Tuesday, 6 December 2016

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: No Virgin by Anne Cassidy

Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: November 3rd 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

From the author of the critically acclaimed, LOOKING FOR JJ, shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize in 2004 and the Carnegie Medal in 2005.

My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.

Stacey is the victim of a terrible sexual attack. She does not feel able to go to the police, or talk about it to anybody other than her best friend, Patrice. Patrice, outraged, when she cannot persuade her to go to the police, encourages Stacey to write everything down. This is Stacey's story.

A tautly told and important book, perfect for readers of Asking for It by Louise O'Neill.

My Thoughts:
This was the November read for The Book Club!

This book tells the story of how seventeen-year-old Stacey Woods was raped. After she has an argument with her mother and sister, Stacey goes to spend the night at her dad's place, and the next day she heads to a cafe before going home. Whilst there she meets Henry, a boy who has a lifestyle completely opposite to her own. He's rich, has connections, and goes to a private school. Stacey is whisked away by his charm and attention. That chance meeting leads to a chain of events that spiral into a horribly life-changing situation.

No Virgin is without a doubt a very important story and Anne Cassidy tells it powerfully. This book shows that horrible things like this can happen to anyone, and that the attacker doesn't always fit the stereotypical image of what you'd expect. It also reminds us all that the victim is never to blame in this situation. After the attack, Stacey questions the decisions she made, scolds herself for being foolish, but no matter how naive she might have been, getting raped was not her fault.

The final few chapters of this book, when Stacey begins to face up to what has happened and take control, make for a powerful ending. But the end itself was quite abrupt. I wanted to read about the aftermath of Stacey deciding to speak about her attack. Whilst I've read YA stories that have dealt with rape before, I very rarely get to read books that deal with the fall out, including court cases. I wanted to see if justice was brought because the harsh reality is that there are attackers who don't face punishment for their crime, and this can discourage a lot of victims from coming forward. I was keen to see how the story progressed, so I was a little disappointed in the way it ended. But what I didn't know at the time was that there is going to be a sequel, so I'm interested to see how that second book deals with everything.

No Virgin is a very short read that can be finished within a few hours, getting straight to the point of what's happening, and the second half of the story compels you to keep reading. Whilst the attack itself was haunting and a huge reality check, the first half of the book failed to pull me in as much as the later chapters did. But it was still an impactful read and I think it's hugely important to have stories like this one in the YA genre to send a message to young people that attacks like this do happen, and that it can happen to anyone. 

Royal Rating:
I'd actually give this one more of a 3.5!

 

Monday, 21 November 2016

REVIEW: Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy

Pages: 653
Format: Hardcover
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Fantasy, Short Stories
Release Date: November 15th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Simon Lewis has been a human and a vampire, and now he is becoming a Shadowhunter. But the events of City of Heavenly Fire left him stripped of his memories, and Simon isn’t sure who he is anymore. He knows he was friends with Clary, and that he convinced the total goddess Isabelle Lightwood to go out with him…but he doesn’t know how. And when Clary and Isabelle look at him, expecting him to be a man he doesn’t remember…Simon can’t take it.

So when the Shadowhunter Academy reopens, Simon throws himself into this new world of demon-hunting, determined to find himself again. His new self. Whomever this new Simon might be.

But the Academy is a Shadowhunter institution, which means it has some problems. Like the fact that non-Shadowhunter students have to live in the basement. And that differences—like being a former vampire—are greatly looked down upon. At least Simon is trained in weaponry—even if it’s only from hours of playing D&D.

Join Simon on his journey to become a Shadowhunter, and learn about the Academy’s illustrious history along the way, through guest lecturers such as Jace Herondale, Tessa Gray, and Magnus Bane. These ten short stories give an epilogue to the Mortal Instruments series and provide glimpses of what’s in store in the Dark Artifices.

