Saturday, 24 February 2018

In Sight of Stars: A Novel by Gae Polisner Review

I have many, many things to say about this book... First I'd like to begin by saying thank you to NetGally for providing me with a pre-publication copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This book will be published on the 13th of March 2018.
Lets begin with how beautiful the cover is before we get serious. I love the sunflowers in the cover and the first thing I thought of when I saw the cover was Van Gogh, and how right I was.

This novel is about a young boy Klee (pronounced Clay) who's father (who was an artist and greatly inspired by Van Gogh) kills himself, Klee's this fact hard to deal with and he spends a couple of weeks in a psychiatric hospital working through what has happened. I'd like to warn now that if you have ever had any experience with suicide this could be a very hard book to read, and I know this from experience. I'm admitting a lot here to the great wide world of the internet, but my dad died when I was younger and this book managed to bring up a lot of feelings that I really didn't want to experience. If I'd know just how "triggering" this book would be it is unlikely I would have picked it up but since I started it before I realised I finished it, and not just because I felt I had to but because I found it really interesting to read about how Polisner portrayed the grief that is felt after experiencing a death in a family.
I felt I should explain my situation before I began my review.

Let us begin with Klee, basically he was messed up in the head. In more detail, Klee had witnessed some terrible things and because of it he wasn't well. I really liked how Polisner portrayed someone who has recently lost someone, it was very accurate (I wonder whether Polisner was able to do that due to extensive research or because she has experienced it herself?). I felt very strongly for Klee due to that fact that I have been in a similar situation (not the same but similar) and know how it feels, blaming yourself and everyone. Not feeling like you are loved, and finding it hard to make connections with people. From my own experiences, I cried at times when Klee was particularly effected by what had happened to him and felt equally happy in the moments he did as well. And during the second part of chapter Day 13 into 14 - Overnight into Morning, my heart basically swam. I felt all the emotion that Klee was putting into what he was doing.
Dr Alvares and Sister Teresa were wonderfully written characters, full of love and only wanting the best for Klee's future, they treated Klee how you would expect carers to treat someone who was working through a death. They were the type of people every child who has lost a parent should have to help get them through it.
All the characters felt very real and I felt strong connects to Klee as well as Sabrina and Martin (also in the psychiatric hospital), they all gave me the impression that perhaps Polisner has in fact had similar experiences and not just done a lot of research, but either way this is fabulously written book in the emotions it was portraying!

The structure I found to be slightly confusing, but not in any major way. The book was present day in the psychiatric hospital with many flashbacks, however in the pre-pub copy I had it wasn't very clear sometimes when it changed from present to past until names were mentioned though this may be different for a fully published, physical copy. The whole book was written from Klee's perspective and besides not quite catching when the flashbacks happened I enjoyed this novel greatly.
This novel was written very well, and I felt everything! It is beautiful, and portrays grief really quite well. I also could barely put it down after the usually taking time to get into the flow of a book, I stayed up much to late last night in order to try and finish it.
Now although this is a Young Adult book, again I'd like to warn that if you react badly to death/suicide, please be wary reading this book. I'm not saying don't, just be wary.
I shall buy this book for my mum when it's released!
Published 13th March 2018

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

The Right Thing to Do at The Time by Dov Zeller Review

Firstly I'd like to thank Netgalley for providing me a pre-publication copy of this book.

To begin with I'd like to talk about just how beautiful the cover of this novel is and although people (and myself) always say don't judge a book by its cover, how could you not? Personally I believe this portrays the whole story fairly well - New York, a violin and a whole lot of being pulled in different directions.
Ari is a trans male who has no clue what he wants from life, has sworn off love and is only just content with how things are. He works in a music library and plays the violin on the side. His best friend a cisgender male named Itche (pronounced Itchy) is a set designer and a romantic, both live in New York and both have trouble with love and life. Both of these characters are Jewish, and in their mid 20's. This book is written in third person but focuses on Ari for the most part. Oh and it's a romantic comedy.

Now for my own completely personal opinions, to being with this book did something strange to my reading habit, if I enjoy a book I can't wait to pick it up and can't get my nose out of it without promise of food, other books I have to persuade myself to pick it up and am slow to finish it. Meanwhile with this book it took me time to pick it up but once I had I couldn't stop reading it. Basically I enjoyed it.
My favorite character in this book was Bubbie Pearl - Ari's grandmother, who was smart, witty and extremely funny. She seemed to be good at making Ari think about what he wanted in life, but managed to annoy him by calling him Arnold. All the characters felt very real to me, with real emotions, ambitions and in the case of Ari, real slumps in life. I have had moments in my life when I feel I'm only doing what I'm doing to get by, so Ari's state of mind for the majority of the book was highly relatable.
Throughout the story, I was constantly intrigued to know what was happening with Itche, Ari, Talia and Helen (Talia and Helen are best friends and became acquaintances then friends with Ari and Itche), who all seemed confused about who was interested in whom. And for a long time I assumed Ari and Itche were together (as did Talia). A question that was in the back of the book under the title Book Group Questions was "What, if anything, distinguishes friendship and romantic love in this novel?" - I found that to be rather an interesting question as I have always found it hard to tell the difference between friendship and romantic love in my own life and it is clear in this story that perhaps Zeller's intention was to have multiple friendships that could be perceived as either romantic or not, so that during a lot of the book you had to make your own decisions about the character. And by making your own assumptions about the characters, the story would most likely pan out in each persons head slightly differently, I like that idea.

Although for the majority of the book I felt rather indifferent to what was happening, the last few chapters had my heart racing as did the scenes where Ari's internal monologue seemed to take over for a chapter, Zeller had a beautiful way of writing the train of though for someone who second guesses everything and who is very religious. I haven't really said much about the presence of Judaism in this novel yet, because I have no knowledge of it, or any religion for that matter and I have chosen not to comment on that theme for that very reason. I did enjoy reading a book with the main character being highly religious but I have no idea how religiously accurate everything written was. I did feel a sense calm that Zeller managed to portray through Ari during the services he attended, but again I can't comment.
Due to my lack of knowledge on Judaism I think I missed out on a lot of what this book was about but even dismissing that theme, I understood what was happening and still greatly enjoyed the book. I have noticed in various places that this book has been tagged as a modern Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin - this is something again I can't comment on as I have never read anything by Jane Austin.
I really enjoyed the short and sweet chapters, and have completely fallen in love with Ari and Itche, so much in fact that when it finished I made an odd sort of squealing sound that basically said, oh please I want to know what happens now. I have high hopes for this book in my own opinion.

I wouldn't pass this book on to my mum like I have often said I would with books I review but I would definitely give it as a present to friends! A perfect YA Romance Comedy novel.

4/5 xo
Book to be Published 15th March 2018