Archive for April, 2017

Not That Kind of Girl

Siobhan Vivian
Slut or saint? Good friend or bad friend? In control or completely out of it?
Life is about making choices, and Natalie Sterling prides herself on always making the right ones. She’s avoided the jerky guys populating her prep school, always topped honor roll, and is poised to become the first female student council president in years.
If only other girls were as sensible and strong. Like the pack of freshmen yearning to be football players’ playthings. Or her best friend, whose crappy judgment nearly ruined her life.
But being sensible and strong isn’t easy. Not when Natalie nearly gets expelled anyway. Not when her advice hurts more than it helps. Not when a boy she once dismissed becomes the boy she can’t stop thinking about.
The line between good and bad has gone fuzzy, and crossing it could end in disaster . . . or become the best choice she’ll ever make.

Natalie Sterling had always made all the right decisions; she has stayed clear of boys, drama and gossip, all whilst remaining top in her class and playing a key role in the student council. However, as she embarks on her senior year it becomes obvious things aren’t going to plan and a series of events force Natalie to reconsider what it means to be good and what type of girl she really is. We follow Natalie on journey of self-discovery as she encounter issues of sexuality, feminism and what it means to be a “slut”.

When I picked up this book I was expecting a light and fluffy romance but what I got was so much more. The book explored difficult and hugely relevant social issues in a way which retained a light, and at times comical, value. I found the male protagonist to be extremely sweet and most definitely swoon worthy, whilst his relationship with Natalie served to establish how being in a relationship doesn’t make a girl weaker.

The plot was hugely driven by the characters, specifically the supporting roles of which had been skilfully constructed by Siobhan. She has created highly relatable and loveable characters that I found easy to empathise with. However, I found Natalie to be the weakest character, at best slightly irritating and at worst both manipulative and quite one-dimensional. Even so, the plot serves to be hugely compelling and vastly enjoyable.

Siobhan successfully created an evolving and fun plot line, which had me sitting at the edge of my seat from the first to the very last page. However what I found mist enjoying about the story was Siobhan clear voice and narrative that ebbed from every line.

Verdict: Overall, ‘Not that Kind of Girl’ served to be a highly enjoyable and refreshing twist on the typical high school romance. I would recommend it for fans of The DUFF by Kody Keplinger and Burn for Burn by Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han.

Reviewed by Evie (15)

Publisher: Push
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: contemporary, feminism
Age: YA
Reviewer: Evie (15)
Source: Own copy
Challenge: British book
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Author Interview: Olaf Falafel

We are delighted to welcome Olaf Falafel as he talks about the inspiration behind his book Old MacDonald Heard a Parp
“Old Macdonald heard a parp…E-I-E-I-O!”
There are some VERY rude noises coming from Old Macdonald’s farm – who could be responsible?! Sing along to this side-splitting picture book adaptation of everyone’s favourite nursery rhyme.
Old Macdonald’s busy day on the farm keeps getting interrupted by some VERY rude noises … but who could they be coming from?! A hilarious and irreverent take on the classic nursery song from debut author/illustrator, Olaf Falafel, with helpful do-it-yourself instructions so you can parp along to your heart’s content!

What inspired you to write a children’s book?

The idea for Old MacDonald heard a Parp came to me when I was trying to coming up with ideas for child friendly stand up (I quite often gig for Comedy Club 4 Kids). I started singing it to my kids on the way to school and we did all the different noises, before long it had spread round the playground. When the dinner ladies started telling the kids off for singing it I knew it had potential.

You had a pretty whirlwind experience when it came to getting published – how did it all happen and what was the most surreal moment looking back?

Basically, I’m an illustrator during the day and a comedian in the evenings. I had some spare time due to an illustration job falling through at the last minute so I saw it as the ideal opportunity to draw some of Old MacDonald.

I drew a front cover and the first three or four pages of the book and then it got to the point where I started thinking about what I was going to do with the book when it was finished.

This was when I put out the tweet asking if any publishers were interested along with the drawings that I’d already done to give an idea of what the book would look like. Then twitter went a bit crazy for 24 hours, there were loads of great people who retweeted the idea, loads who private messaged me contacts in the publishing world and loads who wrote lovely comments saying they’d buy the book if it ever got made.

I had eight different agents contact me asking to meet up and I ended up getting direct interest from several publishers, including Harper Collins.

Within four days, I had a literary agent (the wonderful Jo Unwin) and a deal with Harper Collins to produce Old MacDonald plus two follow up books. The whole thing felt surreal.

Which books do you remember most fondly from your own childhood?
I read a lot of comics as a child, I really liked The Beano, most of the characters were naughty kids which appealed to me. I later graduated onto Viz comic which isn’t at all child friendly but it must have had an influence on me as Old MacDonald Heard A Fart was describe as ‘Viz for toddlers’ by one of the first standups who saw it.

