Monday, 24 August 2015

Review for Darkmere by Helen Maslin

Darkmere by Helen Maslin 
Publisher: Chicken House
Release: 6th August 2015
Genre: Horror, Thriller, UKYA
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"A castle. A curse. A dangerous summer.

Leo has invited Kate and a few friends to spend the summer at his inheritance, Darkmere Castle: as wild and remote as it is beautiful. Kate thinks it will be the perfect place for her and Leo to get together - but instead, she's drawn into the dark story of a young nineteenth-century bride who haunts the tunnels and towers of the house. And whose curse now hangs over them all."

I’m loving the horror trend in UKYA at the moment and Darkmere was a summer release that I couldn’t wait to get my hand on! That cover and tagline was enough to sell me on it and Darkmere delivered that blend of summer contemporary and gothic horror story that I wanted from it.

The book is told in alternate chapters set in both the past and the present. It follows Kate in the modern day and Elinor in 1825 as they both come to spend time at Darkmere castle. Kate is spending her summer there with her crush Leo and his friends and Elinor becomes lady of the castle after marrying Darkmere’s master Mr St Cloud.

The girls’ stories are eerily similar and as you get to know Leo and his ancestor St Cloud you hope that Kate’s story isn’t destined to follow in the same footsteps as poor Elinor. Despite our two characters destiny’s being scarily intertwined the voices were very distinct and so it never got confusing to read.

I think that my favourite thing about this book was exploring Darkmere castle itself. At the start of the story Darkmere seems like an idyllic place to spend the summer with its private beach and remote location but you gradually learn that it’s not a place you’d want to stay in by yourself after dark! Darkmere castle felt very much like a character in its own right and like Kate I loved exploring the secrets and mysteries it held within its walls.

Darkmere is the perfect blend of gritty summer contemporary and intriguing historical ghost story and is perfect for fans of C.J. Skuse and James Dawson. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a different kind of holiday read – just don’t read it near water!

Friday, 21 August 2015

The Dead House Mirror Tour: Scariest Moment of Your Life and Giveaway

Hi everyone! I'm so excited to be part of today's The Dead House Mirror Blog Tour. The Dead House is about two girls who share the same body. Carly gets the day and Kaitlyn has the night and so the idea for this blog tour is to represent that with a Carly and Kaitlyn post. Today I am sharing with you Carly's post and a chance to win the book for yourself. Make sure you stop by Katie's Book Blog for Kaitlyn's version!

Scariest Moment of Your Life 

Diary of Carly Johnson, 
Date Unspecified

When I was ten or so, I used to transition back in, to find dozens of panicked post-its from Kaitie all over the room. I’ve kept every single one of those post-its.
I remember one day it was particularly bad. I found myself huddled in the corner of the room, post-its stuck to the wall and floor all around me. My body was completely tense, muscles on the verge of spasm. My face was tight with dried tears.
Right away, I knew what had happened, and I burst out crying. Our body still had tears left to cry. I wanted more than anything to be there for her—and to understand why she was so afraid.
I picked up the first post-it.
Carly, there’s something by the window.
I wrote a reply to that one, and stuck it down in exactly the same place:
Don’t worry Kaybear, it was probably just a tree or the wind.
The next: What do I do?
I wrote: Stay calm. I’m here with you, remember?
The next: I’m scared.
I wrote: I know. I’m here.
The next: They’re asleep. They don’t care.
I wrote: They don’t realize. You can wake them up.
She wrote: I wish you were here.
I wrote: Me too.
She wrote: What does it feel like? The sun?
I wrote: Warm, Kaitie. So warm. Like a warm bath!
She wrote: I’m alone.
I crossed that one out. Wrote on top. Liar.
She wrote: I can’t do this.
I wrote: You can do anything. Oh, Kaybear, I wish I was there for you! I feel so bad. I want us to be normal. Why can’t we be normal? I’ve brought you a present!
That day, I left my school copy of The Outsiders under the pillow with a fresh post-it note on top. It read:
And on the inside of the book, another:
I hate English, but this one was OK. What do you think?
The next morning, there was only one post-it note.
Cool book. Any more?
I opened my bag to get my reading list, and found all of my S.E Hinton homework done for me.
I guess that’s cheating; it wasn’t really my scariest moment, but it led up to my scariest moment.

For years, I never heard a peep about Kaitie being scared at night.

