Galley Review of How To Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

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26626118How To Make A Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Published: May 2nd, 2017

Rating: 8ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f46

Purchase here: Amazon

Synopsis: All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn’t have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace’s mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

Diversity: Eva is biracial and lesbian. Grace is openly bisexual. Both have mental health issues very clearly as a result of aspects of their life.

Warnings: sex, neglective parenting, death, alcoholism, mentioned posting of sexual texts online

 

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I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

How To Make A Wish was a sad and ridiculously sweet look at two girls falling in love and finding themselves after the impact of their mothers on their lives.

I adored this book just as much as I hoped I would. Ashley Herring Blake’s writing is so easy to read – I flew through this book in less than two days, reading like 250 pages in one day because I just couldn’t put it down. Blake understands her characters well and continuously plays with the idea of outward perception and reality – who Grace’s mother appears to be and who she really is, who Grace is, who Eva is.

Grace is a great protagonist. Witty and relatable in all her loyalty and her fears that play such a strong role in this novel. I adored her passion for music and my chest hurt for her love of her mother and need to protect her as if she isn’t the child in need of protection. Personally, as someone who also identifies as bisexual, I loved the fact that she just was bisexual. She used the word, she knew that about herself without any fear. She has history with guys, she has history with girls and no one around her questions that.

The depiction of sexuality was brilliant in this book. Both Eva and Grace are open and proud of their love, what they identify as themselves, and even about the issues that come along with that sexuality in their own lives. Also, no homophobia in the piece was a massive bonus on an already great book for me.

Eva and Grace’s relationship was just straight up adorable. They’re both in a tough place, trying to figure out their futures after the death of a mother and with a mother who never really acted like one, and they have this genuine connection and understanding of each other. Their first encounter on the beach just a few chapters in sold me on the beauty that would be their relationship.

Blake’s display of grief was really wonderfully. She showed the reality and the dangers and how much it can affect your life and those around you. With Grace’s mother, Maggie, you see the most devasting of impacts – a child who had to grow up too fast, who sees too much and has to put up with too much. You also see Emmy, the mother of Grace’s best friend and Eva’s guardian, struggling to find footing on solid ground to truly help Eva get through her grief and her desperate need to help and make better something that can’t be fixed like that.

Following that, there is also a conversation about unhealthy grief, when it becomes an illness that needs to be treated, and the support for getting help, going to therapy or rehab in these moments, is stated and encouraged in the book.

How To Make A Wish is just a wonderful book with queer girls trying to live their lives to the fullest. It speaks on grief and mental illness and not just accepting what life has dealt you. It speaks on love and sexuality and race. I just loved every moment of it.

Galley Review of 180 Seconds by Jessica Park

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32487648180 Seconds by Jessica Park

Published: April 25th, 2017

Rating: 8ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f46

Purchase here: Amazon| The Book Depository

Synopsis: Some people live their entire lives without changing their perspective. For Allison Dennis, all it takes is 180 seconds…

After a life spent bouncing from one foster home to the next, Allison is determined to keep others at arm’s length. Adopted at sixteen, she knows better than to believe in the permanence of anything. But as she begins her third year in college, she finds it increasingly difficult to disappear into the white noise pouring from her earbuds.

One unsuspecting afternoon, Allison is roped into a social experiment just off campus. Suddenly, she finds herself in front of a crowd, forced to interact with a complete stranger for 180 seconds. Neither she, nor Esben Baylor, the dreamy social media star seated opposite her, is prepared for the outcome.

When time is called, the intensity of the experience overwhelms Allison and Esben in a way that unnerves and electrifies them both. With a push from her oldest friend, Allison embarks on a journey to find out if what she and Esben shared is the real thing—and if she can finally trust in herself, in others, and in love.

Diversity: none that was obviously stated

Warnings: mentions of rape and sexual assault, terminal illness plays a part in the story.

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I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

180 Seconds is a sweet, romantic and heart-wrenching story about university life and being able to move on from your past, however bad it might have been.

