Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Review: Love At First Fight by Sandhya Menon

Set between the second and third books in Sandhya Menon's When Dimple Met Rishi trilogy, this is a delightful e-novella showing the continuing love stories between the couples introduced in When Dimple Met Rishi and There’s Something About Sweetie, and the first tentative sparks flying between the lead characters of Ten Things I Hate About Pinky.

The Patel brothers, Rishi and Ashish, are heading to a Valentine's Day escape room along with Rishi's fiancee Dimple and Ashish's girlfriend Sweetie, but bump into two of Ash's friends, Pinky Kumar and Samir Jha, on the way. Both get invited to join them and when they're split into pairs in the romance-themed room, as the only two not in a couple, they end up working together. Can they put aside their mutual annoyance with each other to help the group succeed?

I read this slightly after Ten Things I Hate About Pinky, so already really loved Pinky and Samir, in particular, but it was great to be reunited with all six of Menon's fantastic characters here. I love the solidarity between Dimple and Pinky - two people whose approach to Valentine's Day is wonderfully Scrooge-like - while it's great that both Patel brothers are in loving relationships. Menon writes incredible chemistry between couples and the three pairings here show off her skill in doing that, with each duo's interactions being charming but completely different.

The escape room was a really fun setting and I loved that we got to see the actual clues given, and how they solved things, although have to admit that I would NOT have got any of the trivia questions which held the key to the answers - I was very glad not to be in their position!

For people who can't get enough of Sandhya Menon's delightful contemporaries, this is a must read. If you're new to her writing, it's a great way to sample it and I'm confident you'll quickly want to read all three novels.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Review: All About Us by Tom Ellen


I'm a huge fan of Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison's YA books, Lobsters, Never Evers and Freshers, so have been excited to see what their solo debuts are like. I definitely wasn't disappointed by All About Us, a warm-hearted spin on A Christmas Carol which has all the fantastic humour I've come to expect from Tom.

Ben, in his 30s and feeling trapped by the relationship he's been in since university, is starting to think he made the wrong choice all those years ago. Alice - an old friend from before he met his wife Daphne - has come back into his life, and seems to want more than just friendship. Could she be the one for him? What would have happened if they'd got together all those years ago? An encounter with a mysterious man who gives him a watch which somehow catapults him back to the night he first kissed Daphne lets him see how his life could have turned out differently. 

I love the way this takes aim at toxic masculinity, but also at the way in which many men don't feel they can open up to friends, even their closest ones, about anything more meaningful than random facts or trivia questions. There's a stunning line "I guess women see their friends as profound, complex human beings, while men see theirs as walking quiz machines." This touched a real chord with me - over the course of my life I've had a couple of male friends I can open up to, but it's been far harder talking about my feelings to them than to my female or non-binary friends, and I think there's still a huge societal expectation that guys DON'T talk about important stuff anywhere near as much as they need to. That's not to say it's heavy-going, though - Ellen has a lightness of touch which brought a smile to my face even at the most serious moments, helped by engaging characters. It's easy to like Daphne, Ben's mum, and the mysterious man who sets this all off for Ben, while I had a lot of sympathy for Ben himself, who has many faults but, throughout the course of the book, realises some of these flaws and takes steps to deal with them.

As things move on, the book builds to a deeply satisfying ending which shows the importance of working for what you want, of communication, and of being honest with yourself.

Friday, 23 October 2020

Quiz: TV Tropes YA Novels

TVTropes is one of my favourite sites (except I have to ration my time on it or I'll lose entire days/weeks) because I LOVE well-done tropes. I wanted to give this a try - match the YA novel to 3 of the tropes listed for it on TVTropes. I tried to go for some of the better known ones, although I haven't read all of the books. Would be great to get feedback if anyone wants to share theirs!


Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Books Read In September

So I meant to post this earlier in the month, but my new-found love of constructing crosswords, and the general time taken settling in to a new country, getting my social security number (which finally arrived, yay!) etc has left me with less time to write stuff. Finally getting around to it, though!

This is hopefully the first in a monthly series looking back at some of the things I’ve been reading. It’s not meant to be a comprehensive list of everything (although once I hit a reading slump and only get through 2 or 3 books a month it probably will be!), more musings about stuff I’ve enjoyed, repeating themes I’ve noticed, etc.

The big discovery of September for me was audiobooks! I’ve tried listening to them before but I’m INCREDIBLY bad at focusing when there’s anything to distract me. However I’ve started playing them while running and I listened to Queerleaders and Blood Moon that way, and really enjoyed both. (Also, literally as I was typing that, my Adidas app sent me a notification basically saying “Do you even still run?! Okay, I should get back to it soon.)


Queerleaders is a really fun read, despite dealing with some pretty aggressive homophobia. Lead character Mac gets forcibly outed at her Catholic school, bets the quarterback she can steal the cheerleaders who the football team are dating, and hilarity ensues in a late-90s romcom style. Full review here, but in short a strong recommendation for a great read with a heartwarming ending, brought brilliantly to life by narrator Chloe Cannon. In addition to the cheerleaders and Mac herself being great characters, I loved Mac's friendship with Lila, which took a hit as Lila (justifiably) got annoyed with Mac for spending so much time going after the cheerleaders and not being there enough for her oldest friend.


I also really enjoyed Blood Moon, Lucy Cuthew’s verse novel, narrated by Harrie Dobby. It’s a contemporary novel about Frankie, who gets her period during her first sexual experience with a boy. While they both laugh about it fairly quickly, agreeing “It’s only blood”, somehow what happened gets out and quickly becomes a meme. This is a really thoughtful contemporary looking at online shaming, friendship issues, and trying to figure out who to trust. All the main characters - Frankie, best friend Harriet and love interest Benjamin - were vividly portrayed, and while some of Harriet’s decisions caused me to wince just as badly as Harriet did, they felt like realistically terrible ones for a teen girl to make. Lucy was the first author to take part in my revamped 5-4-3-2-1 feature, which you can check out here.


