4 Stars, Book review, Contemporary, Laura Steven, Young Adult

Bee Reviews: The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven

the exact opposite of okay coverFormat: Paperback, 335 pages

Published: 8th March 2018 by Electric Monkey

Genres: Young adult, contemporary, feminism

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery


Synopsis

Izzy O’Neill is an aspiring comic, an impoverished orphan, and a Slut Extraordinaire. Or at least, that’s what the malicious website flying round the school says. Izzy can try all she wants to laugh it off – after all, her sex life, her terms – but when pictures emerge of her doing the dirty with a politician’s son, her life suddenly becomes the centre of a national scandal. Izzy’s never been ashamed of herself before, and she’s not going to start now. But keeping her head up will take everything she has…


Review

Bear with me, there are gonna be a lot of quotes in this review because, basically, this is the most quotable book I’ve ever read. Izzy O’Neill is the funniest protagonist I have ever read, although it’s borderline annoying how she constantly uses humour as a coping mechanism instead of facing up to her problems, but dealing with emotions is a journey, one that we all must make (slightly paraphrasing Gandalf here).

The problem is, even the most basic entry-level jobs now require at least three years’ experience, a degree in astrophysics and two Super Bowl trophies to even be considered for an interview.

So, Izzy’s struggles aren’t limited to being broke and brought up by her grandmother who has to work some 60 hours a week in a diner just to pay bills and rent. No, little does Izzy know when she attends a party one Saturday evening, she’s about to find out just how cruel the world can be…

It always leaves me feeling kinda empty when people preach “follow your dreams” to those with “do what you gotta do” kind of lives.

When someone sets up a website targeting Izzy and her sexploits, Izzy tries to ride the waves. She laughs along with her classmates, but when Izzy’s nudes surface, it gets a little harder to breathe, let alone laugh. Izzy finds herself more alone than ever, although constantly surrounded by swarms of photographers and journalists, because, you guessed it, this particular teenager’s sexploits become a national scandal when a politician’s son gets caught up in it.

How the hell are we supposed to have it all figured out by the age of eighteen? We don’t even know who we are yet, and still we’re expected to choose what we want to do with the next fifty years.

This novel should be required reading for everyone who doesn’t understand why slut-shaming is wrong. The ultimate take-away message from this story is if men can take nudes and have sex without it becoming a national scandal… why can’t women? (Hint: the answer is misogyny.)

I honestly do not know why guys think solicited dick pics are a turn on. Like, have they ever seen a penis? Do they really look at their own genitals and think, “Yeah, that looks good.” No. Exactly.

Something that slightly irked me about this book was just how much of an adult Izzy seemed – I was only reminded she was a teenager whenever she talked about school. But perhaps this is a reflection on how teenage girls are tried as adults, whereas “boys will be boys”. Really though, Izzy’s sharp wit and humour are well beyond her years.

Never trust morning people. They have deeply rooted psychology issues and, as a person with deeply rooted psychology issues, I consider myself something of an expert on the matter.

This novel included an absolute boat-load of diversity: we had explicit ethnically-diverse characters, characters of varying sexualities, explicit mention of a student in a wheelchair (although it is just a mention). Kudos to Steven for trying to include as many social issues as possible (including anti-black racism and mild pro-Palestinian propaganda). But one tip for if you’re trying to write a socially-conscious book – don’t make the Maths teacher Asian.

As an aside, I actually admire people who slut-shame on the internet. Usually when someone has a low IQ they try to hide it, but these guys just throw it right out there in the public domain.

Have you read this book? Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!


Header credits: the Enchanted Rose was made by Angraves and gifted to me by my pretty amazing boyfriend, the book was by Laura Stevens, the candle by Etsy user Bookwormcandlescraft and gifted to me by a pretty amazing friend, the bookmark was made by aforementioned pretty amazing friend and can be found here, and the pygmy puff was from the WBST and gifted to me by yet another pretty amazing friend (I know, I’m lucky to know so many amazing people).

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3 Stars, Book review, Connie Glynn, Fantasy, Young Adult

Bee Reviews: Undercover Princess by Connie Glynn (Rosewood Chronicles #1)

-undercoverprincessFormat: Kindle edition, 288 pages

Published: 2nd November 2017 by Penguin

Genres: Fantasy, young adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery


Synopsis

When fairy tale obsessed Lottie Pumpkin starts at the infamous Rosewood Hall, she is not expecting to share a room with the Crown Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolf. Due to a series of lies and coincidences, 14-year-old Lottie finds herself pretending to be the princess so that Ellie can live a more normal teenage life.

