Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

thirteenDespite what people may have heard or read this book doesn’t encourage teenage suicide nor does it romanticise the idea of suicide. I can’t speak for the popular Netflix series inspired by this book, simply because I haven’t watched it.

It’s important to bear in mind that teenage brains aren’t fully developed until they reach a certain age in adulthood. Adults think with the prefrontal cortex, the rational part of the brain, which isn’t fully developed until the age of 25. This is why a teen is more likely to make rash, illogical, dangerous and impulsive decisions. Everything is overly dramatic and every slight is the end of the world as we know it.

In the mind of  teenager every insult, imagined or real, is a reason to make a decision you can’t just undo.

The reader meets Hannah after she has made the decision to end her life. After she has convinced herself that there is no other way out of her situation other than killing herself.

Ultimately in the midst of all the drama and overhyped teenage interactions Asher is trying to deliver an important message. When someone reaches the end of their tether, and leans towards jumping off the nearest cliff, they will send out subconscious signals. The signals are there for us to see, hear and read, we just need to acknowledge them. Instead of ignoring the changes in behaviour, appearance or the almost indiscernible cries for help, we need to open our eyes and try to help.

The story starts with Clay Jensen receiving a box full of tapes, a spoken testimonial from a dead girl. A girl he knew, a girl he kissed, and a young girl who somehow thinks he belongs on a list of people who pushed her towards suicide. He has to deal with the emotional upheaval caused by this unexpected accusation and the experiences Hannah has been through. Clay also has to deal with the fact he will eventually come face to face with the other people on the list. The people who ignored her, turned her away, ridiculed and assaulted her.

Suicide brings an element of desperation with it, but also one of selfishness. Suicidal thoughts are all encompassing, especially when depression is part and parcel of the equation. There is no room for thoughts of what those left behind will have to deal with. The why, the who and the fact they didn’t see it coming and couldn’t stop it. Even when there is light at the end of the tunnel Hannah is already so enveloped by her own darkness that she chooses self destructive behaviour instead of choosing a path other than death.

I could go on and on about this book. It isn’t just a straightforward ‘everyone was mean to Hannah and that’s why she is dead’ scenario. Hannah isn’t exempt from criticism. She makes mistakes and some dodgy choices, especially in regards to Jessica and Bryce.

Hopefully this read will make someone reconsider their actions and behaviour towards their fellow humans. Teens really need to take on board that actions have consequences, rumours ruin lives, bullying is destructive and suicide is a one-way ticket with no return.

Buy Thirteen Reasons Why at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @jayasherguy @PenguinRHUK

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr

ella balckElla is confronted with an awful truth about her identity. It turns out she has been living a lie, a lie her parents have taken great lengths to keep going. One could argue that on a base level Ella is aware of the secret, which is why she struggles with a strong inner voice. A voice so strong it has become its own persona. A persona, who makes bad choices and likes to harm others and cause havoc.

Personally I think the question about Bella or rather the truth and explanation about Bella should have remained an element of the book the reader ponders on and decides for themselves. Instead Ella explains that aspect of her personality towards the end of the book.

I would rather wonder about the nurture vs nature argument or whether there is a genetic component to Bella and in particular Bella’s behaviour. Does Bella like to cause harm because of who she really is?

Adoption can be a controversial topic for those involved in it, especially when it comes to the truth about parentage. Quite often the adoptive parents think it is better to lie and/or keep the adopted child in the dark about their parentage. For the majority of adoptees the truth is the quintessential factor in the development of a healthy mind-set and personality. Regardless of whether they make contact with their bio family, it is important for them to know who they are biologically and genetically. A lot of people find this natural pull towards the truth quite difficult to understand. They don’t understand that it has nothing to do with how much they love their adopted parents and the family attachments they have made. It is merely about finding their tribe, and being able to get closure.

In a way Ella has to go through this process, albeit in a very dramatic and dangerous way. She has to work through the trauma of the truth in her own time and way.

Barr approaches a sensitive topic and gives the reader a ringside view of the emotional turmoil a young person might go through in this situation. For teens everything is highly emotional and over-dramatised. The Truth and Lies of Ella Black is a story about a young woman finding her truth and her path in life.

Buy The Truth and Lies of Ella Black at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @emily_barr Visit emilybarr.com

Follow @PenguinRHUK

Read The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel

juniper.jpgThe idea itself is lovely. Dealing with grief by tracking it daily via a happiness index. For each person the index would be different of course, because what makes one person smile or feel a moment of happiness isn’t always the same for another person.

