Me Before You – Jojo Moyes

“Sometimes I wondered if it was a defense mechanism, whether the only way to cope with his life was to pretend it wasn’t him it was happening to.”

Me-Before-You

Blurb: “Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn’t know is she’s about to lose her job or that knowing what’s coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows exactly how he’s going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn’t know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they’re going to change the other for all time.”

I’m not one to actively put up romance / contemporary books unless it’s by another I’ve previously read (such as Cecelia Ahern and Giovanna Fletcher) but when I saw the trailer for the upcoming film adaptation, I found myself completed to read it.

The protagonist of this story is Louisa Clark. She’s twenty-six years old and stuck muddling through life. She doesn’t have any qualifications to get a decent job and her fitness-obsessed boyfriend doesn’t have much time for her. When she finds out via her local job centre that a family is looking for a carer for their son, she thinks she’s nowhere near the right person for the job, but she can’t deny the money is good. She takes it and Will enters her life.

Will Traynor was injured in a motorcycle accident which resulted in him being wheelchair-bound, unable to move most of his body.  He’s bitter, mad at the world and hates that everyone makes decisions for him; not caring what he actually wants. When Louisa Clark bumbles into his life with her ridiculous clothing choices, he doesn’t think his life can get much worse.

While my initial point isn’t entirely book related, I feel I need to express it: Emilia Clark and Sam Claflin are the perfect acting choices for these characters. Naturally, I pictured those actors as Louisa and Will in the images in my mind while reading, but they will a great fit, I am very sure of that.

This was a very easy read despite the serious and sad themes that spread through the pages. I found Louisa to be such a compelling character to follow through this story. However, there were random instances of chapters from other characters perspectives such as Nathan – another medical carer – and Will’s mother and while I understood what they were trying to convey (understanding and an outside perspective) they just felt jarring and out of place.

I loved seeing how Louisa became more sure of herself. Her growth throughout the chapters was so beautiful to witness while she dealt with a very temperamental person on a daily basis. Will is a horrible character and no matter how nice people are to him, he has quite a sharp tongue. And I actually liked that about him: it made him feel more real that a little trip out to a racecourse wouldn’t change his perspective. The wonderful thing about their relationship is that Louisa is the first person to see and speak to him as a person, not the person stuck in a chair who can’t eat without help.

But Will has a dark secret and when Louisa discovers it, she realises time is running out and she needs to make a plan.

If you haven’t read this book and either you’ve never heard of it or you’re unsure whether to read it, ignore the blurb premise because it honestly doesn’t sell this book enough. I highly recommend it whether you frequent the romance / contemporary genre or not.

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A Court Of Mist And Fury – Sarah J. Maas

“You want to save the mortal realm?” He asked. “Then become someone Prythian listens to. Become vital. Become a weapon.”

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Blurb: “Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring court – but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people. Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politic, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms – and she might be the key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future – and the future of a world cleaved in two.”

This is the sequel to the New York Times best-selling book A Court Of Thorns and Roses. The story opens with Feyre recovering from the events of the first book and dealing with how she’s going to tell her lover, Tamlin, about the deal she made with Rhysand; the High lord of the Night Court. Feyre and Tamlin’s wedding approaches and Tamlin becomes increasingly more protective of her, demanding that she only stay within the house, and occasionally extends this to the grounds. But it’s been more than a month, and Feyre knows that Rhysand will show up soon to cash in on their deal: having her for one week, of every month, for the rest of their lives. And now Feyre is immortal, this is a deal that will last a very long time.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and I don’t think I’ve ever been so let down by a book.  This book is over 600 pages long and there didn’t seem to be much plot or substance to it at all. I’ve noticed recently with Sarah’s books is that (despite me being a fan of her work) they’re just getting longer and it feels like they’re long for the sake of being long; most of the content could easily be cut down.  So it felt like a long-winded book anyway and I just couldn’t connect to any of the characters like I had in the previous book, I just found myself resenting most of the characters throughout my reading experience. Character motivations seemed all over the place.

I honestly can’t really tell you what the plot is about because there just didn’t seem to be any and it just appeared masked by roaming around different places to open up the world, endless conversations and a lot of very very graphic sex scenes. (I note that while this is a YA book there was no “mature content” warning on the book itself) I’m all for sexual liberation etc but it was just out of place and thrown in there to create something a little steamy to keep the readers interested.

