Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 JANUARY READ – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Published January 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

Margaret is funny and real, and her thoughts and feelings are oh-so-relatable—you’ll feel like she’s talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.

What did I think?:

Where on earth do I start with this book? First of all, if you’re new here at bibliobeth hello, welcome and thank you so much for reading! Just to let you know I have two main gods author wise in my reading life. Well, to be fair I do have quite a few but if we’re comparing them to Zeus and Hera of Mount Olympus (the top dogs, for all you non-Greek mythology fans), Stephen King would be my Zeus and Judy Blume would be my Hera.

Chrissi and I read her middle grade book, Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing last year for our Kid-Lit 2018 challenge and I had such a delicious nostalgia trip that when the time came to pick our list for this year, I gently persuaded her we should pick another Blume. She didn’t need too much persuasion as she is my beloved sister after all, but I swear I could hear her roll her eyes via text message!

Now, it’s always a worry when you pick a childhood favourite and read it as an adult that it won’t live up to expectations and with Judy Blume, she has her OWN gigantic shoes to fill so I have to admit, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t love it as much. However, I had nothing to fear, it was such a wonderful trip down memory lane and made me remember everything I originally loved about it as a young adolescent.

Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Of course, reading this book as an adult was quite a different reading experience in general. When I first read this as an innocent young girl, I identified so strongly with Margaret. During the tumultuous time of puberty when your hormones are going haywire and you perhaps don’t have access to the best or most accurate sex education, Blume and her character Margaret were absolute godsends to me. I learned brand new information that I hadn’t been taught either at school or at home yet and for the most part, I got the desperately needed answers to feed my curiosity about boys, bras and periods.

One of the things that I admire most about Blume as an author though is the way she taps perfectly into the minds of pre-adolescent/adolescent girls, gives them an important voice and reassures them that all the things they are thinking and experiencing are positively normal and nothing to be afraid of. Her honesty and sensitivity in forming a narrative that has spoken to millions of young people across the globe is refreshing and for this reason, she will always remain such a crucial part of my childhood.

Hera, Queen Of The Gods aka Judy Blume??

Re-entering the world of Margaret as an adult was such a strangely rewarding experience, coming back to it with all the adult knowledge and life experience that I now have. At some points it was lovely, other times odd and frankly, a few times embarrassing to remember my teenage self and how I felt about things whilst growing up and becoming a woman. I remember vividly taking on board a certain “exercise” that Margaret and her friends used to do (complete with the infamous rhyme) in desperation that it would take effect and make me grow up that little bit faster! Cringe. Additionally, I also appreciated how Blume explores other avenues in the narrative, like female friendships, the importance of a strong, supportive family and one of the major elements of the story – a crisis of faith. She isn’t afraid as an author to explore those subjects that others might shy away from to give teenagers the answers they crave or indeed, to let them know that it’s okay to be unsure and indecisive about other things.

The fiction of Judy Blume will always have a special place in my heart and I’m sure will prove relevant to generations further down the line than myself who are struggling with difficult issues and want to know they are not unusual or alone. I’m already considering which Blume I can coax Chrissi to put on our list next year? I don’t want to ever get off this nostalgia train!

For Chrissi’s fantastic review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

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COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The BFG by Roald Dahl.

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Village Of The Lost Girls – Agustin Martinez

Published January 30, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

A breath-taking missing persons thriller set under the menacing peaks of the Pyrenees

Five years after their disappearance, the village of Monteperdido still mourns the loss of Ana and Lucia, two eleven-year-old friends who left school one afternoon and were never seen again. Now, Ana reappears unexpectedly inside a crashed car, wounded but alive.

The case reopens and a race against time begins to discover who was behind the girls’ kidnapping. Most importantly, where is Lucia and is she still alive?

Inspector Sara Campos and her boss Santiago Bain, from Madrid’s head office, are forced to work with the local police. Five years ago fatal mistakes were made in the investigation conducted after the girls first vanished, and this mustn’t happen again. But Monteperdido has rules of its own.

