Hooray! It’s Summer!

Hooray! It's Summer!
I love, love, love YA contemporary books and as it’s now summer, it’s the perfect time to read them! I came across a post I wrote nearly two years ago entitled Hey, Look. It’s Summer! where I picked out some contemporary books to read and I thought I’d do the same again. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice that one book makes a reappearance… Click on the title to go to read more about the book on Goodreads.

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
It’s unfathomable that I have not yet read this because I adored Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer.

The Last Summer of Us by Maggie Harcourt
I was hooked as soon as I read the words ‘road trip’.

Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen is hailed as the queen of summer reads and I can’t wait to read her latest.

Forever by Judy Blume
I picked Forever as my July book for the 2015 Classics Challenge! I read Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret last summer and really enjoyed it.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
This sounds like a delightful summery coming-of-age graphic novel.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick
IT’S JUST ALL SO CUTE. I love the colour scheme of My Life Next Door – baby blue and yellow. Can you even get any more summery? I will finally read this.

And that’s it! I can’t wait. Have you read any of these?

If you’re in the summer mood, here’s a few more books from my ‘to read’ list: How To Be Bad, Love Bomb, Vanishing Girls, Have a Little Faith, The Miseducation of  Cameron Post, This Song Will Save Your Life, Vivian Versus the Apocalypse, Time Between Us, Roomies, The Age of Miracles, Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, All That Glitters, Fish Out of Water, The Geography of Me and You, Emmy & Oliver, Blue, The Night We Said Yes and Between Us and the Moon.

Hooray! It's Summer! Continue reading

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Shelved: Young adult fiction (contemporary, romance)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I picked up Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda after nearly all my friends had read it and said how awesome it was. And they were right.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda throws us into the relatively normal life of Simon Spier. Simon loves Oreos, listening to Elliot Smith, making references to Harry Potter… and boys. But not everyone knows about that last part. Simon is sixteen years old and gay, and the only person who knows is Blue. Blue is the pseudonym of a boy – a smart, Half-Jewish grammar nerd – from school who Simon has been chatting to via email. Simon doesn’t even know if he has met him and yet he feels like he can be himself around Blue more than anyone elseand Simon finds himself falling for him. Problem is, what can he do about it when Blue could be walking past him every day without knowing?

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is an adorable contemporary romance, with many ‘squee’ moments. I loved reading Simon and Blue’s email exchange and seeing them become more honest about how they feel for each other as they revealed more and more, even without technically knowing the other’s real identity (“The closest thing I’ve ever had to a journal is probably you”). It reminded me of when I was a teenager and the friendships that formed through now-defunct instant messaging. I used to type and type and type, and I’m still friends with some of those people years later. But Simon’s in trouble. A classmate has discovered his emails and is threatening to post them on the school Tumblr unless Simon sets him up with one of his best friends, Abby. And he’s trying to deal with his other best friends Nick and Leah at the same time – how is he going to come out to people who have known him his whole life?

I adored Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda not because of the mystery surrounding Blue – although I was keen to find out who he really was (and I didn’t guess!) – but because there’s no major twists. No major drama, adventure or death. It’s simply about Simon growing up and navigating the world of school, family, friends – and himself. Simon isn’t a wholly likeable character, if I’m being completely honest. As we’re constantly in his head, we see the judgements he makes about people all the while worrying about being judged himself. But that’s because he’s an authentic character struggling to make sense of himself as much as he is everyone else. I also enjoyed seeing something rare in YA: a brilliant relationship between a teenager and his parents.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a majorly cute LGBT romance with awesome friends, many adorable moments, and a lot of laughs.

Published: 7th April 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books (UK) Balzer + Bray (US)
Pages: 320
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

Book Review: Cowgirl by G. R. Gemin

Book Review: Cowgirl by G. R. Gemin

Shelved: Children’s fiction (contemporary)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I wanted to read something a little lighter than my previous read, The Girl on the Train. Cowgirl was the perfect choice – authentic, charming and narrated by a relatable, standout voice. It cheered me right up.

