Tuesday, 28 February 2017

REVIEW: Ink by Alice Broadway

Pages: 390
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: February 2nd 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora's father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all.

My Thoughts:
The idea behind Ink is just so intriguing, it had me curious to read it straight away. This book is set in a world where every aspect of your life is documented on your skin. Your decisions, your achievements, your mistakes, tattooed on your body for everyone to see. There is no hiding secrets in this world. Throughout this story, we follow Leora, who is about to finish school and hopefully progress onto the only career she ever wanted, being an inker. In this job, she will be in charge of tattooing important moments onto a person's skin.

After death, a person's skin is preserved in the form of a book so that their descendants can read their story. When Leora's father passes away, she discovers more to his story that she ever thought possible. Leora was a character who was torn between what she's always known to be true, what she's believed her whole life, and what she discovers after her father's death.

Whilst Leora has a love interest in this book, it was so refreshing to see that romance wasn't a main focus of the story. I feel like I say this way too often, but so many good fantasy stories end up focusing a little too much on the romance and for me, it can fall a little flat and take away from the story rather than add to it. With Leora and Oscar, I was actually rooting for them to develop their relationship further. Leora had an interesting relationship with her mother throughout the book and I enjoyed getting to see the two of them trying to work through their differences. I also appreciated Leora's wonderful friendship with Verity. Any scenes between the two of them were great and I'm excited to see more of the bond between them as the series progresses because they make a fantastic team.

This is a book that kept throwing lots of little plot twists in right until the very end. It also contained fascinating history for the world built within it. The story in Ink is something I couldn't ever imagine being a reality, but the writing made it feel so believable and makes you think but what if? The final few chapters were wild and definitely have me keen to find out what is going to happen in this world next. Ink was such a refreshing and original story and I'm excited to see what the future has in store for Leora as she develops over the course of this series. 

Alice recently wrote an awesome guest post about her research for Ink, which you can check out here!

Royal Rating:

Monday, 20 February 2017

REVIEW: The Memory Book by Lara Avery

Pages: 357
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hachette
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic Fiction, Health
Release Date: January 26th 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Samantha McCoy has it all mapped out. First she's going to win the national debating championship, then she's going to move to New York and become a human rights lawyer. But when Sammie discovers that a rare disease is going to take away her memory, the future she'd planned so perfectly is derailed before it’s started. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. Realising that her life won't wait to be lived, she sets out on a summer of firsts: The first party; The first rebellion; The first friendship; The last love.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

My Thoughts:
Before reading The Memory Book, I'm afraid to say I'd never heard of Niemann-Pick Type C. It is a rare type of dementia that affects younger people, usually children. But seveteen-year-old Sam is a special case as her diagnosis comes a lot later than what is typical. Her dream for after high school is to attend NYU, and she stays focused on that goal even her family and doctors try to dissuade her. Sam starts typing up her memories on the computer for future Sam to read back later.

What I really respected about this story was that despite the subject matter, it wasn't a sad read. Yes, there were heartbreaking moments, as there would be for anyone facing a life cut short because of illness, but Sam had a fantastic attitude about the whole situation from start to finish. She was determined to continue living her life the way she planned, regardless of what challenges her illness threw at her.

Whilst the story itself was a difficult but touching subject, I found myself disappointed in the romance. Sam has had a crush on Stuart for years, and now he's back in town after being at NYU. When they go to the same party, they finally start talking, and it turns into something more. Towards the end of the book, there is even a bit of a love triangle. This side of the story didn't appeal to me, and I was much more interested in Sam dealing with her illness, and her relationship with her family and best friend Maddie than I was in the romance. Maddie was an awesome character and I wish the story had given us more moments between her and Sam because I felt as though their friendship could have been expanded more. I'd have also liked to have seen more of Sam's siblings.

The Niemann-Pick Type C itself was heartbreaking to see progress throughout the book, especially when sam ends up having more episodes of memory loss. Her sudden confusion in her entries are actually quite chilling because it shows us just have terrifying it must feel to be in that situation. I'm grateful that books like this exist so that readers can become more aware of rare illnesses such as this one.

The Memory Book was a bit of a mixed-bag for me. Whilst I loved the importance of the story and the message it held, there were parts of the story that felt a little forced and stereotypical. But I was still able to enjoy the story as a whole, and I appreciate that it made me aware of Niemann-Pick Type C. I'm always grateful to stories like this that shine a light on conditions less known to the general public.

Royal Rating:

Monday, 13 February 2017

BOOK CLUB REVIEW: Margot & Me by Juno Dawson

Pages: 417
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Genre: Historical, Contemporary
Release Date: January 26th 2017
Buy The Book: Book Depository

Sometimes love has to cross all kinds of barriers . . .

Fliss is on the way to visit her grandmother in Wales - the grandmother who she doesn't get on with - with her mother who is recuperating from chemotherapy. But her mum is getting better, that's the main thing, so Fliss can concentrate on being grouchy and not looking forward to meeting her grandmother Margot, who is so cold and always so unforgiving of Fliss's every mistake . . . But when the six months is up, Fliss consoles herself, she and her mum will go back to London and back to Real Life!

