Friday 19 December 2014

If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go*: Judy Chicurel

Title: If I Knew You Were Going To Be This Beautiful I Never Would Have Let You Go
Author: Judy Chicurel
Publisher: Headline/Tinder Press
Release date: October 30th 2014
Order here: Waterstones Amazon

This book follows the ins and outs of 1970s Long Island as told through the eyes of Katie, an 18 year old girl who is witnessing teen pregnancy, drug abuse, racism amongst other things. She tells of an everyday life in a working class seaside town.

Right, so lets start with the glaringly obvious issue first, the title. I am all for a long title, don't get me wrong, I don't want anything to do with this one word business, but there is long, and then there is this. A title has to roll off the tongue, it has to be memorable, you have to be able to pass it along in recommendation. This does not tick off any of that criteria and whats more, I am reluctant to type it again in this post because it breaks up a sentence so clumsily. Many a time I stumbled over my words as I tried to tell friends what I was currently reading: 'wait was it "if I had known" "if I knew you were going to be..." gahhhh' (you catch my drift). But, regardless, I do actually like the meaning behind the title, I think it would have been brilliant as a little sub title, a follow up to a catchier, shorter title, or even as a part of the blurb. But, alas, it wasn't to be. How it got through the publishers, I do not know.

But anyway, I went in with an open mind, 'don't judge a book by its cover' and all that. I had high hopes, the blurb created a brilliant picture of 1970s America, war veterans, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy amongst other things. It painted an exciting, dirty image of Long Island which would be told through the eyes of teenager Katie, as the world around her changes, as she falls in love, as she dreams of a life unlike the one all of her friends are falling into. It was all very promising. But, sadly, I found it to be somewhat lacking. There was a lot of description and not a lot of action. A lot of time was spent describing people and places, which is fine, in fact I often find that many books are lacking in quality description. But, in this book, the description was so excessive that I would forget where the story was heading. When the plot did move it was so slow and without purpose that I couldn't quite figure out where it was heading or if in fact it was heading anywhere. It was beautifully written but for the life of me I couldn't stay interested. A tragic case of style over content. You can be a good writer but not a good storyteller.

It deals with homophobia, sexism, racism, drugs, teen pregnancy, being a war veteran. All very important issues and I do feel that they were dealt with beautifully in a raw and realistic fashion. But they were almost told in mini stories, in little tangents from the main story line. This only added to my confusion as to where the story was heading. Too many issues were dealt with and really the author should have focused on one or two aspects and told them in a beautiful cohesive story. What the author was able to do was create an amazing image of 1970s America, but a story isn't simply about painting a beautiful picture, it has to give more than that. The blurb I read before picking it up suggested that there was going to be some sort of focus on this elusive boy that Katie was in love with, sadly this wasn't the case and he only appeared sporadically, with most of his story being told in the last couple of chapters.

I felt very distant from the characters and I felt as though they were merely a medium to deal with other issues. I didn't feel as though they were really present in the story which is sad because the glimpses I did get of some really quality character development was brilliant and I just wish that the author had paid more attention to making a few characters a bit more three dimensional, rather than bombarding the reader with an endless supply of minor characters.

It reminded me of one of my GCSE english language exams where we were told to describe a view from a window, the descriptions were over drawn, excessive and a teeny bit pretentious. It may win all the awards for fancy writing and good use of vocabulary, but as far as I was concerned, it wasn't a story my brain was willing to stay connected with.

There was a brief mention of Katie 'reading a book about growing up in the 1950s when life was simpler with happier endings' I liked this touch, the author putting the main protagonist in our position, reading a book about a not so distant past, but it being distant enough to be rose tinted. For me it was almost inceptionesque, and although simple, it made a powerful point about how the bad gets forgotten and people look to the past with a fondness. There were a couple of other lines in the book that really stood out to me: 'I was tired to renting other peoples dreams' and 'I never liked the look of a retreating back'. In reality they are portraying very simple actions or feelings but the author has said them in a more interesting and obscure manner.

The problem with reviewing this book lies in the fact that I thought the writing of it was absolutely beautiful, in fact I wish I could write like that. The issue however still lies, that the story to me was just not strong enough, you cannot imagine the times I had to reread pages just to make sure I understood it. Sadly I won't be passing it on, nor will I be rereading. But I can see huge amounts of potential, and I will be definitely looking out for any future novels in the hope I can be proved wrong!
Please let me know what you thought of this book in the comments!

*I was given the opportunity to read and honestly review this by Negalley and all opinions are my own.


Thursday 11 December 2014

It's Not Me, It's You*: Mhairi McFarlane

Title: It's Not Me, It's You
Author: Mhairi McFarlane
Publisher: HarperCollins UK
Release date: November 6th 2014
Order here: Waterstones Amazon

Having never read any of Mhairi's books, I was drawn to request it on Netgalley simply because of the name and cover art. I thought the cover was a step above your average rom com cover, I liked the pop of colour and the simplicity of it. So, the name...maybe not the most inventive name, but coincidentally the same title of the book written by Jon Richardson, my all time favourite comedian, so it's fair to say that it called out to me, I couldn't resist. Also, Mhairi and I seem to have one thing in common and that is an impossibly spelt Scottish name. I was blessed with the name Eilidh (Ay-lee) and have since spent my life correcting peoples pronunciation, and if thats not reason enough to read a book, then what is? Regardless of the reasons I decided to read it, I can tell you now, that I am glad I did because I loved it!

Delia is 30 something, living a comfortable life with boyfriend Paul and dog Parsnip, whilst spending her days working for the council. It's not exactly full of passion or adventure, but it's comfortable, and Delia is ready to settle down. But as she takes it upon herself to propose to boyfriend, Paul, a secret comes to the surface. It seems that Paul hasn't remained entirely faithful to her and Delia has to decide whether to forgive him or leave. Delia runs off to London, moving in with best friend Emma, taking up a job with the sleazy Kurt Spicer and she begins to create a new but somewhat temporary life for herself. The book follows Delia as she finds her feet in London. We see her friendship with internet troll and computer whizz 'Peshawari Naan' grow and witness her come to blows with enigmatic journalist Adam West. But, will she come to forgive Paul or will she find something in London that is worth letting go of such a large chunk of her past.

