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Oh My God What A Complete Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen - Review

Monday, December 31, 2018

I bought this a few months back when I was searching for books on abortion in Ireland/about Irish people who travel for abortions, and although this is a really minor storyline in the book, I did like its inclusion.

So, Aisling. We all know an Aisling, we probably work with one. At the beginning of the book, Aisling is in a relationship with John, and she's getting a bit frustrated because everyone's getting engaged and married, and she and John are basically stagnant in one place. She still lives at home, in the close knit community she's from, so she spends half her time driving to her job in Dublin and spending the odd night at John's house.

After a disastrous romantic holiday where Aisling demands to know whether they will be getting engaged soon, she and John split up. She decides to take a place in a flat in Dublin with a work colleague, and begins to see that life doesn't have to be what she thought it had to be.

This book has it all, and it's quite a rollercoaster. I did feel like some parts got skipped over too quickly, which annoyed me, but by and large I liked it. Aisling is an adorable character, I really rooted for her and I related to her more than I really wanted to! I liked her family and friends, I thought John was a bit of a wet weekend and didn't see what she saw in him. I'm glad it ended how it did - she'd grown so much and I'm glad her life moved forward. I loved the Irish setting and the turns of phrase especially. I would definitely read something else by these authors.

My friend Sarah read Oh My God What A Complete Aisling at almost the same time I did, so I asked her to give me a mini review for my blog, which she did! Thanks love. Here's what she said:
I really enjoyed ‘Oh my god what a complete Aisling’, for several reasons, not which of least is the wonderful Irish turn of phrase that the writers use to convey the context of their character. It helps you immediately feel drawn into her world and included, a bit like an old friend sharing a West Coast Cooper with her. I think the best thing is that we all have a bit of Aisling in us- getting fed up of people not recycling, counting our Fitbit steps, worrying about going to a club where we won’t fit in. Even though at times it was a little predictable, I liked the fact that it didn’t have a traditional ‘happy ending’, and that the relationship with her and John was not nearly tied up, but left as an unknown, new and messy thing that they will have to navigate.  

The Haven by Simon Lelic - Review

Friday, December 28, 2018

Where did I get it? Netgalley, thank you to Hachette Children's Group for granting it to me!

What's it about? It's kind of a modern retelling of Oliver Twist. It's set in London in the present day. Ollie lives with his foster mother, Nancy, but she and he are snatched from their beds in the middle of the night and Nancy is killed. Ollie is rescued by Dodge and taken to the Haven, a neutral place for kids in the middle of the city. He and the rest of the kids have to race against time to stop Mad Maddy Sikes from ruining the city. 

I was intrigued by the blurb and read this book really quickly. I liked Ollie and Dodge, and lots of the other kids introduced. I think there'll be more in this series, it certainly lends itself to it. I liked the gang feel to it, I liked the technology they had and the home they had built. It's a decent middle grade book. I liked that there was a genuine sense of terror and tension, and a genuinely bad baddie!

What age range is it for? I'm saying it's middle grade because Ollie is twelve, so anything from around eleven onwards 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, one of the Haven's leaders uses a wheelchair, and I liked how this was incorporated. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Maybe? I think maybe 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, Ollie is quite traumatised by the deaths of his parents and then of Nancy 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? It is a little bit too middle grade in parts, but I forgave it. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was away and as usual had my tablet with me instead of a paper book, and I wanted to read it. 

What other books is it like? It's like the Alex Rider books I think

How many stars? Eight out of ten!

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James - Review

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it at the Northern YA Lit Festival in March, and had it signed by Lauren there. 

What's it about? Romy is on a spaceship heading towards a planet which is likely to sustain human life, and she is alone, with supplies to make a new civilisation when she gets to the other planet. The spaceship left earth years and years ago and Romy was born on board. She's alone after an accident killed her parents, but she gets regular emails from someone at NASA. She manages to keep the spaceship going with her own knowledge, but all the same it was terrifying to think of being alone like that. Especially because there's a delay of around eighteen months between emails being sent and being received, so it was like a newsletter rather than a conversation. 

