Tuesday, 30 August 2016

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Nothing Tastes As Good by Claire Hennessy

Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Contemporary, Health
Release Date: July 14th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Don’t call her a guardian angel. Annabel is dead – but she hasn’t completely gone away. Annabel immediately understands why her first assignment as a ghostly helper is to her old classmate: Julia is fat. And being fat makes you unhappy. Simple, right?

As Annabel shadows Julia’s life in the pressured final year of school, Julia gradually lets Annabel’s voice in, guiding her thoughts towards her body, food and control.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. Spending time in Julia’s head seems to be having its own effect on Annabel . . . And she knows that once the voices take hold, it’s hard to ignore them.

My Thoughts:
This book was read by my fellow Book Club members and I for our August pick. 

We follow this story from the POV of Annabel, a seventeen-year-old who recently lost her life to anorexia. In order to be granted a chance to pass on a message, she has to guide a soul in need of help. This is where Julia comes in. Julia is a student at the same school Annabel used to attend, before she was too ill. She’s passionate about journalism and involved with the school paper. She’s bubbly, has a great family, and a group of friends around her. Julia’s life seems ideal from the outside, but there’s so much more going on under the surface. Annabel has to work out what it is that Julia needs help with, and since Julia isn’t what society would class as ‘slim’, Annabel see this as the problem, especially given her own relationship with food. 

Annabel isn’t a pleasant narrator at times. The words she says are sometimes harsh and cruel, and it’s impossible not to get frustrated at her ways of thinking. But it’s also insightful and important to read this story from the perspective of someone who doesn’t believe they had a problem. The reason why this book worked as well as it did was because it was told by Annabel instead of Julia. At times, her thoughts were quite chilling but also desperately sad. This book is brutally honest about eating disorders and I found the way it demonstrated what it’s like to have anorexia super important. Hennessy has researched perfectly and the writing is powerful, not shying away from how it not only affects the mind of the person suffering, but also what it does to the people around that person, those who want to help. It also shows just how quickly something like this can consume a person’s life. 

Despite Annabel’s harsh narration most of the time, she’s also incredibly witty and I loved some of her commentary on the more mundane aspects of Julia’s life. I like a book that while dealing with difficult and gritty subjects, can also make you laugh a little. This story really took me through a lot of different emotions before I reached the end.

Also explored in this story are the topics of friendship and romance, changing and going wrong. Julia’s world turns upside-down throughout the course of this book as we see her start to grow apart from her best friend Deb, and we also discover what has been happening in her life that has pushed her towards food as a source of comfort. The element of mystery and waiting to see things unfold kept me hooked, and the chapters were often short, sharp, and fast-paced, keeping me tuning the pages. 

Whilst this isn’t the type of book I would usually choose to pick up and read for myself, I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to learn from this story. Whilst these characters are completely fictional, the situations they found themselves in are all too real. The ending made some very valid point about anorexia not being something we’re encouraged to talk and learn about, especially in schools, and it’s so important that we do. Eating disorders ruin lives every day, and the more we can learn to open our minds and understand them, the more we can do to raise awareness and help those suffering.  

We’ll be discussing Nothing Tastes As Good on August 31st at 7pm, join in with @TheBookClubs using the hashtag #BCChat. The group are also talking about More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera but you don’t have to have read both books to take part, so feel free to drop by! 

Royal Rating:

 
 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

REVIEW: The Call by Peadar O'Guilin

Pages: 334
Format: ARC Paeperback
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Release Date: September 1st
Buy The Book: Book Depository

What if you only had 3 minutes to save your own life and the clock is already counting down...

Three minutes.
Nessa, Megan and Anto know that any day now they wake up alone in a horrible land and realise they've been Called.

Two minutes.
Like all teenagers they know that they'll be hunted down and despite all their training only 1 in 10 will survive.

One minute.
And Nessa can't run, her polio twisted legs mean she'll never survive her Call will she?

Time's up.

My Thoughts:
Ireland has been left cut off from the rest of the world. No one gets in or out, there is no outside help, the citizens are trapped and their numbers are dwindling. That’s because all teenagers must face the Call. At random times, day or night, a teenager will be Called to the Grey Land, the place where the Sidhe were forced to remain by the Irish centuries ago. Now they are seeking revenge by hunting the teenagers that they bring to their land in the most brutal ways imaginable. The odds of survival are one in ten. 

I’ve read a lot of stories that have thrown teenagers in the face of death, but I don’t think I’ve ever read one quite as chilling as this. The Sidhe are absolutely terrifying. Their awful ways of hunting down and ‘playing’ with their victims left a shiver down my spine whilst reading. The descriptions of the faeries and their land were vivid and real, definitely one of the creepiest locations I’ve visited in a book for a long time. 

