Friday, 9 February 2018

REVIEW: Rookie on Love edited by Tavi Gevinson

Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Non-fiction, Anthology
Release Date: January 2nd 2018
Buy The Book: Book Depository

A single-subject anthology about the heart's most powerful emotion, edited by Tavi Gevinson. Featuring exclusive, never-before-seen essays, poems, comics, and interviews from contributors like Jenny Zhang, Emma Straub, Hilton Als, Janet Mock, John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Gabourey Sidibe, Mitski, Alessia Cara, Etgar Keret, Margo Jefferson, Sarah Manguso, Durga Chew-Bose, and many more!

My Thoughts:
This is a book that really does have something to offer to everyone. A collection of works from various writers and artists, Rookie on Love is packed with a variety of recollections, observations, poems, and even comics, regarding the topic of love. Considering I focus so much on reading fiction, it was refreshing to pick this one up and enjoy something different.

Despite the book revolving around love, it's not just focused on romantic love. Whilst there are stories of heartbreak and love gone wrong, it also explores family dynamics, our relationships with our friends, and even the love we have for our pets. With relatable writing throughout, there's bound to be something within these pages that you can relate to a little.

This gorgeously designed book has adorable illustrations throughout, which make it even more special. The comic strip pages were an unexpected surprise that I adored! Especially, OMG, Yay! which focused on small, positive parts of an average day that can make us happy. It's such a cute idea that me smile.

I won't lie, my favourite work within Rookie on Love is Willis, a devotional to dogs. It's only a few pages long, but it really makes you think about the love our pets have for us, and how much their lives revolve around our decisions. It made my emotional, dog-loving self go and give my own dog the biggest of cuddles.

Do Sisters Actually Love Each Other? is an interesting piece about sibling relationships and how they evolve. The fact that it's told via text was interesting and made it even more fun to read. I also loved Binary Planets, in which twins Ogechi and Ugochi discuss their experiences growing up. It was fascinating to take this sort of look into the lives of others.

Another one of my favourites is the conversation between Rainbow Rowell and John Green about writing teen love. It was great to read their thoughts about why they write their love stories the way that they do. Other highlights include a poem by Florence Welch and a piece by Alessia Cara on learning how to love herself first and foremost.

With such an interesting bunch of pieces from a wonderfully diverse set of contributors, Rookie on Love is the uplifting read that I needed. It's one that can be picked up and delved into anytime, and one with works I'll be sure to go back to and read over again in the future.

Royal Rating:

Saturday, 20 January 2018

7 Books From 2017

Finally we've put 2017 behind us and have begun a new year! I'm very much looking forward to the reading year ahead, especially with the new sense of determination I have after my not-so-great 2017. But I always like to take the time to reflect on the wonderful books I discovered over the previous year. I did make a video to fully discuss my favourite books from 2017, but for those of you who prefer the good old written word, I've listed them in a blog post, too. So here are my top 7 from 2017!


What books were you loving in 2017? And what books are you looking forward to in the coming year? Let me know!

Thursday, 18 January 2018

REVIEW: Shell by Paula Rawsthorne

Pages: 416
Format: Format
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: January 4th 2018
Buy The Book: Book Depo - A Great Read

What if you thought you had died, only to wake up to find that your brain and eyes had been transplanted into someone else's body?

When Lucy, a teen diagnosed with terminal cancer wakes up cancer-free, it should be a dream come true. But faced with a life she didn't choose and trapped in a new body, Lucy must face the biggest question of all . . . How far would you go to save the one you love?

My Thoughts:
Well, this was quite a wild journey. Shell follows teenager Lucy Burgess, after a doctor successfully gives her a life-changing operation to save her from terminal cancer: a body transplant. Due to the nature of the surgery and the fact that it's not exactly legal, Lucy, now known as Renee, has to keep her new identity a complete secret. With her friends and the rest of her family outside of her parents believing she is dead, Lucy struggles to accept her new body and life.

This book is weird, but in the best possible way. I've read a story before that dealt with a brain transplant, but it was more of a light-hearted take on things, so it was quite something to read a story that delved into the dark side of what it would be like if body transplants were a reality. The few chapters after Lucy first wakes up from the operation are completely chilling. I was easily able to put myself in her shoes and imagine what it would be like to be in that terrifying situation. Her anxiety pours out through the words, making it tense and gripping to read.

