Friday, July 12, 2019

Meat Market by Juno Dawson Book Review

When 16 year old Jana Novak is spotted by a Prestige Models scout on a school tour, her life is flipped upside down. Never mind the fact that Jana has never worn a pair of heels before, in a matter of weeks she's walking London Fashion Show and shooting campaigns for high street stores. Life is a whirlwind for Jana as she quickly learns that while modelling has it's perks (free swag, flying around the world, fun parties in New York), it's not all glamour. Jana struggles with the two versions of herself- Jana Novak, child of immigrants from a South London housing estate and Jana, the supermodel. Can Jana keep her feet on the ground or will the seedy underbelly of fashion and modelling sweep her away and change her for good?

This novel was my first by Juno Dawson and I was very impressed! Jana is such an interesting character, I loved her story arc and how she found her voice. I found myself rooting for her. I wanted her to succeed, felt for her when she was lonely and exhausted, cheered her on when she started standing up for herself. The book touches on a lot of dark topics. With a book about models, eating disorders and diets is of course touched on as well as body shaming, drugs, sexual harassment, misogyny, sexual assault. None of it felt like it was used for shock value though, it all felt natural to the story. Something I'd credit to Dawson and all the research that was done for this novel. I wasn't sure what to think before I picked up this book, I thought it would feel cliched, instead it was compelling and in the end of was dying to pick this up and finish it!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

When All is Said by Anne Griffin Book Review

When All is Said by Anne Griffin UK book cover
Maurice Hannigan has lived a good life into his 80s. As he sits at the bar in the Rainford House Hotel, he orders 5 different drinks. With each drink he toasts one person that has shaped and influenced his life: his older brother, his daughter, his sister-in-law, his son and his wife. Each toast tells us the story of Maurice and how each of these people impacted on Maurice and his decisions through his life. This story is woven into another story, Maurice's complicated relationship with the Rainford House Hotel and a certain gold coin.

This was a very poignant story, I found myself crying several times throughout the book from the beginning. It's nostalgic without being overly so, there's a certain bittersweet quality the whole thing. Griffin has a way with words that really pulled on my heartstrings. The book has a certain shade of Irishness to it, found especially the early years of Maurice's life, as well as simple turns of phrases throughout the whole story. Maurice could easily be someone you know, an old man full of proud moments and regrets, unable to say how they truly feel to their loved ones, not used to showing their emotions.

I did find that even though I really enjoyed reading it, I wasn't compelled to pick it up and devour it. I don't know if it's because I simply wanted to savour it, if it was a reading slump or if it was because I found it rambled on a bit. I think the secondary story with the gold coin made it drag a bit. If there was a tighter edit then this mightn't have been the case (speaking of editing, it did crack me up a bit to see Dunnes Stores edited to Dunne's Stores). Overall though, it's a book I can see myself thinking about quite a bit over the next few weeks, I feel like it's stuck in my head! 

Friday, July 5, 2019

Pulp by Robin Talley Book Review

Pulp is told with dual narratives. In 1955 Washington D.C., 18 year old Janet Jones is coming to terms with her sexuality and love for her friend Marie, an awakening that occurs after discovering romance books about women loving other women. But this is not the time or place for gay people, where you can easily lose your job and be blackballed, accused of being a Communist or sent to hospital to be 'fixed'. Yet Janet yearns to write her own romance novel, an ambition that may expose her secrets with dangerous consequences for her and Marie.

Fast forward to 2017 and 17 year old Abby Zimet is having a tough year. After what she thought was a temporary break while her girlfriend Linh was visiting relative abroad for the summer, Abby is heartbroken that they haven't gotten back together. And that Linh doesn't seem interested in doing so. Her home life is a mess, her parents have seemed to schedule their work travel trips so that one of them is away while the other is at home and if on the rare occasion they are together the tension is unbearable. To make matters worse, Abby is procrastinating with her college applications and time is running out. The only thing she is interested in is her senior year project on 1950s lesbian pulp fiction and in particular one title written under the pseudonym of Marian Love. Abby is obsessed with finding out the true identity of Marian Love.

