TV Post: What I’ve Been Watching Lately

Ever since I announced I would be including posts about TV (and potentially films) with YA appeal on the blog, I’ve been trying to write the perfect post to start this chapter. It turns out there is no perfect post. There are in fact four saved drafts of half completed posts that just didn’t feel right. Recently I decided that maybe I should just start with something simple, relaxed, more of a prologue to carry on the writing metaphor.

For me, TV shows and books are intrinsically linked, and yes films too. They offer entry to another world, either through images or words. They are portals. Recently I was attending a blogging event (more on that shortly) and surprised myself by spending more of the evening than planned discussing a multitude of TV shows a lot of us enjoyed watching (The Good Wife, Teen Wolf, Arrow and The Blacklist to name a few)

So here it is, my introductory post that simply talks about some of the shows I’m currently watching and enjoying or that I have watched previously and think have YA appeal. As mentioned in my previous TV post, I’m focusing on shows with YA or crossover appeal, like the books I review here however for the purposes of this post I may mention at the end a couple of the other shows I watch just so you can get a sense of my habits. Please note that many of these shows are UK 15 certificates and therefore those under 15 should not proceed with these TV posts. I only recommend these TV shows to those above any age restrictions said programme may have in the reader’s country. All image links go to the show’s imdb webpage, where I got the image from.

arrowArrow: Five years after being presumed dead in a storm, rich playboy Oliver Queen is discovered alive on a seemingly deserted island. Returning home, Oliver Queen is inevitably changed. In fact he has had to become someone else… the Arrow.

Brooding, intense and dark. It’s a YA bad boy of a TV show! Arrow just gets superhero tv right. It has clues and easter eggs for the original comic book fans but is still clear and easy to follow for newcomers, such as myself.

Action packed, Arrow still develops its characters and looks at the emotional side of the superhero, not just the action-hero. Oliver’s struggles with returning home and reconnecting with his family and people in general again are well done and Oliver really develops as the series progresses. The action scenes are brilliant and the workout scenes are pretty good too. Seriously, who didn’t want to undertake sword training, archery lessons and kali after watching a few episodes? While the show is flashback heavy, I would say 80-90% work for me and all of them do contribute to the present plots.

theflash


The Flash:
Spin-off of Arrow. After a 9 month coma, Barry Allen awakes to discover he is now the fastest man alive. And the particle collider incident which caused his accident, may have created more meta-humans.

I could call this show Arrow’s little brother as it’s the freshman spin-off of Arrow. Flash to me is much lighter too, more geeky, goofy and fun. Similarly to Arrow, it is crammed full of easter eggs too. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this as much as Arrow, but it’s great fun and has definite YA appeal.

 

 

teenwolf

Teen Wolf: After Scott McCall is attacked by a werewolf, his ordinary teenage life as he knows it is over. 

This is the show that inspired me to start blogging about YA TV too. The title is fairly self-explanatory, but this isn’t just a paranormal YA style show. The friendships, the mythology, action scenes and approach to relationships and sexuality make it stand out more, at least particularly in the first seasons. Let’s be honest, Stiles, Scott’s best friends, steals the show with his humour, sarcasm and generally awesomeness. It’s an addictive show and while a few strands haven’t worked for me and there can be plot holes– no, seriously, don’t ask me about Echo House unless you want an impassioned rant – I still enjoy this show a lot. I love its homage to horror techniques too and self-awareness. Also, while not all of the music stands out and relies on more dancey music a lot,  it has introduced me to several great songs and Hozier.

supernaturalSupernatural: I hold my hands up here, since Sky didn’t buy season ten I have not caught up with the show from the end of season nine. While we’re on this subject, seriously Sky, Teen Wolf too? Why? For me the earlier seasons of Supernatural are the best and I loved the road-trip element. Two hot brothers, roadtripping around the US, y’know saving people, hunting things, the family business. It’s a very YA concept and it works. It can be very creepy and a touch scary, so just a heads up – especially episodes like Bloody Mary *shudders*

 

 

the originals


T
he Originals: Spin-off the Vampire Diaries following original vampire family the Mikaelsons in New Orleans.

I prefer this show to the Vampire Diaries. There, I said it. It’s darker, more mature and the New Orleans setting really works for me. I think the characters as well feel more compelling to me.

