Monday, 31 August 2015

Review - Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

After having heard and seen so much about this book through either the YouTube channels or blogs of book bloggers and vloggers I follow I was very happy to see this title available for request on NetGalley. After reading the description of the book on NetGalley and falling in love with it even more I submitted my request and then kept my fingers crossed that my request would be approved. Luckily it was and I can honestly say that this YA novel more than lived up to my expectations and I can see why everyone’s talking about it. 

In the book we meet Madeline Whittier a girl who since being diagnosed with a disease where she is allergic to the outside world has never left the house in which she lives with her mother. She seems to have a good relationship with her mother and is also blessed with the friendship of Carla, her nurse, but except for this has very little physical contact with people - anyone who does come into contact with her has to be decontaminated first. You’d think that not being able to leave the house would have resulted in Madeline feeling rather miserable but she’s anything but. She’s accepted her situation and never wanted anything more, something which all changes when a new family moves into the house opposite hers and she sees Olly for the first time. 

It’s safe to say that for Olly things at home are not great, something which Madeline sees for herself through her bedroom window. She’s desperate to find out more about Olly and he quickly becomes the main focus of Madeline’s thoughts and whilst he does visit her on a couple of occasions the reader witnesses a relationship between the two develop mainly through IMs and emails. 

This was a beautiful tale of friendship, understanding and acceptance but one which also highlighted the very real fact that there are things, such as being able to go outside, that some might take for granted but which other people, for whatever reason, can only imagine doing. Being able to go out is certainly something which I realised I take for granted and I certainly couldn’t imagine not being able to do so and, instead, having to spend every minute of every day inside my house. 

I flew through the book and found that it was very easy to read being split up into short, manageable chunks, something which I feel will undoubtedly appeal to the audience it is aimed at. Madeline and Olly have quickly became one of my favourite couples in YA literature - they were just so perfect together and I loved seeing their relationship go from strength to strength. 

I read an e-Arc of this book which is released in the week beginning 31st August 2015 but can say that I will be buying a copy of the physical, finished product for myself. I think the cover looks beautiful and feel that by having a physical copy I’d be able to appreciate the illustrations that are contained within it much more. 

I’d very much recommend this book and hope that it is as successful as it deserves to be. 

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Review - The Lies Between Us by Marian Dillon

I was browsing NetGalley one day when I came across The Lies Between Us and from reading the description became instantly interested in and intrigued by it. I submitted a request on Netgalley to receive an e-ARC of this book and was absolutely delighted when I received an email telling me that my request had been approved. Written by Marian Dillon, The Lies Between Us did not disappoint me and turned out to be a truly spectacular read which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

At the start of the book the reader is transported to the 1980s where they meet Eva a young woman who is really struggling after failing her exams and has a less than satisfactory home life with a father who doesn’t seem to care very much and a mother who is hard to connect with and drinks far too much alcohol. Eva turns out to be an incredibly determined young woman and sets her heart on moving out, falling in love along with the way with a man who, despite having a history of his own, turns out to be extremely supportive of Eva. 

Following Eva’s first chapter set in the 1980s the second chapter is then written by Kathleen and set in the 1960s. As the novel continues in this way - with one chapter being written by Eva and the next by Kathleen - we see that Kathleen, who is Eva’s mother, hasn’t had an easy life and has experienced events which led her to become the person she is today who Eva finds it so hard to connect with. As the story progresses we see Eva start to question her mother’s past and get to the bottom of exactly what happened to her. 

What I liked about this book was the fact that the narrative was so easy to follow and become completely immersed in right from the start. Undoubtedly this is something that was greatly helped by the fact that Marian went to great lengths to really set the scene for the reader with plenty of description and explanation. I also found it particularly interesting to develop my understanding of how certain situations might have been handled or viewed in the 1960s in comparison to how they are nowadays. 

I also thought this book really reinforces a message that is extremely important and that is that everyone has a past and a story to tell. There is always more to someone than first meets the eye, so before jumping straight to negative conclusions about someone we should take the chance to get to know them. 

Well what more can I say? If you’re looking for a book that is superbly written and unveils how one family deals with the revelation of a big secret, this is the book for you. It will keep you on your toes and wanting more - my only critcism was that this book was over far too soon! I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of what Marian Dillon writes in the future. 

