Saturday, 17 June 2017

Review on Dark Lands #2 The Not-Where

After almost losing his sister to the Requiem, Webb Thompson is ready to take a break from the chaos of the Dark Lands, and settle into life at Glorian. However, Webb has started having a reoccurring dream about a large and formidable tree, which transforms into the Dark Man, Glorians most feared enemy. Webb soon wonders if it really is just a dream, or if it's something more. Webb soon discovers the Not-Where, a place where your nightmares become reality. If he is to ever stop the nightmares, Webb must enter the Not-Where, and come face to face with the Dark Man himself.

So I may have jumped straight into this book after finishing the first one. The book continues to follow on from where the first one left off, where we discover that Webb has started having nightmares about the Dark Man emerging from a tree. Webb discovers that someone known as the Mind Stalker is manipulating his dreams, which esculate into him hallucinating while awake. He finds out that the Dark Man is behind it, attempting to lure him out into the Not-Where. Although this series has been compared to Harry Potter, I didn't see too many similiarites in the first book. However, I did feel as if the plot of this one was very similar to Order of the Phoenix, where Voldemort manipulated Harry's dreams to get him to go to the Department of Mysteries. Once I saw this similarity, I did find myself subconciously comparing things to Harry Potter, such as the tree being similar to the Whomping Willow, and the Dark Man being similar to Voldemort.

I loved how the characters were developed in this book, particularly the characters who had a more minor role in the first book, such as Kane. I loved learning a little more about Kane's past, and how Webb started to see him on a deeper level, eventually changing his opinion on him. I also loved how Raven became more important to the story rather than just being there to serve as the love interest. I continued to feel bad for poor Caleb, who has still yet to purposfully do something wrong, but who has now been accused of betraying Glorian, and been forced by Webb to explain something that was clearly an upsetting topic for him. I honestly just want to give this poor boy a hug!

The idea behind the Not-Where was really interesting, and I found having a place where your nightmares became a reality a unique idea. I loved learning about the origins of the Whoop-Dingers, and how they were created from a childs nightmare. As there was less backstory to go through in this book, I felt as if the story flowed better, and there wasn't too many needless filler chapters.

Something that did continue to irk me was the relationship between Webb and Raven. The instalove was explained away with the revelation that they were “soulmates”, which although was a valid explanation, continued to make me roll my eyes. I did try to give this relationship a chance, but instalove and soulmates just really aren't my cup of tea. Relationships where the characters are “destined to be together” are just a little too cliché fo me. Although I do love both the characters seperately, I just can't make myself care about their romantic relationship, and I much prefer Webb's interactions with Sundown and Caleb.

Without spoiling too much, I want to talk a little about the ending. I have grown up adoring battle scenes, from the battle of Hogwarts to the battle of five armies. This one was no exception, and I was completely hooked for the last few pages. Also, I can't believe it ended on such a huge cliffhanger! I was not expecting it to end the way it did at all, and I'm excited that the next book will potentially have more focus on Sundown, as she has been my favourite character throughout the series so far. I feel as if this series is just going to continue to improve, and I am looking forward to reading the rest of it!

Dark Lands: The Not-Where is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Pick ‘n’ Mix Book Tag

 So my friend and fellow book club member Rosie tagged me in this and I thought it was a cute and fun idea so I thought I would give it a go!

1. Fizzy Blue Bottles.

They look strange, and they taste strange, but you like them. Name a book or series with a really strange plot that you couldn’t help but love.
Don't Eat the Glowing Bananas by David Hammons. It's probably one of the strangest books I've ever read! It's about a man named Hank Rose who goes on a quest to find the best food he can find in his post apocalyptic world, and find out why the bombs fell. On his travels he meets a mutant called Lewis, who has a tentacle for an arm and is able to regenerate his body. It reminded me of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and was very weird but very funny! You can read my review on it here

2. The Metre.

It goes on forever. Name the longest book series you have read.
I think this one has to go to Harry Potter! I may possibly have read a longer one at some point but I can't think of any I've read that are over seven books long at the moment. Also I've read cursed child so i guess that counts as eight!

3. Chocolate Raisins.

No amount of chocolate can hide what’s inside. Name a book with a great cover but a disappointing story.
What Light by Jay Asher. The cover looks so nice and festive but I was really disappointed with the story! It was very instalovey and not my cup of tea at all.

4. Chocolate Mice.

They look sweet, but they’re secretly vermin. Name a book that surprised you with it’s villain. (Be careful not to give spoilers!)
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. It was so wild I honestly still don't know if it was a real thing or a strange fan fiction.

5. Hard Gums.

You take a bite but almost break your teeth. What book or series was hard for you to get into?
Heartless by Marissa Meyer. The majority of the book honestly bored me and I was disappointed as I usually love Alice in Wonderland retellings! Although I did enjoy the last 100 pages, I was sad that the majority of the book revolved around a romance that I just wasn't invested in.

