Mini-reviews: Release by Patrick Ness & Undone by Cat Clarke

Happy Saturday, lovely bookworms!

Although I haven’t been blogging much, I have been reading quite a bit whenever and wherever I can (I definitely finished at least one of these books in my car before work) so bear with me while I try and power through the review equivalent of Mt Everest! What have you guys been rating recently? Let me know all in the comments. ūüôā


Release by Patrick Ness

Inspired by Judy Blume’s¬†Forever¬†and¬†Mrs Dalloway¬†(neither of which I’ve read,

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oops),¬†Release¬†is Ness’ most personal novel yet, and it shows.

The reader follows 17-year-old Adam through one tumultuous day in his life, which starts out as frustrating and gets progressively more difficult it progresses. With family tensions on the rise, his emotions scattered and his best friend leaving him, amongst plenty of other rubbish things, Adam must find hope.

It’s no secret that I¬†adore¬†Patrick Ness’ work (I mean, who doesn’t?!) and¬†Release boasts all of his trademark style. It’s witty, it’s funny, it’s poignant, it’s sad and it’s hopeful all at once. I connected with Adam straight away, and really felt for him as he faces up to everything going on in his life over the course of twenty-four seriously emotional hours.

There’s so much great YA out there that tackles sex and relationships head-on, but so little of it concerns queer relationships, so it was awesome to read from the perspective of an openly gay character. There are no ‘fade to black’ scenes in¬†Release,¬†and Adam’s sexuality, sex life and relationships are handled in a really frank and touching way. t’s so important for young people¬†everyone to be able to see themselves represented in all aspects of books, and¬†Release¬†ticks that box in a big, bold, brilliant way.

While I loved the basis of the story and was really invested in Adam’s journey, there is a magical realism element to this book that I wasn’t expecting. Every other chapter follows the story of a queen and a faun, which I worked out had something to do with meth addiction in the town (I think?!). While I’ll never have a bad thing to say about the quality of Ness’ writing, the magical realism elements didn’t work in the context of this book because I couldn’t work out what, if anything, they had to do with Adam’s story. The secondary story didn’t overlap very much with the main plot, so after a few chapters I decided to skip them and my reading experience was vastly improved because of that decision! If you’re a big fan of magical realism but haven’t read much of Ness’ work – this will definitely be one for you.

Overall, as with pretty much all of Patrick Ness’ work, this is an important book which has a lot to say for itself.¬†Release¬†never treats the characters or the readers like children, but still manages to have a huge amount of empathy for what it is like to be young. Through one day in Adam’s life, we get to live as a teenager all over again in all of its painful, dramatic, joyous, hilarious glory. It’s wonderful.

In Summary…

  • Rating:¬†4-stars
  • Publisher:¬†Walker Books
  • Pages: 287

Undone by Cat Clarke

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Undone¬†is one of those books that I picked up on a Kindle deal on a quiet Saturday afternoon and didn’t expect much. I like contemporary YA, but it takes something pretty special for me to finish one in a single sitting.

Undone¬†follows Jem Halliday, who is utterly smitten with her best friend, Kai. There’s only one problem: Kai is gay. Jem is learning to live with the fact that¬†her perfect guy will never be¬†hers, but then the unthinkable happens. Kai is outed online in the worst way possible, and as a result he kills himself. Hurting like she’s never hurt before, Jem sets out on a searing journey of revenge, betrayal and maybe, just maybe; healing.

This book hooked me right from the first page and as I emerged from my little reading cocoon roughly six hours later, I felt a little like Jem: battered, bruised and emotionally shredded.¬†The cover says ‘revenge will tear you apart’ but forget the revenge, this book will do the tearing apart for you.

I’ve not ready of Cat Clarke’s other novels, but like Louise O’Neill, Sara Barnard and Holly Bourne, she seems to have a talent for writing young people exactly as they are; faults, drama, quirks and all. The dialogue is a snappy and realistic, and the plot keeps turning the tension up it’s all you can do not to bounce on the sofa screaming ‘DON’T DO IT. DO NOT DO THAT.’ The characters are fully formed and human, and I found it impossible not to fall in love with Kai, Jem and eventually, even Lucas.

