Book Review: The Deepest Breath

Can you tell I’m trying to play catch up with my reviews? The Deepest Breath is an utterly gorgeous novel in verse by Meg Grehan, which came out in…May. I mean, at least it was this year, right?

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Stevie is eleven and loves reading and sea-creatures. She lives with her mum, and she’s been best friends with Andrew since forever. Stevie’s mum teases her that someday they’ll get married, but Stevie knows that won’t ever happen. There’s a girl at school that she likes more. A lot more. Actually, she’s a bit confused about how much she likes her. It’s nothing like the way she likes Andrew. It makes her fizz inside. That’s a new feeling, one she doesn’t understand. Stevie needs to find out if girls can like girls – love them, even – but it’s hard to get any information, and she’s too shy to ask out loud about it. But maybe she can find an answer in a book. With the help of a librarian, Stevie finds stories of girls loving girls, and builds up her courage to share the truth with her mum. 

I adored The Deepest Breath. I read it so long ago now, but it’s stayed with me since. I definitely remember that it made me cry a lot, in the best possible way of course. It’s written from Stevie’s point of view as she tries to understand her feelings for Chloe, a girl in school. She doesn’t know if it’s ok for girls to like other girls like that, but she doesn’t feel like there’s anyone to ask. And Stevie likes to understand things. She asks questions. She reads huge non-fiction books, full of facts, because understanding things makes life that little less scary. So not knowing what the way she’s feeling means is terrifying for Stevie. And no matter how hard she tries, she doesn’t seem to be able to ask her mum, or make her understand.

The relationship between Stevie and her mum was one of my favourite things. There’s a bit towards the end of the book when the loveliest librarian ever written thinks Stevie’s mum has rejected her because she has feelings for a girl, and I wanted to shout no! She just hasn’t understood what Stevie’s trying to tell her! Because Stevie’s mum is not the sort of person who would reject her daughter for anything. Their closeness is evident in every line, and you can see that they mean the world to each other. They get each other through the tough times and it was just lovely to see that sort of relationship on the page.

The writing in The Deepest Breath is just gorgeous too. It’s a stream of consciousness from Stevie, full of feelings and sadness and questions and, maybe above all else, love – for her mum, for her friends, for Chloe. It is really quite breathtaking how much of Stevie we get to see in a relatively short book, and I love all of her.

I really can’t recommend The Deepest Breath enough. I am so thankful for the gifted copy because I know it wouldn’t have crossed my radar otherwise, and it’s one of the best books I’ve read this year. It’s also one of the most important – I don’t think there’s enough LGBT+ fiction aimed at this age group (the younger end of YA), especially this well written. Please do yourselves a favour and pick it up. I promise you won’t regret it!

5/5

Many thanks to Nina Douglas and Little Island Press for the gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: I Hold Your Heart

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Please be aware that this review discusses the themes of I Hold Your Heart and as such contains references to abusive relationships.

I am a HUGE fan of Karen Gregory – Skylarks was my favourite book of last year – so I knew as soon as I heard about I Hold Your Heart I had to be part of the blog tour. I am therefore absolutely delighted to be reviewing this book as one of the first stops!

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‘You make me feel like there’s something good in the world I can hold on to,’ Aaron says. He kisses me again, draws me so close it’s almost hard to breathe. ‘I love you, Gem. And I promise I’ll hold your heart forever.’

When Gemma meets Aaron, she feels truly seen for the first time. Their love story is the intense kind. The written-in-the-stars, excluding-all-others kind. The kind you write songs about.

But little by little their relationship takes over Gemma’s life. What happens when being seen becomes being watched, and care becomes control?

Told in both Gemma’s and Aaron’s words, this is a raw, moving exploration of gaslighting in teenage relationships that skewers our ideas of what love looks like.

I absolutely loved I Hold Your Heart. It’s a brilliant, and important book, looking at something that isn’t really covered that often in YA. A lot of contemporary YA is all about the romance, the cute relationship, the happy ending, but I Hold Your Heart looks at what happens when that cute relationship is actually an unhealthy and controlling one. Where it really comes into its own though, is in giving us both points of view. In doing so, it doesn’t invite us to empathise with Aaron, or make excuses for him, but to see how easy it is to become entangled with someone who has poor intentions.

