Always and Forever by Jenny Han

As a series I give this a 3.5. Only because for me the second book feels like the conflict is forced for the sake of writing a second book. The first and the last are superb though. 

With it being Valentines weekend and the release of the final film of this series being released on Netflix this felt like an appropriate celebration of this series coming to an end!

This series of young adult fiction first caught the limelight after the Netflix adaptation of the first book ‘To all the boys I’ve loved before’. They instantly commissioned the second two books to create the series on screen and what’s not to love. The Film’s are beautiful, so much colour and style to them. 

This series was such a guilty pleasure for me I devoured them in a week a couple of years ago. They’re the perfect amount of teenage angst and reality in growing up and that first experience of ‘love’. The series follows Lara Jean, everytime she has a crush so intense she can’t deal with she writes it all down to process her emotions and locks it away in a box. Her little sister, in an attempt to help Lara Jean get a boyfriend, posts them them out to all the boys Lara Jean has every ‘loved’. It forces her to confront her feelings and put herself out there in a way she hasn’t before. These books covers lots of teenage topics like loss, navigating through a divorce, breakups, sex, friendship, University and much more. 

I applaud the author for keeping these books as grounded as can be. I find sometimes YA series’ can often focus on the happily ever after and Jenny doesn’t, she includes difficult teenage experiences like dealing with an ex, making sense of your feelings and even deciding to have sex. The first film even includes her father giving her a bag of condoms before a ski trip which I loved the subtly without forcing a safe sex talk. It’s awkward, at times it’s difficult but the series is real and focuses on growing up and people moving on. It’s fabulous. 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Rachy Reads rating – 4.5*

So this book turns out to be like marmite, you either love it: “A lush debut; Owens delivers her mystery wrapped in gorgeous, lyrical prose.” Alexandra Fuller, author of Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight or hate it: “Utter Claptrap” Elizia on Amazon reviews. I picked this book up at the end of last year because I am a sucker for a beautiful cover and I’d heard a lot of hype around it and wanted to see for myself. 

The book follows Kya ‘Marsh Girl’ as she’s abandoned by each of her family members and eventually left alone as a child. A lot of the negative reviews I’ve read have suggested that this is “unrealistic” I personally would love to hear what those reviewers think of Harry Potter and what they think Fiction is? This book is heartbreakingly beautiful, following Kya living off of nature, figuring out how to grow up alone and the few people she lets in. The plot of the book is Kya accused of murdering Chase Andrews, with time jumps between chapters this book will definitely leave you on your toes. The language of the book takes a little while to get into reading, it’s dense poetic prose at times the way Delia Owens writes. I felt it took me longer to read the heavy description of nature and the world. This is worth taking the time to indulge yourself in, it does become easier to read. Owens is normally a non-fiction writer of nature which is why I think she writes in this way, it’s a lovely switch up from the language used in other novels. This being Owens first fiction novel I think she did an exceptional job and created something beautiful from non fiction and weaving her fiction in between her deep knowledge of nature.  

I loved this book, it took me a while to get into it wasn’t until page 100-ish that I was fully immersed in the world. I loved the author’s misdirection of the ending, I love to feel a little surprised and this book definitely delivered! I loved the use of nature and poetry to push the narrative and foreshadow what the author wanted us to think. I think this book is a beautiful book about nature and the strength in women. I really hope Owens decides to write more Fiction! 

4.7 on Goodreads

Postcard Stories by Jan Carson

Rachy Reads rating – 5*

Jan Carson is one of my favourite Northern Irish writers, I love her unique ability to tell so much story with so few words is remarkable. This series of short stories written once a week on postcards to her friends, set in Belfast are absolutely so beautiful I had to order the second book straight away. 

This book of short stories brings you on a journey around Belfast with Jan’s perspective on the charity shops, the runners on the newtownards road and the joy of overhearing the old ladies on the bus in East Belfast. I loved reading who they were addressed to with some of Northern Ireland’s greatest writers mentioned, probably unintentionally easter eggs but I loved it. Illustrated by Benjamin Phillips this book is such a joy visually too, couldn’t recommend a nicer collection of short stories. I’m off to devour the second book!

4.2 Goodreads

The Switch by Beth O’Leary

Rachy Reads Rating – 3 *

The Switch has been described as ‘so charming’ by Marian Keyes and ‘the next jojo moyes’ by cosmopolitan. Beth O’Leary is proving her rightful place with some of the best modern rom-com writers. Her first book ‘The Flatshare’ was a Sunday times bestseller and it’s no wonder this one has been an instant hit too.

The switch is about Leena and her grandmother Eileen who switch houses to escape what’s going on in their lives. It’s not a million miles away from the premise of ‘The Holiday’ as the two swap homes and realise a little bit more about themselves on the journey. I had the joy of listening to the audiobook version of this which I can’t recommend enough, the voice actors cast for both roles bring such life to the characters. I actually really enjoyed an older female protagonist for a change, showing us that life doesn’t end at a certain age and that in fact as a grandmother you can still find love and a new addition to flat whites! 

The only reason I’m not rating this book higher than 3 stars is because I didn’t feel this book had the same originality that the Flatshare had. That being said when I finished this book I did look up to see if O’Leary has anything else being released soon and was delighted to see she has a book coming out called ‘The road trip’ coming out in April and is available to preorder now! 

4.1 on Goodreads