Rebecca McCormick. Powered by Blogger.

Fell by Jenn Ashworth - Review

Monday, July 15, 2019

I got this book at a writing conference that I went to two years ago, called Grrrl Con. Jenn Ashworth gave the key note speech and she was signing copies of her book afterwards. I've been meaning to read it for ages, but just hadn't got round to it. Then after I read The Silent Companions I was asking on Twitter for recommendations of more modern gothic novels and someone mentioned this so I knew it was time to pull it off the shelf.

It is a dual narrative novel told from the point of view of ghosts. Yes that baffled me too. The ghosts are the parents of Annette, Jack and Nelly. In the modern age, Annette returns to her childhood home, The Sycamores, because her stepmother Candy has died and the house has now been left to her. She's now in her sixties, and the house is crumbling. Not least because of the sycamore trees in the front garden. Annette wants to do up the house in order to sell it, but the whole undertaking is bigger than she thought and she's more frail than she expected to be, too. Opening up the house awakens the spirits of her parents, and they watch her in the house and round about.

In the second part of the narrative we go back in time to 1963, when Annette was eight years old. Her parents ran the house as a lodging house. The family lived in the attic rooms and had several lodgers on the first floor. At the beginning of the book they have just three lodgers, and Nelly is dying of ovarian cancer or something similar. The family goes to the local lido and Jack meets Tim Richardson, who, in the course of showing off to his friends, manages to heal Jack's shortsightedness by touching him.

Jack invites Tim to come to live at The Sycamores in the hopes that he will heal Nelly. Over the course of the summer and the beginning of the winter Tim gets more and more involved with the family and Nelly gets iller and iller.

The book is set in Grange over Sands in Cumbria which I thought was a great setting, I really liked the small town feel and the beach adds to how creepy it is. I really liked the book, I would have liked more of Annette's inner thoughts, but I get that in that part of the book she's being observed by the ghosts of her parents. It's a really good book, I'm glad I finally got round to it!

Alex in Wonderland by Simon James Green - Review

Friday, July 12, 2019

Where did I get it? I saw on Twitter that Simon was going to be signing books in Gay's the Word, and you could contact them for a dedicated copy and pay via Paypal. I like supporting independent bookshops and I liked the idea of having a signed book of Simon's. So I emailed, got the dedication, paid my money, and received the book in the post along with an Alex in Wonderland bookmark AND a Gay's the Word bookmark! 

What's it about? Alex is sixteen and has just finished his GCSEs. He thinks that he'll hang out all summer with his friends Alice and Will, but they're a couple now and they awkwardly don't tell Alex that they're going on holiday together. Then Alex's dad's girlfriend Kendra - who Alex hates - decides he needs to get a job. After a couple of awkward incidents, Alex lands a job at Wonderland, the local amusement arcade, and has made two new friends who also work there, Ben and Efia. 

Alex has a big crush on Ben, but Ben has a girlfriend, Bella. Alex sort of lets Efia push him into dating Lemon Boy, someone who sells lemonade on the pier nearby. Plus, Wonderland is going down the drain so the three set about putting plans in place to try to save the place. 

This book was billed as "so romantic" and honestly, I didn't feel like it was. It didn't seem to get going until about two thirds of the way through. A lot of things happened, but not much ~happened~ if you see what I mean. I would have liked more of the romance earlier in the book. 

I also thought Alex was really like Noah from Noah Can't Even. They're both awkward and gawky and a bit not really in charge of their own destinies. I feel like there wasn't much to separate them, so even though I really liked Noah I didn't really want to read a book about a really similar character? I did like the seaside setting and all the faded glamour. I liked Ben and Efia and the cast of smaller characters. 

What age range is it for? 14+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, Alex is gay. 

Are any main characters people of colour? I think Efia might be mixed race? I'm not sure, it isn't really mentioned. 

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? A little bit, it's not graphic 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? As above. I wanted to really like it but I just didn't love it. 

Would I recommend the book? If you like Simon's other books then yes absolutely, but otherwise then I think there are better books about gay teens. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was still in the pile by my bed. 

What do I think of the cover? I like it, I think it is eye catching and looks suitable for the theme of the book 

What other books is it like? It's like Noah Can't Even, in a not necessarily flattering way 

How many stars? Six out of ten 

Where is the book going now? I will keep it as it's signed

Belly Up by Eva Darrows - Review

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Where did I get it? I ordered it a few weeks ago as I'd had it recommended. 