It's Not Me, It's You has a plot reminiscent of many chick lit or rom com's; girl is content with life, boy cheats on girl, girl runs off to london, boy tries to win girl back, girl falls in love. In the basic plot there is nothing that seems to stand out. Yet as I finished the last page, I found that the story had stuck with me in a way that many chick lits fail to. Where Mhairi's strengths lie are in her creation of characters, Delia is funny, strong, creative and exactly the type of girl you can imagine having a good chat with. Her characters were so normal and relatable as well as being quirky and witty and because of that brilliant combination, they were perfect. Delia was most definitely my kind of character, she had a dress sense I could relate to, none of this thigh skimming silk dress nonsense, she is a female character written for women. In fact, I can imagine her now, dressed in a colourful, patterned tea dress, with a beautiful pair of heels, razor sharp winged eyeliner and a mass of fire red hair. The description was vivid and tasteful, making Delia the sort of girl you come easily bump into in the street, the sort of girl you want to be friends with.

I felt that there were some brilliant relationships in the story. I really enjoyed the relationship between Delia and her brother Ralph, who spent his days working in the local chip shop or gaming. There was a lovely understanding between the two of them, Delia was sensitive to his needs and equally Ralph was incredibly supportive of her creative ventures. Another relationship I particularly enjoyed was that of Delia and 'Peshwari Naan', it was somewhat refreshing to have a platonic relationship between a boy and girl which is sadly so rare in this genre of writing. And, of course, I can't not mention Adam West, I really enjoyed his development as a character and his relationship with Delia. Adam West, the handsome journalist who is snooping around for the dirt on Kirk Spicer, he has all the girls swooning, but not Delia, she is sure not going to fall her him. But as she starts to become aware of Spicer's dirty ways, she can't help but find herself siding with sworn enemy, Adam.

The book was littered with humour and it had me biting my cheeks so that I didn't burst into bouts of giggles on the bus as I read it. But, it wasn't forced humour, it was natural and authentic and I enjoyed it all the more for it. Occasionally I would come across a sentence that would catch of off guard, Mhairi evidently has a very strong and distinctive sense of humour that she has managed to channel through Delia so well. There was a reference to Tenacious D, which I found myself having to reread, having had my eyes opened to the world of Jack Black and his...interesting music by my brother, I was somewhat surprised to find it being mentioned in what I had assumed to be no more than a cushy rom com.

Now that I have come to the end of my first foray into the world of Mhairi McFarlane, I have only been left wanting more and I will most definitely be exploring her other offerings. So, if you have not already picked this book up, then I urge you to. It reads easily and you will devour it in no time at all!

*I was given the opportunity to read and honestly review this by Netgalley and all opinions are my own.


Thursday 4 December 2014

Richard vs Nick: Character Combat


I really enjoy writing book reviews and other such bookish posts but I thought that I would give something a bit different a go. The premise is really to just put up two of my favourite or not so favourite characters to fight it out for the top spot. This week I am looking at narrators...

Two of my all time favourite books are The Secret History and The Great Gatsby, narrated by Richard and Nick respectively. Recently I was giving it a think about why those two books struck a chord with me and although the story's are seemingly very different the narrators of the stories are alarmingly similar and there are also many themes that the books share. There are themes of obsession, belonging and excess among other things. One story is told with the help of 1920s New York, jazz music, flapper girls and lots and lots of *illegal* alcohol. The other is set in Vermont but looks back to Ancient Greece and its mythology for inspiration. They couldn't be any more different in their premise, but they are surprisingly similar.

First of all we have Richard, a newbie to a college, desperate to fit in with an 'elite' group who hold a mystery, he is infatuated by them and desperate to be allowed into their aloof, faraway world. On the other hand we have Nick who arrives in West Egg to be faced with the mysterious "Gatsby", he becomes obsessed, desperate to be accepted into this new and exciting world. What both stories hold is a secret, or in some cases, a not so secret secret. 

First person narrative! Oh how I love a bit of first person narrative. In these two books it creates a sense of belonging, as though you too are a part of the story. The narrators allow you to see the story in a very personal manner, through their own eyes. Although first person narratives can be amazing, it gives a very personal insight on events, it is also extremely limiting. As the reader we can only ever know as much as our narrator does and our views are hugely altered by the views of the narrator. Nick and Richard are both guilty of this, narrative gaps are common in both The Great Gatsby and The Secret History. The most interesting part is that as a reader I found myself justifying the somewhat lack of facts and I somehow found myself agreeing with their choices regardless of how suspect they were.

When I finished The Secret History I found myself unaffected by the events that had taken place. Events that in reality I should have found horrific, but because I had seen them through Richards eyes, I was somewhat oblivious to the reality of the situation. It was actually the first book that really made me sit back and think how much of an effect the narrator had on my reading and understanding of the book. Nick on the other hand is a much more annoying narrator, whilst I somehow justified Richards narrative gaps, I found Nicks to be irritating. Whilst I found myself becoming engrossed in Richards world, I found myself yearning to see more of Gatsby's when Nick was the narrator.

So, who is my favourite? This is a bit of a Sophie's choice scenario, these two books are in a constant fight for the top spot on my list of all time favourite books and I struggle to choose between them. But if I was really pushed to make a decision, I would have to go with Richard. It was his ability to immerse me in a story to the extent that I stopped questioning what he said. Any moral views I had went right out of the window and I found myself nodding along as he revealed the story. Donna Tartt has a way with words that I think is hard to match and she certainly weaved her magic in The Secret History.  

'I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life'
-F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

'I suppose at one time in my life I might have had any number of stories, but now there is no other. This is the only story I will ever be able to tell'
-Donna Tartt, The Secret History

Let me know in the comments who is your all time favourite character!


Friday 14 November 2014

I'm Dreaming of a Cold Christmas

Thank you to Jane Austen for these wise words. 

