Wednesday 31 August 2016

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham

The Moonlight DreamersA inspirational, heart-warming book about four girls trying to find their place in the world. Siobhan Curham celebrates very different but like-minded friends in this captivating novel.

Amber craves excitement and adventure. Instead, she’s being bullied at school for having two dads, and life at home isn’t much better. Inspired by Oscar Wilde, Amber realizes that among the millions of people in London, there must be others who feel the same as she does; other dreamers – moonlight dreamers. After chance encounters with Maali, Sky and Rose, Amber soon recruits the three girls to the Moonlight Dreamers. It’s high time they started pursuing their dreams, and how better than with the support of friends?

Straight from the off, I knew this would be a great story. Curham successfully blended the incredible diversity of London and the common tribulations to teenagers, showing how people can look so different on the outside but feel the same on the inside. Case in point, Sky and Rose: brought together by their parents dating, they appear exact opposites but soon discover that you can't judge a book by its cover. 

Then there's Maali, who just wanted somewhere she could fit in and make new friends. And Amber, who started all of this to find kindred spirits and support. I loved how at the core it was about proper friendship, not the typical bitchy rivalry between girls. And they might have started on the wrong foot, especially with Rose just gatecrashing, but they discover something about themselves and each other in their friendships.

I adored this story. Like I said, it was all about the power of friendship but the girls all had their own individual troubles to handle, like Amber and her two dad's arguing, Sky's dad seeming to change for his new relationship with Rose's mum, the idiotic thing that Rose did for her boyfriend and him using it against her, and Maali plucking up the courage to offer her heart. It was all about growing up, becoming your own person and not just accepting but celebrating their differences. All in all, a powerful story that everyone can relate to, and should read. 

Published 7th July 2016 by Walker.

Monday 29 August 2016

Run by Kody Keplinger

RunBo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and an alcoholic mom. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn't care what anyone thinks.

Agnes Atwood has never stayed out past ten p.m., never gone on a date and never broken any of her parents' overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally-blind daughter, but Agnes isn't quite sure what they are protecting her from.

Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it's the sort of friendship that runs more deeply than anything else. But when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, police sirens wailing in the distance, Agnes is faced with the biggest choice she's ever had to make. Run, or stay?

I'm sure most of you know that I am a huge fan of Kody Keplinger. Her writing and and portrayal of relationships and teenage angst is brilliantly entertaining so I was all over her new book. Right from the start, it had a different feel to her other books, as we hear from both Bo and Agnes' perspectives and from different times in the storyline. 

I still really liked it, just different, with Agnes' POV in the past, we saw how their friendship developed as well as how Agnes struggles with the day to day of living with partial sight. And then from Bo, we see how she fights every day to be treted properly and the two girls on the run to find Bo's father.

As it was about two girls, I really appreciated how it focused on the friendship; it could have turned into a non-platonic relationship, especially as Bo comes out as bisexual, but there aren't enough stories out there about supportive female friendships that I'm glad it didn't. Agnes and Bo have a special bond in that no one else has bothered to understand them and I really liked how they bought out the best in each other. 

Like I said, this had a different feel to Keplinger's other books and that might have something to do with the fact that it had that personal tone with Agnes. Keplinger herself is legally blind and she's said that she drew on her own experiences to give what Agnes goes through authenticity. And it really did! Seeing, or not, through Agnes' eyes as she struggles to make out different people, feels like a burden on her family and friends, treated as a child by her parents and teachers, it made my heart hurt. That's what was so great about Bo, she saw Agnes as more than a blind person needing an arm to lean on.

I enjoyed and appreciated Keplinger's latest in a different way than the rest of her books. Most of all, I adored how it was all to do with the girls as people and their friendship, not what they meant to the boys in their lives. 

Published 14th July 2016 by Hodder. 

Friday 19 August 2016

Did I Mention I Miss You? by Estelle Maskame

Did I Mention I Miss You? (The DIMILY Trilogy)It’s been a year since Eden last spoke to Tyler. She remains furious at him for leaving her and has moved on with life in Chicago, where she is at University studying psychology. As school breaks up for the summer, she heads back to Santa Monica, but she’s not the only one with that idea…

Despite their break-up and Tyler’s abrupt departure last summer, is there something Tyler is keeping from Eden? Are they both as over each other as they thought, and could Eden even begin to forgive Tyler?

In Did I Mention I Miss You?, the explosive finale to Estelle Maskame’s phenomenal DIMILY trilogy, can Tyler and Eden finally work things out, against all the odds?

The finale in this amazing trilogy is finally here! I really wanted to know how Maskame was going to deal with the horrible cliffhanger at the end of book two, as Tyler walked out on Eden and left her to deal with the fallout of their relationship becoming public. Well, it's been a year and Eden has had time to go from missing Tyler to being angry with him for abandoning her. So when he turns up again, their reunion isn't what Tyler obviously thought it would be!

The whole story felt less frenzied and a little bit less dramatic, at least in that they have all had a chance to digest the news of their relationship, and while some still hate it, Eden and Tyler go about it much more maturely. Eden's dad and her step-brother Jamie actively despise their relationship but Tyler has obviously grown up a lot in his time away, as shown in that Tyler doesn't punch anyone in the face. But they did need to get away from their families and that's how they end up in Tyler's new home of Portland.

Maskame did an excellent job in making them friends first before anything can be started up again between them. I really liked that, it allowed them to get to know the new versions of themselves and fall in love all over again as adults. 

She also really blurred the line between support and co-dependency; Eden has had no problem being their for Tyler in the past but he comes back with the realisation that it isn't healthy for him to depend on Eden for everything from talking him down when he's angry, to building his confidence back up. They come back together by the end of this book as mentally healthy adults and equals and I really appreciated the nuances of them having time to mature but still wanting to be together for all the right reasons. A fantastic and satisfying end to an amazing romantic story.

Published 21st July 2016 by Black and White. 

Tuesday 16 August 2016

What's A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne

What's a Girl Gotta Do? (The Spinster Club, #3)


1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender

2. Don't call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)

3. Always try to keep it funny

4. Don't let anything slide. Even when you start to break...

Lottie's determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas...

The finale in Bourne's Spinster Club trilogy, it is Lottie's turn in the spotlight, talking about her ambitions for her future and the pressure that came with it. And of course her new feminist revolution, right when she should be preparing for her Cambridge interview. 

Tired of being the brunt of unwanted and just plain rude assumptions and catcalling, Lottie decides to do something about it. By calling out on every instance of sexism she sees, Lottie becomes unpopular and in trouble very quickly, not to mention bullied and trolled online as her revolution gains momentum. 

I really wish I was as brave as Lottie is about calling out the unfair attitudes towards genders but seeing the backlash she endures just makes what she is doing, and what Bourne is writing about, all the more important. It really called attention to how accustomed we are to societal sexism; for instance, Amber having a screaming match with a sale assistant about the pink packaging on pain killers was one of my favourite moments ever. 

I adored every moment of this. Laughing and crying at every page, I thought it was just spectacular how Bourne brought up so many feminist issues, about sexism, equality between genders, more attention on the issues that usually get brushed under the rug and ignored, while not sidelining the person whose fighting for it and her reasons for doing so. Not to mention how much Lottie struggles at some points, how utterly huge the problem seems and useless at fighting it. 

I could go on and on about this book. I haven't even mentioned about supportive and amazing Evie and Amber were to Lottie's mission, nor what an annoying but ultimately fantastic cameraman and partner in crime Will was. All in all, it was a brilliant story with an equally brilliant and important message about feminism and standing up for what you believe in. 

Published 1st August 2016 by Usborne Publishing.

Friday 12 August 2016

The Hawkweed Prophecy by Irena Brignull

The Hawkweed ProphecyThe babies were born as the clock struck twelve. A bat fell from the air mid-flight. A silver salmon floated dead to the surface of the river. Snails withered in their shells, moths turned to dust on the night breeze and an owl ate its young. The spell had been cast.

Poppy Hooper has managed to deceive her father into believing that there is nothing mysterious or unnatural about her. He ignores the cats that find her wherever she goes, the spiders that weave beautiful lacy patterns for her, even her eyes - one blue, one green with an extra black dot orbiting the pupil.

Ember Hawkweed is a pitiful excuse for a witch. When the other girls in her coven brew vile potions, Ember makes soap and perfume. Fair and pretty, Ember is more like a chaff than a witch. One of the Hawkweeds will be queen of the witches - but everyone knows it won't be Ember.

