BOOK REVIEW: ‘IF HE HAD BEEN WITH ME’

Yesterday I started and finished an incredible book.

Earlier this year, I went to my local library and got a library card in an attempt to start reading more like I did when I was younger. Something you’ll discover about me, I am an extremely passionate writer. A big dream of mine is to get one of my stories published one day and my reasoning behind getting a library card involved this. I wanted to read more to get my head around the style of writing I wanted to develop and try to improved my skills by learning from others.

I have read multiple books since getting my card, but none of them stayed with me as much as the one I want to tell you about.

‘If He Had Been With Me’ was a book I saw on the shelf and was drawn to by the title, as it reminded me of the kind of title I’d choose for one of my own books, mysterious
and sounding like there’s an incredible story behind it. I read the blurb, then I put it down, then I picked it back up again and I’m so glad I did.

The book is one I had never heard of before (which greatly frustrates me because it is so wonderful) and the author, Laura Nowlin, was the same.

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I’m not going to include spoilers in this, because this is a book that deserves to be read without already knowing what’s coming, but I will give you a brief outline.

The book, published April 2nd 2013, centres around the story of Autumn Lange, a girl from Missouri, and her childhood friend, Phineas Smith. It’s set over the course of 6 years and the ups and downs involved in the life of teenagers, who grew apart but never quite let go.

The story is truly beautiful and I’ve never read anything quite like it before. I can’t compare it to anything else I’ve read as I really do think it is far superior and way too unique for any kind of comparisons. It’s a story of deep friendship, first love that never leaves and the tragedy of ‘what could have been’s’. The characters have been created so carefully in a way that makes them so unique and so memorable. There are so many quirks that each character carries which to me, make them seem like much more than just characters.

Autumn is a character I liked from start to finish, which is rare, as unfortunately, female leads start to annoy me around the half way point in most novels. She is funny and quirky and relateable, carrying that weirdness that we all have a little bit of and wearing it proudly. Phineas is a character I immediately fell in love with. He is sweet and quiet and loving and just all around the perfect guy that you’re rooting for the whole way through. He is one of those characters that make you wish he were real and make you want to find your very own version of to love. The way Nowlin chooses to tell the story, with flashbacks and a unique time span, is what I believe created such a deep understanding of the characters and what makes readers to feel such a connection to them.

The underlying love story is incredible and one of the best I’ve read about and felt connected to in a long time. The feelings Nowlin manages to display through her incredible words left me in awe and I truly idolise the style she writes in and the way she can make me adore two people so much that aren’t even real. Her writing is honestly impeccable the whole way through and the way she skips time without you even realising that years are going by is very impressive. The way she writes is a way that encompasses you in the world she has created and makes you feel that connection to the story that not every author can manage to do. She even makes the more minor characters seem so alive and pours such realness into them that causes you to form strong opinions about every single one of them. I really cant believe that she isn’t a more popular author after reading this book and feeling the amazing power of her writing.

So many things stood out to me within her beautiful telling of this amazing story. The deep romance and incredible, delicately formed details that run throughout it. The careful use of techniques, like foreshadowing and pathetic phallacy that make the story seem so clever and show how much thought and intricate planning has been put into every line. And of course, the beautiful tragedy within it that breaks your heart, leave you in tears and makes you feel like it’s so much more than just a book.

Something else that wowed me about her writing is the way she touches on serious issues in such a subtle yet effecting way. Dark issues like depression and family problems were dealt with so tactfully and delicately in a way that can only be admired and appreciated.

I’m not usually one to say; “I couldn’t put it down” but genuinely, I couldn’t. I was so invested in the characters, the story, everything about it that I didn’t want to put it down until I had finished it, while simultaneously not wanting it to end. Finishing it was one of those bitter-sweet moments, when you’re so glad to know the end but so sad to have finished it, as well as being overcome with all the emotions that the ending made you feel. In the case of ‘If He Had Been With Me’, that was a lot of emotions. The kind of emotions that leave your mind constantly wandering back to the story for days and wondering “Why”.

