#BookReview: The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr @emily_barr @penguinrandom

the-one-memory-of-flora-banks

About the Book

HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO TO TRUST WHEN YOU CAN’T EVEN TRUST YOURSELF?

I look at my hands. One of them says FLORA BE BRAVE.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.

Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t, and the next day she remembers it. It’s the first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.

But the boy is gone. She thinks he’s moved to the Arctic.

Will following him be the key to unlocking her memory? Who can she trust?

My Thoughts

I’ve read a few of Emily Barr’s previous novels and always enjoyed them so I was excited when I got approved to read this new book, Emily Barr’s first young adult novel, back in January. I read the book back then but didn’t manage to get my review finished and posted but I can say that the book has really stayed fresh in my mind, which is always testament to a great read!

Flora Banks is such a brilliant character, I loved reading about her from the opening chapter. I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to not be able to form new memories, to only have memories from childhood. Flora is now a teenager but her mother, in her need to protect Flora, keeps her trapped as a child. Flora tries to keep a grip on her life by writing notes to herself but inevitably they get muddled up, or moved and then she has to try and piece things together. One night she experiences her first kiss and the next day finds that she has remembered it. The details around the kiss are not there but she remembers the kiss so clearly.

The novel is all about Flora learning to forge her way in the world in spite of her memory problems. Flora believes that if she can just find the boy she kissed that it will unlock her memory, that he is now the answer to everything. Life never goes as planned though and Flora encounters a lot of difficulties on her journey to find him. She becomes fiercely determined to prove to herself that she is growing up and that she will be able to manage on her own. Reading about Flora as she attempts to find the boy she kissed is really touching. To see this girl making such valiant attempts to remember things, to find ways to trigger her memory is incredible.

I felt quite on edge at times as the novel went on, it was nerve-wracking seeing Flora out in the world without her support systems in place. There are moments when she becomes really quite confused and upset, and I was so involved in the novel that I wanted to reach into the pages and tell her it would be ok. I was really cheering her on and wanting her to find the boy on her own and for everything to work out fine.

I love how Emily Barr managed to show us Flora’s life, to show us how it is to have amnesia and while inevitably some things are repeated throughout the book as we experience Flora’s confusion each day, the book never feels repetitive.

I also really appreciated how this novel never became too cliched. I was fully expecting Flora to easily find the boy and for them to fall in love and live happily ever after as is often the case, but it wasn’t remotely straightforward for her. She has so many challenges to overcome and life is never going to be easy for her. The novel for me felt so much more about Flora finding a way to have some independence and to gain a life of her own than it is about a boy, although the boy is the catalyst for the story.

It was also really interesting how we get to see Flora with her childhood best friend Paige, who’s a healthy seventeen year old. The contrast between them is quite stark at times and it really highlights just how much Flora has missed out on due to her amnesia. Early in the book the two girls are at a party together and Flora really does seem like a child, it’s quite sad to see. Paige is tied to Flora because they were friends before the amnesia – Paige tries hard to be a good friend but you can see how hard it is for her at times, particularly in the early part of the novel. It must be so difficult to be growing up and having more and more independence while the girl you grew up with is still ten years old in her mind. This is so sensitively written and I was really hoping that their friendship would survive as the book goes on, more so than I was wanting a romance between Flora and the boy.

I really enjoyed reading this book and would recommend it to everyone. It is aimed a young adults but it’s a book that can be enjoyed by anyone.

I received a copy of this book from Penguin via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

emily barr

I started out working as a journalist in London, but always hankered after a quiet room and a book to write. I managed, somehow, to get commissioned to go travelling for a year, and came home with the beginnings of a novel set in the world of backpackers in Asia. This became BACKPACK, a thriller which won the WH Smith New Talent Award, and I have since written eleven more novels published in the UK and around the world.

I live in Cornwall with my partner Craig and our children, and am working on my second YA novel, which is set in Rio.

(Bio taken from EmilyBarr.com)

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#BookReview: The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner

About the Book:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, sixteen-year-old Kyle Donohue watches the first twin tower come down from the window of Stuyvesant High School. Moments later, terrified and fleeing home to safety across the Brooklyn Bridge, he stumbles across a girl perched in the shadows, covered in ash, and wearing a pair of costume wings. With his mother and sister in California and unable to reach his father, a NYC detective likely on his way to the disaster, Kyle makes the split-second decision to bring the girl home. What follows is their story, told in alternating points of view, as Kyle tries to unravel the mystery of the girl so he can return her to her family. But what if the girl has forgotten everything, even her own name? And what if the more Kyle gets to know her, the less he wants her to go home? The Memory of Things tells a stunning story of friendship and first love and of carrying on with our day-to-day living in the midst of world-changing tragedy and unforgettable pain—it tells a story of hope.

My Thoughts:

This book is so beautiful and moving; it really is a gorgeous story of hope. I was intrigued to know how a young adult novel about such an atrocity would work but Gae Polisner gets it just right. She never shies away from the terror and the fear of that day but the focus on Kyle and his family allows feelings to be explored whilst still leaving the reader with a sense of hope.

I love the way this novel was told in normal prose from Kyle’s perspective and then this is interspersed with poetry that represents the confused thoughts of the ash-covered girl Kyle brings home from the bridge. It gives a rounded sense to the story but it never becomes cliched.

Gae Polisner explores so many angles of 9/11 – the way it affected people who witnessed the horror, the way the emergency services responded, the way it felt for people who couldn’t get through to family members, and also how it felt for the people, like Kyle’s uncle, who desperately wanted to respond and help but couldn’t due to medical problems.

I would recommend this book to everyone, it’s not just for teenagers – it’s a beautiful book that will explore the horror but leave you with hope for the future.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Griffin/St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook

A teenage girl wakes up in a hospital bed and cannot remember the last six weeks of her life, including the accident that killed her best friend–only what if the accident wasn’t an accident?

Eighteen-year-old Jill Charron wakes up in a hospital room, leg in a cast, stitches in her face and a big blank canvas where the last 6 weeks should be. She comes to discover she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy three days previous but was jetted home by her affluent father in order to receive quality care. Care that includes a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident…wasn’t an accident. Wondering not just what happened but what she did, Jill tries to piece together the events of the past six weeks before she loses her thin hold on her once-perfect life.

I saw this book mentioned in a blog post recently and I liked the sound of it so much that I immediately requested it on Net Galley! I’m so glad I did as it’s a really good read.

I was drawn into this novel very quickly – the opening lines are really gripping (see my Book Beginnings post for more about the first few lines) and it becomes impossible to just read a little bit of this book. The novel is narrated by Jill, who has no memory of the accident, which makes her very unreliable and I do love an unreliable narrator! I was curious about her from the start; she seemed like an ordinary, hard-working student who got caught up in a horrible accident through no fault of her own. As the novel progresses though a web begins to be woven and you find yourself  questioning things about Jill. Throughout the book there are snippets from social media and blogs, and transcripts from some of the police interviews, which really lead you to wonder how much Jill can be trusted – just as in real cases like this, we get swayed one way by one news report and then a different way entirely by another.

There are clear echoes in this novel of the murder of Meredith Kercher and the trial of Amanda Knox. In particular I could see how the author had taken the way the media presented that case and fictionalised it in this novel.

I think there are other novels about female friendship gone awry that are perhaps more deeply developed than this one but this is a real page turner – it’s a really enjoyable read and one that is very hard to put down. I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it.

I received With Malice from HotKey Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

With Malice is due to be published on 9th June in the UK.

Book Beginnings: With Malice by Eileen Cook

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

With Malice by Eileen Cook

With Malice by Eileen Cook

Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep

I’m not a morning person. Understatement. My hand couldn’t seem to muster the energy to turn off the alarm. It picked at the covers. The blanket felt wrong.

Scratchy. Thin.

This isn’t my bed.

I recently requested this book on NetGalley after reading a review that had me intrigued by it. I haven’t read the synopsis as I like the idea of reading novels without knowing too much about them in advance. I have to say that the opening lines of this novel have me wanting to read more immediately! This opening has a real sinister feel to it and it straight away feels like something bad has happened to the protagonist. There is also the possibility that the narrator has just crashed for the night somewhere and had momentarily forgotten so there is a lot of scope for what might happen next. I don’t think this book will be on my TBR for very much longer!

*Please note that this quote is taken from an ARC of the novel

What do you think of the opening? Does it make you want to read further?

Review: My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

Anna has had a miserable year. Everything feels wrong with her life. And rather than stay and face the mess, she steals a credit card and books herself a seat on the first flight out of town to Los Angeles, to crash with her sister. But soon after she lands, cold reality soon dawns on her: Hollywood isn’t the escape she needs. She is trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket.

When she’s offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a dubious film, she reluctantly accepts – she needs the money. But soon enough, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous . . .

This is not going to be the summer Anna had in mind. 

My Favourite Manson Girl is a chilling story about being young, lost and female. This is a story about how girls disappear.

Anna is a fifteen year old girl who is really struggling to deal with her family situation and so she stole $500 from her mum and got on a plane to LA to visit her older sister. She’s definitely at a point in life where she feels like an adult but doesn’t yet have any rights to do what she wants so she acts out. Her home life hasn’t been easy and once I got to know more about that I felt quite sorry for her – she is definitely someone who is lost and who needs someone to pay attention to her otherwise she may well go properly off the rails.

I have to be honest and say that some of the initial sections about Charles Manson felt like an information dump and I wish it had been better incorporated into the novel. Once I was passed this part though all the references to some of the Manson girls were better because they were written from the perspective of how Anna identified with them. The idea of a teenage girl being fascinated by the Manson girls and wondering how they ended up where they did was really interesting to me. I read my mum’s copy of Helter Skelter when I was 15 and it scared me so much, I still shiver when I think of that book, but the murder of Sharon Tate was the thing that particularly got to me. So Anna’s fixation with these girls and the murder of a movie star made some sense to me; I think I was far more horrified and much  less understanding of what they did than Anna but I could understand why she got so drawn into the lives of these women and how they ended up as murderers. It’s apparent that Anna can identify with how a couple to the girls were before they got involved with Manson,  which leads to a compulsion to learn more but also terrifies her to an even greater degree.

Anna doesn’t feel like she really fits in but she so badly wants to – it’s the age old struggle for teenagers. She makes silly choices and isn’t good at seeing the consequences of her actions but she’s not a bad person. Ultimately, she worries for her sister and tries to make sure that she is ok. The side story of Delia having a sort of stalker was interesting and fitted well with what Anna was learning about the Manson family. It seemed quite apparent to me why Delia wasn’t overly concerned about the stalker but I could see why Anna, paranoid from reading books on Charles Manson, was really worried that something sinister was going on.

I really liked Dex in this book, the way he took Anna under his wing and looked out for her a little. It felt like she really needed that from someone so it was good he was there over the summer. Roger was seriously weird, he was hard to get the measure of but I know that he gave me the creeps.

