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Crown and Scalpel by C J L Thomason - Review

Friday, May 31, 2024

I was asked to read this book for a website that I sometimes write for. My friend is the editor there and she was sent this book because of its disability representation, and she thought I would do a good job of critiquing that. I happily said yes, even though fantasy is really outside of what I usually read, because I was interested in the subject matter. I'm happy to say that I liked the book and was able to critique the stuff around disability really well, although I did have a few reservations about the writing. I'm kind of glad that this book pushed me out of my comfort zone because I think that does people good sometimes!

So, this book is set amongst elves, who are quite similar to humans and live in a world like ours, but they live for centuries instead of decades. My reservations were around the writing in the book - it's generally really good but at points the point of view changed within a couple of paragraphs which was sometimes confusing. I think it just needed another decent edit, and that would have been way better. 

Here's what I wrote for the website:

Why does representation in books matter? This is something I have been wondering about for a long time, as I write Young Adult literature, primarily about disabled and queer teenagers, and am trying to get published. Why does it matter that all teenagers, of whatever gender, sexuality, ability, colour, religion, race, class, and a million other marginalisations, see themselves reflected in the books they read? Well, because it’s good to see people who look like you in media. It strikes deep chords. It contributes to self worth. It can bring about a deeper connection to one’s own community, or culture. I myself belong to several marginalised communities and am also interested in the intersections that people live in – for example, if they’re both queer and a person of colour. I understand that my experience of the world is shaped not only by my marginalisations but also by my privileges – I am a white cis woman living in the United Kingdom, which confers certain privileges upon me. One of the ways in which we can all learn more about our privileges is to learn about those who don’t have them and that’s another reason that representation matters: for people not in those communities reading about them engenders learning and brings about empathy. We could all learn more by deepening our understanding of the experiences of others.

That last part is a long way of saying that although I personally am not blind like the main character in the book I’m about to review, I do think a lot about representation and the issues surrounding it, so I would like to think that I can give a good review. But I realise that I am not blind. Neither is this author, C J L Thomason, but it is clear that she has done her research. I’m not sure if she has used a sensitivity reader but it seems likely. The blind people in this book are well rounded, well written, flawed characters, as all good characters should be.

I will also say that I generally don’t read fantasy novels so this one is a bit out of my comfort zone. However, this book’s world and world building really captured my imagination. For me I think it helped that it is recognisable as similar to our world, and that there are a few human characters.

However, this world is Elven, populated by elves. Elves live for centuries, unlike humans. Ambarenyll is already very old, but still pretty young for an elf. He is a doctor. He has a young ward and apprentice, Pallu. He is close friends with his brother, Faraiel, and their friends Arken and Raven. In this world, these people live in the kingdom of Landaila, which is ruled over by King Dohandrahel. He has a daughter, Jadaleyana, who is better known as Jade. Most people in this world are Mane, but there is a small faction of people who are Darme. They have purple grey skin and black eyes and are clearly marginalised and treated in a racist manner. They have had rebel uprisings over the years, and now Jade and her soldiers fight small factions of them.

On one such trip, Jade is injured by Darme rebels and ends up at Amba’s house. She has a broken leg and injuries along her side, so Amba and Pallu treat her. Many of her soldiers are dead and she needs to hide, so she stays at Amba’s house.

He is blind. He was married and had a small daughter, but they were killed in a Darme fire thirteen years ago. This also left Amba blind and unable to practice medicine. It has taken him until now, and the fact that Pallu is nineteen and about to start studying medicine, to start working again. He used to be a skilled surgeon but he is still a skilled doctor, using his hands and knowledge of herbs and so on to treat patients. He also has access to some human medicine, like anaesthesia, from his mentor Thomas.

He and Jade don’t hit it off well. She is prickly and entitled; he is traumatized and sometimes difficult. But they start to build up a friendship and an attraction grows between them. I really liked the romance part of this book, actually, as it seemed really natural and organic.

