Book Review: Suicide Club – Rachel Heng

Book Review: Suicide Club – Rachel Heng

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Release Date:
March 21st 2019
Publisher: Sceptre
Pages: 372
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

In this debut set in near future NYC—where lives last 300 years and the pursuit of immortality is all-consuming—Lea must choose between her estranged father and her chance to live forever.

Lea Kirino is a “Lifer,” which means that a roll of the genetic dice has given her the potential to live forever—if she does everything right. And Lea is an overachiever. She’s a successful trader on the New York exchange—where instead of stocks, human organs are now bought and sold—she has a beautiful apartment, and a fiancé who rivals her in genetic perfection. And with the right balance of HealthTech™, rigorous juicing, and low-impact exercise, she might never die.

But Lea’s perfect life is turned upside down when she spots her estranged father on a crowded sidewalk. His return marks the beginning of her downfall as she is drawn into his mysterious world of the Suicide Club, a network of powerful individuals and rebels who reject society’s pursuit of immortality, and instead chose to live—and die—on their own terms. In this future world, death is not only taboo; it’s also highly illegal. Soon Lea is forced to choose between a sanitized immortal existence and a short, bittersweet time with a man she has never really known, but who is the only family she has left in the world.

Review

book cover - 2019-04-28T204859.244Suicide Club is a really fascinating concept – with a world that has gone health mad, the ultimate goal is to live forever. With falling birth rates and the desire to live as long as possible, the city and its inhabitants are closely monitored for any signs of rebellion. When Lea’s father walks back into her perfect world her life begins to crumble around her. She soon becomes involved with the Suicide Club – a group of people who go against everything this new immortal world stands for.

I really loved the idea of this book. It was so unique and really made some fascinating comments on the way we live as a society, constantly obsessed with having the image of this perfect life. I enjoyed the sinister Big Brother-esque feel of the story, as Lea tries to prove that she isn’t trying to kill herself.

It was quite a slow burn book and it took a while for me to get into the story. There was quite a lot of technical information explaining the developments that allowed people to live longer and the ways that society had evolved. I struggled a little getting my head around all of this but once the story picked up the pace a little more I really enjoyed it.

Lea is an interesting protagonist but I found myself more interested in some of the secondary characters. I would really have loved the opportunity to get to know some of them a bit more. I found Lea to be a bit bland, and that was my main reason for not rating the book higher.

Overall for me Suicide Club is a fantastic concept that falls down a little in execution. I would definitely be interested to read more of Heng’s work, and if you’re a fan of speculative fiction this will definitely appeal to you.
3 stars

Book Review: Stepsister – Jennifer Donnelly

Book Review: Stepsister – Jennifer Donnelly

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Release Date:
May 14th 2019
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Pages: 352
Find it on: Goodreads. BookDepository. Waterstones.
Source: The publisher kindly sent me a copy of this book to review
Rating: 3/5 stars

Synopsis

Isabelle should be blissfully happy – she’s about to win the handsome prince. Except Isabelle isn’t the beautiful girl who lost the glass slipper and captured the prince’s heart. She’s the ugly stepsister who’s cut off her toes to fit into Cinderella’s shoe … which is now filling with blood.

When the prince discovers Isabelle’s deception, she is turned away in shame. It’s no more than she deserves: she is a plain girl in a world that values beauty; a feisty girl in a world that wants her to be pliant.

Isabelle has tried to fit in. To live up to her mother’s expectations. To be like her stepsister. To be sweet. To be pretty. One by one, she has cut away pieces of herself in order to survive a world that doesn’t appreciate a girl like her. And that has made her mean, jealous, and hollow.

Until she gets a chance to alter her destiny and prove what ugly stepsisters have always known: it takes more than heartache to break a girl.

Review

book cover - 2019-03-11T210836.240The story of Cinderella and the story of the ugly stepsisters has been told in a million different ways, so to find one that takes the story in a completely different direction was something I immediately wanted to read. Stepsister follows Isabelle, one of the ugly stepsisters to the newly crowned Ella, Queen of France. Reviled for the way she treated her stepsister, Isabelle and her sister Octavia are left with little options – they have tried to be sweet, pretty girls and find husbands but they never live up to their perfect stepsister. With war brewing and no way to protect themselves, Isabelle and Octavia must stand up and fight, proving that girls are a lot more than pretty possessions.

I am completely torn about how to rate this book. It took me quite a while to get into the story, I particularly found the early chapters quite slow, however once I got further into the story I really started to fall in love with these Isabelle and her sisters. They’re brave, intelligent, brilliant girls and I was rooting for them the entire time. The message of this story is so powerful and so important – that you don’t have to be what everyone expects you to be, that you should follow that dream no matter if others think you won’t succeed.

The story provided a really interesting take on this tale, and I loved the vivid world of France at war. I also liked the additional stories of Fate and Chance, two beings waging a bet over Isabelle’s life. It added a fascinating perspective to the tale and one I really enjoyed. One of the things that did put me off this book is the incredibly short chapters. Most were only a few pages long and for me it was a little off putting, it felt like as soon as I got back into the swing of the story I was at the end of the chapter again. The crazy amount of chapters (over 130) also put me off a little.

This is an emotional and inspiring story and if you’re a fan of retellings this is absolutely a must read. Stepsister is an exciting, feminist take on the ugly stepsister trope and I hope this trend of feminist retellings continues because I am fast becoming obsessed with them. If you love all things fairytales, you’re definitely going to love this one.
3 stars

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