Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Top Ten Books on my Autumn TBR

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.

As I prepare to start my masters - by the way, have I mentioned I'm doing a masters? ;) - my TBR has basically gone out the window as I have to prioritise my university books. So this week's top ten will be split in two, for uni and for pleasure.

University:
1 - Zofloya by Charlotte Dacre
2 - Poppet by Mo Hayder
3 - Sherlock Holmes, the Collected Short Stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
4 - Collected Ghost Stories by MR James
5 - Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

I recently got the set text list so I'm shopping for all the books I need and these are just a few of them, some of which I've already got.

Pleasure:
1 - Now I Rise by Kiersten White
Sequel to And I Darken, and the only reason I haven't picked it up sooner is I'm a little intimated by the dense text!

2 - Juniper Lemon's Happiness Index by Julie Israel 
Picked up at Yalc and it sounds lovely, I'm imagining something like Jandy Nelson's books.

3 - Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
Something to dip in and out of, might make me feel better when I'm tired from studying.

4 - Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
After hearing all about this at Yalc, I'm really excited by this girl power story.

5 - Can I Speak To Someone In Charge? by Emily Clarkson
This was a spur of the moment find in the library this past weekend - I haven't heard of it before but it sounds clever and funny.

Friday, 8 September 2017

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray

Defy the Stars (Constellation, #1)Noemi is a young and fearless soldier of Genesis, a colony planet of a dying Earth. But the citizens of Genesis are rising up - they know that Earth's settlers will only destroy this planet the way they destroyed their own. And so a terrible war has begun.

When Noemi meets Abel, one of Earth's robotic mech warriors, she realizes that Abel himself may provide the key to Genesis' salvation. Abel is bound by his programming to obey her - even though her plan could result in his destruction. But Abel is no ordinary mech. He's a unique prototype, one with greater intelligence, skill and strength than any other. More than that, he has begun to develop emotions, a personality and even dreams. Noemi begins to realise that if Abel is less than human, he is more than a machine. If she destroys him, is it murder? And can a cold-blooded murder be redeemed by the protection of a world?

Stranded together in space, they go on a whirlwind adventure through Earth's various colony worlds, alongside the countless Vagabonds who have given up planetary life altogether and sail forever between the stars. Each step brings them closer - both to each other and to the terrible decision Noemi will have to make about her world's fate, and Abel's.
 


Space plots generally confuse me, even as much as I like them - whole planets, not necessarily relating to Earth, having their own histories and societal places can be bloody confusing, especially when in this story, Earth was the mother-ship of a ring of planets and one of them wanted out. That's where Noemi comes in - she is a soldier on Genesis, the planet desperately fighting for independence, and when she comes across Abel's ship, she commandeers it and him to help her fight. 

The characters and the romance is what sold this for me; robots who can think and feel and love are like my kryptonite and Abel was just so damn adorable I couldn't stand it. Noemi and Abel are thrown together in what is possibly the most horrible circumstances, but as Abel has information that could help save Noemi's planet, she is willing to overlook the fact that he is a killing machine. They literally have to traverse the galaxy to hunt down parts to build... a thing that would blow up... another thing like a star-gate... yeah, this is where the details just went over my head! Point is, adventure and hilarity ensues, as well as bonding and super cute kissy moments, until Noemi is able to return home with hope.

All in all, a great sci-fi adventure, with some astrophysics stuff that passed me by, but really great characters and fantastic writing. 

Published 6th April 2017 by Hot Key Books.

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

A Few Books That I Struggled To Read (To Start With)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and The Bookish.

I rarely DNF books, not just because all the books I read are amazing but mostly because I'm quite picky over what I pick up in the first place. This week's theme is books you had a hard time with, so I'm going with a few books that I struggled with but ended up enjoying.

The Woman in White1 - The Woman In White by Wilkie Collins
I've only just finished this one, which is why it's top of the list. I technically should have read this at university but I didn't have enough time, and also I didn't write any essays on it so I didn't bother. Terrible, I know. But now that I'm about to start my masters (AHHH!!) I need to re-programme my brain into the Victorian-Gothic language. Anyway, the book itself is ridiculously long, over 600 pages, and in tiny font, so it did take me about two weeks to finish. But the story was really good, and I ended up really invested!

