Before I Go to Sleep by S. J. Watson

Published: 14th June 2011 Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Harper Collins
Pages: 359
Format: Hardcover
Genre: Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me… 

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story. 

Welcome to Christine’s life. 

I have wanted to read this for years and I’m so glad I finally picked it up. THIS BOOK IS AMAZING! Again, I have seen it compared to 50 First Dates (like all memory books are these days it seems), but it is much better than that and totally not even the same thing.

Christine’s memory resets every morning and she reverts back to thinking she is in her twenties. It’s a phenomenal read seeing how she adjusts and copes with this realisation every morning. Her husband’s patience, their coping mechanisms are all wonderful.

The routine Christine and her husband had is changed when she starts to see a doctor without her husband knowing. Christine starts keeping a diary which she reads each day, but she still only knows what she is told every morning and what she’s learnt from herself the day before. The emotions you experience are similar to Christine’s – can you trust the doctor? Is the husband keeping secrets? Who is telling the truth? It’s an intense and incredible reading experience.

There were so many little things I loved about this book. I loved that Christine was middle aged and not younger. I loved that she is able to do what she does even when she has no idea about what she has done in the past. I love that Watson lulls me into a false security and then shatters my expectations. I love that when you think you know what is happening you could not be more wrong. I also love the structure of the novel. The before, the after, the fact we get to see her daily diary and it becomes part of the story.

Having a character who needs to be reintroduced to herself each morning has to possibility of being repetitive, but Watson never makes the repetition annoying or ironically, too repetitive. The exploration of Christine’s day to day life, her discoveries, and her conversations with her husband are approached slightly differently each day. And as Christine knows more, is shapes her conversations. And her mind focuses on different things each day.
The underlying mystery of Christine’s memory loss is always there and as it grows and takes hold your own suspense and tension and excitement builds. But without ruining anything, Watson plays with you remarkably well with this. There are twists upon surprises with secrets and things unsaid. It’s a roller coaster ride and when you think you know what is about the happen, something even better happens instead.

I implore that if you love thrillers, and love to be surprised and enthralled, that you should read this book.  And, I will say, that there is a film adaptation of this and it is actually very close to the book so if you were uncertain about checking it out, you totally should. But of course, the book is a more fulfilling experience on all fronts and you should read it first.

You can purchase Before I Go to Sleep via the following

Booktopia | Dymocks | Angus & Robertson Bookworld

Book Depository | Fishpond | QBD | Wordery

 

The Gentle Lion and the Little Owlet by Alice Shirley

Published: 1st March 2012Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Pavilion Children’s
Illustrator: Alice Shirley
Pages: 32
Format: Paperback Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

A plucky young owlet decides to try and find his own dinner one day and so flies from the safety of his nest into the unknown world surrounding him. Little does he know that his nest is in a tree in the middle of a zoo – and he quickly finds himself face-to-face with a lion. Yet, instead of being eaten, the owlet and lion become friends.

The art in this book is stunning! I chose this book because of the lion on the cover and I fell in love with it because of the artwork (and the story, but mainly the art).

This fictionalisation is based on an actual event that happened in Paignton Zoo Environmental Park in 2010. While the actual incident was much briefer than those depicted in the book, it is still a wonderful story.

In Shirley’s version, a young owlet, impatient to see the world falls from his nest into the paws on a lion below. Instead of being in danger, the lion and the young owl start an unlikely friendship which is the basis of this story.

I loved the relationship between these two. I loved the owlet’s ambition to fly the world and his friendship to the lion that he would take him to Africa, back where he remembers growing up. The illustrations make this story to much more meaningful I think because you can see the beauty in the detail and it enhances the story.

I think if Shirley has chosen to do a more comical, or casual style illustration, then the sentiment and beauty of this story wouldn’t have the same impact that it does. It is a short story, but I’m so surprised at just how beautiful Shirley has managed to make it.

You can purchase The Gentle Lion via the following

Booktopia | Bookworld

Book Depository | QBD

Dymocks | Wordery

Fishpond | Amazon

Publisher

The Day the Crayons Came Home (#2) by Drew Daywalt

Published: 18th August 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Philomel Books
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers
Pages: 36
Format: Hardcover Picture Book
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

I’m not sure what it is about this kid Duncan, but his crayons sure are a colourful bunch of characters! Having soothed the hurt feelings of one group who threatened to quit, Duncan now faces a whole new group of crayons asking to be rescued. From Maroon Crayon, who was lost beneath the sofa cushions and then broken in two after Dad sat on him; to poor Turquoise, whose head is now stuck to one of Duncan’s stinky socks after they both ended up in the dryer together; to Pea Green, who knows darn well that no kid likes peas and who ran away—each and every crayon has a woeful tale to tell and a plea to be brought home to the crayon box.

The crayons are back and better than ever! This series of books is fast becoming my favourite picture books ever.

This time the crayons that have been abandoned and lost by Duncan are sending him postcards and pleading to come home. They tell tales of being melted in the sun, sat on, bitten, or yearning for adventure.

Drew Daywalt uses the same great style from the first crayon story, with adorable little crayons and their letters of complaint to Duncan. Jeffers’ illustrations are comical and adorable and really bring to life the lives of these crayons. I think this book is as good if not better than the first. It’s cute, it’s clever, very funny, and I loved the creativity of the crayon’s complaints and debacles.

I hadn’t thought about it in the first book, but this could be a great story to get kids to tidy up their messes, add a bit of guilt about the poor items being left behind. If you haven’t already read the Crayon series, then I suggest you do right away. You won’t regret it.

