Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Blog Tour: Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann

Pages: 417
Publisher: Virago Modern Classics
Release Date: 30th June 2016
Edition: UK 50th anniversary paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Every Night, Josephine!, The Love Machine, once is Not Enough, Dolores, Yargo

Dolls: red or black; uppers or downers; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight – for Anne, Neely and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three young starlets climb to the top of the entertainment industry – only to find that there is no place left to go but down, into the Valley of the Dolls.

Valley of the Dolls is one of those books that I feel like I've always been aware of, or its reputation anyway, and so I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour celebrating its 50th anniversary.

We join Anne in 1945 after she’s fled her small mid-western town to New York City where she secures a job in a talent agency. Anne is beautiful, charming and mostly unaware of her charms and soon catches the eye of a millionaire. She quickly becomes entrenched in the world of Broadway and its stars, but she remains down to earth and relatively sane in a cruel industry.

It’s no secret that stardom, whether it be film, TV or stage, can be a poisonous one, especially in regards to women. The fear of aging, being only respected and regarded for beauty, the fight for money and success and to maintain the body of a teenager are damaging and relentless. And so came the dolls. Their reliance on sleeping pills washed down with liquor was scary and it made Neely a horrible person.

Neely was truly vile. Nothing that anyone did for her was enough, she was obsessed with her status as a star and I hated her. So very much. Jennifer I felt sorry for. Her story pretty much broke my heart by the end – I didn’t expect such a punch in the stomach from this book but I got really involved with Anne and Jennifer. Anne’s romance with Lyon was also more heartbreaking than I had imagined! I just really, really wanted her to let him go and move on.

The journeys of these three very different women is so, so compelling. It’s juicy, glamourous, gritty and dark and I loved it. It would have scored five stars from me if it wasn’t for the outdated (and often offensive) language used when talking about LGBT people and the attitudes towards women and marriage. That really dated the novel and made me feel quite uncomfortable sometimes, but I do understand that language is because of it being 50 years old.

Thanks to Virago for the review copy. Make sure to check out the rest of the stops on the tour!


Thursday, 23 June 2016

#EliotAlong Sign-Up

I’m joining Bex from an Armchair by the Sea in a readalong of George Eliot’s Middlemarch!

This 19th century behemoth has been on my radar for so long it’s embarrassing, so I figure this is the perfect time to get this off my TBR once and for all. I’m still really quite scared of it – it’s between 850 and 900 pages depending on the edition – but knowing I won't be alone should help me through.

The readalong is being tracked on Twitter with #EliotAlong and it starts Monday 27th June and runs until Sunday 7th August. The aim is 14 chapters a week (around 130-150 pages) and here’s the schedule!

(This isn't official graphic for the readalong, I made my own to reflect the edition I'm reading from!)

June 27th - July 3rd - Chapter 1 - end of 14 (or all of Miss Brooke and the first two chapters of Old and Young)

July 4th - 10th - Chapter 15 - end of 28 (or the rest of Old and Young and six chapters of Waiting for Death)

July 11th - 17th - Chapter 29 -end of 42 (the rest of Waiting for Death and all of Three Love Problems)

July 18th - 24th - Chapter 43 - end of 56 (all of The Dead Hand and the first three chapters of The Widow and the Wife)

July 25th - 31st - Chapter 57 - end of 70 (the rest of The Widow and the Wife and eight chapters of Two Temptations)

August 1st - 7th - Chapter 71 – End

Now, that doesn’t look too scary, right?


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

#2016ClassicsChallenge: The Professor

Originally published in 1857 by Arthur Bells Nicholls

My edition: The Kindle edition! There’s not a pretty paperback edition, unfortunately.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I actually bought one of those cheap little Wordsworth paperbacks a really long time ago as I liked the sound of it, but I was too intimidated by reading a Brontë so I gave it away again.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I’m aiming to finish the rest of the Brontës’ novels this year and this is one of the three I have left. And the shortest of them!

WHAT Makes It a Classic
It’s by Charlotte Brontë! It was her first novel, but wasn’t accepted for publication and didn’t make it onto shelves until after Charlotte had died. It was inspired by Charlotte’s time being a governess in Brussels when she fell in love with the master of the house.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I’m going to be honest here: I didn’t like it. The only reason I carried on with The Professor was my determination to read all of the books by the Brontë sisters.

