Sunday 31 May 2015

Weekly Highlights: the 'June 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!

Another 'I forgot last week, here have lot's of stuff' update I'm afraid. Actually, not a lot to report, book or personal wise. Got a couple of review books that I'm really excited about, details below, and personal wise I have an interview for a part time job at a jewelers next week! I'm nervous and excited, I really want this one, so please wish me luck!

On The Blog
Review of 99 Days by Katie Cotugno (4 stars)
Review of The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (5 stars)
Guest post: Ravinder Randhawa blog tour
Review of Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham (4 stars)
Review of From The Mixed-up Files of Mrs Basil E Frankweiler by EL Konigsburg (4 stars)

Currently Reading
Just finished Cinder which was incredible! I'm now onto a review book: How To Be Bad.

On My Bookshelf
One by Sarah Crossan
Grace and Tippi are twins – conjoined twins.

And their lives are about to change.

No longer able to afford homeschooling, they must venture into the world – a world of stares, sneers and cruelty. Will they find more than that at school? Can they find real friends? And what about love?

But what neither Grace or Tippi realises is that a heart-wrenching decision lies ahead. A decision that could tear them apart. One that will change their lives even more than they ever imagined…

I haven't read anything about conjoined twins before, which I am a little wary about, but I adore Sarah Crossan so I am ready to be surprised! Thank you Bloomsbury and Netgalley!

How To Be Bad by E Lockhart
When you're tired of being good, sometimes you gotta be a little bad ...

Jesse, Vicks and Mel couldn't be more different. Jesse, a righteous Southern gal who's as thoughtful as she is uptight, is keeping a secret that she knows will change her life forever. Vicks is a wild child: seemingly cool, calm and collected on the outside, but inside she's furious at herself for being so anxious about her neglectful boyfriend. And Mel is the new girl in town. She's already been dismissed as just another rich kid, but all she wants is to get over some of her fears and find some true friends. 

But for all their differences, the girls discover they've got one thing in common - they're desperate to escape. Desperate to get the heck out of Niceville and discover their true 'badass' selves! Even if it's just for the weekend ... One 'borrowed' car later, it's time to hit the road and head for Miami. Hearts will be broken, friendships will be tested, and a ridiculously hot stranger could change the course of everything.

I could not resist a new E Lockhart book! Co-authored by Lauren Myracle and Sarah Mlynowski, I'm really intrigued about this one. Thank you Hot Key!

June TBR
I've got books 2 and 3 of The Lunar Chronicles to read after the amazing Cinder. Then I think it'll be something light-hearted, probably The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson. And how about we try something different: choose for me! All The Bright Places, The Diviners or We Are All Made of Molecules - let me know which one I should read next.

Friday 29 May 2015

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg

Dark black sketches by author add to this file, starting with a letter from Mrs. Frankweiler 82, to her lawyer Saxonburg. Claudia 11, bored by suburbia luxury and responsibility, runs away with wealthier brother Jamie 9, to the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art (map included). The collector sold the museum a small statue, the Angel. By Michelangelo or not? Claudia must know.

This is a re-published classic children's story, originally from the 60's. Just a little early for me(!) but I understand that a whole generation of writers was inspired by this story. And having read it, I can see why.

A short and sweet story, it tells of Claudia and her desire to run away. Not because she's unhappy but more because she wants to change. She enlists the help of her younger bother Jamie and they catch the train into the city and live in the Museum of Art. They learn to avoid the guards, sleep in ancient royalty's beds, wash in the restaurant fountain and then there are pulled into the mystery of a possible Michaelangelo statue. 

Both kids were adorable and had their own personalities, yet I could tell they were siblings. Claudia, as the oldest child, was bossy, stubborn, liked to give directions but not take them, while Jamie, only 8, was surprisingly smart and money-conscious. They bickered but they relied on each other and I loved that portrayal. 

As we get through the book, more clues pour out about this narrator. I really liked how it was told from Mrs Frankweiler's perspective but as if she was acting as an omniscient observer. All becomes clear by the end of the book, and in a nice clean circle. A sweet little tale of discovering secrets and growing up. 

Published 4th June 2015 by Pushkin Children's Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham

His lips touched mine and for one split second the whole world stopped.
Then every cell in my body fizzed into life . . .

When I decided to write a book about my life I thought I'd have to make loads of stuff up. I mean, who wants to read about someone like me?

