Monday, 8 February 2016

Mind Your Head - Juno Dawson

The Blurb

From the critically acclaimed author of THIS BOOK IS GAY, James Dawson, now writing as Juno Dawson. We all have a mind, so we all need to take care of our mental health as much as we need to take care of our physical health. And the first step is being able to talk about our mental health. Juno Dawson leads the way with this frank, factual and funny book, with added information and support from clinical psychologist Dr Olivia Hewitt. Covering topics from anxiety and depression to addiction, self-harm and personality disorders, Juno and Olivia talk clearly and supportively about a range of issues facing young people's mental health - whether fleeting or long-term - and how to manage them,with real-life stories from young people around the world. With witty illustrations from Gemma Correll.

The Review

There's a real need for more accessible, age appropriate non-fiction specifically for young adults.  After all, they're going through a lot of the same issues as their not-so-young adult counterparts and the self-help section in bookshops seems to be growing at a ridiculously fast rate.

In Mind Your Head, Juno Dawson talks frankly about mental health issues - including sharing her own experiences - and the result is an entertaining and informative guide to depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bullying, peer pressure and many more relevant-to-teen topics. It's almost like chatting with a straight-talking, no nonsense friend, as Juno brings a touch of humour to some sensitive subjects.  There were times where, as someone who suffers with anxiety and body confidence issues,  I personally would have preferred a gentler approach, but I'm aware hyper-sensitivity is part of my own mental health make up.  And of course, many people respond well to a frank message as opposed to the softy-softly pussyfooting I favour.

The illustrations from Gemma Correll add to the non-threatening package of Mind Your Head and I can imagine it'll appeal to the target audience - and anything that encourages taking responsibility for your own wellbeing (and this goes for all age groups) can only be a good thing.

I really hope this flies off the shelves - honestly, every school library should have a copy of this book.

Mind Your Head is out now, published by Hot Key Books.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Fire Colour One - Jenny Valentine

The Blurb
A bold and brilliant novel about love, lies and redemption, from award-winning author, Jenny Valentine – one of the greatest YA voices of her generation.

Iris's father, Ernest, is at the end of his life and she hasn't even met him. Her best friend, Thurston, is somewhere on the other side of the world. Everything she thought she knew is up in flames.

Now her mother has declared war and means to get her hands on Ernest's priceless art collection. But Ernest has other ideas. There are things he wants Iris to know after he's gone. And the truth has more than one way of coming to light.

The Review
I've been reviewing for a long time - here on Books with Bunny, on Amazon, Goodreads, book forums...and normally it's a fairly easy process.  I've either liked a book or haven't.  I've appreciated the writing or I haven't.  I've liked (or hated, or connected in some way with) the characters or I haven't.  But when it comes to this book, it's very difficult for me.

Personally, I found it incredibly 'middling' in every sense.  Whilst it was readable, I wasn't swept away and after I'd put it down I didn't find myself itching to pick it back up.  I'd expected it to feel incredibly edgy because of Iris' pyromania, and I half hoped for an element of danger which never really took over to the extent I'd hoped.

That's not to say I didn't like Fire Colour One.  Iris was an interesting protagonist, a sparky (in more ways that one) female who is fighting against the materialistic world she's part of.  But for some reason I found it hard to connect with her, and although I did care (especially when her dreadful mother was making my skin crawl with her greed and self-centred ways) something didn't quite click.

The main strength of Fire Colour One was the stylised writing.  Every so often a sentence would blow me away because it was so beautiful to read.  And the ending had me cheering in delight!  However, there was something lacking for me in this short read that I can't quite put my finger on - it just didn't 'zing'. 

A nice enough read, but didn't pack the punch I was hoping for.

Fire Colour One is out now, published by Harper Collins Children's.

With thanks to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Sweet Valley? Those Books from the Eighties?!

