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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. 
 

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