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The Blood Card by Elly Griffiths - Review

Monday, October 23, 2017

It's no secret that Elly Griffiths is one of my favourite novelists. I really like her Ruth Galloway novels, which are set in modern times and focus on Ruth, an archaelogist, who is asked to help the police on a number of investigations. I love them, so when I first heard that Elly was writing a new series set in the 50s I was excited to read them. This is the third one in the series and I've read all three. I think this is the best one, actually!

The series focusses on Edgar and Max. Edgar is a policeman in Brighton, but in the war he was part of the Magic Men, an elite group trying to fool the Nazis in Norway. Also part of the group was Max, who is a magician. In the first novel we see the two of them reunite after several years not seeing each other, and Max helps Edgar solve a crime relating to someone else who was in the Magic Men.

In this novel, a Roma fortune teller has been killed and her death has been put down as an accident, but Edgar isn't sure that it was. It's the eve of the queen's coronation in 1953 and there's some concern that there is a threat there. Then a general comes to ask Edgar and Max for their help looking at the death of a colonel that he thinks might be linked, and there's still the mystery of the fortune teller's death to deal with.

I like Edgar, he's pretty reliable and down to earth, and I like him as a narrator. Max's points of view can sometimes irritate, especially when it comes to his daughter, Ruby, who is Edgar's fiancee but who is in show business like Max, but he's basically a good person and I like him. In this book we also got the point of view of Edgar's sergeant, Emma, who is a really good egg, I like her a lot.

I figured out some of the twists in this but there was a really good one that I thought was brilliant and which I didn't see coming. It's all about magic and sleight of hand and I really liked it. It's not a perfect book by any means, but I did like it. I can't wait to read the next one!

Book Haul with my Austen tenner

Friday, October 20, 2017

I had seen some people on Twitter spending their first new ten pound note, the one with Jane Austen on, on books by women. It sounded like a great idea to me so I kept hold of my first ten pound note with a view to spending it in the charity shops and secondhand shops of North Yorkshire while I was away on holiday.

It was interesting to be solely focussing on books by women. I tend to just pick books up by title and then by blurb if I like the sound of them. The first book I picked up, The Light Between Oceans, is by an author called M L Steadman, so I had to google to see if that was a woman. She is! I haven't heard of the film, but the book sounded intriguing. I bought this in a bookshop in Sedbergh, known as England's Book Town, apparently.

I next picked up The Help in an Age Concern shop in Bedale. I've seen the film and really liked it, so I'm intrigued to see whether the book is as good.

The next three books I bought from a tea room just a few doors down from our holiday cottage. There were tons of books in there and I spent a while browsing, but came away with The House at Riverton, The Tea Planter's Wife, and The Spy Game.

Some of these don't seem like my usual kind of book, but I liked the sound of all of them and am looking forward to reading them. Have you read any of them?

Jolly Foul Play by Robin Stevens - Review

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I read the fourth one in the Murder Most Unladylike series while I was away on holiday. I've had it for ages but just not picked it up. I've read the fifth one in the series, so to go back in time jolted me a bit but if there were spoilers in the 5th one I had forgotten them by the time I picked this one up.

This book sees us in the winter term at Deepdean, when Hazel, Daisy, and their friends are fourth formers. There's a new Head Girl, Elizabeth, and five of her friends as prefects. The six of them are terrorising the younger years, handing out punishments left, right and centre. Then on Bonfire Night, the whole school is on the playing fields when Elizabeth is murdered. It's made to look like an accident, but Hazel and Daisy soon realise it isn't. The school headmistress, though, believes it is an accident and sacks the caretaker. Daisy and Hazel enlist the help of their dormmates Kitty, Beanie, and Lavinia to uncover the mystery and track down which of the Five prefects murdered their friend.

Meanwhile, Hazel writes secret letters to Alexander, who she met on the Orient Express in the previous book, and tells him about the case. Daisy is getting quite jealous of Hazel's friendship with a boy, driving a wedge between her and Hazel. I found Daisy quite annoying here, actually, and I was a bit frustrated when Hazel immediately forgave her after a brief conversation. But that may be my adult head looking at a book not meant for me!

