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All the Beautiful Lies by Peter Swanson - Review

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

This was another of the books that I got in my box from A Box of Stories, and I had seen good reviews of it in the Facebook group, so I thought I would pick it up soon. I thought the beginning of the book was a little odd, so it took me a day to get into it, but then once I did, I really liked it and wanted to race to the end to know what happened. I ended up sitting for a good hour and a half reading at one point one afternoon. 

The book starts with Harry Ackerson, who has just graduated from college when he gets a call to say that his dad has died in an accident in northeast Maine. Instead of going to his graduation party, Harry rushes home. His only remaining family member now is his young stepmother, Alice. His dad, Bill, owned a book shop and was into rare books. Harry's mother died when he was younger, and Harry has never really got to know Alice too well. 

Bill slipped off the cliff path near his home, but police soon come to the conclusion that he has hit before he fell, so they are looking for a murderer. Harry's suspicion kind of falls on Alice, but then at Bill's funeral a mysterious woman turns up, and Harry starts to look for her to see what the deal is, too.

In a dual narrative we read about Alice's younger years. She was brought up by her single mother, Edith, who was injured in a mill accident and received a sizeable settlement from them. With this money, she and Alice move to Kennewick, where Edith meets Jake, and marries him. I don't want to say too much more here because I'll give away spoilers, and I really enjoyed reading this part of the narrative without having any idea of what was coming. 

The two narratives meet each other in the form of Alice, who is a very, very strange character and very, very cold. I didn't like her and was thoroughly chilled by her, but she's a great character! The first two thirds of the book is concentrated on Bill's home. Grey Lady. I could see in the book that the final third was different - there was a grey page which was evident as you looked at the book - and I didnt' get quite why, but then the final third there were two other narratives which made the preceding part all make sense. I thought it was a great way of separating the book in two. 

I would read something else by Peter Swanson, for sure! I would probably have never picked this up, but I'm really glad it came in my subscription box! 



What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson - Blog Tour and Spotlight

Friday, March 26, 2021

Hi there! Welcome to my blog for today's stop on the tour for What Beauty There Is by Cory Anderson! If you haven't been here before, please do have a click around as you'll find lots of reviews to read. 

What Beauty There Is will be published on 8th April by Penguin, so thanks go out to them and The Write Reads for having me along on the tour. I didn't have chance to read the book, so I will just share the blurb with you:


When everything you love is in danger, how long can you keep running to survive?

Life can be brutal
Winter in Idaho. The sky is dark. It is cold enough to crack bones.

Jack knew it
Jack Dahl has nothing left. Except his younger brother, Matty, who he'd die for. Their mother is gone, and their funds are quickly dwindling, Jack needs to make a choice: lose his brother to foster care, or find the drug money that sent his father to prison.

So did I
Ava lives in isolation, a life of silence. For seventeen years her father, a merciless man, has controlled her fate. He has taught her to love no one.

Did I feel the flutter of wings when Jack and I met? Did I sense the coming tornado?
But now Ava wants to break the rules - to let Jack in and open her heart. Then she discovers that Jack and her father are stalking the same money, and suddenly Ava is faced with a terrible choice: remain silent or speak out and help the brothers survive.

Looking back, I think I did . . .

Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness, Meg Rosoff and Daniel Woodrell, What Beauty There Is an unforgettable debut novel that is as compulsive as it is beautiful, and unflinchingly explores the power of determination, survival and love.

'Beautifully written and superbly constructed, Anderson pulls you onto a chilling footpath of love and loss and keeps you there until you've read every last word' Ruta Sepetys, bestselling author of Between Shades of Grey

Author

Cory Anderson is a winner of the League of Utah Writers Young Adult Novel Award and Grand Prize in the Storymakers Conference First Chapter Contest. She lives in Utah with her family. What Beauty There Is is her debut novel.


I Was Born for This by Alice Oseman - Review

Monday, March 22, 2021


Where did I get it? My friend Chloe bought it for me for my birthday. She loves Alice's books and wanted me to read more of them, so she bought me this. It's about a band and I'm a definite fangirl of many bands, so it seemed perfect for me!


