Review: The Hate U Give

April 6, 2017 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Walker on 6th April 2017
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

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.

There are times when I am just at a complete loss for words upon finishing a book (handy for a book blogger, I’m sure you’ll agree). This is one of those times.

The Hate U Give has been out in the US for a month or so now and everything I’d been hearing from readers over there is this book is a “must-read”. Could it really live up to this hype? The simple answer is YES!

In truth, there is no way that I can do this book justice, but I will try to share some of my thoughts with you.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is such an incredibly important novel. It deals with racism, police brutality and life in the inner city. It also brings strong messages of love, family and community.

It’s an emotional read – knowing that this is based on reality, that these events actually happen makes the emotion all the deeper.

The characters in this book are incredible and so well written. Starr is an immediately likable character whom we root for from the get go. I loved her family and their relationship, I found it was particularly refreshing for a YA novel.

Even the peripheral characters in this story are memorable. Thomas has a way of writing that makes you feel like you’re in there with her characters, not just on the outside looking in.

This is a hugely relevant novel, that not only tells a story but educates the reader. It’s a unique book written by someone who truly knows what she’s talking about – an #ownvoices author, of which we need many more.

This book will tug at your heart, fill you with anger, make you sob with sadness and yet it’ll also make you laugh. It’ll open your eyes, make you really see the world and make you look upon the reporting of crimes in a new light.

It’s a book that will stay with you forever and I urge you ALL (young and old alike) to read it.

five-stars

Review: Done Dirt Cheap

March 6, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Done Dirt CheapDone Dirt Cheap by Sarah Nicole Lemon
Published by Amulet on 7th March 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Tourmaline Harris’s life hit pause at fifteen, when her mom went to prison because of Tourmaline’s unintentionally damning testimony. But at eighteen, her home life is stable, and she has a strong relationship with her father, the president of a local biker club known as the Wardens.

Virginia Campbell’s life hit fast-forward at fifteen, when her mom “sold” her into the services of a local lawyer: a man for whom the law is merely a suggestion. When Hazard sets his sights on dismantling the Wardens, he sends in Virginia, who has every intention of selling out the club—and Tourmaline.

I went into Done Dirt Cheap not really knowing what to expect. Two teenagers, motorbikes and a biker club – really that’s all I knew, but I ended up getting very caught up in the story.

Tourmaline is the 18-year-old daughter of the President of the biker club, the Wardens. Her Mum is in prison, and she has grown up in the Wardens’ world, without every truly knowing its detail.

Virginia was in Tourmaline’s year in school but they didn’t ever really know each other. Virginia competed in pageants and, from the age of 15, she’s been working for a corrupt attorney, Hazard, in order to pay off her alcoholic mother’s debts.

Hazard sets Virginia the assignment of uncovering the Warden’s secret and so she negotiates her way into Tourmaline’s life. However, it turns out that getting information on the Wardens isn’t easy, and by the time she has the chance, she and Tourmaline have formed quite a friendship.

This novel started slowly for me. I wasn’t really feeling it, yet at some point I was suddenly hooked – I just had to keep reading!

There’s danger, motorbikes, forbidden love, fear, plotting, attraction, secrets and loyalty in this novel. There are many intriguing relationships in this story and the evolution of them all is fascinating.

The writing itself surpassed my expectations. There’s some fantastic prose, imagery and turn of phrase in this book.

Although it took me a while to get into, I found myself gripped and genuinely disappointed when the end came – not disappointment in the ending itself, I just felt I wanted more: it felt rather rushed. I definitely could’ve handled an extra chapter or two.

For all that there’s action, tension and secrets in this book, I found it to be the relationships, their rules, development and intertwining that I found the most captivating.

I kind of want some biker boots myself now!

four-stars

Review: Birdy Flynn

March 1, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Birdy FlynnBirdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe
Published by Rock The Boat on 2nd March 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
three-stars

It is the summer and a group of children are playing down by a stream when they do a terrible thing. Something that Birdy tries unsuccessfully to avert. While the other children in the gang find it easy to forget what they have done, Birdy is trapped in the moment and feels bound to do something to make amends. But how does a child face up to responsibility and find the courage to do the right thing?

Okay, so let me start by saying that I struggle with anything related to animal suffering. My husband thinks it’s weird (it probably is) that in watching films or tv shows I care more about the animals than the characters! I’ve always been this way though, Mum had to remove all traces of Bambi from the house when I was a kid because I was so upset. It wasn’t that the Mum died, it was that a deer died that left me in tears. So yea, most of my family think I’m weird so feel free to agree with them.

Anyway, how does this relate to Birdy Flynn? Well, the book begins with Birdy’s dead Grandmother’s cat being tortured by the boys she hangs out with. So Birdy has to put an end to the cat’s suffering. This is one of the secrets that she hides throughout the novel – while her family search for the cat, she hides what truly happened.

Now, obviously, I’d read the synopsis so I knew it was going to happen – but oh my wee heart when it did! I had to do the book reading equivalent of watching the tv through your fingers – skim read.

Ok, so this book isn’t about the cat. No, it’s about Birdy – a young girl with an Irish mother and a Liverpudlian father living near London in 1982, the height of the IRA bombings.

Birdy is a fascinating character who has more in common with the boys in her life than the girls. Indeed, Birdy struggles throughout this book with her gender identity. We see not only her own journey, but also how those around her handle the situation.

