Review: The Hate U Give

April 6, 2017 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, YA

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Walker on 6th April 2017
Genres: Contemporary, YA
Format: Paperback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

There are times when I am just at a complete loss for words upon finishing a book (handy for a book blogger, I’m sure you’ll agree). This is one of those times.

The Hate U Give has been out in the US for a month or so now and everything I’d been hearing from readers over there is this book is a “must-read”. Could it really live up to this hype? The simple answer is YES!

In truth, there is no way that I can do this book justice, but I will try to share some of my thoughts with you.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is such an incredibly important novel. It deals with racism, police brutality and life in the inner city. It also brings strong messages of love, family and community.

It’s an emotional read – knowing that this is based on reality, that these events actually happen makes the emotion all the deeper.

The characters in this book are incredible and so well written. Starr is an immediately likable character whom we root for from the get go. I loved her family and their relationship, I found it was particularly refreshing for a YA novel.

Even the peripheral characters in this story are memorable. Thomas has a way of writing that makes you feel like you’re in there with her characters, not just on the outside looking in.

This is a hugely relevant novel, that not only tells a story but educates the reader. It’s a unique book written by someone who truly knows what she’s talking about – an #ownvoices author, of which we need many more.

This book will tug at your heart, fill you with anger, make you sob with sadness and yet it’ll also make you laugh. It’ll open your eyes, make you really see the world and make you look upon the reporting of crimes in a new light.

It’s a book that will stay with you forever and I urge you ALL (young and old alike) to read it.

five-stars

Review: The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

April 4, 2017 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Thriller

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Twelve Lives of Samuel HawleyThe Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley by Hannah Tinti
Published by Tinder Press on 6th April 2017
Genres: Contemporary, thriller
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-half-stars

After years spent living on the run, Samuel Hawley moves with his teenage daughter Loo to Olympus, Massachusetts. There, in his late wife's hometown, Hawley finds work as a fisherman, while Loo struggles to fit in at school and grows curious about her mother's mysterious death. Haunting them both are twelve scars Hawley carries on his body, from twelve bullets in his criminal past - a past that eventually spills over into his daughter's present, until together they must face a reckoning yet to come. Both a coming of age novel and a literary thriller, THE TWELVE LIVES OF SAMUEL HAWLEY explores what it means to be a hero, and the price we pay to protect the people we love most.

Told through alternating chapters, past and present, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley slowly uncovers the tale of Samuel Hawley’s life.

Hawley has a daughter, Loo, whom he is raising alone following the death of his wife. Hawley and Loo have constantly been on the move, never living in one place for very long. When they decide to buy a house in Olympus, Loo has to adjust to this new way of life – a new school, a new home and more possessions than she could bundle up into her suitcase.

We follow Loo through present time as she lives this new life with her father. Loo’s is a coming of age tale, getting older and wondering what a mother’s kiss feels like, starting to question who her father is and noticing the way people question the many scars on his body.

Each of Hawley’s gunshot scars tells a tale. In between our present-day chapters with Loo, we learn how Hawley acquired each scar, thus slowly revealing to us Hawley’s history, and piece-by-piece building his story.

I really enjoyed this novel. I loved the way the story unfolded through this unique storytelling style – the history of Hawley’s scar forming the perfect flashback chapters.

Mixed with the innocence of Loo’s childhood we have violence. I mean, if you don’t like to read about violence, then be warned. Yet it’s not all blood and guns, there’s the story of love, loss, grief. There’s the relationship between a father and his daughter, the tale of a father’s protection and a teenage girl trying to find her way in the world.

I have to say that I really loved Hawley. It’s a weird situation – am I meant to like this guy? But I challenge you not to!

This story is brutal in places, heart-wrenching in others. It’s incredibly well written and the characters of Hawley and Loo make for the perfect balance. It’s one of those books where I’m sad to have to leave these characters behind.

four-half-stars

Review: This Is How It Always Is

February 24, 2017 in Book Reviews, Contemporary

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: This Is How It Always IsThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Published by Headline on 9th February 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
five-stars

Rosie and Penn always wanted a daughter. Four sons later, they decide to try one last time - and their beautiful little boy Claude is born. Life continues happily for this big, loving family until the day when Claude says that, when he grows up, he wants to be a girl.

As far as Rosie and Penn are concerned, bright, funny and wonderful Claude can be whoever he or she wants. But as problems begin at school and in the community, the family faces a seemingly impossible dilemma: should Claude change, or should they and Claude try to change the world?

This is Claude. He’s five years old, the youngest of five brothers, and, he loves peanut butter sandwiches.

He also loves wearing a dress, growing his hair long, and dreams of being a princess.

Rosie and Penn have four boys when they decide to try, one last time, for a girl. Claude arrives and they continue their hectic lives with a houseful of boys. However, it seems Claude really just wants to be a girl.

This is a beautiful, witty, hopeful yet sometimes heartbreaking story of a family who want the best for all of their children. A family who shoulder a secret so that their youngest member can be happy. Sadly, many secrets don’t say that way and not everyone is so accepting of the family’s choices.

This is a stunning, special novel full of wisdom, love and kindness. It educates but doesn’t lecture. It grabs a hold of your heart from the first page and doesn’t let go.

Frankel does an excellent job of inserting us into the family of seven. We feel that we know each one of her characters, and that’s no small thing.

One thing I loved about this book is that Penn is a writer who tells his children an ongoing fairytale bedtime story that has been progressed every night for their whole lives. Through this tale he weaves important messages for his children – messages that we as readers also need to hear!

This is a tale of unconditional love, parental decisions, childhood innocence, sibling relationships and handling the world outside of the safety of your own four walls.

