The Stone of Destiny Read-Along, Week 4

If you’ve been following along you’ll know that the end of chapter 30 saw Ailsa follow a horse into the woods only to find a mysterious stranger and realise she is not alone…DUN DUN DUN *dramatic musical interlude*. I couldn’t wait to race into this week’s reading!

During week 4 we have, again, found out lots more about the writing and inspiration of this book from the author herself, Caroline Logan. This week we’re talking more mythical creatures and fears.

Week 4: Chapters 31-41

Summary

These chapters started off with Ailsa being attacked by something whilst she was separated from the guys. We then followed her recovery from this ordeal holed up in a cute (or at least in my brain) rural tavern. We also have a traditional ceilidh, which is lovely to see in fiction, followed by the trio walking headlong into more danger.

My favourite part of this section

In one chapter Ailsa has a dream about her past where we get to learn a little bit more of her family life as a child. I’m really enjoying getting to unravel this backstory and seeing the true depths of hatred, fear, and prejudice experienced by and directed towards those that the communities of citizens perceive to be changelings. This chapter also shows the strength of Ailsa’s mother who ensured her daughter was able to live despite the villagers trying to knock the door down to take and murder her. I’m really intrigued to find out more about Ailsa’s mother and brother as these flashbacks feel very significant, more so than for character background purposes.

I also loved the development I saw in Harris. His personality is beginning to unravel and we’re starting to see just how much he cares for Ailsa. As I said previously, I AM SO HERE FOR THIS.

what i’m looking forward to in the next section

More Harris and Ailsa. More cuteness with Angus; I love that the two of them have such different relationships with him.

Don’t forget to join us reading along!

The Stone of Destiny Read-Along, Week 3

After Caroline shared some visual inspiration for the characters in her book during week 2, week 3 has seen some very specific scene inspiration, and some writing methodology.

I’m loving all of these ‘beyond the page’ updates!

Week 3: Chapters 21-30

summary

Walking and angst! Questing and cuteness. Ailsa, Harris, and Duncan head out on their quest to retrieve the Stone and bicker like an old married thrupple and I loved it. We also learnt a bit more about Prince Duncan and the life of a ‘spare’ in this world. Ailsa began to open up to the guys too, and there’s a definite hint of romance in the air between her and Harris. Let me tell you, I am HERE FOR IT.

What did i enjoy most?

The mic-drop at the end of chapter 30! I’m trying to be very strict with myself and write my next post at the end of reading the block of chapters. The final page of chapter 30 made it very hard for me not to race straight ahead.

I’m also loving that there are so many great redhead characters in this book. Growing up a redhead, I’ve often found in films/tv/books that redheads are the villains or ‘evil’ characters which bothers me. However I feel like the way Caroline is writing Harris and the other redheads is healing those little wounds. I don’t mean to sound all sentimental.

Only a short update for this week as I’m keen to race ahead into week 4’s chapters!

Join us with the read-along on Twitter!

The Stone of Destiny Read-Along, Week 2

In week 2 of this read-along of Caroline Logan’s first book The Stone of Destiny, we read chapters 11 – 20. I’ve also learnt lots more about this book as Caroline has been sharing insights of character inspiration over on her twitter page. My favourite discovery this week is the process of naming places in this fictional world.

Week 2: Chapters 11-20

Summary

In these few chapters we get to learn a little bit about the workings of court. We see how the court functions, including a ball and the King’s council. We also meet the Royal Family who are charismatic additions to the character list.

Most Promising new character

My favourite new addition to the book is without a doubt Prince Duncan. If Harris’s cheeky personality wasn’t already enough, Prince Duncan adds to this in bucket loads. He’s clearly the life and soul of the party and so much fun. Harris and Duncan bounce off of each other and their budding bromance is possibly my favourite relationship of the novel so far.

Stand out world building moment

I love how we’re slowly learning more about this world and I loved a subtle hint of the world beyond Eilanmor’s borders. The Crown Princess, aka pregnant Queen in waiting, is from another island in this world. When watching the prejudice that Ailsa experiences due to her birthmark and perceived status as a mythical changeling, the Queen retorts that in her land people believe the mark shows the child has been touched by the Gods. I love that this clearly means we have more mythological interpretations from the different populations in this world. I’m really excited to find out more, and it looks like Caroline is going to explore these things as the novel and series moves forward.

what am i most looking forward to in the next section?