My heart broke for Lucy trying to adjust to her new life as Renee. The realisation of what it means for her, of having to play dead to the people she loves, is such a blow to her once she returns home. Emotions run high in some of those first scenes back at her family home, especially when she comes face-to-face with her beloved pet dog, Arthur. As a dog lover, her scenes with him after her surgery were hard to swallow.

What I particularly liked about this book was the discussion about morals regarding death and how far people would go for life. Cancer didn't give Lucy a choice, but when there was a choice for her regarding her death, her parents took that into their own hands. It's a pretty dark theme but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. It's one of those things that encourages you to think about what you would do in that situation. The doubts that Lucy had towards the end of novel also made her more believable as a character because no matter how much she wanted to do the right thing, obviously fear plays a part at some point.

The final few chapters of this book are so action packed that I literally couldn't put the book down until 2am when I finished it. I GLADLY LOST SLEEP FOR THIS. I'm very glad that I picked this one up when I did though because it's given me my reading mojo back. This was a perfectly thrilling read to start off the new year.

Royal Rating: 


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

BLOG TOUR: Guest post from Paula Rawsthorne, author of SHELL

Hey, bookworms! Today is my stop on the blog tour for SHELL and I'm excited to share with you all this fabulous guest post from the writer herself, Paula Rawsthorne.

Q. Why and how do you write thrillers?

Hi Katie,

Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve written three YA novels (and I’m feverishly writing my fourth) and if I had to put them in a genre then ‘thrillers’ would definitely be appropriate. However, as with many novels, the characterisation isn’t straightforward. So, for instance, all three novels have a strong psychological element to them. This means that as well as all the twists, turns and action that you’d expect from a thriller, they also delve into what’s happening inside the character’s heads – the mind games that they play with each other, their motivation and the effects of events on their behaviour. Also, just to mash it up even more, both my first novel, The Truth About Celia Frost and particularly my latest SHELL, have an element of science fiction within them as I’m fascinated by what may happen, in the near future, as advances in medicine and science are taking place so rapidly. This also throws-up complex ethical questions which society will have to grapple with and which I enjoy exploring.

SHELL is the story of Lucy Burgess, a dying teenager, who is given a body transplant without her prior knowledge or consent. The novel is told entirely from Lucy’s perspective as I wanted the experience to be as immersive as possible for the reader. I hope to make the reader feel what it would be like to be Lucy, trapped inside someone else’s body with all the ensuing physical, emotional and psychological turmoil.

I wrote SHELL as a thriller because it’s a great form to write entertaining, gripping stories whilst also allowing you to explore interesting, thought-provoking themes which are integral to the plot and characters. Whether a thriller is read as a pure piece of entertainment or as something deeper that leaves the reader thinking, it can still succeed as a good read.

I also chose to writer in this genre because I enjoy the process. Developing the storyline for a psychological thriller is like putting an intricate jigsaw together and this appeals to me. I’m most definitely a ‘Plotter’ and I love working out how the story unfolds and characters develop with all the twists and turns.

I’m very old school in the sense that I use a cork board and revision cards to help me work out the plot. My board starts to resemble a police investigation as I reject, swap and insert scenes until I’m satisfied that I’ve got a strong skeleton for the whole story. Only then do I start the actual writing. I find that my storyboard gives me the confidence and freedom to let the narrative and characters take unexpected paths as the plot evolves and takes on a life of its own.

Thrillers are the genre I most enjoy reading as well as writing. I love to feel the tension and suspense of a gripping, well written story and I want the author to make my jaw drop with some shocking revelation that I didn’t see coming. However, another winning element to the thriller genre is that, if you do happen to work out the revelation before the reveal, you can feel extremely smug with yourself, so it’s satisfying either way.

I hope that SHELL will be enjoyed by readers and maybe even give them food for thought after all, how far would you go to stay alive?
Paula Rawsthorne is the award-winning author of Blood Tracks and The Truth about Celia Frost. She first found success when she won the BBC National ‘Get Writing’ competition with her prize-winning story read on Radio 4. She has also been a winner of SCBWI’s ‘Undiscovered Voices. She is passionate about enthusing teenagers to get reading and is a writer in residence in a secondary school for the national literacy charity ‘First Story’. SHELL is her third novel for young adults.

