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SA Partridge

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

My last reviews of the year (plus LEGO)

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For me, the December holidays is the perfect time to finish all my writing projects before the new year and to catch up on all the books I’ve been dying to read, but just haven’t had time for.

So for the last few weeks I’ve been writing like a demon, and reading like one too.

I put aside three titles that have appeared on more than one best of list over the year, and I’m so glad I went this route. You know that feeling you get when you finish a fantastic book and you just can’t imagine yourself ever reading again? Well, all three of these books did just that.

All the bright places

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven was recommended to me on Goodreads and Twitter, and when Mervyn from The Book Launch emailed to say it was one of the YA titles the shop was pushing, I couldn’t resist a second longer.

It’s beautiful.

Finch suffers from manic depression. Violet lost her sister in a car accident. The two fall on opposite ends of the school social hierarchy, but after meeting one morning at the top of the bell tower, they form a fragile friendship that results in them pairing up for a school project.

Finch and Violet go in search of all the interesting little spots in town, and soon the little excursions start to have a deeper meaning. Violet begins to heal from the accident that turned her life upside down, and Finch finds a reason to hold on one more day.

All The Bright Places is a sumptuous love story, but comes with a warning. The strapline on the cover calls it “The next Fault in Our Stars” so expect a sting.

Carry On

Next up is Carry On by one of my favourite YA novelists, Rainbow Rowell. In Fangirl we were introduced to Cather, a writer of Simon Snow fan-fiction – Simon Snow being a famous children’s book wizard who goes to a magical school in England.

In a perfect example of art imitating art imitating life, Carry On is a novel about Simon Snow and his adventures at Watford School of Magicks.

How meta can you get?

After the Mage informs Simon that he is a wizard, he enrols as a student at Watford and soon befriends a clever witch named Penelope and finds his nemesis in Baz, his roommate and possible vampire.

Mysteries, adventure and twists and turns abound, as well as an unlikely romance that had my toes curling.

Carry On is wonderful and reminded me of all the reasons why I love Harry Potter so much. I never wrote fan-fiction myself, but I had files and files of character sketches and would spend hours swopping theories online with other fans.

As soon as my adventure at Watford was over, I immediately started listening to my Harry Potter audio books again, which for me, shows just how clever this novel is.

I would recommend reading Fangirl first though, just for context.

Mosquitoland

Mosquitoland by David Arnold was Amazon’s YA book of the year (and NPR’s, and Buzzfeed’s, and Paste’s and and and…)

After Mary “Mim” Malone overhears her father and stepmother discussing her mother’s illness, she hops on a bus for Cleveland to discover the truth for herself.

It’s an odd little book. Enjoyable, but odd. The characterisation is great. Mim meets a motley crew of characters on the road, many of them unsavoury, like the Poncho Man, who stalks gas station bathrooms for prey, and Caleb, the knife wielding boy who lives in the forest. Mim herself can never be called a Mary Sue. She’s bright, imaginative, brave, irresponsible and all kinds of messed up. You’ll be rooting for her all the way.

I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about this book. There are a lot of dark undertones which make it disturbing in places, but that’s the sort of thing I’m guilty of myself. I love dark stories. I love putting my characters through their paces. And Mim, with her lipstick war paint and quick tongue, is certainly put through hell.

One redeeming factor is that I felt good after reading it, and not bawling my eyes out like I did with All The Bright Places, so there’s that.

I’m definitely not going to wait a whole year before embarking on another reading binge. It’s just too fun. I can’t wait to see what new books 2016 has in store. I’ll be the one at the front of the line telling the book seller to take my money.

You can see all my little LEGO creations here.

 

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