Review: A Change Is Gonna Come by 12 BAME Authors!

*Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

We’ve been hearing non-stop buzz about this book since Stripes Publishing’s first YA Blogger event in February. Now, it’s finally here and we couldn’t be more excited to see the final product getting so much love and attention! If you didn’t know A Change is Gonna Come is an anthology of short stories and poems based on the theme of change, all written by black and minority ethic authors. There are some big names, like Patrice Lawrence and Ayisha Malik, but also some debut authors getting their first break!

As if that isn’t cool enough, the anthology also has diverse characters too, representing lesbian and non-binary identities, as well as OCD.

We thought we’d share our thoughts on our favourite stories!

Hackney Moon by Tanya Burne tells the story of Esther and her best friend Sam who pulls away when their peers taunt them for being lesbians.

The narration style is really unique, with a sort of direct address but not from either of the main characters, so it’s got this almost fairy-tale vibe! We loved the dialogue particularly, and the friendship group is one we would love a companion series about!

We Who? by Nikesh Shukla (*our absolute favourite*) is set after the UK vote Leave, and the main character struggles when his best friend starts to post harmful new stories, which expose that they have incredibly different political views that become destructive to their friendship.

It was quite a shock when ‘Leave’ was announced as the decision the UK had made regarding our position in the EU, and it upset so many people that this story is probably the most powerful and relatable in the whole collection. It’s difficult to watch the people around you, who you previously trusted and loved, repeating ideologies that are damaging and down right untrue. The disconnect you experience to those you once considered friends when something like this exposes your fundamental and uncompromising differences, is something I think we’re more likely to experience in this political climate. And not just in the UK, but the world.

Iridescent Adolescent by Phoebe Roy about a girl who sprouts feathers and longs to be hollow.

We adored the writing style of this story, it was magical and mystical. It’s not often that I connect to writing that is poetic in this way, but it also had some real down-to-earth moments that made it a lot – not relatable, per say, but something along those lines. It felt like a fresh take on the ‘Change’ theme, and was a real gem among other contemporary stories.

Dear Asha by Mary Bello is about Asha who’s mother recently died and so she goes to Nigeria to connect with her remaining family. She then hears some pretty dramatic news about her father that throws everything into a new light.

We really loved the setting in this and the emphasis on Nigeria culture. It was so cool that although being of that descent, Asha wasn’t really connected to it, and so witnessing her get in touch with her roots was great. This was also a short story that had a lot going, so could easily have been made into a full length novel!

A Refugee by Ayisha Malik is about a girl who is forced to volunteer at the a refugee camp by her parents and develops a strong friendship with one of the girls there, Homa.

This was such a powerful story about different experiences and how we need to open our eyes to the hardships of other people and help out where we can. The fact that Ayisha Malik managed to write such intense character development in such a short story was astounding!

Fortune Favours the Bold by Yasmin Rahman is mostly about a Muslim girl who decides to start wearing a headscarf, which splits her apart from her twin sister and also means she’s subjected to more religious prejudice.

Again, we loved the storytelling. It was a very accomplished short story, and the character had a great sense of voice. We’re really excited to see what Yasmin Rahman will produce next, because I hope she becomes a new big name for YA fiction. After this, I predict she will be a new auto-buy author, and to feel that strongly about an author’s capability to continually make me feel SO MANY THINGS just speaks to how wonderful this very short glimpse of her writing was.

Overall, A Change Is Gonna Come is a really powerful anthology that It think everyone needs to read. It exposes some fresh talent, whose careers I can’t wait to follow, and raises the voices of those who are underrepresented in the best way possible.

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Review: The Midnight Peacock by Katherine Woodfine

Because this gorgeous purple book is the last book in The Sinclair’s Mysteries series, I don’t want to say too much about what goes on. Instead, I thought I’d give you five reasons to read the series if you haven’t already so you can get to this glorious finale that really delivers on everything you want from a mystery and conclusion. Historical Setting

1. Historical Setting!

The Sinclair’s Mysteries all take place in the 20th century, and while 1910 may not sound that long ago, it’s been over 100 years since departments stores like Sinclair’s first opened. It’s the time of the suffragette movement, the attitude of which definitely plays into our main female characters. It’s a time of fancy, where going to the shops was an event and there’s something so pleasant about the luxury of it all that makes me want to just fall through the pages. If you’ve got a soft spot for atmospheric setting, this series is perfect. (The Midnight Peacock also takes place around Christmas and New Year, so the setting is ten times more delightful and festive than usual!)

2. Female Friendship!

The story is mostly routed in the relationship between Sophie and Lil. They have entirely different personalities, Sophie being from a slightly poorer background and more reserved, Lil being a gorgeous model who oozes confidence. The girls work together at the store (and at solving mysteries) and always have each other’s backs. I can’t wait for their spin off!

