Sunday, 16 July 2017

REVIEW: The Circus by Olivia Levez

Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Rock The Boat
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: June 13th 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository
Willow has everything: a rich daddy, a pony and a place at a prestigious boarding school. Everything except the one thing she really wants—a father who cares enough to find her when she runs away from home.

On the eve of her father’s wedding, Willow runs again into the unknown. Her mother was a circus performer and Willow longs to follow in her footsteps. But when all of her money is stolen and her only friend, a street performer called Suz, betrays her, Willow is left penniless and alone. So begins a journey. Will Willow ever make it to the big top and find a place she can truly call home?

My Thoughts:
The Island was one of my favourite books of 2016, and was the story that made me fall utterly in love with the writing style of Olivia Levez. So it's safe to say that I was super excited to read her second book, The Circus.

This story starts with teenager Willow running away from home on the day of her father's wedding to a much younger woman. We quickly learn that it's not the first time she's fled from her old life, but this time she gets further than she's ever done before. With only one picture of her mother, who left her as a child, dressed as a circus performer, she decides to follow in her mother's footsteps and join the circus. Willow makes it to Hastings and reinvents herself as Frog, a circus performer ready to start her new life, but things go from bad to worse for her.

What I love about Olivia's characters is that they're always so real. There's nothing sugar-coated about the problems that they face and the world around them. They're not perfect, they're not always nice, but that's what makes them so believable. Frog's flaws make for a much more interesting story, and it made me root for her to get the things she wanted in life, even when she didn't fully realise what that was.

Whilst trying to navigate the streets of Hastings alone, Frog ends up becoming friends with Suz, a homeless girl who starts to teach her how to perform fire ticks, despite the two of them not getting off to a great start. Their relationship was one of the most interesting aspects of this story for me because as a reader, I never knew where I stood. I didn't know what would become of them from one chapter to the next. Even though they needed each other to get by, there was a tension between them that could break at any time.

The circus that we eventually get to see in the story was fascinating and I loved the mix of characters who were performers. I only wish we'd had more time with them and gotten to know more about their daily life at the circus.

One thing that really stood out to me about this book was that as a reader, I never felt safe. Frog's life was so uncertain from chapter to chapter that I never knew how her day was going to end, and I appreciated that level of tension because it made for an exciting but nerve-wracking read. The ending was written beautifully and as with The Island, there are still things left for the reader to wonder about. The Circus was such a thrilling and raw read, and it's only made me even more excited for whatever Olivia Levez works on next! 

Royal Rating:

 
 

Friday, 7 July 2017

REVIEW: Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare

Series: The Dark Artifices
Pages: 720
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: May 23rd 2017
Buy The Book: A Great Read - Book Depository

Sunny Los Angeles can be a dark place indeed in Cassandra Clare’s Lord of Shadows, the sequel to the #1 New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling Lady Midnight. Lord of Shadows is a Shadowhunters novel.

Emma Carstairs has finally avenged her parents. She thought she’d be at peace. But she is anything but calm. Torn between her desire for her parabatai Julian and her desire to protect him from the brutal consequences of parabatai relationships, she has begun dating his brother, Mark. But Mark has spent the past five years trapped in Faerie; can he ever truly be a Shadowhunter again?

And the faerie courts are not silent. The Unseelie King is tired of the Cold Peace, and will no longer concede to the Shadowhunters’ demands. Caught between the demands of faerie and the laws of the Clave, Emma, Julian, and Mark must find a way to come together to defend everything they hold dear—before it’s too late.

My Thoughts:
*trying to write coherent review through my stream of tears*

Actual footage of me after this book
Every book by Cassandra Clare, every single book, ruins me emotionally. And Lord of Shadows is no exception. So as difficult as it might be, I'm going to keep this review spoiler free, but I will have a video on my channel at some point to discuss everything in-depth because OH BOY THERE'S A LOT TO DISCUSS. For now though, no spoilers.

Lord of Shadows picks up shortly after the events in Lady Midnight. The Blackthorns are trying to come to terms with everything that has happened with Malcolm, and his death hasn't solved their problems. A high number of sea demons are appearing and the Shadowhunters have to work alongside the Centurions to find out what's causing them to show. Along with the growing threat, the characters each have their own personal demons to battle.

Emma and Julian continue to struggle with their forbidden feelings throughout this book. Emma is trying her best to make her parabatai fall out of love with her, as much as it pains her to do so. These poor characters, honestly. I felt for them so much. What I love about The Dark Artifices is how it's exploring a love story between parabatai. It's new territory for readers, so it's interesting to discover new facts we didn't previously know about the Shadow world. With Emma and Julian, I appreciate the history between them. I enjoyed having the main romance be between two people who've known each other since childhood, so instead of focusing on building their relationship, we're witnessing how it's changing.

What I love about the Cassandra Clare's books is that no matter how many stories she writes that are set in Shadow World, there is always something new to learn about, or a new area to focus on, so it doesn't feel repetitive. In Lord of Shadows, we got to explore a little more about the attitudes that Shadowhunters have towards mental health and mundane treatment, which is something we've barely touched upon in previous stories but it's something I've been interested in. Can I also take a moment to talk about Ty and his autism because I'm so happy that this is a fantasy series that has an autistic boy as one of the main characters. I loved the way Kit thought about Ty's autism in the story, and how showing his reactions to Ty reminded us just how little the Shadowhunters understand about these things. THESE CHARACTERS ARE JUST SO GREAT.

I need to take a moment to talk about the romantic relationships in this book because OH BOY. I'm always complaining about love triangles and how they aren't necessary, but I almost missed the simplicity of them whilst reading this book because it completely throws triangles out of the window. THERE ARE SO MANY CHARACTERS WITH SO MANY FEELINGS FOR OTHER CHARACTERS AND I'M EMOTIONALLY RUINED. I don't want to say too much or I'll risk running into Spoiler Zone, but I don't envy Cristina's situation in this book and I honestly have no idea where her love life is going to go.

Okay, so the ending. Haha. I never want to read an ending like that ever again. It's been weeks and I'm still traumatised. The writing throughout the final couple of chapters is incredible at building the tension and showing emotions. Also the action scenes, as always, are vividly described. I honestly can't believe I have to wait (I don't know how long) to find out what happens next!

Royal Rating:

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

#ReadWithPride Mini Reviews!


Throughout June, Scholastic have been running a #ReadwithPride campaign to celebrate three of their diverse reads in honour Pride Month. If you haven't been able to check out any of these books yet, I've written some mini-reviews to help you decide if you want to give them a try...

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green
  • I love this book.
  • Like, a lot.
  • So Noah believes he's totally Straight™ and thinks that dating the cute, unique girl at his school, Sophie, will help him ditch his nerdy/loser image.
  • But then his best friend, Harry, kisses him at a party and obviously that wasn't part of Noah's perfect little plan.
  • So everything goes to hell.
  • He doesn't realise how much he actually likes Harry and still thinks he can romantically pursue Sophie. Bless him.
  • This story is so funny. Honestly, I'm glad I was reading it at home and not on public transport because I would have received so many side-eyes from my fellow commuters.
  • It's beautifully British.
  • Noah is a precious, adorable little bean and his journey to coming to terms with his sexuality is cute, honest, and relatable.
  • His commentary on everything is A+.
  • Harry and Sophie are both brilliant characters and also Noah's mum, who takes a little while to get used to but is desperately funny. She's a Beyonce tribute act, naturally.
  • Did I mention I love this book?

George by Alex Gino
  • *throws this books at you*
  • So everyone needs to read this book.
  • E V E R Y O N E
  • If books had a middle name, Important would belong to this one.
  • A story with a transgender kid as the main character, learning how to embrace herself for who she is.
  • Do I need to say more?
  • Adorable friendships, wonderfully written characters, heart-warming moments, as well as some darker issues being addressed.
  • This books is informative as well as being fun, so it's perfect for anyone of any age.
  • It also deals with bullying, showing what kids who are different have to face.
  • It's just wonderful storytelling.
  • And I appreciate it a lot.

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe
  • So this one is a memoir.
  • And I'm so happy that Lucy decided to write about her life.
  • Because this book shows us a real young woman's journey to accepting her sexuality.
  • It shows her turning herself from someone who is shy and feels isolated, to someone who is open and proud and encourages others to be the same.
  • It discusses coming out to friends and family, and other people you cross paths with in your daily life.
  • It also explores first love and long distance relationships.
  • Uplifting is the perfect word to describe this book.
  • Lucy's love for Hermione is everything.
  • Lucy's love for her friends is also everything.
  • Her friends will immediately become your Squad Goals.
  • Seriously, where can I make friends like this??
  • This is a quick and cute read, and will leave you with a goofy little smile on your face because LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE IS ENOUGH TO MAKE ANYONE SMILE.

Make sure to check the #readwithpride tag on Twitter for more of the posts that have been shared this month!

Friday, 23 June 2017

8 Pride Inspired Reads

Has Pride gotten you in the mood to read some diverse books? I'm always looking for diverse reads, and nothing gets me wanting to find more LGBTQ+ characters like Pride Month. Here's a list of some awesome stories you might want to check out if you haven't already!


George by Alex Gino



I can't praise this book enough, I really can't. George is a story with a young transgender main character in the fourth grade. The fact that this book can be read by both children and adults alike means it has the chance to not only provide a relatable character for other transgender kids, but it can also be an important tool in educating parents about what their child might be going through. It's a book that I think needs to be easily available in every school.

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green



I've already listed this as one of my favourite reads from 2017 because this book was just so much fun. This story follows Noah as his relationship with his best friend begins to change. If you're looking for a more light-hearted story about a teenage boy coming to terms with his sexuality, then this is the perfect book. I dare you not to adore Noah! 

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan



This is a book that truly embraces the spirit of Pride! A collaboration between two fantastic authors, this story follows characters Kate and Mark as their lives collide during Pride events in San Francisco. The two of them quickly build a strong friendship and we get to see how the two of them support each other during their romantic woes. With adorable and witty characters, and an ending that truly made my heart smile, I'd definitely suggest this one for a feel-good read!

The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson


I honestly can't talk about my love for this book enough. It's one of my favourites. This story follows two transgender characters, one in the middle of transitioning, and one who is only just coming to terms with being trans, and learning to open up about it. The characters in this story are just so rich and full of life, they're impossible not to like. The Art of Being Normal is informative, believable, and also hilarious at times. If you haven't had a chance to pick this one up yet, then now is the perfect time!

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe



I've literally just finished reading this one, so it's fresh it my mind! This is a memoir from Lucy about her life so far, coming to terms with her sexuality and telling the story of how she fell in love. Lucy is wonderfully open and honest about what was going through her mind during her confusing teen years. Young people who are discovering their sexuality will be able to relate to the situations Lucy finds herself in, and the questions that run through her mind.

A Boy Like Me by Jennie Wood



I first read this eBook just over two years ago and it reminded me exactly why I'm still a huge reader of indie stories. It's a touching story that follows the journey of a transgender boy trying to win the heart of the girl he loves. It's gives us an informative look into the feelings of someone coming to terms with the fact that they were born in the wrong body, and the issues that transgender people face in everyday life. A Boy Like Me is such a wonderful hidden gem.

Maurice by E.M.Forster



I had to include my fave classic in this list! Maurice was written in the early 1900's, but due to the story being based around homosexuality, it wasn't released until 1971, after Forster's death. A story way ahead of it's time, Maurice gives an insightful look into being gay in Edwardian England. And despite most stories that included gay characters at the time ending in tragedy, Forster was determined to give this one a happier ending.

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson



This book follows twins Jude and Noah, jumping between the past and the present, leading up to the death of their mother and the what happened after. Noah is in love with the boy next door, and whilst the book doesn't solely focus on their story, it does demonstrate how self-destructive a person can be whilst trying to deny or hide their sexuality. Noah's journey in this book has a lot of low moments, but he was such a fantastic character to read about. 

!BONUS FANTASY READ!
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell


I've discovered more and more awesome fantasy stories with LGBTQ+ characters in recent years, and I could spend ages writing a list of the ones I like to throw at everyone, but I'll stick with recommending my absolute favourite. PLEASE, IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THIS BOOK YET, JUST GIVE IT A LITTLE TRY.

There's so many more awesome LGBTQ+ reads out there to discover, this is just a list of some of my personal faves. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments! (I'm on the hunt for books with asexual characters if anyone can recommend one.) Also, be sure to check out the #ReadwithPride Twitter tag set up by Scholastic to find some awesome posts and reviews that are being published throughout June.

Monday, 19 June 2017

BLOG TOUR: Extract of Shattered Minds by Laura Lam

THREE (cont)

CARINA

The Zealscape, Green Star Lounge, Los Angeles,

California, Pacifica

When she opens her eyes, the body is gone. A benefit of dream worlds: no clean up. No fear of being discovered dumping the body. No fear of discovery at all.

Dealing with the orderly’s accusing eyes is the only judgement she faces, and one she never fears.

She holds onto her sense of self, staying calm and collected. Replete. The mind of the scientist is back. She wanders the imaginary halls of her childhood home, peeking through the doors: the old home gym, her mother’s bedroom, preserved just as it was the last time she left it and never returned. Her teenage room, with its holographic band posters and unmade bed, reeking of a desperate attempt at normalcy.

All too soon, that buzz returns. Her fingers twitch. That delicious expectation of following her victim and their moves: where they’ll be, how she’ll take them and make them hers. Her thoughts turn only to blood and flayed muscles. Of taking out organs and hefting them in her hands, arranging them just so.

Here in the Zealscape, she can lose herself in the hunt as much as she wants. Here, she hurts only herself, as more and more of her body wastes away, strapped in the Chair in the Zeal lounge. Her body warms, thrums with excitement. She whispers Zeal’s newest catchphrase to herself: ‘More real than reality.’

Carina enters another room. In the real Greenview House, it was a guest bedroom and study, but now it is her planning room. One wall is blank, and she can visualize and design her next victim. She decides to go back to her roots: a distorted echo of her first target. Carina builds the man from scratch. Early fifties, a beer gut, hair and beard of greying brown. Hard eyes, an unhappy slash of a mouth. Large hands that make blocky fists. He is different enough that the sight of his face doesn’t make her shudder. She feels awareness sharpening. She’s growing closer. Her fingers twitch.

After creating him, she sends him away. She spends a few minutes programming his background – his job, his friends, sketches of his wife and family. This criminal has a penchant for child porn. She can again pretend it’s vengeance, not pure, selfish pleasure. Most Zealots don’t have such control over their drug-fuelled dreams. Then again, most people don’t have PhDs in neuroprogramming.

She can’t wait any more. Her skin is hot with need.

Carina walks through a door on the far side of the room and steps into a hallway that transitions seamlessly into a street. She follows her prey at a distance, watching the greying head bob as he walks. Her jaw is clenched tight. She barely blinks. The other people on the street are only vaguely humanshaped, with blurred ovals for faces. Nightmares for anyone else, but for her, just stand-ins.
Carina grasps a Stunner she conjured in her pocket. Sometimes she’ll stretch out the hunt – stalk them for longer, make their lives more detailed, lose herself in the fantasy – but she can’t today. Her breath catches in her throat. Her eyes in the Chair, back in reality, dilate behind closed eyelids.

Almost time. Almost time to feel alive again, for a little while.

She’s just taken out the Stunner in a quivering hand when it happens.

The street disappears, along with her quarry. Just gone, as if someone has hit a switch. The whole room turns black. No, darker – that blackness of the space between stars. There have been glitches in the system before, but Carina knows, with a deep certainty, that this is something more.

She’s lost the sense that she has a body. Her mind seems to float in the darker-than-darkness. Then light explodes back into her world.

Numbers, sounds, flashes of brightness, the feel of fingernails against her skin, of bubbles on her tongue. All her senses fragment and blur. Between the overloads is a snapshot of cohesive thought.

I’m dying. This is what dying must feel like.

The noise and the chaos begins to crystallize. Five images, over and over: A bee, buzzing, its wings flapping frantically, its antennae twitching. A rose, in full bloom; brilliantly, impossibly red, a drop of dew on one petal. A thorn, from the rose, its point curved and wicked. A drop of blood, welling on a fingertip. And eyes, staring right at her, wide and fathomless. Heterochromic – one green, one blue.

They play, over and over and over again, telling a narrative she cannot hope to understand.

And then they stop, though she can still sense them, as though the images are flashing just out of sight.

The last image, the mismatched eyes, takes over her entire vision. It zooms out, until Carina sees the rest of the face, and then a body on a Chair in that lab she recognizes all too well. The last vision had been through the girl’s viewpoint, but Carina is sure this is her. She’s young – fifteen, sixteen at a push. She’s all doe-eyed innocence, spindly, coltish legs, her hair half an inch long. She reminds Carina a little too much of herself as a teenager. The girl is dead.

