The Mud and Stars Book Blog

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

More recent reads: Misfit, Furiously Happy, & The Flatshare!

Hello, bookish friends!

Today I am reviewing three books I’ve read recently, all of which I enjoyed, but two in particular of which I absolutely adored, and are favourites of the year so far! ❤

Without further ado, here are my thoughts!


Misfit by Charli Howard

misfit

Trigger warning: anxiety, anorexia, bulimia

I heard the author of this book speak at YALC last year and I thought it sounded amazing. It’s a mental-health memoir about Charli’s experiences with anxiety, anorexia, and bulimia, and how her mental illnesses were exacerbated by her time spent working in the modelling industry. I found this book so interesting, and it also made me so angry at some of the things that Charli went through. Actively being told by her agency to lose weight or lose her job when she was only a UK size 6? Utterly despicable. I already disliked the idea of an industry that puts out these images of unattainably thin women and makes us all feel bad that we don’t look like them, but hearing about how badly the people behind those images are treated made me hate it even more. The way Charli was constantly criticised about her appearance by her agency made me feel sick. It was like reading about an abusive relationship – one which she was contracted to be in.

I loved the raw honesty with which Charli told her story, although I wish the book had had more of a focus on her recovery. It is marketed towards teens, and whilst there are some empowering messages in there about how we shouldn’t let anyone dictate what is beautiful, and that all bodies of all sizes should be celebrated, I feel that teen readers who are struggling with body image and eating disorders could benefit from learning a bit more about how Charli recovered from her eating disorder, and what help she received. This section of the book felt so brief, considering what a huge and important part of the story this is. The other thing that bothered me was that there is a comment towards the end about how we can ‘choose whether [we] want to be happy or not’, and that didn’t sit well with me. Yes, in order to recover from a mental illness you have to want to, but you have to work unbelievably hard to do so; it’s not as simple as a mere choice.

Despite these issues, I thought this was an important and well-written memoir, but I would recommend this to someone who wants to learn more about eating disorders, rather than to somebody who is recovering from one. I think it could be triggering, and not necessarily helpful to that process, as the focus is more on the experience of the illness rather than the recovery from it. Charli herself points this out at the beginning of the book, and I thought that was really helpful.


Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

furiouslyhappy

This is another mental-health memoir, although it’s not structured like a memoir. It’s more like a collection of random thoughts and anecdotes, some of them related to mental illness, some of them just funny stories from the author’s life. I didn’t know much about the author going into this book, but she has a very successful blog called ‘The Bloggess’. I picked this up because of the mental health representation, rather than any particular attachment to the author, but having read this, I now want to read everything she has ever written and be her best friend.

The front cover of this book describes it as ‘a funny book about horrible things’. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but this book is genuinely laugh-out-loud hilarious. Like, I snorted with laughter at least once per page. Jenny’s humour can be quite whacky, and perhaps it won’t be for everyone, but she honestly had me in stitches, even when she was talking about difficult topics such as her depression and anxiety.

I loved that this book wasn’t only about mental health. Jenny Lawson is so much more than her mental illnesses, and I loved that some of the stories in here were just about weird things that have happened to her, funny arguments she’s had with her husband, and the hilarious hijinks of her taxidermy racoon (pictured on the cover). I know it seems an obvious statement – that mental illness isn’t somebody’s whole identity – but sometimes I forget this about myself, and it’s quite affirming to read something like this and think… oh yeah, my life is multi-faceted and full of hilarity too; my mental illness isn’t ME.

Whilst this book made me laugh consistently, it also really moved me in places. My favourite passage in this book was about something called ‘The Spoon Theory’, and it really resonated with me and my own experiences with depression:

spoons

I loved this book to pieces, and I might be in love with Jenny Lawson now. I definitely want to check out her blog and other book asap.


The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

theflatshare

I listened to this as an audiobook, and absolutely adored it! It’s a heart-warming rom-com about Tiffy and Leon, who share a flat (and a bed) but have never met each other. One of them works nights, and the other during the day, so they never cross paths in person, but they start getting to know each other by leaving each other messages on post-it notes around their flat. I absolutely adored the main characters and the developing relationship between them. I loved how outgoing and fun and herself Tiffy was. I loved her thoughtfulness and her curiosity. Leon was introverted, awkward and sarcastic, but he had such a pure and lovely heart. He was so caring, so decent. The romance was perfectly paced, and the chemistry was spot on. It gave me the warm fuzzies, the butterflies – everything you want from a romance. The notes they wrote to each other made me laugh, and I loved the awkwardness of their first face to face encounter! It made me smile so much.

All the characters, even the minor ones, were well-developed and fleshed out. I found myself really caring about all of the subplots, and I loved that there was more to this book than the romance. Some of them were quite hard-hitting (Leon’s brother Richie is in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, and Tiffy is being harassed by her emotionally abusive ex boyfriend), whilst others were light and heart-warming (Tiffy, a book editor, is working with an eccentric author on a book about crochet, and Leon, a palliative care nurse, is trying to track down the long lost love of one of his patients). I was so invested in every storyline, and that’s a testament to how much I cared about Tiffy and Leon. I felt gutted when things went badly for them, and genuine joy when things worked out. I don’t have any personal experience with emotionally abusive relationships, but I thought Tiffy’s storyline was so well handled, and it was amazing to see her start to recover from this, not as a result of her new relationship, but because of her own inner strength, and the support of her friends. I think it raised some important awareness about this type of abuse.

I don’t have a bad word to say about this book. It was a wonderful pick-me up, and one of my favourite things I’ve read this year.


Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear your thoughts! 🙂 

Lots of literary love, Jess! xxx

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Recent reads: Giant Days & Dear Evan Hansen!

Happy Sunday, bookish friends!

Today I am reviewing a couple of the books I’ve read recently! Both books are in fact novelisations of pre-existing stories that have been told in another format (the first being the novelisation of a musical, and the second the novelisation of a musical!) I was going to call these ‘mini reviews’, but I realised that what I call ‘mini’ is not actually all that mini… I tend to get carried away with my thoughts haha. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy these ‘mid-length reviews’ of two books I have recently enjoyed!


Giant Days by Non Pratt

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Giant Days is the novelisation of the comic book series of the same name by John Allison. I haven’t read the graphic novels so I am not really sure how the two formats compare, but I have seen quite a few Goodreads reviews from fans of the comics who have been disappointed by this novelisation. Having no comparison, I actually really enjoyed the novel, although I had some issues with it.

The story essentially follows three friends  – Susan, Esther and Daisy  – in their first term of university. Each girl has their own storyline: Susan is trying to avoid a boy from home whom she has some *history* with, Esther is trying to befriend a goth girl from her course whom she idolises but who isn’t actually very nice, and Daisy has joined a yoga society which may or may not be a cult! Although there are storylines, this book didn’t really feel like it had a plot. It’s a slice of life kind of story, which is okay as I enjoyed reading about the lives of these girls, but I can see why this type of story probably works better as a graphic novel.

I found this book very funny, and I really enjoyed all three of the characters. That being said, these characters in some ways felt like caricatures. They were all very quirky, and their dialogue was whip smart, but they didn’t feel all that much like real people. I felt like they had been written to be entertaining first and foremost, and that stopped me from connecting deeply with any of them. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, as their antics were very amusing, but it meant that overall I was purely entertained by the novel, rather than wowed by it.

Nevertheless, I did think the novel covered some important topics relating to university life, namely the ups and downs of choosing and making new friends, finding somewhere you belong, and trying to forge a new path for yourself at university. Although it explores these topics through far-fetched, comedic storylines, I still found there was wisdom to be drawn from them.

I’d love to give the comics a try at some point, so if you have read them, please do let me know what you thought of them!


Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

dearevanhansen

(Trigger warnings: anxiety, depression, suicide)

Dear Evan Hansen is the novelisation of a musical of the same name. I’ve never watched the musical Dear Evan Hansen, but I have listened to the soundtrack a lot, and I absolutely adore the songs and their message.

