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:

 

Friday, 10 November 2017

REVIEW: Killer Storm by Matt Dickinson

Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Series: The Everest Files #3
Publisher: Shrine Bell
Genre: Action, Adventure
Release Date: 17th August 2017
Buy The Book: Vertebrate Publishing

Teenage climber Ryan Hart is still in Nepal, working at a refugee centre with his Tibetan girlfriend, Tashi. His obsession with summiting Mount Everest is as strong as ever, but a climbing accident puts his plans on hold.

As soon as Ryan recovers, he and Tashi journey deep into the Himalaya. Old friends have come back into their lives and invited them on the adventure. On the way they discover disturbing news: Nepal’s summer rains have failed and the country is in chaos. There are riots in the cities. Bandits roam the hills.

As they arrive at Base Camp, a violent terrorist attack kicks off. Ryan and his friends are held hostage.

Escape is their only option, but all the trails are guarded. They must head for Everest’s deadly slopes. The friends battle against the elements to keep one step ahead of the terror leader as the chase intensifies…

Storm clouds gather high on the mountain.

The scene is set for the ultimate Everest adventure.

My Thoughts:
Killer Storm is the third and final book in The Everest Files by Matt Dickinson, and I've been looking forward to seeing how this story would come to an end! From the exciting location, the unique characters, and the gripping way in which the story is told, this series has been one that has really stood out to me recently. It always makes such a refreshing change from the books I usually tend to read.

Killer Storm follows on a year after the events that took place in the previous book, North Face. Ryan has stayed in Nepal with his girlfriend, Tashi, and has spent his time working at a refugee camp for the people of Tibet who are trying to reach safety. Although his university has given him a deadline for coming back and continuing his training to be a vet, his dream of summitting Everest is still luring him in. After reuniting with some old friends, Ryan decides to trek to Base Camp once more before coming to a decision about his future. But a terrorist attack leaves Ryan with only one option, to keep climbing up.

For Ryan's final journey in this series, not only did we have some interesting new characters to learn about, but we were also given a reunion between characters from the previous books. It was fun and heart-warming to see them all interact for the first time. I love how this series, whilst following Ryan's journey, tells a bunch of individual stories from the different characters, explaining their own journey to the mountain. It helps break the story up a little and keep it exciting. The characters themselves are always fascinating, and you can't help but root for Ryan and those he meets along the way. I also have to mention how happy I am that whilst there were romantic relationships in this series, it has always remained super subtle. I always appreciate it when the romance remains a nice subplot, rather than the main drama within the story!

What's also wonderful about this story is it's commentary on the politics that effect the citizens of Nepal and Tibet. Whilst the situations in this book are fictional, it shines a light on the political unrest that really does take place in these countries. It's remained a strong theme throughout this series, and I feel like I've learned a few things from it along the way.

The conclusion to Ryan's story is a brilliant one, filled with action and emotional moments until the end. I'll definitely miss this bunch of characters! I'm also going to miss the location. Everest is such an exciting place to set a series and the climbing scenes have been perfectly described, transporting you right to the mountain. (Base Camp is a destination on my bucket list and these books have only encouraged it!) I'm so glad I had the chance to read the story of Ryan and his friends.

Royal Rating:


Wednesday, 1 November 2017

The Slump™

As you may have noticed, my blog has been slow lately. Extremely s l o w. Have I lost my passion for blogging? Nope. Am I not enjoying reading as much? Hell no. But there are things that can get in the way sometimes, so I just wanted to take the time to explain why I've been a little absent lately.

Although I don't talk about it very often on my blog, I'm a little more open on social media about mental health, particularly about how I struggle with The Anxiety. This year hasn't exactly been too kind to me in that department, and it's safe to say that my blog has taken a huge step back because of it. I just haven't had the motivation to pick up books and write reviews regularly. It's not that I don't want to read. Because I do. A lot. But sometimes even fictional escapes aren't enough to tempt someone out of a dark place. Some of my most anticipated reads of this year have been sitting on my shelf for months because I haven't been able to get started on them! And so I ended up being faced with the dreaded Reading Slump of 2017.

