Sunday, 19 January 2020

Review: Hearstopper Volume 2 by Alice Oseman

Heartstopper Volume 1 ended with Charlie and Nick exchanging a kiss. But what comes next? While Charlie agonises over the fact that he has kissed a straight boy, Nick is busy coming to terms with his his attraction to Charlie. Nick knows that he has liked girls in the past. But now he likes a boy and what does that mean?

Volume 2 is a story of two teenagers navigating their first relationship. For Nick, it means the slow realisation that he is bisexual and that not all of his friends may be happy for him. Equally, Charlie has to wait for Nick to come out when he is ready. Meanwhile, Charlie's friends are all very concerned that he is going to get hurt. What follows is a very touching story, gently told that should have broad appeal, regardless of the age and sexuality of the reader.

This was an enjoyable read, perhaps even more so than the first volume. 

Recommended.

Fans of Charlie and Nick will be thrilled to know that Heartstopper Volume 3 will be released in early 2020.

Saturday, 18 January 2020

Review: Heartstopper Volume 1 by Alice Oseman

I've been hearing whispers about YA author Alice Oseman's graphic novel Heartstopper for a while now, mostly words of praise, though I had little idea of what the story was about. Curious, and discovering volumes one and two on sale at QBD I picked them up. What I got with volume one is a heartwarming tale of two seemingly different boys, who are thrown together by circumstance, but choose to become friends and then, maybe ... something more.

Charlie Spring is in year ten at an all boys high school in the UK. He is openly gay and his experiences in coming out the previous year put him in the path of some school bullies. He enjoys music and has a real creative streak. At the beginning of January, he finds himself placed in a new vertical tutoring group.* There, he meets Nick, a boy from the year above him. The pair are seemingly quite different. Nick is a star on the school rugby team, outgoing and very popular. Surprisingly, he and Charlie become close friends straight away. And then, well, Charlie finds himself agonising over his crush on a straight boy, Nick finds himself asking some questions about who he really is. 

This was a sweet story. Some parts of the narrative felt a bit too obvious in places, though it is worth remembering that the story is pitched at a teenage audience, many of whom may be going through similar experiences to Charlie and Nick, or who may be navigating the awkwardness of a first crush, and will be able to identify with the agony of not being sure whether their crush likes them back, even when it is obvious to everyone else around them.

I was also pleasantly surprised to learn when I reached the end of the book that this one is a prequel of sorts to Alice Oseman's prose novel Solitare which features Charlie's sister Tori as the main character.

Anyway, this one is a fun, heartwarming read. Recommended.

*Note: Some schools in the UK have adopted a system where students of different grades are placed together in homerooms and tutoring groups, in an effort to stamp out bullying and to encourage students to develop new friendships outside of their usual peer groups. This is known as vertical forms, or vertical tutoring.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Friday Funnies: Blandings




While I'm on the subject of Blandings, here's a short snippet from the television series. 

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Review: Something Fresh by PG Wodehouse

As well as Jeeves and Wooster, author PG Wodehouse penned another much loved series, Blandings. Featuring the dotty Lord Emsworth, and some other eccentric characters (including a pig,) this series is rarely out of print and at one point was adapted for television by the BBC.

Something Fresh is the first Blandings novel, first published in 1915. And while readers are introduced to dotty Lord Emsworth, the real stars of this one are Ashe Martin and Joan Valentine, a pair of twenty-somethings who, on the lookout for a bit of an adventure, find themselves posing as servants at Blandings in order to steal back a particularly valuable scarab that Lord Emsworth unwittingly placed in his pocket, much to the ire of the father of his son's fiancée. Various misunderstanding abound though everything works out for the best in the end.

This was an enjoyable light read that spends a lot of time making fun of Britain's idle rich, amidst some truly funny descriptions. While by no means PG Wodehouse's best novel, it is certainly a lot of fun and a solid introduction to Blandings.

Recommended.


Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Review: Puddin' by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' was just so brilliant that I am thrilled that author Julie Murphy has penned a companion novel. Puddin' tells of the unlikely friendship that builds between two characters, Millie and Callie. Seemingly, these are two very different girls. Millie is kind, studious, struggles with her weight and has a loyal circle of friends, most of whom are misfits at their high school. Callie on the other hand is a stereotypical mean girl--pretty, a part of the most popular crowd in school, a part of the school dance team and, ultimately, has no real friends, only rivals. Circumstance throws the pair together, when Callie takes the fall for her dance team trashing the gym that belongs to Millie's uncle. As the pair begin to work together at the gym, Callie for the first time learns about the importance of having real friends, whilst coming to terms with the fact that she is no longer a part of the popular crowd at school. Millie, meanwhile, learns a valuable lesson in standing up for herself and following her dreams. And both girls learn lessons in the right way to go about making their voices heard. 

This was a fun, feel good read featuring two very different main characters. While Millie was easy to like almost from the beginning, it took me a while to warm to Callie, though she was a lot of fun to read about. (In particular, I love the part where Callie confuses Millie's kindness with bitchiness.) 

As always, author Julie Murphy does a brilliant job of depicting life in a small American town. And, of course, there were some excellent love interests. 

