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

Turtles all the Way Down, John Green

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Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

 

2018 is starting to look like it might be a really good year for me and books, with yet another positive book review. Though with it being John Green, there was no other way this review could have gone.

This book is, as all Green books are, beautiful and thought provoking and emotional. Aza is not an easy character to follow – John went to no lengths to hide the ever crippling thoughts of anxiety and OCD, making it, at times, an extraordinarily hard book to read. There were times I had to put it down and take a break because I understood it so much. Anxiety is a hard thing to live with, but John captured it so well. Hey, and plus side: The Boy doesn’t magically fix her, or whatever, and it doesn’t go away just because she falls in like.

I love the relationship between Aza and Davis. It was beautiful and sad the whole way through the book, the way they both tried to help the other – but couldn’t. Because friends and partners can’t solve everything, and though it was sad, little threads of hope ran through the entire book, right up until the end.

And boy, that end. I simultaneously love and hate it – it was perfect for the book, but I just wanted them all to be happy.

five stars

Nevermoor, Jessica Townsend

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Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor. It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organisation: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city and confront her deadly fate once and for all. Perfect for fans of the Harry Potter series and His Dark Materials, this series takes readers into an extraordinary world, setting hope and imagination alive.

I love kids books. I probably love middle grade books more than I love YA (and so much more than I like adult fic). There’s so much endless possibility with them. A boundless amount of imagination that makes everything acceptable and so much fun to read.
From the moment I saw Nevermoor as a ‘soon to be published’book I knew I wanted to read it. I totally begged the publisher for a copy, and thankfully, it seems they love me, since they sent one out to me (yay bookseller perks) and I read it all over the course of two days (back when it was published, this review is just months late!)
When I was reading it, I came across a few reviews that were marking it down as being ‘just like Harry Potter.’ Because it’s for the same age group? Or features magic? Or has a magic school in it? Like, how is that a bad thing? Kids like that kind of book, its shown to sell well, and Nevermoor is enough of its own stories that any similarities – they don’t make either bookless than what it is.
Nevermoor is a lovely, gently amusing fantasy about a girl trying to find her place in a world that doesn’t seem to want her. First, the family at home, who give her a funeral on the day she’s meant to die, then there’s theNevermoor Wondrous Society, who want to prove she shouldn’t be there (I mean, she totally shouldn’t but that’s not the point).
Morrigan is a lovely character to follow, and her supporting cast all bring something great to the story. From a giant cat who does hotel cleaning, to Jupiter – the Ultimate Ginger – who possesses far too much belief in his ability to, well, get things right… to the friends and enemies and children Morrigan must beat to be a part of the Society.
It’s a light, easy, but interesting story to read, both for children and adults alike. Plus, the hardback (UK edition at least) is to die for.
four 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

Undercover Princess, Connie Glynn

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When fairy tale obsessed Lottie Pumpkin starts at the infamous Rosewood Hall, she is not expecting to share a room with the Crown Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolf. Due to a series of lies and coincidences, 14-year-old Lottie finds herself pretending to be the princess so that Ellie can live a more normal teenage life.

Lottie is thrust into the real world of royalty – a world filled with secrets, intrigue and betrayal. She must do everything she can to help Ellie keep her secret, but with school, the looming Maradovian ball and the mysterious new boy Jamie, she’ll soon discover that reality doesn’t always have the happily ever after you’d expect…

Warning: Spoiler alert.

So when I got the proof of this, I didn’t know it was written by a Youtuber. Which really, I shouldn’t judge a book on, but once again, this was another book by an online name that shouldn’t have really got a book deal. Or at least, should have been edited more than it was.

Honestly, thanks to the storm last night, I was up until 2am, so I thought I might as well read something. I read the whole book, then ended up writing bullet points on my phone of things I needed to remember for this – something I rarely do, thanks to having a brain that absorbs plots to the point I can recite passages of a lot of my favourite books. But for this, I wanted to make sure I remembered everything.

Heres the thing. I wanted to like this book. At points, there were sparks that showed this book had potential. It was good enough for me to actually read the whole thing – I’m ruthless when it comes to DNFing books. I have too many on my TBR to bother with books I hate. So there was enough to make it interesting. But then there was… the rest…

For starters, there were way too many unanswered questions at the end. Yeah, I know its start of a series, but every book in a series should have its own story arc within the main story. Yes, there should be questions that lead one story to the next but not as many that, when you finish the book, it doesn’t feel finished. You don’t think well maybe because I’ve got the proof I’m missing pages (yeah, the first thing I did upon going into work was checking a finished hardback on the shelf to see if the ending matched,)

So the girls get a riddle by one of their friends. Multiple riddles, really. One of which throws up the question of who the founder of their school really is. Theres like a whole damn chapter about them hunting down this picture to find this out, a conversation about ‘but who was he really’ and then its like… never mentioned again? Its only because I read the acknowledgements at the end I saw that apparently it’s going to be answered in the next book. But… maybe there should have been hints in this one and then the reveal in the next, because the way it was dealt with is just unsatisfying.

The same riddle friend also seems to know the truth about our two mains – who the real princess is. But again, its hinted at, she makes all this fun about it, and then its like its suddenly unimportant.

One of the characters was poisoned. He started telling the truth? Then fainted? Then didn’t remember anything about it? then…. IT WAS NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN. (are you getting the theme here) Like, Why did this happen? What was it for? I’m assuming the villain of the story was the one to poison him but WHY and WHAT WAS IT.

There were a few more things like this, but you get the hint.

There was no real worldbuilding to it. All I can tell you about the school is that its in Oxfordshire. I don’t even know where and I live in that shire. Like, there should be enough hints that someone living there her whole life should be able to point to which village it’s close to? Oh – and that the school has three houses (but again, why. What were they for, who were they named after SO MANY FREAKING QUESTIONS). There were a lot of buildings in the school but I couldn’t draw you a map of it if I tried.

Oh, and why was the school so important to get to as well?

Maradova – the place Ellie was princess of? Don’t even get me started like…. fuck knows.

Same with the characters. Like, not only did they all seem to only have one trait (the twins that ate sweets all the time. The main character who wanted to be a princess. The broody bodyguard. The rebel princess) they weren’t even described. Hell, it was only in the last quarter of the book when you got his backstory that we’re told that his mother was Pakistani. Like, there’s no descriptions of anything (except hair, like, once) anywhere. To build up a correct image in our heads of a character, we need to know things.

(also linked to that. None of the characters were seeming to act 14/15. Like… the girls were all relly affectionate. Cuddling and stroking each others hair and stuff and… it was not really in character for those ages?)

Like… This almost reads to me like a first draft. This is the ‘dump down on paper so you have an idea of story twists’ draft, but it should have been refined. The editor, or hell, friends that read it over for you, should have raised their hands and gone ‘ughhhhhh’ at so many points. If that had happened, if someone had gone through with a red pen and gone ‘what is this’ or ‘explain’ or something, it could have been so much better. Because it was meant to be a fairytale esque story, but it was clunky and painful at times.

despite all of this (and more, of which I can’t be bothered to write down, after 3 hours sleep and a day of work) it was a light fun read. And if you don’t mind being frustrated by unanswered questions, and you have a day where you’re bored and have nothing to do, or you have a 10 year old, princess obsessed kid you want to read to, it’s great.

… I mean, plus side, I honestly can’t tell who the love interest in the next book will end up being because all I got from the three mains is they all love each other so like, it could go either way…. as long as theres not an awkward love triangel, that is.

three 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