Think about what kind of things make you happy each day. Even the smallest things count. A memory, an interaction, a piece of chocolate or perhaps just relaxing after a long day.

Since the death of her sister Camilla, Juniper has been desperately trying to find her happy. She is so grief stricken that she is trying to grasp what she can from life.

She is also trying to fulfil what she believes to be her sister’s last wish. A letter to her love. So Juniper takes it upon herself to find the mysterious recipient. She is also really invested in making the people around her happy. She does this by playing matchmaker, by saving those around her from possible negative thoughts and bad intentions.

In her quest to survive day by day and to not crumble under the weight of her personal loss, Juniper inadvertently finds herself building friendships, experiencing love and learning a few hard lessons along the way.

The focus is on the people left behind, as opposed to a lot of books that seem to make the dead the main characters. What’s done is done and those who are gone aren’t coming back, so let’s concentrate on the living.

The author tries not to delve too far into the teen drama or rather make the scenarios too candy floss sweet or unicorn eccentric. It is passionate without being soppy, witty without being ridiculous and is realistic in a down-to-earth way.

Definitely a read I would recommend.

Buy Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @thatjulieisrael visit julieisrael.com

Saint Death by Marcus Sedgwick

saint deathSomehow I missed the fact this is classed as Young Adult, and to be perfectly frank it doesn’t really belong in that sub-genre.

It is gritty, hardcore and it forces reality right down the readers throat. It was one of those books you finish and think ‘wow.’ At the same time you can’t really identify why. It is just a whirlwind of brash hard-hitting realism.

Faustino is looking for a way out of his slum existence. He is tired of being surrounded by uncertainty, violence and death. Each day is a struggle and the only opportunities for any kind of advancement in life are being part of a gang or a possible escape across the border. However the Coyotaje isn’t always the solution desperate people think they will be. They are ruthless groups/gangs with only one concern, to make money. They feed on the desperation of the innocent.

The descriptive scenes of the gambling are right on the button. People with the itch always think they can find the gold at the end of the rainbow. Just one more hand of cards, just one more attempt to outwit lady luck. Ultimately Faustino holds the weapon of his own self-destruction.

Sedgwick doesn’t pull any punches, he just whacks the reader right around the head with a literary crowbar. It’s hard to pinpoint why it is such an unusual read, perhaps it’s the gritty realism and the lack of compromise. Sedgwick is relentless in the portrayal of his authentic characters and the setting. Kudos to him for the merciless ending.

Buy Saint Death at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Blog-Tour: Sleeper by J.D. Fennell

Today it is my turn on the Blog-Tour for Sleeper by J.D. Fennell. Along with the About the Author and About the book features, I am also delighted to feature a fantastic Q&A with J.D. Fennell, and hey of course last but not least, my review of Sleeper.

About the Author

J.D. was born in Belfast at the start of the Troubles, and began writing stories at a young age to help understand the madness unfolding around him. A lover of reading, he devoured a diverse range of books – his early influences include Fleming, Tolkien, Shakespeare and the Brontës.

He left Belfast at the age of nineteen and worked as a chef, bartender, waiter and later began a career in writing for the software industry. These days he divides his time between Brighton and London, where he lives with his partner and their two dogs.

Visit sleeperbook.com  or you can follow @jd_fennell or @DomePress on Twitter or on facebook.com/JDFennellAuthor/

Buy Sleeper

About the book

Sixteen-year-old Will Starling is pulled from the sea with no memory of his past. In his blazer is a strange notebook with a bullet lodged inside: a bullet meant for him. As London prepares for the Blitz, Will soon finds himself pursued by vicious agents and a ruthless killer known as the Pastor. All of them want Will’s notebook and will do anything to get it. As Will’s memory starts to return, he realises he is no ordinary sixteen-year old. He has skills that make him a match for any assassin. But there is something else. At his core is a deep-rooted rage that he cannot explain. Where is his family and why has no one reported him missing?Fighting for survival with the help of Mi5 agent-in-training, Anna Wilder, Will follows leads across London in a race against time to find the Stones of Fire before the next air raid makes a direct hit and destroys London forever.

Q&A

Before we get down to business (i.e. talking about your book) I would like to ask a set of questions I call ‘Breaking the Ice.’ (readers love to get to know all about their favourite and new authors)

The last book you read? (Inquisitive bookworms would like to know) I love reading and always have a book to hand. Here are my recent three: Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follet; I Let You Go, by Claire Mackintosh and right now I am reading Spellslinger, by Sebastian De Castell. Three wonderful books, all quite different.