Right, it has to be said. I hate hot weather. What makes it worse is that when I say hot I am not talking about the burning heat of an August in Italy. I am talking about Britain's pathetic attempt of a summer. If I can't wear layers and wooly tights then it is too hot! I am the sort of person who counts down the days until I can get my huge parka out of the cupboard and gets stupidly excited at the prospects of a harsh winter. 

So you may be wondering why I felt the need to make this short and seemingly irrelevant post. Well, firstly I am conscious that I have been lacking when it comes to updating my blog (blame university) but secondly, I received a postcard (see photograph) from a friend with the quotation 'what dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of inelegance'. It came during an uncharacteristically warm spell in October and it goes some way to explaining my dislike of hot weather. 

Whilst I find it very hard to understand how people can love hot weather, I have equally had to deal with a lot of people who find it ridiculous that I love cold weather and I feel like maybe it is time that we all compromise and except all types of weather as a thing of beauty. This quotation from John Ruskin sums it up beautifully...

'Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather' 

*Did I really just write a blog post on the weather? How terribly British of me. 


Friday 7 November 2014

An Ode to First Person Narrative

It's weird, but until recently I absolutely detested first person narrative. I hated that you were confined to one set of eyes, I mean how could I possibly know the whole story if it was only being told through one person. But, but, recently I have read a number of books that have successfully and whole heartedly changed my opinion.

The Great Gatsby


Nick is annoying narrator, there are no two ways about it, but there is something about his way of telling the story that makes me believe that the book would be nothing without him. The way in which he idolises Gatsby is perfect and I like how as the reader you almost don't question the way he embellishes the narrative and blatantly leaves out key information. If anything, it just adds charm to the story. Whilst reading it I would sometimes wish for Gatsbys side of the story but I can now look back and understand that mystery surrounded Gatsby and that mystery could only be obtained by giving the job of narrator to Nick.

The Secret History


Here we have one of my all time favourite books, a tale of classics students narrated by Richard. I would put Richard in the same box as Nick (Gatsby) in that he embellishes the story line, idolises the characters and leaves out key information. There were points where I was frustrated that I could only know what Richard knew and at times it had annoyed me that I was kept in the dark as to what the other characters were doing. But by living the story through Richard I began to understand the way in which an individual can be both included and excluded from key events. This book used first person narrative to perfection, Donna Tartt used it to manipulate the reader, ultimately the book dealt with some horrific events, but due to Richards idolisation of some of the characters and his decision to bypass the horrendous nature of some of the events, I finished the book almost believing that the characters actions were justified. I actually had to sit myself down and look past the rosy tint that Richard put upon the story.

Paige Toon


I am a recent fan of Paige Toons books and I think she uses first person narrative brilliantly. I felt that it allowed me to connect with the main character and really understand their actions and feelings. It also gave the opportunity for information to be revealed as and when the main character wished it to be.

So, finally I understand the appeal of first person narrative, I am beginning to enjoy how you are somewhat blind to half the story, I like how I can almost become the character. First person narrative allows the reader to immerse themselves in the story in a way that would otherwise be impossible. At times it is exhausting, when they cry, I cry, when they laugh, I laugh but it allows the reader to commit to the story and enjoy it as an experience rather than just words on a page. It's fair to say that it can often be an emotional roller coaster, but its a roller coaster I am glad I got on.


Friday 31 October 2014

A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys: Nathaniel Hawthorne

I am well and truly into the swing of third year and the Dissertation has been started, it is going to be a long, stressful and hopefully enjoyable process. I am looking at the way in which children's literature is influenced by Greek and Roman mythology. I am basically combining two of my favourite things- mythology and children's literature, how can anything possible go wrong! Maybe I'll do an update in May when it has been handed in and i'm no more than a quivering wreck of dissertation induced stress.

So in the summer I went a bit crazy on Amazon, buying any book that could possible come in use and as a result I came across this beauty! Nathaniel Hawthorne was writing in the 19th Century and wrote two books based on Greek Myth- Tanglewood Tales and A Wonder Book for Girls and Boys. This copy is a beautiful hard back faux leather bound book with silver edged pages!

The front and back cover have lovely illustrations which are expressive and eye-catching, the perfect way to draw in the reader. 

The book has these beautiful front and end pages which I think all books should have. The child in me wants to write my name in curly letters but another part of me is too scared to touch it and risk ruining it!

There are pages scattered throughout that illustrate beautifully the stories told on the pages.

Each chapter has an illustrated chapter heading which really breaks up the writing effectively and adds interest. 

I am sorry that this post is so short but I am so busy with university work at the moment that I am finding it hard to juggle my blog with everything else. I will do my best to try and get into a better routine! 

Friday 24 October 2014

Netflix Obsession

I have never considered myself a connoisseur of anything, but when it comes to watching American TV I do seem to have a rather remarkable talent for marathoning things that really shouldn't be marathoned. Too many of my days and nights have been spent re-watching Greys Anatomy again or catching up on the latest episode of Americas Next Top Model. It's fair to say that my obsession is unhealthy, but like snuffling that last piece of chocolate or giving into that final slice of cake, I doubt I will be breaking the habit anytime soon.

Back in March when I was still finding my footing in the blogging world I wrote a brief post on my slight (ahem) obsession with television programs, with particular focus on Greys Anatomy and Gossip Girl. Since then I have not only added more programs to my repertoire I have also signed up to Netflix aka the website that will ultimately see my decline as a fully functioning adult. How can one function in society when there are so many programs to be watched, and in all in one place?!

So here goes, I will attempt to jumble together a comprehensible list of television programs and films that have caught my attention over the last couple of months.

An American television program comprised of four series' that follows the lives of members of fraternities and sororities at Cyprus Rhodes University, Ohio. I started to watch this years back but ended up losing interest, I'm not entirely sure how, because when I started it again a month or so ago, I was hooked. There are a brilliant selection of characters from the carefree, child at heart Cappie (who I may or may not have developed a bit of a crush for) and nerd like Rusty who just wants to get the real college experience. As someone who attends a British university, it was fun to see the Greek system in action as it seemed to far away from my own university experience. I honestly have no idea how accurate it is but I do know that it is entertaining and slightly addictive and as I came to the end, I was definitely sad to be leaving it behind. Give it a year and I might start over again!

