Sunday, 8 September 2013

Heart Shaped Bruise - Tanya Byrne; Review.



Book Details:
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Headline (27 Sep 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0755396065
ISBN-13: 978-0755396061

Summary:

“They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who shake their heads on the six o’clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don't know. You don't know who I used to be. 

Who I could have been.

Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time.

Links To Buy:




Rating:


Review:

The hazards of reading a good book. Phase 1 – before you start the book; good mental state, happy, able to eat. Phase 2 – after you finish the book; want to die, want to kill someone, want to rip your heart out and not feel the pain, spend hours in endless agony.

(Note, this review may be a little dramatic, given I just finished this book and I’m emotionally unstable) (all the more reason to read this book).

So. Okay. 4 hours ago, I started a book, which I just finished and in a fit of agony, I’m bashing the keyboard writing out this review.

Heart Shaped Bruise can only be called one thing – haunting. And I fell in love with it, as it slowly tugged me under with the characters, the story, the prose, only to have the rug tugged from under my feet at the end. I should feel a sense of betrayal somewhere, but I’m currently too busy nursing my broken heart. Anyway, here’s a review.

Our story starts with a chilling journal, found left in a room in the Young Offenders Mental Institution; through which we follow the story of Emily Koll. The tabloids have branded her as evil, something apparently unavoidable as she’s the daughter of a famous gangster. Yet as the world and media paints Emily as what people want to see, the author of this book takes us through the real life of Emily, as she spends her days inside, her psychological meetings, her internal rant and feelings.

We know Emily did something evil. Her Dad shot a policeman, his daughter, Juliet, saw and stabbed Emily’s Dad. That’s where it all started, and as Juliet’s life slowly starts to rebuild as she moves in with foster parents, who is ex-CID, we see Emily’s life falls apart. Yet what we don’t know, is how she went from normal 16 year old girl, who’s Mum left, and whose Dad was rich and did everything and anything to make her happy – to Emily being branded evil and left to tell her story behind bars.

But we hear Emily’s voice, the real voice from within. The author does such an amazing, heartfelt job of getting across the real emotions, the darkness and anguish from within. It’s not a complete story of redemption, but rather it’s gritty. We don’t have a main narrator here who tells us about remorse, and repentance, but rather Emily knows what she’s done, she has no regrets, and yet all the side effects and emotions that she didn’t expect – those make it all real.

Something that touched me with the author’s writing style, was how you could feel the despair, and the anguish and even share the same emotions Emily shares. Though we may not have tread the same path as Emily, yet somehow, these emotions can still feature in our everyday life – and this touches us. It’s brutally honest.

As for the characters – they are everything and more than I expected. We see how Emily, after the arrest of her father for murder of the police officer, moves to London, intent on revenge through Juliet for if she hasn’t stabbed her father, Emily’s life wouldn’t have fallen apart. Through the snippets of Emily’s journal and the sessions with her psychologist, we flit to the past and present, and the story of love, loss and despair is built. Emily is one of the best characters that I’ve read; greatly constructed, honest, witty, vulnerable – and though we keeps telling us that she knows what we think of her, that she’s evil – the opinion that forms of her as you read her struggle, makes you feel attached to her. Bring in Juliet, Sid, Mike and Eve, you’ll find that there’s a vast array of characters that draw you in.

The writing in itself is brass and bold – it’s gritty and dark, but you can’t put it down. You have to know what happens and this lures you through to the end, and brilliantly and brutally breaks your heart. I can usually tell where a story is going, but this time, I couldn’t foresee what was in store and I think that false sense of security, the calm before the storm, made me love this book even more.


Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Beginning of Everything - Robyn Schneider; Review.



Book Details:
Hardcover: 352 pages
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (27 Aug 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0062217135
ISBN-13: 978-0062217134

Summary:

Golden boy Ezra Faulkner believes everyone has a tragedy waiting for them—a single encounter after which everything that really matters will happen. His particular tragedy waited until he was primed to lose it all: in one spectacular night, a reckless driver shatters Ezra’s knee, his athletic career, and his social life.

No longer a front-runner for Homecoming King, Ezra finds himself at the table of misfits, where he encounters new girl Cassidy Thorpe. Cassidy is unlike anyone Ezra’s ever met, achingly effortless, fiercely intelligent, and determined to bring Ezra along on her endless adventures.

But as Ezra dives into his new studies, new friendships, and new love, he learns that some people, like books, are easy to misread. And now he must consider: if one’s singular tragedy has already hit and everything after it has mattered quite a bit, what happens when more misfortune strikes? 

Links To Buy:




Rating:


Review:
Some books I plan to read - but never do. And then there's books that I'll randomly pick up, and before I know it, it's 3:22am and I'm writing this review. Rewind a few hours, and you'll find me posting a picture on twitter of my plans for the evening,  that includes reading Beginning of Everything on my kindle. This book broke my heart a little - which meant I loved it.

Post car crash, we see start with the main character, Ezra (a name I love by the way) reeling from the way his life has just been flipped upside down. Classed by the author Schneider the “golden boy” – which is your basic teen, who is popular, well liked, plays a regular sport and that places him in the “it” crowd. Throw in cheerleader girlfriend and you have yourself the cliché high school scenario.

