Friday, 26 May 2017

Reviewing the Classics #9 Just So Stories

Goodreads Summary:

Originally told by Rudyard Kipling to his children at bedtime, this compendium of witty tales imagines how animals came to be as they are now. Discover how the massive whale got a tiny throat by swallowing a mariner, how the lazy camel got a hump so that he had no excuse not to work, and why the leopard's spots were painted on.

Kipling's imagination runs wild as he creates charming origin stories that still enchant and delight children to this day. This edition features Kipling's iconic original illustrations

So firstly I'm going to apologise for abandoning my reviewing the classics posts! As I didn't get round to posting one last month, my plan is to post one every month until I'm eventually caught up. This month I decided to go with a children's classic, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. I remember loving these stories as a child, and as Alma sent me such a gorgeous copy, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a reread.

Just So Stories are a collection of twelve short stories with a reocurring theme of how an animal got it's distinguishing feature or personality. Each story gives a fictional and creative explanation for each animal, from how the elephant got it's trunk to explaining how the armadillo came into existance. I loved that every story was short enough to read in a few minutes, making them perfect for bedtime stories. I found myself reading a few of them out loud, as they were told in a way that made them perfect for this. I also thought the repetition of certain phrases would be particularly effective in grabbing the attention of the listener.

Although some of the stories are still relevant today, a few things were dated, and unacceptable in the modern world. One thing I had a problem with came up in The Elephant's Child. Children are naturally curious, and learn by asking questions. I felt as if the Elephant's Child being spanked every time he asked a question was a bad message to send out to children. Another problem was that Kipling's political views came into the stories a few times. Although we shouldn't just forgive Kipling for his controversial political views, he lived during a time when his opinions were more accpted than they are today. Racist language is used a couple of times, particularly in How the leopard got his spots. I feel as if we shouldn't stop children from reading and enjoying classics because of issues like this, but we also need to explain how times have changed. I think Alma did the right thing in their edition by no censoring the book, but giving an explanation as to why this racist language is unacceptable.

I found the way female characters were portrayed as being an issue for young children. We already live in a world where men and women are unequal, with all of the female characters being submissive to their husbands, and occasionally even seeming to be afraid of them. Even though The Butterfly that Stamped was meant to be a light hearted joke, it also showed how the male butterfly had power over his wife, and the events were swung in his favour. Although I doubt young children would pick up on this, I felt as if children old enough to read for themselves possibly could.

Even though I don't condone Kipling himself, I do think he was a talented author. These stories reminded me of Aesops' fables, and I think they are perfect for parents to read to their children at bed time, providing the parent takes sensible precautions in how they wish to proceed with the racist words. All of these stories take around ten minutes to read at the most, so they are perfect for young children who have a short attention span.

Just So Stories is now available to purchase!

 Alma Classics  | Amazon Book Depository 

Friday, 19 May 2017

Review on Noah Can't Even

Everything is going wrong in Noah Grimes' life. Everyone at school thinks he's a loser, his dad left home without a word five years ago, and his beloved gran has dementia. However, all is not lost, as Sophie, a pretty, smart and cool girl in Noah's year may just be interested in him! Noah is delighted. That is until his best friend, Harry kisses him at a party, and his whole world falls apart. Is it possible that Noah could like Harry back? Does that mean he's gay? Amidst his feelings for Harry and having to deal with his mum and her new boyfriend, Noah also discovers a family secret that will change his life forever.

I CAN'T EVEN WITH NOAH CAN'T EVEN!! Honestly this is going to be a long rant about how much I adored this book rather than a constructive review, I just loved it so much. If this book was a person I would marry it. But let me attempt to collect my thought to explain why I loved this book so much.

The book follows Noah Grimes, a fifteen year old in his last year at high school. (I realise Noah would hate me for saying high school rather than secondary school. More on that later!) Noah is by no means popular, and is a bit of a geek. When there is a geek boy in a YA novel, they are usually handsome and tall, with a small group of cool and quirky friends. The standard geek boy is smart beyond his years, makes good decisions and ultimately gets the gorgeous popular girl who is way out of his league. Just read any John Green novel and you'll see the type of character I'm describing. Noah, to my delight, was non of these things! I am young enough to remember being Noah's age, and seeing how awkward fifteen year old boys truly are. They are all stumbling their way through life, desperate to fit in and not draw any attention to themselves that could cause bullying. Noah seemed much more real than other characters his age. There are far too many unrealistic fictional teenage boys with washboard abs and a vocabulary of a thirty year old. I don't know how these boys are affording a gym membership and attending regularly despite school, homework and having a social life, and I don't think Noah does either. I immediately adored Noah, and found him to be extremely relatable.