2 - Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Please don't hate me! I really wanted to like this, and I did, but I forget every time now much of a chore some Austen language is to read, it's just so long! It helped that I already knew the story and I'm glad I've read the original, but it took me a while.

3 - The Island by Olivia Levez
The IslandThis was a review book so I had no idea what it was about apart from it sounded interesting. And it was, the story was incredible and very moving, but it's written in this... almost stream of conscious narrative, flitting back and forth between present and past, which took me a while to find the rhythm but it suited the protagonist so well. 

4 - We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
I knew I would love this one, or at least it sounded right up my street, but I wasn't quite prepared for the slow story and the confusion over what had happened. Took a little while to get into it, especially to understand Merricat, but really liked it. 

5 - Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
Yet another classic that I couldn't quite get my head around! This time, it was more that I wasn't expecting the story to span so many years, it really did follow the three women's lives in the Big Apple.

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Weekly Highlights: the 'September TBR' edition


Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things!

I am both happy and sad that it's September already - on one hand, I handle autumn weather much better than summer, but on the other, it means my term-time job is starting again. But I do have some exciting news: at the end of the month, I will be starting my masters! So lots more work and almost certainly less time online and on the blog, but I will not disappear, I promise. 


On The Blog
A few of my favourite posts of the month:
Review of A Change Is Gonna Come
Review of The Gender Games by Juno Dawson
Review of Tell It To The Moon by Siobhan Curham
Review of True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling
Review of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Review of Nowhere Near You by Leah Thomas


Currently Reading
I am still plodding through The Woman in White, which is to get my brain back into classic literature mode for my MA. I've also just started the audio book of Order of the Phoenix. 

On My Bookshelf
Wonder Woman: Warbringer (DC Icons, #1)Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo
She will become a legend but first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning...

Diana is desperate to prove herself to her warrior sisters. But when the opportunity comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law to save a mere mortal, Alia Keralis. With this single heroic act, Diana may have just doomed the world.

Alia is a Warbringer - a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery. Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies, mortal and divine, determined to destroy or possess the Warbringer.

To save the world, they must stand side by side against the tide of war.


Nyxia by Scott Reintgen
Nyxia (The Nyxia Triad, #1)Emmett Atwater isn't just leaving Detroit; he's leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. 

Forever. 

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden--a planet that Babel has kept hidden--where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. 

But Babel's ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won't forever compromise what it means to be human.


These two I received in August's Illumicrate, which was brilliant, as per usual! I hadn't heard of Nyxia but it sounds like a really cool space adventure, and of course Wonder Woman I am super excited for!

InvictusInvictus by Ryan Graudin
Time flies when you're plundering history.

Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far's birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he's ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. 

But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far's very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.


Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nichols
Things a Bright Girl Can DoThrough rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women's freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who's grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice?


Both of these are from Netgalley, so thank you Anderson and Orion! I was vaguely aware of them but found out about them at Yalc so couldn't wait to snatch them up!

The Wrath and the DawnThe Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh 
Every dawn brings horror to a different family in a land ruled by a killer. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, takes a new bride each night only to have her executed at sunrise. So it is a terrible surprise when sixteen-year-old Shahrzad volunteers to marry Khalid. But she does so with a clever plan to stay alive and exact revenge on the Caliph for the murder of her best friend and countless other girls. Shazi's wit and will get her through to the dawn that no others have seen, but with a catch . . . she may be falling in love with a murderer.

Shazi discovers that the villainous boy-king is not all that he seems and neither are the deaths of so many girls. It's up to her to uncover the reason for the murders and to break the cycle once and for all.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

MoxieVivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her high school teachers who think the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes, hallway harassment and gross comments from guys during class. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv's mum was a tough-as-nails, punk rock Riot Grrrl in the '90s, and now Viv takes a page from her mother's past and creates Moxie, a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She's just blowing off steam, but other girls respond and spread the Moxie message. As Viv forges friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, she realises that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

And finally, these two were in kindle sale, 99p each, and I've heard great things about both of them, so no brainer! I'm more excited about Moxie, really, but hoping to read both as soon as possible. 