But as soon as I started writing, the weirdest thing happened. I found out I wasn't who I thought I was. And I stopped being scared. Then everything went crazy!

Best of all, I discovered that when you finally decide to be brave it's like waving a wand over your life - the most magical things can happen . . .

Claire is very bored and unhappy with her life; her mum and step-dad don't understand her, she is being bullied at school and her best friend has moved away, leaving her alone. Then a surprise birthday birthday card from her father changes everything. She discovers how she has been lied to, her real name and a connection with her dad.

There was amazing character development with Cherokee; her desire to write and accidentally finding her biological father makes her want to change. And apart from a drastic haircut, it's all internal, which I find very important for how she changes the way she sees herself. Her father is the most important influence, with was refreshing. Yes there is a cute boy in the mix and Cherokee does want to be better for him but it's not her driving force. She wants to change for herself, which is commendable and quite rare in YA. Plus her dad learns some things about himself, as he quickly becomes a proper father, looking after his daughter in everything. He was very eager to be a part of Cherokee's life but at times you could tell it was too much and I was worried he'd run off again. Luckily there was a happy ending.

I very much identified with Cherokee being bullied; it is a horrible feeling, being victimised, tortured somewhere you're supposed to be safe. The threats she got were at the extreme end of the scale but I could completely empathizes with her feelings of helplessness and the need to run away. I was however incredibly impressed with the bravery she finds to face her bullies by telling the school what has been happening. It astounded me that the faculty had no idea how cruel some of the students were.

An amazing story of discovering and being true to yourself, with some pretty awesome characters that also have some things to learn. Cherokee is a great heroine, a normal girl with normal problems, who manages to overcome the trials of life by becoming stronger than she thought she could be. A girl who everyone should aspire to be more like.

Published 4th March 2013 by Egmont Electric Monkey.

Monday 25 May 2015

Blog Tour: Ravinder Randhawa guest post

Today I have the pleasure of opening Ravi's blog tour for her books Beauty and the Beast and Dynamite. Below we have a guest post from the author herself and a giveaway, which you can enter here!

Why I have British-Asian Protagonists
My main protagonist is always a British-Asian woman, no matter what the story-line may be. However, characters from all kinds of backgrounds populate my novels too, but the leading character is always British-Asian and female. 

 In the beginning it was a way of exploring my own existence as a British-Asian woman: externalising experience, history, and ideas through the fictional form. A novel is often a way of answering and re-ordering the world, of saying, ‘actually the reality is a little different to what you imagine, and we don’t like the clothes you’re putting us into therefore we’re going to do this... .’ The ‘this’ can be anything from a character initiating a masquerade, as the heroine of my first novel A Wicked Old Woman does, to a character saying, ‘you may be right, but I’m going to turn things upside down and sideways around and give MY take on the potpourri of life’, as Hari-jan does in Beauty and the Beast, the YA novel.  

Although I don’t write ‘experiential’ novels, i.e. novels that are derived largely from the writer’s life experience, I do feel it to be more truthful to me as a writer to make the main protagonist British-Asian, because that’s the lens through which I see the world. Not Indian, not English, but this strange hybrid that’s evolved in England; which is a little bit of India, a little bit of England and a little bit of something new. I suppose I could call it my sensibility, consciousness, perception…

I feel this double-faceted lens, gives a richer, broader, more imaginative view of the world. Instinctively therefore, I know there’s a greater complexity to life, a diversity of ideas and perspectives, which may contradict each other, or stand oddly next to each other, but which encourage tolerance, thoughtfulness and the development of knowledge. Like a tapestry woven from different patterns. 

In addition, it’s as if my main protagonist, because she’s British-Asian and female, is my partner. We launch ourselves into a story (onto a sea as it were) and we don’t know exactly where we’re going, what unknown perils or problems are going to come up and  threaten to derail us, or what’s going to happen at the end, but somehow, we get there together. 
The red-hot alarm, the danger is that the writer must not confuse herself with the protagonist. This is a challenge all writers face. It’s the point where writing becomes as much craft as creativity, ensuring that the characters, whoever they are, belong entirely to themselves and sustain their own existence on the page. With their own logic, contradictions, conflicts, weaknesses, ambitions, ambiguities or whatever comes from the theme. And this takes a lot of work. For me, developing the characters (whether British-Asian or not) goes hand in hand with developing the story. It doesn’t happen in one go, but through revisions, changes and edits. Well, they do say, character is story and story is character. 