What's it about? At the beginning of the book Sara - longer name Serendipity - has recently broken up with her boyfriend Aaron. It's the end of her junior year and she goes to a party with her best friend Devi. While she's there she gets quite drunk and has sex with a boy called Jack. Unprotected sex, so Devi says she should go to a clinic and get tested for STDs, but she doesn't get round to it. Mostly because her mum is struggling with money so she and Sara are going to move in with Sara's grandmother, Mormor. 

Three months later Sara finds out she's pregnant. Her mum is supportive, her grandma less so, but then she's always quite difficult like that. Sara has tried to find Jack, but didn't even know his surname. But that's okay, she grew up without her dad around. All he left her was her Spanish surname to go with her dark hair and Swedish mother. 

Sara starts a new school and makes plans to have her baby and finish high school remotely. She makes three friends - Leaf, a boy who is Romani, and his friends, Morgan and Erin, who are a couple. Sara and Leaf start getting close, and Sara is sure sparks are flying between them, but she absolutely has to tell him about the baby, doesn't she? 

The book encompasses the whole of Sara's pregnancy, which I really liked. She has a lot of complicated feelings about herself and about motherhood which isn't surprising when she's only seventeen. There's a lot of really amazing women and their relationships - between Sara and her mum, with her grandmother, and with Devi. It's also really funny - very irreverent and full of nerdy references. I loved Sara - I thought she was a great lead character and I really felt like we saw her grow over the space of the book. There's no slut shaming either, which I liked. I would definitely read something else by the author (Eva Darrows is a pen name for Hilary Monahan). 

What age range is it for? 15+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yep. Devi is asexual, which is mentioned a few times. Morgan is a trans girl, I really liked her as a character. Erin is queer. Sara herself is possibly bisexual - she has kissed at least one girl and says she's leaning that way. I would have liked to see her explain this to Leaf, actually. That would be my wish for a 'cut scene' from this book! 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes. Leaf is Romani and this is a big part of his identity. Sara's Spanish side is mentioned a lot too. Plus Devi is Jewish which is a big part of her identity too. There's a lot in this book about food, and about food as cultural heritage which I liked, I thought it was a good way of showing feelings and family. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? A little, obviously, but it's not graphic. There's also mention of masturbation which you almost never see in YA, so I thought that was good. 

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

Is there any talk of death? No. 

Are there swear words? A few but they're not terrible ones, the terrible ones are mostly censored. 

What criticisms do I have? I thought in parts that Leaf was just too perfect. I understand why - because Sara is having such a tough time with everything else - but I would've liked a little bit more conflict between them. 

Would I recommend the book? Yeah absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It was just hanging around by the side of the bed! 

What do I think of the cover? I like it, it gets across what the book is about! 

What other books is it like? I can't think of any offhand, sorry. 

How many stars? Eight out of ten. 

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

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell - Review

Sunday, July 7, 2019

My partner read this on his tablet last year and really enjoyed it. I've been encouraging him to read more gothic horror books so he's got quite a collection. Then he saw that I had the book in paperback - it was a present I think - so he said I should read it. So I put it to the top of the pile. I'm so glad I did because I loved it, it really kept me engrossed.

It's set in the 1860s and to begin with we meet Elsie in an asylum. She is unable to speak due to trauma. Her new doctor wants her to write down what happened because he has to give a report to the police about whether she is fit to stand trial. So Elsie does.

So we discover that about a year before, she was newly widowed. Her husband Rupert had been an investor in the match factory Elsie owns with her brother Jolyon. Rupert has returned to his family country seat, The Bridge, in order to make it habitable for Elsie and their coming child. However, while he's there, he dies, so Elsie goes immediately to bury him, with Rupert's cousin Sarah alongside.

Elsie and Sarah stay at the Bridge after Rupert's funeral and strange things start happening. Firstly there are splinters on Rupert's neck before he is buried. Then at night Elsie hears a hissing kind of noise, a sound of wood on wood, and gets up to look for the source. She thinks there's something in the garret, but it's locked, so she and Sarah attempt to get in. While there, they find some wooden painted statue things called silent companions.