It’s beautiful, important, relevant and thoughtful. I highly recommend reading it!

five-stars

Review: All We Shall Know

September 15, 2016 in Book Reviews, Contemporary

Review: All We Shall KnowAll We Shall Know by Donal Ryan
Published by Doubleday on 15th September 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: Competition Prize
Goodreads
four-half-stars

‘Martin Toppy is the son of a famous Traveller and the father of my unborn child. He’s seventeen, I'm thirty-three. I was his teacher. I’d have killed myself by now if I was brave enough. I don’t think it would hurt the baby. His little heart would stop with mine. He wouldn't feel himself leaving one world of darkness for another, his spirit untangling itself from me.’

Melody's husband takes the news badly, and she finds herself alone and in trouble. She’s trying to stay in the moment, but the future is looming – larger by the day – while the past won’t let her go.

It’s a good thing that she meets Mary when she does. Mary is a young Traveller woman, and knows more about Melody than she lets on. And she might just save Melody’s life.

Melody Shee is 33 when she finds herself pregnant. The father of her unborn child is not her husband, but the son of a famous Traveller whom she has been tutoring.

Her husband leaves and Melody finds herself alone, contemplating taking her own life. It’s just the thought of her father that keeps her going; she couldn’t do that to him.

When Melody makes an acquaintance with Mary, a young Traveller with issues of her own, the two form an unlikely friendship.

Until now, I’d not ready any of Donal Ryan’s work. However his was a name that I kept happening across again and again – now I can see why.

Despite being relatively short, this beautifully written book packs a punch. It takes the lives of several broken, emotional and lonely individuals and collides them in a cauldron of hope.

It’s a testament to Ryan’s writing that he can convey, from a female perspective, the devastation of a barren womb, the heartbreak of miscarriage and the emotions of a pregnant woman.

He also explores the process of ageing, the disintegration of a marriage, the relationship between a tutor and student, the culture of Travellers, the suicide of a loved one and the scrutiny of living in a small town. All of this carefully entwined in 186 pages!

I particularly liked the format of the book – chapters which correlate to the weeks of Melanie’s pregnancy. Not only does it makes for nice short chapters; it also cleverly captures the passing of time in the story.

I’m in awe at Ryan’s ability to compact so many carefully addressed issues into such a short, beautifully written and extremely readable novel. It may be the first Donal Ryan book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

four-half-stars

Review: Everything I Don’t Remember

September 3, 2016 in Book Reviews, Contemporary, Translated Literature

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Everything I Don’t RememberEverything I Don't Remember by Rachel Willson-Broyles (Translator)
Published by Scribner UK on 2nd June 2016
Genres: European Literature, Contemporary, Mystery
Format: Hardback
Source: Publisher
Goodreads
four-stars

A young man called Samuel dies, but was it an accident or suicide? An unnamed writer with an agenda of his own sets out to piece together Samuel's story. Through conversations with friends, relatives and neighbours, a portrait emerges: the loving grandchild, the reluctant bureaucrat, the loyal friend, the contrived poser. The young man who would do anything for his girlfriend Laide and share everything with his friend Vandad. Until Vandad, marginalised and broke, desperate to get closer to Samuel, drives a wedge between the friends, and Samuel loses them both.

Everything I Don't Remember is an enthralling tale of love and memory. It is also the story of a writer who, in filling out the contours of Samuel's life, is trying to grasp a universal truth - in the end, how do we account for the substance of a life?

A young man, Samuel, is killed in a car crash. But was it an accident or was it suicide? An anonymous author decides to uncover the truth.

Everything I Don’t Remember is written as transcripts from the author’s interviews with Samuel’s family and friends.

At no point does our interviewer tell us who is talking. He jumps from person to person as he relays their memories of Samuel.  Despite this format, it’s actually easy to follow once you become accustomed to it.

This is a work of translated fiction. It’s been translated from Swedish, and is done very well. It’s a very timely novel, relevant to society across Europe right now.

Our anonymous author focusses his interviews on Samuel’s friend Panther, his best friend Vandad and his ex-girlfirend Laide, all in the effort of trying to uncover what happened that April afternoon.

So we jump back and forth between the memories and perspectives of the interviewees. But whose version of events is most accurate? Is Vandad, who tells of his solid relationship with his best friend, actually the free rider that Laide says he is? Are Laide’s memories of life with Samuel accurate or is Vandad’s darker image of her more true?

Basically as we read these accounts we aren’t sure who to trust. Does the truth lie in some kind of middle ground?

I enjoyed the way we jump from character to character without explanation. We go back and forth in time and place. It might sound confusing but it’s actually easy to follow once you get going.

Samuel’s grandmother suffers from dementia and we are repeatedly told of Samuel’s own poor memory. To me, it feels like the broken, jumping narrative echoes the confusion of this condition.

I should also say that this novel is predominately set in Sweden. It has been translated from Swedish, and honestly I’d never have known it was translated; it’s done so well.

While uncovering Samuel’s story, this novel also looks at immigration. Many of the characters we encounter are second generation immigrants. We also see the plight of immigrants in Sweden and the battles they face, through Samuel’s work for the Migration Board and Laide’s profession as a translator. This feels so relevant right now. It’s not a situation apposite to Sweden; it’s an issue that is currently being encountered throughout Europe. I appreciate how this issue is weaved into the story. It adds a different dimension to the novel and encaptures Sweden’s political past and present.

All in all I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I loved our unreliable narrators in the form of our interviewees. I loved trying to uncover who Samuel was, from a distance. It’s an interesting way to discover a character, looking from the outside in.

The only thing I would say about this novel is that there is a lack of closure. We are presented with evidence (however flawed it may be) and have to come to our own conclusion.

The uncertainty of the ‘evidence’, the issues of memory loss, dementia, immigration, identity and life experience all make for a fantastic read. I definitely recommend it.

four-stars