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Book round up of 2016

Friday, December 30, 2016

Because I'm a total nerd, I made a few stats about the books I've read this year.

I've read 81 books, which is 13 more than the 68 I managed in 2015. In 2015 I set myself a goal of 50 books, and obviously smashed that, so this year I upped my goal to 70 books. I've smashed that, too! However, I think for 2017 I'll keep my goal at 70 books, or maybe 75. I don't think I'll manage to read many more, even though I'd like to.

Of those 81 books, 35 were paperbacks, including ones I own, ones I borrowed, and ones I got out from the library. 36 were eBooks and were a combination of ones I bought and ones I requested on NetGalley. 8 were hardcover and were again a mixture of ones I bought and ones I borrowed. Two were audiobooks and these were both borrowed from the library.

Of the 81, the vast majority by over half were Young Adult books - 48, in fact. A further 8 were either kids books or middle grade books (where, for instance, I personally place the Wells & Wong novels). 16 books were general adult fiction. 9 were crime novels, which is my second favourite genre but which I've totally neglected this year!

I'm looking forward to 2017 for many reasons. I want to write more, and read more, and maybe read Tumblr less. I've got a few books already on my January TBR and, well, watch this space...

Murder and Mistletoe by Robin Stevens - Review

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it as an eBook on pre-order and it was handily delivered to my tablet on release in October. I saved it to read around Christmas and I'm glad I did. 

What's it about? It's the fifth book in the Murder Most Unladylike series which star Daisy Wells and Hazel Wong as detectives. I've read them all except for the fourth one, which I've got and meant to read before this, but Christmas arrived and I decided to jump this one ahead in the queue. I'm so glad I did. I loved it!

Hazel and Daisy are spending their Christmas in Cambridge with Daisy's brother Bertie, who's in his first year there at the fictional Maudlin College. Hazel and Daisy are staying with Daisy's great aunt at St Lucy's, a fictional women's college in 1935 (when women could study with the men but couldn't actually gain degrees), but keep popping across to Maudlin. Bertie lives there with the Melling twins, Donald and Chummy, and Alfred Cheng, a Chinese student, and a couple of others. Daisy and Hazel's friends Alexander and George are staying with George's brother over in St John's college. 

Bertie and his friends are into "climbing" which involves scaling the university buildings with no equipment or ropes. Donald and Chummy are about to turn 21 and inherit all their family money, but it seems like someone is trying to kill Donald - is it Chummy, to get the money? 

Reading these books from an adult point of view is somewhat frustrating, but if you put yourself into the mindset of a thirteen year old Hazel, they are utterly enchanting. This one especially, because it's all pretty colleges and snow and roaring fires. I love these books and I'm already looking forward to the next one. 

What age range is it for? 10+. I think any kid who likes Sherlock Holmes would love these. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Hazel and Alfred are Chinese, and George and his brother are British Indian. This comes up in this book a lot, and in the others - how Hazel feels like an outsider and like she'll never be accepted into English society. There's some stuff in this about justice for people of colour too 
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, it's a bit gory
Are there swear words? No
Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. What a lovely festive book to read. 
How many stars? Ten out of ten - no book is perfect but this one made me feel so lovely that it gains full marks.

What Light by Jay Asher - Review

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it in Waterstones a couple of weeks ago and decided to read it near Christmas.

What's it about? Sierra lives in Oregon, on a Christmas tree farm. She loves it, and her best friends, Rachel and Elizabeth. But every year, at Thanksgiving, she and her parents go down to California to set up the lot from where they sell Christmas trees right up until Christmas Day. Sierra has a friend there, Heather, who she misses throughout the year. However, this might be the last year that she goes, because the lot isn't doing well and her parents may not open it again, and because Rachel and Elizabeth want Sierra to spend the Christmas of their senior year in Oregon joining in with all the parties and dances that happen. This might be Sierra's last Christmas in California.

