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BCT "bethantownsend" (Liverpool)

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A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing
A Girl Is a Half-formed Thing
Price: £4.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An intense debut, 8 Aug. 2014
A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing isn’t a novel that can be enjoyed, well, for me anyway. It’s a reading experience. The novel breathes Ireland and Irishness, in the most stereotypical isolated Catholic community way. The Catholic-ness of the novel can’t be underestimated and it is even more pronounced in the style that McBride uses. Being inside her head makes it impossible to escape her flitting from thought to thought and a combination of railing against the world (as above) and endless Catholic and familial guilt seems to drive her every thought process and movement.

My obsession with names irritated me throughout, I’m always a bit disappointed when I don’t get to know my narrator’s name but this is another novel in which there is no clue. Paragraphs throw you from inside her brain to direct dialogue to overheard conversations. It took me about 30 pages to get into a rhythm with the narrator, her voice had to fit into its own pattern in my head before I could really get through to her story but once it did, I tore on and it was worth the sticky beginning.

Experiments aside, this novel allows the narrator to lay it completely bare. The inside-the-mind narration means brutality is confronted head on, difficult, awkward moments, you’re plunged in at the deep end and the fleeting moments of softness (the narrator seemed quite hard/emotionless to me) appear natural and genuine. The second person tense narration seems to be an attempt to put you (not the reader but her brother) at the centre of the novel but for me it is her who remains in my mind and doesn’t leave the limelight.

This is the first novel I’ve ever read that is initially narrated by a foetus, there should me some kind of award for that or something!

I’m interested to see what McBride does next and if there is any way she isn’t completely terrified of what happens next in her career.

The Girl With All The Gifts
The Girl With All The Gifts
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars The Girl With All The Gifts, 8 Aug. 2014
Is it possible not to be drawn in by that premise? If you think it is I’d probably say you’re wrong because, for me, it was impossible not to read on and find out more. I don’t know what I expected, I hadn’t heard of Carey at all, and it probably didn’t go in the direction I had expected (we know, as I keep going on about it, that I’m not crazy for your dystopia/sci-fi malarkey). I can be turned, I can appreciate something good when it is good and I think this was good and worth the time I gave it, if not more.
Melanie is fascinating and the characters which surround her are in their own way too. The way Carey builds up his novel is fantastic, the first few chapters where everything is almost purely through Melanie’s eyes are beyond enticing, I had to know where we were going to end up next and what the deal was with the wheelchair and Melanie herself. Finding out was really shocking and as everything unfolded it appeared Carey was moving tentatively in familiar ground, in one way or another.
See, not knowing who Carey was meant I didn’t know he’d spent a good chunk of his career working for an imprint of DC comics and this experience definitely comes through in The Girl With All The Gifts. The more I read the more I was able to slide the characters into comic book roles almost, which was comforting in some ways and made the novel more enjoyable in others. I’m not a big comic reader but I can appreciate a good story and I like the traditional good guy bad guy format. This novel isn’t like that, the bad guy isn’t really the bad guy and the good guy isn’t really the good guy. Knowing who is who is difficult, especially through the eyes of Melanie.
I don’t want to talk much more about this novel because it’s hard to do so without giving stuff away but suffice to stay the suspense builds and in amongst the violence, death and depth of emotion there’s a really solid plot which I needed to keep going with. The ending is not what I expected, I really want to say more but yet again, it would ruin it so yeah, it’s brilliant and such a sweet little twist, you should read it, whether you like the kind of fantasty/sci-fi-/dystopia type things or not.

Sworn Secret
Sworn Secret
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Intense and emotional, 8 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Sworn Secret (Kindle Edition)
So much to get stuck into and try and work out. The characters were all completely believable, I found Kate the most compelling by miles, her experience of grief so raw and so permanently ever present it was impossible to ignore. Of all the characters in the novels hers developed and changed most and she seemed to grow in a way which suited her, without giving up on Anna. The grief of Jon and Lizzie manifests in different ways, equally believable, but it was Kate’s that completely hit the nail on the head for me. Perhaps because I’m somebodys’ mother and don’t have a sister…I don’t know.

The plot builds slowly, different perspectives and different viewpoints are covered throughout. So much is normal and nothing is clear cut, yes, the family are dealing with Anna’s death but they’re also dealing with new influences in their lives: Jon’s father’s illness, Lizzie’s feelings for her first love. All these different elements of the plot seem to come together to create a novel which couldn’t be put down.

The mystery surrounding Anna’s death seems to be in part driven by desperation but also a grain of uncertainty, a chance that it wasn’t an accident, which the family cannot give up on. I was quite desperate to find my way to the truth and by the end, I’m not sure that we reached it but I’m not sure that was what mattered, something important changed for the Thornes and that was what mattered..

