Friday, 26 December 2014

Christmas Book Haul 2014!

This Christmas I got six books (and let's face it, I'm going to "borrow" some of my brothers' ones, because they have tons. The 7-year-old got like 17 from Santa.) At the moment I'm "borrowing" The Knife of Never Letting Go from my 7-year-old brother. Anyway.

Here's what I got from Mam. Just one book and it's historical fiction which I don't usually read, but sure I'll give it a go. My sister got me a gorgeous notebook too, and I LOVE notebooks. 

This is everything I got from my Dad. It pretty much exactly matches what I asked for, which is predictable but cool.

I also have the books I bought secondhand a while ago (already blogged about), plus my brothers', which include The Knife of Never Letting Go, Bad Science by Ben Goldacre (think I've read it before, but it's worth another re-read, it's pretty funny) and the entire Series of Unfortunate Events. I probably won't be reading that last one, but when you add in the review books I have (if they ever download properly), I'll have tons to read over Christmas. 

The Dying of the Light Cover

I've been waiting for this book FOREVER. Well, okay, since late August, but whatever. I'm on page 51 right now and apprehensive to see how the series will end. It's not encouraging that the cover has the protagonist's skull on a bonfire, but hopefully it's just Derek messing with us. 


This is the final book in Dan Wells' Partials trilogy (you can read my reviews of the first two, Partials and Fragments here and here). It's been so long since I read Fragments and unfortunately I got it as an e-ARC so I can't reread it, but hopefully going back over the reviews will help. Anyway, I adored Fragments so I'm looking forward to this.


Another sequel to a book I adored (and reviewed), this is the second book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone series. It's lucky I have Christmas and people to buy gifts for me, because otherwise I'd never bother to buy sequels. Anyway, this has phenomenal writing, stunning twists and an original plot, and I can't wait to get back to it.


Finally, the start of a series rather than a sequel! I've wanted this since I read a review by Aylee, and I finally have it. The plot seems compelling, and I really should read some hard sci-fi if I profess to be such a sci-fi fan. 


Honesty time: I got this because of the film that came out recently, because I didn't really know it existed before. I saw a Tumblr gifset of her boyfriend talking to her and it was just so adorable ... I'm only human, okay? I did find a pirated copy on the internet accidentally (I swear) but it's all good because it's been properly paid for now and I only read a couple of pages. I really dislike the apparent spoiler in the TITLE of the second book (Where She Went). I mean, honestly. Don't ruin it in the title. 


The book Mam got me is historical fiction about Lady Elizabeth, Henry VIII's daughter. It's not top of my priority list, but here's hoping it'll be an unexpected gem. 

I "borrowed" my brother's The Knife of Never Letting Go (don't worry, he's fine with it). I'll be honest, it's not really my thing so far. I can't stand phonetic spelling (at least there's only a little - it was AWFUL with Blood Red Road, I couldn't finish that one). But I'm two chapters in and I'll read it after Skulduggery Pleasant: TDOTL, if just because of all the rave reviews. 

Have any of you read these? Feel free to comment below with your Christmas book hauls

Friday, 19 December 2014

Review: Foster by Claire Keegan

A small girl is sent to live with foster parents on a farm in rural Ireland, without knowing when she will return home. In the strangers’ house, she finds a warmth and affection she has not known before and slowly begins to blossom in their care. And then a secret is revealed and suddenly, she realizes how fragile her idyll is.

Publisher: Faber & Faber
Pages: 89
Rating: 2 Stars
Source: Borrowed

Given to me by my English teacher, on the recommendation that it won some book prize worth 100,000 euro or something. The rating is especially subjective with this one.

In Short: A prizewinner that I just didn't 'get'. At least, I assume so.


There isn't an awful lot to say. Foster is written from the POV of  a child, so Keegan has an excuse to do that thing literary writers love to do, as in write in a painfully innocent, astute way. I do it too, sometimes. But I'm convinced no kid is actually like that, it just looks impressive in a novel (and reads beautifully, yes). 

Keegan is very good at painting pictures using few words (and she'd want to be - the book is under 100 pages). She also captures rural Irish accents very well, though they're really rural, i.e. "bogger" accents, and I'm afraid outsiders (mainly Americans) will think all Irish people speak like that. I like the sense of love she communicates between the Kinsellas and the child (who is never named, as far as I can remember). You do see the relationship dynamics clearly, and the author chooses her words well (unlike me).

The low rating is because I just didn't get it. There's something that happens in the middle that sounds like it'll start an adventure, or at least be a mystery to solve, but it's never mentioned again. There is no exciting plot, it's all just nicely-described mundanity. The ending is far too ambiguous for my tastes, and I left feeling unsatisfied.

I also felt misled by the blurb; the "secret" isn't that big, and certainly doesn't threaten her "fragile idyll". With the great description and use of language, I can see why English teachers would love it, but it didn't engage me in the slightest.

Another example of literary novels not being for me.

I'll probably reread it at some point; hopefully I'll see more then. 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Thoughts: The Maleficent Seven - Derek Landy

This isn't a review as such, because I can't give any semblance of impartiality. Like I said in my YA vs. Adult post, I grew up with these books. So I finally got around to reading The Maleficent Seven and loved it. I've been trying to find time to read more and that was just the ticket (which suits, because I read it on a train. Get it? Ticket? I'll stop now.)


This time, the bad guys take the stage. 

Tanith Low, now possessed by a remnant, recruits a gang of villains - many of whom will be familiar from previous Skulduggery adventures - in order to track down and steal the four God-Killer level weapons that could hurt Darquesse when she eventually emerges. Also on the trail of the weapons is a secret group of Sanctuary sorcerors, and doing his best to keep up and keep Tanith alive is one Mr. Ghastly Bespoke.

When the villains around her are lying and scheming and plotting, Tanith needs to stay two steps ahead of her teammates and her enemies. After all, she's get her own double-crosses to plan - and she's a villain herself...

This wasn't the only time I rooted for the bad-guy protagonist, but it was definitely the most fun. I laughed out loud several times while reading it, and the rest of the time just had this stupid smile on my face. Every character is hilarious. All of them, even if it's unintentional. Even though they're all either sarcastic and witty or pathetic and laughable, the characters are still so well-defined and individual. It does help that Derek had seven books before this to flesh out these characters in a more detached way - I think that when you write from the perspective of a character they become more like you, so at least Tanith and co. already had their huge personalities from being described at a distance.

