Spotlight On…Stories for Homes Volume 2

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Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? But, I’m back and I’m shining the spotlight on a volume of books today set out to do good. Emma Darwin, author of The Mathematics of Love, commented on this book calling it, “A cornucopia of witty, tragic, elegant, raw, heart-warming and terrifying stories that take the idea of Home, play with it as only truly talented writers can, and all to help those who have no home at all.”

Yes, it’s the second edition of the Stories for Homes anthology, edited by Debi Alper and Sally Swingewood, in support of Shelter.

55 writers, both unpublished and published, come together in this anthology with short stories on issues like poverty, homelessness, crisis and others to life with the aim of doing some real good in the world for people who these issues genuinely affect too.

And the first edition of the book managed to raise over £3,000 for Shelter, so as you can see there’s a potential for this book to do some real good, perhaps go even further than £3,000!

This second edition contains not just short stories but flash fiction and poetry too, so there’s definitely something for every type of reader in here.

It’s available now as an ebook (published 28th September 2017, in response to the Grenfell Tower tragedy), and Sally Swingewood, one of the editors of this anthology, commented on the book upon it’s release.

“The Stories for Homes collections would not be possible without the generosity of a huge number of volunteers. By working together we have produced a book which will not only delight but also help address one of the biggest humanitarian crises facing modern society. In a world where migration, identity and belonging are in the news daily we have a duty to help everyone have a home in which they feel safe and settled. Stories for Homes is one way we can be part of the solution”

Plus, if you want to read more, head to storiesforhomes.wordpress.com, a website featuring a further collection of flash fiction, poetry and real life experience of people who have had housing problems and/or have experienced homelessness along with columns from the professionals with advice.

Make sure you go and check out the other posts from across the blog tour for this book as well! And like I said, this book is available now as an ebook to buy today.

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Review of Things A Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls

(Andersen Press kindly sent me a copy of this book in exchange for a review, but my opinions on the book haven’t been affected as a result.)

Sally briefly mentioned this book that she was writing a while ago on Twitter, and I remember distinctly seeing that tweet and being really excited about it. I couldn’t wait to read this book, and then when I finally saw that proofs had become available a few months ago I was extremely excited.

Things A Bright Girl Can Do is a book set in the early 1900s when the campaign for women’s suffrage was on the rise. Set in the East End of London, three girls – Evelyn, Nell and May, join the fight for women’s suffrage, all for their own reasons, be it that women were expected to marry rather than continue education or for equality for all kinds of women in the case of Nell and May, the story follows the three characters throughout the campaign for women’s suffrage.

This is the first ‘historical’ fiction book I’ve read in a very, very long time. Any hopes I had for the book to be as amazing as I expected it to be though were entirely realised.

This is a powerful book, and whilst it explores two or three almost separate storylines simultaneously which can be confusing at times, you get really involved with the characters as they fight for the vote. The setting perfectly compliments the characters, and it’s a powerful book about equality, feminism and being who you are and making no apologies for that.

I loved reading about them, and I think that, even if you, like me, don’t usually go for historical novels, you’ll love this book in like I did.

Sally has an incredible voice when writing. You can see it in any of her past books and it shines through in this book too. I can’t recommend it enough. Definitely worth a read.

An Interview with Simon James Green

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Hello! It’s been a while but I’m back and I’m so excited to be sharing an interview I did with Simon James Green (and Noah Grimes!) about Noah Can’t Even.

This interview was first published over on Beth’s blog, Words From A Reader, who let me ask Simon and Noah these questions in the first place, so thank you!


Starting with a challenge; sum up your book in five words.
SJG: Madcap coming-of-age comedy!
NG: Full of lies, really awful.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
SJG: I’ve always loved coming-of-age stories, and I’ve always wanted to write one about a geeky boy questioning his sexuality. I also really enjoy writing comedy – making people laugh is the best feeling – so I knew I wanted it to be funny too. Finally, there was a particular piece of writing advice that stuck in my mind: in every chapter, turn up the heat on your character a little bit more and make life even harder for them. Those things combined in my head to create the story.
NG: Right, Simon (1) just because I get good grades and once built an Airfix Avro Vulcan B Mk2, which I hung from my ceiling on bits of cotton, that doesn’t make me a ‘geek’ necessarily. (2) Shut up about my sexuality. (3) You know full well that you stole the idea from things I told you for your own profit and have probably even bought a Nespresso machine on the proceeds whilst I have received only grief from everyone laughing at me.

How much of the books content came from your own experiences?
SJG: The book isn’t really autobiographical, but I did base certain elements on my own teenage years – for example, I absolutely hated PE at school, just like Noah does.
NG: That’s a lie. The book is based entirely on secrets that I told Simon in confidence. He got me to trust him by buying me some Skittles and then saying nice things about how he thought my poetry was good. When my defences were down, he got me to open up more about my life and unbeknown to me, he was writing all this down to use in his stupid book.