This is slightly spoilery so skip the next couple of paragraphs if you haven’t read this far.

With Ailsa, Harris, and Duncan heading on a roadtrip/quest, I am fully anticipating this being so much fun. I sense a love triangle. I’m going to love the bromantic banter between the guys. No doubt our trio will also run into some trouble which will mean more badass Ailsa to enjoy. I really think the action is going to ramp up in the next block of chapters and I can’t wait! Bring it on.

You can catch up with the first part of the read-along for The Stone of Destiny by clicking here. Follow Caroline Logan on Twitter for more background information on the book as we continue reading!

The Stone of Destiny Read-Along, Week 1

The Stone of Destiny by Caroline Logan is the first book in YA series The Four Treasures. Ahead of the publication of book two, The Cauldron of Life, towards the end of this year, Caroline is hosting a read-along with bloggers and readers of the first book. She will be giving us insights along the way, and we will all be celebrating Scotland and the myths and legends that inspired this story.

Thank you very much to publisher Cranachan Books for sending me a copy to read.

Without further ado, let’s get into my first impressions of this novel and week 1 of the read-along. Visit Caroline’s Twitter to follow along and learn a little bit more about this series. Here she is to introduce you to her books!

Video originally tweeted by Caroline Logan 3,011🌈📚 (@bearpuffbooks) on August 3, 2020.

Week 1: Chapters 1-10

Summary

In this first part of the novel we meet the protagonist, Ailsa. We find her alone and living off the land. Very quickly she stumbles across a woman in trouble and saves her and her brother from attack. Whilst they are recovering from the attack the mysterious woman, Iona, convinces Ailsa to accompany herself and her brother Harris on their mission to offer them protection. Having nothing keeping Ailsa where she is, she agrees and the trio begin their quest by first heading for the capital city of the land.

What do i think of the characters?

I really love all three of the principle characters so far. Ailsa is a certified badass. She is ballsy and can handle herself. I’m really enjoying her snippy comments and her dynamic with Iona and Harris. I’m intrigued by the snippets of her life that we’ve learnt so far and I have so many questions about her past that I can’t wait to unravel. Iona is great too. She seems like the guiding light of this novel, all wisdom and grace. Harris is the comic relief and his witty remarks and comebacks are everything. The banter between him and his sister, and the arguments with Ailsa are everything. His personality oozes off the page.

What did i enjoy most?

I love the mythology element in this story. It lead me into a research spiral, which is always a good sign. In these first few chapters we learn that Ailsa is seen as a Changeling by the village she grew up in due to a birth mark on her face. It’s also quickly clear that Iona and Harris are Selkies, mythical shape-shifting seal people. I’m hoping we get to learn more about all of this as the novel moves forwards.

What am i looking forward to in the next section?

As well as seeing where the mythology develops, I’m looking forward to seeing what life is like in the capital city. I love world building so I can’t wait to see what this world has to offer, especially with such a stunning map in the front of the book!

Picture from Caroline Logan on twitter (@BEARPUFFBOOKS)

That’s it from me for week 1 of The Stone of Destiny read-along! Let me know if you’re joining in.

Review: Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha – book 2)

Siege and Storm, by Leigh Bardugo

Pages: 435

Published: 4th June 2013

⭐️ 3.5 / 5

This book (and the entire series actually) has been on my shelf and my TBR for a long time. I bought all 3 books in the series several years ago and they’ve been sat on my bookshelf ever since. Towards the end of 2019 I finally got around to them, after uni destroyed my love of reading almost irreparably, and I am so glad I am now on this bandwagon.

Whilst I really enjoyed book 1, Siege and Storm actually had me rolling my eyes quite a lot. Here’s what I thought.

Plot

Just when you think Mal and Alina might have it a bit easier, at least for a little while, they get caught again. Guess who? Shock horror, yes that’s right, The Darkling is back – and only a handful of pages after they shook him off. That’s a theme of this book to be honest, escaping and then being caught again almost immediately by someone or another. The Darkling initially drags Alina with him whilst looking for the sea whip, AKA yet another Grisha amplifier, which he can use to further control her. Naturally they succeed because tracker extraordinaire Mal is on the case. He and Alina kill the sea whip themselves and then escape…

I couldn’t resist 😂 – I apologise to the non-Brits who probably won’t catch this reference.

