On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher – Book Review.

Title: On the Other Side

Author: Carrie Hope Fletcher

Rating: 4/5

Fantasy: Fantasy, YA, Teen Fiction, Contemporary Romance


It takes a lot for me to get excited about a book so much to pre-order it. So far, my pre-order history has mainly consisted of the Harry Potters, and that has been a lifelong love. But with Carrie Hope Fletcher, I’ve rushed to bookshops to get my hand of my copy, and happily put a deposit down.

I’ve loved Carrie’s YouTube videos and West End Performances for years, and after loving her self-help book, All I Know Now, I was very excited to hear t25744542hat she was publishing her first fiction novel. And by now, I can happily say, I wasn’t disappointed.

When Evie Snow dies at the grand age of eighty-two, she is surrounded by family and remnants of a pretty happy life. However, when she attempts to get in the door of her personal heaven, she is stopped. Evie’s soul isn’t light enough to pass through the doors, and she has to unburden herself of three deep secrets that she has carried around with her for nearly sixty years. Now Evie has to go on a journey through her life, and on her way, she learns more about her own life, and the love she lost, more than she knew was possible.

Firstly, can I say I loved the premise. The idea of personal heavens has always attracted me since I read The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold. Having a space where you feel you more comfortable and happy is such delightful thought. Fletcher has also obviously given a lot of thought into how she perceives a personal heaven, and how a soul must be unburdened from past strife to fully embrace it. I also loved how she dealt with the state of limbo, and how people adapt with their human deaths. The story featured a lot of magical realism which was fun and sweet to read, and it reminded me a bit of the worlds that Studio Ghibli create.

The love story was very sweet, and fairly powerful. I’m not ashamed to admit I cried in public whilst reading one particular moment, and I thought she captured the essence of first love and attraction very well. In my mind, Fletcher also incorporated people’s sexualities and preferences well in this text. The novel touches on homophobia well, and stories of ‘coming out’ is also dealt with grace and sensitivity. As the novel features bisexual, pansexual and gay characters, I feel that it fits well in with the contemporary YA market.

The story also has a deeper plotline. Despite dealing with lost love, it also deals with family issues and a strong-minded female protagonist who has to sacrifice a lot to help others. I really admired Evie Snow (the protagonist) as she decides to reject her parents controlling ways, and take control of everything for a time.

The characters were well thought out. Like I said, I enjoyed reading and learning about Evie Snow. Vincent Winters was a particular favourite too, as he was so sweet and thoughtful. To me, it was obvious that Fletcher had taken a lot of inspiration from her life, and even her and friend’s appearances, but it didn’t dampen or change the story. I also admired James Snow, for his kindness towards Evie.

The plot was also structured well, and I wasn’t bored when reading it. It sped through at a reasonable pace, and featured touching storylines. I liked how each of the secrets were split up in their own segments, and how they featured people that meant a lot to Evie. It was fairly-well written, but featured some metaphors and similes that were obviously targeted for a younger audience, and probably not a twenty-two year old Masters student.

However, this was warmhearted, whimsical read that I thoroughly enjoyed. To be honest, I didn’t want it to end, and will happily pick it up at a later date.

On the Other Side is out now.

Information –

 

Waterstones

Amazon

Author’s website

Author YouTube channel

Author’s twitter.

 

The Swans of Fifth Avenue – Book Review

Title: The Swans of Fifth Avenue

Author: Melanie Benjamin

Rating: 3/5

Genre: Celebrity, Memoir, Historical Fiction, Women’s Literature, Chick-Lit, Contemporary Fiction


“Babe Paley simply never made an empty gesture, and here she was, assembling a parade of them. But her feet, her hands, her mind, her heart, were all restless. Truman.”

Throughout all my years of being an English student, one author has cropped up time and time again during my studies. His words have always struck a deep emotional chord with me and I would eagerly devour his stories whenever I could. To me, Truman Capote was, and still is, such an enigma in his writing, as he not only invented the idea of the ‘nonfiction novel’, but brought to life the cult favourite of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And it 9780345528698wasn’t just his literary talent that he was praised for, but his flamboyant and very decorated personal life as a social butterfly and celebrity favourite.
So when I was sent The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin to review, I was thrilled.

