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27 February 2018

Top Ten Tuesday #115

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl and is a chance for everyone to get to know fellow bloggers and share lists. I love lists. Every week is a different list.

This week is Top Ten Books I Could Re-read Forever

I re-read a lot, so basically these are the ten books I re-read the most. I just love delving back into those fictional worlds, and I always find something new. Another thing I do is seek out the audiobooks so I can listen to specific chapters whenever I want. Seriously, audiobooks are amazing.
  1. I Capture The Castle by Dodie Smith
    The school librarian handed this to me when I was thirteen, and I've read it at least once a year since.
  2. Lucas by Kevin Brooks
    If I want a good cry, I pick up this book. I don't even need to get past the prologue to start sobbing.
  3. Pirates! by Celia Rees
    I absolutely love how kick ass Nancy and Minerva are. I love their adventures and although I always know how it will end I can't help but get caught up
  4. Junk by Melvin Burgess
    I was probably a little bit too young when I first read this, but it has stayed with me. I love how my thoughts about the characters has changed over the years.
  5. Shadows and Strongholds by Elizabeth Chadwick
    Oh, my original OTP. Hawise and Brunin and are just ❤ and I love them so much.
  6. Waiting for Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill
    This is my go-to book for when I need cheering up, Elektra, her family, and their escapades are hilarious and perfect for the job.
  7. Possessed by Kate Cann
    This was probably the first book I read where the main character was Definitely Working Class and I loved it then and always will.
  8. Slated by Teri Terry
    When I want to get angry at the world, I read Slated. Yes it's dystopia, but it's so relevant and so powerful it resonates with today's world.
  9. Darkmere by Helen Maslin
    Honestly, my love for this book. I just absolutely love it in all of it's Skins-esque horror and dilapidated castle goodness.
  10. Soulless by Gail Carriger
    I don't even like vampires or werewolves (I say) but this is a series I love. I just wish I knew what the hedgehog incident was.

What is your favourite book to re-read?

25 February 2018

Coming Out and After

This post is deeply personal, both terrifying and cathartic to write. Another non-booky post.

Although is it cheating if it's inspired by a book? I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda then saw Love, Simon and it inspired me to share my own coming out story. Or, how my coming-out was all at once not my choice and not a big deal. Or, a total non-story as it happens. It was what came after that was hard.

I'll throw you another few tidbits about my journey to discovering my sexuality and how I identify to keep you going because if you're anything like me you're nosy AF.

Girls and Boys

I'm not sure when I first realised that I was Not Straight, but I know it was sometime in high school. Maybe when I was in year nine? I know I was kissing girls by the end of that year so that sounds about right.

What I do remember is that I was never confused. I knew I liked boys and girls equally, and I was certain of that. I never thought that I could feel differently, I never thought that how I felt was wrong. I was just me. Thinking back I am so bloody proud of my own convictions.

I Kissed A Girl

OK, so I kissed a lot of girls. Growing up I gave my kisses freely, to pretty much anyone. I think I was a little bit addicted to a good snog. This included my friends. We were a little bit of a toxic, almost incestuous group, who were always kissing each other and going out with each other and splitting each other up.

But it was fun and it was how I explored myself.

I Got A Girlfriend

Oh god, my first girl friend. It was so painfully awkward. We lived miles and miles from each other, did that cringey AF thing where you got your friend to ask their friend if they'd go out with you with MSN messenger. I think we saw each other maybe twice while we were going out?

But you know what? She's still a friend now, one of my closest friends at that. And even when we decided to just be friends, we still kissed a lot because that's how my friendship group was.


That's essentially how I "came out" to my family. I didn't. My youngest sister did it for me with a smug smirk when she was eleven, expecting drama. Only there wasn't any drama, because it turns out my family is awesome. Honestly, truly, amazing and supportive and accepting.

Fun Fact - when Civil Partnerships became a thing, my mum was on a Channel 4 because she was Woman of Honour at one of the first ceremonies. She's always been an ally.

And my youngest sister, it turns out, is a lesbian. So yeah.

School Was Fine

Sorry to disappoint you, but school was fine with it.

Heck, I kissed a bloody lot of my classmates, male and female.

There was no "not in our changing room" outcry, no bullying based on my sexuality. I was bullied for a lot of things, and even now I cannot believe how exceptionally accepting my classmates were about my sexuality. Especially considering how bloody nasty they could be about the fact that I was born over the border in Scotland, as though that actually meant anything.

A Transition Kiss

Before I even knew what pansexual was, I think I knew in myself that it wasn't just girls and boys as assigned by birth that I was attracted to. I just didn't know what it meant.

I was eighteen when I briefly went out with someone who was transitioning. The relationship was a bit hellish (it was a total car-crash) we weren't right for each other, but yeah I was attracted. Because of who they were as a person.

