Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Charli Reviews: Apple and Rain

When Apple's mother returns after eleven years away, Apple feels whole again. But just like the stormy Christmas Eve when she left, her mother's homecoming is bittersweet. It's only when Apple meets someone more lost than she is that she begins to see things as they really are. 

A story about sad endings. 
A story about happy beginnings. 
A story to make you realise who is special.

Author: Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Date of Publication: August 2014
Pages: 330
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Goodreads | Amazon

I received a free copy of this book from Bloomsbury in exchange for a honest review. This does not affect my review/opinions in any way. Thank you Bloomsbury!

Most people who know me fairly well know that I adore Sarah Crossan's writing; Breathe is to this day one of my favourite books ever. So, of course, I've been excited for this since it was announced - even when it then took me almost a year to get to read it!

Apple and Rain follows Apollinia, who's mum abandoned her and her nan when she was young. After over a decade, she comes back and wants Apple to live with her, and naturally Apple jumps at the chance; before she realises that it maybe isn't as good an idea as it seems.

Crossan doesn't disappoint with this; it's beautiful and tear-worthy from the first page. Of course, as a heartless person whom doesn't cry at books, I didn't... But I imagine a lot of people would! Apple is a gorgeously written protagonist who I felt really invested in; I felt unadulterated anger and sadness and everything between for her.

There are so many elements of this that are difficult, and Crossan portrays them so realistically. The issue concerning Rain and Jenny might be laughable to some people; but we don't always consider situations like that, because they seem strange - but things like that do happen to children.

One of the subjects of this book is alcohol, which I always find an interesting one. Seeing Apple have this sudden introduction to it and having hangovers, mixing cocktails etc was kind of hard for me. I'm not opposed to alcohol, but I'm not really bothered by it either; and reading about this teenager who seemed so curious about it was strange. It made for a more interesting reading experience.

And then there's the other side of the issues tackled; the "normal" one of  being a teenager. The bullying and friendship issues, the boys, the teachers plaguing you for homework. I was really glad that these were still tackled, because sometimes "difficult" books wash other them.

But no matter of the difficult topics weaved in Apple and Rain, there were elements that made me smile, as well. I loved reading about Apple discovering her love for poetry, and the bonding between Apple and Rain themselves as we go through the book.

I adored this; everything is genuine and I think anyone could enjoy the beautiful heart-break that Apple and Rain offers.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Charli Muses: When YA Turns to Suicide {Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher}

You can't stop the future.
You can't rewind the past.
The only way to learn the secret is to press play.

Clay Jensen returns home to find a strange package with his name on it. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and first love – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.

Hannah's voice explains there are thirteen reasons why she killed herself. Clay is one of them. If he listens, he'll find out why.

All through the night, Clay keeps listening – and what he discovers changes his life... forever.

Author: Jay Asher
Publisher: Penguin UK
Date of Publication: This Edition 2009
Pages: 297
Source: Bought
Goodreads | Amazon

**Trigger warning for suicide, rape / Spoiler warning for most of book**

I read this book yesterday, and I was so mystified and annoyed at it that I felt like I finally wanted to review a book! I haven't done that since April, so it did something good, I guess.

SO much hype surrounds Thirteen Reasons Why; it's why I picked it up in the first place. Some of my friends have read it and absolutely loved it. But... there's so much that's wrong with it. And I didn't realise some of the things that were wrong until I finished it.

It's worth baring in mind that I didn't hate this book, I've rated it a solid half rating. Before we get in to what I think this book does in terms of being damaging, let's talk writing. I'm just going to say it: split monologue narration? Get out. Reading a line of Hannah's tape and then a line of Clay talking about something just annoyed me no end.

So let's discuss what's wrong with this book. I put this down and I thought, simply, this book puts some sort of glamour over suicide. I didn't want to express this opinion till I saw someone agree, but a lot of Goodreads consensus says the same, so there it is.

I will never, ever knock anyone's reasons for mental illness, PTSD and etcetera. But Hannah? I don't see it. I just don't. Her reasons? No.

Not to mention the tapes. When someone dies or commits suicide at such a young age, the knock on effect is horrific. It's so, so awful. Every single person who knows them blames themself. It tears them apart for weeks on end. And Hannah? She does this to these people who receive these tapes. The people who receive the tapes will feel harrowed for the rest of their lives.

And maybe she wants this. Maybe she wants them to feel this way. But why take this sort of course of revenge if you aren't there to see it? Why ruin lives further? Some of the people on these tapes didn't do anything! Hannah watched her friend get raped and didn't do a thing. Like, what? I was so stunned. I skipped a few pages because of how physically uncomfortable the idea of this made me. 

