The Mud and Stars Book Blog

thoughts from a girl who spends her days in other worlds…

Book Review: ‘Sunflowers in February’ by Phyllida Shrimpton

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Sunflowers in February. Phyllida Shrimpton. Hot Key Books. February 2018.

Lily wakes up one crisp Sunday morning on the side of the road. 

She has no idea how she got there. It is all very peaceful. And very beautiful. It is only when the police car, and then the ambulance, arrive and she sees her own body that she realises that she is in fact . . . dead. 

But what is she supposed do now? 

Lily has no option but to follow her body and sees her family – her parents and her twin brother – start falling apart. And then her twin brother Ben gives her a once in a deathtime opportunity – to use his own body for a while. But will Lily give Ben his body back? She is beginning to have a rather good time . . .


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

First of all, thank you so much to Hot Key Books for sending me a review copy of this book. My first ever physical book I have received from a publisher – I was so, so happy, and so, so grateful!

I was really intrigued to read this book because the premise really appealed to me. The story follows Lily, a fifteen year old girl who is killed in a hit and run accident. Instead of passing on, her spirit sticks around, and she can see everything her family and friends are going through in the wake of her death. But nobody seems to be able to see or hear her, apart from her twin brother Ben. Lily is desperate to live just a little bit more, so Ben agrees to let her use his body for a while, until she is ready to say goodbye to life and move on to whatever comes next.

There were a lot of things I enjoyed about this book, but it never really blew me away. I found all of Lily’s thought processes as she watches her family grieve very interesting. It’s almost as though she wants them to stay sad, and to not forget about her, which although sounds selfish, actually came across as very human to me. I also liked seeing Lily use Ben’s body to experience all of the everyday things like eating sweets and having a hot shower that she took for granted in life and misses. I appreciated the mindful way that Lily navigated the world once she knew that she only had a limited time left in it. I feel like we should all live our days this way, no matter how long we have left.

Another thing I found very interesting about the book are the perspectives we get from other characters as they react to Lily’s death, but in particular the perspective of the driver who hit her. We find out very early on who that is, although I am not going to spoil anything here. The grief of the driver, and their subsequent breakdown was done so well, and although they did wrong, I ended up feeling so sorry for this person, because their perspective was just heartbreaking to read.

What I didn’t love so much about this book was the characterisation. I didn’t feel like any of the characters really stood apart from each other. Even Lily herself was hard to fully connect to, because I never really got a sense of who she was in life, besides the fact that she liked sunflowers (which play a prominent part in her funeral). I understood how Lily felt about being robbed of her life, and I empathised with her realisations about all the things she took for granted whilst she was alive, but I had no idea who she was before she felt these things, before she died. I guess I could have done with more flashbacks, or at least memories tied in with what she was experiencing in the present.

The other thing I found a little lacking in this book was the plot. Like I said, I really enjoyed the concept, and seeing how Lily reacts to the situation she’s in, but beyond that I feel like not much happens in the book, and it did get a bit repetitive at times, as Lily spends a lot of time just doing normal things in Ben’s body.

Something I have mixed feelings about in this book is what it has to say about gender. Lily is using Ben’s body, so obviously she is a girl in a boy’s body, and it was interesting to see how this makes her feel, and see her empathising with how someone who is born into the wrong body might feel. However, where it went wrong for me is when we see Ben’s friends reacting to how he is acting (differently, obviously, because it’s Lily in there, not Ben). Lily has to play a football match in Ben’s body, and as someone who has never played before, she is naturally not very good at it. Fair enough in principle, but I feel like so much emphasis was put on the fact that Lily couldn’t do certain things because she was a girl, and Ben’s friends didn’t hesitate to point out how ‘girly’ ‘he’ was acting, which didn’t sit well with me. Also, when ‘Ben’ touches his friend’s arm, his friend questions why his friend has turned into an ‘overnight gay’. Maybe that’s how some straight teenage boys would react, I don’t know, but I just felt like using homophobia to illustrate that Ben was acting differently was unnecessary.

Overall, I did enjoy this book, and I felt like it explored some interesting thoughts and feelings on grief, however I didn’t fall in love with it the way I had hoped I would. It’s not a bad book by any means, it just had a few problems. I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and this is a debut, so I’ll certainly look out for further books she writes in the future.

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The Mid Year Book Freakout Tag 2018

Hi everyone, hope you’re all having a lovely week so far! Today I thought I would do the Mid Year Book Freakout Tag, because it’s the middle of the year, I’m freaking out about that, and I want to look back at some of the incredible books I’ve read so far in 2018 to calm myself down.

My reading this year has been a lot slower than usual, and according to Goodreads I’ve only read 40 books so far (although I have re-read a few books that I couldn’t be bothered to add to Goodreads, so it’s probably more like 45). I have soooo many books that I want to get to before the end of the year, but I’m gonna take my time, because there’s no rush.

Here are my thoughts on the books I’ve read so far in 2018. Apologies now for what is going to be a 20,000 word dissertation of a post.

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Best Book You’ve Read Yet in 2018

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This is actually the book I *just* finished. I had been holding off on doing this tag until I had read this book, because I had an inkling it would end up being my favourite. And guys, it was so ridiculously good. The story follows a group of five friends who are reunited for this first time since the death of the sixth member of their group, Jim. After getting into a car accident, the group become stuck in a time loop between life and death called a Neverworld Wake, and in order to escape, they will need to find out the truth about what really happened to Jim, and vote unanimously for the one member of their group who gets to survive the wake and live again. The writing was stunning – eerie and evocative, strange and otherworldly, the concept was well executed, and I stayed up late into the night reading in a hazy blur of excitement and energy because I was so sucked into the mystery. And I’m not usually one to sacrifice sleep if I can help it! I was nervous to pick this book up because Night Film by Marisha Pessl is one of my favourite books of all time, so I had very high expectations, but it did not let me down. If you enjoyed the way Night Film was written, but found it a bit slow, and were frustrated by the ambiguous ending, I think you will appreciate this one more; it has the same dark and delicious atmosphere of that book, but it’s pacier, and things wrap up more definitively and satisfyingly. I AM JUST IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK, OK?


Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2018

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Nemesis by Brendan Reichs was one of my top five books of 2017, so this was probably my most anticipated sequel of 2018. It didn’t disappoint me. I won’t say anything about the plot of this book, but the premise of the first book is that our two protagonists, Min and Noah, have both been struggling in private with the same horrifying predicament: every two years, on their birthdays, a black-suited man hunts and kills them in cold blood. They then wake up several miles from home, unscathed but terrified, and unable to talk to anybody about what’s just happened, because, who on earth would believe them? Set against the backdrop of an impending apocalypse, this series is so tense, thrilling, dark, and unique. Genesis was just as good if not better than Nemesis, and by the end I felt I knew these characters inside out, having been through so much with them. Highly recommend this underrated series.


