BLOG TOUR: Proud

This year sees the release of one of my most hotly anticipated books, another brilliant anthology from the wonderful publishers Stripes. This year it’s an anthology to celebrate all things pride… and I’m not going to lie, reading it made me VERY proud.

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Today, I have the absolute honour of hosting one of the authors from the anthology, Michael Lee Richardson, as he talks about his top 5 queer teams. You’re in for an absolutely brilliant blog post, so get yourself a cup of tea and a biscuit! 

‘The Other Team’

Tales of the City author Armistead Maupin talks about biological families and logical families, the idea that we have the families we’re born into, and the families we make of our friends. For me, being queer is as much about our friendships and the people we choose to surround ourselves with as it is our romantic and sexual relationships. 

Queer friendship is one of the themes I wanted to work into ‘The Other Team’, the story I wrote for Juno Dawson’s Proud anthology.

With that in mind, when I was asked to write something for the #ProudBook blog tour, I wanted to focus on my favourite queer teams and my favourite queer teammates – so, without further ado:

Michael Lee Richardson’s Top 5 Queer Teams!

The Crystal Gems

I’m a huge fan of Steven Universe – at this point, figuring out which Crystal Gem someone is most like is basically its own form of zodiac sign – and I love the dynamic between the Crystal Gems: Garnet, Amethyst, Pearl and Steven. The fact that they compliment each other, celebrate each other’s differences, and make room for each others quirks and eccentricities is pretty inspiring, as is the fact that they know how to have a good argument and still be there for each other at the end of the day. In the real world, the fact that the Crewniverse – the team behind Steven Universe – is full of queers is also pretty inspiring!

The Fab Five

When I heard Netflix were remaking Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, I was skeptical – the series had its place in the early 2000s, but it felt like we had moved on by 2017. Relaunching the show as Queer Eye – not all the makeovers are with ‘straight guys’ – was a good starting point, but the team Netflix put together was the key to the show’s success. Jonathan Van Ness is my favourite, obviously (when I wrote Alistair from ‘The Other Team’ flicking his ‘hair’ off his shoulders, I was definitely thinking of Van Ness!), but I love them all, and they all bring something unique to the team – not just in their skills, but in their personalities and personas, and it’s nice to see a diverse bunch of queer men working together (especially when it’s for the benefit of other queers).

House of LaBeija

Nothing speaks to the idea of logical families better than houses, part of the drag and ballroom customs which started in Harlem in New York and have become a staple of queer scenes all over the world. From the language – shade, reading, fierce, realness – to the fashion to the dance, ballroom’s influence on queer and mainstream culture can’t be underestimated. I’m particularly fond of the House of LaBeija – Crystal LaBeija, the founder of the House of LaBeija, is often credited as having started ‘house’ culture, and her successor Pepper LaBeija makes a star turn in the legendary drag documentary Paris is Burning.

Babysitter’s Club

Okay, so they’re not canonically queer – but one of the things Proud has made me revisit is the idea that, before LGBTQI+ YA was a going concern, we had to ‘queer’ our YA for ourselves, and there’s no way you could tell 11 year old me the every single one of these girls (and Logan Bruno, boy babysitter) wasn’t queer! The ‘theory’ checks out, too – Ann M Martin, author of The Babysitter’s Club, is queer, and came out publicly after the series was finished. 

Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh

Slightly cheating, this one, as I said being queer teammates was more about friendships than romantic relationships – and Helen and Kate are both! Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh met playing for the England and Great Britain hockey teams – they married in 2013, three years before becoming the first same-sex couple to win an Olympic medal when Team GB won Gold in the women’s field hockey tournament in 2016.

For me, any blog post that celebrates Team GB, The Fab 5 and drag queens in the same blog post is an ABSOLUTE winner. A massive massive thank you to Michael for taking the time to write a blog post for me! I LOVE it so much. 

My review of Proud is coming in the next week or so, so make sure to keep an eye out for it. I promise you this much though… it is EXCEPTIONAL and I can’t wait to shout about it from the rooftops!! 

Why don’t you go celebrate some other brilliant #Proudbook content by checking out the rest of the stops on the blog tour? I have absolutely loved how this blog tour is celebrating all things pride related. 

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A massive thank you to the people of Stripes for sending me an early copy of the book and for inviting me on the blog tour. It’s been an absolute honour to shout about this book everywhere! I can’t wait for it to be released into the wild so everyone can enjoy its majesty! 

S x 

 

Song of Sorrow mood board

Well hello! Happy Wednesday. How are we all?

