Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Blog tour: Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

Title: Lies We Tell Ourselves 
Author: Robin Talley
Series: 
Pages:  336
Publisher: Mira Ink
Date of Publication: 3rd October, 2014
Source: Publisher for review*
Synopsis from Goodreads: In 1959 Virginia, the lives of two girls on opposite sides of the battle for civil rights will be changed forever.

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first black students to attend the previously all-white Jefferson High School. An honors student at her old school, she is put into remedial classes, spit on and tormented daily.

Linda Hairston is the daughter of one of the town’s most vocal opponents of school integration. She has been taught all her life that the races should be kept “separate but equal.”

Forced to work together on a school project, Sarah and Linda must confront harsh truths about race, power and how they really feel about one another.

Boldly realistic and emotionally compelling, Lies We Tell Ourselves is a brave and stunning novel about finding truth amid the lies, and finding your voice even when others are determined to silence it.

Hey guys! Welcome to my stop on the Lies We Tell Ourselves blog tour! 

My Thoughts:
Lies We Tell Ourselves is a fantastic read. I was surprised by how engrossed I was and how much it affected me emotionally. Despite reading the majority of the novel on a coach surrounded by my school friends, I found myself tearing up and getting angry, and smiling and laughing too. They looked at me funny but I was so engrossed that I didn't even care. 

I've never read anything like Lies We Tell Ourselves. Firstly, apart from Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman (which was slightly different anyway), I've never read a book where racial discrimination is so prevalent. Secondly, I think this is only the second or third book I've read where the main romantic relationship is homosexual, and the first where it's girls. It was a novel of firsts for me and for that reason I found it to be really engaging and interesting. 

Sarah Dunbar is one of the first ever eight black American students to be integrated into Jefferson High, a previously white-only school in South America. I didn't have much prior knowledge about 1950/60s America, apart from a basic knowledge of Rosa Parks and the bus boycotts. While reading the first part of the novel (it's split into five) I was shocked and horrified by the cruelty of the white students. Luckily, I've never been witness to any kind of racial discrimination in my life, so while I know it is a huge issue still, I didn't really have any experience of it. I knew that things were bad and that racial discrimination could be very serious, but I had no idea to what extent. It was really interesting to read and to try to understand what the white people were thinking, but for the most part it just made me angry and upset for the poor black people. 

I really liked Sarah (the main black girl) though and I admired her strength and courage while she was at school. I also thought it was really powerful to show her vulnerability, like when she got home from school, or when she was with Linda (the white love interest) towards the end of the novel. I thought their relationship developed really naturally and I also think that Linda's character development in coming round to the idea of integration and the fact that black people are no different was gradual and realistic. 

Lies We Tell Ourselves was a great read and it really interested me in reading more about integration in 1950/60s America. I definitely 100% recommend this book to those who like historical novels or ones which are challenging and will really make you consider yourself and those around you. Brilliant! 


Lies We Tell Ourselves is out now in paperback, published by Mira Ink.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Blog Tour: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer - Review and Giveaway!

BelzharTitle: Belzhar
Author: Meg Wolitzer
Series:  n/a
Pages: 266
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children's
Date of Publication: 1st October, 2014
Source: Publisher for review*
Synopsis from Goodreads: If life were fair, Jam Gallahue would still be at home in New Jersey with her sweet British boyfriend, Reeve Maxfield. She’d be watching old comedy sketches with him. She’d be kissing him in the library stacks.

She certainly wouldn’t be at The Wooden Barn, a therapeutic boarding school in rural Vermont, living with a weird roommate, and signed up for an exclusive, mysterious class called Special Topics in English.

But life isn’t fair, and Reeve Maxfield is dead.

Until a journal-writing assignment leads Jam to Belzhar, where the untainted past is restored, and Jam can feel Reeve’s arms around her once again. But there are hidden truths on Jam’s path to reclaim her loss.

My thoughts:
When I got back from holiday and found Belzhar waiting for me, honestly, I didn't really have a clue what it was about and wasn't that intrigued by the blurb. However, upon tweeting that I'd got it, I was told that it was a really great book and that I should definitely read it soon. So I picked it up and ended up devouring it. It was really, really good.

Belzhar is a book to read blind, but as a basic synopsis: Jam is sent to a boarding school for 'fragile' teenagers, after the death of her boyfriend, Reeve. Here she is enrolled in Special Topics in English, an exclusive lesson reserved only for five specially picked teenagers. No one knows anything about the class or what it entails, and the novel tells the story of what happens there and how it affects the five students, in particular, Jam.

The intrigue around Special Topics in English drew me in quickly and I was eager to find out what was so special about it. I really enjoyed reading about the time they spent in class, and I found myself quite envious of their work and teacher, Mrs Q (although I do love my teacher, my set books and lessons are dreadfully dull). Never before have I been curious enough about the subject matter to research it myself in my own time after reading, especially when that subject matter is poetry! I must admit I'm not a fan of poetry (perhaps I just haven't found the good stuff!) but I actually looked up a poem mentioned in the book and read through it side by side with the novel and that was actually really cool. Very nerdy, but really cool too.

