On hiatus: indefinitely

open book

Lovely readers, I’m going to be on hiatus indefinitely for the foreseeable future. Nothing bad is happening, only good things for me and mine, but I’ve found that reading and reviewing is just not priority right now and something I need to step away from. Posts may appear every now and again, if I read a particularly wonderful book, but it won’t be regular, if at all.

See you on the other side xo

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For review

I have compiled a list of books that I have received for review over the past few years to keep track of them all. Although I don’t see myself getting through them all any time soon, if ever, it’s nice to have them all recorded in one place; books in bold are of the highest priority. I will remove books as they are read and reviewed, adding to the list as appropriate. Continue reading

The Surface Breaks by Louise O’Neill

The Surface Breaks

“We are women. And women are warriors, after all.”

I really think the blurb for this needs to be re-written to say that it is a slow-build or slow-burn feminist reimagining of The Little Mermaid. The oppression is there from the beginning, with a disgustingly misogynistic patriarchal society, but the anger towards it took a little too long to emerge for my liking (nearly 100 pages in). Once it begins, however, there’s no going back; it’s still a very slow build up, until the end, but I did enjoy the subtlety and the story suddenly went from being distinctly unlikeable to being one of my favourites this year; Gaia has to lose her voice in order to learn how to speak out and become her own person, not a plaything molded by men who want to keep her under control, and it is certainly a powerful thing to learn.

The end of the blurb describes The Surface Breaks as: ‘A book with the darkest of undercurrents, full of rage and rallying cries: storytelling at its most spellbinding.’ And there really is no better way to describe it (apart from a slow-burner). It is full of oppression and suffering, of women who have been taught that they are there purely for the enjoyment of men, that they should be pretty and desirable and quiet, who have been silenced so thoroughly that they no longer know their own powers. It really is a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt beaten down, abused, or silenced, that you are worthy and you do matter.

I particularly loved Ceto, known by the merfolk as the Sea Witch, who completely destroyed everything that Gaia had been brought up to believe by her father, the Sea King. She is the badass mermaid of my dreams:

“My name is Ceto,” she snaps, pushing herself out of the chair until she towers above me. “It is your father who has insisted on calling me a ‘witch’. That is simply a term that men give women who are not afraid of them, women who refuse to do as they are told.”

Read: May 26th-30th 2018

4/5 stars

A Thousand Perfect Notes by C.G. Drews

A Thousand Perfect Notes

Received from NetGalley for review. 

‘What he wants most in the whole world is to cut off his own hands.’

Some books break you; make you feel so much it hurts, make you cry, and rage. And then they restore you, not with perfect endings or happily ever afters, but with a little bit of hope and a few good people. A Thousand Perfect Notes is exactly that kind of book for me, the kind that hurts, that heals, and stays with you long after you’ve finished reading. If you struggle with stories about child abuse, however, proceed with caution.

Beck’s situation is tragic; his mother is psychotic and abusive, trying to live vicariously through him after a stroke leaves her unable to play the piano as she once did. She has broken him completely and destroyed every ounce of his self-worth – insulting his abilities, refusing to ever tell him he’s good enough, withholding food if he doesn’t meet her standards, beating him when he messes up. He lives in constant terror, isolated from everyone except his five-year-old sister, Joey, who he loves and protects from his mother – the Maestro. Until August. A free-spirited girl he’s partnered with for an essay, whose sunshine soul manages to slowly break down the barriers Beck has put in place.

I absolutely adored Beck, Joey, and August. I wanted so badly to wrap Beck and Joey up in cotton wool and look after them; nobody should have to live in a home where beatings seem normal and there’s never enough food. The very rare moments of kindness (if they can be called that) that the Maestro showed made her all the more terrifying, leaving Beck spiralling into thoughts wondering if she could ever love him – my heart went out to him, I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have to live like that and still desperately want approval from the person hurting you.

August and her family remined me so much of mine – intense with love, with food, with taking in waifs and strays of all varieties. August refuses to let Beck shy away from her, no matter how rude and disinterested he seems, because she likes him, she finds him interesting, and she knows that not everything is as it seems on some level. Yes, she’s drawn to the abused, the broken, but, ultimately, she’s just a good person with a good heart, and a lot of love to give. And I love that Beck and August’s story didn’t culminate in some kind of ‘loves heals all’ narrative because it doesn’t – it can help, having someone who loves you, who cares, but it’s never going to undo years of abuse and degradation, and make everything immediately better.

This is such a wonderful, heart-breaking, and important book full of music, obsession, and abuse. Beck and Joey’s story is tragic, more so because it is a reality for so many people in this world. It’s not an easy read, but it is so worth it.

‘You are worth more than a thousand perfect notes.’

Read: May 22nd-26th 2018

5/5 stars

(Mixed) Little Bits

The Rescuers by Margery Sharp

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: prompt #33, a childhood classic you’ve never read.

This is an absolute delight; the Disney version is one of my favourite films and I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to read this lovely story. Although there are some obvious book-to-film differences, there’s still Bianca and Bernard, as well as Norwegian mouse, Nils, on a danger-filled rescue mission to help someone in need. This is such a fun children’s classic, filled with whimsy and nostalgia, and well worth a read if you love the film.

Read: May 7th 2018

4/5 stars

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

Received from NetGalley for review. 