This is not a shy book. It really doesn’t cower from big truths, ugly lies and the horrible things that teenagers can do and say to each other when they’re hurting. Sexuality, relationships, female friendship, suicide and bullying are all fair game here, and they’re all dealt with pretty well. Undone tackles a lot;¬†taking you on a roller coaster ride of despair, shame, rage, grief and love and it doesn’t let you go until the monumental cliffhanger on the last page. I got off this particular roller coaster feeling slightly green and a little bit hollow, but exhilarated. An author I’ll certainly be keeping a beady eye on from now on in.

In Summary…

  • Rating:¬†4-stars
  • Publisher:¬†Quercus
  • Pages: 352

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Review: The Spellbook of the Lost and Found by M√∂ira Fowley-Doyle

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Hubble, bubble, toil and trouble…

If you’re looking for a suitably witch-y story for the longer evenings and crisper, colder days ahead then stop your search right now because The Spellbook of the Lost and Found is a gem.

After best friends Rose and Olive discover an ancient spellbook and a mysterious group of teenagers at a local party in their rural Irish hometown, things begin to get strange. With the appearance of the unusual book, the girls find that things have begun to go missing. Whilst the townsfolk lose hair slides, TV remotes and even dogs, Olive and Rose find themselves losing bigger things; more important things. As new bonds are forged and long buried secrets unfurl, can the new friends band together to put things right and reclaim the things they’ve lost?

As with its predecessor, The Accident Season, this book is all about the atmosphere. A little bit creepy, a little bit whimsical, slightly confusing and totally engaging. The first half of the book sets the scene nicely; painting a picture of a seemingly sleepy town where strangeness bubbles just under the surface and fleshing out Rose and Olive’s relationship with each other and those around them, laying strong foundations for the action-packed latter chapters to rest upon. It is a little slow in places, but the mystery of the spellbook and the beautifully strange writing was enough to keep me turning the pages.

The characters are well-rounded and interesting, the main two being chalk-and-cheese type best mates, Rose and Olive. Olive is quieter, more of an introvert, and Rose is the storm to her calm. Completing the cast of central characters are trio of runaway teens, Rowan, Hazel and Ivy, and beguiling girl gang; Ash, Laurel and Holly.¬†Spellbook¬†is brilliant in its diversity, and I’m stocked to see Fowley-Doyle continue her mission to create human, engaging, flawed characters who just happen to also be bisexual, deaf, or gay AND talk about things like racism and feminism. More of this stuff in YA, please!

I’m a big fan of split-perspective books, and I think it works well here for the most part. The characters are kind of divided into three distinct ‘groups’, and for each group we have a singular narrator: Olive, Hazel, and Laurel. Seeing the story unfold from three different perspectives adds a great deal of intrigue to the story, because you never quite know whether any of them are telling the whole truth, or purely what they perceive to be the truth. Whilst each of the narrators are treated to brilliant development, some of the side characters receive slightly less, and as a result, are a bit less nuanced. The other problem is that Olive, Hazel and Laurel’s voices are all a little bit similar, and I found myself getting confused here and there as to which perspective I was reading from – a chapter or two from Rowan or Rose would have shaken things up a bit and kept me on track.

In Spellbook, Fowley-Doyle has weaved a sticky web of a story that is both whimsical and dark, unsettling and glittery. The plotting is a little bit slow at the beginning and the narration is just a tiny bit same-y, but if you stick with it, you’ll be rewarded with wonderful relationships (including brilliant stuff about female friendship and how intense it can be), great representation and a¬†killer¬†twist that was satisfying even when I saw it coming. A perfect read as the leaves turn golden and the nights get darker – get your pumpkin spice candles out and give this a whirl.

Star rating:

4-stars

  • Publisher: Corgi Childrens
  • Pages: 416
  • Publication Date: 1st June 2017
  • For fans of: Magical realism,¬†The Bone Gap,¬†f/f romance, diversity rep, magic and mystery.

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The Rapid Fire Book Tag

Wow, it’s been a loooooong time since I did a book tag! Or any other kind of post on my blog actually, but shhh.

Thanks so much to Eva at Brilliantly Bookish for tagging me absolute light years ago! Go and find her here.


Ebooks or physical books?

