Friday 23 January 2015

Eleanor & Park: Rainbow Rowell

Oh wow, just wow. I had seen this book floating, or maybe whizzing, around the blogosphere for what seems like forever. But I had put off reading it because there always seemed to be another book that just about managed to slide before it on my TBR list. Oh how wrong I was to let it wait. This book was a dream to read, it flowed beautifully and I gobbled up every word. WHY did it have to end?!

This book is told through both Eleanor and Park as they face the perils of teen life (oh yes how I remember those days). Park goes to a school where one of his most identifiable features is the fact that he is the 'Asian kid'. He has spent years perfecting the art of being invisible and he enjoys the perks that ensue, no eye contact equals no conversation and he has the luxury of a double seat on the bus all to himself. Or at least, that is, until Eleanor gets onto the bus one day. Unlike Park, Eleanor is hard to miss, ragged clothes in bright colours, a jumble of odd accessorises and a mass of red curls. With her comes the chaos of the bus dynamic, where does the new girl sit? Park gives up the seat beside him and in doing so sparks the catalyst of their friendship. A friendship full of comic books and mix tapes. But Eleanor has secrets she doesn't want to share, a home life that she hates, kids at school who aren't so accepting of difference. This is a story of first love, the rough side of being a teen, growing up in the sort of poverty that is rarely talked about.

The characters of Eleanor and Park were beautifully created, Rowell left vibrant images imprinted on my brain and as a reader I love nothing more than a quality character description and these were superb. Whilst Eleanor and Park were the central characters, there were also a variety of equally intriguing minor characters: Mindy and Eleanor's younger siblings to name a few. Eleanor was strong and funny but not cutesy or sickly sweet which is a trait that teen love sick girls tend to fall into. The key to Eleanor was that she was relatable but also different enough to be intriguing, it was because of this that it was so easy to root for her, I wanted her to be happy, to be in love, to have everything she wanted.

I cannot thank Rowell enough for giving both Eleanor and Parks point of views in the narrative. I loved that despite it not being a first person narrative, as the reader I really felt although I was getting the sneak peak into their lives, their thoughts and emotions. I also enjoyed what I see to be the quietness of the book, it was a very simple concept, the idea that two people slowly go from not speaking at all to forming a friendship and then to falling in love simply from spending the bus journey together. It wasn't action packed or full of melodramatic teens lamenting their love for each other. It was simple and had an every day feel about it, almost as though I could have been a passenger on the bus witnessing it with my own eyes.

This book is a brilliant reminder of why YA fiction is so amazing. I don't care how old you are, this book will always be relevant. It'll have you crying and laughing, just as any good book should.


Tuesday 6 January 2015

Three Amazing Things About You*: Jill Mansel

Title: Three Amazing Things About You
Author: Jill Mansell
Publisher: Headline
Release date: January 15th 2015
Pre-order here: Waterstones Amazon

About two or three years ago I stumbled across the shelf in my local Waterstones that played home to Jill Mansells books. It's safe to say I fell in love and I haven't looked back since. Jill has provided me with many a favourite character so you can only imagine my excitement when I found out that another book was on the horizon!

The book follows the lives of three women, Hallie, Tasha and Flo. Hallie suffers from Cystic Fibrosis, she is the brains behind an advice blog, has a slightly inappropriate crush on her doctor and dreams of the day her transplant coordinate will give her a call and hand her the new life she dreams of. Then we have Tasha who one christmas eve finds herself rooting through a public bin in desperate search for the credit card she had lost. But this public mortification turns out to be the door opening to the next chapter of her life. Finally we have Flo who works in a care home, having just inherited the position of care owner to a cat, she is the centre of a family dispute and about to fall in love with a man she would never even have considered.

To start with the stories felt very separate and I found it hard to understand why they all needed to be told. But as the book progressed, Jill kept on dropping hints, slowly weaving the story together until BAM, there it was, out of nowhere it suddenly made sense and as the book progressed I began to see the necessity for all three of the stories. The book kept me guessing and while I am usually very good at guessing endings, this offering evaded me right until the end. I can't imagine the amount of time that must have gone into making it work so seamlessly, how Jill managed to organise so many characters all on their own seperate story line is beyond me (tell us our secrets Jill!). As in the ancient Greek world where the rhapsode would weave their story, I can imagine Jill picking up her Hallie, Flo and Tasha strands and carefully working them through a loom- they don't seem like much as a bundle of yarns, but as a piece of cloth, they are magnificent.

Because of the nature of the book I felt as though some of the characters lacked the development they deserved, in particular the characters of Tasha and Rory. Their relationship, whilst idealistic, was too unbelievable, I love a good romance as much as the next person but this one didn't quite hit it off with me. Of course this is only a tiny detail and the other brilliant characters sure made up for it. My favourite character was actually one of the minor ones, Joe (Rorys friend), he had the sense of humour that I felt some of the others lacked and although he was only a minor character I definitely valued his role in the story. Hallie comes in at a very close second for favourite, I thought that Jill dealt with Cystic Fibrosis in a very sensitive manner and I really appreciated the amount of time and research that she evidently put into it.

I have read all of Jill's books which I can tell you is no mean feat with 26 books to her name, but having finished Three Amazing Things About You I would go as far as to say it is my favourite. Excuse me whilst I go and (not so) patiently wait for her next offering.

So the question you are all asking, would I recommend it? Of course I would, Three Amazing Things About You is another brilliant offering from Jill Mansell and picking this up will be time well spent!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this book or any of Jill Mansells other books!


