This is kind of a catch up of reviews from some of the brilliant books I read during my blogging break at the end of last year. Let me know if you've read any of these and what did you think yourself!
The Hit by Melvin Burgess
I've never read much of Melvin Burgess' books before although I have heard some good things about Junk. I was a bit unsure myself about reading The Hit. The blurb and idea of the novel sounds interesting, something I was intrigued to read yet it seemed like the kind of gritty, urban genre novel that I just don't enjoy. However, when I saw this in my local library, I thought it was time to give it a go.
Synopsis: A new drug is out named 'Death'. Everyone is talking about it, many are taking it. It gives you the best feeling, the ultimate high. At the ultimate price. Because you have one week. One week of feeling on the top of the world and then you die.
Adam is tempted. His girlfriend, Lizzie, is on the verge of dumping him, his brother has gone. He thinks he has nothing to lose...but Lizzie shows him otherwise.
Review: One of the things I liked about this book was the gritty, harsh portrayal of England that is so refreshing to see in books that is so rarely seen. It is in interesting concept and something in the rapid evolution of drugs in recent years, that you can imagine happening potentially. This is made realistic as the events of the novel are set in a shadow of revolution and change for the future that are beyond Adam and Lizzie's control. Even though the concept is one is liked for the contemporary feel, at times the action and events within the story seemed far from the realism I was expecting, particularly latterly in the novel making this a book that was ultimately quite hard to read at times. I really disliked Adam and Lizzie and their portrayal was far too stereotypical of how people perceive teenagers. The choices they make are stupid and although in some ways, this may be the point of the book, it just didn't make this book enjoyable at times. However, saying these negatives, I have to admit that I did have that urgency throughout reading to find out what happens in the conclusion for Adam and Lizzie and the ending was a good one. This is an interesting, original book that covers a lot of contemporary and controversial issues in today's society, however, in my opinion it could have been done better.
I give it a 3.5 out of 5
Stay Where You Are & Then Leave by John Boyne
Synopsis: It's four years since Alfie's dad promised he wouldn't fight in the war, and then the following day broke that promise. Alfie has no idea where his father is, making him think he's on a secret mission.
This is until Alfie is shining shoes one morning at King's Cross for a military doctor when he sees his father's name in some dropped papers. Alfie is determined to rescue his father and bring him home finally.
Review: This was one of the last books I read while I was at Waterstones as a proof and wow, it was worth it!
I opened to the first page expecting another version of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas yet set in the shadow of the First World War, something that would make me cry. Yet I was pleasantly surprised! While there is the child narration that characterises Boyne's most famous work, there is an element of mystery and adventure that runs throughout as Alfie tries to find his father.
There is something so powerful about Boyne's writing as he illustrates a world that is vastly different from now. The narration seems so innocent and simple, yet he makes you read between the lines in a way that is incredibly hard to do in some books aimed at children.
A lot of books set in this period normally go two ways: either they are set trenches and show the harsh reality for the soldiers fighting for their country, or they romantise the First World War a little showing those left at home. This book does neither and show a stark portrayal through the eyes of an intelligent, scared young boy and illustrate the true life of those left behind by the soldiers at war. This is a book that leaves you with all this hope and warmth, surprising for a book set in the shadow of war. Yet, there is the shadow of the Second World War looming that Boyne eludes do where, with a quick calculation, many readers will know Alfie will be in his late 20's by then and probably fighting. This is a brilliant book, and I really, really hope that this gets the attention that is deserves.
I give it a 5 out of 5
Debutantes in Love by Cora Harrison
Synopsis: It's 1924 and Poppy and Daisy Derrington leave for London to start their season as debutantes. As they cannot inherit their father's estate, they need to marry for wealth otherwise they will be left penniless. However, money and marriage is not their primary focus when they arrive in London but rather the cinema, music, jazz, parties and gossip that surrounds them while they are there. Trapped in the traditions of their class, the two girls must decide between duty to their family or the flapper lifestyle of the 1920's.
Review: I was a fan of Cora Harrison's Jane Austen series and loved the first book in the Debutantes series. Historical fiction is a favourite of mine, be it serious or not and it's hard to come by historical fiction that doesn't make me want to vomit with details of gore or that is just plainly well written.
As I read in one Goodreads review, Harrison has a knack of taking a book that looks like a fun read full to the brim of historical detail and yes, you do get that. But you also get adventure and chaos mixed with some hilarious moments, and dashes of culture of the time that create a well rounded and constructed book. I loved all those different elements of this book!
This isn't the best historical fiction book I've ever read but it's a lovely, fun read for a lazy afternoon or on holiday when you do not want something too serious! Harrison shows time and time again how brilliant her writing is and I hope there are more books of hers to come in the future.
I give it a 4 out of 5
Debutantes - Cora Harrison
I Was Jane Austen's Best Friend - Cora Harrison
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne