Six For Sunday | Autumnal Colours

I LOVE AUTUMN. Not only does it mean it’s my birthday, but there’s something really magical and delicious about the days getting shorter and the sun generally getting lower and bringing out the jumpers and hot water bottles. Here are six of the books that make me feel like it’s just around the corner.

Ink – Alice Broadway

Shiny bronze cover with leaves and birds? I can almost taste the November wind in Princes Street Gardens just looking at the cover of Ink.

I Was Born For This – Alice Oseman

I love Alice Oseman’s books and orange screams “autumn” to me. Leaves and Halloween!

The Crow – Alison Croggon

Again, I will never pass up an opportunity to stick a Pellinor book into the conversation.

Refuge – Dina Nayeri

I picked Refuge from my TBR list on Goodreads because at first glance I thought these were golden apples. They’re cherries, but I’m still getting a definite autumn vibe.

Nice Try, Jane Sinner – Lianne Oelke

Nice Try, Jane Sinner is one of the multitude of TBR books I’ve been meaning to pick up for years. Even her clothes on the cover seem autumnal to me!

Bonfire – Krysten Ritter

I don’t know if it’s because I burn a lot of candles as the evenings get earlier or because it reminds me of the fire pit in my parents’ garden, but the smell of wood smoke makes me think of autumn and winter. Bonfire looks like the kind of book I’d pick up on a rainy October afternoon with a coffee.


I can’t wait to see the other autumn books in this Six for Sunday. I’m so ready for summer to be over this year, so anything that gets me in the mood early is a bonus!

Six For Sunday | Summer Colours

Thoroughly tired of summer after heatwave after heatwave and attempting to keep a very small baby happy. I can’t wait to start wearing my 4756435 jumpers again, but in the meantime here’s some summery-looking books.

The Square Root of Summer – Harriet Reuter Hapgood

This was such an obvious pick it almost seems too easy. Perfect summer holiday reading.

The Sun Is Also A Star – Nicola Yoon

A book that’s on my “I haven’t read this for ages and I’ve forgotten what happens but I know I enjoyed it so I’m going to read it again” list. Top tier colours, too!

The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Euginedes

I picked his because the cover looks summery but honestly I fucking hated this book. I’m sure it’s really poignant and clever and there’s probably a whole load of metaphor but I found it desperately pretentious.

The Fault In Our Stars – John Green

John Green’s writing doesn’t really vibe with me – his dialogue always feels a bit “off” – but he’s resonated with so many young people and given then hope and joy and I have a huge amount of respect for him.

Boy Meets Girl – Meg Cabot

Romance isn’t a genre I go into very often – most of the time if I pick up a romance book it’s on a whim, or there’s nothing else available. I found this one in a charity shop and bought it because I loved the Princess Diaries books, but I ended up really enjoying it. I’ve reread it loads.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post – Emily M. Danforth

TMOCP has been on my TBR for so long it feels like a personal attack whenever I come across someone talking about it. Also the cover is stunning.


Top Ten Tuesday | Books I Loved But Never Reviewed

The plus side of being an absentee book blogger means that I have a list. The downside of being an absentee reader means there’s only nine I read recently that are on it. Here’s my top nine:

Mary’s The Name – Ross Sayers

I loved Mary’s the Name. Told from the perspective of eight year old Mary Sutherland, it’s sweet, funny and emotional all in one go. Ross Sayers has done an absolute belter of a job with the writing – the dramatic irony created by an eight year old narrator is brilliant, and the voice never falters.

Fault Lines – Douglas Johnstone

A thriller set in what’s basically AU contemporary Edinburgh, Fault Lines‘ protagonist is a volcanologist who discovers the body of her married lover who also happens to be her boss. Then the text messages start…

Bone Deep – Sandra Ireland

Sandra is a Creative Writing MLitt cohort of mine. I loved her first thriller Beneath the Skin, and Bone Deep didn’t disappoint either – I had to scrape my jaw off the floor at the end.

