Monthly wrap ups

February wrap up

I’m super impressed that I managed to finish eight books in February. There were some great reads as well so it was a pretty good month for me.

hamilton

Tiding me over from the end of January into the beginning of February was Hamilton: The Revolution by Lin Manuel Miranda and Jeremy McCarter. I’d been saving reading the book to coincide with the general sale of tickets for the London production on 30 January, where after 45 minutes of stressing out I finally managed to book myself a ticket for March 2018 (there’s a Wait For It pun in there somewhere). I loved the insight into the roles of everyone involved in creating the show as well as Lin’s footnotes accompanying each song – I didn’t realise there were so many references to other music artists/Broadway shows in the lyrics and even the music itself. The photographs are gorgeous and the deckled pages really turn the book into a thing of beauty.

Goodreads rating = 5 stars.

breathing

Next I read The Art of Not Breathing by Sarah Alexander. Sixteen year old Elsie’s twin brother Eddie died in a sea accident five years ago and she’s felt like an outcast in her family ever since. One day a group of boys dare her to dive into the sea near the location of the accident and it’s this event that triggers a forgotten memory of the tragedy to resurface. Believing that being underwater is the key to unlocking her full memory, Elsie spends more time with the mysterious Tay learning all there is about freediving and falling for his smile along the way. With her family still struggling to deal with Eddie’s death, this is a book that looks at grief and the harmful risks of keeping secrets.

I found myself in the dissonant position of not wanting to put the book down whilst at the same time having little interest in the characters. I think it was a case of being in the mood to spend the whole day reading and wanting to find out exactly what happened to Eddie, who was pretty much my favourite character despite him being dead. I was frustrated at Elsie’s lack of intervention in her brother’s downward spiral and the vile bullying (particularly the physical abuse) from Aisla which Elsie just accepted. I wasn’t invested in the relationship between Elsie and Tay either which was the main focus of the book’s synopsis. The writing however did do a good job of setting the scene – there was definitely a grey, damp and isolated feel to the locations and I got a good sense of what it was like whilst Elsie was diving. All in all it was a bit of a mixed bag and left me with no real desire to read more of the author’s work. Before I round off, in addition to physical abuse I also need to put out a trigger warning for alcohol use, drug use and eating disorders.

Goodreads rating = 3 stars.

girl

My third book for this month was the own-voices novel If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo. Teenage Amanda has just moved to a new town to live with her dad in order to escape her past. You see Amanda was born as Andrew and the people at her old school didn’t take very kindly to having a trans person in their midst. She hopes that at her new school she can stay in the shadows and avoid trouble, a sentiment shared by her dad who hasn’t seen her since she transitioned and is still getting to grips with the situation himself. But as soon as Grant introduces himself on her first day at school she realises that being invisible is an impossible option if she’s to ever experience love.

I wanted to write a full review of this straight after I finished reading it, however as usual my brain had other plans and so it never happened. In short then… Each character has their own background and isn’t just there to serve the story which I found refreshing for a high school setting. Her father in particular begins as quite flawed and so his character development is great to see, although the flashbacks with him in are heartbreaking. In fact there’s quite a lot of heartbreaking material in the book so be prepared to hurt multiple times at what Amanda (and others too) goes through. The book also comes with warnings for alcohol/drug use, attempted suicide, outing others, plus physical and sexual assault. Whilst not the easiest thing to read at times, there are also a lot of wonderful moments and it ends on a hopeful note. Quite literally actually as there’s a note from the author to both cis and trans readers that explains a little about how Amanda’s story is not representative of every trans person and provides some advice and guidance to those who may need it.

Goodreads rating = 4 stars.

cosmos

Next was See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng, a book that I have actually managed to write a review for. This book about an eleven year old space-loving boy who goes on a road trip with his dog whilst recording his travels on an iPod was a delightful read. The main character Alex is adorable and the people he meets along the way are wonderful in their own right too. It’s is marketed as a middle-grade book but I think older readers will get even more from it.

Goodreads rating = 4 stars.

monsters

Keeping with the space theme I then moved on to Doctor Who: The Dangerous Book of Monsters which was apparently written by the twelfth Doctor (it did kind of sound like him at times). It’s a fairly small book really which didn’t take too long to get through, especially as a lot of it is taken up by photos and illustrations so there’s only a small amount of text. The Doctor describes the looks and capabilities of some of the aliens that he’s met over the years, as well as tips on how to survive an encounter with them. Not all are strictly monsters (e.g. the Ood) and not all species are covered, but all the main culprits from the NuWho era are featured so it doesn’t feel like too much is missed out. It’s by no means an essential book for fans of the show (especially for adults) but it’s still nice to have in my collection.

Goodreads rating = 3 stars.

broken

Having been in my TBR pile since June I finally got round to reading Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard. The book focuses on friendships, particularly between best friends Caddy and Rosie and how the dynamic changes when new girl Suzanne starts at Rosie’s school. I went into it a little blindly and so Suzanne’s traumatic background (as well as the amount of discussion about it) took me by surprise, so be warned for past physical abuse and attempted suicide, as well as alcohol/drug use and dubious sexual consent. Whilst I recognise that the characters are meant to be flawed in their choices I was still frustrated at how Caddy didn’t see that she wasn’t always helping Suzanne in the best way. I also felt that the implied limited support Suzanne received from the school was a little unrealistic, but this was a minor thing and I probably only picked up on it because I work in a school myself. Overall it was nice to read a story about girl friendships but I preferred the author’s second novel.

Goodreads rating = 3 stars.

spark-joy

I gave my bedroom a sort out during the half term holiday and had already ‘finished’ when I saw Spark Joy by Marie Kondo was available via my library’s e-book service. As I still live with my parentals I only have the one room and so a lot of what the book gives advice on was irrelevant to me, however it did make me consider some aspects of my bedroom that I had overlooked during my first round of tidying. Cue another bag’s worth of items being thrown out. I think I’ll probably re-read this book when I eventually get a place of my own to help me organise/store my belongings appropriately from the get-go, but for the time being it’s given me a little more space in my bedroom which is always a good thing.

Goodreads rating = 3 stars.

milo

I bought this book on a whim last year as part of a book deal, mostly because the main character has a pet pig (called Hamlet, which is pretty much the perfect name). Sadly the pig was one of the few things I enjoyed about the story. It’s about a nine year old boy called Milo who has an eye condition meaning that he has rather limited vision and will one day go completely blind. Having looked after his gran at his house for the past few years his mum has recently made the decision to put her in a care home, and whilst it looked perfect when they first went to visit Milo becomes increasingly concerned about what life at Forget Me Not Nursing Home is really like.

Aside from Hamlet I also enjoyed the Syrian refugee Trippi, whose story I think I would have actually preferred to have been the main focus. The main problem for me was that I couldn’t decide if it was meant to be a children’s book or an adult book from a child’s perspective. I did a bit of research and it’s seemingly the latter but it just didn’t sit right for me.

Goodreads rating = 2 stars.

x x x

Phew, this is a long post. It’s a good job I’ve been updating the draft throughout the month otherwise it would have taken me all day to write.

So yes, eight books read and potentially seven items from the PopSugar Challenge completed (I haven’t quite yet decided yet on the last couple if they fully qualify). If the rest of the year goes this well I’m truly going to smash my expectations.

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