I found this book really entertaining. Jessica Park’s writing is easy and simple to read, meaning it feels as if you’re flying through chapters – even the emotionally weighty ones.

Allison was a protagonist that I found easily relatable. She had her flaws and her dark past that had informed her life and while her specific dealings in the foster care system wasn’t something I would directly relate to, her mental health due to it was. Park spent great care to focus on this idea of growth and overcoming your own limitations to become more. Allison is a girl who finds it difficult to trust, has to have everything in a very specific way to feel ordered, and over the course of the story, she forces herself to leave her own self-isolation and place herself in the world she has been shielding from.

And it all starts because of 180 seconds.

Esben was an interesting character. He was hard to feel any bad feelings towards – he was understanding and careful and genuine and a truly good person. In parts, he feels almost too perfect. Park’s doesn’t allow for a lot of time to be focused on Esben’s shortcomings – although they are very clearly depicted – and with his social media experiments and his need to do so much good in the world, he can seem almost too perfect. But those true moments of kindness he shows is really heart warming. Park’s used a lot of real moments of human beauty and kindness in this book, including the little girl who had no one show up to her birthday party until a post on social media had people deciding to band together and make the day as special as possible. Using these made the story more entrenched in our world as we see it –

Using these made the story more entrenched in our world as we see it – we recognise those online stories and it almost makes Esben real – and by extension Allison.

Their romance is, like I said above, sickeningly sweet in so many places. Esben is so attentive and Allison goes through so much growth because of their relationship. It’s wonderfully healthy and positive, which is how I like my relationships to be. It is the focus of the story, but it shares that along with Allison’s development as a person.

An issue, however, is possibly the suggestion that love can conquer all. Whilst not all problems are fixed, there is a notable decrease in the number of times Allison’s anxious habits are displayed over the story until, practically, they aren’t there anymore.

Parts of this book made me cry and – without spoiling the book too much – I found those moments to be written so beautifully and honestly, even with the ridiculously over-the-top but enjoyable moments that proceed it. There were three or four chapters of welling up before the actual tears came.

180 Seconds is an adorable contemporary read with a genuinely healthy romance and a brilliant message about not letting your past define you and being able to overcome the boundaries of anxiety.

Review of The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

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30320008The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

Published: February 14th, 2017

Rating: 8ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f46

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: Princess. Captive. Gladiator.

Fallon is the daughter of a proud Celtic king, the sister of the legendary warrior Sorcha, and the sworn enemy of Julius Caesar.

When Fallon was a child, Caesar’s armies invaded her homeland, and her beloved sister was killed in battle.

Now, on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Fallon is eager to follow in her sister’s footsteps and earn her place in the fearsome Cantii war band. She never gets the chance.

Fallon is captured and sold to an elite training school for female gladiators—owned by none other than Julius Caesar. In a cruel twist of fate, the man who destroyed Fallon’s family might be her only hope of survival.

Now Fallon must overcome vicious rivalries and deadly fights—in and out of the arena. And perhaps the most dangerous threat of all: her forbidden yet irresistible feelings for Cai, a young Roman soldier.

Diversity: a lot of people from all over the world – specifically places that the Roman Empire conquered

Warning: slavery, violence that’s commonplace for the time period, death, some creepy unrequited love

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The Valiant is an exciting story of love and war and clashing cultures told upon the backdrop of Ancient Rome and their favourite past time, the gladiators. More specifically female gladiators.

That’s what sold me on this book in the first place. I was in the mood for some badass ladies taking part in some gladiatorial combat. It didn’t disappoint. The entire story, in one way or another, is about Fallon’s strength – her physical strength, as well as her emotional and mental, and it is this which make her such a good protagonist in which to experience this story from.

She brings this air of power and ferocity that never paints her as a victim. Regardless of what is happening to her, she is not the victim. She will not allow herself to be. So she fights. She pushes through adversity and finds her own way. She finds freedom is a situation it would be assumed impossible. She finds family in the faces of strangers. She makes a name for herself, using her captors’ indulgences against them.

