All That’s Left in the World – Erik J Brown

Time to tell you about another book I’ve just finished… and this time’s it’s the post-apocalyptic story All That’s Left in the World by Erik J Brown

Blurb: Jamie and Andrew are strangers, but they’re two of the last people left alive. They don’t know what they’ll find on their dangerous journey … but they may just find each other. A queer romance about courage, hope and humanity for fans of They Both Die at the EndThe Hunger Games and Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda.

When the Superflu wipes out most of the population, Jamie finds himself completely alone in a cabin in the woods – until an injured stranger crosses his path.

Life is dangerous now and, armed with a gun, Jamie goes to pull the trigger. But there’s something about Andrew … something that stops Jamie in his tracks. Jamie takes him in, and as Andrew heals and they eventually step out into the strange new world, their relationship starts to feel like more than just friendship …

But trouble isn’t far behind. As the boys make a perilous journey south, they’ll come face to face with a world torn apart and society in ruins. And who, or what, will they find waiting for them at the end of it all?

My Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this story, a tale not only of finding love in a world that has fallen apart, but also finding hope. Alone Andrew and Jamie are struggling to get by, but together they give each other strength to face whatever the crazy new world might throw at them.

The love story element of this story is gentle and happens over time as a friendship grows into something more, something worth fighting for, or maybe even worth killing for.

Radio Silence – by Alice Oseman

Oh yes, yet another of the books belonging to the wonderful Osemanverse has been quickly devoured – and this time it was Radio Silence

Blurb: What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.

It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.

Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.

A YA coming of age read that tackles issues of identity, the pressure to succeed, diversity and freedom to choose, Radio Silence is a tour de force by the most exciting writer of her generation.

Rating: 5/5

My thoughts: This is a wonderful tale about friendships, understanding, and being true to yourself. Frances’ entire life is centred around her education – getting into the right university is the ONLY thing that matters and she is risking working herself into the ground to achieve it. Yes she has some friends, but she is never fully comfortable in their presence, they don’t quite fit, or maybe she doesn’t quite fit with them.

And then there is Aled (a supporting character in Heartstopper – the books, not the show). Frances has always known Aled, but it was his sister who she really had the friendship with. When a chance meeting brings Frances and Aled together they being the sort of friendship that they both need, a friendship with someone who truly understands them, a friendship in which they can finally be themselves. A friendship – not a romance!

When Frances discovers they also share a passion for her one, non-educational, hobby – a youtube series called Universe City – their friendship grows even stronger. But it could also risk ripping them apart for good. When Aled goes silent and no one can contact him Frances knows she has to risk everything to find him, to save him.

A great read, loved it

If you don’t like it – don’t do it

I feel like I really want to say some deep and meaningful shit… but I don’t know if I really have the words (hmm yeah not a great claim from someone who occasionally identifies as a writer!).

But seriously – WTF is going on with the world these days?? We are meant to be moving into the future but instead it’s like we’re slowly slipping back into the dark ages – yes America I AM looking at you!

Who the hell has the right to tell ANYONE what they can do with their own bodies? How dare you claim to care about life when the only life you actually care about is before it’s even begun? How is the life of basically a few cells more important than the life of an actual grown woman, or, sadly on too many occasions, a young girl?

I know that your religion might say something is “wrong” – the book you like to read may suggest that being gay is somehow evil…. Well you know what? I’ve read a good few books where describes it with a more honest and real representation of what that is – an expression of love.

Yes I know I am jumping about between different topics but, let’s face it…. denying human rights to one group of people is only ever the first step… who’s next?

And the thing I don’t understand, hand on heart really DO NOT understand… How does what someone else does impact on your life AT ALL? If two men, or two women, are in love – what does that take away from your life? If someone chooses to be called they/them – how does that hurt you? If someone is so unhappy in their own body/gender that they need (need not choose) to change it – how does that impact on your day?

FFS people – just live your own life and let other people live theirs… how much happier would we all be??

So, sorry for the ramble to anyone who actually read it…

Loveless by Alice Oseman – Review

After discovering, and loving, the world of Heartstopper I had to follow on by reading Alice Oseman’s non-Nick and Charlie books… so I started with Loveless

Blurb: WINNER OF THE YA BOOK PRIZE 2021

The fourth novel from the phenomenally talented Alice Oseman, author of Solitaire and the graphic novel series Heartstopper – now a major Netflix series.

It was all sinking in. I’d never had a crush on anyone. No boys, no girls, not a single person I had ever met. What did that mean?
 
Georgia has never been in love, never kissed anyone, never even had a crush –  but as a fanfic-obsessed romantic she’s sure she’ll find her person one day.
 
As she starts university with her best friends, Pip and Jason, in a whole new town far from home, Georgia’s ready to find romance, and with her outgoing roommate on her side and a place in the Shakespeare Society, her ‘teenage dream’ is in sight.
 