Jade has trauma too. Her mother and brother were killed by the Darme and she doesn’t get on with her father as he is difficult and angry. She flourishes while staying with Amba. But there are other forces at play, both Darme and other, that threaten her life. She and Amba have to take off suddenly.

I really liked this part of the book because it showed Amba’s strength and resilience and how he could fight even though he was blind. He learnt to ‘see’ his surroundings by using echolocation, which is explained really well. Other people don’t always realise to begin with that he is blind, and there are moments of prejudice when they find out, which seemed very real. They also ask stupid questions about his disability which is something that every disabled person has had to deal with and which Amba dealt with in realistic ways – sometimes he was angry, sometimes he dealt with them graciously. I also liked how Amba was sometimes angry with his disabilities, sometimes frustrated with himself, but mostly he managed to give himself grace and ultimately realise that he still had a lot to offer the world as a doctor and as a person.

I think this book is a brilliant example of the first one in a series: it sets up the world, it introduces the main characters and conflict, enough happens to keep it interesting, but there’s a bittersweet end that definitely paves the way for the next book. I would be interested in reading another, which is always a sign of a decent book for me.

I think it’s best to leave this review with a quote from one of the inspirations for it:

Thanks for your diligence in portraying the blindness bit right. I’d say you’ve probably come closer than any other author I can readily think of. And yes, I can see you’ve done your homework.” – Daniel Kish Founder and President of the World Access for the Blind and Visioneers, Pioneer and Expert in human echolocation

Watching You by Lisa Jewell - Review

Monday, May 27, 2024

I picked this up in The Works a few weeks ago because I've really enjoyed the Lisa Jewell books I've read recently and liked the sound of this one, too. It was only £4 and I picked it up only a month after buying it. I really liked it. It's not exactly high brow literature but I think I got a lot of enjoyment out of it, and at this point in my life that's what I want and need. 

So at the beginning of the book a body is found in a house in Bristol. The house belongs to Tom and Nicola Fitzwilliam and their son, Freddie. A woman is then being interviewed by the police. Her name is Joey and she lives just a couple of doors down. She is a suspect in the murder and it becomes clear that she would have a motive for murder. 

However, in this book, really nothing is at it seems. No one is as they seem. There are a lot of characters and a lot of people have motive for murder. 

So. Tom is a 'super head' headmaster, the type of one who goes to problem schools for a year or two, solves the problems, and then moves on. His wife Nicola is a lot younger than him. Their son Freddie is fourteen and honestly, he's a bit of a creep. He spends his time logging the movements of neighbours and he is obsessed with two of the girls at Tom's school, Jenna and Bess. He takes photos of them from his attic bedroom window and he becomes obsessed with a girl called Romola who goes to private school, as he does too. He feels like he is the only person in the world who doesn't 'get' just how amazing Tom Fitzwilliam is. Nicola is obsessed with Tom, pandering to his every wish. She is a bit of a bland person, she doesn't have a lot of personality of her own. 

Tom's house is up in Melville Heights, above the rest of the village, and the row of houses are brightly painted and quite posh. Two doors down belong to Jack and Rebecca. They are married and expecting a baby. Jack is a surgeon and utterly go getting and brilliant. Rebecca is a systems analyst and spends most of her time in her office in the house, dilligently working. Jack's sister Joey and her husband Alfie are living in the attic. Joey is ten years younger than Jack and has just been a flightly type of person her whole life. She was working as a rep in Ibiza when she met Alfie, and they quickly got married and have moved home. Joey thinks she needs to be grown up and settled down now, but she's working at a children's play centre and she's living with her brother, so her life isn't exactly going how she thought it might be. 

Joey meets Tom and is infatuated with him. He likes her, too, and there's definitely something between them. But what exactly? 

