Drowning in conclusions // Into the Water Review

It had always been my intention to read any future novels Paula Hawkins wrote since I had enjoyed The Girl on the Train, so I was pleasantly surprised when I was reminded that her second book, Into the Water, had been released, and I downloaded it onto my iPad almost instantly. I read her first offering to the thriller world on a whim, and it seemed like I would go about reading her next work in the same way, but with a little more optimism.

This story centres around a drowning pool, which has claimed the lives of many women over the centuries, all with a common air of mystery and illusion. Although the beginning of the story appeared to be more confusing than mysterious with an unclear plot, everything fell into place thanks to the organised structure of the characters.

As I read more, I was hooked. The plot sucked me in and like the majority of the books I read while in Costa Rica, I read this in very little time. There was originality, and although a style of writing could be detected you could definitely identify it as a stand alone novel, and in no way a book that is linked to it’s predecessor.

However, the ending didn’t meet my expectations, and in a similar way to The Girl on the Train, it just jolted to a stop. Then when I thought it was over, some more plot almost leaked through, and then it finally concluded in the most long winded way possible.

It was evidently a thriller, and therefore it didn’t need an epilogue where we found out everything about the future of the characters. I love thrillers that end with as much mystery as they started with, although with more of a sense of closure. Endings are great, but long winded conclusions are a bother. Especially in a novel that is meant to keep you on edge throughout.

Overall, I enjoyed it, despite the ending letting it down a little. I now have another gazillion hours of this car journey to go, which is cool.

Shaken and Stirred // Watching Edie Review

I’m really not sure what I just read.

I’m currently sat in the car on the way back from a holiday in Scotland, three hours in to what looks like a ten hour journey. Settled amongst the many Ikea bags with my headphones in and Spotify blasting loud enough to drown out the radio, I started and finished reading Watching Edie, by Camilla Way.

So here we have two best friends who went through more than the average friends do during the heart of their teenage years thanks to boys, hard drugs, distant cold hearted parents and psychological issues. A friendship formed so impulsively was ruptured beyond repair, and Edie escapes to start fresh.

After giving birth to her baby she discovers that the girl that no longer means anything to her is still watching. She is still waiting. She recoils into nothing thanks to post natal depression and the anxiety of her past chasing after her, and Heather returns into her life with the same burst that Edie did all those years ago.

What seems like just a clingy friend turns into obsession, and later possession. Edie rebuilds her life and seeks solace in new friends, and Heather tries to cling onto the friendship that is so frayed by the trauma they left behind in the town they grew up in.

However, it was the twist at the end that impressed me. I was shaken to the core, aware that something so life-changing had happened at the climax of their schooldays due to it being teased throughout the book, but it was darker than I expected. Darker than anyone would have expected.

I don’t want to give anything away because I think this is a book that deserves to be read.

It is not a book to be taken lightly.

How Power must equate to violence // The Power Review

I finished reading The Power last night, and oh my sweet lord riding a bike into the sunset this was a R I D E.  A good ride, and a ride I would recommend to a friend, but nonetheless a wild one.

This book, by Naomi Alderman, a woman who teaches in the university my best friend attends, explores a world in which women suddenly develop a genetic mutation which gives them the power to control electricity. This suddenly gives them the ability to overpower men, after centuries of patriarchy and specific gender roles. What starts off as a confusing novelty escalates into war and destruction, and in this story we follow several protagonists as they try and navigate their way through this new world.

These characters give us very diverse perspectives of this situation the world is suddenly thrusted into. There is the religious aspect of it, as Allie discovers the healing process and the community it can provide. There are also opportunities to exploit it, as Tunde dedicates his life to recording what will be a dramatic historical era. Furthermore, there is the aspect of power, of course, as Roxy develops an unstoppable strength and learns how to enhance this new power further. Finally, there’s the political side to it, as Margot attempts to being together a shattered society in a world that is being divided by gender in a way that no one has ever seen. What makes me sad is that any new power always seems to lead to violence in the end.

What I found interesting was my reaction. What shocked me upon reflection was the fact that when the women became sadistic, prejudiced and downright barbaric towards men (in ways that makes me shudder to describe), it made me very uncomfortable. The shocking thing is if this was inverted I would be nowhere near as surprised. Attacks against women are nowhere near as shocking anymore, and I’m sure I’m not the only one who reads yet another rape story on twitter with a sigh, rather than a gasp. This should not become second nature, this should not become commonplace. In women or men. Neither universe, this fictional one or our reality, is right. In an ideal world, RESPECT WOULD BE COMMONPLACE.

