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.



Read

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.




TBR

(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

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...


Pocahontas

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

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.


Science-fiction


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
Ch-ch-changes
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. 


Netgalley


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.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Weight Loss

I'm a list-maker. I love making lists. And one of the things I make lists for a lot are my own goals for myself.  And since before I gave birth to either of my children (and my eldest will be 12 this year!) one of my personal goals for myself was to lose weight.  

I've struggled with my weight since I was in my early teens.  I remember being so self-conscious about my weight as a teenager that I stopped attending extra-curricular activities that I loved to do.  It makes me sad looking back on it but it's how I felt.  

After giving birth to E and then The Littlest the number rose steadily.  First it was 10 pounds that I needed to lose, then it was 20.  At the beginning of 2017, my BMI (body mass index that looks at weight versus height) said that I needed to lose 30 pounds to achieve a healthy height to weight ratio.  I figured something had to be done finally.  I couldn't just keep making lists making my intention known that things needed to change. I need to actually change. 

I ended up losing a total of 16 pounds, more than half of my weight loss goal.  And I felt incredible about it. Sadly, I went on holiday and lost my rhythm.  When I came back I had jet lag to deal with then a week-long cold and I also had to face a lack of motivation after such a long time away from my routines and good habits. 

During my weight loss regime, I weighed myself only once a week.  I downloaded a calorie counting app onto my phone and started keeping track of what I consumed.  I added a bunch more water and vegetables into my life and I became a vegetarian for several months. I limited chocolate and fizzy drinks to a minimum but did not cut them out entirely. 

Every weekday I got up 45 minutes before everyone else and alternated my routines. I jogged (I don't think it counts as running, necessarily) two mornings a week and I did circuit training in my living room the other two mornings. Both the running and the circuit training lasted around 30 minutes.  On Wednesdays, I had a lie-in and gave my body a break.  Every day as well as these exercise routines, I also did at least 10,000 steps though usually more.  

I'm writing about it now in the hopes that by talking about it ... sharing how wonderful this all made me feel, I'll be energised and excited again to get back into it.  It felt like something amazing that I was doing, transforming my life and my body into something healthier, leaner, more fit. 

I'd very much like to finish the year at least having met my weight loss goal of 30 pounds lost.  An ideal BMI. I'd love it if 2017 was the year that I made my own change happen.  Wish me luck. I'll keep you updated! 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Back To School

It isn't back to school here for another three more weeks or so but I thought I'd still take part in this week's Top Ten Tuesday which aims at looking at our favourite back to school books. I've chosen books that I love that are set in high schools.  In particular I love books like Some Girls Are which are all dark and intense and hard to read because that seems more indicative of my own high school experiences. But I've diversified the list to also include some lighter, happier reads too because I'm sure some of you had those experiences too? I sure hope so.


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish


Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers

Some Girls Are by Courtney Summers is one the hardest most emotional stories that I can ever remember reading. I remember reading it and almost wailing out sobs as I read what this girl was going through, the lengths of bullying and torment she was facing, the guilt she was feeling for her part in betraying the only person willing to stick by her now.  It was some truly horrific stuff. And while I realise that this isn't everyone's high school story, it is for some. And I remember thinking it was incredible when I read it. Really hard-hitting and honest in its brutality.


Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

It's been awhile since I read Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver but I did recently watch the film adaptation so I'm more familiar with the story line now than I was a week ago.  And I think what I liked about this book (better than other stories with a similar story line) is how our actions affect those around us. Especially in high school when it maybe feels easier to go along with things you know are wrong to fit in with a different crowd.
North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley

North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley is one of my favourite books. I really need to re-read it one of these days. What I really love about this book is kind of three-fold. 1) I love the exploration of image and identity. We see this with the main character's large facial birthmark, her mother being overweight and hiding in her fat and also Jacob's being Goth and also Chinese and the way in which he uses both to alter his image to other people. 2) the maps. I love maps utterly. 3) Terra's collages and general interest in art.  It inspired me no end when I read this book the first time.


The DUFF by Kody Keplinger

I think the film adaptation of The DUFF has my mind a little bit confused as to the premise of the story but I remember really loving this book.  About a girl whose family life is falling apart so jumps into bed anyway with a boy who called her the 'designated ugly fat friend'  I remember it being all about using sex as a distraction and working towards being okay with how she looks and her place within her friendship group.  I thought it was a great look at high school life and all of its uncertainties.

Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta

I could have just as easily included Jellicoe Road onto this list as well and I'm sure nobody would have been surprised. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of Melina Marchetta. But I included Saving Francesca because it probably means more to met.  I remember it being the first book I had read where the main character has to deal with a parent's mental illness and the profound effect that depression has on everyone else in the family.  It was an important book for me, this one.  It's also about a boy's school that it trying to be co-ed and how Francesca manages to find this amazing set of friends anyway.  I have heart-eyes for this book something fierce.


