Thursday, 28 July 2016

BOOK REVIEW | 'The Deepest Cut' by Natalie Flynn (****)

Hello readers, and happy Wednesday! Summer has began with a really good reading month in July, and I am very fortunate to have read so many fantastic books. I can't wait for you guys to check out all of my reviews <3

First off, I have for you today a four star review of the wonderful Natalie Flynn's YA novel The Deepest Cut. I was lucky enough to be able to receive a copy from Accent YA at London Book Fair this year, and I couldn't wait to read it. I haven't read a book about knife crime before and it's such an important issue, one that should be spoken more about in young adult fiction, as knife crime is a crime that majorly affects young people, in terms of both the victim and the perpetrator. 

The Deepest Cut is a heart-rending novel that follows the aftermath of the murder of Adam's best friend Jake. Adam is in a mental health facility and is stuck in a cycle of self-blame and guilt. He fiercely believes that what happened to Jake was his fault and that no one - his friends, his girlfriend, Jake's mum - will ever forgive him. But as the truth begins to emerge as Adam records the event downs in notebooks, will he find a way to forgive himself and come to terms with the tragedy of his best friend's death?

Sound intriguing? Check out the blurb here...

‘You haven’t said a single word since you’ve been here. Is it on purpose?’ I tried to answer David but I couldn’t … my brain wanted to speak but my throat wouldn’t cooperate…

Adam blames himself for his best friend’s death. After attempting suicide, he is put in the care of a local mental health facility. There, too traumatized to speak, he begins to write notebooks detailing the events leading up to Jake’s murder, trying to understand who is really responsible and cope with how needless it was as a petty argument spiralled out of control and peer pressure took hold.

Sad but unsentimental, this is a moving story of friendship and the aftermath of its destruction.

The Deepest Cut was a book that sucked me in from the beginning, and did not let me go until the very last page. Even once I had finished, I couldn't stop thinking about Adam's story and where it all went so wrong. The murder of his best friend Jake was so utterly tragic and devastating, and it could have so easily been avoided. My heart ached as I read Adam's account of the incident and I felt his guilt and regret at what had happened coming through the narration so strongly. I felt that one of the strengths of this novel was undoubtedly Adam's narration of the tale - Flynn made his voice so realistic, eloquent and utterly harrowing. 

I sympathised with Adam throughout the entirety of the story and the way that Flynn wrote Adam made me fully understand his every action and thought process. The young people in The Deepest Cut were portrayed so truthfully, and whilst the dialogue was at times not quite right, on the whole the teenagers were portrayed in a way that was both honest and sensitive. The characterisation as a whole was a strength of the book and my favourite characters were undoubtedly Debbie and Jake. There were times when I fiercely hated Adam's father, but he was so well-written and there were so many layers to his character. Complexity in a character is a great thing and makes you enjoy the story so much more. 

I also adored the way the story was told, and that it began after the incident had happened. This created a feeling of hopelessness and grief, yet at the same time demonstrated the critical and fundamental message that peer pressure should not be taken lightly - it can provoke serious and devastating tragedy and can ruin lives in the process. I enjoyed reading about Adam's life in the mental health facility and learning about the event through the diaries he wrote whilst living there - it included just the right amount of insight, and plenty of honesty and heart. You end up learning so much about Adam that you feel as if he is a real person, relating his story to you candidly over a cup of tea. The plot itself was very well instructed and even though the present and the past were interweaving narratives it was never done in a confusing way.

The Deepest Cut has just about everything you could wish for in a YA novel - heart, urgency and an important issue at the centre. It is also simply a riveting read. It is absolutely essential reading, and I hope as many people pick up this book as possible. It is definitely not one to miss, and Natalie Flynn is surely emerging as one of YA's latest heavyweight. I cannot wait to see what she has in store for us next :)

Check out Natalie Flynn here:

Check out Accent YA's other titles here: 

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

BOOK BLOGGER SPOTLIGHT | Meet Rachel from Get Kids Into Books!

Hello readers, and happy Wednesday! This week I am delighted to be able to share with you another blogger spotlight - this time with the writer of the Get Kids Into Books - Rachel!

Rachel is a fantastic blogger and I am a massive fan of her blog. I love the children's books recommendations and the way she writes it is so clear and refreshing. I'd definitely check it out if you have kids that need their reading tanks fuelled or if you just enjoy looking at gorgeous kids picture books (I definitely fall into this category).

Today I am honoured to have Rachel on my blog to talk about all things blogging and books!

Hi, Rachel, and thanks for being on my blog!

What’s the best thing about being a book blogger?

