Blood Sisters by Jane Corry | Review

*Trigger Warning: This book includes scenes of self-harm and rape.*

There is nothing more exciting to me than getting stuck into a mystery or a thriller. So, when I read the description of ‘Blood Sisters ‘ by Jane Corry about two sisters, fifteen years on from a horrific accident who are being watched and followed by somebody who is desperate for revenge, I HAD to read it.

The story is split between the perspectives of two sisters, Alison and Kitty. Even before knowing all the details of the accident, it is clear that both women have been deeply affected by it. Kitty suffered severe brain damage and is unable to walk and struggles to communicate as a result. Corry was very respectful in her depiction of Kitty and effectively portrayed the character’s frustration at being unable to communicate what she was thinking to those around her. Corry also did a brilliant job at portraying the way people with disabilities are treated so poorly by society. From relatively minor things such as using a patronising tone to bigger issues such as not trusting people with disabilities to care for children.

Unlike thrillers I have read in the past, ‘Blood Sister’s starts off slowly, very slowly. In fact, it wasn’t until I was over halfway through the book that I felt things were beginning to pick up. I know even thrillers can’t be fast paced all the time and, sometimes, a slower narrative is key to building tension, but in this case, the pacing of the story was unnecessarily slow at times.

To me, neither of the girls were very likeable. Alison in particular, I struggled to empathise with from the very beginning and couldn’t understand a lot of the decisions she made. Whilst I don’t know if this was Corry’s intention, it made certain revelations about Alison and her involvement in the story far less shocking for me personally. Having said that, one of my favourite things about the story was the ambiguity between which sister was ‘good’ and ‘bad’. I think my dislike for both girls really helped play into that.

Some details of the story felt a little inaccurate. Often when reading fiction, I’m able to suspend a certain amount of disbelief (it is made up, after all!) however, some of these things were founded in reality and were so integral to the plot that I found it difficult to overlook. For example, I didn’t understand why prisoners who were clearly very dangerous were being held in an open (and seemingly minimum security) prison. Granted, I’m no expert in the criminal system, so if I am being unfairly critical, please correct me!

It was completely by chance that I stumbled upon this book so I’d not heard of Jane Corry before. After doing a bit of research, I am curious to read her other book ‘My Husband’s Wife’ as I’ve heard brilliant things about it.

Have you read ‘Blood Sisters’? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

*An early copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley, however, all opinions are my own and I am not being paid for this review*

 

Untouchable Classics

In my post about 1984 by George Orwell, I mentioned that I don’t much like reviewing classic novels as I get very nervous about missing important themes or just not ‘getting it’. There seems to be an air of untouchability surrounding classic novels that only the best and most experienced literary scholars are qualified to pass judgement on them.

I follow a lot of bloggers and am always updating my GoodReads page (plug). Whenever I finish a book I read through reviews on GoodReads of all different star ratings. It’s not because I don’t know what to say myself, I’m just interested to see if my views meet up with fellow readers. What I’ve noticed recently, is that reviews on classic novels are almost always rated four or five stars. Those reviews that are rated lower are often met with a barrage of comments about misunderstanding the text. I have to admit, I’ve been guilty of this before. I can remember hearing somebody say they found Pride and Prejudice boring. My instant reaction was to think they clearly hadn’t read it correctly (as if there’s a right and a wrong way to read books!) or they just hadn’t understood what Austen was writing about.

Of course, books are given the title of classics for a reason, literary scholars have deemed it to have exceptional qualities. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone has to enjoy it. It seems so obvious to say – even as I’m writing this post I’m thinking ‘Do I even need to say this?’ – but there still seems to be a certain tradition of judging people who do not enjoy classic books. As though they are not ‘smart enough’ to appreciate them. This attitude is exclusionary and frankly, snobbish. Books are open to everybody – it’s why I love reading so much. Writing is an art form and I think it is widely agreed that art is open to individual interpretation.

Novels can be ‘good literature’ whilst still faults, particularly in regards to the portrayal of minority groups. For example, ‘Jane Eyre’ is my favourite classic yet the way it portrays race is troubling. Of course, these things should be viewed within the context of their time but age should not exempt anyone or anything from fair and honest criticism.

