Review – Only Ever Yours

Only Ever YoursOnly Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

Published May 12, 2015

Quercus

 

 
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow…where do I start?

With elements of The Stepford Wives, 1984, The Handmaid’s Tale and Mean Girls’ this book is ABSOLUTELY one of the more unusual, disturbing, and intriguing books that I have read in quite some time.

Apparently it was first published as a young adult book but is now being republished as an adult book.

This takes place in a “future” world where women (called eves) are created purely for male pleasure. They are no longer bred naturally but manufactured to become one of three things when they hit the age of seventeen….companions, concubines, or chastities. A companion is a version of a physically perfect wife whose duty is to bear sons and look after their husbands. Concubines are for the man’s sexual gratification and the eve will likely live with many other women. Chastities seemed to be considered the leftovers (not good enough for companions or concubines) and they run the school and take care of the eves.

We see life through the eyes of an “eve” named frieda. She is in her final year at the school to learn to be perfect. She is hoping to be ranked highly so that she may become a companion to the boys that will arrive eager to choose one of them for a bride. For many years freida has been best friends with isabel and they are usually among the most highly rated girls in their year. They are sure they will be chosen as companions and remain best friends as they raise their sons together. But isabel has been behaving very strangely and when she starts to gain weight (the WORST offence at this school), frieda is torn between supporting her and maintaining her distance. She is terrified that she won’t be chosen and will end up as a concubine or chastity.

But all is not as it may seem…..

The “eves” are cut off from the outside world and live in a school environment where they are trained on how to remain beautiful and learn how to make men happy. But they are commonly told “there is always room for improvement”. They are ranked on their attractiveness and constantly forced to strive for perfection. Encouraged to compare themselves to their fellow eves to learn how they may improve.

The girls are discouraged from showing any emotions or anything that may make them less attractive. Crying is prohibited as is showing any type of intelligence. For example, when frieda was younger she was playing a game where the barbie doll mentioned “math”. When frieda asked one of the chastities what “math” was the game was quickly taken away.

This was a difficult read at times and I occasionally had to put the book down for a few minutes. Especially when they were set in competitions against each other in a “forced” bullying way. For example a girl would stand at the front and comments would be thrown at her. Almost tame ones like “your hair is looking dull perhaps you should try a stronger conditioner” to horrid ones such as “maybe you should ask the chasties for more Ipecac and visit the vomitorium after your meals as you are looking fatter”.

The author was incredibly thorough with details. For example all female names were in lowercase to show their “place” in the society. There were also subliminal messages like  “I am beautiful but I can be better” and “I will always be respectful” pumped through the speakers as the eves slept.

With similar issues to present times including eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, peer pressure, bullying and self-esteem issues. The school setting is very similar to the current high school environment, but creepier and with perverse learning plans.

An extremely dark but gripping book that will stay with me for a very long time.

Highly recommended!!!!

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Review – The Breakdown

The BreakdownThe Breakdown by B.A. Paris

Expected publication July 18th 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Published January 23rd 2017 (UK)

 

5 Stars !!!!

To say I was excited for this novel is an understatement. I loved Behind Closed Doors so I couldn’t wait to see what B.A Paris had in store for me this time.

“If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?”

The beginning of The Breakdown is like a scene out of a horror movie. I could picture it. Cass Anderson is in a rush to get home….it’s raining and the weather is only getting worse. She speaks with her husband, Matthew and he cautions her to drive carefully and makes her promise not to take the shortcut through the woods. It’s not safe at night. However, at the last second Cass veers off the main road to the shortcut she just promised she wouldn’t take. She decides what Matthew doesn’t know won’t hurt him. She just wants to get home as fast as possible.

As she nears her house she swerves to avoid hitting a car parked at the side of the road. There’s a woman inside. Cass stops in front of the car to see if the woman indicates that she needs help. The woman doesn’t do anything. All the stories Cass has heard about people tricked into stopping to help someone go through her head. Someone stops thinking they are being a good Samaritan only to end up getting car-jacked……or worse. Eventually Cass decides the woman must have already called for help, so she continues on her way home.

The next day, Cass is horrified to learn that a woman, Jane Walters was killed in the woods. It was the woman whose car was stopped on the side of the road. What’s worse is Cass realizes she knows this woman. She actually had lunch with her the week before. Cass is overcome with guilt over Jane’s murder. If she had only got out of the car to check on Jane. Would she still be alive? or would Cass have been killed too?

Cass has been having trouble with her memory and it’s gotten worse since the murder. At first it was just little things. She would misplace something or forget she made plans with friends. But forgetting that she agreed to have an alarm installed? How could that be? But she sees the job order is written in her handwriting so she must have agreed to the installation.

