YA Review: The Thing About Lemons

Title: The Thing About Lemons
Author: Tasha Harrison
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: The Thing About Lemons

This is a sweet YA romance, and therefore not my usual choice of reading, but it grabbed me from the start and kept the pages turning right up until the satisfying ending. It’s a perfect holiday beach read, with the power to make it feel like summer even as I was reading it in October.

Ori is looking forward to a summer of camping and festivals with her best friends from school. Her mum will be in Chicago with her new boyfriend, their flat is being rented out on Airbnb while they are both away, and everything is lined up for the perfect holiday … until Ori makes a really, really big mistake and loses most of her friends overnight. Camping is off, festivals are off, and the flat will be someone else’s home while her mother is out of the country.

Enter Ori’s grandfather Claude – a notoriously clueless womaniser who lives in France, and calls in to see her once every few years. She’s dreading spending time with him, let alone staying with him in his small French village, helping him convert an old barn into a music venue for the local community. But that’s what her mother has organised, and she has nowhere else to go.

But Claude turns out to have hidden depths, eccentric family connections, and neighbours with a student grandson who is also staying for the summer. Despite life giving her lemons, Ori decides to make metaphorical lemonade, and enjoy her enforced holiday as much as she can.

It’s a fun story, with family feuds and secrets to uncover, neighbours and extended family to meet, and an absolutely gorgeous setting. I wanted to join Ori and her grandfather as they spent their days preparing the barn for a grand opening, and their evenings swimming in the river at the edge of his property. The descriptions of the village, the great food and drink, and their progress on the barn made the story glow.

Feel-good and engaging, this book surprised and hooked me, a taste of summer between its pages.

Have you read The Thing About Lemons? Do you think Ori deserved to lose her friends after her mistake? And who had the better summer in the end? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: The Thing About Lemons cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Ocean Heart

Title: Ocean Heart
Author: Ally Aldridge
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Ocean Heart

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m not a big fan of paranormal romance or love triangles. That said, while Ocean Heart is a PNR with a love triangle, it’s also a gripping story where the rival love interests are integral to the plot. And – possibly my favourite kind of fictional relationship – there’s a lovely male/female friendship that I really wanted to survive the story!

Mariah has no idea she has powers. She’s just an ordinary teenager with a hippie single mum, and her best friend Jace living next door. True – she has an allergic reaction to seawater, and she’s not allowed to swim, but allergies aren’t uncommon. When she’s persuaded to join the swimming club at school she has to keep it from her mother, who would not approve. But Mariah feels at home in the water in a way she can’t explain, and she’s soon promoted to a place on the school team.

Meanwhile Jace is trying to spend time with his girlfriend, Kiely, but her brother Murray, star of the swim team, is always around as a chaperone. When Jace asks Mariah to distract Murray so he can finally kiss Kiely, he has no idea what the consequences will be. Powers are awakened, secrets are exposed, and Mariah has to decide whether to follow her destiny or her heart.

Mariah’s story had me turning the pages and staying up late to find out what would happen next. I loved her relationship with Jace, and their very real questioning of the way they felt about each other. Murray is an interesting but flawed character, and I was constantly dreading what he might do next. Mariah’s relationship with her mother felt natural, and her mother’s spellcasting and potion-brewing felt innocent and eccentric – at least in the beginning. No spoilers, but all the relationships evolve throughout the book, and the explosive showdown opens up intriguing possibilities for the sequel. Bring it on!

And could we just please take a moment to appreciate this book’s gorgeous cover? It’s stunning (and it would look great on your bookshelf!).

Have you read Ocean Heart? What did you think of Mariah’s story? Did you enjoy the love triangle, and do you think Mariah makes the right choice? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Ocean Heart cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Gwen and Art Are Not In Love

Title: Gwen and Art Are Not In Love
Author: Lex Croucher
Edition:
Paperback
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: Gwen and Art Are Not In Love

Arthur and Princess Gwendoline have known each other all their lives. They were betrothed at birth in a bid to unite Gwen’s family (her father is the King of England) and Art’s, and while they have only seen each other during Art’s short visits to Camelot, the only thing they can safely say is that they truly hate each other.

