Sunday, January 25, 2015

REVIEW: Love Hurts edited by Malorie Blackman

Love Hurts is a collection of extracts and short stories concerning all types of different love and is edited by the marvellous Malorie Blackman.  I was very excited to hear about this collection a few months ago and I quickly downloaded my copy of the book from Netgalley.

I originally thought this book would contain all original short stories from this amazing array of teen authors, however, there are only 5 new stories in Love Hurts and the rest of the book is filled with two other short stories that have appeared in other collections and also extracts from other YA books already in print.

Besides the introduction from Malorie Blackman, which I was always going to read, my original plan for reading this book (once I realised about the format of the book and the extracts) was to skip over all the extracts and just read the new material.  However, once I started reading this book, it made me feel all fuzzy and happy and hopeful that I couldn't pass up reading the extracts, even if I'd already previously read the books.  I won't mention all of the extracts specifically, but it was nice to return to some old favourite stories (like the extracts for Noughts and Crosses, Northern Lights and I Am the Messenger) and new favourites (like the extracts from Trouble, Midwinterblood, Forbidden and Heroic) and to also discover some authors and stories that I haven't yet read but now want to (specifically the extracts from Grasshopper Jungle but I also must get a move on and read More Than This already and also more David Levithan).

There were also two short stories that have appeared previously in other collections: Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat by David Levithan, which appears in How They Met and Other Stories and Endless Love: the Valentine of Daniel and Lucinda by Lauren Kate, which appeared in Fallen In Love.  I had already read the Lauren Kate story and really enjoyed it, but I hadn't read the David Levithan before now.  I thought Miss Lucy Had A Steamboat was a really fun and interesting story about a girl's consuming relationship with another girl and the realisations that she comes to when things don't quite work out.

But while I found myself utterly surprised by how much I enjoyed the extracts it is really the original short stories that really stood out while I was reading this collection.   Because of the diversity.  There are characters in these short stories (and extracts) who are gay or bisexual, transgender, there are people of colour and some characters that are differently-abled or have chronic illness.  At least one of the extracts mentions the Sikh religion (I believe?) and all I want to do is stand here and applaud this level of diversity within this book.

I'm only going to mention my absolute highlights but know that I really enjoyed The Unicorn by James Dawson about the forbidden relationship between two men in the Navy during the Korean War and also The Liar's Girl by Catherine Johnson about another forbidden relationship from London in 1829 between two people from very different backgrounds.

Humming Through My Fingers by Malorie Blackman is the first story in this collection and it is about two people having a conversation at a sports day and tentatively agreeing to a first date. It's quite cute with some awkward and mortifying moments that I couldn't help but smile at these two.  But things aren't quite what they seem and motivations are questioned.  I loved that surprise.

Then there's Tumbling by Susie Day which made me smile endlessly.  I love that the majority of this short story is about one girl obsessing over her first meeting with her crush. Worrying, second-guessing herself. I can completely relate.  And a lot of this story is about two fangirls who come together which just makes me happy.  Because while I have not watched one single episode of Sherlock after reading this short story, I really wanted to.  This story was so sweet and cute and I nearly cried at the end.

But it was Gentlewoman by Laura Dockrill that made me cry actual tears.  Good ones, though.  Gentlewoman starts with two old friends not having a serious conversation.  Not speaking the words that need to be said because those words are already probably known.  I loved this story so much.  I found it amazing how much was said in so few words.  And it is the ending, in which there was so much acceptance that made me shed tears.  It's not perfect because that's the world we live in, but acceptance from those that matter to us is what's important and I love that that was found in this story for these characters.

The thing that sticks out the most from reading Love Hurts is that love it out there for everyone and that love is one of those things that can be both really amazing and also really painful.  And this book shows it all to us from awkward first meeting to first kiss to all-consuming relationships to real heart break.  And everyone deserves love - soldiers, siblings, girl and robot, friends, strangers, online acquaintances and these romantic pairings can come in all sizes and shapes.  I really enjoyed this collection and I hope you pick it up too!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Stockholm Syndrome in YA fiction

I find Stockholm syndrome to be really fascinating.  The idea is that a person in a hostage situation start to have feelings towards their captors opposite to what the situation would call for and that he or she can come to identify or defend his or her captors.  I think in times of trauma it can be hard to say how you'd feel in the same position and sometimes a little kindness or lack of physical harm can take on larger proportions of meaning.

