Rebecca McCormick. Powered by Blogger.

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Monday, April 24, 2017

I picked up this book in a charity shop in a few months ago, intrigued by the premise. When I started reading it, I decided I was going to review it here because it is mostly about teenagers, so I thought it fitted. I then learnt that it's now a GCSE set text, so if the government thinks it's suitable for teenagers I do too!

Where did I get it? A charity shop a few months ago. It was only a couple of quid and had been read. I liked second hand books, though - I like to imagine who read them before me!

What's it about? Kathy is 31 and a carer for people like her, donors. Raised in an exclusive boarding school in the English countryside, Kathy and her fellow students always knew they were born to have their organs harvested and then "complete" ie die. Their teachers, also known as guardians, sometimes let the truth slip, and lots of rumours abound about what the future holds for these children.

The story is set with Kathy reminiscing about the past which does remove the reader from the action a little but the stuff which is set in the school is really suffocating and cloistered. The end felt a little bit rushed to me, and I didn't get all the resolution that I would have liked. But I did like it, and I liked asking myself a hundred questions about what I thought was going on. I think teens will engage with it and have lots of questions too

What age range is it for? Sixteen plus

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Not that it's mentioned

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Kind of? The whole thing is a little bit about disability

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it isn't graphic but it is quite blunt

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes, although it's not very open

Are there swear words? No

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely! It's really interesting and intriguing

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'd kept it next to the bed with about 15 other books and kept thinking I really liked the premise so needed to pick it up

What other books is it like? A bit like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and a lot like Unwind by Neal Shusterman

How many stars? Eight out of ten 

Where is the book going now? I might see if my mother in law wants to read it!

Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood - Review

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

I read Eleanor's first book, My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend, over Christmas, so as soon as I read that she had a new book I immediately ordered it. The cover is so beautiful that I'm swooning over it! Isn't it enticing?

Where did I get it?, which as a reminder, has prices very similar to Amazon, free shipping, fast service, and most importantly they pay their taxes (unlike Amazon).

What's it about? Lizzie Brown has just left school and is starting college. Her friends Daisy and Jake are staying at school, so she won't know anyone at college, but she had a bit of a bad time during her GCSEs so is looking forward to a clean start. She decides she reinvent herself and buys a vintage dress from a cool shop in Brighton. She starts college and on the first day meets Viv, who is so cool that Lizzie can barely stand up. Together, they skive off college and meet Viv's boyfriend Rex. Viv wants Lizzie to join her band as the bass player, and reinvents Lizzie as Betty Brown, ready for a local Battle of the Bands.

This novel is just lovely! I thoroughly lost myself in the story and was on Lizzie's side the whole time. She is a bit clueless but basically a gentle soul. There's also a cameo from Tuesday Cooper, protagonist in My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend, which was just lovely. I did think there were some things I'd have written differently, but that for me is part of the enjoyment of a good novel. Viv is the type of girl we've all known over the years. I liked to dislike her!

I also really like Eleanor's use of older music to signify moments for these kids. That's probably partly because I love music and also write about music and bands in my own work. I can't wait for Eleanor's next work - she's an auto buy for me now.

What age range is it for? 15+, nothing too salacious

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, but no spoilers

Are any main characters people of colour? No

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Lizzie has mental health problems which are really well portrayed. I loved the description of her panic attacks and they felt really true to life.

Is there any sex stuff? No not at all. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Not much, if any

Are there swear words? No hardly any

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. I loved it. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Partly because I wanted to get ahead of the curve and read it on its launch! I never manage it but I did now!

What other books is it like? It's a lot like Eleanor's other book, and also Songs About A Girl by Chris Russell

How many stars? Nine out of ten. Practically perfect in every way.

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it, I hope to see Eleanor at another event in the future and get it signed!

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood - Review

Friday, April 14, 2017

I recently read Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood which is a retelling of Shakespeare's The Tempest. I read it because it was one of my in-person book club choices. Ceri chose it, and she's a teacher who often teaches The Tempest so she was keen to read it. I almost never read Margaret Atwood because I always feel like she's just too high brow for me, even though I really like The Handmaid's Tale. But I was happy to pick this up.

I'm not too familiar with The Tempest. I thought I'd done it at school but on reflection that was Twelfth Night! So in The Tempest, Prospero gets ousted by his brother and ends up on an island with his small daughter Miranda for twelve years. On the island is Caliban, a half-human "monster", son of a witch. There's Ariel, the magical fairy, who makes things happen for Prospero, and obviously other things also happen with other characters.

