Tweet Cute by Emma Lord

Sometimes a book comes along just at the right time. Tweet Cute definitely warmed my cold soul this winter break and made me feel all toasty (pun intended) This debut novel from New Yorker Emma Lord mixes well developed characters with an intriguing but fun plot.

Jack’s parents run a little Deli in New York and would like him to take over the family business, however, his passion lies with technology as he wants to work with apps. He’s managed to create an anonymous messaging site for students at his school where people are only known by their animal-themed usernames. The Weazel app allows group messaging in the main chat room, but if two users choose to chat privately then they can, but the app will reveal their real identities to each other at a random point in their conversations (could be an hour, could be a week)

Pepper now lives in New York having moved from Nashville. She’s a bit of a perfectionist who works hard at school and gets good grades, despite not knowing what she wants to do at College or if she even wants to go. She is competitive, and head of the swim team, as well as being expected to assist with the social media of her parent’s growing fast-food chain, Big League Burger. This is because Pepper has a knack and the wit for Twitter. If you’re up to date on your memes then you’ll appreciate her humour!

So of course with any good story, our two protagonists paths cross, but as this is 2020, the meet-cute and the drama originally begins on the internet. Over a grilled cheese of all things. Big League Burger’s latest menu offering is grilled cheese just like Grandma used to make. The Grandma in question being Jack’s Grandma – cue the drama! The pair begin to defend their families’ business over the battle ground of Twitter.

The story is told from the point of view of both Pepper and Jack, depending on the chapter. The reader gets an insight into the family life of the two, such as Jack’s more popular twin, Ethan, and the up and down relationship between Pepper and her mother. The Pepper and Jack their schoolmates see are not always the same Pepper and Jack the reader sees when the characters are at home. It deals with teens who are thinking about their directions and their future, and I believe the book handles these issues quite well, so this is a good read for those in their final year of school.

I’m not a big reader of YA Romance but I have a feeling Tweet Cute will be a hit for fans of the genre and casual readers. This is because it’s uplifting and cheesy, but it is relevant and current. I found it to be quite a funny novel and it makes lots of references to popular internet culture, twitter, memes, and GIFs. My only criticism is perhaps a very cynical person could pick apart the plot and find holes, but I got the impression this story is about the bigger picture and it’s meant to be enjoyable and light-hearted, so I was swayed. I think if Emma Lord was to write any other books, I’d definitely be interested in reading them because she has made my return to YA Romance a great one.

To wrap up, a mention has to go to the food. Food is such a big theme in Tweet Cute. It will make you hungry, mostly for baked goods and grilled cheese sandwiches. As well as the restaurant rivalry, Pepper and her sister both run a bakery blog, so there are plenty of references to delicious cakes and snacks, and many, many puns. I did say it was cheesy!

Ghosts of the Shadow Market (Shadowhunters)

Effort! But worth it if you are invested in Jem, Tessa, and the Herondales.

This collection could have been about 20% shorter if it didn’t include the dialogue and “banter” that was trying to be funny, but didn’t quite make it.
Also, the timing was off… I’m no expert on Shadowhunters, but I’m sure there were scenes which took place with characters in them that were alive when they should have been dead going by the timeline..

But… What I did like;
* We get another look at Matthew, Anna, Lucie, and James, who will be in The Last Hours trilogy which is up next!
* Unpopular opinion, but it was good to have more Kit and less Ty
*Lots of Raphael throwbacks
* A history lesson in all things Jem and his dedication to saving the Herondale line.

Also, I shipped Wessa, but for now I am all about Jessa! Just kidding though, because the best of us know that their story was not a triangle, but a wheel.

Call Down The Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Ah, Maggie Stiefvater. I adore her writing and was a big fan of The Raven Cycle. It got inside my head and heart, worked its way in and rearranged everything and became a part of me, so I was very excited when I heard Stiefvater had a new book coming out. Call Down The Hawk is the first book in a new trilogy (The Dreamer Trilogy) featuring Ronan Lynch who was one of the characters in The Raven Cycle. This is not an extension of The Raven Cycle, it is a new story, with new characters. Best make room in your head and heart for new characters that are going to get under your skin and cause all sorts of feelings.

