adult fiction · contemporary · review · romance

All That She Can See – Carrie Hope Fletcher

“Cherry’s bakery was a safe haven, a place where people could forget their troubles for an hour or two. And when their bad feelings latched back onto them as they left, Cherry noticed that their troubles seemed a little smaller than before.”

 

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Blurb: “Cherry has a hidden talent. She can see things other people can’t and she decided a long time ago to use this skill to help others. As far as the rest of the town is concerned she’s simply the kind-hearted young woman who runs the local bakery, but in private she uses her gift to add something special to her cakes so that after just one mouthful the townspeople start to feel better about their lives. They don’t know why they’re drawn to Cherry’s bakery – they just know that they’re safe there and that’s how Cherry likes it. She can help them in secret and no one will ever need to know the truth behind her gift.”

When Carrie Hope Fletcher made her mark on the fiction world, I bought it on the day of release. I was so excited to see her power of creativity channelled into a book only to be left feeling cheated when I finished it. There was something just not quite right about it. In fact, a lot of “somethings.” So I was very wary when she made the announcement for All That She Can See. But, as a big admirer, I decided that this would be a “make or break book” for me and that maybe, her types of stories just weren’t for me after all if I didn’t enjoy it.

All That She Can See follows a woman called Cherry who is able to see bad feelings. They manifest themselves as physical creatures (for example, worry looks like a tangled ball of wool) and attach themselves to person. Through a series of circumstances, Cherry discovers she can add good feelings to cakes and sets up a bakery, aiming to counteract the bad feelings with a whole lot of good. She becomes a sort of “Mary Poppins of cake” and moves her bakery to different places once she feels her work is done in her current location. In her latest stop, she meets Chase who can see feelings too; except he can see good feelings and he plans to make that change.

This book was utterly brilliant. Everything about it felt like it really had come from Carrie and that her magic had been well and truly mixed into the pages. The personification of the feelings had me in complete awe and I loved the descriptions of them following characters round. I found it interesting that Cherry was able to see her own bad feelings too and almost became close friends with them, rather than it taking the route of her not being able to see her own.

There’s enough time spend getting a footing in the world and the side characters are so well fleshed out that they became a solid part of the story too. When I returned from my short breaks to pick up the story again, it felt like I was being invited into a family gathering. It was warm and wonderful.

Chase created a nice balance, while not being a particularly nice man. I like the idea of him being able to see the opposite of Cherry as it showcased the fact that no two people really view the world or certain situations in the same way. It just made the story fuller.

However, in the last quarter of the book it did seem to fall down a little and start to feel like the story was rushing to get finished but overall this is a truly wonderful story that I could easily see being adapted into a visual format.

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contemporary · review · romance · young adult

When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon

“Hello future wife,” he said, his voice bubbling with glee. “I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives.”

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Blurb: “Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?”

When Dimple Met Rishi is another one of those books that I wasn’t really interested in but had a massive buzz around it. So I decided to give it a go.

The story follows a girl called Dimple who has bagged herself a place at Stanford University and wants to spend her summer at Insomnia Con- a coding camp. When her parents do a U-turn and pay the fees so that she can go, Dimple finally feels like they are giving her more freedom and not so focused on her finding the “perfect Indian husband.” Little does she know that her parents have been talking to another family and a boy called Rishi is being sent to the same camp in the hopes of securing a relationship.

As I seem to have a big aversion to Young Adult Contemporary – yet still find myself reaching for it occasionally – I did not really expect much from this book apart from a light-hearted summer romance read. In some ways I was pleasantly surprised. Dimple is a stand out character. While she does fall to some “not like other girls” tropes, she is a very abrasive character at times compared to Rishi who is softer and the typical “boy that gets everything wrong no matter how hard he tries.” I’ve seen a lot of controversy online about Dimple throwing her iced coffee on someone and how it promotes that sort of behaviour etc but when you look at the context of the scene, it makes sense that she did that and was very fitting with the type of character she is.

I flew through the first half of the book and loved the use of duo-narrative to get both sides of the story as that balance between the characters was needed. However, past the halfway point it felt like the plot was struggling and that things were added to try and get the story to the final part. I was so invested but then found myself taking longer breaks between reading and when I did read it I was flicking through a couple of pages at best. It just seemed like the first half had had more focus on it than the latter half. When I finished the book I didn’t feel fulfilled. I felt let down a little.

I suppose it’s my own fault for delving into a book with so much hype expecting high things but it’s not something I’ve thought about since I put it down.

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contemporary · review · young adult

Another Place – Matthew Crow

“I wrote my goal for the summer. A goal I would only share with those whose involvement helped my mission. The last secret between me and my friend I had known only at night. That summer I would find Sarah Banks.”

