Books I Read in May!

I had a pretty good reading month in May! I was completely expecting to come back with another two or three book month because I had deadlines and health stress, but I think after having such a disastrous April, I needed to read some good books! Three of the eight were audiobooks which might’ve helped too because I can listen to them when I’m really poorly.

A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Who got taken in by the new Audible audiobook editions of the Sherlock Holmes books read by Stephen Fry? I did! I snapped those babies up as soon as my monthly credit came through and immediately dived in.
The thing is- I’m not sure I like the books as much as I like the idea of the the characters? A Study in Scarlet was definitely the most interesting account of how Sherlock solved the case of the two novels and the bunch of short stories I’ve listened to so far. I’m always interested in the observations and deductions. There was such a tangent to tell the backstory though. It was just a weird anti-Mormon tirade that kept going, and it didn’t even add anything. Motive is important. But I didn’t understand why I needed the history of the Mormon religion with it.
“One’s ideas must be as broad as nature if they are to interpret nature.”

The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Oh boy, the racism. I get it, it’s the time period that it was written in but it was really uncomfortable. And the quote from Sherlock; “Women are never to be entirely trusted”, at least Watson brushes this off but it really held no purpose to the story apart from alienating me as a reader.
As far the story though, it was pretty interesting. The motive tangent in this one wasn’t as long or as monotonous as A Study in Scarlet at least.
“-I never guess. It is a shocking habit- destructive to the logical faculty.”

Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth
I’ve been reading this for months. I checked my Goodreads and I started it in February. That’s a long time to be reading the same book, but it’s also a long time for me to not completely give up and relegate it to my ‘paused’ shelf.
I really enjoyed the first book. But it had a lot to do with the format; short chapters encompassing a whole experience, while the book itself slowly moves forward along in time. This second book was written in such a different way that I looked in the acknowledgements, and even Googled, to find out if there was a ghostwriter. If there is, it hasn’t been talked about but this is written like a fiction book rather than a collection of memories. It just didn’t work for me in the same way. There was so much obviously fabricated because I really doubt that some of the people written about talked about their stories, and definitely not in the amount of detail this book wants you to believe. It’s a shame because I want to know about Jennifer Worths life and how that was affected by the people she treated, not fictionalised histories where she plays a minor background role.
However, I’ve flipped through the next book and it does seem to go back to the format of the first book so I’m not put off yet!
“-The more I read, the more ignorant I realised I was. I devoured history like other chaps devoured booze.”

The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare
This is the only book I ended up reading from my A to Z Readathon TBR and it really deserves a full review like book one and book two because I loved it and have so many thoughts and feelings!

Not Your Average Nurse by Maggie Groff*
I wrote a full review here!

Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology by Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton
Lost Cat was so cute and I have a review coming with pictures posed with my cats. Because of course.

The Child by Fiona Barton*
I read and reviewed The Widow by Fiona Barton last year. This is being published at the end of June and I’ll be writing a full review to follow that trend!

The Martian by Andy Weir
I listened to the audiobook of The Martian at the beginning of May and I liked it. The protagonist Mark Watney was funny and totally the type of guy whose diary log I can listen to for eight hours. I much preferred his first person segments to the prose style when Weir wrote of the characters back home, but maybe that’s the podcast-fan in me. I listen to a podcast similar to this and it’s just kept going, no ending in sight. Whereas all I get are feelings of disappointment that the ending was so abrupt from The Martian, it could’ve given us way more. Watney is also living my best life with all those potatoes, I don’t know what he’s complaining about!
The thing is, I listened to this at the beginning of May and now that it’s a month later- I know I’m never going to listen to it again which is rarely my experience with audiobooks!
“How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.”

What did you read this month?
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Books I Read in April!

Please don’t look at the date because this is extraordinarily late. But that accidentally rhymed so- it all evens out, right? I finished four books in April and three of them were one/two-day-reads. Most of my reading time was taken up listening to the audiobook of my new favourite, Lolita. And boy, I’m going to need an entire post to unravel that one!