So of course, into that, walks Caleb. He's a fairly typical "bad boy". Heather warns Sierra off him, telling her that Caleb attacked his sister with a knife. But then Sierra discovers that he saves his tips from his job to buy Christmas trees for families who couldn't otherwise afford them. Sierra finds herself falling in love with Caleb even though she knows their time is limited and even though she isn't sure whether to trust him.

I'll be honest - I found this book dragged. I started it ages ago and it just didn't grip me. I don't know why, because I liked the setting and I liked Sierra. I felt like her dad was just stupidly overprotective though (every time one of the male workers talks to Sierra, her dad sends them to clean the loos, which I just found absurd) and I felt like Caleb was just.... too perfect? He is flawed (he attacked his sister with a knife, kind of...) but he also does things that I just don't think any 17 year old boy has ever done. He was just so mature and so manly and perfect. I couldn't get on with him at all.

It's weird because I haven't thought about Jay Asher in forever. I read Thirteen Reasons Why about 6 years ago; it was actually one of the first YA books I ever read, and I really enjoyed it. I picked this up, but I'm not sure I'll read anything else by the author. I get that this is supposed to be a cute festive story, but it needed more bite. 

What age range is it for? 13+, there's almost nothing salacious in it. I actually thought there should have been more sexual activity. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? No
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? No, just some kissing. As above, I would've liked to see this
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? No 
Are there swear words? Not really. 
Would I recommend the book? Not really. It didn't float my boat. 
How many stars? Six out of ten. Cute, but not good enough. 

I'll Be Home for Christmas - Review

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Where did I get it? Netgalley, thank you so much to Stripes Publishing for granting it to me. 

What's it about? This anthology of short stories by some of YA's biggest names is being sold in aid of Crisis, who help homeless people. All the stories are about home in some way. Some are happy homes, some aren't. Some are nuclear families, some aren't. There were some I liked a lot, especially the last one by Lisa Williamson, and some I wasn't so keen on. I also felt there was some fatphobia in two of the stories which did unfortunately put me off those stories entirely. 

I felt like this was a really worthy anthology and would probably get some teens to think outside their circle and about people living different lives to them, and so I bought it for one of my Secret Santa recipients! I am happy to support the cause. 

What age range is it for? 13+, all the stories are tame, but the subject matter is sometimes hard going, whether it's homelessness or violence or whatever. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, a couple of stories had gay protagonists - and it's a reality that a lot of homeless youths are under the LGBT umbrella. 
Are any main characters people of colour? I don't recall that there were any, which is frankly disappointing
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes
Is there any sex stuff? No, just some kissing.
Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, mentioned
Is there any talk of death? A little bit 
Are there swear words? A few, not many
Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely. It's a quick read and perfect for a stocking stuffer.
How many stars? Eight, due to the aforementioned stories that I didn't like. 

The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon - Review

Friday, December 2, 2016

Where did I get it? Netgalley, thank you very much to Penguin Random House!

What's it about? The novel has lots of different points of view which at first I found distracting, but once I got into it I liked it. The main characters are Natasha and Daniel. Natasha is black, and Jamaican. Her family came to America nine years before on tourist visas and never left - they are undocumented immigrants and are being deported on the day that the novel is set. Natasha doesn't want to leave so she's heading to see various people to try to stop the deportation. She is finding it hard to get on with her dad, who she blames for them being in this mess.

Meanwhile, Daniel, who is Korean American, is heading to a Yale early entry interview. He hates his older brother, who's just been kicked out of Harvard, and he has strained relationships with both his parents, who are Korean immigrants and who don't understand his American ways of life. 

The two meet and feel an instant connection and throughout the day they ask each other questions, Daniel betting that he can make Natasha fall in love with him by the end of the day. They go various places, including to Daniel's parents' black hair care store. Interspersed with Daniel's and Natasha's points of view are little stories about some of the people they meet, their parents, and even a short history of black hair and why Korean people often own shops that sell black hair care products. 

