Words in Deep Blue, Cath Crowley

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I don’t know if this is a review or not. I’m just going to sit and announce my thoughts – I’ve just finished it, after waiting a year and a half for it to land inside the bookshop I work in, and it’s not what I expected.

In a mostly good way.

See, all I knew about this book when I heard of it was that it was by the author of Graffiti Moon (which I stumbled on in a library years ago), it was about a girl and a boy working in a bookshop together after having History, and it was possibly a romance.

I don’t often do romancy books – but once in a while, I like to sit down and just have something light to read, and I’ve always liked books set in bookshops – I like seeing how authors themselves view those shops. I like seeing a character have the same love as I do.

Books set in bookshops are a bit like love letters themselves.

I’m going to put this out here now – I relate to Henry, but my god he isn’t half a moron. And yes, I know hes a teenage boy, thinks that his First Love is his One True and all that, but really. The more he talked about Amy, the more I wanted to pull him out of the pages and throw the book at him.

Henry is our raised-in-a-bookshop, book-loving, idiot main. I relate to him because to him, the bookshop is everything. A bookshop is the beating heart of a community and to work in one… it’s an honour. There’s a lot of differences between an indie and a chain shop, but less so between a second hand and an indie. It’s hard. You don’t work in a bookshop for money, you do it for the love. You watch customers grow – in my own, I’ve had five years to see kids growing up, customers getting married (kudos to the couple that gave their bridesmaids Terry Pratchett books as their wedding favours). I’ve had customers phone us up and ask for books on grief – and tell us that it’s someone we’ve been serving since the shop opened that has died. There is a strange feeling to this – when you work in a bookshop, you learn things about your customers and them about you.

Most of my customers know that I write. Many of them ask after that writing when they come in. They all know I read Children’s books, YA and fantasy, know that I can get even the most reluctant reader to try something. They know I used to sail, that, much like Rachel from the book, the sea calls to me in a way that’s mildly ironic when I live in one of the furthest inland places in the UK.

The whole book (of which I thought was going to be mostly lighthearted and fun) follows Henry, not only with his lack of being able to see who is right in front of him, but as he and his family think about selling this shop that is their home.

It tugged on my heart almost as much as Rachel did, because I couldn’t imagine life without the shop I work in. Couldn’t imagine walking past it to see something else open in its place – or the building gone all together.

And then theres Rachel, who comes back home and hides from all her old friends that her brother is dead. Who comes back because she can’t bear to see something she once loved – the ocean – without thinking of him and the way he died. Whose every action is dictated by the grief weighing inside her.

At times, reading, I had to pause and remember to breathe for a minute, because the way I related to her is much harder to cope with than the simple idea of losing the place I work in.

I lost someone when I was 12, and I remember that kind of grief; when even ten months later, you barely remember how to smile, how to look at something without seeing their face. He taught me how to bake. How to play the bugle.

I hid the bugle away in my room and didn’t touch it til I was 16, where all I could do was stand there and cry because I hadn’t lost my love for music, but I had lost the ability to play the instrument I always remembered him playing. I still have the bugle – at 23 – and I have never relearning it. Ten months – a year – in the grand scheme of things is nothing. Eleven years, in someones entire life, is nothing. Sometimes, as one of the characters in the book says, it feels like it’s been that long. Sometimes, it feels like it was a day ago.

But the book showed the other side of grief. Of how you can’t hide it. How your friends will always be there to help, if you tell them you need it. How, sometimes, after ten months, with the right people, your heart does start beating again, sometimes, and you relearn how to smile. Oh, they are never far from your mind, and sometimes the guilt of being happy is all consuming. But life is a journey we all move forward on – and it does get better.

So yes.

This book does have problems. Firstly, that Henry is intelligent yet seems to be entirely unobservant – how the hell does he think Amy is nice. And Greg really should have had his comeuppance for what he did. Even the mother needs to be shouted at for listening but not seeing what her family is saying.

