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Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley - Review

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it off Wordery along with the rest of the Carnegie shortlist. I picked it up because my friend Stacey (who was responsible for my buying all the Carnegie shortlist in the first place) was raving about it.

What's it about? It's set in 1959 in Virginia, just after the county has decided that the schools must be integrated. White parents have been fighting it, and black parents have been fighting for it, and eventually ten students are chosen to attend the white school. Sarah and her sister Ruth are two of them. Sarah is a senior, about to graduate from school to attend college. She's had feelings for girls before, but has tried to ignore them.
As soon as the black students arrive, they're subjected to horrible racist abuse and viciously violent attacks. Then Sarah comes up against Linda, whose dad is horribly racist and whose views she's absorbed. The two are put together on a joint project, and argue with one another. Linda's views start to change and eventually the two kiss. 
What age range is it for? 15+ I think. The violence and abuse aren't tempered in any kind of way and are hard to read. Just to read the n-word being slung around so much is difficult. 
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, but it's not framed in those terms. Sarah really struggles with her identity for quite a bit of the novel, She talks about the Bible condemning homosexuality so be aware of that
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, I mean that is very much the point. 
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? No, just some kissing. 
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? A little, and I will warn again for graphic violence. 
Are there swear words? No, but there are plenty of racial slurs as I said. For me, living in 2016 in Britain, it was hard to read them. I do understand that keeping the novel historically real was needed, though. 
Would I recommend the book? Yes. I didn't love it, but I did like it. Sarah is a really lovely, flawed, human heroine; I loved her. Linda is a good antagonist, too. I loved the ending - it felt really hopeful and sweet. 
How many stars? Six out of ten. 

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater - Review

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it off eBay

What's it about? This is the second in the Raven Cycle series. I read the first, The Raven Boys, last year, shortly before I started this blog, and absolutely loved it. I wanted to read the next three before I see Maggie at YALC this year, but I'm not sure that will happen now. I really felt like this book dragged. I'm sure it's setting things up for the third and fourth books, but I felt it was really lacking in plot. I didn't like Ronan just wandering around on drag strips getting high. I didn't feel there was enough of Adam, and I didn't feel that all five of the main characters did enough together. I liked their adventuring in the first novel and felt it was lacking here.
Basically, in this novel, Ronan dreams a lot of things, a Gray Man is after him and his brothers, Gansey and Adam are trying to impress some posh people, Ronan has a rivalry with some Bulgarian fella, Blue's mum is dating the Gray Man, Blue does very little, and gahhhh. It just dragged for me and it took me two weeks to read! Two weeks
I will read the next two, but I hope they're better than this. 
What age range is it for? 14+ for the series overall I think. The night horror that came after Ronan was absolutely terrifying!
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Not explicitly, but I've seen Maggie say that you can absolutely read them as queer characters and that's okay. There's a lot of joking from Kavinsky to Ronan about the nature of Ronan and Gansey's relationship, which gets annoying, but there's also a lovely bit which I think is as close to canon of a coming out as I've seen so far, in which Ronan doesn't deny "swinging the other way". 
There's tons of Raven Boys fanfiction encompassing every pairing you could think of, so if that's your jam get on Archive Of Our Own or something. Maggie seems to directly encourage fanfic!
Are any main characters people of colour? No, but again I think that's been more than covered in fan art. Personally I like to think that Blue is mixed race. 
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Adam has been physically damaged by his father's abuse (a big storyline in the first book) and clearly mentally traumatised by it too. In fact, abuse/survival is a big part of this series, in my opinion.
Is there any sex stuff? Not really
Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, cocaine is pretty prevalent and some unspecified "pills" which make Ronan and Kavinsky fall asleep very quickly. 
Is there any talk of death? Yes, it's quite graphic in parts (like when talking about Niall Lynch's death)
Are there swear words? A few, I actually love it when my Raven Boys swear, but your mileage may vary of course. 
Would I recommend the book? Yes, but only if you've read the Raven Boys and want to read on. Grit your teeth and get through it. 
How many stars? Six out of ten. 

Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky - Review

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it from Amazon, I had it on pre-order after seeing a post about it on Tumblr I think

What's it about? The narrator, whose name we never get to know, is a fan of a British boy band called The Ruperts, who are about to play a very small show in New York. The narrator and her friends, Erin, Isabel, and Apple, manage to get a room in the hotel that The Ruperts are staying in. Then Apple manages to inadvertently kidnap her favourite, Rupert P, and everything gets really terrible from then on.


What age range is it for? 15+
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? It's not mentioned. 
Are any main characters non-white? Yes, Apple is Chinese and I think Isabel is black. 
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Not really
Is there any sex stuff? A tiny bit of description.
Are drugs mentioned or used? There are mentions. 
Is there any talk of death? Yes, it is a bit graphic.
Are there swear words? Yes, quite a few. 
Would I recommend the book? Kind of? I didn't love it, but I did like the portrayal of "crazy" fangirls and how being all-consumed by a band can happen, even if the rest of the story isn't very believable. There's a ton of stuff about fan culture in the modern age, which I really liked, being somewhat of a fangirl myself. It's funny and self-referential, but it wasn't the best novel I've ever read. 
How many stars? Six out of ten.
Where is the book going now? I may donate it! I don't think I'll ever read it again. 