Sarah likes them so they bring a couple down, but then the statues start to move and appear at will. They also find a diary, kept by the mistress of the house from the 1660s, Anne Bainbridge. Anne is suspected to be a witch and through her diary we find out what happened in the house to make the local villagers distrustful of the Bainbridges and the house.

I could barely put this book down - I thought it was really creepy and unnerving and really wanted to know what was going to happen next to the women. I loved that there were no men in the house full time; it was so easy for the men to dismiss what was happening as just hysteria. I'm giving this five out of five - if you like horror, do read it!

No Way Out by Cara Hunter - Review

Thursday, July 4, 2019

As I enjoyed the first in the DI Adam Fawley series recently, I made a note to read the next two pretty soon. I'm trying really hard to not buy books currently as recently I've had quite a few that I had preordered arrive. Plus of course I already own around 900 books. So I decided instead to not read any of those but to reserve another of Cara Hunter's books from the library. I actually reserved both. This one arrived first so even though it's the third in the series I decided to start it. Often crime novels will hark back to previous books but not give spoilers out so that each one can be read as a standalone, and that's exactly what happened here. I got a bit of the story of the second novel, but that just intrigued me and made me want to read it more!

This book is set just after Christmas, in early 2018. Adam Fawley is called to a house fire in the early hours of the morning. Felix House, on Southey Road in Oxford, is lived in by Michael Esmond and his wife Samantha, and their two children Matty and Zachary. Zachary is found dead in the nursery upstairs. Matty is taken to hospital and later dies of his injuries. Samantha is found in the remains of the house, but Michael is nowhere to be found.

Clearly police are eager to talk to him so they contact his brother, who is on a yacht in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and his employer, the university, who have had a complaint of sexual assault made against him. They don't seem to be getting anywhere very fast.

As before, this story is told from several different points of view. There's first person narrative from Adam himself. I find him a likeable detective who doesn't seem to suffer from the same narcissism that a lot do. There's third person narratives from some of his team - DC Somer, DC Everett, DC Quinn, and acting DS Gislingham. Then there's newspaper reports mixed in which often included members of the public's comments, which are often of the witch hunt variety. Then there's passages about what happened to the family in the months running up to the fire, which often reveal things that you as the reader don't realise are pertinent until later. I like the way these books are written - it feels quite modern and fresh.

I raced through this, finishing it on Friday lunchtime while sitting outside in the grass. I can't wait to read the next one, and I've lent the first one to my mum because I want her to like it too!

These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling - Review

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Where did I get it? I bought it for myself. I had it on pre-order and had totally forgotten about it when it arrived! 

What's it about? Hannah lives in Salem, Massachusetts, site of the infamous witch trials, with her mum and dad. She is an Elemental witch, one of the original three witch clans. She can manipulate the elements into doing her magic. The other clans are Casters, who make potions and cast spells, and Blood witches, who use blood from their victim to manipulate them. She has plenty of her coven close by, including her ex girlfriend, Veronica.

It's never fully explained why they split up, except they were in New York City when they met a Blood witch who took over Hannah and scared the both of them. They're both finding it hard to get over the other, but Hannah can't forgive Veronica. 

At the beginning of the book they're at a party when there's a fire. There's an animal sacrifice near by it and Hannah becomes convinced there's a Blood witch in town. A few days later she sees some runes on a wall and her conviction deepens. Her family says there's nothing to worry about, so Hannah tries to put it behind her, but then at another party there's a house fire and Hannah uses her magic to save her friend Benton. This gets her in trouble with her coven but she's desperately trying to find out the truth.

Meanwhile, she has to keep her magic hidden from her best friend Gemma, but Gemma has introduced her to a new girl in town, Morgan, and Hannah discovers she is also queer. 

I struggled to get into this book in the first hundred pages. I thought there was a lot of stuff there that didn't need to be there and which didn't, in fact, get resolved later in the book. I think at least 25 pages could have been cut out. But after that, I got into it and really enjoyed the book. Things keep happening - there's a lot of catastrophes - and Hannah just kind of spins through the book, although there are really sweet episodes where she and Morgan are together, for instance. I hope it's the first in a series - it certainly has that kind of ending and would lend itself to a sequel. I thought the author wrote really well and I'll certainly look out for something else by her. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes. Hannah is gay and already out at the beginning of the book. Morgan is bisexual and although Hannah reacts badly to this when she finds out, I loved how she apologised and I am always here for more bisexual representation in books. 