One of the things I really loved about both these books is how supportive the teens’ families are of them - Mac’s mom and dad are behind her all the way, while Frankie’s parents are devastated when they find out what’s been going on, but are quick to make sure she knows that she’s got nothing to be sorry for. I also really loved the strong family ties in Ashley Woodfolk’s hard-hitting but wonderful The Beauty That Remains. Full review here, again, but one of the things I really liked was the way in which Shay has to try and rebuild her relationship with her mom in the wake of her twin sister’s death after a long illness. All three MCs are superb here but of the three characters dealing with the deaths of friends or family I think it’s perhaps Shay’s story that has stayed with me the most.

 
Of course, not all parents are supportive, and it’s really interesting seeing portrayals of teens at odds with their families, especially when those family members are as well-drawn as some of the ones I read last month were. Ten Things I Hate About Pinky, the third in the Sandhya Menon series of companion novels which started with When Dimple Met Rishi, is a stand-out here. Pinky - a proud social justice warrior - is often at odds with her lawyer mom, so decides to impress her family by introducing them to her polite, well-mannered and charming boyfriend. She doesn’t actually HAVE one, but this is a minor drawback, because she knows the perfect person for a fake relationship - Samir, who’s keen to be a lawyer and has just had a prestigious internship fall through. He can impress her mom and win a future place as an intern for her, Pinky can enjoy her family seeing her as a responsible person - what could go wrong? 

It’s a fake-romance, so it’s almost certainly incredibly obvious what can, and does, go wrong, but reading these two opposites fall for each other is a delight. Menon is one of my favourite current contemporary authors and she excels at flirting, awkward encounters, and great dialogue. As good as the romance is, though, Pinky’s commitment to activism - trying to save the butterfly habitat holding so many good memories for her - and the way this brings her into conflict with her mom, but also leads to her finding out more about her mom’s past - is even better. Throw in bonus points for a super-cute opossum, and this is a superb read.


Another book about a real conflict between parents and child is Natalia Sylvester’s Running. Mariana is a Cuban-American girl who adores her father, Senator Anthony Ruiz, but is starting to feel overwhelmed by the amount of attention his presidential campaign is bringing to her. When she starts to find out more about his policy positions, and fall in with a group of people who are deeply opposed to them, she’s left in a difficult position. Can she be true to herself despite parental pressure? And does her mom agree with all of her dad’s actions? This is a really thought-provoking book which looks at Natalia’s political awakening and her father’s problems dealing with that while he’s also in the middle of the most important period of his career. I thought the friendship group was excellent and Natalia herself is a very well-written MC.


And then, with perhaps the bitterest of all the clashes, there’s Pen and her family in Girl Mans Up by ME Girard. This has been one I’ve been meaning to read for years, but somehow never got around to. It was absolutely worth the wait, and I’m kicking myself for not getting around to it sooner. Pen is a butch lesbian whose closest friends are all boys, including Colby, who she often plays wingman for. But when Blake, Colby’s next target, is interested not in him but in Pen herself, and Pen also befriends Olivia, who he had a brief fling with, she sees a different side to the guy. This is fairly heavy - dealing with toxic masculinity, family expectations, and other tough themes - but it’s a really good read. I loved the relationships between Pen and Blake, and between Pen and her older brother, the only member of her family who’s supportive of her.


For slightly different family issues, This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams was a fantastic read. Full review here, but in summary it’s about a Cuban ballet dancer and Dominican baseball player who fall for each other after several meet-cutes on the subway. There’s lots to like here - including really thoughtful takes on how dark-skinned Alex suffers from racism to a far greater extent than Isa, a white-passing Latino girl - but one thing I found really beautifully portrayed was the love between Isa and her family, despite the bipolar disorder which affects both her brother and her mother. 


And speaking of great chemistry, perhaps my favourite of the month (although looking at the above books there were a LOT to choose from) was that of Evie and Milo in Kristina Forest’s Now That I've Found You. An unlikely pairing, Evie is a rising film star who makes a silly mistake which costs her a huge part, and Milo is a young friend of her grandmother’s (also a film star, and a reclusive legend) who helps Evie search for her when she goes missing. Again, full review here, but I love Evie’s character development - despite the short space of time which the novel takes place over - and the way in which the pair’s relationship moves from irritation to romance. It also builds up to an absolutely outstanding last page, with a quote at the end which had me grinning hugely.

How about you? Any fabulous recent reads you'd recommend to me? Does anything mentioned above particularly appeal to you? I'd love to know! Leave me a comment or message me at @yayeahyeah on Twitter!

Monday, 19 October 2020

Farrah Rochon Crossword

I've become a big fan of romance over the last year or two, and Farrah Rochon is my absolute favourite author in the genre! From The Boyfriend Project, her recent office romance about a woman who's just dumped someone and is going viral for it and a guy who's the new hire with a big secret, to her series about the inhabitants of small Louisiana town Gauthier (which I can't name as it's the answer to 25 across!), she never fails to deliver on wonderful characters, fabulous chemistry, and brilliant plots. 

This crossword includes about 20 questions looking at a variety of her books. The idea is that even if you haven't read her yet, the general knowledge stuff here should give you a chance at working other stuff out - and hopefully it may tempt you into trying her fantastic books.

