Monday, 20 July 2015

Blog Tour for The Last Embrace

I'm so excited to announce that I will be taking part in the blog tour for the release of The Last Embrace by Pam Jenoff. I will be reviewing the book and doing a Q&A with Pam Jenoff which will be posted in early August, so look out for another post then!

Pam Jenoff is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller The Kommandant’s Girl. She was born in Maryland and raised outside Philadelphia. She has a bachelor degree in International Affairs from George Washington University and Masters in History from Jesus College, Cambridge. She has served as a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. State Department in Europe and as the Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army at The Pentagon. I'm looking forward to finding out more about her.

The tour dates are below :)

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Paperback, 223 pages
Published January 2012 by Usborne (first published January 1st 2010)

Blurb: "11-year-old Caitlin has Asperger’s syndrome, and has always had her older brother, Devon, to explain the confusing things around her. But when Devon is killed in a tragic school shooting, Caitlin has to try and make sense of the world without him. With her dad spending most of his time crying in the shower, and her life at school becoming increasingly difficult, it doesn’t seem like things will ever get better again.

A heart-warming story of loss and recovery that won the American National Book Award 2010 – one of the most moving books you’ll ever read."

This was a poignant novel about a girl with Asperger's Syndrome whose brother is killed in a school shooting. Caitlin struggles to understand the people and the world around her. I found it sad watching her father grieve for his son from her perspective, particularly as she cannot easily connect with him. I liked the comparisons with To Kill a Mockingbird and Caitlin's search for closure leading her to finish her brother's project.

I found the scenes with Caitlin in school and with her counsellor really interesting. It can be hard to comprehend that some people cannot read facial expressions and so struggle to react as most people would to certain situations. This book also highlighted to me how often phrases we use without thinking can be very confusing to someone understanding the world in a very literal sense.

However, I nearly gave up on this book early on. As part of the story, Caitlin and her brother Devon are watching the Disney film Bambi (spoiler alert - don't read the rest of this paragraph if you haven't seen Bambi) and talking about Bambi's mother dying. However, the author got the mother's death completely wrong saying that she died in a fire instead of being shot. I'm still annoyed and quite confused as to how this error got through to publication, especially as it would be an easy fact to check regardless of if you have seen the film or not. Did anyone else notice this??

It may seem like a small thing, but that error spoiled my impression of the book, therefore it gets 5 out of 10 from me.

Friday, 17 July 2015

The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby

Paperback, 132 pages
Published June 23rd 1998 by Vintage (first published 1997)
Original title: Le Scaphandre et le Papillon
Translated by Jeremy Leggatt

Blurb: "In 1995, Jean-Dominique Bauby was the editor-in-chief of French Elle, the father of two young childen, a 44-year-old man known and loved for his wit, his style, and his impassioned approach to life. By the end of the year he was also the victim of a rare kind of stroke to the brainstem. After 20 days in a coma, Bauby awoke into a body which had all but stopped working: only his left eye functioned, allowing him to see and, by blinking it, to make clear that his mind was unimpaired. Almost miraculously, he was soon able to express himself in the richest detail: dictating a word at a time, blinking to select each letter as the alphabet was recited to him slowly, over and over again. In the same way, he was able eventually to compose this extraordinary book.

By turns wistful, mischievous, angry, and witty, Bauby bears witness to his determination to live as fully in his mind as he had been able to do in his body. He explains the joy, and deep sadness, of seeing his children and of hearing his aged father's voice on the phone. In magical sequences, he imagines traveling to other places and times and of lying next to the woman he loves. Fed only intravenously, he imagines preparing and tasting the full flavor of delectable dishes. Again and again he returns to an "inexhaustible reservoir of sensations," keeping in touch with himself and the life around him.

Jean-Dominique Bauby died two days after the French publication of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.

This book is a lasting testament to his life."

I have to admit, my first question when I saw the title of this book was "What is a diving bell?" Allow me to show you. Diving bells were used to transport divers to the depths of the ocean. The author, Jean-Dominique Bauby describes his paralysis as "something like a giant invisible diving-bell [holding] his whole body prisoner". Once I saw what it looks like the image was a lot stronger for me, as I imagined the weight of it making his limbs impossible to lift and confining him in place.

This is an incredibly moving memoir. Jean-Dominique transitioned effortlessly (or so it seems while reading) between memories, his day-to-day existence and the escape his mind provided for him. He describes his mental escape from his harsh reality: "when blessed silence returns, I can listen to the butterflies that flutter inside my head".

Jean-Dominique dictated this book with hope but also eloquently depicted his moments of despair and frustration, sometimes with humour. Imagine the frustration of a fly landing on you and not being able to get it off, and the small actions that represent every decision we make; to turn the volume up on the television, to close the curtains, to wash yourself and every other task that most people can do without thinking. The author often writes about food too, as something that he misses tasting and savouring rather than nutrients pumped into him to keep him alive. He also made an observation that while he feels the same, the people who have met him since he was ill, can have little idea of the person he was. The most poignant moments for me were him listening to his very elderly father speaking to him down the phone and not being able to reply and the overwhelming need to hug his son.

