Friday, 8 September 2017

BLOG TOUR | THINGS A BRIGHT GIRL CAN DO | '5 Minutes With Sally Nicholls'

Hey guys, and happy Friday! Today I am absolutely delighted to be taking part in the Things a Bright Girl Can Do blog tour - to celebrate the publication of a wonderful book that I'm pretty sure everyone will fall in love with. I read this book almost as soon as I was sent it, back in June, but have only been able to rave about it three months later!

Next week my review of Things a Bright Girl Can Do will be live, so keep an eye out for that! 

Things a Bright Girl Can Do is a book about politics, class, feminism and the fierce determination of those who refused to be sidelined from society. The story follows three girls from three completely different backgrounds, and different dreams for their futures, yet with one main goal: to stop their voices from being silenced any longer. However, when Britain enters into War with Germany, their entire world is turned on its head, and the future of the Suffragette movement appears uncertain.

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Through rallies and marches, in polite drawing rooms and freezing prison cells and the poverty-stricken slums of the East End, three courageous young women join the fight for the vote.

Evelyn is seventeen, and though she is rich and clever, she may never be allowed to follow her older brother to university. Enraged that she is expected to marry her childhood sweetheart rather than be educated, she joins the Suffragettes, and vows to pay the ultimate price for women's freedom.

May is fifteen, and already sworn to the cause, though she and her fellow Suffragists refuse violence. When she meets Nell, a girl who's grown up in hardship, she sees a kindred spirit. Together and in love, the two girls start to dream of a world where all kinds of women have their place.

But the fight for freedom will challenge Evelyn, May and Nell more than they ever could believe. As war looms, just how much are they willing to sacrifice?

And today I am absolutely thrilled to be welcoming Sally Nicholls to Delightful Book Reviews, to talk all things feminism, YA literature and why writing about suffragettes is pretty much the best thing ever!

Hi Sally, and thanks for being on Delightful Book Reviews! What was the inspiration behind Things a Bright Girl Can Do?

It was actually my editor’s idea. She asked me if I’d like to write a book about suffragettes and I said, “Ooh! Yes please!”

Tell us a bit more about the three main characters, Evelyn, May and Nell. Do you have anything in common with them?

They’re all quite different! There’s Evelyn, who’s seventeen at the start of the book. She wants to go to university, but her parents can’t see the point for a girl. She’s also trying to decide how she feels about her friend Teddy, who is in love with her. She’s quite a prickly sort of character. 

May is fifteen when the book opens. She’s been a suffragist all her life, as well as a Quaker, a pacifist and a socialist. May is the most confident character in the book, and can be a bit obsessed with her various causes. But she’s a sweetheart really, and very innocent. She’s also a lesbian, and she’s in love with …

Nell, who is the same age. Nell has never felt at ease in her own skin or her own life. She lives in a two-room flat with her parents and five brothers and sisters, and she’d rather wear breeches and play cricket than get married and have children.

I have a bit in common with all my main characters. Like Evelyn and Nell, I get very uncomfortable and awkward with people who are romantically interested in me, and like Evelyn, I took a long time to make up my mind whether I wanted to get married. Like May, I’m a Quaker, and I generally think well of people – and I’ve been known to argue a point long after I should probably have stopped. 

What made you want to write about Suffragettes? 

I don’t know – my head just went “Yes, please!” They’re such an emotive subject; young people whose potential is so constrained, fighting for really basic human rights; not just the right to affect political decisions, but the right to get a job, leave home, be treated as an equal to their male peers. And who wouldn’t want to write about women in petticoats with toffee hammers?

What’s so special about YA literature?

As a writer, it’s a great place to sit. I get to write books about all sorts of different topics, from the perspective of young people who are just starting out in life. All the characters in my books are figuring out who they are and what sort of life they want to live, and that’s a very exciting age group to be writing about. It’s also exciting to think that my books are helping to shape how young people think about subjects like feminism and history.

What advice would you offer aspiring writers?

Read a lot. Prioritise writing – make it one of the most important things in your life. Learn from writers you love, but don’t try to be them – be absolutely yourself in your writing.

Sum up Things a Bright Girl Can Do in 3 words!

