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Attachments by Rainbow Rowell - Review

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Where did I get it? It was one of the books that my friend Laura lent to me. I've been trying to get to them so I picked this up. It's one of Rowell's adult fiction books, although I might categorise it as "New Adult" because there's nothing raunchy or violent in it. It took me ages to read because I picked something else up while I was away for the weekend. 

What's it about? It's 1999, and Lincoln is 29 and lives with his mum in Nebraska. He went to college in California with his high school girlfriend Sam, who ended up breaking his heart. Lincoln dropped out and has spent the last decade studying and being quite unhappy. He gets a job at the local paper, working in the IT department. Email is a relatively new thing to use, and Lincoln is given the job of reviewing emails which get flagged for having certain terms in them. He's supposed to send warning emails when this happens, but then he starts reading Beth and Jennifer's emails and can't make himself send them a warning.

Beth and Jennifer have been close friends for several years. Beth is living with her boyfriend, musician Chris, while Jennifer is married to Mitch, who wants them to have a baby. The two email back and forth and Lincoln reads them all, and starts to fall in love with Beth, even though he's never met her. 

What age range is it for? I'd say 19+, even though there's nothing sexual or violent in it, I feel like a lot of the subject matter is definitely geared towards adults. That said, if you're a teenager who loves Rainbow Rowell, you'd probably enjoy this too well enough. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No, it's not a diverse book

Are any main characters people of colour? Again no

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yet again, no. 

Is there any sex stuff? There are vague mentions of it, but nothing too explicit

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes, somewhat.

Are there swear words? A few. They're self censored in places! 

What criticisms do I have? At the beginning of the book I couldn't get into it. I couldn't get to grips with the email format and I felt like they were distancing me from getting to know Beth and Jennifer better. However, I got into the rhythm of them and really enjoyed both characters. I liked their friendship and how honest they were with each other, but it did take a bit to get into it.

As for Lincoln, he's a really sympathetic character. I liked his mum and his sister, too. However, I did find it quite creepy that he basically stalks these women's emails. It's something he struggles with too, so I do give it credit for that. I didn't know how it would end, and I was worried that it would be gross and inappropriate, but it really wasn't. I liked the ending a lot actually. 

Would I recommend the book? Yeah, I think so

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Mostly because I came across Laura's books again while looking for something else the other day! 

What other books is it like? I don't know, it reminded me a lot of stuff like Cecelia Aherne, but also Rowell's other books, especially Fangirl. 

How many stars? Three out of five. 


Where is the book going now? I've posted it back to Laura so it'll be back with its rightful owner!

When the Music's Over by Peter Robinson - Review

Monday, July 10, 2017

This might be a really strange review and I really apolgise for that if it is. I've just finished this book after it's been dragging on for over a week. It really wasn't grabbing me and unfortunately I think it will be the last of the DCI Banks books that I'll read.

I've read probably most of them now. I got into them years ago, probably around fifteen years ago when I was an older teenager. My dad was really into crime novels and I often picked them up from him. I think though that I found Peter Robinson first. The books are set in Eastvale in North Yorkshire, which I think is supposed to be Skipton, and concern Alan Banks, who, at the beginning of the series, has just moved to Yorkshire from London and is dealing with being a more provinical copper than the lights of the big city. Banks is a really likeable character - he is somewhat of a maverick cop, but they all are in books aren't they - and he likes music and Laphroaig whiskey and has a string of girlfriends who are all interesting people. His partner, DI Annie Cabbot, is also likeable, although less so in this novel, I have to say. Plus I really like the setting of North Yorkshire, somewhere I really love and know quite well. I feel like Peter Robinson creates a good sense of the town, of Banks' place within it, and of the atmosphere of the countryside. So I've read a lot of the series, mostly picked up in charity shops for a couple of quid and shared with each of my parents - my dad when he was still alive, and my mum even now. 

So when I saw that this one, published last year, was on Kindle for £1.89, I bought it. I started reading it just a couple of weeks later and while I liked the story I feel like Robinson just hasn't managed to keep the stories modern enough for me. I'll go into that in a bit. 