 A novel is a conversation between the writer and the reader conducted through the fictional character. Each brings their own knowledge, experience, curiosity or expectations to it. I believe that fiction presents truths, and therefore fiction, whether as books, poems or songs, is as necessary to life as the clothes we wear. Stories have been told since time immemorial, whether around village fires, medieval halls or through YouTube shorts. Because of the importance of story, fiction, truth, perhaps intuitively I start from a central point in my consciousness, and then develop character and story as far as they can imaginatively travel. 

Actually, most writers do exactly the same! Most white male writers, have white male protagonists, most black women writers have black women protagonists and so on. I believe that stories should stand on their own, irrespective of who or what the writer is, but the consciousness composing the story, inevitably filters through. 

My protagonists are British-Asian females, but the stories in which they star can be adventures, dreams, sci-fi, social issues, or the turmoil of love and heartbreak. 

Ravinder Randhawa     14th May 2015.

Friday 22 May 2015

The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare

When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...

Exotic and gritty, exhilarating and utterly gripping, Cassandra Clare's ferociously entertaining fantasy takes readers on a wild ride that they will never want to end.

When Clary discovers she is a Shadowhunter, her world is turned upside down. Over six books, she and friends try to take down manic-Shadowhunter and Clary's father, Valentine. 

There are many things I loved about this series. The characters are amazingly varied, from in-the-closet, bad ass with a bow, Alec and magical Magnus with his glittered hair, to mundane turned vampire Simon. I also loved the love story. Thinking they were brother and sister for a while did put a crimp in the tale but all they've been through just makes Clary and Jace stronger. 

The series actually works in two trilogies. In books one to three, Clary and Jace fight their feelings for each other after they were told they are brother and sister. Awkward or what? They all also have to figure out Valentine's next move, as he attempts to take over Idris and all Shadowhunters. Valentine's action's escalate until Clary is forced to do something desperate, to stop him and to save Jace.

Then in books four to six, it's Valentine's son Sebastian that they have to look out for. Cunning, charming and even more dangerous than Valentine, Sebastian has a different plan for Shadowhunters, one that threatens all their lives. What I especially loved about the complicated plot was how it all linked together. Although the series is roughly split in half, events overlap and affect things and people throughout the books. 

This is an epic urban fantasy series and one of my favourite series ever. Just everything about it, from the characters, the world building, the magical creatures, everything adds up to make one incredible story. The journey the group goes on, to save themselves and the world of Shadowhunters, is awe-inspiring and so amazingly written, you just fly through the pages. A great series that cannot be recommended enough.

Tuesday 19 May 2015

99 Days by Katie Cotugno

Molly Barlow is facing one long, hot summer--99 days--with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for . . . his brother.

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that's how I know everyone still remembers everything. She has every right to hate me, of course: I broke Patrick Donnelly's heart the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. Now I'm serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn't finished. I'm expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it's just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. "For what it's worth, Molly Barlow," he says, "I'm really glad you're back."

Day 12: Gabe wouldn't quit till he got me to come to this party, and I'm surprised to find I'm actually having fun. I think he's about to kiss me--and that's when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who's supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who's never going to forgive me.

Molly is, understandably, nervous about returning to her home town after her mother wrote a very popular book on her tangled love life. I loved Cotugno's first book, it is one of my favourite contemporary love stories ever, so I expected great things from her next novel. And she really did deliver! Molly's complicated love life is the inspiration for her mother's new novel and all of a sudden, the whole town knows how Molly cheated on her boyfriend with his brother. Molly just needs to survive this summer, just 99 days, before she escapes forever to college. But she can't hide from everything.

Told day by day, we see Molly venture into her town, her old life, and get punished for it. It's pretty clear that Molly punishes herself enough but her old friends are quick to pick on her for past mistakes. However, Gabe to the rescue! Gabe, the older brother, was confident and stood up for Molly, and slowly brings her out of her shell again. They seemed to pick up right where they left off when she ran away and they did have feelings for each other but this is no way to start a relationship. Meanwhile Patrick was the wounded one, the jilted one, even though as it turns out, he wasn't exactly perfect either. But they grew up together and naturally came together, but that doesn't mean they're perfect as a couple.

