Friday, 18 August 2017

Tell It To The Moon by Siobhan Curham

Tell it to the MoonTo make a dream come true, tell it to the moon! Tell It to the Moon continues the story of Moonlight Dreamers Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose, who are not like everyone else and don't want to be: becoming friends gives them the courage to be themselves. After failing to find her surrogate mother, Amber is left unsure of who she is and what she wants to do; Maali's spiritual faith is tested when her father becomes ill; Sky, previously home-schooled, struggles to adapt to the pressures of the school system; and after having found the courage to come out, Rose begins to pursue her dream of becoming a patissier. Once again the four girls band together to help one another overcome their individual challenges and fulfill their dreams in this fabulous and heart-warming celebration of friendship.

This takes place a few months after book one and each of the Moonlight Dreamers have something new to overcome. Amber is feeling unsure of her identity after her surrogate mother doesn't want to see her; Sky is going to school for the first time in years and understandably cannot deal with the rigidity of her day; Maali's dad is ill and her faith is failing her; and Rose has realised something about her sexuality

The girls have come back a bit more mature and grown than last time we saw them - as they get older and have to start thinking about the future, they are all realising new dreams to aim for, whether that be to understand where they came from, like Amber, or work hard towards their career, like Rose.

Like the first book, I loved and greatly appreciated the message of friendship and supporting each other in your dreams. For example, when Rose is worried how the girls will take her coming out news, they surprise her by being loving and opening and happy that she can be true to herself. And they all support Maali when her dad's in the hospital, Sky even battling her fear as she hasn't been in a hospital since her mum died.

I adored this story as much as the first one, it was just so uplifting. Even though all of the girls have been through a little bit of hell, in one way or another, they all support and take care of each other and come out the other end better than ever. 

Published 3rd August 2017 by Walker. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

The Gender Games: The Problem with Men and Women, from Someone Who Has Been Both'It's a boy!' or 'It's a girl!' are the first words almost all of us hear when we enter the world. Before our names, before we have likes and dislikes - before we, or anyone else, has any idea who we are. And two years ago, as Juno Dawson went to tell her mother she was (and actually, always had been) a woman, she started to realise just how wrong we've been getting it.

Gender isn't just screwing over trans people, it's messing with everyone. From little girls who think they can't be doctors to teenagers who come to expect street harassment. From exclusionist feminists to 'alt-right' young men. From men who can't cry to the women who think they shouldn't. As her body gets in line with her mind, Juno tells not only her own story, but the story of everyone who is shaped by society's expectations of gender - and what we can do about it.

Featuring insights from well-known gender, feminist and trans activists including Rebecca Root, Laura Bates, Gemma Cairney, Anthony Anaxagorou, Hannah Witton, Alaska Thunderfuck and many more, The Gender Games is a frank, witty and powerful manifesto for a world where what's in your head is more important than what's between your legs.

Part autobiography, part social commentary, Juno writes like we're having a chat over a cup of tea - frank, funny and rude. She looks at all aspects of gender at all stages of life, from first toys through to puberty and experimenting at university, and shows how it screws us up at every turn - limiting our choices, making us victims for bullies, and making us doubt ourselves.

Juno spends a lot of book analysing the media, especially the token female in TV shows and the "strong female character" that is only popular because of physical strength, a typically male attribute. Having grown up in the 90's, Juno had different role models, namely the Spice Girls (as she mentions often). But now, teenagers have a worrying amount of pressure online, from instagram-famous people looking polished and perfect. Many, Juno included, would think that these filtered and cropped photos are something to aspire to, no matter what, and that can be a source to great mental and physical upheaval. Alongside to social commentary of the lack of diverse role models, Juno links all this to her teenage ambition to be famous, for no other reason than "it looked like a lot of fun". 

