Book Review: The Art of Being Normal (Lisa Williamson)

Publisher: David Fickling Books

Pages: 368

Release Date: January 1st 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Two boys. Two secrets.

David Piper has always been an outsider. His parents think he’s gay. The school bully thinks he’s a freak. Only his two best friends know the real truth – David wants to be a girl.

On the first day at his new school Leo Denton has one goal – to be invisible. Attracting the attention of the most beautiful girl in year eleven is definitely not part of that plan.

When Leo stands up for David in a fight, an unlikely friendship forms. But things are about to get messy. Because at Eden Park School secrets have a funny habit of not staying secret for long…


There was such a hype around this book this year, I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to read it. In my defence, I guess it’s not really my type of thing – my usual diet is fantasy and sci-fi – but I’ve been branching out a lot this year and trying to get in a variety of books.

This book hits the spot on so many levels. I love the diversity of the characters: some are expected, given the nature of the book, but it’s just so refreshing to see a variety of people in a story, as you would in real life.

It’s easy to connect to David: he’s so brave and, despite everything that comes at him, he still manages, for the most part, to stay cheery. I was rooting for him from the beginning and spent most of the book praying that his parents would accept him and the people at school wouldn’t be mean to him. Although I guess there’d be little story there if everything went like that…

Leo is a great contrast to David, yet still manages to remain likeable. I loved the fact that I had no idea what Leo’s secret was: it came as a complete surprise to me, which could be me being a bit slow on the uptake, and on hindsight I felt it should have been obvious, but I love the fact it wasn’t.

I worried sometimes that it was veering into the cheesy, especially with the ‘alternative ball’ at the end, but any time I thought that it snapped me back with a cold dose of reality. The only character I didn’t get on too well with was Alicia – she sometimes felt a little manic pixie dream girl – but she did redeem herself towards the end.

There were a few really emotional moments, especially when David ‘came out’ as it were, to his parents. It got me teary eyed on the bus to work. I like how nothing really felt sugar-coated: things don’t always work out well, people aren’t always going to be accepting of these situations, but there will always be people who support and love you, and you have to do what’s right for you.

A little personal tangent…

This book made me reflect a lot on a friend I had at university. I made friends with James* in my second year, and when James became Lily** the next year we stayed the same, and for me, nothing really felt different. But this book made me think about how hard that must have been for her. While we had a group of friends who were all very accepting, I know she had problems with other people who were not so nice, and I hate the idea that any of them made her feel the way David does sometimes in this book.

Back to the book.

There’s a hype about this book for a reason, and it’s not just because it’s on a subject that not many people seem willing to talk about, especially not in YA fiction. It’s also beautifully written with honest, fragile characters that can teach us a lot about how we treat other people, whatever gender they identify with.

*I’m using fake names

** Apparently from Harry Potter…

My Verdict:


Book Review: Seed (Lisa Heathfield)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 352

Release Date: April 16th 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Fifteen-year-old Pearl has lived her whole life protected within the small community at Seed, where they worship Nature and idolise their leader, Papa S. When some outsiders arrive, everything changes. Pearl experiences feelings that she never knew existed and begins to realise that there is darkness at the heart of Seed. A darkness from which she must escape, before it’s too late.


This is a simply stunning debut novel from Lisa Heathfield and I am itching to read the sequel.

I’ve not read a novel about a cult community like this one, but I have watched some films on the subject and read a lot around real life situations (Jonestown was the most recent one I looked up and it was very sad/scary to see how someone can control people like that).

If I were to start off with a criticism, it would probably be that the format for Seed is a little predictable. You know from the beginning that the perfect community they live in is going to slowly unwind, that Papa S is not going to be the merciful and blessed leader he pretends to be, and that someone from outside their community will convince the protagonist that not all is as it seems.

That may be a formula for novels like this (according to others, anyway) but it didn’t hamper my enjoyment of this at all. I raced through it: the prose is beautiful, full of little phrases and comments that really show Pearl’s sheltered life and how she relates everything to Nature.