What did I think?:

This review comes with a big thank you to Quercus Books who drew my attention to this book when they hosted a bloggers event just before Christmas that showcased some of the works they were most excited about for 2019. Now I’m a big fan of thrillers, especially those with a literary edge like Village Of The Lost Girls but I’m also constantly hungry to read novels that are set outside the countries that I normally associate with thrillers i.e. Scandinavian/Nordic and Tartan Noir or even those set in Germany, America and my home country of Great Britain. As a result, this novel left me with a wonderful sense of place for the remote village set in the Pyrenees with all the drama, tension and politics that living in a small community can offer, especially with a potential kidnapper in their midst.

Agustin Martinez, author of Village Of The Lost Girls.

As with all good mysteries, it’s best to go into this novel knowing as little as possible so I’m afraid I’m going to keep the remainder of this review annoyingly vague and just let you know my thoughts about the story. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think it’s going to be a book for everyone, especially if you prefer a faster paced plot. Village Of The Lost Girls is very much a slow burner of a read and instead, appears to focus much more on the study of various different characters within the community rather than what happened to the two missing girls. There is still an investigation of course, and we hear much more from specific characters like our lead female protagonist, Sara Campos and the parents of the missing girls but events occur much more slowly and deliberately than you might expect when compared to your average thriller. This isn’t a bad thing at all. In fact, I feel like if you enjoy novels by Tana French, you’re really going to enjoy this but on the other hand, if you prefer your plots fast and furious, you might get a little frustrated with the pacing of this one.

Village Of The Lost Girls is set in a village near The Pyrenees mountain range.

Where do I sit with this novel? Somewhere firmly in the middle. There were parts of the narrative and characters that I absolutely loved and just wanted more from. Sara and Ana were particular favourites of mine and I was quite impressed at how well they were written from a male point of view. However, this story does involve a vast array of different characters, some of whom we learn a lot about, others appear sporadically. Normally, I enjoy a large cast of individuals in a novel but for some reason, in this story, I found it at times to be a bit too overwhelming and slightly confusing. Perhaps it was just me! As a result, I found becoming fully invested in the story as a whole a bit difficult as I constantly had to keep reminding myself who was who in the grand scheme of things.

Saying that, I really cannot fault the author’s writing style or ability to create such a stunning setting for his story just by using words. The forests, mountains and desolate environment play such a huge part in this novel and are almost characters themselves in their own right. Gradually, piece by piece, the puzzle begins to make sense but it’s not until the very end that you finally find out exactly what has been going on. I was delighted that I didn’t guess the person responsible but strangely enough, it wasn’t as big a shock as I would have hoped for. Nevertheless, there is one surprising incident that I wasn’t expecting so I was pleased that Martinez managed to pull the rug from out under me in that respect. Would I read another book by this author? Yes, I think I would for the descriptive writing style alone and additionally, I would be much better prepared in the future for a larger cast of characters.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

Banned Books 2019 – JANUARY READ – Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk

Published January 28, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Stories you’ll never forget—just try—from literature’s favorite transgressive author

Representing work that spans several years, Make Something Up is a compilation of 21 stories and one novella (some previously published, some not) that will disturb and delight. The absurdity of both life and death are on full display; in “Zombies,” the best and brightest of a high school prep school become tragically addicted to the latest drug craze: electric shocks from cardiac defibrillators. In “Knock, Knock,” a son hopes to tell one last off-color joke to a father in his final moments, while in “Tunnel of Love,” a massage therapist runs the curious practice of providing ‘relief’ to dying clients. And in “Expedition,” fans will be thrilled to find to see a side of Tyler Durden never seen before in a precursor story to Fight Club.

Funny, caustic, bizarre, poignant; these stories represent everything readers have come to love and expect from Chuck Palahniuk. They have all the impact of a sharp blow to the solar plexus, with considerable collateral damage to the funny bone.

Logo designed by Luna’s Little Library

Welcome to the first banned book in our series for 2019! As always, we’ll be looking at why the book was challenged, how/if things have changed since the book was originally published and our own opinions on the book. Here’s what we’ll be reading for the rest of the year:

FEBRUARY: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass– Philip Pullman

MARCH: Uncle Bobby’s Wedding– Sarah S. Brannen

APRIL: We All Fall Down- Robert Cormier

MAY: Crazy Lady– Jane Leslie Conley

JUNE: Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture– Michael A. Bellesiles

JULY: In The Night Kitchen- Maurice Sendak

AUGUST: Whale Talk– Chris Crutcher

SEPTEMBER: The Hunger Games- Suzanne Collins

OCTOBER: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn- Mark Twain

NOVEMBER: To Kill A Mockingbird- Harper Lee

DECEMBER: Revolutionary Voices- edited by Amy Sonnie

But back to this month….

