Antoine Leiris – You Will Not Have My Hate

You Will Not Have My Hate

Do you remember reading about the terror attack on the Bataclan in 2015? I remember seeing it unfold on Twitter and being horrified at what was happening, but also feeling a sense of disconnect because it was happening so far away.

Imagine if you saw what was happening and realised that your wife was there? That was the reality for Antoine Leiris, and the heartbreaking story in this brilliantly written book.

Inspired by an open letter that the author wrote to his wife’s killers on Facebook, this memoir of how he dealt with the death of his wife and realising he was alone with his baby son Melvil was extraordinarily courageous and made me so sad that we live in a world where this could happen.

The author is unflinchingly honest, leaving himself emotionally open to the world as he describes how he dealt with such tragic events, but there’s not a hint of anger in his voice, he does not want to give the killers such satisfaction.

There were so many quotes I could pick from this book, but this one stuck with me the most:

“No one can be healed of death. All they can do is tame it. Death is a wild animal, sharp-fanged. I am just trying to build a cage to keep it locked in. It is there, beside me, drooling as it waits to devour me. The bars of the cage that protect me are made of paper.”

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 99
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 22nd February 2018 – 25th February 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.32
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Karen McManus – One of Us is Lying

One of Us is Lying

Five people find themselves in detention together. From the surface, they’re about as different as can be: the jock, the geek, the criminal, the spoilt princess and the loner.

But when the loner dies from a huge allergic reaction to peanut oil, suddenly the focus is on the other four in the room. The loner, Simon, had a website where he published sallacious gossip about the whole school, and it seems like he had dirt on each of the four in the room that was due to be published within 24 hours of his death. Not just your ordinary gossip, but things that could ruin their lives. Pretty big motive, right?

As the scrutiny of the police bears down on the remaining four, they find that they’re not all as different as they originally thought. And rather than turning on each other to take the heat away from themselves, close friendships are formed in the most unlikely places.

I have to say, I really didn’t expect the ending at all. The book was told from all four different perspectives and it switched often, which meant you could never feel too attached to one person’s thoughts before you were in the mind of someone else.

[Potential spoiler alerts from here downwards]

Pretty quickly, I got the feeling that none of the 4 were guilty, but the twist at the end was completely out of the blue! I had in my head a specific person who I thought was the culprit, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Usually I would have expected my predictions to change, but everything I read seemed to point more and more towards them. Alas not. Well played Ms McManus!

But more than just being delighted by the surprise twists, what impressed me more was the character development and the fact that I could relate to each and every character. And the way that this horrible situation caused each of them to grow and develop throughout the book made me even more attached to them, to the point when there were times I was truly convinced that this book was going to break my heart!

I can definitely see this being made into a film at some point in the near future…

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 360
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 12th February 2018 – 21st February 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.07
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Jeanne Ryan – Nerve

Nerve

I’d been eyeing this film up on Netflix for a while, but hadn’t realised it was based on a book, so when I came across it on my library app I was glad I hadn’t already watched it so I could read it first.

Now I’ve read it, I’m not quite so sure I want to watch the film. It started off quite thrilling, but not too extreme and I was definitely enjoying the excitement of the online game that Vee had found herself drawn into – even if the dares seemed quite juvenile and to start with Vee had problems completing even the most basic ones without having a breakdown.

But somewhere in the later half of the book, I felt like something changed and the story became way more twisted and a bit too horror-movie like for my tastes. And then after so much build-up and suspense, the actually ending was such an anti-climax that I wished I hadn’t wasted all my time on this book.

On top of that I just found the main characters completely unrelatable. Vee was so whiny that I just felt like I wanted to grab her shoulders and shake her to snap her out of it. The most annoying thing was that she was constantly whining about the game that she herself had signed up for.

She was after the money and the glory and living up the newfound popularity that she had been given, but still whining about all the negatives that came with that.

My main two gripes however:

1. The book was mentioned in the details as comparable to The Hunger Games. I wish people would stop comparing every young adult book to The Hunger Games when they’re nothing alike. What they actually want you to do is compare it to the success of The Hunger Games, but to do that, they should put more effort into what they’re writing.

2. The book started with a really odd prologue. I figured that when the prologue finished, we’d skipped back in time and would catch up to the prologue timeline by the end, but it’s never referenced again and I’m just so confused by that. It made no sense whatsoever.

I’m tempted to watch the film just to see if the screenwriters managed to make a better plot from it, but I’m not holding out much hope!

My Rating: 2/5
Year Published: 2012
Number of Pages: 306
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 3rd February 2018 – 11th February 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.39
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George R. R. Martin – The Ice Dragon

The Ice Dragon

Having read the entire Game of Thrones series a few years ago, this was definitely not what I expected to come from the same author. More a Grimm’s fairy tale than an epic fantasy, it’s miles away from the violence and sex filled saga that I’d read previously.

Having read  a bit more into it, this was actually first published in 1980 and is most definitely a children’s novel – a story of an unlikely friendship between a little girl and a dragon, but one that is overwhelmingly sad.

