Book Reviews

All posts in the Book Reviews category

Blog Tour – The Lost Man by Jane Harper

Published February 9, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Two brothers meet at the border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of outback Queensland, in this stunning new standalone novel from New York Times bestseller Jane Harper

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

Dark, suspenseful, and deeply atmospheric, The Lost Man is the highly anticipated next book from the bestselling and award-winning Jane Harper, author of The Dry and Force of Nature.

What did I think?:

I’ve been so amazingly lucky to be involved with the blog tours for Jane Harper’s first two books in the Aaron Falk series, The Dry and Force Of Nature so I was delighted when Caolinn Douglas contacted me via email and asked me to be part of the tour for Jane’s new book. The Lost Man is a thriller set once again in the author’s home country of Australia but this time, it’s a stand-alone novel that introduces us to brand new characters and once again, an impossibly mysterious situation. In this story, we follow Nathan Bright and his family as they struggle to deal with the discovery of his brother Cameron’s body. As I’ve come to expect with all of Jane’s novels, nothing is quite what it seems and Cameron’s death is much more complex than originally expected.

I was excited to read The Lost Man as a buddy read alongside blogging bestie, Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader and boy, did we have a lot to talk about? This book really got under my skin in the most unexpected manner and the second half of the novel in particular had me on tenterhooks throughout, to the point where I actually had to message Jennifer and just squeak acronyms at her i.e. OMG, OMG!

Jane Harper, author of The Lost Man.

Jane Harper is an absolute wizard at creating atmospheric settings and using the harsh climate of the Australian outback to her advantage in developing a tense, nail-biting narrative that I found it difficult to tear my eyes away from. The seclusion of the area, the isolation of family members and the way that they are forced to interact, communicate and work together as the nearest neighbours are three hours drive away was nothing short of brilliant and I could almost smell the unease in the air. The thought of being in such a remote area where it would be difficult to get prompt help in an emergency is absolutely terrifying to me and the idea of having to be prepared with survival materials every time you take a drive was quite difficult to wrap my head around but completely fascinating and only served to heighten the drama of the situation.

The Australian Outback – road trip anyone?!

Personally, I felt this book was very much a novel of two very different halves. Let me stress that this isn’t a bad thing at all. I found the first half of The Lost Man to be slightly slower in pace. We were introduced to the Bright family, we experienced their confusion at losing their brother/son/husband etc and we began to see bits and pieces of Nathan’s private investigation into uncovering the reasons behind Cameron’s death. At this time, I appreciated the intricate detail that Jane Harper presented us with, allowing the reader to become familiar with the setting and the situation. In fact, I felt as if I was eased into a situation delicately and methodically so by the time I was halfway through, I was entirely comfortable (although obviously intrigued) with what was happening.

Holy Moley, by the second half of the novel does she pull the rug out from under your feet or what?! I was genuinely thrilled by the direction the narrative took, the secrets that were uncovered and the meaningful way in which the reader gets to know each individual personality a bit deeper. Jennifer and I had a lovely chat about halfway through and as with all of our little talks, we tried to analyse the plot and figure out what might be going on, voicing our predictions for the rest of the book. I’m over the moon to announce that we were wrong and I couldn’t be happier telling you that.

I honestly feel that Jane’s literary writing style is almost one of a kind. There’s not many other authors out there that I can think of that manage to create such literary, intelligent work that combines beautiful characterisation with a plot that you can’t help but become heavily invested in. As a result, I simply HAVE to give it nothing less than the full five stars!

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jane Harper is the international bestselling author of The Dry and Force of Nature. Her third book, The Lost Man, will be realised in February 2019.
Jane has won numerous top awards including the Australian Book Industry Awards Book of the Year, the Australian Indie Awards Book of the Year, the CWA Gold Dagger Award for Best Crime Novel, and the British Book Awards Crime and Thriller Book of the Year.
Her books are published in more than 36 territories worldwide, with film rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Bruna Papandrea.
Jane worked as a print journalist for thirteen years both in Australia and the UK, and now lives in Melbourne.