So, Ronan Lynch is a Dreamer. He can take objects out of his dreams. One of these was his brother, Matthew. Neither a dream nor a Dreamer, the other brother, Declan, is doing his best to appear as invisible as possible whilst trying to hold his family together. As Stiefvater says in the prologue; “This is going to be a story about the Lynch brothers.” It appears family dynamics and angst await!

When we left The Raven Cycle, it left us readers knowing that Dreamers, dreamt objects, and the dark market for them went beyond just Henrietta, Virginia. Call Down The Hawk starts with introducing the Moderators, a group of people out to get all of the Dreamers as there has been a prediction that they will bring about the end of the world. There are plenty of chapters from the point of view of one of these moderators, named Carmen Farooq-Lane. Follow them closely.

Where does the new character Jordan Hennessy fit in? You will have to wait and see. I am not going to spill everything here. She is a talented art forger and just all kinds of awesome. I don’t want to say too much to avoid spoilers, but I already LOVE her story and I just cannot wait to see where it goes next. Dreams, forgery.. are you seeing a connection!

One could probably pick up Call Down The Hawk having not read The Raven Cycle (but why haven’t you?), however, in all honesty, I would probably suggest giving it a read or at least look at a really good recap about it first. I enjoyed The Raven Cycle as it was full of so much wonder and discovery. There does feel slightly less of this in Call Down The Hawk, probably as Ronan has already got to grips with his power. However, I am already getting the sense that something big is coming, and I feel there will be new things to marvel at further on in the trilogy.

One of the things I think puts Stiefvater above the rest is the way she writes her characters. You really get to look inside them. I think all sorts of readers could read her books and find a character that they can resonate with or who reminds them of someone they know. The crafting is great. No character is bland or forgettable. Each one seems to have certain personality traits, some of which are described with humour, which is cheeky and adds another depth to the book. You don’t just get told what they are like, you get to see WHY they are the way they are. For example, Declan Lynch was a minor character in The Raven Cycle, but by the time you come away from reading Call Down The Hawk, you’ll know so much more about him, feel so much more about him. Not only that, you’ll be rooting for him, and still want to see what’s going to happen next.

It’s great to see Ronan take center stage in his own chapters in Call Down The Hawk. I feel like we get to see a softer side to him in some parts, he seems more open and vulnerable. However, we also still get his sarcasm and his language!

The characters and relationships make a book for me. You can give me an amazing plot but I just won’t relish it as much if it doesn’t have the complex relationships to delve into, and memorable and interesting personalities to go with it. This helps leave a lasting impression.

This whole book is a MOOD. I can’t explain what mood because I lose the ability to form a coherent sentence when I talk about any of Maggie Stiefvater’s work, but she wants us to feel something.

Also published on The Nerd Daily

Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card

From best-selling author Orson Scott Card comes Lost and Found, a touching and quirky novel. This story was a quick page turner about bizarre “supernatural” abilities, missing people, and it handles some real issues facing teenagers and families.

So back to those “supernatural” abilities. This book calls them “micropowers” as the abilities are too odd and useless to be deemed “superpowers”. Ezekiel Blast has such a power. His micropower means he finds lost things and will always know who they belong to and how to return them to their owners. However, finding lost hair ties and scrunchies leaves him looking a bit odd, and at worse, finding missing bikes and toys leaves him looking like a thief. He has earned a bit of a reputation at school and finds himself alone and distrusting of adults. One day, he meets another outcast named Beth, who insists on walking to school with him. It appears he has met his match, and he cannot shake her. She talks and talks and probes him with questions. The two of them try to look at his micropower and dismantle and analyse it to see just how it works, whilst wondering if Beth has one of her own. When Beth goes off the radar, Ezekiel is faced with the challenge – is she missing, lost, or something else? Can he find her?

On the surface, and when first starting the book, it seems hard to get connected with moody teenager Ezekiel, as he is a loner with an attitude, and can be quite sharp with his words. However, what unfolds is a novel which looks at anxiety, loss, bereavement, and friendship. It is handled with gentle humour, but with raw honesty too.

