The Mud and Stars Book Blog

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

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

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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

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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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The Spring has Sprung Book Tag

Hello, lovely bookish people! 

Today I thought I would have a go at the ‘Spring has Sprung’ Book Tag, which was created by The Naughty Librarian.

It doesn’t look much like spring outside my window right now, so here are some pictures of some lovely spring flowers to get us all in a sunny mood (featuring my stuffed pig, ‘Piggly Puff’: he has his own Instagram account and has more followers than this blog!!!)

Hope these cute pictures brought you some warm fuzzies on this cold, un-springlike day!

Without further ado, here are my answers to the tag. If you would like to participate too, consider yourself tagged! 🙂


1) Flowers: All the flowers we remember are blooming again. Pick a book that’s a fresh take on a retelling.

Okay, so this is a weak start, but I’m struggling to come up with an answer for this question. I very rarely read re-tellings any more, simply BECAUSE they don’t feel fresh to me.

studyincharl

It’s not strictly a retelling, and I haven’t actually read it yet, but I’ve got A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro on my shelf, and I’m so excited to get to that! It’s the start of a murder mystery series which follows the descendants of Sherlock and Watson at boarding school! Sounds like a unique spin on the original stories, and exactly my kind of book.


2) Mini Eggs: Obviously the superior springtime candy of choice. Pick a book that you consider to be a sweet treat.

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Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch was a really cute and fluffy treat (despite having some sad parts to it). The romance was adorable, the setting (Tuscany, Italy) was beautiful, and the storyline of the main character getting to know her estranged father melted my heart too. It really was the novel equivalent of eating a super sweet and yummy ice cream on a sunny day, and it filled me with joy.


3) Allergies: Seasonal allergies often make your eyes water. Pick a book that made you cry.

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All of the books in The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. I will never get over the fate of a certain character in this series. I have honestly never cried so much whilst reading a book as I did during this one scene. The books follow a boy named Todd in a dystopian world where all the women have disappeared, and all the men can hear each other’s thoughts. Then, one day, Todd stumbles across a girl…


4) Spring Cleaning: Out with the old and in with the new. Pick a book to unhaul.

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I’m thinking of unhauling The Cruel Prince and The Wicked King by Holly Black. I picked up the sequel for 50p in the charity shop before I’d read the first one, and now I’ve read it I’m not sure I can be bothered to continue with the series. I gave it 3 stars and found it quite forgettable, plus I only like a couple of the characters, and Prince Cardan definitely isn’t one of them! I sort of like Jude, but not enough to fall in love with this series.


5) Spring Break: It’s the perfect time for an adventure. Pick a book involving a road trip.

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I loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. Set in the 1700s, the story follows Monty, Felicity and Percy as their Grand Tour across Europe goes wildly awry. This book is full of crazy escapades, hilarity, and diverse, loveable characters. It’s so fast paced for historical fiction, and I loved every unexpected twist and turn of this adventure.


6) Mating Season: It’s that time of year in the animal kingdom to make some babies. Pick a book with some smutty delights.

Smut-AMAZON-Copy

It’s been a while since I read it, but I really loved Smut by Karina Halle. It’s a hate-to-love romance about a guy and a girl who are paired up for a project in their college creative writing class. They decide to write an erotic novel together to make some money, and the tension between them starts to turn into something a little less fighty, and a lot more makey-outy.


7) Rainbows: Spring is made of rainbows! Pick a book featuring LGBTQ+ character(s).

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I feel like I mention this book all the time, but my favourite LGBTQ+ book is Know Not Why by Hannah Johnson. It’s so pure and sweet and fluffy and lovely. It’s set in an arts and crafts store, the dialogue is really witty and fun, the characters are a joy to read, and the romance is adorable. It has some really lovely and positive coming-out scenes too, which I think is important to see in books. This novel really is one of my favourites of all time, I can’t recommend it enough.


8) Spring Awakening: An amazing musical even though it’s filled with completely dysfunctional characters. Pick a book that’s also filled with completely dysfunctional characters.

monsterscover

I actually just wrote about this book in my last post, but it fits perfectly for this question – Monsters by Emerald Fennell. This is basically about two 12 year olds who are obsessed with murder. At least one of them is a sociopath. The other comes from a very dysfunctional and sad family background. This is such a well-written, character-driven book, and one of the best I’ve read this year.


9) In like a lion, out like a lamb: Pick a book series that didn’t get better as it progressed.

