BOOK BLOG: Tom Pollock

Heartstream: fascinating, terrifying, mind-blowing

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Cat is in love. Always the sensible one, she can’t believe that she’s actually dating, not to mention dating a star. But the fandom can’t know. They would eat her alive. And first at the buffet would definitely be her best friend, Evie.
Amy uses Heartstream, a social media app that allows others to feel your emotions. She broadcasted every moment of her mother’s degenerative illness, and her grief following her death. It’s the realest, rawest reality TV imaginable. But on the day of Amy’s mother’s funeral, Amy finds a strange woman in her kitchen. She’s rigged herself and the house with explosives – and she’s been waiting to talk to Amy for a long time. Who is she? A crazed fan? What does she want? Amy and Cat are about to discover how far true obsession can go.

I had my first introduction to Tom Pollock’s writing through White Rabbit. Red Wolf and that book BLEW MY GOSH DARN MIND. It is incredible. When I heard Tom was writing another book, I knew that I needed to get on that ship ASAP. I was very lucky that my friend sent me his proof copy of Heartstream and I sat and read about 80% of it yesterday. MY GOSH. I don’t know that this review is going to be cohesive because the book just blew me away. 

So, what is Heartstream about?

You’re introduced to the two main characters, Amy and Cat, in the first two chapters. The book is told in a dual narrative with alternating chapters. Amy has just gone through the absolute tragedy of losing her mam and the day the book is set is the day of Amy’s mam’s funeral. Amy is a streamer – she streams on an app called Heartstream which allows the users to share their emotions with people who follow them. When Amy gets back from the funeral, there’s a crazed woman in her house with a bomb strapped to her chest. Amy can’t leave the house because the whole house has been rigged up to explosives too. As you go through the book, you live Amy’s day and live out what Cat is going through and how their two lives collide. 

That synopsis is RUBBISH and I’m sorry but if I say any more there will be SPOILERZ and that is not kind of me. Just know this from me. This story is FASCINATING. There are so many things I want to talk about that I know I can’t right now. The relationship between the two characters is NOT what I expected and there are cliffhangers aplenty in this book. It’s got more twists and turns than a maze and I was CONSTANTLY on my toes. 

The thought of living in a world where you can stream your emotions is terrifying and fascinating. Like, that’s just weird is it not? But it COULD happen. This COULD be what the future looks like. I loved that there was a real thread of technology throughout this book – there’s a bit later on with a very clever use of technology that I REALLY appreciated. I love a clever book. Tom does CLEVER brilliantly – if you’ve read Heartstream or White Rabbit. Red Wolf, you’ll know that. Something else Tom does wonderfully is he keeps you guessing ALL THE WAY. As soon as I thought I knew something, it was like BAM and no, I didn’t know that thing at all. 

I really enjoyed the dual perspective narrative. I think being able to write a book in more than one perspective is a wonderful talent to have and it is done WONDERFULLY in this book. Like properly well. You can’t beat a good bit of sleight of hand and this book TRICKS you all the way through. MAN I WANNA TALK ABOUT THIS SO MUCH BUT OMG SPOILERS. So yeah, the way this is written with dual perspective gives you the impression of one thing when in fact it is ANOTHER altogether! (I can’t say any more otherwise I WILL BE SPOILERING ALL OVER THE SHOP).

ALSO HERE for the cover love. Bloody love that cover. 

Right. I need to stop now because otherwise I am going to be spoiling this book for all of you. You need to get on the case of reading Heartstream because it is AMAZING. I was TRICKED and LURED into a false sense of security so many times. I need you all to go down those paths too. And then tell me.

Have you read Heartstream?
Do you enjoy a good dual perspective?
Can you recommend me any writers like Tom Pollock?

Talk to me! If you’ve read this book, please let me know because I NEED TO TALK ABOUT IT OK? 

S x 

p.s. so much happens in this book that I haven’t talked about because I just can’t. 

p.p.s it’s so so good. Please go and read it. I need to talk to someone about this book.

The One Where I Read Two Books In One Day And Cried…

Hello. 

If you know me, you know I cry at all of the books.

I decided to read two books in one day the other day. Both of them which would make me cry. 

Why did you decide that? I hear you cry.

BECAUSE I AM A FOOL. A FOOL.

However, since I read them both, I figured I would write quick reviews of them because they were BOTH incredible and they need to be read ok? Excellent. 

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The Art of Being Normal – Lisa Williamson

Two boys. Two secrets.
David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl. On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan. When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…

The Art of Being Normal tells the stories of David and Leotwo boys who are going through A LOT. David wants to be a girl: he knows he’s in the wrong body. Leo wants to be forgotten: he wants no attention. These two boys are so very different, but there’s something that they very much have in common (something I did NOT see coming). What you get when you put these two boys together is a brilliant story of unlikely friendships, solid bonds and an awful lot of tears! (I cried for the last 50 pages)

I loved this book so so much. The thing that stands out the most about this book is the incredible portrayal of relationships (between families, friends, enemies) and the power that these relationships have on our day to day life. You see the two boys’ relationship grow in front of your eyes and realise that sometimes the most important relationships you have in life are the non-romantic ones – it’s friendships built on love, respect and acceptance. You get to explore the incredible relationships between siblings; with parents and their children; not only that but negative relationships like the one between bullies and their victim; misunderstood relationships between parents and children. 

This book doesn’t shy away from the issues around a main character who is transgender and I really respect that. There’s discussions about all kinds of thtmes: clothing, acceptance, body image, coming out to parents, coming out to friends, bullying. I think this book has a place in every teenager’s life and I think it’s important. I don’t know why it’s stayed on my TBR for so long. If you haven’t picked it up yet you absolutely should. I want to give Leo a massive hug because I adore him.

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They Both Die at the End – Adam Silvera

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today. Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Imagine living in a world where you get a phone call to tell you that you’re going to die that same day. JUST HOLD THAT IN YOUR HEAD FOR A MINUTE. IMAGINE THAT. (I can’t, it’s too big an idea for my head, I don’t know where I would start, who I would see, what I would do. I think I’d be too overwhelmed and just cry for a day) This book explores a world where this is the reality. A reality for two teenagers who are told they’re going to die before midnight. 

We meet Rufus and Mateo, two very different boys, who have been given their call. They’ve got one more day on this earth. Mateo needs someone to help him along on his day otherwise he’ll just end up in his bedroom all day. He needs to tell his dad he loves him and his best friend. Rufus needs to say bye to his family, to the girl he loves. These two meet and what happens is a wonderful story about how sometimes you can meet the person you need most when you need them most.

The two boys grow together and change massively through the day. Rufus starts his story beating someone up and by the end his actions couldn’t be more gentle and caring. Rufus doesn’t push Mateo to do the things: he’s just there and him being there makes Mateo more brave. These boys do more for each other in one day than I think some people can do for each other in years. 

This book BROKE MY HEART. It tells us in the title what’s going to happen, but my god I was NOT prepared. Typical Adam Silvera breaking my heart. Again, you need to read this book. It’s just wonderful and it makes you think. 

There we go – two books, one day, LOT OF TEARS. 

RECOMMEND ME MORE BOOKS THAT WILL MAKE ME CRY.

I love a good cry!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Bethany Rutter

No Big Deal: a book that means a very big deal!

21eba24b-9c6a-4906-86d0-bf42bfc98cae(gorgeous proof copy sent to me from the publishers… see final cover further down)

“Meet Emily Daly, a stylish, cute, intelligent and hilarious seventeen-year-old about to start her last year at school. Emily is also fat. She likes herself and her body. When she meets Joe at a house party, he instantly becomes The Crush of Her Life. Everything changes. At first he seems perfect. But as they spend more time together, doubts start to creep in.

With her mum trying new fad diets every week, and increasing pressure to change, Emily faces a constant battle to stay strong, be her true self and not change for anyone.”

No Big Deal tells the story of Emily (gorgeous, brilliant, wonderful), a teenager who is going through it all. She’s a girl who the world judges based on one thing: her weight. Emily doesn’t see her weight as a problem, but the rest of the world does. The rest of the world expects her to change because of who she is. Emily has this brilliantly unfaltering confidence in herself, but as you go through the book, as friendships fall apart, as boys come into the picture, as society wears her down, this unrelenting confidence risks changing forever.

I loved this book. Like hands down loved it.

Emily is an absolutely astounding MC. She’s stylish, she’s hilarious. Her perspective is absolutely mint. I laughed A LOT at some of the things she gets into because I’ve been there. Getting stuck in a dress in Topshop? God, I know that feeling so much. Doubted your worthiness because of your weight? Yep. Been there. I loved that she bossed life and was stylish and cool and brilliant. Her weight wasn’t the thing that defined her. She showed that it doesn’t need to. She had interests. She was a ROUNDED character. 

For so long, the fat character was the funny friend, or the one who never got the boy, but in this book, that’s not the case. This book shows that it doesn’t matter what size you are, you matter and that your story isn’t dependent on your weight. Your story is important: even if society doesn’t think so.

I’ve struggled to write this review, not because I didn’t love this book (because trust me, I loved this book an awful lot), but because every time I come to write this review it turns into something about my life… and y’all don’t need that.

This book is brilliant. It’s funny, it made me cry, it made me think, it made me want to shout: so many emotions. It’s interesting. It has a refreshing voice. It’s written in a brilliantly readable way. I’d love to think that Bethany Rutter will be around for MANY MANY BOOKS introducing us to a whole range of characters who are as badass, brilliant and body positive as Emily. This book, its character, its story is going to hit a chord with so many people. Whether you’re the fat friend or not, it’s going to matter. It’s so much more than a story about a fat girl: it’s a story about the importance of loving yourself and how much of a BLOODY HARDSHIP that can be at times. 

I think this book hit a note with me because I WAS Emily. I am Emily now. I’m on that journey of self acceptance, of loving myself for whoever and whatever I am that day. I’ve been there. I’ve doubted every single thing in my life because of the status of my weight. It’s just a thing.

PLUS. Look at this cover man. I proper love it. I can’t wait to have a finished copy in my midst. It’s going to have pride of place on my “favourites shelf”.

No Big Deal

My Goodreads review:

If I could swear, I would. This book is exceptional. I am/was Emily and there’s nothing more important that seeing yourself in a book. I hope every young girl gets a chance to read it. Loving yourself is SO IMPORTANT. This book made me laugh, cry and want to shout. Just bloody marvellous.

And because I loved it so much, I made a mood board. To me, this moodboard represents so much of what the book talks about. Style, fierce, brilliant women, loving yourself, owning life.

NBD mood board

Thank you so so much to Bethany and the brilliant humans of Macmillan Books/MyKindaBook for getting me a proof copy. I GENUINELY think this book is going to hit a chord with so many people.

Have you read No Big Deal?
Can you name another book that has a fully-realised fat MC?
Who is your favourite body positive person?

Talk to me! 

S x 

2019 releases…

Well hello… happy Friday to all you lovely people of the world!

Today I’m here to shout about 2019 releases I’m excited for. Some of my 2019 releases I’ve already read and I’m gonna give them a bit of love, but I’m just gonna shout about them all. 

Here goes nothing… 

Let’s start with 2019 releases I’ve read and LOVED:

2019 loves

Now some 2019 releases that I can’t WAIT to get my hands on:

2019 wants

Add to that list these books:

And Then I Turned Into a Mermaid – Laura Steven (Laura Steven is diving into the world of MG with a mermaid book… yes please!)
The Toll – Neal Shusterman (The 3rd book in the Scythe trilogy)

I could keep going… but I should probably go and do something productive!

What are some of your fave 2019 books?
What 2019 books can you not wait to get your hands on?
Are you still reading books from 2018? (yes haha I am!)

Let me know in the comments – I don’t need more books to add to my list, but I DO. 

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Laura Steven

A Girl Called Shameless: shamelessly loud, brave and real.

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“It’s been two months since a leaked explicit photo got Izzy involved in a political sex scandal – and the aftershock is far from over. The Bitches Bite Back movement is gathering momentum as a forum for teenage feminists, and when a girl at another school has a sex tape shared online, once again Izzy leads the charge against the slut-shamer. This time she wants to change the state law on revenge porn. 
Izzy and her best friend Ajita are as hilarious as ever, using comedy to fight back against whatever the world throws at them, but Izzy is still reeling from her slut-shaming ordeal, feeling angry beyond belief and wondering – can they really make a change?”