Find Jane on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/556546.Jane_Harper

on her website at: http://janeharper.com.au/

on Twitter at: @janeharperautho

Thank you so much once again to Caolinn Douglas, Grace Vincent and Little Brown UK for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. The Lost Man is published on 7th February 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to The Lost Man on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/39863488-the-lost-man

Link to The Lost Man on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Man-Jane-Harper/dp/1408708213/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549469849&sr=8-1&keywords=the+lost+man+jane+harper

Advertisements

Blog Tour – Dirty Little Secrets by Jo Spain

Published February 7, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Death stalked the Vale.
In every corner, every whisper.
They just didn’t know it yet.

Six neighbours, six secrets, six reasons to want Olive Collins dead.

In the exclusive gated community of Withered Vale, people’s lives appear as perfect as their beautifully manicured lawns. Money, success, privilege – the residents have it all. Life is good.

There’s just one problem.

Olive Collins’ dead body has been rotting inside number four for the last three months. Her neighbours say they’re shocked at the discovery but nobody thought to check on her when she vanished from sight.

The police start to ask questions and the seemingly flawless facade begins to crack. Because, when it comes to Olive’s neighbours, it seems each of them has something to hide, something to lose and everything to gain from her death.

What did I think?:

This review comes with an extra special thank you to the powerhouse that is Quercus Books who drew my attention to this novel when they hosted a Word-Of-Mouth event for bloggers just before Christmas, showcasing the books they were most excited for in 2019. Also, many thanks to Milly Reid for accepting me onto the blog tour this week in order to promote this surprisingly fantastic book. I say surprising as I haven’t actually read any of Jo Spain’s work before and so I went into Dirty Little Secrets with very little expectations at all. I always find the best kinds of books and certainly the ones that stay with you long-term are the ones that come out of nowhere, knock you for six, have you tweeting and raving about them and then automatically recommending it to anyone who will listen. That’s what Dirty Little Secrets was like for me and I’m stupidly excited to share my thoughts with you all today.

Jo Spain, author of Dirty Little Secrets.

So what can I tell you about this book while remaining suitably vague and mysterious? It’s an absolute must read, in my opinion, particularly if you like unreliable narrators, multiple points of view, intriguing and unlikeable characters, a plot that just won’t quit coupled with a remarkably literary and focused writing style. I was genuinely bowled over by how invested I got in this story within such a short space of time and I fully believe this was purely because of the way in which the characters were written. We hear from numerous individuals around the gated community of Withered Vale who are all being interviewed about the police regarding the suspicious death of one of the members of their community, Olive Collins. None of the neighbours are particularly personable, they all appear to have their own little secrets and skeletons in the closet and additionally, each harbours a potential motive for wishing harm on Olive.

I adore a decent psychological thriller, especially one that can keep me on my toes and have me gripped throughout, constantly feeding my curiosity without giving the game away too early. Dirty Little Secrets does all that combined with a unique focus on the characters and their individual stories to whet our appetite as a reader and have us wondering exactly what might be going on here. I loved that literally ANYONE could have had a hand in Olive’s death and it left me scratching my head on numerous occasions wondering how the author was going to wrap it all up. Well, she wraps it up gloriously I assure you and I’m delighted to report that I was left in complete darkness and ignorance until the very end.

Why have I not read any Jo Spain before? How is that even possible that a talented author has been writing books like this and I haven’t even realised?! Her writing came completely out of nowhere, sucked me in and left me truly hungry to go and peruse the rest of her back catalogue. I may have been woefully ignorant of this author in the past but thankfully, that’s no longer the case and I can’t wait to get stuck into more of her work, especially if the brilliance of Dirty Little Secrets is anything to recommend her by.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

