Girls on FireThe Blurb

This is not a cautionary tale about too much – or the wrong kind – of fucking. This is not a story of bad things happening to bad girls. I say this because I know you, Dex, and I know how you think. 

I’m going to tell you a story, and this time, it will be the truth. 

Hannah Dexter is a nobody, ridiculed at school by golden girl Nikki Drummond and bored at home. But in their junior year of high school, Nikki’s boyfriend walks into the woods and shoots himself. In the wake of the suicide, Hannah finds herself befriending new girl Lacey and soon the pair are inseparable, bonded by their shared hatred of Nikki.

Lacey transforms good girl Hannah into Dex, a Doc Marten and Kurt Cobain fan, who is up for any challenge Lacey throws at her. The two girls bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.

But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything . . .

Starting – and ending – with tragedy, Girls on Fire stands alongside The Virgin Suicides in its brilliant portrayal of female adolescence, but with a power and assurance all its own.

The Review

Well, what can I say about Girls on Fire? Firstly, I liked it. I didn’t love it but Girls on Fire certainly got me thinking about the fragile nature of friendship.

You see, I have always said that teenage girls are horrible. Now before you all jump on the hate bandwagon let me explain. I work in a high school and I see only a daily basis how girls act compared to how boys act. Boys will have an issue with each other, have fisticuffs and then will be playing football with each other half an hour later. Girls, on the other hand, will carry a fight on and they will attack each other in much worse ways. Every day is like Mean Girls. I can also say this because I am a girl. We are horrible.

For me, this is the main theme of Girls on Fire. Robin Wasserman gets to heart of female friendships amid a hormone driven time. Her main characters Lacey and Dex are wonderfully weird and Wasseerman’s clever writing often leads you to switch your alliances between them both, you feel for Dex and hate Lacey but then Dex seems whiney and Lacey’s deviant behaviour is justified. I think it takes a real talent to be able to make the reader be conflicted between characters.

I did feel that the pacing of Girls on Fire was a bit slapdash. Essentially, it is a thriller and at times the pacing didn’t reflect that. I believe that the dual narrative didn’t help this, however, the dual narrative allowed for cliff hangers that made me want to read further so it can be forgiven. The last part of Girls on Fire was fantastic for pacing and tension. I couldn’t put the book down and therefore think that some of the first half of it was a tad redundant.

Overall, Girls on Fire is about the toxic nature of friendship and it is one of the most ambitious YA fiction novels that I have read this year.

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman is available now.

For more information about Robin Wasserman then visit her website www.robinwasserman.com and follow her on Twitter (@robinwasserman).

For more Little Brown Book Group book titles please visit their website www.littlebrown.co.uk and follow on Twitter (@LittleBrownUK)

35 Stars

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil YapaThe Blurb

A heart-stopping debut about protest and riot…

1999. Victor, homeless after a family tragedy, finds himself pounding the streets of Seattle with little meaning or purpose. He is the estranged son of the police chief of the city, and today his father is in charge of one of the largest protests in the history of Western democracy.

But in a matter of hours reality will become a nightmare. Hordes of protesters – from all sections of society – will test the patience of the city’s police force, and lives will be altered forever: two armed police officers will struggle to keep calm amid the threat of violence; a protester with a murderous past will make an unforgivable mistake; and a delegate from Sri Lanka will do whatever it takes to make it through the crowd to a meeting – a meeting that could dramatically change the fate of his country. In amongst the fray, Victor and his father are heading for a collision too.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, set during the World Trade Organization protests, is a deeply charges novel showcasing a distinct and exciting new literary voice.

The Review

There are certain types of novels that just do it for me; I love multi-perspective narratives whereby every character is linked in some way. Fortunately for me Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa was exactly that type.

The story of Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist centres on the riots that took place in Seattle in 1999 during a World Trade Organisation summit. It highlights the positives and negatives from both sides of the argument. Our main characters all have agendas and at various points of the narrative you both agree and disagree with them vehemently.

Take, for example, Park: the rogue policeman. Throughout the novel you are presented with a man of the law – who, as a society, we assume will be a good fair person. Yet his brutality and bullying nature makes him unlikable, terrifying even. However, we learn that he is a hero. One who has sacrificed his own life to save children in another riot.

This is a brilliant skill and I love books that usurp your original opinions about a character or a theme. Jodi Picoult is that master of this and I think, based on the fact that Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist is Sunil Yapa’s debut novel, that Picoult may have someone snapping at her heels.