Yes, hello ATCS, I will start you soon, I swear

No matter what, reading and blogging are two of my biggest passions, so I never really stop, no matter how long it takes me to get around to each little thing. I really just wanted to say that when it's been quiet around here, please know that it's not me actively not wanting to read or blog. I've just been a little slower at everything recently. But it is getting better! I have a few books that I'm finally starting and I also have a few new ideas for blog posts (yay, productivity). Also, anyone who has sent me emails/books for review lately: I'm getting there, I promise!

So, yeah. I just wanted to say hi and let you know that I'm still lurking, slowly getting back to my book blogger self.

ALSO: What is your go-to book to get you out of a reading slump? Please let me know! 


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

BLOG TOUR: Review of No Shame by Anne Cassidy

Hello bookworms! Today is my stop on the blog tour for No Shame by the wonderful Anne Cassidy. You can check out my review of the story below, and be sure to keep an eye out on the other blogs taking part in the tour!

Pages: 192
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: October 19th 2017
Buy The Book: Amazon

The powerful companion to NO VIRGIN.

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

Stacey Woods has been raped and now she has to go through a different ordeal - the court trial. But nothing in life it seems is black and white and life is not always fair or just. Suddenly it seems that she may not be believed and that the man who attacked her may be found not guilty . . . if so Stacey will ned to find a way to rebuild her life again . . .

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

My Thoughts:
Note: This review touches upon the rape of the main character, Stacey.

After reading No Virgin last year, I was moved by Stacey's story, but I was also a little saddened by the way things had ended. Although we hear how Stacey, a seventeen-year-old girl, was raped by a much older man whose brother had earned her trust and lulled her into a sense of false security, we never got to see the fallout from Stacey deciding to come forward. But then I discovered that there was going to be a sequel that dealt with the court case and the long battle that is trying to get justice.

I'd been looking forward to reading this one because it's topic I don't see much of in YA, and it's something that needs to be discussed openly to provide encouragement to the girls and women who have to face these horrible situations in reality. What I loved about this book is how true the title of No Shame really is. Cassidy gave us the journey of a young woman realising that she was not in the wrong and, whilst she might have been naive, she was in no way to blame for what had happened to her. Not only that, but we were also given characters who didn't want to come forward about rape for their own reasons, and we were allowed to understand why they didn't speak up. This book showed a lot of respect for the personal decisions of victims.

The court case and the process of Stacey trying to get justice was the main focus of this book, and it was written openly and truthfully, without sugar-coating any part of it. And god, did it make me furious at times. To see what levels people stoop to in order to get out of something they're guilty of doing. Was this system fair to Stacey? No it wasn't. But it's the harsh reality that people in her situation can face and I'm grateful that No Shame provided an in-depth look at how that process can go, both good and bad.

Whilst this book was tough to read at times, it's an exceptionally important one. Stacey's emotions were so honest, and her story was powerful. I couldn't help but feel proud of how she managed to deal with everything that was thrown in front of her. She had moments of doubt, but she fought through them and came out stronger. I love that YA stories like this one are out there and, whilst the ending was bittersweet for me, I'm happy that Cassidy told Stacey's story in the way that she did. 

Quick Note: I absolutely loved that this book included useful links and contact details for helplines in the back!
 
Royal Rating:






Wednesday, 20 September 2017

THE HARRY POTTER TAG

Huge thank you to the wonderful Paige at Books and Belle for tagging me to do the Harry Potter tag! Also Rachel at Rachel's Really Random Reviews who tagged me as well! Let's get started with these questions then...

1. What house are you in?
Story time: Pottermore gave me an identity crisis. The first time I took the Sorting Hat test, I was a Ravenclaw. Finally I had my House. So I became a proud Ravenclaw. My mum knitted me a scarf and everything. But then Pottermore allowed us all to retake the test, which I did. So now I'm a Hufflepuff. It's been a difficult transition because my heart stayed in Ravenclaw for a long time, but I've finally accepted my new Hufflepuff identity. 

 

2. What is your patronus?
A Marsh Harrier. (I know, I had to Google it too.)

3. What is your wand?
10 inch Pear Wood with Unicorn hair. With a Slightly Springy flexibility, apparently.

4. What would your boggart be?
*opens filling cabinet filled with piles of notebooks full of fears* There are too many things it could be.

5. What position would you play in Quidditch?
None because I'm terrible at any form of sport. Maybe a beater?

6. Would you be a pure blood, half blood or muggle born?
Muggle born, probably.

7. What job would you want after to have after graduating Hogwarts?
Honestly, I wouldn't ever want to leave Hogwarts, so it's going to have to be a professor.