In the meantime Fliss needs to get used to her new school, not upset the scary girls, and just keep her head down (whilst still making sure that everybody knows she is from London, of course). Then Fliss discovers a diary at the back of her bookcase. It is from the 1940s and is set in World War II, and, Fliss realises, is actually Margot's diary from when she was a young woman during the Blitz. Intrigued, Fliss begins to read. There she discovers a whole new side to Margot, a wartime romance and also Margot's deepest, most buried secret. And it is then that Fliss discovers something terrible in her own life that she is going to have to come to terms with...

My Thoughts:
I read this story throughout January with my fellow members of The Book Club! We also had a Twitter chat about it at the end of the month, which you can catch up on by searching for the #BCChat hashtag.

This book, guys. This book. I'm in awe. From the moment I heard about it, I knew it was my kind of thing. Split between 1998 and a 1940's diary? It called out to me. Margot & Me follows fifteen-year-old Fliss as she moves to a farm in Wales that belongs to her grandmother (who will only go by Margot, she won't be having any of that nan or gran stuff, thank you very much). Fliss believes that she'll be living there for about six months whilst her mother recovers from cancer. Fliss and Margot don't always get along, and Fliss sees her grandmother as quite a strict and severe person. When Fliss finds Margot's diary in the attic, she begins to see a different version of her, a version that she comes to adore.

Let's start with what a wonderfully realistic character Fliss is. Her emotions, her actions, her ways of thinking were told in an open and honest way that made me root for her throughout. Yes, she was naïve at times and didn't always make the wisest decisions, but that only added to the believability of her character. The difficulties she faced at her new school were sad but true for many students who have to switch schools. But the adorable development of her new friendships were heartwarming to witness.

Whilst Fliss had a gripping story, it was Margot's raw and emotional journey back in 1940 that made this book truly special for me. I don't think I can quite express how much love I had for Margot. She was an incredible character with an attitude well ahead of her time. I don't want to say too much about what she goes through for fear of spoiling it, but her story is an important one and I truly felt for her. She may be a fictional character, but you can bet your house that there were many young women like her who were forced into the same heartbreaking corner.

The final quarter of the story was packed full of emotion, and even though thinking back I can see that the signs of what direction this story would take were there, I wasn't actually expecting it. So I was a complete wreck by the end. The two different parts of the story were beautifully weaved together and wrapped up perfectly, leaving the reader to imagine for themselves what happened after the final page. With a focus on family bonds and important friendships, this book ticked a lot of boxes for me and I'm so glad I got the opportunity to read it. 

Royal Rating:

Saturday, 11 February 2017

BLOG TOUR: Guest Post by Alice Broadway, author of INK

Hello everyone! Today I'm excited to share with you a fabulous post from author Alice Broadway about the research behind her new novel, Ink

The Research Behind Ink 

I am so pleased to have the chance to visit and talk a bit about my debut YA novel, Ink. Ink is based in a world where everybody is tattooed, and at death, your skin is preserved and your tattoos become a book in remembrance of a life well lived. Researching for Ink was one of my favourite things. If you’re into creepy, morbid and macabre stuff, read on.

As someone with no tattoos, I needed some real insight and help in order to write accurately and believably about the process. I had the honour of watching Emma Kierzek work and asked her loads of questions. Emma is an award winning artist based at Aurora Tattoo, Lancaster and her creations are amazing – her realistic black and grey portraits are stunning. I really wanted to get the input of a female tattoo artist and it was fascinating hearing her talk about her work. I also visited a local tattoo studio, New Testament Tattoos, where they brilliantly helped me understand more about how they felt as artists and as people with tattoos. AND they didn’t laugh at my stupid questions, at least not to my face.

Also, the exceptional tattoo journalist, Beccy Rimmer from Inkluded has been ace – she works really hard to make tattoo culture accessible and to demystify some of the process. She also shares the work of incredible artists and her own tattoos are so beautiful.

Preserving skin isn’t terribly unusual – the process of creating leather from animal hides is quite normal to us. But the idea of preserving human skin suddenly becomes a lot more sinister-seeming. Thankfully, there are other humans out there who find stuff like this as fascinating as I do and when I found the work of Dr. Gemma Angel at Life and Six Months, I knew I had found my guru. Dr. Angel has studied and handled preserved tattoos and written extensively about them. She also graciously agreed to be interviewed and as a tattooist, writer and reader she was a fount of knowledge and inspiration.

Having read Dr. Angel’s work I knew there were some preserved tattoos at the Wellcome Museum in London and when I had the chance to see them ‘in the flesh’ I couldn’t resist. I was surprised by how emotional I felt seeing these scraps of skin from unknown men.

Death positivity
The world of Saintstone is one where death isn’t feared or hidden and the death positivity movement has been a fascinating area of research for me. I was expecting to find things like The Order of the Good Death interesting in a ‘this is quite weird and maybe you’re all vampires’ way – I wasn’t expecting to have my thoughts and plans about my own death completely altered by what I learned. I love the vlogs by Caitlin Doughty and her book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is now one of my favourite non-fiction books of all time.

The thing I have been most struck by is people’s willingness to share their knowledge, expertise and inspiration. I had nothing to offer them but my curiosity and their generosity has impressed me so much.

Alice Broadway drinks more tea than is really necessary loves writing in her yellow camper van. She hates being too cold or too hot, and really likes wearing lipstick and watching terrible Christmas movies.

@alicecrumbs | www.alice-broadway.com

Huge thank you to Alice for the fascinating post! I love learning about the research behind a story. Ink is available to buy now, and keep an eye out here for my review soon!
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