book review

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


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


(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

book review

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


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


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


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

wrap up

A long-overdue bookish catch-up!

Hello bookish friends, and welcome back to my poor, abandoned little book blog!

I haven’t posted on here since November last year, and that makes me sad, so I wanted to come back and catch up with you all. This is the longest hiatus I’ve ever taken from blogging (5 months!), and there were several reasons for my absence:

1) It started with a terrible reading slump, where I didn’t feel much motivation to read for about 2 months. I did try to read, and I did finish some books, but most of them were very average and made my slump worse.

2) Then, I had some health problems. I was suffering from really low energy and fatigue at the start of this year, and some days I could hardly get out of bed. I thought it was linked to my mental health and that my depression was making a comeback, but thankfully after some blood tests I found out it was Vitamin D deficiency, and after a couple of months of taking supplements, I’m feeling a lot better (even though I still get tired really easily.)

3) Finally, I have been wanting to post again for a while, but anxiety has been holding me back. I freak out when I look at a blank word document I have to fill, worrying that what comes out won’t be good enough, or that everyone will have forgotten me!

But, I have worked so hard on building this blog, and, no matter how many breaks I take, I will always come back to it. I will never abandon it forever!

At this point in the year, I’ve read quite a lot of books, so I can’t possibly catch you up on everything I’ve read so far in 2019, but I thought I’d give you some quick thoughts on my favourites. It hasn’t been the best reading year so far, as not many books have really blown me away. However, these are the four that have stood out to me:

1) Pen Pal by Dathan Auerbach


Pen Pal is probably my favourite book I’ve read so far this year. It’s a horror novel about a boy who gains a very creepy pen pal when he takes part in a school project (which involves releasing balloons with attached messages into the sky, in the hope that somebody will find them, when they land, and write back.) I can’t explain to you how creepy I found this book. The writing is so atmospheric and dreamlike; it reminds me of the off-kilter feeling of a nightmare, where everything looks normal, but you know that there is something (or someone) lurking in the shadows. My favourite part of this novel was one of the earliest chapters, where our main character wakes up in the forest alone in the middle of the night. It’s so strange and unsettling because he has no idea how he got there or how to find his way back home. My heart was pounding the whole time – the tension was perfectly written, and the feeling of being watched by someone unseen was undeniable. I got déjà vu whilst reading this chapter because it seemed so familiar, which almost added to how freaked out I felt, until I realised that I had actually read this chapter before on Reddit several years before (where this story was originally published.) I highly recommend this book if you like being creeped the hell out.

2) Monsters by Emerald Fennell (Trigger warning: child abuse)


I got this book from the library, however I might buy my own copy as I would love to re-read it someday. This is the story of two somewhat terrifying children who become friends during a summer spent at a hotel in Cornwall. The setting is very atmospheric and there were some references to Daphne Du Maurier which I loved! In this Cornish town there is serial killer at large, strangling women and throwing their bodies into the sea, and to say that these two children are morbidly fascinated by these murders would be an understatement. They decide to turn detective and solve the murders, but they are far more interested in the gory details than your average true-crime fan. This book was dark and twisted, and although the characters are not ‘nice’, they get under your skin. Miles is definitely a sociopath, however our main character, whose name we never find out, is, underneath her scarily emotionless exterior, a lost, lonely, and neglected child who has never been shown what love is. As such, her friendship with Miles, the only person to ever really pay her attention, becomes very intense, bordering on obsessive. It was a very interesting relationship dynamic to explore. I felt desperately sorry for our main character, even if some of the things she came out with were, frankly, terrifying, and I found her a very compelling narrator. I think this is one of the most well-written and distinctive character voices I have read in a long time.

3) Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare


I just finished reading QoAaD last night (having stayed up until 1am to finish it!) and I have so many emotions! The Dark Artifices is not my favourite Cassandra Clare series, but reading it really makes me appreciate the depth and breadth of the Shadowhunter world. If you haven’t read any of them, the books are about Nephilim (‘Shadowhunters’) who are charged with protecting the human (‘Mundane’) world from Demons. There are so many characters at this stage in the story, but all of them feel distinctive and none are forgettable. I love how this book draws together so many characters from across all of Cassie’s series, and seeing them working together makes my heart so happy. I guess I can’t really say a lot about this book as I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the rest of the Shadowhunter books, but I thought the plot of this book was epic (so many twists!) and the ending really wowed me. What happens towards the end of this book is a gigantic turning point in Shadowhunter history, and I am so excited to see what happens in The Wicked Powers series, politics-wise. I loved the happy-endings that some ongoing storylines received here (my heart! 😀 ), with others not wrapped up quite so tidily (my heart! 😥 ). This book felt like a conclusion, but also the beginning of other exciting storylines which we will see develop in The Wicked Powers. All in all, I really loved this emotional journey. It was a big beastie of a book at almost 900 pages, but I made it, and I adored every second of it.

4) Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan


Finally, I would like to talk about Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. Funnily enough, I didn’t give this book 5 stars, because I felt like some of the characters were a little lacking in depth and development, however it’s a stand out book because of how much it entertained me. This story follows Rachel Chu, whose boyfriend Nick Young invites her to spend the summer in Singapore with his family. Little does Rachel know, but the Young’s are one of the most monumentally rich families in Asia, and they are NOT happy with Nick’s choice of girlfriend. This book was humorous, but a lot of the humour is subtle and satirical. It reminded me of the way Jane Austen writes, because it is filled with acute social commentary, and the way certain characters act when they are not intending to be funny provides the comedy in so many scenes (e.g. pompous, snobby Eddie Chen, whose pants split in a scene where he is forcing his long-suffering family to dress up as expensively as him to impress a society magazine photographer.) I really enjoyed all of the lavish descriptions of Nick’s family’s opulent lifestyle; it’s the kind of wealth that is so ridiculous it makes your mind boggle, and it’s so much fun to read about. I also really liked reading about Singapore, and every time food was mentioned I became instantly hungry. Funnily enough, I visited Singapore a month or so after reading this book, and whilst I didn’t see the ‘crazy rich’ side of it that these characters experience, I got excited every time I recognised something from the book (and of course, every time I sampled the delicious food!).  This book was all round entertaining, and I hope to read its sequels very soon!

And that concludes my big catch up blog post! I’m sorry I was away for so long, and I’m looking forward to blog-hopping now that I’m back and catching up on all of your posts too.

Hopefully I’ll be back again with another post soon. I am going to make some changes to my blog and revamp things a bit (perhaps even with a new colour scheme!) I also want to experiment with different types of content. The focus will still be on books, but I hope to write about some other things that are important to me too, including mental health. I am thinking of doing a travel post soon too, as I would love to share some of my stories and photos from the trip to Singapore I mentioned above!

Lots of bookish love to you all, and see you soon! Jess xxx


How I Read Tag

how i read tag pic

Once upon a time (a month ago to be precise) I was nominated by the lovely Deanna @ A Novel Glimpse to do the How I Read Tag. September is such a long time ago that this tag doesn’t even appear on my WordPress notifications anymore, but luckily I managed to remember this one! Before I get started, I’m totally going to steer you away from my post, because you should all go check out Deanna’s blog – it is rather fabulous, and I wish I was as organised as her with my own posting schedule!

So, on with the questions…

How do you find out about new books to read?

I generally just trawl through Amazon, searching for things which I think sound like my cup of tea. If I fall in love with a book, I use Goodreads to find similar books. I also hugely trust the opinions of my fellow bloggers, and I’ve discovered quite a lot of excellent stuff from reading their reviews too.

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Image via giphy / tumblr

How did you get into reading?

When I was little, I used to get horrific nightmares every night, so bad that I was scared to sleep (now I think back on them, the only ones I can remember are the one where three massive bears came into my room, and the one where an evil queen stole my slippers, but like… they were totally scary, okay?)

I got into reading because it gave me an excuse to stay up late so I wouldn’t have to go to sleep. For some reason, the one that sticks in my mind is a non-fiction book about different types of garden-dwelling birds… not exactly a page turner, but maybe that was one to make me drop off, rather than keep me awake.

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 Image via giphy / tumblr

How has your taste in books changed since you got older?