One day Romy receives news that another ship has left earth to come and help her, with just one person on board. She starts to receive emails from J, and over the months that it takes for him to reach her, she starts to fall in love with him. 

This book is so well written, and extremely creepy. I hate the idea of space travel anyway, but especially by myself. I thought it was alternately fascinating and terrifying, and I really enjoyed it. 

What age range is it for? 14+, probably. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No

Are any main characters people of colour? No

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Romy has some kind of PTSD going on for sure, which is very understandable. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

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

Is there any talk of death? Yes, some of it is quite gory and traumatic. 

Are there swear words? I don't think so. 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none, it was one of those books where I think "Well I wouldn't have written it like that", but that doesn't mean it was bad or wrong, just different. I liked that Lauren's own passion for science shone through, I am obviously pro encouraging girls into STEM subjects. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely, even if you don't normally read YA. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was actually looking for something else, and pulled it off the shelf. 

What other books is it like? When I was about seventeen I read a book called Calling B For Butterfly which is about teenagers and space travel. 

How many stars? Eight out of ten 

Where is the book going now? It's signed so I'll keep it of course! I also think it has the most gorgeous cover. 

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle - Review

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Where did I get it? I don't exactly remember, I know I've had it a few years and I know I thought last January "Gosh, I really must read that at Christmas this year", and I remembered this when I was looking at the bookshelves a couple of weeks ago, so pulled it out to read close to Christmas. I feel like someone may have sent me it in a swap, so if that was you thank you very much!

I have, by the way, still got loads of reviews to write for what I read in November and the beginning of December, but I decided to put this review here so that it's timely! 

What's it about? Each author has written a different story in the book, set in the same town which is enduring a huge snowstorm on Christmas Eve, and which are loosely connected and feature some of the same characters. When I started reading it, I didn't quite understand how this worked, but it soon became clear, and I thought it was really clever how it was done. I would love to write a book with someone in this fashion!

So the first story, by Maureen Johnson, concerns Jubilee. Her parents get arrested on Christmas Eve and they decide to send Jubilee to her grandparents' in Florida. She gets on a train and then it gets stuck in a snowstorm in a small town called Gracetown. She leaves the train to walk to the local Waffle House which she can see from the tracks, leaving her new friend Jeb in the company of a bunch of cheerleaders. When they all make it to Waffle House, Jubilee decides to leave with someone she met there, and romance ensues... 

I liked this story, I liked Jubilee a lot, for me this was the best story. 

In the second story, written by John Green, the manager of the Waffle House calls up his friends to come and join him and the cheerleaders, so Tobin and JP and the Duke set off in the storm. They're battling against two other groups, and chaotic events don't stop happening. 

You can tell this is John Green's story, it's got very much a feel of his writing. I liked Tobin and the Duke a lot, I thought this was a funny story and perfect in how it ended too. 

The third story, by Lauren Myracle, is the weakest of the three, and I struggled to warm to Addie. She's in the middle of a crisis because she's split up with her boyfriend Jeb (remember him from before?) after cheating on him. Her friends keep telling her she's very self-involved (which I'm not sure I agree with, but I don't think we got to see enough of her character, really), so she makes a promise to do something on Boxing Day for her friend. Can she manage it and get Jeb back at the same time? 

I do have to say there was some problematic language in this book which probably wouldn't pass an editor in 2018, but clearly did in 2008. I found that quite jarring, but I guess it does show the progress we've made in ten years. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Jeb is First Nation 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? No - I think it's Tobin who keeps using other words instead. 

What criticisms do I have? Use of words like "sp*z" and "r*tard" just isn't acceptable - I don't think it was in 2008 so I'm sad to see them. I also didn't like Addie very much 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, despite my criticisms. It's cute, they're all cute romances, and the snowstorm adds both some danger and some magic. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Because it's CHRISTMAS!

What other books is it like? Other John Green ones, for sure. I really liked Tobin, I would like a whole novel about him. 

