Friday, 31 July 2015

Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

In a world in which baby girls are no longer born naturally, women are bred in schools, trained in the arts of pleasing men until they are ready for the outside world. At graduation, the most highly rated girls become “companions”, permitted to live with their husbands and breed sons until they are no longer useful.

For the girls left behind, the future – as a concubine or a teacher – is grim.

Best friends Freida and Isabel are sure they’ll be chosen as companions – they are among the most highly rated girls in their year.

But as the intensity of final year takes hold, Isabel does the unthinkable and starts to put on weight...
And then, into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride.

Freida must fight for her future – even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known...

I've been dying to read this for ages, and finally bit the bullet last week. I love dystopians (and am always welcoming recommendations if any of you have ready any good ones) and the concept fascinated me when I read the synopsis.

This is definitely the creepiest book I have read! It is based on beauty ideals, where women, or the eves, are trained daily to become the picture of perfection. For instance, they have a target weight and if they stray they are given kcal buster drugs or, if underweight a program to make them gain weight. Add this to the ranking system, where the eves in each year are ranked, which changes dependent on the perceived beauty of each eve. This breeds a culture of utter bitchiness. All the friendships are so false, and you can hear the fake concern when they're 'worried' about the others make up, or the fake compliments. The person that compared this book to the film 'Mean Girls' was spot on. You can imagine 'The Plastics' fitting right in.

The lead character Freida last year was #3 the previous year, but has recently unable to sleep much, therefore is developing bags under her eys, and in the final year of school before the choosing ceremony begins starts off as #5 and slowly slips down the ranks. She is increasingly stressed with her friendship to Isobel, and trying to keep in with the 'in' crowd. 
The way she acts, sometimes it is hard to tell whether she is only doing it to keep in with the popular eves, or if she is so ingrained in the culture that she is also that way. In the last half or so of this book, I am more convinced on the side she is just trying to fit in so she does well in the rankings and doesn't fall on the bad side of Megan (#1 rank and basically Regina George on steroids). 

She does one thing that just seemed so idiotic and I was screaming in my head at her actions, I completely understand why she did this, but oh my god really?!

This book brings a lot of questions, not just on beauty ideals and the parallels in todays society, but questions about the universe themselves, how human-like are the eves made to be? They seem incredibly human like in most aspects, but if they were human, I think there would be more variety in the personalities. Presumably they have been genetically modified to be this way, which then brings in a whole load of other questions. 

The ending has a good shock, and the last few pages had me pretty much silenced for ages, as I digested what happened. I had heard this book was good, and am ashamed I didn't pick it up earlier. Creepy, thought-provoking and utterly enthralling. 

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Published by: Quercus

Monday, 27 July 2015

Sparkling Stilettos by Jess Wright

Chasing dreams can be tough, even when you run as fast as your bespoke stilettos will take you…

As Megan Winter’s wedding day approaches, her heart flutters with excitement. Dylan Dunkin-Buckshaw is a great catch. Handsome in a sharp, confident kind of way, he's everything she’s ever wanted in a man and a husband. A match made in heaven—right?

With a fledgling shoe design business that’s set to take off, Megan decides to take control of her life and strut her stuff. With the help of loyal friends and a handsome stranger she begins to turn heads and get noticed. She’s hitched her wagon to the stars and she’s planning on enjoying the ride, wearing her best stilettos whilst she does it!

But will she reach those glittering stars? Is there something lurking in the shadows to hold her back? Under all the excitement and sparkle of her new found adventures there seems to be an ominous presence trying to take the shine from her happiness.

This book seemed to be my kind of book from the first time I set eyes on the cover to when I read the words ‘shoe designer’ in the synopsis. The cover is absolutely perfect for the book! It sets the tone as a light read that I absolutely sped through and it’s perfect for reading while enjoying a lovely bubble bath or curling up with a glass of white wine, or maybe a mojito!

The scene of Megan’s office and the bar she frequented after work was set perfectly. You can imagine it would be a lovely place to work and live the city lifestyle.  Reading about her shoe design business was fascinating, and would love a novella that went into more detail about her love of shoes and how she became to be a shoe designer, and well I just want to spend more time imagining gorgeous shoes with glittery soles (Winter Shoe’s trademark, in the same way all Christian Louboutin shoes have red soles).

The characters were also really fun to read.  Megan was easy to relate to. She seemed to be a typical woman in her 20’s and had a great couple of friends in Brendon and Georgie. I think her friends and the support they gave (along with their fun) was the best part of the book.

Now onto ‘Hot Guy’, James was wonderful, and while I understand why Megan freaked out (repeatedly), I was silently begging her to not do that, as James seemed quite a catch! I definitely appreciated the parts of the book that was from his perspective.

This is part of a 3 part series, and you are left hanging at the end of this book, and I for one cannot wait for the next two parts to be published so I can see what happens to Megan.

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Published by: 
Totally Bound Publishing
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review.