One thing that made me love this book was how hilarious it was. Noah was constantly getting himself into awkward situations, and then proceeding to make them worse by trying to explain himself. I was constantly laughing out loud at this book, and it's probably for the best that I never read any of it in public, as I'm sure I would have earned myself some very strange looks! I did however also feel sorry for Noah, and the secondary embarrassment was very real to the point I had to put the book down on one occasion, as Noah was just digging his own grave. I adored how awkward Noah was, and I related to him making situations far more complicated than they needed to be.

One character who I just have to talk about is Noah's gran. I also had a gran with dementia, and it was heartbreaking to see her deteriate to the point whre she no longer recognised me, and, like Noah's gran, didn't realise that her husband had died. I completely understood how Noah felt, as it's awful having to watch someone you love losing their memories. I adored Noah's gran, and when she had moments where she seemed to come back to her old self, she gave Noah some good advice. I loved her reaction to Noah telling her about Harry kissing him. I feel as if old people generally seem to be less open minded, so I adored that Noah's gran was completely accepting, and reacted no differently than if Noah had told her that a girl had kissed him. We clearly need more grandparents who are as amazing as Noah's gran in the world!

So speaking of Harry, I have to talk a little about him, and his relationship with Noah. One thing that I adore in YA fiction is when characters who have been best friends since they were little develop romantic feelings for each other. I felt as if the romance between Noah and Harry was executed perfectly! Sexuality can be a confusing thing when you're young. The fact that being heterosexual seems to be the default setting of humans can be confusing for LGBT teenagers, and I felt as if this was defintely a contributing factor for Noah. Although Harry comes out and admits to Noah that he is gay, it's not so easy for Noah to do the same. Everyone discovers their sexuality at a different pace, and this was shown perfectly with the two boys. Noah feels as if he should be attracted to girls not boys, and tries to convince himself that he has romantic feelings for Sophie. Although it is clear to the reader and to Noah's friends that Noah has feelings for Harry, Noah seems to be in denial for a good portion of the book. Sadly I felt as if a big part of this was down to his classmates. Teenagers can be cruel to anyone who is different in an attempt to avoid getting bullied themselves. As Noah spends quite a bit of time trying to fit in, I could see his reasoning behind hiding his true feelings for Harry. Coming out while still in school can be a huge ordeal. A few of my school friends didn't come out until after they had left school, so even though I was rooting for him to tell Harry how he felt, I also saw the situation from his point of view.

One thing that I want to briefly mention is the setting. I adore when YA book are set in Britain, and Noah was very much typically British. One thing that made me laugh was Noah constantly being angry at people for using American dialect. There is no denying that American culture has become a big part of Britain. We consume American movies and TV shows constantly, so there is no surprise that we have also picked up on the words they use. I am very much like Noah in that I often prefer to use British words, despite constantly confusing my American friends,and I found it to be one of Noah's many endearing qualities.

If I was forced to say something that could be seen as negative about this book, it would probably be how unrealistic the plot is. Now let me point out that this didn't personally bother me. Although this is a contemporary book, it is also a comedy, and it just wouldn't have been so funny without all the ridiculous things that happened. However, if you are going into this book expecting it to be realistic, just be warned that it's not. Quite a bit of the plot is pretty ridiculous, over the top and unbelievable. For example, Noah being just about to get on a bus that his dad was getting off was just too much to be a coincidence. However, all the utterly ridiculous things that were happening to Noah simultaneously just added to the charm and humour of the book for me.

This is a fantastic coming of age story that deals with sexuality perfectly, while adding a very accurate interpretation of what it's like to be a teenager. It definitely doesn't shy away from the more awkward and embarrassing aspects of teenage life. I am so happy that I picked up this book, as after falling into a reading slump, it reminded me why I love reading so much!

Noah Can't Even is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Friday, 12 May 2017

Book Club Picks #6 No Virgin

 “My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.”

After Stacey becomes a rape victim, she is reluctant to go to the police to press charges. Her best friend, Patrice, convinces Stacey to write down what happened to her, and tries to convince her that it wasn't her fault. However, Stacey would prefer to act as if it didn't happen, and forget about it. Will the knowledge that she may not have been her rapists first victim change her mind?

When this book was chosen as our November book club read, I was initially a little sceptical. Reading YA contemporary books about serious topics is always a little hit or miss with me, and writing a book about such a serious topic as rape means it needs to be executed perfectly. The book opens with Stacey informing the reader that she was raped, and that her best friend has told her that she should write down what happened to her. As Stacey is reluctant to talk about her ordeal, I thought this was a clever way for Stacey to tell her story.

The book is split into two parts. The first half focuses on the lead up to Stacey being raped, while the second half deals with the aftermath. Although this is a short book that could easily be read in one sitting, I felt as if the first half of the book dragged on for a little too long. I found Stacey to be quite whiny, as she made a big deal over little things such as her sister going into her room, and her best friend spending time with a different friend. The fact that Stacey left home at all seemed a little extreme, as although there are some small problems in her family, it is by no means a terrible family. It is clear that Stacey's family care about her, as they are constantly texting her to make sure she is safe, and I felt as if Stacey didn't appreciate them at all.

Stacey soon meets Harry Connaught, a boy who decides to strike up a conversation with her in a cafe. Although Harry initially seems like a sweet boy, there are little hints throughout the book that his sweet gestures may have a hidden meaning. Stacey is extremely naive, and accepts Harry's offers of expensive gifts and allowing her to speak to an acquaintance he knows who works in the fashion industry. I felt as if I would have been questioning Harry's intentions if I had been in Stacey's position, as although Harry is obviously wealthy, I found it strange how he was being so kind to a girl he had know for around eight hours. However, there were a couple of moments that completely threw me, and at several points I was expecting there to be a huge plot twist where Harry wasn't actually involved in the rape. I felt as if it was important to show that rapists come in all shapes and sizes, and just because someone seems sweet doesn't automatically mean that they have good intentions.

The warning signs started flashing for me when Harry invited Stacey to stay the night at his brothers friends apartment, and although I knew how this would end, I was willing Stacey to go back home instead. I felt as if Stacey was careless in not telling anyone where she was, and should have at least let Patrice know. Although the most important thing is of course to teach men not to rape, the sad truth is that women have to take precautions to try to avoid getting into a position where they become an easy target to a rapist.

The victim blaming that happened in this book was awful, and I was extremely angry at Stacey's rapist for the awful things he said to her. He was extremely manipulative, telling her that it had just been a misunderstanding, and even threatening her when he started to worry that she would go to the police. It was awful when Stacey started to believe that it had been a misunderstanding, and started to blame herself. We see victim blaming all the time, with rape victims getting asked questions such as what they were wearing and getting told that they were asking for it. No matter the circumstances, the victim should never be blamed, and I was g lad that Stacey finally came to terms with that.

One thing that I felt should have been included in this book was the aftermath of Stacey coming forward about what happened to her. Although there was a big build up to her rape, we never find out if Stacey decides to tell the police, or if the rapist gets away with it. I think it is important that rape victims come forward about what happened to them, and although Stacey does call a helpline, I would have loved for the book to have gone even further to the court case, and having Stacey's rapist sentenced. Rape is a terrible and unforgivable crime, and I would have loved to have seen the rapist brought to justice. Although I have read other books that deal with rape, I have never read one that goes on to legally charge the rapist.

Although rape is an upsetting topic, it is also an important one which should be talked about. I felt as if Anne Cassidy dealt with the topic perfectly, and although it wasn't really the ending I was hoping for, I was glad that Stacey was finally able to open up about what had happened to her, and realised that she wasn't to blame.

Edit: I only found out after writing this review that Anne Cassidy is writing a sequel to this book that actually takes on the court case! As I ranted about this quite a lot in my review, I just wanted to acknowledge this here. I will definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out!

No Virgin is now available to purchase!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Blogging on a Budget

We've all seen them, the popular bloggers and booktubers who we look up to posting monthly book hauls. How do they do it? How can we ever be like them? Unfortunately it just isn't a reality for a lot of us lesser known bloggers. We don't get a constant stream of book mail from publishers, and we just don't have a spare £50 to spend on books every month. But don't despair, those book hauls can still be a reality! Although I can't give you advice on how to get hold of the latest shiny new ARC's, I can share my experiences of running a book blog for the past five years on little to no money!
Charity Shops
So one of the main places I get my books from are charity shops! For the past three years, I have been volunteering at my local Cancer Research charity shop, and although it is one of your generic charity shops that mostly sells clothes and bric-a-brac, it does also have a small selection of books. Every time I volunteer, I go and look at the the bookshelves to see if anything catches my eye! As I get a staff discount, I frequently get books for extremely cheap prices, but even without the discount, the majority of our paperbacks are under £2, which is about a quarter of the price that you would pay for the same book in a book shop! Now I know that when you think of second hand books, you're probably thinking of bent spines and ripped pages, but I've found that this is rarely the case. Although the books might have a few creases in the spine, quite a lot of them are in great condition! Charity shops will rarely put books out if they're in a terrible condition, and I've sadly had to recycle a few books that were donated that just weren't in a condition that they could be sold. Generous people are constantly donating books, so even if you've visited your local charity shop and found nothing that interests you, it's always worth visiting every so often. Charity shops are everywhere, so it's very likely there will be at least one or two in your town! If you live in one of the bigger cities in the UK, there are a few Oxfam Bookshops. That's right, charity shops that are completely dedicated to books!