The story follows a boy named Evan Hansen who has severe anxiety. His therapist asks him to write a letter to himself every day, beginning with the words ‘Dear Evan Hansen’. When a boy called Connor gets hold of one of Evan’s letters, and later commits suicide, Evan’s letter is found with Connor, and Connor’s parents wrongly assume that Connor wrote the letter to Evan, and that they were best friends. Anxious, confused and lonely, and not wanting to upset Connor’s parents, Evan finds himself going along with the lie. He finds himself drawn into the fold of this grieving family,  feeling like he belongs somewhere for the first time in his life. And, as he begins to feel a connection to this boy he never knew, Evan decides to start ‘The Connor Project’, a movement designed to remember his ‘friend’, and reassure others who feel alone that they are not.

I have a huge emotional connection to the soundtrack, but I didn’t find the novelisation had quite the same impact on me. There are some emotionally empowering and emotionally devastating songs in the musical that honestly give me chills, and the message that everyone deserves to be remembered and recognised, and that nobody deserves to be alone and forgotten is a big theme. This message was definitely in the book, but I didn’t feel it came across as strongly as it does in the musical. It didn’t stir me up in quite the same way. Nevertheless, there were some things that got me, especially the representation of Evan’s anxiety, loneliness, and struggles to fit in – I thought they were very relatable, well-written, and at times heartbreaking. I also found a particular scene between Evan and his mum extremely moving, and it made me cry, just as its musical equivalent did.

It’s a hard story to ‘enjoy’, because you spend a large part of the reading experience feeling uncomfortable and conflicted. Obviously what Evan does is very wrong, and the more time he spends with Connor’s family, and the deeper he gets into the lie, the more nauseous you feel about what he is doing. Yet at the same time, you also find yourself feeling desperately sorry for Evan. It’s heartbreaking when he starts to feel this connection to Connor as somebody he perhaps really could have been friends with, but now never will. He’s so lonely, and the only friend he has is essentially imaginary (as he never really knew Connor), and that just made me want to comfort him, despite how problematic his actions were becoming.

I felt that the ending of the story was a bit rushed, and I wish that the fall out was explored in more depth, but I thought the very ending hit the right emotional notes, and I think overall it was a good, if imperfect, book, which has earned a place in my heart. The story is one that makes me realise I am not alone, and helps me towards starting to accept myself, especially when told in its musical format. I definitely recommend listening to the soundtrack before you read this book, as I think you will get even more from it if you do. I would love to see the musical on stage someday!


Have you read either of these books, or consumed either of these stories in their other formats? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts on them!

Lots of literary love, Jess! xxx

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Books I’ve read recently: mini reviews!

Happy Friday, lovely bookish people!

Today I thought I’d share with you my thoughts on some of the books I’ve read since my last post! I’ve actually read 5 (almost 6) books since I last updated, but I’m only reviewing 3 today otherwise this post would be ridiculously long (even for me, who can’t help but turn everything I write into a dissertation!) More mini reviews coming soon. 🙂


A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro

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This book is the first instalment in a YA mystery series following the descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson (Charlotte and Jamie), who meet at boarding school, and become friends when they are both seemingly implicated in the murder of one of their classmates. They start working together to find out who is trying to set them up, and who the real murderer is.

I really enjoyed this book, but I loved the first half a lot more than the second. What I loved most about this book were the characters, and watching their friendship develop. Charlotte and Jamie are undoubtedly similar to Conan Doyle’s characters, but because this is so obviously intentional you can appreciate how well the spirit of those beloved old characters is captured in these new ones. I thought Watson was a loveable narrator, and Holmes a fascinating character. I loved seeing Sherlock’s traits in a female character; I think it’s rare to see female characters struggle to express emotions, and be unapologetically haughty, and I really enjoyed both of those things about her! I found the dialogue of both characters sharp, often funny, and I loved the banter between our two leads.

