Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: It Only Happens in the Movies (Holly Bourne)

Bourne, Holly - It Only Happens in the Movies

★★★★★★☆

Title: It Only Happens in the Movies
Author: Holly Bourne
Genre: Fiction / YA / Contemporary / RomCom
First published: 2017
Edition: Kindle e-book

Bad boys turned good, kisses in the rain, climbing through bedroom windows… It only happens in the movies. When Audrey meets Harry, it’s the start of a truly cinematic romance – or is it? Audrey knows that Harry is every movie cliché rolled into one. But she still chooses to let him into her heart…

This is without doubt one of my favourite YA contemporary romance/romcom kind of books that I have read.

I loved main character Audrey so much. The first half of the book was absolute perfection to me. Audrey clearly struggled between her responsibilties to her parents and her simply wanting to be a teenager. On top of that she was still heart-broken over an ex that was clearly a bit of a piece of work.

I thought the way this book dealt with losing your virginity and sex realistically and very well. Too many of these books are way too romaticized and that is exactly what this book is criticizing, mostly by looking at movies, but at the same time the same applies to too many romance books, YA and adult both.

Throughout the book also deals with the divorce of Audrey’s parents and the repercussions of that on the mental health of her mother and on Audrey’s own ideas of love.

The book lost me a bit in the third quarter, but thankfully it finished strongly. I really enjoyed this book and I do feel that this is the kind of book that teenage girls should be reading. The heroine is realistically strong, but flawed as well. The male lead is even more flawed, but you kind of like him anyway, just like Audrey does.

The ending gives a strong message that hopefully would empower teenage girls reading this book.

Also, bonus points for mentioning ‘Before Sunrise’ which is one of my favourite movies of all time.

This was so close to 7 stars if not for that 3rd quarter.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Drift (Clare Littlemore)

Littlemore, Clare - Drift

★★★★★☆☆

Title: Drift (Flow #3)
Author: Clare Littlemore
Genre: Fiction / YA / Dystopian  Pages: 347
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, self-published

Quin believed that a life away from The Beck would make her happy, but as disputes surface and rebellion is threatened, Quin quickly realises that their new home isn’t the sanctuary she had imagined. And when one of her fellow citizens is willing to go to desperate measures to save those he loves, he puts the entire community in danger.

This is the third book in the Flow series. I wish this series was more widely read, because it is well-written and a bit different without being ‘out there’.

It is hard to talk about this book without spoiling the two previous books, so I will keep it pretty brief and will not touch on the plot apart from the above exerpt from the synopsis.

I love the author’s writing style. It is easy to read, uncomplicated, but still intelligent, which I really appreciate. As far as this particular book goes, it feels a little on the slow side, but I still really enjoyed it.

The struggles of our main character Quin were interesting in this book. I enjoyed getting to know the new characters and the new setting with her. I particularly like Quin as a main character as she feels very normal. She could be anyone, but at the same time she is brave and caring. Yes, I like her.

Where the book lacks a bit is description. I have to admit I do like a bit of flowery writing and this book has none of that. For example, we are never told even what the characters look like – at least not in this book. It does not bother me particularly, but it was something I noticed and it made it feel a little clinical in places.

I will definitely be reading the next book. If you like a bit of dystopian YA every now and then, please do check out this series, because it really is pretty good!

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Poetry · Reviews

Poetry Review: In The Dark, Soft Earth (Frank Watson)

Watson, Frank - In The Dark, Soft Earth

★★★★★☆☆

Title: In The Dark, Soft Earth
Author: Frank Watson
Genre: Poetry   Pages: 232
First published: to be published 7 July 2020
Edition: E-book, kindly sent by the author

Vignette verses explore the workings of love, nature, spirituality, and dreams with sprinklings of tarot symbolism and jazzy blues. Together these verses contemplate the subtle underpinnings of a soft earth.