What's it about? Angel Rahimi is a fan of a band called The Ark. One week, just after her A level results, Angel goes to London to stay with her friend Juliet. The two have been friends on the internet for a couple of years, but haven't met each other in person yet. They have plans to go to a meet up of other fans, to watch a live showing of The Ark playing an awards show in America, before going to a gig and a meet and greet with the band later in the week. It's going to be amazing, right? They're going to talk about The Ark ALL WEEK! 

But upon Angel's arrival she discovers that Juliet has invited Mac, a boy she knows off the internet, to stay too. Angel is really upset, and feels like Mac is monopolising Juliet's time. It's not turning out at all like she hoped.

Meanwhile, in a dual narrative, we are with Jimmy, one of The Ark. He is a trans man, he is in a band with his best friends Rowan and Lister. They're on top of the world, aren't they? They've won an award in America and as soon as they sign their new contract, they'll break the US and go global. 

But Jimmy suffers from almost debilitating anxiety. He struggles to cope with the pressures of fame. Plus, there's a conspiracy theory around him and Rowan - that they are together as a couple - that the fans call Jowan. Lister is also partying way too much which is causing concern for everyone. Plus, there's Rowan's girlfriend Bliss, who no one in the fandom knows about... 

The two narratives clash, obviously, but in really unexpected ways. There were so many twists and turns that the whole book felt like a riot to read. I really liked both Angel and Jimmy, and wanted them both to be okay and to succeed. I would have been way more upset than Angel showed when it turned out Mac was coming along too. In fact I've had something like that happen - and the person I didn't like was in my HOUSE - and it is AWFUL. 

I have also been in toxic fandoms, especially those for bands, and the book made me reflect on those and how awful they can be - and how awful fans can be. Angel repeatedly says that she 'loves' the boys and that she 'knows' them, neither of which are true. If you're a fan of a famous person all you see is the facet of themselves that they present to the public, and that doesn't include all of themselves. Angel has put so much of herself into the band, and barely knows who she is outside of them. 

I also want to talk about conspiracy theories like how fans here believe that Jimmy and Rowan are a couple and hiding it from the fandom. Theories like this aren't just 'cute' fan things - they are very real and very dangerous conspiracy theories. I know a lot about them, it's kind of an interest of mine. I'm thinking primarily of the Larry Stylinson conspiracy, which - as Louis and Harry have both stated time and again - isn't real, has never been real, is disrespectful to people they care about, negates the existence of Louis' son, which is disgusting, and which affected their friendship and the way they acted around each other. Angel definitely believes in the conspiracy in this book and it 'makes her believe in love' and she delights in theorising on clothes that the band wear. Band members in real life are not sending fans messages through their clothing or whatever else. There's a great bit towards the end of this book where Jimmy explains what a certain song is about - his grandma - and Angel is like, 'But fans think that's a shippy song about Jowan'. 

There's nothing wrong with shipping real people in fanfiction. I utterly believe that and stand by it. Using real people in fic is okay as long as the fourth wall is never broken. You're using archetypes of people you're a fan of, you're not using them as real humans because you do not know them. Shipping is fine. Tinhatting, when you believe that people are actually in a relationship, is a dangerous conspiracy theory and it really affects the real lives of people you're supposedly a fan of. Please avoid it. 

Sorry to rant, but this is something I believe in really passionately, and reading this book made me think of how toxic fandoms and toxic fans have negative impacts on people. And it's like the proverbial bad apple - a few toxic fans ruin the whole fandom. 


What age range is it for? I'm going to say 16+ thanks to mature themes 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Jimmy is trans, and his sexuality is a bit undecided I think. I think Angel veers towards asexual, too, which I liked. 


Are any main characters people of colour? Yeah - Angel's family is from Pakistan I think (I loved her conversations with her parents!) and Jimmy is half-Indian. I think Rowan is black, too. 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes, Jimmy's anxiety definitely counts as mental illness. The descriptions of his panic attacks were so well written, but they made me feel quite anxious reading them!