I’m not particularly a fan of cows. I’m a London girl who hasn’t had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with them, although I’d occasionally see them from my university residence in the middle of the South Downs National Park. I had to cautiously tiptoe past them on the way to the tea shop with my friends. I mean, they’re huge. But Cowgirl made me wish I had a cow in my back garden.

I’ll start from the beginning. Gemma lives on the Mawr Estate in South Wales, a small, close-knit but impoverished community. Gemin does a fabulous job of seeing the world through the eyes of a child. It reminded me of growing up in London and being somewhat aware of the poverty and crime – and amount of diversity within the city – but not fully understanding it enough for it to affect the way I lived my life. Gemma doesn’t have a lot of money, her brother loves nothing more than to torment her, and her Dad has been in prison for so long that she is struggling to connect with him. But she can deal with it all as long as she has her bike – Gemma often takes it out into the Welsh countryside, away from everything and everyone.

Gemma’s part of the popular crowd but all that changes when she reluctantly becomes friends with an outsider known as Cowgirl, a quiet girl who works on her family’s farm and whose job is to look after the cows. As Gemma gets to know Cowgirl and her family a little bit better – spurred on by her outspoken Gran – she goes on an incredibly mad mission to help her new friend, save a herd of cows, and revive the community she loves.

Cowgirl was a delight to read, covering some pretty serious issues, and tackling them responsibly, while sending the reader on a hilarious, uplifting adventure. I can see why it’s up for the Branford Boase Award 2015. Funny and heartwarming, Cowgirl is a contemporary middle grade story that people of any age should pick up when they’re having a bad day.

Published: 26th March 2014
Publisher: Nosy Crow
Pages: 272

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Classic #5)

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (Classic #5)

Shelved: Classic (Gothic, romance)
Published: 1847 by Thomas C. Newby
Rating: ★★★★
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #5
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Here’s my fifth post for the 2015 Classics Challenge!  It’s not too late to join me (and 180+ other people) in reading one classic per month.

“May you not rest, as long as I am living. You said I killed you – haunt me, then”.

Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange on the bleak Yorkshire moors, is forced to seek shelter one night at Wuthering Heights, the home of his landlord. There he discovers the history of the tempestuous events that took place years before: of the intense passion between the foundling Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, and her betrayal of him. As Heathcliff’s bitterness and vengeance is visited upon the next generation, their innocent heirs must struggle to escape the legacy of the past.

Spoiler alert: I found it impossible to talk about Wuthering Heights without saying too much, so don’t read ahead if you would prefer to know nothing about the book!

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I have no idea! Wuthering Heights would have been one of the first classics I ever heard about, surely? Or perhaps I first heard Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush as a young child. But it was one that kept cropping up as a book I had to read.

WHY I Chose to Read It
It’s a popular classic and the only one in the Goodreads top ten that I hadn’t read. I received a lovely Penguin English Library edition through Caboodle. What I love about older classics is that I can switch between reading a physical copy and the eBook on my Kindle/iPad. I started the eBook on my way back to London from Bath and enjoyed sharing quotes on Goodreads:

“Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff’s dwelling. ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather.”

WHAT Makes It A Classic
I expected Wuthering Heights to be a classic romance story about a young couple, Cathy and Heathcliff. I expected them to roam the Yorkshire moors, proclaiming their love for each other. But it’s much more than that – and I’m not completely certain that it is a love story. Wuthering Heights has elements of a Gothic horror story. An intense story about revenge, betrayal, anger and jealousy, it’s written in beautiful the prose that the Brontë sisters are known for.

I found Wuthering Heights confusing at first because we’re introduced to a myriad of characters – I suggest viewing a family tree, although it will give you spoilers. We then become familiar with the Earnshaws and the Lintons, two families caught up Cathy and Heathcliff’s drama as well as their own conflicts. It’s narrated mainly by Mr. Lockwood (a tenant of Heathcliff’s) and Nelly (a housekeeper who was close to both families). Even so, it was Cathy and Heathcliff that kept me reading and I understand why they’re the most memorable part of the novel.