Given that, it’s definitely important to go into this book aware of its contents. There is an emotionally abusive relationship throughout, it’s sometimes physically abusive and violent and there’s a scene where the main character is unable to give full consent to sex. These scenes were difficult enough to read without any personal experience; I can’t imagine what it would be like if you’ve lived through similar situations.

Obviously, as someone who doesn’t have any personal experience of the situation in the book, I can’t speak to how realistic the portrayal is, but it seems very realistic to me. Gemma, our main character, has some brilliant friends who see Aaron for what he is immediately, but he still manages to isolate her completely, and persuade her that her friends are jealous of their relationship and she’s better off without them. The first chapter from Aaron’s point of view is quite chilling, because he knows exactly what he’s doing. Does he set out to purposely abuse Gemma? Probably not, because I don’t think he thinks of what he’s doing as abuse. But I do think he wants to be the only person Gemma cares about and he will do whatever it takes to get that.

Gemma herself is a fascinating character. Ostensibly, she has a good life. She has parents who care about her, a nice house to live in, friends who love her and dreams to follow. But her brother (who is adorable by the way) is on the road to becoming a professional footballer, which takes most of her parents’ time, and she feels she matters less because of it. Her dad wouldn’t let her go to the college of her choice because it was too far away, but he’ll drive her brother anywhere he needs to go. It’s easy to see how Aaron is able to exploit that feeling. Aaron makes Gemma feel seen, that she is the most important thing in the world to him, and it’s the first time she’s ever felt that. I absolutely understand why she can’t see what her friend, Esi, sees, and I can equally understand that she wants to show she reciprocates. I loved (while hating that it was happening) that you could see Gemma changing right there on the page. She starts off so confident, and you can actually see her confidence being whittled away. I’m in awe of Karen’s writing skill to be honest, because that’s so hard to do when it’s written in first person.

I need to talk about Esi for a bit, because I loved her, and there’s a part of me that would have liked to see more of her, even though that wouldn’t work in the story. She’s the best sort of friend, the sort who isn’t afraid to call you out on your BS, but is also fun and caring and looking out for you, even if you aren’t doing the same in return. Everyone needs an Esi in their life!

I can’t actually talk about some of my favourite things, because they would be firmly in spoiler territory, more so than what I’ve already talked about, but trust me when I say the entire book is fantastic. It is, as I said above, hard to read at some points, because you can see what’s happening so clearly and it’s frustrating that Gemma can’t, and there are scenes that are actually painful, but that’s what makes it so brilliant. I can’t recommend I Hold Your Heart enough – Karen Gregory has definitely done it again!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!

5/5

I Hold Your Heart is out on 11 July from Bloomsbury. Many thanks to Bloomsbury and Faye Rogers for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review

Book Review: Patron Saints of Nothing

When Stripes Publishing did a blogger callout asking for people to review Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I’m so glad I did, because this is a stunning book I might not have picked up otherwise.

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A powerful coming-of-age story about grief, guilt and the risks a Filipino-American teenager takes to uncover the truth about his cousin’s murder.

When Jay Reguero hears of his cousin Jun’s death, everything changes. Although years have passed since they were last in contact, the stories about Jun just don’t fit with the boy Jay knew. Hoping to uncover the truth, Jay travels to Jun’s home in the Philippines – but the shocking realities of life there lead to even more questions. Can Jay find the answers he seeks?