In this book there are two cases going on. Banks is tasked with investigating an historic allegation of sexual assault. Linda Palmer is just fourteen at the time, in 1967, and on holiday in Blackpool when she meets TV personality Danny Caxton. She's eager to impress him and goes back to his hotel room, where she's raped by Caxton and another man. She and her mother report it back at home in Leeds, but the case is quickly dropped. In the modern time, she has been inspired by cases like the Jimmy Savile one and has reported the crime again. It is part of a bigger investigation into Caxton, who is now eighty five. 

Meanwhile, a girl is found murdered on a quiet road near Eastvale. She has been raped, but by different men to the person who murdered her. Identifying her leads Annie to Wytherton, a place on the edge of Teesside, where racial tensions are running high. Banks has to oversee both cases and deal with press intrusion into both too.

I liked both stories and I felt that both were done quite well. Annie's attitude towards immigrants was, I felt, quite out of character to me, no matter how often she tried to say that she just wanted to catch the bad guys, no mater what race they were. I really went off her in this book. I also felt like there were some writing issues with the teenagers involved. Even though the novel is set in about the current year (they keep saying the rape of Linda Palmer happened "about fifty years ago"), no one thinks to check the social media accounts of the teenagers involved. For real, there's not one mention of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or anything like that. I honestly believe that if you've just got the identity of a fifteen year old girl, you're going to check her social media to see who she's been hanging around with recently. And yet, nobody does. Furthermore, some of the names given to the teens are strange - one is called Carol Fisher. I don't know about you, but I think kids born around the turn of the century don't tend to be called Carol. They're called things like Amelia and Jade and Caitlin. I feel like Robinson could have done some research in naming his characters.

Even more furthermore, there's a part where one of the police officers goes to talk to a teenager about what's happened, in secret. This teenager does not speak like a current teenager. Not even the most articulate teenager would have used some of the phrases that she did, which sounded archaic even to my own eyes. I wish Robinson had done a bit more research into this, too. He should read some Young Adult to get a feel for how to write convincing teenagers!

I was talking to my partner as I was reading this book. He always asks whether I'm enjoying what I'm reading and I usually don't have much to say, but this time I told him I wasn't really enjoying it, because of the issues above. That made me think a bit more about the series as a whole. I think the problem is that Robinson didn't expect that he would be writing them for so long. The first book was published thirty years ago and at the time, Banks isn't a young man. He's been in the Metropolitan Police for a while, and in the first books his children are teenagers. He's around forty at the very least. Thirty years on, as a copper, he'd have been retired for fifteen years and would be mowing the lawn in his retirement. But clearly the books took off (there's a TV show, too) and now it's 30 years later and the books haven't caught up to life, but neither is there any attempt to set them in the past. It is a problem, and it's really offputting, so I think I'm done with Banks unfortunately. I give this book three out of five. 


A Change is Gonna Come - Review

Friday, July 7, 2017

A Change is Gonna Come is an anthology of short stories and poetry by authors from black, Asian, and other minority ethnic backgrounds, all on the theme of change. It has a host of top YA authors, including Tanya Byrne, Catherine Johnson, and Patrice Lawrence, but it also includes four stories by previously unpublished authors, which I think is fantastic. I honestly couldn't tell the difference between the two - all the pieces are polished, succinct, interesting, and with engaging characters. All of these authors really deserved to be in the book.

I liked Catherine Johnson's story about a circus showman in the 1800s, and I liked the science fiction story about young criminals in Brightonstone - in fact I'd like to be an entire novel! I think that's the beauty of a short story - they often leave you wanting more.

I was provided with a copy of this book by Little Tiger Group/Stripes Publishing, so thank you very much to them for that. This is a great anthology and I'll definitely be recommending it.


The Chalk Pit by Elly Griffiths - Review

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

This is another of the Ruth Galloway novels that I like so much - I reviewed the last one here. I didn't like the previous one, The Woman in Blue, as much, but I felt like The Chalk Pit was a lot better. I read it quickly because the plot was a lot faster than before, definitely a return to the earlier books in the series.

Ruth is asked to look at some bones in an underground tunnel that is being developed as some kind of high class precinct with restaurants and stuff. She thinks the bones are modern and also that they've been boiled in a pot, giving them a polished look. Meanwhile the police are told about a homeless woman who has gone missing, and begin to uncover a whole underground world in the tunnels beneath Norwich.

Like I said I felt like this really returned to form and I'm hopeful the next one will be too. I really like these books - Ruth is a very likeable if somewhat unlikely heroine, and I love her.


