HOME             ABOUT             REVIEWS             BOOK LISTS             CONTACT             LINKS


Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Book Review: Since You've Been Gone

Author: Morgan Matson

Release date: 5th May 2015
Genre: Contemporary YA Fiction, Romance, Realism
Target audience: YA 12+
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

Since You’ve Been Gone is a funny, moving and engaging story of friendship, first love and finding yourself. It was so enjoyable. I didn’t want it to end.

Emily’s best friend Sloane disappears at the beginning of the summer break with no explanation. She doesn’t answer her calls or emails. Emily feels utterly alone. They had all these exciting plans and now Emily has no one to have an adventure with. Emily and Sloane are inseparable. But with Sloane gone and no way of contacting her Emily must find a way to survive the holiday. A couple of weeks into the summer break, a list arrives in the mail, which can only have been sent by Sloane. Emily decides that doing all the things on the list will somehow bring Sloane back to her. So despite her shyness and introverted personality, she begins to tackle the things on the list: riding a horse, stealing something, kissing a stranger. It’s a challenge but it just might make this summer something to remember...

One of the things that I liked about this book was that Emily’s character felt really believable. The self-conscious feelings she experiences before speaking is something that I think will be familiar to teen readers. I loved that this story was in part her journey into being brave enough to leap before thinking about all the consequences. It was about seizing the moment but not about encouraging recklessness. Emily is still sensible and practical and I liked that.

I liked that she had these impressions of her classmates and that she learnt to see beyond what they portrayed at school. Frank Porter is a romantic hero. Collins is a sensitive soul which he hides behind his loud mouth. Emily’s relationship with Sloane was also really interesting to follow. We learn some from Emily’s reminiscences and some from flashbacks to the months before Sloane disappears.

This book made me laugh. It made me want to turn page after page. It’s the perfect teen summer read. It’s about enjoying the days ahead, finding your voice in a crowded room and taking a leap of faith. Another great novel from Morgan Matson. The best one yet! Read it for the romance and fall in love with the friendship.

If you enjoyed Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, you'll enjoy this!

Source: Bought and read on my Kobo

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Book Review: Night Owls

Author: Jenn Bennett

Release date: 24th September 2015
Genre: Modern, Contemporary, Realism, Romance
Target audience: YA 13+
Publisher: Simon and Schuster


Night Owls is a sweet, romantic read that will make your heart soar! I love this book. I could read it again and again. But don’t let my overly romantic tendencies fool you; the themes of this book are serious – mental illness, family breakdown, trust and acceptance – the meaning runs deep.

Beatrix wants to wants to be an anatomical illustrator, someone who creates images for textbooks. She has a plan to enter a competition to help her fund her college tuition. But in order to do that, she needs experience of illustrating human organs. She wants to draw cadavers at the local hospital but her mum doesn’t approve. At the beginning of the novel, she meets a mysterious boy on the night bus. His name is Jack and he has his own troubles. He’s potentially a wanted criminal but Beatrix can’t stop thinking about him.

This book is so well written that you feel every emotion of these two characters falling in love. You feel the thrill of the first meeting, the anticipation of waiting to see if they’ll meet again and the triumph of when they do. It’s really charming. Jack is not simply a rogue. He has a complicated life and is trying to keep up appearances for his family. His friends also seem troubled. Beatrix is determined and passionate about her art but her world is about to get more complicated by Jack and the return of her estranged father.

One of themes of this book is mental illness and how we treat those who experience these conditions. I really feel it’s important that as a society we talk more and learn more about mental illness. It will affect all of us in different ways. According to the charity Mind, one in four people will experience a mental health issue each year. In relation to this novel and the mental health condition of Schizophrenia, Mind explains that anywhere from one to three out of every 100 people may have a diagnosis for the condition. The statistics are vague because different measures are used in different surveys. You can read more facts about mental health on the Mind website.

