Mini book reviews

Hi guys! It’s been a while…

First off, let me just apologise for yet another long absence. There was no real reason for it other than just needing to take a bit of a break to focus on actually writing my books, instead of spending time on blog posts and Instagram! That said, I am still forging ahead with writing my novels (yes, it’s plural now, what have I done…!), and I’m hoping to finish one sometime in the near future (a girl can dream). That being said, I have done a fair bit of reading since I last posted, so I will be doing a few ‘mini book review’ style posts over the next few weeks.

As it’s been so long since I’ve updated you, I’m also hoping to write a post detailing where I’m currently at regarding my writing projects: what I’ve been up to, how I’m approaching them, and my plans for finishing them. I also want to chat to you about my self-published colouring book, which I’m super excited about and had such a great time creating.

I’m so happy to be back!

 

Something to Live For by Richard Roper

Love love loved this book! It kind of reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine (Gail Honeyman), but with a male protagonist instead, which was fab: I think I found a new favourite genre. Andrew was a likeable, quirky character who I found myself rooting for almost instantly, and members of the ‘supporting cast’ were equally as interesting and fleshed out. For some reason, one of the most engaging parts of the novel for me was Andrew’s job: going into homes of deceased people and trying to find who their next of kin were/if there were any. I don’t know why, but I found it absolutely fascinating, and it definitely added another layer to the already well-woven and intricate plot, as did the addition of Andrew’s model train hobby. Highly recommended for those looking for a heart-warming read which deals sensitively with some serious subjects.

 

The Source: Open Your Mind, Change Your Life by Dr Tara Swart

I adored this book. As someone who’s always been into the idea of ‘The Law of Attraction’, but who also struggles to see past the ‘logical blocks’ that stop me from embracing it wholly, this book is a perfect fit for me, as it combines both the whimsical ideas put forward by the law, but also backs it up with more solid, neuroscientific explanations. After I had finished reading it, I was left feeling more optimistic, knowledgeable, and in control of my decisions and my future. Definitely one to read if you really want to believe in The Secret, but need a bit more of a push in the right direction! Just a note: it is very ‘science heavy’, so it’s perhaps not for everyone. 

 

Paperback Crush by Gabrielle Moss

I loved this book! At the grand old age of 26, I may be slightly too young to have read some of the books mentioned in their heyday, but there were many I did use to love reading when I was younger (Sweet Valley High being my favourite as I am a twin myself…!). This book is not only engaging both visually and narratively, but it is so well researched I think one would be hard pressed to find any other book/website/source of information that covers this fascinating subject in such a detailed and captivating way. It’s so interesting to me to see the development in this particular genre of literature, and thus I imagine there are many others that will enjoy reading this delightful book. Would also make a great gift!

 

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Before reading this book, I had hit a bit of a ‘reading wall’, mainly because I am currently in the process of writing my own thriller, which like The Hunting Party, has various narrators, all with their own subplots and narrative voices. I was stuck. I had no idea how to successfully write a book with more than one narrator. And then I read this. I enjoyed every second of this multi-character study, and I cannot express just how impressed I am at how wonderfully it is written. Initially, when I realized just how many narrators there were in this novel, I was worried I might get confused, but I needn’t have been. Each narrator has a strong, unique voice, and unlike some multi-POV novels, all the narrators drive the plot forward. The intimate POVs made it possible to understand how each character saw themselves as well as how they saw each other, and the dissonance and contrast between these two viewpoints was super interesting. I also loved the choice of setting (I spent the past NYE in Scotland and know just how stunning yet isolating the landscape is). Amazing novel.

 

 

The Cactus by Sarah Haywood

I loved this book! As an avid reader of psychological thrillers, I was surprised when the blurb for this book caught my eye. Once I started reading it however, I was hooked! It really reminded me of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely fine by Gail Honeyman (the second book to do so on this list…), which I read recently and really enjoyed. Both novels have a wholly engaging, unique and loveable main character, as well as a host of wonderful secondary characters, who you find yourself rooting for throughout. An uplifting read which left me feeling happy and warm. Would recommend.

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Mini book reviews

Hi guys!

You know the drill! Below are some ‘mini reviews’ of some of my recent reads. As I haven’t reviewed in a while, there are lots of books, so I’ll probably split the reviews across one or two posts. Let me know what you think!

 

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Lies She Told by Cate Holahan – 5*

Lies She Told centres around the life of author Liza Cole, as she attempts to write a novel – which she hopes will be as successful as her previous bestseller – whilst simultaneously dealing with the death of her husband’s business partner, among other personal issues.