Finding out that people have gone on to buy and enjoy books because of my reviews is really satisfying. My main motivation for setting up a blog was to spread the word about brilliant children's books and help children to find books they love. Since becoming a book blogger, I've also really enjoyed discovering so many wonderful authors, illustrators and books that I'd not known about before.

What’s the most difficult/challenging thing about being a book blogger?

Finding time to write my reviews can be tricky. I have a seven month old son and he keeps me very busy!

What’s been your highlight in the time that you’ve been a book blogger?
 I'm really enjoying making connections with other people who love children's books: other parents and bloggers, authors, illustrators, booksellers, librarians, publishers and publicists. It's fun to start to feel part of that wider book-loving community.

Name one author you would love to meet, and one blogger you would love to meet in real life!

I'd love to meet Britta Teckentrup. She writes and illustrates such beautiful children's books. The first book that I read to my son was by her. I'd like to get an insight into how she works, find out where her ideas come from and learn more about her style. The blogger I'd like to meet is Kim who writes the BookBairn blog ( about the books she reads with her daughter. Her daughter is not much older than my son so I love seeing what they're reading. She's also a teacher like me so I feel that we have lots in common and would have quite a lot to talk about.

What advice would you give anyone who wants to start a book blog?

Try to make sure you have a clear idea of who your target audience is. You're then more likely to write content that is focused and relevant. It's really useful to use other social media to promote your blog - Twitter, Instagram etc - in this way you can increase exposure to what you've written. I try only to review books that I enjoy. I want my blog to be a positive place, full of love for books and reading.

Thanks Rachel, for appearing on my blog!

Check out Rachel's blog here:


Until next time :)

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

DELIGHTFUL NEWS | Alma Books' Summer Reading Competition!

Hello readers, and happy Tuesday! I hope you are all having a lovely start to the *official* summer holidays with plenty of books, ice cream and relaxing days lounging about doing nothing :)

Today I have some exciting news for you to kick off your summer reading with a bang - Alma Books' Summer Reading competition! Alma Books is a wonderful independent publishing company based in London, which publishes loads of beautiful, interesting and carefully-curated books with a value of quality over quantity. I have been sent some wonderful YA and children's books by them and I am very impressed with the quality of the literature they produce and distribute. 

To celebrate the arrival of summer and to kick off your summer of relaxing and reading, Alma Books are holding a competition to get you and your kids stocked up on some, what I would call, essential children's classics. I don't know about you, but in my opinion the summer holidays are the perfect time for re-reading your favourite books, and the books on this list include some of my favourites from when I was younger (including Black Beauty, Little Women 
and The Railway Children). The titles up for grabs are perfect for instilling a love of books in young readers. You can even choose which FIVE Alma Junior titles you want to include in your set, so you can tailor your summer reading for what is just right for you!

Sounds great, right? All you have to do to win is tell Alma Books which was your favourite children's book as a youngster, and why you cherished that book – did it make you fall in love with reading? It doesn't have to be one of the books on the list, and if you convince us of the brilliance of this book they might bring it out as an Alma Junior title (I know, the power would go to my head too - mwahahahaha!)

Email your entries to with the five books you would like to win from the below selection. All entries will be signed up to the Alma Junior mailing list for more great offers and book news. The competition closes on the 31st of July.

I would recommend all of you to enter this competition - it is surely too good to pass up! Good luck and I hope you all have a lovely summer of reading, whether you win these classics or not.

Let me know what you're reading this summer in the comments <3

Until next time :)  

Monday, 25 July 2016

BOOK REVIEW | 'Knights Of The Borrowed Dark' by Dave Rudden (*****)

Hello readers, and happy Monday! Today I am very excited to share with you a book review, of the wonderful Knights Of The Borrowed Dark by Dave Rudden. When I got emailed the press release a while ago I read the blurb and knew automatically I wanted to get my hands on it - it sounded so intriguing and mysterious. I am a tad late getting a review up (KOTBD was published on the 7th April - whoops) but I think that this is the perfect book to take on your summer holiday - make sure you pack it in your suitcase!

I was kindly sent Knights Of The Borrowed Dark by FMcM Associates in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued to find out more? Check out the blurb here...

Denizen Hardwick is an orphan, and his life is, well, normal. Sure, in storybooks orphans are rescued from drudgery when they discover they are a wizard or a warrior or a prophesied king. But this is real life—orphans are just kids without parents. At least that’s what Denizen thought. . .    

