ARC REVIEW – Not Your Idol Vol 1 (Manga)

Thank you to VIZ and Netgalley for providing me with a free e-ARC.

Not Your Idol is a manga that follows Nina Kamiyami, a former idol who gave up her life in the spotlight after being attacked by a fan. She has cut off her hair, changed her name and thrown out all of the girly fashion staples that she was so well known for. And it’s working for her. She’s finally settling in, realising that she prefers the comments about being the only girl in slacks than being everyone’s property, when everything starts to go wrong once again. There’s a sexual attacker on the loose in the area and, as well as bringing back terrible memories, he brings back the fear for her life that she was so desperate to give up.

This is a tough read in terms of content and an incredibly easy read in terms of format. It only took me a few hours to get through and I found the layout to be very clear and readable. In addition, it really helped that the artwork was so incredibly well-drawn and beautiful to look at. The hard part was dealing with the troubling content. This manga tackles issues of stalking, sexual assault and harassment, all whilst shining a spotlight on the troubling Asian pop music culture that has risen to popularity in the past few years. At the moment, there is a lot of discussion over the mistreatment of idols, and this book provides a fascinating first-person insight into the struggles that real idols are constantly going through.

I liked the characters in this book a lot. Even though she is largely absent, Kamiyami’s best friend, Sara, is a truly supportive character. When Kamiyami is going through tough times, Sara is always there to support her through it. Likewise, I was impressed by how quickly I grew attached to Hikaru’s character too, as I knew so little about him and yet still enjoyed reading the sections that he is in. Kamiyami herself is incredibly strong as a protagonist, with a personality that shines through in both the flashbacks and the present day sections.

The story was very easy to follow and it really makes an interesting change to the light-hearted, sweet manga that I’ve read in the past. It took a surprising turn at the end and I can definitely say that because of that, and the easy-to-read format and important content, I would read the second volume.

RATING: 4/5

*I’m temporarily abandoning my Amazon affiliate links due to the current global situation so, if you would like to order a copy of this book, please get it from your local bookshop*

ARC REVIEW: ANNA K. by Jenny Lee

Thank you to Penguin Books and ReadersFirst for gifting me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Anna K. has easily been one of my most-anticipated reads of 2020 for a long time. I heard so many good things about it and, honestly, the cover is to die for. I tried desperately to get my hands on a copy for so long before I finally got the chance to win one on Readers First and, after all of the effort, this book did not disappoint.

This is sold as the story of Anna K and Count Vronsky, two teenagers in present-day New York, rather than the two identically named teenagers in Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina.’ I have never read ‘Anna Karenina’ and don’t know if the reason this book managed to shock me was because of that, but it turned out to be much more of a story than I expected. It was not just about Anna and Vronsky by any stretch. This tells the story of the elite in New York, and all of the struggles they individually face.

Most of the characters’ behaviour in this book disgusted me, and I disliked all of the cheating and drug-taking, but I couldn’t seem to put it down. Jenny Lee isn’t trying to tell the story of the perfect rich kids of the present day. She’s telling the story of how messed-up they all are and, amongst all their riches, how human too. I personally didn’t find myself forgiving them for the mistakes they made, but I did find them redeeming themselves throughout the story.

The ending was absolutely heartbreaking, in a way that I was not expecting at all but, although some characters suffered terrible fates, others really saw strong personal growth and got the happy endings that could finally put them on the right path.

It’s hard to pick a favourite character, but I found that I really liked Dustin, the state school boy who tutored Anna’s brother (Steven) and Lolly, Steven’s girlfriend. Lolly was a loving girlfriend, confused and hooked by all of the drama going on around her, starting in her own relationship, and Dustin was the Gossip Girl’s Dan Humphrey, without all of the creeping and spying.