Editing Emma – Chloe Seagar

It’s rare that a book actually sends me into fits of giggles (I can appreciate when something is funny when I’m reading, but rarely do I actively laugh) but Editing Emma managed it. I’m well overdue a reread.

Hings – Chris McQueer

“Limmy meets Irvine Welsh” is just about right. Surreal and full of black Scottish humour, it’s almost like The Fast Show on acid and set in Glasgow. Love it.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder – Sara Barnard

I will wax lyrical about Sara Barnard’s books every chance I get. She does contemporary YA so well, with relatable characters that I recognise from my school days, never mind now. As someone who struggled with anxiety and talking to people when I was in school, AQKOT broke my heart.

Blackbird – ND Gomes

Contemporary YA mystery Blackbird first came to my attention when someone pointed it out it was set in Orkney, and we all know I love a Scottish book. I felt a little let down by the ending, but I enjoyed the journey!

102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers

This is, unsurprisingly, incredibly heavy and emotional reading. I knew the outcome – as everyone will – but . Harrowing, but definitely worth it.

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

Radio Silence is top tier YA. It’s the book I wish I’d had when I was a teenager. I don’t even want to say any more in case anyone hasn’t read it yet. You absolutely should.

(Fun fact: this is the book that got me back into being bookish, and it’s because I suddenly though that “Radio Silence” would be a great book title so I googled it and found UKYA Twitter. I’m glad I did.)

Book Talk | My First Ever Unhaul!

I’ve never done a book unhaul before. If you could see the bookcases in my parents’ house this would be immediately obvious.

Unfortunately as we have a ton of Magic: the Gathering and gaming stuff I don’t have the option to line the walls in my own house with bookcases. Most of these books aren’t ones I hated, just ones that I feel I can bear to part with, and that will be better off in a school library rather than languishing on my spare room.

Most of them.

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

truth and lies

I hated this fucking book. I hate DNFing but oh boy did I come close. I know that it’s probably not aimed at my cynical 26 year old ass (and that’s the only reason I’m donating it instead of binning it) but 16 year old me would have hated it as well.

The Square Root of Summer

square root of summer

This book was…fine. It was just fine. I haven’t got room in my house for Just Fine, I’m afraid, and thus it’s off to be consumed somewhere else.

The Fandom

the fandom

This was one of the most highly anticipated books of last year, but because of this it ended up not lighting my fire at all. But I know how much fandoms can save lives and carry afloat the miserable, so this is going to reach someone at exactly the right time.

The Sun Is Also A Star

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Really enjoyed this, but if I’m going to be harsh with myself I’m probably not going to read it again. Sorry Natasha and Daniel. You live in New York though, so someone is going to love you they way you deserve.

The Art of Being Normal

art of being normal

This is absolutely not a bad book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But as a book with some sensitive and important trans representation, I feel like it’s better off in a school library than sitting on my bookshelf.

Far From The Tree

tree

I liked this, but it ticked so many boxes that I feel like it is could tick those boxes for someone else. It’s wonderfully and sensitively written, and deserves a wider audience.

Blackbird

blackbird

This disappointed me. I think my crime-y tastes are too strong for YA. It’s not a bad book in itself though, so I’m sure someone else will enjoy it.

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Someone please tell me how to get rid of the crippling guilt that comes with taking books OUT of my house instead of the other way round.

Book Spotlight | Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning

Fame never comes for free, and Molly’s about to find out what it costs.

Guitar Girl

Guitar Girl is one of my all time favourite YA books. An underrated classic.

Molly is a seventeen year old who, along with her friends Jane and Tara wants nothing more than to be noticed for something. Anything. Even if you’re as anxiety-ridden a teen as I was, that’s relatable. So they start a band, pick up a couple of rude and aloof boys on the way, and boom. Fame, success and Molly is suddenly, and increasingly reluctantly in the shoes of her grrrl rock icon, Ruby X. I was fourteen when this book came out and I’m pretty sure I was given a copy not long after it was released. Everyone knew my aesthetic, even then.

