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Friday, 18 December 2015

Review: Crossed Stars, Christy Blow

Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for review. 

From the Amazon page: "Aurelia Winters, nearly drowns one cold October night. She awakens and suddenly finds herself in a strange new fantasy world called Purgatory. In this middle world lurks angels, holy and fallen, that are in a constant battle as to how they will control the fate of humans on Earth."

My first thought upon completing this book was that it was almost like Twilight with angels instead of vampires, and how much teens would swoon over Cassiel, one of the story's central characters. 

The first couple of chapters read like a picture-perfect existence for Aurelia (the main character), her mother, Clem and Clem's mother. Just when one is thinking that things are too good to be true, things start creeping out of the woodwork and Aurelia's existence isn't quite what it seems. 

The strongest part of the novel lies in the descriptions. Blow has a strong sense of space and place, and its easy to get drawn into Aurelia's world. Some of the characters are more convincing than others, the most interesting development in the character of Belial. There were also some discrepancies at the start of the novel in Cora's name, but this is ironed out as the novel progresses,

Overall, a nice, easy read, and definitely ones for fans of Twilight and its ilk.


Thursday, 17 December 2015

Review: Room, Emma Donoghue

Jack, a five year old boy, lives in a single room with Ma. We meet Jack and Ma on the morning of his fifth birthday. Slowly we learn about the extent of their tiny world and how they came to be there. The answers are heartbreaking and leaves the reader with an utter sense of helplessness.

But there is hope. Ma and Jack come up with a plan for their escape, which mercifully works, and the remainder of the novel focuses on Ma's return to, and Jack's introduction to, the real world.

It's hard to imagine how a huge part of a novel that takes part in one room can be so absorbing, but that's down to how brilliantly Jack's character is constructed and how good a mother Ma is. Since they're just in this Room, she's going to make it as exciting as she can. Their games are endlessly imaginative, Jack is learning a lot despite limited resources, and she keeps him out of sight from Old Nick, their captor.

With Jack's introduction into the outside world, one of the most interesting things is his longing to go back to Room. It was a prison but it was the only world he knew, and his identity bound up with it. Adjusting to the outside world, even for Ma, is not easy.

What's also interesting is that after the escape the focus remains entirely on Jack and Ma and not on the details of Old Nick's conviction and ongoing case. Jack does surprisingly well with meeting new people and engaging in new experiences, while it's Ma who seems to regress. Eventually, they come back together and start to try and rebuild their lives.

Intensely moving, heartbreaking and told so innocently, this is a powerful tale that leaves you with a profound longing for justice, complete admiration for Ma and a mourning for lost childhood.

Review: Before I Go To Sleep, S. J. Watson

Christine Lucas wakes up in a state of utter confusion. She has no idea where she is, how she got there, or what to do next. In fact, it's a while before she realises that she is not who she thinks she is - in terms of age, anyway. She is greeted by her husband, Ben, who explains to her what has happened - she was in a terrible accident which left her without any memories after her 29th year.

When Ben goes to work she receives a call from an unknown person, Dr. Nash, whom claims to have been working with her on her memory. She agrees to meet with him, and he gives her a journal, which he says is hers. When she reads it, the first words that she is greeted with are "Don't trust Ben."

This book is a slow burner of a suspenseful thriller. The tension throughout builds so much so that the reader is constantly left with doubt of who exactly to trust. The only thing the reader can supposedly trust is Christine and the fact that she will lose her memory each night when she sleeps. Yet occasionally she has vivid flashes of memories, which both spur her on and leave her feeling frustrated, especially when she uses them to test whether or not Ben is lying to her. Though necessarily repetitive in some parts, Watson throws in just enough curveballs to keep the reader hooked while not straying from the central fact that Christine loses her memory every night, and so every morning has many of the same things to learn. Some of these curveballs are particularly heart wrenching (but I won't mention them here to keep spoiler free) and are such that they throw the reader into the arms and trust of Ben and Dr. Nash at different points.

The finale of this book contain some of the most nail-biting passages I've ever read (again, not described because spoilers). It is one of those that has you rushing ahead to find out whether or not everything will be okay, and then going back to reread while your heart slows down a bit.

I loved one of the themes of this book in particular, which was memory and how vital it is to our sense of identity. It's easy to think that our sense of identity is almost always intact, but would we think the same if we had no memory of things that had happened in our lives, things that have shaped us and made us who we are now?

Before I Go To Sleep is a powerful, moving, suspenseful story that leaves the reader thinking about so much more about Christine and her experience, and how grateful we are to have our memories secure.