What Vicky Read: July Wrap Up

July wasn’t as busy a month in terms of exams, however, I did have one at the beginning of the month and one on the 25th of July. July was, however, my birthday month and at the end of it, YALC happened! I didn’t have a lot of time to read still but I knew that I wanted to read some of the books on my YALC list.

My birthday is around the middle of the month but the weekend prior to YALC. For my birthday, I dragged my mum and boyfriend to Hay-on-Wye, the famous little book town just over the border in Wales. It’s not too far from where I live and we were very lucky that the weather was so nice. As I had YALC the week after, I wouldn’t let myself buy any books. I was then taken on a surprise trip to London on Friday by my boyfriend where I took him to yet another bookshop, Daunt Books, before exploring the rest of London. We then stayed over before heading to the Harry Potter Studio Tour for my fourth trip!

I then spent the last weekend of July at YALC where I had the best time seeing so many of my friends that I hadn’t seen in a year and meeting new faces too! Team Celeb Spotters re-emerged again as we spotted celebrities like Iwan Rheon, David Tennant, Matt Smith, Peter Capaldi (who came and spoke to my little group) and the star of the weekend, Jason Momoa.

Monthly reading total: Books this year: 25

So really, July ended up being fairly busy over the last two weeks of the month. Unfortunately, I still wasn’t able to read nearly as much as I had hoped and I only managed to read a total of two books this month. I would hope that August would be better but I have a resit at the end of the month and so most of my energy will be going on that.

My goals for the month were:

1. Finish All These Beautiful Strangers

2. Read a book from my YALC list.

So these are the books I read this month (and somehow managed to write reviews for both before this wrap up):

All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth – There definitely aren’t enough YA thrillers/mysteries about, or at least I haven’t found very many, so I was very excited when Penguin popped this in the post to me. Although it took me a little while to first get into it, I ended up quite enjoying it and it’s given me a thirst for more mysteries. You can check out more of my thoughts on it here.

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill – I was a little indifferent to this one if I’m totally honest. I only gave it three stars as I didn’t really feel like it was a ground breaking book. I just thought it was ok, which is slightly disappointing as I was looking forward to it and it has such a pretty cover too! Again, you check out more of my thoughts here.

So there’s my July wrap up. It’s improved a little since June, but only by one book. How many books did you read this month? Did you have a good or bad reading month?

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The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

 

Title: The Surface Breaks

Author: Louise O’Neill

Pages: 320

Publisher: Scholastic

Published: 2018

Source: Bought

Rating: ★★★


Deep beneath the sea, off the cold Irish coast, Gaia is a young mermaid who dreams of freedom from her controlling father. On her first swim to the surface, she is drawn towards a human boy. She longs to join his carefree world, but how much will she have to sacrifice? What will it take for the little mermaid to find her voice?


This book was not exactly what I was expecting. Opening with that line for a review can only go one of two ways. Either I was pleasantly surprised, or I wasn’t. The thing is, I don’t actually know which one it is out of those two.

The cover for this book is extremely pretty and slightly gives off a more middle grade fantasy retelling. That is the kind of thing that I was expecting, a book between middle grade and young adult. Well, I can safely say that this book definitely is not for middle grade readers (ie. children) as the pretty cover may slightly suggest. There are darker themes that are explored in this book which some readers may find harmful, such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse. There are also themes of physical self discovery.

I thought that the writing in this one was ok. I wasn’t totally blown away by it. When I read, I am always very driven forward by dialogue and this book had plenty of that. This did keep my attention, but I did feel that I got to some parts of the book and I just wanted a little bit more to keep my interest at its peak.

I found some of the characters to be quite annoying – one of the main characters, Oliver, was insufferable at times and only thought about himself. In fact, all of the men in this book were insufferable apart from perhaps one, called George. This book really does its job in showing the serious oppression of women in how they are seen below and less than men and that they are just there to look and be pretty for male attention and that if they don’t suit the ideal, they are cast out by society. Obviously this taps into something that women have actually experienced and still do all over the world. It’s incredibly frustrating to experience it but also to read about it.

The settings were easy to imagine as the writing was descriptive, but not too over the top. I felt that I was able to follow the story easily and quickly. With just over 300 pages, I knew that it would be a relatively quick read anyway. If a book has 300 pages or less, I feel like I tend to fly through them a lot faster!

I felt that there was a lot of jealousy in this book between the sisters and how they treated one another. The main character is plucky but I felt that she really fell for someone who was a bad person. She demonstrated so many emotions throughout from shame to fury, feeling defeated to coming back stronger and better. The main character really grew with the story as it progressed and I’m glad that we really got some character growth in this one. Her determination to find love was also the cause of her pain but she really did come out stronger for it.

