Book Club: Me Before You By Jojo Moyes

The heart-warming story of two people who overcome their own reservations, forming an unlikely friendship under tragic circumstances

Lou Clarke is comfortable. Comfortable with living at home with her parents in their little town, comfortable with her passionless relationship with fitness-obsessed boyfriend Patrick, comfortable with her stable job at local café The Buttered Bun, comfortable with her routine. But, that’s all about to change.

Lou’s world is turned upside down when she loses her job, forcing her out of her comfort zone and away from everything she knows. Conscious of the fact that she is relied on financially – and after multiple disheartening trips to the job centre – Lou reluctantly agrees to take on a six month role as carer to a quadriplegic man.

As far as he was concerned, Will Trainor had it all: a high-powered, high-paid city job, a hot girlfriend, and a bright future. He loved to travel and indulge in high-octane hobbies – a regular adrenaline junkie. However, an unfortunate accident leaves the handsome hot-shot wheelchair bound; left to rely on a host of other people for the most basic of daily needs.

Trapped inside his own body, and a shadow of his former self, Will becomes increasingly desperate – feeling as though he’s lost everything. But, little do either of them know that what they come to find in each other will change them both in different ways, for the better.

I absolutely fell in love with Jojo Moyes’s story of love and loss and, having earned the accolade of New York Times bestseller, I’m not the only one. First published in 2012, ‘Me Before You’ has also been adapted into a film, starring Sam Claflin (The Hunger Games, Love Rosie) and Emilia Clarke (Game Of Thrones.) It’s a heart-warming, romantic and heart-breaking story – you’ll definitely need a box of tissues handy! However, despite this, there are also some lighter moments of comedy nestled throughout, in the form of will’s dry, sarcastic sense of humour and witty one-liners.

Throughout the course of the story, you see both the main protagonists grow, albeit in different ways. Readers see Lou coming out of her shell and broadening her horizons, becoming increasingly confident in her character and ability. We also discover, through a series of flashbacks, that Lou has had her own trauma which she has been quietly contending with for years, after an ill-advised escapade with some drunken strangers. Following a public panic attack, Lou opens up to Will who helps her accept that she was not to blame for what she went through. As she flourishes, she outgrows the stagnant baggage of her old life – moving forward.

As a character, readers experience and get to know Will through the eyes of Louisa. However, throughout the story are able to piece together, and get a feel for, Will’s background and life before that fateful accident. When Will meets Louisa he has become desolate and tries to push her, as well as everyone he knows, away; desperately frustrated by his circumstances. Slowly though, he becomes enchanted by Lou’s quirky personality and softens towards her, opening both of them up to an unexpected friendship which sees him become brighter and somewhat happier.

Will is keen to educate Lou and slowly, eases her out of the little bubble she has created for herself, showing her that there is more to life than she knows. He has seen and experienced more than she has, and now that he is physically unable, wants her to make the most of her life because she can – urging her to “just live well, just live.”

Spending a lot of time in close proximity due to the nature of Will’s condition, the pair begin to fall for each-other. However, while Lou is keen to inspire Will to make the best of his situation because of that, Will has resigned himself to the fact that his condition will only become progressively worse. Already unhappy with his current quality of life, Will decides that this new-found love isn’t enough to override the way he feels about himself and his future – with heart-breaking results.

‘Me Before You’ tackles some very sensitive subjects in a very clever way, taking into account all the relevant and realistic viewpoints across multiple characters – from the understanding to the less accepting. The story is mainly told from Lou’s point of view, but does give glimpses into the thoughts of other characters in dedicated chapters, such as Will’s nurse Nathan, Lou’s sister Treena, and Will’s mother Camilia. Moyes’s writing style is full of personality and is captivating throughout, enabling readers to get completely sucked into the story and its events – resulting in an extremely moving read.

I understand that the story (the film in particular) has received some negative attention, with it being said that it depicts disabled people as being a burden, and promotes that people would rather be dead than disabled. Personally, I found the book to show the harsh reality of living with such a debilitating condition. As a disabled person, I am in no way saying I would rather be dead than disabled – I wouldn’t. However, I’ve had my disability since birth, I’ve never known any different. I can’t imagine how it must feel to go from being completely able-bodied and active, to not even being able to move in your sleep. To not be able to feed yourself, to not be able to go to the toilet unaided, to never be able to have sex again – these are all things that Will is conscious of.

