Don’t You Forget About Me, by Mhairi McFarlane

cover144744-medium.pngDon’t You Forget About Me
by Mhairi McFarlane

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If there’s one thing worse than being fired from the grottiest restaurant in town, it’s coming home early to find your boyfriend in bed with someone else.

Reeling from the indignity of a double dumping on the same day, Georgina snatches at the next job that she’s offered – barmaid in a newly opened pub, which just so happens to run by the boy she fell in love with at school: Lucas McCarthy. And whereas Georgina (voted Most Likely to Succeed in her school yearbook) has done nothing but dead-end jobs in the last twelve years, Lucas has not only grown into a broodingly handsome man, but also has turned into an actual grown-up with a business and a dog along the way.

Meeting Lucas again not only throws Georgina’s rackety present into sharp relief, but also brings a dark secret from her past bubbling to the surface. Only she knows the truth about what happened on the last day of school, and why she’s allowed it to chase her all these years…


I received an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I love a good rom-com in book form so I couldn’t wait to get stuck into Mhairi McFarlane’s latest book, ‘Don’t You Forget About Me’.

I find that one of McFarlane’s biggest strengths as a writer is creating characters who feel like your best mates and/or your worst enemies. With these sorts of novels (and in all books, but particularly within this genre for me) I find if you aren’t invested in the characters the story can drag- who cares about the plot if it revolves around someone who you couldn’t care less about! Thankfully, this story was full of people I either loved or completely detested and that made the reading experience really fun and just a bit infuriating at times.
Georgina is a gorgeous character and the fact she is surrounded by so many IDIOTS caused me to curse aloud at times. I found myself speed reading passages desperate to see how situations with her ex-boyfriend and stepfather would be resolved, wanting to reach into the book and give them a thump on the head on her behalf.
I was hooked on the plot from the first chapter (which is set 12 years in the past) desperate to understand what had happened and how it had impacted Georgina’s life since. The story unravels really well and explores really important topics such as grief, peer pressure and societal expectations. Most importantly I like that the story concentrates on Georgina needing to find happiness within herself, and her love story was additional to her personal development. She stays strong in the face of abhorrent treatment and extreme gas-lighting from her ex and her stepfather and fights back time and time again without giving in.
Amongst the serious topics within the book is a lot of humour, and the scenes between her and the McCarthy brothers in the pub she works in are some of my favourite in the book. Not to mention that fact that her blossoming connection with Lucas is ridiculously romantic and sexy.
Don’t You Forget About Me is a fantastic chick-lit novel. Hilariously funny, full of emotion and fantastically romantic, I loved Georgina from the first page to the last.

Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich

Dear Evan Hansen
by Val Emmich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dear Evan Hansen,

Today’s going to be an amazing day and here’s why…

When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family’s grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.

Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore–even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy’s parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he’s doing can’t be right, but if he’s helping people, how wrong can it be?

No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He’s confident. He’s a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.

A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.

I’ve listened to the Dear Evan Hansen broadway soundtrack several times a week for the last year so when I heard it was being released as a YA novel I was desperate to get my hands on it. It was the only ARC at YALC I was desperate to go home with and sadly I didn’t manage to win the raffle. I was lucky enough however to be granted access via Netgalley AND my husband bought me a copy of the final published book (can you tell I went on about it a bit?!)

I find this story really sad. My heart hurts for Evan and the struggles he faces and the situations he gets himself into. Reading the book was more emotional than the musical because the novel format allows you to delve further into Evan’s brain and really expand on the emotions and issues he experiences. This also makes the book far heavier than the musical as there are no lighthearted catchy tunes to raise the mood. With no light relief the book is a really intense reading experience which is incredibly immersive.

The author’s writing is captivating and very believable. I imagine it was extremely hard to write this story without making it sound preachy- how can Evan learn his lesson without making it sound like a cheesy cautionary tale?
The authors managed to tell the story with compassion and through it all Evan remains a sympathetic, lovable character.

I recommend curling up with this book with the soundtrack on in the background. You can never have too much Dear Evan Hansen!

