Spelled - Betsy Schow


I received this book free from Sourcebooks (via netgalley). This does not influence my review.

Okay Emma, you need to write this review without only writing how much you love Spelled. You need to actually explain why you love this book. Reader, I'm so going to try to do this, but I can make no guarantees that I'll actually manage, because I LOVED SPELLED and it was flawless to me and let's pray on a fairy godmother that I can explain why.



Fairy Tale Survival Rule #32: If you find yourself at the mercy of a wicked witch, sing a romantic ballad and wait for your Prince Charming to save the day.

Yeah, no thanks. Dorthea is completely princed out. Sure being the crown princess of Emerald has its perks—like Glenda Original ball gowns and Hans Christian Louboutin heels. But a forced marriage to the brooding prince Kato is so not what Dorthea had in mind for her enchanted future.

Talk about unhappily ever after. 

Trying to fix her prince problem by wishing on a (cursed) star royally backfires, leaving the kingdom in chaos and her parents stuck in some place called "Kansas." Now it's up to Dorthea and her pixed off prince to find the mysterious Wizard of Oz and undo the curse...before it releases the wickedest witch of all and spells The End for the world of Story

So why do I love this book so much?

First thing: Fairytales. I love fairytales. I love the Grimm tales, I love Disney movies, I love Once Upon A Time and now I love Spelled. It's all about the fairytales and I guess that could be a downfall for some readers. If you don't know any fairytales or just don't enjoy reading them, you won't like this book. So many jokes hinge on your knowledge of those classic Western fairytales and being obsessed with them, this worked perfectly for me.

Bratty narrator

I've heard that people don't enjoy this book, because they think Dorthea is a brat - and yes, she is. She's spoiled, bratty, demanding, rude, mean and I absolutely loved her. Dorthea was never allowed to leave the castle and never even had a real friend - can you blame her for being rude? She doesn't have a clue how to communicate with people, except for when she's bossing them around. Seeing her so bratty actually only made me feel worse for her; how sad to be 16 and have no clue how to bond with people. I loved the journey she made in the story and the fact that she learns how to communicate without losing her bratty edge. Some people just are bratty and Dorthea rocked it.


This book is a five out of five for me, because it seemed like it was just written for me. I love bratty narrators, I love fairytales and there was a realistic romantic story too. However, I do think this book target a very specific audience and if you don't like any either a demanding, at times childish, narrator or the magical fairytale elements, you won't enjoy this book at all. But if you do like those elements; please read this book so we can talk about it!

The Winner's Curse - Marie Rutkoski


I joined a new book club recently to try and read YA books that I normally wouldn't pick up. I really want to expand my literary horizons this year and since I'm writing a YA novel, I want to read as much, and a lot of diverse YA, as possible. This is how I ended up reading The Winners Curse by Marie Rutkoski - I always loved the dress on the cover of the book but was never really motivated to buy it. Until now.



Winning what you want may cost you everything you love 

As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 


Summary sounds kind of familiar... 

So that summary from Goodreads sounds like it's a one in a million young adult book. Boy and girl. Some weird world. Unfair relationship. Blossoming love. Difficult choices. Blablabla - I've read a handful of books like that before and I only started reading YA fantasy a few months ago.

However, what it says about the book is that it's impossible to create a blurb that does it justice. I tried to make a better summary, but I just couldn't think of anything that can really explain the book.

At the core, it is just that summary with all the elements you have seen time and time before. But when you read it, it's so much more. And that's mostly because Kestrel is not like other YA narrator.

Kestrel is not kick-ass

Kestrel is not strong. Kestrel does not have any superpower. Kestrel is basically just a normal girl who is stuck in a difficult position. Some might argue that Kestrel is extremely intelligent, but I don't think that's even the case. She's just smart enough to know how to survive, yet she doesn't do anything really extraordinary. Kestrel is brave and stands up for what is right and that doesn't always end well for her, which is so refreshing compared to the female YA characters that can defeat everyone and everything - it doesn't always work like that and it doesn't work like that for Kestrel.


Besides the fact that Kestrel is surprisingly normal for a fantasy narrator, the romance is also so much more realistic than the average YA book romance. Usually, it all goes VERY fast and it's intense - it either ends perfectly or it ends horribly. No in between.

However, in the Winner's Curse, there is a middle ground. Both Kestrel and Arin realise the difficulties that come from a relationship where one person is in power and one isn't at all (as slave, Arin really has nothing to say) and neither of them try to gloss over it. It's a real issue and the book takes the time to really explore what that issue means for both of the characters.


So basically, this book takes all the cliché YA fantasy elements and just gives them a little twists. You'll still recognise all the things you love to read in another YA books, but the story surprises you with all the twists and turns it takes. This book won't ever be one of my all time favourites, probably because fantasy just isn't my favourite genre, but it was a very enjoyable and surprising read so four out of five stars. 


The Ghosts of Heaven - Marcus Sedgwick


People who live in the UK might have heard about the YA Book Prize: it's an award for the best UK young adult book and the winner will be announced in March. However, there is already a shortlist with 10 of the best UK YA books of 2014. Up until March, I will read each of these books (one a week) and post a review - I'm reading the books in the same order as the YA Book Prize twitter account is. 

It's here! THE LAST BOOK of the YA Book Prize shortlist. Number 10. And wow is the last one a roller coaster ride!



Usually, I copy the plot summary from Goodreads in this part but today I'm not going to, because there is no plot summary for this book (or not one that I would be happy to post). 

