‘The Naughty Girls Book Club’ By Sophie Hart Book Review

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I have never warmed to erotic fiction and I definitely didn’t join in with the fifty shades of grey phenomenon so when I heard that The Naughty Girls Book Club was put in that category, I almost didn’t read it. However, I gave it a chance and it’s proof that you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, I wouldn’t call it an erotica novel at all. It’s a fun chick lit with a cheeky dialogue and sexy scenes, definitely my kind of book.

The story begins with Estelle, who decides to set up a book group in order to bring in more customers for her struggling business Cafe Crumb. As the first book club meeting ends with Estelle suggesting to the other members that they read an erotica novel, she soon realises that it is just what the members need to spice up their lives and her own. The sizzling choice of novels that follow inspire the group of shy suburban readers to shake off their inhibitions and discover a new side to themselves.

After a couple of chapters I was hooked on the story, the plot is fairly simple but the novel is character driven, which is why I could immerse myself in their world. The book was definitely not what I expected and although Sophie Hart was inspired by Fifty Shades of Grey, her novel has reached a pinnacle that E L James could never reach. The novel was well written for a start, it was entertaining, clever and had the right amount of heated moments scattered throughout, the story had a perfect balance of naughty and nice.

I loved that this book was about modern women who want to explore their female sexuality and the main reason why I couldn’t read Fifty Shades was because it was about a man objectifying a woman and I found it difficult to agree with the rest of the world when they called it ‘great literature.’ Sophie Hart’s novel on the other hand is evidence of a true talent to keep a reader turning the page.

I can’t wait for Sophie Hart’s new novel The Beginner’s Guide to the Birds and the Bees which is to be released in September, if it’s anything like The Naughty Girls Book Club, I’m sure I will love it!

Four Stars

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‘Shadowing The Sun’ By Lily Dunn Book Review

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A gripping, dark novel about betrayal, sexuality and the loss of innocence.

Shadowing The Sun has dark beautiful prose, unusual characters and a gripping storyline. Dunn is an excellent writer and I will definitely be reading more of her work.

As an avid reader, I read a lot of books and only a few books leave a lasting impression. I often finish a book, place it back on my shelf and I then read another book, without thinking about it again. Shadowing The Sun was a rare find, after I finished the book, the story and the characters still had a lasting affect. The emotional roller coaster of Sylvie’s story gripped me and I still had a lot of unanswered questions after reading the book.

Shadowing The Sun revealed the terrible consequences of neglecting your children. I was moved by the essence of the story. It was written from the perspective of 12 year old Sylvie. An inquisitive, innocent girl who craved to be loved by her father. The point of view switches from her twelve year old self to present day and it is clear that whatever happened when she was 12 was still having a lasting effect on her present life.

Dunn achieved a perfect balance of naivety and innocence in the tone of the narrator. Sylvie was visiting her father’s commune in Italy for the summer with her brother Sam and her two friends Max and Josie. Whilst she was there her father was neglectful towards her, her father’s friend Jeet abused her trust and Sylvie learnt that things are not always what they seem.

The story showcased the shocking truths of how quickly innocence can be taken and how one summer can affect not only the present but impact the future too. Dunn also captured the feelings of being a teenager perfectly, the story was gripping and sinister at times but also had some light-hearted moments too. What I loved about this book was how Sylvie wasn’t judgemental, which is real to how children actually are.

With beautiful prose, the author created a smooth transition between the flashbacks of Sylvie’s childhood and the demons that affected her in her adult life. At the age of twelve Sylvie was caught in the shadowy space between being a girl and a woman, Sylvie was fascinated by the behaviour of her father’s colourful friends. The men were like predators, circling her, touching her, and constantly commenting on her looks. Sylvie’s vulnerability and innocence shines through very clearly because she doesn’t see that it is wrong for them to treat her this way.

Towards the end of the novel, everything is revealed and we find out that that adults in Sylvie’s life failed her when she needed them the most. They were completely unaware of the terrible things that happened that summer in Italy which explained why as an adult Sylvie found it difficult to trust and love her partner Jack.

