I've recently had what I like to call 'a damn good reading run'. I have read several marvellous books over the course of May and June, some not so marvellous but still got me thinking and talking, which is always a plus surely...? I cannot possibly review each and every one of them as I know you readers would get sick of all the hardcore gushing, so I'll include the highlights here...
Paper Butterflies, by Lisa Heathfield.
This book was officially born, sent out into the world, on Thursday 30th June. I read it a couple of weeks before then as the utter babes at Electric Monkey sent the proof to me. I am now reading her debut 'Seed' and loving it, of course, because her writing is just...yeah. Whoa.
June is unhappy at home. And who wouldn't be, in her situation? Her mother passed away many years ago and her dad, her best friend, is wrapped up in his new family now. June's stepmother, and her daughter. The two people who make June's life hell. She has no escape at school either, as she is a victim in the classroom as well.
One day she meets Blister, a young boy who brings light and love into her life. With his quirky habits, his sweet family and strong spirit, he saves her a little each time she sees him.
But sometimes you can't escape the bad...
This book destroyed me. Firstly I don't cry at books much these days – nothing shocks me any more, nothing saddens me all that much. When I finished this book, in under 48 hours, I sent a Snapchat to my closest friends of me holding the book and tears streaming down my face. I wasn't just crying, I was hiccuping hysterically and had the weirdest wettest laugh happening, too. I couldn't believe what I'd read. The writing was exceptional, beautiful, hurtful. It reminded me, actually, how crucial it is to have a clear character voice in a novel. It inspired me to write more, and better.
The story itself was brutal and important. Yes, this is a very important book. I'll leave it at that. Read it.
Songs About A Girl, by Chris Russell.
I must start by saying: Chris Russell is a delight. I think we bloggers all fell a little bit in love when we met him at a Books With Bite event recently – I did purely because he signed my book with some stellar Taylor Swift lyrics. You should follow him on Twitter immediately, guys. Of course this friendship in no way sways my honest review.
Charlie Bloom keeps her head down at school and awkwardly co-exists with her dad at home, snapping photos on her ancient camera whenever possible. She is soon scouted for her talents by the majestic uber-famous boy band Fire&Lights. Her friend convinces her to do it, to go ahead and take backstage photos for the guys and stand in the wings watching this one show. Soon Charlie is immersed in their world, and caught in a triangle of sorts between two band members. But she's more confused by and concerned with the familiarities she's finding in the band's lyrics...
I didn't notice at first, but boy band literature is becoming a thing. So much so that my excellent friend Sally is hosting a new Twitter chat #boybandlit on August 3rd! I am so happy about this, and Chris is currently at the top spot for this perfect YA sub-genre. It's astounding how accurate each interaction is in this novel, how you can actually feel the fangirl energy seeping from the pages and the excitement of the concerts fills your head as you read. The story is full of twists and turns, fun little coincidences and dangerous complexes. I guarantee this will be a very popular read when it comes out on 28th July!
Becoming : Sex, Second Chances, and Figuring Out Who the Hell I Am, by Laura Jane Williams.
I have written a very personal post recently that was oddly inspired by this read – Laura inadvertently helped me find courage and seek out something with someone! Thanks, honey.
So this is a non-fiction, a memoir of sorts, by the exceptional blogger who I know best as @superlativelyLJ. As a major fan of her blog for years now, seeing her book journey unfold and then actually holding the book in my hands on busy trains and then tucked up in bed most nights was just something else. It was special.
Laura was dumped by her long-term boyf, the one she'd spent a lot of her young life with and had hence planned a future with. She thought she'd marry him, for sure. Then not long after they break up, he gets together with one of her old friends. They then get engaged. They then get married. So Laura does what many dumpees would do in this situation: she goes a little crazy and starts shagging all over the shop. Using sex as a weapon, finding men who cannot resist her, searching for something new. Then, suddenly, she realises she needs time on her own. She takes a vow of celibacy and travels here there and everywhere in search of herself. In search of her becoming.
Reading this, I almost couldn't believe it was...real. It actually happened. To this amazing and deliciously wacky woman. I had been keeping up to date on her life via blog posts, sure, but this book got it all in and didn't skip any of the hurt. I think women everywhere will appreciate this story – because we've all been there, in one way or another. We've all got low, we've all had knocks, we've all loved and lost and hurt for so long it felt like there was no end in sight. We've all disliked ourselves. We've all wanted a change. We've all wanted to love ourselves.
I felt like I took the journey with Laura, reading her accounts and memories of it. And for that I am thankful. I may have to hug her extra hard when I next attend an event she is at...
The Square Root of Summer, by Harriet Reuter Hapgood.
This proof was sent to me by my lovely partner in crime Amy Whitear (remember that name, folks) – I sort of wish I'd got the final edition, as it's so darn cute, and I did spill nail polish on the cover of my copy...oops.
Gottie H. Oppenheimer is finding something unusual is happening. She's losing time, falling through wormholes and revisiting the past. Her past is colliding with her present. Last summer is the focus of these wormholes. This could be because that was when a boy broke her heart; it could be because it's when her grandfather, her rock, passed away; maybe something else. Something, someone, that left and is now back. She has to face the present.
I found this book sweet and quietly moving. Definitely a decent debut. I liked the writing style, and the characters were well-established. The harder scenes and upsetting events were suitably vivid, too.
It was very cool meeting Harriet at the Waterstones Piccadilly 'This Is Who I Am' event after finishing reading!