What gives a man the right to have power over a woman because he is physically stronger? What gives a woman the right to have power over a man just because she can? Regardless of gender, if one is violated in this way they become a victim, regardless of gender. There should be no loopholes, or exceptions, or excuses. People cannot assume they can dominate or control another person without their consent. Sure, we live in a world where people are unlikely to develop supernatural powers (or if we can, hover-boards should be a thing- like the sort I used to read in ‘futuristic’ books as a kid in the 00s), but if anyone thinks they have the power to manipulate another person, then they need to take a long hard look at themselves.

This book made me realise a lot of things. This, along with a gripping and intriguing plot, makes me want to recommend it to anyone with an eye for a dystopian thriller who is looking for something a little more eye opening.

Viva la revolución… again // Glass Sword Review

What is it with young adult novels and the need for a full on revolution?

Aaaaaaages ago I got around to reading the sequel to Red Queen, a novel which I loved, which is called Glass Sword. This book continues to follow the story of Mare, a teenager who doesn’t fit into society due to being brought up in a Red family of poverty whilst possessing magical powers that were originally only seen in the other class, the Silvers.

I loved the book, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for a cheeky bit of romance and magic and all the wonders that young adult books continue to provide. However, I couldn’t help but compare this sequel to the sequel of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. So many young adult books have a revolution against the class system that is causing more issues than the more “perfect” parts of the society don’t want to admit. There always seems to be a corrupted government/ruler, and I suppose that could be seen as a good thing because it will make young people more aware of the political world that they can actively participate in once they’ve hit the age of 18, but the repetitive ideas takes away the poignancy of it.

Another thing that I always see in YA novels is the romance. More specifically: love triangles. Sure, it gives fans the chance to make their own interpretations based on who they prefer the protagonist to be with, but there’s always an obvious lover and then a long term best friend who will never fit into the mould (Although I was always team Gale in The Hunger Games to be honest). I believe it was poignant enough that Kilorn in this series was her best friend through everything, and his role was important and it didn’t need to be tarnished by feelings for her. On the other hand, THANK GOODNESS, it did not overshadow the overall plot.

It’s full of development, it’s progressive but leaves room for a climactic final novel, and Victoria Aveyard seems to set out to prove that Mare can’t do everything, and the powerful ending emphasises this.

Overall: I still very much enjoy this series, I’m planning on reading the third book soon, and although the repetition of ideas across young adult novels is frustrating, I haven’t been put off the genre just yet.

More broken than usual, but we’ll roll with it // Alicia Review

Naturally, because I haven’t had the chance to read lately, I’ve been sitting around this weekend doing nothing but read. Fuelled with caffeine and alcohol, I finally finished Alicia yesterday, a novel written by a friend of a university pal: D J Baldock.

This book is no normal superhero novel, and it’s also not set in a normal dystopian universe. Alicia, the eponymous protagonist, is a rogue and powerful woman who is hell-bent on revenge against the man who has forced her into a life of ruin and destruction. She meets a squeaky-clean superhero (Violet) who turns out to be her opposite with her own share of darkness. However, the wrath that follows extends beyond her personal vendettas and she must team up with fellow superheroes who are also fighting against this series of allegedly “coincidental” events, but of course, there’s more to it than just that. Somehow, he successfully combines powerful young women fresh out of their teen years with a perilous society without making it cliché, which is a feat that very much impressed me after reading many a predictable storyline over the years.

However, despite the whole young guns against the world thing going on, there is a dark side to this plot that makes it much more adult, and the very distinct lack of sugar-coating makes it refreshing (which completely juxtaposes the vibe of the story but I’m sure you’d know what I mean). Another thing to note is the language. As someone who has expanded their vocabulary through books, the complexity of the words used adds a flair to what could be just an ordinary sci-fi novel. Although it does seem like the author has swallowed a thesaurus, it’s nice to see some more sophisticated language for a change.

Another cool aspect is the realism. Every character is flawed to the point that you wouldn’t instantly gravitate to Alicia, Violet, Bethany, or any of the other characters, superhero or untempered (a rogue human with supernatural powers). Alicia is repeatedly described as broken to the point where you could lose faith in her, but she proves to be vital, and no one is safe from the whims of the author’s pen- although not to the extent of George R. R. Martin.

This book is underrated, and is available on Amazon, so if you’re looking for a superhero sci-fi novel with a bit more brutality and some unconventional twists, you’re welcome. 

Link to the paperback and kindle: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Alicia-Ascendant-Untempered-D-Baldock/dp/0993323707/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1491773629&sr=1-1&keywords=9780993323706

PS: This is the first of a series! I’m actually excited to read the next novel despite avoiding book series for a while due to life getting in the way. I need to stop rambling in the postscript- it must be time for a beer.

Darker than an angsty teen’s soul // Beside Myself Review

The exams are over, but the assignments are not, so my reading time is still very limited (Although I bet if my parents ever read this blog they’d be raising their eyebrows right now).