Then there's Jenna. She's fifteen and about to do her GCSEs. She is one of the popular girls at school; her best friend is Bess. Jenna's mum, Frances, is mentally unwell and think that Tom is stalking her. She is obsessed with 'gang stalkers' and she thinks that Tom watches her from his house. She also thinks that he is a man that was involved in an incident on holiday in the Lake District several years prior, where a man, his wife and child were on a coach trip, and a woman came up to the man and started hitting him, shouting angrily at him. Jenna knows her mother is ill but lives in fear of anyone finding out. Her dad and brother live several towns away, and she doesn't want to have to leave her school. Her mum does a lot of things that are verging on illegal if not actually illegal. 

She doesn't really care about Tom Fitzwilliam, but Bess is obsessed with him. On a school trip to Spain, Tom and Bess stay up talking late one night and Jenna thinks something is going on between them. I loved the depiction of these two teenage girls, it felt really true in how they acted. I liked that my feelings towards Freddie changed throughout the book. And I liked how people really weren't as they seemed. 

I will say that there felt to be maybe just one too many coincidences for this to be real, but that didn't bother me too much. I liked the setting of this claustrophobic row of houses looking down upon this village. I was entertained by the book and am giving it four out of five. 

Night by Elie Wiesel - Review

Saturday, May 25, 2024

I can't really believe that I've never read Night by Elie Wiesel before. I have probably said it before that I did Theology and Religious Studies at university and as part of that I studied a lot of world religions and Judaism was one of them. I read some Holocaust literature then and I've read a lot since. You can find other reviews that I've posted here on the subject under the tag 'Holocaust'. But for some reason I had never picked this up. I think I have an anthology of writings about the Holocaust which is huge and which I've never read, and I am pretty sure at least part of Night is in that. But I hadn't ever read this and I'm ashamed for that because it has got to be one of the most well known pieces of Holocaust writing, by a survivor. I am so glad I finally got to it. I'm not sure where I picked this up but I think it was in a charity shop recently - probably Skipton at the beginning of April. 

It's a small volume but gosh, the things that are contained within. I knew that Elie was a holocaust survivor, of course, but I didn't know that his family had almost escaped it. They weren't deported from their native Hungary until 1944. As a reader so many years later that just seems so drastically unfair - the war was almost over! Auschwitz was liberated at the end of January in 1945, just a few months later! But of course at the time Elie's family would have no way to have known that. 

Elie was the only son in a family with four children - two older daughters and his younger sister Tzipora, plus his mother and father. They weren't deported until after the Nazis invaded Hungary. First of all they were moved to a ghetto (please be aware that the word 'ghetto' refers originally to where Jews were forced to live in Venice in the 16th century) and Elie describes the first night there, a night which for him was to last years and years as he was first imprisoned in Auschwitz and Birkenau, and then Buchenwald when the Russians got too close to Auschwitz, and then post war. 

He details arriving at Birkenau. His mother and Tzipora were immediately sent to the death chambers; Elie never saw them again. His older sisters were sent to the women's section and they both survived the war, but it was obviously years before Elie saw them again. He mostly concerned himself with keeping his father, Shlomo, alive. The veteran inmates of the camp tell Elie and his father how lucky they are and also how to stay alive. 

Obviously, the details of the camp are horrific to read about. For that, I am not giving this book a rating and am just telling you to go and read it. It's a classic for a reason and something that everyone really should read in their lives, I think. I found it really interesting to read about inmates being moved from Auschwitz to Buchenwald (within Germany's borders) - it was a death march very close to the end of the war in Europe and many prisoners died on the way. This is a part of the holocaust and war in general that fascinates me - how does life go back to 'normal' afterwards? How do people move on? Many Jews spent time in Displaced Persons Camps when the war ended. 

I'm glad I read this. It is obviously brutal. Wiesel is a master with his words; I particularly liked the way he used 'we' to refer to what happened to people as a whole. He does this often and it really gets across the suffering that a mass of people went through. Read this now. 

Weyward by Emilia Hart - Review

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

I bought this book in Waterstones just because I liked the sound of it. It was on buy one get one half price and I had a voucher from my birthday, so I got four books for about £30. I picked this up because I really want to read all four of them and am hoping to get them soon! 