The background characters are unique in their own way. They give their own perspective to this strange and arguably broken world and they all have their own contradictions that make them engaging to read about.

And this world that Livingston has formed is brilliant. Her words bring this historical world to life, and it was really easy to picture each moment of Fallon’s journey to Rome and her time in the Ludus. She combines fact with fiction so effortlessly that every part seems plausible and real.

A positive of this book was the depiction of relationships between friends and family and lovers. There are rough edges and tough beginnings but they are overcome. The theme of sisterhood and what that means – sisters through blood and through sweat – is strong throughout the entire piece and it’s such a nice thing to read about.

The romance within this piece was enjoyable. It wasn’t overshadowing of the main story, and while I do believe affection happened quite quickly, it wasn’t off-putting. Fallon had her reservations – genuine and understandable ones – and Cai had his own obstacles to get over. They deal with cultural differences and old prejudices. There was an emphasis on an appreciation of the ability to defend one’s self, especially from Cai to Fallon, which was nice to read about.

However this book skirted some of the gray areas that would arise between their opposing stations that ultimately would allow for a form of power imbalance, I have hopes that Livingston will address this in more detail – allowing more of Cai’s world into the story.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Good writing, good characters, badass ladies, and gladiators – what’s not to love?

Galley Review of The Walworth Beauty by Michèle Roberts

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32940060The Walworth Beauty by Michèle Roberts

Published: April 20th, 2017

Rating: 8ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f46

Purchase here: Amazon| The Book Depository

Synopsis: 2011: When Madeleine loses her job as a lecturer, she decides to leave her riverside flat in cobbled Stew Lane, where history never feels far away, and move to Apricot Place. Yet here too, in this quiet Walworth cul-de-sac, she senses the past encroaching: a shifting in the atmosphere, a current of unseen life.

1851: and Joseph Benson has been employed by Henry Mayhew to help research his articles on the working classes. A family man with mouths to feed, Joseph is tasked with coaxing testimony from prostitutes. Roaming the Southwark streets, he is tempted by brothels’ promises of pleasure – and as he struggles with his assignment, he seeks answers in Apricot Place, where the enigmatic Mrs Dulcimer runs a boarding house.

As these entwined stories unfold, alive with the sensations of London past and present, the two eras brush against each other – a breath at Madeleine’s neck, a voice in her head – the murmurs of ghosts echoing through time. Rendered in immediate, intoxicating prose, The Walworth Beauty is a haunting tale of desire and exploitation, isolation and loss, and the faltering search for human connection; this is Michèle Roberts at her masterful best.

Diversity: Mrs Dulcimer is a black woman. Tony and Anthony are a gay couple that romance and love and marry over the course of the story.

Warnings:  Infanticide, frequent sexual descriptions, racial slurs, derogatory terms for women

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Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the chance to read this in advance.

The Walworth Beauty is the story of life, spread over time but connected by space.

In this novel, you follow the lives of Joseph and Madeline. The twist? Joseph is from 1851 and Madeline from 2011. This isn’t a novel that is carried by plot – it’s carried by characters and moments of their lives, all focused around two things – Apricot Place and the lives of women.

The first thing to note about this story is the strength of the author’s voice. Michèle Roberts has so much beauty in her writing. Eloquent and elaborate, the language wraps this book in dramatic metaphors and wonderful description that really sets the world as something tangible.

This is a story about place and that place is London. With so much history and so many lives that have lived and died there, everything has a history. Everything has had a life before. Joseph walks streets that Madeline walks over a century later, streets that you have walked down yourself. This familiarity of this London makes it easy to imagine, to put yourself in place of the characters and see what they see.

The use of women – and particular the discussion of what women throughout history have gone through – is really interesting to read about. Joseph works for Mayhew, historic creator of the London Poverty Map, and over the course of the story and has been given the task of documenting the lives of the prostitutes on Surrey side. In doing this, he gets too close, reacts too personally with those he comes in contact with and from here, begins to understand this difficult world for women much better than he had before.

