Tuesday, 18 July 2017

After The Fall - Kate Hart; Review

Book Details:
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (24th Jan 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0374302693
ISBN-13: 978-0374302696


Seventeen-year-old Raychel is sleeping with two boys: her overachieving best friend Matt…and his slacker brother, Andrew. Raychel sneaks into Matt’s bed after nightmares, but nothing ever happens. He doesn’t even seem to realize she’s a girl, except when he decides she needs rescuing. But Raychel doesn't want to be his girl anyway. She just needs his support as she deals with the classmate who assaulted her, the constant threat of her family’s eviction, and the dream of college slipping quickly out of reach. Matt tries to help, but he doesn’t really get it… and he’d never understand why she’s fallen into a secret relationship with his brother. The friendships are a precarious balance, and when tragedy strikes, everything falls apart. Raychel has to decide which pieces she can pick up – and which ones are worth putting back together. 

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The lure of another YA contemporary about relationships, slut shaming, and high school issues, drew me in like a moth to the flame. Other books that deal with important issues can be found here - What We SawWhat Happens NextExit, Pursued By A Bear,  All Is Not Forgotten and The Butterfly Garden

I was excited for this book to bring something fresh to the table when it came to slut shaming and positive body image. But I felt like the book was a bit scattered; so many threads and issues in this book that it became overwhelmed and drifted from what could have been a really insightful book. For me at least, there was a lot going on - from topics such as sexual consent, gender roles, slut shaming, grief and loss - and few others thrown into the fray. The focus should have been singular for books such as these as otherwise the message gets lost, swallowed up by everything else you’re trying to cram in there. A lot of good questions were raised and this is great in getting conversions started - but it was left there, with no answers and no conclusions. Stick to one issue and make it count.

Told through dual narratives from Raychel and Matt, we get to see the same relationship but through two different perspectives. I particularly like this narrative style and it works well for this type of book, highlighting gender differences and how this might shape opinions in similar or different ways. Unfortunately, I just couldn’t really connect with either of the characters, neither Raychel nor Matt. Raychel and Matt are best friends, through Matt’s perspective we see that he wants something more from the relationship, but enter the triangle - where Raychel instead has feelings for Matt’s brother Andrew, who she’s sleeping with. The dual narrative with these two voices got messy at times, a little confusing, and did nothing in aiding me to enjoy the book or even like the characters. I didn’t like either of them and instead their voices and perhaps what they wanted to represent, fell really flat. 

In terms of the storyline, it went at a slow pace for me, with nothing much really pulling me forward in the book, except to see how it ends. There was no engagement and no excitement - the only emotion I felt was with that shocking major event *trying not to be spoilery!* at which point I was legit like wait, WHAT THE FUUU? Even then, I felt so betrayed by that act and it was so random and weird, really weird. 

I feel like overall, the author started this book with the intention of raising some good questions and that she did at certain points, but what she intended this to become vs what it actually came across as, are two different stories. There wasn’t the level of focus on sexual assault as there should have been, and instead to me, it felt overshadowed by the romantic lines drawn between these three characters; a triangle in which sexual assault was used as a vehicle to resolve romantic angsts. Could have been better in many departments overall. 

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Love and Gelato - Jenna Evans Welch; Review


Book Details:
Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Simon Pulse (3rd May 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1481432540
ISBN-13: 978-1481432542


“I made the wrong choice.”

Lina is spending the summer in Tuscany, but she isn’t in the mood for Italy’s famous sunshine and fairy-tale landscape. She’s only there because it was her mother’s dying wish that she get to know her father. But what kind of father isn’t around for sixteen years? All Lina wants to do is get back home.

But then she is given a journal that her mom had kept when she lived in Italy. Suddenly Lina’s uncovering a magical world of secret romances, art, and hidden bakeries. A world that inspires Lina, along with the ever-so-charming Ren, to follow in her mother’s footsteps and unearth a secret that has been kept for far too long. It’s a secret that will change everything she knew about her mother, her father—and even herself.

People come to Italy for love and gelato, someone tells her, but sometimes they discover much more.

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Another contemporary bites the dust - alas! The word “cute” is probably plastered all over everyone’s reviews, and that is exactly what I wanted it to be, but it failed on so many counts that this just became a roller-coaster of eye-rolling for me whilst reading. I wanted to love this, trust me, I really did - it’s all there, Italy, gelato, cute falling in love in a beautiful city (there’s that word cute again) but the characters (or a certain character I should say) waft of insta-love and lack of actual chemistry, really set the ball rolling in my unwanted conclusion to really dislike this book. 

The storyline was promising - Lina, our main character, arrives in Italy to stay with the father she hasn’t seen for 16 years, as a dying wish to her mother. She then discovers her Mum’s diary, learns more about her past which intricately links into her future. Along the way, she finds romance. I feel like this would have made the perfect movie - not dissimilar to Letters to Juliet (the immediate movie that pops to mind) but mainly also because as a story, as a book, this should have been oodles and oodles of cute and fun - but for me, it failed in that sense. I can’t even summarise coherently why, except for the reasoning that I didn’t much like Lina - to me at least, she came across as quite rude, judgemental, immature and not a likeable character. She meets Ren, who was likeable enough I guess, but in the long run of the book, these two together just lacked any real chemistry, everything with them felt too fast and stumbling rather than the slightly slower and sweeter burn I was expecting. 

