Friday, September 14, 2018

Adult Fiction I've Been Reading

Whenever I'm in a reading slump, I find that changing things up can sometimes help.  So at different points this year I've picked up the following adult fiction books.  I've really enjoyed all of these books though they are very different.  It's only made me realise that I don't always need to lock myself into a cycle of only reading young adult fiction ...there is a whole world of other books and stories out there for me.

Some Girls Do by Clodagh Murphy

I'm not really sure how I first came to know about this book? Perhaps a recommendation on Amazon? But it was such a fun read. About a woman who writes incredibly saucy things on her anonymous sex blog ...but has very little actual experience with sex or relationships.  A random meeting with a man whore means she propositions him with a proposal - help her with a sex education for a period of time so she can make the moves on someone actually her type.  Which turns out to be the sexy editor at a publishing house who wants to publish her blog.  I thought it was nice to see Claire gradually gain confidence, in herself, in asking for what she wants sexually and what it means to be in a relationship and that Luca helps her get there.  I thought it was really sweet and just the right amount of sexiness.

Salvaged by Jay Crownover

Oh, Jay Crownover.  I find her books quite problematic ... and yet I find I also can't stop reading her books.  Salvaged is at least a big step away from the first (mostly horrible) book I read by her. And actually, one of the big draws for this book in particular was a) I think it's the last in the series and b) it was billed as more of a romance than the sex-heavy stories she's come out with in the past.

As I said, there is something very ...addictive about the way Jay Crownover writes.  But I can't stand the way she writes about and dramatises stories of abuse and trauma. I can't stand it.  So while I did mostly enjoy this story and I read it quickly, I could only ever give it three stars because there's no reason whatsoever to make the choices she does in writing Poppy's story.  None.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant is one of the characters that will stay with me for a very, very long time. I was fairly shocked by how much I loved this book.  Me being fairly contrary, I was a little bit resistant to read this book at first because of the amount of hype surrounding it. Once I gave in though, I fell pretty hard for this story.  About loneliness in modern times.  It all just felt really heart-breaking.  But also hopeful.  I loved watching Eleanor's transformation and the way she breaks out of the small world she found herself in, isolated and alone, drinking away her weekends.  It felt real and believable.  I almost didn't want this book to end because I didn't want to say goodbye to her.

I really loved how abrasive she is.  Eleanor at the start of the book was howl-inducing but even as she softens, there was this straight to the point, don't give any fucks vibe to her that I really dug.

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

Has there ever been a more gorgeous book than Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman?!  I'm not sure there has been.  I loved every second of this book.  All the longing and nostalgia, each tiny build-up in attraction between Elio and Oliver.  I wasn't prepared for the level of intensity that I got with this story.

I loved the Italian setting of the book and this circle of intellectuals that surround the two main characters.  But it was the romance between the two of them that consumed my whole being.  I couldn't get enough of it.  Such yearning, such longing.  Such intimacy once they both give in to how they feel for each other.  Not long after reading this I watched the film and now I have an inappropriate crush on Timothee Chalamet.

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin

I'll admit it ... I did watch the film before I read the book.  I really enjoyed the film, I find there's something quite compelling about Saoirse Ronan.  And I just found the storyline to be fascinating.  I really wish there were more immigrant stories like these. Or if there are, do let me know what I should be reading.

There was something quite ...subtle about this book.  It isn't showy or flashy.  There isn't a great deal that happens either.  It's about a girl, Eilis, who ends up immigrating to the US in the 1950s as there is very little for her in Ireland.  She ends up slowly adjusting to life in Brooklyn but misses home.  It's a book about straddling different cultures and leaving home.  I felt homesick and confused along with Eilis.  I can imagine this book won't be for everyone but I highly enjoyed it.

Do you ever read outside your preferred genres?

Monday, September 10, 2018

UKYA I've Been Reading

When in doubt or when in a reading slump, I pick up UKYA. I love UKYA. I love the familiarity of setting and language I know without question.  UKYA forever.

