A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

GENRE: Fantasy | PAGES: 400

My rating: ★★★

A Darker Shade of Magic has such a promising and intriguing premise. Parallel magical versions of the city of London? A mysterious magician of sorts who can walk between these worlds? Sign me up!

I went into this book expecting nothing but the highest form of original storytelling and while, to an extent, that is what I got, I couldn’t help feeling just a little disappointed.

A Darker Shade of Magic is, without a doubt, creative and original, but there was something about the story itself that, for me, lagged in more than a few places. While the concept of it is compelling, I found myself trudging through passages, waiting for everything to begin. Don’t misunderstand me—it is a very well-written book, but a lot of what we learn, particularly in the first half of the novel, feels like backstory. So much of it felt like a history lesson rather than a direct link to the characters in that present time and because of this, it lacked tension and suspense.

That said, once these stones of history have been laid, the magic of the story finally filters through. We finally get to see real connections between the characters—and those characters are well-drawn. I love Kell’s sense of family-oriented duty along with that undercurrent of curiosity and longing for who and what he really is. I love Lila’s strength and the subtle but defining change she undergoes as she aids him. But Holland is by far the most intriguing character for me. His complexity and grey morality make him the most interesting character in the book and I hope (can almost predict) that there’s more of him to come in future books.

The many mysterious details of the world are beguiling, rivalling the likes of the Harry Potter world, albeit on a smaller scale. And the distinctive feeling conjured up within each separate London is brilliantly executed, as is the description of magic.

Still, I just couldn’t fully connect with the book. While I enjoyed it and can appreciate certain elements, there was something about it that kept me removed from the story despite wanting the opposite. Perhaps book two and three will resonate with me a little better, having already set up the worlds in which Kell lives in book one.

Here’s hoping.

 

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a darker shade of magic

 

Kell is one of the last Antari—magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel Londons; Red, Grey, White, and, once upon a time, Black. Kell was raised in Arnes—Red London—and officially serves the Maresh Empire as an ambassador, traveling between the frequent bloody regime changes in White London and the court of George III in the dullest of Londons, the one without any magic left to see. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand. After an exchange goes awry, Kell escapes to Grey London and runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure. Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

GENRE: YA CONTEMPORARY | PAGES: 320

My rating: ★★★★★

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

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.’

This book swept me up in a wave of intrigue and compassion. Flora Banks is one of the best female characters I’ve read in a while—a powerhouse of inner strength. She just doesn’t remember who she is and what she’s capable of.

I loved Flora’s voice and felt an immediate connection with her from page one. The narrative is chilling—crafted with an alternating pace and clarity depending on Flora’s state of mind. At times it is fluent, teeming with such life that Flora’s spirit and tenacity radiate off the page. Other times, it is purposefully convoluted, repetitive—like actually stepping into the sweeping confusion of a seventeen-year-old amnesiac’s mind.

The repetition does not detract from the story; quite the opposite, in fact. It enhances it in that every subtle word change becomes a clue in the puzzle of Flora’s world. Because that’s what it is: an enigma that propels you from chapter to chapter, neither knowing nor trusting the words even as the story unfurls before you.

Flora’s unique personality, the Cornish and Arctic settings, the story as a whole—they are all refreshingly original and compelling. Add to that the cleverly crafted unreliable narrator and you have yourself an absolute must-read.

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  the one memory of flora banks

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life. With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

As a reader, I enjoy multiple genres of books, and picking a favourite is, for me, not just impossible but criminal. Having said that, there are a few that stand out. These books are the ones I nose-dived my way through; they hooked me at first word and had that can’t-eat can’t-sleep effect. There’s also one other thing they all have in common: the storytelling is fearless. 

Here are my Top 3 Fearless Books

Fearless Books

Forbidden

“You can close your eyes to the things you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.”

 

If ever there’s even such a thing as ‘fearless books’ outside of my reading bubble, this is one that would make the cut with its hands tied behind its back. I will rave about this story until I’m senile or dead. Never have I read a story that compelled me as much as this did to turn a blind eye to the norms of society. The author took a taboo subject—incest—and spun it on its head, with characters so real and relatable that I could do nothing BUT root for them, even though on a basic level I knew I shouldn’t have. The story has never left me, and I dare you to read it and let it haunt you too.