Life Unexpected 
Right, so the premise of this program is that teen, Lux, was given up for adoption as a baby. Unhappy in foster care, she decides that she wants to become emancipated but in order to do that she has to acquire the signatures of her birth parents. But upon meeting them and then being denied emancipation, she becomes part of a custody battle. I really enjoyed this to start with, I found Lux to be a relatively good representation of a teen and her birth dad, Baze, was suitably stuck in his teen years, refusing to grow up. I found Cate, Lux's birth mother, to be a bit annoying in parts but I suppose thats to be expected of someone who has just had their child thrown back into their lives. Although I really enjoyed the first series, and most of the second, I actually found the last couple of episodes incredibly hard to watch, they ramped up the cheese and fell into every cliche possible and I was almost glad when it came to an end.

and now onto a couple of films...

This film follows the journey of a substitute teacher, Henry, who arrives at a school and makes a huge impression on a number of people. The film had very dark tones and it had me ugly crying (the worst sort of crying). I understand that on paper the film doesn't sound all that amazing, but I thought it was brilliant!

Tiny Furniture
This film comes from the brain of the brilliant Lena Dunham, I am a huge fan of her and her TV series Girls but I really couldn't get into this film, sorry Lena! It follows a recent graduate as she struggles to enter the next chapter of her life, a chapter full of responsibility and long term work. I felt that the film lacked a strong story line and whilst I did warm to some of the characters, I found many of them to be lacking substance. It was disappointing as I loved Girls so much.

Cancer is a hard topic to cover in film, a lot of the time it is done badly but occasionally there is a good representation, see The Fault in Our Stars, and I believe that 50/50 also falls into that category. I felt that it effectively showed the gritty and ugly side of cancer, there was no Hollywood shine to it. Joseph Gordon-Levitt did a brilliant job of playing Adam and I believed his pain, both mental and physical as he struggled with the treatments. I thought that Adams best friend, Kyle, played by Seth Rogan added just the right amount of comic relief to the film. But most of all, I liked that even thought there were snippets of a love story scattered throughout the film, it was ultimately a film of illness and recovery. There were no dramatic declarations of love as he lay on his death bed and I was glad, I hate how often cancer is over dramatised and how the pain is made to seem almost beautiful.

Right, so I think thats enough for now! I had planned on keeping Netflix for no more than the first month free subscription, but two months in and I still haven't cancelled it. Maybe next month I'll put an end to it or maybe not.

Let me know if you have watched any of the above mentioned or if you have any recommendations...go on, feed my obsession!


Saturday 18 October 2014

Guildford Book Festival: Paige Toon & Ali Harris

What's it that they say about never meeting your idols? Well I'm going to disagree with that! When it comes to the world of books, Paige Toon and Ali Harris feature pretty high on the list of Authors that inspire me and I am so glad that I was finally able to meet them.

When I found out about the Guildford Book Festival, my curiosity got the better of me, as a student at Royal Holloway, a university only about half an hour away from Guildford, I couldn't resist taking a look at who would be appearing. I had been mid scroll of Twitter whilst wallowing around in a slightly too hot bath (yes, living life on the edge) when I spotted Paige talking about an event she would be attending alongside Ali. I didn't hesitate to book a ticket- alone- making the jump to go to an event alone was a big deal for me, socialising isn't my strong point! But I am so glad I did! The event was £9 and included a complimentary cocktail! It was hosted by Fanny Blake who did a brilliant job of asking the questions we all wanted to know. There is something rather strange about seeing people you have only ever known through books and social media. When any interaction goes on in front of a computer screen it is then incredibly odd to meet them in person. I am glad to report that Paige and Ali were even more brilliant in real life than I ever could have imagined.

As a classics student, my life tends to be taken over by course reading, but over the summer I took a break from Virgil and Ovid and allowed myself to be taken into the worlds of Paige and Ali and it was really interesting to hear about their inspiration and wiring process, I felt although it added another element of depth to their writing. Of course it was also brilliant to meet the two women behind some of my all time favourite characters and it was equally amazing to meet some fellow readers who are just as invested in the books.

As someone who would love to work in publishing and maybe, just maybe write a book one day, it was inspiring to meet two people who had done all the things I want to do. I have entered the third decade of my life and I am also in my final year at university. My future feels very uncertain but meeting Paige and Ali has made me feel that in the end it can all work out and for the first time I look forward to starting the next chapter of my life and possible writing the first chapter of a book.

Overall I had a brilliant evening and my only regret is that I didn't have the time to go to any of the other events at Guildford Book Festival. This was my first ever book related event and I hope it was just the start of a future full of brilliant bookish events!

Have you ever had the chance to meet your favourite authors? Did you attend any of the Guildford book festival events? I would love it if you could let me know in the comments!


Tuesday 7 October 2014

The Riot Club- film review

A film about posh boys- how could this possibly be the premise of a film- that was my initial reaction when I was first asked if I would like to see it. But it's posh on another level, it's the ugly side of posh carried on the shoulders of some very beautiful men. It's the sort of posh that looks down on schools such as Harrow boys school. Only Eton or Westminster for the best, of course. The boys that feature in this film are the sort that nobody can relate to. That was why I was so intrigued, I wanted a glimpse into this life that seemed so alien to me and in some weird way, I also wanted to take pleasure in hating their world.

So for those of you who don't know, The Riot Club is about an elite, secret society that is open only for the 10 wealthiest, most elite boys at Oxford university. They spend their time trashing dining events and lavishly throwing around their wealth. The movie starts with the arrival of first years, Alistair and Miles (Sam Clafin and Max Irons) and we follow them as The Riot Club puts them through the process of joining the club. Intelligence, wealth and status is what is required to bag one of the infamous spots. The film follows Miles' attempts to maintain a relationship with Lauren (Holliday Grainger) who is looked down upon as a 'commonor' whilst trying to live up to the expectations of the rest of The Riot Club.