Truly Wildly Deeply by Jenny McLachlan

I adore Jenny McLachlan.  She's such a consistently good author for me.  I just know what I'm getting into with her and she really delivers.  Truly Wildly Deeply was such a lovely story.  It was so easy to fall in love with both Annie and Fab individually as well as a couple.  I fell pretty hard for these two.  I loved Annie's determination to be independent and her feminist views of love and romance. And Fab was just so charming and ... passionate.  About life and everything in it and about Annie.  This whole story was just so sweet.  Of course I also loved that the two main characters are a Polish immigrant and a girl who is many things but also has cerebral palsy.  This book was just so lovely and empowering and charming.

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard

I truly loved Goodbye, Perfect.  It isn't nearly as emotional as I've read by the same author before but I feel like it was a really interesting, topical story and it was important to read.  Goodbye, Perfect is a story about friendship, relationships, and about the unrealistic and dangerous expectations we put on young people today to do well academically.  Eden's world is turned upside down when her formally dependable and solid best friend runs off before their GCSEs.  Even worse is that Bonnie has run off with one of their teachers.  Most of the story is about  Eden questioning Bonnie and their friendship and also herself.  Trying to work out what she should do.  Turn in her best friend or keep to the friend code?  What I loved about this book in particular is that balancing out Bonnie's strive for perfection and excellence is Eden's more laid-back interest in other (just as important skills) and also her lovely and (most importantly!) healthy relationship with a boyfriend her own age.  Eden and Bonnie's stories really highlight the pressures put on teenagers and all the challenges they face.

The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher

I hold my hands up now and admit that The Last Days of Archie Maxwell is the first book I've read by Annabel Pitcher.  I know.  But, for me, it was a great place to start.  I love Barrington Stoke and what they do for dyslexic and struggling readers.  They choose some of the best authors around and this book is no exception.  I was quite surprised by the amount Annabel Pitcher packed into this book.  It's pretty hard-hitting.  Touching on bullying, homophobia, suicide, grief.  But it all felt as though there was no sugar-coating.  Archie is struggling after his dad comes out as gay, it feels like his family is falling apart, he's not in a place to accept or support his father and he's being bullied at school.  This all leads Archie to spend time near the train tracks wondering how easy it would be to end all his struggles in an instant. 

Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

I really loved Only Love Can Break Your Heart.  I read Katherine Webber's debut book last year and loved that too so she's quickly becoming an author that I look out for. 

In this book I really enjoyed the setting (Californian desert) and also the exploration of heartbreak, grief, sisterhood, friendship and relationships. This book is mostly set during the summer as Keiko is dealing with the heartbreak of the death of her sister and also dealing with the added pressure that she feels being the one who is left behind, trying to compensate for the loss of her sister.  She feels all kinds of loss until she meets Seth.  A boy who is very different to the usual crowd of popular, beautiful people she's surrounded herself with. But they both love the desert and together they go on these night-time adventures and perhaps with each other they can find happiness? 

I really enjoyed Keiko's journey of self-discovery in this book.  With the guilt she feels, the way she views herself and her place within her family, her friendships and especially in her relationship with Seth.  This book was a really beautifully written and there were quite a few moments where tears threatened to spill over.

After the Fire by Will Hill

Why did it take me so long to read this book?  I'd heard about After the Fire by Will Hill from so many different people - literally everyone was talking about it.  But it wasn't until I heard Will Hill talk briefly about this book at YAShot earlier this year that I finally sat up and took notice.  I'm glad I finally did read it.  I think part of the problem is that I don't often get along well with books involving cults and I expected After the Fire to follow a linear format.  I'm not sure why I just assumed that would be the case.  But it isn't.   It's also based on real-life events that I had watched on the news growing up which gave it this added layer of emotional connection to Moonbeam's story. 

As I've already mentioned the format, I think that was my favourite aspect of this book.  This is Moonbeam telling her story to a psychologist after the fire occurs that ends the cult-environment that she's grown up in. You can see how she struggles against the brainwashing she's known all her life and how slowly she learns to see her life with new eyes and a new perspective.  Hers is a story of survival and a determined fight for freedom and it was heartbreaking and joyous to read.  I was amazed by how Will Hill managed to keep up the pace, the mystery and intrigue with the characters and story-line throughout.  You think you know but then you really don't. It's been awhile since I've been so emotionally invested in a character, in a story like I did with Moonbeam in After the Fire.  I felt both mentally and physically exhausted when I finished this book as I felt like I was with her every step of the way.  What an intense book.

