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Noah Can't Even by Simon James Green - Review

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it for myself last autumn because I'd heard a lot about it. 

What's it about? Noah is fifteen and in his last year of school. Life is pretty terrible - his dad went awol when Noah was ten and Noah tried to cover it up, which people have never forgotten about. His mum does a Beyonce tribute act and everyone at school just found out about that, too. Life at home is quite difficult for a few reasons. Things are looking up slightly when Noah is paired with Sophie for a project - but then she's moving to Milton Keynes very soon. But she invites Noah to a party and under the rules Noah has with his best friend Harry, Harry is invited too. 

While they're there, Harry kisses Noah in a bedroom upstairs, and that's when all hell really does break loose because Eric Smith was videoing it and now he's trying to blackmail Noah.

I was expecting this book to be quite serious, and at the beginning it sort of is, so when things started getting ludicrous and obviously exaggerated for comedy effect, I was a bit thrown. But once I just went with it and got into the comedy, I really enjoyed the book. Noah is a great book hero - geeky, clumsy, funny, and with the knowledge that he's just a bit of a geek. I really liked him, I'm going to have to buy the sequel book I think!

What age range is it for? 14+, it's pretty suitable for anyone. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Harry is. And Noah isn't sure - but I thought this was really well handled and nicely done. When they kiss Noah know it feels amazing, but he likes girls doesn't he? 

Are any main characters people of colour? Well about halfway into the book it says that Sophie is mixed race, but it's not mentioned much which sort of annoyed me. It was like everyone was presumed to be white? The book is set in North Lincolnshire, somewhere near Grimsby, which fair enough isn't the most multicultural place in the world, but even so!

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? A little, it's not explicit and there's plenty of mention of condoms/protection which I liked. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? A little bit, nothing too explicit.

Are there swear words? A few. 

What criticisms do I have? Well, I mean, a lot did happen and it wasn't all realistic or believable. I found the book quite difficult to relate to, but I did also find it very funny. It's not the type of book I would write, or particularly look out for - but that doesn't mean it's a bad book in and of itself. Does that make sense? 

Would I recommend the book? Yes. I did like the fact that it's set in the middle of nowhere in the north, and I did like the fact that Noah came from a poor family and that this wasn't glossed over. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I think someone had mentioned it on Twitter or something and I remembered I had it. I'm actively trying to read books that I bought specifically, like this, rather than letting them languish on the shelves. 

What other books is it like? In tone, I think it's quite a lot like Better Nate Than Never but for a slightly older audience. 

How many stars? Four out of five, one of those stars is for how amazing I thought Noah was. 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it on my LGBT shelf!

The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles - Review

Friday, January 26, 2018

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you to Hodder Children's Books. 

What's it about? I read the first chapter of this book via Maximum Pop last year, and was intrigued by it. As I said in this post, we first meet Lux when she's looking back on the Leavers Ball she attended at the end of her first year of 6th form. She's then back at her school, a bohemian school full of artists and writers, and she's suffering from amnesia and terrible migraines. She's also got synaesthesia, which means that she tastes colours and feels the colour red too much. She knows something happened on her last day at an internship in an art gallery, but can't remember what. All she knows is that she woke up in hospital. 

She's fallen out with her parents and is relying heavily on her friends Olivia and Mei. She has to have therapy at school with Dr B, and she's also getting close to new boy Cal. 

This book took me ages to read and to begin with I thought it just wasn't grabbing me, but I couldn't put my finger on why. I didn't like Lux to begin with, but I did by the end, and I think it was her character that salvaged the book in its entirety for me. I felt like more depth was needed, and some bits were skated over when I would have liked more detail. But, this is a decent book and I would definitely pick up something else by the same author. 

What age range is it for? 16+, some of the subject matter is pretty harrowing. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? She's not exactly a main character, but Lux's friend Georgia is. 

Are any main characters people of colour? I assume that Mei is Chinese, given her name, but it's not explicitly said. Also, Lux's parents live in Singapore and I wasn't sure if she was Singaporean, but I'm pretty sure she was white and she just lived there. I would have liked to see more representation here. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, I'm going to say Lux is due to her memory issues and other mental health problems. 