It's what made me get on to the internet and search for what I was.

I knew I wasn't straight or gay, and I was pretty sure I wasn't just bisexual.

A couple of Google searches later and I had discovered polysexual and pansexual were THINGS and I had a good long sit down. And I was honest with myself. And I realised that out of all of my partners the thing I never considered was gender. It's not something that even crosses my mind, not something that I care about.

Dyke For A Day

Otherwise known as that time I went to pride with my lesbian friends and they completely excluded how I identify from their narratives of Pride.

I don't think they meant to. I think the fact that I was in a hetero-normative relationship threw them and they didn't know how a straight presenting couple would fit in to Pride. And to be honest, it didn't. I myself was still exploring my sexuality and how to identify it, I had only recently discovered that pansexuality was a thing, and I was realising that it was me.


Part of my identifying as pansexual is the concept of soulmates. I believe (and I know this isn't for everyone) that soulmates are A Thing. Not a "everyone has one soulmate" thing. More a "everyone has people out there who could be their soulmate". So, more than one for everyone, who could make them feel complete.

I am with a soulmate right now, in a hetero-normative relationship. But I will never be straight, that's just not me. I have the capacity to love everyone. I know it sounds cheesy but I honestly don't consider gender as a thing when it comes to who I'm attracted to.

So, my name is Cora. And I'm pansexual.

Love, Cora

24 February 2018

Review: Love, Simon (film)

I was lucky enough to see a free advance showing of Love, Simon on 19th February at my local cinema with a few Northern Book Blogger pals, and I loved it that much I couldn't not share. It honestly filled my heart with warm fuzzies and it made my eyes leak and my mascara run (top tip: don't wear mascara when you see it).

Love, Simon is a delightful film, and it is definitely one that is needed. I don't recall a film hitting me quite so hard. It got me right in the feels from the very start.

I loved the soundtrack, The Kinks are totally my jam. It was very hard not to sing along.

Of course, I'd already read the book that the film is based on, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, and I loved that too. Based solely on the trailer, I had expected some differences to canon, and it was interesting to watch them on screen.

Did it Differ?

Yes, quite a bit. I wouldn't say that it was a huge difference in terms of how it all ended, but the journey from the start was very different. Some of my favourite scenes were cut (boo) but at the same time some of my favourite scenes were kept (yay).

While I can understand why most of the changes were made, I just cannot get my head around the changes made to the play. I just don't get why that was changed, and I didn't like how it was portrayed on screen. It felt almost like an excuse for a girl prancing around in lingerie which would otherwise not fit in the film and I just didn't like it. At all. But that's the only change that really bugged me.

The Verdict?

It was amazing.

So yes, go and see Love, Simon even if you've read the book. It does the book justice even with the changes, and is sure to make your heart sing with love and joy and fuzziness.

100% would recommend.

Love, Simon releases in the UK on 06/04/2018 so get your tickets booked. I for one can't wait to see it again.

23 February 2018

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out - without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Source: Purchase

5 Words: Family, friendship, secrets, betrayal, high-school.

Why did I wait so long to join the Simon party? Goodness knows, because it was perfect.

Before starting I did have reservations. There was part of me that thought it was just going to be another gay story. Whoopee (<-- sarcasm). And I am so bloody glad that it wasn't.

I think one of my favourite things about this book was the exploration of friends and family. Becky Albertalli so perfectly depicts everyone, and relationships feel so real, that I felt by the end that I actually knew the characters.

This book is funny and relevant and achingly realistic. It is so happy making and bubbly, and it made me feel proud to be Not Straight.

Even though I can't personally relate to what Simon goes through, I felt it all while reading. I was angry with him, sad with him, in love with him. I went through it all with him and I loved it. It was An Experience I'm so glad I took a chance on.

This book was amazing and fantastic and I would recommend it to absolutely everyone.

21 February 2018

Blog Tour: Review & Giveaway: The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

When girl meets Duke, their marriage breaks all the rules… 

Since his return from war, the Duke of Ashbury’s to-do list has been short and anything but sweet: brooding, glowering, menacing London ne’er-do-wells by night. Now there’s a new item on the list. He needs an heir—which means he needs a wife. When Emma Gladstone, a vicar’s daughter turned seamstress, appears in his library wearing a wedding gown, he decides on the spot that she’ll do.

His terms are simple:
- They will be husband and wife by night only.
- No lights, no kissing.
- No questions about his battle scars.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s pregnant with his heir, they need never share a bed again.