A gripping and lyrical YA novel for fans of Angie Thomas’s THE HATE U GIVE, Patrice Lawrence’s ORANGEBOY and Nic Stone’s DEAR MARTIN.
I’m not going to lie, I did put off reading Patron Saints of Nothing for a little bit because I wasn’t in the mood for such a heavy topic. I was wrong to do so, because it meant I took so much longer than I should to find out just how good this book is. I absolutely loved it, even though it did make me cry, but then it made me laugh too, and the journey it took me on was hard, but amazing.
Jay Reguero, our main character, is a Filipino-American, who left the Philippines with his family when he was very young. He’s only ever been back once, when he was ten, but while he was there, he bonded with his cousin, Jun, who was only three days younger than him. They keep in touch through letters until they’re about 14, when Jay finds other things to do with his time and just never writes back. Four years later, he learns Jun has been killed as part of President Duterte’s war on drugs, but can’t rationalise the Jun he knew with a drug dealer and addict, and so he decides to travel to the Philippines to try and find out the truth.
Jay is such a great character. He doesn’t really feel like he fits in at school – there aren’t many other non-white kids for starters – and he doesn’t really know what he wants to do once he graduates. He has a college place at a good school but he’s not excited by it at all. HIs older siblings seem to know exactly what they want and are out getting it, but Jay just feels a bit lost. And then he finds out Jun has died. Not only that, because of the way he died, there’s not going to be a funeral or memorial, and nobody will mention his name. Jay is completely thrown by this and his grief practically swarms off the page. He can’t concentrate on anything other than Jun. He researches what’s happening in the Philippines, something he’s never done before, and he starts to feel ashamed that he had no idea what’s been going on there. He also realises he’s never going to find out what actually happened to Jun by just sitting in his bedroom and he persuades his parents to let him go and visit the rest of his family – which they allow, on the condition he obeys his uncle and never mentions Jun.
I loved how we got to see Jay learning more about his family and getting to know them as adults. It was also interesting to see how he felt he didn’t fit in there anymore than he felt he fitted in in America. His uncle takes every opportunity to denigrate Jay for being too American and not Filipino enough, and he’s disgusted Jay doesn’t know more about the history or language of the Philippines. Even his nice relatives don’t think Jay can understand what’s happening in the country because he’s too much of an outsider. As we go through the book, we see Jay learning and understanding more and more about a heritage he left behind years earlier, and unpacking his identity and privilege. Also, his Tita Chato and Tita Ines were awesome and I’d quite like to see them in a book of their own!
I also loved how we got to know Jun through the letters he wrote to Jay. It was really quite bittersweet, knowing that the person who had written them had died, but it was also very effective in making us care about Jun, and allowing us to see why Jay was so convinced that he was being lied to.
The other thing I thought Ribay did really well was educating his readers about the war on drugs in the Philippines. I must admit, I had no idea this was happening, and I thought he included the information we needed in a very readable, but still sensitive  way. He doesn’t pull his punches though. The consequences of Duterte’s brutal war are laid bare on the page, and it can be a hard read at times. There’s also an author’s note at the back with resources for your own research.
This review has in no way done justice to the book, but I think it’s definitely one of those books you just have to read. Once you’ve read it, you’ll understand. I really didn’t expect to love it in the way that I do but there you go. Sometimes a book surprises you, or you read it at just the right time. I urge you to give Patron Saints of Nothing a go – but I’d probably make sure you have tissues nearby!
(If you’d like to read what Filipino reviewers think of the book – and I highly recommend that you do – check out the US blog tour hashtag on twitter #PatronSaintsPHTour)
5/5
Patron Saints of Nothing is released in the UK on 27 June by Stripes Publishing, who kindly sent me a gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: Tulip Taylor

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It’s my turn on the Tulip Taylor blog tour today, and I’m delighted to be sharing my review with you. Contemporary YA is my go-to read at the moment, so getting to read Tulip Taylor [gifted] by Anna Mainwaring was a real treat!

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Challenged to go on a `survival’ reality TV show, fifteen-year-old make-up vlogger Tulip only accepts to escape her mother’s money-making schemes and protect her younger brother and sister. Set up to fail, can she prove to the TV show, to Harvey – the cute but annoying boy who got her on there – and most importantly to herself, that she’s more than just a pretty face? As Tulip puts down her phone and heads for the hills, she finds she has both the courage and insight to take on each new challenge. But as ‘reality’ gets ever more crazy, will either teen escape their families and their time in the spotlight unscathed?