Over the past few years, I have tried several times to read ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get on with it. Something about Bronte’s style and the way most of the speech is written in the Yorkshire dialect puts me off, every time. That’s not to say ‘Wuthering Heights’ is a bad book, far from it! It is often regarded as being one of the greatest novels of all time and it is impossible to ignore the way Bronte’s writing changed the face of British literature, particularly gothic literature. Regardless, I did not enjoy reading it and, as I often say when I feel pressured to finish a book, life is too short to read books you don’t like. Just because I didn’t enjoy a book, doesn’t make it bad, and just because a book is widely regarded a classic, that doesn’t mean that everybody has to like it.

What are your thoughts on the way we treat classics? Let me know what you think in the comments!

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter | Review

Dystopian fiction is a genre I’ve really been enjoying over the last couple of years, so when I read the blurb of ‘The End We Start From’ by Megan Hunter*, I was really excited to get my hands on it. The story follows a woman and her newborn baby, named Z, who are forced to flee London after the city is submerged in flood waters. Often dystopian novels are founded on the concept of a corrupt government so to read an apocalyptic style story focused on a natural disaster was a nice change.

The juxtaposition of a dystopian story being focused on a newborn was an interesting one. Birth and new life are usually used to represent hope and a fresh start and in this instance, we have the opposite effect. Throughout the novel, we see Z grow and develop despite London and the lives of all the characters slowly deteriorating. The woman (whose name is never mentioned) tracks her journey of new motherhood and highlights the worry that now her life has changed in such a drastic way, motherhood is all she has, “It is all I have”.

Each character is referred to by an initial rather than a name. It was unclear whether this was an element of their world or whether it was the narrator’s personal way of referring to everyone. As a technique, it was really effective in showing the anonymity and uniformity of each character in the story. Since fleeing their homes, all the characters have been stripped of their individuality. It was also reflective of the way we view and speak of people who are in similar situations in real life. When we see similar scenes on the TV, of people fleeing their homes due to war, or natural disaster, we reduce them to numbers and fail to see them as individual people. When the baby is born, there is a discussion about what they should be called, a few more traditional names are suggested before the characters settle on Z, as if they know the looming disaster will rob them of any personal identity they have.

What struck me the most about this novella was the paratactic writing style. At times it felt more like reading a poem than a piece of prose. There was very little detail about the characters and their lives before the disaster. However, this is not detrimental to the development of the story in any way apart from feeling a little detached from some of the characters. It allows the story to move along at a good pace without having to dwell on details, the story begins instantly rather than spending half the book on world building and character development.

 

Throughout the book, I kept thinking how interesting it would be to see the story adapted into a play so I was really excited to hear that Benedict Cumberbatch’s company are adapting it into a film!

Have you read The End We Start From? Let me know what you thought in the comments!

*An early copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley, however, all opinions are my own and I am not being paid for this review*

 

The Anything But Books Tag

I’ve seen this tag floating around the BookTube community and thought it might be quite fun to have a go at!

1. Name a cartoon(s) that you love

The Simpsons! I’ve been obsessed with The Simpsons since I was about 8 years old, it used to be a family tradition in my house, we would all watch one episode together before bedtime.

2. What is your favourite song right now?

I cannot believe I’m saying this but I really like Sign of the Times by Harry Styles. Sixteen year old me who thought she was too good for boybands is fuming right now.

3. What could you do for hours (that isn’t reading)?

Netflix.

So. Many. Shows…

4. What is something you love to do that your followers would be surprised by?

I love acting! I’m most comfortable when I’m onstage, pretending to be other people. Sometimes I think I’d like to make a career out of it, but for now, it’s just a hobby.

5. What is your favourite unnecessarily specific thing to learn about?

Whenever I discover a new favourite film or TV show, I look it up on IMDB and read all the ‘behind the scenes trivia’.  I don’t know if that’s interesting or just a really efficient way to waste time. Maybe both?

6. What is something unusual you know how to do?

This isn’t that unusual but I can quote the film School of Rock pretty much word for word. Don’t judge me, it’s a brilliant film.

7. Name something you’ve made in the last year (and show us, if you can)

This painting:

It’s not the best, but it was the first time I drew and painted anything in a while so I was pretty excited about it.

8. What is your most recent personal project?

My first answer would be that I’m writing a novel but seeing as this is the anything but books tag, I’ll say setting up an Etsy store! I’ve been sewing a lot of bunting recently so I was thinking of selling some. Watch this space for more information…

9. Tell us something you think about often (maybe while staring out of windows)

The future. It’s terrifying and exciting in equal measure! I also spend a lot of time dreaming up imaginary scenarios that I KNOW will never happen in real life. It usually involves me winning an Oscar.