*

Poetry is very personal. Something one person loves, may not work for another. Poems that do not work when you read them internally, may suddenly make sense when you read them aloud.

This collection for me was a little bit hit and miss. There were poems I absolutely loved, like the title poem, which really struck a chord. But there were some that just felt like a collection of sentences that did not necessarily make sense to me as a whole. At times the poems went somewhere I really did not expect and sometimes that worked, but at other times they lost me completely.

I found I especially loved the poems that had imagery of music and nature. Those crept into my heart and i found myself thinking about afterwards. I also really enjoyed the series of poems under the heading of An Entrance to the Tarot Garden.

There was some phrasing that felt a bit repetitive. I am not sure whether this was deliberate, but it was something I noticed a little too much, especially in the first half.

Would I recommend this collection? I think I would. I did feel there was a deeper meaning to these than I have not quite grasped on first read. This is a poetry collection I will come back to at some point in the future.

An example of one of the shorter poems I really liked in this collection:

jazz notes

jazz notes
blue totes

cold air
and sudden stares

as bebop blew
the ragged zoo

of thin-skinned moats
and sinking boats

until we knew
our time was through

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: The Selection (Kiera Cass)

Cass, Kiera - The Selection

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Selection
Author: Kiera Cass
Genre: Fiction / YA / Fantasy / Dystopian Pages: 339
First published: 2012
Edition: Kindle e-book

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape a rigid caste system, live in a palace, and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon. But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her, and competing for a crown she doesn’t want.

*

I think I needed this kind of read right now. Something light and not too deep, but still well written and well thought out.

I was kind of surprised  how much I enjoyed this one, especially the first half of the book. I loved main character America. Here we have a strong female character who is sassy, but not overly so. She is kind and has integrity, but still makes mistakes and loses her cool every now and then.

I liked the competition element in this. It never went too far and ridiculous as it was, it was fun to read! This definitely is a book not to take too seriously.

I thought the second half of the book lost a bit of the vivaciousness of the first half, but it remained an easy read throughout.

The writing is pretty strong and it is what made this rather straightforward tale come alive. I will definitely read the others in the series.

Is it a must-read? No, definitely not, but it is the kind of book to keep in mind when you need something easy and fun that is still well carfted. Perfect to escape reality with.

5 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: How To Stop Time (Matt Haig)

Haig, Matt - How To Stop Time

★★★★★★★

Title: How To Stop Time
Author: Matt Haig
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Historical
First published: 2017
Edition: Hardback, published in 2017 by Canongate Books

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he’s been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history–performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

*

I loved this book an incredible amount. I have read The Humans by the same author before and one of his children’s books and loved both of those,  but this was a completely different kettle of fish. I adored every page.

This is kind of a quiet sort of book, a little quirky and very human. This is a combination that gets me every time. I loved being immersed in all these different time periods and actually believing it. I could understand the emotions that main character was going through and I loved that he was never too old to learn.

The peculiar thing is that I wrote a draft for a novel many years ago that had a very similar theme as this one, so it felt a bit like déjà vu all the way through. Maybe that was why I connected with this book on a deeper level. My own story will never see the light of day, but I simply love the concept of a group of people experiencing the passing of time in a different way from the majority.

I loved the writing and the way the story was told. It never got overly emotional or too ridiculous. This is a story that could so easily be overdone, but this wasn’t.

From start to finish, this novel has my heart.

7 out of 7 stars

 

 

 

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Wilding (Isabella Tree)

Tree, Isabella - Wilding

★★★★★★★

Title: Wilding
Author: Isabella Tree
Genre: Non-Fiction/Natural World Pages: 384
First published: 2018
Edition: Audio Book (& Hardback)

Forced to accept that intensive farming on the heavy clay of their land at Knepp in West Sussex was economically unsustainable, Isabella Tree and her husband Charlie Burrell made a spectacular leap of faith: they decided to step back and let nature take over. Thanks to the introduction of free-roaming cattle, ponies, pigs and deer – proxies of the large animals that once roamed Britain – the 3,500 acre project has seen extraordinary increases in wildlife numbers and diversity in little over a decade.

