Thursday, 18 January 2018

REVIEW: Shell by Paula Rawsthorne

Pages: 416
Format: Format
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Thriller
Release Date: January 4th 2018
Buy The Book: Book Depo - A Great Read

What if you thought you had died, only to wake up to find that your brain and eyes had been transplanted into someone else's body?

When Lucy, a teen diagnosed with terminal cancer wakes up cancer-free, it should be a dream come true. But faced with a life she didn't choose and trapped in a new body, Lucy must face the biggest question of all . . . How far would you go to save the one you love?

My Thoughts:
Well, this was quite a wild journey. Shell follows teenager Lucy Burgess, after a doctor successfully gives her a life-changing operation to save her from terminal cancer: a body transplant. Due to the nature of the surgery and the fact that it's not exactly legal, Lucy, now known as Renee, has to keep her new identity a complete secret. With her friends and the rest of her family outside of her parents believing she is dead, Lucy struggles to accept her new body and life.

This book is weird, but in the best possible way. I've read a story before that dealt with a brain transplant, but it was more of a light-hearted take on things, so it was quite something to read a story that delved into the dark side of what it would be like if body transplants were a reality. The few chapters after Lucy first wakes up from the operation are completely chilling. I was easily able to put myself in her shoes and imagine what it would be like to be in that terrifying situation. Her anxiety pours out through the words, making it tense and gripping to read.

My heart broke for Lucy trying to adjust to her new life as Renee. The realisation of what it means for her, of having to play dead to the people she loves, is such a blow to her once she returns home. Emotions run high in some of those first scenes back at her family home, especially when she comes face-to-face with her beloved pet dog, Arthur. As a dog lover, her scenes with him after her surgery were hard to swallow.

What I particularly liked about this book was the discussion about morals regarding death and how far people would go for life. Cancer didn't give Lucy a choice, but when there was a choice for her regarding her death, her parents took that into their own hands. It's a pretty dark theme but I enjoyed it more than I expected to. It's one of those things that encourages you to think about what you would do in that situation. The doubts that Lucy had towards the end of novel also made her more believable as a character because no matter how much she wanted to do the right thing, obviously fear plays a part at some point.

The final few chapters of this book are so action packed that I literally couldn't put the book down until 2am when I finished it. I GLADLY LOST SLEEP FOR THIS. I'm very glad that I picked this one up when I did though because it's given me my reading mojo back. This was a perfectly thrilling read to start off the new year.

Royal Rating: 


Tuesday, 16 January 2018

BLOG TOUR: Guest post from Paula Rawsthorne, author of SHELL

Hey, bookworms! Today is my stop on the blog tour for SHELL and I'm excited to share with you all this fabulous guest post from the writer herself, Paula Rawsthorne.

Q. Why and how do you write thrillers?

Hi Katie,

Thanks so much for inviting me onto your blog. I’ve written three YA novels (and I’m feverishly writing my fourth) and if I had to put them in a genre then ‘thrillers’ would definitely be appropriate. However, as with many novels, the characterisation isn’t straightforward. So, for instance, all three novels have a strong psychological element to them. This means that as well as all the twists, turns and action that you’d expect from a thriller, they also delve into what’s happening inside the character’s heads – the mind games that they play with each other, their motivation and the effects of events on their behaviour. Also, just to mash it up even more, both my first novel, The Truth About Celia Frost and particularly my latest SHELL, have an element of science fiction within them as I’m fascinated by what may happen, in the near future, as advances in medicine and science are taking place so rapidly. This also throws-up complex ethical questions which society will have to grapple with and which I enjoy exploring.

SHELL is the story of Lucy Burgess, a dying teenager, who is given a body transplant without her prior knowledge or consent. The novel is told entirely from Lucy’s perspective as I wanted the experience to be as immersive as possible for the reader. I hope to make the reader feel what it would be like to be Lucy, trapped inside someone else’s body with all the ensuing physical, emotional and psychological turmoil.

