Title: We Are Okay

Author: Nina LaCour

Pages: 240 Pages

Publisher: Dutton Books

The Blurb

You go through life thinking there’s so much you need. . . . Until you leave with only your phone, your wallet, and a picture of your mother. Marin hasn’t spoken to anyone from her old life since the day she left everything behind. No one knows the truth about those final weeks. Not even her best friend Mabel. But even thousands of miles away from the California coast, at college in New York, Marin still feels the pull of the life and tragedy she’s tried to outrun. Now, months later, alone in an emptied dorm for winter break, Marin waits. Mabel is coming to visit and Marin will be forced to face everything that’s been left unsaid and finally confront the loneliness that has made a home in her heart.

The Review

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is a story that has many facets. It looks at grief, loss of identity, loss of family and what it means to fully accept yourself for who you are.

It is about Marin, a young girl who has led from her home in California for New York. She has ran away from a past that she barely knows the truth of, ran away from the only home she has ever known and ran away from the people who love her.

For Marin, it is safer to be alone.

This belief is not shared by her best friend Mabel who comes to New York to find her friend.

We Are Okay has a very subdued and quiet kind of story telling which lends to the subject matter of the book. You at once feel calm but overwhelmed by Marin’s story. Her grief is so hidden but equally it drips off the pages. LaCour has done a stunning job of making you feel for Marin.

This isn’t a massive, outrageous novel. It is a stoic read but one that packs a punch.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour is available now.

For more information regarding Nina LaCour (@nina_lacour) please visit www.ninalacour.com.

For more information regarding Dutton Books (@DuttonBooks) please visit www.duttonbooks.tumblr.com.

Title: The Dollmaker

Author: Nina Allan

Pages: 416 Pages

Publisher: Quercus Books/Riverrun Books

The Blurb

INFORMATION WANTED ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF DOLLMAKER EWA CHAPLIN AND/OR FRIENDSHIP, CORRESPONDENCE. PLEASE REPLY TO: BRAMBER WINTERS.

Stitch by perfect stitch, Andrew Garvie makes exquisite dolls in the finest antique style. Like him, they are diminutive, but graceful, unique and with surprising depths. Perhaps that’s why he answers the enigmatic personal ad in his collector’s magazine.

Letter by letter, Bramber Winters reveals more of her strange, sheltered life in an institution on Bodmin Moor, and the terrible events that put her there as a child. Andrew knows what it is to be trapped; and as they knit closer together, he weaves a curious plan to rescue her.

On his journey through the old towns of England he reads the fairytales of Ewa Chaplin – potent, eldritch stories which, like her lifelike dolls, pluck at the edges of reality and thread their way into his mind. When Andrew and Bramber meet at last, they will have a choice – to remain alone with their painful pasts or break free and, unlike their dolls, come to life.

A love story of two very real, unusual people, The Dollmaker is also a novel rich with wonders: Andrew’s quest and Bramber’s letters unspool around the dark fables that give our familiar world an uncanny edge. It is this touch of magic that, like the blink of a doll’s eyes, tricks our own . . .

The Review

The rave reviews surrounding The Dollmaker by Nina Allan had totally whetted my appetite. I was eager to read it. I really thought I would enjoy the story – modern day life mixed with fairy tales.

Sadly, I didn’t like it.

I just didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why the fairy tales mirrored reality so precisely that I felt that I was reading the same story over and over again. Then when the two morphed into one I was thrown even more.

I think to read The Dollmaker you really need to be able to suspend your disbelief because if you start questioning things too much, then you, like me, will probably find the whole thing a bit boring and confusing.

The Dollmaker by Nina Allan is available now.

For more information regarding Riverrun Books (@riverrunbooks) please visit www.riverrunbooks.co.uk.

For more information regarding Quercus Books (QuercusBooks@) please visit their Twitter page.

Title: Normal People

Author: Sally Rooney

Pages: 288 Pages

Publisher: Faber & Faber

The Blurb

Connell and Marianne grow up in the same small town in rural Ireland. The similarities end there; they are from very different worlds. When they both earn places at Trinity College in Dublin, a connection that has grown between them lasts long into the following years.

This is an exquisite love story about how a person can change another person’s life – a simple yet profound realisation that unfolds beautifully over the course of the novel. It tells us how difficult it is to talk about how we feel and it tells us – blazingly – about cycles of domination, legitimacy and privilege. Alternating menace with overwhelming tenderness, Sally Rooney’s second novel breathes fiction with new life.

The Review

For anyone who loves reading it has been near impossible to ignore the hype surrounding Sally Rooney. I was curious to find out if her writing was worth all the fuss.

I would say that the fuss is about 90% accurate.

