Originally read in 2006. Reread in June/July 2016.
Reading all the books in a row, they're becoming a bit repetitive now and I'd like more storyline aOriginally read in 2006. Reread in June/July 2016.
Reading all the books in a row, they're becoming a bit repetitive now and I'd like more storyline and revelations rather than gimmicky writing and repeated summaries of previous books. It almost feels as if 'Lemony Snicket' did not have enough of a story left to tell but tried to stretch it out thinly to achieve 13 novels to match the 13 chapters of each book....more
Third reread (in anticipation of Netflix TV-series) in 2016 and it is not as fantastic as I remembered itOriginally read in 2005 and reread in 2008.
Third reread (in anticipation of Netflix TV-series) in 2016 and it is not as fantastic as I remembered it to be. However, that may be due to the poor film adaptation skewing my opinion of this story. Will see if it continues with the other books as I reread the series......more
Sometimes I pick up a novel I know absolutely nothing about yet so I can let myself be completely taken by surprise by the story within the pages, and The Comfort of Others was one such a read. I even avoided the blurb and press release so I could dive in without any prior knowledge and expectations, which was a great way to experience Max and Minnie's stories to their fullest.
Max is nearly 12 years old and he lives with his mother. As it's the school holidays she has given Max a Dictaphone in which he records everything that happens to him that summer. It has always just been Max and his mother and they have their own little routines he is content with, but all that changes when he comes to fix the boiler and asks Max's mother out on a date. From that moment on he becomes a part of Max's life, and not in a good way. Max is no longer the centre of his mother's attention and the new boyfriend is being unkind towards him. Max is unable to talk to his mother about is, so instead he shares his thoughts and feelings with his Dictaphone and the old lady across the street.
Minnie lives in the big house in the middle of the estate on which Max lives. When Minnie was Max's age the entire estate belonged to her family, and back then the neat rows of houses were fields and tennis courts. Even though the world around her has changed tremendously in the decades that have passed, inside the house time has stand still. Minnie and her older sister Clara live among the antiques of their youth, stuck in their routines and afraid to leave in fear that the world will uncover their secrets. But as Minnie notices the boy across the street recording his days, she decides to do the same. She picks up a diary from when she was much younger and finally tells the tragic story that led to herself and her sister living in solitude for so many decades.
The Comfort of Others is anything but a comfortable read. The man entering Max's life as well as Minnie's mother were two characters whose actions made me feel hugely uncomfortable while reading and on more than one occasion I contemplated putting the book down as I didn't want to discover what terrible things the two main character would have to deal with next. Despite the adversities on their paths, however, I found Max and Minnie two very compelling characters and it was their unlikely friendship that kept me hooked on reading this novel until the very end.
Max narrating his days in his Dictaphone and Minnie in her diary created an instant personal connection to these two unlikely protagonists, and when their paths crossed they had each other to confide in which made them both stronger and able to tackle the challenges in their life – proving how valuable it can be to talk about problems and worries. The novel as a whole almost felt as an intimate look into the psyche of these two people and while not everything we discovered, especially the horrifying events from Minnie's childhood, made for cheerful reading it was certainly engrossing.
While I was gripped by Max and Minnie's friendship and the uncovering of secrets past and present, the ending of this book let it down for me somewhat as it came too abruptly and happily-ever-after, which felt improbable after the events preceding it. Perhaps adding the same gentle touch of storytelling to the conclusion as had been applied to the other pages would've been a better choice here. Despite its ending, however, the entwinement of the cross-generation stories and secrets made for a fascinating read.
The Comfort of Others is a quiet novel about discomfort and oppression, and an unlikely friendship defying them both. ...more
Martini Henry is the second novel by author and actress Sara Crowe, and one that has been on my radar since the fun reading at a Transworld Showcase last year. While I hadn't read the first novel, Campari for Breakfast, I was told that this one could be read as a stand alone and so I was very keen to take part in the blog tour when the opportunity arose.
Sue Bowl is an aspiring journalist. 18-years-old and fresh off a writing course she's hungry for an internship at the local paper while she's working on her dissertation and she tries to be more Russian in her writing, one of the biggest pointers she'd been given during her course.
