Thursday 27 April 2017

BLOG TOUR: Review on Street Song

Ryan Callaghan isn't your average teenager. To the public, he is better known as RyLee, teen pop sensation and winner of PopIcon. However, after being caught falling out of clubs, taking drugs and ending up in rehab, everyone has all but forgotten about RyLee. After an argument with his stepdad ends in violence, Ryan decides to leave and start a new life in Belfast. 

Ryan soon meets Toni, a girl who has the same hopes and dreams that he used to have. After joining Toni's band, and reinventing himself as Cal Ryan, he is finally happy. However, Ryan discovers that moving to a new city with limited funds is more challenging than he thought.

This book caught my interest the minute I saw it! I think I probably signed up to the blog tour in record time, as I knew I just had to read this book! I had never read a book focusing on a teen pop star before, so I was interested to see what this book would be about.

The book follows Ryan, who later reinvents himself as Cal. Ryan is everything you would expect a rich, washed up pop star to be. He lives in a mansion, has more clothes than he could wear in a lifetime and is a bit of a brat and a player. I initially didn't like Ryan much, but I knew he was about to go on a journey that would change him for the better. After meeting Toni in a park, Ryan decides to leave his pop star past behind him, and travel from his hometown in Dublin to Belfast.

Firstly, I loved the setting of this book! I find that the majority of YA books are set in either America or London, so I loved that this one was mostly set in Northern Ireland. I loved seeing Ryan have to adapt to living in an unfamiliar city, and facing difficulties such as having to use a different currency, all while trying to blend in. As Ryan has no I.D, everything is made difficult for him, such as booking into hostels and being able to pawn belongings. I was however a little confused over how he was so easily able to get into bars and buy alcohol without any I.D. Although I'm not sure how often people get asked for I.D. In Irish bars, I felt as if Ryan would at least have come across a few problems.

Ryan's journey was interesting, and I loved that I didn't feel as if the story was progressing too slowly at any time. I did however prefer the last quarter of the book, as I thought that was when it really picked up, and I was concerned for Ryan's health and safety. Ryan never truly has a home in Belfast, and moves from place to place, until he eventually ends up on the streets. Near the start of the book, Ryan refuses to give a homeless person any money, making the excuse that they would just use it to buy drugs. I think most of us are guilty of frequently doing this. We don't think of the homeless person we see in a doorway as being someones son, daughter, father etc, and we assume they are on the streets due to alcohol or drug addiction. I loved how Ryan's perceptive changed once he was on the streets himself, being grateful when he was given £4. I adored Ryan's character development throughout the book, and how he was trying to become a better person.

I loved Ryan's relationship with his bandmates, Toni and Maryisa. Although it was obvious that Toni was going to end up being the love interest, I was happy that it wasn't too instalovey. I loved that Toni didn't fall for Ryan's popstar charm, and Ryan had to work to show Toni that he was a good person. I was happy that there was a little diversity in the form of Marysa, and I loved that she formed a strong friendship with Ryan.

Along with the horrible reality of homelessness, there were a few other upsetting scenes, including the aftermath of a minor being raped. Although this was an upsetting scene, I felt as if it helped to spread the message that just because someone seems nice, it doesn't mean they can be trusted. I felt as if Ryan did the right thing in helping the victim after the attack, but I also felt as if he could have done more to prevent it, as throughout the book, he felt uneasy about her having a boyfriend who was older than her. There is never anything right about grown men wanting to date children, and I felt as if Ryan could have intervened before it esculated.

Although it was clear Ryan had a bad relationship with his stepdad, I did initally think he had a good relationship with his mum. Although Ryan is legally an adult, and is perfectly within his rights to leave home, I felt as if once his mum heard from him and knew that he was safe, she stopped trying to find him, and even left the country. As she was aware that he had no money, I was shocked that she left him to his own devices so quickly. I know that if I was in Ryan's situation, my mum would come looking for me despite assuring her that I was fine. Although it's possible I misinterpreted how close Ryan was to his mum, I still felt as if she should have been a little more concerned for him.

I thought this was a unique and gripping story. Homeless youths are something that never really come up in YA novels, and this book brought up the harsh reality that there are young people living on the streets. Although Ryan voluntarily left his home, other young people aren't so lucky, and are forced out of their homes with nowhere to go. Along with themes of self discovery and the fantastic music elements, I felt as if this was both an important and wholesome read about how anyone can turn their life around for the better, and how it is okay to turn to other people for help. I definitely recommend Street Song! But don't just take my word for it, check out what all the other awesome bloggers on the tour thought

Street Song is now available to purchase!