6. Cola Bottles.

Some are sweet, some are sour. Name two similar books, one you liked and one you didn’t.
The Fault in Our Stars and Looking for Alaska. I find John Green books to all be very similar, with similar protagonists and teenagers who seem a little too clever. Although I adored The Fault in Our Stars, I just couldn't get into Looking for Alaska and found it quite boring. Although I do realise Alaska and TFIOS were written around ten years apart, and obviously writers improve with time, I still felt as if there was a big difference between the two not plot wise, but writing wise.

7. Fried Eggs.

Some love them, some hate them. Name a book that matches the way you feel about Fried Eggs.
I weirdly love the white foamy part but not so much the yellow centre, so I'm going to go with Strange the Dreamer. I loved the main plot of Strange the Dreamer, but the romance part was just too instalovey for me and I didn't enjoy it much.

8. Smarties.

No matter what you do, they’re everywhere. Name a trend or trope you are tired of reading.

INSTALOVE! I have ranted so so many times about how much I hate this but it seems to crop up everywhere! No matter if i'm reading contemporary or fantasy, instalove always seems to raise it's ugly head in a book that I am otherwise enjoying.

 9. Gummy Bears.

Name your favourite fictional creature or animal.
Probably the Hippogriff! I adored Buckbeak and I would love to be able to ride away into the sunset on one.

 9. Pick ‘n’ Mix! 

So many sweets, so much variety. Name some of your favourite diverse books!
  • Carry on-Rainbow Rowell
  • All For the Game- Nora Sakavic
  • The Raven Cycle- Maggie Stiefvater
  • You Know Me Well- David Levithan
  • More Happy than Not Adam Silvera
 I'm tagging these wonderful bloggers!

Jemima from drinkingbooks

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Review on Dark Lands #1 Requiem

When Webb Thompson wakes in an unfamiliar land with no recollection as to how he got there, he is fearful for his life. After a battle with some grotesque, alien like creatures, Webb and his sister, Sundown, run into Uncle Mike. Finally someone they know who can explain what is going on! There is only one problem, Uncle Mike died several years ago. Webb and Sundown soon discover they have died, leaving them in the Dark Lands, a world between the living and the dead. However, there is a way for them to return to the land of the living, they just need to find the right path. The Dark Lands are anything but peaceful, and the siblings must help defeat the Dark Man before he finds a way to return to the land of the living and wreck havoc.

After reading quite a few contemporary books, I was excited to start a new fantasy series! This book follows Webb, a seventeen year old boy who finds himself waking up in an unknown land, along with his younger sister, Sundown. I loved how the book immedietely gave us questions to ask, such as where were they, how had they got there, and what on earth was chasing them. I thought the chase scene was a brilliant way to start the book, as it instantly had me hooked on the story.

The world building in this book was fantastic! I think I was imagining Glorian as looking similar to Hogwarts, so of course I immedietely wanted to visit. I also loved how they just had to think about what food they wanted to eat, and it would appear on the table in front of them. Imagine having that power! I adored the animals that seemed to only exist in the Dark Lands, particularly Gustafson the Felidaes, a big cat like creature. However I did find the Whoop-Dingers ridiculous, due to their name sounding like it had been pulled straight from a Roald Dahl book. As these are one of the more menacing and frightening creatures Webb comes across, I felt as if their name didn't fit them at all, and would have been more suited for a cute and tame creature. All of the Glorians having a power was also interesting, and I particularly adored Sundown's power. I did however feel as if Webb's power was a little boring, as every YA fantasy protagonist seems to have similar abilities to Webb.

I adored the characters in this book, especially Sundown. I felt as if she had a more natural response to what was happening, and I felt bad for her having been taken away from her friends and family at such a young age. Although I did like Webb, he was a little too angry to say the least. It made me wonder what had happened to him while he was alive to make him that way. I adored Caleb, and felt bad for him when Webb accused him of being a traitor. I thought Caleb was a sweet character who just wanted to have a friend, and I felt Webb treated him unfairly. I was however happy that Webb eventually apologised to him.

Sadly there were a couple of things I didn't like, one in particular being that Webb accuratley predicted who the traitor was long before it was revealed. In these circumstances, I always like to be shocked. I like when the sweet, fatherly figure turns out to be the villain, so I was disappointed when it turned out to be someone who Webb hadn't trusted from the start.

Another thing I didn't like was the romance between Raven and Webb. Although Raven's age is never mentioned, she is described as being a woman, and I pictured her as being in her early twenty's. The fact she was attracted to a seventeen year old boy seemed weird to me, and although they were mutually attracted to each other, I felt as if it didn't go beyond them finding each other physically attractive. They didn't spend enough time together to “fall in love” but I felt as if it was trying to imply that Raven was in love with Webb. I felt as if the mutual attraction came out of nowhere, as although Webb was instantly attracted to Raven's appearance, there was nothing to imply that the feeling was mutual. I found the situation a little uncomfortable, as there was no build up to their feelings, and it felt as if it had been thrown in for the sake of a romantic subplot. I also felt as if the book needed more female characters overall, as Raven and Sundown are the only two that are frequently mentioned.