But Emma is no pushover. She has a few rules of her own:
- They will have dinner together every evening.
- With conversation.
- And unlimited teasing.
- Last, and most importantly… Once she’s seen the man beneath the scars, he can’t stop her from falling in love…

Source: Blog Tour | NetGalley

5 Words: Obligation, survival, attraction, understanding, love.

Recently I have been delving back into the world of romance and renouncing my "guilty pleasure" feelings, so when this dropped into my inbox with the promise of a hint of Beauty and the Beast I jumped at the chance to review it. Anything with a touch BatB is like catnip for me.

Tessa Dare is a new to me author, but I absolutely will read more from her. Her writing is magnificent.

With this book I was transported back through history, into the dark streets of London. I could see the fashions, feel rough skin on my own fingers. And whenever Emma was cold (spoiler: it's a lot of the time) I'd be reaching for an extra blanket.

Now I actually read the blurb for this book so I was slightly apprehensive that it might be a touch Fifty-Shades-esque. But worry not! This relationship is anything but toxic. And as much as each of the couple has their own rules, there is still consent and respect and discussion of boundaries, and goodness, is there anything hotter than that?

I loved the ending too, it made me feel a wee bit giddy and happy and full of love. Everything wraps up perfectly.

This book was an absolute delight to read, and I will read more from this author.

15 February 2018

Review & Giveaway: the witch doesn't burn in this one by Amanda Lovelace

The witch: supernaturally powerful, inscrutably independent, and now - indestructible.

These moving, relatable poems encourage resilience and embolden women to take control of their own stories. Enemies try to judge, oppress, and marginalize her, but the witch doesn’t burn in this one.

2016 Goodreads Choice Award-winning poet Amanda Lovelace returns in the witch doesn't burn in this one - the bold second book in her "women are some kind of magic" series.

Source: NetGalley Request

5 Words: Witch, femininity, sisterhood, fire, solidarity.

What did I feel when reading this book?

Lots of things. A lot of anger, a lot of pride, a lot of power.

I had goosebumps up my arms and down my legs. I wanted to scream and rage and burn things. But in a good way.

I loved this collection. I loved the narrative behind each poem, how it told a story as you turned each page. The writing itself seemed to change as I progressed through the book, it became stronger and more mature.

This was excellent.

Win a pre-order of the witch doesn't burn in this one by Amanda Lovelace, international if Book Depository ships.

10 February 2018

Our Little Secret by Claudia Carroll

Sarah Dee has the perfect life. A high-flying job in a law firm, a beautiful daughter and a house to die for. So how does she find herself looking in through the kitchen window while another woman enjoys it all?

When Sarah takes pity on a struggling young graduate who can’t get a job, she thinks she’s doing the right thing. She’s being kind, generous and helpful to others, as she always is. But as Sarah allows the younger woman into her home, her law firm and even her family, is there more to this pretty youngster than meets the eye? And could this be a good deed that goes further than expected?

Claudia Carroll does it again with a sparkling new novel about what happens when your life becomes up for grabs…

I am thrilled to welcome the author today to talk about her first ever book deal as she celebrates publishing her 14th novel.

The Moment I Got My First Ever Book Deal

Like a lot of authors, for about as long as I can remember, I’d been scribbling down stories and embarrassingly rough drafts for novels. But then like most people, I just assumed that book deals were something that happened to other people so I’d just shove what I’d written into the back of a drawer and vow not to mortify myself by even talking about it. Took me a very long time and a LOT of courage to get brave and actually put a book out there.

In the meantime though, I was working as an actress on a long running soap opera in Ireland and, like so many others, had always dreamt of writing a book, but never really had the guts. But my idea for a book kept whispering at me. So I took to getting up earlier and earlier every morning and taking pen to paper and in a few months, had somehow cobbled together the first draft of my very first book, HE LOVES ME NOT, HE LOVES ME.

Then one of our directors on the TV show, a good pal of mine, published her first book and advised me to get three chapters of mine to her agent who she very kindly asked to look them over. So I took a very deep breath and went for it, sent off my chapters, then spent the next few weeks down on my hands and knees praying till I heard news back.

But thankfully the agent, the fabulous Marianne Gunn O’Connor very kindly agreed to take me on and had a book deal for me a few weeks later. I’ll never forget the moment. I was driving when the call came and my lovely agent said, ‘pull over the car.’ I thought something was wrong and when she told me we had a book deal, I think they heard my screams for miles!

All these years later and I’m still pinching myself...

06 February 2018

Blog Tour: Review: Last Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton

After the death of her beloved grandmother, a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she discovers the roots of her identity--and unearths a family secret hidden since the revolution...

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba's high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country's growing political unrest--until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary...

Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa's last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth.

Arriving in Havana, Marisol comes face-to-face with the contrast of Cuba's tropical, timeless beauty and its perilous political climate. When more family history comes to light and Marisol finds herself attracted to a man with secrets of his own, she'll need the lessons of her grandmother's past to help her understand the true meaning of courage.