3. Diversity!

While Sophie and Lil, along with Billy and Joe, make up the core members of the mystery solving crew, but as the books go on more secondary characters get added (my fave being Leo from The Painted Dragon). They have repeated appearances and are never forgotten about. There’s representation of the Chinese community in Mei and Song, and Leo is disabled. It’s the perfect example of what all middle grade stories should be striving for.

4. Mysteries! 

Why is this only number 4 when it’s the most important part of the plot? Well, I’m so jazzed about everything else, the actual body of the books slipped my mind…I’d read about these characters if they were just baking cakes, let alone solving crime. I’m a sucker for a good mystery, especially ones that play across a whole series. It makes the finishing of each book feel so rewarding.

5. The covers + extras!

I know that you should never judge a book by its cover, (it’s the inside that counts!) but aren’t these covers gorgeous? The jewel tones work perfectly together and with each silhouette, you get a real sense of what’s going on in each book. There are also some really beautiful end papers and illustrations at the beginning of each part which I love, love, love. Additionally, there are always letters and invitations inserted into the narrative to keep things interesting.

I hope I’ve convinced you enough to read The Sinclair’s Mysteries, especially The Midnight Peacock because the pay off is just SO great. The world expands as Sophie learns more about what happened to her parents and how the Baron might not be the only suspicious member of the secret society. It’s no doubt my favourite in the series, earning 4 stars. I can’t wait to see what Katherine Woodfine does with these characters next!

Series Review: No Virgin and No Shame by Anne Cassidy

*Note: We received ‘No Shame’ from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

NO VIRGIN

Stacey Woods has been raped and this is her story. She lays out the circumstances that led to the horrific event and what happened immediately after. The story is unassuming at first, but tinged with something terrible that you can’t avoid thinking about on every page.

It’s powerful and important, with a positive message about seeking the support from friends, family and charities that specialise in helping rape victims. (The ending is particularly supportive, delivering the most hopeful speech when Stacey phones the Rape Crisis Centre.)

Obviously, every rape that you read about, fictional or real, is terrible, but ‘No Virgin’ certainly isn’t as harrowing and dark as the books of Louise O’Neill or ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’. I’d really recommend picking up this series if you’re interested in exploring these themes and how they’re portrayed in YA, without being too heavy. ‘No Virgin’ is the perfect stepping stone for a dialogue about sexual assault and the effects it has on the victim.

NO SHAME

The companion is all about the court trial Stacey is convinced by in order to get justice. There’s further exploration into the way rape cases are perceived by the media/jury/eyes of the law. It’s actual terrible, and made my blood boil on so many occasions but it’s the sad reality for most cases. Reading ‘No Shame’ will hopefully open everyone’s eyes to the injustice of it all, and the wrongly placed blame and encourage people to get angry about the way court works.

If you enjoyed the third season of ‘Broadchurch’ or shows like ‘How To Get Away With Murder’, this is for you. The court room drama is real, but so are the effects on the defendants.

I really liked the discussion of ripple effects of rape cases and just how many individuals are harmed. As more and more women stepped forward, the more likely justice was to get served.

Again, by the conclusion, ‘No Shame’ is another powerful tale about speaking out against sexual violence and getting the support that one deserves. Both stories felt like two halves of the same whole, so while they can easily be read as two stand-alones, I’d really recommend both. (I mean, they’re under 200 pages each, so really, it’s one reasonably sized book put together!) Overall, it’s a hard-hitting, raw series perfect for lighting a fire in anyone who reads it to fight for justice.

Review: Lola Offline by Nicola Doherty

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Let’s get this out of the way first: if you LOVED Anna and the French Kiss, particularly the international Parisian boarding school and Etienne as the irresistible, popular love interest, you’ll LOVE Lola Offline. It has both of these things, though Etienne comes in the form of Tariq. Same guy, without the whole cheating-on-his-girlfriend thing. So, in the end, a better and more racially diverse alternative. (Perfect!)

Lola Offline is about a girl that wants to escape her identity. Delilah moves to Paris and changes her name to run away from a social media scandal, where she posted something  completely inappropriate without stressing the fact she was being ironic. When the Internet gets mad, there’s no going back. Lola hopes that the boarding school and new group of friends will never find out what she did.

Like that was going to happen. Her Twitter footprint is online forever, whether or not see is and you get a scene very reminiscent of Janice and Kady’s in Mean Girls when Lola’s identity and globally recognised mistake is unearthed by Vee, the girl who’s extremely mad at the world.