 

 

 

I also wanted to mentioned two more shows that are not YA/crossover shows specifically but that I really enjoy so you can get a taste for my TV interests and I can fangirl. There are many more shows I’m watching and loving at the moment, but I wanted to limit the ones with less YA appeal I mention here. 

theblacklistThe Blacklist: Silence of the Lambs meets White Collar is one hell of a comparison. The Blacklist is one of those shows that just keeps you guessing. It is also darkly funny in places. A lot of this is down to James Spader being awesome as mastermind criminal ‘Red’ Reddington. Red hands himself into the FBI and will only speak to a young agent, offering unknown criminals up from his own blacklist. However what are his motivations for this? While series two, its current season, is slightly more predictable it still is highly addictive and a good watch. Warning: this show is violent at times and has some disturbing themes and moments so please exercise caution.

 

goodwifeThe Good Wife: Oh, this show! While it’s most definitely not aimed at teenagers, as a writer and TV lover I have to mention this show. It simply is one of the best US dramas airing right now and the writing is spectacular. After her husband’s public affair and jail sentence, lawyer turned housewife Alicia Florrick is forced to begin working again. Her new job just so happens to be working with an old flame and also competing with an ambitious Harvard graduate for a permanent role at the law firm.

Not many shows can get even better as they progress but the Good Wife does. Notably in season five, the writers flipped the script and our expectations not once but twice and changed the show significantly. I have to say that season five is one of the best TV seasons I have seen in a long time. While season 6 is currently airing in the US, UK fans have to wait until January. From what I’ve read, however, the writers have done the same thing again. This show is simply outstanding and oh man, the feels!

How about you? Do you watch any of these shows? What do you think? 

 

Review: The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

wallsaroundusTitle: The Walls Around Us
Author: Nova Ren Suma
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Publication Date: March 24th 2015
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Format: Hardback
Source: egalley from publisher via Netgalley
Also by this author: Imaginary Girls, 17 & Gone, Dani Noir

Goodreads Description“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”
The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices—one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.
We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture—which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.
Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

Review: After reading and enjoying Suma’s Imaginary Girls and hearing a lot of praise from blogger/librarian Stackedbooks I was desperate to read The Walls Around Us which has been described as Orange is the new Black Swan. Like Imaginary Girls, The Walls Around Us feels both contemporary and supernatural, almost magical realist in a sense.

The Walls Around Us is beautifully written and Nova Ren Suma is a clear talent in the YA world. While at times the novel feels a little confusing – there are two main narrators who reveal the story of a third character, Orianna, and some time jumps all running simultaneously, it is a compelling read and one well worth pursuing. I read this novel in one sitting until about 2 am.

Centred around a juvenile detention facility, Violet, Orianna and Amber narrate the story. Each character was distinct and compelling in their own way, even if not entirely likeable (Violet and this did make her fall a little flat for me a times) Nova Ren Suma looks at teenagers and girls honestly without rose-tinted glasses and her novel explores big themes like innocence and guilt with a slightly supernatural twist. You may notice I have not gone into the plot or characters in too much detail and that is deliberate. This is a book worth going into with as little knowledge as possible.

The ending definitely took me by surprise and was unexpected but the more I think about it definitely worked.

Darkly beautiful, The Walls Around Us is a YA novel well worth checking out. Nova Ren Suma is particularly known in the UK yet and I hope this changes as she is a fast becoming a YA voice to pay attention to.

 I received a free egalley from Algonquin Young Readers via Netgalley  for reviewing purposes. My review is honest and its tone and content unaffected by the means in which I received the book.

Mini Reviews #2

100societyTitle: The 100 Society
Author: Carla Spradberry
Publication Date:  September 4th 2014
Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Source: Review copy from publisher via Netgalley
Summary: For sixth-form student Grace Becker, The 100 Society is more than just a game; it’s an obsession. Having convinced her five friends at Clifton Academy to see it through to the end, Grace will stop at nothing to carry out the rules of the game: tagging 100 locations around the city. With each step closer to the 100-mark they get, the higher the stakes become. But when the group catches the attention of a menacing stalker – the Reaper – he seems intent on exposing their illegal game, tormenting Grace with anonymous threats and branding their dormitory doors with his ominous tag.
As the once tight-knit group slowly unravels, torn apart by doubt and the death of a student, they no longer know who to trust.
With time running out, Grace must unmask the Reaper before he destroys everything she cares about for ever…
Review: The 100 Society was a highly anticipated read for me from the moment I read about it in the Bookseller. I love psychological thrillers and boarding school settings!

