Posted in discussion

Tag | To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before

With a whole new wave of people – myself included – falling head over heels for To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, it was only a matter of time before someone created a tag. (And that lovely person was Frankinesce) but the wonderful Jemma of Fantastic Books was kind enough to tag me! Who knew I had bookish friends?!

I’ve also decided to do the same as Jemma and write letters to the books I’ve chosen!

Kenny From Camp AKA your first book love

Dear Great Expectations by Charles Dickens,

While you are by no means the first book I ever fell in love with, you were the first classic to capture my heart. When I sat in that English class and heard we’d be studying another lengthy classic I’d probably hate (ironic as I went on to do an English Degree) we read chapter one and eight of your story for analysis and I was hooked. The following weekend I convinced my mum to buy me the book and you’ve been a firm favourite ever since.

And yet, it’s hard to place why. The cast of characters are so diverse, as always with your creator’s works, but there’s no one I really relate to or see myself as. But I think the themes of feeling like you have to prove your worth to others constantly and the endless comparisons to those in better positions is still all to prevalent in daily life.

Also, I think Pip should have stopped chasing Estella.

John Ambrose McClaren AKA the book that got away (a book that may not be your all-time favourite now, but you’ll always love it)

Dear The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis

Hi, it’s me again. Sadly I admit it’s been quite a while and we didn’t get on the last time I paid you a visit, but I felt I needed to check in.

Obviously there are many books that came before you, but you are the first series I remember reading before Harry Potter came along and swept you under the bed like Woody in Toy Story when Andy brings home Buzz Lightyear.

You gave me my first thirst for not just fictional worlds, but magical ones. From talking animals, to princes and evil witches and doors at the back of wardrobes. I remember exactly how it felt to read you that very first time: the way it made my heart pound as I thumbed the pages. It’s like a permanent time stamp in my memory.

Sadly, as you remember from our last meeting, it seems I have outgrown you. And I’m not really sure what to do or say about it. But just know that the younger version of me loved you very much, and that will never change.

 

Lucas from Homecoming AKA your GBF (your favourite LGBTQ+ character or book)

Dear Magnus Bane from the Shadowhunter world,

You are the first time I saw my sexuality in fiction and it was a big moment for me. That simple line where you made your declaration without caring about what anyone else thought has given me the courage to start doing the same. I found comfort in you and the stories you littered and you’ve given me the self-love and bravery in terms of my sexuality that I hadn’t possessed before. The fact that you also play an important part of the series shows that you can stand at the forefront and you can be loved.

Josh Sanderson AKA the book next door ( a book that you’ll love no matter how many times you read it)

Dear The Great Gatsby by F.Scott Fitzgerald,

Admittedly, I only read you because of the news of a movie adaptation, but I could never have prepared myself for how much of a place you’d take up in my heart. I relate a lot to Nick and how he always assumes the best in people only to get burned later on, and how he has this innocence and wonder for the big city.

I love the theme of not being able to let go of the past and how Gatsby is so eager to replicate everything when he gets a chance to meet his lost love again. But the fact he wants them to be the old versions of themselves leads to his inevitable downfall. There’s so much to think about in such a short book.

Peter Kavinsky AKA your one true book love

Dear Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K.Rowling,

The reasons I love you are seemingly endless, as you well know. Whenever I need to take some time away from the real world and return to my familiar friends in th wizarding world, you’re always the one I turn to.

I think this is because you’re the real game changer in the series. As history seems destined to repeat itself, that sense of hopelessness creeps in but you provide that flicker of light; the way to win. We have to be careful who we trust and start to learn the importance of having a support network. I also really value the Septumsempera chapter because it shows that Harry and Malfoy are parallels: they’re both two boys forced onto paths they never wanted or expected, caught up in something so much bigger than themselves.

Posted in children's fiction, fantasy, review

Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets | Illustrated Edtion – J.k.Rowling & Jim Kay

“The chamber of secrets has been opened. Enemies of the heir, beware.”