The new band of escapees drop themselves straight into more trouble in the last place that Mal and Alina want to be in. It is capture disguised as freedom as they can’t really freely leave. Alina essentially doesn’t escape for the whole novel as The Darkling keeps appearing to her and causing problems. It’s exhausting and doesn’t seem to serve a purpose except to irritate the reader. Yes it causes conflict between certain characters but I don’t think it actually adds anything of value to the novel.

There’s lots more questing, when Alina discovers there is actually a third amplifier, which allows for a fair amount of world building. I loved that we were able to learn more about Mal and Alina’s childhood which gave us some adorable fluffy moments (yes I ship it please don’t judge). However the similarities in embarking on a quest where so strong for me that it made this feel like a carbon copy of Shadow and Bone, and makes it difficult to judge this book on its own. For me, the characters really made this novel as there were some excellent additions to the series.

Characters

I love lots of the new cast of this book. One is notorious privateer, Sturmhond. What a sassy, wonderful, pain in the ass he is. I adored him, his particular brand of humour, and his cutting remarks. His interactions with the characters we already love are brilliant.

Twins Tolya and Tamar are also standout characters of this book who should be protected at all costs.

Unfortunately, Mal becomes even more whiney in this book. I mean honestly, he needs to get a grip. He starts fighting Grisha and just generally being an angsty, miserable, moaning idiot who puts other people in danger as a result of his actions.

To top it all off The Darkling gains some interesting and horrific new powers that just keep growing and developing into greater horrors…

Lots of the newer cast are from other regions in the world this series is set. As such we are able to learn more about nations such as Shu Han. This is definitely a strength of this book and I loved how this added depths to certain characters’ actions.

Final Thoughts

I did enjoy this book for the most part however I did find the repetitious plot frustrating. I also feel like the conclusion of the novel was such a horrific low that I can’t see how this is going to be resolved in the final book. It left me very despondent and seemed like a ridiculous conclusion after everything that Mal and Alina had worked for. I can understand the final fight, a common fantasy trope but there doesn’t seem to be anywhere to go from here…

I guess I’ll have to work that out in Ruin and Rising.

Blurb:

Soldier, Summoner, Saint. Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner – hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long. The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army. But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice – and only she can face the oncoming storm.

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

The Hate U Give Chapters 19 – end. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. On Monday we posted our first thoughts on chapters 1 – 9. The second instalment came on Wednesday, and this is our final post for this novel.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Please have a look at my previous posts and go to Kerrie’s blog too for her instalments. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in!

Chapters 19 – the end of the book is where the action really ramps up. Riots, protests, social movement all accelerate. Starr is waiting to hear the outcome of her interview with the Grand Jury, and the social pressures in her neighbourhood are reaching fever pitch. There’s a lot to reflect on in this last section including our overall ideas of the book. So let’s get into it.

Was it important that the book didn’t have a typical ‘happily ever after?’

Yes. I think this makes the story real and conveys the point the rest of the book had been putting across. The narrative would not have held as much weight if we got the desired outcome of the officer being prosecuted. The reality is, the officer was not prosecuted because this is what usually happens ‘in real life’. It’s important to that I read this as a white reader knowing that the risk of police brutality to myself is basically non-existent. It’s important for me to read these narratives and learn about the struggles outside my own so I can use my voice to be an ally.

Do we think our reactions were affected as we are British readers and there are cultural differences between our own experiences and, for example, the school systems and legal systems we have read about in this book?

I’d like to think my emotional reactions to this book were that of a rational human being. Anyone with a reaction other than shock, horror, or anger to the main issues in this book should take a look at themselves. However, I think there certainly was an added shock factor that comes from the cultural differences between British and American cultures. As a British reader it is still madness to me that people can simply be running around neighbourhoods with guns. The idea that Starr was very aware she could have been shot by a police officer for essentially no reason at all is insanity to me as our regular police aren’t just wondering around with guns. When I first moved to London I was shocked to see police officers carrying guns because that is not a standard feature of police uniform here. The idea that students could simply stage a mass walkout at school is also massively different to the way our secondary schools are run. Riots are not a common feature of UK society. In fact they make national news on the rare occasion that they do happen. However this book has helped me to understand why riots happen and are the way people raise their voices. This has also made me think a lot about how racism punctuates British society too and I really need to work on learning more about the systemic problems present in my own country.

This book gives a very strong message to use our voice. Do we use our own voices enough to contribute to society?