I felt that it was less about promoting assisted suicide and inviting pity, but shedding light on why people may choose that path. Ultimately it comes down to how you feel about yourself and your quality of life, in light of the fact that you aren’t going to get any better. It’s done in a way that allows readers to see all the conflicting reactions and opinions of the surrounding characters, whilst being able to understand and feel empathy for both Will and Louisa – making it all the more heart-wrenching.

 

Have you ever read ‘Me Before You’? What did you think of the story and its themes? I recently picked up the sequel ‘After You’, so I’m keen to find out how Lou’s story progresses.

 

As always, thank you for reading! If you like what I do here and you want to keep up to date with my upcoming posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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Book Club: Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

Get swept off your feet by this gloriously heart-warming story about friendship, fame and falling in love.

BillyAndMeBookCover_Review

Sophie May is the typical girl-next-door. Not particularly glamorous she works in her local tea room, frequented by sweet older ladies, and lives with her mum. That is, until she meets Billy Buskin, a teen heart-throb who breezes into her quaint little English town as a result of his current acting job. Despite an awkward first meeting – and her initial disinterest in some ‘teeny bopper’ who isn’t Jude Law – pretty soon Sophie finds herself thrust into the whirlwind of showbiz that is Billy’s life, and under the microscope from every angle. The question is: can she handle it?

Written by media personality Giovanna Fletcher, ‘Billy and Me’ is a dreamy, charming and overall romantic read. However, if you’re sitting at your computer rolling your eyes thinking that it’s ‘just another’ YA romance novel, all I can say is don’t be so quick to judge. While it’s undeniable that the romance theme runs throughout the core of the story, there are also a lot of subplots, twists, and turns at play, that pique your interest and make you want to keep reading to find out what happens.

While the book’s theme may seem light-hearted at first glance, when you delve a little deeper you find that it’s anything but airy-fairy as, alongside the dreamy idealism of the romance, there are also elements which remind you that life isn’t perfect. For example, it highlights the dark underbelly of show-business and the difficulty that comes with being in the limelight, as well as incorporating strained family dynamics, secrets, lies and even death into the mix. However, the serious nature of these story-lines is extremely well balanced by the charmingly whimsical main focus – Sophie and Billy’s relationship. This ensures that, while there are some shocking and heart-breaking moments interspersed throughout, the book never gets bogged down.

Another thing that makes ‘Billy and Me’ such an easy read is Fletcher’s writing style; it’s really colloquial, making it effortlessly digestible as well as relatable. As a result it’s even easier to become fully immersed in the story, as – despite its movie-star-heart-throb-falls-for-plain-Jane narrative – it’s not too far removed from reality. The characters are fleshed out, three-dimensional and well written, and because of this you really can’t help but fall in love with them.

Overall, I really enjoyed ‘Billy and Me’ and, in truth, it wasn’t long into the book that I was completely captivated. By the time I’d finished reading, I found that I’d become really invested in the story and the characters – you can’t help but root for them and want them to succeed.

It’s a great, gorgeous read about life and love. About finding your feet and figuring out what you want. About overcoming limitations and breaking free from things that hold you back. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes cute, charming, romantic stories that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside. I’m really looking forward to reading the sequel ‘Always With Love’, to see what hurdles Sophie and Billy have to navigate next, and if their love can withstand the pressures of their different lifestyles, distance and life in general.

 

As well as being a writer of women’s fiction, Giovanna Fletcher is also a full-time mum to her two sons and wife to McFly’s Tom Fletcher. To keep up to date with everything she is up to, be sure to follow her on:

Twitter  /  Facebook  /  Instagram  / Giovanna’s World (website)

 

 

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Book Club: All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

A captivating, charming and heart-breaking read about a girl who gets a new lease of life from a boy obsessed with death.

All The Bright Places Book Cover

“I’m broken and no one can fix it.” She’s one of the popular crowd who has strayed from the limelight following the death of her sister. He’s the local loose cannon they call ‘Theodore freak’, otherwise known as Finch. They meet on the ledge of the bell tower where they both go to school. The one thing they have in common? Their own personal demons that make both of them feel as though they have nowhere to turn…except towards each other. Slowly, Violet and Finch start to realise that there’s more to the other than meets the eye. Who knew that their fateful first meeting would spark an unlikely friendship that, ultimately, challenges their own perceptions of life? But, as one flourishes, the other finds themself being pulled down deeper and deeper by the quicksand, despite desperately trying to hold on. Will their new found happiness with each other be enough to save them both?

