Book Review · Reading Challenges

48HBC: Skinny by Donna Cooner and Fracture by Megan Miranda.

I’ve finished reading my first two books for the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I’ve logged 2 hours 25 minutes reading, and have read a total of 560 pages.

Skinny by Donna Cooner. Electric Monkey.
SkinnyEver Davies is fifteen years old and dangerously overweight. She was named for the fairytales her mother loved so much, but feels sure that “happily ever after” was never written for her. Until, one day, she decides to take drastic action. Changing on the outside is one thing – but silencing Skinny is the hardest task of all.

Skinny is the story of Ever, a teenager who is massively overweight and emotionally vulnerable. Ever’s personal demons have taken on a being all of their own, Skinny is the voice inside her head, castigating her and putting into words what she imagines everyone is thinking about her. It’s when the abuse from Skinny gets to fever pitch that Ever takes the decision to have gastric band surgery, every diet and exercise plan she’s tried has failed, this seems like the only option.

The book is well researched, the author herself talks briefly in the acknowledgements at the end of the book about her own experience having gastric band surgery. This book is no endorsement for such major surgery, it tries hard to show it in a balanced way – it isn’t a magic wand, and there are downsides to it along with the benefits. The overall message of the book is positive and supportive, but it keeps away from turning into a fairytale like the ones that are talked about throughout the book.

I found I could really identify with Ever, as times she comes across in quite a challenging manner but I felt she was well created and I could completely understand why she behaved as she did. My favourite character though was Rat, he completely stole my heart.

Fracture by Megan Miranda. Bloomsbury.
FractureBy the time 17-year-old Delaney Maxwell is pulled out of the icy waters of a frozen lake, her heart has stopped beating. She is officially dead. Then Delaney starts breathing… The doctors are mystified. But Delaney knows something is very wrong, even though outwardly she has completely recovered.

Pulled by sensations she can’t control, Delaney now finds herself drawn to the dying. Is her brain predicting death or causing it? Then Delaney meets Troy Varga. Is Troy a kindred spirit who somehow understands her weird and frightening gift? Or are his motives chillingly more sinister…
This was such an interesting read, I don’t know that I could put a label onto it – it fits into so many different categories. At its very essence it’s a book about life and death, about what makes us human and about how we relate to one another. From the opening line “The first time I died, I didn’t see God.” it had me in its grips and I couldn’t read it fast enough (a good choice for this weekend’s challenge).

Delaney doesn’t really understand what’s happening to her. She understands that she fell through the ice, and that she died for 11 minutes. She understands that she shouldn’t have survived, and that she certainly should be as well as she is – she sees the images of her brain scan and how damaged it is. What she doesn’t understand is why shy didn’t die, and why she’s now feeling just that little bit disconnected from the world. This sense of unease and confusion works really well to bring the reader into the book, we’re as confused by what’s going on as she is, and we keep reading to find out the answers she’s looking for.

Meeting Troy and finding out that he too is drawn to the dying, and that he too was in a coma is an interesting development in the plot. I found I was uneasy about him from the very start, the creeping sense of dread his presence caused kept me on the edge of my seat and the conclusion of the story really made me stop and think.

In a similar way to Skinny I found that I liked Delaney but again it was her close friend Decker that I really loved. He provided some much needed stability in the story both for me as the reader and for Delaney.

I’ve discovered that there will be a companion novel / sequel to Vengeance out next year. I’m already looking forward to revisiting these characters.

Reading Challenges

The 48 Hour book Challenge : The Starting Line.

48hbc_new

It’s Saturday morning and time for me to start the 48 Hour Book Challenge. I have a pot of tea brewing, the coffee machine all ready to fill a bit later this morning and snacks ready and waiting.

My to be read bookshelves look like this:

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I also have a pile of newly arrived books to choose from – I’m really looking forward to some great reads. I’m going to blog my progress and reviews after every two books. I’m starting out with Skinny by Donna Cooper and Fracture by Megan Miranda, see you in a few hours with some reviews!

Reading Challenges

Coming Up – The 48 Hour Book Challenge.

48hbc_new

This weekend I am going to be joining in with youth librarians and bloggers worldwide and taking part in the 48 Hour Book Challenge. The rules of the challenge are pretty straightforward:

“The idea is to read and blog for any continuous 48-hour period within the Friday to Monday morning window, starting no sooner then 7:00 a.m. on Friday and ending no later then 7:00 a.m. Monday.”