Feminism, activism, snogging.

Thanks so much for appearing on my blog today, Sally!

Make sure you guys check out the other spots on the blog tour <3

Buy Things a Bright Girl Can Do here:

Check out Sally Nicholls here:

Until next time :)

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

BOOK REVIEW | 'Piglettes' by Clémentine Beauvais (****)

Hey guys, and happy Wednesday! Today I am excited to be sharing with you another book review - this time of the brilliant Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais. I wanted to get the review in before summer was officially over (booooo!) as this is the perfect summer road trip novel.

Piglettes follows teenagers Mireille, Astrid and Hakima, who have just been voted the three ugliest girls in their school in the annual Pig Pageant on social media. Mireille is unsurprised, having won gold in the contest two years in a row. But now another girl has won top spot: Astrid Blomvall. And Year 8 Hakima Idriss has won next place with silver. Mireille knows they have to do something, and she has a crazy idea that will get everyone's attention. But whether they can actually go through with it is a whole other matter... 

I was kindly sent a copy of Piglettes by Pushkin Press in exchange for an honest review :)

Check out the blurb here...

Awarded the Gold, Silver and Bronze trotters after a vote by their classmates on Facebook, Mireille, Astrid and Hakima are officially the three ugliest girls in their school, but does that mean they're going to sit around crying about it?

Well... yes, a bit, but not for long! Climbing aboard their bikes, the trio set off on a summer roadtrip to Paris, their goal: a garden party with the French president. As news of their trip spreads they become stars of social media and television. With the eyes of the nation upon them the girls find fame, friendship and happiness, and still have time to consume an enormous amount of food along the way.

I adored this book! I really didn't know what to expect when I picked it up - I have never read anything by Clémentine Beauvais before, but I was very much pleasantly surprised. The writing style was one of my favourite things about the book - I loved Mireille's narration - she is so fierce and witty and utterly hilarious. The dialogue is also fantastic - especially between Mireille and her mother - the narration is very realistic as to how a teenager would speak. Piglettes is very much a homage to teenagers all over the world - the novel portrays them as brilliantly smart, courageous and having an unstoppable sense of humour. 

The characters were all wonderfully unique and brilliantly crafted - I adored Mireille, Astrid and Hakima and loved the interactions between them. I have read a lot of reviews where readers have written that their whole trip is unrealistic, however I think to say that is to really miss the point of the whole book. (Since when did fiction have to be completely realistic anyway?!) But hear me out. When you strip down the humour, the quirky characters, the hilarious dialogue, this book is really about overcoming bullying and achieving the impossible, even when everyone you know is telling you that you can't do it. 

Another thing I loved about this book is how brilliantly diverse it is. From disability, feminism, politics, periods - anything you can think of, Beauvais makes room for it in this novel. This is the perfect summer novel; it will lift your spirits, and make you want to hop on your bike and achieve the impossible!

Check out Clémentine Beauvais here:

Until next time :) 

Monday, 28 August 2017

FRESHERS BLOG TOUR | Freshers Memories...

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I am SO EXCITED to be sharing this post on my spot on the Freshers blog tour, to celebrate the publication of the wonderful Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison! Freshers follows first years Phoebe and Luke, as they start their first term at York Met. Coming from the same school, Phoebe has fancied Luke since forever, so she's hoping that uni will give her a chance to finally come out of her shell and become the girl that could potentially go out with Luke Taylor. 

While Phoebe appears to be making the most of her new life and surroundings, for Luke things are a little more difficult. Freshers isn't what he expected it to be, and everyone else seems to be having a much better time than he is. When the two come together, the result is a mix of occurrences that are hilarious and surprising, accurately representing the wonderful (yet slightly terrifying) randomness that is The Freshers Experience

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Phoebe has been waiting all summer for uni to start and her life to finally begin. And knowing Luke Taylor is going to be there too makes the whole thing even more exciting...

But Luke's relationship is secretly falling apart and campus life isn't proving to be the escape he thought it would be.

When the two collide in the madness of Freshers' Week, everything changes - and they both get sucked into each other's worlds in the most messy, intense and hilarious ways imaginable...

