Book Review, Books

A Monster Calls Review

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

An extraordinary novel of love, loss and hope

12.07. There’s a monster at Conor’s window.
It’s not the one from his nightmare. But it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor.

It wants the truth.

Now a powerful and haunting film, Patrick Ness’s modern classic is a heartbreaking but uplifting tale of healing and, above all, the courage it takes to survive.

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Nikki from Books and Lemon Squash recommended this book, and it had taken me a long time to actually decide to read it. Part of it is because I have read his other books and didn’t like them at all. But then, I was reassured the original bit of story wasn’t his, so I finally gave it a go.

This is the story of Conor, and the monster that comes to his window. This monster promises to tell him three stories and then Conor has to tell the last one, the truth. Because once he does, the monster will help him.

We see two things happening in this story, one is the stories the “yew monster” tells Conor, which frustrate him, and confuse him. There is no clear white and black in any of the stories, and this frustrates Conor, for he wants the predictable easy good vs bad in them. The stories do not comfort him.

And we have the reality, his mum and her treatments, her bald head. We see how he slowly becomes invisible to his school, and to the world. And how he sometimes sees himself as invisible. He’s doing the best he can, and holding on to hope.

But what is this nightmare, and how is the monster going to help? And what is the truth Conor refuses to accept or acknowledge?

It was an interesting book to read, especially as I recently lost my aunt to cancer, so it hit close to home and made me tear up a little as I knew where this was going and it was just that sadness seeping into me. But it was also good to read and I liked it.

Moon recommends

Why not support a Cancer charity like Cancer Research? Also, you can go read this particular book (I can’t really recommend any of his other books, alas).

 

Book Review, Books

The Poet X Review

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The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

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So, I have to admit I had put this book off because it is basically a story in poetry form and I wasn’t sure how well that would go down for me (I like poetry but I am picky, mostly because poetry in English is different to poetry in Spanish and I find it harder to connect with it).

However, I am glad I finally picked it up as it helped move from my slump (there is the reason for so many graphic novels and manga and Middle Grade books recently being reviewed). But back to the book, we meet Xiomara, and she lives with Mami and Papi, and Twin (Xavier).

And the poetry is good, and it doesn’t break the story too much (though I admit it took me a while to realise the “title” line wasn’t exactly always a title but at times the first line of the poem and then I had to go back and reread it as “part of the poem” rather than “the title”). It also was an interesting read.

I am not from Dominican Republic and I didn’t move to America, but I am Latin, and I moved to the UK, and I know friends and family that moved to America, so I am not that far from this story.

Actually I wish I could say I was far from it. But I also had a fierce mother who would expect a lot of me (she was a Christian rather than Catholic) but church was very important and we didn’t get the choice of not believing. Neither does Xiomara.  (Yes, I know, I am talking about me, but you see, the thing is, as I read this book, I saw a lot of me in it. I didn’t write poetry, I wrote stories, and made friends online at a time when no one made friends online because that wasn’t an everyday thing as it is now. And I also tried hard to figure myself out and what my voice was. And my younger sister had all the leeway in things I didn’t).

That was the part I loved, the way I found a lot of myself in this book, and that the poetry worked well with it to make it the right way to have it. My only “but” was the poem in Spanish (it is my mother tongue), I read it in Spanish, not knowing there was a transalation on the next page and it felt like it had been written originally in English. And that bothered me, because it was the moment I was broken from the story. Because once I turned the page and read it in English, I knew the original wasn’t in Spanish, or if it had, it had been written in Spanish while the English “translation” was being written. Small thing I know, but it was a sad thing for me.

All in all, it was one of my favourite in representation and it was a refreshing new way of reading/writing a book.

Moon recommends

Reading The Poet X. Alas, I do not have much poetry or slam or anything like that to recommend, so I will have to leave it with just that as the main thing to go read.

 

Book Review

Lovely, Dark, and Deep Review

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Lovely, Dark, and Deep by Justina Chen

What would you do if the sun became your enemy?