I have to admit that I found the first couple of chapters a little hard to get into and I think the concept of the 100 society and graffiti felt slightly implausible at times. That said, this was a compelling read and one that was very easy to devour. In some ways it definitely reminded me of the 90’s horror films Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer along with classic Point Horror novels. I love that this is coming back into YA and Spradberry really captures the psychological thrills very well. The atmosphere was wonderfully tense and the big confrontation well done.

At times I did feel some of the characters felt a little flat and I found Grace a little hard to understand – though I think some of this was due to my issues with the concept of the 100 tags and its importance – however there was some great witty dialogue and twists in the tale.

Fans of horror and mysteries should find a lot to enjoy in the 100 Society.  I would definitely be interested in reading Spradberry’s next novel.

flirtydancingTitle: Flirty Dancing
Author: Jenny McLachlan
Publication Date:   July 3rd 2014
Publisher:  Bloomsbury
Source: Review copy from publisher via Netgalley
Summary: Bea Hogg is shy but fiery inside. When national dance competition Starwars comes to her school looking for talent, she wants to sign up. It’s just a shame her best friend agreed to enter with school super-cow Pearl Harris. Bea will fight back! But when school hottie, Ollie Matthews, who also happens to be Pearl’s boyfriend, decides to enter the competition with Bea, she will have more than a fight on her hands.
This warm, nuanced, hilarious story about friendship, fortitude . . . and dancing is impossible not to fall in love with. Jenny’s voice is fresh and convincing, and she handles both darker and lighter elements of the story with equal panache.

Review: Flirty Dancing is a fun, quick read filled with dancing and humour I was able to read in one sitting.

I really loved that Bea’s family had an important role in the book, especially Bea’s grandmother. McLachlan also does deal with more serious issues like bullying in Flirty Dancing and yet because the focus is on Bea’s dancing and personal growth it doesn’t feel didactic. I really enjoyed Bea’s journey in the book and her relationship with Ollie. The dancing scenes were convincingly written and worked well.

I do think that this book works more towards the younger end of the YA market in terms of humour and content and would fit in well with books like Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging.

dangerousboysTitle: Dangerous Boys
Author: Abigail Haas
Publication Date:  August 14th 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster UK
Source: Review copy from publisher via Netgalley
Summary: Three teens venture into the abandoned Monroe estate one night; hours later, only two emerge from the burning wreckage. Chloe drags one Reznick brother to safety, unconscious and bleeding; the other is left to burn, dead in the fire. But which brother survives? And is his death a tragic accident? Desperate self-defense? Or murder?
Chloe is the only one with the answers. As the fire rages, and police and parents demand the truth, she struggles to piece together the story of how they got there-a story of jealousy, twisted passion, and the darkness that lurks behind even the most beautiful of faces…

Review: Haas’ Dangerous Girls was one of my top reads of 2013 and captured psychological twists and drama so well, so I was excited to see what she would write next. Dangerous Boys has a very interesting concept and strong narration, however sadly didn’t quite pull me in the same way as Dangerous Girls.

I’m fascinated by the bad boy- good girl dynamic (as some of you may know I focused on it for my postgraduate critical work) so I thought many aspects of Oliver’s character and Chloe’s relationship to him very interesting. I found Chloe a compelling narrator and her difficulties in being stuck in a town and a position she shouldn’t have to be in well conveyed.

The overall plot and twist fell slightly short for me. I wonder if this is because I read the book expecting certain twists and turns in the same way as Dangerous Girls though. I did read Dangerous Boys in one sitting and it is compelling and well-written, however didn’t quite have such a hold on me as Dangerous Girls and I’m not entirely sure why.

Haas knows how to concoct a dark, twisted, compelling tale with flawed, unreliable yet believable characters and I think her writing is strong. Dangerous Boys is an interesting examination of relationships and relationship dynamics and fans of twisty novels with unlikeable characters such as Gone Girl will find a lot of interesting material in this novel.