Lottie is thrust into the real world of royalty – a world filled with secrets, intrigue and betrayal. She must do everything she can to help Ellie keep her secret, but with school, the looming Maradovian ball and the mysterious new boy Jamie, she’ll soon discover that reality doesn’t always have the happily ever after you’d expect…

A thrilling world of parties, politics and bad ass princesses, this is the first book in the brand new series THE ROSEWOOD CHRONICLES.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

This book has been such a delight to read for several reasons, all of which will be explored in this review that will hopefully leave you, the reader, convinced that you have to read Undercover Princess.

Eating animals just didn’t seem very princessy. How could she expect little woodland critters to assist her in her daily tasks if she was going to turn around and eat them?

Let’s start with Lottie Pumpkin – yes, her name is ridiculous, yes, she does know it, and yes, she’s very sensitive about it. Well, Lottie is just about sensitive when it comes to everything and anything, which, in an era of “strong female protagonists” telling other girls they have to “man up”, is quite refreshing. Lottie’s greatest strength, aside from being brave, being kind, and being unstoppable, is that she is perceptive and so in touch with her emotions – very unusual for a teenager. Having a likeable protagonist who is a breath of fresh air is so important, and Connie Glynn nails this one.

It was no secret that her love of English stemmed from her childhood obsession with fairy tales. She was so fascinated by words and how they could be used as signifiers to express abstract thoughts and feelings; it all seemed to beautiful and romantic to her.

Then we’ve got Ellie, who so perfectly complements Lottie, and, if we’re being frank, is everything Lottie isn’t. Ellie is wild, she is daring, and she turns Lottie’s whole world upside down. I loved reading about a rebel with a cause, which is exactly what Ellie is. So for readers who like their fair share of badass female characters, I present to you the Crown Princess of Maradover, Ellie Wolfson.

Ellie didn’t fit into the cookie-cutter image of a girl, let alone a princess. She was unapologetic and ferocious and this aristocratic world resented her for it.

Rosewood is also fascinating. It gave me Hogwarts vibes – a boarding school with three houses that each student must take an aptitude test in order to find out which house they belong to. There is, of course, inter-house competition, and for this book at least, you have your Draco Malfoy and his cronies. Then there’s the mystery of William Tufty, the founder of Rosewood – like the brilliant author she is, Glynn manages to sow enough seeds for a sequel, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it when it comes out!

Sometimes the world can get very loud and people can get caught up trying to get their own voice heard and they end up silencing those that really need the space to speak.

The only reason this highly re-readable book is a three star instead of a five is partly because of the mild queer-baiting, which I’m hoping will still be picked up in later book(s). You’ll know what I mean when you read the book. There’s also a problem with mischaracterisation, particularly with the introduction of Ellie – it just seems that characters are frequently OOC to suit whatever drama Glynn chooses for the sake of having drama, but this book really doesn’t need it.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, she could hear her mother’s voice reciting a verse from her distant past.

They found each other in the woods,
Together they did build a house.

A story her mother used to tell her, before she knew how brutal the world could be.

The final thing that put me off this wonderful book that was otherwise a delight to read is, even now, I struggle to tell if the book is satirical or genuine. For example, the Princess of Maradova, Ellie Wolfson, disguised herself as… Ellie Wolf. This is addressed in the book, but as I said before, it’s difficult to tell if it’s in satire or if the other characters are genuinely dense. I’ve been left with the same feeling a few times throughout reading the novel, which makes the writing seem somewhat clumsy.

“I bet you ten pounds someone falls in the pool.” “Twenty pounds says I push one of them.”

Otherwise, this book was intriguing and difficult to put down! I would definitely recommend it to people who are into princesses, fairy tales, and are looking for a very light read. Have you read this book? Do you have any thoughts you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!

3 Stars, Book review, Non-fiction

Bee Reviews: Dare Not Linger – The Presidential Years by Nelson Mandela, and Mandla Langa

 

- nelson mandela

Format: Kindle edition, 384 pages

Published: 19th October 2017 by Macmillan

Genres: Non-fiction, biography

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery | Waterstones


Synopsis

‘I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. I have taken a moment here to rest, to steal a view of the glorious vista that surrounds me, to look back on the distance I have come. But I can only rest for a moment, for with freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk is not ended.’ Long Walk to Freedom

In 1994, Nelson Mandela became the first president of democratic South Africa. Five years later, he stood down. In that time, he and his government wrought the most extraordinary transformation, turning a nation riven by centuries of colonialism and apartheid into a fully functioning democracy in which all South Africa’s citizens, black and white, were equal before the law.