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I loved this book. I loved it. And I have a lot of feelings about it that I need to write so look out for that.

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole Aged 13 3/4 by Sue Townsend
So it got to the 19th and I realised I hadn’t finished an entire book so far in April. So I looked at the 500+ books I have on my TBR and picked out something I knew I could read fast and would probably enjoy. I might’ve been a little off with my choice.
Don’t get me wrong, I read this fast (in a day) and it was entertaining to a degree but I got to the end of the book and was like- okay. Even now, I really can’t really think of anything to say. It’s a diary by a 13 year-old boy who is just a real rat bag. It has some really dated and offensive terms considering it’s only 30+ years old. For example, Adrian wishes his father wouldn’t wear an apron while cleaning because “he looks like a poofter in it”. And Pandora has long hair “like girls’ hair should be”. Urg.

The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend
I’m not one for continuing series if I don’t love the first book but something about book one taking me a day to read, pushed me to pick up the next. It would’ve taken longer if I didn’t enjoy it a little, right? This also didn’t take long to read and it was amusing, but not laugh-out-loud funny. Adrian gets a little more self-aware but also more pompous. I get that he’s supposed to be an immature teenage boy but he’s just utterly unlikable.

True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole by Sue Townsend
Say hello to my breaking point! This was the last Adrian Mole book that I owned from the series, and also the only one I hadn’t read as a kid. It doesn’t have just the usual diary format. It starts with a letter from Sue Townsend talking about the book as if Adrian is real (he’s not) which is very strange? It then goes onto diary entries, letters and essays that he’s ‘written’ and therefore wasn’t as quick or easy to read. Even as an adult, he is still the worst kind of pompous man. For example; “I never read bestsellers on principle. It’s a good rule of thumb. If the masses like it them I’m sure that I won’t.” Can’t you just imagine him mansplaining what a metaphor is to an English professor?
That goes on for 90 pages, then turns over to a diary from Sue Townsend. That’s 50 pages of no-plot. Then we get 20 pages of a fictional teenage Margret Thatcher diary. Now, I’m from the North and therefore I was born disliking Thatcher. But I have no interest in reading a diary written by someone who clearly doesn’t like her either and needs to villainize her as a teenager. It was just strange. A weird end to a chaotic 160 page mess that was still priced at £7.99.

What did you read in April?
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Book Review: Not Your Average Nurse by Maggie Groff!

My non-fiction shelf is dominated by medical memoirs; be it a doctor from the 1800s or a midwife from the 1950s, I can’t get enough of the mix of medicine and drama. So when the opportunity to be on the blog tour for Not Your Average Nurse by Maggie Groff* came up, I jumped! Based in the 1970s? Covering student nursing? In London? It sounded right up my alley, and I couldn’t wait.

Not Your Average Nurse by Maggie Groff!

To a young girl the life of a student nurse sounds exciting, but with long hours and short shrift it’s never easy. So when Maggie Groff embarks as a student nurse at London’s King’s College Hospital she must quickly get to grips with the demands of her chosen career. It’s sink or swim.

In a delightful romp through time, played out against the march of feminism and the fashion, music and movies of almost half a century ago, we follow Maggie’s highs and lows as with trial and much error she becomes a highly skilled nurse and sets sail for a new life in Australia.

From the watchful gaze of stern ward sisters and the ordeals of nursing at a poor housing estate to becoming an industrial nurse at the iconic Sydney Opera House, Maggie shares her stories of mistakes and mayhem, tea and sympathy, and the life-affirming moments that make it all worthwhile.

This book is a wonderfully written memoir covering 1970 to 1985 and has some brilliantly written parts, as one would expect from an award-winning novelist. What I didn’t expect was to be whipped away to Switzerland, Australia and Ibiza, and to be shown the differences between hospital nursing, industrial nursing and even elderly nun nursing. All while staying pretty charmingly British and cosy to read.