Also, Lina discovers her now deceased Mum’s diary, and is it just me, but if you discovered something like that, would you not be speeding through it at breakneck speed to find out everything as soon as you can? Rather than how Lina did it, in chunks, drips and drabs, at some snail pace? Kinda reminds me of Clay from 13 Reasons Why, who took 5eva in listening to all those tops (but fair enough for the book and TV show, you kinda had to long it out to actually move the plot along). 
In terms of the rest of the characters, I really liked Lina’s Dad and felt bad for him, having to deal with this stroppy unappreciative teenager - fair enough she’s just moved all the way across to Italy, to live with the Dad she hasn’t seen in 16 years and her Mum has passed away - but her rudeness towards him is not warranted, also given she has no idea why she hasn’t seen him in so long - something she does find out later on, but still. 

The writing style was okay, nothing spectacular, but readable - though the use of metaphors definitely could use some help. “My voice was like weak tea”. The upside however to this book, was the description and imagery of Italy, the hidden nooks and crannies of the places Lina and Ren go on to visit, and of course - the fooooood. The need for gelato and pasta as I read this book was unreal. This just wasn’t the book for me in the end - I’m glad others loved it enough to compensate for my dislike, but just the execution, the character growth and general feel of the book, just wasn’t for me.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Punk 57 - Penelope Douglas; Review

Book Details:
Paperback: 342 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (18th Oct 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1539427765
ISBN-13: 978-1539427766


“We were perfect together. Until we met.”


I can’t help but smile at the words in her letter. She misses me.
In fifth grade, my teacher set us up with pen pals from a different school. Thinking I was a girl, with a name like Misha, the other teacher paired me up with her student, Ryen. My teacher, believing Ryen was a boy like me, agreed.
It didn’t take long for us to figure out the mistake. And in no time at all, we were arguing about everything. The best take-out pizza. Android vs. iPhone. Whether or not Eminem is the greatest rapper ever…
And that was the start. For the next seven years, it was us.

Her letters are always on black paper with silver writing. Sometimes there’s one a week or three in a day, but I need them. She’s the only one who keeps me on track, talks me down, and accepts everything I am.
We only had three rules. No social media, no phone numbers, no pictures. We had a good thing going. Why ruin it?
Until I run across a photo of a girl online. Name’s Ryen, loves Gallo’s pizza, and worships her iPhone. What are the chances?
F*ck it. I need to meet her.
I just don’t expect to hate what I find.


He hasn’t written in three months. Something’s wrong. Did he die? Get arrested? Knowing Misha, neither would be a stretch.
Without him around, I’m going crazy. I need to know someone is listening. It’s my own fault. I should’ve gotten his number or picture or something.
He could be gone forever.
Or right under my nose, and I wouldn’t even know it.

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I don’t even know where to start with this book, I have so many mixed emotions about it. People really, really love it - just look at all the 5 star raving reviews, and I thought I would love it too. I liked it to some extent, probably the beginning handful of chapters - but alas, twas not meant to be! The more I read about Misha and Ryen, the more it seemed I was destined to dislike them. 

Misha and Ryen become friends as pen-pals, getting to know each other, finding comfort in each other, and love too. In the letters we see between them, they both come across as sweet, honest and gentle characters - which is probably why I had such issues with both of them later on. Aside from the letters, we see what Misha and Ryen are like in real life; Ryen being the personification of popular girl, high atop the social hierarchy at school, conflicted about the bullying around her as well as the ones she sits and lets happen. 

I hate bullies. I cannot stand bullies, and in this instance, especially given the stark contrast between the girl in the letter and the girl we see on the pages, I couldn’t for the life of me come to like or understand her. Yes high school is hard, it’s cruel and plays dirty - there’s many reasons behind Ryen and her behaviour while at least she’s aware of, which makes her feel an ounce of guilt - but it wasn’t enough for me, it wasn’t enough to redeem her character in my eyes. She felt really selfish and cruel to me, and I just couldn’t warm up to her.

On the flip side, we have Misha - who again, in his letters comes across as this wholesomely sweet, supportive and trouble driven guy. The revelation of the real life Misha is more understandable than Ryen’s change, but he too felt too mean, too horrible, too cruel in the way he acted with Ryen. Sure he stuck up for the underdogs, and I could find less fault with this character if the one we see in the letters to Ryen wasn’t so different. 

Together, these two were reckless and immature, cruel and not characters I liked in the slightest, which is such a shame. I feel like I get what the author was trying to achieve with these too - the ugliness and harsh reality of love and life, of high school, and that everyone has ugly and bad in them, some are just more up front about it. But personally, I feel like this same story and events could have been played out the same way, but with less harshly defined characters. 

The characters were probably my biggest gripe with this book and sadly that ruined the whole story for me since the whole book hangs on these two and their relationship. But the writing was gripping, a definite page turner as you scramble through trying to find out just what went wrong and where for this ocean of distance to open up between these two. I am sad that I don’t love this book like the way everyone else does, because it was promising - but it can’t be helped when you can’t connect with the characters and thus not get on board with the story. Disappointed, but I will try few of the authors other books nonetheless.