book reviews, spoiler free

The Turnaway Girls – Spoiler Free Review

43232587The Turnaway Girls by Hayley Chewins

Rating: XXXX

Published January 3rd 2019 by Walker Books Ltd

On the strange, stormy island of Blightsend, twelve-year-old Delphernia Undersea has spent her whole life in the cloister of turnaway girls, hidden from sea and sky by a dome of stone and the laws of the island. Outside, the Masters play their music. Inside, the turnaway girls silently make that music into gold. Making shimmer, Mother Nine calls it. But Delphernia can’t make shimmer. She would rather sing than stay silent. When a Master who doesn’t act like a Master comes to the skydoor, it’s a chance for Delphernia to leave the cloister. Outside the stone dome, the sea breathes like a wild beast, the sky watches with stars like eyes, and even the gardens have claws. Outside, secrets fall silent in halls without sound. And outside, Delphernia is caught –between the island’s sinister Custodian and its mysterious Childer-Queen. Between a poem-speaking prince and a girl who feels like freedom. And in a debut that glimmers with hope and beauty, freedom – to sing, to change, to live – is precisely what’s at stake.

I’ve always loved to sing and being totally unable to imagine a world in which that was allowed had me totally intrigued, even more so when I read up a little on the author of The Turnaway Girls, Hayley Chewins. Hayley grew up in South Africa, in a household full of books. She’s studied Classical voice as well as doing degrees in English Literature and Italian. I’ve always loved when a song or a piece of music tells a story and I feel that Hayley’s particular expertise are this a perfect debut for her and gives her writing such a beautifully distinct style that I look forward to reading more of in the future.

The Turnaway Girls is by no means a long book at just shy of three hundred pages it is a pretty standard size for middle grade reads as far as I can tell and it is perfect for the story inside. The Turnaway Girls feels a little confusing to begin with as the main character talks about a world that is presumably not our own although with some similarities. Having not been able to experience much of said world or any kind of life outside of her cloister Delpherina’s knowledge is limited to what she has been told by Mother Nine, a woman charged with the care and education of The Turnaway Girls. These girls, although forbidden to sing or make any music or their own can create a substance called shimmer which is coveted by The Masters of The the city of Blightsend and as per the last kings ruling each Master may take their own Turnaway Girl from the cloister when they are twelve years old. This is the only way they can leave the cloister and as she can’t make shimmer Delpherina assumes she will have no hope of being chosen and she will be trapped with Mother Nine and her punishments forever.

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Once I was over the initial opening confusion I very quickly got into this book. I had been a little lost but things made more sense the longer I read for and as I adjusted to the authors distinct and lyrical tone. I found the writing moved well, it never dwindled too long and kept a good rhythm and pace up throughout. The plot itself is reasonably simple when you take it down to brass tacks but there are twists and turns along the way with little nuggets of information broadening the story as it goes and shedding more light on the town of Blightsend and it’s strange, short history.

I found parts of the plot a little predictable but none the less enjoyable for it as for me it was really the way the characters reacted to these goings-on. A couple of characters I felt were a little flat but this might honestly be because for me a couple of them absolutely outshined the others and became fast favourites. Although we didn’t get a huge amount of detail about characters I think this only helped to enhance feeling that this is a tale just as much as it is a book which is a lovely, refreshing take that reminds me of a Pocketful of Crows and The Blue Salt Road by Joanne Harris.

The Turnaway Girls is a humourless book but certainly not one without light or hope much like the place where it is set, Blightsend is, dark, cold, grey and harsh but looking in the right places with the right eyes you can find beauty, life, magic and rebellion and in my opinion that describes this stunning debut perfectly. The Turnaway Girls is due out very soon! January 3rd is only two days away so if you enjoy lyrical reads, a little mystery and the magic of a song keep an eye out for this particularly gorgeous cover in your local bookstore this Thursday!

book reviews, book talk, spoiler free

Only Love Can Break Your Heart Review

37903962.jpgOnly Love Can Break Your Heart by Katherine Webber

Rating: XXXXX

Published August 2nd 2018 by Walker Books Ltd.

Sometimes a broken heart is all you need to set you free… Reiko loves the endless sky and electric colours of the Californian desert. It is a refuge from an increasingly claustrophobic life of family pressures and her own secrets. Then she meets Seth, a boy who shares a love of the desert and her yearning for a different kind of life. But Reiko and Seth both want something the other can’t give them. As summer ends, things begin to fall apart. But the end of love can sometimes be the beginning of you…

From the title I kind of figured this book would break my heart. What I experienced instead was so much more and although I love a good cry from a book (and there was certainly that don’t get me wrong) Only Love Can Break Your Heart was so much more than heartbreaking, it was infuriating and confusing and uplifting, heartwarming, wise and special. The only other book I’ve read that felt similar to this for me was Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman and although it doesn’t quite cover mental health and other aspects in quite the same way the book made me feel some of the same things and left the same feeling in my gut when I finished it, like a deep breath as you ready yourself for whatever the future holds.

