July Wrap Up


This month has been amazing for reading! All of the books I have read/finished have been 5 stars! Fabulous!

There is a lot of Feminism in this post as I am going through a feminazi phase of life – it’s driving my parents crazy – but I don’t care! I love it!

Without further ado!

Girl Up by Laura Bates

*****

Anyone that follows me on Twitter knows that I have been raving about this book. It is a funny, informative, infuriating and honest. The illustrations are brilliant, the message even moreso and it is a must-read for all women young and old. See my review for full details.


Girls Will be Girls by Emer O’Toole

*****

This book is along a similar vein of Girl Up but focuses entirely on the author ­– Emer O’Toole’s – experiences, from androgynous dressing to not shaving. It is hilarious and down-right inspirational, not to mention the writing is great. I found myself wanting to write her a letter asking her to be my best friend. The things she does may be classed as ‘odd’ and I don’t think I could do some of them – hopefully not because society calls it of me but simply because I don’t want to – but she has a great voice and I wish there were more women out there like her.


What Colour is Kiss by Rocio Bonilla

*****

I received this book via Netgalley. It is a picture book/children’s book which intrigued me and is utterly charming. A second’s read for me but one I think kids will love – both boys and girls – it follows a unisex child trying to figure out the colour of kisses. It’s a delightful idea filled beautiful illustrations and interesting comparisons, instead of the standard red is for roses etc. I would happily buy this for my younger cousins.


I Call Myself a Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty by Victoria Pepe and others


*****


This collection of essays is inspiring. The different women – from 16 year olds to MPs, writers and activists – were incredible and diverse. I wasn’t reading a collection of white-middle-class voices complaining about smaller issues, but women all of categories discussing relevant, sometimes awful, topics which need to be addressed and can be. The essays were short – some only 2-3 pages longs – the quotes from books, inspiring women and men about feminism, were a fantastic carry-all. I loved it. It is a great train read, home read, bed read etc. There is no place this book cannot be read. Or shouldn’t be.


Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany


****


OH MY GOD. It’s happened.


I told myself I wasn’t going to wait up and read the book all in one gobut I did. I changed my order to kindle form rather than hardback – I was not waiting 5 days Amazon! – and I got the book at midnight. I started reading it at 12:15, to be exact, and finished it at 2:48. Full review to come butI enjoyed it. I had butterflies, which I haven’t had in a while, I really want to go and see the show and that is probably the ‘books’ biggest weakness in the sense that it is not meant to be read but seen. So you lose the dimensionality and natural pauses that would make it incredible!


The BFG by Roald Dahl


****


I have never read a Roald Dahl book. Shocking, I know. I read the children’s classics like The Secret Garden & The Wizard of Oz as a child, but never Roald Dahl. With the new movie recently released I fancied reading the book before going to see the film. I knew the story from the animated classic, which still creeps me out, but the book is much more light-hearted (or maybe it feels like that as I am no longer 8 years old!) The story is a classic, a very simple children’s story with some lovely literary merit. The BFG as a character is a whizzpopping wonder and it is clear to see why this is a Dahl favourite to many.


It’s been a brilliant month for reading, not in quantity but in quality, that’s the best kind.


With getting into a commuter schedule from starting my job in London I hope that next month I’ll be able to read even more than this month, but I doubt it’ll be as exciting as the Harry Potter release!


Let me know what you’ve been reading and send any recommendations!


Happy Reading!

July Book Haul


This month I have been frugal! I have been getting books from the library and reaching for older books rather than buy books!

But I have bought someand I got one on Netgalley which I shall include in the list below also.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

This book was everywhere a while ago and I found it in a charity shop for 50p in immaculate condition, and the cover is gorgeous and reviews amazing so I had to buy it. Even though I haven’t got a clue what it is about. The blurb reads that the story is about a ‘fathers and sons and the spiritual battles that still rage in America’s heart’. It’s a fairly short novel, appears to be historical and I haven’t read too many books with a father-son dynamic so I’m looking forward to picking this up.