On a particularly dark night, the gates of Crosscaper Orphanage open to a car that almost growls with power. The car and the man in it retrieve Denizen with the promise of introducing him to a long-lost aunt. But on the ride into the city, they are attacked. Denizen soon learns that monsters can grow out of the shadows. And there is an ancient order of knights who keep them at bay. Denizen has a unique connection to these knights, but everything they tell him feels like a half-truth. If Denizen joins the order, is he fulfilling his destiny, or turning his back on everything his family did to keep him alive?

The first thing I immediately noticed was that this book seemed to be a tongue-in-cheek spin on the Harry Potter/Percy Jackson type of genre, as you can tell by the blurb. I wasn't really into fantasy books when I was younger, and I'm enjoying discovering fiction of that sort now. Knights Of The Borrowed Dark is a middle-grade fantasy novel following the journey of thirteen-year-old Denizen as he discovers that he belongs to a secret group of knights who battle the most fierce and terrifying of demons. When a mysterious aunt he has never heard of comes to rescue him from the grey and dreary Crosscaper Orphanage, Denizen is faced with the hardest decision he has ever had to make - does he join up the order and fulfil his family destiny, or does he turn his back to avoid imminent danger and death and the hands of the engulfing darkness?

From reading KOTBD, a debut novel, it is evident that Rudden is not only an extremely talented, but incredibly exciting writer. It is definitely one of the best debut novels I have read, and it is going to be a very tough task to have to wait for the next two books in the series. The writing was sharp and engaging, and captured my imagination. My favourite thing about fantasy novels is definitely the world building, and the world that Rudden created was intricately described, well-thought out, and jam-packed with beautifully vivid descriptions.  One of the strongest points of the book was definitely the funny, fresh and fast-paced writing, which effortlessly kept me engaged as a reader and would easily capture the imagination of a ten-year-old.

There was so much action in KOTBD that I struggled to put the book down. I loved the evolution of the story and every twist and turn was so well initiated. There were no plot holes and I was never confused about any details - which can happen quite easily in fantasy novels where the reader is introduced to a brand new world. The plot twist near the end of the book completely took me by surprised and it was so fantastically written. I can't wait for more surprises in book 2!

Another strength of the book was undoubtedly the characters. As I mentioned in a tweet, I thought the female characters in particular stood out. First of all, there's a distinct lack of prominent female characters in fantasy books - I mean of course there's Hermione in Harry Potter - but she's about the only one I can think of. The female characters in KOTBD were intelligent, strong and the very definition of badass. You could tell they were not there as accessories to Denizen and the other main male characters - they were in the story in their own right, and made it a much more diverse read.

Speaking of characters, I thought Denizen was a great hero. He is, of course, the very definition of a reluctant hero, but the way you can see his confidence growing by the end of the book was so heart-warming for me to read about. He was written in a way that was realistic and relatable. The journey that he went on was not only one of high-end adventure, but also one of confidence and self-discovery. Simon was also a great character and I'm so happy that he wasn't left alone at the end of chapter one as I had expected. Simon's journey is continued on throughout the book and I hope to see more of him in book 2 - I can't wait to see the development of his and Denizen's friendship, as friendship in MG and YA books are not given enough importance in many books. 

As I mentioned before, the writing was so beautiful, vivid and eloquent, and there were so many quotes I underlined. However, this one on page 267 really stood out for me and I think it sums up the book as a whole -

People hid things. They kept secrets. They changed, or they lied, or they left. They betrayed you, or they let you down. Fire was honest. It just wanted to burn.

So as you can probably tell, I absolutely adored Knights Of The Borrowed Dark and I can't wait to read the next two books in the series. 

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to interview Dave Rudden for my blog, which you can read here:

Check out Dave Rudden here:

Until next time :) 

Monday, 18 July 2016

DIMIMY BLOG TOUR | Interview with Estelle Maskame!

Hello readers, and happy Monday! Today I am absolutely thrilled to have amazing author Estelle Maskame on my blog to celebrate the final book in her incredible Did I Mention I Love You? series - Did I Mention I Miss You?, and to kick off the first day of the blog tour to celebrate its publication on 21st July. 

The DIMILY trilogy is a fantastic contemporary YA series following the lives of Tyler and Eden, two step-siblings who find themselves desperately and hopelessly in love with one another. The events that follow and the secrets that result make for a rollercoaster of a reading experience, and it's such a fantastic trilogy that you can be fully invested in and devour ravenously.

Intrigued? Read the blurb for the final book in the trilogy, Did I Mention I Miss You? here...

A year has passed since Eden last spoke to Tyler. She remains furious at him for his abrupt departure last summer but has done her best to move on with her life at college in Chicago. As school breaks up for the summer, she's heading back to Santa Monica, but she's not the only one who decides to come home...