Today is a very exciting day. Today is the day before the official release of ‘Song of Sorrow’ by one of my absolute faves – Melinda Salisbury. I have, of course, read the book already (thank you Scholastic, you guys are my faves) and needed to share my thoughts and feelings with you all (you’ll see that tomorrow in my MASSIVE REVIEW). Today however I’m sharing my mood board. 

Now, for those of you who have read Song of Sorrow, I’d like to think you can find the symbolism in my pictures before you read my spiel, however if you haven’t read it yet, don’t worry. My mood board and description are SPOILER-LESS (which, let me tell you, is VERY tricky for me because all I want to do is go OMGOMGOMGOMG SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER). 

I had a whole load of fun doing this and hope you guys like it!

Song moodboard

Let’s start with the abandoned corridor – this for me depicts one of the more unexpected settings of the book. It’s eerie, it’s spooky, it’s somewhat inviting though. It’s intrigue, it’s curious, it’s ‘what’s down the hall?’. Sorrow finds herself somewhere she’s never been before and as soon as I saw this picture, for me, this could’ve been where she was. 

The poison bottle – obviously this is a Mel book, so there’s SOME kind of poison going on. For me reading Song, there’s both literal and figurative poisoning going on. There’s poisonous people, poisonous thoughts, poisonous actions. It’s a bit of a thread. I loved this picture and thought it was spot on.

The girl looking out of the window could be Sorrow or it could be Irris – I didn’t really know. Sorrow makes some BIG decisions in this book and there’s a feeling of loneliness at times too. I saw this picture and it screamed ‘contemplation, loneliness, betrayal’ – pretty perfect for Song of Sorrow tbh.

The butterflies flying from the jar are beautifully symbolic of freedom. Whether that’s freedom from physical restraints or freedom from thoughts. Sometimes you’ve got to make a MASSIVE jump to free yourself: from yourself, from your past, from other people, from expectations on your shoulders. Sorrow is the butterfly and the jar is the life she’s been living for her whole life.

Man, those creepy hands and thorns. Now this is quite a literal depiction of a scene from the book BUT it could also be reaching out for help. I can’t go into too much detail here because SPOILERS. This was the perfect “saw this and thought of you” picture.

The holding hands represent again another MASSIVE SPOILER, but they also represent strength. Sorrow needs to find a lot of strength in this book (because she’s living her life, she needs it surrounded by bloody Vespus) and she finds it through some familiar faces. We all need those people who will stand by us and hold out hands (both physically and figuratively) because let’s be honest, we all need help in life. 

The last picture (the quote from Mandela) might be one of my favourite quotes that I didn’t know existed. It’s one I’m all about in my own life, but it’s also one I think Sorrow so brilliantly lives. She’s terrified (and rightly so) and makes choices out of fear, until she maybe doesn’t anymore. 

(All of these pictures I found on Pinterest! All rights and all that jazz to the people they belong to!)

I hope you enjoyed my mood board, and let me know if you read Song of Sorrow…. I am ALWAYS here to talk Mel!

S x 

 

#CelebrateYA

HELLO.

IT IS ME. Your resident YA loving bookworm. 

Recently, there’s been a lot of MEH-ness about YA books and its decline (?? not in my life lols). I saw this tweet from the brilliant YA author Lisa Williamson and thought ‘YES. I WANT TO BE PART OF THIS MOVEMENT.’

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So here I am today to do just that… I am HERE to celebrate YA. To shout about how brilliant it is, how necessary it is, recommend some of my favourite YA books of the past few years and to inspire you all to go out and either share your favourite YA books OR to just pick up something new. Your local Waterstones will have a YA section, go and explore… I guarantee you’ll find something that you’ll love.

So, why YA?

I get asked this question A LOT. “Why do you, as an adult, read books marketed at teens and young adults?” and the simple answer is because YA books are BLOODY MARVELLOUS.

YA books don’t shy away from some pretty tough subjects. If I think of some of my favourite YA books they’re about hard hitting topics: love, loss, heartbreak, friendships, OCD, manipulation, empowerment.

YA books MOVE so much faster than adult books. The pacing, the characters, the plots… they’re just SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING.

YA books start conversations. If you look at The Hate U Give for example (a book I still haven’t read… I know, I might be the only YA reader IN THE WORLD who hasn’t!) that had a BIG impact. That made people start talking. Another example of a book that got my little twitter YA worls talking is the brilliant The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven. This book deserves ALL of the praise it gets. It is BLOODY incredible and makes some REALLY bloody important points.

