It’s been practically impossible for me to blog recently, as my glasses are broken and my laptop screen just isn’t clear when I’m wearing my contact lenses. However, it hasn’t slowed down my reading, which is why it’s time for my first ever Rapid Reviews […]
I was extremely excited to see Monsters by Sharon Dogar on NetGalley, because I’ve been obsessed with Mary Shelley’s life since studying Frankenstein at university in 2017. Expecting a novelisation of her earlier years to bring to life all of the people I’ve studied so closely, I thought this was bound to be one of my top reads of 2019.
Unfortunately, Monsters was an absolute struggle. I knew as soon as I read the first chapter that it was going to be hard – it’s written in the present tense, which is an unusual choice and doesn’t lend itself well to storytelling – but it was like pulling teeth. I’m a fast reader, and it took me almost three weeks of constant reading to get through this story.
Yes, it’s important to focus on the fact that Mary Shelley’s father, William Godwin, completely disowned her when she decided to run away with Percy Bysshe Shelley. It’s also important that they were riddled with debt and had to flee locations across the continent when they couldn’t afford to pay the landlords. But the majority of the book is wholly centred on their monetary struggles, leaving the suicides of both Fanny and Harriet to happen in the last five percent (and for the deaths of two of Mary and Percy’s children, and the death of Percy himself, to happen in the afterword).
However, I do applaud Sharon Dogar for choosing the version of events she feels most likely to have happened and committing to it. A lot of authors would have written the romance between Bysshe and Claire far more subtly, as evidence of their suspected passion has been almost completely destroyed due to the removal of pages from Mary’s journal. It’s a brave move to make the events seem far more clear-cut, although it’s important to take it with a pinch of salt because there is no proof that Dogar’s version of their story is true.
If you’re interested in Mary Shelley but are planning on learning about her by reading Monsters because it isn’t non-fiction, I would highly recommend Charlotte Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws. Yes, it’s a non-fiction book, but it’s told in a narrative style that makes it more gripping than most stories (and 100% more engaging than Monsters). It also tells the story of Mary’s mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, by running their lives parallel to each other, comparing and contrasting the events that they get up to.
“I’m not just happy, Eff, I’m Happy Girl Lucky. People have always said that’s what I am, but I’ve never really understood the expression before… because why can’t boys be it too? But now it truly capsules me perfectly.” Happy Girl Lucky introduces us to […]
I’m forever getting to the end of a standalone and craving a sequel, so it feels like this week’s topic was made with me in mind. It’s been difficult to pick just ten books, because I can remember thinking this about so many of the standalones I’ve read (but luckily some have had sequels announced since I’ve finished them, so I’ve got my way!).
10) Clean by Juno Dawson
I’m putting Clean at tenth because I’m not quite sure how a sequel would work. I want to read more about Lexi because she’s a brilliant character, but it doesn’t feel like a story that could ever really have a follow-up. Hopefully Lexi will pop up in more of Juno Dawson’s work in the future, even if it’s just a little cameo.
9) Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasgow
Another book which I don’t think could even have a sequel, but I love Charlie so much and didn’t want this book to end. I would happily settle for a short story set in ten years time showing us how Charlie has been getting on!
8) The Burning by Laura Bates
I only read The Burning a couple of weeks ago, but I found myself disappointed that Laura Bates didn’t use the opportunity to get Anna more involved in feminism and campaigning. Hopefully it’ll get a sequel which will show Anna doing some good, because that would redeem the first book!
7) Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Good Omens has been on my mind a lot recently, because the trailer for the TV show has just been released. Unfortunately there’s never going to be a sequel, as Terry Pratchett passed away four years ago today and Neil Gaiman has instead incorporated their ideas for the sequel into the TV show. RIP Sir Terry.
6) Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi
Emergency Contact tells the story of how Penny and Sam meet and get together, but I’m looking for a sequel that follows these two through the ups and downs of their relationship. Will Lorraine come back and get in the way? What will happen when Penny graduates? I gots ta know!
5) How Not To Disappear by Clare Furniss
How Not To Disappear is one of my favourite books of all time. I finished reading it during a shift at the library and ended up crying for like half an hour, so I would love to be able to revisit these characters a few years down the line and see how they’re all doing.
4) Vote For Effie by Laura Wood
I can’t stop talking about Vote For Effie! I reviewed it on Sunday, and the whole time I was writing the review I found myself wondering whether we would be seeing more of Effie Kostas in the future. Will her and Aaron Davis find themselves battling it out for a place on the senior school council too?
3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
I don’t think The Perks of Being a Wallflower is likely to get a sequel, because it’s taken Stephen Chbosky twenty years to even write a second novel. However, I would love to revisit Charlie and see how he’s getting on. The Perks of Being a Wallflower perfectly encapsulates what it’s like to be a teenager, so it would be great to see Chbosky tackle Charlie’s college life and adult years.
2) All of This is True by Lygia Day Penaflor
Four teenagers befriend their favourite author, who exploits them for material she can use in her next book. I purposefully made my review spoiler free and extremely vague, so I’ll be honest and say that I can’t really remember what happened? But I can remember being so invested in it that I read it in one sitting, and if that doesn’t make me want to read a sequel and revisit the characters then nothing will.
1) Whiteout by Gabriel Dylan
This might seem like an odd one to feature, because the only thing I didn’t like about Whiteout was the epilogue which seemed to suggest there was going to be a sequel. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want a sequel! I just think it would have had far more of an impact if it had been left seeming completely resolved, because it would have made it more intriguing to pick up a sequel not knowing how this story manages to carry on.
That’s it for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday! Do you want any of these books to have sequels, or is there another standalone that you’d choose?
