Book Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks (Emily Barr)

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

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 303

Release Date: January 12th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Seventeen-year-old Flora Banks has no short-term memory. Her mind resets itself several times a day, and has since the age of ten, when the tumor that was removed from Flora’s brain took with it her ability to make new memories. That is, until she kisses Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend, the night before he leaves town. Miraculously, this one memory breaks through Flora’s fractured mind, and sticks. Flora is convinced that Drake is responsible for restoring her memory and making her whole again. So when an encouraging email from Drake suggests she meet him on the other side of the world, Flora knows with certainty that this is the first step toward reclaiming her life.

With little more than the words “be brave” inked into her skin, and written reminders of who she is and why her memory is so limited, Flora sets off on an impossible journey to Svalbard, Norway, the land of the midnight sun, determined to find Drake. But from the moment she arrives in the arctic, nothing is quite as it seems, and Flora must “be brave” if she is ever to learn the truth about herself, and to make it safely home.

 

Review:

I didn’t know a lot about this book going in and I’m kind of glad I didn’t because if I’d seen the synopsis I’m not sure I would have read it. Because there’s a big thing that irked me about this book, and I’m going to get it out of the way no so I can move onto the positive.

Flora has anterograde amnesia and can’t make new memories since the illness that caused her memory problems when she was 10. But then she kisses Drake, her best friends boyfriend, and she remembers it. This memory sets off a chain of events that sends her all the way to the arctic and Flora learns a lot more about herself and her past than she thought possible.

In that paragraph lies the flaw to me: she kisses a boy and gets a new memory. She kisses a boy and it fixes her problems. Okay, not completely, but it’s the start of something. And that bothered me a lot. It felt cliche and I’ve had enough of books where the protagonist is miraculously cured by a boy. The book did have a bit of a twist that had me almost back on its side, but then it backtracked on it. So I’m not keen on that element, which is, admittedly, a big part of the book.

But on to what I liked.

Flora is the ultimate unreliable narrator. She remembers things by writing them down: if she doesn’t she’ll forget them. She can pick what she remembers and what she wants to have never happened to her, and that’s what happens sometimes. She has these romantic emails with Drake, and when he sends one she doesn’t like, she chooses to forget it. After a few hours, it never happened to her. It’s fascinating to read and you just can’t tell if you’re getting the whole story from her.

The way the book is written is very repetitive, as Flora is constantly repeating herself, reminding herself what has happened and what she is supposed to be doing. This might be annoying to some but I found it really helped me get into her head. She has such a distinctive voice this way and I really enjoyed it.

I was conflicted on how to rate this as it has a big flaw in my mind, but in the end I did really enjoy it so I think that should be reflected in the rating. The narration is fascinating, there’s a great mystery and everything is told so uniquely, I can’t help but like it.

4

A Christmas Book Haul

I don’t often to book hauls, mostly because I don’t really get a lot of books in one go, but I was lucky enough to get so many wonderful books for/around Christmas that I just wanted to share them.

From Publishers

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Before Christmas I got a few exciting booking parcels in the post. One was this lovely set of It Girl books by Katy Birchall from Egmont. I loved the first two books and am excited to see what happens to Anna next. The new covers are gorgeous and I love this new design.

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I also received a copy of Wing Jones by Katherine Webber, from Walker books, which I’m reading at the moment. So many people have been tweeting amazing things about this book and I feel really lucky to have a copy.

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And finally, I have The Fireman by Joe Hill, from Gollancz. When I was emailed about this I’d just finished reading Horns and the offer of another book by Joe Hill was just too tempting.

From Nathan

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The majority of my presents from Nathan were books, which is alright by me! They were a good mix of things he knew I wanted – Noughts & Crosses which I used to borrow off my sister so never had my own copy, Goldenhand because I love The Old Kingdom series, a beautiful illustrated copy of The Lie Tree – and some new things to try as well. I’ve already read Scarlet Witch and can’t wait to get stuck into the rest of them.

From the In-Laws

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Nathan’s parents really know how to do Christmas well, and I was lucky to get a lot of books from them. The one I’m most excited about is The Call by Peadar O’Guilin, which I’ve heard great things about, and The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich, as I loved The Dead House by her.

From my Mom

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And lastly, from my dear old Mom, I got The Muse by Jessie Burton. I read The Miniaturist last year and quite enjoyed it, though I’ll admit I struggled a bit as adult books aren’t really my thing. but it was still an interesting story and I’m looking forward to picking this one up.

This year I’ve decided to prioritise the books I got for Christmas, as last year some of them got lost in all the review books and new books I got throughout the year (I still haven’t read some of them…) So I have my new books in a separate pile and am going to work my way through them, alternating with review books when I have them.

I hope you all had a very bookish Christmas and that the new year holds lots of exciting things for you to read.

Book Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder (Sara Barnard)

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

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Pages: 320

Release Date: January 12th 2017

Summary (from Goodreads):

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

Review:

I loved Sara Barnard’s Beautiful Broken Things and couldn’t wait to get my hands on her new book. I’m writing this in November 2016 and can’t believe I have to wait til next year to share this with everyone!

I adored all the characters in this book. Steffi has selective mutism as well as extreme anxiety and the way she explained these and described the symptoms were really effective. I’ve not experienced either of these things myself so can only imagine what it must feel like, but others who have similar issues have said they’re spot on. Rhys, who is deaf but can talk and lip read, was the sweetest guy until he got in one of his moods. I found it really fascinating to think of him filtering everything he signed in a way that people don’t do when they speak. It’s not something I’ve thought of before and it added so much to the character. I also loved Tem, Steffi’s best friend who sticks by her through everything, even when she’s being ditched for the new boyfriend.

I love that Beautiful Broken Things centered around friendship rather than love, and was unsure how I’d feel about this book being quite a lot about the romance. But there was so much more to it than that, and I really saw Steffi and Rhys’s romance as an extended friendship rather than some terrible insta-love. I had some worries about Steffi’s mutism being fixed by finding a boyfriend, or ignoring her problems because she doesn’t have to talk aloud to a deaf boyfriend, but Barnard was way ahead of me and these things weren’t an issue.

It was really interesting to see the different worlds the two lived in. Together, they had a perfect little bubble where they could talk and sign to each other and be comfortable. But when Steffi was around school friends etc she didn’t sign as she spoke and it made Rhys feel out of the loop and wonder if she was ashamed of him. And when Steffi was with his friends, she found her sign language knowledge wasn’t really that good and struggled to keep up with him. I used to look after some of the younger deaf children in my primary school and know a little sign language but I can imagine I’d feel out of my depth like Steffi if I tried to have a conversation with people who sign everyday. It’s like using your GCSE French knowledge on an actual French person: limited and slow.

This book is rich with emotion, friendship and romance and just hit all the right spots. I think it’s definitely one to watch out for in 2017.

4

Another Attempt at New Year’s Resolutions

Since I’ve been blogging I’ve been doing New Year’s Resolutions posts, and I have to admit, I’ve not been great at sticking to them. This doesn’t stop me wanting to do another one though. I always feel so positive and hopeful at the start of the year and I want to make the most of those feelings while they last! Even if (again) I don’t stick to my resolutions, I’d like to have a go at them.

From last years ones, I’d say I kept to two – to keep blogging (clearly I’m still here) and to manage my time better. I wouldn’t say I’ve consistently done that one but I’ve had a good stab at it. I’ve spent a lot less time mindlessly scrolling through Twitter/general internet pages. I feel like the lack of Twitter interaction isn’t always great for my blog as I miss out connecting with people and getting involved, but I want to spend more time in the real world, with my family and with my work, so that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

As for the other two – get fit (ha!) and finish my 2nd/3rd drafts – they have just not happened. Although I bought a jogging pushchair with the intent of running with Little Moore, he’s been too small for it so far, and with all the sleep deprivation I’ve not been able to drag myself up early to go running on my own. While it’s still something I’d like to get into this year, as I do enjoy running, I’m not going to pressure myself and just see how it goes.

With the writing – I did do a lot of editing on my first draft of my first completed novel, but not as much as I wanted to. Part of that was lack of time – like most new mums, I thought I’d have more time on maternity to write while my baby slept peacefully in his cot (HA!) But also I really struggled with editing and decided in the end to put this one aside for now. It needs a lot of work – maybe starting from scratch or maybe coming back to it when I’ve got more experience. I’m not giving up on it, just putting it aside to work on something else for now.

But enough of the past. Onto this year’s resolutions:

  1. Write Everyday – I did this towards the end of the year, just a page in a notebook so that I had something done each day. That’s my small writing aim for this year. Ideally Id like to spend at least half an hour in my study each day, writing/editing, planning or something creative. And on the large scale, I’d like to finish my first draft of the project I started for NaNoWriMo and enter some writing competitions.
  2. Keep Reading and Blogging – I think these are both good for my writing ambitions, and they’re something I enjoy doing. I’m trying to set up a bit of a blog schedule so I might post less frequently but with better content. Fingers crossed, anyway!
  3. Save Money – Like a lot of mid-twenty-somethings, I’m currently renting a house and saving for a deposit to buy one. I couldn’t save much last year while being on maternity leave so I’d like to try and squirrel some bits away now I’m working again.
  4. Do Nice Family Things – This is a bit generic but I want to spend quality time with Nathan and Little Moore, as well as our extended family. Day trips together, going for walks and playing games, and also visiting his family more (as they live further away) and spending more time with my sisters. One of the younger ones will be off to uni next year so I need to squeeze in as much quality time as I can before she goes!
  5. Eat Nice Food – Instead of a generic get fit or eat healthy resolution, I want to eat well this year. I want to spend less money in crappy chain restaurants. If we’re eating out, it should be a treat and it should be somewhere nice. I want to try find places to buy better quality food at home, and try new dishes. We’ve been eating less meat recently so I want to experiment with more creative vegetarian cusine.

Like I said, I’m not holding myself religiously to any of these. I just like having some general aims to start the year with. They may or may not hold up but at least for now, they’re making me feel positive and spurring me into action!

Whatever you’re aiming to do with yourself this year, I hope you have a wonderful one.