Book Review… See You In the Cosmos Carl Sagan- Jack Cheng…

An astonishingly moving middle-grade debut about a space-obsessed boy’s quest for family and home.
All eleven-year old Alex wants is to launch his iPod into space. With a series of audio recordings, he will show other lifeforms out in the cosmos what life on Earth, his Earth, is really like. But for a boy with a long-dead dad, a troubled mum, and a mostly-not-around brother, Alex struggles with the big questions.

Where do I come from? Who’s out there? And, above all, How can I be brave?

Determined to find the answers, Alex sets out on a remarkable road trip that will turn his whole world upside down . . .

For fans of Wonder and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Jack Cheng’s debut is full of joy, optimism, determination, and unbelievable heart. To read the first page is to fall in love with Alex and his view of our big, beautiful, complicated world. To read the last is to know he and his story will stay with you a long, long time.

I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a far and honest review.

From the first page, I started to fall in love with Alex a little bit. He reminded me very much of me at that age as I was space obsessed. He is an incredibly erudite 11 year old who has a rather different lifestyle to most 11 year old. From the start, you get the impression that his mother suffers with a mental illness and he is her carer.

As the story unfolds, you come across some incredible characters and they paint a rich series of colours that help to paint Alex’s life a different colour than he ever thought would be possible.

A four out of five star read.

I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Penguin Random House UK.

Book Review – Final Girls by Riley Sager…

Each girl survived an unthinkable horror. Now someone wants them dead…
They were called The Final Girls.
Three young women who survived unimaginable horror. Three victims of separate massacres grouped together by the press. Three strangers bound by similar traumas.
Lisa. Quincy. Samantha.
When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same.

I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This book begins in the past as one of the female protagonists, Quincy is fleeing for her life from the cottage her friends were killed in. The chapter is written very well and it conveys the character and her terror in a really concise way.

As she learns of the death of one of the other “final girls”, Quincy is devastated and realising that her past will once again take over her life. The other final girl, Sam, arrives out of nowhere shortly before they find out that Lisa’s death was not a suicide but was indeed a murder.

A journalist that Quincy hates tries to tell her that all is not as it seems with Sam and that she is lying to Quinn. Quinn doesn’t know who to trust and finds herself spiralling out of control. The memories that Quincy could not recall are starting to filter through the blackness of her mind.

This story is brilliantly written and the twists and turns keep you guessing right up to the end. I was so shocked when the culprit is revealed. I would never have guessed.

Great book. I give it five out of five stars.

I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Dutton for my copy.

Book Review – The Book of Mirrors by E.O Chirovici.

When big-shot literary agent Peter Katz receives an unfinished manuscript entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued.
The author, Richard Flynn is writing a memoir about his time at Princeton in the late 80s, documenting his relationship with the famous Professor Joseph Wieder.

One night in 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home and the case was never solved.

Peter Katz is hell-bent on getting to the bottom of what happened that night twenty-five years ago and is convinced the full manuscript will reveal who committed the violent crime.

But other people’s recollections are dangerous weapons to play with, and this might be one memory that is best kept buried.

I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

I loved this book. Right from the start there are intricate plot twists and turns. There are several protagonists that give the story a different spin and you are kept guessing right to the end about just who is really responsible.

This is the first book that I have read by this author and I’d definitely read another.

A five out of five star read.

I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Random House for my copy of the book.

Book Review – Nineteen Eightyfour – George Orwell…

In 1984, London is a grim city where Big Brother is always watching you and the Thought Police can practically read your mind. Winston is a man in grave danger for the simple reason that his memory still functions. Drawn into a forbidden love affair, Winston finds the courage to join a secret revolutionary organization called The Brotherhood, dedicated to the destruction of the Party. Together with his beloved Julia, he hazards his life in a deadly match against the powers that be.

I agreed to buddy read this book with a friend of mine. I have to hang my head in shame and confess to being one of the few people who have never read any of George Orwell’s books. For this reason, and also for the reason that I fight against totalitarian governments and oppression wherever I can. So I began the book with a large dose of enthusiasm.

Sadly, for the first four chapters struck me with crippling boredom. I was finding it very difficult to maintain any interest in the book. I have problems with books. My hands/wrists become very painful after only a short while of reading. So I downloaded the book onto my kobo instead, and wow! The difference has been marked. I’m now captivated by the story.
There is a disturbing aspect to the story when Winston has violent and murderous thoughts about Julia and also the desire to rape her, near to the start of the story. That misogynistic piece of the plot was disturbing and upsetting, but yes, I know that people do think that way and it is saddening.
When Winston and Julia come together, the story shows the lengths that two people in love will go to in order to circumvent their situation and be together.
What this book showed is the way that an oppressive political regime can use fear to control the people and there can be no way out. No hope. This book has painted a picture of lonely people existing in their own bubbles. In joyless lives, terrified to have an independent thought that would lead to the arrival of the thought police.
This dystopian world shows a political party exercising ultimate and total control of its citizens. I don’t want to say more on this vein, as I don’t want to spoil the story.
Orwell has created a grey, colourless world that holds you tightly in its grip and will not let go.
A three out of five star read.