AUTHOR INFORMATION

Jo Spain is the author of the Inspector Tom Reynolds series. Her first book, top ten bestseller With Our Blessing, was a finalist in the 2015 Richard and Judy Search for a Bestseller. The Confession her first standalone thriller, was a number one bestseller and translated all over the world.
Jo is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin, a former political advisor in the Irish parliament and former vice-chair of InterTrade Ireland business body.
She now writes novels and screenplays full-time. Her first co-written TV show TAKEN DOWN was broadcast in Ireland in 2018 and bought by international distributors Fremantle.
Jo lives in Dublin with her husband and four young children. In her spare time (she has four children, there is no spare time really) she likes to read. Her favourite authors include Pierre Lemaitre, Jo Nesbo, Liane Moriarty, Fred Vargas and Louise Penny. She also watches TV detective series and was slightly obsessed with The Bridge, Trapped and The Missing.
Jo thinks up her plots on long runs in the woods. Her husband sleeps with one eye open and all her friends have looked at her strangely since she won her publishing deal.

Find Jo on Goodreads at: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14190033.Jo_Spain

on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/JoSpainAuthor/

on Twitter at: @SpainJoanne

Thank you so much once again to Milly Reid and Quercus Books for inviting me to take part in this blog tour, I’ve had a wonderful time doing it. Dirty Little Secrets is published on 7th February 2019 and will be available as a paperback and a digital e-book. If you fancy more information don’t forget to check out the rest of the stops on this blog tour for some amazing reviews!

Link to Dirty Little Secrets on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38120306-dirty-little-secrets

Link to Dirty Little Secrets on Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dirty-Little-Secrets-Jo-Spain/dp/1787474321/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1549467094&sr=8-1&keywords=dirty+little+secrets+jo+spain

The Crimson Petal And The White – Michel Faber

Published February 6, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Sugar, 19, prostitute in Victorian London, yearns for a better life. From brutal brothel-keeper Mrs Castaway, she ascends in society. Affections of self-involved perfume magnate William Rackham soon smells like love. Her social rise attracts preening socialites, drunken journalists, untrustworthy servants, vile guttersnipes, and whores of all kinds.

What did I think?:

I have picked up my laptop to start writing my review of The Crimson Petal And The White and literally just stared at the screen for ten minutes. I’ll tell you the issue – this is one of my all-time favourite books that I read initially before I started blogging and re-read recently (as part of my reading three books at a time thing – one fiction, one non-fiction and one favourite). For some reason, I find reviewing a five star book that I absolutely adored a LOT harder than reviewing a three or four star read or even a book I’ve been a bit more critical of. Does anyone else get this? I mean, there’s only so many adjectives out there in the world that I could possibly use to describe a novel like this and with Crimson Petal? Just all the positive adjectives. Every single one of them.

There’s only one word I can use to describe this story in my opinion (thankfully, that isn’t an adjective haha!) and that’s a masterpiece. This entire narrative is sumptuous, rich, lyrical, gritty and even though the size of the novel might be slightly intimidating, every single page is worth your effort. When I sat down to re-read it, there’s always a worry that I wasn’t going to enjoy it as much this time round but my anxiety was soon squashed as soon as I entered the seedier parts of Victorian London and re-acquainted myself with the fascinating and unforgettable characters that Michel Faber has created.

Michel Faber, author of The Crimson Petal And The White.

Just like the first time I read it, the story of Sugar and the means by which she is raised from squalor by a rich benefactor, William Rackham reverberated with me and has stayed with me weeks after re-reading it. I can only attribute this to the power Michel Faber has not only with his words and creating characters that you want to read about but his mastery in developing a world that reeks of authenticity and is both vibrant and colourful. It might not be a story for everyone – it’s quite sexually graphic at points (it follows a prostitute, what do you expect really?) but at no points did I feel it was ever gratuitous or unnecessary. Every character is brought to life, vividly and expertly by the strength of Faber’s imagination and as I read, I felt like each individual had their own voice and story to tell. They are so well-drawn and so available to the reader that believe me, you want to listen to what they’ve got to say.

Romola Garai and Chris O’Dowd as Sugar and William Rackham in the TV adaptation of The Crimson Petal And The White (also highly recommended).