What was the last UKYA book you've read?

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Life Update

So, you may have noticed (don't tell me if you haven't!) but I haven't been around much lately. The reasons for that are many.  I miss you though. I miss blogging, I miss being part of this community... but I just haven't been in the right headspace for it.  I'm okay. Everything is okay in my life - I just can't find my way back to the things I've loved previously.  Big losses in my life seem to have stalled some of my creativity and I find that I can't (or won't?) force it.  So, with everything else, I will take baby steps back into this thing but maybe I'm just not a blogger anymore? I can't tell. 

For now, some of what I've been doing with my life lately!

Did I tell you I'm working now?  I've mentioned it on Twitter, but not so much on here, I don't think.  Around this time last year I was sending CVs out like crazy and filling out applications.  I knew I needed to get out of the house and do something. Anything.  The walls of my home had started to feel like a prison and we can all agree that that isn't a good thing, right?  I ended up being offered a 12 hour contract in a little shop.  I figured, 'eh, I'll stay for awhile and then move on' thinking it'll be easier to find another job once I had a job.  Here we are not even a year later and I'm the acting assistant manager working full-time in the same little shop.  At some point this month I'll be applying for the store manager role.  It's scary and exciting all at the same time. 

I love my job though.  I love having a purpose.  I love being useful, having a job to do.  I know that I'm good at what I do.  I enjoy the people I work with, I enjoy how varied my days are. I love being part of a team.  I love getting paid for a job well done. I try not to look back on my life or have regrets, but I wish I'd found a job sooner.  I missed out on so much. 

...but who would I even be if I felt satisfied with my life and my place in it?! So, this month I'm starting a new course at a local college.  I'm taking elements of what I love about my current job and working towards getting a qualification in something similar but outside of a retail environment.  Once again, I'll be juggling full-time work with studying and also throwing in motherhood.  Not only are the boys back in school this week, but shortly so will I.  As challenging as it will be, I honestly can't wait.  It's been awhile since I've felt this excited about anything. 

But, again, there is excitement in my life.  I've been working from a list of things I Want To Do.  And I've done them.  I've climbed the 02. I've fed the capybaras at the zoo. We've been out exploring, we have things planned until the end of the year.  I have a list of things I want to do.  Maybe I'll share those experiences here sometime? But life is too short not to do the things that make you feel excited.  I'm going to do them all.  I went go-karting with friends the other weekend and I absolutely hated it.  Not for me at all.  But do you know what? Now I know that.  I tried it, at least.

I have been reading as well.  Just not anywhere near the amounts I once read.  I've read maybe 25 books this year? And it took me 9 months to do that.  I'm okay with that.  I'm hoping to write about a couple of them on here soon enough.  I'm hoping to continue reading when I can and to give a little update now and then here as well. But no pressure on me.  Until the next time, kisses.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

52: Write a poem a week

I went back and forth about whether or not I wanted to share some of the poetry that I’ve been writing over these past few months. I’ve decided that I won’t share every poem and it probably won’t be shared often, but here we go. The following poem I wrote during week two and the theme was ‘a journey’ - please be kind, the only people who have ever read any of my poetry are two close friends who are more than a little biased.

It started to rain just as we left the house
Just after we had decided to walk instead of drive
Thinking the weather would hold out just that little bit longer
It was a drizzle at first
Then got heavier, wetter
Our walk quickly transformed into to a damp, cold sludge

Silently, I pulled my hood over my head
and he did the same
and in that moment, without complaint,
I remembered other such walks in the rain
Where he'd cry over his cold fingers or wet face
And I'd blow warm air onto his hands or bring out mismatched mittens from my bag
Little snacks or funny faces to distract from the slow torment of water creeping into shoes
Other walks where he'd be delighted
Jumping over puddles, into puddles
A muddy, happy mess of a boy
Him wearing his Spiderman boots and holding my hand.