The book was short, it only took around 30 minutes to read, but the illustrations were beautiful, I did wish I had the physical book rather than the kindle version so I could appreciate them more.

There were definite morals/things that you can take from reading this short tale, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers for a beautiful little story, so all I’d say is if you like George R.R. Martin and you’re a fan of fairy-tales, I’d recommend picking this up for a quick read. Make sure you read it through for yourself first before reading it to a child though, it might not be the disney-style everything-is-okay tale they’re used to.

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 1980
Number of Pages: 128
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 1st February 2018 – 2nd February 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.78
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Max Lucado – You’ll Get Through This

You'll Get Through This

I feel like God really needed me to read this book. At Church at the moment we’ve been talking about Joseph, and with our youth group as well, plus my Bible in One Year app went through the story of Joseph at exactly the same time, and then I open up this book and find that it’s entirely about Joseph too. Too much of a coincidence to not be intended.

And right now the story of Joseph was just what I needed to read. The amount of suffering he went through in this life was obviously uncomparable to anything that I could ever go through, but what we learn from his story is that when you’re going through something that seems unbearably hard, God intends good for it and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel. As the blurb says:

You’ll get through this.
It won’t be painless.
It won’t be quick.
But God will use this mess for good.
Don’t be foolish or naive.
But don’t despair either.
With God’s help, you’ll get through this.

And as the author says: “Deliverance is to the Bible what jazz music is to Mardi Gras: bold, brassy, and everywhere.”. We just need to trust God to deliver us from whatever evil is present in our lives.

Interspersed with anecdotes about people who have entered Max’s life and can be related directly to the different times of trouble that Joseph went through, the book was filled with hope for a better future and comforting words that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

I’ll never read the story of Joseph in the same way again. It’s a story we’ve probably all ready many times from our childhood, but I’ve never sat down and specifically thought about how many times Joseph was thrown to the ground and disregarded, yet he ended up in charge of all Egypt and responsible for making sure the nation didn’t die from the famine – all because he kept an unwavering trust that God was with him and would deliver him from those situations.

If you’re going through a tough time, this book may be just what you need.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2013
Number of Pages: 195
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 22nd January 2018 – 31st January 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.44
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Emily Barr – The One Memory of Flora Banks

The One Memory of Flora Banks

I think the biggest mistake I made when reading this book was not actually reading it. I decided to listen to it as an audio book, but I’m not sure it really worked for me.

The main character is called (unsurprisingly) Flora Banks, and (also unsurprisingly) she has memory problems, namely anterograde amnesia. This means that she can’t form new memories. Every half an hour or so her memories reset and she can’t remember anything since she was a child. The only clues she has are the ones she leaves for herself, notes in her notebook, post it notes, and mainly messages scrawled on her arm – the main of which simply says ‘Flora, be brave’.

My main problem with this as an audiobook is that due to Flora’s problems, there are a lot of repeated parts of the book when her memories reset and she discovers herself again. Normally if I was reading, I’d start to skim- read these after a while, but with the audio book I had no choice but to listen to them. It also didn’t help that the narrator had a really slow speaking voice, I had to listen at 1.5 speed to keep the pace going.

Problems with the format of the book aside, I actually found the story captivating. As instructed by her arm, Flora was a very brave girl, conquering things that even I would be scared of. Sometimes foolhardy and slightly lovey-soppy, but mainly due to her condition, she was a very likeable character.

We start the book with Flora remembering something for the first time in years. This has never happened to her before and it starts her off on a crazy chase across the world to find the boy who sparked it all.

But as she goes on this grand adventure, the story around her amnesia seems to be unravelling, it’s  just that as a reader you’re not quite sure what to trust and I was kept on tenterhooks to the very end – I’d definitely never have guessed what was coming.

I did feel slightly disappointed by the very end, I was expecting something a bit more, I’m not exactly sure what, but it didn’t seem quite finished off to me.

I think I’d like to actually read this book at some point to see if the experience is different, but I’m still giving this 4 out of 5 since I was so hooked!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 311
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 1st January 2018 – 28th January 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.54
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Becky Albertalli – The Upside of Unrequited

The Upside of Unrequited

I have to admit I only picked this book because the cover jumped out at me when I was scrolling through the library ebook app. I know, I know, don’t judge a book by it’s cover.

But I did, and it was a mistake,  I just couldn’t get into this book at all. It felt hugely predictable to me which definitely diminishes the enjoyment I get, I want some surprises thrown in to keep me on my toes!

And it might just have been me, but it felt like the author was trying to throw in as many stereotypes and minorities into the book as she could. I’m all for full representation and diversity in literature, but I feel like it just felt forced in many places, and it felt like the author put more effort into doing that than giving the characters personalities that I could actually relate to.

Apart from that, this book just felt like many many other books in this genre, overweight girl who has never been kissed is desperate not to be a virgin anymore and feels like her life is terrible, until the hot guy falls in love with her and everything is right with the world again. To me, I don’t really think that’s a very empowering message to send – I’d rather the girl figures out that her life is good without the boy.

