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Review: Countless by Karen Gregory

Countless
Countless by Karen Gregory

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

I’ve been excited for this book for a while, and thank you goes to the publisher, Bloomsbury (Hooked on Books) for sending me a proof copy!

Hedda is struggling with anorexia, and then she discovers she is pregnant. She’s scared and in the grips of an eating disorder, who she calls Nia. Hedda suddenly has some difficult decisions to make.

This isn’t an easy read, and might be triggering for some readers. This is an account of an eating disorder from inside the mind of Hedda, and I believe this is an OwnVoices novel in regards to anorexia. We see flashbacks to when Hedda was in hospital with her eating disorder, and Hedda talks to her friends who are still in the grips of eating disorders themselves.

I liked how this book was raw and didn’t have any easy, fairytale solutions. This was a really unique book, with an interesting living situation and backstory, and I liked the structure of the story. We see grotty flats and dysfunctional families, a love interest who isn’t some fairytale prince come to sweep Hedda off her feet. Hedda has to face her problems head on throughout the book, which I really liked.

This book took me two days to read – it was complelling as it was a welcome addition to the UK YA landscape.
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annalsie

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Review: The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

The State of Grace
The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: advanced reader copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

The State of Grace is the YA debut of Rachael Lucas, and it’s an OwnVoices novel about a teenage girl, the aforementioned Grace, who has Asperger’s. It’s been a long time coming for actual autistic representation in fiction, and especially in YA, which is known for tackling different subjects especially around mental health (and disability, to an extent).

As someone with family experience of autism, there were touches here and there which really make this book special, little insights into the life of an autistic person and how autistic people are treated as people. This is what really elevated this book for me – this is a book crafted with care from personal experience and it’s relatable and understandable.

Grace is a realistic character and feels more ‘teenage’ than some YA heroines as she gets to grip with teenage love and deals with school bullies and teachers and being a teenage girl. The romance in this book is sweet and, although I’m tired of every YA heroine needing a swoony love interest, we also need to be aware of the desexualisation of disabled people and that relationships with and between disabled people can, and do, exist and flourish.

I also loved that this book was set in North West England and I’m pretty sure I spotted some of the places from my childhood in this book so it gets a big thumps up from me for that!

The State of Grace is a quick, sweet and funny read that fills a much needed gap in UK YA. A must-read!

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annalsie

Review: If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

If Birds Fly Back
If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

**Disclaimer: advanced reader copy received from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review**

If Birds Fly Back is the story of Linny and Sebastian, set in a Miami summer at an old folks home called Silver Springs. Linny is still coming to terms with her older sister Grace’s disappearance and dealing with the pressure her parents are putting on her to become a doctor, and Sebastian has just found out who his father is, and has trekked from California to Miami to finally meet him. And then, Linny and Sebastian’s paths cross.

This book is written in dual perspective between Linny and Sebastian, which I really liked, and it’s sweet and adorable and nerdy – Sebastian dreams of being an astrophysicist and Linny wants to be a filmmaker, and we see physics quotes and film scripts throughout which up the cute factor.

Other reviewers have written about reading this book super quickly – I didn’t, I read this on the tube on my phone in the few moments I could get to a book and found the chapters the perfect length to dip in and out of. I will however say that this book is compelling, and the mystery element works really well here. Both Sebastian and Linny have really interesting premises, and I can definitely understand the addictive quality of this book.

This book also had a good dose of parents and complicated parental relationships, which is something I haven’t seen too much of in YA, and I loved the focus on where the characters will go after school, which is something so important and life-changing for many teens that we don’t always see in YA. I really liked Linny’s flawed friendship with Cass – I’m a big fan of friendships which aren’t perfect and unrealistic and Cass was a really interesting character in her own right. Sebastian also had a great (and realistic) friendship with his best friend back in California.

What I did notice throughout this book were the numerous bird references which were a really nice touch and not overdone.

If you loved Harriet Reuter Hapgood’s The Square Root of Summer, you’ll love this. The perfect summer read and a sure-fire summer hit.

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annalsie

Review: How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss

How Not To Disappear
How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Ah, this book. I loved it.

Hattie is a teenager, who has just found out she’s pregnant with her best friend’s baby. And she’s not sure how to feel about that. A distraction comes in the form of her long lost aunt Gloria, who’s losing her memories, and so Hattie takes her on a road trip of places that mean a lot to her so she can remember them one last time.

