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Boy Like Me by Simon James Green - Review

Thursday, March 30, 2023

So, you know Simon James Green, right? He writes funny books about gay kids, always set recently and usually full of happy queer kids who understand their places in the world. He writes in modern times, definitely from 2010 onwards, when gay marriage is legal in the UK and when the rights of gay and bisexual people aren't under siege the way they used to be. The books are always laugh out loud hilarious, but in a way that does make you think, especially if you aren't a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Simon is great! We love Simon! He makes us laugh!

This is not a funny book. It's also not a modern book. It's set in 1994, when Section 28 was still in place and would be for nearly another decade. It had come in in 1989, and so for me it neatly bookends my education entirely. I'm 39, I went to school in 1989 and I left sixth form in 2002. I never knew an education setting without Section 28 in force. 

And believe me, I am still suffering from the effects of that horrible law. I am still traumatised by the fact that I couldn't come out, because there weren't resources available for me. I am still traumatised by the homophobic bullying I suffered daily, by people who seemed to get away with it because teachers couldn't adequately punish them and may have even agreed with their awful views. I am still traumatised by the teacher who, when I complained that I was being called homophobic slurs, told me that maybe I should try to "act less gay" and then maybe I'd be left alone. So this is definitely a book for me, and for all the others of us who were traumatised by Section 28 and associated homophobic and transphobic views. And in that way, it's Simon's most personal book to date. 

He says at the beginning that some of the events happened, some have been exaggerated, and some have been completely made up. I got a bit stuck on that and for ages while reading it I was trying to work out which bits I thought were true and which bits I had my doubts about. And then I realised that ultimately: none of that matters. The fact is that all of it COULD be true. Teachers were often terrible when faced with abuse like this, because they weren't sure what they could do and because of the laws and probably because sometimes they were homophobic themselves. People do even now get outed against their will and this has happened more times than we can count - look at what happened to George Michael, for instance. Or even Rebel Wilson more recently! Teenagers do know how to stand up for themselves and can make big gestures about anything they feel strongly about. I don't want to say more because I don't want to spoil the whole book, but I really don't think it matters exactly what is true in this book and what isn't. Go with it and read it. 

So, the hero of the story is Jamie. He is sixteen and in the sixth form at his school. He's polite, well mannered, and expected to get good A levels. He has been on the committee to get a May ball under way for the end of term; he's determined to make it a success. He is friends with Beth, but otherwise doesn't have a lot of friends. He always wears shirts and waistcoats to school but then two lads slung some slurs at him so he's decided to wear rugby tops instead. 

And then the librarian gives him a book called Wildflowers of Great Britain, insistent that Jamie take it. Inside, the text is entirely different from what it should be. Instead it is a copy of Dance on My Grave by Aidan Chambers, which features two boys falling in love. (I've never read it, but I definitely know of it - I know my queer history!). And there are some notes from a mysterious person, asking if anyone else feels like him. 

Jamie leaves a message back, and slowly the two start a correspondence. Jamie hadn't realised he was gay before this, but does come to terms with himself. He really wants the two to meet, but the other boy has a lot to lose. Plus, it's 1994 and people are incredibly close minded, especially in a small town in the middle of Lincolnshire. 

The book is full of footnotes, which do add to the autobiographical feel and which do provide some light relief throughout what is a really deep book. There's also "Electra", who is a Wave Warrior on a programme of the same name - this is clearly a pastiche of the 90s game show Gladiators, which was a whole thing on Saturday night in the 90s. This is a really funny part of the book too - I am pretty sure Gladiators was responsible for quite a few people's sexual awakenings. I really hope all the footnotes are true - I hope some of the things that Simon says happened when "Jamie" was an adult really happened because I felt like a lot of them provided closure. But maybe that's wishful thinking. 

On the one hand, Section 28 has been consigned to the history books and therefore the book stands as a historical artefact. If you're a younger queer I would say definitely read it for that reason and learn about some of the crap that we had to live through when we were younger. But on the other hand, the same arguments that were thrown around then about lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are now being thrown around about trans people. The same hysteria abouts books in libraries is still raging. We have to fight, again, even if we're cis. Fortunately I know that Simon absolutely agrees with me here, and I reckon that's partly why he's written this book now. It is a historical testament, but it is also a petition for us to rise to arms to protect trans people in the way we would have liked for people to come out and fight for us in the 90s and early 00s. 