Full review of Forbidden

Fearless Books

The Tied Man

“The summer I met Lilith Bresson, I had begun to die. Not physically, you understand. I had never been that lucky. But each day a little more of my soul disappeared.”

 

I read this one only recently, and it is by far one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever come across. That’s not to say it isn’t good. The writing is brilliant; the fast-paced action, dry (dark) humour, and the isolated setting really lend themselves to the atmosphere of the book. The real fearless quality though is in the characters and the extent of horror of the events. Never have I read something which made me cringe as much as this book did, yet I couldn’t have put it down if you’d paid me to.

Full review of The Tied Man

Fearless Books

The Bell Jar

“I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.”

 

A fairly modern classic, The Bell Jar is well-known and well-loved, and one of my all-time favourites. I can relate to so much of Sylvia Plath’s work and her only novel is no exception. The subject centres around the protagonist’s fledging writing career, and her struggle with mental illness (loosely based on Sylvia Plath’s own life). The style of writing is poetic (not for everyone) and Plath demonstrates that remarkable and elusive skill of taking a bleak and morbid situation, and transforming it into compelling prose. This, to me, is as fearless as it gets.

Full review of The Bell Jar

So, fellow bookworms, what would you consider your favourite fearless books? Which of them has a permanent haunt spot in your life? Tell me in the comments.

Eve: The Awakening (Eve, #1) by Jenna Moreci

GENRE: FANTASY, PARANORMAL | PAGES: 547

My rating: ★★★★

Eve: The Awakening is the debut novel from Jenna Moreci, and it is a HELL of a debut. The story follows the titular Eve, an advanced subspecies of humans named after the Greek chimeras. Eve has grown up an orphan after the cataclysmic death of her parents, sparking both her gift of telekinesis and the beginning of a lifelong battle to survive. Since the age of eight, she has braved her way through infamy, ridicule, bullying, and death threats, all whilst learning to control her gift, and dealing with the hardships of being an outcast—and then, just as she thinks she’s found a way to lead a normal life, in step a bazillion freaking aliens: Interlopers. Slimy, toothy, winged, giant-ass aliens all of whom are hell-bent on turning the human race against Eve and her kind, and then doing the world the ‘grand favour’ of eliminating chimeras in the goriest possible way.

And this, is the joy-ride that is Eve: The Awakening.

The writing is superbly paced; it gallops through the story, high on adrenaline, crafting scenes of heart-pounding tension and unimaginable gore. If though, you think this is the only thing it has going for it, you’re terribly wrong—the book is laced with humour, upbeat drama, chemistry, and ultimately—the gem of every great book—it is littered with countless moments of raw emotion (no, I’m not crying—there’s something in my eye). The characters are well-rounded, and fully developed, each so very individual, and I won’t attempt to sum them up here, as I cannot do them justice, but the ensemble of personalities and quirks are brilliant, and Eve, the protagonist, is as complex as they come. Through her, the book touches on broader themes such as discrimination and oppression, adding yet another layer of depth to the story.

I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish; the book has a compelling beginning, and though it slows in early chapters as we’re discovering Eve’s world, it isn’t long before we’re hurtling through the story again at chimera speed.

The only downside, as far as I can see, is that book two of this dynamic (see what I did there?) series isn’t yet available.

This is honestly the best book I’ve read since Jeaniene Frost‘s Night Huntress series (Halfway to the Grave), and I’d urge anyone to check out EVE, even if (like me) you’re not a hard-core fan of the sci-fi genre. EVE easily straddles several genres at once, and as well as being entertaining, moving, and all-around excellent writing, I’d recommend this regardless, if only to introduce you to the fabulous-ness that is Percy! Best. Character. Ever.

Seriously—read it. 

 

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Eve: The Awakening

 

Eve is an outcast. A chimera.
After years of abuse and rejection, 19-year-old Evelyn Kingston is ready for a fresh start in a new city, where no one knows her name. The esteemed Billington University in sunny Southern California seems like the perfect place to reinvent herself—to live the life of an ordinary human.

But things at Billington aren’t as they seem. In a school filled with prodigies, socialites, and the leaders of tomorrow, Eve finds that the complex social hierarchy makes passing as a human much harder than she had anticipated. Even worse, Billington is harboring a secret of its own: Interlopers have infiltrated the university, and their sinister plans are targeted at chimeras—like Eve.