10. Give us something that’s your favourite, but make it something oddly specific.

My favourite thing to eat when I get hungry in the middle of the night is cheese and crackers. I know you shouldn’t eat cheese before you sleep but I’d do anything for cheese, to be honest. I just love cheese.

 

This was a really fun tag to do! Feel free to leave your answers in the comments and let me know if there are any other tags I could do – bookish or otherwise!

 

Schedule Shake Up!

Hello!

Just a quick update post this week as I’m supposed to be packing for my weekend away (but let’s be honest, I’m going to leave it ALL to the last mintute…)

You may have noticed a slight change in posting schedule over the past two weeks. I’ve really enjoyed my first couple of months of blogging, but now I’m finding I have more post ideas and book reviews than I can keep up with!

So, from now on, I’ll be posting two blog posts a week, at least, for the foreseeable future. Wednesdays are for posts about particular topics such as representation, or top ten lists. On Sundays, I’ll be posting book reviews. I’m not sure yet whether this will be every Sunday (although I have a lot of interesting books on my TBR at the moment, so there will definitely be a lot to look forward to!). This way, I can post a wider variety of topics and still keep up with the book reviews, which I love writing.

I’m thinking of naming my Sunday posts so they’re easy to distinguish. Maybe Super Sunday, or is that a rubbish name? If you have any suggestions, please let me know in the comments!

Not Working by Lisa Owens | Review

The description of ‘Not Working’ by Lisa Owens * appealed to me as it was about a Claire, who is newly and voluntarily unemployed. The novel follows Claire’s job hunt, the consistent rejections and all the stress that come along with that. As someone who has found myself unemployed for most of my gap year, I was excited to connect with her character and see if our experiences matched up. In the beginning, I felt a strong sense of empathy towards Claire, particularly the way she fixated on the small details in her life and often blew tiny problems way out of proportion.

I also really loved the format of the book. It was split into lots of very short ‘mini-chapters’ within each of the much longer chapters. This is a very different and a really interesting layout to any other book I’ve read before. It felt like we were looking at thirty-second snapshots of Claire’s life which allowed us to learn a lot about her life, relationships and current circumstances without taking up too much of the book.

Unfortunately, this is where my praise for this book ends. Nothing really happens, plotwise. At first, I thought all the little details we’d picked up along the way were building up to one huge plot twist, however, I’m currently 80% of the way through (seriously considering stopping there) and still, nothing has happened. Everything is just plodding along, day after day. Besides a couple of meetings with friends and a very brief spell of employment, nothing particularly exciting has happened. Of course, that is a very accurate representation of real life but, personally, I read books to escape the boredom of real life, not to be reminded of how ordinary my life is!

Only one plot point really springs to mind as bringing any sense of drama which is the so-called argument between her and her Mother. Even then, it was only treated as a secondary plot point rather than the main source of tension. It was also very frustrating reading about the way Claire’s mother dodged her calls and all attempts to make amends for what seemed like months. It seemed very immature.

If you’re looking for a relaxing, true to life story, I’d absolutely recommened this book. That’s just not what I look for when I’m reading, so, unfortunately, this isn’t the book for me.

Have you read ‘Not Working’? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

*An early copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher via NetGalley, however, all opinions are my own and I am not being paid for this review*

April Wrap – Up

Over the past month, I’ve really felt myself picking up the reading pace. It’s good to gain a bit of momentum after a couple of slower months. Although, I need to keep reminding myself that reading is about enjoyment, not keeping a tally.

1. Chocolat by Joanne Harris

This definitely one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read this year, if not ever. Harris’ use of language is captivating, however, the way religion is used and portrayed throughout the novel made me uncomfortable. Throughout the novel, it was made very clear that religion = bad and atheism = good. That’s not to say all religious people are perfect but the distinction between the characters and their roles was very black and white.

 

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The first few weeks of April were so warm, I spent so much time reading in my back garden!

 

2. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon

My favourite read of the month and certainly my favourite YA book for a long time. Read my full review here.

3. The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide

If I’m being honest with you, I picked this book up because it had a cat on the front cover. I know, that’s not the best way to choose which book to read next but I have a great love for cats and just couldn’t help myself. However, this book didn’t live up to my excitement. The novel has been translated from Japenese so there’s a good chance the author’s intention was lost in translation. Or maybe, this just isn’t the book for me. Either way, I ended up marking it as DNF…

 

What have you been reading this month? Let me know in the comments!