First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Wildfire for accepting my request to read and review this book via NetGalley. The best way to describe The Perfect Girlfriend is ‘a wild ride’. This adult thriller novel follows a woman called …
Tag: three star review
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for sending me an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
Louise Soraya Black’s second novel, The Water Garden, was not at all what I was hoping for, but I enjoyed it despite my wildly inaccurate expectations. Following a mother of two called Sarah as she moves back to the village where she grew up, the reader watches as she begins developing illicit feelings towards a teenager called Finn. Meanwhile, Louise Soraya Black reveals more about Sarah’s family history and why she might be feeling inexplicably drawn to this mysterious stranger.
I was primarily interested in The Water Garden because of the relationship between Sarah and Finn, so I found myself pleasantly surprised to discover that this novel is about far more than the relationship between an older woman and a younger man. This is a multi-generational story, following Sarah’s grandmother Maggie as she meets the man who becomes her husband, with chapters following the perspectives of Sarah’s mother and aunt, as well as exploring Finn’s family history, too.
There were a lot of things I enjoyed about The Water Garden. Top of that list has to be the evocative descriptions of the English countryside, which perfectly painted the scenery as it shifted with the seasons. I also found Sarah’s ruminations on the meaning of motherhood – the loss of her career, the inescapable drudgery of the household chores – to be relatable, and I appreciated the fact that the negative aspects of motherhood were discussed as well as the positives. Louise Soraya Black also does a great job of focusing on the importance of family, and how your family’s past can come back to haunt you in unexpected ways. The idea of a family secret is not a new one, but the way that Black weaved the tales together gave the concept life, and it made for a fresh and interesting story looking at lies and betrayal from the viewpoints of everyone impacted.
That being said, I found myself thoroughly disappointed by the end of the story. It feels incomplete. I would have happily read another 100-200 pages to be able to get a more satisfactory conclusion. The story still has so much potential when the novel ends. I am desperate to know what happens next, not only in both Sarah and Finn’s lives but in the lives of her aunt, her husband and their children. That’s the sign of a brilliant storyteller – Black brings these characters to life so vibrantly that it’s impossible to leave them behind – but also makes me feel hesitant about picking up more of Black’s work in the future, as I’m a reader who prefers to have less loose ends left trailing at the end of a story.
As the book finishes with more of a whimper than a bang, I find myself feeling increasingly disappointed in it the longer I reflect upon it. While I was hooked at the beginning and absolutely devouring the pages as soon as I reached the halfway point, the lackluster conclusion has tainted my appreciation of the rest of the story. I’m still giving this novel three stars, but there were times when I thought I’d found a new favourite author so that is a much lower rating than I’d expected to give!
I talked about The Water Garden a bit more during my May mid-month wrap up, so if you’d like to hear more of my thoughts on this novel, feel free to view that video here.
Once again, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Muswell Press for sending me a copy of this novel. If you like family drama, secrets and a story with a beautiful setting, this is a novel which you should definitely pick up.
Thank you for checking out this review, and I’ll see you again soon,
Stepsister is a brilliant fairytale continuation with a lackluster ending (and far too many chapters!). I wrongly assumed that Stepsister was going to be a fairytale retelling of Cinderella from the point of view of one of the ugly stepsisters. Instead it’s a continuation of …
First things first, I’d like to say a huge thank you to Penguin for accepting my request to read Breathless via NetGalley.
Breathless was my first Jennifer Niven read, and it didn’t live up to the hype. Following a girl called Claude as her parents decide to get divorced and she goes away with her mother for the summer, this novel should have had a very strong emotional impact but left me feeling disappointed.
The main issue that I had with Breathless is that Claude doesn’t sound like a contemporary teenager. She speaks as though she’s older than her years, wiser than her peers, and it’s wholly unrealistic. I’m not a fan of YA novels trying to be literary fiction. It’s one of the reasons I struggle to enjoy John Green’s writing, so if you’re a fan of him I’d definitely recommend you give Jennifer Niven a try.
It also felt as though the book was set in the past, rather than in the 21st Century. Putting your character on a remote island with bad signal to interrupt their communication with their best friend (and to give the love interest an excuse to refuse to hand over his number) is a bit of a lackluster plot device. It would have made more sense if the novel had been set before smartphones were readily available. That would have also gone some way towards explaining why Claude didn’t feel like a modern teenager. If this had been a historical YA I would have enjoyed it more.
Those two issues combined kept throwing me out of the story, and I found it hard to emotionally connect with Breathless. While talking about this book in my January wrap up I couldn’t even remember Claude or Miah’s names, which shows how impactful I found them!
That being said, I did like Miah’s character. He has a bit of a damaged past so he has a lot of layers, and the reason I kept coming back to this book (rather than DNF’ing it, which Sean ended up doing) was because I was interested to learn more about his character. His relationship with Claude developed in an interesting way – it starts off as a summer fling but quickly becomes apparent to both of them that they’re feeling more than just lust for each other – but the ending left me feeling frustrated.