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Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is one of those books that I’ve been meaning to read for a long time but never really got around to. After seeing the trailer for the film adaptation at the cinema I decided it was time to pick the book up. Not least because if I didn’t read the book I couldn’t allow myself to see the film and it looks really good.

‘Simon vs…’ is everything you want a contempory romance to be. It’s full of cute, romantic moments that make your heart explode and just enough drama to keep you flipping the pages. Simon and Blue’s email relationship developed beautifully, it was like a YA gay version of You’ve Got Mail and I have all the time in the world for that.

The friendship dynamics in this book were fantasically portrayed, the arguments they had, the way they all started pairing off into couples and had crushes on each other and the way they looked out for each other was all so typical of 16 and 17 year olds and how intense friendships can be at that age when you’re all just trying to make it out of adolescence alive.

I binge-read most of this book in one night and stayed up far later than I should have but it was such a readable, hilarious and adorable book I was having too much fun to put it down. I didn’t even try to guess the identity of Blue because I wanted to be surprised but I think it’s fair to say that there are enough clues in the book that if you really tried hard you could guess who it was. I’m glad I didn’t solve the mystery though because the reveal was so worth the wait.
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Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings

Zenith by Sasha Alsberg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an e-ARC of Zenith via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

This was easily my most anticipated book of the year and I am thrilled that for once a book lived up to the hype surrounding it. From the first page I was completely immersed in the worlds that were being built as the story unfolded and I was torn between wanting to read as fast as my eyes could manage and wanting to savour spending time with the characters I grew to love.

Zenith follows a group of female space pirates as they travel around the Mirabel Galaxy in a glass starship taking on jobs and fighting to survive. The book has a real “Firefly” feel about it, not in terms of plot but in terms of the camraderie and relationships of people who spend most of their lives in close confines together travelling in Space.

The strongest part of this book is, for me, the characterisation. Andi, the fearless captain of the ship is brave and heroic but also vulnerable. Alsberg and Cummings have managed to create a character who is believable as a powerful and fearsome mercenary but with a delicately woven backstory that explains her guardedness and reminds you that underneath the bravado she is still a young woman who has been through great emotional trauma and let down repeatedly by those she loved. I love Andi. I want to be her friend and go on adventures with her.

The rest of the crew are also delightful. So often I find that one or more characters in a novel annoy me but here each character seemed to fit perfectly within their role, both on the ship and in the story. When reading you are 100% behind the dysfunctional family they have formed and that helps to immerse you within the story.

It has been a long time since I read a book in which I have been as immersed as I was when reading Zenith. There is a lot of world building initially, but miraculously this doesn’t slow down the pace at all. The descriptions and explanations only serve to move the story along or are complementary to the plot and do not take away from it. The chapters are short and switch between each characters different view point which I really like as a style because it allows you to get to know all of the characters better. It’s a glimpse directly into their minds instead of getting to know them through a narrator or another character.

As the book came towards the last 10% of action the plot blew up completely, and I mean that in the best way possible. At several points I exclaimed out loud in disbelief at what was going on because I hadn’t seen it coming. All the signs had been there along the way but the climax of the book felt like it popped up and slapped me in the face because it was so well written. I love it when books can surprise you like that and make you realise that actually, if you went back and read the book again you’d notice the clues and scream at yourself “Of course that’s what was happening!”

I highly recommend Zenith to readers who love a good Space adventure. Fans of the tv show “Firefly” and books like “A long way to a small angry planet” by Becky Chambers will love this.

Zenith is published 11th January 2018.

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The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was my first introduction to the Grishaverse and perhaps my expectations were too high. I have seen a lot of hype online about Bardugo’s work and this book in particular because it is visually so stunning but unfortunately a lot of the stories either left me cold or confused.

A collection of stories inspired by myth, folklore and fairytale is usually so up my street, but in this instance I found some of the stories overly long for the plot they held, with too much flowery description and confusing conjecture. Perhaps this is because I haven’t yet read any of Bardugo’s other works but I just wasn’t captivated by the stories in the way I had hoped to be.

