The Dylan Thomas Prize - Surge By Jay Bernard

The Dylan Thomas Prize – Surge By Jay Bernard

This year I was invited back to read and post about one of the nominees for the Dylan Thomas Prize Blog Tour- The world’s largest literary prize for young authors. Again, I chose to focus on a poetry pick, that being Surge by Jay Bernard. So, what is it about?

Jay Bernard’s extraordinary debut is a fearlessly original exploration of the black British archive: an enquiry into the New Cross Fire of 1981, a house fire at a birthday party in south London in which thirteen young black people were killed.

While reading this I was shocked that I had no idea what the New Cross Fire was, even after a Google search I found little information about the fire itself and more about the activism afterwards. It seemed crazy to me that so many young people could die and so little seems to be said about it.

Of course, I’m no expert, but it does come across as something not being right. Officially it says that the fire was caused by an armchair but that many people being killed by one fire? It doesn’t seem to add up.

The way in which Bernard has shown this story to a whole new generation of people and has also linked it to Grenfell is incredibly effective. It really made me question how much has changed in this country in regards to racism. I’m a white woman, I’ve not been a victim of racism in my country but this gives me an insight, however small, into what needs to change.

As a debut collection Bernard has a strong voice and I can see more powerful poetry coming from them in the future. This was incredibly impactful and the writing showed extreme talent. While there were parts where I don’t think I fully understood what was going on, I felt that this added to the sense of disbelief.

I would really recommend picking this up if you want to learn about a chapter of history that I fear is often left out of the conversation.

Thank you to the Dylan Thomas Prize for sending me a copy in exchange for this review and good luck to all of the nominees! You can find out more about the prize here.

Celebrating World Book Day With Viking Books!

Celebrating World Book Day With Viking Books!

A very happy World Book Day to you! My feeds have been filled with pictures adorable kids dressed up as their favourite character from a book, some people have decorated potatoes which is now a thing. It’s just great to see kids getting excited about books and reading.

Back in January I received an email asking if I’d like to team up with Viking Books on World Book Day for a craft project. Now, I’m not the most crafty person (it seems to have skipped me) but I do like a chance to get creative.

So, what was the challenge?

I was gifted a box full of goodies including craft supplies, old book pages, a frame and a copy of Book Art by Claire Youngs to give me some inspiration.

As a brief I was told to get creative and show a book that inspired me, one I couldn’t stop thinking about. The first one that came to mind was Harry Potter but then I had another idea…

My Piece

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath had a big impact on me when I was studying at university. I could really identify with the main character, Esther, her worries, concerns and thoughts.

One of my favourite quotes also came from that book “I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am.” There are also so many great quotes I could list but it’s a book that speaks to me and that quote in particular reminds me to take a minute when it all gets too much.

How Can You Get Involved?

So, I took quite an easy approach BUT there are some really great ideas in the book that I’m going to try later on. Pick up an old book and get creative or maybe pick one up cheap at a car boot sale or jumble sale.

Thank you to Viking Books for sending me the materials and book in exchange for this post.

Book Review: Heartstopper vol 3 - Alice Oseman

Book Review: Heartstopper Volume 3 – Alice Oseman

I have to warn you at the very start of this review that it has spoilers for volume 1 and 2 so make sure you read those before this because of SPOILERS! Now you’ve been warned on to the review.

In this volume we’ll see the Heartstopper gang go on a school trip to Paris! Not only are Nick and Charlie navigating a new city, but also telling more people about their relationship AND learning more about the challenges each other are facing in private…

Meanwhile Tao and Elle will face their feelings for each other, Tara and Darcy share more about their relationship origin story, and the teachers supervising the trip seem… rather close…?

So I’m pretty loud about the fact that I love the Heartstopper series, it’s one of my favourites and a go to if I want cheering up. So I’ve definitely been counting down to the release of volume 3, Nick and Charlie firmly have a place in my heart. In this volume they get to know each other better and their relationship gets deeper.

What I really appreciated in this volume is that while Nick and Charlie are still very much in the honeymoon stage, they are getting to know each other better still. There are things that they need to learn about each other in terms of family, emotions and their own hearts.

The fact that this also took place in France was really fun, it added another element to the story as well as the development of the world that Alice has created. Also, she’s an incredible artist – I fell right into the city of love through the pages of this volume. We also get to know Nick and Charlie’s friends even better and they have their own lives which are seamlessly intertwined within the story.