This is a really lovely addition to the series and perfect for any middle grader from around ten years old. I know if I was ten I'd be all over these books like a rash. They're so much fun.

You can see my reviews of all the books in the series here.

After the Fire by Will Hill - Review

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle when it was really cheap a few weeks ago. 

What's it about? Moonbeam is seventeen and right at the beginning of the book, there has been a fire at the compound she has lived in for most of her life. Moonbeam has been injured in the fire, and first wakes up in hospital, then in a secure unit. She begins to have therapy with Dr Hernandez, but doesn't trust him at first. But through the book we read about Moonbeam's life within The Lord's Legion, a cult in Texas. 

The cult was led by the charismatic Father John, a self-proclaimed prophet who took over from a looser, less rigid leader called Father Patrick. No one was allowed to leave the compound and John preached about the evilness of the world and the fight that would occur and bring about the end times. Moonbeam's mother had been Banished from the cult and Moonbeam was no longer allowed to talk about her. All the adults of the cult have died in the fire and Moonbeam is one of the eldest that is left.

After a few days with Dr Hernandez he is joined by an FBI agent, Agent Carlyle, who is part of the team investigating the Lord's Legion and the fire. Moonbeam doesn't trust either of them, but she tells more and more of the events that happened within the compound. After therapy each day she has group therapy with the rest of the children who remain, including Luke, who is angry that he isn't dead and hasn't been able to Ascend to Heaven with the adults, and her friend Honey. 

I really like reading about religious cults. I did Theology for my undergraduate degree and particularly enjoyed a module called Christian Communities, Sects, and Cults. The way that cults develop and the way they cut themselves off from the world is endlessly fascinating to me. Charismatic leaders like Father John fascinate me and I felt the author did a really excellent job of portraying him. 

There are a lot of parallels with the true events that happened to the Branch Davidians in the siege at Waco, parallels that Will Hill himself acknowledges at the end of the book. I felt like there were a few TOO many parallels, really, although Hill did a good job of trying to imagine what a survivor would feel like. There's also a lot of repetition in the book. I understand the decision to write the book set from "after" the fire, but it does mean that some things, like Moonbeam's distrust of the psychiatrist and the police, are gone over again and again. If the book was linear, this could've been avoided. 

Finally, I felt like the end was a little bit too neat. I liked Moonbeam and her story, and I think the setting of the cult was a really good one, but I didn't gel entirely with the book. 

What age range is it for? There's a lot of really heavy stuff including abuse and violence, so I'm going to say 16+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No, and I wish this had been addressed. Cults like the Branch Davidians are often exclusively white because of racist interpretations of the Bible and of racist ideas like keeping the believers 'pure'. It would have been an interesting side note. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes. 

Is there any sex stuff? There's sexual assault and abuse, so trigger warning 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, lots, and trigger warning for suicide too. 

Are there swear words? Very few 

What criticisms do I have? I think I've covered them above! The book seemed to take me ages to read and I think that was mostly due to the repetition. I also felt there were places where there was too much telling and not enough showing. Like there's a few times when Moonbeam asks a question the doctor and Agent Carlyle about her mother or her friend Nate and is told they don't know anything. The next lines are something like "I believe him". But why? We're not shown in enough depth as to why, and that sort of frustrated me. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, it is a really interesting story. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It's one of Zoella's current book club choices and I wanted to see what it was like for myself! 

What other books is it like? It's a lot like Seed by Lisa Heathfield which is also about a religious cult, but it's also a lot like Paper Butterflies by Lisa too. I'd be interested in more books like this. 

How many stars? I gave it four out of five on Goodreads so that would usually be eight out of ten, but... I 'm going to go for 7.5. I felt like there were good bits and bad bits, but it is overall a very strong novel. 

Lips Touch by Laini Taylor - Review

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Where did I get it? Remember that my friend Lucinda lent me several books before she went to Canada nearly two years ago? This is one of them. When I went through all my books I was reminded I've still got a few to read, so I picked this one up after I'd finished my last book. One of my purest joys now is being able to go into my "library" and browse my books. 