New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

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Having adored Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch last year, I can’t wait to get my hands on her next book. Love and Gelato was so warm, sweet and emotional, and I’m hoping I feel the same way about Love and Luck, which I believe is set in Ireland and follows Addie, the best friend of Love and Gelato’s protagonist, Lina.


Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

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This book sounds freaking amazing, and I am dying to read it. It follows two girls who are accused of murdering their best friend in the woods after becoming delusional in their obsession with a dark fantasy novel called The Way into Lovelorn. But what really happened that night? I mean, come on, this book is my ultimate creepy cup of tea and I need it in my life right now.


Biggest Disappointment

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This book follows a boy named River who wanders into a support group for teen addicts after his girlfriend breaks up with him, and finds comfort and connection there. I was really excited to read this book, because several authors I adore had blurbed it saying how good it was, and how loveable and memorable a character River was. But honestly, I found River quite forgettable, and his actions quite offensive. He pretends to have a drug addiction to keep coming to the group, when in reality he just got dumped, which is not even remotely the same thing! He also borderline stalks his ex girlfriend, which is no way to win a girl back, and it made me super uncomfortable to read. This book was interesting, and I didn’t hate it, but it definitely didn’t live up to its praise for me.


Biggest Surprise

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Honestly I wasn’t expecting much from this book, but I was sucked in by the cover (stunning) and the dark circus setting. For some reason I thought this book was fantasy/magical realism, so finding out that it is actually speculative dystopian was my first surprise. This book follows what might happen if the dangerous far-right thinking of groups like UKIP were to gain precedence in the UK. In the near-future England of this book, immigrants (referred to by the government as ‘Dregs’) are denied basic human rights, and immigrant children like our protagonist Hoshiko are taken from their families to perform in The Cirque, a grisly circus where they are highly likely to die whilst performing for the ‘Pures’ who are baying for their blood. This book is dark and disturbing, and I found it pretty powerful. At the same time, I found some aspects of it problematic. There is a love story between Hoshiko and Ben, son of a prominent government minister, and he definitely feels like a ‘white saviour’ kind of character. I ended up with mixed feelings about this book, but the fact that I had so many feelings about a book I assumed was going to be something completely different definitely surprised me.


Favourite New Author

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Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivisson. I read Freshers, my first book by this writing duo, earlier this year, and I adored it. This book made me laugh out loud, which so few books actually manage, and I need more funny in my life, so I’m definitely going to check out more of their work this year. I’ve heard that all of their other books are just as hilarious.


Newest Fictional Crush

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Dante from Legendary!

I didn’t love Dante in Caraval, but he has more of a part to play in the second book, and I found myself swooning a lot whenever he was around. He’s a morally dubious character, and I kind of hate myself for feeling this way, but I just can’t help it!


Newest Favourite Character

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Oren from Scream All Night!

Oren is the older brother of Scream All Night’s protagonist, Dario. Oren is a wannabe B-horror movie writer, following in the footsteps of his famous father, but he’s somewhat misguided about what’s traditionally scary, and wants to make a film about murderous cauliflowers. Oren is a strange choice for favourite character, because for large parts of this book Oren is a total douche. But the thing is, he’s freaking hilarious (even though he doesn’t mean to be), and strangely vulnerable (which he definitely doesn’t mean to be), and I couldn’t help but love him, even when I sort of hated him simultaneously.


Book That Made You Cry

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This book follows a boy named Joe whose brother is on death row and it’s the most heartbreaking book I have ever read. I was in floods of tears reading this. It’s written in verse, and is so beautifully told, it will remain in my heart for a long, long time.


Book That Made You Happy

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I just adore Becky Albertalli so much. All of her books leave me with a massive soppy smile on my face and this one was no exception. She writes the kind of romance that gives you butterflies in your tummy, her dialogue is on point and hilarious, and her books are packed with diversity. Basically, she is my queen.


Favourite Book to Film Adaptation

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Speaking of Becky Albertalli, the adaptation of her first book Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda was PERFECTION. I loved the casting in this movie, especially for Simon, Nick, and Blue, and this was just all kinds of adorable and made me so happy and squishy inside. I can’t wait till it comes out on DVD so I can watch it basically every day.


Favourite Post You Have Done This Year

Probably this one! I like looking back at what I’ve read so far this year and reliving all of my favourites.


Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

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The Illuminae Files series by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. These books are stunning, both inside and out. They are works of art. This series is another of my favourites, and the first book, Illuminae is definitely in my top five so far this year. The books are so action packed, tense, epic, badass, and glorious. The characters are my precious babies.


What Books Do You Need to Read by the End of the Year?

ALL THE BOOKS! BUT IN PARTICULAR, THESE:

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If you made it all the way to the end of this post, congrats, and I love you. What has been your favourite book of the year so far? I’d love to hear from you!

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ARC Book Review: ‘Scream All Night’ by Derek Milman

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Scream All Night. Derek Milman. Harperteen. Release date: 24th July 2018.

DARIO HEYWARD KNOWS ONE THING. He’s never going back to Moldavia Studios, the iconic castle that served as the set, studio, and home to the cast and crew of dozens of cult classic B-horror movies. It’s been three years since Dario’s even seen the place, after getting legally emancipated from his father, the infamous director of Moldavia’s creature features.

But then Dario’s brother invites him home to a mysterious ceremony involving his father and a tribute to his first film–The Curse of the Mummy’s Tongue. Dario swears his homecoming will be a one-time visit. A way for him to get closure on his past–and reunite with Hayley, his first love and costar of Zombie Children of the Harvest Sun, a production fraught with real-life tragedy–and say good-bye for good. But the unthinkable happens–Dario gets sucked back into the twisted world of Moldavia and the horrors, both real and imagined, he’s left there.

With only months to rescue the sinking studio and everyone who has built their lives there, Dario must confront the demons of his past–and the uncertainties of his future. But can he escape the place that’s haunted him his whole life?


Thank you to Harperteen for providing with a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Scream All Night is one of the most original YA contemporaries I have ever read. I really didn’t know what to expect going into this novel; for some reason, all the references to paranormal horror in the blurb had me thinking there were going to be paranormal elements to the story, and that they were going to be super-cheesy. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. The categorisation of this novel as dark comedy works pretty well for me, because the writing finds humour in unexpected places, yet balances this humour with its darker exploration of abuse and neglect, which hit me hard with feelings.

The setting of this novel was so unique and like nothing I have come across in fiction. Moldavia Castle, Dario’s childhood home, and the home of his father’s movie studio, felt like a character in its own right. I loved meeting all of the quirky characters who lived there, exploring all of the atmospheric rooms where set-pieces were built, and reading about all of the weird and wonderful costumes and props used in the productions. I loved hearing about the stories of each of the movies the studio made, and what was going in real life behind the scenes (though some of it was extremely emotional and hard to read).

