Posts Tagged ‘Contemporary fiction’

Two Ticks Tuesday; Am I Normal Yet?

Holly Bourne
All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?

I love Holly’s writing. She deftly manages to combine the struggle of living with a long term condition, and a heartbreaking crisis with loveable characters and snort out loud humour.

Holly’s book deals with friendships and relationships like the older, wiser sister every woman wishes she had had to guide her through her teen years and young adulthood.

Really informative and thought provoking. A gripping first person insight in to OCD.

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Usborne
Publication Date: August 2015
Format: ebook
Pages: 448
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
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Not That Kind of Girl

Siobhan Vivian
Slut or saint? Good friend or bad friend? In control or completely out of it?
Life is about making choices, and Natalie Sterling prides herself on always making the right ones. She’s avoided the jerky guys populating her prep school, always topped honor roll, and is poised to become the first female student council president in years.
If only other girls were as sensible and strong. Like the pack of freshmen yearning to be football players’ playthings. Or her best friend, whose crappy judgment nearly ruined her life.
But being sensible and strong isn’t easy. Not when Natalie nearly gets expelled anyway. Not when her advice hurts more than it helps. Not when a boy she once dismissed becomes the boy she can’t stop thinking about.
The line between good and bad has gone fuzzy, and crossing it could end in disaster . . . or become the best choice she’ll ever make.

Natalie Sterling had always made all the right decisions; she has stayed clear of boys, drama and gossip, all whilst remaining top in her class and playing a key role in the student council. However, as she embarks on her senior year it becomes obvious things aren’t going to plan and a series of events force Natalie to reconsider what it means to be good and what type of girl she really is. We follow Natalie on journey of self-discovery as she encounter issues of sexuality, feminism and what it means to be a “slut”.

When I picked up this book I was expecting a light and fluffy romance but what I got was so much more. The book explored difficult and hugely relevant social issues in a way which retained a light, and at times comical, value. I found the male protagonist to be extremely sweet and most definitely swoon worthy, whilst his relationship with Natalie served to establish how being in a relationship doesn’t make a girl weaker.

The plot was hugely driven by the characters, specifically the supporting roles of which had been skilfully constructed by Siobhan. She has created highly relatable and loveable characters that I found easy to empathise with. However, I found Natalie to be the weakest character, at best slightly irritating and at worst both manipulative and quite one-dimensional. Even so, the plot serves to be hugely compelling and vastly enjoyable.

Siobhan successfully created an evolving and fun plot line, which had me sitting at the edge of my seat from the first to the very last page. However what I found mist enjoying about the story was Siobhan clear voice and narrative that ebbed from every line.

Verdict: Overall, ‘Not that Kind of Girl’ served to be a highly enjoyable and refreshing twist on the typical high school romance. I would recommend it for fans of The DUFF by Kody Keplinger and Burn for Burn by Siobhan Vivian and Jenny Han.

Reviewed by Evie (15)

Publisher: Push
Publication Date: September 2011
Format: Paperback
Pages: 336
Genre: contemporary, feminism
Age: YA
Reviewer: Evie (15)
Source: Own copy
Challenge: British book
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Unboxed

Non Pratt

Unboxed is about four teenagers who come together after several months apart. In previous years, they had put together a time capsule about their best summer with a friend who was dying. Now that their friend has passed, they reunite to open the box.

I went into this book with high expectations. Having heard of many people who had read the book and really enjoyed it, I expected it to be a good read. Fortunately, I am here to report that I really liked the book. It was a short book so I was a little worried that I would not have a chance to fully connect to the characters but I need not have worried at all. All of the characters were well grounded, well thought-out and easy to imagine and like. I especially connected with Alix who is our main protagonist. I loved how you could really get inside her head not only to understand more about her but also to understand more about this small group of teenagers and the lives that they live.

It was wonderful getting to know each of the different characters and this small brief part of their lives. I loved that it felt like you were witnessing something magical as they delved into their past and what it was that essentially brought them all together before tearing them all apart again. It was beautiful in so many ways and the book ends in such a hopeful and bright way that you can’t help but imagine that from now on, these four will not let anything get in the way of their friendship. It’s just such a perfect short but poignant story that I would highly recommend to others.

Verdict:This is essentially a very emotional and magical book that will touch your heart when you least expect it.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Barrington Stoke
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 140
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Own Copy
Challenge: British book
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What’s A Girl Gotta Do?