This book has made me think about what I actually do to use my voice. I do voluntary work with Girl Guiding UK so I guess I use my voice to empower and lead young girls. However this left me thinking, is that enough? We should be aware of the power of our voice and not choose to refrain from using it.

As a white woman, my voice automatically carries more weight that some of my peers. Which is wrong. I need to ensure I am using my voice to amplify others who are less heard.

I think there is always a way to do more and it’s good that I am more aware of this now.

After reading The Hate U Give, what part of the book resonated with you most? What insight will you carry with you?

For me it was definitely the learning curve that this book gave me. It allowed me to check my own privilege, and learn about different American societies and cultural experiences to the ones I ordinarily see on television and in films. The insight I will carry will be most is a renewed sense of self-awareness and that I really need to work on learning more about experiences outside of my own. This book has been a very valuable read for me.

Thank you for reading along with us! We’ve really enjoyed this read-along and will definitely be doing some more soon. Keep an eye out on my blog next week for my full review of The Hate U Give.

The Hate U Give Chapters 10 – 18. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. On Monday we posted our first thoughts on chapters 1 – 9.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Please have a look at my previous post and go to Kerrie’s blog too for her instalments. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in!

Chapters 10 – 18 are where Starr settles into her new normal. With the help of her parents she is processing her grief and dealing with the backlash that is beginning as a result of Khalil’s death. Starr must deal with police and press interviews and the injustice of the police officer murderer remaining free and simply on reduced duties. We learn further details about the night of the murder, and the tension in Starr’s family and community really begin to spiral. Starr also starts to realise who she can trust and who is not a genuine friend, which I think is a really difficult part of growing up. Here are my thoughts.

Starr and Hailey have a very turbulent relationship that changes throughout the novel. What are your thoughts on friendships changing as we grow?

I think this is a really important character arc for Angie Thomas to tackle. I’m not sure that I’ve read any books dealing with this before. The long and short of it is that Starr and Hailey have been friends since middle school (from what I understand of the US school system I’m estimating that’s early secondary school for us Brits – maybe aged 11 or 12). As the girls have grown into themselves, into young women, Starr is realising that Hailey has started to become a person she doesn’t like. Somewhere along the line their moral compasses diverged and it became an incompatible relationship. Starr doesn’t want to put up with Hailey’s selfish and prejudiced behaviours any more. Hailey cannot see that her words are racist. She’s not a nice person and it takes the trauma of Khalil’s murder for Starr to be jolted towards that realisation.

As I said in the last read-along piece, I can relate to Starr in the way that I very much remember what it was like to be a teenage girl, and therefore this subplot hit home for me. I have had personal experience of being frozen out of my friendship group and realising that the people who were supposed to be my friends were anything but. Angie Thomas approach to this with racism as the cause of the broken friendship was heartbreaking. Starr’s strength to accept that her friend was simply a vile person, that there was nothing wrong with herself, and that she could move on to a better situation with healthier friendships, was a huge part of the character arc. It also highlighted to me that this is something I have never had to experience. Being a teenager is hard enough without having to deal with this BS and I don’t think I previously realised that this was something my Black peers are having to face.

We’ve both (Kerrie and I) decided Starr’s parents are excellent characters. Is this something we usually see in the YA books we read? Why do we love them as much as we do?   

Honestly Kerrie and I had a little fangirl about Starr’s parents when we Skyped to speak about this book. Lisa, Starr’s mother, is a fierce woman. She’s excellent. Fiercely protective, she knows exactly what to do to help Starr through the aftermath of witnessing Khalil’s murder. She’s got everyone checked in their place, which led to some amusing scenes giving some excellently placed comic relief to the story. Her capacity to love is immense. She can forgive her husband for his mistakes, she loves him unconditionally as she does with their kids. She loves Starr’s older brother Seven as though he’s her own. Honestly she is a FORCE of a woman and she’s absolutely one of my favourite characters in the book. Starr’s father Maverick is also an absolute gem. He always puts his family first whilst having to wrestle with right and wrong, his past life and his current life. He is flawed but the more we learn about him as the story progresses, the more we learn of his heart. He really is just trying to do his best with the circumstances society has constructed around him. I love the scenes where Lisa and Maverick interact. They are funny, totally in love, a little bit messy (which makes them so real), an excellent support system, they’re so much of the heart of this book. I also appreciate that Lisa and Maverick are another cultural example that I need to learn from. They are the adults that characters like Starr will grow into. What the novel teaches us of them is how society shapes these communities and it is a starting place for my understanding.