I don’t want to say too much about the story as, as I said, it’s so much better when you have no pre-conceptions about what you’re reading. All I can say is it is 100% one of the best books I’ve ever read and is by far in my top 3 of all time favourites. I highly recommend it and I promise, you will not regret giving it a try. I cant believe it isn’t more widely talked about and that I never heard any buzz about it.

It’s 5 stars from me all around.

I’m eagerly awaiting her next release as I know this story is going to stay with me for a long time.

The beauty of it is astounding.

Until next time,

Love

x

 

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NEW MUSIC FIND MONDAYS

There is nothing I love more than finding new music. Or even better, finding old music that I never knew existed. Music is probably the world’s biggest connector, bringing people together all across the globe, regardless of race, religion or sexuality. That’s pretty epic, and because my love for music makes me feel as though it’s literally running through my veins, I want it to be a big part of my blog.

I’m always clicking around on Spotify, one of the greatest apps ever created if you ask me, and often, I come across bands and artists that I either never paid attention to before, or have never heard of and I end up falling in love with them instantly.

I feel as though my music taste has developed a lot over the past year and a half and I am no longer listening to throw away tunes, but music that actually makes me feel something.  I have reverted back to enjoying the style of music I was raised listening to; Rock/Punk and it warms my heart to see my old favourites, making a well needed comeback at the same time. i.e: Blink 182, Good Charlotte, Green Day.

This week, one of my favourite bands, 5 Seconds of Summer, kindly shared their favourite songs right now on public Spotify playlists (they are seriously great playlists, I’ll link them below if you want to check them out). I spent a lazy Sunday skipping through them, and as a result, managed to find myself loving some new bands and exploring albums filled with punchy tunes that managed to stick themselves on a loop in my head.

The first new (old) band I’ve been drawn to and am kind of obsessing over is ‘The Maine’ who hail from Arizona and were formed in 2007, releasing 5 full albums to date as well as 7 EP’s. This band are right up my street, with an edgy rock sound and deep lyrics that really make me think. While listening to them, I was trying to put my finger on which other bands they remind me of, though I soon realised they really are a sound all their own. They have an extremely distinctive sound that follows them from album to album, and makes them something that’s extremely important in the music industry: DIFFERENT. The uniqueness I’m talking about can particularly be heard on their Covers EP’s where they cover hits such as Drake’s “Hold on We’re Going Home” and Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” in a beyond impressive fashion.

Their latest release, 2015’s “American Candy” was probably my favourite find of all and is quickly becoming one of my most listened to. To me, there’s a noticeable
difference between this album and their past albums, but personally, I think that’s a positive thing as the newer release is more to my taste, allowing me to love every single song featured on it.

Check out the title song:

I believe this band is severely underrated and they’re my biggest recommendation right now to any rock fan, young or old. Related artists include; Anarbor, Mayday Parade, Marianas Trench and State Champs.

My favourite tracks by them that are currently taking over my playlists (My top 3 are starred *):

Miles Away – The Maine (American Candy 2015)
Same Suit, Different Tie – The Maine (American Candy 2015)*
My Hair – The Maine (American Candy 2015)
English Girls – The Maine (American Candy 2015)
American Candy – The Maine (American Candy 2015)*
Diet Soda Society – The Maine (American Candy 2015)
Another Night On Mars – The Maine ( American Candy 2015)
Run – The Maine (Forever Halloween 2013)
Love and Drugs (Forever Halloween 2013)
Identify – The Maine (Pioneer 2011)*
Some Days – The Maine (Pioneer 2011)
Misery – The Maine (Pioneer 2011)

My next new discovery is ‘The Cab’. Now, after spending my day listening to their (amazing) albums, I realised their is a lot of love for them, so many of you probably know very well who they are.

‘The Cab’ hail from Nevada and officially formed in 2005. They are another band with what I believe is a distinctive sound, as though they are rock there’s often an alternative sound in their music. They have released 2 full albums and 4 EP’s to date, though sadly they are on a possibly permanent hiatus. To me, they were the kind of band that drew me in after hearing one song as their sound captured me in the sense that they have quite a distinct sound and to me, every song sounds completely different to the last. To me, I can hear elements of many bands throughout their albums. At times they have an element of ‘Panic at the Disco!’, other times there’s a sense of ‘Maroon 5’ and I even hear reminders of ‘Simple Plan’. Not to mention lead singer Alexander DeLeon gives me serious Patrick Stump vibes.