As we near the school, I stand at the gates and watch
With his hands in his pockets, his hood up
He walks off
Without a backward glance.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Home and Belonging, #YAShot2018

I feel like I will have many thoughts about the panels and 'in conversation' events I saw during my time at YAShot and I may very well blog about more of them soon, but... for now, I just wanted to send out this one particular thought. I was at a panel about Home and Belonging chaired by Cecelia Vinesse with SE Durrant, Will Hill, and Eleanor Wasserberg.  Home and belonging is something I feel very strongly about and it was a panel I was very much looking forward to.  As I've been fairly out of the loop, book-wise, I'd only read one book by the panelists (Cecelia Vinesse's Seven Days of You) but I was very intrigued by all of the stories and I was excited to hear them talk about what thoughts they all had about both subjects.  And it was a really interesting panel.  I was engrossed.

But one thing stood out for me more than others.  I think the topic was about setting.  And how certain places feel like home and how the characters in Will Hill and Eleanor Wasserberg's books (both books set in a cult environment) would still wish to connect with people in their same circumstances even after the disbandment of their cult environments and Cecelia Vinesse (who grew up between the US and Japan) felt the same way about her school in Japan.  How she just felt very immediately connected to anyone who attended her same school, because they just knew in a way that nobody else could what it felt like to live somewhere else, to live in Japan, to have these particular experiences that only a small group of people would understand.  

And I've never grown up in a cult. I've never attended school in Japan, let alone ever set foot in the country.  But there was this sense of ...home being at YAShot.  Being surrounded by authors and bookish people, sure.  But more so, the book bloggers.  Not only is the UKYA community a wonderful, supportive place to be part of, it also just feels like home to me. 

Nobody else really gets what it means to be a book blogger except other book bloggers.  The time and energy put into it, the pressure we put ourselves under, the juggling act, the towering TBR piles, the unsolicited emails and books, the book events, the struggles only book bloggers face. I could sit in a room for hours with another book blogger and I'm sure we'd never run out of things to say to each other, comparing experiences, talking about schedules or balancing social media, or what we're reading or whatever.  I've felt that so often in the past 12 years I've been blogging.  Bookish people are my people without a doubt, but fellow book bloggers: you are my home. 

Thank you for being amazing.

Friday, February 09, 2018

When Books Inspire

Have you ever read a book and then felt so inspired by it that you feel you just have to do something about it?  I have.  Recently, on a whim, I picked up Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett.  I honestly don't think I knew very much about the book before I started reading, but I like going into a book blind.  And it isn't the story so much.  The book is about a girl, Bailey, who moves across the country to live with her dad and spends the summer trying to track down an online friend, Alex, that she's been flirting with, only to start having feelings for her 'archnemesis' and colleague, Porter.  It's pretty cute and there's a Vespa and surfers and an odd museum and it was just the sort of lovely, romantic reading that I've been craving lately.

BUT! And here's where we get to the good part.  Because Bailey and her online friend, Alex, are totally into classic film.  That's what they bond over. They talk about meeting at the end of the summer at a local film festival to watch North by Northwest together. They talk about classic film actors and actresses, Bailey mentions one of her favourite films is The Philadelphia Story and so much of the book is littered with talk of all these people or films I've heard about ...but know nothing about.  Until now. 

I so want to start watching some of these classic films.  I'm thinking if I can find the right place to find these films I might do at least one a week.  Perhaps more if I'm really enjoying them?  To broaden my horizon and to finally do a thing I've wanted to do for awhile. 

Some of the classic films I'm considering, but please feel free to suggest others in comments or on Twitter. Or in person if you are lucky enough to see me in person, ha.  I'm going for a broad range of films and not just the romantic stories as this idea started off as!

