Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Review: The Museum of You



…Sometimes it’s the wait that’s the best bit isn’t it? Knowing something's coming and enjoying the feeling of it about to happen – like Christmas Eve, which is always better than Christmas Day.’





I think Carys Bray might be one of my most favourite recent authors. I read her debut novel A Song for Issy Bradley in 2014 (I talk about that here) and feel into a book love so hard it took me a while to recover so I was super excited when I learned that she has a new novel out in June. I also got to chat to her last year at one of Jen’s events. She signed a copy of Issy Bradley for me and was just as delightful as I had hoped – it’s always a pleasure isn’t it, when somebody you want to be lovely actually really is. Anyway, point is, I read The Museum of You last week – I finished it last night - and I absolutely adore it. I think it’s the best book I’ve read this year. I kind of want to smoosh it close at the same time as I shove it in the faces of everybody I know with a demand of read this book right immediately right now.

Have a blurb, people like blurbs. I like writing the word blurb.

Blurb.


Clover Quinn was a surprise. She used to imagine she was the good kind, but now she’s not sure. She’d like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else’s story is difficult. She tries not to skate on the thin ice of his memories.
Darren has studied his daughter like a seismologist on the lookout for waves and surrounded her with everything she might want – everything he can think of, at least – to be happy.
What Clover wants is answers. This summer, she thinks she can find them in the second bedroom, which is still full of her mother’s belongings. Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell her the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be.
But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.



It’s so good.

It’s tender and it’s funny and it’s moving and it’s so damn pretty. And honest, unflinchingly honest and full of lines that make you just say, ‘yes, yes¸ exactly that.’


People aren’t speed bumps, you don’t get over them.


Carys has a really strong, really unique voice and it’s one that fits really well with the way that I read, truthful and somehow at the same time simple but intricate and she has this way of getting right into the very heart of her characters. Clover and Darren aren’t just words on a page, they’re like real living breathing people that you feel like you know; that you want to know better. They step right off the page. There’s an exchange in a bedroom over a mug of warm water, between Darren and his Dad that choked me up. The whole damn book choked me up to be honest, but that bit: oh hello tears, where did you come from? It’s just….real. So very real.

Oh, and Dagmar, the little girl in Clover’s class at school. Let me talk to you about Clover and Dagmar because those two girls, I swear, it’s one of the most beautiful perfect depictions of friendship I have ever read. Dagmar. Every single word about her made me feel all of the things and the scene near the end where she quietly confronts Clover about their friendship and what it means, it’s just so perfect and unflinchingly raw. I would like more Dagmar. I want to know the summer from her side. I want to know that she’s going to be ok.

This is a beautiful read.  This is writing as writing should be, it’s so easy to read, picking you up and carrying you gently along, you’re swept away and you don’t even realise it, just like you don’t even realise really how deeply it’s gotten under your skin and how wonderfully complex it is until hours have passed and your chest is tight and you look around to reach for Clover and hold her only to realise she’s not actually real after all.  WHY IS SHE NOT REAL?
It’s like, Carys Bray writes grief and quiet unassuming love like nobody else I can think of, in a way that hurts your heart but at the same time makes you feel hopeful and somehow better.


It’s the same with love, he thinks. It doesn’t go anywhere. You can decrease its volume and increase its density; you can bundle it up, tight, but you still have to lug it around with you.


The Museum of You was like a catharsis I didn’t even know I needed.

Which, I know I know, but surely if you’ve stopped by here before you’re used to me making no sense by now.

This book is sad y’all, it’s really really sad and that’s just a thing that is, and you get deep into it. Deep into Clover and this longing for a Mum she never knew (and God, Clover is so amazing, na├»ve and at the same time wise beyond her years and curious and so open) and deep into Darren and this struggle to be without Becky, to be everything to his little girl but it’s never sadness for the sake of it and it’s never over the top and it’s never prying. It is at its heart a simple story about love and loss and life, a simple story told in the most beautiful of ways.

Bittersweet. Is that the word? Bittersweet and careful and compassionate and at times so honest it makes your breath catch. This is not a dreary sad times book that’s just going to leave you feeling sad and empty, it’s hopeful and it’s funny and Mrs Mackerel is the most excellent neighbour in the history of ever. Fact. And the ending is gorgeous. Really really gorgeous.

