Tuesday, 16 May 2017

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Girlhood' by Cat Clarke

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! Today I am very excited to be shouting about this amazing book... I finished it the other day and it has been keeping be sane through essay and revision madness!

Of course, this book is Girlhood, the latest book written by YA extraordinaire Cat Clarke - you may have seen it on a lot of blogger's insta feeds in the last couple of weeks because everyone is loving it! I can't believe I hadn't read any Cat Clarke before this point but now I will definitely be buying lots of Cat's books for the summer holidays.

I was sent a copy of Girlhood by Nina Douglas in exchange for an honest review :)

Girlhood follows Harper, in her last year at Duncraggan Academy, a boarding school with its fair share of mysteries, secrets, and friendships for life. Harper has pulled through the greatest tragedy anyone can go through and has started life afresh at remote Duncraggan. She has a close group of friends and Harper has started to feel like life is getting back on track. That is until the new girl turns up, and strange occurrences leads Harper to wonder who exactly is Kirsty? And why does she remind Harper of parts of her life she has tried so hard to forget?

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Real, compulsive and intense: Cat Clarke is the queen of emotional suspense. For fans of Paula Hawkins, Gillian Flynn, Megan Abbott and Jandy Nelson.

Harper has tried to forget the past and fit in at expensive boarding school Duncraggan Academy. Her new group of friends are tight; the kind of girls who Harper knows have her back. But Harper can't escape the guilt of her twin sister's Jenna's death, and her own part in it - and she knows no one else will ever really understand.

But new girl Kirsty seems to get Harper in ways she never expected. She has lost a sister too. Harper finally feels secure. She finally feels...loved. As if she can grow beyond the person she was when Jenna died.

Then Kirsty's behaviour becomes more erratic. Why is her life a perfect mirror of Harper's? And why is she so obsessed with Harper's lost sister? Soon, Harper's closeness with Kirsty begins to threaten her other relationships, and her own sense of identity.

How can Harper get back to the person she wants to be, and to the girls who mean the most to her?

A darkly compulsive story about love, death, and growing up under the shadow of grief.

I LOVED THIS BOOK! Growing up I loved the Mallory Towers books by Enid Blyton, and I have always been fascinated with the idea of boarding school. I don't think I'd survive five minutes in one, but a girl can dream, right?! 

It was such a great setting for a book about female friendships, as it made all the drama feel that much more intense. I loved the characters in this book, and the way they were all so different and interacted so differently with each other. I particularly loved Rowan - she was such a wonderfully well-rounded character, and wasn't afraid to let people know who she was and what she stood for. All in all, this was a gloriously diverse book - so different to the group of straight, white, middle-class girls you find in a Mallory Towers or St Claire's book. 

Girlhood was also brilliantly paced and it was definitely a page-turner for me. I couldn't stop reading. There was the constant sense of uneasiness from the moment Kirsty appeared on the scene, and the tension remained throughout. I thought Kirsty was such a great character who had so many different layers of complexity. Clarke doesn't spoon feed the reader all the answers; I felt like I was part of the group of the girls, trying to work through the problems and questions that were thrown up. 

The writing was fresh and direct and wonderfully lucid. It was such a great book to read during revision because the writing makes the book easy to read, but the writing also keeps you in it's iron grip until the very last page.

 Overall I would encourage all of you to pick up this book! It is a wonderful YA treat about female friendships, set in a setting so interesting and mysterious you will want to experience it for yourself!

Check out Cat Clarke here: http://www.catclarke.com

Until next time :)

Thursday, 11 May 2017

DELIGHTFUL KIDS BOOKS | BLOG TOUR | 'Little Mouse Helps Out' by Riikka Jäntti | 5* Book Review

Hi guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am very excited to be on blog tour, especially on a Thursday - the day of my children's book feature! 

Today the book I am going to be reviewing is Little Mouse Helps Out by Riikka Jäntti - a beautiful book with equally beautiful illustrations, and one that will quickly become your children's favourite! Jäntti has been dubbed Finland's answer to Judith Kerr, and the Judith Kerr books were my favourites when I was little, so when I saw this book I knew it was something I had to pick up!

Today is the day of publication, so I am so happy to be celebrating the publication of this wonderful book today!

