Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Review! Mother Tongue by Julie Mayhew

I read The Big Lie by Julie Mayhew last year, the review of which you can read here, which was such a powerful and truly thought-provoking book. I was therefore awaiting her next book Mother Tongue with muuuch anticipation. 

Set in a small Russian town, the story follows Darya as she navigates the path to her future, in the aftermath of a terrorist attack at the local school, which leaves many young lives lost, including her little sister. Darya has spent the last six years essentially raising her sister Nika, with their mother bedridden since the birth, and so the loss of her life and her presence in Darya's life is monumental. The community is shaken and in recovery when foreign aid workers and journalists arrive to cover 'the story'. 

Darya's search for a way out of her hometown and the boring life that lies ahead of her, at first has you rooting for her to achieve her pencil-pot and secretary-friends dreams. But as she becomes more lost you begin to question her escape from grief and the importance of home. Darya is this stubborn, strong willed character, too big for her small town, but too naive for a big city like Moscow. 

Where The Big Lie had you calling for revolution, Mother Tongue leaves you at lot more introspective, asking questions of how to define identity, home, and grief. Mayhew is a brilliant author, and I can't wait to see what comes next.

I received a copy of Mother Tongue from Hot Key Books in return for an honest review. 

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Books I read in July! Part 2: Uprooted, Passenger, Ctrl Alt Delete, On the Other Side

Helloo and welcome to part 2 of what I read in July! You can read part 1 here, where I reviewed The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Uncommoners, and Rooftoppers. Part 2 is much less middle grad fiction, much more young adult/ adult fiction. I read Uprooted by Naomi Novik, Alexanda Bracken's Passenger, listened to Ctrl Alt Delete by Emma Gannon on audiobook, and On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher. Some of these I loved, some of these I didn't really love... so without further ado here are my reviews!


I got this BEAUTIFUL book in hardback for my birthday. It's just so beautiful with shiny gold and with pretty blue and with the illustration of the tower casting a shadow over a little house. I was also very pleased to find the contents just as enjoyable. This book is so much more than its blurb, which focusses on the wizard known as the Dragon, who chooses one young woman every ten years to serve him in his tower. The main character Agnieszka becomes his unlikely choice and a much bigger story unfolds from there. This is a book about magic in its many forms, magic you can learn from spell books, and magic you can summon from within. The world building is wonderful and rich, drawing on folk stories and fairy tales. I loved watching Agnieska learn about her new found powers and navigate the courts as an outsider, and use her outsider knowledge to discover more about the true villain of the book, the enchanted and evil Wood, which is slowly but surely taking over the whole kingdom. So spellbinding. Wonderful world building. Great magic. So much more than its blurb. And I really liked the ending.


So I found this book to be promising at first. It follows the stories of Etta Spencer and Nicholas Carter who are both travellers, able to travel through portals to different points in time and history. Etta has been raised unaware of this ability in New York, where she is a skilled violinist awaiting her debut. She gets thrust into the past and into the world of travellers one night after a performance and a tragic accident. She meets Nicholas aboard the ship he is captaining and learns she has been kidnapped by the Ironwood family, to whom Nicholas was previously a slave. Together they go on a hunt through history for a valuable time travel object that chief evil Ironwood patriarch wants to get his hands on. All this was very exciting and well paced, I loved the bits on board the boat and the race through history following clues left by Etta's mother. However, I was really majorly put off by the romance plot. It's a classic I-just-met-you-but-I-would-die-for-you insta-love and there are endless lengthy will-they-won't-they-have-sex scenes with detailed multi sensory descriptions. This really slowed the pace down considering they were in a life or death race against time. I think I would've absolutely loved this book if the whole romance plot had been entirely dropped. Nicholas is black and from past and I get that Etta wanting to have sex with him would be a big historical taboo. But ugh, I just found it so slowing for what was otherwise a very fast paced plot. He could've been gay, that would've been much more interesting, and Etta could've been focused on her mum not getting murdered. Overall, cool premise and great story, just could have done without the romance.