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Only Love Can Break Your Heart is a tough book to read in some ways, well at least it was for me. It may look deceptively pretty, fluffy and not too big a read but let me tell you the stuff that is in this book kind of blew my mind a little. For the longest time I did not like Reiko and certainly not Seth.They are, however written FANTASTICALLY! It’s hard to describe because it’s not a case of I love to hate them or anything and they’re certainly not nice people but you know what ARE ANY OF US? A big thing I took away from this book is absolutely none of us are perfect and that’s okay! We learn when we mess up, we deal with things and sometimes we need help and only we can really choose what we take away from the day-to-day events in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Getting towards the end of this book and looking back at the person I was when I started reading it was startling, my feelings changed so much throughout and I wish I had taken more notes because it was a rollercoaster of a ride. I love a book that can make you feel and a book that can make you think but isn’t weighed down by the weight of it. This book deals with the death/loss of a loved one on a very personal level and approaches a lot of other things like self-worth and the way you want others to perceive you along with more I’m sure I’ve missed.

This is definitely a book worth reading, the characters are developed well and very easy to visualise and remember. They are some gorgeous settings and moments throughout and as someone who hates dry sand and the heat it’s made me want to go explore the desert. Katherine’s writing style is smooth and flows with a particular brilliance to it, scenes move well and she’s great at moving the story along and trimming the parts that are important enough to be mentioned but not enough to need a play by-play without making us as readers feel like we’re missing out. I cannot recommend this book highly enough, another favourite I feel and a solid XXXXX  rating.

book reviews, spoiler free

The Next Together Review

23266378The Next Together by Lauren James

Rating: XXXX

September 3rd 2015 by Walker Books

“I don’t think there are any true heroes. Just people who ignore their survival instincts long enough to do something incredibly foolhardy.”

How many times can you lose the person you love?

Katherine and Matthew are destined to be born again and again, century after century. Each time, their presence changes history for the better, and each time, they fall hopelessly in love, only to be tragically separated.

Spanning the Crimean War, the Siege of Carlisle and the near-future of 2019 and 2039 they find themselves sacrificing their lives to save the world. But why do they keep coming back? What else must they achieve before they can be left to live and love in peace?

Maybe the next together will be different…

A powerful and epic debut novel for teenagers about time-travel, fate and the timelessness of first love. The Next Together is told through a mixture of regular prose, diary entries, letters, “original” historical documents, news reports and internet articles.

After reading the most recent book by Lauren James (The Loneliest Girl in the Universe) after YALC last year and LOVING IT (reread review to come very soon!) I finally got around to reading her debut novel The Next Together and it was everything I had hoped it would be.

The Next Together spans across different lives throughout time and follows our main characters via three different versions of our protagonist Katherine Finchley in 1745, 1854 and 2039. At first I wasn’t sure I would be able to keep up with three varying but connected story lines at the same time but they each have their own unique feel to them making them easy to slip in and out of. The way each narrative began and ended also helped by making you want to read more from that particular time but without making you want to skip the next part to get back to that part of the plot (a little like Game of Thrones).

The over arching plot is a difficult one to comment on because we end up with more questions than answers I feel and that is one of the few reasons I knocked the rating down to XXXX. The events that go on through this book are interesting  and the characters especially kept me intrigued and enjoying this book, even shedding a few tears on a busy underground train but the end of the book doesn’t feel like an ending, or even much of a conclusion and more like the end part one of a book. The ending wasn’t bad it just didn’t feel as satisfying to me as I would have liked. Thankfully there is a sequel and The Last beginning (from what I’ve read so far) fills in some gaps and answers some questions in quite a satisfying way but it feels strange we had to wait for the sequel for those answers. That being said if you want to sell a sequel you need to make people want it and I was absolutely desperate for it the moment I closed The Next Together so it was certainly affective.

For me the characters and their relationships are really what sell this book for me which seems to be something Lauren James is very good at, her books really make you look at and fall for her characters and the plot kind of feels secondary (in a good way), I could have happily read pages and pages more of notes between Matthew and Katherine and still been pleased.

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Although I probably would have liked a bit more of an explosive ending with more answers I really did enjoy The Next Together and I think this and a couple of other books I’ve read recently are really starting to pull me in to the more space opera (or at least character driven – this was the closest way of describing it that I could think of) side of Science Fiction which is something I hadn’t really given much thought to before. I love the spacey and or futuristic feel in books but these books where that isn’t the main focus and is just your normal setting  but the interesting stuff that happens comes from the people in that story.I certainly recommend checking out The Next Together but if you get a good way in and decide that yes you do love it too I would advise getting the second book before you finish the first so you have it there ready to go so you aren’t kept awake at night trying to work out answers (better than the nightmares from the Loneliest Girl but still not a good addition to a good nights sleep).

As I write this review I’m already over three-quarters of the way through the aforementioned sequel (which I’m LOVING THE HECK OUT OF) and have yet to read the two short stories that accompany these books but I know I’ll get those read in time to review all three next week! I’m also hoping to get my YALC blog up this coming Thursday as well but as it’s the six weeks holiday and Nate is well…Nate please keep your fingers crossed for me! Until then.x