Tuesday, October 17, 2017

REVIEW: Truth or Dare by Non Pratt

I found Truth or Dare by Non Pratt to be really quite an intriguing book.  I've read and loved Non Pratt's previous books but still Truth or Dare seemed to be somewhat of a surprise.  Perhaps the element of surprise came with the dual perspective structure of the novel?  We get Claire's version first then flip the book to read Sef's perspective.  I think having this structure to the story made me feel a little bit more on edge towards whatever might be at the climax of the novel.  It worked for me for sure!

At the heart of Truth or Dare seems to be what limits there are when you love someone?  How far is too far?  Claire and Sef as main characters to this story are hugely relate able right from the start.  I really felt for them both and for what they're going through both individually and together. 

Claire has recently been made the centre of attention after a wardrobe malfunction was made public in her school and as a result she shies away from the limelight.  However, she still decides the risk to spend time with Sef and to help him and his brother is worth it.  Sef, meanwhile, is struggling to find a way to raise the money to help care for his recently disabled older brother.  He decides to play to his strengths and to start a YouTube channel.  Together with Claire, they dress up as superheroes and either answer embarrassing truths or do dares that range between silly and more dangerous.

As I already mentioned, the differing perspectives really add to the story.  Claire's view of events varies to Sef's and I found that really added depth to the story.  I loved reading about the many ways that social media play a role in teenagers' lives.  There's the good: finding a way to raise money for a good cause, like a neuro-disability charity; and the not so good: the sharing of a mishap with Claire's bikini that leads of bullying and sexual harassment. As someone who uploads to YouTube myself, I definitely loved that inclusion of this aspect to the story. 

I also just loved Claire and Sef. Just on the pages of this book, Sef oozes sex appeal and charm and I think I fell half in love with him same as Claire. But in Sef's part of the book you can tell that there really is more going on with him and in his life as his family struggles with their new situation and also Sef struggles in coming to terms with his brother's disability. 

I thought Truth or Dare was a lovely book.  A great look at teenage life, friendship, love, social media.  It was a book that kept me gripped all the way through and my eyes were stinging from the tears I shed by the end. 

Monday, October 16, 2017

REVIEW: Sawbones by Catherine Johnson

I absolutely adored Sawbones by Catherine Johnson.  It's historical fiction, which isn't an area of YA that I read extensively within so I can sometimes be a little bit wary of reading so very much outside of my comfort zone.  However, I really enjoyed another historical story by the same author so I thought I'd give Sawbones a chance as well.  And I'm so glad that I did.  When I read this book earlier this year it was definitely my favourite book I'd read all month and it's just one of those stories that I felt myself thinking about long after I'd finished it.  I'm really looking forward to the sequel.

The main story line in Sawbones follows Ezra McAdam, this teenage boy, who is a surgical apprentice in London in 1792. Ezra is a fantastic character.  He really pulled at my heartstrings.  He's a very knowledgeable and capable 16 year old who is set to have a great future ahead of him being the apprentice to a well-respected surgeon.  However, things end up going very badly wrong for him when a failed break-in attempt means that Ezra is caught up in a string of odd events and he is put into the path of Loveday Finch, who is after questions about the sudden death of her father.  What follows is a fast-paced detective story with some crazy twists and turns. 

There were so many elements to this story that I just absolutely adored.  I thought all of the characterisation was really strong: I loved both Ezra and Loveday as well as their fraught friendship.  I thought Ezra's relationship with the surgeon to whom he is apprenticed was very sweet, if at times to Ezra uncertain.   I loved the exploration of different areas of London during this time period, from operating theatres and markets.  But my all-time favourite is every gruesome and horrifying fact thrown in about surgical practices during 1792.  I couldn't tear my eyes away from the pages when the topic of dissections and amputations and just general medical practices of this time and the ways in which knowledge is imparted.  It was all utterly fascinating to me. 

I was so swept up in this story, in these characters and in this snapshot of what life would have been like.  I really cannot wait to read what happens next.  And as I own the sequel already, I won't have to wait! If you haven't already read Sawbones I really do highly recommend it!

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

September Wrap-Up

Well, that's it. September is long gone.  This post is well late, but no apologies from me.  It's been an interesting month, September.  I had a lot going on.  The start of secondary school for E, N and I have been changing things about in the house, I got a job for the first time in over a decade.  So something had to give for a bit and that thing was blogging.  I don't regret it though.  I do hope that I'll find my rhythm again soon enough and get back into it because, you know? I quite enjoy blogging.

Here are the books I read during September and a small recap of other blog posts and how well I'm doing in my reading challenges.

