Book Review | The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake

I’m very excited to be part of the blog tour for The Thunder Girls by Melanie Blake. Once again huge thanks to Midas PR for asking me to be a part of this and for fulfilling the final stop of the tour.

Synopsis

THE

Chrissie, Roxanne, Carly and Anita, an eighties pop sensation outselling and out-classing their competition. Until it all comes to an abrupt end and three of their careers are over, and so is their friendship.

THUNDER

Thirty years later, their old record label wants the band back together for a huge money-making concert. But the wounds are deep and some need this gig more than others.

In those decades apart life was far from the dream they were living as members of The Thunder Girls. Breakdowns, bankruptcy, addiction and divorce have been a constant part of their lives. They’ve been to hell and back, and some are still there.

GIRLS

Can the past be laid to rest for a price, or is there more to this reunion than any of them could possibly know? Whilst they all hunger for a taste of success a second time around, someone is plotting their downfall in the deadliest way possible . . .

Review

Having been approached to read this book, I found myself drawn in by the author’s back story. Melanie Blake, worked on Top of the Pops and as a music and entertainment manager. From reading the synopsis I knew this would be very much a first-hand tell-all type fiction.

I definitely wasn’t disappointed and really enjoyed the insight into the music industry that came along with this book. I never quite realised the depths of the cat fights and diva moments!

Blake writes with a fast pace and quickly draws you into the The Thunder Girls’ world. The glitz and glam lifestyle is so far removed from my own that it was a pleasant step away from all that’s currently going on in the world.

I liked the main characters; Chrissie, Roxanne, Anita and Carly, who are all strong females that are driven and determined. These shared character traits proved challenging, however, as it meant they were all fairly stubborn in their forgiveness towards one of the member’s for leaving the band. This made it even more challenging on her road to getting them to reunite for Wembley… (but made for an addictive read and plenty of juicy backstory!)

I can see why this book has made such a successful stage play (one which I’d like to check out once the world has returned to ‘normality’ again). It’s gripping and juicy whilst being light-hearted and funny. Be warned, however, I did have a lot of follow-on questions after finishing this book, there’s definitely room for a sequel!

For anyone who also wants to read The Thunder Girls, the eBook is only 99p on Amazon until the 30 April.

Until next time,

Book Review | The Message by Mai Jia

I’m grateful to be part of the blog tour for The Message by Mai Jia. My review today is the final day of the tour. Huge thanks to Midas PR for the invitation!

Synopsis

A dazzling literary thriller set in Japan-occupied China from the most translated Chinese novelist of our time. 

China, 1941. 

It is the height of the Second World War, and Japan rules over China. In the famously beautiful city of Hangzhou, a puppet government propped up by the Japanese is waging an underground war against the Communist resistance.

Late one night, under cover of darkness, three men and two women are escorted to an isolated mansion on the shores of West Lake. All five are intelligence officers, employed as codebreakers by the regime. But the secret police are certain that one of them is a communist spy. None of them are leaving until the traitor is unmasked. 

It should be a straightforward case of sifting truth from lies. But as each codebreaker spins a story that proves their innocence, events are framed and re-framed, and what really happened is called into question again and again. 

Part historical spy thriller, part playful meta-fiction, The Message is a masterclass in storytelling from a Chinese literary sensation.

Review

I’m an avid reader of thrillers, so when I was approached about potentially reading The Message, I thought I’d dip my toes, once again, into unknown waters. The combination of historical spy thriller and meta-fiction were genres I was previously unfamiliar with and Chinese literature is something I’ve never read before. There was also part of me that hoped it was going to be informative. Knowing little-to-nothing about Japan’s invasion of China in the Second World War, and the politics within this, I was fascinated to potentially learn about something so unknown to me.

The book opens with various descriptions of the city of Hangzhou in China. I’ve never visited China and so I haven’t seen first hand the city of Hangzhou. This is not usually a problem in novels as I often read of places I’ve never visited, but with this I personally found it a challenge to envisage the setting from the descriptions. I did manage to gather the general gist, however. This detail was not imperative, so it didn’t hinder my reading too much, just something I was surprised by.

The book itself is broken up into three sections. The first is the main narrative which is the story of four codebreakers, who are gathered together by the Secret Police. Their first task is to decipher an encrypted message from Communist agent ‘K’. This was an easy task for them which disguised the true aim of the gathering – to discover which one of them is the mole – ‘Ghost’. They have four days in order to complete this less-than-easy task. This was an intriguing puzzle and, without giving too much away, some of the tactics used to try and unearth the mole were shocking, and sneaky, to say the least!