When the cover was first shown to you, what was your initial impression?
SJG: I loved it! It’s such a bold, attention-grabbing image and it sums up so much about the book. I couldn’t have been more pleased. It was designed by Liam Drane at Scholastic, who’s a genius!
NG: I hated it. It’s an appalling, diabolical image that I suppose someone thought was funny or something. It’s not exactly subtle, is it? Personally, I prefer the sort of covers you get on more literary books – maybe a picture of some barbed wire, or a shattered mirror reflecting a fractured face, to indicate the inner turmoil of the character – that sort of thing.

Secondary school/high school can be a rough place for a lot of people. What tips would you give to anyone in school for surviving it?
SJG: Always remember that almost everyone is going through their own form of private hell, and despite appearances sometimes, everyone is in the same boat and feels the same insecurities and anxieties. Find people like you, who you connect with and don’t make you feel like crap. Hang on to those folks and be there for each other – they’ll get you through. Finally, it may seem like it, but it’s not forever. It will end. And things will get better.
NG: I found that becoming Head Student Librarian granted me a lot of respect amongst my peers, especially when they beg me not to give them fines for late returns. Having a position of power strikes fear into the hearts of the mean kids and I know that when they call me rude names and make gestures behind my back it’s only because they are scared and jealous. Also, I keep a list of everyone who has wronged me so that one day, I can get revenge on them.

What tips do you have for any aspiring writers?
SJG: Write the thing that you would want to read – it’s a long slog, so you’ve absolutely got to love the thing you’re working on. Get feedback on your work – whether from a crit group or a freelance editor, if you can afford it. Keep going, read lots, believe in yourself I truly believe there’s a place for everyone’s story, you’ve just got to find it.
NG: I am actually a successful writer and have recently won a prize for one of my poems, which has now been included in a special anthology, so I am well placed to give out writing advice. I suppose my number one tip would be this: you need a lot of stationery if you’re going to be a professional writer who wins awards, like me. The Viking catalogue is a good place to start for all the essentials, like folders, reams of paper and an array of different types of pen.


Simon and Noah are both on Twitter – @simonjamesgreen @noahgrimes12

Books I’m Looking Forward To In July

Welcome back to the ‘Books I’m Looking Forward To’ feature! This is where I talk about all the books that are set to be published in July in the UK and talk about why I’m excited for them and why I think you should be too!

First up on my list is the sequel to Songs About A Girl, one of my favourite books of last year. Songs About Us by Chris Russell is set to be released on the 13th July and I can’t wait. I’ve been waiting to read more about Charlie and Gabriel and Olly and everyone else from Chris’s boyband world. I can’t wait to see where the sequel catapults them all to next!

Juno Dawson has a new book coming out this month too. Entitled The Gender Games and also set to be published on the 13th, it’s described as “a frank, witty and powerful manifesto for a world where what’s in your head is more important than what’s between your legs.” Juno’s past non-fiction books are fantastic as are her fiction books. Mind Your Head for example, Juno’s book about mental health, is a great read and I highly recommend it. I’m excited to see this brand new title from Juno and I’m definitely excited for it to be released.

Carrie Hope Fletcher has a new book out this month too, again also due to be released on the 13th, called All That She Can See, about a village baker named Cherry, who has a hidden ability to see things that others can’t. She uses this power to add something special to the cakes she sells, so the village people know that when they walk in Cherry’s bakery they feel safe. But then Chase arrives and it turns out she’s not alone in this ability. Carrie has an amazing writing voice and I can’t wait until her new book is published.

There are plenty more books that are set to come out in July, like the collaboration between Radio 1’s Greg James and Chris Smith along with Jenn Bennett’s brand new book too, but these are just some of the books I’m excited for in July!

 

Review of The Loneliest Girl In The Universe by Lauren James

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(Walker Books kindly sent me a copy of this book for review. My thoughts on the book haven’t been affected as a result though.)

Lauren James, as you probably know if you know anything about me as a reader, is one of my favourite authors. She wrote The Next Together series, which I’d say is a little like science fiction meets historical fiction – it’s about a couple named Katherine and Matthew who are destined to fall in love with each other over and over again throughout history. I definitely recommend it. When this book was first announced, I was, as you could probably imagine, really excited for it. I expected big things from it.

I did, however, think a lot about it before starting it. This book focuses on Romy, the only person aboard The Infinity, a spaceship bound for Earth II, with the mission to inhabit the Earth. She finds out about another ship that’s been sent along with her, The Eternity, upon which J is aboard. They can only communicate via emails, and slowly she finds herself falling in love with J, despite the fact that they’ve never met one another and they’re light years away.