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I’m sure this is an unpopular opinion, but I feel like the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor progressively deteriorated. I really loved the first book, but I felt like the second and third books dragged, and they were so utterly bleak and harrowing, I felt very little joy whilst reading them. The only thing I ended up liking about them were any scenes featuring Zuzana and Mik, because they are just the best, most hilarious and adorable side characters of all time.


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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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.

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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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Cute YA contemporary romance set in Tokyo! ‘Seven Days of You’ by Cecilia Vinesse

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Seven Days of You. Cecilia Vinesse. Little Brown. March 2017.

It’s Sophia’s last week in Tokyo, and she’s going to make it count…

Sophia has spent her life ping-ponging between different countries and schools, so, in theory, saying goodbye should be easy. But now she’s leaving Tokyo – the place that finally felt like home. The only way she can get through this is to make her final week perfect.

Then Jamie Foster-Collins shows up, just in time to ruin everything. Jamie and Sophia used to be friends . . . and his return stirs up feelings she thought she’d forgotten.

Suddenly, hours and minutes become meaningless. Only time spent together, exploring the hidden streets of the city they love, is real.


I have to admit that I would never normally pick up a book that was set over a span of seven days, particularly a romance. I always feel like love stories set within a short space of time are rushed, and don’t dive deep enough into the emotions. And of course, said premises usually mean insta-love. These reservations aside, I decided to pick this one up because it was set in Tokyo (and I’ve always wanted to visit Tokyo), and it had a glowing endorsement from Becky Albertalli on the back cover (whom I love and adore).

I’m pleased to say that my reservations were unfounded. The romance didn’t feel rushed at all because there was plenty of history between the two characters, and despite the short amount of time spent together in this novel, I fully believed in their feelings for each other, and felt the heartbreak of the impossible situation they found themselves in. This book deals with lots of messy emotions between friends, love interests, and families, and I was very impressed with how much was covered in such a short space of time. In particular, I really enjoyed the family dynamics in this story; the strained relationship between Sophia and her sister Alison underwent some very satisfying development, and the scenes between these two sisters ended up being one of my favourite aspects of the novel. SISTERS FTW.

Moving on to love interests, Jamie was such an adorable fluffy bunny, and was definitely my favourite character in the novel. I just wanted to cuddle the crap out of him. I have to say that it took me longer to warm to Sophia because she was so mean to Jamie at times, and also rather unfair to Caroline (a girl who is dating David, her friend, and the guy she has a crush on at the beginning of the story).  However, Sophia grew on me throughout the novel, and I came to understand that her behaviour stemmed from some seriously mixed up emotions over leaving the place she calls home, trying to work out where in the world she belongs, and saying goodbye to the people she loves. By the end, I really appreciated the fact that Sophia was a flawed character who had a lot going on in her head, and she felt like a more realistic, relatable person because of it.

I found Sophia’s friends, David and Mika quite unlikeable to begin with. David, whom Sophia has been crushing on for a while, was very arrogant, a bit of a playboy/user of girls, and I couldn’t understand what she saw in him, despite his flirty charm. Mika irritated me because she was so sarcastic, told people to shut up all the time (and not in a playful way), and could be pretty unapologetically mean and blasé. By the end of the book, my opinion about David hadn’t changed much, but I liked Mika a little more, and appreciated the friendship between her and Sophia. I wasn’t feeling those girl power vibes between them to begin with, but I could see a hint of them by the final page.

What I loved most about this novel was undoubtedly the setting. I loved wandering around Tokyo with the characters, exploring the big tourist destinations like the Meiji Shrine and the Imperial Palace, but also the little, lesser known streets with their ramen shops, karaoke clubs, and konbinis (basically Japanese convenience stores full of amazing snacks I need in my mouth like now.) I adored all of the descriptions of food (because I LIVE for food), but I also really fell in love with the portrayal of the city at night and all those twinkling neon lights. There is something surreal about cities after dark, and although this book is a contemporary, the dreamy way the city streets at night were described brought so much magic to the story. I found myself completely transported from my living room in London to the heart of bustling Tokyo.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. Although the characters behaved in ways which annoyed me at times (I wanted to slap each and every one of them at some point), I found them to be realistic, believable people BECAUSE they messed up now and again. This story was a fascinating exploration of what it means to belong somewhere, a love story which made me happy-squeal, and a stunning depiction of a city I am DYING to visit.