We discover that she had chosen a career as a photographer, which is her way of taking control – ‘Now it’s me who’s behind the camera, no-one has to see me. I’m the one taking the picture now.’

Dunn crafts the crescendo of the ending brilliantly – adding in subtle clues and hints throughout the novel. This book really got under my skin and I found it a compelling read, the story and the characters have stayed with me ever since. Shadowing the Sun is a perfect choice for those who love a gripping plot.

Rating – 5/5

‘The Weight Of Silence’ By Heather Gudenkauf Book Review

weightsilenceThe Weight of Silence
By Heather Gudenkauf
MIRA Books (2009)
373 pages

‘A thrilling novel filled with lyrical prose and heart wrenching plot twists.’

RATING – 4.5/5 stars

Seven-year-old Calli Clark is sweet, gentle, a dreamer who suffers from selective mutism brought on by tragedy that pulled her deep into silence as a toddler. Calli’s mother, Antonia, tried to be the best mother she could within the confines of marriage to a mostly absent, often angry husband. Now, though she denies that her husband could be involved in the possible abductions, she fears her decision to stay in her marriage has cost her more than her daughter’s voice. Petra Gregory is Calli’s best friend, her soul mate and her voice. But neither Petra nor Calli has been heard from since their disappearance was discovered. Desperate to find his child, Martin Gregory is forced to confront a side of himself he did not know existed beneath his intellectual, professorial demeanor. Now these families are tied by the question of what happened to their children. And the answer is trapped in the silence of unspoken family secrets.

The Weight of Silence was sitting on the dusty shelf of my nearest charity shop, unloved and used I decided to give it a chance. Judging by the title, the blurb and the image on the front of the book I knew I was in for some heavy content and that’s exactly what I got. The base of the story is about two little girls that are missing, throughout the book you also feel lost, scared and slightly helpless. I think it is the author’s job to create characters that are not just likeable but well rounded. Readers are investing their time into these characters, they need to feel for these characters and I believe that the author was successful in achieving this. I really loved the narrative of this novel, I felt that the best way to tell this story was through each character and it worked perfectly. I was a little skeptical at first when I realized that the novel was built up of small, short character diaries but I don’t usually like that type of narrative but it definitely worked on this occasion. The story is told in alternating viewpoints from Antonia, Martin, Calli, Petra, Deputy Sheriff Louis, and Ben, Calli’s brother. The story has a mysterious aura from start to finish and towards the end of the novel I could feel my heart beating fast, I was right there with the characters (I was that engrossed in the narrative.) The themes of the novel are fear, confusion, guilt and forgiveness. I really liked the fact that the woods is the core of the story, even when the girls are found the author returns to the woods at the end in Calli’s epilogue – which I thought was a nice touch.

Cleverly, the author caught me off guard towards the end of the book. Usually with mystery-based stories that have a whodunit scenario, the reader usually guesses about three quarters of the way through. As a reader, I thought I had it all figured out until I was side-wiped by the real suspect, who was barely a secondary character throughout the novel – very clever indeed! Gudenkauf’s writing style is clear, crisp and concise. The prose is almost lyrical, with plenty of juicy descriptions to enlighten the experience for the reader. Something I did notice was that some of the character views were in third person and some were in first person, although this must have been difficult for the author whilst writing, trying to keep a continuity throughout the novel, it actually worked overall. If there was one minor set back it was the pace during the novel. Sometimes I felt that the story was dragging, then it would speed up and then it would drag again.  Of course I was a happier reader when I was reading the fast paced segments but I also know as a writer myself how important the slow bits are for the story to progress.