So this one is probably a no brainer, but it's also a great option, particularly if you're looking for a certain book. Although charity shops are great, they're rarely any good if you're looking for a specific book. The truth is that new releases can be expensive, particularly in the case that some books are published in hardback months before the paperbacks are released. Paying £10 for a hardback just isn't realistic for some of us. But how are we meant to read that new book that all our blogger friends are talking about when we can't afford to buy it? Well that's where libraries come in! Libraries are constantly updating their stock, and will often buy more copies of the same book once they realise that it's popular. Although you sadly can't keep the book, library loans are usually for a period of
three weeks, which should give you plenty of time to read it and take aesthetic instagram pictures! Of course, libraries often allow you to renew books as long as no one else has requested it. If you discover that your library doesn't have the book you're looking for, it's often worth asking the librarian if they could order a copy in. With new releases, libraries are sometimes unaware of how popular a book will be, and either don't order any copies, or only order a  single copy. Making your librarian aware of the situation will actually improve the service, and you'll be doing other readers a favour by requesting a book! When I was reading The Raven Cycle series, I was devastated to discover my library didn't have any copies of The Raven King. However, after sending a couple of emails, I was happily holding a brand new copy in my hands, and the best thing was I didn't have to pay a penny! Libraries will usually let you loan ten books or more, so start reserving those books and do your very own book haul!

Online Book Stores and Supermarkets

Although this isn't the perfect option, you'll often find that shopping on websites like Amazon and The Book Depository will give you a better deal on books. Going into your local Waterstones will end with you paying full retail price for a book, but shopping online will often get you a bit of a discount. There are currently a few YA books on Amazon that cost £4 or less, which would probably cost £7 or more from high street book stores. However the one downside to Amazon is that you have to pay for postage unless you buy £10 worth of books. My personal recommendation would be The Book Depository. The prices are usually around the same as Amazon, and best of all, postage is free to all countries! The books also come with some pretty adorable bookmarks that you can colour in yourself!

Price comparison. Waterstones and Book Depo

Another great option is Supermarkets. Although the range of books available will obviously be a lot more limited to high street book stores, Supermarkets often stock books that are currently popular. If you're looking for a lesser known author, then Supermarkets probably won't be the best place to look, but if you're looking to buy a new copy of The Fault in Our Stars because you've dissolved your current copy with your tears, then check out your local Tesco or Asda (Or possibly Walmart for my American friends!)

There are also a few discount book shops, such as The Works, or independently owned shops. If you are looking to buy a popular box set such as The Mortal Instruments or A Song of Ice and Fire, then I would definitely recommend The Works.

Authors and Publishers

I know it seems daunting, but don't be afraid to contact publishers! The worst thing that can happen is that they say no, and then at least you've tried. Most publishers will have contact information on their website on how to get in touch regarding proof copies, so don't be scared to get in touch! Although I'm clearly not an expert on getting proof copies, and have been rejected more times than I care to remember, my advice would be not to ask to be on their mailing list straight away. On a couple of occasions after requesting some books, the publisher has actually approached me to ask if I want to be on their mailing list. Even if this doesn't happen, if you are consistent with your reviews, publishers are more likely to want to work with you again.

If you're quite new to the blogging world, then my advice is to get yourselves out there! There are quite a few websites where you can advertise your blog to publishers and authors, but the one I would recommend is Tweet your Books. It's completely free to sign up, and it allows authors and publishers to easily find you. I get authors emailing me quite frequently requesting reviews, and telling me that this is where they found my blog. Working your way up is a must. Creating a blog and then requesting a book from Penguin on the same day just isn't going to work. Start out by accepting reviews from self published authors, or try to work with smaller publishing companies. There are some bloggers who turn their noses up at self published books, but let me tell you that some of the self published books that I've read are better than books I've read by big publishers! Don't automatically dismiss a book just because it's self published, as you could just find yourself a hidden gem!

