contemporary · review

On The Other Side – Carrie Hope Fletcher

“Your soul is too heavy to pass through the door,
leave the weight of the world in the world from before.
Once it is lighter your key shall then turn,
and you will be able to have what you yearn.”

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Blurb: “Evie Snow is eighty-two when she quietly passes away in her sleep, surrounded by her children and grandchildren. It’s the way most people wish to leave the world but when Evie reaches the door of her own private heaven, she finds that she’s become her twenty-seven-year old self and the door won’t open. Evie’s soul must be light enough to pass through so she needs to get rid of whatever is making her soul heavy. For Evie, this means unburdening herself of the three secrets that have weighed her down for over fifty years, so she must find a way to reveal them before it’s too late.”

On The Other Side is the first fiction novel from Carrie Hope Fletcher and earned her the number one spot on the Sunday Times’ Fiction Hardback Bestseller list.

The story follows Evie who finds herself in the body of her twenty-seven year old self in the apartment building she lived in during her time. She goes to her old apartment door and finds that she can’t open the door. With the help of her deceased building doorman Dr Lieffe, she learns that if you lived a good life, when you die to go to your favourite place – your own personal heaven- which to Evie is this building. Her soul is weighed down by three secrets she’s accumulated over her life and needs to unburden herself in order to fully pass on.

Carrie was in an interesting position with this book as no one knows what happens after you die, therefore no reader can argue how “realistic” the interpretation of the afterlife is. Which leaves a lot to play around with.

I really liked the characters. Each and every single one of them that I crossed paths with over the course of this book stayed with me until the last page. They were all so well written and felt like real people you might come across in life if you’re lucky enough. There’s some diversity in terms of sexuality (during a Q&A Carrie mentioned that society is so diverse and there’s nothing wrong with introducing and normalising these differences through her work) but I’m becoming exasperated at bisexual representation in literature. This is no entire fault of Carrie because I’ve reached a point where I’ll take what I can get, but the bisexual characters in literature always seem to be men. I’m yet to find an abundance of bisexual female characters scattered across the pages of books.

I liked the overall plot though some parts were questionable and after a few times of re-reading I’m still not fully sure what and how things happened in certain places.

My main issue with this book was the plot order. Evie’s unfinished business requires her to go back to three different people from her life and tell them a secret and when she goes back into the living world to do this she will say “I need to go and see…” then it was another 30% of the ebook before you actually got to see what took place with that person. This is because there’s a lot of flitting from past to present in order to get a better understanding of who Evie was to flesh her out and the very obvious and fundamental love story. I found all of it really good in terms of storytelling and writing but it just all felt out of order; like it had been thrown together in the early stages and then not fiddled around with. There was no clear indication of whether you were in the past or present which became confusing. (I found out through a Q&A that the chapters with the branch symbol referred to the past and chapters with the door symbol referred to the present but it’s no good learning that AFTER finishing the book when it’s not clear while reading) I wanted to take the book apart and reorder it to see if it would have worked better the way I pictured it in my mind.

If it wasn’t for the wonderful characters and engaging plot points, I would have given up on this book completely. Which is a shame because I expected more from someone as creative as Carrie.

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fantasy · review · young adult

This Savage Song- V.E.Schwab

“It wasn’t the act of killing that bothered her – monsters and men both did that – and it wasn’t even the chilling serenity on the Sunai’s face. It was the fact that he killed them with a sound. Those men were dead the minute he started playing.”

 

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Blurb: “Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city, a grisly metropolis where the violence has begun to create real and deadly monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the inhabitants pay for his protection. August just wants to be human, as good-hearted as his father – but his curse is to be what humans fear. The thin truce that keeps the Harker and Flynn families at peace is crumbling, and an assassination attempt forces Kate and August into a tenuous alliance. But how long will they survive in a city where no one Is safe and monsters are real?”

This is the first in a new duology by V.E.Schwab who gained number one New York Times Bestselling status with this book.

It has been twelve years since violence started manifesting as actual monsters, six years since a truce divided the city of Verity into two and four years since August was found at a crime scene, surrounded by bodies. August lives in the South side of the city where the Flynn family storm out every night to keep the monsters at bay. Through a transfer to Colton Academy he meets Kate Harker who is from the north side of the city, where protection from monsters can be given for a high price. There are three types of monsters: Corsai (the result of non-lethal acts of violence), Malchai (the result of murders) and the Sunai (the result of bombing, shootings or massacres). August is one of those monsters; a sunai.