Gwen feels the pressure from her family to be the perfect princess – to turn up to events, to dress and behave appropriately, and never to risk her reputation, or that of her father. Art is everything she detests – a habitually drunk young man who delights in provoking her, staying out all night, and spending his days lounging about and nursing his inevitable hangover. To Art, Gwen is uptight and judgemental, and he has no idea of the expectations she struggles with every day.

To prepare for their wedding, Art arrives at Camelot with his friend and manservant Sidney, who promptly falls for Gwen’s Lady in Waiting. Before long, Gwen discovers Art kissing a stable boy, and Art uncovers Gwen’s diary, complete with wistful passages about Lady Bridget Leclair, England’s only female knight. As much as they hate each other, Gwen and Art agree to keep each other’s secrets, and grow into allies as the book progresses. But Art and Gwen are not the only people affected by their forbidden feelings. As Art finds himself falling for Gabriel, Gwen’s older brother and heir to the throne, and Gwen’s relationship with Bridget develops, they need to decide what to do about their wedding – and the rest of their lives.

What can I say about this book? I loved every moment! Gwen, Art, and Sidney are beautifully written, strong-willed and witty, and their constant banter and snark sparkles on the page. Lady Bridget is a tough young woman, competing alone in the man’s world of tournaments and fighting, where she is not welcome. Her bravery, independence, determination and loyalty make her the perfect fit for Gwen, who finds her own life of formality and etiquette suffocating. Gabriel is the bookish older brother, fiercely intelligent and never happier than when he’s studying in Camelot’s library – and definitely not ready to be king.

While the early stages of the book are immensely enjoyable, with verbal sparks flying every time Gwen and Art are forced to spend time together, their relationship matures as the story progresses. Their banter becomes less about one-upping each other, and more about navigating the political expectations around their marriage. There’s a tense build-up as their secret relationships develop, and an exciting finale where I genuinely feared for everyone’s safety.

I loved the pseudo-Arthurian setting, in a country where King Arthur and his knights are revered historical figures, and Camelot is still the seat of power. The castle and the town are vividly imagined, and every step along the corridors and the streets feels completely real. Gwen’s restricted life contrasts beautifully with Bridget’s dare-devil adventures, and of course the book addresses homophobia and the process of finding out who you are – and what to do about it.

Come for the inconvenient arranged marriage trope, be drawn in by the constant smile-raising banter, and stay for the genuine against-the-odds love stories. An unequivocal five stars from me.

Have you read Gwen and Art Are Not In Love? What did you think of their story? Did the characters grab you as much as they grabbed me? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Gwen and Art Are Not In Love cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Finale (Caraval #3)

Title: Finale (Caraval #3)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Finale

The plot twists continue in the final book of the Caraval trilogy, and both Scarlett and Tella have narrating roles throughout the story. With a new Emperor about to be crowned, the city of Valenda is in a holiday mood, but revelations about their family and their love interests lead both sisters further into danger.

It’s hard to review Finale without dropping all sorts of spoilers. Scarlett and Tella find themselves deeply involved in the struggles of the immortal and dangerous Fates while navigating the complexities of relationships they can’t control and the safety of people they care about. The story is darker than the previous books, and the stakes are higher. There is no Caraval to bring a sense of order and reward to their actions, and failure would mean consequences for the entire Empire.

It’s a complex plot, and I confess to losing track of some of the threads at times, but Scarlett and Tella’s relationships keep the pages turning. While their strong personalities drive the story, each sister learns to adapt to a rapidly changing environment – Scarlett becoming more daring and brave, and Tella drawing closer to the people around her. There’s an exciting climax and a satisfying ending, and an Encore chapter that had me grinning as I turned the final page.

The Caraval series is an exciting – and exhausting – journey through magic, danger, deception and love. I cared deeply about Scarlett and Tella, and about where they might end up, and I’m pleased I finally picked up their story. The series would be a excellent beach or holiday read, and a perfect place to escape to when you have plenty of time to relax with a book. Definitely worth stepping into Caraval and allowing yourself to be swept away.

Have you read Finale? What did you think of the final book in the series? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Legendary cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Legendary (Caraval #2)

Title: Legendary (Caraval #2)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Legendary

Scarlett and Tella Dragna are back, and this time Tella has the chance to narrate. With the more daring sister steering the story, this book ramps up the danger and brings complications and plot twists for both sisters, their family, and their love interests.