Books or authors which have inspired you to put pen to paper? John Irving is amazing. Stephen King. Sarah Waters. Ken Follett. Authors that make me want to be a better writer are Thomas Harris, Ian McGuire and Hanya Yanagihara.

The last movie you watched, which you felt left a mark (in your heart, soul, wallet…you name it) I really enjoyed Allied with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. It is set during the same time as Sleeper and gave it a resonance for me. It is also gripping with a great twist.

Are you more of a movie night or series-binger kind of guy? (Combinations are possible) Definitely a series-binger, because there is a greater scope to tell a story and develop characters. Game of Thrones is a good example here.

Which famous person (dead, alive, barely kicking) would you most like to meet? I’d like to meet Thomas Harris for lunch or dinner and learn as much as I could from him.

All of the above questions are actually a pretty elaborate pysch evaluation disguised as random questions. Have no fear here come the real ones. Let’s talk about Sleeper!

Sleeper is a YA adventure set in the Second World War with flair of fantasy and an essence of a dystopian setting.

What made you pick the WW2 time period for your setting? I’m fascinated by London during the Blitz, a city collapsing under the nightly air attacks. Also, I really wanted to set an action/adventure with fantastical elements during a familiar time in our history. Second World War London just seemed the perfect setting for a thriller. I had to write it.

During the story I think readers may often find the borders between good and bad guy skewed when it comes to VIPER and The Fellowship. Do you agree with that assessment, and if so was this intentional on your part? Yes and No. Yes, the Fellowship are good, however, they turn a blind eye to the Pastor’s methods because they understand what is at stake for the world. VIPER will do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. They may employ regular people, who do not share their ambitions, or are unaware of who they are working for, to help achieve their goals.

Will has been defined, trained and lived as a member of VIPER for many years. Isn’t there some part of him which is subconsciously loyal to VIPER? I’m afraid you will have to wait until the next instalment to find that out. *smiles*

So, you have this incredible weapon with as yet not completely explored powers, doesn’t even a teeny weeny piece of Will think about taking control of the weapon himself? Ha! That would be telling. For now I will refer you to the previous answer.

Sleeper. Liberator. Executioner. Does Will secretly enjoy being each one of these identities? Will is driven by revenge. I would say he does not enjoy being that type of person, however, it does change him and give him purpose.

Will we be seeing more of Will in the near future, and will his sidekick be returning? Will and Anna shall return next year with velocity.

Thank you for answering all of my questions, even the odd ones! Thank you Cheryl. I really enjoyed answering them.

Review

Fennell has chosen an interesting setting for his dystopian young adult series. It takes place in the early 1940s during WW2. So you not only get the general gist and flavour of life during the Blitz, you also feel the intensity of the devastation the war leaves in its wake.

I have to say that although this is pegged as young adult it is also a book I would buy for a younger reader. Readers will be able to identify with the characters, the historical context and also the why of what makes Will tick.

What makes him push forward is the strong desire to fulfil his mission, which is even the case when he suffers from a bout of amnesia. He somehow always manages to find the right way even when the deck is stacked against him.

Will is nothing if not determined, despite all the obstacles and extremely dangerous situations he stumbles in and out of. He has been a part of VIPER since his pre-teens and is well versed in the megalomaniacal manipulations of this organisation. They will do anything to control the world and more importantly to get their hands on the powerful Stones.

What can I say it’s a story with a lot of potential. The author ends the book with the kind of hook that will keep the readers trailing along behind that fishing rod with the wriggly wee plot enticing them to follow along right behind him.

Fennell has created a fast-paced adventure with plenty of scope for future books. Sleeper is a captivating combination of history infused with futuristic and dystopian elements, and let’s not forgot the mystery surrounding Will. Ancient artefacts and puzzles worthy of a young Indiana Jones adventure will keep readers both young and old wanting the next instalment of this series sooner rather than later.

Buy Sleeper at Amazon Uk or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

To buy Sleeper (hardback)

To buy Sleeper (paperback)

Goldsboro Books are also selling limited edition hardback signed and numbered editions

Publisher website: www.thedomepress.com

Publisher Twitter: https://twitter.com/DomePress

Publisher Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thedomepress/

Walking Barefoot by Grace Coleman

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Walking Barefoot by Grace Coleman. Aside from my review, info on the author and the book you can also download a free copy of Walking Barefoot on Smashwords. Only today…for 24 hours!