The second part of the book is, what I interpret to be, the fictional account of the author musing over the issues & interviews that were encountered whilst writing the book. There were a number of transcripts throughout this section and this was also somewhere that the characters were explored slightly more which I found fascinating. It was unexpected which I liked, and definitely unlike anything I’d read previously.

The third section explores a bit more in-depth historical information regarding the conflict and also information about the characters. I think I learnt the most from this section!

The three sections are all very different, and the writing style changes slightly. The writing was easy to follow and the descriptions were very detailed, although they did a bit too much ‘telling’ (instead of ‘showing’). I felt this made it harder for me to decide for myself certain aspects of the characters, for example, as they were overly described. In contrast there were details I felt were under-described such as the torture methods, although this may be down to brutality.

The story shifts from omniscient narrator and descriptions, to Ghost’s perspective in the first half of the book and also from third person to first. This variety mixed things up and made the read more interesting in my opinion – you didn’t really know what to expect in the next chapter or section.

The distance from the characters at times and to recall which character was which took quite some thought. It was worth the perseverance though, as it’s worthwhile once you get the hang of it. Having no particular character to favour or root for was a nice change, if a little strange!

Overall I found it a challenging, yet interesting read. I learnt much more than I usually would from the books that I choose, which was a refreshing change. This novel has, once again, proven that branching away from my usual genre pays off and also broadens my reading. I’ll definitely be checking out Jia’s other novel, Decoded.

Until next time,

Book Review | On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. @dylanthomprize #SUDTP20

Very excited to be taking part in my first blog tour for the Swansea University Dylan Thomas Prize Longlist. Huge thanks to Midas PR for giving me the opportunity and for providing me with the book to review.

Synopsis

**THE SUNDAY TIMES and NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER**

Brilliant, heart-breaking, tender, and highly original – poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel is a sweeping and shattering portrait of a family, and a testament to the redemptive power of storytelling.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is a letter from a son to a mother who cannot read. Written when the speaker, Little Dog, is in his late twenties, the letter unearths a family’s history that began before he was born – a history whose epicentre is rooted in Vietnam – and serves as a doorway into parts of his life his mother has never known, all of it leading to an unforgettable revelation. At once a witness to the fraught yet undeniable love between a single mother and her son, it is also a brutally honest exploration of race, class, and masculinity. Asking questions central to the American moment, immersed as it is in addiction, violence, and trauma, but undergirded by compassion and tenderness, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is as much about the power of telling one’s own story as it is about the obliterating silence of not being heard.

With stunning urgency and grace, Ocean Vuong writes of people caught between disparate worlds, and asks how we heal and rescue one another without forsaking who we are. The question of how to survive, and how to make of it a kind of joy, powers the most important debut novel of many years.

Review

Choosing from the longlist was a tough decision but one of the first things that drew me to this book was the cover. Rich, vibrant red leaves. Really stunning which definitely made me intrigued, and drawn in, to the book itself.

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous is poet Ocean Vuong’s debut novel. It’s full of emotion; raw and painful, beautiful but heartbreakingly sad. The entire concept of the book – Little Dog writing a letter to his Mother who will never, cannot, read it, is an instant indicator to this. Despite attempting to teach her, she refused citing that she didn’t need it, nor want a son to teach his Mother.

Vuong has a great ‘voice’. The entire novel feels full of emotion and I feel as though he creates a real connection with the reader. The letter-style format probably helped with this feeling, as it’s naturally a much more personal form of communication, especially in today’s society. I liked that it was different from ‘normal’ novels, and I feel as though it suited the story and gave it a larger impact.

Having the main narrative cover multiple stories works surprisingly well in the fragmented narrative style. We are slowly able to piece together his story, his mother’s and his grandmother’s. He manages to convey the tenderness of each with beautiful poetic language, building imagery and a vision in the mind of the reader.

I did struggle, however, at times with the graphic nature of the book. The full extent of the sadness and dark writing can also be a lot to take in. The subject matters are quite deep; abuse, mental illness, drugs, sex, animal cruelty. This is alongside finding oneself within the areas of race and sexual orientation. It can be quite explicit at times and, I would say, not to be taken lightly. Nevertheless, a powerful read and one that I won’t forget in a hurry.

Until next time,