This book is out is September and if you love a good, can’t-put-it-down-til-it-ends romance, then this is the book for you. It’s adorable (but meaty too). I am officially a fan.

Source: Review copy. Thank you S&S!

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Book Review: Summertime

Author: Vanessa Lafaye

Release date: 7th May 2015
Genre: Modern
Target audience: Adult fiction
Publisher: Orion

Summertime is a story of love, segregation, family relationships, and the reality for soldiers during the Great Depression.

Missy is a housekeeper and nanny for the Kincaid family who live in Heron Key, Florida. In the height of summer the weather is hot and humid. Henry, a First World War veteran, along with his comrades, takes the only employment opportunity offered to them on a public works project. The conditions are abysmal, and the men who are likely traumatised from their wartime service, are not welcomed with open arms by the locals. Tension is high at the Independence Day celebration on the beach. As locals gather to watch the fireworks, the sparks fly!

This story also follows the town’s doctor, police officer, the local store owner. The list goes on. I really wanted to love this book. On this face of it, many of the themes are issues that matter to me: civil rights and justice for all. But the style of the writing in this novel just didn’t set my world on fire. There were so many characters that meant in the beginning it was difficult to remember who they are were. Their voices weren’t distinct enough so in the third person roving narrative, I was lost at times.

Their predicament was something that should move you to tears. The veterans, abandoned by the government, were left to the mercy of the worst ever hurricane to strike North America.

The love story between Henry and Missy should have kept my attention. I’m a hopeless romantic after all. But I just didn’t feel the emotion leaping of the page.

Perhaps the style of writing was just not for me. This is entirely possible. There are lots of quotes in the book from readers who did feel a connection to the story. But I think that this book tried to tell too many stories. The author wanted to tell the story of the veterans and how the government failed them. (It says so in an author’s note). I think this would have been a much more powerful novel if she had focused on that and not all the other characters that inhabited the small town of Heron Key. It would be a different book but all the more powerful for it.

I found this review really hard to write. I guess it is a case of not every book is for every reader. 

Source: Purchased from WH Smith

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Book Review: The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ

Author: Philip Pullman

Release date: 2011
Genre: Modern, Myth and Creation
Target audience: Adult
Publisher: Canongate

The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ is a twist on the story of Jesus the man and Christ the Redeemer. It’s a complex tale but told with the easy narrative of a traditional tale.

I certainly found this book easy to read. The narrative voice is clear and enticing. It almost invites you to sit by the fireside and listen. Perhaps it is inevitable that this story, which is known so well to the reader, reads like putting on a comfy jumper. And yet, the book may be easy to read but it is difficult to understand. At times I felt confused. I didn’t know which character to trust.

In Pullman’s retelling, Jesus and Christ are twin brothers. Both are flawed, as all humans are. They both believe in the coming of the Kingdom of God but it is in the method of preparation that their views differ. Beyond that, I don’t want to say much more because you already know this story and any twist I reveal would spoil the retelling for you. Every time we tell a story from memory a little detail changes in the retelling. If it is a witnessed event, everyone will remember it a bit differently. I think in part this is a theme of the novel. Sometimes we see what we want to see. Sometimes we change something for dramatic effect.

Although I did find the subject matter interesting and at times even mysterious, there are some passages which are excessively long. They tended to be Jesus speaking or giving a sermon with very little interruption. I’ll be honest here and say that in those parts I was a bit bored.

I know this book caused considerable controversy when it was first published. I think it’s a challenging subject matter to novelise and reinvent in an age where race, religion, ethnicity and belief are sensitive topics which shape identities and communities but can also be entirely misrepresented and misunderstood. I think having the courage to explore this story is to be commended. I wouldn’t call myself religious but religion (from a sociological point of view) fascinates me.

This book won’t be for everyone. But if you enjoy thinking and looking at the world from different viewpoints, it is a rewarding read. I have never read anything like it before.

Source: Gift