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Posts tagged ‘love’

Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan

Sometimes you just need a book to make you cry, to make you smile, to make you experience the high and lows of emotion without actually having to get off the sofa. Luckily, Out of the Darkness by Katy Hogan is here to give us that opportunity.

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Following the sudden death of her beloved mother, Jessica Gibson’s world falls apart. But after meeting a man who seems heaven-sent, she starts to feel she has something to live for again. And so begins an emotional journey, which leads Jessica to believe the unbelievable, thanks to a series of intriguing messages from beyond the grave.

I very, very much enjoyed this. It has romance, intrigue, a clever twist, comedy, and made me physically cry. But it also has a reaffirming feel to it and ultimately that’s what makes you come away from it feeling a strong sense of reader’s satisfaction.

 

Initially I had a slight worry that I was going to dislike the book. The beginning features a scene in which a grieving Jessica sees a mother and a daughter laughing and having an absolutely wonderful time on the bus, at which point the daughter blatantly and audibly says, “Mummy, what would I do without you?” and this just felt ever so slightly¬†contrived. As well as this, another scene at the beginning shows a grieving Jessica being hounded by a mobile phone tariff saleswoman, who repeatedly says things to her like, “Just think, you could speak to your mum for as long as you like,” and “Wouldn’t it be great to phone your mum to wish her a Happy New Year, I bet she’d be delighted, I bet you talk to your mum every day.” It just really didn’t ring true to me at all.

What I will say is that this isn’t necessarily a BAD piece of writing (and for all I know, it could literally just be me who has this issue with these scenes) and after this point, the book just grew more and more lovely to read. By the end, I was completely gripped and very moved by the events within the book. It’s a good job I was in the bath as I finished it as embarrassingly I was bawling my eyes out.

The book opens with Jessica going through an incredibly harrowing emotional ordeal after the death of her mother leaves her in a depressed state. As a result it leaves her kind of hard, closed off, and completely unwilling to suffer many people around her. But it is down to great writing: as a reader you can feel how Jessica’s grief has almost turned her to stone inside. So while initially she isn’t very likeable, it’s understandable why.

Cue her meeting Finn, a charming man who shows her that life is worth living again. She also strikes up a strong friendship with Hannah, a girl at her bereavement class, and Alex, an American girl living in the village trying to find her purpose in life. As the novel moves along, we slowly begin to realise that these girls’ lives are actually far more entangled and involved than either the characters or the reader first realised. It is so fascinating to see it all unravel and reveal itself, and with the supernatural element added it’s even more intriguing.

Katy Hogan really makes you get to know her characters. They are fully fleshed-out, believable and lovable. Alex was a particular favourite of mine. Her internal struggle to try and find the right balance in life leaves you wanting to climb into the book and hug her. Hannah, meanwhile, wins you over in such a way that you feel a strong sense of solidarity with her, especially when she realises that she is stronger against her antagonists than she ever thought possible.

Throughout the novel there is such a strong sense of loyalty, of a growing love and friendship between women, and the writing really plays with your emotions in a way that a great book should. It explores death and how life continues after death, and how, through both the paranormal and the normal, people can still have a huge impact even after they’ve died.

It ends with a brilliant twist, too, which I always love in a book. It’s well worth giving this book a try. It now sits proudly on my bookshelf.

Many thanks to Katy and her publisher Illumine Press for the review copy of this book. Much appreciated!

Buy the book here.

 

 

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

I read this book in one sitting on a 9-hour plane to Florida. I thought it was a breathtaking story which really made me fall in love with its unlikely and colourful characters.

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Love is more than a game.

Love and Death choose their players in an eternal game. Death has never lost and Love will do anything to win.

Henry and Flora find each other, not knowing they are the players. Can their love be enough to keep them both alive?

Martha Brockenbrough has created a wonderful story here. Set in the 1930s, it follows Love, a sentimental figure with a deep affection for all of his humans, and Death, an often ruthless and yet lonely and misunderstood woman. Every generation or so they come together to play the Game: each one chooses a human to imbibe the qualities and personalities that come with being touched by Love or Death, and then make a bet as to the outcome of their humans’ interactions with each other. This time, Love chooses Henry – a tragedy-stricken, smart young man full of affection and hope, and Death picks Flora, a young black singer whose scepticism does not take away from her fierce ambitions to become a pilot. They will meet and fall in love as destined – but as the deadline rushes ever closer and with both Love and Death having the power to manipulate their story, which will prevail?

Each character has a rich back story which pulls you in immediately. Brockenbrough does a wonderful job of painting the scene: the culture of the 1930s, the dress, the music, the hardship of war and economic instability. You can practically taste the booze, hear the jazz music, feel the fear and intimidation caused by racism and political unrest.

Henry grows up with his best friend Ethan’s family, after a tragic accident kills his parents. Ethan and Henry’s relationship is so touching; their mutual respect and reliance upon one another creates a bond so strong, and you realise that the Henry and Flora tale is just one of the many love stories within the book. Equally, Flora’s relationships with her nan and the people she works with are so rich and yet complicated, they create a real loyalty within the reader. The love between Henry and Flora – his all-encompassing and passionate, hers reluctant but equally as strong – keeps hold of the reader’s attention throughout the book. The language of the narrative is simple, yet beautiful.

Each person in the novel has their own ambitions and passions, strengths and weaknesses, which can be both endearing and frustrating, which is great for entertainment value. What is most pleasantly surprising is that Brockenbrough has given Death a real 3D personality. Little quirks along the way made me laugh –

“Mind if I smoke?”

“Please do,” said Death.

But what is most surprising is how much you end up sympathising with her. She may be ruthless but it is all she knows, and lately, she doesn’t get the same satisfaction from what is supposed to be her nature. She envies Love’s ability to feel and positively influence those around him. How these emotions affect the Game is interesting and keeps the story from falling into that dangerous world of clich√©s.

This novel has it all: a supernatural element, loveable protagonists, a gripping plot, a unique premise, a fantastic sense of place and time, and a charming narrative style. I don’t want to say too much in fear of giving away the plot of the book, but you are missing out if you don’t give this book a chance. A real 5* novel for me.

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