Monday 28 December 2015

The art of book buying

I look at my overflowing book shelves and I have too many books, or not enough?

I'd give a different answer everyday of the week but at the end of it all, the one question I have is: can one ever have too many books? 

I must have 1000 books, give or take. A collection I have taken care to build up for as many years as I can remember. Have I read then all? Definitely not. But I have read a good percentage of them and it doesn't bother me that I have a surplus. So, when I already have my own library of books within my room, why do I buy more? 

It's an addiction! I can't go into my local town without making a stop at Waterstones. I can't make an Amazon order without putting a couple of books into it. My day is incomplete without a book in hand and I always have one tucked away in my bag; just in case.

I don't see an unread book as a waste of money but rather an investment. A book is more than just the paper it is written on, it offers the possibility of a new world, new characters, a new journey. It is not so much a product but rather a lifestyle choice. I read books because I enjoy the way they make me think, I like to explore the worlds they create and befriend those who live in them. An unread book can't be compared to that leather jacket you bought and never wore. A book doesn't go out of fashion or have an expiry date.

Those unread books that sit on my bookshelf will still be there for me in the years to come and one day, they will be read. And if they aren't, what does it matter, because an unread book still has a place on my bookshelf. It reminds me that I have more worlds to explore and I find that thought comforting.

So yes, when I next walk past a Waterstones I probably will buy another book, and you know what, that copy of Ulysses by James Joyce that sits on my book shelf will probably never be read, but I am glad it is there.

Book buying is an art and I am well versed in it.


Friday 9 October 2015

Do No Harm: Henry Marsh

When I was younger I harboured a dream of becoming a doctor, as most youngsters often do at some point in the years when anything seems possible. The world of medicine intrigued me; from the science to the social roles that a doctor takes on. But then along came A-levels and with that the realisation that science just wasn't my thing. My dreams of becoming a doctor were dashed when I found myself doing English lit, History, Classics and Maths A-level. My dreams of becoming a doctor were pushed to the back of my mind, fed only by my obsession with medical dramas such as Greys Anatomy and House. 

I have just finished a three year under graduate degree in Classical Studies which I absolutely loved but I have to admit that a part of me still wishes that I had been a whizz as science and that medicine had been in my grasp. But alas, it wasn't to be.

I spotted this book during a routine browse in Waterstones, it is written by neurosurgeon, Henry Marsh. It is an account of some of him most memorable surgeries, both good and bad. Each chapter is devoted to a different brain condition, from trauma to tumour. The tales are told in a very simple and easy to understand manner and is a perfect glimpse into a world that is so alien to most of us. 

I liked how each chapter was devoted to a different tale as it allowed me to dip in and out of it, as such I have been reading it on and off for the last couple of months. I liked how matter of fact Marsh was in dealing with each account and I thought he had a good balance between personal and medical.  

What Marsh was able to do was make brain surgery accessible to the masses, I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it! 


Monday 7 September 2015

Girl, Interrupted: Susanna Kaysen

A memoir penned by Susanna Kaysen documenting the year and a half she spent on a psychiatric ward. Overdosing on painkillers and having her stomach pumped, along with promiscuity, detachment and a number of other symptoms led to Susanna voluntarily signing herself onto a ward. This tale tells of her experience inside a ward where she meets a number of young women who are struggling with their mental health. 

I decided to read this after watching the film adaptation starring Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie. I absolutely loved the film and particularly enjoyed the way in which the actresses portrayed the characters. I was therefore keen to go back to the beginning and read the book the film was adapted from. 

Something that I enjoyed that wasn't really covered in the film was the meaning behind the title. I always thought that the title was quite powerful. I appreciated the impact it has and the many different conclusions that can be made from it, but it is even more so now that I know the reasons behind why she chose it. Of course, you will have to read the book to find this out, but it was an aspect of the book that really caught my attention. 

The book is not told in a straightforward timeline. The chapters instead focus on events that often overlap. For example, there was one character who was said to have died in an early chapter but then reappeared in a later chapter. To start with this confused me but I soon learnt to not deal with the book in such a linear fashion and allow for the time scale to jump around. In fact, whilst this annoyed me to start with, I soon appreciated it as a reflection of the authors mental status at the time in which the book is set. It is probably the most striking insight into how she felt and is as important as the written words.

Sometimes in the film I felt that they beautified Susanna mental illness. In fact the character portrayed by Winona Ryder seemed to be remarkably sane, particularly in comparison to the other characters. The book gave a better insight into the darker elements of her illness, particularly the detachment. Now, having read the book, I can see that on occasion, the film characters were somewhat lacking. I did however enjoy both the book and the film very much and wouldn't hesitate to recommend both. 

Of course, the book is about mental health so I recommend it with the warning that if you have worries about your own mental health that may be triggered, then maybe think twice before reading it. 

Let me know in the comments what you thought to it or if there are any similar books you can recommend to me!


Sunday 16 August 2015

Where Have I Been?

