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Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller - Review

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it because Amazon recommended it to me when I was looking for something else, and it ended up being one of those 3 for £10 deals, and I'm easily persuaded basically. 

What's it about? It's the heatwave of summer 1976 and Peggy is 8 years old. Her German mother, Ute, was a concert pianist who met her dad, James, when he was turning the music for her at a concert. They live in London, but James has friends who are often around, who are survivalists or retreaters. James has built a fallout shelter in the cellar, but he talks of Die Hutte, a cabin deep in the woods in Germany. 
Ute is away playing concerts when James has a huge argument with Oliver, one of his friends, and the next day he and Peggy leave the house and set out for die Hutte. It's a gruelling journey and one which nearly kills Peggy, who can't swim and is forever after traumatised by the river which borders the cabin, meaning she can't leave. Die Hutte isn't as kitted out with stuff as James thought, and for the first winter they really struggle. After that, James tells her that the rest of the world is dead and they are the only two survivors. 
James builds Peggy a piano keyboard on the table in the hut and she learns to play one of her mother's favourite pieces of music (without ever sounding a note), and this really is indicative of his insanity. 
Meanwhile, we know that Peggy has got home because it's November of 1985 and she's back in London with her mother and Oskar, a brother born after she was taken. She is struggling to deal with  The two narratives come together towards the end of the novel. 
This is a book for adults, but given that Peggy is a teenager I think that it would be suitable for an older teenager around her age. There are parts of it that are hard to read, so take care of yourself. 
What age range is it for? 16+.
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? No
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I guess there's some mental health issues going on, yes. .
Is there any sex stuff? I'll trigger warn for abuse
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? Yes, I'll trigger warn for violent death
Are there swear words? Not many, but some
Would I recommend the book? Yes. It's dystopian and horrible, but Peggy is a likeable narrator and I was rooting for her the whole way through.
How many stars? Nine and a half out of ten. I'm definitely glad I read it!

My tips for YALC

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Last year I went to the Sunday of the Young Adult Lit Con and my review was one of the first posts on this blog! I had planned to go all weekend this year, but I wouldn't be able to handle it, so I'm going on the Sunday again with two of my bestest friends, Stacey and Sam. Last year I went by myself, so I'm looking forward to going with friends this year.

I've got some tips for the day, especially for people who may suffer from anxiety or chronic illness. I'll share this post on Twitter too.

- Prepare yourself. Get a good night's sleep, eat breakfast and have a drink before you get there

- The entry queue is different to the one for LFCC, it is round the left hand side of the building on Hammersmith Road. Don't join the main queue!

- There are lifts inside which will take you up to the floor where YALC is if stairs are difficult for you. Conserve your energy!

- Take a minute to orient yourself in the space, for what's going on where and where the loos are and stuff like that. Last year the main space was cordoned off and had plenty of exits/people coming in and out, and all the other spaces were dotted around the edges.

- Take a look at the schedule and decide which panels/workshops/etc interest you. Keep a rough idea of the times in your head (or write them down!) and check out what will happen in what space. It will lessen anxiety, and you will move better through the spaces. No one will mind if you slip out of one place early to get to another in your own time if that's something you need.

- You can take books that you already own for authors to sign, or you can buy them there. Authors won't mind signing ones you already own, I swear! Some queues have given out Post-It notes for you to write your name on, others won't. But, if you have an unusual name or an unusual spelling, do be ready to spell it out for the author. You want your inscription to be right!

- There will be cosplayers around and they will look amazing - last year I saw 4 young Muslim girls, all wearing hijab, dressed as each Harry Potter house. Many cosplayers will agree if you ask to take their photo, but please don't take their photo without their permission. It's creepy and unfair.

- You WILL need a bag or bags if you take books or are planning to buy books. Last year I had two tote bags but they were far too heavy for me by the end of the day, so this year I'm packing everything into a wheeled suitcase.

- I will however take an across the body bag where I can keep things that I'll need quickly, like my phone, a bottle of water (an absolute necessity), some cash, my book/tablet, maybe a notebook too.

- Some bookstalls accepted cash and others didn't. As I recall, the food place didn't take card, so cash was needed. I would recommend taking some at least.

- Last year I bought lunch from the cafe in the same space as YALC, but it was crowded, the queue was huge, and the food wasn't that good. This year I'm planning to leave the Olympia and find food close by. You can also take your own food in, don't feel like you can't.

