Sunday, 21 February 2016

Book Review: The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin

Read: February 21   Verdict: 5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Suzy is 13 years old and dealing with the death of her best friend who drowned during the summer. When Suzy discovers the vast world of the jellyfish, she decides that a jellyfish sting must be why Franny died and sets out to prove it to the world.

I wasn't expecting to love this book as much as I did but I absolutely adored it. It was much faster-paced than I expected too. I think because I knew there were a lot of jellyfish facts in it, I thought i would get a bit bogged down in them and it would slow down my reading but nope. I finished this book in one sitting.

Ultimately this is a book about a girl who has just started her teenage years and discovering that the world is a much vaster and confusing place than she originally thought. And with Franny's death, Suzy has to confront the fact that dying is something that happens to young people, and that sometimes things like that just happen for no reason at all.

I really found myself identifying with Suzy. Particularly her issues with friends and everyone growing up that bit faster than her. Her confusion over the sudden gap between her and Franny and why she was suddenly left behind while the girls did their make-up and flirted with the boys. I think a lot of people could feel for Suzy in this one, as she's not the only person who's ever felt left behind.

I loved Suzy's relationships as well. Her family were all amazing. Yes, they did bring her to a therapist to talk about the not talking situation but they never pushed her, or grew frustrated with her. They were there waiting, ready for when she was ready to accept everything and be there for her when she did. Her brother and his boyfriend, yes. I love how there was no big deal about Aaron being gay. There was no in depth story about him coming out or any controversy in the family because of it. Her parents were divorced but still on talking terms, and seemed to still be on pretty good terms considering they were separated. I also loved Mrs Thurton and her quiet observations and suggestions. It's always great to see a good teacher/mentor-student relationship and a teacher really offering that safe haven for a student who just needs that time and space. Ans Justin was just lovely. I really loved his explanations of ADHD and how his medication helped.

This book was such a pleasant surprise and I would really urge everyone to read it, just to see if it will surprise you too.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Book Review: How Many Letters Are In Goodbye? by Yvonne Cassidy

Read: February 13-15   Verdict: 4 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Rhea is 17 years old, only has one arm and is living homeless on the streets of New York. As a way of exploring her feelings and what's happening to her, Rhea begins to write letters to her dead mother.

This one was a hard one to rate for me. There was a lot going on in this book from themes of exploring sexuality and coming to terms with sexuality, living with a disability, homelessness, the young homeless, sexual assault, depression, suicide. It was certainly diverse in a lot of ways and the story was set in the 90s, so there was no mobile phones, email or instant messenger. Everything seemed that little bit more drawn out because Rhea was writing everything down.

I felt like we did get a real sense of Rhea. She didn't seem to know where she was going or even who she really was but I felt close to her during her struggles. I did get frustrated at her now and again as I felt she was a bit slow in accepting things, particularly in her talks with Jean, but overall I do feel like she's a character a lot of people could identify with.

I'm giving this four stars because the book felt just that little bit too long for me. I think the middle could be trimmed down a lot and it would make the story feel a lot less dragged out.

On a side note, I didn't know this story would have an Irish connection so I was so happy when I read that. And you know an author is either Irish or has spent a great deal of time in Ireland when they talk about 'fizzy orange' and 'Hunky Dorys' and also use the phrase 'I'm grand.'

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Book Review: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Read: February 9-10   Verdict: 5 Stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

I feel like my heart has been wrung out like a dishcloth. I'm emotionally drained after reading this book. It's very very good.

Salt to the Sea follows Joana, Florian, Emilia as they travel through a war-torn Prussia to seek as safe voyage to somewhere better than where they ended up. Alfred is a German soldier on the Wilhelm Gustloff and eventually meets up with the other three characters and they all end up in the centre of a disaster that killed more people than the Titanic.

This book was really fast-paced and I flew right through it. I found it very hard to put down and I think it's because I connected with so many of the characters. I say so many when I actually mean all of them except Alfred because he was a creep. I really felt like every moment from each character revealed a little more about themselves. They all had their secrets and were very much a mystery at the start of the book but slowly they start to reveal themselves to each other and love each other. I think I spent most of the book in absolute awe of Emilia. She was an exquisite character. So innocent after everything she had been through but so strong, and good and kind. I think she's a character that will stick with me for a long time.

I had never heard of the disaster before and I can't believe I haven't considering 9,000 people lost their lives in it. It's hard not to compare scenes of the ship sinking to the scenes from the movie Titanic, the panic, the women and children drowning, the fear of lifeboats overcrowding. I felt a sense of unease about how so much of this book could be compared to what's going on in the world today with the refugee crisis - people leaving their home in a war-torn country with all their belongings on their back and very little hope of surviving, the danger of drowning, of their children drowning. I think the book came out at a pretty perfect time.

The ending was a little bit abrupt. I would have liked it to have been laid out as more of an epilogue style and it wasn't, at least for me on my Kindle. I almost didn't realise I was reading an epilogue of sorts and had to go back and start the chapter again.

This book is so beautiful with characters so deep and raw, you will not be able to put their story down. It's a book that needs to be read so finally, their story can finally be told.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Book Review: Spinning Starlight by R.C Lewis

Read: January 30 - February 1  Verdict: 5 stars

I received a free digital copy from the author/publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest feedback.

Liddi lives on a planet where technology is the be all and end all. She also happens to be the heiress of the biggest tech company on the planet and is the youngest sister to eight brothers. When Liddi is almost kidnapped by a group of mercenaries and brothers mysteriously disappear, Liddi knows something is up. As she attempts to figure it out, she ends up discovering something amazing and ending up on an unknown neighbouring planet. Without the use of her voice, Liddi must make friends and save her family (and her world).

I went into this pretty blind. I read the summary of the book on Goodreads and I'm not sure why but it made my brain melt a little bit and no information went in at all. So all I knew was it was sci-fi YA and that was about it. I didn't expect to get so sucked into the story but I really did. I like sci-fi but I don't read a whole load of it and I was afraid that I would get a little bit overwhelmed and while at first Liddi's world is a bit confusing, over time I got used to it and the structure of her own planet and the other seven plus the final unknown eight planet. I would actually love more books in this kind of galaxy (is that the right word?) as I found the different alien species and the brief description of the other planets fascinating.

I loved Liddi's relationship with her family and I really felt for her as she struggled to save them. She has such a special bond with every brother and her little memories with all of them, and her parents, were very heart-warming. Her relationship with her family was definitely one of my favourite things about the book and even though the brothers were not really in a lot of the book, except Liddi's memories, I ended up loving all of them too as it was clear their love for their sister, and each other, was as equal.

I thought the storyline of Liddi losing her voice was an excellent one. I'm not familiar with The Wild Swans which I believe this was a retelling of so it just reminded me of The Little Mermaid. I found myself gasping in shock and make-believe pain at parts because I knew Liddi couldn't. There were times I knew she needed to cry out so I found myself wanting to do it for her instead!

Overall, this was a fantastic book and I enjoyed every moment of it. Liddi was a wonderful, strong and kind-hearted female protagonist with brains to burn and if every female character could be like her, we'd be on to a winner.