Ebooks are your friends!

I know we all prefer to have a good paperback in our hands, but think of all the books you could read by turning to ebooks! Services like Netgalley are a wonderful place to get free ebooks, and you just might get yourself a popular ARC! Publishers are a lot more lenient when it comes to handing out ebooks, so just because a publisher rejected you for a physical copy of a book you're desperate to read, they may just accept you if you request a galley. I know if, like me, you adore physical books, but isn't it better to read an ebook than not get to read the book at all?  I'm personally always using
Netgalley, and I know I wouldn't get to read so many amazing books without it, so I'm extremely thankful that it exists! The one downside to Netgalley is the Feedback Ratio. Basically your ratio goes down with each book that you request, so requesting multiple books at one time becomes increasingly difficult until you start posting reviews. Although I do understand they do this to try to guarantee reviews, it is a little annoying when you want to pile up a few books before they disappear off the website.

On the topic of ebooks, there are so many ebooks on Amazon that you can download for free! This is especially great if you enjoy classics, as many classics are now in the public domain. This means that you can get plenty of great classics downloaded straight to your kindle for free! I've taken advantage

of this multiple times, as I have a segment on my blog where I review classics. Even if classics aren't your thing, there's still plenty of free ebooks out there. Ebooks can also be a lot cheaper than physical books, so before you dismiss a book as being too expensive, make sure you check out the price of the ebook first.

As I mentioned earlier, getting physical books for free can be freaking hard! Especially if you are a new blogger, it's going to be almost impossible for you to get enough free physical books to maintain your blog. However, even when I was just starting out, I would get requests from self published authors asking me if I would review their ebook. Obviously you should only accept these requests if the book interests you, but if you only accept physical books, then blogging is going to be a real struggle for you! Self published authors often don't have the funds to send you a physical copy, so unless they specifically ask you if you want a physical copy, please don't ask them for one! I personally love helping self published authors get noticed. Although we all love joining in with talking about the latest books on the New York Times bestseller list, these authors never truly need you to join in with the promotion. Their marketing team is extremely good, that one blogger with nine thousand twitter followers is talking about it, and they're currently on a tour. Meanwhile, a review on a book by a self published author could make a huge difference to them, and they will be extremely grateful, while the author with one of the big publishers won't even notice that you've wrote a review! One thing that I love the most about blogging is seeing how happy and grateful authors are when they read a positive review from me, and that is something I only ever see from either self published authors, or authors with a smaller publishing company. I love when authors come back to me again and again, excited to share their new book with me! 

One thing that I can't stress enough is not to start a blog simply because it will get you free books. It won't work out as well as you think it will. When I started blogging, I was completely clueless. The reason I started my blog was because as a child, I was weirdly obsessed with writing book reviews. In year 4, we would have our own little notebook to use to review books, and where the other kids would write a simple sentence, I would write a whole paragraph on why I loved the book! Reviewing books is just something that's always been enjoyable to me, and I honestly didn't even realise it was possible to receive books from authors and publishers for free in exchange for a review! I'm honestly still completely baffled as to why anyone cares about my opinion, and I'm so grateful for each and every book I receive. Basically if you don't enjoy writing blog posts, don't do it! It's only too easy to tell when someone is passionate about what they do, and those who are doing it for free things.

Giveaways and Competitions

So this is the least definite way to get books, but I just thought I would tag it on the end, as I have actually been lucky enough to win a few giveaways over the years! If you follow enough book bloggers on twitter, you will constantly be coming across amazing giveaways! Publishers will also
occasionally do giveaways, so make sure you're following as many as you can. One that I would like to recommend is @MaximumPopBooks, who are constantly doing amazing giveaways for YA books. They will often do giveaways for 10 of the same book at a time, giving you more of a chance to win. I've won quite a few books from them over the years, including a pile of six books, Yes six! A lot of giveaways only require you to retweet the post, so get entering!

I hope this post has been somewhat helpful to some of you! I'd also just like to say that you should never feel bad for not being able to afford to buy a book at full price. I unfortunately saw a popular blogger telling people that they should buy books at full price to help the author. However, I have seen many authors advertising their books while they are on sale, so I honestly don't think authors mind too much if you happen to find their books at a bargain price! When it comes down to it, your quality of life and being able to buy necessities is a lot more important than owning the latest best seller. I also find that bloggers who do their own thing instead of following the crowd are more interesting, so don't feel pressured to buy books just because everyone else is reading it!