Book Review – The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias…

In search of answers, Siobhan travels to the isolated convent where her mother once lived. Here she discovers Denise’s final confession, a book that details a heinous betrayal that left her crippled and mute, and Denise’s subsequent deal with the Devil to take revenge. In the desperate bargain Denise made with the Prince of Darkness, she wagered Siobhan’s soul. 
As Siobhan discovers the fate of her soul, she learns that hidden within the pages of her mother’s confession is part of The Devil’s Prayer, an ancient text with the power to unleash apocalyptic horrors. 
And now her mother’s enemies know Siobhan has it. 
Can Siobhan escape an order of extremist monks determined to get the Prayer back? Can she save the world from its own destruction? 

I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Enough with the loving on this book already. This book started off a little woodenly I’m afraid. It was slow moving, and nothing in the first two chapters grabbed me at all. That continued on through the whole story.
There was, for me, no flow in the text at all. The story was clunky and jerky and every time I thought that it was going to take off and go somewhere, it sputtered to a halt again.
The ending of the story was frustrating and left way more questions than it answered. I wanted to like this book, I really did, but it just didn’t happen. Sorry.
A two out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NatGalley and Australian ebook publisher for my copy.

Book Review – The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr…

“I look at my hands. One of them says ‘Flora, be brave’. I am Flora.”
Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day: the joke her friend made, the instructions her parents gave her, how old she is.
Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t have kissed – and the next day she remembers it. The first time she’s remembered anything since she was ten.
But the boy is gone.
Desperate to hold onto the memory, she sets off to the Arctic to find him.
Why can she remember Drake? Could he be the key to everything else she’s forgotten?
I have been given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review…
The book introduces us to 17 year old Flora at a party. She has things written on her arms. That’s how she remembers them. The writer illustrates Flora and her world so cleverly. You are there in the moment with her as she takes her first sip of wine at a party and then as she has her first kiss with the boy who just happens to be her best friend’s ex boyfriend…
This book cleverly details what grief can do to people and what untreated grief can make people do to others. It’s beautifully poignant.
It’s inspiring, it’s beautiful, it gives you hope.
A five out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Penguin for my copy of this book.

Book Review – Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land…

‘NEW N A M E . NEW F A M I LY. S H I N Y. NEW. ME . ‘ 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.
I was given my ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Wow. Just wow. This is my kind of book, and when a new writer pops up on the scene, I am always keen to absorb the story and see what the new author’s style is like.
Land’s writing style is masterful and full of suspense. I got frustrated two thirds of the way from the simple point that no matter how many pages I turned, I couldn’t get to the end. I was so caught up in the threads of the storyline.
Milly’s character you really do find yourself feeling sorry for. She’s only 15 and already her life has been more than most people can take. She is struggling to come to terms with her life and the actions of her serial killer mother.
The book has only one weak spot as far as I am concerned and that is the way the end is constructed. Other than that, this is a brilliant book! Really well written.
A four out of five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and Penguin UK for my copy.

Things those of us with anxiety wish you knew…

Mental illnesses like general anxiety disorder (GAD) don’t discriminate, no matter what your race, background, or socioeconomic status is. That said, women are 60 percent more likely than men to have an anxiety disorder, so chances are, you or someone close to you is dealing with it. It could be anyone — even that gorgeous, friendly woman you sometimes commute to work with. When it comes the “type” of person wrestling with this illness, don’t get sucked into what the media portrays — there isn’t one type.
People with anxiety disorders are struggling behind closed doors more than they are in public, and just because they seem put together when you meet them for weeknight cocktails doesn’t mean they’ve got it all figured out. Having suffered from acute anxiety — it was tied up with my binge eating disorder (BED) — since I was a teenager, I have learned a few things about getting people to understand the struggles I go through. The best gifts I ever received from friends were space and understanding. The more you hover over somebody with anxiety, the quicker you will push them away, the faster you will make them feel like they’re abnormal.
The assistance we do need isn’t always what you think it is though, like taking us to the doctor. We might just need a pair of ears to hear us out — or some alone time. The most important thing is to love us unconditionally and never make assumptions about our condition.
Here are 11 things people with anxiety want you to know.
1. Social Gatherings Are Hard
Parties are no fun. Neither are baby showers. We would rather watch paint dry than go to a big wedding where everyone is dolled up — and chatty. With anxiety disorders comes stress in large social situations, particularly when it’s an event where everybody is smiling and celebrating a happy life event. If we turn down an invite, it’s not because we don’t love you — the party might just be genuinely overwhelming to us.