I've come across three books in YA that I've read recently or in the last few years and I thought that I would share them with you today.  The most recent of these books is Captive by AJ Grainger, which is being published this month by Simon and Schuster and tells the story of a girl kidnapped and used as a pawn in a political struggle.  Stolen by Lucy Christopher is about a girl kidnapped and taken to the Australian outback by an obsessive stalker.  Hostage Three by Nick Lake is about a hostage situation by Somali pirates is a really fast-paced actiony thriller.  I think all three of these books take on the Stockholm syndrome incredibly well.

Captive by AJ Grainger

I open my eyes. The cell is flooded with sunlight; the window is a slice of pale blue. Dust particles dance in the sparkling light, pirouetting in a golden line from the window to the opposite wall of the cell, where they seem to converge into shapes. It is like looking into a kaleidoscope. 

Dad isn't here. No one is, but me.
Robyn Knollys-Green is an A-list celebrity, famous for being the daughter of one of the world's most powerful men. But not even the paparazzi can find her now.

Robyn begins to realise that she is trapped in a complicated web of global corruption and deceit - and that the strange, melancholy boy who has been tasked with guarding her might not be an enemy after all . . .

A thrilling, well-crafted, ever-relevant story from a talented new voice in YA fiction.

Stolen by Lucy Christopher

It happened like this. I was stolen from an airport. Taken from everything I knew, everything I was used to. Taken to sand and heat, dirt and danger. And he expected me to love him.

This is my story.

A letter from nowhere. 

Sixteen year old Gemma is kidnapped from Bangkok airport and taken to the Australian Outback. This wild and desolate landscape becomes almost a character in the book, so vividly is it described. Ty, her captor, is no stereotype. He is young, fit and completely gorgeous. This new life in the wilderness has been years in the planning. He loves only her, wants only her. Under the hot glare of the Australian sun, cut off from the world outside, can the force of his love make Gemma love him back?

The story takes the form of a letter, written by Gemma to Ty, reflecting on those strange and disturbing months in the outback. Months when the lines between love and obsession, and love and dependency, blur until they don't exist - almost.

Hostage Three by Nick Lake

It's a once-in-a-lifetime thing: a girl on a yacht with her super-rich banker father; a chance for the family to heal after a turbulent time; the peaceful sea, the warm sun . . . But a nightmare is about to explode as a group of Somali pirates seizes the boat and its human cargo - and the family becomes a commodity in a highly sophisticated transaction. Hostage 1 is Dad - the most valuable. Amy is Hostage 3. As she builds a strange bond with one of her captors, it becomes brutally clear that the price of a life and its value are very different things . . .

Have you read any of these books? Do you know of any other books that tackle Stockholm syndrome?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I love you, guys!

There's lots of positivity in the UK book blogging world right now and I think that's fantastic.  Inspired by the blog posts I've seen from Laura, Carly, Kirsty and Jo, I thought that today I would talk a little bit about it as well.

Recently, I found out that I had been long-listed in this first ever author and publisher-led UKYA Blogger Awards.  The day it was announced I spent a great deal of time staring at my laptop screen, looking at the nominees page and seeing my blog's name there but not really believing it.  Then I went on to Twitter and I saw loads of people talking about it and congratulating other bloggers about it.  And I cried.  I did. For about an hour.  What an honour.  I called up N at work and I was an emotional wreck and he kind of laughed about it because at the best of times I'm an emotional wreck. And maybe another time I'll talk about what this really means to me.

But for now, hurrah! There are very few things better in my life than being involving in the book blogging community.  As, I think, it shows by the response that both the Blogger Awards being held right now have had.  There's been an outpouring of love and support for both the book bloggers nominated so far and also for all book bloggers generally.  For the hard work and dedication and enthusiasm that we all pour into our blogs.

I think it's really easy to fall into the mindset that what we do as book bloggers doesn't really matter. I've had those doubts. Those thoughts that tell me that I don't have much influence on other people, that if anything I'm only selling books to other book bloggers.  The idea that because I'm writing on my own, on a blog as a hobby and not for a proper media outlet that what I write is somehow less meaningful or important or impactful.  It's easy to think all of those things and then believe that they're true.  But I don't think that they are.  And having an author and industry professional led awards does help somewhat in burying those thoughts.