This book has three strands of stories, and I enjoyed them all equally. The oldest part is set in 1619 when a woman called Altha Weyward is on trial at Lancaster Castle, accused of witchcraft. She is just twenty one years old and her strands are basically her diary. She grew up with just her mother, and they were the local 'wise women' - helping to heal the sick and so on. Altha's childhood friend is Grace, but when they are thirteen, Grace's mother Anna dies, and her dad blames Altha's mother. The two girls are no longer friends and it is now Grace who stands as a prosecution witness after the death of her husband John. Altha is definitely a witch - a weyward woman - but she and her mother have learnt to hide it because of the witch hunting that is going on. They live in Cumbria but Altha is taken to Lancaster, which really did have witch trials in the seventeenth century. I liked this blending of truth and fiction. 

The next oldest past is set in 1942. Violet is sixteen years old and lives at Orton Hall in Cumbria with her strict father and her brother, Graham. Graham is away at Harrow most of the time, and Violet is never allowed to leave the gardens of the hall. She is obsessed with nature - she can hear the flies and the clicks of her pet spider - but her father won't educate her and just wants her to marry well. He doesn't want her to turn out 'like her mother', who died when she and Graham were just tiny. Their cousin Frederick is coming to visit, and it becomes obvious that Violet's father wants to match the two of them. Violet isn't a witch - is she? 

The third strand is set in the current day and concerns Kate, Violet's great niece. Violet dies and leaves Kate her tiny cottage in Cumbria - Weyward Cottage. Kate has been there only once, when Graham died when she was a small child. Kate is in a relationship in London with Simon. He is abusive towards her - he tracks her phone, he hits her, he rapes her - and now she's pregnant. She didn't tell him that she had been left the cottage, so on discovering she is pregnant and unwilling to let Simon abuse the baby, she takes her car and drives up to Cumbria. There she begins to rebuild her life. It's obvious she has a lot of trauma because of the abuse and because of what happened to her dad when she was young. She has no idea about this history of her family, but she can discover it all in the tumbledown cottage. 

I really liked the book. I liked all three women and the different but difficult circumstances they have all found themselves in. Each period was really well written, too. Mostly the men are terrible but I did really like Graham, too - he's a bit clueless to begin with but he comes through for his sister at the end. I liked the magic realism within; witches are real and can do strange things, if they just know how to harness their power. I'm giving this five out of five. 

The Canal Murders by J R Ellis - Review

Monday, May 20, 2024

As you know, I love this series of books by J R Ellis, and have read all of them. I was eagerly awaiting this one and have had it on preorder since like last November or something. It arrived on my Kindle at the very end of April and I started reading it just a few days later. My mum was excited about it too, so when she's read it I will have to see what she thought. I didn't love it, though. I liked the story but I thought the writing was just a bit terrible. It felt very much like J R Ellis is just churning them out. I've always thought that his writing a slightly terrible - he relies too much on adverbs, and he uses other words when he can just say 'said', and if I had to read about Oldroyd and Andy 'munching' on biscuits one more time I was going to scream. But this time it really felt like the dialogue especially was just rubbish. There were people pontificating all over the place, and a lot of 'telling' involved in the speeches people made, too. 

All of this is a real shame, because I love these books. I probably will read the next one, yeah, but it feels a bit like cheesy chips from a takeaway - you know it tastes good at the time but you also know you couldn't read nothing but this type of stuff because it wouldn't be good for you in the long run. 

So, the story. Steph and Andy are on a canal boat holiday from near Leeds somewhere, and they're in Saltaire near Bradford, staying overnight. They go into a pub nearby and witness a woman having a go at a woman in a group of people at the folk night there. The next morning, Steph is up early when she sees a boat coming downstream, and then she realises the woman at the tiller is slumped over, dead. Steph and Andy secure the boat and call the police. Javed Iqbal, who used to work with them in Harrogate, is the detective on scene. He soon realises it's a strange case - there is no sign of anyone being on the boat with Annie Shipton, the victim. He asks Steph and Andy to help (of course), and then asks if they can get Oldroyd to come along and help (also of course). 