Instantly, Eve’s new life takes a drastic turn. In a time filled with chaos, is the world focusing on the wrong enemy? And when the situation at Billington shifts from hostile to dangerous, will Eve remain in the shadows, or rise up and fight?

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey

GENRE: FANTASY, PARANORMAL, SUSPENSE | PAGES: 

My rating: ★★★★

Dystopian thriller. Zombie apocalypse. Sounds familiar? Yes, I suppose it does. It’s been done, over and over, and I’ve usually steered happily and carefully in the other direction. The Girl with All the Gifts, however, is not one of those books. It is a dystopian thriller, and there are hungry flesh-eating, zonked-out crazies, but then, there’s also Melanie.

Melanie has a unique take on the world in which she lives – her daily life consists of being forcibly strapped to a wheelchair, and manoeuvred between a bare cell and a classroom filled with kids ‘like her’, where she learns Maths and English, and hears of the stories of the past, including Britain’s past: the world as we know it. The country has broken down, fallen into ruin, and Melanie believes that she is one of the lucky few being kept safe inside her ‘home’; safe from the ‘hungries’ outside the base fences.

MILD SPOILER AHEAD…

What she doesn’t know is just how similar she is to the very creatures the fences keep out. She is Test Subject Number One in a desperate last-resorts research program to save the human race, and the world Melanie dreams of beyond those fences are so much farther from her reach than she realises. Despite intentions of those around her, Melanie breaks free and learns, little by little, who and what she is, eventually surpassing the expectations of all who would have her condemned. Her Pandora-like unleashing of ‘gifts’ onto the world is, at its least, a brave and carefully-calculated move to prolong life, and at most, poetic justice for the innocent.

This fresh, new angle on zombies is wonderfully written. Not only does this book open up a closed door into the other side of zombie fiction, but it explores the concepts of a developing child and her bond with those around her. The type of restraint Melanie displays in the face of her most basic, animalistic instinct is usually only ever depicted in tales of true love of the romantic kind; here, the nurturing and unconditional bond shared between Melanie and her teacher, Helen, is akin to that of a mother and child, and it is refreshingly original in this sense.

Overall, if you want to dip your toes into zombie-infested waters, don’t hesitate to try this one: it is thrilling and horrifying, and emotionally heart-wrenching all at once, and best of all, it shouldn’t give you too many nightmares. 

 

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 The Girl with All the Gifts

 

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr. Caldwell calls her “our little genius.”

Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant Parks keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don’t like her. She jokes that she won’t bite, but they don’t laugh.

Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children’s cells. She tells her favorite teacher all the things she’ll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn’t know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

The Girl with All the Gifts is a sensational thriller, perfect for fans of Stephen King, Justin Cronin, and Neil Gaiman.

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson

GENRE: FANTASY, PARANORMAL, ROMANCE, YA | PAGES: 410

My rating: ★★★★

Ultraviolet — beautiful, and poetic, weaves the story of a girl with the phenomenal gift of synesthesia. The writing crackles across the pages and the senses–like sherbet, like fireworks; an emotional explosion of the every-day as we’ve never seen it. Yet, everything Alison encounters with her unique sensory system is so expertly translated onto the page, that her ‘super-power’ becomes relatable. I am in awe of the delicious detail, and the originality, and never have I been more surprised at the direction a book takes. This genre-straddling twist is effortless, quite spell-binding in fact, and I’m certain that no review anywhere could do this book justice without spoiling the ending.

This genre-straddling twist is effortless, quite spell-binding in fact, and I’m certain that no review anywhere could do this book justice without spoiling the ending.

 

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 Ultraviolet

 

Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story.

Unless you count the part where I killed her.

Sixteen-year-old Alison has been sectioned in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found, and Alison’s condition is proving difficult to diagnose. Alison herself can’t explain what happened: one minute she was fighting with Tori — the next she disintegrated. Into nothing. But that’s impossible. Right?

Flawed by Kate Avelynn

GENRE: Dark, YA | PAGES: 336

My rating: ★★★★

Dark and disturbing—two words I’d associate with Flawed

Two more words: compelling… captivating.

Whether I’m drawn to this kind of story because of who I am, or whether it is the story itself that pulls me in is, quite frankly, entirely beside the point.