Hannah kills herself, effectively, because of rumours and boys being mean to her. I want to see the genders reversed and see how many people call this book a Bible of talking about suicide. I want to see it. No one would buy it. Because people don't see that boys are mentally ill too.

I think this book was written because Asher wanted it to be an important book. And that's fine. But realistically, this book doesn't do it.

Perhaps it's because this book is from 2007, of course - but being suicidal will always be the same. And I honestly think, with Hannah's reasons, there are teens out there who will think they're "meant" to be suicidal, because of similar experiences.

Perhaps I am bitter about this book because my best friend had her life taken away and she didn't deserve it, because I suffer myself, because a lot of my friends suffer. But this book? This book makes me uncomfortable about other books trying to tackle the subject.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Some Advice to 2012 Charli

Dear 2012 Charli,

You're about to go into Year 7 of secondary school. And you're terrified, everyone knows that; you're awful at hiding when you're scared. That's foreshadowing for other things that are going to happen, but hey ho.

Let me tell you - you're gonna go through a LOT of stuff in the next three years. Like, a lot. I know you already had a few things going on that haven't been so fab; but there's gonna be stuff. You're going to know a lot of secrets, you're going to shed a lot of tears.

The good news is that you push through it; here I am, sitting at a desk at the start of the summer holidays before I go into year 10. And I'm okay! I'm not fixed yet, but I'm on the mend, and that's all I really wanted for us.

It's going to turn out that your head isn't quite right; although I think everyone knew that that was going to happen eventually. You're going to end up seeing a lot of different people about it. Some will be great, some will be awful. A particular doctor looking at your legs will imply something that shakes you up for weeks.

This school that you're going into? Enjoy the first couple of terms; join clubs and make friends. Get your homework in on time. And for God's sake, don't get involved with THOSE girls - you'll know who I mean - because all that does is make you cry a year down the line in year 8.

At some stage, you're gonna have your heart broken a tiny bit. You're fine after a week, because you aren't someone who really cares about all that. In fact, you won't even cry over it. But, there's a little warning for you.

At this point, you expect to be at this school until you're nearly 17, grasping a piece of paper with a beautiful line of A*'s. Cling to this, for now. Your dream will pull you through until it can no longer.

Now, about-to-be-12-Charli... Let me tell you a secret. At this point, you don't care about your face, but you hate your weight. Don't worry about it. You're never gonna be particularly skinny, but eventually, you'll be comfortable with the curves you have; at least most of the time. Your face, on the other hand? 2015 Charli is working on being comfortable with that, but that's okay.

So, 2012 Charli - I'm not going to tell you where the next three years of your live lead. Because that would be a pretty hefty spoiler, right? Go experience all that. The bad, the good.

Oh, and go and try cheesecake again. Promise it'll be a good decision ;)

Much love,

2015 Charli

Friday, May 15, 2015

Charli - Depression, Anxiety and Panic Attacks

I have been unhappy for many years, especially since 2010.

It has increased as I have grown up, events like the passing of my best friend and issues at my school becoming ever more difficult to deal with. I have been in various types of counselling in the years since.

This year, everything seemed to come to a head. I have been unable to work some days, crying about going to school. I've been suffering from panic attacks since February; mainly due to my school environment. It's had a small hit on my education, but, thankfully, not too much.

I never really thought I had any type of anxiety. I've had rituals and what I used to call "severe paranoia" for years, but I'd never thought much of it. I'd never thought that the thoughts about the one time I got in trouble which haunted me at night were anything abnormal. I never thought any of it was abnormal.

My first panic attack occurred due to the situation at hand - I'd had an issue with a teacher which mum had called the school about. I was scared to go into a lesson with them, because I hadn't seen them since, and was worried that they hated me and etcetera. We thought it was a one time thing.

It happened again the next week. We figured out that my English group was a issue, but we still didn't think it was going to happen again. It happened again on Friday, and then we knew the school itself was the issue at hand.

I had one at Scout camp the next day, down to adrenaline and new surroundings. Afterwards, it was quite funny - my friend Josh, whom I've mentioned before forgot what he was meant to do to help and it ended up with everyone flapping a little bit.

And so, off to the GP we went. He referred me to CAMHS, whom I've had my introduction session with, and I'm due to have some CBT in July. But anyway.