Annie Shipton was one of a group of friends who lived on the canal. The others are Bridget, Bob, and Liz. Her ex, Ben (there were way too many people with names starting with B in this book), now lives near Haworth, and Liz's husband Roger is dead. But all six of them used to be in a folk band together, called Rowan. They split up and fell out a bit over copyright issues and money, but then Annie had persuaded them all to buy canalboats near each other. They all, middle class hippy types, seemed to think of themselves as a bit above everyone else. Annie had written a blog about people she didn't think belonged on the canal, and one of these people, Laura, was the woman who had a go at her in the pub the night before her death. Then there's mysterious loner Len, who speaks of the spirits who live on the canal. 

No shortage of suspects already, for sure, but then we add in people from Salts Mill nearby. The CEO there has grand plans to expand the mill, but Annie has been at the forefront of a petition against it. Then there's Sam, a young lad who got into an altercation with Annie over his cycling down the towpath. He's not a bad lad really but he's a worry to his mum, and he's also a suspect. 

There are far too many suspects I think in this book, which ended up a little bit confusing. I liked the setting, as always, for sure, but I just felt the story left me a bit cold. In all I'm given this three out of five. It's really a 7 out of ten, haha. 

How to Die Famous by Benjamin Dean - Review

Friday, May 17, 2024

I bought this book in a bookshop in Edinburgh because I liked the other book I read by Benjamin Dean and I liked the sound of this one so I picked it up with a book token I got for my birthday. I picked it up at the end of April and it took me absolutely bloody ages to read. I just really didn't like it, but I can't really put my finger on why. 

The main character is Abel, and he's just got a job on the reboot of a series called Sunset High. He's British, but he's now jetting off to LA to film alongside the other stars - Lucky, Ryan, and Ella. But Abel is hiding the fact that his brother Adam was a victim of the Sunset High 'curse'. Adam fell to his death from a hotel roof three years ago. Abel is convinced he was murdered, thanks to Adam's final message to him, in which he wanted to talk to Abel about Omnificent, the production company that makes Sunset High. So Abel is going to try to uncover what happened. 

There were other victims of the 'curse' too. In the original series, a young woman called Mila was trated badly and has since retired from public life. Then in the first reboot, which Adam was working on, a young woman called Penelope disappeared and was never seen again. But the teens think must be different now, right?  

The other three don't know who Abel is in relation to the production member who fell off the roof, so Abel is able to do some detective work, including finding some people who Penelope spoke to just before her disappearance. But the other three have problems too. The book is told from the points of view of all four of them, although mostly Abel, and this is one of the things which didn't quite work for me. It just made it difficult for the reader to get to know any of the four of them particularly well. 

Lucky's mum was killed in a car crash being chased by paparazzi who were trying to take photos of him, so he's obviously feeling really guilty and stuff. He's Omni's leading young man, but he's drinking a lot to numb his pain and they're running out of patience with him. Ryan and Lucky are a couple, but Ryan is blindsided at the beginning of the book when she finds herself replaced by Ella. Ella and she are best friends, but of course, now the press are saying there's a rift between them because Lucky and Ella are seeing each other. Ryan also feels she is being pushed out by Omni in order for Ella to take over from her. 

Ella came from nothing, and her mother is pressuring her to make her career, mostly because she would like to spend all Ella's money. Ella has no one in the world, except her personal assistant Natalie.

Except none of this is actually true, which annoyed me. It's obvious there are secrets and baddies everywhere, but I just found the whole thing a little bit unbelievable. I'm sorry because I wanted to like this, but I've got to give it three out of five. 

