Thursday, 28 January 2016

All the Rage

All the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by Macmillan Children's
28th January 2016
Paperback Edition

"My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl's sport, but it's not. It's armour."
Kellan Turner is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. But when she speaks up, she is branded a liar. Telling the truth has cost her everything, because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town.

But when news of Kellan assaulting another girl gets out, the cost of staying silent might be more than Romy can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, All The Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

When she accuses Kellan Turner, the sheriff's son of rape, Romy Grey's world fall aparts.  For a start, no one believes her, so she looses not only her friends but is then continually bullied at school. Her ways of coping are to make sure that firstly she looks like she is in control, her second is the solace she finds in the diner where she works, situated outside of town, so that she can remain anonymous.

After an annual school party, Penny, Romy's former best friend disappears.  To make matters worse, she had a row with Romy only hours before she vanished, and Romy seems to have gotten incredibly drunk and cannot remember anything of the night before, especially when she wakes up on a roadside miles from where the party was being held. 

Does Kellan have anything to do with Penny's disappearance?  If he does, how on earth can Romy convince anyone that this is the case, especially as no one believes anything she says.

This is a great YA novel.  It is dark and sad in parts, particularly as this is not a pleasant topic of discussion but it is important that it is written about, and I think Courtney Summers has done a great job.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Throwback Thursday: Save Karyn

I’ve decided to add a new feature to the blog once a month, a ‘throwback Thursday’ post about a book that I read/was published before I began Miss Chapter's Reviews and therefore haven’t reviewed before.  The only criteria is that it will be posted on a Thursday, and that it’s a post about a book I really enjoyed.

The first book to kick off this slot was published in 2004 in paperback, and I remember reading it while I teaching and thinking "what a cracking idea to have had."  The book in question is called Save Karyn and is by Karyn Bosnak.  Let’s begin with the blurb:

What would you do if you owed $20,000? Would you:

a) Not tell your parents?
b) Stop colouring your hair, having pedicures and buying Gucci?
c) Start your own website that asks for money without apology?

If you were Karyn Bosnak, you'd do all three...

In New York for the first time, with the dream job and the smart flat, Karyn starts spending...and spending. But when it all goes horribly wrong, and her credit card balance mounts in a terrifying manner, Karyn knows that she has to take control. She starts her website on which she fearlessly asks for donations to help pay off her debts. The website receives over 2 million hits and has replies from all over the world - some supportive, many abusive. But after four months, Karyn has become a new woman- debt-free, grateful and happy. This is the hilarious and touching true story of how she does it.

Save Karyn is the true story of Karyn Bosnak, an 30 year old American who gets her dream job as a television producer.  Of course, in the cut-and-thrust world of the media industry, one has to look the part, and Karyn quickly starts buying luxury goods that initially she feels able to afford.  Soon however her spending habit has gotten out of hand, and she lands herself with the huge sum of $20,000 of debt!  Karyn is desparate.  She doesn’t want to ask her parents for help, yet she knows that on her own there is no way that she can make such a huge repayment, at least not on her own.

The brainwave that she has is to set up a website and beginning blogging her story.  If she tells it like it is, and asks for help, then just maybe she can pay off her debt.  After all, if she could get just $1 from 20,000 people, then her debt will be cleared.  Karyn blogs and accounts for every penny she earns or is given, and bit by bit, begins to pay off her debt.  Along the way she is sent messages of support and donations, but she also receives her share of abuse from members of the public who use her as a sounding board for a generation of people who have ruthlessly spent what they don’t actually have.  In just twenty weeks, Karyn’s debt has gone.

I loved this book, not just because of the excellent idea that Karyn comes up with – having also just started working and discovering the world of plastic money, at the time of reading I had my own fair share of debts so could resonate to some degree with the girl on the page in front of me, especially as we are of a similar age.   This book is also extremely funny, and whilst it could easily be a ‘poor me’ tale, Karyn readily admits her spending habits have taken over her life, but heads out to solve them with a dignity and strength that I couldn’t help but admire.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 18 January 2016

The Widow

The Widow by Fiona Barton
Published by Bantam Press
14th January 2016
Paperback Edition

We've all seen him: the man - the monster - staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.

But what about her: the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the wife who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.

Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.

But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Jean Taylor is going to tell us what she knows.

Jean Taylor has just lost her husband Glen in an unfortunate incident concerning himself and a bus.  However she doesn’t appear to be the grieving widow, in fact, some might say she seems rather relieved.  What few people don't know is that Glen was accused of abducting a small child, and whilst his case was eventually overturned, no one seemed to forget his name or his face.
Jean stuck by him through the whole trial and now he has passed, journalist Kate Waters feels now is the time to approach her and get ‘the widows’ side of the story.  Does Jean know more about what happened to Bella Elliott; did Glen ever confess any of his darkest secrets to her, or was he, as was eventually proved, totally innocent of all charges?  This could be the scoop of the year, and Kate isn’t planning on leaving Jean’s doorstep until she has a full exclusive.

We weave back and forth through the years, from when toddler Bella goes missing from her front garden, through the police investigation that subsequently followed, to now, when Kate plans on getting the story of the year out of Glen’s wife. 

