Monday, 25 May 2015

Review - Cuckoo by Julia Crouch

I’ve just finished reading Cuckoo by Julia Crouch, the author’s debut novel, and quite seriously all I can say is WOW! I wanted to read a thriller, something I could really get my teeth stuck into, and this gem of a novel that I’ve had sat on my bookshelf for a few years now honestly did not disappoint me in the slightest. 

In this book we meet Rose who lives with her husband, Gareth, and two children, Anna and Flossie, in a large property surrounded by green fields. One day Rose receives a telephone call from Polly, an old friend who’s spent the last few years of her life living in Greece. However, instead of just ringing to catch-up with Rose, Polly is ringing to share the news that her husband and the father of her two children has died in a terrible accident. Upon hearing this news, Rose feels devastated for her friend who now wants to return to England and, therefore, without hesitation invites Polly along with her children to come and stay in the annexe. Nothing unordinary there as to be honest if, God forbid, a friend ever rang me with such terrible news I, much like Rose, would be looking to do whatever I could to help them. 

However, it soon becomes evident that inviting Polly to stay was quite possibly one of the worst decisions of Rose’s life. Indeed, the reader witnesses Polly cause complete disruption, wanting to play too large a part in not just looking after the house but also the children - not just her own but Rose’s also. From the moment she arrives it becomes clear that she has intentions to rather outstay her welcome and, quite literally, do anything to avoid having to move on. 

This book is, without a doubt, superbly written with many twists and turns throughout many of which had me gasping out loud with shock because they were so unexpected. I think Julia Crouch really did save the best until last with the biggest twist coming in the last few pages - I really could not have predicted what ended up happening. 

Cuckoo is an incredibly strong debut novel by an author who has gone on to write several more since this one was published. It goes without saying that I look forward to getting my hands on more of this author’s work, so watch this space for another review of a book written by Julia Crouch. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Review - The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Yes I have finally read this book, yes I am finally posting my review of it and yes I do feel like the last person on earth to have read it, although of course I'm sure that the latter statement isn't necessarily true. The problem - what put me off reading it for so long - was that there'd been so much hype about how beautiful this book was that I didn't want to read it because then it'd all be over. Also I'm a bit of a hypochondriac and was slightly worried about how I'd cope with it given the subject matter that the book deals with. However, having said all this and having now read the book, I can honestly say that I thought it really was one of the most beautiful books I've ever read, and trust me I've read a lot!

We are first introduced to Hazel Lancaster who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, which has been prevented from spreading further thanks to a drug which she refers to throughout as "the miracle". She rarely leaves the house which her mum is incredibly concerned about and is particularly reluctant to attend a support group for teens with cancer. However, wanting to please her mum, she goes to the support the group. It is here that she meets Augustus Waters who, with a prosthetic leg following osteosarcoma has been cancer free for several years but attends the support group to accompany his friend Isaac. 

From the moment Hazel and Augustus first meet it is noticeable that they are attracted to eachother and they start to bond, particularly after Hazel shares her favourite book, An Imperial Affliction, with him. The book is about a girl who has cancer and is one that has no real ending to it. For years Hazel has written to the author, Peter van Houten who lives in Amsterdam to try and find out what happened to the characters of her favourite novel. This has not been successful and she speaks of her frustrations about this to Augustus who tracks down the author's agent who invites both Hazel and Augustus over to Amsterdam to meet in person and discuss the book in more detail. Thus we see Augustus use his one wish to get both himself and Hazel from America to Amsterdam in order to see the author. Despite the meeting with the author not, necessarily, being what they both expected, the section of the novel set in Amsterdam was undoubtedly my favourite part and is the part that sticks in my mind the most.

Unfortunately after the trip to Amsterdam when they return to America things take a turn for the worse as we witness one of the two characters cope with seeing the other decline in health. 

As I said at the start of this review I thought that this was a really beautiful book and also one that was incredibly well written by an author who has proven himself to be capable of writing about real-life subject matters superbly. It goes without saying that I would highly recommend this book and will certainly be reading more of this author's work in the future - I've already got two more by him ready and waiting for me on my bookshelf!