Books read in September

1. Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt
2. Teaching My Mother To Give Birth by Warsan Shire
3. Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest
4. The Haunting by Alex Bell
5. Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire
6. If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
7. The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
8. A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke
9. This Book Will (Help You) Change the World by Sue Turton
10. Electric Dreams by Philip K. Dick
11. This Book Will (Help You) Change the World by Sue Turton
12. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
13. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord
14. Dumplin' by Julie Murphy
15. Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt
16. Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green
17. The Museum of Heartbreak by Meg Leder
18. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
19. This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton

Total read in September: 19
Total read in 2017: 101

19 books read during the month of September, not bad.  A few LGBT YA books in there (If You Could Be Mine, Georgia Peaches and other Forbidden Fruit and Noah Can't Even), LOTS of UKYA, some horror, plenty of surprises.  It was a really great reading month for me.

But what was my favourite...?

September Book of the month

A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke

There were some strong contenders for my favourite book of the month, but the one I read and ...constantly thought about after I'd finished reading was A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke.  I was mesmerised throughout this book and needed to know what would happen next.

Books reviewed in September

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga
History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton

I ...stopped blogging and (more specifically) writing reviews mid-September. I just couldn't bring myself to do it anymore. And now I'm roughly 27 reviews behind because I kept reading during all that time. Whoops. Maybe one day I'll catch up? 
Other posts in September

Books I Struggle With
A Disney Education
Feminist Literature + TBR
New Additions to my Netgalley Shelf

I had so many plans for blogging during this month too. Oh well.

Booktube videos in September

None, boo.

My progress in reading challenges:

British Books Challenge

Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire
Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest
The Haunting by Alex Bell
Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
A Shiver of Snow and Sky by Lisa Lueddecke
This Book Will (Help You) Change the World by Sue Turton
Unconventional by Maggie Harcourt
Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green
This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton

Total in September: 10
Total in 2017: 43

10 books by British authors read in September. I'd say that's pretty good going. There is some real talent coming out of this country, I'm telling you. I loved so many of these books. 
Read My Own Books 

Teaching My Mother How To Give Birth by Warsan Shire
Let Them Eat Chaos by Kate Tempest
If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

I was killin' it, reading my own books in September. Well done to me. It feels pretty good clearing my TBR shelves, actually. I might just keep up with it. 


This Book Will (Help You) Change the World by Sue Turton

I didn't do AS WELL with my Netgalley reading this month, but you win some, you lose some. What are you going to do?

What have you been reading and loving in September?

Monday, September 11, 2017

REVIEW: If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton

I absolutely ADORED If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton! It was so fun and funny and sexy and empowering and I absolutely loved every second of it.  I'm no stranger to Keris Stainton's stories (I've read almost all of them!) but this is her adult debut and I was seriously impressed with it.

I did not know very much about the book before I sat down to read it.  All I knew about it, really, was that it was meant to be funny.  So it came as a major shock when the actual plot line of If You Could See Me Now was revealed. Because the plot summary I read (after it happens I went back to read the plot summary!) makes absolutely no mention of The Thing That Happens.  So I won't mention it either. But ...I was very surprised.  It's a bit weird, isn't it?

I loved Izzy as the main character.  She's incredibly relate-able. I felt very much like Izzy in so many aspects of my life.  Izzy is in a relationship with a man who doesn't treat her right, she's lacking in self confidence which means she's unsure if she should go for this promotion at work, she doesn't stand up to (nor does she know how to stand up to) the sexual harassment she faces on a daily basis.  And it makes absolute sense that Izzy should feel absolutely invisible and inconsequential in her own life.

But then things begin to change.  And I loved seeing the transformation of Izzy in this book.   With the help of her best friend and good-looking intern at work, Alex, Izzy is able to break up with her shit boyfriend and dives into this really important pitch at work that could land her that promotion.  Honestly, what I loved about this book more than anything is that there was combination of it being hugely funny at the same time as it being really feminist.

But I also really loved the relationships. I loved the friendship between Izzy and her best friend and the way the two women were totally in support of each other during a time that's stressful for the both of them.  Women friendships are something I'll always cheer about.  I think Izzy and Alex have so much chemistry, their zing was delicious to read.

But in the end, it's Izzy and her relationship and view of herself that was the main sell for me.  She's amazing and she makes me realise we're all amazing and we should all strive for the best in our own lives.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

New Additions To My Netgalley Shelf

So, this has become sort of a regular feature on this blog.  I like to closely keep track of the books on my Netgalley shelves and what I need to be reading and reviewing in order to maintain my high feedback ratio percentage.  And I do that pretty well.  But I'd noticed that I rarely remembered to share during my book haul videos (on my booktube channel) the new e-books that I've accumulated over time.  So I'll do that here on my blog.  I hope you find this enjoyable?