As someone who is very sceptical of reality shows and incredibly popular vloggers, I wondered how I’d get on with Tulip. I’m pleased to report it was very well indeed, and I very much enjoyed reading her story. Tulip herself is a great teenage character – she’s very confident on the outside, but inside she’s plagued with all the usual anxieties. She’s found that make-up helps calm her down – she’s literally putting on a face to the outside world, presenting herself as she wants to be seen. She’s incredibly accomplished at what she does, but also very aware that because it’s make-up, and a ‘girl thing’, others think she’s daft and vapid, and this was something that rang so, so true. It also serves as the trigger point for the story – Harvey, new to the school, thinks that because Tulip is obsessed with make-up, she’s also stupid, and is very surprised to find out that’s not true.

I didn’t get on as well with Harvey as I did Tulip. At some points early on, he seems incapable of realising people can have many facets. Fortunately, he does eventually realise the error of his ways, and as the book goes on, I did become much more sympathetic to him. Harvey has his own issues he’s dealing with, not least that it’s clear to him his older brother is the favoured son. There were some really interesting parallels between Tulip and Harvey and the way their respective parents behaved, and I enjoyed seeing the two of them become closer as the book went on.

Speaking of Tulip’s parents – oh my goodness, how she hasn’t already killed her mother I don’t know! Tulip’s mum has completely thrown herself into the world of online influencers in a desperate bid to make ends meet, and she makes some quite suspect decisions as part of this – including installing cameras around the house so the whole family can be recorded 24/7. Tulip tries to reign in the wildest excesses, but there’s only so much a 15 year old can do, and in the end, the only way she can find to stop her mum’s scheme is to go on the show being run by Harvey’s father, and give her own father time to come up with some money. As reasons go for pushing yourself to do something you know you’ll hate, it’s a pretty good one, and I loved that Tulip’s main motivation was to protect her younger brother and sister.

I think I pretty much knew how the survival section would go, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun finding out if I was right or not! I did get frustrated with some of Tulip’s fellow contestants and how judgemental they were, but I loved Tulip proving them wrong again and again. There were definitely a few moments when I wanted to cheer, on both Tulip and Harvey’s behalf!

In short, I really enjoyed Tulip Taylor. It’s a fun YA contemporary with a serious message about discovering who you are and being true to yourself. It’s also, I think, got a good message about switching off from social media every now and again – nobody needs to be online all the time, and you never know what you might discover about yourself if you give it a try!

Don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!

4/5

Tulip Taylor by Anna Mainwaring is out on 20 June from Firefly Press. Many thanks to Firefly, Bounce Marketing and Faye Rogers for my gifted copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Blog Tour: As Far As The Stars

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I am delighted that today is my stop on the blog tour for As Far As The Stars by Virginia MacGregor. Many thanks to Nina Douglas and HQ for my gifted copy in exchange for an honest review!

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How do you change what’s already written in the stars?

Christopher is the sort of guy that no one notices, yet when Air catches sight of him making intricate paper birds in the airport, she can’t look away.

But their worlds are about to collide in ways they never expected. Someone they love is on Flight 0217 from London Heathrow. And it’s missing.

Convinced that her brother was on a different flight, Air drives them hundreds of miles across the country, on a trip that will change their lives forever.

But how do you tell the person you’re falling for that you might just be the reason their life has fallen apart?

So I’ll be honest. It took me a while to get into As Far As The Stars because I just couldn’t understand why Air and Christopher were acting the way they were. I mean, sure, Air convinced herself her brother was on a different flight, but Christopher knew his dad was on the missing one, and yet he still left the airport to go on a cross-country trip with a stranger. But then something suddenly clicked with me, and I found myself really enjoying the story, and the romance that was developing.

Air is clearly someone who can be frustrating. She is very much the organiser of her family, especially when it comes to her brother, Blake, and everyone relies on her to be the sensible one, but this also means that she’s very introspective and doesn’t tell anyone what’s going on. There were moments when I wanted to shake her, and certainly part of the book is about her learning to trust other people.