Dare Not Linger is the story of Mandela’s presidential years, drawing heavily on the memoir he began to write as he prepared to finish his term of office, but was unable to finish. Now, the acclaimed South African writer, Mandla Langa, has completed the task using Mandela’s unfinished draft, detailed notes that Mandela made as events were unfolding and a wealth of previously unseen archival material. With a prologue by Mandela’s widow, Graça Machel, the result is a vivid and inspirational account of Mandela’s presidency, a country in flux and the creation of a new democracy. It tells the extraordinary story of the transition from decades of apartheid rule and the challenges Mandela overcome to make a reality of his cherished vision for a liberated South Africa.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

It’s always difficult finishing the works of someone who has since passed, but Mandla Langa does a great job. That said, Dare Not Linger does still rely heavily on factual information which is in complete juxtaposition to the emotion in Long Walk to Freedom.

 With freedom comes responsibilities, and I dare not linger, for my long walk has not ended yet.

I would recommend this biography more for people who are heavily invested in politics, particularly that of South African politics. I know little about South African politics, so in this sense, Dare Not Linger was somewhat difficult for me to read and fully comprehend.

4 Stars, Contemporary, Short stories, Tom Hanks

Bee Reviews: Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Uncommon TypeFormat: Kindle edition, 416 pages

Published: 17th October 2017 by Cornerstone Digital

Genres: Fiction, short stories

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery | Waterstones


Synopsis

A hectic, funny sexual affair between two best friends. A World War II veteran dealing with his emotional and physical scars. A second-rate actor plunged into sudden stardom and a whirlwind press junket. A small-town newspaper columnist with old-fashioned views of the modern world. A woman adjusting to life in a new neighborhood after her divorce. Four friends going to the moon and back in a rocket ship constructed in the backyard. A teenage surfer stumbling into his father’s secret life.

These are just some of the people and situations that Tom Hanks explores in his first work of fiction, a collection of stories that dissects, with great affection, humour and insight, the human condition and all its foibles. The stories are linked by one thing: in each of them, a typewriter plays a part, sometimes minor, sometimes central. To many, typewriters represent a level of craftsmanship, beauty and individuality that is harder and harder to find in the modern world. In his stories, Mr Hanks gracefully reaches that typewriter-worthy level.

Known for his honesty and sensitivity as an actor, Mr Hanks brings both those characteristics to his writing. Alternatingly whimsical, moving and occasionally melancholy, Uncommon Type is a book that will delight as well as surprise his millions of fans. It also establishes him as a welcome and wonderful new voice in contemporary fiction, a voice that perceptively delves beneath the surface of friendships, families, love and normal, everyday behaviour.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Tom Hanks is apparently such a huge fan of typewriters that he wrote a series of short stories about one. And there’s something oddly charming about that. Uncommon Types is a compilation of 17 short stories about… people. You could open the page at any book and you could never tell what that particular story was going to be about.

In the time I spend lollygagging over my whites and colors, Anna will drywall her attic, prepare her taxes, make her own fresh pasta, and start up a clothing exchange on the Internet.

There were definitely ups and downs – some stories you couldn’t wait to finish, but some really made the whole thing worth it. My favourite stories in particular were about Anna, MDash and co. A reflection of Hanks’s liberal stance, Uncommon Types successfully intertwines nostalgia with modern day America – and it works wonderfully.

In New York City real estate parlors took your money and lied to you, drug addicts relieved themselves in plain sight, and the Public Library was closed on Mondays.

I’ve very rarely lately read a book I would be happy to read again, but this is definitely going to be one of them. It’s light, fun, thoughtful, and, most of all, very heart-warming.

5 Stars, Book review, Contemporary, Gail Honeyman

Bee Reviews: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

oliphantFormat: Kindle edition, 336 pages

Published: 9th May 2017 by Pamela Dorman Books

Genres: Fiction, adult, contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery | Waterstones


Synopsis

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. All this means that Eleanor has become a creature of habit (to say the least) and a bit of a loner.

But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever—if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

I thought this book was a rom-com. I thought this was going to be another Bridget Jones. I was wrong: it’s so much bigger and better than that.

If the book has one failing, it’s that there is insufficient mention of Pilot. You can’t have too much dog in a book.