Despite finishing my three year university degree in June and graduating in July, I have somehow managed to spend all of my free time NOT writing my blog. I have been painfully neglectful and I am about to throw some half arse excuses at you; brace yourselves.

1. In late June and early July I spent ten days in Greece: Rhodes and Athens. Enjoying the wonders of a country in meltdown. I felt somewhat guilty benefiting from their crisis in that public transport was free in Athens. The food was brilliant, as was the weather (although, thank god for air con!), and I finally got to see the brilliant and inspiring Parthenon.

2. I graduated! Yep that's right, after three brilliant years, I finally graduated from university with a 2:1 in Classical Studies, WOOOHOO! Whilst the day itself can not be blamed for my absence, I have found myself in a post university slump. Aimless and lacking in motivation, it's fair to say that adjusting to life outside of education has been an odd experience.

3. I then found myself in Scotland. As a family we travelled up to Inverness, onwards to Thurso and then down the west coast to Scourie. We were in the middle of nowhere but it was absolutely beautiful! Time was spent taking lots of walks and drooling over the beautiful Highland Pottery in Lochinver. 

4. If one heat fuelled holiday wasn't enough; I left the UK once again, this time for Spain. It was a bit of a shock to the system! As a lover of all things cold I found the hot weather a bit too much! The hotel pool and endless supply of iced drinks kept me sane! Tans were got and books were read (keep your eyes peeled for a couple of reviews).

5. Back in June I spent a weekend in Oxford to see a friend who goes to University there. It is a beautiful city and one that I wouldn't hesitate to reccomend. Highlights included seeing the set to the Hospital Wing from Harry Potter and eating at one of the colleges formal dinners. 

6. In June I also spent a couple of days up in Doncaster, visiting a friend. Whilst up there I was able to visit York where we had breakfast at Betty's tea shop. We also went to Chatsworth House which was used in the Keira Knightly Pride and Prejudice.     

7. After suffering a lot a aimlessness induced anxiety, I managed to get myself a job as a teaching assistant in a school. I am very excited to start in September and I can't wait to have a purpose and good routine!

8. Seven months on and after one failed attempt, I finally managed to pass my driving test! It was a day I thought I would never see, but I can now legally drive a car alone! This took up a surprisingly large amount of time, I always seemed to be in a car, practicing roundabouts or perfecting my reverse around a corner.

9. This past week I have been in Wales, enjoying a brisk wind and chilly dips in the sea. I feel windswept and wind burnt, the way all good holidays should leave you! 

So, all in all I have had a very busy three months! I will do my best to get back into a good routine, but it's a promise that history tells I'm not all that great at keeping. I have read a decent number of books this summer so hopefully there will be a book review coming your way soon! 


Thursday 11 June 2015

The Dandelion Years: Erica James

The first Erica James book I read was "Tell it to the Skies" about six years ago when I received it as a christmas present. I gobbled it up in one sitting before delving into any of her other books I could get my twitching hands on. Since working my way through her earlier books I have had to join every other reader and wait (not so) patiently for new releases. Of course I had Erica's latest offering on pre-order but due to an endless exam period and numerous essays that demanded my attention I was unable to read it until recently. It was worth the wait, as per usual I wasn't disappointed. Yet another brilliant book from Erica James!

"The Dandelion Years" focuses on two different time periods. Saskia is in her thirties but still lives at home with her father and two grandfathers since the death of her mother and grandmothers when she was younger. They have created a safe contained world for themselves and none of them want to nor feel they need to make a change. Saskia and her father, Ralph, work with books, selling and repairing them. Then enters Matthew who is in the process of sorting out his somewhat surrogate father Jacob Belinsky's house following his death. He enlists the help of Saskia and Ralph in dealing with the endless book collection he left behind. In the process they unearth a secret journal, penned "The Dandelion Years" which brings to life the tale of a man who worked for Bletchley Park during the second world war. Saskia delves into this tale of wartime love whilst dealing with changes that are occurring within her own life.

I am a sucker for historical fiction and this book offered a glimpse into Bletchley Park during the second world war. I loved that Erica gave so much time to Jacob and Kitty's story, I have experienced in the past dual narratives and often one is always compromised. In " The Dandelion Years" however there was a brilliant balance between the present day tale and its historical counterpart. Usually when a book is split between two narratives I often prefer one. On this occasion I would struggle to pick one over the other, they both offered something valuable to the overall story. I wouldn't have done without either. I liked the juxtaposition of the passionate consuming relationship between Jacob and Kitty and the incredibly "normal" relationship between Saskia and Matthew.

I warmed to Saskia very quickly, almost instantly in fact. I was able to relate to her extremely easily and I liked her quiet yet intense nature. Early on the reader learns of her family circumstance and her personality really reflected her childhood experiences. Saskia was both relatable and realistic, I couldn't have asked for much more! Equally I really liked Matthew as a character, he was far from perfect but I suppose that was why I liked him. Ralph and the two grandfathers offered a good contrast to Saskia and equally the character of Libby despite only playing a small role was a welcome addition to the book.