Review - Seven Days by Eve Ainsworth

When I picked up Seven Days by Eve Ainsworth one evening after work I was not expecting to become so hooked on it that I would be unable to put it down until I’d read it from cover to cover. However, this is exactly what happened and I cannot start to tell you how much I fell in love with this beautifully written, heartfelt yet completely emotional contemporary read about bullying. 

As the title suggests Seven Days takes place over the course of a week and is one of those books in which the reader is exposed to the thoughts and feelings of two characters - Jess and Kez - on each day with chapters alternating between the two. It’s a book which very successfully, in my opinion, tells the story of bullying from the perspective of both the bullied and the person that is doing the bullying. 

For Jess life at home is anything but easy as she takes on a far bigger role than any young person should ever really have to in looking after her little sister Hollie following her dad walking out and her mum having to work some long and antisocial hours to put food on the table. School should be a happy place for Jess and a place where she feels safe and secure but unfortunately this is not the case as she becomes the victim of Kez’s horrific actions. As the novel progresses we learn that things are not as perfect for Kez as she makes them out to be and that there is far more to her than meets the eye although, of course, this is no excuse for what she inflicts on Jess. 

I think what kept me so hooked on this book was a combination of two things with the first being the fact that it never at any point lacked pace and the second being that I could instantly connect with the way Jess felt and was, therefore, desparate to stay with her and carry on reading to find out how things would turn out for her. One scene which particularly stood out for me and is still in my mind as I write this review today is the way Jess describes what’s going through her mind as she has to get changed for P.E - oh do I remember having similar thoughts when I was at school and I’m reasonably sure many other readers will also. 

I think that this book is hugely important and one that everyone should read - young people, parents, teachers or just those who want to understand more about the subject of bullying. Overall, I also feel the book conveyed a few very important messages that young people who are being bullied could learn a lot from - firstly that it is never their fault, secondly that things do get better and thirdly that it is absolutely, 100% right to speak out and tell someone about what is going on. 

It’s evident from having read this book that Eve is an author who really understands the issues that young people face and I will most certainly be reading her next book, Crush, which will hit the shelves of bookstores in the UK in 2016. 

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Review - Sleep Peacefully by NC Marshall

Sleep Peacefully is the debut novel written by NC Marshall which I was absolutely delighted to be offered the chance to review. As soon as I read the synopsis for this book I had a strong feeling that it would be right up my street and I can safely say that I was proved right. Without a doubt, it’s an extremely well-written and cleverly crafted novel that I could not put down and did not want to be parted with in the slightest. 

In this story we meet Nat, a young woman who’s younger sister Jess died in what the family were told was nothing more than an accident. However, Nat, who lives in the UK with her husband and five year old son Josh, is unable to move on from her sister’s death and experiences such vivid dreams about the night her sister died. With these dreams becoming more and more frequent and starting to take over her life, Nat starts to believe that there is more to her sister’s death than meets the eye. The belief leads her to launch an investigation of her own in order to find out exactly what happened, uncovering many of her sister’s secrets in the process. 

This is one of those books which ends up being told from two perspectives and was really well done in this respect. In addition to hearing of Nat’s discoveries and the progress she is making in finding out what happened to her sister, the reader also hears from Jess as the author dedicates several chapters to her side of the story from several years before right up to the minute of her death. Although in a way it was sad to read Jess’ parts knowing what we do about what eventually happens to her, I thought that her chapters were a welcome addition to the story and succeeded in filling in the gaps and providing information about her life and experiences that, otherwise, readers might not have known. 

Although the investigation that Nat is carrying out into the death of her sister clearly forms the main part of Nat’s narrative, it’s not her only focus. By describing her life in the detail she does where we find out much about her job, her family and her friends, NC Marshall allows the reader to feel fully connected with Nat. This is something that contributed towards me feeling that I was the one doing the investigating, wanting to get to the bottom of what happened just as much as Nat. 

Sleep Peacefully is one of those novels which contained unexpected twist after unexpected twist that means the reader is kept fully alert, on their toes and constantly wanting more. It’s certainly the sort of book that could easily be read in a day and I certainly came very close to, finishing it off one Saturday by reading almost 80% of it in one sitting. 

My one hope is that both the author and the book itself gets the praise and recognition that they so rightly deserve. I’ve definitely found a new author to follow in NC Marshall and I really hope it won’t be too long before I’m lucky enough to be reuinted with her writing and back on this blog with another review of her work. 