What I didn’t love so much about this story was the mystery itself. I didn’t find myself fully invested, and although I didn’t necessarily work out what was going to happen in the end, I didn’t feel all that shocked by the outcome either. The other thing is that I had to suspend my disbelief a LOT when it came to the things Holmes and Watson pulled off, but I guess that’s kind of the point; the tension and stakes were certainly high!

I definitely want to carry on with the series, because I am invested in the relationship between the characters, so I am hoping that I will feel more compelled by the mysteries in the next two books.


Never Trust a Rabbit by Jeremy Dyson

nevertrustarabbit

I found this collection very entertaining, but I had a few issues with it too. Overall the stories were dark and surreal, but unlike a lot of stories in the ‘weird fiction’ genre, these all had fairly satisfying resolutions that often had a poignant point to make. I really appreciated this, because sometimes the endings of these kinds of stories can be *too* ambiguous.

The stories I loved most in here were ‘City Deep’ and ‘The Maze’. Both of these were extremely unsettling. City Deep is about a forgotten branch of the London Underground where something ‘other’ is lurking, and I am still thinking about how spooked I was by this story. I had to take the tube the day after reading it, and my heart was beating so fast, purely from thinking about the creepiness of this story’s ending. ‘The Maze’ is about a man who remembers a maze in a park that he visited as a child, but he can’t seem to find anybody else who remembers it too. This story was weird in the best way, and the ending was quite shiversome!

I don’t think there were any stories that I wasn’t entertained by, but some of them bothered me because of the way their male narrators talked about women and women’s bodies. What I will say, however, is that the sleaziest and most unlikeable characters were not rewarded for their behaviour, so I did appreciate that, even though reading their thoughts did make me feel uncomfortable. ‘The Engine of Desire’ is a particular story I had this issue with, and I would give a trigger warning for rape with this story. However, if that is something you are okay with reading about, the story is very interesting, and the ending fantastically creepy.

The other issue I had is that there is some homophobia throughout the text, which wasn’t relevant to the stories, so had no reason for being there. This book was published almost 20 years ago, so it’s not necessarily surprising (and I am sure it would have been edited out if being published in more recent times), but it’s there, so just be aware of that going into this.

Overall I really enjoyed reading this collection. If you like all things creepy and strange, this is definitely worth picking up!


Lobsters by Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison

lobsters

I picked this book up at YALC last year, after really enjoying Freshers by the same writing duo. I didn’t love this one quite as much as their other book, but I still found it entertaining, funny, and relatable, as well as being a quick, fun read.

The story is told in alternating perspective chapters, and follows two characters called Hannah and Sam who meet during the summer before they start university. Both characters want to lose their virginity before they go off to college, so there are a lot of references to sex in this book, and it was quite refreshing for a YA book to be so sex-positive (and in a realistic way too – yay!) The romance between Hannah and Sam was a little bit frustrating, because it took them a long time to sort themselves out and get together. I don’t mind slow burn romances, but theirs was more a case of a whole ton of miscommunication, misunderstandings, and unnecessary jealousy! I really just wanted to smack their heads together.

Despite my frustrations with the romance, I did actually like Hannah and Sam as characters, and there were a lot of hilarious side characters in this story too. One of my favourite things about this book was the comedy – Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison write humour so well. There were some characters that I hated though, one of them being Hannah’s best friend Stella. Their friendship was so toxic, and I found it hard to understand why they were even friends?!

A lot of the story focuses on the summer being a kind of limbo period for Hannah and Sam. They’ve finished school, and they’re waiting to get their exam results to find out whether they’ve got into their chosen universities. I thought the anxieties about exam results were well portrayed, and I think a lot of teenagers (and adults who have been through this experience) will relate to this! I also really enjoyed reading about the (separate) holidays our main characters go on during that summer; that period just before university is such a strange time because you feel so much more grown up than you are, and experiences like the freedom of first holidays with friends instead of parents can turn out very differently from how you expect them to be. I thought this was really well reflected in Hannah’s experience in Kavos with her friends, where her behaviour and feelings, as well as theirs, end up surprising her.