Heather Gudenkauf does an amazing job of ratcheting up the suspense in the first chapter and keeping you on the edge of your seat all the way through to the end. I would have read this book in one sitting if I’d had enough time, but unfortunately my day job got in the way of my reading. It’s really a race against time as the families and sheriff try to find the girls. I really loved the sweet relationship between Calli and Petra,  it is very sweet and they definitely have a special connection. Petra met Calli after she’d already gone mute, and still she befriended her. This shows that Gudenkauf doesn’t just scratch the surface with her characters, she creates profound characters that have multiple layers to their personalities. A nice touch to the story is the moral that Petra saved Calli from obscurity by being her voice and in return Calli found Petra just in time.

One of my favourite passages in the novel was in the Epilogue at the end, narrated in first person by the main character Calli, it’s six year later and she reflects back. She talks about ‘finding’ her voice again. I think the imagery is especially strong on this passage:

I have never thought of it as ‘finding’ my voice because it wasn’t really lost. It was more like a bottle with a cork pushed deeply into the opening. I picture it that way often, my voice like some sweet-smelling perfume, sitting in some expensive-looking bottle with a beautifully curved handle, tall and slender, made of glass as blue as the bodies of the dragonflies I see down in Willow Creek Woods. My voice was just waiting for the right moment to be let go from that bottle. No, it was never lost; I just needed permission to use it again. It took me such a long time to figure out that I was the only one who could grant that permission, no one else. I wish my mother would understand this. She still blames herself for everything, and isn’t that a heavy weight to carry around?

The Weight Of Silence has been my favourite book this year, so far. An enthralling page-turner with characters that you can’t help but sympathise with. Beautiful lyrical prose and a satisfying ending – what more could a reader want!

Life Of Pi – Yann Martel – Book Review

I have to say that I am disappointed after reading Life of Pi. My university lecturer recommended this book to our class and since its cinema release was so popular, I thought it would be an amazing read. I haven’t seen the film because I prefer to read the book first and create my own interpretation before watching the film.

The story is about a young Indian boy who is a castaway in the Pacific ocean. Hungry to survive he has to do whatever it takes, including avoiding the 450-pound Bengal tiger named Richard Parker on board. The story is in three parts, the first is about his family, his background and his love for the animals at the zoo. The first part is also based around religion. The second part is the Pacific ocean and his struggle to survive and the very last part is about how no one believes his astonishing story.

I think the first part was very descriptive and I love the imagery that the author paints when Pi is describing the zoo that he lives in. It was a little tedious at times because I found myself wanting to skip it all to the actual adventure. The author doesn’t fail with language, he uses an excellent tone throughout the novel but I feel that he lets the reader down with his plot. I feel like it could have been a little stronger.

At some point, I think I was half way through, I put the book down and couldn’t be bothered to read the rest. I had to ‘make’ myself finish it. I don’t like doing this because then reading becomes a chore and not a pleasure. The ending also confused me. When Pi is telling his story to the two men at the end, he gives them another story – something completely different to the one we have just been told and he asks them ‘Which story do you prefer?’ Leading up to that sentence I was confused and as a reader a little fed up. I just wanted to rush the book and finish it. I also found myself skipping paragraphs because the author rambles on a little bit too much. Now I have read it. I wonder if I should have watched the film first. With it being such a visual book, I would have hoped that the film could shed some light on the grey areas that I found hard to understand.

Overall, I give the book three stars and that is me being generous. It would have been two but because of the complexity of the language, I cannot fault the author on that, I gave it three. I do recommend this book to someone who has the attention span to really get to root of the story but for me it is just a book that will gather dust on my bookshelf and I doubt that I will pick it up and read it again.

Rating – 3 stars

‘The Hunger Games’ Book Review

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The Hunger Games is the latest phenonmenon at the moment and I was keen to join the craze. The book is the number one best seller in the shops at the moment and it really doesn’t surprise me. The book is a wonderful adventure from start to finish. I couldn’t put the book down and read it in just two days. The main story is about a young girl Katniss Everdeen who volunteers to be the tribute from District 12 in the country of Panem when her little sister Prim unfortunatley gets selected. She knows in that moment that she has to take part in the 74th Hunger Games against 23 other tributes to fight to the death.

