Wednesday, 27 August 2014

This Song Will Save Your Life - Leila Sales


Making friends has never been Elise Dembowski’s strong suit. All throughout her life, she’s been the butt of every joke and the outsider in every conversation. When a final attempt at popularity fails, Elise nearly gives up. Then she stumbles upon a warehouse party where she meets Vicky, a girl in a band who accepts her; Char, a cute, yet mysterious disc jockey; Pippa, a carefree spirit from England; and most importantly, a love for DJing.


Before I start I’d just like to say that this is a wonderful little book that you should definitely read , so if that’s the only recommendation you need then there is no need to read the rest of the review. If not, please carry on.

I picked up This Song Will Save Your Life randomly at the library purely because I liked the look of the cover, and the blurb looked vaguely interesting. I know that this is a habit I really need to break, but maybe it’s not that bad if it lead me to this fantastic book!

Elise, our protagonist, is definitely a character that a lot of readers will relate to, if only a little bit. She has a very strong voice and Sales easy to read writing style made Elise's story fly off the page. Elise is not only bullied, but seems to be completely ostricised by her peers. We are never really given a proper reason as to why Elise is bullied and excluded, which leads me to believe that there wasn’t a proper reason at all. Elise your typical I’m-just-doin’-me heroine, which I have absolutely no problem with, but that’s just how I would describe her. Elise may be different but only slightly different. I’ve seen a lot of these kind of people over the years, people who are just different enough not to fit in, to be pushed to the fringes. The other kids actively exclude Elise for no particular reason. This is probably the most accurate depiction of bullying of ever read. Normally kids who are bullied in novels are told that their tormentors are jealous or under-confident, and many other reasons, but in real life this rarely rings true. Some people are bullied simply because children, and people in general, can be very cruel.

However, Elise is by no means perfect. She is hell bent to criticise everyone and anyone she doesn’t get on with, and hates almost everything mainstream, music, fashion etc. Years of being bullied has put Elise on edge and sets her against almost everyone, even the people who care about her. Ironically enough, she spends a lot of time complaining about not being popular, and then criticises others for not reaching her standards hipster coolness. I cut Elise a bit of slack, because despite how judgemental she can be, she pales in comparison to how cruel some of her peers can be.

Sales also deals with the undefinable, un-understandable concept of popularity. Elise, who is quite pedantic, spends a lot of her time trying to figure out the rules to being popular, before figuring out that there are none. Sales expertly conveys popularity as a fluid, incomprehensible concept that we’ll never really fully understand. No one can put their finger on what makes one person popular and the other not, and Sales doesn’t provide any new insights. She even suggests the idea that popularity is what makes people mean, and once you remove that we’re just fine.

If you are a music fan, which you probably are if you’re reading a book called This Song Will Save Your Life, this is a fantastic book for you. The music plays a huge part in the narrative of the novel and gives us an insight into the characters and the atmosphere of the novel. It reminded me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in that way. In my copy there was a list of songs in the back so I could look up the ones I didn’t already know.

This Song Will Save Your Life also has some unusual relationships. The contrast between Elises friendships with Vicky, Pippa, Sally, Chava, Harry and Amelia shows that friendships can come in many different forms, are never straight forward,  and just because someone isn’t your soulmate doesn’t mean you can’t be friends. Elise’s relationship with her little sister Alex is also extremely important to the story and one of my favourite parts in the book, showing me that we can sometimes be very misguided in doing what we think is best for the people we love. Elise’s relationship with Char is also very interesting. To me it was the opposite of the annoying teenage relationships found in most YA novels, and with this relationship Sales embraces all the holes that can be found in fictional young love. None of these relationships are cliched or over done, and I applaud Sales for her originality.

Overall I really excellent book, perfect for teenagers of all ages. I would really recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary young adult fiction.
Four Stars ****

Sunday, 24 August 2014

COMING SOON - Books I Can't Wait For

Vivian Versus America- Katie Coyle : I am beyond excited about the new Vivian Apple book due out the 4th of September 2014. It can't come fast enough. The first book was beyond beautiful and Viviann and Harp are my new heroes. I will get my hands on this book as soon as is humanly possible! I am absolutely loving the cover by the way. And the title, well, talk about controversial....

Echoes of Us- Kat Zhang : I just read What's Left of Me  and am currently on the hunt for a copy of Once We Were, (Side note, they're fantastic titles aren't they), but just because I'm not completely up to date with the series doesn't mean I'm not super looking forward to the final ( I think?) book in this series. God bless trilogies, God bless them one and all. Echoes of Us is out September 16th. Yay!!
Here's the link to my review of What's Left of Me.

The Children Act - Ian McEwan: Being perfectly honest , I know nothing by about this book. Except that it's written by Ian McEwan. Whom I love, so that's enough for me. Can't wait to pick up a copy. Due out September 9th 2014.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Out of the Easy - Ruta Sepetys


It’s 1950, and as the French Quarter of New Orleans simmers with secrets, seventeen-year-old Josie Moraine is silently stirring a pot of her own. Known among locals as the daughter of a brothel prostitute, Josie wants more out of life than the Big Easy has to offer. 

She devises a plan get out, but a mysterious death in the Quarter leaves Josie tangled in an investigation that will challenge her allegiance to her mother, her conscience, and Willie Woodley, the brusque madam on Conti Street. Josie is caught between the dream of an elite college and a clandestine underworld. New Orleans lures her in her quest for truth, dangling temptation at every turn, and escalating to the ultimate test


Out of the Easy was probably one of the best books I have read in a long time. The minute I finished it, I immediately regretted the time I took Between Shades of Gray out of the library and returned it unread. Because Sepetys is a fantastic writer. A really really fantastic writer and I plan to read anything at all that woman writes, even the untitled book on goodreads that I know absolutely nothing about.