This novel follows an extremely interesting structure. The chapters alternate between Liza’s P.O.V in the real world, and the P.O.V of Beth, the main protagonist in Liza’s novel. We are, therefore, following both Liza’s actual story, alongside her fictional story. At first, the similarities between the two are small – a shared feeling or a similar setting for example – but after a while, the similarities become more pronounced, leaving us to answer the question: what is real and what is fiction?

I personally love this structure. As a writer myself, we’re forever told that elements of us, our personalities, feelings and life stories will inevitably bleed into our fiction, so not only does this structure work in terms of building tension and results in an awesome novel, it also subtly explores several interesting elements of writing, which I find very clever and engaging. As well as this, the structure offers us, in essence, two novels to read at once, both of which I found clever and full of suspense. The alternation also serves to increase tension, as you jump from one cliffhanger to the other. I always looked forward to the next chapter in both stories, and couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.

Lies She Told will appeal to anyone looking for a unique and engaging thriller, or anyone searching for a novel that’s a little bit different. Must read!

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All Things New by Lauren Miller – 5*

All Things New follows the story of Jessa, our protagonist, as she attempts to come to terms with the after-effects of a terrifying accident, and the physical and mental scars left behind.

Long story short, I loved this book. It’s so sensitively done, it’s hard not to, and I believe the comparisons with The Fault in Our Stars and All the Bright Places are justified. It tackles several very difficult subjects carefully and beautifully, weaving a sometimes heart-breaking yet hopeful tale that’s part love-story part coming-of-age. I’d recommend this to everyone.

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Last Seen Alive by Claire Douglas – 4*

Last Seen Alive follows main protagonist Libby as she swaps her tiny flat in the city for a large, sprawling house by the beach, for what she hopes will be a relaxing get-away. As expected, things don’t go to plan – this is a thriller after all – and the holiday soon turns into a nightmare.

This is a fabulous book, which I very much enjoyed reading. Rarely do I reach the ‘twist’ of a novel without any prior ideas as to what the twist might be, but I’m happy to say this wasn’t the case here, and the twist was shocking yet still managed to maintain believability. Douglas has cleverly managed to allude to it throughout, creating tension and suspense, and laying a solid foundation for the later revelations.

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Then she was Gone by Lisa Jewell – 5*

This book was incredible. Dark, twisty and sometimes horrifying, but incredible. I loved reading it and flew through it in a single day. My heart was thumping in my chest throughout and I’d absolutely recommend it to everyone – the fact that it’s so believable makes it all the more shocking.

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The 100 by Kass Morgan – 3*

This book was OK and kept me interested throughout, but to be honest, I felt like it lacked something. There seemed to be an awful lot of nothingness (no real plot) and ended with a cliffhanger. I enjoyed it as a ‘listening whilst doing other stuff’ audio-book but may have stopped reading if it was a paperback. I probably won’t read the rest but I’m interested to see the TV show. * UPDATE * The TV show is incredible! I think it might even be my favourite programme…!

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The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond- 2* DNF

I’m sure others would enjoy this novel as it offers all the standard things you would expect from a thriller – interesting protagonists, intriguing premise, conflict and unanswered questions. Despite this, this novel wasn’t really my cup of tea, due solely to the fact that I don’t think the intelligent protagonists would have ever opted into the pact in the first place. They seemed to ask almost no questions and didn’t think it was weird at all. I liked the writing and characterisation, but feel I would have had to suspend belief whilst reading to actually enjoy it properly. Thanks anyway to the publisher and author for the ARC!

UPDATE: Apparently this book has sold its movie rights…!

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No Filter by Orlagh Collins – 5*

Emerald, our female protagonist is likeable yet somewhat troubled. She’s forever checking her social media accounts and lusting over those sometimes-elusive ‘likes’ ‘hearts’ or ‘shares’. My prior experience of novels that try to emulate the social media age is wholly negative, but this is one of the rare books that actually manages to be ‘social media savvy’ without being boring or try-hard. Both protagonists are well-rounded, and I think Collins has done a fabulous job of writing in two distinct voices (which is hard to do right!).

Overall, I’d describe this novel as a ‘modern-day Romeo and Juliet’, which I understand is a little cliche, but to be honest, that’s exactly how I’d describe this wonderful book. The plot is deep, occasionally heart-wrenching and is populated with well-thought out characters and conflict. Loved it!


Mini book reviews

Hi guys!

Just a quick post today. As I’ve been reading a lot recently, I thought I’d write some ‘mini reviews’ of some of my recent reads. Let me know what you think!

