Book Review: The Switch

The Switch is a heart-warming contemporary novel with some romance, but it’s about much more than falling in love. It follows a Grandma – Granddaughter duo who have both lost their way a little through the tragic loss of a family member. The two decide to swap places for two months which forms the basis of the plot.

Star rating: 5 stars

After Leena loses her sister to cancer, she’s falling apart and using work to escape. But once anxiety driven disaster (oh Leena, I relate), her boss sends her on two months leave. Eileen, Leena’s Grandma, is single after her useless husband cheated on her. Now it’s time to move on, but the dating scene in rural Yorkshire really isn’t looking all that appealing.

When Leena visits her Grandma, the two decide to switch places – Leena will take over Eileen’s duties in the small village community, and Eileen will live with Leena’s flatmates in London. During the two month life swap, both women learn new things about themselves and each other, and bring a different perspective to the new people they befriend.

I absolutely adored both points of view. This is a really hopeful family story, and I loved the close relationship between Leena and Eileen. The side characters are also wonderful – both the oldies in Eileen’s village that Leena gets to know, and Leena’s friends back in London who are charmed by Eileen.

The romances in the book are also really, really sweet. I saw both coming from a mile away but it was so, so cute. I loved how the romance didn’t dominate the story though, there is so much more to it than that including the importance of family and friendship, and learning to live with loss and grief. There’s even a domestic abuse story, that shows that abuse is not age-confined in the slightest.

Overall, a charming book that made me laugh and cry, that has humour amongst it’s serious moments. I honestly think most people would enjoy this story, it reminded me of my own family during a time when I can’t visit them.

Have you read any Beth O’Leary books? After enjoying The Switch and The Flatshare, I’m really excited for The Road Trip.

Book Review: Allegedly

After loving Monday’s Not Coming I just had to try the other audiobook of Tiffany D. Jackson that my library had. That book is Allegedly, her debut. It is a Young Adult mystery / thriller with very, very dark themes, and it worked well in audio format. Did I really expect to pick up a book about a girl that allegedly killed a baby when she was nine years old? Not really. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.

Star rating: 4 stars

Mary B. Addison killed a baby when she was just 9 years old, or so they think. She lived in baby jail for 6 years, before ending up in a group home with other girls that committed crimes of varying severity. The book delves into Mary’s past through various interviews and records from after she killed Alyssa, along with Mary’s only reflections on what happened. I loved this multiple source approach to Mary’s character, it was difficult to tell what the truth was.

Mary has a complicated relationship with her mother, and this is one of the main things the book centres on. She was often neglected as a child, and her mother had an abusive boyfriend who assaulted Mary too. Mary’s mother visits her every couple of weeks at the group home, displaying signs of mental illness.

Group home life isn’t easy for Mary – her story is famous (there are books about it and it is studied in law schools) so the other girls don’t like her. She spends her time reading and prepping for the SATs, hoping to make a better life for herself despite her criminal record. She also volunteers at a nursing home, where she meets Ted, her secret boyfriend (a very morally grey boyfriend, to be honest).

At the beginning of the book, Mary finds out she’s pregnant and it changes her mindset on what she was accused of as a child, wanting to prove herself innocent so her child is not taken away from her. Mary meets sympathisers and haters throughout the story and I found myself as a reader torn about her character. The book is really thought-provoking in terms of personal morals and ethics.

Overall this is an exceptional debut, and I appreciated the story being told through audio. It was a bit long and repetitive at times, but I was really desperate to know what the ending would be!

Thanks for reading, hope everyone is doing well. I’m in lockdown again, which means working from home a lot. Keep safe.

Book Review: Monday’s Not Coming

So in true jump straight into your goals, I listened to an audiobook from the library! We won’t mention that I listened to a 10 hour audiobook in ten days but this one was really addictive and I enjoyed the narration which is a rarity. Monday’s Not Coming is a crime / mystery YA novel by Tiffany D. Jackson. It includes grief, child abuse, and the realities of friendship in your teens.

Star rating: 5 stars

When Claudia’s best friend Monday doesn’t turn up at school, she’s really confused. There’s no answer when she calls her, and the school office says she’s not a registered student anymore. But Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable, so Claudia begins to worry but nobody else seems to care.

