Tuesday, 27 June 2017

#ReadWithPride Mini Reviews!


Throughout June, Scholastic have been running a #ReadwithPride campaign to celebrate three of their diverse reads in honour Pride Month. If you haven't been able to check out any of these books yet, I've written some mini-reviews to help you decide if you want to give them a try...

Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green
  • I love this book.
  • Like, a lot.
  • So Noah believes he's totally Straight™ and thinks that dating the cute, unique girl at his school, Sophie, will help him ditch his nerdy/loser image.
  • But then his best friend, Harry, kisses him at a party and obviously that wasn't part of Noah's perfect little plan.
  • So everything goes to hell.
  • He doesn't realise how much he actually likes Harry and still thinks he can romantically pursue Sophie. Bless him.
  • This story is so funny. Honestly, I'm glad I was reading it at home and not on public transport because I would have received so many side-eyes from my fellow commuters.
  • It's beautifully British.
  • Noah is a precious, adorable little bean and his journey to coming to terms with his sexuality is cute, honest, and relatable.
  • His commentary on everything is A+.
  • Harry and Sophie are both brilliant characters and also Noah's mum, who takes a little while to get used to but is desperately funny. She's a Beyonce tribute act, naturally.
  • Did I mention I love this book?

George by Alex Gino

  • *throws this books at you*
  • So everyone needs to read this book.
  • E V E R Y O N E
  • If books had a middle name, Important would belong to this one.
  • A story with a transgender kid as the main character, learning how to embrace herself for who she is.
  • Do I need to say more?
  • Adorable friendships, wonderfully written characters, heart-warming moments, as well as some darker issues being addressed.
  • This books is informative as well as being fun, so it's perfect for anyone of any age.
  • It also deals with bullying, showing what kids who are different have to face.
  • It's just wonderful storytelling.
  • And I appreciate it a lot.

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe
  • So this one is a memoir.
  • And I'm so happy that Lucy decided to write about her life.
  • Because this book shows us a real young woman's journey to accepting her sexuality.
  • It shows her turning herself from someone who is shy and feels isolated, to someone who is open and proud and encourages others to be the same.
  • It discusses coming out to friends and family, and other people you cross paths with in your daily life.
  • It also explores first love and long distance relationships.
  • Uplifting is the perfect word to describe this book.
  • Lucy's love for Hermione is everything.
  • Lucy's love for her friends is also everything.
  • Her friends will immediately become your Squad Goals.
  • Seriously, where can I make friends like this??
  • This is a quick and cute read, and will leave you with a goofy little smile on your face because LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE IS ENOUGH TO MAKE ANYONE SMILE.

Make sure to check the #readwithpride tag on Twitter for more of the posts that have been shared this month!

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:

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

BLOG TOUR: Guest Post from Simon James Green!

Hello fellow bookworms! Today I'm super excited to share with you this wonderful guest post from Simon James Green, author of Noah Can't Even.

Being open in coming-of-age stories


Coming-of-age stories have been loved and enjoyed by TV, film and book audiences for years. As an adult looking back on those teenage years, it’s easy to do so through rose-tinted glasses, remembering fondly the first feelings of fancying someone, or the long, endless summers, that beautiful kiss…

Er… no! Of course, it wasn’t like that. Fancying that person was the start of an emotionally turbulent nightmare, the summer wasn’t endless it was packed with revision and stressful exams and that kiss was a stupid drunken one and you’d actually just been sick, and you totally regret it.

Those years – they’re actually quite difficult. And they’re packed with confusion, misinformation, and, a lot of the time, you can feel quite scared. These feelings, the stuff you’re going through, it’s all brand new. You’ve no reference point based on previous experience, so you don’t know if it’ll all work out OK. Whether you’ll get through it. You can feel like you’re lost in the woods: the torch has died, there’s no 4G so Google Maps won’t work and what use is a compass if you don’t know whether you should head North or South anyway?

I think this is why it’s so important to be open and honest in coming-of-age stories: you can feel like you are the only one going through this stuff… and you’re not. It might not make it any easier, but knowing you’re not alone, hell, knowing that just one other person feels like you do, maybe that’s a small crumb of comfort.