BlackandWhitePublishing| Amazon Book Depository 

Thursday 20 April 2017

Review on Out of Heart

Adam feels lost after the death of his grandfather. With his abusive father having abandoned his family, Adam is forced to become the man of the house, helping his mother to look after his younger sister, who after suffering from an accident, has lost her ability to speak. Adam feels as if he has been left with a heavy burden. That is until he meets William, a man who has received Adam's grandfathers donated heart, and who has no family of his own. With the help of William, Adam and his family start to get their lives back on the right track. However, not everyone in Adam's community approves of the addition to his family. Adam must fight to keep William and his family safe from those who are trying to take advantage of his families vulnerability

While browsing the HotKeyBooks April releases, this one immedietely caught my eye. I've been reading way too many contemporary books recently, and went through the email hoping to come away with a fantasy, but the synopsis of this book made it stand out to me as a contemporary that would be different to any I've been reading recently, and thankfully I was right!

The book follows Adam, a teenager who's grandfather has recently passed away. What Adam doesn't know is that his grandfather was an organ donor, and donated his heart to a man called William. After visiting Adam's family, William soon becomes an integral part of their lives, becoming both a friend and father figure to Adam. I adored the relationship between Adam and William, and as the book progressed, it was clear just how much they cared for each other, and needed each other in their lives. Both Adam and William have experienced trauma in their lives, and I loved how they were able to come together and help each other through their problems.

The main theme that runs throughout this book is family. When we think about family, we think about people who are related to us through blood. However, family is a lot deeper than that, and we often see close family friends or the signinficant others of family members as our family too. People who we care about but who we are not related to can often feel more like family to us than the estranged aunt who we only see at funerals does, and this book portrayed that perfectly. William fits into Adam's family as if he has always been there, and I adored the lovely, wholesome family vibe.

Another sterotype that we seem to still have is the idea that family members have to look alike. We live in a world where biracial couples are something we encounter on a daily basis, and children often get adopted by parents of a different race to their own, yet the idea that families have to all be the same race ramains. The sad reality of this prejudice was shown in Adam's community, where his neighbours assumed that just because William was of a different race and religion, his intentions had to be be bad. It's sad that we live in a world wher we are not trusted if we try to help a stranger. People like Adam and William do exist in the world, but sadly society seems to want to keep us divided. Despite feeling sad over how Adam's community treated William so terribly, the fact that they didn't let anyone come between the family was a positive message, and showed that we can all love and help each other despite our differences.

There are some important but upsetting themes that run throughout this book, including illness, death, domestic abuse and racism. I found the racism particularly hard hitting, as it was extremely relevant to what is happening today. It was awful what Adam had to indure, and I felt bad for him for wanting to distance himself from the Muslim community for his own safety, knowing that joining in with a peaceful protest would turn into violence by white supremacists. Although this scene was upsetting, it was extremely important in showing how racism affects Muslim people like Adam, who only want to live in peace and not be labeled a terrorist simply for existing.

I found the scene depicting domestic abuse to be quite graphic, and felt as if it could potentially be triggering. Adam's father was truly despicable. Along with physically abusing Adam's mother, he also attempted to manipulate Adam. I did however love that Adam was able to get his revenge, and showed no remorse for it.

Although I loved the characters, I did have a couple of minor issues, particularly with Laila, Adam's love interest. I felt as if for the majority of the book, she served no purpose other than being the love interest, and I felt as if she could have been completely excluded and it would have made little difference to the plot. I felt as if the only important thing she did was let Adam tell her his problems, and stick up for him right at the end of the book. I also felt as if a little more backstory was needed on William, as we never really found out what happened to his own family, and why he didn't have a home.

So the ending, oh my god. I don't want to spoil anything, but Irfan Master has managed to completely break my heart. For some reason I was optimistic, and thought everything would be resolved, but instead I just ended up a sobbing mess. Honestly I don't know how I am going to recover from how heartbreaking the last few chapters were!

I am so glad I took a chance on this book! Although it is an important read and not the mindless fantasy I had initially gone searching for, I loved the wholesome view of what it means to be family. Irfan Master is an extremely talented author, and if you are looking for a good diverse contemporary book, this is it!