I wrote SHELL as a thriller because it’s a great form to write entertaining, gripping stories whilst also allowing you to explore interesting, thought-provoking themes which are integral to the plot and characters. Whether a thriller is read as a pure piece of entertainment or as something deeper that leaves the reader thinking, it can still succeed as a good read.

I also chose to writer in this genre because I enjoy the process. Developing the storyline for a psychological thriller is like putting an intricate jigsaw together and this appeals to me. I’m most definitely a ‘Plotter’ and I love working out how the story unfolds and characters develop with all the twists and turns.

I’m very old school in the sense that I use a cork board and revision cards to help me work out the plot. My board starts to resemble a police investigation as I reject, swap and insert scenes until I’m satisfied that I’ve got a strong skeleton for the whole story. Only then do I start the actual writing. I find that my storyboard gives me the confidence and freedom to let the narrative and characters take unexpected paths as the plot evolves and takes on a life of its own.

Thrillers are the genre I most enjoy reading as well as writing. I love to feel the tension and suspense of a gripping, well written story and I want the author to make my jaw drop with some shocking revelation that I didn’t see coming. However, another winning element to the thriller genre is that, if you do happen to work out the revelation before the reveal, you can feel extremely smug with yourself, so it’s satisfying either way.

I hope that SHELL will be enjoyed by readers and maybe even give them food for thought after all, how far would you go to stay alive?
Paula Rawsthorne is the award-winning author of Blood Tracks and The Truth about Celia Frost. She first found success when she won the BBC National ‘Get Writing’ competition with her prize-winning story read on Radio 4. She has also been a winner of SCBWI’s ‘Undiscovered Voices. She is passionate about enthusing teenagers to get reading and is a writer in residence in a secondary school for the national literacy charity ‘First Story’. SHELL is her third novel for young adults.

Huge thank you to Paula for stopping by with an awesome post! Be sure to keep an eye out for my review of SHELL later in the week. Also, don't miss out on the other wonderful blogs taking part in the tour:

Thursday, 4 January 2018

REVIEW: Vanilla by Billy Merrell

Pages: 320
Format: Hardback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: LGBTQ+ Contemporary
Release Date: November 2nd 2017
Buy The Book: A Great Read - Book Depository
A bold, groundbreaking novel about coming out, coming into your own, and coming apart.

Hunter and Van become boyfriends before they're even teenagers, and stay a couple even when adolescence intervenes. But in high school, conflict arises -- mostly because Hunter is much more comfortable with the sex part of sexual identity. As the two boys start to realize that loving someone doesn't guarantee they will always be with you, they find out more about their own identities -- with Hunter striking out on his own while Van begins to understand his own asexuality.

In poems that are romantic and poems that are heartbreaking, Vanilla explores all the flavors of the spectrum -- and how romance and love aren't always the same thing.

My Thoughts:
As someone who is constantly shouting into the void for more books with asexual characters, you can imagine just how excited I was to hear about Vanilla. Focusing on the relationship between Vanilla and his boyfriend, Hunter, this story shows how Vanilla comes to the realisation that he is asexual. Together since middle school, Vanilla and Hunter have had a strong relationship for years, one that people can't help but envy. But when Hunter decides he wants to start moving further with their relationship, Vanilla struggles to explain to his boyfriend how he feels about sex.

Not only is this book about a sexuality that really needs more discussion, but it's also told entirely in verse, so it's just beautiful to read. I can't even begin to describe how happy I was with this story. Asexuality is so often overlooked, and so often excluded from LGBTQ+ groups. Thanks to books like this one, more people have the chance to learn what it means to be asexual, and begin to understand it.

The characters within this story are so rich. Vanilla himself is wonderful. As readers, we get to go on this confusing and difficult journey to discovery along with him. My heart broke for him so many times when he struggled to make Hunter understand what he was feeling. Hunter was a character that had me frustrated, but he was such an important part of showing that people can learn to understand eventually, despite how they initially react to a situation. One of my favourite characters had to be Angel, though. I wasn't expecting their story to have such an impact, considering I only expected it to focus on Vanilla and Hunter, and asexuality. Angel was such an unexpected but welcome part of the story that brought up valid discussions about gender and identity.