We meet Nessa and her fellow classmates at their survival school where they train as hard as possible in the hopes of being among the lucky few who are able to survive the Call. One by one we see them disappear as they get Called and even though we’re supposed to expect it (because, ya know, that’s what the book is about), it still comes as a shock, to them and the reader. To see these characters who you get to know and learn to adore, actually thrown into this situation they’ve been training for, this nightmarish land of the Sidhe, it’s a stomach-dropping moment. 

These characters are so rich and complex. Nessa, oh my goodness, I love her. Polio leaves her unable to walk properly on her legs, making her the underdog. But she doesn’t let that slow her down for one second. She works twice as hard, being even more determined to prove that she can survive. Her fierce spirit makes it easy to root for her throughout the book. Even though you know that most of these teens won’t come out of this alive, it’s doesn’t stop you from growing attached to them and wanting them to survive. It’s desperately sad to see them thrown into the unpleasant horrors of the Sidhe. Despite their limited time together, the bonds they formed were touching, and I loved the different relationships between them.  

The Sidhe themselves, as terrifying as they are, were fascinating to read about, as was the Grey Land. It was gory and twisted, definitely not for the faint-hearted, but it was hard to turn my eyes away. I was desperate to learn more about these faeries and their history. Since I’m pretty sure this book is the first in a series, I’m highly anticipating another trip into this world that O’Guilin has created, and I’m equally excited to see and dreading what nightmares await the characters next.  

You can read my recent interview with Peadar here!

Royal Rating:

  

Friday, 26 August 2016

BLOG TOUR: Interview With Peadar O'Guilin

Today I'm excited to welcome Peadar O'Guilin to the blog, author of the chilling new novel The Call!

Hi Peadar, welcome to The Queen of Teen Fiction! Can you tell us a little bit about your novel, The Call?
Thanks a lot! It's great to be here.

Every teenager in Ireland will be Called -- kidnapped into a world of horrors, where the Sídhe, the Fairies, will hunt them down. A small number make it home alive. These are the strong, the lucky and above all, the quick. Unfortunately, Nessa Doherty was lamed by a bout of polio she suffered as a child. She won't be able to run when her turn comes. Everybody is just waiting for her to die.

Nessa, however, intends to surprise them all...

What was it that inspired you to write the story?
Part of the inspiration came from that famous thought experiment, Schrödinger's Cat. I had an image of people just disappearing, their clothing falling to the floor. And everybody who sees this happening knows there's a 90% chance their friends will come back dead. Or worse. I loved this idea, especially because there's a small possibility the victims will survive and that's enough to keep everybody checking their watches until the three minutes of the Call are up.   

You weave Irish mythology into the story. What sort of research did you have to do before writing?
I had to do very little extra research. I grew up with the mythology, after all. But I was never keen on just retelling the old stories, anyway. They're already perfect and need no help from me! Mostly, I was interested in finding a modern, "rational" explanation for the origins of the fairies and for some of their creepier behaviours. That's why, even though this is basically a fantasy book, you'll find a few mouldy old science fiction tropes in there too. They've probably started to smell a bit...

Tell us a bit about your main character, Nessa! What do you think readers will love about her?
Nessa's not a moaner. She's an ordinary girl desperate to live when everybody else has written her off. They can't even be bothered to hide their pity for her. I do think readers admire courage, I know I do!

What were the best and worst parts of the writing process for you whilst working on The Call?
The best part was all the day-dreaming I did about the story. I was tremendously excited by the ideas and loved testing some of the scenes in front of audiences in Boston and Belfast and Luxembourg. It seemed to go down really well.

But then, there were entire weeks of being stuck with the plot; when every solution seemed childish or amateurish. That's the writer's life, I guess!

Did you always intend for the book to be YA, or is that something that happened after writing it?
I didn't grow up expecting to write YA, but again and again, my natural love of fast-paced adventure with strong central concepts, kept dragging me down that path. Years ago, when I submitted my first novel to my agent, he was the one who said, "You know what, Peadar? This book is YA." Turned out he was right.

What were your own favourite books to read as a teenager?
Anything Science Fictional. Harry Harrison's "Deathworld" series. Tanith Lee's "Silver Metal Lover" and "The Books of Paradys". And of course, I read "Lord of the Rings" a dozen times.

Finally, would you survive The Call?
I'm writing this with a fractured collarbone right now, because, apparently, I can't even survive a simple bike ride! If I were Called, the Sídhe would probably catch me within minutes of my arrival in the Grey Land.