In short, this book was not was I was expecting at all. It had mature content that I wasn’t anticipating, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but I think it just threw me off completely. I was assuming that, due to the cover, it would be a relatively fluffy Little Mermaid retelling. I guess I’m perhaps thinking of the fluffy Disney movie whereas this book probably is more of a retelling of a different Little Mermaid that I don’t really know.

In regards to my feelings about the book, I sort of feel indifferent to it. I don’t feel that I was totally blown away by it, but I wouldn’t say I was disappointed by it. I just thought that it was ok, and so because of that, I have given it 3 stars.

Behind the Blog: Hollie aka Hollie Blog

Behind the Blog is a new monthly feature where you and I can get to know the person behind the blog a little better! For the month of July, I thought I would enlist Hollie to be our guest. I met Hollie last year at YALC and she is a gem of a person. I really enjoy reading her posts and I hope once you’ve got to know her via this post, you’ll check out her blog too!

Displaying 4akgek5h.jpgHi! Introduce yourself – what’s your name? Where are you from?

Hey! I’m Hollie, I’m 25 and live in Wiltshire. I blog about books and travel at hollieblog.com and am a big reader of sci-fi and fantasy books!

Give us one fun fact about you!

I am a very nostalgic person. I love listening to music and watching films/shows that I used to love when I was younger. I’ve also visited places I used to live and I always get emotional. I just love the feeling of reminiscing that I’ll actively watch ‘Do They Know 2000’s Disney Channel Shows?’ videos on Youtube and listen to emo/punk music from 2004.

When did you become a reader?

I’ve loved reading ever since I was a kid and that continued through my teenage years with Twilight and a late introduction to Harry Potter. I stopped during uni because I just found I had no time, but since graduating my love of reading has returned with full force!

What made you decide to start a blog and stick with it?

As part of my uni course we gained credits for building an online ‘writer’ presence. So I created a Twitter and Tumblr blog to show case my writing. I found I didn’t like publishing my writing that way, and so instead started using Tumblr to post reviews and Twitter to interact with more readers. My blog has since evolved from Tumblr to WordPress to now self-hosted!

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How would you describe your blog in 4 words?

Really. Trying. My. Best.

Which of your posts are you most proud of or one that you wish had gotten a little more love?

I love my discussion posts, especially posts that discuss ‘current affairs’ in the book community. Those posts end up with the most comments either agreeing or disagreeing with me. It’s nice to talk to everyone about what they think!

What tips would you give to someone looking to start a book blog?

Start at the most basic level. I often looked at professional and popular blogs and wanted mine to look and feel just like theirs, but ultimately blogging is a bit of fun, and that should always come first. Use platforms that are easy and provide a lot of support, such as blogger, WordPress.com, and Tumblr. Don’t start with the challenging technical stuff otherwise it won’t seem like a hobby but more like a chore.

Displaying IMG_20180328_210002_679.jpgWhat’s your favourite book/series?

This is extremely hard! But one of my favourite series is The Conqueror’s Trilogy by Kristen White. It’s a historical retelling of Vlad The Impaler, re-imagined as a woman. I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this felt like a fantasy (minus any magic!) with an anti-heroine and lots of LGBTQ+ and Muslim rep!

Give us a book recommendation based on what you’ve read recently.

I recently read Running With Lions by Julian Winters, which is a LGBTQ+ sports romance, and it was so lovely! I’d been reading back to back high fantasy, so it was great to get into a summery contemporary during this British heatwave. 

Outside of reading and blogging, what do you do in your spare time?

Ummm….??? Ok, I do other things, I promise! I’m learning to drive at the moment, that takes up a lot of time. But I also love photography, I take as many photos as possible when I go on little city trips throughout the year! I also watch a lot of Youtube and Netflix. Love a bit of Brooklyn 99 before bed.

Are there any blogs that you’d recommend? 

I follow a lot of blogs, but the ones that I end up reading every single time they post are Alice from Most Ardently Alice, Kate from Reading Through Infinity, and Silvia from Silvia Reads Books!

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

 

Title: Leah on the Offbeat

Author: Becky Albertalli

Pages: 343

Publisher: Penguin

Published: 2018

Source: Early finished copy (Thank you, Penguin!)

Rating: ★★★.5


When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.


When I read Simon Vs the Homosapiens Agenda, I absolutely fell in love with it and read it so quickly because I was well and truly hooked. I was hoping for a similar experience with Leah on the Offbeat but felt that I didn’t quite have that experience I was hoping for again. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book but I think that because I’d read Simon in March or April and adored it, it gave this book some pretty big boots to fill.

