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Clampdown by Rhian E Jones - Review

Thursday, January 18, 2018

First of all, I need to say two things: one, I received this book free from the publisher so thank you very much to Zero Books, and two, Rhian is a friend of mine. We met years ago through The Libertines, but we have quite a lot of music in common and are quite similar politically. When I heard about the book I wanted to read it so was thrilled to receive a copy, but then I lost the book and unearthed it recently and decided to read it. I would like to read more non fiction in 2018 so this seemed an ideal place to start.

Concentrating on several bands of the 90s Britpop and later 00s British bands, Rhian talks about the class identity of those bands, how they used class signifiers, and how bands with women in in particular identified. She particularly looks at how working class women have been demonised in the press and how the 'chav' image is used against women more than men. She looks at working class bands like Kenickie to comment on the ladette culture of the 90s and so on. The text is pretty dense so quite often I had to break sentences down to make sure I really understood them, but there were parts that made me actually laugh out loud. This may be because I know Rhian and her dry wit, but she also has such a way with words - for instance, describing the 'camp wit' of The Libertines and the 'languorous sleaziness' of Elastic (two of my favourite bands, which helps!) I don't think the book is too difficult for someone non academic (like me!) to read. It is similar in parts to Chavs by Owen Jones, a book I've skimmed but not read properly. I really liked the book and would recommend it to anyone who grew up on Britpop and other guitar bands. Five out of five!

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher - Review

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Where did I get it? I've owned this book for five years, since I first ever heard of Annabel. I tried to read it then, but only got about fifty pages into it. It didn't grab me, so I didn't finish it. I did however get the book signed by Annabel around about the time I bought it. 

What's it about? Jamie's sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece, in an urn. She was killed in a terrorist explosion five years ago so Jamie, who is ten, barely remembers her. Everyone else in his family finds it hard to live without her, though - Dad drinks too much alcohol, Rose's twin Jasmine doesn't eat and dyes her hair pink, and Mum has just left. Jamie, Jas, and Dad move up to the Lake District, supposedly for Dad to start a new job, so Jamie has to start a new school. 

There, he's bullied by some of the girls in his class, but he also makes friends with Sunya, the girl he sits next to. The problem is Sunya is Muslim, and Dad blames all Muslims for Rose's death, so Jamie knows they can't be friends. Meanwhile everyone is falling apart, and Mum hasn't even been to visit. 

What age range is it for? 9 years plus, but I would make sure the child knew about things like the 9/11 attacks first - in an age appropriate way, obviously. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Sunya is

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, but there's misuse of alcohol which may be painful to read. 

Is there any talk of death?  Yes, and obviously, due to Rose's death, it can be graphic. Jamie's imagination runs away with him at times. 

Are there swear words? No

What criticisms do I have? Once I got into the book I actually really liked, but I do think the first few pages could be more gripping. Maybe it's okay for the age group, but if the book skewed a bit older it would need to be more exciting. I knew loads of people who had really enjoyed the book, but to begin with I really didn't understand why. It took me a while! 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. I've read three of Annabel's books now and I would recommend them all. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well, it was actually my choice for my book club. It was on our list of available books and I, as the children's/Young Adult aficionado in the book club, I thought it would be good to make all the others read something for this age group. I can't wait to see what they all made of it! 

What other books is it like? It's a lot like The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel, because it doesn't flinch from painful realities. It's a lot like Two Weeks With the Queen, too, I think, a book that I will absolutely have to reread this year!

How many stars? Seven out of ten. 

Where is the book going now? Because it's signed I will of course keep it! It's not my favourite by Annabel but I did like it and I want to support her writing. 

Saints and Misfits by S K Ali - Review

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Where did I get it? I had it on pre-order for TEN MONTHS - I ordered it in December 2016 and it arrived last October!  

What's it about? Janna is fifteen, and is at high school. She's Muslim and a hijabi, and she lives with her divorced mum. Her brother Muhammad has just moved back in with them. She sees her dad, but she feels really far away from his life. She is a good student and she helps to take care of an elderly neighbour, Mr Ram.

She has a crush on a non-Muslim guy, Jeremy, which she is conflicted about. She also knows a monster - her friend Fizz's cousin Farooq, who sexually assaults her in Fizz's basement one evening. The problem is everyone thinks Farooq is a good Muslim, because he learn the Quran off by heart. Jeremy and Farooq are friends, too. 

There's a lot of things going on in the book which make it feel like a real snapshot of life. I loved Janna, I thought she was a really good main character and I liked a lot of things about her. I liked her friend Tats, and I liked her mum and Muhammad. I liked Nuah, too, I thought he was such a dish and I'd really love a sequel based on his life! Janna's life is recognisable for any teenager, and when there are Islamic terms used they're always explained, which would be good for a reader unfamiliar with Islam. Janna wears hijab and I loved how it was portrayed that she cared a lot about how it looked and how her clothes in general looked. 

This is an excellent book and I'm really glad to have read it. 

What age range is it for? Janna is fifteen, so I'm going to say from around 14 upwards. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Janna's friend Sandra has a physical attribute which she is bullied for - I really liked this thread of plot too. 

Is there any sex stuff? No. 

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

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? No, almost none 

What criticisms do I have? My criticisms are that it just isn't long enough! Because it is, like I said, a snapshot of life, there's tons of stuff going on that I wanted more of. For instance, I wanted to know what happened to Farooq, I wanted to know what happened between Muhammad and the girl he likes, Sarah. I wanted to know whether Janna's mum found a new love. I needed more of Nuah and his relationship with Janna. 

Would I recommend the book? One hundred percent. To everyone I know. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'd been reminded of its existence because S K Ali's tweets about Muslim shelf space got retweeted into my timeline and I thought it was about time I read her book. I don't think I have read too many books about young Muslims, so that's something I can definitely do better with. 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of Little and Lion which I read last year, I think that book has the same kind of snapshot of life feel about it

How many stars? Nine out of ten, practically nothing to complain about!

Where is the book going now? I think I'm going to lend it to a friend, I'll have to pop it in the post!

Christmas Book Haul

Monday, January 8, 2018

I thought I'd write a post about the books I got for Christmas! I got lots, which is lovely because I do love books. I own around 750 paper books, which is... a lot. But they're all so pretty and gorgeous, I can't stop acquiring more. Here's what I got:

This is one of the Secret Santas I did, I had to send a wishlist and this book, The Princess and the Suffragette, was on it. I LOVED A Little Princess when I was little so I'm excited to read this

This swap was a thrifty gift swap where everything had to be thrifty/secondhand, or handmade. These books are all so intriguing! The top one looks like a perfect summer read

These were from Shannon, through her own swap. I think I had Let It Snow on my wishlist, but if not then I definitely do want to read it! Cinder looks very unlike my normal kind of thing but I like being pushed out of my comfort zone and the premise looks really interesting

I actually bought Another Place and The Sister for myself in the Works, on 2 for £5. I've read In Bloom by Matthew Crow so thought I would give this one a go too. My friend Laura bought me Mistletoe and Murder, which I'm excited about as I'm not sure I've ever read a P D James book even though I grew up with lots in the house. My mother-in-law bought me Moonrise; she'd asked Lee what book I'd like and he saw this on my wishlist. I really love Sarah Crossan so I'll have to read this one too. Then the final one is about the village we live in, it's a self-published kind of thing off a stall in Barnsley market. I haven't fully looked through yet so there might be a picture of my 115 year old house!

I have to confess I bought all these books for myself! Wordery was having a sale before Christmas and I got all of these plus one more for just under £40. Bargain! I've heard loads of good things about the Philip Pullman book so I took a chance on it. Black Cairn Point looked really intriguing and was like £2.50 so it dropped into my basket. I've heard good things about Mal Peet so this one looked ideal to start off with. The premise of Tell It to the Moon intrigued me, again. I loved Judith Kerr when I was younger so I picked up Bombs on Aunt Dainty. I own pretty much everything else by Patrick Ness, so buying Release seemed ideal.... although I've just had a nasty feeling that I already own it, whoops.... And finally - did you know I share my birthday with Edgar Allen Poe? It's January the 19th! So I thought I would finally read something by him, and this illustrated copy of some poems and short stories is absolutely beautiful!

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart - Review

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle when it was like 99p, because I read the first chapter and reviewed it here, and was really intrigued by the premise of the book. So while I was scrolling through my Kindle just after I finished The Wonder, I decided to read it. 

