Winger (Winger #1)

Winger (Winger, #1)

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Ryan Dean West is a fourteen-year-old junior at a boarding school for rich kids in the Pacific Northwest. He’s living in Opportunity Hall, the dorm for troublemakers, and rooming with the biggest bully on the rugby team. And he’s madly in love with his best friend Annie, who thinks of him as a little boy.

With the help of his sense of humor, rugby buddies, and his penchant for doodling comics, Ryan Dean manages to survive life’s complications and even find some happiness along the way. But when the unthinkable happens, he has to figure out how to hold on to what’s important, even when it feels like everything has fallen apart.

Filled with hand-drawn info-graphics and illustrations and told in a pitch-perfect voice, this realistic depiction of a teen’s experience strikes an exceptional balance of hilarious and heartbreaking.

Thoughts:

I have taken some time to write this review, as I’m actually not sure what I made of it. It was certainly a unique read. I didn’t hate this book, but at the same time, I didn’t really like it. I think it’s going to be a book that divides many readers. Perhaps Andrew Smith is a marmite author? I don’t know, this was my first experience of reading his work, but it left me feeling quite torn!

Winger centres around Ryan Dean, who is a clever fourteen year old boy. He’s two years ahead of his grade because he’s so intelligent. Being in a class with sixteen year olds makes him feel out of place. He finds it hard to fit in and make friends. Ryan Dean is also in ‘bad’ dorm of his boarding school as he’s not complying with the rules. Ryan Dean is incredibly hormonal. He’s awkward, funny and constantly makes mistakes. I think this makes him an incredibly authentic character.

For me, the story was a little repetitive and Ryan Dean was a little whingy. Winger is quite a long book at over 400 pages and I felt like the plot wasn’t nearly as full as it could have been. I enjoyed some of the jokes, but some were a little bit too crude for my liking.

The ending had me completely shocked, I didn’t see it coming at all. I love that in a book and that is what drove me to recommend it to others. That, and I’m sure others will enjoy Andrew Smith’s unique writing.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

This book was a real mixed bag for me!

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All The Rage

All the Rage

How did I get it?:
NetGalley- thanks to Pan Macmillan

Synopsis:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now — but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear. 

Thoughts:

This is the first time that I’ve read a book by Courtney Summers. I have heard so much about her books, but for some reason never really got around to reading them. I will definitely rectify that after reading All The Rage. This book really captured my attention. It was so well written. I can’t believe I’ve missed out on reading this fantastic author!

It’s going to be so hard to review this book because it was a horrible read. However, it was horrible in a gripping way and in an important way. The subject matter is incredibly real, but tough to deal with. Yet, it’s subject matter that should be explored in books because it does happen and I believe needs to be represented.

All The Rage centres around Romy, a young girl who was raped several months before. Romy is being isolated by her peers as they don’t believe the boy (the Sheriff’s son) she accused would do a thing like rape a girl. Romy has lost her friends and her reputation has been damaged. Romy was drinking on the night of the attack and her peers believe it was all Romy’s fault. All The Rage shows the aftermath of the attack and how Romy tries to move on with her life and find herself once more. Romy finds herself surrounded by more drama when her ex best friend Penny visits her and tells her she believes her and needs to speak up about the attack before someone else gets hurt. Penny goes missing and Romy has to find the strength to deal with another tough situation.

I really felt sorry for Romy in this book. She’s not perfect, she’s made mistakes, but I felt so sympathetic for her. I couldn’t believe the way she was treated. Courtney Summers did a great job of making me feel for Romy and absolutely hate her peers who treated her disgustingly. I was thrilled that Romy’s mum and her mum’s boyfriend were so supportive. All too often parents are missing or don’t care in YA fiction, and it’s good to read about supportive adults in the main character’s lives. I also really liked Romy’s boss at work who was so caring and understanding. Leon, a guy that Romy begins to trust was an amazing character too. I really believed in their relationship and loved seeing it grow from strength to strength.

All The Rage is packed full of action, drama, horror and much more besides. I could not stop turning the pages. This book is so real, so raw and SO good. The only thing preventing me from giving it the full five star treatment is that I wanted more resolution with the ending.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course! 4.5 stars

I absolutely devoured this book. I can’t wait to read more from Courtney Summers!

