Book review: Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield


Title: Once Upon A River

Author: Diane Setterfield

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Transworld Digital

Publication date: 24th January 2019

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Summary:

A dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the Thames. The regulars are entertaining themselves by telling stories when the door bursts open on an injured stranger. In his arms is the drowned corpse of a little child.

Hours later the dead girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life.

Is it a miracle?

Is it magic?

Or can it be explained by science?

My review:

“There are stories that may be told aloud, and stories that must be told in whispers, and there are stories that are never told at all.”

When a lost girl appears in a pub by the river, carried by a man who collapses as soon as he enters the building, the community is astounded by the situation but quickly come together to care for the girl. The mystery deepens when several people come forward, certain that the lost girl belongs to their family. This intriguing beginning was quick paced and well developed, already showing a lot of promise only a few chapters into the book.

Once Upon A River may be classed as Historical Fiction but often crosses the line into Fantasy with its folklore and fantastical elements. The author does this gradually by dipping into new realms with these writing mechanisms and slowly building up the setting and backstory with hints of possible magical elements that may explain the situation surrounding the lost girl. I found this to be one of the strongest aspects of the book and was pleased to see how well it was incorporated into the main storyline.

Another important factor which explains the richness of this book is the unique setting and the eloquent descriptions and language which worked incredibly well in bringing in the reader to the present moment. I was often completely lost into the book while I was reading which doesn’t often happen to me so I was pleasantly surprised at just how well the setting was mapped out.

Ultimately it is always the characters which make Historical Fiction books feel special and unique and I was happy to see a lot of character progression with most of the characters in the book. I was originally unable to foresee how their stories would overlap as several characters did not seem relevant to the plot until a long way into the book however each character ended up fitting well into the storyline without having a predictable outcome.

Once Upon A River is a vivid and enchanting tale told through the eyes of ordinary people in an extraordinary setting. It flows just like a river would and unfortunately the pace was lost somewhere towards the middle of the book however it quickly picked up speed and ultimately left me satisfied and even wishing for a sequel. The storytelling was exquisite and has left me eager to explore other books by this author.

“And now, dear reader, the story is over. It is time for you to cross the bridge once more and return to the world you came from. This river, which is and is not the Thames, must continue flowing without you. You have haunted here long enough, and besides, you surely have rivers of your own to attend to?” 

Blog tour: Bad Habits by Flynn Meaney

Title: Bad Habits

Author: Flynn Meaney

Genre: Young Adult

Publisher: Penguin

Publication date: 11th February 2021

My rating: ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“Alex is a rebel from the tip of her purple fauxhawk to the toes of her biker boots. She’s tried everything she can think of to get expelled from her strict Catholic boarding school. Nothing has worked so far – but now, Alex has a new plan.

Tired of the sexism she sees in every corner of St Mary’s, Alex decides to stage the school’s first ever production of The Vagina Monologues. Which is going to be a challenge, as no one else at St Mary’s can even bear to say the word ‘vagina’ out loud . . .”

My review:

Bad Habits is set in a Catholic boarding school with traditional values and features a set of fun and outgoing characters keen to make a difference to the way certain taboo topics such as sexuality and sexual health is perceived. With a fun undertone and witty comebacks, it showed a lot of promise from the start and I was keen to find out how these topics will be developed, especially through the actions of the main character, Alex.

The most noteworthy aspect of Bad Habits for me was the character development. Each character started out with their own perceptions and beliefs on how The Vagina Monologues should be produced and this gradually changed throughout the course of the book to allow for wider appreciation and outside of the box thinking without removing the feminist aspect. Alex’s character stood out the most and her constant perseverance to produce The Vagina Monologues was noteworthy and admirable. However, I especially liked seeing the progress in Mary Kate from shy and reserved to assertive and more outgoing.

The writing in Bad Habits is crisp and entertaining and several of the slapstick encounters at the school made me laugh out loud. There were a few cringe worthy moments but they were overshadowed by the witty dialogue and key focus on the important subject matter. The lively and engaging style of the writing fitted the plot and character development well and kept my interest until the end.

I would highly recommend Bad Habits to readers interested in feminism discussed in an unusual setting and anyone looking for a fun and charming read.