I started blogging 9 years ago.  And while it wasn't specifically a book blog at the very start, that was only because I hadn't heard of such things (and wouldn't hear the term 'book blog' for several more years).  I was still talking about books even when this wasn't a book blog. I was sharing my experiences of spending all day with my favourite book or showing you my library hauls.  And then over time, it changed.

And things are always changing. I've been lucky enough to be involved with lots of authors and publicists and to be invited to events and I've met a fair few other bloggers.  And it's always amazing. And the UKYA blogging community is only growing.  I follow more new-to-me bloggers than ever before both in my feed subscriptions and on Twitter.  And while at one point I could go to a blogger event and know everyone ... lately I've seen new faces pop up. And that too is incredible. Because new bloggers bring new perspectives and new creativity and ideas and passion.  And everyone that I've met is so friendly and welcoming anyway! There's room for everyone in this community. Whether you're old like me or just starting out.

What I love so much about UKYA book bloggers as well is that we're so diverse and have so many different talents and passions.  Every time that I turn on my laptop and go blog hopping I'm amazed.

I'm amazed by at the amount of thoughtful, in-depth reviews. And by the humour and playfulness of different posts.  By the creativity of creating infographics and other graphic design marvels. Or interesting new features or create forums or YouTube videos or entire awards for books/authors/bloggers or organising spreadsheets or regular meet ups or Twitter chats. I'm amazed by the focus that some bloggers have for specific topics like bullying or celebrating diversity.  By the call for social change. I'm amazed by the people who are scared to talk about important things and do it anyway: your courage and honesty paves the way for the rest of us. I'm amazed by the sheer amount of blog posts written every day.  All in support of books and authors and about reading and sharing.  You guys, you're all amazing. Every one of you.

I'm honoured to be part of a community that recognises the power of books and storytelling and not only sees this but takes it a step further by writing about it and promoting and supporting it.

I'll leave the links below for the both blogger awards going on at the moment as well as to some blogger posts about the UKYA book blogging community.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shakespeare retellings

Recent publication of Vendetta by Catherine Doyle has had me thinking about Shakespeare retellings lately.  Vendetta is a YA novel which is a modern-day retelling of Romeo and Juliet with a Mafia twist.  It's great fun and I really fell in love with the characters and the story.

And Vendetta isn't the only Shakespeare retelling/reinterpretation around.  There are loads of other books that do this ... I love Louise Rennison's Tallulah Casey series in particular.  But it isn't books that I'd like to talk about today. It's films.  And some of my favourite films take inspiration from William Shakespeare.

These are just a handful of the Shakespeare-inspired film adaptations that I could think of. Do let me know in comments if any of my favourites are also your favourites! Also, which ones am I missing?!

10 Things I Hate About You 

Everyone's favourite teen film is based on William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. And it is bloody fantastic.  It was a favourite of mine as a teenager and it still remains one of my all-time favourite films even if it is slightly hard to watch Heath Ledger.

The Lion King

It wasn't until I was an adult that I found out that The Lion King is loosely based on Hamlet.  I see it now though, it all makes sense.  This was definitely one of the defining films of my childhood.

Romeo and Juliet

Oh boy.  Writing about Baz Luhrmann's 1996 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet brings back floods of memories of my teenage fangirl self.  I had a huge crush on 1996 Leonardo DiCaprio. And I must have watched this film 10 zillion times. I had all the words memorised, I bought the soundtrack specifically. I was obsessed.

A Thousand Acres

A Thousand Acres isn't a favourite film of mine by any means, but I included it on this list because I saw this film once years and years ago and it inspired me to pick up the play it is based on: King Lear by William Shakespeare.  And of course, last year, I managed to see a performance of  King Lear at The Globe.

Get Over It

I hold my hands up proudly and admit that I absolutely adore teen films. Especially teen films like Get Over It.  There's something really fun about this movie.  I think Kirsten Dunst and Ben Foster are utterly adorable in it and I love that it is loosely based on A Midsummer's Night Dream. 

West Side Story

And last but not least is the absolutely incredible film adaptation of West Side Story which is of course another adaptation of Romeo and Juliet.  I love West Side Story. I still remember how I felt watching it for the first time and falling in love so wholly and completely.  I still regularly listen to the soundtrack and I'm a huge, huge fan.

Do you have a favourite Shakespeare play? or Shakespeare-inspired film or book?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

REVIEW: The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell is a beautifully-written debut book.  It made me happy and sad and hopeful all at the same time.  It's an absolutely incredible story and I definitely do hope that you'll pick it up and fall in love with this story, these characters and their relationships just like I did.  I really can't say enough positive things about this gorgeous book!

