Review: The Beholder by Anna Bright

The Beholder


 Selah has waited her whole life for a happily ever after. As the only daughter of the leader of Potomac, she knows her duty is to find the perfect match, a partner who will help secure the future of her people. Now that day has finally come.

But after an excruciatingly public rejection from her closest childhood friend, Selah’s stepmother suggests an unthinkable solution: Selah must set sail across the Atlantic, where a series of potential suitors awaits—and if she doesn’t come home engaged, she shouldn’t come home at all.



I feel like this review is going to be a hard one to write. it's barely been five minutes since I finished The Beholder and I can barely put my thoughts into worsdsbecause I'm in two minds.

1) Diversity, amazing secondary characters, intrigue, pretty princesses OMG!
2) What worldbuilding, magical radios and instalove... disjointed retelling.

Let's put these thoughts into words then.

Okay, first the pros. I really really loved the premise of this book. From page one I was hooked by Selah's life and her life in Pontomac and the intrigue with her evil stepmother and ailing father. There were some gorgeous descriptions and some amazing characters.

I particularly liked the crew of The Beholder. They were like a mixing pot of different cultures and backgrounds and they each brought something really fun to the table. Cobie is my BFF for life... I think that their loyalty to Selah even when they weren't being 100% truthful with her was beautiful.

That being said, the whole thing did feel disjointed at times. This is billed as a retelling of The Odyssey but that's nowhere near correct. it's more a retelling of different key tropes of different fairytales and folk stories and fables and they never really knit together as well as you might hope. That, as well as the poor worldbuilding (like really, why is a radio the only technology that exists... why are people in Norway - sorry, I mean Norge - living in a giant tree and where on Earth is Pontomac??) just made the whole thing difficult for me to swallow.

Now lets talk about the love interest. Really, Bright? Do you really need to introduce me to two handsome men that Selah falls for and then just rip through it. Firstly, it kind of makes 90% of the book about arc's which won't be significant down the line and secondly it makes Selah seem desperate, needy and it ruins the integrity of any future love interests. It looks like Captain Lang might be more important in the next book and I just hope that actually goes somewhere. (Torden for life).

The one thing that really saved this book was the writing. Despite a few phrases which seemed out of place for the setting, Bright's writing itself was descriptive and absorbing and took away from the many negatives of this book.

Overall, I will definitely be reading the sequel, but I hope that in it Bright spends more time developing the characters and the world...


 

Book released 6th November 2018 by Katherine Tegen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Fan the Flame by Anna Priemaza

Fan the Fame
Lainey wouldn’t mind lugging a camera around a video game convention for her brother, aka YouTube superstar Codemeister, except for one big problem. He’s funny and charming online, but behind closed doors, Cody is a sexist jerk.

SamTheBrave came to this year’s con with one mission: meeting Codemeister—because getting his idol’s attention could be the big break Sam needs.

ShadowWillow is already a successful streamer. But when her fans start shipping her with Code, Shadow concocts a plan to turn the rumors to her advantage.

The three teens’ paths collide when Lainey records one of Cody’s hateful rants on video. Because she’s determined to spill the truth to her brother’s fans—even if that means putting Sam and Shadow in the crosshairs.
My notes for when I read this book are scarce, because I read it in a single bath, refilling the water twice, but they pretty much said this: LumberLegs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So yeah.

Look, I have an older brother. He also is a Twitch streamer. He also says things which I might deem inapporpriate. Don't get me wrong, he's not a total jerk like Cody, but I did definitely relate to the culture and the issues in this book.

I think the key to this book is the characters, so lets start with them. None of them were perfect (except maybe Legs) but I was a little annoyed by most of them. Lainey... she is so righteous that she sees everything so black and white - good or bad. I get that she tried to confront Cody and always got spoken to like crap, but I think that the way she approached things was way too heavy handed. ShadowWillow was a user, but she was just fighting tooth and nail to make her place in a mostly male run show. Don't get me wrong, I get that... but still, her obsession with follower counts while ignoring the people who really cared for her 'Zzz'  was frustrating. I really felt for Sam, he has his issues and he can't fight them and he feels trapped but he finds his own place as a streamer and his wa sthe only story that turned out the way it should.