Many thanks to Dave at TheWriteReads for providing an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Bad Habits is now out to buy!

Book review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman


Title: A Man Called Ove

Author: Fredrik Backman

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Sceptre

Publication date: 3rd July 2014

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Summary:

“The word-of-mouth bestseller causing a sensation across Europe, Fredrik Backman’s heartwarming debut is a funny, moving, uplifting tale of love and community that will leave you with a spring in your step.

At first sight, Ove is almost certainly the grumpiest man you will ever meet. He thinks himself surrounded by idiots – neighbours who can’t reverse a trailer properly, joggers, shop assistants who talk in code, and the perpetrators of the vicious coup d’etat that ousted him as Chairman of the Residents’ Association. He will persist in making his daily inspection rounds of the local streets.

But isn’t it rare, these days, to find such old-fashioned clarity of belief and deed? Such unswerving conviction about what the world should be, and a lifelong dedication to making it just so? In the end, you will see, there is something about Ove that is quite irresistible..”

My review:

“A time like that comes for every man, when he chooses what sort of man he wants to be. And if you don’t know the story, you don’t know the man.”

A Man Called Ove takes the reader on an adventure from the first page. Ove lives a simple life and doesn’t care for nonsense. He strives to complete his duties and doesn’t understand his neighbours who drive lavish cars and work fancy jobs. I soon began to admire Ove’s outlook on life and was intrigued to find out more about his background.

This book marks some of the most distinct traits of Fredrik Backman’s writing. His main strength is the ability to develop a main character to such an extent that by the end the character seems like a close friend to share secrets with. I often found myself laughing along with Ove at some of the mishaps and events written in a similar fashion to other books by this author. The highs were contrasted by lows when we discover that Ove’s wife had died years ago. Despite the trauma and suffering, Ove bounced back to become a dutiful neighbour and citizen in his own bizarre way.

I admire Fredrik Backman’s unique way of combining tragedy and humour to create a genuine connection and hint that there is always something to look forward to even in our darkest moments. Few authors are able to achieve this without it seeming distasteful yet somehow Fredrik Backman manages to do it with ease.

There are not enough superlatives to use when describing this book. For me it was simply marvelous and a delight to read from beginning to end. I didn’t want it to finish and by the end I could already imagine myself as Ove’s neighbour.  I highly recommend it to readers of all ages and tastes as I am sure that there are many messages to reflect upon no matter what stage of life. Ultimately, it is a celebration of life and a reminder that every moment with loved ones matters.

“Time is a curious thing. Most of us only live for the time that lies right ahead of us. A few days, weeks, years. One of the most painful moments in a person’s life probably comes with the insight that an age has been reached when there is more to look back on than ahead.”

Book review: Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman

Title: Serpentine

Author: Jonathan Kellerman

Genre: Thriller

Publisher: Random House

Publication date: 4th February 2021

My rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Summary:

LAPD homicide lieutenant Milo Sturgis is a master detective. He has a near-perfect solve rate and he’s written his own rulebook. Some of those successes–the toughest ones – have involved his best friend, the brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware. But Milo doesn’t call Alex in unless cases are “different.”

This murder warrants an immediate call: Milo’s independence has been compromised as never before, as the department pressures him to cater to the demands of a mogul. A hard-to-fathom, mega-rich young woman obsessed with reopening the coldest of cases: the decades-old death of the mother she never knew.

The facts describe a likely loser case: a mysterious woman found with a bullet in her head in a torched Cadillac that has overturned on infamously treacherous Mulholland Drive. No physical evidence, no witnesses, no apparent motive. And a slew of detectives have already worked the job and failed. But as Delaware and Sturgis begin digging, the mist begins to lift. Too many coincidences. Facts turn out to be anything but. And as they soon discover, very real threats are lurking in the present.

My review:

Detective Milos Sturgis and psychologist Alex Delaware work together on a complex case that leads them to a set of bizarre locations and suspicious characters. The cold case soon turns interesting as the team connect the seemingly unbelievable coincidences to discover that most characters are not who they seem.