The brothers constantly fight over her and I know she's entangled with both of them but sometimes I wanted Molly to turn them both down! The whole thing is insanely complicated and juicy, as Molly tries to juggle love, work and friends, all the while holding off the hounds after her blood. I knew that this book would break my heart, it was inevitable as soon as Patrick was drawn back in, but it was so damn good! A clever and heart-wrenching story of first loves and discovering yourself. Cotugno is officially on my auto-buy list if all she writes can pull my heartstrings like this!

Published 7th May 2015 by Quercus. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Weekly Highlights: the 'Bout of Books' 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!

Forgot to do one last week, so this is two weeks worth of stuff. This past week has been a little busy. I've been doing the normal job hunting and lounging in front of the TV but I've also been volunteering again, had my haircut, went shopping with the parents and made plans to meet up with my old school librarian. And of course it's been Bout of Books so every spare minute I've been reading. It's been pretty good this time, I'm on book 5 and hope to finish that before tonight. I've been on twitter but I haven't really been commenting on blogs so, sorry about that!

On The Blog
Review of The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell (5 stars)
Review of Simon Versus the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (5 stars)
Review of Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (4 stars)
Review of The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson (4.5 stars)

Currently Reading
Murder Most Unladylike  - book 5 in my Bout of Books challenge. Pretty good stuff so far, loving the boarding school setting.

On My Bookshelf
99 Days by Katie Cotugno
Molly Barlow is facing one long, hot summer--99 days--with the boy whose heart she broke and the boy she broke it for . . . his brother.

Day 1: Julia Donnelly eggs my house my first night back in Star Lake, and that's how I know everyone still remembers everything. She has every right to hate me, of course: I broke Patrick Donnelly's heart the night everything happened with his brother, Gabe. Now I'm serving out my summer like a jail sentence: Just ninety-nine days till I can leave for college and be done.

Day 4: A nasty note on my windshield makes it clear Julia isn't finished. I'm expecting a fight when someone taps me on the shoulder, but it's just Gabe, home from college and actually happy to see me. "For what it's worth, Molly Barlow," he says, "I'm really glad you're back."

Day 12: Gabe wouldn't quit till he got me to come to this party, and I'm surprised to find I'm actually having fun. I think he's about to kiss me--and that's when I see Patrick. My Patrick, who's supposed to be clear across the country. My Patrick, who's never going to forgive me.

I was so excited for this, I loved How to Love, her first book so I was expecting great things. And boy did she deliver! Thank you Quercus for my copy! Review to (hopefully) come this week.

From The Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L Konigsburg
Dark black sketches by author add to this file, starting with a letter from Mrs. Frankweiler 82, to her lawyer Saxonburg. Claudia 11, bored by suburbia luxury and responsibility, runs away with wealthier brother Jamie 9, to the NY Metropolitan Museum of Art (map included). The collector sold the museum a small statue, the Angel. By Michelangelo or not? Claudia must know.

Another review book, this time from Pushkin. I was asked to review this; I haven't actually heard of it but apparently it was a big title when it was first published in the 60's and inspired loads of great writers. It's a nice little children's book so I thought I'd give it go - thank you Pushkin!

Friday 15 May 2015

The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

For fans of John Green, David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell: a beautiful, funny and heartfelt novel about love and forgiveness. Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life - and suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two boys. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow; the other comforts her in it. But the two can't collide without Lennie's world exploding...

Lennie has lost her sister, dramatically and suddenly, and she finds herself lost in grief. She writes little notes to sum up her feelings before dropping them around town. The strong and sad prose and the odd pieces of poetry offer a unique insight into Lennie's confused head. Especially her strange reasoning as she gets close to Bailey's boyfriend Toby, the only one who seems to understand how she feels. 

Then there's Joe, new boy in town, who doesn't treat Lennie with kid gloves, pulls her out of her funk, makes her laugh when she thought she'd forgotten how. Lennie is stuck between two guys, both very different but both helping her deal with Bailey's death in different ways. The whole story revolves around the deep and soul-crushing emotions rolling around in Lennie's head, and her trying to deal with them. She's devastated at Bailey's death but feels guilty for being happy with Joe.