My Thoughts:
It's no secret that I completely ADORE anything to do with the Shadowhunter world created by Cassandra Clare, so needless to say I was very excited to find out there would be a series of short stories about Simon Lewis from The Mortal Instruments! Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy follows Simon's next two years after the events at the end of City of Heavenly Fire. He's at the newly reopened academy, training to become a Shadowhunter. Whilst there he meets his room-mate George Lovelace, and the two of them quickly become friends.

The book consists of ten short stories written by Cassie herself and her fellow writers Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman. Whilst following Simon's journey, we also get plenty of updates on the other main characters from TMI, along with a few stories set back in time with the characters from The Infernal Devices. This variety in the stories kept me gripped. One of my personal favourites was Nothing But Shadows, that gave us a chance to get to know the characters in Cassie's future series The Last Hours. I'll admit that I wasn't overly interested about this series for a while, mostly because there are a lot of Shadowhunter stories (A LOT) and I didn't want to get invested in one series whilst currently reading another (TDA. Like I said, A LOT TO KEEP UP WITH). But this story completely pulled me in. I fell in love with the characters and now I REALLY WANT TO READ THE LAST HOURS AND GOD ONLY KNOWS WHEN IT'LL BE RELEASED. I loved being able to jump from Simon and his friends in the modern day academy, back to the academy in 1899 where we meet James Herondale and Matthew Fairchild.

Whilst the book goes off on tangents to tell us a collection of short stories, the journey of Simon and his friends is constant throughout. With The Bane Chronicles (Cassie's previous collection of short stories) it was possible to jump in and out of the book at any story, but with this one it's better to read all of the stories in order. It also gives a better insight into some of the characters and situations we read about in the main Shadowhunter books. For example, there is a story called Bitter of Tongue that focuses on Mark Blackthorn from The Dark Artifices. My absolute favourite story had to be Born To Endless Night, which focused a little more on all of the TMI characters, specifically Magnus Bane and Alec Lightwood. It had me laughing one minute and then an emotional mess the other.

So the final story in this book COMPLETELY TORE MY HEART OUT AND I'M NOT OKAY. I will mention that I did already know the Major Event at the end. These stories were released originally as eBooks on a monthly basis, but I knew they'd be released in physical copy at a later date, so I decided to wait until then to read them. Mostly because I like having physical copies and also I was way too broke to buy one every month. I had no idea that the short story at the end of Lady Midnight would contain a spoiler for this book, but...it did. A very huge spoiler. So that unfortunately meant I went through this whole book knowing the fate of a main character, and whilst I wish I hadn't known it beforehand because it would have packed more of an emotional punch, I still found the ending powerful.

All of the stories within this book were great to read and I enjoyed not only catching up with some old favourite characters, but also meeting some amazing new ones. I loved getting the chance to jump back into the Shadowhunter world again!

Royal Rating:


Monday, 14 November 2016

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland

Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: October 4th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Henry Page has never been in love. He fancies himself a hopeless romantic, but the slo-mo, heart palpitating, can't-eat-can't-sleep kind of love that he's been hoping for just hasn't been in the cards for him - at least not yet.

Instead, he's been happy to focus on his grades, on getting into a semi-decent college and finally becoming editor of his school newspaper. Then Grace Town walks into his first period class on the third Tuesday of senior year and he knows everything's about to change.

Grace isn't who Henry pictured as his dream girl; she walks with a cane, wears oversized boys' clothes, and rarely seems to shower. But when Grace and Henry are both chosen to edit the school paper, he quickly finds himself falling for her. It's obvious there's something broken about Grace, but it seems to make her even more beautiful to Henry, and he wants nothing more than to help her put the pieces back together again. And yet, this isn't your average story of boy meets girl.

My Thoughts:

Our Chemical Hearts was the October read for those of us at The Book Club! There may be a few itty bitty things that are spoilery in this review, so if you don't want to know anything plot-wise, then it might be wise to avoid scrolling down!

This story follows Henry Page from the moment that new girl, Grace Town, arrives at his school. When the two of them end up working together on the school paper, he finds himself fascinated by her and her mysterious past. When he finds out that the place Grace has been disappearing to each day is the cemetery, he discovers that she is grieving the death of her childhood best friend and boyfriend.