This is a brilliant book and is set to make waves this year.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of aFist by Sunil Yapa is available from February 4th 2016.

Follow Sunil Yapa (@sunilyapa) on Twitter.

The Blurb

‘Whom to marry and when will it happen – these two questions define every woman’s existence.’ So begins Spinster, a revelatory and slyly erudite look at the pleasures and possibilities of remaining single.

Using her own experience as a starting point, Kate Bolick invites us into her carefully considered, passionately lived life, weaving together the past and present to examine why she – along with millions of women, whose ranks keep growing – remains unmarried. This unprecedented demographic shift is the logical outcome of hundreds of years of change that has neither been fully understood nor appreciated.

Spinster introduces a cast of pioneering women from the last century whose genius, tenacity and flair for drama has emboldened Bolick to fashion her life on her own terms essayist: journalist Neith Boyce, essayist Maeve Brennan, social reformer Charlotte Perkins Gilman, poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, and novelist Edith Wharton. By narrating their unconventional ideas and choices, Bolick shows us that contemporary debates about settling down and having it all are timeless – the crucible upon which women have tried for centuries to forge a good life.

Intellectually substantial and deeply personal, Spinster is a new kind of unreservedly inquisitive work of memoir and broader cultural exploration that asks us to acknowledge the opportunities that exist within ourselves to live authentically, unbounded – and to be savoured.

The Review

This is a very difficult review to write. On one hand, I loved Spinster; the historical element and the attention to detail is flawless. It is entertaining, bittersweet and a document that should be used in gender studies. I learned so much about key items in the evolution of women’s independence i.e. – the typewriter.

However, I found the premise that Kate Bolick felt akin to the five women that she admired a little annoying. She constantly went on about how she felt that they were her kindred spirits and how she wished for a life like her heroines. She portrayed herself as a little girl lost, trying to find some understanding about what she wants; she wants to be a spinster but she keeps falling for inappropriate men or she falls for the right one but then pushes him away because the relationship doesn’t live up to the literary ideal that she has created in her head.

You want to scream at Bolick that real life isn’t like that. Relationships aren’t like that. You can’t have it both ways. She came across as selfish and also like a self-saboteur.

The thing is that I really liked Kate Bolick’s writing style. I thought it was a really clever and interesting book. I think that Bolick chose some really interesting women to worship. I just didn’t like the ‘grasping at straws element’ to make her life exactly like those that she revered.

Overall, Spinster is an interesting read but the biographical element was a bit too much for my personal taste.

Spinster: Making a Life of One’s Own by Kate Bolick is available now.

Spinster

The Blurb

Movie addict Scarlett O’Brien is finally living the jet-setting life she’s dreamed of – but it all hangs by a shiny, golden thread.

Flying between London and New York, running two businesses, planning her wedding to handsome fiancé, Sean, with best friends Oscar and Maddie – life couldn’t be better.

But then Scarlett meets paparazzi darling, Gabriella Romero, and life suddenly becomes even more extravagant and glamorous. As she begins to experience the other side to being rich and famous, it’s not only Scarlett’s perfect wedding that’s put in jeopardy, but her whole world.

The Review

I am a huge fan of Ali McNamara’s writing and I have yet to find a book of hers that I dislike. It is always a worry having to read and review an author whose work you like just in case they have written a stinker. Fortunately for me From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually is still in the high calibre of rom-com chick-lit we have all come to expect from McNamara.

I love that with a series of books you don’t have to get to know your main characters again. It is like being welcomed back into the family fold. You know the characters foibles and personality traits and so less of your time and concentration is taken up by this and you can focus more on the story. Like the previous two books in this series – From Notting Hill with Love Actually and From Notting Hill to New York…Actually – there is an element of mystery with From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually. What McNamara does so succinctly is throw in some very impressive red herrings. I must admit I was disappointed when certain clues were given and I came up with my own assumptions but like a true mastermind writer McNamara pulled the rug from under me…that cheeky minx!

From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually is a fantastic part of an already brilliant series and fans of the previous two books will not be disappointed.

From Notting Hill with Four Weddings…Actually by Ali McNamara is available now.

You can follow Ali McNamara (@AliMcNamara) on Twitter.

Find out all the latest news about Ali McNamara on her website www.alimcnamara.co.uk

From Notting Hill with Four Weddings