Grrrl Con 2017

Saturday, July 1, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I went to Grrrl Con 2017, a conference for women writers that was this year held in Manchester. I went last year in Edinburgh and was really happy that this year it was in Manchester which is close to me. This year the conference was three days and they were long and exhausting but so worthwhile and life-affirming. I wrote a zine for last year's con and I'm going to do so again, so I don't want to write too much here about it until I've got my thoughts together for my zine.

Anyway, here are the books I got at the conference. Jenn Ashworth was the first speaker and I was intrigued by the premise of this novel - told from the point of view of two ghosts so bought it from her and got it signed. The Quotidian is a Scottish magazine that my friend Lori has had a poem published in it, so she gave me a copy. The other two I bought from Desiree Reynolds, who is published in both. She led one of the workshops and I really liked her, plus these look like really interesting anthologies.

I'll have more about the con on my other blog so follow me over there (linked above) if you'd like to hear more!


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas - Review

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where did I get it? It was the first book I received in the Willoughby Book Club last month and I decided to read it straight away as I've been hearing so much about it. It's quite a long YA book at over 400 pages, so I felt like it took me forever but I really enjoyed it so it was worth it. 

What's it about? Starr is sixteen and divided between two worlds. One, the black neighbourhood she grew up in, where her family still live. Two, the private school she travel 45 minutes to each day, which is predominantly white. She keeps the two Starrs separate, existing in both worlds. One night she goes to a party where something kicks off, and she leaves with her friend Khalil. On the way home they are pulled over by a white cop, who shoots and kills Khalil. Starr is the only witness but speaking out might cost her her family and even her life. 

I loved Starr's family. Her parents are clearly in love, even though they argue at times. Her older brother Seven was a complete babe (I'd love a whole novel about him) and there's a whole host of supporting characters that I got to really care for. This is a novel with an important message about race and racism and how black lives matter, but it's also a really lovely book about family, love, fitting in, and so much more. I loved the way that I got to know about Starr's community - one I don't live in and have no experience of - but also felt like it was a great novel that all readers could identify with in some way. I cannot WAIT to read more by Angie Thomas. 

What age range is it for? Fifteen plus, let's say.

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No.

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes of course. I liked the nuances about race at Starr's school, which I won't spoil. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No, only a couple of supporting characters

Is there any sex stuff? Very little, but safe sex is talked about which I really liked.

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, but not in an explicit way

Is there any talk of death? Yes, of course. Khalil is killed and the novel does not hold back on that, nor on the effect this has on Starr afterwards (eg nightmares about it)

Are there swear words? Loads. 

What criticisms do I have? Gosh, none at all really. I might pick up some niggling bits if I tried hard, but overall I think the message is too important for it to matter. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. Read it now. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Just because I've heard so many people talk about it!

What other books is it like? I can't give an adequate answer to this, if I'm honest!

How many stars? Ten. Amazing book, and an excellent example of how great Young Adult can be. It takes something huge and scary and makes it accessible


Where is the book going now? I'll definitely keep it, but I want my friend Stacey to read it first, for a start. 

The Murder at Sissingham Hall by Clara Benson - Review

Sunday, June 25, 2017

I read this for my year long challenge, because one of the challenges was to read a cosy mystery. It's a genre I've heard of, but had never read before, But I saw the first three of these books on Kindle for either free or for like 99p, so I decided to get them. I read just the first book, but I liked it a lot and I'll probably read the second two when I need something easy and, well, cosy, to get into.

Charles Knox is the protagonist of the novel. Newly returned from South Africa, where he has made his fortune in gold mining, he is back in England meets up with his friend Bobs. Bobs invites him to Sissingham, where Charles' ex-fiancee Rosamund lives with her husband, Sir Neville. On arrival, there are several other people there, including Angela Marchmont, Rosamund's cousin, and Sir Neville's relatives Hugh and Gwen, who stand to inherit Sissingham should Sir Neville die.

On the second night of Charles' visit, Sir Neville is murdered and his body is staged to make it look like an accident. Hugh is at the top of the suspect list, but honestly, no one is safe. This was a quick read, full of period drama and the foibles of the upper classes, and I really liked the 1920s setting. I enjoyed it, it's a cute little book.


 

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