Who is your favourite literary character and why?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Winnie The Pooh – it sounds completely out of character for me but that tubby bear made a lot of sense.

How important do you think comedy is for children, and can you ever be too young for a good joke?
For me it’s the other way around – children are important for comedy. My two are a constant source of inspiration for funny thoughts that I have turned into stand up comedy. A lot of the stuff they come out with doesn’t make a lot of sense but can be ridiculously funny.

I understand that you do stand-up for children – how do they differ as an audience from adults?
They have no ‘socially acceptable behaviour filter’ so they quite often say whatever they are thinking whenever they feel like saying it. In a lot of ways, performing to kids is a lot like performing to drunk adults (including the likelihood of being vomited on)

What does the future have in store for Old MacDonald and his parping menagerie?

I’m currently working on the second book, Father Christmas Heard A Parp, which is going to be even better than the first book with some great new characters, new ways of making parp noises plus a great new twist at the end. I’ve also got an idea for the third instalment of the ‘parp trilogy’ currently percolating through my brain – fun farty times ahead!

Picture book sensation and stand-up comedian Olaf Falafel burst onto the scene in 2017 when he posted a call-out to publish his his hilarious debut, Old Macdonald Heard a Parp, on Twitter.
Olaf lives and works in London with his wife and two children, who are his biggest fans.

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The Deviants

C. J. Skuse

When you set out for revenge, dig two graves.

Growing up in the sleepy English seaside town of Brynston, the fearless five – Ella, Max, Corey, Fallon and Zane – were always inseparable. Living up to their nickname, they were the adventurous, rowdy kids who lived for ghost stories and exploring the nearby islands off the coast. But when Max’s beloved older sister Jessica is killed, the friendship seems to die with her.

Now years later, only Max and Ella are in touch; still best friends and a couple since they were thirteen. Their lives are so intertwined Max’s dad even sponsors Ella’s training for the Commonwealth Games. But Ella is hiding things. Like why she hates going to Max’s house for Sunday dinner, and flinches whenever his family are near. Or the real reason she’s afraid to take their relationship to the next level.

When underdog Corey is bullied, the fearless five are brought back together again, teaming up to wreak havoc and revenge on those who have wronged them. But when the secrets they are keeping can no longer be kept quiet, will their fearlessness be enough to save them from themselves?

What were your initial thoughts on the book?
I had been meaning to read a book by C J Skuse for a very long time but other books kept getting put into my hands instead. However, after a lot of book pushing by some close friends, I finally picked this book up and I am so glad I did. At the time, I had been in the mood to read gritty thrillers which was perfect because that sums this book up well. There is a difference between an adult thriller and a YA thriller but in this instance, this YA thriller was just as strong as an adult one. I found myself getting addicted to the characters and was very intrigued as to where it would all end up – and I did not see that ending coming. This was an addictive read that I couldn’t put down.

Who was your favourite character and why?
In this book, there are five main characters and I have to admit that I took a liking to them all for a variety of reasons but my favourite character was definitely Ella. As our main protagonist, I just connected with her and her words so much. I was drawn to her character and her story and I wanted everything to work out for her. My second favourite character was definitely Fallon. I loved her spirit and her uniqueness a lot. I thought she was a really strong and wonderful character. What I really loved though was that every single character in this story went on their own individual journey and became better versions of themselves by the end of it all.

Would you recommend this book?
In a heartbeat. It may not be a book for everyone as it does get a bit dark and it does deal with some sensitive topics that may trigger some people but overall this book is addictive, thrilling and ultimately shocking. It is intense, emotional and will also, by the end, hopefully fill you with warmth too. It has a strong theme of friendship throughout as well which I thought was a great addition and helped to make it that much more entertaining to read. If you’re looking for a book that will grip you, you definitely need to give this book a read – but you’ve been warned, there are deviants lurking inside.

One sentence summary (Verdict)
An addictive, gripping and intense thriller book that will make you laugh, clench and cry, among other emotions. It is a truly terrific book that you should not want to miss.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Mira Ink
Publication Date: September 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Genre: Thriller
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Bought
Challenge: British book
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Hold Back The Stars

Katie Khan

Carys and Max have ninety minutes of air left.
None of this was supposed to happen.
But perhaps this doesn’t need to be the end…
Adrift in space with nothing to hold on to but each other, Carys and Max can’t help but look back at the well-ordered world they have left behind – at the rules they couldn’t reconcile themselves to, and a life to which they might now never return.
For in a world where love is banned, what happens when you find it?

What are your overall thoughts?