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Mini reviews: “This Is What Happy Looks Like” by Jennifer E. Smith, and “Ink” by Alice Broadway

This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E. Smith

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If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

It’s June – seventeen-year-old Ellie O’Neill’s least favourite time of year. Her tiny hometown is annually invaded by tourists, and this year there’s the added inconvenience of a film crew. Even the arrival of Hollywood heartthrob Graham Larkin can’t lift her mood.

But there is something making Ellie very happy. Ever since an email was accidentally sent to her a few months ago, she’s been corresponding with a mysterious stranger, the two of them sharing their hopes and fears. Their developing relationship is not without its secrets though – there’s the truth about Ellie’s past… and her pen pal’s real identity. When they finally meet in person, things are destined to get much more complicated. Can two people, worlds apart but brought together by chance, make it against all the odds?

My rating: 3.5 stars

This book was a cute, quick read and the perfect summer escapism story. It’s pretty grey and grim weather in the UK right now, so it was lovely to spend a few hours in a small, sunny town in Maine getting away from it all.

I mainly purchased this book because I read the first few pages in the shop and discovered that the love interest, Graham, had a pet pig. A pet pig is the thing I want most out of life, but my boyfriend is not at all keen on the idea, so for now I’ll just have to live vicariously through Graham. I very much enjoyed all of the Graham’s-pig related anecdotes; although they weren’t the biggest part of the story, they were my favourite part of it.

The romance between Ellie and Graham was gentle and sweet. I wasn’t overwhelmed by feelings and chemistry because it happened fairly quickly, but I enjoyed reading all of the email interactions between them, and their banter about whether the ‘whoopie pie’, the supposed ‘state treat’ of Maine, actually existed. Graham’s determination to find somewhere that sold whoopie pies in Maine was a force to be reckoned with.

Ellie and Graham were both interesting characters. Reading Graham’s chapters left me wanting to give him a big hug. Sure, he was a famous movie star – theoretically he had it pretty good… But delving into Graham’s perspective reinforced what I already suspected: being famous would really suck. The thing which had me feeling most sorry for Graham was the way his family treated him differently from how they had before he became a star. Graham just wanted people to treat him like an ordinary person, but even his parents acted awkwardly around him. Poor baby.

Ellie had an interesting family background, and it was fascinating to see how secrets from her past impacted her relationship with Graham. I also appreciated how selfless Ellie was when considering their relationship and its consequences. She thought about how the press attention would impact her family, and treated her own feelings as secondary. But of course, I was rooting for her to get together with Graham anyway!

All in all, I really enjoyed this novel. It didn’t wow me, but it was a fun read that made me smile and took me away from rainy reality for a while. I’m glad I picked it up!


Ink (Skin Books #1) by Alice Broadway

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In Saintstone, every action, every deed, every significant moment is tattooed on your skin for ever. When Leora’s father dies, she is determined to see her father remembered forever. She knows he deserves to have all his tattoos removed and made into a Skin Book to stand as a record of his good life. But when she discovers that his ink has been edited and his book is incomplete, she wonders whether she ever knew him at all…

My rating: 3.75 stars

Ink is an underrated book – I haven’t heard anybody talking about it in the bookish community, but I would love for more people to read it. I picked this book up at YALC because a) the cover is SO gorgeous and b) the author spoke on her panel about writing this book whilst she had severe depression, and I thought that was such an incredible, brave thing to do, and an amazing achievement. It inspired me so much to get back into writing.

I’m really glad I bought this book, despite knowing very little about it beforehand, because I thoroughly enjoyed it. The writing was beautiful and fairytale-like, without being flowery. The plot wasn’t packed with action, yet the book felt pacey – the story flowed very smoothly, and the short chapters had me whizzing through the book. I almost want to go back and re-read it, because I went through it really quickly, and didn’t savour as many of the details as I would have liked. The way this book is written also feels very cosy – it’s the kind of book which would be perfect to read in Autumn, curled up in a blanket with a hot chocolate.

My favourite aspect of this novel was the worldbuilding. Although the plot itself was quite standard dystopian, and it didn’t throw all that many surprises my way, the society of Saintstone felt very unique, and the concept was woven so perfectly into every aspect of life within that society. I particularly enjoyed the use of the myths and fairytales which were scattered throughout the novel; these stories were the foundations of the society and its beliefs, and it was so interesting to see how those in power used stories, which they insisted were literally true, to strengthen their agenda.