I loved this book. Love seems so wrong a word, given the content of the novel, but there it is: I love it. I ate the words off the page like a rabid animal and I make no apologies for it.

This book, like Tabitha Suzuma’s Forbidden deals with neglect, abuse, and— #OMG —incest.

If the idea of reading about that touchy topic doesn’t make you run for the hills, and you begin the story like the brave reader-adventurer you are, you are already halfway to the point of awe that I’m at, because from the get-go, Sarah, the protagonist, demands to be heard.

Her voice is strong. Even though her situation renders her weak, her inner strength makes you care for her and connect with her.

James, her brother, becomes a hero the moment he sacrifices himself to his father’s violence to save her; and then he saves her again, and again, and again.

It didn’t matter that I already knew what he would morph into; I was so caught up in the tragic events under their unhappy roof, that their pact, their bond—of safety, protection, unity, and love—was seriously all that mattered.

Like Forbidden, when it reached the point of no return, even though you KNOW there is no such thing as a grey area in this, you (or rather, I) find the behaviour… reasonable.

Yes, I damn well said it. Reasonable!

Faced with paternal abuse, neglect, and violence, an abused and otherwise absent mother, a sheltered, fragile, terrifying existence… it doesn’t seem terribly difficult to believe that the lines of love between the two people who find solace and comfort in one another, would begin to blur.

What makes Flawed so much darker however, is that unlike Forbidden, the lines have blurred only on one side—James’.

**Possible Spoilers Ahead**

As her protector, James is fiercely possessive and increasingly controlling. He loves her to a heartbreaking degree, and he wants so badly to fix everything that is wrong in their lives. It comes from a place of love, but having solved everything with his fists from the age of eight has made him volatile, and often almost as dangerous as their father; yet, he never lays a forceful hand on Sarah. At least, not yet.

Sarah struggles with her own feelings for her brother—often confused by certain emotions that pass between them. He became her only source of love and companionship—her protector and her comrade. They have had only each other for a very long time and when she begins to look elsewhere and becomes aware of the oddness of their intimate (though not sexual) relationship, James’ entire sense of self seems to crumble.

Their initial pact as young siblings—never to leave one another—is under threat when Sarah eventually falls for James’ best friend Sam. Sam leads Sarah to doorways she never knew existed; in spending time together, Sarah’s confidence grows, and her eyes seem to open for the first time.

For the first time, she becomes afraid of her brother, who would (and does) do absolutely anything for her, except let her leave or love someone else.

As reasonable as the development of inappropriate emotions is, (in my warped head, at least) there is no excuse or explanation for manipulation, particularly manipulation of a mind as fractured as Sarah’s.

We all know how this will end—yet even then, the author manages to surprise shock.

I have nothing but praise for the entire book; and nothing but admiration for the writer brave enough to tell a story as dark as this one.

Five brilliant stars.

 

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  Flawed

 

Sarah O’Brien is alive because of the pact she and her brother made twelve years ago — James will protect her from their violent father if she promises to never leave him. For years, she’s watched James destroy his life to save hers. If all he asks for in return is her affection, she’ll give it freely.

Until, with a tiny kiss and a broken mind, he asks for more than she can give.

Sam Donavon has been James’ best friend — and the boy Sarah’s had a crush on — for as long as she can remember. As their forbidden relationship deepens, Sarah knows she’s in trouble. Quiet, serious Sam has decided he’s going to save her. Neither of them realizes James is far more unstable than her father ever was, or that he’s not about to let Sarah forget her half of the pact…

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

GENRE: Contemporary, YA | PAGES: 246

My rating: ★★★★

The End of Everything is beautiful and disturbing all in the same breath! I loved this book. The writing was amazing – it reminded me a bit of Sylvia Plath’s style. There were some sentences I had to re-read just to fully absorb and appreciate the poetry within the prose.

The protagonist’s voice was strong, mature, and surprisingly insightful for a fourteen year old – yet without being too advanced so as to make it unbelievable. The author did a fantastic job of capturing this middle ground.

The story line was amazing – suspenseful and full of intensity throughout.

I can’t fault it in any way.

Simply brilliant!