You can purchase The Day the Crayons Quit via the following

Book Depository | QBD

Fishpond | Wordery

BookWorld | Booktopia

 

 

 

The Golden Child by Wendy James

Published: 1st February 2017Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Harper Collins
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback
Genre: Thriller
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Blogger Lizzy’s life is buzzing, happy, normal. Two gorgeous children, a handsome husband, destiny under control. For her real-life alter-ego Beth, things are unravelling. Tensions are simmering with her husband, mother-in-law and even her own mother. Her teenage daughters, once the objects of her existence, have moved beyond her grasp and one of them has shown signs of, well, thoughtlessness …

Then a classmate of one daughter is callously bullied and the finger of blame is pointed at Beth’s clever, beautiful child. Shattered, shamed and frightened, two families must negotiate worlds of cruelty they are totally ill-equipped for.
This is a novel that grapples with modern-day spectres of selfies, selfishness and cyberbullying. It plays with our fears of parenting, social media and Queen Bees, and it asks the question: just how well do you know your child?

From the very early pages I was hooked on this story, so much so I sat down in the morning to read it and was finished by the afternoon. I was enamoured by James’ ability to write such a seemingly ordinary story while still giving off the unsettling feeling that everything isn’t as it should be. That unsettling hidden something that makes you wonder about motives and who is telling the whole truth and who are we supposed to believe. Especially when you can’t find a reason for these feelings right away.

James’ storytelling ability is amazing. The level of tension and suspense it balanced wonderfully by the mystery of what is happening alongside the everyday. I am of course not going to mention anything about the plot. This is the kind of book you need to experience for yourself and have everything revealed to you as it’s intended.

I will say that on top of James’ excellent writing, the characters are really what make this story shine. The different and often clashing personalities mix together to create the perfect storm and propel this story into its brilliance.

There are so many things to praise and so much to digest as you read. You’re enthralled by these characters and their lives, and James’ uses emotions, motherhood, love, and friendship to bring this to life. Despite the constant feeling of unease I had while reading it, it remains a chilling and fantastic story.

One thing I loved was the clear differences between Beth and alter ego Lizzy. Beth deals with the real life of everyday; she has a family who have needs of their own and life decisions and adjustments to make. But what makes Lizzy such a great contrast is that there are elements of those same problems in her blog posts, but on such a different tone and level. Lizzy lets her vague words tell a story to her readers, she doesn’t give specifics and her commentary can be interpreted in multiple ways.

I thought James did a wonderful job with the blogging side of the novel. She captures the voice well and it reads quite realistically. I also loved that the comments were included too because not only are they another reflection on what commenting on blogs is often like, but they also help show the comparisons between Beth and Lizzy’s lives.

If you haven’t read anything of James’ before then this is a perfect time to start. It is the kind of book that is not only on topic in terms of issues with social media, but should be read by parents, teens, grandparents; everybody can get something out of this novel. You will be turning the pages none stop and will remember a story like this long after you’ve read that final page.

You can purchase The Golden Child via the following

Publisher | Booktopia

Kobo | Dymocks

 QBD | Angus & Robertson’s Bookworld

aww2017-badge

Black by Fleur Ferris

Published: 22nd July 2016  Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Random House Australia
Pages: 276
Format: Paperback
Genre: Young Adult
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Ebony Marshall is in her final year of high school. Five months, two weeks and four days . . . She can’t wait to leave the town where she’s known only as ‘Black’. Because of her name, of course. But for another reason, too.

Everyone says Black Marshall is cursed.

Three of her best friends have died in tragic accidents. After Oscar, the whispers started. Now she’s used to being on her own. It’s easier that way.

But when her date for the formal ends up in intensive care, something in quiet little Dainsfield starts to stir. Old secrets are revealed and terrifying new dangers emerge.

If only Black could put all the pieces together, she could work out who her real enemies are. Should she run for her life, or stay and fight?

I loved this book. I love how Ferris can make the simplest real life things turn into something creepy and unsettling. I love that she highlights these real life disturbing situations and turns them into something worthy of a horror story. My favourite thing is that with all the monsters invented over history, ‘it’s just people’ is often the scariest thing out there and Ferris knows how to bring these hidden real life monsters out from the shadows.

This is of course helped by having a character like Black. Her voice, her manner, her personality is perfect for this story, the right mix of everything. She isn’t a snob or some wild, social outcast who shuns people and they dislike her because she rebels. She has built a wall around herself to protect herself after life continues to torment her. I think Black is to be commended for her strength and the fact that she doesn’t let it change who she is, the fact her defences are there for her own sanity, is something I commend.

Ferris is always wonderful at creating strong family dynamics, and like Risk before, Black has a wonderful mother/daughter relationship. It was one I enjoyed seeing, the realistic love and protection and fierceness in both of them made them come to life. It wasn’t just two characters on a page that happened to be related, Ferris highlights their relationship well making them complex and genuine and they could easily be real people.

I loved the creepy nature of this story, Ferris makes it so vivid; I was there with Black with the uncertainty and the fear. I was drawn into the story by the subtleness and how the evil sneaks up on you, how the peculiarities of people suddenly snap and chaos unfolds. The tension and heightened emotion works well and Ferris paces it perfectly and makes you wait and wonder, and makes you wonder what will happen and marvel at the fact it is happening at all.

You can purchase Black via the following

Amazon AustBook Depository

Booktopia | QBD

Angus and Robinson | Dymocks

 

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