My favourite character was, without a doubt, Fletcher. She so could have easily been the Regina George of the school: blonde, pretty, popular. But Vee seems to think that about her, getting very antsy when Lola suggests being her friend when Fletcher has done nothing wrong. She’s the sweetest girl ever, and I really appreciated that her character defied the stereotype that would have been dumped on her if this was, say, a teen movie.

Tariq and Lola’s relationship was a slow burn, but not because he had a girlfriend, but because for most of the second half, Lola thinks he’s gay. That would be fine, besides the fact that she bases this opinion on the fact that he got over his girlfriend quickly, has a good sense of style and ‘baked brownies’. Brownies?? Since when have delicious baked goods been a sexuality signifier? It was so ridiculous, I couldn’t help but laugh.

Another great thing, though, was how clued in the book was to social media and the consequences. Sometimes it could read a little like a high school assembly about the dangers of putting yourself online, but the comments it did make about permanence and how everything you say affects your future were poignant, nonetheless.

Overall, Lola Offline struggled for me to make it’s own splash, as I could constantly think of things that may have been inspirations, or where I’d seen similar plot threads before. BUT, the things it did mimic in some way are sure to appeal to fans of those things, and I’m sure someone that’s just looking for a cute, social-media orientated romance will really like this book.

Mini Review: 36 Questions That Changed My Mind About You by Vicki Grant

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

’36 Questions…’ is the story of Hildy and Paul who decide to take part in a PhD student’s experiment about falling in love. They are to ask each other – you guessed it – 36 questions in order to get to know more about each other and potentially find that romantic spark. Whenever the pair are talking to one another, they don’t know the other’s full identity and it’s written in interrogation interview format. (If you’re curious to what the 36 questions are and what to know to see what the conversations might be like, here they are.)

I found the dialogue between Hildy and Paul to be extremely predictable. It was like blah, blah, joke, getting offended, blah, blah, presumption about personality/upbringing/past relationships. This happened 36 times as they cycled through all the questions, so it’s safe to assume I got bored.

There were important things going on in the background, like Paul’s trauma with his mother, but the only thing that was lingered on was the pair’s supposed banter with one another that was all very one note. I was trying to read between the lines of their conversation and see when exactly they ‘fell in love’ but couldn’t pinpoint what made the change and so I wasn’t at all invested in the couple when they inevitably got together.

I’ve also read a few books recently, like Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index and Letters to the Lost that deal with the good girl/bad guy trope so complexly, so to see the personality types pared down to their most basic rom/com form was disappointing.

Unfortunately, this book was not for me, and I probably should have stopped reading it sooner like a few other people on Goodreads. BUT, if you like fast reads with different formats, and silly rom/coms that cheer you up whilst you’re reading, then I’m sure you’ll find ’36 Questions…’ quirky and cute.

Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Juniper Lemon has been on everyone’s radars since it was chosen to The Book of the BookTubeathon 2017. We had planned to read along with everyone else, but with YALC getting in the way, it was hard to coordinate. Now that YALC’s truly been and gone *sob sob*, we picked up Juniper and read it practically in one sitting. It was a fantastic book that dealt with grief and permanence in a way that didn’t make you want to bawl your eyes out, with a very lovely emphasis on building relationships with people who need them.

So, if you don’t know about it, Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index is all about a girl called Juniper (yes, Lemon. No, it’s not a spin off from Big Hero 6.) Her sister, Camie, died six months ago and she finds a letter she wrote to a mysterious ‘You’. Juniper then takes it upon herself to discover You’s identity, making a new friend along the way, kind of like the first six episodes of any magical girl series. The Happiness Index is a bunch of notecards that Juniper makes listing all the happy and sad things that happen during the day. One of her cards goes missing (with a pretty big confession on it) that’s the catalyst for Juniper’s to find her new love interest/ friendship group/ artistic mission for closure.

The mystery of ‘You’ definitely distracted Juniper from the grief and unspoken things surrounding her sister’s death. It wasn’t all overly dramatic and teary, with her crying in the cemetery late at night in the rain. (Although, Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer does that perfectly.) There’s certainly emotional resonance to Camie and Juniper’s relationship as you learn about what the pair did when they were younger or during national holidays but to have new beginnings as such an integral theme was a smart move of Julie Israel’s part. It was the perfect balance of quirky and fun, deep and real.

Our favourite aspect of the story was when Juniper was being a friend to the misfits, the loners and the just-likes-to-sit-in-the-library types. Seeing her surround herself with a growing circle of friends, while also trying to repair broken bridges with her bestie before Camie’s death, Lauren, was just the kind of positivity you needed.