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Blurb: “The Dursleys were so mean and hideous that summer that all Harry Potter wanted was to get back to the Hogwarts School for Witchcraft and Wizardry. But just as he’s packing his bags, Harry receives a warning from a strange, impish creature named Dobby who says that if Harry Potter returns to Hogwarts, disaster will strike.”

Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets has always been a weird book in the series for me: it was the first one I read when I first discovered the series as a child, reading it and not realising it was actually a sequel, but as I’ve grown up, it has firmly become my least favourite in the series. However, like many I’ve found that the illustrated editions have added an extra bit of magic to a much loved series.

In terms of the story itself, I really do appreciate this one for the insights into Hogwarts history. Readers start to learn more about how the magical school came to be and the darkness linked to Slytherin house, along with the very start of how Voldermort started to look into dark magic. It’s also littered with many signs of what is to come in future books.

My favourite characters are Lockhart and Colin Creevey.  Lockhart is the ridiculous extravagant new Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher and loves nothing more than talking about himself and all his brilliant accomplishments. One of my favourite scenes is when he sets a test in class which is all about him. Colin Creevey is an excitable first year Gryffindor student, obsessed with the famous Harry Potter. He always seems to pop up at the worst times but I imagine that if I was a character in this world, I’d probably be exactly like him.

In terms of the illustrations, I wasn’t as blown away with the contents like I was with Philosopher’s Stone. I thought it was a clever technique to have some pages black with white text to emphasise the darkness in places like Knockturn Alley but outside of that, I didn’t give the illustrations the attention they truly deserve. It also seemed like there were a lot more pages of just text compared to the last one and I except this will definitely continue and grow as the illustrated version turn on the longer books in the series.

Sadly, this is still my least favourite Potter book, but it doesn’t make it any less magical.

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Posted in Audiobook Of The Month

Audiobook Of The Month | Monday’s Not Coming

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We’re so close to Christmas that I can almost taste all of the gingerbread lattes and walnuts I’m going to consume! I’m also back to wearing cardigans so it feels like I’m in my  true form again.

This month, I’ve been listening to Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson and I was already sold on the premise, but hearing the author talk about the book on Epic Reads made me add this to my TBR and impatiently wait until release.

The story follows Claudia whose best friend Monday goes missing. She’s not on the register at school, her phone is disconnected and her parents seem unwilling to talk to her. While becoming very much a mystery novel as the narrative fits around in time to build up Monday’s character and her relationship to Claudia, there is a big emphasis on how missing white children are investigated compared to POC children. Monday’s absence barely makes a ripple in the water.

After the disaster of my last audiobook, it’s such a relief to get one with a really good narrator. This is narrated by Imani Parks who is doing a fantastic job of bringing life to Claudia.

At the time of writing this I am 37% in and I’m looking forward to seeing where this story is going!

Posted in lgbt, Non-Fiction, review

The Bi-Ble – Edited by Lauren Nickodemus & Ellen Desmond

“We have always been there – lost in either side of history, almost always hidden away as straight or gay – but we were there and we are here now, even if you don’t see us.”

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Blurb: “Bisexuals inhabit a liminal space between cultures, often misunderstood or dismissed by the straight and LGBTQ+ communities alike. We are the sexual identity most likely to be closeted, most at risk of mental illness, domestic abuse, and even heart disease — but also the least visible. Now, a selection of intersectional bi voices has come together to share stories, helping our voices be heard and our identities seen. It’s time to stand up and spread the word.”

Trigger Warnings: sexual assault, rape, self-harm and suicide.

The Bi-ble does exactly what it says on the tin: it is a collection of essays from various people who have/still do identify as bisexual and their stories. I entered a giveaway for this book and was incredibly excited when I won. Upon reading every single word it had to offer, I feel elated; I have never felt so validated in my life.