The Riot Club originally came about as a play named 'Posh' and to me it has undeniable links to the infamous Bullingdon Club that has previously welcomed members such as David Cameron, Boris Johnson and George Osbrone- it feels good to know our country is run by men who were once happy to trash hotel rooms and then pay the extortionate repair fees, in cash! (note the sarcasm). The writer of the play however has refused to accept that the aptly named Riot Club was based on the Bullingdon Club. Regardless, the film was still an interesting insight into the life on an elite boy at Oxford, as someone who has never been witness to anything like it, I found it interesting and disturbing to watch them flitter money away as though it were nothing and trash property without a thought. Their treatment of women and anyone else them deemed beneath them was equally disgusting, and the worst part was that I have a horrible feeling that the film was actually on the tame side. How is it that the university that claims to take the most intelligent members of our society, can also be the breeding ground for an attitude towards life that is just plain wrong. Made worse by the fact that more often than not, these men then go onto hold extremely high powered positions, even going as far as becoming Primeminister or Mayor of London. Yep.

I actually thought the film was amazing, it is a brilliant example of how you can appreciate the portrayal of something you hate. The actors playing the members of the Riot Club did a brilliant job of making me hate them and I read somewhere that they even began to hate each other. They played their characters so well that by the end of it I found it hard to distinguish between the actor and the character. The female characters, although far and few between, were brilliant. Lauren, girlfriend to Miles, was the perfect example of someone who had got into Oxford through pure merit rather than off the back of a high profile parent. There attitude to money way disgusting- let me put it into perspective, one of the men, an owner of an incredibly expensive car, posted the keys through the letterbox of a charity after his friend was sick in it. How is it possible that a 20 or so year old can be so flippant about such a huge amount of money.

Overall I found the film disgusting and intriguing in equal measure. I thought the acting was brilliant and they all did a brilliant job of showing the corrupt nature of the elite at Oxford. It is a side of the university that has to be talked about, especially considering the link between the Bullingdon Club and figures such as David Cameron and Boris Johnson.

I would definitely recommend it even if it is just to get an insight into an incomprehensible world and failing that, you can just sit back and watch the likes of Douglas Booth and Sam Clafin on the big screen.


Wednesday 1 October 2014

A Hundred Pieces of Me- Lucy Dillon

Gina is just out of a long term relationship, she is leaving behind a time in her life she would rather not dwell on- heartbreak, illness and an uninspiring marriage. It is her opportunity to start her life anew and she takes it with both hands and never looks back. The book focuses on her ridding her life of all the items she had hoarded over the years, which is no mean feat for chronic collector Gina. Along the way she befriends an abandoned dog, Buzz and client, Nick. As she clears her present of her past she unearths some of the things that had been holding her back from really enjoying her life and slowly she learns to embrace her future.

The story line flies between past and present events, spanning about twenty or so years. To start with I found it hard to keep up with the switching dates but they also allowed me to get to know Gina and how her character had progressed. 

The premise of the book is that Gina is going to keep one hundred items that mean something to her, in the process getting rid of everything that is cluttering up her life. Each chapter starts with an item that she will keep and it is accompanied by the story of how the item came to being. I thought this was a lovely touch and gave me a real insight into the inner workings of Gina's mind. It also made me want to throw out all of my stuff and start all over again. I feel like it would clear my mind and it also puts into perspective what is really important- do I really ANOTHER pair of shoes? 

There was something about the book that I found so familiar and there were points where I forgot that I was merely the reader. It was almost as though Lucy Dillon was peering into my mind and writing accordingly- it was a weird experience but obviously one that not every reader would have! 

I thought there were a good selection of characters and I felt they were all developed sufficiently. As much as the book revolves around a number of Gina's relationships with men, I liked that in the end the focus was on her new found friendship with a dog. As the owner of an adorable Labradoodle, I could entirely relate to the feeling of responsibility and unconditional love you can feel for such loyal creatures. 

The only complaint I have is that I felt the story lines were all developed so well but were rushed a bit in the end. To me the story line lacked a good balance and I finished it feeling as though I had been robbed the ending I felt it deserved.

Despite the ending, I absolutely loved the book and would definitively recommend it! Please let me know what you thought of it or if you think you will go on to read it! 


Tuesday 23 September 2014

'A quotation is a handy thing to have about...

...saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business'
-A.A. Milne, If I May

When I was writing my personal statement to apply for university I was told by my teacher to not use a quotation so as to avoid sounding 'cheesy'. I took her advice but I have since discovered that I have a fondness for quotations. Be they inspirational or dark and gloomy. As someone who can't remember her own mobile number despite having had it for a good 6 years, I find it amazing that I can reel quotations off the top of my head. Hey maybe one day I'll be like Augustus Waters' parents...

'"My parents call them Encouragements" he explained' 
-John Green, The Fault in our Stars 

In fact, John Green in a brilliant person to quote, his books are full to the brim with brilliant metaphors and witty snippets of conversation. How is it that the same man can write...

'Hump the moist cave wall'
-John Green, The Fault in our Stars


'As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once'
-John Green, The Fault in our Stars

John Green, you baffle me!

So, now onto a couple of love quotations...

'Love doesn't conquer everything. And whoever thinks it does is a fool' 
-Donna Tartt, The Secret History 

I love this offering from Donna Tartt, it is a brilliant selection of words that only adds to the brilliance of the book. Although, Jung Chang would beg to differ...

'If you have love, even plain cold water is sweet' 
-Jung Chang, Wild Swans 

***on a side note, I was in the midst of my Avril Lavigne obsession when I was reading this and now I can't listen to her songs without being thrown back into 20th century China***

It's funny how quotations can make the same thing seem so different. Take these two on miracles...

'The trouble with miracles is they don't last long'
-Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl 

And then of course we have Lemony Snicket taking a completely different approach on the concept of miracles...