If you like YA and you haven’t read this book, I would thoroughly recommend it. Molly is badass and vulnerable in equal measure and her narrative is spiky and relatable and warm. It’s the dream of learning three chords on the guitar and changing the world, and the nightmare of losing control of everything you stand for. Plus there are mysterious terribly-behaved boys, the dangerous side of fame and excess, and a song about Hello Kitty. Every box ticked.

On that note, if you want a cool girl band singing songs about relatable shit, may I recommend “Hey Siri, Open Tinder” by Childbirth. You’re welcome.

Book Spotlight | The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

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Do you ever read a book that you just know you’d have LOVED in high school? The Sun Is Also A Star is one of them. The journey of two teenagers over the course of one day, brought together by fate and rippling their way through New York City, it’s one of my. favourite reads so far this year

Normally the “instalove” trope is one of the things that makes me want to peel off my own face in frustration, but TSIAAS made it work, through science and poetry. It was the epitome of the heady, intense love of teenage years, when the world shrinks to the point of two people. It should have been tacky, but it wasn’t. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

There were a couple of scenes that I didn’t really enjoy, mainly because they seemed unrealistic to me and kind of pulled me out of it, but the rest of it was pretty spot on. Full of hope and joy and the real tugging sadness of growing up. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Shelve it under “Books I’d Give My Kids To Read”.

Plus Natasha listens to Nirvana and Soundgarden. MY GAL.

Rating: ****

Book Spotlight | The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him. 

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights..

northern lights

Confession time: prior to this month I hadn’t read any of this series. I’d picked up bits and pieces of this book, and I’d seen the film (which put me off completely for several years, that shit was BAD), but everyone from Twitter to my mum has been telling me to read it for years so THANKS UKISA BOOK CLUB for giving me the push I needed.

Thus I borrowed my mum’s copy (which I’m pretty sure was mine, once upon a time) and read it, and boy do I have thoughts.

First of all, I want to know exactly what Philip Pullman is.

I like to think I’ve got a vivid imagination. Fantasy authors in general blow me away but this was on another level. Books like this make me feel like a dribbling mess. The worldbuilding so deep and the characters are so deliciously evocative that I’m led to the conclusion that Mr. Pullman either isn’t human or can see some otherworldly shit that mere mortals cannot.

Second of all, this is the darkest effing book. They kidnap kids and rip away their souls so they can make a magic bridge to a hidden world? They keep their souls in a room in little cages?

Damn.

Lyra is a great heroine, not least because she has no superpowers, she’s “The Chosen One” but she’s not allowed to know it, and therefore neither are we. It makes a change from Harry Potter, for example, where we find out bits and pieces of Harry’s fate at the same time he does, but there’s a nice little undercurrent of menace on top of all the other dark stuff because we know something Lyra doesn’t. DELICIOUS.

In conclusion: disgustingly creepy villains, an incredible world, ARMOURED POLAR BEARS and a flawed heroine. I loved it. Now I want a daemon, although god knows I’ve got a cat with separation anxiety so I have some idea what it’s like. I bet Pantalaimon doesn’t rip up carpets or pee in Lyra’s washing basket though.

Final thought: Iorik Byrnison is a BAMF and I love him. Please come back in a later book Iorik.

Rating: ****

Book Spotlight | The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton

A soc has money, can get away with just about anything, and has an attitude longer than a limousine. A greaser, on the other hand, always lives on the outside and needs to watch his back. 

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is widely accepted as the first ever “proper” Young Adult book. It was published at a time when books for young adults were, as author S.E. Hinton says, “Mary Jane wants to go to the prom with the football hero and ends up with the boy next door and has a good time anyway.”. Or horse books.