I really connected with the characters. Pearl is great and I like that she didn’t sell out her lifestyle straight away: even when evidence is being presented to her, she only starts to doubt gradually, which felt natural as it would take a lot to really convince someone that everything they believe is a lie. I really felt everything she felt: her love for Papa S and Elizabeth, her confusion over Ellis and her complete belief in Nature and Seed.

The book could be quite disturbing in places, but it’s all very subtle and hinted at, rather than being explicit. The idea of Papa S’ Companion creeped me out, especially when it looked like Pearl might be next. The relationship between Kate and Kindred John also made me feel uncomfortable. Everything was enough to give me an idea of what was going on and make me doubt the perfection of Seed, but without making anything too awkward or upsetting.

The pace was fairly slow, which worked perfectly. It gave time to build the world and characters and meant that when the action started, it hit hard and fast and left you reeling.

This is a beautiful first novel and Heathfield’s prose weaves a truly magical and convincing world. The sequel in 2016 cannot come fast enough.

My Verdict:

Check out my soundtrack for Seed here

Book Review: You Against Me (Jenny Downham)


Publisher: Electric Monkey
Pages: 413
Release Date: December 2nd 2010
Summary (From Goodreads):

If someone hurts your sister and you’re any kind of man, you seek revenge, right?

If your brother’s accused of a terrible crime but says he didn’t do it, you defend him, don’t you?
When Mikey’s sister claims a boy assaulted her, his world begins to fall apart.
When Ellie’s brother is charged with the offence, her world begins to unravel.
When Mikey and Ellie meet, two worlds collide.


I picked up this book in hardcover at Waterstones for £1, which is crazy as it’s such a good book!

It’s a really interesting concept and one I struggled to pick a side on at first. It really is impossible. 

We start off with Mikey and his family, where we see the effect the assault is having on all of them. My sympathies immediately went out to Karen and her family and I didn’t think that could change.

Switch sides to Ellie as her brother comes out on bail. Once on her side, I couldn’t bring myself to believe Tom was guilty. Ellie couldn’t match that crime to her brother – the one who saved her from a vicious dog and took and interest in her and her friends – and neither could I. I did feel less invested in the rest of her family though. Her father was distant and throughout the book seemed much more interested in his son than his daughter. I also felt awkward at the idea of them having a party for Tom’s bail: I understood them showing they had nothing to be ashamed of but it still felt insensitive.

I didn’t see how Ellie and Mikey’s relationship could ever really develop: it was very much a case of Romeo & Juliet, a situation with impossible opposition from the two families. But I liked how they ended up drawn to each other, despite everything.

I don’t want to say too much else because it’s hard without giving away the plot. So I’ll just end by wrapping up and saying that this is a tense, emotional read that works beautifully told from two opposing perspectives. Give it a read!

My Verdict:

Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Top Five… Alice in Wonderland Quotes

One of my favourite ever stories turns 150 years old this year, and to celebrate, I am sharing my Top Five favourite quotes from the book (any excuse to give it another read!) alongside some pictures from one of my (many) copies of the book.


It was all very well to say “Drink me,” but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. “No, I’ll look first,” she said, “and see whether it’s marked ‘poison‘ or not.”

– Alice 


(The quote is also the picture. This is one of my favourite poems.)


“I can’t explain myself, I am afraid, sir, because I’m not myself, you see.”

– Alice 


“No wise fish would go anywhere without a porpoise” […] “why, if a fish came to me, and told me he was going on a journey, I should say, ‘With what porpoise?'”

– The Mock Turtle  


“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” 

– King of Hearts
I hope people are still reading this book in another 150 years.

Book Review: The Sky is Everywhere (Jandy Nelson)

Publisher: Walker Books

Pages: 320

Release Date: February 5th 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life – and suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two boys. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow; the other comforts her in it. But the two can’t collide without Lennie’s world exploding…


Ugh this book hurt my heart so much.