In Hag-Seed, Felix is the Director of a prestigious theatre who is about to direct The Tempest, who gets ousted by his underling Tony. Humiliated, he disappears for twelve years, living in a hovel with only the ghost of his own daughter, Miranda, for company. He gets a job teaching prisoners in a local prison, with whom he always puts on Shakespeare. He has some unorthodox teaching methods which have gained the respect of the prisoners and which were really interesting to read. For instance, they're not allowed to swear, but must choose ten of the insults from the play they're doing. Hence the name of the novel, which is taken from an insult thrown at Caliban.

After a few years of teaching Felix is told that Tony and Sal, the other person involved in his downfall and who have made their way up the political ladder, are coming to visit the prison. Felix decides he will stage his Tempest finally, and will get his revenge.

Apparently there are loads of hidden things in the text for people familiar with the origial, which clearly went way over my head as I'm not. It took me a while to get into, but once I did, I really liked the book. Felix is quite an unreliable narrator and is quite unlikeable at times, making him an interesting lead character. I liked Anne-Marie, the person playing Miranda, and several of the prisoners. I'd have liked to know more about them, really.

Generally my book club liked it and we talked about Shakespeare and modern retellings too. Apparently the film Yentl is supposed to be Tweflth Night retold, so I think I'll have to watch that soon. Also, did you know Shakespeare made up the name Miranda for The Tempest?

In all, it's a good novel, although a little thin on actual plot I think. Still, seven out of ten!

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon - Review

Monday, April 10, 2017

I read this for my online book club, although I got it off NetGalley so thank you to Blue Door/Harper Collins for granting that to me.

The premise of the book intrigued me. It's set in the summer of 1976 during the famous heatwave, and concerns The Avenue, an ordinary street in a nameless East Midlands town. Part of the novel is told from Grace's point of view. Grace is ten, and hangs out with her friend Tilly (who she seems to treat quite badly on occasion). The two go to church on one occasion and are taught about the Parable of the Goats and the Sheep, and so set off on a mission to find God in their street, by going door to door. Meanwhile, their neighbour Margaret Creasy has gone missing and everyone is suspicious of both her husband and the man at number eleven.

The point of view switches on occasion to the points of view of the adults on the street. Dorothy has got dementia and can't remember what she told Margaret. Sheila can remember all too well the events of a November night nine years ago, when number eleven was on fire and old Mrs Bishop was killed.

I found it really confusing to decide who was who, because Grace kept calling them Mr or Mrs So-and-so but the adults all called each other by their first names. I thought the twists were really good and the novel was well paced, but I found it a bit dull to read. I also feel like I've read a couple too many novels set in the heatwave in 1976 - I get it! It was hot! It sent people a bit strange!

Overall, I give it six out of ten.

The Iron Man by Ted Hughes - Review

Thursday, April 6, 2017

I read this book when I was little, over and over again. It was one of my favourites. I wanted to reread it as an adult and see if it was the same as I remembered. I bought it online recently and picked it up almost straight away.

The Iron Man in question appears in the English countryside one night and eats all the metal things close by, so the villagers get their heads together and bury him in a pit! Then a huge scaly terrible dragon flies off a star and lands on Australia, and the Iron Man has to fight him. Each chapter is a story in itself which is proof of how it started life as a bedtime story for Hughes' children.

I enjoyed the reread - this is a classic for a reason. It's a very cute children's book and I'd recommend it if your little ones haven't ever read it.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Sunday, April 2, 2017

I've heard of this short story as a classic a few times, so I decided to buy the paperback recently. There's seven stories in here, I think, all set in the late 1800s when the book was published. The titular one is the most famous and it concerns a woman who is suffering from nervous exhaustion and who is convalescing in a rented house. She is certain she can see a woman trapped in the wallpaper and starts to go a little bit crazy as time goes on.

I liked the main story but I liked a couple of the others better. They were all about well off people and set against slavery in the deep south, with well-drawn characters and intriguing plots/ I really liked all the stories so give this collection five stars out of five.

Birdy Flynn by Helen Donohoe - Review

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Where did I get it? I won it in a giveaway on Luna's Little Library blog, so thanks Luna! It is a proof copy, I think

What's it about? Set in the mid 80s, Birdy Flynn is twelve years old and lives in an unnamed British town with her family. Mum is Irish, Dad is Liverpudlian but from an Irish family. Birdy's elder brother Noely is living away from the family. Her sister Eileen is around. 

Birdy hangs out with the lads at the beginning of the novel and throughout the book her gender is questioned. She doesn't feel like a girl and is dreading puberty. However, I will use the pronoun 'her' for her because I don't think she is out as trans in her own mind, not even by the end. There is a lot of questioning and I like the way it was handled. 