Torn Away

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How did I get it?:
It was a present from my sister, Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:
Hate List
Bitter End
Perfect Escape
Thousand Words

Synopsis:

Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.

When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she’s sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?

In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.

Thoughts:

Jennifer Brown is one of my favourite writers. I really like how she writes about ‘issues.’ I hate calling it that, but contentious subjects are often at the forefront of Jennifer Brown’s writing. Readers have had a range of subjects from gun shootings, OCD, domestic violence, sexting and now, the aftermath of a natural disaster.

Torn Away follows Jersey’s life after losing her mother, her sister and her home to a tornado. It starts with a normal day for Jersey, until the tornado hits her hometown. Torn Away looks at the aftermath of a natural disaster and truly tears at the heartstrings as Jersey has to learn to live her life without her family. Jersey is sent to live with her paternal Grandparents, who don’t really want her there and she can tell. Jersey’s life has completely changed and she has to adapt quickly. Jersey seems to be bounced around family members and she just wants some stability back in her life.

I couldn’t put Torn Away down. I was absolutely heart broken for Jersey. I can’t even begin to imagine how you begin to build your life again when something so devastating happens. Nearly all of Jersey’s memories were taken away from her and that must be incredibly tough to deal with. Jennifer Brown’s writing portrayed the loss that Jersey was feeling so well. I really sympathised with Jersey, and wanted her to find some happiness after such a tragic time. Jersey goes through so much throughout this short story, but there’s hope towards the end of the novel. Something to hold onto in an otherwise devastating read!

Would I recommend it?:
Of course- 4.5 stars!

This book packs a punch. A powerful, poignant read!

Too Close To Home

Too Close to Home

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Meet Minny: her life is a complicated whirlwind of unbearable PE lessons, annoying friends and impossible-to-live-with siblings. Minny is desperate for some space in a house spilling over with family and hangers-on. She has to contend with her autistic sister Aisling’s school bullies, whilst trying to keep her self-absorbed BFF Penny happy, and look normal in front of new boy Franklin. And on top of this, now Dad has announced that he’s returning to London – with his new girlfriend.

Secrets, lies and home truths will out, frying pans will be burnt, and arguments will flare up in a story full of humour, honesty and minor household emergencies.

Thoughts:

I decided to pick up Too Close To Home after reading the synopsis. It sounded like a complex, realistic read about family. I love reading books like this and think they have such an important place on the bookshelves! This book is pitched at teenagers and hit that age range perfectly, yet I still think it’s a decent read for adults as well. It’s intelligent, realistic and an honest portrayal of family life.

The main protagonist in Too Close To Home is Minny, who has a busy family life. She lives with her grandmother, mother and siblings, including a new baby brother that she looks after a lot! Minny’s sister Aisling is autistic, and Minny finds herself often contending with the bullies at school who pick on her sister. Minny also has to contend with keeping her best friend Penny happy, and trying to look good in front of Franklin, the new boy at school. When Minny’s Dad returns to London armed with his new girlfriend, Minny has more drama in her life!

I think Aoife Walsh has captured Minny’s life perfectly. So many people have such a complex family life, more people than we often realise and it’s great that different family dynamics are represented in this story. I thought Aoife captured Aisling’s autism with sensitivity. The characters were easy to like and were well developed throughout.

Too Close To Home isn’t plot heavy, but the book is packed full of action. It’s well written, easy to read and has a nice balance between humour and seriousness.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

A lovely book which appeals to adults as well as the intended teenage audience!

All The Bright Places

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

Synopsis:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Thoughts:

Okay. I have to be honest…I was eagerly anticipating reading this book because it had turned up on a lot of blogs as the most amazing book to read in 2015. The hype was growing (and still is) and that always makes me excited but at the same time, incredibly nervous. I have had so much trouble with hyped books. Most of the time I build them up to be much more than they actually are and find myself in for a let down. All The Bright Places was then linked/compared to The Fault In Our Stars. A book that I enjoyed, but not as much as I expected given that pesky hype monster. So, it was with much excitement yet trepidation that I started this book…

All The Bright Places is a book about Theodore Finch and Violet Markey who are both broken individuals. They meet unexpectedly on the top of the school’s bell tower. Both of them are contemplating jumping but they manage to ‘save’ each other. A school project brings them together. They find themselves growing closer and realise that they need each other, because it is when they are together that they can truly be themselves or begin to let go of their pasts.

