Tag Archive | mini reviews

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 


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


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 


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


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 


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…

Mini Reads Vol. III

So way back September I published a blog post called ‘Summer Reads Vol. I’ and got around to Vol. II in November. The purpose of these posts was to write mini reviews of all the books I’d read over summer in succinct reviews rather than in depth ones. Whilst some books do deserve longer reviews, my hectic final year life just can’t keep up with it (currently balancing The Martian with The European Tragedy of Troilus, which I know you’ll all be adding to your TBR lists). So I’m continuing the concept of mini reviews in this new series, which follows on from the Summer Reads to the Mini Reads series.

This is Volume III.

1. Dream a Little Dream – Giovanna Fletcher

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I love this book. I won’t lie, I’m a bit of a Gi fangirl – I watch hers and Tom’s videos frequently on YouTube and I knew I wanted to read this desperately, so when I got my hands on a copy at Penguin last summer, I wasn’t letting it go easily.

It’s a gorgeous romantic novel that centres on Sarah, a twenty-something year old in the midst of her twenty-something year old slump. Her PA job isn’t exactly what she’d always wanted, her career is somewhat disappointing to her mother, and she happens to still be friends with her ex and his perfect new girlfriend. Who can blame her for enjoying the dreams she’s begun to have about a handsome stranger from her past? But when her dream guy appears in her real life, things get a little more complicated than she expected…

It’s an extremely easy, satisfying read. Yes, it’s a little predictable in places, but that’s the joy of it. You kind of know how it’s going to end up so you can enjoy the journey to the final destination. Giovanna is a very accomplished romance writer and perfectly understands the torment of unlucky-in-love post-graduates and the way that friends become your family once you move away from home. I loved the little nod to husband Tom in one of the dreams and found myself staying up late to finish reading it over Christmas.

I would definitely recommend this to anyone looking for a lighter read, full of warmth, character and substance.

2. Funny Girl – Nick Hornby 

Nick Hornby’s most recent novel is a tale of Sophie (née Barbara) who finds fame in 1960s London in a sitcom about married life. The book follows Sophie from her humble beginnings in Blackpool, to her life as a young ingenue, to full-blown stardom. Surrounding Sophie are an ensemble of characters working with her on the sitcom including suave co-star Clive, producer Dennis, and the writing team Tony and Bill (who offer an interesting subplot about homosexuality).

Most of the humour in the novel comes from Sophie’s interactions with the ensemble, rather than Sophie herself. It’s a good read, but ultimately simply isn’t as strong as some of Hornby’s earlier works like About A Boy and A Long Way Down. It is a pleasant novel that is never hilariously amusing nor darkly observant (as it could be of stardom in the 1960s). Rather than racing down a train track, it simply meanders and never reaches the peak interest of the earlier novels.

It’s sweet and it’s pleasant, just like Sophie’s eventual golden years, but it simply isn’t enough from an author as talented as Hornby.

3. The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion 

I had wanted to read this for a while after hearing about it through various channels, but was initially wary as my mum hadn’t liked it. That just goes to show you can’t always trust someone else’s opinions. I thought it was a fantastic read, though it does take a little while to get into.

It is novel about Don and Rosie, the former a man of ritual, and the latter a reckless fireball, who find themselves embroiled in a plot to discover Rosie’s birth father, whilst Don himself attempts to find a Wife. Once the introductory material introducing Don gets out the way and the plot gets going it is a humorous and captivating read, that is really driven by the relationship between Don and Rosie, who are so mismatched but so perfect for each other.

I found myself laughing out loud at various points and motivated to keep reading as both the A-Plot of the Rosie Project and the B-Plot of Don’s search for a wife were equally engaging. It was a thoroughly entertaining novel and easy to read once you got into Don’s brain and accustomed yourself to his method of narration. The only problem I had with it was that I simply couldn’t understand how someone of such intelligence as Don, with a speciality in genetics and a strong awareness of Asperger’s, couldn’t place himself somewhere on a scale on which he clearly belonged.

Nevertheless, I would wholeheartedly recommend this, and encourage you to push on through the somewhat challenging opening as you navigate Don’s narration, to get to the truly special, sentimental hilarity of the second and third thirds of the novel.

4. The Queen of the Tearling – Erika Johansen 

This is marketed towards lovers of The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones and I can definitely see why. It’s a fantasy novel set in the future, which rather than making 1984-like predictions of the future reverts the future back to a medieval time of horses, highwaymen and sword-fights.

On Kelsea Raleigh’s 19th birthday, her mother’s guards come for her to take her to her throne, for she is the Queen-to-be, inheriting her mother’s throne after living in hiding all her life. Now Kelsea faces a kingdom who doesn’t quite trust her, the threat of the Red Queen in the neighbouring nation and the legacy of her mother’s reign weighing on her shoulders. With only her Guard and the mysterious Tear sapphire, a jewel of immense power and magic, Kelsea must save her kingdom without losing herself.

It was a solid read; it wasn’t anywhere near as captivating as The Hunger Games but had a host of interesting characters including Lazarus, Kelsea’s Mace and the Fetch, a mysterious outlaw. If I’m being honest, I’d want to read the second book only to find out more about him.

Johansen’s difficulty is that she is trying to set up a new world that’s interesting but is neither here nor there. It’s medieval, but it’s set in the future. She could have spent less time on Kelsea’s long journey to the throne and more time setting up the world to make it more understandable for readers; I was certainly confused about where and when the story was supposed to be taking place.

And Kelsea herself is a weak character. She’s plain but strong. That’s her description. She is also frequently excused her failings as a character because she’s only nineteen. Except Katniss Everdeen had more strength at age sixteen. (I’m sorry to keep comparing, but if the copyediting is going to point out THG as a common interest, I can’t help but compare the things they have – or don’t have – in common.)

It was a slow story, with an extremely slow build, but made an interesting opener to a trilogy. It felt more like a prologue (and it needed a prologue to try and explain all the Crossing/Pre-Crossing setting) that was waiting for some real action. I suppose it was as the next book is titled The Invasion of the Tearling. If Emma Watson is indeed attached to a film version (as is one of the book’s main selling points) then I hope the film has more action and is more deserving of Emma’s calibre. Though how they’re ever going to make Emma Watson look as plain as Kelsea’s meant to be is beyond me.

So there’s the next volume in my Mini Reads – have you read any of these novels? Let me know in the comments below!