Birdy keeps secrets. At the beginning of the book her dead Nan's cat Murphy is killed, and later on a teacher abuses Birdy at school. Birdy falls out with her friends and is pretty miserable for most of the book. Her parents don't get on well, with a backdrop of IRA bombings which lead to discrimination and bigoted comments about the Irish. 

I thought that using the Irish and the feelings around the IRA were a good metaphor for the way that Muslims are treated these days. I liked the vast majority of the novel but felt that the end was a bit lacking. I thought Birdy was an excellent character and I really liked Kat, Mum, and Eileen too. A pretty good middle grade book about families and secrets and gender and growing up. 

What age range is it for? 12 plus I think

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? I'm going to go ahead and say yes, even though as I said before I don't think Birdy knows exactly how she identifies.

Are any main characters people of colour? No, but again, there are parallels to be drawn 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, trigger warning for abuse

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes, be careful

Are there swear words? Very few, when there are it's really effectively done

Would I recommend the book? Yes, for tweens.

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I've wanted to read it since I won it, and it's been on the pile of books next to the bed ever since then, so I finally picked it up

What other books is it like? Gosh I don't know. I'm not sure I know anything similar for the same age range

How many stars? I'm going to give it six out of ten. It didn't wow me and like I said I didn't enjoy the ending

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it most probably. 

The Woman in Blue by Elly Griffiths - Review

Friday, March 24, 2017

This was my 17th book of the year but it took me a week to read because I just couldn't get into it. I was really busy - I had a writing deadline and then I went to Swansea to visit friends for the weekend, but even so. It seemed to take me so long.

This is the 8th book in this series by Elly Giffiths, featuring archaeologist Dr Ruth Galloway and detective Harry Nelson. I really like the books, they're both really likeable main characters and the supporting characters are really good too. I like the stories as they're a mix of crime drama and religious symbols and theories. My first degree was in Theology and Religious Studies and it's something I really enjoy. I've read all the previous books so I was looking forward to this one.

However, I didn't feel like it lived up to previous ones. There wasn't as much crime or tension there, and the religious elements were really sidelined and unimportant. The will-they-won't-they sexual tension between Ruth and Nelson is getting to be frustrating, too. I gave it three out of five which is low for one of these books. I'm hoping that the next one, The Chalk Pit, is a return to form.

Books I bought in Derbyshire

Monday, March 20, 2017

Last weekend I was away in Derbyshire with some friends. We went to Bakewell one day and Ashbourne another day, and wandered round into the gift shops, book shops, and charity shops. I bought four books so thought I'd do a quick post of them.

My friend Steph took this photo. I've been in this book shop before and loved it. They have a good YA section!

I've seen this kind of mystery book, wrapped in brown paper, before, but have never bought one. This book shop, shown below, had a basket of ten wrapped books in it. We all looked through them and three of us bought one. This was the one that appealed to me the most.

And this was the book inside the wrapping. It looks really interesting! It's set on the east coast which is home to some of my favourite places ever, including Whitby and Scarborough. 

These are all the books I bought. I bought Naked in the same book shop as above. I like Kevin Brooks and I love books about music, so this is perfect for me. 

I bought Star of the Sea and The Drowning Lesson in a charity shop in Ashbourne, I think it was a British Heart Foundation one. I've read Star of the Sea before, but it was about twelve years ago. I'm looking forward to rereading it! I liked Daughter by Jane Shemilt, so I thought I'd give this one a go too. These were just £2 each!

We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan - Review

Friday, March 17, 2017

Where did I get it? Netgalley, thank you so much to Bloomsbury Publishing!

What's it about? It's told in free verse, like Sarah Crossan's other book, One. I love this, because it leaves so much out and, like all poetry, leaves space clear for the reader to read between the lines and put parts of themselves in the gaps. 

Chapters are told from alternating points of view. Jess is a white teenager living in North London who lives with her mum and her mum's violent partner Terry. Terry makes her video the times when he beats up her mum. Jess gets caught shoplifting for the third time, and sentenced to carry out community service on Saturdays. 

Meanwhile, Nicu is a Romanian gypsy immigrant who is struggling to find his place in England. His parents have left behind most of his siblings and have come to England to make some money so that they can go back to Romania and find him a wife. He is on the same community service as Jess and then ends up at the same school, too. The two become friends, in a very lovely and cautious way. 

They're both quite damaged, bruised people, and I finished the book loving them both. I liked Nicu's broken English and Jess' armour against the world. I wanted this book to be so much longer but it was perfect just the way it was. 