Out of the Easy may be set in New Orleans in the 1950’s , but it doesn’t feel like historical fiction. Out of the Easy is a story that happens to take place in the past, though it isn’t completely defined by it. After reading this book I’ve decided that the world needs more books that are set in New Orleans in the 1950’s.  I’ve been reading so many trilogies and series recently that when I finished this book, I just expected that there would be another one. But there isn’t , as far as I know, and this fact broke my heart a little. If there was any book I would want a sequel for, this is the one. Sepetys left me with so many questions, I want to find out what happened to so many characters, especially Josie.

Speaking of Josie, she is without doubt a worthy heroine. Josie is the daughter of a prostitute, she lives in a world of vice and immorality, and wants desperately to leave. She is fiercely independent and strong willed. Josie feels overwhelmingly uncomfortable in the world she lives in, and even though it would be easier to sink to everyone elses level of corruption, she shows her strength and stands up for what she believes in, no matter how tough things get. Josie always holds her own, despite being pushed by nearly everyone around her.

Josie isn’t the only interesting character in the book. Her mother, Louise, has to be one of the most despicable characters I’ve come across in a long time. She is a horrendous mother, and I’ll leave you to find out why. Though Josie seems to live in a morally corrupt world, she seems to surround herself with ( for the most part) good people. Willie, the brothel owner, was an especially interesting character. She is a strikingly strong woman, and even though she is involved in something as shady as prostitution, she still tries her best to support and care for those she loves, and retains her own moral code.

Another interesting aspect of the novel was the prejudice and hypocrisy that Josie encounters throughout the narrative. Most people who meet Josie look down on her because she is the daughter of a prostitute, and spends a lot of her time in the brothel. All of her classmates, bar Jesse , mock her because of her home life. Charlotte’s uncle, Mr. a-name-I-can’t-remember ( I gave the book back to the library), looks at Josie like she’s something nasty stuck to the bottom of his shoe, even though he himself employs prostitutes. Sepetys also centres on the theme of ( hmm.. how do I put this) self betterment, maybe. She uses David Copperfield, to do this. Josie, like Copperfield, wants to improve her situation and make a better future for herself than the one her mother provided for her.

This novel is one of the best I’ve read in a very long time, and in me Sepetys has found a new fan.  This may be historical fiction, but Josie’s story transcends time and becomes a book that Just happens to be set in the past. I would highly recommend this to anyone who like YA fiction.
Five Stars *****

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

A Possible Life - Sebastian Faulks


In Second World War Poland, a young prisoner closes his eyes and pictures going to bat on a sunlit English cricket ground.

Across the yard of a Victorian poorhouse, a man is too ashamed to acknowledge the son he gave away.

In a 19th-century French village, an old servant understands—suddenly and with awe—the meaning of the Bible story her master is reading to her.

On a summer evening in the Catskills in 1971, a skinny girl steps out of a Chevy with a guitar and with a song that will send shivers through her listeners' skulls.

A few years from now, in Italy, a gifted scientist discovers links between time and the human brain and between her lover's novel and his life.

Throughout the five masterpieces of fiction that make up A Possible Life, exquisitely drawn and unforgettable characters risk their bodies, hearts and minds in pursuit of the manna of human connection. Between soldier and lover, parent and child, servant and master, and artist and muse, important pleasures and pains are born of love, separations and missed opportunities. These interactions—whether successful or not—also affect the long trajectories of characters' lives.


A Possible Life is the second book of Faulkes’ that I have read, the other being Birdsong, and it cemented the idea in me that, disregarding of content, his books are flawlessly written. His writing seems to effortlessly tread the line between ornate and easy to read. In this book, Faulkes does not use language simply for it’s own sake, but as a method of fluidly conveying his stories.

Before I go any further , I would like to point out that this is a book of five short stories. It is not a novel, which is what I presumed it to be, me and the rest of the world it seems. So if you don’t like short stories, don’t read it. Or maybe do. I am usually not a fan of the short story, maybe it was all those horrendous essays they made us read and write at school, but after a while I began to shiver at the sight of a short story. But after buying the book I thought I’d give it a lash, and I really enjoyed it. While they could be read separately, all five stories follow the same theme so you might as well read them in one go.

There are no dud stories in this book. All five have extremely interesting plots, all five span over quite a long period of time, covering a sizable chunk of the protagonists’ lives. Despite the variety and range of the stories and settings, each one contains definite characters, each with their own unique voice. Without doubt my favorite story was the last one, but that’s just personal preference. Objectively each was as good as the next.

The theme of the book is the randomness of life and love and everything that is tied together with it. Sounds deep right? It was so deep I’m not sure if I really understood it. As far as I can tell Faulkes explores the nature of life, and what makes us human. The back of my book says he explores ‘the chaos created by love, separation and missed opportunities’ , and that seems about right to me so I’ll use that. There is an extremely interesting story about an Italian scientist , set the future, who tries to discover what it is that gives us our humanity. Whether or not it is scientifically accurate, if it is Faulkes’ mad musings, the theory is either terrifying or magnificent, depending on how you value science.

In conclusion, this is a pretty good collection of short stories, which may or may not be extremely deep and perceptive ( I couldn’t tell ), written extremely well.

Four Stars.