It was sweet that there is a small element of summer romance in this book too but it was very refreshing that it didn’t come to dominate the story. I think the romance, and who it was with, was the thing that showed that Anna grew up over the summer. I felt that she came to understand that nothing is forever and that she needs to make amends with some people on her life.

This was an interesting novel about the many ways in which girls can be lost. The Manson girls were lost in the most extreme way – drawn into a murderous cult that trapped them, whereas Anna was lost in the way that many of us were at that age – she wanted to be seen by the people around her but they were all so focused on their own lives that she felt she had to do something drastic in order to get attention. In reality, the adults in her life had a lot of problems and needed Anna to just be ok but the lack of proper communication and understanding led to her running away.

Los Angeles felt like a character in its own right in this book and I really enjoyed that aspect of the novel. There was a real sense of the heat and the claustrophobic world of celebrity, and wannabe celebrity. The feeling that once you put a foot wrong you’d be cast our forever, which Olivia was teetering on the brink of and desperate to cling on. There were points when it felt quite dream-like – as if the haze of smog and sun and heat  were so oppressive that it was as if the summer wasn’t real. I think Anna had a sense of this as she went through this summer, like it was almost as if she weren’t there either.

This novel wasn’t what I was expecting it to be – I thought it would be a darker novel but having said that it is aimed at a younger audience than me and so for its target market it is a dark read. It’s still a  good read for all ages though. I rated it 4 out of 5 and would recommend it.

My Favourite Manson Girl is due to be published on 7th June in the UK and can be pre-ordered now.

I received a copy of this book from Atom/Little Brown via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

 

Review: Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

First by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

Seventeen-year-old Mercedes Ayres has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy fulfills a specific criteria: he has to be a virgin. Mercedes lets the boys get their awkward fumbling first times over with, and all she asks in return is that they give their girlfriends the perfect first time-the kind Mercedes never had herself.

Keeping what goes on in her bedroom a secret has been easy – so far. Her mother isn’t home nearly enough to know about Mercedes’ extracurricular activities, and her uber-religious best friend, Angela, won’t even say the word “sex” until she gets married. But Mercedes doesn’t bank on Angela’s boyfriend finding out about her services and wanting a turn – or on Zach, who likes her for who she is instead of what she can do in bed.

When Mercedes’ perfect system falls apart, she has to find a way to salvage her own reputation -and figure out where her heart really belongs in the process. Funny, smart, and true-to-life, Laurie Elizabeth Flynn’s Firsts is a one-of-a-kind young adult novel about growing up.

I wasn’t sure what to make of this book initially as it does seem completely immoral that Mercedes is intentionally sleeping with other girls’ boyfriends. It soon becomes apparent that Mercedes has a lot of issues and has reasons for behaving in this way, and I began to wonder if something had happened in her life that had hurt her and that this plan is all about somehow making things right.

We soon find out that Mercedes’s dad left when she was younger, and her mother has since allowed her to do pretty much whatever she wants. She allows her to dress however she likes and she rarely home to keep an eye on her daughter. I think both females were damaged from the father leaving but this isn’t really explored in the novel and I wish it had been. It feels like Mercedes was a product of many things that happened in her life before she started having sex with lots of boys, not just one thing.

Mercedes has strict rules for her plan that she will only sleep with virgins, that it will only happen once, and it is only for boys who have a girlfriend that they are planning to sleep with. Mercedes is doing this so that the boys can make their first time with their girlfriend perfect and really special. She makes the boys promise that they will keep their time with her a secret and, of course all the boys agree but not all keep their promise.

As you can probably guess the lines around what Mercedes is doing end up getting blurred as she occasionally breaks her own rules and begins to feel confused about the rights and wrongs of what she is doing, especially as she is regularly sleeping with her good friend Zach, who is besotted with her, but she won’t date him. She doesn’t want him to get close to her. It’s at this point in the novel that I started to suspect that Mercedes may have had a bad experience with a man when she was younger and that this scheme of hers was to make sure no other girl had a bad first experience. It’s a twisted logic but for a mixed up teenage girl it’s possible to understand her reasoning. I ended up feeling really sad for her and was willing her on to work out her own issues so that she could move on in her life and leave the past behind her.

This was an interesting novel, it’s an idea that I’ve never read about before in YA fiction and I think it’s an important issue to explore. It’s horrible that a young female character who has issues around sex ends up letting herself be used by boys in an attempt to make herself feel better but having said that I’m sure this is true to life for a lot of people, and in the novel’s case it’s Mercedes’ way of trying to redeem the perceived wrong that she has committed years before so it makes sense within the story, sad though it is to read at times.

This is ultimately a novel about a lost, damaged teenager who struggles to let her guard down but really just wants to be liked. She is different things to different people but it’s all part of her wish to be accepted, and I think just about everyone will be able to identify with this. 

I’m sure most readers, myself included, will open this book having made a judgement on Mercedes’ behaviour but it takes a good writer and a good story to turn how the reader feels about a character right round. I soon felt concerned for Mercedes, and then just very sad and really hoped she would find a way to turn things around for herself.

This is a really good young adult novel that explores important issues in an unflinching way. I rated this 4 out of 5 and would recommend it. 

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Griffin via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Firsts is out now and available from all good bookshops.