I enjoyed this book overall, and I'm planning to immediately devour the sequel! There are still many questions left unanswered, and Webb and Sundown are both past the “tutorial” phase, and are ready to explore their powers on their own. I would love for the Dark Man to have more of a presence in the next book, as he is still a very mysterious character. I recommend this book for YA fantasy lovers, and for all the Potterheads!

Dark Lands: Requiem is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Review on The Gender Games

What exactly is gender? Is it the same as our sex, something unchangeable that is given to us at birth and which we must conform to, or is it something more? Juno Dawson, a woman who has experienced gender and it's implications from both sides, shares her personal experiences with gender and sexuality, exploring what gender really means, and why forcing gender roles onto children from an early age is a problem.

 Juno pairs her opinions and experiences with facts to show how gender impacts all our lives, and what we can to do to help us to achieve gender equality.

When it was announced that Juno would be releasing a non fiction book focusing on gender, I knew I had to read it! I've probably mentioned this a hundred times before, but I adore Juno's YA fiction books. Although I was initially interested in the topic of this new book that seemed a lot more adulty than any of her other books, I am not a big reader of non fiction. My recent non fiction reads have been by famous youtubers stepping out into the literary world, most often aimed at a young teenage audience, so I instantly knew I was stepping out of my comfort zone by reading this one. Although I have lived quite a sheltered life, thanks to the Internet, I have seen enough shit on Tumblr and in fan fiction that this book didn't send me screaming and crying in the opposite direction. Even though we are used to seeing young, innocent protagonists in Juno's books, this one is definitely only suitable for older teenagers and adults.

Juno tells her story in a raw and honest way, not leaving out the more embarrassing and promiscuous parts. Women are often slut shamed for discussing their sex lives, while men are usually congratulated on having had many sexual encounters, and get called a “stud.” This is just one of the many gender inequalities that women face, and I loved how Juno had the courage to talk openly about her sex life, and how what she wants now is different to what she wanted before her transition.

I feel as if this books target audience is women (both trans and cis) in the 18-30 age category, and as I fall somewhere in the middle of this, I found myself relating to many of the issues that came up. Although your average “meninist” will insist that gender inequality doesn't exist, rape culture, the wage gap, being cat called in the street, amongst many other things proves that it does. I, along with many other women, have experienced drawbacks of being the “weaker sex” first hand, and I found some of the issues that were brought up extremely relatable.

I loved that the topic of women who don't want children was brought up, as my feelings are exactly the same as Juno's in that I currently do do not plan on having children. As an only child, I am personally responsible for crushing my mum's dreams of ever becoming a grandmother, and she is constantly trying to persuade me otherwise with excuses such as “who's going to look after you when you're old?”, “I didn't want kids at your age either, you'll change your mind in a few years,” and “you'll regret it when you're older and it's too late.” The idea that all women strive for motherhood is insane. We don't say these things to young men, so it is extremely unfair that women get subjugated to this.

As a cis woman, there were quite a few problems that I didn't personally relate to, as they were trans women only issues. As someone who doesn't have personal experience with being transgender, I learnt a lot about the awful things that trans women have to endure, and although transgender people are now visible in the media, it was interesting learning about Juno's personal experiences, and the awful transphobia she has endured. Transgender people, especially those who do not “pass” are often cruelly ridiculed and seen as a joke. This is awful and unacceptable behaviour, and I can only imagine how awful Juno and other transgender people must feel when this happens.

Although Juno had some very valid opinions, and I agreed with her opinions on the majority of the issues she brought up, there was one thing that was briefly mentioned that I felt was going a little too far. Although, like Juno, I am not a parent and therefore my opinions on parenting are no more or less valid than hers, I disagreed with her view that expecting parents shouldn't tell people the sex of their baby. Although I think “gender reveal” parties are ridiculous, I understand that expecting parents would be excited to share the babies sex, as it is the only information they have about their unborn child. I think this is a personal preference for each parent, and just because a parent decides to share what the babies sex is, it doesn't make them a bad person that's conforming to gender roles and forcing a gender on the baby. As Juno explained, sex and gender are two different things. Babies have no idea what gender is, and it's not going to matter to the baby if their parents dress them in pink, blue or yellow. It clearly is important to teach people that sex and gender don't always co-exist, and to not tell children they have to play with gender specific toys, but I feel as if it's unfair to take the excitement of revealing their babies sex away from a parent if it's what they want to do.