The Ghosts of Heaven is basically a collection of four short stories that can be read in any order you want (I read it 2-4-3-1) and that are all extremely different yet still linked together. The central theme is the spiral, hence that gorgeous cover, and what the spiral signifies for different people at different times. There are historical stories and futuristic stories and we follow everyone from mourning fathers to young confused girls. Each story is a roller coaster on its own and put together it's even crazier.

Eery feeling

I've never read a book by Marcus Sedgwick before, but I have heard amazing things about his writing and based on this book, I must agree. All of these stories are extremely unsettling but it's hard to pinpoint why exactly. They're not Say Her Name kind of stories, but they leave you feeling eery and lost and confused and just.... weird. Really weird.

And I think that's because Marcus is such an amazing writer. He drops little hints here and there that unsettle you a little bit, but it's the combination of all those things, and his amazing characters, that make you feel so completely freaked out by the end of the stories. I mostly had this feeling after the fourth story, which was totally non-relatable in topic, yet spoke to me on a really deep level and I'm just amazed at how he managed to do that.


Because the four stories are so incredibly different, there's something for everyone in this book. I personally didn't care much for the characters in story one and two, but I loved the characters in story three and four. And just like me, other readers will have their preferences and opinions about it. 

Which is exactly why this such a great read! There's literally something for everyone and because not all stories read like YA stories per se, even adult readers will enjoy this book. I would also like to see a person read this book and not get crazy unsettled. I dare you.


This book is a solid four out of five for me. I really appreciate the creativity that went into a book like this - it's unlike anything I've ever read. Story four might be my favourite 'short story' ever, but some of the others didn't quite do it for me, so I can't give this book a five. However, if you want to read a completely innovative YA book that will make you question your own life, do pick this up - it is amazing.

Goose - Dawn O'Porter

RATING: ★☆☆☆

People who live in the UK might have heard about the YA Book Prize: it's an award for the best UK young adult book and the winner will be announced in March. However, there is already a shortlist with 10 of the best UK YA books of 2014. Up until March, I will read each of these books (one a week) and post a review - I'm reading the books in the same order as the YA Book Prize twitter account is. 

I reached a point in the YA Book Prize shortlist where I honestly didn't know which book was going to win. So many of the books I've read have been amazing in so many different ways. 

This week, I discovered one book that I think should absolutely not win the YA Book Prize. I always try to be a fair, critical yet nice reviewer, but Goose by Dawn O'Porter makes that kinda hard to do. Spoiler alert: I didn't like anything about this book.



It's a year and a half on from Paper Aeroplanes, and Renée is now living with her Aunty Jo. They even have geese, and Renée likes to sit and watch them, wondering if she'll ever find 'the One' - someone who will love her no matter what, and be there for her no matter how bad things get. She and Flo are in their final year at school, and they've got some tough choices to make - like will they go to university? And if so where - and will they go together? Renée's usual ambivalence on the matter shocks Flo, who had assumed they'd continue as they were, the best and closest of friends, forever. She feels as though she needs Renée's support more than ever, so when a handsome young boy enters Flo's life, she finds herself powerfully drawn to his kindness, and his faith. Renée and Flo's friendship will soon be tested in a way neither of them could have expected - and if Paper Aeroplanes was a book about finding friendship, Goose is the novel that explores whether it's possible to keep hold of it.

Flo and Renée

Now I have to start off by saying that I've never read Paper Aeroplanes so if I'm misinterpreting things because I missed book one in the series, then please do let me know.

On to the book though - as you can tell from the summary it is a dual perspective between Flo and Renée. Both are 17, ready to graduate and so called smart girls, yet both have the voices of 14 year olds. 

Their narrative reads incredibly immature. It's the way an adult talks about a teenager when they're talking about how dumb they are. They have no depth, they have no intelligence and they constantly make dumb decisions. They're 17. They're human. They're not dumb. They deserve a way better voice.

Flo gets dragged into this bible group, even though she'd never been religious before, and suddenly goes from a zero to a hundred with her believes. Now I don't think that that can't happen, however I think it's safe to assume Flo would be a bit more critical - think things through. She's not 12 anymore.

Renée goes on an opposite journey - one that involves a guy who is THE BIGGEST PRICK ever. Does she care? Sort of. Does she still sleep with him? Yes, because obviously 17 year olds have no back bone? (I'm trying to think what the author was thinking when writing this story) It makes Renée extremely annoying, because as a reader you just can't understand why she sleeps with the guy. It's okay if you want her to make bad decision, but explain it to us.

Show, show, show

And about that explaining.... While Renée's decision is never explained, everything else in the book is. Constantly. The whole time. Tell. Tell. Tell. There's barely any action and we just get told SO much unnecessary background information. Okay, both girls have lost a parent - we know that, we get told that 20 times. But show it to the reader! Show us how that influences their personality; show us why that's the reason they make the decisions that they do. Don't just tell us how hard it was for them, show us.

I literally skipped page after page with background information that was either not relevant, a repetition of stuff I already knew, or so badly told (the clichés in this book, my god) that I couldn't read it. Pages. 

The writing in this book just wasn't my cup of tea. The telling was the biggest thing I hated, but I also though the dialogue was unnatural and then you have unrealistic girls? I really can't say much positive about the writing skills about Dawn O'Porter.


Unsurprisingly, this book is one out of five for me. I don't want to give zeros, because I understand how hard it is to write a book and I respect everyone who has done the work, but I can't think of a single thing I liked about this book. I don't understand how it got nominated for the YA Book Prize. I just.. I don't know. I think this is the harshest review I've ever given a book, but I have to stay true to myself and just can't give it anymore.

Want to read how I'm usually a way nicer reviewer? Check out these reviews!