September TBR
Two review books: Invictus and Things A Bright Girl Can Do. Apart from that, my TBR is pretty open. Well, until I get my MA reading list, that is!

Friday, 1 September 2017

If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton

If You Could See Me NowIzzy Harris should have it all – but her boyfriend has been ignoring her for months, she’s been overlooked for a promotion, and the owner of her local coffee shop pervs on her every time she has a craving for a salted caramel muffin.

Then her life is unexpectedly turned upside down.

Izzy dumps her oblivious boyfriend, and leaps on the chance to win a big pitch at work. Needing to work closely with gorgeous colleague Alex is an added perk…

But then her best friend has her heart broken, the pitch is way more complicated than expected, and Alex is keeping secrets. Does Izzy have what it takes to help her friend, save her career and get the guy?


Izzy was incredibly easy to relate to; she was funny and smart but used to be being downtrodden, mostly by her mother and by her boyfriend. So when she suddenly wakes up invisible, she is both shocked beyond belief and also surprisingly freed: no longer does she have to worry about how she looks, about walking around alone at night, about being perfectly presented for work or for men.

I adored her friendship with Tash. This was a proper girl friendship with none of that secretly tearing each other down, they perfectly balanced each other out, one with noise and the other with quiet support - they were also very funny together, especially when Izzy is first discovered and Tash full out panics! 

We get to know Alex as Izzy sneaks around the office, invisible, trying to get paperwork and information so she can work from home. After a mildly-paralysing moment of fear in the store room, Alex does discover Izzy and agrees to help her. Alex was really sweet - I know I use that word a lot when describing the romantic lead, but in this case, he really was! An intern at Izzy's office, Alex is also used to being overlooked but has big plans to finally settle down in London.

All in all, this was both incredibly funny and also rather smart. As Izzy gets used to being invisible, she has some fun with it, protecting Tash in the dark from drunk men and playing the poltergeist to her ex-boyfriend, which leads me to the brilliant social comment on men's attitudes to women and their "right" to catcall and grope in the streets. Izzy grows wonderfully through this weird experience and gains that all-important confidence to answer back to idiots in the street and in the office. 

Published 4th August 2017 by Bookotoure.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Nowhere Near You by Leah Thomas

Nowhere Near You (Because Youll Never Meet Me 2)Ollie and Moritz might never meet, but their friendship knows no bounds. Their letters carry on as Ollie embarks on his first road trip away from the woods--no easy feat for a boy allergic to electricity--and Moritz decides which new school would best suit an eyeless boy who prefers to be alone.

Along the way they meet other teens like them, other products of strange science who lead seemingly normal lives in ways Ollie and Moritz never imagined possible: A boy who jokes about his atypical skeleton; an aspiring actress who hides a strange deformity; a track star whose abnormal heart propels her to victory. Suddenly the future feels wide open for two former hermits. But even as Ollie and Moritz dare to enjoy life, they can't escape their past, which threatens to destroy any progress they've made. Can these boys ever find their place in a world that might never understand them?


Warning: spoilers for book one Because You'll Never Meet Me.

As they are both pushing out of the boxes they were stuck in before, Ollie and Moritz are learning about the world and their place in it. And they both struggled with it. Poor Ollie was over-sensitised by practically everything and was like a puppy in his excitable-ness! But he couldn't adapt magically like he thought he was going to, and of course he felt like he had abandoned his mum. As for Moritz, he was taking a huge leap of faith by transferring to an arts school and who does he bump into but Molly - the girl with two mouths who tried to drown him!

Speaking of, we meet more of the "blunderkids", the poor kids that had been experimented on - like Bridget with her removable heart, and Arthur with super-fragile bones. They all had different experiences and had taken different things from them; for example, Arthur was quite like Ollie in that he didn't fear the world, he just wanted to be part of it. 