To be honest, I got a bit annoyed by Dexter Vex, Saracen Rue, the Monster Hunters, that whole team, stealing screen time from Tanith. I know the Maleficent Seven needed some obstacles to getting what they wanted, but I just loved Tanith's group so much. I think the Dead Men work best when Skulduggery is with them. Also, I loved how the characters lampshaded Saracen's ability (the elusive "he knows things"). It's played with a lot in this book, and we see him in action, but sadly still no explanation.

GOD there were so many bombshells. Not exactly spoilers, more just shocking backstory. So I don't feel too bad posting some of them. Near the start Sanguine's eyes would have done something "had he not scooped them out long ago". I can't be the only one who assumed he'd been born without eyes, or that he'd lost them in his hitman business. Now I want to know why he plucked his own eyes out. Then again, eye gore is the worst.  At one point someone says about Caelan, Valkyrie's vampire ex-boyfriend: "He stalked and he tortured and he murdered every woman he became enamoured with." Valkyrie and Caelan broke it off rather violently in Death Bringer (I think), the outcome worse for him than it was for her, but by that point he was already acting incredibly creepy and definitely stalking her. So you have to wonder what would have happened if he hadn't reached a timely end. Tanith gets a backstory too, which is fun and unexpected.

We're back to my favourite thing about great series: that they have whole world populated with real characters, so there are an infinite amount of stories possible in that world, both for the author and for fanfic writers.

The fact that the book is based on Tanith is interesting, considering that Derek said he planned to kill her off in the first book. I'm very glad he didn't; while she's evil now, she's still lovable. But oh wow, what an asshole. I can't go into detail because of spoilers, but I'll just expand on what it says in the blurb; Tanith does indeed double-cross people, and murder a few people we've come to like.

It's interesting to see how Valkyrie is seen by others. With the book normally told from her teenage perspective, you'd think that the world of sorcerers just constantly talked about her and Skulduggery, and that they're treated with some respect but not like they're the most important people in the universe. Valyrie and Skulduggery are both arrogant (the latter more so) and that tints the story from their perspective. I like to think about how Valkyrie's adolescence influences her view of the magical world, and how it influences the magical world's view of her.

The fact that Valkyrie is only mentioned a few times is also testament to the secondary characters' ability to prop up a story by themselves.

I'd have to say I prefer this book over Kingdom of the Wicked and Last Stand of Dead Men, but maybe not Death Bringer or Skulduggery Pleasant, just because it's so much fun. Definitely recommended if you're a Minion or whatever they're calling themselves these days, but tread carefully if not. You'll still love the jokes, but it's best to read up to Book 7 or 8 first so you have context.

I still haven't read The Dying of the Light. Getting that for Christmas.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Explanation of my Genre Preferences, Part I: YA vs Adult

I never explicitly declared this a YA blog, and yet I don't go near adult books for the most part. Here I thought it might be interesting to explore why that is. I'm going to talk about my other genre preferences (particularly, why I prefer sci-fi and dystopian over contemporary, historical and paranormal romance, in general) in a later post. 

1) Why YA is so Great

YA, or Young Adult, isn't so much a genre as a huge category that contains buckets of other genres like the ones I'm going to discuss below (from the historical-adventure Temeraire series by Naomi Novik to sugary contemporary like Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell).  That's why I put this up here, because it kind of encompasses everything else I like. 

There are plenty of reasons why YA is popular, but a few stand out for me. 

I've always found YA more honest, and I'm not exactly sure why. Adults like to say that teenagers are naive, and maybe we are in some things. While this doesn't make us unintelligent, we do often lack life experience (remember, this isn't true for everyone: some people face more hardship in childhood than some adults will in their entire lives). But that naivete gives us a more optimistic outlook on the world, I think, and that's a nice thing to have in a narrator. Obviously teenagers are sarcastic and often quite cynical, but we do have a heart behind all that, I think, a sense of childlike wonder that's not entirely gone. The cynicism just shows through more often because the sting of life's disappointments is still fresh. We haven't had time to develop a thick skin yet. 

Teenagers seem to get more emotionally invested in books. This is awfully stereotypical, but I've found that this is true of teenage girls especially - you just have to look at a few fandoms to see that. So the sense of community and camaraderie both between the reader and the author and between the reader and other readers of that book/series is wonderful and really heart-felt. I'm sure it's nice for the author too, to have someone really connect emotionally with your book. Letters written to YA authors are not uncommon. I think that’s lovely.

YA has a reputation for not being as good as adult/mainstream fiction, for being less respectable – and I kind of love that, because it means it doesn’t have to be highbrow, it can be about the experience without worrying about being literary. That’s not to say YA books can’t be written exquisitely, many are (Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a great example). But it’s more about the emotional connection in my view. That’s why there are – and need to be – so many memorable characters in YA; they carry the story.

I’m sure there are some literary YA novels (The Weight of Water probably counts), but the ones I love are all about character, as mentioned above, and plot. Because there are so many YA books constantly being published, plots have to be enjoyable again and again.

Note that I didn’t say unique. I’m not going to lie. Again because of the YA boom, writers make copies of popular books in the genre (see: almost every YA Paranormal Romance ever post-Twilight), and oh boy do they sell. But that’s because there’s something in the plot or the setup that really strikes a chord with readers, and they’re not too high-and-mighty to come back for more.

Part of what I love about YA books is that they’re universal. Sure, they have lots of genre divisions and you’re unlikely to be a Hunger Games tribute or a witch at Hogwarts or being chased by clones, whatever. But the underlying themes of finding your identity, asking the big questions, figuring out who you want in your life and who you need to grow away from – coming of age issues – they’re where YA really shines. Everyone has felt these at some point, which is partly why there are many adult YA readers, but teenagers and young adults are experiencing them right now, and the immediacy and urgency mirrors our lives, where we feel like everything is important because it’s new.

YA books are particularly prone to becoming series (and yes, trilogies), meaning readers can grow up with them, and mature as the protagonists do. A stellar example of this is the Harry Potter series. I was just a bit too young for these (I’d finished most of the books by the time I was six, so while I understood the words I didn’t really get the emotional impact first time round), but I know for many people it was an integral part of their adolescence. It was a crucial part of my childhood, and I value it dearly, but the people who went through adolescence with it probably got the most from it.

Fortunately, I was the right age for the Skulduggery Pleasant series. I started reading them when I was, what, ten or eleven? The final book came out this year, when I’m in my late teens. The protagonist, Valkyrie, aged at a similar rate, so our underpinning experiences remained the same even as she learned magic and fought crime. (I still haven’t read Book #9, so please no spoilers).