Both Joseph and Madeline were interesting to read about. Coming from completely different worlds, with different beliefs and social structures around them, they are written from completely different points as they experience the same places. But their conflicts feel real, they’re uncertain is real, their loneliness and their attractions are real.

Any criticisms of the characters fall onto the Joseph point of view chapters, which have a strange focus on sex – with his ex-wife, Nathalie; with his current wife, Cara; with sex workers, and a few strange paragraphs or two that brought his mother into this. He also has a penchant for eavesdropping on private conversations, usually that of two women in the privacy of a closed room, and thus makes him much harder for him to be likeable.

The way to the two worlds overlap is interesting. Whilst not what was originally expected, it remains very interesting, like reading companion pieces with hidden easter eggs. 1951 and 2011 overlap through the steps most travelled – through names on gravestones and treasures found at the bottom of a garden.

There are flaws in this novel. It took a while for any kind of interest in the characters to form. It’s also quite a slow start and the heavy description that Roberts uses in her work aids that – it becomes heavy, dense to read. It feels like you’ve been reading forever but so little has actually happened, so few pages have been turned.

Crossposted to The National Student.

Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite LGBTQ+ Reads

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A few days later than I wanted this to be up but I’ve just gone back to work and it’s going to take a little while of adjustment. I could have missed this week, true, but how could I miss a chance to recommend you some of my fave lgbtq+ reads? If you want more Top 5 Wednesdays content, you can check out the Goodreads group here.

 

29904219Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

This book – soon to be series of – is probably one of my favourite reads ever. I bought it because there is a girl and girl romance and I really wanted to read more of those. Then I found out that the main character, Jess, is bisexual, like me, and it just played with my little gay heart. There’s superheroes and a corrupt government and race tensions with so much diversity, it was amazing.

 

 

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst25164304

This was the book that encouraged me to start reading again. It’s a romance between two princesses in a fantasy world with magic and prejudices because of magic, and I just loved it. I’d never read a book about gay characters at this point that didn’t have anything to do with homophobia or where the ending was anything but them riding off into the sunset. This book changed all of that.

 

 

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

Heartbreaking and beautiful. This story is about grief and loss and confronting your past, about depression and lost love – that love being between Mabel and Marin, best friends who had become something more before Marin disappeared and dropped contact. Now, they have to confront that space that time created between them. It’s so sweet, made me cry a few times, and though it doesn’t end in romance, the end is still incredibly wonderful.

 

George by Alex Gino24612624

This isn’t actually a book I’ve read yet (as of writing this, I’m waiting for George to come in the post) but I’ve heard so many incredible things about this story. It’s about a trans girl dealing with who she is, who other people see her as, and it’s written for a young audience. I have so many high hopes for this story, which is why I’m including it in this list!

 

 

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Geekerella by Ashley Poston

I’m including this book last because it’s a book with a lgbtq+ couple as a close secondary relationship. Not the main, but what was there was very sweet and it was so unexpected that it would even be included that it made me very happy.

What do you guys think? Have any LGBTQ+ reads that you’d want to recommend? I’m always up for reading more queer lit! Leave your comments below!

 

Book Tag: The Sims Book Tag

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I saw this tag on bookishthingsandtea‘s blog and I just had to give it a try myself.The basic idea is that you have categories that are inspired by the game, the Sims, and you relate books to it. I haven’t played the Sims in AGES, mostly because after like five hours in character customisation and one hour in the game, I get bored and remove the ladder to the swimming pool – but I do enjoy the game whenever I get around to playing it!

This tag was created by Hailey from Hailey in Bookland on YouTube, and I’m leaving a link to her video here if you want to go and check it out!

 

The Original Sims: Best Author Debut

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Without a doubt, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I still can’t believe this is her first book. I’ve done a full review here but just to say, this might be my favourite book of the year!

The Grim Reaper: Saddest Character Death

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Sirius Black in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is a death I will never be over….

Sims Getting Stuck: A Character That Just Got In The Way

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I don’t read a lot of books with love triangles or other things like that, so I decided to go with one of my favourite villains in literature that is constantly in the way: Iago from Shakespeare’s Othello!