Intense and emotional, I was completely engrossed by the way Jennings portrays grief in such a raw, believable way but the plot too kept me turning the pages.

Herring Girl
Herring Girl
Price: £7.79

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly Believable!, 8 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Herring Girl (Kindle Edition)
This novel had a plot/blurb that immediately drew me in, I wanted to know more about everybody and Taylor gave me that and more. Her characters, and there are tons of them, are vibrant, bright and believable. Her characters from the late 19th century are just as well evoked as those in the 21st century. You can feel the depth of research that has gone into this novel, in many areas, from the historical elements to the psychoanalytical and those relating to gender issues.

The way Taylor weaves her characters together is phenomenal. From the first couple of chapters it is not at all possible to see where the novel is going to go and especially where it ends, wow, the ending is hard and so so unexpected. I wish it could have been another way but I supposed it’s right, in its own way, although I still want to read back and see something different!

As Mary carries out past life regression after past life regression so many characters are found to be involved in the web that surrounds Ben and Annie. All the time it is hard not to believe what she’s carrying out is true and even as a massive sceptic I was definitely on Mary’s side throughout.

The way modern relationships are interwoven with those of the past is a work of some talent, I imagine Taylor planning out her novel with maps and family trees and complicated diagrams, I don’t know how else it could have been managed!

The prose throughout remains simple and easy to read, allowing this novel to be coursed through comfortably, with no major sticking points. As the regressive memories are tallied up with hard cold facts it’s fascinating to think whether Annie’s story (and therefore anybody’s) could actually be true.

The Library of Unrequited Love
The Library of Unrequited Love
Price: £2.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Books and more..., 8 Aug. 2014
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The Library of Unrequited Love is too short and I did wonder a little how it had managed to get published on it own, part of me wanted more, not necessarily of the same story but I feel it should have sat amongst others in a collection perhaps. I was quite disappointed if I’m honest that it was alone as it felt like it needed to belong with others.

In the few short pages we have Divry crafts a complete picture of her librarian. She remains unnamed throughout and the novel is told through speech, a monologue, without gaps or spaces. It’s a monologue which shoots from here to there and gives us a wildly varied number of topics from books themselves to libraries, to her role in the library and a close and intense look at the wonders of the Dewey Decimal System. Other things come up, the history of France, modern society and of course, the unrequited love itself, that the protagonist has for the student Martin.

I realise what I’ve just written probably sounds quite boring but really, it wasn’t. The protagonist has such strong opinions and a no nonsense style to her speech which reads more like a rant than your typical monologue. The insight into this one woman’s world is touching and sad at times, her solitary existence is filled up with books and reading but it doesn’t fulfill her, it isn’t enough. I found myself wanting to know more, I know that wasn’t the point of this work, but it was like, only seeing a small part of this story wasn’t enough.

The obsessive book loving elements of the story were of course my favourites but as the character developed it was impossible not to feel something for her, despite her spikiness and hope somehow, that there was a happy ending for her somewhere, if not in this book.

Disraeli Avenue
Disraeli Avenue
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars People watching at its finest and more..., 8 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Disraeli Avenue (Kindle Edition)
Disraeli Avenue offers what I love best from a book – pure, unadulterated people watching. Single snapshots of some lives, larger impressions of others, more about people who snoop behind curtains and gossip on doorsteps. Every single one of Caroline Smailes Disraeli Avenue inhabitants feels real.

Disraeli Avenue is made up of thirty-four separate sections, the tales of thirty-four people but beyond that, the tales they want to tell. Each small story is a look through that window and into the minds of each distinct characters.

I read Disraeli Avenue before it was rereleased and loved and it and continue to love it today. I love how absolutely everyone one of the thirty-four stories is distinct, the people are individual and there are no overlaps in characterisation. It really is people watching at its finest.

Disraeli Avenue isn’t simply stories though, each door number offers something different. First person accounts, dialogues, letters and diary entries are just some of the ways people tell their tales. My love for In Search of Adam meant the both Bill and Crystal’s stories made me want to go back to the novel but it certainly isn’t a prerequisite for enjoying and being immersed in the world of Disraeli Avenue.

I am nosy, the insides of other people’s lives fascinate me and being able to see them in way which is endlessly believable is something I can’t help but enjoy. I love Caroline Smailes’ writing style and believe every single one of these characters is worthy of further exploration to me.

Mothers Ruined (The Survival Series Book 3)
Mothers Ruined (The Survival Series Book 3)

4.0 out of 5 stars Exceptionally Honest and Likeable Narrator, 26 May 2014
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I haven't read the other books featuring Dottie so first I can't comment on her being back but I can comment on what a charismatic and warm character she is. There's a sense of neediness about her I can seriously relate to - knowing nobody and having young kids that keep you in the house is never fun - and even when she's at her lowest moments there's a touch of humour and genuine warmth which makes her a really fun character to read.