But then Schneider winds us away from the typical teen setting and instead takes us on a journey with Ezra, who narrates his own tale as he shares how he no longer knew where he really stood in high school. It’s not about his old friends pushing him out the group, but rather Ezra decides for himself that he doesn’t belong. Instead, he takes refuge with an old friend, in the form of Toby, who brings him in to the world of nerds and the “other” side to high school.

Schneider draws out many eccentric characters - not your typical dorks who get bullied, but rather intelligent, genuine and passionate people who just sit on the other side of the fence. As Ezra slowly gets to know them, and the adventures they themselves get up to, he starts to see that there’s a lot more to life, a lot more to high school, and his own existence.

As for the romance? Enter Cassidy. Cassidy was a mystery and though as a reader you might already know what it was that held her back, we see Ezra take on this oddly beautiful girl, who’s smart, witty, unpredictable, and everything he realises he’s been looking for.

With witty writing and an easy flowing dialogue, we travel alongside all these characters, as they form who they are. Most of the book really did have me snorting out in laughter at 1am, and smiling at my Kindle like a fool. The ending was one I didn't see coming, especially the last 50 pages. The impact from the unravelling secrets that tear our characters apart, really do shock you. Is there a happy ending? I won’t give that way for you, but all I can say is, that though my heart ached a little by the time I had finished it, I really wouldn’t wanted it to have finished any other way.

This book can be classed as contemporary fiction, yet there are bits to it that Schneider highlights for us, that is very much real, and for that I rate Schneider and this wonderful book.

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“There’s a word for it,” she told me, “in French for when you have a lingering impression of something having passed by. Sillage. I always think of it when a firework explodes and lights up the smoke from the ones before it.”

“That’s a terrible word,” I teased. “It’s like an excuse for holding on to the past.”

Well, I think it’s beautiful. A word for remembering small moments destined to be lost.”

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Mr Penumbra's 24 Hour Bookstore - Review; Robin Sloan.



Book Details:
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Atlantic Books (1 Aug 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1782391193
ISBN-13: 978-1782391197

Summary:

“The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.”

Links To Buy:




Rating:


 Review:

This book was such a pleasant surprise. Books set in bookstores are by far, my favourite kind; they’re my kryptonite. What the book was about, didn’t even matter as much to me, but it was an added, unexpected bonus.

The book revolves around Clay, his search for work, and how he lands himself at Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore. Willing to work just about anything to keep his head afloat at the deep end of the recession, Clay doesn’t ask questions about the curious on-goings of the store. The specific requirements of the job for Clay are three fold.

ONE: You must always be here from ten p.m. to six a.m. exactly. You must not be late. 

TWO: You may not browse, read, or otherwise inspect the shelved volumes. Retrieve them for members. That is all.

THREE: You must keep precise records of all transactions. The time. The customer's appearance. His state of mind. How he asks for the book. How he receives it. Does he appear to be injured. Is he wearing a sprig of rosemary on his hat. And so on.

And what customers they were. They would come in during the graveyard shift, or random hours of the morning, and take an old book from the shelf. How did they pay? With another book in return, they exchanged them. Few nights in, naturally, Clay was curious as to what was going on. He endeavours to break some rules, to get to the bottom of this weird bookshop.

What Clay embarks on next, with the help of some eccentric and loveable characters, is what makes this novel fabulous. Sloan introduces a wonderful array of characters, each and every one of whom I loved. Clay’s best friend Neel, rich, nerdy and loyal friend; Clay’s girlfriend Kat – who works at Google (yes, you heard right), Clay’s roommate Mat – the pro with recreation of the artistic kind and then finally, Mr Penumbra himself.

Let me just tell you this. You. Cannot. Guess. What. This. Story. Is. About. I kept pausing in between each new twist, closed my Kindle cover, took a deep breath, at which point my sister would look over at me on the floor, and ask what’s wrong? And every single time, I would reply – “this book is crazy”. And crazy of the good kind and I loved every single bit of the journey.

Sloan’s writing style had subtle hints of John Green, Markus Zusak and Carlos Ruis Zafon – my 3 favourite authors. There was poetry involved, as well as humour that I didn’t expect – which results in me barking out laughs randomly that definitely startled my family. It’s a style that captures your interest and refuses to let go of you till you turn the final page.

This was such a unique story, and undeniable one I hadn’t read before. It may have seemed a little ludicrous at times, I will admit, there were parts to the story that I was not fond of, but a book is what you make of it. And I decided as much as I loved this book, it’s not something that should be taken too seriously. Instead, what does matter, is the courage, the curiosity, and the binding of the characters as they come together in this story.

This is a brilliant novel from Sloan, and I can’t wait to read more of his works. As always, let me leave you with some quotes from the novel and I implore you to go pick this book up.

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“There is no immortality that is not built on friendship and work done with care. All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight.”
_

“You know, I'm really starting to think the whole world is just a patchwork quilt of crazy little cults, all with their own secret spaces, their own records, their own rules.”
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“He has the strangest expression on his face- the emotional equivalent of 404 PAGE NOT FOUND.”