 

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  The End of Everything

 

A close-knit street, the clink of glass on glass, summer heat. Two girls on the brink of adolescence, throwing cartwheels on the grass. Two girls who tell each other everything. Until one shimmering afternoon, one of them disappears. Lizzie is left with her dread and her loss, and with a fear that won’t let her be. Had Evie tried to give her a hint of what was coming, a clue that she failed to follow? Caught between her imaginary guilt, her sense of betrayal, her own powerful need, and the needs of the adults around her, Lizzie’s voice is as unforgettable as her story is arresting.

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

GENRE: Romance, YA | PAGES: 280

My rating: ★★

This brilliantly original idea of forgetting the past and ‘remembering’ the future is what made me desperate to read Forgotten. I have to say: I feel a little disappointed. The execution of this fabulous idea wasn’t as fabulous as it could have been, or rather – as fabulous as I was hoping.

The writing is fine, and there are several moments throughout the story that had meaning to them, but on the whole, I felt as though there was room for so much more.

The characters were a little under-developed and the love story, which I think was meant to be portrayed as being intense, came off as crush-like. That said, the mystery towards the end of the story really kicked things up a notch. Had this been an equal part of the overall book, the story would have been a lot stronger.

I guess I should bear in mind that this book is for a young adult audience but on the other hand, I have read several YAs and loved them. Overall, I give this 2 – maybe 2.5. I liked Luke, and the mum, and I loved the memory issue, but this one was certainly not one for me, which is a shame really as it had the potential to be incredible.

Nevertheless, I am still looking forward to reading The Originals by this author.

 

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  Forgotten

 

Each night when 16 year-old London Lane goes to sleep, her whole world disappears. In the morning, all that’s left is a note telling her about a day she can’t remember. The whole scenario doesn’t exactly make high school or dating that hot guy whose name she can’t seem to recall any easier. But when London starts experiencing disturbing visions she can’t make sense of, she realizes it’s time to learn a little more about the past she keeps forgetting-before it destroys her future. Part psychological drama, part romance, and part mystery, this thought-provoking novel will inspire readers to consider the what-if’s in their own lives and recognise the power they have to control their destinies.

What’s Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles, #1) by Kat Zhang

GENRE: Paranormal, YA | PAGES: 352

My rating: ★★★

I really enjoyed What’s Left of Me. It was added to my reading list for originality (and the Z in my Author A-Z Challenge) – and after an even-paced start, it really took off around the middle! 

The story read like a movie, in that it actually kept me on the edge of my seat.

My only complaint comes in at about a third of the way through the book – I can’t pin it down, but there were just parts of the writing that felt rushed or unpolished. The writing strengthened as the story gained momentum however, and I became so engrossed that the single flaw lost significance.

I started this book on a stand-alone basis but having read it now, I will definitely be checking out the rest of the series.

 

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  What's Left of Me

 

I should not exist. But I do.

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . . For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

The Lives She Left Behind by James Long

GENRE: Fantasy, Romance | PAGES: 472

My rating: ★★★★★

Bloody BRILLIANT! The Lives She Left Behind is the follow-up to the phenomenal Ferney.

It. Is. Brilliant! It really is!

Sixteen years on from the birth of Gally’s daughter, a troubled young girl called Jo finds herself drawn to the Somerset village of Pen Selwood.

The ancient, magical bond of a centuries-old love pulls Jo’s true self through her fears, and back to the root of it all–back to Ferney.

Beautifully written and steeped in history, this book is easily as good, if not better, than the first one!

 

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 The Lives She Left Behind

 

In a Somerset village, a teenage boy confronts a teacher with a story he should know nothing about. The boy’s impossible knowledge uncovers memories Michael Martin has done his utmost to forget – and soon propels him into danger. As Martin confronts his past once more, three girls arrive in the village of Pen Selwood, one of them drawn by an ancient instinct to find a man called Ferney. Her actions reignite a love story, an instinct that cannot be broken, irrespective of the hurt and danger it brings to those around them…

Room by Emma Donoghue

GENRE: Contemporary | PAGES: 321

My rating: ★★★★★

Room is… good… By good, I mean not just good but lunch-skipping, sleep-depriving, don’t-f***ing-disturb-me good. In fact, good doesn’t cover it. Great doesn’t do it justice either. There isn’t a word for how I feel about it.

It is excellently written from page one, the opening sentence:

‘Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe…’

I was instantly drawn to the story this five-year-old was about to tell.

