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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.

The Girl in the Garden by Melanie Wallace - Review

Monday, January 23, 2017

I've decided that I'll review every book that I read this year here on my blog, although I'll make it clear when a book is not suitable for a teenage audience. I won't use the same questions as in my normal reviews, but if you would like any questions answering please do ask them!

I got this book on Netgalley and was scrolling through my Kindle when it caught my eye. I found it hard to get into but once I did I really enjoyed it. At the beginning of a novel, which is set in the 70s, a young couple with a baby turn up at Mabel's cabins in the Atlantic North East somewhere. After a few days, the man disappears, leaving the girl and the baby to fend for themselves. The girl, June, and the baby, Luke, end up moving into Mabel's friend Iris' property. Iris is a recluse, after the death of her husband many years earlier, and keeps her property locked against the world. She has a cottage in the garden where her daughter Claire, now estranged, lived, and where June moves into. The two women begin a tentative friendship.

There's no direct speech in the whole novel, just all reported speech. I found this quite hard to read and keep up with, but I liked how it meant that everyone got equal billing in the narrative, if you like. There's a lot about war and about grief, and about chosen family against biological family. The novel spans a lot of years in its telling, which I really liked too. In all, I liked the novel and am glad to have read it.

I think it would be a suitable novel for older teens. June is only sixteen herself, and the story of her background is one that modern teens would find interesting. There's some sexual activity, but not much, and very little swearing. For discerning readers, this would probably appeal. I gave it a deserved eight out of ten.

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle - Review

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it, it was on the Carnegie shortlist last year which I'm slowly making my way through. 

What's it about? Cara is seventeen and lives somewhere close to Galway in the west of Ireland. She mostly hangs out with her sister, Alice, who is a year older, their friend Bea who is witchy and magical, and their ex-stepbrother, Sam, who is also seventeen. Sam is an ex-stepbrother because his father, Christopher, left a few years ago, but Sam is still being raised with the girls by their artist mother. 

Every year, around October, the family enters what their mother calls the accident season. Sometimes it's just been broken bones and cuts and bruises, but some years it's been worse, like when Cara's dad died, or when their uncle died. Their mother protects the children by wrapping the house in bubble wrap and making sure they always wrap up warm. But still, accidents happen. 

Meanwhile, Cara has been thinking about their schoolfriend Elsie, who runs a secret booth at school, where people type their secrets out on an old typewriter and put them in a wooden box. She hasn't been around in a while, but bits of her are showing up in all of Cara's photos - an arm, a shoe, her hair. No one at school seems to know where she is, so Cara and Bea break into the office to find Elsie's address. When they visit, they find an old abandoned house and immediately fall in love with it.

The whole book is a mixture of reality and unreality, set in a very contemporary background in Ireland. I liked that it was set in Ireland actually, especially as I visited last year and could imagine the setting perfectly. I'd like to read more YA set in Ireland! Bea likes to pretend to do magic, but Cara is actually magical in parts. I liked the feeling of not knowing which bits were true, so even though this kind of book isn't usually my thing, I really loved it and have already pre-ordered Moira's second book which is out in July.

I never read Goodreads reviews (I'm here, add me!) before I've finished the book, because I try to not have my views coloured by other people's opinions. I read through a few after finishing the book and a lot of people said that they didn't like the ending, felt it was unsatisfactory, or didn't get it. I completely understand this point of view, but I felt the ending was satisfactory and in keeping with the rest of the novel. I really liked the book and it made me think more about my own fantasy novel, which is similar in tone. 

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, no spoilers though. I also really liked the kisses between Cara and Bea, they added a lot about their friendship I think

Are any main characters people of colour? No

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Kind of and not quite? That's all I'm going to say I think

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's a little bit explicit

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, milder stuff

Is there any talk of death? Yes, be careful

Are there swear words? Very few

Would I recommend the book? Yes, definitely

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was tidying up and found the Carnegie books that I haven't read yet and picked this up because the cover appealed to me!

What other books is it like? Lots of people have compared it to We Were Liars by E Lockhart, and I definitely think that is an apt comparison. I also think it's what I would've liked The Graces by Laure Eve to be. 

How many stars? Nine out of ten. Very compelling and extremely bright.

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it, but first I want to lend it to my friend Stacey as I think she'll love it!

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr - Review

Friday, January 13, 2017

Where did I get it? Netgalley, thank you so much to Penguin Random House UK Children's publishers.

What's it about? Flora Banks is seventeen and lives in Penzance in Cornwall with her parents. Her best friend is Paige. Flora has amnesia and every day, she forgets who she is. She can remember things from before she turned ten, but can't make new memories. 

