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

Bookish Bargains: 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:


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


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?

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

14. Least favourite/most hated character?
(Except in A Very Potter Musical, obviously)

15. Favourite teacher at Hogwarts?
McGonagall or Lupin.

16. Least favorite teacher at Hogwarts?

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?

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:


Monday, 14 August 2017

BLOG TOUR: Guest Post from Chloe Seager and Review of Editing Emma!

Hello my fellow booknerds! Today is my stop on the blog tour for Editing Emma. I'm super excited to share this hilarious guest post from Chloe Seager, and my thoughts on her new novel!

Embarrassing Teen Moments

Growing up, I had so many embarrassing moments that sometimes, when people ask me, it’s hard to think of just one. My teenage life was basically just one huge blur of embarrassment. But after having a skim through my diaries, I’ve got what is hopefully a cringeworthy enough selection for you to laugh at, and for me to relive the pain.

1) The Pen That Wasn’t
I’ve already spoken about this in public, so, might as well immortalise it on the internet. I’d been partnered with the boy I fancied for a project, and I was So. Excited. Having an excuse to actually meet up with him after school and be within three feet of him was pretty much all I could think about for days. Finally, the moment came… After school one day, we got together. Just me and him, alone, in a dark, dingy classroom. I was convinced this was going to be the moment. He was finally going to see me in a different light, and the exciting, secret after-school kissing sessions were bound to commence immediately. I got my pen and pad out, ready to dazzle with my intellect, wit and thoughtful insights on the project.

But after about ten minutes or so, I started to get the feeling we weren’t going to be kissing any time soon. He seemed a bit awkward for one thing, and wouldn’t look me in the eye. Not so uncommon with teenage boys in general, but this guy was usually quite confident and friendly. I started to think, what is it? What’s wrong? Do I have something on my face? And then I clocked it, the ‘pen’ that I’d got out of my bag was not a pen at all.

It was a tampon.

I bet I looked super intellectual, witty and ready to dazzle with thoughtful insights, poised with that in my hand. I went a deep shade of red and put it away IMMEDIATELY, and he pretended not to see. We both never mentioned it and, quelle surprise, whether it was because of the tampon or not, we never ended up having exciting, secret after-school kissing sessions.

2) Photogate
NB - I’d forgotten about this story, and it’s definitely going in Book 2…

My friend and I were bored one Saturday and so started taking photos, posing in our underwear (as you do). We uploaded them to the computer and had lots of fun editing them, being generally narcissistic and not yet realising how stupid we looked etc etc. The next day, my Mum was having a big printer meltdown - she’d accidentally printed out tons of stuff hanging about on our computer, and was screeching about paper wastage. I, of course, superior and bored with her technical issues, said to just turn everything around and put it back in the printer the other way, if she was so worried.

I also had to print out an essay that day. (Do you see where this story is going…?)

Three days later, my (male) teacher handed me back my essay, blushing and not looking me in the eye. My friend was like, ‘Why is he being so weird?’ Then from across the room, another boy in class shouted, ‘Chloe, what’s that on the back of your essay?’

It was, obviously, a picture of me in my underwear. FML.

3) House Music Spotlight
Each year, our school had a ‘house music’ competition, and I somehow got persuaded by my friends that it would be really fun to get involved. God knows how, because I can’t sing, dance or even really move without falling over. That, combined with my apathy towards rehearsals, made it a pretty big disaster. The night of the show rolled up and I remember thinking, can I back out now? But my friends, once again, convinced me that no one would even pay attention to me… I was only part of the chorus, standing at the back, basically in darkness. So I went through with it, and it went fine (or so I thought). Sure, I made lots of mistakes and didn’t know what I was doing AT ALL, but my friends were right… I was at the back, and theoretically should have been in total darkness.


But for some bizarre, unknown reason, people in the audience later told me that there was a strange spotlight, shining on one spot at the back… Juuuuust where I was standing. People kept coming over later and congratulating me on my ‘comedic performance,’ and I was all, ‘what???! What are you talking about?’ And they’d be all, ‘oh, weren’t you meant to be lit up, doing it wrong?’ It turns out that EVERYONE could see me, really, really clearly, in my strange little spotlight of humiliation.

Here is a picture so you can see what I mean… That is me, at the back there. (Facing the wrong way, obviously).