There were several times I paused to wonder how a child of his age could know so much yet so little; and then there was a moment before starting to read when I wondered whether a story from a child’s viewpoint would just be bad news: patronising at worst, sappy and sentimental at best. But man, am I ever glad I read it anyway. I stand – no, I sit, exhausted from the journey that is Room – corrected.

It wasn’t patronising, or sappy or sentimental. It was just plain overwhelming and quite simply, the whole damn thing just worked. And as for this sharp, intelligent boy… I realised that those bits I questioned, were merely moments I hadn’t quite placed myself in, as a child… an innocent, clean-slated, unbiased child. How could I? Therefore who the hell was I to damn well question what he felt or how and why or how much he knew or understood? I just let it be.

Within minutes of starting I was hooked on the story, captured by this child and his energy for the life he lived, in Room.

As the story progresses you learn more about his Ma, her own story, her own trauma and battles against what is; yet as many stories as I’ve read of others in her situation, I have never come across anything quite so unique as this. And it is because of Jack.

He is a born storyteller, taking us all along at a gallop.

Somehow this original pint-sized protagonist is ten times more powerful as he is than if he were a bellowing giant on a mountaintop.

If you haven’t read this yet, please DO. If only to meet Jack. Once you do, you will not forget him or his tale in a hurry. 

 

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Room

 

Jack is five, and excited about his birthday. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures eleven feet by eleven feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real – only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there’s a world outside… Told in Jack’s voice, Room is the story of a mother and son whose love lets them survive the impossible. Unsentimental and sometimes funny, devastating yet uplifting, Room is a novel like no other.

Such a Pretty Girl by Laura Wiess

GENRE: Contemporary, Dark, YA | PAGES: 212

My rating: ★★★★

Such a Pretty Girl is such an unpretty story.

Want a book with a horrid topic? Filled with terror? Despair? Betrayal? Stand aside Horror authors and make room for a different kind of fear. The kind that chills and fascinates; moreover the kind that for some, occurs in everyday life.

Did I say fascinate? Yes, I suppose I did. We have to admit to the fascination or why else would we want to read about it? It’s a weird thing when I can soar through books like this yet take months reading genuine classics. It’s not something I’d readily admit to for fear that my interest in this topic will be taken the wrong way.

Somehow though, authors of books like this make me realise that there must be others just like me. Like I said, why else would we read stories like this one and moreover why else would anyone write them?

The answer is the tale. In every victim’s sad and tragic story there is a fighter waiting to stand their ground; a predator dodging bad karma. This story delivers that in Meredith’s clear voice. Her struggle, her ways of coping–it is all very real–and her triumph in the end, though bittersweet for having to endure the pain before that, is nonetheless a victory.

For all the intrigue and fascination and background psychology that this story–and others like it–may hold, I think I might just be a sucker for a good (read: happy) ending as much as anyone else.

 

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Such a Pretty Girl

 

They promised Meredith nine years of safety, but only gave her three.
Her father was supposed to be locked up until Meredith turned eighteen. She thought she had time to grow up, get out, and start a new life. But Meredith is only fifteen, and today her father is coming home from prison. Today her time has run out.

Before I Go To Sleep by S J Watson

GENRE: Suspense | PAGES: 366

My rating: ★★★★★

This page turner of a book blew me away with its originality. Before I Go To Sleep captured and drew me in from the start–an intriguing meeting between a woman who woke not knowing herself and a man who offered an explanation.

Christine awakens to the same confusion every day until a Dr Nash returns a journal to her–a journal that bears her name, a journal that warns her not to trust the man who says he is her husband. Reading page after page in what she assumes is her own handwriting is like witnessing someone else’s life but the truths that unfold and the danger she is in is very much her own.

Each journal entry is, on its own, an event that captivates you; together, it builds and builds to a peak rather than an ending, and it doesn’t disappoint. The mystery behind Christine’s condition is solved and her future is left satisfyingly open for the reader to choose.

Even if a psychological thriller isn’t your usual, I’d urge you to read this anyway–it may well be just the story that changes your mind.

 

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Before I Go To Sleep

 

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love – all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. Welcome to Christine’s life.