'Miracles are like meatballs' 
-Lemony Snicket, The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events) 

There aren't many people in the world who can justify comparing miracles to meatballs, but Lemony Snicket is one of them!

Now, we have a couple of quotations from some of my favourite books.

'Just kidding was exactly what people wrote when they meant every word' 
-David Nicholls, One Day

'Dont you think it's better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life'
-Audrey Niffinger, The Time Travelers Wife

'Death is a state of mind- many people on Earth spend their entire lives dead'
-Gavrielle Zevin, Elsewhere

'You can't save people from the world. There's nowhere else to put them' 
-M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts

And here is a particular favourite...

'Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,

You never answered my question and it was very important. 

-Jean Webster, Daddy-Long-Legs

And in the the words of Dr. Seuss  

'Be awesome! be a book nut!' 


Wednesday 17 September 2014

Paper Swans- Jessica Thompson

Mental health has always been a bit of a taboo subject, but in today's society 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem- so why don't we write about it more? I rarely come across a book that so blatently deals with mental health in such a frank manner- and not just that but too often mental health is glamorised or it ends tragically. This book dealt with mental health in an entirely different and refreshing way. 

Ben is a high flying business man who is reeling in the big bucks. He has an amazing flat in an exclusive part of London and his clothes are disgustingly over priced. He has it all, or so it seems. Mental health doesn't discriminate, and Ben is suffering from anxiety induced by an event in his teen years. Ben doesn't believe he deserves love, he has an irrational fear that he will hurt anyone he loves so to him the obvious option is to just avoid it. But then Effy enters his life, a hardworking charity worker and suddenly he questions his decision to bypass a serious relationship. But can Ben comit to a relationship that he fears he will ruin? 

What Jessica does brilliantly is show the irrational side of mental health. To someone who has never experienced the crippling anxiety it would seem ridiculous how Ben overthinks everything and how he won't allow himself happiness. It doesn't glamorourise the illness and it also shows the mental health can effect anyone- rich or poor, young or old. I also liked how it wasn't so much about Effy fixing Ben but rather Effy giving Ben the strength and ability to fix himself. Jessica didn't simplify mental health and I'm glad she didn't fall into the trap of the cure being simple. 

I thought there were a good selection of characters. Ben had a good balance of arrogance and vulnerability and I liked how the cause of his anxiety was revealed bit by bit as the story progressed rather than in one go. 

Effy did us girls proud- a career women who put her morals and ambitions above all else. It was nice to see a successful female character who valued her own ambitions.

All in all it was a brilliant book that could easily have been a typical love story. But what Jessica did was show that not all love is simple and that anyone can suffer with mental illness and it isn't always easy to recover.


Sunday 14 September 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After- Stephanie Perkins

This is the third offering from Stephanie in the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy. It takes us back to the school in Paris where we get to catch up with Josh- the friend of St Clair, Meredith, Anna and Rashni- who has been left behind to complete school without them. We are also introduced to Isla who briefly appeared in Anna's story where we learnt of her crush on Josh. The story follows her and Josh's relationship and how they will cope with Josh's flippant attitude towards education and how they will remain together following school with the prospect of living on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

I liked Isla, she lacked the witty humour of Anna and the outlandish personality and confidence of Lola, but to me she was much easier to relate to because of it. I felt as though she was the sort of girl who goes unnoticed, and I liked her for that. To me she was the most 'normal' of the three girls, she was the sort of girl I would have been if I were to appear in a Stephanie Perkins novel.

I enjoyed getting to know Josh a bit more and I was pleasantly surprised. Although he had appeared in Anna and the French Kiss, the majority of the time was spent with his tongue down Rashni's throat. He is the brooding arty type and I could see exactly why Isla harboured such a big crush on him. It was nice to see Isla come out of her shell as the book progressed and due to the first person narrative I felt as though I was inside her head and she was a brilliant example of the fact that quiet people can have loud thoughts. The narrative allowed the reader to know things that she would never have said aloud and consequently created a much more rounded character.

My favourite part was of course the bringing together of all the characters. I can't deny that I internally squealed when Cricket and Lola reappeared (they are my favourite couple), and whilst I do find Anna and St Clair's relationship a bit sickly, I was also glad to see them.

Isla and the Happily Ever After was a brilliant ending to a brilliant trilogy, I gulped it down in one sitting and now I am just sad that I haven't got another one to go to!


Thursday 11 September 2014

Three Little Words- Jessica Thompson

Three Little Words- a book about love. Oh how first impressions can be deceiving. The front cover and title arise expectations of some soppy love story full of unspoken feelings and racing hearts. But this book is not at all like that. Yes, it is a book about love but ultimately it is a book about forgiveness and pain, with an ending that makes you wonder whether 'I love you' really are those three words the title hints at. Ultimately 'I forgive you' can mean more than a declaration of love.

The story is an interwoven tale of four women whose lives are all altered on one fateful night. It is a tale of their journey to forgive and set free daemons that hang over them. The story is centered around Bryony, happy in love, her life is changed beyond belief by that night. Then there is Rachel who is a thriving ballet dancer, struggling to cement her identity until she finds something out that causes her to question her entire life. There is Sara who believes she is happily married until she uncovers something that puts her marriage into uncertainty. Finally there is Tynice who is struggling to forgive her son after a dreadful incident. The reader follows the lives of these women as they struggle to come to terms with their circumstances and as they learn that their forgiveness may well be the release from it.

(Oh dear you wouldn't believe how hard that synopsis was to write without revealing any spoilers! I haven't been able to do the story line justice, I recommend you just read the book!)

At first I was overwhelmed with the number of character who attempted to take centre stage. But once I got my head around it they fell into place nicely. I was further confused by the jumping around of dates, each chapter followed a different character and the dates weren't always sequential. This was a minor issue, but on top of the long line of characters, it was just another aspect that confused me.  I felt that Sara and Toms story line did nothing for the plot and equally Rachel's had no real significance to the central story line. Although both Sara and Rachel had a brief relevance to Bryonys story line, I didn't feel like it was enough to justify their large role in the book. Part of me wishes that the book had focused on just Bryony as I would have liked to have got to know her a bit more. I also liked Tynice who I felt was a really raw character torn between loyalty, guilt and shame.

