Book Review: Finding Jennifer Jones (Anne Cassidy)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 304

Release Date: February 6th 2014

Summary (from Goodreads):

Kate Rickman seems just like any other nineteen-year-old girl. She goes to university, she dates nice, normal boys and she works in her local tourist office at the weekend. But Kate’s not really normal at all. ‘Kate’ is in fact a carefully constructed facade for a girl called Jennifer Jones – and it’s a facade that’s crumbling fast. Jennifer has spent the last nine years frantically trying to escape from her horrifying past. Increasingly desperate, Jennifer decides to do something drastic. She contacts the only other girl who might understand what she’s dealing with, breaking every rule of her parole along the way. Lucy Bussell is the last person Jennifer expects any sympathy from, but she’s also the last person she has left.

Review:

I was super excited when I first heard about this sequel to the wonderful Looking for JJ, which was a favourite book of mine as a teen. However, when I thought about it a bit more, the doubts started creeping in. Looking for JJ was an amazing stand alone book in my head for ten years and I’d never really thought it needed a sequel. What if the new book was surplus and it tainted the original for me?

Luckily, this wasn’t the case. Finding Jennifer Jones had plenty of new and interesting material to cover, both in Jennifer’s past and her present.

When we last left Jennifer Jones, she was starting a new life as Kate Rickman. We join her a couple of years later to find out how her life is progressing now. She’s changed from when she was shy, quiet Alice. This grown up version gets drunk and goes back to houses with random guys and skips out on her probation appointments. She’s tired of a life of being checked up on and feeling like she’s always looking over her shoulder. And when a young girl is murdered in the area and can be linked to her, things only get worse.

I liked this grown up Jennifer, though I did question some of the choices that she made. It’s such an impossible situation for her though: yes, she’s done her time and has technically been released to live her life, but she still did a terrible wrong and has to report in to various people. While she still feels guilty about what she did, she wants to be left alone to live in peace. But she also questions if she deserves that. It’s a really complex situation, and I couldn’t really decide my view on it. While I always feel on her side, as a protagonist I’m fond of, it doesn’t erase the fact that she took the life of a child.

There’s a lot more revealed about Jennifer’s life after the act she committed. I’d been curious about what went on afterwards, and it was great to read more about the trial and her life in a secure unit. We also see some familiar faces and find out about the wider effects of her act, as it changed the lives of more than just her and Michelle’s parents.

This was another fascinating book and I’m so glad I read it. It’s great to revisit a character that I loved so long ago, and I hope the sequel will encourage a new generation of teens to read the original too.

4

Tommy V Cancer Blog Tour Review: Doctor Who, Shroud of Sorrow

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Publisher: Broadway Books

Pages: 256

Release Date: April 2nd 2013

Summary (from Goodreads):

It is the day after John F. Kennedy’s assassination and the faces of the dead are everywhere. PC Reg Cranfield sees his recently deceased father in the mists along Totter’s Lane. Reporter Mae Callon sees her late grandmother in a coffee stain on her desk. FBI Special Agent Warren Skeet finds his long-dead partner staring back at him from raindrops on a window pane. Then the faces begin to talk, and scream… and push through into our world. As the alien Shroud begins to feast on the grief of a world in mourning, can the Doctor dig deep enough into his own sorrow to save mankind?

Review:

I am reviewing this book as part of the Tommy V Cancer blog tour, which you can read more about here. When I signed up to take part, there were quite a few books that caught my eye, but I settled on this one for my review (and bought a couple more for later!) I’ve not read a Doctor Who book before, though I do have Time Lord Fairy Tales sat on my TBR.

On his website, Tommy says he’s a huge fan of Doctor Who, and this is really apparent in his writing. While you might think it’s easy to write about an established character – in this case the Doctor as played by Matt Smith – as the reader already knows what they look and sound like, I think it’s a lot harder. There’s an expectation to live up to and unlike a character that has only been written about, everyone has a similar if not identical idea of a TV character.

Donbavand captures the essence of the Eleventh Doctor perfectly. I could picture Matt Smith saying the lines and it all sounded like just the kind of weird and wonderful things he’d say. He got Clara spot on as well, and I could tell because I disliked her in the book as much as I do in the TV show – something about her just irritates me!

The story itself is a really interesting one, as the Earth is invaded by the Shroud, an alien that feeds on grief. It took a lot of twists and turns. Each time I thought they’d solved it and I knew where it was going, something new would crop up and leave me wondering again. It did get a little ridiculous towards the end, but it was all good fun and I loved the way everything came together.

This is definitely one for the hardcore Doctor Who fans. There’s a wonderful moment with flashbacks of the Doctors past, and as someone who’s only watched the modern episodes (Ninth Doctor onwards) I didn’t know who all of them were, but there was an Amy Pond moment that gave me all the feels. I’m told it’s full of references and I know I probably only understand half of them, but those I got I really enjoyed.

As my first time reading a Doctor Who book, I think I picked a great one, and I’d definitely be interested in picking some more up now. I’d love to see another from Tommy Donbavand too, as his passion for the character really shines through in the writing.

4

About the Author

Tommy

Tommy is the author of the popular 13-book Scream Street series for 7 to 10 year olds, published by Walker Books in the UK and Candlewick Press in the US. His other books include Zombie!, Wolf and Uniform (winner of the Hackney Short Novel Award) for Barrington Stoke, Boredom Busters and Quick Fixes For Kids’ Parties (How To Books), and Making A Drama Out Of A Crisis (Network Continuum).

In theatre, Tommy’s plays have been performed to thousands of children on national tours to venues such as The Hackney Empire, Leeds City Varieties, and Nottingham Playhouse. These productions include Hey Diddle Diddle, Rumplestiltskin, Jack & Jill In The Forgotten Nursery, and Humpty Dumpty And The Incredibly Daring Rescue Of The Alien Princess From Deep Space. He is also responsible for five episodes of the CBBC TV series, Planet Cook (Platinum Films).

As an actor, Tommy played the Clearlake MC in the West End musical Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story for over eight years, in addition to roles in the movies Zombie Love Stories (where he battled hordes of Scottish undead) and Going Off Big Time (where he was beaten up on a bouncy castle). A veteran of pantomime, he has portrayed just about every comic character from Abanazer to an Ugly Sister.

Tommy lives in Lancashire with his wife and two sons. He is a HUGE fan of all things Doctor Who, plays blues harmonica, and makes a mean balloon poodle. He sees sleep as a waste of good writing time.

Website: http://www.tommydonbavand.com

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/tommydonbavand

This blog tour is to help promote Tommy’s work and raise donations while he battles cancer. If you would like to donate then you can do so via Paypal here or you can sign up to become a Patron and pledge an amount each month to receive exclusive written content from Tommy. You can also buy his books – preferably from an independent bookshop, but if you want to order from Amazon then you can use this affiliate link to earn him a bit more from each purchase.

Twitter Chat
To end the tour, Vivienne (@Serendipity_Viv) and Chelle (@ChelleyToy) will be hosting a twitter chat.
This will be on 30th June 2016, 8 – 9pm
The hashtag for the chat is #tommyvcancer
Please join us!

Follow the Tour!

Tommy Tour 4

Book Review: Looking for JJ (Anne Cassidy)

Publisher: Scholastic Canada

Pages: 304

Release Date: February 1st 2006

Summary (from Goodreads):

Three children walked away from the cottages on the edge of town toward Berwick Waters. Later that day, only two of them came back. Alice Tully knows exactly what happened that spring day six years ago, though it’s still hard for her to believe it. She’ll never be able to forget, even though she’s trying to lead a normal life—she has a job, friends, and a boyfriend whom she adores. But Alice’s past is dangerous, and violent, and sad… and it’s about to rip her new life apart.

Review:

This is a book I read and loved as a teen. When a sequel was released in 2014 I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it, and now I finally have (a lovely birthday present from Nathan). It’s also a good excuse to reread an old favourite.

Looking for JJ tackles a difficult subject matter, and one I’ve not encountered before, in adult or YA books (not to say it hasn’t been done, but I don’t think it’s widely written about). At 10 years old, Jennifer Jones murders her best friend. Whatever reasons or excuses you can make for her – her difficult upbringing, her mum’s prostitution, a sudden flash of temper – she still did it.

Six years later, Jennifer has been released from a secure unit and has a new identity. She struggles with what she did in the past, with hiding her identity from the new relationships she makes, and she wonders if she deserves this life and deserves to be happy.

The book is split into several parts, dealing with Jennifer’s upbringing, the day of the murder and what happened next, and her life now. It’s really fascinating to read a book from a child murderer’s point of view. I’ve read about similar cases in the news and always thought the children must be horrible and born evil. If I read Jennifer’s story as just the murder and none of the backstory then I’d probably think the same. But seeing the series of events leading up to it, and how she behaves all these years later, it’s a lot more conflicting. While you can’t forget she did something horrible, you also sympathise with her.

When her past does, as the blurb says, rip her new life apart, I felt really sorry for her. Even if she did do something bad, there’s something about her character that just makes you want her to succeed. I really liked how Cassidy gets into her mind and we see her struggling to accept what she’s done. There’s also a really amazing line which I just loved, where Jennifer says she feels she doesn’t deserve a nice life after taking someone else’s, and she’s told that then she’s wasting two lives, and she owes it to the dead girl to live.

I never really expected a sequel to this story, so I’ll be really interested to see what happened to her next, and how she’s coping with everything after a couple of years of freedom.

4