This novel is just kinda boring. So very little happens and the characters have nothing to hold onto. I don’t even think anything really happened in the entire first half of the novel other than William suffering under his tyrannical brother and moving to Brussels. And even then he just spent a lot of time recounting (largely uninteresting) conversations with the teachers he works with. And all in French! I know it was standard that those who would be reading novels in the 1800s would know French as well, but come on. I spent far too much time using the really terrible Kindle translator and it didn’t help with the reading experience.

There was nothing about him, M. Pelet, Mademoiselle Reuter or Frances that had anything to grip onto, to like or develop affection for. There was no drama or miscommunication, it was just there. Before I read The Professor I was surprised that it was a forgotten Bronte, and a forgotten classic, but now I get it. I’m not usually this negative about the books I review, but I can't think of anything I liked or even admired in this novel.

I have read that lots of themes that Charlotte employs in The Professor are improved and expanded on in Vilette, her final novel. That, I've heard is wonderful. I love this quote from George Eliot:

“I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have been reading ‘Vilette’”

I still have hope that I’ll eventually love something by Charlotte Bronte and my money is on Vilette. Though I have heard that Shirley puts the main focus on female friendship which is a rare occurrence in nineteenth-century literature. I have hope.

WILL It Stay a Classic
Though I doubt it’ll ever be as acclaimed as Jane Eyre, or even Villette, it’s still a Charlotte Brontë novel, so yes, I think it will.

WHO I’d Recommend it To
- Those dedicated to Charlotte Brontë.
- Those determined to read all of the Brontës’ bibliography.


Friday, 10 June 2016


Some of you guys might know already, but I work for Maximum Pop! Books and during June I've taken over running the books channel while the books editor is on sabbatical. 

It basically means that I'm doing two full-time jobs at once - I haven't finished work before 8pm after starting at 9am this week!

It's intense and I'm still learning the ins and outs, finding my feet and attempting to balance my workload with the rest of the team and I don't have time for the blog at the moment. I'm barely even reading! I haven't even picked up a book since Sunday... That is truly awful for me!

So. I will most likely be away until the end of June. If by some miracle we get a bit less busy, then maybe I'll get back in gear before then. I do have a few posts scheduled and I'm hoping to still (somehow) tick off my book for the #2016ClassicsChallenge, but we'll see. 

I'll undoubtedly see you on the Twitters. 

Thanks for sticking with me, peeps!

Sophie x

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Authors I'm Reading Completely: Part Two

I'm back with another six authors that I'm reading completely! Last time I mostly focussed on classic authors, so I've decided to choose more contemporary authors this time.

Brandon Sanderson is an author I came pretty late to, but that means that I have a huge back catalogue to work my way through! I’ve only read The Rithmatist and the original Mistborn trilogy so far, but I’m thinking that I’ll go for Steelheart next as that’s a finished trilogy.

I’ve only read Tartt’s The Secret History so far but it was one of my very favourite books from last year and I immediately bought The Goldfinch and The Little Friend. I'm extremely daunted by the former because it's HUGE, but I’m feeling that more than the latter at the moment.

Even though A Room with a View didn’t blow me away – I only gave it 3 stars – but I'm determined that it was me rather than Forster. I love the themes of his work and I reckon that now I'm more familiar with classics I’ll see a lot more in them.

I studied Virginia Woolf in my last year of university. I did a whole module on her and we studied a good deal of her fiction and non-fiction, but there were a few novels I didn’t finish and a few we didn’t study. To be honest, I did struggle with her novels, but I want to try them again, especially Orlando.

The next author is another I encountered in my last year at university – Jeanette Winterson. I fell in love with Oranges are Not the Only Fruit and then I read Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? last year which re-booted my need to devour everything she's written. And there’s A LOT.

Sarah Waters is an author that I'd being hearing amazing things about for years but didn’t read until diving into Fingersmith for a reading challenge last year. I loved it. The atmosphere, the writing, the twists and turn, it’s all so brilliant! I've got The Paying Guests lined up next!

Which authors do you want to read completely?


Wednesday, 8 June 2016

London Belongs to Us, Sarra Manning

Pages: 288
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Release Date: 2nd June 2016
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Guitar Girl; Diary of a Crush: French Kiss, Kiss and Make Up, Sealed With a Kiss; Let’s Get Lost; Pretty Things; Fashionistas: Laura, Hadley, Irina, Candy; Nobody’s Girl; Unsticky; You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me; Top Ten Uses for an Ex-Boyfriend; Adorkable; It Felt Like a Kiss, After the Last Dance

Twelve hours, two boys, one girl…and a whole lot of hairspray

Seventeen-year-old Sunny’s always been a little bit of a pushover. But when she's sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she knows she's got to act. What follows is a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can't even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill…and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny meets a whole host of characters she never dreamed shed have anything in common with – least of all the devilishly handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they're really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it's the people living there who make up its heart and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

A fast-paced, darkly funny love letter to London, boys with big hair and the joys of staying up all night.