The only thing I really liked what the process of Feyre discovering her powers and learning to control them, but with Rhysand being the one to train her it just felt creepy and made me quite uncomfortable. Another thing I noticed was that Rhysand was constantly referred to by two names: “Rhysand” and the shortened “Rhys.” While this could just be me being a little picky, the constant interchanging on the two names made me feel like there were two different people there. And Feyre, for the most part, wasn’t comfortable around him so her resorting to nicknames again felt out ofplace.

In Sarah’s latest newsletter she talked about this book and how she actually wrote this series before Throne of Glass and how A Court Of Thorns And Roses had just been gathering dust on her computer. After reading this book, I really wish it was just a stand-alone and had stopped at the first book.
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Inherited – Freedom Matthews

“And thus, in one short sobbing sentence she had unearthed my entire ethos. Love killed. Perhaps not literally, but metaphorically.”

Inherited

Blurb: “If saying ‘I love you’ meant death, would you still say it? The Wilted Rose, of faery-tale and folklore, is a pirate ship filled with unfortunate souls – each forbidden to love. One such soul is Valencia ‘Lennie’ Roux. Raised in a brothel and an heir to a curse, Lennie never expected to pique the interest of any man. Yet with the arrival of vivid-eyed Nathaniel, she is torn between wanting to know him better and fearing what that knowledge would mean. With Nathaniel bringing the crew’s total to six, The Wilted Rose sets off in search of the remaining two heirs. They hope that in reuniting, they will convince the faery sorceress responsible for the curse, to end it. However lurking beneath the water is a long standing enemy of The Wilted Rose; who is determined to thwart their quest and bring down its leaders. Together the eight heirs fight for survival, friendship, and love.”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The story follows Lennie who lives aboard a pirate ship named The Wilted Rose. She is the only woman in a five person crew all of which are victims of a curse, passed down from their parents. They are forbidden to love and doing so means death. Together, the crew searches for the remaining three heirs (identifiable by a mark on their wrist) so that they can track down the sorceress in the hopes she lifts the curse. Having a ship that steers itself and does all the searching for them makes things slightly easier. The crew quickly becomes comprised of six people after the arrival of Nathaniel Davenport-Lee, a handsome man who could prove a problem for Lennie.

The first thing I noticed about this book was that the writing style is a lot better than in the prequel Into The Forest. I got the real sense while reading this that Freedom really knows the world, the characters and every detail that makes up this story. I could really believe in what was happening. Freedom has a truly wonderful style and I loved her choice of words and phrases.

While the sorceress seems like the initial villain, I felt that the character of Hadnaloy, the sea witch, was a lot more threatening and possibly the most fascinating character I stumbled across on this adventure.

Given that the central theme is love because of the curse, I thought the romance was a bit forced. It’s often predictable in the YA genre but it would have been nice if there was a slower build up to it.

It was interesting to learn about the characters and see how they fitted into a confined environment as a lot of the story takes place on the ship. My favourite scene is when the crew are all sat together telling the story of how they got their marks and how they found The Wilted Rose. It just added more depth to the characters and cemented the world and the characters and their personalities. Plus, it warmed my heart a little.

This is a wonderful story about love, pirates and adventure that you simply don’t want to miss!

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The Damaging Stigmas Around YA Fiction

*Trigger warnings: Mentions of eating disorders, rape, other mental illnesses and racial discrimination*

If you’re a frequent reader (or writer) of Young Adult fiction then you have most likely seen the endless stigmas around it. Young Adult is often viewed as a sort of stepping stone – a pit stop before inevitably moving on to the vast world of Adult Fiction. Contrary to this belief, there are many adults who obviously write within this genre, but there are also many adults that read it too. For example, I am twenty-two years old and I both read and write within the genre.

My reason for doing another kind of discussion post here is due to the recent article for The Guardian, written by Anthony McGowan titled Most YA Fiction Is Grown-Up in Disguise. As you can tell, it was yet another article discounting the validity of a rather important reading area. This not the first and certainly won’t be the last in a long line of obnoxious articles about an aspect someone doesn’t really understand. In 2014, Ruth Graham wrote a piece titled  Against YA in which she used the sub heading “Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children” and  (again as you can tell) she discusses how you should only read about the people of your own age as they tend to be more realistic and about “more important things.” Very recently another article surfaced about the adaptation of Jojo Moyes novel “Me Before You” in which the headline was Me before You: how to build a YA movie that rules however the problem here is that the novel is categorised as Adult Romance and the protagonist is in her late twenties making it fall outside the range it chooses to attack. A fact that is even mentioned within the actual viewpoint Owen Gleiberman lays out:

“The film’s central characters may be 26 and 31 years old, but at heart this is another squeaky clean YA tearjerker built around  a princess too good for words, another saintly love story submerged in youthful doom.”

