Saturday, 27 August 2016

Every Falling Star by Sungju Lee and Susan McClelland

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 336
Publisher: Amulet Books 
Released: 13th of September 2016 

Every Falling Star, the first book to portray contemporary North Korea to a young audience, is the intense memoir of a North Korean boy named Sungju who is forced at age twelve to live on the streets and fend for himself. To survive, Sungju creates a gang and lives by thieving, fighting, begging, and stealing rides on cargo trains. Sungju richly re-creates his scabrous story, depicting what it was like for a boy alone to create a new family with his gang, his “brothers”; to be hungry and to fear arrest, imprisonment, and even execution. This riveting memoir allows young readers to learn about other cultures where freedoms they take for granted do not exist.

What I Have to Say 

The more I read about North Korea the more it scares me. This book depicts a lot of events that we read about in history books and the latest YA dystopia, but the fact is it's true. This really happened and is still going on to other people right now and we need to be aware of it. 

Sungju Lee has bravely told his story, showing the reader what it's like to be a street kid in North Korea. His story is woven with rich details about what he had to eat, how he had to get the food and the fight he had to put up with rival gangs just to survive. A lot of it made me want to cry, and so it should. It's seems easy when we live in our comfortable lives to imagine people living like this, but it's not so easy when you think of them as real people living right now. 

Lee's story is beautiful, even though it's hard-hitting and eye-opening. It was very easy as a reader to come to know and love the other members of his gang and want them to succeed The fact that they're still living out there in North Korea is painful to remember, but the story itself is easy to fall into. 

North Korea fascinates me as much as it scares me. I think that everyone should read this book and learn what children in this part of the world face, the indoctrination, starvation and harsh existence may be painful to acknowledge, but don't let that put you off. Enjoyable feels like the wrong word almost, but this book is still and entertaining one even as it educates. 

My thanks go to Amulet books and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Synopsis (from Goodreads)

Pages: 472
Publisher: Penguin
Released: 28th of July 2016 

Despite their differences, Erika and Clementine have been best friends since they were children. So when Erika needs help, Clementine should be the obvious person to turn to. Or so you'd think.

For Clementine, as a mother of a two desperately trying to practise for the audition of a lifetime, the last thing she needs is Erika asking for something, again.

But the barbecue should be the perfect way to forget their problems for a while. Especially when their hosts, Vid and Tiffany, are only too happy to distract them.

Which is how it all spirals out of control...

What I Have to Say 

This is another book that keeps you up all night reading. Moriarty is an expert at keeping you reading on, always hinting at another snippet of the mystery but always holding on to the bulk of the information to keep you reading. This is how the best mysteries are written. 

Moriarty also has a fantastic gift of understanding people. She makes her characters so easy to sympathise with even when they aren't being the best friends to one another. The characters in Truly Madly Guilty especially are complex and beautifully written giving them a life of their own that the reader can sympathise with fully. 

The trauma she shows in this book is also very well written. She accurately depicts the character's struggle to get over the events that happen at the barbecue and shows them dealing with them in a variety of different ways. It shows both the different ways in which people process trauma and the way that conflict can arise between people dealing with trauma in vastly different ways. 

This is the second of Moriarty's books that I've read and I've immensely enjoyed both. 

My thanks go to Penguin and Netgalley for providing me with this copy to review. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield

Synopsis (From Goodreads

Pages: 352 
Publisher: Simon and Schuster 
Released: 30th of August 2016 

At seventeen, Jacklin Bates is all grown up. She’s dropped out of school. She’s living with her runaway sister, Trudy, and she’s in secret, obsessive love with Luke, who doesn’t love her back. She’s stuck in Mobius—a dying town with the macabre suicide forest its only attraction—stuck working in the roadhouse and babysitting her boss’s demented father.

A stranger sets up camp in the forest and the boy next door returns; Jack’s father moves into the shed and her mother steps up her campaign to punish Jack for leaving, too. Trudy’s brilliant fa├žade is cracking and Jack’s only friend, Astrid, has done something unforgivable.

Jack is losing everything, including her mind. As she struggles to hold onto the life she thought she wanted, Jack learns that growing up is complicated—and love might be the biggest mystery of all.

What I Have to Say 

I'm not going to hold anything back. I was bored through most of this book. It's just not the kind of story I'm interested in. It doesn't have to all be action and adventure, but a lot of this book, nothing really happened. There was so much set up that we were really far through the book before a lot of the stuff that's referenced in the blurb even happen. 