I'll be honest, I went into this book wary. The mixed reactions from fellow bloggers whose opinions I often agree with left me wondering if this was the type of book I'd enjoy, but I pushed the varied reviews aside when I started reading it so that I could judge it for myself. Unfortunately, I was right to be apprehensive because this book definitely wasn't for me.

My main issue with this story was the lead character, Henry. His dialogue and inner thoughts didn't connect with me at all, and I found some moments a little inappropriate. Obviously grief is a strong theme within this book, but to me it wasn't handled very well. Whenever there were genuine shows of raw emotion from Grace, Henry would think or say something ridiculous that took that emotion away from the moment. One instance of this is when he decides to be open with Grace about his feelings for her, and discovers for the first time that her boyfriend died. Because he's put his foot in his mouth, whilst she's talking to him all he thinks is about researching methods of suicide to get himself out of the embarrassing situation. I'm assuming comments like that one were supposed to be read as witty, another quirky part of Henry's personality, but it just made me uncomfortable. The tongue-in-cheek attitude didn't work for me. It felt like throughout the whole story, he was trying to make the situation about him. Yes, Grace used him as a rebound, and no that wasn't an okay thing to do, but Henry was equally as guilty of acting like a fool.

Aside from Henry, the characters in general just didn't work for me. The only character who I was interested in knowing more about was Henry's best friend, Lola Leung, but even with her I had problems. She is described as the 'diversity triple threat' because she's a lesbian and a POC. On one hand, yay for some diversity, on the other hand, throwing it all into one character and then making a quirky joke about it felt like cheating. It felt to me that Lola, like a lot of the characters in this book, existed more to tick boxes than to actually add to the story.

The plot itself, whilst trying to be relatable and have a unique edge, felt more 'been there, done that'. I didn't find anything in these characters or this plot to set it apart from other stories by similar authors. The dealing of grief in this book also let me down. Grief and the effect it has on people is something that can be written about beautifully in YA (see for example: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson), but I feel as though any real heartfelt emotion was overshadowed.

What I will say is that there were some aspects of the ending that I really enjoyed because it was honest and believable, but by that point I'd already had enough of the book. I'm sure there are plenty of people who would adore this story. For one, our book club was completely split on it, with some of us loving it and a few of us disliking it, so it made for a great discussion. It just wasn't right for me at the moment. This is a book that I probably would have lapped up a few years ago (back when I wanted to devour anything John Green related), but now I'm tired of characters like Henry Page.

Royal Rating:






Monday, 7 November 2016

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Cell 7 by Kerry Drewery

Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Dystopia, Thriller
Release Date: September 22nd 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Should she live or die? You decide

An adored celebrity has been killed. Sixteen-year-old Martha Honeydew was found holding a gun, standing over the body.

Now Justice must prevail.

The general public will decide whether Martha is innocent or guilty by viewing daily episodes of the hugely popular TV show Death is Justice, the only TV show that gives the power of life and death decisions - all for the price of a phone call.

Martha has admitted to the crime. But is she guilty? Or is reality sometimes more complicated than the images we are shown on TV?

My Thoughts:
This was read along with my fellow members of The Book Club for our September read!

Cell 7 is set in a twisted dystopian future in which justice is supposedly placed into the hands of the public. When a person commits a crime, they are placed in Cell 1. Over the course of the following seven days, the public tune in to watch the popular show 'Death Is Justice' to follow the progress of the prisoner, learn their story, hear from experts and people involved, before then deciding whether or not that person is guilty. Our protagonist, Martha, was caught with a gun and a dead body at her feet. The body of the most well-known and well-loved celebrity, Jackson Paige. Whilst Martha moves through her seven different cells, we learn that not everything is as it seems with her story.