I think it's incredible that he wrote this memoir and memorised it before dictating it letter by letter to bring his thoughts to the world. He also set up ALIS (Association du Locked-In Syndrome) to show that his illness was not an obstacle to life. The charity raises money for people with locked-in syndrome to help them to live their daily lives in as much comfort as possible.

I thought this was a beautifully well-written insight into the mind of someone who refused to give up despite all the adversity in his life. 8 out of 10 from me.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Some Kind of Wonderful by Sarah Morgan

Published by Mills & Boon in paperback and eBook - I received a free copy for review :)

Blurb: "Fiery archaeologist Brittany Forrest has stayed away from Puffin Island, Maine, since her relationship with local bad-boy Zach Flynn went bad – a teen romance that was as intense and irresistible as it was destructive. Their ten day marriage may have been brief, but Brittany still carries the emotional scars, however brave and feisty people think she is….

Brittany was happy to lend idyllic Castaway Cottage to her friends when they needed it but a broken arm means she must return from her Crete dig to her Puffin Island home. But her return trip throws up a surprise - Zach is there too. Under the heat of the Maine summer sun, long dormant feelings start to stir and Brittany realises that while she may hate Zachary Flynn, her attraction to him remains just as strong as it was all those years ago.

Will a summer together help two lovers reunite or will their stormy relationship crash onto the rocks of Puffin Island?"

About Sarah Morgan:
Sarah Morgan writes warm contemporary romantic fiction which has gained her fans across the globe. Described as ‘full of sparkle’ by Lovereading, she has been nominated three years in succession for the prestigious RITA© Award from the Romance Writers of America and won the award twice; in 2012 and 2013.
Sarah lives near London with her husband and children, and when she isn’t reading or writing she loves being outdoors, preferably on vacation so she can forget the house needs tidying. Visit Sarah online at, on Facebook at SarahMorgan and on Twitter @SarahMorgan_

My Review:
I wasn't sure before I started how much I would enjoy this book, but I am happy to say that I was pleasantly surprised. It's a great summer read. There's an interesting plot, well-developed characters and it didn't stray into cheesy with the romantic scenes in the novel, which I thought were well-written. It is worth noting that this book is the second in a series, but I haven't read the first one and I had no problems enjoying the story and wasn't left wondering what was going on. It works perfectly as a stand alone novel, although I am tempted to read the first book now (First Time in Forever, Puffin Island #1).

I found that Zach's character in particular was really interesting and I thought the author handled his past really carefully and astutely.

I really enjoyed the tension between Zach and Brittany and seeing how they gradually start to trust one another again. I also loved Brittany's friendship group as their scenes were funny and Brittany's memories of her childhood with her grandmother which sound idyllic and made me nostalgic for summers spent by the seaside with my family. The descriptions of the scenery around Puffin Island make it sound beautiful and I loved the idea of the small community where everyone knows everyone else's business and supports each other through thick and thin.

This is a great, easy read, perfect for by the beach (I finished it in a day) and I would give it 7 out of 10 :)

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Kindle Edition, 320 pages
Published January 22nd 2015 by Walker (first published January 1st 2010)

Blurb: "For fans of John Green, David Levithan and Rainbow Rowell: a beautiful, funny and heartfelt novel about love and forgiveness. Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to centre stage of her own life – and suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two boys. One boy takes Lennie out of her sorrow; the other comforts her in it. But the two can't collide without Lennie's world exploding..."

It's rare that a book can make me laugh and cry in equal measure but this one managed it!

The characters were captivating and the descriptions of the scenery were beautiful. I also enjoyed reading Lennie's poetry which is scattered throughout the book much the way she wrote down her thoughts and memories and then discarded them as a way to release her overwhelming feelings into the world. Having read this on Kindle though, I did find it hard to read some of the poems at times as they are "handwritten" and quite small and faded at times, so I would recommend getting a physical copy of the book.

I sympathised so much for Lennie in her grief, where the shock of her loss has fractured the relationships with those around her. It was frustrating at times to see her family reaching out to her and her inability to respond through her own grief, but I did understand it. I was also intrigued by the story of the girls' mysterious mother.

Lennie certainly makes a lot of mistakes while coming to terms with her loss. I have to say that I didn't like Lennie's strange relationship with Toby (Bailey's boyfriend), but I understand that shock and grief overtake them in a world which feels off its axis. In contrast, I really enjoyed reading about Lennie and Joe's relationship and their shared love of music. I also loved Lennie's nutty friend Sarah, their friendship really leaps off the page.

I enjoyed reading about Lennie's love of music too and her growing acknowledgement that it is something she is really passionate about.

I would give this book 9 out of 10, I loved it!