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Review - My Sister's Secret by Tracy Buchanan

My Sister’s Secret is the second book written by Tracy Buchanan and one which I thought was absolutely wonderful. Having read such great things about this book both in the blog posts of those I read often and the tweets of those I follow I knew that this was a novel I simply could not wait to start. When I started it, however, that was it - I was completely and utterly hooked! 

When the novel first opens it’s 1977 and we are introduced to three sisters Faith, Hope and Charity who all commit to joining Faith in her mission to visit all of the world’s submerged forests and diving in the waters in which they are found to explore them. Following this very short introduction, we are then transported to 2016 to meet Willow, the daughter of Charity, who, following the death of her parents in a horrific accident has been cared for by her Aunt Hope from a young age. 

The book jumps between the past when we hear the lives of the three sisters unfold from Charity’s perspective and 2016 when we are with Willow who is on two missions. Her first is to dive the world’s submerged forests in memory of her mother and her second is to delve into her family’s history - she knows her Aunt Hope is keeping something from her and she wants to know exactly what that something is. 

This book is incredibly well written in terms of the way it jumps so seamlessly between the voice of Charity and that of Willow. Indeed, where this aspect of the novel was concerned I started to notice a pattern forming in so much as, quite often, when one of the character’s narratives left off the other’s would begin on a related note. I thought this was really great and something which enabled me to fully immerse myself in, and follow, the storyline with ease. 

My Sister’s Secret was an absolute page-turner of a novel which kept me fully engaged throughout. There were a number of twists and turns, all of which I couldn’t have predicted even if I had tried and one was of such significance and so unexpected that I found myself gasping out loud. It really was absolutely incredible and one that I would strongly recommend to anyone wanting something to get their teeth stuck into, so to speak, this summer. 

Having read and loved My Sister’s Secret as much as I did I know that I will very much look forward to reading what Tracy Buchanan writes next. However, in the meantime I will most certainly be checking out her first novel, The Atlas of Us. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

Review - I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

I Let You Go is the debut novel by Clare Mackintosh which has made it into Richard and Judy’s 2015 Summer Book Club. This is one of those books that I had heard so much about before finally picking it up off my bookshelf and it had an awful lot to live up to. What I can say right now is that it not only met up to but exceeded my expectations. It was a stunning, well-written and truly gripping novel which absolutely blew me away. 

When our story starts it’s your typical autumn evening - rainy and windy - and little Jacob has just been picked up from school by his mother. They’ve been chatting away and, at long last, home is nearly in sight when in a split second everything changes as Jacob’s mother lets go of his hand and he runs across the road right into the path of an oncoming car which seemed to come from nowhere. With the driver fleeing the scene of the crime and the car disappearing just as fast as it arrived Jacob’s mother is left to deal with a loss no mother, or indeed, any parent should ever have to face. 

This very same moment in time also affected the lives of many others, Jenna for one who being unable to move on from the incident and desperate to escape a difficult relationship packs up her few precious belongings and runs to a small coastal village in Wales where no-one’s heard of her or the accident. But will she ever be able to escape the past, will it ever let her go? Enter DI Ray Stevens and DC Kate Evans. These two people will go to any lengths to see Jacob’s killer brought to justice even if that means working on the case when they have been given strict orders from above to close it. 

This novel is successfully written from the perspective of, mainly, Jenna and Ray although we hear the voice of another character who, to not ruin the surprise, will remain anonymous later on in the book. I found Ray’s perspective and watching the investigation unfold from the police perspective not only interesting but also very believable too - something that is to be expected given that Clare herself spent twelve years in the police force working in CID. 

As soon as I started reading this book, despite its very sad opening, I was hooked and desperate to discover who was behind such a terrible act. It had so many twists and turns throughout and everytime I thought I’d finally cracked it and knew who was behind the wheel on that day something happened that made me change my mind. 

This was one of those books that when I wasn’t reading it I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It really is a fantastic debut novel that comes highly recommended from me and yes, it’s safe to say I hope this is not the first and last we hear from Clare Mackintosh as I would certainly read many more of her novels. My only regret is that I left I Let You Go sitting on my bookshelf for so long unread. Fellow readers, don’t make the same mistake I did - if you’ve got this book pick it up, if you’ve not got this book go and buy it but whatever you do don’t miss out on it.