Part of her short hair has been shaved away. Dr Roz Elliot has opened up her skull, poked about in the contents, and sewn it back up, yet dead flesh does not knit. Her tanned skin is pale and chalky, legs akimbo.

‘What did you do, Roz?’ Carina asks the darkness.

The dead girl does not answer. Her eyes are open and staring. One blue, one green.

As if Carina blinks, the image is gone, and all is darker than black once again.

Carina awakens again into the grimy Zealot room, her mouth dry. An alarm again blares through the room.

There’s no attendant. Carina twists her real, hurting body on the Chair, the wires tugging at her skin.

The beeping doesn’t stop, pulsing with the throbbing of her temples. Far away, she hears frantic footsteps and concerned voices calling out to each other.

‘Where’s the fucking orderly?’ Carina yells. Her head still spins with the images.

The orderly who put her back in the dream enters the room. Stops, stares.

‘You’re not dead,’ he says.

‘Should I be?’

‘Everyone else is.’

SHATTERED MINDS by Laura Lam is published by Pan Macmillan, 15 June, £12.99 Hardback. Visit www.talesofyesterday.co.uk tomorrow to read the next instalment…



Laura Lam was raised near San Francisco, California, by two former Haight-Ashbury hippies. Both of them encouraged her to finger-paint to her heart's desire, colour outside the lines, and consider the library a second home. This led to an overabundance of daydreams. She relocated to Scotland to be with her husband, whom she met on the internet when he insulted her taste in books. She almost blocked him but is glad she didn't. At times she misses the sunshine.




Monday, 5 June 2017

GUEST POST: Favourite Childhood Books and Their Hidden Meanings by Aliah Beatrice

Children’s books can be rather silly, colourful, and funny, written specifically to draw in children with the intention of getting a certain message across. The obvious lessons usually focus on morals and are hidden within the storylines. Others, on the other hand, feature much deeper meanings that provide a commentary about real-world issues.

Image credit: Flickr
Curious George 
While Curious George is now more commonly identified by its various products that feature the cute little monkey, his roots actually trace back to the book, Curious George, written by H.A. and Margret Rey, which features him undertaking several misadventures. Behind these adventures is a sobering bit of information. Romper said that according to curator Claudia Nahson, those narrow escapes are actually a loose depiction of the couple’s escape from the Nazis. The two, who were German Jews living in Paris, managed to escape the city on their bikes just a couple of days before it was invaded by Germans.

Paddington Bear 
Paddington Bear is now better known as a television character. Before his small screen appearances, however, he was first known via a children’s book series by Michael Bond, the first of which showed the cute, little bear arriving on the platform of Paddington Station with a suitcase and a note attached to his coat saying, “Please look after this bear. Thank you.” Tablet revealed that this scene came about because the author remembered seeing Jewish children refugees that had nothing but a small label around their neck with their name and address on. His later books would serve as a reflection of how refugees acclimatised to different environments, including dealing with xenophobia. 

Dr. Seuss’s works 
No children’s books list is complete without the works of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. While kids love his books for the seemingly nonsensical rhymes and the colourful pictures, a closer look will reveal that the stories reveal much deeper issues.

For example, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is actually a commentary on consumerism, specifically, how people now see the holiday as a means of purchasing things instead of the real meaning of that day. Another example is The Lorax, which tackles issues about corporate greed and how the environment suffers as a result of this. The deeper meaning of his other works are reviewed in an article on Popsugar.

It’s no wonder that Dr. Seuss’s works remain popular among kids and adults alike, years after he began publishing, the first of which came out in 1931. His legacy lives on not only in the new copies of his books, but also in other products, such as these children’s clothing ranges from Tootsa which were inspired by his works and were launched to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s 111th birthday.

James and the Giant Peach 
James and the Giant Peach is a fantastical story written by Roald Dahl featuring anthropomorphic insects, magical worms, and yes, a giant peach. Behind the magical tale, however, is a lesson to stop fearing the unknown and to look deeper beyond the surface, according to Hello Giggles.

Written by Aliah Beatrice 
Exclusive for queenofteenfiction.co.uk
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