We go through Jean’s past, from her teenage years when she first met Glen, through the horror of his accusation and to the hounding of her life during and after the trial.  But, the question remains, does Jean know more than she has ever revealed?

I did wonder as I went through the book as to whether there would be any skeletons in the cupboard to be revealed, or whether Glen really was innocent as we meet lots of other people suspected at the time of Bella’s disappearance, and find that they too have secrets that they have kept hidden from the police.  I clearly can't give anything away, but the ending makes for interesting reading.  It’s a gripping debut.

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 11 January 2016

The Darkest Secret

The Darkest Secret by Alex Marwood
Published by Sphere
7th January 2016
Paperback Edition
Apologies for the general email, but I desperately need your help.

My goddaughter, Coco Jackson, disappeared from her family's holiday home in Bournemouth on the night of Sunday/Monday August 29/30th, the bank holiday weekend just gone. Coco is three years old.

When identical twin Coco goes missing during a family celebration, there is a media frenzy. Her parents are rich and influential, as are the friends they were with at their holiday home by the sea.

But what really happened to Coco?

Over two intense weekends - the first when Coco goes missing and the second twelve years later at the funeral of her father - the darkest of secrets will gradually be revealed...

This is the third book written under the pseudonym Alex Marwood, and it’s another corker.  I have to say that The Wicked Girls remains one of my favourite crime novels, but this one is up there with it too.  Alex is a journalist, and if you read her books, then you just can't help but feel that she has information to some of the most prolific crime cases over the past few decades.  Whilst The Wicked Girls sparked off connections in my head to the terrible events surrounding Jamie Bulger, The Darkest Secret brings to mind the more recent case of the disappearance of Madeleine Mccan.

The Darkest Secret is set over two time periods, that of the current day, following the death of much married, and very wealthy Sean Jackson, father of Coco Jackson, who disappeared a decade before when she was three years old; and again, to 2004 when Coco was very much a part of his family life.  As a reader we get to meet all the family and friends who made up Sean’s life, from his ex wives, daughters, friends and lovers; they all play a part in this story.  As we continue on our journey, we know that Alex Marwood is going to take us right up to the moment that Coco was last seen alive in the family holiday home, and that we might just be privy to what happened to her.

There are a whole host of characters here, and some are very likeable, whilst many of Sean’s friends are just awful.  They actually read like real people which doesn’t always happen in some books, but these characters are very much 3-D.  As we get to know Sean’s daughters Milla, and Ruby, twin sister of Coco, we learn of their lives and how they have been altered since Coco vanished in 2004.  Who at the house that day has something to hide, and after ten years of silence, maybe one of the party thinks it is time to tell the truth?


Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x

Monday, 4 January 2016

The Witch's Daughter

The Witch’s Daughter by Paula Brackston (Shadow Chronicles Book 2)
Published by Corsair
5th December 2013
Paperback Edition

In the spring of 1628, young Bess Hawksmith watches her mother's body swing limp from the Hanging Tree. She knows that only one man can save her from the same fate - Gideon Masters, the Warlock. She knows, too, that his help comes at a steep price.

In present-day England, Elizabeth has built a quiet life for herself. She has spent the centuries in solitude, moving from place to place, surviving plagues, wars and the heartbreak that comes with immortality. Her loneliness comes to an abrupt end when she is befriended by a teenage girl called Tegan. Against her better judgment, Elizabeth opens her heart to Tegan and begins teaching her the ways of the Hedge Witch.

But Gideon is hunting her still. He will stop at nothing, determined even after centuries to claim her soul. And now, Bess is not fighting to save herself alone: now, she must protect the girl she has grown to love like a daughter.

This is the first of the Shadow Chronicles books written by Paula Brackston.  The most recent, The Silver Witch you can find reviewed here.  Paula’s books are always set in different time frames, that of the current day, and a chosen period of time set firmly in the past.  The Witch’s Daughter actually sweeps through history, as our main character Bess, is over 300 years old, so the book moves through the post-Tudor period, right up until that of the First World War.  Bess is a witch, but one that has chosen to remain hidden and keep her skills underwraps so that Gideon, her nemesis from the 1600s cannot find her, for try as she might, she cannot seem to escape from his clutches, and of his desire to bind them together forever.

Starting a new life in Wales, Elizabeth, as she now calls herself, meets Tegan, a lonely and inquisitive teenage girl.  Tegan is left mostly to her own devices and begins to call on Elizabeth with increasing frequency.  Elizabeth finds herself becoming attached to Tegan and a friendship begins to blossom between them. Soon Elizabeth finds herself wanting to tell Tegan the truth about who she really is, and the past that she has kept hidden from so many for so long.  Though as we all know, by doing this, it can only lead to disaster, and the risk of Gideon being able to track her down once more.

I loved the way that Paula Brackston weaves her tales together.  The past and the present flow and there is none of the disjointedness that you sometimes get with books set in different time zones.  There is plenty of tension throughout the book and I flew through the pages.  The best part is that the sequel, The Return of the Witch comes out in March, and I’ve already got a copy to review!

Happy Reading

Miss Chapter x