They, like The Maine, give me something completely different, and I love that when I was selecting each new track of theirs, I had absolutely
no clue what to expect. They’re an all around great listen and I reccommend them to music fans that enjoy something a little different. I particularly enjoyed their most recent release, 2014 EP “Lock Me Up”.

Check out the title track:

My favourite’s of theirs:

One of THOSE Nights – The Cab (Whisper War 2008)*
Bounce – The Cab (Whisper War 2008)
Her Love is My Religion – The Cab (Symphony Soldier 2011)
Temporary Bliss – The Cab (Symphony Soldier 2011)
Angel With A Shotgun – The Cab (Symphony Soldier 2011)*
Bad – The Cab(Symphony Soldier 2011)
La La – The Cab (Symphony Soldier 2011)
Lock Me Up – The Cab (Lock Me Up EP 2014)*
Stand Up – The Cab (Lock Me Up EP 2014)

Other songs I have discovered come from random artists/bands who are quite brilliant. Playlist of the week:

American Candy – The Maine (American Candy 2015)Maroon_5_-_Overexposed.png
Life Changes – Good Charlotte (Youth Authority 2016)
Tonight You’re Perfect – New Politics (Tonight You’re Perfect 2013)
Beautiful Goodbye – Maroon 5 (Overexposed 2012)
Everybody Talks – Neon Trees (Picture Show 2012)
Brand New Moves – Hey Violet (Brand New Moves 2016)Hey-Violet-Brand-New-Moves-EP-2016.jpg
Girls Like You – The Naked and Famous (Passive Me, Aggressive You 2010)
Angel With A Shotgun – The Cab (Symphony Soldier 2011)
Something to Believe in – Young and The Giant (Silvertongue 2016)
Antichrist – The 1975 (Facedown EP 2012)
Girls Talk Boys – 5 Seconds of Summer (Ghostbusters The_Naked_and_Famous_-_Passive_Me,_Aggressive_You.pngSoundtrack 2016)
Howl – Biffy Clyro (Ellipsis 2016)
Bitch Better Have My Money – The Maine (Covers (Side B) 2016)
No Sleep – Twin Atlantic (No Sleep 2016)
She’s Out Of Her Mind – blink 182 (California 2016)
Dancing on Glass – St Lucia (Matter 2016)Cj-RmH7XAAADcvh-300x300
Comin’ Home – City and Colour (Sometimes 2005)
Elsewhere – Heyrocco (Teenage Movie Soundtrack 2015)
Sweet Disposition – The Temper Trap (Conditions 2009)
Heathens – Twenty One Pilots (Heathens 2016)
Cold Water – Major Lazer, MO, Justin Bieber (Cold Water 2016)

There you have it. This is what I’ve been listening to recently and my new finds this week, I hope you love them as much as I do 🙂

If you want to look further into all my favourite music, you can follow me on Spotify; @sarahmay_xo where all my playlists are public (The 5 Seconds of Summer playlists I mentioned earlier: https://open.spotify.com/user/5_seconds_of_summer/playlist/6h0XC7A1eRhsvvmvsz701z , https://open.spotify.com/user/5_seconds_of_summer/playlist/4qI0enXKbVKb8m7pmyBeaa , https://open.spotify.com/user/5_seconds_of_summer/playlist/3vgtCvVxhUNAL8hX9jbJOW , https://open.spotify.com/user/5_seconds_of_summer/playlist/6BXaFTbcxiIu2EJnBy5cMC  ).

The songs above are selected from my playlist titled “Current Faves”, linked below:

I’ll be letting you in on my favourite new songs/artists/bands every Monday, and I really hope you find some great new music from here. I hope you enjoyed reading and feel free to tweet me what you think after you’ve given them a listen.

Happy listening, until next week

Love

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