Monday, 21 May 2018

REVIEW: The Girl in the Broken Mirror by Savita Kalhan

Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Troika Books
Release Date: March 28th 2018
Topics: Sexual Abuse, Culture
Buy The Book: Book Depository 

 Jay's creative writing exercise is to write a fairy tale, to end with 'they lived happily ever after'. But the way her life is panning out she's not sure it will ever reach that stage. A powerful moving gripping story which explores themes of family, loyalty and culture clash but is ultimately about hope and understanding.

WARNING: Due to the nature of the story, this review mentions the main character being a victim of rape. Please feel free to skip out on this review if you need to.

It's impossible to go into this story expecting a light read. It deals with some seriously tough subjects, and it doesn't shy away from the details. We're shown from the very first chapter that this is going to be a difficult journey, but it's such an important one.

The Girl in the Broken Mirror deals with the rape of teenager Jay after she and her mother, Neela, are left with no choice but to move in with relatives who follow a much more strict Indian lifestyle than what Jay is used to. Left with no other choice, Jay has to change the way she acts when she's under her aunt's roof.

Jay is a perfect example of how an ordinary girl with an ordinary life can be thrown into such extreme circumstances. Her life is so seemingly normal until suddenly, it isn't. There was nothing she and her mother could have done to change their circumstances, and I understand why her mother made the decision to live with family members. She thought she was doing what was best for her daughter and had no way of knowing what the outcome would be. Like a lot of horrible things in life, it progressed too quickly and silently to be stopped by those around it.

The relationship between Jay and her mother was a complex one that was tested many times over the course of the story. There was a chapter towards the end in which we got a bit more insight from Neela's point of view, and it was important that we got to see her thought process leading up to her finding out about the attack.

Although Sita was a character who only appeared in the final quarter of the book, she was one of my favourites. Her character was necessary for reminding us of the goodness we can find in the people around us. Something we needed after the harsh occurrences earlier in the story.

The thing that really stuck out to me about this book was how it covered so much of the story. We were shown the build up to the attack, as well as the aftermath. The YA books I've read in the past that contained the rape of a main character tend not to show as much of the aftermath as I'd like to see. I love it when a story shows that there is a life after horrible attacks like this one, that there is hope for those people to take control of their situation again. Whilst some of the scenes with Jay after the attack were heartbreaking and difficult to read, I love that this book showed us that she had a new chapter in her life beyond the final pages.

This is such a powerful story and an example of some of the horrible situations young women can actually find themselves in. At the start of the book, Jay would never have been able to imagine the attack she was about to be faced with, and yet it happened regardless. It was also an important look into culture and a male orientated world. I'm so grateful to Savita for writing this story because it very much needed to be told.

Royal Rating:

Monday, 14 May 2018

BLOG TOUR: Q&A with Savita Kalhan, author of The Girl in the Broken Mirror

Hello, fellow bookworms! Today I'm thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for The Girl in the Broken Mirror with a Q&A from the writer herself, Savita Kalhan!

Hi Katie, thank you so much for inviting me here on your blog today! It’s so exciting having The Girl in the Broken Mirror out in the world – and then taking it on a blog tour with amazing bloggers like you!

Hi, Savita! Can you tell us a little bit about your novel, The Girl in the Broken Mirror?
The Girl in the Broken Mirror is about a Jay, 15 year old British Asian girl, who goes from riches to rags, and from a liberal home to a super-strict traditional Indian home where she struggles to fit in. Then she is brutally assaulted by a relative and her life implodes. It’s a story of love and loss, of a girl and her mother, of guilt, of betrayal, but ultimately it’s a story of hope and where help can be found even in the darkest moments of life.

Jay is such an interesting character who faces a lot of tough situations, what was it that inspired you to write her story?
In many ways, I was like Jay. Without going into details, I faced a few of the tough situations in my life that Jay faces in the book. This was a story that I had never read when I was growing up. I didn’t even know of any British Asian writers, and kids like me never saw ourselves in books. I didn’t know that the struggle I was going through was not unique to me – and I’m not just talking about the culture clash, which is a big enough subject on its own.

