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!

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, 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: ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


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.

Ayisha Malik, Carrie Ryan, Frances Hardinge, Kendare Blake, Kristen Cashore, Sophia Kingshill, Stark Holborn, Stephen King, YALC, Zen Cho

YALC buys!

Almost two weeks later and I’m still experiencing post-YALC depression. So here’s a list of some amazing-looking books I can’t wait to dig into to help me through the void that YALC left.

1sorcerer to the crown1. Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

I was watching a panel about genre-bending with Zen Cho. She made her novel sound absolutely enchanting – anything about sorcery in Britain and I’m there. I’m a very fussy reader and the fact that Cho sold her book to me in mere moments is an accomplishment. She was signing afterwards so I dashed to the Waterstone’s stall to buy a copy, but unfortunately they were sold out. I pulled out my phone straight away and ordered a copy. Glad to say I have this book now and I can’t wait to read it!

 

2bitterblue2. Bitterblue (Graceling Realm #3) by Kristin Cashore

One of the stalls was doing 2 for £10. Sorcery in Britain is one of my favourite things to read, the other being castles and princesses. So when I picked up this book, I had to buy it immediately – without even realising this is the third book in the series. Quickly rectified though as I bought the first two off eBay immediately afterwards. This series sounds mystical and I hope to read it ASAP. Which I say about every unread book on my bookshelf that I’ve been meaning to read for years, but still, one can hope.

 

3sofia khan3. Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (Sofia Khan #1) by Ayisha Malik

I received an ARC of the sequel to this a few months back (you can find my review here) and I was mesmerised. Sofia Khan is by far the funniest protagonist I’ve had the pleasure to come across in years. Described by Malik as the Muslim Bridget Jones, I cried laughing so hard reading the sequel that I had to go back and get this one. (And, of course, get both books signed by the lovely author who also happened to tell me I looked ethereal in my elf outfit.)

 

4forest4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

This was the other book I bought in the 2 for £10 purchase, and it. Sounds. Amazing. Reminiscent of a favourite of mine (Uprooted by Naomi Novik), this novel is about Mary who lives in a village where it’s rumoured unsafe to leave, but Mary soon discovers that perhaps it’s not only the outside world that has its problems. This book is the first in the trilogy and sounds every bit enticing as the blurb promises. Stick around for the review in a few short months!

 

5lietree5. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

I think I bought this one at 2 for £10 as well. This book follows Faith Sunderly whose family fled to an island following a scandal that ruined her father’s reputation. When her father is found murdered, Faith takes it upon herself to unravel the secret of his death and seek revenge. She comes across a tree that produces fruit every time she tells a lie, fruit that delivers to her truths, and hopes this brings her closer to unraveling the mystery her father left behind.

 

6threedarkcrowns6. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

This was the other book I bought at 2 for £10. I wasn’t initially sold by the idea of this novel, which boils down to three sisters who ultimately have to kill each other for the crown. But the sales assistant did a number on me, and I had to have it by the time she was done. And like I said before – anything with queens in it, and I’m there. I can’t wait to find out which sister wins the deadly battle – Mirabella, the elemental; Katharine, the poisoner; or Arsinoe, the naturalist.

 

7revival7. Revival by Stephen King

I’ve never read a Stephen King book before. I’ve always meant to, but after watching The Shining as a very small child, I was kind of put off by anything Stephen Kingish. But also enticed at the same time. Which is why when Hodder & Stoughton was doing 3 for £5, I jumped in straight away. Somehow, I can do horror films. But horror books? I’m still scarred from reading Goosebumps as a child. Revival seemed like the softest of the Stephen King novels. I can’t wait to be too scared to sleep at night.

 

8onwriting8. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King

So I’ve never read a Stephen King book before, and now I have two! I picked up this book because I appreciate Stephen King for the mastermind he is when it comes to his works and what he does. And as an aspiring author, I thought there’s no better person to take a few tips from than one of the bestselling authors of all time. While it’s impossible to review a memoir – something that’s personal to someone – I’ll write about everything I’ve learnt in the review to come.

 

9nunslinger9. Nunslinger by Stark Holborn

This was the last book I chose in the 3 for £5 sale. Another thing I’m a sucker for besides princesses and castles is historical fiction. This novel is set in the 1800s, and the protagonist, Sister Thomas Josephine, is on the run after being accused of murder – and trying to run from a man who has become dangerously obsessed with her.

This book encapsulates the twelve installments of the series, so there might be a bit of a wait for the review!

 

 

10betweentheravenandthedove10. Between the Raven and the Dove by Sophia Kingshill

I love magic in (almost) all of its shapes and forms, and this very YA novel is about just that. I had the chance to speak with the author and came away with this copy signed (bonus!!). Thirteen-year-old Mag has lived with her father in a home for mentally ill people. Suddenly, Mag’s real mother comes along to claim her – and tell her that she’s a witch. This story focuses on Mag’s world being turned upside down, and the lines blurring between good and evil.

