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The Death of Mrs Westaway by Ruth Ware - Review

Monday, December 30, 2019

I recently picked up this book, which I've been wanting to read since I read The Woman in Cabin 10 last year. I had heard that this was better, which is good because I felt like The Woman in Cabin 10 lost its way a bit towards the end. I did think this book was much better, meaning I'll probably read more by Ruth Ware now.

Hal Westaway is twenty one years old and lives in Brighton. She works on Brighton pier as a tarot card reader, and has done since she inherited the booth from her mother three years ago. Her mother was killed in an accident just two weeks before Hal's birthday, and since then Hal has struggled to support herself. She is struggling financially and owes money to a loan shark.

Then a letter arrives informing her that her grandmother Hester has died and left her some inheritance, and that her funeral is to be held in her stately home in Cornwall. Hal is shocked because her grandparents, her mother's parents, died before she was born and she never knew them. But the name on the letter is Hal's own. She's sure there must have been a mix up, but she's also desperate for cash. Surely if anyone could pull off conning a family into believing she's their relative, she's the person to do it?

She isn't sure what to do, but the loan shark's enforcers are after her so she scrimps together what little cash she has and catches a train to Penzance. She googles the family and looks them up on Facebook so that she can learn a bit about them in order to convince them she's their niece. She finds details of her three "uncles" and their families. At the funeral, she meets the family solicitor, and then is invited back to Trepassen house to stay over and sort things out.

It's a perfect gothic novel after that. The house is creepy. Hal is given a room in the very top of the house which turns out to have bolts on the outside. There's a creepy housekeeper who hates her. Things get weirder and stranger and Hal begins to fear for her life.

I liked the book and although I guessed a couple of the twists, there were parts that I didn't see coming at all. The allure of the big house and a posh family was done marvellously, given that Hal is struggling and is pretty alone in the world. I did find it hard to distinguish between the men at times, and I did think there were woolly parts, but mostly I really enjoyed the book and am giving it eight out of ten!

New Independent Bookshop in Barnsley

Thursday, December 26, 2019

I live in Barnsley in South Yorkshire, and although the town itself stayed Labour in the recent election, my constituency, on the west of the town, went Tory. I was absolutely devastated - I still am. I immediately started thinking of things I could do to make a difference. One of the things I will do is email my new MP a lot - if she wants to represent me she can hear my voice. I'll be polite, don't worry! But she can definitely hear me. 

I thought of a couple of other things I can do that I will be putting into place in 2020. They both require applying for things, but I would love to make a difference in some way or other. Then I saw a tweet about a new independent bookshop opening in Barnsley town centre on Monday6 16th December, and I decided I would put my money where my mouth is and go support an independent shop.

Barnsley has only had The Works or supermarkets to buy books from since WHSmith shut down a couple of years ago. We don't have any other bookshops. It's a pretty poor state of affairs, actually. So I'm really happy The Book Vault has opened up. 

I asked my friend Sarah to come along too and said we could get some lunch afterwards. She then had to pick me up because my car was broken - I have had the worse luck with my car this year, this is the third thing I've had go wrong with it - but she was happy to and then we headed into town.

The shop was busy when we got there. There was a member of staff greeting us and we told her we had seen them on Twitter and decided to visit. There's quite a few books. Nothing was labelled when we visited which I found strange, but this may change. There was a big crime/thriller section. There were a few YA books filed in with the adult books, but I think kinks like that might get ironed out as the weeks go on.

I headed across to the YA section and thought it had a good selection of books. There were titles I haven't seen in shops before, as well as some popular books, and lots that I've read! I liked the section.

I bought three books and will definitely go back!

The outside of the shop. It's on a street that has a lot of charity shops on it, and it seems to get a lot of footfall. I hope people go into the shop!

One of the YA shelves

The other one

We headed for lunch after visiting the bookshop

And here's what I bought for £24.97!

The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater - Review

Monday, December 23, 2019

Okay so here's the thing. I recently mentioned to my friend Lucinda (who is a children's librarin in London currently) that I was going to get Call Down the Hawk for Christmas, and she sternly told me that I can't read that until I've read The Raven King, so hadn't I better hurry up and read The Raven King? The thing is I've been putting it off for almost two years, because, as I said in the review of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, there's a prophecy that Gansey will die, and I just can't bear for it to happen. Lucinda told me that people who are dead can always be brought back to life in magical books. She basically told me to stop whinging and get on with it.

So I did.

And I loved it. Seriously, this is the best book of the quadrology, for me. I absolutely loved it.

It is Gansey's book. Which makes sense! The first one is Adam's, the second one is Ronan's, the third one is Blue's, so it was obvious that this one would belong to Gansey and his long quest to find the body of Glendower. The others do get a look in but in a far lesser way.

