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Book Review: The A-Z of You and Me by James Hannah

Ivo fell for her.

He fell for a girl he can’t get back.

Now he’s hoping for something.

While he waits he plays a game:

He chooses a body part and tells us its link to the past he threw away.

He tells us the story of how she found him, and how he lost her.

But he doesn't have long.

And he still has one thing left to do ...  (from Goodreads.com)

Published by Doubleday 12th March 2015 

As someone who reads a fair old amount of books, sometimes there becomes a bit of sameness between them, you know what to expect and individual stories end up blurring in your memory. Then along comes a book which completely throws you of guard and offers a completely original and fresh approach to blow you away. The A-Z of You and Me is one of those books, and I know it won't be one I'll be forgetting any time soon.

Looking at the blurb above, the concept of using body parts seems a bit odd. However,it works perfectly in this story and isn't anywhere near as weird or squeamish as it first sounds. Ivo is forty and in a hospice when his nurse suggests this game to him. It's through this game, and each letter/body part, that we get to know Ivo, what brought him to the point he is at today, and the heartbreaking love story at the centre of this book. For each letter,while relating to a specific part of the body, a memory or anecdote from his past is revealed. It's really very clever.

The heart of this book is the tragic love story between Ivo and Mia, but this isn't a slushy tale. It's pretty raw and flawed, uncomfortable at times as Ivo's life and regrets are revealed. Yet, given the situation Ivo is now in, it's not at all depressing or morbid. There is humour and kindness (particularly from nurse Sheila, who is an amazing character) which lifts the mood of the book completely.

I was completely sucked into this book and flew through the pages. I felt I really got to know Ivo very, very well. I wanted to know more as I was reading and became completely involved in his story. Yes it's sad, if like me you're prone to tears then I recommend tissues. But the whole book was so beautifully resolved, it was strangely uplifting too. I loved it.

My copy was an advance reader from the Amazon Vine program

Waiting On Wednesday: The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Breaking The Spine, and is a weekly event to spotlight upcoming releases we can't wait to get our hands on.  


The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan  



A lyrical and moving debut in the tradition of Angela Carter and Margaret Atwood, introducing an original and commanding new voice in fiction

As a Gracekeeper, Callanish administers shoreside burials, sending the dead to their final resting place deep in the depths of the ocean. Alone on her island, she has exiled herself to a life of tending watery graves as penance for a long-ago mistake that still haunts her. Meanwhile, North works as a circus performer with the Excalibur, a floating troupe of acrobats, clowns, dancers, and trainers who sail from one archipelago to the next, entertaining in exchange for sustenance.

In a world divided between those inhabiting the mainland ("landlockers") and those who float on the sea ("damplings"), loneliness has become a way of life for North and Callanish, until a sudden storm offshore brings change to both their lives--offering them a new understanding of the world they live in and the consequences of the past, while restoring hope in an unexpected future.  

Inspired in part by Scottish myths and fairytales, The Gracekeepers tells a modern story of an irreparably changed world: one that harbors the same isolation and sadness, but also joys and marvels of our own age. 

Published May 7th 2015 by Harvill Secker (UK) 

SOOOOO... This sounds good! It reminds me a bit of The Night Circus from the blurb, and then I read an early review that compared it to it in atmosphere and magical-ness (!?!) As The Night Circus is one of my favourite books of all time, this is firmly on my waiting for wishlist. 

Book Review: Alice and the Fly by James Rice

A spellbinding debut novel by an exceptional new young British talent.

This is a book about phobias and obsessions, isolation and dark corners. It's about families, friendships, and carefully preserved secrets. But above everything else it's about love. Finding love - in any of its forms - and nurturing it.

Miss Hayes has a new theory. She thinks my condition's caused by some traumatic incident from my past I keep deep-rooted in my mind. As soon as I come clean I'll flood out all these tears and it'll all be ok and I won't be scared of Them anymore. The truth is I can't think of any single traumatic childhood incident to tell her. I mean, there are plenty of bad memories - Herb's death, or the time I bit the hole in my tongue, or Finners Island, out on the boat with Sarah - but none of these are what caused the phobia. I've always had it. It's Them. I'm just scared of Them. It's that simple. (from Goodreads.com)

Published January 2015 by Hodder and Stoughton

I didn't know much about this book going into it, the blurb-as intriguing as it is-actually gives away very little. And that's definitely a good thing, knowing so little is the best way to get the most from this book and the authors intention of revealing the story slowly works very well. Of course this makes it difficult to review! I really wouldn't want to give too much away here.

Alice and the Fly is pretty dark. Main character Greg has his issues, but it's the characters around him, as everyday as they appear, that really gave me the chills. This story is one of innocence and dysfunction, repercussions and responsibility (or lack of it). We know there's a huge, traumatic climax, alluded to in police transcripts interspersed between chapters, but by the slow reveal of the story I found my sympathies lay where they probably wouldn't have had I already known what was going to happen.

The writing in Alice and the Fly really adds to the sense of looming tragedy, with an almost eerily naivety and honesty. I've seen it likened to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time by Mark Haddon, and I'd say that's pretty fair. James Rice really does capture his complex, confused and troubled young character very well, and I found him completely believable.

With snappy chapters, broken up by the transcripts, this was a book that I found myself glued to, the pages turning effortlessly. I'd recommend this both as older, mature YA and Adult reading. It really is a fantastic debut, and an author I'll definitely be looking out for in the future.

My copy was a free advance reader through the Amazon Vine Program

Waiting On Wednesday

Waiting On Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking The Spine and is a chance to spotlight upcoming books you can't wait to read.

The Girl In The Red Coat by Kate Hamer


The Girl in the Red Coat

Kate Hamer's stand-out debut thriller is the hugely moving story of an abduction that will keep you guessing until the very last page. Carmel has always been different. Carmel's mother, Beth, newly single, worries about her daughter's strangeness, especially as she is trying to rebuild a life for the two of them on her own. When she takes eight year-old Carmel to a local children's festival, her worst fear is realised: Carmel disappears. Unable to accept the possibility that her daughter might be gone for good, Beth embarks on a mission to find her. Meanwhile, Carmel begins an extraordinary and terrifying journey of her own, with a man who believes she is a saviour. 

Published March 5th 2015 by Faber & Faber (UK)

Book Review:Five Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

Mara is a successful lawyer, and devoted wife and mother. Struggling with a devastating illness, she has set herself five days to make the ultimate decision for her family. Scott lives a thousand miles away, and is a foster parent to a troubled eight-year-old. Scott is facing his own five day countdown until his beloved foster son is returned to his biological mother. The two connect through an online forum, and find a friendship to help guide them through the most difficult, and momentous, week of their lives. (from Amazon.co.uk)

Published August 2014 by Century

I usually love a book told from two view points. I find alternating narratives over chapters really pushes the book on. So I was expecting that to happen with this book, especially after being drawn into Mara's story so much at the beginning. Unfortunately though it didn't really work for me this time, and I felt Scott's story added nothing to the book whatsoever. In fact it could've been cut completely.

If I was rating this book on Mara's sections alone it would be verging on 5 stars. I loved how the author took a difficult and upsetting subject and portrayed Mara as strong and very, very real. She doesn't sugar coat and play on emotions...it's told how it is, often brutally so. Huntington's is a relentlessly cruel disease and for me Mara's reactions to her illness; her fear, resentment and anger, where convincing and heart breaking.

Scott's story in itself isn't all that terrible, and I could also sympathise with his situation. The problem that I had was that the link between these two characters is tenuous at best. The idea is that they are both facing a five day countdown and connect over an internet forum. The truth is, this seems to have been forgotten about in the book and communication between the two involves a couple of PM's, which are pretty vague and don't add anything to the story at all. This could've worked. Instead we're left with two underdeveloped stories, Scott's in particular as the book is heavily weighted in Mara's favour. I think the author made a mistake sharing Mara's story with Scott's. I'd have much rather have seen it split with Harry, a taxi driver Mara makes a connection with. Now he was interesting. The trouble was taken to even give him a back story, and I see this as a wasted opportunity.


I feel I'm being particularly negative, yet I do think for the most part (as I'd say Mara's story does cover at least two thirds) this was a really good, well written and touching book. I just wish the author had fully committed to Mara and left Scott for her next book. It really let the book down in my opinion. Regardless, I would look out for other work by this author in the future.

My copy was a free advance reader through the Amazon Vine Program

My Week In (mainly) Pictures

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I'd planned to do a kind of weekly round up post on a Sunday, but this week I haven't really done much as I've been in bed most of the week with FLU! Instead of skipping it, I thought I'd do a quick round up of my week in mainly pictures.



I spent a lot of time in bed, with a hot water bottle,reading. I've never felt so grim for along time, but on the plus side...I got through a couple of fantastic books. 


Choosing books for Top Ten Tuesday got me thinking about all these books that I have, which I was so excited about reading when I acquired them, yet still haven't got around to (PS If I said around 300 I wouldn't be lying). I thought I should probably commit to not adding to the pile until I do read some of them. But then I've had a lot of time in bed, with my laptop, to browse. I am weak willed. 


As I'd shared my germs so kindly with Lu (who luckily wasn't as completely floored by it as me) we had a quiet, peaceful Saturday.  We'd been sent these AMIGAMI  (link to amazon) owl and fox kids craft sets to review, so spent a nice couple of hours playing with pretty paper. It was fun, and we were both really pleased with the results. 


OBLIGATORY WEATHER PHOTO: I've not been outside for a week until today. It was wierd...purple, pink and very misty. I didn't stay out long.  

So, not the most inspiring week, but I do quite like the idea of a 'week in mainly pictures' post being a regular thing. I'll remember to be more interesting (and healthy) for next time though...

Book Review: The Ice Twins by S.K. Treymayne


The Ice TwinsA year after one of their identical twin daughters, Lydia, dies in an accident, Angus and Sarah Moorcraft move to the tiny Scottish island Angus inherited from his grandmother, hoping to put together the pieces of their shattered lives. 

But when their surviving daughter, Kirstie, claims they have mistaken her identity – that she, in fact, is Lydia – their world comes crashing down once again.

As winter encroaches, Angus is forced to travel away from the island for work, Sarah is feeling isolated, and Kirstie (or is it Lydia?) is growing more disturbed. When a violent storm leaves Sarah and her daughter stranded, Sarah finds herself tortured by the past – what really happened on that fateful day one of her daughters died? (From Goodreads.com)

Published 29th January 2015 by Harper Collins


This book appealed to me from very first sight...without even knowing the synopsis, it just stood out. The cover screams haunting and creepy and it's a perfect fit for the book. Once I had read the book description, I was caught hook, line and sinker...what an incredible premise! I was intrigued.

Identical twins is always a fascinating topic to the majority of us who can only imagine what it is to experience such a bond and likeness to another human. As a mother, I've wondered how parents of identical twins can tell them apart, especially as babies, and how often it may happen that identities get switched accidentally in the first weeks of life. The Ice Twins takes my wondering a step further, what if one twin were to die and you couldn't for sure say which one? It's a chilling thought, and deep down I felt it was also terrifyingly possible. Combine this with the ethereal vulnerability of the surviving twin, so hauntingly conveyed by the author, and The Ice Twins quickly became an intensely disturbing page turner.

S.K. Tremayne also does a good job of creating suspicion and doubt around the dysfunctional adults in this book. They're both painted in a bad light to be honest, intentionally to deepen the mystery and drama and leave the reader constantly second guessing just what was going on. The remote Scottish island setting gave another atmospheric layer, and with vivid descriptions along with photographs at the beginning of each chapter, I could almost feel the isolation of the eerie old lighthouse cottage. I was tense while reading, with my heart pounding and every creak of my house and rattle of the windows from the wind causing me to jump.

There were a couple of little issues which slightly stopped this from being perfect however. Firstly, while it's obviously the author's intent is for us to mistrust the characters of Angus and Sarah, sometimes my dislike for them distracted me from what I was reading. Especially Angus, who quite honestly came across as an arse at times. Secondly, I'm happy to suspend belief when necessary, but occasionally too much suspending was required and I found it difficult to believe that either of these parents wouldn't be actively seeking professional help sooner, or indeed any of the minor characters involved.

Those two complaints aside, I really enjoyed this book. The unique premise, atmospheric setting and chilling character/s of Lydia/Kirstie made it compulsive reading.  If you enjoy a psychological thriller to keep you awake at night...then this is for you.

My copy was a free advance reader through the Amazon Vine Program

 


Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Broke and The Bookish 

Top Ten Books I Can't Believe I Haven't/Want To Read

This was a hard one to narrow down. I have shelves of books that I haven't got around to going back years. My Amazon wishlist is nearly as big as the entire book catalogue on there. In the end I decided to grab the books from my shelves that I remember being the most excited about and the ones I still REALLY want to read and can't believe I haven't yet.  (from mixed genre's so a bit of a cheat!)



Boundless by Cynthia Hand, The Dead Tossed Waves by Carrie Ryan and Insurgent by Veronica Roth....I RAVED about the first books in these series, waited desperately for these sequels, got my hands on them the second I could...and then never got round to reading them. WHY!!! I fear it's been so long now, I'll struggle to recall what happened at the beginning of these series.  

The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets and A Thousand Splendid Suns are probably the two longest unreads on my shelves. The Distant Hours and Twenties Girl were books by favourite authors which I'd been waiting for for ages. And A Hundred Pieces Of Me, Room and Gone Girl were all books which I'd bought on the back of amazing reviews...I think I'm in a small minority of people who never got around to them....yet.


Looking Forward To February

I'm truly not sorry to say goodbye to January. I dislike the dark, cold, greyness of it. Although it did end very prettily with some snow. This was the walk to school the other day. 


Yet despite some snow, there's some welcome signs that spring is on its way. The nights are getting lighter and it's not dark when I leave work anymore. Hurrah. Also, despite the snow, these little beauties popped open overnight giving me a lovely welcome surprise. 


It was also payday weekend...the first one after Christmas. It's always handy to get paid early in December, but ugh...6 weeks is a long time. I've treat myself to some new books which I'm waiting to arrive. 

In the mean time, here's my to read pile for February. I've read such good things about all of these, I think it's going to be a brilliant reading month. Have you read any of them? What did you think? 

**Announcement**

I've moved ... you can now find this blog at CosyBooks.Blog ...same content, different place!

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