Review: The Day After Yesterday by Kelly Cozy

The Day After Yesterday by Kelly Cozy

Title: The Day After Yesterday

Author: Kelly Cozy

Publisher: Smite Publications

Published: March 2012

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Source: Author

My Rating: 3/5

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Struck by grief, depression and guilt, caused by a tragedy to his family, Daniel Whitman struggles to once again find meaning and hope in his life. His overwhelming guilt causes him to leave everyone he knows, along with his music, in the hopes of once again finding hope. What he learns and discovers on his journey changes the rest of his life.

The main thing that struck me while reading this book was how long it was.  I read it via Kindle and just wasn’t prepared for such a long read.  Not only was it long, but it felt as though there were many sections to the book – it continued on long after logical places to end. This makes the book different from any other I’ve read, and to be honest, I found this meant the last few sections of the book felt like it was being dragged on and on when there was no need.

The Day After Yesterday focuses on many intense topics, such as depression, abuse, but also tempers this with themes of friendship and the healing powers of creativity.  Therefore, this isn’t a light read, but rather an extended look at how life can be.

While there are these over-arching themes, the story focuses on the small details and how life-changing and impactful they can be.  To be honest, this is one of the things I liked about this book; however I did feel that many of these were predictable and clichéd.

I am a big believer in the importance of creativity, especially when used for healing. Kelly Cozy has obviously tried to use this within the story, especially musical creativity, unfortunately I felt that in many places the use of creativity is used as a crutch and eclipses the story and the characters, which was disappointing.

The main issue I had with this book was the ending. It felt drawn-out and unnecessary, though feel it could have been added to to create a novella to accompany the book.

The main things I loved about this book was the variety of characters and the way they worked together. All the characters felt like real people with their own histories, and nuances. It was also a heart-warming story of the importance of family and friendship.

I believe anyone looking for a book that focuses on friendship during hardship would enjoy The Day After Yesterday, as well as those who enjoy reading about journeys of self-discovery, even though this is a fictional book.

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]

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Review: The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

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Title: The Memory Book

Author: Rowan Coleman

Publisher: Ebury Press

Published: Jan 2014

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Source: Netgalley

My Rating: 4/5

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Suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s Claire struggles to stay independent and true to herself, despite not always knowing who she is or what she is doing.  Along with her family she starts a memory book of pictures and fragments of her life, knowing that soon this will be all her family has of her.  Her oldest daughter, Caitlin, has many problems of her own but Claire is determined to be there for her while she still can. Claire’s youngest daughter, Esther, only aged three, doesn’t understand why her mother can no longer read to her.  And Claire’s husband, Greg, is left watching the woman he loves as she grows further and further away from him.

I am very lucky in that so far in my life I haven’t had any true experience with Alzheimer’s, and honestly I don’t know how I would cope if someone I loved were to begin forgetting everything they are.  The Memory Book does not shy away from the harsh reality of what living with Alzheimer’s can do to a family, yet at the same time it is a heart-warming story of a loving family who all become closer because of their circumstances.

I have always been afraid of losing someone to Alzheimer’s, but reading this book has helped me to understand the disease more fully. I especially liked how most of the story was told from Claire’s point of view, meaning that the reader can know and feel the way she does.  For me, this humanised the view I had of Alzheimer’s, making it less of an abstract idea and more of a reality, but one that still included hope.  While I still hope never to have to experience this disease, I now feel that I would be able to survive it and I strongly recommend this book to anyone trying to deal with Alzheimer’s or those who want to understand it better.

The great thing about The Memory Book is that it is about a family, rather than about a disease.  Even though everything is obviously over clouded by Claire’s struggle, the struggle of her daughter, Caitlin, is no less important.  Between this and the memories each member of the family share, this book seemed to me to focus mainly on the mother daughter relationship – both between Claire and her daughters, and Claire and her mother.  Yet somehow Rowan Coleman somehow manages to weave love stories in amongst everything else.

The Memory Book is a complex look at a family in a time of difficulty, and its focus is always on the characters, rather than the situations they find themselves in.  I loved this book and will definitely be reading more by Rowan Coleman in the future. I would recommend this to anyone who wishes to read an uplifting tale of hope that includes a lot of unpalatable reality that no one can avoid completely.

[Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]

Review – The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

The Casual Vacancy by J. K. RowlingTitle: The Casual Vacancy

Author: J. K. Rowling

Publisher: Little, Brown and Co.

Published: Sept 2012

Genre: Contemporary

Source: Borrowed from a friend

My Rating: 4/5

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Pagford is a small town where everyone knows everyone else, and gossip is hard to miss.  When Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly dies, everyone is affected, especially as this means there is a ‘casual vacancy’ on the town Parish Council.  Told through the viewpoints of a few families, we are shown how politics can change the face of a town, even when everyone is simply trying to live their lives.

I admit I didn’t know much about The Casual Vacancy before I picked it up, other than who the author is (I think everyone can relate to that), and that it was full of profanity.  Due to having heard a lot about the latter, I was expecting to be hit in the face with swear words, but honestly, I barely   characters, and therefore blend naturally into the storytelling.  For me, this was a huge bonus as I don’t have an issue with swearing, as long as it is not used purely to be controversial, which I don’t believe it was in the this book.

There are quite a lot of characters, yet I didn’t have any trouble knowing who was who (a couple of times I had to stop and think when a parent uses the first name of their teenage ‘Stuart’, but everyone else refers to him as ‘fats’.)  While this story could probably have been told with fewer characters, I actually enjoyed being able to see multiple points of view throughout the narrative, and therefore felt more understanding of almost all the characters.

While this book is, in a sense, about politics, it is more an example of British social structure within a small town.  However, saying that, the main problem I had with this book (and why I didn’t give it 5 stars) was that I couldn’t really relate to the social viewpoints and experiences of any of the characters.  Of course, it would be impossible to have lived every version, and that is one reason why I enjoy reading – because it allows us an internal view of other people – but I couldn’t really find anything to relate to with anyone, which kind of made them feel more like stock characters, even though they were more than 2-d versions.  I’m not exactly sure why I felt so unattached, but it did ruin the overall affect of the book, in my opinion.  Personally I feel The Casual Vacancy would work better as a film.

The book was fairly enjoyable, though I felt the ending was a little contrived.   J. K. Rowling kept the style everyone enjoys in Harry Potter (simple and easy to read), and I certainly feel more confident in wanting to read more of books, and hope she continues to create unique content.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for something that puts the current social and political climate into perspective for individuals. However, I feel that it could also be enjoyed by anyone wishing to expand their understanding of how certain events can affect everyone around them, either directly and indirectly. As stated, this book does contain profanity, as well as addressing things such as drug use, rape and underage sex – if these themes aren’t to your taste, you probably won’t enjoy the book as much.

 

Review: Lost and Found in Russia by Olga Godim

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What’s It About?

When Amanda suddenly discovers that her daughter, Gloria, isn’t actually her real daughter as she was switched accidentally at birth, she travels around the world in search of her birth daughter, determined to bring her back to the safety of Canada.  Meanwhile, when Sonya, a Russian Jew living in Canada, kicks out her drunken husband, Alexei, she not only has to battle financially, but against her daughter, Ksenya, who won’t forgive her for sending Alexei away.

My Thoughts:

The story is told from the points of view of Amanda, who is searching for her real daughter, and Sonya, who is struggling with everything in life at that moment.  Due to the kind of story it is, it doesn’t take a lot to work out what is going to happen, and there really aren’t any surprising plot-twists.  However, I don’t feel that this was an issue, as it is a story about the characters and them trying to find their own identities.  I personally would have liked to see more of Amanda’s daughter, Gloria, as I found her struggles particularly interesting, and I was very annoyed at Amanda’s discard for her feelings.

While this novel had an interesting (though not original) hook, I found that the telling of it fell a little flat for me.  The main reason for this was the character of Amanda – I just could not bring myself to like her, or even understand her reasoning.  This meant that the story, which is about discovering identity, didn’t really hold me as I couldn’t follow Amanda on her emotional journey.  That said, I found the opposite to be true of Sonya and Ksenya.  They both felt real and I wanted to find out what would happen to their relationship.  However, I really struggled with their names as I have no idea how to pronounce Ksenya, and every member of their family had at least two names (one Russian, one ‘Western’), and Sonya was also referred to as Sofia which just made the story difficult to follow and a bit confusing.

As well as the name issue, I did struggle a little with the flow of the story as the author uses commas in abandon, particularly in the first half of the book.  I don’t normally mention grammar as even badly written novels can still be enjoyable if it’s a good story (though, as a writer, I of course would prefer a well-written, enjoyable story), but in this instance, it frustrated me enough to not want to continue reading at points.

In generally I found this to be an okay read, with a few moments that really shone.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it (though I also wouldn’t  dissuade anyone from reading it), but I will be looking forward to future work by Olga Godim, as I think that with a bit of experience, she could create truly compelling books.

Overall rating: 25/5

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[Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]

 

 

Review: The Lessons by Naomi Alderman

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What’s It About?

It is December of James’ first year at Oxford University when he meets Mark Winters, a meeting that will change his entire life.  Mark belongs to a different class than James – he is rich and, as a result, knows he has the power to do anything he wishes, to anyone he wants to.  James gets sucked into this world, with new friends and the life of the permanently privilege, in the way that Alice falls down the rabbit hole.  When University finishes, each of the group of friends James has spent the last four years with, go into the world in radically different directions. Until tragedy strikes and James is forced to come to terms with who he has become because of Mark.

My Thoughts:

This is, without a doubt, one of the best books I have ever read and already the rest f Naomi Alderman’s books are on my ‘to be read’ list.  The story is told from James’ point of view, and is split into three parts: The Lies; The Trappings; and The Lessons though it is in chronological order with the chapters clearly stating when it is taking place.  While this is unusual for a fictional story, this structure only added to my reading and understanding of the novel.

I have to admit I was unsure what to expect when I picked up ‘The Lessons’ at the library, and wasn’t even sure of my response as I started reading it.  However, the horrifically honest and emotionally wounding storytelling pulled me in and made me want to stay immersed in a world of confusion, lies, love and friendship.  Alderman is a very talented writer, with the ability to not only create beautiful prose, but reach deep into the very essence of living that makes the reader apply the words to their own understanding of their lives.  Take this quote, for example:

No wonder we spend our adult lives feeling we’re simply pretending to know what we’re doing.  After sixteen years spent doing exams, where the lessons we’ve received perfectly fit the challenges we’re faced with, our preparation for the unpredictable events of normal life will always seem and haphazard. pp 49

When I came across it I knew that I had stumbled upon a writer who not only knew how I felt about life, but was able to explain it in a way that would never have occurred to me.

There is nothing that could be described as ‘happy’ about this book, as it is more a reflection of life told through a story of a life that is unlike any you probably will ever meet someone having lived.  Because the fundamentals of life transcend any particular way of living, this is the perfect book to read to give yourself an insight into a world you cannot imagine, while constantly making you look and examine your own opinions about life.  From reading this review you might imagine that this is more a theoretical or philosophic novel, but it is anything but, as at all times it focuses on the characters and their lives, and is therefore a much more personal reading experience than a book on philosophy.

This novel is in no way a quick, easy, happily-ever-after read, so if that’s what you’re looking for, look elsewhere.  Personally I would recommend this book to everyone as I feel that there is no one who won’t benefit from reading ‘The Lessons’, but bear in mind that reading this is an investment and may change your entire outlook (or simply allow you to dwell in a well-told story that will stay with you long after you have finished it).

Overall rating: 5/5

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