North by Northwest
The Philadelphia Story
It Happened One Night
The Maltese Falcon
Bringing Up Baby
The Birds
Rebel Without A Cause (technically seen once, but don't remember)
Some Like It Hot
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
His Girl Friday
The Big Sleep
Roman Holiday
The Grapes of Wrath
On the Waterfront
The 39 Steps
The African Queen
Citizen Kane
A Streetcar Named Desire
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Third Man

Have you ever been inspired by a book? Can you recommend a good place to start with classic films?!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

52: Write A Poem A Week

So... as it is now February, I thought that it would be a little too late to write a post entitled 'What I Got For Christmas' but that is sort of what I wanted to write about today.  I may have mentioned before that I have a Happiness List (like a Bucket List but with a more positive spin) and also a Year of Fun plan that I put into place every year.  I want 2018 to be a year where I accomplish things, where I push myself creatively and also in other ways.  I want to get back into both reading and writing this blog, naturally.  But one of the other things I really want to do this year has to do with this book...

I got this book, 52: Write A Poem A Week by Jo Bell and various for Christmas and I just love the idea of it.  It's a collection of poetry writing prompts for every week in a year and it includes a poem with each prompt to give the reader an example of sorts but also to introduce certain types of poetry writing techniques.  It sounds pretty good for a complete beginner like me.  If I'm honest, I've only read the first prompt and poem and have been mulling it over ever since (I read that first prompt on Christmas Day, ha!)

But that's a thing I want to do this year.  Perhaps not every week and who knows? Maybe I won't use this book for inspiration or guidance for long.  But it's a start.  Poetry has had such an enormous impact on my life over the last couple of years and I really want it to play a part in my present and in my future too.

Do you have any creative goals for yourself in 2018?

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

British Books Challenge 2018

The British Books Challenge, hosted by Chelley from Tales of Yesterday, is the only reading challenge I take part in every year.  I love reading books by British authors and love to support them by reviewing their books.  I am, of course, signing up for the challenge this year.  If you too would like to join in, check out the Sign Up information.

Here are some of the books I hope to read and review this year on this blog, taken from books already on my TBR pile:

Truly Wildly Deeply by Jenny McLachlan
Goodbye Perfect by Sara Barnard
Street Song by Sheena Wilkinson
Hope by Rhian Ivory
Shell by Paula Rawsthorne
It Had To Be You by Keris Stainton
After the Fire by Will Hill
Songs About Us by Chris Russell
Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence
The Last Days of Archie Maxwell by Annabel Pitcher
It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne
Hero at the Fall by Alwyn Hamilton
Blade and Bone by Catherine Johnson

I also hope to read some non-fiction and poetry this year by British authors. We shall see.

What reading challenges are you joining this year? What books by British authors are you dying to read? Let me know.

Friday, December 29, 2017

A New Start

So... I've been sort of absent from here for awhile.  And it was only today as I booted up my brand new (shiny, exciting!) laptop that I realised that the main reason that I had disappeared from blogging and disappeared from social media is that my old laptop was so broken and unreliable that it made doing the things that I loved doing unhappy experiences.  I've just spent the last 30 minutes responding to emails and generally tidying my Inbox and it's seriously the happiest that I've felt in awhile. I don't know why I'm so bad at realising how things connect, but there you have it.

So now! Even before everyone else gets into their New Year's resolutions and everything I'm going to say that this right here and now is my new start.  Beginning with this gorgeous laptop with its ridiculously large screen and crisp new keyboard is my new start.  Let's do this thing again. 

To be honest, 2017 was a year of really low lows and I'm quite happy to see the back of it.  I'm really hoping that 2018 brings better circumstances.  It will be better partly because I'm working to make it so but here's hoping it's a worldwide bettering, if you know what I mean.  I feel like raising a glass and toasting this occasion.  I won't though. Because that might be slightly weird.  But here I am again, I hope you will like this new development!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

REVIEW: Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire

I really enjoyed Flesh and Blood by Simon Cheshire. It had just enough levels of creepiness and unease throughout for me to remain really hooked on the story and wondering what would happen next?

Flesh and Blood reads like a thriller as the main character, Sam, is this teenage boy who moves into a new neighbourhood and is keen to flex his burgeoning journalistic muscles by investigating and writing an article about the dead body that has appeared in the area.  As he begins to ask questions, he begins to piece together this rather odd and ...unsettling series of events that possibly relate back to his next door neighbour. 