Are any main characters people of colour? I don't think so?

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Not exactly. There are some accidents and subsequent trauma, though. 

Is there any sex stuff? No. I would have liked it if there was! 

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

Is there any talk of death? Yes, and some of it is graphic and may be upsetting. 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? As I said, I thought the book was slow to get going. I also would have liked to see exactly what happened to Hannah in New York and why she couldn't forgive Veronica, because I don't think it was clear enough. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely, it's great. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? It had just arrived and I'm loving this resurgence of witch based books. 

What do I think of the cover? I like it, I think it's really cute and would make me pick the book up. 

What other books is it like? It's definitely like Undead Girl Gang which I read recently. I thought they were both really good. 

How many stars? Four out of five 

Where is the book going now? I actually lent it to my friend Sarah! I'll have to see what she thinks about it. 

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson - Review

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Where did I get it? Netgalley. The book is twenty years old but is being republished and I liked the sound of it. Thank you to Hachette Children's Group for granting me access to this book. 

What's it about? Melinda is about to start high school in Syracuse, New York. She used to have friends - Rachel, Nicole, Ivy, some others - but ever since a party at the end of the summer she's been an outcast. Melinda was supposed to be at Rachel's all night, but they snuck out to the party. While there, Melinda was sexually assaulted by an older teenager, so she phoned the police. No one knows why she did it, though, not even her parents, who know nothing about the whole incident and who spend all their time arguing anyway.

Mel manages to make a new friend in her first few weeks of high school. Heather is a new student and is trying out a number of different cliques within the school. Mel also finds a disused janitor's closet that she begins to make her own. She is failing nearly all her subjects, unable to speak or make herself heard, but she likes Art and her art teacher. 

This is in parts a really funny book. I liked Mel's dry sense of humour and how she made herself get through things. I liked how there was some resolution but not in a way that made it feel unrealistic. I think it has aged well for a book that is two decades old, and I think the message about young women being assaulted is absolutely still an important one.

I don't think I've read anything else by Anderson but I would in the future. 

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No I don't think so 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think Mel's mental health issues count, yes. She just feels totally stifled, in a way that feels extremely relatable. I thought at first that she was literally mute, but she does speak occasionally. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, trigger warning for assault 

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

Is there any talk of death? I don't think so 

Are there swear words? No 

What criticisms do I have? I wish there had been a little bit more resolution. I wish Mel had confided in someone - a friend, her mum, or a teacher, even her guidance counsellor - but that's probably me as an adult thinking about it. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I had requested four books on Netgalley and was really eager to get to all of them! 

What do I think of the cover? There's a number of covers and they all feature a girl being stopped from speaking and trees, which is a theme in the book, so I like them 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of All the Rage by Courtney Summers. 

How many stars? Six out of ten 

Speak will be re-published in August 2019. I was given a free electronic copy of the novel but was not compensated in any other way for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

My Dad Thinks I'm A Boy?! by Sophie Labelle - Review

Thursday, June 27, 2019

I spied this trans positive children's book on Netgalley and requested it immediately. I've read some of Sophie's Assigned Male comic - I backed it on Kickstarter at some point I think - so was intrigued to see this book which is set when Stephie, star of Assigned Male, is around seven years old. The book notes that the doctors thought she was a boy but that as soon as she could speak, Stephie told her parents she was a girl. Her mother Alice accepts this quickly but her dad - from whom her mother is separated - can't.

Stephie likes bugs and books and spaghetti. Her dad thinks she likes wrestling and fishing - but those are things that he likes. He struggles to see who she really is. I really liked how that is placed solely on him, and not on Stephie. Not on the child trying her very best to be who she really is.

I'm so glad to have read this, it was so uplifting and cute. I really hope it gets into the hands of some trans kids! Five out of five.

My Dad Thinks I'm A Boy?! will be published in February 2020 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. I received an ecopy of this book in exchange for a review but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you!

Catcher, Caught by Sarah Collins Honenberger

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Where did I get it? I bought it on Kindle a couple of years ago when it was just 99p as I'd seen it recommended. 