And back to Molly, turns out she and Moritz had more in common than they thought: they both were hiding behind masks to never betray their fear. Moritz of course had his goggles and Molly her bravado, but when things go wrong, they go spectacularly wrong. 

All in all, this book broke my heart and painstakingly pieced it back together again; Ollie and Moritz showed that our differences make us better and we are stronger for having friends to rely on, and pull us back from the brink if necessary. 

Published 9th February 2017 by Bloomsbury.

Friday, 25 August 2017

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

The Loneliest Girl in the UniverseCan you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?

Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.

Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.

But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?

Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .
 


Romy was born in space and has only ever known the inside of her ship - the only contact she has with other people is the delayed messages from her counsellor back on Earth and sometimes an update from NASA. That is until she gets a strange message about world politics back on Earth and then nothing makes sense. There is another ship catching up with her, with better technology, and Romy is communicating with J, the ship's only inhabitant. Finally having someone new to talk to, Romy is understandably excited and nervous about meeting J for the first time. That is, until she realises something about his messages...

I adored this, I literally flew through it! The story was incredible, not just on a sci-fi/ exploration of space level, but also dealing with growing up, isolation, and what it means to be human and a hero. Romy was one tough cookie; at just 17, she has lost her family and her crew, and is now solely responsible for getting her ship to Earth's next planet/project. And yet she was still so normal - she read and wrote fanfiction, she loved to binge-watch TV, and she liked to bake. I fell in love with Romy almost immediately, she was utterly adorable and very easy to relate to, even though her homework had slightly more dangerous consequences if she didn't learn it!

I won't talk much about what happens with J, I want it to be a surprise. One note though: I really loved it. Romy got her chance to prove herself and be her own hero. All in all, a spectacular book packed with everything from space travel and learning astrophysics to first love and trusting yourself to stand for what you believe in.

Published 7th September 2017 by Walker.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop by Annie Darling


True Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop (Lonely Hearts Bookshop #2)

It's a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in possession of a good job, four bossy sisters and a needy cat must also have want of her one true love. Or is it?

Verity Love – Jane Austen fangirl, manager of London’s first romance-only bookshop Happy Ever, and an introvert in a world of extroverts – is perfectly happy on her own (thank you very much), and quite happy hiding in the office and lying to her friends about her fictional boyfriend Peter, whose presence is very useful for getting her out of social events.

But when a case of mistaken identity forces her to introduce a perfect stranger as her boyfriend, Verity’s life suddenly becomes much more complicated.

Because ‘Peter’ is actually Johnny, and he too could use a fictional girlfriend. So against her better judgement and because she can't stand sitting on the sad singles table, Verity and Johnny decide to partner up for a summer season of weddings, big number birthdays and garden parties, culminating in her sister’s Big Fat Wedding.

And by the end of the summer, there’s a bad case of heartache that even Verity’s beloved Pride And Prejudice might not be able to cure…

This is the sequel/companion novel to The Little Bookshop of Lonely Hearts, this time following the story of Verity, the extremely introverted but none the less lovely manager at the bookshop. It has long been Verity's practice to have a made-up boyfriend to get friends and family off her back, but when Verity's sister and friend follow her, expecting to see the fictional Peter, Verity panics and grabs Johnny.

Over the course of the summer, Verity and Johnny act as each other's plus-ones to social events, being introduced as friends but letting people think what they may - and thus getting them off their backs about sending them on blind dates.

It was so much fun getting to know Verity - all we really saw of her in book one was the shy, quiet and sweet woman who didn't like to get drunk and make out with random guys. But here, we could see how her past influenced her decisions, especially in her social and love life.

Then there was Johnny. He told Verity right off not to fall in love with him because he was in love with someone else. Bit presumptuous but whatever, consider Verity warned. But what Verity didn't know was who he was in love with and why they couldn't be together, and boy was it dramatic! I won't spoil anything but who it turned out to be was clever and hilarious and allowed for some funny and cringey moments. 

Never the less, it was sweet and heart warming to see Verity and Johnny grow closer and begin to trust each other, not just with awkward social situations, but like when Johnny wanted to get out of his unhealthy relationship.