All in all, I enjoyed this novel a lot, despite a few minor frustrations, and I can’t wait to read whatever these authors come out with next.


Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear what you thought of them!

Lots of literary love, Jess xxx

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November Wrap Up: some mini book reviews!

Happy Friday bookworms!

I’ve read a lot of wonderful books in November. I’ve already reviewed a couple of those books, so this is just going to be a wrap up of everything else I read this month but haven’t talked about yet! Let me know if you’ve read any of these books, and what you thought of them! I like having people to fangirl with. ❤


The Wonderling by Mira Bartok

thewonderling

This was a cute middle grade fantasy about Arthur, a half-human/half fox boy, and his best friend, a little bird called Trinket, who go on an adventure after escaping from their grim orphanage, Miss Carbunkle’s Home for Wayward and Misbegotten Creatures. This was such a fun book. It gave me Oliver Twist vibes, had some cool Steampunk elements, and the world building was brilliant. Everything felt magical, and there were more wonders to discover with every page, although there were also some dark and gloomy corners of the world which gave the book a gritty edge. The friendship between Arthur and Trinket was so heartwarming, and, along with the charming illustrations (drawn by the author herself), was probably my favourite thing about this book. My only criticism was that it was rather long for a middle grade at almost 500 pages, and it started to drag a little towards the end, but other than that, I adored this beautiful book.


Starry Eyes by Jenn Bennett

starryeyes

I picked this book up because I was in the mood for some fluffy contemporary and I liked it, but I didn’t love it. The basic premise is that Zorie and her ex-best-friend/boyfriend Lennon get stranded together in the wilderness after a camping trip with some other friends turns into a big bust up with said friends. I really enjoyed the chemistry between Zorie and Lennon, and I liked that they both had interesting hobbies. Zorie is into astronomy, and Lennon is (luckily) into wilderness survival. I’m a sucker for the whole hate to love thing, so the tension between these two was my fave. I think the thing which prevented me from loving this book wholeheartedly was the annoying trope of ‘lack of communication’. The reason Zorie and Lennon broke up wouldn’t have been a reason at all if they’d just had a conversation, and it makes no sense that they didn’t if they mattered to each other that much. The other thing I didn’t like is that Zorie says some super mean things to one of her friends on the camping trip, and never apologises. Their friendship is just over at the end of the book, and that’s it. But grievances aside, I did enjoy the romance in this one, I liked exploring the wilderness and learning more about outdoorsy stuff like how to stay safe from bears, and I liked Lennon’s lesbian moms who own a sex shop, because they were just cute and so much fun. ❤


Vicious and Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

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I’m not the hugest fan of V.E. Schwab’s books; I always feel like something is missing. Thankfully, I felt differently about these two: I loved them! This series follows Victor and Eli, college friends (turned enemies), who decide to experiment with near death experiences in order to gain supernatural powers. The book kicks off ten years after these events with Victor escaping from prison, hellbent on revenge against Eli for putting him there. The characters in this series are so complexly constructed. It’s hard to tell who is the hero and who the villain; these characters are both morally grey. Victor and Eli want to destroy each other, and both have motivations that, though twisted, make sense. Victor is the one I was rooting for, but I couldn’t bring myself to completely hate Eli. I love all of the characters, and the dynamics between them, particularly the found-family relationship Victor has with Mike (his cellmate from prison) and Sydney, an injured girl he rescues from the side of the road. There’s something so warm and fuzzy about the way these three look out for each other as the story progresses.

I preferred Vicious to its sequel: Vicious had me completely sucked in, especially the sections set in the past, during Victor and Eli’s college days, however Vengeful was a little too slow paced and long to keep me constantly engaged. Nevertheless, I enjoyed being back with the characters, and also meeting some new anti-heroes along the way. I was not happy with the ending though. It was abrupt, and I feel like there is so much more story to tell! I hope we get another sequel.