I want you to read this book, please. Please. It's released in June - do yourself a favour and pre-order!

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Review: Radio Silence



What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong?
Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.
But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.
Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…
She has to confess why Carys disappeared…

Meanwhile at uni, Aled is alone, fighting even darker secrets.
It’s only by facing up to your fears that you can overcome them. And it’s only by being your true self that you can find happiness.
Frances is going to need every bit of courage she has.


I haven’t read Solitaire, Alice Oseman’s debut novel, although I did see and hear about it everywhere, enough that Radio Silence caught my eye anyway. Solitaire was a success. I wanted to know who Alice Oseman was. Obviously  I still don’t know that because you know, we haven’t actually met. I can tell you this much though: she can write; Radio Silence is funny and real and incredibly incredibly honest. It’s written by someone who understands her target market, who seems to really feel what it’s like to be university age right now. A quick Google tells me she is only 21 years old. It all makes sense now; Oseman is writing what she knows and she’s getting it absolutely right. If you want a book that’s relevant to the right now, then this is a book that you want to be reading. 

It’s a pretty interesting study of some fairly complex issues this book, which, well I do love a book with a message. It’s not preachy though and it doesn’t shove its message in your face, but it does make you say ‘oh yeah actually, that’s pretty damn accurate.’ It’s a really interesting look at what it’s like to be the nerdy kid, or the smart girl, an interesting look at how people like ‘study machine Frances Janvier’ are seen by their peers. It’s also a really awesome look at friendships and relationships and how people change and grow together and apart and I love the lack of romance. Seriously. Take this exchange between Frances and Aled who in most other books would be kissing face by the chapter eight:


 “‘And I’m platonically in love with you.’

‘That was literally the boy-girl version of ‘no homo’, but I appreciate the sentiment.'”

I love it. I love it that the focal point of this book, the key relationship is that of a friendship, a completely platonic relationship between a boy and a girl. AMAZING. There’s not even a hint of sexual tension; there’s no slow burn; there’s no instalove; there’s not a single YA Romance trope. There’s just a boy and a girl being best friends and being awesome. Give me all of that and more please. There’s also a m/m relationship that’s as real as they come, complete with ups and downs and messy emotional misunderstandings. I mean, if this book were less well-written it might feel as though it followed a check-list for diversity with the aforementioned m/m relationship, a handful of LGBT characters and 3 out of 4 characters being POC but it doesn’t read like that at all, what it reads like is an excellent, relevant (and I know I am overusing that word right now) accurate, honest story. None of these characters feel like ‘Token Gay,’ it feels like their sexuality, their skin colour just is – they’re well rounded and fully fleshed out and extremely relatable to. Excellent charaterisation really is excellent – you feel like you know these kids, like you’re under their skin. They’re just…vivid.  You want to be their friend. Damn, I want to be Alice Oseman’s friend. Hey Alice, wanna be pals?

It’s also an excellent look at the internet and fandom and the like, in a totally different way to Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl but no less excellent. The fandom in question is a podcast called Universe City which I believe to be inspired by Welcome to NightVale which I have heard of but never listened to (but now kind of want to) just like I want to listen to the bits of UC that are on YouTube. How awesome is that? I love it. I love that Universe City is a thing I can go and listen to because those parts of the book, the University City transcripts and the mystery surrounding February Friday (be still my heart omg) were pretty much my fave parts of the whole thing. So there’s the whole Universe City thing and its look at internet fame and fandom and all that jazz (super relevant because look at what the world looks like, it’s all Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, instagram Tumblr; it’s all about finding something you love and gushing over it online, that’s what being a young adult looks like right now, and I love how Oseman has used that to tell her story) there’s an excellent amount of diversity, there’s a look at the pressures of leaving college and deciding what to do next, especially when it’s always felt like your life is pre-planned, there’s a smart look at familial relationships, there’s minimal romance, and there’s Frances, who young adults all over the place are going to see themselves in; I’m almost 32 and I recognised myself in her. I mean this is a girl that’s got booksmarts but is still kind of awkward, that obsesses over YouTube channels and can fangirl like a pro, that sits around the house in PJ pants and hoodies eating pizza and who wants to be invited to go clubbing with the girls from school but hates it when she actually gets there and who puts more pressure on herself than is ever ever necessary. She’s perfectly flawed and I love her. 