What's it about? Daniel is fifteen at the beginning of the book and has just been diagnosed with leukemia. He lives on a houseboat with his mother and father, who are old hippies, and his younger brother Nick. His older brother Joe is away at college but visits the family a few times. The book is set in Virginia, which I liked. 

Daniel's parents have decided he won't be having any chemotherapy or radiotherapy to try to combat the disease. Their reasons are never really given, but it is obvious that Daniel will die within the year (and I don't think the prognosis is much better for if he had treatment, but it's not obvious). Instead he's being treated with herbal remedies and so on. It becomes obvious in the book that Daniel DOES want treatment, but he at no point argues with his parents about this. He progressively gets iller throughout the book.

His best friend is called Mack, but the two of them grow apart over the course of the book. Mack has his own problems going on. He also has twin new neighbours, twins Meredith and Juliann, and Daniel is interested in Meredith. The two of them start seeing each other - something which was easily the best part of the book for me. 

Daniel is also obsessed with Catcher in the Rye which I haven't read so all the references fell totally flat for me, which didn't help me to love the book. 

I just didn't fully engage with the story, for reasons given below. 

What age range is it for? 14+

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 

Are any main characters people of colour? No 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I think Daniel's illness counts as a disability, yes, although it's not really framed that way. Some of the illness stuff is a bit graphic. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes. There's sex and sexual fantasy. The sex is safe, which I really liked. It's not graphic but is a little explicit. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Mentioned, but it's not graphic. 

Is there any talk of death? Yes but not really as much as you'd think. 

Are there swear words? I don't think so, not many if there are. 

What criticisms do I have? Okay so firstly the word "spastic" is used about four times in a pejorative way, eg "I'll just look like a spastic." I understand that this word isn't considered the same in America as it is in Britain, where it's a complete slur and isn't used any more. But I did think that its use had slowed in America and it was now recognised as a slur. This book was published in 2010, which I feel personally is late enough for this word not to be used. I found it horrifying, if I'm honest. 

There's also an instance where someone says they used to be "really fat, like a plus size". Okay sure, that sounds REALLY fat to me. I really think that YA has come on a lot in almost a decade... and I'm glad! 

Would I recommend the book? Not overly. I just didn't think the story was that well told

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was still reading on my tablet while I was away and it was downloaded. 

What do I think of the cover? I actually really like it! I thought it was bright. 

What other books is it like? The romance and cancer aspects reminded me of The Fault In Our Stars. I actually thought the romance was really sweetly done, I'd have liked more of it. 

How many stars? Three out of five. 

Keep Her Close by Erik Therme Blog Tour

Saturday, June 22, 2019

I was offered the opportunity to join in the blog tour for Erik Therme's book Keep Her Close, so please do check out the other stops on the tour to see what they think of the book!

I was intrigued by the premise of this book when I heard it:

Three-year-old Ally was found alone in a parking lot.
She was barefoot and dressed only in a yellow sundress. In the middle of winter.
What kind of person would abandon their daughter?

Fifteen years later and Ally has a new family. 
But her real father has sent her a letter.
And now Ally is missing. 

So at the beginning of the book, Dan and Holly find a little girl in a parking lot by herself. They end up adopting her when police can't find her family. They divorce when Anna is a little bit older, and Holly remarries Steve.

Ally then goes off to college where she lives with a friend. At the beginning of the book she gets a letter, supposedly from her birth father, asking her to meet him. She's quite impulsive and a little immature for her age so although Dan says the letter is probably a crank, she decides to go and meet "Frank" anyway.

Holly and Dan turn up to see her and end up chasing round trying to find her. There's plenty of twists and turns along the way, some of which I found more believable than others. I did like the book, but felt it wasn't altogether long enough and didn't explain things enough in places for me. I liked Ally as a character and felt for her. I liked Dan's character and his choices even though they were sometimes quite stupid. I'm giving this three out of five.

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane - Review

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

I got this book via Netgalley, so many thanks to Penguin Random House for pre-approving me for this book. I received an ecopy of the book for review but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

This book is really epic - it spans over forty years in time and is quite long. I was reading it when I was away with some friends for a few nights, and I was really glad because it gave me quite a lot of time to concentrate really hard on the story. I had actually previously read the prologue and couldn't get into it, but then I really some good reviews of the book and wanted to give it another go.

