of childhood innocence and maturity for her age. In Paradise Lodge, it's a coming of age story where Lizzie is trying to get to grips with getting older and being a teenager. In Reasons to Be Cheerful, we see Lizzie becoming an adult and trying to find her groove in life. I love her quirks, she's very endearing and it was a pleasure to see Lizzie bloom and grow into the woman she wants to be. I found myself rooting for her. I love Stibbe's writing and look forward to her next book.

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