Adam is trying to just make it through to graduation, really. He's Cabeswater's magician, and he's struggling to keep Cabeswater under control because it has a demon. And the demon may or may not be possessing him.

Ronan is skipping school, not caring about anything except going back to his family home so that he can dream and keep his father's dreams alive. He gets Matthew and Declan out of Henrietta, but there's a problem because Declan is involved in his dad's ex business of magical artifacts, and there's something bad coming to Henrietta.

Blue's dad Artemus was freed in the last book, but he's currently living in a pantry at Fox Way, unwilling to come out or talk to anyone. Blue is also seeing Gansey, only they're keeping it secret from everyone, and of course, she can never kiss him because if she kisses her true love, he will die.

Then there's Henry Cheng. We met him in previous books as a co-student of Gansey and co at Aglionby, but in this book we see him a lot more. Gansey and Blue go to a toga party at his dormitory house, and then Henry takes Gansey to a secret place at Aglionby and tells him something. He then goes along with the other four in the rest of the novel, which I actually really liked. I liked him as a character and I felt like the others needed another one, as Noah is largely missing by this point. You know, cos he's dead and all, and the ley line is failing at keeping him around and his energy is growing less and less by the day.

Ronan and Adam kiss, which I knew happened because of Twitter, and which I thought was PERFECT. It was totally lovely, and they're both adorable. I like how Ronan had so many feelings that he had to go stand on a roof. Haven't we all been there? I'm sorry to put this spoiler in this review, but it was SO LOVELY and I love them both SO MUCH, and also, this book has been out for over three years, so get on with it, you know?

Gansey is........... still wanting to find Glendower, but he also wants much more out of life. If he finds the dead king, what does that mean for the rest of his life. It's a lot for him, bless him.

I loved this book. It is a good ending to the series, things happened in perfect ways and there were a lot of genuinely funny bits, touching bits, moving bits. I loved it. I'm giving it five out of five. So good.

And I faithfully promise I will read Call Down the Hawk in a much swifter time!

This page, after Ronan and Adam have kissed, was the most perfect. I loved it.

We Used to be Friends by Amy Spalding - Review

Friday, December 20, 2019

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you very much to Abrams Books for their permission for me to read this. You probably remember I read The Summer of Jordan Perez last summer and loved it, so I was really excited to read something else by Amy. She had an essay in The (Other) F Word, too.

What's it about? It's about the breakdown of a friendship between two girls who have been best friends since kindergarten. James and Kat are very different people, but have always been best friends, until senior year of high school when things start to fall apart between them for a number of reasons. 

The story is told in a dual narrative from both girls' points of view. James' point of view goes backwards in time, from the summer after graduation back to the previous September. In the summer, she is living with her dad as her mum has moved out and is seeing someone else. She hasn't told Kat that her parents are divorcing. Kat finds out at graduation. James had had this boyfriend called Logan who went to UCLA the previous year and although they had planned to go long distance, James broke up with him and Kat doesn't know exactly know why that's happened either. James has also decided to go to a different college than the out-of-state one she had said, which, it becomes clear, is partly due to money, which is something that Kat doesn't really have to worry about. James is a runner and has made new friends who also do track and field with her.

Meanwhile, Kat's point of view chapters are told forwards, from the beginning of senior year until the summer. At the beginning, she has a boyfriend, Matty, only she discovers he has cheated on her so the two of them break up. Kat makes a new friend, Quinn, and then the two of them start going out together, as Kat realises she is bisexual. She really wants to go to the same college as Quinn and it becomes a bit of an obsession, as does becoming prom queen. Her mother died a couple of years ago and her dad has started seeing someone and Kat at first finds that hard to deal with. 

I liked both girls. I thought James was a bit straightlaced and uptight at times, and maybe needed to just worry a bit less. I found Kat quite overwhelming and annoying, but also think I'm quite like Kat so I understood where she was coming from. I thought the dual narrative worked for the most part, but there were a couple of places where it confused me, and where, by the end, I couldn't remember what had happened at the beginning that the other one was just now finding out about. That was the downside of it for me, but it is an interesting way to tell a story. 

I also thought Quinn was a bit one dimensional. Even when she's trying to tell Kat that she isn't perfect and Kat is making her out to be (which was very much true!) it just didn't ring quite right for me. 

Kat doesn't seem to understand a lot of times that James wants the two of them to hang out together without Quinn, and this would have absolutely driven me mad, too. But neither of them really uses their words. I had a friendship break up when I was around the same age, and it was horrible, so I really understand the book from that point of view. I also thought that the stuff about Kat's grief after her mother has died and now that her dad is seeing someone else is extremely well written and believable. 

