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Maximum Pop Samplers

Thursday, August 31, 2017

I recently saw Maximum Pop tweet the link to this post, which has links to the first chapter of a bunch of books released in August! How amazing is that? I went through them, reading the ones which caught my eye. Here's the ones I read:

Stags by M A Bennett. Greer is a student at an exclusive school called Stags when she is invited to the home of the 'best looking boy in the school', Henry de Warlencourt. While there she gets mixed up in something that ends in murder... I definitely want to read the rest of this!

It's All In Your Head by Rae Earl. This is mentioned on the site linked above, but there's no link to read the first chapter. It might have been removed or something. But I thought I'd mention this book anyway because I bought it recently. Rae Earl is the writer of My Mad Fat Diary, and I thought this sounded really interesting. It is subtitled "A Guide to Getting Your Shit Together" and it is something like a self help book, and it talks about lots of different mental health conditions. Many teens suffer from them, so if you do too, you're definitely not alone. I'm looking forward to reading this!

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord. This has actually been re-released, I think, due to its inclusion in Zoella's 2017 book club. I haven't read it yet, though, although I'm pretty sure I own it in a different edition to the one I've linked to. Paige is about to start her junior year of high school, only she's known in her town as the girl whose boyfriend drowned. It's over a year since Aaron died, and Paige is ready to make a plan for the rest of her life. I was instantly drawn to this, I think Emery writes such interesting and believable characters.

T Is For Tree by Greg Fowler. Now, this is really creepy and kind of weird and I'm already intrigued! At the beginning, Eddy's mother Hailey abandons him in the hospital just after he is born. Twelve years later, Eddy lives with his grandmother and is banned from leaving his room, except on Shower Day. But the tree next to one of his windows is actually growing into the house. This already seems like a suffocating and creepy novel. It reminded me a lot of Room by Emma Donoghue, which isn't a YA novel but which I'd thoroughly recommend (although trigger warning for rape/sexual assault)

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie - Review

Friday, August 25, 2017

I read this for my online book club, and I didn't really enjoy it. I've never read a Poirot book before, and this is only my second Agatha Christie book. I liked the previous one, The Murder of Rogery Ackroyd, a lot better than this. It hasn't put me off totally, but this was just really dull.

I think a lot of people know the story but in case you don't, Poirot is travelling across Europe on the Orient Express when he is awoken one night by a banging in the compartment next to his, which is occupied by a Mr Ratchett. Ratchett had earlier told Poirot that he was in fear of his life and had asked for his help, but Poirot didn't like his face so declined to help. Poirot hears someone speaking in French to a train employee, and is aware that the train has stopped, but soon goes back to sleep.

In the morning it turns out that Ratchett has been murdered and several clues have been left. Everyone has a story to tell Poirot and his comrades in the investigation, M Bouc, a director of the train company, and the train doctor, whose opinion it is that several of the stabbings to Ratchett have come from lefthanders and that a woman couldn't have inflicted them all. The first clue gives an indication of who Ratchett really was - a man who kidnapped and then killed the child of a wealthy family but who escaped justice. In the course of their investigation it becomes clear to Poirot and the others that basically everyone in the carriage had a motive to kill the killer of the Armstrong child. Eventually Poirot gathers them all together in typical fashion to lay out his two solutions to the crime.

I felt like this hasn't aged well at all. I understand that crime forensics were in their infancy but seriously nothing was done in a proper way. The assumptions of Poirot, M Bouc, and the doctor were just ridiculous at the best of times and bordering on racism at the worst. Also, they just seemed to assume that everyone was telling the truth most of the time, like when they were alibiing other people. It was ridiculous! It took me forever to read and I felt the ending was unsatisfactory.

Fortunately, the others in the book club felt pretty much the same! Oh well, you can't like them all!

Under the Udala Trees by Chinelo Okparanta - Review

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Where did I get it? I'd heard some buzz about it on book Twitter so when I saw it on Kindle for £1.89 I bought it. 