This is the story of Japanese teenager, Sora.  Sora is 17 and has been diagnosed with a progressive neurodegenerative disease called ALS (or Lou Gehrig's disease).  This means that over time, he will begin to lose control of his muscles and limbs which will eventually lead to death.  He lives at home with his mother and already there have been major changes to his life and to his mother's because of his condition.  And thinking about his life and his mother's and what will happen to them both is something that Sora thinks about quite a lot.

Being sort of isolated from other people his age, Sora turns to the internet and finds two things. First, he meets some friends that he's able to talk and joke with that know nothing about his ALS and they are able to connect with him over normal, teenage things. And second, he receives these anonymous emails about suicide and the growing population of people in Japan who contemplate and/or commit suicide. Which makes Sora start to ponder the idea and how others historically have deal with great challenges.  A lot of my favourites aspects in the first half of this book is Sora discovering the poetry of wounded samurai which I found incredibly fascinating.

I think the thing I loved the most about this book though is Sora's relationships with the people in his life.  Probably especially the one with his mother.  There are some really difficult scenes between them: things difficult to witness in Sora's worsening condition and also some really raw and powerful and emotional scenes between a mother and son who love each other a great deal.  Sora and his mom KILLED ME especially in the second half of the book.  But I also really loved Sora's friendship with these two people he meets online.  I love that he's able to make some great friendships in which ALS is not at the forefront of every conversation and activity.

I think The Last Leaves Falling is an incredible debut book. So very emotional and powerful and ultimately hopeful.  I love that it's a book set in Japan and that it focuses so much on friendships and family.  This is a beautiful book, one that I hope you'll go out immediately and read. I recommend it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Author Spotlight: Vanessa Curtis

I would like to regularly shine a light on some amazing UKYA authors!

I can't say that I know a great deal about Vanessa Curtis as a person.  She's on Twitter but doesn't share much of herself there.  Her only website seems to be the literary consultancy she runs and has a brief, mostly book-related biography and it's the same with her Goodreads author page.

She plays the piano and has written several books on Virginia Woolf. She has a cat called Poppy. And she writes really interesting books for teenagers and young people that I have greatly enjoyed.

Zelah Green and Zelah Green: One More Little Problem

I first came across Vanessa Curtis after she published her first book for YAs which is called Zelah Green.  I had heard a little bit about it ... that it is a book involving a main character who has OCD mostly, which is a wonderful topic in YA fiction that I really wish more authors would write about ... but it wasn't until I learned that Zelah Green is a loose retelling of Snow White that it really made me sit up and take notice.  So I read it.  And I immediately went out to find and read the sequel as well. 

The Taming of Lilah May and Lilah May's Manic Days

And after I read the Zelah Green books I was quite curious to see what else Vanessa Curtis might write about.  And I was very happy to find the Lilah May duology, which takes a look at the life of another teenage girl who is dealing with some anger issues.  You know me, I like reading about angry girls.  And while I didn't always love where this story goes, I did enjoy these two very much as well. 

The Haunting of Tabitha Grey

Aside from the newest book by her, The Haunting of Tabitha Grey is the only book by Vanessa Curtis that I haven't already read.  And I'm not entirely sure why.  It's a ghost story set in an old Victorian house and it sounds wonderful.  Creepy and unsettling. I shall be looking out for it! 

The Baking Life of Amelie Day

All of the books by Vanessa Curtis that I've read I'd probably class as on the young side of young adult and The Baking Life of Amelie Day is probably more middle grade.  It's one of my favourite books mentioned in the post because while a lot of the story is quite sad, there is also much about this book that makes me really happy.  I loved Amelie Day as a character, very full of life and enthusiastic about baking and blogging. I also found it interesting that Amelie has cystic fibrosis.  I hadn't really come across a character with CF before and it opened my eyes.

The Earth Is Singing

The Earth Is Singing is Vanessa Curtis's latest offering.  This book is being published this month from Usborne and it is a historical YA book about a 15 year old Latvian teenager, Hanna, and her experiences during WWII.  I don't often read historical fiction but I'm really excited about this book! I can't wait to find myself a copy.  

