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

Friday, 2 June 2017

REVIEW: Show Stopper by Hayley Barker

Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Dystopian
Release Date: June 1st 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land are forced to sell their children to a travelling circus - to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives - pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds - but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.

My Thoughts: 
Show Stopper is told from the POV of both Ben and Hoshiko, two very different characters in a dystopian world where people are split into Pures and Dregs. The Pures consist of those who are considered 'Pure English' whilst the Dregs are immigrants. Ben is a Pure, privileged from birth and living better off than most due to his mother's high position in the government. Hoshi is a Dreg who was taken away from her family in the slums and made to perform in the circus, a deadly show that doesn't shy away from killing Dregs for the entertainment of the Pures.

This book is very dark, and very terrifying. The attitude that the Pures have with regrads to anyone who is different to them is honestly horrific to read, and the worst part is that there are genuinely people out there in our world today who would share some of those opinions. This story's commentary on racial diversion is so important because whilst it may seem out there and exaggerated, there is a dark reality behind it. The way that this split is explained makes a situation like this feel so believable, and it makes you shudder just thinking about it.

Whilst I expected this story to be creepy, I wasn't prepared for just how grim it got. The way the Dregs are treated, even by the circus ringmaster who is also a Dreg, is stomach-turning. It's such a horrible world to read about, and yet I couldn't stop reading. I was completely sucked into Hoshi's struggle, and Ben's realisation that his life as a Pure is nothing like he thought.

Ben's side of the story was interesting because the world and the lifestyle he knew was crumbling down around him. Seeing him come to his senses and finally open his eyes to the horror that was going on around him was one of the few points of triumph in this story. Whilst I enjoyed his narration, it was Hoshi's side of the story that made Show Stopper such a compelling read for me. She had a huge amount of determination and strength that made it impossible not to root for her. The relationship she had with Greta and Amina, others in the circus, was touching and provided some of the more lighthearted scenes in the story.

There was romance between Ben and Hoshi, which I expected, but it develops very quickly over the course of a few days. Instalove is something that I really don't enjoy in YA, but when it comes to this story, I understood the need for things to move as fast as they did because no one has the benefit of taking their time with anything. 

I have to mention that this book is very dark to the point that it felt emotionally draining at times because of how many negative events occur. But it was necessary for the plot and to show us all what the world within this book is truly like. It's definitely not for the lighthearted! I'm interested to learn more about this world, and the steps the society within it took to get to the point they're at now. There's so much more to learn and I'm excited to find out what happens next.  

Royal Rating:

 

Monday, 29 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett Extract

Today I'm excited to share with you an extract from The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett, which is out on June 1st!

From Chapter One 


Survival was a one in a million chance. The virus was a near-perfect killing machine. Contagious as hell, it had a vicious little sting in its tail. It mutated with every reinfection. A single exposure was survivable – with luck – but it was as though it knew us. As the disease spread, people did what people always do. They clung and grabbed and mauled one another. They queued at the hospitals. They died in the waiting rooms. They clutched at their lovers and held on to their children. And the disease rampaged joyously, burning through thought and will, then flesh, and, at the very last, through bone – until there was nothing but dust, and no one left to mourn over it.

Dust to dust, Jamie thought, rising slowly onto one elbow. The sun was slanting under the top edge of the window, illuminating the interior of the single-roomed croft that had been her home for the last three months. It was a standard settler’s dwelling, flat-packed as part of some colonist family’s baggage allowance when the first ships made their way through the void.

Jamie’s head was aching, and her mouth was so dry that she might as well have been dust herself.
Had she breathed them in? The dead? Were they inside her now, clinging to her throat, hoping for some chance word that might carry them back to an echo of life?

Ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine per cent.

She yanked herself back from the fall that lay beyond that thought. It might be different here. They’d had some warning. And they didn’t live crushed up close against each other, like on the central worlds.

But . . . the silence.

Something snagged in her throat, and she coughed, and then retched, doubling over.

Water.

The thought instantly became an urgent need, with enough force to tip her over the edge of the bed and into a sprawled half-crouch on the stone floor. She pushed herself upright, leaning hard on the bed, and then crossed the floor, moving with a club-footed awkwardness. When she reached the sink, she clung to it with both hands. The mirror in front of her was clouded and warped. The distortion had always unsettled her, with the way it caught her features and twisted them if she turned too quickly. But today the clouded surface was a relief. She didn’t need a reflection to know how reduced she was. She felt shrunken, stretched too tight over her bones, her dark hair hanging lank and lifeless on her shoulders, her olive skin bleached to a sallow hue.