But one day, I opened my eyes, and it was completely, utterly dark. I thought I was blind! I really, really knew what Kaitlyn meant by “dark” that day. I startled so badly, that I banged my arm on the side of something, and then I kicked out—kicked the wardrobe door open.
Kaitlyn had left me in the closet.
It was terrifying, because I just had no idea what she went through during her night. But also because I realized she had been lying to me for four or more years. She didn’t get over her fear.
She just hid it from me.
And I was never there for her.
And that terrified me to my core. I didn’t know my sister.

Giveaway Rules 
 To enter you have to fill in the Rafflecopter 
 Open to UK residents only 
 The winner will be drawn and contacted by email with 1 week to reply else another winner will be selected 
 Make sure you complete what the form asks of you - I do check! Any winner who has not completed an option will be disqualified

Check out The Dead House as part of Books With Bite's Dark Summer Read! 
Click here for more details

Monday, 10 August 2015

Review for Unbecoming by Jenny Downham

Unbecoming by Jenny Downham 
Publisher: David Fickling Books
Release: 3rd September 2015
Genre: Contemporary, UKYA, Mental Health, Feminism, LGBT, Crossover, Disability
Source: Copy received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

"Three women - three secrets - one heart-stopping story.

Katie, seventeen, in love with someone whose identity she can't reveal. Her mother Caroline, uptight, worn out and about to find the past catching up with her. Katie's grandmother, Mary, back with the family after years of mysterious absence and 'capable of anything', despite suffering from Alzheimers.

As Katie cares for an elderly woman who brings daily chaos to her life, she finds herself drawn to her. Rules get broken as allegiances shift. Is Mary contagious? Is 'badness' genetic? In confronting the past, Katie is forced to seize the present. As Mary slowly unravels and family secrets are revealed, Katie learns to live and finally dares to love.

Funny, sad, honest and wise, Unbecoming is a celebration of life, and learning to honour your own stories."

Unbecoming is like nothing else I’ve read before in YA. It’s an ambitious book with huge literary merit that I can see appealing to people of all ages.

The book is about three generations of women in one family: Mary the grandmother, her daughter Caroline and Caroline’s daughter Katie. Teenager Katie is struggling with her sexuality after kissing her best friend and her whole school finding out about it, grandmother Mary is struggling with dementia that seems to be getting worse by the day and Katie’s mum Caroline is struggling to hold everyone together after her husband leaves her for a younger woman and her teenage son who has learning disabilities is finding his dad’s absence hard to come to terms with. Unbecoming is a book about women and the different obstacles we’ve faced throughout history and how they compare to the difficulties that girls face growing up in today’s society.

I loved the family relationships in this book and also how family was front and centre rather than romance or friendship taking centre stage as it is prone to in YA. Unbecoming is a book that I can see grandmothers and mums and daughters bonding over and discussing together as it examines growing up as a girl throughout the ages.

Despite Unbecoming covering a lot of heavy themes like dementia, coming out and disability - to name a few - it doesn’t feel like an “issue book”. It’s not tragic or depressing to read, it’s just the characters muddling on with their lot in life like we all do. Jenny Downham has an extraordinary way of making her characters and their situations feel very real.

I’ve read all of Jenny Downham’s books but I think that this is her best so far. Unbecoming is a moving and thought provoking book about coming clean of social expectations and being true to you.

Monday, 3 August 2015

July Round Up and Book of the Month

July's Book of the Month is Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

So July's Book of the Month will come as no surprise to people who read my 5 star review for Am I Normal Yet? last month. This was a very special book for me covering themes close to my heart: OCD and Feminism. It was one of those books that I connected so deeply with that I felt like it had been written especially for me. If you'd like to find out more about the book or read more of my thoughts on it check out my review here.

Me as I was reading this book
Read in July 
53.) A Proper Family Holiday by Chrissie Manby (3.5*)
54.) The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich (3.5*)
55.) Lorali by Laura Dockrill (4.5*)
56.) Darcy Burdock by Laura Dockrill (3.5*)
57.) Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (5*)
58.) The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew (4.5*)
59.) Birdy by Jess Vallance (3*)
60.) First Class Murder by Robin Stevens (5*)

Monthly Book Awards
Best Plot: First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
Best Writing: Lorali by Laura Dockrill
Best Cover: Birdy by Jess Vallance
Best Characters: First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
Best Ending: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
Best Romance: The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew
Most un-put-down-able: First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
Most Memorable: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
Best Moral: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Top 3 Most Recommended Books: Am I Normal Yet? First Class Murder and The Big Lie

Books I’m Looking Forward to Being Released in August 
The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick
Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray
Another Day by David Levithan
Darkmere by Helen Maslin
The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
Firewalker by Josephine Angelini

 What did you read and love in July? 
 And what are you looking forward to reading in August?

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Guest Post: UKYA Community Shares the Magic of Books

Today I am sharing with you something a little bit different and special. Over the last few weeks I've been working on a project with my friend and English teacher Kate Hamer to raise book donations for the pupils at her school. What started off as the idea of handing a few books out turned into a major event when hundreds of books came flooding in thanks to the generosity of the UKYA community. I've invited Kate to share a post today about the event that gave her students the chance to read.

UKYA: Making a difference by Kate Hamer 

Something magical happened to me last Thursday thanks to the UKYA community - I got to watch 130 of my students fall in love with books.

I should probably introduce myself briefly - I'm Kate, I'm 23 and I'm a long suffering bibliophile. In January 2015, I started working as a English Graduate Academic Mentor at an inner-city secondary school. Fancy title, huh? It basically means that I am not only responsible for teaching classes, but also for conducting intense literacy intervention. I soon realised that many of my students didn't own a single book of their own - books are a luxury which for many of my students are not possible. As an avid reader, it became my mission to change this. Books had been instrumental to my survival during my challenging, lonely teenage years - they helped me not only lose myself for a little while, but to find myself too. I wanted to give my students the same opportunity.

Luckily for me, I have been quite involved in the UKYA community for years, through my English degree where I specialised in young adult fiction, to my internship with a New York literary agent, and through attending author events and signings. I knew that the UKYA community was extremely passionate about encouraging young people to read and hoped that they would be interested in getting onboard.

The amazing Jess of JessHeartsBooks (HI JESS!!) grabbed hold of the initiative when I approached her and promoted it to her thousands of followers. Overnight, my Twitter blew up, with hundreds of bloggers, authors and publishing professionals contacting me to make donations. Going into work the next day and telling the school's super-hero librarian is something that will stick with me forever.

I'd initially hoped for around 50 books. When we passed the two hundred book milestone, I suddenly realised that this had become much bigger than I had ever dreamed - it meant that over a hundred students would go home with books of their own this summer. Suddenly, the school's PR was all over the story, as were the local press. As I began to plan an Alice in Wonderland themed event to distribute the books, deliveries kept arriving. Boxes, packets, envelopes and crates filled to the brim with books began to stock up in reception. For that month, I spent more time in reception signing for packages than in my classroom!

With the event drawing closer, Willy Wonka style Golden Tickets were created to invite students to the top secret event. Excitement quickly built amongst students and staff - students who were lucky enough to receive a ticket were seen (and heard!) skipping down the corridors singing 'I've got a golden ticket.' The only staff members fully informed about the event was Elaine the librarian, and Paul the Principal (who had been sworn to secrecy with the threat of “off with his head").

The day before the event, impatient staff and students crowded around the library, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was happening behind closed doors. Reams of bunting, character silhouettes and balloons helped transform the library into Wonderland. Mountains of homemade cakes and delicious fizzy drinks awaited the students. The three hundred books donated were scattered on the tables – hidden amongst them were signed copies, first editions and proof copies of books not yet released!

 At 10.10AM, the first group of students arrived, animatedly discussing what might be behind the doors. As they entered en-masse, there were audible gasps and their faces were full of wonder. I spoke to the students for a few minutes about my previous work experience, the incredible UKYA community and the power of social media. Students were then welcome to browse the books and select a number. As they were reading , cupcakes, jam tarts and fizzy drinks with flamingo straws were brought around for them to enjoy. After enjoying half an hour of reading, students then wrote a short thank you note to all who donated, whilst proudly clutching their new books. For the rest of the day, I had teachers reporting back to me that students had returned to lessons and sat at the back of the room reading their books instead of enjoying the traditional end of term film.

It was a day I will never forget for the rest of my life - my students are not from privileged backgrounds, but they are characters, full of imagination, sass and potential. I have no doubt the gifts which bloggers, authors and publishing professions gave them will change their lives. In the words of Dahl, 'We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams' ... Today, UKYA, you are the music makers, you are the dreamers of dreams.

Quotes from students:
"Thank you for my new book. It will be great! I will take lots of care of it.' - Christine, aged 12 

 "I chose The Baby because it's fascinating. Unlike a lot of books I read, this one really interested me' - Viktoria, aged 15

 "Thank you for my book, Vendetta by Catherine Doyle, I can relate to it' - Shakirah, aged 15 

 "Thank you so much for my copy of Louis Sachar's new books. I cant wait to read it in my caravan!' - Jak, aged 12 

 For more information about the event you can follow Kate on Twitter @kate2606
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