The thing that was different about Lost and Found than other stories with “powers” in, is that the first part of the book is where the micropower is discussed at length and tested and evaluated by the characters. The readers are finding out about how this all works along with them. The reader will also come across a character that can make people yawn, as well as a someone who knows whether a person has an innie or outie bellybutton – useless micropowers right? After this, comes a mystery type story with a few shocks and turns.

It was my first time reading something by this author and I was surprised by this book. It starts off as something sweet, but soon turns sinister and parts were quite sad, but there was always some form of wit, humour, or hope to keep things from becoming too dark. At first, I thought the story would be good for younger teens, but after finishing it, I would say it is more in the young adult genre due to some of the subject matter (child abduction, trafficking, and death). I didn’t think I would like at first, but there were parts that got me right in the feels.

You’ll find lots of dialogue in this book, including plenty of back and forth banter between Ezekiel and Beth. There are sniping and playground insults, it seems like they always have to have the last word. Ezekiel argues with everyone and I think he uses his sass as a defense mechanism. Some of it seems childish, but you have to remember that Ezekiel and Beth are young teens. I sometimes felt there was too much banter and meandering conversations, and readers may feel parts of the story are about to go off tangent, but it goes with the style of the book, and to be honest, it made a change for me to read something like this and not lots of prose. I don’t think this style will be to every reader’s taste, but it does ease up halfway through.

A special mention must go to Mr Blast, Ezekiel’s father, as it is good to see a parent taking a positive and supporting role in a YA novel. He’s a real hero and I really liked the tender scenes between father and son.

I would recommend this to all YA fans, plus anyone who is going through a hard time at the moment, feeling lonely or lost, or missing someone, or who just wants to read a book and escape for a while and go through a whole range of emotions.

Read this and come back and tell me…What’s your micropower?

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review – Thank you to The Nerd Daily

The Vagabond King by Jodie Bond

The Vagabond King is an action packed fantasy novel from UK author Jodie Bond. This is her first novel and first in a trilogy. The story starts with Lleu, who is part of a group of soldiers called the Palimore and they are just about to launch a surprise invasion on a neighboring island. As they take the city, Lleu recuses the Prince Threon and sends him to safety -for reasons as yet unknown to Threon and the reader. Five years later, Threon returns to his homeland for revenge and rebellion. What follows is best described using a very fitting quote from the book which illustrates the underlying plot of the story;

“We are all pawns in a game between Gods. We can only hope we’re being manipulated by the winning side”

Here is a list of the main characters and Gods you can expect to encounter in this book;

Threon Greenbrooke – The prince and rightful heir to the Waterlands, forced out by war but rescued and seeking refuge in the Southlands as a muscian.

Lleu – An outsider with blue eyes, a Palimore soldier under obligation to invade the Waterlands that were once home.

Savanta – A mother and an inventor, she is given wings by Zenith the God of the sky, but she is under his hold and control.

Azzania – A witch from the group known as “Guardians”, they channel power from the void and reject all gods.

The Gods (The Vyara);

Deyar – God of the Earth and self claimed “King of the Gods”. His wife, the Empress Keresan, has ruled the land of Thelonia for a thousand years and wants to extend Deyar’s influence into the other lands.

Zenith – God of the Sky and brother to Deyar. A manipulator with his own agenda.

Athys – Goddess of the water and sister to Zenith and Deyar. She wants balance, as the more Deyar controls, the weaker her own and Zenith’s influence becomes.

Fantasy fans will love this, but it’s also a really satisfying read for those that just enjoy the genre here and there, as they can get a hit of all the good stuff in one book. The Vagabond King manages to pack in the below and more;

  • Bloodthirsty battles

  • Magic

  • Flying

  • A competition

  • Immortality

  • Shapeshifting

  • Kings and Queens

  • Gods

The book is well paced without dumping backstory and information on the reader. Some fantasies can feel a bit alienating but The Vagabond King just draws you in and you learn about the world as you go.

In addition to all of the action, it would have been nice to have a little bit more insight to the characters and what makes them tick. I like books that really get under the skin of the character, as you can get to know them better and it helps the story stay with you long after you’ve finished reading. Perhaps that will come in time with the rest of the trilogy.

