Sunday 11 July 2021

Review | After the Rain by Natália Gomes

Published by HQ Young Adult on July 8, 2021

Alice and Jack go to the same school, but other than that they have nothing in common. Jack is social and sporty and loves his marathons, climbing mountains and anything fitness related. Alice is more of an introvert and is happy with her books and her own company. She’s moved away so many times that she no longer even tries to make friends. Jack and Alice couldn’t be more different, except for one day in Leicester Square, they’re in the same place at the same time, at the scene of a bombing. On that day, both their lives change forever, and only hope will see them through.

After the Rain by Natália Gomes is a beautiful and moving young adult novel where true friendship shines through in the aftermath of a terror attack. The bombing sees both Alice and Jack left with health issues – Jack has a serious physical injury and Alice begins to struggle with her mental health, anxious and panicky due to her memories of the attack – the sounds, the weather, the claustrophobia… The way the author merges the story of these two characters, who would have paid no attention to each other before the bombing, was lovely to read and their blossoming friendship is tender and emotional. It had its setbacks, but this simply made it all the more real.

The narrative is set at a fast pace with short chapters alternating between the perspectives of Alice and Jack. The storytelling from both characters was engaging and they were easy people to care for, seeing the trauma they were going through due to a selfish and horrific attack. The book progresses quickly. I do think that at times some of the chapters could have been a bit longer. There were moments in the book that could have been expanded on, and maybe could have progressed a bit slower. However, I do think that the quick pacing gave the book more light, and helped the author to represent mental health and disability in a honest way without it becoming too difficult a read. I read this book in two sittings and found myself still thinking of Alice and Jack when I had finished.

Rather than focus too much on the bombing itself, in After the Rain, Natália Gomes explores the impact an event like this could have on the rest of your life. The author writes with real honesty and somehow manages to make this an uplifting read despite not hiding away from the gritty reality of such a tragic, life-changing attack. Just like the stunning cover image portrays, through friendship there is always hope. I found myself moved by every chapter as Jack and Alice try and come to terms with a future they would not have chosen. As they attempt to face up to their individual feelings of guilt, regret and loss, and learn how to rebuild their lives, this poignant tale shows that whilst life is not perfect, with hope, everything may just turn out okay in the end.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.     

Monday 5 July 2021

Review | The Lies We Tell by Jane Corry

Published by Penguin on June 24, 2021

The Lies We Tell is a truly thought-provoking novel about a mother’s love and the lengths a parent would go to to protect their child. Jane Corry has delivered an interesting novel which had me questioning morals and wondering what I would do if I was one of the characters in this book. I enjoy books with a story that really gets under my skin and this one sure did.

Sarah and Tom tried for a long time to have a baby. After several miscarriages, they finally had a beautiful baby boy, Freddie. Many years later and he is in the teenage phase of keeping secrets, stopping out late and causing his parents plenty of stress and headaches. Whilst Tom struggles to maintain a good relationship with his son, Sarah dotes on Freddie, but when he returns home in the middle of the night with a shocking confession, everything changes for this dysfunctional family.

Story wise, this book was not entirely what I expected. The aftermath of Freddie’s confession comes, mostly, a lot later in the book than I thought it would. Before this, we get a thorough and fascinating insight into Sarah and Tom, how they met and how their relationship has developed up until the day Freddie turns their lives upside down.

Though The Lies We Tell was more of a slowburner as far as the drama was concerned, I found myself hooked from the first few chapters. Sarah and Tom were such an unlikely couple and even though I was dying to learn more about what Freddie had done, I was still invested in the character building. As Jane Corry asks the question of whether a parent should shoulder the blame if their child commits a terrible crime, the insight into the parents here helped develop the tension. As we learn about the upbringings of Sarah and Tom, and the mistakes they have made in their lives, it would be easy to blame them, but would it be fair?

This would definitely make a compelling book club read as it brings up many questions and I’m sure a lot of readers would have different answers as far as what they would do if they were Sarah or Tom. Even Sarah and Tom had completely different ideas about this, and potentially they had regrets about their own stance come the end of the novel.

Whilst I found the first half of this book intriguing, and it did keep me reading, mostly I just wanted to get to the second part. A lot of time is spent on the past – how Sarah and Tom met and the troubles they faced in their relationship. What I really wanted to read about was what Freddie had done, and what his parents would do in the aftermath. I can say it was worth the wait to get there. I loved the second half of the book. It was tense and gripping with lots of twisty reveals that had me engrossed and never quite sure what would happen next.

The Lies We Tell had plenty of depth to it with convincing characterisation and a feeling of unease throughout. Jane Corry looks at the nuances of maintaining a healthy and happy marriage and family, and how trust and loyalty play their part. I would definitely recommend the read and I’m looking forward to reading the other books this author has written.

Review copy provided by the publisher - this was my honest review.    

Thursday 1 July 2021

Review | Someone I Used To Know by Paige Toon

Published by Simon & Schuster on June 24, 2021

Wow. Wow was literally all I could say about Someone I Used To Know for a good few hours after reading it. Like any other Paige Toon book, this one grabbed me from the first page, but there was something so different about this book, something so pure and powerful that had me so emotionally invested in the characters and their lives that I truly felt sad to leave them behind once I’d reached the end.

Someone I Used To Know spans between two timeframes. “Then” – in which Leah, biological daughter of two foster carer parents, becomes close to two troubled boys. George, who is her new foster brother with a hugely personal struggle that causes him to occasionally lash out but mostly to withdraw from those around him. Theo, the new kid at Leah’s school who is picked on for being out of place due to his rich parents usually sending him to a boarding school. He too has his demons.

“Now” – several years later and Leah returns to her old family home back in Yorkshire, only to find she is not the only one who is back. George has also returned, and Leah’s not sure she’s quite ready to face the boy she remembers, the one who had such an impact on her life.

This book had beauty at its core but I don’t mean that it was twee and overly sentimental, I simply mean that there was so much love and compassion and healing within this story that it made my heart full when reading it.

There were two aspects to this book I particularly enjoyed for completely different reasons.

Firstly, the book is set on an alpaca farm and truly this was as lovely as you could imagine. The character and personalities of the alpacas (not something I thought I would be saying) brought joy to the pages of this book and to some of the characters lives and added light to the shade. The author has definitely done her research and I loved getting to know little things about them and the processes of having an alpaca farm.

My favourite part of the book, though, was the insight into foster care. Leah’s parents were fostering several children of different ages and each one of them had their own troubles and their own story. Each one needed the unconditional love and support of people who would, as Leah’s dad would say, take them as they are. I was fascinated by the exploration of the foster care system in this book. Paige Toon really helps the reader feel every emotion here. From the reward of helping a kid find their place in the world, to the heartbreak of having to say goodbye to them as they move on to the next chapter in their life, the outlook on foster care here was real and honest but also so moving.

I have loved every book I have read by this author, but there was something about Someone I Used To Know that for me, made it even more special than the rest. There’s such a warmth to this book as it explores love and family in all its shapes and forms. Classic Paige Toon – she always makes me laugh and cry throughout reading her books. Only this one might take me a bit longer to recover from…

Review copy provided by the blog tour organiser - this was my honest review.    

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