All of the cast and crew living and working at Moldavia felt like one great big complicated family, and so many interesting relationships were explored in this story. I liked that the movie studio acted as a home for so many people; they were all misfits who had found a place they truly belonged in Moldavia. In contrast, it was interesting to see Dario struggling to decide if he really did belong there.

The thing I loved most about this novel was the characterisation. Dario, our protagonist, felt so real to me, and reading about everything he went through at the hands of his father made me really hurt for him. I’ve never read a story where a character has been emancipated from their family, and it was both interesting and heartbreaking to learn about how Dario ended up in that situation. Dario goes on a complicated emotional journey as he returns to Moldavia, and I think his conflicting feelings of loyalty to the people he loves, but fearfulness of the past they force him to confront, were written very well.

I also loved Dario’s narration, because there was so much comedy in his depiction of the people surrounding him. I felt that, through Dario, Derek Milman achieved the perfect balance between mocking his characters and making us feel wholeheartedly for them. The character he does this best with is Oren, Dario’s older brother. Oren is, to be honest, a massive douche for most of the book, and for a long time he reads like an object of pure satire. He’s intent on producing a film he has written about a demonically possessed patch of cauliflowers (‘The Ciller Cauliflowers’, and yes spelling Killer with a C is deliberate), but nobody can convince him it’s a terrible idea, because he only hears what he wants to hear. The glimpses we get to read of the script are laugh out loud hilarious, and they made me almost love Oren, even when he was being a selfish asshole. However, the further we go into Dario’s story, the more vulnerability Oren reveals to us, and we get to know him on a level I never expected, as Dario does. I loved the development of this sibling relationship, which starts off on extremely rocky, resentful ground.

There is a romance in the novel, and it was sweet, but it wasn’t my favourite aspect of the story. Because Hayley is supposed to be Dario’s first love, we don’t get much build up to their relationship. It just kind of picks up where it left off when Dario left Moldavia, so we don’t get a sense of when and how they fell in love; it feels more like it has always been this way. I didn’t totally buy into their romantic feelings for each other, although I did get a sense of closeness and a family kind of love, and I think their relationship could have easily been portrayed as a strong, close friendship and had the same impact.

All in all, I found this novel entertaining, and emotionally gripping, and I couldn’t help but root for Dario to find his path forward. If you want a book with funny but complex characters, which explores complicated family relationships, in a unique and interesting setting (and why wouldn’t you want that?!), I couldn’t recommend this book more highly.

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Books I read on my hiatus (Part 2)

Hello everybody! Hope you’ve all had lovely sunny Sundays. Last weekend I posted some mini reviews of books I read whilst I was on a blogging break. As there were lots of books I wanted to talk about, I decided to split my wrap-up into two parts. You can find Part 1 here. And now for Part 2…


The Girls by Emma Cline

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Rating: 2.5 stars

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I read it compulsively, and found the writing beautiful, evocative, dark, and seductive. One the other hand, some of the content was VERY uncomfortable to read, and as such, I can’t bring myself to say I ‘enjoyed’ it. I guess I should have expected this, given that the book tells the story of a 14 year old girl who becomes involved with a Manson Family type cult. Drugs, sex, brutal murder. I knew this book would be dark, but I guess I wasn’t expecting it to be so sexually explicit. I’m not saying this prudishly, but rather because these scenes involve an actual child, and I couldn’t help but feel nauseous the whole time I was reading them. I guess that was the point though. This book is meant to unsettle you deeply, and it certainly achieves that. It left me feeling queasy, depressed, a little bit dirty. It’s a good book, but I didn’t like it, if that makes sense.


Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

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Rating: 5 stars

I ADORED THIS BOOK! I think I am just destined to love anything that Becky Albertalli writes. Her writing is so accessible, funny, down to earth, and relatable. I can’t say loads about the plot of the book, because I feel it might spoil Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which you definitely need to read first. I LOVED being back with all of those characters. Leah wasn’t my favourite in Simon – I found her negative and snarky – but having been inside her head in this book, I now feel I understand her completely and love her just as much as the others. In a lot of ways she reminded me of myself as a teenager, acting in certain ways, but regretting them instantly inside my head. She was so much more relatable than I originally imagined her to be. My favourite thing about this book was the adorable and utterly shippable LGBT romance between Leah and a certain character; I can’t say who because it’s not something you know from the beginning of the book (although I kind of guessed/hoped and ended up being right). Becky Albertalli writes romance so perfectly, and it always leaves me with the warm fuzzies. My only small complaint about this book is that the ending felt a bit rushed. I thought there was going to be some fallout or at least some kind of reaction scene to something that happens, but instead of showing that, the book jumps straight to an epilogue. Nevertheless, it didn’t bother me enough to prevent me from rating this book 5 stars. In a nutshell, Becky’s books just make me ridiculously happy, and I love her. I can’t wait to read her next book!


Big Bones by Laura Dockrill

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Rating: 4 stars

This book was so much fun! It follows a plus-size, body positive 16 year old girl named Bluebelle, who is asked by her doctor to keep a food diary after being informed she is overweight. I loved that Bluebelle had such a positive attitude to her body, a healthy love for herself we almost never see in teenage characters. I like that she didn’t care that she was fat, that other things were far more important to her. And I loved the way she cared so much about food. For her, eating wasn’t about greed, but about respect for amazing ingredients and flavours. Every chapter of this book was centred around a particular type of food, and Bluebelle’s descriptions of the things she cooked and ate made my mouth water and my stomach rumble. The reason I didn’t give this book a full five stars is that I didn’t always feel like Bluebelle was a real person; she had such positive views I couldn’t help but nod along with, but sometimes it felt like she was just a vehicle for the author to express those views. Sometimes it felt like there wasn’t much to her character outside of those opinions, that she wasn’t fully developed. I really loved the friendships in this book, the relationship between Bluebelle and her younger sister Pearl, and her banter with her best friend Camille, who stars in some HILARIOUS scenes. I didn’t feel like the love interest was very fleshed out though; I think the book would have been wonderful enough without him. Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and I definitely want to check out more of Laura Dockrill’s work.


The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight

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Rating: 3.5 stars

This is a self-help book all about learning not to care so much about things that stress you out and make you unhappy. It’s light-hearted, and wonderfully sweary. If you are at all offended by expletives, I’d suggest you don’t read this book, because basically every other word is ‘f**k’. I really liked the concept of this book, because I am somebody who cares way too much about what other people think of me. Since reading this book, I think I am getting better at not giving a f**k, although it’s not as easy as this author makes it sound. Knight talks about the idea of giving less f**ks to things that annoy you, and more f**ks to the things that bring you joy. I really appreciated this! Giving up giving a f**k about things you don’t enjoy leaves more time, energy and money for you to spend on the things you do. However, I didn’t agree with all of the examples the author used. She talks about saying no to something your friend asks you to come to (for example their art exhibition) if it doesn’t interest you, but I’m not the sort of person who would chose not to support someone I love in something they care about simply because it’s not *my* thing. The other example that didn’t sit well with me was when the author said that if you don’t give a f**k about recycling, you don’t have to do it. To me, this is just irresponsible and immature. Nevertheless, I liked the message of this book, even if I didn’t like the silly examples (which were probably just there for comedic value, but still…); I will definitely try to apply it to the areas of my life I stress too much over.


