The Blurb

‘My name is Raphael Ignatius Phoenix and I am a hundred years old – or will be in ten days’ time, in the early hours of January 1st, 2000, when I kill myself…’

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix has had enough. Born at the beginning of the 20th century, he is determined to take his own life as the old millennium ends and the new one begins. But before he ends it all, he wants to get his affairs in order and put the record straight, and that includes making sense of his own long life – a life that spanned the century. He decides to write it all down and, eschewing the more usual method of pen and paper, begins to record his story on the walls of the isolated castle that is his final home. Beginning with a fateful first adventure with Emily, the childhood friend who would become his constant companion, Raphael remembers the multitude of experiences, the myriad encounters and, of course, the ten murders he committed along the way . . .
And so begins one man’s wholly unorthodox account of the twentieth century – or certainly his own riotous, often outrageous, somewhat unreliable and undoubtedly singular interpretation of it.

The Review

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman is a fantastical tale of one man and it chronicles his 100 years of life. It does so in a very unusual fashion. The story is told in reverse and the non linear story is made up of the main character – Raphael Ignatius Phoenix’s autobiographical writings on the walls of his final home.

Raphael Ignatius Phoenix plans to kill himself throughout the book and reminds you of that fact at every juncture. He has a very precise suicide plan mapped out but before that he unburdens all his ill deeds – in the most case a plethora of murders – as a kind of cathartic experiment before he eventually offs himself.

This is a very intriguing story and could be likened to both Forrest Gump and The Life and Times of Walter Mitty in that Raphael Ignatius Phoenix’s actions have an effect on real world events or indeed are placed within real time activities – e.g. the Second World War, Hollywood Heyday etc. Overall, it is a love story that transcends time and place.

There are some very admirable things about this book. It is magical in parts along with being quirky and funny. However, I can’t help but feel that due to the book being published posthumously that the story didn’t get the full editorial benefits it would have done if Paul Sussman had been alive. Some chapters felt dragged out and a lot of the times I would struggle to maintain interest. The frustrating thing is that the story has so much potential, however, I can fully appreciate that those who released The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix wanted to maintain the integrity of the author’s work and to also celebrate his voice. Therefore, this is not something I can hold against the book.

This is an interesting story but to me it does not feel polished. I would encourage people to read it to see if they share my opinion.

The Final Testimony of Raphael Ignatius Phoenix by Paul Sussman

The final Testimony of Raphael Ignatious Phoenix

The Blurb

A fiercely beautiful debut blazing with emotion: a major first novel about friendships made in youth and how these bonds, challenged by loss, illness, parenthood, and distance, either break or sustain.

Mia and Lorrie Ann are lifelong friends: hard-hearted Mia and untouchably beautiful, kind Lorrie Ann. While Mia struggles with a mother who drinks, a pregnancy at fifteen, and younger brothers she loves but can’t quite be good to, Lorrie Ann is luminous, surrounded by her close-knit family, immune to the mistakes that mar her best friend’s life. Until a sudden loss catapults Lorrie Ann into tragedy: things fall apart, and then fall apart further – and there is nothing Mia can do to help. And as good, kind, brave Lorrie Ann stops being so good, Mia begins to question just who this woman is and what that question means about them both. A staggeringly arresting, honest novel of love, motherhood, loyalty, and the myth of the perfect friendship that moves us to ask ourselves just how well we know those we love, what we owe our children, and who we are without our friends.

The Review

The Girls from Corona del Mar is a book that explores the intimacy of female friendship. The story focuses on Mia – a girl who, by all accounts, hasn’t had an easy life. However, she is bizarrely envious of her best friend Lorrie Ann. Lorrie Ann’s life is, on the surface, much worse than that of Mia yet Mia puts Lorrie Ann on a pedestal. As always, when you place someone among the gods then they are going to let you down by not being able to live up to your expectation.

In theory, the story should work. Books about friendship are – in my opinion – often more interesting than your regular romance books. I believe that the love between two friends holds a different kind of depth. Yet I don’t feel like I got that from The Girls of Corona Del Mar. I felt that the story was too narrative heavy and that Thorpe went off onto trivial tangents. I became bored reading them and felt that they were completely unnecessary. It took me a while to get back into the rhythm of reading once the story had been brought back to topic.

