Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Sweetpea - C J Skuse; Review


Book Details:
Hardcover: 384 pages
Publisher: HQ (20th April 2017)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0008216673
ISBN-13: 978-0008216672

Summary:

The last person who called me ‘Sweetpea’ ended up dead…

I haven’t killed anyone for three years and I thought that when it happened again I’d feel bad. Like an alcholic taking a sip of whisky. But no. Nothing. I had a blissful night’s sleep. Didn’t wake up at all. And for once, no bad dream either. This morning I feel balanced. Almost sane, for once.

Rhiannon is your average girl next door, settled with her boyfriend and little dog…but she’s got a killer secret.
Although her childhood was haunted by a famous crime, Rhinannon’s life is normal now that her celebrity has dwindled. By day her job as an editorial assistant is demeaning and unsatisfying. By evening she dutifully listens to her friend’s plans for marriage and babies whilst secretly making a list.

A kill list.
From the man on the Lidl checkout who always mishandles her apples, to the driver who cuts her off on her way to work, to the people who have got it coming, Rhiannon’s ready to get her revenge.

Because the girl everyone overlooks might be able to get away with murder… 

Links To Buy:




Rating:

Review:

Warning: spoilers up ahead.

Where do I even start with this book? Wild. PURELY WILD. This was such an unapologetic, crazy, hilarious and, weirdly, fun read - which probably says something about my mental state given this story is about a psychotic killer? But my one line of defence is the fact I lent this to a friend and she loved it, and loved me for giving her such a great story, which in itself is saying something since she’s read so many crime/thriller novels but claimed this as being one of the best. *smug look* 

The absolute best thing about this book, is the main character, Rhiannon - who by day is a editorial assistant but by night, takes on a far sinister hue - as a serial killer. You will either come to love her or hate her, depending on your mental balance I guess, but I loved her. Written in the form of diary entries from her, each one starting with a kill list of people who have annoyed her - which to be honest these people on the list, I would agree with - but lets not forget the biggest difference being, that in this case, she could actually kill them. After being the lone survivor of a horrific crime as a child which elevated her to minor celebrity level for a while, the far less favourable consequences were that due to the event, a part of her brain was damaged - leaving her with a lot less empathy and compassion and pretty much the makings of a serial killer. But hey, she only goes after the bad guys - a vigilante, yep. Whether it be the guy who tried to assault her near the canal (man oh man, this scene had me yelping out loud and laughing under my hand - it’s so blunt and hilarious the way it happens), or the girl who tormented her childhood and she pretty much returned the favour. 

Though a lot of her acts and crimes are quite violent, her narration, her diary entries and comments on each of them really colour the situation and give it the funny and sarcastic hue which somehow works so well for this book - but anywhere else, written in any other way, would have been a disaster I feel. There are one too many metaphors I feel in the story overall, which really could have been done without - but to be honest, this whole book is made from diary entries from Rhiannon and therefore it’s all a part of her thought process and the way she sees and talks about things - and oddly the excessive use of these metaphors fit with who she is painted as being. 

Though I’m trying not to find this alarming, there’s a lot about her character that I connected with - her human and honest annoyances, to the people she hangs out with, to her commentary on peoples daily acts and obvious tendencies, her day to day grievances - a lot of it really was just real and honest things about people’s nature that everyone is thinking, but no one says. Rhiannon does though *need to stop thinking of her as my friend and ally…*

On the other hand, I did find it a little hard to coincide her character during the day, with the one she becomes when her bloodlust acts up. When she gets in the mood for murder (wow is this a weird thing to type) but she’s confident, meticulous, brash, unafraid - yet when she’s at work, or with her friends, she plays the downtrodden mouse, who just becomes the doormat and lets it all go. I wanted to see at least some scenes, towards the end maybe, where the facade slowly slips and she becomes that alter-ego at work, with her friends, and lets it out. But given the way the book ends *whistles slowly* maybe my wishes will be answered? Maybe someone has already seen the killer lurking behind her eyes? WHO KNOWS. I WANT TO KNOW THOUGH. 