The whole story was equal parts hilarious and adorable, it was the perfect British summer romp and even though they hit several bumps along the way, I'm very glad Verity and Johnny could get over themselves and learn to love again. 

Published 10th August 2017 by Harper. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Tell It To The Moon by Siobhan Curham

Tell it to the MoonTo make a dream come true, tell it to the moon! Tell It to the Moon continues the story of Moonlight Dreamers Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose, who are not like everyone else and don't want to be: becoming friends gives them the courage to be themselves. After failing to find her surrogate mother, Amber is left unsure of who she is and what she wants to do; Maali's spiritual faith is tested when her father becomes ill; Sky, previously home-schooled, struggles to adapt to the pressures of the school system; and after having found the courage to come out, Rose begins to pursue her dream of becoming a patissier. Once again the four girls band together to help one another overcome their individual challenges and fulfill their dreams in this fabulous and heart-warming celebration of friendship.

This takes place a few months after book one and each of the Moonlight Dreamers have something new to overcome. Amber is feeling unsure of her identity after her surrogate mother doesn't want to see her; Sky is going to school for the first time in years and understandably cannot deal with the rigidity of her day; Maali's dad is ill and her faith is failing her; and Rose has realised something about her sexuality

The girls have come back a bit more mature and grown than last time we saw them - as they get older and have to start thinking about the future, they are all realising new dreams to aim for, whether that be to understand where they came from, like Amber, or work hard towards their career, like Rose.

Like the first book, I loved and greatly appreciated the message of friendship and supporting each other in your dreams. For example, when Rose is worried how the girls will take her coming out news, they surprise her by being loving and opening and happy that she can be true to herself. And they all support Maali when her dad's in the hospital, Sky even battling her fear as she hasn't been in a hospital since her mum died.

I adored this story as much as the first one, it was just so uplifting. Even though all of the girls have been through a little bit of hell, in one way or another, they all support and take care of each other and come out the other end better than ever. 

Published 3rd August 2017 by Walker. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both'It's a boy!' or 'It's a girl!' are the first words almost all of us hear when we enter the world. Before our names, before we have likes and dislikes - before we, or anyone else, has any idea who we are. And two years ago, as Juno Dawson went to tell her mother she was (and actually, always had been) a woman, she started to realise just how wrong we've been getting it.

Gender isn't just screwing over trans people, it's messing with everyone. From little girls who think they can't be doctors to teenagers who come to expect street harassment. From exclusionist feminists to 'alt-right' young men. From men who can't cry to the women who think they shouldn't. As her body gets in line with her mind, Juno tells not only her own story, but the story of everyone who is shaped by society's expectations of gender - and what we can do about it.

Featuring insights from well-known gender, feminist and trans activists including Rebecca Root, Laura Bates, Gemma Cairney, Anthony Anaxagorou, Hannah Witton, Alaska Thunderfuck and many more, The Gender Games is a frank, witty and powerful manifesto for a world where what's in your head is more important than what's between your legs.


Part autobiography, part social commentary, Juno writes like we're having a chat over a cup of tea - frank, funny and rude. She looks at all aspects of gender at all stages of life, from first toys through to puberty and experimenting at university, and shows how it screws us up at every turn - limiting our choices, making us victims for bullies, and making us doubt ourselves.

Juno spends a lot of book analysing the media, especially the token female in TV shows and the "strong female character" that is only popular because of physical strength, a typically male attribute. Having grown up in the 90's, Juno had different role models, namely the Spice Girls (as she mentions often). But now, teenagers have a worrying amount of pressure online, from instagram-famous people looking polished and perfect. Many, Juno included, would think that these filtered and cropped photos are something to aspire to, no matter what, and that can be a source to great mental and physical upheaval. Alongside to social commentary of the lack of diverse role models, Juno links all this to her teenage ambition to be famous, for no other reason than "it looked like a lot of fun". 

One of my favourite chapters was where Juno discusses sex and the promiscuity of gay men, having been one and definitely living up to the stereotype! Juno also talks about the concept of virginity and the social construct that is "slut"; as men can sleep around but women apparently can't, this is another way that gender messes with our perceptions of self-worth and sexuality. As a feminist, but also a cis-woman, this chapter, along with "why men need feminism too", meant a lot and also explained a lot about gender stereotypes and different perspectives of how assumptions can harm all genders.