It’s worth mentioning that there is a huge number of people that are part of the LGBTQ commnity in Alice’s books. We have those from all walks of life within the pages, at times I think it can be interesting but then I started thinking and actually there are probably more people you know that are part of the LGBTQ community than you know.

Some parts are harder to read and I would look up some trigger warnings if you are sensitive to certain topics (I don’t want to mention them here because they could be spoilery).

This was another 5 star read for me. I’m definitely going to get my hands on Alice’s other books because I think she is super talented. I’ve also been convincing every to pick up Heartstopper because I just love it so much and can’t stop gushing.

Book Review: Break The Fall - Jennifer Iacopelli

Book Review: Break The Fall – Jennifer Iacopelli

Audrey Lee is going to the Olympics. A year ago, she could barely do a push up as she recovered from spine surgery, one that could have paralyzed her. And now? She’s made the United States’ gymnastics team with her best friend, Emma, just like they both dreamed about since they were kids. She’s on top of the world.

The pressure for perfection is higher than ever when horrifying news rips the team apart. Audrey is desperate to advocate for her teammate who has been hurt by the one person they trusted most–but not all the gymnasts are as supportive.

The stories of abuse that came from the USA gymnastics team were horrible, young women had put their trust into people to help them achieve their dreams only to be mistreated. Of course, if you do struggle with abuse narratives think about that before reading, however, this is not graphic.

I actually got a copy of this over Christmas while I was working in a bookshop as it was sent from the publisher. Since reading it I haven’t shut up because it is an excellent novel. I couldn’t put this book down and when I had to I was still thinking about it.

I have to admit that this had a personal connection for me. I haven’t read a YA book that tackled spinal injuries before and I was sure that the author had experienced spinal trauma. The description of the pain, the complicated feelings about your body etc. I actually reached out to Jennifer and she was lovely and had written those parts based on research which just impressed me even more.

The character of Audrey is easy to connect with and you really do feel for her and the rest of her teammates as your reading. Additionally, there is a real sense of the pressure these young women face, the fact that they have trained their whole lives for something only for it to be derailed at the last minute.

I think it also helps that the author has first-hand experience of gymnastics after reporting on the Olympics previously and you can tell that she understands the competition and what can happen in competition. I was completely gripped during the competition chapters, racing towards the end because I needed to know what happened.

This is going to be an important novel for 2020, we’re seeing non-fiction about the Me Too and Times Up era, this is the start of a new wave of fiction based on the aftermath. I’m pleased to see novels like this opening up the conversation and giving another dimension to it as well.

Is it any wonder that I gave this 5 stars? It absolutely incredible and so well written. In fact I’ve been recommending it to so many people. Also, just for me, it was nice to see representation post injury because it’s just something that I don’t see ever. Also, I’m definitely going to be watching the Gymnastics at Tokyo!

Heading To The Aisle – Finding My Wedding Dress!

A few weeks ago my Mumma and I headed down to Brighton and Hove with one thing in mind, to try and find my wedding dress. I’ve been looking for a long time now trying to find a shop with dresses that I liked.

I scoured website after website and kept coming back to one based in Brighton, Ocean Bridal. They seemed to have a huge mix of dresses and more than a few that I liked the look of, it also helped that when emailing I was in contact with a wonderful woman called Simone. She made me feel so relaxed about coming when I had been tying myself up in knots over it.

We were originally due to go back in November but due to some personal reasons we had to rearrange, which was not a problem at all and made me even more determined to get to this shop.

The shop itself is in Hove, a 5 minute train journey from Brighton itself and just around the corner from the station. We were greeted with a huge smile and while we waited for a few minutes met some other lovely members of staff including 2 very cute dogs.

Once in we explained it was the first wedding dress shop I’d been in for myself and I’d never put on a wedding dress before. I’d sent a few in advance that I wanted to try but was encouraged to look around and pick a few more and during the process Simone would pick a few more she thought I might like.

For someone who is incredibly self conscious trying on new clothes and gets super anxious in changing rooms I had the best time. You know they say you know your dress as soon as you put it on? I knew. I knew that dress was the one. I put it on and my reaction was ‘oh’. I felt the most beautiful I had ever felt. Bare in mind this wasn’t in my size and the final will fit like a glove.

I tried on more dresses after that but kept coming back to the first one. Nothing made me feels as good or confident. I didn’t see my flaws in that dress I just saw me and I couldn’t stop smiling. I found my dress and more importantly I felt like a damn movie star with no pressure to lose weight to fit in in or change myself. I felt beautiful.