Ctrl Alt Delete
This book is wonderful! I now fully love Emma Gannon. I've been listening to Emma's podcast of the same name and really enjoying it. She's had some tip top great guests on so far. So the book chronicles Emma's life growing up online, going on chatrooms and photoshopping her holiday snaps in the dial up days and eventually finding a place for herself online as a successful blogger, with some pretty cool sounding internet-jobs along the way. We're the same age so I basically shared most of her online teenage experiences from MSN and bebo to Facebook and Twitter. She is an engaging storyteller, unafraid to give all the gruesome details of a life lived online. I particularly enjoyed her online dating stories; I have some very similar MSN romance escapades. I laughed and smiled and cringed along as I walked around listening to the audiobook, probably alarming passersby. Follow Emma on twitter, subscribe to her podcast and definitely download this audiobook because it's great and she's one cool lady. 

On the Other Side
I really wanted to like this book, I really did. I've watch Carrie on Youtube for years now and really like her. She's a talented, thoughtful lady. I've seen her talking about the writing of the book for ages so I was pretty interested to see how it turned out. I really liked the premise; waiting to get into the afterlife until you've let go of things holding you to earth. Our main character Evie Snow finds herself returned to her 27 year old form in the apartment building she inhabited at that time, unable to enter her old apartment, which contains her version of heaven, until she has let go of what is making her soul too heavy to move on. Much of the story is told through flash backs to Evie's life aged 27 living in a city, working at a newspaper, and falling in love with violinist Vincent Winters. There is no time or place setting at any point, something which has been done deliberately to make the story 'timeless', however I just found it very jarring with my brain skipping around trying to figure out if it was the 1900s, 1950s, 1980s, 2000s, so I could imagine the spaces and the characters within these spaces. There was also a lot of telling rather than showing, with characters introduced with full two page biographies and then sometimes not really seen again. It was strange. There is a school scene in the middle that felt so out of place, maybe because there was actually showing and not telling. Also in my hardback edition there are blank pages before each chapter, which really just felt like padding. Also also inexplicably there are moments of magical realism, which don't feel quite in tune with the story as a whole. However I have no doubt that Carrie will keep writing, this was a great premise and I reckon her future books will be way better. 

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Books I read in July! Part 1: The Lives of Christopher Chant, The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence, Rooftoppers

Helloo! Here's part one of my July reading roundup. I read 9 books in July so I'm splitting the reviews up into chunks. I read three lovely middle grade/ children's books, which was such a nice, cosy, comforting thing to do. The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones, The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpenec by Jennifer Bell, and Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell.

The Lives of Christopher Chant

This wonderful prequel is set years before Charmed Life and follows Christopher Chant's childhood before his adult role of Chrestomanci begins. Christopher has the ability to travel between worlds, which he does at night in his sleep, unbeknownst to his parents visiting wonderful vivid lands. Upon his Uncle Ralph's discovery of this power, Christopher is sent to these lands to bring back magical objects and artefacts. These dangerous trips lead to several disastrous injuries and it isn't long before Christopher's nine lives are discovered. Now destined to be the next Chrestomanci (for whom having nine lives is very important), and down several of those lives already, Christopher is sent off to Chrestomanci Castle to receive his magical education, much to his dismay as he has ambitions of being a cricket player. If you've read Charmed Life, you'll see a lot of Cat in Christopher as he gets used to the grim loneliness and strange magic of the castle. The goddess he meets in one of the worlds is a brilliant character, as is the cat Throgmorton. Full of Diana Wynne Jones' wonderful world building, charming details, and the perfect grumpy little boy voice. Definitely read this, Charmed Life and Howl's Moving Castle. I'll be getting myself a copy of every other Diana Wynne Jones book asap!

The Uncommoners: The Crooked Sixpence

After their grandma Sylvie has a fall and is rushed to hospital, Ivy Sparrow and her big brother end up travelling through a suit case to a land beneath London, where everyday objects like colanders and belts have very Uncommon special usages in a very magical way. Their grandmother's past is intertwined with this underworld, but unfortunately that past is a big mystery as Sylvie lost her memory in a car crash years ago in 1969.  They have to figure out how their grandmother is linked to this uncommon world in order to ensure the safety of their family. The world building is vivid and wonderful creating one of my favourite alternate Londons. Ivy is a great lead character too. It really reminded me of Heap House by Edward Carey, with its uncommon objects, and had much of the charm of Diana Wynne Jones about it too!