- Take some water or another drink because you will need to keep hydrated.

- If everything is getting overwhelming, or you're tired, do take quarter of an hour to sit in the reading area and just chill out. There were some chairs, and cushions to sit on the floor. Do take a book and just breathe. You can stay there all day if you like.

- I believe that your YALC ticket lets you into part of LFCC, which is downstairs in another part of the building. If that's your thing, do go and have a look. I think I saw people last year had bought Harry Potter merch down there.

- As the con was coming to a close on Sunday afternoon, some publishers started doing deals on their books like 3 for £10 or even 2 for £5. If you're around at this point I'd recommend searching out some deals!

- Do talk to people. Everyone will be the nicest people you'll ever meet and you're all there for the love of YA literature. Come and talk to me! I look like this and I'll be wearing a patterned dress most probably. I have visible tattoos on my arms. I think there's a plan for people to tweet/instagram photos of themselves on each day of the con with the hashtag #YALCselfie so that other people know what they're wearing - I'll try to do this too.

- I bought some business cards for this year to give to people. They have my Twitter handle on them and the address of this blog. I plan on foisting them on everyone!

- Finally, try to thoroughly enjoy yourself. Listen to authors, go to a workshop, make some new friends. Buy some books, learn some new books, meet someone whose book you've loved.

- Go home and rest and maybe stroke your new books a bit... Or is that just me?

See you Sunday!

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield - Review

Friday, July 15, 2016

Where did I get it? I bought it in Kindle format for £2.99, bargain! I bought Lisa's other novel, Seed, as part of the medal shortlist, but I haven't yet read it. My friend bought it at YA Shot last year though and she enjoyed it. I am now really looking forward to reading Seed. 

What's it about? June's mum died when she was six, and her dad quickly remarried to Kathleen, who has a daughter called Megan. When we first meet June, she's ten and being horrifically abused by Kathleen. Her dad doesn't see the abuse, and to everyone else she's a loving and doting stepmother. June is also bullied at school, and sometimes Megan joins in with the abuse. June is a very frightened and alone child. 
When she's a bit older, she meets Blister. He's homeschooled, from a big family, and he's made a den of a few old trailers out in the woods. The two spend plenty of time there, making paper butterflies, and plenty of time with Blister's family, where June feels safe and accepted. 
Scattered throughout the novel are scenes from "after" when June is talking to a Reverend about forgiveness and about the abuse. It becomes more clear about these as the novel goes on. 
I finished this novel last night and was absolutely shattered by it - I can definitely see it being a strong favourite for bext book released in 2016 for a lot of shortlists. I tweeted saying that it had absolutely broken me, and Lisa replied to me saying "Sorry... it broke me when I wrote it..." which is completely unsurprising. As a writer myself I know how awful it can be when terrible things happen to your beloved characters! 
What age range is it for? Gosh, it's a difficult one. June is so young at the beginning but the abuse detailed is really horrible to read. I would say take care with it, and yourself, and stop if it's too much
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, June is mixed race - her dad is white and her mum was black. It contributes to the "otherness" she feels throughout, I think
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, June is clearly traumatised, and one of Blister's siblings has cystic fibrosis which I thought was a good minor plot point.
Is there any sex stuff? Not much, but a little. It's very sweetly done. 
Are drugs mentioned or used? No
Is there any talk of death? Yes, I'll trigger warn for suicide and graphic death. 
Are there swear words? Not many
Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. A fantastic example of contemporary YA.  
How many stars? Nine out of ten. 

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan - Review

Monday, July 11, 2016

I sometimes review adult literature on this blog, especially if I think it would be suitable for older teens. Here's something I read recently: Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan.

Where did I get it? I got it on NetGalley so thank you to Penguin UK. I read the description and it appealed to me, so I requested it.