There are occasional moments of real hideousness in this novel. I mean, quite dark, disturbing instances that require an open mind and knowledge of the fact that times were incredibly hard, especially for those in poverty in 1870’s London. The author is refreshingly honest and exceptionally brutal with his characters’ past, present and futures but for me, it was nothing but brilliant as I could never completely predict where their journey would take them next. With Crimson Petal you get the whole range of humanity from the very low and humble to the excessively rich and arrogant. Watching two such different people collide with the repercussions it has for themselves and people around them was endlessly intriguing.

If the word “epic” means anything to you, it describes everything that is right with this novel from the glorious cast of characters to the difficulties of poverty and additionally, the vast differences between the genders in such a patriarchal society. I re-read this book quite slowly alongside a couple of others as I mentioned and it took me quite a number of months to complete it but to be perfectly honest, I read it deliberately slow because it seems as if every time I pick up this book, I never want it to end.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

Only Human (Themis Files #3) – Sylvain Neuvel (buddy read with Janel from Keeper Of Pages)

Published February 5, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

We always thought the biggest threat to humanity would come from the outside.

We were wrong.

As the human race picks up the pieces of destruction left behind, a new world order emerges. New alliances are formed. Old divisions are strengthened. And, with a power struggle fuelled by the threat of mutually assured destruction, nothing is certain.

At a time when the world’s nations should have been coming together, they have never been more divided.

What did I think?:

I can’t believe I’ve been buddy reading with blogger bestie, Janel from Keeper Of Pages for almost a year now! We’ve read some staggeringly good books and with the final book in The Themis Files, we’ve now completed a series together which gives me a strange sense of achievement. Now that all the three books in the trilogy are completed, I feel quite bereft and not sure what to do with myself and as I’m sure Janel would agree, it’s been quite a journey. Now, reviewing the third and final book in a series was always going to be notoriously difficult and like Janel in her review, I had to delete a portion of the synopsis to avoid potential spoilers.

Sylvain Neuvel, author of Only Human, the third and final book in The Themis Files.

Generally speaking, this series has been a bit like the tornado that hits Kansas in The Wizard Of Oz. It’s been shocking and indeed, devastating at points but there have been moments and particular characters through the series that will remain permanently in my thoughts and that I still continue to muse on and admire for their strength, determination and resilience. In this way, it’s been such a mesmerising reading experience – for specific individuals like Kara and Rose alone and of course, for the structure and writing style of the narrative which is nothing short of brilliance.

I have to admit, it hasn’t always been a stellar reading experience, I have had a few issues with the series as a whole. There’s been dramatic jumps in time that were slightly disconcerting in Sleeping Giants and a slightly disappointing sequel that felt more of a “filler” novel in Waking Gods but I’ll also never forget the unexpected moments, twists that made me want to scream blue murder at the author and overall, the fascinating, imaginative world that he created.

As a science fiction series, I can’t really comment if The Themis Files stands out in the genre as I’m not a huge connaisseur but I think I can say with complete confidence that The Themis Files makes me WANT to read more science fiction. Apart from a couple of exceptions (The Sparrow and The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet), this is a genre that kind of intimidates me and I often don’t feel like it’s going to be my cup of tea. Well, this series has turned that thought completely on its head and now I fully believe if other books in the genre come close to The Themis Files, I could definitely become a convert! Sylvain Neuvel has combined a fantastical, technologically advanced world and an intriguing alien species with a wonderful element of mystery and excitement but much more than that, he has created characters that you really care about, particularly his female leads.

I think Sleeping Giants will always remain my favourite book in the series but to be perfectly honest, Only Human comes a close second. If you’re curious about science fiction and have been a little afraid to give it a try, please trust me when I say that this series has the potential to blow your mind a little bit. Even though this might be the end for The Themis Files, I wait in eager anticipation for what Sylvain Neuvel will do next – his unique way of telling a story and creating personable, memorable characters knows no boundaries and I’ll be one of the first in line to snap up whatever he writes next.

