Sunday 27 April 2014

Paper Aeroplanes review

Paper Aeroplanes
Dawn O'Porter
May 2nd 2013
Hot Key Books

It's the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn't be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo's jealous ex-best friend and Renée's growing infatuation with Flo's brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship.

I was a tiny bit cautious when it came to reading Paper Aeroplanes because it's a book written by a person who's been on the telly, and as such I was curious as the whether she'd just written it to make a bit of extra cash, but I didn't need to be worried at all because it was not the book I expected it to be, and I really liked it. And after having heard Dawn talk about celebrities and celebs who write books, I feel bad about being a bit judgy at first.

Paper Aeroplanes is ultimately the story of a friendship between two girls - Renee and Flo. When the book starts, the two of them haven't actually become friends yet, so I guess it's really the story of the beginning of their friendship, and you know me, I LOVE books about friendship. I really enjoyed seeing their friendship grow and develop, especially as they're two such different people. You get both of their points of view in the book, which was nice as well because you really do get to feel like you really know both of these girls and their lives. I do feel that, as a consequence of having the two main characters being so well developed, and that the whole book is really just about these two girls and their friendship, that a lot of the side characters felt a bit two dimensional? But maybe this was just me. 

It was kind of more serious than I'd thought it would be. Which isn't a bad thing, it just kind of took me by surprise. Both Renee and Flo have pretty miserable home lives, and Flo also has a problem with her 'best friend' Sally who is probably one of the worst people on the planet. Ever. She's so horrid. And there are also a lot of issues like grief and sex and being a girl stuff which I really appreciated. I don't think every book should be explicit about things like periods and sex and body hair and whatever but sometimes it is appropriate in the story and it is so comforting to read a book which does talk about the things that nobody wants to talk about. It's like, 'Oh! That stuff happens to other people too! Awesome. I'm not a freak of nature', which is always nice. And it served the story a lot, too.

I think that there were parts of it which were uncomfortable to read, but only because it felt so real. Like, it felt a bit like how it would feel to read someones diary, maybe where they're very frank about their feelings and what they're doing even though it's not written like a diary or anything. I liked this aspect to it because it felt really right for the book, getting this sort of no holds barred look into these two teenage girls lives, but I think in any other kind of book it would have been a bit off. I am looking forward to reading Goose though, and seeing to what happens to these two girls. Over the course of the book I came to care about them and their friendship a lot (which I guess is kind of to be expected, really...).

So yeah! Paper Aeroplanes was a really good read, which was kind of heavier than I'd expected, but was still funny and fun to read. If you like books about friendship or shows like My Mad Fat Diary (drawing the comparison mainly because the 90s and explict-y content) then this will probably definitely be up your alley!

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.


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

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.


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. 


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! 


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! :)


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

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.
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