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

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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

2017 in Books

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