For my spot on the blog tour today, myself and Tom Ellen will be sharing a Freshers' memory... consider yourselves spoiled!

First up, Tom's anecdote...

This is an (only mildly embarrassing) photo of me in about 2005, from the York University production of 'The Seagull' by Anton Chekov. I'm in the back row, to the immediate left of the guy in the hat. Being in the Drama Soc was quite a big - and generally hilarious - part of my university experience, and I always wanted to get it into FRESHERS somehow, but in the end we just couldn't find space for it. But there were definitely enough ridiculous events to merit its inclusion. 

At one point during our performance of 'The Seagull', for instance (which was being held outdoors, in a local park) an extremely drunk bloke wandered right up to the side of the stage and started shouting at both the actors and some swans that were also stood nearby. He then started trying to dislodge a litter bin by kicking it really hard. 

Unfortunately, this all happened during one of my bits of dialogue, and I remember looking out into the audience and seeing that, literally, not a single person was looking at us lot on stage; they were all focused on the drunk bloke. In the end, a stage manager had to gently usher him away, and the audience finally looked back at us, but it had slightly ruined the "theatrical magic". Another time, I was in a production of Martin Sherman's 'Bent', which is a really brilliant play about gay prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp. It was my first audition at York Uni - in fact, I think it happened during Freshers' Week - so I was quite nervous about it, and it didn't help my nervousness that the first question they asked me was: "Would you be prepared to be fully naked on stage?" I decided that, no, I probably wouldn't - but the part I was eventually given involved me spending quite a lot of time waiting backstage with Ed - a third year, and the ONE Drama Soc member who WAS prepared to be fully naked. 

It was quite odd, every night, waiting silently at the side of the stage, just me and Ed - me fully clothed, him completely naked. We couldn't speak, obviously, as we'd disrupt the play, so we just grinned at each other and gave each other 'good luck!' thumbs ups, and generally tried to ignore the fact that one of us was entirely nude. Actually, remembering it now, I'm quite annoyed we didn't put it in FRESHERS. It definitely would've made a funny scene…

My own story is one that I cringe at pretty regularly. I met a guy at a Yeats poetry reading event (I know lol) who I realised also did creative writing; I quite liked him but if anyone knows me - they know that I like to bury my head in a book as much as I like going out and making an absolute fool of myself on a student night. 

So I decided to invite this guy (and his friend of course - #keepingitchill) to a club my friends and I were going to at the weekend.

I'm happy to report that I acted really cool and nonchalant for the majority of the night, dancing with my friends and getting drinks (it was 90p vodka mixer night - so obviously), until I felt a bit bad for playing it a bit too cool and basically not talking to the boy - so I invited him outside for a bit of air.

It was all going well - we were chatting and having lots of banter - he even invited me to browse around Waterstones Deansgate with him after next week's creative writing class - but unfortunately I probably had too many 90p vodka mixers and the chat took a turn for the worse. Not in the way you'd imagine...

In a strange turn of events, I turned to my A-Level History knowledge and proudly told this boy that I could recite all of the Prime Ministers from 1939 - 2007. 

And I did.

I don't even know where that came from. 

I remember the combined look of confusion and amazement flit across his face, and I thought, I have definitely blown it. Who the heck recites the names of Prime Ministers as a flirting tactic? 

Afterwards we went back inside, and I blissfully forgot that the incident had ever happened. It was only the next day, over text, that the boy reminded me:

'Do you remember reciting the names of all the British Prime Ministers to me last night?'

I hated myself for the whole day. Luckily enough, a few months later and that boy became my boyfriend. And a year and a half on, I've never recited the names of the British Prime Ministers to him again.

And that's it, folks! I hope you enjoyed mine and Tom's Freshers' stories!

Keep posted for my 5* review of Freshers, coming soon...

Buy Freshers here:

Check out the interview Lucy and Tom did on my channel all about Freshers here:

Until next time :)

Thursday, 24 August 2017

5* BOOK REVIEW | 'What My Last Man Did' by Andrea Lewis

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am excited to be reviewing a wonderful book of short stories (which you guys know are one of my favourite kind of books) called What My Last Man Did by Andrea Lewis. What My Last Man Did is a fantastic collection of short stories chronicling the experiences of a family spanning generations. The settings are distinct but all exquisitely detailed, from New Orleans in 1895 to New Mexico in 1975. Although the collection explores a plethora of different issues, from racial tension, family relationships and natural disasters, the collection ties together brilliantly and is altogether a wonderful read. 

