Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Power by Naomi Alderman

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published October 27th 2016 by Viking


In The Power the world is a recognisable place: there's a rich Nigerian kid who larks around the family pool; a foster girl whose religious parents hide their true nature; a local American politician; a tough London girl from a tricky family. But something vital has changed, causing their lives to converge with devastating effect. Teenage girls now have immense physical power - they can cause agonising pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly.

This extraordinary novel by Naomi Alderman, a Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year and Granta Best of British writer, is not only a gripping story of how the world would change if power was in the hands of women but also exposes, with breath-taking daring, our contemporary world.

My Review:

As soon as I read the blurb for this book I was intrigued as to how the author would write it as it's an interesting concept. This is a cleverly written, dark, dystopian world that Naomi has created. The narrative is split between the 'present' and a distant future where two historians are debating a historical novel a man has written which challenges their understanding of the past. In the 'present' the story moves between Roxy, Tunde, Allie and Margot who all experience the sudden change in girls' abilities in different ways. I didn't find any of the characters particularly likeable but they were all very interesting due to their backgrounds, their reactions to the events in the story and the effect they have. The story is counting down to an unknown event, so sometimes months or years are missed which does help to keep the story moving.

I found the book a little slow to start with but then I was engrossed as the story got darker. The author creates some very disturbing scenarios of what could happen if power was flipped from men to women in this way. There are scenes that are uncomfortable and upsetting to read. Nevertheless, this book is a fascinating insight into our society and perceptions of gender roles. For anyone who is wondering, this book certainly doesn't paint a picture of sunshine and roses if women were suddenly more physically powerful than men but it is very cleverly done.

The author has taken a difficult concept and delivered. I've given this 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

A Song for Tomorrow by Alice Peterson

Ebook, 400 pages
Published February 9th 2017 by Simon & Schuster UK


Tom fell in love with Alice the moment he saw her. He realises that being with her will not be easy, but she is a force of nature, a burst of sunlight in his otherwise ordinary world.

Some people might look at Alice and think she has everything, but Alice knows she is not like other women. Her life is complicated, unpredictable, difficult. Alice does not like pity. All she wants to do, has ever wanted to do, is sing.

Alice has been told not to follow her dreams. But when fate has already dealt a tough hand, it’s time to stop listening to everyone else and only follow their hearts.

My Review:

This is a wonderful, moving book about the power of love, friendship and family, and rising above adversity to live your life to the full.

Alice suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, an incurable disease which significantly affects the lives of people living with the condition. Alice is one of these people, she endures hours of physio and takes a lot of medication before being able to start her day, but she doesn't let it stop her from striving to achieve her dream of being a singer. As her condition worsens she is determined to continue despite being put on the transplant list.

The characters really leap off the page; particularly Alice who is passionate, motivated and inspiring. I love the friendship that the author created between Alice and her anti-support group, Alice's family and of course Tom, who loves her.

The narrative moves seamlessly between Alice's point of view, Tom's thoughts and Alice's mother Mary's diary. This brings the story to life even more as you discover what the other characters are going through as well.

I didn't find out until the end of the book that Alice is based on Alice Martineau, who followed her dreams despite all the difficulties she faced. This book was written with the support of her family. You can listen to one of her songs here.

I also know someone who has lived with this disease and who was lucky enough to have a double lung transplant. I had no idea of the daily challenges she faced but she is also inspirational, particularly as she is now an advocate for organ donation, which is something everyone should consider signing up for, you can save someone's life. You can read her story here.

This is an excellent book, I give it 5 out of 5.

The Author:

At the age of eighteen Alice had been awarded a tennis scholarship to America when she experienced pain in her right hand. It was rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and she hasn’t picked up a tennis racket since, a sadness that shall always be with her. The theme of disability features in her fiction, but there is nothing gloomy about Alice or her work. Rather this gives her fiction the added dimension of true poignancy.

Friday, 21 April 2017

Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield

Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 12th 2017 by Electric Monkey (first published June 30th 2016)
With huge thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for sending me a copy of this book for review.


June's life at home with her stepmother and stepsister is a dark one - and a secret one. Not even her father knows about it. She's trapped like a butterfly in a net.

But then she meets Blister, a boy in the woods. And in him, June recognises the tiniest glimmer of hope that perhaps she can find a way to fly far, far away from home and be free. Because every creature in this world deserves their freedom . . . but at what price?

Paper Butterflies is an unforgettable read, perfect for fans of James Dawson, Jandy Nelson, Sarah Crossan and Louise O'Neill.

My Review:

This book is quite simply incredible. I put off writing a review of it the last time I read it and having just re-read it in one sitting I'm still worried I won't do justice to it. I also forgot how much it made me cry, but it had the same effect this time too. Not just a gentle tear, this book had me sobbing...

June's life is incredibly difficult and this book deals with very disturbing issues. It is not for the faint of heart but you can't help but admire June for courage and strength in finding hope in the face of incredible adversity.

This is a beautifully written, heart-breaking book which swaps between 'Before' starting when June is 9 years old, and 'After' at an unspecified point in time with June having conversations trying to deal with what she went through. I can't talk in depth about the issues she deals with without giving too many spoilers away but my heart broke for her as I was reading and just wanted to protect her.

The bright point in June's story is her relationship with Blister and his family who give her a glimpse into a life she has never known. The times they spend together growing up and their relationship is wonderful.

I can't hesitate to give this book 5 out of 5 and I would give it more if I could. I can't wait to read her next book.

The Author:

Before becoming a mum to her three sons, Lisa Heathfield was a secondary school English teacher and loved inspiring teenagers to read.

Lisa Heathfield launched her writing career with SEED in 2015. Published by Egmont it is a stunning YA debut about a life in cult. PAPER BUTTERFLIES is her beautiful and heart-breaking second novel. Her next novel is called FLIGHT OF A STARLING and I will be reviewing it soon.

Lisa lives in Brighton with her family.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

Kindle Edition, 368 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by Penguin
With thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for sending me a copy of this book.


Joni, Trina, Deb and Eden.

Best friends since the first day of school. Best friends, they liked to say, forever.

But now they are in their thirties and real life - husbands, children, work - has got in the way. So, resurrecting their annual trip away, Joni has an idea, something to help them reconnect.

Each woman will write an anonymous letter, sharing with their friends the things that are really going on in their lives.

But as the confessions come tumbling out, Joni starts to feel the certainty of their decades-long friendships slip from her fingers.

Anger. Accusations. Desires. Deceit.

And then she finds another letter. One that was never supposed to be read. A fifth letter. Containing a secret so big that its writer had tried to destroy it. And now Joni is starting to wonder, did she ever really know her friends at all?

My Review:

Wow, so this is an intensely gripping read; I couldn't put it down so I got nothing useful done today!

The story follows Joni and her best friends since high school, Deb, Trina and Eden. They have gone away for a girls' holiday which is something they try to do every year but Joni is worried that they may be growing apart so she has the idea that they write anonymous letters confessing their secrets. This is when things get really interesting. As the secrets emerge and Joni tries to guess who wrote each letter she finds a fifth letter which changes the way she views her friends entirely.

This is a complex story which is cleverly written, with parts of the fifth letter embedded in the story, keeping you guessing who it might be written by. The story is also led by Joni talking to a priest as she tries to work out who wrote the fifth letter. I did find it a little random that she went to a priest for confession to discuss this (as the character is not religious) but it did work well in the story. Nicola Moriarty also used flashbacks and subtle red herrings very effectively. She kept me guessing right to the very end!

The characters were largely likeable despite everything going on and I was invested in their friendship and their history. The author made their interactions very natural and entertaining.

This is a fantastic read and it was made even better by the compelling way the events came to a shocking conclusion.

This gets 5 out of 5 from me and I will definitely be looking to read more books by Nicola.

The Author:

Nicola Moriarty lives in Sydney's north west with her husband and two small daughters. She is the younger sister of bestselling authors Liane Moriarty and Jaclyn Moriarty. In between various career changes, becoming a mum and studying teaching at Macquarie University, she began to write. Now, she can't seem to stop.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Gone: A Girl, a Violin, a Life Unstrung by Min Kym

Published April 6th 2017 by Viking
ISBN 0241263158 (ISBN13: 9780241263150)
With my thanks to Penguin for sending me a copy of this book for review.


'All my life my Stradivarius had been waiting for me, as I had been waiting for her . . .'

At 7 years old Min Kym was a prodigy, the youngest ever pupil at the Purcell School of Music. At 11 she won her first international prize. She worked with many violins, waiting for the day she would play 'the one'. At 21 she found it: a rare 1696 Stradivarius, perfectly suited to her build and temperament. Her career soared. She recorded the Brahms concerto and a world tour was planned.

Then, in a train station café, her violin was stolen. In an instant her world collapsed. She descended into a terrifying limbo land, unable to play another note.

This is Min's extraordinary story - of a young woman staring into the void, wondering who she was, who she had been. It is a story of isolation and dependence, of love, loss and betrayal, and the intense, almost human bond that a musician has with their instrument. Above all it's a story of hope through a journey back to music.

'The hours fell away as I read this spellbinding tale of love, loss and above all devotion to art' - Susan Cain, author of international bestseller Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

My Review

This is a heart-breaking tale of loss. Min Kym tells the tale of how she became a musical prodigy, playing the violin to an exceptionally high standard from a very young age. Her eloquent and moving prose explores her journey of musical progression; sharing the joy she finds in music and exploring her own style until she finally meets the perfect violin for her, the 1696 Stradivarius that is introduced to her at the age of 21. She describes her relationship with the violin and the happy years they had soaring to new heights of success, until it all came crashing down when the violin was stolen.

I have played the flute since I was 7 years old and I hate to imagine how devastated I would be to have it taken from me and I can't claim to have a gift for music like Min Kym does. As I was reading this memoir I was keenly aware of how I would feel if I had suffered that loss and Min Kym carries you closely through the depths of her despair as she was manipulated and encouraged at varying times through the years after her violin was stolen. The violin is more than a simple instrument to Min, it is a part of her which she explains so eloquently that you feel heartbroken for her, particularly as the story progresses.

I was moved and devastated in equal measure and horrified by what Min went through. I am glad that she has regained her voice through this memoir, I wouldn't hesitate to give it 5 out of 5 stars.

The Author

I have placed a link in the image below to Min Kym playing her beloved violin before it was stolen.