In the land of fewer assignments and more free time, I read Beside Myself, which was one of my more spontaneously chosen reads. The concept was intriguing, I’m drawn to a hardback and it’s discounted on Wordery right now which is always a win. I knew the plot wouldn’t be full of sunshine and roses, but the darkness almost seeped through the pages, and it stuck with me.

So here’s the thing. Helen and Ellie are twins. Like most duos, there is a leader and a follower, and they fit in these roles respectively. Until one day, aged 5, they pretend to swap as they are identical, which of course dooms Helen, who is now demoted to the sidekick role. Not only does Ellie refuse to switch back, but it results in a downward spiral of mental illness and trauma for Helen who slowly loses her identity as Ellie quite literally takes over her life. Not being a twin, I cannot relate obviously, but as harrowing as it was for me I cannot imagine how traumatising it would be if a twin was reading this.

You can’t help but feel frustrated and on edge throughout as the world seems to repeatedly turn its back on her. Her sister thrives and flourishes thanks to her upgraded identity and continues to shove Helen into the shadows, However, one of the most important factors that defends Ellie’s actions are in the prologue. In this introduction, we see that Helen pushes Ellie around, and some may suggest that she is bullying her. This could indicate why the roles get reversed so literally later on, however you can’t deny the horror of the consequences and how easy it is to just give up completely. Anne Morgan writes with such poignant accuracy resulting in even non-twins feeling shaken by the plot, and that’s why I liked it.

If you’ve got a spare fiver then thrill yourself a little, it’ll be worth it.

Hitting Home // It’s Kind of a Funny Story Review

Happy World Book Day! Apparently it’s the 20th year, meaning it began a few months after i was born, so thank you parents for that excellent timing??

ANYWAY, I read It’s Kind of a Funny Story a while ago, thanks to my friend, and it’s taken me a while to actually write this review, along with countless others, because I live off a healthy diet of naps and stress.

This book follows the story of a guy who checks himself into a mental health hospital after cracking under the pressure of school. According to a report from last year, 90% of headteachers have reported an increase in mental health problems in schools, and this book highlights this terrifying statistic. More than half of all adults with mental health problems were diagnosed in childhood.

What still sticks in my mind about this story, months later, is the fact that it hit home. Not because it was dramatic, or extreme, but because of how perfectly plausible it is. How his situation could be mirrored in any of our lives.

His family are supportive. His home isn’t broken. He is a bright, creative person. He had friends. He had the potential to be happy.

However, anyone has the potential to be sad too, and that’s what people don’t notice. That is what the author described so beautifully and humorously in this book. Things change, attitudes change, and sometimes the littlest incidents can trigger a lifetime of struggle, at least until you get the help you need.

What is also interesting are the reactions of his friends, old and new. As I mentioned in a blog post around this time last year, in real life your friends won’t be attached to your side like lapdogs, because, surprisingly, they have their own issues to deal with too.

What makes me happy is that it leaves us with hope. That it’s okay to go through something and move on from it.

The author of this novel committed suicide in 2013, but that doesn’t mean we all have to when we are faced with darkness.

Some things you can’t unread // Disclaimer review

****Trigger warning: rape, and me rambling about it from an outsider’s perspective****

This another one of those “my friend gave me this book ages ago and I’ve only just got around to reading it” origin stories. My TBR list has piled high and returning home for a well needed detox and unwind was the perfect excuse to tackle it. 

I knew this book was a thriller, so I knew it may not be the lighthearted read I probably should have chosen to help me relax while I was away from university. What I didn’t know was that I was about to read one of the darkest scenes I have ever laid my eyes upon, and that the concept of the novel inside a novel that I read in the blurb would take such a dark turn.

I do believe that to an extent, many of us are desensitised to things that we should be able to sympathise with. Thanks to shows like Game of Thrones and horror films being more accessible to younger people, we can be unfazed by the horrors in the world because we’re lucky enough to be sheltered from the terrifying real life situations that are going on (although it seems these days that no one is safe).

This isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that we turn a blind eye to the suffering in the world just because of where you are in the world, your religion or your gender, among many more reasons to divide us rather than unite us. Disclaimer has its twists and turns like any thriller, and this leads me to one of the most climactic scenes I have ever read.

This book follows the tale of a woman who discovers a novel that appears to follow her own life, to the point where one of her darkest secrets is uncovered. Unfortunately for her, it is twisted to the point where everything is turned against her, and just when you think she is going to put herself out of her misery we discover the truth. The truth being that she was raped. 

