The Wonder Of Us

The Wonder of Us

How did I get it?:
Received a copy from Walker Books UK, many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

Riya and Abby are:
Best friends.
Complete opposites.
Living on different continents.
Currently mad at each other.
About to travel around Europe. 

Riya moved to Berlin, Germany, with her family for junior year, while Abby stayed behind in their small California town. They thought it would be easy to keep up their friendship-it’s only a year and they’ve been best friends since preschool. But instead, they ended up fighting and not being there for the other. So Riya proposes an epic adventure to fix their friendship. Two weeks, six countries, unimaginable fun. But two small catches:

They haven’t talked in weeks.
They’ve both been keeping secrets.

Can Riya and Abby find their way back to each other among lush countrysides and dazzling cities, or does growing up mean growing apart?

Thoughts:

YA contemporary is something I particularly enjoy, especially so in the warmer weather. When I was offered the chance to read The Wonder Of Us, I snapped it up, purely on that cover and the synopsis itself. I do like a book involving travel, especially travel around Europe. I did enjoy reading this book, but it didn’t blow me away like I wanted it to. I didn’t connect with the characters as much as I thought I might.

The Wonder Of Us is all about two best friends reuniting and going on an adventure around Europe. Abby is pretty fed up with Riya who she feels abandoned her when she needed her. Abby’s parents have recently been struggling and Abby feels like Riya abandoned her to go to Berlin. What Abby doesn’t realise is that Riya has been dealing with her own secrets since leaving each other on bad terms. Riya offers Abby the chance to travel through Europe for two weeks- a ticket that’s been paid for. It’ll give Abby the chance to escape home life in California and hopefully give the girls time to sort through their troubles.

The story is narrated by both Abby and Riya meaning that the reader gets to find out both sides of the story.  It’s also got some interesting secondary characters to get to know, like Neel, Riya’s cousin, who is chaperoning during their trip.

I think part of my problem with this book was that I didn’t understand Abby’s frustration with Riya. Best friends can’t always be by your side, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t care for you. Some of my best friends I don’t see for months on end, but I know they are still there. I understood that Abby had a tough time in her home life and sure, Riya could have been there for her more, but I was still left feeling frustrated by Abby’s actions.  I could have also done without the bickering throughout the story although I do believe it made their rift more believable.

I did enjoy ‘travelling’ Europe with the characters. I feel like Kim Culbertson really set the scene in each country really beautifully. This book was easy to read and I think it would make a decent beach’/summer read.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Beautifully set in Europe, this book will be great for summer reading!

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The Escape

The Escape

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Treatment
The Accident
The Lie
The Missing

Synopsis:

When a stranger asks Jo Blackmore for a lift she says yes, then swiftly wishes she hadn’t.

The stranger knows Jo’s name, she knows her husband Max and she’s got a glove belonging to Jo’s two year old daughter Elise.

What begins with a subtle threat swiftly turns into a nightmare as the police, social services and even Jo’s own husband turn against her.

No one believes that Elise is in danger. But Jo knows there’s only one way to keep her child safe – RUN.

Thoughts:

I’ve come to realise that C.L Taylor’s books are dramatic and can sometimes a little unbelievable but do you know something? I’m totally okay with that. This is the fifth book I’ve read by C.L Taylor and I can confirm that I’m quite a fan of her writing!

The Escape centres around who has been suffering from agoraphobia for many years. However, Jo has learn strategies to cope with her agoraphobia. She’s able to work as long as she keeps to the rules she has set for herself. Unfortunately, one day Jo loosens the rules by giving a lift to a woman she doesn’t know. The woman’s name is Paula and she gives Jo very little chance to refuse. She has one of Elise’s mittens and gives her a very unsettling warning about looking after her daughter. It turns out that Paula knows her, her husband and her daughter. Jo’s worries heighten as you can imagine and this begins the tension. Jo ends up going to Ireland to lie low, but the trouble just follows her…

Jo isn’t the easiest character to like. I don’t know what it was about her really, but I was desperate for her to have a little more fight in her. However, I still found myself wanting things to turn out well for her. I found her husband a little infuriating too, but this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. There’s something about this author’s writing that I find totally compelling.

C.L Taylor sure has a way of keeping you turning the pages. Her characters are well fleshed out and totally believable, even if sometimes the situations may seem a little exaggerated- it still seems like these could be real people!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

I may not have thought much of these characters, but the story kept me turning the pages!

The Weight Of A Thousand Feathers

The Weight of a Thousand Feathers

How did I get it?:
Netgalley- thanks to Bloomsbury

Previously reviewed by the same author:
We Come Apart

Synopsis:

‘Funny how no one ever uses the word ‘love’ when discussing my case. I do what I do because she’s my mum. That pure and that simple.’

Bobby Seed is used to going the extra mile for the ones he loves, and he does it willingly. It’s up to Bobby to get Mum her pills, to help her up the stairs, to laugh her out of her pain. It’s up to Bobby to comfort his little brother Danny, to explain why Mum’s not like the Mum they remember.

One day, he’s asked to go further. Mum asks him the big question. The one many would find unthinkable. If he agrees, he won’t just be soothing her pain. He’ll be helping to end it.