I was kindly sent Little Mouse Helps Out by Scribe Publishing in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Little Mouse has a lot of things to do today … and he can do them all by himself!

It’s an exciting day for Little Mouse. His friend Pip is coming over to visit. But first, there are chores to do around the house, like cleaning, laundry, and cooking lunch. Little Mouse is determined to help Mummy Mouse with all of them. And after that — playtime!

The second picture book from well-loved Finnish author/illustrator Riikka Jäntti to feature Little Mouse — the small kid with the big personality — Little Mouse Helps Out is sure to become another read-aloud favourite. 

This is such a wonderful book to read aloud, and is told in such a lovely way that elucidates the joy of the small pleasures in life. Children will be able to relate to everyday tasks and a daily routine, and will delight in the mishaps Little Mouse finds himself in!

The illustrations are some of the best I've seen in a children's book - they are wonderfully simple but also gorgeously detailed - I want to live in Little Mouse's house!

The book also teaches vital lessons for children such as the importance of sharing, helping out with jobs and chores, and how much fun made-up games can be.

Overall this was a glorious book, and I would recommend this for all children aged 4 and up. However, this is also a great book to read aloud, to children of any age!

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the spots on the blog tour <3

Buy Little Mouse Helps Out here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1911344129/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1494090168&sr=8-1&keywords=little+mouse+helps+out

Check out Riikka Jäntti here: http://scribblekidsbooks.com/people/riikka-jantti/

Until next time :)

Monday, 8 May 2017

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Between a Wolf and a Dog' by Georgia Blain

Hey guys, and happy Monday! I hope you all have had wonderful weekends filled with lazy lie-ins, books and chocolate...

Today I am going to be reviewing a book I read recently that I should have reviewed aaagggeeesss ago (I was sent it to review in September - whoops!) I picked this up off my bookshelf because I have read quite a lot of YA recently and wanted to try something a little bit different. I wanted to be completely lost in a story, transported to another world, and embark on a journey with characters I wouldn't forget in a hurry...

Luckily enough for me, Between a Wolf and a Dog was that book.

Between a Wolf and a Dog follows the lives of Ester, April, Hilary and Lawrence - all connected by familial ties, a mistake that has ripped the relationship between the two sisters apart, and a secret that, once exposed, will either heal the open wounds or tear the family apart for good. Between a Wolf and a Dog is a story about family, betrayal, and hope in the face of almost unbelievable adversity. It is about relationships and the way that they can be healed, and the importance of doing this work in repairing them.

I was kindly sent Between a Wolf and a Dog by Scribe Publishing in exchange for an honest review <3

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Ester is a family therapist with an appointment book that catalogues the anxieties of the middle class: loneliness, relationships, death. She spends her days helping others find happiness, but her own family relationships are tense and frayed. Estranged from both her sister, April, and her ex-husband, Lawrence, Ester wants to fall in love again. Meanwhile, April is struggling through her own directionless life; Lawrence's reckless past decisions are catching up with him; and Ester and April's mother, Hilary, is about to make a choice that will profoundly affect them all.

Taking place largely over one rainy day in Sydney, and rendered with the evocative and powerful prose Blain is known for, Between a Wolf and a Dog is a celebration of the best in all of us -- our capacity to live in the face of ordinary sorrows, and to draw strength from the transformative power of art. Ultimately, it is a joyous tribute to the beauty of being alive.

I absolutely adored this book. Without a doubt it is one of those novels you can completely wrapped up in, and I had trouble putting it down. The characters are so vivid and easily imaginable and whilst reading it I found myself imagining that they were sat down on the sofa next to me, sharing with me their lives, confessing their most darkest secrets. I loved Ester and Hilary a lot, and detested April and Lawrence with equal passion. All of the characters were so realistic and the four narratives worked really well in the novel, allowing the reader access to these hugely different four minds.

Blain's writing is beautifully lyrical and so evocative of the setting. The constant rain that acts as a backdrop to the novel gave the novel an ambience of overwhelming gloom, but also the sense of comfort that you get on days sat inside with the rain splattering against the window, the voice of the radio drowned in the noise. 

The story itself is really interesting and you get the excitement you don't always feel in novels that are set in one day. Although there are separate stories that evolve from the lives of the four different characters, it was really satisfying when they all came together, and you could see how they all merge and dissolve into each other.