Jonathan Kellerman features his most prominent writing traits in Serpentine including his excellent ability to paint a picture of a crime scene and lure the reader into a sense of false security as the crime develops into a race against time. This trait is also one of the key highlights in Serpentine and encouraged me to keep reading despite several slower paced parts in the middle.

The two main characters, Milos Sturgis and Alex Delaware, worked well together and I enjoyed the insightful feedback from both the detective’s view and psychologist’s experience. Whenever one missed an important detail the other would point it out and vice versa and their teamwork was extremely important towards the end when surprising relationships between the characters emerged.

I struggled with the monotonous and matter-of-fact writing style which did not veer far from direct speech and few dispersed descriptions. I realise that this is the preferred style of the author however it didn’t suit many of the adrenaline filled scenes and often read too much like a movie or play script.

Serpentine boasts a set of delightful characters and an impressive plot. It kept my interest until the very end with a surprising reveal and promise for more action in the next book in the series.

Serpentine is out to buy today!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: The Watchmaker of Dachau by Carly Schabowski


Title: The Watchmaker of Dachau

Author: Carly Schabowski

Genre: Historical Fiction

Publisher: Bookouture

Publication date: 20th January 2021

My rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆

Summary:

“‘Snow falls and a woman prepares for a funeral she has long expected, yet hoped would never come. As she pats her hair and straightens her skirt, she tells herself this isn’t the first time she’s lost someone. Lifting a delicate, battered wristwatch from a little box on her dresser, she presses it to her cheek. Suddenly, she’s lost in memory…

January 1945. Dachau, Germany. As the train rattles through the bright, snowy Bavarian countryside, the still beauty outside the window hides the terrible scenes inside the train, where men and women are packed together, cold and terrified. Jewish watchmaker Isaac Schüller can’t understand how he came to be here, and is certain he won’t be leaving alive.

When the prisoners arrive at Dachau concentration camp, Isaac is unexpectedly pulled from the crowd and installed in the nearby household of Senior Officer Becher and his young, pretty, spoiled wife. With his talent for watchmaking, Isaac can be of use to Becher, but he knows his life is only worth something here as long as Becher needs his skills.

Anna Reznick waits table and washes linens for the Bechers, who dine and socialise and carry on as if they don’t constantly have death all around them. When she meets Isaac she knows she’s found a true friend, and maybe more. But Dachau is a dangerous place where you can never take love for granted, and when Isaac discovers a heartbreaking secret hidden in the depths of Becher’s workshop, it will put Anna and Issac in terrible danger…

My review:

In The Watchmaker of Dachau, we meet several characters who are captured in Dachau concentration camp and other characters forced to work in one of the commander’s homes. These mix of characters form the base of a poignant and somber story which is fascinating from the start and is based on a real life story in an attempt to bring more awareness to some of the tragedies during WWII.

Isaac is taken in by Becher, one of the commanders, as soon as he is brought to Dachau concentration camp once the guards discover that he fixes objects. Some of the events that occurred on his way to the camp as well as once he arrived were tragic and I found some parts difficult to read. However, the friendship he forms with Anna, one of Becher’s housekeepers, brings an air of hope and positivity when they find a series of mysterious letters. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this friendship develop despite the bleak contrast of their surroundings.

The most curious character is most certainly Friedrich, Becher’s young son who doesn’t understand much including why his family have hired staff or the events happening at the Dachau camp. Although his character is originally portrayed as juvenile and naive, this brings about an element of positivity as he tries to form a connection with both Isaac and Anna in various ways despite often being scolded with his parents whenever they found out. This bond transforms into something even more beautiful in the epilogue which is ultimately a celebration of life and a bittersweet way to connect these characters and highlight their differences and similarities.

The writing in The Watchmaker of Dachau flows beautifully and the short chapters kept me invested in the storyline until the very end. I would have preferred if the book was more lengthy and descriptive as there were certain parts which skimmed years. However, the connection which this characters formed was a beautiful symbol for the struggles many faced during the war and the story a necessary one to be told.

The Watchmaker of Dachau is out to buy today!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell


Title: My Dark Vanessa

Author: Kate Elizabeth Russell

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: William Morrow

Publication date: 10th March 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆

Summary:

“‘ALL HE DID WAS FALL IN LOVE WITH ME AND THE WORLD TURNED HIM INTO A MONSTER

Vanessa Wye was fifteen years old when she first had sex with her English teacher.