There was a vast array of characters playing background music in this book, one that I particularly hated was Rhiannon’s sister - she would deffo be on my kill list.. uhh like hypothetically, not that I have one, noOoPe *starts getting flustered*. I’ve read previous books by this author, CJ Skuse, and they were mostly YA and this is such a stark contrast to everything she’s written before - but it’s a hell of a book and will be making waves this year as being different and distinct. People will just KNOW what book you’re talking about when you mention this. Yep, I called it, you can quote me and thank me later. 

Now. The ending. PHEW THE ENDING. Once you get there, you’ll know what I mean. There will be a second book, and it’ll be VERY obvious as to why once you reach the end - but man, when I read that last scene, I actually couldn’t stop laughing and thinking OH MAN OH MAN. All this time, as we read about her crimes, a small part of the reader will think they deserved it, justice has been served, which staves off the notion of how crazy this actually all is - but when you reach the end of this book, you realise how truly crazy she is and the hot mess she has landed herself in *pun intended - you’ll see*.

This book - it’s quite crude, graphic and violent - but somehow you’re cheering along for Rhiannon.  Utterly unpredictable and such a wild read. Two of my friends loved it, but it will be a marmite book, some will honestly hate it for being brash and bold but otherwise will love it for that very reason. Keep your eyes peeled for it, it’s out April 20th, 2017 from HQ, HarperCollins. And as if that wasn't fantastic enough news.. there's more. MORE MORE MORE. 


TV rights have just been sold for Sweetpea to the producers behind the Oscar nominee Lion! 
LIKE CAN WE GET A HURRAH! How epic is this going to be? MIGHTY EPIC I SAY. 

Sunday, 19 March 2017

What Happens Next - Colleen Clayton; Review


Book Details:
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Poppy; Reprint (26th Sept 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316198692
ISBN-13: 978-0316198691

Summary:

How can you talk about something you can’t remember?

Before the ski trip, sixteen-year-old Cassidy “Sid” Murphy was a cheerleader (at the bottom of the pyramid, but still...), a straight-A student, and a member of a solid trio of best friends. When she ends up on a ski lift next to handsome local college boy, Dax Windsor, she’s thrilled; but Dax takes everything from Sid—including a lock of her perfect red curls—and she can’t remember any of it.

Back home and unable to relate to her old friends, Sid drops her college prep classes and takes up residence in the A/V room with only Corey “The Living Stoner” Livingston for company. But as she gets to know Corey (slacker, baker, total dreamboat), Sid finds someone who truly makes her happy. Now, if she can just shake the nightmares and those few extra pounds, everything will be perfect... or so she thinks.

Witty and poignant, Colleen Clayton’s stunning debut is a story about moving on after the unthinkable happens. 

Links To Buy:




Rating:
Review:

I’ve been making a point to explore books that deal with serious issues to suss out the kind of representation topics are getting. As hard as some of them are to read, I’ve read a lot of books that deal with rape and sexual consent. Reviews on such books like What We Saw can be found here, Exit, Pursued By a Bear can be found here. Today is another one of those books, this one called What Happens Next. 

After having finished this book, to me at least, this felt like it could be classed more as an introductory sort of book - this does deal with the issue of rape, but it didn’t delve too deeply into darker areas, and instead it kind of scratched the surface. This is a book you can read, somewhat uncomfortably if at that (given what this deals with) but it won’t steal your nights sleep. And I don’t mean that in a bad way at all - this book acts as a paving stone to other issues that are explored more deeply and darkly in other books. 

I feel like when it comes to these kinds of books, there are different stages of rape that they deal with and narrow in one - whether it be about writing about the damage it does to an individual because of the ordeal and how they change because of it. Or it deals with the aftermath, of recovery, of finding a way to get past it. Or like in this stage, it’s about wanting to get past in and try and get back to a level of normalcy that has been denied to you because of what happened. This book to me, sent a positive message out, as with other books about issues of rape - that what happened to you, does not define who you are. It’s not a part of who you are, it’s not embedded into what makes you, you. 