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

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, both prescription drugs and illegal drugs are used and mentioned. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, and it's quite gory in places. 

Are there swear words? A few 

What criticisms do I have? I think I've outlined them above. I didn't dislike the book, but I thought it was a bit inconsistent. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, despite my criticisms. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It downloaded to my Kindle and I remembered I'd liked the first chapter, so started it. 

What other books is it like? It's been compared a lot to We Were Liars by E Lockhart, which is honestly a very apt comparison. 

How many stars? I was thinking I would give it six out of ten, but then at the last minute decided it's more like seven and a half. This is mostly due to Lux herself, who I really warmed to, and also to the epilogue which I liked. 

Clampdown by Rhian E Jones - Review

Thursday, January 18, 2018

First of all, I need to say two things: one, I received this book free from the publisher so thank you very much to Zero Books, and two, Rhian is a friend of mine. We met years ago through The Libertines, but we have quite a lot of music in common and are quite similar politically. When I heard about the book I wanted to read it so was thrilled to receive a copy, but then I lost the book and unearthed it recently and decided to read it. I would like to read more non fiction in 2018 so this seemed an ideal place to start.

Concentrating on several bands of the 90s Britpop and later 00s British bands, Rhian talks about the class identity of those bands, how they used class signifiers, and how bands with women in in particular identified. She particularly looks at how working class women have been demonised in the press and how the 'chav' image is used against women more than men. She looks at working class bands like Kenickie to comment on the ladette culture of the 90s and so on. The text is pretty dense so quite often I had to break sentences down to make sure I really understood them, but there were parts that made me actually laugh out loud. This may be because I know Rhian and her dry wit, but she also has such a way with words - for instance, describing the 'camp wit' of The Libertines and the 'languorous sleaziness' of Elastic (two of my favourite bands, which helps!) I don't think the book is too difficult for someone non academic (like me!) to read. It is similar in parts to Chavs by Owen Jones, a book I've skimmed but not read properly. I really liked the book and would recommend it to anyone who grew up on Britpop and other guitar bands. Five out of five!

My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece by Annabel Pitcher - Review

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Where did I get it? I've owned this book for five years, since I first ever heard of Annabel. I tried to read it then, but only got about fifty pages into it. It didn't grab me, so I didn't finish it. I did however get the book signed by Annabel around about the time I bought it. 

What's it about? Jamie's sister Rose lives on the mantelpiece, in an urn. She was killed in a terrorist explosion five years ago so Jamie, who is ten, barely remembers her. Everyone else in his family finds it hard to live without her, though - Dad drinks too much alcohol, Rose's twin Jasmine doesn't eat and dyes her hair pink, and Mum has just left. Jamie, Jas, and Dad move up to the Lake District, supposedly for Dad to start a new job, so Jamie has to start a new school. 

There, he's bullied by some of the girls in his class, but he also makes friends with Sunya, the girl he sits next to. The problem is Sunya is Muslim, and Dad blames all Muslims for Rose's death, so Jamie knows they can't be friends. Meanwhile everyone is falling apart, and Mum hasn't even been to visit. 

What age range is it for? 9 years plus, but I would make sure the child knew about things like the 9/11 attacks first - in an age appropriate way, obviously. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, Sunya is

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? No 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, but there's misuse of alcohol which may be painful to read. 

Is there any talk of death?  Yes, and obviously, due to Rose's death, it can be graphic. Jamie's imagination runs away with him at times. 

Are there swear words? No

What criticisms do I have? Once I got into the book I actually really liked, but I do think the first few pages could be more gripping. Maybe it's okay for the age group, but if the book skewed a bit older it would need to be more exciting. I knew loads of people who had really enjoyed the book, but to begin with I really didn't understand why. It took me a while! 

Would I recommend the book? Yes, absolutely. I've read three of Annabel's books now and I would recommend them all. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well, it was actually my choice for my book club. It was on our list of available books and I, as the children's/Young Adult aficionado in the book club, I thought it would be good to make all the others read something for this age group. I can't wait to see what they all made of it! 

