Review: No Big Deal by Bethany Rutter

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Meet Emily Daly, a stylish, cute, intelligent and hilarious seventeen-year-old about to start her last year at school. Emily is also fat. She likes herself and her body. When she meets Joe at a house party, he instantly becomes The Crush of Her Life. Everything changes. At first he seems perfect. But as they spend more time together, doubts start to creep in.
With her mum trying new fad diets every week, and increasing pressure to change, Emily faces a constant battle to stay strong, be her true self and not change for anyone.

This was adorable and wonderful and proud and brave and I loved it. I loved Emily as a character and her view of her body. She is definitely one of the best female role-models I’ve come across and I can appreciate immediately how important this book could be for young girls. There is not enough books out there that show body positivity, and I was blown away by this one.

I also need to shout about how much of a page turner this book is. I was around halfway through at 11pm last night, and I ended up reading for two solid hours until I’d finished it. Once I passed the halfway mark, I couldn’t put it down! It was utterly and completely addictive.

Life is long and kind of boring sometimes. One of the best ways to make your time on earth suck less is to surround yourself with cool people. People who make you happy.

The friendships and relationships were lovely, too. Even though Emily had a bit of a difficult relationship with her mum, some of their scenes together warmed my heart. The same with her dad and sister Katie. The family aspect was so well written!

But I unfortunately had a few tiny problems that knocked it off 5 stars for me. One of them being a few aspects of the book just seemed a little rushed. One of the friendship problems was suddenly fixed with little to no discussion, the ending seemed a little sudden (or maybe I just didn’t want it to end), and something happened with a guy I wish I had been discussed more. I don’t want to talk more about it for fear of giving spoilers, but Emily was betrayed in a way, and none of her friends seemed to call out the person who betrayed her, even though it was clearly wrong.

People who you have fun with. People who make you feel important. And you’re super smart and interesting, and you want cool things for yourself, and that kind of narrows down the pool of people who you’ll accept into your life.

No Big Deal was also so diverse, I adored it. The group of friends included a lesbian couple I just adored, and it was great to read about them and her supportive friendship group in general.

What an absolutely delightful book and I’m so glad it exists. This felt so important and despite it’s problems, is a must read for YA readers!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Rules for Being a Girl by Candace Bushnell & Katie Cotugno

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Marin is a smart, driven, popular girl – she’s headed for Brown when she graduates and has a brilliant career as a journalist ahead of her. Especially in the eyes of English teacher Mr Beckett. He spends a lot of time around Marin, and she thinks it’s harmless . . . until he kisses her.
No one believes Marin when she tells them what happened, so she does the only thing she can: she writes an article called ‘Rules for Being a Girl’ for the school paper to point out the misogyny and sexism that girls face every day. As things heat up at school and in her personal life, Marin must figure out how to take back the power and rewrite her own rules.

Thank you to Macmillan for providing me with an Advanced Reading Copy in exchange for an honest review! All views are my own.

This book truly shocked me. I was lucky enough to be sent a proof copy at work, and honestly looked and it and thought ‘eh, not for me’. But I started to hear good things about it, found the synopsis more intriguing than expected, and thought ‘it looks like a quick read, just give it a go’. So I picked it up on Saturday morning and had finished it just over 24 hours later.

I was quickly drawn into Marin’s story. The first time I sat down to read it, I read 62 pages, and found myself wanting to pick the book up again soon after. It was such a compelling read, which was how I found myself flying through it and desperate to finish. I soon began to expect a book similar to Moxie – which unfortunately wasn’t quite for me – but this was so much better in my opinion. If you liked Moxie, Rules of Being a Girl is it’s bigger, more established and grown up sister. I loved it.

What hit me most about this book is how relevant it seemed. I think there are certain comments or aspects that every girl can relate to, and that’s why it made me so freaking angry. I’ve got to tell you, I did not expect this book to make me so angry I was almost shaking. But it did. It made me angry for things I have experienced, things I’m sure my friends have, and that many girls have witnessed in their teens. It made me feel seriously uncomfortable, upset and downright pissed on Marin’s behalf.

The rollercoaster of emotions pulled me along for the ride, but there were so many other aspects of this novel that made me love it even more. Even though Marin’s friendship with Chloe made me angry too, I loved the way it was written, and the plot twist at the end (I literally gasped out loud), made me love it all the more. Marin’s family were amazing, and the friendships she had with them were excellent. Some of the conversations she has with her parents and sister really warmed my heart. The romance that eventually blooms but in no way dominants Marin’s story was brilliantly written too, and I couldn’t help but love it because the boy in question reminded me so much of my boyfriend and reminded me of how lucky I am.

Marin herself was a brilliant role model to teenage girls out there, and she demanded respect over and over again. She was not afraid to stand up for what she believed in, and that made me so proud of her. Other things worthy to note is this book was feminist without hating men, which was one of the things that let me down with Moxie but totally wasn’t included in Rules of Being a Girl. It was exactly what I look for in myself and in feminist literature. It was also diverse as hell in subtle ways and I loved that.

