The Space Between Time – Charlie Laidlaw

46194330._SY475_Emma Maria Rossini is the daughter of a famous actor and the granddaughter of a renowned astrophysicist, living in a huge house with her beautiful and loving mother. But life isn’t as perfect as it seems, and Emma has to combat a very difficult relationship with her father, as well as coping with some seriously tragic events.

I enjoyed this book much more than I expected. It was surprising and moving, well-written and with a complex lead character. Despite her unusual upbringing, Emma goes through some relatable experiences, and her narrative voice injects a level of wit to quite a dark plot for some much needed light and humour.

I was also quite impressed that the author managed to write so well from a female perspective. It is difficult to write effectively from the point of view of the opposite gender, but Laidlaw really pulled it off. I loved Emma’s voice and the way she told her story. I particularly liked the inclusion of the Rossini Theorem, and the way it was incorporated into Emma’s narrative to show the influence it had on her life, even if I didn’t understand all of it.

It’s a slow burner, but one with a fantastic character journey which really does tug at the heart-strings.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Adults – Emma Jane Unsworth

50108244._SX318_SY475_TW: Miscarriage.

Jenny is falling apart. Her boyfriend has left her, her friends are sick of her, and her job is hanging by a thread, but you wouldn’t know it from her social media. On the surface, Jenny’s life looks successful and happy, but on the inside she is anxious, insecure and has an obsessive need for validation.

I found this to be a really stressful read. Jenny was a truly infuriating character, but also incredibly relatable. Despite being pretty annoying, she has a marvellous narrative voice.: smart, witty and full of hilarious insights.

There isn’t really that much of a plot. The story centres around Jenny’s relationship with social media, and how that affects her relationships with others. The only way the plot really develops is in Jenny’s acceptance of her problem, and the way that allows her to let go of her ex and repair her relationships with her friends and her mother.

I liked the way the book is written. The writing style is excellent – very readable – and the chapters jump backwards and forwards through time, which was a little bit confusing but quite effective. My biggest criticism is that Adults is almost too smart. It’s very ‘woke’, and Jenny seems to be completely aware that she has a problem throughout the book, but doesn’t bother to do anything about it, rather than being in denial which would have felt more genuine. This took away some of the realism.

Adults is such a relevant book right now, with such an emphasis on our obsession with social media and our need for validation and ‘likes’ from strangers on the internet (says the girl with Twitter, two Instagram accounts and a blog).

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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In at the Deep End – Kate Davies

42089727._SY475_.jpgJulia hasn’t had sex in three years, and she’s about to learn that she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places. Embarking on an eye-opening journey into lesbianism, Julia opens herself up to some brand new and pretty niche experiences, including an LGBT swing dance class, raves, conceptual art shows, polygamy, S&M and sex clubs. She has well and truly jumped in at the deep end.

On the surface, this book really doesn’t sound that great, but something about it had me completely hooked.

There is a tonne of sex. It’s frank and filthy, but in a very direct, explanatory kind of way. The sexual activities throughout the story are pretty detailed (including strap-on dildos, fisting, etc) but not erotic at all. This book is filled with pure filth, but it isn’t designed to turn you on – which makes it remarkably readable (even for someone quite prudish like me).

While about 70% of the book is filled with sexual content, Julia spends at least 20% of it crying. In at the Deep End is surprisingly emotional, with some great characters who I found myself really caring about.

Julia herself is a great lead character. She’s witty, likeable – despite her denial and poor taste in girlfriends – and very real, and there’s a full cast of fantastic secondary characters, like Julia’s swing-dance friends and her WWII-veteran pen-pal. My personal favourite was her therapist, who absolutely should not be qualified to do that job but was brilliant nonetheless.

This book is a brilliantly written, straight-talking, up-front and funny read which I enjoyed way more than I expected to.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Ask Again, Yes – Mary Beth Keane

43666435._SY475_.jpgThis is the story of two neighbouring families, the friendship between their children, and a tragedy that tears them apart. Kate and Peter live next door to each other and were born six months apart. They are best friends, but their families just don’t get on. One horrific night, their bond is pushed past its limits. But can they move on from the events of the past when they meet again, years later?

