Book Review: Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Book Review: Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

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Release Date:
April 4th 2019
Publisher: Ink Road
Pages: 375
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this at NYALitFest
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

Rumi Seto spends a lot of time worrying she doesn’t have the answers to everything. What to eat, where to go, whom to love. But there is one thing she is absolutely sure of—she wants to spend the rest of her life writing music with her younger sister, Lea.

Then Lea dies in a car accident, and her mother sends her away to live with her aunt in Hawaii while she deals with her own grief. Now thousands of miles from home, Rumi struggles to navigate the loss of her sister, being abandoned by her mother, and the absence of music in her life. With the help of the “boys next door”—a teenage surfer named Kai, who smiles too much and doesn’t take anything seriously, and an eighty-year-old named George Watanabe, who succumbed to his own grief years ago—Rumi attempts to find her way back to her music, to write the song she and Lea never had the chance to finish.

Review

book cover - 2019-04-03T110806.863Last year I read Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman and completely fell in love with the characters and the beautifully written tale. When I heard Summer Bird Blue was going to be published in the UK I snapped up a copy straight away. The story follows Rumi, a young girl who loses her sister in a car crash. Her mother, consumed with grief sends her to live with her aunt in Hawaii over the summer and there Rumi has to learn to cope with her grief and find the music that was so important to her and her sister.

This is such a unique, beautifully told story about family, friendship and grief. The story very much focuses in on Rumi as she tries to figure out how to live her life without her sister. It was well executed and I enjoyed seeing Rumi make friends with next door neighbour Kai and find a way back to the music that she loves so much.

Starfish was a five star read for me and part of the reason for that was the realistic characters. The characters in Summer Bird Blue are very realistic and well fleshed out, but I didn’t connect with them in the same way I did with Starfish. I really enjoyed the story, but it didn’t take my breath away like the previous book.

The story is incredibly emotional and I love the beautiful Hawaiian setting. I also loved that Bowman could so easily have introduced a romance between Rumi and Kai and instead have them remain friends. The story touches on a lot of incredibly important issues – not just grief but finding yourself, relationships and what it means to be a family. It isn’t a particularly light book, the story is quite a heavy one, but it’s executed extremely well.

While I really enjoyed it this book just didn’t blow me away, but I know Akemi Dawn Bowman fans will be overjoyed to read another gorgeous book from her. If you’re looking for a story that will keep you turning the pages but will also give you a lump in your throat, you should definitely pick up Summer Bird Blue.

3 stars

Book Review: Release – Patrick Ness

Book Review: Release – Patrick Ness

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Release Date:
May 4th 2017
Publisher: Walker Books
Pages: 287
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I bought a copy of this while on holiday
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

Review

31194576A while ago I read A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and thought it was absolutely brilliant, so when I came across Release on the shelf in my local bookshop I was really intrigued and immediately snapped it up. The story follows Adam Thorn, a young high school student over the course of a single day as he prepares to attend the leaving party of the ex-boyfriend he still has feelings for. Enzo’s leaving party is not the only thing happening, unbeknownst to the party goers, the end of the world is near.

I’m honestly so conflicted about this book. I really liked the characters in this story – Adam is a really fascinating protagonist and it was a really interesting story as Adam deals with his religious family, harassment at work and tries to work through his feeling for Enzo. I grew quite attached to Adam and his friends and I definitely found myself rooting for them. They were well fleshed out and they felt very realistic.

Adam’s story is not the only part of the book and that’s where my problems with this book lie. A young woman who was murdered in the same area returns as a ghost/queen with a faun helper to understand what happened to her and seek revenge on the people involved in her murder. This fantastical element for me didn’t fit the story at all and I found myself quite confused about what was going on with the ghost and what she was doing. It almost felt like I was reading two different stories at the same time, and this really had an effect on my overall enjoyment of the story.