I really love books about teen pregnancy and the issues faced by pregnant teens, and this was such a heartwarming coming-of-age story that read like an adult novel, with complex and diverse characters who almost jumped off the page. At times, this book has dual narrative, which I loved, and the author doesn’t shy away from difficult and complex relationships and conundrums where there is no ‘right’ answer. This is a heartbreaking and heartfelt novel that I couldn’t put down.

If you’re looking for an emotional rollercoaster with a strong focus on family, HOW NOT TO DISAPPEAR is a top choice.

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annalsie

Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

A Quiet Kind of Thunder
A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimer: I received a proof of this book from My Kinda Book in exchange for an honest review.

Last year, I read a great debut novel that became the biggest selling debut YA novel of 2016. That book didn’t have a romance in it, which was (and still is) unusual for YA. Beautiful Broken Things focused on the friendship between two best friends and how that changed when a new friend entered the mix.

Sara Barnard is back in 2017 with a brand new novel, but this one *is* a romance. A Quiet Kind of Thunder is the story of Steffi, a teenage girl with selective mutism embarking on sixth form, and Rhys, a deaf boy who transfers to Steffi’s sixth form.

I’m always wary with books that tackle disability about how realistic and lifelike they are – there’s a really tendency for characters with a disability to be miraculously cured, but AQKOT feels like it has been well-researched and is sensitive. I learnt a lot about mutism and British Sign Language in this book, and it made me more aware and conscious about interacting with deaf people (for example, making sure they can read your lips if they are lip-reading).

This is a really special romance because Barnard gets awkward teenage flirting. The texts between Steffi and Rhys feel so real, and I fell in love with this book so quickly. I can’t really explain how much I loved the romance between these two, but it was cute and adorable and perfect.

I also really enjoyed how this book doesn’t shy away from sex. The sex in this book was realistic and well-done, and felt age-appropriate.

I can’t believe we’re only at the beginning of 2017 and this is already a very strong contender for my favourite book of 2017. An absolute must-read – and the cover is so shiny and beautiful and I think I need it on my shelf (I only have the proof!). Go and buy it now!

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Annalise x

Review: The Deviants by C.J. Skuse

The Deviants
The Deviants by C.J. Skuse

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A huge thank you to Cara at MIRA INK for the advance copy of this book – this is a review copy received in exchange for an honest review.

Set in a sleepy English Seaside town, Ella is one of five friends who were inseparable when they were younger. Something happened though, and now Ella is only in touch with Max, her boyfriend since she was thirteen years old. Five years later, the friends end up reconnecting – but they all have secrets and lies of their own, some dating from their friendship, and some a little newer.

This book has so many layers – the format is quite interesting, with a question being asked of the main protagonist, Ella, at the end of each chapter. I really liked this as it made me read on, and, without giving too much away, I will say this: this book is shocking and intriguing at every twist and turn.

C.J. is a master of suspense, and I loved how issues within the book were dealt with – I wasn’t prepared for many of the themes of the book which may be a little troubling for those with triggers as the book touches on some quite serious issues (I don’t want to spoil the book without revealing what they are, but I’d be happy to divulge via private message).

If you’re looking for a great suspenseful novel full of secrets and lies, this is a fantastic choice and a great autumn YA read to boot.

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annalsie

Review: Cuckoo by Keren David

Cuckoo
Cuckoo by Keren David

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I read Cuckoo (I read it during YALC weekend!) but I’ve been way behind on my reviewing due to a job offer(!) and trying to pack up to move house…

Cuckoo is the story of Jake, an actor in Market Square, the country’s hottest soap. Except he’s pretty much been dropped, and his family are suffering from the lack of income. His dad’s angrier, and Jake’s autistic brother Adam can be difficult to deal with – and then Jake finds out none of the money he’s earned over the years has been saved. Soon, he finds himself homeless – hidden at first, couchsurfing on all his friend’s sofas, and then on the street.

The first thing I should probably mention is the format of this book – it’s fairly short, split into short chapters which are each the script of an individual video. The book is Jake telling his story through the medium of vlogging, and there are comments at the end of each chapter. It’s a really unique format, and after reading another scriptbook this month (Cursed Child), this actually does work – there are enough characters in each chapter, each with a unique voice, that it really is effortless to read.

As someone who has an autistic sibling, I thought the character of Adam was dealt with particularly well. I think it’s easy when writing autistic characters to slip into constant tropes, and I didn’t think this happened here.