What other books is it like? It's a lot like The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel, because it doesn't flinch from painful realities. It's a lot like Two Weeks With the Queen, too, I think, a book that I will absolutely have to reread this year!

How many stars? Seven out of ten. 

Where is the book going now? Because it's signed I will of course keep it! It's not my favourite by Annabel but I did like it and I want to support her writing. 

Saints and Misfits by S K Ali - Review

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Where did I get it? I had it on pre-order for TEN MONTHS - I ordered it in December 2016 and it arrived last October!  

What's it about? Janna is fifteen, and is at high school. She's Muslim and a hijabi, and she lives with her divorced mum. Her brother Muhammad has just moved back in with them. She sees her dad, but she feels really far away from his life. She is a good student and she helps to take care of an elderly neighbour, Mr Ram.

She has a crush on a non-Muslim guy, Jeremy, which she is conflicted about. She also knows a monster - her friend Fizz's cousin Farooq, who sexually assaults her in Fizz's basement one evening. The problem is everyone thinks Farooq is a good Muslim, because he learn the Quran off by heart. Jeremy and Farooq are friends, too. 

There's a lot of things going on in the book which make it feel like a real snapshot of life. I loved Janna, I thought she was a really good main character and I liked a lot of things about her. I liked her friend Tats, and I liked her mum and Muhammad. I liked Nuah, too, I thought he was such a dish and I'd really love a sequel based on his life! Janna's life is recognisable for any teenager, and when there are Islamic terms used they're always explained, which would be good for a reader unfamiliar with Islam. Janna wears hijab and I loved how it was portrayed that she cared a lot about how it looked and how her clothes in general looked. 

This is an excellent book and I'm really glad to have read it. 

What age range is it for? Janna is fifteen, so I'm going to say from around 14 upwards. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Janna's friend Sandra has a physical attribute which she is bullied for - I really liked this thread of plot too. 

Is there any sex stuff? No. 

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

Is there any talk of death? No 

Are there swear words? No, almost none 

What criticisms do I have? My criticisms are that it just isn't long enough! Because it is, like I said, a snapshot of life, there's tons of stuff going on that I wanted more of. For instance, I wanted to know what happened to Farooq, I wanted to know what happened between Muhammad and the girl he likes, Sarah. I wanted to know whether Janna's mum found a new love. I needed more of Nuah and his relationship with Janna. 

Would I recommend the book? One hundred percent. To everyone I know. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'd been reminded of its existence because S K Ali's tweets about Muslim shelf space got retweeted into my timeline and I thought it was about time I read her book. I don't think I have read too many books about young Muslims, so that's something I can definitely do better with. 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of Little and Lion which I read last year, I think that book has the same kind of snapshot of life feel about it

How many stars? Nine out of ten, practically nothing to complain about!

Where is the book going now? I think I'm going to lend it to a friend, I'll have to pop it in the post!

Christmas Book Haul

Monday, January 8, 2018

I thought I'd write a post about the books I got for Christmas! I got lots, which is lovely because I do love books. I own around 750 paper books, which is... a lot. But they're all so pretty and gorgeous, I can't stop acquiring more. Here's what I got:

This is one of the Secret Santas I did, I had to send a wishlist and this book, The Princess and the Suffragette, was on it. I LOVED A Little Princess when I was little so I'm excited to read this

This swap was a thrifty gift swap where everything had to be thrifty/secondhand, or handmade. These books are all so intriguing! The top one looks like a perfect summer read

These were from Shannon, through her own swap. I think I had Let It Snow on my wishlist, but if not then I definitely do want to read it! Cinder looks very unlike my normal kind of thing but I like being pushed out of my comfort zone and the premise looks really interesting

I actually bought Another Place and The Sister for myself in the Works, on 2 for £5. I've read In Bloom by Matthew Crow so thought I would give this one a go too. My friend Laura bought me Mistletoe and Murder, which I'm excited about as I'm not sure I've ever read a P D James book even though I grew up with lots in the house. My mother-in-law bought me Moonrise; she'd asked Lee what book I'd like and he saw this on my wishlist. I really love Sarah Crossan so I'll have to read this one too. Then the final one is about the village we live in, it's a self-published kind of thing off a stall in Barnsley market. I haven't fully looked through yet so there might be a picture of my 115 year old house!