Simlish: A Book With Amazing Writing

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The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi is just beautiful in the story that its telling and Chokshi’s writing style. They fit so well together and I can’t wait to start reading A Crown of Wishes.

Expansion Packs: A Series Where The Books Keep Getting Better And Better

 

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I’m going to go with Rick Riordan’s books right now. From Percy Jackson to Heroes of Olympus to the Magnus Chase series, Riordan’s mythology inspired books are incredible. I have so many of them to catch up on but every time I read one, I remember why I enjoy reading his work!

Sims Romance: The Worst Case of InstaLove

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Caraval by Stephanie Garber is a book I enjoyed quite a bit (my review can be found here), but one of my criticisms was the sudden bounding about of the ‘love’ word like they hadn’t actually known each other for less than a week.

Cheats: A Contemporary Book That Is Entirely Unrealistic

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I only mention this because it still bugs me but Sense and Sensibility by Jane Auston. I will still find it ridiculous that a character almost dies because she wasn’t loved by her arsehole of a lord love…

Needs Fulfillment: A Character Who Makes All The Wrong Decisions

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Edmund Pevensie in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. Like, he’s a kid and I don’t blame him for being manipulated and tricked, but yeah. Wrong decisions glore up in here.

Error 12: A Series That Started Off Great And Went Downhill From There

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I did enjoy Divergent by Veronica Roth when I read it a few years ago. But there was something about the second book that I didn’t like and I didn’t even bother reading the last one. It just fell apart for me.

The Sims Vortex: A Book/Series That Completely Engrossed You

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Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee. Superheroes and gay girls are the reasons why I bought this book and found a world of corruption and intrigue. It has some of the most diverse casts I’ve read about, makes special focus on issues of being multicultural and immigration, of being part of a community alongside everything else. The next book, Not Your Villian, has a trans male main character and I’m honestly so hyped for more in this world!

 I Tag…

…anyone who wants to have a go at this tag! It was so much fun to do and I highly recommend it!

I hope you enjoyed this tag! Do you agree or disagree with anything? Leave your comment down below!

Until next time! x

Galley Review of Girls Can’t Hit by Tom Easton

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34395013Girls Can’t Hit by Tom Easton

Published: April 20th, 2017

Rating: 8ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f46

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: A funny, feminist teen story about knowing when to train . . . and when to fight.

Fleur Waters never takes anything seriously – until she turns up at her local boxing club one day, just to prove a point. She’s the only girl there, and the warm-up alone is exhausting . . . but the workout gives her an escape from home and school, and when she lands her first uppercut on a punching bag she feels a rare glow of satisfaction.

So she goes back the next week, determined to improve. Fleur’s overprotective mum can’t abide the idea of her entering a boxing ring, why won’t she join her pilates class instead? Her friends don’t get it either and even her boyfriend, ‘Prince’ George, seems concerned by her growing muscles and appetite – but it’s Fleur’s body, Fleur’s life, so she digs her heels in and carries on with her training.

Diversity: the boxing club has diverse people as background cast – race wise and economic background – and Tarik is confirmed to be Syrian in dialogue.

Warnings: Infant death, mentioned briefly and in a little detail.

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I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Girls Can’t Hit is a funny, thoroughly entertaining children’s book blending boxing and feminism and the idea of what every girl is capable of.

I read this book in one day. I literally couldn’t put it down. Tom Easton has a great author’s voice that embodies that of his characters is incredible. At times, it was easy to forget that this was written by an adult male and not a girl in her first year of A Levels. He manages to keep everything light and breezy, even when speaking about some serious and emotional subjects that arise across the piece. He never loses the fun side in his story.

Fleur Waters as the main character is someone you most likely will relate to. In a way, she is all of us. Young and plays it safe but wants to do more; still trying to find herself; dealing with the stresses of school and home life; boyfriends and growing up. She joins the boxing club because she’s stubborn and doesn’t like being told that she shouldn’t do something. She stays because she finds acceptance and strength and genuine enjoyment.