I was absolutely captivated by ‘All The Bright Places’ from beginning to end. While it’s a bittersweet love-story, it’s also so much more than that; highlighting important social issues such as bullying, mental illness (and the ignorance there of) and suicide. However, that isn’t to say that this book is in any way depressing – it isn’t. Insightful and informative? Yes. Depressing? No.

I loved that the story-telling was split into two perspectives – as opposed to just a singular point of view or the traditional numerical structure – as it allows readers to see, and understand, both perceptions of the same story. Because of this, it is well rounded and never one sided – showing audiences the journeys both Finch and Violet go on, separately as well as together.

From the beginning it becomes apparent that Finch is an extremely complex character. ‘Troubled’ and known to his peers as ‘Theodore freak’, he hides behind walls of witty comments and sarcasm, all the while projecting a false sense of bravado. “I’ve learned the hard way that the best thing to do is say nothing about what you’re thinking, if you say nothing, they’ll assume you’re thinking nothing, only what you let them see.” Finch is the most dangerous kind of mental illness sufferer as he disguises it well, not wanting to talk about his problems for fear of being labelled and therefore defined by his illness. “I’m not a compilation of symptoms, not a casualty of shitty parents and an even shittier chemical make-up. Not a problem, not a diagnosis, not an illness. I’m a person.”

Through this, All The Bright Places also highlights the stigma – and ignorance – surrounding mental illness, with Finch even stating that “there’s no such thing as being sick unless you can measure it with a thermometer.” As such, his family never address it as anything legitimate, preferring to just write it off as Finch being “in one of his moods.” They accept it as just something he does sometimes, instead of addressing why he behaves the way he does. However, readers are also shown that there is a vicious cycle here: Finch gets no help at home, but he also accepts no help from the likes of the school counsellor, or even Violet, for fear of judgement.

Throughout the story you see Finch struggle with wanting to stay ‘awake’ for as long as he can, but also plagued by thoughts of death; seemingly torn between wanting to live and wanting to die. As a character he’s very all over the place, which is reflective of his mental state. When he’s at his happiest, he’s witty, caring and seductive, however, when you delve below the surface you realise just how vulnerable he really is. The extent of Finch’s internal to-and-fro is further highlighted in the incident with the sleeping pills, as it shows readers the heart-breaking truth: Finch doesn’t actually want to die, he just needs help.

Contrastingly, after being talked down from the bell-tower ledge by Finch, Violet’s horizons expand as a result of her unexpected relationship with him. At the beginning of the story she, like Finch, feels isolated and insignificant following the untimely death of her sister Eleanor. Citing ‘extenuating circumstances’ as reasons not to overcome obstacles she faces, Violet finds herself trapped in her own little bubble. That is, until she meets Finch who despite –  and perhaps even because of – his own struggles, shows her that “it isn’t only hard times and hard people, there are bright spots too.”

Together, Violet and Finch complement each other: he pushes her boundaries, and in so doing forces her “out of (her) room and into the world” – showing her that life is best lived. In turn, she shows him that there’s a reason to stay ‘awake’ and be present in the world, even if you feel like there is “a great weight pulling you down, like it’s attached to your feet even if you can’t see it.” Striving to make him feel like he matters.

Every character within the story is written fantastically. They are all fleshed out, three-dimensional, realistic characters, and such is Niven’s writing that you can’t help but become attached and – in the case of the two main protagonists – feel a definite fondness for them. So taken was I that I actually cried like a baby when reading the final chapters.

If I had one criticism about ‘All The Bright Places’, it would be that, as a reader, I feel that Finch deserved to triumph. Triumph over his troubled upbringing. Triumph over everyone that had ever called him ‘Theodore Freak’. Triumph over his family’s ignorance and fear of speaking out. Triumph over his depression. To find happiness within himself, because as he knows, “no one else can keep you awake, or keep you from sleeping.” I don’t think Finch saw a lot of happiness in his life and I think he deserved some, as did Violet after everything she’d been through, so I’m glad that they found their little bit of happiness with each other.