All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

I remember being really blown away by this book when I first read it.  I didn't love the ending, but I did love the slow-build friendship to something more between Violet and Theodore.  What I particularly like is that people might be going through hard stuff all around you and you might not know it.  And you also might people and not realise the importance they'll have on your life.
Girlhood by Cat Clarke

Girlhood by Cat Clarke is the most recent book that is on this list.  I guess I haven't been reading that many books set in high school lately that have had an impact. But Girlhood definitely did. I love that it's a boarding school story, that it's set in Scotland. That the campus is old and rambling and has plenty of history and hidden places that lend itself to creepy traditions like locking new girls in a dark hole overnight with only a handful of matches.  This book is about friendship and grief and I adored it.
The Rest Of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

What I love so much about this book is that it's about normal teenagers living their lives while some other drama is happening around them and potentially the world is ending.  And it's still just them navigating school and friendships and love and working out who they are.  I loved that about this book and I love the way Patrick Ness writes.
Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albetalli

And I had to include something just utterly happy-making. And that's what this book is for me.  Yes, there is the whole blackmailing you thing but I try not to think about that. Instead I think of how incredibly sweet Simon and Blue's relationship is in this book.  It's two boys who fall in love with each other online while probably running into each other every day at school and not even really knowing it.  They are entirely cute and I couldn't love this book any more than I do.
Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan

And finally we have Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan.  The high school in this book is straight out of a fantasy world where differences are celebrated and it's the crazy-wonderful universe in which the prom queen is trans, the cheerleaders ride motorcycles and the entire cast of this delightful story are all weird and fantastic and I dare anyone to read this book and not fall in love.


What are your favourite stories set in high school?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Ferryman by Claire McFall Extract

Today I'm really happy to be taking part in the Claire McFall blog tour celebrating the re-release of Ferryman as well as the publication of the sequel, Trespassers. I remember I wasn't entirely sure if this book would be for me when Ferryman was first published but I'm so glad that I gave it a chance. If you too are unsure or on the fence about reading it then perhaps the extract below will help you decide! 



Ferryman extract

“Wait, stop! Where the hell are we going?” Dylan huffed to a standstill and cemented her feet to the ground, folding her arms across her chest. She ’d been blindly following him, but they had been marching for twenty minutes in total silence now, going in who knew which direction and he hadn ’t said a word since the curt “Come with me.” All of the questions, all reasons for staying at the tunnel mouth that had inexplicably vanished from her head when he ’d ordered her to follow had now returned with full force.

He continued on for a few strides, before turning and looking at her with his eyebrows raised. “What?”

“What?!” Dylan ’s voice rose an octave with incredulity. 

“We’ve just come out of a train crash where everybody else seems to have disappeared. I have no idea where we are, and you are marching us halfway across the middle of nowhere, away from the place where they are going to be looking for us!”

“Who do you imagine is looking for us?” That arrogant half-smirk snuck back onto his lips.

Dylan frowned for a moment, confused by the strange question, before launching into her argument once more. “Well, the police for one. My parents.” Dylan felt a little thrill at being able to say that in the plural for the first time. “When the train doesn ’t arrive at the next station, don ’t you think the train company might wonder where it is?”

She raised her eyebrows here, secretly pleased with the strength of her line of reasoning, and waited for him to respond.

He laughed. It was almost a musical sound, but underpinned with a hint of mockery. His reaction confounded and infuriated her again. Dylan pursed her lips, waiting for the punchline, but it didn’t come. Instead he smiled. It changed his entire face, warming his natural coldness. But there was still something not quite right about it. It looked sincere, but it didn’t stretch to his eyes. They remained icy and aloof.

He walked over to Dylan and ducked down slightly so that he could look into her eyes, shocking blue into startled green. His closeness made her a little uncomfortable, but she stood her ground.

“If I told you you weren’t where you thought you were, what would you say?” he asked.

“What?” Dylan was totally confused, and not a little bit intimidated. His arrogance was maddening, making fun of her at every turn and coming out with nonsense statements like that. What could be the point of his question except to bamboozle her and make her doubt herself?

“Never mind,” he chuckled, reading her expression. “Turn around. Could you find the tunnel again if you had to?”

Dylan looked over her shoulder. The landscape was empty and unfamiliar. Everything looked the same. Stark, windswept hills as far as the eye could see, dipping down into gullied valleys where vegetation revelled in the shelter from the constant gales. There was no sign of the tunnel entrance or even the train tracks. That was weird; they hadn’t gone very far. She felt a tightening in her chest as she realised that she had no idea what direction they had come from, that she would be completely lost if Tristan left her now.

“No,” she whispered, grasping how much trust she had put in this unfriendly stranger.


Tristan laughed as he watched the realisation trickle across her face. “Then I guess you ’re stuck with me.” 



Claire McFall is a writer and a teacher who lives and works in the Scottish Borders. She is the author of paranormal thriller Black Cairn Point, winner of the inaugural Scottish Teenage Book Prize 2017. Her debut novel Ferryman won a Scottish Children’s Book Award, and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and shortlisted for the Branford Boase award. Her other books include dystopian thriller Bombmaker.

Trespassers, the much-anticipated sequel to Ferryman, will be published on 14th September 2017.