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Best Books of 2016 – aka, I Am A Terrible Person

So firstly, I am ashamed, ASHAMED, of my lack of blogging since my Journey to Employment post – my only excuse being my employment. With how busy my first two months of work have been and keeping up with the PubInterns account, and attempting to have a social life, I just haven’t had the time or inclination to blog as much as I used to. SHAME CHLOE, SHAME.

But I’m making a quick return, and though I can’t promise my blogging will be better in 2017, at least I’m ending 2016 on a high note, with a run down of the best books I read this year (totally my opinion, probably not the mainstream or what everyone else thinks, but whatever, this is my blog, not theirs). Incidentally, I am currently reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and loving it!!!

No particular order, just wonderful books, and I can’t even remember all the books I read this year (there were lots okay) but these are the ones that stood out to me.

Nina does not have a drinking problem. She likes a drink, sure. But what 17-year-old doesn’t? 

Nina’s mum isn’t so sure. But she’s busy with her new husband and five year old Katie. And Nina’s almost an adult after all. 

And if Nina sometimes wakes up with little memory of what happened the night before , then her friends are all too happy to fill in the blanks. Nina’s drunken exploits are the stuff of college legend. 

But then one dark Sunday morning, even her friends can’t help piece together Saturday night. All Nina feels is a deep sense of shame, that something very bad has happened to her…

I loved this book, such a brilliant, humorous read, that made a difficult subject honest and real and entertaining without taking away from the severity of it. Shappi is a fantastic writer and this was definitely a stand out this year – Nina is a great character and I wish she was my friend.

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

This is a book that I felt really and truly affected by after I read it. It has stuck with my long after I read it and I am itching to get my hands on Jennifer’s next book, Holding Up the Universe to enjoy her writing again. I wrote a longer but still ‘mini’ review of it here but to repeat the most important thing from that review – this book is not afraid of the hard stuff, of real life and unhappy endings. And that’s what makes it special.

In a small town where everyone knows everyone, Emma O’Donovan is different. She is the special one – beautiful, popular, powerful. And she works hard to keep it that way. 

Until that night . . . 

Now, she’s an embarrassment. Now, she’s just a slut. Now, she is nothing.

And those pictures – those pictures that everyone has seen – mean she can never forget.

This is the kind of book I just want to throw at people and force them to read it. Again, longer review here but in essence Louise O’Neill teaches a valuable lesson about the blurred lines between consent and rape, victim blaming, and the painful after effects of rape. What’s really quite special is that Emma is not a hugely likeable character but that still is no excuse for what happens to her.

Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more – she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life.

Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She’s got a surly room-mate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible . . .

Controversially, I actually prefer Fangirl to Rowell’s more celebrated novel, Eleanor and Park. (I’ve done reviews of both here and here, and state why I prefer Fangirl in my E&P review.) I felt really connected to Cath as a character and really enjoyed seeing her different relationships: with Wren, with Reagan, with her parents, and with Levi. How each relationship added personality to Cath and developed her as a person was so great to read and I loved seeing her grow. However, this book is certainly not without its problems.

Every day I am someone else.

I am myself – I know I am myself – but I am also someone else.

It has always been like this.

Each morning, A wakes up in a different body. There’s never any warning about who it will be, but A is used to that. Never get too attached. Avoid being noticed. Do not interfere.

And that’s fine – until A wakes up in the body of Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend, Rhiannon. From that moment, the rules by which A has been living no longer apply. Because finally A has found someone he wants to be with – every day . . .

Such an interesting idea for a novel, and so well written. For a character whose body is constantly in flux, A manages to have such a complex and solid personality and development. My longer review is here and I have re-read it since then and still love it just as much. I love that it explores loss of identity in quite a bold way by actually having A lose their identity repeatedly.

They were the victims of separate massacres. Three strangers bound by similar traumas grouped together by the press.

When something terrible happens to Lisa, put-together Quincy and volatile Sam finally meet. Each one influences the other. Each one has dark secrets. And after the bloodstained fingers of the past reach into the present, each one will never be the same.

Is this cheating if it isn’t out until next year? Whatever, I was lucky enough to get my hands on a proof copy and devoured this novel. It was so well written and so great for a debut, I will encourage everyone to read it if they can next year! A total page-turner that keeps you guessing throughout. Definitely a must-read in 2017.

