Tuesday, 17 April 2018

REVIEW: Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda

Pages: 384
Format: ARC Paperback
Publisher: Crown Books
Topics: Mystery, Missing People
Release Date: January 16th 2018 (US)
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

Jessa Whitworth knew she didn't belong in her ex-boyfriend Caleb's room. But she couldn't deny that she was everywhere: in his photos, his neatly folded T-shirts, even the butterfly necklace in his jeans pocket . . . the one she gave him for safe keeping on that day.

His mother asked her to pack up his things, even though she blames Jessa for his accident. How could she say no? And maybe, just maybe, it will help her work through the guilt she feels about their final moments together.

But as Jessa begins to box up the pieces of Caleb's life, they trigger memories that make Jessa realize their past relationship may not be exactly as she remembered. And she starts to question whether she really knew Caleb at all.

Each fragment of his life reveals a new clue that propels Jessa to search for the truth about Caleb's accident. What really happened on the storm-swept bridge?

Well, this was quite a rollercoaster of a story. With it's twists and turns leading me all over the place, I was never sure exactly which direction it was going to take, leaving me constantly growing suspicious and pointing fingers at almost every character.

Fragments of the Lost takes place after the disappearance of Caleb Evers, and follows his ex-girlfriend Jessa as she clears his room away for his family as they prepare to move. A lot of the story is set within Caleb's bedroom and told through memories that the two of them shared. But the more things Jessa discovers in his room, the more she starts analysing the parts of Caleb's life that she was allowed to see.

I'll be completely honest, at first I thought this book was going to be my cup of tea. Whilst I do love a good thriller, I don't read them too often, and this one didn't manage to draw me in straight away considering it was mostly Jessa's memories of their relationship for the first quarter of the book. But the more Jessa tore apart Caleb's room, the more hooked I became. Instead of getting answers, we're given more mysteries, and Jessa starts to realise that she only got to see a small part of Caleb's complex life.

Jessa was a character who I didn't feel too connected to at the start of the story, but I grew to like her more and more. She was just a normal girl who happened to get swept up into a very complicated world. I enjoyed seeing her interactions with those around her change as the story progressed.

There wasn't one character who I wasn't suspicious of at some point or another. In fact, for quite a big chunk of the story, I was absolutely convinced that a minor character had something to do with Caleb's disappearance, when it turned out they were actually just a perfectly innocent minor character. I really thought I was cleverly on to something, but I couldn't have been more further from the truth!

Whilst the overall story isn't scary, there were certain scenes in this that left me chilled. Especially as Jessa investigated parts of Caleb's past. There were moments when I really didn't know who to trust, so I had no idea whether any of the characters were potentially going to bring harm to Jessa, and it definitely had me on edge! That feeling of unease was what kept me turning the pages of this book, and it made for a brilliantly atmospheric read. 

Royal Rating:

Monday, 2 April 2018

EVENT RECAP: An Afternoon With Holly Black

Unless you've been hiding under a rock for the past few months, you'll probably have noticed a lot of people discussing Holly Black's latest novel, The Cruel Prince. I've been desperate, and I mean desperate, to get my hands on a copy, but my very broke self hasn't been able to purchase any new books lately. So when I saw that the wonderful Waterstones in Liverpool was hosting a competition for a free ticket to Holly's event, including a copy of the book, I hit that retweet button so fast. For once, luck was actually on my side and I WON.


Literally two hours before the event, I found out on Twitter that I was one of the two winners, so I had an hour to throw some clothes on and make myself look presentable because I WAS ABOUT TO MEET HOLLY BLACK. Somehow I still managed to get to the store super early, and bagged myself a seat at the very front. I always try to arrive early to get front row at these things because my short self would spend the whole time craning to see over not-short people the whole time otherwise.

On my way in, I was given this absolutely gorgeous goodie back containing a copy of the book (!!!!!!!!!) and some very exciting swag, which I had a nosey at whilst waiting for the talk to start. 

The goodie bag from the event!
Look at this beautiful character art!
Black heart lollipops. I'm always down for free food.
An adorable bookmark and a candle? This goodie bag is definitely for me. Also: HELLO SEQUEL TEASER.
A super cute fairyloot badge!
Holly kicked off the event in dramatic style with a reading of the prologue from The Cruel Prince. After that, she did a short interview with the host of the afternoon, the wonderful Simon from Savidge Reads, talking about all things Faerie. He questioned her about the story revolving around Jude instead of Vivi, whom the prologue seems to focus on more. Holly told us that whilst Vivi seemed to tick all of the right boxes for a classic YA protagonist, in her mind the story had always been about Jude. She wanted to tell a story about a human growing up in an 'other' world, like a reverse-changeling story.

After the initial interview, the event was handed over to the audience to ask questions. When quizzed about writing a series, Holly's advice was to be careful not to close too many doors too early on in the story because they might be needed further down the line. She was also asked about how she knew a book would end when there is a sequel, and she confessed that The Cruel Prince had originally supposed to finish at another part.