It’s really refreshing to see a relationship like Lisa and Maverick’s in a young adult novel. I often find the trend in these novels is that there’s usually an absent parent or some sort of ‘broken home’ as the family background. So it’s really nice that Starr comes from a place of relative stability. I’d love to see more of this is ya. Maybe I’m just not reading enough of the correct books?

Family is very important to Starr. How do you think this is handled in the book? What jumped out at you particularly?

Family is portrayed in so many different levels and it really made me consider what makes a family. Starr has a blended family. Her older brother, Seven, is her father’s child and therefore her half sibling. Seven’s siblings are like family extensions through loyalty to their mutual brother. Her uncle is like a second father to her, which causes conflict between some of the adults in her family. Outside of biological family, Starr also has her Garden Heights family, because her community is very much a family. I think Angie Thomas shows more than anything that love and loyalty make families of all different shapes and sizes. I think that was the really important takeaway from this element of the novel.

The way Starr handles what is happening throughout the novel is powerful. What struck you the most?

What struck me most was that this story really deals with exactly what teenagers can do. It shows us that teenagers have strength beyond their years, they can use their brains, they’re principled, and they’re brilliant. It also shows that despite this, and despite the way society may view them, they are just kids. Kids trying to make it through and work life out. One of my favourite scenes of the book is when Starr does the television interview. The answers she gave were just mic drops all over the place. I really appreciate that she was shown with this level of strength in the face of extreme injustice. It’s also clear that she is being strong when that is not easy for her. She doesn’t see her actions as strong, rather what she has to do for Khalil and for her community. She is strong despite being terrified, which is what real strength is. Angie Thomas has created a character who is strong, real, and raw and she is absolutely great. I am also coming to understand that this kind of strength is a necessity, rather than a choice, from Starr and real life Black teens. This is a check on my own privilege in the fact that I would never have to protest to ensure the police murderer of a white friend would be brought to justice, it would simply be an expected result if that kind of thing had happened. What is also becoming clear is that I still have a hell of a lot to learn.

The final instalment of The Hate U Give read-along will go live on Friday, followed by a full book review. Make sure you’re checking back here and over at Wheelie Stagey for full bookish content!

The Hate U Give Chapters 1 – 9. Beauteaful Stagey Read-Along.

As you may be aware my friend Kerrie, at Wheelie Stagey, and myself are doing some buddy reads through isolation. Our first choice is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Our first section, chapters 1 – 9, follow Starr after she has witnessed her best friend Khalil shot dead by a police officer. Star and Khalil were on their way home from a party when they were pulled over. Khalil was eventually dragged from the car by the officer and shot, despite being unarmed and posing no threat. In fact, he was checking to see if Starr was okay during the ordeal. Starr attempts to continue as normal, hiding this traumatic experience from her school friends who live in a completely different world to the one she is from. She also has to hide this from her community as it quickly becomes clear that local loyalties and gangs come into play in this situation. Starr is terrified and struggling to cope with what has happened to her friend, and witnessing a death for the second time in her life.

For each section Kerrie and I have come up with some questions to discuss. You can find the full list by clicking here. Read on to find out my thoughts on the first third of the book. Please go to Kerrie’s blog too and don’t forget to use the hashtag #BeauteafulStageyReadAlong to tag us both if you’re joining in.

At the beginning of the book Starr flashes back to her parents having two talks with her as a child. One is about the birds and the bees. The second is about what precautions to take when encountering a police officer. Reflect on that. How is that different from your own childhood experiences?

This part of the book really struck me. It was very upsetting. For a start being cautious around the police is not something I have ever considered or needed to consider. Growing up, I was always told by my parents that if I was in any trouble (i.e. was in any danger), the police were people I could go to for help. Even during my driving lessons no one ever mentioned what it looks like when a police car signals for you to pull over. I have never been pulled over or witnessed anyone else be pulled over. It’s an upsetting realisation that this is not true for everyone, and this is definitely a privilege check for me. This is just one example of many that I learnt something new about cultures other than my own when reading this book. I’ve been left wondering if parents in some communities in the UK are having these sorts of conversations with their children as are undoubtedly happening in the States. It’s completely different from my childhood experiences.

Starr describes the idea that there are two versions of herself. How do her different experiences enhance the story? Can you relate to something similar?