YA books will make you think, feel and want to act. We all know I cry at every book (that’s just who I am) but some of the books that have hit me the hardest have been YA books. If I think about Countless by Karen Gregory for example… man, I read that book almost 2 years ago and STILL now it makes me tear up. They don’t just make me cry though. They make me angry, they make me laugh, they make me hopeful.

YA is doing a lot for representation. People want to be seen. People want to have their stories heard. Finding yourself represented in a book can change a lot of things. Last year I read a book that I remember vividly feeling seen and MY GOD it was a bit of a punch in the face. For so long, books have been written about the same group of people and YA is slowly changing that. I know what it’s like to be seen, I know how important it can be. The brilliant people of Stripes have published an anthology full of LGBTQ+ books and it’s going to make waves.

There are so so many other reasons why you should read YA. I will stand on this I LOVE YA pedestal whether anyone is listening or not.

So, where do I start?

Now, just because I recommend these books doesn’t mean these are the only books that you should read because LET’S BE REAL there are so so many, but here are some of my absolute favourites (authors/stories) from the past few years. Some of these won’t be a surprise to long time readers of my blog, some of them may!

In there you have books that will make you laugh, cry, anger you, move you, make you think about life. You have representation of all sorts of relationships. You’ve got books which span genres. You’ve got books from some of my favourite authors in the world. There’s books there that changed something for me. There’s books I’ve read that I’ve felt seen in. There’s books that have made me change my thinking about things.

I loved them all and they’re ALL YA.

OK, so I could keep going. I really could. I won’t. I want this to be a conversation, not Steph’s Lecture on Why YA is Something The World Needs. Talk to me. Why do you want to #celebrateYA?

Every day this month, I pledge to #celebrateYA. Starting tomorrow (Valentines Day) I’m going to #celebrateYA by sharing one YA book I love!

Now let’s keep the conversation going:

What was the last YA book you read?
What’s the next YA book you’re going to read?
Why do you think we need to #celebrateYA?

I really really want the conversation about YA to continue. So talk to me, tweet, whatever. Get it out there that YA is a thing and we need it to stay a thing!

S x

BOOK BLOG: S.M. Wilson

The Extinction Trials: Rebel – Tense. Thrilling. Tantalising.

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“Betrayal. Sacrifice. Survival. Welcome to The Extinction Trials

Storm and Lincoln’s city is burning. The people are starving. The only place left to run is Piloria, the continent of monsters. It’s up to Storm and Lincoln to keep their people alive as they colonize this lethal paradise. But will the biggest threat to their survival be the monsters in the jungle…or the ones inside the encampment with them?”

Rebel is the third and final book in The Extinction Trials trilogy and my word, I was NOT ready for this series to be over. I DEVOURED book 1 and 2 when they came to me and book 3 was NO different. If you haven’t already read them, THEN WHY NOT? (You might find my reviews of book 1 and book 2 helpful if this is the case!)

In Rebel, we begin with how life is looking for our 2 protagonistsStormchaser, who is living on Piloria with her father, and Lincoln, who is back in Ambulus City having gone back at the end of book 2. The stark differences between the two settings was always something that I loved about these books – Ambulus City was always so grey and dank, whereas you have lushness and colour on the island of Piloria (yes, yes, I know, there’s dinosaurs too!) Things start to go wrong when there’s a bit of a revolt and Ambulus City is burning to the ground. Lincoln, and the people who matter most to him, end up leaving the city on a boat bound for none other than, yep you guessed it, dinosaur land: Piloria. 

There are SO MANY THINGS I loved about this book. I’m going to try and summarise all of my thoughts into concise sentences, but you all know me… it’s not going to happen! I also need to try and NOT be spoilery. (If you wanna know the spoilery thing I loved about this book, then ask me… I won’t ruin it for everyone!)

It’s tense: like there’s some REAL moments of tension in this story. People butt heads, people argue (like you would if you’ve just moved to a brand new island with some of your least favourite people in the world). There’s DINOSAURS threatening your existence. A real thread of built up tension is written beautifully into this story and then there’s a few BOOM moments of fall out. 

It’s touching: seeing the relationships between the characters building was just lush. I have a real soft spot for most of the characters. I was so glad to see some of the old faves back. You see Storm and her dad HAVE to get on with each other. You see them actually LIKE each other and trying to understand each other. You see their relationship blossom into some kind of father/daughte relationship. Friendships, relationships: they’re all explored and it’s so so lush to read.

There’s a REALLY BLOODY GOOD VILLAIN: God, I HATED HIM. I wanted to punch him. But it’s what made him SO SO good. Someone with a CLEAR God complex going on. 