What follows is split into 3 parts. The Before (when Monday is missing but before Claudia knows why), The After, and Before the Before, exploring Claudia’s friendship with Monday. It was really clear which time period was which in the audiobook which I really appreciated.

The two girls have grown up in two vastly different environments – Claudia’s parents are protective and supportive and she’s an only child. Monday has lots of siblings, her Mom is a single parent and Claudia’s never been to her place. The book shows the inequality through Claudia’s young eyes, who doesn’t really understand why her friend is the way she is. Claudia even imagines that Monday has her own bedroom with nice decoration, which couldn’t be further from the truth. Nobody cares when girls like Monday disappear. Claudia tries to explain her worries to so many adults throughout the book, and none really give her the time of day. But when Claudia is missing for a few hours, her parents have the whole church out looking for her.

Claudia ends up talking to Monday’s older sister April a fair bit, and starts to wonder if she knew Monday at all. Monday had to mature so much quicker than Claudia and her experiences are really traumatic. I think everything Claudia discovers is even more damaging to her mental health because she’s so sheltered and innocent.

Overall this is a shocking book that is just so sad. Reading it you just want to slap all of the adults who don’t care. Girls going missing shouldn’t be normal, and they shouldn’t be ignored. I think listening to the audiobook made it even more emotional for me as the narrator had such a young voice.

Have you read any books by Tiffany D. Jackson? I really want to pick up Grown at some point, hopefully my library gets it soon because I’d like to listen to it.

Book Review: The Fifth Season

Wow, this book is awesome, you can definitely understand why each book in the trilogy won the Hugo Award. N.K. Jemisin has created a science-fiction / fantasy blend that makes for such amazing world-building. The characters are really pushed to their absolute limits and I was gripped from start to finish.

Star rating: 5 stars

We have Essun, Syenite and Damaya as the points of view. Each is at a different stage of life. All have big struggles going on and challenging plots. Essun’s story is told in second person present which is so unique and done really well, I felt like someone was telling me a story.

What really captured me was the world-building. The world is different to Earth, but the same. Earth is wrecked by earthquakes, tsunamis and huge volcanic eruptions. This wild seismic activity leads to seasons, apocalyptic events that happen every 100 years or so. The orogenes, which our characters are, are linked to the seismic activity, can stop it and use it to cause their own devastation. Because of this, they are hated members of society, often killed.

Damaya is a child, an orogene who has been taken to the Fulcrum. This is where she will learn how to use her power to be useful to society – that’s if she can learn to control it. Syenite is older, a Four Ringer at the Fulcrum who is looking to advance. She’s sent on a mission out to the coast with the only Ten Ringer to mentor her. Essun is the oldest, living in a small village called a Comm with her kids and husband. But in this world, all is not what it seems.

I definitely suggest giving this book 50-100 pages to get going because it takes a while to understand the world it is based in. There are so many twists and turns throughout that it is worth the wait and scene setting. The story is really dark in places – this is for sure an adult book that I wouldn’t recommend to teens.

With it’s amazing character diversity and crazy twists, The Fifth Season is not one to miss out on reading. I can’t wait to see where the story goes next after the cliffhanger at the end!

Book Review: The Midnight Library

I definitely made my best books of 2020 post too early – this is now one of my favourite books of all time. It has the kind of message that I need to read every year so I think this one will be on the read yearly list from now on. Anyway, I cried, I laughed, I cried some more. Interesting concept, perfect message.

Star rating: 5 stars

I’d definitely read the trigger warnings before picking this book up – it starts with the protagonist, Nora Seed, attempting suicide. She ends up in The Midnight Library – the in between. There she can choose any regret she’s ever had and undo it to see what her life would be like.

This review is hard. Nora explores these parallel worlds where she made different choices – in one she’s an Olympic Swimmer, in another a famous rock star, in another a scientist on Svalbard. Some are less dramatically different from her root life. But even with her successes, she never really feels whole. I can find similar regrets in my own life, some big, some small. In some ways it was overwhelming thinking about all the small moments that could have changed my life in some way.

