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The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave - Review

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Where did I get it? I bought it in October, I'd seen some people talk about it on Twitter so I pre-ordered it and it arrived on the day of publication. 

What's it about? It's a middle grade book set in Scandinavia, in a place where winter has come and due to a curse, has never left. Mila lives with her sisters and her brother, Oskar, after their mother has died and their father has disappeared. It's a hard life, as they live miles out of town and have to rely on each other for everything. 

One night some strange men arrive on horseback and Oskar is transfixed. In the morning, he is gone. Mila and her sisters must set off to town to look for him, on their sleigh with their faithful huskies. On the way they have to fight for survival to free their brother. 

I liked Mila a lot, I thought she was a really kickass character and perfect for children to read about. I liked her siblings too, but I liked Mila the best. 

What age range is it for? 9+, probably 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No


Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so? 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, some of it is quite intense. 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none! I liked this, a cute story about family set in a really snowy, beautiful, but harsh environment. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, it would be a lovely gift too 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Because it had just arrived and it looked so lovely! 

What other books is it like? It has a real fairy tale feel to it which makes it feel like a much older story than it is. 

How many stars? Eight out of ten 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it, I love the cover so much. I love Kiran's books, I will definitely keep my eyes out for what she publishes in the future.

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P D James - Review

Saturday, December 15, 2018

I was feeling kind of festive in the middle of November so picked up this book of short stories. My friend Laura bought it for me, last Christmas I think. She and I often buy each other books and often share books, so it's always a pleasure to get a book from her. I've not read any P D James books I don't think, although my dad loved them. I like crime fiction although I read a lot less of it than I used to and I'm probably more discerning in what I do read. But P D James is one of the best, so I'm glad I got round to reading something by her.

The first story, The Mistletoe Murder, is supposedly a true story about James' own family, involving her grandmother and a cousin. I thought this was the best of the stories, but they were all good and I liked this short book and the way James wrote.


Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens - Review

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Where did I get it? I bought it, in October. 

What's it about? It's the next in the Wells and Wong novels. In this one, Daisy and Hazel have only just got back from Hong Kong (which the last book was about) and it has been decided that instead of immediately returning to school, they will stay with Daisy's uncle Felix for a while. To keep them out of trouble they go to a theatre to join the cast of Romeo and Juliet. While there, someone is murdered, and the Detective Society must once again try to solve the murder!

I get why Robin wanted the girls to not be at school, but I missed the school setting. I can also see that the girls are growing up more quickly than the publishing of the books allows, and I wonder what that means for the series. But it's no secret I love these books, I think they're perfect for the age group and such a gorgeous addition to children's literature. I think the 1930s setting is really lovely, and Hazel and Daisy are great characters, especially for girls. 

In this book I felt like the girls were in less danger, but I also felt like the murder was more gory, which is appropriate to the age group as it grows older. I can't wait for the next book, just to see what happens!

I felt like Daisy and Hazel became closer as friends in this book, and I felt like we understood Daisy a lot more.

What age range is it for? I say from age 10 ish, but I honestly think anyone could find something in these books. They're so endearing and well written

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? YES! No spoilers but it was SO lovely!

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Hazel is, and as fascism spreads across Europe in the 1930s, we see how Hazel feels as 'other' in Britain. I love this aspect of the series, I think it's done really well. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No? 

Is there any talk of death? Yes and as I say it is a little more gory than previous books. I loved it!

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? None! As an adult I can pick flaws out, but if I was a kid or teenager I wouldn't care. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes of course. Read them in order though. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I can never resist one of these for long.

What other books is it like? Like the other ones, obviously! I don't know of any other series like this but if you do, let me know

How many stars? Nine out of ten. 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it. I read a couple of these as library books but I'm considering buying them just so I have the whole series!

Elly Griffiths in Derby

Thursday, December 6, 2018

If you've read this blog for any length of time you'll know that I love Elly Griffiths and her books. I first read the first Ruth Galloway books way back in 2010 and quickly became a fan. Since then I've read everything Elly has published and often pre-order her books so I know I'll have them when they come out. My dad died in 2008 and I really wish he was alive to read Elly's books as I think he'd like them too. A love of crime fiction was something we had in common, even though his tastes were much darker than mine.

Elly's Ruth Galloway novels are my favourites, I love the mix of crime and theology and myth, and I like Ruth herself. I've enjoyed the Stephens and Mephisto novels, though. Elly's latest book is a standalone novel called The Stranger Diaries, it's a gothic novel. She was doing a book tour for it and the closest place to us was Derby, so I bought tickets for my partner and I and off we went.

The event was held at Waterstones and was actually on the day that the book was released, which also happened to be All Saints' Day. Elly first of all told us about her career in writing. Her real name is Domenica de Rosa, and she has several books published under that name. She took up a pen name to publish the first Ruth Galloway novel. Apparently she does now answer to Elly even though it isn't her name! She was engaging to listen to.

Then she read an extract from The Stranger Diaries, and then she answered audience questions. We had quite a long discussion about who would play Ruth and Nelson if the books were ever made into a television series! Then she signed her books.

I bought myself a copy of The Stranger Diaries, and I had also taken all the paper copies of her other books that I could find. I know there's a couple missing - I think I may have lent me to my aunt! I know I've read all the Stephens and Mephisto novels as ebooks, though. Elly very kindly signed all the books, and we had a really nice chat. It was lovely to meet her! I think I'll read The Stranger Diaries over Christmas...