I really enjoyed aunt Jo and uncle Bob as characters and I wish that their presence had been stronger in the book. This is an absolutely minute criticism and of course there were so many other brilliant characters so it wasn't so much that I felt there was something missing but rather I was given a glimpse of their personalities and I just wanted more! I felt that Jo in particular was a brilliant contrast to Saskia and Ralph.

The story was heartbreaking and uplifting in equal parts. A book that makes me cry is a good book indeed and this had me in tears on a number of occasions.

So, would I recommend it? Yes of course I would, Erica James has yet to let me down and this was another brilliant book!


Monday 8 June 2015

A Change of Heart: Poetry Haul


I always hated poetry. Not even mildly but with a proper heartfelt passion. I somewhat prematurely wrote it off as pretentious and since the dreaded days of GCSE and A-Level English I have refused to revisit the poetry we were forced to study. But then out of nowhere I found myself searching out poems to read, I have even become partial to writing the odd (extremely amateur) poem. I think what I enjoy about a poem is the brevity at which a story can be told. As little as half a dozen words can demand attention, evoke emotion and create a whole new world. They are a reminder that a handful of words can speak louder than 300 long pages full to the brim. I like how a poem can be an unintelligible jumble of words yet make so much sense. You can see in a poem what you want, it is open to interpretation and I suppose that is why I have learnt to love them. 

So, I popped into my local Waterstones with the view of kickstarting a poetry collection. I went for names that I recognised and I am going in completely blind so I am not really sure what to expect. I think what I really need is some kind of poetry anthology and I will be on the hunt for one. But in the mean time, these will have to do.

Tales from Ovid: Ted Hughes


Collected Poems: Sylvia Plath


Selected Poems: Dylan Thomas


            New Selected Poems: Carol Ann Duffy

Any recommendations for where to go next on my journey through the world of poetry are very much welcome!


Tuesday 2 June 2015

Book Haul

Ahh the shame of another book haul, another display of books that I really shouldn't have bought as my TBR pile is already endless. BUT, as of a week and a half ago I have been free from exams and as such I couldn't help but have a little celebration in my local Waterstones. It's safe to say that my bank card took a bit of a battering. In one last hurrah to student finance I treated myself to some books that I have been eyeing up for a while. 

The Girls from Corona del Mar: Rufi Thorpe

The Guest Cat: Takashi Hiraide

The Salmon Who Dared to Leap Higher: Ahn Do-hyun

The Establishment: Owen Jones

The Opposite of Loneliness: Marina Keegan

These may be popping up in book reviews soon so keep an eye out for them!


Tuesday 26 May 2015

One Small Act Of Kindness: Lucy Dillon

Libby and her husband, Jason, have moved back to where he grew up. Their intention is to support his mother in the running of her hotel following the passing of his father. They are leaving behind a past full of problems and Libby is eager to take on the project of running a hotel. She dreams of minimalist design and fancy bath tubs, of course, it doesn't all go smoothly. One day Libby finds that an accident has taken place outside of her hotel. The victim, a girl, who in being hit has lost her memory. With no ID and no knowledge of who she is or where she is from. Libby takes her under her wing as they wait for her memories to return or someone to claim her. But the problems keep coming, nobody said running a hotel was easy and Libby faces her fair share of problems. Meanwhile her newly found friend is left to face the struggles of relearning who you are and who is important to you. 

I thought the concept of this book was simple but brilliant. It was really intresting to watch the girl in the accident relearn who she was and what was important to her. It left the book with a sense of wonder as every now and then something new would be revealed but there was always something held back. I liked how I could anticipate what would happen next but I never quite new. I won't say too much about how the story progressed because the fun of the book was the opportunity it gives the reader to wonder what will be revealed next.

I found Margaret, Jason's mother, infuriating. As I am sure was the intention. Her unquestionable love for her son Jason and her inability to see his faults left me seething. The anger I felt towards her was almost cathartic in parts so it wasn't all bad. There was a nice range of characters, from the incompetent to the competent. Each of them had something to add to the story whether it was good or bad. 

I love love love Lucy's addition of dogs to her stories. Who doesn't love a dog?! Lord Bob was perfect and entertaining and the book wouldn't have been the same without him. I was nice to have a dog who felt like a character in his own right, Lord Bob had a humongous personality and it shone from the pages. 

I liked the ending I just felt as though it could have been elaborated upon. The journey the book took was good and well developed and I felt that the ending was dealt with very quickly. This is a tiny little fault though and is most likely just personal preference!

I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book, I loved Lucy's previous book (A Hundred Pieces Of Me) and this was just as good.


Saturday 23 May 2015

The Sun In Her Eyes: Paige Toon

I am a self confessed addict when it comes to Paige Toon's books. I didn't even hesitate to pre-order her latest release and I couldn't contain my excitement when it landed on my doorstep the other morning. I am happy to report, that I wasn't let down. I gobbled it up in a matter of hours and I only wish that it had gone on longer.

Here's a short overview...