A Girl Called Shameless sees us thrown back into the world of Izzy O’Neill (wonderful, brilliant, hilarious, sassy, smart Izzy O’Neill) and the ups and downs of being a girl who has been publicly slut-shamed on the internet. (If you’ve not read The Exact Opposite of Okay then you REALLY need to… it’s just marvellous. My review is here if you’ve been living under a rock for the past year!)

A Girl Called Shameless opens brilliantly with Izzy’s trademark sense of humour and narrative voice telling us about what happened to her over the past few months. A VERY BLOODY CLEVER first chapter… brilliant to have that reminder of everything that went down in book 1 without just being a chapter for chapter’s sake! I was cackling hard by page 2. I forgot how much I loved being in the world of Izzy. She’s definitely one of my favourite voices of the past few years. (Seriously, if you’ve not got on the Izzy O’Neill bus yet, get on… you will NOT regret it!)

In this book, we see Izzy’s past experience of being publicly shamed as a thing that she has to deal with again, when another girl at her school has a sex tape shared online. Izzy unwillingly becomes somewhat of an “expert” and has a lot of her buried emotions brought back up to the surface… as well as a few old familiar faces resurfacing. 

As well as dealing with all of this at school, Izzy is of course dealing with being a teenager, friendship, things taking off with her screenwriting and her relationship. That’s a lot for a few people to cope with… never mind just one! 

I can honestly say that this book was one of the ones I’ve just been sitting waiting for, and it did not disappoint. 

I loved watching Izzy embrace her power and, along with some incredible young women, use that power for good. Making sure her voice, and the voice of others, is heard is important to Izzy and in this book she makes it happen. There’s an incredible build up to a very special day at the end of the book and it’s TOTALLY worth it. Watching a brilliant bunch of young women club their resources, their minds, their hearts and their friendship to make something happen is always brilliant, and when it’s something which is building up women and working for social change makes it even more special. 

We see the return of some familiar faces to support (and hinder) Izzy in her quest to basically take over the world. Ajita is back to be the brilliant best friend that she always has been. I love a book that celebrates female friendship and portrays it in a positive light, so seeing Izzy and Ajita back and being each other’s constant made me so happy! Brilliant Betty is of course back, being wonderful as always. I adore Betty and Izzy’s relationship. Betty turns out to be a bit of a dark horse in this book and there’s MANY lol-tastic moments with her in Shameless. I would love a Betty spin off! I wanna know more about her back story. 

Of course, there’s some men in Izzy’s life… some who I love and some who I think should just be pushed into a well. I’ll start with my fave of all the boys: Carson. Oh Carson. I just want my own Carson please. He’s so so lush. I just can’t think of him and not get total heart eyes. There’s quite an incredible scene towards the end of the book that made me BAWL. I really appreciate when boyfriends are written to be supportive and real (Laura does this so brilliantly, just like Sara Barnard). I mean he’s not perfect, but he has his own crap going on. On the other side of the coin, fan fave (lol) Danny is back to be “nice guy”. Danny can be pushed down a well as far as I’m concerned. He’s such a letch. He doesn’t get any more words than those. 

I loved that we saw more of Izzy’s life in this book. This book doesn’t shy away from the fact that Izzy and Betty aren’t swimming in money. Izzy talks a lot about having to get a job to be able to afford putting the heating on. We see Izzy following her dreams and watch them fall apart a little at one point. We see her struggles and her successes and I think that’s so good to read – no one’s life is ALL successes. 

I have many many more thoughts about this book, but they’re all jumbled still – in that glorious book hangover way. I just think Laura Steven has written 2 incredibly moving, captivating, hilarious and (as cliche as this sounds) important books. These 2 books are brilliantly empowering. After reading Shameless, all I wanted to do was to stand up and shout about all of the injustices I see in my world. I wish Izzy were real cause I’d love to be her friend (although I’m def not cool enough to be her friend haha!)

My goodreads review reads:

Man. What a book. What a story. What a young lady Izzy O’Neill is. I just adore her. This book makes me want to make a stand about everything I see wrong with the world. I love the characters, the messages, the flaws, the worry, the relationships. I CACKLED SO SO MUCH. Just incredible.

I was so inspired after reading this book that I also made a little moodboard! I hope you enjoy!

Shameless moodboard

S x

BOOK BLOG: Alice Broadway

Scar: a book that will leave an impression on ALL of your emotions

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“INK taught Leora that all was not what it seems on the surface. 
SPARK taught her that there are two sides to every story. 
Now Leora has had enough of lessons – she wants to make her own story.”

Scar sees the incredible Ink trilogy come to a close… and I was not ready. AT ALL. If you’re new to the Alice Broadway game then you need to catch up… my review for Ink can be found here, and my review for Spark here

Scar sees Leora taking on the final chapter of her current story. She’s been through a lot in the first two books and now she’s having to face some new scary things! Through Scar we see what happens when she realises she can stand up for herself, the things she believes in and finds herself dealing with some HORRIBLE people.

This book made me emotional. There are SO MANY THINGS THAT HAPPEN that I was crying a lot of the time. I was angry a lot of the time. I was suspicious and torn. I was comforted. I don’t want to be too spoiler-y in this review because you guys need to read this book: it is exceptional. Alice Broadway is a master of storytelling. 

Just as the other 2 books have dealt with storytelling, Scar has a big focus on storytelling. Leora is introduced to Mel (the storyteller of her village) and learns a lot about the power of stories and how stories can have many meanings. Leora has seen the world on both sides of the coins (she’s lived with the Blanks and the Marked people) and she teaches the people around her that every story has 2 sides. I loved watching Leora learn, but also teach, throughout the book. The infusion of the folk stories into this trilogy has been one of the most incredible things. The stories of the two sisters have been consistent throughout the books and watching that explored again in this book was incredible. The two sisters and their story is where this whole division of the people started, so it’s only fitting that their story has an important part. 

There’s some PROPER THINGS that happen in this book. I CAN’T TELL YOU WHAT THEY ARE CAUSE SPOILERS BUT OMG. There was one page (p227 for those who own the book) where I was GENUINELY shocked. I had to put my book down and text my friend to be like “OMG WHAT IS GOING ON?”. I can’t wait to see everyone else freak out about this particular scene. I mean… there’s one particular character, a returning face, a surprise returning face who is a total PIECE OF WORK. I think I could write a whole blog post about why he is THE WORST, but he doesn’t actually deserve it. Having this character back and seeing his narcissism in Scar was FASCINATING. He clearly has a bit of a god complex… and it shows. He does some TERRIBLE things in this book. 

I loved being back in Leora’s world. I think it’s one of the most wonderful worlds that I’ve read recently. I love the idea behind it all. I loved being back around Leora’s people. Our girl, Leora, is just brilliant. She’s real. She’s definitely flawed. She’s brave. She’s bold. She learns in Scar that she needs to start standing up for herself, so she can be in control of her own story… rather than giving the control to the people around her. You’re only going to be remembered if you do something that’s worth remembering. 

Yet another shout out here to Obel. I was SO GLAD to see him back. The scenes between him and Leora were so filled with compassion and love and kindness and gentleness. 

I’m so sad that we’ve got to the end of Leora’s tale, but I can’t wait to see what Alice Broadway does next. She writes such incredible stories. There’s so many moments of juxtaposition. There’s love vs hatred; hard vs soft; the fear of forgetting vs the need to remember; routine vs change; embracing vs shunning. I loved all of these. 

I have so much more to talk about… but I need people to read this book before I can talk about it because I would HATE to spoil it for you all! It’s out in April SO GO GO GO. But also, preorder it because it’s SO WORTH IT. (You can preorder on all of the places!!)

My goodreads review:

I’ve waited SO LONG for this book. And my god it did not disappoint. There are scenes of GENUINE shock. I cried at the end. I hated Longsight SO MUCH. This book rounds off the trilogy so well and I’m so proud of how far Leora came. There’s SO MUCH about this story I can’t wait to shout about.

This week is the week of inspired moodboard, so here is my Scar inspired moodboard:

scar moodboard

A massive thank you to the wonderful humans of Scholastic for sending me a copy to review… you guys are the best!

S x 

BOOK BLOG: Queen Mel

(hello, it’s me, I suggest you go grab yourself a cup of tea and a few biscuits if you’re here for the long run! I could be here a while… are you sitting comfortably? Then I guess we can begin!)

Song of Sorrow: SO BLOODY GOOD.

