Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've Read So Far in 2015

I have only read 28 books so far this year, so it was quite hard to pick out a top ten - there were some clear winners but I was wracked with indecision over some of the others. Therefore I wouldn't call this a definitive list - I'm prone to changing my mind and revising star ratings! I also haven't ranked these - if I tried to do that it would have taken me all day - they're in the order in which I read them.

Click the book titles/authors for full reviews.

Top Ten Books I've Read So Far in 2015

Trouble, by Non Pratt - I finally got around to reading the much-acclaimed Trouble and really enjoyed it, but not as much as Remix, which appears later on my list.

The Sky is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson - it took me a while to get into this one but by the end I felt like I was the narrator, which is the number one sign of a good book.

Artemis Fowl and The Opal Deception, by Eoin Colfer - SUCH PERIL. SO PLOT. VERY AHHHH! My favourite Artemis Fowl book so far apart from the first.

The Bookshop Book, by Jen Campbell - I want to use this as a travel guide for the rest of my life.

Elizabeth is Missing, by Emma Healey - I had a few mixed feelings about this but it was well-written and I enjoyed it.

Remix, by Non Pratt - friendship, festivals, and whimsical vests, wonderful.

Wintersmith, by Terry Pratchett - I'm still thinking about the witches and I read this in May.

Being Emily, by Rachel Gold - quick, easy to read trans coming-out story, with some unusual elements.

I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson - I didn't love this as much as The Sky is Everywhere, it took me even longer to get into it but it was still a memorable, powerful read in the end.

How to Be Bad, by E Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, and Sarah Mlynowski - friendship and life troubles on a three-day road trip. Now I have read all of E Lockhart's books! Wayhey!

Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. If you've done your own version of this list let me know! Do we have any books in common?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Books On My TBR For Summer 2015

As I said in the above video, I am a seasonal reader. In summer, I crave contemporaries like they're going out of fashion. Which they might be - it certainly seems that way, especially when you look at the YALC lineup. Discuss.

Anyway, regardless of current publishing trends or fan furore, in my mind, contemporary settings in books and summer belong together. It's not compulsory for the books be set during a summer, but I do find myself drawn to summery books because summer is my favourite season, as I rambled in another video, last year, and I want to make the most of it!

So most of the books on today's Top Ten Tuesday are contemporary, or contemporary with supernatural elements.. I might not get to them all, because I'm moving, and have to spend a lot of time going round furniture shops (Zzzzzzz...). Or I might devour all of them, because I don't have internet for weeks. Who knows!

Yeah, as if I have the space for a dedicated table for my TBR, a pair of sunglasses and a wrist cuff. 

Top Ten Books On My TBR For Summer 2015

1. Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian, by Eoin Colfer - I am FINALLY going to finish #FinishItFeb. In June.

2. This Is Not A Love Story, by Keren David - everyone seems really thrilled about this, so I can't wait to give it a go.

3. The Lost and Found, by Cat Clarke - this is an upcoming Bookish Brits Book Club selection. Lots of people I know absolutely rave about Cat Clarke but I've never read any of her books before so I'm excited to give it a go.

4. Subway Love, by Nora Raleigh Baskin - because I'm probably not going to go on holiday abroad this year, I figured I might as well go on a journey in my head to NYC. Also this is quite a short book, so it can be a little self-esteem booster in-between longer reads.

5. How To Be Bad, by E Lockhart, Lauren Myracle, and Sarah Mlynowski - because this is the only E Lockhart book I haven't read yet, and I just got this copy. I'm hoping to start it as soon as I finish my current read (The Girl on the Train).

6. Second Chance Summer, by Morgan Matson - another book that everyone seems to love, plus, it's set during a summer.

7. Rules of Summer, by Joanna Philbin - I got sent this unsolicited review copy a year or two ago, and I hadn't heard anything about it, so it languished on my TBR until Stacey at prettybooks recommended it.

8. Have a Little Faith, by Candy Harper, and

9. Dare You To, by Katie McGarry, because I should really start working on my List of Shame. We're more than halfway through the year, after all.

10. Under My Skin, by James Dawson, because the hot pink on the cover and the edges of the colour is such a summery colour. I mean, I'm looking forward to the story as well, but maintaining a summer aesthetic is important business...

Just the UKYA, chilling on my bed.

I hope you enjoyed this post! Let me know in the comments if you have read any of these and if you have any recommendations, and if you've done your own version of this list please share the link. Top Ten Tuesday was created and is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Book Review: Remix, by Non Pratt

I can't overstate how much I was looking forward to reading Remix. I really enjoyed Non Pratt's debut, Trouble, but it was about teenage pregnancy, so it was never going to make it to my best books of all time, just because it's not one of my favourite subjects. However, if I was to pick a favourite theme for fictional stories, the one theme to rule them all, it would be friendship. So I was thinking - if Non could make me enjoy a book about (ew) teenage pregnancy, she would be able to work wonders when writing about friendship.

I was not disappointed.

Ruby and Kaz love being best friends. They want to tell each other everything, to rely on each other and support each other. And they want to be exclusive. They're possessive, and jealous, and they worry that they'll do something wrong and the friendship will dissolve. Their relationship is wonderfully realistic - at the beginning of the novel their relationship is going strong, but they both have secrets that they are afraid to share with the other. Kaz doesn't want to confess that her ex-boyfriend is coming to Remix, the titular music festival, because she knows that Ruby will judge her for still being into him. Ruby, on the other hand, isn't expecting to see her ex all weekend. He cheated on her, so she hates him, or so everyone, including Kaz, believes. Ruby is too proud to admit to anyone that things aren't that simple.