I was kindly sent What My Last Man Did by Indiana University Press in exchange for an honest review <3

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

How are our lives shaped by the difficult choices of our parents and even grandparents? How will our own choices direct the future for our children? Following generations of one family across nearly a century, each of Andrea Lewis s intertwined, engaging short stories evokes an intense sense of place and time, from New Orleans in 1895 to Grand Isle, Louisiana, during the hurricane of 1901 and on to London during the Olympic Games of 1946. The people in these ten vivid tales face tragedy and real-world catastrophic events war, hurricanes, the Great Depression, racial tension in their pursuit of love, family, and belonging. Each character struggles to discover and preserve his or her identity and dreams while grappling with the expectations of family and culture and trying to cope with loss. Some succeed, some compromise, and some fail, but all have a traceable impact on a story to come.

I haven't read a collection of short stories for a while, so I was really excited to be offered  this by Indiana University Press. I particularly enjoy collections of short stories where the separate stories are interlinked in some way, or the same characters crop up in various stories. What My Last Man Did is one of those collections - all of the stories are interlinked and there is a strong aspect of cause and effect in these stories - each event has a direct impact on one of the other stories in the collection. I really liked how the stories weren't in chronological order but were scattered across time, in a delectable variety of settings. Each setting was so perfectly and painstakingly described - you can really lose yourself in these stories.

Lewis' writing is fresh, imaginative and vibrant - the characters in particular simply pulsate with life. They are funny, tragic and most importantly realistically. In a short story it's really important for every action to be necessary and align with common sense, and this is exactly what I found in this collection. Lewis is an expert at portraying humanity - the good, the bad, the strange and uncanny. What My Last Man Did perfectly captures what it means to be human, and what is important to us as a species. 

What I also loved about this collection was that it is a perfectly balanced selection of stories - some are heartbreaking, some are uplifting, but all of them are authentic and arresting.

I would highly recommend What My Last Man Did - even if you haven't read a short story collection before!

Buy What My Last Man Did here:

Check out Andrea Lewis here:

Until next time :) 

Monday, 21 August 2017

BOOK REVIEW | 'The Rasputin Dagger' by Theresa Breslin (****)

Hello readers, and happy Monday! Today I am delighted to be sharing a review of a wonderful book I read recently - The Rasputin Dagger by Theresa Breslin. The Rasputin Dagger follows Nina Ivanovna, a young woman who after her father's death has to leave her family home and make the journey to St Petersburg, to find a long lost relative who will be able to help her escape an unwanted marriage and a life of misery and restriction. But St Petersburg isn't the city it was before, it is a city of poverty, of political rebellion, and of danger. As Nina gets dragged further into Russia's political situation than she ever imagined, she discovers that there is a fine line between doing what you think is right, and doing what is safe. 

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Russia, 1916.

Nina Ivanovna’s world is in turmoil. Her only hope is to travel to St Petersburg, to escape the past and find a future.

Stefan Kolodin is a medical student – young and idealistic, he wants change for Russia and its people.

Amidst the chaos of a city in revolt, their lives collide. And a stormy relationship develops . . . full of passion and politics.

But soon Nina is drawn in to the glamorous, lavish lives of the Russian royal family – where she begins to fall under the spell of their mysterious monk, Grigory Rasputin. The ruby-studded dagger he carries – beautiful and deadly – could save her and Stefan from a cursed life

. . . or condemn them to it.

On Thursday I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour to celebrate the publication of this book - check that post out here!

I absolutely loved The Rasputin Dagger. I didn't really know what to expect going into it, but pretty much after the first chapter, I was hooked. Right from the very first page I was sucked in to this world, which was superbly and intricately described. Right from meeting Stefan, I knew that he would become one of my favourite characters, who I would be rooting for the whole way throughout. All of the characters were so well described and it was very interesting to read how they all interacted with each other - I especially enjoyed the scenes with Nina and the Romanov family.  