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Book Review: This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Williams

This Train Is Being Held follows Isa, a Cuban ballet dancer whose life is falling apart, and Alex, a Dominican baseball player, with the potential to surpass his father's short career in MLB, but a burning dream to write poetry. After a couple of subway meet-cutes, the pair fall for each other, but can their new love survive their family problems, and their different cultures?

I was expecting a fairly light read here and got so much more than that! This is a very good romance with two likeable POV characters whose chemistry is excellent, but it also looks at some deep themes. In particular, Isa's mother and her brother both have mental health issues, while her father loses his job in the course of the book, Alex faces racism and sees one of his friends get dragged into a gang, while white-passing Isa doesn't have to deal with this kind of thing, and there's several clashes between what the MCs want and what their parents expect. Alex's father had a very short professional career and he's desperate to see his talented son succeed to a far greater degree than he ever did, while being constantly hard on Alex's younger brother who doesn't have the same amount of skill at baseball. Isa's mother, in particular, has views on her daughter's future which definitely don't include a career as a ballet dancer, or a Latino boyfriend.

As much as I enjoyed the central relationship, particularly the way Isa encourages Alex to follow his poetic dreams, it's perhaps the skilled way in which these heavier issues are dealt with which made this such a truly fantastic read for me. The portrayal of Isa's mother and brother feels really nuanced and brings home the difficulties of living with someone with bipolar disorder. The novel is also at its best when dealing with racism, especially in a scene when Alex's papi loses his temper with his younger son as they play baseball, and the police get involved.

Massively recommended as one of the most compelling contemporary books of the year so far for me.

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

Grishaverse Crossword

 As a huge fan of Leigh Bardugo's Grishaverse books, I'm thrilled to be posting a crossword about them! This is based mostly on the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology, with one question from King of Scars, and a few around casting for the upcoming Shadow and Bone series on Netflix (which I'm super-excited about.) 

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

5-4-3-2-1: Harrow Lake Author Kat Ellis

 


Thrilled to have another 5-4-3-2-1 today with Kat Ellis, author of the incredibly creepy YA horror novel Harrow Lake, published by Dial Books. 

5

So I've gone from being a big fan of people like John Saul and Richard Laymon as a teen myself, to not reading any horror for ages because I'm so easily scared now. I know there's other great YA horror out there, though - if getting through Harrow Lake (even only reading during daylight hours!) has got me up for more, any recommendations?

*Cracks knuckles* Only 5?? Let’s go.

Good Girls Die First by Kathryn Foxfield – an abandoned pier, ten teens with dark secrets, and a whispering villain picking them off from the shadows… this is Agatha Christie meets Point Horror, bringing both bang up to date for teen readers.

Hold Back the Tide by Melinda Salisbury – in an isolated Scottish village, something lurks deep in the nearby caves… this is like The Village meets The Descent, with Melinda Salisbury’s usual stunning prose, and characters you root for. 

Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich – a gothic horror inspired by the legend of Faust and set in the Welsh mountains, this epic story spans three timelines and ties together the fates of three very different girls.

Uzumaki by Junji Ito – a graphic novel about a Japanese town which has become infected by spirals. One by one, its inhabitants succumb to ever more grisly and twisted (pun absolutely intended) fates.

Last One To Die by Cynthia Murphy – this one comes out in January 2021, but I was lucky enough to read it early. It’s a fabulous thrill-fest set in London, where a Ripper-esque murderer targets girls with a striking resemblance to our main character, Niamh.


4

Harrow Lake is trapped in the past for several reasons, one of which being the tourist industry centred around Nolan Nox's Nightjar, which sounds incredibly spooky. What are your favourite creepy films?

Event Horizon – I’m a huge fan of sci-fi horror, and this one takes the ghost ship trope to the next level! It also stars Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill, which makes it a must-watch. 

Get Out – a young Black man goes to meet the parents of his white girlfriend, and there he finds a small town hiding a monstrous secret. This movie takes the idea behind Stepford Wives and puts a much creepier, racially-themed spin on it.

Jennifer’s Body – Jennifer is murdered by a fame-seeking indie band, but the ritual sacrifice goes wrong, instead leaving her possessed by a demon and feeding on men to stay alive.

The Babadook – an Australian widow is worried when her son begins displaying violent behaviour, becoming convinced the monster from his picture book is real. This one is smart, and deals with themes of anxiety/depression as well as providing plenty of scares.


3

I love weird small-town settings and Harrow Lake is one of the weirdest of them all! Seeming to be perpetually stuck in the past, with mysterious disappearances happening, it's great to read about but it's definitely not somewhere I'd like to stay. Which small towns are the ones you'd least like to spend a night in?

Derry from It by Stephen King-- especially if it was coming up to 27 years from the last Pennywise appearance! (I’ve never been a fan of storm drains.)

Twin Peaks – despite its damn fine coffee and cherry pie, there’s way too much weirdness in Twin Peaks for me to spend a night there. 

Blackfin from Blackfin Sky/The Twins of Blackfin by me! It’s not cheating to say another creepy town I created, is it?? Because all kind of strange shenanigans happen in Blackfin: girls return from the dead, eerie voices summon sleepwalkers from their beds, circus bells chime deep in the woods, and the weathervane on the school roof is haunted. (Yes, I definitely have a thing for small-town creepiness.)


2

As I mentioned at least once on Twitter, Harrow Lake took me substantially longer than most books to read because I didn't dare pick it up once it was dark out - it's truly chilling! Can you think of any times you've been especially scared at night, either as a result of what you'd been reading/watching or due to things happening?