What age range is it for? Fourteen and above

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, Kat, obviously. I thought this was actually told in a really nice way, and even though Kat hasn't really thought about sexuality before, she's obviously within her rights to be kissed by Quinn and then think, "Oh, this is actually really nice, maybe I'm bisexual". If she was straight except for Quinn, that would totally be okay too! Sexuality is fluid! More or less, I think everyone in the book understood this, even though James finds it a bit difficult to cope with. 

Are any main characters people of colour? No. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, there's quite a lot. It isn't graphic. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No I don't think so. There's some drinking but no one is drunk. 

Is there any talk of death? A little bit about Kat's mum's death, it is a little graphic I guess. 

Are there swear words? Yeah a few. 

What criticisms do I have? I think I addressed them above. The forwards and backwards time stuff doesn't quite work for me. I had a couple of continuity issues, but they may have been worked out in the final edits of the book, so I'm not too worried about them. I think the worst bit was that Quinn just isn't a very developed character for me. James' ex, Logan, is better drawn - I liked him! I thought her reasons for breaking up with him were stupid!

Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if you're a fan. 

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

What do I think of the cover? I think this one isn't too eyecatching, but I've seen a couple around. 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of The Summer of Jordi Perez, although personally I think that is a better book. 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

We Used to be Friends will be published on 7th January 2020. 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. 

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray - Review

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

This book is my book club book for December, so I bought it on eBay for a few quid in November, and started reading it pretty soon after because I wanted to get it read before book club. Rae chose the book and I think in general the book club will like it.

It is about the Bradley family, a devout Mormon family living somewhere around Southport on the north west coast. Dad Ian is a Bishop in the local church, mum Claire stays at home with their four children, Zippy, Alma, Jacob, and Issy.

One Saturday in October, it is Jacob's seventh birthday and he's having a party. Ian is called away on Bishop duties, so Claire has to rush to the shops herself to buy supplies. She leaves Issy in bed, and when she gets back Issy is still there. She gives her some medicine, and leaves her to sleep, distracted by the party. Later, she realises Issy is really ill and rushes her to hospital, where it turns out she's suffering from meningitis and won't live. She dies the next day.

The book is told from the points of view of each of the remaining family members as they're trying to deal with Issy's death. Claire retreats to bed, unable to get up and face the world and feeling that she isn't devout enough to have stopped this from happening. Ian is determined to keep a stiff upper lip, to use his faith that they will all be reconciled in the next life with Issy to stop him from thinking too much about his children or Claire or his own grief.

Zippo, sixteen, is in love with President Carmichael's son, Adam. She wants to be a good Mormon girl and attends all the meetings about preparing for marriage and being a faithful wife, but it's difficult when she is also running the house in Claire's absence and also trying to fit in with her friends. I liked Zippo (from Zipporah, she was Moses' wife apparently) and wish we had seen more of her point of view.

Thirteen year old Alma (a boy, named after a Mormon prophet) isn't very religious. He finds his dad's rules difficult to live by and he just wants to play football. He was an excellent teenage character and I loved him.

Jacob is seven and knows that miracles happen. All he needs to do is find the right thing to do that will resurrect Issy from the dead.

All five members of the family are coping terribly and everything is falling apart. The Mormon element means that while they do have some support, they're also judged quite heavily, often under the guise of concern. Claire wasn't a member when she met Ian, and their story is told too.

I really liked the book, I liked each character - even Ian, although he is quite unsympathetic at times. I learnt a lot more about the Mormon church than I did know, and I wasn't starting from nothing. I found it quite an interesting look into something most people don't know a lot about. In that way it reminded me of The Marrying of Chani Kaufman by Eve Harris. It also reminded me of The Lovely Bones, which I read years and years ago while at university.

Carys Bray grew up in a Mormon family herself but has now left the church. This was her first novel but I would definitely read something else by her now.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley - Review

Sunday, December 15, 2019

I bought this book just a couple of weeks ago while Christmas shopping in Waterstones. It just appealed to me and I liked the blurb. I then started reading it immediately, I was just in the mood for something thrilling and hoped this would fit the bill.

My short review is that all of the people in this book are reprehensible humans and I didn't care which of them lived or died, to be quite honest. Maybe that's part of the appeal. I'm not sure.

Anyway, it's about nine old friends from university who always spend New Year's Eve together and who are this year going to the Scottish Highlands to stay in a lodge and get away from it all. We first meet them when they arrive at the local train station and get in a car with the gamekeeper Doug to make their way to the Lodge.