Juno makes some extremely good and valid points on subjects such as feminism, gender inequality, race and the LGBTQ community. This book definitely makes you read it with an open mind and see things from her point of view. I think this book has the potential to change opinions, but unfortunately I feel as if the majority of people who buy this book will already have the same views as Juno, and ultimately lead to her preaching to the already converted. Juno doesn't need to convince young women that being a feminist is good, they already know that. The vast majority of the people who are causing these problems, who are labelling us “feminazis”, whores and sluts, are the exact people that this book is not marketed towards, white, cisgender, heterosexual men. The sad truth is that we can't even say the word feminism on twitter without getting bombarded with tweets by men mansplaining how gender inequality doesn't exist. If we are ever to achieve gender equality, it's men like these who we must teach to have less shitty opinions.

Despite tending to avoid non fiction, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a real eye opener into Juno's life as a transgender woman, and all the shit that transgender people have to go through so that they can live their lives in a body that they feel comfortable in, and how we still have a long way to go to stop transphobia. I really admire Juno for sharing such a personal story with us in an attempt to educate us, and ultimately teach us that women, no matter if we're black, white, cis, transgender, straight, heterosexual etc, should come together and support each other.

The Gender Games is now available to purchase!

| Amazon Book Depository 

Juno Dawson will be going on a UK tour! I've already bought my ticket for the Liverpool date and I'm so excited to meet her 😁😁 Here are the dates for anyone who's interested: 

Friday, 26 May 2017

Reviewing the Classics #9 Just So Stories

Goodreads Summary:

Originally told by Rudyard Kipling to his children at bedtime, this compendium of witty tales imagines how animals came to be as they are now. Discover how the massive whale got a tiny throat by swallowing a mariner, how the lazy camel got a hump so that he had no excuse not to work, and why the leopard's spots were painted on.

Kipling's imagination runs wild as he creates charming origin stories that still enchant and delight children to this day. This edition features Kipling's iconic original illustrations

So firstly I'm going to apologise for abandoning my reviewing the classics posts! As I didn't get round to posting one last month, my plan is to post one every month until I'm eventually caught up. This month I decided to go with a children's classic, Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling. I remember loving these stories as a child, and as Alma sent me such a gorgeous copy, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a reread.

Just So Stories are a collection of twelve short stories with a reocurring theme of how an animal got it's distinguishing feature or personality. Each story gives a fictional and creative explanation for each animal, from how the elephant got it's trunk to explaining how the armadillo came into existance. I loved that every story was short enough to read in a few minutes, making them perfect for bedtime stories. I found myself reading a few of them out loud, as they were told in a way that made them perfect for this. I also thought the repetition of certain phrases would be particularly effective in grabbing the attention of the listener.

Although some of the stories are still relevant today, a few things were dated, and unacceptable in the modern world. One thing I had a problem with came up in The Elephant's Child. Children are naturally curious, and learn by asking questions. I felt as if the Elephant's Child being spanked every time he asked a question was a bad message to send out to children. Another problem was that Kipling's political views came into the stories a few times. Although we shouldn't just forgive Kipling for his controversial political views, he lived during a time when his opinions were more accpted than they are today. Racist language is used a couple of times, particularly in How the leopard got his spots. I feel as if we shouldn't stop children from reading and enjoying classics because of issues like this, but we also need to explain how times have changed. I think Alma did the right thing in their edition by no censoring the book, but giving an explanation as to why this racist language is unacceptable.

I found the way female characters were portrayed as being an issue for young children. We already live in a world where men and women are unequal, with all of the female characters being submissive to their husbands, and occasionally even seeming to be afraid of them. Even though The Butterfly that Stamped was meant to be a light hearted joke, it also showed how the male butterfly had power over his wife, and the events were swung in his favour. Although I doubt young children would pick up on this, I felt as if children old enough to read for themselves possibly could.

Even though I don't condone Kipling himself, I do think he was a talented author. These stories reminded me of Aesops' fables, and I think they are perfect for parents to read to their children at bed time, providing the parent takes sensible precautions in how they wish to proceed with the racist words. All of these stories take around ten minutes to read at the most, so they are perfect for young children who have a short attention span.

Just So Stories is now available to purchase!

 Alma Classics  | Amazon Book Depository 

Friday, 19 May 2017

Review on Noah Can't Even

Everything is going wrong in Noah Grimes' life. Everyone at school thinks he's a loser, his dad left home without a word five years ago, and his beloved gran has dementia. However, all is not lost, as Sophie, a pretty, smart and cool girl in Noah's year may just be interested in him! Noah is delighted. That is until his best friend, Harry kisses him at a party, and his whole world falls apart. Is it possible that Noah could like Harry back? Does that mean he's gay? Amidst his feelings for Harry and having to deal with his mum and her new boyfriend, Noah also discovers a family secret that will change his life forever.