Thank you so much to Janel @ Keeper Of Pages for another excellent buddy read. Check out Janel’s fantastic review of Only Human HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Janel @ Keeper Of Pages 

The Fireman by Joe Hill – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Girls by Emma Cline – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

Waking Gods (Themis Files #2) by Sylvain Neuvel – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

The Three (The Three #1) by Sarah Lotz – check out my review HERE and hers HERE.

 

The Last – Hanna Jameson

Published February 4, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington

Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead

Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm

Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.

Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.

Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.

As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?

What did I think?:

This review comes with an enormous thank you to Viking, an imprint of Penguin Books who were very kind to send me a proof copy of this extraordinary novel in exchange for an honest review. I was actually supposed to attend the launch of this book in Shoreditch, London on Friday night but unfortunately due to some pesky snow affecting the rail network I was unable to get there. From what I’ve heard though, a great night was had and congratulations to the author and publisher on the recent release of this book.

Apart from being an aesthetically pleasing novel with some of the most gorgeous endpapers I think I’ve ever seen, I don’t think any fans of speculative or science fiction (with a remarkably realistic edge) could resist the pull of that glorious synopsis. I certainly couldn’t. Lucky for me the story inside the pages completely matched that stunning outside cover and I was hooked from page one with an endlessly fascinating plot and set of characters.

Hanna Jameson, author of The Last.

The Last is Jameson’s fourth novel after her debut, award-nominated novel, Something You Are and two further novels in the series, Girl Seven and Road Kill and even though I haven’t had the pleasure of exploring these works yet I can tell she is a writer to be reckoned with. The Last immediately pulls you in with its quirky first-person narration in the form of journal entries from historian Jon Keller and ensures you remain gripped with the discovery of a body in a Swiss hotel after a nuclear bombing that has devastated an unknown portion of the world.

It appears to span a mixture of genres from the Agatha Christie like murder mystery to a thrilling, almost dystopian end of the world scenario topped off with a unique, modern twist in terms of style and how the story is presented to the reader. There are a variety of interesting characters to get to grips with and in similarity to another novel I’ve read recently, not a single one of them are reliable or appear completely innocent which only heightens the drama and tension of the narrative.

Switzerland, a beautiful setting for a wonderfully gripping story.

I don’t believe I warmed to a single one of these characters – even Jon, our main protagonist and story-teller. However, I don’t think we were meant to. Each individual we meet within the hotel could have a reason for committing murder and although the reader is never told every single character’s circumstances in intimate detail, we are left with the air of mystery that makes us question whether it in fact, could have been them. I adore unlikeable characters, it’s always fantastic in my opinion to have an emotion connected to a person you’re reading about and if this emotion is a strong one, it’s the bait on the end of the line to keep you reading, desperate to know what’s going to happen with their story.

The scariest thing about this novel? Perhaps that it has the potential to actually happen with the management (or mis-management?) of nuclear weapons around the world at the moment, something I have very strong opinions on. It’s an event not entirely out of the realms of possibility and it really makes you think about how you would cope if you were in the position of being one of the survivors of a nuclear attack. More than that though, I feel the author wrote in a very insightful manner about how certain characteristics and behaviour would be forced to emerge if you were going to survive something like this. I know I certainly couldn’t be as ruthless and emotionless as some of the characters in this novel but it was really interesting to see how people coped, which personalities came to the forefront and how plans were made/roles were developed within a group to make the best of such a horrific situation.

After eager anticipation in waiting to read this novel, I’m delighted to say it didn’t disappoint. It gave me everything I wanted in terms of character, plot development, thrills and chills and unexpected incidents. I’ll certainly be checking out Hanna Jameson’s back catalogue of work and am excited to see what she’ll bring out next.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi (buddy read with Jennifer from Tar Heel Reader)

Published February 3, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

THE NEW YORK TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER
THE SUNDAY TIMES NUMBER ONE BESTSELLER
SHORTLISTED FOR THE WELLCOME BOOK PRIZE 2017

‘Finishing this book and then forgetting about it is simply not an option…Unmissable’ New York Times

At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, the next he was a patient struggling to live.

When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a medical student asking what makes a virtuous and meaningful life into a neurosurgeon working in the core of human identity – the brain – and finally into a patient and a new father.

What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when when life is catastrophically interrupted? What does it mean to have a child as your own life fades away?

Paul Kalanithi died while working on this profoundly moving book, yet his words live on as a guide to us all. When Breath Becomes Air is a life-affirming reflection on facing our mortality and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a gifted writer who became both.

What did I think?:

When Breath Becomes Air is one of those books that I kept hearing great things about and it had been on my nonfiction shelf for much longer than was sensible before I got cross with myself and put it on my Nonfiction November TBR in an effort to ensure it was finally read! Well, thank goodness for buddy reads and Jennifer, a blogger bestie of mine who blogs over at Tar Heel Reader. She too had been desperate to read this book and sent me a message suggesting we should read it together. Of course I jumped at the chance. I count myself so very lucky to be able to buddy read with a quartet of wonderful bloggers and we always have such deep, meaningful and rewarding conversations about our reads that sometimes I wonder whether I should read every single book in my collection with a partner?!

Let’s be completely honest here. When Breath Becomes Air was never going to be an easy read. If you weren’t already aware, the book is a memoir following a respected neurosurgeon’s battle when he is diagnosed with cancer and, devastatingly, he passes away before he has a chance to finish the book. As a reader, you go into it knowing this cold, hard information but strangely enough (even though it’s ludicrous to say as you’re well aware of the ending), you feel a burst of hope throughout that the story might end up having a happy outcome. One of the worst things is reminding yourself that it doesn’t and that whole anticipation of the emotional trauma to come is nothing short of horrific.

Paul Kalanithi, author of When Breath Becomes Air, published posthumously in January 2016.

This wasn’t an absolutely perfect read for me – there were points where Paul is describing his college years that I’m sad to say, dragged slightly but one thing I will take away from this astonishing memoir is how poignant and gut-wrenching his journey was whilst battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer. He had this incredible lust for life and his passion for literature and writing really made me feel warm towards him as an individual. I also appreciated how he talked about his relationship with his wife and about himself as a person. There were flaws, there were issues but his brutal honesty about this made me respect him even more and believe in the authenticity of what he was saying.

When Breath Becomes Air is truly an evocative and heart-breaking read. I admired the determination with which Paul continued with his career despite having such a life-altering diagnosis and how he continued to achieve great things despite being racked with pain as the cancer slowly ravaged his body. I even found myself getting frustrated at times, particularly in the beginning when he suspected something was wrong with him but was too fearful to get it confirmed by another medical professional. Would he have been in a different situation if he had been diagnosed sooner? Probably not, his cancer was particularly invasive and aggressive but the thought of it made my stomach churn.

The most distressing parts of the book personally speaking came right at the end. Paul and his wife Lucy decide to have a child and Paul writes about holding her beside his hospital bed right near the end of his life. It filled me with sadness and despair, realising that that poor little girl would never really know her father although I think it’s wonderful that Lucy is keeping his memory alive in so many ways and that she will always have this book as a testament to her father’s life. Then there was *that* epilogue written by Lucy as Paul was unable to finish the book. Well, I was in bits by this time. I can’t imagine the bravery that it must have taken for her to write what she did and remain so hopeful for herself and her daughter’s future.

This is such an incredibly moving and thought-provoking read that I really believe will stay etched on my memory for years to come. If you’ve been putting it off like I had been, I very much recommend giving it a shot, it’s such an affecting reading experience. Thank you so much to Jennifer for reading it with me and the deep, fascinating conversation that we had – I don’t think I’ll ever forget it.

For Jennifer’s fabulous review, please see her post HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

four-stars_0

Previous buddy reads with Jennifer @ Tar Heel Reader

Elmet by Fiona Mozley – check out my review HERE and her review HERE.