It’s dystopian fiction at its best: like… I BLOODY LOVE dystopian fiction, but this is the first series I’ve come across in a LONG time where I’ve been INVESTED. I love the characters, the worlds, the danger, the peril, the emotional investment. I dare you to read this book and NOT love it. 

Some old faves are back: Aw man. I don’t wanna spoil anything but I did a GENUINE woop at one moment. There’s a very touching moment with Lincoln and one of the characters that really touched me. You’ve gotta look out for the people who mean something to you and those closest to you! I loved that Blaine wasn’t forgotten in this story. I loved him SO much. 

Storm really blossoms in this story: Storm becomes this really empowered young woman. She stands up for herself and for the people and things she loves. She doesn’t seem to be afraid of the Stipulators in this story. She’s developed a real bit of gusto about herself in this story. I REALLY love Storm. She’s brilliant. 

So yeah, I loved this book. I loved this trilogy SO MUCH. I don’t think I can quite put into words how much I loved this trilogy. It ended in SUCH a satisfying way. 

My goodreads review: (lol look at me trying not to be spoilery everywhere)

YES THOUGH. I can’t say too much without being spoilery. But my gosh this was brilliant. It was tense and action packed and interesting and just brilliant. I’d missed these characters and this world so much!

Yes, I managed not to say the spoilery thing. I NEED SOMEONE ELSE TO READ THIS BOOK SO WE CAN TALK ABOUT IT THOUGH. 

If you’re looking for a brilliantly written, fun, dangerous dystopian series with characters you’ll want to read about, then I would whole-heartedly recommend The Extinction Trials. Rebel came out yesterday, so GO GO GO GET ALL 3 AND BINGE. It’s SO worth it! 

Have you read The Extinction Trials?
Do you think you’d survive on dinosaur island?
Are you a fan of a really good bloody villain?

A massive massive thank you to Usborne for sending me a copy of Rebel. I’m so so sad this series is over, but I am so glad it’s in my life!

S x 

 

BOOK BLOG: David Owen

All The Lonely People: BLOODY BRILLIANT with a bunch of great characters

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“Everyone tells Kat that her online personality – confident, funny, opinionated – isn’t her true self. Kat knows otherwise. The internet is her only way to cope with a bad day, chat with friends who get all her references, make someone laugh. But when she becomes the target of an alt-right trolling campaign, she feels she has no option but to Escape, Delete, Disappear.
With her social media shut down, her website erased, her entire online identity void, Kat feels she has cut away her very core: without her virtual self, who is she?
She brought it on herself. Or so Wesley keeps telling himself as he dismantles Kat’s world. It’s different, seeing one of his victims in real life and not inside a computer screen – but he’s in too far to back out now.
As soon as Kat disappears from the online world, her physical body begins to fade and while everybody else forgets that she exists, Wesley realises he is the only one left who remembers her. Overcome by remorse for what he has done, Wesley resolves to stop her disappearing completely. It might just be the only way to save himself.”

All The Lonely People tells the story of Kat, a teenage girl who ends up being so horribly treated online by trolls that she deletes her entire online presence and ends up “disappearing” herself. It follows Kat’s journey from the initial trolling, through what happens when she deletes her last remnants online and the emotional toll it has on her and those around her.

Kat is treated HORRIBLY by a bunch of boys in school who have a very “anti-women” agenda. They push her so hard that she has already deleted a big chunk of her online presence at the beginning of the story (including her presence in a forum that she is particularly active in) and as the story starts, they are working to try and take over her website. Their plan is to rid the world of women who stand up for women. They’re horrible, horrible young men, influenced by their world which is filled with some HORRID toxic masculinity. I genuinely HATED them. Everything about what they believed and did made me SO CROSS. So cross that I had to send David a message saying “These young men are the worst”. Kat isn’t their first victim, nor is she their last victim. As the story progresses, you see that their next target is someone with a very big presence online. 

As well as brilliantly written Kat, we follow the story of Wes. Wes is, unfortunately, one of these young men who was guilty of trolling Kat to the highest extreme. However, Wes is a BRILLIANT exploration of conscience. He’s done these bad things BECAUSE he wants to fit in. He wants the cool kids to know he’s game for anything. He even goes on to prove this need further on in the book. But, he knows he’s made a mistake and wants to make amends. After making Kat disappear, he’s one of the only people who can sense she’s around and he wants to help her reappear. I really loved Wes. He’s a good kid underneath it all. He wants to be remembered. 

Massive shout out here to Wes’ big brother Jordan. I won’t say too much about Jordan, because spoilers, but he’s brilliant. I proper have a soft spot for him. Initially, not so much, but as the story progresses, you see he’s just looking out for his younger brother and will go to pretty extreme means to do that. 