I would’ve loved to have seen Finch become gradually even more positive: the ‘asleep’ a distant memory rather than a constant threat. Thus showing that depression, like any mental illness, is beatable. However, I also understand the reality of the situation and why it had to be that way, particularly due to Niven’s own experience with suicide – as you find out within the book’s closing acknowledgements. However, I was rooting for both Finch and Violet and wanted them to succeed.

On another note, I’d really like to wander some of the sites that Niven used in the story, particularly the world’s largest ball of paint. I’d also love to meet Niven and shake her hand because, to do what she has done, to take inspiration from such a painful personal experience is really courageous, and knowing that makes the story all the more poignant. I have a lot of respect for that and I applaud her for, somewhat, sharing her story as it could go on to help someone else. All The Bright Places has fast become one of my favourite books, with some of my all-time favourite quotes that I love and can identify with. I’d recommend it to anyone.

 

I’ve also heard recently that ‘All The Bright Places’ is currently being adapted into a film, which is set for release in 2017. As I’m such a big fan of the book I’m beyond excited, and curious, to see how it will translate and how the subject will be handled. However, In the meantime I’ll definitely be checking out Niven’s newest offering ‘Holding Up The Universe’, which I picked up a few weeks ago.

 

Have you read, or do you want to read, All The Bright Places? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Let’s start a discussion in the comments section. As always, thank you for reading. If you’d like to keep up to date with my posts, feel free to come and join me on:

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Book Club: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

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Let me start this off by saying that I’ve wanted to post this review for a very long time (I read the book back in 2014!) and it wasn’t until I posted a review of John Green’s debut novel, Looking For Alaska, recently that I realised I never actually uploaded it. *Facepalm.

Originally, I was really wary of starting this book because I’d heard that it’s sad enough to reduce even grown men into sobbing messes, but I finally gave in, and I’m so glad I did…

TFIOS book cover

 

Hazel Grace Lancaster is a sixteen year old terminal cancer patient. Augustus Waters is a seventeen year old cancer survivor. When a chance meeting at a local support group throws them together nothing in their limited number of days will ever be quite the same.

Now I know what you’re thinking, something along the lines of ‘well that sounds depressing’, am I right? To you I say take that assumption and throw it away, go on, I’ll wait. Because this book is anything but. I won’t deny that it is sad in places, but it’s also crammed full of wit, humour, joy and…life. On the surface cancer seems to be the main theme running through it, but beyond that the story isn’t about cancer; it’s about first love and enjoying the life you have, appreciating every moment.

One afternoon when her mother sends her to the dreaded Support Group, Hazel bumps – and I mean literally bumps – into ‘new guy’ Augustus Waters, who we later find out, is in remission after his own battle with cancer. The two quickly strike up a friendship and, despite Hazel’s attempts to keep Gus at arm’s length and all the obstacles they face in light of illness, Gus is adorably persistent and slowly but surely their relationship develops.

The story is told from Hazel’s point of view; Hazel has “never been anything but terminal”, and she knows  it. She’s a very selfless and strong character, and one of the great things about her is that she is very much a realist about the situation without ever whining or wasting time being bitter about it. She knows she is eventually going to pass away and retains this dark, sarcastic wit – which gave me a chuckle or two when reading.

Augustus is very similar, but his humour is more light-hearted; he comes across as a very happy-go-lucky kind of guy and he’s not afraid to say how he feels. He speaks in a very eloquent manner, but I feel that John Green managed to make this an endearing trait rather than a pompous one – you can’t really help but fall in love with him.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I thought Green’s writing style was very faithful to that of a sixteen old, in the best possible sense, making it relatable and believable. In the book, when speaking of her favourite novel (An Imperial Affliction) and its author, Hazel says: “Peter Van Houten was the only person I’d ever come across who seemed to (a) understand what it’s like to be dying, and (b) not have died.” Arguably, the same could be said for Green because the characters are brilliantly written; not just in the main character’s cases, but the surrounding characters like Issac, Hazel’s parents and Van Houten. They’re all fleshed out, three-dimensional characters and it’s easy to imagine them as real people, because at their core, the struggles they each deal with aren’t too far-fetched from reality.