Heartstopper Volume One by Alice Oseman

heartstopper

Heartstopper is an ongoing web comic created by UKYA author Alice Oseman (whom I adore!). A bind up of the first two chapters is being published in February, but I read this on Alice’s Tumblr as I don’t have a physical copy yet. I CAN’T WAIT TO GET MY HANDS ON ONE! The story of Heartstopper follows Charlie and Nick, two characters who appear in Alice’s debut novel Solitaire, however you don’t need to have read Solitaire first in order to understand this comic. It’s a gentle boy meets boy – friends to something more – love story, with gay and bisexual rep, and it’s so engaging because the interactions between the characters are so real. It’s warm and comforting (although it does deal with some heavier topics, such as bullying, at times) and is my new favourite thing ever. The art style is very cute; Alice perfectly captures the body language of people who are crushing on each other, and it fully gave me all the butterflies of that experience. Charlie and Nick are SO adorable, and every interaction between them made me squee with joy. Nick also has an adorable dog called Nellie who made me squee with joy whenever she appeared. Basically, if you want to squee with joy, repeatedly, you need to read this. You can read the whole thing (up to the latest post) for free on Alice Oseman’s Tumblr. You are so welcome! ❤


The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater

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I finally picked up The Raven Boys after having it on my shelf for about 6 years. I had tried to read it lots of times but never managed to get into it, but this time I got sucked into this weird and whimsical story. It is one of those series you have to really concentrate on, in order to get everything you can out of it. It is quite subtle, very character driven, and there are hints and allusions to things it would be easy to miss if you weren’t paying attention.The story follows Blue, Gansey, Ronan, Adam and Noah, a group of friends who are searching for the tomb of a Welsh King who is rumoured to grant a favour to the person who wakes him. It’s a story about psychics, and ley lines, and dreams, and magic, a perfect mix of things I adore. The pacing can be slow, because although there is a mysterious, fascinating plot, it almost takes a backseat to the characters and their complex friendships, but those characters are what make this story so dear to my heart.

My favourite character is Gansey; I relate so much to his burning need for there to be something *more* to life than we can see. I love his obsessive personality, and the way he fills his notebooks with frantic scribblings about his quest. My least favourite character so far is Adam. I want to like him, but he makes it so difficult. Adam is from a less privileged background than his friends, and has experienced some really difficult things, which of course make me sympathise with him, but his anger about his unhappy upbringing is often misdirected towards his friends, who are only ever trying to help him, and it really frustrates me. Ronan is supposed to be the snarky, spiteful character, and yet I find him so much more endearing than Adam. (I think this might be largely to do with how uncharacteristically sweet he is towards his pet raven, Chainsaw.) I’m reading book three now, and I am loving this series. It will definitely be one I re-read again and again in the future, as I feel there will be more to gain from it each time.

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Fluffy YA contemporary reviews! “What If It’s Us” and “Royals” :)

Hello, hello lovely booknerds! Hope you are all having a wonderful Tuesday.

After a month of reading dark and spooky books for Halloween, I’m in the mood for nothing but warm and fluffy contemporaries this month! I have finished two books already this week, and I ended up giving both of them 5 stars! Here’s why you should pick them up too…


What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera:
Simon & Schuster, October 2018.

whatifitsuscover

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?


I was so happy when I heard this book was going to be a thing, because I love both Becky Albertalli’s and Adam Silvera’s writing. I’ve had an ARC of this book for a while because I won a giveaway for it back in July, but because I’m silly I have only just got around to picking it up!

I was really nervous going into this book, because some of my favourite booktubers seem to have been disappointed by it, but luckily I wasn’t! I really loved this book, because the characters were everything. They felt like real people I would want to be friends with. Arthur and Ben are quite different characters, but I felt they complimented each other perfectly. I probably related more to Ben’s cynicism, but I really appreciated Arthur’s wide-eyed optimism. I constantly felt like I wanted to give Arthur a great big hug because he was simply as cute as a button.