As you might expect from the synopsis, this book isn’t a light hearted read. It covers some incredibly heavy going topics like suicide, mental illness and grief. I love that Jennifer Niven didn’t shy way from covering those topics. She covers with them in such a real and raw way. She doesn’t hold back. I think that’s brilliant, as so many individuals have dealt or are dealing with these issues and it’s important to represent that in literature.

Violet is such an amazing character. She’s damaged, but desperately wants to heal. Violet is dealing with the aftermath of her older sister’s death in a car accident. Violet and her sister Eleanor used to run a website, but she hasn’t been writing for it since. She’s also given up cheerleading. Everything that used to define her now stands still as Violet suffers with the loss she has endured. Theodore is also a powerful character. He’s known for getting into trouble at school. He has a secret though, he’s suffering from something that affects his life and his outlook on the world. With Violet by his side, he feels happy.

I don’t want to say too much more as I’m not one for spoilers in a review. Although this wasn’t a five star read for me, it was still an incredibly powerful, honest read which I think will become a firm favourite in many collections this year.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

A beautifully written, emotional read!

Talking About ‘The Memory Book’ with Bibliobeth!

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Synopsis:

The name of your first-born. The face of your lover. Your age. Your address…

What would happen if your memory of these began to fade?

Is it possible to rebuild your life? Raise a family? Fall in love again?

When Claire starts to write her Memory Book, she already knows that this scrapbook of mementoes will soon be all her daughters and husband have of her. But how can she hold on to the past when her future is slipping through her fingers…?

CHRISSI: The Memory Book is described in reviews as ‘life affirming’. Do you agree with this and if so why?

BETH: One hundred percent. It is definitely life affirming but in such a bitter sweet way. Our main character is Claire who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She has two daughters, an older girl Caitlin from a previous relationship who she brought up alone, not telling the father about the pregnancy. Now she is married to Greg, the love of her life and has had a daughter with him Esther who is still very young. The bitter sweet part is that the Alzheimer’s is progressing more quickly than her family had expected, to a point where she is not safe left on her own. She begins to make a memory book to try and capture old memories so that they cannot be forgotten. There is no magical cure for her illness so there’s not going to be a happy ending but the story makes you think about how lucky you are to be alive and well in comparison and to live life to the fullest.

BETH: Discuss the relationship between Claire and Greg.

CHRISSI: I found the relationship incredibly moving between Claire and Greg. It was so hard to read about their relationship unravelling before their eyes. It must be incredibly hard for both sufferer and partner to deal with this horrible disease. Claire knew that she loved Greg at some point, but she couldn’t help the way the disease was making her feel. I thought it was particularly hard to read how Greg had to deal with ‘losing’ his wife so quickly. *gets all choked up*

CHRISSI: This book has been compared to Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. This is one of our favourite books. Did the comparison affect your preconceptions of The Memory Book?

BETH: I always hate when books are compared to other books that I love! (A similar thing is happening with Gone Girl at the moment). However, I tried to ignore the hype monster, put JoJo Moyes book to the back of my mind and just enjoy the story that I was reading. It has a similar message sure, but I think it stands alone as a great story in its own right.

BETH: What did you think of Claire’s decision not to tell Caitlin who her father was?
CHRISSI: Oh gosh! That’s such a hard question. I think that except for exceptional circumstances that everyone deserves to know who their father is. It’s a part of them. I could totally understand Claire’s reasons why, but it really did make things hard in the long run for Caitlin and her father.

CHRISSI: Discuss the mother/daughter relationships in the book.