One of my favourite chapters was where Juno discusses sex and the promiscuity of gay men, having been one and definitely living up to the stereotype! Juno also talks about the concept of virginity and the social construct that is "slut"; as men can sleep around but women apparently can't, this is another way that gender messes with our perceptions of self-worth and sexuality. As a feminist, but also a cis-woman, this chapter, along with "why men need feminism too", meant a lot and also explained a lot about gender stereotypes and different perspectives of how assumptions can harm all genders.

I completely loved this book. Parts might have been a bit uncomfortable or crude, but it was a very funny and clever dissection of how modern society's gender notions whether consciously or not - and how it damages us. Things like male entitlement, segregation in PE lessons (and apparently gendered sport, like rugby and netball) to feminism and diversity in the media, Juno tackled a lot while still remaining funny, clear, a little self-deprecating, and non-judgemental. She makes it clear she can only speak from her own experiences and many others might have different ones, but everyone can learn a little something from her (even if it's just how much she loves the Spice Girls!).

Published 1st June 2017 by Two Roads.

Friday, 11 August 2017

All About Mia by Lisa Williamson

All About MiaOne family, three sisters.
GRACE, the oldest: straight-A student.
AUDREY, the youngest: future Olympic swimming champion.
And MIA, the mess in the middle.

Mia is wild and daring, great with hair and selfies, and the undisputed leader of her friends – not attributes appreciated by her parents or teachers.
When Grace makes a shock announcement, Mia hopes that her now-not-so-perfect sister will get into the trouble she deserves.
But instead, it is Mia whose life spirals out of control – boozing, boys and bad behaviour – and she starts to realise that her attempts to make it All About Mia might put at risk the very things she loves the most.

Mia is the middle child and used to being ignored for her sisters' much better accomplishments - Grace, the eldest, is perfect in every way and A-plus student and set to go to Oxford; Audrey is a champion swimmer and is training for the Olympics. But when Grace comes home suddenly, and pregnant, Mia (and I) find it hilarious and a serious upset to the the natural order.

Mia was such a refreshing character - surprisingly unlikable and yet relatable. I can clearly remember feeling like she did when I was in sixth form, like you had no idea where you wanted to go in life, having no plan and no passion to guide you. She also likes to take the stereotype of teenage angst and turns it up to 11 - when she acts out, she really acts out! 

The shock of Grace acting less than perfect changes their family dynamic and Mia is quick to fill in the void with insane behaviour. Although the Campbell-Richardson's were anything but normal, they were a great family. The parents were trying their hardest to do right by all of their girls and might have struggled with Mia but as it turns out, all three of them sometimes feel excluded from "happy families". 

I adored this story; it was funny and embarrassing and sometimes awful but so very real as Mia crashes through life and learns what her next steps should be as well as finding her true place in the family.  

Published 2nd February 2017 by David Fickling Books.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

A Change Is Gonna Come by Mary Bello, et al

A Change Is Gonna ComeFeaturing top Young Adult authors alongside a host of exciting new talent, this anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change is a long-overdue addition to the YA scene. Contributors include Tanya Byrne, Inua Ellams, Catherine Johnson, Patrice Lawrence, Ayisha Malik, Irfan Master, Musa Okwonga and Nikesh Shukla.

Plus introducing four fresh new voices in YA fiction: Mary Bello, Aisha Bushby, Yasmin Rahman and Phoebe Roy.

I always find it difficult to review an anthology, because there are lots of little stories in these pages and all of them were incredible. 

Not only did this introduce me to lots of great new authors, it also spanned a range of very different types of stories, from fantasy to contemporary, romance to poems and everything in between. I really enjoyed all of them, with girls learning about refugees, finding first love and acceptance, overcoming anxiety and battling friends about racism, all the stories covered change and how scary it is sometimes.

Like I said, there were lots of different topics discussed, not just race and diversity - things like OCD and anxiety, empathy, love and being true to yourself. I think this whole anthology is incredibly important to see different stories, different experiences in print, and what it means to want change, whatever scale it's in. 