What's it about? The book spans quite a few years in the life of Ijeoma, starting with the Biafran War when she is a small child, and the death of her dad in a bombing raid. Ijeoma's grief stricken mother sends her to live with a grammar school teacher and his wife, who treat her pretty badly and make her live in a hovel outside. Ijeoma is Igbo, and Christian, but she meets a girl of a similar age, Amina, whose family are all dead, who is Hausa, and Muslim. They share the hovel, and start a sexual relationship. When it's discovered, Ijeoma is sent home in disgrace and her mother starts to discipline her with the Bible, telling her that her love for Amina is an abomination. Ijeoma doesn't agree, and we see her come to terms with herself and her faith as she grows older. 

I liked the scope of the novel, and I feel like quite a few books by Nigerian authors are a bit the same - they're not contained to small time periods. I really liked Ijeoma, she's utterly likeable. 

What age range is it for? While this isn't a Young Adult novel, it is of course about a young girl, so I think that for a discerning older teen, it would be really interesting and enjoyable. I mention some of the more adult stuff below, so take care. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, but take care of yourself for anti-LGBTQ talk as described above. It's utterly believable and in keeping with the character of Ijeoma's mother and their religious beliefs, but it can be triggering and painful to read. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Of course! I liked how the war between the Igbo and the Hausa was explained, too. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, and it's somewhat explicit in terms of body parts, but done in a really beautiful way. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No

Is there any talk of death? Yes, since the novel opens with a war 

Are there swear words? No

What criticisms do I have? None really. I liked the book and found it pretty easy to read. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. It's nice to read about LGBTQ+ people in a culture that isn't Western

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was one of the first books on my Kindle and I'll be honest, the cover grabbed me, hah

What other books is it like? It reminded me a lot of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, given the setting of Nigeria and the backdrop of the Biafran War. 

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


Sunday, August 13, 2017

I didn't get to go to YALC this year. It was a combination of not having enough money and not having enough energy mentally or physically to go to London, stay over, go to the conference all day, and get home again. I'm hopeful that next year I might get there again, but I just couldn't this year.

All weekend, on Twitter, I kept seeing people having a great time, and I kept complaining to my partner that everyone was having a good time without me. I kept hearing about so many books that I wanted to buy or pre-order. I was having real Fear of Missing Out and I didn't like it one bit!

But then my lovely friend Kate came to my rescue and said that she had duplicates of a bunch of stuff that she'd picked up, and would I like it? I of course said yes, and a few days later a huge envelope of swag came dropping on to my doormat! I was overwhelmed by it all, and I need to go through it all and look up all the books that I haven't heard of to see if I'd like to buy them.

This is some samplers and badges, and a flash drive (does it have anything on it, I wonder), and the pink book is blank notebook. I am TOTALLY in love with the badges in the middle, they're Emery Lord badges about The Names They Gave Us and they are gorgeous. I'm intrigued to read the Holly Bourne sampler

More samplers. The white one is Clean by Juno Dawson, it's impossible to see here in the photo. I am really excited to read the Floored one, because I've heard SO much hype about this book, and the Paige Toon one will probably be pretty good too.

And here's a bunch of bookmarks and postcards. I'll put a couple of them up on my wall, and the others I might send to friends. I love the One Memory of Flora Banks bookmark. 

Thank you so much to Kate, I feel like I didn't totally miss out on YALC after all. 

Reading In Heels - Review

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

My friend Alice, who I went to school with a million years ago, founded a magazine called Running in Heels, which I read periodicially. Recently the magazine launched Reading In Heels, a book subscription box, so in order to show Alice my support I signed up. At £12.40 for a box (including postage) I felt it was a bargain. My other box is all books on a Young Adult theme, so I liked that this one is for adult fiction books. I was also swayed because my friend Stacey had signed up to this and I thought we could read the books at the same time and talk about them.

My first box arrived at the weekend and I was thrilled. The box looks gorgeous, and the contents make this a really luxurious feeling box, where you could settle down and have a really nice pamper session while reading your book. I think it's definitely worth the money, so I'm glad I've signed up for a few months' worth. I spent my own money on this and was not compensated in any way for writing this post.

