Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Patrick Ness and Angie Thomas in conversation

On Saturday, I had the thrilling experience of seeing Angie Thomas and Patrick Ness in conversation at the Greenwich Book Festival. I felt so lucky to see two of my favourite authors in one place, and Katherine Woodfine did a great job of interviewing them. I've tried to record as much of the conversation as possible, and any errors are my own. Thank you to Annabelle from EDPR for the photograph and the invitation!

Katherine drew an interesting comparison between the authors' books, in that both are personal. Patrick Ness explained that Release is personal in an emotional sense, but not strictly autobiographical. The book's influences are Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and Forever by Judy Blume. Patrick wrote Release in part because as a teenager he'd never read a book like Forever starring someone he related to.

Angie Thomas got the idea for The Hate You Give in university, when she thought she had to be a different person there than she was at home. She'd leave home listening to Tupac and be playing the Jonas Brothers by the time she arrived at university. She was inspired by the tragic shooting of a young black man called Oscar Grant by Police in Oakland. Angie wrote a short story in response to people at school, who thought he deserved it because of his background.

Tupac was a huge influence on Angie and hip-hop music was where she saw herself. It was rare to find herself in a book as a teenager. She grew up reading The Hunger Games and Twilight and she couldn't relate to the girls in those books. Her biggest literary influence was hip-hop. 

Patrick loves seeing his books published in different languages and feels that wherever you are in the world, teenagers have the same curiosity and yearning.

Katherine asked why awards are important in shining a light on books, as both authors were nominated for the Carnegie award. Patrick thinks Carnegie shadowing is great, as it means so many teens are reading your book when they read the award shortlist with their library or school. Angie agreed about the value of shadowing groups and finds it a great feeling when a kid says they hated reading but finally connect with your book.

Patrick's initial goal was to get a book published and thinks it's important to really go for it with every book. Each time, he tries to push himself and take risks.

Both authors are excited to see their books made into films, and Patrick pointed out that even if the film is different, the book remains.

Angie shared some really exciting information about her next book, On the Come Up. It's set in the same community as THUG but is not a sequel. In the new book, Brianna wants to be a rapper in a male-dominated industry. Her song goes viral, and the story is about how far you're willing to go to make it.

Patrick's next book sounds fascinating too – a retelling of Moby Dick told by the whale. He's interested in how a story changes based on who's telling it and the monsters we create.

An audience member asked about overcoming self-doubt, and both authors gave really thoughtful responses. At university, Angie said she felt stories like hers weren't worth being told. A professor encouraged her to give a voice to people from communities like hers who don't have one.

Patrick said you need to have some confidence in your writing but you never have to let anyone read that first draft, and you never have to say aloud that you're proud of it. One day, you'll be ready to share your writing.

The first time Angie saw herself in a book was Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry. She took Maverick's name from a quote in the book and feels that Starr has some of the main character's qualities.

Patrick learned as a 15-year old that a book can be empowering when he read Jitterbug Perfume. The Colour Purple also had a strong impact on him. He said he can't recommend reading inappropriately enough. Kids will self-censor and if a book is too much they'll put it down.

I had a fantastic time at this event and was really inspired by both authors. Thank you to Greenwich Book Festival, EDPR and Walker Books for all contributing towards such a great event. 

Sunday, 3 June 2018

I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman – review

For Angel Rahimi, life is about one thing: The Ark, a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything she loves her friend Juliet, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark. He’s their frontman and playing in a band with his mates is all he ever dreamed of doing.

But dreams don’t always turn out the way you think and when Jimmy and Angel are unexpectedly thrust together, they find out how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

Alice Oseman is one of my favourite YA authors and I Was Born for This is another brilliantly written, moving story.

My favourite thing about Alice's writing is the way she perfectly captures a time and a context. Elements such as social media are threaded into the narrative. Through the alternating viewpoints, we're given two absolutely believable perspectives about what it's like to be in a boyband, and how it feels to be part of a fandom.

