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Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater - Review

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Warning: spoilers ahead (a little bit) if you haven't read the Raven Cycle)

I finally finished the third book in the Raven Cycle series and I LOVED it! My relationship with this series is complicated and for several reasons this book took me nearly two weeks to read, but the pay off was worth it.

Okay so let me start at the beginning. I loved the Raven Boys, I thought it was a really perfect adventure with the cutest characters. I loved the mythology and the set up of searching for Glendower and I loved the juxtaposition of the boys' and Blue's ordinary lives with their individual worries and school lives. I was really excited for The Dream Thieves, but then I really didn't get on with it. I found it dragged and didn't really add a lot to the overarching plot of the series for me.

I guess that put me off a bit because I haven't picked up Blue Lily, Lily Blue until now. But I was wandering through the bookshelves and I do, and I thought, you know, I really ought to get to reading this whole series. I think I was also putting it off a bit because, as you'll know if you've read the series, right at the beginning, it's foretold by Blue that Gansey is going to die, and I just don't think I can deal with the heartache - even though I don't think he's going to die in a typical fashion because, well, I just don't believe it! But I knew it would hurt so I've been gaily going along in ignorance so that nothing terrible happens to Gansey.

But, anyway! I started reading this and got into it, but the text is very dense and that's one reason why it took me so long to read. I like to go over things to make sure I really understand what's going on. I've also been away for a couple of nights where I didn't read, and been a bit ill, both of which are things which don't make me rush through a book. And that's okay. Life happens. In 2018 I am definitely trying to focus on quality over quantity, and this book definitely fits in.

First of all, loads of things happened, all of which brought the plot along very nicely. The novel as a whole can only be set within about three weeks of time, which I really appreciated. Let me talk about each character and what they're up to:

Adam: There's not nearly as much Adam as I would like. He's still living above the church and is waiting for the court case against his father. He's pretty upset and he rows with Ronan which physically pained me. I think, in thinking about this series as a whole, that really, the first book is Adam's. It's about his family situation and abuse and about his escaping from that. The second book is Ronan's, this third book belongs to Blue. Presumably, that means The Raven King will belong to Gansey, which is great because I love Gansey, but also, if the first book is the most Adam I'm going to get I'm a bit sad about that. I need a whole TV series about Adam Parrish living his best life, to be honest.

Ronan: Ronan is back dreaming, but in a much more concise way. He's trying to wake things up at his family home, and he's discovered something about his brother that literally made me gasp when I read it. He's there for Gansey and for Adam when they need him, even if he's pretty belligerent about it when he wants to be. He and Blue have never really bonded, but then towards the end of this book he really comes through for her in a way that I really loved. I love him, in all his sullen sweary ways.

Gansey: Gansey's friend Malory has come from England and Gansey is trying to find another way into Cabeswater after suffering a horrendous panic attack near the beginning of the book. There's not enough Gansey in this book, but his scenes with Blue are adorable and painful in turn. I love him, I don't even care.

Blue: Most of this book is from Blue's point of view, which was great because it's so easy to like her. She's got a lot going on and a lot of grief after the disappearance of her mother in the Dream Thieves and desperately wants to find her. She's in love with Gansey but can't kiss him because of the curse upon her, so all her pining is quite relatable too. She makes friends with Jesse Dittley in a way that I thought was just brilliant. I am so glad that this particular part of the series was told from her point of view because I think her experiences gave it the gravity it deserved, if that makes sense.

So, there's a lot going on and threat coming from Greenmantle, who has moved to Henrietta and is teaching Latin at the boys' school (Latin teachers are always really shady characters aren't they). There's a few bits of his point of view which I also liked; his relationship with his wife Piper is pretty bonkers and funny, and honestly it was nice to read an adult's point of view in a YA novel.

I won't talk any more about the story, but there were a lot of twists and turns, many of which made me laugh out loud and some of which made me gasp and want to cry. I loved the whole thing, I will probably reread this book as a standalone at some point. The Dream Thieves did, as I suspected, set up some things in this book, which was nice to see. I laughed out loud at a lot of the conversation, I love how sarcastic each of the main four are with each other, and the little asides. I laughed so much that my partner kept asking what I was laughing at, and I think I piqued his interested enough that he might try the first book.

