The Upside of Unrequited, Becky Albertalli

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Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?

I like this book. Just as Albertalli proved with her first book, she can write cute and write well, and write relationships well.

I think thats my favourite thing about her books. Every relationship around the main character is brilliant. A lot of YA falls down with parents – either they don’t expect, or they don’t care, or something around that idea – but in this book, not only do the parents act like parents, they have good relationships with their children. And siblings are done well too – the two mains are twins, and the book shows how both of them change as they gently grow up and both start to fall in love. They snap at each other but forgive easily and I could just see my sister and I inside them (when we were younger, at least. Now we communicate by text only!) though Cassie was not the best sister in the world.

The only downfall with this was that the main few were so well done that most others fell flat. The sister’s girlfriend fell a bit flat and Will, one of the apparently Love Interests was… well, to be honest, just an asshole. With no personality other than the ability to steal alcohol.

It was still cute though, apart from that. It’s set around the time gay marriage was legalized in America, so the story builds towards the fact that Molly’s mums decide to get married, so basically the entire book is about love and happiness and cheesiness.

I didn’t like it as much as I liked Simon but it was still a light, easy read that made me smile. Basically one of those books you would be happy to spend a summer morning reading.

Also, added bonus. Main character was explicitly fat, didn’t have to change for a happy ending and found someone who didn’t want her to change. so…

three stars

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YALC, authors, and a TBR I’ll soon be Buried Under

I haven’t written a blog post in ages. There are a few reasons for this, but the main one is that recently, I just haven’t had time to actually finish a book. Or at least, a book worth reviewing. The second main one is below

This isn’t a reviewing post. This is more of a…. love letter towards the authors that write the most amazing books, the wonderful publishers and the whole UKYA community that just make reading fun, sociable and brilliant.

If you haven’t heard of it before, once a year in London, there is the rather wonderful YALC. This is the Young Adult Lit Con, above the London Film and Comic Con. Basically a bunch of authors host panels and sign books, publishers and indie authors go and sell books (and host comps and give freebies), agents go and talk you through the publishing world and other bookish things go on.

It is one of my favourite times of year, and has been since I first started going three years ago.

Back then, I went for only one day. Though I came back exhausted and in pain (I took my bags in a backpack. A mistake I will never make again) I knew I had fallen in love, and that I had to go again.

So I did. Last year I went all three days. I took books, got them signed, bought books, took home a tonne of freebies and made friends. Oh, and participated in various things including a poetry slam.

But YALC is actually more than just the books. As I heard someone say to one of the publishers this year “YALC is often the only time each year that some people see their friends.” And it’s true.

I’ve heard a lot about internet friends in the last few years, and most of it not really nice. A lot of people don’t understand how anyone you meet, or talk to, online can be a real friend. But some of those people are the ones I see every year at YALC, and every year it just reminds me how much I adore all of them.

But YALC isn’t just for the old friends – this year when I went there, I didn’t expect to come back with a group of people I formed almost instant friendships with, but I guess that is what happens when you are made to waltz for free books in front of publishers.

Those same people were the ones that helped with looking after bags or standing in queues or getting other books when you were busy. And the group I found this year – I really hope I never stop talking to them, because they were all amazing, funny and caring. Plus, we all have books in common.

I’ve been to a lot of author events over the last few years. Being a bookseller, I’ve been in the ‘backstage’ section of a few. And though YALC involves authors, its like no other event I’ve been too.

Because the authors don’t just sit and talk, then sign, then disappear. Some of them stand by their publishers table and sell books (Peadar O’Guilin selling The Nest is one of the greatest things I have ever seen) some of them cosplay (I’ll forever be envious over Lucy Saxton’s amazing costumes) and others just wander around, joining in the fun and talking to everyone.

Take Non Pratt, for example. Last year (While I was dressed as Draco Malfoy) I embarrassed myself and basically terrified her. After being told by many people “It’s okay, you’re just one person, she would have forgotten you by now!” I went to YALC this year, got a book signed from her, and this conversation happened.

“I know your face.” Said she, staring up at me, her hand hovering over my opened book. “Have I signed for you before.”

Me, in a different costume looking (hopefully) nothing like Draco Malfoy: No… but you did see me last year?

“I know you! You’re the Dancing Potter Girl!”

“You weren’t meant to remember!”

“Your face has been burnt into my mind forever!”

And then on the last day, when I had managed to get my hands on Warbringer, by Leigh Bardugo, she comes up to me with squared shoulders and attempted to intimidate me out of my book in revenge.

As a reader, this is one of my favourite things to happen. Because how many people do authors see each year? And not just to be remembered but for that joke to be continued is something you never expect to happen, but it’s something that makes me not only love YALC – because it was that place that makes it happen, but the very authors that care and love their readers.

I’ve never been to a place like YALC, and I can’t begin to describe the atmosphere of it all. I’ve never been to another place that is so accepting and friendly, where the stranger in front of you in the queue turns around and starts talking as if you’ve known each other for years (Honestly, being british this is so rare they should get an award just for that)

I wish I had photos to post here of the weekend and the amount of books I came home with (at least 40) that have been piled onto my never ending TBR pile, but I barely took any. Just imagine you were in a place where all your wanted books were £5 and you had free rein and no one to stop you from buying them all and you will be able to see the giant pile I now have after just three days.

So after a long (and probably confusing) post, I’d like to thank the people who organise YALC, the amazing publishers who go there and Waterstones, who sell a lot more books there, the authors who come and talk and don’t mind when we make fools of ourselves, and the amazing, wonderful people I met there, whether I got your names or not!

And lastly, a big thanks to the YALC Strays – the other readers we picked up over the three days this year that made this year my favourite so far. You know who you are and I adore you.

The Book Thief, Markus Zusak

Please don’t hate me but I didn’t like this book. Confession: I DNFed it around half way after realizing that it wasn’t the Narrator of Death that was towering over me, but the literal one, holding up my hourglass with a glint in his eye as he watched me waste hours reading something I was bored of. (Literal Death seems very much like Discworld Death)

Okay let me get this out of the way first – Zusak can write. He is a good writer, actually. The story was wayyyy too slow for my taste, but it was well written.

But.

It was so… cliche? One thing that made me interested in reading it was the fact that Death narrated it, and Death had an interesting voice. But it couldn’t hold up for that long without getting boring, and repetitive. There were too many times when Death broke in with facts that were then repeated in the narrative on the next page. And the fact that Death ‘spoilt’ certain things ages before they happened (I’m guessing its meant to make you go AHH WHEN IS THAT), when it did happen, I just didn’t care (that was when I gave up. When he revealed something that would happen and my reaction was ‘meh’)

Added to all of that is the fact that while Zusak is a good writer, the writing in this is so overdone it was often… painful. Seriously, I  normally like that kind of writing, where it dances off your tongue when you speak it aloud. Hell, its my main style when writing short stories. But there comes a point where you just want to hit your head against the page because you cannot take it anymore.

There were many other things I didn’t enjoy about it – but I actually read the book last year and have been sitting on this review for months but everything added together just meant I didn’t care about the characters, didn’t care what happened, and just… couldn’t finish it.

two-stars

Show Stopper, Hayley Barker

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Set in a near-future England where the poorest people in the land are forced to sell their children to a travelling circus – to perform at the mercy of hungry lions, sabotaged high wires and a demonic ringmaster. The ruling class visit the circus as an escape from their structured, high-achieving lives – pure entertainment with a bloodthirsty edge. Ben, the teenage son of a draconian government minister, visits the circus for the first time and falls instantly in love with Hoshiko, a young performer. They come from harshly different worlds – but must join together to escape the circus and put an end to its brutal sport.

Have I ever said how much I hate insta-love?

Okay okay so this book had a really interesting premise and a kinda interesting plot but it just… wasn’t pulled off well? Maybe I was expecting too much from it and that let me down. All I know is that it took me three weeks to actually read because I just kept putting it off.

The idea was good – it’s taken a world we seem to be heading towards and put it to the extreme, where ‘pure’ british people are the only people seen as human and everyone else is there to be abused and for entertainment and to starve. And it was interesting to see that world through both the eyes of a dreg and a pure.

And the circus, the chapters in Hoshiko POV were brilliant. Dark and dangerous and interesting, I was instantly swept up into her world and wanted to know more about it.

But then it failed.

See, this book is set over like, two days. And it’s narrated by both main characters. It’s rare I say this, but wow I would have happily cut out all of Ben’s chapters and not bothered with them. His story was dull, uninteresting and nothing happened in them compared to Hoshiko’s own.

And literally within the first few chapters, with nothing, Ben just decides that he’s completely and utterly in love with this girl who he has never spoken to (and when he finally does speak to, she just shouts at him?). He literally… becomes a stalker. Seriously, he knows nothing about her yet goes and searches her name, breaks into this circus and upturns his life just to talk to her and then they fall in love like NO.

This would have been such a better story if you took away that awful romance element that didn’t work and just had it as Hoshiko trying to survive in this awful place, maybe trying to break free or something.

Because Ben’s whole storyline just seemed unrealistic? Like he lived around dregs his whole life and didn’t seem to notice that he was part of the people hurting them and how bad the pures were until he magically fell in love with one?

Hoshiko’s chapters were brilliant and full of action – action I mostly was interested in. I loved her relationships with the others in the circus and loved seeing them battle against their rage and anger every day. She is the reason I’m giving it three stars – because her on her own made an excellent story.

three stars

Friday Thoughts: The Great Bookmark Debate

Apparently, there is a phrase which automatically makes me a fake book lover. That phrase is ‘You know, I dogear my books.’ The looks of horror on peoples faces can often be hilarious, and for some reason, it’s classed as a worse offence than highlighting inside books.

I don’t do it often, and I don’t do it while actually bookmarking a page I’m on, but I still do it. Mostly its when there is a part I love, or the start of a favourite chapter so I can go back and reference it easily.

I don’t understand why it’s seen as bad – as long as you don’t do it to other people’s books, I think this is fine to do.

Plus, it is far far easier to dogear than hunt around to find something to actually use as a bookmark… since, despite the fact I make bookmarks, I can never ever find one easily!

Weird things I’m currently using as bookmarks; a half price voucher for a restaurant. An old receipt, a piece of string and a ds game. Thank goodness kindles don’t need bookmarks.

Normal things I am currently not using as a bookmark; a bookmark.

Which is really amusing, when I get at least one nice bookmark for christmas each year. I always feel bad about never using it, but it never seems to be where I need. Part of me doesnt get why we even assign the title of bookmark to a particular strip of card when we much more often use limbs to hold books open anyway.

Whats the strangest thing you’ve used as a bookmark? Whats your view on folding down pages?

The Handmaids Tale, Margaret Atwood

Offred is a Handmaid in the Republic of Gilead. She may leave the home of the Commander and his wife once a day to walk to food markets whose signs are now pictures instead of words because women are no longer allowed to read. She must lie on her back once a month and pray that the Commander makes her pregnant, because in an age of declining births, Offred and the other Handmaids are valued only if their ovaries are viable. Offred can remember the years before, when she lived and made love with her husband, Luke; when she played with and protected her daughter; when she had a job, money of her own, and access to knowledge. But all of that is gone now…

I read an adult novel. Not only that, I read an adult novel that’s technically a classic and I liked it. (that’s two adults in a row. This is a rare and strange thing)

I don’t know if like is the right word though. Because it’s an uneasy and occasionally hard read, and not exactly enjoyable. But it was interesting and fascinating and I read it in two days.

I mean, I find it hard to believe we could ever make the leap between what we are now to that type of world – but then, the characters in the book didn’t think that either. I actually loved this way of looking at it; in most dystopian books, its years after society starts to change and no one knows any different. In this, it’s still in those first few years – every character knows of before even if they can’t talk about it. And it gave an extra part of horror to the whole thing – because things can change that quickly. Really, hopefully not that much but like… you could kinda see someone like Trump going yeah you know what lets stop women accessing their money without their husbands there. 

Talking of husbands – I often say the reason’s I dont like adult fiction is because in every book I’ve read there’s been cheating and alcoholics. That… doesn’t technically stop in this book (I mean, the whole idea of a handmaid is so they have sex with other peoples husbands to have children…) and the men still like to drink… but the actual story and way it was written made me not-as-annoyed as normal.

It is, overall, one of the best and most chilling dystopias I have ever read and I think I will be reading more Atwood at some point.

five stars

Friday Thoughts: On Book Covers

We all know that famous phrase don’t judge a book by its cover. Normally, we use it to talk about not books, but nowadays it’s a phrase that really should go back to its literal sense.

After all, there are books we see covers for and avoid even without knowing what is inside them. There are also covers which are so beautiful that you buy them without thought (often only to find out it has the worst writing inside it.

You would have thought we would have learnt by now. However most book lovers… we just have a complete love for our shelves looking just as pretty as our stories.

Books I avoid:

Books with girls on the cover wearing puffy dresses:

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I’ve seen three or four different series with covers EXACTLY like this. Girl posing uncomfortably in a dress you know she can’t walk in. And I just… I cant never remember what book is what. And in all of them, the plots are so similar? (I have actually read the above. It was good, but not amazing same can be said for a few others so I no longer bother)

this:

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I just…. this is a MG/YA book yet it looks really really dodgy.

I also tend to avoid any film adaptations covers – I prefer to imagine characters as I read rather than having actors face in my head beforehand.

Books I always go for:

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… I have such expensive taste.

Basically for me, its bright colours and pretty illustrations (added bonus if the inside is just as pretty)

This is the stupid thing though; book covers are vain. We all know they make no difference to what is inside- the words we are meant to be buying- but we care all the same. And publishers cater to that vanity.

Look at the Hunger Games:

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These are the covers that I own. Simple and effective, and apparently ‘adult’ covers? Because apparently, adults get ashamed when they read ya books without more mature covers?  Even when I bought them, there were already a few other cover designs out there, and then these ones came out:

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These bright, graffiti style covers, which, to this day, I still hate. If these had been the first ones that came out and I had seen them knowing nothing about the books, I would never have picked them up. nd if by some miracle I had, I would be highly annoyed; what on this cover screams children killing children for tv entertainment on it?

AND DON’T GET ME STARTED ON THE ENDLESS AMOUNTS OF COVERS THERE ARE FOR HARRY POTTER.

unless its these ones:

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(I’m buying all of them and I have no regrets)

So, what covers do you go for? What covers do you avoid?