The Human Factor by Graham Greene

I have been growing my Vintage Red-Spine book collection lately and this is the first of four books I bought this month from that label. I know the name Graham Greene but I have never read his works. The Human Factor is about an aging British intelligence officer and his African wife. Something goes wrong between Britain and Africa and there is a lot of tension. It’s an espionage novel so not one I normally pick up but Greene is supposedly famous for his use of suspense and focus on minor characters.

 
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

A huge book but one that really intrigued me. A child is born at the stroke of Midnight in India and discovers later in life that he is telepathically connected to a 1000 other children, all born at midnight hence the name. Each child has a special gift and the story is a whirlwind of disasters and triumphs that mirrors the course of modern India. Sounds colourful and fun and classic.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I have read this book before but I don’t have it in my possession and since this was in the gorgeous red-spine edition I just had to have it.


All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque

I have bought this book so many times and never read it, but it is WW1 and in the red-spine collection and I got into a conversation with someone that adores it the other day. I have to read it, someday. The story focuses on German soldiers who fight in WW1 and it epitomises the loss and stupidity of the war, but in a different perspective to the ones’ that we see the most.


Stealing Snow by Danielle Paige

So for regularly readers of my blog you’ll know I love the Dorothy Must Die series and this is the first novel in Danielle Paige’s new series about the Snow Queen. She has released the prequel to the masses already and Stealing Snow comes out on October 6th, I was lucky enough to receive the ebook via netgallley and I can’t wait to read it!

So there are all the books I have got this month – not including Harry Potter & the Cursed Child which I’ve pre-ordered on Kindle (my brother is getting the paperback) which comes out TOMORROW!  I’ll be up at midnight to read that one!


But including Harry Potter that’s not many at all, but this is good as I don’t have the money, and the library is packed with great books to read!

Let me know what books you’ve bought or received this month, and if there are any you think I should get next month!

Happy Reading! 


Summer Reads 2016


It’s summer! And it feels like it! Great Britain is going through a mini-heatwave right now - which won’t last, yet we remain optimistic - and everyone is complaining! It’s a typical British July.

Because of this it is the perfect time for us Bibliophiles to start compiling our list of Summer Reads to read whilst burning on the beach, in the airport when our plane is delayed or when we feel like staying in after complaining that the rain means we can never go out.

Aren’t we fabulous complainers!

So here is my 2016 Summer Reads list:

The Girls by Emma Cline

This book is everywhere! On every major magazine list, in every newspaper’s feature review! Everywhere! And I don’t know why and that bugs me. I have got the eBook version of The Girls from Netgalley so I think I am going to read this on, either, my new commute to London or when I go to New York at the end of August on the plane. We shall see! But it appears to be a must-read of 2016!

Only Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill

I am going through a big feminist phase and I really want to read some fiction-feminist literature and not just non-fiction. This is a go-to book apparently, and one that was raved about a lot last year but which I missed out on. I want to get to it this year and I can’t wait!

Harry Potter & The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

This is going to be the book to read this year. It is released at the end of this month – so not long to wait – and the pre-order has been huge. I count myself as one of those who has pre-ordered it, after a lengthy denial period. After re-reading Harry Potter in May I realised I could not-not read this book so I bit the bullet and now I can’t wait. It’s set to be a massive bestseller.

Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler

Vinegar Girl is the 3rd book to be released in the Hogarth series of Shakespeare Re-Writes. This book is a re-telling of The Taming of the Shrew – aka a re-re-telling of Ten Things I Hate About You, and we all love that movie - I have been trying desperately to get my hands on a proof copy of this book but it was impossible! So now I just have to purchase it and read it! I can’t wait!

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

I know I am incredibly late to the party with this book – the second book has been out for months – but I’ve yet to get to this series. But I bought the ebook a few months ago and I am determined to get down to it either during commuting or, again, when I go to New York in August. I read a lot of fairy-tale re-telling’s at the beginning of the New Year so I’m hoping to re-visit some of those themes  and compare them.