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

Sunday 4 January 2015

Ignoring Gravity*: Sandra Danby

Title: Ignoring Gravity
Author: Sandra Danby
Publisher: Beulah Press
Release date: 21st November 2014
Order here: Amazon

Rose never quite got on with her family, she always felt a bit of an outsider but it still came as a surprise when she found out, in her early 30s, that she was in fact adopted. Rose then embarks on a journey of self-discovery. Who were her birth parents? Why did they give her up? But some of the discoveries come as more of shock then anyone could have imagined. Lily, Rose's sister is having problems of her own, a struggle to conceive, problems with her marriage. Her father too has problems to deal with, coming to terms with the death of his wife and the loss of his job. The family is a hive of secrets which are threatening to bubble to the surface and it is only a matter of time before they will have to deal with this generation of hidden secrets.

I didn't warm to Rose, I found her to be a bit whiny, childish, prone to making assumptions and frankly, a bit annoying. Thus I found it hard to invest in her story and sympathise. I found it hard to understand Rose's reaction to being adopted and I feel that maybe it is one of those things in life where you really have to have experienced it to truly understand. What I did instead was try and relate her situation to something similar in my life. What I took from her reaction was the bereavement she felt for her lost family, the family she was denied and her attempt to deal with her anger and betrayal. In doing that I found her emotion much easier to understand. I liked how instead of falling apart in the conventional sense, she kept her anger very much inside which the reader was given an insight into through the almost internal monologue included in the story. Her way of deal with emotion was something I could relate to and it was a refreshing twist as fiction does tend to fall into the cliche of sobbing and falling into a pit of despair.

I did however find her attitude to her new founded adoptive family to be unnecessary. I understood that she would have felt betrayed and angry but she was quick to brush them off, forgetting that they had raised and loved her as their own. I also found that Roses bad relationship with her mother came out of nowhere, I felt as though as a reader we were given very little back story to it and it was almost assumed that as an adopted child she couldn't possibly have had a good relationship with her adoptive mother. At parts it felt as though it was concocted to suit her story line but for me it was lacking and uninspiring.

I found Nick to be an odd character, never really at the forefront despite Roses supposed crush on him. I found her love for him was unfounded and he came across as a bit pretentious and a perfect on paper kind of man. Some of what he said would sound incredibly odd coming out of the mouth of a real life man. Danby needs to work on her dialogue as it can really make or break a novel. Rose's obsession and love for Nick seemed to come out of nowhere and I felt as a reader we really missed out on a back story that potentially could have added a lot more depth to their relationship. It felt forced and fake and there was no real meat to it. A character simply stating her affection does not constitute a strong feeling of love or lust and as a reader I found it hard to believe in it.

Lily was selfish and self absorbed and another character I found hard to get on with. But, having finished the book I can now sit back and look at these characters as realistic and flawed. In fact, my criticism in itself it a bit petty and hypocritical. I think as a reader I have become used to perfect characters who fit certain ideals with appealing personalities and likeable traits. Lily and Rose both have very apparent faults, they are annoying in parts, but at the end of the day, aren't they just normal? Flawed, imperfect, exactly what I am. It took me a while to accept that character flaws are part of character development but I can see now that it is a necessary part of creating realistic characters.

I felt that in parts the author didn't quite have the story line properly structured and it too often fell into a 'this happened and then this happened' plot. But despite this I did find that the book improved significantly as the story progressed and I really enjoyed the second half.

I think that I have been overly critical here, there were many faults with the story telling and the character development but all in all it was a very promising story and I look forward to the next instalment in the series. What Danby was able to do was portray flawed characters and raw emotion in a way that as a reader I have become unused to.

Let me know if you have read it or if you are planning on reading it!


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

Friday 2 January 2015

It's just another year

I have never been a big New Year person, I love the celebration and all that but as far as I am concerned, we could be celebrating anything. I know that some people like the idea of a fresh start, a do over, the opportunity for improvement and change. But I have never seen it like that, for me, I make little changes all the time, whenever motivation hits which can be half way through the year or maybe even next week. But never have I seen in the New Year and thought that this would be the year I change my life. I am more of a day to day person, I have to set myself small and short term goals because my brain tends to lose motivation.

But, as I near the end of my three years at university and 21 is suddenly only a month away, I have decided that maybe this is the time to set myself some real goals. In six months I will be saying goodbye to organised education and hello to the chaotic world full of responsibility and other such scary things. So here goes, a jumbled up list of things that I should really start doing.


Ah, I have so successfully managed to put off learning to drive, I have always been too happy to rely on public transport, but the time has come to bite the bullet. I have got to a point now where I am applying for jobs and it has hit me how being able to drive may be a necessity. So by the end of the year I really hope I am the proud owner of a driving licence. My theory has been booked and I have a driving instructor lined up. Baby steps...


I know that this seems like an obvious one, I am in my third and final year at university so surely that should dictate that it will be finished by the end of the year. But the third year panic has set in and the fear induced nightmares of failing at the last hurdle have set it. So heres to hoping that I can round off the year as a graduate.


Last year was a bit of a dud in the reading department. Somehow my books got lost amongst the mass of work university threw at me. This year I am hoping to manage my time better and devote more of it to reading for pleasure. I find reading really calms me down and I am hoping to make a significant dent into my TBR pile this year.

Of course there are the usual, do more exercise, eat more healthily, be happier etc which I will also be trying to follow. I am hoping that writing this down and putting it out on the internet will motivate me to work harder for them. Who knows, but there is no harm trying. I hope that you all have a brilliant year and I would love it if you would let me know in the comments what your New Years resolutions are.