While I seem very happy and open about my sexuality now, it has been a long road to get to this point. I’ve gathered my own fair share of stories from: being accused of being exclusionary for only being attracted to men and women, to being asked if I’m now straight because my long-term partner is the opposite sex, asked for threesomes, being told I’m more likely to cheat. Frankly, if you think of the stereotypes associated with bisexuality, I’ve been subject to most of them. And with the LGBT+ community often spewing some of the hatred, it took a long time for me to even go to a pride event for fear that I would be kicked out for not belonging there.

The contributors in this book share their own stories from knowingly using the bisexual label as a stepping stone to coming out as gay, to how sexual assault is not viewed the same when the aggressor and victim are both women, to trans bisexuals. It is a truly amazing collection of people and yet the editors involved are humble enough to state that this book is not reflective of everyone’s experiences.

As I mentioned at the start, it’s been a long journey to the confident bisexual woman I am now, but this collection reminded me that I am not alone, and that everything I have felt and currently do feel are completely valid. That it is okay to feel like this and that it is not me at fault but the greater society. While horrible to see so many negative experiences (as well as a lot of positive ones) I felt like a weight had been lifted to know that I haven’t gone through it alone.

Another amazing thing about The Bi-ble is that it’s crowdfunded. Meaning that people believed in its worth enough to make it a reality and that is its own form of magic.

If you’re bisexual yourself, or just looking to learn more from others’ lives, this is a great place to start.

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Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

Songs About A Girl – Chris Russell

“This, my friend, could be the beginning of something epic…”

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Blurb: “Charlie Bloom never wanted to be ‘with the band’. She’s happiest out of the spotlight, behind her camera, unseen and unnoticed. But when she’s asked to take backstage photos for hot new boy band Fire&Lights, she can’t pass up the chance. Catapulted into a world of paparazzi and backstage bickering, Charlie soon becomes caught between gorgeous but damaged frontman, Gabriel West, and his boy-next-door bandmate Olly Samson. Then, as the boys’ rivalry threatens to tear the band apart, Charlie stumbles upon a mind-blowing secret, hidden in the lyrics of their songs…”

Songs About A Girl is a book that just happened upon when scouring the shelves at my local library. When I saw it was all about boybands, I knew it was something that would appeal to the teen in me and… let’s be honest, me currently. It’s just an aspect of life that is so intoxicating and easy to relate to.

Charlie Bloom is a brilliant protagonist but not without her tropes: she’s really into photography, just trying to keep her head down and, of course, doesn’t understand why everyone seems to be so obsessed with this boyband called Fire & Lights. Enter best friend Melissa to keep her up to speed. If there was any character I saw bits of myself in through this story it was definitely Melissa: she’s excitable, over the top, obsessed with boybands and knows every tiny detail, wants to marry them, almost pees in excitement at the mere thought of meeting them. Trust me, I’ve been there. She just had this energy the whole way through the plot and she really did steal all of the attention when she was on the page.

I thought it was clever to have the boyband within reach. One of the members used to go to the same high school as Charlie so when he initially reaches out to her to do photography work for the band it didn’t feel that far-fetched. I know it’s fiction but it had that element that just made it believable. Also Chris Russell is in a band himself so I feel that added an extra bit of authenticity to band life.

I loved each of the bandmates and they were fully fleshed out in their own rights and the backstory of Gabriel proved far more interesting than I expected it to be.

There are often discussions about the lack of technology within YA books and for me this is where Songs About A Girl excels. The use of social media plays a big role in not just the story, but the overall daily lives of the characters with excerpts from the number one fan site and, unfortunately there’s a lot of online bullying which is all too common in real life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this whole book and was really pleased to discover that it’s actually the first in a trilogy! However, at just short of 500 pages, it felt longer than it needed to be, though I’m not sure what could have been cut.

A fun read about loving music unconditionally and grabbing opportunities when they come around, Songs About A Girl is such to light up your world.