Despite the old adage about book covers and judgment, I’ve admitted more than once that that I’m a sucker for a pretty cover. I was powerless to resist when faced with Hold back the stars. It’s absolutely beautiful. With is hand drawn stars and character silhouette, it perfectly reflects the books content. Some of the stars are picked out in foil so that the stars actually twinkle- total book porn for book magpies like myself.
But even for me, a beautiful cover alone does not a purchase make, the blurb had completely ensnared at high stakes, Sci fi, love story and Hold Back The Stars quickly went from compulsive one click purchase to top of TBR.

While my love for the aesthetics of the book are clear-cut my feelings for the content are a little more complicated. I’m a total sucker for romantic love stories, caught breath, tentative, tension fill touches and impassioned declarations of love totally float my boat. Hold Back the stars is not a romantic love story and my pre conceived notions about the kind of love story I was going to read almost made me quit the story half way though.

Due to the peril the characters find themselves in it is understandable that they would want to look back at the significant events of their relationship and the events that led them to their current predicament. Like in life the significant events are often the more upsetting and unpleasant ones. While I appreciate that this is in keeping with the story and the dramatic device of the looming disaster, as a reader it made connecting with the characters and their relationship harder. If had been shown a few more tender moments of their relationship, it would have been easier to relate to the characters and the choices they made for themselves and each other, however with hindsight I can recognise the authenticity of the authors choices to the story being told and my own preconceptions about what that story would look like.

In the end it was the tension-building countdown that kept me turning the pages and my determination to finish was rewarded with a unique and surprising final third.

What was your favorite aspect of the book?
The concept is what drew me to the story and ultimately it was the concept that kept me reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed the world building. I liked Khan’s unique take on the utopian society and its effect on the individual. The concepts felt well conceived and grounded in logic, in so far as a post apocalyptic utopia can, not just pulled from thin air to act as a dramatic device to get the characters to a certain point.

Who was your favorite character and why?

This is the sticky point for me. As well as my love for fluffy romance the main thing that attracts me to stories and keeps me reading are the characters. For the most part a story can be set anywhere, in any time, be fast or slow paced, contemporary or fantasy, and I will enjoy it if I can relate to likeable characters.

Neither of the protagonists was particularly likeable. In fact, it was my absolute dislike of Max, the male protagonist, and his actions that almost has me giving up on the book midway through.

As a result this wasn’t an easy read for me, however the rest of the book, and the subsequent actions of the characters, made up for this and having completed the book and stepped back to review the story as a whole I can see why the author made the choices she did.

Would you recommend this book?
Yes, surprisingly, despite my inability to really connect with the characters and their love story, I still really enjoyed this story. The dramatic devises held the story together and had me racing to turn the pages late in to the night. The final third of the book surprised and delighted me.

Verdict: Leave your preconceptions on earth to fully enjoy this page turning, unique, concept driven love story.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: January 2017
Format: Hardback
Pages: 304
Genre: Dystopian, Sci-Fi
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: Debut author
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Bamboo Road

Ann Bennett

Thailand 1942: Sirinya and her family are members of the Thai underground, who risk their lives to resist the World War Two Japanese occupation and to and help British prisoners of war building the Thai-Burma railway. The events of those years have repercussions for decades to come. The book tells Sirinya s wartime story and how in the 1970s she returns to Kanchanaburi after a long absence abroad, to settle old scores from the war years.
Bamboo Road is volume three in a Southeast Asian WWII trilogy that includes Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island (the books may be read in any order).

Today we have Ann Bennett on the blog talking about Penang and how it is important to her Bamboo Trilogy.

The beautiful, exotic island of Penang in Malaysia, known in colonial times as the Pearl of the Orient, inspired scenes in both Bamboo Heart and Bamboo Island. When I wrote the books I had only visited the island once, for four days, in1985.
It made a huge impression on me, enough to stay with me for decades. It was the place I wanted Tom to dream of from his prisoner of war camp. It was also where Juliet and Rose had their first experience of Malaya in Bamboo Island, fresh off the boat, spending evenings in the Club, and days exploring.


Penang from the Butterworth Ferry

I took a sleeper train down from Bangkok, just as Laura does in Bamboo Heart. At Butterworth we boarded the ferry to Georgetown. I remember crossing the straits at sunset, standing out on deck in the warm evening, and watching the red sky and the mountains behind the town coming closer.


Cathay Hotel

We took rickshaws to the Cathay Hotel, a shabby old Portuguese Villa. The rooms were huge, and it was unbelievably cheap, but oozing old world charm. It seemed to obvious place for Laura to stay when she comes to Penang in search of the elusive Joy de Silva. Penang Hill with its views across the shimmering straits towards the mainland inspired scenes in that book, as did the jungle covered hills of the interior and the powder-white beaches of the north and east of the island.


Batu Ferrinhgi

Written by Ann Bennett

Publisher: Monsoon Books
Publication Date: March 2017
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: Fiction
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Provided by publisher
Challenge: British book
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