One of the final questions of the night was about where she got her folklore when planning her stories set in Faerie. She told us that she read books that contained write-ups of people's encounters with faeries. Whether they're real or not, they contain some fascinating information!

Once the questions were all finished, we were allowed to queue up for the book signing. There was originally someone in front of me in the line, but they left to go and get something, and before I knew it, I was at Holly's table! Not expecting to be first up, I definitely had one of those good old Moments of Panic where I forgot every word that ever existed. My anxious self likes to go over what I'm saying approximately one million times in my head beforehand, so I felt exceptionally Unprepared. Luckily I composed myself enough to tell her that I was super excited to read the book and that I'd seen my fellow bloggers give it so much praise.


And that was my tale from a very unexpected book signing! This was actually the first book event I'd been to in almost two years, since my anxiety prevented me from going to the last signing that I planned to attend. I'm proud that I managed to make it this time and only mildly freaked out. I need to say a huge thank you to the team at Waterstones Liverpool for the fantastic opportunity, and to Holly for a wonderful afternoon. I'm beyond excited to finally read The Cruel Prince!

 

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

The Queen of Teen Fiction has a New Look!

Do you like what I've done with the place? I sure hope so because it's only taken me since the start of 2018 to redecorate. Since I last changed my blog design in 2015, I figured I'd stuck with the same look for long enough to have earned a change. So one of my goals for this year was to work on a new design, and this time I wanted to completely change things up. As you may have noticed, I've lost my little book queen, who has been on my blog for the best part of seven years. 

When I first started my blog back in 2011, everyone else seemed to have their own vector boy or girl in their header, and I wanted one too! Which is how my queen came to be. But after all these years, I think it's time to give her a rest. As much as I love her, I felt like it was finally time to go for a more simple and minimalist look.

It certainly hasn't been easy to get this design the way I wanted it. Back when I first started blogging, I had zero knowledge in design. And I mean literally nothing. I was a complete mess. I was also a very poor mess, which meant I couldn't afford to buy any sort of custom design (i still can't). So I had no choice but to try and learn things myself. Despite my hatred of HTML, I'm super proud of how far I've come in being able to handle my own blog design! As well as the new look, I've also decided to try changing up my reviews a little as well, so stay tuned for some new content in the future.

Whilst making this new design, I've made use of so many amazing free resources that I've come across online, so I'm hoping to create a masterlist of useful websites for a blog post on design. If any of you have websites you use to help with your own blogs, please feel free to share them in the comments and I'll include them. Hopefully it can make life a little easier for bloggers who want to create their own designs in the future!

There will probably be more than a few teething problems with the new design over the next few weeks. No matter how many times I check things over, something always manages to go wrong. So if you happen to notice anything acting a little strange on my blog, please do let me know so I can (try to) fix it!


Tuesday, 6 March 2018

REVIEW: Tender by Eve Ainsworth

Pages: 304
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Scholastic
Topics: Realistic Fiction, Illness, Mental Health
Release Date: March 1st 2018
Buy The Book: Book Depository - A Great Read

Touching on mental health, family, friendship and the pressures that teenage carers face, as author Cat Clarke says, TENDER is a compassionate, compelling and unflinching novel . Marty and Daisy spend their lives pretending. Marty pretends his mum's grip on reality isn't slipping by the day. Daisy pretends her parents aren't exhausting themselves while they look after her incurably ill brother. They both pretend they're fine. But the thing about pretending is, at some point, it has to stop. And then what?  


My Thoughts:
This story deals with two incredibly difficult living situations for teenagers, Daisy and Marty. Whilst one must deal with the physical battles her family has to face with her brother's muscle wasting disease, the other has to cope with the mental health issues his mother deals with every day. The two contrasting families fight very different things, but somehow Daisy and Marty manage to find common ground in the position their lives have put them both in.

The two main characters are so interesting to read about. Though it's difficult to see them bury their thoughts and feelings away, I'm glad that as readers, we get to see them finally able to share their worries with each other, and eventually open up to those around them as well. So many younger people like Daisy and Marty are facing situations where they have to give up large parts of their lives to care for those around them.

This story, although aimed at teenagers, is also an important tool for showing everyone what young carers have to go through. Both Daisy and Marty feel as though they have to hide their own difficulties because they don't want to make a fuss or cause more problems. I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like for people genuinely facing situations like this. I'm so glad that this story was able to show the characters realising that it's okay to think about themselves as well.

Daisy and Marty find comfort in each other throughout the story and the small amount of romance between them is sweet and refreshing. Ainsworth manages to perfectly capture the butterfly-filled feelings that spark between them. I also adored the scenes that took place in the group for young carers. If there had been more time within the story, I'd have loved to have gotten to know the characters within the group a little more.

Despite the difficult situations that Tender revolves around, it leaves readers with positive messages that everyone should think about. As the characters learn, we definitely need to start living for the right now because we never know what's going to happen tomorrow. I'm always pleased whenever books include useful information links at the back relating to the subjects covered within the story, which this one did. It's a simple way to provide support and comfort for the readers who might pick up the book whilst struggling with similar situations. 