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.

You can see my longer review here and see that I do love Jandy Nelson as a writer and think she is so talented. What is great about I’ll Give You the Sun is that, like Fangirl, it understands that relationships other than romantic ones are so formative in your teenage years, especially ones between siblings. Also the dual narrative is absolutely brilliant – two different characters and two different timelines that manage to complement each other so well.

What if you had said yes . . . ?

Eva and Jim are nineteen, and students at Cambridge, when their paths first cross in 1958. Jim is walking along a lane when a woman approaching him on a bicycle swerves to avoid a dog. What happens next will determine the rest of their lives. We follow three different versions of their future – together, and apart – as their love story takes on different incarnations and twists and turns to the conclusion in the present day.

I love, love, love this book! It’s such a clever idea by Laura Barnett and I wrote a nice long review of it here. It was such a gift to receive it as part of a competition I won, that I had no pre-conceived ideas of it and was allowed to fall in love with the purity of a great story and brilliant writing. This is a love story that goes beyond the norm. It’s one for the ages.

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

It’s no shock that this was on my must-read list this year and that it gained so many good reviews. It is superbly written, compelling and exciting. Clare Mackintosh does a brilliant job of keeping the reader’s attention and focus and the book zags in places where you expect it to zig which I love. I wrote a full review here and still maintain that it was the best thriller since Girl on the Train. 

Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie – confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realizes, and Caddy is about to learn that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.

I just finished this last week and am so pleased to write a review of a book with NO ROMANTIC INTERESTS. This book passes the Bechdel test on so many levels and pages which gets all the applause. Caddy reminded me so much of me at 16 though without a Rosie or a Suzanne and it was so easy to see how she could get swept up in the danger of someone a little bit more exciting than her. It was a beautiful representation of life after a trauma, how tragedy affects the victim and damages them even after they are supposedly saved.

In this historic romance, young Elizabeth Bennet strives for love, independence and honesty in the vapid high society of 19th century England.

Shock horror but I hadn’t actually read Pride and Prejudice until this year. But then I found myself addicted to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (which if you haven’t watched you really really need to) and decided it was about time I actually read the most famous novel in the English language. Plus, now that I knew the story from LBD, I would be able to keep track of what was going on and focus more on Austen’s words. And I have to say, I totally understand why it’s so popular and beloved (aside from Colin Firth coming out of a lake sopping wet). It is a great narrative, with the original boss bitch Lizzie Bennet and a brilliant representation of 19th century high society.


So, what were your top books of 2016? Any recommendations?

The Summer I Turned Pretty – Jenny Han

The Summer I Turned Pretty is a lovely book by YA wonder Jenny Han, who also wrote To All The Boys I’ve Ever Loved Before.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is about Isabel ‘Belly’ Conklin and her life measured in summers at Cousin’s Beach, spent with her mother, brother Steven, mother’s best friend Susannah (who she sometimes feels closer to than her own mother), and Susannah’s two sons Conrad and Jeremiah. Belly has been in love with Conrad forever, but as the novel starts, Con and Jere finally start to realise that Belly is a girl, not their silly little friend.

It was a sweet little novel; not as strong as Han’s other YA series, but I would still be interested in reading the rest of the trilogy. It’s a coming-of-age novel, but the problem was, I felt like Belly never really grew up. I completely understand that at that age, boys are the centre of life, but her relationship with her best friend Taylor was more interesting and more disappointing. Not to mention her relationship with herself.

I needed Belly to have more self-respect, and stop being so pathetic, and need Conrad to validate her. And maybe that’s because she was the baby of the group, that she began to treat herself like the baby, but she really needed to grow up. Boys are fun, but they’re not everything.

I love a love story, but this felt really half-hearted. Like Belly loves Conrad, but then she loves Cam, but then she loves Jeremiah, but then back to Conrad. Which I know happens when you’re a teenager, completely, but it felt like she loved them because they loved her, not because she really truly did. I didn’t find myself rooting for any couple really, and the conclusion felt so rushed.