It’s the story of a gang of “greasers”, who have a long-running rivalry with the “Socials” or “Socs” – who’re essentially the jocks in this scenario. Think Grease, but with fewer cars and lots of drama and bloody fighting instead of pink ladies and singing. Hinton was sixteen years old when she wrote it. Respect to her. When I was sixteen I could barely get out of bed and she wrote a friggin’ classic.

The Outsiders has been banned in a number of schools because it portrays gang violence, underage smoking and drinking and a bunch of other “sensitive stuff”. Ironically, Hinton points out in the edition of the book that I have that “every teenager feels that adults have no idea what’s going on”. GEE.

Banning books is dumb. Books like this can open up discussions and give young people an avenue to feel like they have a voice, instead of feeling adrift. Hinton was a teenager when she wrote The Outsiders, articulating the gritty, grubby, very real issues she was seeing in her school and neighbourhood. More than a few of these are still relevant today.

Stay gold, Ponyboy.

Rating: *****

Book Spotlight | Far From The Tree by Robin Benway

A contemporary novel about three adopted siblings who find each other at just the right moment.

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I think USYA gets a bit of a bad rap sometimes. There’s a bit of a vibe that UKYA is a gritty, honest, dirt-under-the-fingernails look at what it’s like to be a teenager, while USYA is more like…902010 or something, with main characters played by 30 year olds that look nothing like anyone we went to school with.

As someone whose entire YA education came in the form of books sent over to me by my Auntie Fee from New York, I take issue with this. While I could slam a list onto the table, let’s look at something I read recently, courtesy of the March Wildest Dreams book box.

Far From The Tree is the story of three siblings, all given up for adoption by their mother, who find each other in their teenage years. Each of them has a different set of circumstances and background. They team up to find their birth mother, and in the process must find out where they fit into the world.

While they find each other at particularly difficult times in their lives – teenage pregnancy, the foster care and adoption system, relationship problems, family break-up and mental health are all big players in this store – the plot mainly centres on their growing relationships with each other. I hate the word “heartwarming” because it makes me cringe so hard I want to chew my own knuckles off, but it is. It’s well written, and the characters are defined by their relationships with each other, rather than their circumstances, which is nice.

I’d 100% recommend this to any young person – fifteen year old me would have binged through it. It wouldn’t have been one of my favourites (I didn’t cry like everyone else seemed to, but then I am a robot) but I can appreciate a book about finding your place in the world as much as anyone.

Rating: ***

 

Book Spotlight | Wing Jones by Katherine Webber

Jandy Nelson meets Friday Night Lights: a sweeping story about love and family from an exceptional new voice in YA. With a grandmother from China and another from Ghana, fifteen-year-old Wing Jones is often caught between worlds. But when tragedy strikes, Wing discovers a talent for running she never knew she had. Wing’s speed could bring her family everything it needs. It could also stop Wing getting the one thing she wants.

wing jones

Oh, Wing Jones. For months you sat on my bookshelf, a purchase from the Edinburgh Book Festival, a signed copy I fell upon the same way I did my first bowl of mashed potatoes when I had norovirus.

I can’t believe I had solid gold sitting in my living room since last summer.

I don’t throw the word “perfect” around a lot, but as someone who’s an aspiring YA author, when I eventually manage to string enough words together to constitute a book, god I hope it’s even half as good as Wing Jones. It’s perfect. It’s got everything: romance, drama, an overcoming the odds story, loveable characters from all walks of life. Wing has to overcome adversity on a phenomenal scale, whether it’s the tragedy that strikes her family or her own personal tribulations, and she does it in such a very human very that turns into something else entirely. You feel Wing’s exhilaration in every single line on every page.

It’s a story about finding who you are and what you love and how it can free you, and I wish I’d had it when I was in school. This should find its way into the hands of every young person.

Plus Wing’s grandparents are my favourite and I would windmill slam money down for a book where they go on adventures with each other.

Rating: *****