Book Review · Vlogs

My January 2015 Reads.

I’ve mentioned before that I wanted to do something different with how I approached reviewing and the cat’s finally out of the bag, I’ve decided to switch primarily to vlog reviews. It’s an idea I’ve been toying with for ages but I know YouTube can be a pretty toxic place (I’ve had friends receive some really unpleasant comments on their videos) so I wanted to take the time to be sure I definitely wanted to do it.

The plan at the moment is that I’ll do a monthly vlog where I review all of the books I’ve read. In the future I may well increase the frequency of my vlogs but I want to keep things manageable whilst I get to grips with recording and editing etc.

I recorded January’s wrap up on Monday, after a couple of false starts it was pretty smooth sailing though I must warn you I do talk quite a lot. When I rewatched it with a view to making it shorter I found that I didn’t feel like cutting anything out so I’ve decided to own my wordiness.

The books I review are (with the approximate times I start talking about them):

  • Heat Wave by Richard Castle. Titan Books. (2:35)
  • Love Hurts edited by Malorie Blackman. Random House Children’s Books. (4:20)
  • A Hero at the End of the World by Erin Claiborne. Big Bang Press. (12:00)

I had a lot of fun recording this video, I’m already looking forward to February’s!

My copies of Love Hurts and A Hero at the End of the World were provided by the publisher for review consideration. All opinions expressed are my own.

Book News

Project Remix.

ProjectRemix

Yesterday Malorie Blackman, Children’s Laureate, launched Project Remix – a creative challenge for 13 – 19 year olds in the UK. Here’s Malorie herself introducing the competition:

From the Children’s Laureate website:

To enter, teenagers are asked to make their own creative work in response to a selection of acclaimed literature – featuring fiction, poetry, graphic novels and short stories from some of the bestselling contemporary and classic authors, including: John Green, Suzanne Collins, Philip Pullman, Benjamin Zephaniah, Jane Austen, Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker. Entries can be submitted into five categories: Music, Book Cover Design, Book Trailer, Creative Writing, and Comic Strip.

The aim of the competition is to engage young people with literature, using it as a creative springboard into other storytelling mediums, and to open doors to the arts and the creative industries. It was inspired by the growth of online fandom, including fanfiction and fan art and the surge in related digital communities.

I think this is a really interesting opportunity. Personally I’ve been involved in fandom for more years than I want to count, reading and occasionally writing fan fiction and admiring other fanworks created by like minded people. That the Children’s Laureate wants to highlight this as a way teens can explore creativity is great, particularly as this competition is aimed at encouraging and nurturing the teens (there have been other competitions in the past that haven’t had such a positive intention). If I was in the target age group I know my brain would be spinning into overdrive with ideas – I’m looking forward to seeing what the winning entrants look like.

You can find out more about the competition, including the list of books that have been selected as the source material, here at the Project Remix website.

Book Review

Book Review: Boys Don’t Cry by Malorie Blackman.

BoysDontCryYou’ve got it all planned out. A summer of freedom, university, a career as a journalist – your future looks bright.

But then the doorbell rings. It’s your ex-girlfriend, and she’s carrying a baby.

Your baby.

You agree to look after it, just for an hour or two.

Then she doesn’t come back – and your life changes for ever.

A gripping and original story about love, relationships and growing up the hard way.

Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses books were for me, like so many others, some of the first young adult fiction I read as an adult. I was blown away by them and passed my copies to others so that they too could read their brilliance. For whatever reason I hadn’t read any more of her books, I kept hearing great things about Boys Don’t Cry so I grabbed it when I saw it at my local library. Eventually I sat down to read it and devoured it in one slightly emotional sitting, and then kicked myself hard for not reading it sooner.

Boys Don’t Cry is Dante’s story, he is a bright teen waiting for the uni results that mean he can go away to university and pursue his dreams of becoming a journalist. His life is turned upside down by the discovery that he fathered a child, and is now entirely responsible for that child. At the same time Boys Don’t Cry is Adam’s story – he gets nearly half of the narrative duties – he’s the younger brother, his heart is set on a career in the performing arts and he’s openly gay even if his brother and father don’t outwardly do or say anything to acknowledge it.

Both boys are under a lot of emotional pressure, they feel the absence of their dead mother keenly, and whilst their father is trying his best to bring them up there are significant cracks in his relationship with them both. The addition of the baby into their family unit pushes the relationships even further, at times this made for painful reading – I found I could understand everyone’s perspective, there truly was no right or wrong between Dante, Adam and their father.

Dante’s reactions to his rapidly changing future feel both harsh and entirely genuine. Discovering he has a child and becoming responsible for her has a dramatic impact on his life in every way imaginable, I found myself wondering how I would have reacted to a similar thing at his age, it felt too big to even begin to consider. I realised as I was nearing the end of the book that we never hear about the Dantes of the world – there must be young single fathers out there, I can’t remember ever hearing about one though.

Adam’s story was somewhat unexpected in that I didn’t expect him to have such a strong presence or narrative within the book. He gets his own storyline, though it twists in and out of Dante’s, whilst this works well there were times when it almost felt like there was a little too much going on – I guess it’s that age old age of it never raining but pouring. I found that I could see relatively early on within his story where it was going, I was willing myself to be wrong but was proven right.

The final section of the book in particular has some beautiful, touching moments. I spent the last few chapters in a completely heightened state of emotions. The conclusions felt very true to the characters and the plot, and I closed the book feeling incredibly glad for the opportunity to read such a book. It deals with some huge issues but never feels like an “issues” book. It is instead a book about the value of communication and the power of family and of love. I have seen mention of a companion novel coming at some point, telling the story of baby Emma’s mother Melanie – I’ll certainly be reading this book far more quickly.

Boys Don’t Cry is published by Corgi. My copy of the book was borrowed from my local library.