Make Something Up: Stories You Can’t Unread by Chuck Palahniuk

First published: 2015

In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2016 (source)

Reasons: profanity, sexual explicitness and being “disgusting and all around offensive.”

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As this collection was first published only a few years ago now, my answers for the first two questions in this post are going to be similar as it’s a relatively recent release. I have to be honest and say I had a really hard time reading this book and am now having an even tougher time trying to answer these questions. If you follow our Banned Books series I think you’ll probably realise that I don’t think any book should be challenged or banned however if it were a situation within a school library, perhaps access should be monitored when we think about more controversial books. However, I haven’t read that many banned books in this series so far where I think access should be limited – perhaps apart from the graphic novel Saga in a primary school situation. This is one of those cases where I think (in my personal opinion) that Stories You Can’t Unread isn’t particularly suitable in an educational setting. That is not to say I agree with it being challenged or banned, I think I’ve already made my opinion clear on that but with this collection, I can unfortunately see why parents might have issues with it if their child brought it home from the library.

CHRISSI: In an educational setting, I can totally understand why it’s challenged/banned. I don’t think I’d feel comfortable with teenagers reading this book. I, myself, felt very uncomfortable through several of the stories. I think the author has an incredibly aggressive writing style, that I couldn’t get on with. Would I want it to be banned in general? No. The author clearly has an audience and I imagine so many would enjoy his writing. Me, however? No. It’s certainly not for me. I could barely read some of them because they were incredibly twisted. I like twisted but there’s a line, for me personally, and I think this book crossed that line.

How about now?

BETH: Should Stories You Can’t Unread be challenged/banned? Well, no I believe people should be able to access all works of literature if they want and not be subject to rules or regulations that prevent them having that freedom of choice. Do I agree with the reasons that it was challenged? Well, not agree but it’s one of those rare times that I do understand the potential problems that this collection has raised. I don’t have a particular issue with profanity but I know a lot of people do and this collection doesn’t hold back on that count. The same is true for sexuality which can be incredibly graphic in some of the stories and not necessarily to everyone’s taste as some of the tales are quite twisted regarding sex. I’m not easily offended and the stories in this book didn’t shock me so as to speak but I did find myself reading some of them with a little bit of a grimace nevertheless. Especially the stallion story – say no more!

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I’m not easily offended. Yet, there’s something about this book that didn’t sit right for me. There’s too way much content that could offend others and the writing style just made me feel uneasy. I know the author makes you want to feel that way and he was highly successful with this book. I don’t think any book should be banned because I believe every person should be able to read what they want. However, challenged in education? Yes.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: I think the thing is with Chuck Palahniuk is that he likes being shocking and deliberately controversial. You have to take the stories you read in here with a pinch of salt, open your mind as wide as it could possibly go and prepare to be a little bit grossed out by what you’re about to read. If that’s not your thing and you are sensitive or easily offended, this collection definitely isn’t for you. I like to think of myself as quite open-minded and I only had a very strong reaction to a couple of the stories in this book but my problem was that there only seemed to be a few pieces that I genuinely felt interested in. The rest of the stories just didn’t seem as well constructed and none of them (even the intriguing ones) ended satisfactorily which was just frustrating for me as a reader. I’ve still to read some of the author’s novels but as a short story writer, I just don’t think he’s for me.

CHRISSI: I didn’t like it at all. I don’t often come out and say that. I usually look for positives, however, for me, I felt too uncomfortable and I didn’t enjoy the author’s tone.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- I couldn’t get into the author’s writing style and certainly won’t be reading more from him.

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COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BANNED BOOKS: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman.

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay And A Mother’s Will To Survive – Stephanie Land

Published January 27, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.

“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”

While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.

While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.

Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.

What did I think?:

This review comes with a huge thank you to the lovely people at Orion Books who hosted an event just before Christmas entitled Books and Baubles where I managed to pick up a review copy of this moving memoir which was published on 24th January this year. I think I mentioned in a recent review that I love to read nonfiction that’s going to teach me a little something and if it has the ability to touch my heart in addition, well that’s a win-win situation for me! Reading real-live stories from normal individuals living extraordinary lives is another aspect that might draw me into picking up a book and when I read that it followed a single mother struggling to raise her daughter in impoverished circumstances within modern day America, I was too intrigued to let it slip through my fingers and had to pick it up and check it out.