And it’s hard for her. One thing I really did enjoy was that Easton put a lot of emphasis on the effort that Fleur has to put in to get as good as she becomes. She has to exercise every day and change how she eats. She doesn’t just click her fingers and succeed, and this progress of growth – struggling to start with and how practise makes perfect –  is a brilliant message for everyone who reads this book, especially for young girls who might find themselves giving up if things start to get too difficult. I know I would – boxing is a tough sport to get into, requires so much commitment and change to your life, but Fleur almost makes you want to emulate her as much as possible. You want to experience her journey for yourself.

I know I would – boxing is a tough sport to get into, requires so much commitment and change to your life, but Fleur almost makes you want to emulate her as much as possible. You want to experience her journey for yourself.

There is also a discussion of what it means to be feminist. You have Blossom, Fleur’s best friend, is overt and confrontational in her want to make a chance. Although she’s never used as the butt of a joke, her contradictions when it comes to boxing is commented on and in this, she represents all claimed feminists with hypocritical beliefs – “Women can do whatever they want – except for boxing because it’s a sport that encourages male aggression and violent tendencies”.

You have Fleur herself, who worries that she’s not a good enough feminist because she doesn’t want to go to rallies and she laughs at jokes that some might call sexist. In this, there is a comfort that everyone must be a feminist in their own right and their own way. That no way is wrong or right, which is once again, another good message for young girls to pick up.

You have Bonita, Fleur’s archnemesis, who embodies female aggression in sports. She’s good at everything, strong and battle ready. It’s not something she’s mocked for either – which very easily could have been the case, but instead, Bonita brings the discussion of women constantly being in competition with each other, constantly not being as good as the next girl.

There is also a commentary on men’s involvement with femininity. The judgment of how women should look and about ‘meninists’. There are two characters that take on that stereotype and become part of a problem for Fleur to overcome. You also have the character of Pip, Fleur’s best friend, who is the complete opposite of the hypermasculinity that the boys at the boxing club show. He’s awkward and nerdy, is described as having limbs that don’t seem to work as they’re supposed to. He’s constantly falling over and walking into things. It’s an on-running joke that he drives slower than the speed limit and is still the most dangerous driver on the road. While giving a rounded view of boys in our society, he’s always one of Fleur’s biggest supporters across the course of the story.

I really enjoyed the book’s sense of place as well. Set in Bosford, a South England town that has both the well off and the not so well off living in close proximity and both sides of this world coincide in the boxing club. Bosford is near Battle, where the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, and a big part of Fleur’s friendships stem from working at the National Trust there and acting as Saxons for tourists. It’s a fun little piece of local history that is part of how Fleur sees the world around her. I liked her habit of comparing people in her life to Saxons and Normans. It was something unique to her character.

There is a romance, but it takes a backseat to everything else. It is just something that happens in the story, not the most important part which was enjoyable as it doesn’t take away from Fleur’s personal successes. Admittedly though, I would have loved more detail on them getting together and being badass.

I really enjoyed this book. It thought it was fun to read, entertaining and hilarious at moments. Fleur is an inspirational woman, working incredibly hard to become as good as she is and being rewarded for that dedication. Finishing this book made me want to look for boxing clubs and to sweat to success.

I’m not going to. But I wanted to.

If you want something quick and fun, even a little inspirational, this book is for you!

 

Galley Review of Out of Heart by Irfan Master

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33786395Out of Heart by Irfan Master

Published: April 20th, 2017

Rating: 8ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f46

Purchase here: Amazon

Synopsis: Donating your heart is the most precious gift of all.

Adam is a teenage boy who lives with his mum and younger sister. His dad has left them although lives close by. His sister no longer speaks. His mum works two jobs. Adam feels the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

Then his grandfather dies and in doing so he donates a very precious gift – his heart.

William is the recipient of Adam’s grandfather’s heart. He has no family and feels rootless and alone. In fact, he feels no particular reason to live. And then he meets Adam’s family.

William has received much, but it appears that he has much to offer Adam and his family too.

A powerful tale of love and strength in adversity.

