Friday, July 26, 2019

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan Book Review

The Bookshop on the Shore by Jenny Colgan book cover

Colgan's books are like a mug of hot chocolate by a fire on a stormy day. They're very cosy! This one is no exception. Single mum Zoe and her 4 year old selectively mute son Hari are struggling big time in London. Hari's father is no help whatsoever and Zoe is being to drown. So when an opportunity comes along to work as an au pair and part time bookseller in the Scottish Highlands, Zoe decides to take the leap of faith and give it a go. She arrives at The Beeches, a big Scottish house surrounded in mystery. Here 3 children and their father live and Zoe is to be nanny number 7. And she soon finds out why, as the children are not the easiest to get on with. And there's so much mystery and unanswered questions that Zoe can not get answers to. Struggling to coax the children into behaving, keeping the bookshop van afloat and Hari's well being has Zoe exhausted. Can she pull it all off?

It's easy to dismiss books like this as flight, fluffy and frothy. Yes, this book has its light moments but there are some serious issues dealt with in here and I think Colgan managed them well enough. It certainly brought tears to my eyes! While there is a romance, it isn't the centre of the book, the real centre seems to be Zoe and the children. I loved seeing her encourage them and letting them blossom. There's some touching moments, I especially liked Shackleton's arc. The story was good, I do think it kinda meandered in spots and could have been edited a bit tighter. But overall it was enjoyable, like most of Colgan's books!

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Reasons to Be Cheerful by Nina Stibbe Book Review

Three years on from the events in Paradise Lodge and Lizzie Vogel is now 18. She's managed to get a job as a dental nurse, living in the flat above the Leicester. Lizzie should be having the time of her life, she's young and living a city. But Lizzie is a bit homesick for her home in the country with her alcoholic eccentric aspiring writer mother. On top of that Lizzie hates the dentist she works for, a xenophobe who's obsessed with becoming a Free Mason and who is also in a relationship with another woman who works in the dental clinic . Lizzie starts seeing Andy and in true Lizzie fashion things are never quite clear. Are they seeing each other, is he more into in bird watching than having sex? Things get even more complicated when Andy becomes a lodger at his mother's house.

The book is very much character driven, there is a story arc but it's quite slow. The main focus are the characters and simple observations made throughout the book. Stibbe has a knack for mentioning things that might seem mundane or rambling coming from other people but from her they are charming and sometimes hilarious. There's nice descriptions and touches for life in the early 1980s, nostalgic without being over the top or too schmaltzy. I really enjoy the characters and how they interact with each other, Lizzie and her dysfunctional family are very entertaining. In Man at the Helm, Lizzie was this perfect mix of childhood innocence and maturity for her age. In Paradise Lodge, it's a coming of age story where Lizzie is trying to get to grips with getting older and being a teenager. In Reasons to Be Cheerful, we see Lizzie becoming an adult and trying to find her groove in life. I love her quirks, she's very endearing and it was a pleasure to see Lizzie bloom and grow into the woman she wants to be. I found myself rooting for her. I love Stibbe's writing and look forward to her next book.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

The Reading Rush Readathon 2019 TBR (formerly BookTubeAThon)

The BookTubeAThon was a week long readathon that originated on YouTube in 2013, founded by two BookTubers Ariel and Raeleen. This year it's got a revamp and is known as The Reading Rush. The premise is still the same: a week of reading, 7 reading challenges to try complete, daily photo challenges on Instagram, video challenges on YouTube and fun things like book chats and reading sprints on Twitter. It runs this year from midnight 22nd July finishes midnight 29th July (though I used to just start it Monday morning and if I was still reading past midnight the Sunday night into Monday morning I counted it). It's a great way to challenge yourself and find other people online who are interested in the same things as you. 

I did the BookTubeAThon every year except last year. You can see my results for 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 by clicking through. Last year I just didn't feel very motivated by the challenges that were set and was going through a really bad reading slump. I wasn't sure if I'd do The Reading Rush this year but I liked the look of the challenges and I've since stated a bookish account on Instagram so thought it would be fun to join in there too. I took a picture for the Instagram account of my TBR pile for the challenges and decided I'll talk through the choices here.

A stack of 7 books from top to bottom: No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, a Kindle Fire with a black book cover

I have picked 7 books, one that will suit every challenge but a lot of them work for more than one challenge and the likelihood of me reading 7 books in the week is slim with a full time job and the fact I'm going away for the weekend too! I'm going to write all the 7 challenges below and put the applicable books under them. The book at the bottom of the pile is my Kindle and I can pick books from there

1. Read a book with purple on the cover
-The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie (it has the TINIEST amount of purple on the cover but it counts!)
-Another book from my Kindle, I'd have to look. I struggled a lot with this actually! I don't have many purple books

2. Read a book in the same spot the entire time (doesn't have to be all at once, as long as you read the book in the same location every time you read it)
-No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg
-Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata
-Sweet Valley High: Academic All Star? by Katy Rex (on Kindle)

3. Read a book you meant to read last year
-Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
-A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

4. Read an author's first book
-Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (it was Gaiman's first book)
-I had put Convienience Store Woman in the pile partially because of this challenge but it's not the author's first book. It is the first one translated into English (I think) so I might possibly count it if I'm in a pinch

5. Read a book with a non-human main character
-Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann (this will also count as a book for Book Riot Read Harder so I'm delighted!)

6. Pick a book that has 5 or more words in the title
-Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
-The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie 
-No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

7. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation
-Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg

If I'm being honest, 30 minutes after choosing these books I changed my mind! 😆 Though I think that's the beauty with this, I can change my mind. You'll get to see what I actually picked to read and if it was any of these books!

Are you going to do The Reading Rush this year? Let me know below or come say hi on Instagram

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!

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