Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down – John Green

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‘Your now is not your forever.’

16-year-old Aza is going through the motions to get through high school with her vibrant best friend Daisy at her side and trying not to spiral. Because Aza has Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), making life that little bit more difficult. Getting through her day to day didn’t include trying to find a missing billionaire or his handsome son.

I started reading John Green just after The Fault in Our Stars came out so I could spend the years between books reading the rest of the novels he had written and I was still desperate to get my hands on the latest novel. Well, it was worth the wait because he’s managed to get it right again.

The reason the Aza and Daisy even begin their quest to find the missing billionaire is the hundred thousand dollar reward for information.  For Daisy, a reward would mean financial freedom, for Aza, however, her curiosity is based on Davis Pickett. Of course, as with all of Greens novels, there is an element of love and desire, after all, he is writing about teenagers.

It must be said I think this sets a different tone for John’s work. While we’re used to difficult themes within Green’s novels, ones that I frequently cry in, Turtles felt different. This is an own voices novel, Green has openly spoken about his life with OCD (you can watch a video about it here) and you can tell. I am familiar with the process of mental spirals and having it put into words was incredible.

Something that is not often seen in literature is the honest feelings of those around someone with a mental illness. I’m not going to spoil anything but Green has shown the honest reality of what it’s like for the person with the illness and those around them, because it’s not easy.

I gave this novel 5 stars because I loved it. As I thought I finished it within 24 hours in love with the characters and the way Green writes them. I know that some people haven’t liked this as much but I’m not one of them because it was wonderful. I also loved the ending, of course, I won’t spoil it for you, but it wasn’t typical, nor what I’d expect.

John Green is still, and probably always will be, one of my favourite authors of all time.

Book Review: Wild Embers – Nikita Gill

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The latest release by Nikita Gill has been getting rave reviews, a collection focusing on passion, identity, the universe and femininity. I was thankful to receive a copy of Wild Embers for review by Netgalley. This is my first encounter with Gill’s work.

This is a collection of both poetry and prose, which I haven’t come across before. I’m used to collections being one or the other, therefore felt the flow was slightly interrupted and at times hard to get into. That said, Gill clearly has a talent for both. In fact, I would gladly read a collection of short prose, something that I don’t believe Gill has released before.

There is, however, a strong female message behind the majority of her work. Poems such as ‘Witches’ and ‘Dragons Breath’ uses fantasy elements to reiterate the strength of women and their capabilities of being powerful in their own right, challenging how women are seen in traditional fairy tales.

Dismissing traditional ideas of femininity takes centre stage the prose pieces, as Disney Princesses get rewritten into feminist heroes with their own thoughts and agendas, not waiting for a prince to save them. We’re also introduced to Greek Goddesses, wise and intelligent. In this instance it reminded me of Carol Ann Duffy’s, The Worlds Wife, a wonderful collection. I would love to see what else Gill could do with these characters in further collections of prose or poetry.

I gave Gill’s collection 3 stars. I enjoyed experiencing a new poet and felt that there was huge potential in what Gill was writing about. That said, I struggled with the layout and, at times, felt that there could have been more of a structure to the way that the collection was presented. I did have times where I wasn’t as enthusiastic as I wanted to be. Despite this I’d really like to try out some more of Gill’s work to experience her work.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for this opportunity.

 

Book Review: Riot Days – Maria Alyokhina

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In 2012 a group calling themselves Pussy Riot staged a protest ,called ‘Punk Prayer’, against Putin and the Russian government. Following their protest  the women were forced to go on the run from the law. Maria, called Masha in the memoir, is one member who gets caught and sent to prison for her ‘crimes’, this is her story.

The story of Pussy Riot hit headlines worldwide, women put in prison simply for protesting. Going into this memoir I didn’t know what to expect, I’d followed the story with interest but wondered what had happened to the women. This memoir explores the reasons behind the protest and what many people forget, the humans who lived it.

The book is set out in a fragmented style, almost as if it were a diary. That said it can make it incredibly hard to read. There were times when the book jumps between time frames and situations, which caused a lot of confusion while reading and meant that I often lost concentration while reading. I also think there was an issue with the translation, some things didn’t come across clearly, leaving me to guess what the author meant.