I have occasional bouts of sleep paralysis, which generally involve having terrifying nightmares where something is coming to get me, and I can’t move or scream or wake myself up. I’m usually nudged awake because I’m making a weird animal sound in my sleep (fun for all involved, I’m sure you’ll agree).

When I was about 8, I also went through a spell where I couldn’t sleep in my own room because a massive spider kept tapping its legs on the wall above my headboard at night. It eventually disappeared without a trace.


1 

One of the things likeliest to give me nightmares is the urban legend (or is it?) of Mr Jitters, who supposedly became a cannibal after a landslide trapped him with a bunch of dead bodies. What’s the urban legend that scares you the most?

I have to give a shout-out to Slender Man here — this legend is pretty new, born on an internet forum in 2009, but the sometimes-tentacled figure in the woods definitely creeped me out when I heard about him! He’s partly responsible for inspiring Mister Jitters, not to mention several books, movies, video games, and a real-life attempted murder in 2014.


Book:

A can't-put-down, creepy thriller about the daughter of a horror film director who's not afraid of anything—until she gets to Harrow Lake.

Things I know about Harrow Lake:
1. It's where my father shot his most disturbing slasher film.
2. There's something not right about this town.

Lola Nox is the daughter of a celebrated horror filmmaker—she thinks nothing can scare her.

But when her father is brutally attacked in their New York apartment, she's quickly packed off to live with a grandmother she's never met in Harrow Lake, the eerie town where her father's most iconic horror movie was shot. The locals are weirdly obsessed with the film that put their town on the map—and there are strange disappearances, which the police seem determined to explain away.

And there's someone—or something—stalking her every move.

The more Lola discovers about the town, the more terrifying it becomes. Because Lola's got secrets of her own. And if she can't find a way out of Harrow Lake, they might just be the death of her.  


Author Bio:     

Kat Ellis is a young adult author whose novels include Blackfin Sky, Breaker, Purge and Harrow Lake. She is a self-proclaimed sci-fi geek, and a keen explorer of ruins, castles and cemeteries – all of which are plentiful in North Wales, where Kat lives with her husband.

You can find out more about Kat at www.katelliswrites.com or connect with her on Twitter @el_kat

Sunday, 11 October 2020

Book Review: Now That I've Found You by Kristina Forest


Now That I've Found You is a gorgeous rom-com following 18-year-old Black teen Evie Jones - who's having the worst few months of her life. The up-and-coming star was set to play the lead in a huge film, but lost the role when her so-called best friend betrayed her. Desperate to make a comeback, she gets an unexpected chance when she's asked to present a lifetime achievement award to Evelyn Conaway, one of the most beloved actresses in America - and Evie's grandmother, Gigi. Things seem to be looking up, right until Gigi suddenly disappears without warning, before Evie can talk to her about another massive opportunity she has, but which Gigi is the key to. Evie launches a frantic hunt around New York for her missing grandmother to try and find her and talk to her before the big ceremony, accompanied, somewhat to her dismay, by a 19-year-old musician who Gigi befriended. As the pair search, Evie learns more about both her grandmother and herself, and starts to think Milo isn't as annoying as she'd first believed.

I picked up an e-book of this from the library mainly on the strength of the gorgeous Kat Goodloe cover, which seemed to promise the kind of cute romance I was really in the mood for - and wow, the contents delivered! This was a 'read in one sitting' book - a fun, breezy contemporary which did a fabulous job of building an antagonists to lovers romance between Evie and Milo. I loved both main characters, and Gigi, who's wonderfully written as Hollywood royalty. I winced massively in the first chapter as Evie records a dumb video because she trusts her friend Simone completely, only to painfully find out this was a bad idea, and from there on I was desperately hoping to see Evie find happiness. She progresses brilliantly as a character, despite the majority of the narrative being set in the course of less than a week, and I thought the chemistry between her and Milo was fabulous. Milo and his bandmates have the kind of friendship which Evie desperately needs and is starting to figure out she never really had with Simone, even though she didn't realise it at the time. 

In addition to the romance, the book explores parental expectations - Milo has the ability to have a real shot at making it big as a musician, but his parents want him to study, while Evie feels that her parents (also famous film-makers) are disappointed with her for making such a big mistake - and forgiveness, with a surprisingly touching confrontation between Evie and Simone, while Gigi has her own issues with her three-time ex-husband, who she's been furious with for years. 

The quest to find Gigi builds up to a completely delightful ending, with one of the best last pages I've read in ages, which left me with a huge grin on my face as I read the final few lines of dialogue. Massively recommended, particularly to fans of rom-coms.

Friday, 9 October 2020

Book Review - Queerleaders by ML Guel, narrated by Chloe Cannon

Queerleaders tells the story of Mack, a teenage girl at a Catholic high school who's crushing hard on head cheerleader Veronica. Outed against her will by Veronica's jackass boyfriend, Mack finds herself claiming she'll pay back the jocks who bully her for her sexuality by stealing all of their girlfriends. Despite the help of her best friend Lila and her parents, it seems a tall order, but a few of the cheerleaders are interested for various reasons - will she succeed? And could she find love on the way?

I've never managed to listen to an audiobook in full before this one - I have major attention span issues and have never been able to focus on one. I've just taken up running/jogging/fast walking, though, and decided to give this a try. The combination of MB Guel's writing and Chloe Cannon's narration worked perfectly together to create a fun read which totally captured my attention. Guel's novel is reminiscent of 90s teen rom-coms like She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You, although an interesting twist is added with all of the cheerleaders seeming to be well aware of the bet. 