At the same time she's reading a 3,000 page long tome titled For the Concern of the Rich and Poor, as there are links with Green Place, the mansion she lives in with her aunt and an assortment of lodgers, including three admirals. But things don't go according to plan for Sue and she has to look at a Plan B to gain some much-needed income. And when the one stable thing in her life, her boyfriend Joe, starts unraveling too, everything Sue has been building up since the loss of her mother a year prior comes tumbling down.
I thought Martini Henry was going to a a laugh a minute, but it wasn't really. There were humourous moments, sure, but it wasn't as "hilarious" or "very, very funny" as the back cover quotes or the reading last year at the Showcase made it seem. Instead it was a far more mature coming-of-age novel where the eloquent main character often seemed wise beyond her years because of her impeccable way with words.
Her flowery writing could've of course be attributed to her journalistic aspirations, but then her coursework and newspaper submissions read a lot more inexperienced than her diary entries. The wise-beyond-her-years diary pages could've made Sue look very unrealistic, as her writing did often seem like author Sara Crowe showing her readers how descriptive she could be, but then Sue made some very foolish decisions, which certainly her showed her age.
Ultimately this was very much a book of two halves, however, and while technically speaking Sue was the protagonist as we read her diary entries and the excerpts she creates from the 3,000 page long For the Concern of the Rich and Poor, it was actually the story of the London Taylor's journey from rags to riches which Sue was uncovering within this novel that was the more engaging one to me.
His was an epic tale of coming from absolutely nothing and how, when reflecting upon his life in old age, this completely turned around because of kindness and meeting the right people on his path. No matter what adversities London faces, he remains true to himself and doesn't became hateful towards those treating him and the people he cares about unfairly, which he could've so easily done as it by no means was an easy journey he was on.
This is a story that shows some of the worst sides of the social divide in the 19th century, and it is written in such an engaging, fascinating and even adventurous way that I felt myself being completely swept away by these parts of Martini Henry. Every time we returned back to the 1980s and Sue I felt a pang of impatience as I wanted to learn more about London and how his life would turn out.
That isn't to say that I want to completely dismiss Sue's story, as that had elements that kept me hooked on reading it too, but in her case it was actually the people surrounding her, such as Aunt Coral and Joe, that I felt most invested in and I wanted to learn more about. And of course the 80s setting, which while not all out neon-coloured leggings and back-combed hair, still had some fun little nods to the decade fashion forgot.
It is Sue's story I picked Martini Henry up for, but it's London's story that made me stay. This is a dual time-frame narrative with an interesting twist as instead of focusing on adults connected by a romantic tragedy and war, they are two coming-of-age tales and didn't include a battle until a brief mention at the very end. While this is perhaps not a comedy novel with a laugh on every page, it is a compelling read, especially when London's tale started unfolding and echoing events in Sue's present time.
If you've already read and enjoyed Campari for Breakfast then Martini Henry is undoubtedly a novel you'll love reading to be reunited with Sue, Joe, Aunt Carol, and the gang. If you're not yet familiar with them but you like an eclectic cast of characters, a coming-of-age tale set amid the fashion faux pas of the 1980s, and a fascinating history lesson to boot, then this will be a right up your alley too....more
Mallory grew up with two foster parents who terrorised her childhood; unsuitable to parenthood they threatened her, scared her and forced her into staying quiet and unseen for the many years she lived with them. The only reason Mallory survived was Rider Stark, a boy a few years her senior who protected her from the demons at the peril of his own well-being. When a fire leaves physical evidence of the unsuitable home Mallory and Rider lived in all those years, they are freed from the nightmare but at one terrible cost: they get separated.
Fast forward a few years and Mallory's life has completely turned around. Adopted by two doctors who care for her deeply she now lives in a stable home and is slowly working on overcoming the emotional and physical scars of her childhood. She still has trouble speaking lengthily in front of strangers, an after-effect of being told to be quiet for most of her life, but otherwise she's doing well and she is ready to face a new milestone: high school. As if having a normal conversation with strangers isn't challenging enough for Mallory, another big shock awaits her on her first day of school. She runs into Rider, and all her feelings – for him and about their shared past – come crashing back into her life.