The nine are made up of four couples and then Katie, who is single. Most of them met at university - the inner circle of Miranda, Samira, and Katie. Miranda is Queen Bee, married to the gorgeous Julien and enjoying a life of leisure - but Julien has a deep secret and Miranda's life isn't as perfect as she would like to think. Samira is married to Giles and they've just had a baby, Priya, and honestly, everyone is kind of a dick towards a couple with a young baby, but whatever. Katie is a lawyer, and single, but has something on her mind. There's Nick and Bo, who for me were painted as very much the token gays with no depth to their storyline or characters at all, and there's Mark, Julien's friend, and his girlfriend Emma. She's the newbie to the group, she's only known Mark for three years. She is eager to ingratiate herself into the group and is a real people pleaser, Miranda in particular. Miranda says mean and nasty things to everyone, but especially Emma.

Then there's two members of staff, Heather and Doug. They both live on the estate and both have their reasons for wanting such remote jobs. The book has parts from their points of view, and from Miranda's, Katie's, and Emma's.

There's two strands to the narrative. In the first one, it's the 2nd of January and Heather and Doug are out searching for one of the guests. They find a body, but the reader isn't told who it is. In the second strand, we're back in time to the 30th of December and New Year's Eve, watching the friends come back together and watching as they rip themselves and each other apart.

Several of the characters just aren't well enough drawn for me to care about - like Nick, Bo, Samira, Giles, and even Julien. I liked Miranda's inner dialogues and I liked Katie as a character. I liked Heather, too, I would think to think she lives a long and happy life after the book finishes. I really disliked most of the characters and hoped they all died, but the book was compelling and I wanted to see what happened. I thought the remote Scottish setting was really well written and really creepy. The Lodge has several small cabins for guests and otherwise is totally dark, and I could definitely picture everything described. The book is generally okay written although I thought there were some continuity issues.

I'm going to give it four out of five because I found it compelling and wanted to finish it, but I didn't think it was written all that well.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed - Review

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Where did I get it? Netgalley, so many thanks to Simon & Schuster Children's Books for granting me access to this book. 

What's it about? Jamie, awkward nerdy boy aged seventeen, and Maya, start canvassing on behalf of a Democratic local candidate for the state senate near their houses in Georgia. 

Jamie is Jewish and lives with his mum, his little sister Sophie, and his grandma. His grandma has some local notoriety on Instagram. Jamie's cousin Gabe is heading up the campaign for local Democrat Jordan Rossum, and has roped Grandma and Jamie into helping too. Jamie is awkward - he once puked on someone's shoes - and utterly convinced that he can't do knocking on people's doors to talk to them about politics. His little sister's bat mitzvah is coming up and Jamie's mum is kind of going crazy over it. It's the summer and school is out, and Jamie is kind of sick of being wingman for his friend Drew. 

One day at Target he sees Maya, a girl he used to know when they were little kids because their mothers were friends. She's with her friend Sara, and she's really cute, but Jamie manages to make a fool of himself and then wants to hide forever. 

Maya is with her best - and somewhat only - friend Sara. Sara has just graduated high school and is high on the idea of going to college. She might even be going early, meaning her summer with Maya will be cut short, but she's seems to be barely even noticing Maya anyway thanks to her jobs and her new college roommate. It's Ramadan so Maya is fasting, but she's also trying to deal with the fact that her parents are having a trial separation. Her dad is moving out of the family home and Maya doesn't know what to do about it. She wants to talk to Sara, but Sara is barely ever around. 

Jamie and Maya get pushed together when Maya joins the local campaign and the two go canvassing together. They run into a racist, and then later, Jamie's car is targeted with a white supremacist sticker. They're both really upset and suddenly, for Jamie at least, the political is personal. He starts to understand how people like him can make a difference, even if they can't vote.

He is still freaking out over having to do a toast at Sophie's bat mitzvah though.

The two become close and everyone thinks they're dating. They're adamant they're not - Maya mostly because she's not sure she wants to date in high school, or without thinking about the boy very seriously - but they do have feelings for each other. Will it be a happy ever after?

This is a really really gorgeous romance novel. Not a lot of plot actually happens, but there's tons of gorgeous moments like watching The Office together on the phone. It is just really lovely, fun, cute. I loved both main characters a LOT but I also loved their families too. Really gorgeous book. 

What age range is it for? I'm going to say that if your thirteen year old likes romance YA and wouldn't mind the political stuff, then they'll be fine with it. 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? They're not main characters but Jamie has gay friends who are pretty cute too. There's also a coming out which I'm not going to ruin but it was PERFECTLY written and I loved it and I have hearteyes. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Yes! Jamie is white, but Jewish, so is obviously subject to anti-Semitism, and Maya is Muslim and has brown skin so obviously encounters a lot of racism. I don't think it is said where Maya's family is from originally, which I don't think matters as you just know she is Muslim and that her mum wears hijab, but it means I can't say where her origins are!

