Posted in contemporary, feminism, review, young adult

It Only Happens In The Movies – Holly Bourne

“Romance films ruin people’s real-life relationships. They offer this idea of love that isn’t sustainable in normal life.”

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Blurb: “Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…”

Audrey is reeling from her own break up as well as the separation of her parents. She decides to fill her time focusing on getting into university and working her new job at the local independent cinema; along with deciding that all romance films are total fabrications. At this cinema, she meets one of her new co-worker’s – a bad boy named Harry. It Only Happens In The Movies tackles the conventions of romantic films by delving into reality of some of the iconic aspects such as “the kiss” and “the montage” in order to tell a story following the pattern of a romantic film. The narrative’s rise and fall coexists with the conventions of romantic films such as “the big date.”

It’s really nice to see an increasing number of YA books featuring sex in general as well as safe sex. It showed just how awkward a first time with a new person can be, along with the importance of learning about your partner. It felt like real characters taking an important step forward in their relationship.

I did struggle to get into this story but persevered and found that it picked up a lot in the last third. I actually found Audrey’s mum and her character arc more than anything else in the story. What happens to her throughout the plot is heart-breaking, brutal and raw. I felt so much for her that I wished I could climb into the book and give her a hug.

I got the point of what Holly Bourne was trying to achieve with this book but I found that the actual story itself fell a little short. I think a lot of that is down to the fact that I’m really not a fan of “girl is warned off bad boy but falls for him anyway” stories.

However, once again Holly Bourne takes a stab at one of the many ridiculous things about the world and really gets you thinking.

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Posted in children's fiction, young adult

Favourite Books Of The Year | 2016

It’s the end of another year which means it’s once again time for me to discuss my favourite reads of the past twelve months. 2016 has been a very interesting reading experience for me as I decided to start being a tad more honest with my ratings and if I wasn’t enjoying a book, then I simply tossed it aside rather than forcing myself to finish in an attempt to get one step closer to achieving my Goodreads target. So, without further ado, here are the stand out books for the year of 2016.

Gabriel And The Swallows by Esther Dalseno 

 

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Gabriel and The Swallows follows a boy who stumbles across an injured bird and takes it home in the hopes that he can save its life, only to discover that the creature is in fact not a bird… but a girl with swallows wings. This book is a slow read, taking place over many years but it’s such a beautiful story. It’s very much in the realm of magical realism and explores the friendship between the protagonist and this remarkable creature that fell into his life. It’s been a very, very long time since a book affected me so much at the end that I just sat there sobbing. I honestly cannot put into words just how outstanding the contents of this book are.

My full review can be found here and I also went to the launch event for this book which can be found here.
Inherited by Freedom Matthews 

 

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Inherited by Freedom Matthews tells the story of a group of people on a pirate ship, cursed with the inability to love:  If they were to confess love for another, that person would die. Together, the crew search for the remaining heirs to the curse and aim to track down the sorceress that put the curse on their parents and get her to change her mind.

Frankly, we don’t have enough pirate books and it was so refreshing to read this book. What I love the most about this story is that because the majority takes place on a ship, where the characters have no real place to escape to, it’s easy to get boring, but Freedom manages to keep it interesting, introducing new ideas and backstories through dialogue.

My full review of this book can be found here.
Rebel Of The Sands by Alwyn Hamilton

 

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Set in the desert nation of Miragi, mortals rule and mystical beast roam free. Amani wants nothing more than to leave her dead-end town and when a shooting competition arises offering prize money larger enough to fund her escape, she disguises as a boy to take part. There’s a Sultan’s army, magic, a fantastic protagonist, vivid imagery and a growing rebellion.

I became very disheartened with Young Adult Fiction this year; an awful lot of the books I was excited for let me down. I was close to turning my back completely on the age range but Rebel of the Sands was utterly fantastic and proved to me that there’s still hope for good books in Young Adult.

My full review can be found here.

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

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Am I Normal Yet? Follows Evie who was recently hospitalised for her eating disorder. Starting at a new college where nobody knows her “secret” she wants nothing more than to be normal. She meets Amber and Lottie and together they create The Spinster Club dedicated to reclaiming their womanhood. This was a very difficult read for me as it deals heavily with anxiety disorder but the really good thing about this book is it doesn’t sugarcoat. It shows just hard it is to live with mental illness and I hope will generate a platform where readers learn about what it’s like to be in that mindset and how to help someone they may know who deals with these experiences on a daily basis.

My full review can be found here.

The Christmasaurus by Tom Fletcher 

 

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As the first full length novel from Children’s writer Tom Fletcher, The Christmasaurus tells the story of wheelchair user William who wants nothing more than a pet dinosaur for Christmas and it just so happens that a dinosaur egg has been found at the North Pole. It’s a wonderful adventure that takes place one Christmas Eve. This book is hilarious, festive, and heart-warming, accompanied by wonderful illustrations.