I definitely remember finishing it and thinking there were parts I would change or rewrite, but overall it was an easy read, swallowed in an afternoon and that summer novel that is kind of a YA staple. But as beach books go, We Were Liars is infinitely better.

Maybe I’m too old for this kind of book now, but I don’t think I’m too old for good YA. There are some YA books I’ve read this year that were absolutely fantastic, and brilliantly written.

I just don’t think this was necessarily one of them.

So there you have it… The Summer I Turned Pretty – a quick, light, read, that really needed more depth.

What are your views?

The Fever – Megan Abbott

“Chloë, why haven’t you done a book review in FOREVER??”

Well readers, the fact is I’ve been super busy (even though it doesn’t feel like it because I am still uNEmployED) and kept reading and not reviewing. But I am here and I am ready to review.

The Fever by Megan Abbott was the very last book I read on holiday (which was 2 months ago now, bad Chloë bad Chloë) but since I hadn’t finished it by the time I got home, I didn’t include it in my holiday reads. It is now completed and ready to be reviewed.

And my Amazon account just reminded me that I bought it on the 30th of November last year. LAST YEAR. But at least I read it, right?

Deenie, Gabby and Lise are best friends – a tight girl-unit negotiating their way through the troubled waters of their teens, a world of sex, secrets and intense relationships.

When first Lise then Gabby falls prey to a mysterious illness, hysteria sweeps their school and, as more girls succumb, Deenie finds herself an outsider, baffled by the terrifying illness and scared that it could all be because of something she has done.

Suffering with Deenie are her dad and her brother, both protective of Deenie, but each with secrets of their own . . .

This was a really interesting read for me. It was quite unlike anything I’ve ever read before, but definitely had elements of The Crucible by Arthur Miller which is one of my favourite plays.

I love the idea of the mass hysteria sweeping a school and girls becoming more and more agitated by the idea of this unknown disease, all the while with parents pointing fingers and become accusatory.

For me, I actually found Deenie (the protagonist) the least interesting character; whilst I was so intrigued to know what was causing the illness, I found the parents and the other girls far more developed and interesting characters, particularly Gabby and Deenie’s brother, Eli.

The many different theories for the cause of the illness are the centre of the novel, from the mysterious dirty lake that has plagued the town for years, to the HPV vaccine administered to the girls. All these proposed theories highlight the hysterical nature of word-of-mouth, rumour, and parental anxiety. As the characters latch onto the various theories, Abbott reveals a commentary not about illness and disease, but about reaction and fear.

Ultimately, though the premise was very strong, I felt that the conclusion of the story was a little disappointing and by the time I had finished the book, I didn’t really care that much about what happened.

I think Abbott really could’ve ramped it up further, like in The Crucible and had the accusations be more dramatic, isolating and incriminating, which would have amplified the theme of female sexuality and the way in which it stigmatises young girls, which if I’m not mistaken, was a key concept of her novel.

It was interesting how Abbott made it relevant for the 21st century, including technology to transmit the drama, but again, this could’ve been emphasised even further.

I do believe Abbott is a strong writer and I am intrigued to read her other works, but for me, this novel didn’t live up to the excitement the blurb stirred in me.

 

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – The Review #KeepTheSecrets

THIS IS NOT SPOILER FREE. I REPEAT, NOT SPOILER FREE. IF YOU HAVEN’T READ CURSED CHILD, TURN BACK NOW. (and then come back later)

I’m in a difficult place with this review. There are so many wonderful things about Cursed Child and a few not so wonderful things, and above all, I really think it needs to be seen on stage to truly appreciate it and I currently have no idea where I will be next week, never mind next year, when the current tickets are selling for. (You can buy them here if you are interested).

I’m going to try and break it down, and bear in mind that this is my childhood and it’s Jo’s world, we just get to read it.

The General Complaints 

  1. It’s too difficult to read as a script 

Just no. It’s not. You knew it was a script when you pre-ordered it. It says on the cover ‘Special Edition Rehearsal Script’. You knew it was a play in the West End, so what on earth would make you think it’s a novel??

It’s not too hard to read and you can quite easily forget that it’s a script, and if it helps (which I certainly think it does when reading a play) read it aloud.

