Girl Out Of Water

Girl Out of Water

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word. 

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves?

Thoughts:

I continue with my quest to read some 2017 debuts, as I totally failed on that front last year. I’m doing well so far. It was time to read Girl Out Of Water which I’d heard some really good things about. I thought it was an easy to read, interesting book. It was lovely to see a diverse representation of characters in this book too.

Girl Out Of Water centres around Anise who can’t wait to spend the summer with her friends and the ocean. She loves surfing and wants to spend the summer making the most of her free time. However, Anise’s aunt has a terrible accident, which results in Anise and her father having to go to Nebraska to help her aunt with her cousins. Anise is understandably disappointed to miss out on her plans, but she recognises the importance of her family and looking out for her cousins. Whilst in Nebraska, Anise becomes close to a skateboarder named Lincoln. Lincoln challenges Anise to learn skateboarding and step outside her comfort zone.

Anise finds it awkward to be in touch with her friends at home. She’s jealous of the fact that they’re living the summer she wanted. She doesn’t want them to feel bad because they’re having fun without her. I thought it was really clever how the author portrayed how difficult it can be to be away from home when you don’t want to be. She really showed Anise’s battle between wanting to be there for her family and wanting to be with her friends.

Anise’s mother is absent for quite a substantial part of the story. She pops up in her life every now and then, but Anise is practically raised by her father. She has a good relationship with her father which is lovely to read about.

I thought there were some fabulous characters in this book. I really liked Lincoln and his outlook on life. I thought Anise’s father was wonderful too. I did like Anise as a character, but I can imagine that she’ll grate on a few readers as she does come across as a bit bratty in points, but it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. I thought overall it was a great debut!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A solid debut! I think this would be a good summer read!

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You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone

You'll Miss Me When I'm Gone

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Eighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon. 

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

Thoughts:

I always enjoy checking out debut authors because sometimes you can really find some gems. This was totally the case with You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. I thought it was an emotional, thought-provoking read.

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone centres around twins Adina and Tovah. Their mother has Huntington’s Disease and both girls have been tested to see if they will develop the awful disease. One tests negative and the other tests positive. Adina and Tovah’s lives are completely turned around. They was already strain on their relationship but with the outcomes of the test it seems to be worse. The story follows their relationship and their story after the test results.

I really enjoyed reading this book although it is heart-breaking to read about such a horrific disease. It certainly made me think. I also thought it was great how the characters were Jewish. I’m all for plenty of representation in books, especially YA and I felt this book taught me things that I didn’t know about the Jewish faith.

I thought the characters were really well developed. I loved how they were completely different to one another. Yet both characters were fighting their own battles. I was completely invested in their story, desperate for them to find themselves. The story really gripped me from the start and kept me gripped until the end of the story. I’m still thinking about it a week later which really shows the impact that it had on me.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I thought this was a wonderful, emotional debut novel. I’m intrigued to see what Rachel Lynn Soloman writes next!

Twelve Steps To Normal

Twelve Steps to Normal

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Kira’s Twelve Steps To A Normal Life

1. Accept Grams is gone.
2. Learn to forgive Dad.
3. Steal back ex-boyfriend from best friend…

And somewhere between 1 and 12, realize that when your parent’s an alcoholic, there’s no such thing as “normal.”
When Kira’s father enters rehab, she’s forced to leave everything behind–her home, her best friends, her boyfriend…everything she loves. Now her father’s sober (again) and Kira is returning home, determined to get her life back to normal…exactly as it was before she was sent away.

But is that what Kira really wants?

Thoughts:

I thought it would be interesting to read a book about recovery after addiction and how a family copes with such a thing. I also wanted to read another 2018 debut. I’m always keen to find new writers, so try to get to a few debuts a year. Whilst Twelve Steps To Normal wasn’t a bad read, it wasn’t amazing. It sticks in that middle ground for me.

Twelve Steps To Normal follows Kira as she returns to live with her father after he comes out of rehab. Kira has been living with her Aunt and has had to leave her home, school, friends and boyfriend. Since she had left, Kira distanced herself from everyone at home, trying to protect herself. Now she’s back, Kira wants her life back. She wants everything to return to how it was, but as time goes by, Kira wonders if that’s really what she wants.