This book is a light-hearted, funny read, until it’s not. I was surprised when I found myself crying at the character’s struggles and desperately turning the pages to make sure everything turned out okay. I strongly disliked the Gossip Girl books but loved Crazy Rich Asians and, based on all of the descriptions online, this book could have been hit-or-miss for me. I’m so glad that Jenny Han’s book ended up being heartfelt, shocking and emotional, and giving what may be a slightly exaggerated but believable view of the young elite.

If you want to read this book, you can get a copy here.

RATING: 4/5

P.S. I have seen three different covers of this book (two ARCs and one final cover) and they are all so pretty, I could cry.

BOOK REVIEW: YES NO MAYBE SO by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

I’m so excited to be writing a review for the first time in a million years! I’ve read a few books lately but none have been review-able for me, so I’m so happy to now be able to spill my heart about this beautiful book.

In case you can’t tell already, I am literally in love with Yes No Maybe So. I got an ARC in January and only just got round to reading it and my only regret is that I didn’t read it sooner. Anyway…

Yes No Maybe So is the story of Jamie and Maya, two seventeen-year olds in the state of Georgia, campaigning for a local election in the aftermath of the election of an unlikeable Republican president (fictional, of course…).

Jamie is committed to the cause but too socially anxious to actively campaign, until he suddenly and miraculously gets partnered up to go door-to-door with Maya, the beautiful daughter of a family friend. Together, the two get progressively more invested in the political cause, and in each other, learning that their voices really can make a difference.

This book is so heartwarming and sweet that I was genuinely grinning for half of the time I was reading. Maya and Jamie are such believable, likeable characters that I could probably have read an entire book about just their everyday lives. Any drama that they went through didn’t feel like it was unnecessarily added, but like it was something that would genuinely happen to two teenagers in the present day as well, which really helped to make me forget- multiple times- that these characters weren’t real people.

A large and very important part of this book is its depiction of social issues and I thought that this difficult topic was handled well. In the cast of characters, there are various homosexual teenagers, as well as Muslim and Jewish protagonists, and the depiction of struggles that these characters face were heartbreakingly believable. I was really impressed that both the portrayal of these individuals and the issues that they face are dealt with so sensitively and carefully throughout the book, and it genuinely unnerved me how easily their struggles could be real.

It’s impossible to talk about this book without discussing its political themes and I must say that it is not, in any way, attempting to be subtle about its own agenda. This wasn’t an issue for me as I appreciated the strongly Democratic feeling throughout the story and loved its insistence on the importance of voting. I was, however, surprised by just how obvious the digs were at real Republican politicians.

Honestly, this book was just an easy and refreshing YA romance with the added bonus of a strong, important message for young, influenceable readers. I have never read a book for teenagers with such a strong message about encouraging social change and I cannot stress enough how much I wish I’d read this when I was a teenager. You definitely do not have to be fully invested in politics already to read and appreciate this story and I really think that, if you read it, you’ll find yourself wanting to learn about things you didn’t even consider before.

If you’d like to read this book (you should!), you can buy it here.

RATING: 5/5

Disclaimer: I get a small commission if you use any of my links.

My Life in Books Tag

Hi readers!

I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but I haven’t posted in a really, really long time. I started a new job last week (in publishing!!! I can’t get over it) and I’ve been too busy to read more than a few pages. Because of that, I don’t have a review to post right now and I don’t know when I will but I’m working through some exciting books as we speak.

Despite the lack of reviews, though- what I definitely always have time for is an interesting book tag. And I just stumbled across the My Life in Books tag. I hope you enjoy!

Find a book for each of your initials.

(I’m relieved they didn’t say ‘for each letter of your first name’ — 9 is tough)

F – Faery Tales and Nightmares by Melissa Marr

L – Lying About Last Summer by Sue Wallman

D – Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

Count your age along your bookshelf – what book is it?

Sadly, my bookshelves are not where I am… Right now, I’m living off piles of books, scattered around the room. So, counting 21 through the piles, I reach…

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

Pick a book set in your city/country.

Okay. I don’t know if this counts because they don’t mention my town even once in the book, and I’m sure its a fantasy world of some kind, but the town I’m from is built on Sherwood Forest, and that’s where Mist by Kathryn James takes place.