Originally started by Mother Reader this year’s challenge is being hosted by Ms. Yingling Reads with Abby the Librarian.

I’m really looking forward to this challenge, I’ve being looking at my bookcase that houses my unread books and can’t wait to get stuck in to some of them. I’m a pretty quick reader so I’m hoping to read at least 10 books during my 48 hour stretch. I’ll be blogging my reviews and progress as I go.

There is the option to link the 48 Hour Book Challenge to good causes and I’ve decided to do this. I’m going to be fundraising for the Hypermobility Syndrome Association (HMSA). After years of pain I was finally diagnosed with Joint Hypermobility Syndrome about 3 and a half years ago. It’s a genetic condition that affects the body’s connective tissues, for me it causes weakness and pain in the joints in my arms, legs, hands and feet. HMSA provide support and information about the syndrome. I’ve been helped so much by their services since being diagnosed so I’d love to be able to help them a little too.

If you’d like to sponsor me I would really appreciate it – I’m never going to be able to run marathons or climb mountains, but this is a challenge I can definitely do and hopefully help this charity close to me heart. I’ve set up a fundraising page here – all funds raised go directly to HMSA. Thank you.

Reading Challenges

Transworld Book Group – The Final Book.

By now I should have read and reviewed my final book for the Transworld Book Group reading challenge, but unfortunately things haven’t gone entirely to plan. Out of the four books that I’d chosen the one I was most intrigued by was this fourth book, The Obscure Logic of the Heart by Priya Basil. I’d read and enjoyed her Quick Read book Strangers on the 16:02 so I was looking forward to reading a full length novel by her. And the synopsis sounds great:

An epic Romeo and Juliet for the 21st century

In a bustling London café, Anil, now a famous architect, sits waiting for Lina. It is years since he last laid eyes on her, the love of his life.

Lina is running for the train – punctuality has never been her strength. After all this time she cannot be late to meet Anil.

Together, they think back to tragedies both personal and political, betrayals large and small. A past played out across three continents that house their rival worlds: Sikh and Muslim, wealthy and modest, liberal and orthodox, corrupt and moral….

Lina has one more revelation that must be shared with Anil. Might it unite them once and for all, or has it come too late?

I’ve picked it up a few times and got a few pages in but at the moment it’s just not working for me. I know that it’s nothing to do with the book, I go through phases where I find some books just too dense to get into. So I’m going to do what I know works, leave this to one side for a while and then come back to it. I know I will read it, and based on what little I have managed to read I’m pretty sure I’m going to really enjoy it.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : Teacher, Teacher by Jack Sheffield.

It’s 1977 and Jack Sheffield is appointed headmaster of a small village primary school in North Yorkshire. So begins Jack’s eventful journey through the school year and his attempts to overcome the many problems that face him as a young and inexperienced headmaster.

The many colourful chapters include Ruby the 20 stone caretaker with an acute spelling problem, a secretary who worships Margaret Thatcher, a villager who grows giant carrots, a barmaid/parent who requests sex lessons, and a five-year-old boy whose language is colourful in the extreme. And then there’s also beautiful, bright Beth Henderson, who is irresistibly attractive to the young headmaster…

Warm, funny and nostalgic, Teacher, Teacher is a delightful read that is guaranteed to make you feel better, whatever kind of day you’ve had.

This was my third book for the Transworld Book Group challenge, I was really intrigued by the synopsis and as I want to read a little more non-fiction this semi-autobiographical book seemed like a good step to take.

The book covers a school year, each chapter starts with an entry from the school log book and then proceeds to tell the story behind the entry. Whilst many of these stories are funny and thoroughly entertaining, dotted throughout the book are a few more touching and emotional stories. I found that I enjoyed the amusing stories but it was a couple of the touching stories that I carried on thinking about long after I put the book down.

Jack is a great narrator, and way into this small village, but it is the other characters who really steal the book away. There are both adults and children that delight, it would seem mean to pick out any favourites.

My only slight niggle was that Jack occasionally made comments that felt very modern in both their thinking and the language used. I think though that it is because I previously worked with schools that this grabbed my attention, most readers wouldn’t notice this.