When the two girls meet, Poppy discovers her powers, and finds out the truth. Bound by their unlikely friendship and the boy they both love, the girls try and find their place in the world. But the time of the prophecy draws nearer - and the witches won't give up the throne without a fight.

I was really excited about this one - modern witches, ancient prophecies, switched at birth - what's not to love? And it started out so great! Poppy has always stood out at her school, animals seemed to flock around her, even her poor mother went crazy looking after a little girl who she was sure wasn't her own. Meanwhile, Ember was a pathetic excuse for a witch, getting teased by the girls, especially her "chosen one" cousin Sorrel. Right away, I quite liked how the girls were just looking for where they belonged and a true friend who understood them.

For me, the story started really well but then meandered in the middle and made the ending feel rushed. I really didn't understand Leo's part in the story at all, apart from as Ember's love interest. We meet Leo quite randomly, as a side character in Poppy's half of the story, then Ember falls head over heels for him, as does Sorrel. In some way, I could understand their fascination with him: he was, after all, the first ever boy that they had laid eyes on. I kept waiting for the big connection but I think he was just the love interest, the cute boy for the girls to fight over - which I really didn't like. Not only that, I just didn't understand him; Leo was homeless, ran away from an abusive step-father, but apart from Sorrel fighting them off for him, it wasn't mentioned again! Not to mention, Poppy was such a strong character, desperate to be understood and to find a proper home, but then she gets love struck and nearly ruins her only friendship? Not cool.

I really wanted more about the witches, why they had stayed hidden and apart from the modern world. I could understand that interacting with normal men wrecked their magic but the world has grown since medieval times, they wouldn't have been burnt at the stake anymore! We did get some explanations and the magical realism was really interesting, as was Poppy's part in the prophecy and the coven as a whole.

All in all, I really wanted to like this and I did enjoy it for the most part but the love triangle (maybe a square with Sorrel?) ruined things for me. All of the characters, from the girls to their families, especially the mothers, were such an integral part of the story and their power, both magical and emotional, was sidelined to Leo's character, which mostly just caused a distraction. 

Published 16th June 2016 by Orchard Books. Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Under Rose Tainted Skies by Louise Gornall

Under Rose-Tainted Skies

Agoraphobia confines Norah to the house she shares with her mother.

For her, the outside is sky glimpsed through glass, or a gauntlet to run between home and car. But a chance encounter on the doorstep changes everything: Luke, her new neighbour. Norah is determined to be the girl she thinks Luke deserves: a ‘normal’ girl, her skies unfiltered by the lens of mental illness. Instead, her love and bravery opens a window to unexpected truths …

An important and uplifting debut from a British author, which tackles mental health issues such as agoraphobia and OCD.

I do love a good portrayal of mental health issues and this story was already being raved about before publication, so I knew I had to get my hands on it. Right from the start, we get to experience life through Norah's eyes, terrified by the vastness of the space outside her house, her OCD and anxiety when things don't go the way she expected them to. I instantly fell in love with her voice, it was so honest and heartbreaking, as Norah desperately wanted to be better but was being held hostage by her brain. 

Invisible illnesses can be very difficult to understand and Norah's explanations to how she feels things the way she does, how she will take comfort in the little things she can control but spiral into panic when she can't, was equal parts fascinating and terrifying. Now, I have very little experience with mental health; I have what I would consider fairly normal panic about fears like heights and slipping on ice, and my fiance has Asperger's Syndrome, so I don't know what it's like to feel as if you're being betrayed by your own body. But being inside Norah's head brought all of her fears, her panic and anxiety, her personal issues to the forefront, talking about dealing with these issues honestly and so eloquently. 

Of course there has to be a love interest, something that changes to bring Norah's anxiety to a hilt and force her to change. What I liked about this, well a few things but specifically how Norah's issues didn't just disappear, she had to struggle and learn how to deal with another person in her life. I also really appreciated Luke being human; it was obvious he wanted to know Norah but it is difficult to know how to deal with such a huge illness when you haven't done so before. But he respected her boundaries and only wanted what was best for her, and that was all kinds of adorable.

This is one of those books that stick with you after you've finished. It was such a brilliant portrayal of mental health, especially anxiety and agoraphobia, which isn't tackled in many books, and I thought Gornall did an incredible job in describing the fear, anger and whirlwind of Norah's struggles and eventual progress to recovery. 

Published 7th July 2016 by Chicken House.