This is a beautiful book. As a baby, Sophie is found floating in the sea in a cello case after a shipwreck in the English Channel, by a man named Charles. He raises her, but her place with him is threatened by the childcare authorities, who believe no young lady should be raised by a man alone. Sophie believes her mother was in that boat and has vivid memories of her playing the cello. She strongly believes her mother is still alive. So Charles and Sophie run away following a clue in her cello case to a Parisian music shop. With a fondness for high places, Sophie learns all about the city from its rooftops and along with some new rooftop dwelling friends, goes in search for clues to the possible whereabouts of her mother. It's a really magical-lovely-spellbinding-wonderful rooftop world, with a heartwarming and impossibly exciting story. It made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. 

That's it for part 1 of my July reading round up. Part 2 coming soon, featuring Passenger, Uprooted, On the Other Side and Ctlr, Alt; Delete!

Zoella Book Club Reviews: Everything Everything, We Were Liars, Fangirl

Helloo! When the Zoella Book Club books were announced I was very pleased to see three titles that I had already read and enjoyed immensely. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon, E. Lockhart's We Were Liars, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, are all excellent choices for the book club for sure. It's great that so many people will get to read them! I will definitely be reading through some of the other titles from the list too, but I reckon I've read the best ones! Here are my reviews for these wonderful books:

Everything Everything

Nicola Yoon's Everything Everything is the story of a teenage girl, Madeline, who is allergic to absolutely everything. She can never leave her house, which was been carefully kitted out with state of the art air filtration systems, an air lock at the front door, clean white walls, even her books arrive decontaminated. Madeline is home schooled through online tutors, and her longterm nurse, Carla, checks her vitals several times through the day. The only people Madeline usually sees in person are her mum, who is a doctor, and Carla. When a new family moves in next door, she begins to speak with the son, Olly, through miming and notes held up at their windows, and then IM messages. Madeline is very wary of the dangers of the outside world due to her disease, but she is especially worried about the effects of falling in love. Narrated in first person by Madeline, this book is deals with love, trust, freedom and isolation perfectly. Having the main character unable to leave their location created this great limitation where, because things were kept simple, down to one setting, the author was able to fully explore this space and spend more time focussing on characters and development, which resulted in me really caring for the characters. Simplicity really is often the key. There were so many moments that gave me chills, and I was rooting for Madeline and any chance of freedom she could get, to live a 'normal' life.

We Were Liars

I highly recommend reading this book. I felt completely drained after reading it, which has to be a sign of a well written book. Most reviews and recommendations I've seen on We Were Liars give absolutely nothing away, so I may follow suit on that. But essentially it is mostly set on a family's private island on the coast of Massachusetts, where 17-year-old Cady spends the summer with her cousins. What I will say is that from the beginning there is some great... experimentation with the creative writing. There are metaphors that you don't realise are metaphors until you're half way through them and figure the character's heart hasn't actually fallen out her body and rolled down the lawn. It turns to poetry at points, to great effect. It's really great to see this kind of clever writing in a young adult book, young adults definitely deserve to be seen as clever readers. The reader follows with Cady as she slowly regains her memory, the story slowly revealing itself to the reader through the same fog the character is experiencing. There's romance, friendship, family, tragedy, heartbreak, memory loss, the works. Go read it now! ...And then make sure you have somewhere to have a lie down when you finish it.


Fangirl is the story of Cath and her twin sister Wren, heading off to college for the first time and growing apart as they each find their place away from home: Wren being socially adventurous and outgoing, Cath being mostly afraid to leave her dorm room. Cath is deeply involved in the Simon Snow fandom and has a huge online following for her fanfic. I got right into the Simon Snow fanfic, (I really want the Simon Snow series to be real- there's room in this world for Harry and Simon), and I loved that it was about fandom, BUT I didn't really end up liking the main character Cath or main love interest Levi. I don't know what happened, I connected with her at the beginning when she was too scared to find the dining room and hiding in her dorm and eating tacos with her dad. I think I found her relationship with Levi a little off putting, he seemed sort of fatherly towards her... it was kind of icky. All that aside, I enjoyed reading it and I am kinda thrilled that the world of fandom has been so sensitively explored in the capable hands of Rainbow Rowell. If you haven't already, I really recommend reading Carry On, which is Rainbow Rowell's own exploration of the Simon Snow characters and is so much fun!