Is she going to suffer the same fate as her mother?

Then come the phone calls. Someone is calling every day….over and over. But they NEVER say a word. Everyone tells her it’s just a call center making cold calls. But Cass worries that it’s something or someone much worse. When I read about the constant calls a part of me thought, oh come on! Unplug the phone, change your number, OR buy a whistle and blow that suckers ear off!!! But fear can leave you frozen, unable to think straight.

Cass starts to think someone is watching the house, that someone has been in the house. When she goes shopping and is leaving for home she can’t find her car. She KNOWS where she parked, so it must have been stolen. Cass and the parking attendant look everywhere, on all the different floors only to eventually find her car…..

Right where she left it.

Her mind feels like it’s going to break….everything is spiraling out of control. She’s in a constant state of anxiety. The phone calls are amplifying all of her fears. Plus all of the things she’s forgetting makes things worse. With everything going on Cass is desperate to know….

WHO KILLED JANE?

But then something happens. Cass gets advice and information from very surprising sources. Things start to click into place…..things that she NEVER would have expected. She tells herself she’s lost enough time and she’s determined that she’s going to figure it all out. She wants to know who is behind the constant phone calls and if it’s connected to what happened to Jane. Cass wants answers and now no one is going to stop her. As Cass gets stronger and searches for answers you can’t help but cheer for her. The web of lies that she starts to unravel.

Well Ms. Paris….you didn’t let me down. I loved this one too.

I know that everyone is different and not everyone will love the same books and that’s completely understandable. There were times that I started getting annoyed with Cass, but when I imagined something like this happening to me? I can’t imagine how alone and helpless I would feel.

Occasionally I find it really hard to get into a book that requires me to suspend disbelief, but I found with “Behind Closed Doors” and this book that I was able to do that easily. The authors writing style and the suspenseful plot allowed me to let go of reality and really enjoy what I was reading.

“The Breakdown” was intense and gripping, especially the second half. I was shocked. I may have been right about a thing or two but it didn’t matter as how everything played out was fantastic to read. This author knows how to pull her readers into her story, not letting go until the final word on the last page is read.

I can’t wait for more from this author!

Thank you to Jessica at St. Martin’s Press and B.A Paris for providing me with an advanced copy of this book to read in exchange for my honest review.

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Review – Beautiful Broken Girls

Beautiful Broken GirlsBeautiful Broken Girls

by Kim Savage

Published February 21, 2017

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

 

3.5 stars

I was really intrigued after reading the description for Beautiful Broke Girls. This was my first book by Kim Savage, though I had been wanting to read “After the Woods” for quite some time.

The story beings in August 2016. One night Mira and Francesca Cillo rode their bikes, then walked for about 15 minutes in the darkness to the quarry.

Not long after that their bodies are pulled from the quarry.

The death of the sisters hit everyone hard. Especially since there was the senseless death of another teen not long before this tragedy. Mira and Francesca’s neighbor, Ben was taking it especially hard as he was in love with Mira.

Was it suicide? Did they fall? Or was it something else?

Then a few days after their bodies are found he receives a note. It is from Mira. This first note sends Ben on a hunt for seven more notes that will apparently explain what happened. Each note represented a part of Mira’s body that Ben had touched palm, hair, chest…The story is broken down into each of these seven parts.

“Everyone wanted to touch us. Including you. So remember the seven places you touched me. It’s where you’ll find the truth. Start at the beginning “

With each note Ben discovers more and more about the sisters and their strange lives. He finds himself with more questions than answers.

“Everything is in God’s plan”

I liked Ben’s character and the story-line was interesting, though I ached for him and what he’d been through. There were not many likeable characters in this novel. I was really into this book at first but then I started to feel a bit overwhelmed. Honestly, it was very different from what I was expecting after reading the description. There was a lot going on and it could be a bit hard to follow at times. Magic realism, religion, and saints. It’s kind hard to explain as I don’t want to give anything away.

The novel has some dark subject matter and I felt some things were romanticized, things that in my opinion shouldn’t be. But at no point did I want to stop reading, I was invested in the story. I did enjoy this novel, just not as much as I was expecting. Though some things may not have worked for me, they may not bother other readers.

I do look forward to reading more from Kim Savage, as she is definitely a talented writer.

Thank you to NetGalley, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Kim Savage for an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

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Review – The Mother’s Promise

The Mother's PromiseThe Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth

Published February 21, 2017
St. Martin’s Press

 

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

This is the first novel of Sally Hepworth’s that I have read. I absolutely loved it, and now I want to read everything she has written or ever will write.

As soon as I read the description of this book I knew I was likely going to be an emotional mess while reading it. Oh and I was right. But while it was emotional and I definitely ugly cried, it’s a book that I won’t ever forget. Maybe part of it is because of my own circumstances and the fact that I have a teenage daughter? Possibly. But I think it’s mostly because it’s just that good of a read.

Alice Stanhope has a few health scares but usually it just means some tests that cost a lot of money but everything ends up being okay. So now she sits in her doctor’s office waiting to be told she’s in the clear. Then she can get back to work. Alice takes care of elderly people for a living, a home helper she keeps people company, drives them to appointments and other places, and cooks and cleans for them.

She isn’t really paying attention when her doctor says something about a mass, a CA 125 score, and some kind of -ectomy. She’s distracted by thoughts of her daughter, Zoe. As she left for school she told her mother she was fine, but Alice knew she was anything but fine. When the doctor has to cough to get her attention, Alice apologizes. A nurse, Kate who is also present for the appointment tells Alice that her test results were not what they had hoped for. The doctor then tells Alice she requires emergency surgery. An invasive surgery that may end with her having to stay in the hospital for up to a week.

They tell Alice she will need a support person to help her after the surgery. Alice tells them her parents are both deceased and her brother…well he wouldn’t be any help to Alice. She says that it can’t be her daughter, Zoe either and does not even want Zoe to know what is going on. They try to tell her that at age fifteen, Zoe can probably help more than Alice realizes but Alice is adamant.

“Zoe doesn’t need to be involved in this. She can’t handle this. She isn’t like a normal teenager.”

They try to get Alice to understand just how serious this is and that she is definitely going to need someone. What finally gets her attention is when they use the word “Cancer”. She can’t have cancer. She is under forty, eats well and exercises but mostly she CANNOT have cancer because she has Zoe.

Kate Littleton is a nurse. She has been delivering bad news to people for the last five years and it never gets easier. In Alice Stanhope, Kate sees an extreme case of denial. This is the first time she’s come across someone who says they don’t have a support person. Alice is going to need someone to help her through the hardest time in her life. All patients need “mothering”. Someone who will reassure them and fight for them. Kate herself wants to be a mother. She has the man of her dreams and two great step-children but she really wants to have a baby of her own as well.

Next we meet Alice’s daughter Zoe. She is at school and she’s trying very hard to follow the rules. Not the class rules….. her own set of rules. The rules are extensive and give us immediate insight into the extent of Zoe’s social anxiety. Rules like….never place both feet on the ground while sitting and never be the first or last person to take their seat. Zoe does everything to keep people from noticing her. She won’t eat in public (there is too much potential for things to go wrong) and tries her best not to talk in public either. Zoe can only be herself around her “safe people”. Her mother is the safest person of course. Another safe person is her friend, Emily. However, lately Emily has been irritated and impatient with her. Zoe is worried that Emily will move on and leave her behind.

Finally we meet the social worker, Sonja. Sonja deals with abuse cases, people who have lost a loved one as well as with patients who have cancer. She’s also dealing with some personal struggles of her own, but has gotten very good at pretending everything is just fine. Sonja is the social worker that Kate is meeting with to discuss Alice’s case.

This novel has a lot going on. So many SECRETS that are revealed as we get to know these four very different characters. All of these women are dealing with serious life issues and challenges. They also have very different ideas about each other. As the book goes on we see how these women with all of their individual struggles become integral parts of each others lives. Their relationships set off a chain of events that I NEVER saw coming.

I know I said it already but this book is AWESOME! Very well written. Lots of great characters. I could feel the emotion and anxiety at times and the connection between mother and daughter felt very real. They have been each others everything for so long and what is happening is terrifying to them both. It can be so hard to ask for the help you desperately need.

As I mentioned before, I cried a lot while reading this but in many ways my tears were cathartic. There are also many light and funny moments in the book.

There are different types of anxiety. For example, social anxiety, panic disorder, generalized anxiety and more. Everyone who suffers from an anxiety disorder is different. However, from my own experience as well as my experiences with my daughter, I feel like the author did a very good job describing social anxiety as well as how others may react to those who suffer from any of these disorders.

Sally Hepworth does a wonderful job of bringing her characters and their individual stories to life. A powerful story that got inside my head, I was invested in every one of these characters lives and HAD to know what was going to happen. Honestly, I was completely gripped from the time I started this book until I finished the last page. A story about motherhood, love, friendship, illness, forgiveness and SO MUCH MORE!

“The Mother’s Promise” is a book that’s going to stay with me for a long time. It is a great read that I highly recommend.

I would like to thank the St. Martin’s Press, Sally Hepworth, and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book.

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