The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

Not normally one for reading young adult books, I loved the cover of The Rest of Us Just Live Here when I saw it on the library shelf. Then I read the blurb – and couldn’t resist because my guilty pleasure is watching shows where good looking teens fight supernatural bad guys, usually while punning and falling in love. I just can’t help myself.

So, because I have been trying to step outside my comfort zone with reading, I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed it. It was a fun read – cleverly written and very tongue in cheek – but also very smart.  The story kept me interested, despite not being the target audience, with each chapter opening with a few lines about what was happening to the indie kids (those chosen to fight the latest big bad) whilst everyone else went about their everyday lives.

Everyday for Mikey and his friends include the usual teenage crushes and questions of being in love. It also included anorexia, alcoholism, mental illness and sexuality.  All heavy hitting issues yet each was dealt with sensitively and without sensationalism thanks to the characterisations – each person felt real and solid and I found I cared for them – and humour.

It’s hard to think back to my teenage years but there are some really well presented messages here about how it’s o.k. to be yourself whoever you are and, whilst this might or might not be “normal”, there really is no normal. In fact, we are all different, all special..and all dealing with things that are hard at times and feel overwhelming.  There don’t have to be blue lights coming from the sky and portals to other dimensions opening for important things to be happening in our lives. For all of this, though, we do get through things and life goes on – often in (good) ways we don’t expect.

Thankfully, none of these messages are laid on too thick or too heavy handed. They are woven in as the characters and story develops. This is a hard thing to do and Patrick Ness does it well. So, while I can’t say I’m now a convert to young adult books, I did enjoy this one and will be recommending it. Liked it a lot!

emma x

 

 

November 9 by Colleen Hoover

imageI’m not much of a one for romance I must admit and so when November 9 was selected for Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer’s online book club (you can join here on facebook) I did have a bit of an “oh oh” moment.  Still, reading books you wouldn’t normally is all part of being in a book club so off I went and bought a copy.

November 9 is the story of two teenagers, Fallon and Ben, who meet on the day Fallon is about to move from LA to New York to start her life again after living in limbo for two years since being injured in a house fire.

They spend the day together and then, as Ben takes Fallon to the airport, agree to meet at the same time / in the same place the following year and every year after that for five years – or until they are 23 because that is the age Fallon has decided you are old enough to know your own mind.

It’s a familiar idea, and I was reminded of movies like An Affair to Remember where misunderstandings and miscommunications lead to lots of heartache before everything turns out well in the end (it has to right, this is a romance?).  Saying that, though, it didn’t feel old or stale because  Colleen Hoover has a really nice writing style.  The novel and the story felt fresh and modern and I found that I really liked Ben and Fallon.

I did find them a little to old for their ages – I am not sure I would have been quite as wise as Ben when I was 18 – at least on the surface.  Then their actions showed just how young and naïve they really were.  It meant there were layers to the plot I didn’t expect and I found myself turning the pages quicker and quicker as the book went on.  I had to know how it ended.  And, whilst I may have let slip, there is a happy ending (spoilers – sorry!) there is a great twist before you get there that I didn’t see coming.

Will I rush out and buy another romance novel as a result of this? probably not but I may well pick up another book by Colleen Hoover when I come across it because I liked November 9 a lot.

Emma

 

 

November Round-Up

November was a bit of a strange month reading wise because I was in a slump. I’d had such a good October that it probably had to happen. To try and get myself out of it, I had a week of reading short stories. It worked and I discovered some new authors as a result, which was a bonus. Here’s what worked, and didn’t, for me this month.

Loved

imageAll told, I read one book I loved this month, Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica. I had heard great things about it and was a bit worried I would be disappointed. I wasn’t. It was a really interesting story with great characters and great twist. I couldn’t stop turning pages. Highly recommended!