I have to confess I bought all these books for myself! Wordery was having a sale before Christmas and I got all of these plus one more for just under £40. Bargain! I've heard loads of good things about the Philip Pullman book so I took a chance on it. Black Cairn Point looked really intriguing and was like £2.50 so it dropped into my basket. I've heard good things about Mal Peet so this one looked ideal to start off with. The premise of Tell It to the Moon intrigued me, again. I loved Judith Kerr when I was younger so I picked up Bombs on Aunt Dainty. I own pretty much everything else by Patrick Ness, so buying Release seemed ideal.... although I've just had a nasty feeling that I already own it, whoops.... And finally - did you know I share my birthday with Edgar Allen Poe? It's January the 19th! So I thought I would finally read something by him, and this illustrated copy of some poems and short stories is absolutely beautiful!

Genuine Fraud by E Lockhart - Review

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle when it was like 99p, because I read the first chapter and reviewed it here, and was really intrigued by the premise of the book. So while I was scrolling through my Kindle just after I finished The Wonder, I decided to read it. 

What's it about? As I said in the link above, we open in Mexico, where Jule is exercising in a hotel when an American woman called Noa interrupts her and starts talking to her. Jule introduces herself as Imogen, and arranges to meet up with Noa, but then becomes suspicious and makes a getaway. Unfortunately, right at the end of the first chapter, we discover that Noa has tracked her down.

At the very beginning, we also learn Jule's "origin story", where she spins a yarn about finding her parents dead when she was aged eight. This novel is a mixture of truth and fiction and half truths and truth being twisted, which I really liked. 

The novel then goes back in time to Jule's arrival in Mexico, and then keeps going back in time so that we see all the things that happened in order for Jule to be in Mexico. It's a really clever way of writing a novel and as a writer I'm intrigued as to how E Lockhart even started to do it! I sort of feel like I'd write a novel forwards and then just switch the chapters around and leave the intrigue to happen as it does. 

We Were Liars by E Lockhart is about over-privileged rich white people and honestly there's the same kind of vibe here, which I liked. Imogen is utterly dislikeable, as are a lot of the lesser characters, but I really liked Jule and was rooting for her the whole way through. This is a great book and was a brilliant way to start the new year. 

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No, but there's a definite undercurrent to the relationship between Jule and Imogen, which I liked 

Are any main characters people of colour? No. 

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? Yes, and there's some violent scenes too. Trigger warning for talk of suicide, too. 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none! I felt the whole thing was really intriguing and written in a really clever way. I have two more of E Lockhart's books and I really will have to read them. She's great! 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? As above, I liked the opening chapter. It definitely got me to buy the book!

What other books is it like? It is a lot like We Were Liars, so if you haven't read that, do. 

How many stars? Five out of five. Not perfect but really close to it. 

My Year in Books

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

In 2017 I read seventy books, which was lower than my intended goal of 80, but I had other pressures on my time. I'm still pretty pleased with 70.

I broke it down a bit:

I read 37 books in either paperback or hardback, and 33 as ebooks.

I read ten books for my two book clubs. Forty of my books were either Young Adult or middle grade books. I read 58 books by or jointly by women, and 14 books by or jointly by men (some books were jointly written you see, which is why this number doesn't add up to 70). I can't believe that I'm skewed so much in favour of books by women, but also I'm not really sorry about that. Women rock.

I really enjoyed lots of the books I read, so special mention goes to:

The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Becoming Betty by Eleanor Wood

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

These are nearly all Young Adult books, and at least two are real stand out examples of the genre. I made my partner read The Hate U Give because I thought it was so amazing. He really liked it too, then he made me watch Boyz n the Hood

I'm going to review all my books this year, too, as I've really enjoyed doing so.

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