Blog Tour: 3 Days To Go Until The Maze Runner [Review and Signed Book Giveaway]

Martyn Pig stg2

Today I am posting as part of the blog tour for the run-up to The Maze Runner’s movie release in 3 days (10th October 2014). I’m really excited for the Maze Runner movie as the lead actor, Dylan O’Brien, plays one of my favourite characters on Teen Wolf. I have a review of the book and a giveaway for a copy of edition of the Maze Runner signed by the author James Dashner.

The Maze Runner Classic ed jacketTitle: The Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Publisher: Chicken House Books
Publication Date: August 4th 2011.
Series/Standalone: 1st in a series.
Format: Paperback
Source: Publicist/Publisher
Also by this author: The Scorch Trials, The Death Cure, The Kill Order, Eye of Minds.

Goodreads DescriptionWhen the doors of the lift crank open, the only thing Thomas remembers is his first name. But he’s not alone. He’s surrounded by boys who welcome him to the Glade – a walled encampment at the centre of a bizarre and terrible stone maze. Like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they came to be there – or what’s happened to the world outside.

Review: I had seen the Maze Runner in book shops for years and was curious about the series, but for some reason didn’t pick it up, so when I was offered the chance to review it for this blog tour I had to say yes.

The Maze Runner has a fantastic premise, young boys with very little of their memory about lives before wake up, or are sent up a lift once a month, in the Glade. There is the maze with walls that change over night and terrifying monsters called Grievers. There are no adults and the boys have had to forge together their own society and rules. Thomas, the main protagonist, arrives in the Glade, however has an unexplained sense of deja vu. As he struggles to get to grips with his confusing new life, an unprecedented arrival changes everything. A barely conscious girl with a note saying she is the last new arrival.

The Maze Runner started a little slow for me, however due to its premise and potential I kept reading and soon was sucked into the world. The secondary characters, especially Newt felt well-developed and Gally was a formidable threat. My only issue was I felt Teresa, the lone female character, was critically underused. For most of the book she is in a coma, and there is a way she can communicate with Thomas, but I would have liked to her to be more present and active. I have heard this may be slightly different in the film adaption though. That said, by the final half, I was glad to see she was more utilised. Also the all-male society had an interesting Lord of the Flies dynamic to it.

The Maze Runner is filled with tension; Thomas’ rivalry with Gally, the maze itself and its creepy electronic monsters that cause something called the changing. Something that brings the person to remember more of their lives and the world before, but clearly is so bad no one ever can bring themselves to talk about it.

I really enjoyed the Maze Runner overall; it was tense, full of action and adventure and had a compelling premise. I would have liked more clarity on the mysteries, but this is a series and it does have to generally hold back on giving everything away too early on. I would definitely be interested in continuing the series and finding out more about the world and what will happen to the characters next.

 I received a free copy from the publisher/publicist  for reviewing purposes. My review is honest and its tone and content unaffected by the means in which I received the book. Many thanks to Laura for arranging the tour. 

The Maze Runner out now in paperback (£7.99, Chicken House) 


UK Only Giveaway:

Just leave a comment on this blog tour post, I’d love to know why you’d love to read the Maze Runner or want to see the film, and enter the rafflecopter to win a signed copy of the book.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I’ve Only Read One Book From But NEED to Read More

toptentuesday

 

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme created the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is about authors we’ve only read one book from but need more. I’ve chosen to focus on authors with more than one book already out to help me shortlist more easily. I’ve also used my own books for photos, so apologies if the lighting is rubbish (it’s a bit of a miserable day) but it’s something I’d like to play around with more on the blog.

Matthew Quick ttt1sep

I read Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock last year and thought it was a strong YA novel. I’ve also seen and enjoyed the film adaption of Silver Linings Playbook so Matthew Quick is definitely an author I need to read more of.

Kendare Blake

I began attempting to rectify this today as I finally bought Girl of Nightmares! I love Anna Dressed In Blood and its horror and Supernatural vibe.

V.E. Schwab

I adored Vicious and it’s one of my favourite releases of the year so far. I therefore need to read Victoria’s existing YA novels soon!

Andrew Smith

Thanks to the lovely Faye, I have a copy of Smith’s other novel released in the UK, Grasshopper Jungle, although I haven’t got around to reading it yet. I loved Winger which is a brilliant contemporary novel, however I must confess that despite wanting to read Grasshopper Jungle I’m a little worried about all the bugs!