I’d say my taste hasn’t changed all that much, because I still read a lot of young adult books (25 counts as a young adult, right? I mean, it’s not an old adult. Right?) One thing that’s changed is that when I was a teenager, I wouldn’t be interested in a book in the slightest unless the love story was the main part of it. I guess it’s because my love life wasn’t exactly happenin’ back then. Now I’ll read anything and everything (and, hey, sometimes I find romance in books sappy… it has to be done just right in order for me to like it). I also now love horror/thriller books, but I don’t think I’d have gone near them when I was younger; I found growing up scary enough.

How often do you buy books?

I buy books every fortnight, or really just whenever I see something  I have to have. I mean, technically I’m not supposed to, because I’m running out of physical room for them, and publishing’s not exactly investment banking where salaries are concerned, but I would go a little bit crazy if I didn’t have a book to escape into for at least part of my day, so they’re an essential life item I won’t forgo.

How did you get into book reviewing?

I used to write the occasional book review back when I had a LiveJournal account (although mainly I used that to whinge about how unfair it was that my mum wouldn’t let 16 year old me get her tongue pierced, or attend gigs in London without parental supervision….) However, I started this blog back in July after attending a workshop about book blogging, as I decided I need a proper outlet for my obsession.

How do you react when you don’t like the end of a book?

I can never bring myself to completely trash a book (at least not in a review), but I will spend hours reading negative reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, to find solace in the words of somebody who feels my outrage and pain.

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Image via giphy / tumblr

How often do you sneak peak at the ending to see if there is a happy ending?

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Image via giphy / tumblr

I never do that, apart from one shameful time. It was the night Deathly Hallows came out, and I went into Oxford at midnight to get my copy, and there were loads of random drunk people wandering around the town centre shouting out fake spoilers about the ending. I was so paranoid, that I told my friends I needed the loo, then went and sat in a toilet cubicle in McDonalds to sneakily read the last page… The shame!

It seems everyone in the world has already done this tag, so I nominate… anybody who hasn’t!


The Reading Habits Tag

Thank you to Giovanna over at the Book Coma Blog for tagging me! You can check out her fabulous blog here.

1) Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
I like to read in the bath, with Yankee candles (and wine!), or cuddled up in bed with a cup of tea and a hot water bottle, because I’m a total grannypants. If I’m really into a book though, I will take it everywhere around the house with me, including to the bathroom, and balance it precariously on my knee whilst I do stuff like wash my face and brush my teeth.

2) Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Bookmarks! I’ve collected them since I was a tiny child, hence this rather questionable bookmark choice for such a badass looking book:


3) Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop at the end of a chapter/a certain amount of pages?
It depends what I’m reading, but if it’s something addictive, I will not stop, and I will stay up all night if I have to. I think this is why I stagger around like a sleep deprived zombie most of the time. If I’m not thoroughly sucked in, I will still read to the end of the chapter at least; I could never just stop on a random page.

4) Do you eat or drink while reading?
I don’t like to eat whilst reading because I am the messiest individual in the world, and I will spill something all over the book.

5) Multitasking: music or TV whilst reading?
Apparently men can’t multi-task and women can, but I find this frankly to be LIES. I cannot multi-task in any way, shape or form, and God help each and every poor soul on the roads of the United Kingdom when I start learning to drive again… I could maybe cope with some low key music, with no lyrics, whilst reading, but TV would distract me completely.

6) One book at a time or several at once?
I try to read one book at a time, but I’m notorious for abandoning books mid-way through when a shiny new release comes my way.

7) Read at home or everywhere?
Most of my reading actually happens on the bus to work. Only if I get a seat though, because reading in a moving vehicle whilst attempting not to fall into a stranger’s lap requires levels of balance and poise I will simply never reach.

8) Read aloud or silently in your head?
Silently, however when I was studying Chaucer at university I would read aloud, because Old English is impossible to get your head around if you don’t (even if you do sound like a total dick doing it).

9) Do you read ahead or even skip pages?
I never skip pages, but I’m always accidentally glancing at the bottom of the next page and spoiling stuff for myself.

10) Breaking the spine or keeping it new?
The only pristine books I own are the ones I’ve never opened.

11) Do you write in books?
I had to deface a lot of classics whilst I was at university (the horror!), but I don’t really like to write in books unless I’m studying them. I highlight ALL THE LINES on my Kindle, but I can’t bring myself to do the same with a real book.

