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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Recently Read: June To July

Funny story (not funny at all) but I've herniated a disc in my back and am pretty much bed-ridden, like that child from The Secret Garden but without being incredibly wealthy. Plus my Spiderman pjs take away from that whole "tragic heir" look. That aside, I've basically been reading a lot to keep my brain occupied. I actually didn't even read that much in June (cause I was in work all the time) but July has been just one book after another. So here goes. Aside from what you'll see here, I also read seven books as part of a reading challenge, you can read those reviews HERE, plus I've been doing weekend book reviews HERE and HERE, just in case you need more book reviewing action..I'm a book reviewing fiend!!
This is gonna be a long'un, so find yourself a comfy chair and a big mad cup of tea.
Biscuits are optional (that's a lie, they're never optional).

Hopelessly Devoted to Holden Finn by Tilly Tenant
I actually got this one free when I signed up to Amazon Kindle daily deal emails, so I wasn't expecting a whole lot but I was proved completely wrong. This is a lovely little book. Bonnie is a struggling single mum to a typically obnoxious teenage daughter. Since her boyfriend left them, she's been too scared to try and find love again and so brushes off the flirtations of one of her co-workers while secretly fantasising about the star of her daughter's favourite boy band. As in, she is in love with this guy (who bares more than a passing resemblance to one Harry Styles, in my opinion) and spends her free time staring at posters of him on her daughters wall and writing him letters professing her love, before then throwing them out. But then, after entering a competition, she finally gets the chance to meet Holden Finn and well all of a sudden her life gets both exciting and also very complicated. Although some of the storyline seems completely unrealistic, the author addresses that several times and it's actually written so well that you find yourself somehow believing the plot and getting absorbed in Bonnie's crazy life! I think this would be a great one to take on holidays with you.

Love Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe
My sister gave me this for Christmas but I'm so glad I waited til now to read it as this was just such a comfort read. I actually started this the day my back went properly banjaxed as I needed something light to cheer myself up with and believe me, this book is like wrapping yourself in a big cosy duvet. It's a collection of letters (actual real letters) written by Nina to her sister in the 80's about her job as a nanny to two young boys. It's all really simple family life stuff; what was said at the dinner table and what new recipe she tried but the characters in it, including the kids are just brilliant and there's so many lovely funny and sweet moments. I've seen other reviewers describe it as boring but I loved it, it was charming and nostalgic and just a really enjoyable read.

Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
I started this about a year ago and for whatever reason put it down again until last week when out of nowhere I just went to my bookshelf and started reading it. I'm weird like that. Anyway, this was written in 1966 and the reason why it says "cult classic" on the cover is cause there was a lot of consternation about this when it was first released, banned in certain countries and whatnot but secretly read and loved by many. The book deals with sex and drug abuse as it's main themes and that didn't go down hugely well back in the day. It was also made into a movie that apparently was terrible, but like the book has also become a cult classic. Anyway, the "dolls" in the title here are in reference to drugs; red, green and blue capsules that the three main characters Anne, Neely and Jennifer come to depend upon. The book starts off in 1945 when all three are young girls trying to make it big in New York; on the stage, as a celebrity, another just wants independence as a young woman. Like everything life gets in the way and as three beautiful young women, it seems like the industries they find themselves in just want to use them up and spit them out again. The book finishes up in 1965 so we get to be a part of their lives for a good old stretch and by the time I got to the last sentence, I was all: "eh, no, that can't be it like, I need to know what happens to them next!". Yes, it's fairly trashy but it's also incredibly addictive (I read it in a day) and if you haven't read it, well you should.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
I loved Fangirl (another of Rowell's novels, you can read my review of that HERE) and was eager to read more from this author. This is another YA book, centering on Eleanor; a flame-haired, slightly overweight teenager with an unusual sense of style who has just moved back in with her dysfunctional family. Her step father is abusive to her mother and both her and her siblings live under a cloud of fear. She managed to escape this for a year as she lived with family friends but now is forced to live under this tyranny again and start at a new school. On her first day on the school bus she's told in no uncertain terms that there's nowhere for her to sit (as the bullies gleefully eye up their next victim) until Park, a semi-cool nerd, rescues her. From there on they sit beside each other every day but never say a word, their only contact being Eleanor reading his marvel comics over his shoulder. As he's a lovely person, he starts to bring her her own comics and seeing names of songs written on her notebooks that she's never heard of but craves to listen to, he makes her a mixed tape of The Smiths, The Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen (that's right, it's set in the 80's. That had me hooked right there- I'm pretty sure I've made that very mixed tape myself, back in the day). From there a really deep love grows between them but they have to face all the awful obstacles that life unfortunately throws at you. In case you can't tell, I really loved this book. Rainbow Rowell has a way of writing YA like no author I've ever come across,  she transports you back to your own school and college years and what being in love felt like for the first time. Her love stories build slowly and then wham- you're hooked before you've even realised! That's a mighty literary power right there. 

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire) by George R.R. Martin
I thought it was about time I started these as I watch and love the TV show and wanted to see how the books measured up. I actually really enjoyed this and to be honest, having watched the show it made it way easier to remember who all of the characters were. If you have watched the show then the first book is pretty much scene-for-scene with the first series, which kind of felt a bit odd- like re-watching the first season. If you are a fan and you haven't read the books, it's probably worth giving them a go if for no other reason than being able to turn around to those smug b**tards who are arguing some plot point with you and being able to go "I have read the books, actually". Yeah, I know, I'm 12.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart 
I don't even know where to start with this one. It's the first book I've given five stars to on goodreads in a long old time because I really thought it was kind of perfect. Basically, Cadence is a teenage girl, part of an incredibly wealthy family dynasty, The Sinclairs. Her grandparents own an island on which they've built grandiose houses for each of their daughters, where they all traditionally "Summer" every year, along with their children (Cadence, her cousins and one of their friends). Two Summers ago, Cadence had an accident where she was found almost dead in the lake with a bang to her head and since then has suffered memory loss, crushing migraines, weight loss and depression. The Summer after her accident, she's kept away from the island but now at last, after much begging she gets to return and will at last be reunited with her cousins or the "other liars", as she calls them. Something is definitely amiss though; no one will tell her what happened prior to her accident. She knows something bad happened and is determined to get to the bottom of it, which is where the story starts getting interesting. I starting reading this in the morning, was finished by early evening and was left in complete shock by what I had read. This is another great book and the perfect Summer read (for what we have left of it). I urge you to pick up a copy!

It Takes a Village by Hillary Rodham Clinton
This is Hillary Clinton's take on what we, as a society need to do to raise our collective children better and that "as a village' we have a responsibility to do so even if we have no children individually. I was totally with her to start with and believe me when I say, I love a bit of Hillary. I think she's a total ledge. I read the first 100 pages in one quick sitting and loved it; she speaks about her own and her husband's upbringings and of their parents before them, of how they've tried to raise their daughter and with that there's lots of anecdotes and stories of people she's met and spoken to about parenthood on the campaign trail. I also found the research she used to emphasise her points interesting, although given that it's all from the early 90's, it's mostly irrelevant now but it was still worth reading. What I couldn't deal with at all and what made me put this book down towards the end and not finish it (unheard of for me) is her constant gushing over Bill Clinton. There was lots of "when my husband came into power he did this, this and this which was brilliant because etc" and "one of the things my husband has always striven for in his career is blah blah blah". We know Hillary, we get it. He had just been elected when this book was written, you were proud and that's great but the election campaign was over at that stage, no more bigging-up needed. If it wasn't for that, I would've enjoyed this way more. I'll probably pick up her autobiography though as that does look a bit more juicy.