Bethany Griffin

I really enjoyed the gothic atmosphere of The Masque of the Red Death, however I haven’t had a chance to read the final book in the duology yet. I’m hoping to be able to get a copy and complete it soon, plus Griffin has a new novel out soon.

ttt2sep Victoria Scott

Fire & Flood took me by surprise, as I mentioned in my review. I expected something a little more typical and like the many dystopian YAs out there, however it was a fun, enjoyable and compulsive read. I seriously need to check out her Dante Walker series soon!

 

Frances Hardinge 

I heard a lot about Hardinge about a year or so ago on twitter, however it wasn’t until I was sent a review copy of her latest Cuckoo Song earlier this year that I realised all the hype was more than deserved. Hardinge’s voice and writing is great and I’d love to read more soon.

Cath Crowley

I loved Graffiti Moon when I reviewed it way back in 2012, however while she has some other books out across the world, Graffiti Moon is her only UK release to date. I’m hoping some more of her books, and her next novel, will be picked up over here and I can get to them soon!

Helen Grant

Helen is a lovely author and I interviewed her on the blog earlier this year. I loved Silent Saturday and its urban exploration, horror and thriller elements. I haven’t had a chance to get hold of the sequel Demons of Ghent yet, however I do have Wish Me Dead, one of her earlier novels based on the classic horror story The Monkey’s Paw, and am hoping to slowly work my way through her books soon.

Jonathan Stroud

I loved Lockwood & Co. and with the second novel in the series due very soon, I can hopefully take Stroud off this list soon! I’d also love to check out his Bartimaeus trilogy!

So, do we have any of the same authors on our TTT? Do you think there’s one author or book mentioned I simply have to read ASAP? Where should I start?

 

 

Review: Red by Alison Cherry

redTitle: Red
Author: Alison Cherry
Publisher: Quercus Children’s
Publication Date: January 2nd 2014
Series/Standalone: Standalone
Format: Paperback
Source: Egalley from Netgalley
Also by this author:

Goodreads DescriptionTop student. Beauty queen. Girlfriend of the hottest football jock: Felicity’s got everything. And it’s all down to her red, red hair.
Felicity lives in Scarletville, the world’s only redhead sanctuary, where red hair is celebrated, protected – and the key to sucess.
But Felicity has a secret. A red hot secret. And if anyone finds out, she’s finished.
Because Felicity’s actually a natural blonde.
And in Scarletville, blondes need not apply

Review:  Red for me was a strange read. On one hand it reminded me of Drop Dead Gorgeous and there was a strong satirical and humorous feel to the novel with a slight Mean Girls edge. However the central concept of someone dying their hair to fit in with the rest and playing a ‘redhead’ along with the town of Scarletville had some difficult implications. When I was at university, one of the books I studied was about post apartheid life in South Africa and involved a couple able to pass as white during the apartheid, so obviously there were some clear parallels here for me as I read.

Red obviously has a message about tolerance and discrimination and looks at these issues through a more satirical lens. However some parts were so over the top it detracted from the key point of the novel for me and didn’t always feel successful. For example, the chapter when they go outside of Scarlettville just didn’t work for me as they were so naïve it felt unbelievable. Even though the intent was clearly to look at stereotyping, prejudice and discrimination, the concept of prejudicing those without red hair sometimes felt a little too frivolous and while this was the point and demonstrated how arbitrary and ridiculous judging someone on their appearance alone is, with the real life history and parallels I sometimes felt it didn’t quite work.

A few of twists towards the end and the blackmail plot didn’t entirely work for me or convince me. The implications and parallels in the real world about discrimination and prejudice also didn’t always sit comfortably for me in such a seemingly superficially lighthearted novel . While Cherry was using this to address greater points on discrimination and prejudice, I just didn’t always feel it worked for me in this quite quirky delivery. However, I do think this might be an interesting gateway to get readers thinking about and discussing important topics including prejudice and popularity/social status.

With all of that said, I thought the romance was quite engaging and overall it was an addictive read which I read in just one sitting. While Red did not always work for me, I would probably read Alison Cherry’s next novel as I enjoyed a lot of her writing style, however I am not sure I want to return to the land of Red.