Having been left behind to deal with the aftermath of their bombshell revelation and a family torn apart, Eden has no time for Tyler when he reappears. But where has Tyler been? And is she as over him as she likes to think? Or can Tyler and Eden finally work things out, despite their family and against all the odds?

The explosive finale to Estelle Maskame s international bestselling DIMILY trilogy, and the highly anticipated conclusion to Eden and Tyler's addictive love story.

I kindly received a proof copy from Black & White Publishing, and I cannot wait to read it (review will follow soon after!) 

Last year I also got to interview Estelle, check that interview out here.

However, today I am so excited to share with you my interview with Estelle, I hope you enjoy it!

Hi Estelle, and thanks for being on my blog! How do you feel about the DIMILY trilogy coming to an end?

It's bittersweet. After five years, it's satisfying to finally have Tyler and Eden's story told, but at the same time, I've spent my entire teenage years with this trilogy and these characters, so it's hard to let it go.

What has been your highlight of this journey (since you began the trilogy)?

The entire journey has been amazing, but I do have to say that the highlight was definitely when I got the book deal. I'd already been writing the trilogy for three and a half years at that point, so the books already had a fanbase, and to share the news about the book deal with all of my readers was such a special moment. They were just as excited as I was!

Tell us about the DIMILY fans - what has it been like writing a series of books with such a crazy and extensive fanbase?

I can't imagine having written the DIMILY trilogy without them. My readers are so supportive and dedicated and have been since day one, and I've loved sharing this entire experience with them, from writing online as a thirteen year old to being published and writing full-time as a nineteen year old, they've been with me the entire time and I love to stay as connected as I can with them.

What can readers expect from the ending of the trilogy?

Without giving too much away, it's the right ending for Tyler and Eden's story. I believe in realistic endings, so the readers can expect an ending that comes naturally for the characters.

What was it like to write the final chapter of DIMIMY?

I wrote the final chapter of DIMIMY all in one day, and there was just so much adrenaline because the ending was finally here after so long that I actually enjoyed writing that final chapter. It wasn't until after I typed the last sentence and sat back in silence that I realized it was actually over. I was both relieved yet emotional at the same time, because I just couldn't believe that it was all finally finished!

Thank you so much guys for reading, and thank you Estelle for appearing on my blog! 

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the posts on the blog tour, they are too good to miss <3

Check out Estelle Maskame here:

Buy Did I Mention I Miss You? here:

Check out my review of Did I Mention I Love You here:

Wednesday, 13 July 2016


Hello readers, and happy Wednesday! Today I am starting the first of many blogger spotlights that I am doing this summer, starting with the wonderful Georgia Blackhart, blogger at the Bibliomaniac Book Blog! I've known Georgia for quite a few years and am an avid reader of her blog - she blogs about a wide-range of book-related topics such as gorgeous book covers, book reviews and blog tours, and bookstagram. She writes in such a clear and effortless way and I love the way her blog looks - it's so sharp and professional! 


Hi! I'm Georgia, and I'm the sixteen year old blogger that runs The Bibliomaniac. I've been blogging since 2011. I'm starting sixth form, and read around my studying. My favourite books (of 2016 - just to narrow it down a little!) are Hunger Makes me a Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein, Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour and Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami.

Today I am lucky enough to have Georgia on my blog - to chat all things books and blogging!

Hi Georgia! So, what’s the best thing about being a book blogger?

So many things! Well... I mention a lot in question three, so here I'll say that I love discovering lots of fantastic new books, and seeing amazing titles get lots of love and attention, and helping spread the word about reads that I love.

What’s the most difficult/challenging thing about being a book blogger?

I think sometimes I'll accept lots of books for review and then feel really bad when I can't keep up - during exam season for example. I know I'm not obligated to review, but I really really want to, so it's hard to not feel guilty about abandoning books!

What’s been your highlight in the time that you’ve been a book blogger?

So many things! In general, I'd say the events I've been able to go to and take part in, and the people I've been able to meet as a result. I have met so many really lovely people, and done so many amazing things - from work experience, to attending lots of great talks, and joining in with publicity campaigns for really awesome books. Well... that's multiple things. Oops.

Name one author you would love to meet, and one blogger you would love to meet in real life!

I would love to meet Haruki Murakami, because I've fallen in love with his writing recently and he's incredibly inspirational. As for a blogger - I've known Amber @ The Mile Long Bookshelf for years now, and we haven't met yet. Although one time, we were even at the same event and practically walked past each other without knowing, which was weird!

What advice would you give anyone who wants to start a book blog?