Another of the characters who end up having quite an impact on the story is a young lady called Safa. Safa has “disappeared” and is set on making it final when we meet her in the story. Her and Kat end up becoming friends and we see their friendship develop as the book goes on. I wasn’t a big fan of Safa initially: she’s reckless and a bit of a dick. But if you give her a chance, she might change your mind. She helps Kat through this world of “the fade” and ultimately ends up being one of the most positive things Kat has in her life. 

(This review ended up turning into a review of characters and I am OK with that! I’m a BIG fan of brilliant characters!)

I think in the technological world we live in today, books like this are going to become more popular and I am HERE FOR IT. This book explored some topics that I think are necessary: toxic masculinity, online infamy and trolling. Something else that stood out for me was the exploration of the difference between our online selves and our “real life” selves – Kat disappears because her personality is all online and it ends up being deleted. It’s an interesting thing to think about: how different is online you to offline you? 

My goodreads review:

So much hatred for some of the males in this story. But so much love for Wes, Jordan, Evie and Kat. I think books like this, ones which deliver a message about being lovely in a world which is always on, are so needed. There’s some HORRIBLE shit that goes down in this story that is so true to online culture today. I just wanna hug Kat and be her friend.

If you’d like to read a Q&A I was lucky enough to do with the author, brilliantly funny David Owen, check it out here. Follow him on twitter @davidowenauthor.

Have you read All The Lonely People?
Can you recommend any books like this?
Do you think you’d like for your online persona to disappear altogether?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Lisa Williamson

Paper Avalanche: an absolute punch in the feels

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“When it comes to flying under the radar, Ro Snow is an expert.
No friends. 
No boys.
No parties.
And strictly NO VISITORS.
It may be lonely, but at least this way the truth remains where it should – hidden. Then Tanvi Shah, the girl who almost died, comes tumbling back into her life, and Ro finds herself losing control of her carefully constructed lies. But if Ro’s walls come crumbling down, who’s going to take care of Bonnie…”

A massive thank you to my lovely friend Adele for buying this book for me to cheer me up recently. 

Paper Avalanche follows the story of Ro Snow, a young girl who is having to battle between the world of being a teenager, trying to disappear and her mum’s hoarding. She’s a girl who very much wants to just go under the radar. Everyone knows about the house, which Ro never admits that she lives in, and it is a constant battle in Ro’s life. She knows that if anything were to happen, her mum’s hoarding tendencies could spiral out of control. Ro feels like she’s barely keeping a lid on everything, when suddenly there’s a young man thrown into her life and a best friend who is in her very own way a total whirlwind – one that could potentially make Ro’s world topple down. 

I ABSOLUTELY loved Tanvi and Noah. They brought such an incredible thread into Ro’s life that she had never had before. There’s such a gorgeous flip from how lonely and colourless Ro’s life is before these two show up. Tanvi, the best friend who appears suddenly having been out of school for a few years, brings colour and joy and noise to Ro’s life, a life that she’s tried to live so quietly before. There’s an incredible scene set on Diwali that brought my heart such joy. It was one of those scenes in a story that I’ll remember for a long time. 

One of the things that I loved about this book was how relatable it is. We don’t all have mothers who are hoarders, but we all have something we want to hide from the world. It may be the smallest thing, or the biggest thing, but Ro’s struggles to hide her things from the world is something that we have ALL done. We’ve all been there. Ro struggles a lot with worrying about what people think about her (dear God, I relate) and battles to keep a lid on her emotions at times. She’s a very closed off young woman, who definitely has a lot of anger under the surface. There’s a scene toward the end where she lets this anger out and I was like YES RO. YOU GET THEM TOLD. She has an incredibly complicated relationship with her mum (who she calls Bonnie the majority of the time) and her dad. She feels like she’s the adult in the relationship with her mum, and feels like the forgotten child with her dad. (I’m not a fan of Dad’s new wife FYI). She’s constantly battling with wanting attention from her Dad, while wanting the rest of the world to not see her. 

I loved the exploration of doing things for yourself in this book. Ro discvovers something that she’s really good at and that she wants to pursue. It was lovely to see Ro trying to make her mark, all the while trying not to stand out. (Shout out to Tanvi and Mr Milburn for helping her out! I love reading a supportive teacher role… please can we have more of these in YA) She ends up doing something that makes her happy, but Bonnie turns it into a disaster. My heart BROKE for Ro when I was reading this. I hated Bonnie so much. 

Reading this book made me feel ALL OF THE EMOTIONS. There was joy, sadness, shock, worry, panic, love, laughter, disappointment. You’ll feel ALL of the things. It’s SO WORTH IT. 