When Amber hears of her father having a stroke she finds herself with no reason not to fly over to Australia to see him. Having just been made redundant she finds herself on a plane, returning to the country she had grown up in, barely glancing back at the husband (Ned) she is leaving behind. Amber falls easily back into her old life, picking up where she left off with best friends Tina and Nell. Of course there is Ethan too, the subject of her childhood crush. He is newly divorced and Amber is faced with a moral dilemma as her loyalties to her husband dwindle.

There was also a sub story of an elderly woman, Doris, who was witness to the car crash that killed Amber's mother when Amber was only three. Doris has held onto the last words Amber's mother said and she is on a quest to fulfil her promise to tell them to Amber. I really liked this idea and I only wish that it had been developed slightly more; not so much in how it ended but rather in how it developed. I also liked the flashbacks to the start of Amber and Ned's relationship which were vital to creating a believable relationship. With Amber fawning over Ethan, it would be easy for the reader to lose sight of her relationship with Ned but thankfully it was kept alive through these flashbacks.

Amber was not my favourite of Paige's protagonists but I have learnt recently that I don't actually have to like a character to enjoy their presence. Amber certainly was flawed and she made some very questionable decisions but she was all the better for it. Of course, I fell for Ethan immediately, he was charming and charismatic. Again, not perfect, and I must say that I finished the book with a very different opinion of him than when I started it.

The story line had just the right amount of twists and turns. Sometimes I felt as though I knew exactly how it was going to end but then Paige would throw a curve ball and I would be left wondering all over again. The ending was not what I expected but I wasn't disappointed.

If you have read any of Paige's books before you will know that some characters pop up in more than one story. I found myself reading this book thinking about the stories that could be given to the more minor characters. In my head I formed different endings for all these characters and even the most minor ones suddenly held so much potential. The brilliance of Paige's storytelling is her ability to make the reader see more than just the main character.

So, the big question: would I recommend it? Of course I would! It didn't quite knock Pictures of Lily off the top spot but it came pretty damn close!


Wednesday 20 May 2015


Three years, nine terms, numerous coursework essays, fourteen exams, one dissertation and I AM DONE. 

They say that university goes by quickly and you should savour it, but it is safe to say that I did not expect it to go this fast. It feels like just yesterday when I was moving into my first year accommodation. But it wasn't yesterday, it was almost three years ago *woah*. 

Today I sat my final exam, three hours on the topography of Rome. Right now I am sitting at my desk wondering what to do with myself. I was in full day nursery from 6 months old. I don't know what it's like to be out of education. But today marks the end of that road. I am not planning on going onto do a masters any time soon so this summer will be devoted to looking for a job and hopefully come September I will have something to do. 

But right now I am going to delve into the endless pile of books I have had to ignore over the past months and I am going to catch up on some much needed sleep. I also have a couple of trips planned: Greece, Spain, Scotland and Wales. It's fair to say that I am making the most of my last summer of freedom. Who knows when I will next have such a long expanse of time to do whatever I want. 

So today I say goodbye to organised education and the wonders of student finance and say hello to the adult world of real jobs and rented flats. 

(Really I am just moving back in with my family, but you know, a girl can dream.)

Sorry for the complete absence of posts this month, dissertation and exam revision took over and somehow my blog got lost along the way. I will try and get back into the swing of it from now on. 


Monday 27 April 2015

Book Haul

Dissertation has been handed in and the dreaded final exams loom. I am very quickly nearing the end of my degree and as a result I have had very little time to devote to my blog. I did however pick up a couple of books which are ready to read as soon as my exams are over. I thought I would give you a sneak peek as many of these may be appearing in future book reviews. 

Dear Reader: Paul Fournel

Sally Heathcote Suffragette: Mary M Talbot, Kate Charlesworth, Bryan Talbot        


How To Be A Heroine: Samantha Ellis


One Small Act Of Kindness: Lucy Dillon


Men Explain Things to Me: Rebecca Solnit

Bad Feminist: Roxane Gay

I apologise for this somewhat lacking post. All of the above mentioned books had been sitting in my wish list for a long time and I decided that now was the right time to treat myself to them. This time in a month I will have finished my exams and I promise to get right back into the swing of blogging.

Let me know in the comments which one you think I should read first!


Wednesday 15 April 2015

Paper Aeroplanes: Dawn O'Porter

Set in 1994 on the island of Guernsey, the story follows two fifteen year olds. Renee and Flo represent two very different types of teenager: outgoing and extroverted and self-conscious and awkward. They make an unlikely pair but through a series of events, they find themselves falling into a friendship. Together they battle through their final year of GCSEs, facing many an obstacle. They face highs and lows and everything in between, begging the question, can their friendship last this turbulent year of their life.

I can not even begin to explain how amazing this book was. I am 21 so the part of teen life covered in this book is safely stored away in my past. But I found myself reliving and accessing memories that i had buried away. Because my years of teenage angst are becoming no more than a memory, the reading of the book was almost cathartic, it allowed me to reminisce and look back fondly (or not so fondly) on a very difficult but also exciting part of my life.