Is there something you've loved since your teens that you're still passionate about? 
I'm an all or nothing kind of person, that's just who I am, so when I invest in something it tends to be that I'm in it for the long haul.
Take That?  Yep, loved them since 1992.  David Beckham?  I've been lusting after him for twenty years.  Grease: The Movie?  I can't even begin to imagine how many times I've watched it since I first saw it as a nine year old.
But in terms of books, the big love affair of my adolescent years was with the residents of a white, middle class, American community.  Yes, I'm talking Sweet Valley.  Sweet, sweet, Sweet Valley.
I've tried to remember when I first discovered these books, and it's difficult to be sure.   Possibly my first experience was a Sweet Valley Twins book back in Summer 1991, although it could easily have been before. Whenever it was, I was quickly hooked.  Jessica and Elizabeth's lives were so totally far removed from my own, but I loved their family, their friendship groups, their clothes, their hobbies - everything!  I wanted to be a member of the Unicorns.  I wanted to go to Dairy Queen.  I wanted to be a twin.
Over the years the Sweet Valley series made up a large chunk of the small selection of books I actually owned.  Although I've always been a voracious reader, as a child that was mainly fed through library loans.  But Sweet Valley books seemed to turn up at car boot sales, in charity shops, fetes, fairs - making them an affordable option.  And whenever I was given spending money by a family member for birthday or Christmas, my money would almost inevitably be spent in the Monmouth branch of WH Smith, to get my latest fix of the Sweet Valley gangs antics.
As I grew older I gave my Sweet Valley books away, especially when I packed up my bedroom to move permanently to Sheffield.  I hadn't read them for a long, long time and although I had excited palpitations when the Sweet Valley Confidential book came out in 2011 (what a let down that was), I'd had no pangs to reacquaint myself with the twins earlier escapades.
Fast forward to 2015 and I really, really regretted not keeping my collection.  I can't say what it was that made me almost crave their familiarity, but there was an overwhelming sense that I needed these books back in my life.  And that's why I'm slowly rebuilding my Sweet Valley collection and why from now on you'll spot a fair few Sweet Valley reviews here on Books with Bunny. 
They've not dated well in many ways and young adult fiction has moved on to somewhere totally different, somewhere more representative of the masses and far more diverse in every possible way. They're not the books I'd recommend to the majority of teens nowadays.  However, they're special to me, partly through nostalgia, but also because they satisfied my reading needs for many, many years in the early to mid 90s.  
As I said at the beginning, when I love something, I'm all in.  And with Sweet Valley, I'm definitely still very much all in.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Behind Closed Doors - B.A Paris

The Blurb

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace.

He has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You might not want to like them, but you do.You’d like to get to know Grace better.But it’s difficult, because you realise Jack and Grace are never apart.Some might call this true love. Others might ask why Grace never answers the phone. Or how she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. And why there are bars on one of their bedroom windows.

Sometimes the perfect marriage is the perfect lie.

The Review


Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow.

I haven't read a thriller in a while.  Although I enjoy reading a book that gets my heart racing with nerves, I prefer a psychological slant rather than blood, guts and gore.  There are plenty of those out there, especially with the rise in popularity of 'domestic noir', but few really hit the spot for me.  Behind Closed Doors was all about mind games, both between the couple in the book and between author and reader, and that's what made it such a gripping, intense read.

This book was so much better than the blurb suggests and I'll tell you why. 

Firstly, although it's obviously marketed as a thriller, the early scenes where Jack and Grace get together are so full of love, kindness and empathy that it's difficult to believe just how depraved things are going to get.  B.A Paris lulled me into a false sense of security and then horrified me with what followed. 

Secondly, the blurb makes out that there are people doubting the perfect marriage Grace and Jack portray.  The truth is, people believe what they want to believe.  With their gorgeous country house, Jack's respectable job and patiently awaiting the arrival of Grace's sister Millie's moving in date, they seem to have it all.  But behind closed doors their relationship is far from enviable.  Away from the public eye Jack is anything but nice.  The realisation that this scenario could quite plausibly be happening in houses all over the country was genuinely terrifying.

As the story progresses and both Grace and Millie's lives are increasingly in danger, I could feel the fear creeping inside me.  The terror of what could happen loomed large and I squirmed uncomfortably as I reached the final pages.  However, nothing matched the tingle that ran down my spine as I read the powerful final line.

Behind Closed Doors is an outstandingly good read. 

I'll say it once more, just to drive the point home.


Behind Closed Doors is published by Mira UK on February 11th 2016, available for preorder now.

With thank to the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book in return for an honest review.