Maggie Groff has had a truly amazing life. She shows the up and the downs of nursing- and life at the same time. While I don’t think I could handle the night duty and the emergencies, I’m totally jealous. I was quite close to looking into a nursing career while reading! But I think what this memoir really shows is what you can do with a strong attitude and determination. Maggie Groff knew what she wanted and she did it, be it quitting an underpaying job or flying out to live across the globe all alone.

The comparison to Call the Midwife has to be made because they’re both memoirs about UK based nursing in the past, although set 20 years apart. I get the same comforting feeling I get from the books, and the slightly-less-so-but-still-there judgement of women by their appearance, but Maggie Groff has had a much more varied career. If you liked one, I think you’d like the other.

One thing I did raise my eyebrows a little at the one racist paragraph, where she tells the reader about a rumour implying the Chinese nurses were eating ducks from the park; “I never believed the rumour, especially as I had started it.” It was obviously the 1970s and we all say things when we’re young, but this was never addressed again which is unfortunate.

Overall though, this is what it says on the cover, an entertaining true story of a student nurse in 1970s London. And so much more. Prepare to see the effects of Feminism in nursing, a family lose a mother to cancer and a great balance of a polished story and the raw real-life events.

If you want to read it, you can pre-order here for it’s release on Wednesday. And there will be more blog tour posts from KellyDeeJoLorraineCarly and Adele during the week!

“It wouldn’t matter if he was a thief or a prince. Everyone who walks through the hospital doors receives the same respectful treatment. It’s what underpins King’s, Maggie. It’s what’s right.”

 Where do you put memoirs on your shelf; fiction or non-fiction? Will you pick this one up?

*I was provided a copy of the book for the blog tour, this hasn’t changed my opinion.
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Books I Read in March!

So I actually read some books in March! After my first no-book month of the three years of Imogen’s Typewriter back in February I was pretty ready to read some dang books. Admittedly, three isn’t the best number but heck, the Alison Weir novel is over 500 pages. I’m happy with my little pile.

Southern Spirits by Angie Fox, The White Road by Sarah Lotz and Anne Boleyn: A King

Southern Spirits by Angie Fox
I hate reading ebooks. I get migraines so I try to avoid looking at tiny words on my phone screen for very long. However, I had a migraine-free day in March and decided to risk it and try to start an ebook. Night Shift on, brightness turned way down, I was ready. And I ended up reading Southern Spirits in one day. One dang day. I flew through it. I’ve had it for a while as it was free on iBooks but never really dived in. But it was so fun and hit those paranormal cosy crime vibes for me, while still being a super imaginative set-up for the main character and the rest of the series. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the next book- just because I’m trying to cut down my TBR and read books that I already own, but this really made a boring day very fun.

The White Road by Sarah Lotz*
Oh boy. Sarah Lotz is back and knocked this one out of the park! It wasn’t quite The Three, which I hold up to impossible standards, but it was miles above Day Four. A welcome addition to my shelves and my full review is here!

Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession by Alison Weir*
This is being published on the 18th of May so I’ll post my full review around about then. But in short,  Alison Weir blew it out of the park again for me and I’m counting down the days until I can get my hands on the beautiful hardcover to match Katherine of Aragons.

2017 Reading Challenge: 9/80 (I really need to catch up!)

What did you read in March?
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Book Review: Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier

Anyone who knows me, knows that Zombies are kind of my thing. I find them fascinating. In The Walking Dead, it’s been said that the zombies outnumber the survivors 5000:1 so by that logic there would only be 13,000 people left alive in the UK. The answer to the question- Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? For me, is no. But I wanted to explore every option…

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier

Hours of bone-crunching zombie action with 100 paths and 50 endings to choose from. Inside these pages lies unspeakable horror. Bloodsplattering, brain-impaling, flesh-devouring horror. You’ve probably read your fair share of zombie stories. 

But this time it’s different. No longer can you sit idle as a bunch of fools make all the wrong moves. All hell is about to break loose—and YOU have a say in humanity’s survival.