Books of this genre aren’t rare. They’re full of drama and explore the darker side of family, but what makes this one stand out if that the catalytic event is truly shocking, while the fall-out is well considered and realistic. Issues around mental health and alcoholism are quite well (though not very sympathetically) explored, and suicide and sexual abuse are touched upon. Quite a lot of ground is covered, but it failed to keep my interest throughout.

Firstly, I would say that the pacing isn’t brilliant. The early portions of the book progress very slowly, and then things pick up speed as things start to happen later on. Because of this, the beginning of the story dragged a little and the end portions felt a bit rushed.

I did like the exploration of Peter and Kate’s marriage, and Kate’s commitment to Peter despite his problems driving her away and her family telling her to leave him. However, very little else stood out to me.

I would recommend Ask Again, Yes to fans of dark domestic dramas. The characters are well developed and their relationships are interesting, but I would steer clear if this isn’t your genre.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Boy Swallows Universe – Trent Dalton

40717567._SY475_.jpgThis coming-of-age drama follows the life of Eli Bell, growing up in Brisbane with his mute brother, drug-dealing stepfather and notorious criminal babysitter. Life doesn’t seem too bad, until Eli’s stepfather vanishes, his mother gets arrested and he and his brother have to go and live with their drunk father. And the complications don’t stop there.

The plot of Boy Swallows Universe was a bit intense and slow to develop for me. I actually considered DNF-ing it a few times. The book isn’t bad at all; it’s interesting and well-written with unique and likeable characters, but it did feel very long and slow and it took me a really long time to get into it.

However, I’m glad I stuck with it, because Eli Bell was one of my all-time favourite book characters. He had a truly fantastic narrative voice, managing to be funny, relatable and extremely likeable throughout the book. There were also a lot of other excellent characters. Augustus (Eli’s brother) was very interesting with some unexpected complexities, and I completely adored Caitlyn Spies and Slim. Eli’s relationship with Brisbane’s most notorious criminal was one of the most endearing things I’ve ever read.

This novel is full of life, love and surprises. It’s worth the effort.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Gods of Love – Nicola Mostyn

38333559._SY475_When a strange man bursts into Frida’s office claiming that she is a descendent of Eros, the god of love, and destined to save the world, Frida has him removed by security and laughs the whole thing off. But after a weird meeting and an attempted kidnapping, Frida starts to think that maybe the man calling himself the Oracle was telling the truth.

Usually, I love any book based on mythology, but this one really wasn’t that great. I think it was the comparison to Bridget Jones and Neil Gaiman that got me: it’s really nothing like either. Granted, The Gods of Love would fall under the same genre as Bridget Jones, being a typical comedy/romance novel with a feisty female lead, but it simply doesn’t have Jones’ heart and wit. The comparison to Gaiman honestly makes no sense to me whatsoever. So it has some gods and some mythology in it; it takes a lot more than that to be anything at all like one of Gaiman’s books.

That being said, there’s nothing wrong with what it is, once the false comparisons are removed. As far as books of this genre go, this one certainly wasn’t bad, but it could have been so much better.

The story is fun and fast-paced, with a good amount of magic and fantasy thrown in there. Despite love being a prominent theme throughout the book, the romantic element between the characters is quite slow-build and not overdone. I liked that the story wasn’t all about the relationship between Dan and Frida, largely because I struggled to feel the chemistry between them a lot of the time. It rather felt like they were forced together for the sake of having a romantic story-line in a book about love.

Frida herself, I didn’t love. She was clearly supposed to be a strong, kick-ass female, but to be honest I found her a little bit annoying.

The Gods of Love is a light and decent enough read. It isn’t bad, but it isn’t special.

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Reign of Mist – Helen Scheuerer

39216289.jpgIn book #2 of The Oremere Chronicles, it is all kicking off. As more people learn the truth behind the deadly mist and King Arden’s treachery, war is brewing. Scattered across continents, Bleak and her friends are forced to choose sides, forge their own alliances and prepare themselves for the battles ahead.

I adored book #1 in this series, Heart of Mist, so I was really excited to get straight on with reading book #2. It didn’t disappoint.