I'm a huge fan of Sarra Manning’s books so I obviously went into London Belongs to Us with high expectations. And obviously it was brilliant.

I've been hearing for weeks what a love letter to London this is and that couldn’t have been more spot on. Sunny lives in Crouch End but journeys from Crystal Palace to Soho to Notting Hill and finally, to Ally Pally in one night of adventure, heartbreak, making unexpected friends and embracing her true self. I’ve always lived just over an hour from London so I’ve spent a lot of time in our capital, but I can’t help but feel I've missed out from not living there.

I really loved getting a quick history on the London boroughs that Sunny visited at the beginning of the chapters – they were a lot of fun. And there were also lists and pie charts scattered between which is always really fun to include in a novel. As Sunny romps through London she bumps into familiar faces for long-time Sarra Manning readers. We catch up with Jeane from Adorkable who’s still ruling the social media world and Molly from Guitar Girl, her first YA novel. It was SO good to catch up with her and I was pleased I made the connection considering it’s been over 10 years since I read Guitar Girl!

The people Sunny meets and the adventures she goes on during the night make her wake up to the person she’s been with Mark. A lesser, squashed-down version of herself and I was nearly cheering every time she stood up for herself or took a risk, and by the end I was so in love with her it’s a bit ridiculous. I want Sunny to be my friend.

London Belongs to Us is a heart-warming, joyous romp and I couldn’t have loved it more if I tried.

Thanks to Hot Key Books for the review copy.


Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Blog Tour: The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall, Karen McCombie

Pages: 256
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 2nd June 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Ally’s World series, Stella Etc series, Indie Kidd series, You, Me & Thing series, The OMG Blog, Catching Falling Stars and more!

Ellis is losing track of time…

After leaving her friends to move to a crumbling Scottish mansion, Ellis is overcome by anxiety and loneliness. Then she hears whispers in the walls…and finds herself whisked back in time to 1912.

At first, she feels like she's finally home. But the past may not be as perfect as it seems – and is there more to hope for in the present than she first thought?

Karen McCombie’s Ally’s World series was my very favourite series for a long time when I was an early teen so I jumped at the chance to revisit her books with The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall.

Ellis suffers from anxiety and her mum’s whirlwind romance with RJ, a rich and famous musician, and their move from their cosy London flat to a crumbling mansion in Scotland feels like a bit too much for her to handle. She's terrified of losing her mum to RJ, of being misplaced in this new little family and of the visions she has inside Wilderwood. Ellis’s anxiety was handled really well, I think. The way Ellis’s family slowly realise how all-consuming it is for her and gradually move from thinking it’ll just go away to eventually understanding that it’s something that she’ll need a little help with.

I really loved how the time slips were handled in The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall. Ellis’s trips back to 1912 feel organic and scratchy and there are no clear trigger or rules which was refreshing, and I loved the way the past mingled with the present. This became more and more fascinating as Ellis learned about the history of the great house. It was also cool to watch the friendship that developed between Ellis and Flora the housemaid as they both navigated life in Wilderwood Hall, I especially liked the dramatic revelations at the end!

But my favourite element of this book was the family dynamics. The joining of families always causes tension and I think every feeling of Ellis and Weezy’s (RJ’s daughter) felt spot on, whether it be jealousy, fear, closing yourself off, betrayal – everything. Most of all, though, I loved that this new, ramshackle family unit ended up being a happy one.

The Whispers of Wilderwood Hall is a touching and engaging story about family and new beginnings and I loved it.

Thanks to Scholastic and Faye Rogers PR for the review copy.


Monday, 6 June 2016

You Know Me Well, David Levithan and Nina LaCour

Pages: 256
Publisher: My Kinda Book
Release Date: 2nd June
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: David Levithan: Boy Meets Boy, The Realm of Possibility, Are We There Yet?, Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn), Wide Awake, Naomi & Eli’s No-Kiss List (with Rachel Cohn), Love is the Higher Law, Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), The Lover’s Dictionary, Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares (with Rachel Cohn), Invisibility (with Andrea Cremer), Every Day, How They Met and Other Stories, Two Boys Kissing, Hold Me Closer, Another Day
Nina LaCour: Hold Still, The Disenchantments, Everything Leads to You

Who knows you well? Your best friend? Your boyfriend or girlfriend? A stranger you meet on a crazy night? No one, really?