I had previously read This Is A Love Story which I now know was likened to One Day. Sadly I don't think any of Jesscia's books quite stand up to One Day, although One Day holds a special place in my heart that any other book would struggle to compete for. This was a brilliant book that fought to stay away from Chick Lit stereotype and succeeded. There was a brilliant balance of love, forgiveness as well as a hint of crime that gave the book a twist that puts it a step ahead of your average Chick Lit. I only wish someone had thought more about the cover, given it a bit of edge, it is a book I would have easily walked by and not given a second thought.

Overall I really did enjoy it! It was a quick read and there were some really good characters. I look forward to starting Paper Swans.


Wednesday 10 September 2014

As creative as I get!

I am not the arty type, I have no flare when it comes to producing beautiful things out of abstract materials, my portraits never have a likeness and I can barely colour within the lines. Painting by numbers was always my limit. But recently I picked up some plain brown notebooks from Paperchase and Muji and I wanted to personalise them. A couple of years ago I bought a set of alphabet stamps from Paperchase and some red ink so I decided to print some lovely bookish quotes onto the front covers. Here are my attempts, I am really happy with how they look! 

I know it is nothing special and it required no skill or effort but I think it turned what is essentially a boring notebook into something a bit more interesting. 

I would love to know what you think! 


Friday 5 September 2014

Lola and the boy next door: Stephanie Perkins

Lola is a teen with ambitions of becoming a clothes designer. Every street is her catwalk and every outfit is as extravagant as the last. She is happy with boyfriend Max who her parents ardently disapprove of due to a slightly inappropriate age gap. Everything is going well for her until the Bell twins move back in next door. There is Cricket, the boy she had harboured a crush on for years and Calliope his resentful twin sister. How will Lola cope with their reappearance in her life?

What Stephanie has done is turn a typical teen romance into a not so typical teen romance. Lola and the boy next door. It sounds like it should fall into every stereotype, right? I expected Lola to be a typical all American girl, blonde hair, cheer leader, sights set on an Ivy League college. I expected Cricket to be some tall, broad, handsome jock. But they didn't fall into any of the stereotypes. Instead Lola was quirky and enigmatic, I loved her adventurous outfits which despite no visual aids, were as clear in my mind as any picture. I liked that her parents were a gay couple but they weren't camp, they were just normal guys- I felt Stephanie wrote them well and once again avoided stereotypes. I also thought Cricket was written well, this awkward, expressive boy with too long limbs and a ready smile. Maybe not the sort of guy you find girls swooning over but he was perfect to Lola and I felt that in the writing. 

I was happy to see Anna and St Clair reappear and I was glad to see they were as in love as ever. It was a brilliant follow up to Anna and the French Kiss and if a good teen romance is your kind of book then I urge you to go out and buy it! 


Thursday 4 September 2014

If I Stay- film review

Mia Hall has reached a crossroads in her life, will she head off to Julliard in New York to fulfil a childhood dream or will she stay at home with rocker boyfriend, Adam. But suddenly she is thrown into a whole new situation and she has one decision to make- will she stay? (Cryptic I know!) 

If you have read my book review of If I Stay then you will know that I wasn't particularly captivated by it. So I didnt go into the cinema with high hopes. Sadly I was dissapointed for a second time.

The film was actually a very true adaptation of the book. I felt as though every major point was covered and all of the characters were true to how they were in the book. In fact I can't fault the adaptation at all. For me it just wasn't exciting, it was predictable and I hate to say it, but I got a bit bored. But for me, this was no different from the book which I also felt lacked excitement. Also the film didn't get any emotional reaction from me, which is a major fault considering the premise of the story. I don't know if this was a fault in the acting or characters but I felt no emotional attachment. I felt that Moretzs reaction to her circumstance wasn't believable and therefore I found it really hard to sympathise with her. 

If there is one thing I enjoyed it would be the soundtrack. There were a brilliant selection of songs and maybe I will purchase the soundtrack but I definitely won't be buying the DVD. 

I didn't get any pleasure from disliking the book and film of If I Stay, in fact I really wanted to enjoy it, but sadly I didn't. I am sure this is an unpopular opinion and many people will have enjoyed both the film and book. Please let me know in the comments whether or not you enjoyed it!


Anna and the French Kiss- Stephanie Perkins

Anna is sent to Paris to study for a year before she goes off to college- the city of lights renowned for romance and love, but Anna doesn't see it like that. Anna is resentful and angry to be leaving behind best friend Bridgette and heart throb of the moment- Toph (a ridiculous nickname for Christopher). Anna arrives in a foreign city, knowing no more that Oui and Merci, but she soon finds her place amongst a group of friends- Meredith, Josh, Rashmi and of course, Etienne St Clair- a British...French...American...oh who knows...boy who goes by his last name and manages to capture the heart of homesick Anna despite a considerable lack in the height department- a feature that is brought up many a time throughout the book.

I liked Anna from the word go, she was feisty yet innocent and everything that I would expect of a teenage girl. I liked that she had a good sense of humour and she held her own again the boys when it would have been easy to write a female character without a backbone. Sadly I felt as though she lost this in the later part of the book as her whole being came to be about her obsession with St Clair. I felt as though I lost the Anna that I had so enjoyed reading about and I didn't like how she turned from strong and feisty to weak and lovesick within a matter of pages, I don't think that it was necessary for Anna to turn in to what is arguably a stereotypical girl in love, I would have liked it if Anna could have subverted the stereotype. I also couldn't stand how she started to refer to St Clair by his first name, I understand the intention but it just made me cringe.

At first I wanted to dislike St Claire- I mean who goes by their surname? To me it came across as a bit pretentious but I warmed to him very quickly despite it. All the characters had good humour and many of them stood out in their own right. I believed that Anna loved St Clair and I believed he loved her too. The only part that fell short for me was Anna's obsession with Toph, I didn't really believe it and therefore I found it hard to sympathise when she encountered difficulties with her 'relationship' with him.