In Max Bralliers Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book, you’re a 25 year old male in Manhattan. And it’s time for you to take control. Much like the Walking Dead video game, every decision has consequences down the storyline. But it’s more obvious than the game, where every little thing might come back to bite you. The decisions can be a little ham-fisted with their obviousness of good/ bad/ silly. 

There was definitely a lot of enjoyment to get out of this book though. I liked a lot of the secondary characters that were introduced- from the Hells Angels to the childhood sweetheart. It really did vary wildly depending on what path you took, but there was probably 4-5 main branches of the story that then had their own offshoots.

I would’ve liked a little more fear- the writing didn’t really hit that note for me, and a little more of that long-run survivalist side to zombies that World War Z by Max Brooks does so well. But hey!  Overall, this was a fun read! 

But a tricky one. If you’re like me and want to know how every storyline ends then I recommend you arm yourself with some sticky notes and a method of keeping track. For that reason, I’m not sure I’ll be looking out for more of this style of book. At least not until I read one of those infuriating books where every choice the main character makes is so obviously wrong and I need to take back some control! As the book says; no longer do you get to sit back and watch as a bunch of fools make all the wrong moves.

Can You Survive the Zombie Apocalypse? by Max Brallier

To stay alive you need to think. One mistake, you’re history. And not the good history- not the kind that ends up in a middle school textbook- the bad kind, the forgotten kind.

Have you read a Choose-your-own-Adventure book?
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Books I Read in January!

About half a month ago, we said goodbye to the first month of the year! And with it, the first month of my first numbered reading challenge. I actually ended on schedule which I’m really happy with because that quickly went caput with how busy February has been. Plus, I read a good mix of books. I even took up the challenge of one of my reading goals and stopped delaying when it came to reading Catch-22! So what did I read?

Books I Read in January!

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
I actually got this for Christmas and forgot to pop it in my Under My Christmas Tree post because I had already moved it to my read-pile. It was actually my first book of the year, as early-morning-1st-of-January-Imogen started to panic about reading 80 books. It was short, to the point, and I read it aloud in a Skype call to a group of friends who were playing video games and not really paying attention. Except this managed to grab their attention because it was making some very powerful points.
The one thing that stopped this being a five-star read for me came with the line; “Women can have babies, men cannot.” That’s a really quick way to exclude trans-women and infertile women from your feminism. Obviously nobody can go into a huge amount of detail in a 48-page essay but that definition of women is just a little too exclusionary for me. I haven’t got around to her full 30 minute talk but I’m hoping for more detail.
-A man who would be intimidated by me is exactly the kind of man I would have no interest in.

A Young Doctor’s Notebook by Mikhail Bulgakov
I’ve wanted to read this since I watched the TV show with Daniel Radcliffe and Jon Hamm. I don’t read many translations or books from the 19-20th centuries. I also don’t think I’ve read any Russian literature. And I definitely haven’t read anything about the way people were treated medically in Russia in this era- although I have been listening to a really great podcast called Sawbones about medical history which gave me a vague idea- so this was completely new. I was a little nervous going in but I needn’t have been.
This reads unbelievably modern for something from 1925. I was expecting to have to ask Siri about a lot of words, especially medical jargon, but either the translation worked this out or Mikhail Bulgakov knew his future audience. Either way, amazing. I loved it. I was completely taken out of myself and thrown into the Russian countryside, the cold weather, the small hospital with all the patients and this poor, inexperienced doctor.
I’d say, and this is a rare occasion, try the show first. I think you’ll appreciate the source material more, and probably the show. The way they take the short stories, and the separate piece; ‘Morphine’ and work them together is really great. Plus, Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe.
“There’s great experience to be gained in the countryside,” I thought, falling asleep, “Only I have to read, read a lot… read…”

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Full review here!