 If you have any other ideas on how to blog on a budget, then please feel free to leave a comment!

Thursday, 27 April 2017

BLOG TOUR: Review on Street Song

Ryan Callaghan isn't your average teenager. To the public, he is better known as RyLee, teen pop sensation and winner of PopIcon. However, after being caught falling out of clubs, taking drugs and ending up in rehab, everyone has all but forgotten about RyLee. After an argument with his stepdad ends in violence, Ryan decides to leave and start a new life in Belfast. 

Ryan soon meets Toni, a girl who has the same hopes and dreams that he used to have. After joining Toni's band, and reinventing himself as Cal Ryan, he is finally happy. However, Ryan discovers that moving to a new city with limited funds is more challenging than he thought.

This book caught my interest the minute I saw it! I think I probably signed up to the blog tour in record time, as I knew I just had to read this book! I had never read a book focusing on a teen pop star before, so I was interested to see what this book would be about.

The book follows Ryan, who later reinvents himself as Cal. Ryan is everything you would expect a rich, washed up pop star to be. He lives in a mansion, has more clothes than he could wear in a lifetime and is a bit of a brat and a player. I initially didn't like Ryan much, but I knew he was about to go on a journey that would change him for the better. After meeting Toni in a park, Ryan decides to leave his pop star past behind him, and travel from his hometown in Dublin to Belfast.

Firstly, I loved the setting of this book! I find that the majority of YA books are set in either America or London, so I loved that this one was mostly set in Northern Ireland. I loved seeing Ryan have to adapt to living in an unfamiliar city, and facing difficulties such as having to use a different currency, all while trying to blend in. As Ryan has no I.D, everything is made difficult for him, such as booking into hostels and being able to pawn belongings. I was however a little confused over how he was so easily able to get into bars and buy alcohol without any I.D. Although I'm not sure how often people get asked for I.D. In Irish bars, I felt as if Ryan would at least have come across a few problems.

Ryan's journey was interesting, and I loved that I didn't feel as if the story was progressing too slowly at any time. I did however prefer the last quarter of the book, as I thought that was when it really picked up, and I was concerned for Ryan's health and safety. Ryan never truly has a home in Belfast, and moves from place to place, until he eventually ends up on the streets. Near the start of the book, Ryan refuses to give a homeless person any money, making the excuse that they would just use it to buy drugs. I think most of us are guilty of frequently doing this. We don't think of the homeless person we see in a doorway as being someones son, daughter, father etc, and we assume they are on the streets due to alcohol or drug addiction. I loved how Ryan's perceptive changed once he was on the streets himself, being grateful when he was given £4. I adored Ryan's character development throughout the book, and how he was trying to become a better person.

I loved Ryan's relationship with his bandmates, Toni and Maryisa. Although it was obvious that Toni was going to end up being the love interest, I was happy that it wasn't too instalovey. I loved that Toni didn't fall for Ryan's popstar charm, and Ryan had to work to show Toni that he was a good person. I was happy that there was a little diversity in the form of Marysa, and I loved that she formed a strong friendship with Ryan.

Along with the horrible reality of homelessness, there were a few other upsetting scenes, including the aftermath of a minor being raped. Although this was an upsetting scene, I felt as if it helped to spread the message that just because someone seems nice, it doesn't mean they can be trusted. I felt as if Ryan did the right thing in helping the victim after the attack, but I also felt as if he could have done more to prevent it, as throughout the book, he felt uneasy about her having a boyfriend who was older than her. There is never anything right about grown men wanting to date children, and I felt as if Ryan could have intervened before it esculated.

Although it was clear Ryan had a bad relationship with his stepdad, I did initally think he had a good relationship with his mum. Although Ryan is legally an adult, and is perfectly within his rights to leave home, I felt as if once his mum heard from him and knew that he was safe, she stopped trying to find him, and even left the country. As she was aware that he had no money, I was shocked that she left him to his own devices so quickly. I know that if I was in Ryan's situation, my mum would come looking for me despite assuring her that I was fine. Although it's possible I misinterpreted how close Ryan was to his mum, I still felt as if she should have been a little more concerned for him.

I thought this was a unique and gripping story. Homeless youths are something that never really come up in YA novels, and this book brought up the harsh reality that there are young people living on the streets. Although Ryan voluntarily left his home, other young people aren't so lucky, and are forced out of their homes with nowhere to go. Along with themes of self discovery and the fantastic music elements, I felt as if this was both an important and wholesome read about how anyone can turn their life around for the better, and how it is okay to turn to other people for help. I definitely recommend Street Song! But don't just take my word for it, check out what all the other awesome bloggers on the tour thought

Street Song is now available to purchase!