As a concept, I thought, this book needed to do a lot of things to work. I remember thinking that dialogue was going to be difficult, because there is no one but Romy on the ship. She communicates with all other humans via email that takes ages to get to where it needs to be. The only living characters we know about (at the start at least…) are herself, Molly (on Earth) and J.  She’s aboard the ship by herself. Would this story work?

It absolutely did. I almost feel ashamed for ever doubting it if I’m honest!

Firstly, let’s talk about the cover. I remember seeing this for the first time and being surrounded by bloggers at Walker Books, and everyone gasped when they saw it, simply because it’s stunning.

Because there’s only a few characters, you really get to know Romy as a person. There’s a really intrinsic backstory which I won’t get into because it will definitely spoil the entire book for you, but once you start understanding a lot more about the book lots more unravels. It’s a mystery what’s going to happen on the next page.

I love the way that the emails were used as part of the book, and chapters are divided in a more unique way, that I don’t think I should reveal either because of fears of spoiling it, but both are unique touches.

Lauren’s way of writing from her first two books are back, of course, and it’s such a unique story. I think you will absolutely love this story, and I think it’s such an amazing book. Go read it!

Review of Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

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I remember first reading Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places perhaps a year, maybe two years ago, and I loved it. It was one of my favourite books immediately, and Jennifer had a way of writing that was really special, for me personally anyway. I had no doubt that Jennifer would be back with a new book, and Holding Up The Universe is that book. I read it recently and I’m finally getting round to reviewing it!

For this book, I’m going to provide you with the blurb from Goodreads, because I think it describes this book the best.

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for EVERY POSSIBILITY LIFE HAS TO OFFER. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything.
Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything in new and bad-ass ways, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.
Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game–which lands them in group counseling and community service–Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. . . . Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

One thing that stood out in particular to me again in this book, which is common with All The Bright Places, is the characters and the level of detail paid to each individual character, their backstory, the hidden parts of the character that we get to see from reading in this book. I love this – one of the things I always love if I can see it is the ability to get to know the characters in a book. Jack and Libby, as well as being main characters, feel real when you read this book.

It’s also interesting to see that the romance that grows between two seemingly totally incompatible characters is a common theme across both books too, and I think this works too in Holding Up The Universe too.

The courage that Libby as a a character has is really inspiring at points to read about and I think that there are many emotions you’ll feel reading this book.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I took a long time to read it, mainly because a lot of my time has been consumed with exams recently, but this isn’t a comment on the quality of the book, more of a comment on my lack of time. I think this book is definitely worth your read, and I’m a little unsure of whether it will be a book everyone likes, but I liked it, and I think you will as well.

Books I’m Looking Forward to in June

Hello! Welcome to a post where I share Books I’m Looking Forward to in June! I’m pretty sure I did this a while ago and had full intentions to make it a monthly feature, but I failed in that instance. However, I’m back and as I’m pre-writing and scheduling posts to go up before my exams begin (hello from the past!), I thought it was a perfect opportunity to bring the feature back!

So, as the title suggests, this a feature where I talk about some of the books set to be released in the month ahead and perhaps why you should be excited about them too!

Luckily, or unluckily if your TBR pile is as tall as mine and no amount of book culling will cut it down, June is really busy month for books. The first big day for books to be released is the 1st of the month, and plenty of great books are released then.

First up, Truth or Dare by Non Pratt, and I know I’m not alone with this! The blurb for this book best describes itself: “How far is too far when it comes to the people you love? Claire Casey hates being the centre of attention. But if it means getting Sef Malik to notice her, it’s a risk she’s happy to take. Sef is prepared to do anything to help his recently disabled brother. But this means putting Claire’s love – and life – on the line. Because when you’re willing to risk everything, what is there left to lose?” I (hopefully) will have a review of this book up at some point over June, so do watch out for that if you want my thoughts on the book, but I’m so excited for this one!

Kerry Drewery also has a new book called Day 7 coming out this month. This is a sequel to the dystopian thriller novel Cell 7 that came out a while ago, and I’m really looking forward to this book coming out too. This is definitely one to watch!

Plus, the amazing Lisa Heathfield also has a brand new book coming out this month. It’s called Flight Of A Starling, and it’s about sisters Rita and Lo, who are part of a trapeze act. They fly through the air on the trapeze and don’t stay still for long, until Lo meets a boy. Anyone who has ever read one of Lisa’s previous novels will know the absolute magic of her writing, so it should be really obvious why this is a book to be highly anticipated, and it comes out on the 29th June!

There are so many books coming out this month, so I couldn’t possibly list them all. But here’s just a few that I’m really excited for!