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Book Club No.12

Hello you lovely folk! It's been a while since the last Book Club post as NB has been going through a relaunch, but I've still been reading behind the scenes and boy oh boy, I've read some good stuff. I've read a range of fiction lately that stems from complete fairytales to period-drama style stories based on real historical accounts so stick around if you fancy a new book recommendation because as always, I have three to dish the dirt on!

Lost Boy by Christina Henry
For once, I'm going to start with the best of this bunch because you guys this book is easily one of my favourites this year and has certainly wormed it's way into my all-time favourite list too. After reading A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan (read my full review here), I was actually worried about picking up a new book because I loved this one so much that I thought everything would be sub-par in comparison. So, I searched for some more YA fiction that might float my boat and stumbled across Lost Boy. You might guess from the title and the cover that Lost Boy is a retelling of the classic Peter Pan story (which happens to be my favourite book ever and also one of my favourite Disney films), so I was always intrigued but after reading a short description I just knew I had to read it as soon as possible. Henry retells the tale of Peter Pan but from the perspective of my favourite villain, Captain Hook, before he became the evil Captain we all know and love him as. The story follows Jamie before he becomes the notorious Captain James Hook back when he was Peter's best friend and was so very much in love with him and everything him and his Neverland Island promised. Henry's writing style is so descriptive but in such a subtle way that you can visualise every detail without her explicitly explaining what everything looks like. You can hear the sounds, see the horizons, feel the weather and smell the scents. One thing I particularly enjoyed about this retelling was the darkness of it - if you've been put off reading this as it's based of the fairytale of Peter Pan, maybe the graphic bludgeoning of children, the almost domestic abusive nature of Peter, and the monsters that stalk Neverland will persuade you otherwise.

As such a huge fan of Peter Pan I obviously had my hesitations about this story but it's honestly one of my favourite books I've read this year and ever. As I'm so accustomed to the Pan story, I ultimately knew that the book had to end with Hook and Peter no longer being friends, but the journey up until that point was full of twists and turns and unpredictability. The focus on their intense relationship and the breakdown of it is so palpable through every page that I found myself getting incredibly emotionally invested. I felt cheated when Peter was sly, I felt upset when something happened to one of the Lost Boys... If you want a story of complete fantasy that you can lose yourself in that actually deals with some very real feelings, emotions, and situations we can find ourselves in in relationships, I urge you to read this. I'm currently ploughing my way through her Alice and Red Queen books too which surprise - is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland and this one is also bloody amazing so far. You can grab a copy of Lost Boy here!

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
Emma Donoghue is renown for her fantastic book, Room (read my full review here), which quickly became one of my favourite books after the first time I finished it. Therefore when I saw The Wonder in my local Waterstones, I thought I'd pick it up and give it a shot despite the very different sounding blurb. Unlike Room, The Wonder is set in a small Irish village during the late 19th century and is described as a psychological thriller. It focuses on a young nurse from London who trained under the provision of Florence Nightingale who has been sent to this tiny backwater village to investigate what is believed to be a religious miracle. The young nurse, Lib, meets a young Irish girl who has apparently not ate any food for months and believes to have sustained herself on "God's mana" the whole time. Lib and a nun are asked to come into the family home of the child and observe her. They are merely there for two weeks to decide whether or not the little girl is telling the truth or is actually a fraud. During this time, Lib realises everything is not what it seems and in this very Catholic household, village, and country, weeding out a possible fraudster is not something she should be doing.

The story sounded really interesting to me as I'm aware that there has been historical accounts of this exact thing happening - young girls claiming to not need to eat because their spiritual fulfilment is sustaining them to survive enough. So tie that in with Emma Donoghue's gripping writing style, I thought that this would be an instant hit with me. Oh, how wrong I was. Although I love Room, this books is of course very different in so many ways. I was still a fan of the writing style but of course, it was no where near the same as Room. There were a couple of hurdles for me when reading this book and the main one was the main character. Lib is very much a no-nonsense sort of woman and having to be a nurse in a time of demand, it's easy to understand why, but whilst a main character is often likeable and an antagonist, Lib just grated on me to the point where I would finish a chapter and feel angry and frustrated and in need of a break from the book. I feel like I've never had that experience with a book before and it meant it stopped the easy flow of reading for me. I did grow to like Lib by the end of the book and as you see her character develop throughout the story, it's hard not to agree with everything she says or does but for a good 3/4 of the book? I couldn't bloody stand her. My other issue with the book lasted about as long as my disgruntlement with the main character. The pace of the story in hindsight really suits the plot as it is a bit of a slow burn and leads up to a huge speeding crescendo at the end, but when reading it, I found it really dragged. I can't quite put my finger on what it was, but I only felt really engrossed and immersed in the story and the characters in the last 1/4 of the book. Like I said, the pace suited the story and mirrored the waiting Lib experienced well onto the reader, but ultimately this just left me wondering when it was going to "get good" for the most part.

That's not to say that this story wasn't good - it was an interesting read and a period/genre I don't delve into that much, but I feel like it was very much like on of those ITV period dramas they do in 3 episodes that aren't really my cup of tea. Don't let my pretty rubbish review put you off though if you like period drama or if you like stories with a good twist. There's an element of detective work for this as the reader and although the ending and the lead up to it wasn't a huge shock, it was enough of a twist to draw my attention in eventually which I obviously can only applaud. It has been a bestseller and has had high-praise from the likes of Stephen King, so there's plenty of folk out there who love it but me? I thought it was just okay. Pick up a copy of The Wonder, here!

The Invisible Child and The Fir Tree by Tove Jansson
The last book I'm going to mention in this post is such a good purchase for so many reasons. Recently, Oxfam teamed up with Waterstones and released The Invisible Child and The Fir Tree as a little hardback additional. These two tales are from the classic The Moomins series and for someone like me who bloody loves The Moomins, it's a lovely little nostalgic book. The book itself is a gorgeous little hardback and has beautiful illustrations throughout as well as a beautiful cover and dust cover too. The best thing about this purchase though is that 1Oo% of the sales goes directly to Oxfam to help support projects which are tackling inequality and helping support women and girls worldwide to escape abuse, neglect, and poverty situations. At only £4.99 each, the books are supporting a fantastic cause and aren't breaking the bank either. I picked up this copy for myself, but I also think that it would make a lovely worthwhile and completely selfless gift for others, too.

The stories themselves are great and it makes a perfect short read for anyone. The Invisible Child reflects the typical mentality behind some of the most popular Moomin characters so if people are new to The Moomins, this story is a great introduction. It - surprise surprise - follows a tale of an invisible child who comes to live with the Moomin family for some time. It's a great little read for both adults and children as Jansson's writing style always has that wonderful way of making the characters relatable for all ages. The Fir Tree is the second little story and this is what makes it a perfect Christmas gift. If the title didn't quite give it away, The Fir Tree discusses Christmas and Christmas traditions in an non-obvious way and highlights the fact that if you are alien to them, you'd be quite surprised at those traditions and what they mean.

If you're a collector The Moomins or want to have a good addition to a child's collection, this instalment is also worth picking up as it has a character breakdown throughout the last few pages in which it details every The Moomins character with illustrations and a brief description of their personality which I absolutely love. You can pick up a charitable copy of The Invisible Child & The Fir Tree here and make sure you check out the rest of the Waterstones site as there's also tea towels and tote bags raising money for Oxfam too!

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