Full disclosure: I was sent this book by the lovely Nina Douglas, a PR aficionado I met at YALC a couple of years ago. I used to be a bit uppity about accepting books and things for reviews, but then I decided that a) this blog is a hobby, b) reading is a hobby so, c) LET’S READ EVERYTHING. Also, I’m not exactly the sort of blogger to shy away from blatant honesty just because I got a product for free.
Second full disclosure: I first started reading this book in January. If I had realised that writing a book was going to make it much harder to sit down and read books, I may have started dragonnovel. I suppose I have a reason to hurry up and finish it, ha. Anyway, I really struggled to get into A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars. I could blame the first person narrative, which is not my favourite narrative, or the general writing style which I found hard to follow on occasion, but to be honest I think if I had taken book to a beach holiday and read it in a day, I would have enjoyed it much more. My bad. I need to finish dragonnovel and go on holiday immediately. Right, the review:
A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars by Yaba Badoe (2017)
Read, if you like…
First person narrative
Beautiful book covers. I mean, look at that embossed gold type. I want to frame it
Books that aren’t all about white people doing the same white people things you’ve read about in 80 other books
Stories about people trafficking, but not like on the news
So, humanised stories about people trafficking. Stories where people have names and ambitions and family members and that sort of thing
Really shady adults
The sort of family you choose for yourself
POC and LGBT rep, but not in a way that swallows up the whole book. This is a book with people of colour and LGBT people, in the same way as it’s a book with magic and ghosts and circuses. It’s there, but it isn’t preachy and it isn’t tokenism. WE NEED MORE OF THESE BOOKS PLEASE AUTHORS. AGENTS, PLEASE SIGN MORE AUTHORS WHO ARE WRITING THESE BOOKS. THANKS.
No seriously I wasn’t kidding about the cover. I would usually go for some sort of background for #bookstagram goals but no adornment is necessary:
I saw online that the novel isn’t available on the US, but I’m not sure if that’s still true (or if it ever was true) so if you want to read it, I reckon you should either hit up Google or ask Ms Badoe about stockists on Twitter.
Sometimes you read a book you weren’t expecting to be anything other than a book, and then it turns into a small piece of your rib cage. I am very pleased for this to have happened with an author I had only vaguely heard of, because now I can devour the rest of his books at breakneck speed and if they are as good as this one, I may need to add a rib or two.
They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera (2017)
Read, if you like…
Death (the title is not a metaphor, and that is not a spoiler; I’m mentioning this first because I am aware not everyone has come to terms with their own mortality and if you haven’t you should this book is possibly not the one for you, although you will probably get the most out of it)
New York, but not the touristy bits
Diverse novels in less of a stock character way and more of a ‘oh, I guess this ticks several diversity boxes but I didn’t notice because the characters were too busy being REAL LIFE PEOPLE THAT I COULD PRACTICALLY SMELL’ way
Fiction that is futuristic insofar as it is more like a story about facts we haven’t invented yet
Being arty on Instagram
That feeling you get when you finish a novel that’s a bit like missing a step
That feeling you get when you’re in a crowd at a concert singing along with several hundred other people you’ll never see again
You can get They Both Die at the End from all good libraries and bookshops.
I could have sworn that I reviewed this way back in the day before I called it Read, If You Like, but I can’t find it so clearly it didn’t get past the idea stage. I’ve had this book lying around for ages, and although it took me a while to get to it, it was one of those that surprised me in the best way. It’s either on the children’s end of YA or on the young adult end of children’s (do we let children read the word ‘tits’? I just saw it when I was flicking through) but I think it’s one of those that, should you be emotionally mature enough for tits, you’ll enjoy it. Anyway. I meant to blog on Saturday, but I looked up the publication date for Ostrich Boys just now and it was actually published on this exact day nine years ago. So that’s a point for my lack of organisation…
Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray (2008)
Read, if you like…
Groups of kids
Kids who kidnap
Okay, one of the kids is a dead kid. Not in a ghost way, in a ‘present in our thoughts’ way
Day trips (as in one trip over multiple days not multiple trips)
The hamlet of Ross in Scotland
Honestly, the best thing is the kids read it for them
I was going to give this away but now I think about it, I might keep it on and read it again. I think it’s one of those that you can take something from each time you pick it up. Also, it involves teenagers kidnapping an urn of human ash, so it’s worth reading just for the escapism (if you’ve ever actually kidnapped an urn of human ash, hit me up. How’d it go?). I’m rereading The Raven Cycle at the moment but I think I’ll make it on to something new next week. I’m a bit harassed with Village Green until Saturday – I have an internship to attend, hair to dye and several paper bags to stamp before then – so comfort reading is paramount. A stiff drink may be in order on Saturday night. I should probably go and stamp some paper bags. Any ideas for my to-read list?