BlackandWhitePublishing| Amazon Book Depository 

Thursday, 20 April 2017

Review on Out of Heart

Adam feels lost after the death of his grandfather. With his abusive father having abandoned his family, Adam is forced to become the man of the house, helping his mother to look after his younger sister, who after suffering from an accident, has lost her ability to speak. Adam feels as if he has been left with a heavy burden. That is until he meets William, a man who has received Adam's grandfathers donated heart, and who has no family of his own. With the help of William, Adam and his family start to get their lives back on the right track. However, not everyone in Adam's community approves of the addition to his family. Adam must fight to keep William and his family safe from those who are trying to take advantage of his families vulnerability

While browsing the HotKeyBooks April releases, this one immedietely caught my eye. I've been reading way too many contemporary books recently, and went through the email hoping to come away with a fantasy, but the synopsis of this book made it stand out to me as a contemporary that would be different to any I've been reading recently, and thankfully I was right!

The book follows Adam, a teenager who's grandfather has recently passed away. What Adam doesn't know is that his grandfather was an organ donor, and donated his heart to a man called William. After visiting Adam's family, William soon becomes an integral part of their lives, becoming both a friend and father figure to Adam. I adored the relationship between Adam and William, and as the book progressed, it was clear just how much they cared for each other, and needed each other in their lives. Both Adam and William have experienced trauma in their lives, and I loved how they were able to come together and help each other through their problems.

The main theme that runs throughout this book is family. When we think about family, we think about people who are related to us through blood. However, family is a lot deeper than that, and we often see close family friends or the signinficant others of family members as our family too. People who we care about but who we are not related to can often feel more like family to us than the estranged aunt who we only see at funerals does, and this book portrayed that perfectly. William fits into Adam's family as if he has always been there, and I adored the lovely, wholesome family vibe.

Another sterotype that we seem to still have is the idea that family members have to look alike. We live in a world where biracial couples are something we encounter on a daily basis, and children often get adopted by parents of a different race to their own, yet the idea that families have to all be the same race ramains. The sad reality of this prejudice was shown in Adam's community, where his neighbours assumed that just because William was of a different race and religion, his intentions had to be be bad. It's sad that we live in a world wher we are not trusted if we try to help a stranger. People like Adam and William do exist in the world, but sadly society seems to want to keep us divided. Despite feeling sad over how Adam's community treated William so terribly, the fact that they didn't let anyone come between the family was a positive message, and showed that we can all love and help each other despite our differences.

There are some important but upsetting themes that run throughout this book, including illness, death, domestic abuse and racism. I found the racism particularly hard hitting, as it was extremely relevant to what is happening today. It was awful what Adam had to indure, and I felt bad for him for wanting to distance himself from the Muslim community for his own safety, knowing that joining in with a peaceful protest would turn into violence by white supremacists. Although this scene was upsetting, it was extremely important in showing how racism affects Muslim people like Adam, who only want to live in peace and not be labeled a terrorist simply for existing.

I found the scene depicting domestic abuse to be quite graphic, and felt as if it could potentially be triggering. Adam's father was truly despicable. Along with physically abusing Adam's mother, he also attempted to manipulate Adam. I did however love that Adam was able to get his revenge, and showed no remorse for it.

Although I loved the characters, I did have a couple of minor issues, particularly with Laila, Adam's love interest. I felt as if for the majority of the book, she served no purpose other than being the love interest, and I felt as if she could have been completely excluded and it would have made little difference to the plot. I felt as if the only important thing she did was let Adam tell her his problems, and stick up for him right at the end of the book. I also felt as if a little more backstory was needed on William, as we never really found out what happened to his own family, and why he didn't have a home.

So the ending, oh my god. I don't want to spoil anything, but Irfan Master has managed to completely break my heart. For some reason I was optimistic, and thought everything would be resolved, but instead I just ended up a sobbing mess. Honestly I don't know how I am going to recover from how heartbreaking the last few chapters were!

I am so glad I took a chance on this book! Although it is an important read and not the mindless fantasy I had initially gone searching for, I loved the wholesome view of what it means to be family. Irfan Master is an extremely talented author, and if you are looking for a good diverse contemporary book, this is it!

