Thursday, 28 January 2016

BLOG TOUR // Dumplin' by Julie Murphy

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin'” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back. Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all. With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Thanks to Alice and Harper360 for my copy and for letting me take a place on the blog tour. But mostly thanks to Julie Murphy for reminding me that being fat does not determine who you are and what you are capable of.

Whilst I was reading Dumplin' over the holiday period, a few people asked me what it was about. The only description I could give was "It's about being fat, and how that's totally okay". Of course on the grand scale of things, it's so much more than that but at face value, that's what I took from it.

Like Willowdean, not only do I think of myself when I hear the word "fat" but if we're being honest, I also emotionally/mentally believe that i'm bigger than I actually am physically. For anyone who struggles with weight or physical issues you already know how debilitating it can be, especially when its you yourself who puts limitations on what you are able to achieve.

The first line that really grabbed my attention was this - 'The word fat makes people uncomfortable.'
That's really interesting to me and is absolutely true in regards to my own life. I've always viewed the word fat as just that, a word. A factual one but still just a word. 'Fat' only becomes derogatory with a tone and an intention. I've spent my whole life describing myself as fat only to have a rebuttal of 'oh but you're not!'. Which apart from being a blatant lie, just adds to the idea that 'fat' insinuates something shameful.

Dumplin' is a book that tries to take that shame and turn it into something positive and usable. Honestly? It's kind of a beautiful thing. The book is about more than body issues though. There's some real hard-hitting information in there disguised as throwaway comments. There's this great section of the book that had me nodding furiously along as I agreed with every statement;

'Having sex doesn't make you a woman. That is so freaking cliche. If you want to have sex, have sex, but don't make it this huge thing that carries all this weight. You're setting yourself up for disappointment.'

Over the years i've read so many books that try to plead a case about sex. Whether that's to abstain, that you're not mentally ready to make a decision about sex, or you should only have sex when you're a mature adult who is in love. In memory though, this is the first time a character in a YA novel has openly said - sex is just sex. Of course others will have different opinions but personally that's exactly how I feel. Sex isn't this big mystery or life changing moment. If you're looking for a way to become a woman - the chances are you already are one. Being a woman is not a direct link to sex and it is not okay to believe that.

In relation to that, I also felt like jumping off the seat every time Willowdean had a conversation with her Mother and it ended in Will being the real adult. Time and time again Will serves as a voice for women all over the world, 'News flash, Mom: a man will not cure my troubles'. AMEN, SISTER! However, that doesn't mean to say that I didn't fall completely head over heels in Book-Love with Bo *heart-in-eyes emoji*. Isn't he every girl's dream? Towards the end of the book, Will makes it clear that the only person who has ever truly judged her by her weight, is herself. I am also guilty of this. I think in YA books, about teenage girls, it can be all too easy to have the hormone-filled boys become the reason that girls have low self esteem but throughout Dumplin', Bo is consistently oblivious to her weight and genuinely cares for the girl behind the fat. Nor does she rely on Bo to discover her confidence or self esteem - she does it all herself. It really is inspiring.

Dumplin' has been going the rounds on blogs and social media for quite some time now and honestly, I think it deserves the praise immensely. Despite the subject matter and the learning curve that I was on whilst reading the book, it was never preachy or eye-rolling. Dumplin' is completely relatable for all girls. Obviously, those of us with weight issues will find a connection to Willowdean but it doesn't end there. There is so much in this book and there is something for everyone.

Dumplin' by Julie Murphy is out TODAY!

p.s) If anyone knows the answer to this, was that really a reference to The Yellow Wallpaper? (pg.139)

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Caragh Reviews // The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black & Cassandra Clare

Published - 3rd September 2015
Publisher - Corgi Children's
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - Callum Hunt’s summer break isn’t like other kids’. His closest companion is a Chaos-ridden wolf, Havoc. His father suspects him of being secretly evil. And, of course, most kids aren’t heading back to school in the magical world of the Magisterium . . . It’s not easy for Call . . . and it gets even harder after he checks out his basement and discovers that his dad might be trying to destroy both him and Havoc. Call escapes to the Magisterium but things only intensify there. The Alkahest - a copper gauntlet capable of separating certain magicians from their magic - has been stolen. And in their search to discover the culprit, Call and his friends awaken the attention of some very dangerous foes - and get closer to an even more dangerous truth. As the mysteries of the Magisterium deepen and widen, bestselling authors Holly Black and Cassandra Clare take readers on an extraordinary journey through one boy’s conflict -and a whole world’s fate.

My review for The Iron Trials can be found here: Magisterium #1

I'm going to start this review by saying there's not a huge lot I can actually talk about as it would be so completely spoiler-ridden so please forgive a crappy review for a decent book.

The Copper Gauntlet got off to a slow start for me. Those of you who have read the book probably highly disagree since such incredible revelations happen right at the beginning of the book - but I feel like after everything we discovered in the first book, there would be more of a wow-factor. However I loved that Havoc was still around and still as weird and loveable as we had come to know him.