All in all, this book is just excellent. The only flaw really, is that there was so much that was excellent that it felt a little busy sometimes and some things I would have liked to have been explored in a little more detail; some people I would have liked to have seen more of got left a little by the wayside. Minor niggle is minor though. & as a book that says it’s ok to not know who you are or what you want; it’s ok to spend your life wanting one thing and then realise it’s not the right fit after all, that it’s not all about what others expectations of you and that whatever you do, whoever you are, you’re ok, I think it’s really important. 

Radio Silence is a good book, and it’s a book that you don’t see that often: Oseman has identified a gap in her genre and she fills it perfectly. S’a book you should read, this one. GO AND DO JUST THAT

Monday, 11 April 2016

In which I rant about 'Real Women'



Things I hate:

Broccoli
Cold winter mornings when I just want to stay in bed
Lies
The sound of my alarm clock
And this real women have curves bullshit.

Oh dear. I’m perhaps about to do a rant. I’m sorry – I’m tired, I did not sleep well last night, I’m a little bit grumpy and I am pissed off.

I saw a thing today on social media, not unlike things I’ve seen all over the place and all of the time that usually make me grit my teeth keep on scrolling, some kind of alleged body positivity, talking about having curves ‘like women should.’

Erm fuck off (language, bad language. This post might have it. Soz) Those are the comments that piss me off.

I mean, I’m not curvy I’m just…not. Apart from my bum, that’s perhaps not quite in proportion with the rest of my 5ft 4” self. Am I less of a woman because I’m slight, because I’m not curvy, because my boobs are small, because I have that thigh gap that seems to be the worst thing a girl can possibly have? You want to know a thing, I like my thigh gap. Stop telling me it makes me a shitty person. Stop telling me I’m not a real woman.

The definition of the word real is this:

actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed.

So when you say that real women have curves and take into account that I do not, that I have small boobs and a thigh gap are you somehow saying that I am imaginary?

I’m not by the way, imaginary I mean – I know this because I was pushing a  twin pram at the weekend and when I banged my shin on the bottom carry cot it hurt like a bitch. I’m surprised I didn’t bruise. But that ‘oh shitting hell’ of pain, it shows that I’m just as real as any other woman. Surprisingly.

All women are beautiful (except, it seems, us smaller ones) and people need to remember that. I am by no means what you would call skinny, I’m small but I’m not skinny. What I am, is not curvy and that’s ok. Embrace your curves; be proud of who you are, you should be, but please don’t feel better about yourself or make yourself more of a woman by somehow I am implying I am less than one. I didn’t choose my body shape any more than you chose yours. You don’t have curves like women should. You have curves. That’s how that sentence should end. Anything else is pitting woman against woman and is a competition that I am pretty damn sure none of us agreed to.

You are not your bra size, your hips, your cankles or collar bones, you’re not the marathons you run or the food that you eat, you are not your curves and you are not your size 8 jeans. You are not defined by the way you look, and however you look, you are no less real because of it. What you are is the way you laugh and the way you cry; the things that make you smile and the reasons you find to drag yourself out of bed in a morning; you are the photographs you take and the way you sing in the shower and the secrets you keep and the promises you make; you are your thoughts and you are your ambitions and you are your dreams. You are so much more than what you see in the mirror.

To suggest anything else is insulting and it sends out a terrible message and to say we should look a certain way – curvy - is just as terrible actually, as calling somebody fat. I don’t have a great body image and I don’t have a great relationship with food and it’s hard for me sometimes to look in the mirror and feel ok with what I see. Don’t make that harder for me by suggesting that the shape and size I am is somehow inferior to yours, that I am less, that I am not real and I am undesirable – that no real man would want me. That’s shitty and also brings me to another thing that I’d also like to put into Room 101 (such  a great show): Real men like curves.