Diversity: Adam and the Shah family are Muslim and while the country they’re from isn’t really specified, his grandmother speaks Urdu. William is mixed raced, with one Jamaican parent. Adam’s sister Farrah uses sign language to communicate. A diverse cast of secondary characters around Adam at school, including Cans and Laila.

Warnings: domestic violence, death, gang violence (although nongraphic).

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I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Out of Heart is something entirely unique, heartwrenching and wonderful.

This was quite slow to start. It took a while to fully be introduced to Adam and his family and William and the quirks of their lives. It meant that for a little while I wondered whether I was actually going to become invested in this story – but then I hit a point where I felt their pain in my chest and I knew I was gone.

I think a large part of this emotional investment comes from the Master’s writing. This book is beautifully written. The writing balances this strange line between something beautifully poetic and wonderfully colloquial, that both mirrors the world we live in and the world we want to live in. I enjoyed the moments of the text that were broken up through wordplay – “Two silent tears. Two tears silent, too silent tears” -that gave a great glimpse into how the character of Adam thinks, which is brilliantly individual all the way through.

Out of Heart is very much a character driven story, which means that the characters Master creates have to be enough to engage a reader and this is something he succeeded in doing. While not all backstories are explained and there are holes that would have been good to have filled, they weren’t necessary. Master displayed complicated characters, ones that are more than how they speak or how they look, and this book is a great snapshot of that complexity.

Adam is an interesting protagonist, so different from any other I’ve read before. His mind is a strange mess of the artwork he uses to understand the world he’s in. He holds his past scars in every step. He’s a character that’s smart, but distant, a little too lost in his head and I think this is something that most readers and most creative people can relate to.

William in return is someone who we’re told less about – and it would have been nice to have some more insight into his thoughts – but what we do get is enough to feel a fondness for him. Adam and William bond through the harsh traumas of their lives and it’s through their almost faux parent-child relationship that they both make a change to each other’s lives. Adam becomes lighter. William lives a life he didn’t think he’d ever have the chance to.

The flaws in this piece come down to vagueness or structure. Some of the points of views jump about all over the place, slipping out of one and into another and back again at an erratic rate. It doesn’t take you out of the piece really, but there was some point of views I wanted to stay in for longer or some scenes that I felt might work better in another point of view. I’ve mentioned this before, but there is also a vagueness in character history. It would have been nice to have some more concrete information, especially about William who is so important to the story and to Adam and his family.

Overall, Out of Heart is a really quick and easy read that approaches the idea of loss, love, acceptance and found family in a really interesting way. Irfan Master has a great author’s voice and, despite the criticisms I do have, it was an enjoyable story that hit me right in the feels.

Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Would Make Good Video Games

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I love video games. A lot. A chance to bring books and games together? Yes please! If you want more Top 5 Wednesdays content, you can check out the Goodreads group here.

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Defy The Stars by Claudia Gray

This is a book about space travel and needing to save an entire planet from sending an entire generation to their deaths for what is a futile cause. An RPG style game where you are on a mission to gather what you need to go on a suicide mission to save the world, gathering teammates and supplies as you go from the planets that you visit would be entirely engaging. Very much like Mass Effect 2!

 

 

Scythe by Neal Shusterman28954189

Scythe is about two teenagers being trained to join the order of Scythe’s, those who have the power to end lives in a world where no one dies of natural causes. I imagine this as more of a click adventure game – you are given a quota of lives that you have to take and you have people that you can choose between, but your choices have an impact. Kill to little and you’re in trouble. Kill too many, and you’re in trouble. This feels like it would be quite a difficult and emotional game to get through.

 

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Harry Potter Series by JK Rowling

I know that Harry Potter has already been made into a ton of games, including Lego which is by far the best. But an RPG game where you’re playing as one of the main trio; someone from Dumbledore’s Army; a member of the original Order of the Phoenix; that has to go on missions to help stop Lord Voldemort’s plot to destroy the wizarding world. There would be chances for you to lose teammates to the other side, chances for them to die permanently and it would be a game of stakes and balance.