Shakespeare’s Trollop by Charlaine Harris
I struggled with this one. As you might be able to tell from the title, the murder victim is the towns ‘trollop’- or, y’know, woman who isn’t ashamed to have lots of sex. On one hand, I can completely see where Charlaine Harris was going with it. The evolution of Lily’s character in the series has been ongoing and this fit in that arc. She’s a rape victim and the only way she has addressed this is to get very strong, take martial arts and she believes it’s a woman’s responsibility to protect herself. And I completely understand slut-shaming exists in the world, more-so in 2000 when this was published. But I didn’t want Lily to do it. I want her to be better. Even if she half changes her mind at the end, she still finds the moral of this half-change ‘beyond her’.
Judging it just as a book on it’s own, it’s just not as good as the rest of the series. Which is strange, because what leads is…

Shakespeare’s Counselor by Charlaine Harris
I feel like this book is the foremost of Charlaine Harris’s books. I’ve now finished every complete series that she’s written and this is right up there as one of my favourites! Lily starts to get help for her problems which is an incredibly healthy message after the last book. Her support group addresses victim-blaming and lots of positive stuff, all the while their counsellor is being stalked and people around her die.
I shut the book feeling like Lily was going to be okay, and I understood her better. I might not agree with her about rehabilitation not working for criminals, and I think women have a right to feel safe even though it’s a modern idea, but as a writer, Charlaine Harris made me understand and care for the character. And wrote a good mystery at the same time. I didn’t expect the ending. I’m off to dig out the Sookie Stackhouse novel that Lily features in and re-read her small part.
“No matter how much sympathy I have for you, it won’t heal you faster or slower. You’re not a victim of cosmic proportions. There are millions of us. That doesn’t make your personal struggle less.”

What did you read this month?
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Series Review: The Harper Connolly Mysteries by Charlaine Harris!

If there is one author who makes me sound like a broken record, it’s Charlaine Harris. I loved her Aurora Teagarden series, I loved her Sookie Stackhouse series, and unsurprisingly- I liked her Harper Connolly series. I reviewed the four books in the omnibus separately (1, 2, 3, 4), but I’ve finally put together my series review, where I tell you a few things I thought about the series as a whole.

The Harper Connolly Mysteries by Charlaine Harris!

Harper Connelly has always been unique: ever since she was struck by lightning she’s had the ability to locate the dead. She can sense the final location of a person who’s passed, and share their very last moment. The way Harper sees it, she’s providing a service to the dead while bringing some closure to the living – but she’s used to most people treating her like a blood-sucking leech.
She does what she can to put her unique ability to good use, with the aid of her step-brother Tolliver, but it’s not always easy. Her cases can be heart-wrenching, complex – and sometimes, if someone would rather the body wasn’t found, they can even even be dangerous…

The Premise
The premise was what originally drew me towards this series although, admittedly, Charlaine Harris could write a VHS manual and I’d want to read it. Harper is able to sense the dead, and when she finds them, she can see their final moments. I love a paranormal story that’s a little different and I’ve never read anything like that before. Plus, the living characters can be just as interesting in how the death affected them. As Harper points out; The dead could wait forever, but the living were always urgent.

The Romance
This is the part that I wasn’t as much of a fan of. It’s no secret that the romance in this series is, at best, semi-incestuous. You can write it however you want, but the majority of people are always going to find that a bit icky (a word borrowed from an interview Harris herself did about the couple), even if it’s ‘just’ step-siblings. I try not to judge but no thank you.

The Writing
This wasn’t Charlaine Harris’s usual. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a complete shake up, but it felt weaker. I loved that she took the opportunity to talk about some of Americas problems, while Harper faced serial killers, rapists and torturers along with the run-of-the-mill murderers. But the character development and the actual mysteries wasn’t up to her usual standard. I actually find it really interesting that this series was written a few years after the Lily Bard mysteries, which I’m currently reading. They both deal with dark subjects but Lily feels much more real- of course, she doesn’t see dead people so…

Overall, this was very much a three star series for me. Not bad by any means! Readable and fun. Just not the high level that I usually put Charlaine Harris at and I didn’t immediately want to jump into the next book. 