Thoughts:

I seem to have been reading really emotional books recently and this one is another one of them. It’s a story about a young carer who looks after his mum who has the terrible disease MS. At the heart of the story is family and I loved that.

The Weight Of A Thousand Feathers is about Bobby and his family. He lives and cares for his mum and his younger brother. Bobby has watched his mum suffer from MS before she was officially diagnosed. He has watched her deteriorate and at the start of the story she is bed-ridden. He has been there for her all along. He has to feed her, take her to the toilet… the roles are certainly reversed. One day, Bobby’s mum asks him to help her end her life. Bobby is now faced with an extremely tough decision. He wants to keep his mum alive but at the same time doesn’t want to see her suffer any further.

I thought Brian Conaghan wrote an incredible story. He was able to show both sides of the story- living with a disease and caring for someone with a long-term, deteriorating disease. The emotions he captured, were I imagine, very true to life for caring for someone with such a terrible disease. I imagine that it’s hard to see your child become your carer. These emotions were portrayed beautifully within the story.

I had so many conflicting opinions throughout the story. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to be asked to end a person’s life, especially a family member. What do you even do in that situation? It’s heart-breaking. So many questions were raised in my mind. I love a thought provoking book.

You might think this sounds like an utterly depressing book, but there are definitely light-hearted moments. I like it when a sad book has those moments. I think sad stories do need some levity. It shouldn’t all be doom and gloom.

I think Brian Conaghan has written a beautiful, thought-provoking, raw read which is well worth checking out.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An emotional but thought-provoking read!

Leah On The Offbeat (Creekwood #2)

Leah on the Offbeat (Creekwood, #2)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda
The Upside Of Unrequited

Synopsis:

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

Thoughts:

I was so excited to read this book, especially after loving Simon so much. I did approach it with some trepidation though. As I often do when I hype books so much. Pffft, why do I do it? That said, this book was not a disappointment to me at all. I really enjoyed it and thought it was an awesome addition to Simon’s world. I had some moments when I actually laughed out loud. Although Simon features, this is definitely Leah’s story and I was totally okay with that.

Leah On The Offbeat explores Leah’s feelings towards one of her friends. Like Simon in the previous book, Leah hasn’t yet come out. She’s bisexual and doesn’t feel ready to tell this to the world. She’s not as brave as Simon was. The characters are now in their senior year of high school and thinking about moving on to college, making some important decisions for the future.

I loved Leah in her own story. I thought she was funny and completely true to herself. I loved her sarcasm and how she was quite moody. She was blunt about her own weight and discussed how many people equate skinny to pretty even if they don’t intend to.

Leah, Simon and their group of friends are so fun to follow. They are such an easy group of friends to root for. I love how Becky Albertalli’s books deal with real issues but essentially they are books that uplift you and give your some joy despite the doom and gloom that real life can bring sometimes.

You don’t need to have read Simon to read this book, but it’ll enhance your experience if you do!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Whereas it didn’t quite match my beloved Simon, it was still a decent read that I quickly devoured!

The Stranger In My Home

The Stranger In My Home

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from my sister, Beth!

Synopsis:

Alison is lucky and she knows it. She has the life she always craved, including a happy home with Jeff and their brilliant, vivacious teenage daughter, Katherine – the absolute centre of Alison’s world. Then a knock at the door ends life as they know it. Fifteen years ago, someone else took Alison’s baby from the hospital. And now Alison is facing the unthinkable.

The daughter she brought home doesn’t belong to her.

When you have everything you dreamed of, there is everything to lose.

Thoughts:

My sister, Beth thought I would enjoy this book, so she brought it over for me to read. I’ve read and enjoyed some Adele Parks prior to blogging, so I thought I’d give this book a go. I thought it was enjoyable, but it wasn’t what I expected it to be. I guess from the blurb, I envisaged a psychological thriller but it wasn’t. It was a story about family. Don’t get me wrong, I did still enjoy it, it just wasn’t the book that I’d anticipated.

The Stranger In My Home opens with a man named Tom, knocking on Alison’s door one day. It appears that there’s been a massive mix up years ago when Tom’s wife and Alison had their children. Olivia, Tom’s daughter, is actually Alison’s daughter and Alison’s daughter Katherine actually belongs to Tom, a recent widower. It’s come to light that Tom’s wife died of breast cancer and Katherine might have the gene. She needs to undergo tests to determine whether she has inherited the gene from her real mother.

The story then focuses on Alison and Jeff reacting to such terrible news. They were an incredibly happy family before the bombshell was dropped on them. There are so many questions to be asked and answered. Adele Parks slowly trickles information into a tightly weaved plot.  I had some ideas of what might be going on throughout, but I feel like there’s definitely enough to keep you guessing.

I enjoyed most of the characters. They certainly were in the most unusual and horrific situation. I didn’t envy them at all. They behaved in a realistic manner. However, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the main character, Alison. I found her to be slightly irritating and I couldn’t connect with her, despite feeling sorry for her and the situation she had found herself in.