I completely loved this book. Parts might have been a bit uncomfortable or crude, but it was a very funny and clever dissection of how modern society's gender notions whether consciously or not - and how it damages us. Things like male entitlement, segregation in PE lessons (and apparently gendered sport, like rugby and netball) to feminism and diversity in the media, Juno tackled a lot while still remaining funny, clear, a little self-deprecating, and non-judgemental. She makes it clear she can only speak from her own experiences and many others might have different ones, but everyone can learn a little something from her (even if it's just how much she loves the Spice Girls!).

Published 1st June 2017 by Two Roads.

Friday, 11 August 2017

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson

All About MiaOne family, three sisters.
GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student.
AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion.
And MIA, the mess in the middle.

Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers.
When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves.
But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.
 



Mia is the middle child and used to being ignored for her sisters' much better accomplishments - Grace, the eldest, is perfect in every way and A-plus student and set to go to Oxford; Audrey is a champion swimmer and is training for the Olympics. But when Grace comes home suddenly, and pregnant, Mia (and I) find it hilarious and a serious upset to the the natural order.

Mia was such a refreshing character - surprisingly unlikable and yet relatable. I can clearly remember feeling like she did when I was in sixth form, like you had no idea where you wanted to go in life, having no plan and no passion to guide you. She also likes to take the stereotype of teenage angst and turns it up to 11 - when she acts out, she really acts out! 

The shock of Grace acting less than perfect changes their family dynamic and Mia is quick to fill in the void with insane behaviour. Although the Campbell-Richardson's were anything but normal, they were a great family. The parents were trying their hardest to do right by all of their girls and might have struggled with Mia but as it turns out, all three of them sometimes feel excluded from "happy families". 

I adored this story; it was funny and embarrassing and sometimes awful but so very real as Mia crashes through life and learns what her next steps should be as well as finding her true place in the family.  

Published 2nd February 2017 by David Fickling Books.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A Change Is Gonna Come by Mary Bello, et al

A Change Is Gonna ComeFeaturing top Young Adult authors alongside a host of exciting new talent, this anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change is a long-overdue addition to the YA scene. Contributors include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga and Nikesh Shukla.

Plus introducing four fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy.


I always find it difficult to review an anthology, because there are lots of little stories in these pages and all of them were incredible. 

Not only did this introduce me to lots of great new authors, it also spanned a range of very different types of stories, from fantasy to contemporary, romance to poems and everything in between. I really enjoyed all of them, with girls learning about refugees, finding first love and acceptance, overcoming anxiety and battling friends about racism, all the stories covered change and how scary it is sometimes.

Like I said, there were lots of different topics discussed, not just race and diversity - things like OCD and anxiety, empathy, love and being true to yourself. I think this whole anthology is incredibly important to see different stories, different experiences in print, and what it means to want change, whatever scale it's in. 

Published 10th August 2017 by Stripes Publishing. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Weekly Highlights: the 'August TBR' edition


Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things!

God, August already? That means summer's half way over! It's been a pretty amazing summer so far, with days out and of course comic con last weekend! Coming up for August is more of the same as I get ready for the new term at work. 

On The Blog
Review of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon 
Review of The Crash by Lisa Drakeford
Review of City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C Anderson
Review of Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Review of The Girls Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski
Interview with Siobhan Curham
Review of The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

Currently Reading
At time of writing, I'm reading Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race, which was recommended by Alyce. Although a difficult subject, especially the history section, I'm really enjoying it.

On My Bookshelf
Tell it to the MoonTell It to the Moon by Siobhan Curham
To make a dream come true, tell it to the moon! Tell It to the Moon continues the story of Moonlight Dreamers Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose, who are not like everyone else and don't want to be: becoming friends gives them the courage to be themselves. After failing to find her surrogate mother, Amber is left unsure of who she is and what she wants to do; Maali's spiritual faith is tested when her father becomes ill; Sky, previously home-schooled, struggles to adapt to the pressures of the school system; and after having found the courage to come out, Rose begins to pursue her dream of becoming a patissier. Once again the four girls band together to help one another overcome their individual challenges and fulfill their dreams in this fabulous and heart-warming celebration of friendship.

