Friday, 18 April 2014

UKYA Day! UKYA Recommendations For The Uninitiated

Hello everyone! Today is UKYA Day, a part of Project UKYA's April Extravangaza (I can no longer look at that word without thinking of RuPaul's Drag Race... ELEGANZA EXTRAVANGANZA) dedicated to celebrating UKYA and all it's wonderfulness. So I thought I would take part by just spreading the love for some of my favourite UKYA books and authors! So here are some of my UKYA recs, by genre.


Contemporary

16036975This is not a numbered list (because I find it incredibly hard to pick favourites. Decision making is not my forte) but if it was than Cat Clarke would probably be number one. On this list.  She would also be number one on a list of people whose books break my heart and ruin my life. Undone in particular is soul destroying. I don't know how much more I can do to convince you to read it. Honestly, it's quite incredible and so powerful and emotional I cannot recommend it enough if you like those sorts of books.

10890319However, if you like your contemporary on the lighter side, then may I please direct you towards the brilliant books of Sophia Bennett. The Look and You Don't Know Me are both light books (especially when compared to Cat Clarke), but they also both touch on important issues like cancer and bullying and fame. Both of them are fun and enjoyable and touching. I can also heartily recommend the amazing books of Sarra Manning, including two of my favourite books ever (Adorkable and Nobody's Girl). Both of these books are very different, but they're just both so great (note: I'll try and keep track of how many times I say 'it's just so great' but I can guarantee that it will be a lot) and wonderful that if you like any books by Stephanie Perkins or the like, then you will love them. Plus, Sarra Manning is like classic UKYA. SHE IS THE QUEEN OF UK COMTEMP.

 There are so many books that I want to put here, though. So, a quick list of some other UKYA contemp that you should completely check out:

Jessie Hearts NY and Emma Hearts LA by Keris Stainton, Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt, Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter, What's Up With Jody Barton by Hayley Long, Rockoholic by C J Skuse, Geek Girl and Model Misfit by Holly Smale.


Sci-Fi and Fantasy

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I don't actually think I've read that much UKYA Sci-Fi (please feel free to rec me some good stuff!), but when it comes to fantasy there is one author who you must absolutely read: Zoe Marriott. I've only read three of her five books, but I love them all and I absolutely must read the other two. Shadows on the Moon and FrostFire are both amazing, well developed fantasy novels with brilliant worlds and complex characters, and quite frankly I don't talk about her books enough so this is a good opportunity for me to spread the love. Her most recent offering, The Night Itself is the first book in an urban fantasy trilogy based around Japanese mythology, and it is also brilliant. If you're looking for diverse, interesting fantasy than look no further.

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Also, Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve is such an interesting blend of sci-fi/dystopia and fantasy that I have to include it here. It's just such a great book, and if you read it now then you'll be all ready and prepared for the release of the second book, The Illusionists, in August! Yay! And, although this is bordering on MG, A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge. This book is so weird. I love it so much. It is glorious. 


18621200Mystery/Thrillers/Horror

I will say one name - James Dawson. Probably more paranormal/horror, really, but I can't be bothered making a whole new category so I'm just going to include him here and there's nothing you can do about it. James Dawson is pretty much the master of all things creepy in the UKYA world right now, especially with his new book, Say Her Name, which is out in June. It's about Bloody Mary, and it is bloody scary I can tell you that. Also, his first two books - Hollow Pike and Cruel Summer - are really excellent. I think Cruel Summer is my favourite of his.

Another brilliant book is Heart Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne, which again, probably doesn't really fit into this category, but again, I'm not going to change it now. And, more of an actual mystery, is the Poppy Sinclair series by Sharon Jones which starts with Dead Jealous and the second book, Dead Silent, came out about 2 months ago. Such a good series if you're looking for mystery and a thrilling story! And again, definitely MG and nowhere near the kind of thrilleryness of the rest of these, but Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens. I don't think I've had that much fun reading a book in ages. It's a Sherlock-type detective story only our Sherlock and Watson are two 13 year old girls who attend an English boarding school in the 1930s. AMAZING.