Normal People is the story of Connell and Marianne, two young adults who are inextricably linked by a class division. They both go to the same school, at times matriculate in the same circles and both live in the same area. The difference is that Connell’s mum works for Marianne’s family. It is a Pretty in Pink class reversal that first leads to the awkwardness between the two characters.

Over the course of 288 pages we see both characters inexplicably enter and leave each others’ lives and whilst in stories of a similar ilk – for example, One Day by David Nicholls – I did not find myself screaming at the pages for the two characters to be together. They were both self-destructive and their union would never end well.

What Rooney does successfully is speak without speaking. She never over explains the characters feelings; she allows the reader find their own way. I just wish I could control her characters more.

Normal People by Sally Rooney is available now.

For more information regarding Sally Rooney (@sallyrooney) please visit her Twitter page.

For more information regarding Faber & Faber (@FaberBooks) please visit www.faber.co.uk.

Title: The Heart’s Invisible Furies

Author: John Boyne

Pages: 736 Pages

Publisher: Random House UK

The Blurb

Forced to flee the scandal brewing in her hometown, Catherine Goggin finds herself pregnant and alone, in search of a new life at just sixteen. She knows she has no choice but to believe that the nun she entrusts her child to will find him a better life.

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery, or so his parents are constantly reminding him. Adopted as a baby, he’s never quite felt at home with the family that treats him more as a curious pet than a son. But it is all he has ever known.

And so begins one man’s desperate search to find his place in the world. Unspooling and unseeing, Cyril is a misguided, heart-breaking, heartbroken fool. Buffeted by the harsh winds of circumstance towards the one thing that might save him from himself, but when opportunity knocks, will he have the courage, finally, take it?

The Review

Every so often I come across a book that I find very difficult to review. Not because I didn’t like it, in fact it is quite the opposite. I love the book so damn much that I don’t think my words are adequate to do it justice. Try, I must.

John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies was a book I was finding difficult to ignore. Simon Savidge kept talking about it on his YouTube channel Savidge Reads and I knew sooner or later I would have to read it. I was scared to read it because it isn’t a short book by any means – 736 pages is a massive commitment – however, from the very first chapter I was hooked.

The story, told in seven year intervals, deals with so many issues – the Catholic church and how it deals with perceived ‘sin’, LGBT rights, the troubles in Ireland, the AIDS crisis among many other topics. I can genuinely say that I never once felt like I was reading for reading’s sake. I devoured this book and was bereft when it was over. It was one of those magical books that makes you want to read more to know what happens but equally you don’t want to read because you don’t want to finish it.

Needless to say but The Heart’s Invisible Furies has made it too my forever book shelf.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne is available now.

For more information regarding John Boyne (@john_boyne) please visit www.johnboyne.com.

For more information regarding Random House UK (@PenguinRHUK) please visit www.penguinrandomhouse.co.uk.

Title: Boy Erased

Author: Garrard Conley

Pages: 352 Pages

Publisher: William Collins

The Blurb

The son of a Baptist pastor and deeply embedded in church life in small town Arkansas, as a young man Garrard Conley was terrified and conflicted about his sexuality.

When Garrard was a nineteen-year-old college student, he was outed to his parents, and was forced to make a life-changing decision: either agree to attend a church-supported conversion therapy program that promised to “cure” him of homosexuality; or risk losing family, friends, and the God he had prayed to every day of his life. Through an institutionalised Twelve-Step Program heavy on Bible study, he was supposed to emerge heterosexual, ex-gay, cleansed of impure urges and stronger in his faith in God for his brush with sin. Instead, even when faced with a harrowing and brutal journey, Garrard found the strength and understanding to break out in search of his true self and forgiveness.

By confronting his buried past and the burden of a life lived in shadow, Garrard traces the complex relationships among family, faith, and community. At times heartbreaking, at times triumphant, this memoir is a testament to love that survives despite all odds.

 (AMAZON BLURB)

The Review

Last year, I saw Garrard Conley give an interview on British television. His story was so compelling that is almost didn’t seem true. Alas, it was. No, it is. The stories of camps where a person can go to ‘pray away the gay’ are becoming more and more familiar. They are being discussed in YA fiction, movies and sadly, they really exist.

Garrard Conley does not spare any of the details of how he came to attend the camp in his memoir Boy Erased, how he felt guilty for being gay, how he felt he needed to be cured. Due to his deep set religious beliefs, he was made – and to some extent, made himself – feel wrong.

This is an amazing and challenging memoir that throws you right into the fray from page one. You feel uncomfortable and you get a real sense of going through what Conley went through. It is brutally honest and, at times, very hard to read but it is definitely a memoir to add to your reading list.

Boy Erased by Garrard Conley is available now.

For more information regarding Garrard Conley (@gayrodcon) please visit www.garrardconley.com.

For more information regarding William Collins (@WmCollinsBooks) please visit their Twitter page.