At the start of the book, all our main players are separated and spread out across the continents. This meant there were a few different threads to follow simultaneously. Initially, I was concerned that this would make the story too complicated (and one of my favourite things about this series has been the relationships between characters, so splitting them up was not so good), but fortunately the whole gang was reunited fairly quickly and all my concerns were dispelled.

The plot progresses much quicker in this book. There are a lot of characters to follow and a lot of politics to cover, but none of it felt rushed or lacking in detail. The pacing was pretty much spot on to keep the story moving and maintain excitement. The story really comes to life through Scheuerer’s brilliant writing, fantastic characters and strong world-building.

I haven’t enjoyed a YA fantasy series this much in so long.

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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The Raven Tower – Ann Leckie

39395857.jpgFor centuries, the Raven has watched over and protected the kingdom of Iraden. His power is sustained by the sacrifice of Iraden’s ruler, the Raven’s Lease, every generation. But when the Lease disappears without paying his debt and a usurper takes the throne, the power of the Raven appears to be dwindling. Is he even there at all? It is left to Eolo, loyal aide to the true heir, Mawat, to uncover the truth hidden inside the Raven’s Tower.

The writing style is really interesting. It’s written in the second person, from the point-of-view of The Strength and Patience of the Hill, to Eolo, the character who the story follows. This has the effect of placing the reader inside the story, using a really unusual technique. However, this was a bit of a double-edged sword because, while being new and different is both good and impressive, it took me a really long time to get used to the style which stopped me from being able to get into the story.

The lore in this book is very good. The system of the gods and their magics has been well thought-through, and I love gods and mythology so this really worked for me. It was interesting to be following the humans and the gods simultaneously, but it was sometimes a bit confusing because it took a minute to work out which thread we were on with each new chapter.

The Raven’s Tower is a good book, and a solid piece of fantasy-fiction. But the pace is slow and it took me a looooooong time to read, despite not being that long. For that reason alone, I can’t give it full marks, but it is worth a read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams

36586697Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London. After a painful breakup from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie goes off the rails, seeking comfort in the arms of men who are all wrong, pushing her friends away, and putting her career at risk.

I really enjoyed the honesty of the narration. Queenie is well aware – throughout the entire book – that she’s making bad decisions. She knows that what she’s doing isn’t good for her and questions why she’s doing it, then does it anyway. It actually took me a long time to warm up to Queenie. I’ve also recently gone through a very painful breakup, but I couldn’t sympathise with her meek, desperate attitude towards her ex. It wasn’t until her deeper, childhood issues were covered that I was able to understand where she was coming from.

I adored Queenie’s family (especially Diana and her grandparents), and the Corgis group chat was brilliant. However, this book isn’t all fun and humour. Queenie is funny, with a witty narrative voice and some entertaining stories, but the book also goes to some pretty dark places. The sexual content was completely unexpected and quite explicit, while the mental-health issues explored are really serious. Queenie is marketed as something along the lines of Bridget Jones’ Diary, but it’s a lot more intense and real than that.

On the whole, this is a reasonably enjoyable, relatable and relevant book, with a strong (but not over-bearing) feminist feel to it. But I’m not sure it’s a book that we “need”. Unlike other culturally important books (I’m thinking The Hate U Give), I don’t think I’d describe Queenie as a must-read.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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The Red Address Book – Sofia Lundberg

4354190796-year-old Doris lives alone in an apartment in Stockholm. She gets very few visitors, looking forward instead to her weekly Skype calls with her grandniece, Jenny. Looking through the names in her old address book, Doris decides to write down the stories of her life – working as a maid in Sweden, becoming a live mannequin in Paris, falling in love and heading to America before the Second World War. There are so many stories to tell, and not much time left for Doris to tell them.

To begin with, I found this book quaint and interesting enough, but it didn’t really grab me. Doris and her stories did grow on me as I read on, and I did get more drawn in. The Red Address Book is a really sweet story; the actual plot isn’t very exciting but Doris is a strong and genuine character who made it a worthwhile read. It wasn’t 100% my cup of tea, but engaging and emotional nonetheless.

I do have to say that I was consistently put off by the mild obsession with beauty, but Doris and Jenny were both models and had their beauty celebrated so it did make sense at the same time as being shallow.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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