I couldn’t fathom people who longed for the past. They weren’t thinking about the absence of antibiotics, that was for sure.

Have you read this series? What did you think? 
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Books I Read in November!

I spent the majority of November listening to The Fellowship of the Ring on audiobook so I didn’t get much reading-reading done. In fact, I went a whole week without picking up a book as Frodo left the Shire, that story is just addictive and I didn’t want to leave Middle Earth for anything. But these are the book-books I read last month.

Shakespeare’s Champion by Charlaine Harris
I read the first book of this series in October as part of my Autumn TBR, then took a short break to pace myself. And I spent at least half the book trying to figure out if I had forgotten a plot point from the last book, which isn’t ideal. I hadn’t, it was explained later. Lily- the main character, kept referring to an event that as a reader, I didn’t know about, as if I should. This isn’t something Harris has done before so I hope the trend doesn’t continue in the rest of this series.
Apart from this, it was an enjoyable cosy crime novel. There was some slut-shaming and some questionable racial terms but nothing DNF-worthy. I liked that Harris approached the issue of black people being murdered in small Southern American towns and police involvement. Something we know from the news as realistic.
“-Darcy said in that jocular tone some men reserve for insults they don’t want you to take them up on.”

The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid
You can read my full review here!

What did you read in November?
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Book Review: The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

I heard a lot about The Diabolic when I was at YALC. Pins with the butterfly on them were being handed out left and right, and who can blame them? The cover of this book is amazing. So I was intrigued when the opportunity for a review copy came up, and I jumped on it. The book ended up reflecting the cover pretty well though; half one thing, half the other and not quite either.

The Diabolic by S.J. Kincaid

A Diabolic is ruthless. A Diabolic is powerful. A Diabolic has a single task: Kill in order to protect the person you’ve been created for.

Nemesis is a Diabolic, a humanoid teenager created to protect a galactic senator’s daughter, Sidonia. The two have grown up side by side, but are in no way sisters. Nemesis is expected to give her life for Sidonia, and she would do so gladly. She would also take as many lives as necessary to keep Sidonia safe.

When the power-mad Emperor learns Sidonia’s father is participating in a rebellion, he summons Sidonia to the Galactic court. She is to serve as a hostage. Now, there is only one way for Nemesis to protect Sidonia. She must become her. Nemesis travels to the court disguised as Sidonia—a killing machine masquerading in a world of corrupt politicians and two-faced senators’ children. It’s a nest of vipers with threats on every side, but Nemesis must keep her true abilities a secret or risk everything.

As the Empire begins to fracture and rebellion looms closer, Nemesis learns there is something more to her than just deadly force. She finds a humanity truer than what she encounters from most humans. Amidst all the danger, action, and intrigue, her humanity just might be the thing that saves her life—and the empire.

The concept of Diabolics was awesome. I’m a big fan of genetic engineering stories and the idea of these humanoid people who only bond with the one person they’re supposed to protect… Interesting! I wanted to know more; the history, the pricing, the way they’re made, everything. Unfortunately because the world needed explaining too, with new hierarchies and religion and being out in the galaxy, there just wasn’t the time to get the detail in. Set in a Sci-fi universe, trying to work with a medieval political system, it’s too far from our contemporary world to not need more detail.

With this book, the story and action was everything. Which sounds like most books, but The Diabolic was the novel equivalent of those Transporter movies. There’s backstory, but it’s to move the action along rather than add any kind of commentary. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. We all need these kinds of books in our bookish diet. Like chocolate. But if I read nothing but them, I’d stop reading.

Lastly, the romance. Eesh. There was a short minute where I thought the author was going to do some badass ladies loving ladies but my hope was cut short like 90% of the characters lives. The endgame is predictable, although I do like a slow-burn.