2. It’s not what I was expecting 

No, and it wasn’t what I was expecting either. But cast your mind back to getting Deathly Hallows in 2007 and your expectations for that. Did any of us expect Hedwig to die? Or Dobby? Or FRED?? Did we expect Snape to be the good guy all along? Did we expect half the things that Jo wrote?

No. But you just have to trust in Jo’s ideas. After all, in 2007 she was the only one who knew what happened 19 years later. We’re just beyond lucky that she chose to share it with us.

3. It reads too much like Fanfiction 

Okay, this I agree with in part. It does feel like its something that ‘iluvRonmione96’ might have conjured up to satisfy their cravings for more of HP. But maybe that’s because reading it in script form doesn’t allow it to fully shine through the way a performance would. I really and truly think that the real magic lies in the spectacle.

Which leads me nicely to…

My Complaints 

  1. Who the hell is Delphi Diggory?? 

Okay, I know that the story needed a BIG BAD so we could have a BIG BATTLE and a BIG ENDING. But Delphi Diggory/Love-child of Voldemort and Bellatrix feels just a little bit ridiculous. When it was revealed that she was Voldemort’s child and there was another prophecy, I just felt a little bit like ‘rly????’.

I trust in Jo completely, and I support this. And I especially support the finding of the Time-Turner and going back in Time, because it’s a really nice way to pay homage to the original series. And we all know that story can work because we’ve seen AVPS.

But there are other ways she could’ve brought it full-circle, by ending it at Godric’s Hollow in 1981. Of course, she couldn’t totally rip off AVPS because that’s plagiarism and very very wrong. But I would’ve liked to see another Death Eater, maybe Rowle or Nott, trying to influence Scorpius, and going back to 1981 to Kill Harry (gasps).

That would’ve made more sense to me, and no need for Delphi Diggory, the most un-Mary Sue Mary Sue. (Does anyone know what the name is of a completely negative Mary Sue, whose purpose is to be the bad guy?)

2. Where are all the other children? Where are all the other characters? 

Seriously, this play needed more Rose. She’s barely in it! Hugo Granger-Weasley doesn’t even seem to exist. And where o where is Teddy Lupin? He could’ve sorted all this trouble out.

If this is a play about the Next Gen, we could’ve seen more of James Potter Jr., Rose Granger-Weasley and Lily Potter Jr.

And we could’ve seen Sirius in the past. And we could’ve seen Professor Longbottom. SERIOUSLY.

Let’s continue shall we?

Things I liked that other people probably didn’t 

1. Emphasis on Ronmione 

This lovely little script proves that Ronmione just make sense. So all you Harry/Hermione shippers, just get over yourselves. They didn’t have an affair in the future, it is and always will be Ron/Hermione and Harry/Ginny.

2. Albus is in Slytherin! 

Yep. Loved it. For a moment you think ‘But that doesn’t make sense, generations of Weasleys have been in Gryffindor and Harry Potter is the greatest Gryffindor since Dumbledore, how can his and Ginny’s son be a Slytherin?’

Well. Look at Sirius Black. Defied his parentage didn’t he?

And here is the ultimate, definitive proof that not all Gryffindors are good and not all Slytherins are bad. The lines of House Sorting aren’t always clear. Gryffindors can be smart and ambitious as well as brave. And Slytherins can be brave and loyal as well as cunning. Pettigrew and Snape are our Original Canon examples and Albus and Scorpius are our New Gen examples.

Jo has always been adamant that good and bad aren’t as clear as people think: Dumbledore did some awful things in his time and Draco was not always terrible.

Albus being in Slytherin keeps this narrative alive and proves that being Harry and Ginny’s son doesn’t mean he isn’t his own person.

3. Ron as Comic Relief 

Anyone who thinks that just because Ron went through all the struggles of his teenager-dom means he must have changed by middle-age is just wrong. These characters might be 20 years older but they are still inherently themselves. Ron is still loyal and humorous just as Hermione is brilliant and strong-willed and Harry is the hero. Plus, now Ron’s a Dad so he’s bound to be even funnier and in an even more embarrassing way. Ron Granger-Weasley is peak Dad Jokes.

yay dad jokes

Other things I liked 

1. Albus/Scorpius relationship 

Anyone who didn’t love this (Scorbus? Is that what we’re calling it? I approve) is just being ridiculous. It’s Harry/Ron all over again except with less jealousy and more homoeroticism. I’ve always said that the most important relationships in Harry Potter are the friendships, and Jo continues this in Cursed Child. Yes, I see the homosexual undertones as well as you do. But to be fair, the boys are 14 and might not be comfortable expressing their love for each other yet.