For example, I feel that Hazel’s fruitless quest for answers to what happens after the end of An Imperial Affliction – and what becomes of the remaining characters – stems from a need to know that her own parents will be okay when she is gone. So, once she finds out her parents future plans, seems to care less about a confirmation from Van Houten (along with the fact that he turned out to be a total douche-pants.) Similarly, Gus has a preoccupation with wanting to be remembered; to lead an extraordinary life and leave an iconic mark on the world, because, let’s face it, nobody wants to be forgotten.

Despite how it may sound the book isn’t heavy, or ‘all-doom-and-gloom’ by any means; there is some light relief in there that adds some more comedy to the story. For instance, when Hazel and Gus encourage Issac to vent his frustration over his recent break-up, and the three of them (rather comically) throw eggs at his ex-girlfriend’s car. Having said that, the story is written in a very poignant way that does tug on the heartstrings (yes, I did shed a few tears when I got to the last few chapters.)

Ultimately, it’s a bittersweet loves story with the sentiment that you don’t have to live a long life, to live a meaningful life. It’s about finding the good in the worst of situations and appreciating what you have; finding the joy in those moments and holding on to them. It’s the kind of book that opens your eyes and makes you look at life, and the world, a little differently. It’s a good life, and you only get one – so live it.

Jammin’ (With Books) In July: Looking For Alaska by John Green.

“I came here looking for a great perhaps, for real friends and a more-than-minor life.” Miles Halter has always led a very un-extraordinary life; social outcast at school with no friends to his name – but that’s all about to change. Leaving behind his small-town life to attend Culver Creek boarding school, Miles meets Chip ‘The Colonel’ Martin, and is quickly inducted into a ready-made set of friends – among them: Alaska Young.

Looking for alaska book cover

Beautiful, but undeniably complicated, the gorgeous Alaska is all Miles wants. But, underneath her beauty she’s a ticking time-bomb that no one can disarm – and Miles is in too deep to avoid being caught in the explosion.

The debut novel from, now award-winning author, John Green, sucks you in and keeps you on your toes from start to finish. I originally picked up this book because I’d previously read ‘The Fault In Our Stars’, and as a result was really curious to read some of his other works.

Stylistically, I liked the way this story was told from a male character’s point of view as I feel that a lot of YA fiction is told from the female perspective, so that made a refreshing change. Also, the book didn’t follow the typical ‘1,2,3’ chapter structure, and instead was simply sectioned into ‘Before’ and ‘After’. I thought this was inventive as it created a sense of anticipation throughout – alluding to the fact that something pivotal is coming, and instantly making you want to read on to find out what.

There are no airs and graces with the writing style, it’s very easy to digest and doesn’t make you re-read a page three times before you think ‘Oh, ok I’ve got it.’ It’s almost journal-like, giving a real candid snapshot into these characters lives and their interactions with each other. In a lot of ways they are a group of misfits – none of them come from particularly privileged backgrounds – unlike the weekday warriors who go home every weekend to continue living the high life, and although they are more than likely friends of circumstance, they all fit together.

If I’m honest, the character development is sketchy in places, with one or two just feeling like ‘filler’ characters, but the main three were written really well. I particularly loved The Colonel’s character – from his sarcastic wit, the way he takes Miles under his wing and brings him out of his shell, to the loving relationship he has with his mother – he just oozes a kind of charisma.

In contrast Alaska is one of those characters that’s just all over the place – emotionally as well as physically – which may have something to do with the fact that we only see her in snippets because we experience the story through Miles. There is the odd ‘sarcastic’ comment from Alaska here and there to give you a hint of how she feels, but the majority of what readers know of her is what Miles sees, or doesn’t see, of her erratic behaviour. He says somewhere that she ‘never hit the breaks’, and I feel like this has such a dual meaning because she truly doesn’t, she always comes across as full throttle 100 MPH.

Thematically, the idea of ambiguity and mystery is prevalent throughout the story: Miles’ idea of the great perhaps, even Alaska herself is a puzzle from the moment Mile’s meets her, right up until the very last page. It seems fitting then that one of the major motifs in the novel is born from a quote that Alaska shares with Miles:

“He… was shaken by the overwhelming revelation that the headlong race between his misfortunes and his dreams was at that moment reaching the finish line. The rest was darkness. ‘Damn it,’ he sighed. How will I ever get out of this labyrinth?’”