As an adult, I sort of rolled my eyes thinking about two seventeen year olds falling in love with each other immediately, but as the novel went on I got more into it and tried to think about how a teen reader would feel, and I think at that age I'd have loved the ideas of fate and the philosophy they talk about. I decided to give it a full star rating because while it isn't perfect, I think it is a fantastic example of YA as a genre. Read it now!

What age range is it for? 14+, it's quite tame and a discerning fourteen year old could definitely enjoy this

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, both Natasha and Daniel. I liked very much the parts where they discussed how their parents wouldn't like them dating each other, and other parts about race. 
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? Not much
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? Not really
Are there swear words? A few, not many
Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely. It's a fantastic and diverse book
How many stars? Ten. Like I say, not perfect because no book is, but I loved it 

Cowgirl by G R Gemin - Review

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Where did I get it? I borrowed it from Lucinda, if you remember she lent me a load of books last year before she jetted off to Canada. I haven't read one in a couple of months but I picked this up recently :) 

What's it about? Gemma Matthews lives on the Bryn Mawr estate with her mum and brother. Her dad is in prison. She starts talking to Cowgirl, aka Kate, who lives on a farm and whose dad is trying to get rid of their twelve dairy cows so that he can repay a debt. Gemma and Kate work together to move the cows down on to the estate.

I didn't know what to expect from this book when I started it. Gemma is thirteen and entirely likeable. I also really really love the working class setting of the estate. We don't see enough working class protagonists in literature for children and young people. 

I also really liked Gemma's relationships with the people who matter to her - even though they're not always perfect, they are always real. 

What age range is it for? 11+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? They're not main characters but the Banerjees are quite important to the story, and I liked them.
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? Not really
Are there swear words? No
Would I recommend the book? Yes, it's a very sweet middle grade book.
How many stars? Eight out of ten
Where is the book going now? Back to Lucinda when she's back in the country!

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill - Review

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it this time last year. I'm not sure why, but it must have appealed to me!

What's it about? It's a dystopian novel that is supposed to be a cross between Mean Girls and The Handmaid's Tale, both of which are things I love so I  was looking forward to reading this. It is really difficult to talk about and review, though, so bear with me. 

In this world, eves are created girls, created for the men of the future. Ten boys were born in one year, so thirty eves were created for them. Ten will become their companions - basically their wives, the people who will raise their sons. (It's never explained if the women could conceive daughters, but my thinking is that those daughters would be aborted and only sons be allowed to be born). Several more of the girls will become concubines - women that the men will visit for sex. Some of the rest will become chastities, who will teach the next generations of eves within their school. 

So, into this, comes freida, our heroine. All the girls' names are given in lower case, which goes a long way towards showing how lower they are as humans. She's about to start her last year of school, aged sixteen, at the end of which she'll get the designation for the rest of her life. Her best friend, isabel, has been ranked #1 of their class for ages. Every day they have to upload photos of themselves and are never allowed to let their beauty drop. freida has always ranked highly, but isabel is pulling away from her and megan, isabel's rival, manages to get to #1. 

Eventually, the eves meet the boys who will be selecting them and that's when everything truly goes bad. 

I don't want to say too much more about the plot, but I do think that all the elements of a great dystopia are here. The reader recognises so much about what the girls do on a daily basis - they upload videos, they rate each other in a hot-or-not kind of way, they scrutinise each other's appearances and food choices. The author takes this and turns it up to the nth degree. The world is scary and unknown. The novel is interesting and scary and I liked freida a lot.

However, I also found it really difficult to read. I want to TRIGGER WARN for, like, everything. I'm not someone who is particularly shy or uneasy about my body, but the stuff about weight was incredibly depressing and triggering. I don't want to read this book again, for sure. I loved the ending and I'm glad I persevered, but if you start reading it and it's too much for you, then please, take care of yourself and don't finish it. That's more important than a book, okay?

