Book Review: I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman

For Angel Rahimi life is about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything she loves – her friend Juliet, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band with his mates is all he ever dreamed of doing.

But dreams don’t always turn out the way you think and when Jimmy and Angel are unexpectedly thrust together, they find out how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

A funny, wise, and heartbreakingly true coming of age novel. I Was Born for This is a stunning reflection of modern teenage life, and the power of believing in something – especially yourself.

What I Thought:

I’m not really sure where to start with I Was Born for This – there’s so much good stuff crammed into a regular-sized novel and I’m sure to miss something out!

This is the first of Alice Oseman’s novels that I’ve read, but I will definitely be reading more, as she writes in such a natural way, and with such wisdom that it’s one in the eye for all those opinion pieces that write off YA as light and without merit. I’ll hold my hands up and say that I’m no longer within the target age group for YA books, but I just wish books like this had been around when I was.

I Was Born for This deals with mental health, sexuality, relationships, religion, fandoms – toxic ones too – and many other important issues, each woven deeply into the narrative and never clumsily preached to the reader. Alongside this clever writing style, Alice Oseman’s characters are just so darn appealing! They deal with a lot in the course of this book – much more than people of their age perhaps shoud be dealing with, but you only ever wish them well.

As I’ve said, this book flies in the face of those articles being snobby about YA books, but it also looks at that other facet of teenage girls that is often made fun of – boyband fandom. Teenage girls do seem to be easy media targets – after all, aren’t all their interests frivolous and unimportant? This book says no! It gives everyone permission to embrace the things they love, even if other people don’t understand what they mean to you. I found this especially encouraging, given the number of times my love of YA has been brought up!

The important thing to note is that, despite this story being about a boy and girl, it is NOT a love story – anyone rooting for Jimmy and Angel to get together is going to be disappointed, but their story and their relationship is so much more than falling in love, and the book is the better for it.

It’s really difficult for me to describe particular bits of the book when it could result in so many spoilers, but suffice to say that it’s an incredibly powerful book, and I loved it!

As an aside, at the time of writing, the Kindle version of I Was Born For This was priced at only £1.99 – this is an absolute steal, so do take a look…

I Was Born For This is published by Harper Collins.

To find out more about Alice Oseman and her other work (including the fantastic graphic Novel Heartstopper) you can check out her website. Alternatively, you can connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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#40MoreBks – How Am I Doing?

If you follow me on any of my social media, you might have noticed the hashtag #40MoreBks – this is a challenge for this year created by my bookish friends and me to encourage a greater variety in the things we were reading.

This year is the second year we’ve done this, after starting the challenge with #40Yrs40Bks last year, the year we were all 40 years of age.

So how am I doing? This is the answer:

So far, I’ve read 24 of the 40 books, but those are ones I feel were easy, as I had ample books to choose from for it. As we go into the second half of the year, I am struggling a bit with some of the categories, such as Be Brave, Something Puntastic and !?!?.

Any ideas for any of these categories? I’m definitely open to suggestions for these and ant of the others, althought I think (hope) I have most of them covered.

Keep an eye on Instagram, as I’ve been posting my progress over there and why not join in?I It’s not too late, and you can always alloctae some of those books you’ve already read this year to catch up…

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Book Review: The Mermaid by Christina Henry

Once there was a fisherman who lived on a cold and rocky coast and was never able to convince any woman to come away and live in that forbidding place with him. One evening he pulled up his net and found a woman in it. A woman with black hair and eyes as grey as a stormy sea and a gleaming fish’s tail instead of legs.

The storm in her eyes rolled into his heart. She stopped her thrashing and crashing at his voice, though she did not understand his words. But her eyes had seen inside of him, and his loneliness caught her more surely than the net. So she stayed with him, and loved him, though he grew old, and she did not.

Remarks of this strange and unusual woman travelled from village to village and town to town, until they reached the ears of a man whose business was in the selling of the strange and unusual.

His name was P.T. Barnum, and he’d been looking for a mermaid.

What I Thought:

So a book about P. T. Barnum coming out just when The Greatest Showman is popular? He must be a Hugh Jackman-style good guy, right? Wrong!

Christina Henry’s The Mermaid tells the story of one of Barnum’s most notorious bits of 19th Century humbug, The Feejee Mermaid, but what if the Mermaid was real?

If you’ve read any of Christina Henry’s earlier work, you’ll realise that any tale the comes from her will be a wee bit dark than the average, and this is so, here in the story of a mermaid who is captured by a fisherman, who releases her back into the ocean. Her connection with him causes her to return to him and live as his wife (as she is a Splash-type Mermaid, with legs on land and a tail in the water).

As the years roll by, Amelia (the name she has taken) does not age while her husband does so inevitably rumours begin of this strange, ageless woman living in isolation near the ocean. These rumours make it back to P. T. Barnum, who is looking for a new attraction for his American Museum.

The Barnum in this book is absolutely not the man in The Greatest Showman and it really is a pity that the book and movie were so close in release dates, as I’m sure they will continue to attract the comparison. The Barnum here is very much more as the actual man was reputed to be – a cynical, money-grubbing louse of a man who treated his family like dirt and exploited his attractions, rather than empowering them.