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The Honeymoon by Tina Seskis – 4.5*

As with a lot of recent novels, this book employs the ‘unreliable narrator’ trope, which I personally enjoy, but only when done right. I can happily confirm that this book is one of the ones which uses this technique successfully. As I was reading, I often felt one of the narrators (Jemma, our main protagonist) was being purposely misleading and, having read a book recently which flat-out deceives the reader (see Under Your Skin…), was worried that this book would take the same course. It doesn’t and in fact, uses the unreliability of Jemma to develop her as an interesting yet flawed 3-dimensional character. I found her character intriguing, which is good as the reader spends a lot of time ‘in her head’, despite there being several other minor narrators and a little bit of head-hopping, all of which add depth to the story.

At no point did I guess the ending (which is a feat these days..!) and when all was finally revealed at the end I felt a chill run down my spine. I can pretty much guarantee that you will have no idea as to what will happen in the end, and when you do find out, it will smack you in the face (in a good way, of course). Would recommend to anyone interested in domestic thrillers or unreliable narrators.

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Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – 5*

Heartbreaking, eye-opening, complex and sometimes chilling. Honestly, this book left me speechless. I read it all in a day. It feels weird to say I enjoyed reading it due to the subject it covers, but I did. It kept me hooked the whole way through and I think Asher dealt with a sensitive subject in a clever and absorbing way. I would recommend this book to anyone, although trigger warning (suicide is the main theme).

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He Said / She Said by Erin Kelly – 5*

Intriguing, unique and not at all predictable, He Said/She Said is part twisty thriller/part courtroom drama with a little bit of eclipse chasing sprinkled in for good measure. The characters are relatable and charming, yet flawed, and the relationships created by Kelly are intricate and believable. The main couple, protagonists Kit and Laura, are perhaps my favourite – I think Kelly manages to capture the ‘met-at-uni-been-together-since’ relationship delightfully. Although the novel explores distressing themes at times, it does so with the utmost care and sensitivity, resulting in an emotionally-charged book which raises some important questions and issues. A very clever, enjoyable and emotionally-complex read. I loved it!

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Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor – 3*

This book was completely different to what I expected, hence I’m finding it quite hard to review. The book is obviously amazingly written, fabulously plotted and creates a vivid and wonderful sense of place and time, but I couldn’t help but find it a little hard to follow sometimes, due to the vast amount of characters and the ‘omniscient head-hopping’. What one expects to be the main plot (the missing girl) although constantly there, is pushed to the background as the writing instead focuses on the effect this has on the village, more so than explicitly about the crime itself. This is not a bad thing, in fact, it’s a very interesting choice made by the author that ensures the books stands out, although may be a little disappointing for anyone expecting a ‘crime thriller’. Overall, this book is written wonderfully but sadly will not appeal to everyone due to its unique narrative style.

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Boundary by Andree A Michaud – 5*

A beautifully written and suspenseful literary work of which I enjoyed every page. Murder, mystery and folklore weave with vivid imagery and expertly created characters in this hauntingly memorable exploration of adolescence, sexuality and community. A time consuming yet massively rewarding read.

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Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy – 3*

Do Not Become Alarmed is a book unlike any I’ve ever read before, in a number of different ways. The narrative style is unique – as opposed to having one main character which the book follows throughout, this novel utilises a ‘head-hopping’ style of narration. Although not my favourite style, it works for this book, as it effectively allows us to experience the novel’s events from the POV of several of the characters. Although this sounds confusing at first, it’s not, as the characters are well-developed, believable and distinctive, and each bring something new to the story. It’s an impressive feat to manage to successfully write in this style, as I have read many books with multiple narrators that don’t work. That said, I think the novel would have been just as interesting (and perhaps easier to connect with) if it was written from the perspective of two of the protagonists, perhaps one adult and one child. This however, is just a personal preference of mine.

The writing is descriptive and vivid, the storyline is captivating and Meloy’s writing style is competent and enjoyable, although may take a little time to get used to at first. Although I would recommend this book to others, I would warn prospective readers to leave any expectations at the first page – to fully appreciate this book, one needs to read and enjoy it for what it actually is, as opposed to what they might expect it to be.

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Under Your Skin by Sabine Durrant – 3*

I loved this book right up until the last chapter. The writing was awesome, the narrator was engaging and I was hooked. That was, up until the reveal. WTF is up with the ending? No spoilers, but it was such a disappointment. The rest of the novel had been building up to the climax, so why did I feel that the climax and the ‘answer’ to all of my questions came out of nowhere and were added purely for shock value? I’ve noticed this with Durrant’s other book, Lie With Me, in which she did exactly the same thing – chose the most shocking ending and ran with it, despite its unbelievability.

It’s such a shame because I love her writing style, her creation of engaging characters and her ability to insert humour into her books. I was excited to spend my next Audible credit on one of her other books, but I won’t be doing that now 😦

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The Ridge by John Rector – 5*

Part Linwood Barclay, part Hemlock grove, this is hands-down one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. As cliche as it sounds, I read it in only a couple of hours and not once did I guess the ending or any of the twists, although expertly weaved flashbacks and carefully placed clues ensured that the eventual conclusion and reveal was satisfying and adrenaline inducing.