Right at the beginning of the novel, Paige's boyfriend Drake is leaving to go to study in Svalbard. He and Flora kiss on the beach and Flora remembers it, the first new memory she has made in years. Soon after, Flora's parents have to leave Penzance to go and see her ill brother in Paris, leaving her with Paige. But Paige isn't talking to her because she found out about the kiss with Drake, so Flora is left by herself. She starts an email correspondence with Drake, and eventually decides to go to Svalbard to see him. 

Because Flora doesn't remember things, she writes things on her arms a lot. She also has a notebook that her Mum has written in. Because of this, the novel is somewhat repetitive which can be annoying but also puts the reader in Flora's head, which must be a frustrating place to live. 

I loved the descriptions of Svalbard, it's somewhere I've always wanted to go and the idea of the midnight sun is really appealing! I've read several of Emily Barr's adult novels - Backpack, Baggage, and Cuban Heels over ten years ago, and Stranded more recently in 2012 - and I've always found them entertaining enough. This novel is certainly in a similar style to those, so if you enjoy that I'd recommend those too. Even though they're for adults, their subject matters are no harder than this one, so you may like them. Even though these novels seem really frothy and dismissable, Emily's style belies deep novels and this is definitely one of them. She's made her first foray into YA literature really well, I think. I was expecting twists and turns because I know that's what Emily does, but I didn't see the exact ones coming which was great!

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No

Are any main characters people of colour? No

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yep, obviously. It's hard to read but worth it and you really sympathise with the character. 

Is there any sex stuff? No, and for which I'm glad. I find it hard to believe that someone like Flora could consent to sex in an informed way.

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, prescription medication

Is there any talk of death? Yes

Are there swear words? No, very few 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. A great start to my new year!

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I've heard so much stuff about it on other book blogs and Twitter, and I don't regret choosing it now!

How many stars? Nine out of ten. A very convincing book. 

Christmas Swaps and Book Haul

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

I love Christmas and one of the reasons why is the number of Secret Santas that I join in with. I really like putting parcels together for strangers or sometimes people I know, and hoping that they'll love what I've bought. I also love getting parcels, too, of course!

I joined in two specifically bookish Secret Santas, one organised by The Broke and the Bookish blog and one organised by Rachel. I joined in a Thrifty Gift Swap organised by my friend Janet, and a Stitching Santa swap organised by a craft blog. I got books and goodies galore for all these swaps!

Let's see...

This was the swap organise by Rachel. These books were on my wishlist and I'm really excited to read both of them :) I also really like hot chocolate and chocolate, and while I don't do face masks often I possibly should!

The was the Thrifty swap, and my friend Jane sent me these. The books are both second hand - the one on the left is one of those terrible 80s teen romances that I devoured when I was twelve, and the other looks really interesting, I'll definitely pick up both of these!

This was my Stitching gift, hence the handmade parts. The sender was in Germany and didn't know anyone else she could pass on English language books to, so sent them to me. I've never read Emma so I'll definitely be trying to read that. The other one looks like an easy enough read, the kind of thing that I would pass on to my mother in law after reading!

And here's the Broke and Bookish swap. I signed up to both send and receive "two books plus goodies" and WOW, was I ever spoilt! Look at all the amazing things Sharon sent me! You can't see too well in the picture, but the book next to the pencils is a Book Journal/Log. I've had one before but it got filled up, so I'm looking forward to using this. The book next to that is "Crocheted Scarves and Cowls" - I'm a keen crocheter and I always want to push myself so this will be great. Below that is a Christmas colouring journal, and then on the left are two books from my wishlist and a book about writing Young Adult fiction that I haven't yet read! The wishlist books are We Are All Made of Molecules which sounds SO GOOD, and Gypsies Stop tHere. I am so looking forward to these!

And finally here are the other books I got. My friend Laura bought me The Woman in Black - she lent it to me in 2016 and I loved it, so I'm happy to have this edition with other stories in too. Isn't it a gorgeous edition? My mum and stepdad bought me I'm Not With the Band because as you know I love books about music!

I did well, didn't I? What books did you get for Christmas?

Year in Review meme - 2016

Friday, January 6, 2017

I stole this from LiveJournal, I did it there last year even though I never post on LJ anymore!

Number of books read in 2016? 81

Fiction/non-fiction? 80:1. What can I say, I prefer fiction!

Books by men/women? I think that I have more YA by women, which bears out in my stats: 61 books by women, 18 by men, two were anthologies with a mixture of authors. Wow, that's steeply in favour of women!

Most books by a single author?
The Robins - Robin Talley (Lies We Tell Ourselves, and As I Descended) and Robin Stevens (the Wells & Wong novels and short stories), Non Pratt, Susan Hill.

I loved Not If I See You First by Eric Lindstrom, The Woman in Black by Susan Hill, Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield, and Ballroom by Anna Hope

Least favourite?
I rarely talk about my least favourite books on here because I think it's just too mean to authors!

Well nothing classic, for sure. I bet the oldest was about ten years old, whoops! Oh, maybe it was The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas?