This is a fun read, perfect for lovers of YA fiction and anyone else who cares to join in. 

Highly recommended.

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Kathryn's BSC Graphix Wish List

As mention in my review of Boy Crazy Stacey yesterday, it looks as though we have more BSC Graphix novels on the way. First up is Karen's Witch, the first Baby-Sitters Little Sister novel to be adapted as a graphic novel. And just a few days ago Ann M Martin confirmed that Logan Likes Mary Anne will be the eighth book in the series on her official facebook page. And in addition to that, starting in 2021 Scholastic will add six more titles to the series, two per year. Just for fun, I am adding my wish-list of titles that I think will make a good addition to the graphix series.


The Ghost at Dawn's House (Book 9)

How could readers not want to know more about the secret passage in Dawn's bedroom? I'm voting for this one purely because the secret passage was such an important part of the original series.

Kristy and the Snobs (Book 11)

There's a lot to like (and a little bit of heartbreak, sniff, Louie,) in this one, which shows Kristy adjusting to life in her new wealthy neighbourhood after her mother remarries. Plus I really like the way that the first three of Kristy's stories are linked and I'd really like the graphix series to continue on with her story.

Jessi's Secret Language (Book 16)

If there is one thing that this series has lacked so far, it is one of our favourite baby-sitters. Okay, I know that in the original series Jessi wasn't introduced until after Stacey (temporarily) moved back to New York with her parents, but the series has already found a way to include Mallory as a member of the club, so maybe there is a way to include Jessi too. I'd love to see this one adapted, especially as it features a lead character learning sign language in order to communicate with her sitting charge.

Claudia and the Bad Joke (Book 19)

Of all the members of the BSC, Claudia got the worst deal when it comes to modern adaptions. Her first adventure, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls was a little too outdated to be adapted as a graphic novel, and consequently, the Claudia graphic novel we got was Claudia and Mean Janine. And that was released oh, about ten years ago now, meaning that we should be due for another Claudia book soon. Chronologically, the next book in the series is Claudia and the New Girl but that book tends to cop a lot of criticism from old fans, who are quick to point out that the members of the BSC seem a bit too possessive of Claudia and that perhaps Ashley isn't the only controlling character in the book. So I vote for a bypass on that one. Which, in turn leads me straight to Claudia and the Bad Joke, where a prank by a baby-sitting charge puts Claudia in hospital and sparks an all out practical joke war between the child and the members of the BSC which ends with the girls all learning a valuable lesson in why Betsy behaves the way she does.

Mary Anne and the Great Romance (Book 30) & Dawn's Wicked Stepsister (Book 31)

A real turning point in the series is when Mary Anne's dad marries Dawn's Mum. (Aww.) I'd love to see this included, though if done as a two-parter like in the original series, it may drag on a bit. So maybe we could have one slightly longer novel that switches viewpoints halfway through? Just a thought. 

Kristy and the Baby Parade (Book 45)

I'm picking this one simply because it is generally considered to be one of the lowest points in the series, and one of the most boring. I'd love to see it turned into something good.

Dawn's Big Move (Book 67)

After suffering through her parent's divorce and moving to the other side of the country (book 4,) saying good-bye to her brother when he moved back to California to live with their dad (book 15) and some new living arrangements when her mother remarries (books 30 & 31,) it is no wonder that Dawn is feeling a little homesick. This one focuses on Dawn's eventual decision to go and live in California for six months of the year. 

Stacey vs the BSC (Book 83) & Stacey and the Bad Girls (Book 87)

Stacey was always a little bit more mature than the other members of the club. This causes some conflict in Stacey vs the BSC, which involves a fairly realistic plot where Stacey feels that she has outgrown her friends. Many fans consider this one to be the most memorable moment of the later novels. The story is later resolved in Stacey and the Bad Girls, when Stacey comes to realise that her new friends from the popular crowd are just using her, and that even though she and the other members of the BSC may have their differences, they are still her real friends. I think these two could be adapted fairly well into a single volume.

Welcome to the BSC Abby (Book 90)

A few years before the Baby-Sitters Club ended its massive 130 book run, a new club member was introduced to the BSC, Abby. Although she is often forgotten by fans, Abby had an interesting backstory. She and her twin sister lived with their widowed mother in the house next door to Kristy and her family. She was a little tomboyish, asthmatic and she and her family were Jewish. It would be lovely to see the graphix novels make something out of this character.

Snowbound (Super Special 7)

Probably the most adaptable of all of the Super Specials, this one takes place over the course of an evening where all of the members of the BSC find themselves stuck in different parts of Stoneybrook during a severe snowstorm. 

Mary Anne and the Secret in the Attic (Mystery 5)

Of all the characters, Mary Anne had the most tragic backstory. This volume features a new, but completely believable twist about her early years and is, perhaps, one of the strongest novels in the mystery series.


PS The novels I think we'll actually get after Logan Likes Mary Anne! are as follows:

Claudia and the New Girl
Kristy and the Snobs
Good-bye Stacey, Good-bye
Little Miss Stoneybrook ... and Dawn
Mary Anne and the Bad Luck Mystery
Stacey's Mistake