Let it flow, what will be will be. And all those people that were crying for Rose/Scorpius at the end of Deathly Hallows (you know who you are, I’ve seen the fanfics), got a little bit of what they were hoping for. Though I’m sure a solid 80% have jumped ship to the Good Ship Scorbus now.

2. Scorpius himself 

Scorpius is such a loser. I LOVE IT. Malfoy thought he was all that and a bag of chips, but his son is a total loser. Which proves that people are made not born. In a world where being a Malfoy isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, Scorpius ended up at the bottom of the food chain. But he still managed to be a hero.

Scorpius is the Neville of Cursed Child. And we all know how great Nevilles are.

3. The characters are not perfect 

Because Jo’s characters never are. Those people who are complaining that (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT, LOOK AWAY NOW, IN FACT WHY ARE YOU STILL READING???) Harry told Albus that he wished Albus wasn’t his son are forgetting that Harry is one of the most imperfect characters in literature. He often gets in rages and says things he doesn’t mean. He is an angry and impulsive character. Remember all those times he screamed at Ron and Hermione? His best friends? His only family? That horrible way he spoke to Lupin, when he said he’d be ashamed of him if he were Lupin’s son.

This actually makes sense for Harry, especially because he allows himself to get wound up so easily. This is the boy that was so wound up by Malfoy that he went off on a midnight mission round Hogwarts aged 11 and nearly got eaten by Fluffy.

Of course his own son is going to push his buttons. But part of Harry Potter is about owning your mistakes and correcting them. Which he does. Parent/child relationships aren’t always easy and they are rarely perfect. And in a Next-Gen story which is about this kind of relationship, Jo deals with it ideally.

Also, Rose is a little bitch at times and really needs to sort her act out. But again, not perfect. Lord knows Hermione could be a bitch at times, especially to the ones she loved. Poor Ron never got over the bird attack.

4. Its themes and heart are true to the Harry Potter narrative 

At its core Cursed Child deals with what it means to be a hero. Or the son-of-a-hero. Or the son-of-an-evil-little-shit.  Throughout Harry Potter Harry dealt with the pressure of being James and Lily’s son, the Chosen One. Here, Albus deals with the pressure of being Harry’s son.

The lines of good and evil are blurred, just like in Harry Potter and always, always, in HP love was the heart of the narrative. And Cursed Child maintains these themes and ideas until the end.

Also this bit:

Harry Potter in a nutshell.

Even post-Voldemort (2020 PV) Harry still has the burden of being the Chosen One, and in one single line Jo encapsulates what it means to be Harry Potter.

Reading it I was like:


So who is the Cursed Child? 

I know sources say that the Cursed Child is Albus, but I think arguments can be made that the Cursed Child could be Harry, Albus, or Scorpius.

All three were burdened with names and expectations that they felt they couldn’t live up to. They never asked to be a Potter or a Malfoy or the Chosen One.

You could even say that Delphi was the Cursed Child.

Maybe Jo herself is the Cursed one, because she’ll never satisfy everyone.

Jo, John, and Jack’s story isn’t by any means perfect, but that doesn’t stop it from being nostalgic, complex, and iconic.

I, for one, am just grateful that Jo gifted us with the Eight Story and a play that will hopefully run for many years on the West End, a play which is ‘easily the most wizard piece of theatre to hit the West End in years’.

I think it needs to be seen to be believed.

So I just need to get my hands on some tickets.

Oh, and I totally cried at the end. It was just beautifully heartfelt and emotional at the end. I’m positive there will be buckets in the theatre.

And remember: #KeepTheSecrets

 

Mini Reads Vol. V

And we’re back. With another round of Mini Reads, I’m about to recap the final five books I read on my summer holiday this year (which was almost a month ago now – that’s crazy!!). So without further ado…

1. For One More Day – Mitch Albom 

Cover

This is a great novel, and Mitch Albom is certainly a brilliant writer. He has such skill with language and crafting sentences that his words lift off the page and his characters and their relationships seem to come alive.