Release is a strange and unique tale, one that combines a coming of age story with a hint of supernatural. Patrick Ness has some a really beautiful writing style and if you’re a fan of his work I’d recommend checking this one out. It’s quite a short read at less than 300 pages so if you’re looking for something that little bit different, I’d definitely give this one a go.

3 stars

Book Review: The White Hare – Michael Fishwick

Book Review: The White Hare – Michael Fishwick

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Release Date:
March 9th 2017
Publisher: Heads of Zeus
Pages: 256
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 2..5/5

Synopsis

A beautifully written coming-of-age novel from an acclaimed literary voice.

A lost boy. A dead girl, and one who is left behind.

Robbie doesn’t want anything more to do with death, but life in a village full of whispers and secrets can’t make things the way they were.

When the white hare appears, magical and fleet in the silvery moonlight, she leads them all into a legend, a chase, a hunt. But who is the hunter and who the hunted?

In The White Hare, Michael Fishwick deftly mingles a coming-of-age story with mystery, myth and summer hauntings.

Review

book cover - 2019-03-17T225218.697This book is a quick and interesting read that touches on that difficult topic of grief. The book follows Robbie, a young boy who’s dealing with the death of his mother and the remarriage of his father. The book is a short one – under two hundred pages and most likely you’ll get caught in this fascinating story and read it in one sitting.

The White Hare is a bit of a strange book, it is at times eerie, and I wasn’t always 100% sure what was going on, or where the plot was heading. I enjoyed the mixture of folklore, magic and realism, but I did feel like the ending left me with quite a few questions. That being said, it is a lovely read, watching the characters grow as they deal with the grief of losing their loved ones – Robbie’s friend Mags is dealing with a death also.

I really liked the characters in The White Hare – Robbie who acts out because he misses his mum, best friend Mags who knows more than anyone else about the white hare myth, and Robbie’s dad who’s just trying to do his best. They are very realistic characters, each trying to deal with their grief in the best way they know how.

I loved the idea of the white hare legend – which I won’t say too much about so as not to spoil the story – but I would have loved to know more about this myth and where it all started. I thought The White Hare had a really nice satisfactory ending, and overall the book is a good read. If you’re stuck in doors on a wintery Sunday this month, The White Hare is that perfect magical and heartwarming read to get caught up in.
3 stars

Book Review: The Devil’s Highway – Gregory Norminton

Book Review: The Devil’s Highway – Gregory Norminton

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Release Date:
January 25th 2018
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Pages: 224
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

Three journeys. Three thousand years. One destination. The Devil’s Highway is a thrilling, epic and intimate tale of love, loss, fanaticism, heroism and sacrifice.

A Roman road, an Iron Age hill fort, a hand-carved flint, and a cycle of violence that must be broken.

An ancient British boy, discovering a terrorist plot, must betray his brother to save his tribe. In the twenty-first century, two people – one traumatised by war, another by divorce – clash over the use and meaning of a landscape. In the distant future, a gang of feral children struggles to reach safety in a broken world. Their stories are linked by one ancient road, the ‘Devil’s Highway’ in the heart of England: the site of human struggles that resemble one another more than they differ.

Spanning centuries, and combining elements of historical and speculative fiction with the narrative drive of pure thriller, this is a breathtakingly original novel that challenges our dearly held assumptions about civilisation.

Review

overThis is a fascinating little book that explores three different journeys at different time periods. At just over two hundred pages that’s quite a lot of ground to cover, but this short read is well paced and full of history and imagination. Spanning across three thousand years, all three perspectives have one destination in mind: The Devil’s Highway.

The three different time settings show life in Britain at completely different times. One is kind of present day setting featuring a young solider returned from Afghanistan, attempting to find a way to live a normal life as a civilian. There is also a future wasteland in which much of what we know of society has broken down, including speech. Finally there is a Roman perspective, in which a group of rebels are attempting to launch an attack on their Roman overseers.

Each story feels realistic and well thought out, the characters are well portrayed and Norminton subtly weaves the similarities between each time period, while still making them feel unique and interesting. Although I enjoyed reading all three, I found the story of the Romans and the Celts to be the most fascinating.