That obviously comes from the other main character in the book, Christopher. He has his own issues, but their road-trip allows both characters to learn from each other and really start living their own lives and not the ones laid out for them by other people. The romance does develop quickly, but given the situation they’re in, I think it’s entirely realistic that it would do, and it’s written well. I also found that the way the relationship developed gave me insights into the characters. It can sometimes be hard to understand the other characters when a book is written in the first person, but As Far As The Stars is written in such a way that you learn as much about Christopher’s feelings as Air’s.

I also really liked the flashbacks, which meant we got to see just why Air adores her brother so much. Blake is mostly thoughtless, careless and focussed on himself, but it’s clear from the flashbacks that Air is the exception and the adoration goes both ways. Even though they’re opposites in many ways, they absolutely get each other, and I thought Virginia MacGregor did a wonderful job in showing that. I did feel sorry for Jude, Air’s sister, though – it can’t be easy to see your younger siblings form a clique without you!

As Far As The Stars is beautifully written and deals with grief and how different people handle it really well. I was sobbing by the end of the book, and the final third in particular is fantastic. Although it did take me a while to get into, I would definitely recommend it. Just remember your tissues!

4/5

Book Review: The Near Witch

Before I start this review, I would like to tell you a little story. It starts nearly five years ago, when I was attending Worldcon in London, and I happened to attend a panel on urban fantasy (or possible YA), because some of my favourite authors were on it.* Also on that panel was a 27 year old author I’d never previously heard of, even though she’d already published five books. And she started talking about one of those books, and how it was about a library of the dead, and I was completely and utterly sold. I quite liked the sound of her other books too – the already published creepy superhero book, the forthcoming fantasy book which featured four different Londons, and her debut, about witches and fear and consequences. The Near Witch was already out of print at that point, and almost impossible to find, so I was pretty certain I’d never get the chance to read it. And then suddenly, Victoria/V E Schwab became a (well deserved) phenomenon, and even her more recent books were being published in collectors editions, so it was kind of inevitable that her debut would eventually join them. Thank goodness for Titan, who were also kind enough to gift me a copy of The Near Witch in exchange for an honest review.

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The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children. 

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. 

There are no strangers in the town of Near. 

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. 

But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. 

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. 

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

First of all, can we take a moment to appreciate that cover? When they announced it, I thought it was a bit weird, but now I love it! It’s so striking. If you’re not aware, there are actually three covers – the one above is the standard edition, there’s a grey one exclusive to Forbidden Planet (which is the one I pre-ordered – they now come signed too!) and a yellow one that’s exclusive to Barnes and Noble in the US. The boards underneath the dustjacket are also beautiful – the standard edition is a deep maroon with a silhouette of Lexi in gold and it’s gorgeous.

Second of all, if you follow me on twitter, you may have seen me tweet that the introduction to this book made me cry. Yes, the introduction. It’s Victoria talking about how sad she was when The Near Witch originally went out of print, and how unusual it is for a book to get a second chance like this, and it just made me very emotional, ok? I am, if you haven’t guessed already, a huge fan of Victoria. I think she’s amazing, not least in the number of books she has published in the last eight years, and I think it’s wonderful that her debut is getting a new lease of life.

Third of all, it’s actually time for me to talk about the book itself. I know. It’s taken a little bit to get here – I hope you’ll forgive me. So, personally, I loved The Near Witch. If I didn’t know it was a debut, I wouldn’t have picked it up from the writing, although it’s clear that Victoria’s writing has improved with each book. It is quite slow to get going, but to me it was a very lyrical style of writing, and it suited the pacing. I know that’s not for everyone though, so bear it in mind if you’re thinking of picking it up.

The Near Witch is essentially a fairytale, and that’s exactly how it reads to me. The town of Near has a legend that comes with a song even the smallest child knows, and that song is often carried on the wind (incidentally, I’m writing this as Storm Gareth rages outside and the wind is whistling and howling, which seems very appropriate and not a little creepy!). There are no strangers in Near – everyone knows everybody’s business – but that means that when a stranger does appear, he is immediately suspect. The fact that he appears just as children start going missing does not help! Only Lexi is convinced he’s innocent, but she has her own problems, and it’s not easy for her to prove it.

I really liked Lexi. She’s confident in her own skills, but frustrated by the patriarchal society she’s a part of. Her family, particularly her little sister, is her world, and her devastation at the death of her father is an ever-present undercurrent to the story. I was less convinced by her love story with Cole, the stranger who appears one night, but that’s ok, because even Lexi and Cole are tentative about it. I’ve seen some people describe it as instalove, but it didn’t come across that way to me. As it’s a book written in first person, from Lexi’s point of view, we only find out information about Cole as she does, and so he doesn’t have as much depth of character as Lexi, but I liked his story too, and we get to find out more in the novella that’s been packaged in this edition, The Ash-Born Boy.

I thought the world of The Near Witch was beautifully evoked. I live in a city in the north-west of England but I’m close enough to the Yorkshire moors to be able to picture the setting exactly. And I think that’s one reason I liked it so much. It’s never stated where Near is, and I’m sure if you live elsewhere, you can imagine it to be somewhere near you, but for me, it was definitely northern England, and I always have a soft spot for books set in the north!

I’m going to stop rambling on now, but I really loved The Near Witch. It may have been V E Schwab’s debut, but it’s definitely stood the test of time. I’m now sad that it didn’t get the life it deserves the first time round too, but this is a beautiful edition of a beautiful book, and it’s well worth your hard-earned cash. You might think I’m biased, but the only way you can tell for sure is by reading it yourself, so why don’t you?

4.5/5

The Near Witch is out now, from Titan Books

*I didn’t get to spend much time at that Worldcon, thanks to ending up in hospital, and my second most vivid memory of the panel is that the moderator was terrible. But I’m so glad that panel was one I managed to attend anyway, because otherwise, who knows how late to the V E Schwab party I might have been?

Blog Tour: The Everlasting Rose

I am thrilled that today is my day on the blog tour for The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton! I really enjoyed The Belles last year, so I was very interested in seeing how the story was resolved in The Everlasting Rose. Many thanks to Patricia at Gollancz for providing me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review!

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Camellia Beaureguard is a Belle. She can make you beautiful. Though there is always a cost. With a price on her head, the evil Queen Sophia out for blood, and no idea who to trust, Camellia must race against time to find the ailing Princess Charlotte, who has disappeared without a trace. Sophia’s imperial forces will stop at nothing to keep Camellia, her sister Edel, and her loyal guard, Rémy, from returning Charlotte to the palace and her rightful place as queen. With the help of a secretive resistance movement called the Iron Ladies – a society that rejects beauty treatments entirely – and the backing of underground newspaper the Spider’s Web, Camellia must use her powers, her connections, and her cunning to outwit her greatest nemesis, Sophia, and restore peace to Orléans.

So, I actually think The Everlasting Rose is the better book of the series. I did enjoy The Belles, but it had a lot of setting up to do. Clayton is excellent at building her world, don’t get me wrong, but it can slow the plot down, so it was nice to be able to jump straight in to the action. And oh boy, do we jump straight in. The Everlasting Rose starts more or less where The Belles left off, with Camille, Edel, Amber and Remy in hiding from the despotic new queen. There’s very few reminders of what happened in the first book, so you really do need to read that one first if you want the faintest idea of what’s happening!

Having said that we get straight into the action, I don’t want you to think that the worldbuilding is lacking, because it isn’t. We get to visit a lot more of this world this time around, and all of it is stunningly described. We also get to find out more of the history of the world and where the Belles came from, and there’s definitely a part of me that hopes we might one day see a prequel covering this in more detail.

I loved that Camille’s primary motivation was to get the people she loved out of danger. The fact that that involved overthrowing a evil queen was definitely just a side show for her, but it showed us the main facets of her character very easily. It was interesting to see how her situation had changed – now in possession of knowledge she didn’t really want, she has to shoulder a lot of responsibility, and she doesn’t want to let her burden rest on her friends and sisters as well. I also liked that it was Edel we spent most time with, because she was a complete contrast to Camille.