Book Beginnings: This Raging Light by Estelle Laure (8th January)

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

This Raging Light by Estelle Laure

Wrenny and me, at least for now. Wren and Lucille. Lucille and Wren. I will do whatever I have to. No one will ever pull us apart. That means keeping things as normal as possible. Faking it. Because things couldn’t be further from.

Normal got gone with Dad.

I’m really looking forward to reading this book, it’s been on my TBR for a little while and is now top of the list. From the way the opening paragraph is written we can tell that this novel has a child narrator because the language is simplistic. The line of the second paragraph ‘Normal got gone with Dad’ says so much in such simple language. Lucille’s dad has obviously left them and it’s had a huge impact on this family. Lucille appears to be very young and yet has been able to understand that when her dad left life changed and what had been normal before was not how things were going to be from now on. I’m not sure if Wren is a sibling or a friend but it’s obvious that Lucille is desperate not to lose her.

I’m definitely intrigued to read more, I’m so glad this book is on my TBR in the next week so I can find out what happens to Lucille and her family.

Review: Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is the story of Clare and Aidan who have been dating throughout high school but they’re both about to leave for Universities at opposite ends of the country; Clare has decided that they should break up because long distance relationships don’t work. Aidan has just one night left to convince her that they should stay together.

I really enjoyed this novel. I liked that it was a little different from other contemporary young adult books in that it starts at the end and we get to hear the story though reminiscing; it added a different dimension to the characters. Clare has made a list of all the places in the local town where meaningful things have happened in their relationship and over the course of this last evening together they will visit them all one last time. As Clare and Aidan stop at each place on Clare’s list we get to see how they feel being there now and we get to hear about why each place means so much to them. I loved how sometimes they remember things a little differently, and how they discovered new things like when they’d each first noticed each other.

Clare and Aidan have made so much of this last night together that the underlying tension is very apparent. Inevitably, the stress of making this last evening perfect begins to take its toll and arguments happen and a secret gets revealed. It’s the way these things go in real life and as much as I was willing these two on to have a brilliant night full of happy memories, it was much more believable that the worries and upset about their future apart from each other would creep in.

I really felt for them because they weren’t breaking up because they’d fallen out of love, they’d both made the very adult decision to apply to colleges that were the best fit for what they wanted to do in the future and rather than choosing based on them being able to live near each other. I really appreciated this in the novel too, as so often in books things all work out neatly because the characters end up living near by.

I was really torn about how I wanted this novel to end. I was half-hoping they’d decide to stay together and make a go of it. In this day and age with texting and FaceTime etc they maybe could have at least tried but I understand Clare’s point of view that if they tried and failed they might end up not even being friends, whereas if they end on a good note now they could remain friends. I was also half-hoping that Clare would stand her ground and that they would make a clean break as she did have a good point and she so badly wanted Aidan to still be in her life, at least as a friend, rather than him ending up as no one to her.

I really wasn’t sure how this novel was going to end but Smith ended it perfectly, I’m not going to give any spoilers at all but the end was just right.

The title of this book is perfect, it really does sum up what the book is about and it’s very memorable too! I really enjoyed Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between, it’s a heart-felt novel with characters that are easy to connect with; the story pulls you straight in and holds you there right to the end!

I rate this book 4 out of 5.

Hello, Goodbye and Everything in Between is out now and available from Amazon.

I received this book from Headline via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Beginnings (13 November) | In Real Life by Jessica Love

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line, or few lines, of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning
In Real Life by Jessica Love

In Real Live by Jessica Love

My best friend and I have never met. We talk every day, on the phone or online, and he knows more about me than anyone. Like, deep into my soul. But we’re never actually seen each other in real life.

I’ve not read the blurb for this book and I’ve deliberately avoided reading anything about it online. I knew I’d love it when I saw the cover and now I’ve read these opening lines I know this book will be one I very much enjoy. From the opening lines you can straight away see how much she feels for her best friend, and how the best friend is possibly also a love interest. This person means the world to the narrator. I love that these two characters feel such a strong bond and yet have never met and I can’t wait to read further and find out how they know each other and whether they stay online friends or whether they will dare to meet up in real life (my strong suspicion is that they will!). I’m sure this book is going to be a gorgeous read!.

Cover reveal: The Revenge by Holly Martin

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00069]

Here is the gorgeous cover for The Revenge, the new book by Holly Martin. This is the third book in The Sentinel Series and here’s the blurb so you can see what happens next for Eve and her friends.

He was created to be her back up and now he’s out to take her place
After the Oraculum orders Eve’s execution, she has to flee her home in the fort as those that have been guarding over her are forced to turn against her. Amongst the chaos, a new Sentinel is named. Adam, Eve’s half-brother.

Adam has spent his life incarcerated by the Oraculum while Eve was allowed to grow up with a family and friends. Now he is hell bent on revenge. He rules over his Guardians and his new kingdom with arrogance and a cold heart, but his one ambition is to make Eve’s life a living hell. Nowhere is safe from him, not even her dreams.

With the threat from the Putarians moving closer, her own Guardians betraying her, the survival of the world hinges in the balance.

Above all else, Adam must be stopped. But when Eve has a prophecy of her and Adam saving the world together, she quickly realizes she needs to work with him not against him.

But can Eve get through to Adam before it’s too late? Or will Adam’s evil heart result in the destruction of all?