She is now thirty-two and in the storm of allegations against powerful men in 2017, the teacher, Jacob Strane, has just been accused of sexual abuse by another former student.

Vanessa is horrified by this news, because she is quite certain that the relationship she had with Strane wasn’t abuse. It was love. She’s sure of that.

Forced to rethink her past, to revisit everything that happened, Vanessa has to redefine the great love story of her life – her great sexual awakening – as rape. Now she must deal with the possibility that she might be a victim, and just one of many.

Nuanced, uncomfortable, bold and powerful, and as riveting as it is disturbing, My Dark Vanessa goes straight to the heart of some of the most complex issues our age is grappling with.

My review:

Not all books are supposed to be entertaining and easy to digest. Some books strive to bring out all forms of humanity and incite the most complex array of emotions in its readers. My Dark Vanessa is most definitely one of those books – daring and ambitious with the intention of delivering a strong message to its readers.

Sexual abuse is hardly ever explored to this degree in books and media. When I originally read the blurb and reviews I was surprised to see that this is the main subject matter of the book with Vanessa, a 15 year old schoolgirl, as the main character. I certainly didn’t expect it to be discussed in such detail and can only admire the author for the courage to explore it to this extent despite the stigmas attached in our modern day society. Although the book was extremely disturbing and difficult to read, it is equally powerful and fearless in its attempt to remove barriers and analyse the deepest and darkest thoughts from the victim’s perspective.

One of the most meaningful strategies used is the first person narrative. There were moments where I felt I was in Vanessa’s shoes, living through the horrors she was facing and that made it even more real and horrifying. It also delivered a more genuine and raw perspective during the parts where Vanessa was left on her own to reflect on some of her choices and try to rationalise the relationship. This would have been less effective without the use of the first person narrative so I am glad that the author decide to use this technique.

The dual alternating timelines is another fundamental technique and one which highlights the effect of sexual abuse later on in life. The impact which Jacob Strane had on Vanessa, even years after finishing school, is tremendous and the way which the author handles this with the introduction of some other characters is noteworthy. I didn’t agree with some of her choices as an adult but upon reflection I believe that this is exactly what the author wanted to emphasise after all the trauma Vanessa experienced as a child.

I struggled a lot with this book but ultimately finished it with the firm idea that, although it is a distressing book to read, it is also a very necessary addition to bring attention to some of the dilemmas in our society. It is technically excellent and emotionally involved which makes its message even more powerful. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone due to the dark nature of the subject matter but readers who are aware of the triggers and are expecting a raw and profound book will likely not be disappointed.

Book review: Every Note Played by Lisa Genova


Title: Every Note Played

Author: Lisa Genova

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Publication date: 5th April 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★  ☆

Summary:

“‘An accomplished concert pianist, Richard has already suffered many losses in his life: the acrimonious divorce from his ex-wife, Karina; the estrangement of his daughter, Grace; and now, a devastating diagnosis. ALS. The relentlessly progressive paralysis of ALS begins in the cruellest way possible – in his hands. As Richard becomes more and more locked inside his body and can no longer play piano or live on his own, Karina steps in as his reluctant caregiver.

Paralysed in a different way, Karina is trapped within a prison of excuses and blame, stuck in an unfulfilling life as an after-school piano teacher, afraid to pursue the path she abandoned as a young woman. As Richard’s muscles, voice and breath fade, the two struggle to reconcile their past before it’s too late.

With a strong musical sensibility and the staggering insight of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You, Lisa Genova has delivered a masterful exploration of what it means to find yourself within the most shattering of circumstances.

My review:

Sometimes life takes an unexpected course, for the better or worse. Unfortunately for Richard, his diagnosis is a serious one and he already foresees his distressing future as we are introduced to his character in the first chapter. ALS is a debilitating disease and a particularly awful one for Richard, a professional pianist who cannot imagine life without music and his piano.