I think all of us can relate to something similar, especially growing up. I certainly know I had a hard time adjusting to fit in to the different circles I found myself in. For me I had a ‘secret’ internet life where I could fangirl in peace away from school bullies. Of course this is different to what Starr is going through, feeling the need to adjust herself because of society’s impressions of her background. I can definitely relate to being a teenage girl and trying to fit in with people I thought were my friends, but I can’t relate to adding cultural differences on top of all that. Starr goes through an impressive transformation in the way she views her own identity. Angie Thomas is able to show this from so many different perspectives due to Starr’s unique position. She goes to a predominantly white private school, and she grows up in a different neighbourhood that is seen by those people as ‘rough’. She is the daughter of a medical professional and an ex-gang member, and she is the niece of a police officer. This allows Starr to provide social commentary on both sides of the debate she finds herself at the centre of; relating to police brutality and race relations. This really helps in teaching me plenty about my own culture too as well as Starr’s situation and navigating her teen years in America.

The success and pitfalls of media and social media is an underlying theme of the book. Baring this in mind, how do you think hashtag culture and internet activism has played a role in our understanding of topics such as police brutality and racism? Is this always helpful?

This is a kind of double edged sword. On the one hand, hashtag culture is the primary method I had of hearing about these sorts of topics growing up. I’m from a small town in the south west of the UK so until I moved to London I had a very limited knowledge of cultures beyond my own with only the media and internet portrayals as exposure. Hashtag culture can be great in raising awareness and spreading a message. With things such as the Me Too movement it’s clear that momentum can be built by a hashtag spreading around the various social media channels. It’s an interesting new age we’re living in when social media can have that kind of influence.

However the other side to that is people simply jumping on a bandwagon, which I think is handled really well in The Hate U Give. Some of the kids at Starr’s school use Khalil’s murder as a reason to skip class. Their reasons for protesting what happened to him are not genuine. This is the danger with internet activism where people are happy to jump on board with the issue for a short amount of time without doing anything productive in real time. Change can’t be made by people with the wrong intentions adding noise from behind a keyboard. Whilst social media is a platform to use your voice, it’s also a way to spread misinformation and hatred.

Starr is deeply affected by this as people who didn’t know Khalil, or know what happened that night, felt able to spread their vicious opinions based on lies and assumptions. Angie Thomas created a very important dialogue about this within her story of deep injustices in society.

What did you learn from the portrayal of societal pressures such as poverty and communities?

Angie Thomas’s Garden Heights Community was so well established and fleshed out with very real and whole secondary characters. I think this is especially important for readers such as myself to learn the stories of these communities that are sometimes governed by gangs. Issues of addiction, domestic violence, gang culture, and community rules are all covered in this story. These issues are often connected and create a vicious cycle that leads into further involvement and often spirals through generations. This book has taught me that it’s not as cut and dry to simply make a choice. Sometimes our decisions are controlled by the situation we find ourselves in and, for the most part, people are just trying to do the best they can for themselves and their families. I also loved how this book showed the beauty of communities outside my very limited white experience. Starr’s family are wonderful. They truly look out for each other and have each others backs. They go to the ends of the earth for each other. They give the kind of support to their immediate family and the family that is their community in ways that I could only hope to experience. These stories are able to be told through the extensive cast of important secondary characters, all of whom are somehow completely fully fleshed out. As I’ve already said this novel is an important learning curve for me.

Let me know your thoughts about this first section of The Hate U Give and come back on Wednesday to read the second part.

Review: Only Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Only Love Can Break Your Heart, by Katherine Webber

Pages: 400

Published: 2 August 2018

⭐️ 5 / 5

This review is LONG overdue considering I got an early copy at YA Prom and read this book 2 weeks before its publication… What can I say? Life just got away from me.

This novel was, at the time, one of the first contemporary YA novels I had read and was a large part of the reason I have continued to enjoy the genre. Only Love Can Break Your Heart was beautiful and heart breaking and I adored it.

Plot

I laughed, I cried, I screamed at the actions of the characters. This book had a bit of everything. This is a love letter to the Californian desert and a reminder of how important self-care is. It was really interesting to read a book written from the point of view of the popular girl at school. Usually, the YA novels I read follow the misfit finding their way in the world, but I liked this new angle.

Reiko’s struggle with grief is complex and Katherine Webber portrays this wonderfully. It was so real and tangible and heartbreaking. This book really showed how easy it is for life to get on top of you and for everything to unravel. This was the most honest portrayal of the sort of thing I went through during my ALevels and I would really have appreciated having this book at the time. Webber really illustrates the importance of having good friends and family around you to help build yourself up when you’ve reached a complete rock bottom.