Praise for The Sentinel (Book 1 in The Sentinel Series)

It’s a book you HAVE to read, because it’s incredible. An outstanding book that has left me bereft its finished. I wished I’d savoured it for longer. This book was one of those that once you started it was impossible to come away from. It was fast paced, exciting, full of suspense and action that had me gasping in shock at twists I never imagined could happen. It’s a story of courage and adventure. And no matter how dark it gets, there’s always love and hope. – Victoria Loves Books Blog

It’s really hard to find the words to describe how amazing this book is.
This is definitely the best debut I’ve read this year! I just love this book, I want you all to read this book, in fact you all need to read this book! – Love of a Good Book Blog

If you want to pre-order this book so it pops straight onto your kindle on December 1st then pop over here. Its only 99p/99c

UK http://amzn.to/1GQcNOt

US http://amzn.to/1S7aAOX

And if you haven’t read the first two books in the series yet, then pop over here and get your copy, all three books are 99p/99c at the moment

The Sentinel

UK http://amzn.to/1giKNVp

US http://amzn.to/IKSOUk

The Prophecies

UK http://amzn.to/1DZ8ECN

US http://amzn.to/1khpDuY

Review: Wendy Darling by Colleen Oakes

wendy darling

I can never resist books that are in any way connected to Peter Pan, I’m just fascinated by Neverland and what it represents. So when I was offered the chance to review Wendy Darling, I couldn’t say yes fast enough!

Wendy Darling is a re-telling of Peter Pan told from 16 year old Wendy’s perspective. John is Mr Darling’s favourite child and Wendy feels desperate to be noticed by her father, she tries so hard to see the star that John can see so easily but she struggles and the disappointment she feels from her father is palpable.

Wendy spends as much time as she can visiting the local bookshop. She loves to read, but even more than that she loves to visit the bookseller’s son Booth. The two are growing closer but their romance seems to be doomed from the start as society dictates that Booth is just not an appropriate suitor so they meet in secret.

One night Mr and Mrs Darling go out for the evening and something very strange happens at the house. It is really quite sinister and leaves the children feeling very shaken, until Peter Pan appears at the window and takes them all off on an adventure.

I have to be honest and say I found some of the things that happened in Neverland a little long-winded and slow, I was initially more captivated by Wendy’s romance with Booth and was longing to see more of that, I didn’t want to be taken away from that storyline. Having said that, where the book keeps you hooked is with this much more overtly sinister version of Neverland. It was always possible to see the darkness in JM Barrie’s original story but it’s much more extreme in Oakes’ re-telling. Oakes takes the nightmarish elements to fantastic extremes and danger is everywhere, especially for Wendy. It’s about how nothing is as it seems, and the idealism of a perfect world is never going to be as you’d thought.

Peter Pan has always felt a little creepy to me but in this version he is sociopathic. He appears very loving and kind one minute and the next his personality becomes very menacing, and actually often downright evil. I loved that Wendy was older in this re-telling as it gives a whole new dynamic to her and Peter’s relationship. There is an undeniable sexual chemistry from the beginning of the book, Wendy is drawn to him and cannot stop herself from staring at him and wanting to be closer to him. Peter ultimately uses this against her though and there are a couple of scenes later in the book that are very shocking and disturbing. The contrast between the rather innocent kissing with Booth and the way that Peter Pan treats Wendy really highlights the way that Neverland represents the desires of a teenage girl and her inability to fully comprehend how dangerous the world can be for someone still so naive and innocent.

Wendy Darling is ultimately the story of an awakening, it’s about Wendy discovering her power as a young woman and how she can fight back against the things that imprison her. It’s about her discovering her longing to be a mother; the way Wendy takes to nurturing the lost boys is beautiful, she seems to have found her place with them and they adoringly look up to her wanting her to be their mother. I did very much appreciate how empowered Wendy is in this re-telling; she’s been taken from a character who is almost always portrayed as weak just because she’s just a girl to a young woman who can stand her ground, and who will speak up when she feels she needs to. It was fascinating to see the character of Wendy in this way.

I do have a real bugbear with this book though and that is that even when a book is a part of a series I strongly feel that each book in the series should have some sort of ending. I know they have to lead into the next book so you will want to buy it but this novel just stops and ends with the title of the next book. I have to be honest and say that this really irritated me and I’m not sure that I would read the next one because I would always be wondering if I was ever going to get an ending. I love open endings, I enjoy being left with lots to think about but to just stop dead at the end of a scene and announce the next book is actually infuriating.

There are aspects of this novel that are fascinating and compelling, but there are times when it falls a little flat and the lack of an ending is something I can’t ignore so I rate this novel 7 out of 10. I still highly recommend it, especially to people who are fascinated by Peter Pan, it’s a brilliant look at his character and it takes him to really sinister levels that always seem to be underlying his character in the original story.

I received this book from SparkPress in exchange for an honest review.

Wendy Darling is out now and available from Amazon.

Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

robin talley what we left behind

This novel begins so beautifully. I adore how Toni met Gretchen at the dance and how they just knew they were going to be together. I loved how it was purely about two people discovering a mutual attraction without the novel being too specific about what gender or sexual orientation they were. It was gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to read more!

However, from the point when Toni and Gretchen leave for University it felt like this novel became less of a journey of discovery for these two characters and became more of a platform to educate the reader on issues surrounding gender identity. Toni prefers to be referred to in a gender neutral way, so no he or she. The problem is that when a novel is written like this it is incredibly jarring to read; to have a person’s name repeated two or three times in a single sentence, and then repeatedly through entire paragraphs means it just doesn’t flow at all well and I found it brought me out of the story too much. I absolutely understand that Talley was putting the reader right into Toni’s place and getting us to see the world through this character’s eyes, it’s about making us see and understand how hard it is to be gender neutral and I commend the attempt, but it prevented me from getting into the book so it was problematic.