 

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab22055262

ADSOM has the core idea of being able to travel between different but similar worlds, and it would be quite cool to have a game where you play as an Antari, who has to find out the secrets of the worlds around you. Maybe have it as an MMO, and you as the player can pick the London you’re aligned with, and it affects your skills and how much you can learn etc. And you’re working with other people from your London to gain enough power to defend or invade another world.

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The Valiant by Lesley Livingston

This is about female gladiators so quite similar, a gladiator fighting game would be awesome. Like Mortal Kombat, the violence is dramatic and over the top. You have to fight your way from the bottom to the top, gaining enough prestige until you can get close to Julius Ceasar and put an end to him.

What do you guys think? Do you agree with my top 5? Can you think of any other books that would make stellar video games? Leave a comment below!

Review of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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32613366The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: April 6th, 2017

Rating: 8ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f468ca5d99c98b8c8bc4a7bf59aa3470f46

Purchase here: Amazon | The Book Depository

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Diversity: All the main characters are people of colour, majority black. There is also one of Starr’s friends Maya, who is biracial Asian American. No lgbtq+ characters.

Warnings: police brutality, gang violence, racial slurs.

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I adore this book. With all of me.

I’d heard all the hype for weeks before the UK release date, and everyone who spoke this book gave focus to how powerful it is, how important the story is, but until I read it, I didn’t quite understand how real this story felt for me.

Angie Thomas’ writing is fantastic, engaging and utterly gut-wrenching in the best ways. In her words, she reflects this world that we’re all apart of so well. If you cannot understand being the victim of these crimes, you can see yourself in the people around who spoke out on social media or went to protest rallies. Some part of this story, you will have been a part of it, one way or another.

The Hate U Give is told from the point of view of Starr Carter, the witness of her best friend, Kalil’s murder at the hands of a police officer. You follow her as she griefs and struggles to link what she has experienced to the world that she knows. You follow her through her fears and her moments of bravery and the anger she feels. She’s an incredible character to follow – strong is such a real way that you cannot imagine being able to cope as she has. Even at her most reckless, her reactions are appropriate and are understandable and you want for everything to work out okay for her sake.

Through Starr, the reader gets a really hands on and emotive experience to how these kinds of crimes affect your day to day life, how they turn your world upside down, mess with who you can trust and how you feel safe.

It’s a criticism of a system that allows the demonisation of black children. It’s a reminder how we as a society react to these murders whether that is to find an excuse as to why, to feel burning rage and the need to destroy, or completely ignore the source of the problem. Angie Thomas very impressively covers all people that would have an opinion on what has happened – from those who don’t really understand and just want a day off school (Hailey), to those who are angry at how commonplace this is (DeVante), to those who want to learn and understand (Chris). Thomas draws on the history of the civil rights movement to give historical context to a continuing issue.

This is a book about black people and black culture, with so many references and stories and parts of black history that make those who have grown up there. It’s so different to read about those things because they’re just never brought up in any detail in any other books that I’ve read, YA or not.

I’m biracial, mixed black and white, and even growing up in the UK, I understood a lot of the culture that was there. I too grew up listening to Tupac and Salt ‘n’ Pepa. I understand the trainer game and the restrictions that gang territory give you (although it was nowhere near as bad as what Starr has experienced). I know the Malcolm X quotes, even if they weren’t a massive part of my life.

I might be white passing but I’ve got a brother who can’t pass for anything but black that has been stopped by the police more times than he should have been. I think that’s what made this so real to me, and what made it really hard for me to get through the first few chapters. I also related to the family set up – my brother has a different dad to me and has siblings that outside of me and my sister. Again, this is not something I’m used to reading about in any fiction and the change made such a difference to how I read this book.

This can be an uncomfortable read. It speaks very much to how much race impacts who you are, and how you speak. It speaks even more so to racism in its most minor form – the one where you hide certain parts of yourself so that those around you are more comfortable. But that’s what makes it so important – the lessons that can taught in The Hate U Give are for everyone to know.