I was hooked right from the first page although I had my reservations about how the author would navigate the complexities surrounding terminal illness and end of life care. My worries soon dissolved as I realised that Lisa Genova has a particular way with words. Her carefully chosen vocabulary was just right for this story as she didn’t overload the plot with too much medical language but successfully explored the illness from both Richard’s point of view as well as those around him in an expressive and coherent manner. There were elements of sarcasm scattered in however this was done in a tasteful way to show Richard’s coping mechanism with his sudden and painful diagnosis. I applaud the author for the way she handled this sensitive topic in a way many others would be unable to.

Character development is key in Every Note Played and I was interested to hear the viewpoints of Richard’s ex-wife, Karina, and his daughter, Grace. Although Karina almost immediately stepped into the role of Richard’s carer, Grace was less forgiving of some of her dad’s past actions and the way he treated her mother. This created a series of compelling and at times heartbreaking interactions between the broken family which only further highlighted the hardships of terminal illness and its impact on relationships.

The final few chapters were incredibly hard to read however celebrated Richard’s life in a way I could never have imagined at the start of the book. Each character, including Richard himself, ultimately came to terms with the undeniable outcome in their own way and this incited in me a range of emotions which were difficult to control.

Every Note Played is an emotionally wrecking read however it is an important one as it emphasises how short and fragile life is and how practising forgiveness is sometimes the only way to heal. Although it is a book that some may struggle with, it is one that I will be recommending to many friends and family members as there is a lot to learn and reflect on.

Book review: An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen


Title: An Anonymous Girl

Author: Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Publisher: Macmillan

Publication date: 27th December 2018

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 

Summary:

“‘Seeking women ages 18 – 32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

My review:

My favourite element in Thrillers is the deceit and trickery used to allure the reader into a false sense of security and there is no doubt that this author duo dominates this superbly, as shown by their previous co-written books. I was instantly convinced by the blurb and could not wait to discover how they would incorporate the psychological manipulation into the story line.

In terms of storytelling only, this book left a lot to be desired. Many parts were overshadowed by the characters’ thoughts and emotions and it often felt like the main character, Jessica, was constantly analysing Dr Shields’ every move. The pace was uneven throughout and only picked up speed towards the end. However, the unexpected twists were nicely distributed and well executed.

Character development is a key feature in An Anonymous Girl and one which the authors mastered with ease. Jessica is an unreliable narrator and her constant questioning was sometimes irritating however this was contrasted by the fierce and cold Dr Shields and her husband. I didn’t know who I could trust and my suspicion for all three characters only increased with the twists. By the end I was wrong about many of my original feelings towards them which further highlights the distortion and cunning nature of these characters.

Ethics and morale are analysed in an interesting way however failed to truly backup the message the authors were trying to deliver. The questions in the survey were intimate and stimulating with the possibility to be interpreted in multiple ways. However, after reading Jessica’s answers it almost felt as if the authors were consciously trying to steer the reader towards the idea that her wrongdoings were sinful and draw more attention to her actions and behaviour. I would have preferred a more open minded approach to the ethics behind the survey as it seemed like this was purposefully done with the intention to justify Dr Shields’ decision to choose Jessica as her subject for the study even though her answers were not that shocking or appalling from an ethics standpoint.

The premise of An Anonymous Girl is original and exciting. The set of interesting characters and focus on the difference between right and wrong set the scene for a gripping thriller with several unexpected twists. It was an enjoyable book despite the lack of clear direction in the story line at times however I appreciate that it is mostly a character driven book. Fans of psychological thrillers will find a lot to love about this book.

Book review: How to Be Brave by Louise Beech


Title: How to Be Brave

Author: Louise Beech

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Orenda

Publication date: 15th July 2015

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 

Summary:

“‘All the stories died that morning … until we found the one we’d always known.

When nine-year-old Rose is diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, Natalie must use her imagination to keep her daughter alive. They begin dreaming about and seeing a man in a brown suit who feels hauntingly familiar, a man who has something for them. Through the magic of storytelling, Natalie and Rose are transported to the Atlantic Ocean in 1943, to a lifeboat, where an ancestor survived for fifty days before being rescued. Poignant, beautifully written and tenderly told, How To Be Brave weaves together the contemporary story of a mother battling to save her child’s life with an extraordinary true account of bravery and a fight for survival in the Second World War. A simply unforgettable debut that celebrates the power of words, the redemptive energy of a mother’s love … and what it really means to be brave.