I’m sure there are plenty more reasons, but those are the ones that jump out at me.

2) Why I Don’t Like Adult/Mainstream Fiction

Let’s just get this straight first: I do like some adult fiction. I adore a lot of Jodi Picoult’s books – in fact, when I was eleven I asked for them to be added to the school diary. My request was denied, because apparently they weren’t suitable for kids. Little Children by Tom Perrotta was alright, I liked The Rainbow Virus by Dennis Meredith,  Incidentally, I love a lot of non-fiction (mainly popular science like Wonders of the Universe by Prof. Brian Cox, with a dash of comedy-politics like Stupid White Men by Michael Moore) which I’m pretty sure is always adult. So it’s not that I’m incapable of reading Adult fiction, or that it’s too complex. I just don’t find it as engaging.

My younger sister reads a lot of adult thrillers, but when I tried getting into them I didn’t really enjoy them (though I always welcome book suggestions). The main problem I found with thrillers particularly was characterization. We’re just not brought as closely into the protagonist’s head. There are so many world-weary cops that I’m sick of them and I’ve barely even read the genre, and yet I don’t mind YA heroines sharing too many of the same traits (badass, feisty, sarcastic, strongTM) because I bond with them. I’m just not willing to spend hundreds of pages with someone I don’t care about, and the characters are less raw in Adult books.

My lack of experience with Adult books really show through here, doesn't it? But if they want me to read them, they'd better start (a) being more engaging (b) marketing them a lot better. YA books are marketed incredibly well, especially with authors on Twitter who know their demographic. Mainstream fiction needs to catch on if it wants those sweet, sweet young adult dollars. 

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Review: Only Ever Yours - Louise O' Neill

Publisher: Quercus
Published: July 2014
Source: Bought
Pages: 400
Rating: 5 Stars

Wow, just wow. It has been almost two months since I read this book and I'm still reeling a little bit. But I have to review it at some point, so here you go.


In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful. For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year. But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight. ..

And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known. . .

I have my friend John Joe to thank for the experience of reading this book, as well as a feature I read in the Irish Times. The feature, written by Anna Carey in June of this year, really made me curious. So when I saw the book in a bookstore (duh) a few months later, I proclaimed to no one in particular "I want this for Christmas." I was in there with a group of friends, and one of them - the aforementioned John Joe, who is probably a saint - proceeded to buy it while I wasn't looking and hand it to me just past the counter. I still need to return the favour, but here's your thank you.

This book was phenomenal. I have to keep Harry Potter as my all-time favourite book just out of habit and nostalgia, but (as objectively as these things can get) I think this is the best book I've ever read. A lot of the things I want to talk about involve spoilers but I can't justify spoiling such an incredible book, so I'm a bit constrained here. Anyway.

First of all, I loved the writing. It's clear and delicate, just like the first-person narrator and main character freida. And no, that wasn't a mistake: none of the girls' names are capitalised. They are artificially made, and although they refer to each other by (noncapitalised) name because of course they see themselves as people, the Chastities (basically nuns who control the girls' education until they're 16) refer to them by number. freida is #630.

The girls can't read. This is a spoiler but not a huge one - it's just something that's never explicitly mentioned until maybe 66% through. The girls always talk about going on MyFace (their version of Facebook) but they're constantly looking at pictures of other girls and uploading videos of themselves talking. I had presumed there was text because reading is such a big part of our lives, but there isn't. They get by without it. After all, they're toys for men's pleasure - why do they need to be able to read?

Also, O' Neill doesn't avoid talking about race, although she does keep it nicely balanced. At one point Freida is playing Your Face or Mine, a comparison game where you choose which girl is prettier, in bed. She chooses the black girl and sees that the white one has been chosen fifty times today. And then she says: "I stare at myself in my mirrors, imagining taking a grater to my skin, peeling off the top layer. My bones might be white enough." There are other indications too, but this was an important moment for me because - being a white girl - I admit I had assumed that she was white, that I was whitewashing her in my own mind. This is why books can't just avoid the topic of race and presume people will fill in diversity for themselves. It's also why initiatives like We Need Diverse Books are important.

The foreshadowing is incredible. So subtle the first time, but upon rereading the details jump out at you. This is especially strong with isabel.

Conversations between the girls:

"No way," alessandra says. "I would kill for your lips. And blue eyes are cuter, everyone knows that." megan raises an eyebrow. "Blue and green eyes."

"Yeah, but I'd much prefer your nose. It's straighter than mine," rosie says, squeezing the tip of her own perfectly straight nose.

"Well, at least you're not fat like me."

"What? Have you seen my thighs? I'm practically veering into isabel territory," rosie says, pinching non-existent thigh fat. She waits, hiding a tiny smile as the garden bursts with dissenting voices.

"You are so not fat. I'm fat."

They sound so annoying, don't they? But as a girl, you can see a glimmer of truth, particularly in the "fat" comments. Theirs is just exacerbated because they've been mentally abused since birth and there's so much competition to finish in the top ten in the year so they can become companions.

Only Ever Yours is so heartbreaking. It doesn't pull any punches. Any. Towards the end I was desperately hoping for a deus ex machina but there was none. freida never caught a break just because we felt sorry for her, and O' Neill didn't hide behind vagueness during the horrors she went through. Not that it was physical, mind you - there was little physical pain in the book. Most of it is psychological and mental and oh god is it powerful. It's taking my breath away just thinking about it now.

There's a beautiful exploration of LGBT issues here that I wish I could delve into but can't for fear of spoilers. It's really great though.

Only Ever Yours bears resemblance to older dystopians like Brave New World, or so I've heard (as I haven't actually read the older ones yet) like the way Messages are played as the eves sleep to subconsciously influence them: "Nobody will ever love a fat girl" "Fat girls should be made obsolete" "Good girls are always happy and easy-going".

But honestly - who cares? This is INCREDIBLE.

Feminism is an awful swear word, the new f-word. This is especially relevant with Time's recent blunder, in proposing that the word be banned. Funny how reality echoes fiction sometimes, isn't it? It's lucky that we currently have non-lab-made women to make the media think twice.

The chastities ensure there can be no female solidarity, as the girls are constantly forced to compare amongst themselves and vilify anyone even a couple of pounds over target weight. There's one scene where a "fat" girl is sent to the front of the classroom and everyone is expected to shout insults at her. And they do. Why wouldn't they? It's all they know.