I CAN'T EVEN WITH NOAH CAN'T EVEN!! Honestly this is going to be a long rant about how much I adored this book rather than a constructive review, I just loved it so much. If this book was a person I would marry it. But let me attempt to collect my thought to explain why I loved this book so much.

The book follows Noah Grimes, a fifteen year old in his last year at high school. (I realise Noah would hate me for saying high school rather than secondary school. More on that later!) Noah is by no means popular, and is a bit of a geek. When there is a geek boy in a YA novel, they are usually handsome and tall, with a small group of cool and quirky friends. The standard geek boy is smart beyond his years, makes good decisions and ultimately gets the gorgeous popular girl who is way out of his league. Just read any John Green novel and you'll see the type of character I'm describing. Noah, to my delight, was non of these things! I am young enough to remember being Noah's age, and seeing how awkward fifteen year old boys truly are. They are all stumbling their way through life, desperate to fit in and not draw any attention to themselves that could cause bullying. Noah seemed much more real than other characters his age. There are far too many unrealistic fictional teenage boys with washboard abs and a vocabulary of a thirty year old. I don't know how these boys are affording a gym membership and attending regularly despite school, homework and having a social life, and I don't think Noah does either. I immediately adored Noah, and found him to be extremely relatable.

One thing that made me love this book was how hilarious it was. Noah was constantly getting himself into awkward situations, and then proceeding to make them worse by trying to explain himself. I was constantly laughing out loud at this book, and it's probably for the best that I never read any of it in public, as I'm sure I would have earned myself some very strange looks! I did however also feel sorry for Noah, and the secondary embarrassment was very real to the point I had to put the book down on one occasion, as Noah was just digging his own grave. I adored how awkward Noah was, and I related to him making situations far more complicated than they needed to be.

One character who I just have to talk about is Noah's gran. I also had a gran with dementia, and it was heartbreaking to see her deteriate to the point whre she no longer recognised me, and, like Noah's gran, didn't realise that her husband had died. I completely understood how Noah felt, as it's awful having to watch someone you love losing their memories. I adored Noah's gran, and when she had moments where she seemed to come back to her old self, she gave Noah some good advice. I loved her reaction to Noah telling her about Harry kissing him. I feel as if old people generally seem to be less open minded, so I adored that Noah's gran was completely accepting, and reacted no differently than if Noah had told her that a girl had kissed him. We clearly need more grandparents who are as amazing as Noah's gran in the world!

So speaking of Harry, I have to talk a little about him, and his relationship with Noah. One thing that I adore in YA fiction is when characters who have been best friends since they were little develop romantic feelings for each other. I felt as if the romance between Noah and Harry was executed perfectly! Sexuality can be a confusing thing when you're young. The fact that being heterosexual seems to be the default setting of humans can be confusing for LGBT teenagers, and I felt as if this was defintely a contributing factor for Noah. Although Harry comes out and admits to Noah that he is gay, it's not so easy for Noah to do the same. Everyone discovers their sexuality at a different pace, and this was shown perfectly with the two boys. Noah feels as if he should be attracted to girls not boys, and tries to convince himself that he has romantic feelings for Sophie. Although it is clear to the reader and to Noah's friends that Noah has feelings for Harry, Noah seems to be in denial for a good portion of the book. Sadly I felt as if a big part of this was down to his classmates. Teenagers can be cruel to anyone who is different in an attempt to avoid getting bullied themselves. As Noah spends quite a bit of time trying to fit in, I could see his reasoning behind hiding his true feelings for Harry. Coming out while still in school can be a huge ordeal. A few of my school friends didn't come out until after they had left school, so even though I was rooting for him to tell Harry how he felt, I also saw the situation from his point of view.

One thing that I want to briefly mention is the setting. I adore when YA book are set in Britain, and Noah was very much typically British. One thing that made me laugh was Noah constantly being angry at people for using American dialect. There is no denying that American culture has become a big part of Britain. We consume American movies and TV shows constantly, so there is no surprise that we have also picked up on the words they use. I am very much like Noah in that I often prefer to use British words, despite constantly confusing my American friends,and I found it to be one of Noah's many endearing qualities.

If I was forced to say something that could be seen as negative about this book, it would probably be how unrealistic the plot is. Now let me point out that this didn't personally bother me. Although this is a contemporary book, it is also a comedy, and it just wouldn't have been so funny without all the ridiculous things that happened. However, if you are going into this book expecting it to be realistic, just be warned that it's not. Quite a bit of the plot is pretty ridiculous, over the top and unbelievable. For example, Noah being just about to get on a bus that his dad was getting off was just too much to be a coincidence. However, all the utterly ridiculous things that were happening to Noah simultaneously just added to the charm and humour of the book for me.