This book was reminiscent of Jacqueline Wilson but for a slightly older reader; a bit more sex and scandal. It covered the turmoil of a broken family, of heartbreak and loss as well as the value of true friendship. Unlike most teen fiction, this wasn't simply a book about lust and romance. This was a book about friendship. Yes it may have included sex, love and death but only in its relation to the said friendship. It was nice to read a book that didn't revolve around a girl lusting after a boy or vice versa. At its core, this book was simply about friendship at an age when having someone who truly understands you is the most important thing in the world.

I was already a big fan of Dawn, having seen her on many a television program including her most recent on vintage fashion. I could feel her personality in the words on the page, I enjoyed getting a sense of the author in this story and it was easy to see that Dawn had poured her heart into this book and it was all the better for it.

I found myself laughing and crying in equal measure and sometimes at the same time. I physically went through the emotions of her characters. Maybe it was because I could relate to them on such a personal level. The book made me stop and think, and most of all, it made me feel. A brilliant book doesn't have to contain boundless fancy language or a complex story line, it has to evoke an emotion, and this certainly did. There were snippets of it where it was almost as though the book understood me better than I understood myself. It brought out some well hidden emotions and memories and I'm all the better for it. This book will stay with me for a long time.

One of the themes that Dawn deals with is bereavement. Dawn deals with it in such a sensitive and realistic manner, putting into words something that is unspeakable; the death of a parent. It was so refreshing to see such a brutally honest tale of life after the death of a parent. She doesn't dress it up or romanticise it. I could relate to it on a personal level as I went through a bereavement myself at the age of sixteen. It is important for words like this to be read. Regardless of your own teen years, this book will offer something you can relate to. In a lot of YA fiction, everything is romanticised or dramatised. The two girls in this book both face horrible things but it is gritty and normal and everything that a teen fiction should be.

I liked that although these two girl were losing their innocence there was such an innocent feel to their friendship and actions. Their friendship was so raw and pure and their actions were the actions of any fifteen year old. Dawn has done a brilliant job of creating realistic teenage characters. At the start of the book, she notes that she read her own teenage diaries for inspiration and that definitely shows in the book.

The characters were all brilliant, they were all suitably different too. Of them all, I found it easiest to relate to Flo, her awkwardness and introverted nature was something that I could see in myself. It was also nice to have Renee as a contrast to her. There were an array of other minor characters and of course I can't not mention Sally, I think we have all knew a Sally in our time at school!

Dawn took a risk setting the story in 1994. I understand that for Dawn it makes sense, the cultural references were spot on and as were the fifteen year olds reactions to said references. But the modern day reader, just a teen themselves, may find it hard to understand the references. Although being only 21, I found them to be just about accessible. Having been born in 1994, I feel like I grew up amongst the dregs of the culture Dawn talks of. I know just enough about it to appreciate it.

Also, just a note on the structure of the book. The story alternated between Renee and Flo's narrative, giving each of them a chance to express themselves. Allowing the reader to see inside their heads as well as see how they view each other. It was a nice way to tell the story and although it was simple, it was very effective.

I couldn't fault the book. I loved every single word. It was beautiful.


Sunday 29 March 2015

Fangirl: Rainbow Rowell

I was almost certain that I was going to love this book even before turning the first page. Having already read Eleanor & Park and Attachments by Rowell, and having thoroughly enjoyed them both, I had extremely high hopes. I wasn't let down. 

Cath is off to university, reluctantly. Her and her twin sister, Wren, have always down everything together and whilst they are both heading for the same university, Wren is adamant that they will live separate lives.  Wren wants her independence, she wants to have her own friends, live her own life. But Cath isn't sure how to function without her twin sister by her side. Cath struggles with social anxiety and dislikes change and without her twin by her side, everything is made all the harder. She immerses herself in her love for writing fanfiction and takes to not leaving the room she silently shares with roommate Reagan. Slowly she builds up friendships. Reagen, Levi, Nick. Whilst she throws her fanfiction characters into exciting situations where they experience danger and love among other things, she struggles to so the same for herself. Preferring to remain within the four walls of her room, pouring her thoughts into her laptop. The problems arise when change is offered and Cath has to decide whether she is ready to live her own life, meet new people, have new experiences or if she wants to remain safely within her own head, accompanied by her thoughts. 

The brilliance of this book lies in its characters. Cath presents the nervous teen heading off to university, leaving behind a dad she doesn't necessarily want to say goodbye to. The alternative side is shown through the character of Wren who couldn't be more enthusiastic about the freedom university will bring her. I could relate to Cath on many levels. Having started university three years ago and now coming up to the end of my degree, I can remember the fear of starting afresh as though it were yesterday. I could sympathise with Cath when she chose to avoid going out in favour of delving into a fictional world that gave her comfort. Cath is an entirely relatable character, I felt as though I knew her because it was almost as though I was her. 