My favourite of the stories were “the too-clever fox” and “the witch of duva”. Both of these stories were concise and kept the pace they needed to make the climax of the stories impactful. I much preferred the stories which had some kind of surprising twist to their end, rather than the more fairy tale type stories which ended a bit weakly, or whose twists were obvious e.g. “Little Knife”.

Writing aside, the sheer beauty of this edition deserves a mention. Each story has a beautiful illustration bordering each page, and as the chapter continues more and more is added to the illustration until it completely surrounds the text on the page. Sara Kipin’s style is absolutley gorgeous and I spent a long time looking at the detail in all of the pictures, particularly the full page illustrations at the end of each story.

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History is all you left me by Adam Silvera

History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

History is all you left me is an intense read. Beautifully written and completely absorbing, for just shy of 300 pages you are sucked into the grief of Griffin and the other characters and it is a painful but profoundly moving experience.

The grief is so visceral I actually found it hard to keep reading in places, as if I really were intruding on a deeply personal experience.

In spite of how much I feel this book is a very powerful and well written novel, I did have a big problem when reading it- I just can’t stand Griffin. Mental health problems and grief aside, I just think he’s a poor excuse for a person. He’s so self centred, egotistical and manipulative that I struggled with parts of the book which required you to be on his side. I was almost never on his side. Theo and Jackson? Yes, Wade? Yes. Griffin? Hell no. I have no time for people who have to make themselves the centre of every situation and Griffin was the worst example of this I’ve ever read.

I loved reading the “history” sections and adored Theo as a character which ended breaking my heart over and over again as I fell in love with him and then remembered his fate. The gentle unravelling of their history beautifully mirrored the stages of grief- at times it was confusing, then as you learn more its sad and then you feel anger. I really felt like I’d been emotionally through the wringer when I finished this book and any piece of writing that is so powerful it has that effect on you has to at least be given four stars. Unfortunately, my intense dislike of Griffin meant I couldn’t bring myself to award five stars. He just annoyed me so much and Theo, Jackson and Wade deserved so much better.

This review first appeared on Goodreads on 9th December 2017

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J Maas

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up this book as an already die-hard fan of Sarah J Maas, having binge read the ACOTAR series earlier this year.

Personally, TOG has not overtaken my love for ACOTAR (okay, Rhysand) but all the same I can already tell that I will be speeding my way through this series as fast as possible.

High fantasy has always seemed like an intimidating genre to me. I like magic and the fae and mystical creatures but I’m not a great fan of the long drawn out battle scenes which can be prevalent in this genre. Sarah J Maas’ writing is perfect for me in this regard. It’s much more focused on the story and the characters and whilst battle/fight scenes obviously happen they aren’t self indulgent and they serve to move the story onwards instead of indulgently discussing every spar and parry for tens of pages.

Sarah J Maas is also the queen of writing love triangles and she’s an expert at writing flirty scenes between two people which basically leave you screaming at the book “but when are they getting together?!”. The romance in this novel set against the competition worked really well to lighten the mood and added an extra layer to the characters.

I can’t wait to pick up the next in the series and see where Celaena, Chaol and Dorian end up, especially because I’ve heard the second book is even better than the first.

This review was first published on Goodreads on 2nd December 2017.

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Some kind of wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher

Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had high hopes for this book which is possibly why I feel so disappointed that I only found it…ok. Let me start by saying I love Giovanna Fletcher, as a mum, a vlogger, and a writer. Her previous books have enchanted me. I love her warm writing style; her romantic, dreamy plots and friendly characters.

Sadly, I felt that what I love about her books usually was missing from this novel. I didn’t like any of the characters (in fact I found them quite crude and vapid for the most part) and I didn’t feel like there was particularly a plot to the story beyond following a sad woman who had been dumped.

There were moments of loveliness, mostly between Connie and Lizzy but I also really enjoyed the scene with Ian towards the end and that redeemed this book for me a bit and nudged it over to three stars rather than the two it had been sitting at whilst I’d forced myself to keep reading through the NYE chapter and the whole job business with boring Natalia.

I think I was hoping that this book would be more empowering than it was. Having Lizzy pine for her 18 year old self for 400 pages seemed like a waste of a potentially good plot.