The Rasputin Dagger is undeniably a book with a fantastic story at its heart; each twist and turn was perfectly crafted to have the biggest impact! The plot was so well thought out and kept me thoroughly engaged in the story until the very end. Nina was the perfect protagonist to carry this story - she is daring, adventurous, and determined - everything I love about a female protagonist. 

I have never read any books by Theresa Breslin before - but I completely fell in love with the writing in The Rasputin Dagger, and I will definitely be diving into more stories by her. Breslin really is an expert storyteller; she reeled me into her world of revolutionary Russia, and I was very sad to leave it at the end of the book. 

Just like any great book, the ending of The Rasputin Dagger brought the whole story together, yet left me wanting more. The tension was so palatable and so real to me that I almost couldn't stand the tension of the last few chapters!

Overall, I loved The Rasputin Dagger - it is definitely one of the best historical novels I have ever read, and I will definitely be checking out more of Theresa's books!

Buy The Rasputin Dagger here:

Check out Theresa Breslin here:

Twitter:  @TheresaBreslin1 

Until next time :)

Thursday, 17 August 2017

THE RASPUTIN DAGGER BLOG TOUR | Fabergé Eggs & Researching 'The Rasputin Dagger'

Hey guys, and happy Thursday! Today I am very excited to be on blog tour to celebrate the brand new book from Carnegie medal winner Theresa Breslin, the wonderful historical novel The Rasputin Dagger. 

The Rasputin Dagger follows Nina Ivanovna, a young woman who after her father's death has to leave her family home and make the journey to St Petersburg, to find a long lost relative who will be able to help her escape an unwanted marriage and a life of misery and restriction. But St Petersburg isn't the city it was before, it is a city of poverty, of political rebellion, and of danger. As Nina gets dragged further into Russia's political situation than she ever imagined, she discovers that there is a fine line between doing what you think is right, and doing what is safe. 

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Russia, 1916.

Nina Ivanovna’s world is in turmoil. Her only hope is to travel to St Petersburg, to escape the past and find a future.

Stefan Kolodin is a medical student – young and idealistic, he wants change for Russia and its people.

Amidst the chaos of a city in revolt, their lives collide. And a stormy relationship develops . . . full of passion and politics.

But soon Nina is drawn in to the glamorous, lavish lives of the Russian royal family – where she begins to fall under the spell of their mysterious monk, Grigory Rasputin. The ruby-studded dagger he carries – beautiful and deadly – could save her and Stefan from a cursed life

. . . or condemn them to it.

And today I am delighted to welcome Theresa Breslin to Delightful Book Reviews, where she will be talking about the extensive research she undertook to write The Rasputin Dagger... including Fabergé eggs!

Fabergé is the name of a family of Russian jewellers who became known for the skilfully crafted and expensive eggs they supplied to the Russian royal family. 

The first ‘Imperial Egg’ was made in 1885 for Tsar Alexander III who wanted to give his wife, the Empress Maria, a special gift for their Easter festivities. This one was called the ‘Hen Egg’ because, inside the white enamel shell was a yolk of gold which opened to reveal a golden hen with ruby eyes, which itself contained a miniature gold and diamond crown and a ruby-stone pendant. Not surprisingly, the Empress adored her present. And so, the Tsar began a royal tradition of gifting unique, lavishly decorated and incredibly costly Fabergé eggs for special occasions. 

The shape of an egg as a symbol is interpreted in many ways by many different cultures – including a representation of the arrival of Spring, new life and Hope. Decorating hen’s eggs - ordinary hen’s eggs, that is, NOT golden ones! – was, and still is, a widespread activity done every year at Easter. It was my grandfather who showed me how to pierce the egg carefully at each end and blow gently through one hole to push the contents out the other side. Then there was the fun part of painting the surface with a face or pattern or any abstract splurges of colour. Such happy memories!  

The eggs of the Romanovs, the Imperial Family who once ruled Russia, cost much more than any egg I made or have since owned. Over the years, until the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917, approximately fifty were commissioned by Russian royalty. Made from precious metals and studded with jewels: sapphires, emeralds, and diamonds, they were miniature masterpieces. A few of these have still to be traced, but one egg, accidently discovered recently by a scrap metal dealer, was valued more than 20 million pounds! 