I did think it sagged a little bit in the middle, and I would have liked to have seen more of the Iron Ladies and how they envision the future actually coming to pass, given that their ideas are very different from the way things currently are. But overall I thought it was well paced and definitely a page-turner – I raced through it in a couple of hours because I needed to see what happened, and I found the ending very satisfying. If you enjoyed The Belles, you’ll definitely enjoy The Everlasting Rose!

4/5

Book review: I Was Born For This

I’m not going to lie, I thought twice about requesting this. I’d read Alice Oseman’s previous two books, Solitaire and Radio Silence and found something missing from them for me. I’d decided her writing wasn’t for me, so I wasn’t going to read I Was Born For This, because it didn’t seem fair to keep trying and keep saying she’s not for me. I’d like to say this book changed that for me; unfortunately it didn’t. I still didn’t connect with it in the way so many other readers did. However, I’m happy to say that I felt it was miles above the previous two, and I do think it’s Oseman’s best book yet.

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

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be. 

For me, Alice Oseman is one of those writers who I can see is technically very good. And she really is. I’m convinced my issue with her books is exactly that – my issue. I can see exactly why people love them, just like I can see why people might find a famous actor attractive, even if I don’t like them myself. I Was Born For This was no exception. Written from two perspectives – superfan Angel and band member Jimmy – it looks at how fandom can give its members a space to belong, while also piling the pressure onto everyone involved. Angel and Jimmy both struggle to deal with these pressures, and it was interesting to see their two viewpoints and the push and pull between a fandom and its subjects.

One of the things Oseman always does well is diversity, and it was something I loved about IWBFT. There’s clear, important LGBT and mental health rep on the page, and Angel is a young Muslim woman who wears a hijab. These aren’t plot points, they’re just facts that makes these characters who they are, which is exactly how diversity in books should work. There are also excellent side characters, like Bliss, the girlfriend of one of the band members, and Jimmy’s grandad. I’ll admit that I found the other members of the band a bit annoying, but I think that’s because we mostly see them from Jimmy’s point of view, and he has a lot of issues with them during the course of this book.

Overall, I’m glad I read I Was Born For This. It was certainly enjoyable and is a book that makes you think. It’s ultimately a book about finding your own path, and I think it’s an important addition to the YA canon – even if it wasn’t quite for me.

4/5

ARC received from Harper Collins via Nina Douglas, in exchange for an honest review. Thanks Nina!

View from a Book: Guest Post by Sophie Cameron

ootb-tour

Today is my turn on the blog tour for Out of the Blue, the stunning debut novel from Sophie Cameron which came out on the 22nd March. On the surface, Out of the Blue is a story about angels falling from the sky, but on a deeper level, it explores the different ways we deal with grief and how we can affect the other people around us. I was sent an arc as part of this blog tour, and I absolutely loved the book. Jaya, the main character, is incredibly relatable and I loved seeing her relationships with Allie and Teacake (the only angel to survive the fall) develop.

Sophie kindly agreed to be the second participant in my View from a Book feature, so without further ado, onto Sophie’s post!

View from a Book

View From a Book

  • Where are you and what are you reading?

I’m in Parc de la Ciutadella in Barcelona, and reading Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.  

  • Would you recommend the book?

Definitely! I’m only a few chapters in but so far it’s excellent.

  • Is there anything special about this particular spot?

It’s one of my favourite parks in Barcelona and is just a short walk away from my flat, so I come here a lot when I want a wander or some fresh air. In summer it’s too busy to read in peace, but at this time of year you can still find some quiet(ish) spots.

  • Do you have a favourite place to read?

I love reading on the beach – any beach, as long as it’s not too busy.

  • Can you tell us a little bit about Out of the Blue?

Out of the Blue is about a 16-year-old girl named Jaya, who has recently lost her mother and whose father has dragged her and her sister to Edinburgh in the hopes he can catch one of the angels or ‘Beings’ that have been falling to earth for the past eight months. It’s Jaya who finds one instead – but rather than telling her dad she decides to keep it hidden from him and nurse it back to health.

