Thursday 26 April 2018

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Girl Detached' by Manuela Salvi

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you yet another book review (are you sick of them yet? I hope not!) and this is a review of a book I absolutely devoured at the start of the Easter holidays. I received this book for review ages ago (I'm talking years, I know, I'm ashamed) but in the midst of moving half my stuff to uni in Manchester and all the chaos in between, I completely forgot that I even owned this book!

When I was finding something to read at the beginning of the holiday that I could just binge, and I found Girl Detached. I knew just by reading the blurb that this was not only a novel I could completely lose myself in, but it was also unlike any that I had read before. I'm happy to say that on both of those counts I was not disappointed.

Girl Detached is a story about voicelessness, courage, and belonging. It is also a story that recounts one of the worst kinds of exploitation. But it is also a story of hope, and hope for a generation that is often prey to the situations explored in this novel. 

Intrigued? Check out the blurb...

Aleksandra has issues with her voice. Stress makes her stutter, and her life is one of stress. She can only speak clearly on stage, freed by the words of the character she plays. Then, when Aleksandra befriends her new neighbour Megan, and through her meets charming, handsome Ruben, it seems she has discovered a doorway into a different world, and a different Alek. But Ruben wants Aleksandra to play a particular role for him, and it is one that will come close to destroying her. 

This book was anything but an easy read but at the same time, that did not stop me from immensely enjoying this book. The way it was written was so raw and truthful that I couldn't stop myself from being sucked in. I was completely in the mind of Aleksandra; something that I think is very important for a book that explores such critical issues. Salvi gives her protagonist an independent mind, a capability of making mistakes but most importantly, a high degree of compassion. I thought this was a brilliantly successful and solicitous portrayal of the sexual trafficking of young people, and how hard it can be for the people on the outside to see the signs.

I connected to all of the characters and thought their relationships were all very interesting and well explored. I wish that there was a bit more of Aleksandra's home life; once she begins to hang out with Megan, we don't get any development of the relationship between her and her mother, her mother's partner, and her half-brother. I think that more of this would have added a really interesting perspective on Aleksandra's psyche and how it altered when her life changed completely.

Altogether, Girl Detached was all that I was hoping it would be, and much more. This is undeniably an example of another YA novel that has the courage to tackle a serious issue that impacts upon young people and does it in an unflinching and compassionate way. I am so glad this book was published in the UK after Manuela's voice was silenced in Italy. This is undoubtedly a story that needed to be told, and I'm privileged that I was able to read it.

Check out Manuela Salvi here:

Until next time :)

Monday 23 April 2018

GUEST POST | 'Vicious Rumer' by Joshua Winning | CHARACTER Q&A

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I am really excited to be sharing with you a guest post by the author of a brand new thriller, Vicious Rumer - Joshua Winning. Vicious Rumer is an exhilarating new thriller following Rumer, an outcast who is under attack from what appears to be every side. Living by the legacy of her notoriously dangerous mother, Rumer soon becomes under threat herself, and figure out the truth behind herself and her own past.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Haunted. Hunted. Cursed. You’ve never met anybody like Rumer Cross.

Rumer Cross is cursed. Scraping by working for a dingy London detective agency, she lives in the shadow of her mother, a violent criminal dubbed the ‘Witch Assassin’ whose bloodthirsty rampage terrorised London for over a decade.

Raised by foster families who never understood her and terrified she could one day turn into her mother, Rumer has become detached and self-reliant. But when she’s targeted by a vicious mobster who believes she’s hiding an occult relic, she’s drawn into the very world she’s been fighting to avoid.

Hunted by assassins and haunted by her mother’s dark legacy, Rumer must also confront a terrible truth: that she’s cursed, because no matter what she does, everybody she’s ever grown close to has died screaming.

Set in an urban sprawl of bullet-riddled buildings, Vicious Rumer is a thriller for fans of Jessica Jones, Lisbeth Salander and films like The Craft.

And without further ado, here is Joshua Winning himself, with a character Q&A!

