Saturday, 28 November 2015

Review - Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes

I first saw this book - Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes - whilst browsing Netgalley one day and was so intrigued by it that I could not stop myself from requesting it. I’m so glad I did and feel very fortunate to have been approved by the publishers, Sparkpress, as it really was an outstanding novel that surpassed all of my expectations. 

By all accounts, Wendy Darling lives a relatively normal life in London with her parents and brothers and a love which is growing ever stronger for Booth, the neighbourhood bookseller’s son. However, all that soon changes when, one night, whilst her parents are out at a ball Peter Pan arrives in the children’s nursery and whisks them out their open bedroom window to Neverland. At first it seems like an entirely magical and enchanting place but, the longer Wendy stays there the more she starts to realise that it isn’t the paradise she first thought it was. 

This book is, needless to say, a retelling of Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie, a book which I adored as a child and continue to adore today so it was safe to say this book had a lot to live up to. Well, it absolutely did and it turned out to be beautifully crafted, incredibly well thought-through and extremely clever. One of the first things I noticed when starting this novel was that each of the characters did not have the same personalities as those in the original tale and also that the story was not going to have an identical ending to the original. I feel this contributed greatly to the success of Wendy Darling and made it really fresh and unique. 

Regarding the characters I have to say how much I loved little Michael who throughout the novel was a little ray of sunshine particularly in comparison to his brother, John, who was so rude towards his sister that I sometimes struggled to comprehend him. Meanwhile Wendy really grew on me as the novel progressed as a character who knew her mind and was determined to fight for what she believed in and wanted. The many Lost Boys were all individual characters who each contributed something different whilst Tink and Peter Pan were completely not what I was expecting. 

The book was also so descriptive and I think this worked really well. Thanks to this description I was able to picture and visualise everything that was going on and everything about Neverland to the point where it actually became a place I wanted to visit for myself. I definitely would if I could!

Overall, this was a very enjoyable read that was full of intrigue and suspense and kept me wanting more. It was a real page-turner and one which I feel would very much appeal to a wide audience. Wendy Darling is the first novel in a series which just happened to end on a massive cliffhanger, meaning I absolutely cannot wait until the release of the next book which I’m sure will be just as excellent! 

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Review - A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

I picked up A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray when browsing the shelves at my local library one day and, after reading the blurb, was instantly intrigued. I am so glad I borrowed this book as to put it simply it is an absolutely incredible novel that was completely unlike anything I had ever read before - extremely compelling, utterly beautiful and entirely unforgettable. 

A Song for Issy Bradley tells the story of a Mormon family who are all trying to come to terms with the grief that they are left with following the sudden death of their four year old daughter, Issy. We have the Dad, Ian, who is a bishop in the Mormon church and strongly believes in the power of his faith and doing everything he can to help others, even if it sometimes means not being around for his own family. Then we have the mum, Claire, who finds herself completely unable to cope with losing Issy and cuts herself off from the rest of the world, finding it impossible to accept the strong faith in Mormon beliefs that her husband has always done. Finally, we have Issy’s siblings - Zipporah, Alma and Jacob who, with all their doubts about the Mormon faith, are each devastated by Issy's death and are really desperate to be able to live the sort of lives that their friends at school do. 

This is a book that primarily deals with loss and grief, exploring the way in which different people come to terms and cope with it in very different ways. Having read the blurb of the book before I started reading it, I understood what A Song for Issy Bradley was going to be about and was, therefore, bracing myself for quite a dark and depressing novel but this wasn’t the case at all. There were actually many moments throughout the novel that were very humerous and had me smiling and laughing. 

Additionally the book is very much about family relationships and really quite accurately demonstrates, in my opinion, the way in which the views and beliefs of parents can greatly vary from those of their children and how this can sometimes leave children feeling quite frustrated and resentful. It also deals with the relationship that siblings have and highlights the fact that despite the fact they may argue and bicker, they will always care for and support eachother when they most need to. 

