Bookishly Ever After by Isabel Bandeira – Book Review


Rating: 5 out of 5

The Story

In a perfect world, sixteen-year-old Phoebe Martins’ life would be a book. Preferably a YA novel with magic and a hot paranormal love interest. Unfortunately, her life probably wouldn’t even qualify for a quiet contemporary. 

But when Phoebe finds out that Dev, the hottest guy in the clarinet section, might actually have a crush on her, she turns to her favorite books for advice. Phoebe overhauls her personality to become as awesome as her favorite heroines and win Dev’s heart. But if her plan fails, can she go back to her happy world of fictional boys after falling for the real thing?

The Review

Chick lit is hard to write.  Well, let me rephrase. Good chick lit is hard to write. Love stories, for all of their excitement, can be a little predictable to say the least. 

A tall handsome man is lusted after by the quirky self -conscious girl. After some awkward but sexy encounters, they both realise they were meant to be together and they then live happily ever after. 

For a writer to come up with not only a novel twist, but an interesting twist on this ancient recipe is a pretty hard task, particularly when the subject matter is one (I hope) everyone has had at least a little experience of. 

Therefore it gives me great pleasure to introduce Isabel Bandeira and her new novel, Bookishly Ever After… it’s a GOOD chick lit book!! 

As a not-so-secret bookworm, Phoebe grabbed my interest straight away. She loses herself in novels every day, and romance will do no good unless it comes straight off the pages of the latest paperback. You can’t really argue with that – men in books are the very best.

By creating a character I instantly connected with, Bandeira quickly drew me in. I love Phoebe’s independent, I-don’t-care-what-you-think attitude. Although she does fit in with the classic personality of many women in romantic novels, she has enough about her that she still feels like a tangible person. 

We’ve also got a really charming love interest, a great cast of supporting characters, and most importantly a plot which is perfectly paced and teases just enough in all the right places. 

You’ll not find any x-rated bedroom scenes, but it doesn’t need them to keep things exciting.  A tastefully written story that keeps you turning pages, and one that I would highly recommend. 

Flawed by Cecelia Ahern – Book Review


Flawed was an incredibly original, sometimes harrowing but often uplifting novel looking at some of the deepest flaws in human nature. Perfect, the sequel, I feel has suffered as many sequels do, by having too successful an origin story. Whilst flawed was surprising and heart-wrenching, there were few such moments in Perfect. It was certainly an enjoyable read, with an engaging main character, but it lacked the suspense of its predecessor. I never had any doubt that good would win out – but sometimes a bit of uncertainty makes more for exciting reading.

 

Perfect is out now on kindle and paperback.

The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison – Book Review


The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison (Thomas & Mercer)

Unlike my other reviews, this was not provided by Netgalley. I simply read it and felt it deserved some advertisement.

Genres: Thriller, Trauma, Abduction

RATING: 5/5

 

The Story

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviours, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding.…

The Review

WOW. Loved this book. Just going to put it straight out there. Original, thrilling, enthralling, horrific, un-put-downable. I can’t decide whether it’s an extremely tragic story, or an ultimately uplifting one…maybe it can be both?

This novel is not for the faint of heart. It deals with neglect, abduction, rape, torture and murder. Why, you ask, do you want to read about that? Because Hutchison also writes about hope, love, family, bravery and heroism. The Butterfly Garden is a story about courage in the face of extreme adversary, people coming together just when they feel like they want to fall apart, and the power of one’s own convictions to see justice done.

The heroine of this story is Maya. She’s sassy and doesn’t take crap from anyone, but is also loyal to a fault, fiercely protective of those who need her help, and has a streak of charm that I’d challenge any reader not to fall for. She is extremely relatable and sympathetic, but with enough hard edges that I believe every bit of her story.

Speaking of the story, I love how it plays out. The novel opens with the discovery of the garden – most writers would leave this until the end. What Hutchison does is take us through Maya’s story along with the FBI investigators, unravelling each tantalising clue to her experience through detailed questioning. There is nothing chronological about the telling, and I love that. It’s very refreshing, and definitely keeps me engaged as a reader.