I did find the wasteland future perspective a little difficult to enjoy, the breakdown of language makes it a bit of a difficult read, and that took away some of my enjoyment of the story. Overall I found this an engaging and enjoyable read. The Devil’s Highway is a really original read, and one that manages to pack a lot into such a small space. If you’re looking for a book that is clever and subtle, this should definitely be your next read.
3 stars

Book Review: The Reason You’re Alive – Matthew Quick

Book Review: The Reason You’re Alive – Matthew Quick

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Release Date:
July 5th 2017
Publisher: Piacador
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.
Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis

After sixty-eight-year-old David Granger crashes his BMW, medical tests reveal a brain tumor that he readily attributes to his wartime Agent Orange exposure. He wakes up from surgery repeating a name no one in his civilian life has ever heard—that of a Native American soldier whom he was once ordered to discipline. David decides to return something precious he long ago stole from the man he now calls Clayton Fire Bear. It might be the only way to find closure in a world increasingly at odds with the one he served to protect. It might also help him finally recover from his wife’s untimely demise.

As David confronts his past to salvage his present, a poignant portrait emerges: that of an opinionated and goodhearted American patriot fighting like hell to stay true to his red, white, and blue heart, even as the country he loves rapidly changes in ways he doesn’t always like or understand. Hanging in the balance are Granger’s distant art-dealing son, Hank; his adoring seven-year-old granddaughter, Ella; and his best friend, Sue, a Vietnamese-American who respects David’s fearless sincerity.

Through the controversial, wrenching, and wildly honest David Granger, Matthew Quick offers a no-nonsense but ultimately hopeful view of America’s polarized psyche. By turns irascible and hilarious, insightful and inconvenient, David is a complex, wounded, honorable, and loving man.

The Reason You’re Alive examines how the secrets and debts we carry from our past define us; it also challenges us to look beyond our own prejudices and search for the good in us all.

Review

bookThis is a fascinating read from author Matthew Quick of Silver Linings Playbook fame. The story follows David Granger, a veteran of the Vietnam war. After his brain surgery to remove a tumour David attempts to right some of the wrongs he’s done in his life as well as salvage his relationship with his son Hank.

I’m not sure how I feel about this book. It was a really interesting read, David recounts some of the horrors of his experience in Vietnam, as well as his adjustment to civilian life. I have mixed feelings because I found it difficult to get on with our protagonist, he was brash and had some very pointed political and social opinions. I preferred the second half of the book much more to the first, particularly as the story started to unfold and you learn more about his life as banker and family man.

The plot is an interesting one, particularly relating to the mysterious Clayton Fire Bear that David mentions throughout the book. I like the personal way the book was written, almost as if the reader is having a conversation with the main character. This is my first book by Matthew Quick, and while I didn’t absolutely love it was a unique and interesting read, and I look forward to seeing more from this author.
3 stars

Book Review: The Island – M.A. Bennett

Book Review: The Island – M.A. Bennett

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Release Date: 25th July 2018
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 304
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: I was sent a copy of this book through ReadersFirst

Synopsis

Link is a fish out of water. Newly arrived from America, he is finding it hard to settle into the venerable and prestigious Osney School. Who knew there could be so many strange traditions to understand? And what kind of school ranks its students by how fast they can run round the school quad – however ancient that quad may be? When Link runs the slowest time in years, he immediately becomes the butt of every school joke. And some students are determined to make his life more miserable than others . . .

When a school summer trip is offered, Link can think of nothing worse than spending voluntary time with his worst tormentors. But when his parents say he can only leave Osney School – forever – if he goes on the trip, Link decides to endure it for the ultimate prize. But this particular trip will require a very special sort of endurance. The saying goes ‘No man is an island’ – but what if on that island is a group of teenagers, none of whom particularly like each other? When oppressive heat, hunger and thirst start to bite, everyone’s true colours will be revealed. Let the battle commence . . .