I have mixed feelings about Jam. She kind of annoyed me in that she was so pine-y and mope-y about Reeve, and how she loved him so much and while I can only begin to imagine how difficult it must be to have your loved one die (having never been in such a situation), it did begin to grate on me after a while, especially since they'd only known each other for about forty days (instalove-blech). However, I did have a lot of respect for her, in her situation and can kind of see why she was the way that she was. It's quite difficult to discuss her properly without spoiling the end so while she did annoy me a little, I do have respect and sympathy for her too, and if you really want to understand what I mean you will have to read the book for yourself :P

Belzhar is one of those books that you really should read. It's branded as 'literary YA' and while I dislike that label, it is a great book for discussion and reflection, rather than a lighter-hearted read-in-a-few-hours-and-then-forget-about-it kind of novel. It's had very mixed reviews but I think it explores really well different emotions and the effects of many different experiences on different people, but I'm still very interested in reading other people's reviews and opinions too. With a surprising and unexpected ending it's definitely one to keep you on your toes, and with a potentially delicate subject matter it's very engaging, and I'd definitely recommend it to those wanting something that will challenge, but is still enjoyable.



For your chance to win a copy of this brilliant book, enter the giveaway below! All you have to do is leave me a comment saying why you want to read Belzhar, or if you've already read it, what you thought of the book!

The giveaway is UK ONLY and will end MIDNIGHT 14TH OCTOBER (next Tuesday!).

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Huge thanks to Simon and Schuster for sending me a copy of this in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel. 

Monday, 6 October 2014

Blog Tour: Eren by Simon P. Clark

ErenTitle: Eren
Author: Simon P Clark
Series:  n/a
Pages:  208
Publisher: Constable & Robinson
Date of Publication: 18th September, 2014
Source: Publisher for review*
Synopsis from Goodreads: People are keeping secrets from Oli - about where his father is, and why he hasn't come to join them at his uncle's house in the country.

But Oli has secrets too.

He knows what lives in the attic. Eren - part monster, part dream, part myth. Eren who always seems so interested, who always wants to hear more about Oli's life. Eren, who needs to hear stories to live, and will take them from Oli, no matter the cost.


My Thoughts:
I purposely did not read up about Eren before I started reading it, in order to avoid any preconceptions or expectations. I went in to the novel knowing very little, just knowing that it was a story about stories. I think that this made the book better for me - I enjoyed the mystery and the intrigue, so to keep that for you I won't say too much.

Oli has left his house in London with his mum, to live with his uncle in the countryside. The reasons for this are kept secret from him, but he's a smart kid - he knows there's something fishy going on with his dad, but frustratingly, no one will tell him anything. However, his family is not the only one who's keeping secrets. Oli has one of his own - Eren.

I enjoyed reading about Eren. Having finished the novel I'm still not entirely sure what Eren is - the novel is quite ambiguous, not gonna lie (so sorry if this doesn't make any sense!). I liked the mystery and hint of menace that surrounded him, and it was really interesting to read through the story and try to work him out. At the beginning of each chapter there's a small section where Oli and Eren are talking about telling stories and these bits, while perhaps a little abstract, were very engaging.

The rest of the chapters were Oli telling the story of his new life in the countryside, with his new friends Emma and Takeru, and his family. I liked the bits with Em and Tak most, when they were playing in the orchard and harvesting the apples, or telling stories and running through the woods. His home life I found to be a little tiresome because his mum refused to tell him anything and I think that they made quite a big deal of the whole dad thing when it was actually quite predictable and not overly interesting. It was a catalyst for them to move house to the country but storywise it didn't add that much - I was much more interested in Eren and the stories.

Overall though, Eren was an enjoyable read. I think it's best aimed at younger readers, however it's still good for a few hours relaxation on a Sunday afternoon, no matter your age. If you're in the mood for something mysterious and something just that little bit different, then this is the book for you.

*Huge thanks to Constable and Robinson for sending me this in exchange for an honest review! In no way has this affected my opinion of the novel.

Don't forget to check out the other stops on the blog tour!

Friday, 3 October 2014

It's Been Quiet!

So I came online to write my wrap-up for September, only to realise I only read one book (and it was short :S It was Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer - review and giveaway coming soon but you should definitely check it out!) and wrote one review. So there wasn't really that much point. It's been really quiet here and probably will be for the next few months and so I thought I'd just explain why.

September's been super busy because I went back to school, and it's Year 13. For those who don't know what that means, it's my final year of school before university next year, which means I am crazy busy with school work and university applications and personal statements and stuff, and I literally haven't had any time to read YA books. My four A-Level subjects (Classics, German, Latin and English Literature) are all very literature focused and so when I finally have got time to myself where I don't have to be doing school stuff, sometimes I just don't really want to read anymore. (Which sounds awful - I know!)

Hopefully in the next few months school stuff will get easier to manage and university applications will be over so hopefully then I'll have more time to read and get back to blogging. I have a couple of blog tours going up this week so there'll be those, but probably until November, the blog's gonna be pretty quiet still. Sorry!

I'll still be around on Twitter and Goodreads* to chat books and other stuff so don't forget me! I hope to be back to blogging regularly as soon as possible though and hopefully you'll still be here to read my posts and chat books with me!


*Did you know? I'm helping Chapter 5 Books, the YA department at Hodder & Stoughton, are running an online book club on Goodreads and I'm helping out this month by leading the discussions of The Giver by Lois Lowry! You should definitely check out the book and the discussion - they're both great!

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