What age range is it for? Fourteen and onwards, probably. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No

Are any main characters people of colour? I'm going to say yes, because Nicu is racially abused and because he says that his skin is darkish. I don't know whether Roma gypsies are counted as people of colour, but they're definitely a minority ethnic group and that's definitely reflected in the book.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? No

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

Is there any talk of death? Yes a little, and trigger warning for violence, obviously. 

Are there swear words? Yes and also quite a few slurs. (I want to point out that to call some travellers "gypsy" is a slur, and that only Roma gypsies like Nicu should be referred to as such. Otherwise, they're travellers and sometimes Irish travellers)

Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. I loved it. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I knew I had to get to it soon because I loved One so much.

What other books is it like? It's a lot like One, for sure. 

How many stars? Nine out of ten. It's practically perfect. It's really beautiful. 

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly - Review

Monday, March 13, 2017

This was an adult novel that I came across while browsing NetGalley. The blurb appealed to me so I requested it and then started it when I was browsing my Kindle app. I did like it, but don't think it's appropriate for teens. So if that's you, this book probably isn't for you.

The book stars Laura and Kit, and flips between two time periods and places. Firstly, Laura and Kit are a young couple in 1999, in Cornwall, at the time of the total eclipse there. They've gone with Mac, Kit's twin, and Ling, Laura's best friend, who are also a couple. Things are sort of strained, but Laura and Kit sneak off together to watch the eclipse. When it's finished, Laura walks between some equipment at the festival and comes across two people having sex. She's pretty sure that the woman is being raped, and immediately says so. The woman is Beth, and the rapist is called Jamie. He says the sex is consensual, she says it isn't. Laura gets Beth to the police and eventually the case comes to court and Laura and Kit have to give evidence.

Meanwhile, in 2015, Laura is pregnant with twins and Kit, who is passionate about eclipses, is about to leave to go to the Faroe Islands to see another one. Laura is incredibly anxious about this, and as the story unwinds we learn that she befriended Beth after the court case and things started to unravel. Since then, Laura and Kit have been in fear for their lives and have changed their names and so on.

The narrative switches points of view between the two times and between Laura and Kit. I found that the two were quite similar in voice, which was a bit annoying, and they're both quite unreliable narrators and utterly dislikeable in parts. Still, I liked the book and the story gripped me quite a lot. There is a lot of violence, bad language, and of course the central rape, so take care of yourself if you do read it.

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman - Review

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Where did I get it? My friend Stacey lent it to me. She bought it at YALC last summer and got Tanya to sign it for her :) Stacey really enjoyed it and said I would too, so even though it isn't my usual kind of thing, I decided to give it a go. 

What's it about? The book is set in 1752, in the West Country. Caleb and his Pa are wandering travellers, who perform a Punch & Judy show for crowds in the towns. One day, while performing, Caleb's Pa is involved in a theft, and made to look guilty. He's jailed and sentenced to death. But the Bishop, who is somewhat of a friend, speaks for clemency on his behalf and instead Pa is sentenced to transportation to the Americas. Before he leaves, he tells Caleb that he has a sister, Anne, who lives in a village on the coast, and tells Caleb that he must travel to her and ask for her help.

Caleb finds his aunt and settles into life in the village. One day, a body is washed up on shore. Caleb recognises the signet ring on the body as that which belonged to his father, and sets out to try to find the truth about what happened to his dad.

There are a lot of modern themes in the novel - about loyalty, family, power, corruption, all kinds of things. I really liked the setting and could imagine the village quite well. Caleb is a really likeable character and so are many of the others in the book. I like boats so the shipping element was really good fun. I liked the book a lot more than I thought I would!

What age range is it for? I'd say aged 13+, although there is some chat about whores/prostitutes, so bear that in mind. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Caleb is mixed race. It's part of the plot and I liked how he was treated as different. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Very little.

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes, some, in a few different guises. There's some violence too

Are there swear words? No

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. I'm not into historical fiction because I prefer contemporary, but the characters here are really well written

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Mostly because I want to give it back to Stacey!

What other books is it like? I'm not sure, this isn't my forte to be honest. 

How many stars? Four out of five - a really good read!

Where is the book going now? Back to Stacey next time I see her, if I don't post it first!

Solitaire, This Winter, and Nick & Charlie, by Alice Oseman - Reviews

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Recently, I picked up Solitaire by Alice Oseman because as part of a reading challenge I needed to read a book by an author younger than me and I know that Alice is a lot younger than me, I think she's 22 this year. I started reading it and mentioned it to my YA loving friend when I saw her at Sheffield Zine Fest last weekend. She didn't like the book very much, so I was wondering how I'd find it because we usually have similar tastes in books. She did mention though that there was a novella about the same characters. 