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Why do you want to know? Who put you up to this? I'm not answering anything until I know this isn't going to come back to bite me in the arse.

When are you happiest? And when are you most despairing? 

You promise this isn't a trick? OK, I'm happiest listening to Stevie Nicks. I swear she's part witch; her music is too spellbinding for her not to be. I also can't get enough of The Dark Crystal. The Skeksis are wicked funny and I want Fizzgig for a pet. Despairing? Basically every second of every day.

Which living person do you most admire?

Anybody who makes it through to the end of the day, every day. The world's a bitch, man. It takes guts to keep going.

What do you consider to be your strongest virtue?

I don't judge anybody, unless they're morons.

What do you most dislike about your appearance?

My hair's a pain in the ass. It's thick as weeds and always gets in my face, no matter what I do. You know a good hairdresser? Or somewhere I can buy a decent pair of scissors?

Who or what is the greatest love of your life?

That's sort of personal. I guess my collection of modified Barbies is my great love. I love giving them nose-rings and painting their nails black. They look way prettier that way.

What is your most treasured possession?

The Preacher comic my friend gave me. He's not around anymore and it's all I have to remind me he was ever around. (Thank god he's dead; he'd give me a dead arm if he knew I said that.)

What has been the greatest gift you have ever received?

My ability to be completely invisible at all times. It's hilarious what people get up to when they think they're not being watched.

What do you value about your friends?

Uh, friends?

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? And similarly, your greatest regret?

My greatest achievement is answering all of your questions even though I'm pretty sure you're going use them against me. Hey, that's my greatest regret, too. Thanks for that.

Thank you so much, Joshua (and Rumer, obviously!) for answering all my questions!

Buy Vicious Rumer here:

Check out Joshua Winning here:

Until next time :)

Thursday 19 April 2018

BLOG TOUR | 'Songs by Dead Girls' by Lesley Kelly | SPANISH FLU - LESSONS FOR TODAY

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you a brilliant guest post, to celebrate the release of a striking new thriller by Lesley Kelly - Songs by Dead Girls. This story centres around a deadly Virus, a missing academic with a head full of state secrets, a prostitute on the run, and a drug baron who needs a favour.

Set against these are Mona, Bernard and their colleagues at the North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team. The HET aren’t particularly popular. Their day job is to contain the deadly virus. Young people are the main victims (just as they were in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic). Normally they’d be handing out and partying – now they are forced to undergo health checks and can only travel or buy food with the right documentation.  Many are bristling at the increased state control, and Mona, Bernard and the HET have a job to keep up. So when Scotland’s leading Virologist goes missing all hell could break loose…

Sound intriguing? Check out the blurb here...

When Scotland's leading virologist goes missing, Mona and Paterson from the Health Enforcement Team are dispatched to London to find him. In a hot and unwelcoming city, Mona has to deal with a boss who isn't speaking to her, placate the Professor's over-bearing assistant, and outwit the people who will stop at nothing to make sure the academic stays lost. Meanwhile, back in Edinburgh, Bernard is searching for a missing prostitute, while Maitland is trying to keep the Chair of the Parliamentary Virus Committee from finding out quite how untidy the HET office is.

I cannot wait to dive straight into this (as soon as my dissertation is over!), but in the meantime, get your teeth into this wonderful guest post written by the author herself, all about the Spanish flu outbreak back in 1918, and how it influenced the writing of this brilliant book.

Exactly 100 years ago, in 1918, Great Britain and Ireland saw the deaths of nearly a quarter of a million people.  These fatalities were not, as you might assume from the date, related to the end of World War One.  Rather, these deaths resulted from one of the biggest outbreaks of illness of all time – Spanish flu.
Spanish flu is often referred to as the ‘forgotten pandemic.’  Coming hard on the heels of the War, there wasn’t the horrified response that you might have expected.  Instead, people ‘kept calm and carried on,’ and over the years the level of deaths has been largely overlooked.  