But he has met his match in Amelia. Our Mermaid is an enigmatic figure who deals patiently with humans, although she doesn’t always understand them. Barnum thinks she will be an easy mark as she has lived in such isolation for so long, but she is wise in ways he can never understand.

I was lucky enough to hear Christina Henry speak about The Mermaid at YALC 2018 and her research on Barnum and his attractions was extensive and hearing her speak added a lot of depth to my own understanding of the book.

As with the previous book of Christina’s that I’ve read, Lost Boy, there is a very dark tone to an otherwise quite light fantasy subject. What could seem like a very simple story is so layered in her books that they are quite compulsive reading and also contain deeper, societal comments and issues that are subtly woven through the narrative.

It’s timely that I’m writing this review now, as I’ve just received a copy of Christina Henry’s next book – a retelling of Red Riding Hood – which I will eagerly leap into as so far I’ve loved her books and love the way she takes the stories that we’ve all grown up with and gives them a subtle but fundamental twist!

The Mermaid is published by Titan Books.

To find out more about Christina Henry and her books, why not take a look at her website? Alternatively, you can connect with her on Twitter.

Please note: I was sent a copy of this book for review. All opinions are, as ever, my own.

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#WeRead Box – A New Subscription box for 8-12s

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I’ll be upfront here and say that this post is a plug for a new venture that my friend and I are launching (Kirsty, who blogs at Books, Occupation, Magic!) with a Kickstarter on Friday 7th June.

The box itself will launch in September 2019 with September and November’s boxes being exclusive to Kickstarter supporters. Following a successful campaign the boxes will be available to the general public from January 2020, with gift cards available as the perfect Christmas gift.

Each box will contain:

A carefully selected, newly released middle grade book, in a mix of genres

A signed bookplate

A matching/themed bookmark

Themed collectible pin with locking back

WeRead Activity Booklet featuring content from WeRead members and monthly book club discussion and activity prompts

Author introduction video and post read Q&A (provided online)

Additional Item/s inspired by the monthly theme/book

Each box will be carefully curated in the hope that the books and box contents will appeal to readers of all genders.

WeRead Box is committed to making our packaging and products as eco-friendly as possible.

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Reading for pleasure has been shown to develop, among other qualities, kindness and empathy, things our world is in definite need of. The quote above epitomises WeRead Box’s ethos. We will package and present reading as something fun to engage in, whilst encouraging our readers to use what they’ve learned from the book in their everyday lives – all delivered directly to your door!

The Kickstarter will launch at 8am on Friday 7th June 2019 and run for 28 days.

By supporting it today, you can ensure access to our exclusive 2019 boxes and maybe even snag an early bird discount https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kirstyes/weread-box

Find WeRead Box online here https://linktr.ee/wereadbox

We really hope you’ll be able to support this new venture – check out the WeRead Box Twitter for updates…

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Book Review: Playgroups and Prosecco by Jo Middleton

January 3rd

Jaffa Cakes – 7. Times I was forced to watch a small child do a dance involving a dusty piece of ribbon found under the sofa – 4. Inappropriate thoughts about Zac Efron – undisclosed. 

Single mum Frankie’s whole life revolves around her kids. But when your toddler has a more active social life, something has to change. Forget ‘me-time’, Frankie would settle for some adult conversation, and watching something other than the Disney channel. 

The local playgroup may be ruled by Instagram mums with perfect husbands but Frankie accidentally forms a splinter group of single parents. After all, Mummy really needs a playdate of her own. (Now pass the prosecco.)

What I Thought:

Anyone who has hung around on enough Mummy Blogs will have heard of Jo Middleton – or as you may know her, Slummy Single Mummy. For many years, Jo has entertained with her tales of life as a single mum, giving us her unique take on recipes, products, the hot issues and loads more but now, in Playgroups and Prosecco, she has turned her hand to fiction, with hilarious results.

Although, as you can imagine, there is a smattering of Jo’s own experience in Frankie’s misadventures, hopefully the author is not as unlucky in love and life as her main character!

The thing about this book is that is so relatable for any parents (see above, answering to the cries of ‘Mum! Mum! Watch! Mum! Watch Me!’) as Frankie, her little family and her friends navigate their way through a tribal playgroup and the magical ‘mum job’ that fits around your kids without having to pay childcare. I firmly related to the use of Jaffa Cakes to break up the boredom of going places purely for your kids!

As with her blog writing, Jo’s fiction writing is light and funny, and it makes Frankie easy to like and commiserate with when her life’s not going so well. The book is written in the style of a diary, so seems like Bridget Jones for the parent (including the copious drinking) and, while the entries vary in length, it’s often the shorter, more exasperated ones that are the funniest.

Having read Jo’s blog for years, getting hold of Playgroups and Prosecco was an easy decision to make and I would happily recommend it. At the time of writing, it’s on Amazon Kindle at the bargain price of only £1.99 – definitely one to grab for the holidays.

I’ve linked to Jo’s blog above, but you can also connect with her on Twitter.

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