So, there are so many other books I could have mentioned in other genres and stuff, but this is already quite long and it seems like a pretty good place to start! Also, I am no expert in UKYA. I definitely do not get to read enough of it myself, but the books that I have read I have majorly loved. I would love it if you guys had any great UKYA recs for me! I think it's so great what Lucy is doing with Project UKYA, trying to spread the word, and I'd just like to end this random paragraph by thanking her for UKYA Day, and all the other amazing things that she does to spread the word and support UKYA fiction.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Love Letters to the Dead review

Love Letters to the Dead
Ava Dellaira
May 1st 2014
Hot Key Books

It begins as an assignment for English class: write a letter to a dead person - any dead person. Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain - he died young, and so did Laurel's sister May - so maybe he'll understand a bit of what Laurel is going through. Soon Laurel is writing letters to lots of dead people - Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, River Phoenix, Amelia Earhart... it's like she can't stop. And she'd certainly never dream of handing them in to her teacher. She writes about what it's like going to a new high school, meeting new friends, falling in love for the first time - and how her family has shattered since May died.

But much as Laurel might find writing the letters cathartic, she can't keep real life out forever. The ghosts of her past won't be contained between the lines of a page, and she will have to come to terms with growing up, the agony of losing a beloved sister, and the realisation that only you can shape your destiny. A lyrical, haunting and stunning debut from the protégé of Stephen Chbosky (THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER).


I don't really know what I thought about Love Letters to the Dead. I think I liked it? I definitely liked some aspects of it. But I think that some of it didn't quite work for me. It is, however, a lovely debut with a powerful story at its heart.

I think for me the main downfall of Love Letters was that it was too similar to Perks of Being a Wallflower. When I first saw Stephen Chbosky's  quote on the book and the comparisons to Perks, I was so excited to read it, but it really did just kind of feel like Perks only set today and with a female narrator. Similarities between books are fine, but this just felt too much and in my opinion it didn't do the book any favours. Also, the voice was a little off for me, too. The narrator, Laurel, is 14/15 during the book, and I think that has a lot to do with why it felt to me like the voice was somewhere between MG and YA. At times she sounded younger than she was and others she sounded a lot older and more mature and I guess that's just part of the book, but it kind of annoyed me how it wouldn't settle. Again, though, that's just kind of a personal quibble.

I do, however, like epistolary novels so I enjoyed the fact that the whole book was written in letters, and I liked the way in which the people she wrote to and their situations reflected what Laurel was talking about, and how her emotional arc was explored throughout her time writing the letters. It's a really good way to talk about grief, I think, because a lot of the time when you're hurting it's a lot easier to share your pain with people who won't actually talk back. Plus I enjoyed the way in which the mystery behind May's death and what happened to Laurel was slowly revealed over the course of the novel. I especially think that having Laurel write to dead celebrities was an effective way to tell the story.

The actual story itself was also pretty powerful, and it tackles some difficult subjects. I appreciated this about the book, but I didn't necessarily enjoy it. That being said, I did find it a very emotional read and I cried a couple of times, so it definitely got to me somehow... And I liked the characters, too, and I thought that the romance between Laurel and Sky was sweet and really well done. Also, I liked the fact that it took place over the whole of her freshman year. I know that that's another similarity with Perks, but it's one that I thought worked really well for the book and getting to see the whole of Laurel's arc.

Contrary to how this review might sound, I did enjoy Love Letters to the Dead. I think I just expected to love it more than I actually did, which has probably affected my opinion of it some. Plus I read the book, like, 3 weeks ago and my memory is pretty shit so I've probably missed a load of things out. That's what happens when you're too lazy to write book reviews for fun, guys. I should probably take notes or something. Sorry. This is meant to be about the book. Yes! It's good! 