There is also that issue of male patriarchy, which exists in many communities, where boys and men are considered to be better than girls and women. Growing up thinking in that way, whether you are a boy or a girl, is not the way forward.

All of these reasons made me want to write Jay’s story for YA readers.

The Girl in the Broken Mirror deals with some very serious topics, what sort of research did you do when preparing to write the story?
Some books require lots of research. This book required very little. I had the background for almost all the story. With the #metoo and #timesup movement, it’s so easy, and horrifying, to find the rape and sexual assault stats. It was really important to me to add the names of all the charities and help lines who can help anyone facing the things that Jay goes through. I don’t want girls going through difficult situations to think they are alone – and it doesn’t matter which community they come from, I’m talking about ALL girls.

Why do think Jay's story needed to be told?
It’s a story that hasn’t been told before. In fact there are very few YA stories that deal with the rape or sexual assault. Anne Cassidy’s No Virgin and Louise O’Neill’s Asking For It are pretty much the only two in UKYA. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was the first book I read about rape – it’s an incredibly moving book and I highly recommend it. As for a story with a young British Asian girl as the protagonist, there were none.


What was the most difficult part of the writing process for you, and what was the most rewarding?
The Girl in the Broken Mirror was probably the hardest book I’ve ever written. To write about the themes that are in the book without being graphic, without being sensationalist or insincere, or overly sentimental, was hard. Finding the right title of the story was difficult too – there were several working titles before I found the right one for the book.

The most rewarding part of the writing process was the final edit and the feedback – that was SO incredibly rewarding!

Finally, what do you hope readers will take away from your story?
I hope it helps readers understand the struggle some teens face living with two cultures – one at home and the other outside.

The culture clash struggle is not just confined to Asian kids growing up in two cultures – it’s about all teens facing clashes of conflicting views, ideas, opinions with a different generation. Understanding what it is can help in some way in dealing with it.

I would like boys to read the book too as it’s so important for them to know the boundaries, recognise the consequences, the repercussions and the terrible pain of the trauma someone like Jay goes through.

Ultimately, I want readers to take hope with them at the end of the story. There is always hope.

Thanks so much for having me here, Katie! If your readers want to know anything more about me or The Girl in the Broken Mirror, here’s my website www.savitakalhan.com, or I’m always happy to chat on Twitter @savitakalhan

A huge thank you to the lovely Savita for stopping by! My review of this powerful story will be posted very soon. Be sure to check out the rest of the wonderful blogs taking part in the tour:

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

REVIEW: Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda

Pages: 384
Format: ARC Paperback
Publisher: Crown Books
Topics: Mystery, Missing People
Release Date: January 16th 2018 (US)
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

Jessa Whitworth knew she didn't belong in her ex-boyfriend Caleb's room. But she couldn't deny that she was everywhere: in his photos, his neatly folded T-shirts, even the butterfly necklace in his jeans pocket . . . the one she gave him for safe keeping on that day.

His mother asked her to pack up his things, even though she blames Jessa for his accident. How could she say no? And maybe, just maybe, it will help her work through the guilt she feels about their final moments together.

But as Jessa begins to box up the pieces of Caleb's life, they trigger memories that make Jessa realize their past relationship may not be exactly as she remembered. And she starts to question whether she really knew Caleb at all.

Each fragment of his life reveals a new clue that propels Jessa to search for the truth about Caleb's accident. What really happened on the storm-swept bridge?

Well, this was quite a rollercoaster of a story. With it's twists and turns leading me all over the place, I was never sure exactly which direction it was going to take, leaving me constantly growing suspicious and pointing fingers at almost every character.

Fragments of the Lost takes place after the disappearance of Caleb Evers, and follows his ex-girlfriend Jessa as she clears his room away for his family as they prepare to move. A lot of the story is set within Caleb's bedroom and told through memories that the two of them shared. But the more things Jessa discovers in his room, the more she starts analysing the parts of Caleb's life that she was allowed to see.

I'll be completely honest, at first I thought this book was going to be my cup of tea. Whilst I do love a good thriller, I don't read them too often, and this one didn't manage to draw me in straight away considering it was mostly Jessa's memories of their relationship for the first quarter of the book. But the more Jessa tore apart Caleb's room, the more hooked I became. Instead of getting answers, we're given more mysteries, and Jessa starts to realise that she only got to see a small part of Caleb's complex life.