What age range is it for? 16+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No and in fact trigger warning here too 
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, which is why the different covers of this book sort of jar. There's definitely a hierarchy within the eves where white/blonde ones are more highly rated. freida is not white - it doesn't say exactly what she looks like, but she has dark skin.
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? Yes, take care of yourself here
Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, freida can't sleep and is given something called SleepSound and its effects are talked about quite a lot
Is there any talk of death? Yes, some. Trigger warning.
Are there swear words? No
Would I recommend the book? Yes, but please do make sure you're in a safe place to read it. 
How many stars? Six out of ten. It isn't badly written and I did deeply care about freida, but I found the whole thing very shocking and hard to read. 
Where is the book going now? I'll keep it - I took it to YALC and Louise signed it for me, so I want to keep it :)

Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard - Review

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Where did I get it? Pan Macmillan via NetGalley, so thank you very much to Pan!

What's it about? Caddy and Rosie are best friends, about to go into their GCSE years at different schools in Brighton. Caddy is at a private girls' school and has just turned sixteen. She wants three things to happen in the next year: to get a boyfriend, to lose her virginity, and to have a Significant Life Event. All the bad things that she knows of have happened to people she knows and not to Caddy. For example, her sister was very unwell when Caddy was little, and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. 

Now, this premise kind of annoyed me a lot, because I'm someone who's had maybe a lot of Significant Life Events and who had a lot of them happen before I was the age that Caddy is. I found her romanticising of those types of events very annoying and didn't warm to Caddy until maybe a third of the way through the book.

A new girl, Suzanne, starts at Rosie's school and Caddy soon feels threatened by their friendship. Suzanne is funny and exciting and new, and Caddy feels dull and boring in comparison. Then she discovers more about Suzanne's traumatic past and she becomes friendly with her too. 

I felt for Caddy when she described being a middle-of-the-road student at her school, I empathised very much with this. I really liked the playlists and music mentioned in the book, it was very much my kind of music and I'll have to see if anyone has made Spotify lists of songs mentioned! I loved the friendships between all the girls; they felt very real and flawed but with beautiful and loving parts too. I believe that was part of the author's intention - in the back of the book she describes is as a love story with no romance and it's true. I liked the book a lot, even though I felt it had flaws. 

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No, I would have liked that to be honest
Are any main characters people of colour? No
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes
Is there any sex stuff? Not much - there's a little bit of discussion around consent which I thought was good. 
Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, nothing too strong but some. 
Is there any talk of death? Yes, and trigger warning for suicide too 
Are there swear words? Yes, just they're judiciously used 
Would I recommend the book? Yes. When I started I was pretty sure it would be a seven out of ten for me, because the beginning of the book really annoyed me as I said. But the latter half really lifted the whole thing for me, and even though I felt it had problems, I feel like the message - about girls supporting girls - is an important one. 
How many stars? Eight, with the caveats above.

Seed by Lisa Heathfield - Review

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it, I think it was on the Guardian YA shortlist earlier in the year? I'd seen it at YA Shot last year though, where my friend Sam bought it. 

What's it about? Pearl lives at Seed. Seed is a cult, run by Papa S, and where everyone is one big family and where everyone worships Mother Nature. Pearl doesn't know who her real mother is, because everyone just lives as one family, but she's close to Elizabeth, who is expecting another baby. She has siblings of her own age, Jack and Kate, and some younger ones, Bobby and Ruby. The elders, including Papa S, were, I think, the original founders of the cult.

At the beginning of the novel, Pearl gets her period for the first time, and is made to go into a dark hole in the ground as she becomes a woman. Later, she has to go to the Forgiveness Room for her impure thoughts, and she's also asked to become Papa S's Companion at one point too. 

Three newcomers arrive from the Outside - Linda, and her children Ellis and Sophie. Ellis and Pearl grow close and Ellis tells her the truth about some things at Seed, and begins to expose its dark heart.

Now, one thing you might not know about me is that my undergraduate degree is in Theology and Religious Studies, and that I am really fascinated with cults of all kinds. So a book like this is perfect for me. I actually wanted more background on Seed and its origins, but I understand that, from Pearl's point of view, there might not be much point in relaying that information, as she has lived her whole life in Seed and nothing about it is strange to her. I felt like putting Nature at the centre instead of God was a really good decision by Lisa as it seems a little bit less controversial. I believe Seed is going to have a sequel and I'd definitely be interested to read it. 