Although this book deals with issues such as grief, loneliness, betrayal and mortality, there is a life-affirming message at the centre of this novel: the importance of living your life to the full; the huge and tiny joys that life has to offer. This message only became the more poignant to me once I had learned that Georgia Blain passed away in December last year.

Overall I adored this book, I would urge you all to go and pick it up straight away from your local bookshop!

Until next time :)

Monday, 1 May 2017

BOOK REVIEW | 'Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary' by Emma Chastain (****)

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I am excited to be sharing yet another book review with you - I was quite chuffed about the amount of books I managed to read over the Easter break!

The book I'm going to be reviewing for you today is Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary by Emma Chastain. I was kindly sent this book by Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.

Confessions of a High School Disaster is a wonderful book written in diary form following Chloe Snow and the pinnacles and disasters of her High School experience. From boys, family problems and rivalries with the not-so-nice seniors, Chloe has a lot on her plate. Will she be able to navigate the ups and downs of High School life without drowning in the deep end?

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.
3. I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school.

This book is definitely for the younger end of YA - I'd suggest fourteen and up - however there was so much in this book that I could relate to, having once been a teenager myself (what a strange, strange time). Issues such as peer pressure, relationships, family problems and bullying were dealt with in this book, and I'm pretty sure every teenager will be able to relate to this book in some way. This book reminded me of the Louise Rennison books (which were my lifeline when I was a teenager), and Confessions of a High School Disaster is definitely a book for the next generation of teenagers.

I loved the fact that the book was written in diary form and it made it so easy and fun to read - Chloe is a great character and I love how she isn't presented as being perfect in any way - she makes mistakes, she says the wrong thing, she isn't afraid to be herself and more than anything, she realises that even when things go wrong, your family are always there behind you.

This book also featured a wide range of diverse characters - something I always look for in YA, and something that is especially important in the younger end of YA. People of different religions and sexualities are included and when an author makes the effort to do this in their book, you know that they have the interest of teen readers at heart. 

My favourite character was definitely Chloe's Dad, and I loved the relationship between him and Chloe. I think in YA there is such an under-representation of father/daughter relationships and I think in this book the relationship was so wonderfully and sensitively explored. 

I loved this book and although I think it is for the younger side of YA, if you love YA books you are sure to love this! Filled with humour, heart and larger-than-life characters, Confessions of a High School Disaster will make you smile, cry, and cringe as you are transported back to the moments of your own teenage years!

Check out when I hosted Emma Chastain on my blog, where she is talking about the importance of keeping a diary!

Buy Confessions of a High School Disaster here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chloe-Snows-Diary-Confessions-Disaster/dp/1471160467/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1493639867&sr=1-1

Check out Emma Chastain here: https://mobile.twitter.com/emmachastain?lang=en

Until next time :)

Friday, 28 April 2017

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'The Hate U Give' by Angie Thomas

Hi guys, and happy Friday! I hope you are all looking forward to the weekend, and if you're in need of a book you can binge read over the bank holiday weekend, then I have something that might interest you...

I have been so lucky to have been sent so many amazing books in the past month, which would explain the barrage of 5* reviews over the past two weeks! However, the book I will be reviewing today is different, mainly because it is not only a great book, but a complete game changer. It is a book that has potential to change the world, and sparked inside me such a sense of determination to change things that I haven't gotten from a book in a really long time.

Of course, the book I am talking about is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Since finishing this book, I have recommended it to almost everyone - my parents, my friends, people from my creative writing class. I feel so passionately that this is a book everyone needs to read right now, because it is so unflinchingly honest about the terrible situation we have found ourselves in, in this day and age, as a human race.

The Hate U Give follows Starr, a sixteen year old living in a rough side of town where the sound of gunfire at night is a regular occurrence. When she attends the prep school in the suburbs she feels like she has to be a different Starr, and feels like her friends just won't understand the world in which she comes from. One night, Starr finds herself in the middle of a nightmare as her childhood friend, Khalil, is shot dead by a white policeman. When the tragedy becomes front page news, Starr has to make a decision about whether to speak up for what is right, or let this death silence her forever.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Even though this is the longest book I have read in a while, I devoured it in a couple of days. It's not an easy book that you can escape the world in: The Hate U Give confronts us with the realities of our society today, not just in America, but all around the world. I didn't find this easy to read because it resonated with the horrific stories and pictures I had seen on Facebook, Twitter and the news, however I found reading this book such an enriching experience. I came away not only being a lot more knowledgeable in the ways that police violence and brutality can have such a shattering effect on a community, but also I felt that there were ways that I could somehow do something to change things - by protesting, by using social media to spread the message, but not keeping silent.