Mark and Kate have sat next to each other for an entire year, but have never spoken. For whatever reason, their paths outside of class have never crossed.

That is until Kate spots Mark miles away from home, out in the city for a wild, unexpected night. Kate is lost, having just run away from a chance to finally meet the girl she has been in love with from afar. Mark, meanwhile, is in love with his best friend Ryan, who may or may not feel the same way.

When Kate and Mark meet up, little do they know how important they will become to each other -- and how, in a very short time, they will know each other better than any of the people who are supposed to know them more.

Told in alternating points of view by Nina LaCour and David Levithan, the best-selling author of Every Day and co-author of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (with Rachel Cohn) and Will Grayson, Will Grayson (with John Green), You Know Me Well is a deeply honest story about navigating the joys and heartaches of first love, one truth at a time.

I’m a huge fan of both Nina LaCour and David Levithan so I was giddy with excitement as soon as I heard the announcement for You Know Me Well. It definitely lived up to expectations!

The setting of San Francisco during Pride Week was pulsing and vibrant and so perfect for Katie and Mark’s adventures. The energy and freedom of Pride and the last week of school before summer gave You Know Me Well the perfect vibe for Katie to fall in love, friendship to blossom between her and Mark and for Mark’s world to change.

I love how messy and complicated the characters are. Katie is lively and confident, until it comes to her art and her feelings; Mark plays on the baseball team and has suffered under his feelings for, and unhealthy relationship with, his best friend Ryan for years. Nothing comes easy for them. It takes missteps and mistakes, harsh truths and scary steps, but they come out of Pride Week happier, stronger and more confident in themselves and I loved the journeys that they took.

Both Levithan and LaCour are wonderful, wonderful writers, and when David Levithan teams up, I usually end up preferring his characters and his story, but not this time. I read Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads to You last year and was blown away by her, and she blew me away again. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked Mark’s side of the story, but I was so there for Katie, and for Nina’s writing. I can't get my head around why her solo novels aren’t published over here. Get it together UK publishers!

You Know Me Well is a celebration of love, friendship and embracing who you are. I loved it completely.

Thanks to My Kinda Book for the review copy.


Sunday, 5 June 2016

Letterbox Love #135

Letterbox Love is a way to give all of the books I receive for review some exposure. Summaries are taken from the cover, or Amazon/NetGalley/Goodreads in the case of e-books, unless otherwise stated. All of the books are in exchange for an honest review.

 Gemina, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (proof)

Hanna Donnelly is the station captain’s pampered daughter and Nik Malikov is the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. Together they struggle with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, blissfully unaware that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall with the news of the Kerenza invasion.

Picking up about five minutes after Illuminae ends, Gemina is the electrifying sequel to the hottest novel of 2015.

YAAAAAS! Thank you Rock the Boat!

Born Scared, Kevin Brooks (proof)

Elliot is terrified of almost everything.

From the moment he was born, his life has been governed by acute fear. The only thing that keeps his terrors in check are the pills that he takes every day.

It’s Christmas Eve, there’s a snowstorm and a mix up means that Elliot’s medication is almost gone. His mum nips out to collect his prescription. She’ll only be 10 minutes – but when she doesn’t come back, Elliot must face his fears and try to find her. She should be only 482 metres away. It might as well be 482 miles…

I didn’t even know about a new Kevin brooks until it popped up on Twitter – so excited! Thanks Electric Monkey!

Eden Summer, Liz Flanagan (hardback)

It starts like any other day for Jess – get up, draw on eyeliner, cover up tattoos and head to school. But soon it’s clear this is no ordinary day, because Jess’s best friend, Eden, isn’t at school…she’s gone missing.

Jess knows she must do everything in her power to find Eden before the unthinkable happens.

So Jess decides to retrace the summer she and Eden have just spent together. But looking back means digging up all their buried secrets, and she starts to question everything she thought and she starts to question everything she thought Eden’s summer had been about.

A tense and thrilling journey through friendship, loss, betrayal and self-discovery.

I've heard such good things about this already! Thanks David Fickling!