Holly Bourne
29740718HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:
1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender
2. Don’t call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)
3. Always try to keep it funny
4. Don’t let anything slide. Even when you start to break…
Lottie’s determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other ideas…

What’s a Girl Gotta Do? by Holly Bourne is the third in a series that revolves around three English teenagers – Evie (who of course has the best name!), Amber and Lottie. Each character is relatable and likeable in their own way as is the book that follows each of them. In this much anticipated sequel we follow Lottie as she embarks on a month long project to call out every act of sexism she encounters, with the hopes of enlightening some of her more unaware peers of the ever present issue. We get to see Lottie as she prepares for her looming Cambridge interview, how she handles expectations inflicted by her parents and how she deals with the reverberations of her project throughout the public. Having read and devoured every one of Holly Bourne’s books I had high expectations going into this one and I am pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

The story opens with Lottie experiencing sexual assault on her way to school; this, and an array of other events, trigger Lottie’s project – called the ‘Vagilante’ (!). Lottie, alongside the Feminist Society at her school, highlight everyday acts of sexism, from objectifying movie posters and unreasonable marketing, that ultimately lay the bricks for those much larger and life changing acts of sexism like domestic abuse and rape. Although the topics touched in this novel are very serious Holly Bourne manages to retain humour by creating a multitude of intertwining plot lines alongside witty and sassy dialogue.

Holly Bourne’s energetic and emotive writing style captivates the reader and makes it incredibly easy to submerge yourself in the world of Lottie. What makes this such an enjoyable read is the three dimensional characters Holly creates that you can’t help but love and root for. The author constructs an intricate world of kick-ass feminism, humor and romance that provides a satisfying and quick read that I believe many would find thoroughly enjoyable. The diverse range of topics touched in this novel, the varying emotions and constantly changing pace contributed to a refreshing read that is a must have for young feminists everywhere.

I have only one minor criticism of this book. Having read the other books that follow Evie and Amber I am accustomed to Holly’s use of swoon worthy romance but I have to say the romance in this particular novel didn’t quite do it for me. The main love interest is the handsome yet extremely arrogant cameraman, Will, who – compared to the previous male protagonist, Kyle, in Amber’s installment – was rather disappointing. I felt the relationship was rather rushed and therefore lacked the emotional attachment that I am so used to seeing in Holly’s books. Not only was it sort of ‘insta-lovey’ but at times I felt some of Lottie’s attitudes regarding Will were verging on the hypocritical, but I guess the story redeemed itself in that Lottie on several occasions acknowledged her cognitive dissonance and that the book had such a heavy emphasis on female friendships and the importance of them.

Overall I would defiantly recommend this book and the accompanying installments for anybody looking for a fun and vastly empowering read that is light hearted whilst tackling very many serious and topical issues.

Verdict: After reading all of Holly’s books, I have concluded that this is not my favourite but it is, nevertheless, a strong read full of sass and kick-assery that I would not hesitate to recommend to those above the age of 12 (purely due to mature content).

Reviewed by Evie

Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Publication Date: August 2016
Format: Paperback
Pages: 432
Genre: Contemporary, Feminism
Age: YA
Reviewer: Evie
Source: Own copy
Challenge: British book
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Author Interview: Hemmie Martin

Hemmie Martin
G&G-1Alice Calwin finds herself without purpose in life after the death of her mother, whom she’d been caring for following a stroke. Theo Edwards, a literary journalist, has a sour outlook on life, bolstered by his ongoing divorce, and is feeling the pressure to revitalise his column in the newspaper. They encounter one another at a writers’ retreat in France, but Alice’s shameful past and Theo’s deceptive reasons for being there end up affecting them both in very different ways. When someone finally acknowledges their mistakes, is it ever too late to make amends?

Where did the initial idea for Garlic and Gauloises come from?

I lived in France for six years, which inspired me to write a story located there. But I also needed the loneliness and starkness that can accompany living in London (I lived there too), so I used both locations. I had the vision of a rambling chateaux run by a British couple, who advertised it as a retreat for writers and guest house, hence the writing group taking a vacation there. Alice just developed in my imagination, as did Theo, and the story blossomed from there. I let the characters develop and guide me through the story.

What was your favourite part of writing this book?

I loved developing the cast of characters – they all brought me much joy in so many ways, albeit tinged with a soupcon of sadness. That’s why a writers’ retreat was a dream to write, as I could have a diverse group of people who perhaps would not normally meet, all in one location – rather like a play.

I love writing characters with depths of sadness, and flaws that required overcoming. I’m attracted to the arena of mental health due to my background in forensic mental health nursing, and I like the complexities it can bring to a story.

What is your favourite part of being an author?

Removing myself from reality and immersing myself in a world born from my imagination. I love devising new characters, or developing ones that are part of my crime series. People fascinate me, which is why I’m usually people-watching when out and about. Some people would just call me nosey.

I also love the solitude, although that can be hard to find with a semi-retired husband in the house, and when my daughters return home from university for the holidays.

What made you decide to set this book in France?

After living in the south of France for six years, I have a love and affinity for the country and the people. I lived in Aix-en-Provence and Marseille, although I did visit Bordeaux which I felt was a more fitting setting for the story. I still love France, and was deeply saddened by recent terrorist atrocities.

What is your favourite place in France? (if you’ve ever been!)

Oh tough question, as there are many places I love. Paris offers so many cultural delights, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille were my homes for a few years (between the age of 16 and 21, hence my 18th and 21st birthdays were celebrated in France – oh the memories) However, I will answer your question by saying Juan-les-Pins as it was the first beach I braved sunbathing topless with a female French friend who encouraged me!

Are you writing another book?

I’m currently writing the fifth book in my DI Eva Wednesday crime series. I enjoy writing two genres as I believe it keeps my mind and my writing fresh.

Are you a planner or a panther?

Crime novels take a lot of planning – I use a mind map to keep track of characters and their movements, especially with regards to the crimes that take place. I have to do a lot of research with regards to the method of killing someone – I have a pile of books on poisons and forensic methods next to my bed, and my search history on my laptop is quite eye-opening. My husband believes if he dies suddenly, I would be the first suspect thanks to my reading material and research history!

If you had to describe your book in 140 characters (a tweet) how would you describe it?

Garlic & Gauloises – set in London & France. When someone finally acknowledges their mistakes, is it ever too late to make amends? #women’scontemporaryfiction

Interview questions by Faye
Hemmie MartinHemmie Martin spent most of her professional life as a Community Nurse for people with learning disabilities, a Family Planning Nurse, and a Forensic Mental Health Nurse working with young offenders. She spent six years living in the south of France. She now writes full time.
Hemmie created the DI Wednesday series, featuring DI Eva Wednesday and DS Jacob Lennox, set in and around Cambridge, with fictional villages. There are four books in the series so far. Hemmie has also written a psychological thriller, Attic of the Mind, and two contemporary women’s fiction, The Divine Pumpkin and Garlic & Gauloises. Mental health often features in her novels due to her background of forensic mental health nursing. Hemmie is a member of The Crime Writer’s Association.
You can find out more about Hemmie and her work on her website (here),
Twitter account (here)or
Facebook page (here).

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Little Lies

Liane Moriarty
little liesShe could hear men and women shouting. Angry hollers crashed through the soft humid salty summer night. It was somehow hurtful for Mrs Ponder to hear, as if all that rage was directed at her . . . then she heard the wail of a siren in the distance, at the same time as a woman still inside the building began to scream and scream . . .
When a harmless quiz night ends with an act of shocking violence, the parents of Pirriwee Public School can’t seem to stop their secrets from finally spilling out. Rumours ripple through the small town, as truth and lies blur to muddy the story of what really happened on that fateful night.

What were your initial thoughts of the book?
Having never read anything by Liane Moriarty before, I had little to no expectations of this book except that I knew many people had enjoyed her first book, My Husband’s Secret. So it was mostly just the blurb of this book that attracted me. Thus, I was very glad when this book truly hooked me. It was intense, full of mystery, and had such a moving and compelling storyline to boot! The writing style was easy to read and just really pulled the reader in. It is a book that I truly enjoyed.

What was your favourite aspect of the book?
Without a doubt, my favourite aspect of this book was the style of it and the way that it created tension. At the beginning of the book you find out that a death has occurred. You’re then transported to a few months previously and shown all the small events that led to the final night. Add to that little snippets at the end of most chapters of interviews after the event and you’ll find the tension very high and your curiosity through the roof. After all, you don’t even know who it is, let alone how it happened. I absolutely loved this aspect of the book as it just added something extra.

Who was your favourite character and why?
It is very hard to choose just one as I loved two characters in this book. However, I think my favourite is actually Jane. I think she went through a great journey and transition in this book and I was just so happy for her in the end. Life had thrown her a lot of crap but she finally managed to make it her own again. I did also love Madeline. Her flair was fun to read and follow and I’d love to have her as my friend but I definitely preferred Jane!

Would you recommend this book?
I already have, so yes I would! For me this book was an incredible read. It was full of mystery, suspense, friendship, loyalty, trust, betrayal and transformations. It isn’t just about one thing either. It looks at so many different things and draws them all together so well. It was written beautifully, and was easy to just fall into. If, then, you’re on the lookout for a book like that, you should read Little Lies as I am certain you will not be disappointed!

Summarize this book in one sentence (Verdict)
Little Lies is a beautiful, mesmerizing, and captivating book that will keep you entertained and intrigued from the get-go.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: July 2014
Format: Hardback
Pages: 464
Genre: Mystery, Thriller
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Borrowed
Challenge: None
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Buddy Review: Since You’ve Been Gone

This month Faye and Caroline divulge their deep dark secrets as well as their thoughts on Morgan Matson‘s newest novel, Since You’ve Been Gone.

since you've been goneThe Pre-Sloane Emily didn’t go to parties, she barely talked to guys, she didn’t do anything crazy. Enter Sloane, social tornado and the best kind of best friend—the one who yanks you out of your shell.
But right before what should have been an epic summer, Sloane just… disappears. No note. No calls. No texts. No Sloane. There’s just a random to-do list. On it, thirteen Sloane-selected-definitely-bizarre-tasks that Emily would never try… unless they could lead back to her best friend.
Apple Picking at Night? Okay, easy enough.
Dance until Dawn? Sure. Why not?
Kiss a Stranger? Wait… what?
Getting through Sloane’s list would mean a lot of firsts. But Emily has this whole unexpected summer ahead of her, and the help of Frank Porter (totally unexpected) to check things off. Who knows what she’ll find?
Go Skinny Dipping? Um…

Posted by Caroline and Faye

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: May 2014
Format: Hardback
Pages: 449
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye & Caroline
Source: BEA14
Challenge: None
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Lies Like Love

Louisa Reid
lies like loveLIES
‘There were a few problems . . . bullying . . . a fire . . .’
LIKE’
I think she’s verging on psychosis . . . now she’s lashing out.
‘ LOVE’
She’s got no one else to fight for her.’
Sixteen year-old Audrey just wants to be normal.She’s trying to fit in.But what happens when the person closest to you suffocates you with their love? What happens then?

What were your overall thoughts on the book?
Two agonising years were spent waiting for the release of this book. After devouring Louisa Reid’s debut book, Black Heart Blue, I simply couldn’t wait for the next book written by this talented author. Fortunately, the wait was definitely worth it! Lies Like Love is an extraordinary book that pulled at my heartstrings and tore my soul in half – in the way only an amazing book can! While the style of the book took a little time to get used to, it quickly grew on me and I was reminded of why I was so excited for this book in the first place. I was truly sucked into this story and it stayed with me for days afterwards. (Book hangover!)

What was your favourite aspect of the book?
The rich, deep, raw theme and messages in the story. I like issue books. I like books that are dark but tell you something by not shying away and this book does exactly that. Just like with Black Heart Blue, Louisa Reid has created a book that is meaningful. It holds important messages and will really make you think. I loved how tense the book made me and how I was just able to put the characters firmly into my heart. Needless to say, I cannot wait to see what Louisa will do next!

Who was your favourite character and why?
Audrey! Audrey, Audrey, Audrey, Audrey. Here is a character that is written so realistically, she may as well be real. Honestly, Audrey is not perfect. She has fears, anxieties, worries, and pressures from all over the place. But she also has heart and soul. She has the ability to smile wide, to dance, and be free. But the reason I truly found her to be so amazing is her strength. The strength in her character was mind-blowing. Here is a character who will do everything she can, not just for herself, but also for her loved ones. She was easy to get attached to and I just loved reading about her journey so much.

Would you recommend this book?
100%. Definitely. I know there are some people out there who will dislike this book. Maybe it’ll make them uncomfortable or they simply don’t like reading books like it but I also guarantee that many, many people will love this book. It has heart, it packs a punch, and it is just incredible powerful. So, if you enjoy “issue” books, or if you want a book that is deep, dark, rich and emotional, then you should read Lies Like Love as I am sure you will not be disappointed in it.

Summarize in one sentence. (Verdict)
This is a book that will wrench your heart out and rip your soul apart – in the best possible way. An intense read that simply demands to be read.

Reviewed by Faye

Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: July 2014
Format: Paperback
Pages: 457
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Age: YA
Reviewer: Faye
Source: Netgalley
Challenge: British book
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After the Fall

Charity Norman
after the fallIn the quiet of a New Zealand winter’s night, a rescue helicopter is sent to airlift a five-year-old boy with severe internal injuries. He’s fallen from the upstairs veranda of an isolated farmhouse, and his condition is critical. At first, Finn’s fall looks like a horrible accident; after all, he’s prone to sleepwalking. Only his frantic mother, Martha McNamara, knows how it happened. And she isn’t telling. Not yet. Maybe not ever.
Tragedy isn’t what the McNamara family expected when they moved to New Zealand. For Martha, it was an escape. For her artist husband Kit, it was a dream. For their small twin boys, it was an adventure. For sixteen-year-old Sacha, it was the start of a nightmare.
They end up on the isolated east coast of the North Island, seemingly in the middle of a New Zealand tourism campaign. But their peaceful idyll is soon shattered as the choices Sacha makes lead the family down a path which threatens to destroy them all.
Martha finds herself facing a series of impossible decisions, each with devastating consequences for her family.

This was one of the most gripping stories I have read in a while and I dived into it at any available opportunity. Having bought the book quite a while before I read it, I had completely forgotten what the blurb had to say and for me this made it an even more exciting read as I was torn between the characters and as situations unfolded themselves without expectations about what was going to happen. Now I feel that I can’t talk too much about the plot because my experience of reading it with no fore knowledge is what I would recommend to everyone!

So what I will say is that I really liked Martha. She was a complex character facing increasingly difficult choices in her family life. Having a blended family she struggles between her loyalty to her older daughter and her new husband and twin boys. There are demons hiding in the closet too and as the plot twists and turns Martha struggles to make sense of what is happening to her family and what she can do about it to make things better. She so wants to make everything alright and it is easy to identify with her dilemmas.

I also enjoyed the realism in the story, cutting between the present where Martha is sitting beside a comatose Finn in his hospital bed and the story of how they came to be there, beginning with their move from England. They all seem like a normal family, ok, with a few issues, but really, what family doesn’t have any of those! The task of moving to another country, the other side of the world are covered briefly and the family settle into what seems to be an idyllic new life in New Zealand. The cracks appear slowly, and it takes a while for Martha to realise, and then come to terms with what is really going on. That desire to not want to face reality, to protect others and to believe that the worst is over are all things any parent can identify with.

The descriptions of New Zealand were beautiful and appreciated the way that Charity also wove in characters from a Maori background and used their legends in her story telling.

Verdict: This is a riveting family drama and it left me thinking about it for a long time afterwards.

Reviewed by Helen

Publisher: Allen and Unwin
Publication Date: November 2012
Format: eBook
Pages: 357
Genre: contemporary, suspense, family
Age: Adult
Reviewer: Helen
Source: Own copy
Challenge: None
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Have A Little Faith

Candy Harper

have a little faithBeing fourteen is a minefield: with fashion dilemmas, teacher trauma, embarrassing parents and boy drama, Faith is just hoping to make it through Year Ten without too many disasters. But when she and her best friend Megs sign up to take part in an inter-school choir with the local boys comprehensive, Faith’s life gets even more complicated… just how is she supposed to concentrate on becoming the next Cheryl Cole when she’s trying to understand how teenage boys’ minds work?

My relationship with my book loving friends pretty much revolves around mutual book pushing and promotion. There are the books fellow bloggers recommend, there are those that they rave about, escorting you to the shops or your amazon account to supervise your purchase or if you are lucky (and trusted) they will lend their copy to you. Then there are books, which they adore so much that they buy nine copies, just so that they can give them away and share the adoration (Yes, I’m looking pointedly at you Jim of YA Yeah Yeah fame). Nope? It was a first for me too!

Have A Little Faith came in to my possession (Thank you Jim) at just the right time, feeling under the weather, with a particularly busy home life, I was in the need for something light and uplifting. Told in short diary entries over the course of a school term, it was perfect for dipping in and out of as my schedule allowed. Although if I had had the time there is no doubt that I would have devoured it in a single sitting.

Sniggering and snorting with laughter from the very first page I couldn’t help warming Faith and the cast of supporting characters. Sassy, intelligent and fun, Faith is a girl who believes that gossiping about her TV shows with her friends is as vital as breathing and that at aged thirty her teacher has one foot in the grave! At times obnoxious and superficial she has vulnerability and a genuine affection for those around her, which allows you to forgive her flaws.

For me the thing that stands out the most, aside from the humor, are the fabulous relationships. I loved the dysfunctional-functional family and the supportive friendships. The teasing, one-upmanship and, at times, antagonistic interactions also shone though with feelings of familiarity, warmth and love.

The plot itself is fairly simplistic and predictable and there is minimal character development (thank goodness, as Faith is perfect just as she is!), never the less it is a fantastic, fun read and I look forward to diving in to the sequel.

Verdict: If you don’t read this book you are missing out- just saying ☺

Reviewed by Caroline

Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Publication Date: August 2013
Format: Paperback
Pages: 288
Genre: Contemporary
Age: YA
Reviewer: Caroline
Source: Gifted
Challenge: British book
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