The writing is detailed enough to build a strong sense of place, but not too much so that the plot is bogged down by description, and the twist is one of the best I’ve ever read. Rector expertly creates a world which, on the surface seems idyllic, but it’s not long until the cracks begin to show, leaving the reader with spine chills and goosebumps aplenty.

I would 100% recommend this title and will be actively seeking other titles by Rector. Everyone should read this novel!

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The Last Girl by Joe Hart – 4*

I would describe this book as Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale meets Scott Westerfield’s Uglies. Surprisingly enough, it works! I particularly enjoyed Hart’s third-person present narration – his ability to conjure up an almost tangible image using simple yet well-chosen words is a rare skill, which deserves applause.

One slight gripe I do have is that the middle of the novel dragged a little too much for my liking. The fast pace which I had grown accustomed to petered out and became almost painfully slow – I found myself skipping pages of description in several instances, hence why I have awarded 4 stars not 5.

It’s all too easy to leave too many unanswered questions in a series, but I’m happy to report that this was not the case with The Last Girl and I was sufficiently happy with the ending of the novel.

I would recommend this title and will hopefully get around to reading the rest in the series.

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The House by Simon Lelic – 5*

Part murder-mystery, part domestic thriller, The House is a purely unique thrill ride, of which I enjoyed every page. Written in a conversational style, this novel’s structure and narrative voice is fresh and new – the chapters alternate between our two unreliable narrators and protagonists, Jack and Syd, as they try to figure out what on earth is happening in their new house. The style is evocative of a kind of ‘journalistic conversation’ between the two, a style unlike anything I’ve experienced before and it works well, effectively portraying the vague sense of unease at the beginning of the novel, the paranoia and violence in the middle, and finally through to the explosive climax of which you won’t see coming. As tense as it is clever, The House is a wonderfully-crafted, clever and heart-wrenching novel, which will leave your heart racing.

Fun Fact

A quote from this review attributed to me can be found in the paperback version of this book!

 


Book review – Sheltering Rain by JoJo Moyes

 

Sheltering Rain
JoJo Moyes
HarperTorch, 2002
4.5/5

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Me Before You (now a major motion picture) comes the touching, unforgettable story of three generations of Irish women faced with the fundamental truths of love, duty, and the unbreakable bond that unites mothers and daughters

Estranged from her mother since she ran away from her rural Irish home as a young woman, Kate swore an oath that she’d always be a friend to her daughter, Sabine. But history has a way of repeating itself, and Kate now faces an ever-widening chasm between herself and her daughter. With Sabine about to make her own journey to Ireland to see her grandmother, Kate is left wondering how they ever made it here, and what she can do to close the gap between them.

For Joy, seeing her granddaughter is a dream come true. After the painful separation from Kate, she’s looking forward to having time with Sabine. Yet almost as soon as the young woman arrives, the lack of common ground between them deflates her enthusiasm. And when Sabine’s impetuous, inquisitive nature forces Joy to face long-buried secrets from her past, she realizes that perhaps it’s time to finally heal old wounds.

Description and blurb taken from Goodreads

The Positives

JoJo Moyes’ debut novel Sheltering Rain has shown me that you can write a fabulous, well-crafted first novel, but you may still have to wait another ten years before acquiring the type of world-wide fame brought by a best-seller like Me Before You. It has become apparent to me that, although her debut book was great, writing well consistently and over a number of years is often the commitment an author must make in order to achieve world-wide domination in the industry. As the saying goes:

Practice makes perfect. 

I came across the book purely by chance. My grandma Sheila had been given the book by a friend, and because she was reading my copy of After You, she knew I was a fan of Moyes. I was excited by the book because I wanted to see how Moyes’ first novel compared to her recent best-sellers. I have read her second novel Forbidden Fruit which I really enjoyed (I really should have written a review for that one…) so I felt optimistic that Sheltering Rain would also not disappoint. I was right.

This book has been added to my list of favourite recent reads, and books that serve to truly inspire me. I thoroughly enjoyed it, believed the characters and was hooked from the first page to the last. If I can write a first novel as good as Moyes (miracles happen, right?) then I will be over the moon.

Characters

The characters are well developed, with backstory, intricate relationships, different personalities, flaws and goals all of their own. There are a lot of characters, and I am impressed with Moyes’ ability to manage them all, without getting herself or the reader lost along the way.