Huge thank you to Paula for stopping by with an awesome post! Be sure to keep an eye out for my review of SHELL later in the week. Also, don't miss out on the other wonderful blogs taking part in the tour:

Thursday, 4 January 2018

REVIEW: Vanilla by Billy Merrell

Pages: 320
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: LGBTQ+ Contemporary
Release Date: November 2nd 2017
Buy The Book: A Great Read - Book Depository
A bold, groundbreaking novel about coming out, coming into your own, and coming apart.

Hunter and Van become boyfriends before they're even teenagers, and stay a couple even when adolescence intervenes. But in high school, conflict arises -- mostly because Hunter is much more comfortable with the sex part of sexual identity. As the two boys start to realize that loving someone doesn't guarantee they will always be with you, they find out more about their own identities -- with Hunter striking out on his own while Van begins to understand his own asexuality.

In poems that are romantic and poems that are heartbreaking, Vanilla explores all the flavors of the spectrum -- and how romance and love aren't always the same thing.

My Thoughts:
As someone who is constantly shouting into the void for more books with asexual characters, you can imagine just how excited I was to hear about Vanilla. Focusing on the relationship between Vanilla and his boyfriend, Hunter, this story shows how Vanilla comes to the realisation that he is asexual. Together since middle school, Vanilla and Hunter have had a strong relationship for years, one that people can't help but envy. But when Hunter decides he wants to start moving further with their relationship, Vanilla struggles to explain to his boyfriend how he feels about sex.

Not only is this book about a sexuality that really needs more discussion, but it's also told entirely in verse, so it's just beautiful to read. I can't even begin to describe how happy I was with this story. Asexuality is so often overlooked, and so often excluded from LGBTQ+ groups. Thanks to books like this one, more people have the chance to learn what it means to be asexual, and begin to understand it.

The characters within this story are so rich. Vanilla himself is wonderful. As readers, we get to go on this confusing and difficult journey to discovery along with him. My heart broke for him so many times when he struggled to make Hunter understand what he was feeling. Hunter was a character that had me frustrated, but he was such an important part of showing that people can learn to understand eventually, despite how they initially react to a situation. One of my favourite characters had to be Angel, though. I wasn't expecting their story to have such an impact, considering I only expected it to focus on Vanilla and Hunter, and asexuality. Angel was such an unexpected but welcome part of the story that brought up valid discussions about gender and identity.

It makes me so happy to know that there will be people out there who can relate to this story and the emotions that Vanilla has, not to mention the challenges he has to face. But throughout this book, readers must keep in mind that this is only one story about a person discovering asexuality. No two people go through the exact same experiences, especially not when it comes to something as complex as sexuality. So for any asexual readers, it's fine if you don't relate to Vanilla's story. Everyone has their own path. 

I'm so glad I had the chance to discover this wonderful story, and I only hope that more books like this one come my way very soon. Not only did it open my eyes to a lot of things, but it also upped my interest in reading more verse. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for whatever Merrell is working on next.  

Royal Rating:

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Looking Back on 2017

I'll be completely honest, 2017 has been one of the most draining years for me, both mentally and physically. Along with my mental health deciding to go on a lovely vacation to Downward Spiral, I've had a few other health problems that have combined together to truly kick my backside this year. And it's been exhausting. Because of that, 2017 has also been my worst reading year since I started my blog. Whilst I usually breeze past my reading goal of 50 books with ease, I barely even managed half of that in 2017.

I may not have read much over the past twelve months, but I have discovered some amazing stories along the way. Two of my most important reads have been The Hate U Give, which taught me so much about the everyday racism that exists in our society, and Vanilla, which finally provided me with a wonderful asexual main character. I'm hoping to make a video very soon on my favourite books from 2017, so be sure to keep an eye out for that!

One of my biggest regrets this year is the lack of bookish events I've been able to attend. I usually love going to signings when authors come to my local city because it doesn't happen too often! So whenever I get the chance to meet an author I admire, I go for it. In previous years I managed to pluck up the courage to go to events completely alone, and even ask questions during talks. But this year, my anxiety got the better of me. One of my lowest points was giving up my ticket to event I was really excited for. I was supposed to go to a group author talk and signing which included one of my favourite UKYA writers, Melinda Salisbury, who I've never had the chance to meet before. Despite how much I wanted to go, my anxiety got the better of me and on the day I decided that there was no way I could face going alone. So I ended up staying at home and beating myself up about it. That's one of the things that really sucks about anxiety. Even if you've done something plenty of times before, and you're usually okay with it, you never know when you're going to not be okay. That day was one of those times for me.