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Blurb: “Sixteen-year-old Claudette Flint is coming home from hospital after an escalating depression left her unable to cope. Released into the care of her dad, she faces the daunting task of piecing herself back together. She may look unchanged; but everything’s different. The same could be said about her seaside hometown: this close-knit community seems to be unspooling in the wake of the sudden disappearance of one of her schoolmates, Sarah.”

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

The story follows a teenage girl called Claudette who returns home after a hospital stay for her mental illness and learns that her fellow classmate, Sarah, has gone missing. As part of her recovery, Claudette’s therapist has instructed her to set herself goals, no matter how small. Claudette decides her goal for the summer is to find Sarah.

Another Place fell very short for me. I expected it to be a great mystery novel but it was packed full of characters and subplots that I didn’t really care about, which made it hard to connect to anything. The way that Claudette talks about Sarah made it seem like they were best friends but in fact they were minor acquaintances. It fell quickly into “John Green manic pixie dream girl” territory and that just pulled me out of the story even more.

The book does have some redeeming factor and one of those is handling of mental illness. Claudette has a wonderful father who does his best to stand up and support his daughter which encourages Claudette to open up. Even when unsure of how to act upon her return, he doesn’t shut himself off from her and it was a perfect example of a supportive relationship that may encourage those struggling to open up to their own family members.

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contemporary · poetry · review · young adult

Moonrise – Sarah Crossan

“People are gonna be telling you all kinds of
Lies.
I need you to know the truth.”

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Blurb: “Joe hasn’t seen his brother for ten years, and it’s for the most brutal of reasons. Ed is on death row. But now Ed’s execution date has been set, and Joe is determined to spend those last weeks with him, no matter what other people think.”

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

Joe’s life was turned upside down when he received a phone call revealing that his brother, Ed, was going to prison on a murder charge. The family happens to live in a state where the death penalty is a punishment and when Ed’s execution date is confirmed, Joe struggles even more.

Sticking to her usual unique style, Moonrise is another free verse novel from Sarah Crossan. The use of this format to tell the story creates a simplicity that really hits you in the gut. The story doesn’t rely on fancy metaphors or deep imagery to make the reader feel something (though I want to express that using metaphors/imagery is not a bad thing either). It just further highlights Crossan’s talents.

The story is told through snapshots in time. The reader gets an insight into Joe’s childhood and memories with his brother as the execution fate draws closer. This, along with the writing format, makes it impossible not to feel something.

This is a heart-wrenching read tackling the idea of how to cope with losing a loved one.

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contemporary · review · young adult

Orangeboy – Patrice Lawrence

“Orangeboy. Mr Orange.” She lay my phone next to the blackberry. “What the hell have you got yourself into?”

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Blurb: “Sixteen-year-old Marlon has made his mum a promise – he’ll never follow his big brother, Andre, down the wrong path. So far, it’s been easy, but when a date ends in tragedy, Marlon finds himself hunted. They’re after the mysterious Mr Orange, and they’re going to use Marlon to get to him.”

There has been a lot of buzz about this book. From overwhelmingly positive review to winning the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize at the start of this year, everyone seems to have fallen in love with Orangeboy. As I keep saying, I am very hit-and-miss when it comes to Young Adult Contemporary. But after reading Kate (Reading Through Infinity)’s review I decided to give it a go.

The location is Hackney, London. The story follows a boy called Marlon who feels like he’s struck gold when he’s on a date with the beautiful Sonya. They take drugs and have fun at the fairground until the night ends in tragedy and Marlon finds himself at a police station.

What took me by surprise is that this book became about more than the initial plot point and the reader is taken deep into a drug empire fuelled by guns, violence and the need for revenge. Marlon is blamed for the things his brother – Andre – did which reinforces the point that our actions affect other people in our lives.

It was nice to have a diverse novel set in Britain, especially in a multi-cultural city like London and it showed a part of it that’s not normally seen. It was dark and gritty which it needed to be for this story to really make an impact.

However, the ending was a bit of a let-down. It felt like the story was slowly building and then it was just over. But overall, I can see why many love this book.

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adult fiction · contemporary · non fiction · review

Happy Mum, Happy Baby – Giovanna Fletcher

“Our words affect others – we can use them to strengthen or to belittle and crush. I know what I want mine to do.”