This is a fantastic coming of age story that deals with sexuality perfectly, while adding a very accurate interpretation of what it's like to be a teenager. It definitely doesn't shy away from the more awkward and embarrassing aspects of teenage life. I am so happy that I picked up this book, as after falling into a reading slump, it reminded me why I love reading so much!

Noah Can't Even is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Friday, 12 May 2017

Book Club Picks #6 No Virgin

 “My name is Stacey Woods and I was raped.”

After Stacey becomes a rape victim, she is reluctant to go to the police to press charges. Her best friend, Patrice, convinces Stacey to write down what happened to her, and tries to convince her that it wasn't her fault. However, Stacey would prefer to act as if it didn't happen, and forget about it. Will the knowledge that she may not have been her rapists first victim change her mind?

When this book was chosen as our November book club read, I was initially a little sceptical. Reading YA contemporary books about serious topics is always a little hit or miss with me, and writing a book about such a serious topic as rape means it needs to be executed perfectly. The book opens with Stacey informing the reader that she was raped, and that her best friend has told her that she should write down what happened to her. As Stacey is reluctant to talk about her ordeal, I thought this was a clever way for Stacey to tell her story.

The book is split into two parts. The first half focuses on the lead up to Stacey being raped, while the second half deals with the aftermath. Although this is a short book that could easily be read in one sitting, I felt as if the first half of the book dragged on for a little too long. I found Stacey to be quite whiny, as she made a big deal over little things such as her sister going into her room, and her best friend spending time with a different friend. The fact that Stacey left home at all seemed a little extreme, as although there are some small problems in her family, it is by no means a terrible family. It is clear that Stacey's family care about her, as they are constantly texting her to make sure she is safe, and I felt as if Stacey didn't appreciate them at all.

Stacey soon meets Harry Connaught, a boy who decides to strike up a conversation with her in a cafe. Although Harry initially seems like a sweet boy, there are little hints throughout the book that his sweet gestures may have a hidden meaning. Stacey is extremely naive, and accepts Harry's offers of expensive gifts and allowing her to speak to an acquaintance he knows who works in the fashion industry. I felt as if I would have been questioning Harry's intentions if I had been in Stacey's position, as although Harry is obviously wealthy, I found it strange how he was being so kind to a girl he had know for around eight hours. However, there were a couple of moments that completely threw me, and at several points I was expecting there to be a huge plot twist where Harry wasn't actually involved in the rape. I felt as if it was important to show that rapists come in all shapes and sizes, and just because someone seems sweet doesn't automatically mean that they have good intentions.

The warning signs started flashing for me when Harry invited Stacey to stay the night at his brothers friends apartment, and although I knew how this would end, I was willing Stacey to go back home instead. I felt as if Stacey was careless in not telling anyone where she was, and should have at least let Patrice know. Although the most important thing is of course to teach men not to rape, the sad truth is that women have to take precautions to try to avoid getting into a position where they become an easy target to a rapist.

The victim blaming that happened in this book was awful, and I was extremely angry at Stacey's rapist for the awful things he said to her. He was extremely manipulative, telling her that it had just been a misunderstanding, and even threatening her when he started to worry that she would go to the police. It was awful when Stacey started to believe that it had been a misunderstanding, and started to blame herself. We see victim blaming all the time, with rape victims getting asked questions such as what they were wearing and getting told that they were asking for it. No matter the circumstances, the victim should never be blamed, and I was g lad that Stacey finally came to terms with that.

One thing that I felt should have been included in this book was the aftermath of Stacey coming forward about what happened to her. Although there was a big build up to her rape, we never find out if Stacey decides to tell the police, or if the rapist gets away with it. I think it is important that rape victims come forward about what happened to them, and although Stacey does call a helpline, I would have loved for the book to have gone even further to the court case, and having Stacey's rapist sentenced. Rape is a terrible and unforgivable crime, and I would have loved to have seen the rapist brought to justice. Although I have read other books that deal with rape, I have never read one that goes on to legally charge the rapist.

Although rape is an upsetting topic, it is also an important one which should be talked about. I felt as if Anne Cassidy dealt with the topic perfectly, and although it wasn't really the ending I was hoping for, I was glad that Stacey was finally able to open up about what had happened to her, and realised that she wasn't to blame.

Edit: I only found out after writing this review that Anne Cassidy is writing a sequel to this book that actually takes on the court case! As I ranted about this quite a lot in my review, I just wanted to acknowledge this here. I will definitely be reading the sequel when it comes out!

