Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Publisher: Amulet Books
Released: 2nd May 2017
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Jordan Sun is embarking on her junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts, hopeful that this will be her time: the year she finally gets cast in the school musical. But when her low Alto 2 voice gets her shut out for the third straight year—threatening her future at Kensington-Blaine and jeopardizing her college applications—she’s forced to consider nontraditional options.

In Jordan’s case, really nontraditional. A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshipped…revered…all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Jordan finds herself enmeshed in a precarious juggling act: making friends, alienating friends, crushing on a guy, crushing on a girl, and navigating decades-old rivalries. With her secret growing heavier every day, Jordan pushes beyond gender norms to confront what it means to be a girl (and a guy) in a male-dominated society, and—most importantly—what it means to be herself.
(from Goodreads)

I absolutely loved this book. I was really in the mood for a great contemp and it was exactly what I wanted it to be.

Jordan was such a fantastic main character. Words can’t express how much I loved her. I literally related to her in the very first line of the book – I pretty much have an existential crisis every Monday morning. As an Alto 2, Jordan kept getting rejected from parts in musicals for not having a conventional female vocal range. She also had a lot of other things going on; her mum and dad (who suffered from chronic pain) were having money troubles that were inevitably affecting her and making her feel guilty and she was still getting over her ex-boyfriend while also trying figure out whether she was attracted to girls as well as guys. She felt friendless at her school and didn’t really have anyone to turn to. Apart from the fact that I really appreciated being able to read about a Chinese-American bisexual character, Jordan was so likeable. Her narrative was hilarious, her voice was so believable and I really liked how dedicated she was to her craft. So determined was she to do something instead of mope around, miserable that she’d failed another audition, she dressed up as a boy and joined an all-male a cappella group. After all, what did she have to lose except her dignity? There was a bit of suspension of disbelief involved there, but honestly, it was so funny because even Jordan was questioning how everyone was buying her charade and it just made me smile.

I can’t tell you how much I loved Jordan’s friendship with all the boys in the Sharpshooters. First we had Trav, the leader of the group, and most mysterious. I wish we had got to know him more, but he was the sort of quietly loyal type – prone to frustrated outbursts, but a good guy inside. Next we had Isaac who I adored. He was both adventurous and reckless and yet intensely shy and uncertain at times. I loved his relationship with Jordan the most and he was so sweet and understanding. I liked that things weren’t all cool and calm between them, there was awkwardness, but also an excitement on what could be. Thirdly, we had Nihal, who was another of my favourites. His and Jordan’s friendship was so natural and easy, and I really liked the side story about Nihal’s own relationship with a certain member of the Minuets, another a cappella group (whose character I was really hoping would develop, but alas, it did not. I would have liked more resolution on it). Then there was Jon Cox and Mama, who were both hilarious and loyal and kind of the backbone of the group, the reliable ones you know would always be there. Erik and Marcus were newbies to the team, too, freshman who had to acclimate to the group dynamic like Jordan did. Marcus’s rants about politics always made me laugh and essentially, I just really liked all these characters. I apologise because I have gone on far too long.

Plot-wise, Noteworthy is quite slow-paced, with much of the story involving the Sharpshooters’ rivalry with the Minuets, preparing for a competition in December and Jordan coping with being a girl during the day and putting on her boy persona at night during rehearsals. But there were lots of other things going on too, and in my opinion, even though this wasn’t an action-packed fast paced book with tons of twists and turns, there was never a dull moment. It explored lots of different themes really well, including sexuality and gender, and I only wish it were a bit longer, because I would have loved to have seen what happened after the ending! (But this is what happens with all good books.) I loved all the performing arts parts of the book and learning about music and theatre (even if I wasn’t quite familiar with all the technical terms). There were a few things I think could have been developed or explained a bit more (the whole situation with Connor and his father, for one), but overall, this was a fantastic book with an amazing set of complex characters, and I am so happy that I got to read it.

Overall, Noteworthy is a real stand-out contemp, and I can’t recommend it enough.

Sunday, 30 April 2017

April Wrap-Up

Books I Read This Month

Dream Magic by Joshua Khan
Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate*
Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill
Royal Bastards by Andrew Shvarts*
The Battlemage by Taran Matharu*
Geekerella by Ashley Poston

All links lead to Goodreads. Reviews to come for starred books! I had a better reading month in April, I managed to read eight books, with a mix of genres! Noteworthy was my favourite book of the month, I absolutely loved it. My review will be coming soon - honestly, if you like contemps and have any kind of interest in music or musical theatre, I would highly recommend this one. And Waiting for Callback was a freebie from Amazon (it's back to full price now sadly).