Wuthering Heights
WHAT I Thought of This Classic
Before you ask, if I had to pick, I’d choose Jane Eyre, one of my favourite classics so far (and I probably should have rated it 5* rather than 4*!). I also need to read Samantha Ellis’ How to Be a Herione, which particularly focuses on Catherine Earnshaw and Jane Eyre.

I expected a lot from Wuthering Heights and was pleasantly surprised – it’s full of awful characters that I couldn’t tear my eyes away from and conflicts that were both terrible and exciting. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of mental and physical cruelty! I didn’t know that the book began with Mr. Lockwood and that we wouldn’t get to hear directly from Catherine and Heathcliff. I didn’t know that the book was split into two parts – Nelly’s flashbacks to the story of Catherine and Heathcliff and then the present day, about 18 years later. I am baffled as to why people envy Cathy and Heathcliff’s relationship, but it was certainly an enjoyable one to read about – I adored the drama and Catherine’s fiery personality.

Even though the second part of the novel wasn’t as enjoyable for me, I liked discovering that Wuthering Heights was more complicated than expected and that this troublesome story and cast of vivid characters finally came full circle. As it is titled Wuthering Heights, it doesn’t surprise me now to realise it’s really a story of Heathcliff’s life and transformation – from the damaged young boy in his childhood to his eventual death in his late thirties, as master of Wuthering Heights.

“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am.”

WILL It Stay A Classic
I expect so because the story of Cathy and Heathcliff continues to draw people in, although they’re only part of the story.

WHO I’d Recommend It To
People who enjoyed Jane Eyre and want to read another classic Brontë story. People who are curious about Cathy and Heathcliff – but are prepared to experience much more. People who enjoy intense drama!

“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff!”

Wuthering Heights

Have you signed up to the 2015 Classics Challenge?

Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath

Mr Bs Emporium of Reading Delights, Bath
I visited Bath recently (find out more about that here) and no trip is complete without checking out the local bookshops. I first heard about Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights a few years ago. I heard all about the helpful booksellers and the wonderful children’s section, so I couldn’t wait to visit!

Mr Bs Emporium of Reading Delights, BathAs you walk through the door, you’re greeted with lots and lots of lovely fiction and a display table stacked with curated titles. I’ve mentioned in my Tour of London Bookshops posts that curated tables are really important to me. I visit a lot of bookshops and it’d be incredibly boring if every display table looked the same!
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Behold the Pretty Books! / May Book Haul

Behold the Pretty Books! / May Book Haul
Here’s all the books that I acquired last month!

Jim (who’s becoming a regular feature in my book hauls!) loaned me Journey to the River Sea, because I’ve never read a novel by Eva Ibbotson, and The Game of Love and Death. Daphne also loaned me The Good Girls, the sequel to The Perfectionists. A colleague was giving away some of her books and I took Jenny Downham’s Before I Die because I haven’t read it, despite enjoying the film.

I am supposed to be on a book-buying ban (as always!) but I visited Foyles Charing Cross road and bought two graphic novels: Through the Woods and This One Summer. I haven’t read many graphic novels but these two stood out to me. I also visited Bath and bought The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow from Mr B’s Emporium of Reading Delights and The Last Summer of Us from Topping and Company (posts about these bookshops coming soon!). Read about the rest of my trip to Bath here.

I was also sent a few books for review: My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend & The Lie Tree from Macmillan, Saint Anything from Puffin Books and The Lost and the Found from Quercus. I’m particularly looking forward to finally reading novels by Frances Hardinge and Cat Clarke!

Have you read any of these books?

Behold the Pretty Books! / May Book Haul
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Book Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Book Review: We All Looked Up by Tommy Wallach

Shelved: Young adult fiction (contemporary, science fiction)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

“The best books, they don’t talk about things you never thought about before. They talk about things you’d always thought about, but that you didn’t think anyone else had thought about. You read them, and suddenly you’re a little bit less alone in the world. You’re part of this cosmic community of people who’ve thought about this thing, whatever it happens to be.”