No Virgin is now available to purchase!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Blogging on a Budget

We've all seen them, the popular bloggers and booktubers who we look up to posting monthly book hauls. How do they do it? How can we ever be like them? Unfortunately it just isn't a reality for a lot of us lesser known bloggers. We don't get a constant stream of book mail from publishers, and we just don't have a spare £50 to spend on books every month. But don't despair, those book hauls can still be a reality! Although I can't give you advice on how to get hold of the latest shiny new ARC's, I can share my experiences of running a book blog for the past five years on little to no money!
Charity Shops
So one of the main places I get my books from are charity shops! For the past three years, I have been volunteering at my local Cancer Research charity shop, and although it is one of your generic charity shops that mostly sells clothes and bric-a-brac, it does also have a small selection of books. Every time I volunteer, I go and look at the the bookshelves to see if anything catches my eye! As I get a staff discount, I frequently get books for extremely cheap prices, but even without the discount, the majority of our paperbacks are under £2, which is about a quarter of the price that you would pay for the same book in a book shop! Now I know that when you think of second hand books, you're probably thinking of bent spines and ripped pages, but I've found that this is rarely the case. Although the books might have a few creases in the spine, quite a lot of them are in great condition! Charity shops will rarely put books out if they're in a terrible condition, and I've sadly had to recycle a few books that were donated that just weren't in a condition that they could be sold. Generous people are constantly donating books, so even if you've visited your local charity shop and found nothing that interests you, it's always worth visiting every so often. Charity shops are everywhere, so it's very likely there will be at least one or two in your town! If you live in one of the bigger cities in the UK, there are a few Oxfam Bookshops. That's right, charity shops that are completely dedicated to books!


So this one is probably a no brainer, but it's also a great option, particularly if you're looking for a certain book. Although charity shops are great, they're rarely any good if you're looking for a specific book. The truth is that new releases can be expensive, particularly in the case that some books are published in hardback months before the paperbacks are released. Paying £10 for a hardback just isn't realistic for some of us. But how are we meant to read that new book that all our blogger friends are talking about when we can't afford to buy it? Well that's where libraries come in! Libraries are constantly updating their stock, and will often buy more copies of the same book once they realise that it's popular. Although you sadly can't keep the book, library loans are usually for a period of
three weeks, which should give you plenty of time to read it and take aesthetic instagram pictures! Of course, libraries often allow you to renew books as long as no one else has requested it. If you discover that your library doesn't have the book you're looking for, it's often worth asking the librarian if they could order a copy in. With new releases, libraries are sometimes unaware of how popular a book will be, and either don't order any copies, or only order a  single copy. Making your librarian aware of the situation will actually improve the service, and you'll be doing other readers a favour by requesting a book! When I was reading The Raven Cycle series, I was devastated to discover my library didn't have any copies of The Raven King. However, after sending a couple of emails, I was happily holding a brand new copy in my hands, and the best thing was I didn't have to pay a penny! Libraries will usually let you loan ten books or more, so start reserving those books and do your very own book haul!

Online Book Stores and Supermarkets

Although this isn't the perfect option, you'll often find that shopping on websites like Amazon and The Book Depository will give you a better deal on books. Going into your local Waterstones will end with you paying full retail price for a book, but shopping online will often get you a bit of a discount. There are currently a few YA books on Amazon that cost £4 or less, which would probably cost £7 or more from high street book stores. However the one downside to Amazon is that you have to pay for postage unless you buy £10 worth of books. My personal recommendation would be The Book Depository. The prices are usually around the same as Amazon, and best of all, postage is free to all countries! The books also come with some pretty adorable bookmarks that you can colour in yourself!

Price comparison. Waterstones and Book Depo

Another great option is Supermarkets. Although the range of books available will obviously be a lot more limited to high street book stores, Supermarkets often stock books that are currently popular. If you're looking for a lesser known author, then Supermarkets probably won't be the best place to look, but if you're looking to buy a new copy of The Fault in Our Stars because you've dissolved your current copy with your tears, then check out your local Tesco or Asda (Or possibly Walmart for my American friends!)

There are also a few discount book shops, such as The Works, or independently owned shops. If you are looking to buy a popular box set such as The Mortal Instruments or A Song of Ice and Fire, then I would definitely recommend The Works.

Authors and Publishers

I know it seems daunting, but don't be afraid to contact publishers! The worst thing that can happen is that they say no, and then at least you've tried. Most publishers will have contact information on their website on how to get in touch regarding proof copies, so don't be scared to get in touch! Although I'm clearly not an expert on getting proof copies, and have been rejected more times than I care to remember, my advice would be not to ask to be on their mailing list straight away. On a couple of occasions after requesting some books, the publisher has actually approached me to ask if I want to be on their mailing list. Even if this doesn't happen, if you are consistent with your reviews, publishers are more likely to want to work with you again.

If you're quite new to the blogging world, then my advice is to get yourselves out there! There are quite a few websites where you can advertise your blog to publishers and authors, but the one I would recommend is Tweet your Books. It's completely free to sign up, and it allows authors and publishers to easily find you. I get authors emailing me quite frequently requesting reviews, and telling me that this is where they found my blog. Working your way up is a must. Creating a blog and then requesting a book from Penguin on the same day just isn't going to work. Start out by accepting reviews from self published authors, or try to work with smaller publishing companies. There are some bloggers who turn their noses up at self published books, but let me tell you that some of the self published books that I've read are better than books I've read by big publishers! Don't automatically dismiss a book just because it's self published, as you could just find yourself a hidden gem!