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Posted in discussion

Falling Out Of Love With Reading

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I have been reading books for as long as I can remember. In fact, if possible, I probably would have been born holding a book. Growing up I was fortunate not to have to worry about money and my mother raised me on the principle of “if you want a toy you have to wait a week to be sure you really want it, but if you want a book you can have it now.” Naturally my child mind wanted the thing I could have now; Quite a clever tactic really. I was read stories before bed; though my father preferred to make up his own stories and encourage me to do the same.

I take books everywhere with me. Even if I know for sure there is not an opportunity to read, I bring one along as a “just in case.” You never know when a quick two minutes might occur to pop into a fictional world. As I struggled with those around me not wanting to talk about books all the time – and many not reading the same things as me – I turned to the internet in search of a space that had other people like me. And thankfully I found a whole community.

And here we are, three years into a blog and a couple of months past a disastrous booktube channel attempt. Like many, I feel so much pressure to not only keep up with the new books but love them as everyone else and I feel like a failure when I don’t. My blog is scheduled so far in advance but already I’m worrying about the fact that I haven’t finished anything new that I want to review.

Back in March, it started to creep in like a gremlin lurking in the shadows: the reading slump. It manifests itself differently for everyone. But for me, I just don’t enjoy what I’m reading. Even if it’s textbook the sort of thing I would like, it just leaves me feeling empty. Reading is often an escape from my mental health which is obviously not a good way to go about things. But not enjoying reading also leads to me having a general life slump and I realise that I don’t have that much in my life outside of reading and writing, and it’s a dark place to be at times.

It can feel lonely and hopeless and I’m yet to find a way to really get out a reading slump other than to reread something I loved dearly. But then that pressure to be involved in the community bubbles to the surface again and I realise I’m falling behind. It’s sad to, in a way, fall out of love with books; especially when knowing how much time the author put into them.

But for now, I’ll keep muddling through a reading slump that’s been around since March… and hope for the best.

Posted in feminism, poetry, review

Nothing Is Okay – Rachel Wiley

“There will be years when you feel bruised like worlds collided.
So, when they ask (and they always ask) what you are
Tell them that you are made up of whole worlds collided
Supernova beautiful in its violent right to exist.”

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Blurb: “Nothing is Okay is the second full-length poetry collection by Rachel Wiley, whose work simultaneously deconstructs the lies that we were taught about our bodies and our beings, and builds new ways of viewing ourselves. As she delves into queerness, feminism, fatness, dating, and race, Wiley moulds these topics into a punching critique of culture and a celebration of self.”

Trigger Warnings: eating disorders, body shaming and rape.

Rachel Wiley has been one of my favourite poets ever since I first saw her performance of 10 Thoughts On Being Loved By A Skinny Boy on the Button Poetry Youtube Channel. I just simply adore the “no-BS” manner she exudes during her readings and it’s actually taken me quite a while to find out that she has not one, but two, poetry collections. Nothing Is Okay features a lot of well-known poems (to those familiar with her work) such as Belly Kisses, Fat Joke, and Glory In Two Parts. The overall theme of the collection ranges from female empowerment, body image and loving yourself unapologetically.

This collection is absolutely brilliant. Rachel Wiley’s attitude just leaks from the pages and I could perfectly picture all the ways she would perform every poem in this book. So many lines and full stanzas stuck out to me that I ended the reading experience having highlighted nearly the entire collection. She has this magical way of using just the right images to convey the intended message and it’s often something the reader could never have conjured on their own. And the overall arc had the perfect mix of serious and funny.

A lot of my, already firm, favourites were in this collection but I came away with new ones such as “The Opposite Of Up” which is reverse pick-up lines and had me laughing so much I thought I might break a rib.

If you’re new to poetry, Nothing Is Okay will be the perfect way to dip your toe in the water. If you’re familiar with poetry, well it can’t hurt to indulge in this one too!

For more of my reading adventures follow me on Goodreads

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