Through the alternative lives, Nora discovers what she is doing to make a difference to people in her root life. There’s some really beautiful moments, I cried a lot. To quote a friend, Matt Haig really did say live. I definitely have a different perspective on life now, and on my own choices. I’ll definitely read this book in any existential crisis from now on.

Have you read The Midnight Library? What did you think?

Book Review: The Ever Cruel Kingdom

Rin Chupeco is fantastic. Like, this second book of The Never Tilting World duology is wonderful – the heartbreak, the characters, the fact there’s not one complex mother-daughter relationship but two. I always worry that endings will not be satisfying especially after a great first book but this one knocks it out of the park and more.

This review will contain spoilers for The Never Tilting World so I’d advise you go away now and pick up the first book!

Star rating: 5 stars

So, at the end of book one Odessa and Haidee finally learn of each other’s existence – and meet for the first time, enabling the world to turn again. But all is not quite right with the world, as the demons of the cruel kingdom keep escaping.

The character development continues as Odessa learns to deal with what the galla took away from her in exchange for her gifts, as Haidee returns to the deserts around the Sun City, this time bringing her sister. Lan is still recovering from the horrors that happened to her before the first book. Arjun has brought Haidee home with him, and has to deal with the fallout when darkness returns to the desert for the first time since The Breaking.

Another set of twins unite, Asteria and Latona also learn that the other twin lived. The relationship between Asteria, Latona, Haidee and Odessa is explored in much more detail as the mothers become and even larger part of the story.

Romance is still present between our leading couples and I really appreciated the lack of drama that came with it. Sexuality is treated so well in this book – there’s even an asexual character and nobody questions how she feels (though it is only mentioned briefly).

I can’t say much, but what I can say is that the ending is fantastic and carries with it all of that Rin Chupeco bitter-sweetness. It is both heart-breaking and satisfying, and in my opinion is a perfect conclusion to a story that really did pull at my heartstrings.

Overall, a more than solid final book – Rin Chupeco does it again!

Book Review: The Never Tilting World

Hello everyone! Today I finished my re-read of The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco. After really loving The Bone Witch trilogy I was so excited to see what Rin would do next and this really does not disappoint! It’s described as Mad Max and Frozen combined which is such a weirdly fitting description.

Star rating: 5 stars

So, what’s the book about? It has four points of view – they are Lan, Arjun, Odessa and Haidee.

Odessa and Haidee are twins on opposite sides of the world – Odessa living in the rainy darkness and Haidee in the scorching dry of the desert. Neither know of each other’s existence as something happened with their mothers in the past to cause The Breaking of the world.

Lan is a Catseye who is charged with protecting Odessa. She used to be a ranger, and was the only one who returned from her previous expedition meaning she is suffering with a lot of survivor’s guilt. Arjun lives in the desert, getting by on scraps with the other orphans that live with him. But one day he meets the young Goddess Haidee and his life changes forever.

The book follows Lan and Odessa on their journey to The Abyss, with a mirroring journey taking place for Haidee and Arjun. I loved each and every character and their point of view, but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Haidee. Rin really masters the balance between character development and action in this book as it blends elemental fantasy and science-fiction to build a futuristic world. I loved that the world-building mixed technology with magic.

Overall, another hit from Rin and I’m going straight into the sequel next. Have you read any Rin Chupeco before? What did you think? I highly recommend her books.

Book Review: The Bone Season

Sorry it’s been a while again! I have an interview for the job I applied for on Tuesday so the prep is taking most of my brain space right now. I did manage to sneak in reading The Bone Season again! It’s been a long time since I read this book and I was interested to see what adult me would think of it.

The Bone Season is an urban fantasy – a genre that usually isn’t my favourite but I really enjoyed this book. There is a lot of info dumping at the beginning as part of the world-building and world history, but once you get over this hurdle it is a really fast paced, amazing book!

Star rating: 4 stars

Paige Mahoney is clairvoyant – unnatural, as the Scion government would call her. She’s not just any clairvoyant though, she’s a rare dreamwalker operating in a small gang called The Seven Seals under the notorious Jaxon Hall.

One day her luck runs out and she thinks she’s been captured by Scion, only to end up in Oxford, a town that was previously thought to be wiped out. Instead, it’s been invaded by an alien species (well, more supernatural than alien), who made a deal with Scion to be provided with clairvoyants to help them fight a threatening invading species.