I would say that you should start a book blog because you enjoy reading and communicating with other people and sharing opinions - not just for the free books :) Also, it's great to put your own spin on things! Make your blog a cool reflection of yourself, and post the things you like to post. If I don't really feel like writing a book review, I'll turn a post about a book into something original for example, like an infographic.

Thanks Georgia for being on my blog!

Check out Georgia's blog here:

Twitter: @GeorgiaReads      

Instagram: @GeorgiaReads

Make sure you guys keep an eye out for my other book blogger spotlights being published soon on my blog!

Until next time :)

Monday, 11 July 2016

HAY FESTIVAL 2016 | Malorie Blackman 'Chasing The Stars' Event

Hello readers, and happy Monday! Today I am very excited to be able to share with you another Hay Festival post! If you're sick of me banging on about Hay Festival I apologise - but I think you will enjoy this post as it is all about ultimate author bae - Malorie Blackman! 

As I was only at Hay for a few days this year I missed a lot of the YA book events, which I was gutted about, but I was so thrilled when I saw that the Malorie Blackman Chasing The Stars event was taking place right after the YA Book Prize announcement! So obviously I reserved a press ticket straight away.

I was lucky enough to meet Malorie Blackman in May last year at an event, so I knew from experience what a wonderful speaker she was and how she lit up the room with her positive attitude and energy. Every time I hear her speak she is just so uplifting and inspiring, and always has so many amazing things to say about YA literature and young people in general.

This event was all about her new book Chasing The Stars - a sci-fi retelling of Shakespeare's Othello - and the event consisted of Blackman discussing the story and her own love of Shakespeare with Claire Armitstead of the Guardian. 

Blackman began the discussion by talking about what inspiration Othello gave her while writing the book. She said that Chasing The Stars closely follows the format of Othello, however with a reversal of the sexes: Nathan, one of the protagonists of the tale, takes the Desdemona role, while Olivia, the other hero, is the Othello-like character. While Blackman's Noughts & Crosses series deals with issues of racism and terrorism, Chasing The Stars is undoubtedly a book about refugees, a contemporary issue which is so prevalent in our society today than it ever has been before. Blackman stated that Chasing The Stars is a book more about class than race - as the protagonist Olivia is an outsider because of her class position. Interestingly, Blackman pointed out that Chasing The Stars is a book closer to our world than it first appears - in the world described in the book there is very little social mobility, which is reflected in the current catastrophe of the systematic closures of public libraries. As a child growing up Blackman essentially lived in her local library and stated that 'libraries are a great equaliser' which I couldn't agree with more. Blackman stated that with the closure of public libraries the gap between the rich and the not so wealthy members of society gets wider and wider.

Next, Armitstead asked about the hidden politics in Blackman's books, and Blackman spoke about the Stephen Lawrence case and the IRA as both being political events that directly affected and contributed to what she writes about in her books. Blackman also spoke about her position as a black writer within the industry and the discrimination she has faced over the years not only as a black female, but a black female author. She said - 'it was as if because I was a black writer, that's [racial issues] all I could write about'. Thus, Blackman enjoys to play around with people's assumptions and continuously challenges the status quo - a fact which is shown clearly in her writing. This involves clever, sophisticated wordplay on current political rhetoric, such as the description of people 'swarming' onto boats in Chasing The Stars - stark, uncomfortable language that is horribly reminiscent of the kind of newspaper headlines we see today.

However, along with these social and political elements of Chasing The Stars, Blackman concedes that simply, 'I wanted to write a romping read!'

As well as being overwhelmingly socially and politically relevant, Chasing The Stars is also a novel rooted in popular culture - Blackman adores films, comics and TV and was not afraid to incorporate these passions of hers into the book. In response to Armitstead's comment that some might view these as 'lower' forms of art, Blackman replied: 'anything is good which tells a good story'. 

Next, Blackman spoke strongly of her ardent love of Shakespeare. 'If you're going to be inspired, be inspired by the best!' She declared. Blackman's love of Shakespeare was seen in her Romeo and Juliet-esque tale in Noughts & Crosses, and in Chasing The Stars Blackman showed off her proficiency as a writer by making the middle-aged love in Othello work between teenagers in Chasing The Stars

Soon enough the discussion moved onto YA! Blackman said that she is extremely passionate about teens and encouraging them to read for pleasure, and is a firm believer in letting teens read what they want to read, and not telling them what they should be reading. When the conversation moved onto sex and in particular sex scenes in novels, Blackman said it is better for young people to learn about sex and good relationships from books rather than from internet porn - which appears to be the medium most young people use nowadays. In most cases, particular in YA novels, the author has taken great pains to portray sex and the relationship in question in a responsible way. When asked what YA books she would recommend, Blackman highly praised the books on the YA Book Prize shortlist, as well as novels by Melvin Burgess, David Almond, Philip Pullman and Katherine Johnson. 