I did find the plot a little slow to begin with however once I realised the direction we were heading in and things began to happen, the pace picked up and the novel was excellent.

Characters

For large parts of the novel I found Reiko and Seth to both be extremely unlikeable characters. However this allowed for some excellent character development and I experienced a complete turn around in my feelings towards the characters. The plot was so character driven it’s really hard to say more than I already have. I loved that about the book though.

Final Thoughts

This book was so much about the people and a gorgeous coming of age story I really wish that I’d had when I was 17 or 18. I’d highly recommend everyone to read it. With each novel Katherine Webber writes, she gets better and better so I cannot wait to read whatever she publishes next!

Blurb:

From the author of the acclaimed Wing Jones comes a ‘break-up’ book about a Japanese-American teenager, set in the Palm Springs desert, California.  Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert.

It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.

Review: A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder by Holly Jackson

A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, by Holly Jackson

Pages: 448

Published: 2 May 2019

⭐️ 5 / 5

I LOVED THIS BOOK. One of my favourites of 2019 and possibly my favourite YA thriller ever – so far anyway. Twists and turns galore, a very likeable protagonist, set in the UK school system(!!-instead of an American high school which as a Brit I still don’t fully understand)…this is a very clever novel and an enjoyable read. It’s also a big beefy paperback at roughly 450 pages which I really appreciated.

I’d highly recommend anyone who is enjoying YA crime/thriller/mysteries at the moment and schedule a (re)read before Pip is back in book 2 in April 2020!

Plot

A teenaged girl creating a school project to re-evaluate a local murder case? YES PLEASE. I was a bit apprehensive going in as it looked like a massive book for what is a fairly straightforward premise. I was expecting parts of the novel to drag but I was so wrong. The novel is structured around Pip’s school project which means there’s some really fun CSI-style fact presentation interspersed throughout the book. This meant I could keep up with all of the different plot threads, lines of investigation, and the many different characters. Interviews were often written in transcripts which, although I wasn’t too sure about at the beginning, I really enjoyed towards the end of the book and found it fit really well with the way the rest of the story was constructed. I felt that the novel was paced really well and that there was a great balance between investigation, school project, and tense drama. Tension and suspense was also built really well, especially towards the end. I loved that Pip was able to fit things together with her knowledge of school gossip and social hierarchies – the sort of techniques I used at school to figure out the gossip.

I was able to guess at a part of the outcome. I predicted it about halfway through (well, one half – a second half jumped out of nowhere and caught me unawares). However, just as I was revealed to be right, BAM. Sh*t hit the fan and it got SO. GOOD. I know plenty of people probably wouldn’t have seen the twists coming

Characters

Pip and Ravi are the main characters and they are both so damn likeable. Pippa is tenacious, intelligent, and utterly brilliant. Ravi is an excellent addition to the novel because he brings a whole new take to a murder mystery. He embodies the human element and reminds the reader that a murder isn’t just something to be solved for entertainment purposes. I love the relationship between Pip and Ravi because they are like two sides of the same coin: complete polar opposites, yet they work together as a dream team.

The rest of the characters, you can’t really call them ‘side characters’ because they’re all integral to the plot, are also really interesting and excellently 3-dimensional. Each of them became a possible chief suspect for me at some point of the book and Holly Jackson uses each of them very well to fulfill their full literary potential.

Final Thoughts

This was a very enjoyable read that really made me think and I can’t really say too much more without spoiling. To be honest, that’s a good thing as this is definitely a book you’re better off going in knowing next to nothing about and enjoying it with no preconceptions. PLEASE READ THIS BOOK.

Keep an eye out here on my blog as I’m planning a re-read or read-along feature in April on A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder ahead of the publication of the sequel.

Good Girl, Bad Blood will be published on 30 April 2020

Blurb:

The case is closed. Five years ago, schoolgirl Andie Bell was murdered by Sal Singh. The police know he did it. Everyone in town knows he did it. But having grown up in the same small town that was consumed by the crime, Pippa Fitz-Amobi isn’t so sure. When she chooses the case as the topic for her final project, she starts to uncover secrets that someone in town desperately wants to stay hidden. And if the real killer is still out there, how far will they go to keep Pip from the truth . . .

from Waterstones – I am not affiliated with this, or any other, bookshop.