Thursday, 27 July 2017

Songs About Us by Chris Russell

Title: Songs About Us
Author: Chris Russell
Published by: Hodder Children's Books
Publication date: 13th July 2017
Pages: 441
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance/Music/Mystery
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Charlie Bloom is just an ordinary girl.

Who happened to spend last winter hanging out with the hottest boy band in the world. No biggie.

But that's all ancient history. And now Charlie doesn't have time to even think about Fire&Lights. Or what went down with Gabe... Until she's pulled into their world of glamour and paparazzi once again.

As old feelings are rekindled, Charlie notices that the band seems different this time. But then again, so is she...

The second book in Chris Russell's Songs About a Girl trilogy is finally here, and once again the fictional boyband Fire&Lights is hogging the stage of the book blogging world. The day this trilogy ends is going to be a sad one, let me tell you.

In this second instalment, our protagonist Charlie is preparing for her exams and a life that's back to normal after a wild stint of touring with world-famous boyband Fire&Lights as their photographer. Two of the band members, however, make moving on a bit more difficult than simply moving on from a job... and soon enough, she's behind the camera, back on tour, and leading a life of drama and confusion once again.

Oh, I do love books where you connect with the characters so greatly that reading the next instalment after a year is like coming home to your friends. Due to certain events, I was a bit unsure of Charlie's best friend Melissa in the first book, but with Songs About Us I grew to love her, and their friendship continues to be adorable. We gain more insight into Aiden's personality; Yuki is still his excitable self but with some secrets of his own; and Olly and Gabe clash like never before. AND I LOVE IT.

You know what I love less? The fact that I have to wait a year for the third (and final, sad face) book. Chris Russell, excellent writer that he is, loves a cliffhanger. I, on the other hand, am one of the most impatient people you will ever meet. And Songs About Us is explosive. On the surface, you've got recording studios, a boyband mansion, creepy journalists and a limo with a hot tub - but you've also got pressure from the media, hidden pasts, problems threatening to spiral out of control, and enormous secrets on the verge of being discovered by the wrong people. It's wishful thinking written down, but with hidden depths an undiscerning reader might not expect.

If you've ever dreamed of being with the band, if you've ever wanted to be that fan who somehow becomes friends with their idols - this is for you.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Beauty and the Beast Screening & Afternoon Tea with Disney

Who went to bed at 11pm, didn't fall asleep until 5am, and woke up to an alarm just half an hour later ahead of a busy day in London? That would be me! Thanks brain...

Last month I received a very exciting email from Disney, inviting me to a private screening of Beauty and the Beast at Covent Garden Hotel, followed by afternoon tea and a book swap with the theme of leading females, like Belle. All of this was to celebrate the release of the film on DVD.

Well, I couldn't pass up the opportunity of cake, a feminist book swap, and the chance to watch a gorgeous film, could I?

The film started at 10am, hence my early start, and it was somehow even better than my first viewing. I still can't seem to figure out which part is meant to be the 'gay moment' that the world got itself into a tizzy over, so if anyone feels like enlightening me... it must have been very subtle! The film is so beautifully shot though, and the casting is spot on. The costumes, the choreography, the soundtrack, the random bursting into song, and of course the traditional tale, ensure the classic feel of the film is still very much prevalent, simply with modern reworking and a witty, hilarious script to boot. I have to say, I'm really enjoying Disney's live-action remakes. Having liked the modern update of The Jungle Book and now Beauty and the Beast, it made me realise how cool it is that I grew up watching the old animated classics on video - and now, hitting adulthood, I get to experience it all again but in an entirely new way. I really need to sort myself out and finally watch Cinderella...

After the film, we were taken through to the Fortune Room for afternoon tea. I chatted with Sanne (Books and Quills), Lucy (The Book Belle) and Daphne (Winged Reviews and Illumicrate), and met new-to-me bloggers Linda (Linda's Book Bag) and Steph (A Little but a Lot). As I mentioned before, there was also a book swap, and I brought along my spare copy of Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne and basically shoved it in the face of anyone who asked about it. Read it, people, read it. I didn't take any books home because, let's be honest, I really shouldn't acquire any more...

I vlogged the day, so if you're into that kind of thing, subscribe to me on YouTube and the video will be up this week.

Thanks Disney for a lovely afternoon!

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Tuesday, 18 July 2017

The State of Grace by Rachael Lucas

Title: The State of Grace
Author: Rachael Lucas
Published by: Macmillan Children's Books
Publication date: 6th April 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Sometimes I feel like everyone else was handed a copy of the rules for life and mine got lost.

Grace has Asperger's and her own way of looking at the world. She's got a horse and a best friend who understand her, and that's pretty much all she needs. But when Grace kisses Gabe and things start to change at home, the world doesn't make much sense to her any more.

Suddenly everything threatens to fall apart, and it's up to Grace to fix it on her own.

The State of Grace tells the story of a girl who struggles to fit in, who tries to find her feet in a world which constantly tells her that she needs to. Grace has Asperger's, and being in her mid-teens, things are getting more and more difficult: boys have become complicated, friendships are suddenly full of unspoken drama, and Grace's younger sister is close to going off the rails. Something weird is going on with their parents, and Grace's teacher thinks she's just attention-seeking. Meanwhile, all Grace wants is to be with her horse, Mabel, and for everything to be fine.

I've been looking forward to this book since the day it was announced. I'd been following the author on Twitter for a while and I already liked what she had to say, so to hear that she was making a foray into YA was exciting. I blogged about it here on the WHSmith website due to it being one of my most highly-anticipated 2017 reads! The main reason for me being excited about it, however, is due to Grace's Asperger's. I'm close to a few women with the same diagnosis, and I'd never seen this representation in YA before. I've read a couple of books with male autistic characters, but even then, those books are few and far between. Overall, there doesn't seem to be a lot out there on the topic. And who better to write about it than Lucas, who was diagnosed with Asperger's herself and whose daughter has it, too?

Grace is such a great character, written with warmth and heart, and through her Lucas encourages pride in autism. There are a few comments on Grace having been sent to the 'Jigsaw Centre' when she was younger, which aimed to mould her into a more neurotypical and therefore 'socially acceptable' being, subtly commenting on the negativity of so-called treatment for autistic people and trying to find a 'cure'. The book's overarching message is to be yourself, and to let everyone else do the same.

It's worth noting that Rachael Lucas has an awesome presence on social media, so to hear more of what she has to say, do follow her on Twitter and/or Instagram. And if you're looking for an authentic and honest story which is entertaining and full of heart, The State of Grace is well worth reading. I can't wait for what Lucas is planning next!