When I finished Solitaire - which I liked a lot! - I went looking for the novella and found that there are in fact two! One is set a couple of weeks before the events of Solitaire, and one is set a couple of months afterwards. I bought both and read them in the same day, I really enjoyed them too. I thought I'd review all three books at the same time. 

Where did I get it? I bought it at YA Shot in 2015, when Alice was on a panel there. It's signed to me!

What's it about? In Solitaire, Tori Spring is in her first year of 6th form and she is just really sad and depressed. She doesn't have any hobbies except for spending hours on the internet, and she doesn't have many friends. Her friend Becky is getting obsessed with a new boy, which doesn't help. One day, Tori follows a series of post it notes through school and ends up meeting a new student at school, Michael Holden. He then introduces her to Lucas, who she used to know.

Meanwhile, a guerilla group called Solitaire is wreaking havoc on the school, and through its choices, it seems like they are targetting Tori in particular. Plus, at home things aren't great either - Tori's brother Charlie has been in hospital due to his anorexia, and the family is still reeling from that.

This Winter is set just a couple of weeks before Solitaire, and is set at Christmas, just after Charlie has returned from hospital. Part of it is from Tori's point of view and part of it is from Charlie's. I really liked Charlie as a character and would have liked to read more from his

Nick & Charlie is set a couple of months after Solitaire, but doesn't have much to do with the events of that book. It's about Nick (Charlie's boyfriend, present in all three books) leaving school and preparing to go to university and the impact that has on their relationship. It's very sweet and lovely, I really enjoyed it. 

Now, I appreciate that Alice was very young when writing Solitaire, and it does show in parts. The writing is clunky in some bits and overstated in others. But writing is a craft and you only get better with practice. There are some gorgeous turns of phrase, and I really liked how Alice got across the sadness and ennui that Tori feels. I really enjoyed all three books and I'm glad to have read them. I've got Alice's other novel, Radio Silence, sitting around somewhere, and I would definitely pick it up soon

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Charlie

Are any main characters people of colour? No

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Charlie, and if you want my armchair opinion Tori could benefit from some counselling and medication too.

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, in Nick & Charlie, it's very, very mild. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? I think there might be like one mention of weed, and there's some alcohol use

Is there any talk of death? Not much

Are there swear words? Yes, infrequent though. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if you are that age and in sixth form.

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? As above, I wanted to read a young author for my challenge.

What other books is it like? Gosh, I don't know. It's fairly typical of contemporary UK novels. I think if you like it, you might also like Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen. It's also about a teenage girl who is depressed and bored.

How many stars? Seven out of ten.

Where is the book going now? I'm going to keep it as it's signed, of course. 

Margot & Me by Juno Dawson - Review

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Ack, I'm really sorry, I don't know what's going on with formatting on this site, but I can't make it do what I want it to do! I'm not computer stupid, but everything looks fine in drafts but then when I post, all the formatting is shot. I'm really sorry!

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle, it was 99p and although I've never read anything by Juno, I own a few so I thought I'd add this to the collection. I was scrolling through my Kindle and thought I'd give it a go. 

What's it about? Fliss and her mum are moving from London to Wales to live with Fliss' grandma, Margot. Fliss' mum has had cancer and Felicity has been looking after her, but now Margot steps in. Felicity has to start at a new school which is far removed from her private school in London, and she hates how small the new town she's living in is. 

Margot isn't a typical grandma and Fliss struggles to get on with her. But then she finds Margot's diary hidden in the attic, from when Margot was evacuated from London to the very farm she now lives on. Intrigued, Fliss starts to read it. 

For some reason, the novel is set in the late 90s, which I found really bizarre. I think partly it was because it made sense for Margot's age - she's 70ish in 1998, whereas if the novel was set now, Margot would be 90 and it would be strange to move in with her at that age. I thik partly too that it was because the internet was in its infancy, which again makes sense for the story. But otherwise it was just a distraction and wasn't overly well done, I didn't feel.

What age range is it for? 14+, I think

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? They're not main characters, no spoilers though

Are any main characters people of colour? Again they're not main characters, but...

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I'm going to say that Fliss' mum is due to her cancer, yes

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it isn't explicit

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes, trigger warning here

Are there swear words? Yes, a few

Would I recommend the book? Kind of? I've heard that this is the best of Juno's novels, so if you already like her stuff, then this will probably be right up your street. For me, it didn't quite gel. I found Fliss to be a pain in the bum, and I really didn't like the 90s setting. Parts of it just didn't ring true. I really liked Margot, though. I'd have liked a whole novel just about her! She was badass!