If any of you are familiar with Sophia Amoruso, the ‘#Girlboss’ movement/Insta hashtag and/or Nasty Gal, you are probably aware that Nasty Gal is a clothing brand, originally on eBay, that enjoyed one of those meteoric rises to fame that puts its founder on the Forbes front cover and wields legions of loyal fans. Said founder, Sophia Amoruso, amid the meteorism, wrote #GIRLBOSS as a part memoir and part ‘this is how a young woman can become a financial success’ guide book. Last year Nasty Gal went bankrupt, and has since been sold to BooHoo. If I hadn’t read #GIRLBOSS before the bankruptcy, I would look at it and think ‘clearly this woman has no idea what she’s doing, why would I read that?’ But I had – it was recommended to me last year – and when I gave it another whirl a few weeks ago, I found it as inspiring and helpful as I had the first time round. Most businesses fail and most within the first five years; Sophia was at the helm of Nasty Gal for the best part of a decade, and the company is actually still going. So with all that in mind…
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso (2014)
Read, if you like…
Self help books that don’t require a PhD in Translating Corporate and/or Hippie Bullshit
No-nonsense advice. Sophia does not mince her words and the book’s underlying massage is ‘get off your bum and get to work’
Words of financial wisdom that don’t sound like your Careers teacher went off on a rant about Millennials buying avocados
A really Instagramable cover and hashtag
The occasional slightly annoying almost-cliche. I nearly didn’t include this as a point because I’m aware people have difference levels of tolerance for sage advice wrapped up in snappy, alliterative sentences. My tolerance is very, very low so maybe I picked up on the odd sentence here and there, but the advice itself is solid gold so who cares
An entrepreneur who doesn’t tear down the competition or pretend they were born with a company that had already succeeded. Other ‘girlbosses’ have passages in the book, and Sophia is very open about her past lives as a freegan and a petty thief. She started her eBay store as a way to avoid getting a proper job, so she kind of had me at hello
Maybe this is a book too close to home for me not to recommend it. I also run an online shop, swear frequently and dislike being told what to do; I think what I like most about #GIRLBOSS is that Sophia is all of those things and she’s successful. Bankruptcy or no, she’s one of America’s richest self-made women. This isn’t a book about somebody I could never recognise in myself – it’s about somebody I recognise in a tonne of people I know, most of them young women who are usually patronised by people with Sophia’s level of money and influence. So if you’re in the market for something that might improve your bank balance, get this. From the library, obviously.
As you read this I’m probably staring at my newly-carpeted bedroom, sighing in happiness and planning the perfect way to display my MCR CDs. Operation Instagramable Bedroom will be in full swing, ladies and gents, and there will be fairy lights. Anyway, this week’s Read, If you Like… is something I’ve had on my shelf for a good decade. The cover wasn’t interesting enough to pull me in, but it’s a Puffin Modern Classic so I thought it was one I should probably read at some point to score literary brownie points. I ended up enjoying it way more than I thought I would, so well done Puffin.
The Midnight Fox, by Betsy Byars (1968)
Read, If You Like…
Something you can finish in an evening
Snapshots of Deep Southern ’60s life
An author who doesn’t patronise the children she writes for either linguistically or socially
Retrospective storytelling (there might be another term for this? The main character is looking back, like To Kill a Mockingbird which I am assuming you have read)
Stories about families
The afterword in my edition points out that Betsy Byars has written a male main character whom small boys will ‘tolerate’ because the plot isn’t particularly packed with action; I have a good gut feeling that boys, when left to their own devices, do not give a shit, but I like the notion that Byars decided to write a male hero who doesn’t fit Ye Olde Gender Sterotypes. That could explain why the novel is a Puffin Modern Classic with its own afterword.