Is there any sex stuff? No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? Yes - I won't spoiler and it's not a huge part but it is there 


Is there any talk of death? Not really 


Are there swear words? Yes, loads, which I actually really liked. The boys talking to each other - especially when they were angry - really struck me as realistic, with a lot of judicious use of swear words. I loved it

 

What criticisms do I have? Almost none, really. I think the bad sides of fame were put over brilliantly. 


Would I recommend the book? Yes, especially if you've ever been in an all encompassing fandom 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I'm trying to read all my birthday books! 

 

What do I think of the cover? It's cute 

 

What other books is it like? It reminded me of Kill The Boy Band


How many stars? Four out of five. 

 

Where is the book going now? I'll keep it - I hope to meet Alice in the future again so I can get it signed!

Keep Him Close by Emily Koch - Review

Thursday, March 18, 2021

I got this on Netgalley, so many thanks to Random House UK for granting me the access. I liked the sound of the book, and really enjoyed reading it, although I'm not sure what genre to put it in? It's not a crime procedural, but it's not quite a thriller either. I guess it's just in Crime Fiction. 

To begin with, I really disliked everyone in this book, except for Kane, the young man who has admitted to the crime. However, my opinion did change and I felt like the characters grew throughout the book.

So first of all, we meet Alice. She is a librarian, she has two sons called Benny and Lou, and she's pretty closed off to everyone in her life. Her ex, Etienne, left when the boys were tiny. She's never really forgiven him. She is a huge snob. It's her birthday, and Benny and Lou go out for the evening. She's woken up by police coming to tell her that Lou has died, falling from a car park in town. 

Meanwhile, Indigo, mum of Kane, who is eighteen, wakes up the next morning and finds Kane sitting in the kitchen. He tells her that Lou is dead, and that he ran away, and she encourages him to go to the police station to tell them what he knows. After a few hours, he is arrested. He has confessed to pushing Lou off the car park and is remanded in custody. Indigo is certain that he is innocent, and sets about proving it.

Alice and Indigo meet, although one of them doesn't know who the other is to begin with. Everyone is keeping secrets, and there are plenty of red herrings and twists to keep the reader guessing. I did guess one twist, although I also picked up on a red herring that in the end came to nothing! 

I liked the book and read it quickly because it kept me guessing and kept me reading. I liked Indigo towards the middle, and even liked Alice at the end. I'm giving this four out of five. 



The Year I Didn't Eat by Samuel Pollen - Review

Sunday, March 14, 2021


Where did I get it? I bought it recently - the author was one of those featured in NYALitfest so I bought this when I bought a few from there. 


What's it about? Max is fourteen and at the beginning of the book it's nearly Christmas. Max has anorexia. His family all know about it - his parents, who have problems of their own, and his brother Robin - and are trying to help, but can't always. Max has a therapist, who gives him homework like 'eat a chocolate bar'. Max has two friends at school, Stu and Ram, but he feels like his disease is pulling him away from them too. There's also a new girl at school, Evie, who is quite weird but who seems to like Max... 

For Christmas, Robin gives Max a geocache. This is a box that anyone can set up - it's a real thing! - where people visit them by following directions to them and leave little notes. Max begins to receive notes from a friend... 

Obviously, massive trigger warnings for this book for anorexia, anixety, calorie counting, body shame, and so on. I found this a difficult book to read and I'm 37. I think it gets over perfectly how anxiety inducing living with an illness like this is. 

I liked it - I liked Max and I wanted him to be well. I liked how the book was set out and how so much happened in it. 


What age range is it for? I realise Max is fourteen, so maybe it's okay for fourteen year olds - but this is a really tough book. Take care of yourself or your teenage, please. 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? No 


Are any main characters people of colour? No 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? I mean yes, obviously. Max is very, very unwell. 


Is there any sex stuff? No 


Are drugs mentioned or used? I think there's a little bit about prescription drugs 


Is there any talk of death? Yes. BE CAREFUL. I can't say this enough! 