I read this after I'll Give You The Sun, so I can see how Nelson's writing has evolved, how she is very skilled at writing tantalising and emotive characters. Speaking of which, I loved the diversity in Lennie's family, from hippy and green-thumbed Gram to hulking but sweet Uncle Big. In the end, Lennie realises that she's been wallowing in her own grief without noticing theirs. 

Lennie properly screws things up, with just about everyone, in her attempt to get back to normal. But grief makes people do stupid things and it may have taken Lennie a while to get to a near-happy place but her journey is a powerful one. An incredible story with unforgettable characters and a moving story of love between two sisters and their family.

Published 5th February 2015 by Walker.

Wednesday 13 May 2015

Top Laugh Out Loud Books

Sometimes we just need something funny, something out there and weird that makes us laugh. And as I'm struggling with the whole "adult life" nonsense, I thought I'd share my list of books that never fail to make me giggle.

1 - Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging - my all time favourite teen series, one that runs throughout my teen years. I once spit out water from laughing while reading this, and burst out laughing on a train station. That was awkward. 

2 - Geek Girl - Harriet is funny without realising and the situations she finds herself in, especially modelling-wise, bless her, she is so out of her depth!

3 - Don't Even Think About It - a group of teens develop mind reading powers and can snoop in classmates and families heads? Yeah, it's kinda awkward and reveals some cringe-worthy secrets but God it was funny!

4 - Lobsters - Sam and Hannah's hit and miss story is heart warming and funny, mostly because it captures teenage life so well, especially that pressure to find The One

5 - The Duff - a bit more cynical than romantic but just as funny as any other teen rom-com. Bianca is a great heroine, doesn't take any crap, sarcastic and surprisingly soppy.

6 - Anna and the French Kiss - ah, St Clair. I almost don't need to say anything about Perkins' books. I love Anna and St Clair's story, it's funny and romantic and perfect. 

7 - From What I Remember - the absolutely ridiculous tale of getting kidnapped to Mexico on the trail of the perfect graduation speech. So very funny, a little cringe-y with some awkward kisses and a run across the border thrown in.

8 - Paper Towns - first Margo's late night quest then Q's determination to find her, the whole adventure is insane and hilarious. Plus Black Santa's, enough said. 

9 - The End of the World as We Know It - group if misfits try and survive an alien invasion with water pistols and inappropriate humour. Bring it on!

10 - Attachments - another rom-com of a book. I got my laughs imagining Lincoln's face as he read private and in-joke emails between two colleagues. It's a little awkward but you can't help rooting for Lincoln and Beth, even as he's snooping on her secrets.
Any of these on your lists too? Have I missed any? Let me know!

Monday 11 May 2015

Killer Instinct by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Seventeen-year-old Cassie Hobbes has a gift for profiling people. Her talent has landed her a spot in an elite FBI program for teens with innate crime-solving abilities, and into some harrowing situations. After barely escaping a confrontation with an unbalanced killer obsessed with her mother’s murder, Cassie hopes she and the rest of the team can stick to solving cold cases from a distance.

But when victims of a brutal new serial killer start turning up, the Naturals are pulled into an active case that strikes too close to home: the killer is a perfect copycat of Dean’s incarcerated father—a man he’d do anything to forget. Forced deeper into a murderer’s psyche than ever before, will the Naturals be able to outsmart the enigmatic killer’s brutal mind games before this copycat twists them into his web for good?

Book two of The Naturals and we come back still a little shaken by the events of last book, especially the betrayal of Agent Locke. There is a new handler and a new case focused on Dean's mass murdering father - understandably, emotions run a little high.

Cassie and the team have the lovely task of getting into the old cases and this new one, to try and decipher the killer's motivation and if/how much Dean's father is involved. It is always super creepy trying to get into the head of a killer, especially this one, but I've got that morbid curiosity necessary to love it. It was also really interesting psychology with this killer, the vying for attention. And of course I had several guesses throughout the book and only one was nearly correct!

The other thing is the interaction between the team, which is always hilariously awkward. They all can get into each other's heads, which makes secret crushes and white lies basically non-existent. Plus Cassie is a great heroine; she is protective of the people she cares about, maybe a little reckless, caught in a love triangle that doesn't annoy me. Dean and Michael take things up a notch with Cassie and for once, this love triangle actually worked, partly because the boys are so different, partly because Cassie truly feels for both of them. 

There were a lot more hidden truths, more sudden twists than the first one; it was exciting and breath taking and damn creepy. A fantastic sequel that set up great things for book three.