Published 10th August 2017 by Stripes Publishing. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Weekly Highlights: the 'August TBR' edition

Weekly Highlights is a feature borrowed from Faye of A Daydreamer's Thoughts, where I get to highlight my posts of the week, show you my new books and talk about bookish things!

God, August already? That means summer's half way over! It's been a pretty amazing summer so far, with days out and of course comic con last weekend! Coming up for August is more of the same as I get ready for the new term at work. 

On The Blog
Review of When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon 
Review of The Crash by Lisa Drakeford
Review of City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C Anderson
Review of Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison
Review of The Girls Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski
Interview with Siobhan Curham
Review of The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

Currently Reading
At time of writing, I'm reading Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race, which was recommended by Alyce. Although a difficult subject, especially the history section, I'm really enjoying it.

On My Bookshelf
Tell it to the MoonTell It to the Moon by Siobhan Curham
To make a dream come true, tell it to the moon! Tell It to the Moon continues the story of Moonlight Dreamers Amber, Maali, Sky and Rose, who are not like everyone else and don't want to be: becoming friends gives them the courage to be themselves. After failing to find her surrogate mother, Amber is left unsure of who she is and what she wants to do; Maali's spiritual faith is tested when her father becomes ill; Sky, previously home-schooled, struggles to adapt to the pressures of the school system; and after having found the courage to come out, Rose begins to pursue her dream of becoming a patissier. Once again the four girls band together to help one another overcome their individual challenges and fulfill their dreams in this fabulous and heart-warming celebration of friendship.

I've already read this, it came out this week and I couldn't wait! The sequel to The Moonlight Dreamers, we follow the four girls as they encounter more drama and need each other to lean on. Thank you Walker, my review will be up soon!

The Fandom by Anna Day
The FandomCosplay ready, Violet and her friends are at Comic-Con.

They can’t wait to meet the fandom of mega movie, The Gallows Dance. What they’re not expecting is to be catapulted by freak accident into their favourite world – for real. Fuelled by love, guilt and fear, can the friends put the plot back on track and get out? The fate of the story is in their hands ...

A fast-paced, genre-flipping YA fantasy adventure from a brand new author, writing in homage to the best YA fiction.

Ahh, I am beyond excited for this! Cosplay, nerdy things and sudden magical lands - yes please! Thank you Chicken House!

There's Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins
There's Someone Inside Your HouseOne-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.
International bestselling author Stephanie Perkins returns with a fresh take on the classic teen slasher story that’s fun, quick-witted, and completely impossible to put down.

Although so different from her other books, I'm really looking forward to this creepy thriller - thank you Macmillan and Netgalley!

I also got The House of Secrets by Sarra Manning and The One We Fell In Love With by Paige Toon, because they were on offer and sounded awesome. Links to Goodreads.

And then: behold my yalc haul! I think I did pretty well: I didn't go overboard (learning from my mistake last year when I broke my shoulder muscles!) and I also got some great books! I've already read The Loneliest Girl, sped through it actually, and am planning on reading the rest sooner rather than later.

August TBR
At time of writing, I don't have any review books to read urgently, so my TBR is pretty open - which I am very happy with! As I said, I am very excited for the books I got at yalc so those are probably going to be first up. Any ideas of what I should read next?

Friday, 4 August 2017

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

The State of Grace

Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.

Grace has Asperger's and her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more. 

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own.

Grace has had to learn on her feet, struggling through life and its ever-changing rules, when her autism means she sees and is affected by things very differently. She also can't pick up social cues, which is a typical autistic trait, so when things happened (like her mum's sudden need to have a life outside of home, her little sister acting weird with her best friend), they seemed to happen with no warning and Grace struggled to deal with it. 

Personally, I think this was very apt; from my experience dating someone with autism, they don't think about anyone outside their little bubble - my fiancé once explained it to me that once I'm not in the vicinity of him anymore, it's as if I cease to exist, he just doesn't think about me (that was years ago, so I'm not longer insulted!). 