There are 5 of my top summer reads of 2016. I’m sure there are many more but I will catch you up with those as and when I get to them.

Let me know what you’re planning on reading this summer!

Happy Reading!

On My Shelf || Tag



I don’t know if this is what you’d call a game or a scavenger hunt or even just a tag but I thought I would have a go because it sounds great fun!

Basicallyon your bookcase count how many shelves you have. In my case: 7. Then 10 times choose 10 different random numbers.

And now with each of these randomly plucked numbers I am going to choose a number between1-6 to correlate the shelves. And then on that shelf count across to the random number and tell you what book it is J

1.      4-13: 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

2.      2- 20: It was Snowing Butterflies by Charles Darwin (Little Black Penguin Classic)

3.      1-1: Hogwarts Library by J.K. Rowling

4.      7-3: Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes

5.      5-13: Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth

6.      3-9: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

7.      6-22: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

8.      6-9: The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Steadman

9.      1-19: Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling

10.  2-17: The Fall of Icarus by Ovid (Little Black Penguin Classic)

That took a lot longer than it should have but it was fun! Have a go and let me know what you find on your bookshelves!

Happy Reading!

On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher || Book Review



Author: Carrie Hope Fletcher is a West-End actress and youtuber over at WayPastYourBedtime. She is also the author of the non-fiction book All I Know Now and she is currently touring in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang as Truly Scrumptious. On the Other Side is Carrie’s debut fiction novel.

Rating: **

Review:

First of allplease don’t hate me! I like Carrie as much as the next person, her fictional debutnot so much.

On The Other Side is being released today and I am sure it’ll be a hit, but as a Creative Writing graduate and writer myself I did not love it.

On the Other Side is a magical realism novel about an 82 year old woman, called Evie, who dies and goes to her own personal purgatory – her old flat – and has to complete three tasks to lighten her soul – which is too heavy – in order to get into heaven. The three tasks involve a lot of exposition before any of them are filled and that was one of the issues I faced when reading this book.

The novel is fairly short at around 280 pages yet 100 of them are entirely exposition. I found that this lack of structure and pace meant that whilst the story was interesting during the exposition, and I enjoyed the romance that occurs, I ultimately forgot, for a while, what the purpose of the exposition was for.

The character Evie goes through a wall in purgatory– I’ll get to the magical realism in a moment – and witnesses her time as a 27 year old living in London for a year, attempting to break into a career as an animator.

Here was the biggest issue for me.

When Evie is 82 she is living in modern times, which means that she jumps back 55 years into 1960-1961. At no point does the era feel like the 1960s. There are mobiles, proms – in England? – upper-class arranged marriages – still? etc. It didn’t feel like the 1960s at all and it didn’t feel like Carrie, or the editors, had given much thought to setting the era.

As a tip for anyone writing about the 1960s, or any era, – use music, use hairdos, use newspaper headlines or politics, anything, to set the time period otherwise you end up confusing your readers!

Anywayso she goes back to the 1960s where 27 year old Evie met and fell in love with a violist called Vincent Winters. The character names bugged me in the novel. It’s just a personal preference so not really important, but I really didn’t like the families all having names starting with the same first letter: i.e. Eleanor, Ewan, Edward and Evelyn ‘Evie’ SnowJim, James, Jane Summers. It feels a little force. I can live with the surnamespossibly.

Again, anywayThe romance between Vincent and Evie is sweet. I particularly liked their meeting and the use of the sweets. It was an original, charming idea and I liked the chemistry between them.

In the middle of the relationship, however - which is still being described when we’re all wondering what the hell is going on with old Evie and purgatory – the relationship feels too modern, again. And some of the events that happen and the reasoning for why it doesn’t work out are just not strong enough in my opinion.

The evil mother, the antagonist of the novel, felt a bit cliché, particularly as there didn’t seem to be anything but evilness about her.