(PS SORRY FOR NOT BLOGGING FOR LIKE TWO WEEKS GUYS I'LL EXPLAIN IN A BLOG POST BUT BASICALLY TV SHOWS AND TEENAGE LAZINESS THAT'S WHY SEE YOU SOON)

Friday, 11 April 2014

Breaking Butterflies Blog Tour: Why M. Anjelais Writes Dark Subject Matter

Hello guys! Sorry that I've been so absentee lately, but I promise I will be back soon, and in the meantime here's a really great post from M. Angelais, author of Breaking Butterflies. Please enjoy! :)

WHY I WRITE DARK SUBJECT MATTER

I’ve always been fascinated by the darker side of things. 

Ever since I can remember, it was the villains in my favourite stories and movies, not the heroes, who got my attention and admiration. Infamous historical figures intrigue me. Morbid subjects make me want to learn more. Even to this very day, I make my decision of whether I like a book based on how much the antagonist fascinates me. I can’t turn it off. It’s something that comes naturally to me.
And it’s also something that shows quite clearly in my writing. 

Every piece of writing I’ve ever done is dark in some way. Every single one. Breaking Butterflies is no exception. Themes of terminal illness, mental illness, psychological abuse, violence, and death are threaded throughout the entire story. The plot is hinged on these things, and at times, thanks to their inclusion, things end up looking quite hopeless for my characters.
There are many people in my life who would ask why I choose to write about such topics and wonder why I wouldn’t write about something nicer, safer, and more comfortable. They might ask why I would want to take readers into very dark and twisted places when there’s already so much darkness in today’s media, and in the world itself. At one point in my life, I might have simply answered by saying that I enjoy the darker side of things. But as I’ve grown older and defined what I’d like to do with my writing more clearly, I realize that I have more important reasons than that.

My first reason is that dark subject matter is real. People who struggle with dark things in their real lives need to see that reflected in fiction. I believe that there’s nothing more empowering than reading a book and finding one of your own struggles reflected therein. Personally, I used to cling to the struggles of antagonists instead of triumphant protagonists, but the effect was the same! Seeing portrayals of trials and difficulties and pain that I can relate to in fiction has always been something that gives me strength, and so I’ve always hoped that my writing could have that effect on other people. 

But I also have a more paradoxical reason for focusing on fictional darkness: I use dark subject matter because I want to show the light.
Put a candle in a room that already has a bunch of lights on, and the little flame will barely be noticeable. Put the same candle in a pitch-black room, however, and that tiny light becomes tremendous. When I set out to write, it is always my goal to apply the same principal. When I take the good in my stories, whether that be good coming from a kind-hearted main character or a happy event, and surround it with hardship and darkness, it shines brighter. The impact is greater. The value increases.
Darkness in my writing is merely a blackened picture frame that encircles the light, displaying it to greater advantage. And despite the fact that I can hear a fair few peoples’ voices in my head telling me that they wish I’d write about nicer things, I’ll never stop using that to my advantage as an author.

Breaking Butterflies by M. Anjelais, out now, £7.99, published by Chicken House
Follow M. Anjelais on twitter @ANJELAIS and find out more at www.doublecluck.com

The closest he will ever come to happiness is when he's hurting her. Will she let him? A beautiful and twisted story of first love and innocence lost--written when the author was just eighteen. 

Sphinxie and Cadence. Promised to each other in childhood. Drawn together again as teens. Sphinxie is sweet, compassionate, and plain. Cadence is brilliant, charismatic. Damaged. And diseased. When they were kids, he scarred her with a knife. Now, as his illness progresses, he becomes increasingly demanding. She wants to be loyal--but fears for her life. Only the ultimate sacrifice will give this love an ending.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Monthly Round-Up: March

Hello! March has been a sort of okay month for me reading wise, but not particularly great. I did get to go to the Hot Key Books blogger brunch with Piccadilly Press and Templar books also taking part, and got to meet/see a lot of bloggers again, which was lovely.