Toni very quickly becomes one dimensional. All the thoughts and conversations Toni has throughout the book just felt like like I was being lectured to, it was all very dry and there was very little emotion, which made it hard to see Toni as any more than a platform for awareness of gender identity issues. This really did feel like less of a novel and more of a statement being made. I don’t think we really learnt anything about Toni other than the gender identity struggles, and then the struggles seemed to be explained over and over again without any progression. I know the issues in this book are incredibly important but a novel still needs to maintain a level of entertainment and to evoke feelings in the reader, and the characters still need to be fleshed out otherwise it stops the reader making any kind of connection with the book. For me, it doesn’t matter what a character in a book is experiencing, it doesn’t have to be something I have any experience of but the character has to be three dimensional otherwise it just becomes words on a page; to get really engrossed in a novel the characters have to become real to a reader.

I did find more to connect with in Gretchen due to her character being a little more rounded. We see more of Gretchen relating to her new friends about a range of things, which gives her an added dimension that Toni’s character never really has. The beginning of the book when Toni and Gretchen first meet, and the point when they finally figure out their relationship are about the only times in the novel when there was a lot of emotion and feelings and therefore more depth to Toni’s character, which made Toni, just for that brief time, seem real. I really wish we’d seen much more of this emotional side of Toni throughout the rest of the novel, it would have made the character feel like a person rather than a mouthpiece through which a point could be made.

I can appreciate what the author was trying to do in this novel but for me it just doesn’t achieve what it seems it meant to achieve.

I received a copy of this book from Mira Ink via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

What We Left Behind is out now and available on Amazon.

Review: 13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

13 mins

Wow, what a stunning book! I finished this book a little while ago and just had to sit quietly for a while to catch my breath and gather my thoughts.

Tasha is pulled from the icy cold river; she has been dead for thirteen minutes. The medics manage to revive her but she is left with no memory of what happened, or how she ended up in the river. Her two best friends Hayley and Jenny rush to be by her side to support her, along with her childhood friend Becca.

This is a brilliantly constructed YA psychological thriller. Sarah Pinborough absolutely nails the tension, jealousy and rivalry that goes on between female friendships, and the added intensity within the cliques that teenage girls often form. The drama that unfolds between these girls is extreme but it stays rooted within the realm of possibliity: It is absolutely plausible that this could happen in reality and that’s what makes it so chilling to read. I found it near impossible to put this book down. The underlying hatred that lies underneath seemingly close relationships is tangible in this novel; it was such a tense read that at times I actually had to remind myself to breathe.

This is one of the best psychological thrillers I have read in a very long time. It builds and builds, constantly heightening the tension; there are twists and turns within the story that quite often seem small but some are building to something bigger and others are leading you in the wrong direction. You’re never quite sure who to trust, it’s a deeply unsettling read. Sarah Pinborough is a master of this type of book.

13 Minutes is an outstanding novel, one you absolutely shouldn’t miss! I can already say for sure that this will be in my top reads of this year, if not the very top. I cannot recommend it highly enough – go pre-order it now, you won’t regret it!

I rate this book 10 out of 10 – I’d give it 100 out of 10 if I could!

I received this book from Orion Publishing Group / Gollancz via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

13 minutes is due to be published on 18th February 2016 and is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

Book Beginnings (16 October)

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line, or few lines, of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.


My Book Beginning

how to be brave katherine

How to be Brave by E. Katherine Kottaras

This is what it was like:

I didn’t want you to come. I didn’t want you there.

The day before school, the very first year,

we waited in line for my schedule.

They stared. Those in line around us –

the other girls and their moms,

the ones who were my year,

who were never my friends – 

The saw how you were big, planetary, next to them.

Next to me.

The girl in pigtails, someone’s sister,

asked: Is there a baby inside?

Her mother, red now, whispered in her ear.

But the girl didn’t mind:

Oh, so she’s fat.

The other girls, the ones who were my year

who were never my friends – they laughed at you, quietly,

At me.

The novel opens with this poem and I think it really packs a punch. I love the use of ‘planetary’, it conjures up all sorts of images, which fits with how out of place this girl feels. It’s just so striking and memorable. It says so much in so few words, it’s great writing. I cannot wait to read more of this book!

Book Beginnings (9th October)

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Book beginnings is a meme set up by Rose City Reader. Every Friday post the first line of the book you’re reading along with your initial thoughts about the sentence, impressions of the book, or anything else the opener inspires. Then add a link to your post on Rose City Reader’s blog.

My Book Beginning

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

13 mins

Ophelia. She was young. No more than eighteen. Probably less. Her hair could be blonde or brown, it was hard to tell, soaked wet in the gloom. She was wearing white, bright against the dark river, almost an accent to the fresh snow that lay heavy on the ground. Her pale face, blue lips slightly parted, was turned up to the inky sky. She was snagged on twigs as if the bent branches, bare of leaves and broken by winter, had grasped to save her, to keep her afloat.

What an opening! This is the best opening to a novel that I’ve read in a really long time, I just want to keep reading right now! The short staccato sentences at the very beginning, and then the longer ones that are almost like a list are wonderfully intense and give so much information. I want to know who this girl is and how she got in the river. Did she drown? Was she murdered? Has there been a terrible accident? The description is so vivid, and I can’t stop thinking about the branches that appear to have tried to save her. How beautiful and how tragic at the same time. I cannot wait to read more of this book and I’m certain it’ll be one I read in one sitting.