The best thing by far about this novel is its honesty. Above all else it tells you nobody is perfect and it's a strength of the novelist that her leading lady can have as many flaws as she does but still such a great sense of humour. The coffee morning scenes strike fear into me and make me a little thankful there's nothing like that going on in my life. This novel reminded me a lot in style and tone of The Hive by Gill Hornby. Initially I thought I was perhaps comparing because I read them relatively close together but looking back I'd definitely say there are similarities.

The funny moments will have you nodding and groaning as well as chuckling. I think the baby monitors are a really ingenious touch and as things unfold I found myself racing to the end to find out who'd get their comeuppance and if Dottie would come out unscathed!

I really loved Dottie in the driving seat but I'd also quite like to see things from Tina's point of view, as well as the other key female characters in the novel - each one of their stories could probably be a novel in itself. There's real scope for more and I'm keen to see what the author has coming next.

The Rabbit Back Literature Society
The Rabbit Back Literature Society
Price: £4.68

4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating., 26 May 2014
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This novel is completely fascinating, so odd and so unlike anything else I’ve ever read. The concept of The Game is simply brilliant and I’d love to share it but that’s cheating so, you know, read it yourself and hopefully you’ll agree with me.

There is something unusual from the off with this novel as Ella discovers the books in her local library and in the school she works are changing, fantastical right? She finds a copy of Crime and Punishment which has an ending that certainly wasn’t in the original she begins to investigate and founds herself closer than she ever imagined to the members of the Rabbit Back Literature Society. The Society is made up of nine writers who have had the benefit (perhaps) of lifetime mentoring from Laura White, an elusive but exceptionally famous children’s author – her books are like, J.K Rowling style popular.

Ella soon finds herself a member of the Society, the first new one to be recruited since its inception and Laura White suddenly vanishes. Things get weird and she squirms her way between the other writers in the Society, in a desperate quest to discover the real Laura White and once she starts playing The Game she realises there are even more secrets she is desperate to discover. Even though many questions are left unanswered I still felt satisfied by Ella’s tale.

The Black Country: Scotland Yard Murder Squad Book 2
The Black Country: Scotland Yard Murder Squad Book 2
by Alex Grecian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Day and Hammersmith are back, 25 May 2014
In comparison to London, Grecian paints the small mining village as about as superstitious and ‘backward’ as you could imagine. A child and his parents are gone, feared dead yet many of the people in the village, including adults, fear the murders, if there have been any, were carried out by ‘Rawhead’ a fictional monster. It’s such a strange concept but perhaps more believable than I first though, possibly stemming from a human desire to avoid having to live up to the fact that people kill other people, especially children.

In The Yard plenty of people died but in The Black Country there are murders, near murders and accidental deaths all over the place. Once again I found myself being drawn in twenty different directions by many different characters and it’s the pace of the novel that pushes you through the mass of characters, not allowing you to dwell to heavily on any single one. I had issue with so many different intertwined murders and so many different murderers, too much was going on at times to be honest, but I do like the way Grecian writes – perhaps I just wish he kept it a little simpler.

I didn’t work out exactly what had happened in advance but some of it did become clear a little too early for my liking. Even from the first few pages I had a thought that X might have been the killer and it turned out to be true in part but then there were so many different killers it was a little like when will it all end? The grey eyed American and his story seemed like one character too far at times!

I’m being unkind though as I really did enjoy the novel and I’m already anticipating the next in the series. Grecian doesn’t shy away from gore and his creation of the suspicious, uncooperative village community is a such a clever place to put a police investigation. I’m not deterred, I just hope that maybe there’s less going off in different directions next time!

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

4.0 out of 5 stars My favourite form for a novel, 25 May 2014
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I LOVE epistolary novels, I’m drawn in immediately and desperate to try and fill in the cracks that simply can’t be filled from letters alone. This is especially true of this novel as there are so many occasions where Juliet is talking about something which has happened but the reader wasn’t party to – it’s a very strange concept in some ways. It sticks a nail in the coffin of the old ‘show don’t tell’ mantra of so many writers out there. Nothing is as simple as that.

Juliet is a wonder. I couldn’t help but warm to her eccentric and quirky ways. Despite the simple and colloquial writing style the reader still gets the chance to get to know so many of the different Guernsey characters, even those like little Kit who are portrayed almost fully through the eyes of others.

The World War Two element of the novel was expected but I completely didn’t imagine Ravensbrück coming into the story at all. Its appearance shows another side to Elizabeth, a central character in the novel despite never being physically in it, and her story there is as harrowing as any other of the Holocaust.

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