The eves place beauty over life - while it's not explicitly said, the eves seem to be euthanized somewhere around forty before they get old and saggy, the worst fate of all. Their biggest fear is being ugly - they would prefer to die before losing their beauty, as they've been told it's their greatest and only asset.

I have so much more to say about this book, but I'm afraid of spoiling it. I'll just say that it really truly blew me away and if there's one book I recommend buying for Christmas, it's this one. 

Other Reviews:*

*This feature comes from Aylee at Recovering Potter Addict. 

Monday, 1 December 2014

I won NaNo!

(Okay, not strictly NaNoWriMo - only the Young Writers Program, where you can set your own goal. I set mine for 20,000 words and got there, woop. Only a few scenes left in the novel now.)

Anyone else who tried it, YWP or not - how did you get on?

(I have a review for Only Ever Yours coming at last, watch this space.)

(More brackets.)

Monday, 6 October 2014

The Weight of Water - Sarah Crossan Review

Publisher: Bloomsbury
Published: 2011
Pages: 240
Rating: 2.5

*Deep sigh*

I got this book from this handy new shelf in school where you can just take one whenever, and I was looking forward to it. Then I opened it and saw that it was written entirely in verse. I almost put it back. Novels made of poems weird me out, I guess. But I got used to it, and the book took about an hour to finish.

The Weight of Water is about Kasienka, a twelve-year-old girl who has emigrated from Poland to England with her mother ("Mama") in search of her disappeared father. They're in a one-room studio struggling to get by while Mama refuses to give up on the search for Kasienka's father ("Tata"). Kasienka is enrolled in a nearby school and has to deal with isolation and bullying as the story goes on.

Kasienka finds refuge in swimming (thus the title) and in a boy in the Year above her, William, who takes a liking to her. At first she's put into a class a year younger than she needs just because she's an immigrant, but they move her up after exams, which was a detail I liked. About midway through, her neighbour Kanoro locates her father - but Tata's living with a new family in a nice suburban house and doesn't want to come back home, though he and his wife do let Kasienka stay at theirs some afternoons. When they see the squalor Kasienka's living in in the studio, his new wife even offers to let her live with them indefinitely. She struggles with it, but says no out of loyalty to Mama.

I couldn't really identify with Kasienka because she's twelve and in such a different situation to me. So I might put it in upper MG rather than YA.

Honestly, not much really happens in a book this short. The characterisation was good, especially of Kasienka and William, and we get a really good sense of Kasienka's emotions. I think the best part was the writing, which was lyrical and sparse and dainty and really just pleasant. If poetry works for any novel, it's probably this one.

I was left feeling pretty underwhelmed when I finished, though, because The Weight of Water doesn't seem to follow any strict narrative arc and rather just chugs along. Which is good while it lasts, but forgettable when it's over. In my opinion.

This was Sarah Crossan's debut, and I've reviewed another of her novels here (this one is YA dystopian, not in verse, and got a higher rating from me).


I'm holding off on reviewing Only Ever Yours until I find the words to express myself in a worthwhile manner.

Saturday, 4 October 2014


In my shortest post so far...

Only Ever Yours by Louise O' Neill just irreparably broke my heart. It's been days and I'm still incoherent about it. Review ... at some point.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

The Giver - Lois Lowry Review


Publisher: Ember
Published: 1993
Pages: 179
Genre: Children's/YA Dystopia
Rating: 3.5 Stars

I remember being on the phone to someone last week, talking about reading The Giver. I said something like “Yeah, this is one of the original dystopians, I think” and he corrected me. It’s apparently the original young adult dystopian. Bit pedantic, but there you go.

That’s the kind of correction Jonas faces a lot, in a community that’s very very strict on Precision of Language.

The Giver is a sci-fi dystopian about a twelve-year-old boy (Jonas) living in a community with no fear/war/hunger. Everyone goes around on their quaint bicycles, people are unfailingly polite and often clinical in their speech, and it seems like every second word is capitalised. People are assigned to roles/careers on their twelfth birthday and nothing is contested (or if it is, it doesn’t matter: any appeals go to a Committee that doesn’t do anything).

Also, the world has no colour or music, because they would disrupt the Sameness. 

Announcements come over an intercom that’s never turned off, enforcing a litany of rules: no lying, girls under seven must wear their hair up, no nosiness. Everyone has the same birthday. And love doesn’t exist. Neither do any other feelings.

On the day of Jonas’ Ceremony of Twelves, he is shocked to see that he hasn’t been designated a job. Instead, he has been selected as the new Receiver of Memories. His predecessor and trainer, the Giver, needs to pass it on. The Receiver of Memories holds the memories of Outside for the whole community, so that they don’t have them – again, to preserve Sameness. So the Receiver knows sunshine, and music, and colour, but also warfare and fear and starvation.

Jonas goes to begin his training and slowly unravels the truth about his world.

The Giver is a very fast read, with few pages and simple, direct prose. So I picked it up one day after school and read half of it in probably less than two hours. It’s quite powerful, though – and I’m finding it hard to pinpoint why, because I can spot plenty of faults.

For one, the surprises weren’t that surprising. I knew what Release was immediately from the context (and from having read Matched, I guess), and besides that there weren’t really any massive twists. I think the better part of that was how it affected Jonas and the others, the smaller details and ripple effects.

I like the characterization (though your mileage may vary – some find it quite bland), particularly of Asher and Lily, Jonas’ younger sister. The world-building details were very interesting and fresh, and I actually enjoyed all the capitalisation – at least it told me what to pay attention to!

What I loved most about it was the creepiness. Even from the first few pages, there was a sense of menace in the innocence of things. It's told from Jonas' perspective and, him being eleven at the start, he takes things in his society for granted that we get majorly weirded out by.

The ending, though: that annoyed the hell out of me. I hate it, honestly. It’s completely open-ended and probably allegorical (which is always annoying, and makes it seem very childrens-book-ish when until then it had straddled borders). The events leading up to it felt rushed too: the stuff before that had been nicely paced and then this wasn’t. Which was disappointing.

But I suppose I can’t complain, because The Giver did get me in trouble twice in Chemistry for reading it under the table. Let me just say though – just before the teacher gave out the second time, I finished the last page. Victory. 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell Review


Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 459
Rating: 5 stars (+)
Blurb: Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan...

But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words... And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?