Sorry this has turned into a bit of a thing - but this is a personal book. For Simon, for me, and probably for a million other of us. I lent it to my friend who is only a few years older than me and we had a bit of discussion about growing up queer in such homophobic communities. The bigots won't win. 

Stories I Might Regret Telling You by Martha Wainwright - Review

Monday, March 27, 2023

I've been a fan of Martha Wainwright since about 2007 when my friend Sam introduced me to her music. We've seen her in concert a few times, including with her half sister Lucy Wainwright Roche, and with a full band which included her now ex husband Brad Albetta. I really love her first three albums, but I will admit that she's dropped off my radar over the past few years and I'm not sure what she's been up to. I knew she had had two sons, and I knew she and Brad had divorced. She has two albums that I'm not familiar with so I will have to check those out. It was interesting to read her side of lots of things, but I was aware throughout that I was only getting her side of the story. Still, her divorce from Brad sounds like an absolute nightmare and there was clearly lots she couldn't say. 

Martha is the daughter of folk musicians Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle. They split up when Martha was tiny and she grew up with her mum in Montreal with her brother Rufus. She often toured with her mother and aunt, Anna, and her cousins. Loudon had two more daughters, Lucy and Alexandra, and Martha often toured alongside them and Lucy's mum. Her parents never got along. Loudon would write songs about both Rufus and Martha. Martha talks about being a bit adrift in her late teens, when Rufus was starting to write music  but Martha didn't want to go down the family path. She spent a year living in New York with Loudon (which he wrote a scathing song about) (it's okay because Martha wrote her own some years later) and did eventually start writing music. She met Brad when she was quite young and he was somewhat older than her. 

She writes a lot about the decline and death of her mother Kate, and the grief she still feels absolutely shines through. I relate a lot to this and was pleased Martha wrote so much about how Kate dying affected her. I had forgotten Kate died so long ago, way back in 2010 just after Martha's first son was born. Martha also tells some stories about other famous people which are often funny, but sometimes sad - like the breakdown in her friendship with Leonard Cohen's daughter Lorca (who is also the mother of Rufus' child, which is what broke the friendship down). 

I'm giving this four out of five - it's definitely interesting if you're already a fan of Martha or any of the Wainwright clan.

Being An Ally by Shakirah Bourne and Dana Alison Levy - A World Book Day Book - Review

Friday, March 24, 2023

My partner and I popped into The Works on a trip into town a couple of weeks ago, and I noticed they had the World Book Day books. I had looked at them all online and knew this was the only one I was bothered about, so I picked it up for just a pound! I read it in less than an hour ten days ago while curled up on the sofa after a busy day. 

It is a tiny book but with such a lot of info in it, I really liked it and would recommend it for anyone aged from about fifteen. There is a warning in the front of the book and it does tackle difficult subjects like racism, ableism, transphobia and more. The book is a collection of seven short essays by a few current authors like Lizzie Huxley-Jones and A J Sass, as well as the two editors. The essays are all about how to be a good ally, how to do it non-perfomatively, how to use your privileges to be an ally to people in minorities, and so on. The essays are all really personal, which I really appreciated. 

I am giving this four out of five - it's very good. 

1989 by Val McDermid - Review

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

You may remember that I read Marple last year - it's a collection of twelve new stories about Miss Marple by some of today's best authors. I really enjoyed it and was glad I read it. Then around Christmas I saw this reading list featuring all the authors, and I thought it sounded like a fun reading challenge for me for 2023. I have already read four of the books on the list - The Power, Nothing More to Tell, The Locked Room, and The Paris Apartment, and I'm not sure about the Kate Mosse book Warrior Queens and Quiet Revolutionaries, although I might give it a go. We'll see! But that left seven books to read, and I picked up 1989 last week as it was on my Kindle. 

I haven't read a lot of Val McDermid books but when I do I always enjoy them. I didn't realise this was the second in a new series featuring journalist Allie Burns to start off with, but I would definitely be interested in reading the first one. This book is partially set in parts of Manchester that I know, so that was fun to read about. The book is set is 1989 which makes it quite weird - it is long enough ago to be historical but close enough to remember. I was five in 1989 so do remember parts of it, especially the big news stories of the year like the Hillsborough Disaster and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Val talks a little bit about writing historical fiction set in the recent past at the end of the book, which I found interesting too. 