I loved all of the scenes in the tattoo shop (or the ‘inker’s’ as it is referred to in this story) where Leora begins her first work placement. It was fascinating to read about all of the different marks people asked for, and the meanings behind them. I don’t have any tattoos myself, but I like learning the stories behind other people’s, and I loved that this book explored the idea of how much we can read into another person from the marks on their skin. Tattoos are a big part of many people’s identities, yet they cannot possibly reveal every little detail of a personality, and I liked the way that Leora, who has always believed she can read people, starts to question whether she truly knows the people in her life after all.

The reason this book just missed out on a 4 star rating was because I didn’t feel like the characters were super-distinctive. The society of Saintstone itself feels like the main character in this story, and the other characters feel like they are there to tell Saintsone’s story, if that makes sense. There was also a romantic subplot in this book which I felt was unnecessary. It’s such a small part of the story, however, that it didn’t bother me all that much.

I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a dystopian with a fresh concept, strong worldbuilding, and beautiful writing. Pick it up and let me know what you think!

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The most important book you will read this year: ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas

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The Hate U Give. Angie Thomas. Walker Books. April 2017.

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. 


I finished The Hate U Give this afternoon, and whilst I have a bunch of other reviews waiting to be posted, I felt I wanted to post this one straight away, in light of what happened in Charlottesville last weekend. Books like this one are more important than ever at a time when hateful voices are trying to shout the loudest. Let’s not let them. Let’s listen to voices like Angie Thomas’s instead. And let’s shout louder.

The Hate U Give is an amazing book, and I’m struggling to covey just how powerful it actually was in my own words. This book deserves every word of praise it has received and then some. I firmly believe it should be required reading for all of humankind.

This is a novel about racism and hatred, but it’s also so much more than that. Overwhelmingly this is a novel about love and hope. For every act of racism in this novel there is an act of bravery, and for every feeling of hopelessness that things will never change, there is an encouragement to speak up anyway. Starr is an inspirational main character, and her love for her best friend Khalil, and her determination to show the world who he truly was (rather than let him be remembered as the criminal the police and media are portraying him to be), were so incredibly powerful and moving. There is a quote in this story, which is repeated on the final page of the novel, that sums up the overall message of this book perfectly: “Sometimes you can do everything right and things will still go wrong. The key is to never stop doing right.” Starr completely embodies that message, speaking out even though she feels afraid, and even when everything seems to be against her; I had so much admiration and respect for her.

All of the characters in this novel are well drawn and memorable, because Angie Thomas is, quite simply, a fantastic writer. Starr’s voice is distinctive – you really feel like she is speaking directly to you – and all of the other characters are written with such depth, compassion, and humour that they feel like real people. I loved how close-knit Starr’s family were, and I loved the banter between them, which constantly had me chuckling. I think they may be one of my favourite fictional families of all time. I loved how real they were; they weren’t perfect, and they had been through some messy situations together, but the pure love they showed for each other in every scene melted my heart. I particularly loved Starr’s parents, and there is an amazing scene where Starr is watching them being cute together, and comments that her parents are her ‘OTP’, which is one of my favourites in the book. How adorable is that?

The character I liked least in this novel was Starr’s friend from school, Hailey. Hailey was so ignorant and insensitive, and if she wasn’t a character in this book, she’s exactly the kind of person I think would benefit from reading it, and educating herself. Hailey doesn’t consider herself a racist, but some of her actions, whether intended or not, are racist. I really hated Hailey’s unwillingness to consider her behaviour from Starr’s perspective, and listen to what she had to say. At the same time, I really LOVED that Starr called her out for her racism anyway, regardless of whether she could be confident it would sink in.

One of the things I found most interesting about this novel was the way Starr acted differently at her predominantly white school than she did with her family, or other people of colour. Starr changed the way she spoke, and hid huge parts of herself from the people she went to school with, including from her boyfriend, Chris, who was white. It was so heartbreaking that Starr felt she couldn’t be completely herself, because she was afraid she would be dismissed as the ‘girl from the hood’, and it was eye-opening to read from her perspective. It was wonderful to see Starr slowly starting to share parts of herself, and her life, with Chris, and her other friends, as her story developed, gradually learning to accept and love the place she comes from, despite its problems.