The characters that the author brings to this story, were perfect in getting that message across. They were individualistic, had their own persona and charm and made the story what it is. I especially loved Corey - who unlike other YA males, wasn’t some McHottie who just happened to fall for our female lead, but instead he’s described as “The Living Stoner” who by the way, bakes *instant drool* and spends his time secluded away from everyone else. Which is where Cassidy, avoiding all things human contact, ends up secluding herself and instead finds comfort with spending time away from people, but with Corey. Corey is such a sweet, honest, and caring guy, he’s not a big opposing personality that forces Cassidy to confront her feelings and reality, but instead he’s like a warm hug that envelopes you, makes you feel at ease. Though this book isn't about the romance, it did a good job in bringing a sweet story to the surface. 

Family and friends, support from those around you, some from unexpected places, are the central themes of the book and I love that, because it gives off a really positive vibe, rather than a dark and negative one - which hey, I totally understand because what this book and other books of a similar nature deal with is not pretty, it’s harrowing and horrific - but we also need books that show us the positives of moving forward, of the stage of moving past what happens and re-embracing everything you hold near and dear to you. There is no right and wrong when it comes to stories like these. But there is a certain level of responsibility to authors who tell these stories to tell them well, tell them with sensitivity, and I feel like the author has done that really well in this book and the way it’s written. 

This is, as I said, still not an easy book to read given the nature of what is explored. But it shows us about the importance of trusting again, finding love and solace and peace within and from those around you. There was justice in this story, however brief it was; I know the reality of convictions in rape cases are not as they should be, justice isn’t always served - but in fiction at least, I think it’s important to show that there can be, that you should still save that shred of hope in some form or another, that what happens to you doesn’t go unnoticed. Sometimes, like in old cases we’ve seen of the India Delhi gang rape of Nirbhaya, or in more recent times, of Theo in France - it can move mountains and shake the world - but also, reporting it, acknowledging it, and finding the strength to move past it, is just as important and just as empathetic and beautiful and heroic. 

Friday, 17 March 2017

Tell Me Three Things - Julie Buxbaum; Review


Book Details:
Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Delacorte Press (5th April 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0553535641
ISBN-13: 978-0553535648

Summary:

Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week of junior year at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago, she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel filled with characters who will come to feel like friends. 

Links To Buy:



Rating:
Review:

It’s been a while since I’ve read a cute contemporary when once upon a time, that literally used to be allllll I ever read. Lately, I’ve been delving into crime/thrillers, adult fiction *okay that’s just two examples, I thought I was about to list like 5 more* LOL but basically, delving into a more varied range and not just picking up contemporary after contemporary. 

This reminded me a lot of one of my favourite books everrrr, Feeling Sorry for Celia by Jaclyn Moriarty - in the sense that there’s a guy who’s watching our female character from afar, is making contact with her, and she’s trying to find who this guy is out in the real world. With Feeling Sorry For Celia, it was through letters, in Tell Me Three Things, it’s through email - both are ways which I love. I have such a thing about stories that include letters or text or emails as chapters, or interspersed throughout the book, it just makes a really nice change from chomping through a regular narrative, which don’t get me wrong is great, but including other forms of narrative like those mentioned above just makes me really, really happy. Another one of my fav books ever for example, is Holly’s Inbox, which comprises solely of written emails from one person to another. You’d think that would make it a hard story to follow and to build a plot when it’s just emails, but man alive, how wrong you would be. I.. sense that I’m getting off track here, so let me bring it back to the actual review. 

This was a cute book, but there were a few things I didn’t like about it, which I will talk about later on in the review and instead start with what I did like. It was a really easy read, with fluid writing that let me finish this in one sitting. We follow the life of Jessie who has been forced to move across the country as her Dad re-marries and throws into her life a step-mother and a step-brother to boot. Her relationship with her Dad, and these new additions is strained and tenuous. 

In regards to the emails, they were HILARIOUS. Full of a lot of wit and banter which was my style of humour; and while it did seem a little too good to be true in how witty and sarcastic they were, given they’re just teens, I will let it go because it’s fiction, it was funny, and I’m not meant to be sitting here over analysing the communication of these two characters, merely meant to enjoy it. 

Another thing about this book, which reminded me of another book (is this going to become a trend here?) LOL the way Jessie is with the new step-mother, reminded me of Sarah Dessen’s Along For The Ride - in how the main character starts to slowly form a relationship with this parental figure as they’re thrown in the mix together. They reach an understanding and realise they were wrong about each other and there’s a lot binding them together, more than they think. I liked that about Jessie and the step-mother in this book. That scene where she gives Jessie the ticket to visit back home and says.. 