During the reading


Me and Elly


All my lovely signed books!

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware - Review

Tuesday, December 4, 2018


I saw this book on someone else's book blog and was immediately hooked. I preordered it and again it was on the pile of books that arrived in October, so I picked it up. 

I was hooked because the book is about a cruise ship, and I've just been on a cruise myself (my posts about the week we had around the Mediterranean are here on my other blog). Lo is a travel writer and invited on board an exclusive ship to go up the Norwegian fjords. When she arrives on board she meets a whole raft of characters, including her ex boyfriend and the ship's owner and his beautiful wife, who is ill with cancer. 

In the night she's woken by the sound of someone being pushed overboard from the balcony of the cabin next to hers. Lo is a little out of sorts because her flat was broken into just before her trip, so she's on high alert for the person next door. She reports what she heard to staff, but the problem is that there's no passenger missing off the boat. Staff try to make out like she's mistaken, but she's sure she isn't. There's no way for anyone to have got on or off the ship, so is she now stuck with a murderer?

I liked the intrigue, and I liked most of the story, but I felt it lost its way a bit towards the end. I liked Lo and I liked the interspersed newspaper accounts which gave the reader more information about Lo and about what had happened. Still, I would read more by Ruth Ware - which is just as well as I've another by her on preorder right now!


Odd One Out by Nic Stone - Review

Sunday, December 2, 2018


Where did I get it? I pre-ordered it way back in April and it arrived in mid-October

What's it about? It's got three points of view, splitting the book into thirds. In the first part we meet Courtney Cooper, star on his basketball team, who is in love with his female best friend, Jupiter. They've been friends forever and are extremely close, but Jupiter is gay and has been out of the closet for years. 


Then there's a new girl in town, Rae, and Jupiter is all over her, leaving Coop feeling pushed out. The middle of the book is Rae's point of view and we see how she feels about both Coop and Jupiter, and how she feels split in the middle by them. 

The last part of the book is Jupiter's point of view and we see how she feels sexuality changing and being fluid. 

I liked the set up with Coop and Jupiter's families, that they were basically one big family that lived next door to each other. Coop lived with his mum and his dad was dead, and Jupiter lived with her two dads. I felt like Rae's family could have joined in this eventually too; I like to think this would happen in a sequel! 

I didn't like the end too much, I felt like there was a lot unresolved. But it was very lifelike. I liked Coop best of all, I think. I wish Rae had been more open with either of them. I would absolutely read other books by Nic Stone, though (I own Dear Martin, which I'm looking forward to). 

What age range is it for? 15+, I think. There is quite a lot of traumatic past, so be careful with yourself. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, all three main characters. I liked how this was written. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so, but I might have forgotten? 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not explicit and I think they use protection

Are drugs mentioned or used? I don't think so? Maybe weed? 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, trigger warnings. 

Are there swear words? A couple, very judiciously used. 

What criticisms do I have? As above, I just didn't like the ending much. And I felt like we were supposed to like Jupiter much more than I actually did/ 

Would I recommend the book? I would, actually. I think this review is much more negative than I mean it to be. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It arrived and it was in a pile of new books by my bed!

What other books is it like? I'm not sure. 

How many stars? Six out of then. 

Where is the book going now? I'll probably keep it, I have friends who would love it. 

NaNoWriMo 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018


Hi! In case you're wondering where I've been for a month, well, I've been busy doing NaNoWriMo. If you haven't heard of it, it's a challenge where you write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November. I first heard of it way back in 2005, and I won it that year and in 2006. I didn't win then for years. Some years I tried and gave up, some years I didn't even try. I won in 2014 with a novel that is now finished and which needs some basic editing before I try to submit it to agents. I won in 2016 with a novel which is finished but maybe needs a bit of expansion as it's quite short, and which needs a LOT of editing before it's ready. I don't think I tried last year, but this year I was determined to do it again. I had a plot in mind and had a few basic pointers written down, but then a few days before I changed my mind!

I decided to write a book which I've had the bare bones of for a long time now. I actually wrote one version of it in 2006, I think, starring the same family. But over the past few years I've had it in my mind to expand it, write it differently. So I thought I'd give it a go again.

Once I got started, I got really into it. I had a few things going on in November so gave myself a couple of days off. On days I really got writing I wrote over 2000 words per day (the average is 1667 per day) and the plot was going well. It's a dual narrative novel now, one set now and one set in the 90s. I had a bunch of stuff I wanted to happen before the main event, so I kept writing and kept writing. I was helped with some word wars by my friend Stephanie, so many thanks to her!

Then on Tuesday, the 27th, I had only around 5000 words to write to pass 50,000, and I was just kind of sick of concentrating so much and just wanted to win. I didn't have anything else to do all day so I just got my head down and got on with it.

I finished around 10pm with over 50,000 words, and knowing that the book had at least two more events before it was complete. But weirdly, I hadn't got to the main event! I just had lots of stuff to happen before that. So I think there'll be a sequel! YA novels are often around 75,000 words, so I don't want to make it happen now and not give it the words it needs. It's weird how this stuff happens while you're writing, though!

I read loads in November - eight books! - but decided to not write ANYTHING except my Nano, so I wrote down all the blogposts I needed to write and am now getting to them. I'll space them out so as not to overwhelm you. I think I'll already be trying to cast my mind back to the books I read at the beginning of the month. November seems to have gone on forever.

I'm really proud of myself for achieving Nano and I'd say give it a go if you've ever thought you might want to.


 

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