It’s also great that Tom included a wheelchair user as his protagonist because representation is so important, especially when your audience is children.

My full review can be found here

So there we have it!
What were some of your favourite reads?

I will be back in the new year with many more reviews.

– Charlotte

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Posted in contemporary, review, young adult

I’ll Be Home For Christmas

“Home means something different for everyone. Many of us are fortunate enough to count our home as a place of stability, love and safety; others are not so lucky.”

 

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Blurb: “The UK’s top Young Adult authors join together in this collection of new stories and poems on the theme of home.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

I have always been a sucker for anthologies. I just love the idea of a group of authors being given a particular theme and seeing what wonderful variety of stories are created from the minds of talented people.

This collection focuses on – you’ve guessed it – the idea of home during the festive period. Stripes Publishing have worked with the Crisis Charity for this book as not everyone has the option of being in a loving home this time of year and so some of the proceeds from book sales go to the charity.

The contributors are as follows:

Benjamin Zephaniah
Non Pratt
Marcus Sedgwick
Cat Clarke
Kevin Brooks
Holly Bourne
Julie Mayhew
Juno Dawson
Sita Brahmachari
Tracey Darnton
Tom Becker
Katy Cannon
Melvin Burgess
Lisa Williamson

What I loved about this anthology is that it introduced me to new authors and  every story was different. They all had a different message to put across, different ways a person could spend Christmas (for example,  one of the stories is set in space!) and it just helped show how vast the world is and how no two-people really share the same ideas and it also made me realise how grateful I am for  the things and people I have in my life.

If you’re looking for a festive, Christmas read that does some good in the process, I urge you to pick up a copy of this book.
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Posted in contemporary, feminism, review, young adult

Am I Normal Yet? – Holly Bourne

“Why haven’t you told them?”
Because I’d lose them. They wouldn’t get it. They’d treat me differently. I wouldn’t be “normal” to them anymore, even if I never freaked out again. Once they knew, they’d always be watching… waiting… wondering if I was going to lose it.”

 

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Blurb: “All Evie wants is to be normal. And now that she’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the-girl-who-went-nuts, there’s only one thig left to tick off her list… But relationships can mess with anyone’s head – something Evie’s new friends Amber and Lottie know only too well. The trouble is, if Evie won’t tell them her secrets, how can they stop her making a huge mistake?”

Holly Bourne is an author I’ve been aware of for a while. I’ve seen her books everywhere and I follow her feminist discussions on twitter. However, I was yet to delve into her writing until I saw a recent video where she honked a horn every time she comes across sexism in the media (in spirit of her new book. You can watch that hilarious video here. After viewing that, I wondered exactly what was stopping me from picking up her books. So I started to read.

Am I Normal Yet? Is the first book in the normal/spinster trilogy and follows a girl called Evie who is recovering from being hospitalised for OCD and Anxiety Disorder. She is slowly working through her problems with the help of medication and her therapist Sarah. Evie starts college with one big goal in mind: to be normal. No one here, minus her flaky friend Jane, knows what happened to her and she plans to keep it that way. Evie meets Amber and Lottie and together they form the spinster club dedicated to reclaiming their womanhood.

While this is the first in a trilogy, Holly has said in the past that the books are stand alone in their own right and so can be read out of order.

Through the narrative, the reader gets an honest and raw insight into the mind of Evie by using prose, therapy techniques she’s given, outlines of bad thoughts and worry and recovery diaries. It reads just like that – a diary. Evie felt so human and so real that I found myself having to take a mini break every so often because of how deep things go.

Holly Bourne uses her platform to teach about feminism while expressing the importance of showing the sexism men face too. It feels like she set out to break down the stigmas around both feminist issues and mental illness which she certainly accomplished.

I often say that I “feel” for certain characters when I read certain books but this was a whole different experience. As someone who was diagnosed with Anxiety Disorder in 2014, had therapy and medication, I found it so easy to sympathise with Evie. While I couldn’t relate to the OCD side of things, the thought processes she went through were so familiar to me. I started to understand how her mind worked and how things could so easily spiral having been in some of those positions myself; that you need to stay on the straight and narrow or everyone will see you as a failure. It was like reading about myself.

I want to thank Holly Bourne for doing a really good job of not writing this book but doing it in a way where things weren’t glossed over. Some of the events are harsh, raw, brutal and a lot of the time hard to read but it’s so important that it’s out there so society can slowly bring up a generation of people that will be helpful to those suffering mental illness, rather than trying to brush them under the carpet.

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