The novel is primarily about Chick and his relationship with his mother, Posey. In the fleeting moments between life and death, Chick is granted ‘one more day’ with Posey and sees his life through her eyes.

It was a great read and the way Mitch delves into character study and personal analysis is beautiful. However, by the end of the novel I couldn’t help but feel that it was incredibly similar to another of his brilliant novels: The Five People You Meet in Heaven.

I felt that the premises were very much alike: man dies or nearly dies and revisits his past through the eyes of other people in his life. This was very much another story separate to the one told in The Five People but the concept was nearly identical.

Though I really enjoyed reading For One More Day, ever since I read it, this thought has stuck with me. I would still recommend reading it, purely for his brilliant development of character and depth of character, but if you’re looking for a new plot, you’re in the wrong place.

2. I’ll Give You The Sun – Jandy Nelson

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Firstly, I love Jandy Nelson as an author. I think her writing is so brilliant and beautiful and she captures living as a teenager, whilst allowing her characters to be so mature and whole at the same time.

The novel tells the story of twins Noah and Jude and how their once indestructible twin-bond is shattered by complexities and tragedies. What I loved most about the novel is the dual narrative (anyone who knows me knows I love a dual narrative) but Nelson really steps up her game with this one. The novel is told in part by Noah aged 13 and the other half by Jude aged 16. And brilliantly, though both narratives take place three years apart, they help each other to tell the story, they make the other better, they enhance the narrative as a whole.

This is a masterpiece of a novel. For one that is supposedly YA, it has so much depth and thoughtfulness of character – which I suppose proves just how important YA is in literature and how it shouldn’t be dismissed so easily. It is a story of grief, relationships, and finding yourself when your identity has been taken from you.

If you like Jandy Nelson (or haven’t heard of her – shame on you – but like REALLY GOOD YA – think John Green, Rainbow Rowell, Jenny Han), then you won’t be disappointed.

3. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark – Anna North 

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I loved the premise of this book. The life of an enigmatic and mysterious filmmaker told not by her, but by those most important in her life: her lover, her brother, her husband, her college crush, her producer, all interweaved with the critic who followed her career from the start.

The story of an unforgettable antiheroine is developed and unpacked by a series of characters who see her through their eyes, and the only way Sophie’s own thoughts and ideas are revealed are through her films.

This is a story of a woman who is admired and unattainable: she is a grungy, broken, artistic Daisy Buchanan – the green light. Whilst Sophie’s filmmaking focus is on observing other people and other lives, this novel observes her and her life.

It is a startlingly unique novel, brilliantly presented. Like Albom’s character studies, North perfectly captures the importance of relationships: seeing one remarkable character through various unforgotten eyes. This is a deeper and more painful depiction of character though, and North does it superbly. I really recommend this novel to anyone looking for a moving, unmissable and truly poignant view of a life through vignettes.

4. Lola and the Boy Next Door – Stephanie Perkins

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If you loved Anna and the French Kiss (which I did) then you won’t be disappointed with Lola and the Boy Next Door. It tells a similar (if a little predictable) love story of Lola, whose life is going along perfectly with her rocker boyfriend Max, until her former crush Cricket Bell moves back in next door.

I found Lola harder to relate to than Anna, mostly because I think I have more similarities to Anna than Lola, and I think I preferred Etienne to Cricket. Perhaps it was also the excitement and glamour of Paris that made Anna and the French Kiss superior for me (I was on my own Study Abroad when I read it) but I still thoroughly enjoyed Lola’s story. It built to a crescendo at the end which was extremely satisfying and it made me want to read Isla and the Happy Ever After, so I guess Stephanie Perkins did her job!

If you’re a hopeless romantic and looking for a great read about agonising teen love, then this is definitely the novel for you. Perkins knows perfectly how to capture that pain of confusing crushes, especially when you’re meant to like one boy but can’t help your feelings for another. It was also brilliant to have Anna and Etienne as secondary characters, meaning their story is never too far away. Gotta get my hands on the next one now!

