Saturday, 14 January 2017

Book Review: You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris

The Blurb:
Selected as a Book of the Year 2016 in the Guardian and Observer.
This inspiring and courageous book is a guiding star for us all in troubled times.
One night last winter, Antoine Leiris was at home looking after his son while his wife, Hélène, was at a concert with friends. Suddenly he started receiving text messages asking if he was ok. Turning on the TV, Antoine watched the terrorist attacks in Paris unfolding around him and tried to call Hélène. She didn’t answer. That night Hélène was killed, along with 88 other people, at the Bataclan Theatre.

Three days later, Antoine wrote an open letter to his wife’s killers on Facebook. He refused to be cowed or to let his baby son’s life be defined by their acts. ‘For as long as he lives, this little boy will insult you with his happiness and freedom,’ he wrote. Instantly, that short post caught fire and was shared thousands of times around the world.
You Will Not Have My Hate is an extraordinary and heartbreaking memoir which teaches us how to respond to a world full of hatred with generosity and love. This is the rare and unforgettable testimony of a survivor, and a universal message of hope and resilience.
My Review:

Thank you to Netgalley for giving me the chance to read this utterly devastating account of just one of the deaths caused by terrorists at the Bataclan Theatre in November 2015.

I was in the comfort of my own home, idly flicking from app to app on my phone that Friday evening when stories began to come through on Twitter, closely followed by breaking headlines from the BBC News app. First reports of shootings, a few people shot, then some more, followed by more, and so followed an evening of reports so shocking and terrible I cried.

This is a heartbreaking read, as we all know what happened that horrible night in Paris. Here we are told how the tragedy has affected the family of Helene Muyal-Leiris who was one of those killed in the Bataclan.

It could be any of us, which is a very frightening thing. I've thought of the many times I've been to gigs in similar venues, and have tried to imaging the sheer terror of gunmen bursting in. But they will not stop me from going to other gigs, or to other potential targets.

That's what Antoine is trying to show here. He wrote a now famous post on Facebook, telling the terrorists that he will not afford any more time thinking about them. He has set a standard for us all to follow, in that we should not allow them to terrorise us. Yes, he is mourning his wife and his child has lost his mother, and it is terrible, as is loss for anyone. But he shows a strength in refusing to be cowed by the terrorists.

There's not much more I can say about this book, other than I wish for a peaceful life full of love for Antoine and his family.

You can buy the book from Amazon, Waterstones or other retailers.

Book Review: Life in a Fishbowl by Len Vlahos

The Blurb
Jackie's life wasn't perfect, but at least it was normal. That is, until her dad received a terminal cancer diagnosis. Then he went and did what anyone faced with mountains of medical bills and a family to support would do: he sold his life to the highest bidder. Which turned out to be a TV station.
Suddenly everyone from psychotic millionaires to cyber-savvy nuns wants a piece of Jackie's family as they become a reality TV sensation. Jackie's life spirals out of control just as her dad's starts to run out, and meanwhile the whole world is tuning in to watch her family fall apart.
Acidly funny and heartbreakingly sad, Life in a Fishbowl is an exploration of the value of life and what memories mean to us. Perfect for fans of Patrick Ness.
My Review

Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

I don't usually read YA books, but this one grabbed me as these days many people spend their lives watching other people live theirs.

Jared Stone has an inoperable brain tumour, and in an attempt to safeguard his family's financial future, he turns their world upside down with more then just his diagnosis and the prospect of them losing a father and a husband - he sells their lives to a TV station.

The book starts with Jared firstly essentially putting their lives on ebay. Then we meet various people willing to pay, people who are all rather suspect. Desperate, greedy people who will stop at nothing to get what they want. The TV show is probably the safest prospect that the Stone family has to face. 

That Jared would even dream of doing such a thing without consulting his family seems to be a little far-fetched; though this could be an effect of the tumour on his behaviour. This tumour is a character of it's own, as it 'eats' Jared's memories and almost takes on a life of its own.

The book tells of the struggles of a family dealing with the prospect of loss, but all in the public eye, and their lives are coldly manipulated and taken over by the producers. But there is help at hand...

It's a great story, if a little fractured being told from so many different points of view. The behaviour of some of the characters leaves a sour taste, and nothing can really redeem them. 

I would suggest that anyone contemplating going on one of these 'reality' shows reads this book first!