In my Health of Strangers series, I knew that I wanted to set the crimes in the novels against the background of a killer virus.  I wanted a situation where people would feel vulnerable, and would be at risk of exploitation by charlatans offering false hope of a cure or a preventative solution.  

I wondered if a pandemic on the scale of Spanish flu occurred today, how would people react?  And how would the government?  In my imaginary world, the Powers That Be react by insisting that the entire population is tested for the Virus on a monthly basis.  A new agency – the Health Enforcement Team – is established to track down people who miss their test. The HETs are a mixture of seconded staff from the Police and the Health Service, who each bring their own organisational culture and viewpoints with them.  
I wanted the virus in my books to be realistic, not one that laid waste to society in a Hollywood manner. The more I found out about Spanish flu, the more I realised it perfectly fitted the bill.  An estimated 10% to 20% of those who were infected with the Spanish flu strain of influenza – H1N1 – died.  Enough to make it a terrifying prospect, but by no means an automatic death sentence.

In addition, H1NI came in several waves.  The first wave was relatively mild, no worse than the average seasonal flu.  However, it gave survivors immunity to the virus.  When the second, much deadlier, wave of flu hit a few months later they were unaffected.  
All the HET staff have been recruited because they are immune, mostly having had the earlier, milder flu.  This sets them a little bit apart from mainstream society, and they react in different ways, some feeling ‘survivors’ guilt,’ and others feeling they have won some kind of life lottery.  And, of course, their friends and family are not all immune.  One of the younger members of the team, Maitland, struggles to accept his non-immune girlfriend’s sudden interest in religion.

With most outbreaks of influenza, the people most at risk of dying are the very young and the very old.  Pregnant women, and people with compromised immune systems are also usually at risk.  But what made Spanish flu so particularly scary, was that it also killed the young and healthy.

The virus caused a huge overreaction of the body's immune system, sometimes referred to as a ‘cytokine storm.’  The stronger immune systems of young adults were ravaged by the virus, making them more likely to die; how terrifying a thought for parents and teenagers alike.  And the HET staff are just as terrified – of the two parents on the team, Bernard has already lost a baby to the Virus, and Carole’s teenage son is hospitalised.

All in all, it’s a scary world I have created, all the more horrifying for being based on real life events.  My favourite bit of feedback on The Health of Strangers came from a colleague, who said that after reading the book she’d gone out and had her flu jab.

Consider getting yours.

Thank you so much, Lesley, for appearing on my blog!

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

Buy Songs by Dead Girls here:

Check out Lesley Kelly here:

Until next time :)

Friday 13 April 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'How to Hang a Witch' by Adriana Mather (****)

Hey guys, and happy Friday! It is very fitting that today is Friday 13th, as today I am going to be reviewing a spectacularly creepy book, filled with witches and mystery and ghosts...

That's right, today I am going to be reviewing How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather. How to Hang a Witch is a brilliantly chilling read, following Sam Mather as she moves from New York to the infamous Salem, home of the Witch Trials and the absolute havoc that defined and followed them. Sam has family links, so she knows a bit about what happened... but she also thinks that it is all in the past. But soon enough strange occurrences and unexplained happenings suggest otherwise, and Sam finds herself in a situation that, before moving to Salem, she never would have believed possible to happen.

I was kindly sent a copy of How to Hang a Witch by Walker Books in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

It's the Salem Witch Trials meets Mean Girls in a debut novel from one of the descendants of Cotton Mather, where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past.

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were?

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with The Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

As soon as I read the blurb for this book, I knew that it was something I had to read. I have read YA books about witches before, but none had dealt with the history behind witch allegations. I didn't know too much about Salem before reading this, but upon reading I was immediately transported to this dark and secretive town, still weighed down by the darkness of its past. There must have been a huge amount of research that went into this book, but the facts felt nothing like an info-dump. Mather is an incredibly atmospheric writer and managed to make the novel wonderfully contemporary, but with the charm and dark atmosphere of the past.