I remember coming across Jennifer L. Armentrout years ago when I read about her novel Cursed, which, back in the day, even made my Waiting On Wednesday. She disappeared from my radar after that, only to resurface with a vengeance with the beautiful The Problem With Forever (and I don't just mean the cover though holy crap, how gorgeous is that one?!). This is a story that needs telling but so rarely does. It realistically shows the emotional impact of the mistreatment of impressionable children and how it can have lasting effects on those involved. Mallory became quiet and invisible, not unlike a mouse, a nickname Rider gives her. The slightly older boy becomes her protector, someone who is willing to sacrifice himself for those he cares for.
Even years later, when Mallory has been living in a loving home for a few years already and Rider too is taken care off, the two characters retain these characteristics; Mallory rarely talks to strangers and Rider is a fierce protector of the younger boy living in the same home as him; Jayden. You can take people away from a nightmare but that doesn't mean the nightmares stop. The things we experience as children are deeply rooted into brains and can influence every next stage in the journey of life.
I loved reading all of this from Mallory's perspective because despite all the hardships she had to endure in her still young life, she is a kind human being and deserving of overcoming her struggles and fears and just be a normal teenager (for as far as there is such a thing as normal, of course). Rider, despite being screwed up from his childhood too, provided the perfect balance to her naivety and neediness, not to mention that he was hot to boot!
The only character that wasn't explored to the fullest was Mallory's best friend Ainsley. Mallory was so completely, almost selfishly, focused on her own troubles that Ainsley got the short end of the stick. I loved Ainsley from the start, her contagious excitement, her unrelenting championing of Mallory and Rider, and her supportive nature despite not necessarily being returned the favour. Why then did this character only serve as a brutal eye opener to Mallory? Driving an important change in mentality just for the plot, without getting some much-needed support herself?
It reminded me of something author Claire Hennessy recently said about the best friend dying (this is not a spoiler, Ainsley doesn't die) merely to make the protagonist do a complete turn around and see what has been obvious to the reader from the very first page. Before she made this very valid comment I probably wouldn't have noticed it in The Problem With Forever, but now it's painfully obvious. And that's a shame, as Ainsley is a wonderful character in her own right and she deserved more than that (at the very least a conclusion to her storyline rather than being left forgotten among those final chapters).
Aside from the handling of Ainsley I loved this novel from start to finish. The Problem With Forever is an important book telling a powerful story. Even these days too many foster kids still slip through the system and with Mallory and Rider, Jennifer L. Armentrout gives these children a voice and shows the emotional effects of not growing up in a loving home, and how it can impact them even years later.
Despite the harrowing premise, this is an uplifting read too. No matter what horrors people experience, most of us will overcome them to come out better and stronger. Not all of us, mind, as this book so devastatingly shows, but for most of us there is hope and we come to realise that these dark moments will not last forever....more
Recent widow April travels to Tindledale to visit her great aunt Edie and take a much-deserved break from her life to try and process the loss of her husband. What starts off as a courtesy short visit to check up on her great aunt and help the older woman in and around the house, turns into a much longer stay when April realises that Edie's house and orchard is severely neglected and needs a younger hand to bring it back to life. April herself blossoms in Tindledale too, soon becoming friends with Molly and being eyed by not one but two of the local men.
And if the villagers and her great aunt weren't enough to keep her occupied already and take her mind off the death of her husband, April also tries to uncover the secret of Winnie, Edie's older sister who went missing during the second world war. Did she really run off because she had a baby with a married man, like so many elder residents in the village believe to be the case, or was there more to the story? For Edie's sake, April is determined to solve the mystery once and for all.
Returning to Tindledale felt like reuniting with an old friend you haven't seen for far too long, and yet within the first minutes of conversation you ease back into the familiarity and comfort of reconnecting with someone you can just be yourself with. Tindledale embodies cosiness and loveliness and spending the better part of the train journey from England to the Netherlands immersed within this village and its quirky inhabitants was an utter delight.
I'd already fallen in love with the villagers in the Alex's previous novels, and it was lovely to be reunited with some of them, but the new cast of characters in The Secret of Orchard Cottage has to be my favourite one yet. Most protagonists in women's fiction novels these days and in their 20s or 30s, but as readers grow older as well (myself included) it was refreshing to have 40-something April at the heart of the story, and she was complimented well by her 22-year-old stepdaughter and teenager Bella, both of whom I absolutely adored, for some cheeky shenanigans more befitting younger characters.