Ebooks are your friends!

I know we all prefer to have a good paperback in our hands, but think of all the books you could read by turning to ebooks! Services like Netgalley are a wonderful place to get free ebooks, and you just might get yourself a popular ARC! Publishers are a lot more lenient when it comes to handing out ebooks, so just because a publisher rejected you for a physical copy of a book you're desperate to read, they may just accept you if you request a galley. I know if, like me, you adore physical books, but isn't it better to read an ebook than not get to read the book at all?  I'm personally always using
Netgalley, and I know I wouldn't get to read so many amazing books without it, so I'm extremely thankful that it exists! The one downside to Netgalley is the Feedback Ratio. Basically your ratio goes down with each book that you request, so requesting multiple books at one time becomes increasingly difficult until you start posting reviews. Although I do understand they do this to try to guarantee reviews, it is a little annoying when you want to pile up a few books before they disappear off the website.

On the topic of ebooks, there are so many ebooks on Amazon that you can download for free! This is especially great if you enjoy classics, as many classics are now in the public domain. This means that you can get plenty of great classics downloaded straight to your kindle for free! I've taken advantage

of this multiple times, as I have a segment on my blog where I review classics. Even if classics aren't your thing, there's still plenty of free ebooks out there. Ebooks can also be a lot cheaper than physical books, so before you dismiss a book as being too expensive, make sure you check out the price of the ebook first.

As I mentioned earlier, getting physical books for free can be freaking hard! Especially if you are a new blogger, it's going to be almost impossible for you to get enough free physical books to maintain your blog. However, even when I was just starting out, I would get requests from self published authors asking me if I would review their ebook. Obviously you should only accept these requests if the book interests you, but if you only accept physical books, then blogging is going to be a real struggle for you! Self published authors often don't have the funds to send you a physical copy, so unless they specifically ask you if you want a physical copy, please don't ask them for one! I personally love helping self published authors get noticed. Although we all love joining in with talking about the latest books on the New York Times bestseller list, these authors never truly need you to join in with the promotion. Their marketing team is extremely good, that one blogger with nine thousand twitter followers is talking about it, and they're currently on a tour. Meanwhile, a review on a book by a self published author could make a huge difference to them, and they will be extremely grateful, while the author with one of the big publishers won't even notice that you've wrote a review! One thing that I love the most about blogging is seeing how happy and grateful authors are when they read a positive review from me, and that is something I only ever see from either self published authors, or authors with a smaller publishing company. I love when authors come back to me again and again, excited to share their new book with me! 

One thing that I can't stress enough is not to start a blog simply because it will get you free books. It won't work out as well as you think it will. When I started blogging, I was completely clueless. The reason I started my blog was because as a child, I was weirdly obsessed with writing book reviews. In year 4, we would have our own little notebook to use to review books, and where the other kids would write a simple sentence, I would write a whole paragraph on why I loved the book! Reviewing books is just something that's always been enjoyable to me, and I honestly didn't even realise it was possible to receive books from authors and publishers for free in exchange for a review! I'm honestly still completely baffled as to why anyone cares about my opinion, and I'm so grateful for each and every book I receive. Basically if you don't enjoy writing blog posts, don't do it! It's only too easy to tell when someone is passionate about what they do, and those who are doing it for free things.

Giveaways and Competitions

So this is the least definite way to get books, but I just thought I would tag it on the end, as I have actually been lucky enough to win a few giveaways over the years! If you follow enough book bloggers on twitter, you will constantly be coming across amazing giveaways! Publishers will also
occasionally do giveaways, so make sure you're following as many as you can. One that I would like to recommend is @MaximumPopBooks, who are constantly doing amazing giveaways for YA books. They will often do giveaways for 10 of the same book at a time, giving you more of a chance to win. I've won quite a few books from them over the years, including a pile of six books, Yes six! A lot of giveaways only require you to retweet the post, so get entering!

I hope this post has been somewhat helpful to some of you! I'd also just like to say that you should never feel bad for not being able to afford to buy a book at full price. I unfortunately saw a popular blogger telling people that they should buy books at full price to help the author. However, I have seen many authors advertising their books while they are on sale, so I honestly don't think authors mind too much if you happen to find their books at a bargain price! When it comes down to it, your quality of life and being able to buy necessities is a lot more important than owning the latest best seller. I also find that bloggers who do their own thing instead of following the crowd are more interesting, so don't feel pressured to buy books just because everyone else is reading it!

 If you have any other ideas on how to blog on a budget, then please feel free to leave a comment!