How many stars? Four out of five, more like seven out of ten but even so 

Where is the book going now? I'll definitely keep it and might read it again 

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gaily Honeyman - Review

Thursday, December 20, 2018

This was the book for my December book club meeting, and I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, so I decided to get to it in November. I borrowed a copy off a friend, which was good. I've heard quite a lot about this book and heard there was a twist, which one friend had guessed and one friend hadn't, so I was intrigued to read it and see if I guessed.

At the beginning of the book we meet Eleanor. She's worked in the same office for years. She doesn't get on with her colleagues, who tease her because they think she's dull. She lives in a flat by herself with only a plant for company. She does the same thing every day. She drinks two bottles of vodka at the weekend. She is extremely controlled in all aspects of her life.

Little by little, we see Eleanor's life unravel. We meet her social worker, we hear from her mother, we see her getting drunker and drunker at weekends. Then she is present when an old man collapses and ends up visiting him with her co-worker Raymond who was also there. She also develops a crush on the lead singer of a local band and starts to scheme as to how she can meet him and get him to fall in love with her. She undertakes a number of things to make this happen, like getting a haircut and a Brazilian wax. Her life starts expanding outwards, and we get to see why she is the way she is and what happened to her when she was younger.

I did guess the twist, but it was really well done and I second guessed myself all the way through. I'm glad the book didn't have a completely happy ending, but I thought it was a nice ending, and I really liked the way Eleanor had overcome a lot of adversity in order to expand her world a bit. She is a strange character, but I really liked her and really fell for her.

I think in general my book club will have liked it, but we'll see!

The Way Past Winter by Kiran Millwood Hargrave - Review

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it in October, I'd seen some people talk about it on Twitter so I pre-ordered it and it arrived on the day of publication. 

What's it about? It's a middle grade book set in Scandinavia, in a place where winter has come and due to a curse, has never left. Mila lives with her sisters and her brother, Oskar, after their mother has died and their father has disappeared. It's a hard life, as they live miles out of town and have to rely on each other for everything. 

One night some strange men arrive on horseback and Oskar is transfixed. In the morning, he is gone. Mila and her sisters must set off to town to look for him, on their sleigh with their faithful huskies. On the way they have to fight for survival to free their brother. 

I liked Mila a lot, I thought she was a really kickass character and perfect for children to read about. I liked her siblings too, but I liked Mila the best. 

What age range is it for? 9+, probably 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No

Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so? 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, some of it is quite intense. 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none! I liked this, a cute story about family set in a really snowy, beautiful, but harsh environment. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, it would be a lovely gift too 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Because it had just arrived and it looked so lovely! 

What other books is it like? It has a real fairy tale feel to it which makes it feel like a much older story than it is. 

How many stars? Eight out of ten 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it, I love the cover so much. I love Kiran's books, I will definitely keep my eyes out for what she publishes in the future.

The Mistletoe Murder and Other Stories by P D James - Review

Saturday, December 15, 2018

I was feeling kind of festive in the middle of November so picked up this book of short stories. My friend Laura bought it for me, last Christmas I think. She and I often buy each other books and often share books, so it's always a pleasure to get a book from her. I've not read any P D James books I don't think, although my dad loved them. I like crime fiction although I read a lot less of it than I used to and I'm probably more discerning in what I do read. But P D James is one of the best, so I'm glad I got round to reading something by her.

The first story, The Mistletoe Murder, is supposedly a true story about James' own family, involving her grandmother and a cousin. I thought this was the best of the stories, but they were all good and I liked this short book and the way James wrote.

Death in the Spotlight by Robin Stevens - Review

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it, in October. 

What's it about? It's the next in the Wells and Wong novels. In this one, Daisy and Hazel have only just got back from Hong Kong (which the last book was about) and it has been decided that instead of immediately returning to school, they will stay with Daisy's uncle Felix for a while. To keep them out of trouble they go to a theatre to join the cast of Romeo and Juliet. While there, someone is murdered, and the Detective Society must once again try to solve the murder!