Sunday 7 August 2016

Weekly Highlights: the 'Post-YALC' 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!

August already, huh? Summer holidays are half way done and I haven't really managed to do much of my holiday to do list yet - whoops! But, my fiance and I did go to comic con, which was amazing and exhausting. We did two days which meant we had loads more time to wander around but my shoulder still hurts from lugging heavy tote bags!

In other news, I'm only working weekends at the moment, because of summer holidays, so my weeks are being filled with reading, lounging around and the odd spot of baking. September is going to be a harsh turn back to reality!

On The Blog
Here's a few of my favourite reviews from the past month:
Review of The Frenchman's Creek by Daphne Du Maurier (4 stars)
Review of When We Collided by Emery Lord (4.5 stars)
Review of The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (5 stars)
Review of Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell (4 stars)
Review of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (5 stars)

Currently Reading
The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham - purchased at YALC, details below, started it on Friday and at time of writing (Saturday evening), three quarters finished already! Really loving the diversity and the true friendships. 

On My Bookshelf
Blank 133x176Haunt Me by Liz Kessler
Joe wakes up from a deep sleep to see his family leave in a removals van. Where they've gone, he has no idea. Erin moves house and instantly feels at home in her new room. Even if it appears she isn't the only one living in it. Bit by bit, Erin and Joe discover that they have somehow found a way across the ultimate divide - life and death. Bound by their backgrounds, a love of poetry and their growing feelings for each other, they are determined to find a way to be together.

Joe's brother, Olly, never cared much for poetry. He was always too busy being king of the school - but that all changed when Joe died. And when an encounter in the school corridor brings him face to face with Erin, he realises how different things really are - including the kind of girl he falls for.

Two brothers. Two choices. Will Erin's decision destroy her completely, or can she save herself before she is lost forever?

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham
The Moonlight DreamersAmber craves excitement and adventure. Instead, she’s being bullied at school for having two dads, and life at home isn’t much better. Inspired by Oscar Wilde, Amber realizes that among the millions of people in London, there must be others who feel the same as she does; other dreamers – moonlight dreamers. After chance encounters with Maali, Sky and Rose, Amber soon recruits the three girls to the Moonlight Dreamers. It’s high time they started pursuing their dreams, and how better than with the support of friends?

And I Darken by Kiersten White
And I Darken (Conqueror's Saga, #1)No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point.

The first of an epic new trilogy starring the ultimate anti-princess who does not have a gentle heart. Lada knows how to wield a sword, and she'll stop at nothing to keep herself and her brother alive.

These are from YALC - I think I showed tremendous restraint! I mean, I also bought a bag, some posters, some Pop Vinyls and a owl-shaped cushion from the comic con floor, but still! I also got physical copy of The Deviants by CJ Skuse and London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning, both of which are now signed.

On The Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher
On the Other SideEvie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It's the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she's become her twenty-seven-year-old self and the door won't open.

Evie's soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it's too late. As Evie begins the journey of a lifetime, she learns more about life and love than she ever thought possible, and somehow , some way, she may also find her way back to her long lost love . . .

This I got on its publication day before comic con, which I can't believe I haven't read yet but am really looking forward to! Before YALC I also bought What's A Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne (which I got signed) and Run by Kody Kepliner - both of which I've already read. 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Harry Potter, #8)Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling
Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

Ahhh! Picked up my pre-order on Tuesday and read it Wednesday afternoon. It was amazing and incredible and it made me cry and so very happy to have a new HP story!
Holding Up the Universe
Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven
Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed 'America's Fattest Teen'. But no one's taken the time to look past her weight to get to see who she really is. Since her mum's death, she's been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby's ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin too. Yes, he's got swagger, but he's also mastered the art of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a secret: he can't recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He's the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can't understand what's going on with the inner workings of his own brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don't get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game which lands them in group counseling, Libby and Jack are both angry, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world - theirs and yours.

I hadn't even realised this was available until a friend at work mentioned it! Thank you Netgalley, I'm really looking forward to what Niven can come up with next!

August TBR
Most of my TBR will be from my new books from YALC - are there any that I should push to the top of the pile? And then there's my classic for the month, which will be Shirley Jackson's We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

Thursday 4 August 2016

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1)Destined to destroy empires, Mia Covere is only ten years old when she is given her first lesson in death.

