Brief blogs for busy bees

Tag: four star review

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Review: Mossbelly MacFearsome and the Dwarves of Doom by Alex Gardiner

Mossbelly MacFearsome is a dwarf warrior on a mission. His nemesis, Leatherhead Barnstorm, has stolen the Doomstone Sword and is planning to use it to bring about the end of the human race. It’s up to Moss and his recently elected Destroyer, Roger – an […]

Review: The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

Review: The Flower Girls by Alice Clark-Platts

‘Is this what marriage is like? she wonders. A constant balancing act between infatuation and impatience.’ At first glance, it appears as though The Flower Girls is going to be a pretty cut and dry thriller. A girl disappears from a hotel on New Year’s Eve, and when a terrible storms starts raging outside it’s a race against time to try […]

Review: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Review: Odd One Out by Nic Stone

Courtney Aloysius Cooper IV is in love with his best friend, Jupiter, but there’s not likely to be a Jupe-and-Coop romance anytime soon, because Jupiter is gay. He’s always struggled to accept this fact, but his girlfriends have found their closeness even harder to accept, which is why Coop’s just found himself dumped. Again.

Coop heads to Jupiter’s house to mourn the loss of his latest relationship, but when he gets there he finds her obsessively texting someone called Rae. He’s jealous, a feeling which only gets worse when he meets Rae: a biracial girl with the vocabulary of a dictionary. Rae’s beautiful, funny and smart, and Jupe can see it just as clearly as Coop can.

Rae quickly becomes the filling in the Jupe-and-Coop sandwich, but that doesn’t come without its fair share of issues. Jupiter’s affectionate nature sends Rae into a questioning tailspin. It’s undeniable, her attraction to Coop… But why does Jupiter send her heart racing, too?

“Can’t a person be attracted to a boy and a girl? Is that not allowed or something?”

It took me a little while to get into Odd One Out. When the book starts the story is being told from Courtney’s perspective, and I’m not a huge fan of the ‘straight boy madly in love with a gay girl’ thing. I was tempted to put the book to one side and move on to something else, but so many people recommend Nic Stone’s novels (more specifically Dear Martin, but this was the one that was available at the library so this was the one I went for) that I felt like I’d be missing out if I didn’t give it a proper try.

Although Courtney’s section introduces the story and the other characters, it’s definitely the hardest to read. The slang and informal language feel forced rather than natural, a direct contrast with Rae’s section (which is chock-a-block with words that had me running to Google to check their definitions but felt far more genuine).

Meanwhile Jupiter’s narration was a nice blend of both of them, but stood out the most as each of her chapters corresponded with a different Queen song on her playlist. I’m a huge music fan, so any books that embrace their character’s passion for a band are always going to get a thumbs up from me, and Jupiter’s kinship with Freddie Mercury was well written (and related to the plot, too).

The main focus of Odd One Out is on sexuality, and the changing nature of individual identities. I’m bisexual, so I related to Rae’s inner tension as she struggled to come to terms with her feelings for Jupiter, but I was a little disappointed that other definitions of sexuality were so lightly brushed over. Jupiter makes a point of dissecting negative definitions of bisexuality (specifically the belief that bisexual can equate to transphobic) but only lightly touches upon the ideas of pansexuality and demisexuality, neglecting to properly define them.

Odd One Out is a good starting point for anyone who may be questioning their sexuality, as it includes enough information to encourage people to go off and research the terms for themselves, but this book would have been perfect if it included a glossary or a list of resources for readers. Please correct me if this is included in the print version, as I read a library eBook and am aware that it might not have featured all of the extras!

Have you read either of Nic Stone’s novels? I’m hoping to read Dear Martin at some point in the next few months, so if any of you have read it please let me know whether you’d recommend it.

Alyce

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Blogtober Day 17: Review: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Blogtober Day 17: Review: Rosie Loves Jack by Mel Darbon

Rosie Loves Jack begins with a newspaper article detailing the story of a teenager with Down’s syndrome who has gone missing after running away from home to be reunited with her boyfriend. When we join Rose, it’s before she embarks on her cross-country adventure to Jack, […]

Blogtober Day 6: Review: The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin

Blogtober Day 6: Review: The Invasion by Peadar O’Guilin

Continuing the events from The Call, you might expect The Invasion to be brighter than it’s predecessor, but that is not the case. While it seemed that things were looking up for Anto and Nessa, they’re torn away from each other and plunged back into the world of […]

Review: My Box-Shaped Heart by Rachael Lucas

Review: My Box-Shaped Heart by Rachael Lucas

“I don’t really know what sort of person I am,” I say. “But I think it’s time to find out.” 

Holly and Ed both use their local swimming pool as a way to escape from the things that are troubling them. Holly’s mum started hoarding after breaking up with Holly’s step-dad, Neil, and their house is overwhelmed with stuff that never gets dealt with. Meanwhile Ed and his mum have only just moved to the area and he doesn’t want to share much about his past, but Holly can see that the fancy labels on his clothes don’t mean a thing anymore.