This book was exceptionally well written and really was a stunning creation. Reading the book it was evident that so much effort had gone into every single page and the level of detail was absolutely incredible. Before reading this novel I’m going to confess that I had little understanding of the Mormon culture but quite honestly this didn’t matter in the slightest as everything was perfectly described to the point where I could understand it with ease and I now feel like I’ve really learned something new. 

I really recommend A Song for Issy Bradley which was, unbelievably, Carys Bray’s first full-length novel and will not hesitate to pick up more written by her in the future. Carys Bray is definitely an author to look out for!

Monday, 16 November 2015

Review - Winter's Fairytale by Maxine Morrey

Today I’m both super happy and excited to be bringing you my review for Winter’s Fairytale by Maxine Morrey. I really enjoyed this beautiful novel which left me feeling all warm inside, with a massive smile on my face and I would like to extend my thanks to Cara for having me take part in the blog tour for this book which honestly is a real little gem. 

Step into a winter wonderland and fall in love in the snow this Christmas…
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…

A few weeks before Christmas and a sudden blanketing of snow has closed the roads and brought public transport grinding to a halt, stranding Izzy miles from home and in desperate need of rescuing.

That doesn’t mean she’s looking to bump into Rob and spend a cosy weekend holed up in his swanky flat watching London become a winter wonderland! Because Izzy and Rob have history…

Six months ago, they were standing in the vestry of a beautiful country church, while best man Rob delivered the news that every bride dreads on their big day.

But at the time of year when anything is possible, can Rob and Izzy let go of the past and let Christmas work its magic? Or will this be one holiday wish that Izzy lets walk right out of her life…

When the blurb says that Izzy and Rob have history it really wasn’t joking because, as we soon learn upon starting this novel, Rob was responsible for delivering the news to Izzy on her wedding day that she would not be getting married to Steven. Upon having her heart broken Izzy throws a punch which results in Rob ending up with a broken nose - clearly a bit more than he baragained for when he signed up to be Steven’s best man - and subsequently decides its best to sever all contact and have nothing more to do with him. However, six months down the line, when Izzy becomes stranded in a snowstorm and Rob unexpectedly comes to her rescue she’s left with a dilemma - does she let him help or doesn’t she? You’ll have to read the book to find out the answer to that one because I’m not about to go ruining it for you now…

It’s very rare that a book comes along where I love all of the main characters in it, but Winter’s Fairytale really is the exception to that as I really did love both Izzy and Rob. I thought Izzy was great and so emotionally strong in terms of the way she seemed to pick herself up and move on with her life so soon after being jilted at the aisle. It certainly seemed like nothing could get in her way, she was determined to see the positive in and make the best out of everything and was not afraid of working hard and helping others. Rob meanwhile was, in my opinion, nothing short of a gentleman as he was so thoughtful and caring and it was clear would always go out of his way to ensure that Izzy was safe and well looked after. 

This book has the perfect title as it really is a fairytale for adults set in winter which is full of magical moments and beautiful description which really helps to draw the reader in and set the scene. It was one of those books that was written in such a way that I could visualise the scenes as I was reading them and could see how well this book could work as a hit film. I’d definitely describe this book as being a romcom - there were certainly many hilarious moments that had me laughing out loud with a lot of romantic moments thrown in also although, for a very pleasant change, without any sex scenes whatsoever! 

In case you haven’t already guessed by now I really enjoyed this novel and, even though I’m not massively into re-reading books, I would definitely read Winter’s Fairytale again and certainly wouldn’t hesitate to read more written by Maxine Morrey in the future.  A truly sparkling and glorious Christmas read! 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Review - Dream a Little Christmas Dream by Giovanna Fletcher

I have read every single book that Giovanna Fletcher has written and having just this evening finished her latest release, Dream a Little Christmas Dream, can safely say that she can do no wrong - everything that Giovanna writes is consistently perfect, beautifully written and utterly heartwarming. Earlier this year I read Dream a Little Dream, completely fell in love with it and so eagerly anticipated the release of Dream a Little Christmas Dream. 