 I received a free ecopy from Quercus via Netgalley  for reviewing purposes. My review is honest and its tone and content unaffected by the means in which I received the book.

Review: Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

brokenheartsfencesTitle: Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend
Author: Katie Finn
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends [US]
Publication Date: May 13th 2014
Series/Standalone: Series, book one.
Format: Hardback
Source: eARC via Netgalley
Also by this author:

Goodreads DescriptionHot sun. Blue waves. New romances. Old secrets.
Gemma had her summer all planned out, but it takes a sharp turn when she gets dumped and finds herself back in the Hamptons after a five-year absence.
Being there puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friends (that is, before Gemma ruined her life). But people don’t hold grudges forever. Do they?
Gemma intends on making amends, but a small case of mistaken identity causes the people she knew years ago—including Hallie and her dreamy brother, Josh—to believe she’s someone else. As though the summer wasn’t complicated enough already.
Filled with summer sun, boys, and friendships gone sour, Katie Finn’s first novel in the Broken Hearts and Revenge series sizzles and delights.

Review:  I love Morgan Matson’s YA and when I learnt that Katie Finn was Matson’s pseudonym I was really excited to read Broken Hearts, Fences and Other Things to Mend [Broken Hearts… for ease of typing] and expected great things.

After a disastrous break up in a supermarket and a small case of mistaken identity on a train, Gemma sees her chance to make things right with her former best friend Hailie, as well as reconnecting with Hallie’s cute brother, Josh.  However things begin to go wrong as a series of unfortunate disasters occur and the strain of trying to keep her true identity from Josh begins to show itself.

In this sort of scenario, I think it can be expected that you have to suspend your disbelief to an extent and in order to enjoy this book, I would say you should.  While I predicted most of the twists in this book, it did not detract from my overall enjoyment, however did feel quite overdramatic at times. Finn conveyed Gemma’s motivation behind not only making things right, but what caused the betrayal, effectively and I rooted for her as a narrator. I did feel she was quite naive and tried a bit too hard, however she remained relatable overall. I do have to say that I really wanted her to be honest from the start however as we all make mistakes (though Gemma’s was pretty over-the-top) when we’re young and the deception felt too elaborate and doomed to fail, plus dishonest and wrong to her relationship with Josh.

The ending is fairly open and sets things up for the next book, however I’m not sure how this will develop as a series. That said, I do want see Gemma face the consequences of the end of this book and find a resolution.

While you may need to suspend your disbelief a lot and it didn’t entirely work for me throughout, there is something readable and summery about this book.

 I received a free ecopy from the publisher via Netgalley  for reviewing purposes. My review is honest and its tone and content unaffected by the means in which I received the book.

Dropping the ‘The’

Source: Tumblr, click image to go to post.

Recently I’ve noticed a lot of my blogging friends discussing either on twitter or their blogs suffering from blogging fatigue or pressure. It’s something I’ve experienced myself and I’m currently trying to come out of. You may have noticed every now and then I take a step back from the blog and won’t post for a while, though I inevitably always return. In a way these breaks are a double edged sword for me because when I return I’ve lost some followers, lost a few daily views, feel a touch out of the community and suddenly am left to question whether my blog matters at all. I’m doing my best not to pay attention to those things though; numbers matter superficially but I do this because I love YA and it’s a wonderful community. That said, I’ve been thinking about a few changes and this post has been sitting in my drafts folder in various forms for about two months now. The first (and very silly) excuse for not putting it online earlier was not finding the gif I wanted, well I found it, so no excuses now…

It all started with the recent banner redesign and asked some feedback from some of my lovely twitter followers. The very lovely Emma Haughton suggested dropping the books from Choose YA Books for more impact and it was a great suggestion and one I am taking (the banner will remain the same but without the word books, I’m sorting that out now).

This reminded me a little of that lightbulb moment in The Social Network when Sean Parker tells Zuckerberg to drop the ‘The’ from ‘The Facebook’, hence the title and gif.

This got me thinking about what I wanted ChooseYA to be. A relative just this week commented on my knowledge and love of TV and film and how they felt I could be a good TV critic and should do more blogging on this. I don’t want ChooseYA to not be a book blog. Books are incredibly important to me, I love reading and literature and writing. However at times, I feel the blog currently is a little flat and I want it to be more. Due to the blog name and trying to keep its core identity focused, expanding to reviewing general fiction without any YA interest doesn’t feel appropriate to me and I want to stay true to my original vision for the blog – and wow, using the term vision feels pretentious but hey ho.