But over all, it’s a story that is understandable, believable, heartbreaking. But beautiful. Books touch us all, and the idea of this library – full of letters and notes in margins, love letters to people who may never see them – is something that I’d love to make real. And in it lies some truth – books connect us all, even when we don’t expect it.

four stars

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The Cruel Prince, Holly Black

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Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans.Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.
To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.
In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.
Someone please tell me why I’ve never picked up a Holly Black book before, what have I been doing. (okay I read the Spiderwick Chronicles when I was younger but none of her YA stuff) I mean, this book has everything I love in it? Morally grey faeries doing morally grey things. You know, like, murder. But also raising a kid and loving that kid.
Plots against other characters and characters trying to prove themselves as better.
Twists and turns.
Murder.
God, I’m such a sucker for faerie books done right. See like, in most books (especially YA) the fae are there for eye candy… the romantic partner… and they are always described before you meet them as ‘evil’ or whatever, but when you see them, they aren’t.At all. They just seem to be long lived humans with pointy ears, where there are a few baddies but most are to be Protected At All Cost (we know what series I’m talking about and I love the books, but really). Like, the reason the fae are seen as evil is because they aren’t human, they are meant to have different morals to us. Trickery is their language. And Holly is so good at writing it.
I loved following Jude – she was quite a refreshing main to read about, with her whole ‘lets dive in and do this thing even though I’m terrified’ attitude that got her into trouble more than once. She was wide eyed in the world of the fae – living there ten years meant she knew the good, bad an ugly and how to navigate as a human. And though she… wasn’t cruel, but certainly had a heart of steel, she cared as well.Enough to get into even more trouble when she thought it was the right thing to do.
Even the books…charming….cruel prince – Prince Cardan. It’s no great shock that I always love the characters you would really hate in real life. Thankfully, this is a readers flaw most of us deal with. Cardan is a dick. And to start with, you do gently hate him. But his storyline is revealed along with his personality in tiny ways, and you can’t help but grow a soft spot for him.
And like, their relationship with each other (both ‘romantic’ – you can’t really call it that – and general)is great to read – I just cannot wait to see what happens in the next book.
The characters weren’t the only great thing about the book. Holly has this beautiful way with both words and actual storytelling, building up to something almost seamlessly and making you wonder how it actually got to that point. The whole world she had created in this book was dark and compelling but beautiful – it horrifies you yet draws you in at the same time.
Ughh. I am totally going to hunt down some more of Holly’s books to read now.
five stars

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee

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Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
I rarely read historical fiction. Like. The nearest to historical I normally get is high fantasy that been based off a time period, but with dragons.Or something. But this kind of historical, I can get behind. It was ridiculous, hilarious, and fun – but at the same time, battling serious issues in a way that made your heart clench.
So Monty, our fun-loving, always drunk main character is always in a spot of bother. His Grand Tour is the kind of ‘farewell’ to this before he has to finally grow up – or that’s the plan. Instead Monty (along with best friend Percy and sister Felicity) end up with a tour that honestly, I’m surprised didn’t kill them.
After all, it featured Money running stark naked through the grounds of Versailles  (having just finished watching the series of the same name, I found this twice as funny)getting caught by highwaymen and also pirates. I vote we bring Grand Tours back into fashion – but only if they follow Monty’s own.
One of the main reasons I dislike historical is that a lot of them are written entirely in the way people used to talk. All formal and stiff and rather bland, for a book I want to read for fun. Guide isn’t like that at all – oh, it’s got style down to key, and Monty’s voice is a strong one, that when you read, you know you aren’t reading something set now, but it doesn’t get bogged down by that historical set.
Plus, like, you can’t help but related to the characters –the lines they all come out with are brilliant, witty and great. For example(and here, I post many quotes because, quite frankly, if they can’t get you to read this book, nothing will)
“Ugh. Feelings.” I take a long drink, then pass her the bottle. She has another delicate sip. “You were right—it’s less horrid now.”
“The great tragic love story of Percy and me is neither great nor truly a love story, and is tragic only for its single-sidedness. It is also not an epic monolith that has plagued me since boyhood, as might be expected. Rather, it is simply the tale of how two people can be important to each other their whole lives, and then, one morning, quite without meaning to, one of them wakes to find that importance has been magnified into a sudden and intense desire to put his tongue in the other’s mouth.
A long, slow slide, then a sudden impact.”
“Just thinking about all that blood.” I nearly shudder.”Doesn’t it make you a bit squeamish?”
“Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood,” she replies, and Percy and I go fantastically red in unison.”
“God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.”
I just… you have to go and read this book. It is, by far, one of the best things I’ve ever read.
five stars