I tag:

Aira @ airareads
Dee @ thebookishkhaleesi
Deanna @ anovelglimpse
Calliope @ calliopethebookgoddess
Jenny @ readerinareverie

No pressure to do this if you’ve already done/are busy/can’t be bothered 🙂


Finding light in the darkness: My review of ‘The Death House’ by Sarah Pinborough

The Death House grabbed me from page one, and lifted me fully out of a week-long book-hangover slump. Here’s why:


The Death House. Sarah Pinborough. Gollancz. February 2015.

Toby’s life was perfectly normal . . . until it was unravelled by something as simple as a blood test.

Taken from his family, Toby now lives in the Death House; an out-of-time existence far from the modern world, where he, and the others who live there, are studied by Matron and her team of nurses. They’re looking for any sign of sickness. Any sign of their wards changing. Any sign that it’s time to take them to the sanatorium.

No one returns from the sanatorium.

Withdrawn from his house-mates and living in his memories of the past, Toby spends his days fighting his fear. But then a new arrival in the house shatters the fragile peace, and everything changes.

Because everybody dies. It’s how you choose to live that counts.

I was hooked from the very first (creepy) sentence of The Death House: “They say it makes your eyes bleed.”

This is the story of 17 year old Toby, who is ripped away from his family and friends and sent to live in the ‘Death House’ after a blood test reveals he carries the ‘Defective’ gene (which is said to lead to some unnamed horrific illness they call ‘changing’ and, eventually, death.) The place Toby is taken to die is a huge manor house in a mysterious location (none of the children know where they are, other than ‘North’), miles away from his old life and the people he loves, where Toby and the other Defective kids are watched over by Matron and her team of nurses.

The household staff are the weirdest and most unsettling thing about this novel, because they barely speak to the children, yet they’re always silently observing, and seem to know everything. I highlighted this line, which sums up their general mega-creepiness and gave me shivers to read:

“Matron and the nurses might seem to vanish for most of the day, hidden in the walls of the house somewhere, but I know they still account for each child, and like ghosts, they watch us quietly without us really seeing them.”

The premise of this book was hella-creepy all round, which is what originally enticed me, but I quickly came to care about the characters, as they all feel like very real people (they could easily be kids you know/grew up with). I particularly loved Will and Louis, two of the younger kids in Dorm 4, who Toby feels a sense of responsibility towards. Neither were naive about their circumstances (they all know that death is creeping up on them), but they were infinitely less jaded than Toby, and their friendship gave instant heart to the bleak situation.

Toby is a conflicted and withdrawn character, and I had mixed feelings about him to begin with. He initially comes across as very hostile towards some of the other children in the house, particularly his dorm-mate Ashley, a boy who prays aloud every night and is relatively harmless, but who Toby actively hates and sees as flaunting his smug lack of fear about death in his face. I found Toby’s hatred of Ashley a little grating, because really, although Toby has reasons for viewing Ashley’s faith as pointless, Ashley never does anything to Toby and never comes over as preachy or judgemental – in fact, Toby is the one acting this way at the beginning.

I decided to let my feelings over this slide, because the story was so intriguing, and I’m glad I did, because Toby’s true character slowly unfurls throughout the story, and the development feels very rewarding as we start to see glimpses of the kindness and tenderness Toby has always been capable of (and no doubt was a prominent part of his personality before he got carted off to the Death House.)

Clara, a new girl who turns up at the Death House, is the catalyst for this change in Toby, and I thought she was an excellent character. She draws Toby out of himself (despite his reluctance to talk to her at all to begin with) just by being herself – vibrant, unafraid of childish fun and adventure (girl climbs alotta trees!), and someone who refuses to let the inevitability of death suck the life out of her.

All of the characters deal with their fear of death (which is represented by the extremely sinister sounding ‘Sanitorium’ – a place they can be wheeled off to in the middle of the night, and never return from, if they start to show signs of ‘changing’), in very different ways. Some turn to religion, some to friends, some can’t stop talking about what it will be like when it happens, and others don’t want to talk about it at all. This novel deals with the subject of mortality from all angles, and yet this isn’t as bleak as it sounds – ultimately, this is a book about coping and surviving by letting others in, and in that sense, there is real light in the darkness of this story.