Published 6th November 2014 by Quercus.  

Saturday 9 May 2015

Bout of Books 13: sign up and goals

"The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 11th and runs through Sunday, May 17th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 13 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog."

Yes, it's that time again! Starting Monday, I want to read at least three books, which are books 2 to 4 (Legacy, Fracture and Resistance) of the Night School series by CJ Daugherty. Depending on how my reading goes over the weekend, I will also be reading/finishing Finding Cherokee Brown by Siobhan Curham. 

A few titles that I could read, if all goes well, include: The Accidental Life of Jessie Jefferson by Paige Toon, We Are All Made of Molecules by Susan Nielson and Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens. Let me know which ones I should read first, because otherwise I'll just flip a coin. 

There we have it. I also want to comment and tweet more this time around, find some new blogs and new bloggers to cheer on. Let me know if you're taking part and what you're reading! Good luck!

Friday 8 May 2015

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

This book is one of my new favourites, not just because the importance and diversity of the story, but also the hilarious characters. It was so very funny and awkward and romantic; literally I spent half the time crying, the other half laughing. 

So, Simon is gay and no one except a stranger on the internet knows. The whole arc of the story was about Simon coming out and accepting who is he; it also had a really in depth look at what it means and who it affects to come out, in terms of family and friends, and the person's self-esteem. The narrative is split between the main story, told from Simon's perspective, and Simon and Blue's emails, as they get closer - very sweet and personal way of getting to know them both. 

Along with the whole 'being who you truly are', the book also deals with emotional blackmail, a little bullying and the heartless nature of outing. Simon wasn't a great hero, just a normal guy and I think that was very important in how he handled things, i.e. not great. He was absolutely adorable and funny and nice but also protective and daft and fairly secretive. I think the big difference with this book was that Simon was ok with being gay, it was the reaction from his friends and family that worried him. Luckily, they know him so well, they practically already knew but it was nice that he had that support system. 

As I said, a new favourite of mine. It was romantic, heart-felt, hilarious and so very important to show a different sort of love story. 

Published 7th April 2015 by Penguin. 

Tuesday 5 May 2015

The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

And these are they. My final moments. They say a warrior must always be mindful of death, but I never imagined that it would find me like this . . .

Japanese teenager, Sora, is diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease). Lonely and isolated, Sora turns to the ancient wisdom of the samurai for guidance and comfort. But he also finds hope in the present; through the internet he finds friends that see him, not just his illness. This is a story of friendship and acceptance, and testing strength in an uncertain future.

It is surprisingly difficult to express my feelings about this book. I literally had all of the feels reading this, from insane joy at their friendship to incredible sadness at Sora's situation. The whole thing was so very sad but powerful and really emphasised the importance of friendship.

Through Sora's difficult and painful story, we see him come to grips with his illness, how his family and friends deal with it - or not, as the case may be - and accepting our fate, no matter how hard that is. Sora especially has a tough time realising his limitations and comes to the horrible but very brave decision.

We also saw the impact of the internet generation, both the good and bad. What I did love was how Sora used chat rooms to connect with other people; we may be often warned of the dangers of strangers on the net but sometimes strangers are just what we need, and people are usually nicer than we give them credit for. However, we also saw the bad side with dangerous spam making the rounds, corrupting poor young minds. It was all completely realistic, showing how ingrained the internet is in our lives and how much we rely on it. 

This book was just incredible. From the setting and Japanese history to the important message of acceptance, it was very much a roller coaster of emotions but an amazing story.

Published 29th January 2015 by Definitions.

Sunday 3 May 2015

Weekly Highlights: the 'May 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!

I haven't got much to report this week; I am officially job-less so a lot of time was spent job-hunting and application form-filling. I also watched too much TV and re-organised my room a couple of times. Again, some internet hugs would be much appreciated before I go crazy from boredom!

On The Blog
Review of New Girl by Paige Harbison (4 stars)
Review of Rogue by Julie Kagawa (4 stars)

Currently Reading
Nearly finished TMI series, on book 6! 

On My Bookshelf
The Diviners by Libba Bray
Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister's recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it's unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the 'natural wonders' of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It's only with Violet that Finch can be himself - a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who's not such a freak after all. And it's only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet's world grows, Finch's begins to shrink.