I enjoyed this book, mostly the timeline set in Janet's era. I thought it was well developed and I could feel the fear the characters felt about being outed in a time that was dangerous to show your true identity. I didn't really connect with Abby, I felt she was a bit too chaotic for me in her obsession and didn't feel that fleshed out. Though when it comes to reading YA, I can sometimes dismiss this as a criticism because I'm no longer a teen. There's a possibility that I might have connected to Abby more if I was still a teenager and/or had gone through some of the issues she went through in the book. The book is a bit slow at times too, possibly because of the length. There's also one or two details near the end, inconsistencies that I disliked that I won't go into here but that I did mention on my Goodreads review if you're interested.

I liked the contrast of the 1950s repression to the 2017 era where Abby and her friends her are very openly LGBTQ+, to see the progression that has been made (and highlighted that there is still progress to be made, especially when it comes to trans people). We get some intersectionality with some black lesbians and the additional problems they faced under Jim Crow law. I think the best thing about the book is how educational the book is in terms of LGBTQ+ history, it also touches upon the Lavender Scare, gives nods to Harvey Milk and Frank Kameny and of course there's so much about the lesbian pulp fiction scene. It's a great place to start to look into more queer history, which I'll probably do after this as I want to educate myself more. The book is well researched which adds to the pleasure of reading it. And it's great to have a YA book that openly has a f/f romance mentioned the blurb, I have seen recently that some books don't bring up this up and market them as f/f books. Especially since m/m YA books seem to get marketed heavily. Katytastic on YouTube did a good video about this.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Anticipated Book Released 2019 May-August

Don't mind me, I'm just late as per usual. Better late than never I guess! Some of the books have already been released (I've even read some!) but thought I'd post them anyway to show what I was excited about before they came out. I've already started keeping track of the late releases for 2019 so hopefully that post will be on time!

Toffee by Sarah Crossan

Sarah Crossan writes beautiful YA books, they never fail to bring a tear to my eye. Allison has run away from home and is squatting in the shed at the bottom of an abandoned house. However when she goes to take a closer look at the house, she finds it isn't abandoned and that an elderly lady called Marla lives there. She mistakes Allison for someone for Toffee and so Allison, who is used to constantly hiding who she really is, pretends to be Toffee in order to stay. May 2nd

I Heart Hawaii by Lindsey Kelk
The I Heart series is one of my favourites, I love seeing what Angela and Jenny are up to! This is the 8th and last week in the series and while I still have to read the 7th, I Heart Forever, this one looks like such a fun summery read. I bet it'll have me dreaming of sandy beaches, cocktails and pineapples! May 30th

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan
Speaking of favourites, Jenny's books are always so feel good and cosy! And this is a bonus as it's about books! Set in the same world as The Little Shop of Happy Ever After it sees single mother Zoe, living in London and desperate to make ends meet for herself and her 4 year old son Hari, who decides on a whim to take a job as a live in nanny in the Scottish Highlands. Jenny's books always make me want to go off and live in these dreamy locations she creates, they're always so idyllic. Perfect sunny summer reads. June 13th

Sweet Valley High: Academic All Star? by Katy Rex
I think I've been waiting for this book for over a year! It's a graphic novel edition of Sweet Valley High. What's not to love?! July 9th

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory
You may be noticing a theme by now and that's books that some might call 'chick lit'. I love a good funny romantic book for summer, something that sweeps you away when you can't get away yourself. This will be the 3rd in The Wedding Date series, which focuses on different couples with some overlapping characters. I won't say too much about the plot in this but if it's anything like the others I'm expecting good fun and lots of amazing food descriptions! July 16th

To Be Taught if Fortunate by Becky Chambers
Becky Chambers' first novella following the previous 3rd novels in the Wayfarers universe. I don't know if this is in the Wayfarers universe but I'm still excited as Becky writes such amazing character driven sci-fi stories. Following a break through in science, humans can travel and survive far from earth in hostile environments. Adriadne is an explorer using these methods, 15 light years away from Earth, which has changed since she left. Tasked when heading back to a planet that may have forgotten those that left, she chronicles her journey. August 8th