Shut up. Real men (there’s that word again) like whatever attracts them personally: a flat stomach, an arse they can grab hold of, big boobs, small boobs, blonde hair, brown eyes, a dirty laugh, a shy giggle, a party animal, a bookworm.

Don’t imply I am less of a woman because I’m only a size 8 and don’t imply my boyfriend is somehow less of a man because he likes me that way. It’s nonsense.

I would never say to you that you’re too big to be desired, or that real men like thin chicks. I wouldn’t say it because I don’t think it’s true and I wouldn’t say it because I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings. I have feelings too. (I also wouldn’t say it because OH HELLO MISOGONY, WHY SHOULD I EXSIST ONLY TO BE ATTRACTIVE TO A MAN. I am who I am for me, not for the amount of attention I get from a man but hey, another soap box;another day.)

Basically, taste your words before you spit them out, say you’re curvy and you love it, and leave out that ‘like real women should be’ nonsense, and remember being body positive means being all body positive, it doesn’t mean belittling the body shape that’s not the same as yours – what that is, is body shaming and it’s never okay.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Review: The Map of Bones



I read The Fire Sermon last year and I loved it so The Map of Bones was one of my most anticipated releases of this year, mostly because The Fire Sermon ended on a cliffhanger and I wanted so badly to know what was going to happen next in Cass’s story. So badly.

If you didn’t read The Fire Sermon, then firstly: why not? Secondly, the premise is pretty awesome. It’s a post-apocalyptic series described as The Hunger Games meets The Road and it’s set 400 years in the future, in a world that’s turned primitive following some kind of nuclear fallout. Every person is born with a twin, and each twin is either an Alpha (physically ‘perfect’) or an Omega. The Alphas rule society, and not in a nice way either. Omegas are ostracised and branded and the Alphas reign supreme. It’s all a bit shit.  Oh, and the real sucker? When one twin dies, so does the other. Cass (who is an awesomely awesome heroine, although a little less so in The Map of Bones more on that later) is an Omega fighting for the resistance and with big dreams of equality; her twin, Zach (Alpha, obvs) is pretty high up on the Council and dreams of the opposite. Awesome, right? Right.

So, what did I make of Book 2 (catch up on my thoughts on book 1 here if you’re so inclined)

Oh, erm, SPOILERS PROBABLY.

I liked it. Mostly. It did feel a little slow to get going, but, I think perhaps because book 1 ended the way it did and that still feels so fresh in my mind (don’t talk to me about Kip please, I cannot) and I had unrealistically expected that momentum to carry over when it couldn’t really because you know, there has to be that element of reintroduction and setting things up for where the story goes next. So yes, it felt a little slow, but it didn’t take long for me to be reeled straight back in,  hook, line and sinker etcetera and I guess it kind of had to be a little bit more ‘filler’ because, bear in mind that this is the middle book of a trilogy. What I mean is that if book 1 is the set up and book 3 is the grand finale it makes sense then for book 2 to be the ‘how we get from 1 -3’ and as such a little bit less. Which sounds like a bad thing. It’s not. I really really liked this book.

Let’s talk about Cass for a minute. Cass was awesome in The Fire Sermon. I loved her so hard because she was this excellent real flawed character and she owned those flaws you know; she was excellent because of them and not in spite of them. Does that even make sense? In my head it does. The thing about Cass is that she’s ultra relatable – she’s just a girl and you can see yourself in her somehow and you kind of love that she’s pretty terrified and doesn’t actually really know what she’s doing but she’s getting up and doing it anyway. I liked her a little bit less here though, because even though all of that is still true, she got just a little bit high and mighty. There was an element of self-righteousness about her that niggled with me, an attitude that suggested she felt her visions were the be all and end all, that she was the one with the most to lose, that it was ‘all about her.’  She has a bit of a nobody understands what I’m going through attitude that frustrated me a little bit because seriously Cass, look who you’re travelling with will you? Look around you oh my God. Anyhow, that said, she also has a new found sense of confidence, which was excellent, she’s not as tied to Zach – again, excellent, because that guy is a dick and she manages to hold her own in a way she didn’t quite manage in book one and that made me proud. She has morals our Cass, and she’s not afraid to stand by them and she will fight for what she believes is right no matter what. Cass is still pretty damn awesome. Also awesome? Piper and Zoe? Zoe, good gracious. I have so much love for that girl, so freaking much.