Honestly, I really liked this book.  I like Sam and the ways in which he goes after this story, how he writes about his experiences with some measure of hindsight.  I found his new friends to be entertaining, his crush on the prettiest girl in school, Emma, was rather entertaining. 

But ultimately this is a horror story.  And as I was reading this, I feel like the levels of creepiness was rather subtle in the beginning and it just built over time.  Dead bodies, creepy old houses, strange sounds in the night.  But also this feeling of powerlessness as the adults in this story seem a little zombie-fied of no control of their own which leaves poor Sam and his friends fighting against something big and terrible and really rather scary. I loved the medical elements included in the horror and I'm really just pleasantly surprised by how much this story got under my skin. 

If you're looking for a creepy scary read around Halloween I really recommend this book and the entire series of Red Eye titles!

Thursday, October 26, 2017

REVIEW: The Haunting by Alex Bell

The Haunting by Alex Bell has a really interesting concept.  I love the idea of a cursed Cornish inn, the idea that it ties into witches and a witch's curse and that the main character comes back into the story 7 years after being injured in an accident at the inn.  However, The Haunting never quite lived up the chills promised from such an intriguing premise.

The setting of this book is The Waterwitch, a Cornish inn that is made from the salvaged timber of a cursed shipwrecked boat.  Our main character is Emma, she's 17 and is in a wheelchair after an accident at the inn occurs when she's 10.  Her family moved away and she's never been back to The Waterwitch.  That is, until her nan, who owns the inn, falls ill and Emma chooses to spend her half term break visiting her grandmother and reacquainting herself with The Waterwitch and also with her old best friend, Jem, and his younger sister, Shell. Ghosts and hauntings ensue.

I think part of the problem for me with The Haunting is that we have a high level of creep factor already.  We've got this creepy inn, an interesting back story and characters with complicated relationships that should provide plenty of tension.  However, I was a bit let-down with the ways in which Emma and Jem interacted with each other.  In that, they barely interacted with each other, despite having what could have been an intense meeting fraught with guilt on Jem's part in his role in Emma's disability or with longing and nostalgia for what they had as a friendship as children? But they had very little to do with each other throughout the story and it was such a disappointment.  And while my expectations we're set that high for the horror or scary elements to the story, I didn't think it was ever realised for me.  I think perhaps the story and build-up towards a frightening ending were just a little bit too subtle for me.

What I did love about the book is Emma's relationship with her guide dog, Bailey and it's Emma and Bailey that I felt provided the emotional heart to the story. I just wish a little bit more was done with the relationships in the story and also with the elements of the paranormal.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

REVIEW: Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle

Oh why did it take me so long to read Crongton Knights by Alex Wheatle?! I loved Liccle Bit, the first in this companion trilogy, and was really excited to read more ...and it was only recently that I picked this one up.  It won't be as long until I read the third book, Straight Outta Crongton because I love these boys and their friendship and the ways in which Alex Wheatle brings this neighbour hood to life. 

If you haven't read Liccle Bit, you needn't worry. Crongton Knights brings you up to speed with the events that occurred that are of importance before getting into this story.  This trilogy by Alex Wheatle looks at life in South Crongton on a council estate with gang warfare and rife with crime.  Crongton Knights, which obviously features the other boys, is McKay's story. 

I adored McKay and getting to know him a little bit better in this book.  His mum has died and he's living with his dad who is working all the hours to try to keep the bailiffs away and his older brother, Nesta.  Meanwhile, Bit persuades McKay and Jonah on this heroic (knightly!) crusade into another neighbourhood in order to protect the dignity of Venetia, Bit's crush. While reluctant at the danger of such a mission, everyone does go ahead and, of course, things go badly wrong.  I adore these types of ...heroic journey-type stories.  It really puts pressure on McKay and the others to define who they are as people and what their friendship means to each other.  It was really quite sweet.

I think what I love so much about these books is that it really combines some great things together.  McKay is a wonderful main character, he's very relateable and I love his complicated family life with his dad struggling with former gambling debts and his older brother, prone to getting in trouble but very much looking for McKay so that he doesn't follow him down the wrong path.  I also think McKay's friendship with the other boys is lovely and the setting of Crongton is so well described that I feel like I'm there with McKay as I'm reading.  I'd say my only (slight) criticism is that all of the characters sounded roughly the same, even when it doesn't make much sense that a boy from private school and a refugee from another country both sound like the others who have grown up on the estate. But other than that, I fell in love with this book and these characters and I cannot wait to read the rest in Straight Outta Crongton!