Another shout out here to Tanvi’s family. They’re bloody brilliant. So welcoming.  

I’d REALLY love to see this story made into a film. I think it would be BLOODY brilliant. 

My goodreads review:

I am so full of love right now. I’ve gone through them all: anger, sadness, panic, anxiety, love, laughter. This book and its characters are just exceptional. I love the way in which Ro and Bonnie have to deal with this massive problem: their roles reversed, while Ro still has to deal with being a kid. Massive shout outs to Tanvi, Mr Milburn and Noah. Excellent excellent book.

HELLO ALSO. That cover. I ENJOY THAT PINK SO MUCH. Underneath the jacket, it’s just white with pink metallic lettering on the spine and it’s just such a beauty.

Have you read Paper Avalanche?
Do you also love Lisa Williamson?
Have you read anything else by Lisa Williamson?

Talk to me! I am so glad I read this book… in like 3 hours. It was a one sitting book, that’s how good it is! 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Slay On Tour

Today’s post is coming to you from the boyband tour bus in Japan as part of the Slay blog tour. If you don’t know the world of Slay yet, then you are 100% missing out. Check out my review of the first book in this series here!

Slay on Tour: slaying in all the VERY BEST ways!

“SLAY are BACK…and this time they’re headed to Tokyo to track down another hell-raising demon. When they’re invited on tour with a super-cool band of holographic girls, SLAY find themselves whisked off around Japan – until strange things start happening on their tour train. Suddenly it seems it’s not just SLAY’s fans following their every move…”

Slay on Tour sees the boys of Slay (a demon fighting boy band, obviously) fighting demons in Japan! Having read the first book and LOVING IT, I needed this second book in my life so much. This series is SUCH fun and it’s so incredible to read a book with such personality. The characters, the settings, the friendship and the family explored in these books makes me so happy. 29 year old me loves these books and I know that 15 year old me would have too: boybands and demon fighting… what more do we need?

Slay on Tour sees the boys in Japan, having been given the opportunity to tour alongside a new and incredibly revolutionary Japanese band. I always knew there was something up with the band and their people – a band of holographic girls who are “perfect”. Yeah, cause that’s normal… but I loved it. There was a bit of the feminist in me going “WE DON’T NEED TO BE PERFECT TO DESERVE TO BE IN A BAND”. 

Obviously, in the midst of all of this touring, the boys are still fighting demons. The demon slayers (I bloody love how descriptive the word slayers is!) have to fight some pretty dark and deceptive demons in this second installment. A demon who steals souls? Yeah. No thanks actually! There’s even the reappearance of an old “friend”. 

A massive shout out to the folklore in this book too. I loved the little nuggets of Japanese folklore information thrown in. (You all know I’m a PROPER sucker for a bit of a mythological story, so this made my heart sing!) Learning about other cultures and the stories from them is just mint – so to see this thrown into the book was another massive tick!

You get the fun of the demon fighting as well as those brilliant characters who we met and loved in book 1. The boys are just lush. I like each of them for very different reasons. I’d love them to be a real band, so I could join them (I don’t know that I’d be a great demon fighter like!) Not only that, but there is a lovely exploration of something which happens in book 1. This something (I don’t wanna share too much cause spoilers!) happens to have a massive impact on the dynamic of the band, with ever trusty Milly having to come to the rescue. I really love Milly. She’s sassy, brave and bold: she has to be. She’s thrust into this life of being in one of the biggest boybands in the world. And because she’s a badass, she takes it ALL in her stride. 

I loved this book. I may have even loved it more than book 1! I know, I know. I have my fingers crossed that there MAY be a third book. PLEASE. 

I even have an incredible exclusive quote from the brilliant Kim herself on why boy bands, fandoms and blurred lines! It sums up the Slay books so brilliantly!

“When I was growing up in the 90s, I had properly drunk the patriarchal kool aid. Without knowing why exactly, I put all things ‘girlie’ into a mental box labelled shameful. It’s internalised the misogyny that placed things that boys love above stuff that girls love. And, to my great sadness, that included boy bands. I was into Star Wars and The Teenage Ninja Turtles, X-Men comic books and Grunge rock music – all the geeky-cool stuff that defined a lot of ‘boy culture’. But, as I got older and began to examine my choices, I discovered there was a world of amazing ‘girl culture’ I’d been missing out on. As an adult, I loved it all. Twilight, Sailor Moon, High School Musical. And yes, One Direction! Now, I’m on a mission to see that all the things that teen girls love are given the same respect and the same value as the stuff boys love. And that when it comes to entertainment, gender should play no part in it. When writing Slay and Slay on Tour I consciously blurred all the lines between ‘girl’ stuff and ‘boy’ stuff to create something that’s just fun – which transcended gender.”