I'm just going to lead with a quote from the New York Times Journal of Books review, because it so perfectly encapsulates my feelings about it:

Fangirl is a deliciously warm-hearted nerd power ballad destined for greatness”

Can I just say I love the term “nerd power ballad”? Anyway. Fangirl is the second book I bought with the Eason book voucher I got for my birthday (thanks, Cian). I wasn't sure about it at first because I don't think I've ever read a book about someone's first year in college before, especially since it's contemporary. I wouldn't even have considered that YA before now. I'm glad to say Fangirl changed my opinion on that.

Whew. How do I start to describe Fangirl? I guess I'll start by praising the title: YA books with a catchy one-word title are all over the place, but too many of them don't have anything to do with the content. This one is great: one simply colloquial word in the teenage vernacular that runs on the story's hook.

I can express its popularity this way: people in school have read it. Tons of people in my school. I mention the title and they say, “Oh, I know that one. It's really good.” This is often coming from people who generally don't read. I guess I'm mostly surprised by that because Fangirl hasn't (yet) become a phenomenon like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games – it's a quieter book, like everyone's secret.

The characterization was fabulous. I don't think I can adequately express just how brilliant Levi – my favourite – was, but I'll try. Levi isn't someone I immediately took a liking to. He spends a lot of the first part of the book sitting on the landing waiting for Reagan, Cath's roommate, to let him in, and Cath sees him as almost belonging to Reagan. Then he steals her protein bars (more on that later) and she starts talking to him.

Levi is ... unlike anyone I've ever read about. He's so genuine, so kind and caring, but not in a pushover Peeta-type way. He's funny and normal, studying Agriculture. And he has vulnerabilities – like the fact that he's unable to learn by reading (in direct contrast to Cath's love for reading and writing), and that Reagan cheated on him. Have some quotes:

It's okay if you're crazy," he said softly.
"You don't even know-"
"I don't have to know," he said. "I'm rooting for you.”

What's the plan?" she asked.
He grinned. "My plan is to do things that make you want to hang out with me again tomorrow. What's your plan?"
"I'm going to try not to make an ass of myself."
He grinned. "So we're all set.”

You give away nice like it doesn't cost you anything.” (Cath to Levi – he's certainly not the moody type. Honestly, Levi is just the most comforting person character ever. I want him in my life.)

I loved her Dad as well, who's portrayed as a brilliant creative (who's not a writer or artist, surprisingly, but rather an advertising person of some sort – words fail me), but so very absentminded. It's a wonder he's managed to mind the twins on his own all these years, and he and Cath have a very close relationship. He's a very endearing character, and I admire Rowell for making the father involved in a YA story.

Cath's chosen fandom is Simon Snow, the wildly popular series about a boy who goes to wizarding school. It's an obvious rip-off of Harry Potter, and I think that's an interesting effect – Rowell is using the exact hype and Pottermania (oh god, did I just say that?) there was all over the world. It settles Cath into the real world and lets us identify with her a bit.

Not a whole lot, though, which is where I have to talk about something that disconcerted me. Cath seems entirely unhealthy. We already know she's painfully shy, but when she goes to college she stays in her room all the time on the internet, terrified of her roommate. She hides boxes upon boxes of protein bars under her bed so that she doesn't have to eat in front of people in the food hall. She turns down invitations to every social event. And unless I missed something, it's doesn't say that she suffers from something like anxiety, and the only mention of attending a therapist is from ten years before, after her mom left. So that was worrying. You couldn't chalk her obsession down to fangirling alone. I'm a fangirl (look at this blog), and while I'm not a particularly intense one, I don't think anyone is as extreme as she is without underlying issues. She contemplates dropping out of college and failing a big assignment just so she can finish her fanfiction. (Finishing her fanfiction is framed as a big coming-of-age moment).

One of the parts that got me really emotional about Fangirl is the description of what it feels like to have a parent leave. Obviously it's different for everyone, and there are varying degrees of, well, badness – but as the story arc tilts towards Cath's mother who left when she was in third grade, on the day of 9/11, we feel her pain and her resentment incredibly strongly. Rainbow Rowell has an amazing ability for tugging on readers' heartstrings without ever descending into melodrama.
This part is about Cath and her twin sister Wren:

They were a package deal, period. Since always.

They'd even gone to therapy together after their mom left. Which seemed weird, now that Cath thought about it. Especially considering how differently they'd reacted – Wren acting out, Cath acting in. (Violently, desperately in. Journey to the Centre of the Earth in.)

Their third-grade teacher - they were always in the same class, all through elementary school – thought they must be upset about the terrorists . . . .


Her mom left for good a week later, hugging both of the girls on the front porch, kissing their cheeks again and again, and promising that she'd see them both soon, that she just needed some time to feel better, to remember who she really was. Which didn't make any sense to Cath and Wren. You're our mom.

Cath couldn't remember everything that happened next.

She remembered crying a lot at school. Hiding with Wren in the bathroom during recess. Holding hands on the bus. Wren scratching a boy who said they were gay in the eye.

Wren didn't cry. She stole things and hid them under her pillow. When their dad changed their sheets for the first time – not until after Valentine's Day – he found Simon Snow pencils and Lip Smackers and a Britney Spears CD.”

Terribly long quote, I know, but it was so hard to choose. The writing here is just so emotive. And the matter-of-fact tone makes it worse.

Once I got into Fangirl I read it everywhere, even under the desk in school. It was so engrossing, and I felt so emotionally attached to – well, not specifically the characters, more the relationships between them – that I couldn't let it go. I sat in bed one night reading the last two hundred or so pages while listening to music, and for some reason I kept laughing and crying out loud. It could have been just me, but that book – to use fan language (fanguage? And come on, don't I use it already?) really really really gave me feels.  

And now I'm dying to read Eleanor & Park

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Legend - Marie Lu Review


Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Pages: 305
Source: Bought
Rating: 4 Stars

Last YA dystopian for a while, I swear. I have an incredible contemporary up next (Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - perf).

Legend is a Young Adult dystopian novel published in 2011, at the height of the dystopian frenzy. This, I think, is why it’s so original and freshly-spun – because otherwise, it never would have survived.

The dual narrative follows June, the city’s prodigy, their rising star, the only known person to have achieved a perfect 1500 in the Trials (exams taken at the age of ten that determine your future), and soldier-in-training, and Day, a fifteen-year-old criminal on the fringes of society. When June’s brother and caretaker, Metias, is killed in action, June learns that Day is the culprit. She’s accelerated to take Metias’ place in the patrol – first mission, track down Day.