I’m pretty sure the internet has made it harder. Sure, you can find like-minded people and support websites to help you with whatever you’re going through. But you can also find a whole lot of utter tripe, written by people pushing their own hateful agendas. You only have to look at some of the vile comments written below videos that LGBTQ+ teens have made on YouTube – you’re exposed to hate these days like never before, and that’s not what anyone needs, especially when you’re making your first tentative steps to working out who you are. And sometimes our educational establishments don’t help. There are many good schools out there doing great work, but some schools don’t. Some schools won’t discuss LGBTQ+ issues in PSHE lessons, or tackle homophobic bullying in any sort of meaningful way. Take a look at the Stonewall report on homophobic bullying in Secondary schools – it’s depressing reading.

But we have a chance to address this in coming-of-age stories. Here we can tell it like it is, explore those feelings, and tell those stories. In the world of YA fiction, those gay kids who feel like they might as well not exist as far as their school experience goes, can read about characters going through the same things they are going through. They can join them as they fall in love, kiss, break up, get back together, laugh, have sex, screw it all up and put it all back together again. Reflecting that real experience, writing it in an honest, open way, in the safe space that a novel offers, that’s so important. With Noah Can’t Even, one of things I really wanted to achieve was exploring teenagers’ different experiences of sexuality and coming out in an open and honest way. If we were all more open, less afraid of being honest, especially with those young people we’re meant to be supporting and nurturing, wouldn’t the world be a better place?

www.simonjamesgreen.com
@simonjamesgreen

Noah Can’t Even is out now – published by Scholastic UK.

Simon James Green grew up in a small town in Lincolnshire that definitely wasn’t the inspiration for Little Fobbing – so no-one from there can be mad with him, OK? He enjoyed a classic British education of assorted humiliations and barbaric PE lessons before reading Law at Queens’ College, Cambridge, where he further embarrassed himself by accidentally joining the rowing team despite having no upper body strength and not being able swim. When it turned out that being a lawyer was nothing like how it looks in Suits or The Good Wife, and buoyed by the success of his late night comedy show that involved an inflatable sheep, he travelled to London to pursue a glamorous career in show business. Within weeks he was working in a call centre, had been mugged, and had racked up thousands of pounds worth of debt. Finding strength and inspiration in the lyrics of Tubthumping by Chumbawumba, he eventually ended up working on a range of West End shows and UK tours, co-wrote a feature-length rom-com for the BBC and directed Hollyoaks for C4 / Lime Pictures. After trying really, really hard, he also managed to write Noah Can’t Even. If you are interested in stalking him, he still lives in London, where he spends a lot of time telling people that Noah Can’t Even is only partly autobiographical, and his mum has definitely never done a Beyoncé tribute act. 

Huge thank you to Simon for stopping by! You can read my review of Noah Can't Even here, and be sure to check out the rest of the awesome blogs taking part in the tour!

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

REVIEW: Here Be Witches by Sarah Mussi

Pages: 432
Format: Paperback
Series: The Snowdonia Chronicles #2
Publisher: Shrine Bell
Genre: Adventure, Mythology
Release Date: February 1st 2017
Buy The Book: Vertebrate Publishing - Book Depository

All Ellie Morgan wants is to be with her one true love, Henry. But she’s caught in the middle of a BATTLE as old as SNOWDON itself. A battle between GOOD and EVIL.

A WITCHES’ SPELL, cast high on the mountain, has sped up time and made matters MUCH WORSE. The dragons are awake; mythical creatures and evil ghosts have risen. And nearly all of them want Ellie DEAD.

Thank heavens for loyal friend George, disloyal bestie Rhi, and mysterious stranger, Davey. Armed with Granny Jones’s potions, Ellie and her companions must set out on a journey to REVERSE THE SPELL, stop the EVIL White Dragon and find Henry.

As an eternal winter tightens its grip on Snowdon, Ellie and her friends have just THREE DAYS to SURVIVE and complete their quest.