5. Every Day – David Levithan 

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What a genius idea for a book. Each morning, A wakes up in a new body, with no warning or idea whose body it will be. And A is used to this, it’s always been this way. So A follows the rules: don’t get involved, don’t get attached, and don’t interfere.

And that’s all been fine, until the day A wakes up in Justin’s body and falls in love with his girlfriend, Rhiannon.

It’s a brilliant, brilliant concept that analyses human emotions at their most basic. From here, I will refer to A as a male, though there’s no clarity on ‘his’ gender throughout the book, I always imagined him as male. David Leviathan is absolutely gifted at understanding relationships and feelings and personal identity crises. And in this novel, he does it perfectly.

He gets you rooting for A and for Rhiannon and hoping that, even though it’s almost impossible, one day they can be together. It’s a story of love and loss and heartache, perfectly normal for young love, that coincides with the tragedy of instability and loss of identity, which is a typical YA theme that is dealt with so ingeniously and so originally.

Because it’s not only A’s story, it’s Rhiannon’s story, and Justin’s story, and every body that A inhabits, you get a glimpse into what so many different teenagers lives are like.

It’s an absolutely fascinating read and I do really recommend it. In fact, I might just have to read it again it was that good.


So those are the last of my holiday reads! I’ve now finished The Fever as well, so I’ll be writing about that soon. Let me know if you’ve read any of these books in the comments below.

Mini Reads Vol. IV

Okay, time for some reviews. I had an excellent holiday: sunbathing, eating, and, of course, reading. I managed 9 books in a week, which I think is pretty good going, and I’m going to review them here in two volumes of Mini Reads!

1. Billy and Me – Giovanna Fletcher 

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I’d wanted to read this for a while, especially with Always With Love coming out in June and then suddenly it was £1.99 on Kindle AND a Zoella Book Club choice! So I was very happy with myself and my purchase.

Billy and Me tells the story of Sophie May, bumping along quite happily in her humdrum boring life, working in a teashop and doing not much else, when the gorgeous film star Billy Buskin enters her shop and her life. As their lives become intertwined, Sophie finds her humdrum life disappearing and finds herself entering Billy’s glamorous and successful world.

But is their love enough to keep her going in a ruthless world of constant scrutiny?

I really enjoyed this book – I think Giovanna is a brilliant romance writer who perfectly captures female insecurity and anxiety, and I like to think that there were glimpses of her own life in the novel (after all, she is married to one-quarter of McFly). It was a light, easy read that showed the brutal side of stardom. Sophie was a little annoying at times, and I thought the ending was a little rushed and abrupt. But maybe I just need to read Always With Love to see what happens next?

2. Asking For It – Louise O’Neill 

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Anyone who reads this blog will know I’ve been rabbiting on about this books for aaaages. And I FINALLY got to read it. Woohoo!!

Was so worth the wait.

Asking For It is a novel which blurs the lines between consent and rape, and shines a light on the complexity of rape issues in a modern society, where if a girl is popular, drunk and generally sexually active, is it considered rape or is she just asking for it? Because Emma O’Donovan is popular, beautiful and a hit with the lads. But when it all gets out of hand one night (after consensually having sex with a boy, consensually taking drugs and drinking to the point of blacking out), all that’s left to prove what happened to Emma are the pictures of her naked and abused, which mean that even though she can’t remember that night, it is impossible to forget it.

It is a complex and harrowing read, where on the one hand you don’t really like Emma but on the other, you would never wish what happens to her on anyone. It provokes questions about consent, victim-blaming, and the struggles of teenage girls in modern society who often struggle to be heard. This is not only an extremely topical novel, but it is well thought out, well-written and brilliantly executed. There is no happy ending, because with stories like this, one just doesn’t exist.

3. All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven 

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Another Zoella book. First, let me start by saying a Tweet I posted about this got nearly thirty likes, so YAY.

I LOVE THIS BOOK. As I said in my Tweet, I am so glad that Jennifer wrote a book that was afraid of the hard stuff. Of the lives that are actually lived and the hearts that are actually broken. It was an incredibly real book, reminiscent of John Green with a darker edge, and so brilliantly written.