The Empress has commanded Legend to run another Caraval in honour of her seventy-fifth birthday, so the company travels to the capital, Valenda, to prepare for the game. Scarlett and Tella, having escaped from their father, travel with them. Neither intends to participate in another Caraval, but Tella owes a debt to a stranger and Scarlett is revelling in her new freedom.

This Caraval promises to be more than a game. The Fates, powerful beings imprisoned for centuries, are fighting to return – a disaster that would threaten the Empire, and turn everyone into their playthings. The players are charged with finding the magical object that will destroy the fates and safeguard the future of the Empire. Tella and Scarlett are drawn into the game, only to discover that the solution is more personal than they imagined.

Legendary is a maze of a book, with truth and deception twisting around Scarlett and Tella as they follow their paths through their second Caraval. It’s a story of fear, pain, and surprises, and the lengths Tella, as the younger, bolder sister, will go to to protect her family. The relationship between the sisters remains key to the plot, but both sisters find themselves entangled in love triangles with potentially deadly consequences.

Once again, the final chapter opens up an entirely new facet of the story, and I had no choice but to keep reading …

Have you read Legendary? What did you think of Tella’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Legendary cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Caraval (Caraval #1)

Title: Caraval (Caraval #1)
Author: Stephanie Garber
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: Caraval

The Caraval trilogy has been sitting on my Kindle for ages, and finally made it to the top of my eBook TBR. Why did I wait so long? The story is captivating, the characters interesting, and the setting is literally magical.

The first book of the series follows seventeen-year-old Scarlett Dragna, the older of two sisters, as she prepares for her wedding to a mystery suiter selected by her cruel father. Scarlett is the sensible sister, constantly trying to protect her younger sibling and making sacrifices to keep them both safe from their father’s obsessive controlling behaviour.

But Scarlett has a secret. Since she was eleven, she has been writing to the mysterious Legend, the magical master of Caraval – an annual immersive game where participants experience illusions and puzzles at the hands of Legend’s group of actors, and compete for valuable prizes. She knows that Donatella, her impulsive younger sister, has always wanted to experience Caraval, but Legend never responds to her letters.

Ten days before her wedding, everything changes. Legend writes back, inviting Scarlett, Tella, and Scarlett’s fiance to participate in an invitation-only Caraval on his private island. Tella is desperate to go and never come home, but Scarlett is determined to take her sister with her she gets married, and keep them both safe from their father. Her plan fails, and Scarlett finds herself heading for Caraval with Tella.

Separated from her sister, and accompanied by the sailor who brought them to the island, Scarlett must negotiate the games and illusions of Caraval. Desperate to find Tella, Scarlett has no choice but to engage with the game, and attempt to see past the magic to discover who she can trust, and who might be working for Legend. Along the way she finds love, loss and impossible choices, and experiences everything Caraval has to offer – wonderful, mysterious, and terrifying.

While the magic and mystery of Caraval is gorgeously described and entirely captivating, the heart of this book is its characters. Even with their contrasting personalities, Scarlett and Tella are entirely believable as sisters, used to protecting each other from an abusive father. Scarlett is sensible, careful, and afraid of letting Tella down. Tella is impulsive, confident, and always on the look-out for thrills and danger. Much of this story centres around Tella, but telling it from Scarlett’s point of view invites the reader to care about the younger sister, and fear for her safety as Scarlett does. It’s a clever twist, and it kept the pages turning as I needed to find out what would happen to both sisters at the end of the book.

The short epilogue kick-starts another stage of the story, and I couldn’t help reading on into Legendary, book two of the series.

Have you read Caraval? What did you think of Scarlett’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Caraval cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: What If It’s Us?

Title: What If It’s Us?
Author: Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
3.5/5

YA Review: What If It's Us?

This is a sweet YA LGBTQ+ romance with possibly the best meet-cute I’ve ever read! Arthur and Ben meet in a post office in New York. Ben is posting a box of belongings back to his ex-boyfriend, and Arthur can’t resist saying hi. Ben lives in New York, and Arthur is only in the city for the summer, as an intern at his mother’s high-powered law firm. When the meet-cute ends (spectacularly!) without an exchange of contact details, Arthur decides to track Ben down. In a city the size of New York, how is he going to make contact?

