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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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

One of us is Lying, Karen M. McManus

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Yale hopeful Bronwyn has never publicly broken a rule.
Sports star Cooper only knows what he’s doing in the baseball diamond.
Bad body Nate is one misstep away from a life of crime.
Prom queen Addy is holding together the cracks in her perfect life.
And outsider Simon, creator of the notorious gossip app at Bayview High, won’t ever talk about any of them again.
He dies 24 hours before he could post their deepest secrets online. Investigators conclude it’s no accident. All of them are suspects.
Everyone has secrets, right?
What really matters is how far you’ll go to protect them.

I found a murder mystery type book that I enjoyed. Wow.

I’d heard a lot about this book by the time I actually picked it up, but I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I mainly started reading because I ended up getting a signed copy at YALC and thought I better read it.

And I was pretty impressed; I loved how so many characters had the motive to kill Simon, I loved how all their relationships changed throughout the book, I loved how, while I had guessed the ending well before hand, it still kept you guessing throughout.

When you have books with multiple narrations, you often find that a few have been only half baked to make way for the ‘big’ character, or that all of them fall flat and are unconvincing. But each of the main characters in this book felt fleshed out – you were rooting for Bronwyn and Nate, you wanted to stand by Addy and shake her because she didn’t see what her sister did. Each of them was real in their own rights, and each of them carried along the story, and even at half way, you wanted all of them to be innocent because you felt for all of them.

Don’t get me wrong; this book isn’t perfect.

One of the plot twists may upset some people – it’s understandable and in terms of the character, it is believable, but it’s something you wouldn’t want to be used as a ‘shock plot twist’ (I thought it was written well for what it was, but it will still upset some people)
Mental illness can also be argued as being handled not very well in the book, especially at the end.

But the problems with it don’t counter the fact that I did enjoy reading it, and it was a good book over all. It’s also one of the few books I’ve read where the character arcs are done really well; the characters are not the same at the end as they were at the start, mostly for the better.

four stars

Noah Can’t Even, Simon James Green

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Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to utter chaos

This book is hilarious.

And before I write a review, I want to convince you to read it in two pictures:

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and

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And if that didn’t make you cackle and cringe, there’s plenty more (of both) in this book that will make you.

It’s awkward. Oh my god, this book is full of awkward teenagers and even more awkward moments that honestly makes me feel like my own teenage years were almost normal.

I mean, the book is ridiculous. It jumps from one ridiculous thing to another, but the best thing is that the main character and his wonderful mess of a life makes it believable. From his panicking talking to anyone else to his attempts to be cool to the numerous plot twists that make everything worse, this book is a masterpiece of bumbling through the awkwardness of teenage years and sexuality and school and embarrassing mothers.

I was laughing (out loud) so much through sections of this book that my colleague ended up grabbing a copy off the shelf and reading it too – half an hour later she bought it.

This book is just a wonderful friesh of breath air. It’s funny and clever and over the top, but it’s also light hearted and good… and an lgbt book where all the lgbt characters survive (wow the fact that my bar is so low for gay characters says a lot). And its also a book with more than one gay character – I’m sure you all know what I mean. In 90% of  books there is just the one lgbt character… which is so not true to real life.

Basically, you should go out now and buy this book and you will not be disappointed. I would talk about this book for ages but I don’t want to spoil anything for people, so please, please, go and read it.

five stars

Letters to the Lost, Brigid Kemmerer

 

Juliet Young has always written letters to her mother, a world-traveling photojournalist. Even after her mother’s death, she leaves letters at her grave. It’s the only way Juliet can cope.
Declan Murphy isn’t the sort of guy you want to cross. In the midst of his court-ordered community service at the local cemetery, he’s trying to escape the demons of his past.
When Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, he can’t resist writing back. Soon, he’s opening up to a perfect stranger, and their connection is immediate. But neither of them knows that they’re not actually strangers. When real life at school interferes with their secret life of letters, Juliet and Declan discover truths that might tear them apart. This emotional, compulsively-readable romance will sweep everyone off their feet.

Taken at face value, this book might look like your average YA high school book. You know the ones; friends to enemies, Bad Boy with a Rep meets Gentle Loving Girl. With just a bit more angst than maybe normal. (I say maybe. High School/College Romance style YA/NA books seem to compete with each other for most amount of angst possible in one page)

But take that face value and… I dont know. Throw it out the window, or something just as fun. Because this book is more than that – and hell, while most people would count it as a romance (since the main characters are a boy and a girl talking to each other. That all it seems to take nowadays) I don’t.

This is a book about two people, who have both lost someone in their family, and that one thing has shaped each of them every day of their lives. Its a book about anger and friendship and love- not just romantic love – and mainly, grief.

Grief being the main thing the whole plot centres around.

I know grief. It and I have shaken hands on more than one occasion, and sometimes it likes to pop up again, just to remind me that now we are acquaintance, it will never truly leave. And reading this book – it was hard, at times. Because I understood how both characters felt. Their helplessness and anger and denial – not necessarily that the person is dead, but that you’ve lost them.

There was a part about a quarter through the book when Juliet’s dad pulls out all her mums stuff and starts talking about selling them, and Juliet screams at him and just starts crying. That bit, strangely, was one of the hardest parts for me to read, because it still happens.

People don’t understand grief. Not even those that have been through it. Because everyone copes (or doesnt cope) differently, and I think this book was amazing and putting that across. Not even six months after her mother dies and all her teachers and friends don’t understand why Juliet isn’t back to ‘normal’. They keep making comments about it, trying to stop her from going to the cemetery or hoarding her mothers things. Because people don’t get over things like that so quickly.  And this book – the grienf doesn’t just disappear to make way for a romance and oh mt god the fact that is so rare is wrong. It was wonderful to read and see how both characters struggled with emotions, both positive and negative, and watching their journey through the chapters to see how each changed the other.

The only thing I didn’t like was the formatting – in most double narratives, the chapters start by being headed by the character name. In this one, that doesnt happen, so the first few chapters can be hard to navigate through, especially as each chapter starts with a letter from the opposite character. But you do get used to it after a while so its not that bad.

five stars