I wouldn't have bought this book based on the back cover (it just didnt grab me) but the first page drew me in. Boiled down to its most basic (“Someone kills family member, character departs to avenge their death”), the plot is nothing new, but I think it’s interesting that it was put in a Young Adult (and dystopian) setting, because I haven’t seen many of those around, and the feelings and actions involved are different when the protagonists are only fifteen. For example, in an adult novel a cop might seek to avenge his wife, but here Metias acted as June’s parents (yes, it’s one of those Young Adult novels where the parents are dead).

I was surprised at first to see that the book is so short, clocking in at only 305 pages, which very nearly dissuaded me from buying it. But it's extraordinarily fast-paced, speeding up as the book goes along. It's so tight that I could forgive how short it is. 

(Ouch, practically this whole review has just been backhanded compliments). 

Lu made it easy to visualise the world, which is good because I'm normally terrible at visualisation. Gritty details are left in there, and it's a very visceral read (as it has to be, because honestly the world-building might not hold up if I examined it too quickly). 

The protagonists' ages are so unrealistic. Day's age was mentioned early on in the book but I missed it and was blindsided by it later on. Sure, they're both smart as hell, but the things they endure are just too much for fifteen-year-olds - or are we just used to 16 being the age when teens are out having dystopian adventures? 

I don't want to analyse this too much, because I'm afraid I'll spoil my enjoyment of it. Let's just say that it was exhilarating and exciting, and I'm glad I bought it.

Grrr, why couldn't it just be a standalone?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Breathe - Sarah Crossan Review

Publisher: Greenwillow (2012)
Genre: YA Dystopian
Pages: 373
Rating: 3.5 Stars

Anyone so thoroughly sick of YA Dystopian they can't stand the sight of them is going to want to look away now. For those not irredeemably jaded ...

11544466Breathe by Sarah Crossan has three protagonists, each with point-of-view chapters; Alina, Bea and Quinn. The premise is that all trees are dead and Earth has run out of oxygen.

Everyone lives inside a Dome (sound familiar?), where they have to pay for artificial air if they want to, y'know, breathe. Quinn is a Premium, a rich boy whose family can afford all the air they want. Bea is an Auxiliary who struggles to pay for breathing: she can't dance, sing or exercise enough for fear of using up too much air. Quinn and Bea are best friends. On top of that, Bea is in unrequited love with Quinn.

Alina is different, due to the not-so-inconsequential fact that she's a rebel (although what passes for rebellion here is growing illegal plants. Growing plants, full stop). One day, Quinn spots Alina in the cafeteria and fancies her. Quinn and Bea leave the Dome for a weekend holiday with air tanks, but Alina's leaving at the same time. Of course, where Alina's going is trouble. Quinn and Bea get caught up in it and bam, drama and danger and adventure.*

I gave this 3.5 stars because it's a good solid read and a pleasant surprise The three points-of-view was quite hefty to pick up at the outset and I didn't enjoy having to get used to three narrators. Their voices are reasonably distinctive, thankfully, and well-characterised, in my opinion.

Not that I know what goes on in boys' heads, but Quinn seems like the most realistic one I've ever read. He's not exactly shy in his internal monologue, I have to say. You can almost feel the hormones. Bea is sensitive, studious and compassionate. She was easy enough to sympathise with, I suppose, but you certainly wouldn't be in awe of her strength. Also, at the start of the book she spends half her time being a teatowel and wishing Quinn would notice her. Alina is your typical strong rebel girl, though even more aloof and hostile than usual. She's not just snarky; at first she seems genuinely uninterested in talking to or mixing with the other main characters (non-rebels, but in the same school).

I quite like the premise, and there's a decent amount of attention paid to the scientific-authenticity side of things. The plotline twists and turns skilfully and there's a real sense of danger, though not as much suspense as there could've been. The setting was really well-described, particularly a certain place outside the Dome that I can't talk about because of spoilers.

Twists! Fabulous twists, both in the main story and in the relationships between characters.

Didn't completely wow me compared to some books I've read recently, but worth a look. It's the first in a trilogy, which I miiiight continue. Depends.

*too snarky?

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Fractured - Teri Terry Review

Hi, guys. Je suis retournée. I feel like the most frustrating part of reviewing a book is that I can't spoil things, so I'm left saying 'it was shocking when a certain thing happened halfway through, and --' - which makes no sense. There will be general spoilers for Slated (#1), though nothing you couldn't guess.

Publisher: Orchard Books
Publication Date: April 4th 2013
Rating: 3*
Pages: 432
Genre: Dystopian

I really really loved Slated (my review here) but I just couldn't get into the first half of this book. Could not. It was all dream sequences and flashbacks, weird disconnected memories and events that seemed to have no bearing on how I remembered the plot of the first book. And so it took me weeks to read that part (this is becoming a worrying trend - I think I need my reading mojo back) but I bought it so I was sure as hell going to finish it.*

So what made the first half so hard to get through? I've already briefly mentioned most of it, but here's some more detail.

Dream sequences are expected in this series - the prologue, the very start, of the first book, is one. But I feel they got out of hand in Fractured and devolved into filler, especially since most of them are very similar. I understand that Kyla is trying to remember something so her mind keeps flashing back to it and uncovering more details, but it got samey and there was probably a better way to present it for the sake of the readers.

Following from that, Fractured lacked the narrative drive I loved Slated for (in the first half). It seemed like a lot of plot strings were being assembled frustratingly slowly, and while they do lead up to a great finish, it's very frustrating for impatient readers (like me, in this instance).

This gripe applies to the whole book, but - the writing style seemed very unusual, so much so that it distracted me from the story. There was nothing strictly wrong with it, but the way the words were strung together was strange. This is probably down to personal taste, so take it with a pinch of salt.

So what did I like? I think the ending was a resounding success. The plot threads that had so gradually been built up pulled together seamlessly (well, almost). One character whom I hadn't been particularly fond of throughout the book redeemed himself near the end, and then tragedy struck. So I wanted more time with them and didn't get it. Also, there is a shocking betrayal at one point, leaving me feeling like Kyla never gets a break. Basically, there was some absolutely brilliant stuff in Fractured, but it didn't start early enough or last long enough for my tastes. Quite possibly a case of second-book-in-a-trilogy syndrome.

I can't say much here without fear of spoilers, but it's really well researched. Fractured in particular requires quite a lot of specialist knowledge (or a remarkable dexterity with creating believable fictions). I appreciated that.