Right at the beginning of the book we meet Francis Gleeson. He's an Irish immigrant to America and has just graduated as a cop in New York. He is about to get married to Lena. His partner on the beat is Brian Stanhope, whose wife Anne is also an Irish immigrant.

Brian talks about moving out of the city to Gillam to bring up their kids. Francis thinks this sounds ideal and the two families end up living next to each other in the leafy suburb.

Lena tries to make friends with Anne, but her advances are rebuffed. Anne has a stillborn son. Lena has two daughters, Nat and Sara, and then she and Anne end up pregnant again at the same time. Anne has Peter and a few months later Lena has Kate. The two spend their childhoods together even though the families aren't close.

One night when they're thirteen, they sneak out of the house to meet up. They're starting to fall in love and Peter is determined that they'll get married when they're older. Anne, though, hates Kate and warns Peter to stay away. When they're caught sneaking back in, a violent tragedy occurs meaning that the Stanhopes have to move away from the area.

We then see Kate and Peter as teenagers but then see their lives come back together. We see the next thirty years of the families' lives and everything that encapsulates. There are parts from the point of view of Francis, of Kate, of Peter, and of Anne. There are some time skips which can be a little bit confusing at times, but I got used to it. I loved Kate as a character - I would like to think I'm quite like Kate. I liked Francis a lot, too. It was interesting to read his experiences. Anne is mentally ill, and I think this was handled really well, showing why she made the decisions she did. And Peter was an absolute survivor. You could have written a whole novel just about him, but I'm glad everyone else was involved too.

It's a great book, really epic in scope and written in a really good way. I'll definitely read something else by Mary Beth Keane. I'm giving this five out of five.

Ask Again, Yes will be published on 8th August 2019.

The (Other) F Word, edited by Angie Manfredi - Review

Sunday, June 16, 2019

I got this book on Netgalley so thank you to Abrams Kids Books for giving me the chance to review this book. I received an electronic copy of this book in exchange for a review but was not otherwise compensated for this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that Angie is a friend of mine. I first met her on Xanga way back in 2004 via a mutual friend. I got into Young Adult literature because of Angie - she kept talking about the LGBTQ+ literature she was reading, including the Rainbow Boys trilogy. I loved them and over the years got more and more into YA literature. I still love contemporary stuff, and you know how much I like LGBTQ+ YA. Angie is a librarian and is passionately devoted to raising up diverse, marginalised, and under represented voices. She's also fat, and also one of my fat heroes - seeing her wear exactly what she wanted so many years ago inspired me to do the same! (If you're wondering the kinds of things I wear, my lifestyle/fashion blog is here).

So suffice to say, I can't be entirely objective about the book because I like Angie so much! I have followed her tweeting about this book for months and was really excited to read it. I've seen Angie's excitement as proof copies arrived and I've read with anticipation about the people whose essays she has included in the anthology. I suddenly thought last week that it might be on Netgalley so requested it and was so pleased when my request was granted.

I started reading straight away which felt right given that I've just read Sofie Hagen's book and she's another of my fat heroes. I've been reading a lot on my tablet recently, I'm not sure why! I liked some of the essays more than others, but that's always the case when you read an anthology. There were pieces by authors of colour, by trans authors, by queer authors. There has obviously been a lot of thought over who to include, something that I know will have been done with a lot of thought and attention.

I loved Alex Gino's essay. I loved Lily Andersen's too, having recently read her book. I liked P S Kaguya's essay about self acceptance. I thought Hillary Monahan's essay on fatness and the horror genre was really interesting and bang on, I would love to read more about this. I liked Bruce Strugell's essay which was in part about creating Chubstr and about being a fat man, which is something that we don't often read about. I liked Miguel M Morales' poems and was glad poetry was included in the book. And finally I really loved Amy Spalding's essay on Hairspray. This isn't to say I didn't like the rest, but these were the pieces that stood out to me.

I'm so happy that this anthology exists and is aimed at fat teenagers in particular, but all teenagers in fact. I hope it does marvellously. I'm giving it eight out of ten!

The (Other) F Word will be published on 24th September 2019.