Looking as this book purely as art, I can see how it kind of resembles the pace of the small town that Jack lives in and the way that the days blur together with not much happening when you are a new adult who's just making your way in the world, be that at 16, 18 or older. The title Inbetween Days even reflects that. So I think that the thing that put me off the book could be a real draw for someone who likes that kind of thing. 

It just wasn't my kind of book. 

My thanks go to the FMCM for providing me with this copy to review. 

Thursday, 18 August 2016

The Yellow Room by Jess Vallance

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 263
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 28th of July 2016 

Sixteen-year-old Anna receives a letter from her father's girlfriend telling her he has died and asking to meet. Anna is drawn to Edie: her warmth, her character, her ability to rustle up delicious meals, all of which her own mother is seemingly incapable of... and the way she can tell Edie the secret that is buried inside her.

What I Have to Say 

Some books should come with warnings. DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING IMPORTANT. Like sleep. Definitely don't start reading it right before bedtime like I did. 

It's one of those books that compels you to read on. Vallance has suspense down to an art form, Enough of the chapters end up on cliff-hangers or little teases of things to come that keep the reader hooked. 

As with Birdy, Vallance ensures that nothing is as it seems, building up the story before ripping the carpet from beneath the reader and turning everything on it's head. 

From the intrigue and that the book starts of with, through the reveal and into the drama of the ending, The quality of writing doesn't wane even once throughout this dark and intricate novel. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy to review. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

The Regulars Blog Tour: Georgia Clark on her top three feminists in fiction

Today we're lucky enough to have Georgia Clark with us promoting her fantastic feminist book the Regulars. On this stop on the tour, Georgia will be sharing with us her top three feminist characters in fiction as well as a little insight into the inspiration behind the 

 For more information about Georgia see the bottom of the post. 

Jane Eyre, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel… It is narrow-minded to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.” You tell ‘em Jane! We don’t need no pudding piano parties! The resilient and articulate Jane paved the way for women rejecting stifling gender ideals way back in 1847. Resisting the subordination encouraged by the sexist dudes around her, Jane stuck to her guns and only married Old Blindy (aka Mr Rochester) after it was certain to be a marriage of equals. You go girl.

Jo March, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott  

Some 20 years later, the feminist canon birthed one of the greatest feisty ladies to grace the printed page, Miss Jo March. A writer and a fighter, outspoken Jo was clearly the most dynamic of the four March sisters, and was a torch song for independent ladies everywhere. When she wasn’t turning down marriage proposals or chopping off her long hair, in anticipation of the short-haired flapper revolution still decades away, Jo was exorcising her demons through her writing. “I want to do something splendid before I go into my castle--something heroic, or wonderful--that won't be forgotten after I'm dead.” You’re not forgotten Jo: we celebrate you.

Hermione Granger, Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling.

Fast forward a few centuries and we welcome to the stage the newest young lady to take the feminist crown. She’s precocious, she’s brave, she’s a know-it-all and she loves a good textbook. She is Hermione Granger, simply the most compelling character in the Potterverse. Played by one of society’s most brilliant IRL feminists, Emma Watson, Hermione was delightfully fierce and beautifully flawed, and Harry could not have survived without her. Continuing in her progressive tradition, Hermione is portrayed by black actress Noma Dumezweni in the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (a move supported by both JK Rowling and Emma, natch). Hats off to Hermione!

Tell us about the inspiration behind your book.

Where do messages about beauty find us, how do they affect us, how do different women respond to these messages differently. What is beauty? How does a modern feminist reconcile her own empowerment with very real feelings of physical inadequacy? These thoughts and more were bubbling in the back of my brain when one night, inspiration struck. I was at home alone, working on the edits to my YA sci-fi novel, Parched, when a concept popped in my head. A serum. That turns you pretty: objectively, definitively. But only for a week at a time. ‘Hm’, I thought, putting my notes aside. ‘That’s interesting’. Less than a minute later, a scene began playing in my head, as crystal clear as a feature film. Three young women. A tiny bottle of Pretty, something from a modern fairytale. An impossible transformation, as visceral and gross as it was funny and unexpected. Someone comes home: ah, an excuse is needed! What next? Who knows… As soon as the scene stopped playing – a gift from on high, a missive from the muse – I knew, without a doubt, that was a novel. A year and a half later, I finished The Regulars.

Georgia Clark is an author, screenwriter and journalist who is widely published in women’s and lifestyle magazines, and writes for TV. She is enthusiastically vegetarian, proudly queer, definitely a city-dweller, a long-time lover and supporter of the arts and an advocate for the empowerment of young women. 