What's it about? As I said in the link above, we open in Mexico, where Jule is exercising in a hotel when an American woman called Noa interrupts her and starts talking to her. Jule introduces herself as Imogen, and arranges to meet up with Noa, but then becomes suspicious and makes a getaway. Unfortunately, right at the end of the first chapter, we discover that Noa has tracked her down.

At the very beginning, we also learn Jule's "origin story", where she spins a yarn about finding her parents dead when she was aged eight. This novel is a mixture of truth and fiction and half truths and truth being twisted, which I really liked. 

The novel then goes back in time to Jule's arrival in Mexico, and then keeps going back in time so that we see all the things that happened in order for Jule to be in Mexico. It's a really clever way of writing a novel and as a writer I'm intrigued as to how E Lockhart even started to do it! I sort of feel like I'd write a novel forwards and then just switch the chapters around and leave the intrigue to happen as it does. 

We Were Liars by E Lockhart is about over-privileged rich white people and honestly there's the same kind of vibe here, which I liked. Imogen is utterly dislikeable, as are a lot of the lesser characters, but I really liked Jule and was rooting for her the whole way through. This is a great book and was a brilliant way to start the new year. 

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No, but there's a definite undercurrent to the relationship between Jule and Imogen, which I liked 

Are any main characters people of colour? No. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, and there's some violent scenes too. Trigger warning for talk of suicide, too. 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none! I felt the whole thing was really intriguing and written in a really clever way. I have two more of E Lockhart's books and I really will have to read them. She's great! 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? As above, I liked the opening chapter. It definitely got me to buy the book!

What other books is it like? It is a lot like We Were Liars, so if you haven't read that, do. 

How many stars? Five out of five. Not perfect but really close to it. 

My Year in Books

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

In 2017 I read seventy books, which was lower than my intended goal of 80, but I had other pressures on my time. I'm still pretty pleased with 70.

I broke it down a bit:

I read 37 books in either paperback or hardback, and 33 as ebooks.

I read ten books for my two book clubs. Forty of my books were either Young Adult or middle grade books. I read 58 books by or jointly by women, and 14 books by or jointly by men (some books were jointly written you see, which is why this number doesn't add up to 70). I can't believe that I'm skewed so much in favour of books by women, but also I'm not really sorry about that. Women rock.

I really enjoyed lots of the books I read, so special mention goes to:

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

These are nearly all Young Adult books, and at least two are real stand out examples of the genre. I made my partner read The Hate U Give because I thought it was so amazing. He really liked it too, then he made me watch Boyz n the Hood

I'm going to review all my books this year, too, as I've really enjoyed doing so.

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue - Review

Friday, December 29, 2017

I bought this book on Kindle in July, because it was cheap and I wanted to read something else by the author. I read Room by Emma years ago, it must've been about 2011. I sobbed my way through it and then immediately lent it to my mother-in-law because I knew she'd like it. I really recommend it, although obviously it needs trigger warnings for abuse, sexual abuse, violence, things like that. 

As for The Wonder, it starts off so differently to Room that to begin with it's hard to believe it's the same author, but by the end I definitely felt like it showed similar kinds of spirit. I want to read more by the author, I'll have to see which of her books appeal to me next. I got some book vouchers for Christmas so maybe that's what I'll buy!

So, this novel starts with English nurse Lib Wright travelling to Ireland. The book is set in the 1850s, just after the Irish potato famine. Lib served in the Crimea under Florence Nightingale, so she's one of the 'newer' types of nurses, upright and rigorous in her nursing. To begin with, I found it hard to warm to Lib, but I liked her by the end of the book. She's going to Ireland as the employee of a committee set up to investigate the case of Anna O'Donnell. Anna is eleven, a devout Catholic, and supposedly hasn't eaten any food for four months. The committee wants to know if she really is a miracle and a wonder.

Lib is at first dead set against the whole thing, and is sure someone must have been secretly feeding Anna. She feels herself to be the only voice of reason - even her nurse colleague is a nun and therefore of the same religion at the rest of the village. She starts to feel something towards Anna, though, and the two end up as friends. 

The beginning of the book is quite slow, but it really worked for the pacing and the whole slow atmosphere of the novel. I really liked it. I guessed a couple of the twists but that didn't detract from the whole. I'm giving this a five out of five because it's excellent.



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