It makes me so happy to know that there will be people out there who can relate to this story and the emotions that Vanilla has, not to mention the challenges he has to face. But throughout this book, readers must keep in mind that this is only one story about a person discovering asexuality. No two people go through the exact same experiences, especially not when it comes to something as complex as sexuality. So for any asexual readers, it's fine if you don't relate to Vanilla's story. Everyone has their own path. 

I'm so glad I had the chance to discover this wonderful story, and I only hope that more books like this one come my way very soon. Not only did it open my eyes to a lot of things, but it also upped my interest in reading more verse. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for whatever Merrell is working on next.  

Royal Rating:

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Looking Back on 2017

I'll be completely honest, 2017 has been one of the most draining years for me, both mentally and physically. Along with my mental health deciding to go on a lovely vacation to Downward Spiral, I've had a few other health problems that have combined together to truly kick my backside this year. And it's been exhausting. Because of that, 2017 has also been my worst reading year since I started my blog. Whilst I usually breeze past my reading goal of 50 books with ease, I barely even managed half of that in 2017.

I may not have read much over the past twelve months, but I have discovered some amazing stories along the way. Two of my most important reads have been The Hate U Give, which taught me so much about the everyday racism that exists in our society, and Vanilla, which finally provided me with a wonderful asexual main character. I'm hoping to make a video very soon on my favourite books from 2017, so be sure to keep an eye out for that!

One of my biggest regrets this year is the lack of bookish events I've been able to attend. I usually love going to signings when authors come to my local city because it doesn't happen too often! So whenever I get the chance to meet an author I admire, I go for it. In previous years I managed to pluck up the courage to go to events completely alone, and even ask questions during talks. But this year, my anxiety got the better of me. One of my lowest points was giving up my ticket to event I was really excited for. I was supposed to go to a group author talk and signing which included one of my favourite UKYA writers, Melinda Salisbury, who I've never had the chance to meet before. Despite how much I wanted to go, my anxiety got the better of me and on the day I decided that there was no way I could face going alone. So I ended up staying at home and beating myself up about it. That's one of the things that really sucks about anxiety. Even if you've done something plenty of times before, and you're usually okay with it, you never know when you're going to not be okay. That day was one of those times for me.

So it's safe to say my blog has taken a huge step back this year. But despite all of that, I have managed to make a few good, bookish memories. My lack of reading meant that I couldn't post reviews very often, so instead of forcing myself to read when I wasn't motivated, I went in search of other blog post ideas. A few months ago I decided I wanted to write about my favourite local places to buy books. After weeks of getting up the nerve, it actually got me out of the house, with my camera, asking for permission to photograph pretty bookshops. With all of the setbacks my mental health has caused this year, I was immensely proud of myself for going out there and speaking to strangers for the sake of a blog post! It might not have seemed like much, but to be able to write that post was such a huge deal for me, so I'm allowing myself a little proud moment.

In other book related things from this year. YA GIRL FINALLY GOT TO VISIT THE HARRY POTTER STUDIO TOUR. For someone who is constantly too broke to travel further than my nearest city, being able to get up to London and visit the Studio Tour has been a complete impossibility for me. As someone whose life has quite literally been shaped by Harry Potter, it's been devastating for me to not be able to go!

But a couple of weeks ago, my amazing best friend, Rachel from Rachel's Really Random Reviews, offered to take me with her on her annual birthday trip to the tour. SO I GOT TO GO. Despite literally having a panic attack the night before, I managed to get through it all. Needless to say I took approximately eight million pictures, so I fully intend to write a blog post about it soon! 

After the year I've had, I can only hope things get better in 2018. Imagine things actually going my way for once? A wild thought. But there are a few tentative goals that I have in mind.