Violet and Finch meet on top of the school bell tower, and when they come down, their lives will never be the same; they are hopelessly intertwined. Though Finch might have saved Violet up on that bell tower (and though everyone thinks it was the other way round), she just might not be able to return the favour.

These are complex, vivid and authentic characters that have so much energy and feeling, that it’s hard to believe this story is fictional. Jennifer Niven is an absolutely brilliant author and I think it was probably one of my favourite books that I read this holiday.

4. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell 

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Eleanor & Park is probably the novel Rainbow Rowell is most famous for, but I have to say, I think I preferred Fangirl (see my review, here). In many ways, Eleanor & Park is a much deeper and more complex novel, that deals with more heartbreaking themes, which should in theory make it a far superior novel, however, it just didn’t click with me.

Y’know when you read a book that’s supposed to be AH-MA-ZING, and it just feels like it didn’t live up to your expectations? That. Especially considering how much I loved Fangirl.

Eleanor (the fat, red-headed new girl) and Park (the half-Korean, semi-popular son of a veteran) collide together when she sits next to him on the bus on her first day of school. By sharing comics, mix-tapes and conversations, Eleanor & Park slowly fall desperately and hopelessly in love, in the way only teenagers can in 1986.

But sometimes love just isn’t enough.

I will say this, Rainbow is an excellent writer. For me, Fangirl just felt a lot more natural and made a lot more sense to me. I didn’t feel Eleanor and Park the same way I felt Cath and Levi. However, it’s a very real romance, that doesn’t have any magic where Eleanor suddenly becomes beautiful and accepted by all of Park’s friends; it’s gradual and progressive.

For me, like in Fangirl, Rainbow’s really struggle is with her ending. Like in Fangirl, it just ends, it doesn’t feel like there’s enough resolution, which is disappointing as a reader who has been so invested. I would have to say that it’s a book of style over substance. But that’s just one opinion.


Have you read any of these books? If so, let me know below!

Volume V coming soon…

Maybe Someday – Colleen Hoover

I am a huge Colleen Hoover fan. Her books are so honest and so real that the connection between the characters and the reader is so vivid and tangible that you just can’t stop reading.

Maybe Someday tells the story of Sydney and Ridge. Sydney is living in a perfect little bubble: she loves her studies and her part-time job, she loves her boyfriend, and she loves hearing the music from the opposite balcony every evening.

Unfortunately, bubbles don’t always last, and when Sydney finds out her boyfriend Hunter is cheating on her with her roommate, the only person left to help is the boy across the balcony. When Ridge invites Sydney to move in, in exchange for writing lyrics to his music, she begins to think that maybe with his help she can heal her heart… but moving on isn’t always easy.

As I said, Colleen Hoover’s characters are so complex and genuine that they cease to be fictional and jump off the pages. The way she describes emotions and feelings is both beautiful and heartbreaking that her novels are always a compelling read. I found myself speeding through the novel and trying to swallow up as much as possible.

The dual POV, alternating between Sydney and Ridge, adds a level of understanding that perhaps the reader wouldn’t get if it was just narrated from Sydney’s viewpoint. Because of the complexity of their characters and the dynamic between them, you need the double narrative to fully explain their feelings. Almost as if Colleen had merged Hopeless and Losing Hope to give both views.

She doesn’t shy away from background characters either. I feel like in Hopeless it was very much Sky and Holder’s story, whereas Maybe Someday recognises the importance of the supporting cast of Warren, Bridgette, Brennan and Maggie.

What’s great about a novel about music is that Colleen Hoover actually provides a soundtrack to go along with it. I must admit, I didn’t listen to the songs as they appeared, because I had a pretty good idea in my head of how I wanted them to sound, but I think having a soundtrack to a book about music is a genius idea.

There was something that annoyed me throughout the book – but I don’t want to give away spoilers (if the blurb doesn’t give it away, I won’t either) and my gripe goes directly with this spoiler. However, my gripe was resolved by the end of the novel and in a way, the way in which Hoover went about it added an extra level of depth to the Sydney/Ridge relationship.

All in all, this was another powerhouse work by Colleen Hoover. If you like romance, music and true emotion, this is the book for you. If you’re a miserable person, with no heart, it’s probably best if you don’t read it.

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Maybe Someday is published by Atria, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.