Overall I really did enjoy the book, I devoured it within a couple of hours and that is always a sign of a good book. Also despite the odd occasion where the characters made me squirm with embarrassment, I have come to the conclusion that teen life and teen love is all about embarrassing yourself and a good teen romance wouldn't be complete without a few cringe inducing moments! The book is full of angst and drama but isn't that what teen life is all about?


Sunday 31 August 2014

The Great Gatsby Obsession

I am not at all the sort of person who buys multiples of books, nor do I reread. I tend to give the book one read through and then it gets a place on my book shelf. Even many of my favourite books have only been read once. But for some reason The Great Gatsby was different. Not only have I read it countless times but I also can't resist picking up another copy when I see a different cover. I know that it is a very obvious book to like, but I genuinely enjoy it so much! 

As you can see, I am building up quite a collection! 
This was my first copy of The Great Gatsby which I bought when I studied it for A-Level
I love these Penguin covers- I would love to build up a collection of these! 
I found this in Selfridges- It was amongst other books with covers in a similar style
Another brilliant cover and it's in hardback! 
A beautiful cover, the metallic curves catch the light too! 
One of the less abstract covers but equally as beautiful
This for me is the original Gatsby cover and I love it! I have seen many poster versions of it and it may soon find it's way into my room! 

So that is my collection so far and I can't see myself stopping anytime soon! 


Friday 29 August 2014

Where She Went- Gayle Forman

The problem with hype is that it can really ruin a book. I read If I Stay in the run up to the release of the film. There was talk of it everywhere and I went into reading it with absolutely humongous expectations. The book unsurprisingly fell short- through no fault of its own but rather because I was expecting the world and it gave me a continent. As I said in my review, it wasn't that I didn't enjoy it, it's just I found it a bit predictable, the book tried to make you think you didn't know how it would end but I could have told you the ending after the first couple of pages. The follow up- Where She Went- is arguably just as predictable, the one difference being that it wasn't really trying to be hugely dramatic or unpredictable and therefore I didn't expect to be surprised. 

The book begins three years on from its predecessor, this time it is narrated by Adam and it follows a similar structure, alternating between past and present. I enjoyed this structure as it allowed the story to skip three years but I still felt as though I was up to date with what had gone on. Adam is at a low point, his carer as a musician means that he has hit the big time, but problems with band mates and the inability to live a 'normal' life when faced with fans and insensitive journalists means that he isn't coping. He is a shell of a human and ready to quit the band- only made worse by the fact that he is doing it without Mia, the love of his life. Enter Mia. It has been three years without a word and suddenly he is faced with her, the book follows their journey through nighttime New York as Adam learns of why she left him and whether they can make another go of it. 

The sequel to If I Stay is told through Adam, I much preferred his narrative and I really did feel a strong emotional connection with the poor boy who three years on from being left by Mia is not in a good state. I felt that the first book lacked character development and the sequel really allowed me to learn about the characters. I believed their emotions more and I was more invested in their story because of it. As with the first book I did shed a tear. It wasn't so blatently sad but just upsetting to see Adam at only 21 struggling through life.

All in all it was a much better book and I can see why it has really grabbed the book reading community. It is a quick and easy read which will send you on an emotional roller-coaster! 


Thursday 28 August 2014

The Secret Garden

Well when it comes to childhood favourites, The Secret Garden features in the top 10. It is a brilliant book that I must have read over and over again. I have a well worn copy sitting on my book shelf and it is one of the few that survived the book cull that took place when my mum insisted that it was time to pass on my books to younger cousins. 

For those of you who have never read The Secret Garden- firstly, where have you been! Secondly, here is a very short summary...

The book is about a girl called Mary who is sent from India to live in England with her uncle following the death of her parents. Mary slowly befriends the gardener and some of the other servants and she also discovers a secret garden. Along the way she loses some of her spoilt and bad natured tenancies. She then learns of a boy, her cousin Colin, who is hidden away in the house- ill and unable to walk. They form an unlikely friendship and Mary lets Colin in on the secret of the garden, with the hope that its magic will help him. 

The other day I popped into the Waterstones with the intention of not spending a penny- my bank balance can't handle it at the mo! But I made a beeline for the reduced section and my eyes fell upon this. It is a beautiful cloth covered hardback version of The Secret Garden to celebrate it's 100th anniversary. It also has lovely illustrations and I couldn't believe it when I saw it was reduced from £25 to £5. The book has no damage- I can only assume that it was a display copy! 

This was one of those purchases that left me on a high for the rest of the day and I know that it will remain in my book collection for a long time- I definitely won't be passing it on any time soon!

Have you found any bargains recently? Does The Secret Garden feature in your childhood favourites?


Thursday 21 August 2014


As of a month ago Paris did not feature on my list of top 5 cities to visit. Not that I didn't appreciate the beauty of the city, but rather that as a Classics student, Italy had always held a solid first place in my heart with Greece coming a close second- Rome, Florence and Athens were the cities I dreamt of visiting. But, when my friends decided to go to Paris I was happy to be going away with them, any city would have done. But I well and truly fell in love with Paris, I would go as far as to say that out of all the cities I have visited, it is my favourite.

(view down the Champs-Elysees from the top of the Arc de Triomphe)

(The Eiffel Tower at night)

(at the top of the Eiffel Tower, embracing the wind)

(view from the Eiffel Tower)

All is all I had a brilliant time, we did all the incredibly touristy things, we went up the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Spent a couple of hours in the Louvre and then battled through the masses to catch a glimpse of the Mona Lisa. We went to the Sacre Coeur, went on a boat tour down the river Seine and did a night bus tour around Paris. Whilst I enjoyed every moment, I can understand why there is a reputation for Parisians leaving the city in the summer, the tourists really took over the city, all traveling in huge groups and I finally saw the infamous selfie stick being used. Ideally I would go back to the city at another time of the year and see it in a different light.

Have you ever been to Paris? What is your favourite city?