Leah on the Offbeat is a sequel to Simon but focuses on one of Simon’s best friends, Leah. We meet Leah in Simon and so we know her character a little bit already. The plot follows Leah as she navigates senior year and what that brings. I enjoyed following the plot of this book as in the UK, our ‘senior year’ of high school is slightly different so it’s always interesting to read about schooling in other countries. We had a glimpse into the college process and what that comes with.

I enjoyed the writing in this one and felt that, while the pacing was a little slower than Simon, I still managed to get through it at a good pace. I have enjoyed Becky’s writing in both Simon and Leah and feel that she sets the pace perfectly in her books.

I’ll admit, when we first saw Leah in Simon I was a little bit frustrated by her character. I felt that she was a little bit rude and didn’t really connect with her that much. I felt that she was quite a closed off character in comparison to the others and that she gave up on things easily if they didn’t go how she wanted to. It was as if the world was against her. I also felt that her attitude towards some people could be a bit crappy. There was one time where I felt as if Leah dismissed another character’s feelings and tried to make them invalid which wasn’t such a great part of the book.

Despite my not liking Leah that much, I didn’t find her totally unbearable and I enjoyed seeing her come into her own and become the person she always had been with no need to be afraid. She is also a character that I could sympathise with and for. Ultimately, she wasn’t a bad character, she is just one that can be difficult.

I have decided to give this book 3.5 stars as although I did get frustrated by Leah’s character at times, she wasn’t so bad and I did like reading from her point of view. I also enjoyed the writing. I don’t want to compare this book to Simon as they are different books but just have the same characters in. I did enjoy this book and I’m so glad that Becky has written another lgbt+ book. I enjoy reading diverse books and I feel that Becky has delivered two solid ones to the community. I’m also glad that Becky continued the story of Simon but using a different character. It was wonderful to be reunited with these characters again.

All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth

 

Title: All These Beautiful Strangers

Author: Elizabeth Klehfoth

Pages: 504

Publisher: Penguin

Published: 19th July 2018 (also my birthday!)

Source: ARC (Thank you, Penguin!)

Rating: ★★★.5


I saw the photographs and realized I had been wrong about everything. Because my father hadn’t built the house on Langely Lake to keep everyone else out. He’d built it to keep us in.

Seventeen-year-old Charlie Calloway appears to have a life most people would kill for – a tight-knit family, a loyal set of friends, and top grades at a prestigious boarding school. But when a mysterious invitation arrives from her school’s exclusive secret society, she finds herself thrust into a world of dark secrets – ones which implicate her family in not one but two crimes, and force her to reckon with a demon she thought long buried in her past: Who or what was behind her mother’s disappearance ten years ago?


It’s not every day you get sent a book that’s due to be published on your birthday! Described as the next Summer thriller, I was intrigued by this book. If you read the blurb above, you can see why. I do love a good mystery/thriller sometimes and with such a pretty cover, how could I resist?

All These Beautiful Strangers started off a little slowly. The chapters were a little too long for my liking, but once I got into the story and the mystery, I felt that I was able to fly through it a little bit faster. The book is told in 3 different perspectives at differing times. The main 2 are Charlie Calloway and Grace Calloway and these perspectives are set 10 years apart. It can get a little confusing when there are different points of view but I think that because of the past/present view, this worked out well.

The book follows Charlie Calloway as she goes through the process of figuring out what actually happened to her mother following her disappearance when Charlie was younger and what the motives were behind it. Whilst doing this, she also is invited to her school’s exclusive club, the A’s. The A’s essentially pull off what could be called extreme pranks/blackmail situations. Essentially it’s an elite group who carry out someone’s horrible things and basically rule the school.

I thought that the plot was easy to follow despite the changing chapters almost every time. The pace did pick up towards the middle of the book which was good as that kept me interested. Obviously when you read a thriller/mystery book, you try to figure it out yourself before the main character does but even though I tried to myself, my prediction was still wrong although afterwards it seemed sort of obvious!

Whilst this book was good, I did struggle a little bit with the chapters through out as they were quite long and I also struggled at first to fully get into the story. I think this was because there’s a lot of build up and background given to the story which ended up being helpful but at the beginning, it felt like there was quite a bit of background. Other than the long chapters, the writing was enjoyable and when the chapters were shorter, I felt like the pacing was good. The author was also good in creating different and individual voices for each point of view.

I’m giving this book 3.5 stars as I did like it and I did enjoy it but it just hits under the 4 star mark as the chapters were quite long which can make getting though the book quite slow. I would recommend this book still as I always love finding new crime/thrillers in the YA genre as I don’t really feel like we have enough of them. It’s a great read for anyone who wants to branch out into this genre and it’s not totally predictable either with its storyline so that’s definitely a plus!