But luck definitely plays a part. Anything could happen as long as you don't give up.  

Huge thank you to Peadar for the awesome interview! The Call is available to buy here. Be sure to check out the other blogs taking part in the rest of the tour, and check back here later this week for my thoughts on the book!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

REVIEW: Ren - The Monster Inside The Monster by Sarah Noffke

Pages: 199
Format: eBook
Publisher: One-Twenty-Six Press
Genre: Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Release Date: July 15th 2016
Buy The Book: Amazon UK


Ren Lewis, who has faced every danger known to man, is about to meet a challenge he’s convinced has the power to undo him. When he discovers that his daughter, Adelaide, has been hiding a pregnancy he goes into hiding himself. Having a daughter was one catastrophe he struggled with. But now, being expected to welcome her baby into his home is not something Ren knows how to assimilate into his life. With a new ferocity he throws himself into his work in order to avoid family responsibility. And there’s enough work to keep him occupied with Vivian Bishop trying to infiltrate American homes, intent on controlling and manipulating their residents. Ren soon realizes that Vivian is his perfect enemy. She’s strategic, brilliant and stunningly beautiful. 

In this third and final installment, the monster in Ren will have to do the unspeakable. He will have to evolve. Nothing in his life can be approached employing any of the strategies he’s used before. The evolution of Ren might be his undoing, but it might also be the one thing that brings him real happiness.
 

WARNING: As this is the last book in the series, there will be spoilers for the previous two books. If you don’t wish to know what happens, please don’t read on! 

My Thoughts:
Ren Lewis is back for one final time in the last book in his trilogy. We pick up immediately where the previous book left off. Ren has just discovered that his daughter Adelaide is pregnant, meaning just as he’s learning to accept the fact that he is a father, he’s going to become a grandfather as well. On top of that, he has to deal with the troublesome and mysterious Vivian who has big plans and is determined that she and Ren are made for each other.   

I love Ren. I always have done from the first time we met him in The Lucidites Series, and as much as I’m sad we have to say goodbye to him, I’m so glad he got his own trilogy and we got to see his story progress. He’s not a nice character 99.9% of the time, he really isn’t. Insulting people is practically a hobby for him. But I love him anyway. That’s what has made him such an endearing character, he’s completely unapologetic for the way he is. However, in this final book we are treated to a different side of him, a side of Ren that only surfaces when he’s faced with a family, with people he’s genuinely come to care about. Seeing him come to an understanding with his daughter, and seeing him encourage her to be a better parent than he was able to be was such an enjoyable part of this story. 

This third book let us finally get to know Vivian, the woman behind the events in the previous book but who we only got to meet briefly. Vivian was a chilling antagonist because she genuinely believed that what she was doing was good and right. Ren’s ways of dealing with her definitely threw some unexpected twists at story, ones that left me not knowing whether I wanted to shake some sense into him or laugh at how far he’s willing to go sometimes. 

One of the best things about this final book is that his work in stopping Vivian leads Ren back to the Lucidite institute, and we get to catch up with characters from that first series. Not only did we get a few scenes with Aidan and Roya again, but we also got see Joseph and Trent, which I was thrilled about! It was great to see Ren back in that environment, and to finally move on from it by the end of the story as well. 

With a perfectly satisfying conclusion, it was bittersweet to reach the end of this final book. I have adored reading all about Ren, and I will definitely miss not only his character, but the people around him as well. It’s been a wild journey and I’m so glad I had the chance to be part of it!

Royal Rating:

 

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

REVIEW: This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

Pages: 312
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Orchard Books
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic
Release Date: January 14th 2016
Buy The Book: Book Depository
Can you fall in love when everything is falling apart? Estelle Laure is a major new talent to rival John Green and Rainbow Rowell. Her debut novel, This Raging Light, is a heartbreakingly beautiful book that you'll devour in one sitting, but remember forever. How is it that you suddenly notice a person? How is it that one day Digby was my best friend's admittedly cute twin brother, and then the next he stole air, gave jitters, twisted my insides up? Lucille has bigger problems than falling for her best friend's unavailable brother. Her mom has gone, leaving her to look after her sister, Wren. With bills mounting up and appearances to keep, Lucille is raging against her life but holding it together - just.
 
My Thoughts:
This story follows Lucille as she becomes the sole carer of her younger sister Wren when their mother decides to leave them in order to clear her head. After trouble with their father, their mother finds it difficult to cope. So Lucille is left to pay the bills and keep the house functioning, as well as making sure no one discovers their secret. The only people who know what Lucille and Wren are facing is Lu’s best friend Eden, and her twin brother Digby, who Lucille has feelings for despite him having a girlfriend. 