When I read Paper Butterflies it absolutely destroyed me. I finished it about 3am one morning and wanted to throw it out of the window! Last weekend, at YA Shot, I took Seed to get signed and said to Lisa that I hoped that Seed wouldn't break my heart the same way Paper Butterflies did. She promised me it wouldn't and, well, she lied! The ending absolutely did me in! I think there is a paucity to Lisa's writing which really adds to her work and which is in no way a criticism - it makes the reader work and makes the reader more invested in what happens to the characters. 

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? No
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, I can't say more without giving away spoilers, but there's some violence and illness
Is there any sex stuff? No
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? Yes, be aware
Are there swear words? No
Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if the premise interests you
How many stars? Eight and a half out of ten, it's really good!
Where is the book going now? I'll keep it, because Lisa very nicely signed it for me!

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo - Review

Friday, October 28, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it at YALC this year after hearing a lot about it. 

What's it about? Amanda is a trans girl, and is just moving from living with her mum to living with her dad at the beginning of the novel. She is in the south of the United States, in pretty much the bible belt. She has been out for a few years and has had surgery and taken hormones. She hasn't had much to do with her dad in that time, as he struggles to accept her. She quickly makes friends at school, from popular girls Layla, Anna and Chloe, to Bee, who confides that she is bisexual.  Amanda also starts going out with Grant, and wants to tell him about herself, but he has secrets of his own. 

Interspersed within the main narrative are chapters going back into Amanda's past, including when she was very small and living under her previous name, and including her parents dealing with her and each other and their divorce. 

Amanda is a really gorgeous character - I loved her. I was utterly rooting for her at all points. She's very likeable and humanly flawed. I really liked her. I like Grant, too, I liked his issues and his family. 

Meredith Russo is a trans woman herself and there are notes to cis readers and trans readers in the back of the book, which were both lovely. I think it's great to read a book by a trans author and I fully support more diverse authors getting published. 

What age range is it for? 15+, I think

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, of course. Amanda is trans, and straight. Bee is bisexual and I liked this side plot.
Are any main characters people of colour? It isn't mentioned, so I assume not.
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? Yes, a little, and it is beautifully done and was lovely to read.
Are drugs mentioned or used? Marijuana, but that's it. I liked it, actually, I thought Amanda and Bee sitting on the grass smoking pot was entirely real.
Is there any talk of death? Yes, and trigger warning for suicide/suicide attempts
Are there swear words? A few, and also homophobic slurs.
Would I recommend the book? Yes, god yes. Go, read it now. 
How many stars? Nine and a half out of ten - wonderfully almost perfect
Where is the book going now? I'll keep it, for sure. 

YA Shot 2016

Monday, October 24, 2016

22nd October saw the second YA Shot event in Uxbridge, London. You can read my post about last year's event here. This year was even bigger and even better! I had such a lovely day.

I drove to Uxbridge on Friday afternoon; I'd booked a room in the Premier Inn in Uxbridge which is really new, very clean, very quiet, and has a huge car park. I'd definitely recommend it if you want to go to YA Shot next year, and even if you'd like to visit London but not stay in the centre. I lounged around feeling very luxurious in my hotel room, and I had food with my friend Von, and I went to sleep all cocooned in the duvet.

Having gone to YA Shot last year, I knew I could park in the Intu shopping centre and walk across to the civic centre. It cost me £10 for up to ten hours, which seemed absolutely reasonable. Having learnt my lesson at YALC, I had brought a suitcase with plenty of room for books, which was a little bit annoying to wheel around all day, but worth it! I arrived at the venue at around 10.30 and greeted by Alexia Casale and her mum, and went into hear the opening comments.