In just about any ‘how to’ on the topic of fiction writing, creating backstory for characters almost always comes with a warning. You do not want to write so much that it detracts from the story, however, the characters need to be believable as having a complex past that has shaped them, and the story. Finding the balance is a key element in writing a successful novel, and I think Moyes’ has done an excellent job of doing just that. The back story in Sheltering Rain exists because it adds to the story – it builds the characters to be who they are, as well as building the narrative tension. I wanted to know more about the secrets Moyes’ hinted at throughout, and I wanted to know why the characters behaved as they did. Moyes revealed it all in good time, which I felt added to – rather than subtracted from – the story.

Narrative point of view

What I think Moyes did really well with this book is her use of three different points of view. The story is told from the perspective of three women, from three different generations of the same family.

Usually, I struggle with head-hopping narratives, as I don’t like to be jerked from one mind to another and I sometimes find it hard to follow. However, Moyes handled it well – each character had a clear and distinct narrative voice and no head-hopping occurred within chapters.

Ultimately, Moyes’ POV choice helped to explore a meaningful and engaging premise – that it is easy to assume how other people are feeling and why they act in a certain way, but unless you walk in their shoes, you couldn’t possibly know. Personally, I enjoy stories that I feel I can learn from, and Sheltering Rain is a story that I feel helped me to engage with and understand aspects of my own life that exist way past the pages of the novel. It was intriguing to see how each narrator perceived the other two woman’s actions, and their assumed motives behind them. I liked to be able to compare the perceived motives with the actual motives, because there was often a great amount of misunderstanding between all three women, resulting in plenty of conflict (and we all know how important conflict is in writing!). 

Writing style

In terms of writing style, I was very much at ease when reading this book. It didn’t seem too much like hard work, and although there was not pages and pages of description getting in the way, I felt there was enough for me to immerse myself in the story. If I were to compare it to her more recent books, I would say that Sheltering Rain has a bit more of an elaborate/ornate style than Me Before You, although both styles worked for me.

I would assume that over time, and with plenty of practice and editing, Moyes has managed to hone the skill of giving vivid description in a succinct, subtle and unobtrusive way. This is a skill that I’d like to develop in my own writing, and one that I know will only come with practice.

Taking a critical view

Cover

Being a designer, I can’t pick up a book without judging the cover, and although I am careful not to let the cover dictate too me whether or not I buy the book, a good cover certainly helps to catch attention. After all, the first step in selling a book is to get readers to notice that it actually exists. We have written more about the importance of cover design here.

The cover for Sheltering Rain was nice, although personally, I feel it was not eye-catching in the slightest. It employs the typical flat illustration style often seen on Romantic Fiction novel covers, and the rather cliche silhouette of a woman. I understand that to some degree it is important that a novel looks clearly as if it sits within a genre, but perhaps even more importantly, is that it should stand out amongst its competition. If I had not been handed the book and had not been expressly told it was written by JoJo Moyes, I would probably not have even noticed it if it were on a shelf surrounded by hundreds of others. To conclude, my verdict is that it is an average cover for a higher than average book. Lesson being (here comes another saying!!):

Don’t judge a book by its cover. Much.

In conclusion

I would recommend this book to friends, and it has been one of my favourite recent reads. It was a strong story, full of emotion, passion and intrigue. It has also spiked my interest to hunt out more debut novels by best-selling authors, as I find it fascinating to see where they started compared to where they are now.


Mini book reviews – Heather’s recent reads

I’ve read so many books recently, and instead of doing extensive reviews of all of them, I thought I would write mini reviews instead. There are a few spoilers here and there so be warned!
I would also love to know your feelings on the below books, so leave your opinions in the comments!

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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Enjoyable easy reading with well-developed characters and a subtle storyline (not an awful lot actually happens in it). Bonus points because it’s about twins, but subtracting points for the Simon Snow FanFic which the whole novel is based around. I thought it was boring and hard to take seriously (mainly because of the ridiculous names and because it seemed like a joke version of Harry Potter). I skipped the majority of the FanFic excerpts and think that it was a missed opportunity, as the concept is really interesting and could have made the book ten-times more enjoyable than it was. All in all, I liked it but it was a bit of a non-event. Also, I’ve been put off of reading Carry On as I disliked the FanFic so much, which is a shame as I have already bought it.
6/10

Paper Towns by John Green

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Enjoyed reading it as it was funny (especially the road trip element) and intriguing. Liked the mixture of mystery and high-school drama. Also found the concept of ‘Paper Towns’ really interesting, as I’m really into abandoned places. In parts, I felt like Margot’s character wasn’t as developed as I would have liked as she really seemed to change at the end, but I’m aware that this may have been intentional – the whole point was that Quentin didn’t understand her at all and put her on a pedestal. Liked the ‘adventure mystery’ vibe.
8/10

Looking for Alaska by John Green

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Again, I liked reading this (perhaps a little less than Paper Towns), but the amount of similarities between the two is high. Here is a summary of both of their storylines…