This leads me on to another thing that I loved about this book. The characters are brilliant! Usually, when there are multiple narrators, I prefer one over the other. Jimmy and Angel were both realistic, likeable and well-developed characters and there's no way I could choose between them! It was really evident how much research went into this book to create believable characters.

This book made me feel a whole range of emotions and the plot was gripping throughout. I think I'll have read it a few more times while I wait for Alice Oseman's next book!

If you liked the sound of this, try Radio Silence by Alice Oseman or anything by Non Pratt.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Blog tour review – Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody

Take a card. The price is your soul. Welcome to the City of Sin, where secrets hide in every shadow. 
Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school and her reputation behind to follow her mother's trail to the city where no one survives unchanged.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected: he's a street lord and con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn't have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne's offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless society. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her family, Levi's enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city.
I was excited to join the blog tour for this book and it lived up to all of my expectations!
Amanda Foody has created a rich fantasy world that is very reminiscent of Six of Crows. I really appreciated the City of Sin setting and the gang setup. There were lots of little details that added to the plot and the realism of the world.
I also liked the relationship and rapport between Enne and Levi. Their developing connection felt very natural and I liked both of them as characters. Enne in particular went on an interesting journey through the book and I'm looking forward to seeing her in the next instalment.   
The plot was fun at times and tense at others! There were plenty of obstacles for Enne and Levi to face, and the book built to an exciting climax. At a couple of points I felt like the pace slowed down but otherwise I thought the plot was a real strength.
This is an intriguing start to a series and I'll look forward to the next book!

Thank you to HQ Young adult for including me on the blog tour and for the review copy!

You can check out the other stops on the blog tour using the banner below:

Monday, 7 May 2018

Renegades by Marissa Meyer – CHOOSE YOUR SIDE!

In the Battle for Gatlon City, you can pit yourself on the side of justice or anarchy. Will you join Chelley Toy from Tales of Yesterday, who would have you fight with the Renegades who control this city? Or will you join my rebellion alongside the Anarchists? 

Chelley Toy wants you to... Choose the Renegades!

Join The Renegades! We emerged from the ruins of a crumbled society and established peace and order in a world full of chaos.

Twenty years of chaos created by Ace Anarchy and the Anarchists, The Age Of Anarchy. A time of no rules, no law and no repercussions. No police, no prison, looting and starvation. Some called Ace a visionary, but we called him a villain.

The Battle Of Gatlon was officially the end of the Age Of Anarchy, our Day Of Triumph. We defeated Ace Anarchy, he was dead and order was restored.

We, the Renegades, represent justice, a warm and promising hope. We are courage, bright and sparkling.

Do you have what it takes to be a hero? Are you bold valiant and just like Captain Chromium, Tsunami, Dread Warden, Thunderbird and Blacklight? Don your masks and capes and join us in our annual celebratory Renegades parade or compete in our annual Renegades Trials.

Remember – We’re the superheroes. We’ve got this. You are in very safe hands.

Choose the Anarchists!

Chelle makes a very convincing argument. You could do what you're told, follow blindly and walk the dull and predictable path laid out by the Renegades.

They call themselves heroes and brand us villains. If you look back through history, there have been many other leaders who have disguised a dictatorship with flashy uniforms and empty promises.

What evidence is there that the Renegades are as virtuous as they claim? What have the Renegades ever done for you? Still, we have crime, and good people are lost, while the Renegades look down from their ivory tower.

With the Anarchists, you have a voice and you have a part to play. No ability is too small and no individual is unheard or forgotten. 

The only way to mend society is to break it down and rebuild from the pieces. Why not be there alongside the Anarchists to create a new world, instead of letting the Renegades fight your battles for you?

Thank you so much to Macmillan Children's Books for asking us to write this post based on the wonderful Renegades by Marissa Meyer. Renegades is gripping story of superheroes like no YA I've read before, and you can check out my review here.

Thank you to Chelley Toy for getting involved and for letting me use the gorgeous mask photo!

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Slay by Kim Curran – review

Publisher: Usborne Children's Books (3rd May 2018)

Every fangirl's daydream is about to become Milly's nightmare.