Thankfully, age twenty-five, I now realise that none of these things were actually a massive deal. So I can’t dance and everyone saw, so what? And if a tampon actually bothered that guy, then would I have wanted to date him anyway? (Categorically no.) But at the time I was convinced these moments were the worst things that could have ever happened. I think that’s what I hoped Emma would give some other teenage readers - knowledge that they’re not alone in their awkwardness, and the message that ultimately, these things really aren’t worth losing sleep over.

Huge thank you to Chloe for the fabulous guest post! Be sure to check out the other blogs taking part in the tour this week, and scroll down for my thoughts on Editing Emma!

Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HQ
Genre: Contemporary, Humour
Release Date: August 10th 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

When sixteen-year-old Emma Nash is ‘ghosted’ by the love of her life Leon Naylor, she does what any normal teenage girl would do…

Emma spends the summer lurking in her bedroom, avoiding all human contact (and the shower), surrounded by the collection of chewit wrappers she saved from packs Leon gave her, back when he actually acknowledged her existence…

But seeing Leon suddenly ‘In a relationship’ on Facebook with the perfect Anna, spurs Emma into action and she embarks on a mission to make positive changes to her life (or ‘edits,’ if you will) and vows to use the internet for more than obsessively stalking Leon’s activities! Instead, she will use it for good and noble causes like finding someone who will actually be nice to her, and recording her findings for the rest of the world to see (i.e. BFF Steph and her mum) on her new Editing Emma blog.

But Emma soon discovers her ‘habit’ is harder to break than she first thought – turns out she’s not the only one ‘editing’ herself online (thank you Tinder for finding her mum’s profile, age 35, really?) and that life through an Instagram filter isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. But it could be worse, she could have outed her best friend, accidentally chatted up a 12 year old boy and revealed to the world why Leon Naylor is worth no girl’s time or virginity… oh no wait, that’s exactly what happened…

My Thoughts:
Emma really can't catch a break. This story follows her after Leon, her former unconfirmed boyfriend, decides to start completely ignoring her, and then enters a Facebook official relationship with another girl at their school. To stop the constant thoughts of Leon, Emma decides to use her private blog and the online world to recreate herself. She wants to become the ideal Emma. What follows is a whirlwind of dating disasters and wonderfully cringe-worthy moments.

The reason why I really connected with this book is because it reminded me so much of the stories I used to devour throughout my school years. I adored anything written in a chatty, diary-style way with funny and relatable characters. As I've gotten older, I seem to have discovered less stories like this. Instead I seem to constantly be reading either fantasy or more serious stories. Not that books that deal with serious issues aren't super important because they are, but sometimes you really need a good, funny story in your life. A charming bit of escapism. And that's exactly what Editing Emma is. But it's also a little more grown up that some of the former books written in this sort of style. It's on top of the game when it comes to modern issues and situations that teens go through.

For me, Emma is just one of those characters that you can't help but love. She's a little more than questionable at times, but everything that she does just adds to her overall charm. The story starts with her explaining her relationship with Leon and the heartbreak she's currently suffering because of him. I'll admit, with her moping about after losing Leon, especially when I didn't like his attitude from what we learn about him, I didn't take to her straight away. But this story had me in fits of giggles in no time. Honestly, I had one of those rare moments where I almost laughed on a train. In public. In front of actual people. During the early morning rush hour. This book is dangerous.

Emma has a group of friends, Steph, Faith, and Gracie, and we get to know more about them as the story unfolds. Their conversations and the moments between them are brilliant. We even get their tweets and texts included, which add another interesting element to the story and it breaks up the blog writing. Whilst the story is told by Emma, I enjoyed getting to learn about her friends through her, especially Faith who, among all of the witty moments, had some important and heartfelt moments that I'm so glad were included.

The various dating disasters that Emma has to face are hilarious. She has some serious guts to go ahead with some of the things that she does, I'll give her that! I don't want to say anything about how it turned out in the end, obviously, but I will say that I was so proud of the final blog post that Emma writes in this book. With such an interesting bunch of characters and so many laugh-out-loud moments, Editing Emma is perfect when you need a story to make you smile

Royal Rating:

Thursday, 3 August 2017

REVIEW: Release by Patrick Ness

Pages: 287
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Walker Books
Genre: Contemporary
Release Date: May 4th 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read
Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume's Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It's a big day. Things go wrong. It's intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches...