If you’re looking for something truly unique (especially in format, which was particularly innovative), and a quick read for summer that tackles some difficult issues, look no further than Cuckoo by Keren David.

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YALC 2016: Day 1!

This year I was lucky enough to attend YALC for the entire weekend! This weekend was made extra special by the fact that I made some friends the day before at a meet-up organised my Karen (A Simple Cup of Tea), which I would heavily recommend doing. Thanks so much Demet, Karen, Lily, Chantal and Kalie (and everyone else!) for an absolutely fantastic weekend!

I first rocked up to Olympia at 8.30am and found my newly-founded squad, then we were let loose on YALC at 9am. The first thing we found – and seriously, I was NOT expecting this – was a GEMINA arc. I wasn’t a huge fan of Illuminae but I’m hoping this will be better and will be posting my honest review (and possibly hosting a giveaway!).

The first panel I headed up was BEHIND THE MAGIC: MAGICAL SYSTEMS IN YA. The panel was led by Katherine Webber, with V E Schwab, Sally Green, Taran Matharu and Mel Salisbury and was a real highlight of the weekend – I even asked a question about how they create a magical system that is original!

After the panel, I got my copy of THE ART OF BEING NORMAL by Lisa Williamson signed – she was so lovely and the book is amazing (definitely a must-read!).

I then headed to the SHE WHO LAUGHS LAST LAUGHS THE LAUGHIEST: HUMOUR IN YA panel, headed up by Claire Hennessy and featuring Katy Birchall, Nat Luurtsema, Jenny McLachlan and Holly Smale. This was another great panel and the panelists were so funny!

Next up was a fan favourite – the A MONSTER CALLS talk with Patrick Ness, who wrote the book, and Lewis MacDougall, who plays Conor in the film adaptation. This was an interesting talk surrounding the movie. After the talk, I got my copy of A Monster Calls signed by Patrick and Lewis which was a nice touch.

Now for the highlight of the day – the Fantasy London panel chaired by Katherine Webber, and featuring V E Scwab, Ben Aaronovitch and Samantha Shannon. Learning about their interpretations of fantasy London was so interesting! An absolute highlight of the week. After the talk, I got my copies of A Darker Shade of Magic and This Savage Song signed by V E Schwab who was SO nice and hung around YALC all weekend.

This is the AMAZING book wall which made a triumphant return!

Day 1 haul included a beautiful copy of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff (£10 from the Harper Voyager stand!)

The NEW Mel Salisbury short story The King of Rats was available on the Scholastic stand – I’ll be waiting to read this one but very glad I have it!

Here is a picture of the gang in front of the book wall!

Day 1 of YALC was so amazing – next up will be Day 2!

Thanks for reading – how did you enjoy the first day of YALC?

annalsie

YALC Reading List Part 11 – THE FINAL PART!

It’s here – the final part of the YALC Reading List! It’s a mini one this week!

You can catch up on the previous parts of the YALC reading list here – one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine and ten!

Enjoy, and make sure to say hello at YALC – I’ll post a selfie on Twitter each day so you know what I look like and I’ll be there all weekend!

I’ll also be posting the YA Shot Reading List soon!

79. James Smythe

Book to read: Long Dark Dusk

James Smythe is the author of the Wales Book Of The Year Fiction Award winner THE TESTIMONY (2012); THE EXPLORER (2013); THE MACHINE (2013),THE ECHO (2014)and WAY DOWN DARK (2015). He has been shortlisted for and won any number of prizes, including The Kitschies Red Tentacles and the Arthur C. Clarke Award. Long Dark Dusk is the second book in the Australia trilogy, about a seventeen-year-old girl, Chan, whose ancestors left Earth hundreds of years ago in search of a new home, and who never found one. Now she’s back on planet Earth to take it back – but it’s not necessarily safe to return.

80. Catherine Johnson

Book to read: The Curious Tale of Lady Caraboo

Catherine has written many books for young readers including, Sawbones which won the Young Quills Award for historical fiction and was nominated for the Carnegie Medal. Her other books include Brave New Girl, and A Nest of Vipers. Catherine has also written for film, notably the critically acclaimed Bullet Boy, and TV, including Holby City. The Curious Tale of Lady Caraboo was nominated for the YA Book Prize, and was inspired by the true story of Princess Caraboo – the story follows Cassandra Worrall who is very rich, and very bored and very much stuck in her parents’ stately home. She thinks she’s discovered a princess from a far away land – could this be the adventure she’s been seeking?