That’s exactly what happens to Viola Li after she returns from a trip abroad and develops a sudden and extreme case of photosensitivity — an inexplicable allergy to sunlight. Thanks to her crisis-manager parents, she doesn’t just have to wear layers of clothes and a hat the size of a spaceship. She has to stay away from all hint of light. Say goodbye to windows and running outdoors. Even her phone becomes a threat when its screen burns her.

Viola is determined to maintain a normal life, particularly after she meets Josh. He’s a funny, talented Thor look-alike who carries his own mysterious grief. But the intensity of their romance makes her take more and more risks, and when a rebellion against her parents backfires dangerously, she must find her way to a life — and love — as deep and lovely as her dreams.

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You know how they tell you to write the book you’d like to read and haven’t found? For me this is the book I wanted to read but hadn’t found. However, I did not write, instead Justina did.

We follow Viola’s story through this book, she is a browncoat, which in geekspeak means a fan of Firefly, and is also crazy about doing bake sales for charity (that is something I am not that familiar with except as a concept but all the food she cooks throughout the book made me hungry and I wish we had some recipes to go with it). Then as she is having a normal day, she collapses and voila, turns out she is allergic to the sun (and light).

Now, in case you didn’t know, I am photosensitive myself (I was born like this) and I have written a little about it on a reality check post. And I really want to highlight that this book does a wonderful job at representation of photosensitivity. It is well researched, it is good at explaining how it affects and changes your life (it was very intersting for me, since I have adapted to it as I grow, rather than having to do so in one go, and I kept nodding at the things they would try and going “yeah, done that”) and it is also a good story. It follows her journey to coping with her new life, and how her family relationships change, but it also has a romance subplot which I enjoyed (even if at times it was quite sweet) that in itself deals with loss and grief.

Lovely, Dark, and Deep is a very uplifting book, it keeps reassuring you that you’ve got this regardless of how many lemons (or killer sunrays) life throws at you.

Moon recommends

That if you know me, or are curious about photosensitivity, you go and buy this book and read it. It genuinely is the book I didn’t know I needed. And if you’d like a younger and more sweet book, try The Ice Garden.

Book Review

Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? Review

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Are We All Lemmings & Snowflakes? by Holly Bourne

Welcome to Camp Reset, a summer camp with a difference. A place offering a shot at “normality” for Olive, a girl on the edge, and for the new friends she never expected to make – who each have their own reasons for being there. Luckily Olive has a plan to solve all their problems. But how do you fix the world when you can’t fix yourself?

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My first Holly Bourne book was It Only Happens In The Movies, and I absolutely loved it, it was a different kind of contemporary book. So when this little one came out and it touched on kindness and mental health I knew I had to read it.

It did not disappoint. Olive has issues, and she is sent to a camp as a possible treatment. There she meets other people with different mental illnesses, and she starts going off on her own theories of how to fix herself.

I love the part maths took here (and the character that brings them into place), and Olive was in part lovable, part I wanted to tell her to stop and listen and just not do what she was doing. But then I have had a lot more years of experience than she does in the book, and I did do some crazy things regarding my mental health when I was Olive’s age.

However, this book made me quite emotional and I kept wanting to read it and not stop. Plus it touches on being kind to yourself, and starting there but also on doing small acts of kindness to others. Which is always a good thing and it is lovely to see that promoted.

Moon recommends

Maybe just go read more of Holly’s books? I have reviewed It Only Happens In The Movies here so you can check that one out, or go buy this book.

Book Review

Undead Girl Gang Review

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Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.

So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.

Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.

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This novel was a refreshing voice and it made me laugh. It was also quite good to have a witch that is not your usual witch, and I loved it. I also loved how her spells turn out.

I read this in a couple of sittings because it was just fun and cute and I kept wanting to know what Mila was doing and pondering exactly why the girls had been killed and by whom.