Clearly this is a popular book as it has a lot of good ratings on Goodreads, but just not for me!

My Rating: 2/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 352
Format: E-Book
Date Read: 14th January 2018 – 18th January 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.03
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Sarah J. Maas – A Court of Wings and Ruin

A Court of Wings and Ruin

This book has more ups and downs than a fairground roller coaster. If you’d asked me at the start to predict what would happen, I would probably have given you a fairly detailed description. But it would all have been completely wrong. So many shock twists that I’m surprised I didn’t get whiplash.

Just as you think a character is good, it turns out that he’s not so good any more. But wait, is he really bad or might he actually be good. Sigh. So hard to keep up with, but oh so thrilling.

For 700 pages, this book went by oh so quickly. As I reached the end, I was longing for more. Over the last three books I’ve grown to love Feyre, she is definitely a strong character with her own mind, not content to sit and pine for her gorgeous mate, but willing to risk her life to save everyone again and again. That said, there were times when she was slightly reckless, but things always seemed to work out well for her.

But although I like Feyre running off and being kick-ass on her own, I also loved the times when she and Rhys were talking quietly (or even not out loud at all). You really got a sense of their connection and the more sensitive sides of both their characters. In fact, this book definitely shows you a different side to many of the characters. They’re not all war-hungry and bravado-filled, but they all bring different strengths to this epic fight that they’re undertaking.

And epic it is, so much drama packed into one book. Everytime I thought I was reading what would be the main part of the book, I’d read a bit further and realise that the bit I’d just read was nothing compared to what was coming.

Like the previous two books, this one has its fair share of steamy moments, and I would definitely be in two minds whether it’s appropriate for teenagers, I’d definitely think it’s aimed at older teenagers and young adults rather than a complete teen book. There are also some quite troubling violent scenes that wouldn’t be appropriate for those that are younger.

I think my top five favourite things about this book are:

  1. Feyre and Rhys. Their relationship just gives me all the feels.
  2. Lucien is back. I sorta shipped him and Feyre in the first book, so was glad to see him return.
  3. Well written battles – so many of them! The final battle, I have no words for.
  4. The library. Such a different side to Rhys to see this place where he cares for these abused women with no expectations of anything in return.
  5. Nesta and Elain and Feyre back together again.

I’d love love love to read more stories set in this world, I think the other courts definitely have their own stories to tell. I look forward to see what is coming next.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 699
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 29th December 2017 – 14th January 2018
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.53
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J.K. Rowling – The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The Tales of Beedle the Bard

The last of the three Hogwarts Library books, and book 52 of the year (hooray!). This was my favourite of the three, it felt more familiar to me and seemed exactly like the books of stories I used to read as a child (minus the magic of course). You can definitely imagine that it would be read by little wizard children, and it’s a very clever set of stories by J.K. Rowling.

The book consists of five short tales, followed by an explanation from Dumbledore about the back-story of the tale or the moral or how well received it was by young wizards. These little explanations really do make the book, as the stories are not always as you would think!

It was nice to finally read the tale of Babbity Rabbity after I’d heard it mentioned so many times by Ron in the Deathly Hallows.  Which of course leads me to my favourite of the tales – The Tale of the Three Brothers.

If you can read this story without hearing it in Hermione’s voice, I’ll be amazed. Having watched the Deathly Hallows so many times, this story felt incredibly familiar, and that’s probably the reason it’s my favourite. While reading it, I could even see the animations in my head.

“There were once three brothers who were travelling along a lonely, winding road at twilight…”

So yes, this was a great book to end the year on. As well as lovely tales, the illustrations were beautiful and it was just a joy to read.

My Rating: 5/5
Year Published: 2007
Number of Pages: 109
Format: Hardback
Date Read: 30th December 2017 – 31st December 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 4.07
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J.K. Rowling – Quidditch Through the Ages

Quidditch Through the Ages

Yay! Illustrations! The one thing I thought was missing from Fantastic Beasts, it really helped to complete this book. Interspersed throughout, and still only very crude sketches, I was so happy! I know, it probably makes me a child, but if this was supposed to be a proper textbook (as with Fantastic Beasts), one would like to think it would have even the most basic pictures.

I can’t imagine as a student of Hogwarts, any of the students would have read a textbook which was non-stop text, with the exception of Hermione of course!

 

Cushioning Charm

I really felt like this read like a real textbook, if I hadn’t known that Quidditch wasn’t a real sport, I would have been utterly convinced (although try telling that to these guys):

Photo by Cydney Scott for Boston University Photography

I really appreciated that the history of Quidditch was so thorough, with lovely anecdotes spread throughout to make it super-realistic. As well as the history of the sport itself, it goes into detail on the history of the balls and broomsticks, as well as giving you an overview of the 13 league teams.

I definitely preferred this book to Fantastic Beasts, although again, a full illustrated version would certainly be much better!

My Rating: 4/5
Year Published: 2001
Number of Pages: 105
Format: Paperback
Date Read: 30th December 2017 – 30th December 2017
Average Goodreads Rating: 3.86
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