This book has so many characters. I did wonder if there were a little too many to really delve into the characters deeply. Kira’s dad brought home some other sober friends from rehab that lived with them until they were ready to go home. It was nice to see their journey too, but I don’t feel like we learnt a lot about them. Then there’s also Kira’s friends, her father, her ex-boyfriend and a love interest.

As for Kira, I have mixed feelings about her. I could understand her reservations about her father. Her friendships confused me though. I don’t feel like she treated her friends well but she was easily forgiven. I also didn’t like the way she treated her father’s friends. She was quite rude and took a while to understand them. I also felt deeply sorry for Alex, the love interest, he was a sweetheart and she was pretty nasty! I realised she had gone through a lot, but I wasn’t impressed with her as a character overall.

I appreciated this book for being a story about repairing relationships after family trauma but I was desperate for this book to be more about Kira and her father. I wanted to learn more about her father’s recovery and his battle with addiction. I think I was expecting it to be deeper than it was.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Whilst this book didn’t blow me away, it was a decent enough read about repairing relationships after hardship!

Talking About ‘Three Things About Elsie’ with Bibliobeth!

Three Things About Elsie

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
The Trouble With Goats and Sheep

Synopsis:

There are three things you should know about Elsie.
The first thing is that she’s my best friend.
The second is that she always knows what to say to make me feel better.
And the third thing… might take a little bit more explaining.

84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light; and, if the charming new resident is who he claims to be, why does he look exactly like a man who died sixty years ago?

From the author of THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP, this book will teach you many things, but here are three of them:
1) The fine threads of humanity will connect us all forever.
2) There is so very much more to anyone than the worst thing they have ever done.
3) Even the smallest life can leave the loudest echo.

CHRISSI: We both read The Trouble With Goats and Sheep by the same author. How do you think this book compared?

BETH: I really enjoyed The Trouble With Goats and Sheep but for some reason, it wasn’t a five star read for me like I know it was for so many other readers. I wasn’t expecting to be completely blown away by Three Things About Elsie at all. I knew I would probably enjoy it as I thought with her first novel, Joanna Cannon had a very engaging writing style and wrote fantastic characters but I still wasn’t prepared for how much I would end up enjoying this. It was an emotional. poignant and stellar piece of fiction that had a huge impact on me.

BETH: Without spoilers, how fitting did you think the title of this book was?

CHRISSI: I thought it was a very fitting title to the story. Throughout the story, we know two things about Elsie and there’s something else about her too…which I can’t spoil. I think the title was a good match and there was lots of reference to it within the story which was a lovely touch.

CHRISSI: What feelings did this book evoke for you?

BETH: SO many feelings. In her first book, Joanna Cannon chose to focus on two young girls as protagonists, with Elsie she has gone to the other end of the spectrum and we see the lives of Florence, Elsie, Jack and many others in a retirement home. I loved the relationship between Florence and Elsie in particular but also liked that this novel had a hint of a mystery about it regarding the re-emergence of a character from their past and why it evokes such feelings of fear in Florence as a result. This novel also touches on memory loss and dementia which was quite hard to read about and heart-breaking in points but ultimately, I think the author handled it very sensitively and it was an intensely moving read for me.

BETH: Did Florence’s failing memory change your understanding of events at Cherry Tree? Does it make her a less reliable narrator?

CHRISSI: I do think that Florence’s failing memory did make her a less reliable narrator for sure. I wasn’t sure if she was talking to herself, remembering things wrong or hiding secrets that she wanted to keep locked away. The story really did unravel slowly, with a very mysterious element, it took me a while to understand what was going on.

CHRISSI: Did you feel engaged with the story all the way through?

BETH: I honestly did. I adored the way in which we got little throwbacks to Flo and Elsie’s past as the mystery of the new resident at the retirement home continues to unravel but I think my favourite parts about this novel were the little pearls of wisdom that Joanna Cannon throws in, some of which really spoke to me on a personal level and I even tweeted about, I felt so strongly at the time! For example: “Sometimes you go through an experience in life that slices into the very bones of who you are, and two different versions of yourself will always sit either side of it like bookends.”