Life in a Fishbowl was published on 12th January by Bloomsbury Childrens, and you can get it from Amazon, Waterstones and other places.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Book Review: Good Me Bad Me by Ali Land

The Blurb
Annie's mother is a serial killer. The only way she can make it stop is to hand her in to the police. But out of sight is not out of mind. As her mother's trial looms, the secrets of her past won't let Annie sleep, even with a new foster family and name - Milly. A fresh start. Now, surely, she can be whoever she wants to be. But Milly's mother is a serial killer. And blood is thicker than water. Good me, bad me. She is, after all, her mother's daughter... 
Translated into over 20 languages, Good Me Bad Me is a tour de force. In its narrator, Milly Barnes, we have a voice to be reckoned with, and in its author, Ali Land, an extraordinary new talent.
My Review

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Michael Joseph, for the advanced reading copy.

Oh. My. God. What a book!

I was initially intrigued by the premise of a girl having to deal with having a serial killer for a mother. But as I started reading Good Me Bad Me I started to get scared. I was worried the story was going to dissolve into a voyeuristic, sadistic car crash.

But I needn't have worried - I am so glad I carried on reading. Once I did, I found it hard to leave - hence a couple of late nights where I couldn't stop thinking about the book once I put it down.

The narrator, Milly, is talking to her mother. Telling her how she has made her feel, telling her how she is coping (or not) without her. The descriptions of the crimes committed thankfully don't go into gory detail, leaving your mind to fill in the blanks - which works to great effect here.

Milly is staying with a foster family, the Newmonts. The father, Mike, is a psychologist, helping Milly prepare to testify against her own mother. The mother, Saskia, a mere shadow of a woman, scorned by her own daughter, Phoebe, who rails against having to compete with a broken foster child.

Milly has to battle to survive, against her mother's voice, constantly with her; against her background, desperate to keep her past hidden, against herself, for fear of becoming like her mother. She finds a friend in Morgan, but can she keep her safe?

Phoebe is a poisonous character, hellbent on making Milly's life even more of a living hell than it already is. Ali Land depicts the turmoils of adolescence perfectly, showing how cruel girls can be to each other, vying to be leader of the gang, and how easily led some can become, to afraid to say no. 

This is an absolute smasher of a debut novel. I think Good Me Bad Me is going to be one of the most talked about books for 2017. Absolutely bloody amazing.

Good Me Bad Me is published on 12th January by Michael Joseph. You can buy the book at Amazon, Waterstones and other retailers.

About the Author

After graduating from university with a degree in Mental Health, Ali Land spent a decade working as a Child and Adolescent Mental Health Nurse in hospitals and schools in the UK and Australia. Ali is now a full-time writer and lives in a creative warehouse community in North London. Good Me Bad Me has been translated into over twenty languages.

Follow Ali on Twitter @byAliLand

Monday, 9 January 2017

Book Review: My Sweet Revenge by Jane Fallon

The Blurb
The bestselling author of Getting Rid of Matthew and Strictly Between Us tells a bitter-sweet tale of high passions, infidelity and revenge. Watch your back . . .
I want to make my husband fall back in love with me.
Let me explain. This isn't an exercise in 1950s wifeydom. I haven't been reading articles in old women's magazines. 'Twenty ways to keep your man'. That couldn't be further from the truth.
I want him to fall back in love with me so that when I tell him to get the hell out of my life he'll care. He won't just think, 'Oh good'.
I want it to hurt.
Paula has had Robert's back since they got together as drama students.
She gave up her dreams so he could make it.
Now he's one of the nation's most popular actors.
And Paula's just discovered he's having an affair.
She's going to remind Robert just what he's sacrificing.
And then she's going to break his heart like he broke hers.
It will be her greatest acting role ever.
Revenge is sweet. 
Isn't it?

My Review

Thanks to Netgalley and Michael Joseph for the advanced review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Lies, deception, jealousy... this book has it all.

Paula decides revenge is a dish best served cold when she discovers her husband's affair with his co-star. She's going to make him fall back in love with her, and then kick him to the kerb.

But that's not as easy as it sounds. How do you go about attracting a man you despise? And there's not much to like about the errant husband Robert, whose ego could Trump the worst man alive. God, this man loves himself.

But then none of the characters are particularly likeable; they are all pretty self-obsessed. At first I felt compassion for Paula, but then I found my sympathy conflicted. I know hell hath no fury and all that, but in trying to stick it out, Paula risks turning into someone bitter and twisted, and perhaps no better than her weasley spouse.

Just like the plot in the book; it twists and turns, and you don't know who to believe or who to root for. Fallon keeps us guessing, as the players outplay each other, and feelings and emotions are manipulated by all concerned. 

That all said, My Sweet Revenge avoids leaving a sour taste thanks to Fallon's sharp humour and witty observations. She drew me into the complex plot, utterly enthralled by the appalling behaviour of these self-indulgent people right to the very satisfying end.

My Sweet Revenge is published on January 12th by Michael Joseph, and is available at Amazon, Waterstones and other retailers.