There's a ton of homophobia here, with the school authorities being fervently against same-sex relationships, and most of the students initially seeming to go along with this, but as long as you can get past that then it's an upbeat read with a truly joyful ending (at a prom, just like so many classic teenage movies have!) On the way to that wonderful climax, we get a really sweet novel focusing on not just Mack's quest to get the cheerleaders to kiss her, but also the friendship between her and Lila. Mack and Lila are one of my favourite parts of the book, with Lila initially being supportive but quickly (and justifiably!) getting irate as Mack starts to ignore her as she's so focused on the bet, and the heady sensation of being popular. 

The main cheerleaders who Mack gets involved with are also good characters, and Cannon's different voices do a great job of capturing their distinct personalities. Special mention has to go to Mack's mom and dad, too - the scene where she officially comes out to them is both hilarious and super-sweet, and I loved seeing how much they cared about her and supported her. 

In addition to the romance, I loved the focus on a couple of friendships, and the way the book looked at different people's expectations of teens - ranging from the heteronormativity of the school as a whole, to the way in which characters are put into boxes by different people, even when they may have surprising aspects to them.

A really good read and I'm looking forward to more from both this talented author and this awesome narrator!

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

YA Quiz - October US Releases

Figured I'd give something a go - this is a quiz based on October YA releases in the US. Everything is taken from the summaries to the books, so a) there shouldn't be any spoilers, and b) it should be doable without having read any of them. Would love to hear how you got on/any feedback; post a comment or tag me on Twitter where I'm @yayeahyeah!


Tuesday, 6 October 2020

YA Books American-Style Crossword - October Releases And Others

There are a huge amount of awesome books coming out in the US this month! I mentioned some I'm especially looking forward to a few days ago, but I also wanted to fit as many as I could into a crossword...

Unlike the previous one I wrote, this is a US-style crossword, which means there are far more connections between answers - in fact, every letter appears in two answers, so you can technically complete it just by doing all of the across OR all of the down clues! 

There are numerous books in here - I've tried to add in something about their release date UNLESS they're out this month, so anything where there's no specific release date mentioned should be out either today or in the next three weeks.

Would love to hear what people think; leave me a comment or @ me on Twitter!


Monday, 5 October 2020

5-4-3-2-1: 'Blood Moon' Author Lucy Cuthew

I'm thrilled to be bringing the return of a feature I originated on the Teens on Moon Lane book blog I used to run, 5-4-3-2-1! In this feature, I catch up with an author, give them a choice of questions to answer, and they respond to one of them with 5 answers, another with 4, and so on. First up in this version of the feature, Lucy Cuthew, author of the outstanding Blood Moon, published by Walker Books US.

5

There seems to have been a huge rise in the number of verse novels published over recent years, and in the amount of attention they're getting, which is fabulous! Other than Blood Moon, could you tell me some of your favourite verse novels?

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

One by Sarah Crossan

Run, Rebel by Manjeet Mann

The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta

The Girl and the Goddess by Nikita Gill


4

Periods are something that are sometimes thought of as taboo, even though as Frankie says - #itsonlyblood. What other 'taboo' subjects would you like to see discussed more in YA novels?

Infertility

Miscarriage

Sex for pleasure

Recovery from trauma


3

We can see right from the start of the novel how important astronomy is to Harriet. What things in astronomy inspired you?

Stargazing with my Dad as a child – he was a navigator in the air force so he would tell me the names of constellations

In 2017 LIGO detected the gravitational waves from the collision of two neutron stars. The waves literally warped space and time. They were hypothesized by Einstein but this was the first time they were actually detected. More here if anyone missed this. It was AMAZING!

The moon – every time I see it, I love it. It never loses it’s power. It’s so beautiful.


2

I loved the way the girls in the Beans on Toast WhatsApp group supported Frankie, even as they navigated the troubled waters of a major friendship issue. Who are some of your favourite groups of fictional friends?

Ilana and Abbi in Broad City – it’s not often I think women or girls are depicted in their fullness on TV – their friendship is depicted with such honesty it made me scream with laughter

The group of girls in Wilder Girls by Rory Power – they also felt very real – in their visceral love for one another, their jealousy of one another, their loyalty. 


1

Blood Moon is a fabulously feminist read! Name a feminist you admire.

My mum.


Book: 

This powerful, timely novel in verse exposes provocative truths about periods, sex, shame, and going viral for all the wrong reasons.

After school one day, Frankie, a lover of physics and astronomy, has her first sexual experience with quiet and gorgeous Benjamin—and gets her period. It’s only blood, they agree. But soon a gruesome meme goes viral, turning an intimate, affectionate afternoon into something sordid, mortifying, and damaging. In the time it takes to swipe a screen, Frankie’s universe implodes. Who can she trust? Not Harriet, her suddenly cruel best friend, and certainly not Benjamin, the only one who knows about the incident. As the online shaming takes on a horrifying life of its own, Frankie begins to wonder: is her real life over?

Author Lucy Cuthew vividly portrays what it is to be a teen today with this fearless and ultimately uplifting novel in verse. Brimming with emotion, the story captures the intensity of friendships, first love, and female desire, while unflinchingly exploring the culture of online and menstrual shaming. Sure to be a conversation starter, Blood Moon is the unforgettable portrait of one girl’s fight to reclaim her reputation and to stand up against a culture that says periods are dirty.


Author Bio:

Lucy Cuthew has published more than thirty children’s books, including picture books, educational titles, and nonfiction, and she regularly speaks on the subject of children’s books for the BBC. She was a children’s editor for more than ten years and recently graduated with a master’s in writing for young people from Bath Spa University. Lucy Cuthew lives in Cardiff, Wales, with her husband and young twins.


Sunday, 4 October 2020

October Releases I'm Excited For

This is hopefully going to be a monthly feature, looking at 10 books coming out each month I'm excited for. It was REALLY hard to narrow these down (to the point I cheated a little, and added one I've already read and loved at the end).