However, I did like the link to historical figures. I thought that the stories of Inanna were interesting and I would have liked to have seen more of this, less narrative and more dialogue.

The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe is available now.

The Girls from Corona del Mar

The Blurb

Millie Bird is a seven year old girl who always wears red wellington boots to match her red, curly hair. But one day, Millie’s mum leaves her alone in the Ginormous Women’s underwear rack in a department store, and doesn’t come back.

Agatha Pantha is an eighty-two-year old woman who hasn’t left her home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on her TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.

Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven years old and once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife’s skin. He sits in a nursing home, knowing that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.

Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie’s mum. Along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life.

The Review

I like it when I read a book that I have picked for no other reason than I liked the cover (sorry) and I am presented with a quirky, unusual but extremely loveable story. This is exactly what I got with Lost and Found.

The story of a young girl who has been abandoned by her mother but forms unusual friendships with two old age pensioners, who in a sense have been abandoned by life, is not one that is often told. The connection between the three characters is through their mutual sense of loss. Whether it be a husband, wife or parents. And the unlikely friendship between the three is strengthened by sharing the adventure that they are on together.

Brooke Davis has created a wonderful story with Lost and Found. Her characters charm you with their innocence, their anger and their gumption to change their world. You cannot help but root for their success. The book leaves you feeling hopeful and warm inside. The best feeling that only the best stories can give you. Well done, Brooke Davis.

Lost and Found by Brooke Davis is available on the 29th January 2015.

You can follow Brooke Davis (@thisisbrooked) on Twitter.

Lost and Found

Synopsis

Rabbit Hayes has beaten cancer before. All it took was a battle which resulted in chemotherapy, radiation and a mastectomy. So when her cancer came back she was determined to beat it again. However, when a stumble results in a broken leg Rabbit is told the devastating news that her cancer had advanced. She was at stage 4 metastatic cancer.

When Rabbit has only days left to live her family gather round to say goodbye.

Review

There have only ever been a handful of books that have broken me. The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes has successfully joined those ranks. Let me get this out of the way before I get into the nitty gritty of the review – this book is beautiful. It is a gorgeous (albeit devastating) story, it is written in the most engaging way and it is surprisingly uplifting. Anna McPartlin has hit a pitch perfect note with this novel.

The heart of this novel relies on the closeness of the Hayes family; each character adding to the dynamic of the novel. The anger and sadness and desperation felt by the cast of characters is almost palpable. Yet their humour makes the utter wretchedness of the situation almost bearable. It is the verisimilitude of this attitude that makes The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes all the more relatable – anyone who has ever dealt with serious sickness or chronic illness within their family will know that laughing is the only way to get through it.

One of the most difficult things about The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is having the ability to put the book down. It is so beautifully written and heart warming; I was left with the horrid feeling of wanting to know what happened but not wanting the book to end because I knew what the inevitable ending would entail.

If you loved Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars and Nicholas Sparks’ A Walk to Remember (all of which made me cry) then The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes is the book for you. I cannot recommend it enough.

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin is available now.

You can follow Anna McPartlin (@annamcpartlin) on Twitter

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes

Synopsis

A collection of Katie Fforde’s short stories that have previously been published in magazines or only been available in e-book format.

Review

For years my mother has been encouraging me to pick up a book by Katie Fforde. My mother, having read (almost) everything that Fforde has ever written is a big advocate of her work. However, my lingering stubborn inner teenager has always declined to pick up any of Fforde’s novels.

When the opportunity to read A Christmas Feast and Other Stories came up via NetGalley I surreptitiously requested it and decided to give it a read without my mother’s knowledge. Turns out, as is quite often the case, my mother was correct. Mother 1 – Inner Stubborn Teenager 0.

The collection of stories was actually rather good. Personally I preferred the longer short stories but that is because, as I have previously mentioned I find short stories too…well, short. What is wonderful about this collection is that it allows people – such as my mother – to read the stories such as The Undercover Cook, From Scotland with Love (my personal favourite from the collection) and Staying Away at Christmas which have only ever been available on e-readers.

This is a charming collection of short stories and as Katie Fforde says in her introduction it is a perfect read for the busy person over the Christmas holidays because A Christmas Feast and Other Stories doesn’t require the full time commitment of a novel.

A Christmas Feast and Other Stories by Katie Fforde is available now.

A Christmas Feast and Other Stories