Saturday, 7 April 2018

Review of 'Between the Lies' by Cathy Macphail

Review of 'Between the Lies' by Cathy Macphail

It's been a bit of a 'long time no see' situation on here recently hasn't it? I've got a whole stack of books I've read all sitting waiting for me to write about, so hopefully this month will be a little less of a ghost town.

When I first picked up Between the Lies by Cathy Macphail I completely didn't realise that I'd actually read a book by the same author almost a decade ago. Did anyone else read Roxy's Baby as a teen?? Cathy's back with a brand new release in 2018 and it's fab.

I always get so put off by books with massive text, because it makes me think that they're for younger teens and that there's not that much plot. But, despite the font size, this was such a dark YA thriller filled with so many twists in the plot. I read most of it in one sitting because I was absolutely hooked.

Abbie, the main character, has no friends at school, and at home her dad's always off working on some campaign or another. She feels completely alone. And then Judith, one of the most popular girls in her year, goes missing. Who's the one person she texts? Abbie. The girls confided in one another in the school toilets a few days before Judith went missing, but no one else knows that, and can't understand why Abbie's the one being contacted. 

As Abbie launches her own campaign to bring Judith home, it begins to be clear that there's more to the story that meets the eye. What really is going on between Abbie and Judith? And what will happen when Judith returns and everyone forgets about Abbie again?

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Sunday, 18 March 2018

Review of 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood

Review of 'The Handmaid's Tale' by Margaret Atwood

Let's kick start this by saying that this is the best/scariest/most profound book I've read in a LONG time. I mean, I always thought I'd like Margaret Atwood's work, but I never thought I'd find it this life altering. The Handmaid's Tale has made me think twice about everything I do. I feel like even more of an eco-warrior than I ever have been, and I'm absolutely petrified about the harm we're causing to our world, and to each other. 

The Handmaid's Tale is set in a dystopian future. In this world, all the plastic that we've dumped into the ocean has reduced the fertility of humans so much that the population is seriously declining (FYI, the whole plastic reducing fertility thing is something that's actually starting to happen). Modern consumerist society has been erased and replaced by a world filled with rations and re-using everything as much as we can. 

It's a world where everyone has their proper place in society, and people are ranked. Our narrator is a handmaid. She wears red and is effectively brought up to become a surrogate mother for an important man and his ageing wife. When handmaids stop being fertile, they go to the place everyone fears: the colonies. Here, women are forced to clear up nuclear waste, effectively signing their own death warrant.

As the novel progresses, the narrator is put in a series of very difficult situations, and there are so many twists and turns and heart racing moments for the reader. I found this book so moving because the handmaiden's personality absolutely shines through. Atwood doesn't let you forget that she's a person behind the status she's been given. She had a life before her world changed into this dystopia and she has desires and emotions just like us.

I want to read so much more from this author now, as this book was incredibly powerful. I would definitely recommend it if you want to read a (fairly) modern feminist novel.

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Saturday, 3 March 2018

Review of 'Burntface: Scarred for Life' by Annette Swann

Review of 'Burntface: Scarred for Life' by Annette Swann

I think we all know that this isn't the kind of book I usually go for, but, it's good to step out of your comfort zone and try something new really, isn't it? When Annette reached out to me on Instagram and asked if I'd like to give her book a go I went for it.

Burntface is an autobiographical novel all about Annette's experiences as a child who became a burn victim. This is something I really don't, or didn't, know anything about. Autobiographies just aren't my thing, but I found the first half of this genuinely interesting, and a bit educational.

Through Annette I discovered a lot more of the science behind the kind of recovery a burns victim can have, statistics about burns victims and a myriad of ways that accidents can happen. 

I really did enjoy the first half of the book, and would recommend reading it for that, but the second half just tailed off for me. It became a little judgemental about the way that the younger (i.e. my) generation live our lives, and to be honest, I wasn't there for it. I felt like the second half was a bit of a chance for the author to reminisce over her adolescence, rather than a chance to write a book with real plot. As I've said before, I don't read many autobiographies (if any really), so I'm not sure if it's just the style of that genre that doesn't interest me, but towards the end I really was waiting for the book to finish.

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Sunday, 25 February 2018

Review of 'Eleanor and Park' by Rainbow Rowell

Review of 'Eleanor and Park' by Rainbow Rowell

I'm *almost* caught up on my book reviews now, which is basically a miracle. I'm only a couple behind now and hopefully they'll be up soon! I'm so ready for my Goodreads target to actually show where I really am.

I read Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell a few months ago and it felt like a complete breath of fresh air for me, but it wasn't until I read Eleanor and Park that I realised why. Rowell's protagonists are the characters that would be the best friend or the sister or the acquaintance of the main character in another book. Her main characters aren't stereotypically beautiful, or popular, or super clever, or all of the above. They're the people that get overlooked in life, and in literature.

Eleanor is a chubby ginger girl whose family are utterly poor. She shares a bedroom with all of her siblings, she wears second hand clothes and if anything gets broken it has to be fixed. When she starts going to a new school she very soon becomes the target of bullies. With an abusive stepdad at home and these girls making her life a misery at school, there's not much for Eleanor to look forward to.

... That is until she meets Park. Park's someone that the bullies leave alone (it may or may not have something to do with his incredible martial arts skills). He's scared that talking to Eleanor on the bus will make him the bullies' new target, but he's intrigued by her. 

Could Park help Eleanor see the light in her life? Or is he going to look down on her like everyone else does ...

I loved this young adult novel: the main characters were different to the ones that always seem to crop up in other books, and it made this such an interesting read.


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Thursday, 22 February 2018

Review of 'The House of Special Purpose' by John Boyne

Review of 'The House of Special Purpose' by John Boyne

Historical fiction is my literary guilty pleasure. It's something that I always associate with older people reading, but I love it. John Boyne is the author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and whilst I loved reading that, I honestly had no idea that he wrote adult fiction too. This is a book club read for the little club at work, and I'm so glad I joined it, because otherwise I never would have picked this up.

The House of Special Purpose is set during a period of history that I don't really know much about at all. It focuses on the infamous last Romanov family, and the deadly corruption spread through Russia by Rasputin. 

The story is told in parts that span decades. Georgy is an elderly Russian emigre living with his dying wife Zoya. Amidst caring for her in these tender moments, he tells the story of his youth. He was brought to Tsar Nicolas Romanov's winter palace in St Petersburg to act as a friendly bodyguard to his son.

Georgy thinks things are on the up for him, as he's taken out of his peasant town, but things in the palace are harder than he ever anticipated. With the stern Tsarina constantly looking over his shoulder, and political troubles making thinks tense throughout Russia, the family is on edge.

This tells the story of what *might* have happened to the Romanov family. It's a story of hope and fear and love and war and now I want to read everything else John Boyne has ever written.


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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Re-reading 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'

Re-reading 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows'

Can we all just take a moment to appreciate the absolute high sass levels of Mrs Weasley here? Honestly I think this is my favourite line of the entire series, and the fact that she says it to Satan's spawn aka Bellatrix, just makes it 100 times better.

You know what this post means - my journey through re-reading the Harry Potter series has come to an end. And I'm kind of gutted. Turning the last page of this book was like saying goodbye to an old friend that you won't be seeing again for a long time. I'm not sure if this will be the last time I'll read the series, but it'll definitely be a few years until I do so again. 

This last book is just absolute perfection. I adore it. It ties up every last plot thread, and still leaves you wanting more and more, which I think is exactly what you want from the last part of a good series.

The main thing I'd forgotten is how iffy you start to feel about Dumbledore. I've rewatched the films recently, and this negative side to him really doesn't come across that well. There's his relationship with Hitler-esque Grindelwald, his possible killing of his sister, and the fact that he really did protect Harry so that he could die at the right time. I'd love to see how he's portrayed in the new films coming out, but I honestly won't be going to see them. I can't agree with Rowling's happiness to cast Johnny Depp, or the fact that despite Dumbledore being apparently gay, they're not going to include that in any of this new area of the franchise. Speaking of Dumbeldore's sexuality, now that I've re-read the whole series, I can safely say that you really can't pick up on any hints regarding his sexuality. Nothing. It all seems a little convenient to say that it wasn't explicitly written in, and it won't be shown in a film but it's definitely there. I'd rather no LGBT representation than this fake one.

Anyhow, I'm so sad to have finally finished the series. I've not loved anything this much since ... well probably since I read it last time. Please send me on good book series' to read now because oh my god I need to fill this void.

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Thursday, 15 February 2018

Review of 'Remember This When You're Sad' by Maggy van Eijk

Review of 'Remember This When You're Sad' by Maggy van Eijk

I'm not really a big non-fiction reader at all. They just don't appeal to me. But, I have thumbed through a few mental health books in my time, and to be honest, I've found them all a bit useless. They've told me what to do to live a happier life, rather than exploring different issues you may have etc. This book is different, gloriously different.

Remember This When You're Sad is one of those books where I was torn between devouring it because it was fab, and wanting to read it super slowly so that it lasted forever. It was just so good. I really wanted to keep it to myself to read over and over again, but knew it was something I had to share by passing to a friend. I've taken a whole load of photos of different pages to help me out in tough times instead of clinging onto it.

The book progresses through different areas of the body. We have the skin, where the author talks about self harm, the gut, where she discusses issues around body image, etc etc. Finally we move onto the scariest thing of all: the outside world. One of the reasons why I love this is that the book isn't about one thing that can negatively impact your mental health. It covers trauma, including sexual trauma, anxiety, depression, BPD, eating disorders, self harm, and a myriad of issues these things can cause. 

If I'm honest with myself, one of the reasons why I rarely read non-fiction books is that I find them intimidating. They're draining to read as your mind tries to absorb all of the facts and info found in them. Remember This When You're Sad took that away for me. It's filled with little sketches, lists and personal anecdotes to break up the intensity of the book, which is exactly what I need.

I would definitely recommend this book if you want to read a good mental health book. It's the best one of its kind that I've ever read!

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