The storyline of this book was brilliant. Whilst I didn't always agree with the character's actions, I think Priemaza has really got her claws into the eGaming and Streaming cultures and wrote about them honestly and authentically and whilst I don't want to ruin this for anyone so I may be vague, it was an honest representation of a culture that prides itself on being 'inclusive' but can be so very elitist.

 


Book released 20th August 2019 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: A Dress for the Wicked by Autumn Krause

A Dress for the Wicked
Nothing much happens in the sleepy town of Shy in Avon-upon-Kynt. And for eighteen years, Emmaline Watkins has feared that her future held just that: nothing.

But when the head of the most admired fashion house in the country opens her prestigious design competition to girls from outside the stylish capital city, Emmy’s dreams seem closer than they ever have before.

As the first “country girl” to compete, Emmy knows she’ll encounter extra hurdles on her way to the top. But as she navigates the twisted world of high fashion she starts to wonder: will she be able to tailor herself to fit into this dark, corrupted race? And at what cost?


Ok. I love Project Runway, despite the fact that I have the fashion sense of a fish - a very unfashionable fish - I love the drama and the campness and I love Heidi/Karlie and I love the designs and the challenges and when this book was described as a fantasy Project Runway I knew that I had to read it.

Don'd get me wrong. I did enjoy this book, it just didn't blow me away. I read it in a day, so it did keep my attention, but it wasn't particularly memorable afterwards. Emmeline fell flat for me, as did all of the other characters. There was some depth, in the political side of things, but it wasn't enough to make this book wow me.

The love story... oh, it could have been this epic stretched-out thing and it could have saved this book... but our headstrong Emmy just fell apart around Tristan, so I just could not bring myself to really like him, or their relationship.

Overall, A Dress for the Wicked was not quite what I expected and it did definitely fall short in my view. That being said, it was fun it just lacked depth and worldbuilding.


 

Book released 6thAugust 2019 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Fireworks by Katie Cotugno

Fireworks
It was always meant to be Olivia. She was the talented one, the one who had been training to be a star her whole life. Her best friend, Dana, was the level-headed one, always on the sidelines, cheering her best friend along.

But everything changes when Dana tags along with Olivia to Orlando for the weekend, where superproducer Guy Monroe is holding auditions for a new singing group, and Dana is discovered too. Dana, who’s never sung more than Olivia’s backup. Dana, who wasn’t even looking for fame. Next thing she knows, she and Olivia are training to be pop stars, and Dana is falling for Alex, the earnest, endlessly talented boy who’s destined to be the next big thing.

It should be a dream come true, but as the days of grueling practice and constant competition take their toll, things between Olivia and Dana start to shift . . . and there’s only room at the top for one girl. For Olivia, it’s her chance at her dream. For Dana, it’s a chance to escape a future that seems to be closing in on her. And for these lifelong best friends, it’s the adventure of a lifetime—if they can make it through.

 Ah. Well.

First thing first, I enjoyed Fireworks. I truly did, it was such a throw back to the time of Backstreet Boys and N*Sync and Destiny's Child and that was my time. So that was what sold me on this book.

That being said, I just didn't love this book. It lacked depth that I always find in more 'modern' comtemporary novels. The characters felt so one-dimensional to me, that whilst I enjoyed the story, it was more for the setting and the time as opposed to the characters and the arcs. I feel like this book was carried so well by it's setting and the fact that the target audience for YA books are the people that grew up through bubblegum pop music, that it kind of doesn't aim to be too meaningful or even realistic.

Katie Cotugno is a good writer - no doubt about that - she manages to write in a way that fits the age of the characters, and that in itself is such a big part of writing YA.

Overall, whilst I enjoyed the experience of reading Fireworks, I do not ultimately feel that this book is memorable. It was a good book, I just wouldn't go as far as to call it great.


Book released 18th April 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: If You're Out There by Katy Loutzenhiser

If You're Out There
After Zan’s best friend moves to California, she is baffled and crushed when Priya suddenly ghosts. Worse, Priya’s social media has turned into a stream of ungrammatical posts chronicling a sunny, vapid new life that doesn’t sound like her at all.
Everyone tells Zan not to be an idiot: Let Priya do her reinvention thing and move on. But until Zan hears Priya say it, she won’t be able to admit that their friendship is finished.
It’s only when she meets Logan, the compelling new guy in Spanish class, that Zan begins to open up about her sadness, her insecurity, her sense of total betrayal. And he’s just as willing as she is to throw himself into the investigation when everyone else thinks her suspicions are crazy.