Starr was a fantastic protagonist who was just so realistic and easy to relate to. I felt like I was getting to know a real person who lived on the other side of the world, and loved every moment. Thomas' writing is so fresh and invigorating, bursting with life. This is a book that undeniably needed to exist, and I'm so glad Angie Thomas was the person to write this book.

All of the characters were wonderful and they all seemed so real to me. In particular I loved Starr's parents, especially her Dad. I wanted to highlight everything he said and imprint it in my mind forever.

I loved how you could see the growth of Starr throughout the book - how she started from being so broken by what had happened to realising the importance and power and strength of her voice, and how she could use it to change things. Even though The Hate U Give isn't a fairytale story (and I am so glad it isn't), there is a sense of hope in the way Angie Thomas writes, that if the people who read this book are affected by it, that they will be the ones to speak out about #BlackLivesMatter and slowly, but surely, the world will wake up to the atrocities that are happening. Because it has to.

This is an extraordinary debut novel and it's a book that is required reading, for people of any age. It is my hope that this book will provoke important discussions and that more people who have been silenced like Starr will have the courage to speak out.

Once again, here is proof that YA is an invaluable genre. YA gives the silenced a voice, and opens up a space for conversation, for understanding, for kindness.

Check out Angie Thomas here: http://angiethomas.com

Check out #BlackLivesMatter here: http://blacklivesmatter.com

Until next time :) 

Thursday, 27 April 2017

CONFESSIONS OF A HIGH SCHOOL DISASTER | BLOG TOUR | Top 3 Reasons It's Still Important to Keep a Diary

Hi guys, and happy Thursday! I hope you are all doing well and are excited for the weekend (it's not far away now!)

Today I am very excited to be taking part in a blog tour - celebrating the publication of Emma Chastain's Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary. This is a brilliant, heartwarming, laugh-out-loud contemporary that you will be sure to fall in love with. I absolutely adored it - keep an eye out for my review coming out on Monday!

Check out the blurb here...

In the tradition of Bridget Jones’s Diary, a lovably flawed high school student chronicles her life as she navigates the highs and lows of family, friendship, school, and love in a diary that sparkles with humor and warmth.

I’m Chloe Snow, and my life is kiiiiind of a disaster.

1. I’m a kissing virgin (so so so embarrassing).
2. My best friend, Hannah, is driving me insane.
3. I think I’m in love with Mac Brody, senior football star, whose girlfriend is so beautiful she doesn’t even need eyeliner.
4. My dad won’t stop asking me if I’m okay.
5. Oh, and my mom moved to Mexico to work on her novel. But it’s fine—she’ll be back soon. She said so.

Mom says the only thing sadder than remembering is forgetting, so I’m going to write down everything that happens to me in this diary. That way, even when I’m ninety, I’ll remember how awkward and horrible and exciting it is to be in high school.

Today I am lucky enough to be hosting the wonderful Emma Chastain on my blog, to talk about diaries (the novel is written in diary form - so cool!) and why it's still important to keep one, even once you've moved past the stage of crushes on boys and glittery mascara.

My novel is told in diary format: there’s one entry for each day in a year of Chloe Snow’s life. Chloe writes in a paper diary, and at first I was worried that would seem antiquated, like I was forcing my contemporary character to wear a corset or drive to school in a barouche-landau. But then I found a study claiming that up to 83% of girls ages 16 to 19 write in old-fashioned diaries. Why would they do this, when they could be sharing their feelings with their many followers online, or at the very least taking notes in an app? I think there are three key reasons.