The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

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Rating: 3 stars

I had mixed feelings about this book. I feel like I both enjoyed and was let down by it. I loved the concept; the book is set in a town where everybody is aware of the existence of faeries. In the woods outside of town there is a sleeping boy trapped in a glass coffin, and the story follows what happens when somebody frees him. The writing in this book was atmospheric and delicious. I would like to perhaps re-read it again in Autumn, as it gave me lots of Autumnal vibes. All the bits of this book about the Fey and the folklore surrounding them were also fascinating to me. What let this book down for me was the pacing and the plot. I felt there was too much focus on backstory and flashbacks, which meant that the forward action was slow to unfold, then all of a sudden rushed to its conclusion. The plot was interesting to me, but I felt that more time needed to be spent on the exciting bits. There’s a lot of talking between the characters, and planning, and not enough action. I feel like maybe this would work better as a series, rather than a standalone; the plot could have been richer, the romances more believable, and the faerie world expanded upon.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear from you! (And please, do feel free to stop by and fangirl about Leah on the Offbeat with me!) ❤

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Books I read on my random, super-long hiatus (Part 1)

Hello lovely people! I know I’ve been AWOL for a while, and I’m so sorry! I have no excuses, so I’m not going to make any. However, I did miss you guys, and I missed blogging, and now I’m back! I’ll try not to stay away so long next time. 🙂

I’ve read a lot of books recently (for me), so I thought I’d do some mini reviews. I’m splitting this into two parts, because otherwise this post will go on for DAYS. Without further ado…


Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

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Rating: 3.5 stars

This book was not amazingly written, the language was quite simplistic and cliched, however I did enjoy it a lot. It was a quick, easy read that kept me entertained throughout, and even had me shedding a few tears at one point. The story follows a young woman named Sophie who works in a teashop in the town she grew up in. She meets an actor named Billy when he comes to her town to film an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, and this story follows their relationship as it develops. I really liked Sophie as a character, and found her very relatable. Sophie suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, and I felt they were very well handled. The way Sophie lies awake at night worrying about and overanalysing everything was so familiar to me. I really rooted for Sophie, and I loved that she didn’t try to be a different person just to fit into Billy’s world; she knew her own mind, and how she deserved to be treated. What I loved most about this book was the friendship between Sophie and Molly, the older lady who owns the teashop where Sophie works. Though the book is primarily about the romance between Sophie and Billy, theirs was the real love story of this novel for me.


Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

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Rating: 2.5 stars

I was left underwhelmed by this book. It’s essentially the story of a girl named Juniper who is grieving for her sister Camilla. The plot centres around a letter that Juniper finds from her sister to somebody she was secretly dating. Juniper wants to find out the identity of this person, so she can learn more about this part of Camilla’s life she never knew about. My main issue with this book is that, despite being the focus of Juniper’s story, Camilla didn’t feel like a real person to me. Juniper tells us Camilla was this vibrant, larger than life person, but we are never SHOWN that in any of Juniper’s flashbacks. Camilla barely even has any dialogue; Juniper tells us what she says and does, instead of showing us, and as a result, her character seems kind of flat. I felt a similar way about Juniper herself; I didn’t get a huge sense of who she was as a person. Despite this, I did think the side characters were well drawn. For example. Juniper’s love interest, the school bad boy ‘Brand’, which yes I do think is a silly name, reminded me of a less-of-an-asshole version of Bender from The Breakfast Club, and I found myself enjoying his scenes quite a lot. I also really liked the new friends that Juniper makes (because her supposed best friend hasn’t spoken to her since her sister’s death). On the whole, I just found the writing in this book a bit bland. It also bugged me at times with trying to be funny; a character would make a really crap joke, and then the other characters would have a really over-the-top laughing reaction, and it was just… nope. This book was entertaining enough to keep me reading, but I wanted to love it a whole lot more than I did.


Freshers by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

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Rating: 5 stars

I loved this book so much! I didn’t want to put it down, and I was constantly thinking about how great it was, even when I wasn’t reading it. The story follows two characters, Phoebe and Luke, in their first term of university, and it is told in alternating chapters from both of their perspectives. To start with, let me just say that this book is HILARIOUS – genuinely laugh out loud funny. The dialogue is witty, and all of the embarrassing moments had me cackling with laughter. I particularly loved Phoebe’s chapters, because she makes friends with these two girls, Frankie and Negin, and the characterisation of these girls and the friendship between them is so brilliantly written and full of comedy.  I really enjoyed Luke’s chapters, too. Luke made some stupid decisions at times, but he felt like a fully fleshed out male character. I appreciated the way the chapters from his point of view explored his insecurities about finding friends and fitting in at university. I think it’s really important to show that boys worry about these things just as much as girls do. This book made me so nostalgic for my university days because it is SO authentic to the UK university experience: the drinking culture, the endless tea drinking, the random characters you meet, the nights that don’t go as planned, the mistakes you make, the emotional angst, the things you miss, the laughs you have, and the intense friendships you form. I also thought the exploration of ‘LAD’ culture on campus was very true to life, and there is a fantastic takedown of this in a very epic protest scene that I 100% adored.


This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

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Rating: 4.5 stars

This book is a memoir about Adam Kay’s time spent working for the NHS as a Junior Doctor. It’s told in short, anecdotal diary entries, making it extremely readable and moreish. This book was incredible because it evoked so many different emotions in me. For the most part, it was laugh of loud funny. Adam Kay has excellent comic timing, and delivers the punchline of each anecdote flawlessly. As you might expect, this is the kind of book which makes you concerned for humanity as you read about all the ridiculous reasons people end up in hospital, a.k.a. the ridiculous objects people get lodged in ridiculous orifices. But this book is poignant too. Reading about what it’s like to work such long hours, under such intense pressure, brought it home to me how much respect we should have for the people who have chosen this way of life. Being a doctor means sacrificing any idea of a personal life. They can’t take sick leave, they can barely take holidays, they rarely get to sleep all night long in their own bed. They are heroes.  This book also made me feel a tiny bit scared of doctors, because it made me realise that these heroes are also human beings … human beings operating on very little sleep or sustenance, who may have only performed a certain procedure a handful of times before, if at all. Our life is literally in their hands. There were lots of squeamish bits in this book, and I exercised my grimace muscle a lot whilst reading it, but I liked Adam Kay’s honesty. It was fascinating being able to explore the day to day reality of life as a doctor. There were also some very sad parts of this book, particularly Adam’s account of the incident which eventually led to him giving up medicine. Like I said, I experienced a lot of different emotions whilst reading this book, and all in all it was a fantastic memoir I would highly recommend


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? More reviews coming your way soon!