What's it about? This is a book of three short stories. In the first one, Goblin Fruit, Kizzy, whose family is odd, falls for a new boy at school. In the olden days goblins offered fruit to tempt the souls of young girls, so will Kizzy fall for the same too? I liked how this was a very modern retelling, and I thought Kizzy was a great character. I wanted to know more about her family! 

In the second story, an old woman travels to hell each day to beg for children to be spared from death. She spars with a devil, and on one occasion, barters for the lives of 22 children in an earthquake. The devil she barters with instructs her to make a curse on the youngest child of a rich British family living in India. Anamique is cursed with never being able to speak, and if she does, she'll kill everyone who hears. She lives a quiet life until James arrives, an ex soldier wounded in WWI. She falls in love with him, but eventually learns how to use her voice for good. I liked the nods to Hindu religious beliefs in this story and the setting of the British Raj after WWI. 

In the third story, which is the longest by far and really more of a novella, Esme wakes up one day when she is thirteen and discovers that one of her brown eyes has changed to an icy blue. Her mother, Mab, grew up as an enslaved pet of a powerful Queen, queen of a set of shapeshifting demons. Mab tries to escape the demons, who are coming after them as wolves. Esme starts to remember a pervious kiss from the person who helps them to escape. I loved the setting of this novella, I could have read a whole novel about this creepy land, the beasts near the citadel, and the Queen and her powers. 

I'm not much of a fan of fantasy, but I took a chance on this book and I ended up loving it. I liked the worldbuilding the author had undertaken and the strict rules that each world adhered to. I liked the mix of religions and folk religion and different bits twisted together. I liked the magic and the way each story focussed on something as small as a kiss but were so huge in scope. I would definitely like to read Laini's full length novels and other works. 

What age range is it for? I'm going to say from 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No, although there's an interesting race aspect in the middle story 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, I'm going to say somewhat 

Is there any sex stuff? There is some sexual assault mentioned in the final story, in a fashion. It's part of the creepiness. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, quite a bit, especially in the middle story 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Honestly none! I have even decided I'm going to try to write some more magic myself. Thank you for the inspiration! 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, one hundred percent, especially if you like fantasy. I'm not a fantasy fan, I'm not into Lord of the Rings or even Harry Potter, I don't always understand how fantasy works? But I do know when I enjoy reading a book and I definitely enjoyed this. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well Lucinda probably deserves her books back sooner rather than later! 

What other books is it like? Not my forte so I've no idea! 

How many stars? Five out of five! Thoroughly enjoyable. 

Where is the book going now? To Lucinda, maybe to where she is in Canada, but I'm not sure! 

The Rental Heart and Other Stories by Kirsty Logan - Review

Monday, October 2, 2017

I'm just going to write a short/quick review of this book, not in my usual style because I don't feel like it fits into my book questions! I read this book for my online book club, started and run by Jenny, which meets every other month on Skype text chat to discuss a book (on the off months we've started discussing films!). October's theme was short stories, so we suggested a few at the meeting in August and voted on them in the Facebook group. I was excited to read this as I follow Kirsty on Twitter and have her novel The Gracekeepers although I haven't read it yet.

(Having not read books I own is the story of my life, isn't it? Lee and I recently went through all my books because we bought new shelving, and we put them all into a spreadsheet. I have over 700 physical books; I've read only around 1/3 of them.)

I also went to a workshop run by Kirsty at Grrrl Con in 2016, a workshop on inserting magic into your writing. So I was expecting there to be plenty of magic in these stories and I wasn't disappointed! There are twenty stories in total, and they were all good. Several stick out to me as being excellent - the one about the coin operated boy, the one about the couple moving to the Outback, the one about the lady taking girls into her castle to work for her and have sex with her, the one about the teenage boy whose sister has died, the one about the couple living in the caravan. Some of the stories are retellings of fairy tales, others are entirely new fairy tales. There's an element of steam punk to a lot of them, and an apocalyptic vibe to quite a few. There are a couple which talk of the loss of babies, which are really sad but beautifully done. A lot of the stories have queer protagonists which I really liked. Kirsty has a real talent at imagery and at twisting words in a certain way to set a scene.

This is an excellent anthology of stories and I want everyone I know to read it! I can't wait to discuss it with my fellow book club members in a couple of weeks. I always think that the hallmark of a good short story is that you want to know more - the few thousand words just aren't enough and leave you gasping for more. I definitely felt that here, there were several stories where I would have liked a whole novel about these characters! It takes a lot of talent to write short stories like this and Kirsty definitely has it.

Maximum Pop Samplers Again!

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Maximum Pop have again got tons of first chapters from a bunch of books coming out in September free for us to read! I told them that if they carry this on I'll be bankrupt! I went through and read those which appealed to me. Since it's getting close to Christmas I'm trying to hold back on buying books and am instead adding them to a wishlist that I can send to Lee so he can buy some for me. My birthday is just after Christmas too so hopefully this year it'll be books galore!

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart
I read We Were Liars way before I started this blog and honestly, I loved it. I also wanted to throw it out of the window. I couldn't believe the twist. I read it on Kindle so I couldn't flick back easily to see where I'd gone wrong and missed it. I was frustrated but in a good way because I thought it was such a good book and that Cadence was such a brilliant unreliable narrator.
The first chapter of Genuine Fraud is captivating and intriguing. We open in a luxury hotel, where a young woman called Jule is exercising when an American woman, Noa, starts to talk to her. Not usually taken in, Jule feels sorry for her and arranges to meet the woman later on in the bar. Jule introduces herself as Imogen, but it's too late because later she discovers from the barman that Noa was asking about her. Jule makes plans to leave and is immediately running from threat.
It's intriguing and it's already dangerous, and I already don't know which part is truth and which is fiction. I'm definitely adding this to my wishlist.

A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland
Hmm, this opening chapter is a little bit strange but still quite interesting. Esther is a high school student who wears strange costumes to school and deals brownies to her classmates at lunchtime. On the day we meet her she's dressed in a red cape and she has to get the bus because her mum can't leave the house due to the omen of a cat sitting on her car. At the bus stop she meets Jonah, who she was friends with in elementary school, and who ends up robbing her.
There's an element of humour evident in this first chapter, and an element of fantasy, too (one character is described as having slipped through a gap in reality), both of which grab me even though this isn't my kind of thing at all.

Gangsta Rap by Benjamin Zepheniah
I've never read anything by Benjamin Zepheniah although I own a couple of his books, one of poetry and one novel I think. I might even own this; apparently two of his books are being republished this month - Gangsta Rap and Refugee Boy. I like him when I see him on the TV though. Gangsta Rap was first published in 2004.
In this opening chapter, Ray starts the day listening to rap music, argues with his parents, and goes to school, where he's permanently excluded after threatening a teacher. He meets up with his friends Tyrone and Prem and the three of them rap on their way home.
According to the note at the beginning, this novel is partly based on Benjamin's own experiences of school, from which he was also permanently excluded. He also makes points about rap music being street poetry which belongs to everyone and not just to dead white men that I utterly agree with. The narrative is kind of stilted and sort of feels like it definitely belongs in the early 00s, but I'm still interested to read more of Ray's story.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
Now, I've got a confession to make: I've never read anything by Lauren James. I've heard loads of buzz about The Next Together series and I even own them, but I've never read them. I'm sorry! I'm sure they're really excellent books.
But this one is already captivating. In the first chapter we learn that a spaceship called The Infinity is on its way to a planet with a high chance of sustaining human life, which will take nearly fifty years. Romy, our heroine, is alone on the ship. She has been alone for five years, since her dad died. Her mum was on the ship too - the two of them chosen by NASA to pilot the ship - but she's also dead. Romy was born on the ship so has never seen the sky or anything. She's now kept company by daily updates from her psychiatrist Molly.
I love the concept of this novel and I'm definitely adding it to my wishlist - but it also terrifies me. The idea of being alone like that is one that I find utterly petrifying. I read a book called Calling B for Butterfly when I was about 17 and I think it scarred me!

The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles
The novel opens at a Leavers' Ball for an art college, which Lux is attending even though she has a year left. She loses her virginity to a fellow student caleld Henry, and we see her toast the evening with her best friends. But there's an undercurrent - Lux as a narrator is looking back on this night as one of the last happy ones and that she is a Lux she no longer recognises. What's happened to her in the meantime? We don't know, but this is a start made to make you want to read more!