The tap sputtered, kicking out a little spurt that grew into a steady stream. She splashed at her face, the cold water forcing the shadows back to the edges of her mind, leaving nothing to hide that pitiless statistic.

Ninety-nine point nine nine nine nine per cent dead.

Ten billion people scattered across space.

Nought point nought nought nought one per cent of ten billion.

Ten thousand people should have survived.

Spread across how many populated worlds? Three hundred, or thereabouts. Thirty-three survivors per world. And a few left over.

She had a nagging sense that her maths was wrong. But then she was weak, reduced by her illness. It was making it hard to think clearly.

When the answer struck her, she initially felt only a little snick of satisfaction at figuring it out. All worlds were not created equal. Almost half the total human population lived on Earth and the capital planet cluster. There must be a couple of billion people on Alegria alone.

That meant two thousand survivors. Set against the ominous silence outside the croft, that seemed like a vast number, and she felt a flicker of relief.

But then there were all the fledgling colonies, right out on the edges of civilisation, some of them numbering only a few hundred people.

Soltaire fell somewhere between those two extremes. Its single land mass was sizeable enough – about the size of Russia, she’d been told – but settlement had been slow. There were ten thousand people, or thereabouts, most of them clustered around the port, or over in Laketown. Then a few smaller towns, and a clutch of smallholdings, as well as the two main cattle-breeding centres, at Gratton Ridge and here at Talgarth.

Ten thousand people.

All the heat seemed to drain out of her body.


The Space Between The Stars by Anne Corlett is published by Pan Macmillan, 1 June 2017, £12.99 hardback.

Anne Corlett has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University and has won a number of awards for her short stories, including the H. E. Bates Award. She works as a criminal solicitor and freelance writer, and lives with her partner and three young boys in Somerset. The Space Between The Stars is her first novel.



Check out the other awesome blogs taking part in the tour:



Friday, 26 May 2017

REVIEW: Damage by Eve Ainsworth

Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Mental Health
Release Date: March 2nd 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

How can you heal if you can't face your past? Confident, popular Gabi has a secret - a secret so terrible she can't tell her family, or her best friend. She can't even take pleasure in her beloved skateboarding any more. And then one day an impulse turns to something darker. Gabi has never felt so alone. But then she learns that not everyone has wounds you can see. A searing look at self-harm and acceptance from hugely talented author Eve Ainsworth. Warning: includes content that some readers may find upsetting.


Please Note: This review discusses self harm and addiction.

My Thoughts:
Damage is a book that features a protagonist who finds herself starting to self harm. From the moment I realised the subject this book was about, I knew I wanted to read it. Self harm is something that I don't see discussed openly and honestly in YA very often, so I was keen to read a story that focused on it. As someone who has seen what self harm can do to a person and how it can turn someone's life upside down, I wanted to see how this book portrayed the issue.

Gabbie is grieving the death of her grandfather, who had been an important figure in her life. But his relationship with her parents was a turbulent one, so Gabbie found herself feeling torn between them. After his death, she feels like she is the only one who is hurting over his loss and she has no one she feels she can truly express her feelings to. When she discovers that physical pain can press a temporary pause button on her emotions, Gabbie starts to self harm, and she finds herself losing more and more control.

I can't applaud this book enough for it's portrayal of self harm. It is different for every person who goes through it, but Damage provides an insight as to how something like this can take over a person's life, and for what it's like for someone to struggle with this every day. This story is also a great way to educate young people about self harm because as the characters in this book show, it's easy for a person who doesn't understand the issue to jump to conclusions and make assumptions about people who cut themselves.

Another thing that really upped my level of respect for this story is how it dealt with alcoholism. There are a lot of stereotypes that come with alcohol addiction, so I was pleased to see that Gabbie's grandfather wasn't painted as a bad man or a lesser person, he was simply someone who'd had his life overshadowed by his addiction to alcohol. Ainsworth perfectly presented the range of emotions and situations that surround a family who have to deal with that.

Damage is a short read and it's easy to get through in a couple of days. Gabbie struggles but develops so much throughout the story, and there are some heartfelt scenes towards the end. I was also very pleased to see that there were some helplines and useful links at the back of the book for anyone struggling with self harm and grief. It's so important that books like this are out there for young people to access.

Royal Rating:

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