Monday, 22 May 2017

Review! Margot & Me by Juno Dawson

Hellooo there! I'm going to tell you a little story about the journey my thoughts and feelings went through when reading Juno Dawson's Margot and Me. Don't worry, this story has a happy ending!

So I got a copy of Margot and Me by Juno Dawson from its publisher Hot Key Books at the beginning of the year. I had heard absolutely loads and loads of praise for the book so I was pretty keen to get my paws on it. I'll be honest: I didn't like it as first. I found Fliss's narrative voice SO annoying. I thought she sounded a bit sort of stupid or vapid and not anything like how teenagers really talk. She kept talking about wearing her Mary Janes and for some reason I found that particularly annoying! 

Then I read a tweet (oh god searching for a specific tweet is so hard but I'll try) basically saying to adult reviewers, don't give bad reviews to YA books because you don't like the teenage voice, maybe just accept that YA isn't for you (UPDATE: ohemgee I found the tweet: it's this:)

So I had that idea in the back of my mind and then when I went back to Margot and Me after a break of a couple of weeks I found I was much more patient with Fliss's narration. Fliss grows so much as a character if you actually get over yourself enough to read the whole book, which thankfully I did! I found Fliss to be engaging and compassionate and I really enjoyed seeing her figure out her new friendships with the new gang, in a totally new environment, far away from her London home, in rural Wales living on her grandmother's farm, to help her mum in her cancer recovery.

The dual narration, with Fliss in the 90s and Margot's diary from wartime, worked really well to tell the story of a complex grandmother/granddaughter relationship. I particularly enjoyed the 90s setting for references to things like Tammy Girl and snap on phone cases. 

So in the end I realised I was being a bit like Margot and unfairly judging Fliss before I had really gotten to know her and her story. This book is moving and compelling and touching and heartbreaking. And I'm glad I went back to finish it. 

Margot and Me is out now from Hot Key Books.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Books I read in April!: Not That Kind of Girl, Traitor to the Throne, The Ship Beyond Time

Another month of essay marking meant another month of hardly reading anything! I did squeeze in three good books though. I listened to Lena Dunham's Not That Kind of Girl on audiobook, which was enjoyable whilst I was catching up on Girls. I think I spent quite a long time reading Alwyn Hamilton's Traitor to the Throne, the sequel to Rebel of the Sands, but it was soooo good. And on kindle I read The Ship Beyond Time, follow up to The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. Reviews for Traitor to the Throne and The Ship Beyond Time are in this nice post which includes a review of The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury too! 

Not That Kind of Girl- Lena Dunham

Traitor to the Throne- Alwyn Hamilton

The Ship Beyond Time- Heidi Heilig

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Review! Three Excellent Sequels: The Scarecrow Queen, Traitor to the Throne, The Ship Beyond Time // ruthlilywrites

Welllll what do we have here! Only a three reviews squeezed into one post! I have read three much anticipated sequels in the last month and I wanna gush about all three of them basically. The Scarecrow Queen is part three of The Sin Eater's Daughter trilogy by Melinda Salisbury, Traitor to the Throne is part two in the Rebel of the Sands series by Alwyn Hamilton, and The Ship Beyond Time is the sequel to The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. I also recently read A Conjuring of Light, part three in V.E. Schwab's Shades of Magic trilogy, my thoughts on which you can read over here in a different post.

The Scarecrow Queen picks up in the midst of war. We get to spend time with both lead characters this time: Twylla and Errin are in their own separate struggles in the aftermath of the attacks on the secret conclave at the end of book two. Aurek is being the full evil King he wants to be, with Errin held captive. She has to figure out all she can do from within the castle while under the control of Aurek's magic. Twylla meanwhile has to find it within herself to become a leader and a symbol for the rebellion. She learns to fight and lead and strategise. Lief is there being an evil or possible-not-evil-after-all solider man, Merek is in hiding within the castle, and Silas is a prisoner but alive at least. There was a lot to wrap up and I can't quite believe how the gang managed to pull everything off and (SPOILER) survive and win! I thought it was a brilliant conclusion to the trilogy- I found it gripping and well paced and so full of action. It was a good mix of the intense castle prisoner pacing of the first book, and the war brewing, dark magic, run away pacing of the second. I keep remembering scenes I'd forgotten about and being taken right back into that world again. I think I could probably do with a reread of the whole trilogy so I can properly pay attention to all the detail in the lore and everything. I can't wait to see what's coming next from Melinda Salisbury (and I should probably get my hands on The Heart Collector short companion stories to this series!)

Traitor to the Throne takes us back to the middle of the Rebel Prince's rebellion in the desert almost a year after the events of Rebel of the Sands. Amani's reputation is spreading as the Blue-Eyed Bandit, with rumours swirling about the battles she's fought in along with the rebellion, using her sand shifting powers and super gun skills. The pacing of this sequel is a little different from the first in the series, with a lot of time spent in the harem of the Sultan's palace. I think this was a problem for some readers but I found the politics and dynamics of the harem fascinating. Amani has to deal with the loss of her powers, isolation from the rest of her friends in the rebellion and has to face up to characters from her life before the rebellion. There is action, tense political manoeuvring, the summoning of the gods, betrayal, deceit, and an amazing twist in the end. I keep thinking about this book; Alwyn Hamilton has created such a strong sense of place. I want to be back in that world asap and I can't wait for part three.

The Ship Beyond Time is a little different in that it brings many of the issues of book one back in to play, but with a totally new storyline and setting. Nix's dad is sobering up and dealing with the aftermath of the events of book one. Nix takes charge and follows an invitation and map to the mythical island of Ker-Ys, which should be set for a flooding disaster as its story goes. The idea of fate and the telling of fortunes continues to be the main theme, with another rival Navigator messing with the rules of time travel. Most of the book is set in Ker-Ys as Nix, Kashmir, and Blake try to unravel the mystery and figure out what purpose has brought them to the island, and how they can change its doomed fate. This book definitely got my head in a tangle a few times over timelines and time travelling concepts but I really enjoyed being back on the Temptation with its crew. In fact it felt like a really good stand alone episode of Doctor Who, with a time based mystery to solve all set in one really cool location, great guest characters, and the fates of our lead time traveller and her companions brought into question. Now I want to see it on screen a lot. Does Heidi Heilig want to take over from Moffat?

There you have it! Three awesome sequels continuing stories or ending trilogies, each totally enthralling to me. If you haven't read these series, forget everything I just said spoiler-wise and start from the beginning. Well worth your time. There's something for everyone: a fairytale kingdom where old lore is becoming true; a dusty desert, with magic handed down by gods, in the midst of a rebellion; and a ship that can sail through time to lands real and mythical.