*

I had a feeling I was going to love this book. I love books that are about someone going on some sort of journey and learning about a subject with them. This kind of felt like that and it felt like a revelation.

As I followed this couple with a farming background return their estate in Sussex to a natural state (or as close as possible with modern rules and regulations in place) I learned what nature actually means. I discovered how manufactured what I think of as nature actually is. But what I learned most is how Mother Nature in all her glory knows exactly what is best for her. One creature’s actions can cause a chain reaction with far reaching consequences for all the creatures and plants around it. This goes for us humans, but also for a Tamworth pig or a beaver.

Of course I loved hearing about nightingales and butterflies, deer and Exmoor ponies, but surprisingly I found the passages on farming incredibly interesting. Both in how farming and government incentives have helped destroy our natural diversity and health and how changing farming practices can be our saving grace.  This book deals with a lot of environmental arguments and it made me much more aware about the world around me and how we can still turn things around. I found it both profoundly sad, but also gave me hope for a brighter future. 

I am not doing justice to this gem of a book, but if you are at all interested in nature and the environment, this is a must-read book.

7 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: On The Come Up (Angie Thomas)

Thomas, Angie - The The Come Up

★★★★★★☆

Title: On The Come Up
Author: Angie Thomas
Genre: Fiction/YA/contemporary  Pages: 435
First published: 2019
Edition: Paperback, published by Walker Books

Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it.

Having absolutely loved The Hate U Give, I must admit I was pretty apprehensive to read this one. What if it did not live up to expectations?

I am glad to say I really enjoyed On The Come Up as well. Did it capture my heart the way The Hate U Give did? Maybe not quite, but it was the same straightforward writing that is so easy to read, combined with a story and characters that feel utterly real and believable.

It brings to life the struggle people have to deal with, simply because of the colour of their skin and the prejudices that make life a hell of a lot more difficult than it needs to be, limiting the life choices available. This novel deals with that issue so well, at the same time creating strong female characters in both Bri and maybe especially her mother Jay.

Bri’s encounters with the rap business were well handled and eye openining. I imagine the real business could be very much like this, though I know very little about that! I enjoyed the lyric parts, though I did wish I could hear them instead of reading them (audio book?). That there are pitfalls on the road to success should not be surprising.

Another highlight of this novel were Bri’s family’s dynamics. I loved how much they all cared about each other and how supportive they were, even if their choices were not always the best ones. The love and support of your family can mean so much. Also,  the friendship triangle of Bri, Sonny and Malik was just perfect.

On a side note, I really appreciated how this dovetailed into The Hate U Give, with little references here and there.

I did not love this quite as much, but I still loved it a ton.

6 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

Manga Thoughts: The Promised Neverland, Vol 1 (Kaiu Shirai/Posuka Demizu)

Shirai, Kaiu - The Promised Neverland 1

★★★★★☆☆

Title: The Promised Neverland, Vol 1
Author: Kaiu Shirai (story) / Posuka Demizu (art)
Genre: Manga   Pages: 189
First published: 2016
Edition: Paperback, published by Viz Media in 2017

Emma, Norman and Ray are the brightest kids at the Grace Field House orphanage. And under the care of the woman they refer to as “Mom,” all the kids have enjoyed a comfortable life. Good food, clean clothes and the perfect environment to learn—what more could an orphan ask for? One day, though, Emma and Norman uncover the dark truth of the outside world they are forbidden from seeing.

This is only my second manga, but I am already much more used to the art style and method of story telling. This one had me gripped from the start.

The story itself made me feel anxious in the best possible. I soon came to feel for our main characters and I cared about what happened to them and their ‘siblings’ The story became dark pretty quickly and the rest of this volume is centered around trying to find a way out.

This was a strong start to a series and I will definitely be ordering the second volume. I really enjoyed the art style and the panels were clear and well thought out.