What Was Never Said by Emma Craigie - Review

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle, it was around £4.

What's it about? It's a novel about Female Genital Mutilation, which is what attracted me to buying the book in the first place. Zahra is Somali and at the beginning of the novel she is a little girl in Somalia, playing with her sister Rahma and their friend Yas. Then the cutter comes, and cuts both Rahma and Yas. Rahma dies from the procedure. The narrative then moves to Bristol, where Zahra's family is living, with her new little sister Samsam. One Friday evening, the cutter arrives, with her suitcase and in her black clothes. Zahra can't bear the idea of either herself or Sam being cut, so she runs away, taking Sam with her. 
What age range is it for? 14+ as it's a very sensitive subject. 
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, most everyone is Somali in the novel, and Muslim (which most Somalis are)
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I'm not sure if being cut is a disability, but it's clear that Zahra is traumatised from what happened to her sister, and that Yas still lives with the after effects of being cut, too. 
Is there any sex stuff? No
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? Yes. There's also stuff about the war in Somalia which caused the family to flee. Trigger warning for so much in this novel. It is very very sensitively done, though. 
Are there swear words? Not many 
Would I recommend the book? Yes. It's very short but I really liked Zahra and Sam and Yas. I loved how the novel ended - I felt it was the ending that it deserved. 
How many stars? Eight out of ten. 

One by Sarah Crossan - Review

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Where did I get it? Wordery.com as part of my Carnegie medal order. It's only just come out in paperback so it only arrived the week I decided to read it! 

What's it about? Grace and Tippi (named after Hitchcock's heroines Grace Kelly and Tippi Hedren) are conjoined twins, joined at the hip with two legs between them. Their Dad has lost his job so they have to go to school for the first time. Their Mum loses her job too, and their younger sister Dragon is concentrating on her ballet. 

One is written in free verse which I was unconvinced about to start with, but it actually works really well. It makes the book less of a full narrative and more of a collection of vignettes about the family's life. There's a lot that's left out, but it really works. 

I do have to say that I'm a bit over books where people with some kind of disability/difference have to go to school for the first time. I get that school is scary and that's what authors are going for, but I'd love to read a book where someone is already in school and mostly accepted by their peers. Lots of schoolkids have differences that are just part of the class make up and no one really cares. I'd rather see this but I realise that it makes a story less exciting I guess. 

I will say that I really liked that this family had an intersection of problems, like with their dad losing his job and his drinking problem. Too often it feels like the "issue" is the only problem that a family has and that's totally not true. Life doesn't work like that!

I liked Tippi a lot, and Dragon, but I absolutely adored Grace and I'm really glad the book was totally from her point of view.

What age range is it for? 13+ I think, there's nothing too adult in it.
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters non-white? No
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? While I can understand that being conjoined twins may be seen as a disability, I don't think that the twins think they're disabled. They're understand how their bodies work together. I don't want to label them as disabled when I don't think that's how the twins would see themselves. 
Trigger warning for some eating disorder stuff. 
Is there any sex stuff? No
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? Yes, but it's not graphic.
Are there swear words? Not many
Would I recommend the book? Yes, totally. At the beginning I was very unsure if I'd like the book, but I loved the twins and their friends Yasmeen and Jon. It was a very quick read and I found it a really emotional read. 
How many stars? Nine out of ten. My friend Stacey also read it in one sitting and cried! I have another book by Sarah Crossan and I think I'll pick it up sooner rather than later. 
Where is the book going now? I'll keep it, but I think I'll lend it to my friend Laura first! 

Burn Girl by Mandy Mikulencak - Review

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Where did I get it? I got it as a review copy on my Kindle through Netgalley, so thank you very much to Albert Whitman & Company

What's it about? Arlie is sixteen and living in Colorado with her mum, who's a meth addict. Right at the beginning, her mum Sarah dies of an overdose and Arlie's life is turned upside down. She's got an uncle she never knew in Texas who moves to become her guardian, even though he can only house them in a trailer. Arlie has started school thanks to encouragement from her friend Mo, and has a crush on someone from her choir, Cody. But there's danger lurking, because Arlie's stepdad Lloyd is back in the picture, and it's his fault that her face is badly scarred. 

What age range is it for? 16+, there's a lot of adult themes in it. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Not that it's mentioned. 

Are any main characters non-white? It's also not mentioned. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Arlie is, and it's a pretty big part of her identity and character. Cody is blind, too, and I actually really like the way it's handled - like it's not a big deal. 

Is there any sex stuff? Some, but age appropriate 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, there's some graphic descriptions of hardcore drug use 

Is there any talk of death? Yes and some of it is quite graphic, hence my higher than usual age recommendation

Are there swear words? A few. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes. I felt it was quite confusing, because it's slightly non-linear, and I also felt like it was too short, because things kept happening very quickly. But towards the end I got really invested in the story and the characters, which really upped my enjoyment of it. It's a good novel, but it took me a while to get into it. 