But when her romance plan wreaks havoc amongst her friends, Georgia ends up in her own comedy of errors, and she starts to question why love seems so easy for other people but not for her. With new terms thrown at her – asexual, aromantic –  Georgia is more uncertain about her feelings than ever.
 
Is she destined to remain loveless? Or has she been looking for the wrong thing all along?
 
This wise, warm and witty story of identity and self-acceptance sees Alice Oseman on towering form as Georgia and her friends discover that true love isn’t limited to romance.

‘A joyous, disarmingly honest book that seems to leap right inside the mind of a teenage girl’ Independent [now iNews]

‘Loveless is an ode to friendship and platonic soulmates; this cosy blanket of a novel understandably won the YA Book Prize 2021’ Irish Times

‘A joyful tale of self-discovery” The Bookseller

My rating: 5/5

My thoughts: Georgia has never been in a relationship, never had a crush, never had a kiss… but that would change when she left for Uni, she was determined that it would. After all finding the right person and falling in love is what life is all about. But what if it isn’t?

A lovely story as we follow Georgia’s efforts to find some level of attraction to another person, and her final realisation, and acceptance, that she was actually asexual. But this is not just a story about potential sexual relationships and in fact the most important relationships in this book prove to the friendships which shine through.

A story filled with highs and lows, and ending with hope and an enviable friendship group. A great read.

Heartstopper – Pillow Talk

Okay, so I may just have developed myself a slight Heartstopper addition. Seriously, if you haven’t see the Netflix show/read the graphic novels, you are missing out BIG TIME.

And yes, I know – being a middle aged (ouch), straight woman, I am hardly the target audience, but that is partly the beauty of it. It really can appeal to anyone – such a beautiful and uplifting love story – with a cast I just want to put in a bubble and keep safe forever!

Anyway, it’s been a while since this has happened, but I got this little future scene starting to run around in my head, and I know from past experience that the only way to silence it would be to write it down. So I did. I really wish I could draw so I could have presented this as a little comic strip, but such a talent eludes me so instead here it is in a kind of dialogue block. I hope someone likes it, but if not, oh well… I enjoyed writing it down 🙂

Heartstopper – Pillow Talk

10 years in the future – Nick is 26 and Charlie 25.

Nick and Charlie are lying in bed, it’s getting late.

Nick is on his back, one hand on his chest, his eyes closed. Charlie is on his side facing Nick, one hand under his head, his eyes are open.

Charlie: Nick?

Nick: Hmm?

Charlie: Do you ever…

Nick opens his eyes and turns to face Charlie: What?

Charlie: Doesn’t matter.

In the subdued light of the bedroom Nick can see Charlie’s brow furrowed in thought.

Nick: No, go on, what?

Charlie: Well, I just… do you ever regret us getting together so young?

Nick turns to lie on his side facing Charlie: What? No… why would you think that?

Charlie: It’s just… I dunno… you never got to like… sleep with a woman or anything.

Nick smiles: Nor did you!

Charlie: But I never wanted to.

Nick’s smile widens: Nor did I!

Charlie pauses in thought before speaking again: But you do, I mean, you like women? You still fancy them and that?

Nick: Yeah, and you fancy other men sometimes, I mean, I’ve seen your face when that fit postman brings a parcel round.

Charlie: Hey, that’s not just me. You think he’s hot too.

Nick: Exactly. But neither of us want to do anything about it, do we.

Charlie: No, I guess not.

Nick: Besides, I only ever wanted to sleep with someone I was in love with.

Charlie: But you’ve only ever slept with…. oh!

Nick: Actually…

Nick pauses to kiss Charlie’s forehead: Actually, I’m glad we got together when we did.

Charlie: You are?

Nick: Yeah, I mean imagine all that drama of dating loads of people trying to find “the one”… and my “One” just came and sat down next to me in form room and said “hi”.

Charlie: That feels like a lifetime ago.

Nick: It was.

Nick returns to lying on his back.

Charlie: Nick?

Nick: Charlie, seriously, we need to get some sleep, we’ve got an early start in the morning.

Charlie: I know, just one more thing…

Nick turns his face to look back at Charlie again: Go on.

Charlie: I’m glad we got together when we did too. I don’t think I would have got through all that stuff back then without you.

Nick holds out his arm and Charlie snuggles into his chest: Yeah you would. You were always far stronger than you thought. But I was glad I was there to help.

Charlie turns his face to Nick and they share a soft kiss.

Charlie closes his eyes, knowing that he will never feel more loved, or more safe, than he does in the protection of Nick’s arms.