The problem in the end was the length. You’re looking at 400 pages, but double spaced and with margins the size of Texas, there wasn’t enough time to delve deep. On the other hand, if you want fast action and slow-burn romance and maybe you’re just looking to get through a fun story; this might be for you!

“Did I injure you in the least?”
“My knuckles ache from punching you.”

If you’re interested in The Diabolic, you can get it here!

What do you think? Does The Diabolic appeal?
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Book Review: If You Go Away by Adele Parks!

Sometimes it’s good to wait on reading a book until it feels right, because when you read the right book at exactly the right time, it’s beautiful. This was one of those occasions for me. I’d had If You Go Away* on my shelves for about a year and admittedly, reading about war in Europe during the Brexit debacle was a whole lot of negative. However, the hope in this book was exactly what I needed at that time.

If You Go Away by Adele Parks!

1914. Vivian, a young, impassioned debutante is hurried into a pedestrian marriage to cover a scandal. War breaks out on her wedding day – domestically and across Europe. Quick to escape the disappointment of matrimony, her traditionalist husband immediately enlists and Vivian has no alternative than to take up the management and running of his estate – after all, everyone is required to do their bit. Even pretty, inadequately-educated young wives.

Howard, a brilliant young playwright rushes to the front to see for himself the best and the worst of humanity; he cannot imagine what the horror might be. In March 1916, when conscription becomes law, it is no longer enough for him to report on the War, it’s a legal requirement that he joins the ranks. Howard refuses, becoming one of the most notorious conscientious objectors of the time. Disarmingly handsome, famous, articulate and informed, he’s a threat to the government. Narrowly escaping a death sentence by agreeing to take essential work on Vivian’s farm, it’s only then Howard understands what is worth fighting for. 

Set during the first world war, If You Go Away follows two characters over 9 years. This was, by far, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever had the good fortune of reading. As a reader, I’m a liberal user of sticky notes. When I like a section of writing, I put a sticky note next to it and at the end of the month when I usually write up reviews, I read over these sticky noted sections and write down my favourites in an inspiration journal. Normally books have three or four quotes. If You Go Away had seventeen.

With Howard being a writer, his thoughts are full of beautiful prose, “He wasn’t a soldier; his pen was his weapon.” And while I don’t think you can tell the difference between the characters chapters that explicitly, it’s third person so I’m not particularly bothered. The subject matter is so different because men and women lived such different lives back then, that it’s easy to tell when you’re reading about Howard or about Vivian.

As a conscientious objector, Howard Henderson makes a lot of brilliant points about the nature of war and how unnecessary it is. To borrow his words; “Why would the biggest and bloodiest war turn out to be the one that stops it all?” I do love a logical character. And again, I think it is still relevant today, there are only 10 countries in the world not currently ‘in conflict’. I’ve already said that this is one of my favourite books, but I’ll add to that and say Howard is one of my favourite male characters.

The other character that this book focuses on is Vivian, and she grows so much in this book. From being a spoilt, vapid girl to an inspirational woman, she is possibly one of my favourite female characters! I’m a broken record about this book but it’s the truth. This is a surprisingly hard review to write because of how much I loved it.

Both main characters feel the effect of their morals on their social standing, and I think the reason that I connected so deeply with both of them is that my morals matched theirs. I was inspired by them. Enid Henderson too, she’s a social pariah. Kind, but on the outskirts of the town because her husband left and she kept on going as an independent mother. Comparing her to Vivian’s own mother is like chalk and cheese.

And the love story. Oh, the love story. My heart hurt in the best way as I read through the years. If the insta-love you see in a lot of books these days is wearing you down, If You Go Away will be the hearty meal you need to build yourself back up.

There was no such thing; for a writer it was impossible to overthink. That was his oxygen; to foresee, to second-guess, to imagine.

This was more of a rave, then a review as I just can’t think of anything remotely bad about this book. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for more Adele Parks books in the future. And if you want to pick up a copy, you can find it here!

Have you read If You Go Away?

*I was sent a proof of this book by the publisher. I’m not obligated to talk about it.
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