Apparently there is also an anime of this series, so I would like to check that out if I can!

5 out of 7 stars

Books · Reviews

(Audio) Book Thoughts: Face It (Debbie Harry)

Harry, Debbie - Face It

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Face It
Author/narrator: Debbie Harry
Genre: Non-Fiction/Autobiography/Memoir
First published: 2019
Edition: Audio book

Musician, actor, activist, and the iconic face of New York City cool, Debbie Harry is the frontwoman of Blondie, a band that forged a new sound that brought together the worlds of rock, punk, disco, reggae and hip-hop to create some of the most beloved pop songs of all time. As a muse, she collaborated with some of the boldest artists of the past four decades. The scope of Debbie Harry’s impact on our culture has been matched only by her reticence to reveal her rich inner life—until now.

*

Debbie Harry of Blondie is someone I consider an icon and when I heard she had an autobiography out I was keen to read it and the audio book narrated by herself seemed the perfect choice.

As a book it does not flow incredibly well and the way she tells her story feels strangely dispassionate, but I guess Harry is not a natural writer and I should not hold her to the same standard as someone who is an author by profession. It does make it feel more authentic to be fair. I don’t know whether she used a ghostwriter, but it certainly does not feel like she did. I do respect that.

Neither is she a natural audio book narrator. Her delivery is quite stilted and sometimes lacks dynamics, but I still prefer it than if it had been narrated by someone else.

So, overall I am conflicted on this one. There are really interesting bits to her story, but in parts it struggled to keep my attention. It could have done with a bit more sprucing up, I guess. The way she tells her story feels slightly repetitive, even if she is talking about different events. It’s hard to explain.

Is this the best memoir I have ever read or listened to? No. Did I enjoy the ride? Yes, I guess I did. It paints an interesting picture of a particular time in New York City and I appreciate her frank way of talking. I just wished it was a bit more dynamic in its delivery, both in the writing itself and the audio book narration.

4 out of 7 stars

 

Books · Reviews

Book Thoughts: Sweet Thing (Renée Carlino)

Carlino, Renee - Sweet Thing

★★★★☆☆☆

Title: Sweet Thing
Author: Renée Carlino
Genre: Fiction/Romance
First published: 2013
Edition: Kindle e-book

Mia Kelly thinks she has it all figured out. She’s an Ivy League graduate, a classically trained pianist, and the beloved daughter of a sensible mother and offbeat father. Yet Mia has been stalling since graduation, torn between putting her business degree to use and exploring music, her true love.

When her father unexpectedly dies, she decides to pick up the threads of his life while she figures out her own. Uprooting herself from Ann Arbor to New York City, Mia takes over her father’s cafe, a treasured neighborhood institution that plays host to undiscovered musicians and artists. She’s denied herself the thrilling and unpredictable life of a musician, but a chance encounter with Will, a sweet, gorgeous, and charming guitarist, offers her a glimpse of what could be. When Will becomes her friend and then her roommate, she does everything in her power to suppress her passions—for him, for music—but her father’s legacy slowly opens her heart to the possibility of something more.

*

This romance book kind of worked for me, but there were things that irked me a great deal as well. I liked the idea of a musical element in this love story, as music is a big part of my own life.

I was a bit conflicted on Mia, the main character. She was really relatable in some ways and a complete idiot in others. I could appreciate that she had some emotional issues she needed to work through, but I am not sure that was enough of an excuse to be a complete asshat a lot of the time (on of her words!)

I did like Will, the love interest. He was definitely likeable, though the repetitive way he was described sometimes got a bit much. I think the editor simply could have done a better job here.

The musical element worked well enough for me. It was a little cringe-worthy in a few places, but  to be fair I pessimistically expected that to be far worse (as is usual).

I did like this novel overall, but it just could have been a much tighter story in my opinion.

I would like to read more from this author.

4 out of 7 stars