The first panel I went to was over in the Ministry of Magic, and it was "Out of the past: the age of the Tudors and Stuarts in YA", and was chaired by Andrew Prentice along with Ally Sherrick, Jane Hardstaff, and Jonathan Weil. While I'll probably never write any historical fiction, I enjoyed the panel and liked the sound of Ally's book, so bought it.

Here's this panel:

I headed back over to Middle Earth to hear a panel I was very excited about, called "The sound of music: the role and portrayal of music and the music industry in YA". I was excited to hear Chris Russell speak as I heard he went down a storm at YALC, I also really liked hearing Eleanor Wood, and the other panellists Marianne Levy and Sophia Bennett were excellent too. I asked a question about writing about music itself and whether they found it as difficult as I do - which they said they did! I bought Eleanor's book and went up to get it signed. I also spoke to Chris and he signed my notebook, and he gave me this Songs About A Girl wristband. 

This was the music in YA panel, it was really funny and cute. 

Here's my glittery event wristband and Songs About A Girl wristband, aren't they both cute?

My next panel was "Multiplicity: innovative ways of exploring identity in YA", chaired by Hilary Freeman with Kathryn Evans and Jeannie Waudby. It was really interesting and each of the panellists was very honest about their work which I appreciate. I went to speak to them in the signing room and all three were lovely. I'm really intrigued by the premises of Kathy's and Jeannie's books and look forward to reading them, and as you'll have seen previously, I really enjoyed When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman. 

This is a photo from this panel. I love Kathy's hair and dress so much!

After this I went and sat outside to eat my lunch; it was cool but not too chilly and honestly it was nice to have a bit of a break. Then I headed back into the Ministry of Magic for "The hurt locker: love, loss, and coping" with Sarah Alexander and Jenny Downham and chaired by Claire Furniss. Their novels all sound right up my street - gritty and realistic. I asked a question about whether there's anything they wouldn't write and they all felt that no, as long as it was done sensitively and with respect. 

I bought both of Claire's book because the blurbs both sounded excellent, and the others' books too, so afterwards I went back to the signing room yet again. I felt like I spent a lot of time in that room but the queues were really short and it was done really well. 

After that I had a bit of a chill out again in a quiet few seats near the signing room. I needed it and I was glad that kind of space was available! I was waiting for Lisa Heathfield to sign my copy of Seed, which I'd started reading on the Friday night. She was incredibly lovely and I gushed about how much I'd liked Paper Butterflies, even though it absolutely destroyed me emotionally!

Then I headed down to the final panel of the day, "To have and have not: exploring poverty, privilege and class through YA", which was chaired by Polly Ho-Yen with Michael Byrne, Patrice Lawrence and Steve Tasane. This is one of the things that I'm passionate about in YA - I think issues of class and privilege are massively underexplored at the moment. I couldn't buy books by these authors because the Waterstones stall had packed away, so I ordered them online while I was sitting in the audience. I am so glad that the organisers included a panel like this in the day. 

This is a photo from that final panel. 

Afterwards, I went back to my car and set off back up north. It wasn't a bad journey, just very dark in places! I should have booked another night in the hotel really. Next year I will!

And here's what I bought. Don't they all look so inviting?! They're all signed except for Boys Don't Knit which I picked up just because it appealed to me!

I think the organisers did so well again - YA Shot has a really welcoming, DIY atmosphere with no division between authors and visitors. I spoke to lots of authors about my own work which was really grand, and I just had a wonderful time. I can't wait for next year!

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson - Review

Friday, October 21, 2016

I recently read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson as part of a bloggers book club that I'm part of. I tried to read it back in August but couldn't get into it, but once I got used to the style I found it really engaging and read it quickly. I can see how Jackson was an influence on Stephen King, because the kind of claustrophobia that King writes so well is found here as well.

The heroine of the story is Mary Katherine Blackwood, a troubled 18 year old who lives in a big house on the outskirts of a small town. She lives with her sister Constance and their uncle Julian, who is quite disabled and who needs a lot of care from Constance. The rest of the family are dead, poisoned by arsenic in the sugar bowl six years earlier. Constance was charged with their murders but was acquitted at trial and since then, she hasn't gone further than the garden.