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Blurb: “Being a mum is an incredible journey, a remarkable experience that changes how we look, how we feel, who we are. As mothers we are strong, protective, proud. We feel a love like no other. But being a parent can be hard too. It challenges us physically, mentally, emotionally. There are the days where just managing to fit a shower in amidst the endless feeding, entertaining young children and surviving on a lack of sleep feels like an achievement. With so many people ready to offer ‘advice’ on the best way to parent, it can feel like you are getting it all wrong.”

Like many my age, I know Giovanna because of her connection to McFly band member Tom Fletcher. As she set up her own YouTube channel and I started watching, I came to love Giovanna as her own person. I have read all of her fiction books and loved every single one of them. But when she announced she was writing a new book about pregnancy and motherhood, I found myself hesitant.

I am not interested in children. That’s not to say I don’t like them; my cousin has children and I absolutely adore them. I just don’t want children myself. So I decided that this book wasn’t for me and that was ok. I’ve started using Audible again and was looking for something new to listen to and came across Happy Mum, Happy Baby and indulged because it’s narrated by Giovanna. It’s the best decision I could have made. The book mimics Giovanna’s voice entirely and listening to it felt like I was having one long coffee and a chat with her.

As things are in the online world, it’s easy to get a skewed sense of reality. While a parent may seem to be having lots of fun playing around in the garden, the people on the outside won’t see the temper tantrum that same child had just five minutes later – something Giovanna touches on a lot in her YouTube series “mumdays.” She also shares more personal stories within her book along with discussing everything from coming off the pill and how her body changed, to her aversion to breast feeding and how that changed once she had a children herself, to the obvious one… giving birth. I found it really interesting to learn about hypnobirthing which is the technique she used to bring both of her children into the world. She tackles the idea of waiting to announce a pregnancy – typically at the three month mark – and how that can have its own negativity because you then have no one to comfort you if things do go wrong. She discusses at length the negative comments she’s received both online and in person, along with how strangers would suddenly feel the need to express their unsolicited thoughts on her body.

Overall I found this to be an insightful, interesting and frankly hilarious at times read.

Even if you don’t think you want children in the future, book is definitely worth checking out.

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contemporary · review · young adult

A Change Is Gonna Come

“Change is not inevitable or impossible; it requires imagination to picture how thing might be, as well as courage and tenacity to work to make the imagined a reality.”

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Blurb: “Featuring top Young Adult authors alongside a host of exciting new talent, this anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers on the theme of change is a long-overdue addition to the YA scene.”

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

Diversity is a topic that constantly comes up in conversation in the book world. With a push to get more diverse voices out there both on the writing side and the industry side, and with the successes of new YA books like The Hate U Give, it really does feel like change is on the way.

A Change Is Gonna Come is a Young Adult anthology aiming to give voices to those who have “historically had their thoughts, ideas and experiences oppressed.” The overarching theme is change and contributors are from various BAME backgrounds. Well-known writers such as Nikesh Shukla (The Good Immigrant) and Patrice Lawrence (Orangeboy) have made contributions along with many fantastic debuts. When speaking to one of the latter, Aisha Bushby she talked about how Nikesh Shukla is wary of diversity becoming a marketing trend. She agrees and said that while diversity is important, she doesn’t want that aspect to detract from the quality of the stories.

My personal favourites from this collection are as follows:

“Marionette Girl” by Aisha Bushby tells the story of a girl with OCD who lives her life confined by time. This one is great for anyone who loves Harry Potter references. (Trigger warning for OCD and Anxiety)

“Hackney Moon” by Tanya Byrne is the story of how a same sex relationship falls apart over time. The writing is so poetic and beautiful that it reminded me of the writing style in The Book Thief.

“We Who?” by Nikesh Shukla showcases the breakdown of a friendship after the Brexit result of the referendum. It addresses the idea of “us v them” mentality and whether it’s possible to be tolerant of different views when you are the thing wishing to be tolerated.

There are many more wonderful additions to this anthology and the book has a glossary at the back with links to helplines and research websites if you are affected by any of the stories.

 
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contemporary · lgbt · review · young adult

Noah Can’t Even – Simon James Green

“Screw it all. He was going to be normal. He was going to do normal things. Be a normal boy. That would show his mum! It was the night of the party. And he was going to kiss Sophie.”

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Blurb: “Poor Noah Grimes! His father disappeared years ago, his mother’s Beyonce tribute act is an unacceptable embarrassment, and his beloved gran is no longer herself. He only has one friend, Harry, and school is…Well, it’s pure HELL. Why can’t Noah be normal, like everyone else at school? Maybe if he struck up a romantic relationship with someone – maybe Sophie, who is perfect and lovely – he’d be seen in a different light? But Noah’s plans are derailed when Harry kisses him at a party. That’s when things go from bad to utter chaos.