I really liked that there was always more going on under the surface with Juniper’s mother and her grief, and Brand, Juniper’s love interest, and his home life. Her name might be in the title but she’s not the sole focus of the story, and to have so many little subplots involving the people around her made this a really rewarding read when you got to the end and the classic ceremonial burning of shared possessions.

Overall, we’d give Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index 4 stars. The mystery kept the pacing fast and the gotta-catch-them-all friendship group had us glued to the page. This was such a great debut for Julie Israel, and we’ll definitely be looking out for her next release!

7 in 7 Readathon TBR!

7 in 7 is a readathon that’s taking place from the 14th-21st August! The aim is, of course, to read 7 books in 7 days – mostly to keep your Goodreads challenge afloat in the summer so you’re not a panicky mess in December.

Bee and I are currently staying at our university house, so have access to about 2% of our books, so the choice is limited to say the least…unless we pick up our Kindles and get on top of all that NetGalley reading >___< Instead, we’ll use this as an opportunity to tick off a lot of the books on our summer reading list for university.

So, here’s what we plan on reading:

P O E T R Y  C O L L E C T I O N S:
Measures of Expatriation by Vahni Capildeo
Sunshine by Melissa Lee-Houghton
Stranger, Baby by Emily Berry

C L A S S  R E A D I N G:
M: The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso
B: The Association of Small Bombs by Kara Mahajan

Y O U N G  A D U L T
A Change is Gonna Come by BAME authors (short story collection)

All of that gives us the opportunity to pick up two random choice books that we might be feeling in the moment. So, although this is quite a boring TBR in terms of genuinely pleasurable reading, if we put it out on the Internet that we’re going to read this stuff for class, then we’re bound to do it! (Hopefully…)

There’s some cross over with this readathon and Tome Topple so I’ll be continuing to read Dragonfly in Amber and *fingers crossed* Voyager by Diana Gabaldon. I’m not enjoying the books all most at all because the relationship is so toxic but it’s for one of our university modules and is our lecturer’s obsession, so we can’t get away with not reading it!

We’ll probably still be reading Invictus by Ryan Graudin as well with our lovely BookTube20Somethings reading group: Carys, Kate and Lily.

Good luck to anyone else planning on participating, and we promise that we’ll try and keep a better schedule with blogging so that we don’t disappear for weeks on end! Happy reading!

Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman

Right, so I hated ‘The Infernal Devices’ series by Cassandra Clare, but I do tend to enjoy YA historical fiction, so I was torn between ‘eww not demons again’ and ‘yes please this sounds like 100% my thing.’ I found after reading, that I would recommend, nay, highly recommend, ‘The Dark Days Club’ both to those that hated TID and those who loved it. If you loved TID then you will fall in love with the characters exactly as you did in Clare’s work, and if you ate it, then you can better appreciate the historical accuracy and tone.

Continue reading “Review: The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman”

Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins

Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Everyone has known that Stephanie Perkins was writing a slasher/horror for the last two years. Now I finally have my hands on it, and boy was it…different to what I was expecting. After being known for Anna and the French Kiss and other lovey-dovey titles, I thought Stephanie Perkins would be really stepping outside her comfort zone. Turns out There’s Someone Inside Your House managed to have about five deaths, but still be 98% romance. And when I say romance, I mean carnal teenage ‘relationship’ because there was no romance to be seen. So let’s talk about it… Continue reading “Review: There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins”

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

Every verse novel of Sarah Crossan’s has been getting better and better and this is no exception. She just picks the absolute best characters to write about and tells stories you don’t normally hear that mean you can’t put the book down until it’s done.

Moonrise tells the story of Joe, who’s brother, Ed, is on death row. He hasn’t seen him in ten years, and now that he’s been given a death date, he decides to move to Texas for the opportunity to reconnect with him, and get the truth about what happened the day he was arrested.

What I loved about the story was how unassuming it was. It could have been from Ed’s perspective, and been a huge mystery like The Life of David Gale, that film with Kevin Spacey and Kate Winslet. Instead, with the focus on Joe, there’s a stronger emphasis on strength and family and needing support. If you want to get angry about the justice system, watch the film instead, because while it does get mentioned, trying to save Ed is never at the heart of the book, it’s more about both brothers coming to terms with his fate.

My favourite moments of the book were Ed’s letters to Joe – the last one definitely had me tearing up – and when Nell turned up in Joe’s life because it was such a sweet and real relationship against a harsh reality that offered Joe some escape.

While the prospect of counting down the days until your brother dies sounds morbid, Moonrise strikes the perfect balance between touching and melancholy, never fully dipping into complete sadness, but never letting you forget that life is unfair sometimes.

Succinct and moving, I’m giving Moonrise 4 stars, and it’s definitely going to be something I’m thinking about for months to come!