Solitaire – by Alice Oseman

Oh my it’s been some since I posted on this blog and, to tell the truth, I rather fell out of love with reading and writing for a while… how funny that a TV show has started bringing me back…

So, the Neflix show Heartstopper was released just over a month ago now… and I may have watched that a few times since then – It also made me want to discover the graphic novels that gave the story life (more of that on another post) – and following that I wanted to discover the other books which feature Nick and Charlie… my first stop was Solitare – the story of Tori Spring… did I like it? Was it as good as Heartstopper? Will I read more now… Let’s find out shall we??

Solitaire by Alice Oseman

Blurb: The acclaimed debut novel from Alice Oseman, the author of the 2021 YA Book Prize winning LovelessSolitaire features the characters that inspired the beloved webcomic and graphic novel series Heartstopper – now a major Netflix series.

The Catcher in the Rye for the digital age” The Times

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.
I really don’t.

This incredible debut novel by outstanding young author Alice Oseman is perfect for fans of John Green, Rainbow Rowell and all unflinchingly honest writers.

My thoughts: Tori Spring is not happy. With herself. With other people. With life in general.

While this book features a number of characters from Heartstopper it is told with a very different tone. From the very start you can feel Tori’s “teen angst” – and that isn’t to say it’s all black wallpaper and woe is me – there is real feeling behind her pain and it does make you want to offer a helping hand, although I think that would just be slapped away!

Tori feels a pointlessness in her life, and the people in it – with the possible exception of her younger brothers, especially Charlie – and by extension his boyfriend Nick.

When unexplained pranks start being pulled around the school by the strangely named “Solitaire” Tori doesn’t care, she has no interest in how or why these things are happening…. and even the intriguing and confusing Michael Holden are not enough to really tempt her to get involved… until they are!

Things are getting serious, and worrying, if Tori doesn’t step up and do something then who will?

A really gripping read – I am loving this Heartstopper world – and cannot wait to discover more!

Fully recommend this read 🙂

Jon Richardson and the Futurenauts

For the past few months now I’ve been listening to podcasts, mostly while I walk the dog, or walk to and from work… occasionally in the bath. As we know there are countless podcasts out there now covering, well, probably any subject you care to imagine… so how do you know which are worth listening to?

I downloaded the first episode of Jon Richardson and the Futurenauts for one simple reason – I happen to enjoy the comedy of Jon Richardson and assumed that was what I would be hearing.

Was it? Well yes… and also very much no! This is not a comedy podcast – it is so much more than that – but that being said there is still a good dose of comedy in there, and sometimes with the subjects covered, you really need a moment of laughter!

Podcast Blurb: It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. Humanity stands at a crossroads. The mighty forces of progress have lifted billions out of poverty. Energy has lit and warmed (or cooled) our homes and powered us overland, sea and into the air. We grow enough food to feed 10 billion people. And for the first time ever in history the internet is poised to connect every single person on the planet. Together. As one. What could possibly go wrong? 

If only it were that simple. Unfortunately there is also a lot to be very worried about. Our engine of progress is out of control. We’re destroying beautiful wild and natural habitat at a rate of knots. Humankind has kick-started the sixth mass extinction of biodiversity. Burning billions of years of fossilised sunshine as coal, oil and gas is overheating the planet. Industrial agriculture is destroying our soils, with less than a hundred harvests left. Nationalism, populism and factionalism bubble up from a toxic online culture swimming in ‘fake news’. Has it all gone irrecoverably wrong?

Comedian Jon Richardson – the ‘Ultimate Worrier’ – is going to try and find out.

Jon doesn’t sleep much at night. The questions he is asking himself in the small, dark hours see to that. Are we going to run out of food? Is it already too late to stop climate change? Should I start learning Mandarin? Are killer death robots from the future already among us? Will my kids grow up to see a real tiger or giraffe? Could Trump become ‘President for Life?’ Why hasn’t anyone yet made an intelligent hairbrush? Oh they have? As you were…

Playing on his own paranoia Jon will discuss his fears with guarded optimists Ed Gillespie and Mark Stevenson aka ‘The Futurenauts’. Authors, futurists and provocateurs, to ease Jon’s angst Ed and Mark take him on adventures through the futures we need that already exist today.

My Review: 10/10

My Thoughts: I really had no idea what I would be getting when I logged on to listen to this podcast for the first time but I was hooked immediately. Subject matter can be challenging, often depressing, but they certainly make you stop and think about life, about the world, and about what a mess we really have made of everything!

Each subject is split into three categories, starting with “How fucked are we” (usually very), and “Why are we fucked” (often greed and/or stupidity). Thankfully though there is always a light at the end of the tunnel when Jon asks that one final question “How do we unfuck ourselves” and Ed and Mark have the answers – now we just need enough people to want to follow their plans 🙂

If you want to listen to something different that will make you laugh, possibly cry, but almost certainly think, then give this a try – I don’t think you’ll regret it! https://jonrichardsoncomedy.com/2020/06/jon-richardson-and-the-futurenauts/

#Nanowrimo2020

November always ushers in a strange event for some (many… ohhh so many) writers – the challenge that is Nanowrimo.

