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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review · romance · young adult

Jaded – K.M.Robinson

“I have always been warned to stay away from Roan Diamond. He is the enemy. He is dangerous. But today I will marry him. And it’s not my choice.”

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Blurb: “Her father failed in his mission to take control from the Commander, a defeat that has cost Jade her life. She will die as punishment. Now she belongs to the Commander’s son—as his wife. Knowing his intent is to quietly kill her in revenge, Jade’s every move is calculated to survive—until she learns her death ensures the safety of her father and her entire town.”

Jade’s father tried to overthrow the commander and failed. As a result, Jade must marry the commander’s son, Roan. But not everything is as it seems and Jade knows all too much about the plot to have her killed.

This is the second book from K.M.Robinson and showcases one of my favourite things: author growth. As I read more books from the same author, I look for signs of improvement from their previous book. Not to sound super critical or that I’m purposely looking for fault, but it’s wonderful to see a writer evolve with every new story , and K.M.Robinson achieves this with Jaded.

The pacing was perfect. Everything felt like it happened when it needed to and allowed enough time to get to know and understand the characters as well as get a solid footing in the world. A multi-perspective narrative is used at first which, given the plot, I thought might ruin the mystery as you could see Roan’s side and what plots were made to kill Jade, but it did the opposite. It made it more exciting. I was on the edge whenever Jade did anything; unaware of what was about to be thrown at her. I found myself falling for Roan at points only to pull back, realising everything he was doing was artificial, a trick to lower Jade’s defences.

Jade is the kind of female character I’ve been yearning for. I loved how she wasn’t like the ‘strong typical female;” she was everything. Brave but not afraid to cry. Strong and outspoken, but quiet when she needed to stay alive.

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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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children's fiction · review

There’s A Monster In Your Book – Tom Fletcher

“Oh no! There’s a monster in your book! Let’s try to get him out.”

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Blurb: “Bestselling author of The Christmasuarus, Tom Fletcher, has written a brand new picture book perfect for bedtime, where a mischievous monster has invaded the pages of your child’s book!”

There’s A Monster In Your Book was the first project that Tom Fletcher decided to work on. Unfortunately this was pushed to the side when an idea for a series of picture books about a pooping dinosaur blossomed and then a Christmas dinosaur got its own full-length novel. Now Fletcher makes his return to picture books with this latest release.

This book is self-explanatory: there’s a monster trapped in the book and the aim is to help set it free. To achieve this, the reader I encouraged to spin, tilt, shake and even shout at the book. It really is something that anyone can enjoy.

Tom Fletcher continues to add creativity and excitement to his books and There’s A Monster In Your Book is another fantastic addition to his written works.

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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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children's fiction · fantasy · review

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Hufflepuff Edition) – J.K.Rowling

“He’ll be famous – a legend – I wouldn’t be surprised if today was known as Harry Potter day in the future – 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 is miserable. His parents are dead and he’s stuck with his heartless relatives, who force him to live in a tiny closet under the stairs. But his fortune changes when he receives a letter that tells him the truth about himself: he’s a wizard. A mysterious visitor rescues him from his relatives and takes him to his new home, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

As part of the Potter generation, it only seems fitting that I re-read at least one book from the series every year and as this year marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, it only felt more prevalent. There are not enough words to fully convey what this this world and its characters mean to me but I’m sure any potterhead out there will be able to relate.

I try to avoid buying different copies of the same book unless it’s a rare occasion and this was certainly one of them: as part of the celebrations, brand new editions were rolled out, both in hardback or paperback, styled specifically for each of the four Hogwarts houses. Being an unapologetic Hufflepuff, it’s obvious which one I went for. Unlike other anniversary editions I’ve purchased, this one was definitely worth the money. There’s addition material from Rowling talking about the history of the Hufflepuff house, information that the common room along with the house ghost, head of house and noteable Hufflepuff characters from the universe.

To those unaware, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is the first book in a seven-part series following an orphan boy called Harry who learns that he is wizard. He is taken away from his evil aunt and uncle to a magic school called Hogwarts where he quickly learns that he is famous.

The wonderful thing about this series is that, no matter how many times I read it, I always come back to it and discover something new or I’m reminded of things I’ve forgotten. I fall head-over-heels in love with this book every time I read it. While not my favourite out of the whole series, it’s impossible to deny the creativity and craft that went into this book and it paved the way for a growth of characters and a worldwide phenomenon.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone is a truly magical story that continues to teach the importance of making your own choices and the value of friendship. A lesson everyone can benefit from.

I may need to launch into an entire series re-read now.

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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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feminism · lgbt · Non-Fiction · review

The Gender Games – Juno Dawson

“Transitioning is not going to mystically solve all the worries in my life. I will still be skint. I will still get lonely sometimes. I will still be driven and overambitious. I’ll still be jealous and competitive. But I will be a woman. I will be Juno. I will be righted. I will be me.”

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Blurb: “Gender isn’t just screwing over trans people, it’s messing with everyone. From little girls who think they can’t be doctors to teenagers who come to expect street harassment. From exclusionist feminists to ‘alt-right’ young men. From men who can’t cry to the women who think they shouldn’t. As her body gets in line with her mind, Juno tells not only her own story, but the story of everyone who is shaped by society’s expectations of gender – and what we can do about it.

Juno Dawson – primarily known for her Young Adult books – announced her transition in 2015 and was met with tremendous support from her readers, the book community and her publisher (who have since gone to lengths to reprint her books under her new name). Following this announcement – though I feel that isn’t the right word to use – Juno went on to talk publicly about her transition in a monthly Glamour Column. I’ve asked her in the past if she was likely to write a book either featuring a trans character or about her own experience of transitioning. She said yes.

I will admit I expected The Gender Games to be all about her experience of transitioning; and doing so in the public eye. Which it is in part, though it focuses on the bigger problem of gender throughout.

Gender is personified, built up to be the creature in the dark ruining everyone’s fun. She talks about growing into a gay man and how she believes that was the label that fit until society developed and “transgender” became more commonly known. She acknowledges the privilege she still had as a gay man when it came to her publishing career; once she compared it to her female counterparts and how they are many spaces for young LGBT people online with this likes of Hannah Hart and Tyler Oakley racking up millions of views and subscribers along with the ever-growing success of Ru Paul’s Drag Race yet none of them are recognised in the so-called “mainstream media.” She goes into details of how men can benefit from feminism if it wasn’t seen as such a dirty word and things such as “you throw like a girl” aren’t helping anyone. She brings in contributors such as Sex & Relationships Youtuber Hannah Witton and drag queen Alaska to illustrate how universal some experiences are.

For me, I learnt a lot about the importance of not taking things at face value. I follow Juno avidly on all her social media and have experienced a sort of pride watching her publically grow but it seemed to lean towards the positive. In The Gender Games the reader really gets to see what goes on behind those glamour columns and Instagram stories. The reader gets to see the hardships, the abuse, the state of our NHS when it comes to dealing with gender, and just how isolating it can be.

She talks about how the LGBT community itself is not perfect and highlights the important stigma around bisexuals – something I have sadly experienced myself -and how a change needs to happen within for those on the outside to take anyone seriously.

Another important factor is that Juno acknowledges she is not perfect. She is aware of her privilege and quick to declare that she knows not everyone had the same resources available to them. She mentions that she messes up too and it’s important to apologise and work on being better. Which is something that I’m sure all of us can do.

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