I had no idea what it was about when I picked it up, and after glancing at the back and realising a love triangle was about to happen, I wasn’t too keen (anyone who’s read any of my reviews will realise by now I have a bit of a problem with the love triangle trend). I wasn’t going to let that stop me having a go though.

While the love triangle does play a big part in the story, it’s not like one I’ve ever read before. Not only is it completely organic – you can see why the attraction to both boy’s has started, and the different appeal of both of them – but it also doesn’t feel like one of them has just been shoved in there to create some tension. This is a love triangle that works.

The book is full of kooky characters who are all a bit larger than life: Gram, Big, and the ever present Bailey, who is a character alive as any of the others, even though her death is announced in the first paragraph. It’s this that makes the pain of losing her so real: she’s not just an unknown character who’s dead before the story starts. She’s real and it hurts.

This is a love story, but it’s also about grief, and how to cope when the worst thing happens. It’s not full of answers on what to do in that situation – because there is, unfortunately, no magic answer – but it does end feeling more positive. Lennie’s attempts to deal with her grief may not seem natural to her but everyone deals with things in different ways, whatever you can to feel better and start moving on, even if moving on feels like betrayal.

That’s what gripped me emotionally with the book: it was Lennie’s guilt whenever she didn’t think about her dead sister, whenever she did something that might have upset Bailey, whenever she enjoyed herself without her. It’s so easy to get lost in grief and feel as if you should wear it around you at all times, when in reality you should just take those periods where it isn’t clouding you as relief, not as proof you’re a terrible person and forgetting you’re bereaved too quickly.

The ending almost had me in tears, which is very rare for me. When Lennie, finally has it out with Gram and realises she’s not the only person hurting: I felt so choked up and just wanted to hug them both. I thought it was brave of Lennie to stay and apologise, because I could feel the urge to run and just keep running, and that’s always so hard to resist.

Scattered throughout the book are little poems that Lennie writes, and these really add to the grief and help to characterise her and Bailey’s relationship. There’s something infinitely romantic about writing down your feelings and scattering them to the wind, and I loved that it was her love for Bailey that was expressed in them. To me, the best love stories aren’t the typical ones, but those between family and friends.

This is a spectacularly emotional read, an unflinching look at grief that will really tug at your heartstrings, but also make you smile as well.  

My Verdict:

If you enjoyed this, you may also like The Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

The Bookblogger TMI Tag

The lovely Priya tagged me to do this a while back (check out her post here) and so here it is. The Bookblogger TMI Tag is an adapted version of Carrie Hope Fletcher’s (who I saw in December and is AMAZING) TMI tag on YouTube. So here is mine.

1)Which clothes style from a book character do you like?

I can’t think of a clothes style but I always wanted to have super long blue hair like Rialle from Song Quest.

2)Your book boyfriend/ fictional crush?

I actually don’t think I have one. Romances are often my least favourite part of books (probably because I’m old and jaded)

3)Ever loved a character but than started hating him/her?

Kaede in The Harsh Cry of the Heron. I love her in the first three books and then in this one she doesn’t act as strong and intelligent as she usually does, and her actions cause a whole world of pain for everyone else.

4)Biggest/Longest book on your shelf?

The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George at 1139 pages (it took me a while to get through that one – it’s tiny writing as well!)

5)Heaviest book on your shelf?

Either the one above or my copy of The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll. It’s hardback and pretty big.

6)Do you have any book posters?

I don’t have any posters but I do have a few postcards and little bits like that.

7)Do you have any book themed jewellery?
I didn’t until recently. I got a lovely necklace from Melinda Salisbury with my copy of The Sin Eater’s Daughter which I’ve been wearing all week 🙂

8)Book OTP?

I’ll admit I had to look up what that meant…I’m going to leave this one unanswered…

9)Favourite book series?

It’s a hard one but right now I’d go with the Chaos Walking Trilogy or the Animorphs series.

10)Favourite Book-to-movie soundtrack?

Have to agree with Priya here and say Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit. My friends used to put the music from the end of The Fellowship on the jukebox in the pub and annoy everyone by speaking all the lines. Yeah, we were cool.

11)A book story you miss/ wish would continue?

I think I’d say Animorphs again here. Those books meant a lot to me, plus, while I did enjoy the ending, I would also love to find out what happened next.

12)Favourite stand-alone?

The Night Circus. I love it but also I can’t see many books without sequels on my shelves!

13)Since when did you read books?

Since forever. My parents were great with bedtime stories every night and when I could read for myself, I did at every opportunity. I used to sit in the bath at night to read (I couldn’t be told off for being up too late if they thought I was in the toilet!)

14)Which Hogwarts house are you in?

I found out recently I was in Slytherin. Mwahahahaha.

15)Quality you look for in a book?

Just engaging. Which is like the X-factor for books I guess: you can’t saw what it is, but you know when a book had got it.

16)Favourite book quote?

Stories are wild creatures, the monster said. When you let them loose, who knows what havoc they might wreak?” 
― Patrick NessA Monster Calls
And any number of other Patrick Ness quotes

17)Favourite author?

Ah that is pretty hard to choose. I’d say Michael de Larrabeiti because he wrote one of my favourite books (The Borrible Trilogy)

18)Favourite book cover?

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury. The colours are just beautiful.

19)Action or Romance?

I’d probably lean more towards action. Romance isn’t as important to me as other kinds of relationships.

20) Where do you go when a sad moment happens?

I go to bed in my onesie (and hopefully a bf there for cuddles/massages).

21) How long do you take to finish a book?

Silly question, it depends on the length. But not too long, as a rule. I travel for work 3 hours a day and that packs in some good reading time.

22)How long is your mourning period?

Usually pretty short. It has to be a pretty fierce book hangover to have me mourn more than a day.

23)Least favourite book?

The White Darkness by Geraldine McCaughrean. I haven’t read it for a long time but I think it’s one of the few books I’ve not finished.

24)Turn on in a character?


25)Turn off in a character?


26)Reason I started my book blog?

I just had a massive urge to do it last year. I’m not really sure of my reasons, but now I have I love it. It’s so great to be connected to lots of people who also love books.

27)Name a scary book?

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl which I read recently and loved. I’ve been really into scary books lately.

28)Last book that made you cry?

I don’t really cry at book but the last one to make me feel like crying was probably The Harsh Cry of the Heron The ending is just brutal.

29)Last book that you gave 5 stars?

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill. Go read it!

30)Any favourite book titles?

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making
What’s not to love about that? I bought it for the title alone.

31)Last book you read?

Me & Mr J by Rachel McIntyre. Really interesting read, would definitely recommend it.

32)Book you’re currently reading?

You Against Me by Jenny Downham I got it in Waterstones yesterday for £1 😮 Really enjoying it (and also The Complete Grimm Tales, which I got for Valentine’s Day and am slowly crawling my way through).

33)Last book adaptation you watched?

Hmmm… I don’t know. Probably an episode of Pretty Little Liars (which is amazing and I can’t wait for next season!)

34)A book character you always wanted to talk to?

Lyra from His Dark Materials. But she probably wouldn’t like me…

35)An author you always wanted to talk to?

Again, Michael de Larrabeiti, but sadly he is now dead 🙁

36)Favourite book snack?

I don’t have a usual one but right now it’s Mini Eggs.

37)Book world you want to live in?

I’d love to live in Rivendell. But after all the crazy stuff with the Ring has gone down.

38)Least world you want to live in?

Hell, in Damned. It’s a pretty nasty place.

39)Last time you smelled a book?

Yesterday. I was opening birthday presents and smelt them wrapped and then unwrapped. You have to smell new books.