Jessa was a character who I didn't feel too connected to at the start of the story, but I grew to like her more and more. She was just a normal girl who happened to get swept up into a very complicated world. I enjoyed seeing her interactions with those around her change as the story progressed.

There wasn't one character who I wasn't suspicious of at some point or another. In fact, for quite a big chunk of the story, I was absolutely convinced that a minor character had something to do with Caleb's disappearance, when it turned out they were actually just a perfectly innocent minor character. I really thought I was cleverly on to something, but I couldn't have been more further from the truth!

Whilst the overall story isn't scary, there were certain scenes in this that left me chilled. Especially as Jessa investigated parts of Caleb's past. There were moments when I really didn't know who to trust, so I had no idea whether any of the characters were potentially going to bring harm to Jessa, and it definitely had me on edge! That feeling of unease was what kept me turning the pages of this book, and it made for a brilliantly atmospheric read. 

Royal Rating:

Monday, 2 April 2018

EVENT RECAP: An Afternoon With Holly Black

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you'll probably have noticed a lot of people discussing Holly Black's latest novel, The Cruel Prince. I've been desperate, and I mean desperate, to get my hands on a copy, but my very broke self hasn't been able to purchase any new books lately. So when I saw that the wonderful Waterstones in Liverpool was hosting a competition for a free ticket to Holly's event, including a copy of the book, I hit that retweet button so fast. For once, luck was actually on my side and I WON.


Literally two hours before the event, I found out on Twitter that I was one of the two winners, so I had an hour to throw some clothes on and make myself look presentable because I WAS ABOUT TO MEET HOLLY BLACK. Somehow I still managed to get to the store super early, and bagged myself a seat at the very front. I always try to arrive early to get front row at these things because my short self would spend the whole time craning to see over not-short people the whole time otherwise.

On my way in, I was given this absolutely gorgeous goodie back containing a copy of the book (!!!!!!!!!) and some very exciting swag, which I had a nosey at whilst waiting for the talk to start. 

The goodie bag from the event!
Look at this beautiful character art!
Black heart lollipops. I'm always down for free food.
An adorable bookmark and a candle? This goodie bag is definitely for me. Also: HELLO SEQUEL TEASER.
A super cute fairyloot badge!
Holly kicked off the event in dramatic style with a reading of the prologue from The Cruel Prince. After that, she did a short interview with the host of the afternoon, the wonderful Simon from Savidge Reads, talking about all things Faerie. He questioned her about the story revolving around Jude instead of Vivi, whom the prologue seems to focus on more. Holly told us that whilst Vivi seemed to tick all of the right boxes for a classic YA protagonist, in her mind the story had always been about Jude. She wanted to tell a story about a human growing up in an 'other' world, like a reverse-changeling story.

After the initial interview, the event was handed over to the audience to ask questions. When quizzed about writing a series, Holly's advice was to be careful not to close too many doors too early on in the story because they might be needed further down the line. She was also asked about how she knew a book would end when there is a sequel, and she confessed that The Cruel Prince had originally supposed to finish at another part.

One of the final questions of the night was about where she got her folklore when planning her stories set in Faerie. She told us that she read books that contained write-ups of people's encounters with faeries. Whether they're real or not, they contain some fascinating information!

Once the questions were all finished, we were allowed to queue up for the book signing. There was originally someone in front of me in the line, but they left to go and get something, and before I knew it, I was at Holly's table! Not expecting to be first up, I definitely had one of those good old Moments of Panic where I forgot every word that ever existed. My anxious self likes to go over what I'm saying approximately one million times in my head beforehand, so I felt exceptionally Unprepared. Luckily I composed myself enough to tell her that I was super excited to read the book and that I'd seen my fellow bloggers give it so much praise.


And that was my tale from a very unexpected book signing! This was actually the first book event I'd been to in almost two years, since my anxiety prevented me from going to the last signing that I planned to attend. I'm proud that I managed to make it this time and only mildly freaked out. I need to say a huge thank you to the team at Waterstones Liverpool for the fantastic opportunity, and to Holly for a wonderful afternoon. I'm beyond excited to finally read The Cruel Prince!

