Book Review: We Were Liars (E Lockhart)

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Pages: 242

Release Date: May 13th 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

Review:

I know this was quite a hyped up book when it came out, but I missed all that as I was still at uni and not really reading much, outside of research books (can’t imagine that now!) When I saw this free on iBooks I thought I’d pick it up and give it a go.

There’s been a lot said about the writing style, as it is kind of disjointed/laid out strangely. I have to say, I didn’t really notice this. I read it on the Kindle app on my phone, which makes the layout a bit strange sometimes anyway. It also happens a lot with review e-books, which I’ve read a lot of lately, so I just didn’t notice the difference. Maybe it would have had more of an effect on me if I’d read this in paperback. The pacing was also a little odd and it did take me a while to get into it: it felt like things didn’t really kick off until Summer Seventeen, which was part three of the book.

Cady, the main character, wasn’t particularly likeable, but I quite like that in a protagonist. I love flawed characters, and while she was irritating and selfish to me sometimes, I still enjoyed reading her story. She was also the most fleshed out of the characters – I felt the other Liars (and no, I don’t know why they are called that, which is irritating) were all a bit 2D and didn’t really feel like real people.

As for the plot twist – which I won’t reveal, of course – I was a little let down by it all. It feels like quite a cliche, and I just feel I’ve read that kind of story before. I started getting suspicious about half way through as to what was going on, and when those suspicions were confirmed I couldn’t help but feel a bit disappointed. It’s probably due to the hype around it, which isn’t the books fault, but it just meant I was expecting something spectacular, and it didn’t live up to that.

Despite being disappointed, I did enjoy this book: it was easy to read and I flew through it, and can see why other (possibly less skeptical) readers would appreciate it.

3

Book Review: A Face Like Glass (Frances Hardinge)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Release Date: January 28th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

In Caverna, lies are an art — and everyone’s an artist . . .

In the underground city of Caverna the world’s most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare — wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer, even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned, and only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear — at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell’s emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed …

Review:

I really loved this book. It’s bizarre and imaginative and more than a little bonkers and that makes for a great read.

The book has an Alice in Wonderland feel to it, which is always a good thing in my book as I love anything Wonderland related. It feels similar in its bizarre logic, crazy ruler and other kooky characters, but it’s not really based on it as a story or anything (in case that was going to put you off).

Our main character, Neverfell, is different from the other inhabitants of Caverna as she is unable to control her facial expressions: while everyone else has set Faces which they learn, she shows all her emotions on her face as you or I might, and that is terrifying to everyone around her. After years of keeping her face hidden, she finds herself playing the dangerous games of the court, getting caught up in the antics of the Kleptomancer and leading a revolution.

I found the ideas in this book all fascinating, from delicacies that can affect memories or make you taste songs, to the mad Cartographers and the topsy-turvy world of Caverna, but I especially loved the Faces: their names, the limited Faces available to the lower classes and the way it made it impossible to know who was trustworthy and who was lying. It just sparked my curiosity and imagination and I loved it.

Neverfell has a kind of tragic character progression which we see through the changes in her face: from wide-eyed wonderer, full of innocence and able to marvel at the world of Caverna, to the heart breaking disillusionment as the darkness of the world is revealed to her.

Hardinge’s writing is truly magical and her imagination is just incredible. This is the first book I’ve read by her, but I know now that I want to read a lot more. If you’re a fan of fantasy and adventure and are looking for something completely different and new to read then this is for you.

 Copy of an art exhibit

Book Review: The Appearance of Annie Van Sinderen (Katherine Howe)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: One World Publications

Pages: 400

Release Date: April 7th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

It’s summertime in New York City, and aspiring filmmaker Wes Auckerman has just arrived to start his summer term at NYU. While shooting a séance at a psychic’s in the East Village, he meets a mysterious, intoxicatingly beautiful girl named Annie.

As they start spending time together, Wes finds himself falling for her, drawn to her rose petal lips and her entrancing glow. But there’s something about her that he can’t put his finger on that makes him wonder about this intriguing hipster girl from the Village. Why does she use such strange slang? Why does she always seem so reserved and distant? And, most importantly, why does he only seem to run into her on one block near the Bowery? Annie’s hiding something, a dark secret from her past that may be the answer to all of Wes’s questions . . .

Review:

 This was a perfectly haunting story, a ghost story that doesn’t ever say the word ‘ghost’ and one that I’d definitely recommend to people who enjoyed ghost stories from Susan Hill and Juno Dawson.

The annoying thing about this book is it’s hard to review without being spoilery, and I really wouldn’t want to ruin it for anyone. So this may be a bit of a short and vague review, but rest assured that I really enjoyed it and you probably will too.

The book is split into three parts. The first is where we meet Wes, a film student who’s helping his friend Tyler film a seance for an art film. I related to the two boys really well, having had a lot of film maker friends at university. It felt good to be in their world of cameras and showcases and late night edits. At the seance, Wes meets two mysterious girls: the titular Annie, and grungy but friendly Maddie. While Maddie happily lets Wes take her out for pizza and drinks, Annie is harder to get hold of, coming and going as she pleases and often ditching Wes completely, until she shows up suddenly in his bedroom one night.

In the second part, we see what Annie has been doing in between her comings and goings in Wes’ life. And the third part sees them both reunited as they try and solve the mystery of Annie’s missing cameo (a kind of ring). I won’t say too much about these bits, as that way spoilers lie!

I really enjoyed the mystery elements to the book, and while I sussed out one key thing pretty early on, there were plenty of other surprises that kept me on my toes, right until the end. Annie’s section was the bit that really got to me: it’s haunting and scary and the idea of being stuck in her situation is something that really unnerves me. The romance was quite prominent in the book, with Wes developing feelings for both girls in different ways, but I didn’t feel like the plot revolved around it too much: it was more about the mystery than anything.

This was a really face paced and fascinating book, filled with suspense and secrets, and is perfect for anyone looking for a modern ghost story.

4

Book Review: Consumed (Abbie Rushton)

* I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review *

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group

Pages: 352

Release Date: April 5th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Myla used to love spending long, hot days on the beach with her sister, Asha. Until the day Asha was taken from her and the sun went out. Forever.

That was two years ago. Myla hasn’t been down to the beach – or even left the house – since. Crippling agoraphobia and panic attacks keep her locked inside a nightmare of the day she can never forget. Her main contact with the outside world is online – until she meets Jamie.

Jamie is new in town and also struggles with things most people find easy. Nobody gets why it’s so hard for him to eat. But, like Myla, Jamie is trapped by his fears and feels anxious, awkward and alone.

Gradually the pair begin to trust each other. Are they willing to reveal their secrets – and risk discovering the truth? Or will they let their pasts consume them for good…

Review:

There were some things I really liked about this book, but other bits that I really struggled with, which kind of spoilt my enjoyment a little.

I liked the mystery element, wondering who murdered Asha and what their motivations were. I managed to guess the person after a couple of obvious clues about half way through, but I didn’t mind as it was still interesting to see the characters work it out and understand how and why it had all happened.

I also liked the main characters. It was great to see a male protagonist with an eating disorder, and I think it’s the first I’ve come across in a book before. That’s really important to me, as I think too often eating disorders are seen as a ‘girls problem’ which just isn’t true. Myla was also a great protagonist. I loved that she was a blogger and a baker. It was interesting to see the effect of the loss of her sister had on her and her family and the different ways which they dealt with it.

The relationship between Jamie and Myla developed nicely in some respects. I liked that they didn’t love each other at first sight – or even like each other really. But neither had anyone else to turn to and circumstance forced them together, which meant a nice little romance developed between them.

What I didn’t like, however, was the was they each helped to ‘cure’ each other’s mental illnesses. Very early on in the relationship, Jamie encourages Myla to leave the house, and she seems willing to do it for him, a guy she barely knows. I know she wanted to get out for herself too, but it just felt a little corny/unbelievable that this basic stranger could come along and get her out the front door when her family and professionals had been unable to. Similarly, it made me cringe to see her trying to make him eat, though I think his recovery was a little slower and more believable.

So I had my problems with how some of the issues were dealt with, but I think that could just be how I interpreted things – you might read it differently. It’s still a well written and interesting book, and a quick and easy read.

3

Breastfeeding – It’s Not As Easy As It Looks!

To me, breastfeeding is one of the most natural things in the world. Babies practice sucking in the womb and instinctively look for the breast when they come out. I can lay my son on my chest now and he can wriggle his way down to find my breast, even though he can’t even crawl or roll over yet. It’s really quite incredible.

I knew when we got pregnant that I wanted to breastfeed. It’s great for babies and for mums too: it can reduce the chance of breast and ovarian cancer. It’s also cheap – there’s no buying formula, and no faffing around mixing it up and sterilising bottles. And it’s just so natural.

But apparently natural doesn’t mean it’s easy.

When the Little Moore was born, we had about an hour skin-to-skin time, and then he fed for about 20 minutes after I’d been stitched up. As his dad was holding him he was making sucking movements so we knew what he wanted. It was a bit new for both of us but he fed really well.

That was one of the only good feeds we had in hospital, and we were in there for 3 days.

For the first day and night he pretty much refused to feed. He was very mucusy and kept coughing stuff up, and the midwives said that probably put him off feeding a bit. He also just seemed tired to me. Every time I held him he’d just fall asleep, which was sweet but pretty annoying too.

He fed maybe once or twice on the breast with the help of a midwife, otherwise I had to hand express and the midwives fed him with a syringe. It was really frustrating. During that second night I had to use a breast pump and feed him with a bottle, which I found really upsetting. I was so desperate to breastfeed and he just didn’t seem interested at all. The tiredness probably didn’t help either – I’d probably slept less than 5 hours since my waters broke nearly 3 days ago – and that felt like a real low point.

The next morning we had a really long feed and the midwives discharged us, reminding me he needed to feed every 2-3 hours. I understood that, but when we got home I found the same disinterest. I ended up expressing and bottle feeding again, and by the end of that night I was in tears.

Luckily for me, something clicked the next day, and suddenly he was hungry and quite happy to feed from the breast. After reading other people’s stories online, I think it was just tiredness that was putting him off. I know I was exhausted after the birth, and it’s a pretty traumatic experience for them too.

Fast forward a couple of weeks of happy breastfeeding and we hit our next problem.

I started getting sore nipples and realised he wasn’t latching very well – the nipple wasn’t going deep enough, so he was basically sucking on the end of the nipple rather than the whole breast. The pain escalated really quickly and it got to the point where I was dreading each feeding – cue more tears and feeling like a breastfeeding failure.

Luckily Coventry has a great Infant Feeding Team. I went to one of their group sessions to check my positioning was okay (it was) and see if there was anything they could do to help. We were told when he was born he had a bit of a tongue tie (a tight piece of skin connecting the tongue to the bottom of the mouth) and this could be affecting his feeding. After having a specialist check him out, we’ve been referred to a clinic to get this snipped, which should improve the situation. It might take a couple of weeks before we’re seen, so for now I’m just gritting my teeth when it hurts and focussing on getting the best latch we can to prevent it. It’s already a lot better than it was a few days ago.

My advice for anyone struggling would just be to keep at it. It might be the most natural thing in the world, but breastfeeding is a learned skill for both you and your baby, and it takes practice and time to get it right. I wouldn’t worry too much if it’s slow in the first few days – remember, you’re both tired and they will let you know when they’re hungry. After that, as long as they’re gaining weight and giving plenty of wet/dirty nappies, then they’re getting everything they need. Little Moore has put on a pound in less than a week, so despite our struggles he’s definitely eating enough!

Stick with it, if you can, because it’s worth it for the health benefits and bonding for you and your baby 🙂 Check out what help is available in your area, as seeing someone who knows what they’re talking about is much more helpful than trying to Google things on your own. And try not to feel rejected or like a failure when it’s not working out – it will happen when it happens, and even if it doesn’t, it’s not a reflection on you as a parent.