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It's a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won't come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

My Thoughts:
From the moment this book was announced, I was looking forward to it. A modern retelling of Mrs Dalloway? With elements of Forever by Judy Blume? Sign me up. So it's safe to say I was pathetically excited when the proof arrived at my doorstep from the wonderful people at Walker Books. It was one of my most anticipated reads of 2017, and it really didn't disappoint.

This story follows Adam over the course of a day. Adam is a gay teenager who has grown up in a strictly Christian household, a harsh reality that is true for many young people. Adam's journey over the course of this one day is incredible. Rooting for him to realise certain things, I felt a sense of pride when he started to decide to take control of certain situations in his life. This story sees him hit a breaking point after holding a lot of emotions in for a long time, and the pay-off is perfect.

Adam is currently in a relationship with Linus, but on the day the story is set, he is preparing to attend the goodbye party of Enzo, a guy he used to think he was in a relationship with, despite Enzo not wanting anyone to know about the two of them. Whilst Adam loves Linus, he is still torn over Enzo and the lack of conclusion from their relationship. Seeing Adam learn about himself and his feelings over the course of the story made for many brilliant moments. I was more than happy with the way things were left by the end of it.

The friendship between Adam and his best friend Angela was everything. So many of the stories I read throw drama between friends to create tension, but even though something threatens to shake up Adam and Angela's relationship, they have nothing but mutual support and understanding for each other instead. There's nothing I love more than reading about friends who are there for one another no matter what happens.

The connections to Mrs Dalloway were super clever, having the book start with Adam in a flower shop, and having him prepare for a big party that evening. There was also the story of Katherine van Leuwen, who was the Septimus of this story. Her ghost has a story told between the chapters, and it adds an interesting fantasy element to the story. Ness did a fantastic job of doing a modern twist on a much loved classic tale. I'm thrilled that one of my most anticipated reads of the year delivered in the best way possible, and Adam is a character I certainly won't be forgetting any time soon. 

Royal Rating:

Sunday, 16 July 2017

REVIEW: The Circus by Olivia Levez

Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Rock The Boat
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Release Date: June 13th 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository
Willow has everything: a rich daddy, a pony and a place at a prestigious boarding school. Everything except the one thing she really wants—a father who cares enough to find her when she runs away from home.

On the eve of her father’s wedding, Willow runs again into the unknown. Her mother was a circus performer and Willow longs to follow in her footsteps. But when all of her money is stolen and her only friend, a street performer called Suz, betrays her, Willow is left penniless and alone. So begins a journey. Will Willow ever make it to the big top and find a place she can truly call home?

My Thoughts:
The Island was one of my favourite books of 2016, and was the story that made me fall utterly in love with the writing style of Olivia Levez. So it's safe to say that I was super excited to read her second book, The Circus.

This story starts with teenager Willow running away from home on the day of her father's wedding to a much younger woman. We quickly learn that it's not the first time she's fled from her old life, but this time she gets further than she's ever done before. With only one picture of her mother, who left her as a child, dressed as a circus performer, she decides to follow in her mother's footsteps and join the circus. Willow makes it to Hastings and reinvents herself as Frog, a circus performer ready to start her new life, but things go from bad to worse for her.

What I love about Olivia's characters is that they're always so real. There's nothing sugar-coated about the problems that they face and the world around them. They're not perfect, they're not always nice, but that's what makes them so believable. Frog's flaws make for a much more interesting story, and it made me root for her to get the things she wanted in life, even when she didn't fully realise what that was.

Whilst trying to navigate the streets of Hastings alone, Frog ends up becoming friends with Suz, a homeless girl who starts to teach her how to perform fire ticks, despite the two of them not getting off to a great start. Their relationship was one of the most interesting aspects of this story for me because as a reader, I never knew where I stood. I didn't know what would become of them from one chapter to the next. Even though they needed each other to get by, there was a tension between them that could break at any time.

The circus that we eventually get to see in the story was fascinating and I loved the mix of characters who were performers. I only wish we'd had more time with them and gotten to know more about their daily life at the circus.

One thing that really stood out to me about this book was that as a reader, I never felt safe. Frog's life was so uncertain from chapter to chapter that I never knew how her day was going to end, and I appreciated that level of tension because it made for an exciting but nerve-wracking read. The ending was written beautifully and as with The Island, there are still things left for the reader to wonder about. The Circus was such a thrilling and raw read, and it's only made me even more excited for whatever Olivia Levez works on next! 

Royal Rating:

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