Six years later, the child raised in shadows takes her first steps towards keeping the promise she made on the day that she lost everything.

But the chance to strike against such powerful enemies will be fleeting, so if she is to have her revenge, Mia must become a weapon without equal. She must prove herself against the deadliest of friends and enemies, and survive the tutelage of murderers, liars and demons at the heart of a murder cult.

The Red Church is no Hogwarts, but Mia is no ordinary student.

The shadows love her. And they drink her fear.

Right off the bat, I have to say that this book was really quite difficult to get into. The setting and story were both very complex and involved heavy world building, with three suns, warring religions, fear of the dark, this book is definitely not for the faint hearted. Having said that, once I got into the swing of it, I really liked it. The world was fascinating, the characters were brilliant and diverse, and the entire set up with the religions, killing for the goddess of the night or praying to the god of the sun, was just incredible. 

So, we hear from Mia as she travels to the Red Church, a secret school for assassins. As she and fellow traveller Tric make their way across the desert, we have interspersed tales from her childhood, specifically how her father was killed for treason and her family imprisoned, and then how she ended up on the streets and on the path to revenge. 

Mia is a very interesting character. Effectively orphaned at age ten, she is taken in by a merchant and taught how to take her anger and wield it like a weapon to avenge her father and her family. And then there's the shadow shaped like a cat that feeds on her fear and cloaks her in darkness. The shadow not-cat reminded me very strongly of Salem, from Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and that's how I pictured him, with his sarcastic wit and thinly-veiled insults. 

The Red Church was like Hogwarts for assassins, but tougher; if they fail, they die. Literally. Even though it was so tough, the mortal danger was balanced by great characters. The teachers were all slightly insane but very dedicated to their students, and Mia's fellow students all had horrible and specific reasons for being there. Tric in particular was incredible. With Mia from the start of their journey, Tric has been there for Mia through thick and thin, and even though they are supposed to be rivals for the coveted few spots in the Church, they grow closer. I think Tric was good for Mia, he was a human friend and brought out not only her competitive side which aided in the Church, but also passionate and a true ally. 

All in all, a spectacular fantasy world with brilliantly mental characters and a killer story line (see what I did there?). Definitely worth the heavy world building for the dark twists and hot romances. 

Published 11th August 2016 by Harper Voyager. Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my copy in exchange for an honest review.

Monday 1 August 2016

Read Me Like A Book by Liz Kessler

Read Me Like A Book

A brave and honest coming of age story about one girl's exploration of love, identity and sexuality - the first YA novel from bestselling author Liz Kessler. 

Ashleigh Walker is having a difficult year. She's struggling at school, and coming home to parents who are on the verge of divorce. She knows she should be happy spending time with her boyfriend - but, for some reason, being around him just makes her worry more. It's only in her English teacher, Miss Murray, that she feels she's found a kindred spirit. 

Miss Murray helps Ashleigh develop her writing skills and gives her newfound confidence - but what happens when boundaries begin to blur? What will the repercussions be for Ashleigh? And how will she navigate her own sexuality?

A thought-provoking coming of age story from a highly-skilled author, addressing coming out and LGBT themes. For fans of Sarah Waters and Jodie Piccoult.

Honestly, I was a little but nervous to read this, was worried it would cross uncomfortable lines. Turns out while Ashleigh does get feelings for her female teacher, that line is not crossed but it does awaken something in Ash that was always there: that she's gay.

Ashleigh's new teacher is young, fresh faced and really knows how to work a classroom. And also incredibly pretty, at least to Ashleigh. What I really liked about this, it wasn't immediately obvious that Ashleigh was physically attracted to Miss Murray, she just really liked her lessons and wanted to do well in them. 

It wasn't just her sexuality, although that was a big part of it. We also saw exam stress, bullying, funny friendships, the regular teenage troubles. And then there's the coming to terms with her new feelings, the strength needed in coming out to family and friends and finally accepting who she was. 

Throughout it all I thought Ash was really brave, it had to be really weird falling for a girl for the first time, let alone that girl being your teacher! I do think it was good for her though, especially how Kessler wrote about it. Like I said, the line was never crossed but for Ash to finally realise what was obviously part of her, something had to change and Miss Murray was a good influence. All in all, a great coming of age story that deals with complicated issues of sexuality and character; a fantastic addition to LGBT novels. 

Published 31st May 2016 by Orion.