Happy Fat by Sofie Hagen - Review

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Gosh I barely know where to start with this book except to say that I loved it and found it very moving. I got an e copy on Netgalley so thank you very much to Harper Collins UK for the chance to read this book. I was given an electronic copy of this book in exchange for a review but was not otherwise compensated for this review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

So I'm already a big fan of comedian Sofie Hagen. I first heard of her a few years ago and heard her talking about fatness. I too am a fat woman and am quite political about that, so a lot of what Sofie said resonated with me. I also really like her stuff about the Westlife fanfic she used to write - it's so funny, I think it's on BBC iPlayer if you want to see it. I saw her perform Dead Baby Frog last year in LEeds with my partner and BFF and met her afterwards which was really nice. So when I saw she was touring again this year I booked tickets again for the three of us.

We went to Leeds last week to see her. In the first part she did her show Bubblewrap and in the second part she talked about her book Happy Fat. She was selling it afterwards and signing it, but I couldn't justify the expense as I'm really trying to cut down on buying books. So I left without, but then thought I'd look on Netgalley to see if I could request it, and I could!

Feeling all fired up from seeing Sofie I immediately started reading it. I loved it. It's part memoir, part manifesto, part revolution. It talks about Sofie's own history with her body, and her path to self acceptance through fat acceptance and positivity. Everything is well researched and backed up with plenty of footnotes, in case you want to undertake further research of your own. There are chapters on clothes, on fat sex, on why diets don't work, and interspersed are interviews with other fat activists like Stephanie Yeboah and Kivan Bay. Sofie talks a lot about her privilege as a white woman in the book, so the interviews tend to be with people less privileged whether by race or gender or something else. I really felt like Sofie had done a good job in raising voices that may sometimes be ignored and in acknowledging her own privilege within the movement.

Now for me, as someone who has been on a journey in fat acceptance and fat activism for around a decade, there wasn't actually much that I didn't know within the book. But that doesn't mean I didn't find it really enriching, empowering, and moving. Plus just really entertaining! Sofie has a way with words that meant I skipped through the book happily. I do think that for someone stuck in a cycle of self-loathing, this would be a really useful book and would hopefully help them to see that problem isn't their body but that a lot of people are trying to make money off people loathing themselves and trying to be something that they're not. I would recommend for anyone to read it - fat or thin - and see whether they can change their mindset a little. You've nothing to lose, I promise.

I would still love a paper copy of this book, so will probably treat myself at some point. I'm giving this ten out of ten. Brilliant.

The Wicked + The Divine: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie - Review

Sunday, June 9, 2019

I was at a conference in April (I like saying that because it makes me sound so academic!) about fan studies and someone mentioned this graphic novel. I liked the sound of it so ordered it. I don't often read graphic novels. I find that the illustrations go over my head at times - I read the words and don't understand what the picture is trying to add to that. But I thought I would give this one a go!

So the premise is that Laura, a mixed race teenager from London, who meets some of the Pantheon, a group of twelve gods who come back to earth every ninety years, then die within two years. She meets Luci, aka Lucifer, who comes up against Cassandra, who is trying to discover the truth about the Pantheon. All kinds of stuff starts to happen that Laura has to make sense of.

I spent a lot of time looking at the art trying to really take it in. I liked the nods to pop music - Luci clearly looks a bit like David Bowie and one of the gods has a definite Rihanna vibe to her - and I also really liked the pages where the artwork wasn't just in cells but took over the whole page. Paying more attention really did add to my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

I'm still not sure graphic novels are for me but I did enjoy reading this and have passed it to Lee to read. I've giving it four out of five.

Outside by Sarah Ann Juckes - Review

Thursday, June 6, 2019

I was granted access to this book on Netgalley, so thank you to Penguin Random House Children's for the chance to read this book. I was given an e copy of this book in exchange for a review, but was not otherwise compensated for this post.

I was intrigued by the premise to this book when I was browsing Netgalley. Ele has spent her whole life confined to Inside. Inside her Tower she lives with the Others; Cow, Queenie, and Bee. Until not too long ago she lived with her brother Zeb, too. They are kept confined by Him. He comes every week and sexually abuses Ele (which isn't graphically described in the book, but is obvious).

By the time we meet Ele Zeb has died. He taught Ele about the Outside, he had proofs that Outside existed. Ele reminds herself of those proofs all the time. Then one day the Outside starts pouring into the Tower and Ele knows that the time has come for her to escape.