The Secret of Orchard Cottage wasn't only a heartwarming hug in book shape, it was a proper engrossing read too. I loved the links back to the past that were woven throughout with Winnie's story and the conclusion to the mystery was incredibly satisfying and brought a huge smile to my face. Alex is brilliant at mixing heartbreak with humour, and conjuring up an incredible cast of characters that us readers fall head over heels in love with (I'm looking at you Matt and Dr Ben). The latest instalment in the Tindledale series includes all of these elements and then some, making it the perfect read to dream away with on a lazy summer's day (or a spring, autumn or winter day, any day really...).
With Tindledale Alex Brown has brought all the very best elements of small town England together in one gorgeous place. The main characters in her novels visit this idyllic location to refuel and discover what is truly important in life – friends, family and love – but so do her readers. Having the opportunity to walk the cobble-stoned streets of this picturesque village through the pages of her books is an absolute delight. You don't have to leave your home to feel like your holidaying in the country side, all you need to do is pick up The Secret of Orchard Cottage and be swept away by its heartwarming charm. ...more
I wasn't a fan of this and I am giving it a reluctant 3 stars. The overall experience was very disappointing considering how mind-blowing the end to WI wasn't a fan of this and I am giving it a reluctant 3 stars. The overall experience was very disappointing considering how mind-blowing the end to Way Down Dark was and I may have to revise my star rating down once I've fully processed my thoughts. ...more
Sunny is a London teenager in a happy relationship with her boyfriend Mark, and with her parents away for the night she has decided that she is ready to take the next step in their relationship. That is, until she receives a text from OMG!Martha in which she sees Mark kissing a girl in short shorts. Even though she had just made the trek all the way to the other side of London to Crystal Palace, Sunny is absolutely crushed and the only thing she wants to do is to go home and wallow with a tub of ice cream and a movie.
While she has all the intentions of travelling home, when Mark messages her to say that the photos are not what it seems she decides to go find him and discuss the whole thing in person. What follows is a crazy 12-hour long trip to every corner of London while Sunny is carrying a broom and she has two French boys on mopeds in tow. Modes of transport during the night include rail replacement buses, trains and even a rickshaw, as she follows in the footsteps of Mark and pieces together the truth about the revealing photos and the girl trying to snatch Mark away from her.
London Belongs to Us starts out as a girl blindly following a boy, but as the night progresses, Sunny loses some of the inhibitions that usually hold her back and she becomes a more kick-ass version of herself.
This has got to be one of the best contemporary YA reads ever! It is fresh and funny, with a fantastic protagonist and as every chapter started with a little bit of history about the iconic London location Sunny would be exploring the next few hours it also made me discover more (in a hilarious way) about the city that I've been calling my home for the past 6 years.
I loved, loved, LOVED Sunny. She was such a fun character to experience this crazy whirlwind of a night with and the people that become a part of her story (read: the French boys) were an absolute delight. I love that while perhaps this started off as the story of a girl hung-up on a boy, throughout the night Sunny actually came to understand more about herself. And all the crazy things that happened to her ultimately created this fantastically funny and incredibly inspirational story of empowerment.
And you don't have to be a Londoner (or have even visited this city) to appreciate all the tidbits about the different areas mentioned, but it was heaps of fun to read about the tube while I was on one (thank heavens it wasn't a rail replacement bus) and about Alexandra Park just after I'd been there myself. It made the story come even more alive and I felt like I was travelling all corners of London with Sunny and the French boys. I want to reread the book (yes, already!) and follow in their footsteps while reading, if only South London wasn't such a stupidly long way away. #NorthLondonRepresent.
London Belongs to Us is a love letter to London and one of the funniest books I have ever read. I could not stop reading out passages to friends and I'm still giggling over the whole broom management theme. And when a novel has pie charts too, you know you're definitely onto a winner. There is nothing I can say that will capture just how amazing it is, so pick up London Belongs to Us as soon as it hits the shops on June 2 and find out for yourself!...more
This was such a sweet and uncomplicated read, exactly what I needed right now. Also, Lara Jean was a refreshing protagonist among today's common teenThis was such a sweet and uncomplicated read, exactly what I needed right now. Also, Lara Jean was a refreshing protagonist among today's common teen characters who often grow up far too quickly and get involved with drink, drugs and so much more – or maybe I'm showing my age here? Either way, I loved this contemporary read and its adorable main character, and I look forward to picking up the sequel in the not too distant future. ...more
Seren is part of a several hundred year long mission through space and as one of the middle generations she has never seen earth nor will she see the planet they're heading for. She, her parents and her future children are there to serve the mission and pilot the ship towards its final destination without getting any of the glory for the mindless work they are forced to do their entire lives for the greater good.