So much happens in this book that it felt wacky to me as I was reading as it just kept going! But it's testament to Val's skill as a writer that it never felt clunky or out of place. 

So, Allie Burns is an investigative journalist. She's currently the northern correspondant for a big paper, owned by Ace Lockhart, a media mogul who is clearly based on Robert Maxwell. Allie lives in Manchester with her girlfriend, Rona, who is also a journalist. Allie starts investigating why so many of Scotland's HIV and Aids patients have moved to Manchester. She discovers that there had been a drug trial in Edinburgh that got stopped abruptly; she goes there to discover why and finds out that the trial has been moved to East Berlin, in the Soviet bloc. She goes to Berlin to talk to a scientist and finds herself embroiled in a scandal there. 

Meanwhile, Ace Lockhart is having financial problems. After buying a New York newspaper he has almost no money to spend on the rest of his empire, so he borrows from the pension fund to bankroll everything (which is what Maxwell did!). His daughter, Genevieve, is head of their science publishing arm, Pythagoras, and she is insure about the loan from the pension fund. But she is keen to keep her father on side, so she keeps quiet. Ace knows that revolution is coming to the Soviet bloc and thinks it needs facillitating from West Berlin, so he sends Genevieve there to do some digging. 

There's lots more, including the Hillsborough Disaster, the reading of which absolutely floored me as I wasn't expecting it. It's done in a completely respectful and brilliant way and the experience makes Allie rethink her life and whether she wants to be a journalist. 

I really enjoyed the book, I am giving it five out of five. A worthy addition to the Marple challenge!

Second Best Friend by Non Pratt - Review

Saturday, March 18, 2023

This is one of those Barringston Stoke books that is a novella so short and which are printed on thick paper so are suitable for people with dyslexia; I really rate them as they're nice little books and this is no exception. In fact my only criticism of this book is that it's not long enough! I would have loved a full length novel about Jade because I really liked her. I bought a few of these books on Kindle when they were 99p or something, in April 2020 now that I look at my emails! Maybe it was a special lockdown offer. I've seriously got about five, but haven't ever got round to them. Then I was browsing my Kindle last week and decided to read this.

Jade is in Year 11 at school; she lives with her dad, stepmum and stepbrother Harvey. Her best friend is Becky, who has a twin sister, Stef, and two mums. Jade and Becky even look alike and they have similar taste in everything. But Becky is cleverer, gets chosen for the band solo, and so on. At the beginning of the book Jade is going out with one of the popular boys, Rob, but she's realised she really doesn't want to be with him. She breaks up with him and he turns it round on her and tells her that he only went for her because Becky was interested.

This makes Jade spiral into self doubt. She doesn't know what to think. She wants to step out of the limelight, be seen for who she is - but how? And then there's Nick, who she definitely can't help but flirt with... 

I'm giving this four out of five, I really liked it!

The Year of the Witching by Alexis Henderson - Review

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Early in 2023 I asked some of my closest friends what their favourite books of 2022 were, thinking I would give them a go. That way I get to read something that I wouldn't normally pick up. I like being forced out of my comfort zone by books, and this definitely was that. I would never have picked this up by myself but I really enjoyed it, so I'm calling this a win.

First of all, I can't decide when exactly this book is set. It's got a mediaeval witch hunting vibe to it, but the cult in question says it's existed for a thousand years, and it's not exactly mainstream religion, which would mean it isn't any of the more modern cults. I was expecting to find out, but in actuality I think it's set outside of our reality, but in a world which is all too recognisable if you know anything about religious cults. I actually liked that I didn't find out. The whole novel has a vibe of that film The Village by M Night Shyamalan, which I also liked, but I was expecting there to be a twist like in the film, and there wasn't. Oh well, I tried!

Anyway, Immanuelle is sixteen years old and lives with her grandparents, Martha and Abram, and Abram's second wife Anna, and their children, Honor and Glory. This would make Honor and Glory Immanuelle's aunts, but she calls them her sisters. They are both younger than her so I understand they've been raised as sisters, but even so, it annoyed me. Immanuelle's mother, Miriam, died in childbirth with Immanuelle. Immanuelle's father was Daniel Ward, someone who came from the Outskirts of the place Immanuelle lives, which is called Bethel. As the novel goes on it becomes clear that Daniel was Black and so are lots of people in the Outskirts, whereas everyone in Bethel is white. Miriam spent some time in the woods around Bethel while she was pregnant. She was adamant that she had lived in a cabin in the woods, but no one could ever find it. She was accused of witchcraft and of practicing witchcraft alongside the four witches who live in the woods: Lilith, Delilah, Jael, and Mercy. 

