Home Fires by Kamila Shamsie

Home Fires by Kamila Shamsie
This is such a topical book at the moment and definite must read for everyone. 
Home Fires is told from the perspective of three siblings from a Muslim family. – Isma, Aneeka and Parvaiz. They are torn apart from the recent death of their mother and are shaped from by the actions of their terrorist father and his awful death at Guantanamo Bay, forever haunted and shaped by his actions. 
Isma is the most straight laced of the siblings and the mother figure. She is currently in America as a student. 
Aneeka is the more flamboyant and adventurous sister and has an extremely close relationship with her brother. She embarks on a passionate relationship with Eammon, the UK Home Secretary’s son. 
And then there’s Parvaiz who is haunted most by his father’s life. A lose canon with no direction, he gets in with the a terrorist group who make him suffer physical abuse to help him understand the pain his dad went through and build a white hatred in him. So he goes off to fight. He struggles to deal with what he sees and what he is forced to do and thinks of his innocent sisters. 
When Eamonn’s dad finds out his son’s girlfriend’s brother is a terrorist he begs Eammon to cut all ties. 
The ending is not a happy one for the siblings and is a stark remind of the unhappiness and brutality that terrorist organisations cause to all involved. 
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Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

It’s been nearly two weeks since I finished reading Since We Fell and I am still trying to make up my mind as to whether I liked it. The first three quarters of the book was a real rollercoaster but with a hundred pages left I then couldn’t wait to finish reading it.

Set in the US, the book begins with the main character, Rachel’s childhood. She never knew her dad and her mother was a relationship expert with a successful career in self help guides, however couldn’t seem to manage her own relationship with her daughter. Following her mother’s death, the now grown up Rachel seeks out her father. She develops a close bond with Jeremy who she believes is her father however once she finds out he isn’t her dad the pair drift apart.

The book then jumps to her career in journalism -and what should have been the pinnacle of her career- reporting in Haiti following the devastating earthquake. However it seems as though Rachel’s childhood and the mental impacts of that catches up with her as she cannot comprehend the darkness she sees on the island – starvation, murder and rape. She breaks down live on air and that is then the end of her career.

Rachel becomes a recluse and rarely leaves her apartment. She does however meet Brian, an old friend who she then marries. He helps her to come out of her shell slightly and she is forced to fend for herself when he’s away on his business trips. One day she thinks she sees Brian when he is meant to be away in Europe. She questions him but he assures her he is in Europe. But Rachel cannot accept this and one day follows him when he is supposedly going to the airport. Instead he goes to a house with his pregnant other wife. When Rachel, questions him it leads to her husband revealing he and his best friend have a double life in which they have hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It is a tense novel and I won’t spoil the ending however I did feel the book went on for at least fifty pages too long. It definitely has lots of twists and turns but I did struggle to warm to Rachel.

The Temp by Michelle Frances

The Temp by Michelle Frances

The Temp by Michelle Frances is one of those books where you think you’ll just read one chapter and then 10 chapters later you are so engrossed you have to put all other plans on hold – which isn’t really great at Christmas. 

 

I read Michelle Frances’s The Girlfriend earlier this year and loved it. The Temp is definitely as good.

 

Carrie is a successful TV producer and her husband Adrian, a BAFTA winning script writer. Trouble is he stole the idea for his BAFTA winning show from someone else and she’s out for revenge. 


When Carrie goes on maternity leave, Emma, a temp, takes on her role. Emma is great at her job, enthusiastic and full of ideas. Emma knows both Carrie and Adrian from when she wrote to Adrian looking for work experience several years ago and in her letter explained she was working on an idea for a script. This turns out later to be Adrian’s award winning show Generation Rebel.

 

Emma wants revenge on Adrian. She’s calm, manipulative and calculating and worms her way into Adrian and Carrie’s lives. However it all goes wrong when Emma sleeps with Adrian. Emma tells her producers and Carrie the truth about Adrian stealing her show once she goes to the couple’s beach house and finds the letter she wrote to Adrian all those years ago. Trouble is Adrian admits to sleeping with Emma and she gets fired from the current TV show they are working on. 

 

Meanwhile Carrie and Adrian’s marriage, which was already falling apart due to the birth of baby Rory, completely collapses when Carrie finds out about his infidelity. This is the final straw as Adrian cannot accept their lives have changed due to Rory as he never really wanted the baby. Carrie has always been suspicious of Emma and this is heightened when she hears nothing from Adrian for several days.

 

Emma traps Adrian at the beach house and holds him hostage. She ties him to the fire place and leaves him without food and water for nearly 24 hours. Meanwhile it’s as though trapping Adrian has freed her of writers block and she spends a night working on a script. Adrian realises what she’s doing and becomes enraged. When Emma goes into town to print her script Adrian manages to free himself. By this time Carrie has turned up at the beach house and Adrian thinking Carrie is Emma tries to strangle his estranged wife. In the tussle Adrian falls backwards and hits his head on the stone corner of the fireplace.

 

Following Adrian’s death, it’s revealed Emma chose to write to Adrian as she is Carrie’s daughter, who Carrie gave up for adoption. The book does have a happy ending as Emma’s script is nominated for a BAFTA and the book closes with the impending announcement of whether Emma has won.

