Hortense And The Shadow

Hortense and the Shadow

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Penguin Random House Children’s

Synopsis:

Hortense is a kind and brave girl, but she is sad–even angry–that her shadow follows her everywhere she goes. She hates her shadow, and thinks her shadow must hate her too. But one cold, dark night, when bandits surprise her in the woods, Hortense discovers that her shadow is the very thing she needs most.

Thoughts:

I am always on the look out for picture books, especially as I have gone back to Key Stage 1 (5-7 years old). I’m currently with the older range of children and I knew from the synopsis that this book would be perfect for my class! I was happy to read it first and know now that I’ll be purchasing a copy for my class!

The story centres around Hortense who is a lovely girl, but she’s very frustrated with her shadow. She can’t seem to work out why it keeps following her around! She hates her shadow and is convinced that the feeling is mutual. Hortense soon finds out that she needs her shadow after an experience with bandits on a cold night.

I really liked Hortense as a character and think many children will be able to identify with her!

I thought this was an adorable story, very fairy tale-esque in its nature. The illustrations are stunning and I think it carries a wonderful theme of self-identity. I can imagine that I’d use it for a discussion about self-esteem because it does explore that throughout the story in an incredibly subtle way.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I’m going to get my hands on a copy of this book to read to my class this year! A wonderful fairy tale!

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Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace: he has looks and wealth, she has charm and elegance. You’d like to get to know Grace better. But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are never apart. Some might call this true love.

Picture this: a dinner party at their perfect home, the conversation and wine flowing. They appear to be in their element while entertaining. And Grace’s friends are eager to reciprocate with lunch the following week. Grace wants to go, but knows she never will. Her friends call—so why doesn’t Grace ever answer the phone? And how can she cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim?

And why are there bars on one of the bedroom windows?

The perfect marriage? Or the perfect lie?

Thoughts:

I had heard so much about this book. SO much. As a lover of physiological thrillers, I knew it had to be a book that I picked up. I bought a copy, but have taken a while to get around to it. I wish I hadn’t as it was a bloomin’ brilliant psychological thriller. It’s definitely dark and twisted, so if that’s what you like in your thrillers…then I’d recommend picking up this book. It’s a book where you have to suspend your disbelief. It’s a tad far fetched but I loved it nevertheless.

Behind Closed Doors tells the story of Jack and Grace. On the surface, they look like the perfect couple. They are incredibly well matched and their love for each other is clear to see. However, when everyone leaves their parties, I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t want to be Jack and Grace. No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors…

I immediately didn’t trust Jack, (but maybe that says more about me) he seemed too good to be true. He was highly successful, defending victims of domestic violence and was desperate to have Grace’s sister who has Downs Syndrome living with them. Hmm… I started to wonder if there was more to him than met the eye? No one is that perfect, right?

I thought this book was an incredible read. I didn’t want to put it down. It’s one that can easily be read in a day. It may not be full of amazing twists and turns, but it’s a shocking read and that’s what makes you turn the pages. B.A. Paris has really created a wonderfully tense atmosphere. I loved how the author used past and present moments to tell their story. I don’t always enjoy books told in this way, but it was great to see Jack and Grace’s relationship from the start and to ‘witness’ the moment that things started going wrong for them.

I would highly recommend this book if you’re looking for a fast paced thriller!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic debut! I hope B.A Paris writes more in the future!

Close To Me

Close To Me

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Synopsis:

She can’t remember the last year. Her husband wants to keep it that way.

When Jo Harding falls down the stairs at home, she wakes up in hospital with partial amnesia-she’s lost a whole year of memories. A lot can happen in a year. Was Jo having an affair? Lying to her family? Starting a new life?

She can’t remember what she did-or what happened the night she fell. But she’s beginning to realise she might not be as good a wife and mother as she thought.