I read a lot of books on release, the newest would possibly be I'll Be Home for Christmas which I read just before Christmas!

Longest title?
A Dictionary of Mutual Understanding by Jackie Copleton, probably

Shortest title
Flawed by Caroline Aherne

What genres did you read in?
48 books were Young Adult, which says a lot about me as a reader! 16 were general adult fiction, and 9 were crime thriller types. 8 books were generally for kids, under which I'd include the Wells & Wong series.

How many re-reads?
None! There's way too many new books for me to re-read! I usually re-read one of my favourite books, but didn't manage that this year. I did read a different Patrick Gale book which I enjoyed - Rough Music

Any in translation?
I don't think so

Where did they come from?
35 were paperbacks, most of which I personally owned. 8 were hardback, some of which I borrowed. 36 were eBooks, most of which came from NetGalley. Two were audibooks, and overall, around five came from the library.

Favorite new author you discovered this year
Ooh, erm! Emery Lord, Lisa Heathfield, Graham Swift. The first two are on my "must buy" list when their new stuff comes out.

Bookclub books
My book club is a somewhat strange one, but I've started this year with renewed enthusiasm for it. Ballroom by Anna Hope was a book club book and was excellent, as were Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift and The News from Paraguay by Lily Tuck. 

What are your book resolutions for 2017?
To make a concerted effort to read more every day and not keep checking Twitter instead!

My Secret Rockstar Boyfriend by Eleanor Wood - Review

Monday, January 2, 2017

Where did I get it? I bought it at YA Shot. Eleanor was one of the panellists in the music panel, and I liked her and the sound of her novel, so immediately went to buy it from the Waterstones stall and then went to get Eleanor to sign it for me. We talked about zines and music tattoos and honestly she is one of the nicest authors I've ever met!

What's it about? Tuesday Cooper (yes that's her real name) is 18 and about to do her A levels. She's got two good friends, Nishi and Anna (who are a couple), and a boyfriend in a band, Seymour. She's really into vintage clothes and older, alternative music, and she writes about music on her blog. She's into a modern band called Sour Apple and likes their lead singer, Jackson Griffith. She blogs about him at one point, and someone saying he is Jackson comments on the post. No one believes it's him, but eventually Tuesday starts up an email relationship with him, and then agrees to go to London to meet him. He's a typical rock star - a bit muddled, a bit of a mess, but with a lot of charisma and charm. 

I sort of want to review this book from three perspectives. They definitely all popped into my head as I was reading it, so here we go.

Firstly - as a writer I often look at books with a view to HOW they're written, and whether I would've written things in the same way or not. Each chapter of this book starts with some kind of electronic message - whether it's a blog post from Tuesday or an email between her and Jackson, or something else. I liked this, and thought it was cleverly done. It moved the action on from day to day very neatly. I felt like Tuesday's character and relationship with her mum were beautiful and so true to life, and I felt like their working class lives were talked about honestly, which I also really loved. 

Secondly, as an adult reader I was sort of cringing through some of the book. Tuesday tells just one person where she is going when she goes to meet Jackson, and never tells her mother what she's up to (even though the two of them are quite close). Be safe online, kids, please! Jackson is also 5 years older than Tuesday and he's quite relentless in his persuing of her, and in parts it come off as creepy. He doesn't get a free pass, not at all, but even so, at the beginning I wanted Tuesday to be more wary of him. Which, of course, would have made it a really different novel of course! 

Thirdly, though, thinking of myself as a teen reader, I fell very deeply for Tuesday and her story. I loved her, her hair dye, her vintage clothes, her amazing taste in music. If we were both 18 and Tuesday was real, I would definitely, absolutely be her friend. I would take her to Grin in Leeds and Morgana in Wakefield and the Byram Arcade in Huddersfield. I'd skive off college with her to get coffee with her and I'd buy blue coloured cocktails with her in Wetherspoons. I also loved Nishi and Anna, and Seymour was the exact kind of idiot boy who thinks he's a god just because he's in a band that I knew hundreds of. I liked Jackson too, when he was being a decent human. In all, this is a really good novel about love and music and friendship and growing up. 

What age range is it for? 15+, there's nothing too salacious in it 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Nishi and Anna. They're very sweet and I liked how their relationship was portrayed. 
Are any main characters people of colour? I think Nishi is, but it's not mentioned directly.
Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No
Is there any sex stuff? Not really at all.
Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, mentioned 
Is there any talk of death? Not really
Are there swear words? Not many, which I think I would have actually put as a negative because I think actual teens swear more!
Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. 
Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was perusing the bookshelves just before Christmas and wanted something fairly light to read over Christmas. Not one regret!
How many stars? Eight out of ten, maybe even veering towards a nine. I really liked it, please don't think my criticisms mean it's a bad book. 
Where is the book going now? I'll keep it since it's signed to me, of course!

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