1. The lack of an audience is a relief. There’s so much pressure to perform online. Yes, there are a variety of modes available: you can be elaborately kind, or share interesting content, or make cutting remarks, or crack jokes, or post beautiful shots. But if you want those likes/retweets/shares, you have to keep your audience in mind at all times. It’s exhausting. What a relief, then, to turn to your diary, where your only audience is your future self. Do you feel like wallowing in self-pity, or fuming about how annoying your best friend is being, or making a list of guys you want to kiss? You can’t do any of that on social media (well, you can, but you really shouldn’t). But in the pages of your diary, anything goes. No one’s watching. Give in to your most selfish impulses, free of the fear that you’ll be unfollowed or screenshotted. 

2. It helps. I don’t know how it works, exactly, but I know that when you’re upset, writing about it eases the pain. Typing about it kind of works, but not nearly as well as picking up a pen and scratching away in your diary until your hand cramps. 

3. You’re making a time capsule. You think you’ll remember exactly what it felt like to be a sophomore/a college student/a single 20-something/a new mother/etc. But you won’t unless you write it all down. The act of writing itself solidifies your memories, even if you never revisit your old diaries. But if you do revisit them, you’ll find that you’ve captured a whole world, that your childhood is still accessible to you, that you can commune with the kid who dotted her i’s with hearts. It’s magic that you make yourself.

Thank you so much, Emma, for appearing on my blog. Make sure you guys check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour!

Buy Confessions of a High School Disaster: Chloe Snow's Diary here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Chloe-Snows-Diary-Confessions-Disaster/dp/1471160467/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1493277172&sr=8-1&keywords=confessions+of+a+high+school+disaster

Check out Emma Chastain here: https://twitter.com/emmachastain?lang=en

Until next time :) 

Monday, 24 April 2017

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'The Pavee and the Buffer Girl'

Hey guys, and happy Monday! I hope you all had wonderful weekends and are not too sad to be back in the office/school/wherever you are! I started my final term at university today and I am feeling just a little bit sorry for myself...

But to make it all better, today I am going to be reviewing an amazing graphic novel that you can curl up and lose yourself in. I was kindly sent The Pavee and the Buffer Girl by Nina Douglas in exchange for an honest review. 

The Pavee and the Buffer Girl is a Romeo and Juliet-esque love story, following the unlikely friendship between Jim, a traveller boy, and Kit, a settled girl who takes Jim under her wing, teaching her to read and making his time at their school a little less traumatising. For Jim and his family, their life is coloured by prejudice and hardship, and friendships are hard when you have no idea when you will be next uprooted...

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Jim and his family have halted by Dundray and the education people have been round mouthing the law. In school the Traveller kids suffer at the hands of teachers and other pupils alike, called 'tinker-stinkers', 'dirty gyps' and worse. Then the punches start. The only friendly face is Kit, a settled girl who takes Jim under her wing and teaches him to read in the great cathedral chamber of the cave below the town. With Kit and the reading, Jim seems to have found a way to exist in Dundray, but everyday prejudice and a shocking act of violence see his life uprooted.

I haven't read a graphic novel in such a long time, and this was a special one, to say the least. The illustrations by Emma Shoard made the book so magical, and I completely lost myself in it. I loved the character of Jim - his strength, determination and defiance in the face of awful prejudice and bullying made him such an inspiring character to read about. Kit was also a fantastic character and their relationship was so beautiful to read about.

The story is so elegantly written and everything was so well described. Siobhan Dowd is evidently someone who not only ardently cared about social justice, but who also was a magnificent storyteller. This was an immensely moving story which opened my eyes to the atrocious prejudice traveller families will face on a day to day basis, and particularly how parents' intolerance and discrimination can affect their children's behaviour and actions. The children were by far the cruellest perpetrators of the prejudice and resultant violencein this book, and I think there is a lot we can learn today about how we are affecting the opinions of the children around us, with the specific political rhetoric (surrounding refugees, for example), and the importance of teaching children kindness, respect and tolerance.

This is a book that exudes love and kindness, that somehow survives even in the extremes of adversity. This is a quick read, but a vitally important read nonetheless. I finished the book with a feeling that love and tolerance really can change the world, even if it is two people and one small town at a time.

So please rush down to your local bookshop and pick up a copy! I promise you won't regret it.

Check out Siobhan Dowd (and the Siobhan Dowd Trust) here: http://siobhandowdtrust.com

Until next time :)