BETH: What do you think makes Florence ultimately realise that she HAS lived an extraordinary life, in the end?

CHRISSI: I think when Florence is lying reminiscing about what she does remember of her life, her memories with Elsie make her realise that her life has been quite remarkable. She is forced to think of secrets that she’s kept hidden. It is her interactions with Elsie that makes her think about her life and all of the events that have happened to her.

CHRISSI: Did you have a favourite character? If so, who?

BETH: I loved all the characters to be honest, even the ones who were meant to have a more malevolent side to them! Obviously, I had a soft spot for our leading lady Florence and often wanted to be there having a chat, a cup of tea and some Battenberg cake with her but I also really enjoyed the character of Jack who is so supportive to Flo that it made my heart burst a little bit. Handy Simon is also a fabulous character and I found myself really rooting for him to find happiness all the way through the novel.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?

CHRISSI: I’m not sure. Personally, I don’t think I gel with this author’s writing style. It’s nothing against Joanna Cannon’s writing. I can see and appreciate that she’s a talented writer. It just doesn’t work for me. I found this book to be a little drawn out and I lost interest in it. Don’t get me wrong, there were some lovely moments within this story and some very quotable moments. I was extremely busy when I was reading it (so may not have invested as much in it as I wanted to) and I enjoy a faster paced story. I feel really bad because I know so many people love this book. However, we can’t love them all and the blogosphere would be very boring if we all agreed.

Would WE recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!

CHRISSI: Yes!

This Is Not A Love Letter

This Is Not A Love Letter

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

One week. That’s all Jessie said. A one-week break to get some perspective before graduation, before she and her boyfriend, Chris, would have to make all the big, scary decisions about their future–decisions they had been fighting about for weeks.

Then, Chris vanishes. The police think he’s run away, but Jessie doesn’t believe it. Chris is popular and good-looking, about to head off to college on a full-ride baseball scholarship. And he disappeared while going for a run along the river–the same place where some boys from the rival high school beat him up just three weeks ago. Chris is one of the only black kids in a depressed paper mill town, and Jessie is terrified of what might have happened.

As the police are spurred to reluctant action, Jessie speaks up about the harassment Chris kept quiet about and the danger he could be in. But there are people in Jessie’s town who don’t like the story she tells, who are infuriated by the idea that a boy like Chris would be a target of violence. They smear Chris’s character and Jessie begins receiving frightening threats.

Every Friday since they started dating, Chris has written Jessie a love letter. Now Jessie is writing Chris a letter of her own to tell him everything that’s happening while he’s gone. As Jessie searches for answers, she must face her fears, her guilt, and a past more complicated than she would like to admit.

Thoughts:

I wanted to read this book after finding out about it at the end of last year. I loved its simple cover and the title made me wonder what it was going to be about. I found this book to be utterly gripping and I devoured it quickly, not expecting it to be as deep as it was.

This Is Not A Love Letter centres around Jessie. Her boyfriend Chris used to send her love letters every Friday since they started dating. Jessie never wrote back to him however much she appreciated them. Chris suddenly disappears after Jessie called for a week’s break on their relationship. Jessie starts to write letters to Chris detailing what happened whilst he was missing. Jessie has a lot of guilt over events that have happened or conversations that were said during their relationship. As the book progresses, Jessie starts to pour out more details. Could it be that Chris was a victim of racial hate crime?

As we read through the story, we learn more about the people in Chris’s life. We learn more about what he is like as a person. Little snippets of information about him start to come through during Jessie’s interactions with others. At the start of the story, we don’t learn much from the detectives. It is not until he had been missing for longer that they started to take notice. This book really is difficult to categorise. Is it a love story? Is it a mystery? It really has a slice of both genres.