When it came to questions from the audience (the members of which were overwhelmingly young!) the first question was about which book she had written was her favourite, to which the answer was Noughts & Crosses, even though it was the most painful book she ever wrote because it was so personal. Blackman stated that she always wants to include a sense of hope at the end of her books, and Noughts & Crosses prominently includes this for the next generation.  

Overall, the event was not only hugely inspiring and entertaining, but I also learnt so much about Blackman and her books, and what drove her to write, particularly what made her want to write for young people. It was a great event and I was so pleased to see how many young people were there, who were so clearly inspired by Blackman and so eager to hear what she had to say.

The BBC filmed the event and you can watch Malorie Blackman talk about Chasing The Stars here:

Check out Malorie Blackman here:

Buy Chasing The Stars here:

Check out The Hay Festival here:

Until next time :)

Thursday, 7 July 2016

BOOK REVIEW | 'Under Rose-Tainted Skies' by Louise Gornall (*****)

Hello readers, and happy Thursday! Today is the publication day of Louise Gornall's beautiful book Under Rose-Tainted Skies and I couldn't be more excited. On Tuesday I was part of the blog tour, where Louise Gornall gave us an introduction to her protagonist Norah, which you can read here.

However, I thought a great way to celebrate publication day would be to publish my 5* review of the book! Under Rose-Tainted Skies follows the story of Norah, a teenager dealing with agoraphobia and OCD, which prevents her from living like other teenagers; Norah's fears and relentless battles with her own mind keep her confined to her house and unable to attend school or make friends. So when a boy moves in next door, Norah has to make a decision - if she can't bring herself to go outside, can she at least let someone in?

Check out the blurb here...

Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up. 

It's so great to see that YA books about mental health issues are becoming more and more mainstream - I see the hashtag on twitter all the time (#mentalhealthya). It's great because the most important thing about YA is that everyone is represented - people of all races, religions, genders, sexualities and those who live with mental health issues. Furthermore, books like URTS teach people who don't live with conditions such as agoraphobia more about what it is like to live with a condition like that - which in turn plays a part in removing ignorance and misunderstanding. For me, I knew next to nothing about agoraphobia so reading URTS was a really interesting and eye-opening experience.

I thought that Gornall's writing was beautifully detailed and sensitive, and gave the character of Norah such life and vitality. She jumped off the page and into my heart. Her moments of panic were not overly dramatised or made to seem absurd - they were so well-handled and intricately described. Gornall is a genius at aligning the reader with the protagonist and churning up empathy in amidst the elegant language and homely setting. 

It's crazy that a book of nearly 300 pages can be set only in one location and still be  as exciting, interesting and thought-provoking as URTS is. While reading I could imagine the setting so clearly in my head and almost have the entirety of the house mapped out in my head. Gornall is evidently a proficient world-creator and this was so clearly shown in the beautiful, intricate way that Norah's world was portrayed to the reader. 

I feel as if URTS could have easily been a book purely about mental health, and if that was the case I think I would have found it slightly overwhelming and engulfing, especially as this is a story told only from the perspective of Norah. However, the other issues and scenarios that the book brought up such as growing up, first love, independence and consent. I'm not going to spoil it, but there's a moment near the end of the book where I was genuinely on the edge of my eat, hand over my mouth, waiting to see what would happen. Gornall's writing is so arresting and beautifully captivating.

I adored the character of Luke and I really wanted to know more about him - his home life, his family - and I think it would have been great if the story was split between the dual narratives of Norah and Luke. I think he is such an important character because it dispels the myth that only people who live with mental health problems can understand and be sensitive towards those who live with mental health problems. It's something I have experienced in my life - and it is so upsetting, frustrating and frankly, incredibly patronising. The way that Norah assumes that Luke is going to make fun of her and not understand what is going on inside her head really frustrated me, especially as I knew that all Luke wanted to do was be allowed by Norah to understand her. Also, Gornall brilliantly challenged the awful trope that some YA books still use - that there is a 'light bulb' moment for someone who lives with mental health problems - that the right guy can come along and magically dispel any traces of a mental health problem. I'm so glad that Gornall avoided this and instead portrayed Luke as a realistic, good-hearted and sensitive character who helped Norah just as much as she helped him.