The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles

An incandescent, soul-searching story about a broken young woman's search for a truth buried so deep it threatens to consume her, body and mind.

'Since I blacked out, the slightest thing seems to aggravate my brain and fill it with fire'

These are the things Lux knows:
She is an Artist.
She is lucky.
She is broken.

These are the things she doesn't know:
What happened over the summer.
Why she ended up in hospital.
Why her memories are etched in red.

'The nightmares tend to linger long after your screams have woken you up ...'

Desperate to uncover the truth, Lux's time is running out. If she cannot piece together the events of the summer and regain control of her fractured mind, she will be taken away from everything and everyone she holds dear.

If her dreams don't swallow her first.

I don't remember where I first heard of The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles but I love the idea of reading more about mental health issues and ...synathaesia? and the cherry on top is that it's by a UKYA author.  So I'm pretty excited for this one! 

This Book Will (Help You) Change the World by Sue Turton

Protest injustice.
Campaign for change.
Vote for your future.

Featuring contributions from C4 anchor Jon Snow, Avaaz.com founder Jeremy Heimans, leader of Hong Kong's Umbrella Revolution Joshua Wong and more, this is the powerhouse guide to politics and activism you've been waiting for.

Award-winning journalist Sue Turton explains the political system that rules our daily lives while also pointing out its flaws - and empowers readers to change the status quo. Disrupt the system from within by joining political parties or inspire change through protest. Either way, this guide shows you how to avoid fake news, triumph in debates and grab the spotlight so your campaign can change the world.

Includes hilarious tongue-in-cheek illustrations from activist-illustrator Alice Skinner.

I saw this awhile back on Netgalley actually, immediately requested it and at the time it didn't have a 'send to kindle' option so I let the publisher know I wouldn't be reading it or reviewing it and I added it to my Amazon wish list instead. Randomly, exploring Netgalley the other day meant that I was able to see that this book now has a Kindle option.  So hurrah for me. I love the idea of this book, I'd love for my young people to be politically aware and do what can be done for social justice. 

Trans Mission by Alex Bertie
Being a teenager is difficult enough, but having to go through puberty whilst realising you're in the wrong body means dealing with a whole new set of problems: bullying, self-doubt and in some cases facing a physical and medical transition.
Alex is an ordinary teenager: he likes pugs, donuts, retro video games and he sleeps with his socks on. He's also transgender, and was born female. He's been living as a male for the past few years and he has recently started his physical transition.
Throughout this book, Alex will share what it means to be in his shoes, as well as his personal advice to other trans teens. Above all, he will show you that every step in his transition is another step towards happiness. This is an important and positive book, a heart-warming coming-of-age memoir with a broad appeal.
Trans Mission was a bit of a whim request, but I like to support LGBT+ stories and narratives when I can.  I like the idea of more trans voices, I'm looking forward to this one. 

36 Questions that Changed My Mind About You by Vicki Grant

Two random strangers. Thirty-six questions to make them fall in love. 

Hildy and Paul each have their own reasons for taking part in the psychology study (in Paul's case it is the $40, in Hildy's the reasons are significantly more complex). The study poses the simple question: Can love be engineered between two random strangers?

Hildy and Paul must ask each other 36 questions, ranging from "What is your most terrible memory?" to "When did you last sing to yourself?" By the time Hildy and Paul have made it to the end of the questionnaire, they've laughed and cried and lied and thrown things and run away and come back again. They've also each discovered the painful secret the other was trying so hard to hide. But have they fallen in love?

I read the article that this book is based on and I've read another book that followed the same concept. Still, it's an intriguing idea and I like the idea of reading more contemporary love stories so I'm sure this book won't stay unread on my Kindle for long.

What books have you been downloading from Netgalley lately? 

Friday, September 08, 2017

Feminist Literature + TBR

One of the things that I've most enjoyed in my reading throughout 2017 is this exploration into other types of literature outside of YA.  I love YA, I'll always love YA, but there's so much fun and excitement in reading other types of literature too.  One of the ways in which I've broadened my reading this year is by reading more feminist non-fiction.

I think I've always had an interest in reading more feminist types of books and narratives but it's only been during this year that I've really made a concerted effort to educate myself a little bit more and to find the types of books that I wanted to read on this subject.  I'm not vastly knowledgeable nor have I read everything I possibly can so far ... but what I do want to do is continue reading more.  Here are some of the books that I have read this year and also some of the books I'd like to read in the near future.