★★★★★
5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Viper (#1) by Bex Hogan

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Seventeen-year-old Marianne is fated to one day become the Viper, defender of the Twelve Isles.
But the reigning Viper stands in her way. Corrupt and merciless, he prowls the seas in his warship, killing with impunity, leaving only pain and suffering in his wake.
He’s the most dangerous man on the ocean . . . and he is Marianne’s father.
She was born to protect the islands. But can she fight for them if it means losing her family, her home, the boy she loves – and perhaps even her life?

I really wasn’t sure whether to pick up this book as I’m not usually a fan of maritime, but it has such a beautiful cover that I couldn’t resist when I ended up at a book signing for the author. And I’m happy to say I definitely don’t regret picking it up!

I found myself more sucked in by Viper than I had been expecting – it is fast paced and full of adventure, but has emotional undertones that made me love Marianne’s soft but strong character. She is a brilliant female protagonist and I admired her spirit so much.

The man by my side is my opposite and my reflection. The dark to my light. The light to my dark. And everything in between.

The big shock for me in this book was definitely the gore. It can be quite visceral in parts and isn’t one for the faint hearted! But it only added to the fight scenes for me, which were some of my favourite parts of the book. The scenes went by in the blink of an eye, kept me on my toes and had a great action about them.

The characters were really interesting and I connected to most of them on some level, especially Marianne and those closest to her. I can’t usually pinpoint a favourite part of a novel, but I really could with this one. I won’t talk about it in detail due to spoilers, but there was a lovely part of the book set on the Fourth Isle that I just adored.

But I’m not sure either of us could survive the heartbreak of being together yet being apart.
Love is not enough.

The romance was sweet but didn’t overwhelm the story, which I really liked. And the setting was beautiful and easy to picture – I loved the visuals of some of the islands and they were very encompassing. The politics were enjoyable and not too over-complicated, sometimes I find fantasy can be hard to follow but this one certainly wasn’t!

Overall, this was a captivating story and I enjoyed it a lot! I found it wrapped up quite well for me, so I probably won’t carry on with the series, but I’d definitely recommend it if you think it sounds like something you’ll enjoy!

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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For a while, Daisy Jones & The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on 12 July 1979, they split.
Nobody ever knew why. Until now.
They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn’t believe their luck, until it ran out. This is their story of the early days and the wild nights, but everyone remembers the truth differently.
The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked barefoot onstage at the Whisky, their lives were irrevocably changed.
Making music is never just about the music. And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops and the feelings begin.

This book was a 2019 staple for so many people, so even though it isn’t something I’d usually read, I decided to pick it up. And now, I understand what everybody loves so much. There is something capturing about this book. Enticing, just like Daisy Jones herself. There is something that throws you until you don’t know how to feel anymore. It’s enigmatic.

I often find it difficult to read in formats I’m not interested in, like interviews and verse. So when I heard Daisy Jones is written in an interview format, I was very hesitant to pick it up. I just find with interviews, some of the character development can be missed. But this one was different.

I used to think soul mates were two of the same. I used to think I was supposed to look for somebody that was like me. I don’t believe in soul mates anymore and I’m not looking for anything.

Unfortunately, in some ways, I was right. I did enjoy the interview format, as it worked well for the subject and made it a super quick and easy read. But I just….didn’t feel a connection to the characters. I didn’t even like Daisy and Billy.

I think this was where the majority of my disappointment about this book fell. Even though I often felt drawn to them both and sympathetic for them, I couldn’t bring myself to really like them as much as I wanted to. And this was just…quite a big drawback and happened with more characters than I wanted it to. I loved a lot about Daisy, and all the members of The Six. But then something would happen that would put me off them completely.

But if I did believe in them, I’d believe your soul mate was somebody who had all the things you didn’t, that needed all the things you had. Not somebody who’s suffering from the same stuff you are.

Other than the characters, this book was fascinating, and I found it hard to put down. I enjoyed it a lot, but characters mean a lot to me. I can definitely see the appeal of this book, and why it blew up so much in 2019. It’s enticing and somehow alive. I’ll definitely recommend it to people. But there were a few things about it that unfortunately made it not quite as much for me as I wanted it to be.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Always and Forever, Lara Jean (#3) by Jenny Han

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And there’s still so much to look forward to: a class trip to New York City, prom with her boyfriend Peter, Beach Week after graduation, and her dad’s wedding to Ms. Rothschild. Then she’ll be off to college with Peter, at a school close enough for her to come home and bake chocolate chip cookies on the weekends.
Life couldn’t be more perfect!
At least, that’s what Lara Jean thinks . . . until she gets some unexpected news.
Now the girl who dreads change must rethink all her plans—but when your heart and your head are saying two different things, which one should you listen to?

I’m so glad I finally continued with this series, and I’m so thankful to Netflix for making such good adaptations that made me want to carry on with reading the books. It doesn’t often happen that I prefer movies over books, but it did happen with the first To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before book. I just preferred the feel of it on the big screen.