Out of Heart is now available to purchase!

  | Amazon Book Depository

Thursday 6 April 2017

Review on Room Empty

Dani has been in foster care for as long as she can remember. In an attempt to get help for her anorexia, Dani is signed up to the Daisy Bank Rehab Centre, where she meets Fletcher, a drug addict who has been living on the streets. Dani and Fletcher are soon assigned as buddies, helping each other on their road to recovery. However, when Dani is asked to try to remember her first memory, it all comes flooding back. The empty room she was locked in, a dead body and a stranger. If Dani is to make progress in her recovery, she must figure out who the body was, and why she was locked in a room with it. With Fletcher's help, Dani starts researching into her past. Will Dani be able to deal with the evidence and memories of a shocking and traumatic childhood?

When I saw the summary for this book, I wasn't sure if I should request a copy or not. As I have previously read a book that deals with anorexia and didn't enjoy it very much, I was thinking of giving this one a miss. However, when I saw that there seemed to be a murder mystery element to it, I was intrigued. The book follows Dani, a teenager who has lived in foster care since she was four years old.However, this is the least of Dani's problems, as she is anorexic. Dani joins a rehabilitation centre, where she meets other teenagers with an array of problems, including Fletcher, a homeless drug addict. One of the first things that stood out for me compared to other books dealing with this topic was how Dani saw her anorexia as an alien who was in control of her actions. Dani seems to disassociate from her eating disorder, seeing it as an external alien creature rather than it being something within herself. I thought the alien was a brilliant metaphor, as it clearly showed ho Dani felt as if she wasn't in control of her own life, and her negative thoughts frequently took the shape of the alien.

Although I did enjoy the alien metaphor, I felt as if there were too many metaphors in the book in general. Near the start of the book, I got a little confused and took a couple of the metaphors literally, such as thinking that Fletcher had actually punched Dani, when she had meant that his words had felt like a punch. Although after the initial confusion I became aware of what was reality and what was a metaphor, the sheer number of them did annoy me slightly, particularly when Dani would expand the metaphor over a number of pages.

I loved the relationship between Dani and Fletcher! There was no instalove involved, and their relationship didn't turn romantic until about 100 pages into the book. I also loved how the romance was more of a subplot instead of having a huge impact on the story. The relationship progresses in a healthy way, and I loved how they genuinely cared for reach other, and tried to help each other to get better. Something that I hate seeing is characters problems suddenly disappearing once they get a love interest, so I loved how this wasn't the case at all. Seeing someone you love going through something awful and feeling powerless to fix it is a terrible feeling, and I felt as if Fletcher's emotions were portrayed perfectly. I also loved how it showed that sometimes it's ok to walk away from someone who is having a negative impact on your life, and being burdened with someone else's problems along with your own can often be too much to cope with.

I felt as if Dani was quite manipulative at times, so I loved how the other characters stood their ground against her. I also loved the message that sometimes you have to step back from other people's problems so that you can focus on your own, and take steps into helping yourself. Fletcher was so focused on trying to help Dani to get better than he neglected his own issues. I loved how Dani pointed this out to him, and wanted to help him just as much as he wanted to help her.

Although Dani's battle with anorexia is the main storyline, Dani is also trying to remember what triggered her anorexia. This was my favourite part of the book, as we slowly start to find out more about Dani's past, and why she has repressed memories of being locked in a room with a dead body. I loved how Dani started to finally come to terms with what had happened to her, and started allowing herself to start her recovery.

The main thing that annoyed me about this book was the ending! It was extremely ambigious, and although I have come to realise this is a popular thing to do in YA contemporary, it never fails to annoy me. I would much prefer to be told what happened, rather than havng to speculate. I felt as if the book would have benefited from an epilogue in Fletcher's point of view, as I was a little annoyed that we never really got to find out if he ever got off the streets, or if he overcame his drug addiction.

There are some upsetting themes that run through this book, including child abuse, suicide, anorexia and drug abuse. I found Dani's memories and visualisation of her friends suicide to be quite disturbing at times, so it may be a good idea to avoid this book if any of these themes are particularly triggering to you. However, I did feel as if this was an interesting take on anorexia, and I learnt some things about it that I didn't from other books on the subject. I was actually shocked at the content I found from googling Pro Ana and Thinspiration, as there are some extremely harsh posts out there telling young girls not to eat or they will be ugly and fat. I loved how this book showed the repercussions of what happens when young people believe these kinds of posts, such as Dani struggling to climb a set of stairs.

I overall thought this was an important, well written and educational read, and I would love to read more by Sarah Mussi in the future!

Room Empty is now available to purchase!

   | Amazon | Book Depository