This is an important book to read, there is a lot we don’t know a lot about what happens to political prisoners. With Masha’s determination and status within her prisons she was able to make some changes to the way women were treated in prison. She was able to give them some basic human rights, many of which they are denied.

It is a fascinating look at the reasons behind the movement, however, there were points where I felt too distant from Masha, I didn’t feel like I knew her as a person. She mentions a son at the beginning but he’s hardly mentioned for the rest of the book, I wanted to know more about her life, her family and who she was outside Pussy Riot.

I gave Riot Days 3 stars. While I enjoyed it and thought that it was an interesting look at the life of a political prisoner and what lead her there. That said, there were issues with the way translations came across and the format made it incredibly difficult to follow.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for this review copy.

Book Review: The Sun and Her Flowers – Rupi Kaur

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‘never feel guilty for starting again’

In an incredible second collection, Rupi Kaur releases the raw emotion of a modern young woman. From the break down of a relationship to the relationship she shares with her mother, to finding love again when she wasn’t looking for it. Once again, my heart was flung into my mouth reading this and with good reason.

Sometimes a book falls into your hands when you’re in desparate need of it, for me, this was The Sun and Her Flowers. I’ve been a Rupi Kaur fan since reading her first collection Milk and Honey, which spoke to me as a young woman. So, of course I picked up her second collection and devoured it in 24 hours.

When reading Kaur you need to know she is brutally honest. She’s honest about her body, her mind, her sense of self and being a woman. She reflects on the good and bad around her without holding back, because you know that she has held back for so long. There is anger, there is pain and reflection on suffering that has been endured but the poems that describe them are crafted so beautifully that you feel every emotion without sinking into darkenss yourself.

While I’ve already touched upon it the most magnificent part, for me, was the poems Kaur wrote about her mother. She talks about the sacrifices and struggles her mother had to overcome so that Kaur and her siblings could achieve. She wonders what her mothers life would have been like should she have been free to make her descisions. It’s a wonderful insight into the relationship she shares with her mother.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Kaur collection without the accompanying illustrations. There isn’t a fear of showing womens bodies as they are in captivating illustrations. These seem to bring the poems to life at certain points and allow you to visualise the poems themselves.

I gave this collection five stars. This is an absolutely breathtaking collection and something I’m sure I’m going to read again and again. I, personally, found it to be an incredibly empowering collection. I’m sure that Kaur will go far, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.

 

Book Review: See You in the Cosmos, Carl Sagan

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“Sometimes the clouds inside my head get big and grey and swirly and then I hurricane through my eyes. Except I don’t literally hurricane through my eyes—I don’t actually have a weather system in my head.”

There’s nothing that 11-year-old Alex loves more than space and his dog Carl Sagan, named after his ultimate hero. Alex is on a mission, he’s going to record everything on his Golden iPod so that he can send it up into space, for other life forms, just like his heroes Golden Record in 1977. After making enough food for his Mother and booking his ticket, Alex is off on an adventure. Little does he know it will change his entire life.

Wow, this novel. This novel has the potential to make you laugh and cry, which isn’t something I thought I would say when I initially requested this from Netgalley for review. The blurb mentions that Alex would learn about his family and boy does he, but I’m getting ahead of myself in my excitement regarding the novel. This is a story of adventure, love, pain and seeing a world through a child’s eyes.

The novel is shown through Alex’s eyes and in doing so there is an innocence that makes the world more incredible, but his story all the more sad, as a young boy with dreams of space and a dog as his only friend and companion. Getting to visit his online friends at the Southwest High-Altitude Rocket Festival, or SHARF,  working on a rocket he hopes will reach and other life forms that are out there. Along the way, with some luck and kindness, Alex meets friends that will make all the difference to him and Carl Sagan (the dog).

The novel is set out in a diary form of Alex’s recordings, meaning that it is in a childlike spoken form, which worked really well to get into Alex’s head and really see and understand his perspective. The happiness is infectious and it’s hard not to smile along while reading and get excited. This novel, although sad, made me feel some hope in the world, for the people that would help a little boy try to achieve some of his dreams.

I gave this novel four stars. I really enjoyed reading a novel that was set for a younger audience and feeling the love that Alex had for his dog, his family, space. Despite the fact, there were times that I wanted to cry, this was incredibly uplifting it made me think a lot about family and childhood dreams. I’d definitely recommend this novel.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for this opportunity.

Book Review: Making Faces – Amy Harmon

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In the small town of Hannah Lake, everyone knows everyone, but they certainly know wrestling star Ambrose Young, devastatingly beautiful, kind, on the road to a college scholarship and stardom. Fern Taylor, on the other hand, is the local pastor’s daughter, used to melting into the background aiding her cousin, Bailey. On the 11th September 2001, everything changes. As the town watches, horrified as a plane crashes close to home, five boys decide to fight for their country, one comes home. Could anything be beautiful again?

Oh my goodness, what a novel. What a novel. It’s been quite a while since I fell in love with a good work of fiction and Amy Harmon has produced something that will be hard to beat. A novel that focuses on love, loss, sacrifice, friendship and beauty I very nearly cried at multiple points. I didn’t know when the novel was set and by coincidence, I started reading on the anniversary of 9/11, which just made it hit harder. To think and imagine how it impacted young adults at the time and those who came home from war a shell of the person they were before.

I really felt connected to all of the characters. Fern was a brilliant character, I cared about her because she wasn’t a perfect girl. There’s definitely an ugly duckling vibe to her, but she doesn’t seem to feel sorry for herself constantly she gets on with it and just accepts who she is. I think, however, my favourite character of the entire novel is Bailey I like his wit, his outlook and just the optimism he has. I loved the relationship between Fern and Bailey too, there was genuine love and friendship it went much deeper than just being cousins.

The subject matter is incredibly tough and the way that Harmon has managed to weave in hope and a heartfelt message of beauty coming from within was wonderful. This is definitely going to be on my recommendation list. I also want to get my hands on more of Harmon’s novels. I gave this a very rare 5 stars. This is a truly wonderful book, Harmon makes you think about these characters and issues for days after. I was absolutely in love throughout, even though it made me want to sob. I’d recommend it to everyone!

 

Thank you to Netgalley for providing this Advance Reader Copy.

Book Review: Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

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“Mothers took their mothering so seriously now. Their frantic little faces…Ponytails swinging. Eyes fixed on the mobile phones held in the palms of their hands like compasses.”

When a parent’s night at the local school ends in death questions need to be asked, was it an accident? Was it murder? The masks of perfection that parents have been wearing all year are starting to slip, but it all started long before.

Now, this isn’t my normal read, I’ll put that out there to start. I was part of a book club and this was the book of choice. I’d tried another Liane Moriarty book in the past and struggled with the characters, so I was a little apprehensive when starting but hearing everyone rave about it, I gave it a go.

This is very much a book about the wars Mums have in the playground, the stuff that is in my nightmares. The novel focuses on three women, each very different. Madeleine is battling with bringing up her teenage daughter, her son and the fact that her daughter is in the same class with her ex-husband’s new daughter. Celeste has a life that seems perfect with her twin boys and charming husband, but demons are lurking beneath the surface. And finally, we have Jane, a young mother who has moved to town with her son Ziggy to start a new life. All three become friends and help each other get through the school year.

Now I know, I know so many people loved this novel but the unnecessary drama drove me absolutely mad. This Mum was bickering with this one and this child was accused of this. I think if it wasn’t for knowing someone was going to be murdered I would have stopped and put the book down a few chapters in. While I was intrigued by the trio, in particular, I found them all to be quite stereotypical. It might be because I haven’t experienced it myself but I just struggled to care about the whole ‘he said, she said’  situations within in novel.

That said, I will admit that the mystery of the death drew me in. Moriarty uses twists throughout to keep your attention, which is something I personally needed. While some, I worked out quite early on others, such as the big twist toward the end really threw me (so much so my best friend took a picture of me at that moment). So, in that respect there is a reason to read.

Overall, I think that there is reason to read the novel but I give fair warning that if you don’t want to read about unnecessary drama, this isn’t the novel for you. There are some serious themes touched on throughout, but for me personally, it took too long to get to those.

I gave this novel 3 stars. Admittedly, it did engage me eventually but I just felt it took a little too long and if I had just picked it up from the library I would have probably not gotten to the end! That said, I would quite like to watch the television series as I feel this would play out much better on screen rather than in a novel!