The ending was perfect. Perfect. I didn't know what was going to happen at the end, but I'm so glad that Gornall ended URTS this way. It confirmed my thoughts that, over everything, Gornall is a brilliant writer at depicting reality at its most real, raw and beautiful.

As you can tell from this review, I thoroughly enjoyed Under Rose-Tainted Skies, and I think you should all go and pick it up if you haven't already! 

Check out Louise Gornall here:

Until next time :)

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

BLOG TOUR | 'Under Rose-Tainted Skies' by Louise Gornall | Introduction to Norah

Hello readers, and happy Tuesday! I am so excited to be participating today in the Under Rose-Tainted Skies blog tour - URTS is a beautiful book written by Louise Gornall about mental health, friendship and being brave in the face of your greatest fears. URTS is a story for everyone, because every one of us has struggled with our mental health at one point or other, and Gornall writes with gorgeous intricacy of the day-to-day struggles of living with a mental health problem. I know you will all love this book as much as I did :)

Under Rose-Tainted Skies follows the story of Norah, a teenager dealing with agoraphobia and OCD, which prevents her from living like other teenagers; Norah's fears and relentless battles with her own mind keep her confined to her house and unable to attend school or make friends. So when a boy moves in next door, Norah has to make a decision - if she can't bring herself to go outside, can she at least let someone in?

Sounds like a great story, right? Check out the blurb here...

Norah has agoraphobia and OCD. When groceries are left on the porch, she can’t step out to get them. Struggling to snag the bags with a stick, she meets Luke. He’s sweet and funny, and he just caught her fishing for groceries. Because of course he did.

Norah can’t leave the house, but can she let someone in? As their friendship grows deeper, Norah realizes Luke deserves a normal girl. One who can lie on the front lawn and look up at the stars. One who isn’t so screwed up.

And today I am excited to have none other than Louise Gornall on my blog, to give us a deeper insight into the mind of Norah and the world that she lives in. Hopefully this will make you want to grab a copy of URTS and devour it as quickly and determinedly as I did!

Hi guys! My name is Louise Gornall. I wrote a young adult contemporary novel called Under Rose-Tainted Skies, and I’m here to tell you a little bit about my main character, Norah, and the world she lives in. 

It’s so hard to capture Norah in a few hundred words. Initially, she seems dull. (Stick with me). The only reason I’d never tried telling this story before is because I didn't realise there was a story to tell.

Anyways, we’ll start with the basics. Norah lives with her Mom in California, surrounded by old people. She’s homeschooled, doesn't have any friends, her favourite food is anything colourless, and she can recite, verbatim, almost any daytime show on t.v. But she’s a contradiction. See, while the world around her is so plain, still, safe, inside her head there are fireworks happening.

Norah is an agoraphobic with OCD, anxiety, and depression. I don't think these are who she is, but they play a massive role in how her life is unraveling. And this is what Norah’s story is about, how she’s had to shape her life around her mental health, how she deals with relationships, how she handles change. It’s about insurmountable odds, frustration, upset, coping, hating, loving, and discovering. 

I like to think I wrote Norah as honest, unflinching, strong, weak, pretty, and imperfect -- with impeccable taste in horror movies and a killer sense of humour. 

She’s changed very little since the first draft. What you see is pretty much how she’s been since day one. My editor was very conscious about keeping her voice authentic. Major props to Anne Hoppe at HMH for being honest and upfront about her knowledge of mental health, and for letting me take the wheel with this one.

Norah is different, intense, quirky, but I’m really hoping that, by the end of the book, you’ll want to hangout with her as much as I do.

Thank you for appearing on my blog, Louise! 

Guys, make sure you check out the other posts on the URTS blog tour, they are too good to be missed!

Check out Louise Gornall here:

Buy Under Rose-Tainted Skies here:

Until next time :) 

Monday, 4 July 2016

BOOK REVIEW | 'Asking For It' by Louise O' Neil (*****)

Hello readers, and happy Monday! I hope you all had a lovely weekend of reading, writing and hanging out with your loved ones.

Today I am excited to share a book review with you - I feel like I am the only blogger who has not reviewed this book yet, but hey, I'm reviewing it now. I guess it's just taken me a while to get my thoughts together to talk meaningfully about this brave, important book. I think that the fact that Asking For It has been on the bestseller list for over 10 months speaks volumes about how much this book means to so many different people - of all ages, races and religions. Asking For It is a book that speaks universally and importantly about the rape culture that is polluting our society, and the consequences that follow from the warped belief that rape can be stopped if the victim of rape can change their behaviour or action. 