I really enjoyed this book, I know that there are a further four books in the series and I’m sure that with time I’ll be reading them all.

Teacher, Teacher is published in paperback by Corgi in the UK priced £7.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson.

Chelsea Ross knows she’s a great actress. Which is lucky, as she’s just got the toughest role of her life!

Washed up from Hollywood and in serious need of cash, Chelsea jumps at the $10,000 opportunity to act as a ‘carer’ to famous hockey player Mark Bressler, injured after a car crash. After all, how hard can it be to play nice and pick up after an incredibly hot invalid in need of her tender loving care? Just three months of playing nurse and the cash is hers.

But Mark Bressler doesn’t need help. The moody hockey player’s glory days may be over, but he has no intention of letting anyone aid his recovery, least of all the maddeningly cheerful Chelsea. He’s determined to get her to quit – and Mark isn’t the type to give in. But then, neither is Chelsea…

I loved the sound of this book, and the gorgeous purple cover, so it was a very easy pick to make it one of my books for the Transworld Book Group challenge. A book that had a sports slant to it really appealed to me, I’m a huge sports fan but don’t tend to read many books that feature them. When the book arrived I realised that this was the fifth book in the Chinooks series, I started to read hoping that it wouldn’t matter that I hadn’t read the previous books.

It didn’t, the book definitely works as a stand alone, nothing happened in the story that made me feel like I’d missed some important fact. The plot does feel pretty familiar, neither Chelsea or Mark likes each other, but it’s clear there is something between them and they end up in a will they won’t they struggle. I think if the book hadn’t had the ice hockey back drop I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did, this was the part that kept my interest rather than the love story.

Mark begins the book as a pretty obnoxious character, though it is understandable considering his recent accident and the abrupt end of his glittering sports career. Chelsea’s determination and focus proves a good foil to his attempts to get rid of her, and I thought her motivation for doing so is quite interesting. I liked some of the other hockey players we get to see fairly briefly, I can see me being tempted to read the other books in this series to get to see some more of them.

I definitely enjoyed this book, though I think this was mainly to do with the setting and the way it’s written. I would have liked the plot to be a bit more adventurous, but for a fluffy read this did do the job.

Nothing But Trouble is published in paperback by Corgi in the UK priced £5.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.

Book Review · Reading Challenges

Book Review : The Secrets Between Us by Louise Douglas.

A chance encounter: When Sarah meets dark, brooding Alex,she grasps his offer of a new life miles away from her own. They’ve both recently escaped broken relationships, and need to start again. Why not do it together?

A perfect life: But when Sarah gets to the tiny village of Burrington Stoke, something doesn’t add up. Alex’s beautiful wife Genevieve was charming, talented, and adored by all who knew her. And apparently, she and Alex had a successful marriage complete with a gorgeous son, Jamie. Why would Genevieve walk out on her perfect life? And why has no one heard from her since she did so?

A web of lies: Genevieve’s family and all her friends think that Alex knows more about her disappearance than he’s letting on. But Sarah’s fallen in love with him and just knows he couldn’t have anything to hide. Or could he?

As soon as I read the synopsis for The Secrets Between Us I knew it would have to be one of the books I picked for the Transworld Book Group challenge, I hadn’t heard of Louise Douglas but this sounded like a great read with plenty of intrigue and tension. I’m pleased to say I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

The plot is wonderfully twisty – we see everything from Sarah’s point of view, from her first meeting with Alex to her attempts to integrate herself into his life. The plot works really well from this perspective, we as the reader get to form opinions of characters and question their motives and actions in the same way Sarah does. It also means that the mystery of what happened to Genevieve feels very real and very significant, I found myself suspicious of so many characters.

Sarah is a really interesting character, when we first meet her she’s just broken up with her partner after experiencing a huge trauma, and this vulnerability stays with her. I spent a lot of the book feeling worried for her, both that she might be in the same sort of harm Genevieve was and what the effect of her new living situation would be on her.

I found this book really gripping, I got completely swept up in. I loved the way it was written, you never get the sense of knowing completely what’s going on – you’re always waiting for the next twist to pull you off in a new direction. I’ll certainly be looking out for more by Louise Douglas in the future.

The Secrets Between Us is published in paperback by Bantam Press in the UK priced £12.99. Whilst I was provided with a review copy of the book all of the opinions expressed are my own.