 

Liked a Lot

imageTwo of the three I liked a lot were short stories, The Octopus Nest by Sophie Hannah which I thought was really clever and well written and A Sheltered Woman by Yiyun Li, possibly the comple opposite of Sophie Hannah in that it was intimate portrait of a Chinese American Nanny – who only stays with families for the first month after the baby is born.

2547263The last of the three books I liked a lot was Girl Meets Boy by Ali Smith and it wasn’t much longer than the short stories, coming in at around 80 pages. Part of the Canongate Myth series it took a new, feminist look at a story from Ancient Greece and made it very relevant.

 

Liked

23624909Two more short stories made the list here, BBC national short story winner Briar Road by Jonathan Buckley and The Memory Man by Helen Smith. Both took different looks at the world of psychics, showing how being able to talk to the dead might not be quite a blessing some might think it is.

 

imageThe short stories gave me the motivation to pick back up Little Girl Gone by Alexandra Burt, which I enjoyed though not as much as I had hoped. It was a little too long so felt like it ran out of steam for me, though it was a good idea and well written. My main problem was not liking the main character. I may be in the minority here though.

Not for me

902743The characters were a big part of the problem in the two books that just did nothing for me.  In Fair Play by Tove Jansson they felt too stylised and I just couldn’t warm to them or quite get why they were behaving how they did, whilst in The Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse the bad guy was just not bad enough and the central character left me cold.

These two were at the start of the month and I am laying blame for my reading slump firmly at their door 😄. Thankfully, things did pick up and all in all it wasn’t a bad November in hindsight. How was yours – what should I be looking for or avoiding in December?

Emma

Tuesday Intro: 24th November, 2015

Once again this week I’m linking up with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. I really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

imageThis week, I’m reading The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness. It’s young adult so not my normal read but I am trying to step outside the box with my reading a bit more and it looked interesting when I saw it on the shelf at the library.

Here’s what it’s about…

What if you aren’t the Chosen One?

The one who’s supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?

What if you’re like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.

Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week’s end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.

Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.

And here’s how it starts…

On the day we’re the last people to see indie kid Finn alive, we’re all sprawled together in the Field, talking about love and stomachs.

“I don’t believe that, though,” my sister says, and I look up at the slight tension in her voice. She gives me a half-annoyed nod of reassurance in the sunshine, then shakes her head again at Henna. “You always have a choice. I don’t care if you think it’s love –and by the way, NOT a word you should throw around so easily –but even if that, even if that word, you can still choose to act right.”

What do you ink? Would you keep reading?

emma

A Sheltered Woman, a short story by Yiyun Li

After yesterday’s BBC 2015 prize winner for best short story review, today I read The Times’ 2015 short story winner. Partly because I liked the sound of it but also because I wanted to compare the stories and see if I could hone my short story reading palette. I can’t say I succeeded with the later, though I did enjoy today’s story just a little bit more.

I think that is because it was different – there were no spooky goings on here – but also because it was a subject I know little about – Chinese American culture and I felt like I got a little glimpse into this world though Auntie Mei, a baby nanny.

A baby nanny is one who only stays for the first month of the babies life and takes care of child and mother. Auntie Mei is good at it and in demand – she has looked after 131 babies all told. She doesn’t get attached and she doesn’t linger, moving on as soon as the child is a month old. Her latest job, though, has her thinking it might be time for a change.

As with the other short stories this week, I was amazed by how much Li got into so few pages (16) and how real the character of Auntie Mei felt to me, how well I thought I knew her and her life by the end. She is an interesting woman with an interesting last, one who has made some very non-traditional choices in a pretty traditional world.

Li has a great way with words and painted a really detailed picture of a small slice of life. I have not read anything by her before but definitely will be now! Another well worth a read.

Emma

Briar Road, a short story by Jonathan Buckley

Next up for me short story wise this week, in recognition of national short story week, is Briar Road by Jonathan Buckley.

bbcnssa_2015_logo_webBriar Rose won the BBC national short story award for 2015 and – like yesterday’s The Memory Man – has a supernatural element to it as a psychic tries to help a family find out what has happened to their missing daughter. She visits their house, holds a séance, but can’t give them the answers they want.