When Milly arrives home to discover that her mum has been taken over by something very evil, she finds herself in mortal danger. But the last people she expects to rescue her are the boys in the hottest band on the planet!

Enter SLAY – playing killer gigs, and slaying killer demons. Suddenly Milly's on the road with JD, Tom, Niv, Zek and Connor, helping save the world, one gig at a time...

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew I'd love it. A demon-slaying boy band is such a fresh idea and the book delivered on its promise of being fun and action-packed.

It was the plot that had me racing to the end. I enjoyed the scenes where the boys performed just as much as the exhilarating fight scenes. There's a really good balance of light and dark moments in this book and the action builds to a gripping climax.

One thing I didn't expect was that the book would explore some of the physical and emotional effects of the characters' violent lifestyle. There were characters with disabilities and those who were struggling on an emotional level. I thought this was handled sensitively and was a positive move for YA, particularly with fantastical story lines.

I warmed to all of the characters in this book, especially the boys' manager Gail. The band members were all distinguishable as characters and I liked JD in particular. Milly was a believable, sympathetic main character and I was very glad that she got to fight alongside the boys. One thing that would make this world complete would be if they came across a demon-slaying girl band!

This book gave me definite Buffy vibes and I'm thrilled that it was just as good as I hoped.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review. Thank you Usborne Children's books for sending this copy to me!

Friday, 4 May 2018

Guest post – The inspiration behind the setting in Your Turn to Die by Sue Wallman

I'm so excited to have a guest post from Sue Wallman. Sue has written some of my favourite YA thrillers and it's great to share what inspired the spooky setting of Your Turn to Die. You can read my review of this wonderful book here.

The inspiration behind the setting in Your Turn to Die

By Sue Wallman

Most of the action in Your Turn to Die takes place in Roeshot House. It’s based very loosely on my grandparents’ house. There was no attic, it didn’t have woods at the back of the house and as far as I know there was nothing disturbing buried in the garden, but there were two sets of stairs, a walk-in larder and a conservatory with knobbly geraniums in it.

There was nothing remotely modern about the house. Everything was worn and faded and smelled of apples (stored on trays in the cellar) or linen that needed airing. My siblings and cousins felt completely at home there. We played card games, and lay about. We played the game the characters do in the book where you go round a room without touching the floor, climbing over the furniture. We thought nothing of crawling over the top of the grand piano. There were no rules in my grandparents’ house other than having good manners when we ate at the big dining room table. When my granny got dementia, she would sit at the table and swear and say the most outrageous things, and we would have to carry on as if this was entirely normal.

In Your Turn to Die, the garden was once lovely but is now overgrown. My grandparents’ garden was large and ordered, with a huge vegetable garden behind a hedge. We ate the soft fruit, and the occasional raw bean. There was a field next to the house and I was once chased by a cow when I decided to take a shortcut back. It remains one of the most frightening things that has ever happened to me, and I’m still annoyed how everyone laughed when I came into the house, breathless, and told them.

I wrote my first book in that house, aged ten, kneeling on the floor, my paper propped up on the wide window ledge in the bedroom I shared with my sister. It is 94 pages of A4 and I still have it.

At night, the house was creaky and creepy. When it was dark, I never liked going upstairs on my own. The bedrooms felt very far away from the adults when we went to bed before them. My sister and I would lie in the freezing beds and speculate about what sort of people we would be when we were grown up.

My grandmother died when I was at university. By then my grandfather had been dead a while. I came back for the funeral and the house felt too big and too empty. My aunt still lives in the same village so I’ve passed it often since. It’s like being able to glimpse the past but not touch it. A few years ago, my sister and a couple of cousins knocked on the door and got to see round the house again – unsurprisingly, everything had changed inside. I’m glad I wasn’t there.


Thanks so much, Sue  this was a fascinating insight! I'm a huge fan of books set in spooky old houses and Your Turn to Die has particularly evocative descriptions. 