Monday, October 23, 2017

REVIEW: A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland

Oh I adored A Semi-Definitive List of Worst Nightmares by Krystal Sutherland.  Adored it.  And it was such a surprise of a book too.  You know how when sometimes a certain title or a specific cover design just speaks to you on another level?  That's what it was for me with this book.  I really had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading this book but something about the title and especially that lobster just really appealed to me and it meant I had to read it, just to find out what it meant.  And as I said, it was love.

I remember that I did read the synopsis of the book before I read it but I'm pretty sure I didn't really understand what was going on from the brief blurb.  And that's okay with me, I actually really love the idea of going into a story blind.  But if you're not into the blind-reading thing, then this book is about Esther and her family.  Esther and the Solar family believe that their lives are consumed by One Big Fear and that eventually each family member will die because of their fears.  Esther's brother's fear is the dark, her father's is agoraphobia, her mother is superstitious about bad luck.  Esther isn't sure what her Big Fear is yet but she still lives in fear and carries around a list of her fears that could potentially be The One. 

Then one day, Esther gets pick-pocketed by Jonah Smallwood, someone she used to know in elementary school.  And despite this theft of epic proportions (he stole a fruit roll-up) Esther and Jonah become friends and Jonah ends up helping Esther confront her fears one at a time to show her that life is about more than fear.

I'm finding it difficult to put into words how much I loved this book.  It's very quirky.  Esther and Jonah and everybody who populates this book has their own little quirks and ways of speaking.  Esther is continuously dressing up in outlandish ways, her brother and their entire family are all just so ...different.  But I felt like it just worked within this story. 

There's also a sort of magical realism vibe to the book, some sort of magical quality because of Esther's view of the world of the world, of her family, of the curse and her view of herself.  I loved the ways in which serious topics such as mental illness are discussed in this book and I thought that the story unfolded in a way that was both believable and hit the right tone.  I thought there were some fascinating characters in this book, some really sweet relationships and friendships.  And the Solar family will definitely be a family that I remember for a very long time. 

But it's definitely Esther and Jonah that stole my heart in this book. I feel like reading this book all over again in order to spend more time with them, getting to know them both as they got to know each other.  I really do recommend this book.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

REVIEW: Wishbones by Virginia Macgregor

Wishbones by Virginia Macgregor was a book that I wasn't expecting to be sent for review and that would normally mean that it isn't as high a priority to read as other books in my possession.  But something about this book intrigued me. I liked the idea of it being set in the UK, I'm all for supporting UKYA of course.  I also like the idea of a book exploring elements of mental health and the idea around the story of a very obese woman.  And while I had hoped to really like this book ... I felt that the idea of the book was better than the actuality of the story.  

Feather is our main character in this book.  She really wants two things out of life: for her mother to get better and to win the junior swim championships. The second goal is pretty straightforward, she needs to work hard and concentrate. However it's the first goal that really proves more challenging.  

On New Year's Eve, Feather comes home to find her mother in a diabetic coma.  This is obviously very traumatic for her and her parents.  Feather is determined to do whatever it takes to help her mother become healthier.  She thinks maybe it'll just take a better diet and some exercise to fix things, however, Feather soon realises that her mother's health, like most things in life, are so much more complicated and Feather begins this detective journey in order to unravel her mother's personal history and get to the root causes of her mom's obesity. 

My main problem with Wishbones ended up being two-fold.  The first is that Feather's voice felt very young.  She comes across as being really innocent and naive, much younger than one would imagine she would be respective of her age.  It wasn't that she was young or naive that was the problem, it was that she didn't feel believable for her age.  The second problem was that the author's voice is quite patronising throughout.  It really started to grate on my nerves but wasn't such a persistent problem that it made me quit reading but it did hamper my enjoyment of the story.  Which is a shame, as there was elements of the story that I were really intriguing.