I get why Robin wanted the girls to not be at school, but I missed the school setting. I can also see that the girls are growing up more quickly than the publishing of the books allows, and I wonder what that means for the series. But it's no secret I love these books, I think they're perfect for the age group and such a gorgeous addition to children's literature. I think the 1930s setting is really lovely, and Hazel and Daisy are great characters, especially for girls. 

In this book I felt like the girls were in less danger, but I also felt like the murder was more gory, which is appropriate to the age group as it grows older. I can't wait for the next book, just to see what happens!

I felt like Daisy and Hazel became closer as friends in this book, and I felt like we understood Daisy a lot more.

What age range is it for? I say from age 10 ish, but I honestly think anyone could find something in these books. They're so endearing and well written

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? YES! No spoilers but it was SO lovely!

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Hazel is, and as fascism spreads across Europe in the 1930s, we see how Hazel feels as 'other' in Britain. I love this aspect of the series, I think it's done really well. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so. 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No? 

Is there any talk of death? Yes and as I say it is a little more gory than previous books. I loved it!

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? None! As an adult I can pick flaws out, but if I was a kid or teenager I wouldn't care. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes of course. Read them in order though. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I can never resist one of these for long.

What other books is it like? Like the other ones, obviously! I don't know of any other series like this but if you do, let me know

How many stars? Nine out of ten. 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it. I read a couple of these as library books but I'm considering buying them just so I have the whole series!

Elly Griffiths in Derby

Thursday, December 6, 2018

If you've read this blog for any length of time you'll know that I love Elly Griffiths and her books. I first read the first Ruth Galloway books way back in 2010 and quickly became a fan. Since then I've read everything Elly has published and often pre-order her books so I know I'll have them when they come out. My dad died in 2008 and I really wish he was alive to read Elly's books as I think he'd like them too. A love of crime fiction was something we had in common, even though his tastes were much darker than mine.

Elly's Ruth Galloway novels are my favourites, I love the mix of crime and theology and myth, and I like Ruth herself. I've enjoyed the Stephens and Mephisto novels, though. Elly's latest book is a standalone novel called The Stranger Diaries, it's a gothic novel. She was doing a book tour for it and the closest place to us was Derby, so I bought tickets for my partner and I and off we went.

The event was held at Waterstones and was actually on the day that the book was released, which also happened to be All Saints' Day. Elly first of all told us about her career in writing. Her real name is Domenica de Rosa, and she has several books published under that name. She took up a pen name to publish the first Ruth Galloway novel. Apparently she does now answer to Elly even though it isn't her name! She was engaging to listen to.

Then she read an extract from The Stranger Diaries, and then she answered audience questions. We had quite a long discussion about who would play Ruth and Nelson if the books were ever made into a television series! Then she signed her books.

I bought myself a copy of The Stranger Diaries, and I had also taken all the paper copies of her other books that I could find. I know there's a couple missing - I think I may have lent me to my aunt! I know I've read all the Stephens and Mephisto novels as ebooks, though. Elly very kindly signed all the books, and we had a really nice chat. It was lovely to meet her! I think I'll read The Stranger Diaries over Christmas...

During the reading

Me and Elly

All my lovely signed books!

The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware - Review

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

I saw this book on someone else's book blog and was immediately hooked. I preordered it and again it was on the pile of books that arrived in October, so I picked it up. 

I was hooked because the book is about a cruise ship, and I've just been on a cruise myself (my posts about the week we had around the Mediterranean are here on my other blog). Lo is a travel writer and invited on board an exclusive ship to go up the Norwegian fjords. When she arrives on board she meets a whole raft of characters, including her ex boyfriend and the ship's owner and his beautiful wife, who is ill with cancer. 

In the night she's woken by the sound of someone being pushed overboard from the balcony of the cabin next to hers. Lo is a little out of sorts because her flat was broken into just before her trip, so she's on high alert for the person next door. She reports what she heard to staff, but the problem is that there's no passenger missing off the boat. Staff try to make out like she's mistaken, but she's sure she isn't. There's no way for anyone to have got on or off the ship, so is she now stuck with a murderer?