What follows is a wonderfully realistic story. Disastrous dates, romantic plans gone wrong, and touchingly clumsy attempts at intimacy as Ben tries to move on from heartbreak, and Arthur navigates a relationship with his first boyfriend. Both boys have best friends who involve themselves in their romantic planning, and bring relationship dramas of their own to the story.

There’s a maturity about the book that reminds me of Forever by Judy Blume. Despite the amazing meet-cute and all the attempts at a successful date, there is no sense of a pre-destined future for Arthur and Ben. Throughout the book they are aware that Arthur will leave New York at the end of the summer, and this is not presented as a tragedy or a cause for heartbreak.

This is a sex-positive story, while being refreshingly messy and rejecting the idea of a perfect relationship. It doesn’t push the idea of an ideal partner, or a forever love-match, but allows the characters to enjoy the time they have together.

And what if it is going to work longer term? At least the boys understand that romance isn’t all hearts and flowers, and relationships require effort from both sides. A refreshingly down-to-earth story, and a romance without exaggerated drama.

Have you read What If It’s Us? What did you think of Arthur and Ben? Did their story feel real to you? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: What If It’s Us? cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: Loveboat, Taipei

Title: Loveboat, Taipei
Author: Abigail Hing Wen
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: Loveboat, Taipei

I loved this book! YA romance is not my usual go-to genre, but occasionally a book catches my eye and I discover something wonderful.

Ever Wong is a Chinese-American high-school student, following her parents’ wishes and applying to medical schools when she’d rather train as a dancer. But her parents don’t see dance as a career, and her family has sacrificed their home and culture to give her an American childhood and a future in the US. It is Ever’s search for her own path, and her determination to make her own decisions and mistakes, that drew me into her story.

Ever is sent to Taiwan, to take part in a summer-school cultural education programme before she heads to medical school. She’s expecting a rigid timetable of language classes and educational trips around Taipei, but when she arrives she sees a chance to discover who she is when her strict parents are not around to control her. She makes a list of the rules she has to follow at home, and sets about breaking them. There are boys, nightclubs, photo shoots and dance classes, love triangles, new best friends, and betrayal and heartbreak as she figures out how to be an independent adult.

But this isn’t just a story about first love and teenage mistakes. At the core of the book is Ever’s determination to find her purpose, and prove that she can build a career doing what she loves. I adored following her efforts to become a dancer, and fight for the future she wanted for herself.

Loveboat, Taipei is an intelligent, emotional and heartwarming story. The romance element drives the plot, but Ever’s journey of self-discovery and rebellion forms the heart of the novel. The tension mounts as the story progresses, and Ever begins to resign herself to years of medical training and a life she doesn’t want. I didn’t predict the ending, but I was punching the air. This is a life-affirming novel with a highly relatable protagonist, and one of the best books I’ve read this year.

Have you read Loveboat, Taipei? What did you think of the Ever’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

YA review: Loveboat, Taipei cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: The Agency For Scandal

Title: The Agency For Scandal
Author: Laura Wood
Edition:
Kindle
Rating:
5/5

Mystery, intrigue, danger, romance, and secret 19th century feminism come together in this gripping new book from Laura Wood. I’m not normally a romance reader (YA or otherwise), but I’ve loved every Laura Wood book I’ve picked up, and this one once again makes the grade.

Izzy is a self-confessed wallflower with a complicated life. Following the death of her father and the loss of his income she is battling to keep the family home and pay her brother’s school fees. Her bed-ridden mother has no idea that most of the servants have been laid off, and almost all the furniture sold. Izzy works hard to maintain the illusion of wealth and status for her family, keeping their secret from everyone – even her best friend.

But Izzy has another secret. Trained by her father before he died, she is an expert lock picker. No one her father worked for will hire a woman in his place, but her skills have caught the eye of a very secretive organisation. Izzy is an undercover agent for a group of exceptional women, whose mission is to defend other women, and put right the injustices of a system where wives are the property of their husbands, and women are not seen as equal to men.