Of course, there is no use in having just one solid character and thankfully Fangirl was full of them. I loved the contrast between Cath and Wren. How their similarities and differences were equally striking. Reagan too offered a good contrast to Cath and I really enjoyed watching their friendship grow, it was an unlikely friendship but that was what made it so interesting. Nick was another interesting character and although ultimately he was a minor character, I felt as though Rowell devoted enough time to developing his personality such that he wasn't merely an afterthought. Often I find that authors neglect their minor characters, Rowell was not guilty of this! Finally, I cannot discuss characters without mentioning Levi. Charming and happy go lucky, he was very easy to like. Again, it was very interesting to see his friendship with Cath grow and the interactions between the two of them were touching and entertaining in equal measure. What I liked most about Levi was how normal he seemed to be. Rowell seems to have a knack for writing down to earth, relatable characters and her books are all the better for it. 

The story line moved at a suitable pace; not too fast, not too slow. It represented a realistic university experience. On one hand the girl who falls too easily into a pattern of never leaving her room and the other a girl who immerses herself into the party lifestyle. It was in all a bit predictable but it never set itself up to be anything else so I can hardly fault it for that. 

I really enjoyed this book, once I picked it up, I didn't put it down. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it. 

Let me know in the comments your view on Fangirl and I would love any recommendations of similar books!


Friday 27 March 2015

How to care for a book.

How do you treat your books? This is a question that divides many.

There are the people who will carefully bend the pages back, enough to reveal the words but god forbid they crack the spine! These readers can finish a book and leave it looking untouched. The spine as flat as it was the day it was bound, the pages crisp and free of ink smudges. Some people like to preserve their books in their original state. I am not one of these people.

I strongly believe that a book is there to be enjoyed,  I know that I simply wouldn't enjoy it as much if I was fretting over cracked spines and dogeared pages. The first thing I do when I start a new book is crack the spine (I can hear the far off gasps of horror). I have books that lie flat when I open them and to me that is the sign of a well read book. I don't use bookmarks, mainly because I never have one to hand but also because I have no qualms about folding over the corner of a page. I have upset many a person by doing this, but it really doesn't bother me.

Reading in the bath is my all time favourite thing to do. I am in my third year at university so most of my time is spent working towards my final exams and finishing my dissertation. Because of this, reading for pleasure is a long forgotten concept. I struggle to make my way through the ever growing pile of fiction, but having a bath is the perfect opportunity to get a good chunk of reading done. I have been known to sit in a bath for hours, until my skin is wrinkled and the water is cold, because I could never just read one more page. Of course water poses a considerable threat to the condition of a book and such more books that I care to admit have crinkled pages, damaged by a splash of water or the steam from a bath.

Of course I wouldn't do these things to books that didn't belong to me, I understand that others like their books to be kept in perfect condition. But if the book is my own, bought from my own money, they I will read it however I want.

To me, respecting a book is enjoying the words and experiencing it to its fullest. I have all of my books proudly displayed throughout my house. They are worn and well loved, just how I like them.

Let me know in the comments how you like to read your books!


Wednesday 18 March 2015

Silver Bay: JoJo Moyes

This book sees the clash of two worlds, the corporate business world which cares only for money vs the small community who will do anything to protect their pocket of untouched beauty. Only, it isn't quite as simple as that. Mike Dormer heads on over to Silver Bay with the view of procuring the land for a business plan. He isn't quite prepared for the pocket of the world he lands in nor the people he meets: Kathleen, Liza and Hannah. The tight-knit community, untouched beauty, and a group of people who will do anything to protect the whales that call their shores home. With his plans hidden, he immerses himself into the community, earning their favour and finding the sort of friendship and love he had never known. But the community holds secrets that nobody could have imagined and how will they react when they learn of the intentions behind his stay.

Overall I really enjoyed the story progression, the story line made sense but also had a suitable number of twists and turns. I understood the purpose of the first half, setting the scene and all that, but it was just too slow and almost left me abandoning the book. Having enjoyed many a JoJo Moyes book before, I was reluctant to leave this unfinished so persevered. I'm glad I did as I found the second half to be significantly better. Whilst in hindsight it is tempting to say the story line was predictable, I would be lying if I said some of the twists and turns didn't catch me by surprise.

There was an abundance of likable and equally unlikable characters. A good book needs both and this certainly did. Mike seemed like a nice guy stuck between doing what was right and what was expected of him. I enjoyed watching as he grew as a character and the delights of Silver Bay began to effect him. Kathleen, Liza and Hannah, three generations of one family were pleasingly different. It was refreshing to have three strong female characters with varying personalities. Liza was at times irritating but surely any good character should be. I have grown tired of books that show their characters to be perfect and I found the characters in this book to be suitably normal. 

I liked the multiple narratives. With the nature of the story and the secrets being hidden, it was nice to catch a glimpse into everyone's head. If it had had only one narrative voice then the story would have been as risk from being very one dimensional. Usually I find multiple narratives to be either unnecessary or confusing, this was neither and a good example of how it should be done. 

Not the best, but by no means bad! I have always enjoyed reading JoJo Moyes' books and when I say that this was not my favourite, that is in no way a criticism, it just falls a tad short of my incredibly high expectations. Despite some reservations, I would recommend this book and I would most certainly recommend you check out some of JoJo Moyes' other books, I'm sure they won't disappoint.