I’m not sure what I’ll review next week because I’ve not read anything new lately – my books have been in cupboards behind clothes and handbags and other books, and a bed covered in boxes has been in front of the cupboards, so I’ve been reading an old edition of The Economist… as fascinating as the rise of Bitcoin is, I might have to review something I’ve read loads of times, or pop down the library. Any suggestions?
When Isobel gave me The Hitchiker’s Guide at Christmas in our newly-minted Secret Santa tradition, I thought it was because she’d heard me talk about how it was one of those books that I’d always wanted to read but hadn’t gotten around to (also on that list: War and Peace, most of Artemis Fowl, the Chilcot Report). It turns out that her university is on the cover.
That did not detract from my enjoyment of it.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams (1979)
Read, if you like…
Disappointing cups of tea
Space travel that’s less exciting than Han Solo in the Millenium Falcon but more exciting than actual space travel inevitably will be
Mentions of your home town, if your home town in Southend
The general unhappiness of council employees and/or petunias
I’m also on typing on my mobile and the spelling checker on here is appalling so I am one hundred per cent sure I’ve spelt appalling wrong.
Just go read this book regardless of whether your uni’s on the cover.
This is the second in a series. Possibly I am onto a good thing here. It helps I can write them in ten minutes, but let’s not be picky…
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (2015)
Read, if you like:
Heroes versus villians
Male characters with beautiful flowing hair
Female characters who don’t have beautiful flowing hair
Comics (this one’s a dealbreaker; it started as a webcomic)
The illustrations in Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl; Noelle Stevenson did those too
I don’t read a lot of comics, so shoutout to Ruby for giving me this a couple of Christmases ago. I’ve misplaced my library card so I’m making my way through the Shelves of Ignored Books in my room instead of just borrowing everything that sounds good (there is so much that sounds so gooooood). Be prepared for a mishmash of novels I’ve been too busy to read or novels with covers I don’t like. I started Oliver Twist this week – I managed to go 15 years in British education without ever studying Dickens, so my lazy Twitter-accustomed brain is struggling a bit – and I’m pretty sure there are some other total classics waiting to be discovered. The second Game of Thrones is a classic, yes?
Me: [sits down to write a blog that isn’t about Asia or coming home}
Me: [gets up for a jumper, looks at BuzzFeed, brews a coffee]
Me: nope, got nothing
[cont. for three weeks]
In light of my resolution to blog frequently/do interesting things/get my shit together, I’ve been brainstorming blogs I could do regularly, and so far I’ve come up with: the Six O’Clock News (again), book blogging (again), and the 50 blogs challenge I started and joked would take forever… two years ago. The problem is, the news makes me want to go back to a Cambodian island. I read very few blogs. And I can’t stand book reviews.
Whenever someone reviews a book and says they didn’t like, say, a certain character, if I read the book I also don’t like that character. If someone says they loved a plot twist and I read the novel, I feel obliged to like the twist. I’m also always on the lookout for the twist. Often the twist is shite because I knew there would be one. I do not want to inflict anything similar onto other people, so I stopped book blogging. But that’s not the attitude. After several seconds of thought, I’ve come up with a new way to review books that’s quick to read, offers none of my opinions and will let you know if this is the next book you should pick up. So sit down and enjoy the very first instalment of Read, If You Like…
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins (2015)
Read, if you like…
Unreliable, unlikable narrators
The first person
Thrillers of any kind
Multiple points of view
I’m not being facetious on that last one. There are rather a lot of trains.
And there you have it. If you haven’t read The Girl on the Train, now you have a reason to if you like any of the above. Geddit? Read, if you like…?!
I’m trawling my way through my to-read shelf, but if you have any recommendations for books, do your own Read, If You Like… in the comments!