Books read:

The Naturals by Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Young Avengers Volume 2 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie
We Were Liars by E Lockhart
Say Her Name by James Dawson
Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Total: 7 

Books reviewed:

Book of the Month:

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. I luuuurved this book. But We Were Liars and Say Her Name were both excellent reads, too. And I adore Young Avengers.


At Hot Key I got to see a bunch of lovely bloggers (which I am going to try and name here but I may accidentally miss some people out it was a few weeks ago) like Lucy (Queen of Contemporary/UKYA Lucy), Lucy (Choose YA Lucy), Faye, Debbie, Stacey, Michelle, Georgia, Daphne, Nina... Um, I think that was it? Out of the people that I saw and talked to, any way. There were also several Booktubers there who I did not know, but they seemed really lovely, too! It was just a really nice event with books and pizza, so what more do you need really. Plus we got to take home a whole load of books, so thank you so much Hot Key, Piccadilly Press and Templar Books! Also, thank you to all the Bloggers who I swapped books with!

So, that was my March. And now onwards to April (and more importantly, GAME OF THRONES ONE WEEK TO GO CAN YOU TELL I'M EXCITED)



                         

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Grasshopper Jungle review

Grasshopper Jungle
Andrew Smith
February 27th 2014
Electric Monkey

In the small town of Ealing, Iowa, Austin and his best friend Robby have accidentally unleashed an unstoppable army. An army of horny, hungry, six-foot-tall praying mantises that only want to do two things. This is the truth. This is history. It's the end of the world. And nobody knows anything about it.

Funny, intense, complex and brave, Grasshopper Jungle is a groundbreaking, genre-bending, coming-of-age stunner.


This book was just wild from start to finish. It is so weird and so gross and so great I don't even have the words to describe my feelings about this book. Though that's probably more because I still do not really know how I feel about it... This is starting to look like a recurring theme with my reviews. I did definitely like it a whole bloody lot though. But I'm still not sure why, so I should probably think on that.

One thing I know I definitely loved about it was Austin, and specifically Austin's general sort of confusion about his sexuality, and the fact that he was such a teenage boy in all his horniness and historian-ness (okay, maybe not a teenage boy thing necessarily, but whatever) and everything else-ness. I appreciated the fact that he was questioning his sexuality because there's a lot of books about straight people, and there are not enough books about other sexualities. And from my limited experience, it seems like a lot of those are books about people who know that they're gay/bi/not straight. But again, I have read only a few books about LGBT characters (which sucks). Anyway, back to the point! I am a teenager. I am not going to lie, I'm not really sure about my sexuality. That's probably not something I should openly admit when I have very little idea what I am/who I want to do the do with/whether I want to do the do at all/whatever. I AM CONFUSED. As such, reading a book about someone who is confused makes me feel a hell of a lot better. Also, putting it in the context of this crazy praying-mantis-apocalypse really normalises it. So I think that was a very clever move. Though I would just like to state for the record that I am nowhere near as horny as Austin is. He is a real dynamo. I literally do not understand how someone can be that horny and still function. For real, is that how horny teenage boys are? Is it not tiring? Boys are weird.

So. I also really liked the way the story was told. Austin thinks of himself as a historian, and the way that this book is written is like he is writing his history as it happens, if that makes sense? He writes about his ancestors and there's a lot of repetition and sometimes it would go off, like one chapter Austin and Robby and Shann would be doing something, and then the next chapter it would be like 'At that same moment, some people were getting eaten by giant bugs'. There's a lot of referring back to things that have already happened, or that has already been said, as it is written in such a way that all of these things are linked. Like, you'd read about one thing and be like 'what is even happening' and then a hundred pages later it would come back and it'd be like 'WHOA WHAT IS EVEN HAPPENING', mainly because this book is hella weird and you never really know what's happening because regardless of how clearly Austin Sczerba puts everything, there's still essentially a bunch of hungry, horny praying mantis-things eating people. And a surprising amount of bug sex. I will say, I have never before read a book with so much bug sex in it (meaning any. And hopefully NEVER AGAIN.) Anyway, what I'm trying to say is, this book is really smart. It's written in this straight forward, frank, efficient way and I think that's why the weirdness just works. This book is not pissing about. It is frank and unashamed and you don't really have a choice but to just go with it. Embrace the weirdness. Embrace the gross.

Initially, it might seem a lot to take in. When I first heard about this book, and found out what it was about, I thought it might be too much. How could you possibly write a book that manages to be about all of the complex things, and that is also just a complete genrefuck. I was half convinced that Grasshopper Jungle was going to be genius, and half convinced that it would be a hot mess. But I think that it was incredibly successful in what it was trying to do. And again, I think that has a lot to do with the style of the book. Though I will say that I think because of the way it was written, there was kind of a detachment despite the fact that it was in first person. Though that may have just been me. But I have very little negative to say about this book. Obviously it's not perfect, or the best book I've ever read, but I did enjoy it a lot and it's just so smart in how it all fits together. I do not believe that there are any coincidences in this book, any unnecessary details. EVERYTHING is connected, somehow, in this book, pretty much.

So, yeah. Those are my thoughts on Grasshopper Jungle. It is weird and wonderful. I think you should read it. Unless you think you wouldn't like it. In which case, don't. BUT don't let the bug sex put you off.

(I hope I don't regret posting this.)

Friday, 21 March 2014

Blogging and Me

Okay, so that title sounds really pretentious. But I've just been thinking a lot about blogging and the impact it's had on my life over the past couple of years and I kind of just wanted to write about it? Well actually I talk about blogging quite a lot, so I guess it's not really anything too different.

I have a turbulent relationship with blogging, as I think most bloggers do, really. I love it a lot, but it's hard to love it all the time, and I go through a cycle of being really happy about blogging regardless of things like comments and views and I just do it for the reason that I started doing it - because I love talking about books and various other shit and now I can do that in real life AND on the internet. But other times I go through that annoying thing where you feel like you aren't getting any where and that your output just doesn't matter and that there's no growth and you feel stifled, and think that your content is boring because you're not as creative or as thoughtful or as interesting as other bloggers. But that doesn't usually last too long (thank god), and you find a book or something that you love, or you just remember again that you do this for YOU and that you're really happy with where you are.

I think I'm sort of in the transition phase between Happy and Annoyed & Frustrated, which is probably why I'm writing this.  So I can remind myself of all the good and being in the Happy phase again.

One of the most important things about blogging, for me personally, was that it was something that I actively chose to do, purely for me. I am the kind of passive person that always does that thing where you complain about something you want to do, or about the state that you're in, and then proceeds to do literally nothing about it. I love to do nothing. Which is why it continually surprises me that I started this blog, and that I am still writing it three and a half years later. It's not that long a time for some, but it feels like a long time for me because I usually give up on stuff pretty quickly. This blog has carried me through my GCSEs and now my A Levels and the uni application process, and you'd think that it would add more stress to my already kind of stressful life, and it can sometimes feel like a burden, but most of the time it's a comfort. It's nice to have a place where I feel like I fit it and can be myself, and where I feel like I'm good at something when I'm having a bad time at school or college and need to somehow escape from that. And I feel like I balance the two pretty well.

Though obviously I feel like at times it's not worth it and that I should just throw in the towel. It's easy to get frustrated and jealous when you see your friends and other bloggers doing interesting things and working hard and being successful, and it's easy to feel like their success somehow makes you less important, or less successful. And sometimes I do get jealous. I'm human, after all. But then I try to remind myself that this is not a competition. Page views and comments and attention are not the reason I started doing this, and they sure as hell aren't going to be the reason that I stop. It's just sometimes really hard to remember this.

And so we kind of get back to one of the other things that I have found I love about blogging - the community around it. Book bloggers, or at least the ones that I know, are probably some the loveliest people I know. They are so friendly and easy to talk to, and it's so great to be part of a group of people who are all kind of into the same stuff as you and do the same things as you, and the blogging community is not something I would want to leave. And I guess there can be drama, but I feel like this doesn't really happen in the UK book blogger community. Which is nice.

So yeah, sometimes I wish that I was more creative, or better at blog design, or that I had a different style or just plain had more ideas. I sometimes wish I put myself out there more. But I'm just me, and at the end of the day, I like my blog. I like how I run it. Sure, there could be improvements, I could change it up a bit, but this is kind of how I like it. Blogging makes me happy, and I don't want to constantly let it turn into something that I feel is an obligation more than a pleasure.

This was good. It's nice to be positive about something for once in a while!

Thursday, 20 March 2014

We Were Liars review

We Were Liars
E. Lockhart
May 15th 2014
Hot Key Books

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
 
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.


*****SPOILER FREE*****

I finished We Were Liars about a week or so ago, and I still don't know how I feel about it. I'm going to try and talk about it without spoiling anything or without hyping anything up, because I know the hype about it has let a lot of people down, but I think that it's a book that, whether you love it or hate it, you still want to talk about it. It's a book that I think a lot of people should read, just because I think it is special regardless of whether I loved it or hated it. As I said, I still don't really know. But I'm glad I read it.

I think that We Were Liars was a really beautiful book. I loved the writing style, and I know that it will get on some people's nerves because that's just how it is when sometimes the narrative kind of breaks off into something poetry-ish
with lots of  line breaks
with lots of repetition
which can sometimes come across as a little pretentious. And had this been pretty much any other story, or handled in any other way, it really could have annoyed me. I think that goes for a lot of things about this book for me, actually. Especially the ending. Which is why I understand the people who did not like because it's one of those things that feels like it's kind of on the border between brilliance and mehness.

Though, taking the ending out of the equation, the book stands on it's own without that. I feel kind of sad about the fact that so much emphasis is placed on the ending of this book, or rather the 'twist'. It's really the sort of story which you don't want to say OMG THAT ENDING THAT TWIST?1?.?(though I did do that when I finished it because it is pretty crazy) because we're just hyping it up so much that it's going to wind up being a disappointment to a lot of people. But then again, I guess that's the fun of it. Reading through a book a trying to piece everything together so that you can be one step ahead.

But anyway, enough with my contrary opinions about twists and endings and things, I should probably get back to the original point. It is just a really good, solid book. It's a mystery/suspense novel, yes, but it's also contemporary fiction in that it deals with a lot of stuff usually dealt with in less mystery-filled contemp and so I obviously liked that aspect of it. It was a really interesting book about family and trauma and youth and decadence and rich people and social consciousness. Which I think was one of the more interesting things about the book, and I loved the importance which it played in the book without seeming preachy or frustrating. When I first heard about this book and saw what it was about, I was expecting a book about a bunch of rich kids who go to a private island every summer and are rich and something happens to them which is bad. That's pretty much the premise. I expected a bunch of self-obsessed people who are so sort of caught up with their lives that nothing else is really even considered apart from that. And again, this is pretty much the book, and I can't really say to much about this without spoiling it, but I don't really know. I just liked how that whole aspect was handled.

Funnily enough, I feel like the characters were the least memorable thing about this book. Because the book is so short (well it's just over 200 pages, I think) we don't really get as much time for character work rather than just having things which contribute to the plot. Which is good for the kind of book that it is, but I feel like I would've been a lot, a lot more emotionally involved in the book if I felt like I'd gotten to know any of the liars better than we did. Though I did find it an emotional read, despite this, so maybe I'm just being fussy. And I do kind of think that the revelation was perfect, but that the tying up of the ending was all a little to perfect and nicey-nice and maybe that's just me? I don't know.

We Were Liars is an incredibly interesting book, and I think that there's a lot to it, and I'm excited about the discussion it's generating whether it's good or bad, because talking about books is the most fun. If you're a book nerd. But I don't think that it was perfect, even though I liked a lot of things about it. And I think that taking the time between reading it and writing this review has given me a chance to really think about my feelings and get them into order and all that. But regardless of all this, I've found it a hard book to stop thinking about. 
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