I struggled to believe that this was a debut novel. It was so well-written, not a single word was out of place; so well-crafted, you might well believe at first that it was based on a true story (and you might have to keep reminding yourself that it’s not!).

I opted instead for a coffee, which was bitter and lukewarm. Naturally, I had been about to pour it all over myself but, just in time, had read the warning printed on the paper cup, alerting me to the fact that hot liquids can cause injury. A lucky escape, Eleanor!

My favourite thing about this novel is nothing is as you might expect. While reading this novel, I would constantly guess what was going to happen next – and I always got it wrong. The twists and turns through Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will definitely keep you on edge! You will cry your eyes out – from laughter, and from sadness.

There are so many books in the world – how do you tell them all apart? How do you know which one will match your tastes and interests? That’s why I just pick the first book I see. There’s no point in trying to choose. The covers are of very little help, because they always say only good things, and I’ve found out to my cost that they’re rarely accurate. “Exhilarating” “Dazzling” “Hilarious”. No.

Women are almost always written into one of two categories; they are either the girl everyone clambers to be friends with, or the girl who is too good to be like other girls. Eleanor isn’t either of these. As a protagonist, she is unlikely, unfathomable, and yet somehow a character everyone can, in some way, relate to. She is witty and insightful, and watching her grow throughout the novel made me feel like a proud mother (unlike Mummy).

There are all kinds of reasons why they might not look like the kind of person you’d want to sit next to on a bus, but you can’t sum someone up in a ten-second glance. That’s simply not enough time. The way you try not to sit next to fat people, for example. There’s nothing wrong with being overweight, is there?

Eleanor provides a wonderful, filter-free insight into our world. This covers everything from weird “human mating rituals” like dancing, to the importance of even the briefest of encounters with strangers. Eleanor is an empty vessel just waiting to be filled up with love. No, not love from a romantic partner, as the synopsis might insinuate. She is waiting to be filled up with love for herself.

No one had ever shown me the right way to live a life, and although I’d tried my best over the years, I simply didn’t know how to make things better. I could not solve the puzzle of me.

Seldom do I find a novel that I truly can’t put down. But I managed to finish this book in about six days, which is a testimony of how great this novel is. Honeyman has really done a number on the world with this debut novel, and I can’t wait to read more of her work when it comes. I would highly recommend this novel to absolutely everyone and anyone under the sun.

3 Stars, Book review, Crime, Mystery, Paula Hawkins, Thriller

Bee Reviews: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

into the waterFormat: Hardback

Published: 2nd May 2017 by Transworld Publishers Ltd

Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Crime

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones


Synopsis

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother’s sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she’d never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.


Review

This is no The Girl On the Train, as it was advertised as. And that’s a good thing, because if an author wrote two books that were the same, that would be very boring. This book did fall somewhat flat for me after The Girl On the Train after a first read though. While I had problems with the debut novel, at least it was fast-paced – this certainly was not.

It’s, like, when someone has an affair, why does the wife always hate the other woman? Why doesn’t she hate her husband? He’s the one who’s betrayed her, he’s the one who swore to love her and keep her and whatever forever and ever. Why isn’t he the one who gets shoved off a fucking cliff?

I loved the feminist aspect of this novel. This book is coming for all the people who have crucified women for simply existing. It’s all about how women who dare to speak up or women who prove challenging are silenced – but in this case, silenced in quite a lethal way.

No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women; they drank it every day.

Overall, this is a strong follow up novel to the much hyped-up The Girl On the Train. Somewhat difficult to follow but still a very satisfying read.

3 Stars, Cara Delevingne, Contemporary, Mystery, Rowan Coleman, Young Adult

Bee Reviews: Mirror Mirror by Cara Delevingne and Rowan Coleman

Format: Kindle edition, 368 pagesmirror mirror

Published: 5th October 2017 by Trapeze

Genres: Young adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Waterstones


Synopsis

Friend. Lover. Victim. Betrayer. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

Sixteen-year-old friends Red, Leo, Naima and Rose are like anyone their age: figuring out who they are and trying to navigate the minefield of school and relationships. Life isn’t perfect, but they’re united by their love of music and excited about what the future holds for their band.

That is until Naima dies in tragic circumstances, leaving behind only one word. ‘Sorry’.

What awful truth was she hiding? What dark secret was lurking behind her seemingly sunny persona? And how did Red, the self-styled protector of the group, fail to spot the warning signs?