I love the series, but I'd be able to understand if people didn't. Some of it is just totally ridiculous and I just went with it and let it be, but I could understand if people didn't get it and couldn't run with it. We'll have to see what Lee thinks!

Most of all I love the friendships within this group. They will all literally die for each other and I love that. The fierceness of those friendships and the lengths to which everyone will go for all the others. The fact that everyone else might not really understand Gansey's mission to find Glendower but that they're willing to join in with it anyway. That for me is the real takeaway of the series and I think it's gorgeously summed up here:

I love it, it gives me all the feels!

Finally, I have to show off that my copy of this book is signed. I met Maggie at YALC in 2016 and got her to sign this. I was using my signed Becky Albertalli bookmark too!

I Am Thunder by Muhammad Khan - Did Not Finish

Sunday, February 18, 2018

It is so rare that I don't finish a book. I like a lot of different genres and can usually find something in a book to keep reading, so even if I don't like something particularly, I nearly always end up finishing it. Plus, I'm quite discerning about books I pick up off the shelf and often know that I already want to read it, if that makes sense. I try to unhaul books quite often and donate them to charity or libraries if I know they're something that I'm no longer into. I don't have loads of time to spend reading so I like to read books that I can see something in.

I think though that 2018 might be the year to give up on books if they're not grabbing me by, say, 30 pages in. Life is too short and I've got dozens of books that might be amazing and that are waiting to be read.

I started I Am Thunder with high expectations because I'd heard great things. It's about a Muslim teenager whose boyfriend wants to join Islamic State, I think. I didn't get that far, because I just couldn't get into the style. Muzna, the main character, didn't appeal to me at all. I tried, reading about forty pages, before I gave up. I'm sorry, because I think this would've been an excellent story to read, but I just couldn't get on with the style.

Have you read this? Did I give up too quickly? Do you give up on books?

The Dark Angel by Elly Griffiths - Review

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Elly Griffiths is one of my favourite writers. She has two series, the Ruth Galloway novels and the Stephens and Mephisto books, and I've read nearly all of them - I've just got the latest Stephens and Mephisto book to read. By rights, that one came out before this one, but I like Ruth too much and I really wanted to get back to her! I'll get to The Vanishing Box soon though, for sure!

So, Dr Ruth Galloway lives on the Norfolk coast with her cat and her daughter, Kate. She's an archaeologist and way back at the beginning of the series she was asked to help the local police out in dating some bones. She had an affair with local DCI Harry Nelson, and eventually had his baby, the afore-mentioned Kate. Ruth and Nelson have a very complicated relationship which is one of the best parts of the series. At the end of the previous book it was discovered that Nelson's wife Michelle is expecting another baby, and that is a major thread in this book, which takes place only six weeks later.

Okay, so, Ruth is feeling down at the beginning of the book because of Michelle's baby and because her mother has recently died, so when an old colleague Angelo rings her about a dig near Rome and asks her to come and have a look, it doesn't take much to persuade her to go, taking Kate with her. Ruth's friend Shona and her son Louis also tag along.

The four stay in a little town set high on the hillside not too far from Formia. They're in Angelo's grandfather's apartment, and it becomes clear that someone doesn't want them there. The descriptions of the Italian countryside were just perfect and so evocative of the area. One of the things I like the best in writing is when it's really sunny and beautiful and yet there's tension underlying, I think it really amps up the threat. I thought Elly did this brilliantly here, with her descriptions of the heat and the town.

Meanwhile, Nelson is in Norfolk. A man who once threatened him is now out of prison, so while Nelson isn't worried he does think he's seen Micky Webb hanging around his house. He's preoccupied with Michelle and the baby, especially since he's worried the baby might belong to his ex-colleague Tim.

I felt like this book was a needed breath of air in the series, taking Ruth out of her normal Norfolk setting and putting her into sunny Italy. I feel like I got to know Ruth better as a character, but I wish she'd had a bit more work to do! I always love Nelson and he actually didn't do anything particularly rashly annoying in this book (he usually does something that makes me groan, and although I won't spoiler, the big thing he does do in this didn't annoy me in the slightest; in fact, I loved it!)

I wish there was a bit more theology in this book, as with the rest of the more recent ones - I feel like the early ones had more theology, which I love. But, in all I'm giving this five out of five because I really enjoyed it, and it was a flash of sunshine in a cold February!