The women are hired, Sherlock Holmes style, to investigate a puzzling case, and Izzy finds herself working with the Duke of Roxton – a man on whom she has a crush, but can only hope to admire from a distance. He’s a Duke, and she can barely support her family. As they work more closely together, Izzy finds herself falling for the Duke, but knows she can’t afford to develop feelings that cannot be reciprocated.

I loved this book. I loved the glittering parties and the dangerous exploits, and Izzy’s relationships with the people around her. I loved the undercover investigations, and the teams of women hiding in plain sight as they worked to right the wrongs of their society. I loved all the strong, capable women – especially Izzy, whose sensible approach to her feelings is balanced with a refreshingly bold attitude to the risks of her job. It’s an engaging story with a colourful cast of characters, and a highly sympathetic narrator. Come for the Bridgerton-style society intrigue, stay for the all-action feminist spycraft, and swoon over the wonderful romantic leads.

Have you read The Agency For Scandal? What did you think of Izzy’s story? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

The Agency for Scandal will be published on January 5th 2023.

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.

YA Review: If You Still Recognise Me

Title: If You Still Recognise Me
Author: Cynthia So
Edition:
Paperback (Paper Orange Book Box)
Rating:
4/5

If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So

This is a lovely, quiet, undramatic LGBTQ+ romance full of friendship, family relationships, and the dangers of coming out to people who might not understand.

Elsie is finishing her A-level exams, and looking forward to a summer of freedom and adventure before university. She has plans to go on holiday with her best friend Ritika, and she’s looking forward to new issues of her favourite comic, Eden Recoiling. She has a secret long-distance crush on Ada, who writes Eden Recoiling fan fiction, but Elsie is in Oxford, and Ada is in New York, so a relationship is probably out of the question.

But Elsie’s plans for the summer are forced to change when her grandmother flies in from Hong Kong to stay, following the death of her grandfather. Her parents expect her to stay at home with their guest during the week, and to find a weekend job before she plans her holiday. Elsie hasn’t come out to her family, and she knows that her grandmother’s traditional attitudes would probably not include acceptance of her sexuality. She hasn’t seen her grandmother for eight years, and as she keeps her company she starts to uncover the prejudices, family secrets, and a clash of cultures that have forced her family apart. When an old friend from Hong Kong arrives back in her life, Elsie finds herself questioning all her relationships – friends, family, and romantic interests.

The book follows Elsie as she spends time getting to know her old friend again, discovering the secrets her family has been hiding, and attempting to solve a puzzle that she hopes will impress Ada. In pursuit of the truth about her family, and the solution to Ada’s mystery, Elsie and her friends meet a series of gay characters at every stage of life, most of whom are refreshingly happy and settled in their identities. While she doesn’t feel comfortable being open about her sexuality at home, these characters provide her with inspiring role models for the next stages of her own life, and help her to make decisions about her relationships.

There’s nothing forced about these encounters, and the positive attitudes provide a wonderful counterbalance to the rejection she fears at home. Elsie is a warm and relatable character – she’s passionate about the Eden Recoiling comic and fandom, and the people she meets who share her enthusiasm. She grumbles about the changes to her plans for the summer, and surprises herself as she spends time with her grandmother and learns more about her. Ritika is a great best friend. She’s excited for Elsie as she discovers more about herself and her relationships, and she’s not afraid to point out when Elsie is wrong. Elsie’s parents are strict but supportive, and I loved the moment when Elsie discovers her mother’s love of manga, and they begin to bond over their shared interest.

If You Still Recognise Me is a gentle coming-of-age novel with an LGBTQ+ protagonist and a positive supporting cast. The author infuses the story with the luxury and hopefulness of a summer of freedom before the characters move away from home and start new lives at university. Reading it is like finding a new friend who loves the things you love, and discovering a new way to see yourself in the world. It’s a perfect summer read.

Have you read If You Still Recognise Me? What did you think of Elsie’s story? Did the ending surprise you? Click through to the full blog to access the comments section, and share your thoughts! No spoilers, though – you can post those on GoodReads!

Review cross-posted to GoodReads.


Please keep your comments YA appropriate. Be patient! We want to hear from you, but comments are moderated, and may take some time to appear.