I liked Sam as a character, but at times I wished she'd be a little more sure of herself. At the beginning of the novel, she appeared heartbroken for her hospitalised father and horrified by the prospect of coming to a new town, a new school, with no friends. However, the love triangle that emerges halfway through the book kinda removes Sam's pluck and determination, and I thought this was a bit of a shame. In fact, I think the book would have worked just as well without the romance, to be honest. There was enough with the witch element and the mean-girl narrative to make the story interesting without token YA boy drama

As soon as I reached the last fifty pages I honestly couldn't stop reading. I absolutely loved the ending and the continuous plot twists. I was hooked and I thought the characterisation really came out in this last part. I think the fantasy/supernatural elements were done brilliantly and I was thoroughly creeped out by the end of the novel.

If you need a harrowing read this Friday 13th, make sure you check out How to Hang a Witch! But be careful with going out to the woods at night...

Check out Adriana Mather here:

Until next time :)

Monday 9 April 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'Fragments of the Lost' by Megan Miranda (****)

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I am thrilled to be sharing with you another book review, another YA novel that you can sink your teeth into during spring essays/exams/dissertation, whatever you have going on! Personally, for me, I love nothing better than a great YA novel to get totally lost in, wrapped up in someone else's life (and all the mysteries that come with it!) 

If this sounds like exactly what you need right now, then you need to read Fragments of the Lost by Megan Miranda. Fragments of the Lost is a tense, mysterious, utterly thrilling novel following Jessa, who has to come to terms with the death of her ex-boyfriend Caleb, whom she discovers after a while she did not know very well at all. Not only this, but his less-than-friendly mother has asked her to clean out his room, and every taped-up photograph and gym sock is a stark reminder that no one really knows what happened to Caleb at all. Soon enough, Jessa's mission is to not only clear out his room but find out what really happened to Caleb, once and for all.

I was kindly sent this book by Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

From the New York Times bestselling author of All the Missing Girls and The Perfect Stranger comes a suspenseful psychological mystery about one girl's search to uncover the truth behind her ex-boyfriend's death. Perfect for fans of We Were Liars and 13 Reasons Why . 

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?

I really enjoyed this book; it has a comforting 'YA novel writing style' that I immediately recognised and settled into. This book had a really interesting premise and I wanted to find out more about the mystery surrounding Caleb's death. However, one thing I would criticise about this book is the way in which the plot moves quite slowly at the beginning of the novel; Caleb's death is not treated as much of a mystery as to what I had read on the blurb. From the middle of the book onwards things get very complex and I couldn't wait to find out what happened at the end, however at the beginning admittedly the plot does move quite slowly. 

I thought the characters were very well crafted and I found all of them to be interesting, especially with the relations between each other. Miranda's writing and extreme attention to detail meant that for me, Caleb was a three-dimensional character and I learned so much about him, even though all we learned about him were through flashbacks and Jessa's descriptions of him. I thought Jessa herself was a thoroughly likeable character and I liked how inquisitive she was. I enjoyed her exchanges with Caleb's Mum (she gave me the absolute creeps) and also her brother Julian and Caleb's best friend and neighbour Max. They were great characters and it would have been interesting to see things from their perspective. 

I thought the ending was brilliant, and it surpassed my expectations completely. I did to a certain extent guess what might happen, but the whole thing was carried off so well, a huge credit to Miranda's writing, which kept me hanging onto every word. Altogether I loved this book, so if you enjoy mysteries and YA contemporary novels, you are sure to love this!

Check out Megan Miranda here:

Until next time :)

Thursday 5 April 2018

BOOK REVIEW | 'Grave Matter' by Juno Dawson (****)

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am going to be sharing with you another book review (I know, I'm on a roll!), this time a review of a short novella, Grave Matter, by the wonderful Juno Dawson. This book is definitely a creepy one, and if I had been organised enough I would have scheduled this review to be posted around Halloween (or at least winter time!) but who says you can't have a good dash of creepiness around Easter?!