 

So those were my YALC buys! In my defence, I don’t think I came away with as many books as my friends.

Are any of these books on your to-read list? Let me know in the comments!

5 Stars, Crime, Lauren Lee, Mystery

Bee Reviews: When Houses Burn by Laurèn Lee

whb1Format: Kindle edition

Expected publication: 15th August 2017 by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform

Genres: Thriller, murder mystery

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | AmazonAuthor’s website


Synopsis

Dr. Delilah Hedley is a well-respected Doctor of Psychiatry in a small, affluent city on the East Coast. Despite her professional success, Delilah is physically unable to have children, causing increasing turmoil in her marriage.

When Delilah begins seeing a new patient, a man previously accused of murdering his parents, a woman is simultaneously found dead in the river. As the hunt for Jane Doe’s killer intensifies, Delilah falls deeper and deeper for her new patient, despite his dark past.

Will the doctor get a taste of her own medicine, or will she find an escape from the flame in time to save her own life?


Review

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

It’s unbelievable to think there is this much talent in one author. This novel was so carefully crafted, and completely defied my own expectations – as Lee undoubtedly intended. Lee players on the readers’ assumptions really well to make the characters hugely complex and at the same time, suspiciously simple. I was caught out numerous times throughout this novel.

The plot is wild, which at first I wasn’t overly fond of, until I realised that this comes with the territory of writing a thriller, and the quickly-thickening plot is a sign of creativity more than anything else.

They say “Everything happens for a reason,” but what is the reason for this? Why has fate brought us here, to this place filled with doubt, misery, and unhappiness?

The way the novel is written was, at first, a tad confusing but this is mostly due to the fact that I wasn’t paying attention to chapter headings because I was so deeply engrossed in reading the novel. I hate to think how much time was spent writing it – and I managed to finish reading it in three hours.

I would definitely recommend this to fans of thriller/crime/murder mystery novels – and put all of your assumptions aside because things aren’t always as they seem, and people can surprise you.

4 Stars, Alison Weir, Book review, Historical fiction

Bee Reviews: Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession (Six Tudor Queens, #2) by Alison Weir

ab1Format: Kindle edition

Published: 18th May 2017 by Headline

Genres: Historical fiction

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Waterstones | Wordery


Synopsis

A novel filled with new insights into the story of Henry VIII’s second—and most infamous—wife, Anne Boleyn. The second book in the epic Six Tudor Queens series, from the acclaimed historian and bestselling author of Katherine of Aragon.

It is the spring of 1527. Henry VIII has come to Hever Castle in Kent to pay court to Anne Boleyn. He is desperate to have her. For this mirror of female perfection he will set aside his Queen and all Cardinal Wolsey’s plans for a dynastic French marriage.

Anne Boleyn is not so sure. She loathes Wolsey for breaking her betrothal to the Earl of Northumberland’s son, Harry Percy, whom she had loved. She does not welcome the King’s advances; she knows that she can never give him her heart.

But hers is an opportunist family. And whether Anne is willing or not, they will risk it all to see their daughter on the throne…


Review

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

Okay so I’ve never picked up Phillipa Gregory book in my life even though I have all twelve of her books on my shelves, but I think Alison Weir can give me my fix of Tudor historical fiction novels.

Where do I start with this book? It was enormously long, it took me several weeks to finish, but I enjoyed almost every minute of it. Weir’s writing had a way of magically transporting me 500 years back in time. My experience of reading this novel has implanted scenes in my mind as clear as memory – the views from Hever Castle, the hustle and bustle of Margaret of Austria’s court, every turn of the page was a new experience.

I thought I knew a lot about the Tudors prior to reading this book, but how I was wrong. There was so much to learn, and the facts made this novel all the more interesting. This is Weir, an acclaimed historian, weaving together the facts of Anne Boleyn’s life with a bit of imagination to deliver a novel that’s thrilling from start through until finish.

The only bit that was frustrating as a reader was the length of the novel allocated to Anne Boleyn’s wait for Catherine of Aragon’s and Henry’s marriage to be dissolved. But I think this is a great reflection on how frustrated Anne Boleyn probably felt. I also wasn’t sure about Henry’s characterisation at first, but it was interesting to see the renowned monarch in a different portrayal to that which I had initially imagined.

I would definitely recommend this detail-packed novel to others interested in historical fiction, and I can’t wait to read the prequel Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen.