The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
I have Sharon from Behind Green Eyes to thank for this one and I am super grateful! Set in a dystopian future, post zombie apocalypse, we find ourselves in a school on an army base where children are being taught all the regular stuff kids of their age learn..but there's something..special about these little ones. That's kind of all I can tell you without giving any more away except to say that this is a brilliantly written book that goes beyond the zombie genre; it has an added sic-fi feel to it but it also examines relationships and what it really is that makes us human. There is also lots of zombie killing, if that is your sort of thing (more of a 28 days later vibe to this one- it's set in the UK). Also, insanely good ending, as in, my mouth was hanging open. 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K Rowling
This is the fourth book in the series and I won't lie, this one really dragged for me at the start. I loved the first three but really struggled to get into this one. All of the Quidditch world cup stuff at the start and then Hermione's house elf campaign just slowed things down a bit in my opinion. But then as soon as the challenges started, I loved it again, it was genuinely entertaining and an enjoyable read. THEN, when I got to the last couple of chapters, well, the ending of this one is pretty amazing, that's all I'll say (for anyone who hasn't actually read the series. So that's just me and maybe two other people then) so yeah, slow start, amazing middle and end. I'm already on to the fifth.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season 8 Volume 2 by Joss Whedon et al
I really loved this one. Buffy continues to teach her army of slayers and comes up against the "big bad" a few times but the best part for me was in the middle; there's a dream sequence where she travels back to Sunnydale and is a teenager again, back in the Scooby gang. Joyce, Giles, Angel, Cordelia, even Snyder are all there and it was done in a cartoon style (so completely different from the graphic style it usually is) which just added to the cuteness of it. So pleasing! As usual, there's lots of Whedonisms, lots of in-jokes and pop culture references. It really is just like watching the show but with way larger monsters! There's also an amazing Giant Dawn vs Giant Robot Dawn destroying-Japan scene that was beyond cool. Excuse me, I'll just be over here, fan-girling. 

Daredevil Noir by Alexander Irvine and Tomm Coker
As I've mentioned a few times, I'm trying to get into my graphic novels a bit more this year and so far I've been really successful with that, which I'm pleased with- it's one of my reading goals for the year which I'll be able to tick off (big book nerd, I know). I happened upon this in the library and as I love Marvel, said I'd give it a go. So the idea with this is that it puts a darker spin on the classic daredevil plot; focusing more on a film noir/pulp fiction style and less on cheesy superpowers. I'm all on board so far; love me a bit of film noir, problem is it doesn't really work here. The storyline was incredibly predictable from the start; if you know anything about film noir then you know you're not trusting your femme fatal so that kind of ruined the entire plot a bit. The drawings were good but there was just something a bit off about this one for me; not as engaging as I would expect from Marvel and lacking in the real grittiness it would've required for a proper pulp fiction-esque read. There's others in the same noir series, including Spiderman and Iron man which I haven't read, so who knows, maybe they're better.

Have you read any of this lot?
What are you reading right now?
To the comments!


  1. I love your book reviews! Eleanor and Park has long been on my to read list- she writes wonderfully and you make me want to read it that little bit.

    As for the Harry Potter - I am one of those two people.

    Also... "like that child from The Secret Garden but without being incredibly wealthy." - you're also not looking for slaps. Little brat, that kid. I don't care how bed ridden and wealthy you are there is no need to be so rude!

    1. She does, doesn't she? I love her style of writing. She has a new one out called Landline that I must pick up! You're not wrong about yer man, he was a little wagon alright. he gets better though in fairness to him! ;)

  2. I'd be totally lost in the game of thrones books if i hadn't watched the series beforehand. Even with that I still get quite confused at times.. Need to get my hands on the buffy comics though, don't know why I never have before as its one of my favourite shows!

    1. Oh you definitely do! They're so good, I missed the show so much so it's cool to have the continuation of it.

  3. Love your book posts! I'm reading the new Stephen King novel at the mo'!

    1. I have it on my kindle but haven't actually started it yet! Supposed to be excellent!

  4. Really want to read Valley of the Dolls now - think it might be a good poolside read!!

    XO, G from grace'd

    1. Ooh, it would be an excellent poolside read! Perfect actually!! x

  5. I couldn't get into the Game of Thrones books at all, just don't get his style of writing! I need to re-read the Harry Potter series, it's been way too long! Hope your back sorts itself out soon.

    1. Aw thank you, me too! I liked it but I don't know if that's cause I like the show so much…I didn't really even think about his style of writing, more about the story but you raise a really good point! I'll bear that in mind for the next one!

  6. I've tried to read the Song of Ice and Fire series a couple of times, but struggled to get past the first few chapters. I'm also one of the few people who haven't read all the Harry Potter books, I didn't get any further than the start of The Goblet of Fire.

    I'm adding We Are Liars and Love Nina to the to-read list, really like the sound of them both.

    1. I don't know if I'll go ahead and read all of the game of thrones tbh but I'm determined to finish Harry Potter this year, it's one of my reading goals! Let me know what you think of the other two! x

  7. I have yet to start Game of Thrones but I have thought it should be easier to follow thanks to watching the show! Though I don't always know names on there still!

    1. Yeah there's still the odd one that I have to ask the mr for a name reminder on too ;)