Grace was such an amazing character - she was used to being defined by her autism and just desperately wanted to fit in, to be ignored by the mean girls that tease her. She also had an incredible friendship with Anna, who used to her quirks and knew not to push her. Anna was a calming and steady influence when everything else seemed to be falling around her, and for that Grace was very grateful. 

Now, the romance. I really liked them, it was real and endearing. Gabe was her first crush, it's adorable and new, but he just seemed a bit meh. Maybe because they were all 15 and nothing happened to them yet... But it was sweet and a little bit funny to see how Grace dealt with having someone new in her life. 

I had a lovely chat with Rachael at YALC about communicating with autistic people, as I've had 10 years with one of them and I'm still learning! What I loved and especially appreciated about this story, and I told Rachael this, was how realistic the autistic voice seemed to me. This is exactly how my fiancé acted when we were teenagers, still does a bit now, and having a protagonist with autism will explain the spectrum to a much larger audience.

Published 6th April 2017 by Macmillan Children's. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Q and A with Siobhan Curham

Tell it to the MoonToday I have a very special guest: Siohban Curham is here to answer a few questions about her books The Moonlight Dreamers and its sequel Tell It To The Moon, which is out today! You can check out my review for The Moonlight Dreamers here.

Take it away Siobhan!

1 – Might be an obvious start but why focus on female friendship in The Moonlight Dreamers?
Mainly because I’m such a fan of female friendship and I wanted to create a series that celebrated the great things that can be achieved when women or girls come together to support each other in being true to themselves and pursuing their dreams. I also wanted to create something that challenged the culture of bitchiness and comparison that’s encouraged in certain parts of the press and media. That being said, I didn’t want to paint some rosy-tinted world where nothing bad ever happens. In both The Moonlight Dreamers and Tell it to the Moon certain friendships are tested and challenges need to be overcome.

2 – Were there any inspirations, real or fictional, for the girls’ characters?
I was inspired to create Rose’s character by observing the way the kids of celebrities are flung into their parents’ spotlight. It can be hard enough growing up in the relative privacy of a non-celebrity world, but when your parents are famous and you end up becoming famous as an extension it must be really hard. Through Rose I wanted to show the negative side of the celebrity bubble. I was inspired to create Maali for two reasons, firstly, to try and offer some ethnic and spiritual diversity – there seem to be very few religious characters in YA fiction – but I was also drawing upon some of my own personal experiences as a hopeless romantic! With Amber I wanted to create someone who doesn’t want to squeeze herself to fit into any of society’s so-called norms. Someone who likes dressing in vintage men’s clothing and is pretty much asexual. But it was equally important to me to not make too big of a deal of this – as I don’t think it is a big deal. I wish everyone was free to live and dress exactly as they wish, without being judged. And Sky is probably the most like me, with her hippy lifestyle and love of writing.

3 – Other than Oscar Wilde, what books do you think the girls should or do take inspiration from?
I would say that they’d take inspiration from Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clariss Pinkola Estees. And any books that celebrate female friendship, like The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood.

4 – Was there a book that made you want to write?
As a child the first book that made me realise how powerful words and stories can be was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – I cried my eyes out when I thought Aslan had died. As a teen, reading The Catcher in the Rye made me realise how powerful a character’s voice can be. And, as an adult, I was really inspired to finally begin writing by an author called Lisa Jewell because I loved the characters she created and how the worlds of her books are so vividly drawn they’re almost characters in their own right.

5 – Finally, what did you dream about as a teenager?
Apart from a brief spell when I wanted to be a forensic scientist – after becoming hooked on a TV show called Quincy – I’ve always dreamed of being a writer. Sadly, when I got to university to study English Literature and Screen-writing as part of that dream, I had a crisis of confidence and dropped out. Coming from a poor background on a council estate I didn’t think I had what it took to be a part of the middle class world of writing. Thankfully, I proved myself wrong and I’ve now written twenty-three books – under my own name and as a ghost-writer. This is why I feel so passionately about encouraging young people to dare to dream – I don’t want them to make the same mistake I did.