The Lido by Libby Page - Review

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so many thanks to Orion Publishing Group

What's it about? This is a book for adults but the story is very sweet and the book has nothing of an adult theme, so I would say that a teenager who is interested in the plot could read this book and heartily enjoy it. Because of that, I'm doing my Young Adult review, even though this is an adult book. I hope that makes sense! 

It's set in London, in Brixton, around the lido in the park in Brockwell Park. We meet Rosemary, who is 86, and who has been swimming at the lido for eighty years. She swims there most mornings and is worried to hear that the council is poised to sell the lido to a developer who want to make it into a gym for nearby flats. Through the novel we see Rosemary's life and how she met her husband George, and her fifty years of marriage to him. 

Meanwhile we meet Kate, who is 26 and from Bristol, and who lives in a house of multiple occupancy in Brixton, with housemates she doesn't know and never sees. She works on the Brixton Chronicle, and is pretty miserable. She gets panic attacks - which I actually thought were excellently written and very real - and feels like she's adrift in her life. 

She's sent to write a story about the lido and through that she meets Rosemary and the two become friends. Kate meets people within the community and starts to care deeply about
the future of the lido.

I think this is a really accomplished debut novel, even though I thought it was a bit predictable in parts. I got a real sense of Brixton community throughout eighty years of Rosemary's life, which I liked, and it made my long dream of swimming in a lido even stronger! (Maybe this year I'll finally make it to Hathersage lido!)

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

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Not a main character per se, but yes

Are any main characters people of colour? Again, not main characters, but yes. I thought the ethnic diversity of Brixton wasn't touched upon enough, actually, which is one of my few criticisms. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I guess Kate's panic attacks. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, but it's quite fade to black. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No, there might be like one mention of weed. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes, but it's not gory or graphic

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? As above, I would have liked more on the many different people who have made Brixton their home and contributed to the community there. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes.

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I had read a chapter sampler last year, so when Orion granted me the book I knew I wanted to read the book soon!

What other books is it like? It has tones of A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale. I can't exactly explain why, but that feels like a good fit. 

How many stars? Four out of five. A perfect read for a cold winter night when I'm longing for spring!

Wing Jones by Katherine Webber - Review

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Where did I get it? I bought it, I had it on pre order and it arrived in January 2017. I meant to read it straight away but didn't, but while browsing my bookshelves recently I thought I really should get around to it. I'd heard so many good things about it so i was excited to read it. 

What's it about? Wing Jones lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her mum, her two grandmothers, and her brother, Marcus. Wing is half Chinese and half Ghanaian and often feels like she's stuck between two worlds. She's quite shy at school, preferring to spend her time watching her brother, who is hoping to go pro, play football. She has a huge crush on Marcus' best friend Aaron but is certain nothing will ever happen between them.

Then a tragedy befalls the family; I won't spoil it because I didn't know what it was, so when it happened I actually went, "No!" and had to put the book down for five minutes while I got over it. Wing is left reeling, unsure of what to do to feel better. So, at night, she starts to run, and she discovers a talent for running that no one knew she had. 

What age range is it for? 14 upwards, maybe fifteen. The storyline is quite difficult to read.

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? She's not entirely a main character, but a friend of Wing's is, and I really liked this subplot. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes, obviously Wing's whole family are, and Aaron is black. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Sort of. 

Is there any sex stuff? Very little. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes, somewhat

Is there any talk of death? Yes, lots, and some of it is quite gory so take care. There's some gory violence too. 

Are there swear words? A few 

What criticisms do I have? The timeline of the book was a bit odd. Some weeks seemed to last forever, and then time sprung forward without any warning and I didn't understand how or why. There were a couple of factual errors too, within the narrative, that just sort of jolted me. But honestly, there's very little to criticise because I really liked it. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well, my eye was caught by the beautiful purple and pink sprayed edges of the book. All books should have coloured pages tbh. 

What other books is it like? It's easy to draw a parallel between Wing Jones and The Hate U Give, one which is a fair comparison, but I also thought it was a lot like Not If I See You First. It might have just been the running but the feel - especially of Wing's experience at school - is very similar. 

How many stars? Nine out of ten, I really liked it. 

Where is the book going now? I want Lee to read it as I think he'll like it in the same way that he liked The Hate U Give. I also think my friend Stacey would enjoy it, so I might lend it to her over the summer. 


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