The whole world they live in terrifies me, no lie. The Council and their attitudes terrifies me, the way most everybody views society terrifies me, the things we find out about how they got to where they were and the events that led to it and the lives of the people from Before, it all terrifies me and that’s a mark of an excellent book in this genre I think. That and the whole social commentary, which in these books is mostly centred around body image and is really really fascinating and thought provoking and excellent. It’s not a fast paced book, but neither was The Fire Sermon and I think that works in it’s favour, the slow unravelling of the story, the slow unfolding of events and the drip feeding of information just works somehow, it paints a much more effective picture than if the story sped from one drama to another. It kind of makes you believe that this world actually really exists for Haig and so it kind of makes it exist for you too, and again with the no sense. I suck at this sometimes. The Map of Bones is deeper somehow than The Fire Sermon and darker too,  Its slow pacing makes it detailed and that slow burn draws you in and holds you. The language is v pretty (a baby’s skull the exact weight of a nightmare and can’t you just tell that Haig is primarily a poet?). Also, I loved that the whole moral dilemma of the dual-death thing carried forward into this book, because that fascinated me in book 1: how can you win a war when a casualty for the other side results in a casualty for your own, when killing a Bad Guy also means killing an innocent. I can’t wait to see how it’s all going to come together in the last book and once again I am the most frustrated ever because I don’t want to wait.
 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Review: Fellside



Looking back through my blog the other day I realised that I never actually reviewed M R Carey’s The Girl With All the Gifts. Which, well at first I thought that was extremely remiss of me but then I realised that actually, it was more likely because I didn’t know how. I mean, how is it possible to review a book that you really need to read without knowing much about. & what is there to say other than I loved it so freaking hard. One of my faves ever. Yep, I’m saying that.

Anyhow, the point I’m making is that because I loved The Girl With All the Gifts as much as I did, I was ridic excited when I realised that Carey has another book, Fellside, which is published today. I did an actual dance of delight and excitement. An actual dance people. With a shimmy.

So, I’ve read it and I’m here, sat at my pretty purple laptop and typing this little review and well, what do I want to say?

Fellside is wildly different from The Girl With All the Gifts. Wildly.

There’s that. & that’s a good thing I think, because if he’d tried to follow in the footsteps of that book of great beauty then I fear he may of fallen flat on his face because there would have been comparisons and a bar too high to even contemplate. With this book, totally different as it is, you’re forced to judge it on its own merits. And merits? There are plenty.

So. Fellside’s set in a women’s max security prison (on the Yorkshire Moors no less HIGH FIVE) which, well I was always going to be all over this wasn’t I? I binge watch OitNB like a pro; I have all the seasons of Bad Girls on DVD box set. I love me a good women’s prison story.

 

& it’s about Jess Moulson, convicted of murdering a ten year old child, and a little boy with a message. & plotwise Immma tell you nothing else, sorry. I think that might be Carey’s thing: that you have to go into his books cold. COLD BUT OH SO EXCITED.

What I will tell you is that it’s pretty damn excellent.



In a similar way I guess to The Girl With All the Gifts, Fellside is creepy and compulsive, and hard-hitting; it’s gruesome and raw and it makes your heart race just a little bit. It’s entirely unexpected and incredibly well-crafted and it’s so very intense and so very very gripping.

& desolate. It’s desolate. Desolate like the Yorkshire Moors and that, that is no mistake I am certain. The prison is where it is for a reason. And I love it. 



There is a strange kind of beauty to Carey’s writing, it’s raw and honest and evocative and I will read, I think, anything else he has to offer ever because not many could make me love The Girl With All the Gifts and not many could make me love Fellside and not many could write two spectacularly different stories and make me love both of them as hard as I do. I doubt I’ll throw Fellside in the faces of everyone I know who reads like I did with The Girl With All the Gifts, but still, even though I didn’t love it quite as much, it’s absolutely definitely worth a read. It’s one of those books that you kind of want to hold aloft and say ‘see, this is why I’d rather stop in and read on a Saturday night, because people can do this with just 26 letters.’