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I've just heard a lot of buzz about it

What other books is it like? I think it's quite like A Monster Call, which I reviewed recently. 

How many stars? Three out of five.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli - Review

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

It's no secret that I loved Becky's first novel Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, so I was really looking forward to her second book, The Upside of Unrequited. I requested it on NetGalley and was pleased to be approved. thank you Penguin Random House UK Children's!

Where did I get it?  As above, thank you

What's it about? Molly lives in DC with her twin Cassie, mums Patty and Nadine, and little brother Xavier. Molly is queen of the unrequited crush - she's up to 26, but she's never been kissed. Cassie, on the other hand, hooks up all the time, but has never been in love. So when Molly meets Mina in the loos, she doesn't expect her twin to fall in love with her. Mina has two friends, one of whom, Hipster Will, seems to like Molly.

Meanwhile, Molly has started a new job at a shop that is the bricks and mortar equivalent of Pinterest, and while there she meets Reid, son of the owners. She likes him, but isn't sure he's the one for her. Meanwhile, her mums are getting married and Cassie is pulling away from Molly - can they regain their former closeness?

Now, this is almost the kind of novel that I think I could have written, so I was thinking about it in quite a lot of depth about what I loved and what I might have written differently. I hope that doesn't detract from how much I liked this novel - if anything, it's testament to how much it grabbed me. I'm going to look at a few things more closely:

Molly: I loved Molly. She's so much like myself that at some points I wanted to cry. I wanted to cuddle her! She is fat, and I really liked how this was handled - there's no numbers or sizes specified, which may be triggering, and she has typical fat girl angst about wearing cardigans and about whether she'll crush someone during sex. My favourite line of the whole book was this
"I hate hating my body. Actually, I don't even hate my body. I just worry everyone else might"
which struck such a chord with me that I had to write it down. Molly also suffers from anxiety, which is my experience too, and I loved how this was portrayed. It was part of her life, and everyone else seemed to worry about it more than she did.

The mums: Patty and Nadine are adorable. I liked seeing present parents in a YA book. They gave out punishments and talked about safe sex and all kinds of parenty things. They're really good.

Reid: Oh, what a sweetheart. I loved him and his stupid white trainers.

Cassie: Now, here's where I ran into.... Well, not a problem exactly, because I appreciate that Cassie needed to be like she was for the narrative. But I found her really annoying and kind of mean. I was thinking about twins in similar novels, like Wren in Fangirl and even Tippi in One, and I think they're all kind of similar. They're the dominant twin and they're kind of used to getting their own ways? And I find them all kind of annoying. Where's the story from their POV, where I learn to understand them? Cos I'd love to read that. I've been the friend who got left behind when everyone else got a love interest and ran off, and it sucks. So, come on, make me believe WHY they do this!

I also struggled to ground the novel a little. The days switched at random (although that could be due to my proof copy) and I struggled to understand the layout of the house and other things. But those things didn't detract from how much I loved the book, not at all.

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, but without any angst, which is great and refreshing

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes their mother Nadine is black. There's actually a really touching and poignant part about people thinking Nadine was Molly and Cassie's nanny when they were little instead of their mother. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Molly has anxiety

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's talked about quite a lot in quite explicit terms. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Prescription ones

Is there any talk of death? No

Are there swear words? Yes, lots. If this will bother you, maybe pick up a different book

Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely! It's brilliant. Becky is a really good author who makes things realistically teenage without ever seeming to talk down to teens. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'd heard the buzz and was desperate to read it.

What other books is it like? It's a lot like Simon vs in that it's grounded very much in the present, and it's a lot like Fangirl in that we feel so much for Molly

How many stars? Eight out of ten - probably even a nine. I really liked it and flew through it!

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland - Review

Sunday, February 19, 2017

I signed up to a reading challenge this year in a penpal group I'm in (I still send loads of snail mail!) and one of the categories was to read a graphic novel. I've never, ever read one! I'm not a visual person at all; I much prefer words over pictures. But Lee's into graphic novels so he lent me The Killing Joke, which is considered to be one of the best. It's the Joker's origin story - we see him as a younger man before he went mad.

I found it a struggle to remember to look at the pictures as well as read the words. This was a problem when the action went back in time and I got confused and had to remember to look at the drawings! The ones set in the past were sepia toned as opposed to the present day ones. But I liked the style of the drawings a lot.