Moonrise by Sarah Crossan
It's no secret that I love Sarah Crossan. As with her previous novels, this one is told in free verse too. At the beginning, Joe is seven when his brother Ed gets arrested for murder. Ten years later, Ed is on death row in Texas and Joe has gone to try to see him. I'm so interested in where this goes. I'm sure it'll be just as painful as Sarah's previous books!

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
I have History Is All You Left Me by Adam although I haven't read it yet. I've heard loads of buzz about him and his books so I'm excited to see what they're like. The premise of this book is that two young men get phone calls from Death-Cast, telling them they will die today, and make friends on an app that matches people up for their death days. In the opening chapter we meet Mateo, whose mother is dead and whose Dad is in intensive car. He gets the call from Death-Cast and immediately goes into mental meltdown. He makes plans to go and see his best friend, but he doesn't think many people will miss him. This is such an intriguing start to a book.

Water in May by Ismee Williams
Mari is pregnant. She is fifteen and at the beginning of the novel she is making an appointment to see a heart doctor for her baby, and then she goes dancing with her friends and meets up with her boyfriend Bertie. The blurb says that the baby has a fatal heart defect and Mari has to make a difficult choice. I'm definitely interested to read more of this.

The Red Ribbon by Lucy Adlington
I've heard so much about this book already. Ella is fourteen and is living in a concentration camp. The opening chapter sees her trying to get a job in the dressmaking workshop there, altering and making clothes for officers and their families. Apparently this is a really sad book, I will definitely buy it.

No Shame by Anne Cassidy
Stacey has been raped and the trial of her rapist is about to start. The chapter sees her briefly recount what happened and start to worry about the upcoming trial. While the chapter is short is definitely piqued my interest. I am supportive of books where sexual assault has happened.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu
Oh hey I already read this! You can read my review here.

Phew! This post is much longer than last month's - what do Maximum Pop have in store for us in October I wonder?!

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu - Review

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it, I had it on pre-order. I follow Jen on Twitter and am always excited to read a new book from her. Especially this one as it's about feminism and zines! 

What's it about? Vivian is a junior at high school in East Rockport, Texas, a small town where nothing much happens and where the high school football team rules everyone's social life. Each Friday, the entire town closes for the football game. Vivian usually attends with her friends and her mother and grandparents. 

Viv's mum was a 90s Riot Grrrl, who moved to Portland to find the scene there but had to move back after the death of Viv's dad when Viv was a small child. She keeps a box labelled My Misspent Youth, and Vivian sometimes rifles through it, looking at the zines that her mum made. 

One day, star football player Mitchell Wilson is rude and sexist towards new girl Lucy, and Vivian has had enough of the sexism rampant around the school. From boys saying "make me a sandwich" to them bumping into girls and grabbing them before running off, Vivian is fed up. So she makes a zine called Moxie and leaves it in girls' bathrooms before school one morning. In order for girls to show support, she suggests they should draw hearts and stars on their hands that Friday.

She's thrilled when people do, including Lucy, who she ends up being friends with. Over the next few months Moxie takes on a life of its own and the girls in the school learn how to fight back against the sexism they receive from boys, but also against systemic sexism like arbitrary dress codes. Viv really comes into her own in confidence as Moxie grows.

Meanwhile, her mum has started dating a colleague called John, who happens to be a Republican voter, even though Viv's mum is really liberal. Viv doesn't understand what her mum sees in him and has to try to come to terms with his involvement in her mum's life. There's also a new boy at school, Seth, who Viv has a crush on. She eventually starts a relationship with him, her first ever. Seth knows about Moxie and keeps telling Viv that not all guys are like Mitchell and co. Vivian knows that, but she is frustrated that he just doesn't get it. I actually thought these two things - John and Seth and Viv's reactions to them - were the truest parts of the book. There are parts when Viv and Seth argue and get frustrated and they are so true and real to life. I liked Seth, I loved how real he was while also being a total dish. I would have liked a little bit more resolution to Viv's mum and John's storyline, but it doesn't detract from the novel in total. 