The thing that I loved the most about The Copper Gauntlet is also what kind of annoyed me. I can already imagine my boyfriend's face when I write this as we've been joking about it. It was incredibly Percy Jackson-esque. Call and his loyal friends, off on a mission, risking their lives. Searching for an artifact without any real sense of direction but still ending up exactly where they need to be at the right time - with a hell of a lot of issues in between. Sounding familiar? Really though, I LOVE that! The first book in the series was set at school and though it was awesome, I did worry how they would make an entire series work, but changing the scene was great.

Another thing that carried on from the first book was the relationships between Call and his friends. This was really important to me as it's one of the major things I look for in books of this kind. The massive bombshell that was dropped in book 1 had been playing on my mind and the connections Call had made were at risk. Things like that worry me!

I had assumed that there would be a huge weight on Call's mind throughout this book, with all of the previous year hanging over him but I didn't really feel that. Call made a LOT of references to him being an 'evil overlord', but it was kind of more annoying than anything else. It seemed like it was every other page he was questioning himself or others. I can understand why of course, but it still didn't stop it from being irritating.

In terms of the actual story, and it pains me to admit it, I can't really remember the details. Although it has only been a couple of weeks since I read it, it's kind of floated out of my mind. Again, I want to urge that that has nothing to do with whether the book was enjoyable or not (it was), it just felt a lot more generic than the first one. The shock factor had worn off and now it's just a case of seeing where they go from here. There was a lot of action though and as with the last book, from here, anything could happen. I look forward to the next release to see how Call is going to face the future.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Dumplin' Blog Tour - Begins Monday!

Just before Christmas I was offered a copy of Julie Murphy's new YA book, Dumplin'.
Unless you've been living under a rock - you will have heard something about this book and i'm super excited! Not only did I get a copy of this beautiful book to review, but i'm also a stop on the blog tour.

You can find the schedule below, my stop is 28th January and I hope you'll come by to read my review.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Cover Reveal // The Teacher by Katerina Diamond

Another excellent book from Avon is coming up! I'm excited to take part in this cover reveal for a couple of reasons. I'm a lover of all things horror, though admittedly it's been a while since one has caught my attention. This one though, sounds wonderful. As it's a cover reveal though, let me just talk about that for a minute.

I'm...on the fence. My honest-to-blog first thought was '....Twilight' and i'm absolutely certain that other people will feel the same. It kind of puts me off a little bit. On the other hand, I love the added effects such as the blood spatter and the silhouette behind the main focus image. It's subtle but effective.

As far as books go though, just look at that synopsis! YES! It's instantly attention grabbing and it pulls you in. It's different and i've not come across the author before either. Keep a note in your diary for this one. I don't have any release date information as yet but keep an eye on twitter for updates!

You think you know who to trust?
You think you know the difference between good and evil?

You’re wrong …


The body of the head teacher of an exclusive Devon school is found hanging from the rafters in the assembly hall.

Hours earlier he’d received a package, and only he could understand the silent message it conveyed. It meant the end.

As Exeter suffers a rising count of gruesome deaths, troubled DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles must solve the case and make their city safe again.

But as they’re drawn into a network of corruption, lies and exploitation, every step brings them closer to grim secrets hidden at the heart of their community.

And once they learn what’s motivating this killer, will they truly want to stop him?


This is a psychological crime thriller in a class of its own.

Warning: Most definitely *not* for the faint-hearted!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Caragh Reviews // The Improbable Theory of Ana and Zak by Brian Katcher

Published - 18th June 2015
Publisher - Katherine Tegan Books
Format - Paperback
Synopsis - When Ana Watson's brother ditches a high school trip to run wild at Washingcon, type-A Ana knows that she must find him or risk her last shot at freedom from her extra-controlling parents.
In her desperation, she's forced to enlist the last person she'd ever want to spend time with—slacker Zak Duquette—to help find her brother before morning comes.
But over the course of the night, while being chased by hordes of costumed Vikings and zombies, Ana and Zak begin to open up to each other. Soon, what starts as the most insane nerdfighter manhunt transforms into so much more. . . .

I got this book for Christmas from my boyfriend and he did a great job picking it out. Not only is it perfect post-Christmas reading material (conventions, nerdy references, quick and easy reading) but it's also been compared to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist which is one of my all-time favourite books.

When I say there are nerdy references, I really mean that! At least very couple of pages there's a joke or reference to something and I couldn't help but laugh. There's just something comforting about understanding and connecting with a book on such a simple level. As my first book of the new year, it put me in the mood for reading, which is always good! The writing was really simple and I flew through the entire book within a couple of hours which doesn't happen too often these days. 

The characters themselves weren't entirely relatable to me as i'm not particularly an academic type of nerd like Ana (at least anymore) and i'm way too socially awkward to be like Zak. Though as a fan of conventions and all things sci-fi-/fantasy etc, I was still able to get excited about the contents of the book. I can also definitely see younger readers fitting themselves in nicely with Ana and Zak and their personalities etc. 