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Book Review in which I fangirl over ‘Illuminae’ a little, okay a lot

illuminae

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1). Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. Rock the Boat. October 2015.

The year is 2575 and two mega-corporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice covered speck.  Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it.  With enemy fire raining down on them Ezra and Kady have to make their escape on the evacuating fleet.  But their troubles are just beginning.  A deadly plague has broken out on one of the space ships and it is mutating with terrifying results.  Their ships protection is seriously flawed.   No one will say what is going on. 

As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth its clear only one person can help her. Ezra. And the only problem with that is they split up before all this trouble started and she isn’t supposed to be talking to him…


I picked this book up at YALC last year because of HYPE, and it has sat on my shelf for almost a year gathering dust because I kept on looking at it and wondering why I had bought it. Sci-Fi isn’t my favourite genre, I’m not usually interested in anything to do with space, and it looked so long and intimidating.  But, on a whim a few days ago, I decided to finally give it a try, and OMG… I was utterly, utterly blown away by this book.

(Prepare yourself for ABSOLUTELY tons of unnecessary adverbs in this review because I got REALLY excited and expressed it by saying ‘TOTALLY’ an inappopriate amount of times!)

I was totally wrong to be intimidated by this book. I absolutely flew through the pages, because the plot was so fast paced and addictive. It may look gigantically long, and granted, it’s not a read-in-one-sitting kind of book, but it’s a much quicker read than you might imagine because of its format. The story is told using all different kinds of media; reports, interview transcripts, IM messages, pictures… There was something new and interesting to look at on every page, so I zipped through the book, totally absorbed. By the time I got to the end, I actually wished there was another 599 pages of it. (I’ve just ordered both sequels and it’s killing me that I have to wait even 24 hours to start devouring Gemina). This book is such a unique, visual experience, that you really do need to get your hands on a physical copy if you can (although I have heard good things about the audiobook!). The production that went into this book is incredible, and the whole thing is basically a stunning masterpiece I could stare at all day.

I loved the characters in this book: Ezra, Kady, and even AIDAN, the possibly insane Artificial Intelligence controlling the Alexander, the largest ship harbouring refugees from Ezra and Kady’s invaded planet. Ezra was a sweetheart; he had a romantic soul, and I would normally find some of the things he said to Kady sappy, but somehow he was cool enough and genuine enough to pull them off. Kady was just this TOTAL BADASS. I admired her so much, because she showed such bravery in the face of situations she was clearly utterly terrified of. I legit punched my fist in the air and cheered ‘YESSSS’ at basically everything she did.

And AIDAN… how do I even begin to explain AIDAN? Such a complex character, whose presence in the story had me asking so many questions. Could an Artificial Intelligence have feelings? Could it have a conscience? Could it make the wrong decisions, and should it be blamed for their outcomes? I loved all of the sections in the book made up of messages from AIDAN’s core. AIDAN’s thoughts were unexpectedly beautiful, eerie, and poetic… In fact, AIDAN subtly referenced quite a lot of the poems that I studied at university, so the English Lit graduate in me was geeking out every time I spotted one.

The plot of this book is so, so tense. At the beginning we are thrown straight into the action, and the stakes just keep getting higher and higher. There are some brilliant twists I did not see coming, and some genuinely creepy-as-hell moments. I mean, the characters are being pursued from so many different directions, and there was never a moment where I didn’t consider the possibility of them all dying horrific deaths. I read this book late into the night several times and it gave me super-intense, scary dreams about being chased because I was so charged up with excitement and adrenaline after reading. Even now I have finished the book, I am buzzing, and I am so, so ready for tomorrow to come so I can read the next book. I NEED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT.

If you’re unsure about picking up Illuminae because Sci-Fi’s not your thang, or you are scared of big books (I hear you), trust me when I say you will not regret reading this one. It was completely out of my personal comfort zone, but I inhaled it, and I sacrificed sleep to do so. I fell in love with the characters, freaked out many times, welled up with ALL THE EMOTIONS, and basically had the most amazing time soaking up the epicness and GLORY of this book. THIS IS DEFINITELY THE BEST BOOK I HAVE READ SO FAR THIS YEAR.

If you loved this book as much as I did, please do stop by and SQUEAL with me about it. If you haven’t read it yet, WHAT ARE YOU STILL DOING HERE?!?!?

 

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Book Review: ‘Clean’ by Juno Dawson

CleanJunoDawson

Clean. Juno Dawson. Quercus Children’s Books. April 2018.

When socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses, she thinks she’s hit rock bottom.

She’s wrong. Rock bottom is when she’s forced into an exclusive rehab facility.

From there, the only way is up for Lexi and her fellow inmates, including the mysterious Brady.

As she faces her demons, Lexi realises love is the most powerful drug of all …


Thank you to Netgalley and Quercus for providing me with a digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Trigger warning: drug abuse, addiction, eating disorders, self harm

Juno Dawson is quickly becoming one of my favourite authors. I got approved to read this book on Netgalley a couple of months ago, but I’ve only just got around to reading it… I wish I’d picked it up sooner, particularly as I have been swimming through a sea of three-star, take-or-leave kind of books the past few weeks. This fantastic book really pulled me out of my slump.

What I love most about Juno’s books is her characterisation. All of her protagonists have such distinctive voices, and Lexi is no exception. Prickly, sarcastic, and selfish, Lexi may be unlikeable to begin with, but her character leaps off the page, and her character development as the story progresses is so satisfying; I really cared about and liked her by the end of the novel. Lexi is a seventeen year old heiress to a chain of luxury hotels, a socialite who has fallen in with the wrong crowd (and more specifically the wrong boy), and… a heroin addict. This novel has been described as a cross between Gossip Girl and Girl, Interrupted, and there is definitely something of party-girl-days-Serena-Van-der-Woodsen about Lexi. But Lexi is a much more complex and interesting character in my opinion. With everything you know about Lexi to begin with, you could write her off as a poor-little-rich-girl cliché, but you shouldn’t, because there is so much more to her.

At the start of Clean we see Lexi being ‘kidnapped’ and taken to a residential treatment facility by her older brother Nikolai. How Lexi acts at the beginning of the book is miles away from who she is by the end of the book. It’s summed up best by a scene where Lexi says something totally unforgivable to her doctor in her blind rage. She later apologises to him, and he tells her: ‘You and I haven’t really met yet, I’ve only met the addiction living in your body’; (I’m paraphrasing this because I’m too lazy to scroll through on my Kindle and find the exact quote). It’s so interesting to gradually get to know the real Lexi as her system is detoxed of all the poison she has been putting into it for so long (but BOY, the journey is NOT easy). Lexi to begin with IS her addiction, and once the addiction is stripped away, she has to relearn who she is without the drugs. She feels like a real person, who is really hurting, and I grew to really love who she was underneath it all.

