Saturday, 23 June 2018

Book Review: Ashley Herring Blake's Devastating 'Girl Made of Stars' ★★★★★

Girl Made of Stars Ashley Herring Blake

There is an old idiom: be careful what you wish for, it might just come true. A week ago, I was imploring people on Twitter to suggest a book that would be devastating and consuming. Somehow Ashley Herring Blake’s Girl Made of Stars rose to the top of my to-read pile and it was everything I wished for. The result? I’m crying my eyes out, torn to pieces by a book that is beautifully written and utterly life-changing.

I want to say so much about this book but it all feels awkward. In the opening pages, I felt that Girl Made of Stars was going to be a bit too much high-school-drama, too little ingenuity. I was wrong. In a similar strain, how can I describe this novel in a way that will draw the reader in, convince people that they need to read it? Words fail me but that is probably because I still can’t see properly through the tears.

Mara and Owen are as close as twins can get, so when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn't know what to think. Can her brother really be guilty of such a violent act? Torn between her family and her sense of right and wrong, Mara feels lost, and it doesn’t help that things are strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie. As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie come together in the aftermath of this terrible crime, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits into her future.

Girl Made of StarsGirl Made of Stars is a novel about rape and sexual assault. It is about loyalty and belief, about the choices people make when both survivor and perpetrator are known to them. It is a story about numbers, how all of us know someone who has been attacked, how we probably know someone who has attacked someone else and how so many of us are carrying burdens of shame from our childhoods. Perhaps this is why this book has affected me so much, for I too have a story to tell.

This is the thing about Girl Made of Stars, it is a story for the #MeToo era but it doesn’t feel as if someone over there is telling their story. It feel intimate and painful, raw and unflinchingly real. As if this is happening to your best friend or as if your brother has been accused of rape.

Girl Made of Stars is published by HMH Books for Young Readers and I can definitely see this book making its way on to school curricula. It is a powerful book that will open up discussions about consent and sexual assault, as well as healing and the aftermath of abuse. I discovered this book on the Mock Printz book club on Goodreads and could definitely see this book being in line for the Michael L Printz award and other accolades.

For giving me exactly what I wanted in terms of devastation and consumption but also for telling an incredible, life-changing story, I give Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake a superb five out of five stars and would highly recommend to anyone seeking superior literary fiction.



Saturday, 16 June 2018

Book Review: Nicky Singer's Astonishing 'The Survival Game' ★★★★★

The Survival Game Nicky Singer

Have you ever read a book in one breath? Have you ever drawn a sharp intake of air in the opening pages and then held it right until the end, barely able to move or tear your eyes away from the devastation on the pages in front of you? This is what it felt like when I was reading Nicky Singer’s post-apocalyptic The Survival Game.

The Survival Game is one of those rare novels. Beautifully written, it is a book that will drag you along through every emotion possible as you try to fathom how devastatingly plausible the entire story is.

Our protagonist is 14-year-old Mhairi, a girl who has travelled alone from the Sudan and is making her way across Britain to her home in Scotland. Except that it might not be her home anymore; the world as we know it consists of closed borders and checkpoints, each country cutting itself off in the face of catastrophic environmental devastation and global human migration. This is our world a mere 30 years in the future and it is not pretty.

Mhairi owns nothing except the clothes on her back, a gun with no bullets and her papers that prove her right to be in Scotland. All she needs to do is to keep heading north and she will eventually get there, to her home.

“Today I wonder if this is what home is: walking somewhere where you don’t need a map. Where the landscape is laid in your heart”

Her position is precarious for this is a world in which crimes or misdemeanours result in years deducted from your predetermined time on this earth and the very last thing anyone should be doing is picking up an illegal ‘alien’ on their travels. Except that this is exactly what Mhairi does when she meets a mute child and puts her entire journey in jeopardy.

The Survival Game Nicky Singer coverWhat follows is a battle between the will for survival and the basic human qualities of love and morality because what is the point of survival if we don’t live our lives right?

The Survival Game is an astonishing story of survival, meaningfulness and morality in a world pushed to the brink by global shortages. It is also a book about layers and details, so meticulously researched that you will find yourself appreciating every bite of food you take and every, single drop of water.

I give The Survival Game by Nicky Singer a superb five out of five stars and predict that this will be among my top five books of 2018.


The Survival Game is published by Hodder Children’s Books and will be released on 26 July 2018. It is available for pre-order using the link below.

I received an electronic copy of this book from Netgalley for the purposes of this review. All opinions expressed on this site are always my honest and true opinion and are not influenced by the receipt of a review copy.


Monday, 7 May 2018

Tomi Adeyemi's Superb Debut 'Children of Blood and Bone' ★★★★★

Tomi Adeyemi Children of Blood and Bone

It was hard to escape the hype surrounding Tomi Adeyemi’s Children of Blood and Bone. In January I began to notice mention of the novel exploding all over Goodreads and by March posters of the book were plastered all over the London Underground. I knew I had to read it.

Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel is set in the fictional West-African kingdom of Orïsha. It is a kingdom bereft of magic due to the brutal efforts of the King to eradicate magic and kill all maji. Zélie Adebola remembers a time when magic and joy existed in Orïsha but she also remembers the night when her village burned, her mother murdered and her father left devastated. For years, Zélie has trained in secret to become a warrior but everyone knows that the best way to keep safe is to avoid the king’s guards and not, for example, inadvertently rescue a princess and become a target.

Yet Zélie does assist the Princess Amari in her escape from the King’s guards and the repercussions are extreme, setting in motion a set of events that will lead to a quest to bring back magic in Orïsha.


Told through the eyes of Zélie, Princess Amari and the crown prince Inan, Children of Blood and Bone offers an impressive depth of character development and insight into the motivations behind both the King and Inan’s behaviour. It is not difficult to choose sides though for Adeyemi is not shy to tackle some of the most pressing issues of our time including genocide, racial discrimination, persecution, slavery and tyranny. This is what sets the novel apart from others in the genre and having focused a lot of my reading on topics such as genocide, I was impressed (and horrified) with the detail regarding conflicts and massacres in the book.

The structure of Children of Blood and Bone follows a familiar young adult fantasy formula in terms of the discovery of magical abilities followed by a quest, battle and cliff-hanger leading towards an obvious sequel. I felt that this was the only thing that let the book down but I did not let it detract from my rating due to the complex issues covered and depth of characterisation of several of the lead characters.

Tomi Adeyemi Children of Blood and Bone coverMost importantly, Children of Blood and Bone is riveting and unputdownable and I enjoyed every single word of it. The book is the first in the Children of Orïsha series and I will definitely be reading the full series. Not that I have a choice; with respect, Ms Adeyemi, that cliff hanger was pretty unforgivable.

There is talk of the book being turned into a film by the producers of Maze Runner. I hope that isn’t the case – the Maze Runner books were fabulous and I adore Dylan O'Brien but the Maze Runner films were the worst film adaptation since Vampire Academy. On the other hand, I hope that the hype continues to grow because I would like to see this novel translated into as many African languages as possible. It is about time that children in the vast continent of Africa had a hero they could relate to and this book and Marvel’s Black Panther are a good place to start.

I give Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Blood and Bone a superb five out of five stars and recommend it to lovers of magic, fantasy and superior young adult fiction.



Sunday, 29 April 2018

Unrestricted View Film Festival Review: Hippopotamus (2017) ★★★★★

Featuring this week on the Unrestricted View Film Festival, Hippopotamus is an independent horror film from director Edward A Palmer. It is a clever psychological thriller that messes with the viewer’s mind and will have the audience questioning everything that they thought they just witnessed. It stars Ingvild Deila (best known for her role as Princess Leia in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Ruby Ann Wattz and Stuart Mortimer as Tom.

Ingvild Deila in Hippopotamus (2017)

Ruby awakes to find that she is trapped in a white room. Her legs are broken and she has absolutely no recollection of how she got there. She encounters her captor Tom and he informs her that she will remain there until Ruby falls in love with him.

What the hell?

Ruby cannot remember who she is or how she got there but as the days go by, Ruby is filled with a dreadful sense of deja vu. She begins to play Tom’s game, to work with him to regain her memories but then comes the most startling revelation of all – she cannot trust anything, least of all her own mind.

Stuart Mortimer in Hippopotamus (2017)

Hippopotamus is a film that is seen through three lenses. The first is what you think you are seeing and understanding while watching the film, as the story unfolds on screen. The second is what your mind begins to piece together, following each revelation in the film. The third begins to happen after the closing credits, as the story turns over again and again in your brain and you begin to think wait a minute.

You remember those vital clues, scenes that lasted for just the blink of an eye. Inconsistencies and contradictions that make you realise you were wrong. You begin to realise that you can’t always believe what you see and you certainly can’t believe what you remember which means, by extension, that you can’t believe what Ruby remembers. You’ve been hoodwinked and as you try to unravel what is real and what is not, it becomes obvious that this is a very clever film indeed.

Ingvild Deila in Hippopotamus (2017)

Hippopotamus takes place primarily in the room in which Ruby is trapped, with some reliance on flashbacks, yet somehow director Palmer manages to cram the room full of significance. Throughout the film there are clues that weave together and items that seem inconsequential at first but gain vast significance later on in the film. For her part, Ingvild Deila is acting a part both in the performance Ruby gives for Tom and in leading the audience astray in their assumptions.

Hippopotamus has been nominated for six awards at the Unrestricted View Film Festival 2018 including Best Feature, Best Director (Feature) - Edward A Palmer, Best Actor (Feature) – Stuart Mortimer, Best Actress (Feature) - Ingvild Deila, Best Cinematography, Best Editing and Best Screenplay.

For absolutely messing with my head and making me question my grasp on reality, I give Hippopotamus (2017) a superb five out of five stars and would highly recommend it to fans of claustrophobic horror and psychological thrillers.


© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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