My Thoughts:
Following the events that happened in Here Be Dragons, Ellie is determined to find a way to get Henry back from his tomb under the mountain. But when her friend Rihannon gets into a spot of trouble and a witch's curse is unleashed upon Snowdon, Ellie ends up thrown into a race against time with her best friend George. After highly enjoying the first book in this series, I was keen to get stuck in with this sequel.

The quest that Ellie and her friends have to go on in Here Be Witches was fascinating and packed full of adventure. With the story taking place on and around Mount Snowdon, it provided an epic setting for the journey of the characters. Something that I loved about this book was the magical myths within it. There's nothing I love more than learning about legends, so I appreciated the way that not only were they included in the story itself, but there were also extra notes at the bottom of the pages to explain things thoroughly. This series is great for getting to know epic tales from Welsh history!

I loved seeing how the characters developed in this story. Whilst Ellie has learned a lot from the events in Here Be Dragons, she still has this sense of innocence about her which I love. She has a funny, relatable attitude and I like how Mussi doesn't try to make her seem older than her age, which is something I feel a lot of YA fantasy writers tend to do. I enjoyed watching the relationship between Ellie and her friends change as they faced different situations, and despite her love for Henry, Ellie's will-they-won't-they tension with George was cute to see.

What I love about this series is the chatty way in which it's told. Though it's a fantasy novel with action and adventure, there is also something very contemporary in Ellie's narration of the story, and it makes for a delightful combination. It also helps the situation and characters feel believable because they are acting exactly how you'd imagine a bunch of teenagers would if they were thrown into a magical quest.

The Snowdonia Chronicles is fun fantasy, but dark and more serious when it needs to be, and I'm definitely excited to see what happens to this varied bunch of characters next! 

Royal Rating:

 

Thursday, 4 May 2017

REVIEW: Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green

Pages: 365
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: May 4th 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother's Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is...Well, it's pure HELL. Why can't Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone - maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely - he'd be seen in a different light? But Noah's plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That's when things go from bad to utter chaos.


My Thoughts:
I can't even. With this book. It's charming and funny, and also completely adorable all at the same time. This type of book just feels very home to me. My teen years used to be filled with UKYA books set in typical British high schools and filled with plenty of laughs, so Noah Can't Even reminded me of the books that helped shape me into the reader I am today.

Noah Can't Even follows Noah Grimes, who just want to be an average, 'normal' high school student. He's tired of trying to fit in, only to have some aspect of his life exposed to and mocked by his classmates. When Sophie, someone Noah has always admired from afar for her cool and quirky attitude, finally speaks to him, he decides that this is his ticket to normal. So he tries to win her over romantically, with his, um, charm? But then his best friend Harry kisses him and throws Noah's life into even further turmoil.

This is such a brilliant coming-of-age story and I adore the way that sexuality is discussed so openly, all the awkward stuff included. Noah and Harry are such close friends, but they're also very different when it comes to being themselves. Once Harry kisses Noah, he's honest with his best friend about being gay, confessing that he's only attracted to other boys. But then we have Noah, who hasn't got a clue what to make of anything that's happening, and doesn't really acknowledge being interested in anyone who isn't a girl as a possibility for himself until Harry kisses him. I love that this book shows those two variations of teens coming to terms with their sexuality. It shows that sometimes it's clear-cut, and other times it's confusing as heck, but that's okay.

All of the characters in this story are so vibrant and they make an interesting mix of different personalities. Noah's relationship with Harry and how their feelings develop is just so genuinely sweet that you can't help but love them. They're too precious for this world, honestly. Noah himself is an extremely funny protagonist and some of the stuff he came out with when he was in awkward social situations had me giggling. I also loved seeing Noah's relationship with his mum change throughout the book. Though they have their difficult moments, they make a great team when it really matters.

Noah Can't Even is a wonderful mixture of humour, romance, and awkward adolescence that hits home with a few important topics along the way. I've been in a huge reading slump lately, but once I got started with this one, I couldn't stop! If you're looking for a fun read complete with a bunch of seriously loveable characters, then this is the book you should pick up next.