So: the whole book is a massive entanglement of secrets, lies, and Kyla trying to understand it all even though she barely understands herself. The world order (as it's a dystopian) is still completely askew, leaving lots of material for the third book. It also avoids the trap of making one side completely bad and the other perfectly good.  And yes - I am definitely going to read Shattered (out now).

I almost feel like I should rate the two halves completely differently, but overall it's three out of five stars.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Some Fine Day - Kat Ross Review

*Published: 1st July 2014
Publisher: Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry
Pages: 384
Thanks to Angry Robot/Strange Chemistry via Netgalley for this ARC.
Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Jansin Nordqvist is on the verge of graduating from the black ops factory known as the Academy. She's smart and deadly, and knows three things with absolute certainty:
1. When the world flooded and civilization retreated deep underground, there was no one left on the surface.
2. The only species to thrive there are the toads, a primate/amphibian hybrid with a serious mean streak.
3. There's no place on Earth where you can hide from the hypercanes, continent-sized storms that have raged for decades.
Jansin has been lied to. On all counts. 

NOTE: I've just heard that Strange Chemistry is shutting down, so the publication date listed above could be dodgy. My sympathy to all the authors left out in the cold and, oh man that is sad. I'm mourning an imprint now.

In short: Mixed feelings about some parts, but an enjoyable and mostly fast-paced read.

In not-so-short: Alright, so it took me way too long to read this book. I had a hard time getting into the first 20 (or so) pages. I just couldn't bring myself to care about the characters or events (oh wow, they're going on a holiday. Whoop-dee-doo) so I kept procrastinating. The day before yesterday I sat down and read it properly and - fortunately - enjoyed it a lot more. So stick with it, it's worth it. My Kindle app tells me I wrote 'It's growing on me' 15% through.

I get that the blurb is supposed to intrigue you, but I do feel it's a bit lacking in actually explaining what the book's about, so here's my run down. 

At the start of the book, Jansin Nordqvist's on the fast track to success in her home underground (where humanity was driven after a ton of global warming and the arrival of hypercanes rendering the planet's surface uninhabitable) as a military cadet. I'm not totally sure why, but job options are apparently limited to military, the sciences, mining and ... hard labour, or something. 

Her parents - a high-ranking army official and an important scientist - book a short trip to the surface as a special vacation. Unfortunately, Jansin is then kidnapped by - shocker - humans on the surface. Savages, or so we think. She's taken away with them, held captive etc etc ... and when she finally settles in and starts to like them (and finds lurve) her people track her down and rescue her, by storming the island with all her new-found friends and ... yeah. She's pretty pissed about this, so she starts digging around in the military's secrets and bam bam bam tada dystopian plot. 

So that's my plot summary. Here are my thoughts. 

I found the pacing/timeline majorly weird. I'm not sure if this is a good or bad thing, but it felt like the book started in the middle of a book and finished at the end of a sequel, if that makes any sense. You know the feeling you get for where a book's going to go, and when? You expect the moment of doom *here*, a big reveal *here*. It defied all that. Made me fairly uneasy, at times, and made the book seem a lot longer since the storyline was put together in a way that seemed like several 'plots'. That said, it was interesting: once it gets going, the book is a pretty stereotypical dystopian - but the timeline is certainly original, though again, it might rub some up the wrong way. 

Also, the book was slow in some places and then the ending was WHAT THE HELL FAST I CAN'T CATCH UP. So yeah.

Infodumping was pretty weird, too. I'm overusing that word, I know, but it was. The start of each chapter has a little paragraph that's just straight-up infodumping, doesn't even make any pretenses about it, and that was fairly annoying - at first. I mean, it would say things like: 

The spirit of cooperation that permitted the Consortium to complete its work amid global chaos soon disintegrated under the weight of political pressures and looming famine. Communication between the far-flung colonies was severed.

But towards the end I did grow to appreciate those, as the whole story came together. My Kindle App is full of notes like 'Trust your readers!' because narrator Jansin overexplained things quite a lot - and then other times she didn't explain them enough. For example, there's an important plot point (a chemical used in biowarfare) where she explains the symptoms, and then shows someone who's been injected with it with a completely different set of symptoms? I might just be reading it wrong, but it was confusing. Like the timeline, it felt unbalanced. Then again, I do like world-building, so I could look past that. Which leads me onto...

The research was great. Alright, I am not nor ever have been a military cadet, to my knowledge, nor have I used hydroponics or any of the other topics in the book.So I wasn't exactly scrutinizing the novel for 100% correct facts. But it is a novel, and the point of that is to make your words seem realistic to the general public reading. With Some Fine Day, this was definitely a success. I don't even know where to start, but I felt like I was in capable hands with the research. It seems like some spec-fic YA novels lately were written like 'Oh, it's fiction anyway, no need to research.' This wasn't. Alright, there were some mistakes (such as when someone uses a GPS and I mentally scream 'YOU'RE UNDERGROUND AND YOU JUST SAID THE SATELLITES WERE KNOCKED OUT'.) Pro tip: Satellites are needed for GPS. Mad, right? But overall, fab research. Related to that...

I'm a big fan of the science here. Okay, I love science, and I love science fiction. It saddens me that much of the YA science fiction I read doesn't really have the 'science' bit down. This one did (to my limited layperson knowledge. Don't shoot me with your plasma beams, real scientists). There was the explanation as to how the apocalypse-of-sorts happened, etc etc, but there were also some original features. For example, Jansin's mother is a scientist (an agronomist, if I'm not mistaken). We actually see a little of her work, and later in the book we see a lot of the scientific research facilities. As I'm personally working in a research lab this summer, that was interesting! So yeah, that's a highlight.

I noticed a lot of diversity here. I don't know if this was accidental or if it was an intentional effort to diversify the book, but this is a lot less white-teenage-straight-girl-centric than some other books. Which should be commended, I guess. I like how the author doesn't make a huge deal out of it, just throws the details in there. Like, instead of just leaving the details out so everyone can whitewash them, she has pretty clear-cut descriptors like 'ebony skin and cornrows', plus two happily married gay men and Jansin's mother's name (Tamiko)

I have mixed feelings about the writing. Again, this was unbalanced. Some of the lines, especially towards the start, are pretty clunky - that's partly why I had a hard time getting into it. But almost all the chapter endings are fantastic and keep you turning pages, and there are some fabulous turns of phrase.So, basically - hated chapter beginnings (see above), loved chapter endings. So it just depends on your tastes, really. I'm not supposed to quote an ARC (already have, whoops), but here are some examples:

'[...] she neatly sidesteps the hook punch and punches him in the side. No, stabs him in the side.'
'[he - I'm no spoiler] turns to me, his eyes full of love and pity. And then he shoots me in the face.' 
 By the way, nobody dies in those two examples. That would be spoiling.