Pick a book that represents a destination you’d love to travel to.

Under a Dancing Star by Laura Wood is set predominantly in a stunning villa in Italy and reading it made me crave a trip there so much.

Pick a book that’s your favourite colour.

My favourite colour is deep red, and the closest cover I can think of is Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. Looking up ‘YA books with red covers’ brings back a lot of results, though…

Which book do you have the fondest memories of?

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. Yes, this book’s a little problematic (if you’ve read it, you get it), but I read it, got obsessed. and went to Paris the next month because I was so in love. I’ve re-read a million times and it’s always exactly what I need.

Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. This book is absolutely incredible and I’m so glad I pushed through it but, wow, it took a long time for me to get to the end.

Which book on your TBR will give you the biggest feeling of accomplishment when you finish it?

IT by Stephen King! I’ve had this 1200-page monster of a book for about six years and I’ll be so happy when I’ve finally got through it.

ARC REVIEW: UNEXPECTED LESSONS IN LOVE by Lucy Dillon

Unexpected Lessons in Love is a story that should really be a romance, but isn’t. And that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It follows Jeannie, beginning on her extremely eventful wedding day. First, she calls off the wedding via a voicemail to her fiancé, Dan. Next, her fiancé gets hit by a bus.

This book contains an incredibly unique portrayal of love. It’s a will-she-won’t-she story about telling Dan the truth if he ever wakes up and it has you trying to determine right, wrong and the best solution throughout the entire story.

Plus, whilst all of this is happening, Jeannie finds herself getting ever closer to Rachel, Dan’s new boss, and Owen, Dan’s best friend, complicating everything just a little more.

I did enjoy this book, mostly because it so neatly wraps everything up. Everything that you think has gone wrong or could go wrong is resolved to some degree by the end, or at least solved in a way that some readers would approve of. I am sure there are mixed reactions to this book and found myself asking whether or not I liked where the story was going, a number of times.

As a character, I was surprised by how much I liked Jeannie. She was incredibly real and had thoughts that many people would be too afraid to speak themselves. I wouldn’t consider her decisions throughout the book to be wrong, but it was very easy to doubt her at numerous points throughout the novel. Lucy Dillon wrote an incredibly believable woman with a decision that would be difficult for anyone to deal with. Unfortunately, though, I was not a massive fan of Dan. Much of what we find out about him is from Jeannie recalling moments in her relationship, but I found that these painted a picture that I didn’t like. I was conflicted throughout about whether I should feel bad about my dislike of Dan due to his situation, but now definitely feel that I would have preferred a more believably likeable fiancé for Jeannie.

Overall, this book was enjoyable. There are a number of other things going on in the main character’s life, besides Dan’s situation, and I found these to be more interesting than Jeannie’s primary storyline. It did take me a while to get through, but I would consider it to be an easy, thought-provoking read. It makes a nice change from the more predictable romance storylines I’ve read recently and I am impressed by the concept.

RATING: 3.5/5

My Most Anticipated 2020 Releases

Happy New Year! I want to start by saying that I hope you all have a wonderful year and achieve everything you hope to achieve (in life, and in Goodreads’ Reading Challenge!). There’s so much I want to get done this year, and reading an obscene amount of books is a part of that.

That being said, there are so many new books coming out this year that have jumped straight to the top of my TBR. Without further ado, here are my most anticipated reads of 2020.

A Throne of Swans by Katherine and Elizabeth Korr

I was gifted a copy of this book a week ago and I’m itching to start it. With dark fantasy elements, shapeshifters, royalty and revenge, I’m certain that this is going to be incredible. It comes out really soon and I’m excited to see how everyone else enjoys it too.

Release date: 09/01/2020

You can get a copy here.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

I hadn’t heard of this book until I received it in a box from Book Box Club. Now, having looked into it a little, I’m convinced it’s going to be amazing.

