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BOOK REVIEW: Summer Bird Blue

Hey lovely readers! Today, I’ve been lucky enough to be chosen to be part of the Summer Bird Blue blog tour – thanks so much to Ink Road for sending me a gifted copy for me to read and review. This was a beautifully sad story, and one that I feel covered grief in a brilliant and understandable way; while also showing that everyone grieves differently.


Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying. What to eat, where to go, who to love. But one think she is sure of – she wants to spend her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and Rumi is sent to live with her aunt in Hawaii. Now, miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, feeling abandoned by her mother, and the aching absence of music.

With the help of the “boys next door” – teenage surfer Kai, who doesn’t take anything too seriously, and old George Watanabe, who succumbed to grief years ago – Rumi seeks her way back to music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.


I mean this in the most complimentary way – Akemi Dawn Bowman knows how to write sadness and sad characters. With my heart freshly trampled from Starfish and the characters experiences in that book, I already knew that I would be in for another saddening experience with Summer Bird Blue. It tells the story of Rumi, who is having to adjust to life now that her sister has died. Not only that, but it feels like her mother has abandoned her too – sending her to stay in Hawaii while she grieves. Rumi’s life has been flipped upside-down, and she doesn’t know who to turn to, what to do or how to carry on. All she knows is that she has to finish the song her and Lea started minutes before she died. Rumi feels that she owes her sister that much.

The internal struggle Rumi deals with through the entire book is gut-wrenching to witness. She feels shut out by her mother, feels that she should have died in place of Lea – and can’t seem to stop remembering the bad parts of their relationship as opposed to the good parts. Her aunt seems to be trying too hard to get her to act normally again, and her neighbours are irritating. Summer Bird Blue really gets the reader into the headspace of a grieving teenager thinking there is nothing to live for. There are memories woven into the natural prose of the book that intend to hit both Rumi and the reader out of nowhere – they’re a surprise when Rumi doesn’t expect them.

This is an incredibly well-written portrayal of teenage grief, especially in how Rumi deals with it. She doesn’t want to talk, she shuts down, she snaps at people trying to help and develops a dark sense of humour – and all of this is completely understandable. Summer Bird Blue actively shows the entire process of grief; the denial, the anger, the dark depressing spirals that Rumi just can’t seem to get out of. I think that the book really shows what life as a grief-stricken person is like, especially when the person they’ve lost is someone that they’ve shared such a close bond with.

I won’t spoil who she becomes friends with, but the friendships that Rumi makes along the way are some that ultimately help her through this stage of her life. What I loved about Summer Bird Blue is although when grieving it feels like the world is ending and that nobody can help, there is always going to be someone who is looking out for you, and who will ultimately want to help. This is such a huge and important theme for the book, and acts to show the reader that Rumi is never truly alone, despite feeling so.

Final thoughts: A heartbreaking yet beautiful gift of a book. 4.5/5

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WORLD BOOK DAY: Top 5 Childhood Reads

Happy World Book Day everyone! This is such an important day for young readers, especially for those children who cannot afford to purchase many books to read.

This year, the World Book Day theme is ‘Share a Story’ – and I’ve joined with a group of other UKYA book bloggers to share some of our favourite childhood reads in a whole day of blog hopping! Before me, Charlotte over at Wonderfully Bookish talked about her favourite childhood reads, and now it’s my turn!

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TOP FIVE CHILDHOOD READS

The Twits – Roald Dahl

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I think I read this book to death as a child. There was once a time where I finished reading it and started reading it straight away because I enjoyed it that much. My favourite of the Dahl books, The Twits is a book about two truly horrible people – who ultimately get their comeuppance for being such horrid people. It’s a short and fun read.

A Series of Unfortunate Events – Lemony Snicket

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It wouldn’t be one of my book lists if I didn’t include A Series of Unfortunate Events! Easily one of my favourite series of ALL TIME, these books were ones that I would routinely ask for for my birthday and would devour them within days when I got them. They are such fantastic books about three smart kids in a world of ridiculously idiotic adults. And yes, the Netflix adaptation is so true to the book and so, so good.