  • If you could send someone to anywhere in the world as the perfect place to read Out of the Blue, where would you pick?

It’d have to be Edinburgh! Maybe in the Meadows or the Royal Botanic Garden, if it’s a nice day.

  • And finally, if you could pick any book for Jaya and Teacake to read, what would it be?

I love this question! For Jaya, I’d pick Not Your Sidekick by C. B. Lee, I think she’d love that. I think Teacake could probably learn to read in English really fast if she put her mind to it, but to start with I’d give her a recipe book with lots of photos of tasty cakes and puddings – maybe Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi.

Thank you to Sophie for this fabulous post – are you all as jealous as I am of that lovely spot?!

Out of the Blue is out now from Pan Macmillan and really is a fantastic book that I recommend you all get your hands on immediately, especially if you like LGBT and disability rep in your books.

Have you read Out of the Blue? Do you want to? Let me know in the comments!

View from a Book: Guest Post by Yaba Badoe

Jigsaw tour4 copy

Today I am really excited to be welcoming Yaba Badoe onto the blog as part of the blog tour for A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars, her YA debut. Published in hardback in September, this beautifully written book has just come out in paperback, and tells the story of Sante, the family she’s lost and the family she’s found.

Yaba has very kindly agreed to write a guest post and launch my new feature, View from a Book, and I couldn’t have asked for a better launch post! I love the book Yaba has chosen and I think the photograph she has sent me is gorgeous – I wish I had somewhere like this to read!

View from a Book

ViewFromABook_YabaBadoe

This is the view from a book I’m currently reading – an edition of The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm illustrated by Arthur Rackhman.

The book is open at page 72, on the story of the The Goosegirl. A mild-mannered, ‘humble’ princess on a journey to marry a distant Prince is bullied by her bloody-minded Lady-in-Waiting into swapping her clothes and identity. The Lady-in-Waiting marries the Prince while the real Princess is forced to eek out a living as a Goosegirl. Eventually, the Prince’s father, the King, discovers the Goosegirl’s secret. The Lady-in-waiting is put to death and the true Princess marries her Prince!

I’m reading the story on the sofa of our basement kitchen – a great place to read and relax because it’s comfortable, and has a wonderful view of a large sycamore tree in our front garden. Depending on the season, whenever I look up from the page, there’s either a lot of sky or leaves. That upward tilt of my head to gaze out takes me deeper into a state of reverie essential for entering other worlds. And if the sun is out and I’m in tune with the story I’m reading, looking out dazzles me.

At the moment I’m working on a second book, Wolf-light for Zephyr, the YA imprint of Head of Zeus. My debut novel for Zephyr was A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – a story about people trafficking, migration and dislocation. Sante was a baby when she was washed ashore in a sea-chest laden with treasures. It seems she is the survivor of the tragic sinking of a ship carrying migrants and refugees. Fourteen years on she’s a member of Mama Rose’s unique and dazzling circus. But from their watery grave, the unquiet dead are calling Sante to avenge them.

Wolf-light tells the story of three young women, sisters of the heart, born within hours of each other in Mongolia, Ghana and Cornwall. Zula, Adoma and Linet are custodians of sacred sites and belong to a secret order whose task is to protect and conserve the landscapes they inhabit. When copper miners begin to plunder Zula’s desert home in Gobi Altai and Adoma’s forest and river are polluted by gold prospectors, it is only a matter of time before the lake Linet guards with her life is also in jeopardy.

A couple of the characters in A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars reappear in Wolf-light – so although it’s not a sequel in any sense of the word – it revisits a theme that fascinates me: how, do individuals and communities, in an increasingly globalised world, hold on to what they treasure most.

Thank you for this gorgeous post Yaba! I’m really looking forward to reading Wolf-light in the near future!

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is out now in paperback, published by Zephyr, and is well worth your hard-earned money.

Have you read A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars? If not, are you more likely to after reading this? Let me know in the comments, and don’t forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour this week!