I don't normally review books on my blog that I bought myself but I thought this was too important a message to not include on my blog. 

Asking For It follows Emma - an eighteen year old girl from a tiny town in Ireland - who is beginning her summer with hope - hoping to have fun, to hang out with her friends, to enjoy the summer like any other eighteen year old with the world at her feet.

You only have to read the blurb of the book to know that this hope is fleeting and insubstantial. In fact, this is a book about hopelessness, and how Emma's story is not only disgustingly believable, but in fact horrendously true, as shown by O' Neil's research in Rape Crisis centres prior to writing this book.

Here's the blurb...

It's the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O'Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there's a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma. 

The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can't remember what happened, she doesn't know how she got there. She doesn't know why she's in pain. But everyone else does. 

Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don't want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town's heroes... 

Jeanette Winterson blurbed the book as 'O' Neil writes with a scalpel', and this much is certainly true. The story was narrated in first-person by Emma, which made for an incredibly haunting, emotionally-intense reading experience. I am so glad O' Neil made this decision. It drove home the message that these girls, these victims of these vicious and unforgivable assaults, need to be listened to, their stories need to be told, their voices need to be heard as loud as those who protest against them. The writing style was as cutting, hurt and fractured as the story that was being told. I found it extremely powerful and I think that is the reason why I managed to read the book in one day - it was, in a word, unputdownable. 

There were so many lines that I underlined and haunted my thoughts weeks after I had turned the last page. However, I think this one stood out for me, mainly because it is so awfully and painfully true in so many rape cases, and also because it sums the book and O' Neil's message up perfectly.

"They are all innocent until proven guilty. But not me. I am a liar until I am proven honest."

Asking For It made me wince, it made me angry, it made me intensely upset. And this wasn't just because of the desperateness of Emma's story, or the consuming way it was written. Asking For It made me upset because I saw the book as being a relaying of more fact than fiction. Emma's story is the story of countless women - young and old, wealthy or not, from all religions and cultures. Emma's story is the universal story showing the destructive and life-ruining rape culture that is such a prevalent yet unspoken feature of this supposedly modern society - particuarly one that is so heavily rooted in social media - which importantly plays a huge part in Asking For It. Because not only does Emma have to deal with what happened to her that night at the party, but she also has to deal with the fact that images of her assault appear all over social media and have been seen by certainly everyone in her town - including her parents, teachers and older brother. 

O' Neil's Asking For It is therefore not only essential reading, but exceedingly relevant writing that resonates through our society and speaks to the generation that arguably needs this book the most. Girls growing up now more than ever need books like Asking For It to tell them that they should not be valued by their bodies like slabs of meat, and should not settle for being treated as such. 

The characters in Asking For It had such psychological depth - I felt as if I was reading about real people. Such a broad range of characters were presented to the reader, as if to emphasise the astonishing amount and breadth of prejudice and victim-blaming that occurs in rape cases like Emma's. They brought the story to life and hit home the message that often victims have nowhere safe to turn, and end up either retracting their statements and not pressing chargers against their attackers or living the rest of their lives in self-denial that they were never raped at all.

Asking For It doesn't have a happy ending; O' Neil truthfully and with reverence towards those countless victims of sexual violence portrays the reality of the situation at hand, the reality of the lives of countless women who have to live their lives under the shadow of abuse they have suffered under the nonchalance of a society that happily and without shame places blame at the victims' doors. The society that tells women:

Don't drink alcohol; you will get raped.
Don't take drugs; you will get raped.
Don't wear short skirts; you will get raped.
Don't walk home on your own at night; you will get raped.
You were asking for it; that's why you were raped.

If you haven't read this book already, please, please read it. 

I am unsure how to finish this book review, so I will leave you with the words of Louise O' Neil to sum up basically what I'm trying to say...

“We teach our girls how not to get raped with a sense of doom, a sense that we are fighting a losing battle. When I was writing this novel, friend after friend came to me telling me of something that had happened to them. A hand up their skirt, a boy who wouldn’t take no for an answer, a night where they were too drunk to give consent but they think it was taken from them anyway. We shared these stories with one another and it was as if we were discussing some essential part of being a woman, like period cramps or contraceptives. Every woman or girl who told me these stories had one thing in common: shame. ‘I was drunk . . . I brought him back to my house . . . I fell asleep at that party . . . I froze and I didn’t tell him to stop . . .’ My fault. My fault. My fault. When I asked these women if they had reported what had happened to the police, only one out of twenty women said yes. The others looked at me and said, ‘No. How could I have proved it? Who would have believed me?’ And I didn’t have any answer for that.”

Check out Louise O' Neil here: