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

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

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

Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo

She will become one of the world’s greatest heroes: WONDER WOMAN. But first she is Diana, Princess of the Amazons. And her fight is just beginning. . . .

Diana longs to prove herself to her legendary warrior sisters. But when the opportunity finally comes, she throws away her chance at glory and breaks Amazon law—risking exile—to save a mere mortal. Even worse, Alia Keralis is no ordinary girl and with this single brave act, Diana may have doomed the world.

Alia just wanted to escape her overprotective brother with a semester at sea. She doesn’t know she is being hunted. When a bomb detonates aboard her ship, Alia is rescued by a mysterious girl of extraordinary strength and forced to confront a horrible truth: Alia is a Warbringer—a direct descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about an age of bloodshed and misery.

Together, Diana and Alia will face an army of enemies—mortal and divine—determined to either destroy or possess the Warbringer. If they have any hope of saving both their worlds, they will have to stand side by side against the tide of war.

I have a confession. Wonder Woman, the film that came out this year, was the first ever DC film I’ve watched. I had no idea who she actually was or what her story was, as I’m not a comic book lover (I think they are cool, but I find it impossible to read a story like that). However, the film is already a favourite of mine, and this book (kind of unsurprisingly) is one as well – and not just because it’s written by one of my all time greatest authors.

You jump straight into Diana’s story in this book, but you don’t feel like you miss anything, and from a relatively new fan’s point of view, you’re never confused about who the characters are, or the background of Diana and where she grew up. And, just like every superhero film, the book is full of action.

The main characters are all brilliant and well rounded – each one stands out on their own and is clearly well thought out. Their relationships with each other were well thought out, and one of my personal favourite things were that out of the five mains, three were female and had fantastic friendships with each other (wow that’s such a small thing to care about but it’s needed.) 

The writing itself, was, in true Bardugo style, full of warmth and humour and a hell of a lot of emotion, and some absolute gems of dialogue (which I can’t wait to talk about, but I’m writing this before the book has come out, so…)  and plot twists – one of which was so much of a twist that I wasn’t expecting it and actually had to stop reading to remember how to breathe. Which kinda sums up how brilliant the book is.

I just… I love this book. Really, with every book she writes, Bardugo doesn’t only get better but shows exactly why she’s one of my absolute favourite authors.

five 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

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