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“Sorrow Ventaxis has won the election, and in the process lost everything…
Governing under the sinister control of Vespus Corrigan, and isolated from her friends, Sorrow must to find a way to free herself from his web and save her people. But Vespus has no plans to let her go, and he isn’t the only enemy Sorrow faces as the curse of her name threatens to destroy her and everything she’s fought for.”

For anyone who is new around here (hello, introduce yourself to me, I’m quite friendly), I would just like to say now that I am one of the biggest Melinda Salisbury fans and this review will definitely reflect that. So if you’re not interested in that, then please check out something else on my blog…

If you’re still reading, then hello, welcome to Steph loved Song of Sorrow so much that it took her a long time to write this review and appreciates your patience and understanding. If you fancy reading my review of State of Sorrow, check it out here!

So, Song of Sorrow (let’s call it Song because that’s fewer words to read and type) continues on from where State of Sorrow leaves off. Sorrow Ventaxis is living her life, ruling her country after her dad died and she fought to be the ruler. She’s having to deal with some pretty shitty politics and, in turn, politicans. She has friends, but she definitely has enemies. Then let’s not forget to mention there are people who she doesn’t really KNOW/isn’t sure where they stand on the old love/loathe scale. Song follows Sorrow into the world of what happens once she’s got to being the ruler and the escapades that ensue with friends, family, secrets, lies, manipulation, love, hate and a little bit of magic. 

I’m going to try and make this review as un-spoilery as possible, but be warned, I have feelings that I need to talk about! My notes, which normally are a few bullet points, is a whole page, FILLED with things to talk about. If you wanna see my mood board I created for Song of Sorrow, go check it out here. Just look at my happy little face man when I received the book. 

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The first thing I want to say is Song of Sorrow was everything I wanted, many things I didn’t expect, but quintessential Queen Mel brilliance. When I started reading, I expected there to be much death, violence, horror and I was VERY scared for some of my absolute faves. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll go through this book and BE scared for our woman of the moment, Sorrow, but there’s so much more to this book that I didn’t expect. BUT I LOVED THAT. I loved that I couldn’t predict what was going to happen next. I was constantly surprised. I read the entire book on the edge of my seat and on the verge of MANY emotions. There’s moments of light and dark. There’s learning and growing. There’s a lot of love surrounded by moments of hatred and despair. There’s horrible actions paired with acts of compassion and love. This book manages to be hard and soft at the same time and I loved it. 

While I’m talking emotions… let’s just talk about them. I felt THEM ALL. I had SO SO many OMG moments. I laughed; I was shocked; I cried; I was angry; I was scared; I was relieved. There’s a few pages where you go from sheer shock and fear to complete and utter relief. You have no idea how much my heart was appeased when things went from TERRIBLE to brilliant (if you’ve read the book, you’ll know EXACTLY the bit I mean). I was so genuinely terrified for Sorrow at one point that when you have the reveal, I wanted to cry and/or punch someone with relief. Poor Sorrow goes through so much in this book – I definitely felt like I was going through it with her! There’s some proper lush moments of humour though too. One familiar returning face managed to bring a lot of light and laughter into the book (more on him later).

You may be in the familiar world of Sorrow’s life, but there is SO MUCH MORE in this second book. You get to follow Sorrow around on her travels to visit all of her worlds to see the people of the land. You learn so much more about the make up of the world and the world is just build up so much more from book 1. Mel writes such brilliantly vivid worlds that I didn’t think it was possible to understand the world more from book 1, but I loved that I got to know more about the world in Song. If you’re looking for an author who GENUINELY immerses you in their worlds, then look no further than Melinda Salisbury. Her worlds are so gorgeous, so vivid and so well described that you could quite happily walk along the road in your head and know exactly what was coming next and what was around you. 

So you’re in the familiar world and of course there are familiar faces left, right and centre. We have our woman of the moment, Sorrow, who is being Sorrow – stubborn, determined, brilliant, sassy, terrified, brave Sorrow. I love her so much. She grows a lot in Song. Just as Twylla did through The Sin Eater’s Daughter trilogy, Sorrow goes on an incredible journey learning a lot about herself and making decisions which change her life. She finds out some things about herself in this second book and I appreciated it a lot (I mean, Sorrow is a bookworm which I DIG). She obviously continues to push people away to try and keep them safe, which in reality doesn’t work. Oh Sorrow. You are a disaster, but we love you.