Royal Rating:

Monday, 24 April 2017

REVIEW: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Pages: 438
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: April 6th 2017
Buy The Book: A Great Read - Book Depository

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl's struggle for justice.

My Thoughts:
The Hate U Give follows Starr as her life completely changes after she witnesses her best friend get shot down and murdered by a white police officer. What follows is her struggle to fight for justice for Khalil and make sure he's remembered in the right way. The desperately sad fact about this story is that whilst Starr and Khalil are fictional characters, their situation is a harsh reality that occurs far too often in our society.

Compelling, powerful, and important are only some of the words that are floating around in my brain as I try to describe why this book is so amazing but, honestly, my words don't do it justice. The characters in this story are just so real and believable. I challenge you not to feel for Starr and her family, and what they have to deal with in their everyday lives. Though the subject matter is serious and important, the moments between Starr and her family were precious, heart-warming, and often funny. They all had so much life and a lot of love for each other, and it came across beautifully on the page. It was also interesting to see how Starr began to mix the two different sides of her life that she'd struggled to keep separate for so many years.

One character who frustrated me throughout this book was Hailey, but she exists to make readers feels that way. She's someone who says stupid things without thinking, and definitely doesn't recognise her own privilege. The sad thing is that there are many Haileys out there who can't even see how they're hurting and offending people with their words. So whilst her ignorance left me annoyed, it's important to show that Starr had to deal with attitudes like that.

The Hate U Give is a book that not only educates, but also inspires. It's about standing up and doing something, even though you might be afraid. Starr's journey to finding her own voice was a painful yet beautiful one, and seeing her determination grow throughout the story was brilliant. It also opened my eyes to things I wasn't as aware of as I should have been, and I'm so grateful to this book for doing that.

It's quite difficult for me to talk about everything that I want to without delving into spoilers, so I'll probably revisit this book for a video discussion at some point. I know a lot of readers, me included, can be a little skeptical of books that are surrounded by hype, but this is one of those books that earns the buzz. Relevant and raw, this is a story that shines a light on the situations like this that are still painfully common today.

Royal Rating:

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

BLOG TOUR: Review of 'Everything Beautiful Is Not Ruined' by Danielle Younge-Ullman

Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction
Release Date: April 6th 2017
Buy The Book: A Great Read - Book Depository
Ingrid has made a deal with her mother: she gets to go to the school of her choice as long as she completes a three-week wilderness programme. But when Ingrid arrives, she quickly realizes there has been a terrible mistake: there will be no marshmallows or cabins here. Instead, her group will embark on a torturous trek, with almost no guidance from the two counsellors and supplied with only the things they can carry. On top of this, the other teen participants are “at risk youth”, a motley crew of screw-ups, lunatics and delinquents. But as the laborious days go by, and as memories of her complicated past come flooding back, Ingrid must confront the question of whether she shares more in common with these troubled teens than she’s willing to admit.

My Thoughts:
Ingrid is taking part in Peak Wilderness on a promise. If she completes the trip, she gets to go to the school of her dreams in England. But Peak Wilderness isn't anything like how Ingrid expected it to be. What she thought would be cabins and fun, outdoor activities were actually harsh nights of camping and brutal days of hiking. The story follows Ingrid as she struggles to make it through the difficult three weeks with a bunch of strangers who are all there for very different reasons.

What I particularly loved about this story was the various ways in which it was told. We got to jump between the past and present to gradually get the whole picture as to how and why Ingrid ended up at Peak Wilderness, and then there were the letters. Throughout the book, Ingrid writes letters that she never intends to send, but help her get her feelings out, putting them all onto the page. This variety in the storytelling kept things interesting and also kept me guessing as to what events had occurred in Ingrid's past.

Ingrid herself was a wonderful character to read about. Despite the situation she'd found herself thrown into, she managed to find determination to get through the difficult days. It was interesting to see how she reacted to the other characters and to watch her opinions of them change over time. She had a bit of everything to offer with her sarcasm, her wit, and her strength that grew throughout the book. Her turbulent relationship with her mother was heartbreaking but also beautiful at times. The writing really drove home the sadness and desperation that follows a career in the spotlight being pulled from right beneath a person's feet.