If you're looking for a much more comprehensive guide to upcoming releases I can MASSIVELY recommend signing up for the Pop! Goes The Reader Patreon, which has saved me a ridiculous amount of time because it has pretty much everything I could ever dream of wanting to read included! 


Forget This Ever Happened by Cassandra Rose Clarke (6th Oct, Holiday House)

Sometimes there’s a town called Indianola.

And sometimes there isn’t.

June, 1993. Claire has been dumped in rural Indianola, Texas, to spend her whole vacation taking care of mean, sickly Grammy. There’s nothing too remarkable about Indianola: it’s run-down, shabby, and sweltering, a pin-dot on the Gulf Coast.

Except there is something remarkable. Memories shimmer and change. Lizards whisper riddles under the pecan trees. People disappear as if they never existed. Yesterday keeps coming unspooled, like a video tape. And worst of all, a red-lightning storm from beyond our world may just wipe the whole town off the map, if Claire and her maybe-girlfriend Julie can’t stop it.

Because reality doesn’t apply in Indianola. Indianola is not supposed to exist.

Surprising, brilliant, and, like, totally tight, Forget This Ever Happened is speculative horror at its finest, featuring an #OwnVoices Queer romance and dark, dazzling world-building.

Why I Can't Wait To Read It: As a Nineties teen myself, I love reading books set in that time period - they remind me of a world when, well, everything seemed better. (I mean, to be fair, reading books set in 2019 ALSO reminds me of a world when everything seemed better, but I mean even BETTER than that.) I'm also a huge fan of books set in our world which have a weird twist to them, and this sounds like it has that required weirdness in spades.



Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz (6th Oct, Page Street Kids)

Dragons and their riders compete in an international sports tournament in this alternate contemporary world fantasy.

Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner ― the only player without a dragon steed ― is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.

But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire ― a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form ― the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.

Why I Can't Wait To Read It: My Twitter timeline has been DELUGED with this for what seems like months, and why wouldn't it be? Sports, dragons, international conspiracies? SIGN ME UP!!



The Mirror: Broken Wish by Julie C Dao (6th Oct, Disney Hyperion)

Sixteen-year-old Elva has a secret. She has visions and strange powers that she will do anything to hide. She knows the warnings about what happens to witches in their small village of Hanau. She’s heard the terrible things people say about the Witch of the North Woods, and the malicious hunts that follow.

But when Elva accidentally witnesses a devastating vision of the future, she decides she has to do everything she can to prevent it. Tapping into her powers for the first time, Elva discovers a magical mirror and its owner-none other than the Witch of the North Woods herself. As Elva learns more about her burgeoning magic, and the lines between hero and villain start to blur, she must find a way to right past wrongs before it’s too late.

The Mirror: Broken Wish marks the first book in an innovative four-book fairy-tale series written by Julie C. Dao, Dhonielle Clayton, Jennifer Cervantes, and L. L. McKinney, following one family over several generations, and the curse that plagues it.

Why I Can't Wait To Read It: I always enjoy seeing different authors combine for things, and the idea of a four book series written by four different people would be intriguing enough with any quartet, but with these four on board it's definitely a must read. I haven't been reading too much fantasy recently and have been looking for more, and "the lines between hero and villain start to blur" promises the kind of gray morality I love reading about.



Five Total Strangers by Natalie D Richards (6th Oct, Sourcebooks Fire)

A “page-turning thriller that will keep readers guessing until the very end” (School Library Journal) about a road trip in a snowstorm that turns into bone-chilling disaster, from bestselling mystery author Natalie D. Richards.

She thought being stranded was the worst thing that could happen. She was wrong.

Mira needs to get home for the holidays. Badly. But when an incoming blizzard results in a canceled connecting flight, it looks like she might get stuck at the airport indefinitely.

And then Harper, Mira’s glamorous seatmate from her initial flight, offers her a ride. Harper and her three friends can drop Mira off on their way home. But as they set off, Mira realizes fellow travelers are all total strangers. And every one of them is hiding something.

Soon, roads go from slippery to terrifying. People’s belongings are mysteriously disappearing. Someone in the car is clearly lying, and may even be sabotaging the trip ― but why? And can Mira make it home alive, or will this nightmare drive turn fatal?

Girl On The Run by Abigail Johnson (6th Oct, Underlined)

A fast-paced original paperback thriller about a girl who discovers that her mother might not be who she says she is…and now someone is hunting them both.

Katelyn wants the best for her widowed mom. Surprising her with an online dating profile seems like a good idea.

It isn’t. Katelyn’s mom hasn’t just been acting overprotective all these years – she’s been hiding something. And now that anyone can find them online, Katelyn is in a desperate race against time to uncover the secrets of the past – not only her mom’s, but also her own.

As Katelyn’s world unravels, she begins to trust the guy who brought this nightmare to her door and to doubt the one person she never thought she would. Because her mom has been hiding for a reason: she’s been waiting.

Underlined is a line of totally addictive romance, thriller, and horror paperback original titles coming to you fast and furious each month. Enjoy everything you want to read the way you want to read it.

Why I Can't Wait To Read Them: I've been reading far more thrillers recently than I have in years, and there's something about the adrenaline rush they give me that's really addictive. Favourites of 2020 so far include Vincent Ralph's Are You Watching, Brittney Morris's Slay, and Kit Frick's I Killed Zoe Spanos. I've been devouring Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum books in rereads while I wait for another YA to catch my eye, and these two certainly have - they both sound like really intriguing plots.


Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (6th Oct, Avon)

Olivia Dade bursts onto the scene in this delightfully fun romantic comedy set in the world of fanfiction, in which a devoted fan goes on an unexpected date with her celebrity crush, who’s secretly posting fanfiction of his own.

Marcus Caster-Rupp has a secret. The world may know him as Aeneas, star of the biggest show on television, but fanfiction readers call him something else: Book!AeneasWouldNever. Marcus gets out his frustrations with the show through anonymous stories about the internet’s favorite couple, Aeneas and Lavinia. But if anyone discovered his online persona, he’d be finished in Hollywood.

April Whittier has secrets of her own. A hardcore Lavinia fan, she’s long hidden her fanfic and cosplay hobbies from her “real life”—but not anymore. When she dares to post her latest costume creation on Twitter, her plus-size take goes viral. And when Marcus asks her out to spite her internet critics, truth officially becomes stranger than fanfiction.

On their date, Marcus quickly realizes he wants more from April than a one-time publicity stunt. But when he discovers she’s Unapologetic Lavinia Stan, his closest fandom friend, he has one more huge secret to keep from her.

With love and Marcus’s career on the line, can the two of them stop hiding once and for all, or will a match made in fandom end up prematurely cancelled?

Why I Can't Wait To Read It: The whole "Heartthrob who's a bigger fan of the source material than anyone realises" was amazingly done in Ashley Poston's Geekerella, leaving me desperate for more. I love books set in and around fandom, and romances about secret identities, so this sounds amazing.



This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi (13th Oct, Feiwel & Friends)

Set over the course of one day, Aminah Mae Safi’s This Is All Your Fault is a smart and voice-driven YA novel that follows three young women determined to save their indie bookstore.

Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him.

Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.

Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day.

When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with.

And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.

Why I Can't Wait To Read It: Aminah Mae Safi is one of the best authors I've discovered over the past few years - Not The Girls You're Looking For was wonderful, while Tell Me How You Really Feel took a premise I was desperate to read - what if Rory and Paris were the real 'meant to be' couple in Gilmore Girls - and Safi knocked it out of the park. I was always going to be incredibly excited for what she wrote next, but people trying to save a bookstore from closing? Heck yeah!



Ana On The Edge by AJ Sass (20th Oct, Little, Brown Books For Young Readers)

For fans of George and Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter To The World, a heartfelt coming of age story about a nonbinary character navigating a binary world.

Twelve-year-old Ana-Marie Jin, the reigning US Juvenile figure skating champion, is not a frilly dress kind of kid. So, when Ana learns that next season’s program will be princess themed, doubt forms fast. Still, Ana tries to focus on training and putting together a stellar routine worthy of national success.

Once Ana meets Hayden, a transgender boy new to the rink, thoughts about the princess program and gender identity begin to take center stage. And when Hayden mistakes Ana for a boy, Ana doesn’t correct him and finds comfort in this boyish identity when he’s around. As their friendship develops, Ana realizes that it’s tricky juggling two different identities on one slippery sheet of ice. And with a major competition approaching, Ana must decide whether telling everyone the truth is worth risking years of hard work and sacrifice.

Why I can't wait to read it: I'm a HUGE fan of both the comp titles here, and I'm always interested in reading more books with trans or nonbinary characters, so this sounds super-interesting. I also really like books about sports in general, so another big plus here.


Flying Over Water by Shannon Hitchcock and NH Senzai (20th Oct, Scholastic Press) 

N.H. Senzai and Shannon Hitchcock expertly craft the intersection of the lives of two girls-one, a Muslim fleeing civil war, the other, an American from the South – as they are forced to examine their beliefs and the true meaning of friendship in the midst of the president’s 2017 Muslim ban.

Twelve-year-old Noura Alwan’s family is granted asylum in the United States, after spending two years in a Turkish refugee camp, having fled war-torn Aleppo. They land in Tampa, Florida, on January 30, 2017, just days after the president restricted entry into the US from nations with a Muslim majority population.

Twelve-year-old Jordyn Johnson is a record-breaking swimmer, but hasn’t swum well since her mom had a miscarriage during one of her meets. Her family has volunteered to help the Alwan family through their church. She knows very few people of Arab descent or who practice Islam.

The girls’ lives intersect at Bayshore Middle School where Jordyn serves as the Alwan children’s school ambassador. Noura knows that her family is safe from the civil unrest in her home country, but is not prepared for the adversity she now faces on American soil. Jordyn is sympathetic to Noura’s situation, but there are other members of their Florida community who see the refugees’ presence to be a threat to their way of life.While the president’s Muslim ban tests the resolve and faith of many, it is friendship that stands strong against fear and hatred.

Award winners N.H. Senzai and Shannon Hitchcock have combined their talents to craft a heartrending Own Voices story told in dual perspectives.

Why I can't wait to read it: I love stories about friendship and I'm always interested to see two authors working together on a book, especially in a dual perspective story like this. This sounds like it'll be an emotional read, and I haven't read much MG contemporary recently, so I'm definitely excited to get back to it.



Plain Bad Heroines by Emily M. Danforth (20th Oct, William Morrow)

The award-winning author of The Miseducation of Cameron Post makes her adult debut with this highly imaginative and original horror-comedy centered around a cursed New England boarding school for girls — a wickedly whimsical celebration of the art of storytelling, sapphic love, and the rebellious female spirit.