“No problem,” Rachel says, and stands up. “But just so you know, there is one condition.” I wait for it. What could she possibly want from me? Rent money? For me to make up with dad?
“You have to come back.”

Jessie’s relationship with her new brother, Theo, was another welcome addition for me - how they slowly get to know one another, unravel each other’s characters. Because I’m a sucker for these things, I really liked the scene where Theo defends her. 

“And although this place is pretty big—a whole house will be built on this plot of land—Gem is for some reason drawn to that which she hates, and she finds me. 
Walks right by, so close that I shouldn’t be surprised when I feel her shoulder jam into mine. And yet, I am. The pain is sharp and perverse, and I imagine it hurt her just as much as it hurt me. Maybe more, since she’s bony.

“Excuse me,” she says, all righteous indignation. Theo and I have just arrived, so I haven’t even had a chance to find my friends, to at least surround myself by my wholly ineffective girl team. Not that Dri and Agnes could do anything, necessarily, but still.”

“What does Gem want from me? A scene? A punch? Tears? Or am I giving her exactly what she’s asking for when I stand here and look at her, slack-jawed? No words come, not even the easy ones she likes to slug at me.

“Really?” Theo says, and at first I think he’s talking to me, and I feel so alone that I may actually cry, right here, right now. Finally give the people what they want. 
“Touch Jessie again, and I swear to God, I will ruin you.”

Theo is talking to Gem, actually pointing his finger in her face. He looks menacing in his own version of a community service day outfit: lumberjack flannel shirt, designer jeans, spotless, intentionally untied Timberlands. 
She just stares at him, and I can see her gum sitting stupidly in her mouth.
“Blink once so I know you understand what I’m saying,” he says.

Jessie and SN are damn cute. And as for who SN could be - IT WAS SO OBVIOUS. HOW COULD IT EVEN BE ANYONE ELSE IN HER MIND? It’s funny in a way that this person didn’t even once cross her mind as being the guy. The relationship that formed between these two was adorable, and sweet and I liked it because it was all about how the opened up to each other, the way they started to trust each other - granted one person had the upper hand, but even then, their little “tell me three things” thing was just too sweet. 

NOW. The not so cute and not so great things:
1. My biggest pet peeve when it comes to these types of contemporaries is when EVERY SINGLE FEMALE aside from the main character, is made out to be some vindictive, evil, soul-sucking character who just happens to be skinny and blonde - Gem, from the above quote, being a perfect example of just that. All used in highlighting further apparently how sweet, innocent and naive our main female lead is - can we please stop this trend in YA books please, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. I’m not exaggerating, please view next quote for reference, where people were described as “mostly blond, vacant-eyed Barbies and Kens”. We don’t need to put other people down in order to make another one look good, okay. Period. So what if they’re blonde and all things Barbie and Ken - not every character needs to be some soulfully wounded and deep individual who projects an air of mystery. SIGH. 

2. The character of Scarlet. You’ll probably get this if you’ve read the book, but I was so confused for a bit because Jessie and Scarlet are best friends. Whenever Jessie talks to her, she always asks her how things are, what’s going on, enquires about her life, and Scarlet usually gives a few answers but doesn’t expand much - her choice really. But when Jessie goes to visit her, Scarlet’s suddenly giving her the cold shoulder and saying she never asked about her and only whined about her own life and blah blah blah. I was like, baffled - because she did ask! She did enquire! Sure, she did whine about her life, but she gave you chances to talk about yours too and never shut you down - you just didn’t talk about it! That whole argument was just really unnecessary and out of the blue really - could have done without that drama tbh. 

In the end, I also would have liked more on the scene about SN being revealed, to me it felt really rushed, with not enough time given for the pieces to be gathered once it was out in the open and the way in which it was done was anti-climatic too - I just wanted more of a bang, but instead was left with a little fizzle and smoke. Overall, despite the few issues I did have with the book, I did enjoy reading it and found many aspects of it cute and sweet. There are contemporaries out there that are better and some that are worse - but this one sits in the middle and did the job for when I needed a romantic little fix.