Review

I really enjoyed M.A. Bennett’s S.T.A.G.S, a story about an elite boarding school and a group with a penchant for blood sports. After reading the synopsis for The Island I was really looking forward to diving in but it turned out to be a completely different story to what I thought it was going to be.

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The story follows Link, a young school boy who is treated horribly by everyone at his school. He is bullied, victimised and made to feel inferior because he prefers books to sports. When he is forced to attend a ‘Preparation for Life’ summer camp, his plane crash lands, leaving Link and all his classmates stranded on a desert island. This time the roles are reversed as Link has the knowledge to survive on this small strip of land.

The story felt very Lord of the Flies and there were parts of it that I really enjoyed. It was paced well and I found the story really interesting. The main thing for me was that the characters were so unlikeable. Link was a horrible protagonist, the other kids on the island were typical stereotypes of people – the athlete bully who isn’t very smart, the side kick best friend who is hiding a secret and turns it on everyone else because he is scared he will also be bullied, the emo girl who doesn’t care and the beautiful girl who is only concerned with herself. I hoped that on the island they would become more than their stereotypes but that didn’t really feel like the case.

The story is well written and it was easy to dive in and out of. There are some plot twists along the way, though I guessed quite early on what was going to happen. There is also a last chapter which occurs many years after the events on the island. This chapter felt so unrealistic and so unlike the rest of the book in tone. It definitely felt like a departure from the power struggle and story of revenge. While this book wasn’t my favourite I did enjoy the parts on the island and the way they related music to how you view a person. If you’re a fan of adventure stories or light thrillers, this might be just the book you’re looking for.

Book Review: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – Yaba Badoe

Book Review: A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars – Yaba Badoe

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Release Date: 7th March 2018
Publisher: Zephyr
Pages: 320
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review.

Synopsis

Fourteen-year-old Sante isn’t sure where she comes from, but she has a recurring dream of escaping a shipwreck in a sea chest as a baby with her lifelong companion, golden eagle Priss. In the chest was an African bamboo flute, a drum and a dagger inlaid with diamonds. Sante was found and raised by Mama Rose, leader of a nomadic group of misfits and gypsies. They travel around contemporary southern Europe, living off-grid and performing circus tricks for money. Sante grows up alongside two twins, knife-thrower Cat and snake-charmer Cobra, whom she is in love with. During a performance in Cadiz, Sante recognises two men from her dream. They come after her to retrieve the treasures from the sea chest. Sante finds out that she is an Ashanti princess, whose parents probably perished in the shipwreck. After Cat rescues a beautiful red-haired girl called Scarlett from a gang, Mama Rose’s band are forced to flee the city. But Sante and Cobra stay behind, determined to find out more about her family and where she came from.

Review

A Jigsaw of Fire and Stars is a magical realism novel that follows fourteen year old Sante and her friends as they live off the grid and travel around Europe. Sante has a recurring dream about a shipwreck and longs to know the meaning of her dreams and what really happened to her parents.

Untitled design (52)I really wanted to love this book, I thought it sounded like a really fascinating book and I loved the blend of real life and magic but in truth it fell a little flat for me. I thought the cover was stunning and the story was a wonderful mix of magic and folklore, but for I couldn’t connect with the characters and the plot felt a little chaotic for me.

Badoe has a really beautiful writing style and this was the part of the book I enjoyed the most. I liked our protagonist Sante well enough and she undergoes a massive amount of character development in the book but I just didn’t fall in love with the story the way I was really hoping to. I liked seeing her relationships with the rest of the circus troupe – how they look after each other and become such a close knit family.

The story highlights a lot of really important issues, focusing on human trafficking, refugees, friendship and family. The plot is pretty quick paced and the world building was interesting. Overall this book is a fascinating debut and I definitely want to read more from this author but was a bit on the disappointing side. If you’re a fan of magical realism or quick paced stories, this one might be just what you’re looking for.

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