On finishing and having been incredibly moved throughout, it hammered home how lucky I was in my current situation to have a guaranteed decent wage, roof over my head, supportive partner and the ability to treat myself on a monthly basis. Stephanie Land’s daily struggles to achieve the things I occasionally take for granted was both eye-opening and thought-provoking and I was constantly touched by her determination, ridiculously strong work ethic and maternal instinct to ensure her child never wanted for too much, even if it meant going without things herself.

Stephanie Land, author of Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay And A Mother’s Will To Survive.

Maid follows Stephanie’s tumultuous life with her daughter, from teaching her to walk in a homeless shelter to her difficult relationship with her daughter’s father. We watch her fight for appropriate, affordable housing that is still inadequate and has devastating consequences for her child’s health and witness her steely resolution to work as many hours it takes just to provide enough food for her family and keep them both warm and comfortable. The only work she is able to take on is as a maid which involves back-breaking tasks, a constant supply of energy and resolve for very little money. She has no choice but to pay for childcare whilst she is working and has to use a car to move between different jobs so the wages she makes barely covers all these necessities and she is forced to rely on government assistance just so she and her daughter can eat.

I was raised in a working-class family where before my mother went back to university and forged a career for herself, she was a mainly stay-at-home parent with my father receiving the only wage for our house (from the army, which wasn’t huge). We never knew poverty and for that I feel incredibly grateful but we weren’t well-off either and there were times when we couldn’t have everything we desired. However, all three of us never wanted for anything and I know my mum would have taken food from her own mouth if it meant that we ate that evening. Luckily, I don’t believe that was ever necessary. As I have a very close relationship with my mum, I really responded to Stephanie’s emotional connection with her daughter and her instinct to protect and defend her, even if that meant Stephanie suffering herself as a result.

Apart from being quite an emotional read, this book was memorable to me in the way it made me think deeply about situations I hadn’t really appreciated before now. For example, what it feels like to have to work so hard for very little and still not have enough money to be able to do things that you would enjoy. Then there’s the shame that Stephanie felt about having to rely on food stamps and how she was treated by (some very ignorant, might I say) individuals because of that. That is to say, people saying to her “you’re welcome!,” referring to the fact that it was their tax money that paid for her shopping or judging what she bought with her food stamps – particularly if it was chocolate or a treat for her daughter. It made me so mad! I found her relationship with her family and her daughter’s father especially upsetting as well. She really didn’t have a decent support system in place and some of her family’s attitudes or deliberate ignoring of her situation really made my blood boil.

I respect and admire Stephanie Land so much for first of all writing this book and secondly, for making other people more aware of the situation that has become a ridiculous kind of normal for many people all over the globe who are just trying to make ends meet and survive but are subject to hideous poverty and unstable living conditions. It was a poignant, revealing read that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Talking About Let Me Lie by Clare Mackintosh with Chrissi Reads

Published January 26, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

The police say it was suicide.
Anna says it was murder.
They’re both wrong.

One year ago, Caroline Johnson chose to end her life brutally: a shocking suicide planned to match that of her husband just months before. Their daughter, Anna, has struggled to come to terms with their loss ever since.

Now with a young baby of her own, Anna misses her mother more than ever and starts to question her parents’ deaths. But by digging up their past, she’ll put her future in danger. Sometimes it’s safer to let things lie…

The stunning, twisty new psychological thriller from number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh, author of I Let You Go and I See You.

What did we think?:

CHRISSI: This is the third book we’ve read from Clare Mackintosh. Did you have any preconceptions before you started reading it?

BETH: I’ve just checked and we’ve read and reviewed all three of her books in this format so I think we’re setting a kind of pattern here! As you already know, I’ve enjoyed both of her previous novels with her debut novel, I Let You Go standing out as my ultimate favourite. With Clare Mackintosh’s writing, I always know I’m going to get a compelling story, a fantastic female lead and more twists than….er….. a very curly piece of pasta! With Let Me Lie, that’s exactly what I got. I always knew I was going to eventually read it but I was delighted that Richard and Judy put it on their recent book club list as where we normally head to “talk about” most of the choices as it pushed me to read it that bit sooner.