Source: Blog Tour | Review Consideration | NetGalley

5 Words: Family, love, friendship, loyalty, memories.

I am going to try to keep this spoiler free, so it will be brief. But go buy this book.

Next Year in Havana is the loveliest blend of past and present. It is written beautifully, rich with imagery. The little details really make the settings come to life, whether it's Cuba during the revolution or in the present day. I loved how the story was split, how secrets were revealed.

I loved the exploration of family and friendship and loyalty. The intense politics surrounding everything made everything instantly more dramatic (in the best way). There's a touch of the forbidden to the romances that makes them all the more enticing.

There was something about this book that seemed to heighten my emotions. I felt more when I read it, I felt deeper and more profoundly. I think it's a combination of the writing, the setting and the characters, all coming together.

Honestly, this book is amazing. It was absolutely wonderful. There are glowing reviews everywhere and it deserves them.

02 February 2018

Review: The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton

I am a Belle. I control Beauty.

In the opulent world of Orléans, the people are born grey and damned, and only a Belle's powers can make them beautiful.

Camellia Beauregard wants to be the favourite Belle - the one chosen by the queen to tend to the royal family.

But once Camellia and her Belle sisters arrive at court, it becomes clear that being the favourite is not everything she always dreamed it would be. Behind the gilded palace walls live dark secrets, and Camellia soon learns that her powers may be far greater - and far darker - than she ever imagined.

When the queen asks Camellia to break the rules she lives by to save the ailing princess, she faces an impossible decision: protect herself and the way of the Belles, or risk her own life, and change the world forever.

Source: Review Request | Blog Tour

5 Words: Beauty, power, control, collusion, family.

I loved this book.

OrlĂ©ans is a world that you have to throw yourself into. You are dropped into the deep end of one of the richest and most lavish worlds I have ever read. Every page reveals a little more of the beliefs, the technology, and the secrets that surround Camellia, cleverly crafting an opulent yet deceitful world.

There is a lot of court intrigue, secrets, lies, collusion, power struggles... I found it so easy to get caught up in it all. At its heart, this story is as ugly as it is beautiful. It's truly breathtaking.

The writing is as decadent and colourful as the setting. It's like reading a painting. I easily spent as much time imagining everything as I did actually reading it.

I do think this book is not for everyone - you have to suspend disbelief and give yourself over to the fantasy, and if you don't I think you'd struggle. But it is absolutely worth it, and I'd recommend it to anyone willing to try something different.

I can't wait for more!

01 February 2018

Northern YA Literary Festival 2018

University of Central Lancashire, in association with their new BA in Publishing, are hosting The Northern Young Adult Literature Festival on Saturday 24th March 2018 at 53 Degrees in Preston. Doors open at 10am, with the events staggered throughout the day.

There will be panels, talks, a pop-up book shop, signings, and even some bookish candles from Taken Moons and bookish cupcakes from Bakes by Susannah on sale.

Best of all? This event is FREE. All you have to do is reserve a free ticket for the events you want to go to and turn up on the day. A little birdy told me that there will also be some freebies.

I'm so excited for this event and will be tweeting along throughout the day and ahead of the event I'll be sharing reviews and interviews.

The Event Line Up
Teri Terry, Danny Weston and Anna Day talking about how they got published, their inspirations and themes and issues in current publishing. 
To celebrate the Centenary of the Woman’s Vote, Katherine Webber, Annabel Pitcher, Lauren James, and Matt Killeen will be be discussing their inspirations, and the empowering characters they have created.
Join Alwyn Hamilton to hear about the epic conclusion to her hugely popular Rebel of the Sands story: Hero at the Fall.
Holly Black will be interviewed on stage by Samantha Shannon about the highly anticipated new series.

Getting There
53 Degrees is just a fifteen minute walk from Preston station, and that's if you go the long way and walk a bit slowly.

Preston has some fab national rail links and train tickets were a lot cheaper than I expected. If you have to change, split your tickets and it cuts the price further.


Reading List
I'm challenging myself to read one book by each of the authors before the event. I've listed below either the most recent title or the first book in each series and I'll be ticking them off as I go.

Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton ✓
The Fandom by Anna Day ✓
Silence is Goldfish  by Annabel Pitcher 
Scarecrow by Danny Weston ✓
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black ✓
Wing Jones by Katherine Webber ✓
The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven ✓
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Orphan Monster Spy by Matt Killeen ✓
The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon ✓
Contagion by Teri Terry ✓

Is it cheating that I've actually already read (and absolutely loved!) a lot of them? I'm going to start working on the sequels to any of the series I've started.

So, will you be coming?