Immanuelle has always found herself drawn to the woods, even though she knows she must stay away from them. But she goes in, and meets the witches - the Lovers, Jael and Mercy, and then Delilah and Lilith. They give her her mother's journal, which contains details of Miriam's life, including the cabin she stayed in, and including portraits of Immanuelle's father. Immanuelle is scared by what she reads, especially because Miriam writes about four plagues which will hit Bethel. 

And then the first one does, a blood plague. All the water turns to blood, no one can drink. Crops fail. Immanuelle finally gets her monthly bleeding, which she's never got before. She knows how she can stop the curse, but she needs the help of Ezra. Ezra is the Prophet's son and heir, high up in Bethel's hierarchy. He has already given her a book and showed her that he's fond of her. This means that the Prophet is already wary of her. 

The Prophet is an old man, but he has many wives. This is partly where my confusion about when and where this book came from. There are mentions of the Father and the Holy Scriptures, but I don't think the religion is entirely meant to be Christianity, but I think it's supposed to reflect those ideals and history. It's so interesting! Immanuelle's friend, Leah, is chosen as the Prophet's new wife, and there is a huge ceremony in the cathedral for her. She is cut with the symbol of an 8 pointed star between her eyebrows, which shows her as a wife. Immanuelle tries to be happy for her friend, but then she discovers a secret about Leah and the Prophet... 

This book has a lot going on in it, and at the end I think it shows itself to be the perfect first novel in a trilogy. It's got an ending, but one which leads itself on to more, definitely. I would definitely read more set in this world as I really liked it - there isn't a lot of explanation which makes the reader extrapolate for themself which I like. It took me a bit of time to get into, but when I did I really got into it. I am giving this four out of five. 

The Salt Path by Raynor Winn - Review

Monday, March 13, 2023

This was the March choice for our book club. I'm not sure who chose it, actually, but I do know I was a bit like, oh I'm not sure if that's my thing or not. But I bought a copy on eBay for a few quid and picked it up at the beginning of March. I ended up really liking it! It'll be interesting to see what everyone else thinks about it. 

It's the true story of Ray and Moth, who are fiftyish and have been a couple since their teens, through being students, having two kids, and buying a farm in Wales, where they've lived for twenty years. At the beginning of the book they lose the farm due to a bad investment, with bailiffs coming to reposess it to pay off debts. Then Moth gets a medical diagnosis of something called CBD, which is a degenerative brain disease. This happens literally two days after losing the farm. The couple are now homeless. Their kids are both students and they don't want to impinge on relatives or friends for a long time. So they decide to walk the South West Coast Path which goes from Minehead in Somerset all the way round through Devon, Cornwall, and into Dorset, where it ends in Poole. It's 630 miles of walking. Ray and Moth buy a guide book and a tent and many lightweight things, because Moth can't carry very much with the pain in his shoulder. 

They wild camp along the way, sleeping on the beach and on clifftops and in fields. They meed many people, most of whom are nice, but some of whom really aren't. They exist on a budget of £48 per week, buying rice and noodles and fudge bars. Sometimes they have nothing to eat - sometimes they can afford an ice cream each. They suffer through illness and cold and a lot weather and blisters. 

I have been to Cornwall twice in the past ten years so I recognised many of the places mentioned, so that was lovely to read about. I like camping but not wild camping, so I was really interested in stuff about that. As they walk Ray and Moth start to come to terms with their situation, having thought that they would live on the farm for the rest of their lives. Ray clearly struggles more with Moth's diagnosis, and is unsure how she'll cope without him. But the walk seems to improve his health, something neither of them quite believe at first. I don't know what I thought would happen at the end of the book but I was really intrigued to read what happened.

Ray and Moth both turned up on Rick Stein's Cornwall, the new series of which started quite recently. It was so nice to see them and catch up on their lives since the book and the walk, the start of which was a decade ago. 

I'm giving this four out of five, I really liked it and the beautiful nature writing.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward - Review

Friday, March 10, 2023

This is by far one of the weirdest and most unsettling books I've ever read. My mother in law bought it for me for Christmas 2021. She also bought a copy for my brother in law's fiancee; she likes books too. She read this quite recently which reminded me that I really needed to get to it. I read it at the end of February, making 8 books for February which is very respectable especially given it's a short month. For comparison, I read 8 books in January too. 