I found this a compelling book, so I read it quickly. I liked Ele's simplistic language and liked how she made sense of the world around her. I liked the world she found on the Outside, I liked the people she met and how she healed. I thought the end was good. I had guessed one of the twists but thought it came about really well, so I liked it. I would have liked a little bit more resolution at the end, but as it was still from Ele's point of view it makes sense as to why there wasn't more.

I think this is an accomplished book and the world was really well imagined. I'd definitely read something else by the author. I'm giving it eight out of ten.

Birthday by Meredith Russo - Review

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Where did I get it? I had it on pre-order because I loved If I Was Your Girl so much and had also heard really amazing things about this book. I picked it up straight away because I was so looking forward to reading it. 

What's it about? Okay so Morgan and Eric have been friends literally since they were born - one September night during a freak snow storm in the same hospital in Thebes, Tennessee. Their families have always been close and they always spend their birthday together. In the book we see them on their birthday at age 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18. 

At the beginning of the book Morgan has just lost her mum to cancer and shortly afterwards quit the school football team even though she was a star player. Her dad is the football coach and now seems disappointed that Morgan, who he thinks is his son, has quit. Morgan is pretty sure that she is trans, that she's really a girl, but she can't find the words to say it. 

Eric, meanwhile, lives in a pretty dysfunctional family where his parents row a lot. His older brother Isaac is off playing college football, and his dad, Carson, is a nasty bully who is angry because middle brother Peyton had to drop out of football. He likes music (I loved this fact, as someone hugely also into music) and just really maybe isn't that into football.

On their 13th birthday Morgan tries to tell Eric that she's trans but can't. Over the next few birthdays we see their relationship disintegrate. Morgan disappears into herself a lot, having her first kiss with a girl called Jasmine, who thinks she's a gay boy. Eric finds a girlfriend. Morgan suffers a lot of homophobic bullying and Eric sometimes stands up for her and sometimes not. Somehow they always manage to come together on their birthdays.

At one point Morgan decides to go back to football. We see the team lose a game and then Morgan gets into a fight. Eric later saves her and it's a huge turning point in the book.

I do want to say that it has a happy ending. I don't think that's too much of a spoiler, and I do think that trans people deserve to see lots of happy endings for trans characters in books and I was really glad myself because the middle is very hard going and I felt so sad. 

Even thought I live in the UK where high school football isn't a thing, I like this background because it feels so cloying and claustrophobic and because it's obvious that for a kid like Eric, playing college football might be the only way he gets to leave Thebes and get away from his family. I think that's a universal concept regardless of football/sports. 

I absolutely loved both main characters. I think they're so soft with each other even when it's difficult and even when the other is being nasty. I loved how they each tried to navigate really difficult feelings for each other. I would've liked more, in parts, more explanation of what happened after a given birthday, but I understand that that wasn't the way the book was written and I liked how I had to fill in some of the blanks for myself. 

I cannot wait to see what Meredith writes next. I know she's written about trans girls so far, in two different ways, but I also think she has a fantastic way with words and can narrate a character's inner voice so beautifully. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous. 

What age range is it for? I'm going to say 13+, since that's the age of the characters at the beginning. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Obviously! I will warn for homophobic and transphobic bullying and violence. 

Are any main characters people of colour? They're not main characters, but there are a couple of Mexican-Americans who also have slurs and bullying thrown their way. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No. 

Is there any sex stuff? A little bit; it's not graphic. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? A little bit

Is there any talk of death? Yes, some of it is graphic, so be careful. 

Are there swear words? A few 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none - I would've just liked a longer book but that's hardly the book's fault!

Would I recommend the book? One hundred percent

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was just so desperate to read it!

What do I think of the cover? This is a new question on my blog! I saw a thread on Twitter which explained why praising covers and their authors is a good thing. So here I go: I think this is a really lovely cover - we get an idea of both Eric's and Morgan's characters, and it shows their equal importance within the book. 

What other books is it like? It is like If I Was Your Girl, but it also reminded me of Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit which has the same small town feel, and I'm sure something else which had a lot of stuff about high school football but which I can't find now. Sorry!

How many stars? Five out of five. 

Where is the book going now? I will definitely keep it!



The Willoughby Book Club

Blogger news


Most Read