So it's safe to say my blog has taken a huge step back this year. But despite all of that, I have managed to make a few good, bookish memories. My lack of reading meant that I couldn't post reviews very often, so instead of forcing myself to read when I wasn't motivated, I went in search of other blog post ideas. A few months ago I decided I wanted to write about my favourite local places to buy books. After weeks of getting up the nerve, it actually got me out of the house, with my camera, asking for permission to photograph pretty bookshops. With all of the setbacks my mental health has caused this year, I was immensely proud of myself for going out there and speaking to strangers for the sake of a blog post! It might not have seemed like much, but to be able to write that post was such a huge deal for me, so I'm allowing myself a little proud moment.

In other book related things from this year. YA GIRL FINALLY GOT TO VISIT THE HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR. For someone who is constantly too broke to travel further than my nearest city, being able to get up to London and visit the Studio Tour has been a complete impossibility for me. As someone whose life has quite literally been shaped by Harry Potter, it's been devastating for me to not be able to go!

But a couple of weeks ago, my amazing best friend, Rachel from Rachel's Really Random Reviews, offered to take me with her on her annual birthday trip to the tour. SO I GOT TO GO. Despite literally having a panic attack the night before, I managed to get through it all. Needless to say I took approximately eight million pictures, so I fully intend to write a blog post about it soon! 

After the year I've had, I can only hope things get better in 2018. Imagine things actually going my way for once? A wild thought. But there are a few tentative goals that I have in mind.

  • The one thing I want to do most is really get back to my reading. I've hated being so detached from my blog and the book community in general. I'm hoping so much that I'll be able to pick up more books in the months ahead.

  • I'd like to work on more original blog posts. I mostly only ever post reviews and blog tour posts, so there isn't much variety. Whilst I love doing all of those things, I like to think there are other ways that I can talk about books too. Hopefully, I can work on doing just that in 2018.

  • I'd also love to work on incorporating my photography into my blog some more. Going out and picturing a few places for a blog post has gotten me inspired to do more posts that allow me to mix my love of photography with my passion for books.

  • Getting more involved in the blogging community is something I'd love to try over the next year. Despite being around for almost seven years now, I still feel like I haven't really found my place. Whenever I'm on Twitter, I see so many wonderful bloggers and book lovers who I'd love to chat but my anxious self is too scared to reach out. Everyone seems to have their own friendship groups in their own little corner of the community, and it's hard not to feel like I'm on the outside looking in sometimes. So I'd love to try and get more involved with bloggers in 2018. (Hello lovely bloggers reading this, PLEASE COME AND BE MY FRIEND, I'M NICE I SWEAR. I'm just terrible at establishing communication.)

  • My final goal is to stop putting pressure on myself with regards to reading. Last year, I was guilty of comparing my blog to others and wishing I was able to find better opportunities. I really need to not let things like that get to me. It shouldn't matter what I read, whether or not I can get the latest book everyone is talking about, whether or not I can go to certain events. I can't change those situations, so why bother focusing so much on them? I need to just focus on doing my own thing and being content with that.
After 2017, it's a little difficult to feel optimistic about the coming year, but I'm trying my best. There are so many little things I'm looking forward to, books I'm excited about, design changes I want to learn how to make on my blog. I want to take part in NaNoWriMo again and really throw myself into a story I'm passionate about, regardless of the fact that it will probably never be read by anyone but me.
Thinking back over the year, I've noticed so many book bloggers having a pretty crappy time lately. Bloggers I've loved have gone on hiatus due to a variety of reasons. Now is one of those times when I feel like the community has to pull together more than ever. To my fellow bloggers: STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR BLOG. It should be something you do because you love it. If you feel like it's giving you more stress than enjoyment, don't be afraid to take a break. Focus on yourself first, and then rebuild your motivation later. Your blog will be there for you no matter when you're ready to properly return to it.

So, my fellow book lovers, how has 2017 treated you? Tell me your favourite books & memories. Also, what are your goals for 2018, if you have any? What bookish things are you looking forward to? Please feel free to let me know in the comments, or on Twitter

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