‘Fun loving young girl who no one understands goes missing and their male companions (who just happen to be in love with them) try to figure out what happened’.
Still, cool setting (boarding school) and a range of three-dimensional characters. Also, was a little shocked at the end, definitely didn’t expect it and I’m not sure how I feel about it…
7/10

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

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Quite different from any of the other books I’ve read (which was refreshing) and although I didn’t really understand why the two main characters were attracted to each other (male character exhibited distaste towards female at first, and I didn’t understand what made him change his mind), I did feel emotionally attached to the two and wanted them to have a happy ending. The ending, although not ‘happy’ did give hope, so that’s better than nothing. All the characters were unique, as well as being very well-developed (I wanted Richie to get his comeuppance at the end), so Rowell clearly did a good job regarding characterisation. More of an emotion-led story than an action led one (and I generally prefer the latter).
7.5/10a

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Favourite of all the books I’ve read recently. Probably because I love dystopian YA but also because I loved the concept. Don’t get me wrong it’s a bit silly (why a maze? What’s with the random telepathy? The characters experience memory loss so how can they remember the names of things?) but I’m sure (well I hope) the questions that remain unanswered will be answered by the end of the series. Although there were lots of names and characters to remember, this didn’t put me off (it normally does if I can’t follow who is who) and I just loved the setting – I’m a sucker for a unique story world. One major criticism would be that it is cliché in areas (self-sacrificing hero/unnecessary death just for the emotional gut-punch) but all in all I loved it and read it in two sittings. I have also bought the other three and can’t wait to get cracking with those.
9/10
*Update* The rest of the series was dissapointing to be honest.

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

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Interesting concept but the whole novel stressed me out – I wanted to know if there was a happy ending almost after the first two chapters. Like the impatient douche-bag I am, I Googled the ending (so naughty). Funnily enough, I enjoyed the book more after finding out what happened, as I was no longer skipping chapters to figure it out. Good character development but a frustrating concept if you like justice and happy endings. Unique voices from the protagonists (you could really tell the difference between the mother and daughter but sometimes I felt the daughter sounded too grown up for a six-year-old). The blend of real life and the occasional fantastical elements was confusing at times, and I felt there was sometimes too much description, so minus points for that.
7/10

Our Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

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The beautifully designed cover and blurb drew me to this but once I began reading the elaborate detail and description really put me off. Really like the idea behind it but feel it would be stronger if it were less flowery. Didn’t like the mother character as she seemed a little detached, and quite frankly I didn’t like the girl either as she was a bit plain. This isn’t really a fair review though as I didn’t finish the book. I feel like this review isn’t a reflection of the writer’s ability to write, more a reflection of my own personal taste. I might give it another go later…
Based on what I read, 5/10

The Host by Stephanie Meyer

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Started off really enjoying it but the more I thought about the concept behind it the more I thought it was weird. I didn’t really ‘get’ it, but of course, that may just be me being a dumbass. The thought of a silvery wiggly worm as a conscious being was odd and I found it hard to understand because to me, ‘Wanderer’ seemed really human. So I guess it could be argued that the novel is thought-provoking as it brings up themes and questions relating to humanity – What really makes us human? What really is a ‘mind’? How important is a body? being just a few. So I suppose this is good as novels are meant to make you think more in-depth about their themes. Despite my reservations, this novel explores a unique concept and is full of conflict. Bit long for my liking so I didn’t finish it and instead watched the film (awful of me I know, but I felt it would be awesome in visual media).
6.5/10

The Understudy by David Nicholls

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Funny, vibrant, believable and interesting characters who made me laugh. I really wanted the main character to succeed, which is the sign of a well developed and three-dimensional protagonist! Would recommend if you are after a light-hearted read. The protagonists 6-year-old-daughter was hilarious and Nicholls used her to poke fun at the typical London upper-class snob (her love of sushi and her distaste of her Dad’s ‘common’ choice of pizza restaurant), which was amusing.
8/10

Faceless by Alyssa B. Sheinmel

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Although I liked this book, I couldn’t get past the obvious flaw in the concept. The main character had a face transplant but was back at school after several months. I thought this was ridiculous to be honest, as something as awful as losing your face would take YEARS to fully recover from. As well as this, I found the main character made stupid decisions (stopping taking her anti-rejection pills as an example) which also bothered me. Aside from this I did actually enjoy reading it and would recommend. I just felt that the novel was a little shallow and focused too much on the physical trauma of losing a face, and less on the emotional trauma. Just my opinion, though.
7/10