If you don’t know what that is in short it stands for National Novel Writing Month… yes a month… to write a novel… Insane right? But as millions prove year upon year it is achievable.

The trick, I have found, is just to write. Don’t over think it – don’t worry if this character is behaving a little oddly or if that scene doesn’t quite work how you want it to – you can correct all of that in the following months.

November is for writing and that is ALL.

So for all of those participating this year Good Luck and I’ll see you at the finish line 🙂

Oh, and if you want to Buddy me along the way – I’m here: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/dawneh

Sh**ged.Married.Annoyed – Book Review

There’s no denying we are living through some crazy, stressful, and often depressing times at the moment… so there is a lot to be said for something that just takes you away from all that… and makes you laugh.

This was one such book: Shagged. Married. Annoyed. By Chris & Rosie Ramsey

Blurb: SH**GED
Saturday nights out on the tiles, undying crushes, dating like it’s a competitive sport, awkward tales of dating woes, one-night stands, the walk of shame, ghosting, tears and break-ups.


MARRIED
Finding ‘the one’, meeting their parents, first holidays and romantic weekends away, engagement rings, big moment proposals, wedding bells, the hen do, the stag, the much anticipated – and feared – best man speech, the honeymoon of a lifetime.

ANNOYED
Who stacks a dishwasher like this? Empty milk cartons placed back into the fridge, pregnancy, sleepless nights, toilet seats up, toothpaste everywhere, less and less frequent date nights, DIY weekends, divorce.

Whether you’re sh**ged, married, annoyed, or, all of the above, Chris and Rosie Ramsey, hosts of the number one podcast, write hilariously and with honesty about the ups and downs and ins and outs of love, sex and relationships.

Rating: 5/5

My Thoughts: This is a book I could have sat and read in one day but I chose not to. Instead I stretched it out for a week, dipping in for a treat every evening to make the pleasure of the book last that much longer.

Listening to the SMA podcast has always been like sitting around a kitchen table with old friends and having a good laugh. The book is like those same friends wrote you a letter – and it was equally as enjoyable.

The thing I have always enjoyed about the Ramsey’s is how they are as a couple. No they’re not perfect, they don’t live a dream life, and they don’t always get along – but they are real, and honest, and just so damn entertaining!

With stories from their own lives mixed with letters from the public, there is something to amuse, or possibly disgust, everyone… seriously what IS wrong with people?!

So, if you enjoy the podcast then you’ll enjoy the book. If you’ve never heard the podcast read the book… then you’ll want to listen to the podcast.

Loved it. Love them!

Book Review – Little White Secrets

The end of August already? Did we just skip a few months somewhere? Seriously this strange old year is going by too fast.

So today I should have been heading to Liverpool for the start of International Beatleweek but sadly, and obviously, this had to be cancelled. This is an event I’ve been going to for over 20 years, I celebrate my birthday there and meet up with lots of brilliant friends… it is certainly going to be a hole in my life this year but at least Cavern City Tours have managed to put together a bit of a Virtual Beatleweek (check out their facebook for more info).

In the meantime, it was my birthday on Monday and the sun was shining, so it was the perfect time to finish off a book…. this book…

Little White Secrets by Carol Mason

lwsBlurbA daughter pushing the limits. A marriage ready to crack. A secret that can break them.

For Emily Rossi, life may not be perfect, but it’s pretty close. She has a great career, a house in the country, a solid marriage to Eric and two wonderful children—tennis superstar Daniel and quiet, sensitive Zara. But when her fourteen-year-old daughter brings home a toxic new best friend, Emily’s seemingly perfect family starts to spiral out of control.

Suddenly Zara is staying out late, taking drugs and keeping bad company. And just when Emily needs Eric to be an involved father, he seems too wrapped up with his job in London to care. What’s more, he’s started drinking again.

When a dark secret from the past emerges, Emily’s life is turned upside down. Struggling to protect the people she loves, can she save her damaged family? Doing so may mean keeping a secret of her own…

Rating:  5/5

My thoughts:  It’s easy to believe that someone has the perfect life, the perfect family, the perfect husband… and it’s easy to pretend that is the case – until the perfection cracks and you realise there is nothing holding your life together.

Emily had everything – until she didn’t. And when her life went wrong, it did it in spectacular style.

This was a brilliantly crafted and written book, the characters and story arc held my attention every second of the way, and I was happy to follow the story to the very end, which did not disappoint.

If you’re looking for a good read then you can’t go far wrong here.

Website:  carolmasonbooks.com

Twitter:  @CarolMasonBooks