Sunday, 18 November 2012

Review: The Yips

The Yips: A NovelThe Yips: A Novel by Nicola Barker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I requested this book from NetGalley as it had been on my wishlist since it was longlisted for the Man Booker this year. I was pretty excited when it was approved and couldn't wait to get started!

The book itself is written in an interesting style and we get an insight into a number of very different characters lives and they all become entangled in a huge spiders web with each other. I really liked the style of the book and it felt a little bit like being a nosy neighbour and seeing a little bit of each of their worlds. I really liked that my initial opinions of the characters changed throughout the book.

I really loved the first 60% of the book and flew through it. My favourite character was Valentine. I loved her quirky ways and her spiralling back story including her agoraphobia. My least favourite was Ransom, obviously written as an unlikeable character, but by the second half of the book I just didn't care about him.

I felt that for me I would have preferred the book being a bit shorter and found that the end was a bit of an anti-climax. Overall, I enjoyed it, but probably won't rush out to read any more by the author.

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Saturday, 10 November 2012

Review: To be honest

To Be HonestTo Be Honest by P.J. Young
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was sent this book to review by the author and really liked the blurb for the book.

The book follows the main character Lisi and the trials and tribulations she suffers as a teenager. She has an unhealthy obsession with her English teacher, Miss Mint, as she thinks that she is perfect and aspires to be exactly like her. After a freak weather event, Lisi find out exactly what it is like to be Miss Mint!

I found the very beginning of the book a little slow, partly because I find it a little difficult to identify with teenagers who live a different life to my teenage years. I liked Lisi, although she could be irritating sometimes. I think that the writing has captured her teenage naivety and blinkered approach to other people’s feelings particularly well. Once the twist in the book happened and Lisi and Miss Mint swapped lives I couldn’t put the book down!

The book dealt with some hard issues like eating disorders, friendship and money worries very well in a light hearted way, but without being insensitive. I also liked the way that the reader found out that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side and that appearances can be deceptive.

The voice of the book is very modern with popular culture references, but it is done very well without being annoying or overdoing the references.

I would read more from this author and would give this book a well deserved 4 stars.

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Review: Princess Elizabeth's Spy

Princess Elizabeth's Spy: A Maggie Hope MysteryPrincess Elizabeth's Spy: A Maggie Hope Mystery by Susan Elia MacNeal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I requested this book from NetGalley as I really liked the sound of the blurb and thought it sounded like a fun read.

It took me a little while to get into this book as it took me a while to accept the Americanisms and American spelling in the book. This is a small point, but as the book was about England in the 40s, it took me a little while to get used to it, especially as other than that it was very authentic feeling. I understand that the author and main character are American, but it would have worked slightly better for me if the other characters hadn’t used American phrases. However, this is the only thing that I could find wrong with the book!

Maggie Hope has been recruited as an agent by Mi5 and is assigned to protect the Princess Elizabeth at Windsor under the guise of tutoring her in maths. The book is littered with references to members of the Royal Family and their staff, and also has a really interesting sub plot featuring the abdicated King Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. I loved the references to Churchill and his Private Office and his relationships with his staff, including former secretary, Maggie.

The book is a really fun whodunit sort of story which keeps you guessing over who the bad apple is. It is thrilling and once I had got into it, it really kept me on the edge of my seat and wanting to read more. This book is the second in a series, with a third due to be published next year. I haven’t read the first book, but will definitely look for it and will keep an eye out for more of the books in the future in order to keep up with Maggie’s adventures.

A well deserved 4 stars.

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Review: Sweet Tooth

Sweet ToothSweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was desperate to read this book when it was published earlier this year and when I finally got my hands on a copy I was not disappointed.

It is the story of a young girl recruited to the British Security Services and gets sent on a mission, Sweet Tooth. However, although I really enjoyed the secret agent aspects of this book, I think Serena’s relationships with others are captured beautifully and are really the triumph of the book.

I was a little worried that as this was a book told from a girls point of view, but is written by a man. I really think that McEwan did an amazing job of this though as I did not feel that it felt masculine in any way. Serena was a really likeable character, and I felt something of an affinity with her and her reclusive, bookish ways.

This book is a love story, a thriller and a brilliant book about books. It really captures Serena’s loves in a sensitive, but realistic way, has some great detail about her time in Mi5 and also had some great literary references that laid out the map of her life.

I absolutely loved this book and found it difficult to put down. I will definitely be seeking out more of McEwan’s work.

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Saturday, 3 November 2012

Review: The Boy Who Made it Rain

The Boy Who Made it RainThe Boy Who Made it Rain by Brian Conaghan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I requested this book from NetGalley as the blurb sounded interesting and I was interested in how it would be presented to the reader to make it stand out from other similar novels.

I enjoyed reading this book and found it easy to get into. The first half of the book is told from a number of different characters’ points of view and each character’s voice comes across via a slightly different writing style. Some of the sections were partially written to be read with a Scottish accent in your mind, in a style reminiscent of Irvine Welsh. These sections didn’t work so well for me as I found that they didn’t quite live up to Welsh’s well honed talent for capturing the Glaswegian accent on paper.
Some of the characters were more likeable than others. I particularly liked Rosie, but hated her friend Cora. I quite liked having a love/hate relationship with the characters as I found it made hearing their views more interesting for me as a reader.

The second half of the book is dedicated to hearing Clem’s side of the story. This was my favourite half of the book and the character that I felt most invested in. As the reader I could sympathise with Clem as he adjusted to the new culture of his new area and how he was the outsider for being English and being classed as “posh”. I felt that the writer dealt well with Clem’s new relationships and also with the bullying he was experiencing. I think this is a subject which isn’t often dealt with from a boy’s point of view.

One of the things that grated on me slightly about this book was that it was littered with a large number of quite random popular references from the last five years or so with no thought of how relevant they are in modern culture to teenagers today. It is only a small point, but for the sake of the longevity of the book and future readers I would have liked to be able to pin the references down to a specific period in this time of constant change.

All in all an enjoyable read and I have given it 3.5 stars.

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