Milly Molly Mandy – Joyce Lankester Brisley

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This is a series that reminds me of reading with my nan as a child. We used to sit together and read these stories, and I would have a little doll that reminded me so much of Milly Molly Mandy that I had to hold her as we read! The stories give off such a truly classic vibe, with dainty illustrations – and it may actually be the first book that started my love of maps, as there is a map of the entire village that I always used to look at to imagine exactly where the stories took place. It’s a classic that we both still love today!

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Candyfloss – Jacqueline Wilson

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Goodness me, it was hard to whittle down the huge list of Jacqueline Wilson books that I read and adored as a kid! I loved Candyfloss, and really loved the main character Floss and her internal struggle about whether she wants to move with her mum to Australia or stay with her dad. There are lots of ups and downs in the book, but Floss ultimately learns that she can find happiness, even when everything looks bleak. Candyfloss was a book that gave me an insight into another world that wasn’t familiar to me, yet taught me about this world too.

The Worst Witch – Jill Murphy

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One of my all-time favourite series! I adored Mildred Hubble and her terrible attempts at being a witch-in-training – everything she did seemed to go wrong! Paired with wonderful illustrations, The Worst Witch is a great series about friendship, standing up against bullies, and trying your hand at something even if it goes wrong – because you’ll never know unless you try.


Next up on the blog hop is Vicky from What Vicky Read – she’ll be sharing her favourites, so make sure to check out her blog! Make sure to follow along with the rest of the bloggers all day today for some truly excellent posts all about our favourite childhood reads – and happy World Book Day!

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PROUD BLOG TOUR: Favourite LGBT+ Characters

Hello everyone! Today, I’m taking part in the PROUD blog tour, so I thought I’d take the opportunity to write a list of my favourite LGBT+ characters. You may notice that quite a few of them come from books by Alice Oseman. Reason being is that she writes such exceptional and relatable LGBT+ characters, and the ones that I love are often so well written without box ticking – so how could I not include them on my list?

Read on a list of some of my favourite LGBT+ characters – I couldn’t include them all otherwise the list would be never-ending! I’ve included a quote with each of the characters too, so you can get a little bit more of a feel for what they’re like.


Frances Janvier, Radio Silence – Bisexual

“…it felt like we were friends. Friends who barely knew anything about each other except the other’s most private secret.” 

Frances is such an interesting character. She doesn’t let her sexuality define her, it’s just the way she is. She’s not hugely open about it, but she doesn’t have to be. For Frances, her sexuality doesn’t define her, and it’s more a case of her understanding herself and her own feelings first before letting anyone else in on the knowledge, and I can really respect her for that.

Cameron Post, The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Lesbian

“Maybe I still haven’t become me. I don’t know how you tell for sure when you finally have.” 

Cameron Post is an incredibly strong-willed character. Sent to a gay conversion camp when she’s caught snogging another girl, Cameron doesn’t give in to their desperation for her to change her ways, and sees the camp for exactly what it is. She goes along with it but deep down she knows she’ll never change. The scenes at the beginning of the book with her self-discovery, first kisses and crushes are such beautiful parts of Cameron’s understanding about her sexuality, as well as her confusion. She’s a brilliant character.

Noah Grimes, Noah Can’t Even – Gay

“People can think and say what they like. They will anyway. And who cares?”

Noah is definitely a character who will resonate with young LGBT+ readers – the ones who may fiercely deny their sexuality despite knowing deep down that they aren’t straight. Noah has many internal dialogues in which he wonders whether he’s actually gay, despite kissing Harry and thoroughly enjoying it. He’s a bundle of confusion, worries and is a wonderfully funny and likeable character.

Nick Nelson, Heartstopper – Bisexual

“I-I still like girls, but…I like guys too, I think…”

Nick. Nelson. Ultimately one of my Top 3 of LGBT+ characters. Nick is such an absolute sweetheart, and his story arc as he realises his sexuality is such a brilliantly relatable one. He’s confused, but he’s also wary too. Nick doesn’t want to rush things when his feelings are so new and fresh. There are scenes in the comic where he researches sexuality and what bisexuality means, which is such a point of growth for him, and he goes from shy and nervous to confident and proud.