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No I don't think so. 

Is there any sex stuff? No, hence my age rating 

Are drugs mentioned or used? No 

Is there any talk of death? Very little, there's mentions of Jamie's grandpa dying but that's it. 

Are there swear words? Not many, but a few. They're used to great effect actually. 

What criticisms do I have? I saw some continuity errors. These may have been ironed out in the final edit, but I did notice them. 

Would I recommend the book? Yes absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I was really looking forward to reading something else by Becky so I rushed to it. I've never read anything by Aisha Saeed, but I definitely would now. Sometimes in books with dual authors it's obvious who wrote what, but honestly, in this, I couldn't tell. That really worked for me. Both points of view are equally lovely. 

What do I think of the cover? I've seen a couple around. This one, the blue, and a yellow one. I think they're both nice. This is cute though, with the doors. 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of The Upside of Unrequited, a bit. 

How many stars? Four out of five. 

Yes No Maybe So will be published on the 4th of February 2020. 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. 

Meeting Robin Stevens in Sheffield

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

I follow Robin Stevens on Twitter because, as you know, I'm a huge fan of her books. I saw her tweets saying she would be at Rhyme and Reason books in Sheffield one Sunday in November, so I immediately went to reserve tickets for myself and my partner. I knew I would love ti meet her! Plus it was a Sunday morning so we would both be free.

I haven't been to the bookshop before. It's on Eccleshall Road and that's not somewhere we go a lot. We were close by over the summer, though, when we went to Endcliffe Park with friends. But I hadn't seen the bookshop and now I wish I'd known about it before because I would have gone! It's a children's bookshop and although it's quite small, it has a huge number of books in it. I would like to go back and have a proper browse at some point.

There's a back room and quite a few of us crammed in - lots of children and their parents. The staff introduced Robin and to begin with she read a little scene from Top Marks for Murder, the bit where Beanie sees a murder happen out of the girls' dorm window. Then Robin signed books for everyone. She was so gentle with her young readers, it was actually a pleasure to witness. She asked each one if they had any questions for her, and when they asked she gave careful, considered answers and I'm sure none of the kids were disappointed. She signed LOADS of books; ones bought there, ones read and loved and brought along, and even ones for friends who couldn't make it. There weren't many people there so it wasn't taking very long, and I just thought it was very lovely of her. She had bookmarks, badges that said Detective Society Member and she took photos with everyone with their phones and hers. I have met a lot of really lovely authors but Robin really stands out as being extremely nice, which is so important when your books skew towards a younger age range. I was impressed!

I waited til the end because we weren't in any rush and because I feel like kids deserve to go first in situations like this. I had taken all my Wells & Wong books with me and it turned out the only one I don't have was Mistletoe and Murder (which is perhaps my favourite, although I really can't choose), so I bought it from the bookshop. Robin very patiently signed alllll my books (including the two novellas/small mysteries that I have). I said it was a pleasure to meet her and that I recognised a lot of factors from Deepdean in my own school, and we had a nice chat about the series in general, about the fact that the next full length novel is going to be the last in this series, and about what she might write next. She's definitely working on something! I heard her give a hint to when exactly her next work might be set, and I'm definitely intrigued!

I said that I really like the political atmosphere of the books, for example the way in which Hazel suffers racial abuse. We talked about George and how his stature as someone from South Asia influences his political thinking. I'm not surprised that the next book will be the last as Daisy and Hazel are ageing out of the demographic, but I will be sad to lose them. I have loved reading this series and I'm sure the last book - which will be set in Egypt, and for which I have a bit of an idea about the title! - will be excellent too.

It was a lovely meeting and Robin is so nice and obviously appreciates all her fans, young and old alike. Definitely go to meet her if you can!

I also have to mention how lovely the two shop staff members were. They seemed really enthusiastic about their jobs and about the books in the shop, and were really nice. If you're in the area, the shop is definitely worth a visit.

At the beginning just as Robin finished her reading

Look how beautiful the books had been set up! There were lots of copies to buy, although I think I got the last copy of Mistletoe and Murder

Robin answering questions from fans

Me and Robin! No we didn't coordinate on outfits but we definitely matched! I think the pattern on her dress was macarons

And here's my bookmark and badge - I'm now a Detective Society member and proud of it!

Library Loves Meme

Saturday, December 7, 2019

This is a meme I took from Steph's blog here! Sorry if the formatting gets all messed up on this post, that often happens when I copy and paste stuff to this blog. I don't know why and I'm usually good at sorting this stuff out, but not, for some reason, on this blog!