I have seen some people say that they felt there wasn’t any chemistry between Arthur and Ben, but I totally disagree. Their relationship definitely gave me the warm fuzzies. Sure, things were a bit bumpy and awkward for their first few dates, but to me that felt authentic to how I remember dating as a teenager. Even when you really like someone, things aren’t always smooth sailing, and sometimes the nerves you have BECAUSE you really like someone can make things awkward anyway. I liked that these two took a while to get into their groove. It goes to show that life isn’t the movies… dating is rarely this perfect and glossy thing, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth trying to make it work.

One of the things I loved most about this book was all the references to musicals. As a result of reading this book, I went and listened to the soundtracks of both Dear Evan Hansen and Hamilton on YouTube (because I’m *that* person who is always late to a party), and I loved both of them! I am desperate to see Dear Evan Hansen when it comes to London next year, even though I will probably weep profusely. Anyway, going back to the book, I loved the scene where Ben listens to Hamilton for the first time, and keeps updating Arthur on all his thoughts and feels. I think there’s something so wonderful about sharing something you love with someone you love for the first time, and them loving it too.

Another thing I adored about this book was Dylan. He’s Ben’s best friend, and I LOVED the friendship between these two. Dylan was hilarious, and SO extra. There’s a subplot all about him enthusiastically falling for this girl Samantha he meets in a coffee shop, and it was adorable. The scene where he accidentally calls her his future wife (to her face) after only a couple of weeks of dating was hilariously cringe (I told you he was extra!) and just made me love him even more. I would totally read a spin off book about Dylan and Samantha.

Overall, I just really loved this book, and I definitely recommend it if you want something warm and fluffy to make your heart happy on a cold November day.


Royals by Rachel Hawkins:
Scholastic, May 2018.

royals

Meet Daisy Winters. She’s an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her to join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond. 

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince’s roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown–and the intriguing Miles–might be trying to make Daisy into a lady . . . but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself.


Royals was another book I really enjoyed! It was total fluff, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and it was exactly what I needed. I’ve seen lots of reviews on Goodreads complaining about the inaccuracy of there being a Scottish monarchy in this book, but come on people, suspend your disbelief and stop ruining my fun! I’m hardly reading this book for a gritty dose of reality now, am I?!

My favourite thing about this book was our main character Daisy. She was so much fun, and her banter with Miles was everything. She was witty and sarcastic, and I loved her awkward habit of saying exactly what popped into her head. She was also really down to earth, and I loved that she didn’t let the craziness of the world she’d suddenly been dumped into change who she was, despite all the pressures to do exactly that. Every time she stood up to a snobby person, I wanted to cheer.

I found Miles quite swoony. He starts off all grumpy and aloof and Mr Darcyish, so seeing him gradually warm up as Daisy begins to charm him (and he begins to charm her, with his loyalty, sweetness, and unexpected game) was very satisfying. This book uses the fake dating trope, and I am a sucker for that, so the romance in this book made me very squealy and happy.

Another thing I enjoyed in this book was the relationship between Daisy and her sister Ellie. El seems kind of stuck up to begin with, and she did annoy me at times, but you start to realise that she’s just trying her best to fit into a crazy world that’s just as hard for her to navigate as it is for Daisy. I liked the exploration of their relationship, seeing how Daisy feels her sister has changed, but eventually recognising that she’s still the same person underneath, and realising how important fitting in with Prince Alexander’s family and lifestyle is to Ellie.

Alex felt slightly underdeveloped to me, but he was nice enough. I enjoyed the character of Prince Sebastian (Seb) more, even though he was a hot mess, and always causing tabloid scandal. He reminded me a lot of young (pre Meghan Markle) Prince Harry. I couldn’t help but fancy him, even though he was a bit of a dick. He definitely got props for being a secret book nerd too.

I loved all the different settings we get to see in this book. Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities, so I enjoyed the parts of the book that were set there, but I also loved seeing the Scottish highlands. I really want to go back to Scotland! In general I just loved all of the fancy houses and palaces Daisy explores whilst she’s there. Reading about rich people’s glamourous lives is my guilty pleasure.

All together, this was an entertaining book I absolutely whizzed through. It was perfect fun, fluffy reading and I can’t wait for the sequel!


Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them? I’d love to hear from you! ❤

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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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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

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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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