Another tip for new writers: characters are not two-dimensional. If they are the antagonist they are doing bad things for a reason which they think is good – it is not simply because they detest their children or ‘things are done that way.’

Now to the writing of the pieceCarrie is a new fiction writer so the writing is acceptable, if flawed. I know that she got the book deal for the idea and not the writing ability so I can forgive her for this. However, I found On the Other Side to hold to the ‘telling rather than showing’ aspect of writing and it is the first thing that should be knocked out of you when you begin a writing career!

At times Carrie almost seemed to get bored with what she was writing and wanted to push on with the story, so she simply tells us what happened in a period and jumps to the next. It is disorientating and slightly annoying as you want to savour information not digest it all at once.

I noticed this particularly towards the end when old Evie gets on the path of lightening her soul, when we find out what happened to the men in her life – Jim Summers and Vincent Winters – again with the surnames!

We find out what happened to Vincent’s wife in a very ‘amateur way - first we get their whole life-together in two pages, then their whole break-up in another two and that is it. Bye Bye Cynthia Winters, nee Petal.

I think younger readers will enjoy the story for its narrative and buckets of information,  but for older readers – which technically this book is aimed at seeing as the protagonist is 27 then 82 years old! – It’s a bit young for us. The implied is sometimes stronger than the obvious.

That being said there are elements that I was glad to have seen within a younger-audience novel, in particular the LGBT element. Evie’s brother Edward is gay and this has an impact on the whole story.

However, it’s the 1960sno man ever went up to his family member and said ‘I’m gay’ – firstly being homosexual was illegal until 1967 and even if it was accepted by another family member/friend etc, which I highly doubt in this period, by admitting that you were homosexual you were technically committing a felony. Also the term ‘gay’ was not readily used until the 1980s and it was more likely that the character would have implied that they were gay or used the term homosexual rather than outrightly come out.  

But nonetheless the inclusion of a LGBT character was moving and I think it worked in the overall plot.

Rightmagical realism.

You’d have thought, bearing in mind that the story is partly set in an apartment-building-purgatory that I would have seen the magical realism elements coming. But when I read that the character had travelled to the past through a wall, in a cat’s mouth I was a bit taken back!

She took a step on to Horace’s tongue, trying to be careful not to hurt him. Horace lifted her a few inches off the ground and slowly started to pull her into his open mouth. Evie turned her head to Lieffe, keeping her balance. ’If I come out Horace’s other end, there will be hell to pay when I get back. She ducked as she passed through the cat’s teeth, then sucked in a breath and held it as he gently closed his mouth around her.

Not to mention a certain bird, love letters, and a fruit tree grown from a heart

I felt very strongly that these magical realist elements felt very sickly sweet and were included out of the sake of ‘wouldn’t that be nice element’ rather than actual plot, and they were not written very well.

The bird, for example, carrying love notes on his feathers between Evie and Vincent was not written about until it needed to be a plot device. If it had been included beforehand and carried on throughout the story then I might have understood its usuage and the effect it had on lightening Evie’s soul. It was the same for the cat and the tree – they just appeared at the ‘right moment’. Rather than being included in the whole story.

Convenient?!

Overall I think On the Other Side was an interesting, if not beguiling, first attempt at a novel and the romance elements of it were good and there is promise. Butand there is a big butI think Carrie Hope Fletcher has a bit of way to go before her stories become novels.

This felt very much like a debut and very much like an amateur writing for fun. I think now she has to write with a plot and a stringent structure, and hopefully have more editing in the future as I noticed several misused words, spelling errors and a lack of research in places.

Let me know what you thought of On the Other Side if you have read it, as I would love to discuss the finer elements of it, or let me know if you plan on reading it.

Happy Reading!

Ten Books Everyone Should Have on their Bookcase


I realise I’ve been a bit sparse on the book blogging front this week – no excuse, I was just in a slump – but now I’m back with some planned posts to get me up and running again.

Today I have a simple list!

