Wednesday 12 June 2019

London's BIG READ 2019 | 'Only Love Can Break Your Heart' by Katherine Webber

Hey guys, and happy Wednesday! Today I am stoked to be talking to you about a really exciting event coming up - London's BIG READ - a brilliant initiative that is designed to bring the capital together through reading books that expand our understanding of our community and express the diversity of this great city (I may live in Oxford now, but London will always be the place I call home!) 

A range of titles including poetry, middle grade and YA, have been selected to be part of London’s BIG READ 2019, the winter will be announced at a gala fundraising dinner in September.  The shortlisted books are all available to buy from the LIBRARY members club, with £1 from each sale going to the Children’s Literacy Charity and a further £1 going to the Ndoro Children’s Charity. 

Londoners will be able to vote for their favourite book online at from World Book Day through to 30 June. 

 You can check out all of the brilliant shortlisted books on their website, but for now I'm going to be reviewing one of the fantastic YA books on the shortlist - Katherine Webber's Only Love Can Break Your Heart

I was kindly sent a copy of this book by Literally PR, in exchange for an honest review and sharing with you all this great initiative! <3

Check out the blurb below...

From the author of the acclaimed Wing Jones comes a 'break-up' book about a Japanese-American teenager, set in the Palm Springs desert, California. Perfect for fans of Nicola Yoon's Everything, Everything and Sara Barnard's Beautiful Broken Things.

Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free…

Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you.. 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a beautifully written, intensely heartbreaking novel about falling in love, family and heartbreak, set against a backdrop of the mysterious and haunting Californian desert. It follows Reiko, who is struggling to put back the pieces after her sister's death, alongside trying to figure out who she really wants to be. She knows that everyone at school and her family expect her to be Homecoming Queen - she is Reiko Smith-Mori after all - but no crown can fix what happened to her sister, who was supposed to be the one who had it all...

I loved the main character Reiko; she was authentically teenage and made lots of mistakes, but also a lot of good choices. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with her parents and her little brother, Koji, and her best friend Dre. I loved the dynamics between these characters so much that I think we could have actually gone without Seth, who was the other principle character in the book, but then again their relationship did a lot in terms of shaping the plot and who Reiko turned out to be. 

Webber's writing is flawless; I loved her style with Wing Jones and it got even better than this. Her writing smelt like long, hot summers and cold starry nights. I thought the desert backdrop really added to the magic of the story, and drew me into the book even further.

I guess it's no suprise to you guys that I will definitely be voting for Only Love Can Break Your Heart for London's BIG READ - but what book will you be voting for?! Let me know in the comments below or over on my Twitter!

Don't forget to check out London's BIG READ here:

Until next time :)

Friday 7 June 2019

BOOK REVIEW | 'We Are Not Okay' by Natália Gomes (****)

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am thrilled to be bringing you another book review, this time a review of a book I have wanted to read for a really long time - We Are Not Okay by Natália Gomes. As soon as I read the blurb I knew this book was right up my street - and it totally lived up to my expectations. 

We Are Not Okay is about growing up, shame, secrets and the danger that keeping them can bring. The novel follows four very different girls with very different problems, but it all comes circles back to the pressures that we put on young girls in our society today, and the harm that this pressure can do. Faultlessly told and worryingly authentic, We Are Not Okay is a powerful reflection on our society, and how rotten it is beneath the surface. 

I was kindly sent We Are Not Okay by Nina Douglas, on behalf of HQ Stories, in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

13 Reasons Why meets John Green and Jennifer Niven in We Are Not Ok - a powerful novel about what happens when girls are silenced.

If only they could have spoken out.
Lucy thinks she’s better than the other girls.
Maybe if she’s pointing fingers at everyone else, no one will see the secret she’s hiding.

Ulana comes from a conservative Muslim family where reputation is everything. One rumour -
true or false – can destroy futures.

Trina likes to party. She’s kissed a lot of boys. She’s even shown her red bra to one. But she didn’t consent to that
night at Lucy’s party. So why doesn’t anyone believe

Sophia loved her boyfriend. She did anything for him, even send him photos of herself. So why is she the one being pointed at in the hallways, laughed at, spat at when it was him who betrayed her trust?

I thought the characterisation in this book was excellent, and the different narratives worked really well. I love stories that share multiple viewpoints, especially when they are all diverse. We Are Not Okay is an excellent and powerful mouthpiece for girls' voices, on issues that plague our society such as peer pressure, slut-shaming, sexual assault and body image. I found it really powerful, and wish I had it to hand as a teenager, although I had a better time at school than these characters!

The writing was fresh and authentic and the dialogue was also spot-on. Gomes is excellent at representing teenagers and bringing them, and their voices, to the forefront. Every character had a distinct voice, and I liked the dynamic between the characters as well, particularly one friendship that blossomed towards the end. I will definitely be checking out Gomes' other books now; her writing style is flawless, and I'm a sucker for a character-driven, emotional, brilliantly-told story.

Check out Natália Gomes here:

Until next time :)

Tuesday 4 June 2019

BOOK REVIEW | 'The Deepest Breath' by Meg Grehan (****)

Hey guys, and happy Tuesday! I am back from my adventure in New York and ready to share more book reviews with you guys! Today's review is a lovely little book I devoured before I went away - The Deepest Breath by Meg Grehan. The Deepest Breath is a gorgeously written story, told in verse, following eleven-year-old Stevie and her discovery that she likes girls, specifically her friend Chloe. Stevie always shares everything with her Mum, but will she understand this secret?

Thank you to Nina Douglas, on behalf of Little Island Books, for sending me The Deepest Breath in exchange for an honest review :)

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here..

Stevie is eleven and loves reading and sea-creatures. She lives with her mum, and she's been best friends with Andrew since forever. Stevie's mum teases her that someday they'll get married, but Stevie knows that won't ever happen. There's a girl at school that she likes more. A lot more. Actually, she's a bit confused about how much she likes her. It's nothing like the way she likes Andrew. It makes her fizz inside. That's a new feeling, one she doesn't understand. Stevie needs to find out if girls can like girls - love them, even - but it's hard to get any information, and she's too shy to ask out loud about it. But maybe she can find an answer in a book. With the help of a librarian, Stevie finds stories of girls loving girls, and builds up her courage to share the truth with her mum. Written in accessible verse 'chapters' and in a warm and reassuring style, The Deepest Breath will be of special relevance to young girls who are starting to realise that they are attracted to other girls, but it is also a story for any young reader with an open mind who wants to understand how people's emotions affect their lives.

This was a stunning and beautifully-written story that really captured my heart. I think the story-telling medium of verse worked really well with Stevie's voice, and her exploration of herself that took place in this book. Grehan writes in a way that is remarkably tender and honest, and Stevie's childlike reflections on herself were realistically written. 

I share Stevie's facination (and terror!) of sea creatures and the sea, so I very much enjoyed these musings and they added to the whimsical beauty of the book. Another part I loved was the relationship between Stevie and her Mum - one of honesty, of friendship and care. Reading these parts were very emotional, in both senses of the word. The ending was perfect and tender and real, and brought everything I loved about the book together for me. 

The Deepest Breath is a perfect LGBTQI+ read for anyone of any age, but particularly young children as it perfectly captures that sense of confusion that young people feel at understanding their identity. It also advocates trusting, safe relationships between children and the adults that care for them.

Check out Meg Grehan here:

Until next time :)