Men Explain Things To Me by Rebecca Solnit

Eat Sweat Play by Anna Kessel

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Nasty Women by 404 Ink

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton

I've really enjoyed the books I've read this year.  All of the above are non-fiction books apart from the adult novel by Keris Stainton but which I've included because it is such a feminist and empowering novel.  I started off the year reading essays by Rebecca Solnit and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which I found really inspiring and which I believe ultimately kick-started this whole idea.  The strength of the words in Rebecca Solnit's essays in particular were absolutely fascinating and really spurred me on to reading more.  And I just think Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is just a goddess in general and I need to read every word she's written. The book by Anna Kessel was such a huge surprise to me, because I didn't really think I'd enjoy it as much as I did.  It's a book about women and sport and I've always been the sort of person who felt like 'it doesn't count' my interest in sport but Anna Kessel really changed my mind while reading her book.  I found reading Nasty Women to be interesting but like with any anthology with an array of contributors I liked some essays better than others.  And Everyday Sexism just broke my heart with statistics and personal experiences in the modern day.


(I've only included books on this list that I already own in a physical copy or digitally on my Kindle)

Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Girl Up by Laura Bates

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

I Call Myself A Feminist by Victoria Pepe

Asking For It by Louise O'Neill

Whereas my 'Read' section felt very samey in that they were mostly all non-fiction, my feminist TBR pile has a little more variety to it.  I feel like I'll be more comfortable reading the YA books: Moxie has been garnering lots of positive feedback having been chosen for the Zoella book club, I'm looking forward to (continuing to) reading Things A Bright Girl Can Do about suffragettes, and I've put off reading Asking For It for way too long that I'm almost embarrassed. The Power is, of course, a dystopian story about women having the power to kill at their fingertips but it's a little outside my comfort zone.  The Geek Feminist Revolution and I Call Myself a Feminist are both collections of essays so should be easy to dip in and out of.  And I know very little about Girls Will Be Girls or Girl Up.

I like the idea of continually reading more feminist stories. I'll definitely be looking for suggestions of what other titles to read or look out for.  Do let me know!

What are some of your favourite feminist reads lately?

Thursday, September 07, 2017

REVIEW: History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

Oh this book absolutely broke me.  There's such a sense of intensity in this book, so much so that I ended up needing breaks to just recover from how very sad or beautiful or honest it all felt.  I love books like this that make me feel so entirely.  History Is All You Left by Adam Silvera was such a heart-breaker of a book about love and friendship and grief.  I loved every second of it.

History Is All You Left Me is told in two parts.  The first part is in the past where the main character, Griffin, tells us of the progression in his relationship with Theo: from best friend, to boyfriend and eventually to ex-boyfriend.  This part of the story was so sweet and romantic and is filled with so much adorableness.  The second part tells us Griffin's reactions to the tragic death of Theo and the ways in which he deals with his grief.  Obviously these sections made me feel like my heart was being forcibly ripped out of my chest as the reader ends up mourning this huge loss together with Griffin.

I think what I loved so much about this book is how much Adam Silvera made me feel about all of the characters.  I ended up falling in love with both Theo (through Griffin's perspective) and also with Griffin.  I felt really emotionally connected to both these characters right from the start and I thought it was really skillfully done.  So much of the book is about remembering the details of this past relationship but also trying to work out a way in which to move on and dealing with tremendous emotions, especially those of guilt that Griffin feels.

The introduction of Jackson, Theo's new (and current at the time of Theo's death) boyfriend complicates everything further.  Because Griffin is sort of lost in his own grief and the only person who he feels understands that specific feeling is Jackson.  So while there are elements of competition (who feels stronger for Theo, who might Theo have loved more, who knew Theo better than the other) they end forming this rather odd and very unlikely friendship.

This book says quite a lot about relationships and the ways in which friendships and relationships vary wildly from different people and how they really aren't comparable in any way.  I loved the nerdiness of the boys involved and I love the ways in which Griffin and Theo's relationship impacts on the friendship with their other best friend.  Also, major bonus points for including a main character who is both gay and suffers from OCD. Intersectional stories make my heart happy.

History Is All You Left Me was such an incredible story: sad, beautiful and emotional.  I can't wait to read more by Adam Silvera.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

A Disney Education

Earlier this year, our family went to Disneyland. I haven't really talked about it on this blog, have I?  It was a really wonderful holiday and we all had an amazing time.  But before we went and while we were there, the boys had said some really appalling things ... like they'd never seen certain Disney films. Disney films that I felt were classics. And must be viewed by everyone everywhere.