I loved the side characters in this book too. I didn’t love the druggy crowd that Lexi had been spending her time with before going to rehab, because they were so, so bad for her to be around, but all of the characters at the treatment centre (which is on an island, so makes the relationships between the residents feel very close-knit) were wonderful in their own ways. The cast of characters was diverse, and all of the characters had distinctive personalities, complex problems and flaws, and authentic voices. My favourite side characters were probably Kendall, a trans anorexic girl, who becomes Lexi’s closest friend on the island, and Sasha, a mixed race girl with multiple mental health issues, who is the only character on the island not to come from a privileged background. Sasha was abrasive, aggressive, scary at times, but also such a complex and interesting character, and someone who came out with some of the most raw, insightful, brutally honest comments which really got under my skin. I loved her feistiness, and I loved all of the interactions between her and Lexi.

There is a romance in this book, but I won’t go into this too much as I don’t want to spoil anything. I thought it was well done, and I’m glad that the romance wasn’t used as a device to ‘cure’ Lexi’s illness. I did feel that it happened quickly, but given the intense circumstances of being in addiction recovery on an island where you can’t help but get to know people intimately, it made a lot of sense. I didn’t feel heaps of romantic tension, but I did feel sweetness, warmth and safety, and I think that was kind of the point. Lexi needed a healthy relationship, not a wild, passionate, dangerous one.

Aside from the characters, I think what I loved most about this book was the setting. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book set in a rehabilitation clinic, and it was fascinating to see how they operate, and the emotional journey someone like Lexi would experience after being unexpectedly dropped off there and told she needs help, urgently. Some of the scenes in the first half of the book where Lexi is coming off the opiates are pretty harrowing, and you can’t help but feel desperately sorry for her, even if she is being a total asshole to pretty much everyone she comes across. I loved the relationship between Lexi and her doctor, which of course starts off on extremely hostile ground. I also loved seeing Lexi start to explore some of the activities the island has to offer, once she is feeling more physically capable. There’s a wonderful storyline surrounding horse-riding, and an extremely difficult horse called Storm, and I really enjoyed the way it mirrored Lexi’s journey, but also became a huge part of it.

All in all, I absolutely adored this book. It was hard-hitting and emotional, showing addiction in its true and ugly light, and it was full of complex characters I grew to love and loved to see develop. Highly recommend this one!

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February 2018 Wrap-Up

Hello bookish friends! Hope you’re all well and have had fabulous Februarys!

I’m sorry I haven’t been around much (a.k.a. at all) this month. February was quite intense for me, because I started a new role at work (I now work with children, instead of in the nursery office dealing with finance, and I am so much happier, but so much more physically exhausted!), and then halfway through the month I went down with a nasty flu bug. Because I was extra tired and super ill, I got into a bit of a reading slump, and I spent most of February binge-watching BookTube videos instead of actually finishing books. I still managed to read 4 books this month, but that’s compared to 11 last month! Ah well, life happens.

Here are my thoughts on the books I did read this month…


How to be Champion by Sarah Millican

howtobechampion

Rating: 4 stars

For those who haven’t heard of her, Sarah Millican is a comedian here in the UK, and she’s one of my favourites. How to be Champion is her autobiography, and it’s just as funny as she is. Her personality was everywhere in this book, and I could imagine every line in her voice. The humour in this book is quite crude at times, which normally I’m not a huge fan of, but somehow when Sarah Millican does it I end up snorting with laughter. I really enjoyed the life tips at the end of each chapter (some serious, some not so serious), and I found everything Sarah shares with the reader so relatable. She claims that this book is for ‘anyone who has ever buttoned their cardigan up the wrong way’ and HI THAT IS ME. I also really appreciated the positivity she writes with, and the way she manages to spin sad things into funnies, even things like being bullied at school, and her family’s money struggles during the miners’ strikes (her main positive take being all the free food they were given at the time). Another thing I loved about this book were her chapters on why she doesn’t want children, and on body image/women’s magazines (and how she set up Standard Issue, her own ‘no bullshit’ online women’s magazine. These chapters were interesting, feminist, and empowering, and I respect Sarah so much for not letting society pressure her into conforming to it’s (bullshitty) ideal of what a woman should be like. All in all, I loved this book, and I would very much like to sit and eat cake with Sarah, and be her best friend,


Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

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Rating: 5 stars

I absolutely adore the Diviners series by Libba Bray, and I think this third instalment might be my favourite so far. The Diviners series is a paranormal fantasy series set in 1920s New York, with a diverse set of characters (who have a diverse range of supernatural gifts), a creepy and mysterious villain we still don’t know everything about, and a whole bunch of ghosts. What I love most about how the overall storyline is progressing is that, whereas in the first book the characters had largely separate storylines, the Diviners are now coming together and working as a team. I love what this has meant for the development of their Diviner powers, but I also adore the way they are becoming an alternative kind of family. I just love them all together so much! I can’t say much about the plot of this book, as obviously this is a sequel, but things I loved included the parts that were set in the asylum (so atmospheric and cinematic), learning more about Project Buffalo, Bill Johnson (who I previously hated, but who kind of won me over by the end of this book), and all the challenging of bigotry. The setting, as in all of the previous books, was my favourite thing about this novel; it feels like a character in its own right. I love the sweep of it, and how many different stories the city has to tell. I am super in love with Libba Bray’s writing style, and I can’t wait for her next book.


A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

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Rating: 3 stars

A Thousand Nights is a retelling of A Thousand and One Arabian Nights, a story which I was only vaguely familiar with before going into this novel. I have mixed feelings about this book hence the middling rating. I think I enjoyed it, but my feelings were constantly shifting whilst I was reading it. One minute I was really into the book, and the next I was really bored. The story is quite slow paced, which I didn’t actually mind, because I enjoyed gently exploring the setting of the Qasr (the King’s palace), and the desert (where our protagonist lived in her family’s tents before she was taken away to marry him). Everything was vividly described and the writing was beautiful.  For some reason I loved all of the scenes where the protagonist was being bathed or dressed, or where food was being laid out. I guess I just enjoy the idea of living in a palace, and so appreciated the little details about everyday life there. What I didn’t enjoy so much about this novel were the endless descriptions of spinning wool (the protagonist’s main hobby). I realise they were there for a purpose (one which I can’t really reveal due to spoilers), but they were way too repetitive and contained too much mundane detail. Another thing which bothered me about this book was that the magical elements were vague and underdeveloped. I spent a lot of time confused and wanting a proper explanation of how things worked. That being said, in some aspects of the story, this vagueness worked. I liked the mystery surrounding the demon possessing the King, and gradually learning more about him as the story progressed. Overall, this book was quite hit and miss for me. I enjoyed it for the most part, but I don’t think I would re-read it.