2. Sometimes We Just Don’t Feel Like Laughing

People who see us on edge automatically assume that the best thing to do is tell a joke, or do something silly to make us smile.
There’s a difference between forcing us into laughter and lightening the mood; the former always comes off as inauthentic — because it usually is — while the latter can be done naturally, without making us feel like we’re being treated in a loony bin. Don’t force us to laugh, please.

3. This Doesn’t Define Us

Please don’t whisper about us behind our backs and label us according to what kind of anxiety disorder we harbor (I swear, I was once dubbed Nervous Nancy). This disease doesn’t make up our entire identity; that’s a fact we lose sight of at times, which just makes us feel worse about ourselves, so try to steer clear of insensitive comments and nicknames. Instead, remind us of all the reasons we are wonderful — no harm can come out of that.

4. Things That Don’t Affect You Bother Us

I’m talking about those little, tiny, minute occurrences that you probably don’t even give a second thought to, like having you come over to our apartment for the very first time. Our brains are wired differently, and we might even be dealing with some chemical imbalances, so those small things make our minds run wild while you can merely shrug them off and continue on with your life. If we seem a little nervous, please don’t make fun of us, or make us feel guilty.

5. We’re Physically Exhausted

In case you haven’t heard, the mind and body are intricately connected, so if one is facing difficulties, the other will visibly suffer. People with anxiety disorders tend to live in a hyper-tense state, especially when they’re not getting the treatment they need. This causes the heart rate and blood pressure to rise, and our digestive system might not be working properly. Be gentle with us if you see that we’re tired and cranky, because we probably didn’t sleep at all last night.

6. We’d Appreciate The Space To Vent

It’s hard to find a good enough friend or family member out there who can listen to our troubles without passing any judgment whatsoever. If you could be that person for us, we’d love you forever. The more we bottle stuff up, the more likely we are to have a panic attack or end up locked up in our bedroom, surrounded by Ben & Jerry’s. Plus, nothing is worse than being honest, only to see the person across from us with a disgusted look on their face. Try not to be supportive and non-judgmental — and remember, you don’t have to fix it.

7. We’re Trying Our Hardest

Just because you don’t see us running to a therapy session every Wednesday doesn’t mean we’re not doing our absolute best to work on this mental illness. It’s really, really hard being trapped in this head constantly and not fully understanding all the emotional phases that pass by. Please don’t assume that we aren’t aware of our troubles. We. So. Are. And we’re doing our best to heal ourselves, in our own ways.

8. We Appreciate You

Yeah, it’s hard to say out loud, but we love all the support and encouragement you give us. We might not show it, and that’s only because we get so caught up in trying to make sense of the chaotic, demanding world around us. So, thanks for late-night chats and the text messages that are meant to bring us out of hiding on a weekend night. We’re trying to get better at saying thank you more often.

9. We’ll Never Be Just Like You

There might be a “normal” mold out there that you and many other people fit into — and we may never be granted citizenship on that land. There’s nothing wrong with that, so don’t make us feel like there is. We might never be interested in Halloween parties or Saturday morning yoga classes, no matter how rad you think they are. Let us be our own people, and, I promise, we’ll have a much better shot at getting along.

10. We Don’t All Need Medication

It far too common: people struggling with a mental illness are told that we should think about a certain kind of medication. But what works for your younger, manic depressive cousin may not necessarily work for us. Some respond well to anti-anxiety prescriptions, while it exacerbates the symptoms of others. Instead of telling us we need to take pills, ask us openly if we’ve ever considered it. We’ll tell you where we stand.

11. You May Never Know The Whole Story

Countless parts of illnesses like GAD are suffered behind closed doors. We don’t like being the center of attention, so we do everything we can to hide all the awful things we’re going through; this could mean that we aren’t going to tell you everything when you ask us to share our personal stories. Don’t take it personally — we’re either not ready yet to reveal corners of ourselves, or we’ve decided that there are some things we’d prefer to keep private.

Book Review – Holding by Graham Norton…

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama; and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother-of-two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic; and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.
So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.
I was given an ARC by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I was really looking forward to this book. I adore Graham Norton.
The story paints a really vivid image of life in a quiet Irish town. The quiet images that Norton’s words create are vividly embedded in my mind. The words are so powerful that the pictures spring to life. You feel like you know each one of the characters personally.
The story unfurls slowly and gently and gives you a sense of actually being there and seeing it all happen. I loved it. Well done Mr Norton!
A four out five star read.
I am profoundly grateful to NetGalley and to Hodder and Stoughton for my copy.