The twists made me laugh (mushrooms, mushrooms), and it just felt like a fun book yet it was dealing with death and difficult things happening. People think the girls died by a suicide pact, so with this premise Mila starts trying to prove it wrong, and it is a sad book.

Yes, there are zombies but it definitely isn’t your usual zombie story at all! But it does challenge the mean girls and it challenges Riley and Mila’s friendship and it is good, and interesting.

I think the best way to describe it is a refreshing fun out of the norm book.

Moon recommends

I think you should read Undead Girl Gang. If you like mysteries and thriller like, try One of Us is Lying, or if you prefer something funny, try Heretics Anonymous.

Book Review

I Have Lost My Way Review

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I Have Lost My Way by Gayle Forman

A powerful display of empathy and friendship from the #1 New York Times Bestselling author of If I Stay. Around the time that Freya loses her voice while recording her debut album, Harun is making plans to run away from home to find the boy that he loves, and Nathaniel is arriving in New York City after a family tragedy leaves him isolated on the outskirts of Washington state. After the three of them collide in Central Park, they slowly reveal the parts of their past that they haven’t been able to confront, and together, they find their way back to who they’re supposed to be. Told over the course of a single day from three different perspectives, Gayle Forman’s newest novel about the power of friendship and being true to who you are is filled with the elegant prose that her fans have come to know and love.

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Gayle’s books shine for a few things, and this one doesn’t loose those marvelous pros. Which ones? One, it is an easy read. The writing is easy to read, it doesn’t require you to concentrate like crazy because you may miss something, and it is just quick and easy and enjoyable.

Another one is her view of humanity and gaining introspectives on yourself through watching, interacting and being with others. This particular book shines a lot on that front. Mind you, I say yourself, but it is meant to be the fact that it happens as the characters exist and move along the story, but it affects you too as you go alongside them.

There is usually music involved in one way or another in the narrative which I kind of like because it makes it “normal”, and it makes it a part of everything.

All in all, a nice lovely book about finding your way, and remembering why you are doing things. (It is less punch-y than some of her other books but that doesn’t take away from this one).

Moon recommends

I am not big on contemporary books, but I can recommend I Have Lost My Way, or if you want to try more of her books you can start the If I Stay “series”.

Book Review

It Only Happens in the Movies Review

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It Only Happens In The Movies by Holly Bourne

Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…

The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

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My absolutely favourite thing about this book was the ending. I was buddy reading with a friend and kept commenting on how I didn’t want x or y in the ending, and Holly delivered. It couldn’t be a more perfect ending to the book.

Basically this book redeemed my quickly draining love for contemporary books (as I get older and read more and more, the less I like contemporaries, they are just meh and feel like the same book over and over with minimal changes. Holly however gave me something different and wow me!)

Also, it was great to see more of the family in a way and how things weren’t great for Audrey and she couldn’t do much about it (because sometimes that’s life and it sucks).

Moon recommends

Cheek It Only Happens in the Movies, oh and get some popcorn with it, you’ll crave it!

Book Review

Words in Deep Blue Review

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Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

This is a love story.
It’s the story of Howling Books, where readers write letters to strangers, to lovers, to poets.
It’s the story of Henry Jones and Rachel Sweetie. They were best friends once, before Rachel moved to the sea.
Now, she’s back, working at the bookstore, grieving for her brother Cal and looking for the future in the books people love, and the words they leave behind.

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This is a book about grief, and about the power of words. And as such it was a beautiful read. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but once I did, I kept wanting to read, and I wished for a Letter Library close by.

As I read it, I was reminded of all the times I’ve found little gems in library books or second-hand ones, one of them contained a dollar bill, another had a letter, some have had receipts or train tickets, and there have been beautiful dedications or author signatures on them. The joys of used books indeed.

But it isn’t just about books, it is about processing grief (not just the kind of loosing someone but also of dreams broken and lost) and living as best as you can, a bit like connecting the dots between the you before the event and the you that exists now, and it was beautiful.