Another issue simmering under the surface, as they pack (Kaz) or neglect to pack (Ruby) is that of their impending separation. Ruby has not done well in her exams and won't be joining Kaz in the next year of school. Both of them worry about how they and their friendship will survive this.

The music festival provides the perfect setting for all the anticipated drama to play out. Old friends cause trouble, new friends get in the way, secrets are shared and mistakes are made as they weave and out of stalls, sing around campfires, and see bands they love.

Music plays a really important role in Remix - Kaz and Ruby have differing tastes but are united by their love of one particular band, like many friends are. Kaz is a musician herself, while Ruby loves to listen or throw herself around a mosh pit. Reading Remix made me feel completely desperate to go to a festival again, or a gig - unfortunately I had to settle for finding some new bands to listen to on Spotify!

If you love contemporary YA, I think you will really enjoy Remix. I thought it was fantastic and I can't wait to see what Non Pratt writes about next!

Many thanks to Walker Books for sending me a proof copy of Remix.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Book Reviews: A Month with April-May, and 100 Days of April-May, by Edyth Bulbring

Note: A Month with April May is actually the first one...but to get the similar picture I'd have to show you the backs!
I decided to review these books together because that's how I think they're best enjoyed - and besides, they look so gorgeous side-by-side! A Month with April-May introduces April-May February and her dad Fluffy, aka July, who live together in South Africa and want to stay together. But in order to do this, April-May must keep her mother happy by doing well at the school she has just joined as a bursary student.

The spanner in the works is Mrs Ho, a fearsomely prolific teacher determined to keep an eye on April-May, who just wants to be left alone to read Twilight, wear stripy socks, and hang out with her own Edward, trouble-making Sebastian. So April-May comes up with a plan or three to get rid of Mrs Ho, but she's not easily removed, and she's also got Fluffy's finances and her mouth-breathing new friend Melly to worry about…

I generally prefer reading books aimed at older teens to those aimed at younger teens, which is why I think it took me a while to warm to A Month with April-May. Also, I think that, in comedy, the better we know the characters, the more we laugh at and with them. I liked the setup in the first book - there's a diverse and interesting range of characters introduced, but by the time I'd gotten to know all of them properly the book was over! Both books are very short for modern YA, which is one of those things that appeals to some people and not to others - I would definitely have preferred them to be longer and for the story to be more fleshed-out, but other readers will love how quick they are to read.

April-May has a strong voice as a narrator – she is opinionated, nosy, greedy, and self-assured. It's always refreshing to read about a young girl who knows that she is smarter than most of those around her. April-May February is no Frankie Landau-Banks, she is much too nice, even though she tries not to be, and her schemes don't always work out the way she hopes, but she has a similar level of confidence and respect for her own values.

April-May's family and friends are a gently quirky bunch of people who are alternately her allies and enemies, and I found that I wanted to know more about every single one.

I laughed a lot more at the second book, 100 Days of April-May, and would probably find a third even funnier. I hope there is a third, because it's really great to see more YA books from outside the UK and the US being published here and I think April-May and her friends have many more schemes to attempt!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Book Review: Being Emily, by Rachel Gold (#LGBTReadathon)

Being Emily is the story of Chris/Emily, who has never told anyone before that she identifies as a girl, At the start of the book she decides to come out for the first time, to her girlfriend Claire, and this short novel follows her progress from that point on.

It took me a while to get into Being Emily at first, because there was quite a bit of info-dumping near the start. There are a couple of scenes in which the characters research gender and transsexualism online, featuring several paragraphs that do nothing more than detail what they learned. I already knew pretty much all of the info they find, so I found them a bit dry, and I hoped that the book wasn't going to continue along the same lines.

Happily, it didn't, and once those early chapters were out of the way I found myself getting really emotionally involved with the story, which has two points of view. Chris/Emily narrates the bulk of the chapters, but there are several from Claire's point of view, in third person. I did find this a bit jarring, but I enjoyed both, and I think it was great that they were both included.

Chris/Emily's loneliness, frustration, determination, and happiness all come across really clearly in her chapters. I felt her excitement as she explored her identity with her friends and therapist and rooted for her as she dealt with her parents and the various setbacks. I was absolutely desperate for things to work out for her and for others to accept her the way she had accepted herself.

I think Claire's chapters are a realistic portrayal of someone coming to terms with such a big revelation from someone close to them, but what was really interesting about Claire is that she is religious. Rachel Gold, the author, has a degree in English and Religious Studies, and Being Emily does not shy away from the subject of gender and Christianity at all, which was fascinating. Most of the characters that bring up Christianity in reference to gender believe that God condemns trans people, but Claire, who has a strong interest in early Christianity, finds that Bible studies and her personal relationship with God help her understand, come to terms with, and even defend Chris/Emily's identity. There were some quotes from the Bible in Claire's sections and some interpretations she provides that I had never heard before.

Online communities and gaming also play an important role in Chris/Emily and Claire's lives, and that's always great to see to in books.

I know that a lot of readers are a bit bored with coming-out stories, but Being Emily has some unique aspects that I think will make it a worthwhile read, especially for readers that don't know very much about trans issues.

My main caveat is that Being Emily has not been published in the UK, so it's a bit on the expensive side - over £10 for the paperback edition, though the ebook is cheaper and I was lucky enough to find it in my library's ebook catalogue.

Some other reviews of Being Emily that I found interesting:
My Life in Neon
erica, ascendant
Lambda Literary
The Lesbrary
Gay YA

I read Being Emily as part of the #LGBTReadathon, organised by the fabulous Faye at A Daydreamer's Thoughts. Next up: I'll Give You The Sun, by Jandy Nelson.


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