DNF

I feel like I’ve been trying to read a completely different book to everyone else because Sky in the Deep has done nothing but bored me. Violent, stabby Vikings should not be boring…but here we are. I’m going with ‘it’s not you it’s me’ because I think I could enjoy this book under the right circumstances and maybe I’m just not feeling it right now? Eelyn seems badass to begin with but it feels like her getting kidnapped by the Riki and the whole dead-brother-back-to-life-but-with-the-enemy thing killed off the excitement and completely halted my interest. I can’t help but feel that it’s just going to get a bit bloodier and someone important will probably die, but then everything will work out and Eelyn and Fiske will ride off into a glorious sunset. I might be wrong, but I don’t have the energy to find out.

Read: May 22nd 2018

2/5 stars

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley

Words in Deep Blue

Received from NetGalley for review. 

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: prompt #39, a book involving a bookstore/library.

“You’ll just have to get over it. You want to hide. You want to be miserable, but that’s not happening. You’re taking to job at Howling Books. You’re not spending even one day lying on your bed staring at the ceiling.” She looks over at me and then back to the road. “You have to start living again sometime.”

I am in love with this book. IN LOVE. It is beautiful and heartfelt and terribly sad and frustrating and hopeful. It is about life and death and love and the power of words, the magic of writing. It is possibly one of the most important books I will ever read, just because of the way it’s made me feel. My heart is full, I am crying, it is wonderful, and any hopes for a coherent review have gone out the window. Crowley has done such an amazing job of portraying the realities of loss and grief, and the effect it can have on how a person deals with the rest of the world, how it can impact on both your mental and physical well-being, without creating a story that is overly sad. As with most things, time heals and tomorrow is usually better.

‘The memories are in the words. And from that the strange thought comes that my memories are trapped in all the copies of this poem, and so everyone who’s reading it, no matter what copy, has my memories without knowing it.’

Although on the surface it could be considered a love story, there are so many depths within it. The story is really about loss and grief, and how we can pull ourselves back together when everything feels like it’s falling apart. At the beginning of the novel Rachel is depressed and listless – her brother, Cal, has drowned, and she just doesn’t know how to get through life anymore. She can’t face the sea she used to love so much, she can’t face being somewhere Cal has died, so moves back to the city. The city, however, is not without challenges, as Rachel faces her best friend, Henry, who she hasn’t seen for three years. They both think the other forgot about them and didn’t care enough to keep in contact. The love story picks up here, full of anger and miscommunication, and Crowley handles it so well alongside the feelings of grief and how difficult it can be to cope with, and not only in terms of losing a loved one.

“Words matter, in fact. They’re not pointless, as you’ve suggested. If they were pointless, then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history. If they were just words, we wouldn’t write songs or listen to them. We wouldn’t beg to be read to as kids. If they were just words, then stories wouldn’t have been around since before we could write.”

I really can’t praise this book enough; it is outstanding in every way. The characters are complex and realistic – I didn’t always like Rachel and Henry, but I understood them and why they acted they way they did, and I always loved them. I was so invested in every single character in this novel (yes, I am including Howling Books as a character) and I enjoyed every single minute I spent reading it. Do yourself a favour: buy this book, devour it, love it.

Read: April 12th-15th 2018

5/5 stars

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

– Derek Walcott

The List of Real Things by Sarah Moore Fitzgerald

The List of Real Things

 

Received from NetGalley for review. 

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge: prompt #10, a book about death or grief.

‘There was magic in the air and Bee McAuliffe at the centre and I started to see that there were things she understood and things she could picture and things she knew that the world was not ready to see.’

The List of Real Things is a sad and lovely middle-grade story about life, loss and grief, and the magic of imagination, with an exciting dose of magical realism. It’s a beautiful and heart-wrenching book that really makes you think about life and all its fragilities. It makes you wonder what is real and what isn’t, and how we define reality; is something any less real because no one else can see it?

Grace and Bee have lived with their Grandfather Patrick, his dog Louie, and Uncle Freddy since their parents died five years ago and have always got along just fine – Grace is mature and sensible, and just wants to fit in, as most teenage girls do, and Bee seems to live in her own happy little world, believing in all kinds of fantastical things. It’s only when their Grandfather dies and their Aunt Lucy turns up out of the blue that things change – Grace’s desire to fit in and be ‘normal’ leads to her resenting Bee and her quirks and becoming angry at Freddy that their lives aren’t more ‘normal’.

“Just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there, that’s what they said. And I believe them.”

I loved the way Fitzgerald explored the characters of Grace and Bee. Grace felt so authentic – teenagers can be silly, selfish, and make poor choices. They can be mean, moody, and take out their frustrations on the ones they love, but usually, there is goodness underneath it all. Grace’s desire to be part of the ‘in -crowd’ overwhelms everything, and she finds herself almost wishing away her eccentric family so that she can be that mythical thing – normal. It takes a lot for her to realise that as weird as she finds Bee, she’s her sister and she loves her regardless. I absolutely adored Bee. So much of what she says and sees is left to interpretation – is it real or not? – but she believes in it entirely, and I loved her incredible imagination and way of seeing the world.

‘The fear did not weaken me. It made me strong, made me angry, made me brave.’

I think this is a brilliant middle-grade book – it reads fairly young, but not in a patronising way, and I can imagine many younger people thoroughly enjoying it and relating to it. Both Grace and Bee are interesting and well-thought out characters, and the story is all about exploring their relationship, alongside deeper themes of death, grief, and fear. And the ending is a misty-eyed delight; it brings everything back to magic, to hope, to knowing that the storm will pass. Some things remain unclear and I think that is the beauty of magical realism – it’s up to you, in the end, to decide what was real and was not.

Read: April 11th 2018

4/5 stars