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YALC 2018: Pre-Reading

So I guess I’m turning YALC 2018 into a bit of a series now on the blog following my YALC 2018 tips post. Like last year, I will be blogging my experience of YALC 2018 and will also be doing a separate posts on any swag that I pick up (if I pick up any, but let’s be honest, I can’t stop myself when it comes to all things bookish)

With YALC fast approaching, I thought it may be a good time to tell you guys about the books that I’m taking. I am extremely behind on the books I need to read for the event, especially since there are some authors that I want to meet and have sign my books and I haven’t even read their books yet! This happened last year too but admittedly, last year I had been on a 6 week trip inter railing around Europe and this year I’ve been working full time and have been studying for the last 7 months, with my last exam actually falling the day before I go down to YALC!

I am currently reading some of the unread books at this moment in time, so hopefully I will have managed to get through most with only one to two remaining to read.

I will split this into two sections of books read and books not read to make it a little easier to see what I haven’t read (which is mostly for myself).

Books read:

  1. The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green
  2. Editing Emma by Chloe Seager
  3. Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen
  4. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
  5. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
  6. Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings
  7. All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth
  8. Everless by Sara Holland

 

Books not read:

  1. The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill
  2. Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls
  3. The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
  4. Eve of Man by Giovanna and Tom Fletcher (I’m not too fussed about reading this one prior to YALC as I know that the queue will be very, very busy and quick anyway!)

Total books: 12

When I break it down like this, it doesn’t actually seem all that bad with how many books I have to read. I am taking down more books than anticipated as there aren’t as many authors going to this years event that I want to see in comparison to last year, but I am still taking down a decent amount. Hopefully I’ll be able to get all of them signed!

What books are you taking with you to YALC? Are there any books on my list you’re taking? Which authors are you planning on meeting?

 

Wildest Dreams Book Box: May Unboxing

I’ve been fairly slack in my book box unboxings recently. I blame working full time and studying. However, you can catch my unboxings over on my Instagram story which you can find over at @whatvickyread.

img_0385I received the May Wildest Dreams book box during the middle of the month, it was my second box from Wildest Dreams, and I really enjoyed it. The theme was Female Voices which I thought was a really good and empowering theme to choose.

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The first item that I found in the box was a ‘Rogue Dial’ Bone Season inspired soap. It’s blue, red and gold, sort of like the auras in the books. The scent is described as dusky sloe and almond. I personally haven’t used this yet and that’s because I am a hoarder when it comes to soaps. I don’t really know why but I just can’t bring myself to use them as I just never want them to run out! I thought that this was a cool item and I definitely am going to force myself to use it because it smells really lovely!

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Now, one of the things I love about this box is that it includes tea. In both the April and May box, loose tea and tea bags have come and I think it’s so lovely. On those lazy Sundays when you want to just curl up with your book, having tea on hand is just perfect. May’s flavour was Chamomile and Lemongrass tea. I am really excited to try this tea out, especially since I have been so stressed out about exams and not having enough time to revise for them so I feel like this tea will help me to calm and destress now that it’s almost over!

As well as tea, there is a biscuity snack. Again, perfect for those lazy days with a book and it compliments the tea too! I’m personally not really a biscuit dunker but there is the option! The biscuits I had were chocolate chip and vanilla and they went down an absolute treat!

We also had two Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne inspired stickers included in the box as a little bonus item – these went with the theme of the tea as it was chosen by Holly Bourne!

The book that we received for this months pick was one that I actually hadn’t heard of before. It’s I Stop Somewhere by T. E. Carter. It sounds like an interesting read and I’m always open to trying new books (duh, obviously I am).  The synopsis included on the box description says:

Ellie finds herself trapped after a brutal assault. She wasn’t the first victim, and now she watches it happen again and again. She tries to hold on to her happier memories in order to get past the cold days, waiting for someone to find her. The problem is, no one searches for a girl they never noticed in the first place.

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From that little blurb, I am intrigued to find out more about what this book is about! The book came with a letter from the author, a bookmark and a signed bookplate which I immediately popped in my book.

So that is our May Wildest Dreams book box (I am so awful for posting this just over a month late). I would definitely encourage you to check out this box. I love the tea included and the book does sound very interesting to me.

I thought this box was wonderful and it is so affordable starting at just £18 a month! It’s also a big supporter of UKYA books which is really positive to see, particularly as I feel like the YA industry is primarily dominated by US authors so this box really helps in the fight for UKYA authors to get noticed!

If you would like to check out and purchase a Wildest Dreams book box, make sure you use TANGLEDPAGES10 to grab a 10% discount. You won’t regret getting your own Wildest Dreams book box!