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.


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Angels on TikTok!

A huge thank you to Zoe, for showcasing Angels on TikTok! Kindle pre-orders are live now, and the Kindle and paperback editions will be launched on November 24th.

@zoe_blessing

How would you react if you learned angels were living hidden among humans? Want to learn more about this book? Look up author @rachelchurcherwriting #readersoftiktok #yabooks #comingofagebooks #lgbtqbooks #lgbtq #angels #angelsamongus #booktok #newrelease

♬ Harp’s calm and sad music(87118) – paZap

Kindle pre-order

The Kindle pre-order link for Angels is live! Kindle pre-orders are only £1.99, and the price goes up to £2.99 on launch day. For your discounted copy, sent automatically to your Kindle on November 24th, head to the pre-order page today.

kindle pre-order

A reminder of the blurb:
The LGBTQ+ YA story you’ve been waiting for: friendship, identity, attraction, disasters … and finding your wings.

Angels have lived among us for as long as we can remember. They don’t have powers, but they do have wings. They’ve always hidden their wings, and who they are – until Kane.

Melodie Abbott remembers the day she saw Kane’s taboo-shattering billboard. A beautiful model showing his wings on Oxford Street, on a photo as tall as a building.

When sixteen-year-old Mel finally meets her idol, disaster strikes. Can she find a way to free herself from his shadow, and what will her future hold?

Angels is a coming-of-age story, a university heartbreak novel with a twist, a celebration of friendship and desire, and an exploration of attraction, identity and self-expression.

It takes courage to find your wings …

Happy reading!

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.


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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.


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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.


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YA Review: We Are All Constellations

Title: We Are All Constellations
Author: Amy Beashel
Edition:
Paperback (Paper Orange Book Box)
Rating:
5/5

YA Review: We Are All Constellations

The Paper Orange UKYA Book Box continues to deliver excellent YA fiction! I can see why this book came bundled in the book box with a tissue and a restorative eyemask – it’s definitely a tear-jerker.

Iris’s mother died when she was ten, and she’s spent the years since being strong, independent, and fearless. She explores abandoned buildings as a hobby, and thinks nothing of heading into the woods alone in the dark or climbing on rooftops to find a new place to explore.

Life with her dad, stepmum and stepbrother is calm and peaceful, and nothing like the excitement she used to experience with her mother. She remembers joyful dancing in the kitchen, driving out in the middle of the night to watch a meteor shower, and a surprise meal when her mother decorated the living room and pretended they were in France. But there are darker memories, too, and Iris tries not to remember the times when her mother’s behaviour was frightening rather than fun.

When Iris discovers the truth about her mother, she doesn’t know where to turn. Her best friend Tala is distracted by a poetry event, her boyfriend wants to come with her on the very definitely solo gap year she has planned, and the mysterious Orla might hold the key to the secrets of Iris’s past.

It’s a story about grief, friendship, and showing up for each other. What truths we tell, whether our actions match our words, and how we protect the people we love. Iris is a brilliant protagonist – she’s brave, resourceful, and independent, but also romantic, hurt, angry, and not as reliable as she claims to be. There’s a constant feeling that she might make the wrong decision at any moment, and a nagging uncertainty over whether she will push her bravery and independence too far.

I read We Are All Constellations in a weekend. Iris’s story is addictive, and the reader is drawn further into her world as the book progresses. I didn’t want to put it down, and I desperately wanted to find out how her plans, reactions and relationships would resolve in the end. Highly recommended.

Have you read We Are All Constellations? What did you think of Iris’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: We Are All Constellations cross-posted to GoodReads.


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YA Review: The Haunting of Tyrese Walker

Title: The Haunting of Tyrese Walker
Author: JP Rose
Edition:
Paperback (Paper Orange Book Box)
Rating:
4/5

YA Review: The Haunting of Tyrese Walker

Another excellent book from the Paper Orange UKYA Book Box! I’m not usually a horror fan, but this book drew me in – great characters, great setting, and just the right level of creepy.

Fourteen-year-old Tyrese has just lost his father, and his death is still too painful to think about. His mother takes him to Jamaica for the summer to stay with his paternal grandmother and his fourteen-year-old cousin, Marvin. Sleep deprived, grieving, hot, and homesick, Tyrese struggles to adapt. When his grandmother asks him to scatter rice around her house to keep away evil spirits, he can’t see the point. But when inexplicable things start to happen around him, he begins to doubt everything he believes in. Are the spirits real, or is he losing his mind?

With Ellie, a visiting American teenager, Tyrese and Marvin explore the mountains and forests around their grandmother’s house. What begins as an idyllic summer holiday quickly takes a dark turn, as Tyrese’s unsettling experiences start to affect the people around him. There is a growing sense of danger as the story progresses, and Tyrese is never sure whether the things he is seeing are real. Ellie and Marvin confirm some of his experiences, but the reader is left wondering whether his fear is justified, or whether he really is losing his grip on sanity.

The reveal and the finale are excellent, and the mounting dread pays off in the final scenes. My complaint with a lot of horror is that the fear is either an overreaction, or that the Big Bad is too big and too bad for the story. This ending is just right.

This is a book about fear of the unexplained, and the folly of meddling with forces beyond the characters’ understanding. It is also a story about friendship, family, and coming to terms with overwhelming grief. It’s a clever use of the setting and the plot, and the result is a gripping page-turner of a novel. An excellent read.

Have you read The Haunting of Tyrese Walker? What did you think of Tyrese’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: The Haunting of Tyrese Walker cross-posted to GoodReads.


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