What's it about? Margot is the agony aunt on a Cambridgeshire newspaper. She's a teacher in a school where a girl called Katie Browne has just gone missing, and she's about to get divorced from Eddy, who's been sleeping with his boss Arabella. She gets a letter at her column (the eponymous Dear Amy) which is supposedly from schoolgirl Bethan Avery, who went missing twenty years beforehand and who was presumed murdered. 
Margot receives another letter and goes to the police, but things start to happen around her house and she is paranoid that someone is watching her. I saw that this novel had a twist, and was a bit like Gone Girl, and I guessed the twist pretty early on. I thought that the first half, before the twist is revealed, was really good - gripping, tense, genuinely scary in parts - but that this petered off once the twist came out. I didn't like the
second half as much and time seemed to jump around quite a lot which annoyed me.
That said, it was nice to read a novel set in Cambridge, I felt like the setting added to the story quite a lot. Margot is a very sympathetic character but most of everyone else around her are awful. 
What age range is it for? 17+, it's quite horrifically graphic in parts
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? No
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Kind of. I don't want to give too much away
Is there any sex stuff? No
Are drugs mentioned or used? There's a bit about prescription drugs, and I'll trigger warn for psychiatric hospital too 
Is there any talk of death? Yes quite a bit
Are there swear words? Not many
Would I recommend the book? Yes, if you liked Gone Girl and other stuff like it. I'm not sorry I read it, I just felt like the 2nd half didn't deliver as it could have. 
How many stars? Seven out of ten. 

Goodreads Challenge

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Now that we're over halfway through the year I thought I'd look at the books I've read so far this year. I had had a bit of a reading slump in 2014 partly because I was still doing my MA and had to read some books that I really didn't get on with. Last year I decided I wanted to read 52 books, thinking that one a week wasn't an impossible goal. I read 68 and so decided that a goal of 70 this year wasn't outside the realm of expectation.

At the end of June, halfway through the year, I had read 39 out of 70 books so I'm well on the way to meeting and maybe even slightly exceeding my goal. I'm very pleased!

So what have been the best books I've read so far this year? Let's see...

Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom. 
This is a fantastic YA novel and definitely a shinin example of the genre. 
My review is here.

The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley.
This was a book I read for a bloggers book club, it wasn't my kind of thing and although I found it a bit preposterous in parts, I felt like it was a jolly good story and I liked it a lot

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill.
I loved this, I'd always avoided it which was stupid as I adored it!
My review is here.

A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton.
I'm glad I took a chance on this and spent all of 99p on it! 
My review is here, I loved it!

Fire Colour One by Jenny Valentine
I don't think I'd have ever picked this up by myself but I'm really glad I read it as part of the Carnegie Shortlist. I liked the main character and the strange narrative.
My review is here.

Well, I think those are my top five out of thirty-nine! What have you read that's been good so far this year?

Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell - Review

Monday, July 4, 2016

Where did I get it? I got it on NetGalley so thank you to Hodder's Children's Books. I saw some chatter about it on Twitter and requested it. 

What's it about? Charlie Bloom is an amateur photographer in the last year of school. Fire&Lights are the biggest boy band in the country right now, and one of them, Olly, used to go to Charlie's school. He gets in touch with her and asks her to take some photos of the band backstage. She does, sneaking out from home. She lives with her dad solely since her mum died when Charlie was small. 
She meets the boys and gets on well with them, especially Olly, and the mysterious Gabe. She's invited to more concerts and even a video shoot. She gets close to Gabe, but his new lyrics are really familiar to Charlie - from a notebook her mum left behind. 
News about Charlie hanging out with Fire&Lights gets spread online and she is targeted with horrible abuse. But she keeps going back to take more photos, 
I liked the novel well enough, but it didn't set my world alight. Charlie's friend Melissa was so annoying, and I felt the bullying Charlie was subjected to at school just wasn't portrayed right. Charlie sometimes seemed like a 12 year old and sometimes like much older than sixteen; I think there was just something slightly off about her characterisation. The boys in the band were cute - Aiden and Yuki especially. I felt like some of the backstage details or the tour bus details were improbable, but I appreciate that some audiences wouldn't have picked up on that at all. I felt like some of the stuff that happened between Charlie and Gabe would have happened between much older teenagers. It's a decent novel, but not the best thing I've ever read. 
What age range is it for? 13+ I think, it's quite tame. 
Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No
Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Yuki is Japanese and I liked that.
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? No, just some kissing.
Are drugs mentioned or used? Very briefly - there's a mention of someone being "wired" but no further detail
Is there any talk of death? Yes a little bit about Charlie's mum and I need to give a trigger warning for suicide, although it's not explicit. 
Are there swear words? Not many
Would I recommend the book? Yes, if you like books about music. 
How many stars? Six out of ten. 

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