Thoughts:

Beth is basically one of the biggest book pushers in my life. Ha! She recommended Close To Me after reading it and enjoying it earlier this year. I’m pleased that I read it because I thought it was a wonderful debut novel. It gripped me from the very beginning and I was eager to find out what was going to happen next.

Close To Me centres around our main protagonist Jo. Jo has had an accident which results in her losing her memories of the past year. This leaves Jo questioning what has happened and why her family don’t seem to be telling her the truth. Jo is convinced that her grown up children and her husband are keeping things from her, but with only snippets of memories coming back to her, she doesn’t know what to believe anymore.

Although this isn’t the most unique psychological thriller that I’ve read, it was still an engaging and exciting read. I was eager to find out about the secrets that were being hidden. I wanted to know whether Jo had fell down the stairs or whether she was pushed. I was questioning every single thing, not sure whether to distrust Jo’s family or not. There were just so many questions to be answered!

The narration goes between Jo’s point of view in the year that she had lost and Jo’s present day life. Using this narrative was effective because the reader got to learn about Jo’s life before the accident. I liked this element of the story as it meant that the reader could learn about Jo’s past as the memories were revealed to her too.

I didn’t think much of Jo’s family. I couldn’t really warm to any of them. I didn’t trust some of them and I wondered why Jo’s children weren’t more concerned with her memory loss! I found Sash (her daughter) in particular to be a very irritating character. I desperately wanted her to be there for her mother… and she just wasn’t!

There may be many books like Close To Me in the genre, but it’s an addictive read and a very promising debut nevertheless!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

An addictive read and promising debut novel!

Talking About ‘Good Me, Bad Me’ with Bibliobeth!

Good Me, Bad Me

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

CHRISSI: I started this book a bit before you and told you how disturbing it was. Did you agree with my initial impression? What were your first impressions?

BETH: It was quite funny in a way. You started reading it and then texted me just two words – “Woah dude.” Then I got to the exact same point in the book that you did and texted you exactly the same thing! I know we usually hate comparisons and like that a book should stand on its own but as you said to me, this was one of the most disturbing things I’ve read since Gone Girl, I think. Obviously I don’t want to go into too many details for fear of spoilers but this novel is a lot darker, a lot twistier and more warped than I could have ever expected. You would think I might be expecting this if you read the synopsis? No, I wasn’t prepared for how “wrong,” it was going to get.

BETH: What did you think of the character of Phoebe? Could you sympathise with her at all?

CHRISSI: It’s an interesting question as Phoebe is such a complex character. I felt sorry for her because her home life was pretty horrific. Her mother didn’t have a great bond with her and she was feeling left out when Milly was getting a lot of attention from Phoebe’s parents. That can’t be nice. Especially when Phoebe’s mum gave Milly a gift that Phoebe thought was a precious thing between Phoebe and her mother. However, I didn’t feel comfortable with the bullying that Phoebe and her friends were inflicting upon Milly. Bullying should never be excused in my eyes!

CHRISSI: Ali Land is a Child and Adolescent Mental Health nurse – how do you think this affects the way she has written this novel?

BETH: I think it’s given her a perfect insight into mental illness in children, to be honest. She’s probably seen and experienced some things in her career and understands how a child may view a certain situation, what they might do and what kinds of emotions they might be experiencing as a result. Because of this, the novel came across as very authentic to me and as I mentioned before, I certainly wasn’t prepared for the directions the author took with the story.

BETH: Milly has to give evidence in a court in front of her mother – how do you think this was handled in the novel?

CHRISSI: I thought this was dealt with really well in the novel. Milly wanted to be there in court and this wasn’t disregarded because it was too tough for her. The adults around Milly seemed to listen to her. I also enjoyed how the court scenes were written. I loved how Milly’s mother’s presence was so strong in the novel. It was almost creepy. She felt like an incredibly evil character (what she did was awful!) and her little movements mentioned in the court scene made my skin crawl. I loved how the author made us feel her presence in court (despite Milly not physically seeing her) and how much Milly was aware of it.