It was interesting to see how the author slipped in the possibility that it could be a racial hate crime after Chris had experienced some hate from others in the community. Chris is the only black baseball player in the town and had achieved a full scholarship which made him resented by other baseball players. Kim Purcell has been very clever with this book as she created so many possibilities for what had happened to Chris. It is revealed that he has suffered with mental health problems in the past, so when that is revealed, you wonder if he could have done something to himself.

This book really was a pleasure to read and whilst very sad in points, I thought it was beautifully written. I really enjoyed reading Jessie’s letters to Chris which became more and more intimate and touching as the story progressed. I felt like she began to know herself better and become closer to those around her.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

An unexpected beautiful read. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book so much!

Notes On A Nervous Planet

Notes on a Nervous Planet

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

The world is messing with our minds.

Rates of stress and anxiety are rising. A fast, nervous planet is creating fast and nervous lives. We are more connected, yet feel more alone. And we are encouraged to worry about everything from world politics to our body mass index.

– How can we stay sane on a planet that makes us mad? 
– How do we stay human in a technological world?
– How do we feel happy when we are encouraged to be anxious?

After experiencing years of anxiety and panic attacks, these questions became urgent matters of life and death for Matt Haig. And he began to look for the link between what he felt and the world around him.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is a personal and vital look at how to feel happy, human and whole in the 21st century.

Thoughts:

I absolutely adored Reasons To Stay Alive. I thought it was such a raw, honest look at depression and anxiety from someone who truly knows how it feels. I thoroughly enjoyed Notes On A Nervous Planet which looks at how technology and the media is affecting our minds.

Notes On A Nervous Planet is an important book because it really explores how technology now can affect our mental health. Goodness knows social media isn’t all that it’s made out to be. We only see segments of people’s lives that they choose to share. Yet we still let ourselves be affected by what we see online. Matt Haig speaks openly and honestly about the dangers of technology and social media and how it has impacted his life.

I love how in both of his books he writes short, witty chapters. Within the pages there’s so much insight though. Matt Haig is a writer that really makes me think. I love the advice he gives as well on how to be happier today. He had some great tips that definitely made me stop, think and discuss with friends. Not many authors can do that.

Reading a Matt Haig non-fiction book makes me feel like I’m talking to a wise friend. I adore Matt’s writing style and his honesty. He honestly made me feel like this messy world could and should be a happier place.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

Whilst I preferred Reasons To Stay Alive, I still thought this book was incredible. Matt Haig writes such insightful things that really resonate with me.

Beth and Chrissi Do Kid-Lit- Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing (Fudge #1)

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing (Fudge, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Forever

Synopsis:

Life with his little brother, Fudge, makes Peter Hatcher feel like a fourth grade nothing. Whether Fudge is throwing a temper tantrum in a shoe store, smearing mashed potatoes on the walls at Hamburger Heaven, or trying to fly, he’s never far from trouble. He’s an almost three-year-old terror who gets away with everything, and Peter’s had it up to here!When Fudge walks off with Dribble, Peter’s pet turtle, it’s the last straw. Peter has put up with Fudge for too long. Way too long! How can he get his parents to pay attention to him for a change?

Thoughts:

I read a lot of Judy Blume’s middle grade reads when I was younger, so I was delighted to see the first book in the Fudge series appear on our list of children’s books for 2018. It was a very nostalgic read that I think stands the test of time and is definitely readable to children now.

Tales of A Fourth Grade Nothing is all about Peter and his annoying brother who they call Fudge. Fudge is definitely an annoying brother, he manages to wreck nearly everything in his path. He also has their mother exactly where he wants her. Peter feels like Fudge gets away with everything and it frustrates him.

Fudge made me laugh with the escapades he gets himself into. I remember loving this series as a child. I did end up feeling sorry for Peter. I didn’t like how Peter got the blame sometimes for not watching him properly. Fudge got away with so much! I wanted to shake the parents and get them to discipline their child. Perhaps that’s just the adult (and teacher!) in me that has thought too much about the action of the parents. For children, like I did, I’m sure they’ll find Fudge’s actions so funny to read about.

For Beth’s wonderful review, check out her blog HERE.

Next up in Beth and Chrissi do Kid-Lit Challenge (October):
Nightbirds on Nantucket-Joan Aiken