Ten Books Everyone Should Have on Their Bookcase

Whether you’ve actually read these books or not – you should – but doesn’t matter, but according to numerous websites I’ve researched and general consensus, these are the book you should always own on your bookshelves!

1.    Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

A lot of these are classics funnily enough and Jane Eyre is one of the greatest. A bildungsroman (a story started from beginning of life onwards) the novel follows Jane Eyre through terrible childhood onto adulthood and watches her quaint little figure full in love with the dark Mr Rochester who harbours a terrible secret. Gothic, suspenseful, romantic and intriguing it is a classic loved by many and a very good book!

2.    The Complete Collection of William Shakespeare

This definitely comes under the book that everyone should own but not necessarily read. I find that our complete collection at home is too big for me to even lift, except when using it as a doorstop, and I prefer to read the plays separately. But if I ever desire to read a play – which are surprisingly quite short – then I have the complete collection of plays, and sonnets, to go to.

3.    The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank

This diary is one of the most important, if not the most important, in history and it is written by a young girl trapped in a situation and annexe from which there is no escape. It is the ramblings of a teenager so it grows in its indecency and puberty-related topics, rather than stick to the topics of the day, but when you’re stuck in annexe with people you hardly know yet have to abide it is amazing that Anne had anything to write about, let alone the strength to write about, at all.

4.    Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

Another classic! The ultimate love story by Jane Austen – which I’ve still yet to read, but nonetheless have – is supposedly Austen’s greatest work. Humorous, witty and incredibly romantic the story follows Elizabeth Bennet and her four sisters on their way to matrimony.

5.    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Another book I’ve yet to read. This story follows a court trial of a black man defended by a white man and discusses the topics of racism in the South of America. I don’t know much more than that as I have never read it nor seen a production/movie of it but the story is second-to-none in most people’s eyes.

6.    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Simply written from the perspective of Offred (Of Fred – females aren’t allowed names) this story tells the life of a ‘’maid’ in a dystopian version of America – where pregnancy and successful labours are a thing of the past and society is crumbling. It is simple in the sense that Offred narrates only that of her daily life, the ritualised sex and violence of the new society which occasional glimpses into her past life before the collapse. It has an ambiguous ending but a hopeful one and is considered Atwood’s best work.

7.    Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Another dystopian – slightly sci-fi – novel set in the 1960s onwards in a time when life expectancy is over 100 by the use of clones, reared from birth, organs. It is not a story about the horrors of this or really about this, instead it is written fro the perspective of one of the ‘’donors’ about her and her friends Ruth & Tommy. It is a novel of youth, freedom and love and it is moving as well as disturbing.

8.    The Great Gatsby by F. Scott. Fitzgerald

I finally got around to reading this book this year and I did enjoy. It is a story of consumerism, love, mistakes and youth and it is haunting as well as rather simple. It is a novella, rather than novel, although it is considered the great All-American Novel for simply sticking to the 1920s glamour and theme of American life. A fast-paced, love story which ends darkly and slightly ambiguously.

9.    Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

It has to be on here!  Not only is Harry Potter the bestseller children’s books of all time it is probably one of the most recognisable of all time as well. It is a pre-determined collection of stories which should be on ever bookshelf and it is a wonderful set of stories at that. A modern classic.

10. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

Although this series loses favour for its obvious religious agenda if you ignore, as children are want to do, it is a beautiful series of fantastical creatures and numerous adventures. Whilst poor Susan’s ending is not the most heart-lifting and some of the stories drag in comparison to others, it is a series that should no-less remain on a bookcase in every home.

There we have it. Ten Books Everyone Should have on their bookshelves!

Happy Reading!

Smoke by Dan Vyleta || Book Review



Author: Dan Vyleta is the award-winning, German-Canadian author of The Crooked Maid and the Quiet Twin.