8. Which of the deathly hallows would you choose?
The Cloak.

9. Favourite book?
Prisoner of Azkaban

10. Least favourite book?
I CAN'T BELIEVE ANYONE WOULD ASK ME TO CHOOSE A LEAST FAVOURITE CHILD. If I have to, then I'll go with Chamber of Secrets.

11. Favourite film?
Goblet of Fire or Half Blood Prince

12. Least favourite film?
Chamber of Secrets? (I DO LOVE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, OKAY, I'M JUST TRYING TO PRIORITISE)

13. Favourite character?
Hermione, or Harry, or Ron, or Sirius, or Lupin, or-

14. Least favourite/most hated character?
U M B R I D G E
(Except in A Very Potter Musical, obviously)


15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?
McGonagall or Lupin.

16. Least favorite teacher at Hogwarts?
U M B R I D G E

17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?
I don't think I do? A lot of the opinions I have, I've seen shared online plenty of times before. What I will say is that I have A LOT of opinions on The Cursed Child. One of the big ones being that I really disliked Rose and thought she was a completely wasted character. Another one being that if we were going to go back in time and speak to characters who had died, could we not have spent time with someone other than Snape?

18. If you could save one character from the finale battle who would you save?
FRED FRED FRED FRED FRED FRED F R E D FRED
F
R
E
D

I'm tagging Christi J. Whitney and anyone else who wants to give this tag a go! Here are the questions:
  1. What house are you in?
  2. What is your patronus?
  3. What is your wand?
  4. What would your boggart be?
  5. What position would you play in Quidditch?
  6. Would you be a pure blood, half blood or muggle born?
  7. What job would you want after to have after graduating Hogwarts?
  8. Which of the deathly hallows would you choose?
  9. Favourite book?
  10. Least favourite book?
  11. Favourite film?
  12. Least favourite film?
  13. Favourite character?
  14. Least favourite/most hated character?
  15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?
  16. Least favorite teacher at Hogwarts?
  17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series?
  18. If you could save one character from the finale battle who would you save?

Friday, 1 September 2017

REVIEW: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Pages: 303
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: April 7th 2015
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
 

My Thoughts:
THIS BOOK, GUYS. THIS BOOK. I'm always wary of going into books with a lot of hype surrounding them because it's so easy to end up disappointed. I can't count how many times I've seen this book praised on my Twitter feed, so I was very curious to start reading. And let me tell you, it did not let me down.

The story follows Simon, a high school pupil who has started talking to a fellow gay student at the same school online. But Simon doesn't know who the other boy is. They both communicate via false names, Jacques and Blue. Through all of their emails, Simon has gotten to know Blue without actually meeting him in person, and as the story progresses, he is desperate to find out Blue's true identity. Reading this book so late after it's publication, I'm pretty proud of myself that I was still able to go into it without having Blue's character spoiled! It drove me insane in the best kind of way. That element of mystery, the constant search for clues, it all helped make this book such an excited read.

Another thing that makes this book so great is the characters. Simon himself has just the right amount of wit and edge to him that makes him interesting to follow. His thoughts and feelings are written well enough to put the reader in his shoes and see things from his point-of-view. I appreciated the scenes with his friends and the way Simon viewed the difference in his friendships. A character who had me torn throughout this book was Martin. His way of treating Simon made me angry, but the way his story is resolved is an important one.

The relationship between Simon and Blue was just adorable. Honestly, I didn't know how I'd feel about the relationship being built purely through email, but because of the way their emails were written, it worked so perfectly. I couldn't help but root for them. The way they slowly revealed more about their lives and their feelings through their messages was beautiful. I was about as nervous as Simon was when it came to finding out Blue's identity! I did figure who he really was a few chapters before the end thanks to the clues throughout the book, so I had my little moment of triumph when it was revealed.

This story is just full of fun moments and exciting characters, but it also touches upon some more serious and relatable topics as well. There was some particularly great commentary from Simon when he realised that straight and white shouldn't be the default, and I really appreciated little moments like that. I'm so glad I finally got a chance to read this one, and I'm beyond excited for the upcoming movie!

Royal Rating:

 
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