Friday, 10 July 2015

The Island Escape by Kerry Fisher

Can one woman’s marriage survive her best friend’s divorce? Veronica Henry meets Erica James in this summer’s must-have read.
Octavia Shelton thought she’d have a different life. One where she travelled the world with an exotic husband and free-spirited children in tow.
Instead she’s married to safe, reliable Jonathan, and her life now consists of packed lunches, school runs and mountains of dirty washing. She’s not unhappy. It’s just that she can barely recognise herself.
So as Octavia watches her best friend’s marriage break up, it gets her thinking. What if life could be different? What if she could escape and rediscover the person she used to be? Escape back to the island she visited years ago? And what if the man she used to love was there waiting for her?

This is the first book I have read by Kerry Fisher and it was so easy to get stuck in, I managed to read it in one day. 'The Island Escape' was not the book I was expecting. Having not read the synopsis since it was delivered to my kindle, I was expecting a book about a few girls escaping on holiday for some sea, sun and sand. However, the island part only took up a small part of the book and only kicked in during the last half of the book, and it focused more on the two main characters lives and relationships in Britain. That said, if you read the synopsis, then you wouldn't be surprised. Will I ever learn my lesson? 

This book alternates the view of Octavia and Roberta, which was really great to read, and you got to know each of them and understand their relationships to eachother and their partners. The opening chapter is so unexpected with where it is set, that it had me hooked from the get go.

Roberta was at times insecure and lovely, but at other times spoilt and infuriating. 
She decides to buy a 3 bed 3 bathroom house for her and her daughter based on her temperamental ex-husband's payments, and her business which she has only just started. The payments from her husband were not legally ordered, and knowing how Scott was, why would she buy a house she couldn't afford without his payments being officially a set amount ordered by courts/some legal system that he can't weasel out of when he's unhappy? Why not buy a smaller 2 bed house that would allow some manoeuvrability in the payments when it's all sorted and allows for some room for her brand new business to grow, then she can upgrade?   I realise she is fully entitled to the money as she helped build the family money, but I'd personally look for some security before taking on a bigger mortgage than needed.
This shows Roberta's personality a lot I feel, she isn't one to worry about money, because she's never really had to, and is often disdainful of Octvia's husband and his penny pinching ways. I don't dislike Roberta, she has gone through a lot, and like most people has good and bad points, but at times I just didn't understand her.

I really felt for Octavia, she seemed to be trying so hard to please everyone but struggling trying to keep up and have some time for her. Her husband was so unsupportive and at times selfish, I don't  know how she put up with it, and it's little wonder what happens later in the book happens. Roberta and her seemed to drift apart towards the middle, Roberta too in love with her new friends, Brenda (despicable) and Nicole (who I quite liked), however towards the end they come through for eachother and it was lovely seeing them reconnect.

I really found this book compulsive reading, eager to find out what was happening next with Kerry’s writing which was inviting and down to earth.I am definitely looking forward to reading future books from her, and really must check out her first book ‘The School Gate Survival Guide’ soon!

Order on Amazon now!

Published by: HarperCollins UK, Avon

Gratefully received from the Publisher for review.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

The Two Of Us by Andy Jones

If you loved One Day and The Rosie Project, you will fall head-over-heels for The Two of Us.

Falling in love is the easy part. What matters most is what happens next...

Fisher and Ivy have been an item for a whole nineteen days. And they just know they are meant to be together. The fact that they know little else about each other is a minor detail. Over the course of twelve months, in which their lives will change forever, Fisher and Ivy discover that falling in love is one thing, but staying there is an entirely different story.

The Two of Us is a charming, honest and heart-breaking novel about life, love, and the importance of taking neither one for granted.

I was so excited about this book, especially after the 'Books and the City' blogger event. I expected an emotional ride with a few twists, and definitely a unique perspective and that is exactly what I got.

It was mentioned that there was a twist early on in the book and I guessed within the first few pages, only because a store was mentioned (just call me Poirot), even though I had guessed it, the reveal was not ruined and this is thanks to what I think is the best thing about this book - Fisher's voice. 
I think I've read only one book before with a solely male perspective, but it was much much lighter in style. This book has a more serious and emotional tone to it, and it is just so heart warming at times. This book is wonderfully written, you really understand and empathise with Fisher. Hearing his self doubt and his emotions about situations was a breath of fresh air.

Now, Ivy. Where do I start? I would say for a lot of the book she just seems really resentful of Fisher, and is just cold towards him for a lot of the book, with the odd moment of sweetness. I found myself constantly wondering what Fisher saw in her, she seemed the complete opposite of him, and not in the romantic 'opposites attract' way.

There is an event near the end of the book which broke my heart. It was so descriptively written, the feelings and thought process was so sad, I really felt their pain.

Despite El's crass and rude at times nature, which is due to his disease, he is one of the characters you would find hard not to love. Every scene with him was just outstanding. There was one moment near the end where I just burst out into tears at something he said, it was so sad, and I was on tenterhooks from the aforementioned tragedy.

While some books can turn out disappointing because of hype, this book is outstanding and deserves all the praise that people bestow upon it.

Released on 21st May 2015
Order on Amazon now!

Published by: Simon and Schuster UK

Gratefully received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

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