Mary Katherine, aka Merricat, goes down in to the village twice a week to buy groceries, and while she is there must put up with the stares and hatred of the villagers, who taunt her with a song about the murders and who are resentful because the Blackwoods blocked off their land. Mary understands that her family were hated and that she is a pariah.

Back in the house, Mary feels a change coming, and has several rituals that she undertakes to try to protect herself. But then cousin Charles turns up and nothing will ever be the same again.

I don't want to write more about the story because I don't want to spoilt it. I think it's a really well-crafted story with really creepy parts. I think that teens who are into something like Stephen King, or the TV show Stranger Things, would appreciate this book. It's a great short novel. I'm giving it 9 out of 10!

YA in Dorset

Monday, October 17, 2016

Not content with going away to Ireland, I have also been to Dorset with my partner. We mainly relaxed, went to the seaside, swam in the pool, ate ice creams, things like that! One of my favourite things is to go in all the charity shops to see what they've got. I like to look at the books, jigsaws, bric-a-brac, records, whatever really!

First of all I found these Agatha Christie books in a shop in Honiton, where we went because I wanted to look at the lace they have there. They've got really nice covers and they were just £1.50 each, so I had to have them! I've only read one Agatha Christie so far in my whole life, so I'm looking forward to reading more.

The next books came from a bookshop in Chard, which sold both new and 2nd hand books, which I've rarely seen, but I liked it! On the Teen shelf, there were lots of classics which I thought was nice, and then this shelf below. I have All The Bright Places and need to read it soon!

Then there was also a shelf of pre-owned children's and teens books, all for £1 each. I picked up The Lottery, Sea Dance, and North of Beautiful just because they looked interesting and for a quid I'll take the chance! I also bought the Peter James book for my mum as a present as she's getting into the Roy Grace novels (and making me read them too).

I then bought When Mr Dog Bites for £1 in a charity shop in Axminster, because my friend Stacey recommended it to me aaaages ago, and again for a pound I'll see whether I like it!

I am extremely pleased with my holiday book haul!

Remix by Non Pratt - Review

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it, back in March. 

What's it about? Kaz and Ruby are best friends. They've just finished their GCSEs and are spending the weekend at the Remix festival along with lots of friends and Ruby's brother, Lee. Kaz has just broken up with Tom, but still loves him, and Ruby has just broken up with Stu, who cheated on her. The girls are very excited to see their favourite band, Gold'ntone, but they also meet new people, see new bands, and more.

I read Trouble by Non Pratt earlier in the year and the problem I had with it was the same here - I just didn't feel like the story was complex enough. Or that they characters were, either. I felt like the storyline in Remix was thin, and I felt like there was too much telling and not enough showing. It's a shame because I really want to like this author, but I just don't love her stuff. Of course, others may feel really differently.

I found that the setting of a music festival here was an interesting one. I write about music myself, and I understand the difficulties in translating music on to the page. I felt like Non Pratt did well in parts, like when Kaz is playing the guitar, but not in others. I really liked seeing how another author handled this, though. 

What age range is it for? Given that Kaz and Ruby are both sixteen, I would normally expect to say that this was for fifteen year olds and older. However, due to the simplicity of the novel, I would say that anyone 14+ could enjoy it, and maybe even some thirteen year olds. 
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Ruby's brother Lee has a boyfriend, I actually really liked their side plot. 
Are any main characters people of colour? Kaz is supposed to be, although it's not explicitly said. 
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not very graphic, and there's plenty of mention of using condoms, which made me happy.
Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, a couple of times. 
Is there any talk of death? No
Are there swear words? Yes, quite a few. It's quite well representative of British teens in that way!
Would I recommend the book? Not overly, but of course your opinion may differ and that's fine. 
How many stars? Four out of then
Where is the book going now? I'm not sure. I might give it away to someone. 

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