Effie Kostas is new at school and she’s struggling to fit in. She’s intelligent and confident, but she feels basically invisible until she gets into an argument with Aaron Davis – Student Council President – when he abuses his lunch pass privilege to buy the […]
Twenty years ago, Sammy Went was taken from her home in Manson, Kentucky. She’s now a photography teacher called Kim Leamy, living in Australia, completely unaware of her forgotten past until her long-lost brother Stuart tracks her down. Flying back to America, Kim and Stuart […]
I was lucky to be invited to Stripes YA Afternoon Equali-tea back in January, where I picked up an early copy of Proud. Since Proud was announced last February, it’s been my most anticipated release of 2019, so I’m so excited to be able to tell you that this collection of LGBTQ+ stories was just as delightful as I’d expected it to be.
I’m going to share my thoughts on each of the individual stories, as that’s how I’ve worked out my overall rating for the collection, so if you’d rather pick up your copy of Proud without knowing too much about the stories included I’d suggest looking away now!
Dive Bar by Caroline Bird:
Dive Bar – the first inclusion in the collection – is a poem that I just really didn’t understand? I’ve never been a huge fan of poetry though, so I’m probably missing some aspect of it that would make it make more sense to me… But as it stands currently I don’t have strong feelings about it either way. 3/5
Penguins by Simon James Green:
Absolutely glorious. Accompanied by art by Alice Oseman, Penguins is one of my favourite stories in the collection. I haven’t read any of Simon James Green’s other novels yet, but I found myself laughing out loud at multiple points as Cameron’s attempts to come out were constantly thwarted by the gay penguins at the zoo. 5/5
On The Run by Kay Staples:
Kay Staples spoke at the Stripes event, so I’d already heard her read the first page or so of On The Run, but it still made me chuckle when Nicky shared the story of how they ended up running away from home… to a Travelodge. Glamorous! 4/5
The Phoenix’s Fault by Cynthia So:
Another story I was already slightly familiar with was The Phoenix’s Fault, the concept of which grabbed me when Cynthia So introduced her story at the Stripes event. This is a world in which the phoenix and the dragon are the marriage symbol, and Jingzhi is expected to audition to marry the prince – searching for a wife based off of whether their phoenix responds to his dragon. I had an idea in my head of how this story was going to go, so I was pleasantly surprised when it went a completely different direction! I’m hoping that So will revisit the world she creates in this short story, because there is so much more potential here. 5/5
As The Philadelphia Queer Youth Choir Sings Katy Perry’s ‘Firework’… by David Levithan:
Not a fan of this one. I can see what David Levithan was trying to do – each characters innermost thoughts are justified slightly different on the page, so you can read the piece as a whole or read each character individually – but it just seems a bit too artsy, taking away from the impact of the message that he’s conveying. 1/5
Almost Certain by Tanya Byrne:
Another brilliant story. Orla is painfully cool – obsessed with music, constantly hanging out at her local record store and getting personal recommendations from the owner – but she’s also plagued with anxiety. When Mal introduces her to the music of Reeba Shah, she knows she has to get past her apprehensions and go to the gig, but although she gets to meet Reeba she still doesn’t get to see her perform. Almost Certain is a great reminder that having an LGBTQ+ identity is just one facet of a character and doesn’t have to be their whole story. 5/5
The Other Team by Michael Lee Richardson:
When a team are told that they can’t play in a league match because of their transgender teammate, they decide to play anyway – even if it they won’t get any points and it won’t exactly ‘count’, it’s the principle. A funny cast of characters from a new voice who’s certain to have a bright future ahead of him. 4/5
I Hate Darcy Pemberley by Karen Lawler:
A lesbian Pride & Prejudice retelling? Yes please! I really enjoyed the over-dramatic high school scenes and how brilliantly they mirrored the high society drama of Jane Austen’s novels. I’m glad that Karen Lawler decided to take the prompt of what pride meant to her so literally. However, if a reader hasn’t read Pride & Prejudice yet it might go right over their heads, as the supporting cast of characters aren’t thoroughly introduced.4/5
The Courage of Dragons by Fox Benwell:
I’m sad to say that The Courage of Dragons was my second least favourite story in the collection. I absolutely loved The Last Leaves Falling and have been looking forward to reading more of Fox Benwell’s writing, but this story just didn’t appeal to me. I loved the concept – a non-binary kid and their group of friends overthrowing the school’s gender-conforming bathrooms and legislation – but the Dungeons and Dragons aspect of it just didn’t translate well (and I love D&D, so I can’t believe I’m saying that!). However, it was accompanied by the most beautiful piece of art in the entire book, so that was a redeeming feature. 2/5
The Instructor by Jess Vallance:
The Instructor is a predictable story, but it’s so very cute. A girl’s father is a plumber, and he gives one of his clients a reduced fee in exchange for his daughter getting free driving lessons from the instructor. 4/5
Love Poems to the City by Moira Fowley-Doyle:
My favourite story in the collection, and I would give this 10/5 if I could. Moira Fowley-Doyle’s language is beautiful and poetic, and the story that she tells – of two girls who aren’t necessarily in love, both with separated parents, campaigning for the right to marry – is passionately told. I cannot recommend this one enough. 5/5
How to Come Out as Gay by Dean Atta:
Another poem to round out the collection. How to Come Out as Gay is far more straightforward than Dive Bar and I enjoyed it a lot more. 4/5
So there you have it! Overall, Proud gets a rating of 3.8 (but I round my ratings up, so that makes it a four star read!).
I’d like to say another huge thank you to Stripes, for allowing me to read an early copy of Proud in exchange for a fair and honest review. This is the second anthology they’ve curated (the first, A Change is Gonna Come, being just as successful) and I’m looking forward to finding out which gap in the market they’re going to be tackling next. Keep up the good work!