Monday, 5 December 2016

What Light, Jay Asher


Pages: 259
Publisher: Macmillan
Release Date: 20th October 2016
Edition: UK proof, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Thirteen Reasons Why, The Future of Us

Sierra’s family runs a Christmas tree farm in Oregon - it’s an idyllic place to grow up, except that every year they have to pack up and move to California and set up their Christmas tree lot for the season. So Sierra lives two lives: her life in Oregon and her life at Christmas. And leaving one always means missing the other. Until this particular Christmas, when Sierra meets Caleb, and one life begins to eclipse the other…

I was really surprised to see that Jay Asher was coming back onto the YA scene with a Christmas romance, but he did it perfectly. What Light was an amazing start to my Christmas reading.

This is such a quick read - I flew through it in only two sittings - but it also had a lot of depth I really wasn’t expecting. Sierra struggles with being torn between her two lives and being pulled in two different directions by her friends in Oregon and California; the financial struggles of maintaining the family business and Caleb.

Caleb has a murky past and the rumours surrounding him are NOT good, but she can’t help feel the way she does. I really loved the way Jay Asher confronted those rumours and Caleb’s history. Sierra questions her feelings, her attraction and her decision to be with him despite it all in a realistic, authentic way and I completely believed the way she approached their relationship.

Sierra’s story is set against the perfect atmosphere. Despite being set in California, the family tree lot, the countless peppermint mochas and cosy traditions made it feel warm, Christmassy and 100% festive. After only a few chapters of hearing about the love Sierra and her family have for Christmas and the tree lot I felt like I’ve seriously missed out by never having a real tree. One day! It’s also made me desperate to push through my hatred of coffee and try a peppermint mocha...

What Light is romantic, full of heart and all about love and second chances - it put me right in the Christmas spirit. You should all add it to your festive TBR!

Thanks to Macmillan for the review copy.

Sophie

Saturday, 3 December 2016

My Favourite Lorelai Moment: 'Talking as Fast as I Can' Blog Tour

I was late to Gilmore Girls, not diving in until my final year of university in 2013. It was perfect timing. I was stressed and flailing, but I had the time to binge all seven seasons way too quickly. I fell head over heels with Lorelai, Rory, Luke, Jess, Sookie and Stars Hollow. I immediately introduced my little sister and she became obsessed too. We’ve both watch it right through a good two or three times since then.

These characters are firmly wedged in my heart now, and none more so that Lorelai.


To celebrate the release of Lauren Graham’s memoir Talking as Fast as I Can, I’m sharing my favourite Lorelai moment. And there were so many to choose from. I fell into a black hole of reading articles sharing the best Gilmore Girls moments, BUT I eventually decided on my moment.

When Lorelai and Rory are reunited in season six after not speaking for months, it’s a total sob moment. Go on, re-live it.


Perfect.

It’s such a true reflection of both of their characters and their relationship that even after such a huge fight a single phone call gets them back together again. That when Rory got good news she wanted to tell her mum. It makes me a bit teary even thinking about it.

“I love you, Mom.”
“You have no idea, kid.”

‘Talking as Fast as I Can’ by Lauren Graham is released on December 6th from Virago.

Sophie

Friday, 2 December 2016

The Good Immigrant, ed. Nikesh Shukla

Pages: 272
Publisher: Unbound
Release Date: 22nd September 2016
Edition: UK hardcover, review copy

How does it feel to be constantly regarded as a potential threat, strip-searched at every airport?

Or to be told that, as an actress, the part you’re most fitted to play is ‘wife of a terrorist’? How does it feel to have words from your native language misused, misappropriated and used aggressively towards you? How does it feel to hear a child of colour in a classroom say that stories can only be about white people? How does it feel to go ‘home’ to India when your home is really London? What is it like to feel you always have to be an ambassador for your race? How does it feel to always tick ‘Other’?

Bringing together 21 exciting black, Asian and minority ethnic voices emerging in Britain today, The Good Immigrant explores why immigrants come to the UK, why they stay and what it means to be ‘other’ in a country that doesn’t seem to want you, doesn’t truly accept you – however many generations you’ve been here – but still needs you for its diversity monitoring system.

Inspired by discussion around why society appears to deem people of colour as bad immigrants – job stealers, benefit scroungers, undeserving refugees – until, by winning Olympic races or baking good cakes, or being conscientious doctors, they cross over and become good immigrants, editor Nikesh Shukla has compiled a collection of essays that are poignant challenging, angry, humorous, heartbreaking, polemic, weary and – most importantly – real.

The Good Immigrant has been everywhere since the crowdfunding with Unbound began and I somehow missed out on backing it so I was over the moon to be offered a copy from Unbound.

I went into this book with a head full of amazing reviews and a weariness of my own privilege of being white. And I came out with more knowledge of the cultures of the people that I share the world with and an even sharper knowledge of my privilege.

