July and August were busy busy: we had family visiting, then I was in London for YALC, home visiting my parents, in Edinburgh for the Book Festival and the Fringe… and there’s also the small matter of book two to finish. I didn’t get as much reading done as I was hoping, but here’s a very brief roundup nonetheless.
In YA, I read…
Troublemakers by Catherine Barter. I absolutely loved this. It’s a political – or at least politically-themed – story about a 15-year-old girl raised by her older brother and his boyfriend after her mother dies when she’s much younger. The characters are brilliantly realistic, and the relationships between them are so nuanced and complex… it is just excellent, I can’t wait to see what Catherine Barter writes next.
If Birds Fly Back by Carlie Sorosiak. This was gorgeous, a lovely summer story about a girl whose sister has run away and a boy who has come to Miami to find the father he never knew. Sebastian is into astrophysics and Linny is an aspiring filmmaker, and I love how it weaves both science and a fantasy screenplay into the story – sometimes these things can feel a bit like filler, but in If Birds Fly Back it really helped bring depth and heart to the story.
A Change is Gonna Come, edited by Stripes. This anthology features ten short stories and two poems from 12 British BAME writers (four of them unpublished) and overall is really brilliant. My favourite stories were Tanya Byrne’s Hackney Moon, Phoebe Roy’s Iridescent Adolescent and Aisha Bushby’s Marionette Girl. I was really impressed by four new writers, in particular, who more than matched up to more experienced authors.
The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James. I picked this up at YALC after seeing it selling like hot cakes, and I’m glad I did. It’s basically a space thriller about a girl left alone on a space ship travelling to a new planet after the rest of the crew dies and it is unbelievably good. I read it in on a train in one sitting and audibly gasped a few times. (I also almost threw it across the carriage in a ‘I will never write something this good!’ fit of fury.)
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. I don’t read much historical fiction, but I’d heard great things about this so decided to give it a go. I really enjoyed it – it’s an exciting, dramatic tale of a young English lord, his best friend and his sister on a Grand Tour of Europe. One minor quibble was that I was often confused about what language was being spoken (Monty doesn’t know the French word for ‘stolen’ but seems to later have long, complex conversations; he chats to locals in Barcelona as if he can speak Catalan) but generally it was a lot of fun and loved that it included other languages.
Chain Mail by Hiroshi Ishizaki. This is a Japanese YA from the early 2000s, about four teenage girls in Tokyo who start writing an online story which slowly begins to seep into their real lives. It reminded me a little bit of the RPGs people would play on LiveJournal back in my youth, six thousand years ago. I found it a little slow at some points, and quite repetitive in some ways, but the settings and characters were good and it was worth reading.
And in non-YA, I read…
Dans le jardin de l’ogre by Leïla Slimani. This isn’t the sort of story that would usually appeal to me – about a journalist in Paris who is addicted to sex and repeatedly cheats on her husband – but I read Slimani’s Chanson douce in January and absolutely loved her writing style. I really think I’d read a toaster manual if she wrote it. It’s not a light or a fun read, but it’s raw and really quite gripping in parts.
Marriage of a Thousand Lies by SJ Sindu. This is a topic I’ve wanted to read about in a novel for a while: a lesbian and a gay man in a sort of sham marriage, as a way of hiding their sexuality from their families. Marriage of a Thousand Lies focuses on Lucky, a Sri Lankan-American woman married to a gay Sri Lankan man and still in love with her best friend, who is due to get married. It’s beautifully written and manages to explore the pressure put on her by her traditional family without demonising them.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This was one of those situations where you have a book on your Kindle for ages and ages and as soon as you finally open it you finish it in just a few hours. It begins with the death of a 16-year-old girl and flips from past to present as it describes her parents’ relationship and the immense pressure they put on her: her Chinese-American father is desperate for her to be popular, while her white American mother wants her to have a career. Hugely compelling and very well-drawn.
Peter Darling by Austin Chant. I was a Peter Pan obsessive as a kid and love a good retelling. This is one of the more interesting I’ve read – an m/m romance in which Peter is a trans boy who falls for Captain Hook. If I’m honest, it got a little bit too mushy for my liking by the end, but the beginning was brilliant: really fun, exciting and faithful to the tone of the original.
How to Stop Time by Matt Haig. I really enjoyed both The Humans and Reasons to Stay Alive so was looking forward to Matt Haig’s latest. Based around a man with a condition that allows him to live for hundreds of years, I loved the depictions of different times and how customs and cultures have changed over the years. I did find the ending a bit disappointing, though, but it was overall a good read.
Next up! I’m finishing Indigo Donut by Patrice Lawrence, and then I have some exciting 2018 ARCs to get stuck into.