I don’t usually like science fiction but with all the hype around the books I had to see for myself what the book was like. Filled with love, heartache, death and revenge The Hunger Games is brilliantly plotted and perfectly paced with constant suspense throughout the entire novel.  I felt emotionally attached to the characters, I found the plot easy to follow and by the end of the first book I was itching to get the second in the trilogy. The book definitely exceeded my expectations and it’s a book that I will read over and over again. With a proud place on my book shelf this was my favourite book of the year so far.

Society has already predicted a big success with The Hunger Games and is hoping for another craze like the Harry Potter phenomenon. I know it has the potential to do just that! The film was almost identical to the book too, it’s sometimes hard to get the two so similar but I feel this was achieved. It’s certainly a book to remember and I give it a five star rating! Go and buy this book and I know you will not regret it. Let the games begin!

‘Norwegian Wood’ Book Review

When I first looked at this book, I assumed that the book was going to be dark and depressive by looking at the front cover. I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I didn’t expect the romance, the humor and the different turns of events that occured in the plot. The story focuses on loss and sexuality, first loves and letting go.

The story follows the protagonist Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a college student living in Tokyo. Through Toru’s reminiscences we see the development of his relationships. The two very different women in his life are Naoko and Midori. I noticed that the relationships he had with them were very unusual.

Also, I noticed that Murakami isn’t afraid to express the emotions and feelings through these characters that other authors wouldn’t necessarily approach. His language and use of narration is simply outstanding. I was thoroughly engaged in this story all the way through and I couldn’t wait to turn over the page and see what happened next.

I have to say this is one of my favourite reads of the year so far! It’s challenging to read at times but the narrator always had you in the palm of their hand. I also researched this author and found out that there is a Japanese film adaptation of this book but lacks the same empathy and structure. If you want to read a brilliantly written novel with lots of surprises then this is the book for you. I fully enjoyed reading this book and would definitely read it again!

I give it 5 stars!

‘The Lucky One’ Nicholas Sparks Book Review

The second I finished The Lucky One I knew that Nicholas Sparks had created the perfect romantic story again. I have to admit I have a big addiction to romance novels like these… Stories that can pluck at your heart strings and bring tears to your eyes.  The Lucky one wasn’t the saddest of the Sparks collection of books, the ending did create the illusion of a bad ending at first though (If you read the book you will know what I mean by that).

I’ve read a lot of books by Nicholas Sparks and while it was not his best book I did enjoy it, as I always do. Once you get into the plot it is hard to put the book down. Sparks has the ability to keep the reader intrigued and emotionally attached to the diverse characters. We all want to see these character happy and together. However, The Lucky One was very predicable from the beginning.

I don’t know if it’s because I read a lot of romance novels and the couple always gets together at the end but I knew what was going to happen from the beginning. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, can you really have a love story without the typical cliche ending? The basic love story, boy meets girl and they fall in love with some twists and complications. I have yet to get sick of these romance novels because I enjoy reading them.

I really liked the character Keith Clayton in this novel, he wasn’t the typical antagonist. He was the main character Elizabeth’s ex husband and one of the narrators to the story. The novel was separated into different narrators, this portrayed the different points of views of the characters and I really liked this about this particular novel. Clayton is a very complicated character that the reader starts to hate as the story progresses. Sparks always has a balance of good and bad characters but in The Lucky one I feel he created a bigger contrast with the character Clayton.

I asked for a Nicholas Sparks book for Christmas and gave my family a big list and they chose at random. Weird how they chose The Lucky one. I saw the trailer for the film adaptation a few days after I reached the middle of the book. I will go and see the film but the expectation is always low because the book is always better in my opinion. The Lucky One is coming out on April 20th.

However, I would recommend reading the book first to avoid disappointment. Nicholas Sparks never fails to make you smile, cry and gasp with surprise. Sometimes you just need a feel good novel, if you enjoy reading romantic novels then Sparks if for you. I do think that some of his other novels are better, The Notebook, The Last Song and A Walk to remember are my personal favourites but I would still recommend The Lucky one.