Review: Sam & Ilsa’s Last Hurrah by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

Sam & Ilsa's Last Hurrah by Rachel Cohn


Sam and Ilsa Kehlmann have spent most of their high school years throwing dinner parties, and now they’ve prepared their final blowout, just before graduation. The rules for the twins are simple: they each get to invite three guests, and the other twin doesn’t know who’s coming until the guests show up at the door. With Sam and Ilsa, the sibling revelry is always tempered with a large dose of sibling rivalry, and tonight is no exception.

One night. One apartment. Eight people. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, we all know the answer is plenty. But plenty also goes right – in rather surprising ways.


Rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have a feeling this is one of those books you’ll really like or really won’t. I am a big fan of this writing partnership (I loved Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares) so I knew just what to expect and it didn’t disappoint. It feels like quite a short book, I seemed to fly through it, but given the whole novel takes place over the course of one pivotal night this is possibly no bad thing.

This is Sam and Ilsa’s last hurrah, the final dinner party they will hold in their Grandmother’s apartment in New York before she sells up and emigrates to Paris. This is also the last party before Sam and Ilsa and their friends head off to college or whatever adventure their future holds. It’s a chance to say goodbye but also to resolve their issues, get their revenge and settle scores.

They each invite three guests and it’s safe to say their choice of guests are interesting. There are best friends, potential love interests, ex boyfriends and a couple of wildcards (strangers they met and invited). It certainly makes for a rather charged and volatile evening.

I did love the amount of diversity in the characters, some of them are just so wonderfully out there. I will admit that at times it’s a little pretentious and a little over the top but I didn’t mind that. In some ways it’s like watching an episode of Dawson’s Creek. The language, emotional maturity and self awareness is a little unbelievable for a bunch of 18 year olds (would 18 year olds even throw a dinner party?). It is however very typical Cohn and Levithan, complex, emotional and incredibly engaging.

I’m not sure I could really say there was any character I particularly loved or could relate to, hence the 4 stars, but they all had interesting stories and backgrounds which were fascinating to read. I did find myself becoming emotionally invested, particularly in Sam’s story.

What I particularly loved though was how despite taking place within one building in one night the authors brought so much into the story and somehow managed to give such a sense of being in New York. The mix of characters, the building and its residents all just felt so right and so real you didn’t ever have to step outside.

I very much enjoyed this book. It may not have stolen the place of Dash and Lily in terms of favorites but with such an interesting mix of characters it’s still a pretty good read.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. As always all views are my own

Review: Ginny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

Ginny MoonGinny Moon by Benjamin Ludwig

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Completely original, compelling and a little bit heartbreaking this is an incredible debut novel from Benjamin Ludwig. It’s not my usual type of read and I didn’t expect to love it but I totally did.

Definitely not tedious.


Meet Ginny. She’s fourteen, autistic, and has a heart-breaking secret…

‘Brilliant’ – Graeme Simison, author of The Rosie Project

Ginny Moon is trying to make sense of a world that just doesn’t seem to add up….

After years in foster care, Ginny is in her fourth forever family, finally with parents who will love her.

Everyone tells her that she should feel happy, but she has never stopped crafting her Big Secret Plan of Escape.

Because something happened, a long time ago – something that only Ginny knows – and nothing will stop her going back to put it right…

A fiercely poignant and inspirational story a lost girl searching for a place to call home. Ginny Moon will change everyone who spends time with her.


They like you, Ginny, and believe me, it’s hard to find people like that. It’s much easier to love someone than it is to like them.

Let me just start by saying that I’m completely in awe of anyone who cares for an autistic child and having read Ginny Moon I’m now even more in awe. I have to admit that it’s not something I know a lot about as I don’t really have anyone in my life who’s autistic but this definitely opened my eyes. The whole story is told from inside Ginny’s head giving a completely unique and fascinating view of what it’s like to have a brain that just doesn’t quite work the same way as everyone else’s. It’s compelling, frustrating, amusing, touching and emotional. Once I started reading I literally couldn’t stop.

Ginny is an absolutely fabulous character and I couldn’t help but love her, even though she drove me and everyone around her crazy at times. She is completely single minded and once she’s on a path there is absolutely no way you’ll change her mind. She takes everything literally and picks up the most bizarre words and phrases from those around her. I found myself laughing at some of the things that come out of her mouth one minute and being so incredibly frustrated the next that I wanted to shake her.

Ginny was brought up in an abusive home (trigger warning: there are some disturbing scenes) but despite being in her newest forever home she can’t let go of the past and is determined to escape and find her birth mother Gloria who she hopes has her baby doll. I felt so sorry for her adopted parents Brian and Maura and I could feel their frustrations that they want to give her a stable and loving home but she seems determined to leave. While Ginny is unable to interpret their emotions and reactions the author still managed to transfer them to the reader through her observations, something I thought was incredibly well done.

There were more than a few occasions where I felt like crying or shouting because Ginny just doesn’t see what she’s doing to those around her. Her aunt “Crystal with a C” in particular really got to me. Her guilt, frustration and just desperation to do the right thing was a little bit heartbreaking.

I have to confess that I was surprised the story held my attention the way that it did. It’s not my usual type of read and I would stop every so often and think “I don’t know where this can possibly go” and “I’m not sure how the author can keep this level of engagement and intensity for the remaining x number of pages” but somehow he did. I found myself unable to put it down and even when I wasn’t reading it I was thinking about it or talking about it.

It’s not a perfect book, there are elements that are a little unbelievable, but I definitely think it’s a worthwhile read for everyone. There aren’t anywhere near enough characters like Ginny in books and it gives a real insight and unique perspective to their everyday lives and thoughts as well as those around them.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review and apologies for taking so long to read it.

Book Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

A Quiet Kind of ThunderA Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

This was my first book from Sara Barnard and it won’t be my last. It’s a very sweet coming of age story and is absolutely packed full of feels. I was worried it would be an angsty and depressing story but it couldn’t be further from this. Yes I did shed a couple of tears but mostly it just made me smile and laugh. I loved it.

The Blurb (from GoodReads)

Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say.
Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen.
Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder.

Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it.

From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

My Review

As Steffi seems to be a lover of lists such as “The 10 stupidest things people say to you when you don’t talk” and “The Top 5 Worst Times to be Mute” I couldn’t resist creating my own list of the 7 Things I Loved about A Quiet Kind of Thunder:

  1. The lists – I’m a lover of lists and Steffi’s lists are used to great effect. They’re often funny (as you can probably tell from the previous examples) but the author makes great use of them to demonstrate a number of different things including Steffi’s previous experiences, the attitudes of others and sometimes whatever she’s thinking about what’s going on right at that moment. Beware there are a couple of lists which made me laugh out loud (thankfully I was at home at the time).
  2. Steffi – I loved Steffi from the very first few pages. She’s been struggling with selective mutism for years but rather than giving up she keeps trying. She wants to get better, to fit in or at least be included and accepted and to be able to do what others her age can like speak to a shop assistant, ask for help and go to Uni. She’s also just a  genuinely nice person, with a tendency to think the worst of herself (something I can definitely relate to).
  3. How it portrays living with anxiety – it’s so realistic at times I found it scary. As someone who has suffered from anxiety since my teens I was impressed with how well the author reflected those feelings. You’re inside Steffi’s head so you get her stream of consciousness as she worries about things, panics over nothing and becomes frozen and unable to move or speak. While I have never been mute (although I am quiet) I can honestly say her thoughts at times were a mirror of my own.
  4. Rhys – OMG Rhys!!! (yep I OMG’d), he’s just sooo cute and sweet and just loveable. He’s deaf so is almost the opposite of Steffi in that she struggles to be heard and he can’t hear but they have a surprising amount in common. He’s also just so lovely and understanding and funny and a bit mischievous. One of the highlights of this story for me were the text conversations between him and Steffi. I loved how he teased her.
  5. The romance – sorry romance haters but there’s a really cute (I seem to be using that word a lot) romance between Steffi and Rhys. It’s not lightning bolt, insta love but a slow building, realistic and healthy relationship. They just seem to instantly click and have some real chemistry. I was rooting for them to get together and make it even though they do have some issues. Even if you don’t like romance I think you will like this one.
  6. There’s no magic cure – I hate to tell you this but meeting a boy doesn’t result in Steffi suddenly becoming happy, confident and outgoing (if only it were that easy). She works at it and she gets professional help and support.
  7. The feels – there are just so many feels in this book and most of them were happy. I did have a little cry at one point (only a couple of tears, I promise) and I got frustrated and angry but mostly I found myself smiling and laughing.

Overall this is just an easy, enjoyable and fun read that I couldn’t put down. I did have a little niggle about the ending but it’s fairly minor. I’d recommend this book to everyone and I will be hunting down Beautiful Broken Things as I loved this author’s writing and want to read more.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review. All gushing is my own 🙂