The ending was smart and doesn’t just end on a cliffhanger. I’ve read some books where they just seem like half a story, or just setting up for the next one in the series. The Vagabond King is not one of these. Some plot threads reach a conclusion, and others are left a little bit open. The reader knows there is more to the world that could be explored so it feels like the next book will bring new adventures and obstacles for the characters. I can enjoy this one on it’s own, but will I read the sequel? I’d say it’s very likely.

Parthian Books provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. This book will be published in 2020.

A comparison of The Secret History and If We Were Villains.

I cannot remember if I ever shared my review of If We Were Villains (that no one asked for but you’re going to get)

It ended up like a comparison of these two great books so here it is..

It would be hard to write about If We Were Villains and not mention the comparisons to Donna Tartt’s The Secret History because there are so many of them. It was certainly mentioned in every review that I read. But, do you know what? I preferred this book. I’m not saying it’s the better of the two, but I just had a more enjoyable reading experience with If We Were Villains. It didn’t lose its way or go on too long in parts like I found The Secret History did. It’s a delicious, mysterious literary thriller.

Both books involve a male protagonist within a mixed group, both are set in an exclusive, elite school, both groups of characters study a classic subject that involves them being part of a group that at times is isolated from the rest of their college (Latin with a quirky professor in The Secret History, and performing Shakespeare in If We We Villains). In both books, the characters are deeply involved in their subject and find it difficult to separate study and their lives outside it.

Plot-wise, they both involve a death in the group and the conspiracy to lie and how this then affects the dynamics of a group of friends. The difference is, that in The Secret History, the reader knows from the start who the victim is and who the perpetrators are. If We Were Villains had more of an impact on me as this information is not revealed straight away.

Moving away from The Secret History now, I need to mention the Shakespeare in If We Were Villains. I like Shakespeare, having studied both English Literature and Drama at school. However, this book has a lot of Shakespeare quotes in it. I mean a lot. There are sections of it in the characters’ practices and performances, and they often use it in their conversations with each other. Some readers might find this tiresome. I also think the book would fare better if it made an attempt to outline what some of Shakespeare’s plays are about. I found it tended to just make references to them, and show the dialogue of the play in action, but if a reader wasn’t familiar with the work it could be lost on them. I am familiar with Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet, but not King Lear. I felt like I was expected to know every piece of Shakespeare that the characters knew. That being said, you can still follow the book though, and for massive Shakespeare fans, it may be more enjoyable. This book took me back to those times rehearsing in the drama studio where you become really close as a group – but there was always a clash of personalities somewhere along the line.

I really enjoyed the dark side of this book, there was a sense of gloom and dread that crept up towards the end, but there were also lighter moments and I found Oliver as a narrator a good one to see the events of the story through.

Well, the epilogue was so moving and is going to contribute to my “book hangover”. Some may have seen it coming, I didn’t, maybe that’s down to me always wanting the happiest of endings, but life, like plays and tragedies, doesn’t always work that way.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett

The Grace Year (Kim Liggett) is set in a society where young girls are thought to hold bewitching magic which is the source for men’s lust and drives the older women to jealousy. At 16, the girls are sent away to fend for themselves and live in isolation from the rest of society in a remote camp in the wilderness for a whole year. This is known as the Grace Year, and is the period in which they must embrace and use up their seductive magic and then return home to become obedient women and know their place in the social hierarchy. The “lucky” ones go on to arranged marriages, whilst the others are assigned work. Escape is not an option, as if you do not return from your Grace Year, even if you were to die and your body is unaccounted for, then your family suffers in return. Does this sound bleak? Throw in the fact that poachers lurk beyond the camp, waiting to capture and kill the girls to sell their body parts on the black market, and it becomes frightening. This year it is Tierney’s turn.

The story follows her fight for survival; survival in both the landscape and survival among her own peers. Some reviews I had read liken The Grace Yearas a cross between The Hunger Games and Lord of The Flies mixed with The Handmaid’s Tale, and I can definitely agree with them.

I finished this book a few days ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind! It’s raised many questions and thoughts, and I think this book would be a great pick for a book group and there would be lots to discuss. This is because there are many choices Tierney has to make, and the reader may not always agree with all of them. What one reader may have wanted for her, another may disagree.