Beth And Chrissi Do Kid-Lit 2019 JANUARY READ – Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume

Published January 31, 2019 by bibliobeth

What’s it all about?:

Margaret Simon, almost twelve, likes long hair, tuna fish, the smell of rain, and things that are pink. She’s just moved from New York City to Farbook, New Jersey, and is anxious to fit in with her new friends—Nancy, Gretchen, and Janie. When they form a secret club to talk about private subjects like boys, bras, and getting their first periods, Margaret is happy to belong.

But none of them can believe Margaret doesn’t have religion, and that she isn’t going to the Y or the Jewish Community Center. What they don’t know is Margaret has her own very special relationship with God. She can talk to God about everything—family, friends, even Moose Freed, her secret crush.

Margaret is funny and real, and her thoughts and feelings are oh-so-relatable—you’ll feel like she’s talking right to you, sharing her secrets with a friend.

What did I think?:

Where on earth do I start with this book? First of all, if you’re new here at bibliobeth hello, welcome and thank you so much for reading! Just to let you know I have two main gods author wise in my reading life. Well, to be fair I do have quite a few but if we’re comparing them to Zeus and Hera of Mount Olympus (the top dogs, for all you non-Greek mythology fans), Stephen King would be my Zeus and Judy Blume would be my Hera.

Chrissi and I read her middle grade book, Tales Of A Fourth Grade Nothing last year for our Kid-Lit 2018 challenge and I had such a delicious nostalgia trip that when the time came to pick our list for this year, I gently persuaded her we should pick another Blume. She didn’t need too much persuasion as she is my beloved sister after all, but I swear I could hear her roll her eyes via text message!

Now, it’s always a worry when you pick a childhood favourite and read it as an adult that it won’t live up to expectations and with Judy Blume, she has her OWN gigantic shoes to fill so I have to admit, I was a little nervous that I wouldn’t love it as much. However, I had nothing to fear, it was such a wonderful trip down memory lane and made me remember everything I originally loved about it as a young adolescent.

Judy Blume, author of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.

Of course, reading this book as an adult was quite a different reading experience in general. When I first read this as an innocent young girl, I identified so strongly with Margaret. During the tumultuous time of puberty when your hormones are going haywire and you perhaps don’t have access to the best or most accurate sex education, Blume and her character Margaret were absolute godsends to me. I learned brand new information that I hadn’t been taught either at school or at home yet and for the most part, I got the desperately needed answers to feed my curiosity about boys, bras and periods.

One of the things that I admire most about Blume as an author though is the way she taps perfectly into the minds of pre-adolescent/adolescent girls, gives them an important voice and reassures them that all the things they are thinking and experiencing are positively normal and nothing to be afraid of. Her honesty and sensitivity in forming a narrative that has spoken to millions of young people across the globe is refreshing and for this reason, she will always remain such a crucial part of my childhood.

Hera, Queen Of The Gods aka Judy Blume??

Re-entering the world of Margaret as an adult was such a strangely rewarding experience, coming back to it with all the adult knowledge and life experience that I now have. At some points it was lovely, other times odd and frankly, a few times embarrassing to remember my teenage self and how I felt about things whilst growing up and becoming a woman. I remember vividly taking on board a certain “exercise” that Margaret and her friends used to do (complete with the infamous rhyme) in desperation that it would take effect and make me grow up that little bit faster! Cringe. Additionally, I also appreciated how Blume explores other avenues in the narrative, like female friendships, the importance of a strong, supportive family and one of the major elements of the story – a crisis of faith. She isn’t afraid as an author to explore those subjects that others might shy away from to give teenagers the answers they crave or indeed, to let them know that it’s okay to be unsure and indecisive about other things.

The fiction of Judy Blume will always have a special place in my heart and I’m sure will prove relevant to generations further down the line than myself who are struggling with difficult issues and want to know they are not unusual or alone. I’m already considering which Blume I can coax Chrissi to put on our list next year? I don’t want to ever get off this nostalgia train!

For Chrissi’s fantastic review, please see her blog HERE.

Would I recommend it?:

But of course!

Star rating (out of 5):

imagesCAF9JG4S

COMING UP IN FEBRUARY ON BETH AND CHRISSI DO KID-LIT: The BFG by Roald Dahl.