Lister Bird, I Was Born For This – Bisexual

“I saw you two lying there in bed looking like…I dunno…a married couple or something…I’d never felt so fucking miserable and alone.”

Oh man, Lister Bird. Lister is, essentially, a mess. Hiding behind his pretend playboy life, Lister is actually quite lonely and head over heels in love with friend and bandmate, Jimmy. He can’t help that he’s fallen in love, but tries so hard to squash it down by drinking his troubles away. Lister is one of my favourite characters of all time from the books I’ve read, and it really sucks to see him struggle once the exterior wall of defence has been broken.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci, I Was Born For This – Transgender FtM, gay

“How can you love someone that you’ve never met in real life?”

Jimmy is everything. He’s out and he’s proud of it, and refuses to listen to what the media has to say about him. I feel that Jimmy is a character that many trans teenagers will be able to look up to, as someone who is finally comfortable in his own skin when concerning gender. He’s also a character that is relatable with his own dealings of anxiety and mental health, which I talk about more in detail in my review of the book here.

Felicity Montague, The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy – Asexual

“You deserve to be here. You deserve to exist. You deserve to take up space in this world
of men.” 

Felicity is fierce. Her determination to succeed in a world where men would rather see her hide behind a stove in the kitchen is brilliant, and everything that she strives to do to prove those same men wrong is so full of courage and hope. She’s also a character that feels no sexual or romantic attraction to anyone at all, and she’s not fussed about it at all. Other characters sometimes try to make a big deal of it, but Felicity just explains that she doesn’t have any desires to kiss or be with anyone, and that she’s perfectly fine with that.

Percy Newton, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – Gay

“When you love someone, you stand by him. Even when he’s being a bit of a rake.”

Percy is a wonderful character – and an absolute saint for putting up with the shit that Monty puts him through on a daily basis. He’s very loyal to his friends and he’s also proud of who he is – being a gay black boy with epilepsy in the 1800s was most likely incredibly tough. Nevertheless, Percy is sweet, soft, and is always true to himself.


Do you guys have any favourite LGBT+ characters? Let me know who they are in the comments!

Tomorrow marks the release date of Proud! Next up on the blog tour is a special release day post over on LGBTQ Reads, so don’t forget to check it out!

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BOOK REVIEW: Proud Anthology

The Proud anthology was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019, and I’m pleased to say that it very much lived up to the excitement and the hype. Huge thanks to Stripes for gifting me a copy!


Proud is a stirring, bold and moving anthology of stories and poetry by top LGBTQ+ YA authors and new talent, giving their unique responses to the broad theme of pride. Each story has an illustration by an artist identifying as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Be you. Be heard. Be proud!


What a wonderful book! Proud is such a great idea for a book, and I loved reading stories from so many walks of life from many different LGBT+ authors. It’s full of many uplifting stories, ones that will make you laugh, make you cry, and even make you understand yourself a little more. I could definitely relate to a couple of the stories!

The combination of having a unique illustration at the end of every short story was a wonderful idea, meaning that there was so much talent on display here. I felt that all of the illustration styles fit their respective stories too – from the super cute Penguins art from Alice Oseman to the more serious, darker toned art by Frank Duffy that accompanied Almost Certain. It also means that there are lots of new artists to discover and support.

The variation in this anthology is superb, meaning that there really is something for everyone. With stories featuring lesbian characters, transgender characters, themes of transitioning, gender identity, confidence and uncertainty about sexuality, and even coming out, I have a feeling that this is the sort of book that many LGBT+ teenagers will pick up and find something that will resonate with them.

Final thought: Proud proves itself to be a safe haven for many LGBT+ readers. 4.5/5

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AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Alice Oseman

Hi lovely readers! I’ve got something really exciting to share on the blog today. To celebrate the release of UKYA graphic novel Heartstopper, I was lucky enough to interview Alice Oseman, who is also the author of three other YA novels, Solitaire, Radio Silence and I Was Born For This!

I’m a huge fan of Alice’s work and have been since falling in love with the characters in I Was Born For This. That reminds me, I’m due a reread of that wonderful book soon. I’m so thrilled that I was able to ask her a few questions about Heartstopper and its characters. Read below for the interview with Alice!