While Rose turns to wild partying and Leo is shrouded by dark moods, Red sets out to uncover the truth and find out what – or perhaps who – was responsible for Naima’s death.

It’s a journey that will cause Red’s world to crumble, exposing the dark and dangerous truth behind the fragile surface of their existence. Nothing will ever be the same again, because once a mirror is shattered, it can’t be fixed.


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

I’m going to preface this review by reminding the reader that everything in this review is strictly my opinion, and that there might be things I mention that you yourself might not mind in a book. But for me, Mirror, Mirror was a bit of a mess.

I see her face again, and wonder how it can be possible to find someone and lose them in the very same moment.

First of all, I’m not sure if the person who wrote the blurb read a completely different story to the rest of us, but it’s not remotely how the book actually panned out. Secondly, the book isn’t an easy one to read. I understand it’s YA, but that doesn’t mean it has to look like it was written by a YA. I would normally make allowances given this is a debut novel, but even a debut novel should have a better writing style.

I see the lights reflected in her deep blue eyes, and the tiny hairs of her soft cheeks and the way her top lip bows when she talks, and the silver scar just to the left of her mouth, and it’s like everything in the universe, since the beginning of time has been reaching just for this moment, this one perfect beautiful moment.

I wasn’t really sure about the first half of the novel. It didn’t feel like it was going anywhere, but this novel is supposed to be about more than Naima – it’s about all of them and their journey navigating their way through life. As for Naima’s story, I have to say the ending was predictable, but in an era of trying too hard, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

There is no need to despair over being brave, over risking everything to be true. Instead I feel free, because tonight I broke down one more barrier to truly being myself, crossed one more bridge towards the life I want. And for now, anyway, I feel good about doing that, even if I have burnt it down behind me. I feel proud.

All in all, Mirror, Mirror is a solid debut novel, and I feel it sets out to do what it intends to. I do hope that Delevingne works on her writing skills before her next novel though.

5 Stars, Book review, Contemporary, John Green, Young Adult

Bee Reviews: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

turtles

Format: Hardback

Published: 10th October 2017 by Penguin

Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery | Waterstones


Synopsis

It all begins with a fugitive billionaire and the promise of a cash reward. Turtles All the Way Down is about lifelong friendship, the intimacy of an unexpected reunion, Star Wars fan fiction, and tuatara. But at its heart is Aza Holmes, a young woman navigating daily existence within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

In his long-awaited return, John Green shares Aza’s story with shattering, unflinching clarity.


Review

Where do I start with this novel? I wasn’t entirely sure at first where it was going – all I knew was that I was glad not to be Aza. Aza really struggles against her compulsions, and does all the right things but faces all the wrong outcomes in her battle against herself. Aza is a wonderful example of when thinking becomes overthinking, which becomes nothing short of a curse.

This term chronic pain captures nothing of the grinding, constant, ceaseless, inescapable hurt. And the term crazy arrives at us with none of the terror and worry you live with. Nor do either of those terms connote the courage people in such pains exemplify.

But Aza is also just like everyone else: she has to keep up with work in school, she does everything to appease her best friend, she has an overbearing mother to reassure. Throw a little OCD into the mix and, suddenly, everything is even more chaotic. And to make things worse, her potential lover’s father goes missing, and Aza takes it upon herself to solve this mystery.

The whole problem with boys is that ninety-nine percent of them are, like, okay. If you could dress and hygiene them properly, and make them stand up straight and listen to you and not be dumbasses, they’d be totally acceptable.

I cannot put into words how accurately Green portrays the mental health experience; the inescapable thoughts, the constant feelings of self-doubt and worthlessness, and, most of all, the way everyone says they will be there for you and everyone gets fed up. My favourite thing about this novel was how it was all show, not tell. Aza never once spoke about her symptoms: she just felt. The reader gets to see everything first-hand, everything from how Aza’s spirals begin, to exactly how a person with mental health problems can both isolate themselves, and also feel isolated (which are often two separate, although sometimes related, occurrences).

[…] she told me that beauty was mostly a matter of attention. “The river is beautiful because you are look at it,” she said.

I would definitely say this is my favourite John Green book to date. It is raw, emotional, and I didn’t even realise I had a heart until it got broken and remade by this book. It is bursting with Greenesque quotes that will make you laugh, think, and, of course, roll your eyes. I’ve never read another book like this before, and I have certainly not read a book in a while that has made me question whether I really do know it all. This book is filled with love and laughter and, above all, hope. The kind of hope everyone needs. Not the hope that things will get better, because oftentimes that hope is an illusion, but the hope that things will still be okay.