Our story begins in 1902, at the Brookhants School for Girls. Flo and Clara, two impressionable students, are obsessed with each other and with a daring young writer named Mary MacLane, the author of a scandalous bestselling memoir. To show their devotion to Mary, the girls establish their own private club and call it the Plain Bad Heroine Society. They meet in secret in a nearby apple orchard, the setting of their wildest happiness and, ultimately, of their macabre deaths. This is where their bodies are later discovered with a copy of Mary’s book splayed beside them, the victims of a swarm of stinging, angry yellow jackets. Less than five years later, the Brookhants School for Girls closes its doors forever — but not before three more people mysteriously die on the property, each in a most troubling way.

Over a century later, the now abandoned and crumbling Brookhants is back in the news when wunderkind writer Merritt Emmons publishes a breakout book celebrating the queer, feminist history surrounding the “haunted and cursed” Gilded Age institution. Her bestselling book inspires a controversial horror film adaptation starring celebrity actor and lesbian it girl Harper Harper playing the ill-fated heroine Flo, oppo­site B-list actress and former child star Audrey Wells as Clara. But as Brookhants opens its gates once again, and our three modern her­oines arrive on set to begin filming, past and present become grimly entangled — or perhaps just grimly exploited — and soon it’s impossible to tell where the curse leaves off and Hollywood begins.

A story within a story within a story and featuring black-and-white period-inspired illustrations, Plain Bad Heroines is a devilishly haunting, modern masterwork of metafiction that manages to combine the ghostly sensibility of Sarah Waters with the dark imagination of Marisha Pessl and the sharp humor and incisive social commentary of Curtis Sittenfeld into one laugh-out-loud funny, spellbinding, and wonderfully luxuriant read.

Why I can't wait to read it: This has two of my favourite things about fiction - stories within stories (seriously, give me ANYTHING about people putting on a play, writing a novel, or making a film and I'm HOOKED!) and events separated by a long period of time. Throw in boarding school, a favourite setting for me ever since I was a child, and my excitement gets even stronger. 


Also, wanted to give a special shout-out to Pretty Funny For A Girl by Rebecca Elliott (1st Oct by Peachtree Publishing Company)


A candid and laugh-out-loud journey of family, friends, and fierce mistakes.

Haylah Swinton is an ace best friend, a loving daughter, and an incredibly patient sister to a four-year-old nutcase of a brother. Best of all, she’s pretty confident she’s mastered making light of every situation―from her mom’s new boyfriend to unsolicited remarks on her plus-sized figure. Haylah’s learning to embrace all of her curvy parts and, besides, she has a secret: one day, she’ll be a stand-up comedian star. 

So when impossibly cool and thirstalicious Leo reveals he’s also into comedy, Haylah jumps at the chance to ghost-write his sets. But is Leo as interested in returning the favor? Even though her friends warn her of Leo’s intentions, Haylah’s not ready to listen―and she might just be digging herself deeper toward heartbreak. If Haylah’s ever going to step into the spotlight, first she’ll need to find the confidence to put herself out there and strut like the boss she really is.

Rebecca Elliott’s hilarious and authentic narrative voice is sure to capture readers’ hearts as her plus-sized, teenage heroine navigates learning to love the body she’s in while dealing with friends, family, and boys. 

I've already read this - it came out in the UK in the first few months of the year - and it's fabulous, a stunning contemporary YA novel with great themes of Haylah developing confidence and accepting herself. Really hilarious and I can't wait for more. 

What are you especially looking forward to this month? Something on this list, or something I've overlooked? Leave me a comment, or tweet me @yayeahyeah.

Saturday, 3 October 2020

YA Books Crossword Puzzle 1

So as I mentioned a few days ago, I've been really enjoying constructing crosswords recently and I wanted to give a YA one a try. This is a British-style crossword, and is focusing mostly on UKYA. (In an American-style crossword, there are lots more clues and signficantly fewer black squares - hoping to bring you one of those later this week.


Friday, 2 October 2020

Book Review: The Beauty That Remains by Ashley Woodfolk


The Beauty That Remains is a YA contemporary novel following three teens grieving for people they were close to - Autumn, whose best friend Tavia died in a car accident, Shay, whose twin sister Sasha passed away from leukemia, and Logan, whose ex-boyfriend Bram was found dead after a drug overdose. As all three struggle to cope in different ways, their love of the local music scene, and the support of their friends and family, starts to help them heal.

I've been eager to read Ashley Woodfolk's first novel since I was captivated by her 2020 release When You Were Everything, so I was super-excited when my wife got this for me from our local library. It absolutely exceeded the high expectations I had after reading WYWE - I love both books, but in different ways. Here, I'm amazed that Woodfolk - then a debut author - did such a great job of portraying such a sprawling cast of characters. In addition to the large cast of well-developed teens, the three dead friends are all given real depth; Tavia through the e-mails Autumn sends her even after she's passed away, Sasha from the brief album reviews which start Shay's chapters, and Bram from the way the people around him talk about him. The strength of the friendships and the relationships, both with the dead and those who are left, packs a powerful punch - perhaps especially the way Logan reconnects with Bram's mother, and starts to tentatively get to know Yara, the girl who Bram dumped him for.

I loved the support network which developed and thought the way that connections were revealed between the three main characters as the book went on worked really well, especially as we learn more and more about Logan's former band, Unraveling Lovely, hyped by Shay and Sasha on their BAMF and also including Tavia's brother Dante and Autumn's friend Rohan. 

It's very hard-hitting - Sasha suffers from panic attacks, Autumn from depression, and Logan is drinking heavily to try and cope. However it's a really hopeful read which shows how help from both professionals - Logan's scenes with a therapist are stand-out ones - and from friends and family can help people in this awful situation pull through. There's also sweet romance between Dante and Autumn and Shay and another of her friends. Overall, this is a gorgeous read and I'm excited for more from Ashley Woodfolk - especially the Flyy Girls series, the first two of which were released last month.