What made the book unique to some others that I’ve read recently is the use of symbolism and the language of flowers. This is used a lot through the book and a careful reader would be able to pick up on some clever foreshadowing. That is not to say that there weren’t any twists, I thought there were so many twists! Particularly in the last third of the book when I thought I’d figured something out, I hadn’t. I was kept on the edge of my seat by the end. I also found it was a lot more graphic than I was expecting. For a book some would label as YA, it doesn’t hold back on the gore.

I liked Kim’s writing style in The Grace Year and the first person perspective makes it easy to follow and know what Tierney is feeling. The description is done to build a picture in your mind and you can imagine all the settings and place yourself there. The description is not overdone though and the story keeps flowing. Once you are past the introduction and the Grace Year is underway is when the book gets really good. The writing manages to evoke a feeling of tension in the right places. Although there are times when it slows, I didn’t feel like the plot went off course at any point. There are a few time jumps though which some readers may not like and wish for more explanation, but as the story takes place across a year it is necessary to have these gaps.

The book explores a women’s role in society and the patriarchy. There is definitely a feminist feel to the story, and it is about girls and their choices (and the choices made for them) The Grace Year divides the girls when it should bring them together, and that’s what I feel the author was trying to do through Tierney. Does she do what’s right for herself or does she do what’s right for the group? When is ok to lie? At what point do you tell the truth? The ending was very thought-provoking for me although this is hard to discuss whilst remaining spoiler free!

I liked The Grace Year so much because I think it had most things I like in books. It had characters to root for, a surprise love interest, a touch of the unknown and mysterious, and an ending that left me thinking, but not wanting. The particular bits I loved most would give away plot points so I guess you’ll have to read it and discover them for yourself!
I would recommend this to fans of The Hunger Games, but I would also think anyone who enjoys a bit of rebellion and girl power would enjoy it. I would like any feminist to pick it up, as their opinion on Tierney’s choices and how other characters behaved may well differ to mine, but I think that’s the beauty of The Grace Year. It stays with you, makes you think and would start a great discussion.

NetGalley provided me an advance copy of this book in exchange for an unbiased review. This book will be published in Autumn 2019.

The Hunger Games Playlist

I feel it’s only right I share my playlist that I made for The Nerd Daily after the great news today that there is to be another Hunger Games book!

It’s going to be released in May 2020 and is a prequel set in the 10th year of the games.

The story, its themes, and the messages are still relevant today – so hopefully this music gets us all fired up again!

And I may even re read the books yet again!

Broken Things by Lauren Oliver

I love a good stand alone novel, and Lauren Oliver does some of the best, so I picked up Broken Things pretty much straight away. I think she writes characters really well, you get to see inside their heads, and no one is ever perfect. Broken Things focuses on Bryn and Mia, two former friends who were accused of the murder of their friend Summer back when they were thirteen years old. It was said to be a childhood game gone wrong but the girls claim they are not to blame.
The story centres around a book they were writing together – a fan fiction sequel to Summer’s favourite book; The Way Into Lovelorn. In orders to move on from the past, it becomes necessary to revisit Lovelorn again in the present.

As Broken Things is told from the point of view of both Bryn and Mia, it covers a wide range of issues. It touches on depression and hoarding as a condition that is out of control and how it effects those around them. There is also some focus on anxiety and finding your voice. Luckily though there are also the positives in recovery.

For me, I enjoy seeing more LGBTQ characters in books. One character is a lesbian, and one character is bisexual. Both the words bisexual and lesbian are used in the book which is good to see on paper. Be warned though, the book also has derogatory slurs mentioned towards a character.

One criticism I do have is the age of the characters in the “then” parts. They are recently turned thirteen year old girls. The language used is slightly disturbing, along with some things that they got up to. Discussing sex, messing around with older boys, the use of the word “pussy” is something my friends and I would never have been doing when we were thirteen. However, I guess everyone is different, but I would have found the story more realistic if they were even just a year older.

Overall this was a good mystery but don’t expect it to be a fast paced one. I enjoy Lauren Oliver’s writing style and her honest, real portrayal of people the most. Expect to be a little bit uncomfortable.

Trigger warnings for animal abuse, and general violence.