I became very attached to all of the characters in The Death House, and as such, I found some parts of the story truly devastating. At one point, I had to stop reading and have a full-on cry, because my Kindle screen was starting to look like a window covered in raindrops.

If you’re looking for a compelling story, a strange/creepy setting, believable (and lovable characters), and a story to get you thinking about what it really means to be alive, I cannot recommend this book enough! One of my favourite reads this year.


‘The Accident Season’ by Moira Fowley-Doyle is my favourite kind of creepy. Here’s why:

I lost sleep for this book, and it was totally worth it 🙂

the accident seasonThe Accident Season. Moira Fowley-Doyle. Corgi Childrens. July 2015.

It’s the accident season, the same time every year. Bones break, skin tears, bruises bloom.

The accident season has been part of seventeen-year-old Cara’s life for as long as she can remember: a month of mysterious injuries and tragedies, which casts a constant shadow over Cara and her family.

This year, the accident season will break more than just bones. Because Cara is starting to ask questions – and all her family’s secrets will rise to the surface.

Intoxicating, devastating, dark and intense – the accident season is here.

I don’t think I can say too much about this story without getting spoilery – the less you know, the more you can enjoy the creeping sense of I-need-all-the-lights-on-because-nothing-around-me-looks-familiar-anymore.

Each October, Cara Morris’s family bubblewrap every sharp edge in their house, and swaddle their bodes in layer upon layer of protective clothing, as they all become prey to something they call ‘The Accident Season’ – a month in every year where at least one family member will get hurt every day. Their accidents can range from the painful but fairly harmless (like bashing into the corner of a table), to the deadly. And strange things are happening this accident season, because the cards have predicted that this will be one of the worst yet. Stranger still, Cara’s childhood friend Elsie has mysteriously disappeared, seemingly leaving so little of an impression on those around her, that nobody but Cara and her friend Bea have noticed that she’s gone…

I’m a huge fan of creepy books full of question marks, and as such I inhale a helluvalot of them. However, straight-up crime/thriller has lost its ability to give me the shivers, because it’s so often predictable. This novel is neither genre, and certainly isn’t predictable. Instead, The Accident Season is my favourite kind of creepy – everything is a little surreal and uncanny, and the sense of strangeness intensifies throughout the story (Why are all these weird things happening, and why isn’t everyone taking them as seriously as the Morris family?). The twists and turns are extremely well hidden and have that rare power to genuinely shock/break your heart into little pieces. The Accident Season is a highly original, damned-mysterious, surreal (contemporary yet sprinkled with magical realism) novel, which reads like a dark fairytale, and managed to creep me into reading late into the night to finish it.

The writing is stunning (I am actually envious). Cara’s narrative voice is concise yet poetic – every sentence is loaded with menace, and feels like black water gradually creeping into your veins. The Irish setting (with all of the local myth and folklore it brings), and the autumnal weather contribute to this. I love writing that can make ordinary things like the way light falls through a window seem sinister, and Moira Fowley-Doyle is fantastic at this, because it’s subtle, and not at all gothically OTT.

I loved all of the characters, in particular Cara and her best friend Bea. Bea is a hugely memorable character – she reads tarot cards, tells a cracking yarn, and is the best kind of friend – she believes in the Morris family’s unlikely predicament whole-heartedly, and throws herself into Cara’s search for Elsie when nobody else seems to care, purely because she can see it matters to Cara, and so believes in its importance. I love stories which portray female friendship in this way – as an important part of your life and a partnership (not a rivalry, as I’ve seen in so many other stories).

Something else I really enjoyed was the family dynamic at the heart of the story. The accident season brings the Morris family closer together because it unites them in a secret and gives them something to nervously laugh about. Yet, at the same time, there is a certain distance between them – they are all keeping secrets from one another, and there is always an edge to camaraderie, because there’s always something lurking beneath the surface.

This was a mesmerising story, and I became so obsessed by it that I finished it in one sitting. If you like dark tales full of secrets, which make you question what is and isn’t real near-constantly, please check this out. You won’t regret it (unless you have somewhere to be really early the next morning after staying up all night reading, of course! :P)


If you loved Every Day by David Levithan, here’s why you need to get your hands on a copy of Another Day…

My review of Another Day by David Levithan, which I bought in a fit of squealy excitement from the Electric Monkey stand at YALC 2015.

anotherday_zpsmfbbgdntAnother Day. David Levithan. Electric Monkey. July 2015.

Companion novel to the internationally acclaimed bestselling title Every Day.

Every day is the same for Rhiannon. She has convinced herself that she deserves her distant, moody boyfriend, Justin. She knows the rules: Don’t be needy. Avoid upsetting him. Never get your hopes up.

Then, out of the blue, they share a perfect day together – perfect, that is, until Justin doesn’t remember anything about it. Confused, and yearning for another day as great as that one, Rhiannon starts to question everything. And that’s when a stranger tells her that the Justin she spent that time with … wasn’t Justin at all.

I was ridiculously excited to read this novel, as I was a huge fan of Every Day. This is a companion story – it’s not a sequel as such, but instead gives the events of Every Day told through the perspective of Rhiannon.

If you haven’t read Every Day, I won’t spoil the story, but the premise is that the main character, A, wakes up in a different person’s body every day. The body always belongs to somebody the same age as A, but the person can be literally anyone – any gender, any race, any sexuality, any body type. One day, A wakes up in the body of a boy called Justin. He forms a connection with Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon, after spending the day with her, and decides that he needs to see her again, in whatever way he can.

Every Day for me was an absorbing read – I loved the concept, and I loved the fact that we got to see the world through so many different heads, as A learns a lot about perspective and others by inhabiting all kinds of people. Also, I’m a sucker for books that make me cry, and I soggy-fied my library copy with tears at the ending of this one, big time.

As soon as I saw that there was going to be another book set within the world of this story, I knew I had to read it. Rhiannon as a character in Every Day wasn’t a huge question mark – I did feel she was pretty open and honest about her feelings towards A and his situation – but I still felt that exploring her perspective could be intriguing. After all, Every Day raised some interesting questions around Rhiannon’s experience: What would it be like, to have a relationship with someone who’s appearance changes every day? Although we fall for the person inside when we love, are looks just as big a part of the whole experience? And what exactly are we, if we’re not just the body we see before us in the mirror every day?

These ideas are explored more deeply in Another Day, and I think that was my favourite thing about this story. It really makes you think – in fact, it makes your head reel a whole lot, as these are fundamental questions about human existence, and this book will undoubtedly make you question your own.

One passage in particular stood out for me, in which Rhiannon compares the body to a car, and the person inside to a driver. I started feeling a bit spacey when I was reading this, and becoming hyper-aware of the fact that I have a body, but I don’t always feel connected to it completely – I’m operating it, and I own it, but it isn’t necessarily ‘me’. I’m not always certain as to whether I believe in souls, but I can relate to the fact that our appearances can never hope to show people the truth of who we are inside.

There are some interesting insights into Rhiannon’s relationship with Justin in Another Day. Justin comes across as a douchebag here, as he does in Every Day, but he does seem a more complex character than expected, and we have glimpses of the person he could be if he wasn’t so messed up. There’s a nice (and hilarious) scene where he takes Rhiannon to buy some cookies from a neighbourhood Girlscout, who’s running a pretty savvy operation, and it’s one of my favourites in the book. Another Day helped me to see why Rhiannon would stay with someone like Justin too, and how her relationship with him seems to define and consume her to begin with. In the words of Charlie from Perks of Being a Wallflower, “We accept the love we think we deserve”, and this is so true of Rhiannon. Meeting A makes Rhiannon slowly start to realise this, and I really enjoyed her character development throughout the story, as she beings to re-define and value herself on her own terms.

With regards to the plot, Another Day is essentially a re-telling of Every Day – I would definitely recommend this to fans of the first book, but would not suggest re-reading Every Day beforehand, because of the similarities. However, the insights into Rhiannon’s head and how she’s feeling about this hella-crazy, confusing, but ultimately life-changing-for-the-better set of circumstances make this story absolutely worth reading, and the ending is just as emotionally heart-rending as Every Day’s. I’d love to find out what happens next, and desperately hope David Levithan writes a sequel one day!


Solitaire by Alice Oseman – My first ever book review, inspired by the amazing book-bloggers at YALC 2015, and a damn good story :)

DISCLAIMER: I’m new to this, so if this is in any way spoilery, I’m really sorry! I tried my best not to be.

solitaireSolitaire. Alice Oseman. Harper Collins Children’s Books. July 2014.

My name is Tori Spring. I like to sleep and I like to blog. Last year – before all that stuff with Charlie and before I had to face the harsh realities of A-Levels and university applications and the fact that one day I really will have to start talking to people – I had friends. Things were very different, I guess, but that’s all over now.

Now there’s Solitaire. And Michael Holden.

I don’t know what Solitaire are trying to do, and I don’t care about Michael Holden.
I really don’t.

Soooo, first thing’s first: I adored Alice Oseman’s debut novel. Solitaire was like a 400 page journey into the murky depths of my own teenage soul! In short, I am not sure whether I devoured it, or it devoured me…

Solitaire is the story of Tori Spring, chronic pessimist, blogger and sleeper, who is shaken awake when a group of anonymous school pranksters, the mysterious  ‘Solitaire’, start messing with the order of things, just when Tori thinks she’s got everything sussed, and a potential new friend (in the form of Michael Holden, figure-skater and all-round adorable human being) starts popping up all over the place, when all Tori wants to do is get back into bed with some diet lemonade and not talk to anyone for a while.

Tori is flailing around in her own head, not really sure what the point of anything is, and in her snarky, but painfully real, own voice, she analyses her disintegrating friendships with purple-haired Becky and childhood-friend-turned-awkward-hipster Lucas, her worries over her brother Charlie, her blossoming friendship/I-want-to-push-you-away-ship with Michael Holden, and her growing confusion over who the frick and why the heck are Solitaire (and does she actually even care?)

I connected with Tori on many levels. At 17, I WAS her – I spent a lot of time in the mole-hole of my own head, wanted to marry my bed, and frequently felt disengaged from the world and the people around me (with some very important exceptions!)

Something that really resonated with me is that Tori is constantly questioning the realism of everything; Is this person fake? Does anyone really care? Is Pride and Prejudice just a load of old bullshit? Have all teenage hipsters REALLY read The Catcher in the Rye?

We SHOULD be asking these questions, and we shouldn’t stop, even when we cease to be a teen.

I also found it incredibly refreshing to read a novel where the main character is an ardent book-hater – Tori HATES literature with a passion, despite having chosen to study it for A-Level. One of my favourite sentences comes from Tori’s P&P essay:

“I am sorry, Mr Kent, but I have not read Pride and Prejudice. I disagreed with the very first sentence and that was enough for me.”

I am so used to reading the same old struggles-of-an-angsty-bookworm narrative in contemporary YA, and I’m sure it’s because all authors are by nature book-inhalers themselves, but it’s interesting to explore POVs that are completely different to your own, so I really appreciated this in Tori’s story.

Warning, VAGUELY SPOILER BIT COMING UP… (or maybe I’m just being super paranoid, in which case don’t listen to me)

By far my favourite thing about Solitaire was every scene Michael Holden made an appearance, with his maniacal grin and limitless curiosity. To begin with, Tori wouldn’t give him the time of day, or even think of him as a real person, and I did start to wonder why he wouldn’t give up trying to friendship-woo her, when she was so damn mean to him. But the more I read, the more I realised his reaching out to her was just as much about him needing a friend, as it was about trying to save her. Both Michael and Tori struggle to connect with other people, which is precisely the reason it’s so important for them to make that connection with each other.

The front cover of Solitaire claims ‘This is not a love story’, and I’m not sure I’d agree with that statement, but it’s also about so much more. It’s about making sense of the shittiness of growing up, about getting your head around other people and what they do, and it’s also, quite clearly, about mental health. Tori is not ‘diagnosed’ with anything, and her mental health is not talked about explicitly, but it’s not hard to see that there’s something not quite right in Tori’s head, and the sense of this only deepens throughout the novel. But that’s what’s so great about it – there are no labels put on how she’s feeling, and that’s what makes it so easy to relate to – we’ve all felt like this at some point in our lives, and we don’t have to define ourselves to appreciate that.

I loved everything about this story, and it’s just as relevant to me at 24 as it would have been at 17. Reeeead it, people 🙂