What I love about this book is the romance. Honestly, it’s so, so good and definitely kept my attention the whole way through. It’s a master / apprentice kind of relationship which I love, and also paranormal! Love that. The guy in question is Warner, who there is a lot more to than there seems at the beginning. The scenes where Warner and Paige interact really bring this book alive.

The plot is very fast paced after the initial info-dumping which meant I finished this in less then 24 hours. I have read the sequel, The Mime Order, before too, but it has been so long and I’m really excited to get to it next!

Have you read any Samantha Shannon books? If you like high fantasy more, I highly recommend The Priory of the Orange Tree, it’s one of my favourites!

Book Review: The Vanishing Half

Literary fiction is usually either a big hit or a big miss for me. Fortunately, Brit Bennett’s The Vanishing Half is one of the best books I’ve read lately. A family drama spanning decades, this is a historical fiction with a diverse cast of characters with great characterisation. The central characters’ individual journeys are incredibly gripping and provide a haunting social commentary.

Star rating: 5 stars.

Desiree and Stella are twin sisters growing up in the small village of Mallard in Louisiana. Desiree is energetic and restless, where as Stella is reserved. They are often described as two halves of the same person. Desperate to escape their small town life, the girls run away together to New Orleans, starting a new life in their late teens. One day, Stella vanishes, and Desiree is left alone with no idea where her twin has disappeared to.

We follow Desiree and Stella as their lives diverge, and the lives of their daughters, cousins who do not know of each other’s existence. Desiree marries a Black man, Stella pretends to be white and marries a rich white man. Jude is Black, Kennedy is white. The daughters have two different upbringings, both completely different to their mothers and each other.

Stella’s choice to live her life as passing as white gives her many privileges, and her daughter Kennedy the same. But she is lonely and without her family, stuck as the housewife to a boring white guy when all she really wants is to go to college as she was unable to go when she was younger. Kennedy dropped out of college to pursue acting, much to Stella’s frustration.

Desiree’s husband beats her so one night she takes her daughter Jude and they run away. Returning to Mallard, Desiree sees her mother for the first time in years. It was only meant to be temporary but years later she’s still there, and Jude grows up in a town where her dark skin is judged and hated. Jude escapes this life, really making something of herself against the odds.

The best thing about this book is the contrasting stories and characters – all so well developed and individual. I was gripped from start to finish despite its slow pace. If you like books that really delve into what motivates and drives characters then this is a contemporary fiction for you.

Book Review: Piranesi

Hi guys! Sorry it’s been it’s been a little while I’ve been a bit tired! But I finally finished another book that I felt like I could review – and that is none other than Piranesi by Susanna Clarke. I’ve not read Jonathan Strange and Mr Norell yet, so this is my first book by Susanna. I am grateful it’s a much shorter book than her previous that’s for sure!

In the books I’ve read, the only book similar to Piranesi is The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. Both books present a different world accessible to only those that know how in an ordinary, modern world. Piranesi is short, but packs in a mysterious story full of strange events and puzzles for the reader to figure out. I’m not sure any of the revelations in the book came as a huge twist or surprise for me, but I enjoyed the book a lot.

Star rating: 5 stars

Piranesi is alone in a House – not an ordinary house, but a House with lots of different rooms that span kilometres. His only company is The Other, another man who Piranesi sees a few times a week. The House is full of many statues and sometimes the Tides sweep in and Piranesi has to run for cover and hope he doesn’t drown.

For a concept that’s quite abstract, I found the book to be very accessible. Susanna’s writing is very smooth and addictive in its descriptiveness. Piranesi exudes innocence and although said to be in his thirties, his narration (through journal entries) is very child like. I loved reading how he put his own story together page by page.

There are a small number of characters in the book, which I enjoyed because it gave me something to focus on in a bizarre world with a strange plot. The world itself would have been extraordinarily unique if I hadn’t already read The Starless Sea. It was interesting to see Piranesi use his incredible knowledge of the House, and to watch his interactions with The Other Develop.

Overall this was an intriguing book that I’m glad I picked up. It’s short but takes a while to read due to the complexity and pace, but I’d recommend it if you like abstract ideas with a little magic thrown in.