For any other author of this genre I would consider a three star rating to be not bad at all but I have come to expect comfort, positivity and gorgeous stories from Giovanna’s writing and for me this book did not live up to her previous works.

This review was first published on Goodreads on November 24th 2017.

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I was provided an e-ARC of this book via Netgalley in return for an honest review.

I’m not sure what I expected before I picked up this book but whatever I thought I was going to get, this wasn’t it. From the beginning of the book I felt like I was wrong-footed and that feeling didn’t really go away until I read the last page.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black follows a teenage girl with a dark secret as her parents one day whisk her away on a supposed holiday of a lifetime in an attempt to keep their own dark secret hidden. It’s actually very hard to discuss the plot of this book without spoilers as so much of the story revolved around the unknown, with secrets slowly being revealed to the reader as the plot progresses.

What I will say is I found something lacking with this book. On the surface the plot is gripping but the reading experience didn’t quite match up to the expectation I had for this book. I badly wanted the pace to pick up but I found myself almost becoming bored in between sections where secrets were being revealed and action was happening. None of the characters were likeable, which I feel could have been purposeful, but more than that they often didn’t seem like realistic people. Their speech and behaviour wasn’t fully fleshed out and I didn’t feel any kind of strong connection to them at all which always lessens my enjoyment of a book. If I’m not going to like a character, I at least want to dislike them. Feeling nothing about them leaves me disinterested.

My biggest issue with the book is Ella’s love interest plot. It seemed so unbelievable that she would meet her dream boy in the way she did and have him fall head over heels in love with her without so much as a word being uttered that I kept expecting him to be part of the bigger storyline. I was hoping he would turn out to not be as he seemed and have more sinister intentions. In the end, I felt his inclusion in the story just served to pad out the plot and lengthen the book unnecessarily.

Although my review may seem largely negative I have to say that I did read this book very quickly and found that I didn’t want to put it down. I did want to get to the climax and find out what was going to happen and overall I was satisfied with the ending. I do think it would have benefitted from developing the characters somewhat more, and focusing less on describing Ella running around Rio and hiding from everyone and more on her discovering the details of her parent’s secret as that was the part of the plot that was really gripping.

I think I would recommend this book to friends in the future, for the fact that the unfolding mystery is so original and it is a compelling depiction of mental health problems but my recommendation would come with caveats.

The Truth and Lies of Ella Black is published 11th January 2018.

Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas

Dragon’s Green by Scarlett Thomas

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

As a long time fan of Scarlett Thomas’ adult fiction I was positively seething with jealousy when my niece came home from school earlier this year proudly clutching a copy of Dragons Green and announced that the author had visited her class earlier that day.

I was eager to get reading myself, although slightly apprehensive. Scarlett Thomas’ usual writing style is highly imaginative (good for children’s fiction) but also highly intellectual (possibly problematic for children’s fiction). I think it’s fair to say that a good adult fiction writer may not turn out to be a good children’s fiction writer and I didn’t want to be disappointed.

Thankfully, book one in the WorldQuake series was everything I wanted it to be and more. From the first page the magic practically crackled off the page. It took me back to being 9 years old and settling down to read the first Harry Potter book. Even the names of the characters in Dragon’s Green gave me a lovely, warm feeling because they are just so storybook perfect. Real names for people who seem like they’d be off on lots of adventures.

The plot, though not completely original, is well structured and the pace of the story moves along well, something which is vital in a children’s book if you’re going to keep the little monsters engaged. I especially liked the innocence of the children in this story. They’re happy to be kids and are in no hurry to grow up, but they’re also hungry for a good old fashioned adventure. As a parent, s is becoming more and more important to me. A book which can inspire children to be brave, clever, kind and to seek adventure is a powerful, special thing.

My favourite part of story was Effie’s delightful encounter with the dragon and I loved the whole idea of being “the last reader” of a book.

The best thing I can say about this book is it is just as entertaining for adults to read as it is for children. I love that I can discuss my favourite parts with my niece and and I know that one day I will enjoy tucking my daughter into bed and sharing a few chapters a night with her. And by then we’ll have more WorldQuake stories to get through!
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