Sadly this isn’t new to me in novels either, and it’s important to address the fact that it can happen in many different circumstances. Why? Lord knows. To this day I have no idea what could possess a person to think it’s a good idea to violate someone in such a manner. This wasn’t just a quick one page pointer to add to the plot. This scene was dragged on, truly making us readers try and feel what was going on, feel how her son was threatened and she was forced to sacrifice her dignity and any modesty she had. It was graphic, detailed and truly harrowing. It is definitely the thing that stands out most in this novel. That people do things like this in real life, and get away with it. 

It isn’t just a thing that happens, or an unfortunate situation. Surely it would scar you. Surely it would leave you with a permanent sense of anxiety around people for good. I remember years ago watching a video about a girl who carried around the mattress she was raped on around campus to represent the burden she would now carry for life and it’s not a rare case.

The world makes me sad sometimes, and books serve to emphasise how brutal humans can be. This book is truly a thrilling read, and it will cut you to the bone.

A Contradicting Opinion // On the Other Side Review

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

A very belated Happy New Year to you all! I hope you’re all still powering through. Apparently today is Blue Monday. I’m wearing blue, but I feel like I missed the point there.

With a new year, comes a new reading challenge! After the hectic attempt of reading 80 books while juggling this university shebang and the rather surprising success, I’ve decided to tone it down a lot, but hopefully it will still keep me reading! (If you’re nosy I’ve updated my tab, how is that for organisation)

Speaking of, last month I finally got around to reading Carrie Hope Fletcher’s On the Other Side, and after enjoying her first book All I Know Now (based on her blog of the same name) I felt optimistic about her first dive into writing fiction.

Honestly, overall, I was satisfied. It was an original concept and it was executed well, and there was diversity there that is only now being explored in other books without being part of the plot. She explores homosexuality and bisexuality with ease, however I don’t believe there is a need to point it out so obviously, but then that may be because I believe that you love who you love, regardless of gender. It was also a very quick and easy read, and very simple to digest as a plot despite the fact that it very emotive and it is evidently designed to tug on your heartstrings.

However, I doubt I am not the first person to point out that this relationship has many similarities with her relationship with Pete Bucknall. As a fan of her youtube videos and work in the theatre I couldn’t help but notice similarities in her book, even if it wasn’t intentional. Furthermore, especially in the beginning there were many references to the fandom which at first were quite cute but ended up being quite cheesy, but that just might be me and my cold heart.

Going back to the uniqueness, Carrie uses magical realism which is a theme that is rarely used in books these days (but quite a lot in novels worldwide as I have discovered in my degree), however as an avid fan of Once Upon a Time I feel like the climactic act in the novel was remarkably similar to that, which made it lose the affect slightly.

Overall, a fun read, although I’m not sure if I was in the demographic and if it’s more suited to younger readers. Sometimes I forget I’m not a teenager anymore, I’m getting more hangovers now, it’s terrible, take me back.

I look forward to reading any future novels she may decide to write in between acting jobs!

 

Screaming Young Adult // Dreaming the Bear Review

Signed books are always cool. I recently received a signed copy of Dreaming the Bear for my birthday and although I’m still struggling to find the balance between young adult and more adult novels, I did enjoy this book.

This book in particular screams young adult. The main character is your typical relatable teen to an extent, but due to a respiratory illness is very weak and confined in some ways both mentally and physically, until she accidentally stumbles across an injured bear- with whom she finds refuge and comfort. After this incident they share a bond and a connection which brings with it many obstacles and difficulties in a National Park prejudiced against these bears due to their violence.

It’s an original concept for a young adult novel. Although friendship is tackled in many books for teenagers it was interesting to explore the relationship between us and animals, especially when there are more complications due to the language barrier and any prejudices others have. Although it was mainly family orientated, of course it wouldn’t be complete without a love interest, and it was inevitable that something would happen between our stereotypically female protagonist and this mysterious yet somehow reserved boy, who was a friend of her older brother.

For me, the novel seemed to be paced in bursts until the climax. For the most part it was quite cliché, apart from the original concept and her illness, and the illness gave us an easy way to sympathise with her and excuse her for her bad attitude. Sometimes things fell into place too easily: for example she always seemed to have money and food for the bear and themselves during the storm.

However, we can’t ignore the startling climax. It suddenly gets very real and we are almost sent crashing back down to earth as our beloved problematic-yet-loveable protagonist is faced with the consequences of her actions, resulting in her having to kill the bear she worked so hard to care for. I would be lying if I said I was expecting it, and although it was quite heart wrenching to read it was almost refreshing to see her learn from her mistakes, even though she obviously meant well. It seemed like she got away with a lot during the story and I’m glad us readers could extract a moral from it: that actions have consequences, and you have to face up to them.

Overall: an enjoyable concept, definitely for teenagers, and a very lighthearted easy read.

PS: I’m 3 books behind schedule on my reading challenge. I have 5 books left to read before the end of the year. Help.