The Swans of Fifth Avenue focuses on 1950s/60s New York City and author Truman Capote’s life and his relationship with the higher tiers of society. At the peak of the society, women of immense power, money, familial ties and intrigue stand apart from the rest. These are Truman’s ‘swans’, and they represent a world of riches and beauty that Truman desperately wishes to be part of. And at the head of this group, socialite and style icon, Babe Paley is the undisputed queen. Glamourous, elegant and always dressed exquisitely, Babe Paley oozed glamour and sophistication. But beneath the perfect wife and woman façade, Babe Paley is a highly sensitive and passionate individual who craves love and affection that she is not receiving through her perfectly suited, yet loveless marriage. And when Truman Capote sweeps into her life with a larger-than-life personality, he sets Babe’s dull world into glorious Technicolour. And through winning the affection of Babe, Truman is granted unrivaled access into the snake-pit that is New York high society. But is Truman trustworthy? And what do you do when secrets get revealed, and the picture-perfect charade comes crashing down about you?

Now, this story is indeed very glamourous and scandalous. With a fairly fast pace and well-timed flashbacks and forwards, it keeps the reader interested, and allows you to become immersed into a world that seems entirely foreign from the everyday. From wearing Chanel suits to light lunches at the Plaza and into shopping sprees in Tiffany’s, this world seems so entirely rich and vibrant that is feels almost dreamlike. Now, despite the novel having a darker and more real undertone – with the Truman Capote scandal, the hidden lives of the glamourous women (drink, drugs, sex scandals, domestic abuse etc) – this novel isn’t particularly hard-hitting in those senses. To me, these were issues that really could have been explored and in better detail. In my opinion, this novel just wanted to have a halcyon glaze of glamour and beauty.

The ‘Swans’ were really an interesting group of women. They were all beautiful, charming, malicious, and as two-faced as they could come, and they thrived on attention and the scandal that surrounded their lives. With loveless marriages, money issues, drug and drink addiction and cosmetic surgery pressures, these women were constantly scrutinised by their closest friends as well as society, and I found them all to be highly interesting and unique characters. I particularly found Slim Keith and Gloria Vanderbilt to be interesting figures as they stood apart from the rest of the swans, and gave the taste of individuality and strength.

The relationship between Babe and Truman was always one of interest. To me, Benjamin has really written it as a relationship that seems so co-dependent and unhealthy, it borders on obsession. Both with unresolved mother issues, these two lonely hearts were drawn to each other for different reasons. And whilstbabe-paley-wearing-a-creation-of-traina-norell-photographed-by-horst-p-horst-from-american-vogue-in-1946 Truman ultimately sacrifices his relationship for the sake of a quick buck – his infamous short story ‘La Côte Basque 1965’ fictionalises and reveals all of Babe’s secrets, resulting in his Swans cutting him out of New York society – there is a sense that Truman really did care for Babe. And with the latter chapters showing both Babe and Truman’s downward spiral, due to illness and drink and drug dependencies, it is then when the book really does come into its own. After watching interviews and reading books on Capote, I thought that Benjamin really captured his spirit well.

Throughout the novel, I thought Benjamin captured the intimacy and secrecy of this world well. Sometimes it felt very intrusive whilst reading it, as though you, the reader was being allowed into the gilded cage and offered up the secrets.
All in all, I found this novel enjoyable. Yes, it some parts it was too sweet, and skimmed over the darker parts of the novel. But it was a light, and comfortable read. Perfectly suited for travel or a holiday. But don’t expect to be reading hard-hitting literature here. Full of scandal, intrigue and beautiful clothes, this novel transports you away to the cool interiors of Bergdorf’s, St Regis and Tiffany’s.

To buy this book – Amazon/Waterstones

Author’s website – Click Here

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt – Book Review

Title: The Goldfinch

Author: Donna Tartt

Rating: 5/5

Genre: Bildungsroman, Fiction, Adult Fiction, Crime Novel, Epic Fiction


“You can look at a picture for a week and never think of it again. You can also look at a picture for a second and think of it all your life”

As I’ve mentioned before, Donna Tartt is one of my favourite authors. She not only crafts intriguing plots, characters and situations, but she never seems to disappoint with the endings to her novels. You, as a reader, feel very satisfied when you close that book, but it never seems to leave you. You find yourself going off into daydreams about the themes and the tartt_thegoldfinch
characters. And that, to me, is the mark of a good author. To leave you wanting more.

Now, interestingly enough, The Goldfinch was my first introduction to Tartt’s work, but has been the last one I’ve read. I found a review and an excerpt of the story long before I bought any of the books, and I loved the writing style so much, I immediately took myself off to Waterstones and purchased everything together. But after reading and loving The Secret History and The Little Friend, I took it upon myself to read it over the festive period. And at nearly 800 pages, it certainly took up my time. But what a story. Within the pages, I found myself sucked into the world of art thievery, bildungsroman plot devices, furniture crafting, museum tours, strolls through Las Vegas and Amsterdam, desired love, guilty consciousness and lasting friendships.

After a tragic accident and subequent death of his devoted mother, the reader meets Theo Decker as he stands abandoned in New York. His father has deserted him, the wealthy family who takes him in are concerned for his wellbeing, and his classmates have no idea how to speak or comfort him. Isolated within himself, Theo draws comfort and warmth from the only thing he has left of his mother’s memory and self – a tiny, priceless and exquisite painting that he stole from the gallery. The reader follows Theo as he is moved from the bustling New York to the loud and garish lights of Las Vegas and we observe as Theo develops and experiments with drugs, alcohol and love for the first time; each one proving to be as addictive and intoxicating as the last.

However, beyond this, the criminal underground beckons, and the audience watches Theo has to conquer the demons which he has held on for so long, along with the web of wild goose chases and false ends in which Theo has become entangled in.

As you can see, this novel follows Theo as he matures from a scrawny and not very worldly child into a complex and hardened adult. We see how he interacts with characters of different ages and different walks of life, along with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sides of humanity.

I read somewhere, on more than one occasion, that The Goldfinch has been compared to a Dickensian novel, and I can definitely see why from reading it now as the novel follows one individual’s lifespan, and how his actions as a youth impacts on his later life. He also comes against conflict, love, deception and crime and also experiences what it is like to be at the 8fdb0378-7a0a-44e0-a19c-5cfc2c71ddf5_het-puttertje-van-carel-fabritiusbottom of the ladder as well as the top. He proves a calming and familiar presence against others, and his point-of-view is never far away. This is a novel of grandeur, and just the immense scale of the book itself gives this away. We do get transported to different parts of the world, and the detail that Tartt has included is something to be marveled at. When Theo walks down dusty streets with the sun beating off his brow, we feel that heat on ourself. When Theo is experiencing his first acid high, we ourselves can feel delirious.

It really is a sensory overload.

I have always marvelled at the ways in which Tartt creates characters. Like with The Secret History’s Richard, it is always the supporting characters which provide the more interesting reading, and the main character is something they can react against.

The Secret History had Henry, this novel has Boris. Boris is simply a mixture of chaos, alcohol and strong principles. He is certainly the most fun character to read in the entire novel, and his and Theo’s relationship is something that is born of equal circumstance and the term of ‘Fuck it’.
Against Boris’s absolute insanity, the darling Hobie is another one which you cannot help but love. He’s distant when he needs to be, but so passionate and light, he is the perfect tonic against Boris’s special brand of darkness.
Also, the dynamic between Theo and the main female character of Pippa is one to be envied. It is something that cannot be written without the experience of having those particular feelings yourself. It’s love, compassion, companionship and adoration.

All-in-all, this book is a gem. Brilliantly crafted and expertly written, this book is a slow-burning literary giant.With this story, we as readers are lucky enough to experience two stories – the complete disintergration of Theo’s life after his mothers death, alongside the intricate and dangerous world of art thievery and crime. And as this book won the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, it clearly isn’t just this book blogger who thinks this book is something to be marvelled at.

Links:

To buy this book – Waterstones/Amazon

 

 

 

The Silent History by Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett – Book Review

Title: The Silent History

Authors: Eli Horowitz, Matthew Derby and Kevin Moffett.

Rating: 3.5/5

Genre: Fiction, Sci-Fi, Dystopia, Adult Literature, Contemporary Fiction, Social Media Literature.


“Let the unknown be unknown. The things we need will reveal themselves in time.”

Thanks to the lovely people at Nudge-book.com, I was sent this book as a gift, alongside my main review text (link to that right here). And when I read the blurb and little insider summary of the book’s history, I was instantly intrigued.

The Silent History was originally published and serialised through an award-winning app, and released little by little as field studies and testimonals. It focuses on the tale of a generation of children born without speech, without language and without any obvious means of communication with the outside world. These are called ‘The Silents’. So instantly, the children are labelled under various terms31b3rhddlpl-_sy344_bo1204203200_
– a blessing, an epidemic, a freakshow, a scientific miracle, or just outcasts. The story is told through 120 individual testimonals, ranging from parents of ‘silent’ children, to doctors, friends, leaders and random observers, and it narrates how the children were first diagnosed, and how, through the years of 2011-44, these children grew into a world that saw the ‘silents’ change from being freaks of nature and into something far more powerful.

Now, I had my copy sent to me in a paperback book format. So I cannot review this as how it was originally published, as I didn’t have, or was even aware of the app. So, I apologise in that sense. But, after reading it, I can see how amazing this would have been as a novel-by-the-way-of-an-app. I have gathered through my research that there are even parts of the book that I haven’t been able to access, due to the user interaction that only the app can provide, which adds another level of this story completely.

Whilst I was reading it, I noticed there are definite touches of Sci-Fi, fantasy and even end-of-the-world in this book. With the ‘silents’ being diagnosed, humiliated and labelled an epidemic and then basically marginalised by the rest of society, there is a real sense of isolation and tension throughout the stories. With the use of first-hand and oral recordings of the silents history, it felt very World War Z, and the scenes of the motely groups of silents banding together was highly reminiscent of the zombie genre (think countless scenes in The Walking Dead) so I thought that the whole idea of discrimination was done really well.

With the people of the narrative, I also thought these were written extremely well. The authors could definitely explain human emotions, especially when said humans were at their limits. There are sections, like Theo (the manic, overprotective father) and his silent daughter, Flora, which does show postivity and family bonds, but not traditional sense at all. The most amusing character was either the straightforward Francine or the manic, cultish Patti, as they brought humour and a sense of realness to the crazy world they ipadiphone-33203a116f049163aa165def8aeb2a65lived in.

So yes, I found the premise and the writing was of a very high level. The original writers of the app and stories had clearly thought this out. But for me, the real problem was the translation of app-to-book. Like I said, I can definitely see how this would have worked as an app. It would have been so interesting, as the characters and stories would have been slowly given out, so the story would have been kept fresh and intriguing. But that doesn’t really work on paper. I was interested for 3/4 of the way through, but then it started to lose its focus and the ending wasn’t satisfying enough. Some characters just seemed to disappear without any proper farewells, and I did have to push myself to actually finish. Maybe due to how it was written or delivered, there were some parts were the narration felt slow and the big climax was disappointing to say the least.

But honestly, I think that is due to how it was changed from app to book. It does go to show that how stories are told originally really makes all the difference!

So unfortunately, I cannot give this a 4/5. The premise was fantastic, as was the writing. But it just didn’t work as a book. Not to this reviewer anyway.

But let me know! Have you ever read or used The Silent History app/book? How does it compare?

Once again, huge thank you to Nudge for sending me this.

Links:

To buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon

Website – Click Here