So I reinstated my 'Disney education' in which once a week, the boys and I would sit down and watch a Disney film together. Something preferably that at least one of us hadn't seen before.  Some films can be a bit of a struggle (E in particular heavily resisted watching The Little Mermaid with me!) but it's been mostly a success.  I thought today I'd share with you some of my thoughts on some of the films we've watched as a family together recently.

The Lady and the Tramp

The first film we chose was The Lady and the Tramp.  I'd seen this film but N and the boys hadn't.  But to be honest, all I really remembered was that there was some reason (but I couldn't remember the reason!) that Lady left her house, met up with the Tramp and they had the spaghetti and meatballs together. That was it, that was all I remembered.  So it was kind of like watching the film for the first time all over again.  It was sweet.  I liked the two neighbour dogs, I was a little surprised by the whole baby story line (but it made sense!) I was actually a little scared/horrified by the rat angle and also the creepy/horrific Siamese cats and their weird dance.  So, all in all, it was a sweet film.  Nice to watch again.

Sleeping Beauty

I can't remember who in the family hadn't seen Sleeping Beauty but this was our second choice.  I believe I had watched this film very recently so most of the details of it didn't surprise me.  I think the thing with this film is that it's now so tainted by having watched Maleficent.  It's really changed my perspective! Especially in regards to the flightiness of the fairies.   It's a classic Disney princess film but of course I'd prefer a more feminist version where Princess Aurora and ...the prince spoke more often etc. Still, the whole pink dress/blue dress made me smile.


Mulan is one of my favourites.  I think it was N who hadn't seen this film before? But I love it so much.  The songs in this are wonderful. I love Reflections, I'll Make a Man Out of You, and Girl Worth Fighting For especially. Plus, Li Shang? What a hottie. It's all about honour and gender but the boys loved the fighting and the dragon.  Something for everyone.  BRB I'm going to go listen to the soundtrack again...


Oh good lord, Pocahontas. I'm sure that I'd seen this film as a teenager when it was first released but I think all I actually remembered of it was a snippet of Pocahontas singing Colors of the Wind ...and that was it.  And it being several weeks now since I've seen it, honestly nothing about the film sticks out for me or makes me watch another watch.  I hated all the songs, I didn't love the simplified version of events.  I was mostly just enraged by it all.  I think the boys wandered off mid-film as well.  Not a family favourite in our house, unfortunately.


Hercules was the biggest surprise for me, because I had never seen it before.  I don't know how I missed it when it was first released but I'm absolutely positive I had never seen this film before the other day.  The Littlest had. He's seen it three times and seemingly enjoyed it all three times.  I was mostly just surprised all the way through.  I don't know very much about Hercules or Greek mythology and I sure didn't know what to expect from this film.  It was cute though. There were bits I didn't quite get, like the gospel choir, but it definitely kept everyone amused throughout. So I call that a success!

No idea what to choose next for our Disney education.  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Books I Struggle With

This will be kind of a different type of Top Ten Tuesday from me today.  Only I've been thinking quite a lot about the ways in which my reading habits have changed and the types of books I really love reading and the types of books that languish on my shelves. And as today's topic is 'books you struggle with' I thought I'd explore that a little bit more.

So what I've come to realise is that the types of books that I really enjoy reading are emotional contemporary stories. This can be dark, gritty emotional or intense, romantic stories, 'issue' stories, family or friendship dramas.  I'm just all about emotional stories set in realistic settings. Therefore the books I struggle with are anything outside of this.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

Fantasy Books

Like, fantasy books.  I recently cleared out an entire shelf of fantasy books that I had hoarded over the last year or so but when I really asked myself if I was even excited to read these books anymore ... my answer was a firm 'no'  I do still have some fantasy books on my shelves unread that I haven't quite gotten around to abandoning yet.  Mostly by big-name fantasy authors.  A Court of Mist and Fury and A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare. The Sleeping Prince by Melinda Salisbury. Will I get around to reading these books at some point? Possibly.  Is it more likely they will be donated to a local secondary school? Yes. But we shall see.


I also struggle with science-fiction books.  But unlike fantasy books, I'm much more inclined to abandon science-fiction books, therefore there aren't as many books on my unread shelves that fall into this category.  I think the only book I'm aware of that counts as science-fiction on my shelves unread right now is The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James.  And I am hoping that I'll read that by the end of this month.  I hear good things but that doesn't always mean that it'll be enough.  I hope so though!

Middle Grade books

The other largest collection of books that are unread on my shelves include books aimed at sort of 8-12 year olds.  I think sometimes I hold onto these books thinking that I'll read them with the boys but usually that's just wishful thinking.  I have books I'm still excited to read amongst them though: Beetle Boy by MG Leonard, The Dreamsnatcher by Abi Elphinstone and some classics like A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.  I'm not giving up though.

Funny Books

This one might be a little strange but ...I struggle with funny books.  Usually the type of book that's really awkward about the funniness. Like ... Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green or Super Awkward by Beth Garrod. I have to be in the exact right frame of mind to get into these types of books and I really just don't think they're right for me.  I lean more towards intensity and these books are all about humour and light-heartedness.  Not to say I won't read these books and love them ... eventually. Hopefully.

What books do you struggle with, if any?

Monday, September 04, 2017

REVIEW: Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

I absolutely adored Jasmine Warga's debut novel, My Heart and Other Black Holes, so when her latest, Here We Are Now dropped through my letterbox, I didn't wait very long before reading it.  Even though it isn't published until early November.  I just felt drawn to this story and the author's writing style.

It's such a wonderful book, this one. Taliah Abdallat gets the biggest surprise of her life when she opens the door one day to find Julian Oliver, rock star, standing in front of her house.  It shouldn't be such a surprise: he is her father. She's just never met him before.  But still she decides to get in the car with him and jet off on this long weekend to finally meet her dad and the rest of his family.

I love how this book is about family and identity and missing chances.  But it's also about friendship and love, as we get a glimpse into Taliah's parents' early relationship and what led to Taliah not knowing her father at all.  We see Taliah and Julian try to bond with each other as father and daughter. We see Julian struggle in saying goodbye to his dying father. It's all sorts of complicated family drama and I was here for all of it.

There's this lovely stream of music and music references throughout this story that I just really loved.  From the music lyrics of some of Julian Oliver's songs to the idea of Taliah and her best friend Harlow making their own music together. Everyone's music influences being mentioned and explored.  Despite having a pretty poor taste in music myself and having no musical talent whatsoever, I still find myself pulled like a magnet towards books involving music and Here We Are Now really satisfied that for me.

What I also really loved is getting into the skin of Taliah's mother, an immigrant from Jordan, and to really see how things were for her moving to the US for university.  Being home-sick, juggling her parent's expectations with her own hopes and dreams.  There was some really beautiful truths in this part of the story.  I don't want to copy the text as the book I read from was an ARC and could be changed by the time the actual book is published but the main gist of it was that you have to want more, everything if you move halfway around the world, away from family and friends and your home, in order to find something else. That one small section of the story really struck a chord with me. I could really relate to that.

This book is also a book about second and third and fourth chances.  In relationships, with family, in life.  It seems everyone involved is sort of stuck on this idea that they'd messed up in the past or didn't do things as they probably should have. But there's no time like the present to make up for it. Here We Are Now.

I loved this book and highly recommend you look out for it in November!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

August Wrap-Up

It's September! September. Already. How did that happen? I haven't loved 2017 in general but I'm still not sure if I'm ready for the year to be nearly over at the same time. Still, enough angsting over the passage of time.  Here is a round-up of the books I've read this year and the different blog posts I've written, videos I've uploaded and how well I'm doing in my reading challenges. Enjoy.

Books read in August

1. See How They Lie by Sue Wallman
2. Mind the Gap by Phil Earle
3. Passing For White by Tanya Landman
4. Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga
5. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
6. If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton
7. Ferryman by Claire McFall
8. Sawbones by Catherine Johnson
9. Truth or Dare by Non Pratt
10. #NotYourPrincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
11. The Crash by Lisa Drakeford
12. The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
13. Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
14. Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson
15. Selected Poems by Galway Kinnell
16. Wishbones by Virginia Macgregor
17. A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
18. Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle
19. The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

Total read in August: 19
Total read in 2017: 83

That's quite a lot of books read in August. I'm really pleased. Early on in the month I tweeted that I hadn't read that many books by POC authors and I made a bit of a point reading more by them.  Adam Silvera, Jasmine Warga, Catherine Johnson, the anthology #NotYourPrincess and The Good Immigrant, and Alex Wheatle.  All of these books made August reading pretty amazing. There was some really awesome writing in there.  I also wanted to finish up some non-fiction books that I'd started earlier on in the year but never completed, which is why I have The Power of Habit, Everday Sexism and Furiously Happy on this list.  

But what was my favourite book I read all month...?