So please! Go out and buy these books if you’re looking for something EXCELLENT, FUN and PROPER GREAT. 

Have you read Slay?
Would you make it as a demon fighter?
Do you think I’d make it as a demon slayer?

Check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour… it was a proper honour to kick it off! Thanks so much to the brilliant humans of Usborne for asking me to kick off the tour! 

slay on tour blog tour

Let’s get talking about #SlayonTour on twitter! These books deserve so much love! 

S x 

 

Best of 2018: YA edition

It’s time! It is the end of 2018 and here comes my “best of the year” series!

For books to be considered in the “best of 2018” series, I had to have read them in 2018. So this discounts some of my favourite 2018 releases…

Today’s best of series takes on:

2018 best ya header

Hello, my name is Steph and I love YA books. I am VERY sad because due to my own rules there are a few books which SHOULD be on this list but can’t be. Let’s just take a moment to appreciate State of Sorrow by Melinda Salisbury, The Exact of Opposite by Laura Steven and Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard. These books WERE released in 2018, but I read them in 2017 so could not be considered for the list. Sad sad times. BUT BLOODY BRILLIANT BOOKS.

Anyway… let’s get on with the list!

2018 best ya(there’s a lot of orangey red tones on this list!)

Fierce Fragile Hearts: Sara Barnard

Oh Sara. This follow up to Beautiful Broken Things turned me into a broken thing with a fragile heart. I loved everything about this book and I am yet to put my throughts into a cohesive bunch to write a review. Watch out for this in 2019 please kids.

Scythe: Neal Shusterman

GUYS. GUYS. THIS BOOK. I BLOODY loved this book. It had EVERYTHING I wanted in it. It was menacing, brilliant and clever. Just exceptional.

More Happy Than Not: Adam Silvera

THIS BROKE MY HEART. I loved little Aaron and have been in his shoes. Every now and again, I remember this book and it makes me SO SAD. But it’s SO worth a read. Go on.

Show Stopper: Hayley Barker

So it seems 2018 was the year I loved circus books. Show Stopper (and its sequel Show Stealer) was just EVERYTHING. There was danger, a horrible horrible villain and a brilliant cast of characters on the side of good. I devoured this duology in no time and would recommend you all do it too!

Floored: the Floored 7

Of course this book was going to make my list. I BLOODY LOVED IT. Such a clever idea. Such a brilliant story. I can’t wait to reread this book some time. If you wanna read a book by some of the most talented humans in the world, get your hands on this.

Six of Crows: Leigh Bardugo

Another book I’ve slept on for a while, but as soon as I started reading… that was it. SoC is JUST EXCEPTIONAL. Kaz Brekker is everything. There are no other words. I need more of Brekker in my life and you definitely need him in your life if you don’t know of him. Danger, wit and friendship.

Clean: Juno Dawson

This book made me swear on the tube it’s THAT good. It’s gritty and dark. Lexi is one of those characters who stick with you. I read this book months ago and she’s still there in my head.

Spark: Alice Broadway

If there’s one thing I love about a book, it’s when there’s a folklore woven beautifully into it and Alice GETS IT RIGHT EVERY TIME. Spark (and Ink, its predecessor) are just exceptional pieces of storytelling (GIMME THE 3RD ONE PLZ SCHOLASTIC)

A Thousand Perfect Notes: C.G.Drews

We ALL KNEW there’d be a book on this list that absolutely made me cry like a baby and here we have it. This book broke me in pieces. It’s SO horrific, but so light. I can’t describe how incredible this book is. It just is. Please go and treat yourself to it.

Hero at the Fall: Alwyn Hamilton

HOW SAD I AM THIS SERIES IS OVER. But this book was the most satisfying end it could’ve had. I was STUNNED at one point. It made me cry, it made me happy, it shocked me. Jin ❤

THERE WERE SO SO SO MANY MORE that could have been on the list. YA in 2018 seemed to be on another level. I can’t wait to see what 2019 has in store, 2018 has set the bar PRETTY high. 

A massive thank you to all of the brilliant publishers who have sent me books this year. You guys are amazing. I love reading your books and then shouting about them all over the internet. It makes me so happy. 

S x 

BLOG TOUR: Rosie Loves Jack

Happy Wednesday!

Today I’m here as part of the blog tour for the brilliant Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon.

They can’t send you away. What will we do? We need us. I stop your angry, Jack. And you make me strong. You make me Rosie.