Your Turn to Die by Sue Wallman was published by Scholastic UK on 3rd May 2018.

Sue Wallman lives in London, working in a school library by day and writing by night. She has previously published LYING ABOUT LAST SUMMER, a Zoella Book Club favourite title, and SEE HOW THEY LIE, a Tesco Book of the Month.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Your Turn to Die by Sue Wallman – review

Publisher: Scholastic (3rd May 2018)

Every winter, three families gather in an old house in the country to celebrate the New Year. This year, 15-year-old Leah and the other two teens discover that the house has a dark past: a deathbed confession led the police to the buried body of a teenage girl earlier in the year, who had gone missing 50 years before. As the teens investigate the morbid history, terrible things start happening around the house. And if Leah isn't careful, this New Year might be her last.

I’m a huge fan of Sue Wallman’s writing and this was another fantastic YA thriller.

The setting is really evocative in this book. Much of the action takes place in the enormous house where the main characters spend every new year, and I enjoyed the pervasive creepiness of the setting and the stories surrounding it. All of this adds to the overall sense of unease that hangs over the characters.

I thought the plot of this book was brilliant and I found it really enjoyable trying to solve the mystery. There was a good balance of clues and suspects to keep me guessing (and I actually got it wrong in the end!)

One of the reasons why I love Sue’s writing is the voice. The narrative style is compulsively readable and the dialogue rings true whether the characters are teens or not.

Sue Wallman's books are among my favourite YA thrillers and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next! Tomorrow, I have a brilliant guest post from Sue about her inspiration behind the book's setting.

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review. Thank you so much to Scholastic for sending this copy to me!

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

White Rabbit, Red Wolf by Tom Pollock – review

Publisher: Walker Books (3rd May 2018)

A taut thriller about murder, maths and the mind. Peter Blankman is afraid of everything but must confront truly unimaginable terror when his mother is attacked. Seventeen-year-old Peter Blankman is a maths prodigy. He also suffers from severe panic attacks. Afraid of everything, he finds solace in the orderly and logical world of mathematics and in the love of his family: his scientist mum and his tough twin sister Bel, as well as Ingrid, his only friend. However, when his mother is found stabbed before an award ceremony and his sister is nowhere to be found, Pete is dragged into a world of espionage and violence where state and family secrets intertwine. Armed only with his extraordinary analytical skills, Peter may just discover that his biggest weakness is his greatest strength. (Publisher’s blurb)

This is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read and I’m still thinking about it!

I thought the voice of this book was absolutely brilliant. The writing style is very distinctive and every plot point was filtered through Pete’s viewpoint, as well as being shaped by his overwhelming fear and anxiety. It was also great to see mental health being dealt with in such a thrilling, action-packed book.

The plot of this book was very intriguing and ultimately gripping and tense. I found the shifting timeline a little hard to navigate at first but it became a fantastic device for slowly revealing information. It’s not often that a plot takes me in completely unexpected directions and I loved how this book kept me guessing!

I’m really excited about this book and I'd recommend it to all fans of thrilling YA.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

We are Young by Cat Clarke – review

Publisher: Hachette Children's Group and Quercus Children's Books (3rd May 2018)

It starts with a wedding. And a car crash.

On the same night Evan's mother marries local radio DJ 'Breakfast Tim', Evan's brand-new step-brother Lewis is found unconscious and terribly injured, the only survivor of a horrific car crash.

A media storm erupts, with the finger of blame pointed firmly at loner stoner Lewis. Everyone else seems to think the crash was drugs-related, but Evan isn't buying it. With the help of her journalist dad, Harry, she decides to find out what really happened that night.

As Evan delves deeper into the lives of the three teenagers who died in the crash, she uncovers some disturbing truths and a secret that threatens to tear her family – and the community – apart.

This is my first Cat Clarke book for some reason but it certainly won't be my last. This book was a brilliant blend of dark, intense drama, mystery, humour and just the right amount of romance.