Birdy keeps secrets – the cat, her confusion over her body, the fact her teacher touched her. Rather than confide in anyone, Birdy writes letters which she hides, keeping in a tin with the intention of perhaps one day sending them to the Daily Telegraph (her only reading source, the paper her mother takes from one of the houses she cleans).

Birdy’s home life isn’t easy. Yes, she has lots of aunties, uncles and cousins, but her Dad drinks a lot, her Mum works all hours, her sister leads her own life and her older brother is gone.

Donohoe tackles many issues in this novel. Among them, she gives us an insight into the treatment of Irish families living in England in the 1980s. The distrust and contempt shown towards them in the aftermath of another IRA bomb.

As a child of the 80s, I really appreciated many of the references in this book – Jim Bowen of Bullseye and boxer Barry McGuigan both featured in my own childhood!

The story is told through Birdy’s eyes, and as such I felt that there were many unanswered questions. However, I guess that’s a reflection of Birdy’s confusion, her own search for answers that allows the reader to connect with her.

All in all, this is a moving read. I enjoyed it well enough but wasn’t blown away by it. I found Birdy to be an interesting character who I really cared about – I just wanted to give her a hug!

three-stars

Review: The Memory Book

February 13, 2017 in Book Reviews, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Memory BookThe Memory Book by Lara Avery
on 26th January 2017
Genres: YA
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Samantha McCoy has it all mapped out. First she's going to win the national debating championship, then she's going to move to New York and become a human rights lawyer. But when Sammie discovers that a rare disease is going to take away her memory, the future she'd planned so perfectly is derailed before it’s started. What she needs is a new plan.

So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. Realising that her life won't wait to be lived, she sets out on a summer of firsts: The first party; The first rebellion; The first friendship; The last love.

Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it's not the life she planned.

Sammie is an intelligent teenage girl who lives with her family in a small town, excels in debating and has secured herself a spot at NYU. Sadly, she has also recently been diagnosed with Niemenn-Pick Type C. It’s like dementia, so she will lose memories and her body will shut down. NPC is always fatal.

In a bid to keep a hold of herself for as long as possible, Sammie starts writing a memory book, and this is exactly what we are reading.

Oh, this book! I’m not ashamed to say I had tears rolling down my cheeks as I closed the back cover. While, yes, the subject matter is serious and at times my heart just ached, this is (perhaps somewhat surprisingly) not a depressing read. Avery has struck an excellent balance in this novel. It’s not just about NPC, it’s about teenage life, facing the future and how to cope when that future isn’t what you’d hoped it would be.

I really liked Sammie. Reading her ‘memory book’ means we see inside her mind – on good days and bad. We are taken along with Sammie on her journey. I loved Sammie’s book-loving nature, her references to Middle Earth and generally her love of knowledge.

I truly felt that I learned a lot from this novel, not only in terms of NPC (which I had never heard of before) but also in Sammie’s handling of her disease.

Then, of course, there are boys, parties, national debates, exams, and all of those other things that happen during life at High School. Oh and a love of chocolate milkshakes!

This is a very well-written, thought-provoking read. Its structure makes it hard to put down – just one more chapter!

four-stars

A Quiet Kind of Thunder Challenge

January 12, 2017 in Book Reviews, Bookish Posts, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder ChallengeA Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard
Published by Macmillan Children's Books on 12th January 2017
Genres: YA
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

Steffi doesn't talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can't hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn't a lightning strike, it's the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life - she's been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He's deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she's assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn't matter that Steffi doesn't talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she's falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

Steffi doesn’t talk and her anxiety can make life extremely difficult for her. Until now she’s had her best friend Tem at school to help her, but Tem has left school for college and Steffi is alone. That is, until she is introduced to Rhys who is deaf and the two of them can communicate through sign language.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s not your typical teenage story – it’s thought-provoking and illuminating as well as being well-written.

a-quiet-kind-of-thunder

I was challenged by Macmillan Children’s Books to spend a day imagining what it might be like not to be able to use the power of words. Not like a sponsored silence, but how life must be like for folk like Steffi with ‘selective mutism’.

Generally, I spend most of my days alone at home, so I used a day over the festive period to take the challenge. Family, noise, questions, requests, games, meals – how would I cope if I couldn’t speak?

I thought it’d be hard but I was actually really shocked by how hard it was. From simple things like saying “yes” to a morning coffee, to handling the inevitable questions as you catch up with the family. Then, in my case, telling everyone I need to go and lie down, or asking for a hand to get up, for someone to go get my meds, or even just asking for a glass of water! I realised how much I communicate and how much, by necessity, I ask for the help of those around me.

How on earth do you handle Christmas dinner? When all eyes fall on you to read out your cheesey cracker joke. Or asking for someone to pass the gravy!

We had a family game of Trivial Pursuits – that just couldn’t happen. How frustrating would it be to know the answers but not be able to say them?

The thing is, this was just one day, in the comfort of the family home where you’d assume everyone would understand. But how would you deal with the outside world?

This challenge really made me think. It made me realise how hard even a day with family must be, let alone actually leaving the house, getting on a bus, life at school or uni or work! And what about in an emergency? I think this book, the challenge and the issues addressed will stay with me for a long time.

four-stars