So, what is this post all about? I’m dropping the ‘The’, or rather the ‘Books’.  ChooseYA will still primarily be a book blog; it will probably be 90% all about the books. I will still review books and the content will be YA/crossover focused, whether it’s about a book or not. However, I want to create a space to discuss some of the pop culture, films and TV I love and I think would fit in with ChooseYA – I might review or recap a few shows, or not, this may not work for me and I may go back to all the books, all the time. I’m not sure yet. I’m pretty sure that I might do a couple of posts about my new love of Teen Wolf (thanks Liz and Jenni)  I’m excited though and looking forward to expanding my blog and trying something new.

Review: Boys Don’t Knit by T.S. Easton

boysdontknitTitle: Boys Don’t Knit
Author: T.S Easton
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Publication Date: January 1st 2014
Series/Standalone: first in a series.
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from publisher
Also by this author:  A sequel, An English Boy in New York will follow this month.

Goodreads DescriptionBen Fletcher must get to grips with his more ‘feminine’ side following an unfortunate incident with a lollipop lady and a stolen bottle of Martini Rosso from Waitrose. All a big misunderstanding of course. To avoid the Young Offenders unit, Ben is ordered to give something back to the community and develop his sense of social alignment. Take up a hobby and keep on the straight and narrow. The hot teacher he likes runs a knitting group so Ben, reluctantly at first, gets ‘stuck in’. Not easy when your dad is a sports fan and thinks Jeremy Clarkson is God. To his surprise, Ben finds that he likes knitting and that he has a mean competitive streak. If he can just keep it all a secret from his mates…and notice that the girl of his dreams, girl-next-door Megan Hooper has a bit of a thing for him…Laugh-out-loud, often ridiculous, sometimes quite touching, and revelatory about the knitting world, Boys Don’t Knit is a must for boys and girls..

Review: Boy’s Don’t Knit came into my life at just the right moment when I really needed cheering up. Told in a (slightly reluctant) diary format, Easton has the teenage voice down perfectly. Ben is a great character and you can’t help rooting for him as he unintentionally lands himself into chaotic situations.

After an unfortunate accident and misunderstanding, Ben is now giving back to the community and being forced to take up a hobby and ends up in the knitting class. Suddenly he finds out that maybe knitting isn’t as bad as he thought, in fact he might actually be good at it. If only it wasn’t such an ‘uncool’ hobby.

I adored this book. It’s funny, it feels very authentic and it looks at how we can tell ourselves not to do something due to a fear of being uncool or weird, but actually that isn’t always right and we limit ourselves. Ben grows a lot throughout the novel and he’s a really solid narrator. Easton’s voice is so on point and genuinely humorous. Most importantly, this book to me proves a lot about the debate about boys reading YA and the idea of boy and girl hobbies. Why do we have these strict ideas about what boys and girls can do and that in the case of this book, boys don’t knit? Easton doesn’t get didactic about this and it’s not a preachy novel in the slightest, but the message does come through.

Contemporary YA fans and those who love UKYA should definitely enjoy Boys Don’t Knit. It’s quintessentially British and is an authentic, funny and thought-provoking YA.  I’m very keen to read the sequel and continue Ben Fletcher’s adventures in knitting and life.

 I received a free paperback from Hot Key Books  for reviewing purposes. My review is honest and its tone and content unaffected by the means in which I received the book.

Mini Reviews 1: The Contemporaries

Today’s reviews all are contemporary YA novels, however each is very different.

amymatthewTitle: Amy & Matthew
Author: Cammie McGovern
Publication Date: March 17th 2014 
Publisher:
Macmillan Children’s Books
Source: Review copy from publisher

Summary: Amy loves Matthew and he loves her back. This is their story.
Amy is unflinchingly honest about her limitations. Born with cerebral palsy, she can’t walk or talk without help. But trapped inside this uncooperative body lies a brilliant mind and a luminous spirit – a girl capable of truly loving and worthy of being loved in return.
Matthew has his own set of challenges – a mind consumed by unwanted repeated thoughts, obsessive rituals and a crippling fear that he can’t explain. But underneath all of the anxiety lies a deep seed of hope for someone to come along who believes in him…
This is the story of Amy and Matthew. It may not be a fairy tale romance or set in an imagined world far from our own. But the love they share is real. And yes, there’s magic in it.