Bonding over their mutual love of swimming, Holly and Ed’s friendship quickly blossoms, and suddenly Holly doesn’t want to be invisible anymore.

The thing I liked the most about My Box-Shaped Heart was that there is hardly any exaggerated conflict in this story. Holly and Ed like each other and there’s no will-they-or-won’t-they, they just start going out. Rachael Lucas perfectly describes the excitement and nerves which accompany the beginning of every relationship, but I didn’t feel anxious or concerned while reading this book. It was a breath of fresh air.

They each have their own trials and tribulations – Holly’s mum breaks her ankle, while Ed eventually reveals that his dad was abusing his mum – but their relationship is a safe haven for them both. I can’t think of another YA book where this is the case: normally the familial problems take their toll on the relationship and that’s the main conflict which drives the plot, so it was great to read something different.

There is still conflict (there wouldn’t really be a story without it!) but it’s mundane, ordinary conflict which most readers will be able to empathise with. I’m a bit of a hoarder myself, so I could definitely relate to Holly‘s embarrassment about the state of the house and not feeling able to invite her friends over. Although this is a short book, clocking in at just over 250 pages, it deals with a lot of topics which aren’t commonly focused upon in YA which made it an even more compelling read.

The moral of My Box-Shaped Heart is that you can choose your own family, and that blood isn’t thicker than water (which made the setting of the swimming pool a clever choice!). This is a highly important message to convey to younger readers, particularly those who may have parents going through divorce or separation. They’ll be learning to come to terms with a different family structure to the one that they’ve always had, which is exactly what Holly and Ed have to cope with. Families come in all different shapes and sizes – nothing is normal or abnormal anymore!

 

If you’re interested in learning more about My Box-Shaped Heart, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

If you know a teenager who is having a tough time with their family, I’d highly suggest you recommend this title to them. I think it would have made me feel a lot better if I’d been able to read it when I was younger.

Alyce

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Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

Review: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

I’ve been resisting picking up The Language of Thorns since it was released, as I haven’t yet read the Six of Crows duology and was worried about getting spoilers. For anyone who has been avoiding it for the same reason, fear no more! The Language of Thorns might be part of […]

Review: The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

Review: The Unmumsy Mum by Sarah Turner

‘When people declare “You can’t say that!”, what they really mean is “You can think it, but you mustn’t say it.” I don’t think keeping thoughts to yourself makes them any less real.’ I started reading The Unmumsy Mum while I was pregnant and was planning on […]

Review: The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Review: The Leavers by Lisa Ko

Hello there, and welcome to my stop on The Leavers blog tour. First off I’d like to say a huge thank you to Little, Brown for inviting me to read and review a copy of Lisa Ko’s debut novel. It’s a little out of my comfort zone and not the sort of book I would normally read, but I enjoyed it so much!

Before I share my thoughts on The Leavers, here’s a bit more information about the book:

One morning, Deming Guo’s mother, an undocumented Chinese immigrant named Polly, goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. No one can find any trace of her.

With his mother gone, eleven-year-old Deming is left with no one to care for him. He is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.

Set in New York and China, The Leavers is a vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging. It’s the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away–and how a mother learns to live with the mistakes of her past.

This powerful debut is the winner of the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for fiction, awarded by Barbara Kingsolver for a novel that addresses issues of social justice.

So what did I think of The Leavers?

The Leavers by Lisa Ko review header

‘If you knew more about me, Deming, maybe you wouldn’t blame me so much. Maybe you would understand me more. I can only be as honest as I know how to be, even if it might not be what you want to hear.’

The Leavers is a timely exploration of the lives of immigrants in the US. Lisa Ko uses her debut novel to expose the exploitation of the most desperate people, humanising a group of society which have been ostracised by press and politics consistently in the recent past.

I’m going to avoid giving any spoilers, but what I can tell you is that Ko’s writing is elegant, captivating and utterly enjoyable. Despite the tough subject matter at hand, the story is beautiful, and despite its length – and the fact that it’s different to anything I’ve ever read before – I found myself being sucked in, and I read it in just a couple of sittings. 

The Leavers is emotionally absorbing: although I easily predicted what had happened to Polly, I couldn’t stop myself from eagerly turning the pages, desperate to find out where Deming/Daniel would end up and whether he would ever be reunited with his mother.

If you’re hoping to find a new author writing about difficult subjects with ease and sensitivity, look no further. It’ll be interesting to see what Lisa Ko writes next: with such a brilliantly received debut novel, it’ll be hard to top the success she’s achieved with The Leavers.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about The Leavers, check it out on Goodreads. If you decide to buy a copy, please consider using my Amazon affiliate link: I’ll earn a few pennies from your purchase. Thank you!

 

Thank you again for visiting my stop on The Leavers blog tour! Are you going to check out Lisa Ko’s book?

Alyce

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Review: Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

Review: Out of the Blue by Sophie Cameron

‘It was our 9/11, our Princess Diana, our JFK. You’d always remember where you were when you heard about Being No. 1.’ Ten days after Jaya’s mother died, Beings started falling from the sky. Over the course of eight months 85 Beings fall, and no […]