Out of Heart is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Review on Room Empty

Dani has been in foster care for as long as she can remember. In an attempt to get help for her anorexia, Dani is signed up to the Daisy Bank Rehab Centre, where she meets Fletcher, a drug addict who has been living on the streets. Dani and Fletcher are soon assigned as buddies, helping each other on their road to recovery. However, when Dani is asked to try to remember her first memory, it all comes flooding back. The empty room she was locked in, a dead body and a stranger. If Dani is to make progress in her recovery, she must figure out who the body was, and why she was locked in a room with it. With Fletcher's help, Dani starts researching into her past. Will Dani be able to deal with the evidence and memories of a shocking and traumatic childhood?

When I saw the summary for this book, I wasn't sure if I should request a copy or not. As I have previously read a book that deals with anorexia and didn't enjoy it very much, I was thinking of giving this one a miss. However, when I saw that there seemed to be a murder mystery element to it, I was intrigued. The book follows Dani, a teenager who has lived in foster care since she was four years old.However, this is the least of Dani's problems, as she is anorexic. Dani joins a rehabilitation centre, where she meets other teenagers with an array of problems, including Fletcher, a homeless drug addict. One of the first things that stood out for me compared to other books dealing with this topic was how Dani saw her anorexia as an alien who was in control of her actions. Dani seems to disassociate from her eating disorder, seeing it as an external alien creature rather than it being something within herself. I thought the alien was a brilliant metaphor, as it clearly showed ho Dani felt as if she wasn't in control of her own life, and her negative thoughts frequently took the shape of the alien.

Although I did enjoy the alien metaphor, I felt as if there were too many metaphors in the book in general. Near the start of the book, I got a little confused and took a couple of the metaphors literally, such as thinking that Fletcher had actually punched Dani, when she had meant that his words had felt like a punch. Although after the initial confusion I became aware of what was reality and what was a metaphor, the sheer number of them did annoy me slightly, particularly when Dani would expand the metaphor over a number of pages.

I loved the relationship between Dani and Fletcher! There was no instalove involved, and their relationship didn't turn romantic until about 100 pages into the book. I also loved how the romance was more of a subplot instead of having a huge impact on the story. The relationship progresses in a healthy way, and I loved how they genuinely cared for reach other, and tried to help each other to get better. Something that I hate seeing is characters problems suddenly disappearing once they get a love interest, so I loved how this wasn't the case at all. Seeing someone you love going through something awful and feeling powerless to fix it is a terrible feeling, and I felt as if Fletcher's emotions were portrayed perfectly. I also loved how it showed that sometimes it's ok to walk away from someone who is having a negative impact on your life, and being burdened with someone else's problems along with your own can often be too much to cope with.

I felt as if Dani was quite manipulative at times, so I loved how the other characters stood their ground against her. I also loved the message that sometimes you have to step back from other people's problems so that you can focus on your own, and take steps into helping yourself. Fletcher was so focused on trying to help Dani to get better than he neglected his own issues. I loved how Dani pointed this out to him, and wanted to help him just as much as he wanted to help her.

Although Dani's battle with anorexia is the main storyline, Dani is also trying to remember what triggered her anorexia. This was my favourite part of the book, as we slowly start to find out more about Dani's past, and why she has repressed memories of being locked in a room with a dead body. I loved how Dani started to finally come to terms with what had happened to her, and started allowing herself to start her recovery.

The main thing that annoyed me about this book was the ending! It was extremely ambigious, and although I have come to realise this is a popular thing to do in YA contemporary, it never fails to annoy me. I would much prefer to be told what happened, rather than havng to speculate. I felt as if the book would have benefited from an epilogue in Fletcher's point of view, as I was a little annoyed that we never really got to find out if he ever got off the streets, or if he overcame his drug addiction.

There are some upsetting themes that run through this book, including child abuse, suicide, anorexia and drug abuse. I found Dani's memories and visualisation of her friends suicide to be quite disturbing at times, so it may be a good idea to avoid this book if any of these themes are particularly triggering to you. However, I did feel as if this was an interesting take on anorexia, and I learnt some things about it that I didn't from other books on the subject. I was actually shocked at the content I found from googling Pro Ana and Thinspiration, as there are some extremely harsh posts out there telling young girls not to eat or they will be ugly and fat. I loved how this book showed the repercussions of what happens when young people believe these kinds of posts, such as Dani struggling to climb a set of stairs.

I overall thought this was an important, well written and educational read, and I would love to read more by Sarah Mussi in the future!

Room Empty is now available to purchase!

   | Amazon | Book Depository