Garden Heights, the neighbourhood where Starr lives, was so well described, and had so much personality that it almost felt like a character in its own right. Despite the crime, poverty, and gangs fighting territory wars, there were so many wonderful things about Starr’s neighbourhood too, which Starr gradually comes to recognise as the story progresses; the sense of community, of family, and of neighbours who will always have each other’s backs and help each other out. Starr’s own father, Big Mav, is a perfect example of this; as an ex gang member, he is determined to help younger members of the community, and stop them from falling into the life of crime he was once a part of. Mav was such a caring, selfless, brave person, a real role model, and despite not being perfect, he was easily one of my favourite characters in the story.

Of course, this book had some devastating scenes, and I can’t write this review without mentioning them, although it’s very difficult to think about them, because they were so upsetting to read. The scene where Khalil is shot was abrupt, brutal, and felt like a punch in the stomach. Possibly the most difficult thing about this scene, however, was the reality of it. What happened to Khalil has happened to so many black people (predominantly young men) in America (and for all I know, other countries too, but American police brutality against black people is what I have heard most about in recent years). The fact that these murders of unarmed people, who are doing nothing wrong, happen in real life makes me sick, and the fact that the perpetrators nearly always get away with it, and are not charged with murder, turns my stomach.

The people who attempt to justify these murders by painting the victims as criminals, drug dealers, etc. (which is what happens with Khalil’s murder in this story) are also sickening to me. There’s a scene where Starr is being questioned about what happened, and, in her narrative, she tells us: “I didn’t know a dead person could be charged in his own murder, you know?” This really struck a cord with me; Starr is treated as if she and Khalil are the ones on trial, rather than the cop who shot Khalil, and this was, sadly, the perfect way to demonstrate how institutional racism works. Now that I have read this book, I want to do more research into institutional racism, and police brutality, because it has made me want to take action. It has lit a fire in me, as I am sure it has done in many other people.

I thought I knew what racism was before I read this story, but I actually came away with a sense of my own ignorance, and I think that’s why books like this one are so important. We need to learn by listening to the voices of those who have experienced racism firsthand, and we can always learn more. Voices like Starr’s, like Angie Thomas’s, are so important, and the time is NOW, considering we have white supremacist marches going on in America, and a white supremacist in the White House. We ALL need to speak out against this.

The Hate U Give really opened my eyes to so many things I had never thought about before, and I’m so grateful that this book exists. Despite the horror of what happens to Khalil in this story, and the insensitive, racist views of some characters, this book is not without hope, and it was thoroughly compelling to read. It is full of loveable characters, humour, and, most importantly, encouragement, inspiration, and love. This book had a huge impact on me, and I think it is impossible to read this book and come away wanting to stay silent. 5 stars for this incredible book. Please, please pick it up if you haven’t already.

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Most-exciting-book-I’ve-read-this-year alert! ‘Nemesis’ by Brendan Reichs

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Nemesis (Project Nemesis #1). Brendan Reichs. Macmillan Children’s Books. July 2017.

It’s been happening since Min was eight. Every two years, on her birthday, the same man finds her and murders her in cold blood. But hours later she wakes up in a clearing just outside her hometown – alone, unhurt, and with all evidence of the crime erased.

Across the valley, Noah just wants to be like everyone else. But he’s not. Nightmares of murder and death plague him too, though he does his best to hide the signs.

As the world around them begins to spiral towards panic and destruction, the two troubled teens discover that people have been lying to them their whole lives…


I picked this book up at YALC, knowing very little about it, and I’m SO glad I stumbled upon it; this book was SO DAMN EXCITING! The concept intrigued me because it’s unlike anything I’ve read before, but that concept was only the starting point for a story which gradually became bigger and bigger, twistier and twistier. This book contained everything I want in a sci-fi thriller: conspiracy, action, shady behaviour, murder, unlikely alliances, and total chaos. The back cover compares Nemesis to The Maze Runner and The 100, but I’d add in a dash of Stranger Things and a sprinkle of Lord of the Flies too. Despite having echoes of these other stories (all of which I, incidentally, love) the plot was original and fascinating, I had no idea who to trust (if anybody), and it wasn’t predictable in any way.

The novel opens with the premise of these two characters who have had terrifying things happening to them since childhood that they don’t know how to explain to anyone else. This is intriguing enough in itself, however the premise is made all the more interesting by the fact that the strange things happening to these two teenagers are set against the backdrop of an impending global catastrophe; the whole world is on tenterhooks waiting to hear from the President of the USA as to whether the Anvil currently on a collision course with Earth will hit or miss.

Sidenote: this book is set in September of this year, and the President of the United States of America is referred to as ‘she’. I got a huge kick out of this.

It was so interesting to see how different people in the town behaved in response to the threat of the Anvil, especially because Min and Noah, our main characters, were far more concerned with the seemingly ‘smaller’ things which were affecting them personally (like, yknow, surviving being murdered in cold blood every two years, nothing major…)

Both Noah and Min were fascinating to me. Min was probably my favourite of the two characters, but Noah was the more complex. Min was determined, rebellious and somebody with a very black and white sense of justice. If she saw something wrong, she would call it out straight away, and defend whoever needed defending in that situation, screw the consequences. As you can imagine, I adored her.

Noah, on the other hand, was more concerned with fitting in, and often stayed silent and accepting when bad things happened. I think this was partly to do with the friendships in each of these characters’ lives. Min had a fiercely loyal friend in Tack, a boy from her trailer park she’d known since childhood, whereas Noah was on the outer edges of the popular crowd, ‘friends’ whom he clearly didn’t trust, and whose mutual affection he was never sure of. With such different relationships in their lives, Min was the more open and outspoken character (as she always had someone to back her up and support her no matter what) and Noah was the quieter, more submissive character (scared to go against his friends, fearing their rejection, even if he disagreed with the way they were acting). Although I admired Min’s bravery, I related more to the way Noah behaved. He was constantly trying to hide his anxieties, and make life less difficult for himself. I think that’s what made his eventual character development within the story so satisfying.

Sidenote: Tack was undoubtedly my favourite character over both of them. His sarcastic, quippy commentary about literally everything had me smiling throughout. He was brilliant; I wanted him to be MY best friend.

The best thing about this novel for me was the plotting. There was so much mystery in the story, and it developed at the perfect pace. I was amazed by the scale of this book, and I loved how something which started off as small-town weirdness gradually spiralled into something global which affected more people than I could ever have imagined. Although there was never any question that something strange was going on in Min and Noah’s town, it was never obvious WHY. The ‘why’ was the thing that kept me turning the pages so rapidly as Min and Noah attempted to piece the puzzle together, and figure out what the hell was happening to them

Around the ¾ mark, this book changed direction in the most exciting way, and I was left reeling. Something huge happens, which affects so many of the characters, and it was so interesting to see how different groups of people reacted to this event. It brought out the best in some characters, but the very, very worst in others. In the final quarter of the book, so many shocking things happened, and I felt like every page was a surprise – some of which were more brutal than others. The ending gave me enough information to satisfy my craving for answers, but left enough unanswered questions to leave me desperate to read the sequel. I NEED THE NEXT BOOK, LIKE, YESTERDAY.

All in all, I highly recommend this book! It was so, so addictive and I raced through it, desperate to find out what was going to happen next. I haven’t heard much hype about this book, but it thoroughly deserves some, so please go out and buy it, lovely people! I hope you’re reading experience will be as enjoyable and edge-of-seat as mine was.

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The Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag 2017

Hello everybody! I hope you’re doing well. Today I thought I’d do the Mid Year Freak Out Book Tag, because I’ve had so much fun doing this tag in previous years.

If you’ve done this tag recently, let me know down below, as I’d love to see all of your answers, and find some more books to add to my TBR. (I’m not supposed to be buying books right now, but w/e).

Before I get started, I just wanted to let you guys know that The Mud and Stars Book Blog officially turns TWO YEAR’S OLD this week! Thank you so much to everyone in the book-blogging community for your support and general awesomeness over the past two years. I love you guys so much, and I couldn’t have made it this far without you.

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Without further ado, here are my answers to the tag…


Best Book You’ve Read Yet in 2017

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My favourite book of 2017 so far has been Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. This book was so well written, so hilarious, and so deeply moving. Eleanor was such a memorable character, and reading from her perspective was a delight. This book completely blew me away and I can’t believe it’s a debut! You can read my review here.


Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far in 2017

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Hands down this has to be Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. The ending may have ripped my still-beating heart out of my chest, causing a great big bloody mess, and I may be ever-so-slightly pissed off that I have to wait until 2019 to find out what happens next, but this book wowed me on so many levels. It’s one of the best books Cassandra Clare has ever written. My full review can be found here.


New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To

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The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I’ve heard so many amazing things about this book, and the subject matter (racism and police brutality) is so important and relevant. It’s one of those books which everybody should read, and now I finally have a copy, that’s exactly what I’m going to do, asap.


Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year

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I was going to say The Treatment by C.L. Taylor for this question,  which comes out in October, but I managed to land an ARC of this book at YALC, so THE WAIT IS OVER (for me). I am SO excited to read this book. I love C.L. Taylor’s adult thrillers, so imagine my delight in finding out she has written a YA novel about a creepy reform school brainwashing its students. SO DOWN.


Biggest Disappointment

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After Me Comes The Flood by Sarah Perry. The writing in this book was beautiful, but the plot was such a let-down. When I bought this book, I thought it sounded AMAZING and creepy and intriguing. The premise is that a man’s car breaks down in the middle of nowhere… he goes in search of help, and stumbles across a house. When he knocks at the door, he finds that the strange people who live there all know his name, and have been waiting for him… WHAT A CONCEPT, RIGHT?

Unfortunately, instead of something sinister and cool, the whole thing ends up being a coincidence caused by their actual expected guest having a similar name. The rest of the book is very slice of life, not much happens, and the ending had very little impact on me (in fact, I can’t even remember how it ended.) Basically, yawn.


Biggest Surprise

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne. I don’t know why, but I’m always surprised by how much I enjoy romance books. I only ever reach for them when I’m so tired my brain is mush, and I just want something fluffy to escape reality with. I never expect to be bowled away by books like this one, but I ended up giving The Hating Game four stars. I loved the characters, the publishing house setting, the enemies-to-lovers romance, and the unbearable sexual tension. UGH, SO GOOD.


Favourite New Author

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Catherine Doyle. I binge-read her Blood for Blood trilogy (YA mafia romance, FYI) and I completely fell in love with it. I loved her writing style, her characters, ALL THE DRAMA AND ACTION AND DARKNESS, and, most importantly, the swoony, swoony romance. Highly recommend this trilogy if you’re looking for some excitement. You can read my mini review of the first book here.


Newest Fictional Crush

That would have to be Luca from the Blood for Blood trilogy. He’s the (stunningly attractive) underboss of a mafia clan, but deep down, he hates his family’s way of life, and just wants to be good. No YOU’RE lustfully fanning yourself at the thought of him!

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Newest Favourite Character

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Eleanor Oliphant; a lonely person, a bit of an oddball, and utterly, utterly herself. Her voice was so distinctive, and she felt so real. I loved her to pieces.


Book That Made You Cry

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I haven’t read many sad books this year, but the ending of Lord of Shadows, as you know, destroyed me, and History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, dear God, had me weeping from chapter one. I haven’t written a review for this one because I’m not really sure what to say about it other than it caused me to expel a lot of liquid from my eyeballs.


Book That Made You Happy

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That would have to be The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. Molly was an adorable main character with really cool creative hobbies, her romance with Reid was super-cute, and basically this book was FULL OF RAINBOWS. You can read my review here.


Favourite Book to Film Adaptation

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I recently watched the movie adaptation of Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver on Netflix and I thought it was fantastic. The actress who played Sam portrayed her so well – she was exactly as I had imagined her – and the ending of the movie had me sobbing just as hard as the book’s final page.


Favourite Post You Have Done This Year

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I think the post I am most proud of is my ‘Self-care tips for book bloggers’ post. I wrote it initially because it was something I needed to hear myself, but I was also so happy that other people managed to find something helpful in what I wrote. ❤

Here’s the post if you’d like to take a look. It contains lots and lots of Pusheen gifs and it was made with love.


Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought This Year

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I am still very in love with the cover of Caraval by Stephanie Garber. It’s STUNNING. My review of this book can be found here.


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

So, I bought several books at YALC…

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Ahem. I need to read all 22 books I hauled, because I am on a book-buying ban until I have done so. I don’t think I need to explain why. ^^


What’s been your favourite book of 2017? I’d love to hear from you. Much love to you all and I hope you have a fantastic week! xxx

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Book review: ‘Nothing Tastes As Good’ by Claire Hennessy

nothingtastesasgood

Nothing Tastes As Good. Claire Hennessy. Hot Key Books. June 2016.

Don’t call her a guardian angel. Annabel is dead – but she hasn’t completely gone away. Annabel immediately understands why her first assignment as a ghostly helper is to her old classmate: Julia is fat. And being fat makes you unhappy. Simple, right?

As Annabel shadows Julia’s life in the pressured final year of school, Julia gradually lets Annabel’s voice in, guiding her thoughts towards her body, food and control.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. Spending time in Julia’s head seems to be having its own effect on Annabel . . . And she knows that once the voices take hold, it’s hard to ignore them.


Trigger warning: anorexia, bulimia

I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about this book. Initially, as I closed the final page, I went straight onto Goodreads and rated it 4 stars, because the ending made me cry, and I always rate books highly if they draw that much emotion from me. However, after having a think, I decided to lower my rating to 3 stars, because there were aspects of this book which made me uncomfortable, and I cannot dismiss them.

The novel follows Annabel, an anorexic girl who has died of heart failure, and narrates the story from beyond the grave. In the afterlife, Annabel becomes a kind of spirit guide/guardian angel, and is assigned to help a girl called Julia down on earth. Julia is overweight, and Annabel immediately assumes that, in order to ‘help’ Julia, she must encourage Julia to lose weight.

The premise of this story was so interesting to me, and I found the way Annabel becomes the voice in Julia’s head, telling her she is fat and disgusting and will only be happy if she is thin, extremely clever. The things Annabel whispers in Julia’s ear are exactly the kind of lies her own brain led her to the end believing. Although making Annabel the ‘voice’ of anorexia was a clever concept, I also found her words incredibly uncomfortable to read. I understand that this book isn’t intending to fat shame anyone (in fact, it’s aiming to do the opposite), however Annabel’s words were so toxic and spiteful that I found myself taking offence to them. If you suffer from body self-esteem issues, I think reading what Annabel has to say to Julia, an overweight girl, could potentially be quite damaging (as indeed they were to Julia in the story!)

The other thing I found quite difficult about this read was the way Annabel’s anorexia was glamorised (albeit only by Annabel herself). I had some problems with food when I was a teenage, and I know that if I had read this book at the time, it would have enabled me massively. I understand why the author chose to write about anorexia in this way to a certain extent, because the voice is Annabel’s, and I know from the many, many thinspo blogs I read as a teenager that the way Annabel talks about the ‘perfection’ she is aiming for is authentic. However, I don’t think the realities of anorexia and the damage it does were explored in quite enough detail to counter this, and if you are recovering from an eating disorder right now, I would advise you stay well away from this book, because I believe it could be very triggering indeed.

Something I did really love about this book was Julia. Julia was a fantastic character, with so much going for her: she was intelligent, driven, and her passion for journalism (as editor of her school newspaper) was wonderful to see. It’s been a while since I’ve read a book where the main character has an actual hobby, and I found it really interesting to see what a huge part it played in Julia’s story (particularly as the pressure to do as good a job as her predecessor was such a huge trigger for her eating disorder).

I also really enjoyed the romantic storyline in this book; Julia is in love with a boy who works on the newspaper with her. The love story was sweet, and it was refreshing to see a romantic storyline with an overweight protagonist where the weight of said protagonist was not an issue for the boy/something he had to come to terms with before he dated her. I was also really glad this book did not fall into the trap of having romance be what eventually ‘saves’ the mentally ill protagonist.

I didn’t love Annabel quite as much as I loved Julia, because she was a tricky character to get a clear picture of. Although the story is narrated from her point of view, we don’t learn an awful lot about her, beyond the fact that she starved herself to the point of heart failure. I thought this was a shame, because Annabel had the potential to be a really interesting character, but she lacked depth and development. Annabel’s character arc was very much about her realising how much she missed out on by making losing weight the focal point and purpose of her life. Whilst in theory that’s a positive message (because there is so much more to life than dieting), I’m not sure this context was the best way to convey that message. The implication here is that Annabel has wasted her life; she could have been bright and brilliant like Julia, had a hobby she loved, met a person she loved, and been happy, but instead she chose to spend her life starving herself. But the thing is… mental illness isn’t something you choose. Annabel may have missed out on those things, but at the fault of her illness, not of herself. Because of these implications, I ended up being a little bit confused about what this book was really trying to say.

Overall, this was a very interesting book, and I did enjoy reading it, but parts of it made me feel uncomfortable, and I’m not sure they were handled as well as they could have been. I really loved the ending, and found it very moving, but I think had the path toward that ending been lengthier, taking more time to explore all of the issues and ideas the book contained, it would have been a more solid read for me.

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