Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Rating 3.5/5

Blurb:

Little Fires EverywhereEveryone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is meticulously planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colours of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenage daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than just tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past, and a disregard for the rules that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town – and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia’s past. But her obsession will come at an unexpected and devastating cost…

Review:

Little Fires Everywhere is a complex interaction of characters, revealing their intentions and secrets as the slow plot moves forward.

I will admit I was a little confused at the start with the introduction of the Richardson family – there are so many of them in the first scene that I found it hard to picture them immediately. However, they develop into individuals as you read on, the four children reminding me of the Breakfast Club – the jock, the popular girl, the geek and the outcast. But they do gain depth as Ng allows us to watch them face challenges and develop. All except Trip, the jock, his input is minimal.

The story of Mia, and her daughter Pearl, arriving in the restrictive suburbs of Shaker Heights really shakes things up (pun intended). Mia offers an alternative lifestyle to the one enforced at the Heights. She travels around, dragging her daughter from two to town and has very little material possessions. Despite Mia’s secrets, which are revealed later on, she is offered as the moral force of the book. She is the one who gives advice and guidance to those in need (Izzy) and helps in a time of crisis (Lexie). With the backdrop of a court case over whether a Chinese child should be returned to her mother or kept with the affluent family who’ve been raising hr for months, it’s clear who’s side Mia is on. Bebe, the mother, is Mia’s friend, and an an event from Mia’s past helps us understand her allegiances.

All the main characters have depth and complexities, except perhaps for Mrs Richardson who’s development as a character I imagine will happen after this book based on the lessons she’s learned.

I haven’t read a book with an omniscient narrator for quite some time and I found the style refreshing, being able to go into each of the characters lives. There is no doubt that Ng is an amazing writer and her words and imagery are executed beautifully. I can see how this may be a little slow-paced for some readers, and I did actually read two books in the middle of this, but got straight back into it. Definitely worth a read.   

A Skinful of Shadows by Frances Hardinge

Rating: 4/5 stars

A Skinful of ShadowsBlurb:

When a creature dies, its spirit can go looking for somewhere to hide.

Some people have space inside them, perfect for hiding.

Makepeace, a courageous girl with a mysterious past, defends herself nightly from the ghosts which try to possess her. Then a dreadful event causes her to drop her guard for a moment.

And now there’s a ghost inside her.

The spirit is wild, brutish and strong, but it may be her only defence in a time of dark suspicion and fear. As the English Civil War erupts, Makepeace must decide which is worse: possession – or death.

Review:

‘She felt the queasy tickle of their nearness, like spider-feet against her mind.’

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, mostly due to the beautiful writing style, but partly because I love ghost stories. This ghost story felt fresh and original with the family history and Makepeace’s possession by Bear. I loved the relationship between Makepeace and Bear and how they had a lot in common despite being different species; both being lost and used by the people around them. Makepeace herself was a likeable character, strong and resilient. However, I think my favourite character was Mother, her cold-heartedness and the mystery surrounding Makepeace’s beginnings make her interesting. The opening conversation between the two is striking;

‘Conversations became riddles with traps in them, and your answers had consequences.’

It is quite a long book but this gives us plenty of time to get to know the characters. Although, I did feel like more time could have been spent getting to know James, as Makepeace’s motivation is to save him but their relationship seemed to be lacking something and I wasn’t rooting for him the way I perhaps should have been.

The story is told against the backdrop of a civil war which Makepeace finds herself involved in but doesn’t really care about it, she cares about the safety of all ordinary people, but it does serve to move the plot forward and gives us some great action.

I would give the story 3 stars but the beautiful prose bumps it up to 4.

The Songs of Us by Emma Cooper

Rating 5/5

Release date:

Ebook: 31st May 2018

Paperback: 20th September 2018

Blurb:

The Songs of UsIf Melody hadn’t run out of de-icer that day, she would never have slipped and banged her head. She wouldn’t be left with a condition that makes her
sing when she’s nervous. And she definitely wouldn’t have belted out the Arctic Monkeys’ ‘I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor’ in assembly at her son’s school.

If Dev hadn’t taken the kids to the zoo that day, then the accident wouldn’t have happened. He wouldn’t have left Flynn and Rose without a dad. Or shattered
the love of his life’s heart’

But if they hadn’t seen the missing person report that day, they might never have taken the trip to Cornwall. And, in the last place they expected, discovered what it really means to be ‘Us’.

Review:

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night to finish this book. I just couldn’t put it down.

The characters Cooper creates jump off the page at you. They are complex, each dealing with their own issues and struggles, and they are loveable. Melody’s condition of singing when she is anxious or stressed creates some laugh-out-loud moments, a lot of the time involving embarrassing her children, like being wrestled off a train whilst singing her own version of Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now. But they find a way to deal with it and even use it to their advantage at times, creating comedy moments;

I try to put a mentally unstable expression on my face, then realise after my tribute to Prince, it’s not really necessary.

But there are also some truly heart-wrenching moments, involving Sinéad O’Connor and Kate Bush (I love Kate Bush). You will need a box tissues when reading!