40)Weird insults used in books?

Your virginity breeds mites, much like a cheese.

Shakespeare is the king of weird insults.

41)Favourite romance book?

Mmm again not much of a romance fan… Fault in Our Stars maybe? 

42)Do you write?

Yes, I write a lot. I’ve always wanted to be an author, and I’m being more disciplined about it now! I’d like to get published soon, once my manuscript is finished (that’s the dream anyway)

43)Favourite magical item?

The one Ring to rule them all, of course.

44)Your quidditch position?

I don’t know… probably Keeper.

45)Name a song you connect to a book

Eyes Open by Taylor Swift makes me think of The Hunger Games. Mostly because it’s in the soundtrack, but it just feels so perfect for it.

46)Favourite book related chat up line?

Are you a library book? Because I can’t stop checking you out.

47)Have you ever used it?

No, I just googled it…Maybe I’ll try it on the boyfriend later.

48)Favourite book fandom?

Probably the Harry Potter one. I’m not that into fandoms but that’s a very welcoming, tolerant and diverse one.

49)How many books do you own?

Probably around 300-400 but they’re scattered in so many places I can’t count. I want to move out and buy a load of bookcases to display them properly.

50)Who do you tag?

I’ll just tag anyone who fancies doing it 🙂

Book Review: Me & Mr J (Rachel McIntyre)

Publisher: Electric Monkey

Pages: 320

Release Date: January 29th 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Fifteen-year-old Lara finds her soulmate. There’s just one problem – he’s her teacher.

Lara’s life has changed radically since her father lost his job. As the eldest, Lara tries to keep upbeat, and the one outlet for all her problems is her diary where she can be open about how dire everything is at home, and worse, the fact that she’s being horrifically bullied at school.

And then a shining light comes out of the darkness – the new young and MALE teacher, Mr Jagger. The one person who takes Lara seriously and notices her potential. The one person who is kind to her. The one person who she falls madly and hopelessly in love with. The one person who cannot reciprocate her feelings … can he?


Argh where to start with this book?!

It’s not the sort of thing I’d usually pick up and when I read what it was about I wasn’t really convinced. But when Debbie from Snuggling on the Sofa said she was giving away a proof copy I decided I’d be open minded and give it a try.

OMG I am so glad I did. The first thing that drew me in was the narrative voice: it was so realistic I was surprised the author wasn’t a teenager herself. It’s not often you find a voice that authentic. Even some of the best ones I’ve read before, there’s always been a little giveaway that tells me it’s not really a teenager talking, but this one had it down to a T (tee?) The slang was perfect, there was a good amount of swearing (maybe off putting to some put I know I swore a lot when I was that age so it feels natural). I spent most of the first few pages just enjoying the voice.

Into the plot then… it is an awkward one. You know that, whatever the situation, it’s wrong. I went in with that mindset and I came out with it, but the in-between was not so black and white. It felt natural for Lara to turn to him, the one person who didn’t constantly bully and belittle her. I even kind of wanted them to get together, because Lara deserved a break. Everything she went through was horrible, from the awkward home situation to the horrific bullying. It really was vicious stuff and I felt for her at every bad turn.

I think that was how the book made you normalise their relationship. After taking every beating with Lara, you craved Mr. J’s niceness just as much as she did. And when the lies began to unravel and I knew they were about to get caught I was praying to have them stay together, even though I knew it was wrong.

I felt the ending was appropriate as the only way things could really end. Even with the wonderful story behind it and a touching relationship, Mr J was always going to be in the wrong in his position and, whatever Lara wanted, however much she needed it, nothing should ever happen between a teacher and a student.

In short, this book will break your heart a little, but you should read it anyway because it’s beautiful and real and I loved it.

My Verdict:

If you enjoyed this, you might like Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton.

Stacie and Maia's Random Reads

So, today marks something new on the blog.
I’m excited to announce that I am teaming up with Stacie from The Confessions of a Reader to start a Buddy Read!