Firstly, on a shallow note, I adore this cover, it’s absolutely gorgeous. I had high expectations for Amy & Matthew as I love contemporary YA and this sounded very different due to the fact both main characters had a ‘disability’ of some form, and I haven’t seen this really discussed much in YA.

I thought that both Amy and Matthew were strong characters and narrators. I loved the email exchanges between the two and their friendship was well written. Amy seemed the more confident of the two and frequently encouraged Matthew to challenge his OCD.

McGovern doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of disabilities, or being a teenager and her writing style is assured. The only aspect that didn’t work for me personally was the prologue email and the way that led me to believe the novel would go. That said, this is a confident and heartfelt YA debut.

I think this novel would definitely appeal to fans of John Green, in particular, as well as contemporary YA readers. I’m intrigued to see what McGovern writes next as I think she has a good YA voice and style.

akissinthedarkTitle: A Kiss In The Dark
Author: Cat Clarke
Publication Date: April 3rd 2014
Publisher: Quercus
Source: Review copy from publisher

Summary: When Alex meets Kate the attraction is instant.
Alex is funny, good-looking, and a little shy – everything that Kate wants in a boyfriend.
Alex can’t help falling for Kate, who is pretty, charming and maybe just a little naive…
But one of them is hiding a secret, and as their love blossoms, it threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their lives.

A Kiss In The Dark is a hard book to review without spoiling the plot. While the plot twist – well, one of them, at least – is revealed early on, I will avoid mentioning it within this review which does I feel limit what I can say quite significantly.

A Kiss In The Dark is a tale of deception and betrayal as well as romance. While I anticipated one of the twists and betrayals, there is one towards the second half of the novel that I did not see coming and cast a different light on A Kiss In The Dark.

I enjoyed A Kiss In The Dark overall and found it gripping throughout. Clarke’s writing is clear, authentic and depicts the range of complicated emotions Alex and Kate went through. One of my favourite things about Clarke’s writing in general is she presents very human characters, with all their strengths and flaws together. In the case of A Kiss In The Dark, Clarke takes topics that have been covered in news stories and headlines but adds a level to them by making the characters and story feel real. If I’m honest it didn’t quite draw me in in the same way that Undone did, however it was still a very strong YA novel in my opinion.

Fans of Cat Clarke will definitely enjoy her latest novel, a contemporary YA that forces the reader to examine honesty, love and betrayal.

nowyouseemeehTitle: Now You See Me
Author: Emma Haughton
Publication Date: May 1st 2014
Publisher: Usborne
Source: Review copy from publisher

Summary: Three years ago, thirteen-year-old Danny Geller vanished without trace.
His family and friends are still hanging on to every last shred of hope. Not knowing if he’s alive or dead, their world is shrouded in shadows, secrets and suspicions.
This is the story of what happens when hope comes back to haunt you. When your desperation is used against you. When you search for the truth – but are too scared to accept the reality staring you in the face…
A mesmerizing psychological thriller with the most incredible twist you’ll read all year.

Now You See Me is inspired by a true story, as it says on the cover, and it was a story I’d actually read and heard about quite a bit before so I guessed the twist fairly quickly. That said, there was a final twist which I did not anticipate in the same way. Like with A Kiss In The Dark, I’m not explicitly going to discuss the twists which again limits my review significantly.

The friendship between Hannah and Danny was well conveyed and Haughton effectively depicted life after Danny’s disappearance and the strain on his family and friends.

Without going into the plot too deeply, Haughton’s writing is tight and suspenseful. I think at times, because I knew a bit about the ‘true story’, the suspense didn’t entirely work for me, however if I had no idea what was coming then I think it would have been more effective. The plot is tightly woven and Hannah is a strong and compelling narrator, trying to seek the truth behind Danny’s disappearance.

Enjoyable, fast-paced and an intriguing psychological thriller. Fans of novels such as Gone Girl and YA thrillers should find a lot to become invested in with Now You See Me.