What really stood out for me was the voice. The dialogue and first person narrative both made Evan feel like a real person and I thought she was a great character. I was really drawn to her drive to find out what happened and I loved how complex she is. She has a lot going on and that struck me as very believable! 

The mystery of this book was also very compelling and ultimately an important message came through it.There was a good balance of an exciting main story arc and other threads that kept my interest. I also liked the strong cast of secondary characters, including adults! A family dimension in a YA book is always good with me.

I read this book in only 24 hours and I'd definitely recommend it if you want a fast-paced YA with brilliant characters and an intriguing mystery. 


I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an open and honest review. Thank you to the publishers for the opportunity to read it!

Thursday, 26 April 2018

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli - review

Publisher: Harper Collins

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.
Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly's totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie's new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she'll get her first kiss and she'll get her twin back.
There's only one problem: Molly's coworker, Reid. He's a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there's absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. (Publisher's blurb)
I've read some brilliant contemporaries recently and this is one of the best! It's the perfect balance of sweet, funny and angsty and I can't wait for Becky Albertalli's next book (Leah on the Offbeat). 

Becky Albertalli creates absolutely wonderful characters! Even the most minor character felt fully developed and I adored Molly. I would have related so much to her self-doubt when I was a teenager (and still do to be honest!). I also thought her struggles with self-image were dealt with in a believable, compassionate manner.

The romance in this book is adorable and at the same time totally realistic too. I thought that Molly's lack of confidence was very refreshing and reflective of a lot of teenagers' experiences.

The family dynamic in this book was awesome as well. I adored Molly's moms and it was great that they were main characters instead of being mysteriously absent.

Becky Albertalli is one of my favourite contemporary YA authors and if you haven't checked out Simon Versus the Homosapiens Agenda you definitely should!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven – review

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Izzy O'Neill here! Impoverished orphan, aspiring comedian and Slut Extraordinaire, if the gossip sites are anything to go by . . .

Izzy never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when explicit photos involving her, a politician's son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart. Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off - but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay. It's the Exact Opposite of Okay. (Publisher's blurb)

I'm so excited about this book! It's the ultimate YA read - it's hilarious, honest and 
thought-provoking. It also raises so many important questions about how teenage girls are treated, especially in the age of social media.

My favourite thing about this book by far was Izzy. She feels like a real teenager (and someone I would've liked to hang out with when I was that age). I loved the fact that the book is unapologetic about the fact that she's sexually active, as this is the reality for some teenagers. 

This leads on to the another great thing about this book. It explores a lot of current issues for teenagers in an open, sympathetic manner. Izzy faces some terrible treatment from the press and other people, and her response to it is really believable. She also encounters other problems such as a male friend who is increasingly pushy about entering a relationship with Izzy. This book challenges the fact that such behaviour is sometimes seen as 'romantic' and conveys an uplifting, feminist message.

I also thought the humour in this book was great! I don't often laugh out loud at books and this one had me crying with laughter. Izzy's brand of humour is rude and boundary-pushing, which appeals to me!

This is an uplifting book that deals with some difficult issues with humour. I can't wait for the next instalment of Izzy's adventures!


Tuesday, 17 April 2018

YA Shot 2018 write-up

Alexia Casale, YA Shot Founder, Director and YA author

Yesterday was my second time attending YA Shot and I had another wonderful, inspiring day! YA Shot is a Young Adult and Middle Grade festival that raises funds for a programme pairing schools and libraries for free author events. 

The event is packed with panels, in conversation events, workshops and author signings. I tried to do a balance of everything and chatted to lots of amazing bloggers and authors. I wasn't able to attend the UKYABA (Young Adult Blogger Awards) in the evening but I'm so pleased for all of the nominees and winners!

These are the events I attended. Any errors are my own and everything is heavily paraphrased!

Using your life in fiction with Tariq Mehmood

This was a very moving and interesting workshop, in which Tariq Mehmood shared some of his experiences that have influenced his writing. His work deals with xenophobia and he first wrote because there was no book that reflected his life and experiences. To write about teenage girls, he talked to many of them to infuse his stories with realism. One thing that really stayed with me was that the stories that cause you pleasure and pain need to be told. Another tip was to look at people and their body language, and listen to their conversations. 

