Book Review: Finding Violet Park by Jenny Valentine

This book also fall into the YA (young adult) category. The protagonist is the sixteen year old Lucas Swain. He lives with his mum, his older sister Mercy and his younger brother Jed. His father disappeared five years ago and nobody seems to know what happened to him, or if he is still alive. Lucas finds an urn, in the middle of the night in a mini-cab office. He discovers that the urn belongs to a lady called Violet Park and that she used to be a world famous pianist. He ‘rescues’ her from the dismal mini cab office and that’s when the story starts to get really interesting.

I don’t want to give too much away in this review. The book has a final twist that took me by surprise. Along the way Lucas makes several interesting discoveries about Violet, about his missing dad, about his mum, about his grandparents and his dad’s best friend Bob, who also fancy’s Lucas’ mother.

Although Lucas was meant to be a sixteen year old boy, he comes across as younger. The voice he has been given by the author sometimes does not really match his real age. Jenny Valentine makes great use of the grandparents, as a ‘go-to’ figure. This is quite a need solution, especially as young people often feel they can’t talk to their parents. It makes his nan and grandad useful adults in the book.

In the book he also meets a girl called Martha and they start a relationship, I do however find that this was an unnecessary extra character. I feel the role of his sister could have been more developed instead.

I did enjoy reading this book, especially the surprise ending was very well done. I did not take me long to read. I feel the book can equally enjoyed by adults. There is a quote from the beginning of the book, which I found very thought provoking, which I just leave here at the end. Enjoy 😉:

‘It’s funny when you start thinking about pivotal moments in your life, chance happenings that end up meaning everything’.

‘I always wonder what happens to all the choices we decide not to make’.

Book Review: Before I Die by Jenny Downham (Now Is Good)

This is a Young Adult Novel and deals with the topic of cancer and death.

Tessa has a rare form of Leukaemia and only has months to live. She makes a list of things she really wants to do before she dies. Her best friend Zoey is helping her achieving the things on her list. It all changes when Tessa falls in love and Zoey has some bad/good news of her own. I don’t want to give too much away for those who have not read the book or watched the film.

Tessa’s parents are separated but her illness brings them closer towards the end. Tessa also has a younger brother Call. Her boyfriend is Adam. He comes across as a very mature and strong young man for his age and sticks by Tessa right until the end.

It is made clear from the start of the book that there is no cure and we, as the readers know that Tessa will ultimately die in the end. Nevertheless the book is very moving. It makes you laugh at times and cry at times. The end of the novel is extremely moving and had me sobbing. I very rarely have a book evoke emotions from me but this book did. It made me realise that we should appreciate every day, tell the people we love how we feel often, and not miss a moment, not waste any time.

I know the book is written for young adults, but the message the book has is important for every age group. I know there have been many book written about teenage cancer in the past few years, but I recommend this one, as it is so beautifully written with a strong female protagonist and a very strong message. This book gets my 👍 thumbs up.

Book Review: Swimming Home by Deborah Levy

The story of this books circles around nine different characters and view points. At first sight it appears to be a book about a family on holiday in France. They discover a stranger in their swimming pool, Kitty Finch, and Isabel, one of the main characters invites Kitty to stay in their spare room.

Isabel’s husband, Joe, is a famous poet and known for his affairs with several women. Nevertheless his wife Isabel invites the beautiful stranger Kitty Finch to stay in their holiday home and spend time with them. There is also Nina, who is Joe’s and Isabel’s daughter Nina and Laura and Mitchell. They have a German caretaker called Jürgen, who is secretly in love with Kitty.

Kitty has mental issues but at the end of the book the reader realises that these issues are just a reflection of Joe’s much deeper founded depression. Levy manages in this book to switch swiftly between view points and to balance the attention among them very carefully. The chapters of the book are week days. This gives the book a solid timeline and the reader some sort of continuity as the switching between viewpoints happens very fast and can be at times quite confusing.

Levy uses a kind of indirect method a lot to describe different characters. She uses other characters to introduce other characters, if that makes sense 😉 the book uses fairly straight forward language it is yet not very straight forward to read. What makes it a fairly complex read, in my opinion is, that most characters in the book are unable to describe their feelings clearly. Their emotions are quite complex. As a reader I could not attach myself to any of the characters and never got to know them at great depth. This on the other hand can be quite appealing to other readers, as in real life one person is never just one thing. We’ve are all made up of layers and layers of feelings. We are never just one thing.

I personally did not like the book, for the above mentioned reason. I had to read it as part of my course. It is useful to see how Levy uses characters to get different view points across. If you are interested in character development and points of view then I do recommend this book.

Book Review: A Visit From The Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I had to read this book as part of my University course in creative writing. This isn’t a book I would have normally chosen, but I am glad we had to read it as part of our course, as it has an interesting structure.

The book has thirteen chapters, which can either be read as individual short stories, or as part of the whole novel. The stories evolve around certain central characters and jump back and forth in time. Each chapter is written from a different characters view point and timeline. Chapter twelve is written as a kind of slide show or power point presentation. Although the book can be read a separate short stories, there is a threat that follows through the book and links the characters to each other and in the end the book comes full circle back to the first story.

I found the book a bit strange to start with and was looking for something I can relate to, but after a while I got used to the style and the way the different characters presented itself. The book is mainly based around New York, but some stories take you out of that setting into different countries for example Italy or a Safari in Africa. I have never come across a book written in this way and I have to say I liked it. I liked that it wasn’t predictable and kept me as a reader guessing of what might happen next. The book gets a 👍 thumbs up from me.