You can follow her at Twitter/ Instagram @georgialouclark
Sign up to her mailing list on her website
Or like her author page on Facebook

The Regulars is available from all good bookshops as well as online retailers such as Amazon.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 643
Publisher: Harper Voyager 
Released: 11th of August 2016 

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.

What I Have to Say 

This is a very well thought out world. It was obvious while reading it that there was a load of world building that was worked out intricately. I loved the footnotes. As annoying as they were to read on my tablet, I think that every fantasy book with a lot of world-building behind it should have footnotes like this for the author to share the information that want to share without it bogging down the text with useless detail. This was a way to do it without the pressure on the reader to read through it all to get to the story. They're amusing comments and extra detail that can be skipped if the reader wishes to. It's genius and I love it.

The humour was fantastic. The whole book, and a lot of the footnotes, were filled with the kind of dry wit and sarcastic comments that I really like to see in books. The way that the narrator would occasionally add their own comment or joke on what's happening was really interesting and great to read. I also loved Mr. Kindly. I felt that everything he said was funny and awesome. 

It was a long read, but one that I enjoyed immensely. I was fascinated by the world and the characters. Mia felt like a refreshing take on the "strong female heroine" trope, showing herself to be a strong fighter, an opinionated woman with a healthy attitude towards sex and boys without seeming to 2D female stereotype. She felt like a real woman with no unnecessary love triangles. This is how female characters should be treated from now on. 

My thanks got to Harper Voyager and Netgalley for providing me with this copy for review. 

Monday, 8 August 2016

Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 368
Publisher: Hot Key Books 
Released: 25th of August 2016 

Darya is a young woman trying to recover her life after a brutal terrorist attack shakes her rural Russian hometown, killing her young sister. Her father wants her married off to one of his factory employees and her mother has resurfaced as the matriarch of their family, displacing Darya and even blaming her for Nika's death. But the attack has drawn foreigners to their community, reporters and aid workers who open Darya's eyes to the world. When she falls for a older man, a journalist from New York, could he be her ticket out of her hometown, her old life and her grief?

What I Have to Say 

This book was beautiful, touching and absolutely heart-breaking. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed every second of reading it, but I really want to warn you quite how sad the start of it is. The grief that is shown from Darya and the community that surrounds her is very well done and had me weeping to myself in the middle of the night when I shouldn't have really been reading. 

I have to admit, not that much really happens in this book. It's the kind of story that is more about the character's journey than about what happens. Normally I'm not so keen on this type of book, but the beautiful writing and character's in Mother Tongue kept my attention through to the very last page. 

I adore Julie Mayhew's writing and would strongly urge any of you who have never read her books to pick one up. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review. 

Saturday, 6 August 2016

The Boyfriend List and The Book Book by E. Lockhart

Synopsis (from Goodreads

Pages: 256
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Released: 14th of July 2016 

Ruby Oliver is fifteen and has a shrink. But before you make up your mind about her, you should know that she has had a pretty awful (and eventful) past ten days. She has: 
* lost her boyfriend
* lost her best friend (Kim)
* lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket)
* did something suspicious with a boy
* did something advanced with a boy
* had an argument with a boy
* drank her first beer (someone handed it to her)
* got caught by her mom (ag!)
* had a panic attack (scary)
* lost a lacrosse game (she's the goalie)
* failed a math test (she'll make it up)
* hurt Meghan's feelings (even though they aren't really friends)
* became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch)
* and had graffiti written about her in the girls' bathroom (who knows what was in the boys'!?!).

But don't worry, Ruby lives to tell the tale. Through a special assignment to list all the boys she's ever had the slightest, little, any-kind-of-anything with, comes an unfortunate series of events that would be enough to send any girl in a panic. 

What I Have To Say 

These was really not my sort of books. I probably could have told that from the titles, but it was E. Lockhart who I really like so I gave them a try, but it was just a lot of complaining about relationships and Ruby wondering why boys wouldn't kiss her. It probably would have been more interesting if I was the sort of girl who'd had lots of boyfriends and spent my time wondering whether boys wanted to kiss me, but I went to an all girls school so I was never really that sort of teenager. 

Also, the footnotes really bothered me. Some of them were halfway through sentences meaning that you had to find the footnote just for some pointless comment and then find the 
place you were again. 

Admittedly, it didn't help that my copy was an e-proof, meaning that I had to hunt down the relevant footnote, so it did make it more difficult, but even so, some of the comments were so annoying. 

These just weren't the books for me. There were some vaguely funny bits, but mostly I was bored or irritated. 

My thanks go to Netgalley and Hot Key Books for providing me with this copy for review.