Me and my family had some misunderstandings with my school over it all, but they weren't unsupportive after we found out what was really happening. They've given me a stress ball and told teachers; so it's okay. The panic attacks since the initial two weeks have been pretty much daily, averaging 3 or 4 a week.

The anxiety is one thing that's hindered me; there's been days where I've had to have first lesson off because I can't walk in, I have to leave lessons randomly and the attacks make me exhausted. I'm learning to put a handle on them, though.

The depression is another thing. We think I have some form of survivor's guilt, and that a lot of other events with extended family and bullying haven't helped along the way. I'm going into that side less here, but it's another element to everything.

I get a bitter taste in my mouth when girls at school say they're depressed, or OCD, or anything of the sort. A lot of my group of friends are also going through some sort of similar issue, and it's not a great situation for any of us.

However. On Monday, my mum went to an appeal panel for a school that I really wanted to go to, and on Wednesday we had the call that they've given me a place, and I may have cried, a tiny bit. Everyone at school knows and although everyone, including myself, is sad; we all know it's what's best, and I'm excited to start there in the next few weeks.

So, that's what's been up with me for a few months; and I apologise for those waiting on reviews and anyone who happened to miss me. I hope that after my end of years next week, and finding out when I'll be moving school, I can get back into it; at least a little bit.

I don't know how eloquent this is; but I wanted to update you because I know I haven't been very active lately and I don't want anyone to be worried.

Charli x

Friday, April 10, 2015

Charli Chats About: True Face {Review}

We are living in the age of the image - the perfect image. From the constant bombardment of air-brushed photos, to the dubious lifestyle choices promoted by celebrities and the obsession with social media, young women are under pressure as never before to project a persona of perfection. And this is having a catastrophic effect, with girls as young as seven developing eating disorders and female self-loathing reaching epidemic proportions.

True Face shows you how to resist the pressure from the 'perfection police' and take off the masks you wear to proudly reveal your true self to the world. In chapters dealing with body image, bullying, social media, love, sex and more, Siobhan Curham encourages young women and girls to be honest, dream big, and create lives that are happy and fulfilling. Keep Calm and Carry On is replaced by a new mantra: Forget the Fake and Keep it Real. This book is a breath of fresh air. Perfect for ages 13+ - and for the Girls fan in her 20s/30s too!


Author: Siobhan Curham
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Date of Publication: April 2015
Pages: 230
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Goodreads | Amazon

I received a free copy of this book from Faber&Faber  in exchange for a honest review. This does not affect my review/opinions in any way. Thank you Faber&Faber!

As soon as Siobhan Curham said she was going to write this, I knew it would be important, accurate and genuine. Her other non-fiction for teens, Finding Your Inner Cherokee, was all of those things, and I knew this would be too.

True Face is different to most teen self-help books, because it doesn't sugar coat. It doesn't tell you that things will get better within a day, it doesn't try and tell you that someone will definitely like you if you work up the courage to ask them out.

Another thing it does is have pages that are activities, journal pages if you like, as part of your journey to finding your true face. It also have tweets that are empowering that you can tweet at various intervals when reading.

I think this is important because it talks about the general areas of being a teen, but it homes in on the idea of  how a lot of teenagers fake who they are and that then, in turn, affects other areas of their lives.

True Face also has some anecdotes from some teenagers (including me!) and they are easy to relate to and show that it's true what the adults tell you, that you aren't alone in what you're feeling and experiencing. That's so important to me because it took me so many years to realise that I wasn't alone; there were other people in the same boat.

This book is so significant and I think every school should have a copy in their library; it made me realise that I was doing things that I didn't know I was, and it's empowered me a lot from a simple read. I wish I'd had it a couple of years ago - I think it would have done a world of good.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

{Bookish Photoshoot} Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

I read Girl Online back in November, and I think the cover and spine is absolutely gorgeous... So inspired by the protagonist, Penny, here is a photoshoot featuring the book! 

{Summary and links to buy can be found at the bottom of the blog post}

Girl Online follows Penny, a lifestyle blogger, and her life. When she moves to America, she meets Noah, a musician, and she finds herself fall in love. But between the two of them, their secrets threaten to change Penny's lifestyle and break her closest friendship.

Saturday, April 04, 2015

Charli Reviews: Anatomy of a Misfit

Outside, Anika Dragomir is all lip gloss and blond hair—the third most popular girl in school. Inside, she’s a freak: a mix of dark thoughts, diabolical plots, and, if local chatter is to be believed, vampire DNA (after all, her father is Romanian). But she keeps it under wraps to maintain her social position. One step out of line and Becky Vilhauer, first most popular girl in school, will make her life hell. So when former loner Logan McDonough shows up one September hotter, smarter, and more mysterious than ever, Anika knows she can’t get involved. It would be insane to throw away her social safety for a nerd. So what if that nerd is now a black-leather-jacket-wearing dreamboat, and his loner status is clearly the result of his troubled home life? Who cares if the right girl could help him with all that, maybe even save him from it? Who needs him when Jared Kline, the bad boy every girl dreams of, is asking her on dates? Who?
Author: Andrea Portes
Publisher: Harper
Date of Publication: Originally Jan 2014
Pages: 366
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Goodreads | Amazon

I received a free copy of this book from Harper 360 in exchange for a honest review. This does not affect my review/opinions in any way. Thank you Harper 360!

To say I had a few issues with this would be accurate. To say I struggled to get through this book would also be fairly accurate; although I didn’t hate it. The first thought I had when I finished it was that my thoughts were very mixed about this one, and it took me a while to work them out.

Let’s start in the traditional Charli way: if you know me, you know I’m all about characters. So for this particular book, my biggest issue was the protagonist. Honestly? To me, Anika wasn't any type of misfit, really; she was just annoying. It's more of a "I think being nerdy seems cute so that's what I am" situation than someone being genuinely an odd one out. 

My second issue came down to the slut-shaming. As a massive feminist, it got old really quickly. Several other groups and sub-cultures are slammed in this book, and for me personally, it was uncomfortable to read. I think it was meant to be a part of the character, but it just didn't appeal to me. 

I think I just generally disliked the writing style - Portes isn't a bad writer, as everything was written well, but it just wasn't for me. 

My final issue was the love triangle. In this instance, it was quite pointless; you could tell which she actually wanted to date and no tension was formed from it. I would have preferred her to develop a proper romance that I could get invested in. 

Positively, though? I enjoyed the humour and slight sass amongst the characters, and some of the concepts are fantastic. I didn't hate this, but I can't say it was ultimately for me. 

Friday, February 27, 2015

UKYA Extravaganza Blog Tour!: Interview with Leila Rasheed

It's UKYA Extravaganza TOMORROW! How excited are you all? As the last author spotlight on the tour, I want to just say that I hope everyone has a great day. Here is my interview with the brilliant Leila Rasheed. 

Hi Leila! Welcome to To Another World. Tell us a bit about yourself and your books? 

Thanks for having me! OK, so my life story to date goes: be born, move to Libya, live there for 10 years, go to boarding school, read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, move back to England, go to day school, write a lot, read all the Chalet School books, go to university, drop out of university, get back into university, move to London, do an MA in children’ literature,  work for a children’s literacy charity, write more, realise that I write children’s books, meet a Dane, move to Brussels, work for Waterstone’s, move back and forth between Brussels, Italy and England with dizzying rapidity (think pinball with passport), do an MA in Writing, get an agent, lose an agent, get Bathsheba books (comedy for 9 – 12 years old) published, get new agent (Julia Churchill- v good), get married to the Dane, get pregnant, have baby, write 8 publisher-led books in 2 years plus a book of my own, send out new novel, drink coffee, wait…

I read the Bathsheba series quite a few years ago, and I adored them – is her character based on anyone in particular? 

Thank you! I got the idea after reading a magazine article about Madonna’s daughter, and thinking how weird it would be to be the child of someone who would always be a million times more famous than you. It must be like starting life on the back foot, while at the same time everyone expects you to appreciate your situation. At about the same time I was getting a lot of rejections for a novel, and feeling really depressed about it, losing confidence – I wondered what it would be like to be the kind of person who was made of rubber- totally resilient and no matter how much she got knocked down was totally impervious to it – the kind of person who bounces into a room full of confidence, shouting, ‘Hello world!! It’s me!! Aren’t you lucky to see me??’. Thus was Bathsheba born.

Obviously Bathsheba has quite an odd perspective on life – how did you decide on what would happen to her throughout the trilogy? 

Well, I knew from the start there had to be some deep insecurity, vulnerability, under her bumptiousness. So it was about wondering how that could be addressed, and at the same time, teaching her a bit of a lesson, kindly though. In a way, I think she’s a scapegoat for the reader. She’s a bit like Amelia Jane, if you’ve ever read those Blyton books! Amelia Jane is really, really naughty and the reader gets to feel very smug and happy that they’re not that naughty. I suppose, thinking about it, a lot of British comedy is like that. It’s all about being glad you’re not the miserable anti-hero. But basically Bathsheba is a good person underneath, and I wanted her to get what she dreams of at the end of Book 3. 

More recently, your series At Somerton has been published. It looks very different to the Bathsheba books – was the change difficult? 

At Somerton is a publisher led series, so everything was different about it, really. It was a challenge to work in that way, to try and make a publisher’s ideas come to life. It was great fun writing for an older age range. I did enjoy it, especially the research and having lots of space to write description and really try to create a sense of time and place. It’s also fun to write for an older audience who have an understanding closer to your own.
Moving on, how do you write? Any habits, particular snacks or rooms? 

 I often write outside the house, in a cafĂ©. That’s mainly because my flat is small and cramped and not much fun to sit about in. Other than that, not really. I try to start off in longhand and a notebook before moving to the computer, because I think writing in longhand makes you think harder about what you write. 

As a child, were you into reading and writing? Did you have any favourites? 

Yes, I was a passionate, obsessive reader. Far too many favourites to count, but here goes!

·         The White Deer by James Thurber
·         The Children of Green Knowe by Lucy M Boston
·         Tintin
·         Asterix
·         The Narnia books
·         The Hobbit
·         Alan Garner’s books
·         Joan Aiken’s short stories

I started writing when I was thirteen and wrote stories for my friends to read. Looking back I think I started writing because I was very shy. I couldn’t talk to people but I could write to them. Nothing has changed.

Quick Fire Questions

Favourite animal? 

Cat. Not very original but what is better than a cat? Rhetorical question.

Favourite song?

Nite Flights by David Bowie. Or Heroes by David Bowie.. Or Always Crashing in the Same Car by David Bowie. Or anything by David Bowie at all.

You’re trapped on an island and can have one novel, one album and one person. What are they? 

That is so difficult! The Lord of the Rings, I think. It’d do me no good at all as far as survival tips goes (does not contain recipe for lembas), though I guess I could light a fire with it since it’s pretty thick.  And if I were trapped for a long time it’d last me as reading material. Also it’s my favourite book. One album – again, so difficult! Maybe Music for the Jilted Generation to put me in the kind of mood to tackle wild beasts and cannibals.  One person – this is impossible since I have both a lovely husband and a lovely son. So maybe I’ll pick someone like Thor Heyerdahl who might actually come in useful building boats and such. (I am assuming I can re-animate dead people for the sake of this thought experiment…)

This Or That

Cake or Cookies? Cake ideally carrot.

Lemonade or Coke? Coke. With ice and lemon.
Twitter or Facebook? Facebook, I haven’t the energy for Twitter.

Thank you for the interview, Leila! 

So that's it! I hope you enjoyed that and have an awesome day at UKYAX tomorrow :) 


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Jessica Cole Blog Tour! Charli Reviews: Code Red Lipstick

Models, spies and lipstick gadgets... When Jessica's father, a former spy, vanishes mysteriously, Jessica takes matters into her own hands. She's not just a daddy's girl who's good at striking a pose; she's a trained spook who knows how to take on MI6 and beat them at their own game.

Author: Sarah Sky 
Series: Jessica Cole: Model Spy #1 
Genre: Contemporary / Crime YA 
Publisher: Scholastic 
Pages: 336
Source: Review copy (Thank you to Scholastic for this copy; I received it free of charge in return of an honest review. This is in no way affects my review.)
Review by: Charli 

Code Red Lipstick is ideal for those YA readers who like interesting adventures matched with cute yet strong protagonists; as well as the tad of a mystery. 

It's a short read packed with scenarios to captivate you; and Sky doesn't let romance overtake her plot in any way. 

Jessica Cole is sharp and intelligent, and yet she can wear lipstick and heels. I like because, without going into it too far, a lot of feminists' have this type of internalized misogyny that you can't do and be both; and Jessica as the protagonist helps to prove that this is far from the truth. 

Sky's writing style is fresh and uncomplicated; making for a light reading experience mixed with all the action that occurs throughout the book. I particularly liked the mystery in this book because I felt like I was solving it too; Jessica going every step of the way. The gadgets and things used throughout were really interesting too. 

I probably ruined my reading experience of this by accident; reading it on a bus when I had high stress levels wasn't a very good idea! But all the same, I really enjoyed this book. 

I'm not very into fashion; and I honestly expected that element of the book to put me off it completely. Fortunately, however, it didn't... It was written well and I liked the description of all the dresses. (I am put off ever using face cream, though.)

Ideal for any fan of Gallagher Girls or Geek Girl, Code Red Lipstick has a great plot, amazing characters and just provides a very genuine look on life.