So, there are two strands to the book. I'll start with the more normal one. Dee, Delilah, is in her late twenties. The book is set in  the Pacific North West, Washington or Oregon or whatever. Dee was seventeen years old when, eleven years ago, she was at a lake with her parents and sister Lulu when Lulu disappeared and was never seen again. Dee is now alone, her parents gone, and she's still obsessed with finding out what happened. She is in constant contact with the police officer working on the case, Karen, and drives her nuts with all her questions. She has paid private investigators to follow any leads on Lulu and one comes up with a potential suspect, whose house was searched at around the time of Lulu's disappearance. There is a photo of an inhabitant of the house standing on the lawn. This is Ted. 

So, Ted lives in the house that he grew up in. He had an abusive childhood; his mother only fed the family baby food and his dad lost his job and drank too much and ends up disappearing. Ted is a loner, and in the first part of the book definitely comes across as autistic. He relives his past often. He lives with Lauren, a young girl who can't walk and who needs a lot of care, and his black cat, Olivia. Ted keeps his 'gods' buried in the woods behind his house; the reader is supposed to assume that Lulu is among these remains. 

I wasn't sure how the two strands were going to collide, but they do. As the book goes on it becomes obvious that some things aren't real. I couldn't work it out exactly but I did guess some of the twists. I liked the resolution to Ted's story but I REALLY liked the resolution to Dee's - I hadn't seen those twists coming at all. 

This is a horrific book, though, with graphic descriptions of abuse. I felt like I was holding my breath throughout the whole thing! I'm giving it four out of five. 

The Mysterious Case of the Alperton Angels by Janice Hallett - Review

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

After I read and enjoyed The Appeal by Janice Hallett so much I decided to read her other books too. I was given The Twyford Code for Christmas by my brother in law and his fiancee, but I haven't yet got round to it. But I requested this at the library and it arrived really quickly - apparently I'm the first person to read it! My mum read and enjoyed The Appeal so I'll encourage her to read this too. 

So, like The Appeal, this isn't told in prose. Instead, we're told that what follows are the contents of a safety deposit box that a woman called Amanda Bailey has left behind. The reader is supposed to read through her research and come to their own conclusions. The research is made up of emails and text messages between Amanda and lots of other people, as well as bits torn out from several novels and scripts. 

The case is well known - the case of the Alperton Angels. The angels were a cult who believed they genuinely were angels who walked the earth. The ring leader was Gabriel. There were other archangels, and then two teenage recruits, Holly and Jonah. In 2003, the archangels were found dead in a warehouse with their bodies mutilated. Holly and Jonah were rescued, and upon arrival at the hospital it turned out that Holly had a small baby in a carrier bag with her. Holly, Jonah and the baby disappeared, the baby adopted, and Holly and Jonah protected due to the fact that they were minors at the time. 

Gabriel is currently serving a life sentence for his part in the mutilation of the other bodies and for the murder of a young waiter whose body was found nearby. He claims he didn't murder Harpinder Singh and remembers nothing about it. The baby is about to turn eighteen, which is where Amanda Bailey and another journalist call Oliver come into the picture. They have each been commissioned to write a book about the case and are each in pursuit of the baby, which would be a huge coup to them and their respective books. They know each other from years back, and it becomes clear that Amanda holds a grudge against Oliver. However their editors decide that they would be better off working together, so hatchets have to be buried for a while at least... 

They start asking people who were involved in the case about what happened. It becomes clear there are discrepancies in accounts - were there really weird symbols on the floor where the bodies were found? Who was the mysterious Marie Claire, and was she a white woman or Black? 

Then there are people who contact Amanda herself, including a scripwriter whose script won an award. There have been several fictional accounts of the Angels, including two TV shows and two novels. Amanda is warned off trying to find the baby, so she tries very hard to find Holly and Jonah instead. Oliver bags an interview with Gabriel, but seems to come under his manipulative spell too...

Most of the 'action' of the book is conversations that Amanda records, usually without the other person knowing, which are transcribed by her friend Ellie. Ellie comes into her own at the end of the book.

I enjoyed the mystery and like with The Appeal I guessed some of the twists but had no clue about the others. I do wonder about the current craze of writing books in non traditional ways - ie with no prose - it's certainly interesting and personally it compels me and keeps me reading and turning the page. I'm giving this book four out of five. 