I reckon I’d have given it 5 stars if I’d read it first which perhaps means my rating system is a bit messed up but hey, whatcha gonna do?

Buy yourself a copy why don’t you? It’s out now. 


Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Book Review: Flawed




Everyone knows who Cecelia Ahern is, right? I mean even if you haven’t read P.S I Love You (which I haven’t as it happens) then you’ve seen the film (I totes have, hello Gerard Butler you attractive man, you) and more than likely been a little teary-eyed.

It was that, really, that made me want to read Flawed, not so much my being a massive fan of Ahern’s work because well, let’s be honest here I’m kind of not: I’ve only read a couple of her books and a quick look back at my Goodreads account shows a 2 star review, but that I’m always kind of fascinated when somebody steps outside of their comfort zone and Flawed seemed to be as far away from PS I Love You as it can possibly get. It’s YA and it’s dystopia and I know what you’re probably thinking (not another one. That’s what you were thinking, right? Which, fine, because I kind of thought it myself a little bit except I do so love a good dystopia and will probably never say ‘oh I’m so bored of that now’ because MY INTEREST IS ALWAYS SO PIQUED) and it’s absolutely not a hearts and flowers sexy Gerard Butler-esque love story.

What it is, actually (and a little bit surprisingly, sorry) is thoughtful and clever and also a new twist on an old trope which I like because well, why would I not and holy run-on sentence batman, it’s definitely worth a read. It’s a book that doesn’t shy away from a pretty grim message (HURRAH) and it’s a book that makes you think - which I liked and my poor little over-worked brain cells perhaps did not but who asked them anyways- and it’s full of characters that I didn’t hate. & so often I read books where I actively dislike the characters and you know what? That’s not fun.

I did not hate these characters.

Apart from the one I was supposed to hate – and that’s another thing: Ahern has created an awesome villain here; I’m talking President Snow levels of awesome, I’m talking almost-but-not-quite  Umbridge. (& by awesome I obviously mean complete bastard. You got that, right?) This is not love-to-hate, this is out and out ‘you are bastard and I hate you, pure and simple.’

I won’t lie to you - this is a YA dystopia and so to a degree it kind of sticks to that tried and tested formula wherein a good girl notices a problem with the ‘rules’ of society and decides to make a stand much to the horror of most everybody she knows, there’s backlash from that but there’s also a handful of people who seem to have been hanging around in the background waiting for someone to be the poster child for the resistance; there’s your love triangle – one good boy, one bad boy etcerera etcetera and  there were parts of it that made me sigh a teeny bit and think oh but THG/Divergent much which is kind of annoying and I really would have liked a little more world building because I am all about the background, and (again), when you really give it some thought there were some aspects that seemed kind of illogical - although perhaps that was the point, the book is called Flawed after all – but, all that said I still feel like this book has enough about it for that not to matter too much, you get caught up in what’s happening even though you kind of already know what’s happening. S’that make sense?

Anyway, you remember last year when I got all excited about The Fire Sermon? (and if you don’t then please to go and read my post about that because I’m reading book 2 now so you need to be all caught up) That’s how I feel about this book now, (and the similarities of the whole issue regarding branding do not escape me) because this is one of those keep-on-reading-when-you-should-be-sleeping kind of books with just the right level of uncomfortablness to make you feel a bit cringey but still unable to not turn the page and enough about it to stir up all these emotions because it’s heavy and it’s full of heart-wrenching heart-wrenchyness.

Totally a word.

It kind of fills you with a sense of self-righteousness and it makes you think about society as it is right now which let’s be real here is what I both love and hate about dystopian novels. I love that whole twisty stomach feeling that comes from the realisation that all this seemingly insane story is, is a slight exaggeration of what is happening right now, that in a heartbeat what really is could easily become that. A good social commentary. I love it.