Are there swear words? No 

 

What criticisms do I have? Well, first of all, my book was very badly proofread which annoyed me. There were grammatical errors all over and there was an English teacher called Miss French and then the school nurse was called Miss French at one point but then in the same paragraph her name was Miss Finchley. Annoying!

Secondly, I would have liked more exposition at the end. I felt like it ended quite abruptly and there were a couple of story threads (to do with the other people in the book mainly, although somewhat to do with Max too) that I would have liked to know how they were resolved.

Thirdly, I would have liked to know how Max's family found out he was anorexic to start with and how he started getting treatment. 


Would I recommend the book?  Yes, but please be careful 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I have been hearing really good things about it. 
 

What do I think of the cover? I quite like how it's stylised.  

What other books is it like? The obsessive thoughts part of it really reminded me Am I Normal Yet by Holly Bourne 


How many stars? Four out of five. I did like it, but with caveats 

The Island by C L Taylor - Review

Thursday, March 11, 2021


Where did I get it? Netgalley, so thank you so much to Harper Collins for granting me access to the book AND the audiobook. I read it though, I don't listen to many audiobooks. Recently whenever I've been in the car I've been listening to the You're Wrong About podcast, which I would recommend!


What's it about? Six teenagers are on holiday in Thailand. Their parents met in ante-natal classes before the teens were born and have stayed in touch ever since. They've all had holidays every year together and now they're in Thailand. Things are a bit weird because Jessie is quite set apart from the rest of the group, but the reader isn't yet sure why. A boy at the resort hits on Honor, one of the group of six, and Jessie violently gets revenge on him. 

The six teens - Jessie, Danny, Honor, Milo, Meg, and Jeffers - are all leaving the resort to go to a deserted island for a week to do a kind of Survivor thing. They will have a guide with them. They leave, and arrive, and set to making a shelter on the beach and learning how to catch fish and forage for food. However, then their guide dies of a stroke, leaving the kids alone. 

On the first night, the six talked about their worst phobias, and over the next few days it seems like they begin to come true. But a couple of people are hiding their worst phobias. The group splits and starts to attack each other. Is one of the group responsible for the phobias coming true, or is there someone else on the island?

Jessie has been through something traumatic, which we learn about through the novel. She has scars on her arms and body and is self conscious about swimming in front of the others. Honor is usually the nicest person, but this year she seems prickly against Danny, who is her boyfriend. Danny keeps tight control of her, which was portrayed really well. He's a bit of an all round douche. Meg and Milo are twins. Milo and Jessie have always had kind of a thing between them, but it's never been quite the right time, but they do really like each other. Jeffers is really into the survivalist stuff which winds the others up, but I liked it. Meg is the person I didn't get a good read on, which was a shame as I'd have liked to. 

The book is told in dual narrative between Jessie and Danny, and I appreciated two points of view. The blurb says it's like "The Hunger Games meets Lost" and I do kind of know what that comparison is saying. I think it's like a shorter version of The Beach by Alex Garland, which is one of my favourite books. I first read it when I was sixteen and in my last year at school. I quite like the film but it's nowhere near as good as the book and Leonardo Dicaprio in no way looked like Richard from the book. In the book he's left a map to an island near Ko Samui where some people have set up a commune. He and two French people - a couple - make they're way there and join the commune. It's idyllic - until it isn't. Richard starts to go a bit loopy, one of the Swedes there gets eaten by a shark... it's really good. I recommend it, and I think it's okay for a mature teenager to read. 


What age range is it for? 15+. There are some darker themes and events. 


Are any main characters LGBTQ+? Yes, Jeffers is gay and it's a bit of a source of tension between the boys 


Are any main characters people of colour? No 


Are any main characters disabled either mentally or physically? Yes. Clearly Jessie has been through something awful, and so has someone else. I can't say more without spoiling it, though. 


Is there any sex stuff? No 


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


Is there any talk of death? Yes, a few times. It is in parts quite graphic.