August Book of the month

Sawbones by Catherine Johnson

I really loved quite a few books that I read in August. It was a really strong reading month.  But Sawbones by Catherine Johnson just really captured my imagination. I loved the characters, I loved the setting, I loved all the medical procedures. I read this book utterly excited and captivated and I wanted to read more.  I'm thrilled to have the sequel already so as to not have to wait very much longer.

Books reviewed in August

A Change Is Gonna Come by Various

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas
None of the Above by IW Gregorio
Geekerella by Ashley Poston
Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch
Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined by Danielle Younge-Ullman
Mind the Gap by Phil Earle and Passing For White by Tanya Landman
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

It makes me happy to see a decent size collection of reviews for this month. And an interesting selection of titles too.  They are all contemporary except one lone historical novel (Passing For White by Tanya Landman) but that's not so surprising, is it?  

Other posts in August

#YALC Books on My Radar
July Wrap-Up
Ayisha Malik on A Refuge for A Change Is Gonna Come
New Additions to My Netgalley Shelf
Why Representation Matters To Me
Ferryman by Claire McFall Extract
Semi-regular Giveaway
Top Ten Tuesday Back To School
Reading With My Boys

A Coming Out Post
Saying Goodbye
Weight Loss

Allllll the non-review blog posts during the month of August. These are my favourite types of blog posts to write so it was very fun this month. My favourite blog posts to write this month included Reading With My Boys and Why Representation Matters To Me. My most well-received post? A Coming Out Post.

Booktube videos in August

LGBT YA Mini-reviews
Super Quick Book Haul
Poetry Haul
September TBR

A decent showing for booktube videos this month. I'm hoping to at least maintain this amount if not do slightly better in the upcoming months. We'll see.

My progress in reading challenges:

British Books Challenge

See How They Lie by Sue Wallman
Mind the Gap by Phil Earle
Passing For White by Tanya Landman
If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton
Ferryman by Claire McFall
Sawbones by Catherine Johnson
Truth or Dare by Non Pratt
The Crash by Lisa Drakeford
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
Wishbones by Virgina Macgregor
Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle
The Good Immigrant edited by Nikesh Shukla

Total in August: 12
Total in 2017: 33

Ooh. I had no intention at the beginning of the month to read this many books by British authors. It was just a happy coincidence. A couple historical novels, two non-fiction titles, a lone paranormal romance (!!) It's an interesting collection of books, that's for sure.

Read My Own Books 

Selected Poems by Galway Kinnell
Finally! I've finally read one of my own books this month.  I can't remember the last time that's happened.  This is a recent purchase and this section was originally put into my monthly wrap-ups in order to bully me into reading older books I'd bought myself and put off reading.  Still, I'm counting this. 


If You Could See Me Now by Keris Stainton
#NotYourPrincess edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

What have you been reading and loving in August?

Monday, August 28, 2017

REVIEW: Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan was an amazing story to read. I knew it would be.  I've loved everything by Crossan that I've read so far and there's just something about her verse novels that resonate with me on such a personal level.  Something about the way she writes and puts words together really manages to shred away at my heart.

Moonrise is the story of brothers, Ed and Joe Moon.  Only Joe hasn't seen his brother in years, not since he left in his aunt's car and got arrested.  He's now on death row in Texas and Moonrise is a heart-breaking look at how Ed's life and death will be remembered.  It's a book about saying goodbye.

There is such tenderness in Sarah Crossan's writing style. Even when the subject matter is a dusty prison and being on death row.  So even when my heart was cracking open and I felt myself close to sobbing and railing at the unfairness of the world and the justice system that has failed Ed and his family ...I was also deeply aware of the beauty of this bond between brothers and the fragility of life.  I loved going over Joe's memories of growing up with Ed as a big brother, seeing the ways in which his mother and sister and aunt reacts to the news of Ed's arrest.  I even enjoyed Joe's uncertainty of Ed's innocence.

I find this book is really hard to discuss in any meaningful way.  Because it's about so much.  About remembering the small stuff, the moments between family.  It was also about forgiveness and facing about to life and death and finding meaning and beauty amongst it all.  Moonrise was a truly emotional story for me and I very highly recommend it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Reading With My Boys

I have two sons. E is 11 and will be starting Year 7 in September (eek!) and The Littlest is 9 and will soon be in Year 5.  I try my very hardest to continue to read to them.  Even as they are getting older and more independent.  Both boys read books on their own (I've tried so hard to get them to write reviews or discuss book in booktube videos to no avail) and I love that they do.  But I still want to read to them.  So on occasion, I will be discussing here the trials and tribulations of reading with my boys.  I hope you enjoy.