Review: The Lies We Tell by Meg Carter

the lies we tell

I can never resist a new psychological thriller so this caught my eye immediately! The premise of the book is very intriguing; two teenage girls, Jude and Kat, become best friends as teenagers and then one day, on a school trip, something happens and Kat never saw Jude again. Until, that is, twenty years later when Jude suddenly gets in touch, and her reappearance coincides with a series of increasingly strange and unsettling things that start happening to Kat and the people closest to her.

This was a very good debut novel; it had quite a few twists and turns, and moments that were very unsettling and made me feel on edge, which all good thrillers should do. I did work out quite early on who was involved with the mystery in the  present day but I was left gobsmacked by one of the twists, which totally made up for me working out the other elements.

The parts of the story set when Kat and Jude were teenagers was the most unsettling part of the book for me. There was just a real sense of something sinister lurking beneath their friendship; the tension hanging between them was radiating off the page and making me feel like I couldn’t breathe at times. There is often an unspoken rivalry between teenage friendships and Meg Carter got this perfect and heightened it further. The scenes set on the heath were really creepy, and it was written in such a great way that I couldn’t work out what had happened that day or how it had led up to the present day. It was so good!

I rate this book 8 out of 10.

The Lies We Tell is out now and available from Amazon.

I received this book from Canelo via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Silence is Goldfish (sampler) by Annabel Pitcher

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I completely and utterly adored Annabel’s first novel, My Sister Lives on the Mantlepiece; it’s one of the few books that I have re-read as I loved it so much. I was very grateful to receive a sampler of Annabel’s third novel Silence is Goldfish as I’m eagerly awaiting publication day. It’s difficult to review a book after only reading three chapters of it but I can say that I’m definitely intrigued enough to want to buy the book as soon as it’s released, I can’t wait to read the rest of it!

Tess is a 15 year old girl who finds out that her dad is not quite who she thinks he is and this leads to her running away from home for exactly four hours and thirteen minutes. I’m already fascinated to know why a teenage girl would run away for such a short space of time in the middle of the day when no one would even realise she was missing. Yet while she was away she had visions of Missing Persons posters being put up all over the city. I’m also curious why Tess hasn’t asked her mum about what she discovered about her dad.

Tess seems to be a loner; she spends a school disco organising the chocolate for her teacher and then sits outside under a tree by herself until it’s over. She is described as being Pluto, which is the smallest planet, in fact so small not even considered a planet anymore, and this gives a great insight into how people view Tess, and how she feels about herself. We also learn that she is very overweight and conscious of the fact. It seems that Tess has a lot of things to contend with at the same time as she’s trying to find her place in the world. I now very much want to know more about Tess and her life.

All in all this three chapter sampler has left me very keen to read more and I can’t wait for Thursday!

Thanks to Hachette Children’s books on NetGalley for kindly sending me this sampler to review.

Silence is Goldfish is out on Thursday 1st October and is available for pre-order now on Amazon.

Review: Carefully Everywhere Descending by L. B. Bedford

Carefully Everywhere Descending

Audrey is a teenager from a poor family trying to make the best of her life by focusing on her education. She is very driven to get the best grades she possible can as she realises a scholarship to university is her best chance of changing her life. All is going to plan until Scarlett asks Audrey to tutor her.

The interesting thing for me in this book is that Audrey is a lesbian and it quickly becomes apparent that everyone in her life knows and is completely accepting of it. Now this is absolutely how it should be but in just about every other LGBT fiction I’ve read the main character’s homosexuality is what drives the plot. It was very refreshing to see here that it was referred to in exactly the same way as a teenage girl falling for a boy usually is.

Unfortunately, other aspects of the novel are not quite as compelling. The author repeatedly explains that Audrey’s family is poor; nothing ever happens to Audrey in this book without the author telling us yet again that she is very poor. It would have helped if there had been a bit more show, rather than tell to this aspect of the book but ultimately it feels like being banged over the head with it and it detracts from the story. I think that had this aspect of the book been just a little more subtle, if we had learned for ourselves as readers how disadvantaged Audrey was, it would have elicited a bit more sympathy rather than leaving the story a little flat and cardboard cut out-like.

I don’t want to give any spoilers but I’m really not sure what the final few chapters of the book add to the story. It didn’t enhance Audrey’s budding romance, it didn’t improve her family finances, or the way they operated as a family unit. It was just very odd.

Ultimately though, I have to absolutely applaud the author for writing a book where homosexuality is a complete normality. I’ve read quite a lot of LGBT fiction, especially YA, and there needs to be more books like this where a character’s sexuality is an aside and not the main plot for a novel. For all this novel is a little one-dimensional at times, and it does go off on a rather unnecessary tangent at the end, I would still highly recommend it to all readers who are keen to read LGBT fiction where homosexuality is not the main plot point and is really just another fact about character.

I rate this book 7 out of 10.

Carefully Everywhere Descending will be out on 1st October and is available to pre-order now from Amazon

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart by Jane St. Anthony

Isabelle Day

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart is the story of a young teenage girl whose world has been turned upside down. Isabelle’s dad died and then her mum decided they would move to Minneapolis for a new start, so Isabelle has not only lost her dad but also her home, her friends and the only life she had ever known.

Isabelle and her mum now rent a small apartment from two old ladies who live in the apartment downstairs. Flora and Dora immediately want to look after Isabelle and her mum. They start checking in on Isabelle when she’s on her own and they bring food for her. Isabelle just wants to be left alone though, she doesn’t want people fussing over her.