I was kindly sent Grave Matter by Barrington Stoke, in exchange for an honest review :)

Samuel is lost after Eliza died. After the crash that changed everything. He would do anything to get her back... even if he had to delve into magic, the dark kind. But to get what he wants, he needs to make a pact, and everyone knows that things can go horribly wrong when you do deals with the wrong kind of people...

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Since the crash, since Eliza died, Samuel can’t find a way to go on. His need to see his love again is overwhelming, and so he ventures into the strange, terrifying world of Hoodoo. Samuel is about to make a pact with powers he cannot comprehend, let alone control…

I really enjoyed this book. Grave Matter is deliciously creepy and spine-tingling scary. But aside from that, it is also a very heartfelt exploration of grief and loss and the heartache you experience when someone you care about passes away. Juno Dawson manages to combine monstrous horror with a very human touch of compassion. I had high expectations of Juno's ability to write brilliant horror, as I read Juno's Say Her Name a few years ago when it was on the YA Book Prize shortlist, and that was absolutely brilliant. Suffice to say I was not at all disappointed in the creepiness of Grave Matter

The writing was absolutely gorgeous and a pervading sense of uneasiness haunted every page. Juno is undoubtedly a master storyteller. The illustrations were perfectly suited to the brilliantly chilling writing style. The movement between the supernatural and the natural elements of the story was very well handled and altogether, I thought this was a brilliant short book, to add to Barrington Stoke's terrific collection of books for reluctant readers.

Check out Juno Dawson here:

Until next time :)

Monday 2 April 2018

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir' by Maggie Thrash

Hey guys, and happy Monday! I hope you are all enjoying the bank holiday as much as I am - and still demolishing those chocolate eggs...

Today I am excited to be sharing with you another book review, this time of a brilliant graphic novel I read a few months ago. Every single time I read a graphic novel I always promise myself I will read more, because they are so damn good, but I never know what to pick up (I'm a novice, I know). So if you guys have any graphic novel recs, please do hit me up!

Today I will be reviewing the brilliant Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash. Honor Girl follows Maggie, as she navigates another summer at Camp Bellflower for Girls, although this summer is a little different. Suddenly, and unexpectantly, she feels herself falling for Erin, one of the Camp's counsellors. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for Maggie to express her true feelings, and even her proficiency at the rifle range and her adoration for Backstreet Boys isn't enough to distract her. Can one summer really change everything?

Intrigued? Read the blurb here...

All-girl camp. First love. First heartbreak. At once romantic and devastating, brutally honest and full of humor, this graphic-novel memoir is a debut of the rarest sort.

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

I adored this book, and devoured it in a single sitting. Everything about it was so real and honest - I know that sounds obvious, it being a memoir and all, however the authenticity of the story really stood out to me. It is really easy to over-romanticise and sometimes trivialise first love stories such as these, but Honor Girl is much more than a summer romance-esque story. It is gritty, real, and often painfully honest. You really get into the mind of Maggie and feel her every butterfly, flash of anger, and heartbreak. I thought the exploration of sexuality was brilliant and I would definitely press this graphic novel into the hands of a young person who might be struggling with similar issues that are explored in this. As well as navigating through issues such as feminism, sexuality and the complex friendships between girls (especially in a camp setting), this graphic novel is also extremely funny. I actually found myself snorting at parts. I feel like I couldn't relate to every single part, since I haven't gone to a summer camp myself, but I could still imagine the painfully awkward and typical situations you might find youself in an all-female camp.

The drawings were as beautiful as the story and they were wonderfully detailed yet also realistic. They told the story so well and I loved how simplistic they were. The colour palette was stunning. I feel like the drawings really brought Maggie and Erin to life, which clearly displays the incredible magic drawings can produce.

Altogether, I really loved this graphic novel, and whether you have read a graphic novel before or not, I would recommend that you pick this one up! It was a stunning read from start to finish, and although you finish it wanting more, it's a good reminder that, very often, life fails to fall into neat endings.

Check out Maggie Thrash here:

Until next time :)