4 Stars, Book review, Colleen Hoover, Contemporary, Romance

Bee Reviews: It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

it ends with us

Format: Kindle edition, 367 pages

Published: 2nd August by Atria Books

Genres: Romance, contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

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Synopsis

Lily hasn’t always had it easy, but that’s never stopped her from working hard for the life she wants. She’s come a long way from the small town in Maine where she grew up – she graduated from college, moved to Boston, and started her own business. So when she feels a spark with a gorgeous neurosurgeon named Ryle Kincaid, everything in Lily’s life suddenly seems almost too good to be true.

Ryle is assertive, stubborn, and maybe even a little arrogant. He’s also sensitive, brilliant, and has a total soft spot for Lily, but Ryle’s complete aversion to relationships is disturbing.

As questions about her new relationship overwhelm her, so do thoughts of Atlas Corrigan – her first love and a link to the past she left behind. He was her kindred spirit, her protector. When Atlas suddenly reappears, everything Lily has built with Ryle is threatened.

With this bold and deeply personal novel, Colleen Hoover delivers a heart-wrenching story that breaks exciting new ground for her as a writer. It Ends With Us is an unforgettable tale of love that comes at the ultimate price.


Review

Warning: This review contains spoilers and also trigger-warnings for domestic violence.

Okay, so I have very mixed feelings with regards to this book. At first, I’ll be honest, I couldn’t stand it. I loved finding out about Atlas, but that was it. For the first half of the novel, I crawled through it. I hated Ryle, I hated who Lily was when she was with Ryle – but I hated all of this more in the second half of the novel, and this was a good thing.

Imagine all the people you meet in your life. There are so many. They come in like waves, trickling in and out with the tide. Some waves are much bigger and make more of an impact than others. Sometimes the waves bring with them things from deep in the bottom of the sea and they leave those things tossed onto the shore. Imprints against the grains of sand that prove the waves had once been there, long after the tide recedes.

Writing about domestic abuse isn’t easy. Hoover should be commended for writing this in a sensitve, hollistic way. The only thing I didn’t like was how everything worked out so easily. Lily had money, she wasn’t forced to go to work. But this would have been a whole different novel of its own.

I don’t think this is a romance novel. This isn’t about either of Lily’s two love interests. This is about Lily Blossom Bloom (yes, that is her real name) breaking the cycle of abuse, and I’ve never been more proud of a fictional character.

Cycles exist because they are excruciating to break. It takes an astronomical amount of pain and courage to disrupt a familiar pattern. Sometimes it seems easier to just keep running in the same familiar circles, rather than facing the fear of jumping and possibly not landing on your feet.

It’s easy to love someone, slightly less so after they’ve wronged you, but it’s harder still to love yourself enough to leave someone who has hurt you. Lily got there eventually, and it was no easy feat, but she demonstrates the devastating effects of abuse, both from the experience as a bystander, and as a survivor.

Just because someone hurts you doesn’t mean you can simply stop loving them. It’s not a person’s actions that hurt the most. It’s the love. If there was no love attached to the action, the pain would be a little easier to bear.

I’m not sure that this is a book I would read again, but it’s certainly one that everyone should read and take lessons from, which, as Hoover says, is the purpose of the book. It’s not so much for entertainment, but a journey of personal growth in itself.

4 Stars, Book review, Haley Harrigan, Mystery

Bee Reviews: Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan

ssgFormat: Kindle edition, 400 pages

Published: 6th June 2017 by Sourcebooks Landmark

Genres: Mystery, contemporary

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Goodreads | Amazon | Wordery


Synopsis

Ten years ago, Julie Portland accidentally killed her best friend, Reba. What’s worse is she got away with it. Consumed by guilt, she left the small town of Lawrence Mill, Mississippi, and swore nothing would ever drag her back. Now, raising her daughter and struggling to make ends meet in Manhattan, Julie still can’t forget the ghost of a girl with golden hair and a dangerous secret.

When August, Reba’s first love, begs Julie to come home to find the diary that Reba kept all those years ago, Julie’s past comes creeping back to haunt her. That diary could expose the shameful memories Julie has been running from, but it could also unearth the hidden truths that Reba left buried…and reveal that Julie isn’t the only one who feels responsible for Reba’s death.


Review

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

This book is quite an easy one to get into, filled with mysteries large and small that keep the reader enticed. Harrigan has a way of knowing what the reader wants and gives it to them.

The novel is set in two thrilling locations – the fast-paced New York City, and the much slower, sleepier small town of Lawrence Mill. Slow and sleepy, but also full of secrets, which is what the main character, Julie, is here to unravel.

Unfortunately, the novel is quite predictable at times. At least, I found that I could predict the bigger mysteries and things that would happen next. But perhaps that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in a world where people try too hard to produce something that will make a huge impact.

I would definitely recommend this novel for people who are looking for a comparatively light mystery to delve into.