BETH: We have a few mother/daughter relationships in the novel. There’s Claire’s mother Ruth who has already nursed her own husband through Alzheimer’s disease until he died. Ruth and Claire have a bit of a fiery relationship as Claire is a strong and independent woman who when the disease hits, is finding it difficult to be taken care of and starts to resent her mother monitoring her so closely, even though she is doing it purely out of love. I enjoyed watching the relationship change between these two characters throughout the book, it was truly heart-warming. Then we have Claire’s relationships with her two daughters Esther and Caitlin. In her relationship with Esther, she becomes frustrated when she cannot read to her any more but ends up spending a lot of time with her doing fun things like escaping to the park and trying to cook – which ends in disaster! With Caitlin, it’s a bit more difficult, she has her own secrets and is finding the burden of knowing that she will have to care for her mother and that her mother will slowly forget her very difficult to take on.

BETH: Discuss how Greg copes with what is happening to Claire.

CHRISSI: *gets choked up again* I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to deal with someone you love having this terrible disease. It really does destroy the person that used to be, and to watch someone you love have to go through that… it must be awful. I think Greg copes well considering what he is dealing with. You can feel his sadness and his detachment from his family. There are twists and turns in the story but I don’t want to spoil it for those that haven’t read it yet!

CHRISSI: Do you think this book is sensitive enough to the disease?

BETH: Definitely. I think it was portrayed very well. I was quite tentative when I was reading this novel, as Alzheimer’s and dementia are one of my worst fears. However, as Claire slips a bit further the author even manages to bring a bit of humour into situations that Claire finds herself in that were “sad-funny,” which I appreciated.

BETH: Would you read another book by this author?
CHRISSI: Most definitely. A beautiful writer!

Would we recommend it?:
Without a doubt!

The Edge of Falling

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How did I get it?:
I bought it at Storytellers Inc!

Synopsis:

Growing up in privileged, Manhattan social circles, Caggie’s life should be perfect, and it almost was until the day that her younger sister drowned when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Stricken by grief, Caggie pulls away from her friends and family, only to have everyone misinterpret a crucial moment when she supposedly saves a fellow classmate from suicide. Now she’s famous for something she didn’t do and everyone lauds her as a hero. But inside she still blames herself for the death of her sister and continues to pull away from everything in her life, best friend and perfect boyfriend included. Then Caggie meets Astor, the new boy at school, about whom rumours are swirling and known facts are few. In Astor she finds someone who just might understand her pain, because he has an inner pain of his own. But the more Caggie pulls away from her former life to be with Astor, the more she realises that his pain might be darker, and deeper, than anything she’s ever felt. His pain might be enough to end his life…and Caggie’s as well.

Thoughts:

I picked this book up during my visit to Luna, from Luna’s Little Library. We visited Storytellers Inc, which is a gorgeous book shop. I basically picked it up on the synopsis alone. I thought it sounded incredibly intriguing and like something I’d really enjoy. I did enjoy this book, I read it within a day, as it was very addictive.

The Edge of Falling follows Caggie who is dealing with a lot of heavy issues. Her sister died when Caggie was supposed to be watching her. Caggie had also recently saved a classmate from following off a balcony, so she’s hailed as a hero. Yet, Caggie is far from a hero. Caggie went to the balcony to throw herself off because she wanted to kill herself, and the girl she ‘saved’ was trying to save her.

The Edge of Falling is an tough issues book, so if that’s something you don’t enjoy reading then I wouldn’t recommend this book. However, I enjoyed reading this story. It was about how Caggie began to heal, but how many other people had to heal as well. It was much more than Caggie’s story. The reader got to see how the other characters needed to heal as well.

The characters are well written, but not always likeable. I didn’t really connect with Caggie. I understood why she felt the way she did and I could sympathise. I could understand why she completely shut down emotionally, but I didn’t understand why she made some of the choices that she did. Astor is another character that wasn’t immediately likeable. All of the characters experience some growth during this story, which I thoroughly appreciated. The Edge of Falling may primarily focus on Caggie and her growth, but other characters feelings are explored too.

I’m happy that I read The Edge of Falling, but it’s not a book that I would read again.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

A book for those that love reading about issues. It’s not the best ‘issue’ book out there, but it’s worth reading if you’ve got your hands on a copy!