There is a common misconception that books are written for a certain audience. Which, in this case, is not true. Young Adult fiction isn’t written for young adults, it’s written about them.  This is a point I want to stress in response to McGowan’s comment within his article where he says :

“I’d content that at least some of these books appeal to me, as an adult, because they are not teenage books at all.”

No, it means that despite these books being about teenagers, you have been able to relate and heaven forbid, actually enjoy them regardless of what your age is.

There also comes a point where these comments are very damaging not just to the genre itself, but the people who read it. There are many statistics showing that most young people stop reading in their teens and with things like this surfacing every so often it’s no surprise why many may feel discouraged. In my teens I found solace in seeing my personal problems reflected in characters in YA books. I know that many teenage bloggers also feel the same. McGowan has the nerve in his article to label YA as a “lazy, disheartening mush of false problems, fake solutions, idealised romance, second-rate fantasy, tired dystopias…” Given that there are a large amounts of books  coming out tackling various mental illnesses such as eating disorders in “paperweight” ,  anxiety in Holly’s Bourne’s “Am I Normal?” series and very serious topics such as rape in Louise O’Neill’s “Asking For It”and most recently scenes of Islamophobia in Kim Slater’s “A Seven Letter Word” I would hardly call any of these “false problems.” Just because they are happening to teenagers and you may have not gone through it at that point in your life, doesn’t in any way lessen the fact of their existence. I personally think it’s disgusting and an insult to those who may find solace seeing characters go through similar situations to themselves. By making such comments you are discounting the valid feelings of young people and in a world where there’s already so much stigma around mental illness and the lack of support out there for young people facing these things, it just makes me livid that someone could make such throw away comments in an article on The Guardian website.

I could go on and on about the reasons these things are wrong. But the only thing I will say to round this discussion up is that no one is forcing you to read YA. If you don’t like it, or you feel it has issues you can’t get past such as it being “disheartening mush” then quite simply do not read it.

 

Into The Forest – Freedom Matthews

“Ravenzara became one of us, winged and powerful, the heir to our beloved forest. It is her turn to join the ranks and become the sorceress she was created to be.”

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Blurb: “Before the Wilted Rose, the pirates who sailed upon it, or even a curse, there was a young faery who lived amongst the dense tress of the forest… a princess among a tribe of fantastical creatures. On the day of Ravenzara’s coronation as leader of the fae, her sister bestowed upon her two things: – a rose and a curse. No good shall come if you should give your heart away.”

Into The Forest is a prequel short story to the full length novel Inherited which is due to be released July 2016. I met Freedom Matthews at a book launch not too long ago and she is literally one of the loveliest people. I tried to get as much information about her upcoming releases and she was quite tight-lipped. Now I finally have an insight into the world with this story. So the joke’s on you now Freedom! HA!

The main thing you need to know is that there are faeries. I adore anything with faeries in so I was quite biased when I picked this up. The protagonist, Ravenzara, is preparing for her coronation following on from the death of her mother. Her rule is short lived when the pirates make an appearance on the island. They are wounded and many of them are close to death.  She is reunited with her lover Gaspard and together they sail off for many adventures (with the approval of her people of course!)

My favourite scene was a moment when Ravenzara is looking around a cabin on the ship and she replaces all the dust with flowers. It was such a beautiful scene described in such an elegant  way that I could see the event unfolding before my eyes as if I was in the room with her.

There’s sibling rivalry in the form of Tatiana; a character I liked the most and have discovered will play a bigger role in the sequel to Inherited.  There’s magic, faeries, pirates, exciting worlds. She’s not too happy about Ravenzara’s crowning, believing that it should have been her instead. I love seeing how kingdoms work and the kind of ideals they subscribe to so it was nice to not only get an insight into that but also see two different worlds collide together.

While I do talk to Freedom Matthews quite often, it would be unfair to only talk about the good (which there is plenty of). I’m aware that Freedom had a tight word count for this story but I felt like some of the description was lacking in places.  It was disorientating.  I also feel like this was out of order in the sense of it read like you already knew the characters so didn’t need that initial introduction to them and their relationships. It seems like something that would have worked better coming out after Inherited however, I have heard from another reviewer who has read Inherited that there are a lot of references you only get if you have read this short story. So I’ll be able to form more of an opinion on that once I’ve read Inherited. 

Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Into The Forest and it has me very much interested in the world and I cannot wait to read her new book. Freedom Matthews has an astounding ability to create incredible worlds that I cannot wait to experience more of. She is definitely one to keep an eye on!

 

 

This release is ebook only.

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