Have you read anything by Vanessa Curtis as yet? Will you be picking up any of these books in the future?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

REVIEW: I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

I don't even remember why I requested this book from Netgalley but it was a whim worth taking. I really enjoyed I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios. I loved the small-town setting and the desperation to get out. I loved the main character and her relationships with her down-on-her-luck mother, her two best friends, her boss, and especially her budding relationship with Josh. After reading this book I will definitely be looking out for other books by Heather Demetrios.

This story is mostly told from our main character, Skylar, a teen girl living in small town, Creek View, with her dreams and days numbered to when she'll be leaving for San Francisco and university. It's all she's been working for for the past few years, getting out and living a life outside of the trailer park and away from dead-end jobs and this small town. Interspersed between Sky's narrative are some short, emotional letters from Josh, a Marine who has returned from Afghanistan with his leg blown off writing letters to one of his Marine buddies.

All of the relationships are really interesting. While the relationship between Sky and Josh is the one most explored and developed, I also really loved the dynamic between Sky and her two friends Chris and Dylan. Chris and Sky are both leaving for university but Dylan will remain in Creek View with her infant son. I also thought Marge was an amazing character. She's sort of a surrogate mother to both Sky and Josh and she provides such a great level of emotional and practical support to them both. 

I loved Sky and Josh utterly and completely. They're not perfect and they mess up and do stupid things and I still loved them and my heart broke for them constantly. The start out as sort-of friends and then things begin to change between them as they spend more time together working at the Paradise Motel. I felt like everything between them was so believable. Their reasons for staying away from each other, their fears about where this relationship would go and how it would affect their dreams. It was really emotional and I was crying at several points in their relationship. 

I thought Josh's experiences were in particular were really interesting to hear about. His reoccurring memories of events in Afghanistan, his guilt over his friends' deaths over there, his thoughts on returning. It was important, I think, to know of these things. Especially as the author included really serious and saddening facts in the back of the book about the mental health state of returning soldiers.

While I absolutely loved most of the book, I also felt like there were so many emotional highs and lows between Sky and Josh in this story that any ending between them would be anticlimactic but other than that I really enjoyed this one.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

REVIEW: There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake

I absolutely loved There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake. I've only read one book by him before this, Hostage Three, and having enjoyed that book I did think I'd probably like this book as well.  What came as a surprise was how much I enjoyed it.  I loved the diversity included, I loved this element of magical realism, I loved the mystery and I especially loved the inclusion of Native American myth.

This story doesn't have that many characters in it, but those it does are really interesting and intriguing characters and I loved discovering more about each of them, especially Shelby, Shelby's mother and Mark.  The main character, herself, Shelby Cooper was a great character.  I really enjoyed her mathematical exaggerations and the way in which she tells this story.

She leads a rather unusual and isolated life with her mother.  Shelby is home-schooled and her life is very ordered and predictable.  Her only 'treats' are on a Friday where she goes to the batting cage and then her and her mother have ice cream for dinner.  And we get this sense straight away that Shelby's mother is very over-protective of her, despite Shelby being almost 18.  The reasons for this become more apparent as the story continues but I loved all the questions that popped up as I was reading.

When Shelby is almost run over by a car everything changes. A coyote appears to Shelby and tells her that she will be told two lies and then the truth. And that's the beginning of this strange, intriguing story.  One that covers truth and reality.  It makes Shelby question her life and her identity as she struggles to know who she can trust and who she is.  Some of my favourite parts of the story take place in The Dreaming, a sort of alternate reality in which Shelby finds herself in a fairy tale that mirrors some aspects of her own life.

There Will Be Lies was a really great book to read.  It was interesting and felt different to anything I'd read recently.  It has an engaging voice, great characters and I was reading it I felt like I was taken on a roller coaster ride! I really recommend it!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Disabled Characters in YA

I've recently written on this blog about my commitment to reading and supporting diversity within young adult books and one of the things I was quite keen to read and see more of in YA are differently abled characters.  I really don't read very much about people in wheelchairs or that have chronic illness or characters with vision/hearing impairment and so on.  But I'd like to.

The books I've listed below deal with disability in different ways. Blindside by Aidan Chambers looks at the way being involved in an accident that leads to a loss of mobility would be a challenge to deal with and The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell is the story of a teenager who has a neurodegenerative disease and what that means for his quality of life as well for his friends and family.  There's also There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake and an anthology called Love Hurts edited by Malorie Blackman that features at least two stories/extracts that features differently abled characters.

And while I have managed to come across four books published this month that I feel discusses disability in YA fiction, I'm afraid that I haven't found anything else throughout the rest of the year. If anyone knows of any books with prominently disabled/differently abled characters being published in 2015, I would love to know about them!

Blindside by Aidan Chambers (15 January, Barrington Stoke)

An emotionally challenging and beautifully written drama that confronts the messiness of life head-on. Pete's a brilliant runner and dreams of athletic stardom - but fate intervenes. Pete is blindsided when he is involved in a horrific bike collision and his whole life is knocked off course. Stuck in a hospital bed and lamenting the loss of his mobility as well as his shattered dreams, the other people on his ward help Pete see that giving up on life is not the answer. Particularly suitable for struggling, reluctant and dyslexic readers aged 12+

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell (29 January, Random House) 

And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this . . .

Japanese teenager, Sora, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.

Love Hurts by Malorie Blackman (29th January, Random House)

Malorie Blackman brings together the best teen writers of today in a stunningly romantic collection about love against the odds. Featuring short stories and extracts about modern star-crossed lovers from stars such as Gayle Forman, Markus Zusak and Patrick Ness, and with a brand-new story from Malorie Blackman herself, Love Hurts looks at every kind of relationship, from first kiss to final heartbreak.

There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake (1st January, Bloomsbury)

In four hours, Shelby Jane Cooper will be struck by a car.

Shortly after, she and her mother will leave the hospital and set out on a winding journey toward the Grand Canyon.

All Shelby knows is that they’re running from dangers only her mother understands. And the further they travel, the more Shelby questions everything about her past—and her current reality. Forced to take advantage of the kindness of unsuspecting travelers, Shelby grapples with what’s real, what isn’t, and who she can trust . . . if anybody.

Award-winning author Nick Lake proves his skills as a master storyteller in this heart-pounding new novel. This emotionally charged thrill ride leads to a shocking ending that will have readers flipping back to the beginning.

Do you have any recommendations for YA books that feature a disabled character?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

REVIEW: I Was Here by Gayle Forman

I Was Here by Gayle Forman was a good read ... it would be surprising that a book by this amazing author wouldn't be ... I quite liked how messy and complicated the friendships, romantic relationships and the families are but at the same time, I didn't always feel as emotionally connected to the story as I would have expected.

I Was Here tells this story of Cody, an 18 year old girl, who has learned of the unexpected suicide of her best friend, Meg.  In an attempt to help Meg's parents out, Cody goes to clear out Meg's things at university and in the process tries to uncover what Meg's life has been like and piece together her motivation for suicide ...  which takes some turns for the dangerous.

I quite liked Cody as a character and this journey she goes on towards discovering Meg's secret life. Over the course of the novel, Cody seems to reconcile the guilt at not knowing and also the guilt that comes with the distance that appears in her friendship with Meg as Meg goes off to university and Cody is left behind unable to afford the same experiences.

Another aspect of the book that really worked for me was the romance element.  I love that everyone involved concedes that these two people are a great case of wrong time, wrong people together, but as I've already said, I quite liked how messy and complicated that relationship is.

There are parts of I Was Here that are really beautifully written and have a lot of honesty and emotion and insight to them. But for me, in some ways I felt a little bit disconnected from this story.  I think that this is in some parts because I felt like the second half felt a little bit strange.  It sort of veers off track of the grief and confusion of Meg's death and goes more into detail about suicide support websites and one person in particular who plays a helping hand in Meg's suicide.  I liked the road trip element of this part of the book but I wasn't quite sure about this hunt for justice that Cody goes on nor was I particularly thrilled with the eventual outcome of this mystery surrounding Meg's suicide.

I will always love Gayle Forman and be excited about her books.  I think even a book that I didn't love as much as her others is still an amazing book so again, I do highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

#NightSchoolWebSeries + GIVEAWAY!

Have you guys been watching the Night School web series?  It's the first time a British book series has been turned into a web series and I think it's all kinds of crazy exciting.  There's six episodes that they've filmed and have been uploading to the YouTube channel one episode a week every Friday since December.  Each of the episodes are between 3 and 10 minutes long and each episode has really delved into a character's head or back story in these really intriguing ways.  

Here's the official blurb on the whole project...