I found the portrayals of the family and their reactions to the psychic’s visit very real – each was very different and not everyone’s was what you might expect.  Then there was the psychic herself – I loved her cynicism (“It’s a wonderfully written story, rich on the small details that drew me in.  On first reading, it seemed very simple but there was a lot of emotion here.”).

I can’t say I’m the best judge of a short story, as with all things we like what we like, but I can see why it won – this was a well written story that drew me in quickly and had me caring for the characters within a few paragraphs – something that is hard to do.  Well worth a read.

Emma

This Week, Next Week: 8th November, 2015

Hi All – hope you are having a good weekend. Ours was full of bangs – literally – as it was Bonfire Night Thursday and our neighbours decided to wait till last night to let off the million fireworks that usually accompany the 5th November. It was great to watch actually and I’m kind of hoping they go all out again on New Years Eve to save us having to track any displays down (yes, I’m lazy!).

imageThe rest of the week wasn’t quite as exciting and book wise a bit of a mixed bag. I got my review of Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica posted and read and reviewed Girl Meets Boy, a short story by Ali Smith and part of the Canongate Myth series, which I really enjoyed. I loved Ali Smiths style of writing and sense of humour.

2547263Then I read The Bed I Made by Lucie Whitehouse, which I’d been looking forward too. Unfortunately it wasn’t what I had hoped. I’ll review it this week but it left me feeling a bit flat and struggling to read anything else.

Hopefully I’ll get my writing mojo back after picking up these, both books I’ve heard good things about…

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The Ice Twins…A year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives.

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity—that she, in fact, is Lydia—their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past—what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died?

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Little Girl Gone….A baby goes missing. But does her mother want her back?

When Estelle’s baby daughter is taken from her cot, she doesn’t report her missing. Days later, Estelle is found in a wrecked car, with a wound to her head and no memory.

Estelle knows she holds the key to what happened that night – but what she doesn’t know is whether she was responsible…

Keep your fingers crossed for me. What about you? What are you reading this week?

emma

This week, I’m linking in with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) with Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

This Week, Last Month: 1st November, 2015 (and October round-up)

Hi All, welcome to November. This is one of my favourite times of year, with the weather changing and Christmas just around the corner, not that I’m quite ready for it yet but – now Halloween is over – there is nothing else I need to plan for to get in the way of getting excited about the season.

And this week has been all about Halloween, with a party Friday and trick or treating last night.  It’s also been half term, which has meant a few days away and little time to read, though I did manage to finish Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica and post one review, Drive by James Sallis, which I loved. He is one of my favourite authors and I never tire of his stripped back style of writing and interesting, flawed, characters.

The whole month has been a bit hit and missed with posting but can’t be helped. I have learnt not to beat myself up about it. Plus, I read some really good books, one other of which I loved…

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Follow the Leader by Mel Sherratt, the second in the series involving DS Allie Shenton, was as good as – better even – than the first with a serial killer on the loose in the City of Stoke set on carrying out revenge on those who had done him wrong. It was well written with great characters. I have the third book ready to read and hope to be cracking the spine on this in the next few weeks.

And the rest of which I really liked, including…

932671imageA Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle, the first Sherlock Holmes I’ve read (and the first story featuring the greatest detective off all time), I could see why the story has stood the test of time.

The Sudden Departure of the Frasers by Louise Candlish, which I’d heard goods about and wasn’t disappointed by. Just what was going on behind the well-to-do front doors in this London suburb and exactly what happened to the most beautiful resident of the street made this a real page turner – and made me want to read more books by this author.