This Raging Light is a book I’m quite torn over because whilst there were aspects of it that I enjoyed, there were also parts I found quite predictable. It lacked that unique touch for me. What worked especially well was Lucille’s struggle to keep on top of things by herself. Also the bond between her and Wren was wonderfully done, and Wren herself was a fantastic character. 

The writing itself was beautiful and quite poetic at times, and Lucille’s emotions were described well, making everything feel raw and real. Whilst she was a believable character with a strong head, I didn’t connect to her as much as I wanted to. It felt like there wasn’t really much about her that stood out from other YA protagonists in similar situations. Her friendship with Eden was something I enjoyed, though. Eden was a fun and quirky character, and I particularly liked a certain plot twist that happened towards the end of the story which definitely packed a punch. 

Lucille’s relationship with Digby didn’t have much appeal to me. In my opinion, they lacked the chemistry that they were clearly meant to have lots of. They have years of history, with the twins living right next door to Lucille as children, but I didn’t feel any of that history between them. I’d have preferred it if more flashback scenes had been included, and if the two of them had had more conversations throughout the course of the story. It didn’t exactly feel rushed because they’d known each other for so long, but I just felt like we were denied the chance to have seen their bond grow, and for that reason I didn’t have much emotional investment in their relationship. I also felt as though there could have been more scenes with Digby’s girlfriend, Elaine. There wasn’t a chance to get to know her and I think the story could have been a bit more dramatic if there had been more attachment to her character. 

The element of mystery with regards to Lucille’s dysfunctional family throughout the book kept me hooked. I was eager to find out what happened to get them to the situation they’re in now. However, the ending left me a little frustrated because there were still questions I wanted answers to. But I believe there is a follow up book that will follow Eden? So I’m assuming the story will be explored further. As much as I want more of a conclusion to Lucille’s story, I don’t know if this book got me interested enough to continue with a second helping. 

Royal Rating:

 

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

EVENT RECAP: An Evening With Maggie Stiefvater

Anyone who knows me will know how much I adore The Raven Cycle series. Those books have consumed a part of my soul. I attempt and most of the time successfully convince people to read them. I basically live and breathe that series. So when I found out that Maggie Stiefvater was coming to Manchester for an event, I just had to go!
 
I live a fairly long train journey away from Manchester and I don’t get to visit the city very often, so I saw this as my chance to go early, make a day of it, and go exploring. But the rain had other plans. So I spent most of my day in Manchester Central Library, where the event was being held. However, that did mean that as soon as I was allowed into the performance area, I was able to grab a seat at the front! How did I spend that hour and a half wait, you ask? I caught Pokémon, obviously. 

A Poliwhirl lurks close to the stage
Just after 6:30 Maggie was finally introduced to the stage and the event got underway. Let me tell you, Maggie Stiefvater is hilarious. She spent some time talking about her career before she became a writer, and her stories about her portrait painting had everyone laughing. She also told us how her typical working day as a writer varies and we learned that writing on planes is not something she’s fond of! We were also treated to a delightful story about the time John Green invited her to go racing and he ended up on fire. Twice.


Later on people in the audience got the chance to ask Maggie some questions. One of the most stand out ones was when someone asked how she plans her novels. She told us that she thinks of them like a road trip; she knows where she’s starting from, where she’s going, and why she’s going there, but she does various fun things along the way in different places. 

Maggie telling us about the time her research trip to Scotland didn't exactly go to plan...

The last question of the night was about Maggie moving on from The Raven Cycle. She told us that she’d had a six-month book hangover after she finished writing it, during which she found herself wanting to go back to the magic system that she’d spent so long creating. To help herself get out of it she reminded herself that after writing four books in this series with readers wanting certain things to happen before the end, she was now free from expectation and could work on something totally new.

After the talk, we were then allowed to get our books signed so I joined the exceptionally long queue! It was a sold out event and definitely the biggest turn out for a signing that I’ve been to in a long time, and the organisers did a great job of helping everyone. We were also offered a choice of super cute badges to take home! 


I was able to meet Maggie and have my copies of The Raven King and The Dream Thieves signed, my two favourite books in the series. I also told her just how much her books had ruined me in the best possible way. I'm generally rather nervous and mostly awkward at book signings, but Maggie was super lovely! 



 

It was such a fantastic event with a great atmosphere, and if you ever have the chance to see Maggie in person – do it. She is one of the funniest and most engaging authors I’ve had the chance to see! Thank you to Waterstones Deansgate and Scholastic for such a fab night. 



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