1. When did you first go to the library/get a library card?

I don't remember having my own library card as a kid. I think there was a policy that kids had to be on their parent's library card. I was on my dad's. I suppose then that the first library card that was my own was for my high school library, which I got given when I started aged 11. I probably still have it somewhere! It was blue. 

2. How often do you use your library?

I use one of my local libraries all the time. I go to a craft club every Monday that is held in the IT suite of a library a few miles away from where I live. It means the room is used, showing a need for the library to remain open. I often browse books while I'm there, and even though it's quite a small library there's still tons of great books in it. I sometimes use the reserve function online to get a book to that library to pick up, so that I don't have to drive other places to get it.

My book club is also supported by the library, and we try to have half of our books a year be ones that come from the library, to again use it and show there is a need for it.

I don't use the library in my village very often, but it is truly tiny and parking near it is difficult. I think the council will close it down in the next few years, which will be a shame as it is often used by others in the village. 

3. Have you ever had a late or lost library book?

No I don't think so! I'm a bit paranoid about library return times, and I think I was the only person I knew at university who never had a fine. 

4. What’s your favourite thing about your library?

I guess I'm fond of the one I go to craft club in because it has a good teen section, because it supports our craft club, because the staff are friendly, and because it has good parking. It's also in a nice village where I sometimes do a bit of shopping too. It's a small town/large village!

5. Are you a browser or do you plan what you’re taking out?

Oh I'm a broswer. I pick up anything that catches my eye. Some of the best books I've read have happened into my hands that way! Sometimes, as I say, I request books from the catalogue, which is really useful, so I guess I do plan then. My town council demolished the old central library a few years ago to build another, and put all the books in storage in council buildings. Using the request service meant that you could get anything that was in storage, which was good. I haven't actually been to the new library, although I've heard it's really nice and has a good cafe onsite! 

6. Name a book you took a chance on from the library.

I think the most recent one was Bitter Orange by Claire Fuller, which I read last year and LOVED, after I picked it up on a whim. 

7. What is best book you read from the library?

I have really strong memories of reading Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal when I was at sixth form college. I read one on the bus on the way home one dark and stormy night. I know I made my dad read both, too!

8. Have you ever taken the same book out multiple times?

I probably did as a teen, and it was probably something completely embarrassing like a Sweet Valley High book. 

9. Have you read a good book set in a library?

Hmm that's a good question. I can't think of any off the top of my head. What are your favourites? 

10. Have you used your library’s ebook and audiobook options?

I haven't - I don't actually know how to! I don't really like audiobooks, although when I had a longer commute I used to listen to them on the way to work. I don't know how to access ebooks and to be honest I already have so many that I probably don't need to. 

11. Which is the best library you’ve been to?

Oh it's got to be Trinity College Library in Dublin which is home to many amazing books but most famously the Book of Kells, which is a really old illustrated book of the gospels. It is absolutely amazing to see and learn about. The library itself is huge and has huge tall ladders up to the books. If you're ever in Dublin, it's an absolute must-do tourist thing. I've been twice and I would go back tomorrow!

12. What would make you use your local library more?

Parking! I do use my library enough - and recommend you do too!

Trinity College Library - Dublin. Photo taken by me in September 2016

Did Not Finish - If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

It is so rare that I don't finish a book, or that I get halfway through a book and then give up on it. I sometimes read just a few percent of a book on my Kindle or a few pages, but rarely get too far. I don't like giving up on books and I wanted to love this book, so I persevered, I really did. But, I just couldn't get on with it.

My friend Angie recommended this book on Twitter and said it had an amazing black fat protagonist, which intrigued me. I ordered it and picked it up a couple of weekends ago. The protagonist is Winnie, who is seventeen and who spends the summers with her grandma in a small town called Misty Haven. Granny owns a diner called Goldeen's and Winnie works there. She's accompanied by her brother Winston and their cousin, Sam (who I think also lives with Winnie's family full time). Sam is spending her summer babysitting. Winnie tries to get Granny to enter a competition, but she's having none of it. Winnie's ungirlfriend Kara lives in Misty Haven. The two of them are friends who are dating, but are both free to date other people.

So every summer there's a like homecoming thing where the town nominates a Queen, and then someone volunteers to be her consort, and then there's a whole celebration thing around that. I don't think I read far enough to fully understand the ins and outs of this thing. Winnie gets nominated as Queen. Kara volunteers to be consort, but then so does this boy called Dallas, who is totally dashing and who Winnie has a crush on.

This is like all that happens in the first half of the book. The action just wasn't moving fast enough for me, and I felt like there was a lot of telling me what was what rather than showing me. There was a lot of what I felt was unneeded detail. I liked Winnie and Winston and Sam, and even Dallas, but Kara left me a bit cold.