I move about a lot, researching and speaking about my books. On my travels, including those I made for The Rasputin Dagger, I buy local books and examples of traditional craft work from the countries I visit. The eggs I own are of little monetary value but I treasure them. Wooden and alabaster, delicate Oriental with fine brush work, best china and pottery and, of course, hen’s eggs hand-painted in traditional Eastern European style.   

  Photo: Theresa Breslin Books - Egg Collection: ©Scarpa

To this day Fabergé still make beautifully designed eggs. Much as I would like to, sadly, I do not yet have one of these. 

However, to my delight, when wandering along a quiet London Street In Mayfair one day I came across a Very Significant Shop! Tucked away from the bustle of nearby Piccadilly is the deceptively small frontage of an outlet bearing a brand name of international repute.

In case I ever needed to find it again I took a photograph.

Photo: Theresa Breslin Books – London Fabergé Shop: ©Scarpa

So, I can still hope… 

Thank you so much, Theresa, for appearing on my blog!

Make sure you guys check out the rest of the stops on the blog tour! Stay tuned for my review of The Rasputin Dagger coming soon...

Buy The Rasputin Dagger here:

Check out Theresa Breslin here:

Twitter:  @TheresaBreslin1 

Until next time :)

Monday, 14 August 2017

BOOK REVIEW | When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife by Meena Kandasamy (****)

Hey guys, and happy Monday! Today I am really excited to be sharing a review with you of a fantastic book I read a few weeks ago - When I Hit You by Meena Kandasamy. When I Hit You is a heartbreakingly written, raw account of a woman who undergoes horrific physical and psychological abuse. It is definitely a hard read, but I also found it incredibly eye-opening, and it is written in a arrestingly beautiful way. 

I was kindly sent When I Hit You by Atlantic Books, in exchange for an honest review <3

Intrigued? Check out the blurb here...

Seduced by politics and poetry, the unnamed narrator falls in love with a university professor and agrees to be his wife, but what for her is a contract of love is for him a contract of ownership. As he sets about reducing her to his i

dealised version of a kept woman, bullying her out of her life as an academic and writer in the process, she attempts to push back - a resistance he resolves to break with violence and rape. 

Smart, fierce and courageous When I Hit You is a dissection of what love meant, means and will come to mean when trust is undermined by violence; a brilliant, throat-tightening feminist discourse on battered faces and bruised male egos; and a scathing portrait of traditional wedlock in modern India.

As soon as I was offered this book for review I knew it was something I wanted to read - I would really like to read more diverse books and When I Hit You definitely falls under this category. It is a novel that is hard to categorise, but is a narrative interwoven with the themes feminism, poetry, family and domestic violence. As I said, it is a difficult book to read, but simultaneously a hugely important one. 

Kandasamy is a writer who invariably writes straight from the heart - When I Hit You is profound, heartfelt and bitterly angry - I felt an unapologetic sense of yearning for a life unencumbered by the restraints her husband imposes on her. The novel is hugely invested in poetry and I felt that the writing reflected this - When I Hit You is lyrically beautiful and invested in meaningful images.

I feel like the story was well developed and, as the abuse evolved as the book went on, I grew all the more horrified. I feel like the subject was dealt with really well and in a sensitive but unflinching way. I loved reading about the narrator's fierce and almost unshakable determinism to write, even when her laptop and internet access was taken from her - and she had to type out an article on her phone and text it to her editor. I also learned quite a bit about traditional marriages in India - about the involvement of your family - and how an unhappy marriage can be turned into a question of honour and family embarrassment. The idea of a marriage as a contractual ownership shocked me right down to my core - but this can happen to any woman, from any part of the world, and sometimes I think we like to forget that, or at least avoid thinking about it.

This book was definitely not a lighthearted one, but I think it is required reading; it is the tale of a determined woman who makes the decision to pursue her ambitions whatever the cost, and I think the story is a remarkable one.

Buy When I Hit You: Or, A Portrait of the Writer as a Young Wife here:

Check out Meena Kandasamy here:

Until next time :)