Characterisation and empathy with Lisa Heathfield

I found this a really useful workshop too! Lisa's approach is to write her first draft by hand. Each day, she reads the previous paragraph to get back into the voice but doesn't read a lot of what she's written. She tries to stay quite disconnected from the internet because it stops you from observing people. This is a great way to gain empathy for others. Lisa finds writing in the first person useful to develop strong empathy for a character. She also recommended reading widely, including outside your preferred genres. She's a big believer in physically getting into the role of characters to understand them better, even mimicking people's behaviour and speech. 

Stories for change with Alwyn Hamilton and Melinda Salisbury

This was a fun in conversation event, during which Alwyn and Mel talked about their previous and current projects. Mel is finding it challenging to write a duology because she's used to telling a story with three acts. Alwyn agrees that the Star Wars trilogy structure is what we're used to. State of Sorrow was inspired by Mel's trip to Bosnia and a real bridge that is very dangerous to cross. Alwyn and Mel agreed that it can be challenging to stay motivated when writing to deadline and side projects can help. Alwyn's favourite scenes to write are the action ones and Mel loves writing romance and kissing scenes, especially the tense build-up to kissing!

Friends, enemies and common ground with Cathryn Constable and Lucy Ivison

Cathryn and Lucy write very different books but they had a very interesting discussion about friendship, with lots of audience participation! Both authors felt there is a pressure to write constantly strong, empowered young women who know what they want but this is not always the case! When writing Freshers, Lucy and Tom talked to a lot of students and toxic masculinity came up a lot, particular in the context of sports teams. When you're young especially, friends are everything and can feel like the big love of your life. 

Privacy, entertainment and technology with Lauren James, Laura Steven, Nicci Cloke and Kerry Drewery

Social media is such a topical subject and I found this a fascinating panel, particularly when the authors discussed how it can be used for good and bad reasons. In The Loneliest Girl in the Universe (one of my absolute favourite YAs), Lauren explored how fandoms can be used as a way to explore yourself and feel safe. Getting to know someone online can be great but you don't know how that information will be used. Laura (author of the brilliant The Exact Opposite of Okay) talked about how social media can make a YA book feel more authentic but can also date when a book is set, so a balance can be difficult to strike. 

Research for writing outside your experience with Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

I love the Witch's Kiss books and it was great to hear about Katharine and Elizabeth Corr's research. There are lots of elements to research in their books, including the historical time period and associated language, plus a gay, male main character. They emphasised the importance of getting experiences right that are not your own. My favourite part of this workshop was when they talked about the 'research iceberg'. As a writer, you end up doing a lot of research that doesn't go into the book (and shouldn't), but you need to know everything you can about your world.  

 Me, Chelley Toy (@ChelleyToy) and Virginie (@ChouettBlog).
I love being part of the UKYA blogging community and this was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with friends and make new ones. Thank you to all of the amazing organisers, bloggers, readers and authors who made this event so special!

Friday, 13 April 2018

Blog tour review - Legendary Ladies by Ann Shen

Publisher: Abrams

Throughout History comes this lushly illustrated book of goddesses from around the world. Aphrodite, the Greek goddess whose love overcame mortality. Mazu, the Chinese deity who safely guides travelers home. Lakshmi, the Hindu provider of fortune and prosperity. These powerful deities and many more are celebrated in gorgeous artwork and enlightening essays that explore the feminine divine and encourage readers to empower themselves. Ann Shen's signature watercolours make Legendary Ladies a unique, gift-worthy homage to the mighty women within.

I'm thrilled to be on the blog tour for such a gorgeous, uplifting and empowering book. Each page has an awesome illustration (you can see just a taste from the front cover) and a description of a goddess.

The goddess I'm going to focus on is called Ran, the goddess of the sea. Ran's story is deliciously dark, as her main role in mythology is to lure ships and sailors to the bottom of the ocean. At the end of each goddess page, there are qualities that readers can draw on for their own lives.