Are there swear words? A few, nothing too bad. I liked how they kept saying 'bloody' because that's a word I use a lot. 

 

What criticisms do I have? I felt the ending was a bit abrupt. It was probably a deliberate choice, but I'd have liked a bit more exposition at the end and a discussion between the teenagers and their parents once they were rescued. 


Would I recommend the book? Yep, absolutely. 


Why did I choose to read it at this point in life? I just really liked the blurb and thought it sounded good, so I wanted to get to it 
 

What do I think of the cover? I like it, it's eye catching and gives away a bit of how dark it is. 

 

What other books is it like? I've mentioned some above, but it's also like its namesake, The Island by M A Bennett 


How many stars? Four out of five 

The Island was published on 21st January 2021. 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.  

Me, My Dad, and the End of the Rainbow by Benjamin Dean - Review

Sunday, March 7, 2021

 


I got this via Netgalley, so many thanks so Simon & Schuster for granting me access to it. I had head a lot of buzz about this book and really wanted to read it. Then I saw some tweets about it and moved it up my TBR list as I really just wanted to read it! 

It's a middle grade book about Archie. He lives with his mum in a town not far from London. His parents have quite recently split up and there's a lot of tension between them and Archie doesn't quite know why. Archie has two best friends - Seb, who he's been friends with forever, and Bell, who is quite new to the friendship group. His neighbour, Oscar, sometimes babysits for Archie so the two of them are pals too. 

After a disastrous parents' evening, Archie's dad Kevin tells Archie that he is gay. Archie is quite confused by this, but feels like there's a huge gap between him and his dad that he can't work out how to breach. The two of them usually have a good time at an arcade every Friday, but it doesn't feel right anymore. 

But then Archie sees a flyer for London Pride, and hatches a plan to go. Seb and Bell will go with him, but all three will have to be careful. They do make it to London, but face many obstacles on their adventure. But, more importantly, they have an excellent day at Pride, meeting all kinds of people, and helping Archie to feel better about life.

I loved the book, I think it's a perfect middle grade book. Archie is likeable. His family is diverse - Archie is mixed race and his dad is black - and both his parents are well drawn characters. I loved how many obstacles were thrown in Archie's way and how he dealt with every one of them. I loved how funny the book was, even when things were going very wrong. I loved the chaos. I loved the peripheral characters and how vibrant Pride was. 

My one criticism is that I think it skews slightly younger than for a twelve year old. I think it's suitable for 9-12 year olds, for sure. I am giving this five out of five, though. It's great!

Gut Feelings by C G Moore - Review

Thursday, March 4, 2021

 



I saw C G Moore talk about this book as part of NYALitfest back in January, and I liked the sound of it, so I bought this and three more from that weekend from the bookshop that was part of the conference. I think there was like 10% off RRP - I know I got all four books for around £30. 

Okay, so this book is told in verse, in poetry, like The Black Flamingo and Sarah Crossan's book. I think it'll be compared to both, and I think it's a fair comparison in both cases. It has really, really gorgeous illustrations that I think added a lot to the story, and I think they deserve praise.

I think this book is all a true story. At the conferece, Chris was talking about living with a chronic illness, which is what piqued my interest in the book. The book details his disease - a condition called Familial Adenomatous Polyposis - where polyps form on the large intestine. Chris was diagnosed aged 11. His mum and grandma also had the condition. Chris had surgery to remove the large intestine and had a stoma, and an ileostomy bag. He had this reversed later, but had a bag for five years. At the end of the book he is a student in Dublin. He is gay and has come out to his family by that point - which were some of my favourite although heartbreaking poems within the whole thing. A lot of the poems talk about being disabled, and how that feels, and about having an invisible illness and how Chris sometimes gets abuse for using disabled toilets because he doesn't 'look' disabled. This is obviously something that often happens - it has happened to me! - and I liked that the book highlighted it.

The early poems talked a lot about surgery, and about what being in hospital was like. I thought that the pain and misery really came across here; the poems were really well written.

In all, I liked this book and would read something else by the author. I'm giving this four out of five. 

 

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