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Eeny Meeny by M J Arlidge, the first in a series I’m already four books behind on but would like to catch up with. This was a pretty dark tale of a serial killer targeting couples but with a clever plot and interesting central character.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which I read for Frightfall and also my Classic Club challenge. A book I felt I knew the story of but it turns out I didn’t. This was a horror story but also a tragic tale of a creature mankind just couldn’t accept. I needed up feeling quite sad by the end, rather than scared.

Looking back over the month, I was surprised to see there wasn’t one “blah” book amongst them – perhaps I’m getting soft in my old age or maybe have just been lucky, in which case I hope the look continues. I’m not sure what I’ll be reading next – I still have all last week’s books and I also picked up an audiobook about The Gunpowder Plot which seemed appropriate for the time of year.

What about you? What are you reading? Or what have you read I should be adding to the list?

Emma

This week, I’m linking in (rather belatedly) with Kimba at the Caffeinated Book Reviewer and her Sunday Post and with (a little early) with Katherine at Book Date for It’s Monday, What Are you Reading? Head over to see what other bloggers have read, written about or just added to their shelves.

The Sunday Post

Tuesday Intro: 27th October, 2015

Once again this week I’m linking up with Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea who hosts a post every Tuesday for people to share the first chapter / paragraph of the book they are reading, or thinking of reading soon. I really enjoy these tasters when I read them on other blogs so wanted to join in.

This week, I’m reading Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica, which I bought a while ago but have only just gotten round to reading, despite really wanting too as I’ve heard nothing but good thing. Here’s what it’s about…

imageShe sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

And here’s how it starts…

Heidi

The first time I see her, she is standing at the Fullerton Station, on the train platform, clutching an infant in her arms. She braces herself and the baby as the purple line express soars past and out to Linden. It’s the 8th of April, forty-eight degrees and raining. The rain lurches down from the sky, here, there and everywhere, the wind untamed and angry. A bad day for hair.

What do you think – if you’ve read it, should I carry on – if you are one of the few that haven’t (or so it seems), would you continue reading?

Emma

September Round Up

Wow, October!  That came on quick.  Time to start thinking about Halloween costumes and dig out he hot chocolate.  Here, the weather hasn’t completely turned yet (though the leaves are starting to change to yellow and red) but the mornings are colder and I’m kind of looking forward to digging out my sweaters and scarfs.

September has flown by for me.  We finally got moved into our new house and unpacked and I’ve been taking some me time to do my Mindfullness course which is really helping me focus and look at the world differently.  Work wise, it started slow then picked up, meaning I’ve spent most of the last week on trains going to meetings, shaking hands, and smiling a lot.  It has meant I’m sorely missing out on beauty sleep BUT on the plus side, I’ve managed to get a lot of reading done so there is a silver lining.

Included on my reading list this month were books I loved, books I liked, and a few I probably wouldn’t recommend…

Loved

image23164950Still Waters by Viveca Sten – the start of a new series of Scandinavian crime stories, this one had great characters and was well written.

Freedom’s Child by Jax Miller – a debut novel that introduced me to a totally original character who lives life on instinct and is lucky to still be alive by the end.

Liked a Lot

imageimage18476104The Lady in the Tower by Alison Weir –  a sympathetic portrait of amuch despised Queen, I learnt a lot.

The Prodigal by Nicky Black – a debut with a real punch, set in 90’s Newcastle and a rather dodgy housing estate.

Taunting the Dead by Mel Sherratt – the first in a series of books I’m really enjoying, well plotted crime fiction with a great central character.

Liked a Little

imageimageAfter Anna by Alex Lake – a good plot but I wasn’t enamoured with the characters

Blood Sisters by Graham Masterton – a crime novel with a touch of horror, the latest in a series of books I think I’m falling out of love with.

Probably won’t be recommending

imageA Mother’s Story by Amanda Prowse – an interesting novel that looks at post-natal depression but it didn’t work for me as an audiobook; I can’t say if the written word would have worked out better.

And that’s it for me.  How was September for you? What would you recommend I read in October?

Emma