The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

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Rating: 5 stars

This was by far the best book I read this month! I can’t remember the last time I was so hooked by a thriller. I stayed up way past my bedtime three nights in a row finishing this book, and it was totally worth the sacrificed sleep. This story is about an agoraphobic woman named Anna, who witnesses a crime through the window of the house opposite hers, but nobody will believe her, because she’s on medication that causes hallucinations, and she drinks… a lot! I love books which explore reality vs. imagination, and this one had me constantly questioning the unreliable narration. The story is told in super-short chapters which makes it incredibly moreish, and Anna’s character is so complex and compelling you can’t help but get invested straight away, and root for her throughout. The writing in this book is also excellent. Anna is obsessed with noir films from the age of black and white movies, and the way this book is written matches that aesthetic so perfectly. The descriptions of Anna’s house felt very gothic, dusty, gloomy, and lonely, and it was the perfect setting for the tone of this book. Every line feels cinematic, and I love the way the focus of the writing zooms in and out on different images, attaching and disguising meaning where necessary. This book is a strong mystery; apart from one thing we learn roughly half-way through anyway, I didn’t guess anything, and the twist genuinely shocked me. It also managed to jolt me, as if it were a jumpy movie, with the genuinely creepy reveal scene. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy thrillers; it’s a cut above most of them, and I am so excited to read more books from this author in the future.


How was your reading month? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? What was your favourite book you picked up this month? I’d love to hear from you! 🙂

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January 2018 Wrap-Up (Part Two)

Hihihi lovely people, and welcome to Part Two of my January Wrap Up!

The second half of my reading month was even better than the first, with three 5 star books, and two 4 star books, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Without further ado, here’s what I thought of them…


Happy: Finding Joy in Every Day and Letting Go of Perfect by Fearne Cotton

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Rating: 5 stars

A friend of mine recommended this book to me, and I’m so glad I took her advice. This is one of the best self-help books I’ve read because it comes from a place of total honesty. The way Fearne openly talks about her battle with depression struck a chord with me because her descriptions of how it felt for her strongly resemble my own experiences with depression. This book is by no means a cure for depression, or a substitute for seeking medical guidance, but the suggestions it gives for helping you to feel more in control and balanced, and helping to boost your mood, were really useful for me. It doesn’t cover loads of new ground, but the down-to-earth way Fearne discusses each concept meant that the advice finally sank in for me in a way it hasn’t with other self-help books I’ve read. This book meant a lot to me, and I plan to pick up my own copy of this one (having borrowed this from the library) because I want to work through all of the activities at the end of each chapter in my own time.


Margot and Me by Juno Dawson

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Rating: 5 stars

I picked this book up on a whim because I was looking for comforting books, and this one was described as witty and heartwarming on the cover. The story unfolds in two timelines, both of which are historical fiction, as the ‘present day’ storyline is actually set in 1998. All of the 90s references made me so nostalgic! The ‘past’ timeline is set during World War II and told in the format of a diary (written by our protagonist Fliss’s grandmother, Margot). In the ‘present day’, Fliss and her mother (who is recovering from Chemotherapy) move from London to Wales to live with Margot. Fliss has a difficult relationship with Margot, and doesn’t want to be there one bit, but when she discovers Margot’s wartime diary in the attic, she becomes fascinated by her grandmother’s experiences as an evacuee, even though she knows she really shouldn’t be reading them. This book was emotional, heartbreakingly sad in places, but also heartwarming. I loved the family dynamics explored in this book, and the gradually thawing relationship between Margot and Fliss was done so well. I loved both Margot and Fliss as characters. Fliss’s narration was very witty, and I was constantly laughing at her sarcastic comments. Margot was an unexpected badass, full of determination to stand up for her beliefs. This book told a wonderful story, and it’s my favourite I’ve read so far this year.


Magpie Murders by Anthony Horrowitz

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Rating: 5 stars

I borrowed this book from the library after hearing one of my favourite booktubers, Charley from Duvet Day Devours, talking about how much she loved it. This book is the ultimate murder mystery, because it’s a murder mystery WITHIN a murder mystery. One strand of the book follows an editor called Susan who is reading the manuscript of Alan Conway’s latest book in his ‘Atticus Pund’ detective series. The other strand is the manuscript of said book. This book is all about art imitating life, and when something happens to the author of the book Susan is editing, she turns detective, like Atticus Pund himself, to try and piece together what happened to Alan, sure that the answers lie somewhere in his manuscript. I loved the structure of this book, and everything was so cleverly plotted down to the tiniest detail. I didn’t guess whodunnit in either murder case, but I was satisfied with the outcome in each storyline. All of the characters were so distinctive in this novel, and all were shady and secretive enough to convince me that any of them could be capable of murder. I had so much fun trying to work it all out, and I was amazed at how complex the whole puzzle ended up being.  I also loved all of the literary references to detective fiction, most notably Agatha Christie’s work. Atticus Pund reminded me a lot of Poirot, and if you’re a fan of Agatha Christie you will eat this up!


One by Sarah Crossan

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Rating: 4 stars

After enjoying Moonrise by Sarah Crossan, I picked up another of her novels, One, from my library. This story, about conjoined twins Grace and Tippi, is written in verse and beautifully told. It was a sad book but also very touching. Reading about conjoined twins made me think about the world from a completely unique perspective, and put me in touch with my own ignorance, particularly with regards to the questions I had about the logistics of sharing a body (which are exactly the kind of ignorant questions the girls get asked all the time). The most profound thing I took away from this book is that pity can be unkind. I loved that Grace and Tippi were happy together, that they could think of far worse things than being conjoined, and that they didn’t want others to pity them. I appreciated how much research and thought had gone into this novel, and how every detail gave me pause of thought (for example, what it’s like when one twin wants to do something, like trying a cigarette, and the other doesn’t want to.) I loved both characters, the dynamics between them, and I loved the way this book explored the fact that although they Grace and Tippi are separate people, they are also one, and cannot imagine a life separated from one another. Though this book didn’t hit me quite as hard as Moonrise did, it was still a very powerful read.


The Note by Zoe Folbigg

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Rating: 4 stars

I borrowed this book from my mum, because I was in the mood for something light and fluffy, and she had just read and enjoyed this one. I loved it too! This was a sweet and uplifting story about how small acts of bravery can change the course of your life. The story is all about a woman named Maya, who falls for a man named James who gets her commuter train to London every morning. It’s based on the true story of how the author met her husband, whom she introduced herself to by handing him a note saying she thought he looked lovely and asking him out for a drink. Although the writing style wasn’t my favourite (third person present tense takes some getting used to), I loved the concept of this book. Rather than being a book focusing on a relationship, this book is more about two characters gradually becoming the people they are supposed to be before the timing is right for them to end up together. There were some secondary characters in this book whom it was quite fun to hate, and it made me root for Maya and James even more strongly. Although I loved the ending (FEELS), I do sort of wish that the characters had had more shared page time overall. Nevertheless, I found this book very heartwarming, and it made me smile, which is exactly what I needed.