I thought there was definitely enough in this story to capture your attention. So many secrets and lies to be discovered. There was a lot to get your head around and become fully immersed in.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

A good read, but I struggled with the likeability of one of the main characters!

The Missing

The Missing

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Treatment
The Accident
The Lie

Synopsis:

You love your family. They make you feel safe. You trust them. Or do you…?

When fifteen-year-old Billy Wilkinson goes missing in the middle of the night, his mother, Claire Wilkinson, blames herself. She’s not the only one. There isn’t a single member of Billy’s family that doesn’t feel guilty. But the Wilkinson’s are so used to keeping secrets from one another that it isn’t until six months later, after an appeal for information goes horribly wrong, that the truth begins to surface.

Claire is sure of two things – that Billy is still alive and that her friends and family had nothing to do with his disappearance.

A mother’s instinct is never wrong. Or is it?

Thoughts:

With The Missing, I continue my delve into C.L Taylor’s backlist. I’ve been gradually making my way through her books and certainly enjoying my journey into her writing. I’ve found her to be absolutely brilliant at creating some fascinating characters. Not always one you’ll like. Oh no. But completely fascinating all the same.

In The Missing we find out that 15 year old Billy has gone missing. No one seen him leave and six months later they are still searching for him. It’s come to the point where they’re starting to question whether Billy is still alive. We learn about Billy through the family that he’s left behind. We mainly learn through Claire, but we also get a glimpse of Mark, the father and Jake his older brother. They are all struggling to come to terms with Billy’s disappearance. We also get to know Jake’s girlfriend Kira, who is living with the family after experiencing terrible things in her own family. Each character is hiding something and you really don’t know who to trust as a reader. Claire begins to have amnesic episodes that make you question her reliability as a narrator.

As well as Claire’s narration, we also see messages between two characters on an instant messenger/text message format. These were quite intense and some were quite disturbing with some strong language (so be prepared if you’re offended by that!) I guessed one of the characters but I was completely wrong about another. I had assumed something (don’t want to spoil!) that was completely off the mark. Ha!

The Missing is fast paced and a page turner despite it being nearly 500 pages long. I never felt like it was too long. I just kept turning the pages eager to find out what was going on. It may not be my favourite book by her, but I have really enjoyed C.L Taylor’s plots so far. They’re not always predictable which I really appreciate. All too often, these books are quite similar so you can predict where it’s going. I love it when I’m completely wrong! I am certainly looking forward to reading more from this author, soon! 🙂

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A fast-paced read!

Days Of Wonder

Days of Wonder

How did I get it?:
NetGalley thanks to Little, Brown Book Group

Previously reviewed by the same author:
A Boy Made Of Blocks

Synopsis:

Tom, single father to Hannah, is the manager of a tiny local theatre. On the same day each year, he and its colourful cast of part-time actors have staged a fantastical production just for his little girl, a moment of magic to make her childhood unforgettable.

But there is another reason behind these annual shows: the very first production followed Hannah’s diagnosis with a heart condition that will end her life early. And now, with Hannah a funny, tough girl of fifteen, that time is coming.

Hannah’s heart is literally broken – and she can’t bear the idea of her dad’s breaking too. So she resolves to find a partner for Tom, someone else to love, to fill the space beside him.

While all the time Tom plans a final day of magic that might just save them both.

Thoughts:

I was a massive fan of Keith Stuart’s debut novel A Boy Made Of Blocks. I thought it was absolutely sensational, so when I noticed his second novel up for grabs on NetGalley, I just had to go for it. I really enjoy Keith Stuart’s writing. He’s clearly a very talented writer because Days Of Wonder is another brilliant novel. It’s emotional and heart-warming at the same time. Days Of Wonder is narrated by Tom and his daughter Hannah. They take alternate chapters. I absolutely loved this narration!

Tom is a single father devoted to his daughter Hannah and his job as theatre manager. Hannah was diagnosed with a serious heart condition when she was younger. She’s now fifteen and mature beyond her young years. The story starts after Hannah’s diagnosis at five. For her fifth birthday, an amateur dramatic group put on a fairy tale for her outside her window. This leads to a tradition of a fairy tale for every birthday that follows. Days of Wonder follows Tom and Hannah through tough times. Hannah’s desperate for her father to have someone by his side when she leaves him. 😦 It’s heart-breaking!

Keith Stuart really has a way of making me feel for the characters. I immediately adored Tom and Hannah, however, there are so many other brilliant characters in this story. There was an older lady named Margaret who Hannah was very close to. I loved her anecdotes and how she would talk to Hannah about anything… including death. Hannah’s friends were lovable as well. They were always there for her. Hannah is a very special girl, she realises that her life is so fragile and doesn’t want to plan for the future, instead she puts her energy into ensuring her father is looked out for. I loved how she was desperate for her father to be happy.

I knew this book was going to be emotional, but I didn’t expect to be as invested in the story as I was. I loved seeing Hannah grow as a character and her father grew too. He learnt to be less overprotective despite his child’s life being so fragile. It may seem like a really depressing story, but I think its sweetness and the way it really makes you feel grateful for everything that you have really makes the book reach new heights.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A beautiful book that both breaks and warms your heart!