I'm not very keen on Batman as a hero because I think he's just like a rich vigilante spoilt brat who does what he likes. I like the Joker though, so it was interesting to read more about him. He made some excellent points about the fine line between sanity and insanity, and between lawfulness and criminality. I liked my first step into graphic novels!

The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine - Review

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

I heard of this book at a conference I went to last year and was intrigued by the setting in a remote island off Skye, so I ordered it and when my book club was looking for new books to read last autumn I suggested it. I had read the blurb as a kind of murder mystery and thought it would appeal to my book club members. A woman inherits a mansion on a remote island, which was owned by her relative, renowned artist Theo Blake. She's interested in refurbishing the house and setting up a bespoke hotel, but when she arrives on the island, the surveyor, a relative of the estate's tenants, has discovered bones that can have only been left there around when Theo himself was there in 1910.

But, it's not that kind of a murder mystery at all. In fact, there's not much mystery to it - there's a few red herrings but I guessed most of the ins and outs pretty much straight away. The narrative swaps between Hetty, in 2010, who has inherited the island and all its problems, and Beatrice, Theo's new young wife, in 1910. I liked Hetty but felt like she needed to stand up for herself more. I really liked Beatrice and would've liked a whole novel about her, to be honest. I found the geography of the islands confusing and would have liked a map, and I would have liked a family tree, too, because there were so many people with so many familiar names that I couldn't keep them all straight either. It took me over a week to read this, which is just a nonsense! I'm giving it four out of ten. I'm going to donate the book!

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin - Review

Saturday, February 11, 2017

As I mentioned previously, I'd like to review all the books I read this year. This is an adult book but I think that an older teenager could enjoy it, especially one who is interested in philosophy and the existence of life after death.

I read this book for Jenny's online book club. I really didn't enjoy it, I just couldn't get into it. I'm interested to see what everyone else thinks about it, because I could only give it a 3 out of 5.

Janie is a single mother to Noah. She had sex on a beach with a man called Jeff and returns to New York where she works as an interior designer. When Noah is four, the two are having some problems. Noah refuses to have a bath and is terrified of water. He also continually asks when he can go home. He says that he used to be a 9 year old called Tommy.

Dr Jerry Anderson is a researcher at the end of his career. He has spent his professional life researching cases of children who remember being other people, who talk about the deaths they suffered, who can correctly identify places, family members, and even belongings of the people they say they were. His cases have mostly been in places like Thailand and India, and he has written a book which, the publishers say, needs a strong American case included too.

Anderson is suffering from dementia, and although he can remember all his cases and most of his life's work, he struggles with the present. He isn't sure he'll manage to finish his book. We're shown his thought processes and his lack of ability to find the right word, which is a really powerful part of the book.

Janie goes to Anderson to get help for Noah, but while she's expecting a psychiatrist who can cure him of his fears, she finds instead a man who wants to match Noah's story to an actual event, to try to find the "previous personality" that Noah remembers being.

Interspersed within the novel are extracts from a book which is about this very thing, documenting real life cases, by Dr Jim Tucker. The author talks a little bit about this at the end of the book.

I really struggled to get into the novel, and I'm not really sure why. When I did manage to read it, I found it easy to read and interesting, but it wasn't gripping me enough to keep picking it up. I liked Janie a lot and I felt she was doing her best for her son. I liked Anderson, too, although some of his decisions are a but stupid. Later in the book though we get other people's points of view and I found the transition between them pretty jarring.

It talks quite a lot about death and the philosophy around death, and there's some violence too, but there's little sexual content. If the subject matter appeals, pick it up!

Birthday Book Haul

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

It was my birthday on the 19th of January and I got a few books, so I took a photo of them and thought I'd share it with you.

1) Bruce Springsteen's autobiography. I'm a huge Bruce fan and always have been, My mum bought this for me but she's requested to borrow it! I think I might take it on holiday
2) Sweet Caress by William Boyd. My friend Laura bought this for me. Last year we swapped books a lot and she lent me a William Boyd one as she loves him. I still haven't read it! I need to get on that. I'm looking forward to this, it looks good.
3) The Power by Naomi Alderman. I did a birthday swap alongside one of my Christmas swaps, and this was one of the books Kelly sent. It looks fascinating! 
4) Sawbones by Catherine Johnson. My friend Sam bought me this. I saw Catherine at YA Shot and liked the sound of her book, so I added to my wishlist and then Sam bought it from there.
5) Triptych by Rhian Jones, Daniel Lukes, and Larissa Wodtke. Technically this wasn't a present, but it arrived on my birthday so I'm totally counting it. Rhian is a friend of mine, through music fandoms, She offered for her publisher to send friends copies of this new book, which is a study of the Manic Street Preachers' seminal third album The Holy Bible, so I bit her hand off and asked for a copy. The album is one of my favourite albums of all time - although very depressing and sad if you've never heard it. I'm really looking forward to reading this.
6) No Gypsies Served by Miriam Wakerly. Sharon sent me the prequel to this in one of my Christmas swaps, and both were on my wishlist. My friend Jacqui bought this for me. I really need to pick them both up! They're both such pretty editions, too.
7) The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson. Jacqui bought me this, too. Stupidly, I think I left it on my wishlist when I already have a copy. I'll find someone to pass this on to, for sure.
8) The Deviants by C J Skuse. Kelly sent me this, too. I've heard a lot of buzz about it in YA circles and it sounds really good. Plus I really love the cover!