I'll admit that I'm difficult to please when it comes to romance in contemporary stories, so I was happy to see that the romantic relationships in this book didn't have any typically cheesy instalove attached to it. It wasn't what I expected, so I was pleasantly surprised! The journey that Ingrid and the other characters had to endure was gritty and tough, but I felt a sense of pride as they grew stronger through it. The secondary characters were all interesting in their own right, and it actually made me interested to learn more about them outside of Ingrid's story.

Whilst this book undoubtedly had it's more tragic elements, there was a sense of hope and determination underneath it all. With several issues being discussed, this story is a powerful one and these characters aren't easily forgettable. 

Royal Rating:

 



  
 
Be sure to check out the other blogs taking part in the blog tour this week:

 

Monday, 27 March 2017

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Dramarama by E. Lockhart

Pages: 320
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: February 9th 2017 (This Edition)
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Two teen theatre-fanatics. One dream. And SUMMER DRAMA CAMP.

All-round theatre-enthusiast, Sarah - better known by her showbiz name, Sayde - is a girl with ambitions too big for the small and conventional town she lives in. Her life doesn't have the razzle-dazzle she craves. For once she wants to feel special, noticed and be the centre of attention.

This summer Sadye has her talents set on Wildewood's prestigious theatre summer camp. And with her best friend Demi - a flamboyant falsetto, who is equally thrilled to be leaving their small town of Brenton - they will both experience a season of hormones, hissy fits, jazz hands, song and dance, true love and unitards! But despite all the glitz and glam, there comes rivalry and competition, and Sadye will have to prove her talents more than she has ever had to before.

Summer at Wildewood will not only determine Sadye's future - but will also test her friendships.

My Thoughts:
This one sounded fun. Granted, it sounded more like something I would have preferred a few years ago, but I was still keen to read it from the blurb. After a lot serious topics I'd been reading about recently, I was excited to jump into the exciting world of musical theatre at a summer camp. But this book turned out to be nothing like I expected.

Dramarama follows Sarah, who gets a place at the summer drama camp of her dreams and completely reinvents herself as Sayde. With her best friend Demi by her side, she plans to have the most exciting summer ever, packed with fulfilling her passion for musical theatre. But predictably, it's nothing like Sayde imagines it would be, and everything starts to go wrong for not only the future on stage that she has in mind, but also the only close friendship she has.

The main issue I had with this book was Sayde herself. At first, she was fun and her friendship with Demi was great. But as the story progressed, she started to irritate me quite a lot. Characters make bad decisions and I often find myself wanting to give them a little shake to snap them out of it, but the thing with Sayde is that I didn't feel as though she redeemed herself. The way she acted wasn't part of some amazing character arc, she just got more irritating and stayed irritating as the story went on. I did enjoy the scenes in which she showed genuine self-doubt and they enabled

Demi was the character I found the most fun, and I was way more interested in learning about what was going on in his life than I was Sayde's. Whilst I enjoyed their friendship at first, I didn't like how sour their relationship turned later on. Maybe if this story had been a split narrative between the two of them, it would have been a little more interesting. But just learning Sayde's thoughts on everything grew tiring. Demi was a more entertaining character, providing some of the much needed wit and excitement in book.

The ending was the biggest point of frustration for me because it felt mostly pointless. It lacked good development and didn't offer a satisfying conclusion. Also, I felt like Sayde could have redeemed herself much better than she did. As much as I like musicals, the references and drama camp setting weren't enough to keep me hooked on this story. Apart from enjoying a few cute scenes here and there, I just wasn't as interested as I wanted to be.

Royal Rating:

Thursday, 16 March 2017

REVIEW: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Pages: 256
Format: Movie Tie-In Paperback
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: October 13th 2016
Buy The Book: A Great Read
An extraordinary novel of love, loss and hope

12.07. There's a monster at Conor's window.
It's not the one from his nightmare. But it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Now a powerful and haunting film, Patrick Ness's modern classic is a heartbreaking but uplifting tale of healing and, above all, the courage it takes to survive.