My favourite things about Breathless were the island setting, and the discussion of female sexuality.
The island setting is written in such a gorgeous way. You can tell that Jennifer Niven has either researched this location very deeply or has been on holiday there a few times herself, as the entire island was perfectly crafted. The turtles burying their eggs on the moonlit beach is a scene which is certainly going to stick in my mind for a long time.
Meanwhile, the discussion of female sexuality and pleasure is everything I wanted from YA books when I was younger. Whereas male YA authors never seem ashamed of either featuring masturbation scenes or having male self-pleasure innuendos throughout their stories, female YA authors traditionally seem to shy away from these subjects. Featuring scenes of Claude masturbating, discussions of virginity and how important it should/shouldn’t be (to both society and the individuals concerned) and discussions of female pleasure during intercourse, Breathless is a breath of fresh air in these respects. I particularly loved Claude berating Miah after their first time, telling him that it’s not over when he comes and that he should treat every time like the first time. Seeing characters having these discussions will empower female readers to assert themselves in regards to their pleasure, which is a hugely sex positive inclusion.
All in all, Breathless just wasn’t the book for me. It was too slow and introspective, and Claude came across as a little bit patronising at points so I didn’t like her all that much. However, I will definitely be recommending this book to readers who are looking for sex positive YA.
If you’ve read any of Jennifer Niven’s other novels, please let me know down in the comments which one you would suggest picking up next!
Thank you for reading,
I read the first book in the Mossbelly Macfearsome series two years ago, and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I don’t really have all that much to say about Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Goblin Army. Although Mossbelly Macfearsome and the Dwarves of Doom seemed clunky …
For today’s Blogtober post, I’ve decided to challenge myself to another round of #10in20. In this challenge, you write 10 books in 20 minutes, meaning you have only two minutes to write as much as you can about each book you review. This was a success last time, but will this round go as well?
All of these books are ones that I’ve read via NetGalley and just haven’t had a chance to review yet. Huge thanks to each of the publishers for granting me access to their titles, and sorry for sleeping on them for so long!
And The Stars Were Burning Brightly by Danielle Jawando – 4 stars
And The Stars Were Burning Brightly is a heartbreaking novel following a boy whose brother Al dies by suicide. Nathan is determined to get to the bottom of why Al decided to end his life, making this a bit of a mystery novel; Nathan knows there’s much more going on than meets the eye, but the people he asks refuse to get involved.
Meanwhile, we also follow Megan, one of Al’s closest friends, who starts to look inside herself and decide to be true to who she is. She feels guilt for pretending her and Al weren’t as close as they were in an attempt to fit in with her popular friends, and realises that it’s far more important to be happy than popular.
This is an inspiring novel with a hopeful twist, even though it did make me bawl my eyes out at the end. With a huge focus on art, the star and the universe, you’re bound to learn something, and Danielle Jawando’s writing is both lyrical and frank – an impressive combination to perfect in a debut.
Mayhem by Estelle Laure – 3 stars
I took part in the blog tour for Mayhem earlier in the summer and I thought I was really going to love it, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case.
Following a girl called Mayhem as her and her mother flee her abusive step-dad to return to her mum’s childhood home, Mayhem starts off intriguing but quickly becomes bland and boring.
Considering there’s a serial killer in this novel, there are no chapters that make your pulse race or make your heart sit in your throat. It’s very one level.
There is an interesting magic system, but it’s not very well-crafted. In fact it’s bloody difficult to work out what’s going on most of the times! I guess the Brayburn family are some kind of vampiric mermaids, but considering a lot of people were lauding this as a The Lost Boys retelling – a book which I know is about vampires – none of it made much sense to me.
Three stars because it didn’t make me feel much of anything, but the writing was unique.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo – 5 stars
This book cements Elizabeth Acevedo as one of the strongest YA verse writers around.
Following two girls, Camino and Yahaira, as they discover that their father recently deceased had been hiding a secret family from them, this is a beautiful portrayal of grief and the way that loss impacts not just the individual but also the community around them.
The dual narrative brings so much to the novel, as we see how both girls react to the discovery that their father was not what they thought he was. We also get to see the stark contrast between New York and the Dominican Republic, and the difference between the two locations is written impeccably.
I loved The Poet X and didn’t think that I’d enjoy Clap When You Land as much because I always struggle to love verse novels, but if anything I enjoyed this book much, much more. I can’t wait to see where Elizabeth Acevedo goes from here.
Unscripted by Nicole Kronzer – 3 stars
It’s been a few months since I read Unscripted, and in hindsight I am surprised I didn’t rate it more harshly.
I loved what this book was trying to do – attempting to tackle sexism at an improv camp and the stereotype that girls aren’t funny – but my issue was that none of jokes in this book are funny. I didn’t even crack a simple or let out a simple chuckle. Nothing about this screamed ‘funny book about unfunny things’ and that’s what I was hoping for, so I was really let down by this debut novel.
Perhaps it’s because improv is a pretty American thing – it’s not something which gets much airtime in the UK, particularly not compared to stand-up comedy – so I probably wasn’t the right audience for this book. I think that’s why I decided to go with a middle-of-the-road rating; because this will do really important things for some people, I’m just not one of them.
I enjoyed the camp setting, but that’s because I’m always a sucker for summer camp stories, but this just wasn’t the book for me.
What Stars Are Made Of by Sarah Allen – 4 stars
This book reminds me quite a bit of Wonder by R.J. Palacio. Following a little girl with Turner Syndrome as she tries to get her favourite astronomer’s achievements recognised, this is an empowering middle-grade novel which will appeal to fans of The Infinite Lives of Maisie Day by Christopher Edge.
It’s always great to encourage girls to get into STEM subjects, and this book not only sparks an interest in STEM but also educates readers on some big achievements from female scientists – achievements which have often been attributed to their male colleagues! – and shows how women have quite literally changed the way we view the world.
Read To Your Toddler Every Day by Lucy Brownridge – 3 stars
I read Read To Your Toddler Every Day to Zophia a few months ago. Although I enjoyed these simplified folktales – a lot of which I had no prior knowledge of – she was rather restless while we were reading it.
Although the illustrations are beautiful throughout, there are a lot of small words on each page, which made it hard for her to concentrate. She’s a big fan of books which have a sentence or two on each page and a lot more illustrations!
I think this is a good book to read to your toddlers to teach them a variety of tales from across the globe, as it’s a good early introduction to more cultures. However, this isn’t the kind of book that will get your toddler reading along with you, so it might be worth reading it when they’re a little bit older (possibly in their first few years at school).
The Legend of the Light Keeper by Kelly Hall – 1 star
This book is very Cassandra Clare-esque, in that the synopsis references a ‘forbidden love’, which is actually the main character falling in love with her soon-to-be step-brother Talon. (Scoff, Talon, what a name). Not only that, she is then non-consensually kissed by a boy who ends up being her cousin, so there’s a lot of vaguely incestuous behaviour going on in The Legend of the Light Keeper.
Although the mystery aspects of this story is intriguing – there’s a random light which keeps turning up and leaving black smudges everywhere, and Lily is the only person who is able to see that the light is a person – there is far too much focus on the romance. The plot is neglected. Although the setting is well-crafted, there is no adrenaline and the writing is bland. Even though the characters were scared, my heart wasn’t racing, and I was reading this book each night before bed to send myself to sleep.
All About Us by Tom Ellen – 4 stars
All About Us is a romantic retelling of A Christmas Carol. Tom and Daphne have been having problems in their relationship, and he begins to wonder whether life would have been better if he’d pursued a relationship with Alice from uni. When he gets the chance to go back and live life differently, he realises how much he loves Daphne and how desperate he is to fix everything before it’s too late.
This is a heartwarming tale which is the perfect Christmas read. If you’ve been experiencing relationship stress due to this hellish year, it might be worth picking up All About Us, because it reminds you to remember why you fell in love with your significant other in the first place, and does a great job of revitalising a relationship that has grown a bit stale.
Three Perfect Liars by Heidi Perks – 3 stars
Unfortunately Three Perfect Liars ended up being perfectly predictable.
The concept of this one is great – there’s an office building which is burnt to the ground, and the story jumps backwards and forwards between the weeks leading up to the fire and the police interviews on the morning after the fire – but I saw the twist coming from a mile away which is a major disappointment.
However, I loved the discourse that Heidi Perks writes around the expectations placed on working mothers and the inherent discrimination that they experience when returning to work. Even though it might not be something that could be pursued in a court of law, the treatment that Laura experiences filled me with rage: if I’d been treated like her when I returned from maternity leave then I would have hit the roof! I can’t think of another thriller which discusses a subject such as this, which made this stand out from the pack.
Santa Jaws by Mark Sperring and Sophie Corrigan – 5 stars
I wanted this #10in20 to be a NetGalley special, and the only other NetGalley book that I’ve read recently was Santa Jaws, so I’m finishing this off with a picture book review.
This is a lovely story about a squid who gets tricked into thinking he’s meeting Santa Claus, and how he reacts when he discovers Santa Claus is actually a shark in a Santa costume!
I hope you enjoyed this round of #10in20 reviews, and that you enjoyed the rest of my Blogtober posts too. I can’t believe I actually managed to do it – I was certain I was going to fail after the first week!
See you soon, and Happy Halloween,
My little girl loved the gorgeous background illustrations in this one – there are lots of other marine animals floating around in the background – and this certainly put us in the mood for Christmas, which is perfect because we read this this evening after getting home from our pumpkin trail trick-or-treating extravaganza!
It’s hard to review a book like Stephen King’s It, because there is nothing I can possibly say about it which hasn’t been said before. Despite that, I thought I’d share my thoughts on this tome, because I’ve spent the past three weeks gradually clawing …