Which one of these should I pick up first??

Clover Moon by Jacqueline Wilson - Review

Friday, February 3, 2017

Where did I get it? Netgalley, thank you to Random House UK Children's publishers!

What's it about? Clover Moon lives on Cripps Alley with her sister, several half siblings, and her dad and stepmother. The book is set in the 19th century (although I'm not sure when exactly) and it shows a pretty harsh reality. Clover is the eldest child, just 11, and has to look after both her siblings and the other children on the street. Her mother died when she was little, and Clover hates her stepmother, Mildred, who is mean and who hits the children often. 

Clover has a friend who owns a doll shop, who she runs to when her sister Megs dies of scarlet fever. Through her eyes we see a lot of the poverty and harshness of Victorian life, which was a plus point to the novel and through which a young reader could learn a lot about the past.

However, and it's a big however, I didn't really like the book at all. I persevered with it, but it took me ages to read and it isn't that long of a book. I liked a lot of the secondary characters, including Megs and Sissy, but Clover herself was just a bit of a pain. I couldn't really articulate it until I read a review on Goodreads which said that all of Wilson's characters are one-dimensional, that they are all drawn in the same way, that, if they are fiesty, they are fiesty in the same way, and if they are shy, they are shy in the same way, and so on. I totally agree with this. Clover is basically Tracey Beaker only a hundred and some years ago. She's a pain in the bum for a lot of the time, and I sort of wanted someone to put her in her place! I also felt like things went too right for her - yes she had a lot of pain and heartache, but things kept just happening to fall into place which annoyed me. She also kept doing magical and miraculous things which just made me roll my eyes. There's no real conflict and while I understand that this is a book for younger readers, I do think conflict for this age group can be handled better. 

Having said all that, if you already love Jacqueline Wilson's stuff, you'll probably find that this fits in neatly with her other books. I guess it depends!

What age range is it for? 9+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No

Are any main characters people of colour? No

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, there's two disabled children on the alley where Clover lives, I actually really liked the inclusion of them both. 

Is there any sex stuff? No.

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes and I thought that was done really well. 

Are there swear words? No

Would I recommend the book? No unless you're already a fan.

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was just scrolling through my Kindle and saw it, so thought I'd bob into it. 

How many stars? Six out of ten. 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness - Review

Friday, January 27, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it a couple of weeks ago because I really want to see the film and I wanted to read the book first.

What's it about? 
Conor is in his early teens and his mother is dying. It’s never specified what of, and it’s never actually said that she’s dying until very near the end, but it’s obvious that’s what’s happening. Conor’s dad lives in America with his new wife and daughter, and Conor’s grandma and Conor don’t really get on. Every night, Conor has a nightmare about his mum, and at school he’s being bullied.

Then, he calls the monster. From Conor’s back garden he can see a yew tree in the churchyard, and it comes alive and comes to his house to tell him stories, stories which will end in Conor having to face the truth about his mother’s illness.

What age range is it for? 
Probably twelve and upwards

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? 

Are any main characters people of colour? 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? 
I guess Conor’s mum’s illness counts as a disability, yeah. She’s extremely unwell, as you can imagine.

Is there any sex stuff? No

Are drugs mentioned or used? 
There’s some vague discussion of the treatments Conor’s mum is having, but not really.

Is there any talk of death? 
Yes, of course, in a very real way

Are there swear words? 

Would I recommend the book?
Yes, if the premise appeals. The monster is pretty scary! I didn’t love it, but that’s probably just me as I know lots of people gave this rave reviews

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life?
Like I said, I want to see the film

What other books is it like? Maybe a bit like The Fault In Our Stars?

How many stars?
Seven out of ten. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it either.

Where is the book going now? I’m not sure! I might donate it to a friend’s collection.


Blogger news


Most Reading