What’s a Girl Gotta Do?, Holly Bourne (proof)

Lottie is starting a supersonic feminist experiment. For one month she’s going to call out every instance of sexism she sees. But when her project hits the headlines, the trolls come out to play – and they are VICIOUS. Lottie’s not a quitter, but best friends Evie and Amber are worried. What if Lottie’s heading for burnout…or worse?

*does a happy dance* Thanks Usborne!

Sing, Vivi Greene (paperback)

The Multiplatinum Biggest Hits and Biggest Heartbreaks of Lily Ross are one and the same.

I chose this… I get to make music and sing my songs and live my life in from of millions of people. I don’t get to be normal. I’m just the fool who keeps trying. But this summer is going to be different.

Sounds fun! Thanks Harper Collins!

The Witch’s Kiss, Katherine and Elizabeth Corr (paperback)

Merry is an average teenager.
She's also a witch.
She's trying not to be, but she is.

Then Jack comes into her life and she can’t help falling under his spell. One problem – he’s part of an evil, centuries-old curse that Merry now has to break.

If Merry has lost her heart, will she lose her life too? Or can true love’s kiss save the day?

Being a witch is dangerous – but being in love is even worse…

Man, I love this cover! Thanks Harper Collins!


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Blog Tour: The Museum of Heartbreak, Meg Leder

Pages: 279
Publisher: Scholastic
Release Date: 7th June 2016
Edition: UK paperback, review copy

Penelope is sixteen and has never been in love. So when handsome, charming Keats sweeps her off her feet, she can't believe her luck.

But then comes the gut-wrenching, soul-destroying realisation that happy endings don’t always last forever. Suffering from a broken heart, Penelope creates the Museum of Heartbreak, a collection of objects documenting the elation and devastation of first love, friendship and growing up.

Sometimes letting go of the past is the only way to find your future…

Meg Leder’s The Museum of Heartbreak is a cute, fun and easy read to pass a rainy afternoon.

This novel is chock full of pop culture references! I always love coming across references to bands, books, films, shows and everything else as I read. I mean, it can age a book in the years to come, but it’s so fun to come across when the references are current.

Sometimes The Museum of Heartbreak felt a little predictable, but it was so easily enjoyable to read that I ended up not really minding at all! Pen, Eph, Audrey and Keats are easy to love (and dislike) and I enjoyed the ups and downs of their relationships as they got closer and drifted apart and everything changed for them. They’re all flawed, genuine and authentic, even if their paths were a tad obvious at times.

Leder’s debut is thoroughly enjoyable and I'm looking forward to reading more from her.

Thanks to Scholastic and Faye Rogers PR for the review copy.


Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Beaky Malone: World's Greatest Liar, Barry Hutchison

Pages: 192
Publisher: Stripes Publishing
Release Date: 2nd June 2016
Edition: UK e-proof, NetGalley review copy

Other Titles by this Author: The 13th Horseman, Invisible Fiends series and many more

Dylan Malone, aka Beaky, has a habit for telling porkies - every time he opens his mouth, out pops a whopper...But then his long-suffering sister shoves him into the truth-telling machine at Madame Shirley's Marvellous Emporium of Peculiarities. Now Beaky can't tell a lie - not even a teeny-weeny one - and a truth-telling Beaky is even worse...

World’s Greatest Liar is the first book in the Beaky Malone series and it was so much fun!

Beaky is hilarious, though as a big sister, I totally identified with Jodie’s frustration with him! His ridiculous, spiralling lies are so brilliant to read about, but I don’t think I'd be as fond of them IRL. And then Jodie shoved him into a truth-telling machine and only truths can escape his lips. That was even funnier, and more dangerous, than the lies and it definitely caused some issues…

Beaky and his family have Aunt Jas, Steve and their two kids, Max and Sophie, staying for the weekend. And they’re really not that popular with the Malone’s. Sophie is creepy, Max is a vile toad and Aunt Jas is just plain annoying. Beaky’s new-found truth-telling rocks Jas and Steve’s already fragile relationship and gives Sophie the fright of her life, and of course, thoroughly embarrasses Jodie multiple times. So much fun!

I loved that there was more grit in the background of the story with the tension between Beaky’s mum and Aunt Jas, the tough relationship between Jas and Steve and the sibling rivalry between Beaky and Jodie – it gave World’s Greatest Liar heart as well as humour.

The first Beaky Malone adventure is fun, funny and totally charming. I’m already looking forward to more adventures of Beaky and his madcap life.

Thanks to Stripes and NetGalley for the review copy.