 

As with The Girlfriend, the book has so many twists and turns and I thought it did get slightly nuts when Emma turns out to be Carrie’s daughter however don’t let this detract from what is a great thriller.

Clean by Juno Dawson

Clean by Juno Dawson

First off, how amazing is the cover of Clean? I am absolutely obsessed with rose gold and every time I went to read the book I would stare at the cover in awe!

 

Clean by Juno Dawson is described by The i as Gossip Girl gods to rehab. I couldn’t think of a better quote to sum this book up. I did struggle initially with the novel as I had just finished reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and as soon as I had put it down immediately picked up Clean and to be honest you couldn’t get a starker contrast in content!

 

Socialite Lexi Volkov almost overdoses and is sent to an exclusive rehab facility by her mega rich brother (using her mega rich hotelier father’s money). The trouble is Lexi doesn’t really want to get clean. She’s in love with her junkie boyfriend who she is petrified with run off with one of her other junkie friends.

 

Lexi meets all sorts of characters at rehab – those with eating disorders, mental health issues and the mysterious Brady, a sex addict. All come from mega rich families but all the money in the world isn’t enough sometimes to save them.

 

Lexi does have the willpower to get clean however this is tested when she finds one of her rehab buddies has overdosed and has a needle sticking out of his thigh. Her close relationship with Brady saves her as he takes the drugs away but after they spend the night together he disappears, as he is too scared to get close to anybody for fear he may hurt them with his addiction.

 

Although selfish when wrapped up in her addiction, the removal of the drugs shows Lexi does have a good heart which is demonstrated when she saves Sasha from doing a runner and puts her own life in jeopardy. 

 

When Lexi is discharged from rehab, she manages to survive a few days without getting high but once she’s out with her old friends she succumbs to her old lifestyles. She misses rehab and it’s almost as if it’s the first place where she has received love and comfort as her parents are travelling the world and are emotionally distant from her, therefore she wants to return to rehab. So back she goes. However this time once she leaves she ditches her friends and tries to hunt Brady down. She finds him in his native America and there she stays. Content and helping each other, she’s finally found love.

 

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling 
So I continued my Harry Potter binge with Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. For me this was the novel where the characters’ personalities start to become apparent – Ron’s wit and dry sense of humour, Hermione’s incessant need to be the best, Malfoy’s malicious and cunning nature and Hagrid’s naivety.
I remember as a child my favourite part of the novel was Harry visiting Diagon Alley. I dreamed of visiting the shops and walking down the cobbled streets amongst wizards. Reading it as an adult the imagery was just as vivid and magical and still one of the best bits of the novel.
I remember going to the cinema with my mum on a Sunday morning to go and watch the film and we were just as excited as each other to see it. Watching Harry and Ron fly Mr Weasley’s car on the big screen was amazing and the CGI at the time was incredible. While we have come a long way technology wise, seeing that scene is still just as magical.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J K Rowling

A year after buying our first house, my parents seem to have decided that I definitely won’t be moving back so are slowly going through all my childhood books and toys and essentially telling me I need to find a place in our house for these items or chuck them off the nearest cliff.

One such series of books they are off loading onto me is my beloved Harry Potter books. I remember when I was younger I was obsessed with the front covers and thought they were so cool. They were probably the first sort of older books I had read and I think at the time I thought the covers were so grown up.

The books are so well loved with creased pages and faded spines from them being on my bookcase for years.

I remember exactly where I was when I first heard about Harry Potter. I was probably about seven or eight and I remember being in my grandparent’s kitchen with my mum and my granny showing us a news article in the paper about the series and suggesting I might like to read them. I was too young to read the books so my mum read the first few to me. She was just as obsessed as me and she would read to me before I went to sleep and weekend afternoons.

Reading the Philosopher’s Stone has brought back so many childhood memories and what’s most shocking of all is that I probably first read this book nearly 20 years ago!

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

I am still yet to watch Crazy Rich Asians but saw a tweet from one of my friends saying they read the book in a day it was so good, so I decided to see what all the fuss was about.

Crazy Rich Asians centres on the relationship between a college professor, Rachel Chu and her long term boyfriend Nick Young who live in New York. When Nick invites Rachel to Singapore to attend his best friend’s wedding, Rachel jumps at the chance. However what awaits her is excess, fame and family politics.

Everyone knows everyone in Singapore and everyone is trying their hardest to climb the social ladder. There are a lot of characters in the novel and trying to work out how they connect was tricky (thank god for the family tree at the beginning of the book). The women want to be seen in the right clothes, with the right people in the right places. The social elite think nothing of excess and spending millions of pounds on a new season wardrobe. You may think the novel would be distasteful however Kevin Khan drops in lines that leave your shoulder aching with laughter. For me these lines made the novel.

It turns out that Nick’s family are mega rich as are his friends, a little fact he didn’t mention to Rachel. And his best friend is in fact marrying a famous model and it THE wedding of the year.

The trouble is Nick’s mother is none too impressed with Nick’s choice of girlfriend. Rachel comes from a humble background and never knew her dad. Nick’s mother tries to break the pair apart claiming she has found Rachel’s criminal father. But at the heart of the novel is that age old story of love conquering all – neither Rachel or Nick care how much money the other has, the just want to be together.

This is one of the wittiest novels I have read in a long time and I would definitely recommend it.