My review:

How to Be Brave is a magnificent story of hope and fear, spanning several generations and showing the true meaning of family. The present day story of Rose and Natalie was heartbreaking and contrasted by the adventure that Natalie’s grandad, Colin, faced at sea in the 1940s. These two story lines interlace marvelously and the result is a promising book filled with both uplifting and bittersweet moments.

Diseases such as diabetes are often underrepresented in books and the media and whenever they are introduced, many times they appear as a taboo subject easily overlooked and often followed up by inaccurate information. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the vast research carried out by the author prior to writing the book as well as the careful manner with which she handled the illness and developed Rose’s character as not only a child who is defined by this disease but also one who is still growing, learning and eager to discover the world through real life stories such as her great grandfather’s. I believe this is true for many people, particularly children, who are given a sudden diagnosis and I am glad that the author took this route instead of solely focusing on the impact of her diagnosis.

Rose’s and Natalie’s struggles are opposed by Colin’s troubles at sea while on a stranded boat, hoping to reach land or be rescued. I found his story to be a remarkable tale of survival and admired his outlook and positivity despite the distressing situation. This part of the book was incredibly moving and engrossing and I often found myself just as eager as Rose to keep reading to understand how he managed to survive.

I believe that this is one of those books that readers will react to in different ways depending on which stage of their life they are currently in or the troubles they are facing. Personally, I read this book during what I thought was a challenging time in my life however after finishing the book I valued its powerful message of persevering during difficult times much more than before. I highly recommend How to Be Brave to everyone as I believe it will appeal to fans of all genres and even though it may stimulate a different response, its meaning and compelling storytelling will not disappoint.

Book review: My Name is Anton by Catherine Ryan Hyde


Title: My Name is Anton

Author: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Publication date: 1st December 2020

My rating: ★ ★ ★ 

Summary:

“It’s 1965, and life has taken a turn for eighteen-year-old Anton Addison-Rice. Nearly a year after his brother died in a tragic accident, Anton is still wounded—physically and emotionally. Alone for the holidays, he catches a glimpse of his neighbor Edith across the street one evening and realizes that she’s in danger.

Anton is determined to help Edith leave her abusive marriage. Frightened and fifteen years Anton’s senior, Edith is slow to trust. But when she needs a safe place to stay, she lets down her guard, and over the course of ten days an unlikely friendship grows. As Anton falls hopelessly and selflessly in love, Edith fears both her husband finding her and Anton getting hurt. She must disappear without telling anyone where she’s going—even Anton.

If keeping Edith safe means letting her go, Anton will say goodbye forever. Or so he believes. What would happen, though, if one day their paths should cross again?

My review:

Anton and Edith form an unlikely friendship after Anton accidentally catches Edith being abused by her husband in the apartment across his. Although their situations couldn’t be more different, they immediately form a strong bond as they help each other through a rough period in their lives.

Catherine Ryan Hyde develops characters who are genuine and real making it easy to connect with them on a deeper level. As their friendship evolves into a romance, both innocent and intense, and they support each other through tough times I couldn’t help wanting the best for these characters. The storyline was realistic enough, bringing in an array of difficulties which couples face in their every day lives as Anton and Edith go on their separate ways only to reconnect years later. From a both platonic and romantic perspective their story was beautiful and pure.

A lot of the focus in My Name is Anton is on the characters – from Anton’s dear grandmother and great-uncle to his belittling parents and his sweet dog. Unfortunately the plot suffered as a result and there were several times where I felt that it lacked depth. Towards the end the pace picked up speed but it felt as if the author decided to squeeze most major milestones into the few remaining chapters. At this point I was thoroughly enjoying the book and would have preferred an extended ending and conclusion to fit with the pace and style developed in the previous chapters.

This book is beautifully written and contains the perfect mixture of heartache and happiness  interwoven in even the most bittersweet chapters. It was a joy to read and I highly recommend it to readers who enjoy character driven books with a powerful message.

My Name is Anton is out to buy today!

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a free advanced reader’s copy in exchange for my honest review.