Throughout the story it becomes clear that everyone has their own labyrinth to beat: Miles is stuck in a state of wanting Alaska but knowing he can never have her, Alaska battles constantly with self-loathing and self-destruction – blaming herself for her mother’s death – and later on, The Colonel and Miles find themselves in a labyrinth searching for answers to their questions. So, what is the labyrinth exactly? Is it just the challenges you face in life and how you overcome them? Is it life its self and the uncertainty of it? Is the point that you never really know?

At its core I think that it’s a book about life; how people that you meet have a certain effect on you, and how fragile they can be if you take time to look beyond the surface – even when you think you know someone. It’s like Miles says in the book: “[Alaska is] still refusing to answer how or why questions, still insisting on an aura of mystery.” To that end I feel that the title ‘Looking For Alaska’ is fitting as she is the kind of person who is such a mystery you never stop searching for them, in the hope that maybe one day – somewhere in their fortress – you’ll actually find them.

Final verdict: I really enjoyed reading this story and it’s great if you’ve found yourself growing out of paranormal romance side of YA, and enjoy fiction that’s more-so rooted in real life – and, of course, if you don’t mind a bit of a tear-jerker!

I’d also love to read a version of this story from Alaska’s perspective, as she’s such a complex character, and there’s so much of her you don’t see, so I think it would be really interesting to delve into her thoughts and feelings. Granted, it may give away some of the plot twists towards the end but I think it would make an interesting read nonetheless. I wonder if that’s something John Green has ever thought about…

Book Club is baaaaaaaack! Backstage Pass By Olivia Cunning.

Yes, you read right. After nearly a year being book-free, book club is back. I stopped reading simply because, due to my university workload, I had less and less time to myself when I wasn’t working, and I just fell out of the habit.

I have been wanting to branch out into more adult romance for a while, and this is a very graphic, very sexy read. The majority of what I read is YA paranormal romance, and even though I enjoy the genre, sometimes things can get a bit samey and I just want something a bit different. Too much of a good thing and all that.

I came across Backstage Pass after Books With Court  mentioned it on YouTube and immediately thought it sounded interesting, I mean music, romance and rock-stars?! Hello! 🙂 Not realising – as I bought it on my Kindle –  that it was an erotic romance until I actually started reading it!

Backstage-Pass-by-Olivia-Cunning-Cover

When a chance meeting see’s human sexuality professor Myrna Evans stumble across her favourite rock band, Sinners, in the bar of the hotel where she happens to be giving a conference, she can’t help but go and introduce herself. True to their metal-god reputations every member of the band turn up the heat in a bid to win her attention, but it’s their fast-fingered guitarist Brian ‘Master’ Sinclair that sets her pulse racing. As a whirlwind of passion unfolds Myrna finds herself going on tour with the Sinners, and the lovers’ wild and steamy antics uncover some unexpected emotions which “sparks the whole band to new heights of glory…and sin.”

From the moment I picked this book up I was hooked, so much so that I finished it in just under 4 days. It’s a fast-paced ride of music-laced debauchery within a solid story, using realistic characters who each carry their own emotional baggage and complexities. The characterisation in this book is brilliant, Cunning really breathes life into each character making them well-rounded with interesting back-stories, each novel in the series focusing on a different member of the band.

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and she said that the thing she dislikes in books like these, is that the women start off independent and ‘their own woman’ and by the end are completely submissive and reliant on the male character. I’m pleased to say that this isn’t one of those books. From the minute Myrna goes over to Sinners’ table in the hotel bar, she’s confident and undoubtedly sassy. You can see this even more as she engages with the band, for example, when one of the guys is running his hand up her leg, and she tells him he does not have permission to touch her as she removes his hand. This is a woman who can hold her own, but she also has a whole host of emotional issues that are glimpsed at throughout, from an abusive ex-husband to fear of getting too close to anyone.

Throughout the book Myrna is in conflict, outwardly she doesn’t want to get too close to Brian and constantly insists that they’re “just having a good time”, but inwardly her thoughts show her slowly becoming attached to him, as much as she tries to convince herself she isn’t.

In contrast Brian is much more of a heart-on-his-sleeve character. When we first meet him he’s paralytic to the point of barely being able to hold his own head up, trying to numb the pain of a previous break-up, he’s so out of it that even he can’t believe Myrna’s interest in him. He’s very open with Myrna about his feelings from the beginning – to the point of casually suggesting that they should get married on more than one occasion – but because she appears so closed off he becomes afraid that he’ll push her away. His band-mates also warn her that Brian is a “romantic retard” and make her promise not to hurt him, but he’s in no way a wet blanket, he’s still very much a masculine character depicted with effortless sex appeal and raw sensuality oozing from every pore.