I think the format of this book is great. I enjoyed Ran's villainous nature and her page, like the others, definitely gives a good taste of the mythology. I think my favourite part is the uplifting message at the bottom of the page that gives something to take away from each story. For example, Ran inspires readers to pursue their desires with strength and persistence.

I'm definitely going to buy my own copy of this book and I can think of lots of people who would enjoy it as a gift as well!  

Ann Shen is an illustrator and graphic designer and is the author of Bad Girls Throughout History. She lives in Los Angeles.


Thank you for reading! You can check out the other tour stops using this lovely image.

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

The Earth, My Butt and Other Big, Round Things - blog tour review

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Trigger warnings: Eating disorders, sexual violence and self-harm

Fifteen-year-old Virginia Shreves has a larger-than-average body and a plus-size inferiority complex, especially when she compares herself to her slim, brilliant, picture-perfect family. But that's before a shocking phone call - and a horrifying allegation - about her rugby-star brother changes everything. With irreverent humor and surprising gravity, Carolyn Mackler creates an endearingly blunt heroine who speaks to every teen who struggles with family expectations, and proves that the most impressive achievement is to be true to yourself.

I'm so grateful to Bloomsbury for including me in the blog tour for this book. You can read more about Bloomsbury's Spring Titles Blog Tour below my post.

This was an enjoyable read with a likeable main character, that at the same time deals with some really difficult subjects with sensitivity and humour.

I really rooted for Virginia as a character and I found her authentic and relatable. Her struggles with self-image and family relationships were described in a believable, honest way. Some scenes were difficult to read, and I appreciated that this book didn't shy away from issues that affect real teenagers and adults. There is also a good balance of lighter, funnier moments and the plot is ultimately uplifting.

I enjoy reading YA books about families, especially when the parents are present and active as characters. Virginia's relationship with her family caused drama and heartbreak that felt very realistic, but left me with hope by the end of the story.

Virginia's friendship with Shannon provided some light relief, even though Virginia was worried about the new long-distance aspect of their friendship. Their friendship reminded me a lot of what it felt like to be a teenager and I loved Shannon's family too! I also enjoyed the romantic storyline, and found that it was sweet and engaging without detracting from Virginia's journey as a character. 

My favourite thing about this book was that it could tackle such serious matters and also leave me with happy feelings and a positive message about self-image and personal growth.

These three fantastic titles are being featured as part of Bloomsbury's Spring Titles Blog Tour, and you can follow the other stops using the handy list below.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Femineaster event with Laura Steven and Chelley Toy

I was so excited to attend this event at Foyles Birmingham on Saturday to celebrate Femineaster and Laura Steven's amazing book The Exact Opposite of Okay. The event was chaired by the lovely Chelley Toy who blogs at Tales of Yesterday. Many thanks to Kevin Toy, who took these amazing pictures!

As well as being an author, Laura Steven is a journalist and screenwriter, and she works for Mslexia (a non-profit organisation that supports women in the creative arts).

When Laura started writing The Exact Opposite of Okay, it felt like being possessed and she heard Izzy's sarcastic voice in her head. The prologue that sets the scene for the book hasn't changed much since the first morning that she wrote it. At this point, she had the character and voice but not the plot. She actually got 50,000 words into a slightly different version of the plot.

Aspects of the book were inspired by Laura's experiences. She had a horrible encounter with a boss who was inappropriate after university and wanted to inspire young women to speak up if they're ever in that situation. She also wanted to explore how the friend zone can turn sinister after a very creepy personal experience.

Chelle asked whether the portrayal of sex is still taboo in YA. Laura said she was prepared that certain 'gatekeepers' such as librarians might be swayed by the sexual content. Laura said she had to stick to her guns, to present what it's really like to be a teenager. She wanted to create a safe space where teenagers can read about sex and start conversations.

Part of the inspiration for the book came from the fact that revenge porn (distributing sexually explicit images of someone without their consent) is illegal in the UK but not in some states. Laura wanted to set the book in one of these states but chose not to make this an explicit place.