Dream a Little Christmas Dream, a short story, really carries on from where Dream a Little Dream left off with the reader being reunited with Sarah, her best friends and boyfriend, Brett Last, again. It’s nearly Christmas and whilst the vast majority of Sarah’s friends are growing up and settling down - starting a family, moving in together -Sarah is starting to feel fearful about her future. More specifically she’s starting to feel uncertain about her future with Brett who is starting to act very strange and is certainly not giving anything away about the direction he wants their relationship to go. If one things for certain, however, it’s that Sarah is determined to find out and she certainly does…

Quite honestly I absolutely loved everything about this gorgeous story. Dream a Little Dream was by far my favourite novel written by Giovanna Fletcher mainly because I loved each and every one of the characters so much and really connected with Sarah. I was therefore so happy to be reunited with them at what is, personally, my favourite time of the year. Despite the very short length of the story, each character was incorporated into the story perfectly with each having a part to play and nobody ever feeling surplus to requirements. 

As you will know from reading my review of reading Dream a Little Dream, I really loved the dream sequences that appeared throughout it and was so glad that they made a reappearance in Dream a Little Christmas Dream. I thought they were fantastically constructed and thought through and once again really took on the appearance of dreams in terms of often being completely surreal and unrealistic. Once again, as with in Dream a Little Dream, they never felt out of place and always led perfectly into Sarah’s waking moments. 

For such a short story this book was absolutely incredible and was certainly not lacking in any respect - there was much humour, Christmas cheer and many aww-inducing moments. It was a real little sparkling treasure and one which brightened up a dull Sunday afternoon and left me feeling nothing except very happy. I cannot wait to read whatever Giovanna Fletcher writes next and really hope that we will one day be reunited again with the fantastic cast of characters that we first met in Dream a Little Dream and were lucky enough to meet again in Dream a Little Christmas Dream. 

In short, Dream a Little Christmas Dream was absolutely superb and I do not hesitate to recommend it!

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Review - Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Still Alice by Lisa Genova was absolutely incredible - a brilliant storyline that was extremely well written and beautifully detailed. This was the first book I’ve read by Lisa and because of how much I enjoyed it I’m really looking forward to reading more by her; Love Anthony and Inside the O’briens are two more of her books which both look and sound amazing. 

In Still Alice, the reader goes on a journey with Alice who, not long after we first meet her, is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, a condition which she tries so hard but is in the end unable to hide from her family. Despite her mental decline which sees her not only forgetting words but also forgetting where she lives, we also witness her try desperately to maintain her job as a lecturer at a university, one which she loves and has excelled in. However, eventually even this becomes too much for her to continue with and, although she really doesn’t want to, she is left with no choice but to give it up. 

This is an extremely powerful novel which takes the reader on an emotional rollercoaster of a ride with not just Alice herself but her husband and their three children. Between them all they have a lot to cope and come to terms with and particularly difficult for them is striking a balance between caring for Alice and holding down their own jobs and careers. I must admit the character who most surprised me throughout the novel was Lydia, one of the daughters, who by the end of the novel turned out to be so selfless in the act of supporting her mother through the hardest of her days.

I can’t write this review without mentioning more of Alice’s husband, John, who I really struggled to like. When he first heard of his wife’s diagnosis he didn’t offer her much in the way of comfort or support and continued with his life as if nothing had changed - working long hours and almost avoiding spending any time with his wife. I’m afraid I really can’t comprehend why you wouldn’t want to spend as much time as possible with someone you love, particularly when they are so very unwell and in desperate need of support and companionship. 

Through reading this book I feel that I have developed a very real insight into a condition which isn’t often talked about in literature. I think that, often, when people hear Alzheimer’s mentioned they think immediately of forgetting things but actually this book demonstrates how there is so much more to it than that. Also, the whole book was written in such a way that I couldn’t help but feel some of the emotions that Alice was feeling, particularly the times when she felt entirely frustrated. 

Still Alice is a novel which has touched my heart and one which I feel I will remember for a long time to come. I must admit that at first I really wasn’t sure whether this book would be for me but I’m so glad I picked it up as I became immersed in the story very quickly. I certainly didn’t regret reading this and I’m very hopeful that you won’t either. 

Be sure to keep your eyes on this blog where you can be sure I’ll review another of Lisa’s novels in the future.