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!

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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!

 

One Of Us Is Lying

One of Us Is Lying

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

Synopsis:

Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

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. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Thoughts:

This book was one of my most anticipated at the start of the year. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! I really think it’s a solid YA read that many people who don’t usually read YA would enjoy.

One Of Us Is Lying is set in a high school where we find five teenagers in detention. Those five teenagers are pretty much stereotypical high school characters. You know the ones, there’s smart, bad boy, athlete, popular/pretty girl etc. etc. At first I thought it was going to annoy me. I don’t like reading books with such stereotypes, but it really worked with this book. Simon is also in detention. He runs a gossip app, giving gossip to the rest of the school that is incredibly accurate. This gave me real Gossip Girl vibes. During detention, Simon dies in what seems like suspicious circumstances. Although they aren’t the typical detention students, each and every one of them has a secret they didn’t want Simon to release…

I think you’d especially enjoy this book if you’re into Gossip Girl. Like I said, it definitely has the vibe which I adore. I loved the mysterious element to the story. I really enjoyed trying to work out what had happened to Simon. I did get it right, by the end of the story but that didn’t affect my enjoyment at all. I loved the range of characters within the story and how they all had a reason to want Simon dead.

I think the only reason I haven’t rated this book any higher is because I expected it to be a lot more dark and unpredictable. That possibly says something about me!?

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A wonderful, easy to read book. Great for fans of YA and beyond!

Countless

Countless

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

Synopsis:

When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time …

Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. Perfect for fans of Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Sarah Crossan.

Thoughts:

I find books that centre around mental health really intriguing, so I was eager to get to reading Countless. I thought Countless was an incredibly established debut novel. I couldn’t put it down!

Countless is about Hedda, our main character, who suffers from anorexia. Pretty much from the offset, we find out that Hedda is pregnant. We experience Hedda’s battle with what to do about pregnancy. Hedda decides to keep the baby, but realises that she’ll have to start eating to keep the baby healthy.

Countless isn’t necessarily an easy book to read, but I think it’s an important one. Karen Gregory’s writing really made me sympathise with Hedda. I wanted her to pull through and get better both for her baby and herself. I liked that it wasn’t easy for Hedda. I felt like this made the book incredibly realistic. A person suffering from anorexia doesn’t get better overnight. It’s a battle.

I think that Hedda is a very well written character. I felt that she developed so much throughout the course of the story. She was stubborn and strong-willed, but at the same time determined to do right by her child. The only thing that really bugged me about Hedda was her mother! I understand that it must be incredibly hard to have a child that suffers from anorexia, but her mother’s attitude towards Hedda frustrated me on more than one occasion!

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think it’s such an important read.  I thought that the representation of mental illness was outstanding. It is a painful, emotional but incredibly sensitive read.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic debut with some strong character development!

Comparing ‘Fish Boy’ by Chloe Daykin

Fish Boy

How did I get it?:
I received it from Faber! Many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

Billy is a lonely boy. He’s obsessed with swimming in the sea, which is where he goes to wash his problems far, far away. Thanks to his mum’s mystery illness, his dad has been forced to work extra hours to make ends meet, so Billy locks himself away with David Attenborough films, and ponders the magic of nature. Meanwhile at school, bullies mercilessly seize on Billy’s ‘otherness’ and make his life as miserable as possible – but then new boy Patrick Green, with “fingers like steel, strength of a bear”, joins Billy’s class. And when a mackerel swims up to Billy’s face, blows bubbles into his Vista Clear Mask goggles and says: Fish Boy – Billy’s whole world changes.

 

Thoughts before you started reading Fish Boy?

CHRISSI: I was intrigued. I had heard great things about the book already and was curious to see if it would live up to my expectations!

LUNA: This sounds magical/lovely, can’t wait to read it.

What did you think of Billy?

CHRISSI: Billy stole my heart. I loved that he was different and wanted him to find happiness, no matter what obstacles were in his way.

LUNA: I liked Billy but I didn’t connect to him the way I hoped. He’s nice and I sympathised with the feelings he went through, the bullying at school and his concerns and anger about his mother.

Best bit?

CHRISSI: I really enjoyed how weird this book was. That might sound strange, but I honestly did. I liked that this book was a little odd and not like your average middle grade read. I also thought it was a unique way to write about the subject matter. (Don’t want to spoil!)

LUNA: The concept of the book. I agree with Chrissi in I enjoyed how weird this book was and I liked the flowing writing of the swimming sections, it was like reading movement.

Worst bit?

CHRISSI: I don’t think it has a worst bit as such. I personally didn’t keep turning the pages, so it didn’t grip me as much as I had anticipated. That’s a minor quibble though!

LUNA: As much as I enjoyed how different Fish Boy was I did not connect emotionally to the book. I don’t know why this was. It has the ingredients but because of that lack of connection I wasn’t invested in Billy, Patrick or Billy’s parents.

Favourite character/moment?

CHRISSI: Billy’s relationship with his parents warmed my heart. Billy had a good relationship with both of his parents and even though his Mum had a lot going on in her life, you could tell she still really cared for him!

LUNA: The Merz wall. The whole concept of the Merz wall and the scene in the book, I just loved it. It’s like the random pin boards I make of memories and ideas. If I had a garden I would want a Merz wall.

Was Fish Boy what you expected?

CHRISSI: It wasn’t what I expected but in a good way. It was weird and wonderful.

LUNA: For the writing yes and I knew it would be different. Personally though, I hoped for a stronger connection to the characters and sadly that didn’t happen.

Would you recommend it?

CHRISSI: Yes!

LUNA: I don’t know.

The Hate U Give

The Hate U Give

How did I get it?:
It was sent to me by Walker Books, many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

Thoughts:

This book has been most anticipated by so many bloggers. I’m always scared of hyped books. Always. Quite often that hype monster appears and destroys a raved about book for me. I’m happy to say, that this wasn’t the case with The Hate U Give. I have to admit, as a teacher, the ‘U’ bugged me in the title, until I started to read it and realised why the author used a ‘U’. I’m also pleased to say that I enjoyed this book. It wasn’t quite a 5 star read for me, but it was very, very close.

It centres around Starr, who is only sixteen, but has seen two murders in her lifetime. The first was a friend in a drive by and the second was a black boy, shot multiple times by a police officer whilst she was in the car. Starr laid with him as he died. The boy in question didn’t do anything wrong. The story surrounds life after these murders. It explores the sensitive subject of racial issues in society involving black people and police officers. As a reader, we wonder whether Starr will stand up for Khalil and talk about what she witnessed.

I thought this was a fantastic book. It’s a story that should be read by so many. The fact that black people are still dying because of social issues with race is heartbreaking and scary at the same time. I think this book is incredibly educational. It tackles racism and injustice, but it’s not all doom and gloom. There are so many moments that made me smile.

This was an incredible debut novel. Angie Thomas writes so well. I’m looking forward to exploring what she writes next.  

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A fantastic, important debut!