Blog Posts

TV Shows I Watched/Started:

Supergirl season 2 (currently airing on Sky1)
The Flash season 3 (currently airing Sky1)
Legends of Tomorrow season 2 (Sky1)
Scorpion season 3 (currently airing on ITV2)
Emerald City (5STAR)
The Magicians season 2 (currently airing on 5STAR)
Marvel's Agents of SHIELD season 4 (currently airing E4)
Riverdale (weekly on Netflix)
The Middle (currently airing on Comedy Central)
12 Monkeys season 2 (Netflix)
Designated Survivor (weekly on Netflix)
The 100 season 4 (currently airing on E4)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer top 20 episodes (Syfy Buffy anniversary weekend)
Attach on Titan season 2 (weekly on Crunchyroll)
Anonymous Noise (weekly on Crunchyroll)

The 100 is finally here in the UK! Liking it so far buut I have some reservations about where they're going with this storyline. I'll have to wait and see. It was also super fun to rewatch my favourite Buffy episodes! It was something Syfy did for the 20 year anniversary, and all my favourites were on there (Once More, with Feeling was obviously number 1).

12 Monkeys season 2 was also added to Netflix, and I really enjoyed it. Very excited to start on season 3, which I believe is starting in May!

Films I Watched

Beauty and the Beast (2017)
The Addams Family
Addams Family Values

So...I wasn't a fan of Beauty and the Beast. I was really unimpressed by the new songs, the singing in general was blah and I just thought everything was a bit lacklustre. Also, when the Beast transformed into a Prince and there was that dancing scene at the end, I swear to you the only thing I could concentrate on was his shoes. Did you see his shoes?! Those blue monstrosities! I mean I KNOW it was the era and everyone wore shoes like that but I couldn't look away...

Music I Listened to

Once More, with Feeling soundtrack
Dear Evan Hansen 

I'm sure there was more, but I've forgotten because Dear Evan Hansen took over this month. THIS MUSICAL. I can't explain it, but please look it up because it's fantastic. My favourite song so far is Waving Through a Window.

Notable Events

I may or may not have gone on a shopping spree...I really needed some smarter clothes but I think I bought more than I needed. And now I'm broke hahaha...ha. Apart from that, I haven't done too much this month! The only other thing really is that my dad and I have been clearing out the smallest bedroom in our house (which is currently full of crap like old clothes, boxes, broken appliances etc.) because we're planning to build loads of shelves so I FINALLY have a place for all my books. It's a tiny tiny little box room with just enough space for a bed and a wardrobe (and it was my bedroom for 21 years...I don't miss it), so I'm not having delusions of grandeur or anything, but I am excited to have a sort of mini library for all my books.

And that is my month in a nutshell! I'm hoping to keep up the reading in May, and there are reviews to come, so hopefully you'll be seeing a few more blog posts next month as well.

What are your bookish (and non-bookish) goals for next month?

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Waiting on Wednesday #80

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Never Say Die (Alex Rider #11) by Anthony Horowitz
1st June 2017
Find it on Goodreads
Following the events of Scorpia Rising, Alex relocates to San Francisco as he slowly recovers from the tragic death of his best friend and caregiver, Jack Starbright, at the hands of terrorists working for SCORPIA. With Jack gone, Alex feels lost and alone, but then, out of the blue, he receives a cryptic email--just three words long, but enough to make Alex believe that Jack may be alive. Armed with this shred of hope, Alex boards a flight bound for Egypt and embarks on a dubious quest to track Jack down.

Yet SCORPIA knows Alex's weakness. And the question of whether Jack is alive soon takes a backseat to a chilling new terrorist plot-one that will determine the lives of many.
From Egypt to France to Wales, from luxury yachts to abandoned coal mines, Alex traverses a minefield of dangers and cryptic clues as he fights to discover the truth. The #1 New York Times bestselling series, perfect for fans of James Bond, Jason Steed and Jason Bourne, is back with a vengeance! (f
rom Goodreads)

I am RIDICULOUSLY excited for this book. I was the biggest Alex Rider fan when I was younger, and I am so happy there's going to be another book in the series! The way the last book ended was kind of sad and I always felt everything wasn't fully resolved, so I'm really glad we get to see Alex again and find out what he's been up to. Plus, Jack might be alive?! I hope she is, because I was devastated when she died in Scorpia Rising. In any case, I need this book. I'm looking forward to seeing how Alex is faring in San Francisco (and living with Sabina?! I always thought that was a bit weird). I'm also curious as to what Mrs Jones's role in this will be, because it's going to be so awkward when (I'm assuming when) she gets in touch with Alex again... I must admit, while I am immensely excited for this book, I am also a bit worried it will ruin the series. Will just have to keep hoping it will be as good as all the others - not long to wait now!