It definitely shows the power and beauty of words in it. Even if I wanted to smack Henry with a book at times, and Rachel too. But it was cute, romantic and sweet. A light read despite the heavy topics.

Moon recommends

After I finished Words in Deep Blue I couldn’t help but think of Letters to the Lost, so that is my recommendation this time around.

Book Review

Emergency Contact Review

Emergency Contact was a spur of the moment purchase, it sounded interesting, but I hadn’t committed to it and then suddenly I made the decision to preorder it and that was that.

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Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi

For Penny Lee high school was a total nonevent. Her friends were okay, her grades were fine, and while she somehow managed to land a boyfriend, he doesn’t actually know anything about her. When Penny heads to college in Austin, Texas, to learn how to become a writer, it’s seventy-nine miles and a zillion light years away from everything she can’t wait to leave behind.

Sam’s stuck. Literally, figuratively, emotionally, financially. He works at a café and sleeps there too, on a mattress on the floor of an empty storage room upstairs. He knows that this is the god-awful chapter of his life that will serve as inspiration for when he’s a famous movie director but right this second the seventeen bucks in his checking account and his dying laptop are really testing him.

When Sam and Penny cross paths it’s less meet-cute and more a collision of unbearable awkwardness. Still, they swap numbers and stay in touch—via text—and soon become digitally inseparable, sharing their deepest anxieties and secret dreams without the humiliating weirdness of having to see each other.

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Warning, I usually avoid spoilers as much as possible in my reviews but this one may include some. I will still try to keep them to a minimum.

I am not the biggest fan of contemporary books, and if I do read them I tend to prefer more “magical realism” or something like that, which this does not have. However, the idea of having an “emergency contact” for panic attacks was a lovely thing (I think it is one of the things that made me preorder this book, not sure but it definitely would’ve since I have had panic attacks).

And both Sam and Penny aren’t perfect, are struggling and are learning to be “adults”, so it was refreshing to read from them, and hey look at that, the parents aren’t conveniently out of the way as such (yes it happens while Penny is in college/university but her mum is definitely a big part in this story).

I was shook when Penny’s “secret” was revealed, not because it was a bad secret but rather because it touched me as I had gone through something similar and I could understand her too well.

All in all, the book left me feeling happy to be alive, wanting to fall in love slowly and just needing an emergency contact.

Moon recommends

Reading Emergency Contact, I literally said to my friends they had to read it because it was so good! Another good book that is contemporary and gave me similar vibes is When My Heart Joins The Thousand, so I recommend reading it if this sounds interesting.

 

 

Book Review

Windfall Review

This was lent to me by Nikki and I grabbed it last weekend for a quick read. It did not disappoint on that front.

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Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes. 

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall. 

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.

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On the quick read front, if definitely was a quick read, and easy to read. Nothing complicated, nothing too difficult. On the other hand, there wasn’t anything wow to leave me wanting more or really anything like it.

It is a brilliant filler and a good “I don’t want to think and just need a nice book to read, thank you very much”.

Teddy wins the loterry thanks to a ticket Alice gets him, and as much as the premise here says about an adventure, most of the book isn’t exactly that. It is more a “we are all trying to figure ourselves out because this whole money thing has changed things and also college and life”.

One of the things that frustrated me a little is that I didn’t really want Alice to end up with Teddy. As Swayer says, he doesn’t deserve her. And it was frustrating to see him hurt her then apologise and everything is fine and all good. No, that is not good, that can become toxic, please don’t do that.

However, one of the things I really liked is the relationships between all characters. Teddy and his mother, Teddy and his gambling father. Alice and her uncle and aunt. Alice and Leo. Leo and Max. It is interesting.

Moon recommends

This book felt a little along the lines of Here We Are Now or Everything, Everything, easy reads that are more about relationships between family and friends or boy/girl so any fo them will do nicely.

PS. I don’t have lottery tickets so YALC queue tickets is all I had…