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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I actually didn’t enjoy this as much as Sharp Objects, so I don’t understand why Gone Girl is more popular/well-known. I found it long and dragged out in places, but Flynn did do a good job of throwing suspicion over the male protagonist. I also did not guess the twist, which was good. Characters were well developed and interesting and tension was high throughout but I disliked the ending because it lacked justice. I found it really frustrating and it made me mad, which is probably good as I did actually care about what happened to the characters and the conclusion of the story.
6.5/10

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

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One of my other favourites on this list; kept me guessing and I couldn’t put it down. Kind of guessed the twist towards the end but this didn’t put me off. A twisted and somewhat horrifying concept but also really intriguing. Main character was a little bit cliché (emotionally damaged and personally involved with the events) but this didn’t stop me enjoying it. Would highly recommend unless you are sensitive and dislike reading about crime and violence.
8.5/10

Us by David Nicholls

 

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Not much to say about this other than the fact I enjoyed it. It’s funny, original and made me laugh out loud (which I rarely do when I read books). Highly recommended if you want a unique and heart-warming read.
8/10

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

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Only read a few chapters of this before I gave up. I may have given up too easily, but there were just other books that I would have preferred to read at the time. So why did I stop reading? To be honest, the narrative put me off a little. It was clinical (which I understand was intentional) and I failed to warm to it. I also found the narrative far too wordy – think The Big Bang Theory‘s Sheldon. Fine on screen but super long to read. I also found the character of Rosie to be unlikeable. I haven’t read the first book (The Rosie Project) so maybe I would have enjoyed it more if I had. This probably isn’t a fair review as I have seen so many positive reviews of this book (one of the reasons I bought it), I just don’t think it is my cup of tea!
Based on what I read 5/10

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

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Finished reading this recently and thought it was good but didn’t live up to the hype. Super interesting and such a good choice of narrators (there were three, who were all unreliable in their own way). Lots of twists, all of which I didn’t guess (which is good). Characters were quite well-developed but could have had more distinct narrative voices (sometimes I got confused as to who was narrating). I enjoyed the writing style as it was very to the point (I HATE too much description) but sometimes the author would jump between scenes with no warning – for example, Rachael would often jump from being in bed to being on the train with no real transition, which could be a bit jarring at times. Was a bit disappointed but only because it has been mega-hyped up.
8/10

Her: book review

her book review

Her

Harriet Lane
Weidenfeld & Nicolson 2015
4.5/5

“Two women; two different worlds.

Emma is a struggling mother who has put everything on hold.
Nina is sophisticated and independent – entirely in control.

When the pair meet, Nina generously draws Emma into her life. But this isn’t the first time the women’s paths have crossed. Nina remembers Emma and she remembers what Emma did . . .

But what exactly does Nina want from her?

And how far will she go in pursuit of it?”

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Her-Harriet-Lane/dp/0297865056

Although I bought Her at a recent book sale, I first saw it advertised on the tube on my way to work. I was instantly attracted to the intriguing tagline: “You don’t remember her, but she remembers you.”

It is pegged as a thriller – my current favourite genre, so when I saw it at the sale, I picked it up immediately and bought it without even reading the blurb; rebellious, I know!

The positives

The design of the book is awesome, but sadly, the ‘highlighter yellow” doesn’t photograph well. I did my best though…

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The tagline is metallic, hence you can’t see it very well in the photo, but it looks great in real-life. The inside cover is as cool as the outside, with reversed out quotes on the left and the publisher logo printed on the right.

The book is written in stunning first-person present, which results in a fast-paced, immediate and wholly absorbing narrative. Set in modern London, the novel focuses on ‘frenemies’ Nina and Emma, two middle-class women whose lives are soon entwined, no thanks to Nina and her relentless lust for revenge. Lane’s writing evokes perfectly the bourgeois lifestyle, complete with snobbery, and the often-destructive need to keep up appearances.

The novel is narrated by both Nina and Emma, in alternate chapters. Often, Emma will narrate a scene, and immediately after, Nina will narrate the same scene but from her P.O.V. One would be wrong to assume that this re-telling gets repetitive and boring; quite the opposite is true. It is interesting to see the contrast between how the two girls feel toward one another and how they feel about certain events. It also offered a chilling insight into Nina’s mind. By structuring the novel this way, Lane manages to portray Emma’s ignorance toward Nina’s true motives, resulting in steadily rising tension, as she is dragged further and further into Nina’s web of deception.

Although Lane’s style is quite wordy, the words are well chosen, and the description is vivid. She manages to evoke perfectly, not just setting and character, but also the superficial, poisonous society in which the women live. When I first began reading the book, in one of the earlier chapters, Emma lists off lots of (rather fancy sounding) names. At first, this annoyed me – I was never going to be able to remember all of these names, let alone keep up with what was going on in these character’s lives. BUT I soon realised that Lane had cleverly used this to further emphasise Emma’s hectic, and often shallow lifestyle.