Sorrow is very lucky (and in some cases not so lucky) to have some recurring characters in her life. All of who I love (even when I think they’re the absolute worst). Irris continues to be that best friend that Sorrow needs. Irris is one of my favourite best friends that you have in books. She’s just very constant and Sorrow needs a constant. I have a lot of love for Irris. Vespus returns to wreak havoc all over the world. God, I hate that man. SO MUCH. (My notes just say ‘Vespus tho’)  I get that he has a motive that he THINKS is the best thing for his country… but NO. I don’t appreciate you blackmailing my girl. Charon continues to be that father figure that Sorrow has always needed. I forgot how much I adored Charon from book 1, so when he returned for this book, I was DELIGHTED. Rasmus is back and I LOVED the resolution for the Rasmus/Sorrow relationship that happens. I think Rasmus is a brilliant representation of the fact that you CAN be friends with people who have meant a lot to you. Mael is still around and still creating unanswered questions for Sorrow (and me… Mel, I’m looking at you!)

GUYS. LUVIAN THO. It makes me so sad that I can’t be spoilery in this review… but I really don’t want to spoil it for you. Luvian has SUCH A GOOD BOOK. He’s such a bloody brilliant brilliant thing for Sorrow. He’s funny, charming, smart, sexy, snarky. There are some incredibly touching moments between Luvian and Sorrow in Song and I just want a book of Luvian/Sorrow please. I loved the exploration of Luvian’s family and his relationship with Sorrow in this book. The ending of State of Sorrow leaves their relationship in a very precarious place, so when I found that it was going to be explored more in Song I was DELIGHTED. I had waited A LONG TIME to get more Luvian Fen in my life… and this book did NOT let me down. (Please, if you love Luvian as much as me, I need you to talk to me. I want to start a Luvian Fen fan club)

There’s also some brilliant new additions to Sorrow’s world that enrich it a lot. So we find out more about Luvian’s family of one of the best characters to come out of Sorrow’s world. (I won’t spoil HOW we come about being with Luvian’s family because that’s one of my FAVE things about this book and SPOILERZ). We meet his mam, Beata, who I was TERRIFIED of initially. She’s TERRIFYING. She’s like this brilliant, scary, powerful Mama Bear. Poor Sorrow when she meets this terrifying mama bear… you’ll see she’s not so bad though. We find more about Luvian’s family in general through the book, but another of his family we see more of is his brother, Arkady. Guys, he’s like a brickhouse. I just imagine him being built like a proper house and scary af. He’s a PROPER softie though. He has a lovely little arc with another of our familiar friends and I LOVED IT. Outside of Luvian’s family, we meet Vespus’ new wife Tassus. GUYS JUST NO. This woman terrified me. She’s got a power that just makes me VERY scared. She’s NOT OK. She’s PERFECT for Vespus’ plans however. We all know what a terrible human he is. (My notes for Tassus just say “creepy wife” which I think are a perfcect description of her!)

I may have finished this book a few weeks ago but I am still not quite over it. The way in which this book ended just blew my mind. I think it’s just the perfect ending. I love that Sorrow has taken control of her life. She’s empowered and doing something for her, without the shadow of the rest of the world hanging over her. There’s a LOT that happens in the last few chapters and it’s a lot to process. There’s a particular bit when shit goes down in the castle and my god… it was INTENSE. A fitting end for some of the characters however. I still have some unanswered questions, but I think I need to put those questions to bed. As Mel told me, I know what I need to know. 

The book hangover is real! I can’t wait to see what’s next from Mel. I know that Sorrow’s story is over, but I just need more. I don’t care who I’m introduced to next. I know it’ll be brilliant. I’m very sad this duology is over; I grew very fond of Sorrow and her world. I will definitely be finding myself rereading these books though (for Luvian more than anything!).

A massive massive thank you to Scholastic for sending me an early copy of this book, and to Mel for having her amazing launch on a Saturday so I was able to go along and celebrate this book with her! 

If you want to buy this book, which you probably should, it’s available now on Amazon, Waterstones (if you buy it on/at Waterstones, you may even get the very fancy sprayed edges version like the one below) and every other book selling place. 

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Now, I need to go and have a lie down. I’m sure you do too.

S x  

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