Vicky Romeo + Joolz by Ely Percy - Review

Saturday, March 4, 2023

I backed this book on Kickstarter but then realised it had never arrived, thankfully they sent me another copy and I picked it up just after it had arrived in mid February. This was because I was really looking forward to reading it, and also because I wanted to lend it to my friend Chloe as I thought she would like it too. 

The book is set in the gay scene in Glasgow in 2001 and it is a little dated. The author themself acknowledges this in the foreword of the book, explaining that attitudes have changed a lot since then and that if they were writing the book today, it would be very different. There are a few instances of biphobia and transphobia in the book which are warned about, which I'm glad for, as they are jarring. I get the author's point at the beginning, and I'm glad the foreword is there. But I would like to also warn for this in my review.

So Vicky is twenty-one years old and she works in a cafe during the day, which she hates. She lives with several other LGBTQ+ people, including her best friend Minty and a girl called Kat. She is a proper player. She sleeps her way around the scene, rarely seeing the same woman twice. She promises and often delivers on her promise to give them the time of their lives, but she moves through the quickly, hence her nickname Romeo. Vicky is suspicious of femme lesbians and bisexual people. She had her heart broken by her ex girlfriend in her teens and has never got over it. She's a member of a lesbian support group and also, within the book, joins a threate troup which starts putting on The Importance of Being Earnest. 

Vicky meets a girl called Julie and goes home with her. In the morning Julie's mother finds them, having not known that her daughter is any kind of queer. Vicky and Julie fall out, but life keeps throwing them back together. 

Vicky's mum is also gay and in a relationship with a woman called Sam, who is also a parental figure for Vicky. Vicky tells some of her back story through Sam and her mum. 

The book is laugh out loud funny in parts, and had a lot of pathos in others. I liked it, but with caveats. Vicky is infuriating and self-centred and selfish at times. I also got confused with some of her friends and thought they could have been more streamlined. But in all i'm glad I got to read this book and am giving it four out of five. I'm also passing it on to someone who I think will enjoy it too!

Where the World Ends by Geraldine McCaughrean - Review

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

I got this book as part of a Secret Santa I did. It had been on my wishlist for ages, but I can't remember why I added it. But I was intrigued by the story, and I always like to read the books I got for Christmas early into the new year - or at least try to - so I picked this up in early February. It's a middle grade book, suitable for kids aged 10 and upwards, in my opinion. 

So I do know about the St Kilda archipelago in the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. I know that while the islands are abandoned now, there used to be families on the biggest island, Hirta. And every year the island would send men and boys to the Stac, where they would catch gannets, called gugas in Gaelic, and other birds, some of which could be used as fuel. The workers would spend about four weeks there, stocking up for the islanders, and then the boat would return to pick them up. I know this because for my book club we read a book called The Black House, which is a crime novel which uses a fictional version of the Stac, in much more recent times, as its setting. When I read that I was looking up the island. It was abandoned in 1930, but prior to that the gannet hunting had really happened.

So this book is set in 1727. In early August, Quilliam and eight other boys, plus three men, are taken on a boat to Warrior Stac. Quilliam is one of the older boys and he's done this before. He is there with his friend, Murdo. He is also obsessed with a girl called Murdina back on Hirta, and speaks to her frequently in his head when he is on the Stac. Some of the other boys are really quite young, like Davie. There's also Kenneth, who is a terrible bully. Quilliam becomes King Gannet, because he catches the first one. The men and boys start catching all the birds they can, putting them into structures called cleits for safe keeping. They're expecting to be picked up a few weeks later, by the end of August, only no boat turns up. 

To begin with, they think this must surely be some kind of mistake. They keep holding on hope. But then bad omens appear. And Euan has a vision that everyone else has been Raptured, but that God has forgotten them on the Stac. And while the three men basically start off fine, Col Cane, who is the sexton back on Hirta, starts to become more religious and escapes to one of the Bothys. Quilliam becomes Keeper of Stories and bestows other Keeper jobs on the other boys. They're cold as autumn comes in and then winter. They're hungry and have no fuel. And surely, surely they haven't been forgotten?

I kept thinking they must be rescued by the end of the book. But the ending blew me away because it included something that really happened that I didn't know - I'm glad I didn't know it because it would have ruined the ending! I really liked this book, it's brilliant middle grade. I'm giving it four out of five. 


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