Sunday 1 March 2015

Book Haul

Despite better intentions, this month witnessed a bit too much book buying. After last months excessive splurge I really couldn't justify adding any more books to my ever growing collection but somehow, I did. 

I decided to go down a different route, to me these books can be dipped in and out of. There isn't so much a need to sit down and read them all at once. I suppose they are what you would call coffee table books. This is all a round about way to convincing myself that my bank balance could handle another book binge. It couldn't. Next month I'll have to go cold turkey. Wish me luck! 

642 Things To Write About: The San Francisco Writers' Grotto

This is a notebook of sorts, each page containing a number of prompts to get the creating juices flowing. It's a brilliant idea, forcing you to break your usual writing mould. I can't wait to get stuck into this!

It's Kind of a Funny Story: Ned Vizzini

Ok so this doesn't necessarily fit with my 'coffee table' theme but it was bought in the same order so I'm going to include it anyway. I saw a review of this floating around and that is pretty much the only reason I bought it. I am otherwise going in blind but from the sound of it, I'm expecting great things. The blurb alludes to a tale of depression and mental illness but told in a witty and sensitive manner. 

It: Alexa Chung 

I can't really remember why I started liking Alexa Chung, but there is something about her that I have always liked. She pulls off a fringe in a way that I will always envy and her sense of style is something I will always admire. Again, this a good book to dip in and out of and it has a beautiful dusky pink cloth cover that just made me swoon when it arrived. 

Fashion That Changed the World: Jennifer Croll

I love fashion, I took textiles GCSE and loved every moment of it, my project was inspired by 1960s fashion. With Audrey Hepburn on the front, I could hardly pass up the opportunity to add this to my collection. 

How to be Parisian: Sophie Mas, Audrey Diwan, Caroline de Maigret, Anne Berest

After finally making my way over to Paris in the summer, I developed a rather unhealthy obsession with the city. As a classicist at heart I was unwilling to admit that a city other than Rome or Athens had been beaten to top spot. But it happened. I loved Paris more than I ever thought I would, for the first time ever I didn't want to return to England. 

Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments!


Friday 20 February 2015

Chinese Cinderella: Adeline Yen Mah

Chinese Cinderella is an autobiographical telling of Adeline's childhood. As the fifth child of seven but the last of her mothers children she was born to a family who don't want her. She was never able to know her mother due to her untimely death following Adeline's birth. She was hated by her brothers and sisters who look upon her as the reason their mother died. Her father remarried and had two further children who became prized members of the family, pushing Adeline further down the ladder. All Adeline had was her Aunt Baba, her grandparents and her mind. A bright and thoughtful child, she found solace at school and in her home work. This was a tale of an unwanted child and her strength to overcome the obstacles put before her by a family who resented her. 

This is a beautifully written story aimed at children but read by adults alike. Heartbreaking and full of pain and anguish it tugs on the heart strings throughout. I read this for the first time as a child, I took it as a story, almost as the title suggests- a fairy tale. As an adult I found the read much more difficult, the book is autobiographical and the events were at points distressing to read. I have read in some reviews that readers found it to be whiny and self indulgent but I disagree. The allegations of child abuse, both emotional and physical, may have been the focus of the book but I wouldn't say the author was whining about them. I found the book to be an outlet for her to release the torment of her childhood. 

Some readers may struggle to sympathise with Adeline as at parts it is hard to look past the privilidged life she lived, a nice house, a good school, food on the table. But without a doubt she was abused, hated by her stepmother and the rest of her family for a variety of reasons. Look past her good education and see a little girl who wanted nothing more than to be loved but was denied it. 

There was something very precious and vulnerable about Adeline's relationship with her Aunt Baba. For me the best part of the book was Adeline's loyalty to her aunt and her aunts undeniable pride and love for her niece. 

I implore you to read it, it is without question one of my all time favourite reads and I almost want to pick it up and start all over again. 


Sunday 15 February 2015

Attachments: Rainbow Rowell

I found myself picking this up after reading Eleanor & Park. It was my second journey into the Rainbow Rowell world and I had high expectations. 

The book follows 20 something Lincoln who is perpetually incapable of growing up. He has never quite got out of education and nor has he got over childhood sweetheart. Back home, living with his mother, he has taken up a job as part of a security team, working nights for a newspaper. In a pre 2000 world where the internet is still a novelty, he is set to guard the ever abused, e-mail system. It is through this that he learns of Beth and Jennifer, two women whose e-mails are constantly flagged thanks to their weakness for procrastination and off topic conversation. Lincoln finds himself scanning their e-mails more often than he should and he all too quickly becomes a secret third party to their conversations.  But it is more than that, feelings develop and he soon begins to wonder if a relationship could ever be possible. 