INCLUDES EXCLUSIVE ESSAY BY PATRICK NESS

My Thoughts:
I've been wanting to read this for a long time but it ended up being one of those books that kept getting lost in the ever-growing TBR pile. The lovely people at A Great Read kindly offered to send me a copy in exchange for an honest review, so since I seem to have been stuck in a massive reading slump lately, I decided to finally pick up A Monster Calls. And guess what? It immediately became one of those stories that made me furious with myself for not reading it sooner because it was truly beautiful.

This story follows Conor, whose mother is currently receiving treatment for cancer. His sleep keeps getting disturbed by a recurring nightmare, and one night he dreams about the yew tree in his garden becoming a monster. Only when Conor wakes up, he begins to wonder whether the monster was real after all. Over the course of the story, the monster reappears to tell Conor three tales, each not what he expected them to be.

Ness provides a heartbreaking look at life for children who have lived alongside cancer. Whilst Conor had a strong bond with his mother throughout the story that was touching to read, it was his troubled relationship with his grandmother that was the most interesting for me. The pair of them don't exactly get along, and Conor is resentful to her when she comes to the house to help out. He doesn't want to admit to himself that his mother needs her help, either. Their relationship was a difficult one, but it was developed in such a beautiful way, showing how each of them is dealing with the situation in their own very different way.

Another thing that stood out to me in this story was Conor's life at school and the challenges he faced with bullying and friendship. It showed just how easy it is for someone to become a target and not know how to get themselves out of that situation. It was heartbreaking to see that Conor didn't really want to change what was happening, almost feeling as though he deserved what he was going through.

The visits from the monster were some of my favourite scenes in this book. They managed to be witty as well as thought provoking, and I enjoyed Conor starting to form somewhat of a bond with the monster as the story progressed. Powerful seems like such a cliché word to describe A Monster Calls, but it's the truth. It definitely left a huge impression on me and my only regret is that I didn't read it sooner!

Royal Rating:

 

Friday, 10 March 2017

BLOG TOUR: Masquerade by Laura Lam

Hello everyone! Today I'm pleased to welcome Laura Lam for my stop on the Masquerade blog tour!

The Boy with Horns – 10 March

Hush, my child,
and fall into sleep,
to have your dreams of wild worlds
and oceans deep.
Let your troubles slip and fade.
You’ll dream forever, or so the doctor said.
— A banned Elladan lullaby

Every chapter in the Micah Grey series has a short found document at the start, ranging from a variety of sources: history books, diaries, songs, poetry, and more. It’s basically a sneaky way to add in more worldbuilding and detail about Ellada & the Archipelago. 

I’m not much of a poet or a songwriter, but I try now and again in these excerpts with varying degrees of success. A lot of lullabies are actually quite sinister (ring around the rosie, for one), so I wanted to play with that sentiment. As in our Victorian times, infant mortality is high in this world, so many women would have had children who might not live to toddlerhood. Or maybe it’s simply a dose for a fever and it seems like the child will dream forever, but may wake up after the medicine has worked its magic. I’m not sure myself.

If you buy Pantomime or Masquerade & send your receipt to Laura, you can claim a free 10k short story, “The Mechanical Minotaur,” set in the same world. If you buy all three, you can claim 60k of free fiction as well. More details here.



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. 



The gifted hide their talents, but dare they step into the light? 

Micah's Chimaera powers are growing, until his dark visions overwhelm him. Drystan is forced to take him to Dr Pozzi, to save his life. But can they really trust the doctor, especially when a close friend is revealed to be his spy?

Meanwhile, violent unrest is sweeping the country, as anti-royalist factions fight to be heard. Then three chimaera are attacked, after revealing their existence with the monarchy's blessing - and the struggle becomes personal. A small sect decimated the chimaera in ancient times and nearly destroyed the world. Now they've re-emerged to spread terror once more. Micah will discover a royal secret, which draws him into the heart of the conflict. And he and his friends must risk everything to finally bring peace to their land.






Huge thank you to Laura for stopping by! Be sure to check out the rest of the tour stops:


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