So, what do you need to know? Well, this book is going to make you mad, okay? You’re going to be foot stampingly throw your book against a wall mad and not just because it ends on a cliffhanger so frustrating you want to tear out your hair. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT CECILIA AND WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME WAIT. There’s a torture scene that’s very hard to read so you know – be aware of that: like I said, it’s pretty heavy. Kudos actually to Ahern for that, for realising she doesn’t need to gloss over the nitty gritty because actually her target market can totally hack it, and, whilst there is a hint of the old romance, it’s by no means the focal point of the story and I liked that – I didn’t want this to be a love story and I’m glad that the love story there was was slow burn and not that frustrating insta-love. (Although, that said, Celestine’s attachment to Carrick did baffle me a little bit…)

In a nutshell I liked it, and I’ll be reading book 2 and I have no qualms whatsoever about saying go forth and read it. Read it and come back and tell me what you thought.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Review: Salt to the Sea




I already knew I was going to love Salt to the Sea. I also already knew it was going to make me feel all the things. That it was going to hurt. I was right. 



I mean it didn’t hurt as much as Between Shades of Gray - which FYI I am still not over, will likely never be over – but still, it kind of got me right in the chest because Ruta Sepetys has this way of making you feel like you’re actually living the words on the page and the words on the page whilst utterly beautiful do not depict the happiest of times. I mean I won’t lie; I went into this book with an actual sense of dread. At the very best this would be bittersweet; it very likely wouldn’t even be that and yet, I wanted to read it so badly.

Salt to the Sea is set in 1945. The second World War is drawing to a close and thousands upon thousands of refugees are desperately making their way to what they can only hope will be freedom; a second chance; a new start. Our story for the main part is that of a Lithuanian nurse, a Prussian soldier, a young Polish girl (and a young strangely desperate and completely sociopathic Nazi.)
They first three, and the people they’re travelling with are desperate to board a ship (the Wilhelm Gustloff, which, please please Google it. It makes the Titanic look like a storm in a teacup. 1053 lives were lost when the Titanic sank; around 9400 lives were lost when the Wilhelm Gustloff went down) which will take them to some kind of promised land – any place will be better probably than what they’re walking away from. & they are walking, they’re walking miles.

Sepetys picks you up, and she unceremoniously sets you down in that abandoned barn, on that dusty road, on that harbour where people are fighting to be allowed passage; your feet hurt and your hearts hurts and your stomach rumbles and you’re lonely and terrified and still somehow kind of hopeful and you feel like you know Joana who has left so much behind and is carrying around all this guilt and yet still puts everyone else before herself; the Poet who you just want to love and protect because he’s this old man and he’s seen so much; Florian who pretends he’s tough but you know really isn’t and who has secrets of his own; Emilia who, well, hers is a story that you need to read really, but be prepared for your heart to fracture. You know them and you love them and you ache for them more so because whilst you know that they perhaps didn’t exist, thousands like them did, that those things happened to very real people and there’s no hiding from it.
There’s this one scene where a woman throws her baby at the ship so desperate is she to make sure that her child gets away from what has become a living hell and I swear I made this weird sort of keening noise. It’s two sentences at most and it still hurts like a sucker punch. It hurts because it might not be true but yet it still really is. This shit happened, Jesus look at the world right now. This shit is still happening and I don’t know perhaps that’s what makes this book so powerful and so poignant. What happened here, 70 years ago and that seems so atrocious and so unbelievable is a thing we’re seeing every time we turn on the television (and don’t get me started on how my stomach dropped when I drove through Calais a couple of weeks ago) It’s unreal but it’s so real. It’s unreal that it happened then, but it did. It’s unreal that it’s still happening, and yet. And yet.

Sepetys has a talent. Not many people could write a novel with 4 very different, equally strong voices and not have you feeling lost of overpowered. Sepetys does, each character is important, each story matters and despite the switch from one point of view to another the story doesn’t lose pace for a second. & God but it’s well researched. SO well researched.

Has it gotten under my skin like Between Shades of Gray? No, but I think perhaps that’s because I was prepared for it . I went into BSoG not knowing what I was about to read; I went into this with my heart protected in a layer of bubble wrap. However, this, like Between Shades of Gray is a story of survival, of hope when everything seems hopeless and the sheer strength of the human spirit. It’s a difficult book, but it’s one that is so worth reading because it’s important and it’s beautiful. And there’s a nod to Between Shades of Gray in there too which made my fangirl heart flutter.