Book Review: Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult Leaving Time

A library borrow 🙂

About the author (from official bio):

Jodi Picoult is the author of twenty-four internationally bestselling novels, including My Sister’s Keeper,  and The Storyteller. She has also co-written two YA books with her daughter Samantha van Leer.

She studied creative writing with Mary Morris at Princeton, and had two short stories published in Seventeen magazine while still a student. Realism – and a profound desire to be able to pay the rent – led her to a series of different jobs after graduation, and she worked as a Wall Street technical writer, a copywriter, a textbook editor and an 8th grade English teacher before entering Harvard to pursue a master’s in education. She married Tim Van Leer, whom she had known at Princeton, and it was while she was pregnant with her first child that she wrote her first novel, Songs of the Humpback Whale.

Four of her books have been made into TV movies and My Sister’s Keeper was a cinema release. She has received numerous awards and now lives in New Hampshire with her husband, three children and a menagerie of animals.

About the book:

Jenna Metcalf was with her mother, Alice, the night she disappeared, but she remembers nothing about it – and nor does her father, as far as she can tell. He is in an asylum and unable to help her understand what happened. Now, Jenna lives with her grandmother, who finds it too painful to talk about what happened, and the world of the elephant sanctuary where she was raised is just a memory.

Ten years on, Jenna is the only one who still seems to care; to wonder and worry, trying to fit the pieces together. With  no family to help her, she must get some unlikely helpers on-side in the shape of a washed-up psychic, Serenity, and the police officer who has done all he can to put the night of Jenna’s mother’s disappearance behind him.

What I liked:

I loved the way the story alternates between the viewpoints of Alice, Jenna, Serenity and Virgil, and merged the lessons learned about elephants, memory, loss and grieving into the story that surrounds these characters. As with all the Jodi Picoult books I’ve read, the story is clever, although the pace is a little slow to start with. However, the tension is maintained and the language is understatedly elegant.

Every main character had a strongly individual voice and I became completely engrossed in the story of each of them, hoping passionately for a happy outcome for them all. The information about elephants was fascinating and integral to the plot points (although see below).

And finally… the twist. It made me stop, go back a little and read on again, just to make sure I’d understood. It’s not a massively original idea, but I didn’t expect it in this story – or in any JP novel; I thought I knew exactly what I was getting in terms of the book’s quest, so it was a surprise.

What I wasn’t so keen on:

Not much, although Virgil was a little stereotypical as the ‘damaged cop’ who drinks too much and has let himself go, and there were one or two points where the book felt a teensy bit too preachy and intense on the subject of elephants and how they’re treated, particularly in the first half of the book. I think the editor needed to be a little more zealous here.

I suspect there will be people out there who don’t like the ending of this book, feeling it’s much less grounded in normal human lives than a usual Picoult wrap-up (I can’t explain in more detail without spoilers!). I thought it was clever, though, and found it believable in the context of a belief system I don’t believe in – i.e. it’s no different, for me, than reading a book in which a character is healed by their belief in Christianity. Just because I don’t believe that can happen, doesn’t mean I can’t read a book in which it supposedly does.

Overall, for me, a big fat winner! 🙂


Book Review: Moth Girls by Anne Cassidy

This one was a library borrow. 🙂

moths girls

About the Author (official bio):

Anne Cassidy was born in London in 1952. She was an awkward teenager who spent the Swinging Sixties stuck in a convent school trying, dismally, to learn Latin. She was always falling in love and having her heart broken. She worked in a bank for five years until she finally grew up. She then went to college before becoming a teacher for many years. In 2000 Anne became a full-time writer, specialising in crime stories and thrillers for teenagers. In 2004 LOOKING FOR JJ was published to great acclaim, going on to be shortlisted for the 2004 Whitbread Prize and the 2005 Carnegie Medal. Follow Anne at or on Twitter: @annecassidy6

About The Book:

Moth Girls focuses on Mandy as she lives with the guilt of what she didn’t reveal when her two friends, Tina and Petra, went missing five years ago. But were they really her friends? As she begins to recall more of the events that lead up to their disappearance, we are shown a girl who was very much a third wheel, desperately trying to squeeze her way into a close friendship between two girls.

Gradually, Mandy pieces together what really happened on that fateful night; the night Tina dared them to visit the mysterious house that drew her to it like a moth to a flame. And when she does, the truth and her part in what happened are not what she expected.

What I liked:

I liked the plot and the twist, and thought the relationship between the three 12-year-old girls was very well rendered and believable (although they did seem to belong more to my teen years than now; their lifestyle and dialogue felt quite dated). Petra and Zofia are sympathetic and well-drawn characters whom we begin to care about – more so, perhaps, than we care about Mandy. The build-up of tension is very good too as we go back and forth between now and the past, and there’s satisfaction in feeling that for some characters, at least, there is closure and a happier, if not happy, ending.

I also liked the realism of the underlying theme – that we are more often hurt, emotionally and physically, by those closest to us; those that we should be able to trust.

What I wasn’t so keen on:

The language was a little simplistic for a YA novel – it felt aimed at tweens or young teens rather than a young adult audience. Mandy seemed inconsistent as a main character and the book has a feeling of inconsistency too, sometimes swinging away from the thriller plot for an unnecessarily long time and becoming more a ‘coming of age of a troubled teenager’ book. Mandy’s is he/isn’t he boyfriend could be removed from the book without any real harm.

Would I read another?

If the blurb drew me in, then yes, I’d probably read another Anne Cassidy. As it happens, I’m quite intrigued by her Murder Notebooks novels:

The Murder Notebooks are a series of books about two teenagers, Rose Smith and Joshua Johnson. For three years they lived together as a family with Rose’s mother and Joshua’s father. One night their parents go out for a meal and never return. Rose and Joshua, 12 and 14 at the time are shocked and traumatised by this. Rose is sent to live with her grandmother in London and Joshua is sent to Newcastle to live with his uncle.The books follow their attempts to find out what really happened to their parents and the meaning of two notebooks, written in code…

Intriguing, eh? These may make it onto my TBR pile at some point.

#Writer Beware: Not All Fame Is Good Fame

From time to time, people contact me to say how much they’ve appreciated one of my health columns. It’s nice to get those emails, social media messages or comments via the website; I like to feel the articles are being read and that they’re helping people. If one of my columns has been published in a local magazine, I sometimes get some rather lovely pleasant face-to-face feedback, too.

However, I was reminded recently that my control over how my humble Word documents are transformed into printed articles in magazines is limited – and that not all fame is good fame…

“They’re talking about your article!!” chirruped a Facebook message from a friend last month. I frowned at her link, which was to a post on the FB page of a local village. What was that image? Why were they laughing about my article? I squinted. Wasn’t that a picture of the short version of my article, printed in a local magazine?

I leaned closer. Why had somebody drawn a circle around th-


World Blood Donor Day Blooper

No. I don’t know how that made it to print, either.

I went straight on the internet to see if I could find digital versions of other print magazines in which it might have appeared.

Phew! Luckily, the article has appeared in other publications with a less embarrassing graphic. People in Birmingham and various parts of Yorkshire have been spared potential blushes, as have many others across the blood donor day 3

Unfortunately, people in Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire weren’t so lucky. I would apologise, but honestly, that side of it is nothing to do with me!

The moral of this story? Never write an article with a title that could be turned into something dubious by a graphic designer’s one-letter typo. It’s certainly made me give my titles a second look…