Now, this is a difficult post to write because I can’t tell you anything! It’s not just because I’m excited to for it to be a surprise for my guests but ALSO my super sneaky fiancé has been trying to do some snooping as to which dress I got! Thankfully, I have no pictures of it on my phone (at my own request) and I am more determined than ever to keep this a secret…but the below photo gives you an idea of how excited I am and how hard it’s going to be to keep this a secret for 11 months.

Anyone want to take a guess at the kind of dress I’ll be wearing? Leave a comment below!

What Today Means To Me

While I would love to just count today as another day, as the end of the long month of January, I would be feigning ignorance. Today the United Kingdom left the European Union – ultimately it’s a part of history I’m witnessing, so of course I was going to write about it.

Today I feel incredibly sad and let down. I feel anxious about the future of my country, worried for those in it who are vulnerable because I cannot and will not see this as a victory. People voted for uncertainty, they also voted for promises that were uncovered to be lies.

I have people in my life on both sides of the vote, that I love and care about. While we might not see eye to eye, everyone is entitled to an opinion and a vote. What bothers me is that those in government that mislead the public have not been held to account. What bothers me is when hate and division was used in a campaign that should have been educated and informed.

Mostly I want my international friends to know that I am sorry for the fact you’ve had to apply for ‘settled status’, that you’ve had to hear rhetoric about ‘taking back Britain’. In my experience those who have chosen to come and live and work in this country are intelligent and wonderful people giving to our society.

I hope that this doesn’t drive division even further. That we can still stand together against those who will used this for prejudice or hate. I hope that the good in people will overcome.

I am still European and nothing will change that.

My September 2019 Book Haul!

Hello, hello, hello

After YALC back in July you might have thought my book buying/acquisition might have slowed down, you would be wrong. With the combination of my birthday and new releases I picked up a LOT of books in September and I wanted to share them with you all. Get ready it’s going to be a long one.

First up are books I won in a Twitter giveaway that arrived at the beginning on the month. The lovely Sara Barnard gave away all of the books she has written, they’re all signed an dedicated too which is super sweet. So I now have Goodbye Perfect, Fierce Fragile Hearts, Beautiful Broken Things and A Quiet Kind of Thunder. These are all based around friendship which is super exciting and a few I’ve had on my list for a while.

I was also sent Sara’s collaborative book Floored along with other great YA authors. Next up are two buy one get one free buys, Heartstream a YA thriller that I bought alongside this months book club read Once Upon a River I’m not sure what to say about this one it’s kind of an adult mystery?

I also had my copy of The Only Plane In The Sky – The Oral History of 9/11 delivered, this book is full of accounts of 9/11 and I think it’s an important and interesting way to preserve what happened and the changes that the event caused.

I received 4 books for my birthday. The first up A Large Expanse of Sea from my parents which I’ve been meaning to pick up forever. I also received 2 books from my friend Charissa (along with a doughnut because, goals) The Confessions of Frannie Langton an adult mystery and Two Can Keep A Secret which I needed to read after McManus’s debut. I also received Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me, I’ve heard great things about this online so I’m excited!

Ok, I’ll fess up I made two drunken purchases – I actually snuck off from a night out to buy books (maximum nerd points), which were It Never Rains and Life of the Party I just picked these up after reading the blurb, I have no idea if they’re going to be good but I’m hoping so.

My preorder of The Deathless Girls, a novel I’ve been keeping an eye out for about the brides of Dracula, perfect for Autumn. My next few books are from a trip to Foyles with my birthday money, because what else was I going to spend it on? I knew nothing about The Liar’s Daughter it’s about the aftermath of a young woman who grew up in a cult. I find these super interesting.

Can we take a second to appreciate the stunning cover of Ziggy, Stardust & Me a LGBTQ YA novel set in the 70s. I also finally picked up With The Fire On High which I’ve heard nothing but good things about. Also, Monday’s Not Coming is another I’ve heard a lot of good things about on BookTube. I was also given a copy of Archie 1941 for my birthday and I love it – I can’t wait to see others in this series.

P.S, I Love you is one of my favourite books so of course I ordered the sequel Postscript and I am so excited to see what Holly is up to now. I also love the film but for very different reasons. I also received a Waterstones gift card and picked up the graphic novel of Speak which has stunning artwork, even though I haven’t read the original book. I also bought City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab because she’s amazing.

And now I need to find a home for all of them, the floorboards definitely hate me right now!

Have you read any of these? What would you recommend? Let me know below.