I liked the intrigue, and I liked most of the story, but I felt it lost its way a bit towards the end. I liked Lo and I liked the interspersed newspaper accounts which gave the reader more information about Lo and about what had happened. Still, I would read more by Ruth Ware - which is just as well as I've another by her on preorder right now!

Odd One Out by Nic Stone - Review

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Where did I get it? I pre-ordered it way back in April and it arrived in mid-October

What's it about? It's got three points of view, splitting the book into thirds. In the first part we meet Courtney Cooper, star on his basketball team, who is in love with his female best friend, Jupiter. They've been friends forever and are extremely close, but Jupiter is gay and has been out of the closet for years. 

Then there's a new girl in town, Rae, and Jupiter is all over her, leaving Coop feeling pushed out. The middle of the book is Rae's point of view and we see how she feels about both Coop and Jupiter, and how she feels split in the middle by them. 

The last part of the book is Jupiter's point of view and we see how she feels sexuality changing and being fluid. 

I liked the set up with Coop and Jupiter's families, that they were basically one big family that lived next door to each other. Coop lived with his mum and his dad was dead, and Jupiter lived with her two dads. I felt like Rae's family could have joined in this eventually too; I like to think this would happen in a sequel! 

I didn't like the end too much, I felt like there was a lot unresolved. But it was very lifelike. I liked Coop best of all, I think. I wish Rae had been more open with either of them. I would absolutely read other books by Nic Stone, though (I own Dear Martin, which I'm looking forward to). 

What age range is it for? 15+, I think. There is quite a lot of traumatic past, so be careful with yourself. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, all three main characters. I liked how this was written. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I don't think so, but I might have forgotten? 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not explicit and I think they use protection

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

Is there any talk of death? Yes, trigger warnings. 

Are there swear words? A couple, very judiciously used. 

What criticisms do I have? As above, I just didn't like the ending much. And I felt like we were supposed to like Jupiter much more than I actually did/ 

Would I recommend the book? I would, actually. I think this review is much more negative than I mean it to be. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It arrived and it was in a pile of new books by my bed!

What other books is it like? I'm not sure. 

How many stars? Six out of then. 

Where is the book going now? I'll probably keep it, I have friends who would love it. 

NaNoWriMo 2018

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Hi! In case you're wondering where I've been for a month, well, I've been busy doing NaNoWriMo. If you haven't heard of it, it's a challenge where you write 50,000 words of a novel in the 30 days of November. I first heard of it way back in 2005, and I won it that year and in 2006. I didn't win then for years. Some years I tried and gave up, some years I didn't even try. I won in 2014 with a novel that is now finished and which needs some basic editing before I try to submit it to agents. I won in 2016 with a novel which is finished but maybe needs a bit of expansion as it's quite short, and which needs a LOT of editing before it's ready. I don't think I tried last year, but this year I was determined to do it again. I had a plot in mind and had a few basic pointers written down, but then a few days before I changed my mind!

I decided to write a book which I've had the bare bones of for a long time now. I actually wrote one version of it in 2006, I think, starring the same family. But over the past few years I've had it in my mind to expand it, write it differently. So I thought I'd give it a go again.

Once I got started, I got really into it. I had a few things going on in November so gave myself a couple of days off. On days I really got writing I wrote over 2000 words per day (the average is 1667 per day) and the plot was going well. It's a dual narrative novel now, one set now and one set in the 90s. I had a bunch of stuff I wanted to happen before the main event, so I kept writing and kept writing. I was helped with some word wars by my friend Stephanie, so many thanks to her!

Then on Tuesday, the 27th, I had only around 5000 words to write to pass 50,000, and I was just kind of sick of concentrating so much and just wanted to win. I didn't have anything else to do all day so I just got my head down and got on with it.