Isabelle is in eighth grade and at an age where she doesn’t want to be different from her peers, she just wants to make friends and feel normal. Once she starts her new school two girls, Margaret and Grace, befriend her but Isabelle has a hard time realising that these two girls really do like her.

Isabelle is desperately trying to find a way to hold on to her dad even though he has never been a part of the life she has now, he will never see their new home or meet her new friends and she’ll never again be able to tell him anything that happens to her. Isabelle’s pain is tangible at times.

This is a coming of age novel which is also about coming to terms with loss; it’s about how when someone dies you don’t just lose them but who you were to them. The writing in this novel is so subtle and beautiful, yet the small statements of grief feel like a punch in the gut. The simplicity of the writing belies the intensity of the grief. There are moments in this novel that took my breath away. Isabelle, who is only a young teenage girl, realising that nothing in her life will ever be as hard as finding her father dead; it’s such a powerful and sobering moment in the novel. The heartbreak that Flora and Dora have also gone through in their lives is first told so subtly that you could almost have missed it but when you realise what they are not saying, it just makes your heart ache.

Yet even though this is a novel about a bereaved girl, it’s in no way a depressing, downbeat novel. Isabelle is like any other teenage girl – she gets up to mischief and has fun with her friends. It’s a coming of age novel, it’s about how life can throw the worst things at you and yet you can still find yourself laughing at funny things and being silly with your friends. Isabelle slowly begins to understand that life moves on and while she still feels sad that her dad isn’t there, she realises that there is still a lot of happiness to be found in the world and that she won’t die of a broken heart.

This is a short novel but one to take your time reading, the subtly of the writing means so much of what is being said could easily be missed. This isn’t a fast-paced, action packed book, it’s a beautiful and moving account of one girl’s struggle to find a new normal. This book is for everyone but particularly good for a middle grade reader to help them understand grief and loss. It’s written in a way that doesn’t ever overwhelm, it’s a realistic but also very comforting read. It’s such a wonderful book though that whatever age you are, I highly recommend reading it.

I rate this book 10 out of 10.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review but I’m sure I’ll be buying my own copy of this in the future as I know I’ll want to re-read Isabelle’s story.

Isabelle Day Refuses to Die of a Broken Heart is out now and available from Amazon

Review: Somewhere in Between by Katie Li

somewhere

The blurb for this book states that it is inspired by works like Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, which is when I knew that I had to read this book as that is one of my favourite films. I’m fascinated by the idea of getting rid bad memories in order to move on with life, I’m not necessarily saying I think it’s a great idea but it does intrigue me.

Somewhere in Between is the story of an unlikely friendship between Magnolia and Rom. They meet at school and become friends of a sort, mainly because they are both a bit lost and feeling like they don’t quite fit in. She is a pseudo-punk and he is an underachiever gamer-geek. Together they find a portal to the in-between place. They enter and outside in the real world everything changes.

This is where the book becomes a little difficult to follow at first. It isn’t always clear exactly where the in-between place ends and reality begins. It is apparent that whenever Magnolia and Rom enter the secret portal it changes their reality in some way, but they seem unaware that this has happened and so they often appear confused about their own lives and surroundings. While in the in-between place they seem able to express themselves and share things about their lives and yet once they leave they just have very vague fuzzy memories of what happened in there. The fuzziness they experience regarding what happens in the in-between place made me think of when you have a great dream and then on waking you remember that it was great but find you can’t really remember what happened in it.

This is a surreal novel that is at its heart an exploration of the confusion felt around the in-between time in life when a person is no longer really a kid but not yet an adult. It seemed to me that Magnolia’s obsession for building up a collection of lost things means that maybe she has always been metaphorically (and perhaps literally too) between worlds and Rom is one more lost thing that she finds and wants to keep. It seems like if she could just hold on to something or someone then maybe she could be grounded and things would stay the same. There is so much in this book that is easily missed and you only see it afterwards, which makes the book itself feel like an in-between place of sorts!

I rate this book 9 out of 10 stars and highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys books that make them think, where you have to read slowly and ponder what is on the page.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This book is out now on Amazon

Review: Sophie Someone by Hayley Long

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I was really looking forward to reading this novel as I’ve loved the author’s previous books, so I bought this without ever reading a blurb and I’m really glad I did.

It meant my first feeling on reading the book was one of confusion as Sophie has an unusual way of telling her story, but it enhanced my enjoyment that I had no idea why she was doing this.

I’m much older than the target market for this book but it didn’t stop me finding it wonderful.

A 8/10 star read.

Review: Remix by Non Pratt

Version 2

I loved this book so much. It’s a very accurate portrayal of how the friendships between teenage girls are.

It’s a long time since I was 15/16 but I remember the flirting with boys, the trying to be more than your best friend was, the horrible arguments you had that felt like the end of the world. It’s all in this book and it takes you right back to that time.

Non Pratt really captured the way that at 16 you are in that middle ground between childhood and adulthood – how you’re capable and legally allowed to do so many things but the emotional ability to cope with those situations isn’t always there yet. At no point does Non Pratt talk down to the teenagers this book is aimed at, I’m sure many teenagers would love this book and see themselves in it.

I loved Kaz and Ruby, but my favourite character was Owen and I wish we’d seen more of him. He just seemed like a really cool, nice, laid back guy.

The characters felt authentic, they were real and I miss them already now I’ve finished reading the book.

I already can’t wait for the next Non Pratt novel!

9/10 stars