Firstly, let me start by saying that I love the concept of this story. The twisted justice system and the lies and deceit within it was fascinating, and it really made me wonder about they way society currently works and whether something like this could ever legitimately happen in our future. The questions is raises and the social commentary were all valid and interesting, and it was this side of the story I loved the most. Another point that I'm glad was raised was that only those who could afford to vote would be able to because the voting system wasn't free. Despite the fact that this system was placed in order to serve justice, it doesn't actually give normal people the power because it's entirely corrupted by money.

Whilst there were parts of this story that I found interesting and gripping, the plot didn't feel as original as I wanted it to. That might just be because over the past several years, I have read a lot of dystopian novels (and I mean A LOT), and maybe I'm starting to grow a little tired of them. My other problem was that I was easily able to predict all of the plot twists way before they were actually revealed, so when they finally were confirmed, it didn't have much of an impact. The predictability of the plot took away from the enjoyment of the story for me. I like to be surprised and tricked, but these twists and turns were a little too obvious.

I also found it difficult to connect with the characters. This book is told in several different ways. We follow Martha in her cell as she addresses someone she is thinking about on the outside. We follow her counsellor, Eve, and we also have chapters that are written as scripts for the Death Is Justice show. I wanted to root for Martha and to enjoy her chapters most, but the character I preferred to follow was actually Eve. I felt like I didn't get much of a chance to learn about the real Martha beyond her tough childhood on the Rises, the poorer community who live in high-rise flats built to help the housing crisis, and the love story that she was part of. The romance was another area that didn't pull me in as much as I wanted to. Whatever chemistry these characters had, I couldn't feel it.

Throughout the book, whilst we learn a bit about the history of the system, we don't actually discover the process that happened for this system to be put in place. It left me with questions as to how the society in this story reacted at first, and how people came to accept it. But since this is obviously the first in a series, I'm assuming there will be more time to answer those questions in the future.

Royal Rating:

 

Monday, 31 October 2016

REVIEW: Tales of Horror by Edgar Allan Poe

Happy Halloween! Shall we talk about a spoopy read? Let's do it.

Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Alma Classics
Genre: Horror, Short Stories
Release Date: September 22nd 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository


A murderer is forced to reveal his crime by the sound of a beating heart, a mysterious figure wreaks havoc among a party of noblemen during the time of the plague, a grieving lover awakens to find himself clutching a box of his beloved blood-stained teeth, a man is obsessed with the fear of being buried alive – these are only some of the memorable characters and stories included in this volume, which exemplify Poe’s inventiveness and natural talent as a storyteller.

Immensely popular both during and after his lifetime, and a powerful influence on generations of writers and film-makers to this day, Edgar Allan Poe is still counted among the greatest short-story writers of all time and seen as one of the initiators of the detective, horror and science-fiction genres.

My Thoughts:
I’ve read a few Poe stories before but it’s been quite a few years since I last did, so I was excited to delve into this collection of some of his finest short horror stories, in perfect time for the spooky season. This book includes some of Poe’s most famous stories, twenty-six of them altogether, told with the perfect mixture of disturbance and unease.

For me, the shorter stories such as Morella and The Tell-Tale Heart are more sinister and engaging than some of the longer ones. They manage to draw you in with only a few pages per tale, but still manage to have a lasting creepy effect. I love the level of atmosphere Poe always managed to pack in to such short stories, and the characters are always intriguing. Sometimes you root for them, sometimes you wonder how they could be so twisted.

One of the things that stands out for me most about Poe’s stories is the level of detail he puts into them, no matter how gruesome. Everything is described in a way that allows you to perfectly conjure up an image of the scene in your mind. It allows you to place yourself in that moment, especially with stories such as The Premature Burial. Even for someone who doesn’t have a specific fear of being buried alive, the writing allows you to feel the horror that a person would feel in that situation. It’s probably the story that made my skin crawl the most!

It’s difficult to choose a favourite but one of my top choices is William Wilson because the subject of dopplgangers has always fascinated me and I love the way William’s second self was written in this story. It was the first Poe story that I read and it was great to reread it again in this collection.