Geekerella, Ashley Poston

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Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic science-fiction series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck and her dad’s old costume, Elle’s determined to win – unless her stepsisters get there first.
Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons – before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he has ever wanted, but Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake – until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise. But when she disappears at midnight, will he ever be able to find her again?
Part-romance, part-love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom.
I have two weaknesses in life (other than chocolate) and those things are fairytales, and ‘fandom’. I’m a geek for a lot of things – the above, Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, and many other books and films. So mixing both the geek culture and fairytales into one book – I was bound to pick it up in the end.
This has all the elements of Cinderella that we know and love (slightly more disneyfied than the original, but even I couldn’t see how one of the sisters would have cut off her own toes in this version) entwined with modern day life, making it an interesting and refreshing read – pretty much exactly what I wanted for my Christmas read.
The characters were brilliant- Ella herself will be relatable to so many that pick this book up; she barely has any friends in real life but lives a lot online – even the idea of randomly becoming friends with someone because they text you out of the blue is believable. A few of the people I count as my closest friends are people who I talked to online, or started geeking out about the fanfic I’ve written.
Her love of Starfield and its world is also one that will be understood; twenty years after the first Harry Potter book and it’s still going strong; with new fan theories and fanarts (writing, drawings and vlogs/musicals etc) springing up all the time. I’ve been to comicon for the last three years and it’s one of my favourite places I go every summer; for three days, you see other people and their costume design, you can cosplay as well and meet like minded people.
Her best friend Sage is also great. I’m pretty sure I want to befriend Sage (I mean who doesn’t want a friend who goes I CAN MAKE YOU THAT for a costume of a series they’ve never even watched?!) She speaks her mind, is caring and basically awesome – and I’m kinda glad that Poston made her into the ‘fairy godmother’ of the fairytale.
The only downsides to the fairytale part, I thought, were the rest of her family. I know, I know Cinders needs her evil stepmother and sisters, but they were a bit too… stereotypical, I feel, compared to the rest of the book (I mean, famous hot young actor part, also a romance stereotype but it’s different).  Like, one sister was the perfect evil bully with the quieter sister and the step mother was almost too much like the Disney version (make the breakfast, Ella, come home before 9, Ella, etc) It did make some of the scenes a bit too cheesy – but it didn’t counter how cute and fun the rest of the book was.
I love that it also followed Darien – Cinderella’s Prince Charming and the young actor taking the role of a much loved character. Everyone knows him just as the actor and from gossip sites – they all assume he’s in it for the money, rather than his own love for the show. All he wanted was to enjoy it and be himself, but he couldn’t be, not when so many people were watching him and not when his manager demanded all his time.
It tackled (gently) the whole ridiculous nothing of the ‘fake geek girls’ (yes, this happens, and my god it’s annoying) within fandom – how fandom and geek culture is not perfect.
Over all, this is a cute book and I recommend it if you’re looking for something lighthearted and fun.
 four stars

City of Brass, S.A. Chakraborty

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Among the bustling markets of eighteenth century Cairo, the city’s outcasts eke out a living swindling rich Ottoman nobles and foreign invaders alike.
But alongside this new world the old stories linger. Tales of djinn and spirits. Of cities hidden among the swirling sands of the desert, full of enchantment, desire and riches. Where magic pours down every street, hanging in the air like dust.
Many wish their lives could be filled with such wonder, but not Nahri. She knows the trades she uses to get by are just tricks and sleights of hand: there’s nothing magical about them. She only wishes to one day leave Cairo, but as the saying goes…
Be careful what you wish for.

I had been eyeing this book up online for months before I finally managed to get my hands on an ARC of it (Thank you to YALC friendships!). From the moment I heard about it, I knew it was going to be something I would love, and when I started reading it, I knew it wouldn’t let me down.

It’s a fantasy read that dances on the lines of being awesome for both YA and adult alike – one of my favourite kinds of books, because it doesn’t read as simple, but also doesn’t leave you floundering as you try to work out the world you’ve stepped into.

The only thing I was wary about was the duo narration; I’ve read a few in the past and quite often, both voices sound too similar so you forget who you are following, or you just don’t care about one of them at all.

I loved Nahri from her first chapter – how could I not, when she came alive on the page, her refusal that magic existed even when she was a street healer and could sense the wrong in people… and because Dara was in many of her chapters and we should all know by now I have a weakness for grumpy, brooding male mains with a clear secret that will probably make everything go wrong (*whispers* do I have a type?!)

Ali, it took me longer to warm too; for his first few chapters I thought I was going to not care about him, but I soon realised that it was more that I wanted to get back to Nahri than anything else. Once his story took off a bit more and I knew his role in it, I did grow to like him.

I basically loved everything about this book. From the world, to the politics of the city, to the characters and all the twists. I want to talk about it for ages but I also don’t want to give anything away; I loved reading this because it was different; I didn’t know what to expect.

So while I could probably write an essay on this book, just… go and read it. Please. It is so beautifully written and amazing and I want it to do so well.

five stars

They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera

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When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.
Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.
Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…

Some books are great. Some books are heartbreaking. Some books have you crying at work, and some books have you thinking about them all the way walking home and into the evening.

This book fits into all four categories.

We all played the game when we were younger, in the years between thinking we were immortal and realising we were not. The what would you do if you had a day left to live game, where you pretended the world was at your fingertips and the impossible became possible for twentyfour long hours. Some would say they would travel far and wide, others, that they would say goodbye, give memories back to the people they loved.

In this book, that game is reality. You get a call around midnight telling you that at some point in the next 24 hours, you’re going to die. You don’t know how, or when, but it gives you time to sort everything out, say goodbye and get ready.

Because of this knowing, things have cropped up to give you a good last day; experience centers, apps, discounts….  The app Last Friend is how the two mains meet, and is the whole reason for their day of adventures.

But the app, their friendship and day – all that actually made me think more about fate. I love how, in this book, all these side characters stories get brought together, how the random person on the street is someone important to what you are doing, how the person you might have met is the one you cross the road with later in the afternoon, and how, really, all the small decisions you make are the ones that bring you to why you die.

If Mateo hadn’t have reached out on Last Friend, he would have done various things, but then Rufus wouldn’t have met him and the day might have ended differently – but we will never know, because all those factors did bring around their deaths. Would they have died anyway – if Mateo had never left his house, would he have died sooner, or in a different way?

See, told you this book made me think. I finished it two days ago and I’m still thinking about it. (At least the tears didn’t last as long)

It’s a clever, simple idea that is pulled off effectively – you watch (read), over the whole day, as the two main characters grow and change, even when they know there is nothing to do with that change. You follow them through grieving and trying to work out how to help their friends and help each other, and even though you know how its going to end (spoiler alert, they die) you still mourn for them when it does happen.

I shouldn’t be surprised at the mourning – I’ve read one other book by Silvera and that one got me as well, so I knew already that he was a good storyteller and puller-of-the-heartstrings, but he’s improved with this book, I think. He just knows how to tell a story, and how to make the characters emotions feel just as real as your own, he pulls you up and drags you along with the characters, and with this… I know I say it a lot with character deaths, but I wish they hadn’t died, because I wanted to know what the two main characters could have become – would Mateo have gone back to hiding at home and being careful, or would he have learnt to live?

We will never know.

four stars

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren James

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I’ve read in one go, in the middle of the night. I mean, part of me wishes I hadn’t because it really creeped me out (I have a wonderful imagination which decides that clearly when I’m reading disturbing things, it makes my room feel terrifying. I actually had to turn my fan on because the silence was getting to me.)

So… lets start with that blurb. Think you’re going to be reading some cheesy romantic thing, right? Lonely girl finds love in deep space, everything is perfect, yay? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NO.

This book is fucking creepy. Lauren James managed to perfectly spread out everything that happened – from dropping hints of what happened in the past to what was happening currently. You were never quite sure who to trust – from Romy herself (who, lets be honest, can’t exactly be sane after so long ago and only TV characters really interact with) (TBH that was my theory for most of the book), to the emails she got from Earth, to the person on the other ship. Or maybe you could trust them all.

It was so cleverly done. Not just the storyline but what it says. Not just in the whole ‘dont trust the random dude you don’t know’ rule, (which I kinda stand by, but at the same time, I’m a random girl online who has a lot of online friends so I can’t really talk) but in the fandom sense of things. I think a lot of people will relate to Romy because she uses her love of a show and fanfic to help her through things. She writes her emotions into the characters. When she feels lonely (which, face it, is a lot) she buries herself in the fanfic she has – and a lot of us do that too. Maybe not with fanfic, but with fiction. Words, shows, fandom is a big part of life nowadays and a lot of us do travel to it when we need comfort.

From start to finish, I loved this book, even if it creeped me out. I want more. I want to know what happens next.

four stars