Alongside Maya is a brilliant supporting cast. It would be far too easy for Hutchison to create carbon copies of Maya for all the victims of the garden – after all, some people may think that there’s only so much variety to be had in a group of 16-21 year old females. The author, however, uses hobbies, speech and personality traits to create very distinct characters who each have their own roles to play in this story.

I must also praise Hutchison for her male characters. There are a lot of horrible men in this novel, but she doesn’t make a sweeping generalisation that all men are dangerous. In fact, I believe one of the kindest people is Agent Victor Hanoverian, who questions Maya relentlessly but also with compassion and understanding.

Even the Gardener isn’t black and white. He may be a fundamentally evil person, but even he has moments of softness – she gives him a humanity other authors may not have deigned to bestow, but that’s what makes this novel so great. It is firmly grounded in reality. According to Parents.com, every 40 seconds in the United States, a child becomes missing or is abducted. There are thousands upon thousands of people all over the world with stories like Maya’s, and it’s important that we hear about them. Whether fact or fiction, it is important that the world never forgets the dangers children face in this world. Stories like The Butterfly Garden prompt us to remember those who are lost and bolster the search for those who may still be found.

This novel is a triumph.

The Butterfly Garden is out now and can be purchased here. Be sure to also look out for Roses of May, a semi-sequel due to be released later this year.

Dot Hutchison can be contacted via her website and twitter.

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli – Book Review


The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (Penguin Random House UK, Children’s
Penguin)

Review copy provided by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Genres: Romance, Teen, Young Adult, Coming-of-Age

RATING: 4/5

The Story

Molly is on the cusp of womanhood, though she doesn’t feel like it. She’s never been to a house party, never had alcohol, and never kissed a boy. That’s not to say she hasn’t wanted to; in fact, she’s had 26 unrequited crushes in her 17 years. But no matter what advice her twin sister Cassie has for her, Molly never has the courage to speak to boys. In fact, the only one she can speak to is the nerdy guy at the store where she works, but she doesn’t crush on him so that doesn’t really count, right? When Cassie begins dating Mina, Molly is pushed into a circle of friends she’d never normally hang out with, and she makes a pact with herself to let go of control and be daring. Speak to the boys. Especially Will, who might be the coolest guy Molly’s ever been friends with.

The Upside of Unrequited is a delightful look at the trials and tribulations of an almost-adult. It’s never easy to find love, but that doesn’t mean it won’t find you, in the most unexpected of places.

 

The Review

What strikes me most about this novel is that it made me remember. I’m 25, which I admit is not very old, but 17 still feels like a lifetime ago. Molly’s story reminded me about that time in my life, where everything was more emotional, more dramatic, more important. When I look back on my memories I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe, but I expect both is in order. Becky Albertalli has managed to successfully inhabit the teenage voice without being patronising, minimising or childish. Molly was someone I could relate to, and I understood her struggles.

As well as being a great example of how to write for teenagers, about teenagers, The Upside of Unrequited also reads like a love-letter to nerds. Being a self-proclaimed nerd myself, it’s nice to see them win every once in a while. Pinterest lovers will enjoy the crafty side to Molly’s personality, whilst LOTR geeks like myself will also find nods to their particular brand of interests.

The novel centres around Molly’s quest for love, but it also has a strong vein running through it concerning sisterhood, and the problems which can arise between siblings during young adulthood. All siblings grow apart a little as they transition from teenager to adult, but with twins this experience can be even more difficult. Molly and Cassie clearly have a very close relationship, but they are also distinct characters with their own ideals and aspirations. Albertalli handles this with care and realism. I completely feel for Molly when she feels that Cassie is drifting away, but I also totally understand Cassie’s desire for more independence.

I’m very impressed with this novel. What could have been a by-the-numbers story of a teenager wanting to find love is actually a thoughtful and accurate portrayal of what it is to be a teenager in today’s society. I think The Upside of Unrequited can give hope to those who feel like they’re always going to feel alone and unloved. There’s someone out there for everyone. I’ve also got to add that I love the subtle way Albertalli promotes LGBT relationships in this novel. Because it is such an important issue, I think that sometimes authors can shove it in your face a little too much.  With The Upside of Unrequited, all the LGBT relationships just seem right. There are no ‘token gays’. It’s just real life.

The Upside of Unrequited is released on 11th April 2017.

Becky Albertalli can be reached via her website, tumblr, instagram and twitter.