Standing in the Shadows by Peter Robinson - Review

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

You may know that I love the DCI Banks books and have done for years. I think I've read most of them, but I haven't read many of the later ones because I've just got out of the habit of them. I was really saddened when Peter Robinson died though because it meant there would be no more books! I had been meaning to get around to reading this, the last one, because I feel like I owed it to the author and the character! My mum has read all of them and she recommended this, so I finally got round to it. I requested it at the library and when it came it was the large print version - does this mean I'm officially old now? 

In a way it is really sad that this is the last one because I would have liked to see Banks retire and take up a life of whiskey and listening to vinyl all the time, having served his time and more and having had a good career. Plus, Annie Cabot is barely in this book because in previous ones her dad Ray has died and she is taking some time off. I am not totally up to date on what has happened there, but it's briefly explained in this book. But it would have been nice to have Annie back working on Banks' last case. It's not Peter's fault, of course! I just feel sad about it!

This book has two different strands of story, which of course are going to cross over but the reader doesn't find out how until just towards the end of the book. The first strand is set in the early 1980s, in Leeds. Nick is a student at the university and his ex girlfriend, Alice, is found killed. They had split up after six months together and she had started to go out with a man called Mark when she was killed. The body has been found near where a victim of the Yorkshire Ripper was found just a few weeks previously, and at first police think the murder may be the work of the Ripper. They interview Nick but soon discover there's no way he could be the Ripper, but they still consider whether he killed Alice or not. Nick himself suspects Mark, but Mark has completely disappeared. Nick lives in a big house that has been split into bedsits, and Alice lived in the top floor flat. Her parents come to get her stuff and invite Nick to the funeral. Mostly he is upset, and also wants to work out what happened to Alice. This strand of story is really evocative of the early 80s around Leeds University and the fear around the murders that the Yorkshire Ripper did. 

Meanwhile, an archaeologist finds a body in a field near the A1. The field belongs to a farm which has been bought in order for the road to be widened and for a new shopping centre to be built. First, though, archaeologists are digging on the off chance that there are Roman remains nearby. This body, though, is nowhere near as old as that. The police are called in. They reckon the body was dumped around 2016, and is that of a sixty year old man. The police are drawing total blanks, but they are interested when they discover that the owner of the farm is an ex copper. 

There's also stuff which was quite current at round about the time that Peter must have been writing this book, which was about the undercover cops who had relationships with people under false pretences. It's really interesting and very topical and I liked the way it all came out at the end.

In all I'm giving this four out of five because I really liked it and enjoyed being back in Eastvale with Banks and co. 

Wandering Souls by Cecile Pin - Review

Saturday, May 11, 2024

I picked this book up in February in Edinburgh. I was staying with a friend and she had to work, so one day I went to Portobello Bookshop in Portobello to spend a voucher that I had been given for my birthday. I picked up four books and this was one of them! It was actually the first book I picked up in the shop. Recently I've had a few books that I've 'had' to read and it's been a bit of a slog, so I picked this one up because I really wanted to read it. I wanted to treat myself, as it were. And I ended up loving it and sped through it, so it was the perfect thing I needed!

The book starts in 1978 in Vietnam. Anh, Minh, and Thanh are packing to leave. They are the eldest children in a family with seven children - Mai, Van, Hoang, and Dao - and their parents. The war has ended and many Vietnamese are leaving the country. Anh's dad's brother is already in the United States, in New Haven, so the family is planning to emmigrate, via Hong Kong. Anh and her brothers will go first, and the other six will follow soon behind. 

Anh, Minh, and Thanh arrive in Hong Kong and are taken to a camp. There they will stay, waiting for their parents. They make friends with a young boy in their hut, Duc, and his grandmother, Ba (I apologise for not being able to put the correct accents over the letters in some of these names). Then they are told that their family has died. Anh identifies the bodies of her parents and siblings; they are buried in Hong Kong. Workers from the camp ask Anh if she has any relatives in America but Anh says no because she blames her uncle for her dad wanting to leave Vietnam. She's angry with him, so says no. Because of that, the children's application for refugee status in the US is denied, and instead, they are sent to England.