CHRISSI: What does this story tell us about the question of nature vs nurture?

BETH: As a scientist (by day!) I probably could have a very scientific answer for you… 😝 but to be honest, I think the book explores both aspects. Is it the genes within us that programme us to be what we are and how we react to certain situations? Or is it the environment outside i.e. how we are brought up, who we interact with that determines our behaviour and actions. If I’m fair, poor Milly didn’t have much of a choice either way considering she was brought up with a serial killer for a mother. It’s how she responds when taken out of that situation however that gets very interesting.

BETH: How would you describe the relationship between Milly and her mother?

CHRISSI: In two words… incredibly unhealthy! I felt like Milly constantly struggled with the feelings towards her mother. It says it all really in the title ‘Good Me, Bad Me.’ Milly was so aware of what was right and wrong. She knew what her mother had done was wrong, yet she still felt a strong pull towards her, despite all of the awful things that had happened to her. Milly really was messed up by her mother and understandably so. Their relationship was toxic. Milly’s mother ‘training’ her daughter for such awful things…

CHRISSI: How does this book compare to others in its heavily populated genre?

BETH: I was a huge fan of this book. I think it stands heads and shoulders above quite a few books in the genre. I don’t know if it’s the writing style, the subject matter or the fact that the author isn’t afraid to go to incredibly dark places but I loved what she did with the story and even though it made me feel intensely uncomfortable and disgusted it was an unforgettable reading experience.

BETH: Would you read another novel by this author?

CHRISSI: I really would! This is such a promising debut novel. I loved how Ali Land didn’t shy away from such an uncomfortable topic.

Would we recommend it?:

BETH: Without a doubt!

CHRISSI: Without a doubt!

 

The Girls

The Girls

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

California. The summer of 1969. In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life….

Evie Boyd is desperate to be noticed. In the summer of 1969, empty days stretch out under the California sun. The smell of honeysuckle thickens the air and the sidewalks radiate heat.

Until she sees them. The snatch of cold laughter. Hair, long and uncombed. Dirty dresses skimming the tops of thighs. Cheap rings like a second set of knuckles. The girls.

And at the centre, Russell. Russell and the ranch, down a long dirt track and deep in the hills. Incense and clumsily strummed chords. Rumours of sex, frenzied gatherings, teen runaways.

Was there a warning, a sign of things to come? Or is Evie already too enthralled by the girls to see that her life is about to be changed forever?

Thoughts:

I had heard SO much about The Girls that I was somewhat apprehensive to pick it up.I didn’t know much about this book before I read it. I just kept seeing it all over the place. I have since learnt that this book is based on the Manson murders in 1969. I thought that I would enjoy it, but I’m always worried when a book is discussed so much. I worry it’s too hyped and my expectations will be too high. Therefore, I left it a little while. I finally got around to reading The Girls about a week ago. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t think it’s a book that I’d re-read, as beautifully written as it is.

The Girls centres around a girl named Evie who is desperate to be noticed by her peers. Evie notices the girls, some girls who have long uncombed hair and dirty dresses. They immediately intrigue Evie. The story is packed full of sex, drugs and teenage runaways but it’s also much darker than that. Russell is mainly at the edge of the story. It is Suzanne, the leader of the girls, who captivates the main protagonist, Evie. Evie finds Suzanne alluring and is easily led to Russell’s ranch. At the ranch, Evie can become much more grown up and seek revenge against her mother who isn’t letting Evie be herself.

I liked how the narration was split between fourteen year old Evie and middle aged Evie looking back on her life. I wish there had been more about middle aged Evie as I was left with quite a few ‘What If’ questions. Perhaps this was the author’s intention. I felt like the narrations weren’t as connected as they could’ve been, which was a shame.

I found The Girls to be a disturbing read. It unsettled me at times. Emma Cline’s writing really is brilliant. She sets the scene wonderfully and creates the perfect atmosphere for the story. The Girls is an engaging read which kept me turning the pages right from the start.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

Definitely an interesting one! Some darker content, so be aware of that!