Royal Rating:

 

Friday, 9 February 2018

REVIEW: Rookie on Love edited by Tavi Gevinson

Pages: 288
Format: Paperback
Publisher: Razorbill
Genre: Non-fiction, Anthology
Release Date: January 2nd 2018
Buy The Book: Book Depository


A single-subject anthology about the heart's most powerful emotion, edited by Tavi Gevinson. Featuring exclusive, never-before-seen essays, poems, comics, and interviews from contributors like Jenny Zhang, Emma Straub, Hilton Als, Janet Mock, John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Gabourey Sidibe, Mitski, Alessia Cara, Etgar Keret, Margo Jefferson, Sarah Manguso, Durga Chew-Bose, and many more!


My Thoughts:
This is a book that really does have something to offer to everyone. A collection of works from various writers and artists, Rookie on Love is packed with a variety of recollections, observations, poems, and even comics, regarding the topic of love. Considering I focus so much on reading fiction, it was refreshing to pick this one up and enjoy something different.

Despite the book revolving around love, it's not just focused on romantic love. Whilst there are stories of heartbreak and love gone wrong, it also explores family dynamics, our relationships with our friends, and even the love we have for our pets. With relatable writing throughout, there's bound to be something within these pages that you can relate to a little.

This gorgeously designed book has adorable illustrations throughout, which make it even more special. The comic strip pages were an unexpected surprise that I adored! Especially, OMG, Yay! which focused on small, positive parts of an average day that can make us happy. It's such a cute idea that me smile.

I won't lie, my favourite work within Rookie on Love is Willis, a devotional to dogs. It's only a few pages long, but it really makes you think about the love our pets have for us, and how much their lives revolve around our decisions. It made my emotional, dog-loving self go and give my own dog the biggest of cuddles.

Do Sisters Actually Love Each Other? is an interesting piece about sibling relationships and how they evolve. The fact that it's told via text was interesting and made it even more fun to read. I also loved Binary Planets, in which twins Ogechi and Ugochi discuss their experiences growing up. It was fascinating to take this sort of look into the lives of others.


Another one of my favourites is the conversation between Rainbow Rowell and John Green about writing teen love. It was great to read their thoughts about why they write their love stories the way that they do. Other highlights include a poem by Florence Welch and a piece by Alessia Cara on learning how to love herself first and foremost.

With such an interesting bunch of pieces from a wonderfully diverse set of contributors, Rookie on Love is the uplifting read that I needed. It's one that can be picked up and delved into anytime, and one with works I'll be sure to go back to and read over again in the future.

Royal Rating:


Saturday, 20 January 2018

7 Books From 2017

Finally we've put 2017 behind us and have begun a new year! I'm very much looking forward to the reading year ahead, especially with the new sense of determination I have after my not-so-great 2017. But I always like to take the time to reflect on the wonderful books I discovered over the previous year. I did make a video to fully discuss my favourite books from 2017, but for those of you who prefer the good old written word, I've listed them in a blog post, too. So here are my top 7 from 2017!

 

What books were you loving in 2017? And what books are you looking forward to in the coming year? Let me know!



Thursday, 18 January 2018

REVIEW: Shell by Paula Rawsthorne

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Royal Rating: 

 

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

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

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

Q. Why and how do you write thrillers?


Hi Katie,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Thursday, 4 January 2018

REVIEW: Vanilla by Billy Merrell

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

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

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

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

Not only is this book about a sexuality that really needs more discussion, but it's also told entirely in verse, so it's just beautiful to read. I can't even begin to describe how happy I was with this story. Asexuality is so often overlooked, and so often excluded from LGBTQ+ groups. Thanks to books like this one, more people have the chance to learn what it means to be asexual, and begin to understand it. 
The characters within this story are so rich. Vanilla himself is wonderful. As readers, we get to go on this confusing and difficult journey to discovery along with him. My heart broke for him so many times when he struggled to make Hunter understand what he was feeling. Hunter was a character that had me frustrated, but he was such an important part of showing that people can learn to understand eventually, despite how they initially react to a situation. One of my favourite characters had to be Angel, though. I wasn't expecting their story to have such an impact, considering I only expected it to focus on Vanilla and Hunter, and asexuality. Angel was such an unexpected but welcome part of the story that brought up valid discussions about gender and identity.

It makes me so happy to know that there will be people out there who can relate to this story and the emotions that Vanilla has, not to mention the challenges he has to face. But throughout this book, readers must keep in mind that this is only one story about a person discovering asexuality. No two people go through the exact same experiences, especially not when it comes to something as complex as sexuality. So for any asexual readers, it's fine if you don't relate to Vanilla's story. Everyone has their own path. 
I'm so glad I had the chance to discover this wonderful story, and I only hope that more books like this one come my way very soon. Not only did it open my eyes to a lot of things, but it also upped my interest in reading more verse. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for whatever Merrell is working on next.  

Royal Rating:


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