I am a zinester myself. You can buy my zines here if you'd like to! I loved this part of the book. I honestly believe that zines are little political protests and can change the world. I loved how Vivian explained what zines were and was Riot Grrrl was. I am a little bit too young for Riot Grrrl but I of course know about it and like some of the bands. I felt like Jen really expressed the history well for new readers. 

While the novel is simple, it isn't simplistic. There's lots going on and Vivian is really well drawn and an utterly likeable character. 

What age range is it for? Anything from fourteen plus, probably

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, race is mentioned a few times. While Viv is white, there are parts when some of her friends who are other races mention how that intersects with the sexism they face. I thought this was nicely done. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? Viv and Seth have a really frank conversation about sex which I thought was perfect without being preachy. There's no sexual activity, though. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? A little about Viv's dad, but not much 

Are there swear words? Yes, quite a few - I actually loved this and thought it was one of the most natural and realistic portrayals of teenagers that I've read recently. Teenagers swear. A lot. 

What criticisms do I have? To begin with I thought Seth was a bit too perfect, a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Boy, but that may be just because Vivian didn't know him very well. I was frustrated by the inactions of the school administrators but this is probably really true to life too. I have very little to criticise! 

Would I recommend the book? Yes with my whole heart! Zines and feminism and badass girls, oh my! 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I really loved Devoted by Jen, so I couldn't wait to read this as soon as it arrived. 

What other books is it like? I only know one other YA book which talks about zines and that's Hard Love by Ellen Wittlinger which I read about six years ago. I think Moxie is also quite a lot like Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood in the way it focuses on female friendship. 

How many stars? Four out of five, utterly recommended. 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it for sure, but I think my friend Laura would like to read it first as she's also a feminist and a zinester!

Dear Charlie by N D Gomes - Review

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle way back in February and had mostly like forgotten about it, but my friend Stacey read it while she was on holiday and said I should read it, so I did. 

What's it about? Set in 1996, Sam's brother Charlie is infamous. The novel starts at the end of the summer, around the beginning of September. In June, Charlie walked into his and Sam's school in Pembrook with a gun and killed fourteen pupils and teachers, before killing himself. Sam's family is falling apart without Charlie. Sam doesn't know who his brother was or what part he played in Charlie's actions. Their parents blame themselves and each other and are fighting constantly. Sam's life is in pieces; outside, the paparazzi won't leave the family alone and they're ostracised when they leave the house. 

Sam has to go to a different school after being told he was no longer welcome at Pembrook. He starts at Knightsbridge, where people soon make him unwelcome. But he finds friends too, including Dougie, who he thinks is cool, and Izzy, who he has a crush on. 

He writes letters to Charlie as part of the therapy he is undergoing, hence the title of the novel. 

I didn't love this book, although I read it quickly. I felt like Sam was mostly a sympathetic character, although I felt there were parts where he was quite nasty, for example when he commented on the looks of the girls he was hanging out with. It didn't fit with the tone of the rest of the novel and I found it quite jarring.

Also, as a reader, I wanted more exploration into Charlie and his actions. As an adult I can see that not expanding on this makes sense, as a careful author wouldn't want to glamorise what he did. But as a reader, I wanted more! 

I also felt like time tripped in places, and moved on too quickly, whereas in other places things kept getting repeated. I'm sure there would be a lot of repetition from family members in a case like this, but it's not that interesting to read. I was also quite confused about where this book was set. I was expecting it to be American, but it clearly wasn't, but I wasn't sure where in Britain it was set, except that London was "down south". I'm leaning towards Scotland, but I wish the novel had been clearer. But in all, this is an okay book and I'd pick up something by the same author. 

What age range is it for? Fifteen onwards, I think 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No, not that it was mentioned. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Charlie has a mental illness, of course, but it's not explored in much depth or detail. I don't think any trigger warnings would apply. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, obviously. It's not graphic, though

Are there swear words? Not many at all.

What criticisms do I have? I think I've outlined them above. I didn't know why the book was set in 1996, except that in 1996 the Dunblane massacre happened, which changed handgun law here in the UK and which remains one of the deadliest shootings here. In this book, Charlie's actions are used as the vehicle for a change in law. 