Your now is not your forever.

I would recommend this book for people who fall under the following categories:

  • People experiencing mental health problems (warning: may be triggering as Aza’s compulsions are quite severe)
  • People who have never experienced mental health problems
  • People who think OCD is “cute” or “quirky”
  • Everyone else
  • Turtles

Have you read this book? What do you think? Let me know in the comments!

4 Stars, Book review, Historical fiction, Mystery, Nancy Campbell Allen, Romance

Bee Reviews: The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

thesecretoftheindiaorchidFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 1st August 2017 by Shadow Mountain Publishing

Genres: Historical fiction, Romance, Mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery


Synopsis

Anthony Blake is in love with his best friend’s sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies-including his own-has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honourable earl for the façade of a flirtatious playboy.

Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn’t as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.

She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won’t confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?


Review

A copy of this novel was given in exchange for an honest review.

Somehow the fact that this novel is part romance completely missed me when I requested an ARC. Had I known it was a romance novel, I would have skipped it, because I’m human and we tend to stick with what we know. But I’m glad I picked it up because I ended up thoroughly enjoying it!

It’s so difficult writing characters who are complex and likeable, but, for me, the author nailed it perfectly. A book is always easier to read when you like the characters you’re supposed to.

She always insisted that if a man and woman have love and affection, a desire to put each other above all else, that life is liveable under any circumstances.

In terms of the plot, I enjoyed reading about the history between Sophia and Anthony, their funny encounters across the voyage to India, and about the mystery that was to unravel – a missing document containing information that could put all of their lives at risk.

The fact that this novel is set in India also sets it apart from other novels of this genre. It was interesting reading Sophia’s take on being in a completely new country. I managed to devour this book in mere hours and would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a light read with a very satisfying ending.

3 Stars, Book review, Michelle Richmond, Mystery, Thriller

Bee Reviews: The Marriage Pact by Michelle Richmond

themarriagepactFormat: Kindle edition

Published: 25th July 2017 by Bantam

Genres: Thriller, suspense

Rating: ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter… Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples. And then one of them breaks the rules. The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule. For Jake and Alice, the marriage of their dreams is about to become their worst nightmare.


Review

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this novel. It’s a bit of a slow-burner, but at the same time, it’s never not enjoyable to read. The novel is told through Jake’s perspective – he talks about how much he loves Alice and how they got married and how they came across The Pact, something of a cult that brings law into marriage. If you don’t pick up that phone call from your spouse, if you’re emotionally unfaithful, The Pact will punish you for it.

Whenever I feel old […] Alice tells me to imagine taking a picture of myself, then to imagine myself twenty years in the future looking at that picture, thinking how young I looked, hoping that I had enjoyed or at least recognised my youth.

The goal of The Pact is to make marriages last. And it does just this – Jake is pleased when Alice comes home earlier from work, and it aids their marriage. Except when Jake and Alice learn that the key to The Pact’s success if that couples who don’t fit in mysteriously disappear. Through prison sentences and torture, Alice and Jake have to find a way of leaving The Pact while holding onto their lives.

Sometimes you just have to walk back across that burning bridge.

This sounds like an exceptionally suspenseful novel. On Goodreads, it’s marketed as a thriller. But for me, it didn’t really have that fast-paced element, except towards the end. It was suspenseful when Alice and Jake were forcefully taken away, and when they went on the run – but it was also anticlimactic in the sense that the build-up didn’t quite match the end result.

The boy is picking the starfish up and throwing them back into the water. The academic approaches and asks, “What are you doing?” And the boy tells him that the tide is going out and the starfish will die. Confused, the academic says, “But there are so many, millions even, how can it matter?” The boy leans down, picks one up, and throws it far out into the ocean. He smiles and says, “It matters for that one.”

I feel this is more a fault of marketing, perhaps. Because for me, I enjoyed this novel as more of a “books that make you think” novel. I’ve never thought harder about the concept of marriage and why it’s so unsuccessful these days. Also, with Jake’s insight as a relationships counsellor, I enjoyed reading the facts about marriage and generally life itself.

The fact of couples  coming together is based more upon timing and circumstance than magic.

To summarise, this was a really enjoyable book to read. I finished it in a day because it was that good. I just wouldn’t say it’s particularly a thriller, perhaps something of a dystopian mystery novel, but definitely a philosophical book that provides a deep insight to marriage.