Cooper’s writing style is so descriptive and there are moments of pure beauty, capturing not only the setting but the deep feelings of the character. A balloon-ride scene sticks in my mind:

Above us, the patchwork sky is wakening and as we finally climb into the basket, the sun gas arched its back.One of my favourite things about the book is the relationship between Melody and her children. They argue and get on each other’s nerves but their bond is fiercely strong. They would do anything for each other.

Above all, this book is about family and how precious our loved ones are. Melody, Flynn, Rose and Tom will stay with me for a very long time.

***

Pre-order The Songs of Us here.

 

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Rating: 5/5

Blurb:

The Miniturist

There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .

On an autumn day in 1686, eighteen-year-old Nella Oortman knocks at the door of a grand house in the wealthiest quarter of Amsterdam. She has come from the country to begin a new life as the wife of illustrious merchant trader Johannes Brandt, but instead she is met by his sharp-tongued sister, Marin. Only later does Johannes appear and present her with an extraordinary wedding gift: a cabinet-sized replica of their home. It is to be furnished by an elusive miniaturist, whose tiny creations mirror their real-life counterparts in unexpected ways . . .

Nella is at first mystified by the closed world of the Brandt household, but as she uncovers its secrets she realizes the escalating dangers that await them all. Does the miniaturist hold their fate in her hands? And will she be the key to their salvation or the architect of their downfall?

Beautiful, intoxicating and filled with heart-pounding suspense, Jessie Burton’s magnificent debut novel The Miniaturist is a story of love and obsession, betrayal and retribution, appearance and truth.

Review:

“But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot.”

This book is stunning. The prose is like a smooth liquor that slips down your throat and warms you from the inside. And I gulped it down! The imagery is powerful throughout and presents motifs and themes intelligently. I sat with my pencil and every page has something underlined.

The characters are all intriguing and likeable. They develop and change as the story progresses, ending up as different people because of the lessons they learn. I especially loved Marin, Nella’s sister-in-law, who is harsh and a bit cruel to Nella in the beginning but we come to understand why.

The city of Amsterdam is presented as though it were a living, breathing thing that has to be soothed and navigated with care, something that Nella must learn to do in order to survive it. The descriptions of the city are mesmerising.

It is not full of action but the words are action enough. There is tension, fear, excitement, in the most simple of household tasks or conversations and that, for me, makes it exceptional.

This is a book to be savoured. Let the words fill you up, grab a cup of tea and a slice of cake, put up a ‘do not disturb’ sign and enjoy!

Buy a copy of The Miniaturist here.

Learn more about Jessie Burton here.

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Mass

Rating: 3/5 stars

ACOTAR

Blurb:

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price … 

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

The start of a sensational romantic fantasy trilogy by the bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series.

Review:

I have really mixed feelings about this book. OK, so it took me a long time to get through it. I devoured three other books while I kept putting this down and picking it up again.

I think I found Fayre, the main character, a little hard to relate to or feel anything for. I didn’t particularly like her, but there were other characters that I did like, such as Lucien, Rhysand and Nesta. Feyre likes to paint and I think this is where the empathy is supposed to come through – oh, look, she paints, so she has got a heart, but it didn’t quite hit the mark.

This is at the older end of young adult with some very raunchy scenes. I didn’t mind them but it’s something to keep in mind.

The writing style was stilted at times and her overuse of repetition can become distracting, pulling you out of the story rather than enhancing it. Some descriptions were just strange but then others were beautiful.

It was a bit of a slow start. Towards the end I was thinking oh god, there’s still 20% left, but as it turned out that was the section I enjoyed most. This pulled it from being 2.5 stars to 3.

I can see why this is such a huge hit. I have the second and third book on my kindle but I’m not sure when the mood will take me to pick them up. I’m certainly not rushing for them, but maybe they’ll keep calling out to me to be read, just like this one did.   

 

You can buy A Court of Thorns and Roses here.

Read more about Sarah J Mass here.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 5/5 stars

Blurb:

Eleanor and Park

Eleanor is the new girl in town, and she’s never felt more alone. All mismatched clothes, mad red hair and chaotic home life, she couldn’t stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus, Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book – he thinks he’s made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor…never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall in love. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you’re 16, and you have nothing and everything to lose.

Set over the course of one school year in 1986, Eleanor & Park is funny, sad, shocking and true – an exquisite nostalgia trip for anyone who has never forgotten their first love.

Review:

This book had me gripped from beginning to end. As soon as you are introduced to these two teenagers you instantly fall for them. It opens with Park’s point of view; ‘XTC was no good for drowning out the morons at the back of the bus.’ This instantly took me back my school days and my love of calling everyone ‘morons’. Music features throughout and is a tool that helps bring Eleanor and Park together, as well as comic books. Eleanor is introduced as ‘big and awkward. With crazy hair, bright red’ Also, instantly relatable for me. It is definitely not love at first sight.

You may think that this is just another boy meets girl story and you’d be right but it is the ultimate boy meets girl story! Every emotion, every touch, every awkward conversation, is written so beautifully that you will feel everything they do and never want to leave them.

There are also issues of bullying, domestic violence and emotional abuse, taking us into what is a dark world for Eleanor. Park is her sunshine and we are rooting for them to have a happy ending. I won’t reveal here whether they do or not!

Go and buy this book!

You will not be disappointed!

Find out more about Rainbow Rowel here.

Buy Eleanor and Park here.

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