I had mixed feelings about this whole trilogy, and it was by no means perfect, but I still enjoyed it all the same. My love for the Song-Covey family grew stronger with every book, and it certainly grew with the events in Always and Forever Lara Jean. I also found the few scenes with Chris and the other friends/friends of the family warmed my heart so much, especially a certain roadtrip the girls went on.

Is this how it goes?

I still questioned Peter throughout this whole book, and I never quite fell for his character the way I truly wanted to. I understand they are both young and make mistakes, and no relationship runs smooth one hundred percent of the time, but I do wish Peter acted differently in certain scenarios.

I think one of the major factors of my love for this story comes from my adoration of Lara Jean. I see so much of myself in her. Her love for baking, reading and her family is exactly how I am. She’s a hopeless romantic, just like me, and I can only hope I have even a fraction of her cute style and all-around creativity.

You fall in love, and nothing seems truly scary anymore, and life is one big possibility?

These books are not perfect, but they truly warm my heart on cold winters days, and once I picked them up I couldn’t easily put them down again. They’re cute and fluffy, but they do their thing really well. I know I’ll pick them up again, and I can definitely see the movies becoming frequent re-watches. It’ll be great to see this final chapter on the big screen!

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: P.S. I Still Love You (#2) by Jenny Han

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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?

I couldn’t help but enjoy this book. I was a little unsure about the first book and didn’t want to carry on with the series initially, but I adored the first movie adaptation when it was released and decided to continue. I’m really glad I did, because I actually enjoyed this book more than the first one when I read it years ago!

My favourite part of this story remains and probably always will be the family dynamic. We don’t see enough families in YA, and this is one of the only YA series I can genuinely say focuses around the sisters. The chaotic connection between them reminds me of a modern Little Women – although the two cannot be compared.

There’s a Korean word my grandma taught me. It’s called jung. It’s the connection between two people that can’t be severed, even when love turns to hate.

One of the main issues I had with the first book was the love interest, and to a degree that continues in P.S. I Still Love You. Although I rooted more for Peter in this book, I still questioned some of his actions towards the relationship and struggled to sympathise with him at times.

I also didn’t particularly enjoy the love triangle, or at least found it a little unnecessary and would have rather seen Lara-Jean have a meaningful friendship. But on the other hand, this is kind of the point. No relationship is without it’s rocky parts, and Lara-Jean’s confusion and jealousy from both of them is one of their rocky parts.

You still have those old feelings for them; you can’t ever completely shake them loose of you; you will always have tenderness in your heart for them.

Some of the side characters were brilliant (I’m looking at you, Stormy) and I really enjoyed reading some of the scenes. These books might not be perfect, but I’m still finding them quite engaging, easy to read and will definitely be reading the last book in the series and am looking forward to seeing it on the big screen.

★★★★
3.5 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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Review: Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

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Ellery’s never been to Echo Ridge, but she’s heard all about it. It’s where her aunt went missing at age sixteen, never to return. Where a Homecoming Queen’s murder five years ago made national news. And where Ellery now has to live with a grandmother she barely knows, after her failed-actress mother lands in rehab. No one knows what happened to either girl, and Ellery’s family is still haunted by their loss.
Malcolm grew up in the shadow of the Homecoming Queen’s death. His older brother was the prime suspect and left Echo Ridge in disgrace. His mother’s remarriage vaulted her and Malcolm into Echo Ridge’s upper crust, but their new status grows shaky when mysterious threats around town hint that a killer plans to strike again. No one has forgotten Malcolm’s brother-and nobody trusts him when he suddenly returns to town.
Ellery and Malcolm both know it’s hard to let go when you don’t have closure. Then another girl disappears, and Ellery and Malcolm were the last people to see her alive. As they race to unravel what happened, they realize every secret has layers in Echo Ridge. The truth might be closer to home than either of them want to believe.
And somebody would kill to keep it hidden.

After reading One of Us Is Next with Alex, we decided to carry on and read Two Can Keep a Secret together! And I’m so glad we did, because it became both of our favourite McManus books so far.

There was something about this book that stood out from her others. For a start, it felt startlingly creepier to me – maybe enhanced by the setting of a somewhat decrepit theme park. The scenes, especially those in theme park itself, felt almost tangible and too close for comfort. It was delightfully creepy and a perfect read for a cold, dark winters night.

“Welcome to life in a small town.”

Problems I had with McManus’ other books were almost banished with this one. In her other books, I’ve struggled with the amount of Points Of View and it tainted the story for me as I found it hard to follow everything going on. In this book, however, we only focus on two POV and I found it much easier to follow. The only criticism in plot is the major rush that seems to come towards the end of her books after such a big build up, which can be slightly overwhelming.

However, another favourite part of this one for me was the characters, especially Ellery. They were so good to read about and I really liked having the POV of both somebody involved in the past crimes of the small town and somebody who had relatives in the town but had only recently moved to it.

“You’re only as good as the best thing your family’s done. Or the worst.”

This was definitely my favourite of Karen M McManus’ books so far and I’d love to read more from her in the future.

★★★★
4 out of 5 stars

-Beth

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