The Littlest is a pretty fussy reader.  He hasn't really found the right types of books that he enjoys yet, I don't think.  He was pretty keen on the Diary of A Wimpy Kid books (which children out there aren't, right?) and he's enjoyed other books in the past... books by Roald Dahl and David Walliams. Funny books, mostly.  He loves the Barry Loser books by Jim Smith and Tom Gates.  But outside of these books, he struggles.  So I sometimes like to choose books to read with him that I know he wouldn't normally pick up himself.  So it was with Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.

To be honest, I didn't pick up Rooftoppers with the intention of reading it with either child. I had read The Wolf Wilder last year and loved it and had heard high praise for her debut, so when I saw it in a charity shop a couple months ago it was a purchase for myself. Alone.  But E went away for a week for his residential trip at the end of Y6 and I wanted to start a book to read just The Littlest and I.  Rooftoppers caught my eye on my shelves and I thought I'd take a chance.

I'm sure The Littlest wasn't too impressed when I suggested this as our next read together.  He gave me this look like ...really? but I persevered with it and I'm really glad that I did.  It's an adventure story set in both London and Paris and the main character, Sophie, and her adoptive father, Charles are both absolute delights.  I want to befriend them both and go on adventures with them.  They feel like my people.

I love the way in which Charles parents Sophie. Giving her such freedom to express herself and her creativity.  But I also just love the magical, descriptive way that Katherine Rundell writes.  The words she chooses, the way she puts together this story made me fall half in love with her as well as her characters. And The Littlest? has roared with laughter at some of Sophie's antics and the things she says.  We haven't quite finished the story yet and he seems caught up in Sophie's story and if she ever finds her mother.  And I love that.  I love that this book is such a treasure to both me as a parent reading it aloud and also to my 9 year old son. What a triumph this book is!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mini-reviews: Mind the Gap by Phil Earle and Passing For White by Tanya Landman

I'm almost always excited to receive books for review from Barrington Stoke. Their author list is incredible and they publish such wonderful stories that not only appeal to dyslexic or struggling readers but also to those who just enjoy a good story. Here are two mini-reviews of books by Barrington Stoke that I have recently.

Mind the Gap by Phil Earle

I loved Mind the Gap by Phil Earle. I knew I would, I've loved everything of his that I've read so far.  I was very excited to read this book when it first arrived: I loved the cover art and the premise of the book. However, having lost my own father quite recently, I wasn't sure if it was the best time to dive into this one.

But I feel like I needn't have worried.  Because while this book is about a boy whose father has died it's more about friendship.  Phil Earle wrote this story with such warmth and heart.  Mikey's dad was one of those dads who didn't stay for very long but who left an impression when they were around.  And since he died, Mikey has gone off the rails a little bit.

When Mikey admits to his best mate that he just wants something to remember him by, his friend goes off on this journey across London trying to track down someone who worked with Mikey's dad.  He's looking for a video clip or a photo or anything that Mikey can hold onto and then maybe he'd stop antagonising the local hard-ass and get himself beaten up.

I really loved this story.  It's based on a true story about the man who recorded some 'Mind the Gap' messages on the London Underground and his wife who grieved his passing.  I can definitely relate to this story ... this need to hold onto little things in the people who are gone from our lives.

Passing For White by Tanya Landman

Passing For White by Tanya Landman was just an emotional read for me.  I thought that by reading the synopsis of this book that I knew how it would turn out but the plot description doesn't really take into account how nerve-wracking it is, how tense I felt worrying about Rosa and Benjamin on this absolutely perilous journey.

Rosa and Benjamin are both slaves. It's the Deep South and the year is 1848. Because Rosa's master is also her father, her light skin means that she is often confused for being white. Using this to their advantage, Rosa and Benjamin hatch this plan to escape slavery by having Rosa pose as a white man with Benjamin has her slave and travel a thousand miles north to freedom.

As I said, I found this book to be very emotional. It's amazing how much is packed into one short story.  I felt for Rosa and Benjamin immediately.  Their need for freedom and why they chose to make this escape plan when they did was rather heartbreaking.  The journey itself is fraught with so many near-misses and some really quick thinking on Rosa and Benjamin's parts.

Passing For White is based on a true story, on Ellen Craft who escaped slavery through disguise and who saved herself as well as her husband.  What I found almost as fascinating as the actual journey is what their lives are like (spoiler ahead) after their amazing escape.  I thought Passing For White was a really eye-opening, emotional story and I'm really glad to have read it.