I also felt like some people could have tried to understand Sam's point of view more, including his parents. He's clearly been through something really traumatic, but no one except his therapist seems to care. I don't really understand pupils reacting badly to him at his new school - it's not his fault! I thought it was a bit odd. 

Each chapter starts with the name of a different song from 1996 and 1997 and as a 90s indie kid myself I liked this part of it, I'd love to listen to a playlist of all the songs! It wasn't always clear if they were relevant to the text though. 

Would I recommend the book? Kind of? I didn't love it but it's not a bad book. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? As I said, Stacey had recommended it - I think she liked it more than I did!

What other books is it like? The parallels with the Columbine massacre made me think of the book She Said Yes, which is about one of the victims there. It also reminded me a lot of Perks of Being A Wallflower, although I'm not sure why! 

How many stars? Three out of five. 

The Lauras by Sara Taylor - Review

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you to Random House Cornerstone. 

What's it about? Alex is thirteen years old when their mother pulls them out of bed in the middle of the night after a row with their dad, and takes off. Ma has had a bag with both their important documents packed for the whole of Alex's life, and now it's time to use them. As the two make their way through America, sometimes staying overnight and sometimes staying for up to a whole school year, Ma tells Alex about the Lauras, all the friends she made with that name, and plenty of other friends she had along the way too. She had somewhat of a chaotic childhood and throughout the novel we get to know her story. 

Alex is agender, and identifies as neither male nor female. We get to know their sotry too and see them growing up from quite an immature teen to a young adult. For the first half of the novel I didn't feel like I knew Alex well enough and felt like the novel was just a vessel for Ma to tell her stories with a sideline of Alex. However, that changed and by the end I really loved them as a character; I felt like they'd been through a lot of growth and emerged a better person. I really liked the ending, too. 

I kept saying this was a weird book and I stand by that - its narrative structure is unlike almost anything I've read before. But I really enjoyed it. I would definitely read something else by the same author. 

I've seen that this is categorised as an adult novel but I really disagree. I think it is a perfect example of a Young Adult novel, in fact. Both Alex and Ma are teenagers when things happen, and both are really kickass people while things are happening. While there is sexual assault, sexual violence, and a few other nasty things, they're no worse than in some other YA novels - although, of course, take care of yourself for triggers. Definitely one for discerning YA readers and older readers who like YA. 

What age range is it for? As I say, anything from probably fifteen upwards, but do take care of yourself. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes! Alex is agender and I liked how Ma dealt with this too - standing up for Alex when needed. It's relayed in a really lovely way and I liked Alex's inner dialogue about themself too. 

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

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, as mentioned there's sexual assault and sexual violence, both of which are pretty graphic and could be triggering. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Maybe once?

Is there any talk of death? Very little

Are there swear words? Yes, a few

What criticisms do I have? I felt like there were parts when very little happened and then a lot happened at once, and I felt like some things just got cut off when I would have liked to know more. There is very little to criticise, though. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, very much so. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I had seen reviews and knew I wanted to get to it soon. 

What other books is it like? I sort of want to say it's like Chocolat by Joanne Harris, if Chocolat was from Viane's daughter's point of view. It's got that sort of chaotic, moving with the wind, almost magic vibe to it. 

How many stars? Four out of five. Really good book. 

The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel - Review

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Where did I get it? I got it from Hodder & Stoughton from Netgalley, so thank you very much to them 

What's it about? When Lane Roanoake is fifteen years old, her mum, who ran from the Roanoke house when she was sixteen and pregnant with Lane, kills herself in their apartment in New York, leaving Lane all alone. Theirs has not been an easy or happy relationship. Lane doesn't know why Camilla left her family and her small Kansas town, but that's where she finds herself over the summer she turns sixteen, when her grandparents agree to take her. 

Roanoke is a huge ranch miles out of town, with a strange house, inhabited by Allegra, Lane's cousin, daughter of Camilla's sister Eleanor, and Lane and Allegra's grandparents. There is a strange undercurrent in the house. As Allegra says, all the girls either die, or they run. Lane is uncomfortable, but doesn't, at first, know the ugly truth about the family.

Meanwhile, desperate to escape, the girls spend their evenings with Allegra's boyfriend Tommy and his friend Cooper, who Lane starts a relationship with. 