Release Date: 7th July 2016

Rating: **

Review:

Smoke by Dan Vyleta has been described as a cross-between a Dickens novel, Harry Potter and Johnathon Strange & Mr Norrell and I can see the links to all. However, I think describing it as similar to Harry Potter is a ploy by the publishers to get younger readers to pick it up when the book, although YA in the sense it has YA aged characters, feels much more like a clunky, un-sure thriller of adult proportions.

 
That is my own clunky way of saying: it doesn’t have a clear focus or plotline throughout.

I gave the book a 2-star rating as although the writing is good nothing stands out as exceptional to me, in fact I would go as far as saying that I think the structure of the narrative is very confusing.

The story itself centres of the reason for the title: Smoke. It is an alternative/dystopian London, in the 19th century, where Smoke is attached to everyone and is contributed to sin and being sinful. Basically you smoke when you’re angry, or you lie or you are thinking ‘impure’ thoughts.

With me so far?

I don’t think the description of the Smoke is clear. There are hundreds of references to it, the soot, the smell and the different types of smoke, but the descriptions are still very weak and repetitive. I never got a clear idea of it (ironic, since its smokeit’s not supposed to be clear I guess).

The setting of the story is so mismatched and under-described that I was very confused during the course of the novel. It jumps between narrators, which means the story jumps from Oxford to London, from boarding school to manor house etc.

It starts off in a boarding school for the sons of the wealthy gentry, who are supposedly the purest of the population (there is a lot of class-related angst in this novel, but I’ll get to that in a minute). This is where we meet the two protagonists: Thomas and Charlie, two 16 year old boys.

Thomas is an orphan whose father committed a crime and who struggles to ‘contain his smoke’ and Charlie is a ginger saint who is cool-headed and kind and everyone just loves him.

The antagonist is harder to pinpoint.

Is it Julius the slightly stockier and calmer of the boarding school boys, who appears perfect and is a prefect with a weird obsession with Thomas, or is it the male teachers at the boarding school – which is practically Dotheboys Hall from Nicholas Nickleby – who parade around talking about the indignity of smoke and threaten to court-martial you if you do and appear slightly more freaky as the story goes on?

I don’t know!

The characters are not clear and it is only after 100 pages+ that you start to realise that Thomas and Charlie are the main characters. It jumps around a lot with hardly any follow-through or revelations, or at least revelations that make sense!

When the two boys are shipped off to stay with Lady Naylor over Christmas – a woman who has a personal connection to a teacher, although Charlie has a family and Thomas had plans to stay with them? Weak exposition! – Everything becomes particularly jumbled but the story does begin to pick up pace.

This, however, is where the Harry Potter element comes in. They meet a girl: Livia Naylor, a saintly, intelligent girl who hates Thomas and likes Charlie, although later the trope-y love-triangle begins.

I can’t explain much more without giving away the whole story-line but it is so muddled and incoherent I’m not sure I could explain it anyway.

I think the main confusion comes from the amount of characters that are in this novel! There are too many! The several teachers, the janitor, the manor house family/staff, the miners, coachman, Londoners, churchman, boatman, women in white..! Too many!

Vyleta can write but this story was weak in exposition and weaker still in narrative.

Another fault, as I mentioned before, is the class-element. Vyleta becomes noticeably preachy during the course of the book, practically shouting in written form that class is an oppressive issue in society and that the upper class are mild-mannered toffs, with no care for the poor, and the poor are dirty, pissing losers.

 Smoke is supposed to be a thriller but asides from a few lack-lustre moments I didn’t find it very thrilling. There were moments when I wanted to know what happened next – the first moment being passed 120 pages in and even then thet gathered momentum subsided quickly with a quick introduction and dismissal of character which wasn’t explained for another 100 pages.

Although it has an interesting premise and is clearly a stimulating idea I think this story could have done with being simplified, less muggy and more descriptive and slightly less oppressive on the class and gender side of things. It is very male-orientated!

Overall I gave it 2 stars because 1 star is for books I chuck across the room. This is more interesting than that, but it was also a disappointment, unfortunately.

Let me know what you think if you read or have read it!

Happy Reading!