When you started the comic did you ever dream that something like this would happen?

Not at all! I hoped that one day the comic would grow enough to warrant a self-published edition, but I didn’t ever imagine a publisher would want to pick it up. I feel incredibly lucky and grateful!

Do you have an official ending in mind, or is this something you see continuing for a long time?

I do have an ending in mind, but we still have a long way to go until we get there! My aim is to take Heartstopper all the way up until when Nick leaves school to go to university. That’ll probably be around 8-9 chapters in total, and we’re only on chapter 4 at the moment!

I know people, myself included, have really related to Nick’s storyline. How do you feel knowing that Heartstopper has the ability to make readers feel seen and accepted?

That’s one of the most wonderful things about creating the comic. I’m so happy people find they can connect to the characters and their personal journeys, whether that be the bullying Charlie has faced, Nick’s path to discovering his bisexuality, or something else. 

How does it make you feel seeing people sharing fan art of Nick and Charlie, or any of your other characters?

Seeing fan art is absolutely amazing. The fact that someone could enjoy my work so much that they feel inspired to create something related to it is the best feeling ever. I try and save all of them so I can go back and look at them from time to time!

Out of all of your characters to draw, including those not in Heartstopper, who is your favourite?

That’s tricky… I think it’s a strong tie between Nick and Charlie, to be honest. I know them so well, and I’ve drawn them both more than any other character, so I find them very easy and satisfying to draw.

Finally, some readers may be in similar life situations to Charlie or Nick. Do you have one piece of advice for those readers?

Everyone’s situation is different, so it’s difficult to give one overruling piece of advice for everyone. But I think what I would say is if you’re struggling with anything that Nick or Charlie go through in Heartstopper – bullying or anxiety or coming to terms with your sexuality or anything else – find a person you can trust and talk to it with them. It could be a real life friend, an internet friend, a family member, a teacher, even a school counsellor. Find someone who you can trust and who is willing to listen. Don’t keep things bottled up if you can help it.


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Alice Oseman was born in 1994 in Kent, England. She completed a degree in English at Durham University in 2016 and is currently a full-time writer and illustrator. Alice can usually be found staring aimlessly at computer screens, questioning the meaninglessness of existence, or doing anything and everything to avoid getting an office job.

Alice’s first book, SOLITAIRE, was published when she was nineteen. Her second, RADIO SILENCE, was released in early 2016, and her third, I WAS BORN FOR THIS, in 2018. She is also the creator of online webcomic HEARTSTOPPER, published in 2019.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: Ghost

“Don’t ever let someone call your life, your dreams, little. You hear me?”

I don’t mean to make a pun as this book is about running, but I raced through this book! Jason Reynolds is a fantastic author, and the voice and pacing in Ghost is excellent. You’ll read it and want to support Ghost through all of his ups and downs, even when he does the wrong thing, because his heart is truly in the right place.


Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons – until he meets Coach who sees something in him: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?


This little book packs a punch right from the get-go where you learn why Ghost is so focused on running. I won’t spoil it for you, but it’ll definitely make you gasp like I did when reading it on the train.

Ghost inspires the thought of never giving up on your dreams, despite your background. Ghost himself comes from a background of poverty; teased at school for not having the flashiest new shoes or the on-brand clothes, bullied for living on a poorer side of town, and with a father in jail he thinks his life doesn’t have much of a goal. When Coach Brody sees potential in him, the book shows Ghost’s blossoming potential and – most importantly – his belief in himself. Throughout the book, we are reminded that Ghost is not his past or his father, and characters like Coach and Mr Charles, the local shopkeeper, remind him of that constantly.

The tone of this book is excellent. Ghost is a really great character; he’s funny at times, serious in others, and I can definitely see young readers relating to him. I like that he’s very protective and proud of his mother, and his friendship with Mr Charles is so full of respect and admiration. I think that’s what made reading this book such a blast; Ghost is great, and is a character that I only wanted to see do well. My heart would break when he would mess up or do the wrong thing, despite wanting to think it was the right thing.