If I Stay (If I Stay #1)

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

In the blink of an eye everything changes. Seventeen year-old Mia has no memory of the accident; she can only recall what happened afterwards, watching her own damaged body being taken from the wreck. Little by little she struggles to put together the pieces- to figure out what she has lost, what she has left, and the very difficult choice she must make. Heartwrenchingly beautiful, this will change the way you look at life, love, and family.

Thoughts:

According to Goodreads, I read this book in 2011. What? I even mini-reviewed it which I’ve now deleted as it wasn’t what I thought of this book anymore. I have no recollection of reading this book, but I had given it three stars. I’m glad that I reread it, because I would now rate it four stars. I found If I Stay to be incredibly gripping and moving at the same time.

Mia finds herself watching her body being taken away from a car wreck after an awful accident involving Mia and her family. Slowly, Mia finds out what has happened to her. She figures out what she has lost and who/what she has left. Mia realises that she’s in control of her own fate. She has to make a choice whether to return to her body and live her life or give up the fight…

This was an incredibly emotional read. I couldn’t put it down. I wanted to know more about Mia and the choice that she’d make. The accident is something that really got to me, because it’s something that we often see on the roads today or hear about in the news. It’s one of those things that could happen to anyone. That thought is terrifying. It made me think about losing loved ones and that really broke my heart.

Gayle Forman’s writing is incredibly raw. She easily hooks you in and makes you feel like part of the family. She writes the past and present so well and balances it beautifully. As a reader, you learn more about Mia as the story progresses and learn to love her more. It’s such a short book, yet I felt like I knew Mia really well. The romance is utterly adorable and not easy. It’s not a fluffy, instalove romance, it felt incredibly authentic.

I highly recommend giving this book a go. It’s deeper than you might think and makes you question life!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A beautiful read which really moved me!

Love & Gelato

Love & Gelato

How did I get it?:
I received a copy from Walker Books. Many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

The dying wish of 16-year-old Lina’s mother was for her daughter to live in Tuscany and get to know her father, whom Lina has never met.

“Howard is the best man I’ve ever known,” her mother says, “he’ll keep you safe.” Why did her mother wait so long to tell her about him? Lina has a happy life in Seattle and doesn’t want to leave. Shortly after she arrives at Howard’s home, Lina meets Sonya, who gives Lina a diary that belonged to Lina’s mother, the one she had kept while she was a photography student in Florence. While Lina is living her life and exploring Tuscany with her handsome neighbour, Ren, she follows in the footsteps of her mother and gets to know her as never before. She also finds out the truth about her father. Mostly she finds out about herself.

Thoughts:

I have had Love & Gelato on my radar for the longest time, so I was incredibly happy to be able to read a copy, thanks to Walker Books! It’s a wonderful summer read. I think if you’re a fan of the contemporary YA genre, then this book is certainly for you this summer.

It’s set in Italy and follows Lina. Lina moves to Italy after her mum dies on her mum’s request to be with Howard- a man from the past. When Lina arrives in Italy, she is given her mother’s old journal. Lina starts to read the journal and learns much more about her mum and herself than she had ever anticipated!

I loved following Lina, who I found incredibly easy to connect to. I felt for her, having to deal with the loss of her mother and then have to move to Italy to live with a man that she had only just heard of. Lina really gets herself into awkward situations, but this made her all the more realistic in my eyes.

I was impressed that the author took their time with Lina’s grieving process. She did struggle at first, she did question. She didn’t just move to Italy and everything was magically better. That’s more real to read about!

Love & Gelato has made me want to visit Italy. The author really painted a picture with her words. It left me craving gelato too… I’m definitely more inclined to go to Italy after reading this cute story!

I can’t believe that this book was the author’s debut as it feels incredibly established. I would definitely pick up her next book!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A very cute YA contemporary read. Perfect for the beach!