Perfect Sound Whatever by James Acaster
January 2017 found James Acaster hungover and freshly single. In an attempt to comfort himself, he decides to buy as much music from 2016, before things went to shit. I'm sure this'll have the same zany James Acaster stories I know and love. I've already preordered this as an audiobook as I listened James Acaster's Classic Scrapes by audiobook and never laughed so much before in my entire life. August 22nd

Sex Power Money by Sara Pascoe
Animal by Sara Pascoe was one of my favourite books the year it was released and I was hoping Sara would release another book! Sex Power Money is a study of who we are and what motivates us, all from a from a feminist angle. August 27th

There's some good books here but I can't wait for the releases from September! There's some cracking books from some of my favourite authors coming out then. Hopefully I'll have the post up in August!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy Book Review

The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy book cover
On the first page we discover that in the space of a few months, Ariel Levy has lost her son, her marriage has fallen apart and she's lost her home. Levy then builds up to these events, recounting tales from her childhood and early adult life.

I loved the writing style, I really connected with it and liked how it flowed. I enjoyed the first half of the book and the stories told (which can be hit or miss when you don't know anything about the person before picking up the book). But towards the second half it fell apart a bit for me. It felt a bit chaotic, which is a bit understandable as there's a lot of grief and coming to terms with big changes. However this meant that there were times when something was mentioned but not expanded upon until a bit later, meaning things felt a bit inconsistent and confusing. There is a lot of privilege and entitlement that seeped through too that made me disconnect with Levy. Especially when she talked about money. I go into that in more detail in my Goodreads post which you can read here.

That said, I did enjoy the writing which is why I gave it 3 stars. I probably would have given it 2 if I didn't. 

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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Cruel Acts by Jane Casey Book Review

Leo Stone was convicted a year ago of murdering 2 women and sentenced to life with no chance of parole. However his original trial is deemed a mistrial as it comes to light the jury, against advice, looked up Stone's previous criminal convictions and clouded their judgement. Stone is released and it's up to Detective Maeve Kerrigan and her colleagues to reexamine the evidence for a pending retrial. There is also a potential 3rd victim, who's body was never recovered and was only linked to Stone in a dubious manner which Maeve is determined to investigate more thoroughly.

I read the first chapter as a sample on another website and couldn't wait to get my hands on this. I was hooked from the word go! I love Casey's writing, about midway through the novel I thought I had it all figured out perfectly but there were more layers and surprises to go. Everything feels right, there doesn't seem to be shocks or twists just for the sake of them which I find happens sometimes with this genre. I enjoy Maeve and Josh Derwent's relationship most of the time, it's interesting and there's a chemistry there that is laced with love and hate. It shows how easy it is to trust someone's instincts or respect their work manner but at the same time be absolutely driven mad by them! I do wish we saw a bit more of Maeve's personal life. I know work is pretty much her life in some sense but I think Maeve could do with loosening up a bit. That said, it's a cracker of a book and I'm already looking forward to book 9!

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown by Sophie White Book Review

Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown by Sophie White book cover
I'll admit, my Irish Authors Month in March did not go well. At all. I finished two books in March, with only one of them being Irish (Things in Jars by Jess Kidd). Nothing from the TBR took my fancy. And then I remembered this book. I was at the Irish Book Awards when it was nominated in 2016. And Chloe from NurseFancyPants rated it highly too so I decided to get it from the library in a bid to break my reading slump.

Part memoir, part cookbook, Recipes for a Nervous Breakdown is a searingly honest account of Sophie White's experiences with mental health, her tempestuous relationship with her mother, the devastation of her father being diagnosed with early onset dementia, marriage and motherhood. It genuinely made me laugh, cry and ponder on events in my own life.

We also learn about how Sophie came to train as a cook and each chapter has recipes inspired by the subject of that chapter. I loved this format! For example when it came to the recipes for the chapter on her relationship with her husband, Sophie says she could have picked more traditionally romantic foods but instead chose curries as it sums them up better and honestly, I felt that. I've already earmarked a few recipes I want to try out. The photography in the book is beautiful too which is a bonus. A well balanced book.

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