Anyone who follows me on any kind of social media will know that over the past year I have become a big fan of V.E.Schwab and her work. The concept of this was so interesting because it’s something I’ve never heard of and on top of that it’s a young adult paranormal novel with NO ROMANCE.

However, there were several times when I considered giving up on this book all together. I restarted about four times, convinced I’d missed something, and came to the realisation that there is nowhere near the amount of information dumping that’s needed. Normally I’m so against having lots of knowledge thrown at me so easy on in a book but there’s no map to accompany the story so at times I found it hard to place where the characters were in the city and to top it off, it’s not until 190 pages into the book that you actually learn the difference between the three monsters despite them being referred to constantly throughout the book.

I found the first two chapters really disorientating and they read as a kind of prologue that isn’t related to the story in a way. The transition from those to “verse one” was very jarring. But I persevered and grew to really enjoy the story. The characters were well written and I found myself really caring for August and it was a lot more brutal than I expected it to be.

It kept me intrigued enough to want to find out what happens next however it works well as a stand alone.
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fantasy · review

Oak And Mistletoe -J.Z.N McCauley

“I think you’re a special girl, of course, but I think you have that tinge of magic some seek. Aligned in your stars.”

 

Blurb: “Catherine Green, along with her twin sister and older brother, travel to Ireland on a college graduate trip. Her vacation takes a permanent turn when she lands her dream job at an art and history museum on her beloved Emerald Isle. She meets a handsome stranger named Bowen, an expert of sorts, on local ancient studies. Through their first meetings are turbulent at best, Catherine finds herself drawn to him. Unaware that she is the key to breaking a hidden curse, Catherine unleashes the evil madman Conall and his druid followers, imprisoned since ancient times. Tragedy and loss ensue, sprouting within Catherine the deep seeds of rage that thrust her onto the damaging path of vengeance.”

*This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for an honest review*

Catherine, Kathleen and Danny go on a graduation trip to Ireland and end up staying there permanently, making a home for themselves. When Catherine receives a warning from a stranger, the everyday begins to take a dark turn.

What I loved about this book is the beautiful cover for a start, it echoes the theme of the book perfectly, and also the druid aspect. I didn’t really know much about the druids prior to reading this and it encouraged me to look into that part of history more.  I felt the protagonist – Catherine – was strong.

However, I had a lot of issues with this book. The point of view changed quite a lot without it really being clear when it had changed and for this type of story I felt discovering the secrets through Catherine’s eyes would have worked better. It seemed like I was reading the bones of a story where all the major plot points were planned and written out but then nothing was added to fill the gaps. Everything moved a bit too fast and the characters didn’t seem to react how real people would to certain situations so it was hard to believe anything they did. Everything just felt a bit forced.

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children's fiction · fantasy · review

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Illustrated) – J.k.Rowling & Jim Kay

“There will be books written about Harry – every child in our world will know his name.”

 

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Blurb: “Harry Potter’s life changes forever on his eleventh birthday, when beetle-eyed giant Rubeus Hagrid delivers a letter and some astonishing news. Harry Potter is no ordinary boy: he’s a wizard. And an extraordinary adventure is about to begin. The first ever Illustrated edition of J.K.Rowling’s magical classic is packed with glorious colour illustrations by Jim Kay, winner of the Kate Greenaway Medal. An utterly enchanting feast of a book, perfect for devoted fans and new readers alike.”

It’s no secret that I love Harry Potter. When Bloomsbury announced there would be new illustrated editions coming out each year I was beyond excited: an opportunity to experience my love for this story in a new format.

I finally sat down with my massive, very heavy copy and started reading. I was instantly sucked back into this world: reading about characters and a magical world I’d grown up being a part of. Through my re-read I decided to bump up my rating of this book to the full five stars. What is truly wonderful about this book is that, with the combination of the words and the illustrations, it felt like I was reading it again for the first time. There is the element of surprise as you don’t know what scenes are going to come to life in glorious colour. It made the whole reading experience even more exciting.

Through reading the first book again I was reminded of how fantastic and magical this story is and decided to bump up my rating to five stars.

The thrill I get from this new edition is knowing that a whole new generation will be able to experience the story with the pictures to go along with it.

I honestly cannot justify how beautiful this book is and while it’s  quite pricey, it is worth it if you can afford it.

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