I finished around 10pm with over 50,000 words, and knowing that the book had at least two more events before it was complete. But weirdly, I hadn't got to the main event! I just had lots of stuff to happen before that. So I think there'll be a sequel! YA novels are often around 75,000 words, so I don't want to make it happen now and not give it the words it needs. It's weird how this stuff happens while you're writing, though!

I read loads in November - eight books! - but decided to not write ANYTHING except my Nano, so I wrote down all the blogposts I needed to write and am now getting to them. I'll space them out so as not to overwhelm you. I think I'll already be trying to cast my mind back to the books I read at the beginning of the month. November seems to have gone on forever.

I'm really proud of myself for achieving Nano and I'd say give it a go if you've ever thought you might want to.

Author Talk in Manchester

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

My partner and I went to Manchester on Sunday to see Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera in conversation with Lucy The Book Belle. It was part of their promotional tour for their collaborative book, What If It's Us. I knew I wouldn't be able to go by myself, so I'd asked Lee to come with me. I booked our tickets way back in June; I booked a general ticket for Lee but for myself I got the one that came with a copy of the book and a poster.

Lee and I went across to Manchester on Sunday morning and then ate our lunch in the car just around the corner from the library. The library staff were really friendly and the event was packed - Lee and I estimated there were around 225 people there!

Lucy introduced Becky and Adam and then she asked them some questions. Their book is based around a 'meet cute' between two boys, Ben and Arthur, who meet in New York one day and then try to find each other again. They talked a lot about how they'd written a book together and a little bit about what they're working on next. They talked about fun things like what Hogwarts houses Ben and Arthur are in, and they talked about things they'd disagreed with their editors about. After Lucy had asked her questions they opened up the floor and I decided to ask a question. I asked "What book do you wish you'd written and, relatedly, how would you maybe change it?" It's a question I love to ask authors because it's something I think about a lot - I love books where I think "Yes, I would've written this, only I might have changed X". They both liked the question and gave really nice answers. Asking a question is way out of my comfort zone so Lee was proud that I had.

After the talk was a signing. The queue was ridiculous. We were about two thirds of the way down it and we still queued for an hour and twenty minutes. I wish the organisers had given out raffle tickets or numbers or something. I can't stand for that long due to my chronic pain issues, so I was glad to have Lee with me. There were seats so I kept sitting down, but this could have been done better I think.

Becky was exactly as lovely as I thought she would be, and I really warmed to Adam as I didn't know much about him before the event. I said I was grateful for his tweets about poverty and he thanked me and we agreed that we need more stories about poor kids. They both signed their book and then the others of theirs that I own - I assured Becky that I have read the Upside of Unrequited but it was on Kindle! I'm really glad we got to meet them. They both seem like such forces for good in the world and in the YA world in particular.

Afterwards Lee and I went to Revolucion de Cuba for tapas and cocktails, it was really nice! I'd definitely go back

Lucy and Becky and Adam from where I was sitting

Thank you to the kind person who took this!

These are all signed now :)

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller - Review

Saturday, October 27, 2018

I've had this book for ages, I think Janet sent me it in a Christmas swap a few years ago, but I've never picked it up. Then last year at my book club we were picking titles out to read. We like to read some library books, because we were born out of Penistone library and get a lot of support from them, so like to support them in return. We alternate between library books and buying books. I noticed that this was on the list of library books, so suggested it, knowing I had a copy which would be less demand on the half dozen or so library books.

It's the November book and I'll be leading the discussion, which is never very much of a job because there's around ten of us in the book club so we tend to bounce off each other. I don't think we've ever all liked a book so it's usually a very lively discussion. I love my book club; it makes me read things I'd never pick up and I like hearing other people's opinions (which is partly why I'm a book blogger!).

I have to say I wasn't entirely looking forward to this book, even though I chose it. I thought it would be dense and hard to read and would maybe go entirely over my head. But everyone I know who's read it - Janet included - has raved about it, so I thought I'd get ahead of myself for book club and read it now.

