>If I Stay by Gayle Forman

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[image description: a blue and white stripped deck chair with a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol in it.  Above that the words The Summer Reading Challenge are written in an arc (split in two lines with challenge on the second).  Plain font, dark blue.  The background is white]

I was given a copy of If I Stay by Gayle Forman to review as a part of Transworld’s Dan Brown Summer Reading Challenge

Product description from Amazon:
Life can change in an instant. A cold February morning …a snowy road …and suddenly all of Mia’s choices are gone. Except one. As alone as she’ll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all. Gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, “If I Stay” will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you’ve lost – and all that might be.

My review:

If I Stay is a lovely book.  It’s very poignant but despite the subject matter not overly sad.  It’s really well written – Gayle Forman isn’t a writer I’ve come across before but she has a way with words.  With the exception of one very disappointing inappropriate term (ableist language when the term “stupid” or “idiotic” would have done), she uses each word carefully and to further her story.

The idea of being able to choose whether to stay or not after such a tragic accident is new to me and I particularly liked it.  The choice Mia needs to make is handled in a mature way that reflects both the age of the character (17) and the sort of upbringing she’s had.  The range of responses to the comatose Mia that her various friends and relatives have all ring very true to life without being twee or cloying.

A good afternoon’s read this book keeps you wondering all the way though whether she will stay.  At one point I was convinced it would go one way, then a twist had me thinking it would go another.  The book ends by answering the question but still leaves you wanting more and wondering what happened next.  The ending is sudden but it works and changing it would definitely have taken away from the feel and the power of the book.

Overall this was a very enjoyable read and a powerful book.

This review can also be seen on Amazon

I didn’t add this bit on Amazon but as I’m sure a lot of my readers will have guessed the ableist language I was talking about was the R word.  I’ve read several books with it in lately and I’m getting very disappointed and frustrated by that.

>Second Hand Heart by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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[image description: a blue and white stripped deck chair with a copy of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol in it.  Above that the words The Summer Reading Challenge are written in an arc (split in two lines with challenge on the second).  Plain font, dark blue.  The background is white]

Second Hand Heart is the first of the books I have to review as a part of Transworld’s Summer Reading Challenge.  It’s by Catherine Ryan Hyde and is the first of her books I’ve read.

I really wanted to love Second Hand Heart based on what I read on the back of it.  I thought that I would as it’s the sort of book I love and I find the process of transplants interesting.  I did think that it was a good book.  But unfortunately there were one or two bits which I thought were unrealistic so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I expected. My creative writing teacher is always telling us that things don’t have to make sense or be realistic they just have to work. And the bits that I found unrealistic did work for the plot.  So overall it’s a good book.

Vida is 19 and dying if she doesn’t get a heart transplant very soon.  She’s been ill her entire life. Richard’s wife dies unexpectedly and he donates her heart to Vida.  Second Hand Heart is the story of what happens to both Richard and Vida after they meet very soon after the transplant (it was how soon after the transplant they met I felt to be unrealistic).

The plot changes and twists around as the story goes on. And the characters grow and change along with it.  I particularly enjoyed seeing how Vida grew as a person once she got healthier and discovered the world.  The perspective changes from Vida to Richard and back again repeatedly. Seeing things from the others perspective gave a different light to the book and brought it to another dimension.

Based on the subject matter you might think this would be a depressing book.  It was anything but.  Well written, it keeps you interested and has a nice feeling to it.  I’m glad I read this book.

>On Writing

>I’ve been meaning to post an update about my writing for a while so here goes.

I’ve been doing a lot of work on my novel.  I don’t have a lot to show for it in terms of words but I’ve made a lot of progress in other ways.

  1. I made a list of all the scenes I have and all the ones I need to write still
  2. I then used post its to work out what goes where and how it should work.
  3. Got a lot of feedback on the start of the novel
  4. Worked out that the end I have in mind really doesn’t work
  5. Came up with several ideas for what might work and other twists
  6. Done some necessary research
I’ve just started trying to write a new intro from the perspective of a different character because I started wondering if I’m writing from the wrong perspective.  The other thing I’ve been wondering about is using the MC I have now but turning it from a male character to a female based on all the feedback I’ve had saying it reads like a woman. I plan to write an intro like that as well and see what I like.
Regardless I think it’s very likely that I’ll be going back to the beginning and starting again. A lot of the stuff I’ve already got I’ve gone back to and thought it needs a lot of editing.  So with everything I’ve not written and everything I’ve got that needs pretty much total rewrites there’s not much left that just needs an edit.  And I’m planning to start afresh so it can be consistent.
In the last two days I’ve done two book reviews and also two guest blogs.  None of those are live online at the moment, I’ll post links when they are.
Finally, my friend Jo has started her own blog today called Not Quite Upwrite.  Just in case it wasn’t obvious, she’s a writer as well.

>Veteran – Gavin Smith

>I recently received a review copy of Veteran by Gavin Smith from WHSmith.co.uk.  I found that very exciting because it doesn’t actually come out until June and so my copy has “uncorrected manuscript proof” and other things all over it that they usually don’t  Plus, it’s very cool to know that I’ve just spent a good chunk of the afternoon lying on my bed listening to the dyer going, napping a bit and finishing reading a book which isn’t even out for the general public yet.  Also, Gavin Smith is a brand new author which is also exciting.

Anyway, they said I could share my review so long as I linked to them (see above).  This is what I wrote:

I really enjoyed this book.  Very well written and with a good plot, it kept me guessing for a long time.  There was a big twist right when I didn’t expect it and a totally unexpected ending.  Combine that with laughs, intriguing ideas and action right up to the very last page and you have a very good read.  There’s is definitely room for a sequel here although with the way the book ends the form it might take is hard to judge.  Either way I’ll be keeping an eye out for more by Gavin Smith.

I gave it a rating of 4 stars as well.

The Ice Cream Girls Review

>I wrote a few weeks ago about a lucky week I had.

One of the things that was lucky was that Waterstones had given me a free copy of The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson to review for their website (and keep!).  I’ve now read it and really enjoyed it.  My review is up on the website now.  I can’t figure out how to link to that specific review but my profile page has it too as it shows all the reviews a person has done and so far I’ve only done that one.

I’d like to post the text here too but I’m not sure if that’s OK.  Maybe I’ll e-mail and check.  If it is I’ll edit this entry and include it.
My review:

I really enjoyed this book. I expected to because I’ve enjoyed Ms Koomson’s previous books but this one was a bit different to the rest as it had the whodunit element to it without making it too much of a crime novel. So I actually enjoyed it more because it surprised me.
It kept me guessing right to the end – I guessed one of the minor twists early on but had absolutely no idea who did it until about ten pages before it was revealed. And once the book ended it left me with a good feeling but also with questions about what happens next which I quite like in a book because it lets me make my own mind up.. I suspect there won’t be a sequel but there is possibly room for one.
Very impressed with this book