*To claim your free copy of Walking Barefoot simply visit Smashwords on the 25th of April and enter the discount code FR64E at check out. There are no limits to the number of downloads but hurry, this code will only be active for 24 hours!*

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/715754

About the Author

About the author: Walking Barefoot is Grace Coleman’s debut novel. It began 6 years ago in a Byron Bay basement and had significant re-sculpturing after a Curtis Brown novel writing course in 2013. When not pretending to be an author, Grace Coleman is TV Scheduler who lives and works in London.

Visit gracecoleman.co.uk/

About the book

Set in a futuristic London in a world ravaged by war, Walking Barefoot explores the life of Will, past and present. The cocksure eighteen year old who goes travelling in a bid to find himself. The city living adult who struggles to be happy despite his well paid job, upper quadrant apartment and sexy girlfriend. When nightmares begin to haunt his sleeping and waking life Will is unsure whether he is suffering from the illness that killed his father or being led by unseen forces to uncover a city-wide conspiracy. As his paranoia heightens he must ask himself – is he willing to lose himself to find the truth?

Review

Imagine being able to transport yourself to the place of your dreams in the blink of an eye. A bit like time-travel without the whole time-space continuum aspect of it all. In a world full of constructed reality and a life lived nearly entirely inside glass walls, it is no wonder some people try to live vicariously through others and any means possible.

Will has decided to do the equivalent of a gap year before settling down to the dreary business of life. He is fascinated by the places and countries his father once visited.

Continents, countries and towns that are virtually non-existent in the history books, the minds and memories of people. Places slowly deteriorating, decaying and disappearing from sight and mind. Will wants to walk in his father’s footsteps. To smell the fresh air and to experience new worlds.

Years later, as his career is ascending into the higher echelon, his mental health starts to deteriorate. At first he thinks it is just stress and pressure, but then Will starts to question things. What is reality and what is fantasy?

You know what they say, it’s not paranoia if they are really out to get you. Will is convinced that there is something untoward going on. He is determined to get to the bottom of things, except he isn’t entirely convinced that his fears and hallucinations aren’t just an indication of mental health issues.

Coleman has created a world built on dreams within conceptual hallucinations. It is a futuristic story with a very subtle dystopian undertone. Think Matrix with a side-order of end of the world angst and a tiny slice of horror. Although the author brings the story to a conclusion, I do think a sequel could be a possibility, then again that may just be wishful thinking on my part.

Buy Walking Barefoot at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Giveaway

*To claim your free copy of Walking Barefoot simply visit Smashwords on the 25 April and enter the discount code FR64E at check out. There are no limits to the number of downloads but hurry, this code will only be active for 24 hours!*

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/715754

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

flora banksThis book is one of those little gems shining through in a sea of books.

Barr manages to present a rather tragic story with an incredible amount of humour, love and compassion.

The reader meets two versions of Flora, actually make that three, because there is also an in-between grey area. We meet docile Flora, the girl who follows rules and listens to her parents. Then there is Flora the impulsive adventurer. The girl who is off her meds. Third Flora is the girl who exists in the confusion of post-tablets and pre-clarity.

Flora has problems with her short term memory. She relies on post-it notes, written messages on her arms and a handwritten book of memory props to get along every day.

Now at this point I have to wag a finger at any a parent who would leave a vulnerable child, teen or young adult alone based on the assumption that another teen will be looking in on them. Teenagers can be as flighty as birds and as dramatic as a reality TV show character on LSD.

So Flora is left to her own devices and ends up coming off her medication. Even before that she spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing about being kissed by her best friend’s boyfriend. The kiss becomes a pivotal part of the story, her obsession and a possible recovery.

Her search for Drake is a bold one, but it is also one ridden with dangers. The fact she is lucky enough to encounter people who care, which is perhaps a scenario we all wish for, if one of our children were alone and in trouble. Flora is halfway across the globe searching for love, and the only person who is aware of her exploits is her brother.

Barr makes an important point when it comes to vulnerable people and independence. Are they hindered by their loved ones when it comes to evolving, growing up and being able to make their own decisions? The gut instinct to keep them safe may also be the factor keeping them from moving forwards.

I really enjoyed the read. It is funny without being insulting, it is realistic without bending the boundaries of imagination and it definitely pulls on the heartstrings. I would love to know what Flora gets up to next. At this rate she may end up in a tent on top of Mount Everest.

Buy The One Memory of Flora Banks at Amazon UK or go to Goodreads for any other retailer.

Follow @emily_barr Visit emilybarr.com

Follow @PenguinRHUK

Read The Truth and Lies of Ella Black by Emily Barr