In a dual storyline, set in the present of 2015, Lane is back at Roanoke because Allegra is missing. It is ten years later and Lane has been in California for the past decade, ever since she left Roanoke. She meets Tommy, now married and the local cop, and Cooper, who she starts a relationship with again. She's determined to find out what has happened to Allegra and expose the secrets of Roanoke for good. 

What age range is it for? Adult, totally. This is a disturbing and uncomfortable novel. That isn't to sad it's bad, but it is terrifying in parts. There is rape, abuse, and lots of sex. Take care of yourself. This is a book for adults and discerning readers. 

What criticisms do I have? It was probably just because I was reading a proof copy but the switches between the two time periods were sometimes really confusing. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, if this type of thriller is your thing. I feel like this fits nicely into the Gone Girl kind of genre. Those thrillers that are twisty and turny and which keep you turning the page. While I didn't feel like we got a good picture of Lane as a rounded person, I did like her. I liked Cooper a lot too, I think he was a bit of a dish and said all the right things. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was just scrolling through my Kindle and started reading it, and then I got hooked and read it really quickly. 

What other books is it like? While it does fit with books like Gone Girl, I think it also has a feel of The Virgin Suicides about it. 

How many stars? Four out of five, Claustrophobic and atmospheric. I would definitely read something else by the same author. 

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M Danforth - Review

Monday, September 11, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it a couple of weeks ago in Waterstones. I had a gift card from a present in February that I hadn't yet spent, so when I went to Meadowhall to meet a friend a few weeks ago, I bought four books. They were £20.96 in total, so with the gift card I only had to spend 96p! I took a photo of the books I bought:

What's it about? At the beginning of the bookm in the late 80s, Cameron Post is twelve years old when her parents die. They've been at a local (ish) beauty spot that has a history for Cameron's mum when their car leaves the road and they are both killed. Cameron's first feeling is relief - because she's been kissing her friend Irene and now her parents will never know about it. 

Her aunt Ruth, who is a fairly conservative Christian, moves to Montana to look after Cameron along with her grandma. In the second part of the novel, Cameron is fifteen and over one summer, has an intense friendship with Coley Taylor. It turns into something more than friendship. I don't want to say more because I don't want to post spoilers - I hadn't read any before reading the book and it really added to it for me. I felt like every time I started a new chapter I was like "OH GOD WHAT NOW!" and it really went a lot towards my enjoyment of the book.

However, what I will post are trigger warnings. For violence, for self harm, for extreme homophobia, for death, for a lot of painful things happening to queer teenagers. If this sounds like it would hurt you, don't read the book. If you start reading it and it's too painful, don't finish the book. It's okay, I promise. It's an excellent book, but it isn't easy to read. It's hard and difficult and it made me angry. It's all those things and yet it's an important book because it exists in the first place. I'm very glad to have read it. 

What age range is it for? Because of the issues mentioned above, I'm going to say 15+, even though Cameron is younger than that at the start of the novel. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes.

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, but I want to avoid spoilers - but he's one of my favourite characters in the whole book.

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? You know... I'm going to say yes, for mental health things, even though it isn't exactly what I might usually mean when I answer this question.

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's somewhat explicit. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, marijuana quite a lot. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes. Take care of yourself. 

Are there swear words? Yes. 

What criticisms do I have? I don't know why the book was set in the late 80s/early 90s, except that I guess that might be when the author was a teenager herself? I don't know that it added to anything, except it might seem like what happens is historical... When it isn't.
Homophobia still very nuch exists. I don't know; it just sort of jarred me.

Would I recommend the book? One hundred percent. I really liked it - that isn't to say I enjoyed all of it, because it is difficult to read. But I want everyone to read it. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'd heard so much about it. It was publishe in the US in 2012, before I was really into YA fiction (I was dabbling my toes - I liked the Hunger Games and other dystopias like that) so I hadn't heard about it then. It came out here this year, so I heard a lot of buzz about it and when I saw it in Waterstones I knew I had to have it. 

What other books is it like? I'm not even going to try to compare it. 

How many stars? Five out of five. 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it, but first I'm going to lend it to my friend Laura. 

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