Each month, we’ll be randomly picking a theme/genre of book and then nominating a book for the other to read. We’ll both be posting reviews of each book, and then have a kind of discussional post to see what we both thought of each other’s books.

This is the first time I’ve collaborated with anyone (my blog is still very young!) and I’m really looking forward to be doing something a little different. I love reading books and writing reviews, but this will add another dimension to it, possibly reading something I wouldn’t normal go for and being able to discuss and compare our choices and opinions will be really interesting.

So without further ado, the theme for April is…
(drum roll)
A book that has been made into a film
Interesting one to start with as I recently did a post on my Top Five Film Adaptations. For some reason though, I’ve decided to steer clear of all of them and my book for Stacie to read is…
(another drum roll)
Stardust by Neil Gaiman
I’ve chosen Stardust because it’s actually one of the first that sprang to mind. I haven’t seen the film in its entirety (I fell asleep part way through – not because it was bad, I was just tired!) but there have been adverts on the TV for it a lot lately, and I was bought the book for my birthday last year (which is almost exactly a year ago) and still haven’t read it.

If you’d like to see what Stacie has nominated me to read then hop on over and see her post.

We’ll be posting our reviews of each book in two week’s time, and then the following week we’ll have our discussions. We’d love for people to join in if they’re interested: feel free to join in reading with us, post your reviews in the comments or hold your own discussional post. Follow along using the hashtag #RandomReads

See you in two week’s time for our reviews!

Book Review: Flesh and Blood (Simon Cheshire)


Publisher: Stripes

Pages: 336

Release Date: March 2nd 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

I must record the facts that have led me to where I am now. So that, when someone reads this, they understand. Sam Hunter’s neighbours are pillars of the community, the most influential people in town. But they’re liars too. The Greenhills are hiding something and Sam’s determined to find out what it is. As his investigation unfolds, he realizes the lies reach further than he ever imagined – is there anyone he can trust? Uncovering the horror is one thing …escaping is another.


I am just adoring all the books in the Red Eye series. I’ve read two so far and gave them 4 and 5 stars, and this book did not disappoint. I’ve wanted to read it for a while, and finally received it as an early birthday/cheering up present from my partner. It got bumped straight to the top of my TBR pile.

I’d say it started a little slow for me, with more of a mystery feel to it than a horror at first. I had no idea where it was going to go, and was guessing constantly – vampires? zombies? insane murderers? – but never guessed right!

The story is told in first person through Sam’s eyes, almost like a report of events, and he occasionally foreshadows events with comments along the lines of “If only we’d known…perhaps I could have stopped it…” etc. While I did enjoy his perspective of events and the honesty with which it was told, there was a part of me that thought, “well, things can’t be that bad if he’s been able to survive everything and write it all down.” How wrong I was.

The story really turns into horror when Sam and his friends enter Bierce Priory and discover the secret the Greenhills are hiding. I won’t ruin it here, but some of it was truly horrific and I think I read faster so I didn’t have to dwell on some of the awful things. It was truly grim.

I really felt a sense of hopelessness towards the end: every time I thought of something Sam could do to get out of the mess, that path was blocked and it became more and more obvious that the Greenhill’s influence was too wide to escape. The ending (again, trying not to spoil anything) was oddly numbing. When I finally realised why Sam was able to write down his account of events, and what was in store for him, it was his calm acceptance of it that creeped me out more than anything else. He was resigned to his fate, his senses dulled a little by drugs, but he knew there was no chance now of escape. This felt more awful than if the author had gone on to describe what the Greenhill’s had in store for him.

This is another horror hit from the Red Eye series and I really can’t wait to read another from them. Anyone looking for a creepy, spine chilling read should check out this book and the others in the series.


My Verdict:

Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

If you enjoyed this, check out the other books in the Red Eye series:
Frozen Charlotte and Sleepless