I've already read this, it came out this week and I couldn't wait! The sequel to The Moonlight Dreamers, we follow the four girls as they encounter more drama and need each other to lean on. Thank you Walker, my review will be up soon!

The Fandom by Anna Day
The FandomCosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands ...

A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction.

Ahh, I am beyond excited for this! Cosplay, nerdy things and sudden magical lands - yes please! Thank you Chicken House!

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
There's Someone Inside Your HouseOne-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.
 
International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.


Although so different from her other books, I'm really looking forward to this creepy thriller - thank you Macmillan and Netgalley!

I also got The House of Secrets by Sarra Manning and The One We Fell In Love With by Paige Toon, because they were on offer and sounded awesome. Links to Goodreads.

And then: behold my yalc haul! I think I did pretty well: I didn't go overboard (learning from my mistake last year when I broke my shoulder muscles!) and I also got some great books! I've already read The Loneliest Girl, sped through it actually, and am planning on reading the rest sooner rather than later.

August TBR
At time of writing, I don't have any review books to read urgently, so my TBR is pretty open - which I am very happy with! As I said, I am very excited for the books I got at yalc so those are probably going to be first up. Any ideas of what I should read next?

Friday, 4 August 2017

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas


The State of Grace

Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.

Grace has Asperger's and her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more. 

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own.


Grace has had to learn on her feet, struggling through life and its ever-changing rules, when her autism means she sees and is affected by things very differently. She also can't pick up social cues, which is a typical autistic trait, so when things happened (like her mum's sudden need to have a life outside of home, her little sister acting weird with her best friend), they seemed to happen with no warning and Grace struggled to deal with it. 

Personally, I think this was very apt; from my experience dating someone with autism, they don't think about anyone outside their little bubble - my fiancé once explained it to me that once I'm not in the vicinity of him anymore, it's as if I cease to exist, he just doesn't think about me (that was years ago, so I'm not longer insulted!). 

Grace was such an amazing character - she was used to being defined by her autism and just desperately wanted to fit in, to be ignored by the mean girls that tease her. She also had an incredible friendship with Anna, who used to her quirks and knew not to push her. Anna was a calming and steady influence when everything else seemed to be falling around her, and for that Grace was very grateful. 

Now, the romance. I really liked them, it was real and endearing. Gabe was her first crush, it's adorable and new, but he just seemed a bit meh. Maybe because they were all 15 and nothing happened to them yet... But it was sweet and a little bit funny to see how Grace dealt with having someone new in her life. 

I had a lovely chat with Rachael at YALC about communicating with autistic people, as I've had 10 years with one of them and I'm still learning! What I loved and especially appreciated about this story, and I told Rachael this, was how realistic the autistic voice seemed to me. This is exactly how my fiancé acted when we were teenagers, still does a bit now, and having a protagonist with autism will explain the spectrum to a much larger audience.

Published 6th April 2017 by Macmillan Children's. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Q and A with Siobhan Curham

Tell it to the MoonToday I have a very special guest: Siohban Curham is here to answer a few questions about her books The Moonlight Dreamers and its sequel Tell It To The Moon, which is out today! You can check out my review for The Moonlight Dreamers here.

Take it away Siobhan!

1 – Might be an obvious start but why focus on female friendship in The Moonlight Dreamers?
Mainly because I’m such a fan of female friendship and I wanted to create a series that celebrated the great things that can be achieved when women or girls come together to support each other in being true to themselves and pursuing their dreams. I also wanted to create something that challenged the culture of bitchiness and comparison that’s encouraged in certain parts of the press and media. That being said, I didn’t want to paint some rosy-tinted world where nothing bad ever happens. In both The Moonlight Dreamers and Tell it to the Moon certain friendships are tested and challenges need to be overcome.