Then a clue hidden in Priya’s latest selfie introduces a new, deeply disturbing possibility:
Maybe Priya isn’t just not answering Zan’s emails.
Maybe she can’t.
Yes to well represented, well written and absolutely adorable female friendship. Yes to a contemporary book with a main character that makes a series of not-always-right decisions in pursuit of that friendship. yes to authentic dialogue. Yes to plot progression and vibe building and all of the things that kept me hooked to this book.


Yes, yes, yes to Logan and instant connections and funny chats and support and some kind of natural growth for a teen romance.


Honestly, I was expecting a reallu dark mystery, but in reality this book was super absorbing but also light and funny and heartwarming whilst also keeping that more sinister tone of mystery there. 


I loved Zan as a character, honestly I was so hooked on her friendship with Priya that I belived her so much. I believed that Priya wouldn't just ghost her and that something must be wrong because she was so strong and unerring in her own convictions. She was a character that I absolutely adored to read, and I would recommend If You're Out There for that reason, but for many more.



Book released 5th March 2019 by Balzer and Bray
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Together at Midnight by Jennifer Castle

Together at Midnight
What does it really mean to be kind . . . and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do? High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season. Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.

Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?


Usually I’ve always enjoyed Jennifer Castle’s books, and whilst Together at Midnight was most certainly an okay book, it wasn’t what I have come to expect from such a brilliant contemporary author.

The issues that I really had with this book stem from the multiple points of view that this book offers, which really threw me off from my concentration. It just meant that I never really connected to the characters at all... Kendall, Max? Nah, I came away from this book really not caring about them at all. The only characters I did like were the ones who appear in their own Castle novel from a few years ago.

I also felt that the ending of this book was very... lacking. I don't like endings that are nicely wrapped up, nor do I like endings that are so open and rushed like I felt Together at Midnight was.

The thing is, this book will not put me off any future Jennifer Castle books since she has impressed me before. However, I can't say I really enjoyed this book.


 
Book released 2nd January 2018 by HarperTeen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review

Review: Angel and Bavar by Amy Wilson

Angel and Bavar


After the death of her parents, Angel has a lot to get used to: a new home, a new family, a new school. The last thing she’s interested in is making new friends. Until she meets Bavar, a strange boy who slips through the shadows, a boy who might understand her nightmares.

But Bavar doesn’t want to let anyone in. Everyone—and everything—in his enchanted house is already urging him to step up and protect the world from a magical rift and the fearsome monsters traveling through it, a responsibility he wishes he could ignore.

Then Bavar discovers that the monsters are the same ones that killed Angel’s parents. Determined to stop the creatures for good, he reluctantly accepts Angel’s help. Together, Angel and Bavar must find the courage to stand up for each other and themselves to repair the rift between worlds…before it’s too late.


Ok. I'll admit something before I write this review.

I failed to realise that this book was middle grade when I downloaded it on Edelweiss, so I started it expecting a slavic inspired Beauty and the Beast. However, whilst the fairytale inspiration is there, the fairytale romance that I wanted was not. Not a bad thing, and completely my own fault, but not what I expected.


When I did get past that, I started to enjoy this book. There is a lot of depth there - something that MG books tend to lack - and Bavar especially was the type of broken character that the genre lacks. The friendship between Bavar and Angel was heartwarming, and that - I think - is the main point of this book. It's very well done.

That being said, there was a somewhat rushed feel about this book that stopped me being so into it. I would have loved Wilson to have taken a step back and used a little more time to flesh out the world and the characters. Kids like to imagine, and they need more description to do that.

Overall, Angel and Bavar was a lovely book about friendship and one of the better Middle Grade titles when it comes to characterisation. That being said, I do feel that the pacing was a little off and the descriptions were lacking which meant this book didn't quite become everything it could have been.


Book released 6th November 2018 by Katherine Tegen
Book received from the publisher/author in exchange for an honest review