The box is really pretty, I'll definitely reuse it for something or other

This cute little bookplate/bookmark is just the kind of thing I like filling in!

I don't actually drink tea, but I like sachets like this to send with my penpal letters!

I do however like facemasks, I never buy them for myself but I seem to get given them and they always get used!

This bar of raw chocolate was included, but I gave it away to my vegan friend as I'm not sure I'll like it

This isn't something I'm likely to use, but I'll find someone who is!

And finally, here's the book! It sounds intriguing, I can't wait to get reading it!

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark - Review

Saturday, August 5, 2017

I want to start off with the caveat that I didn't like this book. I started off liking it, and while I mostly liked Jess and thought that the trans representation was good, I didn't like the rampant fatphobia and it actually made me want to not finish the book. I'm 33 years old but I can still get affected by stuff like this, so I dread to think how I would have felt twenty years ago, and I feel awful for any readers who may have been affected. You are not unloved or invalid as a human just because your body is bigger than some other people's bodies.

Secondly, while this book is about a trans person, it's not BY a trans person. It's by the mother of a trans person, she writes about her daughter in the front of the book. While this obviously means that she knows a lot about parenting a trans girl, it doesn't mean that she knows how her daughter feels. It's not her own voice and I think that needs to be noted. 

Where did I get it? Amazon, I went on a bit of an LGBTQ+ splurge in January and this was one of the books I bought. My partner and I have actually been going through my books and I have a LOT of LGBTQ+ Young Adult books! I'll show you photos of my collections once all the books are sorted. 

What's it about? Jess is a trans girl and has just left school. While there, she hasn't been out, so she's been living as a boy, but she's planning to start college as a girl. She couldn't start hormones any earlier because her dad refused to give his permission for her to do so, and so she hasn't been to Chicago to visit him since they fell out. He's getting married to Jan, her mother's ex best friend, and while he sent Jess an invitation, she told him she wasn't going. However, she and her best friend Chunk are planning to drive across the country so Jess can attend - as a girl. 

Chunk is described as "big", and his got his nickname from a counsellor at camp who gave it to him. Near the beginning of the book he tells Jess that their schoolmate bullied him, and Jess is pretty oblivious about what he's been through, and dismisses his struggles as not being as bad as hers, basically. This obviously annoys him and as we go through the book he lets Jess know this more and more. He's texting a girl in Illinois and Jess is jealous, and pretty unreasonable about it too, in my opinion. She also keeps going on about his body, and to begin with I thought this was just Jess the character being a bit rubbish on body positivity. 

However, at one point, the two meet a girl, Annabelle, and end up going back to her house with her for the night. And there we meet her grandmother, Mamie, who is agoraphobic and doesn't leave the house because of panic attacks. That's totally legitimate, of course, but Mamie is described in the most fatphobic terms possible, and for one thing I want to make clear that not all people who don't leave the house are fat, and obviously lots of fat people are going out into the world and working and having friends and all of that kind of stuff. 

I don't think that the fatphobia was just Jess' character; it was so insiduous that I feel like it was the author's views coming in too. Even when Jess is called out, it didn't go fair enough for me as an apology for the horrible things she had thought and said. I didn't like this aspect of the book at all, and was going to give it one out of five. However, I think the trans representation is good, and there's no violence towards Jess as a trans person, so I'm giving it two with a LOT of caveats. 

What age range is it for? 14+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Obviously! More than one, too, but no spoilers

Are any main characters people of colour? No

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No, well, I guess Mamie isn't that main of a character but she has mental health issues obviously.

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, I guess there's some mentions of Jess' hormone drugs but that's all.

Is there any talk of death? Not really

Are there swear words? Very few

What criticisms do I have? See above! I love the road trip novel as a concept, and I did like Jess when she wasn't being awful

Would I recommend the book? Not really 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I found it again while sorting out all my books.

What other books is it like? It's actually a lot like one I've written myself, but I can't tell you to read that, can I?!

How many stars? Two out of five

Where is the book going now? I'm not sure. As I didn't like it, I don't know that I want to pass it on to anyone! 

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