BETH: How do you think this book compares to others in the genre?

CHRISSI: I truly think that Clare Mackintosh’s books stand out in the genre. They’re particularly twisty and gasp-y. I also think they’re quite a lot darker than some others in the genre. I definitely think Clare stands out in her own right, for the right reasons!

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who and why?

BETH: As I mentioned in the previous answer, I always enjoy Clare’s female leads. In Let Me Lie, although Anna felt slightly more vulnerable than her previous protagonists, I still thoroughly enjoyed finding out more about her character, what she had been through in her life and as the narrative continued, unravelled the mysteries behind her parents deaths with her. I always find her characters so personable and easy to like and you do find yourself rooting from them from a very early stage.

BETH: What did you make of Anna’s relationship with Mark? Were you optimistic/pessimistic for their future and why?

CHRISSI: I always like to be optimistic if I can. With this relationship though, I’m neither one or the other. I don’t think it was an ideal relationship. They had a child very fast and although that doesn’t mean it won’t work, it’s a huge commitment and Anna was particularly vulnerable at the time. I do think they genuinely cared about one another. However, they don’t really know each other that well, they’d discover new things all the time…so who knows what the future will hold for them?

CHRISSI: Did you think the narration was reliable?

BETH: I had no idea what to think! You never know what you’re going to be getting with a Mackintosh novel, that’s the beauty of it and as a result you don’t quite know who to trust. I tried to keep an open mind and take in all the information that we were being given at different points of the novel and by different people.

BETH: What did you think of the alternative story-line with Murray and his wife Sarah? Did it add anything extra to the narrative for you?

CHRISSI: A tricky one. I did really enjoy the alternate story-line, but I think if it wasn’t there, there wouldn’t be a gap missing in the story. However, I always appreciate when mental health is addressed in literature, so I was super happy to read about this story-line. I think it was tackled sensitively and it was nice to take a break from what else was going on! I also thought Murray was an incredible character. I loved his devotion to his wife- no matter what she was going through, he wanted to be there for her.

CHRISSI: Without spoilers, at any point, did you work out what was going on?

BETH: I love a good “gaspy” moment in a thriller or crime novel. Let Me Lie definitely has that a few different times and the author is a master at leading the reader down a particular path just to trip them up when they least expect it! I tried not to think too hard about what might be going on to be honest, as I really do love to be surprised with this genre. By the end, I had my suspicions but it wasn’t until right at the end. There was still one small surprise though waiting in the wings that I hadn’t anticipated.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: Definitely! She’s one of my favourite writers in the genre.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: But of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

BETH’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

CHRISSI’s Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Louis & Louise – Julie Cohen

Published January 24, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

If you could look at one life in two different ways, what would you see?

Louis and Louise are separated by a single moment in time, a strike of chance that decided their future. The day they were born is when their story began.

In one, Louis David Alder is born a male.
In the other, Louise Dawn Alder is born a female.

Louis and Louise are the same in many ways – they have the same best friends, the same parents, the same dream of being a writer and leaving their hometown in Maine as soon as they can. But because of their gender, everything looks different. Certain things will happen in their lives to shape them, hurt them, build them back up again. But what will bring them back home?

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to the wonderful Orion Books who just before Christmas, hosted a Books And Baubles event in London where they showcased some of the fiction they’re most excited about for 2019. I was fortunate enough to pick up a few proof copies that gave me a bit of a “book flutter,” but I think it was Louis & Louise that provoked the biggest reaction as I’m sure my blogging bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages can confirm as I was delighted to meet up with her again at the event. I’ve been a huge fan of Julie Cohen’s work after reading Dear Thing and more recently, her last novel Together and absolutely adoring them so it was a no-brainer that I was going to pick this one up too.

Cohen always chooses such thought-provoking subjects to write about and puts so much heart and soul into her writing that you can almost see her individual thoughts about the issue exuding from the pages. As I’ve come to expect from her novels, Louis & Louise was such a contemplative and touching reading experience that encompasses subjects which I will continue to mull over for days to come.

Julie Cohen, author of Louis & Louise.