Rosie loves Jack. Jack loves Rosie. So when they’re separated, Rosie will do anything to find the boy who makes the sun shine in her head. 
Even run away from home.
Even struggle across London and travel to Brighton, though the trains are cancelled and the snow is falling. Even though people might think a girl like Rosie could never survive on her own. 
See the world through new eyes in this one-in-a-million story.

This is a blog tour like no other… today, in the spirit of the book, I’m going to share with you some people that I’d quite happily write to every day and why I think it’s important that we don’t let the art of letter writing die!

Dear everyone I love,

I think letter writing is a brilliant thing, that unfortunately is getting lost. It’s getting lost in our need for immediacy. I get it. I know that letter writing isn’t a thing that is necessary in the world of emails, text messages and WhatsApps – we get the answers we need today much faster. However, as much as it might not be necessary, it is JOYOUS. Tell me there’s something more exciting than receiving a letter in the post. Tell me there’s something more lovely than knowing someone’s taken some time to write you a letter.

I love receiving a letter. It makes me so happy. I’m not talking about bills and pension statements: I’m talking about letters from friends. Even the people I know the best in the world. I love receiving letters from them. One of my best friends and I go through phases where we write letters to each other and it makes me so happy. The sending and receiving of letters. I sent all of my children a postcard in the Summer holidays and the joy it brought them, and their parents, was such a testament to the power of letters for me.

Now I know I can’t write letters to everyone I know, every day of my life. If there was one person I had to write to every day, I would choose my brother or my best friend Kelly. Both of these people have a MASSIVE impact in my everyday life. Neither of them live particularly close to me – Kiruna (Sweden) and Cardiff… both FAR AWAY.

However, I’ll write to anyone who is willing to write back. There’s something very personal and therapeutic about writing a letter. I love that Rosie Loves Jack explores letters.

So hello, yes, you reading this – write someone a letter. If you don’t think you have anyone who would like to receive a letter, then send it to me. I’ll happily respond. It’s a lovely thing to do!

You’re all brilliant,

S x

Massive thank you to the brilliant humans of Usborne for asking me on the blog tour! It was a lot of fun getting to ramble on about writing letters and my love of it!

BOOK BLOG:Sarah Ann Juckes

Outside: harrowing, surprising and emotional

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“Outside follows the story of Ele, who is held captive in a small room by a man known as ‘Him’. Ele is determined to prove there is a world Outside. And when she finds a hole in the wall, the proof starts leaking in. In this dark and compelling debut novel, Ele’s strong and heartbreakingly optimistic voice shines through, revealing an important lesson about the power of stories to save lives”

I was lucky enough to win a proof of this at YALC and I hadn’t heard of it, nor did I read the letter from the author in the book before I started to read. Part of me is glad I didn’t read, part of me thinks I would’ve been more emotionally prepared for the onslaught of terror and tears that followed!

Outside follows the story of a little girl, Ele, who is determined to get outside into freedom. She’s never been outside of her room. She’s locked in a tower and she’s determined to get out, but isn’t really sure how. She’s frightened. There’s a mysterious man (Him) who she is defintely afraid of. Reading through this book, it took me a good chunk of the book until I was sure the main character is a young girl – you’re never explicitly told, it’s just something that is assumed, but my brain was not sold entirely. This made the book even more of an enigma for me because I wanted to know, so I kept reading and my word, it is so excellent

I spent a lot of this book scared and worried for the little girl. I was terrified of Him. There’s some harrowing scenes in this book. There’s some pretty dark themes explored in this which made me more gripped, but horrified at times too. These themes are dealt with excellent care: you never feel exposed or stamped on. 

There’s a lot of juxtaposition in this book: light vs dark, love vs hate, fear vs safety, trusting vs fearing, knowing vs not knowing. The main character goes through a lot of confusing emotions between wanting to be outside vs the fear of being outside. But this is to be expected! Imagine going outside for the first time and the things you come across… I love this kind of thing because as a reader you never REALLY know where you stand in life. 

Yes, this book is dark and deals with some pretty bleak themes, but it also has some gorgeously light moments. When you meet him, you’ll love Ezra. He’s the ultimate hero. He needs needs a million medals. This book shows the kindness and strength of the human spirit brilliantly. 

Did I cry? OH MY WORD YES. It broke my soul quite a lot

Unfortunately, you’ve got quite a while to wait as it’s not out until January 2019. But trust me, it is worth the wait.

Can you imagine never being outside?
What do you think would baffle you most about being outside?
Are you excited for the release of Outside?

Let me know your thouhgts in the comments! I’d love to know your answers to my questions!

S x