What are you waiting on this week?

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Review: The Best Kind of Magic by Crystal Cestari

The Best Kind of Magic (Windy City Magic #1) by Crystal Cestari
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Released: 16th May 2017
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
Amber Sand is not a witch. The Sand family Wicca gene somehow leapfrogged over her. But she did get one highly specific magical talent: she can see true love. As a matchmaker, Amber's pretty far down the sorcery food chain (even birthday party magicians rank higher), but after five seconds of eye contact, she can envision anyone's soul mate.

Amber works at her mother's magic shop--Windy City Magic--in downtown Chicago, and she's confident she's seen every kind of happy ending there is: except for one--her own. (The Fates are tricky jerks that way.) So when Charlie Blitzman, the mayor's son and most-desired boy in school, comes to her for help finding his father's missing girlfriend, she's distressed to find herself falling for him. Because while she can't see her own match, she can see his--and it's not Amber. How can she, an honest peddler of true love, pursue a boy she knows full well isn't her match?
(from Goodreads)

This book was so cute, I really loved it. It had a little bit of a shaky start, but after a few chapters, I was fully engrossed, and I’m very much looking forward to the sequel.

Amber was a fab main character. Apart from being really funny, she was very relatable. As a matchmaker, she was often looked down upon for not being a “proper” witch. It wasn’t that she wasn’t powerful and good at what she did, but rather that what she did was very specific, and didn’t have many other applications. The other witches viewed her as not really one of them, and Amber often felt left out because she wasn’t allowed to attend coven meetings or really know what was going on in the witchy world. Sometimes she thought her own mother wished she could be different and carry on the family tradition, and I could really sympathise with her. That being said, she was a top notch matchmaker, and seemed to know a lot about the supernatural world. Amber could be a little judgmental at times, but she had a tough time at school and I could understand why she acted that way. I also found myself deeply relating to her on a person level when she was talking about group projects – they really are the worst.

Amani was another great character! She was Amber’s best friend and I really believed their relationship. Amani was very funny too, and she knew that Amber often felt like she wasn’t good enough because she was “only” a matchmaker, and did her best to be there for her. She was often a bit on edge when it came to her precognition though, and I would definitely love to see more of that in the next book, and get to explore her power a bit. It was interesting, and the way she never wanted to reveal anything about Amber’s future had me curious. And her reaction to Vincent! I am very intrigued to see what happens there (is there hope yet?).

Charlie was really lovely, and I very much enjoyed seeing his relationship with Amber develop. He originally approached her for help finding his missing stepmother, but as he became more acquainted with the supernatural world, he and Amber got a lot closer, and it was so cute! I do wish we had found out a little bit more about him (maybe in the next book) but overall, I liked him. He was sweet and had a lot of great lines that made me smile and laugh. I could completely understand Amber’s struggle in regard to her feelings for him – he wasn’t her match, and her whole business was finding people their matches. She kept thinking that surely she would be a fraud, a terrible person for being with Charlie when she knew some other girl was really the one for him? It was a difficult situation to be in!

Plot-wise, this book started off a little slow, and the writing was kind of cheesy to begin with, but as I said, a few chapters in and I was really engaged. I loved exploring Amber’s supernatural world and seeing how she used her matchmaking power. I actually wish this had been explored a little more, because I wasn’t a 100% sure how Amber’s powers worked (but then, neither did she!) and it was strange that she was still putting so much stock in who was and wasn’t a match when she was in such a tangled situation herself. However, I know this is a series (and I am very glad), so hopefully we’ll get some more answers in book two (especially after Kim joined the mix! Kim! And what did the Fate guy mean?! So many questions!). I am personally hoping the next book will be from Amber’s POV again, just because I really enjoyed her narrative, but I’ll still be reading it even if it’s not!

Overall this was a very fun, very adorable read, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for something fairly light-hearted with a bit of magic. Now to wait for book two!