Book Review: The Yellow Room (Jess Valance)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 263

Release Date: July 28th 2016

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sixteen-year-old Anna receives a letter from her father’s girlfriend telling her he has died and asking to meet. Anna is drawn to Edie: her warmth, her character, her ability to rustle up delicious meals, all of which her own mother is seemingly incapable of… and the way she can tell Edie the secret that is buried inside her.

A tautly told, compelling tale about mothers and daughters and the lengths that some will go to, to make their dreams come true.

Review:

I didn’t know much about this book going into it, but I really enjoyed Vallance’s twisted friendship tale Birdy last year, so I had high expectations. I wasn’t disappointed.

Anna gets a letter from her estranged Dad’s girlfriend telling her he’s dead and asking her to meet. Anna has her reservations but agrees to meet Edie and the two strike up an odd friendship, despite the misgivings of her friends. Edie is the opposite of Anna’s own mother: warm, funny, and actually wants to spend time with her. But as Anna spills some of her darkest secrets to Edie, she soon finds Edie has her own hidden too.

This books has pretty short chapters, often with a cliffhanger or revelation at the end of each, which made it really hard to put down. Each time I told myself ‘just one more chapter’ until I’d read half the book in one sitting and accidentally taken a long lunch break at work. But it was so worth it.

It was easy to see why Anna was drawn to Edie: she was fun, caring and yes, a bit weird. She felt like one of Anna’s friends rather than a grown woman a lot of the time, and there was a childlike innocence that also made you feel protective towards her.

The best part of this book was also kind of the worst – Leon. He’s the biggest fictional creep I’ve read, and written so well I could envision him perfectly. I think I’ve met a few ‘Leon’s at university, though none of them were quite as bad as him. He’s smarmy, up himself and wholly believes he is the best thing to happen to you since birth. I cringed whenever he was on the page and wanted to slap the stupid grin off his face.

Anna’s secret was not what I was expecting and I loved the hints dropped towards it before you find out what actually happened. While the sensible part of me kept saying it would have been best for everyone if Anna confessed up straight away, I know things aren’t as easy as that, and I probably would have done the same in her position, even though it made things worse in the long run. I’ll say no more in case of spoilers!

I did start to wonder over half way through why it was called The Yellow Room, but it came into it eventually. The events towards the end took me by surprise and I wan’t quite sure who to believe. There’s a character who comes in at the end, which I can’t explain because spoilers, but I was glad they didn’t come save the day and make everything okay: I liked the way the relationship played out. It was good to see some steps towards resolution between Anna and her mum as well, even if things weren’t perfect at the end.

This was a fast paced addictive book with constant twists and turns that keep you hungry for more. Jess Vallance writes amazing characters and beautifully twisted plots, and I’ll be picking up anything she writes in the future.

 Copy of an art exhibit

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: Birdy (Jess Vallance)

Publisher: Hot Key Books

Pages: 272

Release Date: July 2nd 2015

Summary (from Goodreads):

Frances Bird has been a loner for so long that she’s given up on ever finding real friendship. But then she’s asked to show a new girl around school, and she begins to think her luck could finally be changing.

Eccentric, talkative and just a little bit posh, Alberta is not at all how Frances imagined a best friend could be. But the two girls click immediately, and it’s not long before they are inseparable. Frances could not be happier.

As the weeks go on, Frances finds out more about her new best friend – her past, her secrets, her plans for the future – and she starts to examine their friendship more closely.

Is it, perhaps, just too good to be true?

Review:

Big thanks to author Jess Valance,  who sent me a copy of this book when I had packed all mine away while moving house (this doesn’t affect my review in any way).

First off, I have to say that is one gorgeous cover! It draws you in immediately and really sums up the book for me: dark and intriguing.

The book starts great as well: it’s France recording ‘her version of events’ which sounds foreboding and makes you want to speed through quickly to find out what happened.

Frances is a really sympathetic character: a classic loner who, while not outrageously odd, just doesn’t fit in with any of your usual groups at school. So when Bert comes along and actually seems to want to be friends with her, you can’t help but feel happy for her.

While I sympathised with Frances at school, it was her home life that really made me feel for her. With no mother or father, she lives with her strict Grandmother and her Grandfather who suffers from dementia. The descriptions just left me feeling hollow inside: the idea of dreading evenings with the same rotation of meals, the long weekends with nothing to do, and the even longer holiday weeks that stretch out endlessly. Having recently lived with my Grandmother, who has dementia, I found some of the interactions with the Grandfather difficult to read as it touched really close to home.

As the friendship between Frances and Bert grows, there’s something uneasy about it. It reminded me of another book but I can’t quite put my finger on it. Perhaps Vicky Angel by Jacqueline Wilson, where the friendship is so all consuming it feels almost dangerous. I felt quite tense reading it, just waiting for it all to blow up.

It did blow up of course, but not in the way I expected, which I loved. It all felt very clever: Vallance sets you up with certain expectations at the beginning of the book – at first I felt a little disappointed that the book foreshadowed what was about to happen, but that was my fault for assuming I knew what was going on! I won’t say too much as I don’t want to spoil it, but the ending really sucked me in and took me by surprise and I couldn’t quite believe what was happening.

This was such a great read, I can’t recommend it enough. If you’re looking for a dark and twisted tale of friendship and betrayal then this is definitely for you!

4

If you enjoyed this, you might like Seed by Lisa Heathfield