2 – Were there any inspirations, real or fictional, for the girls’ characters?
I was inspired to create Rose’s character by observing the way the kids of celebrities are flung into their parents’ spotlight. It can be hard enough growing up in the relative privacy of a non-celebrity world, but when your parents are famous and you end up becoming famous as an extension it must be really hard. Through Rose I wanted to show the negative side of the celebrity bubble. I was inspired to create Maali for two reasons, firstly, to try and offer some ethnic and spiritual diversity – there seem to be very few religious characters in YA fiction – but I was also drawing upon some of my own personal experiences as a hopeless romantic! With Amber I wanted to create someone who doesn’t want to squeeze herself to fit into any of society’s so-called norms. Someone who likes dressing in vintage men’s clothing and is pretty much asexual. But it was equally important to me to not make too big of a deal of this – as I don’t think it is a big deal. I wish everyone was free to live and dress exactly as they wish, without being judged. And Sky is probably the most like me, with her hippy lifestyle and love of writing.

3 – Other than Oscar Wilde, what books do you think the girls should or do take inspiration from?
I would say that they’d take inspiration from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clariss Pinkola Estees. And any books that celebrate female friendship, like The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

4 – Was there a book that made you want to write?
As a child the first book that made me realise how powerful words and stories can be was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – I cried my eyes out when I thought Aslan had died. As a teen, reading The Catcher in the Rye made me realise how powerful a character’s voice can be. And, as an adult, I was really inspired to finally begin writing by an author called Lisa Jewell because I loved the characters she created and how the worlds of her books are so vividly drawn they’re almost characters in their own right.

5 – Finally, what did you dream about as a teenager?
Apart from a brief spell when I wanted to be a forensic scientist – after becoming hooked on a TV show called Quincy – I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. Sadly, when I got to university to study English Literature and Screen-writing as part of that dream, I had a crisis of confidence and dropped out. Coming from a poor background on a council estate I didn’t think I had what it took to be a part of the middle class world of writing. Thankfully, I proved myself wrong and I’ve now written twenty-three books – under my own name and as a ghost-writer. This is why I feel so passionately about encouraging young people to dare to dream – I don’t want them to make the same mistake I did.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Girl's Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowksi

The Girl's Guide to SummerSydney Aarons is leaving her Manhattan townhouse for a summer backpacking around Europe with her best friend, Leela. They're visiting London, France, Italy, Switzerland and everywhere in between - it's going to be the trip of a lifetime.

BUT... The trip gets off to a bad start when Leela's ex-boyfriend shows up on their flight out of JFK. When they touch down in London, Leela Instagrams their every move in the hope Matt will come and find them... Which he does, along with the most gorgeous guy Sydney has ever seen.

Will Sydney's summer fling last the distance? And what will happen when they all head home?


Sydney is used to looking after her mother, who suffers from anxiety and agoraphobia, but she is assured that her trip to Europe with her best friend will go ahead as planned. It doesn't stop Syd worrying about her mum though, or her younger sister who should be looking after her.

Then of course there's the added drama of finding out that Leela's ex Matt is on their plane and planning the same trip (as it was supposed to be Leela and Matt's holiday before they broke up). So Leela is both angry and desperate to rub his face in her being over him, even though she isn't, and drags Syd through a lot of emotional turmoil. And then there's Matt's friend Jackson, apparently renowned man-whore, who is often left with Syd when Matt and Leela go off and fight/have make-up sex. Whichever. 

I can always count on Sarah for a very funny and memorable story, usually involving lots of kissing and leaning on friends. The girls (and sometimes the boys) take us across Europe, all the good and major cities, hitting the tourist traps and enjoying local fun - Amsterdam needs no explanation! It was lovely seeing all the different places, how the atmosphere and the character's enjoyment depended on where they were and who they were with. 

It was also a great mix of  road trip fun and mental health awareness, as Syd worries over her family, has a panic attack climbing the stairs in the Eiffel Tower, and has a huge row with Leela over the guys. All in all, a fantastic story - classic road trip fun, with hot boys, good friends and life lessons learned.

Published 15th July 2017 by Orchard Books. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.