Oh, there's also Granny commenting on Winnie's weight and trying to get her to go on a diet and exercise with Sam. Usually I love this stuff, but it just wasn't gelling for me. It took me five nights to read half the book, which is ridiculously slow for me. So for now, I'm giving up on the book, but if it sounds like your thing, do read it!

A Deadly Thaw by Sarah Ward - Review

Monday, December 2, 2019

After I ready the first book in this series, I bought the next two off eBay for just a few quid each. I had enjoyed the first book and liked the three main detectives involved - Francis Sadler, Damian Palmer, and Connie Childs. So I thought I would keep going with the series. I have been enjoying reading more crime fiction by women; I genuinely think it's a genre where the differences between how women write and how men write are really stark! I was, for example, shocked when I found out S K Tremayne is a man, because I think his writing skews very feminine.

Anyway, this book sees the same detectives in the fictional town of Bampton in Derbyshire. At the beginning, a body is found in an abandoned morgue some way out of town, and Sadler is called to the scene. He recognises the body straight away as that of a man called Andrew Fisher, who Sadler knew as a teenage. The problem is that Andrew Fisher was killed in 2004 by his wife, Lena, who has just served twelve years in prison for murder. Sadler and his team go to interview her immediately.

Lena lives with her sister Kat in their childhood home, Providence Villa. The place is falling apart, but Kat sort of loves it, and Lena has had little choice but to be there. She's not overly surprised by the police's visit, but she then goes missing. Lots of the book is told from Kat's point of view as she tries to work out what her sister did and where she is now. She starts receiving messages from Lena and is utterly confused about what's happening.

Meanwhile the police are doing their thing trying to work out who the actual body in 2004 was and where Andrew Fisher has been hiding all these years.

I liked the story, I thought it was compelling and interesting. However, I didn't like the ending very much. While I understood the motives involved, I didn't think they were written in a way that made them believable. And I thought the book went on for too long after the denoument, for no reason. Plus Palmer just really annoys me.

I'm giving this book three out of five stars, I didn't enjoy it as much as the first one. I will probably read the third one, though.

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M McManus - Review

Friday, November 29, 2019

Where did I get it? Amazon, I bought it. 

What's it about? Let me tell you this is one of the best YA books I've read in ages, I absolutely loved it. 

It's set near San Diego in California and is a contemporary YA novel. In it, five teenagers end up with detention with a teacher, Mr Avery. They're a bit of a motley crew - there's Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy, Simon and Nate. The five of them have their phones confiscated and are supposed to start an essay, but then a car accident outside distracts them. Simon, who is the owner of a gossip app about the school, drinks some water, and ends up writhing on the floor having suffered an allergic reaction. No EpiPen can be found, and despite paramedics' best efforts, Simon dies from the reaction.

It turns out his cup of water was laced with peanut oil, so police start looking for a murderer. It then further transpires that he was about to publish posts about Bronwyn, Cooper, Addy, and Nate, and that each one of them had a reason to want him dead. The four of them are suddenly in the spotlight and somehow unlikely friends - but one of them is lying. 

I guessed some of the twists and turns in the book, but that only added to my enjoyment of it. I thought it was a really fantastic book told from four points of view. 

Bronwyn is a super high achiever who wants to go to Yale. She lives with her parents and her sister Maeve, who I also loved. Cooper is a star baseball player who is getting attention from scouts. He can't let down his father, who is really into him being a major league player. He has a girlfriend, Keely, but he also has a secret he really doesn't want anyone to find out. 

Addy is a popular girl with a popular boyfriend, Jake. Everything looks perfect in her life, but her mum is a bit of a mess and her sister has moved out. Plus Jake dictates everything about Addy's life, like the clothes she wears and the parties they go to. Addy's secret is that she slept with a friend of Jake's over the summer, and feels really bad about it. 

Nate is the school misfit. He's on probation for selling drugs, although he's still doing it. He lives with his alcoholic father and his mum isn't around anymore. He and Bronwyn end up getting close, which I absolutely loved - he is a perfect brooding YA hero and I loved him. I think my favourite bits were Nate's bits, followed by Bronwyn's. 

Then there's Simon. Simon has tried hard for years to fit into the popular cliques at school, but has never quite managed it. He has this gossip app that doesn't spell people's names out specifically, but gives their initials. And the thing is, the gossip on there is never wrong. Each of the four of the suspects want to keep their secrets safe, and Simon has come up against each of them before. It's a real whodunnit!

What age range is it for? 14+ 

Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yeah, no spoilers though. I did see some criticism that there was some internalised homophobia here, and I don't quite agree. I think the person concerned is worried about how their family will react, which is totally a valid thing to worry about. 