Writing in Izzy's voice felt like a natural fit as she's a caricature of Laura. It was easy to come up with the voice. Izzy is a very funny character but she uses humour as a defence mechanism, and Laura wanted to unpick why she does that.

She wanted to write an extroverted character because often these are the mean girls or the side characters but not the main characters. Her favourite character to write was Betty, the awesome grandmother who is Izzy's primary carer and openly discusses sex with Izzy!

Laura intentionally included different types of humour in the book, such as Ajita's deadpan style. She wanted to write characters with distinctive voices, so if you took away the dialogue tag you would know who's speaking. Her aim was to write a book that would make her friends laugh! The beauty of writing comedy is that you can think about it and you don't need quick comebacks.

Her advice for writing humour is that giving ridiculous solutions to simple problems can be really funny! She also enjoys sarcasm, deadpan humour and satire, but it's hard to pinpoint sometimes exactly what makes a book funny.

The title came to Laura on that first day and a focus group of teens chose it over another title. The cover was designed by an illustrator that Laura really likes, who also illustrated Nicola Yoon's books. 

One of her favourite comedy books is Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and she adores Georgia Nicolson as a character. Laura would have loved to collaborate with Louise Rennison, the author of this series.

Laura's Hogwarts house is either Ravenclaw or Slytherin. Her patronus would be some kind of dog, and her official Pottermore patronus is a Saint Bernard.

She's working on several projects including a sequel and a spin-off set five years later and starring Ajita's younger brother!

This event was fantastic fun, with many laughs and peanut butter cups had by all! I'm halfway through The Exact Opposite of Okay and it's my favourite contemporary that I've read in ages - it's laugh out loud funny and very real about what it's like to be a teenager. 

Friday, 6 April 2018

A Sky Painted Gold by Laura Wood – review

Publisher: Scholastic (July 2018)

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an open and honest review.

Growing up in her sleepy Cornish village dreaming of being a writer, sixteen-year-old Lou has always wondered about the grand Cardew house which has stood empty for years. And when the owners arrive for the summer - a handsome, dashing brother and sister - Lou is quite swept off her feet and into a world of moonlit cocktail parties and glamour beyond her wildest dreams. But, as she grows closer to the Cardews, is she abandoning her own ambitions... and is there something darker lurking at the heart of the Cardew family? A gorgeously dreamy coming-of-age romance set against a stunning Gatsby-esque backdrop, this is perfect for fans of I Capture the Castle and Eva Ibbotson. (Publisher's blurb)

When I heard about this book at the Scholastic Bloggers' Brunch, I knew I had to read it. The dreamy summer setting really appealed to me, and when Laura Wood read the opening pages I was sold. It has ended up being the best historical YA I've ever read and I think it has something for all YA readers.

I absolutely adored the characters in this book. Lou is a fantastic protagonist, so full of spirit and dreams that I warmed to her immediately. Another strength is that all of the characters, even the minor ones, were interesting and multi-faceted. I'm a huge fan of YAs about families, and Lou's was a particularly brilliant one. This book really does have everything because there are some fantastic friendships too, especially between Lou and her older sister.

Another favourite character, and one deserving of his own paragraph, is Robert Cardew. It's a very long time since I've been so obsessed with a fictional character. He is the most swoonworthy lead imaginable and the romance in this book is perfection. 

The setting of this book was glorious, vividly evoking Cornwall and the time period. Many events of the story took place in either the glamorous Cardew house or Lou's close-knit family home, and both settings felt completely real to me.

To finish it off, the plot of this book is a perfect balance of sultry summer days, elaborate parties and enough conflict to keep it interesting. There were several questions for the reader to figure out and a very satisfying conclusion.

This book was an absolute pleasure to read. I can't remember having quite so much fun reading a book or becoming so involved in the world of the story. I can't wait to see what Laura Wood writes next, but in the meantime I'm going to pick up her Poppy Pym middle grade books.