I first heard about this book because of an interview Amber at the milelongbookshelf did with the author on her channel. The pair discussed the lack of British LGBT books and why it’s great that Simon’s is exactly that. So when release day rolled around I was very quick to get a copy.

Noah Can’t Even follows a sixteen year old boy called Noah who is the bottom of the school food chain. His dad is missing, his mum is a total embarrassment and after an unfortunate incident in P.E, he’s soon to be the laughing stock of the school. Noah just wants to be normal and when he’s paired up with the gorgeous Sophie on his Geography project, he sees this as his opportunity to win her affections. It’s all going well until he ends up kissing his best friend, Harry, at a party and the school bully turns out to have video evidence of it and he isn’t afraid to start passing it around.

There have been many discussions about Young Adult books feeling like they’re the “older teens” rather than actual teenagers but this isn’t one of those books. Noah feels like a real teenager from the awkward interactions to the ridiculous internal monologue throughout. It’s cringy, embarrassing and downright hilarious. It’s one of those books where I was laughing out loud and even after finishing, when reminded of certain scenes, I found myself laughing again.

It’s a brilliant coming-of-age story about exploring your sexuality and while there isn’t a bisexual character present, bisexuality is frequently mentioned in such a normal way and that is a beautiful thing to see. It’s great to see bisexuality be normalised and becoming more present within LGBT Young Adult books.

It blows my mind that this is a debut because it’s so well put together. I cannot wait to see what Simon James Green comes out with next!

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contemporary · review · young adult

One Of Us Is Lying – Karen M. Mcmanus

“Is everybody in it together, or is somebody pulling the strings? Who’s the puppet master and who’s the puppet? I’ll give you a hint to get you started: everyone is lying.”

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Blurb: “On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.
Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident”

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

When a group of teenagers from different social groups end up in detention together, they think nothing could possibly get worse. Until Simon, the school gossip, dies an hour later. As the only people in room when it happened, the group become persons of interest. Who is telling the truth? And who is lying?

The initial start of this book feels very much like The Breakfast Club and I worried  that the story would feel too similar but once the driving force of the plot –Simon’s death – kicks in, it started to move away for that and grew to become its own story. While the unexpected death shakes the school, leading to threatening tumblr posts and a media frenzy, One of Us Is Lying is more about the characters. The use of multiple perspectives allows the reader an insight into each of the character’s lives and does a really good job of breaking down preconceived ideas we have of people based on how they appear from the outside.

Personally I’ve been having a lot of problem with plot-length in books this year and One of Us Is Lying is one of those. In a “who done it” type of story it’s hard to get the balance between the investigation elements and the getting-to-know-the-characters element and, for me, there was too much of the latter. But I think a lot of that played into the fact that apart from Bronwyn (who I could really relate to), I didn’t really connect to any of the characters enough to want to know more about their lives outside of the school walls. Which was more fault of me than the book itself.

The big reveal was underwhelming and I’ve seen a lot of other reviewers express their concerns about it.

This one just wasn’t for me.

 

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contemporary · review

All The Good Things – Clare Fisher

“Writing about the good things is hard, because sooner or later you get to the edge, and if you’re not careful, you fall off.”

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Blurb: “Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn’t deserve to ever feel good again. But her counsellor, Erika, won’t give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby’s head. But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*
The story follows a twenty-one year old woman called Beth who is serving time in prison for a crime she refuses to talk about. She attends frequent sessions with her therapist, Erika, who one day encourages Beth to come to terms with what she did by writing a list of all the good things in her life.  However, instead of just writing a list, Beth also writes stories about her life linked to the good things she mentions. As the reader travels through the list, it’s almost like walking through Beth’s house as she opens door after door, inviting you into another room.

I expect this to be a book that I would enjoy but not one that would leave a massive impact. Dear reader, I have never been more wrong. This book came out of nowhere and slapped me across the face… then a second time just to make sure I don’t forget about our encounter. All The Good Things is driven by an utterly compelling main character. I found myself going from reading a few chapters over an hour to walking down the street with my face glued to my kindle because I was simply unable to stop reading. I went from wanting to know what Beth did that was so horrible – referred to as “the bad thing” throughout – to just wanting to know more about her life; from her days working at the Odeon, to the relationship she had with a married man, to the birth of her daughter. I was unbelievably encapsulated by this character and her backstory to the point where I found myself screaming, unbearably upset, when I turned the page to be met with the acknowledgements.

I am struggling to put into words what I felt when finishing this book. The only way I can describe it that I am walking around with this heavy weight in my chest, feeling lost now this character has moved on to other things and left me behind.

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