Are any main characters people of colour? Bronwyn's family is Colombian, but it's not a main part of the story. 

Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? No I don't think so. 

Is there any sex stuff? Yes, it's not graphic and people always use protection. Again, I saw criticism saying that Addy is slut shamed, and while I agree that she is, it's other people's reactions to her. It's not her internal thoughts - she realises she has the right to have sex with anyone she likes. The author doesn't slut shame her, but characters in the school do, if that makes sense. 

Are drugs mentioned or used? Yeah, as Nate is a dealer. It's not graphic, but it is there. 

Is there any talk of death? Yep, obviously. Simon's death is quite graphic for sure. 

Are there swear words? A few, not many 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none. My only one really is that there are a couple of gaps sometimes when the book skips between different narrators. Gaps in the reader's knowledge and in time. But you can fill in those gaps so it's not a big deal. 

Would I recommend the book? Absolutely. 

Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? Well, you see, I bought Karen's next book Two Can Keep A Secret, and I thought that was a sequel of this, so I thought I had better read this first. But it's not a sequel... But whatever. I'll read that one soon. 

What do I think of the cover? I prefer other covers to this one, but this was the Kindle one. 

What other books is it like? I thought it was a lot like A Good Girl's Guide to Murder. 

How many stars? Five out of five. Excellent, fun, intriguing book. 

Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson - Review

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

When we were on holiday at the beginning of November I scrolled soooo far in my Kindle app on my tablet. I don't use my tablet for anything else except the Kindle app - not Twitter or Tumblr or Facebook or any of that. It's not the best tablet in the world, but it works fine as a Kindle. And while I don't buy many books via Amazon anymore, I've been using a Kindle since 2011 so I have loads of books on there.

I was scrolling trying to decide what I wanted to read. I ended up deleting quite a few books that I'd either started and given up on or that I didn't want to read anymore. It was a good clean up session! Anyway I came across this Peter Robinson book that I think I bought back in 2014. I needed something a bit easy to read like that, so started it.

I have read a lot of the DCI Banks books and I love that they're set in North Yorkshire. I found them years and years ago and got both my parents into them - which proves how long ago it was because my dad died in 2008. My mum recently, a year or just over, decided she would read all the Banks books in order. She's been enjoying them and I know she's read this one. I don't read them very often because they're kind of formulaic, but I thought I would as this one was just sat on my Kindle.

In this book, a sixty year old man is found dead near his home, near a disused railway line. He's been thrown from a footbridge in a scuffle, but there's five thousand pounds in his pocket, so he wasn't robbed. He has lived a hermit's life since being fired from his teaching post at the local college four years ago. No one seems to have had much of a grudge against him, but the police have to investigate and end up going back over the man's life to his university days and some time he spent in North America.

I liked the story and wanted to know what had happened to poor Gavin. I do like DCI Banks as a character, and I also like Annie and Winsome, part of his team, although I didn't think there was enough from either of their points of view in this book. I would give it a decent rating, it kept me gripped enough.

However, I did have a few problems with the book. The timelines, for one thing. It's supposed to be set in around the year that it was published, so around 2013/2014. But that means Banks has been in Eastvale since around 1988, and he was in his forties then, so he must surely be over the age for retirement now. And that's one of the points in the book - that he is nearing sixty (so those maths don't add up) and could be needing to retire soon. I get that it's difficult to end a series like this, but the time discrepancies are just annoying me by now.

Banks is offered the chance to gain promotion to superintendent, as long as he behaves himself and plays by the rules. Which of course, he doesn't. In fact, some people complain about him, and while I get that they're making trouble, it won't make his superiors feel any better about him.

Then there's a whole thing about why Gavin was fired from teaching - he was accused of sexual harassment by two students. The way that these young women and another are treated is pretty bad. The whole book seems to be rolling its eyes at the movement towards calling out sexual aggressors, and is trying to say that there are millions of false accusations - which isn't true. It seems obvious to me that the author is from a certain generation and was peeking through just a bit too much.

Then there's a bit where Annie and Gerry have a spat, and it was so ridiculously written I just laughed. It was not how women would really behave towards each other, I don't think, especially when they both work in a man's world like the police. It was ludicrous. And in the same vein, at the very end of the book Banks takes out a young woman that he met through the case. She is thirty six and beautiful - at one point he's ogling a picture of her in a bikini - and she for some reason agrees to a date with a man old enough to be her dad. This often happens throughout the series and it is just getting ridiculous now. It makes Banks come off like a sordid old man, and I don't like it.

This book was written in 2013, at which point all the above were already ridiculous and outdated ideas, and I'm just... A little bit past them now.

We'll see whether I read another Banks book. We'll see!


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