How many stars? Seven out of ten. 

A-Z of books

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Author You’ve Read the Most Books From.
Joanne Harris, or possibly Peter Robinson. I've read most of the DCI Banks books and always enjoy them. 

Best Sequel Ever?
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins - I think it's the best of the trilogy to the honest. 

Currently Reading...
Different Class by Joanne Harris. It's a sequel to her novel Gentlemen and Players which is one of my favourite novels ever. 

Drink of Choice While Reading.
Water, usually

E-reader or physical Book?
Both! I have loooots of physical books but I also like reading on my tablet and scrolling through loads of books to see what catches my eye! I rarely spend any money on Kindle books, I get lots for free!

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated as a teen.
Cath from Fangirl. The only thing that would have made that book better would have been if it was LGBTQ! I loved Cath and we could have written glorious fanfic together!

Glad you gave this book a chance...
Gosh, so many! I love reading reviews that make me take a chance on something I wouldn't normally. I like meeting authors and buying their books because they sound interesting.

Hidden gem book.
I don't feel like We Were Liars by E Lockhart got the recognition it deserved! It was fascinating and horrible and had such an unreliable narrator. 

Important moment in your reading life.
I suppose from being very small, I've always read by myself and found importance in it. I don't remember not being able to read! I loved Enid Blyton when I was little, and I loved Maeve Binchy as a teenager. I suppose reading The Handmaid's Tale for the first time was important because it made me realise that books could impact on my worldview.

Just finished...
Fire Colour One which I've just reviewed.

Kind of books you won’t read.
I'm not much into fantasy

Longest book you’ve read?
Not sure, Different Class that I'm reading at the moment is over 400 pages which for me is really long.

Major book hangover...
We Were Liars made me think about it all day.

Number of bookcases you own?
Our back bedroom is a library, and the books are mostly all mine, and there's over a thousand of them on two shelves, and two bookshelves - they're all doubled or tripled up because I have a lot of books.

One book you’ve read multiple times....
I've read my favourite novel - Five Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris - four times. I'm not a big re-reader - there's so many books to read!

Preferred place to read?
Bed!

Quote that inspires you/gives you all the feels...
A book is a goft you can open again and again

Reading regret.
Just that I didn't pick up some stuff earlier

Series you started and need to finish...
The Raven Boys books. I read the first one and I really need to move on to The Dream Thieves

Three of your all-time favorite books?
Notes From An Exhibition by Patrick Gale
The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
The Seduction of Water by Carol Goodman

Unapologetic fangirl for....
I suppose Young Adult in general as I'm 32 now. I love it; the breadth of the genre is stunning.

Very excited for this release...
One by Sarah Crossan which is on its way to me

Worst bookish habit?
Buying YET MORE books even though I have ALL THE BOOKS

marks the spot: start on the top left of your shelf and pick the 27th book
My books are downstairs and I'm not! I'll look on my Kindle app and tell you the 27th: Oh, it's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo which I've never read and thought I might like to

Your latest purchase...
Kill the Boyband arrived yesterday

Zzzzz-snatcher book (last book that kept you up way too late)....
The Dictionary of Mutual Understanding which I thoroughly thoroughly enjoyed!

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine - Review

Saturday, June 4, 2016

I recently picked up this book as one of the Carnegie Shortlist. I finished it while at a gig watching terrible support bands! Haha

Where did I get it? I bought it off Wordery.com when I bought the rest of the shortlist. 

What's it about? Iris' dad has just died, when she barely knew him. The narrative in this book isn't at all linear, so I'm sorry if my round up is a bit confusing. Iris and her mother Hannah left Ernest when Iris was only little, and settled in Hollywood with Iris' stepfather, Lowell, who was trying to get his big break in movies. Iris makes a friend called Thurston, and she also likes to set fires. Hannah decides to move the family back to England because she's up to her eyeballs in debt and she intends to take Ernest for a ride and gain ownership of several of his priceless paintings. 
I started off the book not really getting it, but things became clearer and the non-linear structure does mean that twists and turns come in really pleasing ways. The actual story doesn't take place over a long amount of time, but the novel itself is really well-paced and the ending is really really good!
I do have one criticism that the narrator seemed to really hate fat people - there were quite a few times when she comments quite horribly about someone's size. I felt that part of it was Hannah's issue and not Iris', but it isn't written in such a way to be sure. 
What age range is it for? 13+
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters non-white? Not that it's mentioned
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Ernest is pretty ill by the time they see him
Is there any sex stuff? No
Are drugs mentioned or used? A little bit about Ernest's pain medication like morphine.
Is there any talk of death? Yes, it isn't graphic.
Are there swear words? No
Would I recommend the book? Yes, it's good and I liked how it all came together at the end. I felt that Iris was quite an unreliable narrator but I think this added to the novel. I don't think it'll win the Carnegie Medal but I do think it deserved to be shortlisted.
How many stars? Seven out of ten
Where is the book going now? I'll keep it I think
 

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