There wasn't a whole lot of action until the end of the book but I didn't feel like that made the book suffer at all. It was enjoyable just to experience Ana and Zak's relationship and Ana's experiences outside of her comfort zone. I think I rated this 3 stars on GR and that's pretty fair. I didn't 'get' a lot from reading it but it was fun and cute for sure. This would make a great book to read whilst travelling as you could probably jump in and out of it as needed or a cute summer fun read!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

#ReadRedRising Part II

Okay i'll admit it, i'm reeeeally behind on the Red Rising schedule! I don't want to give up though as i'm really enjoying the read, albeit slowly. So here are some quick thoughts on Part II.

The writing style and pace changes drastically in Part II. Everything is slowed right down as Darrow not only is introduced to a whole new world, but his entire being is changed. Literally. Part II was very detailed and honestly, it was absolutely fascinating! I think that's why my reading pace slowed down so much, as I savoured over the details of Darrow's transformation. I loved the relationship between Darrow and the carver (whose name has completely escaped me right now -.-). The intensity of Darrow's change and realisations of what has been happening to his people really got me. It was an emotional journey and I could feel Darrow's suffering.

Darrow has a lot of hard decisions to make and has to re-discover who he is and what he really wants to fight for. It's not easy and he makes a lot of bad choices but that only adds to his character and how real he is. Red Rising, so far, is full of pain but the kind of pain that you just know leads to great things. I can't wait to finish the final part.

Monday, 11 January 2016

Our Shared Shelf with Emma Watson

If like me, your entire life revolves around spending all of your free time with your nose in a book and have no sense of social awareness - you might be interested in Emma Watson's new venture!
Like a huge percentage of the population, I have anxiety issues which means that as much as I would love to, groups of people and socialising can be really difficult for me. I've always wanted to join a book club to have a sense of community but with my anxiety and unsociable working hours, it's just not realistic. However, many of you are probably aware of it already, Emma Watson has created an online Book Club for Feminism. Here is Emma's explanation:

Dear Readers,

As part of my work with UN Women, I have started reading as many books and essays about equality as I can get my hands on. There is so much amazing stuff out there! Funny, inspiring, sad, thought-provoking, empowering! I’ve been discovering so much that, at times, I’ve felt like my head was about to explode… I decided to start a Feminist book club, as I want to share what I’m learning and hear your thoughts too.

The plan is to select and read a book every month, then discuss the work during the month’s last week (to give everyone time to read it!). I will post some questions/quotes to get things started, but I would love for this to grow into an open discussion with and between you all. Whenever possible I hope to have the author, or another prominent voice on the subject, join the conversation.

If you fancy it, please join up and participate. Everyone is welcome. I would be honoured!

Emma x

I'm not going to lie, I still felt a little daunted about joining. I mean, I am a feminist but i've never really delved into feminist literature and I have no idea what to expect. So I just dived in and ordered the first book - My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. I know absolutely nothing about Gloria other than that she actively works towards equality and women's rights so i'm right there with you at the bottom of the ladder. The book is yet to arrive but i'm stupidly excited to get started. It'd be awesome if a few of us joined and could get some discussions going! 

Are you excited about Emma's new project? Are you joining in? Leave some blog lovin' below!

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Happy New Year....belatedly (FT. Challenges!)

Hello lovely readers!

I know I know, it's already 9th January so i'm a bit behind the times but honestly, the year has started with a bang and my attentions have been elsewhere. Unlike most of my posts, this one will be a bit of a long one so I hope you can stay with me.

On a personal note, my beautiful nephew was born at the very start of the year and I was honoured to be invited to be in the delivery room for his birth. Both mother and baby are healthy and doing wonderfully and i'm over the moon to be an Aunt again to Bobby Jack :)
Work started up again immediately after the New Year and so a lot of time has been spent getting back into the routine of things, fuelling myself with endless cups of tea and many many early nights. I have a lot of reading goals for 2016 (which i'll get to very shortly) but as a personal life goal i'm back at the gym, three mornings a week before work. It's exhausting, especially with my lifestyle and unsociable work hours, but i'm hoping to see great results by the end of this year! Which leads me on to 2016 on Loaded Shelves and what I hope is in store....

I have a WONDERFUL challenge post to share with you! Holly @ The Arts Shelf has created a 60 book YA Challenge (the link takes you directly to the post) which is not only achievable, but is so varied and roomy that it'll be super fun to complete. My GR challenge is also set to 60 books so fingers crossed, I can complete both challenges simultaneously! I've also created a separate page at the top of the blog dedicated to that particular challenge so that you can check my progress. So far so good - i've already filled in 2 of the challenge reads!

Other challenges i'm taking part in are a little less 'official'. In previous years i've set myself an eBook challenge - in which I read as many digital books as possible in order to lower the amount of physical books I have at home. I've finally reached the point where more than half of my annual read list is digital and so i'm clawing it back a little. In 2016 my aim is to read an even amount of physical and digital books. I desperately need to reduce my physical TBR whilst keeping up with netgalleys and digital books (which generally I get through more of, and quicker as it's more portable for work purposes!)

Let me know what challenges your taking part in this year and go and give Holly some blog love and check out her 60 YA Challenge!
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