This book is about cross-cultural romance and political activism, which are both incredibly important topics. This is definitely one of the books I’m most excited about this year.

Release date: 04/02/2020

You can get a copy here.

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

If you follow me on twitter, or have ever read any of my other blog posts, this probably won’t come as a surprise. Marie Lu is my favourite author of all time and I’ve wanted a copy of this book since before I even knew it existed.

This book is a historical fantasy about Mozart’s sister. When she becomes downhearted about being overshadowed by her prodigal brother, she finds herself being swept into a fantasy world of her own creation. I cannot wait to read this book. Music and fantasy are two things I’m passionate about, and Marie Lu’s writing could make this story truly incredible.

Release date: 03/03/2020

You can get a copy here.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

This book kind of goes without saying. As someone who got hooked on YA in 2014, The Hunger Games was a staple on my bookshelf. Although my obsession with the series has definitely worn off over time, I owe it to my former self to read and fall in love with this prequel.

Release date: 19/05/2020

You can get a copy here.

Again, Again by E. Lockhart

E. Lockhart is another author whose books I will always buy. I’ve read We Were Liars a million times and I even got to meet her at a signing a couple of years ago, which was incredible.

Her newest book is Again, Again, about a girl who saves her brother from a suicide attempt, and how she deals with the emotional trauma of this in the aftermath. I know it’s going to be emotional, potentially painful and incredibly beautiful.

Release date: 11/06/2020

You can get a copy here.

I’d love to hear what your most anticipated reads of 2020 are so let me know down below! Otherwise, I hope you have an amazing year ahead.

Disclaimer: I get a small commission if you use any of my links.

BOOK REVIEW: ESME’S WISH by Elizabeth Foster

Thank you, Odyssey Books, for gifting me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Happy New Year’s Eve! Today’s been a pretty hectic day of end-of-year preparations, but I did find time to finish Esme’s Wish at long last. I really wanted to get one final book review up before 2020 and I’m happy to say that I (only just) made it.

Esme’s Wish is a middle-grade/YA fiction book about a girl named Esme who, whilst searching for answers about her missing mother, finds herself on a quest to not only find the truth, but to also save a world that she didn’t even know existed. It’s a fascinating tale about familial love, friendship and dedication to doing what’s right.

When Esme enters the unknown world of Aeolia, she discovers a host of things that she never could have imagined- all of which she had only heard in stories and seen in paintings by her mother.

She rapidly discovers that her mother was entangled in the complicated history of this magical world and sets out to visit wherever she must go to find out what happened all those years ago and get closure about her mother’s disappearance once and for all.

This story is magical, both in its content and its storytelling. It is definitely written for a younger audience, but managed to captivate me too, with its imagery of a world that Elizabeth Foster entirely created. With sirens, magical powers and dragons, amongst the other magical features in this book, it is easy to get lost in the story and truly believe in the world of Aeolia.

I found the characters in this book to be entertaining as well. The villains did seem to lack a little depth, and some of the dangerous situations that Esme found herself in were resolved slightly too quickly for my liking, but they were still believable and scary. I enjoyed the ‘good guys’ much more. Lillian and Daniel are exactly the kind of fun sidekicks a story like this needs and I found that they really helped Esme explore her own personal struggles, as well as the struggles of Aeolia. They had believable aspirations and I was happy to see them doing what they personally needed to, as well as helping Esme along the way.

As far as the ending is concerned, I did find that it left a lot of loose ends, but I presume these will be wrapped up nicely in the sequel. The whole book’s plot was good enough for me to forgive my questions, as I found that there was a consistent sense of adventure from start to finish that kept me interested throughout.

This was a nice, easy read to finish the year with and I’m happy to have been swept into Esme’s world. I would definitely recommend this book to younger readers and lovers of middle-grade fantasy, and may just have to pick up the sequel to see what happens next.

RATING: 4/5

If you’re interested in reading Esme’s Wish, you can grab a copy here. (I get a small commission if you use my link!)