SOME FINE DAY is very good at building up suspense. This could be to do with the stellar chapter endings, but whatever it is, it works. I was afraid to look at the page sometimes! (You know like when you're watching a scary movie and you cover your eyes? Yeah, that. With a book).

The effectiveness of the POV varied, and sometimes left me wondering if this was actually YA. Jansin's a teenage girl, but (especially at the start of the book) she says a lot of things that a teenager just wouldn't say, and she looks at them with a kind of hindsight. It's not just that she's a *smart teenager*, and thus thinks differently. Like I said, it's  like she's reflecting on it from an adult perspective. Then again, as the book progresses it gets a lot more YA and that's good.

There were some very intriguing hints dropped and then never followed up on. The ending obviously leaves room for a sequel, so they might be covered there. Bit annoying, but it does leave me eager to read on.

The cover's a bit unoriginal. Here's my petty side coming out. The cover's grand, it's not horrible, but eyes are just so so so overdone. A picture of a hypercane could've made a really nice picture. I mean, eyes suit Stephenie Meyer's The Host, because they're quite important in the book. But Jansin's eyes really don't matter here.

All that said, I still enjoyed it. It just left me with a lot to say. So ... good concept, some very cool elements, with somewhat dodgy execution in places.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Geek Girl - Holly Smale Review

Hey guys! Like I said, I bought Geek Girl by Holly Smale over the weekend (along with Breathe by Sarah Crossan and Fractured by Teri Terry), so here's my review, as promised.

Geek Girl features Harriet Manners, a self-diagnosed geek (who happens to be named Manners. Manners.) She makes no secret of this fact, by the way - the book literally starts with something like. 'My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.' Subtle. She then goes on to use the dictionary definition of the word geek, and into a scene where she's essentially being the biggest drama queen of all time.

And man, it was so much fun.

I've probably said this so many times on the blog by now that it's meaningless, but I consider my normal genres YA science fiction, dystopian, post-apocalyptic, fantasy - things like that. This is a YA contemporary, plain and simple, but I saw it on display in my local Waterstones and just had to pick it up because of three things.

(1) Derek Landy had mentioned Holly before on Twitter (and as you all know, I am in love with his Skulduggery books - take my reviews of some of them here and here  for example). So that was a pretty great recommendation.

(2) The cover. What a gorgeous cover.

(3) The first page. Starts straight in with Harriet's distinctive voice and keeps you turning pages.

Look, I just made a list! I'm a lot like Harriet in some ways. Some. Not all. I don't have a habit of hiding under tables when the going gets tough, although I have been known to lie on the floor ... or sit on the table ... or plonk myself down on a desk whenever the fancy strikes me. I'm not sure whether Harriet cares if people like her or not. She's very self-deprecating (to a fairly irritating fault) but then again she does geek out all the time. Can she just not help it?

Anyway, this is less of a review and more of a ramble at the moment, so I think some kind of plot summary is in order.

It's really very simple. Compared to a lot of dystopians, SF, fantasy, etc., there's actually very little plot. But it's okay.

Beginning: Harriet is going along as normal with her dad and stepmother Annabel, best friend Nat, stalker Toby (more on that in a minute) and bully Alexa. She's a total geek, and she seems happy enough like that - or at least, she doesn't know any other way.

Inciting Incident: Nat cajoles Harriet into coming to The Clothes Show, a fashion show a few hours away. There, she manages to knock down several racks of goods (amassing damages of £3,000) - oh, and she also gets scouted by a model agent for a famous agency.

Middle: Harriet accepts the invitation and goes off  to modelling land to do photoshoots and catwalk s for famous designers (approximately a day after she's scouted. Approximately.) She also lies to pretty much everyone (silly Harriet). By the way, none of this is really spoilers because, as I said, this book is most definitely not plot-based.

Ending: ... Okay, I won't tell you that. I do have limits.

The reason the lack of plot didn't matter to me was that the writing is bloody gorgeous. Seriously. Okay, maybe gorgeous isn't the right word - it's not fancy-pants literary fiction or anything. But it's exceedingly witty and observant and fun. 

You know what? I'm in a listy mood tonight.

What I liked: 
(1) The writing - see above.
(2) Annabel, Harriet's stepmother's characterisation. At first she comes across as standard evil stepmother, but as it turns out she's just human (and sharper than they took her for). Also, my favourite, very heartwarming scene is between her and Harriet.
(3) It doesn't take itself too seriously. Some reviewers have complained about Wilbur's abundance of names for Harriet (Petal, Sponge-finger, Chocolate-drops, Baby-baby Unicorn... but I thought they were impressively inventive, and must have been fun to write.
(4). Nick. Just Nick, in general.
(5) Nat's sassiness. For example:
Nat rolls her eyes, "I was never going to hate you FOREVER, Harriet. Just a couple of days.""But you said...""We were FIGHTING. What did you want me to say? I'll hate you for about thirty six hours until I've calmed down a bit?" 
(6) The author herself. Damn, she's hella cool and nice.
(7) The fact that Harriet doesn't consider herself conventionally pretty, but was chosen for her quirkiness. Also, Wilbur's endearing idea that everything she does is intentional.

What I didn't like:
(1) It requires that you suspend disbelief to an absurd degree. In the space of about three days Harriet goes from reluctantly attending a clothes show to headlining a major fashion show. Huh. It's alright though, because the story is so fluffy and enjoyable you can just let it pass as long as you don't think about it too hard.
(2) Toby, the stalker. Don't get me wrong - Toby's scenes were pretty funny. But there was something niggling at the back of my mind: stalking is Not Okay, and it was being used as comic relief. Seriously, Toby literally followed her everywhere and memorized her schedule. He's also an uber-nerd - supposed to reflect her, I guess? Which means one of two things:
(a) Harriet is about to start stalking someone.
(b) Toby is going to become a supermodel.

Also, Holly Smale and I had a lovely conversation on Twitter (AKA she replied to my tweets. Several times. Hell to the yeah!). She's awesome. (She's @HolSmale, if you want to follow her).

Currently reading Fractured, sequel to Slated by Teri Terry (my review here).