We All Looked Up was the May pick for my informal we-actually-just-want-an-excuse-to-meet-up-and-chat book club and I was really looking forward to reading it. I’ve read a lot of young adult sci-fi but We All Looked Up is different – a mix of science fiction and contemporary, one of my favourite genres. I tweeted about We All Looked Up when I started reading it, saying it was The Breakfast Club meets the apocalypse, and I still think that’s true. But our four teenage protagonists are confined to one town rather than one building!

Before the asteroid, four teenagers lived their lives defined by four neat labels: athlete (Peter), the outcast (Eliza), the slacker (Andy), the overachiever (Anita), but now that the world’s changed, they have the opportunity to think about themselves, others and the world around them a little bit more. I love how We All Looked Up is told, in alternating chapters narrated by our protagonists, going back and forth between the present and the immediate past. I used to think of myself as someone who would pick ‘plot’ over ‘characters’ but while others are perhaps a little disappointed in the lack of wider world-building – what’s happening in the rest of the world as  Arden is approaching and what governments are doing to stop it – I didn’t feel that that was the point of We All Looked Up. All of the teenagers are flawed and the asteroid is just a device through which we get a modern coming-of-age story.

As with any young adult contemporary novel, we still get our love stories, family arguments, difficult choices and complicated friendships. Peter’s dealing with breaking up with his girlfriend and dreaming about his brief romantic encounter with Eliza – who went from shy to ‘slut’ as a result – and is in competition with Andy, who is amongst the wrong crowd, while Anita is struggling to live up to her parents’ crushing expectations. She takes the opportunity, as it is likely the end of the world after all, to pursue her desire to be a singer. We All Looked Up gets complicated and messy – adolescence often is – as the characters become closer, and I thoroughly enjoyed taking part in their journey.

We All Looked Up is a wonderful, poignant look at what it means to grow up. It makes you wonder whether you have the determination to change the course your life is on, whether you’ll ever have the opportunity to look up.

Published: 26th March 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK & US
Pages: 384


Book Review: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Book Review: The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Shelved: Young adult fiction (contemporary, fantasy)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

I began reading The Accident Season and was quick to pitch it as contemporary YA that also fell somewhere between The Ring and The Falling. As I carried on reading, the story moved away from horror, yet would aptly be read against the musical soundtrack for The Falling. You may have heard about the mysterious tarot cards and the creepy red buttons, but the The Accident Season is not so much scary story as it is a wonderfully evocative contemporary novel with many eerie twists.

The Accident Season captures the reader straight away with two not-yet-interwoven storylines surrounding our protagonist Cara, best friend Bea, sister Alice and ex-step-brother Sam. Cara discovers that a quiet and seemingly unnoticed fellow student called Elsie appears in all of her photos, whether a strand of hair or a flash of school skirt. Meanwhile, the accident season is approaching; it occurs every October without fail. Although they desperately try not to get hurt, they always do, so hidden are the cuts, the bumps and the bruises. Sharp knives are locked away and jagged edges are covered up. But the accident season always arrives and just how serious it will be, they can never be sure.

Moira Fowley-Doyle’s debut novel is stunning, lyrical and incredibly haunting. Even though it’s been a week since I finished the book, I can still hear “So let’s raise our glasses to the accident season, To the river beneath us where we sink our souls, To the bruises and secrets, to the ghosts in the ceiling, One more drink for the watery road.” being chanted by the characters I’ve left behind. Moira Fowley-Doyle’s writing is what stands out the most. The Accident Season is a compelling story of family, first love and friendship, the blurriness of secrets and lies, and everything in between, but it’s brought to life by Moira’s beautiful words. Masked balls, crumbling houses and ethereal changelings that only Cara can see all provide a stage on which Moira can perform.

The Accident Season is a beautiful mix of contemporary and . . . I’m not so sure. It’s a concoction of magical, paranormal and fantastical happenings entwined in eloquent prose. You’ll be organising your own Black Cat and Whiskey Moon Masquerade Ball in no time!

Published: 2nd July 2015 (UK) 18th August 2015 (US)
Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers (UK) Kathy Dawson Books (US)
Pages: 288
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!