So that’s the end of my January Wrap Up! Have you read any of these books? What was your favourite book you read this month? I’d love to hear from you!

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January 2018 Wrap-Up (Part One)

Hello lovely people! Hope you’ve all had a wonderful start to 2018.

January was a great reading month for me, with multiple five star reads, and barely any bad ones. I read eleven books in total, so to save this post from becoming an unwieldy dissertation, I’m going to split my wrap-up into two parts! Here in Part One are my thoughts on the first six books I read in January…


Sky Song by Abi Elphinstone

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Rating: 4.5 stars

My first read of the year was a middle grade Snow Queen retelling, with one of the most beautiful covers I have seen in a while. The snowy landscapes of Erkenwald, the fantastical setting of this story, were stunningly described, and there was a lovely, cosy, fairytale-like quality to the writing. What I loved most about this book were the characters. Eska (a girl whose voice the Ice Queen is attempting to steal), and Flint, an inventor, and one of the only people in the realm who still believes in magic, were brave characters you couldn’t help but root for. However, my favourite characters were Balapan (an eagle who befriends Eska), and Blu (Flint’s little sister, who I believe has Downs Syndrome, although we are not explicitly told this in the text, and I could be completely wrong about this). The friendship between Eska and Balapan was the best human-eagle friendship I have ever encountered (not that I’ve encountered any others, tbh) and Blu’s hopeful spirit completely warmed my heart and brought joy to every page. Sky Song was the perfect warm-and-fuzzy book to read snuggled under a blanket on a cold January day.


Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy

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Rating: 3.5 stars

Next I read Moth Girls, a YA thriller about a girl called Mandy whose two best friends Petra and Tina go missing one night after they dare each other to sneak into an old, dilapidated house. I really enjoyed this, but for me it felt more like a character study than a thriller. We follow Mandy five years after the incident, still struggling to move on with her life, but we also get chapters from Petra’s perspective, five years earlier. I found Mandy’s chapters fascinating, as we explore how the tragedy has impacted every facet of her life, although I think I enjoyed Petra’s chapters more (despite her being the less likeable character). Through each narrative, we slowly piece together what happened to Petra and Tina that night. I enjoyed unravelling the mystery, but I felt like all of the answers were given to us way too conveniently. I would have preferred to see Mandy struggling to uncover them herself, and coming up against obstacles, but instead they were kind of offered to her on a plate. Nevertheless, Moth Girls was an interesting read, particularly in its portrayal of first teenage friendships, fraught as they are with insecurities and jealousies. It felt authentic and reminded me a lot of my own school days.


Moonrise by Sarah Crossan

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Rating: 5 stars

The next book I read was Moonrise, a YA novel told in verse, all about a boy named Joe, whose brother Ed is on Death Row in Texas. I didn’t think I would enjoy the verse format, but I found it added a lot to the reading experience, because so much was conveyed in the smallest of lines, and every carefully chosen word had a purpose. This book made me think, made me angry, made me sob (a lot… stock up on tissues if you are going to read this book). I adored the characters, and their senses of humour and the dynamics between them warmed my heavy heart. I was laughing one minute and crying the next. I’ve always disagreed with the Death Penalty, but this book made me painfully aware of its reality, and as a consequence, incredibly angry with the backwards injustice of the system. A powerful, raw, honest book which cut me deep. I am going to be thinking about this one for a long, long time.


Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

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Rating: 5 stars

Next I picked up Conspiracy Girl, a YA thriller. The cover led me to believe this was going to be a bit trashy, but I ended up devouring it. It follows a girl named Nic whose family are brutally murdered in their own home, whilst Nic is hiding in the bathroom. Several years later, Nic is living in a high security apartment in a different city, but one night her supposedly safe home is broken into, and it seems the people who were once after her family are back to finish the job. Nic teams up with a hacker named Finn, in an attempt to find out who the killers are and why they are looking for her, and the action proceeds from there. This book was so fast-paced, tense, and exciting, and I never felt like the characters were safe, so I couldn’t possibly put it down. I loved the conspiracy behind the murders (because conspiracies are one of my favourite tropes), and I loved the insight into hacking (because let’s face it, hacking is cool). Be forewarned, there is some romance in this book (which I wouldn’t normally appreciate in a thriller), however this one was all kinds of swoon, and I really enjoyed it. Be forewarned, you will probably fancy the pants off Finn; I certainly did.


The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami

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Rating: 2.5 stars

Next I read The Strange Library, and unfortunately this ended up being my least favourite book of the month. It’s a short and surreal story, which follows a boy who gets taken hostage by some very strange characters, in a creepy room, somewhere in the labyrinthine basement of his local library. I loved the premise, and the edition (which I borrowed from my own, thankfully normal, library) was absolutely stunning. It had beautiful illustrations, all taken from old books found in The London Library, and there was something interesting to look at on every page. I loved the little details, like on the first page, there is a stamp which reads ‘File copy: do not remove from library’, which actually had me believing, when I first picked it up, that I was not allowed to borrow this book (even though on the second page another stamp suggested that this book was last taken out sometime in the 80s.) I felt a bit silly when I realised that these pages were both part of the book’s design! Normally I really love surreal elements in fiction, but I think this story was just TOO weird for me. I felt like the boy’s reactions to his situation were abnormal. He was very chilled about the whole thing, and spent a lot of time pondering, rather than freaking the **** out. This story was certainly creepy, but I got to the end of it feeling like there was something else I was supposed to have gotten out of it, which instead went over my head.


Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson

moominlandmidwinter

Rating: 4 stars

I started reading some of the Moomin stories last year, and having loved Tove Jansson’s writing style, which is whimsical, magical and full of quirky charm, I decided to give this one a go next. The story follows Moomintroll, whose family are hibernating through the winter months, but who wakes up early, whilst everyone else is still sleeping. Moomintroll has never seen winter before (having always slept through it) ,so the story follows his adventures exploring the new and exciting snowy landscapes of his valley, and the various quirky characters he meets along the way. This story was utterly charming, and I’d love to re-read it in the run up to Christmas, as it’s such a cosy read for a winter’s day. At some point, I would also like to read the Moomin books in order (I believe this is the 6th instalment), as I think I would have benefited from some context as to who certain characters and types of creature were. But it didn’t matter enough to spoil my enjoyment of this adorable story.


Soooo, these are all of the books I read in the first half of January. Part Two of my wrap-up will be up in a few days’ time. Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

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