This group of tales is a perfect read for this time of year when the nights are darker for longer, so go scare yourself silly. What is you favourite Poe story? Let me know!

Royal Rating:


Saturday, 29 October 2016

EVENT RECAP: Worlds Collide Tour with Leigh Bradugo & Rainbow Rowell

As you probably already know, I am a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell. Her books have literally set standards for everything else I read because they’re just that amazing. I’ve been part of the UK Fangirls group set up by the fabulous people at MyKindaBook for over a year now and there’s nothing I enjoy more than discussing Rainbow's amazing stories. After hearing a lot of buzz about Six of Crows from my fellow bloggers (making me pick up the book which subsequently ruined me emotionally) I’m now also a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo. So when I found out they were both coming on tour TOGETHER, to the UK, it’s safe to say I JUST HAD TO GO. Last night I was lucky enough to attend the final tour stop in Manchester, and here’s what went down!


I arrived at the library where the event was being held quite early and spent a little while curiously wandering around, not knowing where to go, and generally being too anxious to ask a person and find out (great start, brain). But I ended up meeting the lovely Sarah from Sarah’s Chapter and we started our own little queue outside that luckily ended up being in the right place. When it was time to be allowed in, I managed to grab a seat on the front row! 

Rainbow and Leigh started off the event with a little bit of background info on how they became friends. Leigh told us that she questioned Rainbow on why she was writing about a vampire with the name Baz, but not because she didn’t like the name. It was actually because at the time she was writing a story about a character named Baz Brekker. Yup, Kaz was originally named Baz!


Then we were all treated to a reading from both Carry On and Crooked Kingdom, and it was pure gold. From Carry On we got the scene between Simon and Baz down in the catacombs, and let me tell you, Leigh as Baz was utterly hilarious. From Crooked Kingdom we had the scene between Nina and Matthias whilst they’re undercover, and Rainbow as Matthias had everyone laughing.




After the readings, there was time for audience members to ask some questions. We found out that Leigh has been asked if she’ll write an epilogue or a short story about the future of the characters from SoC but she doesn’t want to do that because it would prevent her from returning to that world in the future. (Which she seems keen to do a few years down the line!) Both authors were asked to choose their favourite of each others characters from. Leigh said that Lincoln from Attachments is her ideal guy, whilst Rainbow’s favourite is Nina because she’s a woman who embraces everything about herself. Whilst talking about the publishing industry and dealing with rejections, Rainbow told us that Fangirl had a rocky start in the UK because she was told ‘fangirl’ wasn’t a term that was used over here and wouldn’t work as a title, which caused us all to giggle a little.

When the Q&A was over, we were then taken in rows to queue for the signing. Despite the large amount of people in attendance, both authors took the time to sign plenty of books and chat to everyone. As someone who gets very nervous at signings, it was great that the event was so relaxed. At one point, when I was quite near to the front of the line, the library accidentally turned the lights off on us, which turned out to be quite hilarious! Both Rainbow and Leigh were super lovely when I was having my books signed and it was a lovely ending to a wonderful event.


 

I was thrilled that we were allowed to take one of the gorgeous Six of Crows art cards. They were faced down on the table so we couldn’t see which one we chose, and I ended up actually getting the one I wanted the most!

My actual child, Wylan Van Eck Sunshine
We also got to take home one of these gorgeous tour badges. Isn’t the artwork beautiful?


Before I left, I was able to meet the lovely Beth from Words From A Reader, and there was some running for a train which may have almost killed us, but we lived to tell the tale. Was the event worth almost missing our train home for? Most definitely!



The Worlds Collide Tour is honestly one of the best author events I’ve been lucky enough to attend. Rainbow and Leigh are completely brilliant together and I hope they decide to do events together in the future. I’m so glad I had the chance to go - I had the best time! A huge thank you to everyone involved in making this tour happen.

Extra thanks to Kat from MyKindaBook for sending out one of the tour shirts, isn’t it gorgeous??


Were you lucky enough to attend one of the tour dates, or have you met either of these fab authors before? Let me know!



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