 

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Queen of Teen Fiction has a New Look!

Do you like what I've done with the place? I sure hope so because it's only taken me since the start of 2018 to redecorate. Since I last changed my blog design in 2015, I figured I'd stuck with the same look for long enough to have earned a change. So one of my goals for this year was to work on a new design, and this time I wanted to completely change things up. As you may have noticed, I've lost my little book queen, who has been on my blog for the best part of seven years. 

When I first started my blog back in 2011, everyone else seemed to have their own vector boy or girl in their header, and I wanted one too! Which is how my queen came to be. But after all these years, I think it's time to give her a rest. As much as I love her, I felt like it was finally time to go for a more simple and minimalist look.

It certainly hasn't been easy to get this design the way I wanted it. Back when I first started blogging, I had zero knowledge in design. And I mean literally nothing. I was a complete mess. I was also a very poor mess, which meant I couldn't afford to buy any sort of custom design (i still can't). So I had no choice but to try and learn things myself. Despite my hatred of HTML, I'm super proud of how far I've come in being able to handle my own blog design! As well as the new look, I've also decided to try changing up my reviews a little as well, so stay tuned for some new content in the future.

Whilst making this new design, I've made use of so many amazing free resources that I've come across online, so I'm hoping to create a masterlist of useful websites for a blog post on design. If any of you have websites you use to help with your own blogs, please feel free to share them in the comments and I'll include them. Hopefully it can make life a little easier for bloggers who want to create their own designs in the future!

There will probably be more than a few teething problems with the new design over the next few weeks. No matter how many times I check things over, something always manages to go wrong. So if you happen to notice anything acting a little strange on my blog, please do let me know so I can (try to) fix it!


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

REVIEW: Tender by Eve Ainsworth

Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Topics: Realistic Fiction, Illness, Mental Health
Release Date: March 1st 2018
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

Touching on mental health, family, friendship and the pressures that teenage carers face, as author Cat Clarke says, TENDER is a compassionate, compelling and unflinching novel . Marty and Daisy spend their lives pretending. Marty pretends his mum's grip on reality isn't slipping by the day. Daisy pretends her parents aren't exhausting themselves while they look after her incurably ill brother. They both pretend they're fine. But the thing about pretending is, at some point, it has to stop. And then what?  


My Thoughts:
This story deals with two incredibly difficult living situations for teenagers, Daisy and Marty. Whilst one must deal with the physical battles her family has to face with her brother's muscle wasting disease, the other has to cope with the mental health issues his mother deals with every day. The two contrasting families fight very different things, but somehow Daisy and Marty manage to find common ground in the position their lives have put them both in.

The two main characters are so interesting to read about. Though it's difficult to see them bury their thoughts and feelings away, I'm glad that as readers, we get to see them finally able to share their worries with each other, and eventually open up to those around them as well. So many younger people like Daisy and Marty are facing situations where they have to give up large parts of their lives to care for those around them.

This story, although aimed at teenagers, is also an important tool for showing everyone what young carers have to go through. Both Daisy and Marty feel as though they have to hide their own difficulties because they don't want to make a fuss or cause more problems. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for people genuinely facing situations like this. I'm so glad that this story was able to show the characters realising that it's okay to think about themselves as well.

Daisy and Marty find comfort in each other throughout the story and the small amount of romance between them is sweet and refreshing. Ainsworth manages to perfectly capture the butterfly-filled feelings that spark between them. I also adored the scenes that took place in the group for young carers. If there had been more time within the story, I'd have loved to have gotten to know the characters within the group a little more.

Despite the difficult situations that Tender revolves around, it leaves readers with positive messages that everyone should think about. As the characters learn, we definitely need to start living for the right now because we never know what's going to happen tomorrow. I'm always pleased whenever books include useful information links at the back relating to the subjects covered within the story, which this one did. It's a simple way to provide support and comfort for the readers who might pick up the book whilst struggling with similar situations. 

Royal Rating:

 
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