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A Blogging Good Read - November

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Joining me this month for A Blogging Good Read are Liz from Distract Me Now Please and Charlie from Charlie, Distracted. I didn't pick them cos of their matching blog names - just a happy coincidence!

Liz went for Adorkableby Sarra Manning:

Adorkable been on my ‘to read’ list for ages until I finally found it in a charity shop a couple of months ago. I was expecting good things because I love YA fiction and several people had recommended Manning’s books to me. Plot-wise, it charts the love-hate relationship of a kooky blogger and the most popular boy in school. I groaned inwardly when first I realised this, anticipating 2D characters and cringey descriptions of life online but luckily the novel contained neither!

The characters are incredibly well-crafted; I loved the way that Manning plays on the stereotypes, slowly revealing information about the characters in a way that kept challenging my preconceptions. I think the characters are what make the novel work so well; I found that I genuinely cared about what happened to them (even the ones I didn’t particularly like). It’s one of those books that’s very hard to put down, and the plot kept on surprising me until the very end. The ending made me want to punch the air and celebrate the fact that I’m a bit weird (I’m not usually known for my unbridled enthusiasm so that’s a big deal). It also made me really glad that social media didn’t exist when I was at school! I want to go and reread it NOW.

What did Charlie think?

I first read a Sarra Manning book when I was 15. My best friend was on the cover of Guitar Girl so it was obligatory. Having this book as part of this challenge was also obligatory or I would never have gone near it. This is the YA entry point for girls who grow into women who read Cecelia Ahearn and Victoria Hislop (aka my mum). It’s teenage chick lit which is just a bit too mushy for me. I have to say that the main character being a blogger felt totally disingenuous. It reminded me of the main character in Eat My Heart Out (which is the worst book I’ve ever read, so don’t take this as a recommendation), where the author chucked every modern day cliché in there to be ‘relatable’ but totally misses the mark.

Am I allowed to squee like a teenage fangirl? Because this book is BRILLIANT. Despite loving Sarra Manning's other books, I didn't have high hopes when I started it. The protagonist seemed like a British ripoff of Tavi Gevinson and having just read a fairly rubbish book for BGR where the social media star heroine was not well written at all, I was anticipating more of the same. I shouldn't have worried. Manning really gets social media and more importantly than that, she gets consistent characterisation. With the aforementioned book, the main character seemed to have been given social media fame in order to give her some personality (it didn't work) and then it was forgotten about, but here Jeane rings very true thoughout (albeit with a forgiveable smidge of poetic licence when it comes to things like living arrangements).

It's hugely engaging - I stayed up far too late glomming it - and the story fairly rattles along. Yes, I'm a sucker for romance so I enjoyed that part of the plotline but the friendship elements were just as important and I must admit to having a proper cry near the end when Jeane was reading all the emails. It's a fab book and well worth your time.

And now for something completely different...I picked Cold Graniteby Stuart MacBride:

The usual quandary about what to do when your favourite in a series isn't the first book applied here, but I went for Cold Granite. Yes, it's the first of the Logan McRae books but it's a really strong start to a series and I personally think police procedurals make a lot more sense if you start at the beginning rather than with book 3 or 4. McRae has just returned to work with the Aberdeen Police after a year off and then the dead body of a child turns up and well, it all gets worse from there...

MacBride's books are on the grim side but they're also really funny - even 9 books into the series I'm still chortling at some of the descriptions he comes up with for DS Steel. I've worked my way through a lot of crime authors and I can safely say that I enjoy this series more than almost any other. The plots romp along and that's not always something you can say about police books. They should be fast paced and gripping but I've read a lot that aren't. You can't chuck that accusation at this author.  As an example of Tartan Noir, it's a really good 'un!

Did Liz like it?

As a Val McDermid aficionado, I’m no stranger to Scottish crime fiction, so I was excited about having the chance to try a new author.

I really enjoyed Cold Granite. I liked the way that McBride weaved the different plot threads together; the different cases gave the narrative variety and kept me engaged, without making the plot impossible to follow. I was surprised by some of the plot twists but I felt like they just about stayed within the bounds of realism. My only criticism is that I’d have liked more exploration of the main characters, because I found myself wanting to know more about their backgrounds and home lives. This might be something that will come with reading more of the books in the series though. I’m not ready to replace Val just yet, but I will definitely read the next Logan McRae book.

How about Charlie?

I’m 100% sure that if I wasn’t such a wuss, I’d have loved this book. The reason I’ve never read any Stephen King or watched many horror films is because I convince myself it’s real. The thing is, this story could be real and that just upsets me. I wanted to do a Joey style ‘book in the freezer’ thing at one point. Despite this, it did make me chuckle in places and I can see why people would read more in the series as the protagonist is a miserable sod but ultimately good with it.

Charlie chose The First Fifteen Lives of Harry Augustby Claire North:

There’s something about time travel books that has a neverending appeal for me. It leans towards dystopian but doesn’t quite hit fantasy which is the perfect middle ground. This book is just magical. Somehow it is completely believable even though it’s literally impossible (or so I presume!). The main character has a back story and real heart that helps him really grow as a character, despite the fact that he’s technically hundreds of years old. The mortal enemy part is a bit James Bond but it does provide some much needed action. The whole thing is bizarre but beautiful; I’m totally obsessed!

I enjoyed this book, but with reservations. Most authors going with a time travel style plot are going to struggle to make their world and rules really stand out from the norm and although this made a good stab at it, it was ultimately a bit too reminiscent of quite a few other novels. The overall pace and plotting did noticeably dip after the halfway mark as well.

But having said that, I still whizzed through it and it was a good, entertaining read. Harry isn't exactly a likeable character but his lives and the way they unfold are very interesting to read about. You do really root for him to overcome the big bad as the world spins further and further into chaos. I just wish it had been accomplished in a way that matched the first part of the book.

What did Liz think?

Time travel books make my head spin, and this one wasn’t any different! I feel like I have a lot of unanswered questions about how the time travel rules work in the context of this book (although that might well be down to my own stupidity, rather than the explanations given by the author!). I thought the concept was absolutely brilliant, and the notion of ‘kalachakra’ (people who live their life over and over again) really excited me. Ultimately though I found the plot a little disappointing. For me the ending fell a bit flat; it didn’t live up to the promise of the concept and the build-up of the first half of the novel. Overall I thought it was good, but it could have been a lot better.

I now find myself constantly wondering, ‘What if I’m a kalachakra and this is my first life so I’m not aware of it yet?’ Just me..?

Thanks so much to Charlie and Liz for joining in!

Next month we'll be reading The Rules of Attractionby Bret Easton Ellis, Rivers of Londonby Ben Aaronovitch and The Shepherd's Crownby Terry Pratchett.


  1. Three v different books and good contrasting opinions.
    I would love to do BGR again Alex if that is possible.

  2. The first fifteen lives looks superb.


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