Brian does become frustrated with Myrna’s flippant attitude at points, but he persists and gently coaxes her into getting to know him, opening herself up to the idea of something developing between them, earning her trust and showing her bit-by-bit that it’s okay to do so.

I liked the fact that it’s not one of those books where you turn the page and they’re in love, it’s more adult in its realism. It was really great to see Myrna slowly – and almost unbeknownst to her – fall in love with Brian, it shows that falling in love takes time and letting someone love you isn’t always easy; everyone has their demons and sometimes they inform our actions.
I also really liked Myrna’s character, I thought it was very refreshing to see someone with a bit of sass for a change; someone who knows her own mind and isn’t meek, demure or needy at all.

The way the book is written does a fantastic job of enabling the reader to really get to know the characters and their motivation, from the way they act outwardly to what is really going on inside their head. Switching between both Myrna and Brian’s perspectives helps readers to understand both characters rather than the story-telling being one-sided.

You also get little glimpses into the behaviour and emotional issues of the other band members, for example the hedonistic brutality of lead-singer Sedric ‘Sed’ Lionheart and the reason for his actions, which work to pique your interest and wonder ‘what’s going on there?’. To that end, I’m glad that each book delves into the lives of the different band members in more detail, although initially I was a bit disappointed because I love Myrna and Brian’s story and I just wanted to read more about them! But by the end of the book, Cunning wraps everything up in such a way that there’s not many other places for this particular story to go.

All in all I really enjoyed this book, I loved the realism of the plot and the fact that it wasn’t dressed up with gimmicks or anything. I also really enjoyed the characters and how they interacted with eachother, their relationships and the different dynamics there of.

It’s hypnotic, sexy and captivating, with enough plot twists to keep you entertained. Love, Sex and Rock ‘N’ Roll…indeed.

Book Club: Matched by Allie Condie

Young teenager Cassia, lives in a society where it everything is out of your control. Who you marry, how many children you have, what music you listen to, your occupation, even what you eat, is decided for you by someone else. At first Cassia embraces this life, the only life she has ever known, but after a string of significant events and the more Cassia finds out about her community, the more she finds herself fighting against it.

When you reach a certain age in Cassia’s community, you attend a ‘match banquet’, that is, if you’ve chosen to be matched as opposed to remaining a single – never settling down with one fixed partner. At your match banquet your match is revealed to you, this is the person that you will get to know, fall in love with, and eventually marry and have children with. Initially Cassia is happy with her match; a boy she has known and been best friends with since they were children, but then when she reviews her match later on, she see’s that she could have been matched with someone else.

Curious, Cassia becomes increasingly drawn to finding out more about this boy who could have been her match, and after they are thrown together during hiking lessons, the two become irrevocably close. But this new relationship, is against all the societies rules, and will put everyone she loves in danger. After a rather painful experience, and some forbidden – but emotive – words left to her by her grandfather, Cassia uncovers things about her society that prove everything isn’t as perfect as the government officials may like you to believe.

I did enjoy this book, but it wasn’t a couldn’t-put-it-down kind of book for me, I read it at more of a steady pace. That isn’t to say it’s not a good book in any way, when I got to the end I was pretty eager to pick up the next book and see how the story progressed. I just think that after reading Lauren Oliver’s ‘Delirium’, which is kind of in the same vein, (dystopian, ruled by an insanely constraining government, falls in love, breaks all the rules etc) I found this story a little less enthralling. There’s a lot of action in ‘Delirium’, which kept me captivated, and I did think that some aspects of this story were a little predictable. I felt as though it kind of just plodded along, as I did reading it.

Though there were some really good points throughout the story, and a couple of times I did find myself thinking ‘I didn’t see that coming’. But like I said, it did pick up towards the end and it looks as though there may be a little more action in the next book. So I am looking forward to reading ‘Crossed’ to see how the story continues and how Cassia chooses to deal with whatever else is thrown her way. Will the war in the outer provinces spread? Will the society and it’s regimes crumble? Will Ky and Cassia find a way back to one another? As yet, these questions remain unanswered, ‘Crossed’, here I come.