To start with I found this to be a very give or take book. I dipped in and out of it whenever the fancy took me but I didn't feel an overwhelming need to read it as quickly as possible. About one third of the way through however, that all changed, and I pretty much inhaled the rest of it. Overall it was easy to follow and a joy to read, it was littered with good wit and snippets of romance. The role of friendship and love was dealt with in an original and unique way and it was a refreshing take on a topic that one may consider to be overdone in the literary world.

The book alternated between e-mail exchanges between Beth and Jennifer and Lincoln's own storyline. I liked the different approaches to telling a story, the half formed images that an e-mail gives, leaving a lot unsaid and open to interpretation. I liked how the reader saw Beth and Jennifer just as Lincoln did and such I was able to form my own opinions of them, untainted by his own. The characters had a god sense of humour and were likeable but also incredibly normal. 

I liked that despite this being a chick lit of sorts, the main character was in fact a man. The genre is one typically dominated by women fawning over men, it was nice to see the tables turned and it worked incredibly well. The loneliness and lack of direction that Lincoln feels is something that most people can relate to in some form. The characters of Beth and Jennifer were equally relatable and each of the three characters represented different aspects of the perils of adult life and responsibility. 

This book is cute and witty, there is a good splash of friendship and romance without it being gushy or overly sweet. It is an easy read and one that I really enjoyed. Would I recommend it? Of course I would! 

Let me know if you have read it or any other Rainbow Rowell books!


Sunday 8 February 2015

Judge a book by its cover

"Don't judge a book by its cover"

I couldn't even begin to tell you how many times I have been told that, but I actually think that in relation to physical books, it is an outdated concept. Of course, a book doesnt have to be beautifully designed with a catchy title for it to be good, and equally an amazing title and beautiful artwork doesn't ensure greatness. But I can't deny that the appearance of a book is playing more of a role than I care to admit.

Books are everywhere, book shops, charity shops, online. There are thousands upon thousands at our disposal and my own collection is a minuscule dent into what is a seemingly never-ending supply. Sometimes I walk into a book shop and I am so overwhelmed with what I see that I really don't know where to start. So, ashamedly, I start with the front cover. Yes, I judge a book by its cover. But unless a book has been recommended to me or has been surrounded by hype, it is hard to decide which book out of the mass of unknown, is worth my money.

A catchy title is important, it should be relatively short and snappy, so that it rolls off the tongue and is memorable. The cover doesn't necessarily have to be bright or colourful but it needs to stand out. Then I always look to the blurb, a short passage which doesn't give too much away but gives a tiny insight into what the book offers, I dislike it when the back cover is just quotes from reviews, I like to know a little bit about what I'm letting myself in for. Equally I do like to see some quotations from good reviews, I know that they will be completely biased but I tend to look at the credibility of the publication they have been taken from.

Lemony Snicket: A Series of Unfortunate Events

What is so brilliant about the design of A Series of Unfortunate Events is that by giving the series itself an all encompassing name, Snicket was able to give each individual book a quirky and brilliant title whilst still keeping them under one umbrella name. Back when I was buying the books they were hard backs with a bound spine and lovely thick paper that was slightly jagged at the edges, it added character to the book and I also liked the uniformity of the series. Each cover has a beautifully drawn image that sums up the story line of the book and it is almost framed in the centre as a glimpse into the world you are about to enter. I really appreciated the time and thought that went into the creation of the physical book and there was something about it that meant I couldn't just stop at one, not only did I want to finish the story but I also wanted to complete my collection.

Susan Cain: Quiet

I don't really know how well known this book is, I don't see it get spoken about a lot and I suppose that is because if has quite a niche market. It discusses the value of introverts and the success they can achieve despite this preconceived view that they are akward and shy. The books brilliance comes from its simplicity. The title is sharp and short and brilliantly sums up the book in a matter of fact way. You almost can't help but whisper it. The cover is all white and has a shine to it, with the title raised slightly from the page. From a distance it seems to be nothing more than a blank page which is actually quite successful in drawing you in. It is a front cover that matches the words within and it is very effective


F. Scott Fitzgerald: The Great Gatsby

As far as I am concerned, The Great Gatsby has always had very successful covers, ranging from the simplicity of the Penguin covers to the iconic blue cover that I have always associated with the book. The title is brilliant and draws you in and because it is so well known the designers have pretty much had creative freedom in regard to the cover as the title speaks volumes. Yes I fell prey to the beauty that is what you see above. I am not ashamed.

Frances Hodgson Burnett: The Secret Garden

This cover really stood out to me, the drawings are lovely and the hard back is a cloth cover which makes it feel a bit more special. The pictures within are also beautiful and it all helps add to the magic of The Secret Garden

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

Right, so my problem here is the length of the title, I don't think that it is necessary and I can't imagine why there was the need for it to be so long. Maybe if the book had been amazing I could have forgiven it, but it wasn't and to this day it still bugs me that the title was allowed through the editing process. For me a shorter title is often more effective as it is easy to remember and simply rolls off the tongue so much better.

Here are another two books which I think have beautiful covers and I would be lying if I said that their covers didn't play a role in my decision to buy them.

Let me know in the comments how much the cover of a book effects your decision to buy it!