I want to add that it’s so refreshing to see more black protagonists in children’s and young adult books, both as main characters and part of the cast entirely. It’s about time that publishers listened to the fact that they are alienating an entire audience purely with the amount of books that are published by white authors, and with white characters. Although I read books as a child by white authors and books with a usually all-white cast, it didn’t mean that I wasn’t yearning for a book with someone that looked like me in it. Ghost can do that for many young black boys, and I hope to see more books like it in the near future.

Final thought: Running straight to the top with this one! 5/5

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BOOK REVIEW: King of Scars

“Do not think that because I’ve let you live this long, I cannot change my mind. Accidents happen. Even to men of faith.”

After a brief break, I’m back to posting book reviews – and what better review to start with than King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo. This was one of my biggest anticipated books of 2019, and I’m glad to say that it doesn’t disappoint at all. I sped through finishing off the Grishaverse trilogy before picking this up, and would definitely suggest that you read those books before picking up King of Scars, purely because of the amount of referenced material. It also wouldn’t hurt to read the Six of Crows duology too!

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE GRISHAVERSE TRILOGY AND CROOKED KINGDOM.


The boy king. The war hero. The prince with a demon curled inside his heart. The people of Ravka don’t know what Nikolai Lantsov endured in their bloody civil war and he intends to keep it that way. Yet with each day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built.
Zoya Nazyalensky has devoted her life to rebuilding the Grisha army. Despite their magical gifts, Zoya knows the Grisha cannot survive without Ravka as a place of sanctuary – and she will stop at nothing to help Nikolai secure the throne.
Far north, Nina Zenik wages her own kind of war against the people who would see Grisha destroyed. Burdened by grief and a terrifying power, Nina must face the pain of her past if she has any hope of defeating the dangers that await her on the ice.
Ravka’s king. Ravka’s general. Ravka’s spy. They will journey past the boundaries of science and superstition, of magic and faith, and risk everything to save a broken nation. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried, and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.


I don’t know how she does it, but everything that Leigh Bardugo writes is so intricately crafted, with the worldbuilding better than any I’ve ever read in fantasy before. The locations and settings in King of Scars felt so real and established, with the rich history of the land and its characters bursting off of the page.

King of Scars is better if you’ve read the Grishaverse – especially with how the book ends – but if you haven’t read it then there’s enough hints dropped throughout the book for the reader to pick up bits and pieces of the world. It marks a welcome return to the multi-POV chapters that featured in Six of Crows – these are such a great way to get into the heads of individual characters, and to also see how different they are. Nikolai is a wonderful character, and a firm fan favourite, so to have chapters from his point of view were always so much fun to read. Although I loved both Zoya and Nina’s chapters, I found myself getting incredibly excited at the next Nikolai chapter.

These characters have it rough. Nikolai, having been possessed in Ruin and Rising by the Darkling, seems to still carry some of that darkness within him, causing him to periodically turn into a winged demon which isn’t the best when you’re meant to be the King of Ravka. Zoya is dealing with assisting Nikolai in his rule, trying to keep him enclosed when he transforms and also trying her hardest to forget everything the Darkling put her through. Finally Nina, who escaped Ketterdam after the events of Crooked Kingdom, is trying to grieve for Matthias whilst searching for the best place to put him to rest – oh, and trying to smuggle Grisha refugees to safety. There’s a lot on each of their plates.

I think what I loved most about King of Scars was the books ability to completely pull the rug out from under my feet – and continue to do so throughout. Every single time that I thought the dust had settled and things were ok, something would happen to make me gasp or scream or completely despair as to what was going to happen next. Bardugo’s writing has the ability to keep things hidden until the very end, and then leave you desperate for more. By that time, you realise the book has finished and it’ll be another year until the cliffhanger can be resolved… This book is a truly welcome return to the Grishaverse, with twists, turns, shockers and tearful moments. King of Scars feels like you’re constantly on edge for something bad to happen, but even when it does you’re still shocked. It’s beautifully descriptive, and although reading it was an absolute heart attack, it’s some of Bardugo’s finest work.

I don’t want to go into too much detail without spoiling things, but bees are terrible, dragons are cool, Isaak is the best, we won’t talk about that very last page, and Nikolai needs to be able to rest.

Final thought: King Nikolai’s grand return is deserving of all the golden stars. 5/5