These two I treated myself to on my last day of work - The Diviners has been on my wishlist for about two years and All The Bright Places Jess recommended to me. 

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
Deepdean School for Girls, 1934. When Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong set up their very own deadly secret detective agency, they struggle to find any truly exciting mysteries to investigate. (Unless you count the case of Lavinia's missing tie. Which they don't, really.)

But then Hazel discovers the Science Mistress, Miss Bell, lying dead in the Gym. She thinks it must all have been a terrible accident - but when she and Daisy return five minutes later, the body has disappeared. Now the girls know a murder must have taken place . . . and there's more than one person at Deepdean with a motive.

Now Hazel and Daisy not only have a murder to solve: they have to prove a murder happened in the first place. Determined to get to the bottom of the crime before the killer strikes again (and before the police can get there first, naturally), Hazel and Daisy must hunt for evidence, spy on their suspects and use all the cunning, scheming and intuition they can muster. But will they succeed? And can their friendship stand the test?

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielson
Stewart is geeky, gifted but socially clueless. His mom has died and he misses her every day.

Ashley is popular, cool but her grades stink. Her dad has come out and moved out – but not far enough.Their worlds are about to collide: Stewart and his dad are moving in with Ashley and her mom. Stewart is trying to be 89.9% happy about it even as he struggles to fit in at his new school. But Ashley is 110% horrified and can’t quite get used to her totally awkward home. And things are about to get a whole lot more mixed up when they attract the wrong kind of attention. . .

And these two are from the staff room - Murder Most Unladylike I've heard loads of great things but have hesitated picking it up because it looked a little young. Am happy to be proved wrong! And We Are All Made of Molecules is Waterstones Loves for May, and sounds really sweet. 

My TBR shelf has gotten a little bit out of control again, so I will be dealing with that, starting with Finding Cherokee Brown then the rest of the Night School series. I also Nowhere But Here to read for review, which is due out early June. If you guys have any ideas of what I should bunk to the top of the pile, let me know!

Friday 1 May 2015

Rogue by Julie Kagawa

Deserter. Traitor. ROGUE. Ember Hill left the dragon organization Talon to take her chances with rebel dragon Cobalt and his crew of rogues. But Ember can't forget the sacrifice made for her by the human boy who could have killed her—Garret Xavier Sebastian, a soldier of the dragonslaying Order of St. George, the boy who saved her from a Talon assassin, knowing that by doing so, he'd signed his own death warrant. Determined to save Garret from execution, Ember must convince Cobalt to help her break into the Order's headquarters. With assassins after them and Ember's own brother helping Talon with the hunt, the rogues find an unexpected ally in Garret and a new perspective on the underground battle between Talon and St. George. A reckoning is brewing and the secrets hidden by both sides are shocking and deadly. Soon Ember must decide: Should she retreat to fight another day...or start an all-out war?

Book two picks up where Talon left off, with Ember on the run with Riley, Garrett in trouble with St George, and Dante getting ever deeper into Talon's organisation. Ember convinces Riley to help her with a near-suicidal attempt to rescue Garrett from St George's firing squad, then all of them are on the run, with both St George and Talon closing in. They run to Las Vegas, hiding in plain sight as it were, while Riley can check in with sources and plan his next move for his underground organisation.

This installment was much more action-packed than book one; just as fun and fascinating to read but much more on the line. There were also odd chapters with Cobalt's back story, which was really interesting. We saw how Agent Cobalt became Riley the runaway and what happened that forced him to attack Talon and undermine their authority with hatchlings. We also had some progression with Ember and Garrett, as poor Ember is trying to balance her dragon and human side, Riley pulling her one way, Garrett the other. Honestly, I'm not sure how she should choose, both bring out different sides to her; I mean, I like Riley but I like Ember more when she's with Garrett but he's human! Ah, it's a conundrum! 

Like I said, much more heart-stopping action in this one, it was straight in the deep end of lies, traitors and backstabbing, plus we were exposed to more of the horror that Talon is capable of. Seriously, with them all on the run, Talon had a lot more to lose and apparently more to willingly sacrifice. What they did to innocent hatchlings, warping their minds, especially Dante, really drove home what the right thing to do was for Ember. Plus that cliffhanger really left things hanging - my God, how cruel is that? I need my hands on the next book asap please!

Published 7th May 2015 by Mira Ink. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.