Forbidden by Tabitha Suzuma

GENRE: Contemporary, Romance, YA | PAGES: 432

My rating: ★★★★★

My god, Forbidden is amazing. Even with the very, very sensitive topic of incest and child neglect, the story as a whole was immensely touching and so intense I felt the urge to pause between chapters–yet couldn’t!

From page one, the characters came to life for me. It was impossible not to sympathise with their situation; it was as if their very lives were unfolding in front of me, and by the time Maya and Lochan actually took their relationship to the next dangerous level I was already (incredibly) accepting it. I would go as far as admitting that I wanted them to succeed in their plans for a future together.

The ending made my heart ache. It was the ultimate sacrifice to both their family unit and to each other.

The only recommending sentence I need to utter is this: if you like good books, read Forbidden–you won’t be disappointed. 

 

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Forbidden

 

She is pretty and talented – sweet sixteen and never been kissed. He is seventeen; gorgeous and on the brink of a bright future. And now they have fallen in love. But… they are brother and sister. Seventeen-year-old Lochan and sixteen-year-old Maya have always felt more like friends than siblings. Together they have stepped in for their alcoholic, wayward mother to take care of their three younger siblings. As defacto parents to the little ones, Lochan and Maya have had to grow up fast. And the stress of their lives—and the way they understand each other so completely—has also brought them closer than two siblings would ordinarily be. So close, in fact, that they have fallen in love. Their clandestine romance quickly blooms into deep, desperate love. They know their relationship is wrong and cannot possibly continue. And yet, they cannot stop what feels so incredibly right. As the novel careens toward an explosive and shocking finale, only one thing is certain: a love this devastating has no happy ending.

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides

GENRE: Contemporary, YA | PAGES: 250

My rating: ★★★★

I read The Virgin Suicides from cover to cover in a matter of hours. The tale was grippingly told several years after the book’s incident, through the voice of a group of neighbouring, then teen-aged boys. Their somewhat disturbing obsession with a group of sisters on their street helped them discover pieces of the mystery surrounding the girls’ eventual deaths.

The story centres on the sad breakdown of the Lisbon family after one of five sisters tries and then succeeds, to end her life one summer in the ’70’s. The remaining four girls become progressively isolated within their home, often coming outdoors only in the dead of night, prisoners in their own house at the hands of their (understandably) overprotective parents. Their only contact with the outside world is through a ham radio, conversation via record-playing on the telephone and strange light messages to the boys, including a final message that alerts the boys to their planned ‘escape’.

The style in which it was written was as though a report was being delivered. It was open, ‘chatty’ even, full of the character of the narrators, even though we had no clear image of what they looked like or even which of them were telling the story. Their fascination with the Lisbon sisters translated so that I, too, became fascinated. Throughout, I was given the impression that these girls might be saved, purely because the narrator once believed as much.

Although this never was to be, the ending was not disappointing or dissatisfying. Sad though it was, it was inevitable that these girls, who were already dead inside–for whatever reason–would meet their premature end.

 

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The Virgin Suicides

 

The haunting, humorous and tender story of the brief lives of the five entrancing Lisbon sisters, The Virgin Suicides, now a major film, is Jeffrey Eugenides’s classic debut novel. The shocking thing about the girls was how nearly normal they seemed when their mother let them out for the one and only date of their lives. Twenty years on, their enigmatic personalities are embalmed in the memories of the boys who worshipped them and who now recall their shared adolescence: the brassiere draped over a crucifix belonging to the promiscuous Lux; the sisters’ breathtaking appearance on the night of the dance; and the sultry, sleepy street across which they watched a family disintegrate and fragile lives disappear.

My Name is Memory  by Ann Brashares

GENRE: Contemporary, Fantasy, Romance | PAGES: 336

My rating: ★★★

My Name is Memory is a book about reincarnation. I love books with this theme.

Overall, the plotline was pretty original and Daniel’s character was so complex and interesting to get to know. With each chapter of his life that interest multiplied and his search for Sophia grew ever more compelling.

If there is one downfall it would, for me, have to be the anti-climactic ending–I was left feeling as though there was a page missing… a shame really since the rest of the book was so good.

“Love demands everything, they say, but my love demands only this: that no matter what happens or how long it takes, you`ll keep faith in me, you`ll remember who we are, and you`ll never feel despair.”

My Name is Memory

 

‘You have been with me from the very first life. You are my first memory every time, the single thread in all of my lives.’