So basically, it's a retelling of the Iliad, only it starts much earlier than that. I'm not familiar with the story of the Iliad so I didn't have any spoilers as to what was going to happen, which I was glad about. The main character is Patroclus, a prince, who grows up with a somewhat cold and detached father. Patroclus accidentally kills a boy and is exiled from the kingdom; he goes to live with Achilles' father and becomes a close companion of Achilles. Achilles is the son of goddess Thetis and there are prophecies about him and his immortality.

The two boys go to the mountain with a centaur called Chiron, whose name Patroclus later adopts as his own name. There they begin a sexual relationship and Patroclus becomes Achilles' closest companion. But the idyll cannot last long - Achilles must join the other Greek kings and go to Troy to retrieve Helen of Sparta, who has been abducted by Paris.

I had only the most basic idea of the story of the Trojan War, so I didn't realise it had lasted quite so long. I thought the narrative of the book dragged a bit, but the book did compel me to keep reading it because I wanted to know what happened. No spoilers here but I thought it was really well done. I liked the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles, but I felt like Achilles was a little closed off at times and I would have liked that veneer to fall a bit more.

Madeline Miller teaches Latin and Greek history and I think that really shows through. The narrative isn't dense at all. The speech patterns can be a little odd but I soon got used to them. I'm glad to have read this, I liked the reimagining of the relationship between the two men (an idea which is pretty old but told beautifully here). I would definitely read something else by the same author.

All These Beautiful Strangers by Elizabeth Klehfoth - Review

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it over the summer in a shop in Thirsk when I went with some friends. 

What's it about? I was confused for most of this book as to whether it was being marketed as a Young Adult book or not, but the internet seems to think it was. But while it's about young adults, it's an odd book that doesn't seem to fit in YA entirely. 

The main character is Charlie Galloway, aged seventeen. She is a pupil at an exclusive prep school in New England, the school her father Alistair attended. At the beginning of the book Charlie gets an invite to join the A's, a secret club which everyone wants to join. She has to pass several challenges as a hazing ritual, and when one of her fellow initiates fails the test, she sees exactly what the punishment can be for crossing the A's. 

Meanwhile, we learn about Charlie's family. Her dad is the president of a multi million dollar company; her family is definitely old money. Her mother, Grace, mysteriously disappeared ten years ago. Alistair was in the frame for having murdered her, but then bank tapes revealed Grace had withdrawn a lot of money in the weeks before her disappearance. Charlie has dealt with being abandoned by her mother, but she's still hurting from it and she doesn't talk to her mother's family anymore.

Then one night her mum's brother Hank comes to see her at school and hands her some photographs from before Grace disappeared. They make Charlie start examining the past and everything she thought happened between her parents.

Meanwhile, we also get chapters from Alistair's and Grace's points of view, and this confused me because they're obviously adults at the time and this is unusual in YA books. But it did allow the reader to see how Charlie's parents met as well as see what happened between them. I didn't mind these parts, and I liked Grace as a character, but the themes were often quite adult and for that I'll trigger warn for violence and sexual assault. 

What age range is it for? Due to aforementioned themes, I'm going to say 16+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, plus the sexual assault. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Maybe prescription ones

Is there any talk of death? Yes, obviously 

Are there swear words? Yes 

What criticisms do I have? Well, it is extremely white and privileged, obviously. That said, there was a real sinister feel to the school in its entirety, showing it's not all it's cracked up to be. I liked Charlie and the plot kept me reading, but I didn't feel like there was enough at stake in parts. Like at one point I thought she was going to be kidnapped, but it was just a boy grabbing her. I felt like the A's storyline didn't get a satisfactory ending, even though we could see the futility in the group's existence. The book's really long, I felt like some of it could have been edited out. But I did like it, don't let me give the impression that I didn't. 

Would I recommend the book? Yep, if the plot appeals 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I liked the cover, if I'm honest, and was seduced!

What other books is it like? I feel like I compare a lot of books to We Were Liars, but it definitely has that vibe to it. I think it's a bit like S.T.A.G.S by M A Bennett, too. 

How many stars? Four out of five

Where is the book going now? I think I'll keep it!


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