The 21 essays in this collection cover religion, sexuality, fashion, the arts, work and more; sometimes in academic essays, others anecdotal or poetic. They’re angry, raw, funny, honest and all equally insightful. I quickly realised how little I know about the cultures outside of the West and how little those cultures were made a part of British education. It made me realise that it’s down to me to educate myself.

My favourite three essays were spoken word poet Salena Godden’s ‘Shade’, ‘Flags’ by editor Coco Khan and actor Riz Ahmed’s ‘Airports and Auditions’. ‘Shade’ completely blew me away. The writing is lyrical, powerful and her musings on being mixed race made the whole essay a force of nature. Gorgeous. ‘Flags’ is fresh, funny and thoughtful and it covered sexuality and relationships in a way that wasn’t explored in the other essays. ‘Airports and Auditions’ is another essay that brought in the humour and still packed a punch and kept me thoroughly engaged.

The Good Immigrant is honest, raw and incredibly important. I’m so glad it’s out in the world.

Thanks to Unbound for the review copy.

Sophie 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Mistletoe and Murder, Robin Stevens

Pages: 368
Publisher: Corgi
Release Date: 20th October 2016
Edition: UK paperback, purchased


Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong are spending the Christmas hols in snowy Cambridge. Hazel has high hopes of its beautiful spires, cosy libraries and inviting tea rooms – but there is danger lurking in the dark stairwells of ancient Maudlin College.

Three nights before Christmas, there is a terrible accident. At least, it appears to be an accident – until the Detective Society look a little closer, and realise a murder has taken place. Faced with several irritating grown-ups and fierce competition from a rival agency, they must all use their cunning and courage to find the killer (in time for Christmas Day, of course).

I’m a huge fan of this series so the news of a Christmas instalment basically made me squeal with joy. And it was just as brilliant as I'd hoped!

Cambridge has always been a city I've wanted to visit and Hazel descriptions of the beautiful colleges, blankets of snow and steaming tearooms have made me desperate to visit. But I really loved the way Robin Stevens approached Hazel and Daisy’s experience there.

During their visit in 1935 women could attend the University of Cambridge but they couldn’t obtain a degree; female students often experienced discrimination in marks and grades and teenage girls? Completely under-estimated every time. I loved seeing the sexism exposed and feminist thought worked into the story so naturally and easily – there’s no way you can walk away from this series without that seed being planted.

The discussions of race were also taken up a level with the introduction of brothers George and Harold who have an Indian dad. I was reading Nikesh Shukla’s The Good Immigrant alongside reading this and they actually ended up complementing each other really nicely. It was really sad to see BAME writers talking about things they face in 2016 that Hazel and the twins were having to battle against in 1935.

I adore this series and I really felt like everyone and everything developed so much in Mistletoe and Murder. I feel like I could read about Daisy and Hazel (who is actually one of my favourite characters of all time) until they’re 80.

Sophie

Friday, 25 November 2016

Born Scared, Kevin Brooks

Pages: 242
Publisher: Egmont
Release Date: 8th September 2016
Edition: UK signed paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Martyn Pig, Lucas, Kissing the Rain, Bloodline, Candy, The Road of the Dead, Being, Black Rabbit Summer, Killing God, iBoy, Naked, The Bunker Diary

Elliot is terrified of everything.

From the moment he was born, his life has been governed by acute fear. The only thing that keeps his terror in check are the pills that he takes every day.

It’s Christmas Eve, there’s a snowstorm and Elliot’s medication is almost done. His mum nips out to pick up his prescription. She’ll only be 10 minutes – but when she doesn’t come back, Elliot must face his fears and try to find her. She should only be 400 metres away. It might as well be 400 miles…

This is Kevin Brooks’ first novel since he stormed the YA world with The Bunker Diary back in 2013 and swooped a load of awards. He had to come back with a bang and he definitely did.

Within only a few pages, Born Scared had headed in an unexpected direction. The book follows two interweaving narratives: Elliot on the epic journey to find his mum and a pair of criminals causing trouble. As soon as they were introduced I guessed how the two stories would intersect, but I couldn’t have guessed the epic journeys that all of the characters would go on in such a short novel, and in such a short amount of time. Set over only a few hours, Born Scared moves at a hell of a pace and I read it in only 3 sittings despite being hit by the worst reading slump in years.

Elliot’s life has been dominated by intense, crippling fear of pretty much everything for as long as he can remember. It was fascinating and scary to read about the way Elliot processes things I do every day without any real thought. It was suffocating and vivid and Kevin Brooks’ skill really came through. Born Scared can be added to those lists of YA books about mental illness that everyone needs to read – important, thrilling and a damn good read.

I thoroughly enjoyed Kevin Brooks’ latest offering and he continues to be an author that I expect a lot from and am never disappointed by.

Thanks to Egmont for the review copy.

Sophie