81. Deidre Sullivan

Book to read: Needlework

Deirdre Sullivan is an Irish writer and teacher. She has established a reputation for herself as a leading Irish YA author following her trilogy on the teenage years of Primrose Leary, which has been widely acclaimed; two of the Prim books were shortlisted for the CBI awards; and the final one, Primperfect, was also shortlisted for the European Prize for Literature – the only YA novel to be nominated for this award from any European country. Needlework is her latest novel about an aspiring tattoo artist, Ces, who is just trying to reach adulthood without falling apart. Needlework is critically acclaimed, and definitely one to check out.

82. Kass Morgan

Book to read: The 100

You may know The 100 from the hit e4 TV show, but it started life as a book – a book by Kass Morgan. The 100 is the story of one hundred juvenile delinquents sent to Earth, years after a nuclear way left it uninhabitable and humans escaped on spaceships. They’re sent back to repopulate the Earth! There’s currently three books in the series, with the fourth coming later this year. Definitely one to read if you’re a fan of the TV series!

web-tracydarnton

83. Tracy Darnton

Tracy Darnton is the winning author of the Stripes YA Short Story Prize in association with The Bookseller YA Book Prize.  She recently graduated with distinction from the Bath Spa MA Writing for Young People and is working on her debut novel. Tracy studied law at Cambridge and worked as a solicitor and law lecturer until starting a family. Reading with her children and helping at a school library revived her ambition to write. Tracy lives in Bath with her family.

That’s it! The entire YALC Reading List! I hope you enjoyed reading and I will see you all at YALC!

annalsie

Review + Giveaway: Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe

Girl Hearts Girl

Girl Hearts Girl by Lucy Sutcliffe

Release Date: 24th June 2016
Genre: YA Contemporary
Publisher: Scholastic
Format: Paperback
Goodreads
Amazon

Lucy Sutcliffe Author Photo.jpg

Co-star of the popular YouTube channel Kaelyn and Lucy which documented the long distance relationship she had with Kaelyn Petras. She and Kaelyn finally came together in August of 2014, ending the long distance element of their relationship.

She graduated from Plymouth College of Art and Design in 2014 with a degree in Film Arts

She works as a freelance film editor and author. She and Kaelyn’s channel mainly focuses on advice videos for LGBT youth.

She was born in Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire to parents Sharon and Roger Sutcliffe.

Website: http://kaeandlucy.tumblr.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/lucyliz
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lucylizz/
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/kaelynandlucy

My Review

5 STARS!

Thanks to Scholastic UK for a review copy of this book!

I went into Girl Hearts Girl not knowing too much about the actual book itself – just knowing I was in love with the cover, and complained on Twitter a few weeks ago that LGBTQ+ representation tends to represent a whole lotta G but not much else.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Girl Hearts Girl is not a work of fiction, but the memoir of Lucy Sutcliffe and her journey from a British schoolgirl coming to terms with her sexuality to a YouTube megastar in a serious relationship with a woman she met online through Tumblr. Lucy’s world is so relatable, and she writes so beautifully, that this was a very enjoyable read from a perspective we don’t see too often.

This is, at the very heart of it, the story of a girl realising her sexuality and coming to terms with it, becoming proud of it, and inspiring others to do the same. The story is peppered with tales of friendship, bullying and the pressure to conform. It also touches on some of the negative reactions to her sexuality, coming from people who you would expect to understand.

This book is written simply but beautifully, and so would be easily readable by children – there’s no sexual content in here, and it is much more a story of self-acceptance than a romance novel.

I gave this book five stars because it was incredibly uplifting, positive, and unique in the market today – it’s an LGBTQ+ book that anybody could read and relate to, and because this is her real story, it isn’t full of tropes and stereotypes. It’s a book that feels very honest, but doesn’t dig too deep into anything serious, and that’s perhaps where it is lacking – but it is aimed at children, and the level of depth feels right for the market.

If you’re looking for an uplifting quick read that will look beautiful on your bookshelf – look no further.

Giveaway

There is a tour-wide giveaway! 3 copies of Girl Hearts Girl for 3 lucky winners!
Participants must live in UK or IRL.

Click here to visit the Rafflecopter giveaway!

Tour Schedule

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That’s it from me for this blog tour – remember to check out the rest of the tour and thank you for reading!

annalsie