They arrive into freezing cold weather and have to stay at first in a similar camp in the south. There they are taught English and experience snow for the first time. By this time Anh is about eighteen and the boys are at school. She is a seamstress. The family is moved to London, to a council flat in Peckham, not too far from Duc and Ba. They have to share the bed in the one bedroom there is. Minh kind of falls apart. Thanh is a clever student, but Anh isn't sure that she can get him to university. Anh works in a clothing factory. It's Thatcher's Britain, the mid 80s, and being an immigrant isn't easy. 

The book is quite a saga - it moves on vastly in time and we see Anh as a much older woman. I really liked her - she was trying to do the right thing by everyone all the time, while being extremely young and having lived through a ton of trauma herself. I liked her brothers too; I felt for both of them. It's not just a story about this family but it's about a lot of families who have lived through similar trauma and who have come to the UK for a safe haven. 

Part of the book is also sort of free verse from Dao's point of view - from the point of view of a small child who is now a ghost and who is watching his surviving siblings from the afterlife. I liked this - it points towards the family's religious beliefs and the ceremony that they perform to remember their dead ancestors. I love this stuff.

This is a brilliant book and I would urge you all to read it. I'm giving itr five out of five. 

Bloom by Kevin Panetta and Savanna Ganucheau - Review

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

This is another book I borrowed off my friend Chloe. She knew I would love it so passed it across, and I did indeed love it and am really glad I read it. I loved the artwork in this book - everything is in the same shade of blue as on the front cover with white and grey, meaning it's really lovely to look at. I just loved the artwork, it's really simple but effective. 

So, Ari is the protagonist of this book. He has just left high school and he wants to move to the city (Baltimore) with the rest of his band. He lives in East Beach which is a suburb of the city, so he's desperate to get away, and it's going to be so cool to live with his band, which contains his closest friends! But there's the problem of his family's bakery. Ari has to work there whenever he's needed, and he's totally sick of it. He's sick of baking baguettes and bagels and cupcakes and all the rest of it. So he makes a deal with his dad that he will find his own replacement.

Enter Hector. Hector is from Birmingham (Alabama, I presume, but it's not spelt out I don't think) and I also think he's Samoan or at least part Samoan. Ari's family is Greek, the bakery is Greek too. He loves baking and he's also really good at it. Ari keeps working there and the two of them get close and start flirting with each other. Hector has an ex boyfriend and while Ari doesn't explicitly state his sexual preferences, it's clear he likes Hector. 

Something big happens which changes everything, though. I wasn't expecting this to happen and I think it happened at an odd place in the narrative, but I did like it. Ari's friends change too, in a way that I thought was really realistic and true to life. They're just post high school and it's then when life is changing fast and it's hard to keep up with. 

I will agree with some criticisms on Goodreads that said that the time skips weirdly in the book. I think it does, but most of the time it's easy to keep up with. I really liked Ari and I loved Hector - he's very sweet and this is a really cute story of two kids falling in love. 

As I said I really liked the artwork and I really hope there is a follow up to this book. I'm giving it five out of five. 

Given Vol 2 by Natsuki Kisu - Review

Saturday, May 4, 2024

I read the first volume of this graphic novel when my friend Chloe lent it to me because she thought I would like it. I did, so she lent me the second volume. And then I totally forgot about it, so didn't get round to reading it for ages. Then she reminded me about it and about three other books she had lent me, so I decided to get to them and read them all in a few days. And I did! This was the first. 

So we're back with Uenoyama, Akihiko, Haruki, and Mafuyu. In the first volume they put their band together and the reader found out what happened in Mafuyu's past which makes him the way he is. In this volume, he's trying to write lyrics for some songs for their first gig, but he's really struggling. 

I loved the artwork for the gig the band actually play, it seemed really realistic and each member seemed to come alive and to really love what they were doing. It really seemed to get across the emotions of playing live music. 

I'm not sure if I'll read anymore in this series, but I did like this a lot. Five out of five. 


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