As a rule, I tend to steer clear of stories that are generally sentimental, for example, romance novels, stories about Christmas etc – things along that vein. That’s not because I’m turning my nose up at them or the authors writing them because they’re doing a fantastic job and obviously have a huge market of readers. It just isn’t me. I like my stories to be a bit meatier, have a bit more substance, some dark and difficult moments and characters that you can really appreciate for their originality and development. That’s why I love Julie Cohen. Don’t let some of the cover art fool you, Julie is an absolute wonder at taking extraordinary people, following their lives, throwing in some despair and struggles whilst the reader remains breathless, desperate to know whether they’ll sink or swim. There aren’t always happy endings, not everyone gets that fairy-tale or handsome prince but I appreciate this even MORE – it’s a metaphorical smack to the face that screams of authenticity and gritty real-life.

Louis/Louise ?

In Louis & Louise, Cohen follows two different people that are actually the same person. Kind of. We learn about a couple, Irving and Peggy where in one thread they have a baby boy whom they call Louis and in the other thread they have a baby girl and call her Louise. The narrative than follows Louis and Louise in alternate chapters, almost like a Sliding Doors effect and explores how different their stories might be depending on what gender they are, even down to the relationships they have with their parents. I found this to be a tremendous way of investigating how much gender defines us as a person and how certain live events can shape the future trajectory of our future depending on how we are treated. As Cohen herself expresses in the very early moments of the novel, gender begins to press itself on us from the very moment we are born, from being one of the first things the doctor/midwife tells your mother i.e. “It’s a boy/girl!,” to the kinds of clothes and toys that are bought to eventually, the expectations put on you as a female or male.

Louis & Louise is a stimulating, intelligent piece of fiction that made me consider a lot of things including my own sub-conscious gender biases that I’m trying very hard to address and challenge. I connected with both Louis and Louise as people and found their individual journeys through life fascinating and at times, heart-breaking. The author has once again outdone herself with not only a beautiful character study but a story that digs deep into the relationships between families and friends, the nature of sexuality and gender and how the principles individuals are given according to this affects their lives. It was a moving, poignant novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, leaving me in eager anticipation for whatever Julie Cohen might write next!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Mini Pin-It Reviews #28 – Four YA Novels

Published January 23, 2019 by bibliobeth

Hello everyone and welcome to another mini pin-it reviews post! I have a massive backlog of reviews and this is my way of trying to get on top of things a bit. This isn’t to say I didn’t like some of these books – my star rating is a more accurate reflection of this, but this is a great, snappy way of getting my thoughts across and decreasing my backlog a bit. This time I’ve got four YA novels for you – please see my pin-it thoughts below!

1.) More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera

What’s it all about?:

Part Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, part Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Adam Silvera’s extraordinary debut confronts race, class, and sexuality during one charged near-future summer in the Bronx.

Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future.

As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

2.) Made You Up – Francesca Zappia

What’s it all about?:

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. Made You Up tells the story of Alex, a high school senior unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion. This is a compelling and provoking literary debut that will appeal to fans of Wes Anderson, Silver Linings Playbook and Liar.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out the difference between reality and delusion. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8-Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until classes begin, and she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal.

Funny, provoking, and ultimately moving, this debut novel featuring the quintessential unreliable narrator will have readers turning the pages and trying to figure out what is real and what is made up.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

 

 

 

3.) The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist #1) – Brandon Sanderson

What’s it all about?:

The Rithmatist, Brandon Sanderson’s New York Times bestselling epic teen adventure is now available in paperback.

More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.

New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2013.

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

4.) The Savages (The Savages #1) – Matt Whyman

What’s it all about?:

They’d love to have you for dinner . . .

Sasha Savage is in love with Jack – a handsome, charming … vegetarian. Which wouldn’t be a problem if it weren’t for the fact that Sasha’s family are very much ‘carnivorous’. Behind the family facade all is not as it seems. Sasha’s father rules his clan with an iron fist and her mother’s culinary skills are getting more adventurous by the day. When a too-curious private detective starts to dig for truths, the tight-knit family starts to unravel – as does their sinister taste in human beings . . .

Would I recommend it?:

Probably!

Star rating (out of 5):

3-5-stars

COMING UP NEXT TIME ON MINI PIN-IT REVIEWS: Four Graphic Novels.