Wednesday, 13 June 2018

I'M CHOPPING MY HAIR

For once, I'm publishing a post that isn't about books! Shocking, I know. Me, not talking about books every second of every day? A rare occurrence only witnessed every thirteen years on a full moon during a time ofANYWAY, today I want to write about A Thing that I'm doing, and I'd be super grateful if you could give it a read anyway. 


My hair has always been my pride and joy. For a long time, it's been the only part of how I look that I've gained any confidence from because it was always something that I was happy with. It's also always been long. From the moment I was old enough to start making my own decisions about my hair, I've grown it. My idea of a trip to the hairdressers would be getting the slightest trim which would leave my Mum asking the same question every time I'd come home: “Did you even get a haircut???”

A couple of years ago, I finally grew tired of the constant terrible dye jobs I was doing on my hair and decided to embrace my natural colour again. To do that, I had to grow it out so that I could fully get rid of the colours, especially the red, that I'd been throwing on it for literal years. So now I have my natural hair back and it's probably the longest I've had it before.

Long hair has been my 'look' for, well, a really long time!

So before making my usual appointment for a trim last year, I stopped and actually thought about the length of my hair for once. Would it really matter if it wasn't as long? I'm so lucky that I get to grow my hair, have a trim, then a few months later be back at the length I started. I'm so lucky that I get to put colour in my hair without a second thought because even if it goes terribly wrong and I end up looking like a little bit of an idiot for a while, it'll still grow out. There are so many children who can't grow their hair, so many young adults who can't experiment with different styles and not think twice about it. There are too many people who have to lose their hair in the cruelest ways. My hair is just a thing to me and I might love it a lot, but it could mean the world to someone else. 

From that point on, I continued growing my hair with the intention of making it something that someone else could be proud of. My hair is the one thing that helps me feel happy about the way I look, but now it's someone else's turn to feel that way.

Long hair has always been my defining feature

My hair has recently reached my waist, and pretty soon it'll be ready to go to a new and deserving home. In August, I'll be cutting and donating around 13 inches to the Little Princess Trust so it can be turned into a natural wig for children who need it far more than I do. In the meantime, I've set up a JustGiving page with the hopes of raising some money for this wonderful charity that helps to give young people the princess hair they deserve. It costs on average between £350-£500 for a wig to be made, which will then be given to a child who needs it for free.

Today is my birthday, and I couldn't ask for a better present than for people to help me raise money for a great charity. If you could contribute even just a little, or share the page so it reaches as many people as possible, I'd be so grateful.

Together we can help the Little Princess Trust bring a smile to young faces.


Thursday, 7 June 2018

REVIEW: Noah Could Never by Simon James Green

Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Topics: Humour, Teen Love
Release Date: June 7th 2018
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Noah and Harry are now officially boyfriends, but is Noah ready to go all the way? It's no help that a group of cosmopolitan French exchange students have descended on Little Fobbing - including sexy Pierre Victoire, who seems to have his eye on Harry! Meanwhile, Noah's paired up with a girl ... who, most outrageously, is not even French. But that's not all: the police are monitoring Noah, and he can't tell if it's because his dad and secret half-brother, Eric, have made off with his gran's fake diamonds; because his PE teacher is receiving mysterious cash infusions from Russia; or because drag queen Bambi Sugapops is hiding out at Noah's house in the midst of a knock-down, bare-knuckled drag feud. Will Noah ever catch a break?

Listen. You have no idea how much I've been looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of this sequel. In case you didn't already know, I adore Noah Can't Even. I love it so much that I scream about it online and recommend it whenever I get the chance. You can officially consider me to be a Noah Grimes Enthusiast. So to say I was pretty damn excited for this book is a bit of an understatement.

Noah Could Never picks up a little while after the events of the first book. Noah and Harry are now officially a couple and all is going well, apart from Noah's constant self doubt, that is. Obviously, I'm not going to go into the plot too much because I really don't want to spoil any of the amazing and completely wild surprises that get thrown at the characters, so I'll keep my fangirling spoiler-free. Just know that I loved the plot very much and it's just so FUN. You literally cannot predict anything that is going to happen in this book. It's impossible. It's also a very difficult book to review because honestly all I want to do is ASDFGHJKL;

actually me trying to write this review

You probably don't need me to confirm for you that this book is as hilarious as the first one, maybe even more so. Honestly. I was almost in tears laughing just a few pages in. I CAN'T COPE WITH THE HUMOUR IN THESE BOOKS.

Things I have learned reading Noah Could Never:
  1. Try to avoid reading it surrounded by family who are going to question why you keep grinning down at the book in your lap like the biggest dork in the world.
  2. READ WITH CAUTION ON PUBLIC TRANSPORT. I sincerely hope the poor commuters sitting across from me on the train didn't catch me fighting back the giggles. There are just certain scenes in this book that CANNOT be read in public. IT'S JUST TOO FUNNY FOR THAT, OKAY?

You also don't need me to reiterate how much I love Noah. I can't help but adore him, even when he's making huge mistakes which you know he's going to end up regretting. I didn't expect to relate to him, but the feelings of self doubt that he has really hit home more than I was ready for! He goes through a lot of moments when he feels like he doesn't deserve Harry, and believing he needs to be a better version of himself, trying various ways to change himself to what he thinks is deemed 'perfect'. Something that I really loved about this book is how, despite all of the laughs and wild situations, there were genuinely heartfelt moments between characters, and some very real issues were dealt with in a lighthearted way. Noah Could Never has a very cute message within its pages.

Whilst I'm talking about characters. Bambi. An incredible edition to this series. Just when you think this story couldn't get any better, we get introduced to the greatest drag queen Little Fobbing has ever seen, with perfect comedic timing and a wonderful catalogue of innuendos (though Pierre might just win the title of Best Innuendo Provider). 

  • Cutest characters you will ever meet. Honestly. How do people get through life without reading about Noah and Harry.
  • LITERALLY THE FUNNIEST. We all need a good, funny story every now and then. No matter what genre you usually read, it's always a good idea to pick up a book that's guaranteed to make you smile.
  • French exchange students because every good YA story needs French exchange students at some point.
  • Millie and the Dickheads. That's all I'm saying.

    Noah Could Never is the perfect sequel. It really is. After all this waiting, it didn't disappoint. From a dodgy protein shake business to a road trip with a drag queen, this book throws so many unexpected yet utterly hilarious situations at the characters, and it's glorious. Hands down my favourite book of 2018 so far. If you haven't had a chance to read the first book, Noah Can't Even, but happen to be reading this review anyway: PLEASE PICK IT UP. It's the perfect read for Pride Month, and trust me when I say that it will make you smile. 

    Royal Rating:

    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!

     
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