It's a pretty meaningless existence and anything that could make life worthwhile, such as love and family, is regulated so the people on the ship are not even able to marry those they might want to or even have any control over the growth of their family. Upon a generation's graduation they are each assigned their life partner, and the bearing of children is strictly limited and created in a lab.
It's a life of duty rather than enjoyment and already forced to be stuck inside the ship from birth to death, never having the chance to run along a beach and feeling the sunshine on her skin, Seren is determined to not have her entire life be decided by regulation and protocol and she falls in love with a boy who is not her assigned partner. But confined in such a small space it's impossible to have secrets and Seren and Dom are soon found out by those in charge. Are they really willing to risk everything, even life itself, just for a change to feel something?
The Loneliness of Distant Beings had a chilling concept at its core and the bleakness of Seren's existence, as well as the mindless willingness with which the people on the ship accepted this despondent life, created a haunting backdrop for this novel. In a mission lasting hundreds of years there was bound to be some sort of rebellion and it was interesting to see this blossom within Seren. First the awareness that their existence is basically pointless and next actively taking a stance that goes against the status quo.
The people surrounding Seren all had a role to play in the story and I really liked how they developed slowly but surely throughout, especially Seren's assigned life partner, her best friend and a girl who becomes a very close friend. I didn't like the turn in some of these character's personalities but they made sense and were necessary to drive the plot forward. Their developments were realistic, created conflict in what could otherwise descend in too much of an angsty teen read (even in space), and ultimately is what elevated this novel from a mere sci-fi romance to a proper great story.
The main romance was a little too instalove for my liking, but I was endlessly fascinated by the characters' voyage through space and the utter desolation of their generation's mission, and that is what kept me hooked until the final page. Author Kate Ling did a fantastic job shaping a chilling concept into a beautifully haunting novel and I cannot wait to read more by her hand. ...more
Sky's sister drowned last summer and her parents think that sending Sky to a camp for the bereaved might help her process the terrible tragedy better. At first camp is pretty okay, and as long as Sky avoids the pool she's enjoying herself, and even making some friends. However, before too long she starts receiving messages from her dead sister through a password protected messaging app they always used to chat away from the prying eyes of their parents.
Because this is a private chat specifically between Sky and her sister, it would be very hard, if not impossible, for anyone else to send the messages. Has Luisa come back from the dead? Or is someone at camp playing mind games with Sky? A few people do seem a little off, as if the tragedies they've endured in their young lives has had a much more twisted impact on them than it did on Sky. They might even be dangerous, and Sky soon realises that if she wants to get to the bottom of the messages, she cannot trust anyone but herself.
Lying About Last Summer was a properly gripping, can't-turn-the-pages-quickly-enough kind of read. If it hadn't been for my pesky day job forcing me back to reality, I would've read in a single sitting – I was that hooked. The novel was incredibly intriguing, with the story unravelling at just the right pace and with the perfect amount of red herrings and plot twists to keep me mesmerised for the whole ride. There is mystery surrounding Luisa's death, the messages in the private chat and some of Skye's fellow campers, and when everything started to come together into its exploding conclusion I was on the edge of my seat.
At the heart of this novel is a heartbreaking event and Skye's journey throughout, and her coming to terms which what happened, was portrayed in a haunting and realistic way. Sky's story was incredibly interesting and very well written. And, on a side note, the cover for this book is so lush you guys! Not only is it super gorgeous (and as author Sue Wallman said the reddish glow on the cover could be sunshine in the water or blood, dun dun dun) but it has a super awesome finish which makes it feel all special and I couldn't stop stroking the cover while reading. Please tell me I'm not the only one?!
Lying About Last Summer was a tense and gripping thriller while at the same time exploring grief in a beautiful way. While I do wish that it had been a little longer, so there would have been more time to explore the characters in-depth, the pages were jam-packed with a pacy plot and unexpected revelations to keep me completely enthralled from start to finish.