Night School the Web Series tells the story of Allie Sheridan, a school girl at Cimmeria Academy, an exclusive British private school that hides a dark secret. At the heart of Cimmeria is Night School, a Bullingdon Club style secret society whose members are both destined to run the country and mentored by the world’s most powerful people. When Night School members become involved with a series of student murders, the secret society implodes and Cimmeria Academy becomes the scene of a civil war between teachers, students and Night School members. With no-one to trust and friends getting murdered all around her, Allie finds herself caught up in a love triangle between two of Night School’s most powerful members; Sylvan and Carter.

This Friday, the 16th of January, sees the final episode being aired and to celebrate I will be providing this recap of all the webisodes in the series so far AND you will have the chance to win a giveaway of all four of the books in the Night School series by CJ Daugherty published thanks to the lovely people at Midas! 

Episode 1: Flashback

This first episode flashes back to a time before Allie Sheridan was a kick-ass member of the Night School at Cimmeria Academy and has a really fun look at out-of-control Allie. The one breaks and enters and destroys property and apparently just doesn't care.  Only it looks like she really does care much more than she's letting on. Especially when she reads her school record in the head teacher's office.

Episode 2: The Other One

I've heard a lot of people say that episode 5 is their favourite.  Me? I quite like episode 2.  And erm. Not because Carter is wet and half naked for most of this episode. Of course not.

The Other One is Carter's story.  Talking about his own background, and Night School and Nathaniel but also about how Carter messed things up and how difficult it is to see Allie move on.  It's quite an emotional episode.  But then there is a shower scene AND an emerging-froom-the-lake-Mr-Darcy-style. So there is that.

Episode 3: Power

The third episode is all about Nathaniel and the power he has as well as craves.  This is shown through a rare interview that was filmed but never broadcast.   You get a great sense here of Nathaniel's sinister character and also his connection with Lucinda.

Episode 4: The Gilmore Girl

And then there's episode 4, all about the 'mean girl' of Cimmera, Katie Gilmore. My favourite thing about this episode is that it is incredibly fun.  There's upbeat music and a montage of Katie having a facial and a manicure and shopping and having her make-up done as she talks about serious things happening in Cimmeria and how she decided which side to join.  'Thank God for this face' I love you, Katie.

Episode 5: All the Pretty Killers 

Just to warn you, episode 5 will totally spoil things for you if you haven't at least read the second Night School book, Legacy. Be warned.

In this episode, we see Allie dreaming about talking with and spending time with her best friend, Jo, who is dead.  This is quite the emotional episode and I really felt like the strength of friendship between Allie and Jo is shown really well.

Episode 6 is called Bang and will appear on the Night School web series YouTube page Friday morning.  I, for one, will definitely be watching!

Now you've seen all the episodes in the Night School web series, you might want to read the books, yes?  If I hadn't already read the series (which I love!) this web series would definitely whet my appetite for more.  But lucky for you, if you are in that position, you now have the chance to win the first four books in the Night School series by CJ Daugherty.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Top Ten 2014 Releases I Didn't Get Around to Reading...

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

This week's theme is shameful.  It asks you to list the top ten books published in 2014 ... that you haven't read. Or reviewed. Whoops.  I hang my head in shame with all of these. Especially because I initially had different titles on my list until I checked and actually they were published in 2013.  I am officially a terrible book blogger. Especially since all of these except for the final four books were sent to me specifically for review.

Winger by Andrew Smith 

I've heard really good things about this book and I really wanted to read this over the summer, however the sheer chunk of it put me off slightly.  I will get there eventually!

Shimmer by Paula Weston

I absolutely love this series.  It's about angels and angels (as most of you know) are not my favourite paranormal creature by any stretch of the imagination but the way Paula Weston has written this series just sucks me in effortlessly.  The only reason that I haven't yet read this book is because it is in a series and I don't recall exactly how the previous book ended.

Running Girl by Simon Mason

Another book where size matters. Size and the fact that it's a hardback book which isn't as easily portable.  Still, fab sounding book and I love the sound of a POC main character.

The Forever Song by Julie Kagawa

I have a problem. And the problem is called 'I read too many series and all the books are spread too far apart which means when I get the latest in the series in my hands I don't read it because I can't quite recall what happened previously and I don't have the time to reread books'  You're familiar with this problem, yes?

Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan

The story with this book is that I started reading it and there were so many quotes and passages of it that I thought were utterly beautiful and just too true to not write it down.  And I always feel really bad that I wasn't giving this book my whole attention that I stopped giving it any attention at all. Which is something that needs to be rectified.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Oh god, this book.  For awhile there (and I'm not saying that this has specifically changed) this book was everywhere and everyone and their mother was saying what a great, amazing, perfect book this is. And I just can't handle that kind of praise and high expectations.  No book can live up to the hype that has built up in my head. So I'm giving it awhile before I tackle this book.

Geek Girl: Picture Perfect by Holly Smale

I love this series! It's an amazing series ... but this third book in the series is a book I bought myself AND a hardback book. Both of which puts it at the very bottom of my list of priorities.  It's just the way things go.  But! with the publication of the next book in the series not that far away, at least I have some incentive to get to this book sooner rather than later.

Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

I think the problem with this book is that I keep hearing mixed things about it.  It sounds like a book that I'd really enjoy reading and I should be dead excited to read it ... however, one or two middling to poor reviews makes me check my excitement and feel a little wary. We shall see.

The Dream Thieves and Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

Why oh why have I not read these two books? I absolutely ADORED The Raven Boys and was gasping to get hold of The Dream Thieves and then when I got a copy ... I did nothing.  I'm making the wrong life choices here, people, send help.

Bonus! Here is a further 6 books on my TBR pile that I'm ashamed I haven't read:

Which books did you not get around to reading before the end of 2014?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Cover reveal: A Whisper of Wolves by Kris Humphrey

When a raven drops a white feather at the doorstep on the day of your birth, it is a symbol of your destiny. You are a Whisperer – a guardian of the wild. After many years of peace in the kingdom of Meridina, rumours are spreading of a planned invasion – could the demonic Narlaw be returning from the darklands? It is up to the Whisperers and their animal companions to defend Meridina, protect Princess Ona and stop the Narlaw from destroying their world.

When hunters from her village disappear without a trace, Alice suspects that something sinister is at work. With the help of Storm, her wolf companion, Alice fights to save her village. The Narlaw are on the attack and it’s up to the Whisperers to stop them…

In March, Stripes will be published the first book in a four part middle-grade series called Guardians of the Wild.  The first book is called A Whisper of Wolves and it sounds like a wonderful fantasy adventure story from a debut UK author!  I'm very excited today to be involved in the cover reveal.  I think this book sounds really wonderful and has a cover to match!

What do you think?

Sunday, January 11, 2015

REVIEW: Best Kind of Broken by Chelsea Fine

As most of you know, I'm not the biggest fan of books in the new adult genre but I will occasionally give these books a chance to surprise me and change my mind about the necessity of the genre.  Such was the case with Best Kind of Broken by Chelsea Fine and, I'm pleased to report, that I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be looking out for more by the same author and for the companion novels to this one!

Best Kind of Broken really did surprise me.  I thought initially that this book would be a rather straight forward romance story especially as the two main characters, Pixie and Levi, obviously are incredibly attracted to each other and are right from the beginning.  I thought there'd be some minor hurdle they had to overcome and then all would be good in the world.  And I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn't quite the case between these two.  Because of the huge amount of history between them but also this unpoken tragedy which meant that their lives and their relationship was never going to be the same.

I quite liked Pixie (real name Sarah) right from the start.  Best Kind of Broken begins with some fun bickering between Pixie and Levi as they've both come to live and work in the same inn and therefore also share the same hallway and bathroom and fight over the hot water.  I also loved the setting of the Willow Inn and all of the amazing characters that populate it especially Sarah's aunt, Ellen.  I thought there were some great characters introduced who work there but also other people who will have their own companion stories further to Best Kind of Broken.

And I liked the development on this strained relationship between Pixie and Levi and I loved wondering what on earth happened between these two that has turned their relationship from best friends to barely acknowledging each other at work.  And the missing puzzle to their history was interesting as well.  Both Pixie and Levi have a lot of healing to do on their own and they also had quite a lot to work out between them as well.  Both left so much unsaid that it would be hard to move on without tackling some of their strong feelings.  I love that the love story is at the heart of this book, there is still quite a lot of personal development for both characters and that they both had and maintained personal lives throughout ... with friends and hobbies and other love interests as well.  It's always nice to see well-rounded characters in a new adult novel. Especially one in which there is sexual chemistry and scenes but that isn't overly explicit either.

I really enjoyed Best Kind of Broken.  I felt really connected to the characters and was very close to crying at one point at a scene involving a friendship of Pixie's. I'm definitely intrigued enough to pick up the other two companion novels to this when they are both published in a few months' time!