Being critical

Lane does an amazing job at creating tension throughout – often, I couldn’t put the book down as I was desperate to find out the awful thing that Emma had done. The one (very tiny) criticism I had when I initially finished the book is that this ‘awful’ thing, the one that had inspired Nina’s eventual retribution, seemed very minor, and not very awful at all. I didn’t understand why Nina hated her so much, and I definitely didn’t think it warranted Nina’s horrific final act of revenge. Despite this, the more I think about it, the more I realise that maybe Nina wasn’t as mentally stable as I first believed. Perhaps Emma’s actions had affected her more than I initially thought. This is the only way I can justify her overreaction to Emma’s wrongdoing. 

In conclusion

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Her. I loved Lane’s writing style, the book was fast-paced, absorbing and un-put-down-able. I would very much recommend this novel and look forward to reading more of Harriet Lane’s work!

Has anyone else read this book? Let me know what you think!


Book review: Day Four by Sarah Lotz

Day Four
Sarah Lotz
Hodder & Stoughton 2015
3.5/5

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Day-Four-Sarah-Lotz/dp/1444775367

“Four days into a five day singles cruise on the Gulf of Mexico, the ageing ship Beautiful Dreamer stops dead in the water. With no electricity and no cellular signals, the passengers and crew have no way to call for help. But everyone is certain that rescue teams will come looking for them soon. All they have to do is wait. That is, until the toilets stop working and the food begins to run out. When the body of a woman is discovered in her cabin the passengers start to panic. There’s a murderer on board the Beautiful Dreamer… and maybe something worse.

When I stumbled across this novel at a book sale recently, the overall design of the book (my copy has fancy purple-edged paper, an attractive design, and a matte finish cover), along with a quick read of the blurb convinced me to add Day Four to my (already heaving) shopping bag. Although the above synopsis suggests that it is a murder mystery novel, one would be wrong to classify it as such – the murder mentioned is only one small element of this paranormal thriller.

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Second image sourced from http://carabas.co.uk/tag/monthly-book-recommends/

Only after I bought the novel, did I realise that it was the sequel to Lotz’s previous book, The Three. Although it is marketed as a ‘stand alone’ story, (reviews suggest that the links between the two are loose), I debated long and hard as to whether or not I should buy and read the latter first. The decision to dive straight into Day Four was made mainly because the blurb intrigued me so, but also because I wanted to figure out whether or not it was worth spending more money on an author that I had no previous experience of reading.

The book is mainly written in third-person, which happens to be my least favourite tense. Despite this, Lotz’s writing style is enjoyable – she writes simply, and her use of description is vivid yet sparing, with no unnecessary words or extended descriptions. Lotz sets the scene well and I found it easy to imagine the cheap and cheerful Beautiful Dreamer. Unlike a lot of novels, the pacing was perfect – the sense of despair aboard the ship increases gradually as life on-board begins to get more and more unbearable.

Although I enjoyed the overall narrative of Day Four, Lotz’s use of characters disappointed me somewhat. Instead of having one or two main characters, the novel had several, all of which took it in turns in being the view-point character. Each protagonist had several chapters dedicated to them throughout the novel, which made it hard to follow what was going on. Just as soon as you got into one character’s storyline, the chapter ended and another began, along with either a new character storyline or a continuation of one which had happened several chapters back. Thankfully, each character has a nickname which appears at the beginning of the chapter (‘the Devils Handmaiden’ for example) which helped in navigating the chapters, and also added another level of characterisation.

Because of the extensive character-hopping, I found it hard to become attached – I didn’t find myself ‘rooting’ for anyone in particular. Although each of the characters seemed ‘fleshed out’, their development and backgrounds appeared to offer no real depth to the plot. I believe the novel would have been equally as entertaining, if not more so, if it had focused on only one main character.

Day Four is my first experience of reading a supernatural thriller so I was excited to see how Lotz would interweave supernatural into the novel. Overall I was a little disappointed – although the sporadic paranormal events were creepy there was very little build up to them. I had read some reviews where reviewers had described the book as ‘terrifying’ so was really expecting to be scared out of my wits! This didn’t stop me from enjoying the book as a whole though.

The twist and the ending had promise but were not as chilling as they could have been. I was left feeling a little confused as to what had actually happened. This could well have been intentional – the ending is perhaps meant to be ambiguous and echoes the confusion aboard the boat. 

Although some of the elements of the novel were a little disappointing, I really enjoyed reading Day Four, so for that reason alone, I would recommend it. I looked forward to reading it, and it had me hooked right up until the end. I also enjoyed Lots’z overall style, and have read some rave reviews about her other book The Three, so will be purchasing and reading that in the near future!

Has anyone else read this book? Do you agree or disagree with my comments? Comment below!