  • The one thing I want to do most is really get back to my reading. I've hated being so detached from my blog and the book community in general. I'm hoping so much that I'll be able to pick up more books in the months ahead.

  • I'd like to work on more original blog posts. I mostly only ever post reviews and blog tour posts, so there isn't much variety. Whilst I love doing all of those things, I like to think there are other ways that I can talk about books too. Hopefully, I can work on doing just that in 2018.

  • I'd also love to work on incorporating my photography into my blog some more. Going out and picturing a few places for a blog post has gotten me inspired to do more posts that allow me to mix my love of photography with my passion for books.

  • Getting more involved in the blogging community is something I'd love to try over the next year. Despite being around for almost seven years now, I still feel like I haven't really found my place. Whenever I'm on Twitter, I see so many wonderful bloggers and book lovers who I'd love to chat but my anxious self is too scared to reach out. Everyone seems to have their own friendship groups in their own little corner of the community, and it's hard not to feel like I'm on the outside looking in sometimes. So I'd love to try and get more involved with bloggers in 2018. (Hello lovely bloggers reading this, PLEASE COME AND BE MY FRIEND, I'M NICE I SWEAR. I'm just terrible at establishing communication.)

  • My final goal is to stop putting pressure on myself with regards to reading. Last year, I was guilty of comparing my blog to others and wishing I was able to find better opportunities. I really need to not let things like that get to me. It shouldn't matter what I read, whether or not I can get the latest book everyone is talking about, whether or not I can go to certain events. I can't change those situations, so why bother focusing so much on them? I need to just focus on doing my own thing and being content with that.
After 2017, it's a little difficult to feel optimistic about the coming year, but I'm trying my best. There are so many little things I'm looking forward to, books I'm excited about, design changes I want to learn how to make on my blog. I want to take part in NaNoWriMo again and really throw myself into a story I'm passionate about, regardless of the fact that it will probably never be read by anyone but me.
Thinking back over the year, I've noticed so many book bloggers having a pretty crappy time lately. Bloggers I've loved have gone on hiatus due to a variety of reasons. Now is one of those times when I feel like the community has to pull together more than ever. To my fellow bloggers: STOP WORRYING ABOUT YOUR BLOG. It should be something you do because you love it. If you feel like it's giving you more stress than enjoyment, don't be afraid to take a break. Focus on yourself first, and then rebuild your motivation later. Your blog will be there for you no matter when you're ready to properly return to it.

So, my fellow book lovers, how has 2017 treated you? Tell me your favourite books & memories. Also, what are your goals for 2018, if you have any? What bookish things are you looking forward to? Please feel free to let me know in the comments, or on Twitter


Saturday, 9 December 2017

My Fave Places to Buy Books in Liverpool

With Christmas fast approaching, it's time to remember that there is no better gift than a book. (I mean, there are plenty of other gifts, but the ones I'd prefer these days aren't things that can be bought, like housing, financial stability, equal rights, that kinda thing.) For anyone in or close to the Liverpool area, there are plenty of exciting bookshops around to go adventuring in. Whilst we do have an undeniably amazing Waterstones store, I want to talk about some of my favourite independent bookshops in the city, places that offer discounted and used books for amazing prices.

News From Nowhere

You don't even know how happy I was to find this shop. Never before had I found a place filled with such an amazing range of diverse books. News From Nowhere is a not for profit women's collective that stocks empowering books on all kinds of subjects, as well as encouraging social change. 

You can find books about so many amazing topics on the shelves here! I'm also completely in love with their young adult section because I can usually find specific books I really want to read but can't find anywhere else. 

It also holds a special place in my heart for being the shop that stocked the collection of short stories I was featured in a few years back! (Me, finding a little story I wrote in an actual shop? That happened.) Be sure to check out their website to read more about the causes they support and their general awesomeness. 


So I'm a little biased because I've been volunteering here for over four years, but it really is one of my absolute favourite places to hunt for and buy books! The store on Bold Street focuses mostly on vintage clothes, vinyls, and books, so there are a huge amount of amazing reads on sale.

We have all sorts of genres in stock, from fantasy, crime, and contemporary fiction, to art, music, and history. We also have a great reference section, with plenty of education books that would probably cost a small fortune if you were buying them brand new. Obviously, my fave shelves to lurk around are the young adult novels. 

We've had plenty of new releases donated to the store just a couple of weeks after their release. One of the best bargains I've found was when I was lucky enough to come across the hardback edition of The Art of Being Normal just a week after it first came out. I'd really wanted to read it but couldn't afford a copy, so I was beyond thrilled when I found it for £3.49! If you're in the area, make sure to drop by. We're friendly, I promise!

Bluecoat Books

I came across this place accidentally last year. It's tucked away inside the Gostins Building on Hanover St. Since I don't pass by there too often, I never even knew it existed until I actually went inside when I was sheltering from the rain one time.

It's a cute little shop with some great deals on books. The selection of classics they have on offer is amazing, and their prices are up to around 40% off retail price a lot of the time! There's also a great children's and YA section too. I have an extra bit of love for this shop because they also have an art supplies section, so I can stock up on books and watercolour necessities at the same time. What more could I want?

Henry Bohn

My absolute favourite place for vintage books, Henry Bohn, is a cosily small bookshop on London Road. I can get lost in here for hours, browsing through the many shelves and stacks of secondhand books. 

There's a fantastic selection of classic literature, biographies, poetry, and history, along with a children's section and a fantasy corner! Organised isn't the word to describe Henry Bohn, but the lack of order only adds to the charm of the place. 

The majority of the classics I own came from this shop, including my E.M.Forster shelf. They're half falling apart but I love my battered, old copies! It's also one of my favourite places to do a spot of book photography. 

Kernaghan Books

Part of The Bluecoat, I stumbled across this shop last year, and I'm so glad I did! Again, this is another shop that focuses mostly on vintage books, but it has something to offer for everyone. 

What I particularly love about this place is the Penguin Classics shelves. I'm a sucker for an old Penguin. The staff here are super friendly and when I first bought a book here, I had a lovely conversation with the wonderful man who served me. He taught me a thing or two about the publishing of Penguin books back in the day!

As someone who suffers a lot with anxiety and is often nervous about shopping, I was so happy with the comfortable atmosphere within this shop. There are definitely some hidden treasures on the shelves here.

So, there they are! My personal faves when it comes to book shopping in Liverpool city center. All of these shops offer a great amount of books at low prices, something which I am super grateful for because I am mostly constantly broke. There are a few more shops dotted around that I haven't had a chance to visit yet, but when I do, I'll be sure to update this list. Did you enjoy this post? Also, would you be interested in more posts like this one? I don't get to travel much, but there are a few more local places that have great bookshops to talk about! Let me know in the comments.


What are your favourite places to browse for books in your area? 


Monday, 20 November 2017

BLOG TOUR: Interview with ND Gomes and Review of BLACKBIRD

Hello, bookworms! Today is my stop on the blog tour for BLACKBIRD by ND Gomes! I'm excited to share with you this awesome interview with the author herself, as well as my thoughts on the book.

Can you tell us a little bit about your novel, Blackbird?
Blackbird is a young adult thriller/mystery which follows Alex, her family, her friends and a detective through an investigation into the sudden and brutal disappearance of her older sister. Partially told from her sister’s perspective, the story moves through time to reveal what really happened on the night she disappeared, ultimately exposing secrets her sister would have liked to stay hidden. 

What was it that initially sparked the idea for the story?
I read a news story about thousands of blackbirds dropping dead from the sky in a small town in the US in 2010 on New Year’s Eve, and for some reason it fascinated me.

I’m really drawn to crime stories set in a rural landscape where the characters feel isolated and closed in. I wanted to create that same atmosphere with Blackbird, but also weave in elements from that news story. 

Tell us a bit about your main character, Alex. What do you think readers will like about her?
Alex is someone who doesn’t realise how strong she is until she’s forced out of the shadow of her older, more popular sister. I’m really close to my older sister, so writing their relationship was fairly easy. A lot of their shared memories are my own memories with my sibling. 

I hope readers will also understand and appreciate the dynamics between Alex and the detective assigned to her sister’s case. Like Alex, he’s also struggling emotionally with the investigation because for him it’s bringing back a painful past he’s trying to forget. 

Alex's sister goes missing in the story. What sort of research did you do before writing about Olivia's disappearance?
I looked into missing persons cases in both the UK and the US to get a sense of timeline, process, and generally for inspiration. I also looked into policing procedurals in Scotland, so I could roughly map out how a missing persons investigation would proceed. Research is a big component to my process, but at the end of the day it’s about how to creatively work that information into the writing to drive the story. 

What was the most challenging part of the writing process for you?
Writing about a landscape I hadn’t yet visited was challenging, because I really wanted to take readers on a journey to a beautifully rural, subarctic island off mainland Scotland. But thankfully I got the opportunity to spend some time out there mid-novel, in the dead of winter when the novel was set, and I could really take in the incredible sites of Orkney, like Maeshowe, and bring that landscape to life in the story. 

What do you hope readers will take away from Blackbird
Both of my books Dear Charlie and Blackbird have a strong sibling relationship at the core of the story, which I hope readers can relate to. But ultimately, I hope to keep readers engaged and emotionally invested in the story, and in solving the mystery behind Olivia’s disappearance. 

Huge thanks to ND Gomes for stopping by! Be sure to check out the other blogs on the tour and scroll down for my thoughts on BLACKBIRD.

Pages: 287
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HQ Young Adult
Genre: Crime, Mystery
Release Date: November 16th 2017
Buy The Book:  Book Depository

My name is Alex. I am fifteen years old, and I don't know where my sister is. Or if she will ever come back.

On New Year's Eve 5,000 blackbirds dropped dead. The same day Olivia McCarthy went missing from a small coastal village in Orkney.

Now Her younger sister Alex is on a mission to find out just what happened to Olivia. But does she really want to know all the answers?

My Thoughts:
This story follows Alex through the aftermath of her older sister, Olivia, disappearing. Desperate to find answers, she works with the soon to be retired detective assigned to her case, Birkins. On the tiny island of Orkney, Alex struggles to figure out what happened to her sister, and to come to terms with how her life has changed.

One of the things that really stood out to me in this story was the honest way in which Alex's grief was written. As a sister myself, some of those scenes were difficult to read, but worded perfectly. I was left utterly heartbroken by some of the memories Alex brought up, happier moments between her and Olivia. The strength and determination that Alex showed throughout the story was one of the things about her characters that made her so brilliant to read about.

The unlikely friendship between Alex and Birkins was sweet, especially in the ways they were able to help each other over the course of the story. Birkins himself was an incredible character, and once I finished the book, I was actually curious to read more about him and the cases he'd dealt with in the past!

The hunt to find out what happened to Olivia kept me gripped. I love stories that I can try and piece together, and this one certainly gave me enough opportunities for that. There were several wrong guesses made before the final reveal, helping to keep everything tense. Those final few chapters had me on edge! The pacing was perfect, and the race against time for Alex made everything feel so much more desperate.

Whilst the majority of Blackbird focused on the actual case, a large part of it was also about the emotions that came from the situation itself. The scenes between Alex and her parents, showing what they were going through, were some of the more powerful moments in this story. I'm glad that it provided such a realistic look into what this situation would be like for families. It may have seemed hopeless for them at the start, but they come to realise that there are ways to work through the dark times when they have each other.

Blackbird is a quick but thrilling read, set in an atmospheric location and filled with interesting characters and conversation. It provided a good blend of YA crime and thriller, something I tend not to read too much of, but highly enjoyed this time around.

Royal Rating:

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