Oh, absolutely physical books. There’s nothing quite as comforting as being able to hold and turn the pages of a real, physical book. Saying that, I love my Kindle and I think if e-readers and tablets get people into books, then that’s all that matters.

Books are no more threatened by a Kindle than stairs by elevators.

Stephen Fry

Paperback or hardback?

Paperbacks! This is a HEINOUS crime to admit to, but I have been known to bend covers back and break spines…

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Hardback books are special, but in a decorative or collectible way for me. There’s something super comforting and familiar about paperback books and the way that you can slip them into any bag and thumb through them at any time. Curled up on the sofa, in the bath, on the train or a plane or a boat, in the park or on the beach or by a pool…I’d never intentionally damage a book, but lots of my paperbacks have been well-loved and they look that way, too!

Online or in-store book shopping?

In store, always! I only ever buy books online if I know exactly what I’m looking for. Book shops are all about the browse, the hush, the hunt, the discovery of something new or the reappearance of something familiar, but in a beautiful new guise. I’ve never been overly keen on shopping, but I could easily while away a few hours in my local Waterstones.

Trilogies or series?

I think it ultimately depends on the story.¬†The Hunger Games,¬†for example, is a perfect trilogy – there was nothing else to add to that story and nowhere else to take the characters that wouldn’t have insulted them. Saying that, I think¬†The Mortal Instruments¬†franchise could have ended ages ago but I’m still devouring everything Cassie Clare churns out! So…both?!

Heroes or villains?

Tough! I’ll always side with the hero because I’m a sucker for a happy ending and a neat resolution, but you can’t have a hero without a villain! After all, where would Harry have been without Lord Voldemort? I do have a soft spot for a villain (*cough* Darkling *cough*) though, especially if they have an intriguing back story.

A book you want everyone to read?

At the moment, I want everyone to read the¬†Six of Crows¬†duology by Leigh Bardugo! They completely took over my life when I was on holiday. They’re a totally different breed of fantasy and so different to the Grisha series. A great pick if you’re getting fed up with high fantasy and looking for something a bit left-field.

Recommend an underrated book

The Deviants¬†by C.J. Skuse. The best YA thriller I’ve ever read, hands down.

What was the last book you finished?

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I finished¬†Tower of Dawn¬†by Sarah J Maas this morning. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, having not been a big fan of Chaol, but I bow down to SJM – her storytelling skills really are insane. There’s also much better rep in ToD, which is awesome.

Weirdest thing used as a bookmark?

I quite often find myself using the coasters in my living room as temporary bookmarks, which is stupid because I have a house full of amazing, actual bookmarks! Totally exposes how lazy I really am. *shrug*

Used books: yes or no?

Uh cheap or free books, yes! Charity shops and libraries are two of my very best friends.

Top three genres:

  • Fantasy
  • Dystopia/Sci-Fi
  • Crime/thriller

Borrow or buy?

Both! Switching books with friends or borrowing from a library is awesome, but sometimes there are some books that you just need in your own collection. Feel me?

Characters or plot?

Well you can’t have one without the other…

Long or short books?

Depends on my mood and the type of book. The last thing I want is a 200 page epic fantasy book, and I would probably get equally frustrated with a super long, 700 page contemporary YA romance.

Long or short chapters?

Either – depends on the type of book again, especially if the book is written with a dual perspective.

Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?

I’d ideally like them all to do both!

Our world or fictional world?

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Fictional. Hogwarts, Neverland, Velaris, The Hundred Acre Wood, Narnia…who would want to live here?

Audiobooks: yes or no?

For Harry Potter, yes. I haven’t yet found another audio book where the narrator hasn’t either annoyed or cringed the hell out of me.

Ever judge a book by its cover?

Guilty as charged! I’m a sucker for good cover and I’m sure I’ve passed over lots of great books because their covers are a bit rubbish. Any recommendations, chaps?

Book to movie or book to TV adaptation? 

Book to movie. I can’t wait to see what they do with the book to TV adaptation of¬†Throne of Glass, though, and¬†Hulu’s adaptation of¬†The Handmaid’s Tale¬†was suitably epic.

Series or standalone?

Series. I am trash for fandoms.

I tag:

Anyone and everyone who fancies a Sunday book tag session!

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Header graphic created with a photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash